25 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.

A shift in militants’ strategy could shine a more positive light on failed US policy

James M. Dorsey

A paradigm shift in jihadist thinking suggests that the US invasion of Afghanistan may prove to have achieved more than many counterterrorism experts would want policymakers and military strategists to believe.

Similarly, the paradigm shift also hints at the possibility that the presence in a Taliban-governed Afghanistan of various militant Islamist and jihadist groups could turn out to be an advantage in efforts to prevent and contain political violence.

The evolution of tensions and unfolding of differences in the world of Afghan militancy will constitute a litmus test of the shift and how history will ultimately judge the United States’ 20-year forever war in Afghanistan in terms of counterterrorism.

The shift involves a move away from cross-border and transnational acts of violence towards local militancy and the garnering of popular support through good governance based on an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. It is a difference in strategy that constitutes one of the ideological and strategic differences between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Whither State-Building?


STOCKHOLM – Suddenly, “nation-building” has become a dirty word, particularly in the United States. The trauma of America’s defeat in Afghanistan has triggered a panicked retreat from a concept that was long central to US security thinking. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, it was widely understood that the invasion of Afghanistan was necessary to deny al-Qaeda its base there. And by the same token, the attacks also launched a wider effort to rid the world of ungoverned territories that could become platforms for international terrorism.

From a European perspective, nation-building was never the proper term. Since nations take many different forms, the real task is one of state-building to ensure that territories are governed in a reasonably effective manner. That was certainly the case in Afghanistan after the US toppled the Taliban’s governance structure (such as it was). Preventing al-Qaeda or other extremist groups from returning depended on putting new governance structures in place. It was widely recognized from the start that there was no daylight between anti-terrorist operations and state-building.

The Atlantic Alliance After Afghanistan


FRANKFURT/WASHINGTON, DC – Transatlantic relations rebounded buoyantly after US President Joe Biden arrived in the Oval Office. But the Taliban’s rapid takeover in Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of foreign nationals and at-risk Afghans has soured the mood. European disquiet over Biden’s handling of the Afghan withdrawal, alongside Germany’s forthcoming federal election on September 26, makes this an opportune moment to take stock of the Atlantic alliance.

Four fundamental geopolitical changes are reshaping transatlantic relations. First, although the transatlantic link survived Donald Trump, his presidency (and near re-election), coupled with the illiberal populism that also infects Europe, has exposed the fragility of liberal democracy in its historical bastions. This internal menace, rather than China, Russia, or violent extremism, may pose the greatest threat to the transatlantic community today.

Amid Taliban Takeover, UN Extends Afghanistan Mission By Six Months

Trevor Filseth L

The UN Security Council unanimously authorized a six-month extension of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Friday, in recognition of the complicated situation that the Taliban’s capture of the country had created for the group.

The council asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to provide a follow-up report by the end of January 2022, describing his “strategic and operational recommendations” for the future of the group’s operations “in light of recent political, security, and social developments.”

The request submitted to Guterres indicated that the UN should prioritize “the establishment of an inclusive and representative government” in Afghanistan, including “full, equal, and meaningful participation of women” and respect for human rights.

However, the Taliban’s newly established interim government does not appear to reflect the same priorities; it is composed entirely of men and excludes many of the nation’s ethnic minorities.

What AUKUS and Afghanistan Tell Us About the US Asia Strategy

Arash Reisinezhad

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan made headlines around the world. Few could have predicted that the predominantly Pashtun, Islamic fundamentalist group would resuscitate their power in summer 2021, after waging a 20-year insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

In the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of 2001, the Taliban began challenging NATO and taking back vast territories in the southwest of Afghanistan after heavy regrouping in Pakistan. The signing of a withdrawal agreement with the U.S. in Doha emboldened the Taliban to press their advantage and end the 20-year-old war. Backed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Taliban notched swift successes as the U.S. withdrew its remaining troops from Afghanistan. By August 2021, the Taliban had conquered all of Afghanistan’s major cities and ultimately Kabul. By September, they controlled the entire country after taking the mountainous Panjshir Valley, where the National Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Masoud, had vowed to continue fighting the Taliban.

From Saigon to Kabul: what America’s Afghan fiasco means for the world

“The taliban is not the North Vietnamese army,” declared President Joe Biden on July 8th, days after America abandoned Bagram air base, the hub of its war in Afghanistan for 20 years, without telling its Afghan commander. “They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.” By August 15th Chinooks were rattling windows in Kabul, shuttling American diplomats from their hulking embassy. At the city’s airport, desperate Afghans swarmed the runway; some clung to the undercarriage of a c-17 transporter, falling to their deaths.

Why I am fighting to end the rubber stamp for war

Senator Mike Lee

On August 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention spent the final hours of the week embroiled in debate over how to start a war. The debate focused on the phrase “to make war,” and its placement within the powers of the Congress. Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina spoke in opposition, noting the sluggish nature of convening Congress and its subsequent proceedings. Mr. Butler, in particular, favored placing the responsibility on the shoulders of the president, noting a president’s possession of “all the requisite qualities,” and restraint to “not make war but when the nation will support it.”

Together, James Madison and Elbridge Gerry proposed a compromise, striking “make” in favor of “declare,” intentionally preserving a small window of latitude for a president to repel sudden attacks against the nation. The compromise succeeded on a vote of 8-1-1 with only New Hampshire opposed. Elbridge Gerry, evidently disturbed by the ease and confidence with which his fellow delegates proposed vesting such power in one office, said he “never expected to hear, in a republic, a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war.”

I have stood on the Senate floor as exasperated as Elbridge Gerry at the constant usurpation of the central role of Congress in matters of war by presidents of both political parties — and the recent blunder of President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan provides tragic illustration of the consequences when executive power goes unchecked by the legislative branch. Our entire experience in Afghanistan, from start to finish, underscores the need for an active and engaged Congress in matters of war, while providing essential lessons for future U.S. conflicts.

Iran Joins Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Raisi Denounces American “Unilateralism”

Trevor Filseth L

After Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a bloc of Eurasian states committed to improving political, economic, and security ties, newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi declared that Iran’s accession represented a rejection of the “unilateralism” of the United States.

Iranian state media announced Tehran’s entry into the pact on Friday, saying that it had been approved during the SCO’s annual conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Iran is the ninth member state within the SCO; the other eight states are China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Prior to its accession as a member, Iran had held observer status within the group for fifteen years.

In his speech at the summit, Raisi announced that Iran’s goal in entering the pact was to expand its political ties with countries in Central and East Asia and to insulate itself from Western economic punishments. The president also emphasized that Iran brought major geopolitical advantages to the group, including its large population, abundant mineral wealth, and strategic position in the Middle East. The last of these factors is judged to be of particular interest to China, which seeks to expand its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) economic development program westward.

Can Xi End China's Gilded Age?


ANN ARBOR – Within the span of a generation, a new super-rich class emerges from a society in which millions of rural migrants toiled away in factories for a pittance. Bribery becomes the most common mode of influence in politics. Opportunists speculate recklessly in land and real estate. Financial risks simmer as local governments borrow to finance railways and other large infrastructure projects. And all of this is happening in the world’s most promising emerging market and rising global power.

No, this is not a description of contemporary China, but rather of the United States during the Gilded Age (roughly 1870 to 1900). This formative period of American capitalism is remembered as “Gilded,” rather than “Golden,” because beneath the veneer of rapid industrialization and economic growth, many problems festered.

Public backlashes against the Gilded Age triggered wide-ranging economic and social reforms that ushered in the Progressive Era (approximately 1890s-1920s). This domestic revolution, along with imperial acquisitions abroad, paved the way for America’s rise as the superpower of the twentieth century.

How A Rising China Complicates Europe’s Future

James Jay Carafano Silviu Nate and Oana-Antonia Colibasanu

The China Problem
China’s economic diplomacy is the most astringent irritant in great power politics. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing established the 17+1 (now 16+1 since Lithuania pulled out in May) cooperation mechanism with Central and Eastern European countries stretching between the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Adriatic. Chinese investment has focused mainly on infrastructure such as the transportation, energy, and telecommunications sectors.

From 2009-2019, the arrangement has generated financial flows estimated at around $13.5 billion (two-thirds of this in the last five years). This figure includes not just foreign direct investment, but also development loans, grants, mergers, and acquisitions of local assets or through long-term concession agreements.

China, Wolf Warrior Diplomacy and Taiwan

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Among all the security issues in the Indo-Pacific, Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait have occupied more than their share of global attention in recent years. This has been especially true since 2018, when the U.S.-China trade wars began to intensify.

Within this security context, Beijing’s position on Taiwan is so consistently aggressive and contentious as to leave little scope for other nations to find a way to get along with China. And of course, Taiwan is hardly the only security issue involving China. Beijing protests at practically any and all international criticisms aimed at incidents involving or originating from China. In recent years, its hard maneuvering have created a stir within regional and global security communities, and as recent news has made clear, this has complicated the development of the defense policies of those nations affected.

Japan, itself a major economic and democratic power in the region, as well as America’s closest regional ally and a close neighbor of China, has not been excepted. Indeed, Japanese defense policy has increasingly been shaped by China’s actions over the last decade. One noteworthy foreign affairs change in Japan in recent years has been the development of a revised position on China and Taiwan that is almost the exact opposite of its earlier “ambiguous” policy. Japan’s previous “partially China-leaning” policy was the product of a position it had maintained from 1972 (when diplomatic relations with China were restored). That unusual position could be described as being based on the psychological principle of: “maintain ambiguity—say nothing and do nothing—on any China issue.” However, starting around 2015 under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan moved away from those old principles and fashioned a new China/Taiwan policy that reflected its own judgment in response to China’s growing inflexibility.

China, Again and Again and Again

William Alan Reinsch

Even though the Biden administration’s China policy appears to be under perpetual review, there have been some developments worth mentioning in the past two weeks that pose new challenges and provide some insight on where the review might be heading.

The first is an external development: China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). This is the latest step in what has been a significant evolution in Chinese thinking. They began by regarding the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as an American plot aimed at them. Their attitude began to change as the likelihood of an agreement being reached increased and they realized how it would affect them. In short, China figured out that when it came to tariff-free zones, it was better to be inside the tent than outside if it wanted to sell to the other countries inside. Otherwise, its companies would vote with their feet and move inside the tent on their own.

While that may be the economic rationale for joining, politics may be more important. From that perspective it was a brilliant move, at least for the short term, because it allows China to portray itself as pro-trade, pro-multilateral agreement, and pro-trade law while at the same time reminding everybody that the United States has no Asian economic policy. In short, China is demonstrating leadership, and we are . . . just watching.

Looming Over the AUKUS Deal Is the Shadow of War

Howard W. French

In the space of a single news cycle last week, the substance behind the news that the United States and Britain had joined forces to sell nuclear submarine technology to Australia came to be overshadowed by the emotions aroused by this development—namely, France’s theatrically indignant response to having its preexisting deal to sell submarines to Canberra canceled without notice.

Paris has invoked “treason” and spoken of being stabbed in the back, comparing U.S. President Joe Biden unfavorably to his predecessor, Donald Trump, all while taking the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, something seldom done even with hostile powers. Remarkably, not even Beijing, the putative target of this new security partnership, has been remotely as vocal.

Terrorism in America After 9/11

Peter Bergen and David Sterman

This report from our International Security Program examines broad trends in the jihadist terrorist threat facing the United States that have emerged since the 9/11 attacks. We provide an overview of the terrorism in cases we've tracked since 9/11, and we examine three key questions: Who are the terrorists targeting the United States? Why do they engage in terrorism in the first place? And what threat do they pose?

The data in this report consists of individuals accused of jihadist terrorism related crimes since 9/11 who are either American citizens or who engaged in jihadist activity within the United States. The data also include a small number of individuals who died before being charged but were widely reported to have engaged in jihadist criminal activity, We define jihadists to include those who are motivated by versions of bin Laden's global ideology or otherwise provide support to groups that follow a version of that ideology. We exclude cases linked to Hamas, Hezbollah, and similar groups that do are not associated with al-Qaeda and its off-shoots.

U.S. Security Policy Under Biden

President Joe Biden’s first priority upon taking office was to reassure U.S. allies of America’s ongoing security commitments, promising that “America is back.” But that may not offer them the comfort Biden thinks it will. Meanwhile, having followed through on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Biden must decide what to do about U.S. military deployments elsewhere, while also shoring up America’s security partnerships to deal with a rising China. Learn more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

Upon taking office, President Joe Biden made it a priority to repair the damage his predecessor, Donald Trump, had done to relationships with the United States’ long-standing allies and partners, including South Korea and Japan, but particularly in Europe. Early on, Biden reassured European allies of Washington’s commitment to their security, promising them, “America is back. The trans-Atlantic alliance is back.” He followed that up with a successful tour of Europe that emphasized cooperation and a shared vision of the challenges facing the partnership.

Trump’s legacy also hung over Biden’s other early security moves, including diplomatic reengagement with the regime in Iran. Trump’s maximum pressure approach, which included abandoning the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, backfired, as Tehran responded by expanding its nuclear activities and assuming a more aggressive regional posture. Biden has jumpstarted multilateral diplomacy in an effort to revive the nuclear deal, but the outcome of those talks remains uncertain.

Trusted connectivity: A framework for a free, open, and connected world

Kaush Arha


Global affairs are increasingly shaped by three important and overlapping trends: 1) the unprecedented and growing demand for trillions of dollars’ worth of global digital and physical infrastructure; 2) the ideological battle between democracy and autocracy for the best path forward to achieve peace and prosperity; and 3) the world’s response to changing climate. As democracies address the global demand for a free, open, and connected world while ensuring that local and global emissions targets are met, they need an organizing framework: the concept of “trusted connectivity.”

Democratic governments and institutions function with intricate checks and balances to ensure public trust. Unchallenged aggregation of power is antithetical to democracies and instinctively distrusted by their citizens. While holding unimaginable promise, today’s advancements in digital and physical infrastructure also embody new opportunities for malign actors in general, and authoritarian governments in particular, to accumulate and wield this power. Malign influence or control over data, communications, trade routes, energy, and transportation, all of which becomes possible when countries accept infrastructure investments from authoritarian states, could open potential vectors for coercion, disruption, or attack in times of crisis or conflict. In order to deny malign actors this influence over other countries’ infrastructure, democracies need to work together to ensure that the benefits and terms for the host country in building a bridge, port, rail, road, or telecommunications network are equitable and transparent, thereby leading to greater trust and security in addition to economic prosperity.

Global Supply-Chain Woes May Imperil More Than Christmas Shopping

Brent D. Sadler

A global shipping crisis has been quietly brewing for months. Soon it will lead to layoffs, higher prices and fewer options at the grocery store. In time, it could threaten our nation’s security.

Vice President Kamala Harris caught a glimpse of the unfolding problem during her recent swing through Asia. In Singapore, a global hub for maritime trade, she learned that congestion at its piers was causing shipping companies to bypass the port.

What the Vice President saw in Singapore and other ports in Vietnam and China critical to global supply chains is a product of COVID. The Chinese port of Ningbo, the world's third-largest, was closed for two weeks in August by authorities over a single COVID case.

In Singapore, Harris commented that the shipping backlogs might make it hard for Christmas shoppers to have gifts on time. But the challenges are weightier than that. Our national security apparatus maintains lean inventories and relies on just-in-time manufacturing and delivery—often from overseas suppliers— to replenish their stocks. Shipping delays can create serious vulnerabilities.

Merkel’s Legacy and the Future of Germany

Matthias Matthijs

What were Chancellor Angela Merkel’s most important and far-reaching decisions?

Domestically, a few stand out, including her 2009 introduction of a constitutional debt brake (Schuldenbremse) guaranteeing balanced budgets, her 2011 resolution to phase out nuclear energy after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and her 2015 decision to override EU rules on asylum seekers and open Germany’s borders to more than one million refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

At the EU level, there was her insistence on austerity and structural reform during the eurozone debt crisis, her determination to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline with Russia, and her acceptance of jointly issued EU debt in anticipation of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was often labeled the standard-bearer for liberal democracy and the transatlantic alliance. Has that held up?

The “leader of the free world” moniker was always a bit of an exaggeration. It is true that Merkel, compared to populist strongmen leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, looked like the epitome of rational and steady leadership. But as Rutgers University Professor R. Daniel Kelemen and I have argued, Merkel has been mostly guided by what we dub “Merkantilism,” the systematic prioritizing of German commercial and geoeconomic interests over democratic values, human rights, and intra-EU solidarity.

There are numerous examples. During the Greek debt crisis, Merkel’s primary policy aim was to protect the solvency of German banks, and putting the main burden of adjustment on Southern Europe through austerity and structural reform policies has left lasting scars. She was unwilling to directly confront the authoritarian tendencies of Prime Ministers Viktor Orban in Hungary and Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, partially due to German commercial interests. She pursued a comprehensive investment agreement with China over opposition from other EU leaders. And in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, she undermined her own sanctions regime against Russia to give Putin the much bigger prize of Nord Stream 2.

She spent much of her tenure governing in large coalitions, particularly with the opposition Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). How did her governing style affect German politics?

In directly co-opting many popular ideas that were put forward by the center-left SPD—including a minimum wage and more generous pensions—Merkel cleverly occupied the center ground of German politics, which has made her such a powerful electoral force. Most analysts agree that her party, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), would comfortably win the next elections if she were running for a fifth term.

Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017. Jesco Denzel/Bundesregierung/Reuters

Her consensual style—and way of adopting her opponents’ policy proposals—has allowed the SPD candidate for chancellor and current finance minister, Olaf Scholz, to claim that he, rather than the CDU’s Armin Laschet, is Merkel’s true heir. And it seems to be working: the SPD has reversed its deficit and is leading in most polls. Sixteen years of Merkel have shown that occupying the center is a recipe for success.
What were the implications of her leadership of the EU? Are there other figures in Europe who could fill that role?

While Merkel undoubtedly kept the EU together during a decade of crises—including the euro debt crisis, Russian aggression in Ukraine, a surge in refugees, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom (UK), and the transatlantic rift during Trump’s presidency—arguably her most important decision has been her embrace of jointly issued EU bonds in the spring of 2020. Softening Germany’s long-held opposition to deeper EU economic integration, this pooled debt mechanism has the potential to open the door to a new era.

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, would love to take the mantle of leader of the EU, but he does not have the same Europe-wide popular appeal as Merkel, and France no longer has the diplomatic clout it once did. For better or worse, either Scholz or Laschet—the two politicians most likely to take over from Merkel—are bound to become the new leaders of the EU. That said, they will only be effective if they have a good working relationship with Paris, and it will take time for them to gain the same amount of trust and political capital Merkel carefully built up over the years.
What are the biggest foreign policy challenges the next German government will face?

The primary challenge will be to give concrete meaning to the EU’s new big idea of “open strategic autonomy,” currently a somewhat-vague goal of increasing EU global influence through greater sovereignty. The recent defense deal between Australia, the UK, and the United States, as well as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, are two painful reminders to EU members that they need to get their act together on a common defense policy if they want to be serious players in global affairs. German political elites have so far been reluctant to commit in that arena.

Another major challenge will be to convince the rest of the world to tackle climate change. Berlin will need to lead by example by transforming its own industrial machine, which continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels, toward renewable energy. Coalition negotiations, which are bound to be long and arduous, will shed more light on whether the Germans are up to the task.

Russia’s “Hybrid Aggression” against Georgia: The Use of Local and External Tools

Natia Seskuria


August 2021 marks the 13-year anniversary of the August War of 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgian territories. This five-day war changed the regional security landscape in the South Caucasus and inflicted immense political and economic damage in Georgia. Since then, Georgia has been slowly fading away from the international agenda. Meanwhile, Russia has shifted from the use of conventional military means to hybrid tools that aim to reestablish the Kremlin’s influence over Tbilisi in a more subtle and cost-efficient way.

During the war, the Kremlin established full control over the occupied Tskhinvali region (the so-called South Ossetia) and Abkhazia, which together constituted 20 percent of Georgian territory. Impunity over its aggression against Georgia gave the Kremlin the confidence to continuously violate the six-point ceasefire agreement mediated by the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then, Russia has been actively militarizing and using the occupied regions as leverage against Tbilisi while also preventing international monitoring missions from accessing these regions.

Strengthening European Deterrence and Defense: NATO, Not European Defense Autonomy, Is the Answer

Anthony H.Cordesman race Hwang

The time has come for the U.S. and its NATO allies to take a truly serious look at how they are shaping the future defense of Europe, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. In doing so, they must focus on improving deterrence and defense, not funding levels. They must assess the role each country should play in creating a more effective alliance instead of debating in generalities, and they should create meaningful force plans instead of issuing more strategic rhetoric.

The U.S. needs to change it approach to NATO and Europe. The U.S. focus on the Chinese threat, the way the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, the lack of full U.S. consultation with its NATO partners, the collapse of the Afghan government and its forces, and the casual way in which the U.S. engaged Australia and the U.K. in a closer alliance by substituting U.S. nuclear submarines for French conventional submarines have all raised a whole new series of European doubts about relying on the U.S. as a strategic partner.

At the same time, Europe needs to both be far more realistic about its strategic dependence on U.S. forces and do far more to improve its own military capabilities. It needs to focus on nation-by-nation force improvements rather than burden sharing and arbitrary spending levels, and it must recognize there is no credible European alternative to NATO and an Atlantic alliance.

The Russian and Ukrainian Spring 2021 War Scare


The massing of troops and hardware by Russia along its border with Ukraine in April 2021 brought back memories of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine in 2014–15 and raised fears of another round of Russian aggression against its neighbor. Although the worst-case scenario did not materialize, these events require close attention and in-depth research because they could happen again should Russia’s leadership assess that their national security interests are at stake once more.

Several observations arise from a detailed analysis of this spring’s war scare between Russia and Ukraine. First, statements on the number of Russian troops involved were misleading in certain respects—the majority of troops in question were already at Ukraine’s borders from past incursions. Second, Russian armed forces involved in these exercises practiced complex scenarios, including encirclement of the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation in Donbas and blocking of Ukrainian access to the Black Sea. Third, Russian public justifications of the movement of troops and hardware near Ukraine’s border were unpersuasive upon closer look. It seems that a major driver of Russian actions was the desire to send signals to the new U.S. administration—namely that the Biden administration should not attempt to challenge the status quo vis-à-vis Ukraine by bringing it closer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or aid in the liberation of parts of occupied Donbas. Finally, though Russia might have succeeded in sending specific signals to the Biden administration, the intended effect backfired in the case of Ukraine.

Review: Apple iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini

I HATE TO break it to you, but you’re probably going to want to upgrade to the iPhone 13.

With a few big exceptions. If you have an iPhone 12—especially if you have an iPhone 12 Pro—you don’t need to upgrade. If you’ve already decided that you’re splurging on the iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max, then you should read my WIRED colleague Julian Chokkattu’s review of that phone. (The Pro’s features are slightly more advanced; plus, some people just want a really, really big phone.) And if you’re an Android user, as billions of people are, you might prefer to stick with Android. In fact, some of the best Android phones out there already have the fancier features of the iPhone 13.

But I’ve been using the non-Pro version of iPhone 13 for just under a week now, and I’ve used the iPhone 13 Mini for a few days too. I’m almost certainly going to upgrade to the iPhone 13 from the iPhone 11 I’ve been using as my daily phone. The iPhone 13’s build is nicer, a callback to the sleeker, flat-edged iPhones of the past. It has a bigger battery than last year. And I’ve been showing “cinematic video” clips of my cat to pretty much anyone who’s vaccinated and willing to come closer than social distancing rules allow.

The iPhone 13 is what a “basic” iPhone should be. As Apple has introduced variations of its phones over the years, with Pro, Max, and Mini now part of the annual lineup, it has also employed a classic product differentiation strategy; the standard models of iPhone have had less brilliant displays, lesser cameras, or pitiful base storage amounts compared to the Pros.

‘Land Forces Are Hard To Kill’: Army Chief Unveils Pacific Strategy


WASHINGTON: The future Army will fight as a tough, intractable “inside force” — a term usually associated with Marines — forward-deployed in adversaries’ backyards, says a new strategy paper from the service’s Chief of Staff. This approach, Gen. James McConville writes, has already shown promise in joint wargames.

In pop culture terms, the Army’s casting itself as Bruce Willis’s iconic action hero/survivor John McClane, in a new production you might call Die Hard In the Pacific.

Ranges of Chinese land-based missiles. (CSBA graphic; click to expand)

Can The US Army Transform Without A New Approach to Warfare?


When the US Army talks about transforming itself, it focuses primarily on new, advanced capabilities, and on streamlining the acquisition system. And there is a lot to be positive about in Army’s success in accelerating development of an array of new and hopefully significantly more capable weapons systems, platforms, and enablers.

But the Army’s effort to transform itself is, at best, an uneven success. While it may soon have a lot of new capabilities to deploy, and despite the optimism surrounding its Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, it is still unclear how it intends to exploit this advantage to defeat adversaries who are technologically its equals and have the advantage of being close to where the conflicts will occur.

The Army is proceeding full speed ahead with its modernization efforts, the so-called 31+4 programs. Over the next few years, the Army claims it will achieve initial fielding of capabilities from at least 22 of the 35 programs. These include a hypersonic missile, several long-range precision strike weapons, enhanced soldier vision systems, tactical lasers, and artificial intelligence. By the end of the decade, the Army expects to begin deploying a rich array of land, air, space, and cyber capabilities from its 31+4 modernization programs.


Apolitical means not interested in or connected with politics, or not connected to any political party.1 Lieutenant General James Dubik (2020) wishes to bring to light the need of maintaining an apolitical military in his essay, “Rebalancing Needed to Preserve Apolitical Military.”2 A politicized military exercises loyalty toward a single political party, creating the notion of a divided military. The military was created to protect and serve the country and its civilians in a democratic manner. However, if we were to view the military as a politicized organization, we would be throwing away any sense that they are here to serve and protect as loyal and selfless members of the nation. A politicized military would no longer be loyal to the country, but toward a political party. This would endanger their constitutional obligation: their oath to serve, protect and defend the Constitution of America.

An apolitical military is needed because, without it, the personal interest of politicians and the antics of war over peace would destroy the very foundation of the military; without an apolitical military, the division of political parties would cause the military to default in its constitutional obligation. No longer would it support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Instead, it would serve politicians wanting to use it for their own personal gain.


The United States is faced with peer competitors—China and Russia—seeking to alter the strategic landscape and supplant U.S. influence in key regions.1 Recognizing that they were outmatched militarily by the United States (although the gap is closing), China and Russia focused on developing capabilities to prevent the U.S. military from stopping their potential aggression through a strategy of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD). Through a layered combination of long-range rockets and missiles, cyber attack, advanced air defense and other means, they seek the ability to delay U.S. military access to key regions until they have achieved their objectives in a fait accompli.


The U.S. military response to the emergence of potential threats from revisionist powers spans many areas—modernization, operational concepts, doctrine and force posture. In October 2017, based on the demand signal from the combatant commanders (COCOMs) of both U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Pacific Command (renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, i.e., USINDOPACOM, in 2018), the Army designated Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) as its number-one modernization priority.2

#Reviewing How to Think Like an Officer

Tod Strickland

The commissions given to new officers, almost regardless of nation or service, are similar. They make it abundantly clear that officership is about duty and responsibility. Accepting that the office and rank may change, officers are charged with meeting the demands of their station regardless of whether that station is well defined. This implies a need for continual education and personal development matching one’s progress through ever greater responsibilities. Acknowledging that how officers think affects the nation’s success or failure, it is imperative that their formal training and education, as well as self-development be shaped to meet a nation’s needs.

But, what should officers study to shape how prepared they will be for what may come? Perspectives on this topic vary. The reading lists from the various services demonstrate there is a definite canon of professional military thought that potential students can work through.[2] Examining the issue more broadly though, other questions quickly emerge—why do officers think like they do, do their patterns of thought meet contemporary needs, and how can we improve how officers think? Reed Bonadonna gives these questions book-length consideration in How to Think Like an Officer: Lessons in Learning and Leadership for Soldiers and Other Citizens.[3]

Bonadonna is eminently qualified to give the subject fair treatment. A former infantry officer and field historian with the United States Marine Corps, he possesses operational experiences that positively influence his perspective. A Ph.D. in English literature, he has devoted significant portions of his life to studying and teaching about leading within the profession of arms at the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College and at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Currently the senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, his perspectives are well-informed and enlightening.

Bonadonna’s main position is that “thinking like an officer is the most defining aspect of military professionalism, more than values, character, or knowledge, and that it has been neglected in officer education.”[4] Secondarily, he asserts that the level of contemporary thinking in the officer corps is inadequate for current needs.[5] These ideas, largely treated as facts, are not strongly argued within the volume, but instead allow the author to expound on the topics that he believes should be foundational to educating officers in how to think and how to meet the demands of the profession of arms.

The author has essentially produced a syllabus for self-development, which can also be used as an effective tool for anyone concerned with formal professional military education. Structured in two distinct parts—Thinking and Learning is the first, and Thought and Action is the second—the book provides a ready reference for anyone seeking to target their own development based on their time within the profession or the specific roles they occupy. Moving beyond the military, the author concludes with a chapter aimed at civilian readers who may seek to emulate some or all of the qualities that make a military officer effective. This chapter should be read by all, as Bonadonna makes some good points about understanding how the military thinks and operates. It is useful for addressing current gaps in understanding the military and its place in the wider society.

The need for officers to be life-long learners, invested in their own self-development, is not new. Authors Richard Swain and Albert Pierce have asserted, in the most current version of The Armed Forces Officer, “Armed Forces officers have the…responsibility of…engaging in continuous personal learning by study and reflection so they themselves are fit to command when that day arrives….”[6] Similarly, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, in recent testimony to Congress, made specific mention of the need for all those in uniform to be “open minded and widely read.”[7] While headlines may have been more focused on the appropriateness of leaders within the U.S. military learning about Critical Race Theory, the concept of military leaders being lifelong learners was evident within the Chairman’s words:

I do think it’s important for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read…Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardians—they come from the American people. It’s important that the leaders, now and in the future, understand it…It matters to the discipline and cohesion of this military.[8]

Most Western armies include the idea of self-development as part of either their expectations of officers or as part of their relevant training and educational frameworks. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) includes self-development as one of the four pillars—along with education, training, and experience—of its professional development framework.[9] The Australian military, in their recently published Defence Enterprise Learning Strategy 2035, has made the development of an “intellectual edge” a key strategic goal, which is in turn reliant on creating learners who “embrace a commitment to continuous learning and develop an inquisitiveness and curiosity that sees them pull content and learning to them.”[10] This fact gives Bonadonna’s work wider applicability than might first be anticipated.

This is a unique book, particularly in how it anticipates that its readers will want more information; it treats the reader as an active participant in the exercise of self-development. Each chapter is extensively sourced and researched, making use of a dizzying variety of sources and associated ideas. The text is permeated with recommendations for further reading, both fiction and non-fiction, that illustrate both the scope of the author’s grasp of the subject matter, and the reality that being widely read needs to encompass more than just the standard reading lists promulgated by the military institutions. The book's bibliography is a gold-mine for any reader interested in obtaining a more detailed understanding of the ideas that Bonadonna presents—if only it were the case that every non-fiction book offered its readership the same resource.

The person of General George C. Marshall is present throughout the book. Understanding the central role Marshall played in both the U.S. Army and later public service, Bonadonna’s references to him are in some ways unsurprising. Marshall remains a seminal figure as the quintessential American military professional—apolitical, dignified, intelligent, courageous, and duty bound. His influence on the author is clear, and it manifests as a consistent touchpoint to the past and an aimpoint for the future.

A salute to George Mashall (Encyclopedia Virginia)

The assumptions that underpin the volume do raise questions that could, and likely should, have been more fully addressed. In the first instance, arguing that how officers think is more important than either their character or their sense of ethics is debatable. One who has worked for an incredibly intelligent leader lacking in their moral framework might argue that character matters more than thought patterns or even intelligence. The point here is not to decide which takes precedence, however. It is simply that the topic warranted a broader discussion than it received. It is also a question that all officers need to consider and address.

Similarly, asserting contemporary methods of thinking are not sufficient for our current needs without fully arguing the case may leave readers wanting. There are simply too many possible causal alternatives that warrant discussion. While the author points towards military culture and the education process, these are but two possibilities. The social context in which officers must operate, legislative frameworks, and operating environments could all be seen as possible causes for perceived deficiencies in the state of officer thought as a whole. As an example, has any other generation of officers had to fight a multi-decade war, while pursuing Masters degrees, in a polarized political environment? Arguing it is the methods by which officers think without a more detailed examination of the context is problematic. In fairness to the author, however, he does highlight the specific ways that failure is manifesting itself within the American officer corps while being clear that he blames their education and contemporary military culture.

The linkage between military culture and how an officer might think is worth reflection. Military culture and how members of the profession, admittedly not necessarily solely the officer corps, think have a symbiotic relationship—feeding one another, informing the ideas and perspectives of the military community, and in turn shaping the mental models that get propagated.

It is reasonable to question whether how officers think has shaped the current problem set. If one accepts that the manner of thinking is a root cause of extant cultural issues, one needs to consider whether the self-development and the formal education we give our officers is sufficient. Reinforcing the linkage between wider society and the profession of arms, certain elements warrant a renewed emphasis—civic mindedness and politics, history, character, and ethics—as Bonadonna alludes to.

We may need to re-emphasize certain elements within an officer’s education—civic mindedness, politics, history, character, and ethics, to name but a few.

How to Think Like an Officer is an excellent resource and a thought-provoking read. The ideas that Bonadonna espouses for improving officer education and for widening the lenses that get used to examine problems have much to commend them. His arguments that there are elements of military culture that need to be re-examined and changed will certainly raise questions, but this is a good thing. As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”[11] Investing in the time to examine how officers think, and considering how we can improve upon the status quo, is an investment worth making. Arguably, doing so is a requirement of anyone belonging to the military profession.

Government data management for the digital age

Axel Domeyer, Solveigh Hieronimus, Julia Klier, and Thomas Weber

Digital society’s lifeblood is data—and governments have lots of data, representing a significant latent source of value for both the public and private sectors.1 If used effectively, and keeping in mind ever-increasing requirements with regard to data protection and data privacy, data can simplify delivery of public services, reduce fraud and human error, and catalyze massive operational efficiencies.

Despite these potential benefits, governments around the world remain largely unable to capture the opportunity. The key reason is that data are typically dispersed across a fragmented landscape of registers (datasets used by government entities for a specific purpose), which are often managed in organizational silos. Data are routinely stored in formats that are hard to process or in places where digital access is impossible. The consequence is that data are not available where needed, progress on digital government is inhibited, and citizens have little transparency on what data the government stores about them or how it is used.

Only a handful of countries have taken significant steps toward addressing these challenges. As other governments consider their options, the experiences of these countries may provide them with valuable guidance and also reveal five actions that can help governments unlock the value that is on their doorsteps.