3 November 2023

Why urban warfare in Gaza will be bloodier than in Iraq

THE WAR in Gaza is exacting a brutal toll on civilians. The Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 8,000 people have died. The number of children among them, more than 3,000, exceeds the annual death toll for children in all wars in each of the preceding three years. The Economist estimates, from satellite imagery, that over a tenth of Gaza’s housing stock has been destroyed, leaving more than 280,000 people without homes to which they can return. In many ways that fits with the norm of urban warfare, which is unusually destructive. But Israel’s war in Gaza is also distinctive.

War in built-up areas is always bloody. America’s first assault on Fallujah in 2004 killed as many as 600 civilians, or 0.2% of the population, compared with 0.3% in today’s war in Gaza. A second assault later in the year killed around 800 more and left the majority of the city’s buildings damaged. A battle for Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, is thought to have killed nearly 1,000 people in March and April 2008, out of a population of around 2m, not dissimilar to that of Gaza.

The largest urban battle in recent years was the assault on the city of Mosul, which had been seized by the Islamic State (IS) group, by an American-led coalition including Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces. At least 9,000 civilians were killed in Mosul during 2016-17, according to Airwars, a non-profit organisation that tracks civilian harm. That amounts to 0.6% of the population at the time. Of the buildings that were damaged, more than 80% were residential.

These cases might suggest that the war in Gaza, though destructive, is not unusually so by historical standards—at least not yet. Yet there are also key differences. The first and biggest is the status of civilians. In Mosul, IS attempted to prevent civilians from fleeing, firing at them and mining corridors out of the city. Many left nonetheless. Between October 2016 and June 2017 nearly 900,000 departed—almost half of the pre-war population. Even Russia, during its siege of Mariupol in Ukraine between February and May 2022, negotiated humanitarian pauses in which some civilians were permitted to leave. Israel has thus far rejected calls, by the European Union and others, for such pauses.

Israel tanks penetrate deep into Gaza, as Hamas hostage video emerges

Miriam Berger, Hajar Harb and William Booth

 Moving quickly, in darkness and daylight, Israeli tanks and soldiers entered the outskirts of Gaza City on Monday, reaching the main highway that connects north and south in the 25-mile-long enclave. The Israeli forces were so close to the city that ground troops called in airstrikes on Hamas targets.

A string of incidents Monday showed the deepest penetration of Gaza yet by Israeli ground forces since the start of a land offensive four days ago. A relentless bombing campaign continued, and the military confirmed that combined infantry, armor and engineering forces were now all inside Gaza’s borders.

Hamas, the militant group that controls the besieged enclave, also released a chilling video of three of its hostages delivering a harsh statement addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with one woman almost screaming at the Israeli leader, “Free, free us now. Free their civilians, free their prisoners, free us, free us all, let us return to our families now. Now! Now! Now!”

Earlier in the day, other dramatic video footage taken by Palestinian journalists and geolocated by The Washington Post showed a white sedan traveling on the highway toward the Netzarim junction, where there was at least one Israeli tank. As the car executed a slow U-turn, the tank appeared to fire on and hit the vehicle. (Netzarim was an Israeli agricultural settlement whose last residents were evicted by Israeli soldiers in 2005 during their pullout from the Gaza Strip.)

US Gaza War Cost-Benefit May Reach Tipping Point

James M. Dorsey

The stakes in the Gaza war for the United States and President Joe Biden could not be higher.

For the United States, it’s the ability to garner support for its positions on multiple issues, among which the Ukraine war looms large.

Mr. Biden’s bear hug approach towards Israel has sparked widespread allegations of hypocrisy and double standards.

Neither the United States, nor Europe for that matter, has a credible response to calls to apply to the Gaza war the same standards of international humanitarian law and the law of war they uphold for Ukraine.

“We are losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Global South. Whatever credibility and moral ground we had is gone. Phrases like a rules-based world order are meaningless. At this point, we can stand on our heads, it does not matter. Why should the Global South take our insistence on universal human rights and international law serious if we are the first to cast them by the wayside?” a Western diplomat asked.

In a more hopeful note, The Economist suggested that America “still has a lot to offer, especially if it works with its allies to enhance security and keep trade open. Its values, however imperfectly they are realised, still attract people from all across the planet in a way that Chinese communism does not.”

Israeli Ground War in Gaza Faces Challenges, From Fate of Hostages To Fighting in Hamas Tunnels

Joshua Keating

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Monday that Israel’s war against Hamas would be waged “until victory,” with no pause for a ceasefire, and he compared the fight to World War II and the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S.

But while Israeli troops and tanks moved deeper into Gaza Monday, entering the perimeter of Gaza City, Netanyahu and his commanders have opted for something far short of the massive D-Day-style invasion many expected when Israel mobilized 300,000 reservists in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of Israeli citizens.

Israel’s choice of a more limited operation, at least for now, was prompted by a number of constraints, including a desire to win the release of as many Hamas-held hostages as possible, the need to keep troops in reserve for a possible second front with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and doubts from the White House about Israel’s initial plans. This operation could also limit the number of Israeli casualties in the dense urban terrain where Hamas has been preparing for battle for years.

But a smaller-scale offensive presents dilemmas of its own, in terms of military tactics and political fallout.

A smaller-scale but longer war

As of Monday, Israeli forces appeared to be approaching Gaza City from two directions, and for at least several hours they had blocked a key road from the north to the south. This suggests they may be trying to cut off Gaza City and are effectively preparing for a siege, rather than sending in the bulk of their troops.

Difficulties, Constraints and the Cost of Removing Hamas from Power

Ehud Eilam

Israel is stepping up its ground attack in the Gaza Strip, but destroying a powerful movement like Hamas is a tall order due to several difficulties and constraints. Furthermore, achieving this goal might ultimately be counterproductive for Israel.

The delicate balance is that Israel must hit Hamas hard but aim to end the operation as soon as possible, while also determining if her war goals are the right ones. From an operational standpoint, Israeli ground units will have to overcome major challenges.

First, the fight will take place in urban combat in a highly dense area, with a vast network of tunnels under it that serve for hiding and as a springboard for strikes. Second, the IDF will confront anti-tank missiles, improvised explosive devices and mines, which will delay the advance and cause casualties. Third, the IDF will use massive firepower to protect its troops by suppressing hostile fire. But at the same time Israel also must do its best to minimize civilian casualties, a difficult task during an intense fight.

Israel currently has international support from the U.S. and other allies to strike Hamas, as long as the civilian population in Gaza does not pay a significant price, especially in loss of life. But if civilian casualties mount, then Israel would be in a tough spot and might see its support diminish.

Gaza: The case for a ceasefire

Elham Fakhro

President Joe Biden refuses to publicly back a ceasefire to end Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Without one, the United States will find its moral authority in the Middle East increasingly diminished, especially among its partners in the region and an Arab public that is mobilizing at levels not seen since the Arab Spring revolutions.

A prolonged fallout also brings the region closer to a broader conflagration, and threatens to undo significant advances in de-escalation that have taken place since 2020.

It is now the third week of Israel’s daily bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in response to the Hamas attacks on 7 October in which over 1,400 people were killed and more than two hundred taken hostage.

A rising death toll of 7,000 in Gaza includes over 2,500 children, in addition to dozens of journalists, and aid workers. A convoy of twenty trucks brought in limited goods through Egypt, but Gaza remains cut off from electricity, fuel, and water.

Its Ministry of Health issued a warning that its hospitals are nearing collapse, with no medicines left to treat the wounded. An excavator that assists in extracting survivors out of the rubble no longer has fuel to operate. A rising death toll is inevitable. The possibility of an extended, violent conflagration engulfing the region is very real.


Brian Carter, Andie Parry, Peter Mills, Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, 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.

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 and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Key Takeaways:
  • Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip conducted indirect fire attacks into Israel at a rate consistent with the rate observed on October 29.
  • Israeli forces conducted a route clearance operation moving from near Juhor ad Dik to the Salah al-Din road in the Gaza Strip before withdrawing.
  • Israeli forces conducted an extensive operation targeting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders and infrastructure in Jenin. CTP-ISW has recorded noteworthy Palestinian militant activity around Jenin in recent months.
  • CTP-ISW recorded three additional clashes between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces.
  • Iranian-backed militants, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted 10 attacks into Israel.
  • LH leader Hassan Nasrallah is scheduled to give a speech on Friday, November 3, according to LH media. This planned speech is noteworthy given that Nasrallah has not yet made a public statement on the Israel-Hamas war.
  • The Islamic Resistance in Iraq—a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias—claimed responsibility for two separate rocket attacks targeting US forces stationed in Iraq and Syria.
  • Supreme Leader Military Affairs Adviser and former IRGC Commander Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi met with Belarusian Defense Minister Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin on the sidelines of the 10th Common Security and Lasting Peace forum in Beijing.

What the World Gets Wrong About Hamas


Since Oct. 7, Israelis have struggled to find words raw and powerful enough to convey the trauma of what happened that day. Many have spent the past weeks watching Israeli generals, rescue workers, and forensics experts testify about the grisly ways Hamas killed 1,400 people.

Many Israelis, seeking to understand the horrors of Oct. 7, have turned to comparing Hamas to ISIS. The hashtag “#HamasisISIS” has trended on social media as Israeli leaders—including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—have frequently equated the two. But scholars of Islamist movements like myself, as well as counterterrorism officials, have long understood the comparison to be false. As Gershon Baskin, who has been Israel’s lead hostage negotiator with Hamas since 2006, told me recently: “Its acts of terrorism resemble ISIS, but they don’t have the same ideology.”

The first and most important difference is that Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist Islamist movement. That fused, dual identity differentiates it from ISIS, which is a transnational pan-Islamist movement that wants to gather a universal umma, or community of Muslim believers, into an “Islamic state” untethered from any nationalist project. Hamas, on the other hand, has more localized demands: it identifies “liberation of all of Palestine” from what it terms “the Zionist enemy” as its core goal in its 2017 Charter. There is also the inconvenient fact that ISIS “literally views Hamas as apostates” because of its support from Shia Iran, as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Aaron Zelin recently posted on X.

Boon or Burden?: The Truth Behind India’s Demographic Growth

Santosh Mehrotra

India’s demographic dividend began in the early 1980s and will end by 2040. In contrast, China’s dividend ended in the mid-2010s, but it took full advantage of its 9–10 percent annual growth rate for three decades.

Both countries had similar gross national incomes (GNI) per capita in 1980, but in 2022, China’s GNI per capita in terms of purchasing power parities was around Int$20,300, while India’s was Int$8,200. Until its demographic dividend ends, India needs to ensure a consistent annual GDP growth of at least 8 percent to generate sufficient non-farm jobs for its young population.

India achieved 7.9 percent growth on average over 2004–14, despite the 2008 global financial crisis. Over this period, the population grew on average 1.4 percent per annum and GNI per capita grew on average 5.5 percent per annum. Between 2004–5 and 2011–12, the economy created on average 7.5 million new non-farm jobs every year. This kept youth and total unemployment low and pulled workers out of agriculture at an unprecedented scale — a characteristic of the structural transformation undergone by China and other industrialized countries.

Rapid growth was accompanied by a hastening of structural change in employment. Manufacturing’s share of employment rose from 10.5 to 12.8 percent of total employment over 2004–11. The share of workers in agriculture had been falling since 1973–74, but the absolute numbers had always increased until 2004–05 after which it began falling.

India’s Central Asia Outreach: Countering China’s Expanding Footprint

Dr. Shanthie Mariet D Souza and Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

For the past couple of years, India has used several forums and mechanisms to reach out to five Central Asian countries. Connectivity and economic integration with these countries being its key objectives, New Delhi has tried to evolve a common security outlook to foster a cooperative framework that will nudge these countries to look beyond China. However, instability in Afghanistan and India’s bilateral relations with Pakistan and China are the factors that pose continuous challenges to New Delhi’s objectives.

Common Security Threat: The Afghan dilemma

New Delhi appears to be relying on what it calls a ‘common security threat’ to establish a cooperative framework with the five Central Asian (CA) countries, [Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. This was evident in National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval’s address to the second NSA-level meeting between India and CA countries on 17 October in Kazakhstan.

Doval underlined India’s concerns regarding the prevailing situation in Afghanistan. He blamed a “particular country” (i.e. Pakistan) for denying connectivity between India and the central Asian region. He also indirectly blamed China’s infrastructure projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) for violating India’s sovereignty and argued that such projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. “They should also adhere to environmental parameters, ensure financial viability, and not become debt burdens”, he said.

Vietnam Rising: Will Hanoi Be the Next Indo-Pacific Power?

Long Le

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and rising US–China trade tensions, Vietnam leapfrogged South Korea to become the United States’ sixth largest trade partner by import value in 2022. This jump represents an important pivot in Vietnam’s economy — Vietnam’s biggest export to the United States is no longer textiles and garments, but high-tech products.

By the end of 2023, many flagship Apple products will have been assembled in Vietnam. Rather than competing against China’s ‘world factory’ tag, Vietnam has branded itself as an additional manufacturing destination to China within the global supply chain ecosystem. In so doing, Vietnam has subsumed some of China’s tech export market share and has been declared the biggest beneficiary of the US–China economic decoupling.

Vietnam has provided a much-needed ‘neutral’ environment for foreign fintech firms to de-risk and reroute their exposure from the US–China great power rivalry — including Apple’s shift of production away from China, US-based Amkor Technology’s investment of $1.6 billion investment in a semi-conductor factory. Vietnam is also welcoming back Huawei after initially deferring to US efforts to ban the company.

Vietnam has the potential to become the fourth largest exporter of high-tech goods behind China, Taiwan, and Germany. Though Vietnam currently holds the seventh position, its growth has no rival — high-tech goods as a share of Vietnamese exports hit 42 percent in 2020, up from 13 percent in 2010.

Conflict by David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts review — the future of war

David Patrikarakos

In the popular mind, being at war is like being pregnant: you either are or you aren’t. In fact, as David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts show, conflicts increasingly exist in a “grey zone” between outright war and peace — it’s possible for civilians to be unaware that they are at war. From Iraq to Afghanistan we fight enemies who wear no uniforms, do not march in formation and who cannot be defeated on the battlefield. In Iraq, the real war began only after Saddam Hussein’s army had officially been defeated.

Take Beijing’s behaviour in the South China Sea. Rather than physically conquer islands and force a military confrontation with the US, China uses everything from lawsuits to propaganda to foster anti-war sentiments in enemy populations. As the authors correctly observe, the wars of the future will be fought in six domains: land, sea, air, cyber, space and information, which means they will not always be visible to the naked eye.

Hints, Bluffs and Uncertainty

George Friedman

The practice of foreign policy, like many other practices, consists of hints and bluffs amid uncertainty. There’s value in making the worthless seem invaluable and the baffling appear to be self-evident. And yet there were several events in the past week that signal things that I, at least, can’t quite fathom.

First, U.S. President Joe Biden is going to China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. I’m not sure what he expects to achieve and therefore unsure why he’s going. But he’s the president of the United States, and I’ll allow that he must know something that makes him think the trip worthwhile. Still, China’s foreign minister – the one who replaced the one who disappeared – said that the meeting will be contentious. Given that China’s economy is fragile and that its military position was weakened by a U.S.-Philippines agreement earlier this year, China is signaling that the meeting will require American sincerity.

American sincerity is in short supply always but particularly when China is trying to bluff. China needs U.S. imports and investment, and more frankly, it needs the U.S. to have a weaker strategic position. Since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, the remaining option is to pretend that the U.S. is the one in need.

Meanwhile, an interesting statement was issued in Belarus, a place where interesting things rarely emerge. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the war in Ukraine is at an end, and that neither Ukraine nor Russia has the ability to defeat the other. Each side must accept this reality, he said, and should negotiate an end to the conflict.

Where U.S. troops are stationed in the Middle East

Jacob Knutson

With the Israel-Hamas war escalating, the United States risks becoming involved in a larger conflict that could entangle some of the more than 40,000 U.S. military personnel based across the region.

Why it matters: U.S. troops and military contractors in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in over a dozen attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups since Hamas' surprise attack against Israeli civilians and soldiers on Oct. 7.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has warned of the "prospect of a significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region."
  • Between the lines: The attacks, as well as a wider war, could reverse efforts in recent years to reduce the U.S. presence in the Middle East as part of a strategic pivot to toward the Pacific.
The Department of Defense has dispatched or prepared for deployment thousands of personnel.
  • Those include two aircraft carrier groups with roughly 7,500 personnel each and two amphibious Navy ships carrying thousands of Marines.
  • Another ship, the USS Carney, intercepted three missiles over the Red Sea that were "potentially" aimed at targets in Israel.
  • Austin also placed approximately 2,000 personnel on a heightened state of readiness.
State of play: The troops being sent to the region are not expected to serve in combat roles, though the White House has discussed the possibility of using military force if Lebanon-based Hezbollah opens a new front in the war, Axios' Barak Ravid first reported.

The Primacy of Culture


The editors at Aporia magazine have published an essay comparing my book America’s Cultural Revolution, which argues that cultural and institutional capture are at the heart of the radical Left’s rise to power, to Richard Hanania’s book The Origins of Woke, which argues that civil rights law is the key mechanism for explaining the rise of left-wing identity politics.

To an extent, my argument is that this is a “both/and” scenario. The radical Left captured America’s institutions through cultural conquest as well as using civil rights law as a powerful mechanism for formalizing its rule. The solution to this problem, logic would seem to dictate, will require countering both approaches. But the question that Ivanov raises is one of emphasis and centrality: which is the proximate cause, and which is the ultimate cause?

We can discern the relative weight of “culture versus law” by conducting a simple thought experiment: If we could instantly abolish one of these conditions, which would be more effective? That is, would we remove the cultural elements of left-wing radicalism—the ideology, the language, the activists within the institutions—or would we remove the provisions of civil rights law that have enabled its bureaucratization?

Patriotism’s Decline Imperils the Military

Owen West and Kevin Wallsten

The divisiveness of American politics has undermined our military in a way the Pentagon doesn’t understand or refuses to acknowledge. To attract Generation Z recruits after President Biden’s election, the military changed its marketing strategy. Starting in 2021, the military released advertisements emphasizing individualism and diversity over assimilation into a cohesive force with shared martial values. The Army called its campaign “a distinct departure” from traditional recruiting.

Yet the military’s recruitment crisis has only grown worse. Generals blame an increasingly overweight, overmedicated and undereducated youth pool. Those factors have contributed for years, but here’s the essential problem now: Young white Democrats have lost faith in their country and are rejecting military service.

The data are clear, but the Pentagon hasn’t dealt with the glaring political gap. One of the oldest and most reliable youth polls, Monitoring the Future, has for decades shown only small differences in the propensity to serve. As recently as 2015, 19% of young white male Democrats wanted to serve, compared with 20% of blacks, Latinos and white Republicans.

No more. By 2021 white Democrats had plunged to 3%, about one-fourth the level among black and Latino men, and one-eighth that of white Republicans. That’s a loss of about 45,000 young men interested in serving. The total recruiting gap across the Army, Navy and Air Force combined is about 30,000 people.

Trapped in a Forever War

Kelly Alkhouli

Twenty months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war grinds to a bloody stalemate with no end in sight. Neither side can afford or accept defeat; for Ukraine, this is an existential fight, and for Russia, the outcome of this war will have profound ramifications on foreign policy and domestic stability, which presents a survival threat to the Russian regime.

A complete Ukrainian victory would entail the restoration of 1991 borders, reparations, and security guarantees, likely in the form of NATO accession. Although morally justifiable, those are terms of capitulation, which could only occur if the Russian army collapses. Even if Ukraine achieves a military breakthrough, Russia has enough troops and weapons to maintain control over certain areas, particularly in the Donbas. Furthermore, by maintaining a military presence in Ukraine, the Kremlin would achieve its objective of preventing Kyiv’s geopolitical realignment with the West, particularly in the form of EU and NATO membership. As long as the war is ongoing and there are unresolved territorial disputes, Ukraine cannot join NATO, and the Kremlin hopes that the cost of reconstruction coupled with the threat of conflict flaring up again will make it exceedingly difficult for Ukraine to join the EU.

Russia appears to have given up on its initial goal of taking Kyiv and toppling the government. Its current objective is to gain complete control of the four annexed oblasts. While there is a possibility that the front line may shift in Russia’s favor, it seems inconceivable that the Ukrainian government would formally cede its territories or abandon its efforts to liberate them from Russian occupation.

Five Facts on the Rising Intolerance in America

In a nation that prides itself on the ideals of freedom and democracy, America faces a troubling trend: the rise of intolerance from both ends of the political spectrum.

Here are Five Facts on the rising intolerance in America. 

1. Antisemitism and racism are surging among the left and right. 
Across the nation, the number of documented antisemitic incidents reached a new record in 2022, while most Black Americans believe racism will get worse in their lifetimes. Helping drive these concerning trends are political forces on the far left and right. Local chapters of the far-left Democratic Socialists of America have been condemned for celebrating Hamas and its recent attack on Israeli civilians. Meanwhile, federal law enforcement officials have identified far-right white nationalist groups like the Proud Boys as “the biggest domestic terrorism threat to the country,” and the Proud Boys have also hosted far-right members of Congress at speaking events. 

2. Only 58 percent of Americans believe tolerance is an important value. 

According to Wall Street Journal survey, only 58 percent of Americans consider tolerance an important value, which is 22 percentage points lower than just four years ago. 

3. A growing number of voters feel the two parties have become too extreme. 

It's not just a few individuals or outlier groups that feel disaffected by the current political parties. There is a growing perception among the American electorate that both major political parties have become too extreme. A 2022 CNN poll found that about half of American voters think so. When parties move toward extremes, they leave behind a large swath of moderates who feel politically homeless

Joe Biden’s Sweeping New Executive Order Aims to Drag the US Government Into the Age of ChatGPT


JOE BIDEN WANTS the US government to make wider use of artificial intelligence—and to keep commercial AI on a tighter leash. Those are two prominent themes of a sprawling executive order Biden will sign today, which issues dozens of directives for federal agencies to complete within the next year, on topics ranging from national security and immigration to housing and healthcare.

The order places reporting requirements on companies developing powerful AI technology, such as that behind OpenAI's ChatGPT. Biden will use the Defense Production Act, a law that can compel businesses to take actions in the interest of national security, to require the makers of large AI models to report key information to the government, including when they are training a new model and what cybersecurity protections they have.

That will include disclosing results of so-called red teaming exercises, intended to reveal vulnerabilities in AI models, such as those that can be used to evade controls that prevent malicious use cases such as generating malware. The goal is to monitor the potential threats AI technology can pose to national security, public health, and the economy.

Another part of the order requires companies that acquire, develop, or possess large-scale computing clusters, essential to training the most powerful AI systems, to report their activity to the federal government. This rule is intended to help the government understand which entities, including those from nations competing with the US, have strong AI capabilities.

Let’s Talk About AI on the Battlefield

James Stavridis

The White House has released a sweeping executive order on artificial intelligence, which is notable in a number of ways. Most significantly, it establishes an early-stage means of regulation for the controversial technology which promises to have a vast impact on our lives. The new approach is being closely coordinated with the European Union and was initially announced by the administration in July. President Joe Biden further highlighted the proposal during a September meeting with his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in San Francisco.

The executive order will push a high degree of private-public cooperation and is timed to come out just days before Silicon Valley leaders gather with international government officials in the United Kingdom to look at both the dangers and benefits of AI. It will also require detailed assessments — think of drug testing by the FDA — before specific AI models could be used by the government. The new regulations will seek to bolster the cybersecurity aspects of AI and make it easier for brainy technologists — the H-1B program candidates -- to immigrate to the United States.

Most of the key actors in the AI space seem to be on board with the thrust of the new regulations, and companies as varied as the chipmaker Nvidia and Open AI have already made voluntary agreements to regulate the technology along the lines of the executive order. Google is also fully involved, as is Adobe which makes Photoshop, a key area of concern because of the potential for AI manipulation. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will lead the government side in creating a framework for risk assessment and mitigation.

Are We the Dinosaurs of the 21st Century?


Let’s admit it: We are indeed mad creatures.

This should truly have been the time of our discontent. The northern hemisphere just experienced the hottest summer in recorded history, including month by month the warmest June, July, August, and (by a country mile) September ever. Staggering heat records were set in place after place globally. Fires from Canada to Hawaii to Europe broke all records. (In fact, those Canadian summer fires are now threatening to burn straight into the winter months for the first time — and I fear this phrase is going to be become all-too-boringly repetitive — in history.) The southern hemisphere had a “winter” from — yes! — hell. In Europe, which was burning up, Greece experienced unprecedented fires and floods as well. Libya had a significant part of a major city washed away. China, too, experienced unprecedented flooding around its capital, where 1.2 million people had to be evacuated, and in Hong Kong, too. The sea ice in the Antarctic fell to the lowest levels (yes again!) in recorded history, as did sea ice in the Arctic, helping to ensure a future in which rising sea levels could flood coastal cities. And Greenland has been lending a hand to that same future, starting 2023 with temperatures unmatched in at least 1,000 years and still setting new temperature records in July. Worse yet, that’s just to begin down a list that increasingly seems unending.

In certain parts of my own country, the United States, this summer was all too literally a hell on Earth and, as a New York Times piece headlined it recently, also “A Summer Preview of the Future; Floods, Fires, and Stifling Heat.” (Its first line: “It felt like the opening minutes of a disaster movie.”) A stunning heat wave, for instance, stretched across a drought-stricken Southwest all the way to California, while Phoenix, Arizona, hit an almost unbelievable temperature record of 54 days of 110-degree heat or higher! (Oh, wait, make that 55!)

US isn’t ready for a war of great powers


United States President Joe Biden’s recent Oval Office address marked a key moment in the deepening competition between America and its allies on the one hand, and the axis of dictatorships coalescing around Russia, China, Iran and North Korea on the other.

The speech effectively merged the war in Ukraine and the wider war brewing in the Middle East into two theatres of the same conflict. Should Hezbollah also attack, it will present the U.S. and its allies with a significantly expanded theatre, straining military resources yet again.

At the same time, Taiwan seems even more likely to emerge as a third sphere of conflict in the next few years — or perhaps even sooner. And Beijing has been boosting its military at scale — the People’s Liberation Army Navy is already numerically greater than the U.S. Navy, while its land forces and nuclear forces are growing apace.

Meanwhile, regardless of how long the war in Ukraine lasts, Russia is busy expanding its armour production — including the recovery of damaged equipment from the battlefield — while running a wartime production system at home. Moscow has shown it understands mass; and after a year and a half, the Russian army is now capable of fighting and mobilizing at the same time, with the goal of expanding its ranks to 1.5 million.

To put it simply, America’s adversaries are preparing for war. And yet, in Washington, national security debates rarely begin with the basic recognition that China and Russia are building their militaries not to deter but to attack. This should now be the starting point of every conversation on U.S. and allied defence spending.


Karolina Hird, Christina Harward, Kateryna Stepanenko, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan

Russian officials announced that Russian law enforcement suppressed the antisemitic riots in Makhachkala, Republic of Dagestan on October 30. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) stated that employees of the MVD and other law enforcement agencies suppressed mass riots in Makhachkala and restored order at the local airport after identifying over 150 participants and detaining 60 rioters.[1] The MVD also claimed that rioters injured at least nine police officers and that searches for other rioters are ongoing. Dagestan Head Sergey Melikov claimed that he personally inspected the Makhachkala airport, which sustained minor damage, and claimed that the MVD and Rosgvardia used physical force as a last resort in hopes of calming the mob with reason.[2] Russian sources claimed that rioters threw stones at law enforcement and that officers responded by firing guns into the air.[3] Melikov stated that unspecified foreign actors, including pro-Ukrainian Telegram channels, are attempting to destabilize the region and claimed that the Telegram channel that published the rumors of the arrival of “Israeli refugees” in Dagestan was managed from Ukrainian territory.[4]

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the October 29 antisemitic demonstrations in Dagestan by accusing Ukraine of trying to “instigate pogroms in Russia” under Western guidance.[5] Putin claimed during a meeting with members of the Russian Security Council on October 30 that demonstrations in Makhachkala “were inspired, among other things, through social networks, from Ukraine’s territory by Western intelligence services.” Putin added that the West is trying to use regional conflicts to break Russia from within, and tasked regional authorities with undertaking “firm, timely and clear actions to protect the constitutional system of Russia, the rights and freedoms of [Russian] citizens, interethnic and interreligious harmony.” Putin did not specify which measures Russia will undertake to resolve interreligious conflicts and antisemitism in Russia, however. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not comment on the measures that could be taken against the demonstrators.[6] Kremlin officials largely reiterated similar statements prior to Putin’s speech and refrained from directly condemning the rioters, and the Kremlin’s narrative about foreign involvement in the riots is likely an attempt to deflect from the international criticism of antisemitism and growing animosity towards ethnic and religious minorities in Russia.[7]

Agencies get marching orders as White House issues AI-safety directive


The White House hopes to guide how technologists develop artificial intelligence and how the government prompts and adopts AI tools, under a new executive order to be unveiled Monday.

The order lays out some basic safety rules to prevent AI-enabled consumer fraud, requires red-team testing of AI software for safety, and issues guidance on privacy protections. The White House will also pursue new multilateral agreements on AI safety with partner nations and accelerate AI adoption within the government, according to a fact sheet provided to reporters.

The order comes amid growing public concern about the effects of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence tools on public life, the future of employment, education, and more. Those concerns are at odds with warnings from key business leaders and others that China’s growing investment in AI could give it an economic, technological, and military advantage in the coming decades. The new executive order attempts to address concerns about the use of AI in dangerous settings and the misuse of AI while simultaneously encouraging its advancement and adoption.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed called the order “the next step in an aggressive strategy to do everything on all fronts to harness the benefits of AI and mitigate the risks.”

On safety, the order directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, to draft standards for red-team exercises to test the safety of AI tools before they’re released.

‘War of money’: can China drag rivals into bankruptcy in a new arms race with drones?

Stephen Chen

A new generation of high-speed, long-endurance drones powered by low-cost jet engines has entered military service in China, according to a lead scientist on the project.

And part of their job is to lure the US, among other nations, into an arms race where the real trap lies in the budget.

The thing that sets the new Chinese drones apart from other models is the low cost of their power source.

The jet engines for military drones are expensive. The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, for instance, is powered by an AE3007 turbofan engine from Rolls-Royce which costs nearly US$4 million. Add to that the price of regular services and repairs that the engines require, and those costs ends up even higher.

But thanks to a recent technological breakthrough, the People’s Liberation Army can now get drone jet engines with superior performance at less than a fifth of the international price, engineering thermal physicist Zhu Junqiang said in a presentation about the project released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences on October 19.

As the drones will be deployed in large numbers, the impact of the price gap between military budgets could be significant.

Mainland China launches military drill near Taiwan in ‘severe warning to separatist forces’
China is a latecomer to jet engine technology. It was not until recently that its J20 stealth fighter got a pair of locally made engines. For operational economy and safety, China’s commercial passenger jet C919 is still flying on a pair of CFM International LEAP engines.

But on unmanned military platforms, Chinese researchers have had more liberty to experiment.