20 October 2023


Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, Andie Parry, and Nicholas Carl

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments and in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Who's behind Israel-Gaza disinformation and hate online?

Marianna Spring

Social media has been awash with false claims, conspiracy theories and hateful content surrounding what's happening in Israel and Gaza - and questions over whether inauthentic accounts are being used to manipulate the conversation.

As violence unfolds on the ground, I've been looking into who is behind this.

When I opened up my TikTok For You Page earlier this week, I was met with a video showing a young Israeli woman being taken hostage by Hamas fighters on 7 October. The footage was shocking.

When I scrolled through the comments, the reaction was not what I expected.

While some were distressed by the post, other users falsely suggested this footage was not what it seemed.

They said the woman in it is "not a civilian" but a soldier, or that the clips had been staged to frame Hamas.

Some claimed there's no evidence the group have acted violently towards hostages.

The clip, which has been verified by the BBC, shows a young woman covered in blood being pushed into a car by armed men. It was filmed on the outskirts of Gaza City in Sheijia.

Hamas is Holding Between 199 and 250 Hostages: Here’s What We Know About Them

Dan Morrison

The world heard for the first time Monday from one of Hamas' recently captured hostages, but confusion reigned over the number of captives Hamas and other groups are holding in Gaza. Israel revised its number to 199, nearly 50 more than previously reported, and Hamas said the overall figure was at least 200 and might be as high as 250

"We are currently unable to count all the Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip," said Hamas spokesman Abu Obeidah. "We estimate that there are 200-250."

More than a week after the October Hamas terror and hostage-taking, much about the hostages — their whereabouts, condition and in some cases even their identities — remains unclear.

Israel’s military said Monday that it had notified 199 families of loved ones believed to be held captive in Gaza, a sharp increase from the earlier estimate of 150. It wasn’t clear if the 199 included only Israelis or hostages from other countries as well.

For the first time, Hamas released footage of a hostage — a 21-year-old French-Israeli woman named Mia Shem, who was kidnapped from Sderot in Southern Israel and said to be receiving treatment for an arm injury in Gaza. She was seen in the video saying she had been "treated well" and that she hoped to go home as soon as possible.

How Israel's Fake City Helped Prepare for Gaza Invasion


Israeli troops massed by Gaza ahead of an expected invasion of the Palestinian territory are likely to have honed the skills they need to take on Hamas militants in urban warfare at a replica city in the Negev Desert.

The site at the Tze'elim army base just east of the Gaza Strip is where Israeli soldiers involved in the operation have probably been preparing, The Independent reported. Spanning 7.4 square miles, the facility was built in 2005 with the help of the United States to train soldiers fighting guerrillas in often congested, urban settings.

Nicknamed "Baladia," Arabic for "city," the site was established as a response to the Second Intifada uprising by Palestinians in occupied territories.

The deployment of around 400,000 Israeli reservists ahead of the expected invasion into Gaza follows the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 which has killed at least 1,300 people. At least 2,750 people had been killed in Gaza, according to authorities there, Reuters reported, following Israel's unprecedented bombardment of the strip.

Britain's Sky News reported on Sunday that ahead of an expected move into Gaza, Israeli troops had been training in a replica city that the outlet did not name, but it had the same murals and graffiti on the walls as the site at the Tze'elim army base.

Iranian oil faces scrutiny amid Israel-Hamas conflict


The deadly violence between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas is putting Iranian oil under the microscope.

Republicans in particular are calling for more action to restrict this key source of income for Iran, whose decades-long backing of Hamas has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the group’s attack on Israel last weekend.

Former President Trump has sought to use the issue as a cudgel against his likely 2024 rival, accusing President Biden of allowing Iran “to sell massive amounts of oil” while speaking to supporters in Florida.

“Under my leadership, Iran was weak and broke and desperate for love,” Trump said. “And now they’re rich as hell.”

Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis told Fox News he would “move very quickly to shut off flows of money to Iran, the oil money is a big part for them.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told NBC the U.S. should “stop Iran from being able to produce the oil.”

He particularly called for sanctions enforcement, saying that sanctions aren’t currently being enforced. The Biden administration has pushed back on such assertions, saying it is enforcing its sanctions against Iran.

70% chance Israel-Hamas war spreads beyond Gaza, threatening oil, strategist warns

Vivien Lou Chen

The Israel-Hamas war has a more than 50% chance of drawing in militant groups from Lebanon or Syria, or producing a direct conflict with Iran — creating more oil disruptions than financial markets currently think.

That’s the view of Matt Gertken, chief geopolitical strategist for Montreal-based BCA Research. He sees a 70% chance of the conflict expanding beyond Gaza in the next 12 months.

Strategists are contemplating the potential ramifications of the conflict on financial markets, even as investors appeared to be relatively calm for now. Traders shook off concerns about the Middle East, with all three major U.S. stock indexes DJIA SPX COMP closing higher on Monday.

Two- BX:TMUBMUSD02Y through 30-year Treasury yields BX:TMUBMUSD30Y also finished higher as investors sold off government debt and abandoned the flight-to-safety trades seen last week. Meanwhile, oil futures settled lower following a sharp gain on Friday, with November West Texas Intermediate crude CLX23, 0.20% falling 1.2% to $86.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Some traders and investors are worried about the possibility of a second wave of U.S. inflation that hasn’t been fully priced by financial markets yet, and which comes at a time when the Federal Reserve is expected to take no action at its Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting. With central bankers uncertain about the economic outlook, “a frozen, uncertain Fed risks higher inflation and higher market rates as a result,” according to chief economist Chris Low of FHN Financial in New York.

Biden administration seeks emergency aid package for both Israel and Ukraine.

Karoun Demirjian

The Biden administration is pushing for Congress to take up an emergency assistance package that would pair support for Ukraine and Israel, according to a senior White House official and multiple lawmakers.

“The president has made clear that he is going to go to Congress with a package of funding for Ukraine as well as continued support for Israel,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Last month, Congress let lapse the emergency funds it had been sending to Ukraine for its war with Russia, amid dwindling Republican support for such assistance. In contrast, Hamas’s deadly raid last weekend prompted a sweeping bipartisan outcry for similar assistance to Israel. The decision to tie aid for Ukraine to aid for Israel reflects the urgency of both conflicts — and a calculation that Republicans who would otherwise be loath to send more money to Ukraine may feel bound to approve such a package to support Israel.

Speaking in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, promised to put an aid package to a floor vote in the next few weeks.

“We’re not waiting for the House,” he told reporters after meeting with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet. “We believe if we put together a strong package and pass it with an overwhelming, strong bipartisan majority, it will put pressure on the House, one way or another, to act.”

Mr. Schumer said he had discussed the package with Israeli leaders, including replacement ammunition for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, 155-millimeter shells, precision-guided bombs and JDAMs, kits that convert unguided bombs into precision munitions. Mr. Schumer has separately called for including humanitarian aid to Palestinians in a package of aid to Israel.

How Israel Can Win

Audrey Kurth Cronin

Even in the wretched history of terrorism, the assault that Hamas carried out in Israel on October 7 stands out. Hamas fighters viciously murdered more than 1,300 Israeli citizens, including elderly people, toddlers, and babies. It was an act of intimate barbarism that revealed a total lack of moral restraint and evoked memories of the Holocaust.

Comparisons to another surprise attack on Israel—the Arab assault that launched the 1973 Yom Kippur War—are misleading in one important respect: the 2,656 Israelis who died then were exclusively soldiers. One must go back to the 1948 War of Independence to find comparable Israeli civilian casualties. The attack also involved hostage-taking on a massive scale, with roughly 150 people (mainly Israelis, but also Americans and other foreign nationals) captured and taken to Gaza; one Hamas leader vowed that the group would distribute video recordings of hostage executions if Israel launched a counterattack.

There is no defending or explaining such sadism. Repeated injustice and repression cannot excuse atrocity. Israelis’ outrage and desire for vengeance is understandable. Israel’s goal, according to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, is to wipe Hamas “off the face of the earth.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Nahshon, called for “the complete and unequivocal defeat of the enemy, at any cost.”

But as the saying goes, “Hope is not a strategy”—and neither is anger. Destroying an enemy’s fighting force is a core principle of military strategy, but killing with little discrimination or restraint places revenge ahead of logic. Instead of merely reacting, Israel must make hard strategic and political choices not because it is weak but because it is strong. As the United States learned after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, how a government responds to a major terrorist attack can set a country’s trajectory for decades. And although this attack was particularly gruesome,


Johanna Moore, Andie Parry, and Nicholas Carl

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

China Isn't Going to War Because It Doesn't Have To


Relax, boys and girls: China won't invade Taiwan, and the U.S. Navy won't engage Chinese forces any time in the foreseeable future. It's a scam, a goof, a Muppet show, whose point is to cover up the incompetence and corruption which led the Pentagon to spend trillions on obsolete weapons. We lost the South China Sea years ago. We're in roughly the same position as Britain was in Singapore in late 1941, except that unlike the feckless British, we know it. We just can't admit it.

The U.S. Department of Defense has known since no later than 2012—when I consulted for the late Andrew Marshall at the Office of Net Assessment—that Chinese surface-to-surface (STS) missiles can destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, or any other military asset that isn't submerged. Not until recently did the U.S. military concede this in official assessments.

In contrast to the Reagan Administration, which made missile defense a priority, we're doing little to counter China's formidable capabilities. We can't test defenses against hypersonic missiles, because we can't even launch a hypersonic missile. Lockheed junked its flagship hypersonics program last March.

China is under no time pressure to take military action. From a military standpoint, a seaborne landing like the Normandy invasion of December 1944 would be senseless. Taiwan has storage capacity for 11 days of natural gas consumption. A Chinese blockade would force Taiwan's surrender in short order.

In China’s military ‘purge,’ final outcomes remain to be seen


SYDNEY — As many high-level military officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army have disappeared over the last two months, experts are in agreement that something disturbing is happening inside the world’s fastest growing military — even if what exactly is driving it all is unclear.

“Though China hasn’t confirmed it, I think the general consensus at the moment among China watchers is that a purge is underway,” Meia Nouwens, Chinese military expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email to Breaking Defense.

That term, “purge,” has appeared more and more this fall among China experts. And there is a reason: two ministers and three high-profile generals have all fallen under charges of corruption, an excuse that has historically been used to remove those that leaders in Beijing want removed:

Peak China


The greatest geopolitical misfortunes occur at the intersection of ambition and desperation. In 2023, President Xi Jinping’s China is governed by both. This has heightened the risk of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bellicosity and the prospect of war in the Indo-Pacific, most immediately over Taiwan.

China’s economic growth has been tapering off for more than a decade. Today, this slowdown is compounded by a protracted real estate crunch, shaky local government finances, declining exports, insufficient consumer demand and unprecedented foreign outflows. Meanwhile, China’s demographics have gone from bad to worse, with its population expected to decline throughout the rest of the century.

Its youth unemployment rate is so dire that the CCP has stopped publishing the numbers. At the last measure, the official rate was 21.3 percent – the unofficial rate is now likely higher. The old equation was that Beijing retained legitimacy through prosperity. That has now been rescinded.

Over the last decade, too, President Xi and the CCP have been ratcheting up a new Cold War against the West. The contours of this struggle have been enumerated in party documents and directives. All point to the CCP’s ambition of upending the Westphalian global order and remaking it in accordance with its governance model. This is President Xi’s dream of “national rejuvenation.” It is also what he meant when, at the 19th National Party Congress in October 2017, he said that China is now “moving toward center stage.” As an internal CCP textbook explains, “A new world order is now under construction.”

Since 2013, China’s economic troubles and President Xi’s growing ambitions have prompted Beijing to adopt policies that have now been accelerated. Some of them make conflict more likely, including military modernization and a deliberate economic decoupling from developed global markets. China’s defense increases and upgrades have arguably given the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a relative military edge over the United States, such as in Indo-Pacific naval power. The economic distancing from the West has allowed China to become comparatively self-sufficient and likely able to withstand the risks of economic isolation or sanctions in a wartime scenario.

Back to the Future: Reinvigorating America's Psychological Operations Capabilities in the Age of Information Warfare

Brad C.

The United States of America is currently navigating the intricate waters of a reinvigorated great power competition. This burgeoning geostrategic contestation necessitates the sustenance and augmentation of a diversified array of capabilities to safeguard our national interests and maintain a solid position of strategic superiority on the global stage. A pivotal instrument in our strategic quiver, which has regrettably experienced a noticeable diminution over recent years, is the capability embodied within our Psychological Operations (PSYOP) forces and the unique capabilities they bring which are under current threat of further reduction (a pattern that has been occurring for some time). For this discussion, a point of clarification is greatly needed. PSYOP is a Special Operations capability defined in Title 10 USC Section 167j and NOT an “enabler” as some recent articles have stated. Such misguided statements are ripe for their own series of articles on the lack of strategic awareness, understanding, and history; or in some cases, the refusal to accept it at many levels. This contraction of PSYOP capabilities unfurls at a precarious juncture (much like what happened with PSYOP in 1985), wherein adversarial nations have markedly amped up their investments in the realm of information warfare, thereby underscoring an exigent imperative for Congressional review and intervention as the long-term stakes are significantly higher today.

Historical Précis:

Cold War history serves as a testament to the indispensable role of PSYOP as a robust facet of our national defense strategy, instrumental in the containment of Soviet ideological expansion and the strategic contestation of global spheres of influence. This epoch, marked by ideological dichotomy and geopolitical rivalry, unveiled the potent force of psychological operations, thereby crystallizing its strategic importance in the larger scope of national security and global posturing. The United States, cognizant of the immense potential harbored by PSYOP, meticulously nurtured and honed this capability, deploying it assiduously across divergent theaters of geopolitical contestation.


Karolina Hird, Angelica Evans, Grace Mappes, Christina Harward, and Mason Clark

Russia likely deployed elements of at least two Central Military District (CMD) brigades to reinforce offensive operations by Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces on the Avdiivka front. A Ukrainian military observer reported on October 16 that three Russian brigades — the DNR’s 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) and the CMD’s 15th and 21st MRBs (both of the 2nd Combined Arms Army [2nd CAA]) — have been involved in recent attacks on Avdiivka alongside various scattered DNR elements, while Russian forces are holding the CMD’s 30th MRB in tactical reserve.[1] Elements of the CMD, particularly of the 2nd CAA, have been active along the Svatove-Kreminna line until recently, and the newly formed 25th CAA likely relieved them along the Svatove-Kreminna line.[2] 2nd CAA elements have primarily conducted defensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line for the last several months and have therefore likely had more time to rest and reconstitute before deploying to a more challenging sector of the frontline, which accounts in part for recent Russian advances in the previously stagnant Avdiivka sector of the front.

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Avdiivka direction on October 16 and recently made some gains, albeit at a relatively slower pace than in the initial attacks. Geolocated footage posted on October 16 shows that Russian forces have marginally advanced past the E50 road about 3km south of Avdiivka.[3] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a total of 22 Russian attacks in the Avdiivka direction in the past day, notably fewer than the 30 reported attacks on October 15.[4] Russian sources noted that Russian forces have increased the intensity of air and artillery strikes on the settlement in order to compensate for slow ground maneuvers, which are complicated by heavy Ukrainian fortifications surrounding Avdiivka.[5] During a meeting on the operational situation in Ukraine on October 16, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian forces have improved their tactical positions in unspecified areas and that the Russian “active defense” along the front, including near Avdiivka, is prohibiting Ukrainian advances.[6]

With new intel doctrine, Army turning its sights to ISR modernization


Having just published an updated intelligence doctrine to reflect its focus on future multi-domain operations, the Army is now working on plans to modernization its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) architecture — pursuing everything from commercial satellite data to quantum computing for speeding analysis, according to senior officials.

Lt. Gen. Laura Potter, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said the new “Army Field Manual FM 2.0, Intelligence” [PDF] published today “is nested” in its multi-domain operations doctrine, FM 3.0, published last October.

“It is where we’re headed for 2030, and then [Army] Futures Command is already looking at what must the Army do out to 2040. You’ll see that we’re doing joint and multinational operations, and we’re fighting at every echelon of combat power,” she told the annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference today. “So delivering an intel enterprise that can support warfighters at echelon is what you’re going to read about in 2.0.”

As for ISR modernization efforts, Potter explained that the Army’s intelligence corps is working across “three layers: the space layer, taking advantage of government and commercial space based resources; an aerial layer that’s a mix of manned HADES [High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System] aircraft and unmanned platforms; and then a terrestrial layer that has terrestrial layer sensing at the brigade level and echelons above brigade.”

The US Doesn’t Need More Nuclear Weapons

Sveta Yefimenko

For the first time since the conclusion of the Cold War, the US has embarked on a concerted and long-overdue effort to modernize its strategic and tactical nuclear arsenal. The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review identified modernization or replacement of nuclear weapons and all three legs of the nuclear triad—strategic bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and underground silos housing intercontinental ballistic missiles—as a top priority. The US Department of Defense released a fact sheet which noted that most nuclear systems in the US are currently “operating beyond their original design life, risking system effectiveness, reliability, and availability.” Updating nuclear warheads and delivery systems is a time-consuming and expensive process that’s projected to take the next two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to complete.

The modernization program was delayed for decades as Washington dedicated military resources to the Global War on Terror. America’s nuclear program was conceived and designed in a geopolitical landscape that differed dramatically from today’s; terrorism, cyberattacks, and nuclear-capable adversaries like Russia and China contour the current threat environment. This is in striking contrast to the optimism immediately following the Cold War, when there was hope of normalizing relations with Moscow and China’s “peaceful rise” was seen as a positive development. The push toward modernization comes in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased competition with China as both nuclear peers aggressively modernize their own arsenals. For example, Russia recently claimed to have tested the Burevestnik, a low-flying cruise missile that can carry a nuclear warhead and is also nuclear powered (which means that it can remain airborne for days) while China’s rapid nuclear build-up includes fast breeder reactors, new nuclear silos, and more sophisticated nuclear submarines.

The Orient Express: North Korea’s Clandestine Supply Route to Russia

James Byrne, Joseph Byrne and Gary Somerville

Dozens of high-resolution satellite images taken in recent months reveal that Russia has likely begun shipping North Korean munitions at scale, opening a new supply route that could have profound consequences for the war in Ukraine and international security dynamics in East Asia.

Just a few weeks after the momentous visit of Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to North Korea, in July, two Russian cargo vessels connected to Moscow's international military transportation networks embarked on an unusual journey.

Their destination was an inconspicuous naval facility tucked away in the secluded Russian port of Dunai, situated in the remote eastern reaches of the country. Once identified by the CIA at the height of the Cold War as a Soviet submarine base, the Dunai facility sits approximately nine kilometres south of the town of Fokino, a closed administrative-territorial entity south of Vladivostok, where movement and residency are strictly controlled for military and security reasons.

While the unremarkable port facility at Dunai had largely been relegated to the annals of Cold War history, recent deliveries by the Russian-flagged Angara and Maria of what are likely to be North Korean munitions have thrust it into the international spotlight, and place it at the centre of the burgeoning relationship between Pyongyang and Moscow.

Army looks at revamping acquisition, asks for industry help as it builds network of the future


As the Army works to simplify and modernize its network, service leaders are looking at ways to revamp acquisition strategies and send demand signals more creatively, and they’re asking industry for help.

“I think we acknowledge that at scale, we do have quite a significant amount of policy gaps … and I think, more than just the Army but across the department, we’ve moved really, really fast in a lot of technology areas, and we’re still kind of trying to pull the policies forward with us,” Army Chief Information Officer Leonel Garciga told reporters Oct. 11.

“So the way I look at this right now is we’ve been working really hard to triage where those gaps are, and definitely with industry I will be very transparent with my approach to this on policy reform inside the army,” he added.

That reform will look like developing more “creative buying relationships,” for example, when it comes to the Army’s network portfolio, Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo told reporters the same day. He added that resilience in the industrial base is the “most important” thing the service is looking for as it learns from Ukraine.

“What we’ve learned this last year, obviously with the surge of munitions in Ukraine, the delivery and drawdown of so many diverse pieces of equipment to the Ukrainians, has shown that our ability to reconstitute and to rebuild and to invest in more manufacturing capacity is absolutely critical to the United States Army,” he said.

Bad genes: 23andMe leak highlights a possible future of genetic discrimination


23andMe is a terrific concept. In essence, the company takes a sample of your DNA and tells you about your genetic makeup. For some of us, this is the only way to learn about our heritage. Spotty records, diaspora, mistaken family lore and slavery can make tracing one’s roots incredibly difficult by traditional methods.

What 23andMe does is wonderful because your DNA is fixed. Your genes tell a story that supersedes any rumors that you come from a particular country or are descended from so-and-so.

But the very fixed, certain nature of genetics carries with it potential for great trouble.

You can replace your Social Security number, albeit with some hassle, if it is ever compromised. You can cancel your credit card with the click of a button if it is stolen. But your DNA cannot be returned for a new set — you just have what you are given. If bad actors steal or sell your genetic information, there is nothing you can do about it.

This is why 23andMe’s Oct. 6 data leak, although it reads like science fiction, is not an omen of some dark future. It is, rather, an emblem of our dangerous present.

23andMe has a very simple interface with some interesting features. “DNA Relatives” matches you with other members to whom you are related. This could be an effective, thoroughly modern way to connect with long-lost family, or to learn more about your origins.

But the Oct. 6 leak perverted this feature into something alarming. By gaining access to individual accounts through weak and recycled passwords, hackers were able to create an extensive list of people with Ashkenazi heritage. This list was then posted on forums with the names, sex and likely heritage of each member under the title “Ashkenazi DNA Data of Celebrities.”

On data privacy, look to the states and not to Europe for solutions


For the better part of two decades, Congress and bureaucrats in Washington quietly debated comprehensive federal data privacy legislation but decided against it. Instead, states have been left to cobble together their own patchwork of rules.

The U.S. has long prioritized protecting markets and consumers by regulating different markets differently. Healthcare in America is not regulated like Wall Street, nor is Wall Street regulated like education.

This varied, more tailored consumer protection has spurred technological experimentation and dominance by preserving relatively free markets. Europe takes a different tack, favoring a once-size-fits-all regulatory approach to data privacy that treats all different types of data the same. And as part of that regime, Europe grants consumers broad access rights to correct and delete data.

As a Buckeye Institute report explains, the European data privacy model has been disastrous. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has 99 intentionally vague and complex articles that make compliance difficult and expensive. And for all its expense and difficulty, the protection GDPR provides has been counterproductive. It has routinely and mistakenly knocked thousands of websites offline, unintentionally dug protective economic moats around technological targets, disproportionately harmed small businesses trying to make it in an e-commerce world, all the while failing to keep consumers and families safe from harm.

The Modern World Can't Exist Without These Four Ingredients. They All Require Fossil Fuels


Modern societies would be impossible without mass-scale production of many man-made materials. We could have an affluent civilization that provides plenty of food, material comforts, and access to good education and health care without any microchips or personal computers: we had one until the 1970s, and we managed, until the 1990s, to expand economies, build requisite infrastructures and connect the world by jetliners without any smartphones and social media. But we could not enjoy our quality of life without the provision of many materials required to embody the myriad of our inventions.

Four materials rank highest on the scale of necessity, forming what I have called the four pillars of modern civilization: cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia are needed in larger quantities than are other essential inputs. The world now produces annually about 4.5 billion tons of cement, 1.8 billion tons of steel, nearly 400 million tons of plastics, and 180 million tons of ammonia. But it is ammonia that deserves the top position as our most important material: its synthesis is the basis of all nitrogen fertilizers, and without their applications it would be impossible to feed, at current levels, nearly half of today’s nearly 8 billion people.

The dependence is even higher in the world’s most populous country: feeding three out of five Chinese depends on the synthesis of this compound. This dependence easily justifies calling ammonia synthesis the most momentous technical advance in history: other inventions provide our comforts, convenience or wealth or prolong our lives—but without the synthesis of ammonia, we could not ensure the very survival of billions of people alive today and yet to be born.

Improv or Die: Meeting the DIY Weapons the Military Made Up on the Fly

Travis Pike

There is a great streak of ingenuity that runs through the American people. The phrase improvise, adapt, and overcome is intertwined into our military culture for a reason. Our troops are pros at improvisation and they improvise on a regular basis even when it comes to their weapons.

Weapon improvisation has a role in a number of circumstances. Sometimes the weapons issued by a military force are not the best option for the task at hand and other times, the best option might not be. This is where you improvise and have to make do with what you have, and if you do it right, you’ll always overcome the situation.

Today we are going to look at five examples of how our fighting men improvised, adapted, and overcame when it came to their weaponry.


The Pacific Campaign in WWII involved brutal jungle warfare. Jungle ambushes are tough to fight through as hidden attackers wait to fight to the death. The best way to defeat an ambush is with sudden, overwhelming firepower– for an infantryman, this means using a machine gun.

Will Large Language Models Revolutionize National Security?

Jaim Coddington

Eight years ago, Pedro Domingos envisioned an artificial intelligence breakthrough he called “the master algorithm” – a single, universal machine learning model that would be able to derive all past, present, and future knowledge from data. By this definition, the master algorithm would generalize to almost any task that humans can do, revolutionizing the global economy and automating our daily lives in countless ways.

Today, the spectacular rise of large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT has a lot of observers speculating that the master algorithm, or at least its primordial form, has been found. ChatGPT and its siblings show great promise in generalizing to a vast range of use cases – any domain where data exists and where knowledge can be represented by tokenized language is fair game.

The power and apparent simplicity of this vision is seductive, especially in the public sector. Leading tech companies in the federal space are already probing the potential for LLMs to transform government bureaucracies, processes, and data management. The funding lavished on OpenAI and other research and development teams for LLMs is based on business cases for digital assistants, customer service chatbots, internet or database search, content generation, content monitoring, etc. The possibilities are vast.

Amazon, OneWeb slowly stalk SpaceX for piece of Pentagon SATCOM pie


WASHINGTON — After a year of delays, Amazon on Oct. 6 launched the first two prototype satellites in its planned Project Kuiper broadband constellation — a network under development by billionaire-owner Jeff Bezos to compete against rival Elon Musk’s Starlink mega-constellation.

The question is: Can Amazon, or any other industry player, actually catch up, as SpaceX continues to expand and strengthen its near-market lock on space-based internet services with nearly 5,000 Starlink satellites already on orbit?

Beyond global civilian internet connectivity, the answer will be of acute importance to the Defense Department as it seeks to broaden its use of commercial space capabilities, especially as some officials and members of Congress increasingly fret about the wisdom of relying too heavily on the infamously mercurial Musk.

While Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall last month said he isn’t concerned about working with SpaceX, which also is a primary supplier of launch services for military satellites, due to DoD’s contracting practices, Musk’s actions over the past year regarding Starlink’s role in the Ukraine war have raised eyebrows elsewhere in Washington. For example, Sen. Jack Reed, R-R.I., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a Sept. 14 announcement said that the committee is “aggressively probing” Musk’s alleged actions in Ukraine and vowed “to engage” with DoD to ensure US national security interests are protected. (Musk has defended his company’s work in Ukraine.)

Is the World Ready for the New Era of Deterrence?

Stephen Cimbala & Lawrence J. Korb

The twenty-first century will challenge the concept of deterrence in new ways. Some are already apparent. There are at least nine important components of the new metaverse for deterrence (or meta-deterrence) that will be significant for military planners, policymakers, and theorists.

The first component of the new metaverse for deterrence is the growing threat to states’ cybersecurity and the possibility of cyberwar. Cyberwar among state and non-state actors is already a significant challenge to international security. Cyberattacks occur as solo excursions or as supplements to the kinetic use of force. Both the public and private sectors are vulnerable to cyberwar, and the possibility of a crippling attack against American infrastructure, including military forces and command systems, requires constant vigilance and upgrades to information systems. In the case of nuclear deterrence, a nuclear first strike would probably be preceded by cyberattacks against the opponent’s early warning, command-and-control, and response systems in order to introduce confusion or paralysis that could delay or forestall an effective response.

Second, military uses of space and the ability to deny space superiority to potential U.S. adversaries will become primary concerns for the Defense Department. Partnerships between the U.S. government and high-end defense contractors are already exploring ways to increase the reliability and resilience of space-based and space-dependent systems for reconnaissance and surveillance, communications, early warning, command-and-control, and other functions. Both Russia and China have tested satellites for rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) in various orbits, ostensibly for the inspection and repair of friendly satellites, but also capable of close inspection or destruction of adversaries’ systems if so tasked. U.S. options for increasing the resilience of orbital platforms include the proliferation of numerous smaller satellites in critical orbits,