13 January 2024

Importance of Bab el-Mandeb Strait

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, situated between Djibouti and Yemen, represents the southern entry point to the Red Sea and holds strategic importance in connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean.

People dance on the deck of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen (Image/Reuters)

Bab al-Mandab, also known as the “Gate of Tears,” is a narrow strait connecting the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, serving as a crucial link between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It spans approximately 20 miles at its narrowest point, bordered by Djibouti to the west and Yemen to the east. This strait is a vital maritime route, facilitating the movement of vessels between Europe and Asia.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, situated between Djibouti and Yemen, represents the southern entry point to the Red Sea and holds strategic importance in connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it limits shipping traffic to two narrow channels for both inbound and outbound shipments.

'I cannot sleep in peace' - Israelis fearful as Hezbollah tensions soar

Wyre Davies

When she heard and watched reports of what was happening in southern Israel that morning, as heavily armed Hamas gunmen streamed out of Gaza, she was immediately taken back to stories from the "Yom Kippur" or 1973 Middle East war, when Israel was attacked simultaneously on two fronts.

"I was terrified. Everyone was sleeping in and I thought it's going to be '73 all over again and Hezbollah is coming for us too," says Efrat, as our interview in her front garden is punctuated by the regular loud thud of outgoing Israeli artillery fire.

"Immediately, I woke everyone up and very quickly got everything together and drove to a relative's house in the centre of Israel."

After a month the family returned to their house near Kiryat Shmona, frustrated because they're still living on the edge of a war zone - a "buffer zone" as Efrat calls it - well within range of Hezbollah rockets being fired from southern Lebanon.

"What we fear most is that nothing will be done because Hezbollah are just waiting there on the border to come in and invade Israel," says the mother-of-three. "I cannot sleep in peace. I want my government to make sure that we have real security here. If it is necessary, they should act and destroy Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon."

Ever since violence here erupted on 8 October, when Hezbollah fired rockets and artillery "in solidarity" with the Palestinians, and Israel fired back, clashes in the north are generally confined to a three- or four-mile-wide (5-6km) strip along the entire border.

Was Saleh al-Arouri Special, or Is Israel Just Getting Started?

Hussein Ibish

Israel’s assassination of the Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri by drone strike in Beirut on January 2 suggests that the Israel-Hamas war could still easily spill over into a regional conflict or launch a string of assassinations that drag in third-party states. What happens next will depend in part on just how unique a figure al-Arouri really was in the estimation of his Israeli adversaries, and on whether his death will prove to be an inflection point between Israel and Hezbollah.

Most of the Hamas political leaders in exile are based in the Qatari capital of Doha, where they have essentially become the organization’s diplomatic wing—useful for appearing on television or arranging financial and other forms of support. Al-Arouri, by contrast, played a significant role with Hamas’s paramilitary wing, the Qassam Brigades, which he helped found. He was a vital liaison between the movement’s external political leadership and its paramilitary leaders in Gaza, including Yahya Sinwar. Toggling between Turkey and Lebanon, he was also Hamas’s point man with its most important allies: Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran’s Quds Force, and segments of Turkey’s Islamist government.

Whether al-Arouri can simply be replaced by someone else depends on the extent to which these aspects of Hamas’s operations have been institutionalized. His death could well leave significant gaps in Hamas’s ability to network with key allies, and it is surely a blow to an organization currently fending off an Israeli onslaught.

Israeli leaders have continuously vowed that they will hunt down and kill all major Hamas figures, especially those they deem responsible for October 7. But the Beirut drone attack marks the first time since October 7 that Israel has taken out a major Hamas figure outside Gaza. What if it is just the beginning of an international campaign?

Qatar would then become the place to watch. Hamas politicians such as Ismail Hanniyeh, Khaled Mishal, Mousa Abu Marzouk, and Fathi Hamad found refuge in Qatar when they were forced to flee Damascus after the uprising in Syria in 2011. But a campaign of assassinations in Qatar would prompt a major crisis with a relatively friendly Gulf Arab country (Israel had an official trade office in Doha for a number of years in the 1990s). It could also greatly irritate the United States, which has a strong military partnership with Qatar—so much so that the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command, the Al-Udeid air base, is situated there.

What’s Behind Israel’s Crackdown in the West Bank?

Isaac Chotiner

Last week, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on the “rapid deterioration” of conditions in the West Bank following Hamas’s October 7th attack. Israeli security forces have killed nearly three hundred Palestinians, sometimes using “unnecessary or disproportionate force”; thousands of Palestinians have been arrested for minor incidents; and Israeli settlers have forced more than a thousand Palestinians from their land. The report called for the Israeli government to hold settlers and security forces accountable for violations of human rights. (As the report notes, settlers have only rarely been charged with crimes for attacks on Palestinians.)

To understand how the current situation in the West Bank will shape the future of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, I recently spoke by phone with Ibrahim Dalalsha, the director at the Horizon Center for Political Studies and Media Outreach, a think tank in Ramallah. He previously worked as an adviser at the United States consulate in Jerusalem for two decades before it closed, in 2019. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how Palestinians viewed the attacks of October 7th, whether Israel has a real plan for either the West Bank or Gaza, and how the violence visited upon Palestinians manifests itself in Palestinian politics.

What does the current state of the West Bank tell us about the Israeli government’s understanding of the conflict with Palestinians right now?

If you go back to 2021 and 2022, for the past two and a half years in the West Bank, things were not calm. In fact, there was a lot of concern about the security situation in the area. There were intensive Israeli military operations with a lot of focus on local militant groups. There was an Israeli narrative that Gaza had been contained, but the West Bank had not. So the West Bank, as such, was never calm before October 7th.

China Meddles In Taiwan’s Presidential Election With False Framing About ‘Peace And War’


The first consequential election of 2024 will take place on Jan. 13, when millions of Taiwanese go to the polls to choose the island’s next president. Communist China framed the election as a choice between “peace and war.” It’s false framing and overt election interference. Frankly, China will likely invade Taiwan regardless of whoever is elected.

Currently, three candidates are running for the office of president. The front-runner is Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai Ching-te, who is a candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Trailing behind Lai are Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).

Hou and Ko are considered Beijing-friendly because they advocate for engagement and cooperation with Beijing. The TPP, founded in 2019, is not as influential as the KMT because the KMT has a long history of governing Taiwan, including being the island’s ruling party between 1949 and the early 1990s. Additionally, Hou of the KMT promised to adhere to the “One China” policy, which was enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of China (an official name of Taiwan). Although the KMT and Beijing have different interpretations of the “One China” policy (each side believes it is the only legitimate representative of China), Beijing regards the acknowledgment of the “One China” concept as a prerequisite for any cross-strait engagement. Therefore, Beijing has made it known that its preferred candidate is Hou.

Beijing Against DPP’s Lai

Beijing doesn’t hide its resentment toward Lai of the DPP. It brands the DPP as a pro-independent “separatist” party because the DPP’s charter states that it aims to “establish a sovereign, independent, and autonomous Republic of Taiwan.” Beijing also sees past DPP leaders’ emphasis on teaching Taiwan’s history and culture in schools as covert moves toward independence. Beijing is especially concerned about the DPP’s popularity with Taiwan’s younger generation, which favors identifying as Taiwanese and rejecting Beijing’s forced “unification,” which they see as an annexation of their homeland.

Is China preparing for a war over Taiwan, or has the west got it wrong? Here are the indicators

Tom Harper

At a time when Russia has been making gains in Ukraine and the Middle East appears to be on the brink of further regional conflict, a China-US military stand off is the last thing the world needs.

At first glance however, it might appear that China is preparing for a long-term conflict with the US over Taiwan, the self-governing island of 24 million people, which the mainland claims.

In his New Year’s address China’s president, Xi Jinping, stated that Taiwan would “surely be reunited” with China. This is particularly significant as it comes days ahead of Taiwan’s national election on January 13. The result which may deliver a more pro-Beijing government opting for closer ties, or what is currently looking more likely a Taiwanese leader who wants to keep Beijing at arms length.

The election will see the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) face off against the conservative Kuomintang (KMT). The DPP’s candidate, Lai Ching-te, who has been leading in the polls, has often been described as a more outspoken advocate of Taiwanese independence than his predecessor, the outgoing Tsai Yingwen, who took a more diplomatic approach, believing there was no need to state her support for independence as the island was a sovereign nation.

Any shift or pro-independence statement is likely to be seen by Beijing as a prompt for military action, since a formal declaration of independence is a red line for Beijing. In contrast, the KMT is seen as closer to Beijing. The US has traditionally supported Taiwan’s semi-independent status and sees it as a convenient regional ally. Coupled with the intensification of Chinese military flights around Taiwan’s airspace, all of these elements point to Taiwan as a potential trigger for a conventional US-China conflict.

Other key indicators

There are other key indicators to watch out for. The Chinese military has expanded and modernised over the past five years, and its advances in hypersonic missile technology puts Beijing at an advantage, as the US hasn’t yet deployed an equivalent.

Tokyo Must Finally Bury the Hatchet with South Korea

Mark S. Cogan

As the old Arabian proverb goes, “a promise is a cloud, fulfillment is rain.” Overtures over the years to improve Japan-South Korea ties have been attempted and failed, tarnished time after time over bitter historical memory over Japan’s colonial rule over Korea between 1910 and 1945.

The late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought to improve ties over security concerns about North Korean provocation, but like his counterpart, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon in the end, failed. In 2008, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also wanted to improve ties with Tokyo and then-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, but that too, predictably failed.

Now both countries, sharing concerns over the growing military aggression shown by China and other adversaries over the past decade or so, have again made promises that have yet to produce the proverbial rain. Since taking power in 2022, South Korean President Yook Suk-Yeol has demonstrated the need to restore ties, highlighting Tokyo’s current national security contributions rather than speaking to its imperial past.

But as usual, historical grievances are getting in the way. Just a few days before the end of 2023, Japan made a diplomatic complaint over South Korean military drills in preparation for the defense of the disputed Takeshima/Dokdo islands. A month earlier, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa criticized a decision by a Seoul court that ruled in favor of “comfort women” who are seeking compensation from Japan, as both countries recently held talks over the launch of a North Korean military spy satellite.

This is just part and parcel of Japan-South Korea bilateral bickering as regional security challenges become more pronounced. Despite some progress regarding economics, both Seoul and Tokyo must find a way to resolve their long-standing disputes in pursuit of a more important joint security objective—containing regional aggression.

DIA's New China Mission Group Will Track the Threat Posed by AI Development


Improved defense intelligence collection and analysis of emerging technologies will rely on forming new partnerships between government and industry, according to leadership at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Doug Wade, the head of the DIA’s China Mission Group, spoke during a Tuesday media discussion about his agency’s effort to bring together the best of industry to identify specific threats China poses and coordinate responses .

Among the group’s areas of concern: China’s cyber capabilities and development of artificial intelligence technology.

“So China is investing heavily right in its AI and ML capabilities,” Wade said. “China's ability to use things like AI to ensure that they have strong…surveillance coverage of citizens, whether they're China citizens or whether they export that technology to other regimes around the world, and then those regimes use it to exert totalitarian control.”

Wade said that this potential exportation of AI technology should be an area of concern as a threat to U.S. national security, as well as to ally nations in Europe.

“I would imagine that they [Europe] should feel a lot of concern about what China is doing, probably primarily on the commercial, intellectual property theft, cyber exploitation [front],” he said.

He further noted that there is a “growing realization” within the intelligence community that demands a better understanding of how China uses its emerging technology systems in a geopolitical context, including quantum computing.

China’s space warfare plan advances killer missiles capable of disabling U.S. satellite

Bill Gertz

China’s plans for space warfare include cyberattacks and electronic jamming to disrupt and disable U.S. satellite systems and, in the future, small robot satellites to grab or crush U.S. military space sensors, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official report.

China’s three types of anti-satellite missiles capable of blasting satellites at all orbits are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party Central Military Commission, headed by President Xi Jinping, and represent a deterrent force, said Kristin Burke, deputy national intelligence officer for space at the National Intelligence Council, a senior analysis unit.

Ms. Burke disclosed new details of Chinese space warfare capabilities in a Dec. 11 report, which identified the People’s Liberation Army units in charge of space cyberwarfare, electronic jamming and directed energy attacks on satellites. The report also revealed the locations of PLA bases and units armed with road-mobile anti-satellite missiles.

The unclassified report is based on PLA military and technical writings. It was written to help U.S. military planners target Chinese space warfare assets and better prepare in war games for a possible conflict with Beijing. The 79-page report, “PLA Counterspace Command and Control,” was published by the Air Force China Aerospace Studies Institute.

Mr. Xi declared in a 2012 speech to PLA missile forces that the military must “step up the construction of ground-based anti-satellite operational forces and ensure the on-schedule formation of combat capability.”

China’s most lethal strategic space weapons are three types of satellite-killing missiles identified in the report as the DN-1, DN-2 and DN-3, one of which is deployed on a road-mobile launcher. The missiles can reach all three orbit levels: low, medium, and geosynchronous.

Geosynchronous orbit is about 22,300 miles above Earth, where many intelligence and global navigation satellites are located. An attack on a satellite in that orbit could create a damaging debris field for more than 6,000 military and civilian satellites.

China makes preparations for a war that the Pentagon says is not inevitable

Bill Gertz

China is preparing for a conflict with the United States by taking steps that include military reforms and drills, a stockpiling of oil and food, increased spying and military appointments.

Despite what critics say are the mounting danger signs, the Pentagon insists that conflict with China is neither imminent nor inevitable.

The Defense Department’s assurances are increasingly tough to sell to many in Congress. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican, said U.S. military commanders and intelligence officials warn that Chinese military forces are getting ready for military action as soon as 2027.

CIA Director William J. Burns, whose agency’s primary mandate is to ferret out foreign threats over the horizon, said the Chinese military has doubts about a successful invasion of Taiwan. Still, he warned in a recent speech that “the risks of conflict are likely to grow the further out you get into this decade and beyond it.”

An open-source analysis of war preparation measures indicates a conflict with China may not be imminent, but indicators that war can be avoided indefinitely are more obscure. Large-scale Chinese military exercises near Taiwan have triggered one warning light.

“I’m very concerned these escalatory military exercises are a pretense for an invasion,” Mr. Rogers said in a recent hearing.

Nerves are clearly on edge in the region. On Tuesday, China launched a satellite atop a rocket that passed over Taiwan and set off warnings throughout the island after some of the alerts mistakenly identified the craft as a Chinese missile.

Iran’s Strategy of Proxy Encirclement

Michael Hochberg & Leonard Hochberg

There are two prevailing interpretations of the recent Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The first interpretation is that these are proxy attacks, sponsored by Iran, aimed at undermining freedom of the seas and the American-led international rules-based order. By disrupting shipping and trade flows, Iran gets to extract a price from the West for supporting Israel against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, their proxies in Gaza. Certainly the relevant weapons are being provided by Iran, which suggests that Iran sees strategic benefits in these attacks.

Iran’s autocratic allies and sponsors also benefit: The Chinese, who originated much of this missile technology, certainly cannot be unhappy to see American and allied naval resources tied up in the Red Sea, when they might otherwise be in the Taiwan straits and the South China Sea. They’ll also be delighted to have an opportunity to test missile and drone technology in a live-fire scenario against American convoy defenses. And Russia, of course, benefits both from American resources being diverted from the Ukraine conflict and from the increased oil prices that emerge from chaos in the shipping lanes. But here Chinese and Russian interests diverge: The Chinese are highly dependent on hydrocarbons from Iran and other Persian Gulf states. This Chinese reliance on maritime commerce goes a long way toward explaining why Iranian missiles are being used to shut down the Bab al-Mandeb, but not the Straits of Hormuz.

The second interpretation of these attacks rests on the desire to harm Israel by disrupting shipping to and from Israeli ports. While the Houthis may well desire to attack Israel as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, their local fight for territory and influence in Yemen, against Saudi proxies, is surely their first priority. Firing missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia, and at international shipping invites reprisals from powerful Western enemies.

There is a third interpretation that brings the situation into clearer focus: Prior to the events of October 7th, 2023, an alliance between Israel and the Arab states, against Iran, was emerging. The Gulf states desperately need Israeli technology, expertise, and capital in order to move their economies off of a hydrocarbon base. Israel is potentially a significant exporter of LNG, following discoveries in the Leviathan natural gas oil field, which aligns Israeli economic interests with other energy exporters. Hamas, an Iranian proxy, shattered that emerging alliance.

Is Russia regrouping for renewed cyberwar?

Clint Watts 

As the second year of the Russian war in Ukraine commences, a detailed survey of the cyberattacks used during the first year of the war, and especially new developments we have observed in recent months, provide hints of what the future of this hybrid war may hold.

Since the start of the war, Russia has deployed at least nine new wiper families and two types of ransomware against more than 100 government and private sector Ukrainian organizations. Strong cyber defense partnerships between the public and private sector, and Ukrainian preparedness and resilience, has successfully defended against most of these attacks, but Russian activity continues.

In 2023, Russia has stepped up its espionage attacks, targeting organizations in at least 17 European nations, mostly government agencies. Wiper attacks continue in Ukraine.

We also continue to monitor for the development and deployment of new ransomware variants. As of late November 2022, Microsoft and other security firms identified a new form of ransomware, called “Sullivan”, deployed against Ukrainian targets, in addition to the “Prestige” ransomware Russia deployed in Ukraine and Poland in October 2022. Our analysis suggests that Russia will continue to conduct espionage attacks against Ukraine and Ukraine’s partners, and destructive attacks within and potentially outside Ukraine as was done with Prestige.

The Russian hybrid offensive has also included sophisticated influence operations. For example, Moscow’s propaganda machine has recently taken aim at Ukrainian refugee populations across Europe, trying to convince them that they could be deported and conscripted into the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine Scrambles to Draft Cyber Law, Legalizing Its Volunteer Hacker Army

Shaun Waterman

Ukraine's government is drafting a new law to bring its volunteer hacker brigade, the IT Army, into the armed forces, aiming to put an end to uncertainty about its status in a legal gray area that has drawn pointed warnings from the Red Cross.

The IT Army of Ukraine has claimed responsibility for cyber attacks such as knocking offline the websites of Russian state media during President Vladimir Putin's recent annual State of the Nation speech. But the hacktivist group, which has recruited foreign volunteers who need only a computer or a smartphone to join the fight, has also drawn criticism for attacking civilian targets such as Russian banks, food delivery servces and video-sharing sites.

The IT Army has been held up as an example for other countries. If the law passes, Ukraine would join a handful of other Western nations, led by Finland and Estonia, that have a full-scale reserve cyber force to augment their regular military, although several more countries have reserve military units with cyber capabilities.

"The law on the creation and functioning of cyber forces within the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine should be adopted as soon as possible," Nataliya Tkachuk, Secretary of Ukraine's National Coordination Center for Cybersecurity, told Newsweek in written responses to detailed questions. The center is part of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's National Security and Defense Council.

Tkachuk added the new law would "become the basis for building the state's cyber defense capabilities, engaging cyber volunteers in these activities, and creating a cyber reserve"—a force of civilian cyber experts, trained by the military, who could be mobilized to the nation's defense during times of increased cyber threat or conflict.

Tkachuk didn't answer follow-up questions, but based on her description of the law, it appears that Ukraine's cyber reserve would effectively replace or absorb the loosely organized volunteers of the IT Army with a much more formal force, the core of which would be former conscripts, identified as technically adept during their post-highschool compulsory military service and given special training with technical skills.


Collin Meisel and Caleb Petry

As we rounded the corner into the new year, our media feeds were once again bombarded by that annual tradition: retrospectives on the past year, its lessons learned, and predictions of what’s to come in the year that follows. The latter category is sure to come with cautionary caveats—namely, that “prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” It’s an old saw—variously attributed to Neils Bohr, Yogi Berra, Mark Twain, and others—often trotted out by analysts when asked to opine what the future holds. And as the dramatic events in Ukraine have illustrated over the past two years, it’s especially applicable to forecasts of war.

The future is fundamentally unknowable, so why bother making forecasts about war or any other phenomena?

Forecasting, which is closely related to but distinct from prediction, allows us to unpack our assumptions of how the world works, consider and contrast outcomes driven by alternative assumptions, and reduce or at least highlight uncertainties. Despite the particularly unknowable nature of the international system and the yet-to-be-made decisions of its leading figures, there are some things we can know. Even better, we know why we know them.

To paraphrase another quote that has been misattributed to Mark Twain, it isn’t what we know that creates trouble, but what we know for sure that just ain’t so. In other words, it is important to distinguish between what we know and what is conventionally believed to be true but isn’t. We can use forecasting to do so. While forecasts fall far short of predicting the future to a tee, they can assist with long-term planning and help us better prepare for whatever futures may come.

US Army carves out its role in space

Jen Judson

The U.S. Army’s mission when it comes to operating in space and using space capabilities is shifting to adapt to the arrival of the U.S. Space Force.

Before the Space Force’s establishment in 2019, the Army’s space-related mission areas included satellite communication; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and missile warning. All of those capabilities were transferred to the Space Force over the last several years.

But, according to a new vision document released Tuesday, the service is carving out new space-related missions: Integrating joint space capabilities and interdicting or disrupting adversaries’ use of space for hostile purposes.

“Developing new space capabilities organizations and trained professional soldiers to develop effects for Army maneuver forces is critical to multi-domain operations,” the vision document says. “Rapid proliferation and tactical application of competitor space capabilities will erode the advantages that ensure U.S. land dominance. To counter this challenge, current and future Army space integration and interdiction capabilities must enable multi-domain operations for the Army.”

The short document, signed by the Army chief of staff, the secretary and the sergeant major, is focused on stressing “the need to create and exploit space domain effects that enable successful Army operations,” according to an accompanying statement. “The vision also communicates the urgent need to invest more in space capabilities and formations.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George said in the statement that “Army space capabilities are built to collocate with and operate alongside ground maneuver formations, providing the appropriate effects for commanders to maintain timing, tempo and synchronization.”

The Army has begun to grow interdiction capabilities and formations to take on the mission, Army Space and Missile Defense Command spokeswoman Lira Frye told Defense News in a Jan. 8 email.


LT Jack Tribolet

Educational wargaming is underutilized and possesses the potential to teach warfighters intricate modern doctrine and force capabilities. Historically, analytical wargaming has functioned as a critical tool for military leadership, offering insights into force capabilities and aiding decision-making through experiential learning. Yet, within the US Navy and Marine Corps, the potential of digital or electronic wargaming as an educational platform for junior officers and Midshipmen remains largely untapped. Traditional tabletop wargames, once favored by older generations, fail to engage the younger, digitally-raised cohort and instead cater to a niche community. Statistics speak volumes— about 80 percent of Generation Z and Millennials play video games and average around seven hours of weekly gametime—highlighting the opportunity for a new generation of wargames. This data underscores a missed opportunity in leveraging simulator-based educational wargaming for the 21st-century Navy and USMC. The capacity to craft a sophisticated, educational, and enjoyable physics-based simulator exists, and it is incumbent upon the Navy and USMC to embrace this modern technology for Professional Military Education (PME) and junior officer training.

In the Fall of 2023, the University of Southern California’s Naval ROTC program embarked on a year-long initiative to introduce Midshipmen to the complexities of the Taiwan problem set. This scenario-focused education requires a significant understanding of naval and amphibious operations and is ideal for incorporating wargames. USC’s educational program blends discussions, lectures, and essential reading materials, such as James R. Holmes’ Red Star Over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy (2018), which enabled the students to have an in-depth discussion with Dr. Holmes via Zoom regarding Taiwan. However, it is worth noting that this initiative provides only an introductory-level education for Midshipmen and would benefit immensely from the addition of fleet-integrated educational wargaming.

The long shadow of the Red Sea shipping disruption

Alex Mills

More than 80 percent of international trade by volume is transported by sea, and as the current situation in the Red Sea illustrates, disruptions to shipping routes can have wide-reaching effects.

The direct impacts of increased shipping time and fuel costs have captured the attention of market watchers and policymakers—but these are just the tip of the iceberg. As the disruption continues, firms will face challenges with increased insurance costs, decreased ship security, and wider ESG impacts, among others. The longer it lasts and the wider the area covered, the more numerous the challenges become.

The situation in the Red Sea also provides a small taste of the future of geopolitical risk. The Red Sea is one of the main trade routes between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, with Clarksons estimating that 10 percent of world trade by volume utilizes this route. This includes 20 percent of all container shipping, nearly 10 percent of seaborne oil, and 8 percent of LNG. However, the Red Sea is not unique in its importance: Strategic chokepoints for maritime trade exist all around the globe, from canals to naturally occurring straits and funnels. As actors observe the impacts of Houthi threats and attacks, others will begin to consider their ability to orchestrate something similar. Of particular concern would be the potential for a global economic crisis if these methods were to be mimicked on other high-volume routes, in particular the South China Sea.

To prepare for and prevent these disruptions, policymakers need to understand the long shadow of disruptions to major shipping routes. And to do that it helps to explore the impact that the Red Sea disruption will have, depending on how long it lasts.

Effects of a disruption lasting one week to one month

Ship availability

In the medium term, one of the largest issues will be ships simply being in the wrong place. Supply chains have evolved to meet just-in-time strategies. This creates a delicate balance between each part of the supply chain, which is especially pressured between containers and ships.

Europe needs a new Ukraine strategy

Mark Leonard

It took European Union leaders eight hours – a relatively short time, by EU standards – to agree to start accession negotiations with Ukraine. While this decision represents a major victory for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, it came at a high cost, as Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban blocked the disbursement of €50 billion in aid that Ukraine desperately needs to defend itself. As the war approaches its second anniversary, Europe finds itself in a double bind.

While policymakers in the United States and Europe are wary of using confiscated Russian assets to support Ukraine’s war effort and reconstruction, their concerns are, at best, misguided. Ukraine urgently needs these funds to win the war, and failing to make these resources available now is unconscionable.

The EU’s Ukraine strategy rests on three main pillars. First, European leaders have committed to a definition of victory that implies the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and have pledged to support Ukraine until it reclaims all territory occupied by Russia during the war’s early stages.

Second, Europe’s Russia policy has been entirely focused on economic sanctions and international isolation. Western firms have fled Saint Petersburg and Moscow en masse, the G7 has imposed a price cap on Russian oil, and hundreds of Russian diplomats have been expelled from Western capitals.

Lastly, Europe’s reliance on American support has reached levels not seen since the cold war. Despite the United States’ escalating rivalry with China, President Joe Biden’s administration has committed substantial diplomatic, economic, and military resources to ensuring Europe’s security and stability.

Consequently, Ukraine has managed to retain roughly 82 per cent of its pre-invasion territory, while Russia has suffered significant losses in personnel and resources. Moreover, the transatlantic alliance – deemed all but dead during former US president Donald Trump’s term – is now stronger than it has been at any point since the end of the cold war.

How an “Endless War” Begins


The contours of America’s debate over foreign policy have shifted dramatically over the past three decades. The dominant frame of foreign policy debates in the 1990s, triumphalism about democracy, globalization, and free markets, came to an end with the 9/11 attacks.

At the start of the 2010s, the discussion moved away from the “global war on terror” and the effort to spread freedom and democracy and towards a more fragmented and inward-looking discussion about global affairs, one characterized by more self-doubt in America about its role in the world than perhaps ever before.

This transformation inside of America’s foreign policy debate occurred around the same time as shifts in geopolitical tectonic plates happened: China steadily took steps to play a bigger role in the global arena and economy while Russia played a more assertive role in sowing division and gridlock in democracies in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Add to that mix the rise of a range of complicated, borderless transnational issues like climate change, terrorism, immigration, and cybersecurity.

In this new, confusing landscape in the politics of U.S. national security, debates became more polemical and caustic, with increasingly niche foreign policy camps advocating divergent agendas that undercut America’s sense of purpose in the world. Years of costly combat operations by the U.S. military in places like Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to a new isolationist mood on the left and the right that called to “end endless wars,” as if military conflicts around the world were simply the product of bad decisions made in Washington, D.C.

Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine’s War of Independence, Yaroslav Trofimov’s riveting account covering the first year of Russia’s war against Ukraine and Ukraine’s efforts to fight back in order to preserve its independence, offers a vivid reminder that “endless wars” don’t just happen by accident. They’re the result of actions by extremist forces determined to obliterate others who they see as a challenge to who they are and what they stand for, as well as indifference, inaction, or slow responses from the outside world.

US eyes first multinational meeting to implement new ‘responsible AI’ declaration


U.S. Defense and State Department officials aim to meet with delegates from at least 50 other nations by mid-2024 to discuss the nascent framework and standards doctrine they’ve recently signed onto, pledging to “responsibly” develop and deploy artificial intelligence and autonomous military technologies, according to a top Pentagon policymaker.

Originally produced in early 2023, State spotlighted the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of AI and Autonomy in November — and confirmed then that more than 40 countries formally endorsed it.

“We’re up to 51 now, including the United States, and we’re proud of the fact that it’s not just the usual suspects,” Michael Horowitz, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development and emerging capabilities, said on Tuesday during a webcast hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“We’re actually working toward a potential plenary session in the first half of 2024 with those states that have endorsed the political declaration — and we hope that even more will come on board before that happens, and will come onboard afterwards,” he added.

While State has not shared the full declaration publicly, a summary released last year notes that it sets “voluntary guidelines describing best practices for use of AI in a military context” and is designed to “put in place measures to increase transparency, communication, and reduce risks of inadvertent conflict and escalation.”

Previously, the department had confirmed that “endorsing states will meet in the first quarter of 2024 to begin this next phase” of implementing responsible practices associated with the declaration.

Spokespersons from the Pentagon and State Department did not answer DefenseScoop’s questions on Tuesday regarding what this plenary session will involve or why the timeline for it has been seemingly extended.

New SWOBOSS Wants More Directed Energy Weapons on Warships as Low-Cost Threats Expand


The new head of the Naval Surfaces ARForces wants to accelerate the installation of directed energy weapons on surface warships, as the Navy grapples with low-cost, long-range attack drones proliferating widely in places like the busy commercial shipping lanes of the Middle East.

In his first address to the surface warfare community, Vice Adm. Brendan McLane argued the Navy needs to field lasers and high-powered microwaves on ships throughout the fleet. Developing these capabilities will be a major effort for the surface force, he said.

“I am not content with the pace of directed energy weapons. We must deliver on this promise that this technology gives us,” McLane told a crowd at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium on Tuesday.

A decade ago, McLane was the commander of USS Carney (DDG-64) in the Middle East at the same time the Navy authorized the crew of the then-afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (ASB(I)15) to use its $40 million, 30 kilowatt Laser Weapons System to counter threats headed toward the amphibious ship.

The lack of operational weapons on U.S. ships since fielding the laser on Ponce is “frustrating,” McLane told reporters last week ahead of the SNA conference.

“I really want to put a lot of effort into accelerating [directed energy] because that gives us so much when it comes to magazine capacity and in speed and distance,” he said.

Since Oct. 17, guided-missile destroyers in the Red Sea have actively shot down a variety of threats – from sophisticated anti-ship ballistic missiles to low-cost, Iranian Shahed 136 attack drones with a value in the thousands of dollars – fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen.

US Sailor Who Spied For China Sentenced To 27 Months

A US Navy petty officer who pleaded guilty to providing sensitive military information to a Chinese intelligence officer was sentenced to 27 months in prisonStefani Reynolds
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A US Navy petty officer who pleaded guilty to providing sensitive military information to a Chinese intelligence officer was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Monday, the US Justice Department said.

Wenheng Zhao, 26, and another US sailor, Jinchao Wei, were arrested in August on suspicion of spying for China.

Zhao pleaded guilty in a federal court in California in October to charges of conspiring with a foreign intelligence officer and accepting a bribe.

He was sentenced on Monday to 27 months in prison and a $5,500 fine.

According to US officials, Zhao, who was stationed at a naval base north of Los Angeles, received nearly $15,000 from the Chinese intelligence officer between August 2021 and May 2023.


Khawaja Khalid Farooq

Open source intelligence (OSINT) is the practice of collecting and analyzing information from publicly available sources.

In recent years, OSINT has become an important tool in the fight against terrorism, which has been utilized by counterterrorism departments (CTDs) and law-enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorism in Pakistan. However, much remains to be done and understood about this now indispensable facet of intelligence gathering.

OSINT has become an important tool in the fight against terrorism. It allows intelligence agencies and law enforcement to collect and analyze information from a variety of sources, including social media, news articles, and public records. This information can then be used to identify potential threats, track the movements of terrorists, and disrupt terrorist operations.

One of the most important uses of OSINT in the fight against terrorism is in the identification of potential threats. OSINT allows intelligence agencies to monitor social media and other online platforms for signs of radicalization or extremist activity. For example, OSINT was used to identify the Starwave brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. The brothers had posted extremist content on social media prior to the attack, which was picked up by OSINT tools.

OSINT is also useful in tracking the movements of terrorists. For example, OSINT was used to track the movements of Osama bin Laden prior to his death in 2011. Intelligence agencies were able to use OSINT to analyze satellite imagery and track the movements of vehicles and people associated with Bin Laden.

Finally, OSINT is useful in disrupting terrorist operations. By analyzing publicly available information, intelligence agencies can identify potential targets, disrupt supply chains, and prevent attacks before they happen. For example, OSINT was used to disrupt an ISIS plot to bomb a soccer game in Germany in 2016.

Cybersecurity: Public versus Private Sector


Straddling the private and public sectors creates intrigue. We are often asked about the differences in each sector. However, questions about differences between sectors are always tricky to answer and depend on how we analyze the properties for comparison. In many obvious ways, no differences exist between the public and private sectors. Cyber is cyber, and cybersecurity goals are the same for government and private organizations that must manage risk and protect themselves from evolving threats.

Moreover, any question about what is happening in another sector (or industry) is a partial distraction because sector threats are unknown. Organizations can be overwhelmed if they rely too much on aggregate data and trends. What happens in the aggregate will happen only to some organizations. Government and private organizations must start with local knowledge. Cybersecurity leadership begins by understanding an organization’s personnel, infrastructure, assets, and threats, which means understanding local information and signals and acting locally. When local knowledge is acquired, work toward understanding global signals can begin. For example, threat intelligence offers organizations external information about and between sectors and industries that can be assimilated into those organizations’ continuous security lifecycles.

On the other hand, the government and private sectors deviate in different ways. The authors have helped many private sector cybersecurity leaders analyze return on investment to justify the cost of security products and services to management teams and corporate boards, despite the effort containing no value. One cannot know a priori the threat an organization faces, its consequences, or its cost. These calculations are guesswork, and no one should take them too seriously. Despite this, the private sector needs help to consider anything that fails to generate revenue as valuable, including cybersecurity.

The New Digital Dark Age


For researchers, social media has always represented greater access to data, more democratic involvement in knowledge production, and great transparency about social behavior. Getting a sense of what was happening—especially during political crises, major media events, or natural disasters—was as easy as looking around a platform like Twitter or Facebook. In 2024, however, that will no longer be possible.

In 2024, we will face a grim digital dark age, as social media platforms transition away from the logic of Web 2.0 and toward one dictated by AI-generated content. Companies have rushed to incorporate large language models (LLMs) into online services, complete with hallucinations (inaccurate, unjustified responses) and mistakes, which have further fractured our trust in online information.

Another aspect of this new digital dark age comes from not being able to see what others are doing. Twitter once pulsed with publicly readable sentiment of its users. Social researchers loved Twitter data, relying on it because it provided a ready, reasonable approximation of how a significant slice of internet users behaved. However, Elon Musk has now priced researchers out of Twitter data after recently announcing that it was ending free access to the platform’s API. This made it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain data needed for research on topics such as public health, natural disaster response, political campaigning, and economic activity. It was a harsh reminder that the modern internet has never been free or democratic, but instead walled and controlled.

Closer cooperation with platform companies is not the answer. X, for instance, has filed a suit against independent researchers who pointed out the rise in hate speech on the platform. Recently, it has also been revealed that researchers who used Facebook and Instagram’s data to study the platforms’ role in the US 2020 elections had been granted “independence by permission” by Meta. This means that the company chooses which projects to share its data with and, while the research may be independent, Meta also controls what types of questions are asked and who asks them.

Recent Developments in and the Future of the Bioeconomy in 2024


We have tracked vital recent developments in health security, bioengineering, synthetic biology, biotechnology, and medical technology – which are compiled here. The future of the U.S. Bioeconomy is crucial to the future of strategic competitive advantage globally – all of which was discussed in a future-forward fashion at OODAcon 2023.

Overall, the bioeconomy and medical technology platforms also show clear signs in 2024 as the innovation space best positioned to deploy best-in-class enterprise platforms and use cases of generative AI, artificial intelligence, and machine learning (which other emerging technology innovators, cybersecurity professionals, and industry sectors should have an instinct to track closely and to emulate).

The Future of the Bioeconomy in 2024

“Business model innovation and value propositions will emerge from computational architectures designed to uniquely service this emerging industry sector.”

New Genetic Frontiers: There have been groundbreaking advancements in genetic engineering and new medical technologies are poised to disrupt the dialogue on health, ethics, global security, and the future of humanity. We explored these disruptive technologies at OODAcon 2023, such as the revolutionary CRISPR gene-editing tool, breakthroughs in synthetic biology, and the emergence of exponential medical treatments that demonstrate rapid adoption properties. In this OODAcon 2023 session, Natalie Barrett, Phaedrus Engineering, Biomedical Engineer, Marc Salit, MITRE Fellow, Synthetic Biology, and Andre Watson, CEO, Ligandal, Biomaterials Scientist, shared the following really actionable and forward thinking insights.

Recent Developments

The Future Now: The State of the Bioeconomy in 2023: The Bioeconomy in 2023 is showing clear signs of opportunities for advantage created by the exponential disruption of the industrial base (including that of defense), coupled with exponential biotechnological innovation to build the bioeconomy of the future. The State of the Bioeconomy in 2023 includes:
  • Exponential Organizational Ecosystems at Speed and Scale;
  • Blockchain Technologies; Artificial Intelligence in Biotechnology, Genomics, Healthcare and Medical Tech;
  • Biomanufacturing in Cislunar Space; and
  • Health Security and Cybersecurity Challenges.
Details of current breakthroughs and strategic directions for each category can be found here.