15 September 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

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: Lessons From Cambodia

Youk Chhang

The resurgence of the Taliban and the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is an incredible tragedy that has provoked emotional memories of past wars and policy debates. There have been many references to the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam as an important historical analogy in assessing the implications of the situation in Afghanistan; however, a better analogy is Cambodia. The history of Cambodia offers not only important critical insights into the implications of the current situation in Afghanistan, but also important reminders that there is still hope for future U.S. foreign policy and the international community’s approach to the Afghan people.

We must be serious and forward thinking in our approach; the very future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance.

It is hard not to compare the images of the chaotic air lifting of American and Afghan peoples with images of the United States’ departure from Southeast Asia. Many popular news media have made this comparison, drawing from the images of the rooftop airlift to evacuate personnel by helicopter from Saigon, Vietnam. One cannot deny that the frenzied departure of Americans from the rooftops of hotels in Kabul appears remarkably similar to the images of the chaotic evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Vietnam almost 50 years ago. But the similarities really end there, and Cambodia, for a number of reasons, is the better analogy.

Exclusive: Despite China's Pressure on Taliban, Uyghur Separatists See Opportunity in Afghanistan


Despite Chinese pressure on the Taliban to crack down on militant groups, the Uyghur separatist organization at the heart of Beijing's own "war on terror" sees a new opportunity in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to undermine the People's Republic.

"The United States is a strong country, it has its own strategy, and we see the withdrawal of the American government today from this war in Afghanistan, which is incurring huge economic losses, as a means of confronting China, who are the enemy of all humanity and religions on the face of the Earth," a spokesperson for the political office of the Turkestan Islamic Party, commonly known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), told Newsweek.

In what appears to be the first remarks by the secretive group to an international media outlet since being removed from a U.S. list of terrorist organizations last year, the Turkestan Islamic Party spokesperson expressed hoped the U.S. military exit last month would be followed by greater pressure against China.

"We believe that the opposition of the United States to China will not only benefit the Turkestan Islamic Party and the people of Turkestan," the spokesperson said, "but also all mankind."

Thucydides in Afghanistan: Imperial Abstraction, Moral Displacement, and Hubris

Francis A. Beer and Robert Hariman

Despite twenty years and two trillion dollars, the Afghan government fell in a matter of days following the US military pullback in August 2021. The media exploded into a maelstrom of finger pointing and hand wringing; a photograph of a Chinook helicopter above the US Embassy provided a visual suture with the fall of Saigon. It’s déjà vu all over again. More reflective articles strived to provide some nuance, but these and other attempts at lessons learned are swept away in the deluge. What can be better understood, however, is how the astonishment at the fall, the rush to judgment, and perhaps the mission failure itself reflect habits of imperial abstraction, moral displacement, and hubris. This article draws on Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, a canonical text in International Relations (IR), to foreground these three habits—deeply embedded in the rhetoric of classical realism, but also attributes of Western imperialism. They coalesce as part of a political discourse—a way of speaking, thinking, acting, reacting, knowing, and not-knowing—but also operate piecemeal and usually on behalf of not paying attention.

In 2020, the major US television networks devoted a total of five minutes to Afghanistan (Lobe, 2021). Whether the failure at nation building in Afghanistan was due to misguided idealism or not, and whether media commentators have been consistent in their coverage before and after the fall or not, the long acquiescence to the occupation and quick reactions at its demise reflect a shared inattentiveness that is discursively constructed. Thucydides’ provides a mirror that can reflect these specific tendencies in imperial power as it manifests across a spectrum from theoretical debate to democratic public opinion.

Who Are the Taliban?

Grant Farr

On August 15, 2021, the Taliban stormed into Kabul after capturing all the key cities in Afghanistan. The Afghan military collapsed, fleeing their posts and giving up their guns and equipment. Many of the Afghan leaders fled, including President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban’s arrival in Kabul was much quicker than most had predicted, leaving thousands of people, including American citizens and Afghans who had assisted the Americans, in danger. Chaos occurred as thousands attempted to flee the Taliban by catching flights out of the Kabul airport as the American and NATO soldiers attempted to bring order to the chaos.

Many questions remain, including what kind of government the Taliban will assemble, whether the new government will include current or past leaders of Afghanistan, how the new Taliban government will be received by other nations in the world, and how they will treat vulnerable groups in Afghanistan including women, and religious and ethnic minorities. The real questions are who are the Taliban of today and how have they changed in the 20 years since they ruled Afghanistan? While the Taliban say that they are not the Taliban of old and are now more tolerant and accepting of women and religious minorities, their actions seem to indicate otherwise. What do we know about the Taliban and how will they rule?

The counterterrorism dilemma


On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, one question seems to be on everyone’s mind: Are we safer today than we were then? Until last month, the answer would have been “yes.” But given the recent events in Afghanistan that returned the Taliban to power and resurrected that country’s status as a terrorist haven, there is no longer an obvious answer.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. was at the apogee of its strength as the globe’s unrivaled remaining superpower. We faced the threat of one terrorist group — al Qaeda —essentially concentrated in one place — Afghanistan. How utterly different is the situation today. Al Qaeda maintains a global movement of at least six franchises and well over a dozen local affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and South and South East Asia. In addition, today we are confronted with threats from two terrorist movements not one — that of the Islamic State with its eight official branches and more than two dozen networks — covering an almost identical geographical ambit, including the group — ISIS-K — responsible for the tragic bombing at Kabul’s international airport that killed 13 U.S. service personnel as well as nearly 200 Afghans.

Osama bin Laden’s Aesthetic Never Died

Colin P. Clarke and David Newman

Two decades after the al Qaeda terror attacks on U.S. soil, and more than a decade after his death, Osama bin Laden remains central to the global jihadist movement. Bin Laden’s likeness and speeches continue to be featured regularly in jihadist propaganda. Members of Generation Z regularly swap memes that revere him as authentic, courageous, and successful. As a symbol, he has transcended the rivalry between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, serving as an icon for veteran jihadists as well as those new to the movement. Bin Laden’s appeal even extends beyond jihadists: He has often been lionized by violent far-right extremists, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and so-called “accelerationists.”

The main reason for bin Laden’s continued resonance is also one of the most misunderstood factors in his success as leader of al Qaeda: his careful cultivation of a stoic and eloquent self-image. In contrast to the gore and carnage favored by leaders of later terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, bin Laden concentrated on spreading quiet images of himself. The images of bin Laden sitting in a cave wearing a camouflage jacket, AK-47 by his side, still convey a sense of confidence and leadership that few jihadist leaders have been able to replicate, including al Qaeda’s current emir Ayman al-Zawahiri. This distinct aesthetic legacy of bin Laden, and the way it still shapes terrorism today, deserves far more attention than it has received in the West.

Pakistan Is an Arsonist That Wants You to Think It’s a Firefighter

C. Christine Fair

On Aug. 27, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “Any sustainable solution in Afghanistan must include Pakistan,” while also expressing his appreciation for the “efforts of the Pakistani government to assist with the evacuation of U.S. citizens, our allies, and other nations.” His comments reflect a familiar play: Pakistan has spent decades setting fires in South Asia—and then expected praise and remuneration for offering to put them out.

It’s astonishing that U.S. officials continue to peddle Pakistan’s own fictions—alongside such media outlets as the BBC, as I discovered recently when I was cut off in the middle of an interview for speaking about it. But with the Afghanistan debacle on policymakers’ minds, it’s a good time to think critically about Washington’s perpetual vulnerability to Pakistan’s rent-seeking ruses. Both political parties have long been responsible for coddling Pakistan in hopes that there is some mystical U.S. policy that could reform its supposed wayward ally. Even though Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan goes back some seven decades, the Washington elite continues to fall for Pakistan’s efforts to sell itself as the solution to the very problems it created.

Islamic State-Khorasan’s Reach Extends Far Beyond Afghanistan

Robert Muggah and Rafal Rohozinski

In a grim reminder of the threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, a lone suicide bomber detonated roughly 25 pounds of explosives at Kabul airport on Aug. 26, killing 13 U.S. troops and up to 170 other people. The U.S. military responded less than 48 hours later with an unmanned airstrike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, killing two suspected Islamic State-Khorasan members. A second airstrike targeting a suspected Islamic State-Khorasan suicide bomber followed in Kabul a day later—killing as many as 10 civilians.

Islamic State-Khorasan is a violent extremist group familiar to terrorist watchers: It has carried out scores of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan since first establishing itself in 2015. Islamic State-Khorasan also maintains a lively presence on social media and encrypted messaging platforms across South and Central Asia.

Many media outlets have highlighted the Taliban’s strategic use of the internet for social control. But with internet use growing exponentially across the region, Islamic State-Khorasan is potentially even more destabilizing than the Taliban, given its potential to reaching an ever-widening audience.

In Afghanistan, It’s Back to the Future—of Taliban Tyranny

Lynne O’Donnell

Almost a month after taking control of Afghanistan and overseeing an economic collapse while violently suppressing public protests, the Taliban have announced a government of mullahs and black-listed terrorists that takes the country back a quarter century in time and hints at dark days to come.

The 33-member interim cabinet announced this week is exclusively male, exclusively Taliban, and almost exclusively Pashtun, meaning the old guard of the hated 1996-2001 regime is back in power, with tyranny more a reality than a threat for the majority of Afghanistan’s almost 40 million people.

Women have no positions in the interim government. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been abolished as has women’s participation in sports. The sinister Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice has been reestablished. As university classes resumed with male and female students separated by partitions, the new minister of education said, effectively, that education is unnecessary.

Inside the response to the massive Russian SolarWinds hack

Ina Fried

Seizing upon a flaw in software from SolarWinds, Russian hackers spent months leisurely probing the computer systems of dozens of businesses and government agencies. By contrast, when the intrusion was detected, tech companies and government agencies had to scramble to close the hole, assess damage and try to learn techniques to block future attacks.

Between the lines: Fresh details on how Microsoft, SolarWinds, GoDaddy and various government agencies managed the response to last winter's massive security failure are included in an update to a book co-authored by Microsoft president and longtime top lawyer Brad Smith.

Among the revelations:

Microsoft convened urgent meetings spearheaded by CEO Satya Nadella designed to make sure that all of the company's top security organizations were focused on the effort.

The company also mobilized more than 500 workers to respond to the SolarWinds attack.

How the U.S. Got 9/11 Wrong

Michael Hirsh

As dawn broke on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was considered virtually unchallengeable. Not only was it the lone superpower left on the world stage after the Soviet Union’s collapse a decade before, the United States had become, if anything, even more dominant relative to the rest of the world. Post-Soviet Russia had shrunk to an economy smaller than Portugal’s. Europe was inwardly focused and squabbling over monetary union. Japan’s once-surging economy had flatlined. And China was still just a rising tiger. Even the Roman Empire at its height did not measure up to the economic, military, and technological dominance over the world then possessed by United States, wrote Yale University historian Paul Kennedy. In a famous 1987 book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Kennedy had argued the United States was in decline, but as the new century got underway, he changed his mind: “Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power; nothing.”

Despite the terrible trauma of what happened later that morning—the worst-ever attack on U.S. soil—Washington’s response over the next two months only reaffirmed U.S. dominance. After the Taliban refused to surrender the culprit behind 9/11, al Qaeda, the United States attacked Afghanistan—but in a new way that utterly baffled the militants.

How 9/11 changed the US military and how it fights

Jennifer Griffin

"So my commander said, hey, you guys, the report's due to the chairman by noon. It's not ready yet. Go back to your desk, get these reports ready for presentation," Gunz recalled. "I sat at my desk, and then a massive explosion occurred. Windows shattered around me. I fell off my chair. My computer came down. There was confusion as to where the explosion was. I had been near explosions before, but inside the building, I couldn't tell where it was from."

Pete Gersten was a major in the Air Force one corridor away from where the plane hit the Pentagon. (Pete Gersten)

He grabbed his top secret computer, trained to protect it at all costs.

"We turned around and someone opened the front door to our vault and smoke just billowed into the room," he recalled.

The Bush Administration’s Invasion of Iraq: A Case of Ontological Insecurity?

Ayman Triki

This paper argues that ontological insecurity (OIS) was a key element in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. By conveying how both the end of the Cold War and the 9/11 attacks induced OIS, it can be demonstrated that the Bush administration was influenced to intervene in Iraq by the need to maintain a stable and coherent sense of the USA’s Self and state identity. To substantiate my argument, I will conduct a discourse analysis of political speeches produced by the Bush administration between the 9/11 attacks and the invasion. I will, in similar fashion to Ayse Zarakol, take a middle-line approach with my level of analysis, applying both Mitzen’s exogenous approach to OS, and Steele’s endogenous approach, presenting how both the breakdown of external routinised relations and incongruence with the USA’s internal biographical narratives, were present in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq (Bolton, 2021: 131; Zarakol, 2010; Mitzen, 2006; Steele, 2007). Initially, I will explore the decision to invade Iraq through the exogenous lens which will attempt to convey how since the end of the Cold War and after the 9/11 attacks, the USA experienced a breakdown in the Self-Other and state-state routinised relations that sustained its identity, and its need to re-establish these routines and achieve OS influenced its decision to invade Iraq. After exploring some criticisms of Mitzen’s exogenous approach and how this may question the extent to which OIS influenced the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, I will then cool these tensions by applying Steele’s endogenous approach to analyse the speeches. This will eventually present how maintaining consistency with and finding friendship for an overlap with its internal biographical narratives, played a prominent role in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, reinforcing how they acted in an OS-security seeking manner.

Three Lessons from a Two-Decade Failure


MADRID – Twenty years ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks shocked the world. “We are all American” became a global slogan of solidarity. Suddenly, the West’s post-Cold War invulnerability had been exposed as an illusion. Globalization, which had become the reigning paradigm and established Western economic dominance in the 1990s, turned out to have a dark side.

Two decades after the attacks, it is difficult to overstate their consequences for the West and the wider world. A violent non-state actor determined the international agenda to an extraordinary degree. While the hegemony of the West, led by the United States, remained unquestioned, the unipolar moment of the 1990s seemed to be coming to a close, and US foreign policy would be fundamentally reshaped by the “global war on terror.”

In the context of the time, it was no surprise that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan met with overwhelming international support. The 9/11 attacks could not go unanswered, and it was the Taliban who had provided a haven for al-Qaeda to plan, organize, and launch the operation.

CNAS Responds: American Security, Two Decades After 9/11

Richard Fontaine, Carrie Cordero, Lisa Curtis, 

The exit from Afghanistan bookends two decades in which American security and foreign policy transformed both domestically and abroad. On the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, CNAS experts reflect on what transpired in the years since and where U.S. foreign policy goes from here.

Richard Fontaine, Chief Executive Officer: "On 9/11, I watched from my Pentagon City apartment as the flames grew and the smoke billowed. At a medical facility across the street, I then waited to help with a flood of patients. They never arrived, since most in the Pentagon were killed in the blast or escaped injury. The sight of thousands running from that conflagration hasn’t much faded over the years, and I suspect it never will.The fear that so motivated America’s response to 9/11 has waned, however, and that allows for a cooler appraisal of U.S. policy. It’s clear that there were huge successes: preventing another mass-casualty attack on the homeland, especially, and reorganizing the government to deal with terrorist threats. But there were also terrible overreaches, ranging from detainee torture to the war in Iraq.

The Most Terrifying Thing About 9/11 Was America’s Response

Jon Schwarz

ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, I woke up around 8:30 a.m., took a shower, and made a mug of Nescafé instant coffee. By the time I opened up my laptop and maneuvered to Common Dreams — the favorite website of all progressives of that time — it was 9 a.m.

Common Dreams was then designed with the important stories in the middle of the page, with brief snippets about less significant issues in a column on the left. It was the left-hand column that featured one sentence in red: “Plane hits World Trade Center.”

This gave me three minutes of delicious ignorance during which it was possible to believe that a plane had hit the World Trade Center’s north tower by accident, three minutes to live in the post-9/11 era without realizing it. Then, at 9:03 a.m., like everyone who’d turned on a television, I saw United Flight 175 smash into the south tower.

The Colonial Trap

NEW YORK – On February 20, 1947, Clement Attlee, the socialist British prime minister, informed parliament that India would become independent no later than June 1948. Attlee could not wait for the British to withdraw from a country whose leaders, Muslim and Hindu, had long been clamoring for independence. But India was seething with violent unrest. Muslim leaders were afraid of Hindu dominance. Worried that a civil war might land the British in an uncontrollable situation, Attlee decided to end the British Raj even earlier.

Indian independence began on August 14, 1947. Pakistan broke away. Horrendous violence between Hindus and Muslims claimed a half-million lives. Many more lost their homes. The wounds of partition are yet to heal.

Attlee was widely blamed for getting out too soon and leaving the former colony in chaos. If only a better police force had been organized. If only the army could have kept order. If only the British could have left once the country was stable.

Avoiding a Historical Failure After Afghanistan

John Ferrari

President Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, against the advice of the military establishment and contrary to the actions of three previous presidents, has had the unintended consequence of surrendering the future of his presidency to others. For most Americans, the memories of the tragedy of these recent weeks will soon evaporate, the long-term consequences of these decisions are in the hands of three groups of bad actors.

The first group to hold the fate of the Biden administration in their hands are the Taliban. They hold the strategic initiative, and the Taliban have proven in the past to be fanatics and genocidal maniacs. Minority groups such as the Hazaras — a Persian-speaking ethnic community — women, and those with sexual preferences that do not conform to the norms of the Taliban have much to fear should the Taliban revert to their historic norms of behavior.

If the Taliban’s recent statements are any indications (that women should stay home because Taliban fighters do not know how to behave around them, for example), the decision to withdraw, notwithstanding the execution of the withdrawal, will be a historical stain on this administration, much like the Iranian hostage crisis was at the time it occurred. Biden made a big bet on the Taliban.

The Strategic Logic of a Forever War

Leo Blanken and Stephen Rodriguez

President Joe Biden’s precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan was based on the argument that the U.S. government needed to cut its losses and end a “forever war.” Proponents of this view maintain that the war in Afghanistan was a costly failure and the United States needed to stop throwing good money after bad. But this argument is flawed—based on what economists call the “fallacy of sunk costs,” a common pathology where past, unrecoverable investments are taken into consideration when making decisions about the future.

Rationally, the losses on such past investments should be ignored. Take, for instance, the example of a small business owner wrestling with the weight of years of personal investment in her business and repeated decisions to stick it out in the face of losses. She decides to close down just as the business in question begins to turn a profit and money starts to trickle into the bank account for the first time in years.

Business schools teach their students that this type of pathology—which might encourage withdrawal from a business venture due to past losses—needs to be overcome with cold logic, and that all decisions about continued investment need to focus solely on the expected utility of any future actions while ignoring unrecoverable costs incurred previously.

The real lessons from 9/11

Twenty years ago America set out to reshape the world order after the attacks of September 11th. Today it is easy to conclude that its foreign policy has been abandoned on a runway at Kabul airport. President Joe Biden says the exit from Afghanistan was about “ending an era” of distant wars, but it has left America’s allies distraught and its enemies gleeful. Most Americans are tired of it all: roughly two-thirds say the war wasn’t worth it. Yet the national mood of fatigue and apathy is a poor guide to America’s future role in the world. Its capabilities remain formidable and its strategy can be retooled for the 21st century, provided the right lessons are drawn from the post-9/11 era.

The murder of 3,000 people on American soil provoked a reaction that highlighted America’s “unipolar moment”. For a while, it appeared to have uncontested power. President George W. Bush declared that the world was either with America or against it. nato said the assault on the twin towers was an attack on all its members. Vladimir Putin pledged Russian military co-operation; Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, called this the real end of the cold war. The ease with which American-led forces routed the Taliban seemed to augur a new kind of light-touch warfare: 63 days after September 11th, Kabul fell. There have been enduring achievements since then. Counter-terrorism efforts have improved: Osama bin Laden is dead and no remotely comparable attack on America has succeeded. Lower Manhattan has been rebuilt in style.

Twenty Years After: How Terrorism and the World have Changed Since 9/11

George Beebe

The list of things that have changed after terrorists toppled the twin towers twenty years ago is long. Al Qaeda was an organization familiar only to a handful of anti-terrorism experts in the bowels of the CIA. Russia’s little-known president, Vladimir Putin, was laboring to convince Washington that it should partner with Russia against international terrorists. The U.S. military had enjoyed a decade of battlefield success in the Persian Gulf and Balkans. China’s economy was a small fraction of America’s. We face a much different world, and a changing terrorist challenge, in 2021. How should the United States deal with terrorism in the aftermath of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan? How can Washington best deal with friends and rivals abroad to secure its vital security interests today?

Enjoy the Center for the National Interest's discussion of these important questions with an all-star panel of experts. Our panelists include:

COVID-19 and Human Freedom


NEW YORK – The upsurge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States serves as a bitter reminder that the pandemic is not over. The global economy will not return to normal until the disease is under control everywhere.

But the US case is a true tragedy, because what’s currently happening here is so unnecessary. While those in emerging markets and developing countries are longing to get the vaccine (with many dying because they cannot get it), the US supply is ample enough to provide a double dose – and now a booster shot – to everyone in the country. And if almost everyone got vaccinated, COVID-19 would almost surely just “fade away,” as former President Donald Trump memorably put it.

And yet not nearly enough people in the US have been vaccinated to prevent the highly contagious Delta variant from driving case numbers in many areas to new highs. How do so many in a country with seemingly well-educated people act so irrationally, against their own interest, against science, and against the lessons of history?1

Creating Legitimacy in a Pluralist World Order

Terry Macdonald

Talk of political legitimacy crises in world politics is nothing new, but over recent years it has become pervasive. While international institutions confront deepening challenges from anti-globalist political forces, domestic liberal and democratic institutions are facing legitimacy crises of their own, reflected in the rise of autocratic rulers and populist movements around the world. Varying local factors always contribute to these crises; but they are also partly products of longer-range historical processes, which have shaped the decline of the ‘statist’ global political order, and the modern concepts and practices of legitimacy that developed alongside it. Since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and the publication of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan just three years later, the pursuit of legitimacy in political institutions has been inextricably tied to the consolidation of sovereign authority – both internally within nations, and externally among states. But over the last century, intensifying forces of global integration have transformed sovereign structures of governing authority, without accompanying changes to models of political legitimation.

Today’s terrorists need an internet connection, not an airplane


As we observe the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we need to accept that the next terror assault need not depend on explosives, hijacking or suicide bombers. In fact, Afghan-based terrorists may never have to leave their village. A good Wi-Fi signal may be sufficient.

The result, in Afghanistan and throughout the world, are breeding grounds for a new generation of terrorists far more sophisticated in waging war on the West. They understand that attacking democracies can be done with devastating effect by crippling our cyber systems.

That vulnerability has not gone unnoticed. At a recent cyber security summit with executives from Big Tech, the financial industry and infrastructure sector, President Biden urged attendees to “raise the bar on cybersecurity.” As a result, both Microsoft and Google committed billions to beefing up their cyber security over the next few years. While these commitments are a step in the right direction, more urgency is needed.

Breaking and Entering: Subverting Sovereignty Despite the International System

Harsha Daswani

Intervention and sovereignty are two very important, yet seemingly contradictory, components of the international system. One qualifying interpretation of the concepts was made by Lawson and Tardelli (2013): sovereignty does not apply to interventions in the way it is directly applicable to war. Rather, intervention ‘qualifies or suspends’ the notion of sovereignty (2013: 1235). This apt distinction offers a space to broaden the concept of interventions as a practice and recognises that sovereignty is in itself a malleable definition of nationhood.

In considering international interventions as broad and ever present, but distinctly not war, MacMillan (2013) offers a working definition that realises ‘discrete acts of coercive interference in the domestic affairs’ of other nation states (Macmillan, 2013: 1041). As such, a wide definition of interventions encompasses military interventions and sanctions, special trade relations or deals, development aid, diplomatic initiatives, covert military operations, weapons trades, comprador elites, and many other influences on a given state (Phillips, 2016). It falls just short of practices in international relations as a whole. In addition to this conceptualisation, Reus-Smit (2013) posits that interventions involve the reconfiguring of institutions, identities, and socio-political practices, and do not necessarily involve an international order constituted by sovereignty; rather, interventions simply arise as interactions ‘between transnational social forces and bounded political identities’ (Reus-Smit, 2013: 1076). Similarly, sovereignty has had multiple interpretations over time and space; it has been taken as self-determination, legal and international recognition, and as a form of responsibility (Krasner, 1999; Chandler, 2008; Lawson and Tardelli, 2013). Most simply, it attempts to delineate what is local, external, and international authority (Ayoob, 2002).

Sunday Reading: Casualties of the Forever Wars

David Remnick

In 2012, Dexter Filkins published a prescient Reporter at Large about the state of affairs in Afghanistan and what we might expect when America withdrew its military from the country. Filkins describes the complex nature of the unremitting confrontations between the Afghan government, the militias fighting over specific territories, and the Taliban. As he spoke with a variety of Afghans, he heard a worrisome refrain. In the words of one Kabul local, “The Americans have failed to build a single sustainable institution here. All they have done is make a small group of people very rich. And now they are getting ready to go.”

This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces that highlight the sweeping consequences (and casualties) of our “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. In “The Shattered Afghan Dream of Peace,” published in 2019, Luke Mogelson examines how, eighteen years after America’s invasion, most Afghans live in poverty, corruption is pervasive, and more than a hundred and fifty thousand Afghans have been killed. In “The Other Afghan Women,” Anand Gopal writes about how the killings have affected some of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable citizens—and their attitudes toward the Taliban. In “Betrayed,” from 2007, George Packer reports on the shifting situation on the ground for Iraqi interpreters helping American forces. “The arc from hope to betrayal that traverses the Iraq War is nowhere more vivid than in the lives of these Iraqis,” Packer writes. “America’s failure to understand, trust, and protect its closest friends in Iraq is a small drama that contains the larger history of defeat.” Finally, in “Soldiers’ Stories,” a group of enlisted men and women offer accounts of their wartime experiences. “It’s the body bag in the back that makes the flight hard. No jovial banter among the crew. No jokes of home. No wisecracks about the origin of the meat served at the chow hall, just the noise of the flight—the scream of the engines, the whir of the blades clawing at the air, the voice crackling over the radio and echo of your own thoughts about the boy in the bag in the back.”

To win battles of information, the US Army will need deep sensing and data handling

Mark Pomerleau

AUGUSTA, Ga. — One U.S. Army acquisitions office helping with the service’s evolving plans to achieve what it calls information advantage expects to contribute in two critical ways: through deep sensing and assessments of vast data collected on future battlefields.

“In our modernization priorities, there’s this real need for us to sense deeper and to assess more of that data that we’re now collecting when we enable this deeper sensing,” said Mark Kitz, the program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors.

In great power competition with advanced nations in the years to come, the Army expects to fight conflicts from a distance, requiring it to fire across thousands of miles — both with conventional weapons and electronic attacks.

A Tennis Fairy Tale in New York

Louisa Thomas

There was no way to know what to expect from the U.S. Open women’s final, because, for two weeks, the teen-agers Emma Raducanu, of Britain, and Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, had been making a mockery of expectations. An undersized scrapper ranked seventy-third in the world is not supposed to beat the defending champion, the 2016 champion, the fifth seed, and the second seed—usually by playing her best, bravest tennis in the tensest moments, as Fernandez did. A qualifier ranked a hundred and fiftieth in the world is not supposed to make the final of a Grand Slam, let alone in her second appearance in the main draw of a major—and only her fourth tour-level event, as Raducanu did. No qualifier, man or woman, had ever done it before. There was no precedent for reference, no personal history to point to, no analogue. In the tunnel, before she walked onto the court, Fernandez was asked what she expected the greatest challenge would be that day. “Honestly, I don’t know,” she said, with a smile. And how could she?