11 October 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.

India’s Cautious and Calculated Approach to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan

Animesh Roul

More than a month after Taliban forces stormed Afghanistan, the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan (IEA) has yet to gain international political recognition. All eyes are on the primary stakeholder countries behind the Doha Accord of February 29, 2020, which paved the way for the Taliban’s ultimate victory. Although clamor for the Taliban’s global recognition is gathering momentum under Pakistan’s stewardship, India, which has been a major player in rebuilding the war-ravaged Afghanistan in the last two decades, has maintained a studied silence, sitting on the fence with regards to this latest iteration of the fast-shifting “Great Game” in Afghanistan.

India had been calling for an inclusive government in Afghanistan that represents all sections of Afghan society well before the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, 2021. New Delhi was willing to accept limited Taliban participation in a future governance structure following democratic principles as long as major concerns, such as cross-border terrorism and human rights of women, children, and minorities, were addressed. However, the Taliban leadership’s conflicting remarks on security and rights-related matters, such as Pakistan’s reported air surveillance support to the Taliban in the Panjshir battle against anti-Taliban resistance fighters or curtailing rights of women and minorities, have limited India’s willingness to formally recognize Afghanistan’s new Taliban government (News 18.com, September 5; HRW.Org, September 29; Times of India, September 7).

India Competes for Sri Lanka’s Affections

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Sri Lanka from October 2 to 5. According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Shringla’s visit was an opportunity to review the status of bilateral ties, including an assessment of the bilateral projects between the two countries. The was undertaken at the invitation of his Sri Lankan counterpart, Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage. It was possibly meant as an effort to iron out some of the recent wrinkles in the bilateral relationship, a reflection of which is the rescheduling and/or cancellation of some of India-led projects in the island nation.

The MEA’s press release about the visit insisted that “Sri Lanka occupies a central place in India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy” and that the visit was a reflection of the significance that the two countries attach to buttressing their “close and cordial relations in all spheres of mutual interest.” But clearly, New Delhi has been feeling the pressure of China’s efforts to befriend India’s neighbors. During the visit, Shringla met with both the president and prime minister, following which he traveled to Kandy, Jaffna, and Trincomalee to inspect some Indian-funded projects.

Hundreds of billions were spent by the US in Afghanistan. Here are 10 of the starkest examples of 'waste, fraud and abuse'

Nick Paton Walsh

(CNN)Half a billion dollars of aircraft that flew for about a year. A huge $85 million hotel that never opened, and sits in disrepair. Camouflage uniforms for the Afghan army whose fancy pattern would cost an extra $28 million. A healthcare facility listed as located in the Mediterranean Sea.

These are part of a catalog of "waste, fraud and abuse" complaints made against the United States' reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan -- an effort totaling $145 billion over 20 years -- made by the United States' own inspector general into the war. But the in-depth audits detailing these findings have, for the most part, been taken offline at the request of the State Department, citing security concerns.

The total cost of the war, according to the Pentagon, was $825 billion, a low-end estimate: even President Joe Biden has cited an estimate that put the amount at over double that -- more than $2 trillion, a figure that factors in long-term costs such as veterans' care. The interest on the debt runs into hundreds of billions already.

The Last Days of Intervention

Rory Stewart

The extravagant lurches of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan—from a $1 trillion surge to total withdrawal, culminating in the reestablishment of a Taliban government 20 years after the 9/11 attacks—must rank among the most surreal and disturbing episodes in modern foreign policy. At the heart of the tragedy was an obsession with universal plans and extensive resources, which stymied the modest but meaningful progress that could have been achieved with far fewer troops and at a lower cost. Yet this failure to chart a middle path between ruinous overinvestment and complete neglect says less about what was possible in Afghanistan than it does about the fantasies of those who intervened there.

The age of intervention began in Bosnia in 1995 and accelerated with the missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Over this period, the United States and its allies developed a vision of themselves as turnaround CEOs: they had the strategy and resources to fix things, collect their bonuses, and get out as soon as possible. The symbol of the age was the American general up at 4 am to run eight miles before mending the failed state.

How a misguided Vietnam analogy sealed the Afghanistan disaster

Paul D. Miller

The scenes of a helicopter evacuating diplomats from the US embassy in Kabul and of Afghan civilians desperately clinging to a US Air Force C-17 as it took off from Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in August triggered irresistible comparisons to the US evacuation from Saigon in 1975.

It wasn’t the first time those kinds of flashbacks emerged. Long before the Taliban’s recent takeover, some policymakers, scholars, and journalists have looked at Afghanistan and seen Vietnam. Given how the war ended, were those analogies prescient? In fact, a review of the analogy’s influence on decision-making suggests the opposite. Policymakers wielding the analogy failed to recognize the dangers it posed to their strategy-building: Not only was it historically inaccurate, but it was a self-fulfilling prophecy that helped bring about, rather than avoid, a catastrophic end to the war in Afghanistan.

How the analogy landed on Biden’s desk

The Vietnam analogy said less about the similarities and differences between the wars and more about the state of mind of those using it—a state of mind that ultimately led policymakers to make decisions based on a faulty view of the war.

Reducing Middle East tensions potentially lessens sectarianism and opens doors for women

James M. Dorsey

Two separate developments involving improved relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and women’s sporting rights demonstrate major shifts in how rivalry for leadership of the Muslim world and competition to define Islam in the 21st century is playing out in a world in which Middle Eastern states can no longer depend on the United States coming to their defence.

The developments fit into a regional effort by conservative, status quo states, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt; and proponents of different forms of political Islam, Iran, Turkey, and Qatar; to manage rather than resolve their differences in a bid to ensure that they do not spin out of control. The efforts have had the greatest success with the lifting in January of a 3.5-year-long Saudi-UAE-Egyptian-led diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar.

The reconciliation moves also signal the pressure on Middle Eastern players in what amounts to a battle for the soul of Islam to change perceptions of the region as being wracked by civil wars, sectarian tensions, extremism, jihadism, and autocracy. Altering that perception is key to the successful implementation of plans to diversify oil and gas export dependent economies in the Gulf, develop resource-poor countries in the region, tackle an economic crisis in Turkey, and enable Iran to cope with crippling US sanctions.

Finally, these developments are also the harbinger of the next phase in the competition for religious soft power and leadership of the Muslim world. In a break with the past decade, lofty declarations extolling Islam’s embrace of tolerance, pluralism and respect for others’ rights that are not followed up by deeds no longer cut ice. Similarly, proponents of socially conservative expressions of political Islam need to be seen as adopting degrees of moderation that so far have been the preserve of their rivals who prefer the geopolitical status quo ante.

That next phase of the battle is being shaped not only by doubts among US allies in the Middle East about the reliability of the United States as a security guarantor, reinforced by America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is also being informed by a realisation that neither China nor Russia can (or will) attempt to replace the US defence umbrella in the Gulf.

The battles’ shifting playing field is further being determined by setbacks suffered by political Islam starting with the 2013 military coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brother and Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president and brutally decimated the Muslim Brotherhood. More recently, political Islamists suffered a stunning electoral defeat in Morocco and witnessed the autocratic takeover of power in Tunisia by President Kais Saied.

A just published survey of Tunisian public opinion showed 45 percent of those polled blaming Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Islamist Ennahada party, for the country’s crisis and 66 percent saying they had no confidence in the party.

The Middle East’s rivalries and shifting sands lend added significance to a planned visit in the coming weeks to Najaf, an Iraqi citadel of Shiite Muslim learning and home of 91-year-old Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, by Ahmed El-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s foremost historic educational institution.

The visit takes place against the backdrop of Iraqi-mediated talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two major centres of Islam’s two main strands, that are aimed at dialling down tensions between them that reverberate throughout the Muslim world. The talks are likely to help the two regional powers manage rather than resolve their differences.

The rivalry was long marked by Saudi-inspired, religiously-cloaked anti-Shiite rhetoric and violence in a limited number of cases and Iranian concerns about the country’s Sunni minority and its opting for a strategy centred on Shiite Muslim proxies in third countries and support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Implicit in Saudi and Iranian sectarianism was the perception of Shiite minorities in Saudi Arabia and other Sunni majority countries, and Sunnis in Iran and Iraq after the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, as fifth wheels of the other.

Imam El-Tayeb’s visit, a signal of improvement in long-strained Egyptian-Iraqi relations, as well as a possible later meeting between the Sunni cleric, a Shiite cleric other than Ayatollah Al-Sistani who is too old and fragile to travel, and Pope Francis, are intended to put sectarianism on the backburner. Ayatollah Al-Sistani met with the pope during his visit to Iraq in March.

The visit takes on added significance in the wake of this week’s suicide bombing of a Hazara Shiite mosque in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 50 people and wounded 100 others. The South Asian affiliate of the Islamic State, Islamic State-Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attack, the worst since the Taliban came to power in August. It was likely designed to fuel tension between the Sunni Muslim group and the Hazara who account for 20 percent of the Afghan population.

Imam El-Tayeb’s travel to Najaf is likely to be followed by a visit by Mohamed al-Issa, secretary-general of the Saudi-dominated Muslim World League. The League was long a prime vehicle for the propagation of anti-Shiite Saudi ultra-conservatism. Since coming to office, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recast the League as a tool to project his vaguely defined notion of a state-controlled ‘moderate’ Islam that is tolerant and pluralistic.

In a similar vein, hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took many by surprise by allowing women into Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to attend this month’s World Cup qualifier between Iran and South Korea. Iran is the only country to ban women from attending men’s sporting events. It was unclear whether the move was a one-off measure or signalled a loosening or lifting of the ban.

Mr Raisi was believed to see it as a way to rally domestic support and improve the Islamic republic’s image as much in China and Russia as in the West. No doubt, Mr. Raisi will have noted that China and Russia have joined the United States, Europe, and others in pressuring the Taliban in Afghanistan to recognize women’s rights.

To be sure, women in Iran enjoy education rights and populate universities. They can occupy senior positions in business and government even if Iran remains a patriarchal society. However, the ban on women in stadia, coupled with the chador, the head to foot covering of women, has come to dominate the perception of Iran’s gender policies.

Allowing women to attend the World Cup qualifier suggests a degree of flexibility on Mr. Raisi’s part. During his presidential campaign Mr. Raisi argued that granting women access to stadiums would not solve their problems.

It also demonstrates that the government, with hardliners in control of all branches, can shave off sharp edges of its Islamic rule far easier than reformists like Mr. Raisi’s predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, were able to do.

The question is whether that is Mr. Raisi’s intention. Mr. Raisi may be testing the waters with this month’ soccer match, only time will tell.

It may be too big a leap in the immediate future but, like Imam El-Tayeb’s visit to Najaf, it indicates that the dialling down of regional tensions puts a greater premium on soft power which in turn builds up pressure for less harsh expressions of religion.

Why The World’s Eyes Are On The Afghanistan-Tajikistan Border – OpEd

Vijay Prashad

Afghanistan and Tajikistan share a 1,400-kilometer border. Recently, a war of words has erupted between Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon and the Taliban government in Kabul. Rahmon censures the Taliban for the destabilization of Central Asia by the export of militant groups, while the Taliban leadership has accused Tajikistan’s government of interference.

Earlier this summer, Rahmon mobilized 20,000 troops to the border, and held military exercises and discussions with Russia and other members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Afghan government—Zabihullah Mujahid—tweeted pictures of Afghan troops deployed to Takhar province on the border of the two countries. The escalation of harsh language continues. Prospects of war between these two countries should not be discounted, but—given the role Russia plays in Tajikistan—it is unlikely.

The Taliban Want International Recognition—But No One is Offering

Trevor Filseth

Following its August seizure of Kabul, the completion of its takeover of Afghanistan, and the end of the country’s twenty-year war, the new Taliban government has attempted to secure recognition of its status as Afghanistan’s legitimate government abroad.

Since the takeover, the group’s members have met with officials from a handful of nations and international organizations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations. So far, however, no nation has displayed willingness to officially recognize the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the Taliban’s official name for itself.

The Taliban’s diplomacy has not been fruitless. After the Taliban engaged with UN officials, it extracted a promise that the international organization would continue to operate its badly-needed aid programs in the country. The group has also received aid shipments from Qatar, China, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan, the latter of which has long been suspected of tacitly supporting it. However, none of these nations, even Pakistan, has officially recognized it yet. Moreover, when asked, the UN rebuffed Taliban leaders’ requests that they be allowed to address the General Assembly.

Pakistan’s Great Expectations of the Taliban

Umair Jamal

Last week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in an interview that his government is negotiating with some sections of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that are seeking reconciliation with the Pakistani state.

“There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process,” Khan said in an interview twith TRT World.

When asked by the interviewer if the Afghan Taliban were mediating in this process, Khan responded in the affirmative. “Since the talks were taking place in Afghanistan, so in that sense, yes,” he said.

Khan’s admission that Pakistan is negotiating with the TTP offers some insights into Islamabad’s approach to the issue and its various complexities.

Why Tackling Corruption Is So Urgent—and So Difficult

The world is constantly reminded that corruption knows no geographic boundaries. In South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma was just jailed for refusing to testify before an anti-graft commission and remains embroiled in several other court cases involving corruption allegations that helped remove him from power. In Malaysia, former Prime Minister Najib Razak was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison last year over the fraud and embezzling charges that precipitated his downfall. A money laundering investigation launched in Brazil in 2008 expanded to take down a vast network of politicians and business leaders across Central and South America over the course of the following decade. And former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration saw a steady stream of officials who were forced to resign after being caught using their offices for private gain.

The impact of actual corruption is devastating, whether it siphons money from government coffers or drives policy that is not in the public interest. The effects can be particularly pernicious in developing countries, where budgets are tight and needs are vast. The United Nations estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion in losses every year.

As China stumbles, the West must ask: what if its rise is not inevitable?

Jeremy Cliffe

It was the biggest misconception of the post-1989 era: as it became richer, China would become more liberal and a “responsible stakeholder” in a US-led global order. As the country has become richer but more authoritarian, especially since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, that stock theory has been replaced with a very different one: that China has detached prosperity from liberalism and that its upwards trajectory as a state-capitalist autocracy is all but certain.

This new assumption is so inherent to our understanding of the world that we rarely question it. I am guilty of this, often dropping the term “China’s rise” into my own writing about world affairs without troubling to justify or explain it.

The habit is near-ubiquitous. In the White House under Joe Biden, almost every big decision is viewed through the prism of an ever-mightier China that, the president has said, threatens to “eat our lunch”. When Biden joined forces with Boris Johnson and the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to announce the “Aukus” submarines deal on 15 September, the three did not mention China, but they did not need to; the imperative to unite to contain the rising superpower before it becomes uncontainable was implicit. Other governments seek more of a middle way between the US and China, but one still predicated on the expectation that the latter will end up at least as powerful as the former.

Are China’s BRI Glory Days Over?

Luke Hunt

Six years ago many China watchers, including this one, were forecasting that China and its closed, centrally-planned economy were in peril. Borrowings were too high and the mega-projects it was announcing under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) were just too much.

At that point Vietnamese officials were warning that “any changes in the global economy would have huge impacts on developing countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.”

But the world’s second largest economy did not implode. Beijing’s answer – though hardly original – was to borrow more, lend more, and print more money, and on a breathtaking scale.

M2, or cash in circulation, began rising substantially in 2015 as the government injected huge sums of money into the economy through renminbi loans, prompting a note to clients from Deutsche Bank warning this was “unsustainable” and threatened “financial stability.”

Chinese State Capitalism

Scott Kennedy and Jude Blanchette

How should China’s economy be described? Is it capitalist, socialist, command and control, or a mixture of all three? More than four decades after the post-Mao Zedong leadership launched their economic reforms, the precise nature of the country’s economy and the political orientation of the institutions that govern it remain subject to debate. The CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics and the CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies convened some of the world’s leading experts on China’s political economy for a two-day workshop in March 2021, from which the essays in this volume emerged. The views expressed in these pages are far from unified, either in their diagnosis of what precisely China’s state capitalist system is or in their prognosis for how the United States and other market economies should respond. One area of consensus throughout this edited volume, however, is that the CCP wields expanding de facto and de jure power over nearly all areas of political and economic activity in China. It is this feature of China’s state capitalist system—the expansive and expanding role of the CCP—that poses the most significant challenges not only in how the workings and structure of China’s economy are understood, but also in how market economies can and should respond. This volume does not conclusively resolve this critical dilemma, but the authors hope that it can help further a much-needed discussion with careful and considered analysis.


An Iraqi Perspective on Israel

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Growing up in Iraq, my curriculum in Baghdad’s elementary school included a “nationalism class” and required that we read a text by the Governor of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein’s maternal uncle, Khairallah Tulfah. It said that three things should not have been created: “Persians, Jews and flies.”

Most Iraqis are Shiites, who traditionally view Palestine as a Sunni issue. Because of animosity toward the Sunnis, Shiites rarely sympathize with the “Palestinian cause.” In fact, the holiest Islamic spots in Jerusalem, Masgid Omar and the Dome of the Rock, were both constructed by people that Sunnis revere and Shiites hate.

But last month, in the predominantly Kurdish city of Erbil in the north, 312 Iraqis — both Shiite and Sunni — participated in a conference that called for peace with Israel. Some drove to Erbil from the province of Babel, approximately 250 miles to the south.

One of the most prominent voices, Sunni tribal chief Wissam Al-Hardan, wrote that the conference “issued a public demand for Iraq to enter into relations with Israel and its people through Abraham Accords.”


David Maxwell

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the world watched as the United States began a punitive expedition to Afghanistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, oust the Taliban, and prevent the use of Afghanistan as a continued terrorist safe haven. But the counterterrorism missions triggered by 9/11 were not limited to operations in Afghanistan, and on the other side of Asia, US forces simultaneously prepared for a counterterrorism mission of an entirely different character. Here, 1st Special Forces Group and Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) leveraged existing relationships and conducted intensive planning to support the government of the Philippines—a sovereign nation—in operations against terrorists and insurgents within its borders.

Though Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P) is one of the lesser-known efforts in the global war on terrorism, it had relative success in achieving the US objectives of reducing terrorist operations and improving local governance. The security environment in the Philippines—and the role of US forces there—had distinct characteristics from that of Afghanistan, and it is difficult to say that the counterterrorism approach in one theater should be applied directly in another. However, OEF-P offers some enduring lessons for the US national security community. As the United States considers the lessons of the past twenty years, with no indication that terrorist threats are decreasing worldwide, strategists and policymakers should study OEF-P as they prepare for future irregular warfare campaigns against terrorists and insurgents around the globe.

The Fatal Flaw in the West’s Fight Against Autocracy

Casey Michel
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To hear Western politicians tell it, liberal democracies are in an existential fight against the forces of autocracy, despotism, and dictatorship around the world. That framing has found a home in U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent rhetoric and is the raison d’être for his upcoming Summit for Democracy.

Biden and the other Western politicos echoing his calls are correct in their diagnosis. Rising illiberalism, swelling autocracies, and increasingly muscular dictatorships from Beijing to Moscow are smothering democratizing efforts on the ground and threatening the broader liberal order.

But their efforts to thwart rising autocracy have overlooked a critical way Western democracies themselves enable such regimes to thrive: by providing anonymous financial secrecy tools that allow kleptocrats around the world to move, hide, and launder their ill-gotten wealth, safely away from the prying eyes of their own people.

These tools by now form a familiar playbook. On the one hand, you have such devices as shell companies and trusts that effectively anonymize wealth, stripping the money from any identifying information. On the other hand, you have an entire range of industries more than happy to process the proceeds of this now-anonymous wealth, from real estate and luxury vendors to auction houses and the art market writ large.

And all of it remains broadly legal, providing a perfect launching pad for kleptocrats and illiberal figures around the world to burrow their finances into the West, effectively using Western financial secrecy against the democratizers, the reformers, and anyone looking for just a bit of better governance.

The newly released Pandora Papers reveal in stark detail the critical role major Western countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Germany play in enabling dictators and autocrats by allowing illicit transnational flows of cash to flourish. With nearly 12 million documents, the release pulled back the curtain on a huge number of kleptocratic networks.

Billions upon billions of dollars (and potentially more) have poured into these democracies from around the world, with numerous Western industries under no compunction to check whether or not the wealth stems from, say, pilfered national treasuries, wealth seized from brutalized minority populations, or the kind of elite-level corruption that leads to effective state capture.

There was, for instance, the discovery that Azerbaijan’s dictatorship has moved hundreds of millions of dollars through London. It was hardly the first time London—a city that increasingly appears built on money laundering servicesfound itself at the center of these kinds of illicit flows. If anything, the funds linked to Azerbaijan’s brutal ruling family followed a well-established pattern: anonymous shell companies, anonymous real estate purchases, and British legal professionals helping move the process along—all of it perfectly legal. (The twist to the latest revelations in the Pandora Papers: Apparently Queen Elizabeth II ended up unwittingly involved.)

There was the revelation that British shell companies had also helped Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged lover lead a life of Mediterranean luxury, yet another story linking those close to the Kremlin—including those specifically trying to evade Western sanctions—to an entire potpourri of Western financial secrecy tools.

Likewise, Jordan’s King Abdullah II—a man who promotes an award for transparency (seriously)—saw his secret nine-figure real estate purchases in the United States and United Kingdom spill out into the public eye, even while the West continues to bankroll financial aid efforts in Jordan.

And former Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, a man who pioneered so much of the modern kleptocratic playbook, saw the financial secrecy vehicles used by his “unofficial third wife” revealed. Nazarbayev, of course, is hardly a stranger to offshore financing, nor is his family, who have turned up time and again when it comes to allegations of laundering their illicit wealth across the West.

Speaking of Nazarbayev, one of his former speechwriters—none other than former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair—also saw his internal finances revealed thanks to the Pandora Papers. Blair may not be the first person who comes to mind when one thinks of modern kleptocracy, but the former British premier has transformed into something of a lodestar for other Western politicians looking to take full advantage of these kleptocratic flows.

Rather than act as a force for, say, democratization or financial transparency, Blair has spent his post-premier years taking funds to whitewash regimes in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Serbia, among an entire range of other autocracies. Little surprise, then, that the Pandora Papers revealed that Blair was involved with an offshore vehicle tied directly to the upper rungs of Bahrain’s dictatorship.

But maybe it’s not fair to pick on Blair. After all, he’s simply working alongside many other former democratic leaders who have apparently tossed democratizing efforts to the side in their pursuit of kleptocratic funds. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has become one of Putin’s biggest cheerleaders, while former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski have likewise taken funds ostensibly to advise rising dictators.

Over and again, democratic leaders have dropped any pretense of working for the West’s—for democracy’s—best interests. Instead, they’ve created an entire cottage industry of former Western leaders hopping in the pockets of these kleptocratic figures—all while those same figures use and abuse industry after industry in the West for their needs.

Meanwhile, all that seems to matter to the Western financiers themselves—the real estate, private equity, auction house, and other professionals looking to get a slice of this kleptocratic wealth—is that the tap remains open and that they get a nice commission along the way. And their consultants, lobbyists, and lawyers work hard to make sure no regulations impinge on these transnational financial flows.

We already know what the results of these financial networks are. These Western financial secrecy tools—the anonymous shell companies and anonymous trusts, these industries built on the backs of anonymous finance without any regulatory oversight—allow oligarchs and anti-democratic figures to continue stripping as much wealth as they want from their domestic populations, immiserating local populaces, destabilizing entire regions, and bankrolling their illiberal efforts however they need.

On the other hand, even when the West does work up the courage to finally take on these despots—say, via sanctions programs that aim to block and upend their financial networks—these financial secrecy tools allow them to evade those very sanctions. They allow these figures to dodge investigations, thwart any efforts at returning looted assets, and enjoy the fruits of their brutality, even after they’re overthrown.

These elements are two sides of the same kleptocratic coin. And they’re hardly limited to any particular regime; even—or perhaps especially—regimes opposed to the Western liberal order take advantage of these financial tools.

Red princelings in China and oligarchs in Russia, pro-regime businesspeople in Venezuela and officials buttressing the government in Iran, far-right networks in Hungary and gangsters-cum-politicians in Azerbaijan: All of them rely on the same services, the same networks, the same offshoring and financial secrecy tools found in the West. All of them spout their anti-Western, anti-democratic diatribes to their domestic populations and then rely on the same Western, democratic countries to shield their wealth, launder their finances, and stash their money, and to then use those finances for anything they need.

We already know what needs to be done; none of it is especially complicated, and smart policy proposals have been put forward by groups across the political spectrum. Transparency is the key. Transparency as it pertains to shell companies, trusts, and foundations. Transparency as it pertains to real estate, artwork, and luxury goods. Combined with new and increased regulations targeting the so-called enablers in the West who open these financial secrecy doors—the lawyers, accountants, consultants, and public relations spin doctors—transparency will help bring these secret financial networks out of the shadows.

We’ve seen some progress in recent years, including the British government creating a public registry of certain companies and the United States and Canada recently taking strides to clean up their shell-company sectors. The European Union, likewise, has continued pushing for far greater regulatory oversight for things like lawyers and trust operators.

These are all welcome steps, but they can hardly end there. The rest of the solutions proposed above will require significant political will—and enough realization of just how central the West’s role in these offshore networks remains. The United States and the United Kingdom, Canada and France, Germany and the Baltics: All are pillars in their own rights of the offshore economy. All have been used and abused by the kleptocrats of the world. And there’s no reason to think that’s going to end with the Pandora Papers leak.

New Solutions for a Changing Climate


The government must recognize investment opportunities in US agricultural research and development in order to address current and future climate challenges.
Executive Summary

US public investment in agricultural research in the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in unprecedented worldwide production of a few staple crops and the improvement of dozens more. Increased crop yields and animal production have drastically reduced famine compared to previous centuries and supported an overall increase in global affluence.

Today, agricultural producers around the world are facing new challenges as global climate changes become increasingly unpredictable. Inconsistent rain, extreme temperatures, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and shifting pest and disease patterns are just a few of the obstacles farmers face as they try to feed their families and produce enough food to feed the world.

Facebook and Big Tech Are Facing Their ‘Big Tobacco’ Moment

In 1996, the popular and well-respected U.S. television news program “60 Minutes” aired a whistleblower’s devastating account of corporate malfeasance at America’s third-largest tobacco company. At the time, an estimated 25 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes, and the idea that smoking could be linked to cancer and heart disease or produce birth defects was still a matter of public debate. That changed after Jeffrey Wigand, a biochemist who was hired to oversee the science of making cigarettes more marketable at the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, told “60 Minutes” that the tobacco company, which he had left in 1993, was lying to the public and to Congress about the harmful effects of its products.

Big Tobacco companies knew, Wigand said then, that there was a problem, because their own research told them so, but they suppressed evidence about how cigarettes hurt public health. It was not until 1998—five years after Wigand left Brown and Williamson and two years after he had exposed its misdeeds—that 45 state attorneys general forced the company and three other Big Tobacco majors to pay out a multimillion-dollar settlement to cover Medicaid costs associated with illnesses linked to cigarette smoking.

Debate on ‘no first use’ of nukes mushrooms in Washington

Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― Five years after President Barack Obama turned back from declaring a “no first use” as U.S. policy for nuclear weapons, opponents say the Biden administration is considering it too, and warn that it risks alienating allies.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said that he believes America’s allies are “very, very upset” with the idea President Joe Biden might reverse decades of U.S. nuclear policy as part of his administration’s sweeping Nuclear Posture Review, expected in 2022. The U.S. has historically maintained ambiguity about whether it would carry out a first strike with a nuclear weapon, but the policy would expressly rule it out.

“It gives more comfort to the enemy that they can plan an attack and do whatever they want to and not worry about us using a first strike,” Risch said of a “no first use” policy. “Nobody wants to use a first strike, but there are scenarios where you can imagine a first strike, and the best thing you can do is keep [adversaries] off balance.”

The Tyranny of the 21st-Century Crowd

Robert D. Kaplan

But there was something even more fundamental than the close-run failure of 1848 that wrought the ideological horrors of the 20th century: technology. The tens of millions of the “dispossessed of the Industrial Revolution,” in Strausz-Hupé’s words, became mindless foot-soldiers to class and racial warfare, abetted by the new force of mass media. It’s impossible to imagine Hitler and Stalin except against the backdrop of industrialization, which wrought everything from tanks and railways to radio and newsreels. Propaganda, after all, has a distinct 20th-century resonance, integral to communications technology.

Technology has kept evolving, so that the roots of our present crisis lie in what went wrong in the 20th century. Nazism and communism shared two decisive elements: the safety of the crowd and the yearning for purity. In “Crowds and Power,” first published in German in 1960, Elias Canetti may have written the most intuitive book about the crisis of the West over the past 100 years. Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West” argues that Western civilization, like all civilizations, is ultimately ephemeral, but Canetti’s book shows the actual mechanics.

The crowd, Canetti says, emerges from the need of the lonely individual to conform with others. Because he can’t exert dominance on his own, he exerts it through a crowd that speaks with one voice. The crowd’s urge is always to grow, consuming all hierarchies, even as it feels persecuted and demands retribution. The crowd sees itself as entirely pure, having attained the highest virtue.

Japan, a Sleeping Giant of Global Affairs, Is Waking Up

Hal Brands

Three times in the modern era, Japan has reacted to profound international shifts with a sweeping remake of its foreign policy — in ways that drastically altered global history.

The nation is now undergoing a leadership transition, as the job of prime minister passes from Yoshihide Suga to Fumio Kishida. This may seem like “more of the same,” as both men — like nearly all of Japan’s postwar prime ministers — represent the Liberal Democratic Party. But the bigger story is that Japan is also tentatively approaching a fourth foreign policy revolution, thanks to the combined shock of an aggressive China and an uncertain U.S.

All three of Japan’s prior revolutions followed epic geopolitical disruptions. The first came after the forced opening of the country by the West in the 1850s. The result was the Meiji restoration, the construction of a modern economy and strong military, and the emergence of Japan as a great power that thrashed China and then Russia in major wars.

Climate change risk assessment 2021

At COP26, the governments of highly emitting countries will have a critical opportunity to accelerate emissions reductions through ambitious revisions of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

If emissions follow the trajectory set by current NDCs, there is a less than five per cent chance of keeping temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and less than one per cent chance of reaching the 1.5°C target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Unless NDCs are dramatically increased, and policy and delivery mechanisms are revised accordingly, many of the climate change impacts described in this research paper are likely to be locked in by 2040, and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what nations can adapt to.

As well as the immediate physical and socio-economic consequences of changes in climate, the paper captures the systemic cascading risks likely to arise as these direct risks and impacts compound to affect whole systems, including people, infrastructure, the economy, societal systems and ecosystems.

Advanced military technology in Russia

Military technology innovation enables Russia’s way of war and informs new concepts of operation and military thought around future warfare, especially asymmetric advantages against more powerful competitors.

New weapons systems, dubbed Putin’s superoruzhie (‘super weapons’) and first unveiled in 2018, signal Russia’s intent to innovate in the defence-industrial field to counter the perceived conventional military superiority of great power competitors such as the US and its NATO allies.

Russia is pursuing the incremental integration of asymmetric force-multiplier technologies into its established and legacy weapons systems. Meanwhile, the defence industry is developing new systems and capabilities in military robotics and has successfully integrated unmanned vehicles, particularly aerial drones, into its military operations. In the space sector, Russia is pursuing the development of capabilities able to potentially counter and disrupt an adversary’s satellite operations. Finally, AI technologies are being developed with a view to the disruption of Western command and control systems and communication facilities, as well as the establishment of information superiority.

This research paper offers an overview of Russia’s modern military capabilities and advanced technologies in key sectors. It also discusses the effects of military innovation on Russian military thinking and its impact for the US, NATO, and their partners.

Applying arms-control frameworks to autonomous weapons

Zachary Kallenborn

Mankind’s earliest weapons date back 400,000 years—simple wooden spears discovered in Schöningen, Germany. By 48,000 years ago, humans were making bows and arrows, then graduating to swords of bronze and iron. The age of gunpowder brought flintlock muskets, cannons, and Gatling guns. In modern times, humans built Panzer tanks, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and nuclear weapons capable of vaporizing cities.

Today, humanity is entering a new era of weaponry, one of autonomous weapons and robotics.

The development of such technology is rapidly advancing and poses hard questions about how their use and proliferation should be governed. In early 2020, a drone may have been used to attack humans autonomously for the first time, a milestone underscoring that robots capable of killing may be widely fielded sooner rather than later. Existing arms-control regimes may offer a model for how to govern autonomous weapons, and it is essential that the international community promptly addresses a critical question: Should we be more afraid of killer robots run amok or the insecurity of giving them up?

Kremlin Publicizes Its View on Europe’s Energy Crisis

Vladimir Socor

The Kremlin is skillfully exploiting a European energy crisis caused in part by flawed European policies. On October 6, at the TTF Hub in the Netherlands, the price of natural gas rose to an all-time European record of $1,936 per 1,000 cubic meters. Due to high consumption and limited supply availability, European gas storage levels are at their lowest in at least a decade at the start of the heating season (EurActiv, September 30). Russian Gazprom is playing on the anxiety by limiting the supply and forecasting a “cold, snowy winter in Europe” (Interfax, October 6).

On that same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin staged an informal policy discussion at his Novo Ogarevo residence with top officials from Russia’s energy sector, publicizing the event for political effect on European energy markets.

Putin and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak attributed the crisis largely to strategic decisions at the level of the European Commission, such as: overreliance on volatile spot markets for gas, to the detriment of pipeline-delivered gas on long-term contracts with fixed prices (where Russia is notably the primary supplier); the unreliability of renewables (wind and solar) causing a growing deficit of electrical power, even as demand for electricity keeps rising, driven by de-carbonization policies; and an overall miscalculation of the energy supply-demand balance by the European Commission (TASS, October 6).

A Digital Army: Synergies on the Battlefield and the Development of Cyber-​Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA)

Stefan Soesanto

This report focuses on cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA), which is a doctrinal concept that was introduced by the US Army sometime around 2009/2010 to connect both domains at the hip. The report dives into the origins of CEMA within the US Army by contextualizing geopolitical developments and Army doctrinal changes over time; and explains why and how the US Army and UK MoD adopted CEMA. It then highlights potential CEMA tactics in the field and concludes with final thoughts on whether emulating CEMA is an option that ought to be adopted by other armed forces.

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Alfred Nobel, Technology, and the End of War

Jacob Parakilas

This week, the Nobel Prizes are being announced. The Nobel Prizes, generally considered to be among the most prestigious international awards in the fields of science, literature, and peace, are named for Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who made a number of important advancements in martial technology, including dynamite and smokeless gunpowder. Toward the end of his life, Nobel expressed the view that his efforts had been directed at making war so horrifying that the world would come together and ban it.

More than a century later, not only does war remain unbanned, but the way that martial technologies impact our imagination has fundamentally changed.

Nobel was not alone in his aspirations to end war by creating machines so powerful they would make it unthinkably brutal. Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the world’s first practical single-barrel machine gun, held similar views, only to see them proved horrifically wrong on the killing fields of World War I. And after the advent of nuclear weapons, influential physicists and political scientists advanced different elements of an argument that the unimaginable destruction wrought by nuclear weapons would make war obsolete, or at least marginalize it. War, as it does, transformed – conventional wars grew rarer while irregular wars did not – but did not disappear.

The Rise of Edge Computing in Defense

Mike Miller

The past year was a time of rapid change for government technology. While bolstering information technology infrastructure that could sustain remote work was a major priority, there’s also been an ongoing revolution at the more remote network edge.

By bringing computational data storage and connectivity resources closer to where it’s being gathered, edge computing saves bandwidth and accelerates response times.

The approach has been around since the 1990s but has gained traction in recent years thanks to advances in data processing and computing and emerging technologies such as virtual reality and 5G.

Edge computing advances life-saving possibilities for war­fighters and the defense community. Thanks to edge computing, troops have access to insights in remote locations with little connectivity. Weather conditions, machine performance data and other sensitive information can now be turned into actionable decision-making. As possibilities at the edge advance, these applications continue to expand.