14 December 2023

Is ‘Demilitarization’ Of Gaza A Euphemism For Total Destruction?

Alex Whiteman

Israel’s endgame for Gaza appears now firmly set on the enclave’s demilitarization, but some experts say that goal and “total destruction” in this conflict have become indistinguishable.

Even as the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants entered its third month on Dec. 7, precisely who would govern war-devastated Gaza after the dismantling of the Palestinian militant group remained unclear.

Talk about the West Bank-based Palestine government taking charge of postwar Gaza’s governance has been doing the rounds, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has poured cold water on the idea, saying “the Palestinian Authority is not the solution.”

So, what do experts make of Netanyahu’s statement that the Israel Defense Forces will move to demilitarize Gaza, which is still regarded by the UN as occupied territory?

Tobias Borck, a senior research fellow for Middle East security at the Royal United Services Institute, believes the latest remarks represent no change in Israeli policy.

“Those comments were simply meant to justify what the Israeli military was already doing in Gaza. It is little more than a rhetorical switch, a new way of saying ‘destroy Hamas.’ But it is not one offering a clearer, more tangible image of what that looks like,” he told Arab News.

“So, when they say ‘demilitarization,’ this is nothing new, the Israeli argument across almost the entire political spectrum has been that even were there to be an independent Palestinian state, it would have to be demilitarized.”

On Dec. 6, Netanyahu said the IDF alone would be responsible for demilitarizing Gaza, claiming that international forces would be incapable of achieving success.

Speaking in Hebrew, he said: “Gaza must be demilitarized, only the IDF can take care of this. No international force can. We saw what happened elsewhere when international forces tried this. I am not willing to close my eyes and accept any other arrangement.”

There Is No Such Thing as a ‘Humane’ War

Francis P. Sempa

Writing in Responsible Statecraft, the online journal of the Quincy Institute, David C. Hendrickson argues that Israel’s proclaimed war aim of destroying Hamas should be reconsidered because there is no way to “humanely” destroy Hamas. Hendrickson, from his comfortable perch at Colorado College, lectures Israel on the “just war” theory and condemns Israel for not fighting with “restraint,” not rejecting “indiscriminate bombing and shelling,” and not respecting “enemy civilians.” Israel, he writes, is “pursuing . . . a moral enormity” and risks committing “wickedness on a titanic scale in order to achieve total victory.” His recommendation to Israeli leaders is to “accept limited war and seek the containment of the enemy, not his obliteration.” In other words, Israel should conduct the war in a way that entails the greatest risk to the lives of its warriors and that will leave Hamas’ forces in position to terrorize, rape, and massacre Israeli citizens another day. That is somehow “just.”

Hendrickson’s position is consistent with the Biden administration’s approach to America’s longtime ally in the Middle East. Hendrickson quotes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who stated on November 30th: “Israel has one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world. It is capable of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas while minimizing harm to innocent civilians. And it has an obligation to do so.” This is also the position of Jo-Ann Mort and Michael Walzer in a piece in the New Republic that Hendrickson discusses. Walzer, a longtime critic of “unjust wars” (in 1977, in the wake of our defeat in Vietnam, Walzer, who condemned America’s involvement in that war, wrote Just and Unjust Wars), argues in the New Republic piece that Israel can achieve its war aim--the destruction of Hamas--in a humane war. Hendrickson doesn’t buy it. And he’s right because there is no such thing as a “humane” war.

Hamas’s Goal in Gaza

Leila Seurat

Among the many striking aspects of Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel, one that has received relatively little scrutiny is the location. For much of the past decade, the Gaza Strip no longer appeared to be a major battleground for the Palestinian resistance. Recurring incursions by the Israeli army into Gaza, including the nearly two-month Operation “Protective Edge” in 2014, had locked Hamas into a defensive posture. Meanwhile, Israel’s increasingly sophisticated missile defenses had rendered Hamas’s rocket attacks from the strip largely ineffective, and the blockade of Gaza had cut off the territory from the rest of the world.

By contrast, the West Bank was a far more obvious arena of conflict. With its expanding Israeli settlements and frequent incursions by Israeli soldiers and settlers into Palestinian villages, the West Bank—along with the holy sites in Jerusalem—attracted continual international media attention. For Hamas and other militant groups, here was the more appropriate staging ground for nationalist Palestinian armed resistance. Indeed, Israel seemed to recognize this: on the eve of October 7, the Israeli forces were busy monitoring Palestinians in the West Bank, on the assumption that Gaza posed little threat other than occasional rocket fire.

But the October 7 operation radically contradicted that view. To launch its deadly dawn raid, Hamas’s Gaza-based military wing blew up the Erez border crossing with Israel and breached Gaza’s security barrier at numerous points. In killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking more than 240 hostages, the attackers clearly anticipated a large-scale military response against Gaza, an expectation that has been confirmed in the Israeli army’s unprecedentedly violent air and ground offensive. In turn, the Israeli campaign, which has killed more than 17,000 Palestinians and caused enormous devastation across the territory, has dominated the attention of world leaders and the international media for weeks. In essence, after years of being consigned to the background, Gaza has become the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.

The renewed centrality of Gaza raises important questions about Hamas’s senior leadership. Previously, it had been assumed that Hamas was largely run from outside the territory by its leaders located in Amman, Damascus, and Doha. But that understanding is long out of date. At least since 2017, when Yahya Sinwar took over Hamas’s Gazan leadership, Hamas has undergone an organizational shift toward Gaza itself. Along with making the territory more autonomous from Hamas’s external leaders, Sinwar has presided over a strategic renewal of Hamas as a fighting force in Gaza. In particular, he has aimed at taking offensive action against Israel and connecting Gaza to the larger Palestinian struggle. At the same time, he has adjusted the movement’s strategies to account for evolving developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including the growing tensions around the al Aqsa mosque. Paradoxically, instead of isolating Gaza, the Israeli blockade has actually helped put the territory back at the center of world attention.

Israel Issues New Timeline for Takeover of Hamas Strongholds

Madeline Fitzgerald

The Israeli military announced on Saturday an updated timeline to when they expect to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying that it would take an estimated month-and-a-half to take control of remaining Hamas strongholds.

The Israeli Defense Forces believe they will take control of the northern Gaza city of Jabalia within the next day, Israel’s Channel 10 reported. Israel is also expected to continue its occupation of the Shuja'iyya neighborhood in northern Gaza for a few more days, according to Channel 10.

Much of the residential area was destroyed during Israeli bombardment, earlier this month. Gaza’s Civil Defense estimated that as many as 300 people were killed when Israel bombed apartment buildings to eliminate a Hamas commander, the French newspaper Le Monde reported.

Suspected Hamas members detained by Israeli forces in Gaza City.

Israeli forces hope to take control of all fighting areas across Gaza, including Khan Yunis, by the end of January. The United States and Israel are reportedly coordinating on military strategies, while Israel also plans on how to move forward if they successfully seize control from Hamas.

This announcement comes in the wake of the United Nations' vote on a resolution to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Thirteen countries voted in favor of a ceasefire, while the United Kingdom abstained from voting. The U.S., however, used its veto power to kill the resolution.

Hamas killed over 1200 Israelis and kidnapped some 200 more during the surprise incursion on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. The militant group attacked small kibbutzes and a music festival, killing and injuring civilians.

Israel Approved Millions in Monthly Payments to Hamas For Years to Keep Gaza Stable

Tom Nagorski and William Veale

The Israeli government approved millions of dollars in monthly payments to Hamas for years, including in the weeks just prior to the October 7 attack, according to a new investigation published Sunday by The New York Times.

David Barnes, head of Israel’a Mossad intelligence agency, met with officials of the government of Qatar just weeks prior to the Hamas attack and was asked by Qatari officials whether Israel wanted the long-running payments to continue. Barnea said yes, according to the report, which the Times said was based on interviews with dozens of sources in Israel, Qatar and the U.S.

Israeli leaders had calculated for years that support for the Hamas government in Gaza would keep the territory stable and ensure that Hamas militants would not strike out against Israel.

Yossi Kuperwasser, a former head of research for Israel’s military intelligence, told the Times that the policy was based on the hope of keeping an “equilibrium” in the Gaza Strip.

“The logic of Israel was that Hamas should be strong enough to rule Gaza, but weak enough to be deterred by Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously, and vehemently, denied accusations that he allowed Qatar to pay the Hamas militants, calling the notion "ridiculous," according to a Nov. 28 Politico report.

Israel Is Losing this War


It may sound daft to suggest that a group of armed irregulars, numbering in the low tens of thousands, besieged and with little access to advanced weaponry, is a match for one of the world’s most powerful militaries, backed and armed by the United States. And yet, an increasing number of establishment strategic analysts warn that Israel could lose this war on Palestinians despite the cataclysmic violence it unleashed since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7. And in provoking the Israeli assault, Hamas may be realizing many of its own political objectives.

Both Israel and Hamas appear to be resetting the terms of their political contest not to the pre–October 7 status quo, but to the 1948 one. It’s not clear what comes next, but there will be no going back to the previous state of affairs.

The surprise attack neutralized Israeli military installations, breaking open the gates of the world’s largest open-air prison and leading a gruesome rampage in which some 1,200 Israelis, at least 845 of them civilians, were killed. The shocking ease with which Hamas breached Israeli lines around the Gaza Strip reminded many of the 1968 Tet Offensive. Not literally—there are vast differences between a US expeditionary war in a distant land and Israel’s war to defend an occupation at home, waged by a citizen army motivated by a sense of existential peril. Instead, the usefulness of the analogy lies in the political logic shaping an insurgent offensive.

In 1968, the Vietnamese revolutionaries lost the battle and sacrificed much of the underground political and military infrastructure they had patiently built over years. Yet the Tet Offensive was a key moment in their defeat of the United States—albeit at a massive cost in Vietnamese lives. By simultaneously staging dramatic, high-profile attacks on more than 100 targets across the country on a single day, lightly armed Vietnamese guerrillas shattered the illusion of success that was being peddled to the US public by the Johnson administration. It signaled to Americans that the war for which they were being asked to sacrifice tens of thousands of their sons was unwinnable.

Gaza in chaos as Palestinian anger against Hamas grows


The second phase of the Israeli war in Gaza has further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people who fled from the North now seek shelter in the already overcrowded southern part of the Gaza Strip. Many move from Khan Yunis, the current epicenter of IDF-Hamas fighting, to the southern end of the strip, Rafah, near the Egyptian border. All the while, signs point to Hamas's rule weakening and the barrier of fear against the terrorist group breaking.

A Gaza resident, who bravely expressed his opinions on the radio, voiced his message to Yahya Sinwar and his accomplices. The interviewee, journalist Muhammad Mansour, boldly stated, "May Allah curse you, Hamas leadership. Sinwar, you are the offspring of a despicable creature. Allah will avenge the destruction you have inflicted upon us."

Mansour called on Hamas to release the remaining Israeli abductees held captive after the collapse of a previous deal, which resulted in the resumption of fighting. Frustrated, he exclaimed, "We were deported from Gaza to Khan Yunis, and from Khan Yunis to Rafah. Our children, women, and families were torn apart from us. Release these hostages immediately! Sinwar, [Mohammed] Deif, and their wicked companions hide underground. We don't even have access to water."

Why are Gazan Palestinians angry at Hamas?

While the Hamas leaders remain hidden in tunnels, above-ground residents face significant destruction and a lack of basic necessities, including food and water. These supplies are stored in UNRWA warehouses but fail to reach the people. Photos circulating show enraged residents looting one of the warehouses in Khan Yunis. One resident wrote in a local Telegram group, "What corruption! We are a family of four with refugees among us, struggling to find or buy food.

How Hamas Used Sexual Violence on October 7th

Isaac Chotiner

Earlier this week, the Israeli government presented evidence at the United Nations about rape and mutilation committed by Hamas militants during the attack on October 7th, in which more than twelve hundred people were killed. “I was called down on October 7 to collect bodies and remains from the terror attack,” Simcha Greinman, a volunteer medical worker, said. “I saw in front of my eyes a woman. She was naked. She had nails and different objects in her female organs. Her body was brutalized in a way that we cannot identify her, from her head to her toes.” An Israeli police superintendent shared testimonies from eyewitnesses, including one who saw girls with broken pelvises from “repetitive rapes.”

While some accounts of the horrific violence have now been corroborated by reporting from the BBC and other news agencies, one of the first comprehensive examinations of the sexual and gender-based violence on October 7th was conducted by a nonprofit called Physicians for Human Rights Israel, whose mission is to combat medical discrimination and improve access to health care in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. In a position paper, published last month, the organization called for an investigation into “widespread” sexual violence. “Based on the currently available information and the accounts indicating that sexual and gender-based violence occurred across several locations,” the report states, “an inquiry must be conducted to examine whether their scope and manifestations amount to crimes against humanity under international humanitarian law.” (The Israeli government has criticized the United Nations, saying its women’s-rights agency remained silent about the accusations of sexual violence until almost two months after the attack. Hamas has denied that its fighters committed sexual violence.)

I recently spoke by phone with one of the paper’s authors, Hadas Ziv, who is the director of ethics and policy at Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and who lives in Tel Aviv. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why gathering information about sexual violence perpetrated on October 7th has been so difficult and contentious, how the report was put together, and the importance of collecting horrific stories to insure that survivors receive proper care.

The Israel/Hamas War and ‘Decolonial Washing’

David Chandler

The Israel/Hamas war poses some issues for International Relations scholars which we perhaps tend to downplay. For example, the desire to act or demonstrate solidarity, to fulfil the imperative to ‘decolonise’ or ‘to call out the oppressors’, can often clash with the desire to deconstruct or oppose claims to political or moral authority. Today many people are becoming increasingly aware of our shared imbrications and entanglements, where all ‘our livelihoods are underwritten by colonial violence and unsustainability’. If coloniality is not something that can just be wished away but is at the heart of the international system, the best of intentions can often result in reducing decolonising to a metaphor or taking shortcuts – ‘decolonial washing’ via publishing appeals, petitions and statements – rather than initiating transformative change.

For example, one minute we’re reading or writing critical studies of the ways that international institutions gain moral authority through international humanitarianism, but the next minute, when something dreadful happens in the world, it seems that there is no alternative but to demand that our governments act ‘progressively’ in the world. This problem perhaps is most acute when it comes to the demand that ‘something must be done’ about international outrages, such as war crimes and genocide. In these cases, it appears that our ethical and political desires to decolonise have no avenue of expression without reinforcing the existing domestic and international hierarchies.

The danger is magnified in the cases of international policy discourses that assert their humanitarian and universal underpinnings, seeking legitimacy for interventions to protect victims of violence. As Polly Pallister-Wilkins writes: ‘…race and racism need to be taken seriously as features within the structures of humanitarian thought and practice. Alongside this, it is necessary, for scholars and practitioners alike, to acknowledge that humanitarianism, with its universalist claims, acts as a salve for sustained racial discrimination and violence, working if not to entirely invisibilize racial hierarchies within suffering, then to make the racial underpinnings of such suffering acceptable through supposedly universal practices of care.’

Finding Common Ground Between Israelis and Palestinians


The fog of war currently shrouding Hamas and Israel is not the only fog obscuring a path forward in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While each side’s worst trauma has been triggered by Hamas’s depraved mass slaughter and Israel’s scorched-earth counter-attack—for Jews the Holocaust, for Palestinians, the Nakba—the fighting has also exposed a fundamental divide between two sets of grievances: what I call 1948—when the modern state of Israel was established; and 1967—when the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip began.

1948 challenges Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state; 1967 challenges the Palestinians right to self-determination.

Both rights are legitimate—Israel has a right to statehood and Palestinians have a right to self-determination—but only one can be negotiated.

You can’t ask Israel to commit national suicide, though you can demand it recognize Palestinian rights.

By conflating two sets of grievances represented by 1948 and 1967, Israelis and Palestinians have been able to valorize their own victimization and deny the other’s legitimacy. But once we disentangle the two claims, we can separate extremists who won’t be satisfied until one side is eradicated from moderates who understand both sides must find a way to coexist peacefully.

This sorting allows us to see the need for dismantling both the murderous Jihadist-Islamist Hamas (and its ilk) and the disastrous government and policies of Benjamin Netanyahu.

There’s zero equivalence between a democratically elected leader and a genocidal terror group—even if each has benefitted from, and indirectly abetted, the other—but both Hamas and Netanyahu have relentlessly crushed moderates to forestall any compromise over the past 30 years.

Myanmar’s Civil War Blowing Up India’s Act East Policy

Kalinga Seneviratne

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, India has accelerated its ‘Act East Policy’ (AEP) to link more closely with its Southeast Asian neighbours to consolidate its geo-political power through trade and infrastructure development that reflects China’s Belt and Road Initiative. But, with civil war in neighbouring Myanmar spilling over the porous 400km long border into India’s north-east state of Manipur, it has seriously hampered this policy.

The 30-month-old civil war in Myanmar is fanning ethnic conflict in Manipur. Majority Meitei and minority Kuki communities in the state have clashed with each other since early May, leaving more than 150 dead and thousands displaced.

On 4 December, India’s oldest paramilitary force—Assam Riffles[1]—was rushed to a border area in Manipur where 13 dead bodies of men were found, and a major investigation has been launched to find the culprits.

During a no-confidence motion in India’s parliament in New Delhi in August over the government’s handling of the Manipur conflict, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the violence was triggered by an influx of Kukis from Myanmar into Manipur, which “created insecurities among Meiteis”.

The Meitei community, who make up a little more than half of the state’s 3.2 million population, is mainly confined to around 10 per cent of Manipur’s area in the valley districts surrounding the state capital Imphal. The remaining population—mostly from the tribal Kuki and Naga communities—inhabits the hilly terrain covering 90 per cent of the state.

Border areas with Myanmar

State’s BJP leader, Manipur’s Chief Minister Biren Singh, a Meitei, has blamed illegal migrants and drug lords from Myanmar for the lingering violence, claiming such forces were trying to “destabilise the state”.

Decoding India’s 2024 Election Contest


Now that voters in five states have rendered their judgments in a clutch of recently concluded state assembly elections, the eyes of 1.4 billion Indians—and those observing from abroad—turn to the country’s general elections, expected to be held over several weeks in April–May 2024.

The results of the December 3 state polls provided a big boost to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party swept elections in the Hindi belt states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The lone victory for the opposition Indian National Congress (INC, also known as the Congress Party) came in the southern state of Telangana. Neither the BJP nor the Congress Party figured prominently in the Mizoram battle.

These results confirm what is already common knowledge: as far as the 2024 parliamentary elections are concerned, the BJP remains firmly in pole position. This advantage is principally driven by Modi’s enduring popularity. According to Morning Consult, which tracks the weekly approval ratings of more than twenty democratically elected world leaders, 78 percent of Indians surveyed in late November approved of Modi’s job performance. Modi’s net approval (calculated as the share of respondents who approve of his performance minus those who disapprove) is a stunning +60. The second-most-popular leader on the list is Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose net rating is “only” +30. It is even more remarkable that Modi’s approval has been remarkably consistent since August 2019, the date that data were first available.1

Domestic opinion polls confirm that Modi’s popularity remains intact and that this continues to fuel his party’s dominance. The biannual Mood of the Nation poll from India Today has consistently shown, including as recently as August 2023, that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would handily capture a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, even if its majority reduces compared to its 2019 tally (when it notched 353 seats, shown in figure 1).

Ahead of elections, Pakistan’s democracy stands badly damaged

Madiha Afzal

In the run-up to Pakistan’s general elections next February, a familiar pattern is repeating itself. Ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan sits in jail with 180 legal cases registered against him. Former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has returned from exile with the military’s backing, despite having been convicted and disqualified from running for office for life just a few years ago. The ground is now being prepared for his electoral run as the favored candidate of the establishment (a euphemism for Pakistan’s powerful army).

This is par for the course in Pakistan. In the run-up to the 2018 election which elected Khan prime minister for the first time, the tables were reversed: Sharif was mired in legal troubles, and Khan was the favored candidate.

But what is different this time around is the ferocity with which the state has gone after Khan and his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), almost entirely hollowing it out. After Khan was ousted from power via a vote of no-confidence in April 2022, he directly confronted the military, which he blamed, along with the United States, for his ouster (the underlying reason was, in fact, a falling-out with the military). That unprecedented confrontation devolved into a zero-sum existential fight that, to little surprise, Pakistan’s military is winning. In the process, Pakistan’s democracy stands badly damaged; there is little hope that the next election will be free or fair, if it is held in February at all.

Khan’s legal troubles and the dismantling of PTI

Khan, who remains the country’s most popular politician, has been in jail since August after he was arrested for inappropriately using state gifts (in the Toshakhana, or official gifts case). Although his sentence in that case was suspended a few weeks later, he has been kept under judicial remand for another case, the cipher case. Khan has alleged that the cipher (or diplomatic cable) in question, sent by the Pakistani ambassador to Washington regarding a meeting with a State Department official last spring, was evidence of a U.S. conspiracy to oust him from office.

Japan Is Destined to Have Nuclear Weapons

Barry Gewen

If one is realistic about the current geopolitical situation in Asia, there is only one issue that matters: The circumstances that served Japan so well following its defeat in World War II no longer exist. A nuclear China is an ever-expanding menace, flexing its muscles well beyond its borders. North Korea has a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and shows no signs of tempering its hostility toward its neighbors. Most of all, the American “nuclear umbrella” that allowed us so many years of peace and prosperity under Washington’s military protection is increasingly frayed, probably irreparably. A long list of government officials and academic experts has always viewed America’s guarantees of protection against enemies as the foundation of its security. What policymaker in Japan, looking at the present disarray in Washington, can still take those guarantees for granted?

In the years after World War II and at the height of the Cold War, Japan was the bulwark of the American presence in Asia. The two countries were mutually committed to offsetting China’s rise and countering the spread of Communism. Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone declared that Japan and the United States shared an “inseparable destiny.”

Looking back now, one can see that there were always cracks and potential ruptures in that “destiny,” even if politicians papered them over. After the war, Japan, not unreasonably, became an international voice for the cause of peace. Written into its Constitution is a renunciation of war and the use of force to settle disputes. To some—over one-third of the public, according to one poll—such language had transformed Japan from a militaristic state into a pacifist nation with a special mission in the world. However, others, including influential figures in the government, interpreted the Constitution as giving Tokyo the leeway to develop nuclear weapons if necessary. But the issue never developed into a genuine debate. People in Japan refused to discuss it.

As the only country to be victimized by atomic bombs, many Japanese were passionately opposed to their use—“Never again!”—or even their development. John Foster Dulles referred to this as a “nuclear allergy,” a phrase he used in 1954 after a fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon, was exposed to radiation from an American thermonuclear test on Bikini Atoll. The number of people affected was minuscule compared to the thousands of dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, it was as if all the emotions that had been tamped down since 1945 suddenly exploded. Within a month, the Diet passed a resolution opposing nuclear testing, while a public petition collected the signatures of more than half of the country’s registered voters in support of the resolution. (The incident also spurred the production of the movie “Godzilla.”) Japan was on its way to developing an international reputation as “the peace nation,” a designation that made its citizens proud. And in the years that followed, Japan introduced dozens of resolutions to the United Nations General Assembly calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

One to Rule Them All

ralph l. defalco iii

After the death of Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Deng Xiaoping introduced reforms intended to put a brake on the centralized political power in China. Those reforms featured fixed terms of office, term limits, a mandatory retirement age, and the delegation of power from the CCP to government agencies and other party institutions including the Congress of Party Deputies. These measures were adopted to institutionalize collective leadership, create a peaceful process for succession of leadership, and prevent the rise of a single political strongman.

In his new book, Xi Jinping: The Hidden Agendas of China’s Ruler for Life, Willy Lam describes in detail how Xi has purposefully and methodically undone those reforms, amassed nearly unchecked power, and gained the fealty of the CCP in ways not seen since the days of Mao. Lam also details what Xi wants to achieve by wielding nearly unrivaled power over virtually all aspects of the Chinese state, economy, and society. That’s why this book makes for compelling and sobering reading for general readers, academics, policymakers, and anyone seeking insight into the future of China and that country’s now fraught relationship with the West.

Lam is a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. A journalist, editor, political commentator, and political scientist, Lam has been writing about China for more than 40 years. For decades, he was a fixture at the South China Morning Post. He served as the paper’s Beijing correspondent until the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests and as the China editor during the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Lam left the Post in 2000 to protest growing editorial censorship. Now as a frequent commentator on major news networks, including CNN, Lam is well-regarded today as both an informed and insightful China watcher.

“Retrogression” of Reform

Lam explains how the limited ideological and political reforms introduced by Deng and other party leaders who came after Mao “were geared towards the goal of cautious de-dogmatization under the context of one-party dictatorship” and of opening China to a world market economy. As the son of first cadre Chinese Communist revolutionary Xi Zhongxun—who was jailed and then exiled during Mao’s Cultural Revolution—Xi might have been expected to embrace reformist policies. But Lam notes that Xi’s surprising rise from “a relatively low-level provincial administrator” was not marked by any significant achievements in either economics or politics, or for groundbreaking theories and ideas for either domestic or foreign policy. Instead, the author argues, Xi simply “re-embraced the dictums” of Mao and “has re-postulated ultra-conservative ideas to the effect that un-alloyed Marxist values should be preserved even as ‘dangerous’ Western ideas should be banished.”

A Brief History of US-China Rare Earth Rivalry

Tiago Tecelão Martins

Rare earth elements (REEs), comprising 17 (15 commercially relevant) chemical elements and soft heavy-metals like Thulium and Cerium, are vital in modern technologies from cell phones to windmill magnets. They are also used in glass properties and constitute 50% of digital camera lenses, and despite their name, these elements are abundant, yet economically exploitable deposits are uncommon. Extraction and purification of REEs play a pivotal role in achieving a zero carbon transition, supporting battery tech, windmill efficiency, and solar panel production. It attracts not only nation-states industries, but also billionaires like Bill Gates that invested $1 billion in AI mining through KoBold Metals for a greener transition. China’s REE monopoly prompted global recognition of their strategic importance, and both the EU and the U.S. designated REEs as Critical Raw Materials due to concerns about China’s near-monopolistic supply.

Historically, in the California desert, Mountain Pass has been a rare earth elements mine since its discovery in 1949 by the Molybdenum Corporation of America, peaking in production from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, and representing US control of the market over this period. However, challenges appeared in the form of environmental movements and regulatory pressures, leading companies to explore alternatives or relocate their industries to China. Conversely, China’s initial slower development in rare earth elements picked up during the mid-1970s, aligning with the closing down of some US mines, along with China flooding the market with low-priced REEs. Analysts view this as a failed US strategy, as China’s low costs, driven by subsidies and lax standards, outpaced the US rare earth industry, such that the 1980s marked the beginning an ongoing competition between these superpowers in the REE sector.

In the 1990s, China emerged as a dominant force in rare earth production. Accounting for 85-95% of the global supply, and leveraging its abundant resources, China strategically utilized rare earths for technological innovation across sectors like space, defense, and energy. Deng Xiaoping’s vision outlined in 1992 aimed for China to lead the world in the rare earth industry, famously saying that, “The Middle East has oil, China has rare earth.” Magnequench, a rare earth-specialized company and subsidiary of General Motors, was acquired by a Chinese state-owned enterprise during the late 90s, with Deng Xiaoping’s son-in-law serving as the new leader of the company.

China’s cyber army is invading critical U.S. services

Ellen Nakashima and Joseph Menn

The Chinese military is ramping up its ability to disrupt key American infrastructure, including power and water utilities as well as communications and transportation systems, according to U.S. officials and industry security officials.

Hackers affiliated with China’s People’s Liberation Army have burrowed into the computer systems of about two dozen critical entities over the past year, these experts said.

The intrusions are part of a broader effort to develop ways to sow panic and chaos or snarl logistics in the event of a U.S.-China conflict in the Pacific, they said.

Among the victims are a water utility in Hawaii, a major West Coast port and at least one oil and gas pipeline, people familiar with the incidents told The Washington Post. The hackers also attempted to break into the operator of Texas’s power grid, which operates independently from electrical systems in the rest of the country.

Several entities outside the United States, including electric utilities, also have been victimized by the hackers, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

None of the intrusions affected industrial control systems that operate pumps, pistons or any critical function, or caused a disruption, U.S. officials said. But they said the attention to Hawaii, which is home to the Pacific Fleet, and to at least one port as well as logistics centers suggests the Chinese military wants the ability to complicate U.S. efforts to ship troops and equipment to the region if a conflict breaks out over Taiwan.

These previously undisclosed details help fill out a picture of a cyber campaign dubbed Volt Typhoon, first detected about a year ago by the U.S. government, as the United States and China struggle to stabilize a relationship more antagonistic now than it has been in decades. Chinese military commanders refused for more than a year to speak to American counterparts even as close-call intercepts by Chinese fighter jets of U.S. spy planes surged in the western Pacific. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed only last month to restore those communication channels.

The US-China Trade War

Günter Walzenbach

The strategies leading up to a trade war follow the principle of tit for tat or ‘equivalent retaliation’ where one actor copies an opponent’s previous action to inflict economic costs. This behaviour can lead to economic conflict in which states use extreme forms of protectionism such as high tariffs or quota restrictions to directly damage each other’s trade. During the presidency of Donald Trump (2017–2021), his administration took a mercantilist position in an increasing number of trade disputes with China. That approach asserts that given limitations on global wealth, a state must export more than it imports to secure an advantage over rivals. In the past, World Trade Organization rules have been respected by state actors eager to prevent mutually damaging trade wars. The Trump administration, however, escalated a trade conflict to address recurring annual trade deficits that the US had amassed. It challenged the industrial policies implemented by Chinese authorities, such as the ‘Made in China 2025’ policy, which allegedly resulted in unfair competitive advantages on global markets (Qiu et al. 2019).

For some time, US–China trade did not match the expectation of win-win cooperation. In contrast to the idea of comparative advantage – state-directed investments, a non-market economy, and widespread disregard for the rule of law in China created an atmosphere of suspicion. From the American perspective, Chinese companies gain an unfair advantage over foreign competitors seeking market access. In their own market they engage in intellectual property theft, product piracy, and the forced transfer of foreign technology. Consequently, the dispute between the two powers, which has continued in the post-Trump years, is not about trade as such – but about technology induced job losses in the United States aggravated by a manipulated exchange rate policy. Moreover, there is a growing concern that China uses its FDI to access sensitive technology to outgrow US industrial capabilities. In line with realist thought, the acquired know-how from sensitive production lines could eventually create a security dilemma. The use of unfair trade practices including import restrictions such as tariffs and quotas, export subsidies and low interest loans as well as stringent local content requirements adds up to an image of a new economic superpower that needs to be contained (Liu and Woo 2018, 333).

Marxism, Poststructuralism and Warfare

Stephen McGlinchey, Rosie Walters and Dana Gold

Marxists believe that war is one of the many tools utilised by capitalists to ensure their power persists by maintaining the status quo in a world where rich states continue to dominate the weak. For example, Marxists would argue that the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a disguised attempt to control Iraq through the economic seizure and exploitation of its oil. Under US President George W. Bush, the United States invaded Iraq under the justification of searching for weapons of mass destruction as part of the US-led War on Terror. However, despite no such weapons being discovered, the United States remained militarily deployed in Iraq until 2020 when discussions finally began with the Iraqi government over their withdrawal.

Marxists would point to this situation as evidence of the often thinly veiled / hiding in plain sight motivations for war – which are typically for economic or political exploitation. Indeed, the original name for the 2003 war was touted to be Operation Iraqi Liberation, until it was quickly changed to Operation Enduring Freedom. You may not have spotted the relevance on first glance but abbreviating the former spells OIL. Some have dismissed this as an erroneous slip of the tongue by US Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer (2003), who used that phrase in a press conference at the height of the invasion. Yet, for Marxists, such things more likely represent a brief glimpse behind the veil, highlighting the lack of accountability the elite feel towards legitimately explaining their actions to the general public.

While the above ‘OIL’ example may seem trivial, when added to other examples from the Iraq war it comes to embody the core of the Marxist critique. Often cited here is the awarding of substantial contracts to Haliburton (Rosenbaum 2004) for reconstruction and oil extraction in Iraq. Haliburton was the company that Vice President Dick Cheney had been Chairman and CEO of prior to taking office. Additionally, the following quote by a speechwriter for President Bush is instructive:

Breakthrough In Azerbaijani–Armenian Peace Negotiations?

Robert M. Cutler

In a first-of-a-kind bilateral statement, without any external participation, Azerbaijan and Armenia have arrived at an extremely important humanitarian and diplomatically symbolic agreement. It is the first time Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to coordinate on any international matter.

The humanitarian aspect is that the Republic of Azerbaijan—”driven,” according to the statement, “by the values of humanism and as a gesture of goodwill”—agreed to the release of 32 Armenian military servicemen, while the Republic of Armenia, equally “driven by the values of humanism and as a gesture of goodwill,” is releasing two Azerbaijani military servicemen. But that’s not all.

The Twenty-eighth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is now concluding in Abu Dhabi. The Twenty-ninth Session (COP29) will be held next year somewhere in Eastern Europe. In what might be called the most constructive and progressive act that “climate diplomacy” has ever accomplished, Armenia has withdrawn its own candidacy to host COP29 in support of Azerbaijan’s bid.

“The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the joint statement says, “do hope that the other countries within the Eastern European Group will also support Azerbaijan’s bid to host.” In return, Azerbaijan is supporting the Armenian candidature for membership in the Eastern European Group COP Bureau. This choice has now garnered Russia’s backing.

The choice of venue for COP29 requires unanimous consent of all the Parties. Russia had vetoed the bid of Bulgaria, the candidate from the European Union, but now Bulgaria has also withdrawn its candidature. The COP29 would have been held by default in Germany, if no universal agreement had been possible.

The bilateral statement reconfirms the two countries’ intentions “to normalize relations and to reach a peace treaty on the basis of respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.” It concludes that they “will continue their discussions regarding the implementation of more confidence-building measures,” to take effect in the near future, that “will positively impact the entire South Caucasus region.” This agreement was worked out through direct contacts between the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.

With Aid In Doubt And Advances Slow, Ukraine Struggles In The War's 'New Phase'

Aleksander Palikot

"It's like gangrene that needs constant treatment because otherwise it gets worse or spreads" -- that's how Volodymyr, a surgeon at a triage unit near Avdiyivka, an industrial Donbas city targeted by intense Russian attacks since early October, described the current state of fighting in Ukraine's east.

The team of doctors and medics who started working here shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion keep a container for shrapnel and bullets they take out of the wounded soldiers' bodies. Since Russia launched its new offensive in a bid to surround and capture the strategic city, the casualties have been arriving in waves -- sometimes several dozen badly wounded soldiers in a single day.

With a surge of close combat in the battle for Avdiyivka, more soldiers are suffering bullet wounds on top of injuries from artillery and drone attacks, Oleksandr, a traumatologist who heads the facility, told RFE/RL. Some come with their eyes irritated by chloropicrin, a nonlethal chemical weapon, he says, and medics evacuating the wounded sometimes see the skyline of Donetsk, the Russian-occupied regional capital, lit up by phosphorus munitions.

At a triage site near the deadly battle for Avdiyivka, the wounded come in waves – sometimes dozens of soldiers in a single day.

As another winter sets in and Russia's full-scale invasion approaches the two-year mark with the prospects for future Western weapons supplies and economic aid clouded by political wrangling -- particularly in the United States, where Republicans in Congress have so far stonewalled White House efforts to secure some $61 billion in additional aid for Ukraine -- this is what the war in Ukraine looks like.

Putin: The Autocrat Eyeing A New World Order

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who announced Friday he is running for a fifth term, has over the past two decades built a system of domestic repression and confrontation with the West that is almost certain to guarantee his re-election.

Ever since the former little-known KGB agent first became president on New Year's Eve 1999, he has consolidated power by bringing oligarchs to heel, banning any real opposition, and turning Russia into an authoritarian state. Abroad, he has led world efforts to challenge the dominance of the West.

His grip on power further tightened in the wake of his decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022, with public dissent against the war effectively silenced through lengthy prison terms for critics.

Friday, the 71-year-old said after a military awards ceremony at the Kremlin that - as expected - he will run in next March's presidential elections.

His rule has risked being defined by the war in Ukraine, which has cost many thousands of lives and sparked unprecedented Western sanctions that have created major tensions in the economy.

There were large anti-war protests in the day after he ordered troops into Ukraine in the early hours of February 24, 2022.

They were quickly put down but were followed months later by more demonstrations when the government was forced to announce a partial mobilisation after Russia failed to topple Ukraine's government in the opening offensive of the war.

The most serious challenge to his long rule came in June 2023 when Yevgeny Prigozhin, a long-time ally and head of the Wagner mercenary group announced a mutiny to unseat the military leadership.

Why university presidents are under fire

Fareed Zakaria

When one thinks of America’s greatest strengths, the kind of assets the world looks at with admiration and envy, America’s elite universities would have long been at the top of that list. But the American public has been losing faith in these universities – and with good reason.

Three university presidents came under fire this week for their vague and indecisive answers when asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their institution’s code of conduct. But to understand their performance we have to understand the shift that has taken place at elite universities, which have gone from centers of excellence to institutions pushing political agendas.

People sense the transformation. As Paul Tough has pointed out, the share of young adults who said a college degree was very important fell from 74% in 2013 to 41% in 2019. In 2018, 61% of Americans said higher education was headed in the wrong direction, and only 38% felt it was on the right track. In 2016, 70% of America’s high school graduates were headed for college. Now that number is 62%. This souring on higher education makes America an outlier among all advanced nations.

American universities have been neglecting excellence in order to pursue a variety of agendas — many of them clustered around diversity and inclusion. It started with the best of intentions. Colleges wanted to make sure young people of all backgrounds had access to higher education and felt comfortable on campus. But those good intentions have morphed into a dogmatic ideology and turned these universities into places where the pervasive goals are political and social engineering, not academic merit.

As the evidence produced for the recent Supreme Court case on affirmative action showed, universities have systematically downplayed the merit-based criteria for admissions in favor of racial quotas. Some universities’ response to this ruling seems to be that they will go further down this path, eliminating the requirement for any standardized test like the SAT. That move would allow them to take students with little reference to objective criteria. (Those who will suffer most will be bright students from poor backgrounds, who normally use tests like the SAT to demonstrate their qualifications.)

Russia’s Internet Research Agency and Cyberwarfare

Clare Stevens and Andreas Haggman

In November 2018, the US military blocked the internet access of a Russian organisation that had been seeking to sow discord amongst American voters during the midterm elections. According to US government officials, this operation against a company called the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg was a part of the first offensive cyber-campaign intended to thwart attempts to interfere with a US election. The operation was undertaken by a joint task force at the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command, both of whom operate as part of the United States Department of Defense. The United States is not alone in establishing a military branch dedicated to ‘computer network operations’ – those deliberate actions that employ devices, computer programmes and techniques to create effects through cyberspace. Dozens of states around the world now have dedicated military units with this focus as seen on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Cyber Operations Tracker.

This case study seems to fit the bill for cyber warfare. However, when we look a bit more closely at the details and the political contexts of this operation, we can begin to see how the parameters of cyber warfare are still being worked out on the international stage. First, different states have different notions of what is ‘cyber’ about cyber warfare. This has important ramifications for the kinds of actions they can take, and the kinds of organisations involved. In this example, the United States military undertook this operation because the Internet Research Agency had been named as a key agent in a disinformation campaign that targeted American voters in the 2016 presidential election. Through falsified social media posts and targeted advertising, its goal was to ‘provoke and amplify political and social discord’ in the U.S., according to court documents issued after an investigation in 2016. Russia-backed content reached as many as 126 million Americans on Facebook during and after the 2016 presidential election.

Pentagon unveils first iteration of joint electromagnetic visualization tool


Commanders now have a tool to visualize and plan operations within the invisible confines of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic Battle Management – Joint (EMBM-J) released its minimum viable capability release for the first iteration of the tool, called situational awareness, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency, the manager for the program.

While invisible to the naked eye, the spectrum has become an increasing strategic maneuver space in recent years, with adversaries seeking to block vital access that enables communications, precision weapons and navigation.

Officials have long been calling for a command-and-control tool within the spectrum to be able to visualize it and plan operations based upon areas of congestion and adversary jamming.

This cloud-based platform integrates various electromagnetic spectrum capabilities and functions into a single system that collects data into a single visual display, DISA said in a release. Without it, forces won’t be able to act faster than adversaries on the battlefield.

“What this does today that warfighters don’t have in their hand is that it provides the ability to bring a number of different information feeds, a number of different data sources together in one picture — and that more than anything else, allows the joint force to make sense and act much more quickly,” Kevin Laughlin, deputy director at program executive office spectrum within DISA, told reporters during a media call Friday. “In terms of risk, we’re mitigating essentially the timescales so we can make sense of the information and act more quickly and make decisions faster than our enemies.”

While other similar systems are used by the services, those exist at the very tactical level for them to execute operations. EMBM-J resides more at the operational and strategic level for commanders and joint task force headquarters joint electromagnetic spectrum operations cells to understand their non-visual terrain better.