12 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

The Propaganda War Intensifies in Afghanistan as the Taliban Gain Ground

Adam Nossiter and Fahim Abed

KABUL, Afghanistan — First, a remote provincial capital in Afghanistan’s southwest fell. The next day, it was a city in Afghanistan’s north. By Sunday, Taliban fighters had taken three more cities, including their biggest prize yet, the major provincial capital of Kunduz.

All the while, the Afghan central government has acknowledged very little of it.

In three days, at least five provincial capitals have been seized by the Taliban, in a ruthless land offensive that has led many local officials to abandon their posts and flee the cities they run.

But the nation’s government, still trying to promote the impression that it has the upper hand against the Taliban, has been relatively silent on the enormous losses suffered across the country. Rather than admitting that the cities have fallen, the government has simply said that Afghanistan’s brave security forces were fighting in several capitals around the country, and that airstrikes have resulted in scores of dead Taliban fighters.

The Taliban fly their flag in Kunduz as exhausted Afghan troops regroup.

Christina Goldbaum, Najim Rahim, Sharif Hassan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban seized a major strategic and propaganda prize early Sunday, capturing the crucial northern commercial hub of Kunduz and then breaking through in two other regional capitals later the same day.

The rapid fall of Afghan cities on Sunday — including Kunduz, Sar-i-Pul and Taliqan, all northern capitals — comes just weeks before U.S. forces were set to complete a total withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is a crucial challenge for President Biden, who in recent weeks has insisted the American pullout would continue despite the Taliban’s advances.

After sweeping through the country’s rural areas, the insurgents’ military campaign has shifted to brutal urban combat in recent weeks. They have pushed into the edges of major cities like Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south and Herat in the west.

The strategy has exhausted the Afghan government’s forces and overwhelmed the local militia forces that the government has used to supplement its own troops.

Afghan Provincial Capitals On the Brink as Taliban Make Advances

Catherine Putz

On August 6, the first Afghan provincial capital fell to the Taliban in the wake of the nearly-complete U.S. withdrawal and intensified fighting across the country. By August 9, three other provincial capitals had reportedly fallen, too, with an additional major city teetering on the brink.

Zaranj, the capital of southwestern Nimroz province, was the first to fall. Zaranj is one of Afghanistan’s smaller provincial capitals, but reports of its fall to the Taliban were a blow to government hopes to keep the Taliban from seizing provincial centers. Nimroz, which borders Iran, also borders Helmand province where the Afghan security forces have been deeply engaged in keeping the Taliban from seizing Lashkar Gah, Helmand’s capital.

According to the BBC, Nimroz’s Deputy Governor Roh Gul Khairzad told reporters that Zaranj had been under threat for a while, “but no one from the central government listened to us.” The city, she said, fell “without a fight.”

The 3 Myths That Sank the Afghan Peace Process

Marvin G. Weinbaum

Many postmortems will be conducted about why the United States and the rest of the international community have struggled in their efforts to steer the Afghan conflict toward a negotiated settlement and left the country on the brink of a nasty, anarchic civil war. The answers provided are bound to cite missed opportunities, poor direction, and the work of spoilers. But underlying these and other explanations are the influence of three persistent myths, which created illusions about the Taliban and have guided much of our thinking about conducting peace talks. All three myths brought damaging concessions and false confidence in reaching an eventual agreement. While these myths may seem to have finally lost their hold, very recent developments in Afghanistan could see them revived.

The first of these myths has been our belief that since there is no realistic hope of a military victory over the Taliban, there necessarily had to be a negotiated political solution. It assumed that the Taliban had reached a similar conclusion, and that their leaders, having recognized a hurting stalemate, were ready for productive talks. That the Taliban were continuing to press ahead militarily and resisting a ceasefire agreement could be explained as mainly intended to improve their position in ongoing negotiations. It was also regularly argued that Afghanistan had changed too thoroughly as a society over the last 20 years to allow the Taliban to again monopolize power and impose an oppressive Islamic emirate. This view badly gauged the ability of the Taliban to shape the narrative and largely discounted the possibility of the conflict ending with the Taliban scoring an outright military victory or being a position to force a political agreement that effectively dictated the terms of surrender.

Group wants US to stop military assistance to PH

MANILA – A group wants the United States to stop military assistance to the Philippines amid alleged human rights violations during President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“For us here in the United States, we don’t want US taxpayer dollars to be used to, you know, fund and be used against the people of the Philippines and used to commit human rights violations,” International Council for Human Rights and Policy legislative coordinator Miles Ashton said.

Ashton said they are in no way stepping on the Philippines’ sovereignty by lobbying for the passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act, a proposal that could stop taxpayer-funded arms sales and other US security assistance to the Duterte administration.

“We are not imposing. We’re not trying to impose anything for electorally, we’re not trying to change domestic policy, we’re not trying to do things like that other than say we don’t want US military aid being used for human rights abuses by the Duterte administration,” he told ANC’s “Rundown.”

Why the next major war is likely to start in Taiwan


If the United States and China get into a shooting war, there is a good chance it would start in Taiwan, which the Chinese communists view as a renegade province.

It’s no secret that China has long wanted to conquer the island nation, where nationalist forces retreated in 1949 after losing to the communists in China’s civil war. The U.S government provides Taiwan with military equipment, much to China’s chagrin.

After the State Department announced on Aug. 4 that the U.S. government is selling Taiwan $750 million worth of weapons, including 40 155mm M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said the weapons sale “severely jeopardizes China-US relations” and sends the wrong message to “Taiwan independence” forces.

Afghanistan and Central Asia’s ASEAN Moment

Moez Hayat

Afghanistan is in turmoil. In the dead of night on July 2, the last U.S. combat forces quietly left Bagram Airbase. U.S. forces are expected to fully exit Afghanistan by August 31. Meanwhile, the Taliban have steadily gained ground in the country.

After seizing control of border districts and some crossing points, and encircling major cities, the militants are now in the midst of a new, possibly final offensive. Beginning with the surprise attack on the home of Afghanistan’s minister of defense in Kabul, followed by an explosive day of fighting to take the city of Herat, the Taliban are now engaged in an all-out campaign to wrest control of the country away from the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

The United States’ rapid and sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan has left a massive political vacuum in the region. Yet, so far, few look prepared to fill Washington’s place as the guarantor of regional security vis-a-vis Afghanistan. In the past few weeks, Russia and China have both emerged as possible contenders through their engagement with the ascendent Taliban. On July 8, a Taliban delegation met with Russian officials in Moscow, where they declared their intention not to cross the national borders of Afghanistan. Then on July 28, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a Taliban delegation in Tianjin. In the talks, the Taliban claimed that Afghanistan would not be used by those seeking to harm China and emphasized that they ultimately wanted friendly ties with all the neighboring states. Such comments were clearly intended to ameliorate Beijing’s fear of the Taliban offering a safe haven to Uyghur militants or threatening Xinjiang.

Space lasers and the new battlefield emerging under China’s anti-satellite tactics

Chris Zappone

Space lasers are a real thing, even if they’re not generally made to blow up passing satellites.

Designed to damage or disable sensor equipment on orbiting satellites, ground-based lasers can help hide a nation’s activities. Photography from satellites, for example, has been key in helping reveal the extent of Beijing’s detention of Muslim Uighurs in western China.

Weeks before the Federation of American Scientists produced analysis showing missile silos being built in western China, US-based analysts – drawing attention to anti-satellite lasers in Xinjiang – warned that US satellites, the kind that could keep an eye on China’s military, were “increasingly vulnerable to China’s ground-based lasers”.

Sydney-based space analyst Chris Flaherty said that when it came to lasers, “dazzling”, or interfering with a satellite’s camera, and “blinding”, permanently damaging a satellite, “are the prime technologies that are deployable right now”.

Unconditional Surrender: China's Long Game Is Dominance, Not Competition

Michael Peck

"The PLA [People's Liberation Army] is focused not merely on competing with the United States or other nations as a goal in and of itself, but instead on competing as a means to achieving the policy outcomes identified by the CCP [Communist Party of China] -- deterring U.S. intervention and defeating the U.S. military if the United States and China do come into open conflict," writes RAND Corp. researcher Scott Harold in a new study.

The study paints a picture of a nation with a focus on goals and what it needs to achieve them. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union bankrupted itself with an obsessive need to match U.S. capabilities such as ballistic missile defense. China won't make that same mistake. "The PLA appears not to compete in certain areas because it does not need certain capabilities to accomplish its directed mission, or it has other means to address the military problem at hand," Harold writes.

US falling further behind China in STEM PhDs


TOKYO – In an earlier article,China-US contest will come down to education“, I wrote about the crisis in American primary and secondary education. As promised then, this article addresses the relative decline of American universities in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This change is not readily apparent. A large share of the best universities in the world are in the United States and they have a deserved reputation for excellence.

For example, the seventh annual ranking of the Best Global Universities conducted by US News & World Report and published in October 2020 found that 19 of the top 25 schools were American.

However, the arguably more internationally-minded QS World University Ranking published by UK company Quacquarelli Symonds in July this year found that 12 of the top 25 universities were in the US, five in the UK, three in China, two each in Singapore and Switzerland and one in Japan.

China’s Hubris Is a Threat to Its Economic Future

Matthew Brooker

China’s increasingly muscular interventions in the private economy have wiped hundreds of billions of dollars off share prices and sent investors scurrying to understand where the next targets will be. The country’s leadership has embarked on a risky top-down approach to economic policy-making that signals a departure from decades of market opening and engagement with the world, according to an Atlantic Council briefing paper released late last month by Dexter Roberts, a senior fellow with the Washington-based think tank.

The aim of Beijing’s government-directed and supported industrial policies is to create a more self-sufficient, more egalitarian country that will continue to grow rapidly, writes Montana-based Roberts, who is the author of “The Myth of Chinese Capitalism,” published last year. Before returning to the U.S. in 2018, Roberts spent more than two decades as the Beijing-based bureau chief for Bloomberg Businessweek, during which he reported from all of China's provinces and regions. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Iran ‘Working Systematically to Build Serious Cyber Attack Capabilities’

Yaakov Lappin

JNS.org – Recent revelations about Iranian cyber attack plots serve as the latest confirmation of how seriously Iran takes this arena, a leading Israeli cyber expert has said.

On July 26, Sky News reported that classified documents from Iran “reveal secret research into how a cyber attack could be used to sink a cargo ship or blow up a fuel pump at a petrol station.”

The internal files also include information on satellite communication devices used by the global shipping industry and computer systems that control functions such as lighting, heating and ventilation in buildings across the world.

While the report did not reveal new unknown capabilities, they did demonstrate that Iran is “engaging with cyber warfare in a serious manner,” said Professor Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni, an expert on cyber security, military strategy and technology at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

Answers begin to emerge about secret FBI probe of Saudi government complicity in 9/11

Dan Christensen

Piece by piece, the puzzle of the heavily censored FBI 2012 Summary Report about Operation Encore, the bureau’s once-hush-hush probe of Saudi government involvement in 9/11, appears to be giving up its secrets.

On the vast, often-underground docket of the enormous New York civil case that pits 9/11 victims against Saudi Arabia, court records recently have appeared like answers floating to the surface of an upended Magic 8-Ball.

For the first time, witnesses cited in the 2012 report as having had contact with the suicide hijackers during their early days in the U.S. have been publicly identified. Named, too, is an apparent target of a federal grand jury the report says was then investigating a suspected U.S. support network for the hijackers.

U.S. says plot against Myanmar U.N. envoy fits 'disturbing pattern'

Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The United States on Saturday condemned a thwarted plot to attack Myanmar's U.N. ambassador in New York, saying it fits a "disturbing pattern" of authoritarian leaders and their supporters seeking to persecute opponents around the world.

Two Myanmar citizens have been arrested in New York state for plotting with an arms dealer in Thailand - who sells weapons to the Burmese military - to kill or injure Myanmar's U.N. ambassador, U.S. authorities said on Friday. read more

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who represents Myanmar's elected civilian government which was overthrown by the military in February, told Reuters on Wednesday that a threat had been made against him and U.S. authorities had stepped up his security. read more

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Saturday that the threat "fits a disturbing pattern of authoritarian leaders and their supporters reaching across the globe ... to persecute and repress journalists, activists, and others who dare speak or stand against them."

Opinion: The U.S. government is designed for failure. And, a new study shows, it’s getting worse.

Fred Hiatt

When President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, he needed Senate approval for 779 of his appointments.

That was a highly irrational way to run a government.

Sixty years later, despite efforts at reform and widespread recognition of the irrationality, President Biden needs Senate approval for 1,237 positions — an increase of 59 percent, as a new report from the Partnership for Public Service discloses.

We’ve gone from irrational to just plain crazy.

How crazy? The Post and the Partnership are tracking 799 of those positions (leaving out some advisory boards and less essential jobs). As of this week, only 112 of them have been filled.

More than six months into his presidency, in other words — more than an eighth of the way through his term — Biden hardly has the beginning of an executive team in place.

America’s Dismal Foreign Policy — and What to Do About It

Andrew Bacevich

Twenty years ago this Sept. 11, America suffered a horror that led to far larger disasters. Within little more than 18 months the United States had embarked on not one but two unneeded, unconstitutional and — as it proved — unwinnable wars. Today, after waging the longest war in their history, the Americans have scuttled from Afghanistan (as Churchill would have said), and from Iraq too, with President Biden announcing the withdrawal of the last combat troops. Both countries have been left to stew in their own juice, or in bloody chaos, with the real victors in one case the Taliban, and Iran in the other. Few great powers in history have suffered such humiliating failures.

These woes have at least led to a new mood of reflection, on America’s history and role in world affairs, and the most useful critiques have come not from the liberal left or the soggy center (which was implicated in the disasters). Few critics have been more penetrating than Andrew Bacevich, a conservative Catholic who made his career as an Army officer and saw active service in Vietnam and the first gulf war, a contrast indeed to the chickenhawks and armchair warriors of Washington. His first and easiest task in “After the Apocalypse” is to deride the failures — who now defends those wars? — and to give a rogues’ gallery of the politicians (including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden) and journalists (including two New York Times columnists) who supported the Iraq war at the time.

Great Power Clashes Will Reshape America

Mark N. Katz
At the end of the bipolar Cold War era that was dominated by the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, many people either hoped or feared that a new unipolar world dominated by the United States had come into being. From the beginning of the twenty-first century, though, the ability of the United States to act as a unipole was challenged by several factors. These included:

America’s inability to prevail in its large-scale, long-lasting military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

America’s ineffective response to the Russian seizure of territory from Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.

America ceding the initiative to other external powers (Russia, Iran, and/or Turkey) in the ongoing post-2011 conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

If China and the US Claim the Same Moon-Base Site, Who Wins?


There’s a not-so-quiet race back to the moon underway, but the two largest factions, with China and Russia on one side, and the United States and its partners on the other, are not recognizing each others’ proposed rules on what’s allowed once they get there.

Lawmakers and space policy analysts are concerned: How do you avoid conflict in space if the international laws and policies on Earth no longer apply?

“Many terrestrial military doctrines are not applicable in space, or at least not as applicable. If you get beyond 50 miles, or at least 62 miles, suddenly different rules apply. We need to start being aware of that,” says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.

There’s already some aggressive international elbowing over the rules of satellite operations. As with the moon, there’s no consensus yet on how to respond to aggression in Earth orbit, the head of U.S. Space Command Gen. James Dickinson told attendees at last week’s Sea Air Space conference.

The UN Climate Report: All Is Not Well—but All Is Not Lost

TODAY THE UNITED Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report on the state of the climate: 14,000 pieces of scientific literature synthesized by hundreds of experts. It’s a full-throated declaration of what scientists know about how humanity has set the planet on fire: How hot it’s gotten and how hot it’s going to get, how much polar ice is melting, how droughts and storms are worsening, how dire the path forward looks—unless we take drastic and immediate steps to stop loading the atmosphere with carbon.

“We've known for decades that the world is warming, but this report tells us that recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid, and intensifying—unprecedented in thousands of years,” said Ko Barrett, IPCC vice chair and senior adviser for climate at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at a press conference Sunday announcing the report. “The bottom line is that unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C—or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit—will be beyond reach.”

National Power After AI

Matthew Daniels, Ben Chang

AI technologies will likely alter great power competitions in foundational ways, changing both how nations create power and their motives for wielding it against one another. This paper is a first step toward thinking more expansively about AI & national power and seeking pragmatic insights for long-term U.S. competition with authoritarian governments.Download Full Report


How will artificial intelligence affect long-term U.S.-China competition?Many analyses approach this question by focusing on how AI technologies may enhance each side’s current capabilities–making aircraft, businesses, and nations, say, 10 percent faster and stronger. This perspective essentially suggests a broad race: the side that leverages modern AI technologies the most and soonest wins.


As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, states are also waking up to the threats posed by a pandemic of a different kind: that of influence and interference campaigns orchestrated by foreign actors seeking to advance strategic and foreign policy objectives across international borders.1 Through a mix of covert and overt interventions, these campaigns target a wide variety of stakeholders – ranging from policy-makers and elites to think tanks, academia, and the public at large. While not a new phenomenon, the threat from malign foreign influence has grown in scope, scale, and frequency alongside increasing globalization and technology developments.

In response, states have begun considering, and implementing, new policy frameworks to counter these threats. These include deploying a variety of policy instruments ranging from foreign lobbying regulation to reforms that criminalize certain intererefence activities outright. Among these, an approach that has found increasing favor globally involves transparency-based foreign agent registration frameworks which intend to bring transparency to foreign influence campaigns by requiring individuals or entities (‘foreign agents’) engaging in certain types of activities on behalf of a foreign actor (‘foreign principal’) to register with the government and make disclosures concerning activities carried out under their principal-agent relationships.

Chinese sleeper agents are trying to enter the UK through a scheme designed for Hong Kongers fleeing the city, report says


Chinese agents are trying to enter the UK with a visa designed to give refuge to Hong Kongers.

Sources told The Times agents try use the visa introduced after China's new national security law.

It is not clear if any have been successful, and the UK government said it has a strict vetting process.

Chinese spies are taking advantage of a visa program designed for people trying to escape Hong Kong, The Times of London reported.

The UK government this year opened a new visa program for Hong Kongers with British National Overseas (BNO) passports after China imposed a draconian national security law on the city last year. More than 300,000 people have applied for that visa, The Times reported.

Beyond Hiroshima: Blackout warfare

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry

“Someday science shall have the existence of Mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.” -Henry Adams (1862)

76 years ago, on August 6, 1945, a single A-bomb destroyed Hiroshima killing 135,000. A single H-bomb detonated over New York City could kill 10 million.

Today, a single nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead detonated 300 kilometers high over North America could kill 300 million. There would be no blast, fire, and radiation, as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only an invisible electromagnetic wave, harmless to people, but lethal to electric grids, communications, transportation, food and water and other critical infrastructures that sustain the lives of 330 million Americans.

The same existential result can be achieved by a dozen, or fewer, non-nuclear EMP (NNEMP) warheads delivered by drones or cruise missiles, programmed to attack electric power control centers and transformer substations.

Fourth Generation Espionage: The Making of a Perfect Storm

Val LeTellier

In a rare December 2018 public address, British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) Chief Alex Younger used the term ‘fourth-generation espionage’ to describe the new mindset that intelligence leaders needed to address the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. He noted that “The digital era has profoundly changed our operating environment. Bulk data combined with modern analytics make the modern world transparent. We need to ensure that technology is on our side, not that of our opponents”.


Younger’s concerns are well founded. The Fourth Industrial Revolution includes many new technologies that complicate clandestine activity, including “mobile devices, Internet of things (IoT) platforms, location detection technologies (electronic identification), advanced human-machine interfaces, authentication and fraud detection, smart sensors, big analytics and advanced processes, multilevel customer interaction and customer profiling, augmented reality/wearables, on-demand availability of computer system resources, and data visualization.”

‘What Do You Need Humans For?’ Space Command Deputy Says AI The Future


WASHINGTON: The key question for space operators in the near future will not be what systems should sport artificial intelligence or machine learning, but rather “what do you need humans for?” says Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of Space Command.

“Depending on what … that satellite or that architecture is, what it’s doing, what its mission set is, what do I actually need humans to do? And I think we’ll find that that the vast majority of what a satellite will do on a day-in and day-out basis is going to be on its own,” he told the annual Small Satellite Conference today.

Shaw noted that for many years, the amount of autonomy “baked into” satellites and spacecraft has been growing, such as with NASA’s robotic missions on the Moon and Mars. Likewise, military satellites have been capable of ever-improving autonomous operations at least since the 1980s, he said, with capabilities to autonomously go into “some sort of safe mode” if something went wrong.

Hybrid Warfare of the Future

From January to July 2021, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) led a digital campaign, in partnership with the U.S. Mission to NATO, to help the transatlantic alliance imagine and creatively prepare for future hybrid threats. The campaign engaged diverse and nontraditional voices across the security, policy, and technology communities in allied and partner publics. Through a series of articles, infographics, interviews, and polls; a meme, video, and short story contest; and a culminating virtual town hall event, the initiative provided a unique forum for both next-generation and established voices to explore what hybrid warfare means, how it will evolve over the next decade, and how NATO can best counter it. Key insights from the campaign are summarized below.


Hybrid warfare combines military and nonmilitary as well as covert and overt means, such as disinformation, cyberattacks, economic coercion, lawfare, corruption, and irregular and regular forces. Hybrid methods are used to blur the lines between war and peace. They attempt to undermine target institutions and populations to achieve strategic aims. While these threats are not new, technological advancements and increasing global connectivity have recently expanded their speed, intensity, and scope. To more effectively tackle future hybrid threats from Russia, China, and non-state actors, the transatlantic community and NATO should improve in the following key areas.

Applying Machiavellian Discourses to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Scott Savitz

After 20 years of war without victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it is time to derive key lessons from both conflicts to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Niccolò Machiavelli, whose insights on statecraft have endured for five centuries, is a valuable guide in analyzing those lessons.

Although he has often been misperceived as malevolent, Machiavelli's writings provide potent reminders of how analysis of historical events can inform responses to contemporary challenges. Machiavelli's best-known work is The Prince, but his perceptive comments on political and military affairs are not confined to that slim volume. In particular, his book Discourses on Livyoffers a range of sage political advice, frequently referencing Titus Livy's books on the history of early Rome and other ancient sources. Many of these discourses are highly applicable to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with the benefit of hindsight, they could have improved the way they were conducted.

For example, Machiavelli highlighted the danger of believing the promises of exiles who offer to help an outside power take over their native countries since these individuals inevitably have their own agendas. Their characterization of the situation within their country may be tinged by their own hopes of return, as well as by their hunger to overthrow the existing government. This observation was exemplified by the Bush administration's interactions with Iraqi exiles prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi and the informant code-named "Curveball."

What Will Decrease Training Deaths? More Training, GAO Says


A number of high-profile training mishap deaths in recent years drew attention to the Defense Department’s resurging problem with non-combat fatalities. The number of deaths in training vehicle accidents has more than doubled over the last two reported years, after hitting a 10-year low of seven in 2017.

After the Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle accident that killed nine in July 2020 and the May 2019 death of Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell in a vehicle rollover, Congress requested that the Government Accountability Office report on these specific training deaths. Among the GAO’s findings, presented in a recent report, was that no “prescribed training regimen” is currently being implemented.

“You see very consistent causes—driver inattentiveness, supervision lapses, and the lack of training,” said Cary Russell, director of GAO’s Defense Capabilities and Management office. “When you look at what we’ve reported, there’s a lot of consistency in terms of application of safety practices and the lack of a good training program.”