15 December 2023


Aurel Sari

Reports emerged last week suggesting that Israel is preparing to flood the network of tunnels constructed by Hamas underneath Gaza with sea water. According to unnamed U.S. officials cited in the media, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have assembled at least five pumps that could draw water from the Mediterranean Sea to fill the tunnel network in a matter of weeks. The aim of the operation is to render the tunnels inaccessible and to drive Hamas fighters above ground.

Neither tunnelling nor flooding are new methods of war. Underground warfare has a long history. In the ancient world, tunnels were used primarily to overcome fortifications. More recently, they have been used during the First World War to breach enemy trenches, by Japanese troops for defensive purposes during the War in the Pacific, and by the Viet Cong for shelter and concealment. In Gaza, Hamas has constructed a complex web of tunnels believed to run for several hundred miles below the surface. The network serves both defensive and offensive purposes. It provides Hamas with protection, a logistical base, mobility, and an element of surprise.

Artificial flooding and other forms of hydraulic warfare too have a long tradition. During the Eighty Years’ War in the late sixteenth century, Dutch rebels destroyed dams to impede the movement of Spanish forces. Other historical examples include the famous Dambuster Raid carried out by the Royal Air Force in 1943 to put the Ruhr Valley under water. More recently, the Kakhovka Dam was destroyed, most likely by Russian forces, in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bearing in mind the widespread use of these two forms of warfare, it should not come as a surprise to find that belligerents have relied on hydraulic warfare to counter underground warfare, including by flooding tunnels. In fact, Egypt has on more than one occasion pumped sea and waste water into Hamas tunnels running under its border with Gaza.

Rifts between Biden and Netanyahu spill into public view

Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond

Rifts between the United States and Israel spilled into public view Tuesday as President Joe Biden warned that Israel was losing international support for its campaign against Hamas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejected American plans for post-war Gaza.

The divides, which until now had mostly been contained behind the scenes, reflected growing differences between the two staunch allies as the civilian death toll in Gaza mounts.

Speaking to Democratic donors in Washington, Biden voiced criticism of Israel’s hardline government and said Netanyahu needed to alter his approach.

“I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden said, calling Netanyahu’s government the “most conservative government in Israel’s history.”

He warned support for the country’s military campaign is waning amid heavy bombardment of Gaza and added that the Israeli government “doesn’t want a two-state solution.”

Biden said right now Israel “has most of the world supporting it,” but said “they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

Speaking ahead of Biden’s comments at the fundraiser, Netanyahu admitted Tuesday that he and the US president disagree on what should happen to Gaza after the war. In a statement, the Israeli leader said: “Yes, there is disagreement about ‘the day after Hamas’ and I hope that we will reach agreement here as well.”

9 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza City ambush in sign that Hamas resistance is still strong


Palestinian militants carried out one of the deadliest single attacks on Israeli soldiers since the Gaza invasion began, killing at least nine in an urban ambush, the military said Wednesday, a sign of the stiff resistance Hamas still poses despite more than two months of devastating bombardment.

The ambush in a dense neighborhood came after repeated recent claims by the Israeli military that it had broken Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza, encircled remaining pockets of fighters, killed thousands of militants and detained hundreds more.

The tenacious fighting underscores how far Israel appears to be from its aim of destroying Hamas — even after the military unleashed one of the 21st century’s most destructive onslaughts. Israel’s air and ground assault has killed more than 18,600 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health officials. Gaza City and surrounding towns have been pounded to ruins. Nearly 1.9 million people have been driven from their homes.

The resulting humanitarian crisis has sparked international outrage. The United States has repeatedly called on Israel to take greater measures to spare civilians, even as it has blocked international calls for a cease-fire and rushed military aid to its close ally.

Israeli troops are still locked in heavy combat with Palestinian fighters in and around Gaza City, more than six weeks after invading Gaza’s north following the militants’ Oct. 7 attack.

Clashes raged overnight and into Wednesday in multiple areas, with especially heavy fighting in Shijaiyah, a dense neighborhood that was the scene of a major battle during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

The Hamas Leader Who Studied Israel’s Psyche—and Is Betting His Life on What He Learned

Rory Jones, Summer Said, Dov Lieber

When Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar was imprisoned in Israel more than a decade ago, he explained to an Israeli official a theory now central to the war in Gaza.

Sinwar said that what Israel considers its strength—that most Israelis serve in the army and soldiers hold a special status in society—is a weakness that can be exploited, said Yuval Bitton, who spent time with Sinwar as the former head of the Israel Prison Service’s intelligence division.

The idea proved accurate in 2011 when Sinwar was one of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners freed for a single Israeli soldier.

Now, Sinwar is holding hostage 138 Israelis, including soldiers, and the Hamas leader is betting he can force the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and establish a permanent cease-fire. He’s relying on his judgment of Israeli society after two decades studying it in jail, learning Hebrew, watching the local news and getting inside the Israeli psyche.

But first, Hamas has to survive Israel’s powerful and deadly counterattack. If Hamas has miscalculated, Sinwar could be overseeing the destruction in Gaza of the U.S.-designated terrorist group—and lose his own life.

Israel Is Up Against the Clock in Its Long War With Hamas

Tom O'Connor

As Israel wages what its government says will be a protracted conflict to defeat Hamas and bring home hostages held in the Gaza Strip, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official tells Newsweek exclusively that the scope and length of the campaign is being influenced by growing internal and external pressure.

The comments give unique insight into the likely remaining time frame for a conflict that has dominated global headlines since Israel launched an all-out assault on Hamas that has killed thousands of Palestinians and prompted a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip after the group launched an unprecedentedly bloody raid of killing and kidnap into Israel on October 7.

The war has drawn battle lines around the globe, from the United Nations to social media to college campuses and has prompted fears of a wider regional conflict. Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden is under growing political pressure over his strong support for Israel as backers of a ceasefire call for an end to the Palestinian death toll in Gaza amid an endless stream of harrowing images of dead children in the rubble.

The IDF official, who spoke to Newsweek on the condition of anonymity, says the timetable for achieving the two operational goals of defeating Hamas and bringing home the hostages could be looked at through "different clocks" that are influencing the course of the ongoing campaign.

"We understand that there are a lot of different clocks that have impact on this and how fast we can go, and in kinetic ways [as well]," the IDF official says. "Can we strike extensively, which reduces some of the other clocks because it makes them go faster because of the international pressure that can come with that?

Israel and U.S. Face Growing Isolation as Deadly War in Gaza Continues With No End in Sight


Israel and the United States were increasingly isolated as they faced global calls for a cease-fire in Gaza, including a non-binding vote expected to pass at the United Nations later on Tuesday. Israel has pressed ahead with an offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers that it says could go on for weeks or months.

The war ignited by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel has already brought unprecedented death and destruction to the impoverished coastal enclave, with more than 18,000 Palestinians killed, mostly women and minors, and over 80% of the population of 2.3 million having fled their homes.

Much of northern Gaza has been obliterated, and hundreds of thousands have fled to ever-shrinking so-called safe zones in the south. The health care system and humanitarian aid operations have collapsed in large parts of Gaza, and aid workers have warned of starvation and the spread of disease among displaced people in overcrowded shelters and tent camps.

Strikes overnight and into Tuesday in southern Gaza — in an area where civilians have been told to seek shelter — killed at least 23 people, according to an Associated Press reporter at a nearby hospital.

In central Gaza, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah received the bodies of 33 people killed in strikes overnight, including 16 women and four children, according to hospital records. Many were killed in strikes that hit residential buildings in the built-up Maghazi refugee camp nearby.

In northern Gaza, the aid group Doctors Without Borders said a surgeon in the Al-Awda hospital was wounded Monday by a shot from outside the facility, which it says has been under “total siege” by Israeli forces for a week. There was no immediate comment from the military.

Gaza, Asia, and the Crisis in Global Governance

Dustin Barter

For people living in or engaged with the Asia-Pacific, the violence in Gaza and the accompanying rhetoric are all too familiar, mirroring much of what Myanmar’s military has unleashed against ethnic minorities for decades.

Being forced to live in “open air prisons” matched by systematic dehumanization and state-backed violence are exactly what the Rohingya of Rakhine State have experienced at the hands of Myanmar’s military. The insurgent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25, 2017, triggered the military’s euphemistically called “clearance operations” that resulted in the violent displacement of over 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh. The military justified the atrocities as a form of self-defense aimed at protecting the nation, but the offensive was quickly labelled a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations.

The international response was painstakingly slow, but it was near unanimous in its condemnation, even at the fractious U.N. Security Council. By 2022, the United States had declared the military’s actions as genocide.

Israel is now deploying a similar dehumanizing discourse about Palestinians as it begins “ground operations” that, following the forced displacement of over 1.4 million people, are strikingly similar to the Myanmar military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya. While this should result in a similar level of condemnation, the international response could not be more different. This has major implications for the Asia-Pacific and for global governance writ large.

A growing body of commentary and analysis is highlighting the jarring double standards in the international, predominantly Western, response to Israel’s actions. Comparisons are being drawn with Ukraine, both in terms of political action and media portrayals, and how this relates to the dehumanization of Palestinians. What are painted as innocent civilians in the former case have become collateral damage in the latter.

Don’t Overestimate India’s New Middle East Strategy

Kadira Pethiyagoda

Much of the commentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedentedly pro-Israel response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack has overestimated the extent of deviation from India’s traditionally nonaligned and slow-evolving Middle East policy. Modi’s response came after the largest attack on Israel in decades and was made prior to major Israeli retaliation. Furthermore, soon after Modi’s initial statement, and later through its external affairs minister, India issued more balanced statements,

The Best of Ideas and Institutions, 2023



The Economic Complexity Outlook Index measures how well a country is positioned to grow through diversification into more complex products by quantifying how close the products it makes are to the products it does not make. A high score on this index means that there are many nearby complex products that require capabilities like those reflected by a country’s existing production. India has consistently ranked number one on this index for more than two decades. Read the essay to understand what this means for the present-day government’s strategy of seeking growth through protectionism and production-linked incentives, the potential to attract investors looking to move away from China, and for choosing a suitable strategy of industrial policy.

The essay argues against an exaggerated critique of Indian democracy, emphasizing that despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) dominance, electoral politics in India remains open. Drawing comparisons with historical political eras, particularly the 1967–89 period, it contends that the BJP’s current dominance differs significantly from the Congress Party’s earlier hegemony. The analysis highlights the dynamic nature of Indian democracy, where opposition parties have challenged and transformed power structures over time. The essay underscores the importance of considering historical context and avoiding a narrow focus on recent political dynamics. It suggests that claims of diminished democracy may overlook the fact that most voters are not rigidly aligned with any party, and electoral outcomes depend on persuading a plurality of citizens. The essay ends with a warning against breeding despair about the possibilities of electoral success, emphasizing that the flexibility of India’s democratic system allows for change and accountability.

This essay critiques Delhi’s land pooling scheme, implemented by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for urban expansion in the city. The essay underscores the “holdout problem,” with landowners reluctant to participate, impeding the scheme’s effectiveness. The essay contrasts Delhi’s approach, which places heavy responsibility on landowners for planning and implementation, with more successful models in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh (Amravati), where the state plays a proactive role. The essay argues that the policy design in Delhi be revised and that there be a shift from the DDA’s role as a land acquirer to that of a facilitator and planner. The essay argues that the proposed changes to the DDA’s law to enable mandatory pooling will not solve the DDA’s predicament.

India’s Growing Involvement in the South China Sea Disputes

Nian Peng

India’s increasing involvement in the South China Sea under Prime Minister Narendra Modi – including India’s offer to provide helicopters to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) amidst the rising tensions between Manila and Beijing – has raised China’s concerns. Beijing is wondering whether India can be a new “troublemaker” – a label generally applied to the United States – in the South China Sea.

India has indeed enhanced its military and diplomatic engagement with claimant states such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and it’s likely that India will further expand its presence in the South China Sea and thus impose rising pressures on China. But it is difficult to image India becoming a major player in the South China Sea disputes in the short term.

India’s Increasing Involvement

Through expanding defense cooperation with claimant states and changing its previous “neutral” stance on the 2016 arbitral tribunal award on the South China Sea, India has greatly deepened its involvement in the disputes under Modi.

In May 2019, the Indian Navy, for the first time, conducted joint exercises with the U.S., Japanese, and Philippine navies in the South China Sea. One year later, the Indian Navy held military exercises with the navies of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, and Indonesia in August 2021. In May 2023, India for the first time sent warships to participate in a two-day joint exercise with the navies of seven ASEAN states in the South China Sea.

India has also significantly increased its military sales and assistance to the Philippines and Vietnam. In January 2022, India reached a deal with the Philippines for the export of 100 BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles. In June 2023, Vietnam became the first country to receive a fully operational light missile frigate from India.

Why Are We Doing So Little To Counter China’s Military Buildup?

Wilson Beaver

Our National Defense Strategy identifies China as the primary challenge to the United States. To confront this threat successfully, our military needs more warships, aircraft and munitions. Now.

But the Biden administration’s spending does not match its defense strategy. The president’s Emergency Supplemental Request made this clear by asking for $61.4 billion for Ukraine, but only $5.4 billion for the Indo-Pacific. In addition, the administration has made no attempt to cut spending elsewhere in the budget to help fund any part of the supplemental.

There are many ways money can be saved within the Department of Defense, from programs that could be cut altogether, to reforms that would make the department spend money more efficiently. Non-defense spending from within research and development, politicized spending on climate change and DEI, and wasteful bureaucratic bloat are all examples of Pentagon funding that needs to be re-allocated toward building actual military capacity.

While some of the money necessary to pay for the military systems we need to deter China be found within the Defense Department’s budget, there’s far more available elsewhere—in the wasteful spending that occurs across the federal budget.

What should this money go toward? Virginia class submarines, for starters. These subs have been identified as one of the most important assets needed to deter China in the Western Pacific. But they don’t come cheap. In Fiscal Year 2023, they cost around $3.4 billion each. (The cost varies depending on additional systems installed. Moreover, the cost per unit goes down if more than one is purchased at a time).

Houthi targeting of Israel suggests new, longer-range missile in play


In recent weeks, Israel announced that its Arrow missile defense system successfully intercepted ballistic missiles over the Red Sea on three occasions. These attacks were attributed to the Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen. However, the distance from their territory to Israel exceeds the performance of the Burkan-3, which was previously their known longest-ranged ballistic missile.

So, how could the Houthis possibly reach Israel? In September, the group displayed a new, larger missile during a parade in Sana’a. It is the obvious candidate, but is its range sufficient? The answers may lie in Iran.

A detailed look at the missile’s proportions and features indicates that it is practically identical to the Iranian Ghadr-F, for which Tehran claims a 1,950-kilometer range. Results of computer simulations and an analysis of a launch video show that this claim is plausible and that if such a missile were fired from north Yemen, it could reach all of Israel.

This is exactly the sort of missile that the Arrow system was designed to counter, but the attacks show that the Houthis are still expanding their ballistic missile arsenal, despite a UN arms embargo.

Arrows Hit Their Targets

In October, a few days after the Hamas attack on Israel, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the current leader of the Houthi movement, announced his support for the “holy jihad against the Zionist enemy” and threatened to participate in missile attacks if the US were to intervene in the conflict. Subsequently, on 31 October, the Israeli Defense Forces announced that an Arrow 2 had successfully intercepted a ballistic missile over the Red Sea. On Nov. 9 this was followed by a second announcement of a successful ballistic missile intercept, marking the combat debut of Israel’s Arrow 3 exo-atmospheric interceptor. Another intercept took place on Dec. 6.

Terrorism Monitor, December 1, 2023, v. 21, no. 23

  • Brief: Attacks on Israelis Abroad Spike After Start of War in Gaza
  • Brief: Rising Risk of Radicalization in Indonesia Following Outbreak of Israel-Hamas War
  • Kidnapping of Elizabeth Tsurkov Opens Window into Iraqi Shia Militia Politics
  • Possible Merger of Baloch Militant Groups Threatens Pakistani and Chinese Interests
  • Hezbollah’s Balancing Act: Between Hamas’s Ambitions and Strategic Reality

TC Sentinel, October/November 2023, v. 16, no. 10

  • CThe Road to October 7: Hamas’ Long Game, Clarified
  • A View from the CT Foxhole: Ilkka Salmi, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator
  • A View from the CT Foxhole: General (Ret) Stephen Townsend, Former Commander, AFRICOM
  • The Beginning of a New Wave? The Hamas-Israel War and the Terror Threat in the West
  • Texts or Praxes: How Do We Best Understand Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad After October 7?
  • Commentary: No Good Choices: The Counterterrorism Dilemmas in Afghanistan and Pakistan

China Brief, December 1, 2023, v. 23, no. 22

  • Decoding China’s Dilemma: The Difficulties Of Economic Reform
  • PLA Officer Cadet Recruitment: Part 2
  • Much Cause But Little Recourse For Popular Discontent
  • Chokepoint Consortium: Chinese Experts on Confronting American Pressure
  • The Sino-French Relationship At 60: China’s Losing Bet On A Reset

Russia is jamming US precision weapons in Ukraine, US general say


The tactical advantages that various U.S. precision munitions brought to Ukraine have been eroded by enemy jamming, the U.S. Army commander in charge of those efforts said Tuesday.

Jamming of some of “our more precise capabilities is a challenge,” said Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, speaking via video link from Europe at an event organized by the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical.

Since December 2022, Aguto has led Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, the umbrella organization for coordinating allied military aid to Ukraine.

Unidentified U.S. defense officials previously told CNN that Russia was jamming U.S.-provided precision missiles, causing them to go astray. U.S. and Ukrainian forces consequently had to create workarounds, such as modifying the rocket launchers. Russia then modified its jamming, forcing the U.S. to again find counter-measures.

Such weapons, such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, once provided Ukraine with a key advantage on the battlefield by pushing Russian ammunition depots back beyond their range.

Leaked U.S. documents also stated that Russia was jamming GPS-guided bombs that the U.S. had given to Ukraine.

Russia fields many advanced jamming capabilities, including some jammers that can block GPS signals at ranges of up to 15 miles. Ukrainian soldiers have reported that Russian jammers frequently down their drones, and may also be behind problems with using the widely used Starlink satellite internet system.

Huge Cyberattack Knocks Ukraine’s Largest Mobile Operator Offline

Marc Santora

Ukraine’s largest mobile operator said it had come under a powerful cyberattack on Tuesday morning that knocked out service to millions of people.

The company, Kyivstar, said that the attack also affected internet access and that it was “unclear” when service would be restored. The interruption poses real danger in a country where many rely on phone alerts to warn them of impending Russian bombardments.

“We are working to eliminate the consequences of this attack to restore communication as soon as possible,” the head of Kyivstar, Oleksandr Komarov, said in a video statement, adding that users’ personal data had not been compromised.

While Mr. Komarov did not explicitly say who was responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the implication was clear.

“The war with Russia has many dimensions, and one of them is in cyberspace,” he said.

Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency, known as the S.B.U., said it would investigate and that one line of inquiry would be whether “Russian special services” were behind the hack.

Officials in the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy, which has frequently come under Russian bombardment, warned on Tuesday morning that the air alarm system was affected.

“The notification system will temporarily not work,” Sumy’s regional military administration said in a statement.

The Peril Of Ukrainian Attacks Against Nuclear Russia?

“Here’s my strategy on the Cold War,” President Ronald Reagan said in 1988, “we win, they lose.” Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union disintegrated. It is reasonable to conclude that the United States and the West won the Cold War.

However, a revanchist Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and unleashed a hot war against the rest of Ukraine in February of 2022. “There is no possibility of him [Putin] winning the war in Ukraine.” President Biden declared five months ago. “He has already lost the war.”

Mr. Biden has raised the fundamental question of how winning versus losing a war is defined. Any definition depends upon a description of what the desired end state should look like when the shooting stops. For President Zelensky, that means all Russian troops have been driven out of all Ukrainian territory, including the 10,425 square miles of the Crimean Peninsula. For Putin, the end state is the collapse of the Ukrainian government and its forces, to be replaced by a puppet regime. It is conceivable that he might settle for the Russian military occupation of a sizeable portion of Ukraine, with ceasefire conditions conducive to a continuous effort to subvert the democratic government of Ukraine. President Biden has expressed no vision of an end state. His silence is deliberate. He does not want Ukraine to lose, nor does he want Putin, with nuclear weapons, to lose. He abides in an intellectually liminal state that is imaginary; wars do not end in ties.

The conflict is nearing the two-year mark, with no signs of abating. Fifty billion dollars in military aid has been allocated by Congress, a sizeable but not staggering sum. By comparison, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act contains $500 billion in new spending. Our military aid will continue, with a majority of the public in favor.

With new threats, ‘CYBERCOM 2.0’ must push past ‘status quo’: Nakasone


While the Pentagon and Congress are still weighing the pros and cons of standing up an independent cyber branch akin to the Space Force, the director of US Cyber Command said today that he’s concentrating on evolving to “CYBERCOM 2.0.”

“I think all options are on the table except status quo,” Gen. Paul Nakasone said today at an event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “So we have to have…[a] cyber force 2.0…CYBERCOM 2.0. … We built our force in 2012 and 2013. We’ve had tremendous experience. But the scope, scale, sophistication of the threat has changed.”

When asked on his thoughts on an independent cyber force, Nakasone said he’s still working with DoD on a study mandated from the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Ac that asked DoD to examine the prospect of a new force generation model for US Cyber Command. As it currently stands, USCYBERCOM is responsible for employing personnel from each military service to combatant commands.

He added that the private sector and USCYBERCOM’s partners have also changed, and now the command needs to “look at how we’re going to change as well.”

While Nakasone didn’t address the creation of a cyber force directly, lawmakers and DoD officials have sent mixed messages on the idea. In February, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., told reporters he would consider the idea of standing up a cyber force, but the idea needed to be studied further. He said he was concerned it could create more bureaucracy.

Sanctions aren’t working: How the West enables Russia’s war on Ukraine


At its summit this week, the European Union is threatening to name and shame more than a dozen Chinese companies that, it claims, are supplying critical technology to equip Russia’s war machine.

But what about the Western companies that make dual-use and other advanced gear that is subject to sanctions and yet, according to an analysis of wreckage found on the Ukrainian battlefield, is used in Russian Kalibr missiles, Orlan drones and Ka-52 “Alligator” helicopters?

Radio silence.

So here’s a trivia question for you: Which company is the leading maker of the so-called “high-priority battlefield items” trafficked to Russia that the Western coalition wants to interdict?

If you said Intel, then go to the top of the class: According to the sanctions team at the Kyiv School of Economics, the U.S. semiconductor giant again leads the pack this year. It’s followed by Huawei of China. Then come Analog Devices, AMD, Texas Instruments and IBM — all of which are American.

Russian imports of microelectronics, wireless and satellite navigation systems and other critical parts subject to sanctions have recovered to near pre-war levels with a monthly run rate of $900 million in the first nine months of this year, according to a forthcoming report from the Kyiv School’s analytical center, the KSE Institute.

All of this indicates that, while Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, had a temporary impact, Moscow and its helpers have largely succeeded in reconfiguring supply chains — with the help of China, Hong Kong and countries in Russia’s backyard like Kazakhstan and NATO member Turkey.

The Self-Doubting Superpower

Fareed Zakaria

Most Americans think their country is in decline. In 2018, when the Pew Research Center asked Americans how they felt their country would perform in 2050, 54 percent of respondents agreed that the U.S. economy would be weaker. An even larger number, 60 percent, agreed that the United States would be less important in the world. This should not be surprising; the political atmosphere has been pervaded for some time by a sense that the country is headed in the wrong direction. According to a long-running Gallup poll, the share of Americans who are “satisfied” with the way things are going has not crossed 50 percent in 20 years. It currently stands at 20 percent.

Over the decades, one way of thinking about who would win the presidency was to ask: Who is the more optimistic candidate? From John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, the sunnier outlook seemed to be the winning ticket. But in 2016, the United States elected a politician whose campaign was premised on doom and gloom. Donald Trump emphasized that the U.S. economy was in a “dismal state,” that the United States had been “disrespected, mocked, and ripped off” abroad, and that the world was “a total mess.” In his inaugural address, he spoke of “American carnage.” His current campaign has reprised these core themes. Three months before declaring his candidacy, he released a video titled “A Nation in Decline.”

Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign was far more traditional. He frequently extolled the United States’ virtues and often recited that familiar line, “Our best days still lie ahead.” And yet, much of his governing strategy has been predicated on the notion that the country has been following the wrong course, even under Democratic presidents, even during the Obama-Biden administration. In an April 2023 speech, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, criticized “much of the international economic policy of the last few decades,” blaming globalization and liberalization for hollowing out the country’s industrial base, exporting American jobs, and weakening some core industries. Writing later in these pages, he worried that “although the United States remained the world’s preeminent power, some of its most vital muscles atrophied.” This is a familiar critique of the neoliberal era, one in which a few prospered but many were left behind.

The military’s zero-trust plans are about to face a big test


An upcoming wargame at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command will test zero-trust, the network-security approach the Pentagon is betting can keep enemies at bay, keep allies from accessing certain secrets, and keep troops connected—even in combat.

INDOPACOM is building a network dubbed the Mission Partner Environment that will allow U.S. service branches and regional partners like the Philippines and Taiwan to share the data they need without accessing unrelated classified files. Like all new Pentagon systems, it is built on zero-trust principles, which assume that every device on a network might be compromised and works to authenticate individual users instead.

INDOPACOM’s “multinational mission force network has gone 100% zero-trust,” Rear Adm. Stephen Donald, the deputy commander of U.S. Tenth Fleet, said on Monday at the Association of Old Crows’ annual conference in Maryland.

As part of Exercise Keen Edge in early 2024, INDOPACOM will test how far it has come in implementing zero-trust and how that will affect real-time information sharing and security during a fight.

“We're going to actually exercise with our multinational partners,” Donald said. “The partner is only allowed into that set of data that they are cleared for or that they are authorized for. And it's all controlled by a built-from-the-ground-up zero trust network. And we're gonna see how well that works.”

Longer-term, the Navy hopes partners will adopt zero-trust more fully into their own security frameworks and practices.

Zelenskyy, Last Year’s Hero in Washington, Comes Hat in Hand as Ukraine War Stalls

Tom Nagorski

One year ago, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy got a hero’s welcome in Washington, greeted as a champion of the resistance against Russia and cheered with long bipartisan ovations during his address to Congress.

Ukraine was “alive and kicking,” he told American lawmakers, and President Joe Biden promised the U.S. would support the Ukrainian war effort “for as long as it takes.”

As Zelenskyy arrives in Washington this week, the war looks increasingly like a stalemate, ammunition stocks are running dangerously low, and Ukraine’s top commander has contradicted Zelenskyy publicly on the state of the war. Away from the battlefield, attention has shifted to Israel’s war against Hamas, and American support for the Ukrainian resistance has frayed.

What a difference a year makes.

All of which makes Zelenskyy’s visit this week to the White House and Capitol Hill–intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine,” as the White House put it–as urgent as any foreign trip the Ukrainian leader has made since the war began.

Stalemate in the east?

While Zelenskyy aims to project confidence and articulate a path to victory, multiple reports suggest that Russian and Ukrainian forces are deadlocked along frontlines in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have retaken more than half the territory Russia captured in the early days of its invasion, but most of those gains came in the first year of the war. A much-vaunted Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in June has done little to move the needle.

Humans must be accountable for AI in war, Air Force secretary say


Humans will ultimately be held responsible for the use or misuse of artificial intelligence technologies during military conflicts, the Air Force secretary official said during a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum on Saturday.

Frank Kendall dismissed the notion “of the rogue robot that goes out there and runs around and shoots everything in sight indiscriminately,” highlighting the fact that AI technologies — particularly those deployed on the battlefields of the future — will be governed by some level of human oversight.

“I care a lot about civil society and the rule of law, including laws of armed conflict,” Kendall said. “Our policies are written around compliance with those laws. You don't enforce laws against machines; you enforce them against people. And I think our challenge is not to somehow limit what we can do with AI, but it's to find a way to hold people accountable for what the AI does.”

Even as the Pentagon continues to experiment with AI, the department has worked to establish safeguards around its use of the technologies. DOD updated its decades-old policy on autonomous weapons in February to clarify, in part, that weapons with AI-enabled capabilities need to follow the department’s AI guidelines.

The Pentagon previously issued a series of ethical AI principles in 2020 governing its use of the technologies, and released a data, analytics and AI adoption strategy in November that positioned quality of data as key to the department’s implementation of the advanced tech.

The goal for now, Kendall said, is to build confidence and trust in the technology and then “get it into field capabilities as quickly as we can.”

‘Space can be the most resilient capability’: LEO sats vital for next war, says Marine info chief


The Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information is bullish on the future of the force and its capability to communicate in a fight with high-tech foes.

The big difference between today and just a few years ago, Lt. Gen. Mathew Glavy said, is the exponential uptick in the number of relatively inexpensive satellites in low Earth orbit, providing a dense network of communications nodes that can work around enemy jamming, hacking, or anti-satellite strikes.

“Space, space can be the most resilient capability today,” Glavy enthused to the annual Association of Old Crows conference. (“Crow” is an old nickname for electronic warfare specialists, probably because their jamming transmissions “squawk” raucously to drown out enemy signals.)

“People will tell you that every system that I own [will face] a degraded, denied, intermittent, latent environment, [that] I’m not going to have the electromagnetic spectrum,” Glavy said. “[They say,] ‘You’re not going to have it, they’re gonna shut you down.’

“That may have been accurate in 2018 to 2019,” he conceded. But today? “I’ll you right now, no freaking way. No. Freaking. Way.”

The reason is the proliferation of LEO satellites, he said, showing a slide of the literally skyrocketing number of launches, from under 200 a year as recently as 2016 to over a thousand in 2020. “It’s off and running,” Glavy said. “It’s probably the most resilient environment.”

That kind of connectivity is useful to all sorts of armed forces. Most notably, the Ukrainian military has relied on Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites since Russian hackers hamstrung ViaSat in February 2022, and Starlink has proven remarkedly resilient to cyber and electronic warfare, while the sheer number of satellites and the speed with which they can be replaced has deterred anti-satellite missile strikes.