17 November 2021

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

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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India’s answer to China’s ports in Sri Lanka


On 30 September, Adani Group, India’s largest private port operator, signed what has been reported as a US$700 million agreement to build a new container terminal in Sri Lanka. The deal to jointly develop the Colombo West International Container Terminal (CWICT) with Sri Lanka’s largest listed company, John Keells Holdings and the Sri Lankan Ports Authority, will function under a “build-operate-transfer” arrangement for 35 years. Adani Ports will hold a 51 per cent stake in the terminal partnership, while John Keells would hold 34 per cent and the SLPA 15 per cent.

As the first-ever Indian port operator in Sri Lanka, and the largest foreign investment in Sri Lanka’s port industry, the deal has geopolitical significance. Even though Colombo Port was a regional hub that primarily served the Indian market, no Indian investor had been interested in investing in Sri Lanka’s port industry. That was, until the Chinese came in.

What Stands Between the Taliban and Recognition?

Tim Willasey-Wilsey

As Afghanistan heads deeper into winter the desperate need is to avoid a humanitarian crisis. The World Food Programme has launched an appeal to feed up to 23 million people and Médecins sans Frontières have followed suit in the healthcare field. Fortunately, the distribution mechanisms are in place inside Afghanistan; what is needed is for the international community to ensure that UN humanitarian programmes are fully funded. This will require Western capitals to get over the shock of their recent defeat. It goes without saying that hunger and health should not be used as instruments of political leverage.

Meanwhile, it is becoming ever more apparent that the Taliban do not have the skills to administer a country which is far more complex than the Afghanistan of 1996 – when they began their previous and disastrous spell in office. They will need international assistance to stabilise the economy, get people back to work and, in time, continue the gradual infrastructure improvements which have been underway since 2002. China will doubtless be willing to assist in some areas but Beijing has already made clear that it is adopting a cautious, gradualist approach. However, there are emerging indications that the Taliban’s intransigent views are beginning to relax; such as their approval of the polio vaccination scheme and their willingness to work with UN humanitarian agencies.

Winter is coming in Afghanistan. Are the Taliban ready?

Adam Gallagher

Nearly three months after the Taliban’s rapid takeover, Afghanistan is descending toward one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with an economy in freefall. As the harsh winter season looms, aid agencies have warned that over half the country’s population — a staggering 22.8 million people — will face acute food insecurity, including 3.2 million children under five. Now in power, the Taliban’s failure to deliver basic services is exacerbating this dire humanitarian situation. But immediate relief is a distant prospect as the Taliban deliberate on how to govern the country and the international community mulls over how to engage and pressure the fledgling government.

With internal divisions leading to jockeying for power and a severe dearth of technical capacity, the Taliban are ill-equipped to address these challenges. “There’s no plan,” said Stephen Brooking, a former adviser on the Afghan peace process for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, at the U.S. Institute of Peace. “How will the Taliban be using the revenue they do get? … Is there a budget that they can put together?” So far, “They haven’t moved on from being an insurgency movement to being in government,” Brooking added.

Issues and mistrust in US-Pakistan relations

Nazir Ahmad Mir

The August 2021 withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan has yet again exposed the fragility of Pakistan-US relations. Over the growing—and allegedly dubious—role of Pakistan in its commitment to the War on Terror, increasing concerns are being expressed in the United States about the nature of its relations with Islamabad. Though some US officials still think that Pakistan has played its role and Washington needs to continue engaging the country, some officials want Washington to revisit its terms of engagement with Islamabad. It was in this context that, when asked by lawmakers if it was time for Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had to assure Congress that “this is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead – the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years but also the role we would want to see it play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that.”

Taiwan Is Safe Until at Least 2027, but with One Big Caveat

Derek Grossman

Six years. That is how long Taiwan might have left before suffering a Chinese military attack. At least that was the estimate according to outgoing commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, back in March during open Congressional testimony.

Since then, observers have seized on Davidson's comments—which apparently reference the 100th anniversary of the founding of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 2027 as an event worth celebrating with the conquest of Taiwan—to support their respective positions on whether Beijing is poised to make a dangerous move soon.

For those aligning with Davidson's view, the unprecedented number of warplanes challenging Taiwan in its air defense identification zone, nearly 150 over the first few days of last month, is the latest proof that something is afoot.

For the deniers, it is easy to explain away the recent air incursions as simply being part and parcel of Beijing's general uptick in military assertiveness aimed at deterring further deepening in U.S.-Taiwan relations.

China’s Military Rise and the Implications for European Security

China is following a typical trajectory for rising great powers in terms of its increasing willingness and ability to project power outside its region. What is the People’s Liberation Army capable of today and what will likely be its capabilities by 2035? This new HCSS report makes a broad assessment of China’s military modernization and the implications for the security of European states, providing 20+ policy recommendations to deal with China’s military rise.

It is increasingly difficult to have a dispassionate understanding of Chinese military power. For many, China is already an ideologically incompatible and unstoppable juggernaut; for others, it is unlikely to ever entirely match Western military capabilities. Also, China’s ability to project power within the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait has been the focus of most analyses. As a result, there is a lack of a comprehensive assessment of the overall development of China’s military capabilities and what these will mean outside of the Western Pacific, especially for European states.

Xi Jinping cements his power with resolution on history

Valarie Tan

As the CCP's 19th Central Committee meets at its sixth plenum in Beijing, all eyes are on party chief and China’s president Xi Jinping to see how he influences the wording of the "Resolution on History". MERICS analyst Valarie Tan explains the role this key document plays and what the wording means for the future of the party and Xi himself.

First, Mao Zedong in 1945. Then, Deng Xiaoping in 1981. Now, at the sixth plenum taking place currently in Beijing, Xi Jinping is expected to become the third leader in China to preside over a “Resolution on History” (历史决议) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Held over three days, behind closed doors, the sixth plenum of the 19th Central Committee is the last major political gathering for the CCP’s Central Committee – the bastion of China’s most powerful current and future leaders – before a reshuffle of positions next year.

In contrast to what the name suggests, the “Resolution on History” is not an exposition of facts in party history. Rather, it is a propaganda document that contains interpretations of events in the CCP’s past, carefully selected to serve a political agenda. Meticulously worded and politically charged, it is a powerful document that determines the official narrative of party history and is to be used as an ideological guide for policies in the future. Apart from being drafted and passed at historical milestones, the document plays an important role in solidifying the authority of the leader in power at the time – as was clear in the two previous resolutions.

How to tame China

Zack Cooper
Source Link

The various shortages caused by problems with the global supply chain have provided the latest boost in momentum for an increasingly popular idea in Washington: making the American economy less dependent on China.

What policymakers refer to as “selective decoupling” is intended to protect the United States against some of the risks from China’s unsteady economy while also lessening the possibility that Beijing could use its economic tools coercively against Washington. In short, selective decoupling reduces two types of vulnerabilities: economic and strategic.

But one of the best, and most overlooked, ways to lessen China’s leverage is, counterintuitively, deeper coupling in certain areas. In other words, Washington should be playing offense, too, not just defense. Making China more dependent on the U.S. should be part of any strategic approach toward Beijing.

For several years, economic decoupling has been a main topic of conversation when it comes to China, but most changes have taken place at the margins. Data show that the American and Chinese economies remain deeply dependent on one another. Yet, leaders in both countries remain concerned about the potential for that interdependence to be weaponized. The Biden administration has therefore stressed the need to secure supply chains, while Beijing has talked about “dual circulation,” which would reduce its own dependence on foreign markets.

Qatar and the US-China Rivalry: the Dilemmas of a Gulf Monarchy

Like its neighbours in the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar finds itself increasingly confronted with a difficult dilemma: While its economy is looking to the East, more specifically towards China, the security and stability of the country still depend on the United States.

The intensification of Qatar and China's economic relations has resulted in more cooperation on the diplomatic level and even, more discreetly, on the military level.

Doha has not, however, conducted a strategic shift towards Beijing. Chinese arms sales to Qatar are still dwarfed by those of the Qatari army's two main suppliers, the United States and France.

Contrary to what recent geopolitical developments might suggest on a surface level, US-Qatar relations have not deteriorated but have grown stronger over the last few years.

A ‘Cold War 2.0’ Between the US and China

Guy-Philippe Goldstein

From the heights of Ladakh in northern India to the Miyako Strait in the south of Japan, multiple military tensions pit a Western bloc led by the US against China. This clash explains, in part, why Australia unfairly broke the agreement to deliver French submarines in order to line up under the more showy banner of an alliance system with the US. Above all, it places at the centre of the game a small island of 24 million inhabitants: Taiwan, which the People’s Republic of China seeks to annex. However, unlike the totalitarian regime of Xi Jinping, Taiwan is a liberal democracy even more advanced than France, and an industrial power with which the US trades more. It is the West Berlin of this new ‘Cold War 2.0’ in everything but name.

This US–China confrontation over Taiwan was one of the predictions made by the author in Babel Minute Zero, a book published 14 years ago. In Israel, where the novel has been read by all who matter including the head of state, it was above all the book’s discussion of the new role of information technologies in the struggle between states that attracted the most attention from decision-makers. This revolution remains an essential key to a Cold War 2.0.
On the Balance of Power

Advising both Chinese state companies and the Pentagon, McKinsey & Co. comes under scrutiny

Dan De Luce and Yasmine Salam

WASHINGTON — Global consulting giant McKinsey & Co.’s work with both the Pentagon and powerful Chinese state-owned enterprises poses a potential risk to national security that federal agencies can no longer ignore, lawmakers and critics say.

McKinsey’s consulting contracts with the federal government give it an insider’s view of U.S. military planning, intelligence and high-tech weapons programs. But the firm also advises Chinese state-run enterprises that have supported Beijing’s naval buildup in the Pacific and played a key role in China’s efforts to extend its influence around the world, according to an NBC News investigation.

There is no evidence or allegation that McKinsey has damaged U.S. national security, and U.S. authorities have not charged the firm with violating federal contracting laws related to its work with Chinese clients.

Pinching Pennies for People—But Endless Cash for War


There is a paradox underpinning American politics and its society right now. The U.S. must be the only country in the world where even when some wars end—like Afghanistan—government officials still elect to spend more money on the military. Less war, more war spending—a uniquely perplexing American formula as income disparity and homelessness increases.

Congress recently approved a super-sized record "defense" spending bill—known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—authorizing $768 billion for the Pentagon. This doesn't include the additional $25 billion Congress added beyond what President Joe Biden's team requested. That Donald Trump-exceeding figure surprised even top-tier military leaders—including Chair of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley.

Overall, this year's NDAA pushed official defense spending above $750 billion. And that's typically the number used by both opponents and proponents of the bill. Only the figure is deceptive and wildly inaccurate. When all national security-related spending—including intelligence agencies, Homeland Security, Department of Energy nuclear programs plus health and disability for veterans, the real annual budget hovers around $1.3 trillion. That's far higher than during the Korean or Vietnam Wars and is roughly three times what China spends on its military.

Biden Administration Hesitates to Condemn Iranian Terrorism in Iraq

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Proxies of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sent an exploding drone to assassinate the prime minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, on Sunday morning, according to reporting by Reuters. Kadhimi survived. The U.S. State Department condemned “this apparent act of terrorism” but refused to name the perpetrator. If the Biden administration offers nothing more than this tepid response, one should expect Tehran to escalate its violent campaign to overturn the result of last month’s general election in Iraq, which resulted in a historic defeat for pro-Iran forces.

Of all the armies and militias in the Middle East, the one that uses explosive drones in its attacks the most is the IRGC and its proxy militias. Hence Iran’s fingerprints on the failed attempt to eliminate Kadhimi were too obvious to hide.

Tehran denounced the attack, but its real message for Iraqis was that a bloodbath awaits those who insist on forming a government that reflects the results of the October election.

Let’s Get to Know Space Force, Trump’s Most Misunderstood Creation

Margaret Hartmann

Two years ago, the U.S. Space Force was established as the first new U.S. military branch in 73 years. If you know anything about the service, it’s probably that its logo looks like it was stolen from Star Trek, its name for members sounds like it was adapted from Guardians of the Galaxy, and its uniforms appear to have been ripped off from Battlestar Galactica.

Perhaps there was no way for the U.S. military to create a service focused on space without eliciting giggles and incredulity, as Americans have been fed a steady diet of militaristic science fiction for decades. But it didn’t help that Space Force was established by President Donald Trump, who is known for his childish whims. When he proclaimed in 2018 that “space is a war-fighting domain,” it felt like there was a nonzero chance he was picturing U.S. troops blasting their way across the surface of Mars. To make matters worse, some of Space Force’s own messaging has been legitimately funny (unlike, I’ve been reliably informed, the Netflix comedy series of the same name). For example, you won’t find a tweet from @USArmy asking you to stop and think about what desert power means to you.

A Blueprint for Peace in Ethiopia

Adem K. Abebe

A year after Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces launched a self-styled preemptive attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), the war has left a trail of death, destruction, and humanitarian catastrophe.

Battlefield fortunes have turned multiple times, with TPLF forces recently gaining ground and, in one of the three main war fronts, controlling the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha in eastern Amhara, some 250 miles by road north of Addis Ababa, and even considering a dangerous drive to advance on the capital.

The conflict has roots in contestations over the balance of power between the federal and TPLF governments and a war of attrition, with each side accusing the other of seeking to eliminate it. The political differences were exacerbated by historical identity-based territorial contestations between the neighboring Amhara and Tigray regions and by Tigray-Eritrea animosities.

The Afghan Crisis: A Chance to Strengthen Russia’s Security Influence in Central Asia

Elena Zhirukhina

Russia and the CA states enjoy a “natural” long-standing cooperation in fighting irregular threats, considering shared concerns related to terrorism, extremism, separatism, and transnational organized crime, but also shared approaches to counter them. The collapse of the Afghan government and the return of the Taliban – designated as a terrorist organization by Russia – poses exceptional challenges of instability and uncertainty. Though CA is relatively stable, each country has its history in dealing with terrorist threats, and the risks of domestic and international terrorism long present in the region are particularly acute. With Afghanistan entering a new stage of instability, CA governments expect a potential spill-over of violence, penetration of borders by terrorist groups and intensification of transnational criminal activities. Mitigating such hazards requires regional cooperation and opens up a window of opportunity for Russia to strengthen its role as a security provider for the CA region and beyond. International regional organizations such as the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) can now demonstrate their practical relevance to CA.

China: The missing presence at COP26

Barbara Pongratz, Nis Grünberg

China has great ambitions when it comes to climate action. However, the currently largest source of carbon dioxide emissions is moving at its own pace, say Barbara Pongratz and Nis Grünberg.

China’s President Xi Jinping did not deliver his statement at COP26 in person — he did not even deliver it in a live video speech. In terms of content, his written statement offered little to clarify recently announced national policies, with no elaboration on how China will meet its targets of carbon peaking before 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. His statement was unsatisfactory in terms of the level of ambition, potentially blocking the path to achieving the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change‘s (UNFCCC) 1.5°C target. It leaves the space for global leadership open for the EU and the US, which have presented somewhat more ambitious targets.

Xi’s written statement covered three points — the need to maintain a multilateral consensus, focus on concrete action and speed up the green transition. On the first point, it seemed somewhat ironic that he pledged to "increase mutual trust” and “step up cooperation" while being one of the few world leaders not to attend the COP in person. Notably, Xi also stressed that countries should do as much as they can, while respecting the priority of development.

Influence and Escalation: Implications of Russian and Chinese Influence Operations for Crisis Management

Rebecca Hersman, Eric Brewer

Technology-enabled influence operations, including disinformation, will likely figure prominently in adversary efforts to impede U.S. crisis response and alliance management in high-risk, high-impact scenarios under a nuclear shadow. Both Russia and China recognize their conventional military disadvantage vis-à-vis conflict with the United States. As a result, both nations use sub-conventional tactics and operations to support their preferred strategies for achieving favorable outcomes while attempting to limit escalation risks. Such strategies include an array of activities loosely identified as influence operations, focused on using and manipulating information in covert, deniable, or obscure ways to shape the strategic environment.

This report presents eight scenarios—four focused on Russia and four focused on China—that invite potential escalation risks and demonstrate how the tools and tactics of influence operations could be employed to challenge detection, response, and crisis management. It explores a range of potential escalatory pathways and destabilizing consequences if adversary influence operations engage strategic interests and targets in high-risk scenarios and identifies key takeaways and recommendations for policymakers to better identify and defend against adversary influence operations.

Europe’s Migration Crisis, Born in Belarus

Dexter Filkins

For centuries, national leaders have sought new and better weapons to bend adversaries to their will. On November 8th, when border guards in Belarus led hundreds of Middle Eastern migrants to the Polish border at Kuźnica-Bruzgi and directed them to cross, they were introducing an especially novel type of armament to the history of warfare: immigration.

The government of Belarus, led by a man often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenka, has been hampered by international sanctions since the summer of 2020, when he crushed a nationwide revolt against his flagrantly fraudulent Presidential-election victory. The sanctions, imposed by the European Union, the United States, and others, are biting hard. In June, Lukashenka began offering unfettered passage for Middle Easterners into Europe—first to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and then, often by government bus, to the borders of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, all E.U. members. “It’s being orchestrated by Lukashenka,” Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, told me in a recent interview.

Pulling back from the brink

James M. Dorsey

The family of nations is balancing on the edge of an abyss as mushrooming religious and ethnic intolerance becomes the norm.

Western as well as non-Western societies have helped paved the road towards the abyss: the West by abandoning the post-World War Two principle of ‘Never Again’ and the non-Western world by never embracing it and failing to adopt the principle of ‘forgive but don’t forget.’

Exasperating matters is the fact that the United States and Europe look at individual crises rather than a threatening pattern of developments. In doing so, they fail to recognise the structural problems that challenge Western values of democracy, tolerance, and pluralism.

Citing a litany of crises and tensions in Central and Eastern Europe, Balkan scholar Damir Marusic warns that “the whole edifice feels rickety. It feels like the order we have all taken for granted since the end of the Cold War is badly decaying, and has gotten so fragile that it might well shatter soon… We notice individual problems, but we don’t see how it adds up, nor how we got here… We are still, in some strange way, operating as if things are more or less fine—yes, adjustments must be made, but our world is durable and sound.”

The Age Of AI Scrambles Strategy


Not having had a nuclear exchange during the Cold War remains one of history’s more under-heralded triumphs of the successful management of great power rivalry. That was because, in those decades fraught with tensions, the United States and Soviet Union were able to arrive at a secure degree of certitude about each other’s strategic intentions and military capacities.

As that conflict matured, constant, direct contact between leaders at the highest levels and sufficient transparency — through arms control negotiations that reliably tallied the number of nuclear warheads and their launching platforms verified by surveillance — enabled the adversaries to establish a rough balance of power that deterred war on purpose or through misapprehension.

Today, as hostility between China and the U.S. has reached a Cold War temperature, no such comfortable certitude about intentions and capacities exists. Far from urgently meeting to fathom each other’s strategic perspective, leaders of the two nations so far are barely on speaking terms when not hurling insults across the Pacific. With the unprecedented weaponization of AI and cyber capabilities thrown into the military mix, a new opacity shrouds any firm accounting of capacities. With each side only guessing at motives and what a balance of power might actually look like, the logic of national security dictates a rapid buildup of wired arms so as not to be vulnerable, or to prevail, in any worst-case scenario in the event of open conflict.

Leading edge: key drivers of defence innovation and the future of operational advantage

Simona R. Soare

The ability to develop and integrate emerging and disruptive technologies in defence is rapidly becoming a metric of success in the global competition for power. In this paper, Simona R. Soare and Fabrice Pothier provide a systematic conceptualisation of defence innovation. By empirically analysing innovation efforts in five countries – notably, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the paper identifies and analyses four key drivers of defence innovation, provides a better understanding of how the five nations prioritise among them, and explores how they are linked to future operational advantage.


Technological innovation is at the core of inter-state strategic competition. The capacity of nations to successfully develop, integrate and use emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) in military applications is a critical element of and metric in the global competition for power. If innovation has always been a feature of military competition, the rapid and encompassing progress in a range of emerging and disruptive technologies and a shifting global balance of power are putting pressure on defence establishments across the world to adapt and integrate new technologies. Despite profound differences in strategic culture, leading military powers are increasingly focused on how to preserve or create a leading technological edge and an operational advantage against potential adversaries.

AI Code Generation and Cybersecurity

Chris Rohlf

The endless stream of bad news related to cybersecurity leads one to question whether it is possible to secure software at the pace it is developed. Yet, progress in the fields of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) may eventually help us produce more secure code. Hardware and algorithm advancements have enabled ever larger models with billions of parameters unlocking novel applications in numerous fields, from increasing the efficacy of supply chain logistics to supporting autonomous weapons. These same advancements could be applied to cybersecurity, bringing new opportunities and risks that both practitioners and policy makers should consider.

One exciting area is AI code generation or machine assisted pair programming. These systems generally work by auto-completing portions of code written by a human, or take instructions that describe the code to be generated. The underlying models that power these systems are trained similarly to large language models, except they are trained on source code. While still in their infancy these systems are quickly advancing and becoming more capable with each new generation. They hold enormous potential for the tech economy and businesses that rely on the high-demand, short-supply engineering workforce.

EXCLUSIVE: General Atomics is secretly flying a new, heavily armed drone


DUBAI: General Atomics has built and flown a prototype of a deadly new drone with significantly more firepower than the US military’s current unmanned aircraft inventory, including the capability to launch a whopping 16 Hellfire missiles.

The unmanned aerial system — whose existence has not been previously been reported — made its first flight this summer at the company’s Desert Horizon test grounds in the Mohave Desert, two sources with knowledge of the program told Breaking Defense.

General Atomics spokesman C. Mark Brinkley declined to comment on this story.

The new drone, which was funded with internal investment funds, features key enhancements meant to make it more suitable to operate in austere conditions. It needs less than 800 feet to take off or land the aircraft, making it possible to launch and recover it from rough airfields, dirt roads, dry riverbeds, or possibly even onboard ships, one source said.

Europe's High-End Military Challenges: The Future of European Capabilities and Missions

Seth G. Jones, Rachel Ellehuus, Colin Wall

This report examines the evolution of European military capabilities over the next decade. It asks two main questions. What military capabilities might European allies and partners of the United States possess by 2030? And what types of military missions will these states be able (and unable) to effectively perform by 2030? First, European militaries—including the largest and most capable European NATO members—will continue to struggle to conduct several types of missions without significant U.S. assistance. Second, European militaries will face significant challenges in the Indo-Pacific. Third, Europe’s major powers will likely have the capability to conduct most types of missions at the lower end of the conflict continuum without significant U.S. military aid. To sustain progress and overcome remaining challenges, NATO will have to revise its burden-sharing metrics, modernize defense planning and procurement practices, and address lagging political will.

Past as Prelude? Envisioning the Future of Special Operations

Kevin Bilms

It is indicative of the current zeitgeist that Washington’s strategists quote Sun Tzu and sprinkle the ancient philosopher’s axioms in conversations and PowerPoints across town. For policymakers seeking to win without fighting with the People’s Republic of China or other competitors, they should also note the popular Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.

To sow the seeds that sprout the roots of victory far from a future battlefield, policymakers should embrace the methodical, indirect, and asymmetric approach to problem solving that historically characterized United States Special Operations Forces activities. The ability to operate with a small footprint and low-visibility, invest time and resources to foster interagency and foreign partnerships, develop deep cultural expertise, and rapidly adapt emerging technologies are vital in today’s environment—both to enhance deterrence and challenge adversaries’ coercion through gray-zone aggression.[1] By incorporating chapters of special operations’ past, today’s special operators can position themselves to provide outsized impact for the United States in the future.

Is Nomothetic Knowledge Possible Within International Relations?

Kevin Thievon

What were the causal mechanisms that led to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980? A realist lens would emphasise the power maximisation that the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, sought to become the regional hegemon towards the nascent threat represented by the new Islamic Republic of Iran; a liberal scholar would first point out the institutional failures – e.g. the little influence of the United Nations’ resolution 479 –, or the economic motivations of Saddam, such as getting full sovereignty over the strategic waterway of Shatt al-Arab; and a constructivist one would put forward the role of the idea according to which the majoritarian Shi’i population in Iraq could be seduced by the 1979’s Islamic Revolution, and then turned against the Sunni regime of Saddam.[1],[2]

This example is useful to outline the extreme difficulty to bring out a law that would explain an International Relations (IR) phenomenon – here, the invasion of Iran by Iraq. Were there objective patterns that could have helped to predict this conflict? The essay’s title is a worthwhile question given the great stake of drawing out laws from reality. A law could be defined as the ‘mechanistic processes that bring about standardised outcomes.’[3] And, precisely, a ‘nomothetic enterprise’ aims at exploring those ‘processes’[4] – nomos, in ancient Greek, signifies laws. Nomothetic knowledge would thus be constituted of verified large-scale social patterns that compose the reality of international politics, this so-called reality being a complex blend of universal laws.

A New Threat to Iron Dome

Jonathan Schanzer
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On November 3, occasional Dispatch contributor Jonathan Schanzer released a new book titled Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press). The following is a slightly modified excerpt from Chapter 14, “Northern Exposure,” which addresses Israel’s threat from Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In decades past, Israel was blessed with ill-equipped enemies. More recently, the efforts of Iranian proxies such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been mitigated by Iron Dome. The missile defense system’s success rate is well known, but it has been boosted by the fact that Israel’s foes have been firing unguided, or “dumb,” rockets. Without GPS or target-acquisition capabilities, many of these rockets miss their intended targets. When Iron Dome’s radar detects a rocket and the battle management and weapon control system determine that the projectile is not going to strike a target of value, operators decline to expend a valuable interceptor, permitting the rocket to fall harmlessly into an uninhabited space.