28 August 2021

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

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.

Gissar Military Aerodrome — India’s first overseas base that came to the rescue in Afghan crisis


New Delhi: Gissar Military Aerodrome (GMA), India’s first overseas base operated along with Tajikistan and aimed at giving a strategic heft to their military operations and training, has come in handy in India’s effort to evacuate hundreds of its citizens and Afghans from Kabul, overrun by the Taliban since last Sunday.

The GMA, popularly known as the Ayni airbase named after the village Ayni, is just west of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. It has been administered by India along with Tajikistan for nearly two decades, sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and former Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had a key role in setting up the base, which was funded by the Ministry of External Affairs, sources said.

Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen?

Alissa J. Rubin

Taliban fighters brandished Kalashnikovs and shook their fists in the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, defying American warnings that if they did not hand over Osama Bin Laden, their country would be bombed to smithereens.

The bravado faded once American bombs began to fall. Within a few weeks, many of the Taliban had fled the Afghan capital, terrified by the low whine of approaching B-52 aircraft. Soon, they were a spent force, on the run across the arid mountain-scape of Afghanistan. As one of the journalists who covered them in the early days of the war, I saw their uncertainty and loss of control firsthand.

It was in the waning days of November 2001 that Taliban leaders began to reach out to Hamid Karzai, who would soon become the interim president of Afghanistan: They wanted to make a deal.

“The Taliban were completely defeated, they had no demands, except amnesty,” recalled Barnett Rubin, who worked with the United Nations’ political team in Afghanistan at the time.

The Afghanistan outcome is ugly. Biden was still right to say: Enough.

E.J. Dionne Jr.

The United States is highly competent at fighting wars when the objective is clear, victory is the only option and a large share of the public supports the engagement.

Our country has rarely been good at sustained commitments in murky conflicts where the goal is a vague “political settlement” that is neither victory nor defeat.

We ought to have learned that lesson long ago. Afghanistan has taught it again. It’s why President Biden finally said: Enough.

Biden’s decision to withdraw is a cold, realpolitik judgment, as he underscored in remarks on Sunday. His prism, he said, rested on the questions: “Where are our national interests? Where do they lie?” However brutal the Taliban is, however reactionary and oppressive it might be toward women in particular and dissenters from its purist religious doctrines generally, U.S. interests would not be served by extending our military commitment any longer.

The U.S. engagement in 2001 was prompted by the Taliban’s harboring of al-Qaeda, an immediate, proportionate response to the attacks of 9/11.

What Will the Taliban Do With Their New US Weapons?

Alessandro Arduino

Capturing the enemy’s weapons has been a standard guerrilla tactic for centuries. The American Army could not have succeeded against King George III without seizing the king’s food and armaments. It is one thing to capture weapons and other materiel; it is another to be given the enemy’s gear on a silver platter.

In the images of the Taliban fighters flooding the streets of Kabul, one detail attracts attention: the lack of the ubiquitous Kalashnikov. Few Taliban appearing now carry the signature weapon of insurgent fighters, the AK-47, and its countless variants from the handmade Pakistani versions to the updated Russian AK-19. Most of the Taliban in Kabul’s street seems to prefer American M4 carbines and M16 rifles with their many gadgets attached, from expensive optics to laser sights and flashlights, an uncommon picture in contrast to just a few weeks earlier.

The answer to the question concerning the source of these small arms is straightforward: war looting. Another and more important question needs an answer: The fate of the extensive military materiel that the U.S. left behind during its withdrawal or that which was in the hands of the Afghan forces that melted so quickly away as the Taliban advanced.

Escape From Afghanistan

George Packer

For the past 10 days, thousands of private citizens have been working around the clock, through informal networks of friends and colleagues, to organize evacuation flights from Afghanistan to countries like Albania and Kyrgyzstan, and to help Afghans get their name on passenger manifests and safely reach the Kabul airport. This effort, which is largely taking place on WhatsApp and Signal, has been called a “digital Dunkirk.”

At this point the phrase is too generous. In the spring of 1940, British and French forces were rescued from Dunkirk by a collaboration between the British government and ordinary people sailing their own vessels into the English Channel; it was a miraculous success. Thus far, only a fraction of endangered Afghans have gotten out of the country. The private rescue effort in Afghanistan is basically running separate from the United States government’s Operation Allies Refuge; it became necessary because the official evacuation is beset by chaos and bureaucratic blockage. Private citizens are intervening because the government, as a retired military commander told me, is “overwhelmed.” People involved in this collective effort have said that it’s the only aspect of the fall of Afghanistan that relieves a bit of their shame.

The Real Afghanistan Disaster: The War Was Lost Long Ago

Daniel Davis

The media is practically on fire with an invective directed against President Joe Biden for how this inglorious withdrawal from Afghanistan is being conducted. Most critics are implying that absent Biden’s withdrawal, none of this chaos would have happened and the Ghani government and military would have remained in power indefinitely.

Those critics are dead wrong.

Biden’s biggest mistake may have been believing that the Afghan government and military we spent two full decades and $1 trillion building wasn’t so fragile that it would collapse like a house of cards the first time it was required to stand on its own.

That the American people are upset is entirely reasonable. In fact, they should be very angry. They deserve to know why our nation-building effort – financed on the blood of American troops – was such a colossal failure, especially when they had been led to believe that the mission was succeeding. As will become more and more clear as time passes, the American people were, bluntly put, duped into supporting this war.

What a Taliban Government Will Look Like

Lynne O’Donnell

Taliban leaders will form a 12-man council to rule Afghanistan and will offer some pliant members of the former U.S.-supported government the ministries of their choice as they strive to form an administration that is acceptable to the international community, sources close to the leadership said.

The three most powerful men in the leadership council will be Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban; Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the group’s founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and the man behind the victorious military strategy; and Khalil Haqqani, a senior figure in the Haqqani network, responsible for some of the most vicious terrorist attacks of the past 20 years, and who is blacklisted by the United Nations and United States. Together, these men represent one of the world’s biggest criminal and terrorist cartels. The Taliban make billions of dollars each year producing and trafficking heroin and methamphetamine, as well as smuggling mining assets including marble, lithium, and gemstones.

This strategy for governing Afghanistan avoids the recreation of such positions as president, or even that of emir, a title claimed by previous leaders of the Taliban insurgency, including Mullah Omar. But such a strategy opens the door to factional struggles and will leave the ruling council to grapple with an incipient anti-Taliban movement centered on the Panjshir Valley.

Afghanistan, a Green Beret’s Perspective | Erik Kramer

Watching the pictures of Afghans holding on to U.S. aircraft taking off from Kabul makes my heart break. My daughter used the adjective “cruel” which I think is very apt. I personally feel a sense of betrayal and shame. It makes you ask, what was it all for? Did anything good come out of the 20 years we spent there?

If you were a Green Beret in Group between 2001 and 2021, it is highly likely you went to Afghanistan multiple times (the official title is U.S. Army Special Forces and the nickname is the “Green Berets” based on our distinctive head gear). Every active duty and National Guard Group deployed teams there. Afghanistan defined Army Special Forces for two generations. I would argue even more so than Iraq. It was an Special Forces mission to conduct unconventional warfare and counter insurgency.

I personally spent two tours there in 2004-2006. During that time, the Afghanistan mission was secondary to the chaos that was Iraq. It is easy to understand why most Americans do not understand how quickly the country collapsed after 20 years, $2.261 trillion spent, (according to the Brown University’s Watson Institute & Boston University’s Pardee Center, and more importantly 2448 U.S. service members and 3846 contractors killed (“How Many Americans died,” AP, 16 August 21).

Can America’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan Help Its China Strategy?

Dingding Chen and You Wang

U.S. President Joe Biden has been severely criticized from all fronts in recent weeks as the United States’ supposedly peaceful and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan turned into a classic fiasco in front of the whole world. As a consequence, Biden’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level since his inauguration, with increasing numbers of both Democrats and Republications disapproving of his handling of the Afghanistan situation. Internationally, Biden has not received much support from the publics in many U.S. allies either. For example, half of Britons believe that Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan is wrong. U.S. allies and partners in Asia have expressed similar concerns as to the U.S. commitment to the region, particularly as China’s influence is rapidly increasing.

To be far to Biden, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan makes some sense from a strategic point of view, as the China-U.S. competition seems set to be the dominant theme of international politics in the coming decades. Given the long-term relative decline of U.S. capability and energy, it is wise to shift the focus and resources to China from other areas, such as the greater Middle East, that are no longer vital national interests to the United States. Afghanistan is such an area, as the U.S. has wasted almost $2 trillion and thousands of U.S. lives there after 20 years of occupation.

The US and China are not destined for war

Charles C. Krulak and Alex Friedman

In the year 2034, the United States and China become embroiled in a series of military conflicts that escalate into a devastating tactical nuclear war. Other countries—including Russia, Iran and India—get involved. Suddenly, the world is on the verge of World War III.

This is the scenario described in 2034: A novel of the next world war, an engrossing work of speculative fiction by a former supreme allied commander at NATO, Admiral James Stavridis, and Elliot Ackerman. The book is part of a growing chorus now warning that a clash between the world’s current rising power and the incumbent one is almost unavoidable. Graham Allison of Harvard University has dubbed this phenomenon the ‘Thucydides trap’, recalling the ancient Greek historian’s observation that, ‘It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.’

‘The Great Decoupling’

John West

China has become a peer competitor with the U.S. for a wide range of technologies, a remarkable feat for a country that was bereft of most modern technologies just four decades ago.

China has been a technological power for most of its recorded history and accounted for half of the world’s engineering inventions in the period leading up to the Industrial Revolution period. Yet it never developed a culture of science and missed the Industrial Revolution, writes Nigel Inkster in his new book, The great decoupling: China, America and the struggle for technological supremacy.

This meant that China was highly vulnerable when it came into contact with the industrialised West and Japan in the 18th century, with devastating consequences for the country. China would remain a technological backwater until its reform and opening up, launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s.

Beijing’s American Hustle

Matt Pottinger

Although many Americans were slow to realize it, Beijing’s enmity for Washington began long before U.S. President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and even prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rise to power in 2012. Ever since taking power in 1949, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has cast the United States as an antagonist. But three decades ago, at the end of the Cold War, Chinese leaders elevated the United States from just one among many antagonists to their country’s primary external adversary—and began quietly revising Chinese grand strategy, embarking on a quest for regional and then global dominance.

The United States and other free societies have belatedly woken up to this contest, and a rare spirit of bipartisanship has emerged on Capitol Hill. But even this new consensus has failed to adequately appreciate one of the most threatening elements of Chinese strategy: the way it exploits vital aspects of American and other free societies and weaponizes them in the service of Chinese ambitions. Important U.S. institutions, especially in finance and technology, cling to self-destructive habits acquired through decades of “engagement,” an approach to China that led Washington to prioritize economic cooperation and trade above all else.

Can Ankara play a constructive role in Afghanistan?


The news out of Afghanistan has been one heartbreak after another: Afghans falling from the sky; a toddler crushed in a stampede; women forced into hiding; and Hazara men massacred.

Amid this steady drumbeat of gloom, bits of good news shine all the brighter. So it was with Afghan film director Sahraa Karimi, who feared Taliban reprisal for her work as an artist but last week thanked the Turkish embassy in Kabul, among others, for helping her escape to safety.

She’s among the lucky few. A week into the Taliban era, Kabul airport is something out of a post-apocalyptic dystopia. The Taliban have in recent days intensified their hunt for Afghans who collaborated with occupying powers, driving tens of thousands of suddenly in-danger Afghans to besiege the airport gates, surging, jostling and pleading to get in. Flash bangs, clouds of red teargas and volleys of rifle fire barely keep them at bay.

The race to reset the Middle East's maritime map

Michaël Tanchum

One of the most consequential changes in the Middle East's geopolitical map is happening at the water's edge. Along the entire eastern rim of the Mediterranean basin, global and regional actors are engaging in a spate of port capacity expansions, new private port construction, and the sell-off of major state-owned ports that will determine who sits atop the region's global trade flows for decades to come. The international competition to rebuild Beirut's port is one key puzzle piece in this larger process that is reconfiguring the Levant's maritime commercial architecture and, as a consequence, the geopolitical contours of the Middle East.

The possibility that the Lebanese government could opt for China to reconstruct Beirut's port has raised alarm in Washington and European capitals given China's already outsized commercial port presence in Egypt, Israel, and Greece. Increased Chinese involvement in Lebanon's port operations could consolidate Beijing's hold over the commercial connectivity architecture of the Levant. Re-orienting global commercial flows between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia according to Beijing's priorities would make China's Belt and Road Initiative a dominant organizing principle in the international relations of the Middle East. The most effective way to offset China's ambition may be to facilitate Mediterranean rivals France and Turkey to jointly rebuild Beirut's port.

Twenty Years After 9/11, Are We Any Smarter?

Jordan Michael Smith

On a warm June evening in downtown Manhattan, tourists hoping to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum are disappointed. The spot is closed after 5 p.m., a security guard repeats patiently to visitors. From behind a rope, the tourists look at the spaces where the Twin Towers used to be. The names of the 2,977 people killed by Al Qaeda in September 2001 are etched into bronze parapets surrounding two pools. Water flows down 30 feet in clear streams over the walls into the pools. During the day, if you are close enough to the water, the endless noise of the city is drowned out. But on nights like this one, New York’s cacophony makes itself heard here. If you close your eyes, it doesn’t sound very different than it did before the terrorists devastated the buildings.

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of the attacks. “Everybody was traumatized,” remembered Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism adviser at the time. In the immediate aftermath, Clarke said, the Bush administration was mainly concerned with reacting swiftly to prevent another attack. “[We were trying] to put ourselves in the heads of Al Qaeda, imagine what they might do next, and that was difficult because there were so many vulnerabilities, particularly back then, and a very long list of things they could do.”

Why America keeps building corrupt client states

ONCE AMERICA announced that it would not save its client state, things unravelled quickly. As the enemy seized province after province, government soldiers shed their uniforms and ran. On paper the army had hundreds of thousands of well-equipped fighters. In reality its few loyal commanders had to buy ammunition from crooked supply officers and pay in cash for artillery support. The special forces fought well, but regular troops were often commanded by politicians’ incompetent relatives. Soldiers went unpaid as officials pilfered military budgets. Citizens stayed loyal to their families and clans, not to a corrupt government that was as likely to shake them down as to help them. The state was a Potemkin village constructed to please its American sponsors. When they left, it fell.

So it went in South Vietnam in 1975, and again last week in Afghanistan. The similarities between the two collapses are striking. They go beyond intelligence failures, mendacious speeches and abandoned allies. Ultimately, both states fell because they had been hollowed out by corruption, an ancient disease of governance to which America’s nation-building projects are prone. (Think also of Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Haiti.) Political scholars once considered corruption a minor issue, but many now see it as crucial to understanding not just why America’s proxies fail, but how states work in general.

Karen Greenberg, Will the Forever Wars Become Forever Policy?

If it hasn’t been forever, it’s certainly felt like it. Almost 20 years after George W. Bush and crew invaded and occupied Afghanistan, the American-installed government there collapsed, its leader fled the country, and its American-trained military (already well staffed with plenty of “ghost” troops) evaporated. Many of the government soldiers and police who remained officially on duty hadn’t been paid for months, amid massive corruption and a staggering expenditure of American taxpayer dollars. Four administrations had spent at least $2.26 trillion fighting the war itself and more than $88 billion arming and supplying a military that, in the end, wouldn’t fight. It should be the ultimate lesson in forever disaster, but don’t count on the U.S. military learning much from it.

After all, the very generals who, year after endless year, oversaw such disasters, while lauding “progress” in Afghanistan and Iraq, were almost inevitably promoted or sent via golden parachute into the other half of the military-industrial complex. Lessons? Us? If anyone in Washington was into such lessons, the Pentagon might have learned something from the 2014 collapse of the Iraqi military that it also funded, organized, and trained in the face of the relatively modest forces of the Islamic State. But no such luck, as recent events in Afghanistan suggest.

Robert D. Kaplan on why America can recover from failures like Afghanistan and Iraq


THERE THEY were in the flesh: wizened veterans of the Spanish-American War from 1898 marching a few feet away from me at the Memorial Day parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn in 1958. It is one of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories. The Spanish-American War, which began in Cuba and led to a bloody and drawn-out American occupation of the Philippines, announced the arrival of the United States as a world power.

The basis of that power was starkly geographical. Hans Morgenthau, a founding father of “realism” in international relations, called geography the most stable component of national power. America is a vast and wealthy continent densely connected by navigable rivers and with an economy of scale, accessible to the main sea lines of communication, yet protected by oceans from the turmoil of the Old World.

The New Great Game: Securing critical minerals today for a clean energy system tomorrow

The energy transition will require a 400% increase in demand for critical minerals to meet green energy demands, with the vast majority of that demand coming from clean energy applications like electric vehicles and stationary energy storage using batteries. This has set in motion a “New Great Game” to secure critical minerals for the energy transition.

At the moment China is leading the game, while Europe is a relative latecomer. Yet no one nation will be able to build a supply chain on its own. In the case of Europe, this requires considering multiple options. This includes domestic mining and processing of critical minerals – which could have domestic political consequences, and securing access to critical minerals abroad – which requires forging ties with resource rich nations.

In short, this paper by Guest Author Jeff Amrish Ritoe details the steps Europe needs to take to secure an undisrupted supply of the raw materials that are needed to produce clean energy applications and the geo-economic and geopolitical complications that arise from this “New Great Game.”

Shifting Global Value Chains: The India Opportunity

Beyond the unprecedented health impact, the COVID 19 pandemic has been catastrophic for the global economy and businesses and is disrupting manufacturing and Global Value Chains (GVCs), disturbing different stages of the production in different locations around the world. Furthermore, the pandemic has accelerated the already ongoing fundamental shifts in GVCs, driven by the aggregation of three megatrends: emerging technologies; the environmental sustainability imperative; and the reconfiguration of globalization.

In this fast-evolving context, as global companies adapt their manufacturing and supply chain strategies to build resilience, India has a unique opportunity to become a global manufacturing hub. It has three primary assets to capitalize on this unique opportunity: the potential for significant domestic demand, the Indian Government’s drive to encourage manufacturing, and with a distinct demographic edge, including considerable proportion of young workforce.

The Global Energy Transition

Jon Alterman: Dan Yergin is the vice chairman of IHS Markit and a director of the Council on Foreign Relations. He’s a Pulitzer prize winning author for his book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, and he’s the author of the new book, The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations. Dan, welcome to Babel.

Daniel Yergin: Thank you. Glad to join you today.

Jon Alterman: I was surprised to read in your book that fracking was only first commercially successful as recently as 1998, and within 10 years it completely changed the energy industry. Has there ever been a demand driven shift that works that quickly, and could there be?

Daniel Yergin: I don't think so. What happened with fracking is certainly the biggest energy innovation of the twenty-first century, and it happened fast. A lot of people—including in the Middle East—were quite taken by surprise. Even the people who promoted and developed it never imagined at the beginning that it could achieve the scale and have the impact that it has had. In 2008, the United States was importing 60 percent of its oil. Today, the United States is the world's largest producer of oil. The United States is the world's largest producer of natural gas, and it exports both. It’s quite an amazing change. There have been other times in history when big new volumes of oil have come into the market rather unexpectedly. Usually, when that happens you do have a price collapse because the supply overwhelms demand. That's what we saw here, but it is really quite remarkable that it happened so fast.

The Afghanistan Withdrawal: Military And Defense Implications – Analysis

Kathleen J. McInnis and Andrew Feickert*

After a rapid Taliban campaign to capture cities and territories formerly controlled by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), on August 15, 2021, the Taliban took Kabul and the President of GIRoA, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country.

Information regarding the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and U.S. troop numbers is fluid and should be treated with caution. This Insight, which may be updated as circumstances warrant, is intended to assist Congress as it considers the military and defense implications of the withdrawal while events unfold.

Current Military Footprint and Mission

Operation Allies Refuge (OAR) was initiated on July 17, 2021, to support relocation flights for Afghan nationals and their families eligible for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). On August 12, 2021, in light of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed Ghani the United States would begin reducing its civilian footprint in Kabul, and would accelerate Special Immigration Visa (SIV) flights previously undertaken as part of OAR. The rapid collapse of GIRoAand subsequent Taliban takeover of Kabul has, to many observers, underscored that plans to evacuate U.S. personnel and Afghan partners needed to be accelerated.

Russia Fearmongering About Afghan Refugees

Catherine Putz

As the United States and its allies rush to extract thousands of people from Afghanistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned about “militants under the guise of refugees.” Tapping into long-running tropes about the spillover of extremism from Afghanistan into Central Asia, Putin is clearly pushing Central Asian states to limit the extent of their cooperation with the Western airlifts out of Kabul.

On August 22, in a meeting of United Russia party members, Putin derided Western requests for staging assistance from Afghanistan’s neighbors.

“Our Western, let’s say, partners are persistently raising the issue of placing refugees in Central Asian countries before those [refugees] receive visas from the United States or other countries… They think they can send them without visas to our neighbors [Central Asian states], but refuse to receive them in their own countries without visas? What a humiliating approach to solving this issue is it?”

Michael Klare, Is a Cold War Still Possible in an Overheating World?

Think of it as an irony of the first order that Joe Biden’s foreign-policy team came into office promoting new cold-war policies against the rising power on this planet, China. After all, even if it is that, it’s rising in a world that only recently experienced its warmest month on record. The very term “cold war,” in fact, seems like an artifact of ancient history at a time when, among other places, the U.S., Europe, and Canada have all been setting new heat records and experiencing fires of a sort seldom seen before. In this sense, the Biden foreign-policy team and the Pentagon, as they maneuver to confront the Chinese Navy not off the California coast but from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea to the Taiwan Strait, couldn’t seem more out of touch with the deeper realities of our world.

I guarantee you one thing: at the moment, they’re doing their planning for forming alliances against a rising China in air-conditioned rooms, because it’s been hot as hell in Washington — or by Zoom because it’s still a pandemic country. Yes, against all reason and sense, the U.S. continues to build ultra-expensive new nuclear weapons (having in recent years dumped several nuclear treaties), while fretting eternally about China’s upgraded but still relatively modest nuclear arsenal. As it happens, though, the future “battles” the U.S. and China might find themselves in, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, writes today, could be of a very different, even if still world-endangering nature. To be won, they would have to be fought not against each other, but together. Welcome to a new-style hot-war world. Tom


David Knoll

Gray zone warfare can take the form of something as uneventful as building infrastructure. Since 2015, China has built three new villages in an area it claims is in Tibet, but is actually in Bhutan. The Chinese government has also built roads, police outposts, and even military infrastructure in northern Bhutan. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has claimed part of this territory since the 1980s, but has only recently started construction. China’s ultimate goal is to trade land stolen in northern Bhutan for a more strategically-located parcel that it wants to acquire along the northern border of India. The fact that part of the occupied area, Beyul Khenpajong, is one of the most sacred locations in Bhutan, only strengthens China’s gambit.

At first glance, the Bhutan episode seems to be a classic example of China illegally implementing facts on the ground to secure strategic gains. However, the development in Bhutan is also an example of how narrative plays a central role in gray zone warfare. Key to Beijing’s strategy in Bhutan is establishing a narrative that the territory is part of China—or at least that each side’s argument has merit. The stronger that narrative, the less likely international support for Bhutan will coalesce. Last year a local Chinese Communist Party official visited one of the villages to celebrate the settlement of the area—a mundane event. To the international community, this is not a vision of territorial seizure, but an obscure legal dispute that is best left to the two interested parties.

New SPACECOM Strategy Will Define ‘Space Combat Power’


COLORADO SPRINGS: US Space Command will soon issue a strategy document that outlines the “roadmap” for achieving “space superiority,” says Gen. Jim Dickinson, SPACECOM commander.

The new strategy will build on his “Commander’s Vision” released in January, but “now more informed. … It will strengthen our ability to outthink and out maneuver our competitors and dominate through space combat power, and it will always ensure that there will never be a day without space,” he told the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium here today.

“It describes how, in coordination with allies and partners, US Space Command will achieve and maintain space superiority, when, where, and for how long we need it. It will lay out how we will accomplish what’s necessary for space superiority, to include efforts to counter competitor influence, build and maintain competitive advantages, strengthen our critical relationships and attract new partners,” Dickinson explained.

Army Seeks New Tech For Capability Set 25


WASHINGTON: The Army is inviting partners to submit white papers for new tech to be potentially adopted as part of its Capability Set 25.

Capability sets are intended to enhance the Army’s tech and prepare the service for All Domain Operations. The Army’s tactical network is viewed as the bedrock of this initiative. Beginning in 2021, sets are scheduled to be released every two years, with the goal of incrementally adding new tech that builds upon, expands, and improves existing capabilities.

Capability sets entail a range of tech, but focus broadly on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data management, advanced waveforms, and mission command applications. For Capability Set 25, the Army is seeking white papers for new tech in three areas:

The Thirty Tyrants


In Chapter 5 of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli describes three options for how a conquering power might best treat those it has defeated in war. The first is to ruin them; the second is to rule directly; the third is to create “therein a state of the few which might keep it friendly to you.”

The example Machiavelli gives of the last is the friendly government Sparta established in Athens upon defeating it after 27 years of war in 404 BCE. For the upper caste of an Athenian elite already contemptuous of democracy, the city’s defeat in the Peloponnesian War confirmed that Sparta’s system was preferable. It was a high-spirited military aristocracy ruling over a permanent servant class, the helots, who were periodically slaughtered to condition them to accept their subhuman status. Athenian democracy by contrast gave too much power to the low-born. The pro-Sparta oligarchy used their patrons’ victory to undo the rights of citizens, and settle scores with their domestic rivals, exiling and executing them and confiscating their wealth.