23 December 2023

In Gaza, an Indonesian Volunteer Has Become An Unlikely War Reporter

Aisyah Llewellyn

Like many 24-year-olds, Indonesian Fikri Rofiul Haq says that he spends his days thinking about “content creation.”

He imagines the engaging photographs he will take and post online, and the short videos he will film. He thinks about how he will speak directly to the camera as if he’s doing a live TV report, and edit the footage together with background scenes of the stories he wants to tell.

When he lies in bed at night, he thinks about which of his stories will have the most impact, and which will get the most engagement.

But Haq is no social media influencer, at least not in the traditional sense.

Instead, he is a humanitarian volunteer with an Indonesian charity, the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), and is based in Khan Younis in South Gaza.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7, Haq’s life has transformed dramatically, and he has become something of an uneasy reporter of his own story, documenting the atrocities of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip against a backdrop of terror.

“I think about content constantly and summoning up the courage to make it takes time,” Haq says from the government school where he is sheltering, along with 1,200 displaced citizens in Khan Younis.

“Especially when drones and fighter jets fly by.”

How Iranian-Backed Militias Do Political Signaling

Nakissa Jahanbani, Caleb Benjamin, Robert Fisher, Muhammad Najjar, Muhammad al-'Ubaydi, Benjamin Johnson

Iranian-backed groups have used the Israel-Hamas war as justification for a number of strikes against Israeli and U.S. forces. Hezbollah fired on Israeli soldiers and struck targets in northern Israel. The Houthis launched missiles toward Israel and at American ships and downed an American MQ-9 Reaper drone flying over the Red Sea.

But perhaps most immediately worrying for the U.S. are Iranian-backed militias’ drone and rocket attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq and Syria. As of this writing, according to the Department of Defense, there have been at least 97 attacks on U.S forces in Iraq and Syria since the uptick in attacks began following the explosion at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Oct. 17. While the Pentagon indicated there was a pause in attacks during the temporary cease-fire in Gaza, the tempo has increased again since the cease-fire ended on Nov. 30.

Behind these strikes are two sets of actors with two distinct sets of goals. Iran is using its proxies’ attacks to signal to the U.S. and Israel that it is capable of expanding the conflict. By urging its proxies to attack, Iran also seeks to maintain and bolster its legitimacy among the proxies as the principal anti-Israel and anti-U.S. power in the region. Iranian-backed militias are answering the call to prove to Iran they are a worthwhile proxy and to signal to their local constituencies that they represent their interests and have the requisite military capacity to do so effectively. These proxies are also shrewd political actors, attempting to use the attacks to advance their independent political objectives—such as expelling U.S. troops from the region.

It’s worth noting this is not the first time Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq and Syria have been used for political signaling. For instance, in April 2021, there were a series of attacks on logistic convoys and Balad Air Base in the lead-up to a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. In December 2018, an attack came a day after then-President Trump’s visit to the U.S. al-Asad Air Base. Similar attacks in the past five years or so have been purposefully limited in lethality and aimed primarily at political signaling, so as to not provoke a major U.S. response. By comparison, some attacks from a decade earlier during the U.S.-Iraq war, such as the 2007 Karbala attack, appear to have had the primary aim of causing U.S. casualties.

Are Israel and the United States on a collision course?


In a December 8 story that seems to have received little attention in western press coverage of Israel’s expanding military campaign in Gaza was this nugget of information: Israel’s military expects combat operations to continue until the end of January, “followed by a three-to-nine-month lower grade insurgency.” Reported by the Jerusalem Post, an English daily whose correspondents appear to have good ties to the Israel Defense Forces, this prediction likely rang alarm bells in the Biden administration. The White House is well aware of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to do whatever it takes to “destroy” Hamas. But beyond doubting that this goal is feasible, US officials likely have concluded that Israel is not capable of pursuing its campaign in Gaza without killing many more Palestinian civilians, or is not ready to do so. With the threat of disease and starvation growing as Gazans flee to the south in a nearly hopeless search for safety, the prospect of a major crisis in US-Israel relations is growing. Thus while Israeli leaders applauded the White House’s veto of last week’s United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, they know that the Biden administration supports a wider political and diplomatic approach that Israel’s current government—as Netanyahu has stated—totally rejects.

On December 12, President Joe Biden showed clear dissatisfaction with the Israeli government and Netanyahu. In remarks to donors, Biden reportedly said that Israel is losing support around the world because of how it is conducting the Gaza war. He also reportedly said that Netanyahu “has to change” and that the Prime Minister rejects the two-state solution on which the president has staked his approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This gap between the US and Israeli positions on the Gaza crisis is partly a consequence of the contradictory signals that the White House sent Israel in the first weeks following Hamas’s October 7 assault. In addition to Biden’s “bear hug” of Netanyahu—a leader for whom he has little love—US officials, including the President, signaled a kind of muddled ambivalence when it came to pressing Israel to limit the ferocity of its bombing campaign.

In addition to Biden’s “bear hug” of Netanyahu—a leader for whom he has little love—US officials, including the President, signaled a kind of muddled ambivalence when it came to pressing Israel to limit the ferocity of its bombing campaign.

John Mearsheimer: There is no two-state solution


John Mearsheimer’s views on the Ukraine war, laying the lion’s share of the blame on the West and confidently predicting Russian victory, have cemented his position as one of the most controversial international relations scholars in the world. His “realist” approach is unsentimental in its analysis of great power competition and the need for states to act in their own interest.

But his approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict has taken a different tone, focusing on the “moral calamity” in Gaza and accusing Israel of abandoning decency and purposely massacring civilians. Freddie Sayers spoke to him earlier this week and asked: how does realism apply to Israel?

This is an excerpt of their conversation, edited for clarity. Watch the whole interview in the video below.

Freddie Sayers: Readers of your Substack piece this week about Israel will notice that where you were so cool-headed, hard-nosed and realistic about the Ukraine v. Russia great-power struggle, your tone is so much more moralistic and outraged when talking about Israeli actions in Gaza. Do you feel differently about this conflict?

John Mearsheimer: I just used my critical faculties to analyse what the Israelis are doing in Gaza, in the same way that I analysed the Ukraine war. I think there’s an important moral dimension to what is happening in the Israeli-Hamas conflict that needed to be discussed. I laid out my views in the Substack piece very clearly. I just want to be on the record with regard to what the Israelis are doing in Gaza, so that at some point down the road, when historians look back at what’s happening, it’s clear where I stood on the issue.

FS: But, Professor, where was the same level of outrage about the Russian invasion into Ukraine and the details of the humanitarian horrors perpetrated there? There were plenty of them. Equally, what Hamas did on October 7, and some of the statements made from supporters of that side, are awful to witness, but you don’t seem to be focusing on those either. Why not?

China's New Stealth Bomber Built for a War over Taiwan?

Brent M. Eastwood

China’s JH-XX stealth bomber program is aspirational. It is not yet a real plane.

But the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, or PLAAF, seems to have big plans for the system. The PLAAF hopes to develop an aircraft that can dominate the region; defend territorial claims in the South and East China Seas; teach Taiwan a lesson; and threaten U.S. military bases in Japan or Guam.

JH-XX is actually just a code name. As said, the aircraft does not exist yet. But Western intelligence reports give us an idea about what the PLAAF wants from its new bomber program. Meanwhile, China likely has strategic and tactical objectives that include having a regional stealth bomber in its fleet by 2025.

What Do We Know About the JH-XX?

Since 2018, the Defense Intelligence Agency has tracked the development of the new bomber. An American military power report in 2019 also noted the existence of the PLAAF bomber program. The DIA has said that China is pursuing capabilities including stealth characteristics to help better patrol the Indo-Pacific region.

Intelligence on the bomber indicates the JH-XX program will not yield an airplane until at least 2025. According to American findings, the plane could borrow concepts from U.S. fighters such as the F-22 or F-35. It would fire long-range stand-off missiles and deliver precision-guided munitions.

The JH-XX could also be a stealth fighter-bomber that develops technology from the J-20 Mighty Dragon tactical warplane. This would make the JH-XX a regional aircraft rather than strategic, emphasizing a PLAAF focus on speed and maneuverability rather than long range.



In autumn 1969, I was stationed in a bunker on the radio. I was to communicate with the perimeter guards and helicopters if in trouble. If we were attacked, I was the one that blew the sirens. The infantry would scream on the radio, “Rockets in the air!” That was my cue to blow sirens. This particular month we changed our radio call sign from Roadrunner to False Minder. The operating manual was sent to all stations on my network. Our orders were not to answer someone using the wrong call signs.


Evidently generals do not have to read these manuals each month. One day the commanding general of the 1st Aviation Brigade was flying to my base. He was known as Hawk 6 on the radio. So he called on the radio, “Roadrunner, Roadrunner. Hawk 6.” He was not using the right call sign, so I did not answer.

Radio operators’ standing orders are to obey proper radio procedures, one of which is to only answer proper call signs. That is a security standard. It prevents the enemy who could be monitoring our network from identifying all the units calling on a network. The general must have thought he was out of range, so a few minutes later I heard, “Roadrunner, Roadrunner! This is Hawk 6.”

This is when I did the bravest thing I did in Vietnam. I did not answer. Despite the orders not to answer someone using the wrong call signs, I was scared. I knew I would pay a price for this. I heard the anger in his voice when he came back with, “Anyone on this net know where Roadrunner is?” The response came in, “I don’t know, sir.” In two sentences all sorts of security violations occurred. One, by a general. The other referring to him as “sir.”

How online scam warlords have made China start to lose patience with Myanmar’s junta

Nectar Gan

In the end it was the thriving online scam centers that finally forced China to lose patience with Myanmar’s brutal military rulers.

The impoverished Southeast Asian nation has long been a trouble spot on China’s southwestern border. For decades Beijing’s leaders have played a careful game of backing Myanmar’s military regimes – lending them much-needed economic, military and diplomatic support, including at the United Nations – whilst also maintaining close ties to powerful rebel militias along its borders.

But Beijing’s frustration has been building with Naypyidaw’s generals who seized power in 2021, overthrowing a democratically elected government that Beijing had built close relations with, and resurrecting the kind of isolated junta rule that Myanmar’s people had spent decades living under.

The deeply unpopular regime has since been busy fighting a vicious civil war, struggling to govern growing swathes of its territory or deliver on Beijing’s economic and strategic interests there, including an ambitious infrastructure corridor aimed at connecting China’s landlocked southwest with the Indian Ocean.

In recent months, that displeasure has reached new heights as the junta dragged its feet on a pressing security priority for Beijing: shutting down the infamous online scam centers that have proliferated along its border with Myanmar.

The country’s mountainous borderlands have long been a haven for gambling, drugs and the trafficking of both humans and wildlife. But since the Covid-19 pandemic, online scam operations – many run by Chinese organized crime bosses – have flourished.

In the AI Race Against China, Public-Private Partnerships are Critical

Axel de Vernou

As Washington nervously observes the private sector to verify that its demands are being met on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) front, one company has attracted particular attention of late: Nvidia. CEO Jensen Huang recently assured Washington that Nvidia will comply with advanced AI chip export curbs after Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo emphasized the importance of blocking China’s access to this technology. The fate of geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific is increasingly tied to whether companies such as Nvidia will uphold their promises in the tug of war between profit and federal regulation.

Parallel AI developments in Singapore signal that Huang’s assurances may hold water. On December 4, Singapore released its National AI Strategy 2.0, which will entail an enormous surge in personnel focusing on AI and further integration of smart technology into the public sector. This will likely be accompanied by a trickle-down effect to private companies that the Singaporean government has expressed interest in working with. Not coincidentally, Huang supported the idea of investing in an AI site in Singapore a few days later, arguing that the country holds the potential for extraordinary progress in AI. This suggests that Huang, alongside many other American executives, has recognized that other Asian countries present tantalizing opportunities for AI investment.

This should come as no surprise. In September, Singapore scored the highest by a significant margin in the 2023 Asia Pacific AI Readiness Index prepared by the U.S.-based software company Salesforce. Japan placed second, China third, and South Korea and Australia trailed just behind. The score was determined by a combination of AI infrastructure, workforce development, and effective integration into company workflows. This transition away from Beijing was accelerated by the Biden administration’s August executive order restricting private equity flows into China’s AI sector. Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced AUKUS’ plans to launch an Indo-Pacific Innovation Challenge with a focus on AI in addition to cyber and electronic warfare capabilities.

Google Just Denied Cops a Key Surveillance Tool


A hacker group calling itself Solntsepek, previously linked to the infamous Russian military hacking unit Sandworm, took credit this week for a disruptive attack on the Ukrainian internet and mobile service provider Kyivstar. As Russia’s kinetic war against Ukraine has dragged on, inflicting what the World Bank estimates to be around $410 billion in recovery costs for Ukraine, the country has launched an official crowdfunding platform known as United24 as a means of raising awareness and rebuilding.

Kytch, the small company that aimed to fix McDonald’s notably often-broken ice cream machines, claims it has discovered a “smoking gun” email from the CEO of McDonald’s ice cream machine manufacturer that Kytch's lawyers say suggests an alleged plan to undermine Kytch as a potential competitor. Kytch argues in a recent court filing that the email reveals the real reason why, a couple of weeks later, McDonald’s sent an email to thousands of its restaurant franchisees claiming safety hazards related to Kytch’s ice-cream-machine-whispering device.

WIRED looked at how Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit has refined a strategy over the past decade that combines intelligence and technical capabilities from Microsoft’s massive infrastructure with creative legal tactics to disrupt both global cybercrime and state-backed actors. And we dove into the controversy over reauthorization of Section 702 surveillance powers in the US Congress.

And there's more. Each week, we round up the security and privacy news we didn’t break or cover in depth ourselves. Click the headlines to read the full stories, and stay safe out there.

Who Gets to Tell China’s Story?

Ian Johnson

In early 1990, one of China’s most famous dissidents sat holed up with his wife and son in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, watching their country convulse in violence. In June of the previous year, authorities had crushed student-led protests centered in Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and sending many more into exile. Fang Lizhi had escaped to the embassy and was waiting for a deal that would allow him to leave.

In the depths of his despair, Fang wrote “The Chinese Amnesia,” an essay that explained why tragedies kept befalling China. The Chinese Communist Party, he contended, controlled history so thoroughly that the vast majority of people remained unaware of its endless cycles of violence. The result was that people knew only what they personally experienced, making them susceptible to the CCP’s indoctrination campaigns: “In this manner, about once each decade, the true face of history is thoroughly erased from the memory of Chinese society,” Fang observed. “This is the objective of the Chinese Communist policy of ‘Forgetting History.’”

For many people who analyze China today, Fang’s way of seeing China has become dominant. They argue that the party’s control of history is more powerful than ever because it is now backed by an even more powerful, technocratic state led by a leader fully committed to whitewashing the past. Meanwhile, a vast surveillance state keeps an eye on anyone with alternative views of the past or the present. China’s amnesia seems complete.

And yet this view is wrong. Fang accurately described China as it was in the early 1990s. But starting a few years later, this pattern of historical erasure began to break down. The key reason is the rise of a movement of citizen historians who are successfully challenging the party’s control of history. Underpinning their efforts are two basic digital technologies that we often take for granted: PDFs and digital cameras. Because they are so ubiquitous in modern life, they are easily overlooked, and yet they have fundamentally changed how historical memory is preserved and spread in authoritarian states such as China. They allow people to revive banned or out-of-print books and create new publications without printing presses or photocopy machines. They also free filmmakers from the bulky and expensive equipment that once only television or movie studios could afford. The result has been a two-decade flood of books, magazines, and films that were made on laptops and shared over long distances by email, file transfers, and memory sticks.

How China’s assertive diplomacy has reached ‘another level of disrespect’ and become the new normal

Maria Siow

Few countries’ diplomats have generated as much controversy in recent months as those from China.

Take the most recent incident where Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian was said to have confronted and aggressively pointed at his host country’s armed forces chief, General Romeo Brawner Jnr, while saying “don’t provoke us”.

Describing Huang’s behaviour as “very hostile”, Philippine Senator JV Ejercito said in an interview with Filipino media on Tuesday that an ambassador should not be “disrespectful” and “rude”, especially to a high-ranking government official.

“Imagine, Huang is bullying our chief of staff … that’s probably another level of disrespect,” Ejercito said, adding that Beijing should recall the envoy.

Some Filipinos have called for the Chinese embassy and all consulates in the Philippines to be shut, while others suggested Manila should stop recognising the one-China principle, which states that Taiwan is part of China.

Bilateral tensions are understandably high, given the multiple skirmishes between their vessels in the South China Sea in recent months.

Over the weekend, videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Filipino boats during two separate resupply missions. There was also a collision between Philippine and Chinese vessels at the Second Thomas Shoal.

The incidents prompted Manila to summon Huang, while lawmakers have called for the envoy to be expelled.

The Russian Air Force Is Dying a Slow and Painful Death in Ukraine

Peter Suciu

Ukraine War: Russia Lost Two Jet Fighters in a Single Day – Including One Shot Down By Friendly Fire - Russia saw two of its jets lost in just 24 hours over the past weekend, including one that was reported to have been shot down by its own forces in the skies over Ukraine.

Since launching its unprovoked war against Ukraine nearly two years ago, the Russian military has seen a significant number of combat aircraft lost in the fighting. The most recent aircraft destroyed included a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bomber that was targeted on the ground at a Russian air base in an early morning raid on Sunday. Later that same day, a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet was shot down over the Zaporizhia region in eastern Ukraine on Sunday per Business Insider.

Kyiv claimed it wasn't responsible for the downing of the latter aircraft.

"I can confidently state that it was not the Ukrainian air defense that shot down the Russian Su-25 attack aircraft! These were clearly the coordinated actions of Russian anti-aircraft troops, for which the entire Ukrainian people sends them great thanks!," Mykola Oleshchuk, Commander of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a post on the social messaging app Telegram.

Russian military bloggers quickly confirmed the loss of the aircraft but said its crash was due to bad weather. That would seem dubious, especially as the aircraft is known to operate at relatively low altitudes – making it vulnerable to ground-based air defense systems. A large number of Su-25s have been shot down in the war.

Moreover, this wouldn't be the first case of Russia downing its own aircraft. It was in September that UK intelligence confirmed that the Kremlin had shot down one of its own Su-35 jets near Tokmak in eastern Ukraine.

The 2024 NDAA—Bipartisan Hope Amid Partisan Chaos

Elaine McCusker

As the 118th Congress wraps up its first session this month, its performance in meeting its primary annual task of funding the federal government, and particularly national defense (the only mandatory and exclusive job of the federal government), is a clear failure. Not a single fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations bill has yet been enacted. All federal activities languish under continuing resolutions (CRs), which temporarily extend the previous year’s spending. For defense, this means a loss of $219 million per day in buying power while new programs and production efforts are delayed.

But there is one accomplishment related to defense worth noting. Congress has continued a hallowed tradition of passing the annual defense policy bill—the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). At more than 3,000 pages, there is plenty to assess and critique in the measure and its accompanying conference report. Still, there are also three fundamental points to consider on why enactment of the authorization bill is vital to national security.

First, particularly in a year like the one we just witnessed, the ability to compromise and produce such a huge piece of legislation that then passes both chambers by wide margins—87-13 in the Senate and 310-118 in the House—is crucial. Even in an acrimonious, floundering, and often counter-productive political environment, Congress can still act in the nation’s interest on a bipartisanship basis to support defense.

In recent years, the NDAA has also been a precursor to the even more crucial work of finishing the defense appropriations bill. A large majority of both chambers is again on record supporting the defense caps that the Fiscal Responsibility Act set in May. Though these caps are too low to support the defense strategy and modernize the military, adhering to them for FY 2024 and readdressing them as part of the FY 2025 process is much better than the huge cuts that would be necessary under a year-long CR.

Will Trump Defy MAGA-world for Nikki Haley?

Jacob Heilbrunn

Is Nikki Haley running for the presidency—or Donald J. Trump’s vice president? Former speaker Kevin McCarthy says she’d be right for the job. Although Trump himself deemed the prospect “unlikely,” this is a significant shift from his previous position, ruling out Republican competitors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now suggests that her goal is to become Trump’s No. 2. His campaign even created a website called trumpnikki2024.com, complete with the sarcastic logo “Make the Establishment Great Again.”

DeSantis observed, “She will not answer directly—and she owes you an answer to this—will she accept a vice presidential nomination from Donald Trump? Yes or no. I can tell you, under any circumstances, I will not accept that because that’s not why I’m running. I’m running for the nomination and to be president.”

For her part, Haley is having none of it. “It’s not even a conversation, and it doesn’t matter what candidate wants me to answer it: I don’t play for second,” Haley declared in Iowa. “I don’t know what more I can say than to get them to understand that.”

When Haley launched her campaign, The Federalist warned that she would have to prove that her days of espousing military adventurism were behind her. The prospect of Haley as Trump’s understudy has sent a good deal of MAGA world into transports of rage. Tucker Carlson has called her “poison.” He fired a warning shot, declaring, “I would not only not vote for that ticket, I would advocate against it as strongly as I could.” Then there is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has also been touted as a possible VP pick. “MAGA would revolt if Nikki Haley were to even be given an internship in Trump’s next administration,” Greene announced.

Attack Robots, Terminators, Autonomous Weapons - Future of AI


In an interesting interview recently on CNN, former President Barack Obama was asked about the future of AI and the various philosophical, technological and ethic variables now dominating discussion as AI-technology explodes and many consider its implications. While being clear to emphasize that AI continues to bring paradigm-changing innovations to the world, he used succinct language to sum up what is perhaps the most significant complication or challenge when it comes to the application of AI .... "Machines can't feel joy," he told CNN.

Obama said this in the context of describing how the advent and rapid arrival of new applications of AI continue to change things rapidly bringing seemingly limitless new promise and also introducing challenges and complexities. He was quick to praise the merits of AI in his discussion with CNN, but also mentioned the challenges or limitations, given that uniquely human attributes such as emotion, devotion and other more subjective phenomena can't be approximated by machines. True enough, and while defense industry innovators and critical Pentagon institutions such as the Air Force Research laboratory are making progress exploring ways AI can somehow estimate, calculate or analyze more subjective phenomena, there are clearly many variables unique to human cognition, intuition, psychological nuances, ethics, consciousness and emotion which it seems mathematically-generated algorithms simply could not replicate or even begin to truly approximate accurately. This is why leading weapons developers are quick to explain that any optimal path forward involves a blending or combination involving what could be called the Pentagon's favorite term .. "manned-unmanned teaming."

This, however, does not mean the merits and possibilities of AI should be under-estimated, as senior researchers with the Army Research Laboratory have explained that "we are at the tip of the iceberg" in terms of what AI can truly accomplish. This is why the Pentagon is measuring the rapid success and promise of AI in the context of non-lethal defensive force. The combination of human decision-making faculties, when coupled with the speed and analytical power of high-speed AI-generated computing, is already creating paradigm-changing innovations. Imagine how many lives a defense AI-weapons system could save? AI is also already massively shortening the sensor-to-shooter curve in key modern warfare experiments such as the Army's Project Convergence.

The AI Drone Revolution In Military Technology: Precision Attacks And Strategic Insights

Aditi Ganguly

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The rising geopolitical tensions across the globe have incentivized countries to step up their defense strategies. This comes on the heels of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China and the prolonged war between Russia and Ukraine. The latest crisis in the Middle East has also fueled the urgency in developing next-generation military technology.

With the rising popularity of artificial intelligence (AI), AI-powered drones are the latest tech slated to revolutionize the defense industry. Apart from their use in weaponry, smart drones are highly coveted in the retail space, as unmanned gadgets are expected to reduce the cost of operations significantly down the line.

Prominent military analysts claim artificial intelligence will mark a pivotal moment in military capabilities, akin to the significance of the introduction of nuclear weapons. AI systems' ability to scrutinize surveillance imagery, medical records, social media activity and online shopping preferences will enable micro-targeting — executing precision attacks with drones or advanced weaponry on critical combatants or commanders.

Possibly even more groundbreaking than autonomous weaponry is the potential for AI systems to assist military leaders in making informed decisions by processing and analyzing the immense volume of data collected from sources such as satellites, radars, sonar networks, signals intelligence and online traffic.

European Union Space Strategy for Security and Defense

Christophe Bosquillon

Recently the European Union (EU) released its EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence. This document is centered on safeguarding space activities and enhancing the security of EU interests and capabilities in space through member-state cooperation. The document rightly recognizes growing threats against space assets, which enable modern civilization and warrant active protection and defense. The policy correctly emphasizes the requirement for capabilities to detect and respond to hostile behaviors in space promptly.

It calls for a coordinated response using all available tools and those of member states. This includes dual-use space systems and services. However, the policy remains confined to an emphasis on resilience of space assets and confidence-building measures to clarify intentions behind various space activities. While this is not a bad thing, it does not express the European Union’s readiness to prevent and respond to space attack by deterring adversaries from hostile actions.

Space Threat Analysis

The EU proposes an annual classified analysis of space threats called the Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC), a system of systems where both civilian and military contributions are used for all-sources intelligence assessments. This integrates all space threat analyses within the broader EU threat analysis process. However, its key asset, the EU Satellite Center, requires timely geospatial and orbital intelligence capabilities. It needs to see that long-acknowledged technological shortcomings in early warning and conflict analysis are effectively addressed.

NATO and Donald Trump

U.S. alliances are more important than ever in an increasingly dangerous world, so it’s notable that Congress is taking out an insurance policy against a President who might decide to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on his own authority. Now, who might that President be?

In the annual defense policy bill that passed last week, Congress included a provision requiring a U.S. President to consult Congress before withdrawing from NATO. The bipartisan measure, sponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), would require assent from two-thirds of the Senate or an act of Congress. The enforcement mechanism is withholding funds for such a withdrawal.

Congress’s concern here is clearly Mr. Trump. He has long disliked U.S. forward military deployments in places like South Korea, and he has railed against NATO in particular. “By some accounts,” he tweeted in 2018, “the U.S. is paying for 90% of NATO, with many countries nowhere close” to spending 2% of their economy on defense. The tweet ended with a signature “NO!”

Mr. Trump is right that the Europeans have allowed their defenses to atrophy to the point of embarrassment, though the picture is improving. Some 11 of 31 members meet the alliance goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense, up from three in 2014, according to data the alliance released over the summer.

In any case, American defense spending isn’t charity. A stable Europe is a core U.S. strategic interest, a lesson Americans learned twice in the 20th century at tremendous cost. The risks of abandoning NATO have compounded since Mr. Trump left office, with Russia’s Vladimir Putin launching a land war on the European continent.


Jonathan Li and Max Xie

Different people will point to different root causes of the Army’s recruitment issues. Some will say that the increasingly lucrative civilian job market draws talent away from the military. Others will say that patriotism in America is on the decline. Another opinion may blame incidents of poor living conditions and dining facilities. Still others will argue that unadaptable leadership is driving the younger generation away from joining. The potential causes are obvious, but the solution is difficult to pinpoint. Although there is no easy way to tackle any of these issues in a swift manner, one aspect of today’s recruitment environment remains very clear: social media continues to greatly influence public opinion and has become one of the premier ways for organizations to interact with the general public.

Why does social media matter? Simply put, the military recruitment problem is not something that the public is currently concerned about. The ongoing presidential campaign gives us a glimpse of the issues that are on the forefront of American minds. The issues discussed by presidential hopefuls include tax policy, the war in Ukraine, abortion rights, and education. Anyone hoping to see any mention of military recruitment woes would be disappointed. The lack of public concern for recruitment issues is hampering the military’s efforts to address the root causes mentioned earlier. Increased monetary incentives and improved logistical efficiencies require the support of Congress and government leaders.

Without a significant public push, change will always be difficult to implement. In order to combat the lack of public awareness, the Army should fine-tune the way it interacts through social media. Increased positive public interaction will lead to increased recruitment in the future. The key to doing so is a set of actionable initiatives and a better strategy to more effectively reach the Army’s target audience.

U.S. Marine vet in Ukraine repulsed Russian attack in final moments


AU.S. Marine veteran born in Ireland who later immigrated to the United States has been killed in Ukraine while repelling an assault by Russian troops that had broken through his unit’s line, a fellow American veteran told Task & Purpose.

Graham Dale was killed in close-quarters fighting on December 9. He was at least the 10th former U.S. Marine killed in Ukraine, according to a list compiled by Task & Purpose of U.S. veterans who have died in Ukraine since 2022.

On Dec. 9, Dale and a team of Ukrainian troops left the safety of their defensive fortifications to prevent a Ukrainian position that was surrounded by Russian troops from falling, said U.S. Army veteran Ryan O’Leary, leads foreign volunteers in “Chosen Company,” which is attached to Ukraine’s 59th Motorized Brigade.

“Instead of retreating or hiding, he ran into the combat,” O’Leary told Task & Purpose. “Dale killed multiple enemy soldiers before being wounded. The enemy assault was stopped due to his actions, and those of the Ukrainians with him which prevented the line from collapsing.”

Dale was wounded in the fighting, O’Leary said. As he tried to get back under cover, he was hit again after a Russian drone dropped two munitions. His teammates had brought him back to safety and performed life-saving measures on him, but he died of his wounds.

Originally from Dublin, Dale moved to Texas in 2000 and became a dual Irish American citizen, according to the Irish Independent newspaper.

Dale later told the Irish Times, a separate newspaper, that he decided to join the Marine Corps following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Italy and UK agree deal to return migrants in Tunisia to their home countries

Damian Wilson

The UK and Italy have agreed on a joint finance scheme to send migrants stuck in Tunisia back to their home countries in the latest bid to tackle the European migration crisis.

British Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking on December 16 at a political festival in Rome organised by Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, said radical solutions were needed to protect countries’ borders.

“If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow,” he told the gathering of Italian Conservatives and right-wingers. “It will overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most.

“If that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that.

“Because if we don’t fix this problem now, the boats will keep coming and more lives will be lost at sea.”

Stopping small-boat crossings of the English Channel is one of Sunak’s priorities. According to Home Office figures published on the same day as his speech, 292 people had made the voyage to the UK in seven small vessels the previous day.

Wars Raise Profit Outlook for US Defense Industry in 2024

Mike Stone

When the Pentagon pulled the world's biggest defense contractors into a meeting to tell them to ramp up production shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, one CEO hesitated, saying they did not want to be stuck with a warehouse full of rockets when the fighting stopped, according to three people familiar with the discussion.

Nearly two years later, big defense firms are singing a different tune, with several expecting strong demand in 2024 as the U.S. and its allies load up on expensive weaponry and munitions with an eye on what they perceive as more aggressive actions from Russia and China.

The math is simple. For example, to meet demand for missile defenses, production of Patriot interceptors for the U.S. Army - a projectile fired at an incoming missile with the aim of knocking it down - will rise from 550 to 650 rockets per year. At around $4 million each, that's a potential $400 million annual sales boost on one weapons system alone.

Since increasing production volumes of older systems is always more profitable than the high investment costs associated with ramping up production of new systems, stronger demand will flow quickly to the corporate bottom line.

Shares of the biggest defense companies, which have handily beat the benchmark S&P 500 stock index for the last two years, are expected to keep rising, according to Wall Street estimates.

Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman shares are forecast to rise between 5% and 7% over the next 12 months, while the S&P is seen making limited gains.

Soaring attacks on US forces and others in the Middle East demand firm response to send a message, former top commander says

Jake Epstein

Iran-backed groups are launching attacks across the Middle East at an alarming rate, regularly targeting US forces and commercial ships with attack drones, rockets, and missiles in response to Israel's ongoing war against Hamas.

These relentless attacks have compelled the Pentagon to carry out a small number of retaliatory strikes against some of Iranian proxies, while also raising questions over whether additional defensive actions should be taken as the Biden administration considers its options. One former top US commander who oversaw military operations in the Middle East told Business Insider that a more aggressive response might be needed to send a clear message against the region's malign actors.

"It does not appear to me that the actions we've taken so far have really caused them to change their behavior," said Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as the commander of US Central Command, or CENTCOM.

US Army Soldiers, assigned to 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, conduct a live-fire exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, June 1, 2023. 

With continued Western support in question, Ukraine is betting on innovation in electronic warfare, drones

Patrick Tucker

Though Congress has been reluctant to provide continued aid for Ukraine, that won’t stop Ukraine from searching for new ways to push back Russian forces, particularly more capable and jam-resistant drones, Ukrainian operators and military officials said Wednesday.

Recent advances in small, commercially-available “first-person-view,” or FPV, drones for warfare have given Ukrainian forces capabilities that don’t exist elsewhere. The country is now working to greatly extend the drones’ reach and effects in the face of sizable Russian electromagnetic warfare capabilities.

Captain Iaroslav Kalinin, a member of the Ukraine Army reserve and CEO of the Ukraine drone startup Infozahyst LLC, explained that modifications to small FPV drones have expanded the potential range between the drone and the operator by 30 kilometers, and increased resilience against advanced EW tactics. He made his remarks during the Association of Old Crows convention in Maryland.

Kalinin’s group is experimenting with non-standard electromagnetic frequency bands and hybrid mesh auxiliary control schemes to avoid Russian detection and jamming.

The drones can be launched from a mother ship to further improve their range when armed with heavy explosives. And with the recent addition of infrared camera sensors, he said, “believe me or not, we're using FPV as interceptors air-to-air” to interdict larger drones moving slower than 90 miles per hour.

But Ukraine faces a similar threat from Russian forces, he said.

“From Ukraine's perspective, what we see right now is we need to produce tens of thousands of electronic countermeasure systems,” and they need solid-state power amplifiers to increase the power of their own jamming systems, he said. “We need to produce this locally as well as yesterday.”.

Multi-orbit sensing architectures optimal for hypersonic missile defense


As the Defense Department looks to modernize how it spots, tracks and defeats hypersonic missiles and other advanced threats, focus should remain on deploying sensors in multiple domains and orbital regimes, according to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

While designing and deploying that architecture, Pentagon leaders should prioritize persistent coverage in the Indo-Pacific and capabilities that provide fire-control quality data, the document notes.

Released on Monday, the study — “Getting on Track: Space and Airborne Sensors for Hypersonic Missile Defense” — outlines current and future options for space-based sensor architectures and discusses their unique tradeoffs, characteristics that should inform architecture design and specific paths the Defense Department should avoid.

Masao Dahlgren, CSIS fellow and author of the report, said that with various Pentagon efforts underway to put new missile warning and missile-tracking constellations in orbit, the study should serve as a “cheat sheet.”

“There’s a lot of constellations coming online, and we want them — the policymaker — to understand what the measures are for success,” Dahlgren said Monday during an event hosted by CSIS. “Sensors are the first link to the missile defense kill chain, and you design every other requirement for missile defense around them. So, it’s important to get this piece right.”

Although the report does not advocate for one specific architecture design, it notes that creating global and persistent coverage for missile defense is best achieved with a hybrid, mixed-orbit sensing setup.