3 January 2024

Why Gaza Matters

Jean-Pierre Filiu

After nearly three months of Israel’s war on Gaza, one thing is beyond dispute: the long-isolated territory has returned to the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For much of the past two decades, as Israel imposed an air, sea, and land blockade on Gaza, international leaders and bodies seemed to assume that the dense enclave of 2.3 million Palestinians could be indefinitely excluded from the regional equation. Catching Israel and much of the wider world completely off guard, Hamas’s October 7 attack exposed the enormous flaws in that assumption. Indeed, the war has now reset the entire Palestinian question, putting Gaza and its people squarely at the center of any future Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

But Gaza’s sudden new prominence should hardly come as a surprise. Although little of it is remembered today, the territory’s 4,000-year history makes clear that the last 16 years were an anomaly; the Gaza Strip has almost always played a pivotal part in the region’s political dynamics, as well as its age-old struggles over religion and military power. Since the British Mandate period in the early twentieth century, the territory has also been at the heart of Palestinian nationalism.

Therefore, any attempt at rebuilding Gaza after such a devastating war will be unlikely to succeed if it does not take account of the territory’s strategic position in the region. The demilitarization of this enclave can be achieved only by lifting the disastrous siege and putting forward a positive vision for its economic development. Rather than trying to cut off the territory or isolate it politically, international powers must work together to allow Gaza to reclaim its historic role as a flourishing oasis and a thriving crossroads, connecting the Mediterranean with North Africa and the Levant. The United States and its allies must recognize that Gaza will need to have a central part in any lasting solution to the Palestinian struggle.

Israel Says It Will Pull Several Brigades From Gaza Strip

Aaron Boxerman, Isabel Kershner and Eric Schmitt

The Israeli military said on Monday that it would begin withdrawing several thousand troops from the Gaza Strip at least temporarily, in what was the most significant publicly announced reduction since the war with Hamas began.

The military cited a growing toll on the Israeli economy after nearly three months of wartime mobilization with little end in sight to the fighting. Israel had been considering scaling back its operations, and the United States has been prodding it to do so more quickly as the death toll and privation in Gaza rose.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the war, most of them civilians, according to the local health authorities, primarily in Israeli bombing. With aid delivery restricted and aid workers unable to move safely within the territory, half of Gaza’s roughly 2.2 million people are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, emphasized that the move to demobilize some soldiers did not suggest any compromise of Israel’s intention to continue fighting until it destroys Hamas, and the fighting across Gaza remained intense. Admiral Hagari, who had said he expected “warfare throughout this year,” indicated that some troops would be called back to service in 2024.

He did not mention the American requests to scale back, and Israeli officials have not declared any shift toward a more limited, targeted phase of the war in Gaza, though they have said such a transition would come.

But military analysts and U.S. officials say the troop withdrawal probably signals that such a change has begun, though they caution that the war is nowhere near over.

China’s Taiwan Nightmare Has Come True

James Holmes

Imagine that. Constant bombast coupled with daily armed provocations is no way to endear yourself to audiences overseas. Or, as the Wall Street Journal put it recently, “China confronts a new political reality in Taiwan: no friends.” The Journal’s brief is compelling. Taiwan has undergone a seismic demographic and political transformation in recent decades—a transformation that virtually precludes pacific unification between Taiwan and China.

China’s Taiwan Challenge

If China enjoys no support among Taiwan’s political parties, there’s little prospect a China-friendly president will take up residence in the Presidential Office in Taipei following this month’s elections. Without a China-friendly president and legislature, China stands vanishingly little chance of achieving its paramount goal of gaining control of the island without fighting. It will have to deploy armed force, with all the hazards and costs warfare entails.

And Chinese Communist Party officialdom has no one to blame but itself for this sad state of affairs. Its diplomacy seems almost deliberately designed to drive away prospective friends and unite alliances and coalitions to defeat the party’s aims.

Admittedly, demographics is not China’s friend in the Taiwan Strait. As recently as twenty years ago, sentiment among islanders was roughly evenly divided between advocates of unification with the mainland and advocates of independence. At the extremes, around ten percent favored immediate unification, and another ten percent favored immediate independence. The middle eighty percent seemed more or less content with the cross-strait status quo, voicing support for unification or independence but on no particular timetable. Moderates were happy to kick the can down the road indefinitely rather than undergo the upheaval from drastic political change.

The Problem With De-Risking

Henry Sanderson

During the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, former U.S. President Donald Trump called for a complete “decoupling” from China. Similar proposals came from Europe and Japan, where there was also a growing desire to re-shore supply chains, to end reliance on China for medical equipment such as masks and personal protective equipment. Western leaders no longer speak in these terms. Now they have agreed, instead, to “de-risk” global supply chains linked to China. This means maintaining trading ties and being open to cooperation with Beijing in multiple areas such as climate change while also giving government support and protection to essential homegrown industries. One of those critical industries, it has become clear, is clean energy technologies, an area that China dominates.

But when it comes to clean energy, the difficulty of successfully de-risking with respect to China has not been adequately understood by Western leaders or communicated to the public. Ever-larger subsidies and financial support has been offered to companies to stimulate domestic manufacturing. Although the aim of accelerating clean energy manufacturing is welcome, the strategy is not sustainable. The West needs a more refined approach, and the answer cannot be subsidies alone. If Western governments begin an all-out subsidy war against each other, that will only shift investment to the highest bidder. Nor would subsidies achieve their purpose. Attempting to compete with China on cost in every sector would likely waste taxpayer money, delay the energy transition, and lead to greater damage from climate change, with minimal geopolitical gain. Instead, Western governments should think carefully about how to compete with Beijing for the long haul.

To do so, the West should clarify which sectors it must absolutely support at a loss in order to reduce its reliance on China for national security reasons. These sectors include rare earths, for example, which have military uses. For other sectors, careful thought will be required to determine how to compete with China on costs. The answer cannot simply be subsidizing the cost difference with taxpayer money or banning Chinese imports; those actions will just increase the cost of clean energy. Tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports, for example, have helped support domestic suppliers, by restricting price competition, but have also increased the price of solar installations in the United States. To compete with China, low-cost, scalable, and sustainable innovations are required in mining, processing, and manufacturing, and these must be supported by customers rather than just subsidies.

China’s Xi Is Resurrecting Mao’s ‘Continuous Revolution’ With a Twist

Chun Han Wong

Chinese rulers have long used campaigns against corruption to sideline rivals and consolidate power. Xi Jinping is increasingly tying his authority to a new variation: a purge that never ends.

With echoes of Mao Zedong’s “continuous revolution,” Xi has sent fear rippling through the ranks of the Communist Party for more than a decade with the largest campaign against corruption in modern Chinese history. It is now threatening to petrify the party as it tries to steer the world’s second-largest economy through its greatest period of uncertainty in a generation.

Xi Jinping rings in 2024 with rare admission that China’s economy is in trouble

Laura He and Simone McCarthy

China’s businesses are struggling and job seekers have trouble finding work, President Xi Jinping acknowledged during his Sunday New Year’s Eve speech.

This is the first time Xi has mentioned economic challenges in his annual New Year’s messages since he started giving them in 2013. It comes at a critical juncture for the world’s second largest economy, which is grappling with a structural slowdown marked by weak demand, rising unemployment and battered business confidence.

Acknowledging the “headwinds” facing the country, Xi admitted in the televised speech: “Some enterprises had a tough time. Some people had difficulty finding jobs and meeting basic needs.”

“All these remain at the forefront of my mind,” Xi said in remarks which were also widely circulated by state media. “We will consolidate and strengthen the momentum of economic recovery.”

Hours before Xi spoke, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published its monthly Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey, which showed that factory activity declined in December to the lowest level in six months.

The official manufacturing PMI dropped to 49 last month, down from 49.4 in November, according to a statement from the NBS.

A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion, while any reading below represents a contraction. December also marked the third straight month the manufacturing PMI has contracted.

Chinese Spy Balloon Used US Internet Provider to Navigate America, Report Say

Lauren Steussy and Hannah Getahun

Before the rest of the country learned about a Chinese spy balloon hovering over American territory, U.S. intelligence officials were quietly gathering intel on the balloon — including which US internet service provider it used to navigate and send information back to China.

An Air Force F-22 fighter jet shot the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina in February after the device floated across the United States for more than a week.

During that time, U.S. intelligence officials were tracking the balloon, NBC News reported, citing two current and one former U.S. official close to the matter. They learned the balloon used a U.S.-based internet service provider, according to NBC News, which declined to name the internet company to protect the identities of their sources.

The anonymous officials said the Biden Administration sought a court order allowing intelligence officials to surveil the balloon as it made its way across the states.

Though it's unclear whether the order was granted, the U.S. officials told NBC News that intelligence was gathered during the balloon's journey, including the messages sent to and from China using the U.S. internet company.

The balloon was reportedly loaded with American technology to help it gather photos and information, prior reporting from The Wall Street Journal found.

At the time, China insisted the balloon was being used for "mainly meteorological" purposes. In a statement to NBC News about the internet service it reportedly used, Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, maintained it was a weather balloon.

China's military purge deepens

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

China's leaders are expanding an anti-corruption campaign targeting power centers within the military, risking instability and a crisis of confidence during a sensitive time in China's foreign relations.

Why it matters: Recent purges highlight the obstacles facing China's leader Xi Jinping as he tries to complete his military modernization drive by 2050.

Driving the news: Nine Chinese generals and three Chinese defense technology officials were removed from a top Chinese Communist Party advisory body late last week, according to Chinese state media.
  • The generals largely came from the Rocket Force, which oversees China's missile program.
  • "The strategic nuclear force is what China relies on as the bottom line of its national security, and the last resort on Taiwan," said Yun Sun, China program director at the DC-based Stimson Center, told Reuters.
  • "It will take some time for China to clean up the mess and restore confidence in the Rocket Force's competence and trustworthiness. It means for the time being, China is at a weaker spot."
Details: The defense industry officials, meanwhile, all work at state-owned missile manufacturing companies.
  • "These officials' removal may engender political instability among the political leadership," said Wen-Ti Sung, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global China Hub. Three members of the powerful Politburo also once worked at the same three companies of the ousted officials.
  • In China's opaque high-level politics, that kind of link between powerful officials and fallen officials could mean Xi is targeting patronage networks.

New in SpyWeek: That Mysterious CIA School and More


Double Agent Deal? Back in June, SpyTalk revealed that the Biden administration had spurned a previously unreported offer by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to release nine jailed Americans, as a well as a fugitive defense contractor and a group of imprisoned opposition figures, all in exchange for one man —Colombian businessman Alex Saab, Maduro’s top financial fixer who was awaiting trial in Miami on money-laundering charges. “This wouldn’t constitute a real, let alone good faith offer, because it includes Saab, whom we had already made very clear is off limits,” a White House source familiar with Maduro’s proposal told us. Well, it turns out that Maduro’s offer wasn’t the nonstarter that the White House had claimed. On Dec. 20, following six months of quiet negotiations mediated by Qatar, President Joe Biden granted clemency to Saab, who returned to Venezuela the same day. It also turns out that Saab was more than Maduro’s fixer. According to court papers, he had worked as a spy for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, providing intelligence about the inner workings of the Maduro regime. Some experts suspect Saab was a double agent who kept Maduro fully informed of his work for the DEA and may have even helped the Venezuelan leader foil a U.S.-backed coup attempt against him in 2019.

Saab grafitti in Venezuela.

In any event, on Dec. 20, ten Americans, six of whom the U.S. State Department had classified as wrongfully detained, were flown back to the United States, and some 20 opposition figures were released from prison in Venezuela. Separately, Venezuela also handed over Leonard Glenn Francis, better known as “Fat Leonard,” the central figure in the U.S. Navy’s largest ever corruption scandal. In 2015, the Malaysian fugitive was convicted here of bribing dozens of uniformed officers of the Navy’s Pacific-based Seventh fleet with cash, prostitutes and other favors in exchange for classified information on fleet movements that helped him win lucrative U.S. Navy service contracts for his Singapore-based ship servicing company. Last year, he fled house arrest in San Diego and made his way via Mexico and Cuba to Venezuela, where he was detained. Biden said he okayed the swap after Maduro agreed to meet U.S. demands for fair elections in Venezuela in 2024.

Terrorists Firing Missiles at Cargo Ships Are a Geopolitical Threat


Writing in the National Interest, James Holmes, the J.C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and one of our nation’s most perceptive geopolitical thinkers, senses trouble ahead for the world’s maritime powers in reading a report from U.S. Central Command that Yemeni rebels fired an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) at the bulk cargo ship Unity Explorer (owned by the United Kingdom and flying a Bahamanian flag) in the Red Sea. It was one of several attacks on commercial ships by Houthi rebels — attacks which Central Command characterized as “a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security” and that Shashank Joshi, defense editor of the Economist, calls a “threat to international shipping.” But, as Holmes points out, the threat may be much greater. (RELATED: Iran Is Backing Attacks Against US Troops)

Holmes suggests that the ASBM used by Yemeni rebels a few days ago is likely traceable to Iran and China. China’s PLA, Holmes points out, has a monopoly on ASBMs, noting that the “DF-21D and DF-26 missiles anchor China’s anti-access and area-denial network” which enables Chinese commanders “to strike . . . moving ships at sea up to 2,000 nautical miles distant.” Holmes believes that Chinese Communist Party leaders are “proliferating ASBMs around the Eurasian perimeter” for sound geopolitical reasons. To understand those reasons it is necessary to revisit the classical geopolitical writings of one Briton and two Americans: Halford Mackinder, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Nicholas Spykman.

Eurasia Is Central to Geopolitics

Mackinder, Mahan, and Spykman approached global geopolitics from the insular perspective of their maritime countries. Although they differed in some aspects of geopolitical thought, they agreed on the centrality of the Eurasian supercontinent to world politics. 

U.S. Navy Helo Crews Kill Houthi Assault Boat Teams After Red Sea Attack


Ten Houthi fighters are dead after attempted attacks on U.S. Navy forces and a merchant ship in the Red Sea, U.S. Central Command announced early Sunday morning.

The Houthis, embarking from Yemen, were attempting to seize MV Maersk Hangzhou and approached the container ship in four small boats.

“The small boats, originating from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, fired crew served and small arms weapons at the MAERSK HANGZHOU, getting to within 20 meters of the vessel, and attempted to board the vessel,” reads the statement.

Helicopters from destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) responded to a distress call from the Singapore-flagged merchant ship and came under fire from the Houthi attackers, reads the statement from CENTCOM.

The helicopter crews returned fire and sunk three of the four boats killing their crews. The fourth boat broke off and left the area, according to the statement.

In a statement following an earlier version of this post, Houthi spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said ten Houthis died in the attack.

“The American enemy forces attacked three boats belonging to the Yemeni naval forces, which led to the martyrdom and loss of ten members of the naval forces,” reads a translation of the statement posted on Telegram.
“[American] military movements in the Red Sea to protect Israeli ships will not prevent Yemen from performing its religious, moral, and humanitarian duty in support and victory for the oppressed in Palestine.”

What 2023 taught us about global warming


During 2023, better data and tools have produced new insights into how Americans are reacting to global warming. It’s a mixed picture.

Millions are moving away from dangerous weather, and millions are moving into it. Yet, we still are not doing nearly enough to address the root cause of climate change or adapt to the changes already underway.

Many of the most important insights came from the First Street Foundation, which analyzes the effects of global warming on communities and real estate in the United States.

Take floods, the most common weather disaster in the U.S. The foundation reported in December that a new precipitation model shows more than 1.3 million people can now expect 100-year floods every eight years. First Street found more than half of us live in places twice as likely to be flooded as previous estimates showed.

In 2018, using an advanced modeling tool, researchers at the University of Bristol found that 41 million Americans are at risk of 100-year floods, over three times more than estimated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). First Street’s new analysis is bad news not only for people who like living near water but also for taxpayers, insurance companies and governments struggling to balance their budgets. Federal data show disasters with damages exceeding $1 billion have grown from three per year in 1980 to 25 in 2023. Federal disaster relief only kicks in once municipalities and states have exhausted their resources.

But even these numbers underestimate the growing flood threat in the United States. One-hundred-year events are no longer the greatest risk. Monster hurricanes in recent years, such as Matthew, Irma and Harvey, produced 500- and 1,000-year floods. By 2017, the United States had experienced at least 24 500-year events.

Russia Wanted a Remarkable 85,000 Ton Monster Aircraft Carrier

Christian D. Orr

Russia for decades has wanted a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to match the U.S. Navy.

However, due to many reasons, Moscow never was able to complete the only one it laid down. So, what were the reasons for this failure?

Russia’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine has sparked a renewed round of interest in the country’s military technologies and weapons systems, though admittedly a lot of that interest stems from morbid curiosity on account of their poor performance.

Among the questions being raised is why Russia’s lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, isn’t being employed in the ongoing conflict.

Well, it turns out that the Kuznetsov is beset with a whole host of maladies, from reliance on an ultra-thick, tarry black substance called Mazut as its power source, to a 2019 onboard fire that cost 300-350 million rubles in damages.

This in turn begs an additional question: Why doesn’t Russia have a more modern nuclear-powered carrier?

Wherefore Art Thou, Russian Nuclear Aircraft Carrier?

Given Moscow’s developments in other facets of nuclear technology, from land-based nuclear refineries to nuclear submarines-such as the titanic Typhoon class – to nuclear ICBMs such as the new “Sarmat” – why haven’t they also been able to apply that industrial engineering knowhow to aircraft carriers?

Russia’s War on Woke

Mikhail Zygar

In March of this year, Russia will hold presidential elections. The contest, like ones past, will be highly choreographed, and its outcome is preordained. President Vladimir Putin, who has ruled Russia for more than 23 years, will dominate the race from the beginning. Every media outlet in Russia will promote his candidacy and praise his performance. His nominal opponents will, in fact, be government loyalists lined up to make the contest appear competitive. When all the ballots are counted, he will easily win.

Yet even though the election will be a farce, it is worth watching. That is because it is an opportunity for Putin to signal his plans for the next six years and, relatedly, to test different messaging strategies. Analysts can therefore expect him to do two main things. One is to play up Russia’s struggle against the West. But the other is something that Westerners will find familiar from domestic politics: decrying socially liberal, or “woke,” policies. Putin will, for example, talk a lot about family values, arguing that Russians should have traditional two-parent households with lots of children. He will denounce the so-called “LGBT movement” as a foreign campaign to undermine Russian life. And he will rail against abortions, even though most Russians support the right to have them.

The parallels with the American right are not coincidental. Putin and his advisers have adopted the views and rhetoric of conservative American firebrands, such as anchors on the Fox News channel. The Kremlin has done so because, by embracing the culture wars, it believes it can win over support from populist politicians in Washington and elsewhere. In fact, Russia has already won international right-wing fans. Conservative leaders across the United States and Europe, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, have praised Putin. Some of them have suggested they are happy to compromise over Ukraine’s future.

Putin’s far-right rhetoric and policies are thus a form of statecraft. By championing such causes, the president appears to believe he can undermine Western societies from within. He likely thinks he can thereby tear down the rules-based international order. And he probably hopes he can replace it with a new, conservative global system with the Kremlin at its center.

The Lands Ukraine Must Liberate

Frederick W. Kagan, George Barros, Noel Mikkelsen, and Daniel Mealie

A Ukraine strong enough to deter and defeat any future Russian aggression with an economy strong enough to prosper without large amounts of foreign aid is the only outcome of Russia’s war that the United States and the West should accept. Trusting Russian promises of good behavior would be foolish. Leaving Ukraine’s economy badly damaged would create a long-term and large drain on Western finances. Discussions about pressing Ukraine to trade land the Russians now occupy for a ceasefire or armistice have garnered attention recently, based on rumors of Kremlin interest in negotiations of some sort.[1] These discussions have thus far largely focused on the supposed intransigence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who, it is argued, must be pressed to accept that Ukraine must cede some of its territory. That argument ignores the question that should be central to any such discussion: what are the concrete military, economic, and financial consequences that these territorial sacrifices would have for Ukraine’s long-term security and economic viability or for the future financial burden they would impose on the supporters of an independent Ukraine? The serious evaluation of this question shows that there are real military and economic reasons for Ukraine to try to liberate all of the territory Russia now occupies and that, in any event, the current lines cannot be the basis for any settlement remotely acceptable to Ukraine or the West.

Russia Will Not Abandon Its Maximalist Aims Now or in the Future

Russian President Vladimir Putin and many Kremlin officials have driven deep into the Russian political consciousness the ideas that Ukraine has no independent identity and no basis to continue to exist as an independent state; that any Ukrainian government not totally subservient to Moscow is a pawn of the West and a threat to Russia; that Ukrainian opponents of Russian rule are Nazis intent on conducting genocide against Russians in Ukraine; and that Russia has a legal, moral, and religious obligation to extirpate these supposed threats and restore Ukraine to its rightful place as a historically Russian land.[2] Putin has made these arguments part of his 2024 presidential election platform.[3] Russian administrators are inserting them in curricula throughout Russia and occupied Ukraine.[4] Kremlin mouthpieces speak to the Russian domestic audience with one voice along these lines.[5] Putin is training Russians to commit themselves to the task of subjugating Ukraine, and that training will neither stop nor vanish following some negotiated ceasefire. It will, in fact, shape the thoughts and likely policies of Putin’s successors for years or decades.

U.S. oil production hit a record under Biden. He seldom mentions it.

Evan Halper and Toluse Olorunnipa

You won’t hear President Biden talking about it much, but a key record has been broken during his watch: The United States is producing more oil than any country ever has.

The flow of huge amounts of crude from American producers is playing a big role in keeping prices down at the pump, diminishing the geopolitical power of OPEC and taming inflation. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline nationwide has dropped to close to $3, and analysts project it could stay that way leading up to the presidential election, potentially assuaging the economic anxieties of swing-state voters who will be crucial to Biden’s hopes of a second term.

But it is not something the president publicly boasts about. The politics of oil are particularly tricky for Democrats, whose chances for victory in the 2024 elections could hinge on whether young, climate-conscious voters come out in big numbers. Many of those voters want to hear that Biden is doing everything in his power to keep oil in the ground.

“If you are not looking carefully at what the administration is actually doing, it is easy to get the wrong impression,” said Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, a research firm. “There are a lot of things going on at once. This is an administration which is focused on the energy transition, but also taking a pragmatic approach on fossil fuels.”
The United States is producing about 13.2 million barrels of crude oil per day. That is millions of gallons more than is coming out of Saudi Arabia or Russia. It is more oil than was being produced even at its peak during the pro-fossil-fuels administration of former president Donald Trump, when production was 13 million barrels a day in November 2019.

Voters who listen to Trump and Biden speak may come away with the impression that the opposite is true. Trump recently told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he would act as a dictator only on the first day of his presidency in 2025, in part because he wanted to “drill, drill, drill” for more oil. The former president has constantly attacked Biden’s clean energy agenda and accused him of squandering America’s prior “energy independence” because of allegiance to “environmental lunatics.”

Wartime Command & Control

Admiral Scott Swift, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Analyzing command and control (C2)—whether in an academic environment, a wargame or exercise debrief, or through a historical lens—can be an interesting but often sterile endeavor. Which senior leader made what decision based on what information available at which time? Which side put the right leaders in command with the proper control mechanisms and the authorities to act to gain decision advantage over the adversary? These are weighty but often lofty discussions.

There is nothing lofty and everything weighty about command and control in the 2026 scenario. It will be visceral and pressurized, with constant life-and-death decisions. As the scenario states, the stakes “are enormous—much greater than at any time since the Cold War or even World War II—and carry extraordinary implications. . . . ‘Business as usual’ is not viable.” Commanders at all levels will have to make the hardest decisions of their lives, often with limited time to think and with thousands of lives on the line.

What follows is a discussion of C2 based on years of study and experience in exercises and wargames focused on the western Pacific. I cannot pretend to have lived through—never mind led through—a war of this intensity. But U.S. and allied commanders must stretch their imaginations now to inform C2 relationships before such a scenario ever becomes a reality.

Initial Thoughts

It is important to explain command and control and its application, structure, execution, and management. The military mind tends to align things in vertical priorities, authorities, and responsibilities, so breaking C2 into a vertical, hierarchical context is the norm. That structuring takes the form of echelons of commands and formations and phases of competition and war.

The military does not do well with horizontal constraints and variables other than, perhaps, time. Even regarding time, services and commands focus on the near term—what needs to be done today, inclined toward crisis planning and crisis response rehearsals. When a longer view is taken, too often it does not inform near-term planning and actions. It expresses a desired end-state rather than a horizon for a long-term sequence of events; it remains, in other words, a variable that affects operational and tactical concerns, not strategic ones. Or, at the very least, it does not connect the operational and tactical considerations closely and sequentially with the strategic ones.

Cyber Warfare in 2023: A.I. Rises, Infrastructure in Peril, Hackers Learn to ‘Live Off the Land’


The National Security Agency (NSA) released its 2023 cybersecurity report on December 19, looking back over a year in which China and Russia remained massive cyber threats, artificial intelligence (A.I.) displayed growing promise and peril, and cyber threats to critical infrastructure grew more alarming.

NSA Director and US. Cyber Command chief Gen. Paul M. Nakasone described the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a “competitor with both the intent and ability to reshape the international order to fit its own designs,” an adversary “unique in the scope, scale, and sophistication of the threat it poses.”

Nakasone added that Russia “remains an acute threat,” thanks to both its military aggression in Ukraine and its “information operations intended to weaken democratic institutions around the world.”

The NSA director said A.I. “has the capacity to upend multiple sectors of society simultaneously,” especially if hostile nations develop a pronounced advantage in AI technology. The NSA created a new Artificial Intelligence Security Center in 2023 specifically to study both the advantages and dangers of this emerging technology.

Quantum cryptography is a new tech that shows great promise for protecting vital data and systems – unless it produces an unstoppable menace first.

Quantum computers are not merely faster than previous systems. They can process a huge number of operations simultaneously, using the principles of quantum physics, an exhilarating and terrifying prospect that is difficult to explain merely in terms of speed or processing power. To put it simply, powerful modern computers could count the grains of sand on a beach in a reasonable length of time, while quantum computers could count the number of atoms in the entire planet with comparable effort.

Patriot Systems Have Downed 15 'Undefeatable' Russian Kinzhal Missiles

Thomas Kika

Ukraine claimed on Sunday that Patriot missiles furnished by the United States have been used to shoot down over a dozen Russian missiles once deemed "undefeatable" by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin first launched his invasion of neighboring Ukraine in late February 2022, with the conflict having since dragged on longer than most would have ever predicted as it nears its two-year anniversary. According to estimates from the Ukrainian military, Russian forces have suffered nearly 360,000 deaths in the war, as well as countless losses of military hardware.

The Kremlin does not provide a running total of reported Ukrainian losses, but said on Saturday that 660 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the past day. Newsweek could not independently verify either count. While Ukrainian sources might be inflating such numbers, other experts agree that they reflect a dire situation for Russia's forces.

On Sunday, Colonel Yurii Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, claimed during a newscast appearance that Ukrainian forces had downed 15 Russian Kinzhal missiles in total using the anti-aircraft Patriot missiles, which first arrived from the U.S. in the spring.

U.S. Patriot missiles are seen in the field. Ukraine on Sunday claimed to have used the U.S.-provided missile system to down 15 supposedly "undefeatable" Russian missiles.


Ethan Brown

Societal fatigue is difficult to quantify, but lurking beneath the US military’s struggle to persuade enough young Americans to join its ranks is the exhaustion felt by the American people who just witnessed a generation of servicemembers deploy again and again to a war without bounds. A nation going to war possesses a limited budget in social capital—support for the war by the population. The Global War on Terrorism—with its major troop contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the associated, far-flung set of counterterrorism operations elsewhere—spent this capital early, borrowed on credit, and abused the resource to extremes after two decades. The American people (to include future viable service candidates) are exhausted at the cost of these years of war.

It is significant that multiple theaters of war, drone strikes in a range of countries, and smaller deployments, especially of special operations forces, around the world were lumped together under the label of the Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT. The term’s nebulousness did little to convey achievable strategic objectives. Even after President Barack Obama retired the term from official use in 2013, it has endured as the catchall of military operations, ranging by type and location, all justified by the attacks on September 11, 2001. It also is poignant that there was no overt declaration of the end of America’s longest war; rather, servicemember eligibility for the National Defense Service Medal—the ubiquitous award received by all servicemembers since September 11, 2001—ended on December 31, 2022 with nary a whisper. Unceremoniously, the next generation of recruits entered the queue for the American military’s next era haunted by the ghost of GWOT.

Much has been written about the Defense Department’s flagging efforts to address the growing challenge of military recruitment in recent years. Since 2021—GWOT’s apparent end, bannered by the ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan—DoD has consistently missed its recruiting goals across its service branches, resulting in the lowest recruiting numbers seen since 1999. It should be noted that, in every era of America’s emergence from conflict, recruiting numbers always shrink amid demobilization. The post-GWOT era, however, carries greater risk than before because of the ghost that hangs over the enterprise.

The Joker at the Funeral

Kevin J. McNamara

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues a long tradition of major powers trampling on the sovereignty of the countries and peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. Before launching his war, Vladimir Putin claimed in speeches and essays that Ukraine was not a real country, and his ruling United Russia party introduced a bill in the State Duma to repeal Lithuania’s independence. China’s ambassador to France followed in 2023 by stating that countries liberated in 1991 from forcible absorption into the Soviet Union “don’t have effective status under international law [or] status as sovereign nations.”

The most infamous example was conjured by the proud “appeasers” who led Great Britain and France in the run-up to World War II, Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier, who handed much of Czechoslovakia over to Hitler with high-minded ease in the Munich Agreement of 1938. Of course, Hitler was not appeased.

Where do great powers get the idea that these countries are unfit to survive? It may be fed by the supposition that these smaller countries won’t fight, an idea Ukraine is refuting. But in Czecho-Slovakia’s case, it may have been inspired by literature, particularly The Good Soldier Švejk, a world-famous novel that observes the 100th anniversary of its publication and the death of its author, Jaroslav Hašek, this year.

The “good soldier,” Josef Švejk, is an easy-going, seemingly idiotic, yet cleverly passive-aggressive soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army in World War I when the Czechs and Slovaks were constituent peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He mumbles and stumbles his way through the war, deploying a deft imbecility to exploit any shortfalls of military discipline and loopholes in army regulations in such a way as to avoid combat or any productive endeavor and to make his commanders look foolish.

Published shortly after Czecho-Slovakia’s independence in 1918—and twenty years prior to Munich—one of the first of liberated Prague’s novels to reach a worldwide audience created an indelible stereotype of the archetype Czech or Czecho-Slovak personality, which exhibits weakness and passivity in the face of threats or aggression.

Time to test a ship-based hypersonic missile launcher

Diana Stancy Correll

Flight tests using a ship-based hypersonic missile launcher will start in 2024, according to Lockheed Martin.

The Navy aims to field hypersonic weapons aboard the destroyer Zumwalt in 2025, and the ship is currently undergoing a modernization period to install the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missile system, among other updates. American Shipbuilder HII is outfitting the destroyer with the weapon system in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

“The upgrades will ensure Zumwalt remains one of the most technologically advanced and lethal ships in the U.S. Navy,” Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesperson for the Naval Surface Force, told Navy Times in a statement in August.

US to bring back aircraft carrier from eastern Mediterranean

Luis Martinez

The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group will leave the eastern Mediterranean Sea, where it was sent just after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, in the "coming days," two U.S. officials tell ABC News.

The Ford is the U.S. Navy's newest and largest aircraft carrier and was nearing the end of its first operational deployment when it was redirected to the eastern Mediterranean the day after Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sent the carrier and the five other surface warships to deter Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran from broadening the conflict regionally, saying at the time: "As part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas' attack on Israel." In December, Austin extended the carrier's deployment for a third time to maintain that deterrence role as tensions in the region remained high.

A senior U.S. official and a U.S. official told ABC News that in the "coming days," the carrier and other surface ships that make up the strike group will return to the carrier's home port of Norfolk, Virginia, as originally scheduled so it could prepare for future deployments.

The senior U.S. official stressed that the carrier's return will keep to that schedule and that even with the Ford's departure, the United States will still have a lot of military capability in the region and flexibility, including the deployment of additional cruisers and destroyers in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

"We have nothing to announce today," said a Defense Department spokesman when contacted for comment.

Navy’s supercarrier strategy will go on after USS Nimitz is gone


The USS Nimitz has been the template of American sea power for nearly a half-century.

Commissioned four days after the fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War in 1975, the 100,000-ton supercarrier powered by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors could set off at 30 knots to trouble spots around the world and catapult 80 attack jets at enemies.

“You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to use their bases or provide fuel for your ship — you just go and stay for as long as you need,” said Mark Cancian, a retired Marine colonel who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The Navy would add nine more Nimitz-class carriers to the fleet over the next 34 years. When the Nimitz-class carrier USS George H.W. Bush was commissioned in 2009, the Navy simultaneously retired its last non-nuclear carrier, USS Kitty Hawk.

USS Nimitz is in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for several months of maintenance before it starts what’s likely its final assignment: retirement. It will be followed in regular intervals by its older sister ships.

“Inactivation of Nimitz class aircraft carriers is currently scheduled to begin with USS Nimitz in 2026, subject to Congressional budget approval,” said Alan Baribeau, a spokesman for the Office of Corporate Communications at Naval Sea Systems Command.

While the Nimitz may disappear from the fleet, the idea it came to represent — the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike force — will live on.

How the military celebrates the New Year, according to combat veterans


New Year’s Eve. Deployed. No family in sight. That’s something many who have served in the U.S. military have experienced. But don’t shed a tear: These combat veterans recall their New Year’s Eve celebrations as some of their top ‘ringing in the New Year’ celebrations of all time.

The experiences of service members on the eve of the new year have varied throughout the years. Some celebrated by holding a freezing cold church service in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Others, more recently, could video-chat with family back home as they watched the ball drop in New York City. Either way, an American serving their nation far from home will always find a way to ring in the new year while deployed.

Kyle Dykstra

What better way to ring in the new year than sending a massive fireball into the Afghan sky? That’s the experience Kyle Dykstra, a forward observer with the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, had while deployed to Fire Base Tycz in Deh Rawod, Afghanistan in 2009.

Dykstra and the rest of his platoon were attached to a 7th Special Forces Group ODA tasked with training local Afghan police departments. The Green Berets were set to redeploy back home soon and had to get rid of several 55-gallon drums of diesel and leftover explosives before they could hand over the base to the next ODA. So why not detonate it all together at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve?

“They said, ‘Hey man, we’re going to go out and, and uh, we’ve got some stuff planned for New Year’s Eve. You guys want to join us?” Dykstra recalled.

It was an easy choice. Dykstra and his platoon had been hitting it hard training their Afghan allies. They pulled all of their vehicles out to the edge of the firebase after the Green Berets set up their New Year’s Eve ‘fireworks.’