24 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.

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Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.

The Indian Space Association seeks to broaden commercial interests

Ajey Lele

At present, the Indian satellite industry is around 2% of the $360 billion global market. However, India wants to make it big. Can India do it? Does India having the technological base to make a difference? Or is India becoming overambitious and trying to punch above its own weight?

The first major technology transfer involves outsourcing the development of the PSLV. India proposes to develop a private-industry structure to conduct satellite launches fully on commercial terms.

There may not be any clear-cut answers to such questions at this point in time. However, the pattern of reforms the Indian space industry is witnessing does indicate that India is seriously and sincerely trying to make it big in the space domain. The path may not be easy, but the approach appears to be honest. The founding of the Indian Space Association (ISpA) on October 11 should be viewed as an important step in the direction of reforming the space industry.

India’s Dilemma: Strategic Autonomy or New Alliances?

Dr Auriol Weigold

The “rebirth” of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad”, is an outcome of China’s assertive policies. Despite not yet being as comfortable in its relationship with the United States as it is with Japan, New Delhi’s ties to Washington are progressing faster than ever before, although Prime Minister Modi’s fixation on a “Hindu” India could act as a brake on that alignment.

Key Points

The “rebirth” of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an outcome of China’s assertive policies.

The sanctions placed on China, the Malabar naval exercises with Australia in attendance, and India’s more deliberate engagement with the other Quad members are also the result of China’s assertiveness.

Despite not yet being as comfortable in its relationship with the United States as it is with Japan, New Delhi’s ties to Washington are progressing faster than ever before.

A Remote Corner of Afghanistan Offers a Peek Into the Future of the Country

Franz J. Marty

KAMDESH, NURISTAN — In the dead of night on August 30, 2021, the last U.S. forces stepped off the tarmac of Kabul Airport onto a plane and left Afghanistan. It was almost 20 years after the first U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to go after al-Qaida and topple the Emirate of the Taliban that sheltered them. In a twist that would have been unimaginable back in late 2001, by the time the U.S. left the Taliban again held sway in the capital Kabul and practically in the whole of Afghanistan – a feat that they did not even achieve at the prior height of their power in September 2001.

What the future holds for Afghanistan is difficult to predict and depends on what exactly the Taliban and the international community will do in the next weeks and months. However, the situation in one remote corner of Afghanistan offers a peek into the future of the whole country.

China Isn’t the Only One Arming Up in Asia

Howard W. French

In July, an obscure but important body called the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced the 77th launch of the Long March 2C orbital launch vehicle, a workhorse of China’s ballistic missile and space programs. Then, in late August, a little more than a month later, the academy announced the Long March’s 79th launch.

At a minimum, for the specialists who monitor such things, the omission of a 78th launch seemed to portend something odd and potentially momentous. Now, nearly two months later, following a scoop by the Financial Times, the world found out that China has begun testing a terrifying new weapons system that few had expected to be so far along in its development.

The Taiwan Triangle


NEW YORK – The relationship between the United States and China promises to do much to define this era. And what could determine this relationship might well be whether the two countries are able to continue to avoid armed conflict over Taiwan. But with signs that the chances of conflict are growing, the question facing the US and its partners is how to avoid that outcome without sacrificing essential interests.

At least 15 million people today are stateless, and millions more are threatened with national exclusion. The issue of statelessness thus demands urgent attention, as do works of history that shed light on the problem.

Conceptual framing is always critical to foreign policy. This is no exception. There are problems and there are situations. Problems can in principle be solved. Situations can at best be managed. Taiwan is a situation. Attempts to treat it as a solvable problem will not just fail, but most likely result in a conflict that will leave the US, Taiwan, China, and others in the region and the world much worse off. The reason is that there is no possible outcome that would be universally acceptable.

China Allegedly Tested a Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Weapon. Now What?


Revelations over a secret Chinese weapon test have stoked fresh fears in Washington that the two nations are approaching a strategic crossroads amid a sweeping build-up of Beijing’s nuclear arsenal.

The Chinese military, in the midst of a complete modernization of its strategic forces, is expected to at least double its number of nuclear warheads over the next decade. It has quietly constructed hundreds of new silos capable of launching long-range ballistic missiles. Now, U.S. officials say, China is fine-tuning the design of a new lightning-quick weapon system engineered to evade America’s multi-billion-dollar early warning and defense systems.

The Financial Times reported on Saturday that a Chinese rocket in August carried a sleek spacecraft into orbit where it separated, circumnavigated the globe, then re-entered the atmosphere at blistering speeds before plunging back to Earth. Although the glider reportedly missed its target by about 25 miles, the error would be negligible if, say, it was carrying a thermonuclear warhead targeting an American city.

Why China’s Hypersonic Missile Tests Are So Concerning

Klon Kitchen

This weekend, the Financial Times reported that, back in August, China successfully tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that went into space and orbited the globe before reentering earth’s atmosphere and landing within a couple dozen miles of its intended target. The article’s authors, Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille, also claim American intelligence agencies were “surprised” by the test and that it “showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials realized.”

Now nerds like me are all speculating about the implications of this development. What does this capability mean for the balance of power between the United States and China? Are the two nations now officially in a “cold war?” Are U.S. companies and technologies assisting China’s military rise? And, why were our intelligence agencies “surprised?”

I’ll take each of these questions in turn.

China's orbiting missile exploits weakness in US defences

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - China's reported launch of a hypersonic missile into orbit has raised concerns that United States rivals are quickly neutralising the Pentagon's missile defences even as it invests tens of billions of dollars in upgrades.

In a test two months ago, the Chinese military sent a nuclear-capable missile into low-orbit space and around the globe before cruising down to its target, the Financial Times reported on Saturday (Oct 16), citing sources familiar with the matter.

Although the weapon missed its mark by about two dozen miles, the paper said, the technology, once perfected, could be used to send nuclear warheads over the South Pole and around American anti-missile systems in the northern hemisphere.

China disputed the paper's account, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian describing it as a "routine test of a space vehicle to verify technology for spacecraft reusability" and comparing it with systems being developed by private companies.

Faced With Multiple Crises, the Chinese Economy is Slowing Down

Trevor Filseth

China’s economy, wracked by crises ranging from power outages and flare-ups of COVID-19 to ideological crackdowns and the ailing health of the real estate sector, grew at its slowest rate in more than a year, based on data released by the country’s official National Bureau of Statistics.

The data released on Monday showed that China’s GDP had grown at a rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter—the slowest growth rate since the third quarter of 2020 when China was still recovering from the pandemic. This growth rate was slightly lower than most economists expected, according to polls conducted by Reuters and AFP, where the average expectations were 5.2 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

While a 4.9 percent growth rate would be excellent news for most developed countries, it is a decrease from China’s Q2 growth rate of 7.9 percent, and its astonishing Q1 growth rate of 18.3 percent.

Iran Won’t Stop Until It Has a Nuclear Weapon

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh

The Islamic Republic of Iran is led by an ardent ideological regime that frequently relies on conspiracies to explain its predicament. Leaders of the regime speak incessantly about the cabal of Zionists and Jews who control America and plot against the Islamic revolution. Mr. Khamenei and his henchmen haven’t spent billions and endured a tidal wave of sanctions and social unrest only to get close to a nuclear weapon. They will build the bomb as soon as they can and justify it afterward.

The Iranian theocracy has gradually transformed itself. Mr. Khamenei has purged the pragmatists from Iranian leadership. The reformers who rallied around Mohammad Khatami (president from 1997 through 2005) and believed the theocracy could be softened, even superannuated, through the ballot box have been banned from the corridors of power. Even conservatives who contemplated diplomatic engagement with the West to enhance the regime’s status and economic power, like former President Hassan Rouhani (2013-21) and former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (2008-20), are denied a seat at the table. Iran is becoming less subtle. The new president, Ebrahim Raisi, is the personification of the new elite—cruel, dogmatic and indifferent to Western sensibilities.

Regional Realignment in the Middle East?

Brandon Friedman

Members of two rival camps in the Sunni Middle East - Qatar and Turkey on one side, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, on the other - have continued a sustained diplomatic effort at reconciliation this summer. In mid-August the UAE's National Security Adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met with Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This was followed two weeks later by a "positive" phone call between Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and the Turkish president. On September 7-8, Egyptian and Turkish officials held their second round of talks in Ankara. The earlier round, held in Cairo in May, was the first effort to normalize relations between the two states since 2013. Turkey also made efforts in April and May to repair the rupture in bilateral ties with the Saudi Kingdom. In January 2021, Qatar publicly reconciled with the Saudis at a very high profile summit in Al Ula. In February and March, Qatari officials held high-level meetings with the Saudis, Emiratis, and Egyptians. On August 25, a senior Qatari official delivered a personal message from the Emir to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed, and the next day Emirati Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed visited Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In a sign of the delicate progress between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors, on September 17, the Saudi Gazette tweeted a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman standing beside Qatari Emir Tamim Al Thani and Emirati Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, all casually dressed, in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

US admits Pentagon doesn’t know how to defend against China’s hypersonic missiles

Joel Gehrke

U.S. military forces “don’t know how to defend” against China and Russia’s most advanced missile systems, a senior U.S. diplomat has acknowledged.

This comes after a shocking report that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile earlier this year. The Chinese government has disputed the report, claiming they were testing a spacecraft instead.

Ambassador Robert Wood, who represents the United States at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. (Jamey Keaten/AP)

“Hypersonic technology is something that we have been concerned about,” said Ambassador Robert Wood, who represents the United States at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. “We just don't know how we can defend against that technology, neither does China, neither does Russia.”

The Weakness in the U.S.’ Understanding of Taiwan


OPINION – Taiwan today, appears to be the newest test for a potential American military intervention.

“The CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] ultimate objective isn’t invasion, but instead a process between China and Taiwan authorities to negotiate the formal, long-term political relationship across the [Taiwan] Strait. Military, economic, information, and diplomatic coercion and inducements would all be in play, and the red line for threatened military force would shift from preventing permanent separation to a refusal by Taipei to begin the political process.”

Speaking was John Culver, a retired, 35-year Central Intelligence Agency analyst during a Brookings Institute interview on March 30. From 2015 to 2018, Culver served on the National Intelligence Council as national intelligence officer for East Asia.

Here’s what’s wrong.

One lesson from Vietnam 50 years ago, and more recently from Afghanistan, should be that U.S. policymakers need to listen to experts.

Big Tech fails to stand with America against China


U.S. corporations have been essential to defeating America’s enemies.

During World War II, big business made the United States the "arsenal of democracy." It helped to defeat genocidal fascism. Innovation, spurred by cooperative efforts between government and business, was equally important to winning the Cold War.

Unfortunately, today, many U.S. tech giants are unwilling to help their country counter totalitarian China. Worse still, others are aiding the Chinese Communist Party.

On Sept. 2, the U.S. Air Force’s software chief, Nicolas Chaillan, resigned in protest at the current situation. In an Oct. 10 interview, Chaillan told the Financial Times that he quit over the slow pace of the technological transformation of the U.S. military.

"We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years," he warned . "Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion." Beijing, he told the Financial Times, is well on its way to global dominance in sectors that will be key to the future: artificial intelligence, cybercapabilities, and machine learning.

Afghanistan and the Future of US Foreign Policy

David S. Clukey

September 11, 2021 marked 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 (911) and shortly before this solemn commemoration, on August 30, the United States (US) withdrew the last of its military forces from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA).[1] Prior to the withdrawal, US forces had been on the ground in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. In these two decades, the US spent over $2 trillion USD[2] and invested over 2,300[3] in human capital to offer Afghanistan a chance for prosperity. Unfortunately, the way the US withdrew from Afghanistan appeared as curious as it did haphazard. On a global stage, the US orchestrated a series of diplomatic, tactical, and strategic missteps that were all preventable. Although cringeworthy and tragic, these recent missteps offer opportunity for reflection and lessons to learn from; as did the way the US approached the war in Afghanistan.

“Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.” – Ernest Hemingway

The great irony is the US capitulated to the very terrorist group it drove from power 20 years earlier, and in doing so, created a pathway to enable the Taliban to recreate the conditions that precipitated 911 to begin with. In order to better understand the events that led to this and assist decision makers preclude a costly calamity like this in the future, this essay examines three US policy failures consisting of: (1) connection to the conflict; (2) mission creep; and (3) diplomacy, and how these lessons may shape future US foreign policy and armed conflicts.

FCC Commissioner Calls Chinese Drone Company a Potential 'Airborne Version of Huawei'


Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr has called for Chinese drone company DJI to be placed on a blacklist, warning that the company could be "an airborne version of Huawei."

Carr's remarks were included in a Tuesday FCC news release that described DJI as a potential "Huawei on Wings." Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications and electronics company, was blacklisted in the U.S. in 2019 over concerns that the company's technology could be used to aid Chinese government espionage efforts. Carr suggested that products made by DJI, the world's largest maker of drones, could be used in similar ways.

"DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data," Carr said. "Everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual's body temperature and heart rate."

Colonial Pipeline Hack Shows Peril Of Ignoring Military Cyber Vulnerabilities: Kendall


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.: The Colonial Pipeline hack should serve as a wake up call for the US military, which needs to move quickly to protect its logistics enterprise from cyber attacks, two top defense officials said today.

In May, Russian-based hackers breached Colonial Pipeline’s networks, causing a gas shortage, skyrocketing fuel prices and ultimately costing the company $5 million in ransom money — and all those hackers needed was one password, said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who spoke at the National Defense Transportation Association conference Monday.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. If we don’t protect our data, it is wide open for our competitors to steal or manipulate and to disrupt our military operations,” he said.

Kendall is not the only defense official concerned with the department’s vulnerability to cyber attacks.

What Have We Learned: From 20 Years In Afghanistan

Mike Shaler

“No Valor Citation ever began: ‘As things went according to plan….’ “

Attributed to Mike Nelson (Tweet), August 25, 2021

The War In Afghanistan had a beginning --- In Central Command Headquarters, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida --- Army General Tommy Franks was the Commander of United States Central Command --- In his book ‘American Soldier’, he wrote:

“October 7, 2001. It was 0900 on Sunday, October 7, 2001,

less than one month since 9/11. The war would begin

in three and a half hours.” [Footnote 1]

And today, President Biden, in a speech delivered from the White House,

announced the end:

Red Lines & Baselines: Towards a European Multistakeholder Approach to Counter Disinformation

Governments, industry and civil society are struggling to find effective ways to respond to this challenge. Disinformation is a field that lacks consensus for a common unilateral solution due to its enormously complex nature, the wide range of actors involved, and the dilemmas it presents across many issues, such as security and human rights.

Nonetheless, ‘rules of the road’ are needed. Given the relative success that cyber norms have had in establishing a common standard of acceptable behavior, this report asks what kind of international norms can be developed to counter disinformation. And finally, how can these norms be advanced?

This report addresses these questions by proposing:

a government-to-government “big N Norm” proposal based on noninterference and covert election interference

a European industry charter of “small n norms” or standards for social media platforms

a European coregulation model to guide the development of these standards from formulation to implementation


Joseph Mroszczyk and Max Abrahms

The appeal of terrorist groups remains strong. For at least the past two decades, the United States and its allies have pursued terrorist organizations across the globe, disrupting their networks, killing or capturing their leaders, and removing their safe havens. Yet with the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan, jihadist organizations expanding across Africa, and the threat of an Islamic State resurgence in Iraq, tactical military successes have not defeated them entirely.

Terrorist organizations remain resilient in part because they possess advantages over the US government in the information environment. The nature of the information environment—in which a statement, photo, or video is disseminated worldwide in an instant—often forces the United States into a reactive posture, allowing terrorist groups to maneuver freely toward their messaging objectives.

Terrorist groups manipulate information for a variety of goals, including to recruit new members, distance themselves from attacks that are politically costly, and issue threats that can change the behavior of their targets. In response, the United States struggles to keep pace, consistently identifying the problem while falling short of making the changes necessary to compete. Today, faced with adversaries that are far more sophisticated than any terrorist group, the United States would do well to learn from its mistakes in the information environment over the past two decades of counterterrorism operations if it hopes to compete more successfully with Russia and China.

“Digital Soldier Reporting for Duty”: Far-Right Reactions to Major App Outages

Sara Aniano

On 4 October 2021, just one day after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen went public about the company’s prioritisation of boosting engagement over disinformation mitigation, Facebook experienced an hours-long outage that rendered its platform – along with its other apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp – virtually inaccessible. While this may have been a temporary interruption in communication for most, the timing of this incident had far-right social media users positing that the outage was a meaningful omen of things to come. These users, especially the lasting believers of the QAnon prophecies, gamified the outage to their advantage by using it to spread conspiracy theories both old and new.

Guilty Until Proven Glitchy

Rather than accept the likelihood of a simple technological glitch, social media quickly became a venue to share suspicions. Many flocked to Telegram, a popular alternative social media platform among the far-right, to discuss the event. There, members of QAnon and anti-vaxx groups suggested that something more sinister was responsible for the outage. Some theories were vague, already anticipating that Facebook’s official reason, such as “a server error”, would not be a trustworthy one:

GW to Offer Hacking for Defense Course This Spring

Nick Erickson

Starting this spring semester, George Washington University graduate students will be able to take Hacking for Defense, a course that takes an entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary approach in solving national security challenges in the United States.

The congressionally funded class, listed as MGT 6290, is in partnership with the Department of Defense and offered through GW’s School of Business (GWSB). It is a program of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), powered by BMNT, Inc. and the Common Mission Project with a hands-on structure as students will split into teams and create a business model designed to address some key areas of need in intelligence and defense. GW will be one of 50 schools in the country to teach the course that started in 2016 at Stanford University.

Students will modify their project countless times throughout the semester as they present weekly for sponsors, mentors, military liaison, corporate partners, investors and journalists. In years past, several solutions and products built during the course have become companies, including Capella Space and Ox Intel.

Time for America to privatize its hybrid wars


Four and a half years ago I offered the Trump administration an offramp for the continuous loop of failure America faced in Afghanistan. A similar package was previously suggested to Team Obama and finally to Team Biden in January this year.

Sadly, the administrations’ set of “credentialed” experts rejected a common-sense rationalization for letting US troops depart. This summer’s graphic self-immolation of American credibility was the result. It didn’t have to be this way.

A few days after the 9-11 attack, President George W Bush met with his National Security cabinet to plan retribution against al Qaeda. While the Pentagon smoldered, the Department of Defense (DoD) offered airstrikes and a delay of six months for a plodding mechanized invasion of Afghanistan via Pakistan.

The Central Intelligence Agency countered with an immediate unconventional warfare approach using a handful of CIA and Special Forces personnel backed by airpower. Clearly that worked and within days al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts were literally running for their lives.

The Looming National Defense Crisis No One Is Talking About

Thomas Spoehr

There is no lack of U.S. national defense challenges.

China continues to modernize and expand its military, routinely using its burgeoning might to intimidate its neighbors—most recently with massive aircraft incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone.

Meanwhile, President Biden has proposed a defense budget that doesn’t even keep pace with inflation and cuts the military by 5,000 people.

Analysts worry the U.S. is falling behind in such key military technologies as hypersonic missiles, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Additionally, the disastrous departure from Afghanistan has raised concerns that the country may once more become a hothouse for global terrorism.

But the biggest challenge might be the one that nobody is talking about: The Pentagon’s difficulty in attracting enough qualified volunteers to serve in the armed forces.

China’s Hypersonic Test Raises Questions About US Missile Defense, Deterrence


The “deeply concerning” test of a Chinese hypersonic missile shows that the United States has “a lot of work to do” on technology and policy, military officials and lawmakers said yesterday.

The August test, first reported in the Financial Times, featured a hypersonic glide vehicle that entered orbit. Hypersonic weapons descend at more than five times the speed of sound while retaining enough maneuverability to evade missile defenses designed for the more predictable paths of ICBMs. China’s recent orbital test suggests that a weapon based on its vehicle could have essentially unlimited range.

China was thought to be considering such a capability, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said last month. Speaking at an Air Force Association event, he compared it to the Soviet Union’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, “which is a system that basically goes into an orbit and then de-orbits to a target. And if you use that kind of approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory, which is directly from the point of launch to the point of impact. It’s a way to avoid defenses and missile warning systems. So that’s a potential thing that can be done. There’s also the potential to actually put weapons in space. And these are potential things we’re talking about at this point in time.”

Leadership 2.0: Gain New Skills to Meet New Challenges

The Goal
Add to your existing leadership strengths to maintain an edge as time and circumstances change.

Nano Tool

Learning to lead is not a “one and done” assignment, a box to tick before you get responsibility for a team of direct reports. While CEOs like Jack Welch, who led GE in a 20-year period of relative stability, were able to apply the same foundational approaches and methods throughout their careers, that is no longer the case. Global markets and supply chains, technologies, regulatory requirements, and societal advances continue to evolve and demand new strategies and responses for individual leaders and their firms to survive and grow. To maintain an edge throughout your career as a leader, you need to build on your existing strengths, adding new capabilities and evolving to meet the demands of the times.

In addition to the examples of the CEOs I followed in The Edge, I have identified four key mission-critical rules leaders in every business in every industry need today. Keep in mind as you work to incorporate these skills that, in the years ahead, others will surface. Identifying, acquiring, and applying these updates is an ongoing process.


Angus Fletcher and Thomas Gaines

It’s an easy morning outside Washington, DC. But we’re making things hard on an Army student.

“Good plan,” we say. “Now give us another.”

The student’s brow furrows. What he’s wondering is: Why would I come up with another plan when my first plan is good? But he’s a dutiful soldier, so he tries to comply. And it’s there that he hits his real mental block: How do I come up with another plan when my first plan is good? After all, if nothing is wrong with my first plan, then what could be productively changed?

That the student would think this way is pure logic. Logic’s core teaching is that there’s one optimal decision, one error-free plan. If that plan has been identified already, it’s thus not only pointless but impossible to come up with a smart alternative. Yet is logic right about this? Is there always one ideal course of action?

#Reviewing The Afghanistan Papers

Brandan P. Buck

The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War. Craig Whitlock. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2021.

Deception is a necessary component for any wartime belligerent. In The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, investigative journalist Craig Whitlock explores the range of deceptions integral to America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan. However, his work is not the tale of a triumphant disinformation campaign like Winston Churchill’s famous “bodyguard of lies,” a narrative with which he begins his preface.[1] Rather, Whitlock’s work is an exploration of how a range of deceptions twisted American planning, hamstrung the coalition war effort, concealed rampant corruption, deceived the public, and prolonged the war. His work chronicles a Gordian knot of deceits within the U.S. national security establishment, between it and U.S. politicians, between the U.S. government and its allies, and between the U.S. government and the American people. It is a tragic and frequently gut-wrenching tale of failure, incompetence, absurdity, and hubris informed largely by individuals’ unwillingness or inability to recognize or tell the truth.