15 January 2024

The Houthis, A Deep Dive into Their Arsenal and Diverse Dimensions of Houthi Power

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The Houthis took over Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and tried to extend their influence south, grabbing control of most of the country. The Houthi rebels have been fighting a civil war since 2014 against Yemen’s government.

XThe name from the movement's founder, Hussein al Houthi. The group was formed in the 1990s.

The Houthis are an armed group from a sub-sect of Yemen’s Shia Muslim minority, the Zaidis. They take their name from the movement’s founder, Hussein al Houthi. The group was formed in the 1990s when a group then called itself Ansar Allah (“Supporters of God”) started to resist Saudi preaching of Wahabism and to assert Zaidi identity and religious practice across Yemen. Zaidism is a variant of Shiism local to northern Yemen and parts of southern Saudi Arabia. There are important doctrinal differences between mainstream Shiism and Zaidi Islam.

They started resisting the corruption of the then-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. As the movement started opposing the corruption of Saleh’s regime and his partnership with the United States in the global war on terror, it added Yemeni supporters beyond the Zaidi community. President Saleh, backed by a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, tried to eliminate the Houthi rebels in 2003. Beginning in 2004, Saleh’s government launched six brutal rounds of fighting—killing the group’s charismatic leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. These military efforts failed to root out the movement. The Houthis repelled them.

Ukraine, Gaza, and the U.S. Army's Counterinsurgency Legacy

Gian Gentile

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza offer a laboratory of study for military professionals, historians, and analysts. Studying a current war to help organizations understand and prepare for future conflict is not new. Future U.S. Civil War Union General George B. McClellan, for example, went to Crimea in 1855 with two fellow West Point graduates to gain insights from the Crimean War for application to future combat. Ten years later, it was common for British army officers to spend time with the Confederate Army, so that they too might study operations in the American Civil War and apply what they had learned to their army back home.

In the same spirit, it makes perfect sense for American military organizations to study both the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, and to draw insights from both.

But as the U.S. Army studies these two wars for insights, let's drop the “learned” from the phrase “lessons learned.” Lessons learned assumes that an insight—a “lesson”—from these current wars can also, at the same time, be “learned”—that is, incorporated into the training and strategies of another military. This is a highly problematic assumption.

If there is one large insight that has emerged from the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, it is that large-scale combat operations are decidedly not a thing of the past.

For the U.S. Army specifically, the lessons “learned” from previous counterinsurgency operations quickly became a kind of intellectual straitjacket during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There was only one perceived way to do a counterinsurgency operation correctly: which was to follow the appropriate “lessons” from history, and strictly adhere to the directives in the U.S. Army's 2006 counterinsurgency field manual, Field Manual (FM) 3-24. This field manual was written under the supervision of General David H. Petraeus, and it came to embody the sort of intellectual straitjacket that considered any type of creative thinking about U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, any idea that could not be found within its pages, as a kind of heresy. For example, the first chapter of FM 3-24 directed (PDF) counterinsurgent forces in any war to view a population in one specific way:

The Trouble with a Cease-Fire

Raphael S. Cohen

Seeing the imagery coming out of Gaza, it's no wonder that 153 out of 193 states in the United Nations General Assembly and two-thirds of Americans support a cease-fire. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health reports that more than 20,000 Palestinians—many of them civilians—have died so far, and the numbers are climbing. As of the end of November, some 60 percent of the homes in Gaza had been damaged or destroyed. Fuel, medicine, and food are all in short supply. Given all of this, who would not want such devastation to end?

Strategically, however, calls for a cease-fire—as opposed to a short pause in fighting, such as the one-week truce proposed by Israel and rejected by Hamas this week—are a mistake. These calls from the international community are, for starters, unlikely to change Israeli policy. But more importantly, they actually end up making what is already an undeniably bad situation even worse. That is because successful cease-fires require both sides to believe that such a cessation serves their interests. After a week in Israel talking to senior Israeli military and security officials and everyday Israelis, I can say that this is simply not the case right now.

Even before the Oct. 7 attacks, the Israeli electorate was growing more skeptical of a peaceful two-state solution. One of the perverse ironies of the Oct. 7 attacks is that some of the communities hardest hit by the atrocities—the kibbutzim deeply rooted in Israel's socialist past—were also some of the most staunchly pro-peace voices in Israeli society. Today, buildings across Israel are filled with photographs of the hostages and streets are filled with posters that, roughly translated, declare “together to victory.” In a society that was so recently reeling from deep polarization and mass protests, Israelis from across the political spectrum are now fully united at least in one respect: their desire for the destruction of Hamas.

Clock Ticking for Israel With Victory Elusive

David Brennan

Israeli leaders are under mounting pressure as the country prosecutes its devastating war on the Gaza Strip while spooling up a targeted assassination campaign against Iranian allies in Lebanon and Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his country needs more time to achieve its maximalist objective of "eradicating" Hamas in the ravaged Gaza Strip, following the group's October 7 attack that killed some 1,200 people.

"The war will continue for many more months," Netanyahu said last week, ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. "My policy is clear. We will continue to fight until we have achieved all the objectives of the war, first and foremost the annihilation of Hamas and the release of all the hostages," the prime minister has said.
Troops in Gaza on January 8, 2024. Heavy fighting continues in the Palestinian territory.MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Inside Israel's Deadly Drone Campaign in Gaza

Tom O'Connor

As Israeli troops continue to wage war by land in the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operators tucked into command rooms away from the frontlines are leading a parallel campaign from above.

At any given time, according to one IDF drone operator who requested to be identified simply as Captain D., up to dozens of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), mostly models of the domestically produced Elbit Hermes system, are hovering over the skies of Gaza prepared to launch strikes against targets pre-planned or spontaneous.

"They are the choice weapon for accurate, legal strikes," Captain D. told Newsweek.

And yet, even with an IDF legal department issuing guidance throughout the campaign, Israel's air war continues to come under growing international scrutiny. This criticism has been fueled by reports of increasing civilian casualties amid a death toll reported by the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry to have exceeded 23,000 people, mostly women and children, since the conflict began with Hamas' October 7 surprise attack.

One IDF legal adviser who requested anonymity acknowledged to Newsweek that the number of civilian casualties was very high. However, they argued that Israeli forces continue to go to lengths to mitigate civilian harm in line with international law while Hamas intentionally put Palestinian non-combatants in harm's way—an allegation the group vehemently denies.

Captain D. also blamed Hamas, which he asserted ultimately benefitted from the death of civilians at the hands of Israel.

The latest news on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Taiwan prepares for cyber D-Day in China invasion scenarios

Dene-Hern CHEN and Amber WANG

Graphic on undersea communication cables connected to Taiwan. (John SAEKI)

Millions of people offline, banks knocked out and the world's most advanced semiconductor industry paralysed -- Taiwan's doomsday scenario includes not just invading Chinese troops but also a wave of attacks against its cyber infrastructure.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, and the island's security planners run simulated worst-case scenarios constantly to prepare for the day Beijing decides to try and take over.

The Taiwan that China wants is vanishing

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes

There was a time when the beneficent smile of a dictator greeted you everywhere in Taiwan.

It's a far rarer sight now as more and more of those likenesses, which once exceeded 40,000, are removed.

Some 200-odd statues have been stashed away in a riverside park south of the capital Taipei. Here, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek is standing, sitting, in marshal's uniform, in scholars' robes, astride a stallion, surrounded by adoring children, and in his dotage leaning on a walking stick.

A democratic Taiwan no longer seems to have room for its erstwhile ruler.

The island's burgeoning identity is once again being tested as Taiwan votes in a new government on Saturday. And with each election, China is more troubled by the assertion of a Taiwanese identity - one that thwarts the chances of what it calls "peaceful reunification" with the mainland.

Chiang fled China in 1949, escaping impending defeat in the civil war at the hands of Mao Zedong's communist forces. He came to Taiwan, which became the Republic of China and remains so to this day. The mainland, ruled by Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, became the People's Republic of China. Both claimed the other's territory. Neither Chiang, nor Mao, conceived of Taiwan as a separate place with a separate people. But that is what it has become.

Unlike Taiwan, China's claims never waned. But almost everything else has changed on either side of the 100-mile strait. China has become richer, stronger and an unmistakable threat.

Myanmar’s Military Agrees to China-Brokered Ceasefire With Ethnic Guerrilla Groups


BEIJING — Myanmar’s military has reached a cease-fire agreement with an alliance of ethnic minority guerrilla groups it has been battling in the country’s northeast, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday. Myanmar’s military government confirmed the development, as did the ethnic alliance.

The agreement was brokered at talks mediated by China on Wednesday and Thursday in Kunming, a Chinese provincial capital about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the border with Myanmar, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

“China hopes the relevant parties in Myanmar can conscientiously implement the agreement, exercise maximum restraint toward each other and solve the issues through dialogue and consultations,” she said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson of Myanmar’s ruling military council, said in an audio note to journalists that the two sides had met in Kunming and after talks, agreed on a temporary cease-fire agreement.

“We will continue discussions We will continue to work for the strengthening of the cease-fire,” Zaw Min Tun said.

A previous cease-fire pact reached in mid-December was not honored by either side.

Taiwan’s Elections Aren’t All About China

Paul Huang

Whatever the result, Taiwan’s election on Jan. 13 will be mostly about Taiwan, not China. Voters, as polling shows, are treating the election as a referendum on its outgoing ruling president Tsai Ing-wen’s domestic policies and public satisfaction over the ruling party’s governance over past few years, not a vote on Taiwan’s political identity or an expression of being “pro-China” or “anti-China,” as outside commentaries and reports have often assumed.

The U.S. Can Help Fight China’s Disinformation in Taiwan

Raja Krishnamoorthi

Heading into Taiwan’s presidential election, one of the most consequential elections this year in Asia, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ramped up its election interference efforts, abruptly raised tariffs on some imports, threatened sanctions if Taiwan’s political parties do not bend to Beijing’s will, and, most recently, launched a satellite over the island, triggering a nationwide air raid alert. This economic coercion, followed by a show of military might, is part of the CCP’s standard playbook when the people of Taiwan exercise their democratic freedoms and go to the polls.

A roadmap for a US-China AI dialogue

Graham Webster and Ryan Hass

When President Joe Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping met in California in November 2023, their governments announced a new bilateral channel for consultation on artificial intelligence (AI). If both governments scope this effort wisely and focus on several concrete, tractable issues, they may have an opportunity to make lasting progress in reducing risks and building consensus around the governance of emerging technologies. If they fail to coalesce around common objectives, though, they risk creating another forum for ritual airing of grievances. This window of opportunity may be fleeting, so they must use it purposively.

What makes it so challenging for the two governments to, as Biden put it, “get our experts together to discuss risk and safety issues associated with artificial intelligence” is that the specific problem at hand is not widely agreed on between or even within the two countries. Indeed, while the White House readout said Biden and Xi “affirmed the need to address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety through U.S.-China government talks,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency was more circumspect, writing that “establishing a dialogue between governments on artificial intelligence” was one area in which the two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation.

Scoping an AI dialogue is difficult because, in many U.S.-China engagements on the topic, “AI” does not mean anything specific. It means everything from self-driving cars and autonomous weapons to facial recognition, face-swapping apps, ChatGPT, and a potential robot apocalypse. What’s at issue in this dialogue, then, depends on which present and future technologies and applications are on the agenda. AI might remain an umbrella term, but to make progress, officials will need to select specific topics and problems where the United States and China could reduce risk and capture benefits while setting aside intractable issues and nebulous concerns.

This isn’t the first policy moment for AI

Oil tanker in Gulf of Oman boarded by masked men in military uniforms

Armed men wearing military uniforms and black masks have boarded an oil tanker near Oman, according to a British maritime security firm and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) authority.

In the latest in a spate of shipping incidents in the region, about four or five men boarded the Marshall Islands-flagged St Nikolas at about 7:30am (03:30 GMT) on Thursday, some 50 nautical miles east of Sohar in Oman and then headed towards Bandar-e-Jask in Iran, according to Ambrey, the maritime security firm.

Tankertrackers.com, which tracks and reports global shipments of crude oil, identified the vessel as the St Nikolas and said it was carrying “Iraqi oil”. It said the tanker previously went by the name Suez Rajan and had been seized by the United States government for transporting sanctioned Iranian oil.

Ambrey also said the recently renamed tanker was previously prosecuted and fined for carrying sanctioned Iranian oil, which was confiscated by US authorities. The yearlong dispute ended with the US Justice Department seizing one million barrels of Iranian crude.

“Iran has previously taken action against those it has accused of cooperating with the US,” it added.

The British military’s UKTMO, which provides warnings to sailors in the Middle East, said the incident began in waters between Oman and Iran, and it had received a report from the ship’s security manager of hearing “unknown voices over the phone” alongside the ship’s captain.

Ambrey said that the men covered surveillance cameras as they boarded the vessel. As the tanker appeared to veer towards Bandar-e-Jask, its tracker was turned off, it added.

Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’ Becomes an ‘Axis of Escalation’

Mark Toth and Col. (Ret.) 

Iran’s “axis of resistance” is paralyzing U.S. foreign policy and national security interests across the Middle East — and thus far, the Biden administration has been far too complacent. Originally conceived by Qasem Soleimani, the former commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad in 2020, Tehran’s proxy armies have become fully operational under Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, as detailed by Jason Brodsky and Yossi Mansharof for the Middle East Institute.

These fighters are also highly coordinated.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s militias do not act in a vacuum. Their use is targeted, and purposeful in design. Nor do they operate in a regional void. As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine continues to devolve into a World War I-like trench slugfest, Moscow and Tehran are using Iran’s axis of resistance on a geostrategic basis against Washington.

View it as Khamenei’s axis of resistance amalgamating with Putin’s rogue players we call his “arsenals of evil.” The exigencies of his war in Ukraine going awry are forging the growing partnership regionally and even globally.

Iranian drones continue to be widely deployed by the Kremlin in Ukraine. In Israel’s war with Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist group is using North Korean made F-7 rockets, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels from Yemen are using Soviet-era Russian military helicopters to attack and interdict shipping in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Predictably, President Biden dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel on Monday amidst “concerns about the war spilling out wider into the region,” CNN reported, in an attempt “to rein in [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s war campaign.”

These are the Biggest Risks for the US in 2024

Micah McCartney

A number of potential flash points around the world feature in a new report from nonpartisan think tank the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The Preventive Priorities Survey is organized in three tiers according to conflict likelihood and degree of impact on American interests.

The report dropped as China is accused of meddling in Taiwan's democratic process as the self-ruled, Beijing-claimed island prepares for its January 13 national elections—and as Moscow carries out missile attacks with renewed vigor as the war in Ukraine approaches its second anniversary.

A contingency in the Taiwan Strait or major escalation in the Russo-Ukrainian War that risks drawing in the U.S. and NATO are among eight scenarios categorized as Tier I risks. These are defined as either highly likely to occur with a high potential impact on U.S. interests or moderately likely with a high impact.

Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. State Department with a request for comment.

Hard choices for the West in Red Sea stand-off

Frank Gardner

The UK's HMS Diamond and three US warships helped shoot down the Houthi drones and missiles

The mass attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels against vessels in the Red Sea on 9 January was their biggest yet and it signals two things.

Firstly, the Iranian-backed Houthis, who control their country's Red Sea coastline, are not backing down in the face of international pressure.

Secondly, they clearly have a powerful arsenal of missiles and drones and they are not afraid to launch them at Western warships.

In the event, all 21 drones and missiles were shot down by a combination of US Navy F/A-18 fighter jets and missiles launched from US and British warships.

But this is expensive, very expensive, and the Houthis know it.

A basic Houthi explosive drone costs just under £16,000, while a Sea Viper missile of the sort carried by HMS Diamond costs in excess of £1m. Then there are all the fuel and other costs of maintaining the multinational US-led flotilla of warships under the banner of Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Postwar Ukraine: Planning for a Successful and Secure Recovery

Economists in Ukraine have kept a grim tally ever since the Russian army swept across their border in early 2022. Private houses destroyed in the first year of the war: 66,618. Major roadway kilometers torn up by tank treads and high explosives: 8,746.

The economists track how many schools have been turned to rubble (434 in the first year alone) and how many hydroelectric power plants have been damaged or destroyed (all of them). They know how many agricultural bee colonies were wiped out in one year of fighting (86,902).

Their ledger provides some idea of just how massive the reconstruction effort will have to be when the shooting stops. But it's just the start. Researchers at RAND looked across decades of recovery efforts, from post–World War II Europe to post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, to show what it will take to rebuild Ukraine. Their goal was not just to get houses rebuilt and schools reopened, but to ensure a “freer, more prosperous, and secure future” for Ukrainians and the West.

“This might be the largest recovery project in modern history,” said Howard Shatz, a senior economist at RAND who coauthored the report. “It's not going to be like Iraq or Afghanistan. There's no insurgency here. The war has unified Ukrainians, not divided them. This is going to be more like what happened in Europe after World War II or the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Postwar Ukraine: Planning for a Successful and Secure Recovery

Economists in Ukraine have kept a grim tally ever since the Russian army swept across their border in early 2022. Private houses destroyed in the first year of the war: 66,618. Major roadway kilometers torn up by tank treads and high explosives: 8,746.

The economists track how many schools have been turned to rubble (434 in the first year alone) and how many hydroelectric power plants have been damaged or destroyed (all of them). They know how many agricultural bee colonies were wiped out in one year of fighting (86,902).

Their ledger provides some idea of just how massive the reconstruction effort will have to be when the shooting stops. But it's just the start. Researchers at RAND looked across decades of recovery efforts, from post–World War II Europe to post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, to show what it will take to rebuild Ukraine. Their goal was not just to get houses rebuilt and schools reopened, but to ensure a “freer, more prosperous, and secure future” for Ukrainians and the West.

“This might be the largest recovery project in modern history,” said Howard Shatz, a senior economist at RAND who coauthored the report. “It's not going to be like Iraq or Afghanistan. There's no insurgency here. The war has unified Ukrainians, not divided them. This is going to be more like what happened in Europe after World War II or the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

Intellectual Firepower A Review of Professional Military Education in the U.S. Department of Defense

Charles A. Goldman, Paul W. Mayberry, Nathan Thompson, Travis Hubble, Katheryn Giglio

Research QuestionsHow does the DoD education system work?

How does the system operate, how does it compare with civilian institutions, and how does it interact with service talent management?

What are the effects of potential changes to DoD, service, and institution policies and practices?

How can the system be better aligned to DoD's needs?

The authors describe the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) officer professional military education (PME) system, review how it operates, compare it with civilian educational institutions, analyze effects of possible changes, and identify opportunities to further align the system to DoD's needs. The report contains detailed descriptive information about each educational institution in the system.

The services largely expressed satisfaction with the alignment of military educational institutions with their mission needs. Technical institutions focus on more scientific or applied content and have a more direct style of instruction, while strategic/operational institutions cover broader topics with more use of techniques, such as case studies, that allow students to appreciate complex interactions, past lessons, and applications to future uncertainties. Technical institutions have important input into student selection, and their graduates often are placed into relevant follow-on assignments. Strategic/operational institutions receive students selected by the services to meet talent management goals, and the relation of follow-on assignments can be unclear.

How Ecuador descended into gang violence

Vanessa Buschschlüter

Terrified journalists being forced to kneel in a TV studio by gunmen pointing high-powered weapons at their heads as the cameras rolled, police officers pleading for their lives after being kidnapped on duty.

The scenes which have unfolded in Ecuador show the extent to which this once peaceful haven in Latin America has descended into violence.

Here, we take a closer look at how Ecuador became involved in what its president has declared an "armed internal conflict".

What is happening?

Ecuador's president, Daniel Noboa, has ordered the armed forces to restore order in the country after days of unrest which saw two gang leaders escape from jail, prison guards held hostage, and explosive devices set off in a number of cities across the country.

In the most dramatic attack, a group of armed men forced their way into the studios of TC Television in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, and tried to force one of the presenters to read out a message live on air.

Media caption,

Watch: Armed men interrupt live broadcast and threaten presenter (contains distressing scenes)

Russia’s Cyberwar + Predatory Sparrow in the Middle East

Tom Uren

Russia’s cyber activities in the Ukraine conflict are increasingly smart, but the country’s cyber leaders apparently still can’t resist destructive operations that are flashy but ultimately counterproductive.

In the smart category, Russia has compromised internet-connected webcams in Ukraine to conduct remote surveillance. On Jan. 2, Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, issued a public warning that Russian intelligence services were hacking these devices for espionage purposes. The SBU provided examples of two particular devices that were compromised to redirect viewing angles to show more of the environment, with the footage streamed to YouTube. The SBU believed this surveillance video was used to provide information on targets for long-range strikes and for damage assessment.

At first glance, this type of cyber operation appears modest, as it is not technically sophisticated, the direct impact is low, and the report mentions only two cameras.

It turns out, however, that many of the video surveillance cameras sold in Ukraine prior to the war were managed with a system known as Trassir, which was developed by a Russian company. Trassir software was used by individuals and enterprises and was even installed at critical infrastructure facilities such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Worse yet, the video feeds from these cameras were routed via Russian servers.

So although the SBU mentioned just two cameras in this case, Russian efforts to compromise cameras could be widespread. Early in 2022, the SBU blocked a large number of Russian IP addresses, including those of Trassir servers. Presumably, this explains why the hacked devices the SBU reported on were altered to stream video via YouTube rather than directly to a Russia-based IP address. In this month’s announcement, the SBU said it had stopped the operation of 10,000 IP cameras since the start of the invasion and appealed for Ukrainian citizens to report online camera streams to its official chatbot.

U.S. Middle East Policy Has Failed

Jon Hoffman

Following Hamas’s brutal massacre of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, Israel’s massive military campaign against the group has brought the Gaza Strip to the brink of annihilation and the Middle East to the edge of a broader war. A slew of incidents since then suggests that the conflict could escalate even further: the United States’
sinking of three Houthi vessels in response to the group’s attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea; a string of assassinations of high-level members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted by Israel and the United States in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria; a recent warning by Israeli war cabinet Minister Benny Gantz that “the time for a diplomatic solution is running out” regarding Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel and vice versa; and reports that the Biden administration is drawing up plans for the United States to respond militarily on multiple fronts in the region.

The Ukraine-Taiwan Tradeoff

Michael Poznansky

One of the chief justifications for sending military aid to Ukraine turns on deterrence. Proponents of Western support contend that it is essential for showcasing resolve. The United States and its allies, the argument runs, need to demonstrate to the world, and especially to Chinese President Xi Jinping, that they are willing to put muscle and resources behind efforts to combat unchecked aggression. But a growing chorus of voices argue that continued support to Ukraine is detracting from the real threat—namely, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. All this assistance, they claim, is depleting valuable resources needed to deter an

Don’t Bomb the Houthis

Alexandra Stark

The conflict between the United States and the Houthis in the Red Sea is steadily escalating. On December 31, Houthi small boats attempted to attack a commercial vessel; after U.S. naval helicopters responded to the attack, the Houthis—a rebel group that controls territory inhabited by 80 percent of Yemen’s population—fired on them. U.S. forces returned fire, sinking three Houthi boats and killing ten crew members. Then on January 9, the Houthis launched one of their largest attacks in the Red Sea to date including 18 drones, two antiship cruise missiles, and one antiship ballistic missile, which were intercepted by U.S. and British forces.

This engagement represented just the latest in a series of attacks in the Red Sea. Since mid-November, the Houthis have launched more than 20 attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea, a strategically critical strait that is transited by 15 percent of global trade. Characterizing their attacks as a response to the Israel-Hamas war, they have also fired missiles and drones toward southern Israel. The Red Sea attacks have forced some shipping companies to temporarily suspend sailing through the Suez Canal, routing instead around the Horn of Africa, a change that adds about ten days to their journey. The attacks have not yet led to a significant disruption in global trade, but over the long term, the rising shipping costs they provoke are likely to increase oil prices and the cost of consumer goods worldwide.

In response, the United States has mobilized international partners, launching in mid-December a multinational initiative aimed at protecting commercial vessels in the Red Sea. And on January 3, these partners issued a joint statement that U.S. officials indicated should serve as a final warning to the Houthis before Washington took more drastic action. U.S. officials are now considering military attacks on Houthi targets.

Naval Mine Warfare: Back to the Future

Scott Savitz

Mines have a long history of reshaping naval warfare, both by damaging individual ships and by countering the actions of entire fleets. Remarkably, though, one way to make them even more effective is to take a “back to the future” approach in which vintage mine technologies, even some dating a century or more, are employed alongside modern capabilities.

Even relatively unsophisticated mines have been used to prevent ship movements from Vietnam to the English Channel, while also thwarting amphibious assaults from the gates of Istanbul to the coasts of Korea. From 1988 through 1991, mines damaged three U.S. warships and many civilian ones in the Persian Gulf.

Most recently, Ukraine has used naval mines to help invasion of Odesa. Mines can help to negate the superior power of enemy fleets not only by directly damaging their ships, but by inducing them to avoid key waters or to engage in mine-countermeasures efforts that delay and disrupt their plans. For example, naval mines could help to stymie a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, hindering China’s ability to rapidly deliver a massive force ashore. In locations across the globe, naval mines could also be used to trap hostile submarines in port. They can also be used to impose “sanctions with a bite” by precluding an aggressor from using specific waterways until certain conditions are met.

The U.S. military is working to develop its currently vestigial naval mining capabilities. It has a handful of air-dropped bottom influence mines, which sit on the seafloor and detonate when they sense a ship’s characteristic sounds or magnetism overhead. The U.S. is working on mines that can be delivered clandestinely or can be released from aircraft at long ranges from the target area. In addition, the U.S. is developing mines that can launch torpedoes when they detect a ship’s presence, a capability that it first developed towards the end of the Cold War.

Burnishing capabilities from the 1980s, though, could be only the beginning. A very effective way of complementing today’s advanced mines is by employing mine technology that dates back a century or even more. Moored contact mines that detonate on impact, like the “spiky balls” used in World War I, require different modalities of mine countermeasures (MCM) from bottom influence mines. Sonar searches for moored and bottom mines have to be conducted sequentially, while moored contact mines are immune to ship emulating MCM gear that attempts to prematurely detonate influence mines.

Plagues, Cyborgs, and Supersoldiers

Luke J. Matthews, Mary Lee, Brandon De Bruhl, Daniel Elinoff, Christopher A. Eusebi

Research QuestionsHow have advancements in biotechnology affected warfighting, and how could they do so in the future?

Can the human body itself be a warfighting domain? Can the body itself be an offensive or defensive weapon?

A complex, high-threat landscape is emerging in which future wars might be fought with humans controlling hyper-sophisticated machines with their thoughts; the military-industrial base is disturbed by synthetically generated, genomically targeted plagues; and the future warfighter goes beyond the baseline genome to become an enhanced warfighter who is capable of survival in the harshest of combat environments.

The authors of this report examine the existing and potential future uses of biotechnology in warfare and battle and look at the human body as a warfighting domain. They envision a future in which biotechnology is used by both state and nonstate actors to affect warfighting. Sophisticated future actors may use pathogens, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), genomic enhancements, and wearable technology to supplement and strengthen warfighters.

Key Findings

The Battle Beyond: Strategies for Space Warfare

Simon Mansfield

"The Battle Beyond" is not just a theoretical exploration of space warfare but a practical guide, equipped to educate and prepare a diverse readership for the realities of conflict beyond our terrestrial boundaries. As space continues to grow in strategic importance, the insights from Szymanski and Drew will help contribute significantly to our understanding and preparedness for the potential challenges that lie ahead. 

In an era where the final frontier is no longer just a realm for exploration but also a potential battleground, "The Battle Beyond: Fighting and Winning the Coming War in Space" emerges as a crucial guide for understanding and preparing for conflicts beyond Earth. Authored by Paul Szymanski and Jerry Drew, two renowned experts in the field of space warfare, this book delves into the complexities and realities of military operations in space.

Paul Szymanski brings a wealth of knowledge with over 50 years of experience in space control. His insights are complemented by Jerry Drew, currently serving as the Chief of Joint Space Training at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Together, their combined expertise offers readers a comprehensive view of space warfare, a subject that has gained increasing significance in recent years.

Space, once perceived solely as a zone for scientific discovery and exploration, is now recognized as a critical domain for national security. The reliance on space-based assets for various functions, including communication, navigation, and surveillance, underscores the strategic importance of space in both civilian and military spheres. The emergence of technologies such as anti-satellite weapons has further highlighted the potential for space to become a theater of war.