14 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-China Border Row: Beijing Won’t Budge, Even at the Cost of War


Both India and China accused each other for the failure to move forward during the 13th round of the commanders meeting on 10 October at Moldo in the western sector of the border. India stated that the “unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter the status quo and in violation of the bilateral agreements” have created a problem in the border areas and that the Chinese side did not propose any “forward-looking proposals” to resolve the problem.

On the other hand, the Chinese side accused India of making “unreasonable and unrealistic demands” and hoped India “will not misjudge the situation” in the border areas.

In other words, going away from what it agreed to, China is arguing that India must accept the current status quo on the borders after its troops marched into Indian-claimed regions since March last year. It is also sending a signal that it is unwilling to vacate such lands even at the cost of going to war or changing the format of bilateral relations.

The Public Relations of the Taliban: Then and Now

Prof. William Maley

On 20 February 2020, a remarkable article by Sirajuddin Haqqani appeared in The New York Times. Coming just days before the signing by the United States and the Taliban movement of a bilateral ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’, the essay was full of beautiful thoughts:

‘Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war. I am convinced that the killing and the maiming must stop … We are committed to working with other parties in a consultative manner of genuine respect to agree on a new, inclusive political system in which the voice of every Afghan is reflected and where no Afghan feels excluded’.

Two things, however, made the article particularly striking. One was its language, which seemed far more like that of a western think-tanker than a Talib – even though the author was identified as being deputy leader of the Taliban. But the other was the specific background of the author. Haqqani, at the time the article appeared, was also identified on the website of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a ‘specially designated global terrorist’, with a US$10 million reward on offer for information leading directly to his arrest. That the Taliban movement succeeded in placing a propaganda article by a wanted terrorist on the opinion page of one of the most reputable news outlets in the US pointed to an approach to public relations that in its sophistication and guile far exceeded anything that the movement had been capable of achieving when it occupied Kabul from 1996-2001. The following remarks seek to trace some of the key contours of this shift, noting that the principal achievement of the Taliban’s public relations activity was to promote a spurious image of Taliban ‘moderation’ in some Western policy circles, with PR to mobilise elements of the Afghan population proving less demonstrably effective.

Paratroopers sent to Kabul this summer had a 3-D simulation of the airport

Todd South

WASHINGTON – The Army’s plans for simulation training are not confined to the lab — or even to training.

The service’s Cross Functional Team-Synthetic Training Environment applied their One World Terrain project to Afghanistan during the withdrawal this summer, according to team commander, Brig. Gen. William Glaser.

One World Terrain can build virtual maps of territory all over the globe. When soldiers know they’re going to a particular hotspot, the idea is that One World Terrain can simulate the area.

The One World Terrain team delivered to the 82nd Airborne Division a 3-D representation of Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The capability allowed analysts and commanders to gain a more accurate and detailed perspective into the area in and around the airport, including areas of concern where crowds were massing, and vulnerabilities associated with airfield operations.

The Afghan Air Force: A Harsh Lesson in the Expensive Game of Airpower Reconstruction

Alexander Smith


“Not to have an adequate air force in the present state of the world is to compromise the foundations of national freedom and independence.”[1] British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, recognized the value of airpower as early as 1933 during the rise of Adolf Hitler, and his words hold to this day. The United States spent sixteen of the last twenty years and precious resources attempting to rebuild the Afghan Air Force (AAF) into a viable, self-sustaining military aviation component capable of supporting the democratically-elected Afghan government. The withdrawal of U.S. and Coalition forces in August of 2021, and the embarrassingly swift takeover by the Taliban, have left the AAF in shambles. Many pilots fled with their aircraft to neighboring countries, where their fate remains uncertain, while the rest are now in Taliban hands.

Much will be made in future case studies of the inability of the Afghan military to maintain a coherent force structure upon U.S. withdrawal. However, the effort to build up the air component was doomed from the beginning due to disjointed planning and poorly understood cultural differences.

Leaving Afghanistan Doesn’t Mean a Total Middle East Withdrawal

F. Gregory Gause III

Here's What You Need To Remember: As of now, there is no indication that the Biden administration wants to withdraw completely from Iraq, nor is there any indication that it intends to change substantially the basing structure in the smaller Gulf monarchies.

We need to be clear that the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is being reduced, but not to zero. When the word “withdrawal” is used to describe this process, as it frequently is, that is an exaggeration. The core of the American military presence established in the region after the Gulf War of 1990-1991 is the basing system established in the smaller monarchies of the Persian Gulf. Those bases and facilities are still operating. Some of the equipment stored in some of those bases is being transferred to Jordan, but that is hardly a sign of withdrawal from the region.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military presence in the region vastly increased with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. If one takes as a baseline for comparison the late 2000s, when the American military presence in both of those places was at its height, it might look like the United States is leaving the area completely. However, that is the wrong baseline to use given America’s extraordinary and unwise commitment following the shock of 9/11. We can secure our interests in the Persian Gulf region with the kind of military presence we had in the 1990s.

After AUKUS: The Next Steps Toward a Confrontation with China

Lianchao Han Bradley A. Thayer

During the United States’ agony in its war in Vietnam, the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara said that he sought to create “two, three, many Vietnams” for the United States. Che’s spirit should animate the growing cooperation against China.

The Australian-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) submarine cooperative agreement announced in September was a good start. The agreement will allow the countries to share, develop, and base in Australia submarines powered by nuclear propulsion (SSNs). Building on this, there should be two or three more AUKUS-type agreements in the confrontation with China. Having allied states work together in the military, economic, diplomatic, and ideological realms will be the key to defeating the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The September AUKUS agreement is an important milestone on the path, and cooperation between the countries should broaden and deepen beyond AUKUS and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, to develop further in the military domain as well as encourage diplomacy and ideology. In the military arena, this cooperation must expand to include collective defense, so that an attack against one member state is considered as an attack against all member states. It must accelerate the process of rearming U.S. allies. The United States may not have twenty years for those nuclear submarines to be commissioned and U.S. allies need a rapid transfer of military technologies and equipment in the interim.

Taiwan Not Concerned About War With China, Despite Sky-high Tensions


Tensions across the Taiwan Strait are said to be approaching boiling point, but recent polls show the Taiwanese population remains sanguine, not expecting a war with China and feeling confident that American assistance would come if needed.

In its first public opinion survey, released on September 29, Taiwan's opposition-run Intelligentsia Taipei found that 50.2 percent of respondents weren't concerned about the possibility of war, compared to 42.5 percent who said they were. A majority 58.8 percent thought conflict with China was unlikely to happen in the next 10 years, but 17.6 percent said it was probable. Only 2.2 percent of those polled were certain of war this decade.

The think tank, which collected 1,074 telephone surveys from Taipei City residents above the age of 20 between September 15 and 17, asked respondents what they would do if war were to break out across the Taiwan Strait. Some 40.2 percent of those polled said they would resist and cooperate with the government—the most popular answer—while 36 percent said they wouldn't resist a Chinese attack.

Saving Taiwan


NEW DELHI – China’s coercive expansionism may be taking its most dangerous turn yet. Recently, record-breaking numbers of Chinese military planes have entered Taiwan’s “air defense identification zone,” where the island’s authorities assert the right to demand that aircraft identify themselves. China’s muscle-flexing sends a clear message: it is serious about incorporating the island – and “reunifying” China – potentially by force.

Though the international community has been reluctant to challenge the Chinese claim that Taiwan has “always been” part of China, the claim is dubious, at best, and based on revisionist history. For most of its history, Taiwan was inhabited by non-Chinese peoples – Malayo-Polynesian tribes – and had no relationship with China. Geographically, Taiwan is closer to the Philippines than to the Chinese mainland.

Countering China’s Gray Zone Strategy

Dr. Peter Layton


China’s gray zone activities grind remorseless on but in so doing are creating an opposing pushback. As is customary, the paradoxical nature of war applies in that those impacted by a damaging strategy will over time devise optimized counter-moves.

In general, gray-zone activities involve purposefully pursuing political objectives through carefully designed operations; moving cautiously towards the objectives rather than seeking decisive results quickly; acting to remain below key escalatory thresholds so as to avoid war; and using all instruments of national power, particularly non-military and non-kinetic tools.

These characteristics mean gray zone is not hybrid war. This is, as the name suggests, a type of warfare, that deliberately uses armed violence to try to conclusively win a campaign, as Russia’s involvements in the Ukraine, Syria and Libya highlight. Some argue that modern Russian hybrid war approach uses all means up to conventional military operations to support an information campaign aiming to gain “control over the fundamental worldview and orientation of a state”, shift its geostrategic alignment, and shape its governance. China’s gray zone actions aim for strategic advantage as is explained below, but today’s Russian hybrid war model much more ambitiously tries for regime change.

Does Taiwan Need Nuclear Weapons To Deter China?

James Holmes

Back in August in the Washington Examiner, American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Michael Rubin (and a 1945 Contributing Editor) contended that Taiwan must go nuclear in the wake of the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan. It can no longer count on a mercurial United States to keep its security commitments to the island. To survive it should obey the most primal, bareknuckles law of world politics: self-help.


Set aside Rubin’s claim that the Afghan denouement wrought irreparable harm to America’s standing vis-à-vis allies. He could be right, but I personally doubt it. The United States gave Afghanistan—a secondary cause by any standard—twenty years, substantial resources, and many military lives. That’s a commitment of serious heft, and one that gave Afghans a chance to come together as a society. That they failed reflects more on them than the United States. I suspect Taiwan would be grateful for a commitment of that magnitude and duration.

Taiwan, Keeping Calm And Watching China

Wen-Ti Sung

China has been flying a record number of military aircrafts into Taiwan's “air defense identification zone" in recent days, heightening regional concerns about the risk of military escalation or even an outright war.

Taiwanese people are largely alert, but not alarmed. So, why are the Taiwanese not losing their minds over what seems to be intensifying “drums of war"?

It comes down to familiarity with China's pattern of military pressure tactics, as well as a general alarm fatigue from decades of exposure.

Why is China flying so many jets near Taiwan?

Many Taiwanese see the Chinese military display as more of a show than a preparation for an all-out invasion. There are several reasons being China's "show of force" in recent days, pointing to short- and medium-term goals.

Is Chinese Overfishing Destroying the Environment?

Lyle J. Goldstein

Here's What You Need to Remember: Washington and its allies should instead adopt a more cooperative demeanor with the understanding that serious fishing disputes are extremely common all over the world and are rarely pleasant.

o believe the leading international media sources, Beijing is a giant, malicious “Death Star” of sorts, spreading environmental mayhem, political oppression, atheism, economic dependency, and increasingly wielding the coercive tools of a hegemonic power on a global scale. A rather typical rendering in this growing genre was an “in depth” investigation published on the front page of the New York Times that described a newly completed major Chinese dam project in Ecuador.

Explanations for the Labor Shortage

George Friedman

The current breakdown of the global supply chain threatens to change the future of the world. If this worsens, the fabric of the global economy will be torn – though I don’t know exactly how many months it would take – and reconstructing it will take longer than breaking it did.

Similar disruptions have been seen in wars when production facilities were destroyed and maritime trade was disrupted or suspended. In World War II, imposing economic disruption on the enemy while preventing the enemy from doing the same to you was if not the essence of the war then certainly critical. We are not seeing anywhere near those levels of disruption now, but the mechanics of what we are seeing have more in common with war than with ordinary economic events. Right now, it appears to be a major inconvenience. Over time, it could be much more.

Tanking Together: Why Biden and Trump are Both Underwater

Aram Bakshian Jr.

Even by today’s grotesque political standards, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are strange bedfellows indeed. Yet there they are—the tired old liberal hack from Delaware and the blustering, bullying billionaire bumpkin from Queens—tanking together in a spectacularly bipartisan political collapse. You might call it the “Biden-Trump Slump.”

Most current polling qualifies both the sitting Democratic president and his Republican predecessor as what The Donald would describe as “loo-sahs.” Despite approaching politics from opposite entry points, this seemingly disparate duo may be drifting toward a common destination: oblivion.

Why? Perhaps because, for all their differences, both men represent dead ends to an American electorate sick and tired of both the tone and the content of “politics as usual” as conducted today. No one can lower the tone of a political debate quite like Trump can, and no recent administration has come close to Biden’s bad content. From day one in office, Team Biden has ruthlessly but clumsily pursued a ruinously radical domestic agenda and disastrous foreign and immigration policies in what can only be described as a tragedy of errors, from the economy to crime, from Afghanistan to the Rio Grande.

US Army Is Scrutinizing Itself, Must Change Swiftly to Face China, Secretary Says


The U.S. Army is analyzing its force structure, infrastructure, modernization programs, and readiness in a bid to figure out how it can best focus its limited resources to deter or if necessary fight China, its toughest near-peer challenger since the Cold War, the service secretary said Monday.

“We're going to have to look hard at everything we do and everything about how we do,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during the opening ceremony of the Association of the United States Army’s 2021 annual meeting and exposition. “This work will not be easy, but it is needed. And given the challenges ahead, we may have to accept some risk now to avoid greater risk in the future.”

The data gathered during the analysis will help the Army figure out how it will fight and in what theatres, what capabilities to focus on, and also the performance of the new modernization programs, Wormuth said during a news conference Monday.

Biden’s Vague Muddle of a Trade Policy for China

Edward Alden

What should the Biden administration be doing about the U.S. trade and economic relationship with China? On Monday, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai finally laid out the administration’s long-awaited strategy, the outcome of what was said to be months of internal deliberations. If that is so, it’s hard to know what U.S. officials spent all that time talking about; the product is less a policy or a strategy than a shrug—they’re not really sure what to do about China, and they’ll let you know when they figure it out.

The confusion is understandable. Over the past two decades, the United States has pursued two different approaches that have utterly failed by their own measures. One was a multilateral strategy to entangle China in a web of trade rules and make it a “responsible stakeholder” in the global economic system. The other was a brute force bilateral effort to use import tariffs and other sanctions to force a recalcitrant China to reduce its subsidies and other trade distortions. Neither did the slightest to alter Chinese economic behavior, which continues to be driven primarily by the internal ambitions and fears of its Communist Party leadership.


Mason Clark and George Barros

Key Takeaway: Russia and Belarus conducted a joint strategic exercise in September 2021 that provides essential insight into the evolving capabilities of the Russian and Belarusian militaries. The exercise advanced the Kremlin's ongoing campaign to cement its control of the Belarusian military.

The Russian and Belarusian Armed Forces conducted the active phase of the Zapad-2021 large-scale annual military exercise from September 10-16. The Russian Armed Forces conduct strategic exercises each year in one of its four military districts (Western, Southern, Central, and Eastern) on a rotating basis. The Western Military District (WMD) hosted this year’s exercises, dubbed Zapad-2021. The Russian military conducts these rotating annual exercises to test the capabilities of each military district, experiment with force structure and operational concepts, and refine campaign planning. Each of these annual exercises features an “active phase,” a week-long scenario simulating major combat operations. The active phase is preceded by months of deployments and exercises preparing each participating unit for its role.

Olaf Scholz’s Quiet Revolution in German Economics

Caroline de Gruyter

At the meeting of finance ministers of the eurozone—the countries using the euro as their currency—in Luxembourg on Oct. 4, one prominent regular attendee was missing. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018, was otherwise occupied in Berlin. Eight days earlier, his Social Democratic Party (SPD) had won national elections under his leadership, making him the most likely person to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, pending coalition negotiations.

One might think that other eurozone countries would be filled with anxiety as they tracked Germany’s election and its aftermath, given its outsized weight in determining the EU’s common economic and financial policies. But the reality is that Europe is hardly worried at all. That’s because, although the government’s makeup remains to be determined—it’s still too early to say for certain whether Scholz will end up leading Germany, much less who will succeed him as finance minister—the culture of German economics has already changed significantly in recent years. And that’s not least because of Scholz’s own influence.

In Global Energy Crisis, Anti-Nuclear Chickens Come Home to Roost

Ted Nordhaus

For years, the proponents of wind and solar energy have promised us a green future with electricity too cheap to meter, new energy infrastructure with little environmental impact on the land, and deep cuts in carbon emissions. But despite the rapid growth of renewable energy, that future has yet to materialize. Instead, many of the places that are furthest along in transitioning to renewable energy are today facing a crisis of power shortages, sky-high electricity prices, and flat or rising carbon emissions.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered companies owning backup diesel generators to operate them nonstop when electricity demand is high in order to avoid rolling blackouts. In Britain, exploding natural gas prices have shuttered factories, bankrupted power companies, and threaten to cause food shortages. Germany, meanwhile, is set for the biggest jump in greenhouse emissions in 30 years due to surging use of coal for power generation, which the country depends on to back up weather-dependent wind and solar energy and fill the hole left by its shuttered nuclear plants.

Hybrid Warfare and Active Measures

Gabriel Lloyd


Since Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as Russia’s president following the tumultuous tenure of Boris Yeltsin, Russia has implemented a coordinated policy of conventional espionage measures, cyber intrusions, and information operations targeting the United States. Validated on the multi-domain battlefields and computer networks of vulnerable Baltic neighbors, Russia’s active campaigns of intelligence and influence operations have caught the United States off-guard. Four successive U.S. presidential administrations have grappled with Russian aggression, but U.S. responses have consistently lacked cohesion, strategy and effectiveness in deterrence. Russia’s weaponization of social media and willingness to attack the foundations of American democracy have made the development of a coherent U.S. strategy a matter of urgent national importance. By examining the underlying doctrine of hybrid warfare, the specific tactics that Putin’s Russia is using against the United States and highlighting recent U.S. responses to Russian espionage and cyber influence campaigns, this paper identifies the potent tools and patterns of hybrid warfare strategy that collectively constitute a growing threat to U.S. national security. While hybrid warfare falls short of conventional military conflict in the metric of physical destruction, its deleterious effects on American security are undeniable and suggest the need for a long-term, comprehensive strategy from the United States.

Japan Needs Drone Technology to Counter China

East Asia Forum

Heres What You Need To Be Remember: The PLA Navy is three times the size of the Maritime SDF and the gap is widening. Because of a lack of human resources and a relatively undersized defence budget, it will be difficult for Japan to catch up to China. Introducing sophisticated armed drones may be one strategy to bridge the gap.

Japan has been advancing its military modernisation program for several years. The driving motivation appears to be China, which aims to build a ‘world-class’ military by 2050. Japan’s 2021 defence white paper says that trends in the development of the Chinese military ‘have become a matter of grave concern’ to Japan and the region.

Despite significant investment in its Self-Defense Forces (SDF), Japan has been slow to adapt to drone technology. Although armed drones have proven efficiency in conflict, Japan hasn’t acquired any yet; it only has reconnaissance drones.

Yemen’s Most Pressing Problem Isn’t War. It’s the Economy.

Rafat Al-Akhali

On Sept. 22, a high-level United Nations meeting co-hosted by Sweden, Switzerland, and the European Union concluded with donors pledging an additional $600 million toward the U.N.’s $3.85 billion humanitarian response plan for Yemen. These pledges are vital, but the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is a symptom of an underlying economic conflict. This conflict has contributed significantly to increases in food and fuel prices, and de-conflicting among the parties involved needs to be prioritized.

I am a Yemeni national and have been working on developmental and governance issues in Yemen for almost two decades in multiple roles: as a co-founder and trustee of a number of leading civil society organizations; as the team lead for policy reforms at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in 2013 and 2014; as the minister of youth and sports in 2014 and 2015; as a senior advisor to international agencies on development, peace-building, and Yemen’s political economy; and as a researcher and practitioner on state fragility at Oxford University.

Cyber Threats And Vulnerabilities To Conventional And Strategic Deterrence – Analysis

 Mark Montgomery and Erica Borghard*

Scholars and practitioners in the area of cyber strategy and conflict focus on two key strategic imperatives for the United States: first, to maintain and strengthen the current deterrence of cyberattacks of significant consequence; and second, to reverse the tide of malicious behavior that may not rise to a level of armed attack but nevertheless has cumulative strategic implications as part of adversary campaigns. The Department of Defense (DOD) strategic concept of defend forward and U.S. Cyber Command’s concept of persistent engagement are largely directed toward this latter challenge. While the United States has ostensibly deterred strategic cyberattacks above the threshold of armed conflict, it has failed to create sufficient costs for adversaries below that threshold in a way that would shape adversary behavior in a desired direction.1 Effectively, this tide of malicious behavior represents a deterrence failure for strategic cyber campaigns below the use-of-force threshold; threat actors have not been dissuaded from these types of campaigns because they have not perceived that the costs or risks of conducting them outweigh the benefits.2 This breakdown has led to systemic and pervasive efforts by adversaries to leverage U.S. vulnerabilities and its large attack surface in cyberspace to conduct intellectual property theft—including critical national security intellectual property—at scale, use cyberspace in support of information operations that undermine America’s democratic institutions, and hold at risk the critical infrastructure that sustains the U.S. economy, national security, and way of life.