12 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.

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

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

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

Why India Can’t Wean Itself Off Coal

Vijaya Ramachandran

When the United Nations climate summit convenes in Glasgow, Scotland, in just a few weeks, rich countries will once again pressure India to speed up its energy transition. India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its use of fossil fuels is still rapidly growing as it continues to industrialize and raise its standard of living. Because India is so dependent on carbon-based fuels—especially coal—and has understandably little interest in curtailing its own development, it has been a notable holdout in the current global climate negotiations, including an agreement to phase out coal consumption and end the financing of coal plants. India skipped the pre-summit ministerial meeting in London, the only one of 51 invited countries to do so. And while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the Glasgow summit, New Delhi risks once again being painted as an obstacle to the global fight against climate change.

Yet those who point to India as a climate boogeyman—mainly policymakers, activists, and journalists in the developed world—are holding it to an unfair standard they would never apply to themselves. Yes, we all know that burning coal is bad for the environment, not to mention the health of coal workers and local communities. But it is not fair to ask a developing country like India to bear the costs of an exit from a carbon-based economy without developed countries making significant emissions reductions first—which they are demonstrably not doing. What’s more, weaning India off coal too fast would come with terrible human costs that cannot be ignored.

It’s a truism but bears repeating: One of the main reasons Indians are still poor is that they don’t have enough access to energy. Modern energy services such as reliable electricity, clean cooking fuels, and mechanical power are critical for lifting people out of poverty, ending malnutrition, improving health and education outcomes, and raising productivity in agriculture and industry. The Indian government’s Economic Survey shows that Indian states where more schools have access to electricity have higher rates of literacy. When health care facilities have a reliable supply of electricity, fewer patients and babies die. The need to lift more Indians out of poverty is once again acute: The Pew Research Center estimates that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed 75 million Indians into poverty, nearly doubling the number of people who live on less than $2 per day.

After the Fall of Afghanistan, the U.S. Must Re-Engage with Central Asia

Luke Coffey


Central Asia has been, is now, and will continue to be an area of geopolitical importance to the United States. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a stark reminder of this. If the U.S. is to have a strategy to deal with the geopolitical fallout from the crisis in Afghanistan, policymakers in Washington simply cannot ignore Central Asia. Unfortunately for the U.S., the level of engagement by Washington in the region has been minimal in recent years. The U.S. needs a new approach to protect its national interest in the region and must re-engage—smartly—with the five countries of Central Asia.


Especially after the Taliban’s return to power, Central Asia is once again—and will continue to be—an area of geopolitical importance to the United States.

Central Asia has often been ignored until it was too late; the Biden Administration has not taken any meaningful steps to enhance U.S. relations with Central Asia.

The U.S. should rebuild relations in Central Asia, and unlike in past decades, do so in a way that will be lasting and genuine.

After 20 years, the Taliban recaptured most of Afghanistan when the U.S. and international withdrawal precipitated a collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.

The five Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—have a new reality on their doorstep and are nervously watching it unfold. In the coming months and years, Afghanistan will likely become a place of instability, as it was in the 1990s. While options are limited, the U.S. must mitigate the geopolitical fallout from the fall of Afghanistan.

The Central Asian region will be an important part of any approach. The Biden Administration needs to develop a new Central Asia strategy, build confidence and trust between the U.S. and the Central Asian states by routine senior-level visits, prioritize improving relations with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, specifically, and cooperate on security and terrorism issues with all countries in the region when possible, at a pace with which they are comfortable.

Central Asia is a region often ignored by U.S. policymakers until it is too late. In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the U.S. began to pursue relations with these newly independent republics. But after a few years, that initial enthusiasm for engagement in the region declined.

During the Afghan civil war in the mid-1990s, different Central Asian countries backed different warlords and powerbrokers in Afghanistan—but all were unified in stopping the Taliban from taking power. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. had to scramble to rebuild relations with the region because of the need for military bases. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, both of which played an important role backing opposition to the Taliban in the 1990s, also played a vital role in the opening days of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan in late 2001.

At this time, the U.S. established two air bases in Central Asia. One was at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan, on an old Soviet air base, the other at Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan, near the capital Bishkek. These two bases helped the U.S. and its NATO partners to conduct military operations in Afghanistan.

Maintaining access to these bases was not easy, however. In 2005, American forces were evicted from Karshi-Khanabad after the Bush Administration condemned the Uzbek government for its crackdown on the 2005 protests in Andijan, which left dozens—perhaps hundreds—of protesters dead. The U.S. presence in Manas proved to be more resilient. However, mounting Russian pressure on Bishkek to close the base meant that the lease for the base was not renewed in 2014.

Other external powers also established military presences in the region in the aftermath of 9/11. Germany maintained an air base in Termez, in southern Uzbekistan, from 2002 until 2014. It was used to resupply and support German forces operating just across the border in northern Afghanistan. France maintained a small aviation detachment in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to support its operations in Afghanistan. That base closed in 2013.

When President Barack Obama ended U.S.-led combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, U.S. engagement in Central Asia waned yet again. While the Trump Administration did try to increase engagement, Russia and China did the same. The C5+1 initiative,1

The primary goal of the C5+1 initiative is to create a multilateral format for the five Central Asian republics and the U.S. to build relations with each other. The C5+1 nations are the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the U.S. started by the Obama Administration and continuing today, rarely delivers anything tangible in the U.S.–Central Asia relationship and has morphed into a stale talking shop. So far, the Biden Administration has not taken any meaningful steps to enhance U.S. relations with Central Asia.

Time for U.S. Engagement

Due to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the U.S. needs a close relationship with countries in the region. However, years of neglect from Washington will make this difficult. The U.S. should re-build relations in Central Asia, and unlike before, do so in a way that will be lasting and genuine. To do so, the Biden Administration should:
Develop a new Central Asia strategy. In February 2020, the Trump Administration launched the first U.S. strategy for Central Asia in half a decade. The strategy emphasized Afghanistan’s role in the region. Two of the six “policy objectives” in the strategy directly dealt with Afghanistan: “Expand and maintain support for stability in Afghanistan” and “[e]ncourage connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan.”2

U.S. Department of State, “United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019-2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity (Overview),” February 5, 2020, https://www.state.gov/united-states-strategy-for-central-asia-2019-2025-advancing-

sovereignty-and-economic-prosperity/ (accessed September 21, 2021). While the strategy was well received by the regional governments and policymakers in Washington at the time, current events now make it out of date. A strategy is urgently needed that reflects the new reality in the region.

Increase U.S. government and diplomatic presence in the region. No sitting U.S. President has ever visited Central Asia. It is time for this to change. In the meantime, a good way to start re-engagement easily and symbolically would be with a few high-level visits by U.S. officials. The U.S. should send Cabinet-level visitors to build relations in the region. Considering the new reality in Afghanistan, regional countries, such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are natural partners. The U.S. should pursue a pragmatic relationship with these countries based on mutual strategic and regional interests.

Increase bilateral military and security relations with willing countries in the region—at a pace decided by them. The U.S. has a history of basing troops in the region. However, even though it would benefit the U.S. to re-open a military base in Central Asia, the likelihood of this happening anytime soon is remote. Many do not trust the U.S. in the region and Washington has not put in the legwork over the years required to keep close relations. Instead, the U.S. should take steps to rebuild trust and confidence and focus on restoring bilateral relations with the Central Asian states. Then, someday the circumstances might allow another U.S. base in the region.

Increase U.S. engagement in the South Caucasus. The geography of Eurasia means that getting in and out of Central Asia is not straightforward. Pakistan is not often a solid partner when it comes to accessing the region. China, Iran, and Russia obviously are not options for the U.S. either when it comes to accessing Central Asia. This leaves a very small, narrow corridor from Turkey through Georgia and through Azerbaijan’s Ganja Gap.3

There are only three ways for energy and trade to flow overland between Europe and Asia: through Iran, through Russia, or through Azerbaijan. With relations among the West, Moscow, and Tehran in tatters, that leaves only one viable route for hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of trade—through Azerbaijan. This small trade corridor, only 100 kilometers wide, is known as the Ganja Gap—named after Azerbaijan’s second-largest city and old Silk Road trading post of Ganja. If Washington is serious about getting more involved in Central Asia, it must also engage more with the countries of the South Caucasus.

An Important Region

Central Asia has been, is, and will continue to be an area of geopolitical importance to the United States. The situation developing in Afghanistan is a reminder of this. If the U.S. is to have a strategy to deal with the geopolitical fallout from the crisis in Afghanistan, policymakers in Washington simply cannot ignore Central Asia. Unfortunately for the U.S., the level of engagement by Washington in the region has been minimal in recent years. The U.S. needs a new approach to protect its national interest in the region.

Al Qaeda Could Throw a Wrench in China's Plans for Afghanistan

Saba Sattar

Where once the United States was perceived as the “far enemy” by Al Qaeda operatives, China can expect trouble with Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) as it seeks to invest in the post-war torn Afghanistan.

Beijing has already dispatched $31 million in emergency aid, including essential food items and coronavirus vaccines. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also stated the new regime’s “desire” to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Beijing’s flagship $62 billion endeavor, that serves a larger part of the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Launched in 2013 as one of the critical ways of realizing the Chinese Dream, or the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the BRI is a global critical infrastructure development strategy spanning across 139 nation-states. The CPEC forms a crucial component of the BRI to extend China’s strategic foothold into landlocked Central Asia to diversify its sources of energy from Western maritime trade interdiction in the first island chain.


 Andrew Milburn

Watching the chaotic scenes in Kabul airport this last August, it is difficult to make sense of the manner in which Washington pulled the plug on a two-decade Coalition effort leaving our allies non-plussed and our partners to the mercy of a vengeful enemy. Less than three weeks later, these images came again to mind during the testimony of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and two of his four-star generals before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Nothing in that testimony, however, brought a sense of closure. Instead, repeated attempts at justification, and ultimately – a collective refusal to take responsibility – only rubbed salt in the wound.

As we wait for the investigations and inquiries to play out, however, I want to focus here on critical lessons from a single incident. It was the last offensive action taken by the United States in a 20-year war – a drone strike that failed to hit its target, killing instead several civilians. The mistake was no isolated incident but part of a pattern that has implications not just for US counter-terrorism strategy but for US foreign policy going ahead. I discuss here what the problem is, why it matters, and how to fix it.

China Will Test America On Taiwan. What Will Joe Biden Do?

Brent Sadler

Chinese military activity around Taiwan has risen to unprecedented levels over the last few months. Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defense zone more than 150 times in just this last week.

Given the stakes, and rather ambiguous assurances from the U.S. regarding Taiwan’s security, what happens when Beijing tries to test U.S. resolve?

The current Taiwan Relations Act does not provide any guarantee or assurance of a U.S. military response should China attack. But the 1979 Act does stipulate that the U.S. will provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself and that Washington will maintain the military capacity to compel a peaceful resolution between China and Taiwan.

Deterring China from starting a war over Taiwan is what matters most, and that only works as long as the military balance remains unfavorable to China.
nning in 2019, the Trump administration declassified three internal Reagan-era memos. These memos became known inside government as providing the “six assurances.” They made clear then, as do continued arms sales to Taiwan and proximate U.S. military presence today, that the U.S. will act to ensure the situation is resolved peacefully.

An Azerbaijani-Iranian War Will Lead to a Regional Conflagration

Taras Kuzio

Iran is escalating its military rhetoric against Azerbaijan as Tehran holds its largest military exercises in three decades on its border with Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, patriotism in Azerbaijan, which is already high following its recent victory in the Second Karabakh War, is being mobilized to counter the Iranian threat.

A military conflict between Iran and Azerbaijan would lead to a regional conflagration. Given that Turkey just formed a security pact with Baku by signing the Shusha Declaration in June, Turkey will be certain to support Azerbaijan. Pakistan, an ally of Turkey and Azerbaijan, would also increase military pressure on Iran’s eastern border. Meanwhile, Armenia, which has been unwilling to accept its defeat, could be tempted to use the distraction of an Azerbaijani-Iranian war to retake what nationalists call “Eastern Armenia,” leading to another war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, a regional conflagration would be detrimental for Russian security policy in the South Caucasus because it would jeopardize Russia’s so-called “peacekeeping” operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Kremlin could no longer pretend to be neutral if its regional allies—Iran and Armenia—were involved in military operations.

The challenge facing the National Defense Strategy


The Pentagon has begun the process of developing a strategy to meet the congressional requirement for a National Defense Strategy (NDS) report in 2022. The defense strategy is likely to expand upon the 2018 strategy, which identified China and Russia as peer competitors and assigned highest priority to deterring adventurism on the part of both states.

China’s increasingly aggressive stance against Taiwan — notably, its recent four-day surge of nearly 150 combat aircraft into the island’s air defense identification zone, as well as the expansion of its conventional and strategic nuclear forces — underscores the ongoing need for maintaining a credible deterrent against Beijing. Similarly, Russia’s continuing pressure on Ukraine, its ceaseless efforts to employ cyber to disrupt American political and economic activity, and its military modernization programs justify the priority that the 2022 NDS, like its immediate predecessor, is likely to assign to deterring Moscow’s aggressiveness.

The second world war was fuelled by imperial fantasies

Why another single-volume history of the second world war? Richard Overy has himself written more than 20 books covering different aspects of the conflict and the global crisis of the first half of the 20th century. But his aim in “Blood and Ruins” is to question the widespread assumption that the war was simply the result of the territorial aggression of the Axis powers, and Allied resistance to it. Instead, he sees the policies pursued by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and the Japanese military establishment as effects of the crisis as well as a leading cause.
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It makes more sense, Mr Overy argues, to think in terms of a “long” second world war that began in China in the early 1930s and ended there—and in South-East Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East—only in the decade after 1945. The origins of the war, he says, lay in the zenith of European colonialism in the late 19th century; it became imperialism’s violent nemesis. His title comes from Leonard Woolf, a Bloomsbury intellectual who in 1928 wrote: “Imperialism, as it was known in the 19th century, is no longer possible, and the only question is whether it will be buried peacefully or in blood and ruins.”

Israel still fears US approach to Iran

Ben Caspit

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Iraeli counterpart Eyal Hulata and their teams met in the White House Oct. 5, within the framework of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group. The press readout following the meeting described the session as “constructive” and “open.” A senior administration official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said the Biden administration was committed to talks with Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons, but if diplomacy fails, he said, "we'll be prepared to take measures that are necessary."

He continued, “Obviously, if that [diplomacy] doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue, and we’re fully committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” but refused to elaborate. At the same time, according to Israeli media reports, Israel will be asking the Americans to put together a package of sanctions against Iran in case the talks fail.

Diplomatic sources say that away from the public eye, the climate in closed meetings is far less favorable. In fact, the opposite may be true. Israeli frustration is growing, as is the realization that Israel and the United States aren't on the same page and their strategic perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat differ substantially. A senior Israeli defense official, who did not take part in the talks but was privy to their contents by dint of his very close position to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, described the situation to Al-Monitor as follows.

Don't Be So Sure That China Is Going Headfirst Into Afghanistan

East Asia Forum

Here's What You Need To Remember: China is well aware of the maxim that Afghanistan is the ‘graveyard of empires’, and will tread lightly for the time being. Increased investments in the country are still risky as the Taliban remains in conflict with rival militant groups

On 18 July, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada said the group seeks strong diplomatic, economic and political relations with all countries including the United States. The Taliban soon revealed it had opened several channels of communication with foreign countries. China is among the first in the region to embrace — albeit cautiously — the new political reality shaping Afghanistan. For Beijing, the Taliban takeover presents opportunities as well as threats.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a top-level Taliban delegation in Tianjin on 28 July. He labelled the Taliban ‘a pivotal military and political force’ and urged them to make a clean break with all militant organisations including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). In a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken — made shortly after Beijing confirmed its Kabul embassy is operating safely under Taliban rule — Wang even appealed for the international community to engage with the Taliban and ‘positively guide them’.

China Will Not Invade Taiwan Today. But Is It Conducting a Test Run?

Kris Osborn

The Chinese military is swarming Taiwan’s airspace and waterways in a massive display of power with fighter jets, bombers, and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. This appears to be a clear effort to intimidate and send a warning to Taiwan.

A force consisting of fifty-two People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft including thirty-four J-16 fighter jets, two Su-30s, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, two KJ-500 plans, and as many as twelve H-6 bombers all entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone.

A Chinese government-backed newspaper said the power demonstration was in part a response to what it called a “wrong” and “irresponsible” signal from the United States expressing “concern” over Chinese provocations regarding Taiwan. The paper says the large-scale Chinese power demonstration shows China maintains power and control in the areas surrounding Taiwan.

China’s Xi Emphasizes ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan, Days After Record Show of Force

Elaine Yu

Mr. Xi’s remarks were part of a speech that marked the 110th anniversary of the revolution that overturned Qing imperial rule in China. In the decades that followed, the Communists and Nationalists jostled for control of China, which later led to a split between China and Taiwan amid a civil war. Nationalist forces withdrew to the island, and communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

The Communist Party considers Taiwan part of China, despite never having ruled the island, and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.

In a response to Mr. Xi’s speech, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said China’s continued threat of military action is the key to problems across the Taiwan Strait.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s rigid Taiwan policy doesn’t take a realistic measure of the current situation, completely fails to account for the development of global circumstances, and fundamentally ignores the doubts and opposition of the Taiwanese people,” it said.

Mr. Xi has long spoken of realizing what Beijing has called a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but his remarks came as concerns within the U.S. mounted over China’s yearslong military buildup and recent threatening moves against the island.

The PLA has flown 150 sorties near Taiwan so far this month, a blitz that has sparked expressions of concern from the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a small number of American troops have been secretly training local military forces on the island.

Taiwan’s independence is the biggest obstacle to Beijing’s goal of unification and poses a “serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” Mr. Xi said. “Those who forget their ancestors, betray the motherland or split the country have always been doomed. They will definitely be spurned by the people and judged by history,” he added.

Mr. Xi said the issue of Taiwan is China’s internal affair and that no external interference is allowed, without naming any country. He didn’t mention the use of force on Taiwan in his speech.

China Will Test America On Taiwan. What Will Joe Biden Do?

Brent Sadler

Chinese military activity around Taiwan has risen to unprecedented levels over the last few months. Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defense zone more than 150 times in just this last week.

Given the stakes, and rather ambiguous assurances from the U.S. regarding Taiwan’s security, what happens when Beijing tries to test U.S. resolve?

The current Taiwan Relations Act does not provide any guarantee or assurance of a U.S. military response should China attack. But the 1979 Act does stipulate that the U.S. will provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself and that Washington will maintain the military capacity to compel a peaceful resolution between China and Taiwan.

Deterring China from starting a war over Taiwan is what matters most, and that only works as long as the military balance remains unfavorable to China.

Beginning in 2019, the Trump administration declassified three internal Reagan-era memos. These memos became known inside government as providing the “six assurances.” They made clear then, as do continued arms sales to Taiwan and proximate U.S. military presence today, that the U.S. will act to ensure the situation is resolved peacefully.

The China Challenge


There has never been a threat to U.S. well-being comparable to China. Its rapid global expansion challenges America’s economic and geopolitical security, as well as basic democratic values and the rule of law. Joe Biden, taking advantage of a door crudely blasted open by Donald Trump, has reversed the traditional course on China policy. The question is whether Biden’s administration will do so coherently, comprehensively, and effectively.

The Chinese economic model starts with state-directed and -subsidized capital. Imports are either blocked or conditioned on technology transfer and “partnerships” with Chinese state-owned or -allied companies whose eventual goal is to displace imports. Western companies are incentivized by cheap labor and capital subsidies to produce in China, but only for export back to the West (Apple), or locally but subject to sharing trade secrets (GE). Whatever China does not get through negotiated technology transfer, it gets through industrial espionage. Exports, meanwhile, are subsidized, with the objective of making China the worldwide low-cost producer. China also manipulates the value of its currency, to keep export prices artificially low. Wages are suppressed, and of course there are no labor rights.

This model has produced growth rates of 7 to 10 percent per year for more than three decades. It has driven U.S. producers out of industry after industry, making those remaining heavily reliant on Chinese supply chains. It has enriched U.S. financiers and upended America’s domestic middle-class labor market, while trying to mollify consumers with cheap goods. The Chinese state, directed by its Communist Party, is pursuing nothing less than global political and economic hegemony. Undeniably, the U.S. has facilitated this advance.
American Enablers

Can the United States Defend Taiwan from a Chinese Invasion?

Daniel L. Davis

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Taipei should continue to bolster its defenses through an A2/AD strategy of its own so that the cost of forcible unification by China would be so significant—and ultimate success would not be guaranteed—that the Communist Party leaders in Beijing would not risk the potential loss. For American policy, it doesn’t make sense to risk military defeat or financial ruin when our interests are not directly threatened.

There has long been heated debate over whether the United States should defend Taiwan in the case of a Chinese invasion, but little consideration to whether it successfully can. An unemotional assessment of the military capabilities of both China and the United States reveals the odds are uncomfortably high that the U.S. forces would be defeated in a war with China over Taiwan. What’s worse, even achieving a tactical victory could result in a devastating strategic loss. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t alternative strategies to effectively preserve U.S. interests and at an affordable cost.

Joe Biden’s Nuclear Moment Has Arrived

Rabia Akhtar

Editor’s note: In late September, The National Interest organized a symposium on nuclear policy, nonproliferation, and arms control under the Biden administration. A variety of scholars were asked the following question: “Should Joe Biden seize the opportunity of his administration’s Nuclear Posture Review to redefine the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security planning? How should U.S. policy change to address the proliferation threats that the United States is facing?” The following article is one of their responses:

Crowded. Competitive. Complicated. This is how Joe Biden described the international landscape when he assured the American people that he would renew America’s commitment to a new era of arms control. That was Biden as a candidate for the presidency. Now, as president of the United States, the world has hope that Biden will deliver, not only on his promises made on the campaign trail, but also on something that he has stood for almost his entire life: a stable, peaceful world led by the United States.

Biden’s vision of this stable world has a denuclearized North Korea. In this world, Iran is not acquiring nuclear weapons and is instead bound by non-proliferation commitments under a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is a world where America’s nuclear and conventional deterrent is robust and there is a reduced role of nuclear weapons in the United States’ security strategy. It is a world where China and Russia are held accountable for ensuring strategic stability through binding arms control arrangements with the United States.

U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome


The U.S. government’s investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks, according to five lawmakers and officials briefed on the matter.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers are also growing increasingly confident that Russia or another hostile foreign government is behind the suspected attacks, based on regular briefings from administration officials — although there is still no smoking gun linking the incidents to Moscow.

The National Security Council has recently been convening more frequent high-level meetings on the topic, according to a current and a former official with direct knowledge — a sign that the government’s review is accelerating.

“There have been new additional attacks, which is very disturbing,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has been leading the push for answers on Capitol Hill. “It’s being taken very seriously now due to the director of the CIA … [who] has put very highly qualified people on it.”

Laser weapons are coming, like it or not


You are hunkered down, trapped by enemy fire.

You can’t move ahead, you can’t move back … you can’t even lift your head without it being blown off — the enemy has the upper hand, and you know it.

Thankfully, circling high above this firefight, is an AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship — the aircraft that became a legend in the Vietnam War for hosing down the Viet Cong.

Nicknamed “Hell in the sky,” it normally features three … yes, three side-firing weapons — a 25mm gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon, and a 105mm howitzer.

Easy to see how it got its name. Anything in that field of fire, about the size of a football field, will die.

But this time, it is equipped with some completely different — it is armed with a high-energy laser weapon — and, the aircraft is unmanned!

A nuclear submarine deal that China would actually respect


Why is it that we as a nation repeatedly sabotage our own plans at the starting block? We never learned from Iraq and Afghanistan that announcing troop surges, withdrawals or artificial deadlines undercuts our objectives by effectively signaling to our enemies that they can just wait us out. The Biden administration seems to be replaying this same game plan with the recent announcement of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the United Kingdom.

After a wildly successful rollout of the plan to equip the Australian Navy with nuclear-powered submarines, which was both brilliant in design and a bold strategic signaling win, comes the recent statement from Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations: “This is a very long-term effort that’ll be decades, I think, before a submarine goes in the water.” Talk about pulling the rug out from under our own two feet, not to mention our allies.

In effect, we have announced a major power shift in the Pacific but followed the announcement with an assurance to China that it will be decades (note the plural) before the shift takes hold. The message to China is clear: If you are going to cause problems, do it sooner rather than later. One can hear the air rushing out of the balloon the more that the admiral kept talking.


Marcel Plichta

You can only ask so much of a Sherman tank. Tasking it and its crew to hold the last line of defense against a Russian-Czech force may have been a bridge too far. As my adversaries’ Mi-24 helicopters took turns pummeling my unfortunate tank with rockets and guided missiles, their motorized infantry advanced, winning the game handily.

For many, video games, like the one I had just lost, are an entry point into the world of military affairs and history. Video games are unique from traditional media, particularly when it comes to teaching strategy. Unlike (most) books or movies, the player maintains some level of agency over what’s occurring. The video games’ decision-making element makes them a tempting teaching tool. The level of data a computer can process allows players to engage with and visualize a more complex situation than board games or tabletop wargames.

The generations that grew up playing video games are now strategy professionals, so they have increasingly considered video games a viable tool to learn about strategy and history. The BBC intermittently runs a game show called Time Commanders in which contestants attempt to fight historical battles using games from the Total War franchise with the assistance of exasperated military historians. Max Brooks recommended a series of different strategy games in these pages. Some British Army units have used Wargame: Red Dragon, which models combined-arms operations in the 1980s and early 1990s to conduct command post exercises and vehicle recognition training.

Is Defending Taiwan Worth the Risk?

Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford: Hey, Matt! Fall is finally here in D.C.: The leaves are falling, the temperature is pleasant, traffic is reliably terrible, and apparently America is now secretly basing troops in Taiwan. Ready for another winter of pandemic and great-power competition?

Matthew Kroenig: I want to enjoy fall for as long as possible. This is the most beautiful time of the year in Washington.

And rather than cooling down, several flash points around the world have been heating up. Have you followed China’s record incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ)?

EA: To be honest, it’s hard not to notice the hysteria in Washington about the incursions.

MK: Call me old-fashioned, but I think a genocidal, nuclear-armed power threatening its small democratic neighbor with unprecedented shows of military force is worth a bit of hysteria.

International Institutions Must Keep Politics Out of Their Data

Richard Gowan

Can we trust international institutions to give us impartial information about the state of the world? This question is at the heart of a controversy currently roiling the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It is likely to haunt other multilateral organizations in the future, too.

Kristalina Georgieva, currently the IMF’s managing director, stands accused of pressuring staff at the World Bank, where she previously occupied a senior post, to improve China’s position in an annual ranking of countries’ openness to business. The bank has since announced it will discontinue the publication, the Doing Business Report. The Economist has called on her to quit the IMF to protect both institutions’ credibility.

Georgieva has defended her record. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist who has spoken to World Bank officials involved in the process, has called the accusations a “hatchet job.”

U.S. Troops Have Been Deployed in Taiwan for at Least a Year

Gordon Lubold

The U.S. special-operations deployment is a sign of concern within the Pentagon over Taiwan’s tactical capabilities in light of Beijing’s yearslong military buildup and recent threatening moves against the island.

Taiwan and U.S. officials have expressed alarm over nearly 150 flights near Taiwan in the past week by Chinese military aircraft. The Chinese aircraft have included J-16 jet fighters, H-6 strategic bombers and Y-8 submarine-spotting aircraft and have set a record for such sorties, according to the Taiwan government.

The Chinese flights, while not entering the area Taiwan defines as its airspace, have been a reminder of the Communist Party’s view of Taiwan as a part of China. Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary. Top U.S. military officials testified earlier this year that Beijing is likely to try to use force in its designs on Taiwan within the next six years. Other officials have said China’s timeline could be sooner than that.

Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, warned Wednesday that China would be able to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan with minimal losses by 2025.

Tokyo and Taliban 2.0: Gauging Japan’s Political Stake in Kabul

Jagannath P. Panda

Tokyo’s perspective on the Taliban is a critical chapter in Japan’s evolving approach to upholding ‘peace’ and ‘security’ in its post-war foreign policy thinking. Despite not being an immediate or major security provider in Afghanistan, Tokyo is a significant stakeholder as a major economic actor in the region and the country. Nevertheless, Japan’s outlook and stance vis-à-vis Taliban remains invariably dependent upon its national interests, alliance partnership with the US, and its ever-growing strategic rivalry with China. Japan’s security policy and regional (if not great) power identity have been, and remain, closely linked to Kabul since the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, growing Chinese interest and Beijing’s mercantilist approach to push forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Afghanistan continuously challenge Japan’s economic stakes in the region. Now, post US withdrawal, Japan’s roles as a peace-enabling nation and official developmental assistance provider are poised to merge to build Tokyo’s Afghanistan policies under Taliban 2.0. As such, Japan will attempt to maintain autonomy over its own foreign policy and political future in Kabul, while simultaneously consulting with the US, for ideation direction.

The Need to Examine the Life Cycles of All Energy Sources: A Closer Look at Renewable-Energy Disposal

Andrew Wheeler

Every source of energy—including fossil fuels, wind and solar power, and nuclear power—have both positive and negative attributes. Often, proponents or opponents of a certain source gloss over, or hype up, specific challenges or benefits in order to promote their favored solution. In order to make informed decisions about which energy sources can meet America’s energy needs, policymakers and the public need to know about the entire life cycle of all energy sources. For example, proponents of fossil fuels often highlight their affordability and reliability, while ignoring the effects of waste disposal or extraction. Likewise, renewable-energy advocates focus on “zero emissions” without considering the materials used in the production of the source or the ultimate disposal of the byproducts or equipment.

The environmental life cycle of an energy source can be broadly grouped into three categories: (1) the extraction or production of the source material and the equipment required to do so; (2) the generation of the energy and the resulting emissions; and (3) the waste disposal of the byproducts or equipment. All aspects should be considered when evaluating the best energy source for a given use or purpose, including the benefits and the costs for each.

Never Again Would the Wehrmacht Mount a Major Offensive in the East

Daniel L. Davis

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Hitler’s hesitation in ordering the attack gave the Russians time to prepare that made it nearly impossible for the Germans to achieve a decisive victory. His losing his nerve and ending the battle in progress, withdrawing an entire Panzer corps in the process, sealed the doom of the battle and the war.

In 1939, and again in 1940, Adolf Hitler ignored the advice of his cautious generals and decisively ordered bold, creative plans to invade Poland and France, respectively. Hitler felt vindicated, as the German army conquered both nations in mere weeks. By the spring of 1943, however, stung by the crushing loss to the Soviet army at Stalingrad, Hitler’s indecision and loss of nerve at the Battle of Kursk doomed Germany to defeat. Germany would never again mount an offensive in the east.

As late as the fall of 1942, though, things looked bleak for Joseph Stalin, and it appeared nothing could save the Red Army from annihilation. Germany had invaded the USSR in June 1941 and, like an unstoppable machine, the German Wehrmacht smashed Soviet division after division.

Asian countries are at last abandoning zero-covid strategies

FOR MUCH of the pandemic, many of the wealthier countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region have pursued a “zero-covid” strategy, whether explicit or not. The success of the approach, involving closed borders, quarantine hotels and severe lockdowns, has generally been spectacular. Hong Kong has had no locally transmitted infections since mid-August. In the pandemic’s first year, Taiwan officially counted about a dozen deaths from covid-19. New Zealand is the standout zero-covid state, with just 27 deaths. Indeed, because fewer people died of things like flu or road accidents in lockdown, both countries recorded fewer overall deaths than in a normal year, according to The Economist’s excess-deaths tracker.

Yet those with a good first act are struggling in the second. The coronavirus, especially the highly infectious Delta variant, usually has the last word. In Taiwan cases leapt in May, and the official death toll has risen to nearly 850. In Singapore daily infections have risen from low double digits in early July to more than 3,000 now. Australia, with some 2,000-odd daily cases, is following a similar trajectory. Even in New Zealand, now with double-digit daily cases, the dam has broken.

New Technology Has the Army Futures Command Rethinking Modern Warfare

Kris Osborn

There is often discussion about the specific technological merits of innovative weapons systems and what they mean in terms of lethality, range, explosive impact and guidance. All of these factors continue to prove crucial in unanticipated ways when applied to new weapons systems. Yet there is an often unrecognized element to these kinds of breakthrough developments. What might this new technology mean when it comes to future maneuver formations necessary for land war years from now? How might new technologies reshape tactics?

These are questions now being taken up in great detail by Army Futures Command, an entity that is looking at new technologies and exploring how they will impact future concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver. This is particularly true regarding the Army’s fast-developing Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). The missile will double the attack distance as well as add new guidance systems and hardening technologies, all of which introduce new tactics for commanders to consider. The Lockheed Martin-built PrSM weapon is now entering the Engineering Manufacturing and Development phase with the Army, a step that quickly brings the nascent technological promise of the weapon much closer to production, operational status, deployment and war.