6 September 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.

Afghanistan: Taliban to rely on Chinese funds, spokesperson says

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has told an Italian newspaper that the group will rely primarily on financing from China following the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and its takeover of the country.

In his interview published by La Repubblica on Thursday, Mujahid said the Taliban will fight for an economic comeback with the help of China.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on August 15 as the country’s Western-backed government melted away, bringing an end to 20 years of war amid fears of an economic collapse and widespread hunger.

Following the chaotic departure of foreign troops from Kabul airport in recent weeks, Western states have severely restricted their aid payments to Afghanistan.

A Dishonorable Exit

Eliot A. Cohen

“Honour is often influenced by that element of pride which plays so large a part in its inspiration,” Winston Churchill wrote in The Gathering Storm. “An exaggerated code of honour leading to the performance of utterly vain and unreasonable deeds could not be defended, however fine it might look. Here, however, the moment came when Honour pointed the path of Duty, and when also the right judgment of the facts at that time would have reinforced its dictates.”

Churchill was reflecting on the Munich agreement of 1938, a decade after the event. His famous statement to the British government at the time—“You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war”—has been invoked of late in the debate about America’s disengagement from Afghanistan. That old-fashioned word, honor, has much to say about our manner of leaving Afghanistan.

There are two separable issues here: the decision to liquidate America’s Afghan commitment, about which reasonable and prudent people could, did, and do disagree; and the manner in which it was conceived, executed, presented, and defended. And in that latter respect, the American exit was profoundly dishonorable.

National Resistance Front repels multi-day Taliban assault on Panjshir


After weeks of fruitless negotiations between the Taliban’s political leadership and senior leaders of the National Resistance Front in Panjshir, the Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on the Panjshir Valley beginning on Aug. 31. The Taliban timed the assault on Panjshir for immediately after the U.S. military pulled out of Kabul airport and ended efforts to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies.

To this point, the National Resistance Front has mostly successfully warded off the Taliban by virtue of easily defended positions in the mountainous region, inflicting heavy Taliban casualties along the way.

Prior to the Taliban incursions, the nascent resistance claimed it controlled four districts in Baghlan and Parwan provinces outside of the Panjshir Valley. These districts provided a cushion for the anti-Taliban militia to gather Afghan security forces who did not surrender to the Taliban. [See: FDD’s Long War Journal report, Anti-Taliban resistance make modest gains outside Panjshir.]

The war in Afghanistan has shaped an entire generation in the West

Constanze Stelzenmüller

There have been many unseemly Western military retreats in recent history: Algeria (1962), Vietnam (1975), Iraq (2011), Sudan (May 2021), and now Afghanistan. Why does this one feel so different? So raw, so immediate, and so personal?

British Conservative MP and former army officer Tom Tugendhat told the House of Commons of desperate phone calls and texts he had received from Kabul: “Like many veterans, this last week has been one that has seen me struggle through anger, grief, and rage.” His powerful speech swiftly went viral. Social media sites were (and still are) awash with anguished comments from American and European veterans, military and civilian, of the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of Western forces ended with the departure of the last U.S. plane late on Monday. As allied troops evacuated more than 100,000 Afghans, armies of diplomats, humanitarian aid, and development agency staff worked feverishly in Kabul and far away in national capitals to support the evacuation effort.

In Second Regime, Both the Taliban and the World Face a New Reality

Faisal Devji

Most accounts of the Taliban’s emergence in the 1990s attribute it to a Saudi-funded and Pakistani-led project. Its aim was to create an Islamic state in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, one that would keep Iran at bay for the Saudis and India for the Pakistanis. This was necessary because the mujahedeen, who had routed the Soviets with help from the United States, were too riven by internecine quarrels to form a government. But the Taliban were also heirs to the Marxist state the mujahedeen had defeated. Like many anticolonial movements during the Cold War, Islamists, too, had adopted the Soviet model of an ideological, one-party state.

The Taliban were belated supporters of this Cold War model, which had already outlived its global historical context. Unlike Iran, the only successful version of such an Islamic state, the Taliban’s emirate in Afghanistan was crude, violent and unstable. But in contrast to pre-modern examples of Islamic governance, it remained true to the Soviet model in establishing the collective rule of an ideological party, without sharing it with kings, aristocrats, military commanders or even the higher clergy who had traditionally advised and supported Afghanistan’s previous rulers. The Taliban of the 1990s represented not the Middle Ages but rather a worn-out modernity from the 20th century.

The Obstacles to Peacekeeping in Afghanistan Are Greatly Exaggerated

Charli Carpenter

Two weeks ago, in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, I argued that a United Nations peacekeeping mission should be considered as part of, or complementary to, a strengthened mandate for the U.N.’s existing political mission in the country, UNAMA. Since then, a group of over 20 scholars has been working with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Human Security Lab to game out scenarios, consolidate the supporting evidence and make some research-backed guesses about whether peacekeeping should be on the table in Afghanistan today.

The emerging consensus in this group is that there are reasons to think it should, based on peacekeeping’s record of success in other places. To make it work, the U.N. would need to establish a role for itself in an intra-Afghan peace process aimed at averting a civil war between the Taliban and any remaining armed holdouts to the government that they are in the process of assembling. To that end, outside states should condition their recognition of the Taliban-led government on the group’s acceptance of intra-Afghan peace talks and a peacekeeping operation. That mission should be as large and strong as is acceptable to all parties, but even a small observer mission will very likely help. The U.S. and other NATO countries should contribute resources to it but not troops. Instead, Muslim-majority countries should take the lead on the ground, with inducements offered if needed. .

The Kabul Airlift in 5 Charts


US troops lingering in Pakistan ring alarm bells


PESHAWAR – Although Pakistan officially acknowledged the landing of military planes carrying hundreds of US troops from Afghanistan at Islamabad airport on August 29, it’s still not clear why many are still lingering in the country and not returning to the US or Qatar airbase.

Gul Bukhari, a British-Pakistani journalist, columnist and rights activist, tweeted on Tuesday, “Question for anyone with some insight into this: With huge bases in Qatar & Bahrain, and thousands of five and seven-star hotels in the UAE, why have US military personnel been flown to Pakistan?”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied that the US will be given access to Pakistan military bases after withdrawing from Afghanistan.

The Afghan Tragedy and the Age of Unpeace


BERLIN – The images of desperate Afghans scaling the perimeter fence at Kabul’s airport in an attempt to flee Taliban rule provide a heartbreaking record of our geopolitical moment. The brutal way in which the West’s former allies in Afghanistan are being left to their fate encapsulates the determination of US President Joe Biden’s administration to shed old international commitments as it embraces a new strategy.

There is much to criticize about the United States’ hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, not least the lack of concern for the rights of Afghan women and girls, intelligence failures, and the absence of planning. But underlying many of the critiques is an unshakeable nostalgia, even grief, at the passing of an era. The US-led intervention in Afghanistan that began 20 years ago was the last vestige of a different world, defined by the quest for a liberal international order and the stated mission of bringing democracy and the rule of law to far-flung regions. Many in the West who attack Biden’s policy are in fact upset about the return of brutal geopolitical competition.

IS(K): The Taliban’s Worst Enemy – OpEd

Neville Teller

The Taliban has just won a 20-year war against America and its allies and sent them packing. The triumph is so complete that the US no longer represents any sort of threat to the Taliban’s long-held aim to rule the country according to its own interpretation of Sharia law. But the taste of victory is far from sweet, because the Taliban faces a home-grown challenge to its ambitions, and its enemy is all the more dangerous because it fights on the ground that the Taliban claims as its own – Islamism. The challenge to its authority comes from the shadowy group that claimed responsibility for the horrific bombing at Kabul airport on August 26 leaving some 170 people dead – the Islamic State Khorasan, known as ISIS(K), or simply IS(K). Khorasan is a historical term for a region that includes present-day Afghanistan and parts of the Middle East and Central Asia.

IS(K), an affiliate of ISIS, was formed in early 2015 when ISIS was at its heyday controlling large areas of Iraq and Syria. It was set up by disaffected ex-members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, who pledged their allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A 2015 video caught the group’s leader at the time, Hafiz Saeed Khan, and other top commanders, swearing their loyalty to Baghdadi, and declaring themselves administrators of a new ISIS territory in Afghanistan. Khan was killed in 2016 during a US drone attack. Baghdadi died in 2019 after he set off an explosive vest to avoid being captured by US forces.

Anti-Taliban resistance fighters rely on grit, history and geography to hang onto a sliver of Afghanistan

Sudarsan Raghavan, Ezzatullah Mehrdad and Haq Nawaz Khan

Zaki was among thousands of Afghans who fled into the craggy mountains north of Kabul following the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, fearing the brutality and harsh rules of the Islamist extremists. Now, the 27-year-old former government employee is carrying an AK-47 on Afghanistan’s last military front line.

College-educated, the civilian-turned-guerrilla fighter is part of a fledgling resistance force determined to prevent the Taliban from seizing the last sliver of Afghanistan the militants have yet to dominate — the rugged province of Panjshir.

“We do not want to be second- or third-class citizens of the country,” said Zaki, who asked that his full name not be used because he fears reprisals by the Taliban against his family in Kabul. “We do not want to lose our freedom and our smile.”

For the past four days, the Taliban has targeted Panjshir, attacking from several directions and engaging in fierce clashes with the resistance forces. It is the most serious challenge the Taliban has faced in the military campaign in which it swept across Afghanistan last month in a lightning strike that saw Kabul and 33 provincial capitals fall in 10 days.

As Biden stands by, Chinese hackers build dossiers on US citizens


“It is estimated that 80 percent of American adults have had all of their personal data stolen by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and the other 20 percent most of their personal data,” William Evanina told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Aug. 4 in his opening statement.

As Evanina, the former director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, also stated, “the existential threat our nation faces from the Communist Party of China is the most complex, pernicious, strategic and aggressive our nation has ever faced.”

What is the most shocking aspect of Beijing’s illegal collection of American data? It is not that China has conducted the most successful criminal enterprise ever. It is America’s unwillingness to stop a crime that has continued for decades.

China is grappling with a ‘devil’s bargain’

Stephen Bartholomeusz

The debt-riddled underbelly of some of China’s bigger companies perhaps provides another layer of insight into Xi Jinping’s abrupt imposition of a new and aggressive approach to “common prosperity” on the country’s biggest enterprises.

For decades it was the entrepreneurs who helped turbocharge China’s growth rate, particularly during the ultra-high growth in the decade after the financial crisis where Chinese companies gorged on the torrents of liquidity, the access to cheap debt and the stimulus China poured into its domestic system and economy.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the flaunting of wealth and perceived power and independence from the state of tech entrepreneurs like Alibaba’s Jack Ma, China’s authorities launched an assault on the big tech companies this year and pressured their billionaire founders to “donate” towards its goal of common prosperity.

Afghanistan Has Lessons For The Gulf – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely clarify what the Gulf’s security options are.

Gulf states are likely to monitor how Russia and China handle the perceived security vacuum and security threats in the wake of the US withdrawal and abandonment, for all practical matters, of Central Asia. It will tell Gulf states to what degree Russia and China may be viable alternatives for a no longer reliable US security umbrella in the Middle East.

Gulf states are likely to discover that they are stuck with a less committed United States. That reality will push them to compensate for uncertainty about the United States with greater self-reliance and strengthening of formal and informal regional alliances, particularly with Israel.

No doubt, Russia, the world’s second-largest exporter of arms, and China will be happy to sell weapons and exploit cracks in the Gulf’s relationship with the United States. But neither has the wherewithal nor capacity to replace the US as the Middle East’s security guarantor.

Exclusive: World Trade Center Hijackers Atta and al-Shehhi May Have Been Lovers, Said 9/11 Mastermind


Twenty years after the attacks of 9/11, there is still so much we do not know about that intensely studied day. The greatest void remains the hijackers—not the how of their diabolical plot, but the who: who they were as people.

That human element has been a taboo subject for two decades, as if trying to understand what they believed and what drove them would somehow justify or excuse their acts.

And yet their lives open up a door to perhaps one of the most intriguing mysteries of that terrible day: the South Tower of the World Trade Center was never a target that al Qaeda planned to hit. The implications are enormous: because of the decision of two of the hijacker pilots to hit both towers and die together, both buildings ultimately came down and the White House was spared.

In the course of my research into the terrorists' point of view, a source gave me access to thousands of pages of CIA interrogation transcripts and reports of captives who were involved in 9/11 plotting—most centrally Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of the plot who is now a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

Emerging Technology Horizons: Pentagon Must Address Modernization Quandary

Rebecca Wostenberg

Since the Cold War ended, several factors have converged presenting the perfect storm of national security challenges for the Defense Department and the United States writ large.

A series of decisions — or lack of decisions — resulted in delayed defense modernization programs. Near-peer competitors, such as China and Russia, are dramatically increasing their capability while the U.S. faces an erosion of domestic industrial capacity in critical sectors. And the Pentagon now is under significant budget pressure as it maintains legacy systems and capabilities, while responding to the needs and expectations of executive branch leadership, Congress and the American people. This is the modernization quandary.

Earlier this summer, the Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI) hosted the first workshop in an ongoing series focused on accelerating the delivery of emerging technologies into the hands of American warfighters. ETI published a report with the key findings to continue the conversation. The report centered on prioritizing the technologies to maximize capability for cost, examining process changes to improve delivery, and reducing legislative barriers to fielding the technologies.

To defeat adversaries in cyberspace, America must go on offense

John Yoo and Ivana Stradner

Following our humiliating Afghanistan retreat, America’s rivals will amplify their assaults on our credibility and defenses. China could attack Taiwan; Russia might further encroach against Ukraine; Iran or North Korea may seek more extortion over their nuclear programs. It’s also possible that adversaries will launch their first jabs where America is most vulnerable: cyberspace.

While President Joe Biden has warned the Kremlin that Washington will “respond with cyber” if Moscow’s cyberattacks affect critical infrastructure, he also wants to cooperate with the Russians. This contradictory approach fails to notice that Beijing and Moscow have exploited the international order by coopting key institutions in their low-intensity cyberwar against the United States.

To make good on his promise to curb cyberattacks, Biden should adopt a strategy of deterrence rather than of international cooperation. Today, the most effective path forward for the United States is retaliation. If Biden takes such a step, it would be a striking, and welcome, departure from the soft policies he has adopted.

Get the generals off TV


Welcome to National Security Daily, your guide to the global events roiling Washington and keeping the administration up at night.

Rep. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-Ariz.), a former Marine infantryman who served in Iraq, has a message for the retired generals talking about Afghanistan on TV: You’re part of the problem.

None of them solved the Afghanistan riddle during two decades of war, and yet the former flag officers are littering the airwaves with criticisms of President JOE BIDEN’s decision to withdraw.

They deserve more blame for the failures of the war than requests for comment and counsel, Gallego believes.

STRATCOM: China’s Pursuit of Nuclear and Hypersonic Weapons Adds Urgency to U.S. Deterrence

John Grady

China’s recent full-speed-ahead breakout in nuclear forces, space and cyber efforts, and hypersonic systems adds new urgency to America’s need to ensure its deterrence systems are holding, U.S. Strategic Command’s top officer said Thursday.

Adm. Charles Richard said the United States has never before “faced two peer opponents” with extensive nuclear weapons arsenals and high-technology systems capable of operating across multiple domains.

In his Hudson Institute online forum discussion, Richard concentrated on China rapidly fielding a range of strategic weapons. He listed six new ballistic missile submarines, air-launched cruise missiles, an improved nuclear command and control system, delivery systems for different domains, upgraded missile defense systems and changed doctrine for the use of these weapons as examples of the breakout.

How America Can Avoid Another Afghanistan

Ted Galen Carpenter

With the withdrawal of the last U.S. ground troops from Afghanistan, America’s longest war supposedly has come to an end. That assumption, however, is one of several falsehoods that characterized Washington’s mission in Afghanistan. If the United States is to avoid repeating the Afghanistan debacle in some other locale a few years down the road, both U.S. policy makers and the American public must squarely face some painful truths.

The war has not truly ended yet:

Even as U.S. ground forces were completing their departure, the Biden administration ordered drone strikes against alleged terrorist targets and made it clear that future strikes were on the agenda. One of the earliest attacks apparently killed at least 10 civilians, including several young children from one family.

Is Moscow using the S-400 against Turkey?

Semih Idiz

The military logic of Turkey’s highly controversial purchase of S-400 anti-ballistic missile defense systems from Russia in 2017 continues to defy many analysts.

The topic remains a major sticking point in Turkey’s strained relationship with the United States and its European allies.

It has also deprived Ankara of a strategic asset, such as the state-of-the-art F-35 fighter jets it hoped to bolster its air force with. Turkey was expelled from that program by the United States because of its multibillion-dollar S-400 purchase.

It is still not clear where and when Ankara hopes to deploy the Russian systems and what any possible scenario for their ultimate use will be.

Nevertheless, what many feared could now be turning out to be true. Indications are emerging that Moscow may be using the S-400 issue to apply pressure on Turkey at a time when Ankara is trying to improve its ties with the West.

Spyware: An Unregulated and Escalating Threat to Independent Media

Samuel Woodhams

The digital surveillance industry is a broad and largely opaque network of companies that produce technology to monitor and track individuals. From tools that surveil citizens’ social media profiles to devices that indiscriminately monitor the activity of nearby mobile phones, the range and sophistication of technologies available has never been greater.

While their delivery methods and capabilities vary, all spyware products are designed to infect a user’s device and monitor their digital activity while remaining undetected. Typically, this means an infiltrator can covertly access a target’s phone calls, text messages, location, internet searches, and stored data. Even more troubling is the fact that most of the products are capable of evading antivirus tools that are specifically designed to detect malicious activity.

The rapid expansion of the digital surveillance industry has enabled governments around the world to acquire new technologies to monitor journalists, silence independent journalism, and control the flow of information. As of April 2021, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had identified 38 cases of spyware targeting journalists, commentators, and their associates.1 The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab suggests the true figure could be over 50.2 There are reports of spyware targeting journalists working with international media outlets, including Al Jazeera and the New York Times,3 as well as reporters and editors working for the US-based Ethiopian diaspora outlet Oromia Media Network, Colombia’s Semana magazine, and Mexico’s Proceso.4

Russian Cyber-Operations in Ukraine and the Implications for NATO

Alexander Salt and Maya Sobchuk

All members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should view Russia’s 2014 invasion of Eastern Ukraine as a significant security issue. Although the strategic situation in Ukraine is indeed plagued by conventional combat (particularly in the Donbas region), it is important to note that Russian cyber-operations have emerged as one of the more troublesome challenges. Cyber-attacks are increasing in regularity and will likely remain a consistent part of emerging conflicts in the contemporary global security environment. Russian boldness in this context is particularly noticeable as it was just recently that Ukraine became a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner, meaning Russia is clearly willing to challenge the West more directly. In some ways this is not entirely a new threat. For example, Keir Giles, a Chatham House Russian security expert, has argued that Russia is essentially taking the information/propaganda experiences that it honed and mastered during the Cold War and is enhancing them by using modern information technology to amplify their effectiveness.1 This crisis’s lingering implications for the Alliance suggest it is in NATO’s best interest to continue to strengthen its existing cyber-capabilities and aid Ukraine. Indeed, NATO members are best suited to respond to the broadening cyber-challenge via the Alliance framework, rather than individually, due to the inherent complexity and transnational character of cyber-threats.

Europe’s invisible divides: How covid-19 is polarising European politics

Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard

The lived experience of the covid-19 pandemic has split Europe just as the euro and refugee crises did, with the south and the east feeling much more badly affected than the north and the west.

Some people were affected directly by illness, some only experienced economic consequences, while others feel untouched by covid-19. The economic victims are more likely than others to say that restrictions have been too severe, and they tend to be more sceptical about their governments’ intentions behind lockdowns.

Europeans are divided over what they believe to be governments’ motivations behind restrictions: the Trustful have faith in governments; the Suspicious believe rulers want to cover up failings; the Accusers think governments are trying to increase their control over people.

Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs

Myanmar Probably Needs a Military . . . Just Not the One It Has

Women on the Front Lines in Myanmar’s Fight for Democracy

Myanmar in the US Indo- Pacific Strategy

The Myanmar Coup as an ASEAN Inflection Point

Myanmar’s Military Coup

Between Political Violence and COVID-19: Many Citizens in Myanmar Pushed to Armed Resistance

AI Wars

Many think the artificial-intelligence revolution will be at least as big and transformative as the Industrial Revolution – and certainly faster. But geopolitical rivalries mean that governments are unlikely to agree on how to maximize AI’s benefits and limit its potential harms.

In this Big Picture, Eric Schmidt, a former CEO of Google/Alphabet and Chair of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, argues that democracies must come together to maintain AI leadership in the face of China’s increasingly authoritarian challenge. But while regions and countries will differ in their attitudes and visions regarding AI, notes Kai-Fu Lee of Sinovation Ventures, they must try to work together to reach practical solutions.

Frank-Jürgen Richter of Horasis emphasizes that ensuring increased adoption and balanced implementation of AI technology will also be crucial to emerging markets’ long-term economic growth and development. But Stan Matwin of Dalhousie University thinks that further advances in AI, while inevitable, will not necessarily be linear, and dispels three common misconceptions about its potential.

Failure in Afghanistan Has Roots in the All-Volunteer Military

Paul Cavallo

The tragedy that unfolded over the past several weeks in Afghanistan began with the creation of the “all-volunteer” military in 1973 and the self-promoting careerism that has stalked the Pentagon ever since. Too few leaders have been willing to speak truth to power and say no to overseas military adventurism that had little bearing on the safety and security of this nation. And it goes without saying that those in charge when the war begins are never those who have to finish it.

We saw this most clearly when, in 1990-91, America sent its young warriors into the deserts of the Middle East. We called it "The Gulf War” and “Desert Storm,” but it was, in reality, America’s first mercenary war. The Bush administration cut a deal with the Saudis and Kuwaitis: our men, their money. Kuwaiti “princes” lived large in hotels from Saudi Arabia to Paris while our young soldiers and Marines dug fighting holes in the desert under a searing sun.

Will a ‘Digital Military’ Change War?

Jacob Parakilas

According to General Jay Raymond, the head of the U.S. Space Force, America’s newest military branch is also on its way to becoming the world’s first fully digital armed service.

Rather than a Tron-esque idea of soldiers fighting virtually in a purely digital battlefield, what Raymond was referring to — previously laid out in a Space Force vision statement — is somewhat more prosaic, emphasizing the need for the new service to be interconnected and innovative. In other words, the actual ambition is more or less to have a military service that works within the frameworks created by the current state of digital technology rather than adopting them piecemeal. The particular mission of Space Force lends itself naturally to networking — after all, Space Force personnel are expected to remotely operate satellite and reconnaissance platforms, rather than piloting space fighters or boarding enemy spacecraft. (For the foreseeable future, at least.) That stands in stark contrast to the marines, for example, who are still expected to operate in a world of very real mud and blood.