18 March 2021

Why Experts Fear Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Could Go Missing

by Kyle Mizokami

Here's What You Need to Remember: Pakistan is clearly developing a robust nuclear capability that can not only deter but fight a nuclear war. It is also dealing with internal security issues that could threaten the integrity of its nuclear arsenal.

Sandwiched between Iran, China, India and Afghanistan, Pakistan lives in a complicated neighborhood with a variety of security issues. One of the nine known states known to have nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and doctrine are continually evolving to match perceived threats. A nuclear power for decades, Pakistan is now attempting to construct a nuclear triad of its own, making its nuclear arsenal resilient and capable of devastating retaliatory strikes.

Pakistan’s nuclear program goes back to the 1950s, during the early days of its rivalry with India. President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said in 1965, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.”

The program became a higher priority after the country’s 1971 defeat at the hands of India, which caused East Pakistan to break away and become Bangladesh. Experts believe the humiliating loss of territory, much more than reports that India was pursuing nuclear weapons, accelerated the Pakistani nuclear program. India tested its first bomb, codenamed “Smiling Buddha,” in May 1974, putting the subcontinent on the road to nuclearization.

High Stakes for Media and Expression with Myanmar Coup

Gayathry Venkiteswaran

The last decade had offered glimmers of hope for the people of Myanmar that the country could finally begin the process of democratization and long-lasting peace. But 1 February 2021, was cruel reminder of the vast powers that the military, or Tatmadaw (official armed force of Myanmar), held over the nation and its people as it took power forcibly just before the formation of the civilian-led government of the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) for the second term. In the November 2020 elections, the NLD won with an overwhelming majority for both the houses in the parliament and the state legislative assemblies.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners which monitors, documents and campaigns for the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, more than 1,000 political leaders, activists and ordinary citizens participating in the subsequent widespread protests, as well as journalists on duty, have been detained, arrested or convicted since the coup. At the time of writing the number of fatalities continues to rise due to the excessive use of force by the police and military who have also been targeting people’s homes. Access to the internet and communication platforms have been regularly blocked, and the junta has drafted new cyber laws that could further erode the rights of the people.

Myanmar campaigners, including Justice for Myanmar and Altsean-Burma, say that the Commander-in-chief of the army, General Min Aung Hlaing, who was due for retirement in June 2021, launched the coup to consolidate power, avoid potential prosecution for crimes against humanity and secure his and his family’s economic interests. Claims of widespread electoral fraud by the military are largely unsubstantiated and do not justify the declaration of emergency, as Myanmar scholar Melissa Crouch argues, saying that it was against the military’s own 2008 flawed-constitution.

Looking Back on ASEAN and Sino-US Rivalry in the Cold War

Wen-Qing Ngoei

In discussions of the current Sino-US rivalry, talk of China eclipsing America as the world’s foremost power is popular. Analysts seeking signs of US decline can certainly muster suitable evidence with which to argue this case. Indeed, the expectations of many observers that China’s economy must ultimately overtake America’s have been met with new projections that that moment will arrive within this decade. Furthermore, I have pointed out that it must have been easy to perceive US weakness and desperation in recent years when the Trump administration intermittently made naval and rhetorical challenges to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea. Certainly, in Southeast Asia, a major theatre of Sino-US competition for influence, trade and security ties, there are serious concerns over which of the two powers will end up predominant in regional affairs. A survey of Southeast Asia’s policymakers, businesspeople, journalists and pundits released in early 2020 by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute of Singapore underscored that elite regional opinion was increasingly convinced China wielded the ‘biggest clout’ in Southeast Asia, a view accompanied by sagging confidence in America as a strategic partner of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

America and its Southeast Asian allies faced a similar, though not identical, challenge in the Cold War. In some respects, the situation in the past was more dire. My recent book, Arc of Containment: Britain, the United States, and Anticommunism in Southeast Asia (Cornell), shows that by the late 1960s ASEAN allies’ doubts about US power and commitment to the region had spiked. America’s vaunted war machine had continually failed to rout the communist forces of Vietnam and, more importantly, US President Richard Nixon had declared in 1969 while in Guam that he planned to withdraw US forces from Vietnam as well as have America’s nontreaty allies take responsibility for defending themselves militarily. Put another way, the contemplation of US decline and retreat from Asia had seemingly progressed beyond mere talk into reality.

Preparing for Retaliation Against Russia, U.S. Confronts Hacking by China

By David E. Sanger, Julian E. Barnes and Nicole Perlroth

WASHINGTON — Just as it plans to begin retaliating against Russia for the large-scale hacking of American government agencies and corporations discovered late last year, the Biden administration faces a new cyberattack that raises the question of whether it will have to strike back at another major adversary: China.

Taken together, the responses will start to define how President Biden fashions his new administration’s response to escalating cyberconflict and whether he can find a way to impose a steeper penalty on rivals who regularly exploit vulnerabilities in government and corporate defenses to spy, steal information and potentially damage critical components of the nation’s infrastructure.

The first major move is expected over the next three weeks, officials said, with a series of clandestine actions across Russian networks that are intended to be evident to President Vladimir V. Putin and his intelligence services and military but not to the wider world.

The officials said the actions would be combined with some kind of economic sanctions — though there are few truly effective sanctions left to impose — and an executive order from Mr. Biden to accelerate the hardening of federal government networks after the Russian hacking, which went undetected for months until it was discovered by a private cybersecurity firm.

The issue has taken on added urgency at the White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies in recent days after the public exposure of a major breach in Microsoft email systems used by small businesses, local governments and, by some accounts, key military contractors.

The Securitization of Christianity under Xi Jinping

Zeger Franciscus Glas

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

Zhejiang province is situated south of Shanghai and is considered to be one of China’s richest provinces. It also holds one of China’s largest concentrations of Christians and while they have been living in the area for many decades, recently they have come under increasing political pressure. In 2014 alone thirty churches were demolished, 422 crosses were removed, over 300 people were taken into police custody, 150 people were physically harmed by the authorities and over 70 Chinese Christians were prosecuted, among them church leaders and prominent members of the local clergy (Rotenberg, 2018). These numbers are exemplary for the intensification of religious repression in China in recent years. Since Xi Jinping has taken power, state control over religious rights and liberties has expanded relative to the eras of Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin before him. However, the tightening of political control over religious groups as well as individual believers should be considered in a broader sense than simply the restriction of civil liberties.

Since Xi has taken over the reigns in late 2012 he has set out to accelerate a foundational change in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese society regarding the legitimacy and power position of the party by embedding an alternate master narrative. Exercising political control over religion is one of the avenues by which he seeks to achieve this end. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the CCP has derived its legitimacy to rule form the communist ideology on which both the party and the state are grounded. Yet, after the 1978 reforms, China has increasingly embraced market led capitalist principles, eroding its claim to legitimacy based on the communist ideology (Jinghan, 2014).

As Negative Views of China Grow in U.S., Russians Are Happy with Their Neighbor


As negative views of China grow among those in the United States, Russians have overwhelmingly positive views of their neighbor, recent surveys reported.

A survey conducted jointly by the Chicago Council think tank and the Moscow-based Levada Center polling firm published Friday revealed that 74% of Russians have favorable views of China, a finding that reflects the growing geopolitical warmth between the two nations. Just 45% felt the same about the European Union, and only 39% had a favorable view of the U.S.

This data emerges amid a downward turn in the favorability of China in the U.S. A Gallup poll published earlier this month found that just one-in-five of respondents in the U.S. had a positive opinion of China. That was a drop from one-in-three just last year and an all-time low for reporting since 1979, the year Washington established relations with the People's Republic.

In the decades since, the country has established itself as a leading economic power, matched only by the U.S. Its military and diplomatic forces have also strengthened, and now challenge Washington's post-Cold War status as the world's only superpower, which it gained with the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

China’s New Deserts

Geologist and environmentalist Yang Yong takes a cigarette break after a long drive. He says, “I’m not doing this for money or fame, I just want to know more. We know so little, and we are now at the point where everyone is concerned about this region and its relationship to climate change. The main discussion is regarding how we can protect, develop, and use it. It’s a massive area, and I can hardly explore every corner of the plateau. And time is running out [for me].”

Yang drives past grazing yaks in the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in Qinghai province. In an effort to address a record dry spell in the Yellow River in the 1990s, as well as other environmental issues, the government established the Sanjiangyuan Reserve to protect the river’s source in northwest Qinghai province.

Rain clouds approach Madoi county while Yang’s expedition group eats lunch after stopping to stock up on fuel and food supplies, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province. Madoi county has an elevation of around 14,000 feet. Madoi’s annual temperature averages 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has very low annual precipitation, averaging less than 13 inches.

Rare earths outside China: Researchers identify new deposits

Rare earth elements are the gold of the 21st century: rare and highly prized all over the world. Most known and economically viable sources of rare earths are located in China, where more than 80 percent of them are refined. This has resulted in a near monopoly situation, with China dominating international trade, particularly in heavy rare earths. Geologists and materials scientists at FAU have now discovered a new way of finding new and previously unknown deposits of rare earths, or rare earth metals, worldwide. They have published the findings of their study in the journal Geology.

Rare earth metals are irreplaceable for manufacturing advanced high-tech industrial products due to their luminescent and catalytic properties. They are used to make permanent magnets that are a vital part of modern electronics in televisions, smartphones, notebooks, jet engines, and rocket guidance systems as well as in solar and wind power plants, electric motors and in medical engineering.

Contrary to what their name might suggest, sources of rare earth elements or rare earth metals are distributed fairly equally all over the world. However, there are only very few sources that are economically viable. FAU geologists Dr. Sönke Brandt, Prof. Dr. Reiner Klemd, Marc Fassbender and Prof. Dr. Karsten Haase have now discovered an indicator that can identify such deposits.

They inspected rock samples from the Vergenoeg fluorite mine in South Africa and discovered that fayalite crystals in the sediment of granite-like magma can contain large amounts of heavy rare earth elements. The mineral, which is reddish brown to black in color, is mainly mined for use as a gemstone and is also used for sand blasting. Fayalite can be found worldwide in igneous rock and abyssal rocks.

China’s new Five-Year Plan and 2021 budget: what do they mean for defence?

While China’s defence budget growth for 2021 will be modest, its military modernisation plans are anything but. Fenella McGerty and Meia Nouwens explain what Beijing’s latest policy announcements reveal about the scale of its defence expenditure and ambitions.

PLA and China defence watchers eagerly awaited this year’s ‘Two Sessions’ meeting of China’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference for announcements relating to the country’s 2021 defence budget, and other defence-related policy announcements. Though there were few real surprises, the statements at the meeting and details in the accompanying Five-Year Plan documents confirm the current understanding of China’s priorities for the next five years in security, defence and technological innovation.
Slight uptick in China’s 2021 defence budget

The 2021 Chinese defence budget of CNY1.355 trillion (US$202 billion) represents a 6.8% nominal increase over the core 2020 budget of CNY1.268 trillion (US$188bn). In 2020, the government sought to shield the PLA and the defence economy from wider pandemic-driven economic concerns by only marginally slowing the rate of defence budget growth to 6.7%. The slightly stronger nominal growth for 2021 is, therefore, indicative of the sturdier footing that China’s economy is on compared to this time last year. While the rates of growth for 2020 and 2021 are considerably lower than the 12.8% notched up between 2014 and 2019, they are only slightly below the 8.1% average annual growth seen between 2015 and 2019.

Chinese Hackers Blamed for Massive Microsoft Server Hack

By Frank Bajak & Eric Tucker , Matt O'Brien

Victims of a massive global hack of Microsoft email server software — estimated in the tens of thousands by cybersecurity responders — hustled Monday to shore up infected systems and try to diminish chances that intruders might steal data or hobble their networks.

The White House has called the hack an “active threat” and said senior national security officials were addressing it.

The breach was discovered in early January and attributed to Chinese cyber spies targeting U.S. policy think tanks. Then in late February, five days before Microsoft issued a patch on March 2, there was an explosion of infiltrations by other intruders, piggybacking on the initial breach. Victims run the spectrum of organizations that run email servers, from mom-and-pop retailers to law firms, municipal governments, healthcare providers, and manufacturers.

While the hack doesn’t pose the kind of national security threat as the more sophisticated SolarWinds campaign, which the Biden administration blames on Russian intelligence officers, it can be an existential threat for victims who didn’t install the patch in time and now have hackers lingering in their systems. The hack poses a new challenge for the White House, which even as it prepares to respond to the SolarWinds breach, must now grapple with a formidable and very different threat from China.

“I would say it’s a serious economic security threat because so many small companies out there can literally have their business destroyed through a targeted ransomware attack,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, former chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike.

He blames China for the global wave of infections that began February 26, though other researchers say it’s too early to confidently attribute them. It’s a mystery how those hackers got wind of the initial breach because no one knew about this except a few researchers, Alperovitch said.

Opium War: The Conflict That Changed China Forever

by Sebastien Roblin

Key point: London instigated a war of aggression against China in order to force an inequal treaty. Seeing their success, other major imperial powers soon followed suit.

In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.

Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.

The Qing Dynasty, founded by Manchurian clans in 1644, expanded China’s borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.

Foreigners — even on trade ships — were prohibited entry into Chinese territory.

The exception to the rule was in Canton, the southeastern region centered on modern-day Guangdong Province, which adjoins Hong Kong and Macao. Foreigners were allowed to trade in the Thirteen Factories district in the city of Guangzhou, with payments made exclusively in silver.

The British gave the East India Company a monopoly on trade with China, and soon ships based in colonial India were vigorously exchanging silver for tea and porcelain. But the British had a limited supply of silver.

Opium War:

Britain must boost cyber-attack capacity, PM Johnson says

By David Milliken

“Cyber power is revolutionising the way we live our lives and fight our wars, just as air power did 100 years ago,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.

Johnson is due to present a long-term review of national security strategy to parliament on Tuesday which media reports suggest could lead to a reduction in armed forces personnel.

“The review will set out the importance of cyber technology to our way of life - whether it’s defeating our enemies on the battlefield, making the internet a safer place or developing cutting-edge tech to improve people’s lives,” Johnson’s office said.

In 2019, Britain spent $59 billion, or 2.1% of national income, on defence, more than any other large European country but far below the 3.5% of income spent by the United States.

Britain has invested heavily in costly aircraft carriers in recent years and maintains nuclear weapons, but its ground forces have shrunk since the Cold War ended.

Some British media have reported that the review will call for the number of army personnel to be reduced by a further 12,500 to around 70,000.

The defence ministry said on Saturday that talk of cuts “at this stage is speculation”.

The Future of U.S.-Russian Arms Control: Principles of Engagement and New Approaches

As one of its first decisions regarding security policy, the Biden administration agreed to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for five years with no conditions. New START represents one of the last remaining vestiges of international arms control architecture and one of the few areas of potentially productive U.S.-Russian dialogue in an otherwise toxic, distrustful bilateral relationship. Yet the security environment has drastically changed since New START was negotiated in 2010. The treaty covers only a part of the “security equation” wherein missile defense, new weapons systems, space-based assets, and advanced technologies are not subject to formal arms control agreements. Both Moscow and Washington—though to different extents—have grounds to be concerned about the nuclear capabilities of third countries that are not party to existing arms control arrangements.

Against this backdrop, how can we begin to reframe the U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue for the future? Where should the negotiation or discussion start: with new capabilities or rebuilding some semblance of trust through greater transparency measures? Should principles be reaffirmed and developed in multilateral forums rather than through formal treaties? What can realistically be accomplished during the five-year extension period? These questions provided the backdrop to a U.S.-Russian Track 2 Strategic Stability Dialogue held over four, in-depth conversations in November and December 2020, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Moscow-based PIR Center. This bilateral and bipartisan dialogue was unique in featuring a wide range of views on arms control on both the U.S. and Russian sides. In doing so, the organizers sought to build the groundwork for an approach to arms control talks that would withstand political fluctuations in both countries.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Covid Vaccines Aren’t Enough. We Need More Tests.

By Jennifer B. Nuzzo and Emily N. Pond

There’s reason for optimism on the coronavirus pandemic: The number of new Covid-19 cases is dropping, and 98.2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the United States. But a decline in the number of coronavirus tests being conducted threatens this progress, because those tests are vital to tracing the path and velocity of Covid-19.

The average number of tests being conducted daily to detect the coronavirus in the United States has dropped 20 percent since Feb. 1. At the same time, the nation does not have enough rapid tests to conduct routine testing outside of sites run by local health departments and medical clinics. America needs to expand the nation’s testing capacity and accelerate the proliferation of rapid coronavirus tests in order to overcome Covid-19.

While giving immunizations is vital, we should not rob our existing surveillance infrastructure to do so. As long as the virus continues to circulate at pandemic levels, testing will remain essential, to diagnose and isolate cases and to screen for asymptomatic infections.

The nation reached record highs for daily cases in January, with more than 300,000 cases reported on Jan. 8; this week the seven-day average number of daily new cases is down to 57,400. But as more contagious coronavirus variants emerge and lockdown measures are relaxed, the nation needs to intensify, not scale back, nationwide testing efforts.

America’s Indo-Pacific Folly

By Van Jackson

On his first phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping after taking office, U.S. President Joe Biden stressed that “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific” was one of his top priorities. He made a similar point to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, promising to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and to South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, calling the U.S.–South Korean alliance a “lynchpin of the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.” On a call between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, both leaders affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japanese alliance as a “cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Only a decade ago, the phrase “Indo-Pacific” would have left most foreign policy experts scratching their heads. Today, it is not just stock language in Washington but a widely accepted reconceptualization of Asia that is rearranging U.S. foreign policy. In the early days of his administration, Biden appointed Kurt Campbell—one of the architects of President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia—as his “Indo-Pacific Coordinator,” a newly created position on the National Security Council. Soon after, Admiral Phil Davidson—head of what just a few years ago was the Pacific Command but is now the Indo-Pacific Command—announced that the Pentagon was shifting away from its historic focus on Northeast Asia and Guam toward “revising our Indo-Pacific force laydown . . . to account for China’s rapid modernization.” And ahead of Biden’s meeting this week with the leaders of the Quad—a loose coalition among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States that seeks to counter China—White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the president’s decision to make the summit one of his earliest multilateral engagements “speaks to the importance we’ve placed on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.”

The Indo-Pacific’s evolution from unfamiliar term to foreign policy cliché is not the product of rigorous policy debates or careful consideration. Rather, Washington’s national security establishment has unthinkingly internalized a Trump-era turn of phrase that is rife with unrealistic expectations and unvetted assumptions. The goal of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” may sound noble, but pursuing it will lead the United States astray.

Pentagon, Rivals to Play ‘Cat-and-Mouse Game’ with AI

By Jon Harper

The U.S. military and its foreign adversaries could soon find themselves in an interminable battle to protect their artificial intelligence systems from attack while developing offensive capabilities to go after their enemies’ AI capabilities.

Defense officials see great potential for artificial intelligence and machine learning to aid in a variety of missions ranging from support functions to front-line warfighting. But the technology comes with risks.

“Machine learning … offers the allure of reshaping many aspects of national security, from intelligence analysis to weapons systems and more,” said a recent report by the Georgetown University Center for Security and Emerging Technology, “Hacking AI: A Primer for Policymakers on Machine Learning Cybersecurity.”

However, “machine learning systems — the core of modern AI — are rife with vulnerabilities,” noted the study written by CSET Senior Fellow Andrew Lohn.

Adversaries can attack these systems in a number of ways to include: manipulating the integrity of their data and leading them to make errors; prompting them to unveil sensitive information; or causing them to slow down or cease functioning, thereby limiting their availability, according to the report.

Methods such as “data poisoning” and “evasion” are just some techniques that can lead ML platforms to make mistakes.


Mick Ryan

Author’s note: This is the third in a series of articles about the profession of arms. Over the series, I will chart the modern development of our profession in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examining that development through the lens of four themes that have driven and influenced it: events, technology, ideas, and institutions. I will then examine how change in the strategic environment will drive continued evolution in the profession of arms. Importantly, I will propose areas where we, as members of this profession, must lead change and ensure our military institutions remain effective—at every level—into the twenty-first century.

The twentieth century witnessed a series of turning points in the modern profession of arms. The technological developments of the Second Industrial Revolution—which bracketed the turn of that century—drove the transformation of military ideas and institutions, and saw the conduct of war leap into a new domain with the birth of aerospace forces. The period to the end of World War II was explored in Part Two of this series. The technological, ideological, and societal changes in the period before World War II resulted in a profession that possessed an expanded view of military activities within broader national security approaches. The profession of arms also evolved alongside an improved the capacity to mobilize populations and national industry. As Margaret MacMillan has recently written, “One of the great tragedies of modern war was that the very strengths of societies—in organization, industry, science or resources—could turn them into such effective killing machines.” This necessitated a broader view of strategy, which until now had largely been a military preoccupation. As Lawrence Freedman has written, “It was only the shocking experience of World War I that led to attempts to broaden the meaning of strategy.”

With the first use of atomic weapons in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, members of the profession of arms witnessed clear evidence of the potential for military activities henceforth to be able to extinguish not just an enemy army, but all of humankind. As this article demonstrates, the advent of nuclear weapons would have a significant impact on the profession. This also represented the start of a pulse of professionalism in the twentieth-century profession of arms.

Reposturing US defence to the Indo-Pacific

How might the US military deliver on its long-held ambitions to shift its centre of gravity to the Indo-Pacific region? Euan Graham explores how the Biden administration might go about reversing a deteriorating strategic situation in Asia.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has initiated a global force posture review. China and the Indo-Pacific are expected to be identified as strategic priorities. But there is sure to be scepticism in the region about the Biden administration’s ability and willingness to deliver significant new defence commitments. A chorus-line of Austin’s predecessors described the Indo-Pacific as a priority theatre, yet ultimately fell short on reallocating assets and fiscal resources from Europe and the Middle East. Biden has also clearly signalled his intention to put diplomacy first in American statecraft. To be convincing to regional audiences, China included, defence rebalancing is likely to be required in four areas, not all of which will be within the review’s formal scope.
1. Inter-regional balancing

The most obvious option for global reposturing is moving US forward-deployed forces from one region to another. Tilting the centre of gravity for US naval operations from the Gulf to the South China Sea would be one visible way to substantiate claims of prioritisation for the largely maritime Indo-Pacific region. This could initially take the form of a commitment continuously to maintain an aircraft carrier or amphibious ready group in the South China Sea, although technology will hopefully facilitate less vulnerable ways to combine presence and credible combat power in future.

The Deterrence Trap: The cost of the US military’s overwhelming conventional superiority

By Clint Mallory

The overwhelming conventional military superiority of the US has succeeded in deterring the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from directly using its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to achieve its strategic objectives to return to great power status by expanding political and economic influence, taking back “lost territories,” eroding and ultimately displacing the US as the leader of the international system, and creating a world safe for PRC authoritarian interests. However, this same qualitative over-match has revealed new and more complex problems as it has driven the PRC and other revisionist powers such as Russia, to pursue more asymmetric, or Gray Zone, methods to change the status quo in their favor. And they are succeeding. Despite this, some still believe that doubling-down on more of these same conventional “deterrence” capabilities and activities is all that is needed to deter the PRC from pursuing their interests and preserving ours. We are taking the wrong actions, albeit for the right reasons.

America’s overwhelming military dominance and global reach has likely deterred Beijing from using overt military force to achieve their regional goals, and we should continue to pursue capabilities and activities that send a message to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on America’s willingness to use our military to protect our interests. However, we cannot ignore the fact that for at least the past ten years, the PRC has successfully changed the status quo and reached their objectives on a range of issues all without ever using military force. Our military superiority has done little in these cases to prevent or stop the CCP from using Gray Zone actors to intentionally avoid the US’s military strength.

Proportionate Deterrence: A Model Nuclear Posture Review


Since the 1990s, every U.S. presidential administration has published a Nuclear Posture Review that explains the rationales behind its nuclear strategy, doctrine, and requested forces. The review envisioned and summarized here explicitly elucidates the dilemmas, uncertainties, and tradeoffs that come with current and possible alternative nuclear policies and forces.

Ever since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, every U.S. presidential administration has published a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) that explains the rationales behind its nuclear strategy, doctrine, and requested forces. These reviews have helped inform U.S. government personnel, citizens, allies, and adversaries of the country’s intentions and planned capabilities for conducting nuclear deterrence and, if necessary, war. The administration that takes office in January 2021 may or may not conduct a new NPR, but it will assess and update nuclear policies as part of its overall recalibration of national security strategy and policies.

Nongovernmental analysts can contribute to sound policymaking by being less constrained than officials often are in exploring the difficulties of achieving nuclear deterrence with prudently tolerable risks. Accordingly, the review envisioned and summarized here explicitly elucidates the dilemmas, uncertainties, and tradeoffs that come with current and possible alternative nuclear policies and forces. In the body of this review, we analyze extant declaratory policy, unclassified employment policy, and plans for offensive and defensive force postures, and then propose changes to several of them. We also will emphasize the need for innovative approaches to arms control.DOWNLOAD PDF


World’s Biggest Oil Reserves: Here Are the Top 10 Countries

by Ethen Kim Lieser

Oil, a natural resource formed by the decay of organic matter over the course of millions of years, has been the lifeblood of the global economy for the past century.

According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, the world’s total proved oil reserves came out to 1.73 trillion barrels, with roughly a hundred million barrels being produced globally on a daily basis.

Recent estimates indicate that planet Earth derives over a third of its total energy production from oil—and as a result, those nations that control large portions of the global oil reserves often boast the most geopolitical and economic power.

So, which countries wield such influence worldwide? Here are the top ten countries that are home to the largest known oil reserves.

1. Venezuela

Venezuela tops the list with three hundred four billion barrels of proven reserves, which represent a sizeable 17.5 percent share of the entire global market. The South American country was able to surpass Saudi Arabia for the number one spot on this list in 2011.

2. Saudi Arabia

Spectrum: The pathway of the 21st century

Tom Wheeler

The internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform in the history of the planet. A huge amount of that power comes from its ubiquitous wireless extension. From the beginning of time, communications commanded the user to come to the message; for the last several decades that equation has been reversed. The wireless revolution put users in control to command the information to come to them wherever they may be.

The pathway for such ubiquity is the electromagnetic spectrum, the airwaves that carry the wireless signals to wherever they may be most productively consumed. The federal government oversees allocation of those precious pathways. The Trump administration engaged in high profile presidential performances about the importance of spectrum policy, but it failed to establish a coordinated national plan. The result left the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enmeshed in needless squabbles and unnecessary delays.


Before taking office Donald Trump reportedly spent little time considering the massive responsibilities of managing the federal government. According to Michael Lewis’ book “The Fifth Risk”, Trump told former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was heading the presidential transition effort, “You and I are so smart we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.” Trump subsequently fired Christie and the transition floundered.

Cyber Attacks: Is the ‘Big One’ Coming Soon?


Is it time to ring cyber alarm bells — even louder?

Many CSO, CTOs, military leaders, and even some global company CEOs, are now saying yes.

Late last year, the security industry’s top experts from global cybersecurity company leadership predicted even worse cybersecurity outcomes for 2021 compared to what we saw in 2020.

And in December, we learned about how SolarWinds’ Orion vulnerability was compromised, causing one of the worst data breaches in history that is still evolving for about 18,000 organizations.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said there were vulnerabilities in its Exchange Server mail and calendar software for corporate and government data centers. The vulnerabilities go back 10 years and have been exploited by Chinese hackers at least since January, according to CNBC and others who see more serious attacks coming from criminals based on these issues.


Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is generating more buzz every year in security spaces, from employee training programs to pundits on the news, but what is OSINT, and why is it important?

Open-source intelligence refers to the collection of information and data that exists in the public realm. According to the Penetration Testing Execution Standard, developed by a group of cross-industry information security practitioners, OSINT is “a form of intelligence collection management that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence.” As such, OSINT is actually a reconnaissance process used to gather information and determine entry points into an organization, and then to strategize an approach to pen testing or – perhaps more significantly – a malicious attack against a target group or network.

Who uses OSINT?

Originally coined by government and military intelligence communities, OSINT bridged the cybersecurity gap into the private sector by way of information security teams in industry, specifically penetration testers and Offensive or Red Teams. Some overlap often exists between these professional groups which results in certain skillsets being more desirable, such as critical-thinking and pattern-analysis, but the relationship between effective data gathering and tactical, opportunistic decisions is vital to an attacker as well.
What is included in OSINT, and how can that information be used against me?

The Changing Face of Military Assistance and Techniques of Informal Penetration

Sidney P. Williams

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

Modern day intervention can be described as a sort of “geopolitics of plunder,” wherein external states become involved in civil conflicts and generate chaos, both intentionally and inadvertently. The literature on the effects of external intervention is extensive and primarily attempts to resolve whether foreign interventions are advantageous, and to what extent the international system is able to condition conflict intensity, outcomes, and technologies of rebellion. To advance a more nuanced area of this field, this paper will analyze how limited or covert foreign aid allows states to exacerbate civil conflicts through the construction of “spaces of exception” or “gray zones.” Through the study of scholarship on territorial sovereignty, competitive intervention, and proxy warfare, it will explore the degree to which the U.S. has appropriated limited intervention in the form of “unconventional warfare,” and how this has allowed states to violate territorial sovereignty via parastatal actors in the name of regional and international security. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate how the U.S., as the epitome of a hegemonic state actor, is generating knowledge regarding security and violence that enables it to overstep international and domestic legal barriers in order to pursue wider geopolitical dominance and a “militarized regime of hypervisibility” (Gregory 2011).


John Spencer

In a recent article, author Paul Barnes argued against assertions made by Professor Anthony King of the University of Warwick a few months ago in an episode of the Royal United Services Institute’s Western Way of War podcast. During the conversation, Dr. King stated that the future of warfare would be increasingly urban, an environment ill-suited for maneuver. Because of this, he argued, boldly, that “maneuver warfare is dead.” Barnes disagrees, claiming in his article that recent history not only shows that maneuver warfare is alive and well, but that what he calls “maneuverist” principles have proven successful in multiple contemporary urban battles.

At the heart of the disagreement, though, is the fact that there isn’t based on a single, clear, shared definition of maneuver warfare. Is it some grand theory describing the application of state power—an application that uses an indirect approach to avoid an adversary’s strengths and then strike with enough surprise and capability to put the enemy at such physical disadvantage or in such psychological disarray that they lose their will to fight? Is it an ancient form of war, thousands of years old and rooted in Chinese theories about defeating an enemy without even fighting? Or is it a more specific warfighting philosophy that is only a hundred years old and put forth by J.F.C Fuller, B.H. Liddell Hart, and others—a philosophy that requires operational speed, mobility, and decisive strikes against less mobile enemies using formations of tanks and aircraft to destroy an enemy’s ability to exercise command and control or organize counterstrikes? Or is the term more literal, a reference simply to the combination of maneuver (movement to secure an advantage) and warfare (military operations between enemies)? Is there a difference between strategic, operational, and tactical maneuver warfare? Are there differences in the theory if applied in the different warfighting domains?