16 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 Space Program Inches Closer to America and the Quad

C. Raja Mohan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to privatize one of his country’s most zealously guarded governmental monopolies: the space sector. In a major speech at the inauguration of the Indian Space Association, a new industry grouping this week, Modi called for a new approach, where, he said, the private sector is free to innovate and the government becomes an enabler.

The announcement was a significant step in Modi’s efforts to pull private resources into India’s space sector, which has rapidly fallen behind global peers as space competition heats up in telecommunications, resource exploration, planetary expeditions, and defense. What’s more, Modi’s reorientation of India’s space policy is yet another indication of the profound shift in New Delhi’s geostrategic orientation.

Modi’s government has been exploring common ground on space security issues bilaterally with the United States and also plans to work with India’s partners in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue—Australia, Japan, and the United States—to leverage their collective space capabilities. For now, these would include areas like monitoring climate change, managing disasters, and mapping precious natural resources from space. For the first time, New Delhi is also ready to work with Washington and its allies on setting new global norms to manage space, including rules for commercial competition and the use of space for defense.

The Taliban’s Sharia Is the Most Brutal of All

Anchal Vohra

Late last month, the Taliban killed four men and hung their dead bodies in public squares in the northwestern Afghan city of Herat. One lifeless corpse dangled off a crane above throngs of commuters who were stunned at the exhibition and grasping the significance of the moment—a return to the past. The group’s newly appointed mayor declared the killed as kidnappers and boasted about the display of the dead as an effective deterrent. He warned: Other criminals would meet the same fate.

Due process was an additional casualty of the Taliban’s speedy verdict, however. There was no court case, no jury, no one to check the Taliban’s claims.

The hangings came just a day after Mullah Nooruddin Turabi—previously head of the Taliban’s notorious Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice two decades ago and now in charge of prisons—said that the Taliban will resume amputations and executions. “No one will tell us what our laws should be,” he told the Associated Press, as if severing limbs and stoning women buried up to their chest were not brutal acts but a matter of sovereignty and cultural preference.

Afghanistan Is Facing a Total Economic Meltdown

Jan Egeland

When I was traveling around Kabul a few weeks ago, the city felt worlds apart from my last visit in 2019 — and not just because a 20-year war had finally ended. The economy is spiraling out of control. And unless money starts flowing soon, a total economic collapse will plunge Afghans into a humanitarian catastrophe.

The desperation is everywhere. Mothers I sat down with in makeshift tents told me their families have no income and no reserves, and they’re worried that their children will starve and freeze to death this winter.

I met teachers, health workers and water engineers who have not been paid since May. They can no longer support their extended families or keep vital public services afloat. Without functioning banks and liquidity, ordinary Afghans are cut off from their life savings and have no way of surviving.

Order Before Peace

Martin Indyk

The ignominious end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan dramatically underscored the complexity and volatility of the broader Middle East. Americans may try to console themselves that at last they can turn their backs on this troubled region since the United States is now energy self-sufficient and thus much less dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Washington has learned the hard way not to attempt to remake the region in the United States’ image. And if American leaders are tempted to make war there again, they are likely to find little public support.

Nevertheless, pivoting away from the broader Middle East is easier said than done. If Iran continues to advance its nuclear program to the threshold of developing a weapon, it could trigger an arms race or a preemptive Israeli strike that would drag the United States back into another Middle Eastern war. The region remains important because of its geostrategic centrality, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Israel and Washington’s Arab allies depend on the United States for their security. Failing states such as Syria and Yemen remain a potential breeding ground for terrorists who can strike the United States and its allies. And although the United States no longer depends on the free flow of oil from the Gulf, a prolonged interruption there could send the global economy into a tailspin. Like it or not, the United States needs to devise a post-Afghanistan strategy for promoting order in the Middle East even as it shifts its focus to other priorities.

Keep Your Eyes on Afghanistan’s ISIS-K


The terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, provided one of the last searing images of the United States’ 20-year counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan when two of its suicide bombers killed thirteen U.S. troops at Kabul’s international airport, the deadliest day for U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan since 2011.

But with that attack, ISIS also meant to demonstrate that the Taliban were unfit to protect Afghanistan. Instead, ISIS’s attack hastened the final U.S. troop withdrawal from Kabul, allowing the Taliban to finalize its fait accompli takeover of Afghanistan. Now, jihadists of all stripes are rejuvenated by the Taliban’s victory, but with one notable exception: ISIS. The group that once was able to take half of Iraq and Syria still lurks with designs against the Taliban and the world. That’s why the United States should not discount ISIS-K’s threat in Afghanistan and beyond.

The Taliban is Helping Americans Leave Afghanistan

Trevor Filseth

Following the Taliban capture of Kabul on August 15, with hundreds of American civilians still present in the city, there were fears that the group would attempt to institute reprisals against Americans or otherwise prevent them from leaving the country.

However, while there have been reports of reprisals against some Afghans who served alongside the United States during its twenty-year presence in Afghanistan, U.S. citizens have mostly been left alone, possibly due to the Taliban’s growing concerns about its international reputation and its desire for diplomatic recognition abroad.

As a consequence of this, many U.S. citizens wishing to leave Afghanistan have been able to leave without pushback from the country’s new government. Business Insider reported that Project Dynamo, an NGO created to help evacuate Americans and Afghans attempting to leave the country, had had few difficulties in evacuating Americans.

Why Anglo-French relations will only get worse

James Forsyth

The French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has given a very frank interview to the New York Times. It is principally about tensions between Paris and Washington post AUKUS, but it also shows why Anglo-French relations are, sadly, only going to get worse.

The UK accepts, as Australia does, that balancing China is going to require US leadership. France thinks its interests are very different. Le Maire tells the paper that, 'The United States wants to confront China. The European Union wants to engage China'. He thinks the key challenge for the EU now is to become 'independent from the United States, able to defend its own interests, whether economic or strategic interests.' (Safe to say, the Baltic states—to name just three—wouldn’t regard this as the EU’s big challenge. They still emphatically prefer a US security guarantee to a European one).

As America's pivot to Asia intensifies, the split between the UK and France over the right attitude to Washington will sharpen. Paris will see the US shift as enhancing the case for European strategic autonomy while London will regard the major challenge as keeping Nato relevant to the US so that European members continue to be protected by Article 5.

This divide over foreign policy would mean that even if it wasn’t for fishing licenses, small boats, the Northern Ireland protocol, Brexit and the rest, Anglo-French relations would be in for a difficult period. But the combination of all of these factors means that this relationship is going to become ever more strained. It might well be too optimistic to imagine that things will automatically improve once Emmanuel Macron has got his re-election campaign out of the way.

Macron and Boris Johnson both can’t resist playing to their domestic galleries and riling the other side. Yet, there’s more to Anglo-French disputes than just domestic politics. The two major defence players in Europe have very different views on future strategy.

The Problem with Sole Purpose and No First Use

Michael Rühle


As the security environment changes, so does the value of certain policies and concepts. What may have looked like a bad idea in the past may look much better once circumstances change and a re-evaluation occurs. However, some bad ideas remain bad ideas, irrespective of changing circumstances. This is because despite their intellectual consistency, they tend to create more problems than they claim to solve.

Two classic examples of such policy ideas are the proposals for adopting a “No First Use” policy (NFU) and a “Sole Purpose” declaration (SP).[2] Despite exerting a certain fascination on some defense intellectuals, both ideas made little sense in the past, and they continue to make little sense today. This is not to deny that some of the circumstances that once made them look reckless, such as the Soviet Union’s massive conventional superiority in the Cold War, have disappeared. However, the implicit assumption of its proponents, namely that today’s environment is more conducive for such policy changes, remains fundamentally flawed.

The West and China Are Converging on Online Speech and Privacy Rights

Howard W. French

Near the outset of my time as a correspondent for The New York Times in China in the early 2000s, during one of my regular conversations with my research assistants, I had an idea for a story that I thought was promising. Beijing was just then cracking down on both video game parlors and internet access, with authorities saying that age limits needed to be imposed and real-name identification required in order to do many things online.

At the time, the state used pornography as the rationale for the moves, arguing that online smut would poison the minds of the youth if strict controls were not placed on internet use. Surely, I told my staff, all of them Chinese nationals, this is just political cover in order to justify encroaching on online freedoms more generally. But they did not agree. How could anyone defend pornography, one of them objected? Although I thought I had made it obvious, that was not my intention.

How China Is Planning For a Tech Decoupling


Rising tensions between the U.S. and China and the recognition of a new kind of race for technological advantage has led Washington to tighten restrictions on Chinese companies’ access to critical technologies and to reevaluate the China-U.S. STEM talent pipeline. China is responding with preparations for a lengthy tech competition and decoupling (what it terms 中美科技脱钩). A notable set of recommendations by Chinese military strategists sheds light on possible policy countermoves.

In July 2021, three PLA analysts presented a research brief that analyzes over 450 policy reports and documents published in the past four years by the U.S. government and the broader policy community and then suggested ways China might respond. The report’s authors say they are affiliated with the “National Innovation Research Institute.” But the lead author, Maj. Gen. Lu Zhoulai, was in 2018 identified as the political commissar of the National Defense S&T Innovation Institute of the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army. This academy is the Chinese Communist Party’s top military research institute; it is believed to formulate “military theory”—doctrine—for the PLA. The innovation institute was established there in 2017 to foster defense S&T development strategies and cutting-edge technologies.

China and the ‘Asia-South America Digital Door’

Lauren Ashmore

With national general elections fast approaching in November, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera made official visits to Colombia, Paraguay, and Uruguay during the last days of September. Issues such as COVID-19 recovery, further regional integration and the continent’s digital transformation were high on the agenda. It was in this atmosphere of post-pandemic planning that Piñera invited his Uruguayan counterpart, President Luis Lacalle Pou, to join Chile’s “Asia-South America Digital Door.” This project, commonly referred to as the Humboldt project, aims to connect South America with the Asia-Pacific region through a series of transpacific submarine fiber-optic cables.

While approximately 99 percent of international communication passes through submarine cables, there are currently no cables directly connecting South America with the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, most traffic still flows through the United States before crossing the Pacific. The Humboldt project will lay eight submarine cables across the Pacific Ocean floor, beginning in the coastal Chilean city of Valparaiso and making first landfall 13,000 kilometers to the west in Auckland, New Zealand. The overall cost of the project, which will begin construction in 2022, is estimated at $450 million and will be financed from both public and private sources. Now that both Argentina and Brazil are signed up to the Chilean-led project, Uruguay has been invited to follow suit.

The Man Behind Xi Jinping’s Foreign Policy

Peter Martin

The daunting task of keeping up with Xi Jinping’s foreign policy ambitions fell to Wang Yi. Born in Beijing in 1953, the same year as Xi, Wang also spent a good chunk of his adolescence as a “sent down” youth during the Cultural Revolution, when he spent eight years laboring on a farm in the northeast. Always a harder worker than others, Wang taught himself literature and history, a former classmate told the Christian Science Monitor. He was “quite open minded. He did not just accept what he was told,” the classmate remembered.

After the Cultural Revolution, Wang was admitted to Beijing International Studies University, a foreign ministry feeder school. He then joined the Asian Affairs Department in the foreign ministry and started climbing the ranks as a Japan specialist. He became fluent in both Japanese and English and even spent a year in Washington studying at Georgetown University from 1997 to 1998.

Wang’s background was modest but, like Li Zhaoxing and Dai Bingguo before him, he married into China’s foreign policy aristocracy. Wang’s father-in-law, Qian Jiadong, had been one of Zhou Enlai’s top aides and China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

The Biggest Loser of Iraq’s Election Could Be Iran

Mina Al-Oraibi

On Sunday, Iraq held its fifth national elections since the removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with the national parliament’s 329 seats at stake. While final results have yet to be announced, the biggest losers appear to be pro-Iranian militant groups, which have already said they’ll reject the outcome and have issued veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence.

Another loser of the election is Iraq’s struggling democracy itself. Believing their system to be manipulated, about 60 percent of eligible voters stayed away from the polls. That hasn’t kept the government and election monitors from touting the vote as a success—it went relatively smoothly, there were no incidents of violence, and most voters had easy access to polling stations. Electronic voting and biometric registration cards had been introduced with the promise of eliminating the kind of fraud that undermined the last elections in 2018.

However, the Iraqi government and Independent High Electoral Commission promised to deliver the results within 24 hours of the polls closing, which would have been Monday night. Instead, the results of only 10 provinces were announced on Monday, with Baghdad and eight other provinces still trickling in. When the electoral commission made the initial results public online, its website crashed as Iraqis rushed to see the results. A delay in electronic vote counting meant that some boxes had to be counted manually without external monitors, further undermining Iraqis’ trust.

After Spike in Ransomware Attacks, U.S. Looks to Go on the Offensive

Robbie Gramer

The Biden administration convened a virtual summit of more than 30 countries to combat the growing threat of ransomware attacks after a recent spike in high-profile cyberattacks exposed vulnerabilities in critical U.S. infrastructure.

The summit, taking place Wednesday and Thursday, is the newest and most high-profile diplomatic push by the administration to ramp up efforts to target cybercriminals and defend against cyberattacks.

“We cannot do this alone,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday. “No one country, no one group can solve this problem. Transnational criminals are most often the perpetrators of ransomware crimes, and they often leverage global infrastructure and money laundering networks across multiple countries, multiple jurisdictions to carry out their attacks.”

Pentagon says hypersonic weapons are too expensive

Mike Stone

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The Pentagon wants defense contractors to cut the ultimate cost of hypersonic weapons, the head of research and development said on Tuesday, as the next generation of super-fast missiles being developed currently cost tens of millions per unit.

"We need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics," Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu told reporters at the Association of United States Army conference in Washington. She said cost was something she "would like to help industry focus on."

Currently, the U.S. uses cruise missiles which are mature technologies costing less than $5 million per unit to strike deep into enemy territory. But cruise missiles are inferior to hypersonic weapons because they have a shorter range, are far slower and more vulnerable to being detected and shot down.

France And America: A Vital Alliance To Ensure An Open And Free Indo-Pacific

Robert C. O'Brien and Alexander Gray

The recently announced Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) security agreement is a positive step for the U.S. defense posture in the Indo-Pacific and will strengthen regional security against Chinese Communist Party ambitions. The pact’s sharing of nuclear submarine technology with Australia will enhance the Royal Australian Navy as a deterrent force in the Pacific and, combined with the growing vitality of the Quad (the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India), demonstrate to Beijing the commitment of the U.S.-led security architecture to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The implementation of AUKUS, unfortunately, led to the most pronounced rupture in Franco-American relations since the 1790s, with the recall of France’s ambassador to Washington. France is protesting Australia’s scrapping of a previous $66 billion submarine deal with French shipbuilder, The Naval Group. France’s leadership was blindsided by the new AUKUS accord, learning about it from press reports and not its allies the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

Worsening global digital divide as the US and China continue zero-sum competitions

Cheng Li

The COVID-19 crisis has interrupted daily life and business routines across the world, caused a massive loss of millions of lives, and exacerbated economic disparities within and between countries. COVID-19 has also revealed fundamental challenges in the international order. As Kissinger has asserted, “the world will never be the same after the coronavirus.” One can reasonably expect that cynicism regarding regional and global integration, as well as radical populism, racism, ultra-nationalism and xenophobia, will likely continue to rise around the world.

At this critical juncture, it has become even more essential to examine the urgent challenges that the world confronts and to engage in global cooperation instead of devolving into constant contention and confrontation. One of the most urgent tasks for the international community is to overcome growing digital divides.

Digital divides in least developed countries (LDCs) have been particularly salient, as digitally disconnected populations have been left further behind during the pandemic. The U.S. and China, two superpowers in the digital era, should work in tandem with the international community to jointly combat digital divides and COVID-19.

The Joint Expeditionary Force: Toward a Stronger and More Capable European Defense?

Sean Monaghan

In recent weeks, military-exercise watchers in Europe have focused on Russia’s annual “Zapad” affair. But another significant exercise in nearby Älvdalen, Sweden, has flown largely under the radar: the Joint Protector exercise, featuring the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF). What is the JEF, and what does it mean for transatlantic security? If it offers a route to—in the words of the White House—a stronger and more capable European defense, what role can the United States play in support?

What Is the JEF?

The JEF is a UK-led multinational force. It is based on a political-military agreement between 10 northern European nations: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It can act independently, with allies or as part of a UN or NATO operation to prevent or respond to crises. While naturally focused on northern Europe—including the High North, North Atlantic, and Baltic region—as its name suggests, the JEF can conduct expeditionary operations farther afield. It is capable of a wide range of missions, from humanitarian crises to high-end combat operations.

War at the Speed of Light

Joshua Huminski

The character and conduct of warfare are inextricably linked to the evolution of technology. Warfare is a driver of technological innovation, and innovation itself changes how wars are fought in often unforeseen and unpredictable ways. The pace of technological change is accelerating and, at the same time, the impact of those same changes is exponentially growing—a sort of Moore’s Law for warfare.[1]

Louis A. Del Monte’s latest book, War at the Speed of Light: Directed-Energy Weapons and the Future of Twenty-First Century Warfare, explores how lasers, electromagnetic weapons, and other energy-based or energy-driven weapons could change how future wars are fought. Del Monte argues these technologies will accelerate the pace of war. The use of directed-energy weapons will mean a faster time to kill resulting in smaller windows for decision making at all levels of conflict. Taken together with artificial intelligence and cyber weapons, Del Monte argues these changes will upend strategic stability as we understand it today.

The Facebook Outage Also Highlights the Internet’s Aging Foundations

Emily Taylor

Facebook had a week from hell last week, even without the testimony to Congress of whistleblower Frances Haugen. Two separate technical outages knocked out its entire suite of services—Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Oculus and Instagram. The incident highlights the fragility that a massive consolidation of resources brings to the global information and communications network, caused by the emergence of supernodes such as Facebook and its Big Tech rivals. It also reveals the disparity of public debate surrounding social media platforms on one hand and the internet’s foundational protocols on the other. (In the interests of transparency, Facebook is a client of my company, Oxford Information Labs, but the information in this piece is derived only from public sources.)

The second Facebook outage—which occurred on Friday, Oct. 8—was bad; a configuration error brought down some services for a proportion of users. But the preceding outage on Monday, Oct. 4, was awful, a disastrous spiral of events that led to a single configuration error taking out some of the world’s most popular digital services for six hours.

Sorry: Aircraft Carriers Won’t Rule the Seas Forever


Here's What You Need to Know: The aircraft carrier will not be the relevant weapon in the second half of the century.

“History,” it has been written, “does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Today it’s rhyming with Gen. Billy Mitchell. In the 1920s, Mitchell challenged conventional thinking by advocating air power at sea in the face of a naval establishment dominated by battleship proponents.

The hubris of the “battleship Navy” was such that just nine days before Pearl Harbor, the official program for the 1941 Army-Navy game displayed a full page photograph of the battleship USS Arizona with language virtually extolling its invincibility.

Of course, the reason that no one had yet sunk a battleship from the air — in combat — was that no one had yet tried.

The Biggest Lesson from the Army’s Connect-Everything Experiment


Three weeks of data-crunching at Aberdeen Proving Grounds convinced one top Army combat-development leader that he’s seen the way of the future.

In August, Army testers were preparing for next month’s Project Convergence experiment, the service’s flagship effort to try new ideas for linking data and accelerating operations. Last year’s version was less than perfect, Lt. Gen. James M. Richardson, deputy commanding general for combat development at Army Futures Command, acknowledged Tuesday. So testers decided to run data collected during the 2020 experiment through a “joint systems integration laboratory” at Aberdeen to get a better picture of how the various battlefield sensors and shooters were connecting.

The lab was, in essence, a place where the Army can look at various tools, software programs, and networks not to see if they work but to make sure that they connect with each other and with other nodes in the network. Compare that to traditional weapons testing, where the military simply tests to make sure the weapon or tool works by itself. It’s another example of the military gradually overcoming communication barriers between services and pieces of equipment.

‘Global By Nature’: Generals Say Unified Network Is ‘Operational Imperative’


AUSA: Following Friday’s release of the Army’s new Unified Network Plan, key generals recently talked about the central role a unified network will play in moving the service toward its vision of Multi-Domain Operations by 2028.

“[The UNP] provides an operational framework for how we want to move forward,” Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff G6 Army, said at the 2021 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting on Monday. “The unified network is not a new thing. The unified network is not a requirement. It’s an operational imperative.”

In announcing the UNP on Friday, the Army said, “The Unified Network will enable Army formations, as part of the Joint Force, to operate in highly contested and congested operational environments with the speed and global range to achieve decision dominance and maintain overmatch. The plan shapes, synchronizes, integrates, and governs Unified Network efforts and aligns the personnel, organizational structure, and capabilities required to enable MDO at all echelons.”