15 November 2023

Five Scenarios for How Israel-Hamas War Could End — Or Get Even Worse

Joshua Keating

Even as Israel’s war in Gaza continues to rage, there is increasing talk among world leaders about how it might end, and what will come after. There is no shortage of scenarios–but Israel and its most important international backers don’t appear to be on the same page about the aftermath of war.

Israeli leaders have kept their public statements focused mostly on the fight to destroy Hamas, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his clearest statement yet on post-war plans in a Monday interview with ABC News, saying that Israel, “for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility [for Gaza] because we've seen what happens when we don't have it.”

This would suggest some future Israel military presence in the Gaza Strip, from which it withdrew in 2005.

But on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Tokyo, said a post-war settlement should include “no reoccupation of Gaza.”

Blinken also said Palestinians should be in charge in “post-crisis” Gaza, and that there must be “no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza,” which may have been intended to push back on an idea floated by some Israeli officials to transfer Gaza’s civilian population to Egypt.

It’s far too soon to know exactly what the war's end will look like, but the recent statements suggest several competing scenarios, and the disputes that will likely arise with each of them.

It’s possible, though unlikely, that Israel will accomplish its goals and withdraw its troops quickly. The question is at what point Israeli leaders will decide those goals have been met.

Israel says it will maintain ‘overall security responsibility’ for Gaza. What might that look like?

JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t elaborate when he said this week that Israel would maintain indefinite “overall security responsibility” in Gaza once it removes Hamas from power in response to a deadly Oct. 7 cross-border raid by the Islamic militant group.

Experience suggests that any Israeli security role will be seen by the Palestinians and much of the international community as a form of military occupation. This could complicate any plans to hand governing responsibility to the Palestinian Authority or friendly Arab states, and risk bogging Israel down in a war of attrition.

Even if Israel succeeds in ending Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza and dismantling much of its militant infrastructure, the presence of Israeli forces is likely to fuel an insurgency, as it did from 1967 to 2005. That period saw two Palestinian uprisings and the rise of Hamas.

Benny Gantz, of Israel’s three-member War Cabinet, acknowledged Wednesday that there’s still no long-term plan for Gaza. He said any plan would have to address Israel’s security needs.

“We can come up with any mechanism we think is appropriate, but Hamas will not be part of it,” he told reporters. “We need to replace the Hamas regime and ensure security superiority for us.”

Here’s a look at what a lingering Israeli security role might look like and the opposition it would inevitably generate.


Israel Must Destroy Hamas’s Tunnels

Daphné Richemond-Barak

No blueprint exists for the ground assault that Israel has launched in the Gaza Strip. Israel must balance its stated objective of eliminating Hamas’s subterranean military capabilities with the need to protect its troops in a highly volatile environment, and it must do so while minimizing harm to the innocent population of Gaza and to Israeli nationals and others who have been taken hostage. For these reasons, Israel’s ground assault is guaranteed to be a slow and difficult operation.

Working in Israel’s favor is the overwhelming size and capability of its military. After Hamas’s October 7 attack,

American Geopolitical Strategy and the Israel-Hamas War

Ethan Bueno de Mesquita

For understandable reasons, much of the analysis of the war between Israel and Hamas focuses on concerns that are internal to the conflict: Is Israel’s stated intention to destroy Hamas feasible; and if so, at what cost? How is it possible that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government allowed such profound degradation of Israeli state capacity and what will be the political consequences? Are these events the last nail in the coffin for the two-state solution, or might they be the crucible out of which renewed hope for peace emerges? Are there alternative entities that might be capable of governing Gaza in Hamas’s absence and to what extent are the Palestinian people interested in such alternatives? But, compelling as these questions are, from the perspective of the United States, much of this analysis misses the forest for the trees.

The war between Israel and Hamas has serious implications for the emerging geopolitical order with stakes far larger than these local concerns. America’s National Security Strategy sees “the most pressing strategic challenge” of the day as coming from countries like China, Russia, and Iran, “that layer authoritarian governance with a revisionist foreign policy.” To meet that challenge, the National Security Strategy calls for building “the strongest possible coalition of nations.” The United States needs a strategy for managing the war that focuses first and foremost on these geopolitics. Focusing on the domestic politics of the past 15 years in Israel and the Palestinian territories, I argue there is no politically feasible alternative to a long-run Israeli strategy of containment and deterrence directed at a Hamas-controlled Gaza. Given Hamas’s increasing technological capacity, deterrence will come with heightened humanitarian suffering in Gaza, threatening détente with the Arab world and American’s case for the rules-based order more broadly. US strategy should use increased defensive military aid, political leverage, and a pragmatic approach to humanitarian assistance to manage these dynamics.

Opinion: I’m an expert in urban warfare. Israel is upholding the laws of war

John Spencer

All war is hell. All war is killing and destruction, and historically civilians are inordinately the innocent victims of wars. Urban warfare is a unique type of hell not just for soldiers, who face assaults from a million windows or deep tunnels below them, but especially for civilians. Noncombatants have accounted for 90% of casualties per international humanitarian experts in the modern wars that have occurred in populated urban areas such as Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa, even when a Western power like the United States is leading or supporting the campaign.

John SpencerCourtesy of John Spencer

The destruction and suffering, as awful as they are, don’t automatically constitute war crimes – otherwise, nearly any military action in a populated area would violate the laws of armed conflict, rules distilled from a complicated patchwork of international treaties, court rulings and historic conventions. Scenes of devastation, like Israel’s strikes on the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza earlier this week, quickly spark accusations that Israel is engaging in war crimes, such as indiscriminately killing civilians and engaging in revenge attacks. But war crimes must be assessed on evidence and the standards of armed conflict, not a quick glimpse at the harrowing aftermath of an attack.

Hamas forces indisputably violated multiple laws of war on October 7 in taking Israelis hostage and raping, torturing and directly targeting civilians, as well continuing to attack Israeli population centers with rockets. Years of intelligence assessments and media reports have shown that Hamas also commits war crimes by using human shields for its weapons and command centers and by purposely putting military capabilities in protected sites like hospitals, mosques and schools.

China’s Misunderstood Nuclear Expansion

M. Taylor Fravel, Henrik Stålhane Hiim, and Magnus Langset Trøan

Among the many issues surrounding China’s ongoing military modernization, perhaps none has been more dramatic than its nuclear weapons program. For decades, the Chinese government was content to maintain a comparatively small nuclear force. As recently as 2020, China’s arsenal was little changed from previous decades and amounted to some 220 weapons, around five to six percent of either the U.S. or Russian stockpiles of deployed and reserve warheads.

Since then, however, China has been rapidly expanding and modernizing its arsenal. In 2020, it began constructing three silo fields to house more than 300 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). A year later, it successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle that traveled 21,600 miles, a test that likely demonstrated China’s ability to field weapons that can orbit the earth before striking targets, known as a “fractional orbital bombardment system.” Simultaneously, the Chinese government has accelerated its pursuit of a complete nuclear triad—encompassing land-, sea-, and air-launched nuclear weapons—including by developing new submarine- and air-launched ballistic missiles. By 2030, according to U.S. Defense Department estimates, China will probably have more than 1,000 operational nuclear warheads—a more than fourfold increase from just a decade earlier.

China’s nuclear expansion is unlikely to be a focus of U.S. President Joe Biden’s expected meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week, but it is too important to be left entirely to defense strategists. Rather than maintaining only enough forces to be able to retaliate if attacked—China’s policy for decades—many in the United States now fear China’s nuclear buildout will give it offensive options as well. In 2021, Charles Richard, then the leader of U.S. Strategic Command, described China’s nuclear expansion as a “strategic breakout” that will provide it “with the capability to execute any plausible nuclear employment strategy.”

How scary is China?

When joe biden meets Xi Jinping in San Francisco next week, the stakes will be high. Fighting in the Middle East threatens to become another theatre for great-power rivalry, with America backing Israel, and China (along with Russia) deepening links to Iran. In the South China Sea, China is harassing Philippine ships and flying its planes dangerously close to American ones. Next year will test Sino-American relations even more. In January a candidate despised by Beijing may win Taiwan’s presidential election. For most of the year, the race for the White House will be a cacophony of China-bashing.

America’s anti-China fervour is partly an overcorrection for its previous complacency about the economic, military and ideological threat the autocratic giant poses. The danger from China is real, and there are many areas where Mr Biden’s administration should stand up to its Communist rulers. But there is also a risk that America’s view of Chinese power slides into caricature, triggering confrontations and, at worst, an avoidable conflict. Even without war, that rush would incur huge economic costs, split America from its allies and undermine the values that make it strong. Instead, America needs a sober assessment not just of China’s strengths, but also of its weaknesses.

China has a sweeping vision to reshape the world — and countries are listening

Simone McCarthy

Xi Jinping has a plan for how the world should work, and one year into his norm-shattering third term as Chinese leader, he’s escalating his push to challenge America’s global leadership — and put his vision front and center.

That bid was in the spotlight like never before last month in Beijing, when Xi, flanked by Russian President Vladimir Putin, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and some two dozen top dignitaries from around the world, hailed China as the only country capable of navigating the challenges of the 21st century.

“Changes of the world, of our times, and of historical significance are unfolding like never before,” Xi told his audience at the Belt and Road Forum. China, he said, would “make relentless efforts to achieve modernization for all countries” and work to build a “shared future for mankind.”

Xi’s vision — though cloaked in abstract language — encapsulates the Chinese Communist Party’s emerging push to reshape an international system it sees as unfairly stacked in favor of the United States and its allies.

Viewed as a rival by those countries as its grows increasingly assertive and authoritarian, Beijing has come to believe that now is the time to shift that system and the global balance of power to ensure China’s rise — and reject efforts to counter it.

In recent months, Beijing has promoted its alternative model across hefty policy documents and new “global initiatives,” as well as speeches, diplomatic meetings, forums and international gatherings large and small — as it aims to win support across the world.

Rare Earths in the South China Sea: Adding Fuel to the Geopolitical Fire

Tobias Burgers and Scott N. Romaniuk

As the green energy revolution continues to progress and gain traction in Europe, the United States, and China, there is a noticeable surge in the demand for rare-earth metals (REMs), which are among the vital building blocks for clean energy technology. The 17 elements that make up REMs, also known as rare-earth elements, are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium. Countries are actively seeking to acquire these vital resources, leading to a competitive race among nations.

The term “rare-earth elements” was first attributed to these compounds when they were discovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, “earths,” was a designation used to describe materials that displayed resistance to further modification when subjected to heat. In contrast to other types of earth materials, such as lime or magnesia, these “rare earths” were discovered to be rather limited in abundance.

Despite their current prevalence in comparison to their historical availability and application, the perceived scarcity of these resources is assessed and established based on the level of competition surrounding them. Although most REMs do not exhibit the level of scarcity that their classification implies, they are now essential to modern technology and lifestyles.

Moreover, the concentrated and economically feasible deposits of REMs are far less prevalent, rendering their identification and extraction more challenging.

Developing countries owe China at least $1.1 trillion – and the debts are due

Simone McCarthy

Developing countries owe Chinese lenders at least $1.1 trillion, according to a new data analysis published Monday, which says more than half of the thousands of loans China has doled out over two decades are due as many borrowers struggle financially.

Overdue loan repayments to Chinese lenders are soaring, according to AidData, a university research lab at William & Mary in Virginia, which found that nearly 80% of China’s lending portfolio in the developing world is currently supporting countries in financial distress.

For years, Beijing marshalled its finances toward funding infrastructure across poorer countries – including under an effort that Chinese leader Xi Jinping branded as his flagship “Belt and Road Initiative,” which launched a decade ago this fall.

That funding flowed liberally into roads, airports, railways and power plants from Latin America to Southeast Asia and helped power economic growth among borrowing countries. Along the way, it drew many governments closer to Beijing and made China the world’s largest creditor, while also sparking accusations of irresponsible lending.

Now, 55% of China’s official sector loans to developing countries have entered their repayment periods, according to the analysis of more than two decades of China’s overseas funding across 165 countries released by AidData.

Those debts are coming due during a new and challenging financial climate of high interest rates, struggling local currencies and slowing global growth.


Ashka Jhaveri, Peter Mills, Kathryn Tyson, Brian Carter, 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.

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

Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Key Takeaways:Israeli forces advanced to a Hamas security headquarters in the northwestern Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces conducted clearing operations west of Jabaliya city in the northwestern Gaza Strip.

Hamas and other Palestinian militia fighters are continuing their attacks against the IDF behind the Israeli forward line of advance, which is consistent with the nature of clearing operations.

Palestinian militias launched the fewest number of indirect fire attacks into Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began.

With America’s Ukraine aid, accountability comes with a price

Tom Basile

Republicans are wringing their hands over how to provide the support the vast majority of them acknowledge is necessary for Ukraine, while ensuring appropriate accountability for billions in U.S. assets being sent to the besieged nation. They are right to be concerned, as are Americans who are demanding we secure the southern border, now a present national security threat created by the Biden administration, with equal or greater resource allocations.

Providing military and financial assistance to another country at arm’s length is always a dicey proposition, especially a country with a history of corruption.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t desire accountability and transparency but lack the will to establish a small U.S. operation in Ukraine to scrutinize the allocation of billions in resources a world away in the middle of a military conflict.

Congressional Republicans should publicly support the deployment of a limited set of military and civilian advisers to Ukraine to monitor the use of American assets. A monitoring regime that includes U.S. personnel must be a condition of further support.

According to the Center for Strategic and Military Studies, U.S. aid to Ukraine generally falls into three categories: military aid, humanitarian assistance, and economic support to the Ukrainian government. This last category is perhaps the most problematic, because the resources go directly to their government to allow continuing operations because its own revenue generation mechanisms have been disrupted by the war.

Opinion Another casualty of war: Free speech on campus

Fareed Zakaria

Hamas’s terrorist attacks against Israel and Israel’s military actions in Gaza have unleashed a firestorm of controversy in the United States and Europe. Watching it all, I wonder: Does anyone believe in free speech anymore?

I have strongly condemned the attacks of Oct. 7. I think that those who praise Hamas in any way are blind to the reality that it has been the principal opponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question. But the question to grapple with is how to handle views that either side finds deeply offensive. And of course, speech and assembly are not the same as physical intimidation and harassment, which prevent civil discourse.

Until very recently, most concerns about free speech on college campuses were related to conservative speakers — from Ben Shapiro to Condoleezza Rice — being protested or disinvited. Conservative state legislators introduced dozens of laws to protect campus free speech. In 2021, House Republicans started a Campus Free Speech Caucus to protect free expression and free association. In January 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the “most important legislative issue” to get right in the next couple of years was the protection of controversial speech.

Not anymore. Late last month, DeSantis reversed course, directing Florida State University’s chancellor to close down campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine. DeSantis accused the group of giving “material support to terrorism” — though, as far as I can tell, these groups have only organized protests and rallies. As GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has pointed out, courts have made clear that verbal support for extremist groups is very different — and constitutionally protected — from sending money, materiel or arms.

Can a Soldier Ever Go Home From War?

John Waters

Home: What does it mean? Homecoming football games, going home for the holidays?

For most of us, home is a refuge, a sanctuary, an escape from the world. Home is a fortress worth protecting from intruders and trespassers, an ideal dating at least to the Renaissance, if not even earlier.

More than a house, home is the place of our youth. The word conjures the memory of moments, hurts, friendships, struggles and triumphs. Home is a feeling, a time in our lives. We can move far away, start a new life, fill it with new places and new friends, with different struggles and accomplishments — but we can’t change the past or truly leave it behind. We never recover from childhood.

Some of us came of age during the era of the War on Terror, the post-9/11 generation, watching on television as planes crashed into skyscrapers and, later, as American rockets exploded like fireworks over a darkened city. Some of us wanted our share of that exceptional experience, perhaps without realizing then just how Hollywood and even history often idealize war.

War is real blood, real bones. Death and judgment are always around the corner. There’s no avoiding what war has to teach you. You confront what’s in front of you and make the best of the situation. You adapt continuously, over and over again, changing every day. Until one day — if you’re lucky — you go home to find that your life conventions are no longer the social conventions of the place you once called home. You begin to wonder: Does a soldier ever come home from war?

Whistling in the Dark

Ryan Shaw

A tree fell in the Pentagon forest and, judging by the response, no one was around to hear it. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs signed the Joint Concept for Competing (JCC) in February and it was published without any formal announcement. Its release was noted in Small Wars Journal; only a few news outlets and analysts offered commentary. The muted response is surprising, because it is a serious and thoughtful document that aims to revolutionize the United States’ approach to employing military power in strategic competition—it is a big tree, indeed.

Given the stakes, which the Chairman identifies as a real risk that the United States will “lose without fighting,” the lack of buzz is more than curious—it’s deeply concerning. The JCC deserves a rigorous and open debate by all those concerned with U.S. national security. Further, it warrants serious investment toward implementation by the Defense Department and, indeed, by the whole of government. Because the most critical thing to know about the JCC is that it stands no chance of succeeding if it does not inspire as much action outside the department as inside. To make a real difference, the Joint Concept for Competing should be accompanied by an interagency National Concept for Competing.

What is the JCC for?

According to the Pentagon, “Joint concepts propose new approaches for addressing compelling challenges… for which existing approaches and capabilities are ineffective, insufficient, or nonexistent, thus requiring reexamination of how we operate and develop the future joint force.” By definition, they start with a problem. The problem the JCC sets out to address was most famously identified by George Kennan as far back as 1948: “We have been handicapped… by a popular attachment to the concept of a basic difference between peace and war… and by a reluctance to recognize the realities of international relations—the perpetual rhythm of struggle, in and out of war.”

Mobile and resilient, the US military is placing a new emphasis on ground troops for Pacific defense

BANGKOK — As Chinese missile testing in the waters around Taiwan grew increasingly aggressive in 1996, the U.S. sailed two aircraft carrier groups to the island that Beijing claims as its own, and China was forced to back down.

It employed a similar response to Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel a month ago, dispatching two carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean in a rapid and massive show of force meant to deter other countries or Iran-backed proxy groups such as Hezbollah from joining the fight.

But what is still viable in the Mideast is increasingly less practical with China, which in 1996 had no carriers of its own and little means to threaten the American ships, but now has the world's largest navy, including three aircraft carriers, and a coastline bristling with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

Gunners assigned to 1163 Battery, 16th Field Regiment, Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery, provide fire support Nov. 2 to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, in Hawaii. In the largest-scale training held in Hawaii so far, troops have been practicing fighting in an island jungle environment against an advanced enemy force.Sgt. Cera Rodney, U.S. Army

Instead, exercises in Hawaii, which concluded Friday, highlight part of a new American approach to Pacific defense and deterrence, with a focus on small groups of mobile land forces operating from islands like those off China's coast.

In the exercises, the largest-scale training held in Hawaii so far, more than 5,000 troops from the 25th Infantry Division, along with units from New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand and Britain and supported by the U.S. Air Force, practiced fighting in an island jungle environment against an advanced enemy force, with exercises including paratrooper drops, a long-range air assault, and re-supply by air and sea.

U.S. Army aircraft assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, fly Nov. 2 into Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii. Sgt. Richard Mohr, U.S. Army

FBI Accuses Biden Appointee of Bias in Selection of Headquarters Site

Sadie Gurman

‘We have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan,’ FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote to staff. 

A final pick this week for a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in the Maryland suburbs was supposed to end a decadelong drama that had engulfed the site-selection process. Instead, it looks like it’s only heating up.

In a sharply worded note to employees Thursday, the usually taciturn FBI Director Christopher Wray blasted the General Services Administration’s decision-making process and said a Biden appointee might have inappropriately interfered with the outcome.

“We have concerns about fairness and transparency in the process and GSA’s failure to adhere to its own site selection plan,” Wray wrote in a message to the workforce, a day after GSA officials confirmed they had chosen to move the FBI from its crumbling headquarters downtown to a site in Greenbelt, Md., over another location in Springfield, Va.

A GSA official defended the agency’s process as fair and said ethics officials had signed off on the appointee’s involvement in the selection process.

“GSA and FBI teams have spent countless hours working closely together over many months, so we’re disappointed that the FBI Director is now making inaccurate claims directed at our agency, our employees, and our site selection plan and process,” said General Services Administrator Robin Carnahan. “Any suggestion that there was inappropriate interference is unfounded.”



Thirteen West Coast-based Navy SEALs act in a scene for an upcoming episode of the Fox network television series "24" at Camarillo Airport. The show's producer requested participation from Naval Special Warfare Command to add realism to the scenes. The SEALs fast-roped from helicopters and assaulted a terrorist cell during the filming. The episode will air on Fox in January 2009. (Courtesy photo/U.S. Navy)

It has been a bit of a wild ride for the Navy SEAL community since the Global War on Terror kicked off in 2001. That conflict thrust the SEALs – some would say certain members willingly leaped – into a public limelight that was brighter and sometimes harsher than had ever before been experienced by Naval Special Warfare. One result of that increased public notoriety, which has reflected both positively and negatively on the SEALs, has been the growth of certain misconceptions held by the wider public about the Navy SEAL Teams.

The first erroneous view this author has noticed to be held fairly widely is that all Navy SEALs are self-promoting glory hounds. As one who has personally been accused of such behavior, I am well-placed to address this particular misconception. I can say with absolute certainty that the great majority of SEALs, both current and former, in no way seek to glorify their service, promote themselves as some sort of superhuman warrior elite, or even talk publicly at all about their service (again, this author notwithstanding).

Now, do some SEALs write or host podcasts talking about everything from self-improvement to physical fitness to politics to simply “SEAL stuff?” Of course they do. Do some even discuss their involvement in various military operations (as approved by the DoD’s review process)? Again, yes. And sure, there are even some shameless charlatans that exist amongst the community of former SEALs who seek to profit or acquire political power at any cost.

Kennan: The Fallible Prophet We Need

Lee Congdon.

The United States in the early 21st century, Lee Congdon writes, suffers from a wayward internationalist foreign policy and domestic cultural and moral decadence. This can be overcome, according to Congdon, by retreating to 18th century political philosophies once championed by the late American diplomat and historian George F. Kennan. In his new book George Kennan for Our Time, Congdon views Kennan as a “guide” whose wisdom and prudence can bring America back from the edge of international and domestic abyss.

This is Congdon’s second book about Kennan: in 2008 he wrote George Kennan: A Writing Life, which assessed Kennan’s literary skills and achievements in the context of his long life (he lived to age 101) and career as a Foreign Service Officer, diplomat, policy analyst, and historian. Congdon admiringly described Kennan’s writing style as “formal, graceful, unhurried, Gibbonesque,” and concluded that Kennan, when measured by his character, writing, wisdom, and diplomatic career “was the greatest American” of the 20th century. That is a bold claim and certainly unwarranted. Congdon is on much firmer ground in his new book where he uses Kennan’s political philosophies as a road map out of our current predicament.

Kennan’s life and political thought are literally an “open book,” which includes two-volumes of his memoirs, his remarkably introspective diaries, historical works, lectures, interviews, testimonies, policy planning documents, journalism, works of political philosophy, and some excellent biographies (the best being John Lewis Gaddis’ George Kennan: A Life). Congdon is familiar with all of them. Congdon’s greatest achievement in both of his books on Kennan is concision—they both come in at about 200 pages. No words are wasted.

How the World Lost Faith in the UN

Richard Gowan

Ever since 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted in favor of partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the organization has grappled with crises in the Middle East. In recent decades, discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the UN have featured the same basic dynamic: the United States uses its veto to block criticism of Israel at the Security Council while Arab states rally developing countries to defend the Palestinians. The debate at the UN in the weeks after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel has largely followed this familiar pattern. The United States has blocked the Security Council from

The Devil Went Down to Georgia: Executing Cyberspace Resistance to Counter Russia

Mark Grzegorzewski, PhD, William Holden

Amidst the focus on Russia’s military engagements in Ukraine over the past year, not enough attention has been given to the cyber resilience needs of other countries on the periphery of the former Soviet Union. Notably, Georgia, Lithuania, and Poland warrant particular attention as they could become the next targets if Russia shifts its focus from Ukraine. Georgia, a victim of a Russian invasion in 2008 and a cyber-driven influence campaign in 2019, presents a compelling case study. Drawing from Ukraine’s experiences, Georgia can translate those insights into robust cyber resilience strategies to defend itself against future Russian aggression.

Recommended strategies include forging closer ties with the U.S. to bolster the capacity of Georgia’s cybersecurity, re-allocating resources to reduce the impact of Russian cyber operations and activities, and presenting a strengthened front to deter Russian cyber operatives. Moreover, experience is an unparalleled resource, and the Georgians can learn from Ukraine’s experience. In fact, there is a strong correlation between the experience Ukrainian cyber operators gained in the years of cyber conflict following the initial 2014 Russian invasion and today’s digital stalemate between Ukraine and Russia. In essence, nearly a decade of conflict honed the Ukrainians resistance capabilities, enabling them to counter Russian cyber operations effectively.

Given its proximity and history, Georgia has likely kept a close eye on how Russia executed irregular warfare in Ukraine since at least 2014, and ideally learned from those experiences to prepare itself for resistance should Russia return. Learning from the Ukrainian experience would enable Georgia to brace itself for Russian cyber effects, especially should a momentarily debilitated Russia seek to reassert its regional dominance by targeting countries within its sphere of influence. Thus, Georgia must be prepared not just for traditional Russian military tactics but also for improved strategies born from lessons learned in Ukraine. In the end, should Russia invade Georgia again, it will not be a replay of what happened in Ukraine. Indeed, it may not even be a physical invasion.

As war frustrations rise, stalemate tests Zelensky and top general Zaluzhny

Siobhán O'Grady

KYIV — After months of heavy losses in a largely stalled counteroffensive against Russia, tension among Ukraine’s senior leaders has spilled awkwardly into the open in recent days — prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for a halt to political infighting.

“Everyone should be concentrating their efforts right now on defending the country,” Zelensky said Monday in his nightly address. “Put themselves together and do not rest; do not drown in infighting or other issues.” He warned that shattered unity could have drastic consequences: “The situation is now the same as it was before — if there is no victory, there will be no country.”

Zelensky’s plea to stop any infighting came after he engaged in his own rare public dispute with the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, over whether the war has reached a World War I-style “stalemate” — as Zaluzhny asserted in a recent interview with the Economist.

Zelensky then rebuffed those remarks at a news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Everyone is tired and there are different opinions,” Zelensky said when discussing Zaluzhny’s “stalemate” remark. He also told NBC News that he does “not think that this is a stalemate.” But one of the president’s aides went so far as to say on Ukrainian TV that a comment like Zaluzhny’s to the media “eases the work” of Russia.

Zaluzhny, a career military officer, enjoys huge national popularity, and he is widely viewed as a potential threat to Zelensky should he ever jump into politics. So far, the general has given no indication that he plans such a move.

The Politics of Looking Strong

Jeffrey A. Friedman

The current slate of Republican presidential candidates disagree on many things, be it how much to restrict abortion or whether U.S. President Joe Biden rightfully won the 2020 election. But when it comes to international affairs, almost all the contenders have taken aggressively hawkish policy positions. The top four front-runners for the GOP nomination—Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and former U.S. President Donald Trump—have endorsed attacking Mexico to combat that country’s drug cartels. Trump, for instance, said he would send to Mexico “all necessary military assets, including the U.S. Navy.” Most of the field


CDR Paul W. Viscovich, USN (ret.)

Vale la pena (“It is worth the effort”) was the motto of Naval Special Warfare Group EIGHT when it was stationed in Panama some 30 years ago. It was an appropriate philosophy for a tip-of-the-spear warfighting unit, and they lived up to it in operations throughout the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. Can these SEALs teach us how to prioritize warfighting, and can their unit-level lessons be applied throughout the fleet?

In order to prioritize one thing – warfighting – it is necessary to diminish the importance of conflicting requirements. Due to the unique nature of their mission, and with the unyielding support of their NAVSPECWAR chain of command, the SEALs are largely insulated from the administrative distractions that bedevil the other warfighting communities. Their maintenance, training, and security programs are all consciously vectored toward supporting their one priority – providing warfighting capability.

Two things allow the SEALs to accomplish this. First, their entire community is culturally focused on warfighting. Second, their senior leadership is uncompromising in eliminating anything that distracts from this priority.

This leadership doctrine is at such variance from the rest of the Navy that any immediate attempt to apply this model on a fleet-wide scale will fail. The eight-decade absence of deadly conflict with an enemy of equal or superior capability has eroded the warrior ethos in generations of naval officers and senior enlisted leaders. Its absence has caused perverse incentives to metastasize, such as an administratively-obsessed culture that often defines excellence in terms of passing rote inspections, and scripted drills that mask warfighting deficits but make for positive reporting. Although individual commanding officers may strive mightily to create a warfighting focus within their units, the chain of command’s overriding insistence that they check all the superfluous administrative boxes will continue to doom their efforts and overwhelm the time of warfighters on the deckplate. At best, unit leaders can only put warfighting first on the margins of an already thinly-stretched crew and schedule. Whether aviators, submariners, or surface warfare officers, U.S. Navy flag officers are now largely trained, groomed, and selected to perpetuate this bureaucracy that is top-heavy with administration.

A Knife Fight in a Phone Booth

Elliot Ackerman

Twenty years ago, on what looked like a movie set built in the Quantico woods, I learned how to fight in a city. This faux city was called “MOUT Town.” MOUT—Military Operations in Urban Terrain—is U.S. military-speak for high-intensity urban combat, like what’s unfolding in Gaza. Tactically, MOUT was very different from the traditional combat we’d already studied in the Marine Corps. The urban battlefield was highly constricted; streets and buildings funneled us into close quarters with our enemy. Beyond every corner, window, or doorway lurked a potential ambush. Most notably, and adding a specific and complex layer to this type of warfare, civilians blended with adversaries, all played by instructors who ambushed us with paintball guns. Casualty rates in urban warfare far exceed those of other forms of combat, a fact reinforced by the dime-size paintball welts that covered my body by the end of MOUT week.

Less than a year later, in November 2004, I found myself leading a 46-man rifle platoon into Falluja, in Iraq. This battle pitted 13,000 Marines and soldiers against a defending force of 4,000 al-Qaeda fighters. In staging areas outside the city, we drilled the urban tactics we’d learned in MOUT Town. Chief among those tactics was close-quarters battle, or CQB, a highly choreographed maneuver designed for hostage rescue in which a group of Marines enters a room and clears it of threats. These tactics look similar to what usually appears in movies featuring Navy SEALs or Delta Force operatives as they rescue hostages; it is a familiar, if violent, visual. The idea is to flood a room with so much speed and precision that you overwhelm a defending adversary; your enemy might be able to shoot the first man through the door, or even the second, but they’ll be killed by the third or fourth. In these situations, a room’s door isn’t even called a door; it’s called the “fatal funnel.” The first man knows he’s likely going to get shot—that’s his job.