6 October 2023

Who Killed the Chinese Economy?

Zongyuan Zoe Liu , Michael Pettis &  Adam S. Posen
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In “The End of China’s Economic Miracle” (September/October 2023), Adam Posen describes China’s recent economic challenges as a case of “economic long COVID.” Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “extreme response to the pandemic,” he posits, triggered “the general public’s immune response” and “produced a less dynamic economy.” Posen’s analogy is creative and insightful. But his diagnosis misses the chronic diseases that afflicted China’s economy well before the COVID-19 pandemic: an exhausted growth model, stunted population growth thanks to the “one-child policy,” and, most notably, Xi’s failures of leadership.

Xi is not to blame for the Chinese economy’s deepest structural problems. He is, however, responsible for the government’s failure to deal with them. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping initiated sweeping economic reforms after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Standing apart from previous Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders, particularly Mao Zedong, Deng took an open and pragmatic approach toward economic development. He rebooted China’s relationship with the United States, observing in 1979 that “all countries that fostered good relations with the United States have become rich.” When China’s economy faltered after the government’s crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he headed off a downward spiral by clearly reiterating the party’s commitment to economic reforms, especially during an influential 1992 tour of southern China.

Over the last 45 years, China has transformed from one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries into the heart of the global supply chain. That economic rise, however, was built on a system of financial repression that prioritized investment and exports over domestic household consumption, leading to harmful stagnation on the demand side of the economy. Posen identifies the first quarter of 2020 as the “point of no return” for the Chinese economy, but it has faced looming problems for at least a decade. The workhorses of its growth model were already tiring years ago.

China's Propaganda Paper Revels in US Division Over Ukraine Aid


China's state media on Monday published interviews with anti-war American commentators who predicted declining public support for Ukraine as the U.S. Congress heaved a sigh of relief following a last-minute spending compromise to avoid a government shutdown.

The Global Times newspaper, a hawkish tabloid published by the Communist Party's propaganda department, said weary Americans were likely to turn inward amid a sluggish economic rebound. "War fatigue," it said, may put the White House under pressure to slash funding for Kyiv in an election year.

The United States is Ukraine's strongest backer, having directed four rounds of assistance totaling about $113 billion, about half of which was military aid, since the war began. President Joe Biden has sought an additional $24 billion since August, but Congress voted to forgo $6 billion in additional security assistance in order to pass a stopgap funding bill just shy of the October 1 deadline.

Speaking at the White House on Sunday, Biden said bipartisan support for Ukraine remained strong despite the close call. "We will not walk away," he said. Meanwhile, Ukraine's months-long counteroffensive against invading Russian forces continues as the war approaches its second full year.

The U.S. Cannot Afford to Lose a Soft-Power Race With China

Raja Krishnamoorthi

Outside the halls of the United Nations and the G-20 summit in New Delhi, it’s been a busy month of diplomacy. Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden wrapped up a quick trip to Hanoi, where he met with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong, while Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the leaders of Venezuela, Cambodia, and Zambia to Beijing. This flurry of activity is not without purpose; in our strategic competition with China, photo ops, influence in multilateral institutions, and bilateral relationships have become just as important as ballistic missiles and aircraft carriers. Washington is in a soft power race—and it needs to win.

‘Long March’: Beijing escalates use of disinformation as propaganda tool

Bill Gertz

China’s government is engaged in a massive global campaign to promote its communist system and counter dissenting voices, according to a U.S. government report.

After decades of promoting mainly positive narratives about China to world audiences through broadcasting and print media, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has altered its approach under President Xi Jinping, according to the survey, released Thursday by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.

Beijing has shifted to embracing the coordinated use of disinformation when it suits its purposes, often using inauthentic bot networks to amplify messaging,” the 58-page report concluded. It describes the operations as highly sophisticated media and government influence “underwritten by billions of dollars in investments.”

The report identifies multiple elements of Chinese government information manipulation and influence activities, including propaganda and censorship, the promotion of “digital authoritarianism” to control online content, and the infiltration and control of international organizations and bilateral relationships.

Jamie Rubin, director of the Global Engagement Center, told reporters that the report comprehensively examines how the People’s Republic of China attempts to distort the global information environment through its influence and disinformation activities.

Army’s Wormuth: Congress will soon hear plans to revamp force structure, trim SOF


Army Secretary Christine Wormuth Col. Samuel Miller, commander of the 7th Transportation Brigade, talk logistics during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2023. 

AUSA 2023 — Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Chief Gen. Randy George are planning to brief lawmakers on force structure changes prompted, in part, by recruiting woes and the pivot towards large-scale operations.

Ahead of next week’s Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC, the duo unveiled fiscal 2023 recruiting data today. When FY23 ended on Sept 30, the service met its end-strength of goal of 452,000 for active-duty soldiers thanks to stronger retention numbers. However, it was 10,000 recruits shy of its 65,000 “stretch goal” and from that 55,000 total, only about 4,600 people will ship out in FY24 as part of the delayed entry program.

While hitting that end-strength target is a plus for the Army, the active-duty force remains smaller than the 485,000 soldiers it had several years ago, and Wormuth and George are not banking on a quick bounce back to those figures. As such, they have been working on a people “night court” of sorts to decide how to make the most efficient use of the personnel available, and lawmakers are about to see that plan in the “very near future,” Wormuth said.

Ben Wallace insists Ukraine will defeat Russia – and pinpoints Vladimir Putin's 'undoing'


Ben Wallace has said that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is succeeding, “slowly but surely”, and has the “momentum” against Russia.

He also takes a swipe at pessimistic “group thinkers” with supposed “Russia experience” who said that Ukraine would only hold on “for a few weeks” when the war first broke out.

Mr Wallace’s intervention comes exactly one month after he resigned as Defence Secretary, and became one of the few politicians to depart their job while enjoying widespread approval and popularity.

Mr Wallace said the men and women of Ukraine were “proving to us in NATO how much we have underestimated them”.

He described the Ukrainians as having “the same spirit we possessed in 1939”, and poignantly says pessimists in the West failed to understand that “in war, the most precious commodity of all is hope”.

Mr Wallace said President Zelensky should now consider conscripting Ukraine’s youth as Russia mobilises its young people to fight in the war.

While he accepted the Ukrainian leader’s desire to “preserve the young for the future”, he suggested they must now be considered to join the fight “as Britain did in 1939 and 1941”.

AI and the Future of Drone Warfare: Risks and Recommendations

Brianna Rosen

The next phase of drone warfare is here. On Sep. 6, 2023, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks touted the acceleration of the Pentagon’s Replicator initiative – an effort to dramatically scale up the United States’ use of artificial intelligence on the battlefield. She rightfully called it a “game-changing shift” in national security. Under Replicator, the U.S. military aims to field thousands of autonomous weapons systems across multiple domains in the next 18 to 24 months.

Yet Replicator is only the tip of the iceberg. Rapid advances in AI are giving rise to a new generation of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) that can identify, track, and attack targets without human intervention. Drones with autonomous capabilities and AI-enabled munitions are already being used on the battlefield, notably in the Russia-Ukraine War. From “killer algorithms” that select targets based on certain characteristics to autonomous drone swarms, the future of warfare looks increasingly apocalyptic.

Amidst the specter of “warbot” armies, it is easy to miss the AI revolution that is underway. Human-centered or “responsible AI,” as the Pentagon refers to it, is designed to keep a human “in the loop” in decision-making to ensure that AI is used in “lawful, ethical, responsible, and accountable ways.” But even with human oversight and strict compliance with the law, there is a growing risk that AI will be used in ways which fundamentally violate international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL).

The most immediate threat is not the “AI apocalypse” – where machines take over the world – but humans leveraging AI to establish new patterns of violence and domination over each other.

Should Biden Push for Regime Change in Russia?

David Remnick

Throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine, David Remnick has talked with Stephen Kotkin, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who is deeply informed on U.S.-Russia relations, and a biographer of Stalin. With the Ukrainian counter-offensive proceeding very slowly, Kotkin says that Ukraine is unlikely to “win the peace” on the battlefield; an armistice on Volodymyr Zelensky’s terms—although they may be morally correct—would require the defeat of Russia itself. Realistically, he thinks, Ukraine must come to accept some loss of territory in exchange for security guarantees. And, without heavy political pressure from the U.S., Kotkin tells David Remnick, no amount of military aid would be sufficient. “We took regime change off the table,” Kotkin notes regretfully. “That’s so much bigger than the F-16s or the tanks or the long-range missiles because that’s the variable . . . . When [Vladimir Putin is] scared that his regime could go down, he’ll cut and run. And if he’s not scared about his regime, he'll do the sanctions busting. He’ll do everything he’s doing because it’s with impunity.”

The War Is Over, but No One Knows How to Stop Fighting

George Friedman

It has been more than one and a half years since Russia launched its attack on Ukraine. The war has not gone as the Russians expected, unless they had planned for more than a year of taking casualties without being in a position to crush the Ukrainians. The Russians had to expect a short war in which they crushed the Ukrainian army and its will to resist. If they fell short, they knew that the Americans after a short time would surge weapons into Ukraine, risking a protracted conflict.

Ukraine has been defending its homeland, so morale is high. The Ukrainian mission was to force a Russian retreat across the border. Its first strategy relied on agility, employing relatively small units to strike at slow-moving Russian forces. But as the Russians drew into prepared defensive positions with heavy weapons, the Ukrainian strategy became less effective. The surge of U.S. and NATO weapons increased casualties on defensive positions as well as offensive ones.

The American-Russian war was in certain ways distinct from the Russian-Ukrainian war. I have written before on this. Russia’s fear was that an American force on the Ukrainian border could attack Moscow, some 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. The Americans feared that the fall of Ukraine would bring Russian forces to the eastern line of NATO nations, restarting the Cold War. In this sense, the war has little to do with Ukraine, save that it has savaged the country, and is sliding toward a painful and dangerous cold war.

Lessons From the Korean War for Ukraine

George Monastiriakos

Rational and self-imposed restraint disadvantages Russia in Ukraine; the United States and its United Nations allies experienced similar limitations during the Korean War. While Ukraine is already exploiting this to its advantage, Washington and Brussels would be wise to do the same.

In the 1950s, global peace and stability were on the precipice. World War II had devastated swathes of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Tens of millions of people, mostly innocent and defenseless civilians, were killed in the bloodiest conflict of all-time.

To end the war, the United States demonstrated the destructive power of nuclear weapons twice, killing more than 100,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the 1940s weren’t apocalyptic enough, the Soviet Union also detonated its first atomic bomb at Semipalatinsk in 1949.

Like today, Moscow was busy challenging the newly formed United Nations’ mandate to preserve peace and stability wherever it could. The United States oversaw Western Europe’s reconstruction. The Marshall Plan was enacted, NATO was established, and the Schumann Declaration laid the legal and intellectual foundations to institutionalize peace on the European continent.

Digital Engineering Could Bring U.S. Defense Up to Date

Dan Goure

Digital engineering has been around for some time. But only now is it coming into widespread use, both for the design and development of new platforms, weapons systems, components, and software, and for sustainment and upgrading activities. Digital engineering has the potential to radically change the way the Department of Defense interacts with the defense industrial base. It can transform the defense industrial base and the way the defense department accesses services and support. Specifically, it offers a large number of companies, particularly those not currently engaged in defense work, the opportunity to participate in the defense industrial base.

A prime example of how digital engineering is changing how sustainment and upgrades can be done comes from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). SNC is at the leading edge of the digital revolution. The company’s applications of digital engineering and related technologies and techniques are likely to result in a change not only in defense procurement and contracting practices, but in the overall defense acquisition culture, which was formed before the IT revolution.

What is digital engineering? One authoritative source defines it thusly: “Digital engineering describes a holistic approach to the design of a complex system: It uses models/data instead of documents, integration of data across models, and the culture change across project teams to realize significant risk reduction on construction cost and schedule.”

Why North Korea Won't Ever Give Up Its Nuclear Weapons

Mitchell Lerner

The simple answer to the question of whether North Korea will ever willingly give up its nuclear weapons is: “No.”

The more complex and nuanced answer is: “Hell, no.”

OK, maybe that is a bit too dramatic. I am a historian, after all, and people in my profession tend to define “ever” as covering a really, really, really, long period of time.

Strange and unexpected things do happen over really, really, really, long periods of time.

But, watching a DPRK leader willingly giving up these weapons would certainly be near the top of that list.
Why North Korea Wants Nuclear Weapons

The critical factor is that North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear program is not just a product of the international security environment, but is instead rooted in domestic politics and ideology.

The Kim family has long positioned itself as the great protector of the Korean people, an almost superhuman line of leaders that is uniquely qualified to protect the country against the evil machinations of foreign antagonists. For much of the nation’s early years, Kim Il Sung rooted this position in both economic and security terms, insisting that only he could lead the country down this dual path towards a socialist utopia.

What do US Spies Do? Don't Ask America's Espionage Chiefs

Katrina Manson and Peter Martin

US intelligence agencies blew through a Sept. 30 deadline to define 23 terms such as "open source intelligence" and "signals intelligence" that would help explain how they conduct espionage. That's prompting fresh concern from Congress and civil-society groups.

"How the government defines 'open-source intelligence' gets at the heart of the problem," Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. He said he's been asking the Office of Director of National Intelligence to be transparent with the American public "for years."

"This isn't just about legalistic definitions," Wyden said. "It's about letting Americans know whether highly personal information about them that the government has purchased" is handled the same way as public information published by the media, he said.

Back in 2022, Congress passed a law that demanded US intelligence chiefs define the terms that shape how the US conducts spying and the role of each agency. Figuring that out determines who can use what tools to engage in spying – and how money and power shake out across the country's 18 spy agencies.

A spokesperson for Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Bloomberg News that the panel has yet to receive those definitions.


Steven Gilland and Shane Reeves

It is 2033. A young infantry platoon leader is deployed to the frontlines of an austere environment, facing a peer adversary. This technologically advanced foe uses cyber warfare, advanced sensors, and autonomous drones to gather vast amounts of data, which is rapidly processed by artificial intelligence to enable lethal strikes by hypersonic missiles and other long-range fires. The platoon, along with its higher and adjacent units, is widely dispersed to lessen the potential damage of one of these strikes. Communications between these units are not functioning due to electromagnetic jamming, while GPS is also unavailable due to a successful barrage against the United States’ low earth orbit satellite constellation.

This is the future of national defense, and it will require the Army’s leaders to adapt to new and emerging threats. Every single platoon leader must be prepared for such a scenario—able to confront a highly capable opponent, while isolated, on a rapidly evolving battlefield. We will need these officers to not only respond quickly and effectively to new challenges, but also to do so with the moral and ethical judgment the American people expect of our fighting forces.

Preparing the Army’s junior leaders for the challenges ahead must begin as early as possible. Here at the United States Military Academy, we have forty-seven months in which to do so. At West Point, we have always been committed to preparing both our cadets and faculty to be leaders of character. Now we are committed to doing so in this new era of national defense, equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and ethical decision-making needed to effectively lead in volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments.

The Secret Memo From the General Who Foresaw Black Hawk Down

Mark Bowden

The battle of Mogadishu in early October 1993 shocked most Americans. U.S. forces had been deployed to Somalia to support a U.N. humanitarian mission and had helped end a famine, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Ten months later, there was pitched street fighting in Mogadishu, 18 dead American soldiers, more than a thousand Somali casualties and the horror, replayed over and over on TV, of American bodies being dragged through the streets by angry mobs.

The United States had just emerged from victory in the Cold War and the swift triumph of Desert Storm and had, perhaps, an unrealistic faith in its military potency. President Bill Clinton expressed this when he asked his staff, “How could this happen?” The battle ended the U.S. military mission and caused the collapse of the U.N.’s effort. Somalia fell back into anarchy. It was a stunning reversal.

But not everyone was shocked. Maj. Gen. David Meade of the Army, whose command included the largest American component of the peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, had foreseen events clearly. Weeks before the battle, in a classified memo to the Army chief of staff, he warned that Somalia was about to erupt. “You’re likely to have a big fight over some period of time with considerable casualties,” he wrote. “And, in the end, you’re going to turn over the city to the Somalis.” General Meade urged immediate steps, which might have forestalled the incident we now call Black Hawk Down.

Building a Theory: Ukraine’s Way of War


As I write this, I am on the long, slow train that takes me away from Kyiv and back to Poland.

I am sad to leave this beautiful city, it’s amazing people and the friends I have made there. It is city that has charmed me on each of my visits so far. During my time in Ukraine, I have also been able to speak to an array of people during this visit to better inform my theory about the developing Ukrainian Way of War.

As I described in my first post in this series, the focus on my visit to Ukraine was examining how it fights the war, not individual battles or campaigns. To that end, a variety of discussions with different military and government officials has provided a huge amount of information to support my research.

But, it is important to note that the intellectual underpinnings of the Ukrainian approach to fighting this war were developed well before the 2022 Russian invasion.

Thinking About a Future Russian Invasion

During one of my discussions with a senior Ukrainian official, he described some of the thinking and planning that was undertaken by the senior personnel in the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2021. By that point, there was a general sense that some form of major Russian operation was likely. These discussions centred on how Ukraine could not afford to fight how Russia would fight and how much of its former-Soviet doctrine stipulated.

Ukraine and US Need a New Strategy for a Longer War

Hal Brands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the United Nations and the White House this week, seeking more support for his country in a war that won’t end anytime soon. Zelenskiy’s chief backer, the US, will need a shift in strategy to help Ukraine survive and prevail in a protracted war, even as the politics of the conflict get harder in Washington.

It may seem odd to forecast a grim, protracted struggle just as Ukrainian troops are finally opening gaps in Russia’s strong defensive lines. But barring a catastrophic collapse of Russian resistance, Ukraine won’t liberate all of its territory this year. The war may not end next year, either, given that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely pinning his hopes for victory on the return of Donald Trump as US president — and a corresponding collapse in Western unity — after November 2024. The fighting may well drag into 2025 or even longer, presenting new challenges in a new phase of the war.

Phase one of US strategy, in 2022, involved giving Ukraine enough aid to avoid losing while also inflicting appalling costs on the invaders. The success of that effort led to phase two: preparing Ukraine for a counteroffensive meant to claw back territory and perhaps make peace on favorable terms. This phase has been more disappointing, due to slow progress on the battlefield — and the fact that Putin is so committed to victory that he was always unlikely to come to terms.

Even now, the peace Putin wants would leave Ukraine indefensible and dismembered. So unless the US opts for disengagement — tantamount to Ukrainian defeat — it needs to start addressing the problems a longer war will confront.

This is what the U.S. is getting by aiding Ukraine

Max Boot

The good news is that Congress, at the last minute, averted a government shutdown, at least for now. The bad news is that billions of dollars of funding for Ukraine were stripped from the continuing resolution as a sop to House Republicans who want to cut off the embattled democracy altogether.

Aid to Ukraine still has the support of roughly two-thirds of both houses — something you can’t say about many other issues — but a dangerous milestone was reached last week when more House Republicans voted against Ukraine aid (117) than voted for it (101). That reflects a broader turn in Republican opinion, with only 39 percent of Republicans saying in a recent CBS News-YouGov poll that the United States should send weapons to Ukraine and 61 percent saying it shouldn’t.

To do the right thing for Ukraine, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will now have to go against a growing portion of the Republican base. It is, nevertheless, imperative that he show a modicum of backbone and bring a Ukraine funding bill to the floor immediately. It is not only the right thing to do morally — we have an obligation to support a fellow democracy fending off an unprovoked invasion — but it also is the right thing to do strategically. In fact, it is hard to think of any U.S. foreign policy initiative since the end of the Cold War that has been more successful or more important than U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Ukraine, the biggest loser of the stopgap deal to avoid a federal shutdown


The last-minute measures approved in Congress in Washington have avoided a shutdown of the U.S. government. But the law signed by President Joe Biden a few minutes before midnight on Saturday, which allows for temporary funding to keep agencies open, has left a victim along the way: Ukraine.

The temporary funding bill — presented by the House of Representatives, with a Republican majority, and endorsed by the Senate, with a Democratic majority — does not include military aid to help Ukraine fight the Russian invasion. The majority of both parties on Capitol Hill support this aid — indeed, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of its staunchest defenders —, and its backers have promised to present a funding proposal in the coming days. But the long and arduous negotiations with the hard-right faction of the Republican Party have made one thing clear: the resistance of the radical Republicans to continue aid to the Government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy is increasingly firm and extends beyond the ranks of their party, especially in the lower house.

It is a perspective that, looking to the future, is of great concern in the White House and those who support aid to Kyiv. The U.S. presidential elections are approaching in November 2024, which is expected to be a tight contest. What’s more, the majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives will be at stake. And as the election campaign heats up, Republican lawmakers are likely to become more and more reluctant to approve multimillion-dollar aid packages to a nation that is far from their voters, both physically and mentally.

The Scrambled Spectrum of U.S. Foreign-Policy Thinking

Ash Jain

Foreign policy is likely to feature prominently at the Republican presidential primary debates. At the debate in August, a question on whether the candidates would support continued U.S. assistance to Ukraine produced a firestorm. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had previously suggested that Russia’s war in Ukraine was not a “vital” national interest, appeared skeptical, calling on Europe to do more instead. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was more direct in opposing such aid, calling it “disastrous” for the United States to be “protecting against an invasion across somebody else’s border.” Former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, on the other hand, expressed strong support for assisting Ukraine, effectively standing behind President Joe Biden’s efforts to counter Russian aggression while imploring the United States to do even more.

On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats have been wary of Biden’s policy on Ukraine, as evidenced by a letter (that was later retracted) sent to the president by progressive Democrats, calling for a diplomatic end to the conflict and potential sanctions relief for Russia.

In today’s polarized political atmosphere, such cross-cutting views may appear confounding. On most domestic policy issues, whether political leaders have an R or a D next to their name is often a pretty good guide to their take on any particular issue. But when it comes to foreign policy, the normal rules of politics do not apply. Instead, of much greater relevance is where a political leader falls on the foreign-policy ideology spectrum.
A visualization shows the six schools of foreign-policy thought, four interntionalists and two non-internationalists.

The schools of thought that make up this spectrum, reflecting fundamentally different views about the U.S. role in the world, are highly influential but not very well understood.

In seeking to differentiate between foreign-policy positions, the media often resorts to cliches, such as “hawks versus doves,” or buzzwords, such as “isolationist” and “neoconservative.” However, these terms tend to be oversimplified or exaggerated and convey little useful information. International relations theories are not all that helpful either. “Realism” is routinely conflated with an academic concept that predicts how nations can be expected to behave, rather than how they should. And other theories, such as “idealism” and “constructivism,” offer limited utility in understanding real-world decision-making.

Yet there are critical differences in how policymakers view the world and are seeking to influence the direction of U.S. foreign policy. There is a clear dichotomy, for instance, between those who believe that U.S. influence is mostly positive and that the United States should play an active role in global affairs and those who believe that U.S. hubris more often leads to bad outcomes and want to scale back the country’s overseas commitments.

There is a significant divide between those who believe that the United States should prioritize efforts to advance democratic values and norms and those who believe in defending more narrow strategic interests. And there are disparate views on whether the United States should stand firm against adversaries, such as Russia and China, or should seek to find common ground.

I have delineated six distinct foreign-policy camps that represent the dominant strains of thinking on the U.S. role in the world. These camps can be placed along a spectrum of international engagement. Four of them fall on the more assertive side of this spectrum, constituting “internationalists,” who believe that the United States should exercise its influence and be actively engaged in global affairs. And two of the camps are “non-internationalists,” who believe that the United States should scale back its global commitments and adopt a less forward-leaning foreign policy.

Putin’s 5 catastrophic miscalculations


What could Vladimir Putin have been thinking?

Since the start of the Ukraine war more than 18 months ago, many have wondered why Russia launched a unilateral war of aggression against its western neighbor — and why, despite grievous battlefield losses and major strategic miscalculations in the months since, the Kremlin continues to persist in this effort.

The answer can be found in a series of profound miscalculations that have been made by the Kremlin in recent years.

First, Putin has, over time, become obsessed with initiating and leading a global campaign against the West, the way the communist regime of the USSR did. His attempts to simply coopt democratic institutions have proven incompatible with his desire for lifelong rule, despite the pliability of many European leaders.

So the Russian president and his followers have persuaded themselves that a civilizational war between Russia and the West is both necessary and inescapable. In their eyes, the current struggle for Ukraine — once the seat of the Russian state — represents the opening salvo in such an effort.

That project, however, has failed.

While the Kremlin hoped in theory to rally a broad anti-Western front in support of its efforts, it has had tremendous practical difficulty in doing so. As a result, it has been forced to rely on assistance from a handful of rogue states such as Syria, Iran and North Korea to continue to fuel its war effort.

Discovery of ‘Jumbos’ may herald new astronomical category

Hannah Devlin

Dozens of planet-sized objects have been discovered in the Orion Nebula via observations that could herald the existence of a new astronomical category.

The free-floating entities, which have been named Jupiter-mass binary objects, or Jumbos, appear in spectacular images taken by the James Webb space telescope. The objects are too small to be stars, but also defy the conventional definition of a planet because they are not in orbit around a parent star.

The discovery also appears to confound existing theories of star and planetary formation, which suggest it should not be possible to form Jupiter-sized objects through the process that gives rise to stars inside the clouds of dust and gas found in a nebula.

Prof Mark McCaughrean, a senior adviser for science and exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA), said the observations were inspired after data from ground-based telescopes hinted at the existence of the mysterious class of object.

“We were looking for these very small objects and we find them. We find them down as small as one Jupiter mass, even half a Jupiter mass, floating freely, not attached to a star,” he said. “Physics says you can’t even make objects that small. We wanted to see, can we break physics? And I think we have, which is good.”

Will Musk’s Starlink satellites lead to Kessler syndrome?

Ethan Siegel

Over the course of the 2020s and 2030s, the night sky and the volume of space that surrounds the Earth are both poised to become very different than they’ve been for all of human history. As of 2019, all of humanity had launched an estimated total of between 8,000 and 9,000 satellites, where approximately 2,000 of them were still active back then, mostly in low-Earth orbit. As many companies now scramble to provide worldwide 5G coverage from space — led most prominently by Elon Musk’s and SpaceX’s Starlink, which has by far the most satellites — humanity is now beginning to enter the era of satellite mega-constellations.

As of today in 2023, however, there are nearly 9000 active satellites, with active Starlinks making up the overwhelming majority of them: 4755 out of the 8647 active satellites, or 55% of them. While media coverage has largely focused on only one detrimental effect so far — the damage that these satellites have already caused and are still causing to astronomy — there’s a second consequence that could be even more disastrous over the long-term: Kessler syndrome. With tens or even hundreds of thousands of satellites in orbit, a single collision could trigger a chain reaction. With the realities of solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other forms of space weather, the era of mega-constellations may usher in a new type of natural disaster, making Earth’s orbit impassable to all future space-based missions.

Huge new satellite outshines nearly every star in the sky

Shannon Hall

On some nights, one of the brightest objects in the sky is neither a planet nor a star. It is a telecommunications satellite called BlueWalker 3, which at times outshines 99% of the stars visible from a dark location on Earth, according to observations reported today in Nature1.

BlueWalker 3 is the most brilliant recent addition to a sky that is already swarming with satellites. The spaceflight company SpaceX alone has launched more than 5,000 satellites into orbit, and companies around the globe have collectively proposed launching more than half a million satellites in the coming years — a scenario that astronomers fear could hamper scientific observations of the Universe.

The study “shows us that there are no boundaries to satellite brightness”, says Patrick Seitzer, an emeritus astronomer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the study. “I’m concerned that we’re going to see a very large number of large satellites launched in the next decade, and it will change the appearance of the night sky forever.”

Twilight star

Telecommunications firm AST SpaceMobile in Midland, Texas, launched BlueWalker 3 on 10 September 2022 as a prototype for a satellite fleet designed to make mobile broadband available almost anywhere. The satellite’s huge array of antennas and white colour mean that it reflects a considerable amount of sunlight back towards Earth, making it shine even at twilight.



Congress fractured the Military Health System in 2018 when it moved military health care under the Defense Health Agency. Ever since, the Defense Health Agency has centralized resources and civilianized military health care to save money and provide care to more dependents and retirees. In turn, operational military leaders, facing a mission-ignorant health care system, have started paying for embedded medical care out of their operational budgets. Embedded at the unit level and outside the military treatment facility, this innovative care blends primary care, psychological health, and human performance in an interdisciplinary team approach. It helps get military members the care they need at a fraction of the Defense Health Agency’s budget. This decentralized health care system is mission-centric, having been used by Special Operations Command for the past 20 years.

In the current Military Health System, the warfighter is asked to schedule a 15-minute primary care appointment at the clinic. If the system works as designed, the member is sent to the correct network specialist weeks or even months later, while the unit and the operational mission are without the mission-ready teammate.

Hence, there is a discrepancy between the two systems. This is because operators prioritize relationships, access, cost savings, risk, and morale in ways the Defense Health Agency has not. The embedded model provides the agility and decentralized execution needed to support the warfighter and the future fight in a proactive approach.