19 October 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

The Quad, AUKUS, and India’s Dilemmas

Manjari Chatterjee Miller

When the defense arrangement between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom (UK), known as AUKUS, was announced last month, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the deal was “neither relevant to the Quad, nor will it have any impact on its functioning.” The statement, made just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to visit the United States for the first in-person Quad summit, was an attempt to downplay the significance of AUKUS for India and forestall any distractions from the summit.

Yet, for India, the new defense agreement is inextricably tied to its own participation in and strategic calculations vis-à-vis the Quad. In particular, AUKUS highlights some of the dilemmas that India faces with regard to the Quad: whether to share or pass the burden to contain China in the Indo-Pacific and whether to commit to even greater reliance on the United States as its defense partner.

PACTS AND IMPACTS: India’s selective approach to treaties maximizes its global autonomy. But does New Delhi miss out on opportunities?


On June 15, 2020, a nasty brawl broke out between Indian and Chinese forces along their disputed border in the region of Ladakh. It was the deadliest India-China clash in 45 years.

Twenty Indian soldiers died in the fracas – which featured fisticuffs and pushing and shoving that resulted in soldiers falling to their deaths into an icy river. India-China relations plunged to their lowest point since a 1962 war.

The tragedy also amplified the threat that China, New Delhi’s biggest strategic rival, poses to India along its northern border. It even sparked speculation among analysts that India would take steps to formally align itself with the United States, in order to jointly tackle a shared China threat that has fueled the expansion of U.S.-India security cooperation over the last decade.

New Delhi quickly put the kibosh on such notions. Several weeks after the border clash, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar proclaimed that “we were never part of an alliance system and we will never be.” He argued that the current world order actually creates more space for “middle powers” like India to assert their independence and flexibility in world affairs.

AfPak Takes On New Meaning with the Rise of the Taliban

Dr. James M. Dorsey

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The attacks on Kabul’s international airport by ISIS’s Afghan affiliate raise questions suggesting a possible paradigm shift in the drivers and expanding geography of political violence.

The attacks by ISIS’s Afghan affiliate on Kabul’s international airport called into question the Taliban’s ability to maintain security and keep a lid on the activities of the multiple militant groups in Afghanistan. Long at war with ISIS, the Taliban have promised to ensure that neither it nor other groups with which it maintains better relations will be allowed to use the Central Asian state for cross-border attacks in the region.

That may be easier said than done. Al-Qaeda, which launched the most spectacular and successful of all jihadist attacks two decades ago in the US, may turn out to be the least of the Taliban’s jihadist worries.

G20 Will Aid Afghanistan—But Won’t Recognize the Taliban

Trevor Filseth

Following an emergency summit, the Group of 20 (G20) nations have committed to aiding Afghanistan in order to stave off the nation’s impending humanitarian crisis—acknowledging reluctantly that doing so would require cooperation with, though not necessarily recognition of, the Taliban.

The EU, which opened the discussions, promised $1.2 billion in aid for the country, as well as for its neighboring states to address the cost of harboring Afghan refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled the country since the Taliban takeover on August 15; while many refugees were evacuated in the U.S. military’s airlift, a substantial number also crossed into Pakistan, Iran, and Tajikistan, straining the neighboring countries’ social service programs.

The virtual summit was attended by President Joe Biden, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, as well as a handful of other European leaders. President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Xi Jinping of China opted not to attend, sending high-level officials in their place.

Explaining the PLA’s Record-Setting Air Incursions Into Taiwan’s ADIZ

Adrian Ang U-Jin and Olli Pekka Suorsa

From October 1 to 4, Chinese military incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) were unprecedented in scale and intensity since the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense (MND) made such data publicly available last September. On October 1, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched a 25-plane incursion during the day, followed by another 13-plane incursion that night, setting a record for the largest number of sorties flown by the PLA into Taiwan’s ADIZ in a single day. However, that record was broken the very next day (October 2) when the PLA flew a total of 39 sorties in two waves – one during the day and the other at night. The incursion on October 3 involved “only” 16 planes but on October 4 the PLA set a new record for the single largest sortie conducted to date (52), as well as the largest one-day sortie record (56) when the second, night-time incursion is included.

Over the course of first four days in October, the PLA carried out a total of 149 sorties into Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ – a staggering 28 percent increase already over September’s previous record for total sorties (116).

China Pathfinder: Annual Scorecard

GeoEconomics Center and Rhodium Group

China is a global economic powerhouse, but its system remains opaque. Policymakers and financial experts disagree on basic facts about what is happening inside the country. Leaders need a shared language to describe China’s economic system that can be trusted by all sides for its accuracy and objectivity. This is the goal of the China Pathfinder Project.

Over the past eight months, teams from the Atlantic Council and Rhodium Group have taken a dive into China’s economy to address a fundamental question: Is China becoming more or less like other open-market economies?

To find the answer, our study explores China’s economy in six key areas that define open-market systems: trade, innovation, direct investment, portfolio flows, market competition, and the financial system. We then used this data to create a new scoring system that compares both China’s record of liberalization and its economic performance with those of the United States and nine other leading open-market economies. We then tracked how China has progressed on these metrics over the last decade.

The report recognizes the complexity of this subject and tells a multi-layered story. Inside, you will find new information that will challenge commonly accepted narratives about China’s economy. This innovative research draws upon the world-class expertise of Rhodium Group, which has worked on these issues for nearly two decades. Both this report and the data-visualization home for this project are part of the Atlantic Council GeoEconomics Center’s mission to break down barriers between finance and foreign policy.

China’s Taiwan Plan Is Clear (And Looking Pretty Dangerous)

Peter Suciu

China’s Taiwan plan seems pretty clear: intimidation. Beijing has said that its recent military exercises near Taiwan were intended to be a warning to both the island nation and to the United States. The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) sent 56 combat aircraft near the southwest coast of Taiwan on a single day earlier this month, a single-day record.

That sortie also capped off five days of a sustained pressure campaign that totaled nearly 150 flights. While all the PLAAF aircraft remained in international airspace, the flights were meant to send a strong measure of the island’s independence supporters as well as “external forces” – the latter directed squarely at the United States.

“The PLA training activities target ‘Taiwan independence’ splittism and interference by external forces,” Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) in Beijing, said on Wednesday, and added that the maneuvers were also conducted to main peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

China and the Importance of Civil Nuclear Energy

Robert McFarlane, David Gattie

HISTORY TELLS us that for a country to govern sensibly and protect its interests at home and abroad requires experienced, competent professionals with the acuity to analyze and navigate the complex space of national security and foreign affairs, one that is replete with military, economic, technological, geopolitical, and diplomatic tensions. In the aftermath of World War II, individuals such as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg, among others, challenged Americans to accept that the United States must conduct its affairs and act in the world as it is, and not in the world as we wish it were. They emphasized both the necessity and strategic advantage of a U.S.-led allied system and the need to nurture what Winston Churchill originally characterized as a special relationship, and others have characterized as an essential relationship, between the United States and the United Kingdom.

‘The Battle at Lake Changjin’ and China’s New View of War

Carice Witte

On China’s October 1 National Day holiday, while real-life People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jets and other military planes sortied into the Taiwan Straits in record numbers, many Chinese celebrated by flocking to screenings of “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” breaking all box-office records. The 3-hour war epic commissioned by China’s propaganda department depicts a battle from the Korean War, where Chinese soldiers fought against the United States in what China calls the “War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea” (generally known abroad as the Korean War)

The film’s massive popularity arguably stems from China’s new view of war. Entering into military combat was formerly seen as a threat to the Communist Party’s hold on power. China’s military was not in a position to win. Going to battle and losing Chinese lives, even if it resulted in a territorial gain, was seen as potentially provoking a level of domestic unrest that could undermine China’s leadership. With the potential to topple the ruling party, war was off the table. Now it is perceived as a way to strengthen CCP’s position.

Ahead of Latest Mission, China Renews Space Cooperation Vow

Shortly ahead of sending a new three-person crew to its space station, China on Friday renewed its commitment to international cooperation in the peaceful use of space.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said sending humans into space was a “common cause of mankind,” and China would “continue to extend the depth and breadth of international cooperation and exchanges” in crewed spaceflight and “make positive contributions to the exploration of the mysteries of the universe.”

China is to send two men and one woman to spend six months aboard the Tianhe core module of its space station, with liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert in northwestern China scheduled for shortly after midnight Saturday.

It will be China’s longest crewed space mission, a new milestone for a program that has advanced rapidly in recent years.

China, Asia, and the Changing Strategic Importance of the Gulf and MENA Region

Anthony H. Cordesman

The shift in America’s strategic focus from fighting terrorism in the Middle East –and its “long wars” in Afghanistan as well as Iraq and Syria – to competition with China has led to a growing level of confrontation and possible wars in Taiwan and the South China Sea. At the same time, the increases in U.S. domestic natural gas and oil production have led many to believe the U.S. has far less need to ensure the smooth flow of energy exports from the Gulf and the MENA region.

There are good reasons to challenge both sets of assumptions. The U.S. has every incentive to avoid a war over Taiwan and the South China Sea as well as to avoid having to confront China largely in an area where China can make most effective use of its military power. The U.S. needs to look beyond the Eastern Pacific and deal with China on a global level – pressuring it to focus on cooperation and peaceful competition rather than confrontation and conflict.

Second, China’s growing dependence on petroleum imports is making it steadily more vulnerable to any interruption or limits to the flow of petroleum exports out of the Gulf and through the Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca. America’s strategic partnerships in the MENA area – particularly in the Gulf – and the vulnerability of maritime traffic through the Indian Ocean and Strait of Malacca, give the U.S. a key source of strategic leverage that can compensate in part for the geographic advantages China has near Taiwan and the South China Sea as well as provide a key source of stability and security for its partners and in ensuring the stable flow of petroleum to Japan, South Korea, and the global economy.

Why Kurds Fight

Fréderike Geerdink

To enter the mouth of the cave, one must crawl on all fours or slide forward as if imitating an upside-down spider. The orifice opens onto a walkway as if made for an adolescent, forcing anyone taller than 5 feet 2 inches to bow their head until the pathway widens into a cavern that measures about 500 to 650 square feet. It is here that two dozen female fighters for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) live, learn and sleep. In the fall of 2016, I joined them as part of my yearlong research into the group’s workings and philosophy as well as to interview the young women who have left everything behind to join.

The cavern serves as a fully functioning barracks, clean and relatively warm, with colorful plastic carpets covering much of the floor and neatly packed sandbags with pink and yellow sheet cloth draped over them to divide the grotto into makeshift rooms, including a common area, a library and communal bedrooms. The PKK flags and a portrait of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan — who since 1999 has been serving a life sentence in solitary confinement on an island off the Turkish coast — cover the sandbag walls, as do pictures of the fallen. Food could be found stuffed in corners and nooks and crannies, organized alongside weapons and ammunition.

Will Biden Abandon Taiwan?

Brandon Weichert

“Goodbye, great power competition and hello, strategic competition,” this is what the Biden Administration’s Pentagon spokesperson recently told Daniel Lipmann of Politico. According to analysts, these comments signal a shift toward a more cooperative, even conciliatory, American posture toward the Chinese Communist Party. Further, President Joe Biden told the media on October 6 that he had “spoken with [Chinese President Xi Jinping] about Taiwan. We agree that we will abide by the Taiwan Agreement.”

The agreement that Mr. Biden was referring to was the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, an ambiguous agreement forged between China and the United States in which Taiwan would be treated by the United States as a foreign country without being formally recognized as such. While the 1979 agreement does allow for the provision of American military aid to Taiwan such that Taiwan can “maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” the terms of this agreement allow for the Americans to shirk away from Taiwan whenever it is convenient for Washington do so.

The Biden-Xi call came on the heels of China’s brazen violation of Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) during the week of October 1. At that time, China deployed more than 50 warplanes to violate Taiwan’s ADIZ, testing Taiwan’s overworked air defense network and pushing the island’s military to the point of exasperation. At some point, a grave miscalculation will occur between China and Taiwan—a mistake that could spark another world war that Washington is not prepared or willing to fight.

Can Biden Stop China's Intellectual Property Theft?

Derek M. Scissors

Here's What You Need to Remember: The recent decisions by Chinese courts display open contempt for American policy.

The Wall Street Journal published a story yesterday on Chinese courts declaring their firms can’t be sued anywhere in the world for theft of intellectual property and in two cases threatening fines of $1 million per week if suits go forward. The US government is aware but has done nothing. This is just one, recent event in decades of intellectual property (IP) theft and coercion by China and utter American failure to respond.

The US started protracted negotiations with China over IP in 1986. In March 2021, the IP Commission confirmed that theft costs America hundreds of billions of dollars annually and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the biggest culprit. It seems those original talks didn’t work. In 1995, the Clinton administration brokered an IP truce to avoid a $1 billion exchange of sanctions. Threaten $1 billion, then get to steal tens of billions annually — who says Beijing doesn’t know a good investment when it sees it?

Toward CPTPP 2.0

Kati Suominen

This series has sought to provide early insight into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) members’ trade and investment flows after the agreement was signed. It has also sought to explore through business surveys and econometric work how the CPTPP may have impacted those flows. This series has been particularly interested in the impacts of the CPTPP’s perhaps most groundbreaking aspect—its e-commerce chapter—and sought to shed light on an unexplored question: “Do e-commerce provisions add value in international trade?” The main findings are as follows:

Trade in the CPTPP region has largely paralleled the members’ trade flows with the rest of the world. The main beneficiary appears to be Vietnam—at least in the sense that after it ratified the CPTPP, Vietnam has notably expanded its trade in goods, and its inbound investment has been solid, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. This can be a positive signal to other Southeast Asian countries that are considering CPTPP membership, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Japan and Singapore have led the region’s trade in digitally deliverable services, also a key sector for potential CPTPP members and services export superstars such as the Philippines, Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Who Is Losing Belarus?

Grigory Ioffe

On October 7, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution demanding that the European Union (EU) impose the fifth package of economic sanctions on Belarus, including additional sectors, such as metallurgy, woodworking, and chemical. According to the EP, the sanctions should affect “all remaining uncovered state banks and key companies such as Belaruskali [Potassium Company] and Beltelecom [Telecommunications Company]” (Zerkalo, October 7).

On October 5, one of the major Russian dailies, Komsomolskaya Pravda, rumored to be the favorite newspaper of Vladimir Putin, closed its Belarusian branch. It happened after a journalist of that branch, Gennady Mozheiko, a Belarusian citizen, published an article in which a former classmate of Andrei Zetser shared favorable memories of him. Zeltser was an IT company associate who shot KGB officer Dmitry Fedosyuk and was subsequently killed by return fire (EDM, October 5). The article was only available on the newspaper’s website for several minutes, after which the site was blocked and the journalist arrested (DW, October 5).

Predicting global conflicts

Christopher Joye

There’s a wealth of data on the history of military conflicts, which have caused many millions of deaths in the past century, but there’s comparatively little quantitative research forecasting the frequency and severity of wars.

As an investor in global financial markets, our firm is constantly grappling with the prediction business. Last year we created worldwide Covid-19 forecasting models that enabled us to anticipate a much earlier than expected peak in the first wave of infections in April 2020.

We have now developed research that can be used to assess the empirical likelihood of different types of conflicts occurring.

For the past decade, the biggest risk we have sought to understand is the spectre of war between the United States and China. The probability of such a conflict appears to have accelerated under the hardline presidency of Xi Jinping. Many experts, including John Lee, Oriana Skylar Mastro, Rory Medcalf and Ross Babbage, who consult to us, have put the risk of a lower-intensity conflict at around 50%.

Judy Asks: Has the EU Lost the Western Balkans?


The EU has not lost the Western Balkans.

It remains the principal economic player in the region and wields considerable diplomatic clout. The hype about China and Russia aside, it is the EU which provided the bulk of coronavirus assistance and is now funding the post-pandemic recovery.

The union has largely itself to blame for coming across as lacking influence. Its greatest asset—the promise of membership—is also its Achilles’ heel.

If accession is no longer a credible prospect, Balkan power players are likely to shun Brussels’ demands, look elsewhere for political support and economic rewards, and take the European Union for granted.

Worse still, local leaders casually bash the EU to score domestic political points while benefitting from the perks European integration offers to populations—including trade access, investment, and visa-free travel.

China isn't the AI juggernaut the West fears


The opening scene of a brief online documentary by Chinese state-run media channel CGTN shows jaywalkers in Shenzhen getting captured on video, identified and then shamed publicly in real time.

The report is supposed to highlight the country’s prowess in artificial intelligence, yet it reveals a lesser-known truth: China’s AI isn’t so much a tool of world domination as a narrowly deployed means of domestic control.

On paper, the U.S. and China appear neck and neck in artificial intelligence. China leads in the share of journal citations — helped by the fact that it also publishes more — while the U.S. is far ahead in the more qualitative metric of cited conference papers, according to a recent report compiled by Stanford University. So while the world’s most populous country is an AI superpower, investors and China watchers shouldn’t put too much stock in the notion that its position is unassailable or that the U.S. is weaker. By miscalculating the others’ abilities, both superpowers risk overestimating their adversary’s strengths and overcompensating in a way that could lead to a Cold War-style AI arms race.


Travis Pike

The Marine Corps does a lot of things well. One of those things is to do more with less, and as you’d expect as a result, another is to innovate. However, the plans for the new Marine Corps rifle squad seem to suggest the Corps might be moving away from that ‘more with less’ reputation. The modern Marine squad will be doing a lot more with… a lot more. The Marine Corps has been on a roll as of late, becoming a leaner, more capable fighting force for new kinds of conflict and adjusting its makeup to suit. A big part of that comes down to the individual squad, and that squad is changing drastically.

The squad might well be changing, but the mission of the Marine rifle squad will not. They will continue to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and close combat. Here’s what that’ll look like moving forward.

The Future Marine Rifle Squad Structure

What Should A $100 Billion Japanese Military Look Like?

James Holmes

Over at Reuters, Tim Kelly and Ju-min Park tender the feel-good story for the week: Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) intends to double defense spending from 1 to 2 percent of GDP, which would equate to roughly $100 billion. Since World War II the island state has maintained an informal cap on defense budgets to soothe worries among neighbors fearful that Tokyo might again march Asia over the precipice into regional or world war.

The cap made sense during the immediate postwar decades. Memories run long, and so do fears. By now, though, Japan has recouped its good name many times over. It menaces no one. Plus, the rise of an increasingly domineering China that covets neighbors’ territory and natural resources, seeks to subvert if not overthrow the regional order, and routinely threatens to use force to take what it wants makes misgivings about Japanese militarism feel quaint.

Now, it’s one thing for party chieftains to make a bold pledge, quite another to coax a people with a strong pacifist streak into supporting it. We will learn something about the character of the Japanese government and society—and thus Japan’s fitness for great sea power—as the LDP tries to put promises into action. One wishes the party well as it strives to rally popular backing for a more muscular Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF).

The Army Just Tested Its New Ballistic Missiles That Takes Aim At Previously Prohibited Ranges (Updated)


Lockheed Martin has announced the latest test of its Precision Strike Missile, or PrSM, for the U.S. Army, though the company has not said exactly how far the weapon flew. The distance appears to be close to, if not over, a previous range limitation for ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that the United States had adhered to until 2019 under the now-defunct Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, with Russia.

The PrSM test was conducted on Oct. 13, 2021, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California using an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) truck-mounted launcher. The missile flew out into the Pacific Ocean. This test had originally been expected to take place in August but was pushed back because of scheduling conflicts.

“The Precision Strike Missile continues to validate range and performance requirements,” Paula Hartley, Vice President of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a statement. “Achieving this long-range milestone for the baseline missile demonstrates PrSM’s capability to meet our customer’s modernization priorities on a rapid timeline.”

The Bright Future of Laser Weapons

Kris Osborn

Imagine that an advancing mechanized Army unit is closing with an enemy force on the outside border of an urban area when suddenly a small fleet of enemy drones emerge from behind tall buildings to attack with air-to-ground missiles. Approaching tanks and tactical vehicles in an armored column might suddenly be placed at risk if the drones were not previously detected by any air asset.

This is the type of scenario the Air Force and Army are preparing to confront. The two military services are arming small tactical vehicles and some of their larger tactical trucks with precision-laser weapons to help find and incinerate enemy targets without needing to create explosive fragments. Lasers would provide a more cost-effective long-term solution than current assets.

Much of the innovation has been oriented toward engineering mobile sources of transportable electrical power sufficient to generate and sustain operational effectiveness. Gen. John Murray, the commander of Army Futures Command, says the Army is addressing these challenges and making rapid progress integrating mobile electrical power on combat vehicles.

18 October 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

With all eyes on Taiwan, tensions are building on another Chinese frontier: India

Brad Lendon

Hong Kong (CNN)China's increased military activity in the Taiwan Strait may have grabbed all the headlines in recent weeks, but thousands of miles to the west, another simmering territorial dispute on the country's borders looks more likely to boil over first.

Just 16 months ago, Chinese and Indian troops fought a deadly hand-to-hand battle in the Himalayas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the ill-defined de facto border between the two nuclear powers.
And now, tensions appear to be rising again.

According to unverified reports, troops from both sides have been briefly detained by the other, as military positions are fortified and talks to deescalate the situation seem at an impasse.

Post Afghanistan, US-Pakistan relations stand on the edge of a precipice

Madiha Afzal

With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan may have come closer to achieving its long-sought “strategic depth” with respect to its western neighbor, with a Pakistan-friendly government in Kabul. But the Taliban’s victory is also seriously testing Pakistan’s long fraught bilateral relationship with America. For the last 20 years, U.S.-Pakistan relations have been defined by the needs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. With that war having ended with an outcome as ignominious as a Taliban takeover, the relationship is at a clear crossroads. The outlook isn’t positive. Here’s where things stand.


In Washington, where policymakers have been grappling with the fallout from the sudden Taliban takeover of Kabul in August and the scrambled evacuation that followed, the focus has shifted to identifying the mistakes made in the war in Afghanistan. Washington is taking a hard look at where things went wrong — and Pakistan, given its long history with the Taliban, is part of that equation.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin must resign


When I was a junior Marine, an oft-repeated joke among my peers went like this: “What’s the difference between the Marine Corps and the Boy Scouts?” Answer: “The Boy Scouts have adult leadership.” It was funny at the time, in the half-bitter way that such jokes are funny as an outlet for resentment among young men frustrated at their perceived lack of agency. The joke would make an appearance after incidents seemed to reveal an institution that was capricious, even willfully negligent towards those at the bottom of the pyramid. Snafus we still called them back then: trucks that never showed up on time, formations that dragged on interminably, and the inevitable delays waiting to be allowed off base in the evening before sampling the dubious delights of a garrison town. When all was said and done, however, these jokes were no more than that. Because we were proud to wear the uniform, proud of the institution to which we belonged — and willing to put our lives on the line for what it stood for. Top Articlesby Task & Purpose

Taliban’s Afghanistan Takeover: Assessment of Regional Powers and Indian Interests


Executive Summary

This report argues that the Taliban victory in Afghanistan will impact the regional geopolitical dynamics and the interests of major regional powers. During the insurgency phase, most regional powers had maintained differential support to the Taliban to facilitate a common objective of the US withdrawal. However, the factional rivalries in a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan make it likely that the interests of regional powers would start diverging significantly. This report also examines India’s interests in the region – the impact of Taliban victory on the Islamist insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi’s access and influence in Central Asia – which are likely to face challenges in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Keeping this in mind, this paper argues the following:

India should cultivate a working relationship with the nationalist sections of the Taliban to take advantage of Islamabad’s growing inability to dominate Afghanistan.

India must continue to invest in counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation capabilities to offset the Jihadi threat to Jammu and Kashmir.

A close partnership with Tehran would allow New Delhi to utilise the Iranian influence in the Taliban to contain the influence of pro-ISI Taliban groups and regain its trade access to Afghanistan.

New Delhi must use all the tools available to encourage China to ensure political stability in Afghanistan.

India must act to strengthen and expand its role of being a maritime security provider in the northern Indo-Pacific.

The U.N. Needs New Thinking on How to Prevent Civil Wars

Charli Carpenter

Up until the spring, the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar was mainly expressing its opposition to the military junta that seized power in February through peaceful protests. But over the summer, in reaction to the junta’s violent and often lethal response, hundreds of small, armed, civilian resistance groups popped up and begun to carry out ambushes on military convoys around the country. As Betcy Jose and Peace Medie have shown, this is typical of how civilians begin to protect themselves with force when faced with violence from their own government, and in the absence of adequate outside help.

And when peaceful protesters begin to turn violent, military regimes typically respond with an even worse crackdown, causing the violence to escalate and the political contestation to slide into civil war. Yet, the AP reports this week that the United Nations sees itself as hamstrung in the situation. Although the organization’s Credentials Committee is stalling a decision on whether to recognize the junta, “the UN is unlikely to take any meaningful action against Myanmar’s new rulers because they have the support of China and Russia.”

It is true that the U.N. remains notoriously poor at intervening in civil wars before they break out, or forestalling campaigns targeting civilians in their early stages. But criticisms of the U.N. for inaction in Myanmar are not quite fair. Some critics of the U.N.’s passivity would understand “meaningful action” to mean only humanitarian intervention. And clearly, a Chapter VII intervention is institutionally impossible given the array of great power interests. But that’s how the U.N. is supposed to work. And the idea that the U.N. cannot or will not “meaningfully” act overestimates the power of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, underestimates the U.N. as an institution and misreads the source of the U.N.’s political impotence.

First, in cases where humanitarian intervention is truly called for, the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, doctrine is flexible enough to leave open the possibility of one without the approval of the Security Council. To be sure, this approach has its downsides as well, as Russia and China like to argue. After all, human rights can be used as a smoke-screen for self-interested invasions, which potentially makes for a slippery slope to undermining the U.N. Charter.

But to some extent this can be mitigated by the emergent norm in international customary law that to be “humanitarian,” an intervention must be genuinely multilateral. The NATO intervention in Kosovo fit this description without a Security Council resolution, in the same way the intervention in Libya arguably did with one. By contrast, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the United States’ equally self-serving invasion of Iraq both involved humanitarian justifications, but these were widely—and correctly—viewed as unwarranted violations of the U.N. Charter. In theory, however, atrocity prevention does not hinge on the Security Council.

Second, while the Responsibility to Protect doctrine is often associated with the idea of military intervention, the doctrine calls for significantly more factors to be taken into consideration than just whether atrocities have reached a threshold justifying the use of force to stop them. Among other things, there must be a proportionality analysis: Can more civilian lives be saved by acting than will be lost by the inevitable fallout of war? Will the humanitarian good of regime change or atrocity prevention outweigh the potential humanitarian cost of an escalating regional war, for example, should two nuclear-armed great power rivals fall afoul? In Syria, for example, the argument for humanitarian intervention was much stronger in 2011, when then-U.S. President Barack Obama first proposed it, or even earlier, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was dropping “mere” barrel bombs on civilians but had not yet escalated to using chemical weapons. By the time the Islamic State showed up and Russia was on the scene, however, the risk-to-benefit proportionality analysis became much more complicated and prohibitive.

Third, two other very important pillars of R2P are often unappreciated. One is the responsibility of states themselves to protect populations on their own territory. This is manifestly not happening in Myanmar, but in some respects that is equally true in other places, including China and the U.S., with regard to the former’s treatment of Uyghur and other ethnic minority populations in Xinjiang and the latter’s treatment of refugees at the southern border. One lesson, then, is to use evidence from places like Myanmar to look for and address human rights abuses at home.

It is often easier for armed groups to find military support from the international community than it is for their nonviolent counterparts to receive protection and assistance.

The other unappreciated pillar of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine is the international community’s obligation to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility and building state capacity to do so. And on this second pillar, the international community is doing considerable meaningful work with regard to Myanmar, but also elsewhere. Arguably, this is precisely what China and the U.S. were doing in working together to delay recognition of the Myanmar junta by the Credentials Committee, as well as what several countries have attempted by withholding aid from Afghanistan unless the Taliban agree to educate girls. And it’s what is being done by the “other U.N.”—the civilian agencies like UNICEF, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Development Fund for Women—in myriad places where development aid is combined with security assistance to support weak or failing states in building structures of governance and a culture of human rights.

But here, as Severine Autesserre’s new book “The Frontlines of Peace” shows, the U.N. overinvests in top-down, elite-run peacebuilding measures and underinvests in supporting everyday efforts by ordinary civilians to build and keep the peace at local levels. Moreover, this second pillar is not always enough to protect civilians against violence, as democratization itself can be destabilizing.

If there is a gap in international norms and institutions on conflict prevention, it is the lack of a norm on providing support and protection for nonviolent resistance movements that do not take up arms against their own government. In fact, it is often easier for armed groups to find military support from the international community than it is for their nonviolent counterparts to receive protection and assistance. And the best way for armed groups to provoke the kind of crackdown that will draw humanitarian intervention is to begin attacking the security forces of the state. Combined, these factors almost incentivize nonviolent groups to take up arms.

What this shows is that it may again be time to innovate in atrocity prevention. If the international community wants to simultaneously promote democracy, reward nonviolence and prevent civil wars, it needs a formula for light-footprint interventions in situations that fall short of war, but where an intervention can meaningfully protect civilians engaged in nonviolent opposition. This could have the simultaneous benefit of protecting civilians from the humanitarian impact of the crippling sanctions often imposed on dictatorships and military regimes as an alternative to the use of force. Coupled with a very high threshold for intervention once civilians begin taking up arms, this could incentivize nonviolence, ratchet down atrocities before they break out and protect civilians earlier when they do.

In Myanmar, the country is in the early stages of what may metastasize into a civil war. But the civilian side of this brewing conflict was not long ago—and to a large degree still is—a nonviolent resistance movement. Suppose this movement had been supported with a no-fly/no-go zone to ensure safe haven for its activities, combined with a humanitarian airlift of aid into the protected zone to protect nonviolent protesters from the humanitarian effects of a sanctions regime against the junta? This is the least invasive form of military intervention, one that worked well, for example, in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991.

If these approaches seem too coercive, there are other tools at the disposal of third-party states to protect civilians when the early warning signs of violence have not yet escalated to mass atrocities. One is to fulfill their own obligations collectively under the international refugee regime. Countries contiguous to conflicts often bear the brunt of refugee flows, but the humanitarian evacuation from Afghanistan demonstrates what the international community can do with a refugee crisis if it chooses to enable civilians to flee by air to a broader geographic array of third-party countries.

The evacuation of Kabul, like Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, may have been the province of retreating occupiers. But there is no reason such operations could not also be organized by the U.N., as occurred to some extent in Bosnia, or by civilian NGOs with the support of governments, as the NGO Refugee Air attempted during the early days of the Syrian refugee crisis. Such efforts are only as humanitarian as the states that receive these refugees, however. So this option requires a recommitment to refugee norms worldwide, but especially in the Global North, and a mechanism for resolving the collective action problem that prevents the majority of the world’s countries from taking in their share of refugees.

Of course, such a set of norms and practices would include their own externalities and dilemmas, in some ways enabling and incentivizing tyrants to create conditions that effectively “cleanse” opposition movements out of the country. Nevertheless, much more could be done by the international community to support nonviolent movements and give them a voice in preventive diplomacy efforts, before situations rise to the level requiring humanitarian war. And this is where the international community is truly missing its chance in Myanmar.

Charli Carpenter is a professor of political science and legal studies at University of Massac

China’s Influence in South Asia: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries

China’s economic and political footprint has expanded so quickly that many countries, even those with relatively strong state and civil society institutions, have struggled to grapple with the implications. There has been growing attention to this issue in the United States and the advanced industrial democracies of Japan and Western Europe. But “vulnerable” countries—those where the gap is greatest between the scope and intensity of Chinese activism, on the one hand, and, on the other, local capacity to manage and mitigate political and economic risks—face special challenges. In these countries, the tools and tactics of China’s activism and influence activities remain poorly understood among local experts and elites. Both within and beyond these countries, meanwhile, policy too often transposes Western solutions and is not well adapted to local realities.

This is especially notable in two strategic regions: Southeastern, Central, and Eastern Europe; and South Asia. China’s economic and political profile has expanded unusually quickly in these two regions, but many countries lack a deep bench of local experts who can match analysis of the domestic implications of Chinese activism to policy recommendations that reflect domestic political and economic ground truth.


James Johnson
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We are in an era of rapid disruptive technological change, especially in artificial intelligence (AI) technology. AI technology is already being infused into military hardware, and armed forces are continually furthering their planning, research and development, and in some cases deployment of AI-enabled capabilities. Therefore, the embryonic journey to reorient military forces to prepare for the future digitized battlefield is no longer merely the stuff of speculation or science fiction. This essay revisits Massachusetts Institute of Technology political scientist Barry Posen’s analytical framework to examine the psychological features of the security dilemma to consider how and why the novel characteristics of AI and the emerging digital information ecosystem may impact crisis stability and increase inadvertent escalation risk. Will AI-enabled capabilities increase inadvertent escalation risk? How might AI be incorporated into nuclear and conventional operations in ways that affect escalation risk? Are existing notions of inadvertent escalation still relevant in the digital age?

How the U.S. government can deter China’s threat in Taiwan

The skies around Taiwan are thick with Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers, with Beijing flying 150 sorties through the edge of the island’s air defense identification zone in early October alone. Whatever President Xi Jinping’s precise intention — to bully Taiwan and its allies, the United States included; to provoke them; or to inflame domestic nationalism — it is not benign.

As Mr. Xi’s crushing of Hong Kong’s free institutions shows, the “peaceful” reunification between his communist state and democratic Taiwan that he called for once again on Oct. 9 inherently threatens all 23 million people who live on the island. A hegemonic China would menace Japan, Australia and the Philippines, destabilizing the entire Indo-Pacific region. “There should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” President Tsai Ing-wen responded, appropriately, on Oct 10. President Biden’s top foreign policy aides have also registered their disapproval.

China’s Influence in Southeastern, Central, and Eastern Europe: Vulnerabilities and Resilience in Four Countries



As China’s footprint in Europe has expanded over the last decade, many countries—even those with relatively strong state and civil society institutions—have struggled to grapple with the implications and consequences. Central and Eastern Europe (sometimes referred to as CEE) as well as Southeastern Europe is often seen as particularly vulnerable to Chinese political, economic, or soft power influence. Policymakers in the United States and the European Union have at times expressed concern that China’s influence in this region could help exacerbate governance shortfalls, undermine political and economic stability, and complicate the EU’s ability to reach consensus on key issues.

Low Turnout, High Drama


One conclusion that can be drawn from the early parliamentary elections in Iraq, which were held on October 10, is that while the results of the voting alone cannot determine who will rule the country, they still do matter.

The main story was the low turnout, which Iraq’s Independent Higher Electoral Commission estimated at 41 percent, using a dubious formula that most international and local monitoring organizations rejected. A coalition of these organizations estimated turnout at an even lower 38 percent. Regardless of which number is the more precise, the participation level replicated a pattern visible since 2018, showing that a majority of Iraqis are disenchanted with the political system and have little hope that elections will make a difference.

The elections, which had been seen as a way out of the crisis that followed the mass protests in 2019, were intended to relegitimize the system and allow better conditions for free and fair competition. Yet these conditions have not been fully met. Armed groups have continued to assassinate and intimidate activists, while there are no implementable rules to rein them in, nor to monitor the financing of major political parties. This reality pushed several of the new parties linked to the protest movement to boycott the election.

Yale’s Grand Strategy Program Has Always Been Broken

Jim Sleeper

Yale history professor Beverly Gage has been praised widely for defending academic freedom by announcing her resignation (effective in December) from the directorship of Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, which she took over in 2017 from Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis. But there are more politically urgent, and arguably profound, questions at issue here beyond professors’ right to design their courses free of outside interference.

Since the program’s inception more than two decades ago, Grand Strategy’s intensive seminars have engaged undergraduate as well as graduate students with close readings of classical works on strategy, stressful crisis decision-making simulations, and meetings with accomplished policymakers. In 2010, David Petraeus, at the time the four-star Army general commanding U.S. military operations in the Middle East (and later to become director of the CIA), visited the seminar, as did former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, observers from the CIA, and U.S. Military Academy cadets.

Air Force general becomes second woman to head US military command


Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost on Friday took over U.S. Transportation Command, becoming the second woman ever to lead one of the Defense Department’s 11 combatant commands.

Ovost will now oversee the military’s global transportation network, which led the evacuation of more than 124,000 people during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during a change-of-command ceremony, called Ovost “a legend of a leader” and said she “played a pivotal role” in the Afghanistan airlift, which she aided as the head of Air Force Air Mobility Command.

“We need every Jackie Van Ovost we can get,” Austin said at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “As she likes to say, 'As young women looking up, it’s hard to be what you can't see.' So General Van Ovost knows the importance of breaking barriers.”

Ovost, who is the only female four-star general in the U.S. military, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1988 and was previously the vice director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. President Biden nominated her for the combatant command role in March along with Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson who will become the next head of U.S. Southern Command later this month.

She takes over Transcom from Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, who will retire.

Before Ovost, the first woman to lead a combatant command is retired Army Gen. Lori Robinson, who was the head of U.S. Northern Command in 2016.