20 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

The Hearts-and-Minds Myth

Jacqueline L. Hazelton

After two decades, the United States is finally leaving Afghanistan, and only 2,500 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. In both countries, the insurgencies continue. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. In both wars, Washington hoped that imposing democratic reforms could protect the population, win hearts and minds, and defeat the insurgency.

That, after all, was the narrative spelled out in the vaunted U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, published in 2006, which was intended to guide both campaigns. Drawing from Western practitioners’ accounts of successful counterinsurgency campaigns over 60 years, the document argued that good governance—including democratic reforms—defeats insurgencies. “Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors,” two generals, David Petraeus and James Amos, wrote in the manual’s foreword. “They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law.” A 2005 article in the journal Military Review by another pair of officers—Peter Chiarelli and Patrick Michaelis—made the same case: “A gun on every street corner, although visually appealing, provides only a short-term solution and does not equate to long-term security grounded in a democratic process.” Governments must limit civilian casualties, they noted, because harming the population only bolsters support for the insurgency.

Half of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals under threat from Taliban


With rapid gains in recent days, the Taliban now threatens 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, while 18 of the provinces in their entirety are under direct threat of falling under Taliban control, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Since the Taliban began its offensive after President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of U.S forces on April 14, the Taliban has more than tripled the number of districts controlled by the group, from 73 to 221. Many of the districts lost to the Taliban are in the north and west, however the Taliban has continued to gain territory in the south and east. The Taliban offensive in the north is designed to undercut Afghan power brokers and warlords in their home districts and provinces.

The map, above, shows an Afghanistan that is at risk of complete collapse if the government and military do not get a handle on the security situation, and quickly. A written assessment of select provinces is listed below. The methodology of the assessment follows.

With Departure of NATO Troops, the Taliban Gains Ground in Afghanistan

Christoph Reuter

The mobile phone video is short and slightly grainy, but you can hear the fear, even the panic in the voices of the people waiting. They’re making their way up the gangway into the small plane. Nobody wants to be left behind. A single man finally makes it past the security people and rushes to the plane. The person filming explains, "That was a senator" – a member of the upper house of parliament in Kabul. "These are members of parliament, representatives from the provincial council and commanders."

In recent days, the dramatic scenes in Faizabad, the capital of the mountainous province of Badakhshan, have been a Saigon moment for Afghanistan’s government. They are reminiscent of the iconic photograph shot half a century ago, when one of the last American helicopters took off from South Vietnam, leaving desperate allies behind.

Japan Is Indispensable Again

Akira Igata and Brad Glosserman

Japan has been delighted with the first months of Joe Biden’s presidency. Unlike his predecessor, whose transactional view of diplomacy rankled many in Tokyo, Biden has been at pains to rekindle the U.S.-Japanese alliance and to emphasize that Japan remains the linchpin of U.S. security policy in Asia. In February, the two nations renewed the agreement under which Japan hosts U.S. troops, and in March, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin both visited Japan on their first overseas trips. Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide as his first foreign guest as president.
It will surprise no one that a major focus of these early meetings has been China, whose economic and military rise has unnerved Washington and Tokyo and united them in competition with Beijing. Biden administration officials have repeatedly affirmed their readiness to defend Japan, including its claim to the disputed Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands). But in addition to military and diplomatic competition with China, which has long been central to the U.S.-Japanese relationship, both countries have placed a new and important emphasis on economic security. In their first meeting, Biden and Suga discussed ways to protect critical supply chains, intellectual property rights, and sensitive technology that should not pass into Beijing’s hands. At the March meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal strategic forum that includes Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, both leaders took a similarly expansive view of the China challenge, leading to the creation of working groups on controlling critical and emerging technologies, among other economic security issues.

Airborne Assault to Occupy South China Sea Features?

Adam Leong Kok Wey

The recent deployment of 16 People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft near Malaysian airspace may hint at a new tactic for China to assert its claims over the South China Sea.

On 31 May 2021, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew squadron-sized multi-role strategic airlifters, consisting of Ilyushin Il-76 and Xian Y-20 aircraft, over Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone waters and the South Luconia Shoals (Beting Pattingi Ali), and reached about 60 miles off Sarawak’s coast. After repeated requests by air controllers for identification and the purpose of the PLAAF flight went unanswered, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) scrambled Hawk 208 light fighter jets to intercept, which resulted in the PLAAF formation turning back. According to the RMAF, the PLAAF aircraft flew in tactical formation over the maritime waters that are claimed by China as part of its ‘nine-dash line’ contention over the South China Sea.

The real intention of this flight is not known, but it may indicate that China could also be planning to assert its South China Sea claims by using air power.

A Missing Link in the Quad: India’s Support for Taiwan

Sana Hashmi

In a move to help Taiwan expedite its vaccine campaign, the United States has donated 2.5 million doses. Several developments including the visit of three U.S. senators – Tammy Duckworth, Dan Sullivan and Christopher Coons – to Taiwan in May 2021 signaled continuity in the United States’ Taiwan policy. In fact, Washington is pursuing a more action-oriented policy, one that is not aimed at China but instead looks to assist Taiwan in achieving its foreign policy goals.

Apart from the United States, Japan has also come forward to help Taiwan in its fight against the pandemic. Tokyo donated 1.24 million doses in early June and an additional batch of 1.13 million doses this month. Seemingly, the United States, Japan, and even Australia are aligned on Taiwan. In May 2020, the representative offices (de-facto embassies) of the United States, Japan, and Australia in Taiwan issued a joint statement supporting Taiwan’s induction to the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer.

Myanmar: Sanctions Are the Key to a Democratic Future

Tin Tun Naing

Sanctions are a critical and effective tool for governments and international bodies such as the United Nations or the European Union to express anger at actions that threaten them or cross a line of behavior that is anathema to their system of values. Critics say sanctions are often poorly conceived and rarely successful in changing conduct; supporters contend they have become more effective in recent years and remain an essential foreign policy tool. I completely agree with the supporters.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there has been a pronounced shift toward targeted or so-called smart sanctions, which aim to minimize collateral damage to innocent civilians. Sanctions are a way of coercing better behavior but take time to bite.

One widely claimed success story of economic sanctions dates back to those the U.N. imposed on South Africa’s apartheid regime in 1977, with a mandatory arms embargo. The regime ended in 1994. Many advocates considered sanctions crucial to the defeat of apartheid.

So nice of China to put all of its network zero-day vulns in one giant database no one will think to break into

Iain Thomson in San Francisco

Chinese makers of network software and hardware must alert Beijing within two days of learning of a security vulnerability in their products under rules coming into force in China this year.

Details of holes cannot be publicized until the bugs are fixed. Malicious or weaponized exploit code cannot be released. There are restrictions on disclosing details of flaws to foreign organizations. And vendors will be under pressure to address these vulnerabilities as soon as they can and set up bounty programs to reward researchers.

The regulations are intended to tighten up the nation's cyber-security defenses, crack down on the handling and dissemination of bugs, and keep China's elite up to speed on exploitable flaws present in Chinese-made communications systems, wherever in the world that technology may be deployed.

Gamifying Disinformation Mitigation


ACADEMIC INCUBATOR — “Humor over Rumor”
“Stop hoarding tissues since the paper you see here is enough for you to wipe your butt for 300 years!” This was a caption Taiwanese Economic Minister Shen Jong-chin wrote in a video of his visit to a tissue factory, in response to rumors that toilet paper supplies were running low because they were being used to make face masks, which sparked panic buying in Taiwan. His uncouth but true statement went viral on social media platforms. Being capable of making creative and rapid responses like this- a strategy called “humor over rumor” – is now a common practice among Taiwanese officials given the ubiquity of disinformation campaigns the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has launched to target the island nation.

This is just one example of how the Taiwanese government has harnessed gamification to fight disinformation. And its impacts are anything but trivial. A company spokesperson at Facebook previously revealed that the government’s clarifications often traveled more broadly than false news did on its platform. Such efficient and innovative tactics don’t have a long history in Taiwan. The prominence of gamification in dispelling misinformation grew only after a nationwide election in 2018 that showed evidence of extensive meddling by the CCP.

China's Command and Control Strategy Looks Suspiciously Familiar

Kris Osborn

China’s efforts to steal U.S. weapons technologies, innovations, and platform designs are both well known and well documented. But it is accompanied by an increasing commensurate effort to replicate emerging U.S. strategies, tactics, and warfare maneuvers.

The Chinese already appear to be copying the Pentagon’s ongoing effort to architect a multi-domain warfare synergy through air-sea drills and other kinds of war preparation exercises. A more recent effort, it seems clear, is an apparent attempt to copy what is arguably the most significant U.S. military program: Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). The idea is to engineer a meshed network of dispersed yet securely connected combat nodes across a combat area. The intent of JADC2 is, among other things, oriented toward reducing sensor to shooter time to expedite a combat decision-making cycle and stay in front of an adversary.

The Deep Seabed is China’s Next Target

Alex Gray

In late 2020, a Chinese submersible, the Fendouzhe, descended over 30,000 feet to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, home to the deepest point in the earth’s oceans, known as Challenger Deep. Loaded with so much surveying equipment that the crew added additional buoyancy materials to keep it balanced, the Fendouzhe set a national record for the depth of its dive and broadcast a live feed of its exploits back to China. While the expedition was billed as focusing on the animal life of the Trench, state media noted that the surveying experience would be useful for China’s growing interest in deep-sea mining.

The deep seabed, essentially the very bottom of the ocean’s floor, is a potentially rich source of oil and gas; elements like cobalt, copper, and nickel, as well as of the rare earth elements (REEs) required for many new technologies. Chinese President Xi Jinping has spoken repeatedly of the connection between “utilization of the ocean” and China’s quest for both maritime and overall national power. In 2016, he spoke specifically of the deep sea, saying: “the deep sea contains treasures that remain undiscovered and undeveloped, and in order to obtain these treasures we have to control key technologies in getting into the deep sea, discovering the deep sea, and developing the deep sea.”

China’s Smaller Cities Push Reforms to Attract Talent

The smaller cities surrounding China’s largest urban centers are altering the local household registration, or"hukou," system to attract skilled labor in a tight market, while avoiding reforms that might shift China’s industrial base further inland. Without full hukou reform, China’s persistent rural-urban income divide will inhibit the expansion of its consumer base and threaten the political stability that Beijing relies on for its governing mandate. Since late 2020, the cities surrounding Shanghai in the Yangtze River Delta have resorted to passing limited, local reforms to China’s hukou system to attract skilled labor, which tends to pool in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing. In March, Suzhou — a city of 13 million that abuts Shanghai to the West — started allowing college graduates to receive a local hukou without making requisite social security payments. On June 15, local Suzhou officials also began focusing the city’s labor recruitment efforts on artificial intelligence and welding talent. For Suzhou, these and other recruitment efforts have resulted in over 16,000 residents of the city’s industrial park receiving local hukou status in the last year. Other nearby cities like Hangzhou, Nanjing and Wuxi (each less than 170 miles from Shanghai) have also announced similar hukou reforms targeting skilled labor.

Why China’s digital currency threatens the country’s tech giants

Jeremy Mark

A local resident uses his smartphone to scan the QR code through the mobile app of Tencent's WeChat Payment function to pay her purchases at a market in Yichang city, in central China's Hubei province, on April 29, 2019. Photo by Zhang Guorong/Oriental Image via Reuters.

As China accelerates its efforts to widely distribute its digital currency before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese officials are reassuring the public that the initiative is simply about strengthening the monetary system. The furthest thing from their minds, the government insists, is undercutting the role of China’s “tech giants” in the mobile economy.

In fact, once the digital yuan is in wide circulation, it will likely strike the digital-payments operations of China’s largest e-commerce and fintech conglomerates—Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings. That will advance two of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s key goals: to rein in the power of China’s private sector and to create a mechanism through which the government can access reams of digital data that may prove helpful to Beijing in the global race to develop artificial intelligence (AI).

‘Get off our duff’: In race to outer space, China is closing fast


Welcome, China Watchers. This week’s guest host is Bryan Bender, POLITICO’s senior national correspondent who covers defense and pilots POLITICO Space, a weekly take on astropolitics. Prior to joining POLITICO as defense editor in 2015, Bryan was the Pentagon correspondent for the Boston Globe for 14 years and the chief Washington correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly. Over to you, Bryan. — John Yearwood, global news editor

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is expected to blast into space on Tuesday, nine days behind fellow billionaire Richard Branson. The billionaires have gotten most of the attention but there’s a bigger space race heating up — one between the United States and China that could determine the dominant space power of the coming decades.

In policy circles, when you hear talk about the “new space race,” it is almost always uttered in the same breath as China — not Russia, which was the United States’ main competitor in the first era of the space age.

US military presence in spotlight after Baghdad meeting

Jared Szuba

There was some confusion Thursday about possible plans by the US-led military coalition against the Islamic State to withdraw more forces from Iraq.

Brett McGurk, the White House’s coordinator for Middle East policy, met Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who heads to Washington later this month. Kadhimi’s office said in a statement that they discussed “mechanisms for withdrawing combat forces from Iraq and moving to a new phase of strategic cooperation” between their countries.

BBC reporter Nafiseh Kohnavard cited anonymous Iraqi officials as saying McGurk relayed a message “that US troops would withdraw from Iraq” in a step-by-step process according to a timeline to be determined during Kadhimi’s visit to Washington.

FAST THINKING: The geopolitics of Iran’s kidnapping plot


It sounds like a Hollywood script. The United States has indicted four Iranians and accused them of a scheme to abduct the Iranian-American journalist and activist Masih Alinejad from her New York home. The Iranian regime-backed group had planned to take Alinejad out to sea by speedboat and eventually to Iran’s ally, Venezuela, according to the FBI. How should the United States respond to a kidnapping plot on American soil? And what do the revelations mean for sensitive nuclear negotiations with Tehran? Our Iran experts are on the case.


The FBI has alleged that the plot was part of an Iranian government spy ring that pursued kidnappings in several countries. As Nathan sees it, the plan was likely “directed from the highest levels of the Iranian government.” As a result, he says, “this isn’t just a law-enforcement issue. It’s also a national-security and foreign-policy issue.”

Biden’s new China doctrine

Optimists long hoped that welcoming China into the global economy would make it a “responsible stakeholder”, and bring about political reform. As president, Donald Trump blasted that as weak. Now Joe Biden is converting Trumpian bombast into a doctrine that pits America against China, a struggle between rival political systems which, he says, can have only one winner. Between them, Mr Trump and Mr Biden have engineered the most dramatic break in American foreign policy in the five decades since Richard Nixon went to China.
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Mr Biden and his team base their doctrine on the belief that China is “less interested in coexistence and more interested in dominance”. The task of American policy is to blunt Chinese ambitions. America will work with China in areas of common interest, like climate change, but counter its ambitions elsewhere. That means building up the strength at home and working abroad with allies that can supplement its economic, technological, diplomatic, military and moral heft.

The US Needs a New China Strategy

Xinrong Zhu and Dingding Chen

The United States is currently facing a China policy dilemma. Since President Joe Biden took office, Washington has been more than eager to demonstrate the importance of strategic competition with China. Unfortunately, as the administration has approached the first half year of its tenure, major confusion still exists among senior staff and policymakers in Washington about the best way to deal with China. The United States needs a better strategy, or at least a clear elaboration on its approach to China.

Major Confusion in Washington

Almost at the beginning of the Biden administration, the U.S. leadership was keen on addressing China as the most serious competitor and a major challenge. In early February, when Biden spoke about his foreign policy vision, he directly pointed out the challenges posed by China. However, he concluded with an acknowledgment that “we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so.” While Biden claimed that “America is back” in his foreign policy outline, it’s not clear how his administration will return to a stable China-U.S. relationship after the chaotic situation during Trump era.

NATO Shouldn’t Try to Do Too Much on China

Henrik Larsen

Allied leaders at the NATO Summit in Brussels in June began to lay the ground for adapting to the great power competition with China. To that end, they tasked NATO to develop a new strategic concept to be endorsed at the summit next year in Spain. The next concept will be authoritative for alliance strategy until 2030. However, NATO must be clear about the role it can play in adapting to its new challenger from the east.

On one hand, China’s rise combined with the persistent threat from Russia gives increased prominence to NATO as a protector of free societies. China and Russia are both illiberal challengers seeking to undermine Western unity. An influential “NATO 2030” group of experts appointed by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last year recommended that the alliance assume the role of a “democratic bulwark” by beefing up its defense of the liberal order.

Ransomware and International Politics

James Andrew Lewis

Ransomware has seized the public’s attention after a number of dramatic incidents, from Colonial Pipelines to Kaseya, highlighted its rapid growth in scope, scale, and cost. This is a resilient and profitable criminal enterprise and unlikely to shrink absent firm action by the United States and policy change by Russia.

The future of ransomware will be determined largely by progress (or lack thereof) in cyber talks between the United States and Russia. President Biden made it clear to Putin the ransomware crisis is the United States’ priority for cyber talks, not the Russian proposals for a series of meetings on recycled ideas for cyber arms control. This usefully prioritizes the discussion, but these talks will be difficult as there are only a few incentives the United States can offer Russia in exchange for moving against ransomware (and cybercrime in general). The natural instinct in Moscow will be to offer token concessions and seek drawn-out talks that confirm Russian parity with the United States as a superpower.

Lee Rotherham: Europe’s new radical alliance is brittle, but offers the EU an important warning

Dr Lee Rotherham

In a recent piece on this site, Garvan Walshe pondered the development of a new continental Eurosceptic coalition. This “rassemblement des patriotes” brings together the parties of Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski among others. The phenomenon serves as a marker not only of the EU’s past mistakes, but also its future ones.

As the piece noted, it is not a simple alliance nor a very deep one. It excludes a number of Eurosceptic players, most notably the Czech ODS and some key Scandinavians. The definition of “Euroscepticism” among signatories is elastic: in addition to the Italian contingent navigating a coalition government, Le Pen’s own Rassemblement National accepts the Euro and rejects Frexit. The fact that Orban, having been forced out of the EPP, is now jumping into a new grouping he originally turned down in 2019 certainly demonstrates an element of instability.

Yet the simple fact of this arrangement is a milestone. It reminds one of the quote attributed to a continental diplomat at the time of Maastricht that, “If the British did not exist, we would have to invent them.” After Brexit, that is precisely what is happening.

Geo-tech politics: Why technology shapes European power

Ulrike Franke, José Ignacio Torreblanca

New technologies are a major redistributor of power among states and a significant force shaping international relations.

The European Union has for too long seen technology primarily through an economic lens, disregarding its implications for its partnerships and for its own geopolitical influence.

If the EU wants to be more than a mediator between the two real technological powers, the United States and China, it will need to change its mindset.

For the EU and its partners, the vulnerabilities created by battles over technology divide into two types: new dependencies and openness to foreign interference.

The EU and its member states need deeper engagement with the geopolitical implications and geopolitical power elements of technology.

U.S. Special Forces Want an Edge over China. Is Artificial Intelligence the Answer?

Stavros Atlamazoglou

Artificial Intelligence is everywhere today. From Amazon’s Alexa to unmanned aerial vehicles to space crafts to health care; Artificial Intelligence enables faster and better decisions if employed properly.

The U.S. military and intelligence community have been using this technology for decades now and it’s becoming increasingly more prevalent. With the apparent return of Great Power Competition—the struggle for influence, leverage, and resources between the U.S. and its near-peer competitors China and Russia—the special operations community, the tip of the spear of the U.S. military, has been investing more in Artificial Intelligence technologies

What is Artificial Intelligence?

In short, Artificial Intelligence utilizes computers and machine learning to simulate the human mind’s problem-solving and decision-making capabilities, easing the cognitive load on humans, enabling quicker decision-making and follow-on actions.

Strategic Influence: Applying the Principles of Unconventional Warfare in Peace

COL (Ret.) Robert Jones

“The most important aspect of our containment strategy is that it serves to contain ourselves,” former President Dwight Eisenhower reportedly observed after he had left office. Perhaps the greatest problem facing the United States in the post-Cold War era is not our waning ability to deter the problematic peacetime activities of others; rather, it is that we have lost sight of the need to deter ourselves. Therefore, any serious look at updating US deterrence going forward must include a serious look at our own missteps. The world is changing rapidly, and we can neither wish nor force it into staying in some form we deem best for us. To truly lead a rulesbased system, the US must first understand the world better for what it actually is and then shape changes in directions favorable to us. To lead, we must also pursue our interests in ways others deem appropriate and see as being in their own interests to follow.

A Simple

Concept Instead of increasing our efforts, what if we refocused our purpose? The world is changing rapidly, and change favors the revisionists. They see opportunity where status quo powers see threat. In increasing our efforts against threats, we risk exhausting the very aspects of our nation that have made us the partner of choice as leader of the rules-based system. It is time to reframe the contest in our favor.


David Laszcz

The newest US maritime strategy, Advantage at Sea, fails to include the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) as a viable operational component for competition in the gray zone. Though Advantage at Sea recognizes the ever-growing Chinese maritime threat, it does not provide a practical way for the United States to address that threat. As the Marine Corps reshapes itself through the guidance in Force Design 2030,it must take the opportunity to create a forward-deployed, commando-like force to fill the gaps present in Advantage at Sea. Doing so offers a way to counter China by using disruptive and asymmetric means to both coexist with and deter competitors and, if necessary, fight at sea.

Strategically, the United States currently lacks an appropriately sized, robust force to conduct gray zone operations. The Marine Corps is the most naturally suited to become that service-level asymmetric component. To be a competitive force against asymmetric actors such as the China Coast Guard and the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia, the Marine Corps must pivot toward an operating concept and organizational design that is smaller, is self-sustainable, and can adapt as needed. The operational answer is the “wasp MAGTF,” which emulates a swarm of its namesake. The wasp MAGTF would be a maritime force that is consistently deployed, distributed in small units, and conceptually in line with Distributed Maritime Operations. Furthermore, the wasp MAGTF’s missions would be different from what the MAGTF does today.

A Toxic Brew Of Careerism And Fear: Why The Navy Could Lose A War To China

James Holmes

How do you change a culture? That question courses through a new congressionally mandated report from retired marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle and retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery. Read the whole thing. Titled “A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet,” the document makes painful reading for anyone who’s ever served in U.S. Navy ships. The coauthors warn that failing to renovate the surface navy’s culture would court defeat against an increasingly well-equipped, increasingly rowdy Chinese navy.

After all, the finest weapon is no better than its user. American ships and armaments could be superior by every measure to those deployed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and yet the U.S. Navy could lose anyway if sailors mishandled their fighting implements on account of cultural malaise and its ripple effects on combat prowess.

Why the U.S. once set off a nuclear bomb in space


It was pitch black when Greg Spriggs’ father brought his family to the highest point on Midway Atoll on July 8, 1962. That night on another atoll a thousand miles away, the U.S. military was scheduled to launch a rocket into space to test a fusion bomb.

“He was trying to figure out which direction to look,” Spriggs recalls. “He thought there was going to be this little flicker, so he wanted to make sure everybody was going to see it.”

Spectators were also holding “watch-the-bomb parties” in Hawaii, as the countdown was broadcast over shortwave radio. Photographers aimed their lenses toward the horizon and debated the best camera settings for capturing a thermonuclear explosion in outer space.

It turned out that the blast—a 1.4 megaton bomb, 500 times as powerful as the one that fell on Hiroshima—was not subtle.

Let’s Not Get Into a Nuclear Arms Race With China


For several months now, American generals and admirals have been pushing hard on two big themes: the need to counter China’s growing military power and, separately, the need to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal—i.e., to build new missiles, bombers, and submarines as replacements and upgrades for the existing, aging models.

Now comes a development that seems to bolster both arguments: satellite imagery revealing that China has built 120 missile silos in the desert near the northwestern city of Yumen—with what seems to be a launch control center connecting each group of 10—a perfect fit for its DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, calls the move a “breathtaking expansion” of Chinese nuclear forces. Others have cited the silos as another rationale for Washington to move quickly on its own nuclear modernization plan—which some in Congress have opposed on strategic and economic grounds. (The price tag exceeds $1 trillion over the next 30 years.)