30 November 2021


Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

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.

Maldives: India first or India out?


Recent protests in Maldives against India’s influence in the country calling for “Indian military out” has led the Maldives government to respond by reiterating its “India First” policy. This has highlighted the difficulties that both countries face in building a stable strategic partnership while also addressing popular sensitivities. It’s not something that India has been good at elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

Maldives is a small island state located right in the centre of the Indian Ocean. Despite a population of only 500,000, its location, astride the main sea lanes of the Indian Ocean, gives it considerable strategic significance. For centuries big powers have sought to build influence there and deny its use to rivals.

Maldives has come to international attention in recent years as part of growing rivalry between India and China. The former president Abdulla Yameen, who was seen by many as dangerously close to China, was ousted in an electoral landslide in 2018. The new government under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih proclaimed an “India First” policy, which is now being tested as he seeks to reconcile India’s growing presence against a tradition in Maldives of fierce independence.

Is Pakistan heading down the same path as Afghanistan?

Mohammed Ayoob

Recent events in Afghanistan and their fallout in Pakistan clearly demonstrate that the problems plaguing the two countries can’t be separated. That the trajectories of the two polities are closely intertwined has become very clear with the return of the Taliban to power in Kabul. Pakistan played a crucial role in the Taliban victory, among other things by providing the Taliban leadership refuge in Pakistan for the two decades they were fighting the US and the Kabul government. Islamabad’s influence in government formation in Afghanistan is evident in the sidelining of top Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the allocation of important portfolios to the leaders of the Haqqani network, the favourite faction of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Equally important is the impact of the Taliban victory, with its professed aim of imposing strict sharia law in Afghanistan, on Pakistan’s domestic political scene. Extremist Islamist groups in Pakistan that had during the past few years been lying relatively low have been greatly encouraged by the Taliban’s success and have been re-energised to confront the government both in the streets of Pakistan’s major cities and in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

US should strike terrorists in Pakistan

It has now been almost three months since President Joe Biden pronounced the War in Afghanistan over. He predicated the U.S. withdrawal on the fact that it would not undercut American security. “I also know that the threat from terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature. But it’s changed, expanded to other countries. Our strategy has to change too,” he declared , explaining “We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.”

That was a lie. The Islamic State-Khorasan is now present in nearly every Afghan province. Just as the U.S. intelligence community underestimated the speed with which the Taliban would overrun Afghanistan, so too did they botch assessments of the degree to which terrorist groups would thrive after the U.S. withdrawal. Those like former envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who argued that the United States could use the Taliban against the Islamic State, were foolish.

The terrorism problem emanating from Afghanistan, however, pales in comparison to that of Pakistan.

Afghanistan Post-Mortem

Peter R. Mansoor

The United States has lost its longest war. After twenty years of conflict and nation building in Afghanistan, the U.S.-backed Afghan regime collapsed like a house of cards in just a few weeks after the announced departure of American and NATO troops from the country. A final flurry of activity by the U.S. military managed to rescue 123,000 people from Kabul, but as Winston Churchill once said of Dunkirk, “Wars are not won by evacuations.” The United States now needs to reckon with the strategic, political, and military repercussions of defeat, while assessing what could have been done differently to prevent this tragic outcome at such a high cost in blood and treasure.

The most important strategic consequences of the defeat in Afghanistan include the impact on America’s alliances and the future of counterterrorism in the region. America’s partners are already reassessing the viability of their alliances with the United States in the wake of its abandonment of its Afghan partners. Europe, once enamored of President Joe’s Biden’s claim that America is back in the global arena, has discussed the need for more autonomy in its foreign and defense policies given the potential unreliability of the United States as an ally. Afghanistan was a NATO war as well as an American one, and the unwillingness of the Biden administration to discuss the impact of the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country has soured America’s NATO allies on the relationship, at least for the moment. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May stated in the House of Commons, “What does it say about NATO if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?” That statement came from a member of the “special relationship”; imagine what other NATO countries are thinking.

China’s Quest for Greater ‘Discourse Power’

Hugo Jones

Shifts in China’s economic and military power continue to produce dramatic headlines, but few recognize the changing nature and impact of China’s internationally oriented discourse as a form of power. Those that do tend to argue China still can’t do soft power and communicates poorly with the outside world. On closer inspection, however, 2021 seems to have charted a subtle increase in China’s “discourse power.”

COP26 is a prime example. Despite facing international criticism due to Xi Jinping’s physical absence and surging domestic coal consumption, China appears to have successfully employed discourse to set certain agendas at the conference. The concept of “Ecological Civilization,” a slogan closely linked to Xi’s leadership, found its way into many climate conversations. This followed the Kunming declaration, signed by over 100 nations on October 13, which enshrined Ecological Civilization as a “Shared Future for All Life on Earth.” And on November 1, the first day of COP26, the U.K. launched the Clean Green Initiative (CGI), which has clearly been informed by China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI).

This is not to mention the Build Back Better World (B3W) announced at the G-7 summit in August. It is significant that that the CGI and B3W have adopted nomenclature that imitates the BRI – even though these projects are intended to counter or compete with China. In that sense, the CGI and B3W represent a shift in China’s ability to shape international discourse around development finance. Considering that the BRI is in reality just an umbrella term for China’s diverse global trade and investment relationships, it has been remarkably successful as a narrative capable of influencing foreign audiences and policymakers (its practical economic performance notwithstanding).

China’s Treatment of Peng Shuai Should Worry Us All

Howard W. French 

Late last week, I found myself at a university podium participating in an unusual event, invited by a conservative group to argue against the proposition that the United States should apply a greatly stepped-up boycott, divest and sanction—or BDS—approach in its relations with China.

The person arguing the other side in this debate began by stating that he supported going much further even than BDS. But after this emphatic opening sally, he offered scarce few details of what this might involve or how it would work.

Surprised at how little substance I was left to respond to, I began by speaking to the example of North Korea, a doggedly poor and extremely isolated country whose course has not been altered by some of the most stringent and persistent sanctions in recent history.

Why Ethiopia’s Fate Matters to China

Lukas Fiala

The unfolding humanitarian and political crisis in Ethiopia has left many observers pessimistic about the likelihood of an inclusive and peaceful solution to the protracted conflict. After months of fighting between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s central government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the Ethiopian state is at real risk of collapse. As international observers call upon the US to prevent state failure, and diaspora groups unite in solidarity for Ethiopian unity, we should not disregard another player that has a strong interest in a stable and peaceful Ethiopia: China.

China’s (rhetorical) pragmatism

China usually adopts a pragmatic approach to insecurity abroad, centred on preserving Chinese interests which include the safety of Chinese citizens and investments on the ground. In accordance with the often proclaimed principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, a corner stone of China’s diplomatic rhetoric in the Global South that aims to frame China as a different external actor in comparison to interventionist Western counterparts, Beijing remained relatively quiet when fighting first started in Tigray in November 2020. Yet, though unsurprisingly, Chinese workers were evacuated from Tigray with the help of the central government in Addis Ababa.

Who decides China’s foreign policy?

Dr Yu Jie and Lucy Ridout

This briefing paper challenges the conventional wisdom that China functions as a unitary player in its foreign policymaking process. In reality, Beijing’s approach to external issues is a result of intense bargaining between numerous subnational authorities with a wide range of objectives.

The number of central government institutions, provincial-level authorities and major state-owned enterprises with influence over the country’s foreign policy has increased as China’s international relations have become more complex.

This shift in the decision-making process has opened up an opportunity for specialized government institutions – often with a domestic remit – that can provide specific expertise and knowledge. This paper presents three case studies that demonstrate the influence of these subnational actors.

Eyes Everywhere: Intelligence and Strategic Decisionmaking in the Gray Zone

Ian Williams
Source Link

The United States has come to recognize gray zone confrontation as among its most vexing strategic challenges. From Crimea to Syria to the South China Sea, the United States’ competitors have been pushing, probing, and testing U.S. resolve to enforce the international rules-based order it champions. And, in all these places, the world has watched long-established global norms—and U.S. interests—slowly erode due to steady and determined pressure from Beijing and Moscow. Better understanding how to think about and confront gray zone activity, both in policy and technology, is of the utmost importance to the United States and its allies.

Recently, CSIS held a tabletop exercise (TTX) that ran participants through several scenarios featuring adversaries employing aggressive gray zone and near-conflict tactics to achieve some goal or undermine U.S. operations. Our participants included a diverse group of national security professionals in intelligence, diplomacy, and military affairs. The players’ actions and insights during the exercise highlighted two critical facets of dealing with gray zone activity. First, intelligence on the situation must be penetrating and robust, including definitive insights into an adversary’s capabilities, intentions, and motivations. And second, time is of the essence.

Caveat Emptor: The Danger Of Using Commercial Technologies In Combat

Loren Thompson

In recent years, military planners have become enthused at the prospect of adapting new commercial technologies for the conduct of war.

Most of the breakthrough innovations driving commerce and culture originate in the private sector, so it is natural to look there for ideas that might help America maintain its edge on the battlefield.

However, the enthusiasm for commercial products emerged at a time when the Pentagon was focused on fighting ragtag, thinly resourced insurgents in Southwest Asia.

Once the emphasis shifted to great-power competition, as it did in the 2018 national defense strategy, problems arose with relying on commercial innovations.

Germany May Be Deploying Its First Armed Drones

Michael Peck

After years of opposition from those who fear that combat drones will involve Germany in a permanent U.S-style drone war, the German armed forces – known as the Bundeswehr — may get the green light to deploy armed UAVs.

This would “allow the Bundeswehr to arm drones for its own protection,” according to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (English translation here). “However, their use is to be linked to strict requirements.”

However, the new drone policy is still up in the air. The September 2021 elections – in which Chancellor Angela Merkel chose not to run – left no party with a majority lead, and talks are still underway to form a coalition government that will probably include the Green Party, the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP). While the Greens aren’t quite so pacifistic anymore – they are no longer calling for Germany to leave NATO – drone warfare may a more controversial matter.

US, Russian military chiefs speak by phone amid concern over Ukraine


Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley spoke via telephone on Tuesday with Russia’s top military officer, Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, amid the U.S.'s heightened concerns about Russia amassing troops near the Ukrainian border.

The military leaders discussed “several security-related issues of concern,” Col. Dave Butler, Joint Staff spokesperson, said in a readout of the call.

“The phone call is a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction,” Butler said.

In a separate statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said the military chiefs “discussed the ongoing issues of international security,” according to Russian news agency TASS.

Neither of the statements provided further detail into the conversations.

Milley’s call comes as the U.S. and NATO fear that Moscow is massing troops to prepare for a military operation over Ukraine’s eastern border like it did when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

US Flags 16 Chinese Entities for Helping Pakistan Nuclear Efforts

Charles Kim 

The United States Department of Commerce put 16 Chinese "entities" on a concern list for helping Pakistan with its nuclear ambitions, the agency announced Wednesday.

The agency’s Bureau of Industry and Security added a total of 27 entities that they said engaged "in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

Sixteen of those included in the list were Chinese entities that the agency said were aiding Pakistan’s "unsafeguarded nuclear activities" and ballistic missile program efforts.

"Global trade and commerce should support peace, prosperity, and good-paying jobs, not national security risks," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a release.

How to Energize NATO’s Response to Russia’s Threats Against Ukraine

Max Boot

For the second time in a year, Russia is mounting a major military buildup near its border with Ukraine. The last time, in March and April, did not result in an invasion, but Russian leader Vladimir Putin arguably got what he wanted: the world’s attention. In June, U.S. President Joe Biden held a summit with Putin in Geneva that was reminiscent of the Cold War days when Russia was a superpower like the United States.

Putin, who has called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [twentieth] century,” is eager to restore the level of influence his country has enjoyed, and he has the mineral wealth and military capabilities to achieve his objective. Once again, his military buildup has riveted the world. Headlines proclaim concerns about a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is warning Russia against further aggression.

The Specter of Invasion

The Pentagon’s New UFO Office Has a Specific Job

A new office will seek to track and assess unidentified aerial phenomena—the possibly-alien things formerly known as UFOs—that enter military training airspace, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday.

The Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, or AOIMSG, will be tucked into the office of the defense undersecretary for intelligence and security and tasked with coordinating with other federal agencies to “detect, identify and attribute” unidentified objects of interest, and “to assess, and as appropriate, mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks directed in the Tuesday memo.

Earlier this year, the Director of National Intelligence released a report on more than 140 known sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, that Navy pilots and others have reported for years. The report could neither prove nor disprove that extraterrestrial technology was behind the video and first-hand accounts of flying objects maneuvering in ways beyond known U.S. and competitor capabilities.

The establishment of the office is important; for years, reports by Navy pilots were dismissed and those aviators were reluctant to discuss the encounters. Bringing the office into the mainstream, where it will coordinate with ODNI and have high-level Joint Staff input, signals that amid new technologies being rapidly fielded by China and Russia, whatever it is that the pilots are seeing out there, the Pentagon wants to know about it.

The Implications of Climate Change for Military Intelligence

Shira Efron, Lieutenant Colonel (res.) T. B. David Siman-Tov

Global attention to the climate crisis has recently increased. As world leaders are exploring solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defense communities—primarily in the United States and Europe—are also stepping up efforts to contend with the challenges posed by climate change. These efforts focus on ensuring better preparedness for climate change, including by revising combat doctrines, altering training, adapting infrastructure, equipment, personnel, and procurement protocols, and designing climate scenarios.

Within the defense establishment, Western intelligence communities are also paying increased attention to climate change. Indeed, the US intelligence community (IC) began addressing the issue of climate change in the 1990s, yet recently intensified its efforts, including the resurrection of a specialized CIA department. For over a decade already, reports published by various intelligence agencies have been mentioning the effects of climate change as a “threat multiplier” to the stability of countries and regions. The Biden administration’s decision to put the climate crisis at the top of its national security priorities has sharpened the focus of the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies on the climate crisis and has guided strategic thinking in this sphere.

Promoting Energy for Development in a World Accelerating to Net-Zero: Roundtable Report


On September 14, 2021, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) co-hosted a high-level virtual roundtable on energy for development and climate objectives, the first of a series of discussions focusing on the intersection between these two policy priorities. Among the roundtable participants were senior leaders representing major international organizations, development finance institutions, civil society, philanthropic foundations, academia, youth activists, and energy and finance industries.

Convened a week before the United Nations (UN) High-Level Dialogue on Energy—the first in 40 years—the virtual roundtable occurred at a time when the focus of many decision makers around the globe was on accelerating climate change mitigation to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement. Amid this sense of urgency to accelerate decarbonization, the roundtable served as a timely reminder of energy’s role in alleviating poverty and promoting growth. With 2.6 billion people (more than a third of the world’s population) lacking access to clean cooking and almost 760 million people (roughly 10 percent of the world’s population) lacking access to electricity, bridging the energy gap by 2030 should remain at the top of the global agenda.[1] Energy access is essential for economic development, especially for the 9.1–9.4 percent of the world that still lives in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.90 per day).[2] Moreover, the role of energy extends beyond basic access: it is critical to generating broad-based economic growth to lift people out of poverty and enable quality healthcare, education, gender equity, food security, and other benefits enjoyed by middle-class populations worldwide.

Samsung will build a $17 billion chip plant in Texas.

David McCabe
Samsung will build a $17 billion semiconductor factory in Taylor, Texas, it said on Tuesday, giving a big boost to a bipartisan effort in Washington to persuade chip makers to build more of the components in the United States.

The company’s decision came after months of deliberation over possible locations in the United States and South Korea. The company, one of the world’s largest makers of computer chips, considered a site in Austin, which is about forty minutes from Taylor, as well as locations in Arizona and New York.

As Washington has urged chip makers to build more in the United States, cities have raced to get a piece of the potential boom. Taylor went to great lengths to lure the Samsung plant. The city, its independent school district and the surrounding county promised the company hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks. Semiconductor plants require abundant water and reliable power, so they reached a deal to transport water from the adjacent county for the facility.

Samsung’s decision comes during a major shortage of semiconductors, which are critical to products as diverse as Ford F-150s, medical devices and iPhones.

Lawmakers and the Biden administration have grown concerned that not enough of the vital components are made in America. China has invested heavily in incentivizing production of computer chips inside its borders, and Taiwan and South Korea both produce a major share of the semiconductors. Policymakers worry that leaves the United States at an economic and national security disadvantage.

Army adds Finnish satellite startup ICEYE to SAR research effort


WASHINGTON: The Army has signed a new research and development agreement with Finnish startup ICEYE, broadening its efforts to suss out capabilities and use cases for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data.

This is the second Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) the service has signed with a SAR-sat firm — the first, or at least the first announced, anyway, was with Capella Space — as part of its high priority initiative to speed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) from Earth observation sats directly to soldiers on the battlefield. CRADAs work on a no-cost (or almost no cost) basis, where industry provides technology and the services provide people-power and testing facilities.

“This particular contract signifies an entry point into working very closely and collaborating with the Army to prove out our technology, as well as to work with them on potential use cases, including the integration with their ground station, TITAN,” Jerry Welsh, CEO of ICEYE’s US arm, told Breaking Defense.

DDGs, Lasers and ASCMs: An Analysis

Anthony Cowden

The United States Navy has decided to install a laser weapon system on some of its guided missile destroyers (DDGs).[i] These systems will replace the existing Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS). The laser system to be installed is the Optical Dazzler Interdictor, Navy (ODIN). The purpose of ODIN is to “dazzle” the sensors of any Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS, more commonly referred to as drones) flying nearby.

“Dazzle” is a technical term, meaning to blind, generally temporarily, a sensor, usually an optical sensor, by shining a high-powered energy stream into it – in this case, laser light. And what a fun term to use! Just say it – “dazzle” – wasn’t that fun?!? And effective, too, as successfully blinding a hostile sensor will render it useless…

…For a period of time. It is certainly possible, if the laser is strong enough and is focused on the sensor long enough, that it might permanently damage or destroy the optical sensor, but generally dazzling is a temporary effect, lasting only as long as the laser is trained on the sensor (and this seems to be true of ODIN[ii]). Of course, as a ship is only equipped with one ODIN, the operational effect is easily defeated by employing a second drone…

Robotic vehicles, drones coordinate recon at Army’s Project Convergence 21


YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz.: Four small quadcopters equipped with ISR gear search the battlefield for the enemy. On the ground, four robotic combat vehicles drive across the terrain doing the same. During the mission, the pair are communicating and coordinating the unmanned recon mission.

“It’s this idea of collaborative sensing,” said Col. Andre’ Abadie, co-lead for the Project Convergence 2021 operational planning team. “It’s one thing to have one sensor do aided target recognition and say, ‘I see an enemy tank.’ It’s another thing when a sensor can say ‘I see an enemy tank. Hey, guy from the air, tell me, is that a tank? Hey, other guy from another angle tell me is that a tank?’”

On the future battlefield, the Army plans to use combinations of autonomous platforms from future land vehicles to high-endurance drones to provide situational awareness and to undertake missions often perilous to soldiers, including target identification, reconnaissance and resupply — hopefully talking together the whole time. The new methods were tested in seven broad scenarios at Project Convergence, the Army’s annual sensor to shooter experiment, meant to recreate specific challenges in future, complicated joint warfighting.


Hal Wilson

Bodies are strewn across the rolling, sunlit fields — each one clad in the scarlet tunics and bearskins of British Guardsmen — each one “marking the line of their victorious advance.”1 But their victory is a brief one. Hostile reinforcements are pouring in, quickly mounting a flank attack of their own. Chaos follows, and with it a desperate retreat. By morning, the corps commander is dead, the household cavalry is broken, and a battalion of 500 British soldiers is reduced to 180 men.2

But this military disaster is not in some far-flung corner of a foreign land; the British Army is retreating from the southern English town of Dorking, with the German Army hot on its heels. Having swept the Royal Navy aside with decisive new weaponry, the Germans have now also broken the back of Britain’s ill-prepared Army. Almost overnight, Britain loses its Empire and dignity alike.

At least, that is how Colonel Sir George Tomkyns Chesney thought events would occur.

Writing in 1871, Chesney serialized his thought experiments in Blackwood’s Magazine; the result was The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer. The story reflected Chesney’s abiding fear that “if serious military reform was not undertaken and the Germans ever got across the channel, England was doomed.”3 While overshadowed by a better-loved cousin — The War of the Worlds, for the writing of which H.G. Wells borrowed directly from Chesney’s earlier work4 — Dorking defined an entire genre: future-war fiction.5

The Battle of Dorking, by Colonel Sir George Tomkyns Chesney, originally published in 1871.

As for Blackwood’s? Chesney’s story “was the best business they had ever had.”6

And it is easy to understand why. “Humans connect over a story,”7 explain authors Peter Singer and August Cole, the writers of 2015’s Ghost Fleet: a Novel of the Next World War. Or, as explained by Max Brooks, author of the 2006 novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War: “The best way to educate is to entertain.”8 Fiction offers a direct line to the imagination and the interest of countless ordinary readers. Such was the scale of Chesney’s appeal that his work attracted the personal denunciation of then-Prime Minister William Gladstone, whose ministry was determined to avoid further defense spending.9 Now ask yourself, how many Prime Ministers have been compelled to denounce the House of Commons’ Defense Committee reports?

Singer and Cole’s Ghost Fleet — inspired partly by Brooks’ zombie epic10 — depicts Sino-U.S. warfare from the beaches of Hawaii to low-earth-orbit. Moreover, it illustrates the power of stories as a vehicle to educate and inspire. Ghost Fleet popularized a tidal-wave of what co-author Cole terms ‘FICINT,’ which is fiction writing grounded in reality.11 Military organizations from the U.S. Naval Institute12 to West Point’s Modern War Institute13 now host regular FICINT initiatives, while the French Defense Innovation Agency recently hired sci-fi authors to identify future threats.14 Ghost Fleet itself quickly landed on the reading lists of the Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force;15 the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations,16 and the U.S. Marine Corps War College.17 Not to be outdone, Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, recently made his own contribution to the genre.18

So much for the appeal — but what use is science fiction in an age of flat or declining defense budgets? History offers some pertinent clues.

Writing in 1925, a former MI5 agent called Hector Bywater released The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931–33. Bywater not only predicted World War Two’s famous American island-hopping strategy, but directly shaped it by prompting a rewrite of War Plan ORANGE — the American inter-war plan for a possible Japanese conflict.19 Likewise, in 1978, General Sir John Hackett released The Third World War. Hackett, who jumped into Arnhem at the head of 4th Parachute Brigade, wrote for reasons that echoed Chesney’s from over a century before: namely, to warn that if “we wish to avoid a nuclear war we must be prepared for a conventional one.”20 And even if Tom Clancy’s later novel, Red Storm Rising, has since come to define the fictional vision of hard-bitten Cold War combat, it was The Third World War — with over three million copies sold — that helped to drive the substantial reforms for which Hackett had argued.21

The western militaries of yesteryear were no strangers to sweeping changes in technology, nor the daunting threat of war with advanced, capable opponents. And now that their successors grapple with mounting threats ranging from the Baltics22 to Taiwan,23 they too are leveraging the power of fiction to educate and inspire — to reveal risks and opportunities. Not long ago, in the nineties and early millennium, the results were often fanciful. Whether in visions of U.S. armored divisions rolling across Siberia to crush Chinese troops wholesale,24 or laser-armed B-52s picking off Russian nuclear bombers,25 it is all too easy to find the hallmarks of that heady, hubristic era — back when Fukuyama called time on history and President Bush declared Mission Accomplished. And while some recent fiction on future warfare is overtly pompous and politicized — consider Omar El Akkad’s American War — a body of far greater work is growing — see, for example, Captain Dale Rielage’s award-winning How We Lost the Great Pacific War,26 which captures a trend of material that is at once both engaging and often deeply sobering.

And so it should be. Just as Wells’ anonymous narrator recounts of the Martian aftermath — that it robbed the world “of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence”27 — it is not a moment too soon that we leave behind the comforting anachronisms of yesteryear.

But if Western defense communities accept this already, what about the rest of us? Whether British politicians defending ties to China,28 Disney executives dismissing the Uyghur genocide,29 or EU negotiators overlooking slave labor,30 many elites need a hard dose of fiction to find their way back to reality. Closing the Battle of Dorking with a portrait of a desolate, occupied Britain, Chesney leaves his readers with the observation that “a nation too selfish to defend its liberty could not have been fit to retain it.”31 150 years may have passed, but Chesney’s fictional warning remains as pertinent as ever.

Small-Scale Chemical and Biological Production: Current Threats and Future Trajectories

Dan Kaszeta

Recent years have seen brazen public assassinations using poisons. The general emphasis in arms control and non-proliferation debates has rightly focused on the threat of chemical and biological materials as weapons of warfare. However, the threat of such materials being used in situations other than war, such as terrorist attacks and assassinations, is clear. Chemical and biological weapons do not come out of nowhere. They are designed, developed and produced for specific purposes.

This paper analyses two central questions and makes policy recommendations to address the overall problem. First, it assesses what resources are required for small-scale chemical and biological weapons (CBW) production. The necessary inputs in terms of budget, facilities, labour, materials and other factors are small, meaning efforts can be easy to conceal.

Second, the paper considers scientific and technical trends, and their impact on potential small-scale CBW production efforts. There are a number of developments, such as microfluidics and automation, which make covert manufacturing of chemical and biological substances easier than in the past. Moreover, there are also a variety of specific technical advances, such as nano-encapsulation and improved dermal absorption of pharmaceuticals, that could make it easier to make or deliver chemical and biological materials as weapons. Developments in science and technology will simplify efforts by hostile actors to operate small-scale production of these materials for hostile use.

29 November 2021


 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

Farm laws episode lays bare India’s internal disunity. It’s time to fix it


To some Indians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise announcement about repealing the three farm laws may be viewed as a victory for democracy. The forces at play in the political economy may have demonstrated their democratic strength. But India might have lost. For, there is no dispute that India’s economically and strategically important agriculture sector is in dire need of reform. Another thing that India needs to watch out for is that a weakened government, civil unrest, and inability to carry forward important economic reforms can all be exploited by foes.

For a few decades, farmers have been unwittingly imprisoned by the government, ostensibly to protect them. The argument for protection was based on the need to progress. However, India’s farmers must be set free to decide what they want to grow and whom to sell. Lack of reform has resulted in the overall awful state of the farmers. It is a long overdue and key public policy reform amongst several others for the agricultural sector. Barring some big farmers, the perpetual hardships and negative state of affairs of the majority of India’s farmers should be a cause of concern for the country’s political class.

Discontented farmers, their dependents, and others who are part of the support systems for the agriculture industry across the country can become a flame that fans India’s disunity. In particular, any path giving a religious colour to the farmers’ protests must be eschewed. No doubt, this is easier said than done.

PLI Scheme: New Challenge To Make In India, But Few Takers; Lesson From Vietnam Warranted – Analysis

Subrata Majumder

Make in India lost steam. Prime Minister Narendra Modi escaped success stories from the rampart of Red Fort in Independence Speech in 2019. Several attempts were made to rejuvenate Make in India , invoking major reforms like reduction in corporate taxes, land reforms at state level and downsizing cumbersome procedures by encompassing major labour laws . But, they all failed to unleash a positive impact on manufacturing growth.

PLI (Production Linked Incentive) is a new challenge to give a new lease of life to Make in India. It overrides Make in India by doling out direct incentive through sales. Hitherto, reforms were made to push Make in India through stepping up Ease of Doing business, reduction in corporate taxes, adopting digitization and others , which connote indirect measures.

Damaged by unprecedented COVID 19 pandemic, global manufacturing witnessed dramatic changes . GVC (global value chain) , which accounts for 70 percent of international trade and investment, is in retreat and protectionism is on the rise . USA – the global hub for consumption – headed for protectionism under the Trump philosophy of America First policy and China – the global hub for GVC manufacturing – is losing steam with foreign stake holders shifting to other low cost manufacturing areas in South East Asia.

Lessons from Digital India


MILAN – Over the past five years, India has experienced an unusually rapid expansion of digital connectivity and access to services. This has had a positive impact on the inclusiveness of economic growth; on efficiency and productivity in retail, supply chains, and finance; and on entrepreneurial activity.

India’s engagement with digital technology dates to the late 1980s. Major investments in computer science and education were made under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s administration (1984-89). And with the expansion of internet access in the 1990s, India became home to many major outsourcing companies in IT administration, business processes, and customer service. But because the infrastructure needed for widespread mobile-internet access remained deficient, penetration lagged and data costs for mobile users ended up being among the highest in the world.

Then, in 2010, when much of the country’s existing service offerings were still in 2G and 3G, IBSL, a small telecoms company, purchased spectrum in an auction that included rights to much faster 4G frequency bands. IBSL was then acquired by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s energy conglomerate, Reliance Industries, which thus gained the 4G spectrum rights.


Daniel Brunstetter

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan offers the opportunity for a recalibration in the use of force abroad in what is America’s truly longest war—the global war on terror. The Biden administration is poised to increase its reliance on “over-the-horizon” operations—a euphuism for drone strikes and special operations force raids—to ensure that Afghanistan does not, once again, become a safe haven for transnational terrorism. In a speech marking the end of the war in Afghanistan, President Joseph Biden portrayed limited force as a moral alternative to the forever wars, a strategic choice to address terrorist threats in a disordered and divided world. But this framing forecloses serious debate on whether the United States should be resorting to force at all and to what ends. If we are to truly turn the page on the 9/11 era, it is imperative to interrogate the antecedents, assumptions, and principles underlying the over-the-horizon approach. Doing so raises concerns about whether a shift to limited force can really end the forever war, but also points to moral insights that may better guide the “targeted, precise strategy” President Biden has promised.

The Arc of Limited Force

In many ways, the strategic shift in Afghanistan is more of a course correction than a break from the past. Some might say a rebranding. Successive US presidents of both parties have turned to limited force as a less risky, less costly option—in terms of blood, treasure, and public opinion—than conventional warfare. Along the way, policymakers have routinized, institutionalized, and legitimized limited force. Even the terminology has been sanitized to make limited force morally palatable; the United States used to worry about assassinations, but as the lexicon has shifted over time—from “rolling attacks” to “lethal, targeted action” and now to “over-the-horizon” strikes—that worry has receded.

Can Anyone Stop the Narco-Terrorist Taliban?

Brahma Chellaney

Here's What You Need to Remember: If the US does not lead an international effort to tackle Afghanistan’s opioid and meth production, the Taliban’s power—and ability to commit atrocities—will only grow and its narco-state will serve as a haven for al-Qaeda and other violent jihadist groups. As matters stand, the world can expect a major surge in international terrorism and drug overdoses in the months and years ahead.

The strategic folly of US President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy has been laid bare in recent weeks. First, the country came back under the control of the Pakistan-reared Taliban. The announcement of the interim government’s composition then dashed any remaining (naive) hope that this Taliban regime would be different from the one the United States and its allies ousted in 2001. Beyond the cabinet including a who’s who of international terrorism, narcotics kingpins occupy senior positions.

Afghanistan accounts for 85% of the global acreage under opium cultivation, making the Taliban the world’s largest drug cartel. It controls and taxes opioid production, oversees exports, and shields smuggling networks. This is essential to its survival. According to a recent report by the United Nations Security Council monitoring team, the production and trafficking of poppy-based and synthetic drugs remain ‘the Taliban’s largest single source of income’. So reliant is the Taliban on narcotics trafficking that its leaders have at times fought among themselves over revenue-sharing.

When It Comes to African Crises, the African Union Is No Solution

Chris Olaoluwa Ogunmodede

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve.

The inability of these bodies to effectively mediate in regional conflicts or reverse illegal power grabs, let alone prevent them, raises questions about their effectiveness in enforcing “good governance” in their regions and across the continent. And for many other observers, the crises in Ethiopia, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Sudan and elsewhere also call into question the commitment of member states to enforce protocols they signed up to, and highlight the structural, institutional and ideational hurdles that handicap the ability of these organizations to enforce their policies.

Sri Lanka Bows to Chinese Pressure Again

Sudha Ramachandran

A Sino-Sri Lankan spat over fertilizer has ended in China’s favor. Sri Lanka has reportedly agreed to pay 70 percent of the claim made by a Chinese organic fertilizer company for a shipment that Colombo had rejected as it was found to be contaminated.

According to Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Sri Lanka will pay $ 6.7 million to Qingdao Seawin Bio-tech Group for the shipment of 20,000 tons of fertilizer. In addition, Sri Lanka has agreed to buy fresh stocks from the company, Sunday Times reported the minister as saying.

Only a month ago, Aluthgamage had stated that the Chinese organic fertilizer shipment would not be accepted nor would Sri Lanka make any payment towards this shipment.

Sri Lanka has shifted away from that position.

“We cannot afford to damage diplomatic relations over this issue,” Aluthgamage said explaining the government’s volte face.

China and Sri Lanka have strong relations. Over the past decade, China has emerged Sri Lanka’s largest investor and has played a huge role in the island’s infrastructure development. So deeply steeped in Chinese debt is Sri Lanka that it is said to be caught in a Chinese debt trap. Importantly, Beijing has repeatedly defended Sri Lanka from censure at global human rights forums. An important component of the Sino-Sri Lankan relationship is the strong equation between Beijing and Sri Lanka’s ruling Rajapaksa family.

China Is Holding the Planet Hostage


LONDON – The verbal emissions at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow were understandably extensive but fortunately less environmentally damaging than the energy path on which the world remains set. Governments reached a fragile agreement that still just about keeps in play the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s main target of limiting global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But unless countries do a great deal more, and quickly, the actual temperature rise is likely to be at least a full degree higher.

The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal – an expression that has never left my lips or pen in several decades of speaking and writing English. It is entirely devoid of conviction. If an alcoholic promises to “phase down” his alcohol consumption, the result will almost certainly be trouble.

The Chinese PLA’s New ‘Army’

Ben Lowsen

In December 2015, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) established its Army, part of the sweeping military reforms President Xi Jinping has hinted since taking office but revealed only over the past several months. The chart below is my prediction of what this organization will look like.

An Army Establishing an Army?

The PLA encompasses the whole of China’s armed forces on land, sea, air, and beyond. It is now establishing a dedicated staff, called the “Army Leading Organ,” to field its ground force component. Of course the PLA has always had a ground force. It began as such, although the Chinese word for “Army” in PLA is perfectly appropriate for a joint force. The ground force offices were scattered throughout the PLA’s high command, most obviously within the former General Staff Department. These offices have now been moved to the Army staff, including the Army Aviation Department and the offices responsible for armor, artillery, engineering, and chemical defense (See: The PLA as Organization).

Adding an Army staff alongside its Navy, Air Force, and other headquarters brings the PLA into alignment with militaries worldwide. Note however that the Army and other staffs are not responsible for commanding forces, but rather for organizing, training, and equipping forces for employment within the five new joint Theater Commands, similar to the division of responsibilities between the U.S. service staffs and Unified Combatant Commands.

The Army Leading Organ’s task is thus to build the best possible ground force to deter or defeat threats to China’s interests. General Li Zuocheng, former commander of the Chengdu Military Region, is its commanding officer. But besides the offices mentioned above, what will his staff look like? There is little official information or outside commentary to answer that question, although an understanding of the bureaucratic structure can give us some idea.

Under the former system, each office or unit contained within it offices corresponding to – and with a requirement to report to – the PLA’s four top-level general departments: the General Staff, Political, Logistics, and Armaments Departments. Now that these have been reduced in scope and joined by 11 other independent departments (mostly taken from within the General Departments), it stands to reason that the Army and other subordinate units will wherever possible organize along these lines as well.

Without the old general departments to report to, the newly independent areas (discipline inspection, training, militia mobilization, military law, science and technology, strategic planning, organizational reform, international cooperation, and auditing) will move to consolidate control of their areas, creating a number of important new players. Although several of these are unlikely to warrant a separate office on the Army staff, I believe that training, discipline inspection, military law, organizational reform, international cooperation, and auditing will. The PLA Army Leading Organ will thus more closely resemble the complexity of the U.S. Army Staff than the simplicity of the former PLA general departments.

Other Areas

Another notable factor is that the Army and other staffs are likely to have a higher-profile intelligence function combining both human and technical intelligence. These functions had separate offices in the old system but have been combined into the PLA’s new Strategic Support Force. This may ease the flow of intelligence, although barriers between the two branches will likely remain.

Finally, given that both the PLA Navy and Air Force have navigation offices, the Army is likely to want one too. Overall I expect the Army staff to function adequately, although I wouldn’t count on it creating a more cohesive joint force.