5 January 2021

Covid-19 Was Consuming India, Until Nearly Everyone Started Wearing Masks

By Eric Bellman

NEW DELHI—In September, India was reporting almost 100,000 Covid-19 cases a day, with many predicting it would soon pass the U.S. in overall cases. Instead, its infections dropped and are now at one-fourth that level.

India has brought down its virus numbers, despite often being too crowded for social distancing, having too many cases for effective contact tracing and an economy that isn’t well equipped to weather long lockdowns.

India’s daily confirmed Covid-19 cases, seven-day rolling average

One of the main reasons, Indian health officials say, is that the country has managed to encourage and enforce almost universal acceptance of masks without much debate.

From the moment the pandemic landed in this South Asian nation, politicians and health experts have been united about the importance of masks, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Until you have a vaccine, you have a social vaccine, and the social vaccine is the mask,” said Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, pointing to his mask and repeating the mantra he uses in speeches addressing the nation.

Indians have embraced masks thanks to a combination of factors, including a healthy fear of the virus among the public, a unified voice from authorities, billions of automated phone messages and hundreds of thousands of masking-violation tickets.

Why China Is Winning Against India


There are several global developments jostling for the world’s attention right now—the upcoming inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, Britain’s exit from the European Union, a worrying hack of U.S. government systems, and the race to administer coronavirus vaccines across the planet. Amid these major news stories, the 8-month-old military standoff in the Himalayas between Asia’s two biggest countries, China and India, has fallen off the radar of global concern. While pundits agree that Asia is the site of an ongoing shift in the global power balance, what gets little attention is how New Delhi’s reworking of military priorities—forced by events on the disputed Sino-Indian border—will have far-reaching geopolitical consequences for the world.

The past year’s skirmishes between India and China are often described by commentators as a stalemate. While this may be literally true, two factors should alter that perception. First, China has far deeper pockets, especially after a year in which it has bounced back from the coronavirus pandemic while India has fallen into a recession. And second, Beijing has forced New Delhi to focus on securing its land borders at the cost of its strategic military transformation, handing China a clear long-term advantage.

The current crisis began last May when China diverted its soldiers from a training exercise into Ladakh, catching the Indian Army off guard amid the pandemic. The gravity of the situation became clear in mid-June when 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in a violent clash, where not a single bullet was fired. The front-line soldiers of two nuclear-armed neighbors used batons, clubs, and stones to inflict injuries and cause deaths.

What to Know as Troubled Afghan Peace Talks Enter a New Phase

By David Zucchino and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KABUL, Afghanistan — After four decades of grinding combat in Afghanistan, peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban have raised at least a possibility that the long cycle of violence might someday end.

But that milestone is a long way off. The most recent round of discussions, which began in September, have been riddled with bureaucratic hangups and monthslong debates over minor issues.

And though those talks resulted in an agreement on the principles and procedures that will guide the next round of peace negotiations, they came with a price. While the two sides met in Doha, Qatar, bloodletting on battlefields and in Afghan cities surged.

Now with peace talks scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 5, the details of what’s being negotiated next remain murky.

While both the Afghan government and the Taliban have said they will not publicly release their lists of priorities for the next round of negotiations, here’s what security analysts, researchers, and government and Taliban officials expect to be on the docket — and what hurdles these talks must overcome.

What are the end goals of these talks?

How the pandemic strengthened the Chinese Communist party

THE PAST YEAR will be forever linked with China. It was the year when a rising global power, already causing jitters in the West by challenging American supremacy and democratic values, became linked in many people’s minds with a far clearer, more immediate and for many people more terrifying threat. The global pandemic was not a cataclysm of China’s design. But China was where, in December 2019, the first cases of a mysterious new pneumonia were detected and a culture of secrecy initially prompted officials to play down the danger and stifle news of the outbreak. Even after they acknowledged the scale of the crisis in January, some analysts in the West wondered, briefly, whether the novel coronavirus would threaten the Communist Party itself. In February the death from covid-19 of a whistleblowing doctor caused an outpouring of rage in China that must have unsettled China’s leaders.

But, strikingly, China’s covid-era politics has not been troubled by public anger, or division within a beleaguered leadership over how to respond to the disease. If anything the party has emerged stronger and in higher public esteem than it was a year ago. In late January it switched from hesitancy and obfuscation to all-out mobilisation with the aim not merely of keeping the disease at a manageable level but of crushing it entirely. China’s success in achieving this, and in restoring near-normal life in the country without a resurgence of the coronavirus, proved a godsend for the party’s propagandists. No massage of the truth was required to highlight the contrast between conditions at home and the prolonged agonies of countries in the West. The party’s efforts helped it to tighten its political grip and breathe new life into its grassroots organisations.

Biden Can’t Assume America Beats China In A Taiwan War

By Daniel Davis

Joe Biden will face a host of difficulties and challenges when he assumes office on January 20, but perhaps none more consequential than deteriorating China-U.S. relations. It is the potential flashpoint of Taiwan that will have the greatest urgency.

Many in Washington are advocating a shedding of the decades’ old policy of “strategic ambiguity,” in favor of an overt declaration that we would come to the defense of Taiwan if China ever seeks to reunify the island by force. Assumed in such advocacy is the presumption the U.S. Armed Forces would be able to successfully accomplish that mission. For at least three major reasons, those assumptions are badly misplaced.

First, the risk is high that on purely military fundamentals, the United States would fail to successfully prevent a resolute and committed Chinese assault. As the most recent Department of Defense annual report to Congress on China details, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – remains on a multi-decade modernization push that has seen them develop a substantial defensive capability, known as anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD).

China’s Pro-Monopoly Antitrust Crusade


CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The Chinese government’s newly launched antitrust probe into Alibaba is probably warranted. The e-commerce giant undoubtedly has a dominant market share and engages in monopolistic practices, such as forcing merchants to make the company their exclusive online distributor or be delisted from its platforms. But other Chinese e-commerce companies have the same rule, and there are worse monopolists in China than Alibaba. So, why is Alibaba being targeted?1

One of Alibaba’s apparent offenses is the expansion of financial services offered by its affiliate, financial-technology giant Ant Group, which owns Alipay. Beyond being the world’s most popular payment app, with 730 million monthly users, Alipay allows consumers to invest, purchase insurance, and secure loans on its platform.

Last October, Ant Group was poised to launch a record-setting $34 billion initial public offering. But the Chinese authorities abruptly halted it, in what was portrayed as a prudent attempt to limit the company’s exorbitant market power. The decision to block the IPO reportedly came directly from President Xi Jinping.

Now it appears that Xi’s government wants Ant Group to abandon financial services altogether and to confine itself to payment processing. Chinese regulators have provided a litany of justifications for this decision. But the real reason didn’t make the list. Payment processing is a low-margin business; no state-owned bank bothers with it. Financial services, by contrast, are highly lucrative – and the territory of state-owned incumbents.

Europe and China’s Year-End Breakthrough


NEW YORK – Kudos to the European Commission for finalizing a new investment agreement with China. Europe’s active diplomacy also played a role in China’s recent commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – a decision that was quickly followed by Japan’s pledge to decarbonize by 2050. Now it has yielded yet another major success.

The new EU-China investment agreement will benefit Europe, China, the world, and even the United States, despite the latter’s warnings against it. In general terms, the agreement signifies the intention of the EU and China to continue to deepen economic relations, by granting each party more assured access for investments in the other’s economy. European industry will gain better access to China’s enormous domestic market just as China embarks on a decade of green and digital economic restructuring, and at a time when Europe is striving to stay at the technological forefront in these areas. 

The agreement comes in the face of deeply misguided – indeed, dangerous – attempts by US President Donald Trump’s administration not only to cut economic ties with China in high-tech industries, but also to contain China’s growth by forging a US-led alliance that Trump hoped would be backed by the EU and Asia-Pacific countries, including Australia, India, Japan, and South Korea. It appears that the incoming Biden administration may well lean in the same direction, though certainly with more finesse and less bombast than Trump. 

The U.S. Navy is Taking China's "Carrier-Killer Missile" Seriously

by Robert Farley 

Here's What You Need To Remember: The DF-21D is as much a threat as it is a missile. China is attempting to send a signal: Don't start a war with us if you value your aircraft carriers. At the same time, though, there would be enormous consequences for shooting one at an American ship.

The DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) has generated a tremendous amount of interest over the past five years. If it works, it poses a very serious threat to U.S. Navy (USN) carriers, as well as to the other advanced warships of the USN, of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, and others.

An anti-ship ballistic missile is more than just a missile; it requires a broad, sophisticated support system. Unlike a missile launched at static targets, a carrier-killing ASBM requires terminal guidance, as it must revise its flight path after reentering the atmosphere. From launch to strike, the flight of an ASBM can take fifteen or so minutes, at which time the carrier in question will have more than likely moved its position on the open ocean. The missile thus needs to be adjusted remotely or needs to have the capacity to identify the carrier on its own. Both of these processes depend on the operation of a sophisticated set of sensors, as well as a communication system capable of integrating these sensors and transmitting information to shooters. As Andrew Erickson emphasizes, “the successful achievement of high-quality, real-time satellite imagery and target-locating data and fusion as well as reliable indigenous satellite navigation and positioning would facilitate holding enemy vessels at risk via devastating multi-axis strikes .”

Europe and China’s Year-End Breakthrough


NEW YORK – Kudos to the European Commission for finalizing a new investment agreement with China. Europe’s active diplomacy also played a role in China’s recent commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 – a decision that was quickly followed by Japan’s pledge to decarbonize by 2050. Now it has yielded yet another major success.

The new EU-China investment agreement will benefit Europe, China, the world, and even the United States, despite the latter’s warnings against it. In general terms, the agreement signifies the intention of the EU and China to continue to deepen economic relations, by granting each party more assured access for investments in the other’s economy. European industry will gain better access to China’s enormous domestic market just as China embarks on a decade of green and digital economic restructuring, and at a time when Europe is striving to stay at the technological forefront in these areas. 

The agreement comes in the face of deeply misguided – indeed, dangerous – attempts by US President Donald Trump’s administration not only to cut economic ties with China in high-tech industries, but also to contain China’s growth by forging a US-led alliance that Trump hoped would be backed by the EU and Asia-Pacific countries, including Australia, India, Japan, and South Korea. It appears that the incoming Biden administration may well lean in the same direction, though certainly with more finesse and less bombast than Trump. 

Rise of United Front under Xi Jinping: A super agency supervising, China’s Intelligence and External Affairs

By Manish Shukla

BEIJING: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been using a super system of a network of organisations and state agencies, collectively known as the united front system - administered by the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese government. The primary objective of the front is to work towards and fulfil Party's goals.

Over the years, the united front system has transcended the boundaries of Chinese territory and is currently delivering the duties of intelligence cum foreign affairs’ organisation as well. The United Front system is primarily involved in ideological subversion and covert operations within and outside PRC. The UFWD strengthens its influence by raising-up leaders from ethnic minority groups, religious movements, educational institutions, diaspora, society and political groups. All such organisations and stakeholders collectively constitute the united front system — a Chinese intelligence and propaganda network operating across the world.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has come up with a report titled 'The Party Speaks for You', authored by its Analyst Alex Joske. The report funded by The Netherlands' Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlights the activities carried out by the United Front of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the nexus of organisations created by it across the world.

Gulf War III: How Israel and Iran Would Go to War

by Michael Peck

Key point: Israel and Iran do not like each other and Tehran continues to move further towards a bomb. Could Israel go to war to stop them?

The Middle East is aflame from Baghdad to Gaza. But the most frightening conflict is one that is yet to happen. Though Iran's atomic weapons program has receded from world attention, displaced by the Syrian Civil War and Islamic extremists overrunning Iraq, the specter of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities hovers over the region.

Or, there might be some other trigger. Perhaps a Hezbollah attack that draws Israeli retaliation and then Iranian intervention, or Israel and Iran clashing over Syria. Or, just misperception and miscalculation. Either way, it would not take much for Tel Aviv and Tehran to engage in combat.

Should hostilities erupt, Iran will have to confront one of the most capable militaries in the world. Here are five Israeli weapons that should worry Iran:

F-35 Stealth Aircraft

The SolarWinds Hack Doesn’t Demand a Violent Response


The SolarWinds hack – now attributed to Russia by U.S. government representatives including Mike Pompeo – has caused enormous damage. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that a massive chorus of voices is calling on Joe Biden, once he takes office, to hit back hard. Deterrence is needed, we’re told. Yes, we need deterrence, but deterrence is more than retaliation, and massive retaliation against an espionage hack would be foolhardy.

“Deterrence,” explains Dr. Strangelove in Peter Sellars’s eponymous masterpiece, “is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy the fear to attack.” The hackers who, through an inadvertent opening provided by SolarWinds, infiltrated countless U.S. government departments and agencies — including the departments of State and Homeland Security — clearly didn’t have any fears of attacking. Clearly, that must change. So it is that over the past couple of weeks deterrence has become the concept du jour. Biden (Trump seems out of the equation) should hit Russia hard to show that America means business, we’re told.

Here’s the thing: we already have deterrence. Virtually all countries have deterrence. Deterrence is simply the combination of the defensive and offensive measures known to a country’s would-be-attackers. The deterrence capabilities can belong to a country or be extended to it by an ally, as is the case with the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Based on this combined picture, a prospective attacker decides whether an attack is worth the trouble. The point is this: deterrence isn’t just whatever retaliation a targeted country thinks up after an attack. Deterrence is a result of its reputation for deterrence by resilience and deterrence by punishment. 

Opinion – Lessons from Europe for the UK’s Battle Against Economic Inequality

Andrew Maitland

It is just over a year since the Conservative Party convincingly won the UK General Election. While the British Government has spent much of 2020 tackling the dual challenges of negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU and responding to Covid-19, much of the Conservative’s electoral success stemmed from its promises to tackle regional inequality. Large numbers of traditional Labour Party voters in the North of England ‘lent’ their votes to the Conservatives based on the latter’s support for what they titled the ‘Levelling Up Agenda’: tackling the economic imbalance between the UK’s most wealthy regions and those which lag behind. Now that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has successfully concluded negotiations with the EU, the Conservatives will be determined to begin fulfilling this key manifesto commitment.

The UK is one of the most unequal developed countries in the world. Only the US, Romania and South Korea are more polarised in areas such as health, jobs and disposable income. Traditionally, regional inequality has been presented in terms of the economic divide between the north and south of the country. The South East of England is by far the most affluent region of the UK, with a disposable income of £28,000 per head versus £16,000 per head in the country’s poorest region, the North East of England. The effect of this difference has had real world consequences. Those born in Glasgow for example can expect to live on average ten years less than those born in the Chilterns, just outside of London.

What Is Your Moral Plan for 2021?


MELBOURNE/WARSAW – Many people make New Year’s resolutions. The most common ones, at least in the United States, are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight, or reduce stress. Some may resolve to be better to a particular person – not to criticize their partner, to visit their aging grandmother more often, or to be a better friend to someone close to them. Yet few people – just 12%, according to one US study – resolve to become a better person in general, meaning better in a moral sense.

One possible explanation is that most people focus on their own well-being, and don’t see being morally better as something that is in their own interest. A more charitable explanation is that many people see morality as a matter of conforming to a set of rules establishing the things we should not do.

That is not very surprising in societies built on the Jewish and Christian traditions, in which the Ten Commandments are held up as the core of morality. But, today, traditional moral rules have only limited relevance to ordinary life. Few of us are ever in situations in which killing someone even crosses our mind. Most of us don’t need to steal, and to do so is not a great temptation – most people will even return a lost wallet with money in it.

Joe Biden Must Embrace Liberal Nationalism to Lead America Forward

by John J. Mearsheimer

THE UNITED States is in deep trouble at home and abroad. But the problems are not simply President Donald Trump’s fault: both his Democratic and Republican predecessors also bear considerable responsibility. Trump was elected in 2016 because many Americans were profoundly unhappy with the state of the union. Not only did he run the table in the Republican primaries against a host of opponents with solid establishment credentials, but he also managed to polish off Hillary Clinton. Moreover, Bernie Sanders—a self-declared socialist—gave Clinton a run for her money in the Democratic primaries.

Trump has made a bad situation worse, however, which means that President-elect Joe Biden faces a Herculean task in trying to right the ship of state.

The biggest and most serious problems are on the homefront. They include a poisonous polarization of the body politic, badly damaged institutions, a raging pandemic, and a host of longstanding economic problems. Biden is not well-positioned to deal with these problems for a variety of reasons. The Republicans are likely to control the Senate, which will give them the power to thwart his appointments and policy initiatives. More generally, the Republicans will try to delegitimize Biden’s presidency, just as Democrats worked to delegitimize Trump’s. For many Republicans—and certainly Trump himself—it will be payback time.

Furthermore, Biden did not win a sweeping mandate. He eked out a victory and a considerable number of people voted for him with little enthusiasm—largely because the party he leads is badly split between its centrist and progressive wings.

UK-Turkey Free Trade Agreement: Beyond the Economics

Tridivesh Singh Maini 


On December 29, 2020, the UK and Turkey signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which will become effective January 1, 2021, after the UK leaves the EU. Turkey’s Trade Minister, Rushkar Pekcan, and the British Ambassador to Turkey, Dominick Chilcott, signed the agreement. 

The timing of the agreement was interesting, since the FTA was signed days after the UK and EU had managed to clinch a Brexit trade deal, with great difficulty, and after the US imposition of sanctions on Turkey for the purchase of S400 missiles from Russia (the decision to impose sanctions is likely to have its impact not just on Turkey-US ties, but also between Turkey and other NATO member states).

Commenting on the importance of the deal, Pekcan said:

The free trade agreement is a new and special milestone in the relationship between Turkey and United Kingdom.

President Recep Erdogan, while referring to the significance of the FTA a day before it was signed, had said that it would create a win-win situation for both Turkey and the UK. He also said that the deal is crucial, and dubbed it as Turkey’s most important economic agreement after the 1995 Customs Union.

A sovereign Britain will still be a global force to reckon with

On the historic day when Britain’s Brexit quest finally became reality, perhaps the most surprising aspect of the comments made by political leaders on both sides of the English Channel was their mutual commitment to European unity.

One of the great canards perpetrated by die-hard Remain supporters – those who wanted Britain to retain its membership of the EU at all costs – was that, by voting for Brexit, the British people were somehow turning their backs on Europe.

In fact, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was keen to emphasise when he first announced the breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations on Christmas Eve, the country was not turning its back on its neighbours. He insisted that Britain was entering into a new trading arrangement with the EU, one where the democratically elected UK Parliament, and not a collection of unelected European technocrats, had ultimate authority over British law-making. In his inimitable style, Mr Johnson emphasised that Britain would remain “culturally, emotionally, historically, strategically and geologically attached to Europe".

It was a point he was keen to reiterate when he opened this week’s debate in the House of Commons on the Brexit bill, which was passed with 521 votes to 73 after a majority of opposition Labour MPs joined their Conservative colleagues in voting for the legislation.

How Biden Can Restore Multilateralism Unilaterally


NEW YORK – There is so much to celebrate with the new year. The arrival of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines means that there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel (though the next few months will be horrific). Equally important, America’s mendacious, incompetent, mean-spirited president will be replaced by his polar opposite: a man of decency, honesty, and professionalism.

But we should harbor no illusions about what President-elect Joe Biden will face in office. There will be deep scars left from the Trump presidency, and from a pandemic that the outgoing administration did so little to fight. The economic trauma will not heal overnight, and without comprehensive assistance at this critical time of need – including support for cash-strapped state and local governments – the pain will be prolonged.1

America’s long-term allies, of course, will welcome the return of a world where the United States stands up for democracy and human rights, and cooperates internationally to address global problems like pandemics and climate change. But, again, it would be foolish to pretend that the world has not changed fundamentally. The US, after all, has shown itself to be an untrustworthy ally.

How The US Military Is Handling Covid-19 And What We Can Learn From Their Experience

William A. Haseltine

As vaccine news and Covid-19 case resurgence dominate the media’s attention, the military and its Covid-19 experience seem to be flying under the radar. While we at home isolate and reduce our societal interaction, military members continue to interact with hundreds if not thousands of other military personnel every day. How has Covid-19 impacted the United States’ armed forces, and will vaccines enable them to return to business as usual?

While their media presence is limited, the military has dealt with more than their fair share of Covid-19. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), military personnel had over 104,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. While a small number in reference to the 180,000 cases the United States confirms every day, the military is comprised of only about 1.3 million active-duty personnel. Therefore, over 8% of military personnel have had a confirmed case of Covid-19, compared to about .5% of Americans.

This is likely not more significant news because of the military’s lack of severe Covid-19 cases. Only 14 have died from the 104,000 cases, or a death rate about 130 times lower than the United States’ death rate. As severe Covid-19 tends to affect the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions more frequently, it makes sense that a group comprised of healthy, in-shape soldiers under forty were not inhibited much by Covid-19. The spread rate is still concerning as we don’t know the long-term effects of contracting the virus.


Since the global outbreak of Covid-19, the U.S. and Chinese governments have accused each other of using the pandemic as cover to increase military operations in the Indo-Pacific. The United States, for example, has pointed to China’s deployment of coastguard forces to challenge the oil and gas activities of other claimants in the South China Sea, and its increasing exercises and patrols near Taiwan. China has accused the United States of intentionally stoking tensions by increasing its deployments to and exercises in the South China Sea and other sensitive areas, including the Taiwan Strait.

AMTI has previously documented the increased patrol activity of the China Coast Guard at key reefs in the South China Sea. It is also clear that China has stepped up the frequency of military activities around Taiwan and that its regular patrols around the Senkakus have increased in length during 2020. But it is impossible to say from publicly available sources whether and how overall operational tempo by either China or the United States has changed during the pandemic. It is, however, possible to determine how the pandemic has affected public military signaling.

2021: A Space (Force) Odyssey: Norms, Arms Control & Warfighting


WASHINGTON: The past year was such a momentous year in national security space, it’s hard to put a lasso around all the policy, political, bureaucratic and technical issues facing US decision-makers next year.

In a totally unscientific poll (comprising people we could reach before the holiday lull), analysts and industry experts raised a handful of critical questions regarding the service’s maturation under a new administration likely to be less, well, focused on space in general. But they also raised are a number of macro economic and geopolitical trends in motion, which the US needs to begin to address or risk deleterious affects on national security.

Administration Support 

While no one expects the Space Force to be undone, experts say that, at a fundamental level, the incoming Biden administration will need to take stock of whether leaders are comfortable with the re-orientation of military space efforts toward a stronger focus on warfighting in space.

Army shares details on new electronic warfare units

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The Army has worked furiously to develop new electronic warfare capabilities for the force, rebuilding what it divested after the Cold War. With much attention paid to these new systems, the Army is also building new units across the service that will have to operate these emerging electronic warfare systems.

“We really have to make sure that our capabilities are aligned with the force structure that is being stood up,” Col. Kevin Finch, electronic warfare and cyber program manager with the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, has explained in the past.

As part of what the Army calls new force design updates, or redesigns of its units, every brigade combat team will have an electronic warfare platoon and a separate signals intelligence network support team, Col. Daniel Holland, Army capabilities manager for electronic warfare, told C4ISRNET in written responses.

Congress and Control of the Military

The following is a summary of the seventh session of the Congressional Study Group on Foreign Relations and National Security, a program for congressional staff focused on critically engaging the legal and policy factors that define the role that Congress plays in various aspects of U.S. foreign relations and national security policy.

On Sept. 11, 2020, the Congressional Study Group on Foreign Relations and National Security convened online to discuss the issue of to what extent Congress is able to exercise control over the military. In recent years, Congress has enacted statutes that seek to set limits on when the president may remove deployments of U.S. soldiers, including from long standing posts in Germany and South Korea. Are such laws valid exercises of Congress’s own constitutional authority over the funding of and establishment of rules for the military? Or do they infringe on the president’s own constitutional authority as commander in chief?

To discuss these questions, the study group was joined by two outside experts: Professor Zachary Price of the University of California, Hastings College of Law; and Professor Ashley Deeks of the University of Virginia School of Law, who also previously served as the Assistant Legal Adviser for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to the session, they circulated several suggested pieces of background reading, including:

The Laser Wars are Coming.

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Remember: Although laser weapons may see some offensive applications, it appears their primary function will remain defensive: countering the growing threat posed by long-range missiles and drones, as well as reducing the mayhem caused by old-fashioned mortars and rocket artillery.

On June 26 an Apache helicopter successfully tested a high-energy laser pod on targets at the White Sands testing range in New Mexico—the first laser weapon ever employed by a helicopter.

As much as laser-armed helicopters might seem like they belong in a Command & Conquer video game, in reality they are joining a wide variety of ground-, air- and sea-based laser platforms—many of which may be entering service in the coming decades and a few of which are already operational. In fact, a new era of laser warfare may soon be dawning, thanks to lasers’ usefulness for countering two important weapons systems: drones and long-range missiles.

Films like Star Wars depict laser weapons as emitting short pulses of green and red light. However, the “phasers” depicted in Star Trek in the 1960s were arguably a bit more accurate. Real laser weapons project a coherent ray of directed photons (light) that strike their target virtually instantaneously. This beam often streams into the target for several seconds or longer as thermal energy builds up to destructive effect—although some “pulsing” lasers also exist.


Aloha Shipmates! We at the CIMSEC Sea Control Podcast have put our heads together to come up with a “Holidays 2020 Reading List” or perhaps more appropriately named “What We Were Able to Read This Year…” reading list. We’ve each chosen a few books that we read and loved this year and are at least tangentially related to international maritime security. We’ve also included a few that either we didn’t get to in 2020 or we’re looking forward to in 2021.

Walker Mills

Missionaries, by Phil Klay, Penguin Press, 2020. 

Missionaries is veteran author Phil Klay’s second work, coming after his award-winning collection of short stories Redeployment (2014). Well-received by U.S. and Colombian critics, Missionaries is a wrenching story about several characters coming together in Colombia as the government was finishing a peace agreement with the FARC in 2015-2016. Klay uses his characters and their lives to explore violence at the human, community, and system levels and its impact on the human soul.