29 December 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.


Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

Nepal Begins Hydropower Export to India

Santosh Sharma Poudel

In November 2021, India threw open its doors to purchase of Nepal’s electricity. This is an important milestone for Nepal as it the first time that the Himalayan country is exporting hydropower.

Nepal will export 39 MW of electricity to India under the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX). The India-Nepal Power Trade Agreement was signed in 2014 during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal. Nepal is the first of India’s neighbors to participate in the IEX.

The sale of electricity to India marks the realization of a long-cherished Nepali dream of exporting hydroelectricity for national prosperity. This is a huge turnaround for the Nepali energy sector, which met more than half of its electricity needs through imports from India during peak demand in 2019.

Nepal became a power surplus country after the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project came into operation in July 2021. With this, Nepal’s hydroelectricity production has reached 1,900 MW. Meanwhile, the peak-hour demand stands at around 1,500MW only. On top of that, 172 projects have secured generation licenses and construction is ongoing for a total capacity of 4,642 MW. Therefore, the supply will outpace the local demand even further in the coming years.

When Indira Gandhi decided to storm the Golden Temple

Deb Mukharji 

Bhairab Datt Pande, known to his generation as B.D., served in the Indian Civil Service from 1939 to 1977. His memoirs, written largely by hand, in 1986, two years after he demitted his last government assignment, carried his instructions that they should not be published before 1st January, 2001 or five years after his death, whichever was later. B.D. Pande died in 2009. His daughter Ratna Sudarshan has painstakingly edited and published the memoirs in 2021.

The reader and present and future generations must be grateful to her for making available within the covers of a book an insider’s perceptive account of economic and political developments in India in her first four decades after independence. By extraordinary happenstance, B.D. was in the midst of the maelstrom of the fraught years of the Emergency and the period leading to the storming of the Golden Temple.

A shy boy who had felt lonely in his early years in school in Almora was taken away for studies to Allahabad by his father who resigned his government job in the postal department to be with his son. B.D. ‘s brief comment later, “his sacrifices for my welfare cannot be put in a few words”, encapsulates the bonds between father and son. After a fine academic record in school and university, B.D. was sent by his father to study in Cambridge to appear for the entrance examination to the Indian Civil Service. In 1939 B.D. Pande signed the covenant inducting him into the ICS and was allotted Bihar as his cadre.


Daniel Brunstetter

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan offers the opportunity for a recalibration in the use of force abroad in what is America’s truly longest war—the global war on terror. The Biden administration is poised to increase its reliance on “over-the-horizon” operations—a euphuism for drone strikes and special operations force raids—to ensure that Afghanistan does not, once again, become a safe haven for transnational terrorism. In a speech marking the end of the war in Afghanistan, President Joseph Biden portrayed limited force as a moral alternative to the forever wars, a strategic choice to address terrorist threats in a disordered and divided world. But this framing forecloses serious debate on whether the United States should be resorting to force at all and to what ends. If we are to truly turn the page on the 9/11 era, it is imperative to interrogate the antecedents, assumptions, and principles underlying the over-the-horizon approach. Doing so raises concerns about whether a shift to limited force can really end the forever war, but also points to moral insights that may better guide the “targeted, precise strategy” President Biden has promised.

Evidence mounts of Afghanistan withdrawal’s massive failure

Doug Grindle

An Afghan money changer counts money at Khorasan market in Herat, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. The value of Afghanistan's currency is tumbling, exacerbating an already severe economic crisis and deepening poverty in a country where more than half the population already doesn't have enough to eat. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

Four months after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, there are no longer any illusions about what a failure the policy has been. The effort to retrieve people was shoddy enough, with people left stranded and unable to access the airport, despite the high number of evacuees. But the strategic failure and damage to America is even worse.

The undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl, told U.S. senators in October that terrorists could have the capability to attack the U.S. homeland from Afghanistan within six months, and perhaps sooner. He was referring to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. He also said al-Qaeda could attack from Afghanistan within “a year or two.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, estimated the same thing happening in two to three years. Let’s recall that al-Qaeda, a close ally of the Taliban, is present in over half the provinces of Afghanistan, according to the U.N.

5 Desperate Days: Escaping Kabul

Mujib Mashal and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KABUL, Afghanistan — This was as far as they would go, a dozen Marines inside the gutted Kabul airport, fanned out beside a blue gate by a fountain bearing a landmark sign — “I ❤️ Kabul.’’

One of us, Thomas “T.M.” Gibbons-Neff, a correspondent from the Kabul bureau of The New York Times, had moved with the troops to the gate in the hours before dawn. The other, Mujib Mashal, a Times correspondent who grew up in Kabul, carefully approached T.M. in the darkness. The Marines would not move toward him onto de facto Taliban turf.

“We cannot go any further, Mujib. We cannot,” T.M., a former Marine who had served two tours in Afghanistan, said into his phone.

Moments later, the Americans saw Mujib step into the eerie half-light under a flickering street lamp, along with his escort: three Taliban fighters who clutched their rifles nervously.

Behind them, in the murky distance beyond, was a group of more than 120 people: current and former Times employees and their family members.

Taiwan would be better off alone

Derek Grossman

And then there were 14. That was the new tally of Taiwan's official diplomatic partners following Nicaragua's decision earlier this month to swap ties with Taipei for Beijing. The Solomon Islands and Kiribati did the same in 2019. But a curious fact has been overshadowed in the coverage of Taiwan's losses: Taipei has at times preemptively severed ties with partners "to uphold national dignity."

These are smart decisions. Beijing's successful poaching of Taiwan's allies is harming the island's morale and tarnishing its image as a sovereign nation. As counterintuitive as it may seem, Taiwan should further consider unilaterally shedding all remaining partners to strengthen its hand long-term against China.

The uncomfortable truth about Taiwan's remaining allies except for the Vatican, its only partner left in Europe, is that they are with small and impoverished nations like Palau or St. Lucia that are of little geostrategic value. And while Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has disavowed dollar diplomacy, that is exactly what continues to happen when Taipei competes with Beijing to keep countries in its camp.

The Middle East is stuck in the crosshairs of a worsening US-China rivalry

Tamara Qiblawi

(CNN)In a year that has brought profound change to much of the world, the conflict-ravaged Middle East appeared to be finally turning a page. A diplomatic spree that sought to patch up long rifts bore fruit. Iraq transformed from the region's epicenter of violence to one of progress, for example, brokering rare talks between old rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Emerging from the crushing blows of the pandemic and four years of global turbulence during the presidency of Donald Trump, many of the Middle East's nations have shown signs that this level of conflict simply cannot go on.

But as the year grinds to an end, and as a whirlwind of diplomacy picks up speed, another geopolitical fault-line has appeared -- the Middle East has become a political and economic battleground for the US and China, despite its continuous attempts to keep out of this powerhouse rivalry.

In comments that show just how anxious this is making the Middle East's leaders, a high-level Emirati official earlier this month expressed a sense of hopelessness over the showdown between the US and China.

"What we are worried about is this fine line between acute competition, and a new Cold War," Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE leadership, said in remarks to the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington last week.

"Because I think we, as a small state, will be affected negatively by this, but will not have the ability in any way to affect this competition, even positively really."

Gargash confirmed reports that the UAE -- a key regional US ally -- had shuttered a Chinese facility over US allegations that the site was being used as a military base. He made clear that Abu Dhabi was merely paying lip service to US intelligence -- the UAE didn't actually agree with Washington's characterization of the site. Abu Dhabi simply did not want to upset a strategic ally.

CNN has reached out to China's foreign ministry for comment.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman poses for camera with the Chinese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Li Huaxin during a visit to Great Wall of China in Beijing, China February 21, 2019.

But the US won't always win the battle for influence in the country. Days after Gargash's remarks, Abu Dhabi apparently decided to stop humoring America. It was suspending a multi-billion dollar purchase of US-made F-35 aircraft, the first deal of its kind with an Arab country. The US had made the sale conditional on the UAE dropping China's Huawei Technologies Co. from its telecommunications network. Washington claimed the technology posed a security risk for its weapons systems, especially for an aircraft the US dubs its "crown jewel."

Abu Dhabi disagrees. An Emirati official said a "cost/benefit analysis" was behind their decision to stick with Huawei at the expense of the F-35s. And while US officials have tried to downplay the significance of the event and insists that the sale has not been killed, Abu Dhabi had set a new tone Abu Dhabi does not intend to always bow to US demands over China, and it is dismissing Washington's notions about Chinese trade deals disguised as covert military activity.

It's an event could set the stage, not just for the Gulf powerhouse, but for an entire region where China's rapidly growing trade relationships transcend old geopolitical rivalries, and where the US' long-running hegemony could be coming to an end.

'A theater of competition'

The Middle East has been rocked by geopolitical tensions arguably since Western colonial powers carved the resource-rich region into spheres of influence over a century ago.

But the region had rarely seen violence on the scale of the 2010s, when simultaneous wars in four different countries -- Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq -- as well as long-running violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, turned vast swathes of the Arab world into a bloodbath.

It was a period that coincided with a momentous political shift -- the US was deprioritizing the Middle East as it became laser-focused on China. The subsequent chaos was unprecedented and appeared to anticipate a major power vacuum in Washington's wake.

The flurry of regional diplomacy that came after -- rushed and sometimes haphazard -- also appeared to be hinged on a perceived US departure from the region. Throughout it all, China, once ideologically reviled by powerhouses like Saudi Arabia, was working in the Middle East's shadows.

Beijing forged wide-ranging economic partnerships with the likes of Riyadh and Tehran. It deepened its foothold in economies that were already strong trading partners, such as the UAE, where it is on its way to becoming the fulcrum of its telecommunication networks.

Used to being targeted with accusations of human rights violations, Beijing promised to stay quiet on those in the Middle East, and to keep out of its conflicts. It has made the Middle East a key part of its Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructural project that connects East Asia to Europe (Egypt's Suez Canal is the project's only maritime connection). And most of all, it presented an opportunity to hedge the region's bets in the event of an American exit.

"You've got this scenario where this preponderant extra-regional power looks like it's leaving and then you have China, a top trading partner," said Jonathan Fulton, senior non-resident fellow at The Atlantic Council. "The region looks like a theater of competition. This looks like the way it's going to play out."

Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after witnessed a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on July 22, 2019.

Analysts argue that if Washington forces the region to choose between the US and China, the answer will be a no-brainer -- the US' friends in the region are loath to draw the ire of the superpower, especially while its military presence in the Middle East remains expansive. But ultimately, the region may have no choice but to take the Chinese carrot even if it means subjecting itself to the American stick.

The region's gravitation towards China, argues Fulton, is "the law of nature. That's how it's going probably going to be for the next century."

US needs 'real cash on the table'

The main weakness in the US' proposition regarding China in the Middle East is that Washington offers no alternatives to Beijing's lucrative deals.

The US can try to coerce the UAE, for example, to withdraw from its Huawei deal, but it is unwilling to give them a competitive second option. At the start of Lebanon's financial tailspin in 2020, the US pressured Beirut to resist turning to Beijing for investments in Lebanon's decaying infrastructure, with US Ambassador Dorothy Shea issuing televised warnings about the dangers of Chinese "debt traps." The government of former Prime Minster Hassan Diab bowed to pressure, while the US largely spurned his government, which it believed to be backed by Hezbollah, and Western cooperation with the flailing economy has been little to none.

"US pressure has intensified in recent years, and especially since the start of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013," said Tin Hinane El Kadi, an associate fellow at the think tank Chatham House. "However, in international politics, you can only pressure countries when you have substantive power and the means to really offer another deal."

He added: "If the US really wants to pressure countries and win this so-called new cold war, it would have to move away from discursive play, and really start to put real projects, and some real cash on the table,"

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi being welcomed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, 4 September 2016.

Nor can the US claim the moral high-ground on human rights issues or on the espionage it accuses Chinese companies such as Huawei of conducting. Recent scandals around Facebook, for example, weakens that position, argued Fulton.

"We've been watching what Facebook does ... and after (whistleblower Edward) Snowden ... it's hard for them to say you can trust us because we're reliable," said Fulton. "If we do it for liberal reasons and they do it for authoritarian reasons, it's not really a case to make here."

In the absence of a Western competitive alternative to Chinese cooperation, the writing appears to be on the wall. China's roots in the region will only become deeper and are only set to rapidly expand. Countries that have been embroiled in largely wasteful conflicts will choose options that serve their economic interests. And as Abu Dhabi's anxieties about being caught in the middle of rising tensions between larger powers has illustrated, the appetite for conflict is quickly dissipating.

"Even though the US right now, with very little leverage, is forcing countries to choose between the US and China, the fact that countries have more options, more loans that they can take from a variety of choices is a good thing," Kadi said.

"Having more alternatives in the global scene can only be a good thing for the region and its stability."

Behind Beijng’s proposal to regulate military applications of AI


China recently submitted a position paper on regulating the military applications of artificial intelligence to the sixth review conference of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

The takeaway from this position paper is that countries should debate, discuss, and perhaps eschew the weaponization of AI. By initiating a discussion on regulating military applications of AI, Beijing wants to project itself as a responsible international player.

This proposal is Beijing’s formal acknowledgment of AI as a technology capable of transforming the international security paradigm. Many countries, including the US and China, are trying to leverage the advantages of AI in military applications. According to some reports, China might even be ahead of the US in integrating AI applications for military purposes.

China in 2022: Xi’s Time is Only Beginning, But Where Will it Lead?

John S. Van Oudenaren

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) official narrative holds that China is at a decisive moment. In the CCP’s telling, China’s long-sought goal of “national rejuvenation” is within reach, and can be attained by rallying around General Secretary Xi Jinping’s leadership to fully implement “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” (6th Plenum Communique, November 11). Not since Mao Zedong has a leader dominated China’s political life to the extent that Xi currently does. For example, when the CCP’s paper of record- The People’s Daily includes photos above the fold on its front page, they are invariably of Xi giving remarks, meeting with other senior officials or holding video-conferences with foreign counterparts (People’s Daily, December 15, 16). If Xi is not pictured, excerpts of his statements usually headline page one. This summer, seven new research centers devoted to the study of Xi Jinping Thought were established in key state bodies including the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and provincial governments (Xinhua, June 26). These new centers joined the eleven Xi Jinping Thought research centers that had already been inaugurated.


Arnel P. David, Sean A. Acosta and Nicholas Krohley

A new great game is underway. The United States’ unipolar moment is coming to a close. As a hegemon on borrowed time, we must compete to secure our interests. China offers an alternative vision of the future. Russia seeks a return to faded glories. Iran envisions a fundamentally different Middle East. Regional powers like Turkey, India, and Brazil chart their own, independent paths into the future.

Confronted with global uncertainty, America faces two critical challenges: how to understand this new environment, and how to optimize its military to compete therein. On both counts, consensus has been reached. On both counts, it is wrong.

Conceptually, we have adopted the paradigm of strategic competition. In this framing, the world is a playing field for elite rivalry. Africa is where we compete with China. Eastern Europe is where we counter Russia. The Middle East is where we battle to maintain a marginally favorable status quo, in the face of a hostile Iran and opportunistic encroachment by Russia and China alike. Southeast Asia (and, remarkably, Latin America) are places where we attempt to check Chinese expansion.

What History Tells Us About the Future of Cyber Vulnerabilities in the Power Industry

Dennis Hackney

The power and energy sector is one of the most critical areas of our country’s infrastructure, making it a prime target for cybercriminals increasingly looking for ways to infiltrate and disrupt the sector and ultimately the national grid. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in early 2021 that found the grid, and subsequently its distribution systems that carry electricity from transmission systems to end-users, to be growing targets for large-scale, strategic state-sponsored cyber war operations.

This heightened interest and motivation can be attributed to hackers looking for larger ransomware payouts as well as nation states who consider the sector key to crippling the U.S. economy. High-profile attacks like the Colonial Pipeline have given threat actors more motivation to go after critical infrastructure. These groups continue to mature and adopt sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures, while industry leaders look to safeguard their critical systems and essential services.

If recent history is any indication of what we can expect in 2022 and beyond, the power and energy sector must prepare for the worst and prioritize their industrial cybersecurity programs accordingly.

A History of Known Vulnerabilities & Attacks

More than a decade before the GAO’s report, a number of other U.S. agencies came forward to recognize vulnerabilities and threats facing the power and energy sector. The CIA revealed in 2008 that hackers were able to disrupt power supplies in four different cities, stating it typically didn’t make this information public but decided the benefits of sharing outweighed the risk so power equipment operators could protect their systems from the known threat. Shortly after, in 2009, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) disclosed it had known about vulnerabilities in power grid computer systems for years.

These admissions spurred the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) to begin implementing updated cybersecurity measures. NERC sought to increase a company’s accountability, including cybersecurity risk management practices such as asset management, training, perimeter and physical security, and incident response and recovery. It did this by requiring a designated manager with overall responsibility and annual reviews of risk-based assessments. Known as Version 2 of the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Reliability Standards, the updated measures removed terminology like “acceptance of risk” and “reasonable business judgement” resulting in more stringent control implementation requirements.

Despite the government’s efforts to warn organizations and NERC’s work to help ensure the security of the nation’s power system, the sector began to see a flurry of activity in the years following:

In 2012, US Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) shared that U.S. power plants began to see malware infections through USB drives.

In 2013, DHS reported that the U.S. power grid was constantly being probed by Iranian threat actors.

In 2014, officer members of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, known as GRU, hacked the Georgia utility company, Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, and stole user credentials and passwords related to nuclear reactor systems.

In 2014, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) revealed that more than 1,100 cyberattacks against its components occurred, 159 of which were successful cyber intrusions between 2010-2014 exposing critical information about the U.S. power systems.

Each of these incidents were examples of classic cyber reconnaissance techniques, also known as Network Information Gathering. And even though NERC was implementing security measures, these cybersecurity reconnaissance efforts were still being pulled off. In these cases, threat actors were looking for ways to circumvent the industry’s cybersecurity practices.

Yet, despite the government alerting the industry, and many years of reconnaissance activities by threat actors to uncover vulnerabilities of the U.S. power grid, a few of the nation’s adversaries launched campaigns against U.S. power companies:

The North Koreans launched a probing campaign, utilizing spear-phishing techniques on U.S. electric companies in 2017 by using fake emails to conduct the early stages of cyber reconnaissance.

An Iranian hacker group targeted the operational technology (OT) environments within power companies in the U.S., Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East in 2017.

A hacker group connected to Russian intelligence services conducted more reconnaissance against OT networks within U.S. and UK electric utility companies in 2017, prompting the DHS to report that they possessed the ability to cause blackouts.

Between known vulnerabilities that have been identified and the flurry of cyber incidents over the course of the last decade, it is clear that a cyber war is well underway, and threat actors are deeply embedded in the electric networks and OT that are responsible for power generation across the nation. This is the new reality.

The Powerful Lessons to Learn from History

Many organizations are already behind in the race to safeguard against an attack. Companies in the power and energy sector must learn from the past and adapt to state-sponsored cyber operations.

For those responsible for protecting critical infrastructure, gaining a better understanding of their OT environment, and accepting the reality that they are exposed a good first step. Well-funded threat actors are spending time and resources to learn how to disrupt power operations to make the biggest impact with a cyber-physical event. These OT environments are found throughout power plants and the grid. Any disruption to these systems could have far-reaching effects such as brownouts, blackouts, and even wide-scale service disruptions, which is why they are such attractive targets for criminals.

In order to adequately secure OT, organizations must handle and secure them differently than they would information technology (IT). OT monitors and controls how physical devices perform, while IT creates, processes, stores, retrieves and sends information. The two typically require the use of different languages and protocols.

What’s even more important to note is that the consequences of exploitation in these areas also differ. IT cyber incidents often have financial ramifications that can be attributed to data loss, business interruption, and reputational damage. OT incidents can have physical impacts such as death or injury, and property or environmental damage – in addition to the financial impacts.

These differences require organizations to engage an industrial cybersecurity expert with experience working in OT in power and energy.

A cybersecurity leader with expertise in industrial cyber security in the power and energy sector will adopt the following best practices:

Conduct a comprehensive audit of all OT systems to determine unique vulnerabilities.

Gain visibility into all OT environments and monitor associated networks and technologies for threats and cybersecurity intrusions.

Implement boundary protection devices and logically isolate OT from other networks.

Ensure that the operating systems, firewalls, and VPN applications are patched and up to date.

Review user accounts and disable or delete dormant or unused accounts.

Implement multi-factor authentication.

Use strong, unique passwords.

Course Correcting in 2022 for Better Protection

They say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. For industrial cybersecurity, they might simply be doomed. As industrial systems become more connected, more remotely operated, and more dependent on digitalization, they become much more exposed to cyber attacks. This can have devastating consequences on operations, safety, and the environment. If history has shown us anything, it is that cyber threat actors are quick to adapt. It also shows that companies are often slow to evolve. Recent attacks on critical infrastructure show both the vulnerabilities and impacts of industrial cyber attacks. Failure to put in the basic prevention, detection and response will have increasing consequences for companies, and society as a whole. Not learning from the past, and not preparing for the future risks putting power in the wrong hands.

Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Text: The adage, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product[1],” cannot be further from the truth in the age of social media. Every user’s click and purchase are recorded by private entities such as Facebook and Twitter. These records can be utilized by other nations to gather information on the United States economy, intellectual property, as well as information on government personnel and agencies. This collation of data can be packaged together and be used to inform operations to prey on U.S. personnel. Examples include extortion through ransomware, an adversary intelligence service probing an employee for specific national information by appealing to their subject matter expertise, and online influence / radicalization.

It is crucial to accept that the United States and its citizens are more heavily reliant on social media than ever before. Social media entities such as Meta (formerly Facebook) have new and yet to be released products for children (i.e., the “Instagram for Kids” product) enabling adversaries to prey upon any age a potential. Terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda utilize cartoons on outlets like YouTube and Instagram to entice vulnerable youth to carry out attacks or help radicalize potential suicide bombers[2].

The Art of War Can Culture Drive Geopolitics?

Beverly Gage

Around 1949, fresh out of college at Northwestern University, my mother moved to New York to take a job at NBC. She arrived at the dawn of U.S. television. NBC had entered the business just about a decade earlier. Rather than being assigned to a sitcom or a variety show, she ended up at the NBC Opera Theatre, one of the splashiest, most expensive ventures in the new lineup. The corporation had long sponsored its own radio orchestra under the leadership of the famed conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had fled Mussolini’s Italy in the 1930s for refuge in the United States. When television came along, executives assumed that one of its functions would be to make Toscanini-style high culture available to the American masses. That dream—that a major television orchestra and opera company would be both popular and profitable—lasted an astonishing 15 years, from 1949 to 1964, before NBC concluded that the future of television lay elsewhere.

This is roughly the time period covered in Louis Menand’s new book, The Free World. Menand is less interested in classical impresarios such as Toscanini than in the cultural innovators of the age: the philosophers and composers and painters and wise-man diplomats whose ideas put them at the cutting edge of Western culture. In Menand’s telling, for a brief period following World War II, U.S. liberalism proved its power and luster by creating a society open enough to foster vibrant exchange in the realm of high culture, art, and ideas—and rich enough to sustain the men and women engaged in such work. That moment came crashing to an end in the 1960s, as challenges at home and abroad tarnished the United States’ self-conception as the epicenter of “the free world.” While it lasted, it produced something like a golden age of intellectual and artistic experimentation, with a bona fide popular audience.

Antarctica: The Next Geopolitical Hotspot?

James Holmes

A Chilean friend asks whether the craze for building “icebreakers or polar ships” will continue and whether it’s coming to the Antarctic. My rambling answer: probably so, to a degree. But I doubt polar operations will take on a martial character in Antarctic waters the way they have in the Arctic.

In fact, the best way to espy the future of Antarctica is to compare it to the Arctic basin’s present.

For one thing, the claimants to sovereign territory in Antarctica do not exactly make up a murderer’s row. NATO and Russia glare at each other across the Arctic, and their commercial and political interests often clash. Contrast that with Antarctica, where Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and Great Britain have lodged claims to parcels of ground. Now, much of the continent does remain unclaimed, principally Marie Byrd Land. Whether Antarctica becomes a cockpit for geopolitical competition probably depends on whether it harbors natural riches that can be harvested at a reasonable cost, advancing economic weal for the harvester. Resources have a way of fueling competition, whether it’s the 49ers rushing pell-mell to California in the mid-19th century to pan for gold, or Asian powers vying for jurisdiction over fish and undersea oil and gas in the China seas today.

‘Radically optimistic’: the thinktank chief who believes the US can ‘self-correct’

David Smith

Barack Obama could be forgiven for considering himself a big shot. But Patrick Gaspard used to keep his ego in check.

“You’re of course an extraordinary historic figure but I’m sorry, this doesn’t compare,” Gaspard would joke, “meeting Nelson Mandela will always be the top of Mount Kilimanjaro for me.”

The 53-year-old has a unique perspective on the men who became the US’s and South Africa’s first Black presidents. As a trade unionist and community activist, he first met Mandela a few months after his release from prison. Later he became close to Obama, serving in his White House and as his diplomat in South Africa.

Now Gaspard is the new president and chief executive of the Center for American Progress (CAP), described by the Politico website as “the most influential think tank of the Biden era”. He succeeds Neera Tanden, who left to become a senior adviser to the president.

In a wide-ranging interview in his corner office, Gaspard offered lessons learned from Mandela and Obama, his verdict on Biden’s first year in office and what his global perspective tells him about the survival of American democracy.

Mark Zuckerberg's Ring of Power


ATHENS – Once upon a time, in the ancient kingdom of Lydia, a shepherd called Gyges found a magic ring, which, when rotated on his finger, made him invisible. So, Gyges walked unseen into the royal palace, seduced the queen, murdered the king, and installed himself as ruler. If you were to discover such a ring or another device that granted you exorbitant power, Socrates asked, would it be wise to use it to do or get whatever you want?

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement of some fabulous digital metaverse awaiting humanity gives new pertinence to Socrates’ answer: People should renounce excessive power and, in particular, any device capable of granting too many of our wishes.

Was Socrates right? Would reasonable people renounce the ring? Should they?

Socrates’ own disciples were not convinced. Plato reports that they expected almost everyone to succumb to the temptation, pretty much as Gyges had. But could this be because Gyges’ ring was not powerful, and thus not scary, enough? Might a device far more powerful than a ring that merely makes us invisible cause us to shudder at the thought of using it, as Socrates recommended? If so, what would such a device do?

Japan Approves Record Defense Budget for Fiscal Year 2022

Kosuke Takahashi

On December 24, the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio approved 5.4 trillion yen ($47.2 billion) defense spending in fiscal year 2022, starting in April, amid the increasingly tense security environment in east Asia.

Including U.S. Forces realignment-related expenses allocated for mitigating impacts on local communities, this marked another record figure for the eighth year in a row in the history of Japan’s national defense budget.

The draft budget, which is expected to be passed by Japan’s bicameral legislature in the coming months, represents a 1.09 percent nominal rise in annual spending and comes in at around 0.95 percent of the fiscal 2022 gross domestic product estimate released in July by the Cabinet Office.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense’s request to buy new equipment had been brought forward into the supplementary budget for fiscal year 2021, which also hit a record high for an extra budget, thus virtually surpassing the long-standing cap of 1 percent of GDP for defense spending.

Gray Zones or Limited War?

Robbin Laird

Western analysts have coined phrases like hybrid war and gray zones as a way to describe peer conflict below the level of general armed conflict.

But such language creates a cottage industry of think tank analysts, rather than accurately portraying the international security environment.

Peer conflict notably between the liberal democracies and the 21st century authoritarian powers is conflict over global dominance and management. It is not about managing the global commons; it is about whose rules dominate and apply.

Rather than being hybrid or gray, these conflicts, like most grand strategy since Napoleon, are much more about “non war” than they are about war. They shape the rules of the game to give one side usable advantage. They exploit the risk of moving to a higher intensity of confrontation.

Russia is doing this right now in Ukraine. China, likewise, is doing it in the South China Sea and in the Sea of Japan. It’s critical to understand this point, and terms like gray zone operations and hybrid war don’t capture the challenge of escalation control.

Russia Is Playing With Fire in the Balkans How Putin’s Power Play Threatens Europe

Ivana Stradner

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Yugoslav wars, Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II. Although the Balkan states moved toward democratic governance and integration with NATO and the European Union in the immediate aftermath of the wars, consistent neglect on the part of the West has contributed to a dramatic backsliding in recent years. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin is seizing his opportunity and using the former Yugoslav states as the next battlefield to weaken NATO and the European Union.

Putin’s efforts to push the Balkans to the brink are part of his mission to reestablish Russia as a global power broker. Similar to the Kremlin’s strategy in the Caucasus, Russia’s goal in the Balkans is to ramp up tensions so that it can position itself as the sole regional mediator and security guarantor. It simultaneously aims to demonstrate that neither NATO, the EU, nor their members are credible partners for any of the Balkan countries. As Moscow also continues its military buildup near the Ukrainian border, its influence campaign in the Balkans serves as another theater to challenge the West.

The Nutcracker’s Hidden Political Agenda

Richard Gowan

The holiday season should be a good time to forget about work and take comfort in classic Christmas stories. Foreign policy analysts, with half an eye on events in Ukraine and Afghanistan, may struggle to relax this year. It’s hard to avoid noting echoes of world events.

A few years ago, I rewrote the tale of the Three Wise Men and the baby Jesus as a parable about international negotiations for World Politics Review; a lot of the story revolves around the wise men haggling with Herod about where to find the Messiah. This year, I’ve been thinking about “The Nutcracker,” which packs ballet houses worldwide at this time of year.

Even if you are not a ballet fan, you probably know the outlines of its rather limited plot, which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky set to music in 1892. The original story, by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann is quite dark, as so many famous folk tales are—but we’ll leave that aside.

Russian Mercenaries are Officially in Mali—and the West is Furious

Trevor Filseth

The “Wagner Group,” a Russian mercenary firm, has been deployed to Mali to help the country’s army contain a growing Islamist insurgency in its northern region.

The move has drawn harsh reactions from the United States and Western Europe, which have already deployed troops in Mali to help contain the Islamist rebels and strongly oppose the presence of the Wagner Group, which they have tied to human-rights abuses in the developing world.

France, which has begun to wind down its military mission in the country, condemned the Malian government’s decision, noting that the money used for Wagner Group mercenaries could have been put towards developing and professionalizing the Malian military.

“We deeply regret the choice of the Malian transitional authorities to use already scarce public funds to pay foreign mercenaries instead of supporting the Malian Armed Forces,” a statement released by the French Foreign Ministry said. It also requested that Russia, which is widely suspected of funding the mercenary unit, “revert to a responsible and constructive behavior” within Mali.

National conservatives and racial identitarians have a common enemy: Individualism

George F. Will

Prophecy is optional folly but an irresistible end-of-year temptation. So, at the risk of allowing a wish to be the father of a thought, a plausible prediction is that in 2022 the current fever of racial thinking will break, for two reasons.

One is that such thinking has become something fatal in politics: boring. It is now a recycling of predictable boilerplate about “systemic” and “structural” this, and “unconscious” and “intersectional” that. The impulse, presented as a moral imperative, to view the nation’s past and present exclusively through the narrow lens of race became in 2021 so pervasive and fierce that it resembled something perishable: a fad. Albeit one that has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry whereby corporations hire “diversity” consultants to teach them how to regret their “privilege” without shedding any.

A more intriguing reason climate change is coming to the nation’s intellectual climate was given in an essay published exactly 60 years ago by an eminent British political philosopher. Michael Oakeshott’s “The Masses in Representative Democracy” is uncannily pertinent to the United States’ distemper in 2021 because it explains how today’s supposedly avant-garde ideas are pre-modern.

Reports of Russia's decline are greatly exaggerated


Tales of Russia’s demise have circulated with remarkable consistency since the fall of the Soviet Union on Dec. 25 exactly three decades ago. Having fallen from its superpower pedestal, the Soviet Union’s successor state was routinely characterized as a “declining power,” a “has-been power” and a “downshift power.”

In recent years, the more dire prophesies of Russian collapse that circulated in the 1990s having gone unfulfilled, such characterizations have given way to a recognition that Russia is in fact a “persistent power.” Fundamentally, though, nothing has changed. Whether rebranded as a mere “nuisance power” or as a perpetually “disruptive” power, Russia is viewed now as it has been since it emerged out of the wreckage of the Soviet Union in December 1991 — as a broken, if sometimes petulant, vestige of a once-mighty superpower.

But as the crisis in Ukraine has once again demonstrated, such characterizations are grossly misleading. Indeed, they couldn’t be more wrong. Russia is not the geopolitical basket-case it was in the immediate post-Soviet era. Nor is it the bit player on the world stage it is often portrayed as in the Western press. In fact, quite the opposite: Viewed dispassionately and in the cold light of Realpolitik, Russia is unambiguously a “great power” — a country possessing both substantial instruments of national power and the will to use these instruments to influence political outcomes around the world. And any American grand strategy worthy of the name will have to take that undeniable fact into account.

This Is The Company Profiting Most From War

Douglas A. McIntyre

Many of the military conflicts around the world exist in nations that do not have the capacity to make sophisticated weapons. Most of these are in Africa and the Middle East. These include conflicts in Nigeria and Ethiopia. Largest conflicts involving regime change. This includes Iraq. In the case of Iraq, American forces left behind weapons that can still be used.

And, there are countries that believe they need protection against possible conflict, many of which spend hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are good examples. Several nations provide most of these weapons. The U.S. is at the top of this list by far. But, it includes several European nations, and Russia.

In some of these “weapon providing” nations, companies and not the government design and build these weapons. Several have become among the largest corporations in the world, and several are public and have shares that trade on major stock markets.

To determine the company profiting the most from war, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Top 100 Arms-Producing Military Services Companies, 2020. Companies were ranked based on SIPRI’s estimates of arms and military services sales in 2020. Some Chinese companies were not considered due to a lack of sufficient data. Arms and military services sales figures came from SIPRI. Revenue figures for the latest fiscal year came from financial reports and corporate press releases.

Record-Breaking Hole Mobility Heralds Flexible Future For Electronics

Technologists envisage an electronically interconnected future that will depend on cheap, lightweight, flexible devices. Efforts to optimize the semiconductor materials needed for these electronic devices are therefore necessary. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have reported a record-breaking germanium (Ge) thin film on a plastic substrate that offers flexibility without compromising performance. Their findings are published in ACS Applied Electronic Materials (Supplementary Journal Cover).

Ge is a popular semiconductor for use in transistors because it has high charge carrier mobility (charge carrier refers to the electrons and electron holes that move through the material). Ge can also be processed at the relatively low temperature of ~500°C and has a low Young’s modulus, which means it is a softer alternative to commonly used materials such as silicon.

Ge thin films can be grown using the solid-phase crystallization technique. These thin films are polycrystalline, meaning they are made up of many Ge crystals. In general, larger crystals lead to greater carrier mobilities because bigger crystals form fewer grain boundaries that obstruct the current. Recent increases in grain size have therefore led to effective Ge thin-film transistors on rigid substrates such as glass.

Understanding the Offense’s Systemwide Advantage in Cyberspace

Jason Healey

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released on Dec. 11 a statement on the massive log4j vulnerability, one of the worst the internet has ever seen. This is just the latest in a string of some of the most brazen and dangerous cyberattacks of all times that have happened within the past year: SolarWinds, Colonial Pipeline, JBS, Kaseya and the Microsoft Exchange megahack. No wonder that cyber defenders are suffering from burnout, alert fatigue and overwork. This is not a new phenomenon. Since the very beginning of the internet, the offense often has seemed to have the advantage over defense.

But since attackers’ success is far from assured, as defenders can and do put up agile and spirited defenses, the right question is not whether the offense or defense has the advantage in cyberspace, but under what conditions (to paraphrase what Robert Jervis and I have written elsewhere).

This post accordingly starts with a unique structure of five separate frameworks for analyzing offense-defense advantage to reconcile the differing perspectives. Though each has its uses, only one, the systemwide framework, directly addresses policy issues such as managing systemic cyber risk and understanding the impact of one-to-multitude situations like log4j, which is affecting hundreds of millions of devices, and SolarWinds, in which a single intrusion directly affected 18,000 companies.

Emerging Technology Horizons: Quantum and the Future of Cryptography

Vidya Subramanian

The ability to encrypt information is an essential part of military command and control, just as breaking military codes has been a decisive factor in modern warfare. With that in mind, the United States should take steps now to prepare for a day when adversaries could have quantum computing-enabled decryption capabilities.

Examples of successful codebreaking abound, from the deciphering of the Zimmermann Telegram that brought the United States into World War I to the cracking of Japanese codes that led to victory at the Battle of Midway. Most famously, cracking the Enigma code helped change the course of World War II. Though still an essential element of military command and control, cryptography also underpins security across all segments of our economy, including phone calls, credit card payments, banking transactions and most web searches.

Ensuring that data is successfully encrypted and thus inaccessible to attackers is key to maintaining a strong cyber defense posture. To that end, cryptographic technologies are widely employed to authenticate sources, protect stored information, and share data in a confidential and secure manner. Algorithms currently in use are so advanced and have revolutionized data security to such an extent that even the fastest classical computers could take years, in some cases decades, to unlock encrypted files. As a result, rather than attempt brute force decryption, hackers have instead preferred to steal encryption keys or find weak links in a security network to bypass secure channels and steal decrypted data.

The Marine Corps Is Redesigning Infantry Battalions for the Future


The Marine Corps is honing its plans for smaller, tech-heavy infantry battalions through two years of experimentation intended to reveal the best mix of people and capabilities for the distributed operations of the future.

“Nothing of this scale has been attempted in, certainly, decades,” said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory/Futures Directorate and the vice chief of the Office of Naval Research.

Dubbed Infantry Battalion Experiment Campaign Plan, or IBX30, the three-battalion effort is part of the Corps’ push to reorganize for conflicts with near-peer adversaries by 2030, which the current defense strategy says will require spreading forces across larger battlespaces while fending off new technologies like drones and cyber attacks.

“As we've seen in lots of recent conflicts, the proliferation of long-range weapons and sensors and things like that make it very challenging to survive on the current battlefield if you are a large unit that's operating in—--with large groups of people very close to each other. So you need to be able to disperse and distribute your forces and still achieve effects,” Watson said in an interview.