15 February 2021

Project Force: Is India a military superpower or a Paper Tiger?

Alex Gatopoulos

India’s strategic position has changed dramatically over the past decade. Traditionally fixated on its chief rival, Pakistan, India is now concerned about the striking and rapid modernisation of China’s armed forces.

With a weak air force that is under-strength, an army still bogged down with strategic ideas formed in the last century and a navy that looks good on paper but is being comprehensively outclassed by China’s navy, India is finally coming to terms with its own inadequacies.

After last year’s stand-off between the two countries in Ladakh, India has launched a crash programme designed to address these failings and to play to the several strengths its military does possess.

The Ladakh region is sandwiched between the Karakoram mountain range in the north and the Zanskar range to the south. Pakistan forms its western border and China is to its east. Despite the arid and rugged terrain, it has been part of the Silk Route for centuries and has been fought over at various times by the Persians, Tibetans and Russians, all to control the mountain passes vital for access and trade. India, China and Pakistan all have vested economic and strategic interests in this important region. Ladakh also borders Indian-administered Kashmir, with both Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh having become formal parts of India in 2019.

How China uses extensive spying operations to assert its global dominance: From India to Afghanistan, the US and beyond

For years now, China has been stealthily carrying out espionage activities against rival countries and nations that it deems are consequential to its national security and global supremacy. A host of countries, including the United States, India, Australia and several other key nations have been among the list of countries against whom the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been actively involved in carrying out spying activities.

However, China’s attempt to prise information out of other countries by commissioning spy operations is not a recent development. China had been fairly successful in hiding its nefarious activities up until the advent of the coronavirus outbreak, which was first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, presumably from the wet markets that operated in the city. On occasions when it stood exposed, Beijing used coercion and persuasion to sweep under the rug the ugly realities of its extensive espionage activities.

But the pandemic shattered the ruse that China has been employing to conceal its sordid spying pursuits. Since its outbreak, coronavirus has rapidly spread across the globe, practically leaving no country untouched from its disastrous consequences. The relentless march of the coronavirus resulted in the grave loss of human lives, along with the severe effect on the economies of the countries it ravaged.

A groundswell of resentment developed against China for bequeathing the world with an uncontrollable contagion. The lack of transparency and China’s reticence in providing timely information about the infection only stoked the anger further. CCP’s strident criticism of nations who sought accountability from China for COVID-19 also served to amplify indignation against China.

Rand Paul: Why We Need to End the Forever Wars Now

by Rand Paul

After almost twenty years, we have lost over 7,000 killed, suffered over 50,000 wounded, and spent over $5.4 trillion, in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. And that doesn’t even account for our total human and monetary costs in the greater Middle East over the same period of time. More so, there is no way to begin to count the impact of lives shattered, relationships destroyed, and continued loss of life through suicides.

Some would say this is the cost of war. Perhaps. But in a war, loss should have an objective.

That objective must be to deliver a better state of peace. It should have a theory of victory to make that happen. We teach this to our strategists and future general officers at our war colleges. Under our Constitution, war should have the approval of Congress, and thereby consent of the people, to achieve those war aims.

But yet, after almost twenty years of war we don’t have any of this in a coherent fashion. We are still no closer to victory nor do we even really have a realistic idea of what victory looks like. We haven’t been honest on the conduct of the war. We have continuously shifted our war aims. We have paid staggering opportunity costs, immeasurable amounts of treasure, and most importantly, an unimaginable number of lives—again over 7,000 dead and over 50,000 wounded. After all of this, we owe it to those in uniform, some of who weren’t even born on 9/11, to be brave enough to ask, “When will it be enough?”

With a new year and a new administration, we have the opportunity to answer that question. I had hoped that we would begin to see the light at the end of this tunnel. However, with such appointees like newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his proven track record of military intervention, we are reminded once again that the more things change the more they stay the same.

What Are Biden’s Options For Pulling Troops From Afghanistan?


How many U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and what is their mission?

There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with 6,346 U.S. contractors [PDF]. U.S. force levels peaked at 100,000 in 2011. Under a withdrawal agreement [PDF] signed by the Donald J. Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, there should be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan by May 1.

Some of the remaining U.S. troops conduct Special Operations missions with Afghan partner forces against international terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The rest train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation Resolute Support. For the first time ever, there are more allied troops in Afghanistan (about eight thousand) than U.S. forces there. While small in number, U.S. personnel still provide important functions, including intelligence and air support for Afghan forces. The United States also provides Afghanistan with a critical $4.8 billion in assistance per year, which funds 80 percent [PDF] of the Afghan government’s security expenditures.

What has the Biden administration said about the May deadline?

On Jan. 28, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that “the Taliban have not met their commitments,” casting doubt on whether U.S. forces will exit by May 1. No final decision has been made.

Why U.S. Troops Should Remain in Afghanistan

By Rafi Khetab

There are five national security reasons why the U.S. should keep a strong residual force in Afghanistan. There is also an important moral argument for why America should not abandon the Afghan people and leave them in the clutches of the world’s most savage terrorists. In a highly controversial withdrawal deal signed in February 2020 between the Trump administration and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, U.S. troops are to be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 2021. Such a premature withdrawal will trigger a chain of events that will ultimately expose the U.S. homeland to major terrorist attacks.

As of December 2020, there was a bare minimum of 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They had specific, limited missions: to fight global terror; prevent safe havens for Al-Qaida; stop terror attacks on the U.S. homeland; and train, assist and mentor Afghan Security Forces partners. In his final days as President, Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,500 of those troops and left in place a plan to fully withdraw the remaining troops despite Congress passing a new U.S. law prohibiting such a drawdown. The withdrawal decision was made in a slapdash manner without any strategic thought, foresight or deliberation. President Biden should reverse that order for the following reasons:

Withdrawal emboldens Global Terror: The emergence and rapid expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in late 2011 offers an important lesson. There is the danger that a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan could result in a similar catastrophe that would revive global terrorism and embolden dangerous jihadists all around the world. The Taliban and other terrorists will exploit a U.S. withdrawal as propaganda to attract more finances, bolster recruitment, and expand the reach of their cause. Flushed with cash and donations, terror networks will have the financial wherewithal as well as the charm of a presumed victory to attract flocks of dissatisfied, jobless youth from the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and even Europe, to join their ranks.

Nepal’s Democracy in Crisis

By Peter Gill

Nepal’s democracy is in crisis. When a long-simmering row within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) flared up last December, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli dissolved Parliament —a move critics decried as unconstitutional. Then, on February 3, Oli moved to consolidate control over key constitutional bodies that are supposed to serve as checks and balances to the government. These actions have led critics to question whether elections for a new Parliament, slated for April 30 and May 10, can be held freely and fairly. Much still remains uncertain as the country awaits a Supreme Court verdict on the constitutionality of Oli’s maneuvers.

The recent events have been a setback for China, which supported the NCP and sought to keep it unified. India, the United States, and the European Union, which stand to benefit from China’s loss of influence, have remained mute about Oli’s actions.

Nepali democracy has experienced many trials and travails over the past two decades. Multi-party democracy was established in 1990, but it was challenged by a Maoist insurgency that began in 1996. In 2005, the then-king ousted the democratic government in a royal coup, claiming he needed emergency powers to fight the rebels. This led to a rapprochement between the Maoists and other political parties, and in 2006, popular street protests forced the monarch to step down, paving the way for elections to a Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, in 2008. Political disputes, centered on whether or not to adopt federalism and questions about the rights of Nepal’s various ethnic minorities and so-called low castes, delayed the constitution-drafting process; the Constituent Assembly’s term expired and a second Assembly was elected in 2013. In 2015, Nepal promulgated a controversial new constitution, adopting secularism and federalism.

Ian Easton On Taiwan: From China fantasy to China nightmare

In 2007, James Mann published a book that sent shockwaves through the entire China-watching world. His ideas were more than contrarian. They were radical.

The established authorities flew into fits of rage. How could anyone as well-informed as Mann, a distinguished foreign correspondent and bestselling author, possibly embrace such views? Many scholars felt compelled to cast dispersions on him. Others shunned him. Some did both.

In many ways their reactions were entirely predictable. Mann’s book, The China Fantasy: Why Capitalism Will Not Bring Democracy to China, called into question the bedrock assumptions underpinning US-PRC relations. What if America’s policy toward the Chinese Communist Party regime was based on nothing more than a fantasy? What if the vaunted “China Hands” had it all wrong?

Mann observed that Beijing was not reforming politically, and vastly increased American cooperation and trade with China hadn’t gotten the country moving in a positive direction. China was still a brutal Marxist-Leninist state. Moreover, the pillars supporting the Chinese Communist Party had not weakened, and the regime was not about to collapse. In fact, thanks to American support, the Party was growing stronger than ever.

Competing with China’s Digital Silk Road

Former U.S. secretary of state Dean Acheson’s call to create “situations of strength” is reemerging as a compass for U.S. foreign policy. But that phrase also aptly describes the challenge that China’s global economic activities present, especially in developing and emerging markets, where it is delivering digital infrastructure that shifts the strategic landscape in its favor. The Biden administration needs a strategy for competing with China’s Digital Silk Road that begins at home.

The next phase of U.S.-China technology competition is just starting. Last year, an initial wave of countries decided against including Chinese equipment in their 5G networks. There are degrees of difference among their decisions, including whether suppliers are singled out by name and whether equipment is entirely banned or limited to the network periphery. But overwhelmingly, these countries are wealthy democracies. That leaves the rest of the world, including a long list of countries with varying levels of development and governance, where competition is set to intensify.

China is racing ahead in many of these markets through its Digital Silk Road, which sits at the intersection of three major state-backed initiatives. It was first introduced in 2015 as part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy vision, the Belt and Road Initiative. It also advances “Made in China 2025” and “China Standards 2035,” through which Beijing aspires to lead advanced manufacturing and standard setting, respectively. There is plenty of hype in each of these efforts, but they signal serious ambitions. The Digital Silk Road advances China’s bid for technological independence at home while moving it toward the center of global networks. It takes aim at next-generation technology and next-generation markets.

How Biden CanHow Biden Can Create Permanent Armenian-Azerbaijan Peace in the South CaucasusCreate Permanent Armenian-Azerbaijan Peace in the South Caucasus

by Nurlan Mustafayev

Europe's longest-running territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended after forty-four-days of bloody fighting with the signing of a Russia-brokered trilateral Joint Statement on November 10, 2020. The agreement’s key consequences are the withdrawal of Armenia’s armed forces from Upper Karabakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan and the right of return of all displaced persons (IDPs)—a critical impediment to regional stability in the past thirty years.

The emergent new regional order post-hostilities is based on an umbrella of Russian-Turkish security cooperation. Under this arrangement, a sizable Russian peacekeeping force was deployed in Upper Karabakh and alongside the land corridor connecting the region with Armenia. In addition, the joint Turkey-Russia peacekeeping center operates to monitor the cease-fire. It will be the first time in NATO’s history for its member state to engage in regional security monitoring in a former Soviet Union country.

Notably, the United States and France, as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group—the mediation group entrusted to find a peaceful solution to the conflict—were absent in this critical regional diplomatic endeavor. It was hardly accidental. The U.S. disengagement, France’s perceived partiality, the diplomatic stalemate, coupled with the Minsk Group’s ineffectiveness in the past twenty-six years played a key role in this situation.

Between Inconsistency and Disengagement

Yemen's Houthis say they carried out drone attack on Saudi airport

DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it carried out a drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport on Wednesday which the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen said caused a fire in a civilian aircraft.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said four Houthi drones were used in an attack that he said struck Abha airport, in southern Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday afternoon.

Yemen’s Houthi movement regularly launches drones and missiles into Saudi Arabia, many of which Riyadh says it intercepts. Some have previously hit Abha International Airport which is about 120 km (75 miles) from the border with Yemen.

“The attempt to target Abha airport is a war crime and put civilian travellers’ lives in danger,” the coalition statement said, adding thatthe aircraft was on the ground at the time and that the fire was brought under control.

Sarea said the attack was in response to air strikes and other actions in Yemen by the coalition.

Iran Suggests It May Seek Nuclear Weapons, in New Escalation of Threats

By Rick Gladstone, Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman

The Biden administration faced a double-dose of bad and not-so-bad news Tuesday on Iran: Iranian leaders hinted they are rethinking their vow to never seek a nuclear weapon, and new Israeli intelligence suggests they are at least two years away from producing one.

Iran’s intelligence minister raised the possibility that his country would be forced to seek nuclear arms if American sanctions were not lifted, an attention-grabbing break from the country’s pledge that its atomic energy program would always be peaceful.

The remarks by the intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavi, added pressure on President Biden’s three-week-old administration to avert a new crisis with Iran while it grapples with the economic and health emergencies spawned by the Covid-19 pandemic. An administration official called Mr. Alavi’s statement “very concerning.”

At the same time, a new intelligence assessment by Israel’s military said that if Iran chose to build a bomb, it would need about two years, partly because it lacks all the components and technical ability. The assessment contrasts with the more alarmist assertions made by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and top members of the new U.S. administration, and suggests there may be diplomatic breathing room to avert a showdown.

Blinken: ‘America is stronger with alliances’


President Trump’s get tough with China policy was the right approach, says newly appointed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, but the way he went about it was “wrong across the board.”

During an interview Monday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Blinken said the basic principle may have been right, but “we have to engage China from a position of strength and whether it’s the adversarial aspects of the relationship, the competitive ones, or the cooperative ones —which are there in our mutual interests — we have to deal from a position of strength. That means having strong alliances.”

And that is the heart of the new, so-called “Biden doctrine” — building alliances, instead of destroying them.

“That’s a source of advantage for us, not denigrating our alliances,” said Blinken. “It means … showing up again in the world, engaging … because if we don’t, what we pull back, China fills in. It means standing up for our values, not advocating them.”

In other words, walking the talk — something America has not done, in a long time.

“When we see the abuse of the rights of the Uyghurs or democracy in Hong Kong, it means making sure that we’re postured militarily to deter aggression, and it means investing in our own people so that they can compete effectively,” Blinken said.

“If we do all of these things and all these things are within our control, we can engage China from a position of strength.”

The former diplomat — who grew up in Paris and speaks impeccable French, staunchly believes that the US should work with its allies and within international treaties and organizations — has come out strongly in regard to the Uyghur issue, calling them victims of an ongoing genocide.

50 Pro Tips for Strategists

ML Cavanaugh

I became a strategist over a decade ago and in that time I’ve come to two conclusions. First, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Second, through the scientific process of sticking my fingers in light sockets, I’ve learned a few things. Some preferences, that, when pulled together, look like a consistent operating system.

This list is not in any order. It’s written from my perspective as a US Army Strategist. Each lesson has wide applicability for many other strategists. Whether you’re struggling, striving, or already successful, many of these will be helpful. Perhaps most. Pluck what’s useful; discard what’s not.

Know yourself first. Write your own mission statement, core competency, maybe even an oath for what you do. Know your contribution. You should be able to articulate this to anyone at any time.

Wear earplugs in the office to focus. They’re cheaper and better than noise-cancelling headphones. Get colorful ones that scream “I’m busy.”

Know the communications tech. If it’s stuff like Zoom then that’s easier. If it’s clunky government VTCs, then learn the dial-ups yourself. Get to know the VTC techs. Bring them coffee (or at least smile kindly).

Invest in tools, not toys.

Ditch the smartphone. Buy a good pen and some paper instead.

How to Save Local News


NEW YORK – The COVID-19 crisis has confirmed, yet again, the importance of broad access to clear, reliable, and accurate information. Throughout the pandemic, people all over the world have depended on reliable news sources to help them understand not only the virus itself, but also its impact on their economies and societies. And yet the people gathering, verifying, and delivering that information have been under unprecedented strain – raising the risk that, when the next crisis comes, we will have few trusted news sources to which to turn.

Unlike other industries that have suffered during the pandemic, journalism is not facing a drop in demand. On the contrary, Nielsen estimates that staying home – such as during crises – can lead to an almost 60% increase in media consumption. And, indeed, in the United States, media consumption reached historic highs in 2020; news programming comprised a major component of the increase.

The same trend can be seen around the world. A study of media consumption across North Asia during the pandemic found a sharp increase in use of digital news sources in Japan as worries about COVID-19 spread. And in Taiwan and South Korea, news channels were the primary beneficiaries of growth in television viewership.

Russian Electronic Warfare Operators Want to Leave NATO in the Dark

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Remember: Western militaries depend on extensive command-and-control infrastructure and near real-time tracking of troop positions as force multipliers. However, Russian electronic-warfare batteries wield a multitude of systems to jam or spy upon frontline communication systems — including radio, cellular, satellite and even GPS.

The U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group was formed in 2006 to identify gaps in U.S. military doctrine, equipment and field tactics, and to study how potential adversaries are developing tactics to exploit them. In 2017 the group released the 61-page Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook, based on observation of Russian tactics in Ukraine and to a lesser extent Syria, as well as published doctrine and public statements.

The handbook paints an intimidating picture of a military ready to combine old strengths in artillery and anti-aircraft systems with new technologies and tactics, leveraging drones, electronic warfare, information warfare and massed sniper fire.

To be clear, the document doesn’t set out to paint the Russian military as an indomitable juggernaut.

COVID Delays Joint Warfighting Concept: Hyten


WASHINGTON: The roll out of All Domain Operation’s crucial Joint Warfighting Concept has been delayed until spring, due to pandemic-created obstacles to the large multi-service exercises needed to flesh it out, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten says.

“It’s been delayed. And there’s an easy one word answer: it’s COVID,” Hyten told me today.

“In order for a new Joint Warfighting Concept to actually reach the first level of maturity where we can publish version one, we really need to play some large war games with all the services playing — including the Space Force, and a very active ‘Red Team’– that plays real-time and looks at the different concepts and figured out what works and doesn’t work,” he explained during an event sponsored by the National Security Space Association (NSSA). “By this time we were supposed to already have done three major war games and a Globally Integrated Exercise. And we’ve only done one of them, and that one was less than satisfactory because of all the restrictions we had to put in place for COVID.”

The Joint Warfighting Concept is the strategy outlining the new American way of war known as All Domain Operations; that is, next-generation, information-based wars using enormous amounts of fast computer analysis across the land, air, sea, space and cyberspace domains. Launched in 2019 by then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a draft of the new concept as well as detailed articulations of its four sub-concepts were originally slated for completion by the end of 2020.

New Joint Warfighting Plan Will Help Define ‘Top Priority’ JADC2: Hyten


Gen. John Hyten

CAPITOL HILL: The Joint Staff is developing a new Joint Warfighting Concept to define the American way of war by the end of the year, says Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Hyten. A key goal of the concept will be defining Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) as a concept, as well as its requirements.

Hyten stressed that developing JADC2 is one of the highest priorities of Hyten’s boss, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley. “Gen. Milley says Joint All-Domain Command and Control has gotta be one of his highest priorities. Therefore it’s one of my highest priorities. And Gen. Goldfein (Air Force Chief of Staff) is pushing that hard,” he said today at an Air Force Association breakfast.

On Tuesday, Goldfein told an audience at the Center for a New American Security on Tuesday that JADC2 is his top priority for 2021. “First and foremost, you gotta connect the joint team,” he said. “We have to have access to common data so that we can operate at speeds and bring all domain capabilities against an adversary.”

Hyten said that the Joint Staff have been tasked by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to deliver the new warfighting concept by December, a process that in turn should drive what joint requirements are developed by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) — including those for JADC2. Thus, fleshing out the new warfighting plan is one of the three priorities for this year discussed when the JROC met earlier this week. Ellen Lord, DoD undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, and Mike Griffin, undersecretary for research & engineering were there with Hyten.

What If We Never Reach Herd Immunity?


Let’s begin by defining our terms. Herd immunity is the hazy, long-promised end of the pandemic, but its requirements are quite specific. Jennie Lavine, a biologist at Emory University, likens it to wet logs in a campfire. If there’s enough water in the logs—if there’s enough immunity in a population—“you can’t get the fire to start, period,” she says. To be more technical about it, a population reaches herd immunity when the average number of people infected by a single sick person falls below one. Patient zero might infect another person, but that second person can’t infect a third. This is what happens with measles, polio, and several other diseases for which vaccines have achieved herd immunity in the United States. A case might land here, but the spark never finds much dry fuel. The outbreak never sustains itself.

For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. That’s the proportion of people who need to have immunity either from vaccination or from prior infection. In the U.S., the countdown to when enough people are vaccinated to reach herd immunity has already begun.

But what if we still can’t get the logs wet enough? What if they are drying out faster than we can douse them? A number of signs now point to a future in which the transmission of this virus cannot be contained through herd immunity. COVID-19 will likely continue to circulate, to evolve, and to reinfect. In that case, the goal of vaccination needs to be different.

UN experts: North Korea using cyber attacks to update nukes


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea has modernized its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by flaunting United Nations sanctions, using cyberattacks to help finance its programs and continuing to seek material and technology overseas for its arsenal including in Iran, U.N. experts said.

The panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the Northeast Asian nation said in a report sent to Security Council members Monday that North Korea’s “total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4 million,” according to one unidentified country.

The panel said its investigations found that North Korean-linked cyber actors continued to conduct operations in 2020 against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses to generate money to support its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

The experts previously reported on the continuous involvement in Iran of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons that are under U.N. sanctions.

In the new report, the experts quoted an unidentified country as saying North Korea and Iran “have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects ... said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020.”

A cyber-attack on an American water plant rattles nerves

OLDSMAR, FLORIDA, a small town of 14,000 or so people, is an unlikely site for an attempted cyber massacre. So when an operator at the city’s water treatment plant noticed someone briefly accessing its network early on February 5th, he assumed it was a supervisor checking in. In the middle of a pandemic, remote working would hardly be unusual. But complacency turned to alarm at lunchtime, when he noticed that someone had seized control of his cursor for several minutes and increased the level of sodium hydroxide—a caustic alkaline chemical used in small amounts to control the acidity of water, and in larger quantities in drain cleaner—more than a hundredfold.

The effort to poison Floridians failed when the watchful operator promptly reversed the move, long before the chemical composition of the water supply could change. Had he not, other monitoring systems at the plant would have noticed the change in pH level and sounded the alarm, according to the city’s mayor. “At no time was there a significant adverse effect on the water being treated,” said the local sheriff, at a press conference on February 8th. “Importantly, the public was never in danger.” The residents of Oldsmar may not be so sanguine. The attack is a reminder that the growing digitalisation of critical infrastructure has rendered it vulnerable as never before.

After Trump: Lessons From Other Post-Populist Democracies

Joshua Kurlantzick 

Over the past decade, illiberal populist leaders from across the political spectrum have won elections and taken power in many of the world’s biggest democracies, from the United States to India, the Philippines, Turkey and Brazil. Once in office, they have often undermined democratic norms and institutions, including the media, the judiciary, the civil service, and, in many cases, free and fair elections themselves.

The rise of illiberal populism is a major reason why the annual “Freedom in the World” reports, published by the global watchdog organization Freedom House, have charted 14 straight years of global democratic regression. (I serve as a consultant for several chapters on Southeast Asia in these reports.) The Economist Intelligence Unit’s most recent Democracy Index found that global freedom was at its lowest point since the index was started in 2006. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in further harm to democracy worldwide, as many illiberal leaders, particularly in developing countries, have taken advantage of the crisis to crush political opposition and grab more power.

Donald Trump is among the first, and most prominent, of this recent wave of populist leaders to lose an election and leave office—albeit not without putting up a fight. Other populist leaders, like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, still appear to be gaining power and popularity. But Trump’s defeat in last November’s presidential election offered some hope to proponents of democracy and the rule of law. Now that he is out of power, can the U.S. restore the democratic norms and institutions that Trump badly undermined during his presidency? The histories of other countries that ejected their illiberal populist leaders do not give great cause for optimism, but their examples also suggest that American democracy is not doomed.

The Syrian Civil War – Evolution of the Syrian Army’s Way of War

We are pleased to bring you this MSM Exclusive Article, written by Eyal Berelovich, which was originally published in Hebrew and has been translated into English for readers of Military Strategy Magazine.

The original article appeared in Ma'arachot, the Israel Defense Forces’ Content House. It was one article in a Special Edition published in October 2020 titled, “The Syrian Civil War - Operational and Tactical Lessons,” (pages 10-15).

Eyal Berelovich is a Defense Analyst at the Israel Defense Force Ground Forces (GF) Research, Doctrine and Concept Department. He previously filled positions at the IDF Training and Doctrine Department/J-3. He is a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His main area of research is the Ottoman army in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The views expressed above are those of the author and do not represent those of the Israel Defense Force Ground Forces, the R.D.C Department, or the Israel Defense Force.

The views expressed above are those of the author and do not represent those of the Israel Defense Force Ground Forces, the R.D.C Department, or the Israel Defense Force.

Professor Eyal Zisser’s 2018 article on the Syrian Civil War begins with the following words: “In March 2011 a revolution erupted in Syria. It began as a limited local non-violent protest in the rural and peripheral areas of the country, and within a few months escalated into a bloody civil war that quickly became sectarian, and worse yet – religious, a holy war (Jihad). The civil war attracted foreign intervention that transformed Syria into a regional and international arena of conflict, with the rival sides being used by the global and regional powers as pieces on the chess-board of their conflicts.” [i]

George Shultz Showed U.S. Foreign Policy Is Strongest When We Combine Realism and Human Rights


Realism in foreign policy reflects a messy, dangerous world where too little can be distilled into clear-cut moral absolutes, and thus national interest takes precedence over universal values. Nevertheless, a world ravaged by war, migration, refugee flows, and a demand for dignity across ethnic, religious, and racial lines requires a morally sustainable foreign policy rooted in idealism. Yet realism and idealism can work together. The American diplomatic tradition at its best has employed humanitarianism as a complement to power politics; not as an opponent of it. This all has profound consequences for our great power competition with China and Russia today, and for how the Biden Administration will deal with it.

Some of the darkest days of the Cold War—governed by realpolitik calculations of power—were also suffused with human rights concerns at the highest official levels. It was what defined the American brand and distinguished it from that of the Soviets. The State Department’s Refugee Bureau had its beginnings under President Jimmy Carter, when Communist takeovers in Vietnam and Cambodia led to a humanitarian cataclysm, as millions streamed out of those countries into Thailand. President Ronald Reagan picked up Carter’s torch, with Reagan’s secretary of state, the late George Shultz, who died on Feb. 7, seamlessly combining hard-headed realism with humanitarianism, especially throughout Africa. I know I was there as a reporter for The Atlantic.

Biden’s First Middle East Moves

By George Friedman

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden took two steps in the Middle East. The first was that he notified Congress of his intention to remove the Houthis fighting in Yemen from the government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The second was that he said the U.S. would end its support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen and would review its relationship with Saudi Arabia over concerns about that country’s human rights record. In and of themselves, these two actions have little meaning. Viewed together, they may represent a radical shift in U.S. Middle East policy. The question, of course, is how and even whether this shift will affect the reality of the region. As I have so often written, policy is the list of things we wish for. Geopolitical reality is what we get.

The Houthis are a major faction in what seems the eternal Yemeni civil war. They are aligned with Iran, facing off against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The war in Yemen has to a great extent morphed from a civil war into a war between other countries’ proxies. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been carrying out airstrikes and providing some support on the ground in the fight against the Houthis. Iran, on the other hand, has been providing missiles to the Houthis (or Houthi-appearing Iranian forces), which have been fired into Saudi Arabia.

Strategic autonomy or strategic alliance?


On the day of the United States presidential inauguration, European Union leaders lost no opportunity to express relief that the world hegemon was back, ready to cooperate and help solve common problems.

But the truth is that, during the last four years, the world has not simply stopped and waited for the US. The EU in particular took important steps in understanding the importance of strategic autonomy. Pushed by the uncooperative Trump administration, the EU pursued bilateralism, aiming to protect its own interests.

This pursuit of strategic autonomy by the EU is de facto an attempt to separate from the US. The big question now a new US president is in place, is whether we need to continue such a pursuit.

The answer to this question should depend on how aligned the new US administration will be with the EU on fundamental issues. There is great scope for the two to align on climate change and on how to fight the pandemic. However, there is also scope for significant disagreements.

The most obvious is how to deal with big tech companies that are considered to have acquired too much power to the detriment of good economic outcomes. In particular, given their global nature, it is not clear how to tax the services these companies provide.

Accomplice to Carnage

By Robert Malley and Stephen Pomper

Editor's Note: After this article went to press, the Biden administration announced a number of measures that align with recommendations it made, including reversing the Trump administration's designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization, appointing a special envoy for Yemen, curtailing support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict, supporting the UN-led peace process, and offering assurances to Saudi Arabia regarding the defense of its territorial integrity. Also after the article went to press, one of its authors, Robert Malley, was appointed U.S. special envoy to Iran.

In late March 2015, Saudi officials came to the Obama administration with a message: Saudi Arabia and a coalition of partners were on the verge of intervening in neighboring Yemen, whose leader had recently been ousted by rebels. This wasn’t exactly a bolt from the blue. The Saudis had been flagging their growing concerns about the insurgency on their southern border for months, arguing that the rebels were proxies for their archrival, Iran. Still, the message had what Obama administration officials characterized as a “five minutes to midnight” quality that they had not quite anticipated: Saudi Arabia was going to act imminently, with or without the United States. But it much preferred to proceed with American help.

Will American Ideas Tear France Apart? Some of Its Leaders Think So

By Norimitsu Onishi

PARIS — The threat is said to be existential. It fuels secessionism. Gnaws at national unity. Abets Islamism. Attacks France’s intellectual and cultural heritage.

The threat? “Certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States,’’ said President Emmanuel Macron.

French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society. “There’s a battle to wage against an intellectual matrix from American universities,’’ warned Mr. Macron’s education minister.

Emboldened by these comments, prominent intellectuals have banded together against what they regard as contamination by the out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses and its attendant cancel culture.

Pitted against them is a younger, more diverse guard that considers these theories as tools to understanding the willful blind spots of an increasingly diverse nation that still recoils at the mention of race, has yet to come to terms with its colonial past and often waves away the concerns of minorities as identity politics.

Disputes that would have otherwise attracted little attention are now blown up in the news and social media. The new director of the Paris Opera, who said on Monday he wants to diversify its staff and ban blackface, has been attacked by the far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, but also in Le Monde because, though German, he had worked in Toronto and had “soaked up American culture for 10 years.”

America’s ‘deep state’ is not nearly deep enough


In the ninth grade, I wrote an essay for English class about how politicians should have to take a civics test in order to qualify for public office. It was 1992, so I don’t recall all the details. But I do remember the Clinton campaign catchphrase of the year that inspired my choice of topic: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The idea was simple but seductive. Focus on what the government can do to actually improve people’s lives. George H.W. Bush was popular but the recession was not. The slogan worked.

But over the last several decades, America lost the plot. Some politicians decided that government itself was the problem, and set out to prove it. Income inequality and political polarization rose. Trust in institutions collapsed, fueling a populist backlash that thrilled in the destruction of the old order but offered no plan to replace it. In the Trump era, a new political term entered the national lexicon: kakistocracy, or rule by the worst.

The election of Joe Biden has restored the sense that meritocracy, rather than nepotism, has returned to the executive branch. But we must be careful as we “return to normal” that we’re not simply restoring the systems that gave us Trump. Meritocracy, after all, has a tendency to preserve itself in the interests of meritocrats.

The truth is, meritocracy is not sufficient for good governance. For that, you need technocracy. The word has come under suspicion by virtue of its association with Big Tech and big data, but the prefix is misleading. Technocracy, simply put, is an approach to governance in which policy decisions are administered by independent public servants, not political appointees. Being a run-of-the-mill elite doesn’t qualify one to be a technocrat. Plenty of MBAs have risen in the financial meritocracy only to plunder banks, shareholders, and depositors through unscrupulous practices. A proper technocrat, therefore, is more than an expert: they must be competent, experienced, and legally bound to maximize collective welfare.

We Must Reorient US Cyber Strategy Around the Only Safe Assumption


This oped is adapted from Dmitri Alperovitch's Feb. 10, 2021, testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee.

Almost half a decade ago, I coined the phrase: “We do not have a cyber problem; we have a China-Russia-Iran-and-North Korea problem.”

Cyberspace is not a separate virtual world, immune from the forces that shape the broader geopolitical landscape. Instead, it is an extension of that landscape, and the threats we face in cyberspace are not fundamentally different from the threats we face in the non-cyber realm.

China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are the four primary strategic adversaries whose malignant activities in cyberspace we try to counter on a daily basis, as we do their more traditional tactics in the physical world. Often, these battles are joined by non-state actors, such as the most well-organized cybercriminals. These actors inflict enormous damage on our economy by launching ransomware attacks and stealing financial data from our businesses and citizens, and it is no coincidence that they operate with impunity from the safety of their homes in these very same countries.

These countries conduct a variety of cyber operations against us on a daily basis, ranging from cyber-enabled espionage against our government to the theft of intellectual property from our companies to destructive attacks that shutdown business operations to the interference in the foundation of our democracy: our elections.

Defense Department must determine the threat from quantum computers

Andrew Eversden

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense must determine the national security threat posed by quantum computing, as part of the new annual defense policy law.

The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law New Year’s Day after the Senate overrode President Donald Trump’s veto, contained a provision that directed the department to deliver a report to Congress that provides a “comprehensive assessment of the current and potential threats and risks posed by quantum computing technologies to critical national security systems.”

“[Cryptology] is ... the backbone of much of our security,” said Joël Alwen, chief cryptographer at Wickr, a secure collaboration platform.

Powerful quantum computers pose a danger to national security because they may be able to break current encryption capabilities, meaning secure communications under current systems will be nearly impossible. On the flip side, adversaries with quantum capabilities will be able to communicate securely without fear of interception by the U.S., unless it achieves its own quantum computer.

“Quantum computing may allow adversaries to decrypt [unclassified, classified or sensitive] information, which could enable them to target U.S. personnel and military operations,” a November Congressional Research Service report warned.