29 January 2024

Succession: Who will be Israel's new leaders when the Hamas war ends?


“The prime minister is emptying of content the concept of responsibility. The people of Israel know today that they are led by a prime minister who is not qualified or fit to lead them.

“The claim that the person who made the mistakes should be the one to fix them is fundamentally crazy. Would you trust a surgeon who failed? Or a bus driver who caused a fatal accident? But this government is avoiding the will of the people and its pain.”

These were among the many comments made in 2008 by then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu directed at then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, following the publication of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. Netanyahu often made such remarks in the years after that war.

Although an official inquiry into the war that erupted in Israel on October 7 has yet to begin, the catastrophe on that fateful day, in which approximately 1,200 Israelis were massacred, speaks for itself.

The prime minister, however, has not yet assumed responsibility for the events of that day, does not appear close to stepping down, and even said in a press conference on December 30 that he would not resign, as “the only thing I intend to get rid of is Hamas.”

But despite Netanyahu’s confidence, Israel seems to be nearing a tipping point.

A growing number of Israelis are joining rallies on Saturday nights and protesting opposite the IDF’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv and the Knesset in Jerusalem. The messages at these rallies have begun to shift from calling on the government to do more to release 136 hostages remaining in Hamas captivity, to calling for a new government entirely. Some 53% of respondents in a Channel 13 poll conducted this week believed Netanyahu’s main considerations in his wartime decision-making to be personal interests, compared to just 33% who thought he had the country’s best interest at heart.

Will the war in Gaza become a breaking point for the rules-based international order?

Dr Renad Mansour

As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognizes its prima facie jurisdiction to investigate Israel for carrying out genocide in Gaza, also on trial is the so-called ‘rules-based international order’.

This global set of rules, norms and institutions – the ICJ itself being one – was established by the victors of World War II to manage relations between states based on shared principles of human rights and international law. The intention was to prevent conflict and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe or anything like it would never happen again. Many saw still greater hope in this order during the era of US unipolarity that followed the Cold War.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

But with Israel’s military bombardment of Gaza, this order is facing perhaps its most daunting and most stubborn challenge – global perceptions of hypocrisy.

However the ICJ case eventually resolves, the rules and institutions comprising the rules-based international order are today being undermined by the very countries that created the system.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and their supporters are the ones pushing for these institutions to call out double standards by Israel’s allies and hold them to account. This has become a defining moment for the future of the current international settlement.

The international order under US unipolarity

Today’s international order has been integral to the global projection of Western engagement and power for decades. Military interventions, such as in Iraq in 2003, or more recently defending Ukraine against Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, were driven by realpolitik calculations but legitimized through a defence of human rights, democracy and international law.

Why Benjamin Netanyahu Rejects Palestinian Statehood

Lawrence J. Haas

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a post-Gaza War Palestinian state spurred a predictable global response—with UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres calling it “unacceptable,” President Joe Biden reiterating support for the “two-state solution,” and the European Union threatening “consequences” if Netanyahu’s government doesn’t change its course.

But the back and forth between Jerusalem (which is fighting a gruesome war with a genocidal terrorist group) and the world (which watches it peacefully from afar) masks a far more complicated reality.

The question is not whether Netanyahu is wrong to reject the two-state solution for the foreseeable future. The question is whether he’s wrong to say publicly what many in his position would think privately.

To be sure, Netanyahu can’t seem to resist the temptation to portray himself as a Jewish “Horatius at the bridge”—the only thing standing between his people and their destruction. With Israelis outraged by intelligence failures that enabled the slaughter of October 7, a weakened Netanyahu will likely try to reinforce that image at home and not worry about the consequences abroad.

But set aside that it’s the controversial Netanyahu who’s presiding in Jerusalem. And set aside the conventional wisdom that hails the two-state solution as the obvious path to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Let’s consider the two-state solution through the eyes of a generic Israeli leader—one elected by the people and responsible for their safety.

The two-state solution is predicated on Israel and a new Palestine “living side by side in peace.” True peace, however, must not only emerge from the negotiating table but also infuse the hearts of the populace. Otherwise, pursuing the two-state solution is misguided and potentially dangerous.

Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians Remains Possible

Natan Sachs

Hamas’s horrific attack on October 7 and the devastating war that followed confirmed the calamitous failure of Hamas’s strategy of “resistance” through the slaughter of Israeli civilians, which has brought not liberation to Palestine but ruination to the Gaza Strip. But the attack has also exposed the failure of Israel’s long-pursued strategy of conflict containment with the Palestinians since the failure of the peace process in the early 2000s. 

What to know about Israel’s controversial ‘buffer zone’ in Gaza

Loveday Morris, Sarah Cahlan and Jonathan Baran

Israel’s announcement that 21 soldiers died in Gaza this week as they came under attack while rigging two buildings with explosives included an unexpected revelation — that the military was pushing ahead with a controversial plan to create a “buffer zone” along its border with Gaza by demolishing buildings in the area.

While officials had floated the idea on numerous occasions, Tuesday’s comments by the Israel Defense Forces were the first public confirmation that the strategy was in motion.

“It’s one of the additional efforts or layers of security that are being implemented after Oct. 7,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a spokesman for the IDF until earlier this month.

The U.S. has been vocally opposed to the creation of a buffer zone, saying there should be no permanent change to Palestinian territory. Human rights groups say the destruction of civilian homes and farms could amount to war crimes.

Here’s what to know:

What Israel has said

The IDF said the soldiers killed Monday near the southern city of Khan Younis were part of a demolition crew that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, causing the explosives to detonate and bringing the two buildings down on top of them.

“The forces were removing structures and terrorist infrastructure” about 650 yards from the border fence, said IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, to “create the security conditions for the return of the residents of the south to their homes.”

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the troops had died “in the buffer zone between the Israeli communities and Gaza.”

Before Oct. 7, Israeli border guards enforced a 330-yard buffer zone around the length of the 36-mile fence, though Palestinians could farm in the area. Israeli officials now argue that lax enforcement of the zone enabled Hamas to break through the border fence on Oct. 7.

Israel is still winning the political war


Even if its form is military, war is always a political struggle. And in spite of all the anti-Israel demonstrations around the world, Israel is definitely winning the political war — the real one, waged not in the streets but in the foreign ministries of adversaries, neutrals and allies.

How times have changed since 1967, when socialist Israel still enjoyed the enthusiastic support of global “progressives”, but was so diplomatically isolated that it received no support at all from Europe or America when openly threatened with war by Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Before launching its pre-emptive attack, only France had been willing to sell weapons to Israel, but Charles de Gaulle stopped all further sales as soon as the fighting started. In Rome, meanwhile, a cargo of gas masks headed for Tel Aviv was intercepted at the airport, even though Egypt’s occupying force had recently killed many in Yemen with phosgene and mustard gas.

For Israel, however, the greatest penalty of its diplomatic isolation was the inevitability of the UN Security Council imposing a ceasefire as soon as it started to win. In 1967, this came after only six days of fighting. Israeli forces had just fought their way up the steep tracks onto the Golan Heights when they had to stop. I was there myself, eager to visit Damascus when the Soviet Union found itself unopposed at the Security Council in demanding an immediate ceasefire.

It was much the same during the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Caught by surprise by simultaneous offensives from both Egypt and Syria (overconfidence is definitely an Israeli trait), the Security Council did nothing as Israel suffered 10 times as many casualties as in all of the Gaza fighting to date. Moreover, when the US finally agreed to airlift urgent supplies, neither the UK nor France nor Spain would allow its transport aircraft to fly over their airspace. Only Portugal permitted a refuelling stop in the Azores, and even US supplies stored in Europe had to be flown there before being turned around to Israel.

But once again, as soon as Israel was able to overcome initial defeat, the inactive Security Council suddenly became active. With Britain just as vehement as the Soviet Union — which was desperate to stop the rout of the Arab armies it had lavishly equipped and trained for years — the Council powers tried to impose a ceasefire on 22 October. The Israelis tried to fight on regardless, but were forced to stop two days later when Henry Kissinger decreed a nuclear alert in response to Moscow’s threat to intervene with its airborne forces.

Cease-fire efforts for Israel-Hamas war gain steam. But an agreement still appears elusive


Efforts to reach a new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appear to be gaining steam.

Egyptian and U.S. officials confirmed this week that they are actively pursuing ways to halt a war that has raged for over 110 days. An Egyptian official said that Israel has presented a proposal for a pause in fighting, while the White House said it dispatched a senior envoy to the region for consultations with Egypt and Qatar.

Any deal would have to include a pause in fighting, an exchange of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and large quantities of desperately needed humanitarian assistance for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

But finding a formula acceptable to both sides has been elusive. The gaps between Israel and Hamas remain wide, and the chances of an agreement anytime soon still appear slim.

“There are contacts all the time but they have not yielded results,” said an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing behind-the-scenes negotiations. “There is a long road ahead.”

Here is a closer look at the cease-fire efforts:

Israel declared war following a surprise cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. An Israeli air and ground offensive has since left over 25,000 Palestinians dead, displaced an estimated 85% of Gaza’s population and caused widespread destruction and humanitarian suffering, according to local health officials and international aid agencies.

Why the War in Gaza Makes a Nuclear Iran More Likely

Ali Vaez

Since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip, Iran’s government has sounded bullish, even triumphalist notes. “The Zionist regime’s defeat in this event is not just the defeat of the Zionist regime,” contended Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a speech last month, referencing Israeli setbacks on the battlefield. “It is also the defeat of the U.S.” At the beginning of January, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi boasted that his country’s enemies “can see Iran’s power, and the whole world knows its strength and capabilities.” And a few days later, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson declared that the so-called axis of resistance—the network of partners and proxies Iran backs across the region—is more “coherent, resilient and united than ever.”

It is easy to see why Tehran seems pleased. The war has bogged down its chief regional foe, Israel, in a protracted and perhaps unwinnable conflict. And it has forced Iran’s main global adversary, the United States, to focus on preventing that conflict from escalating, even as it fights off threats from Iran’s allied militias.

Yet for Tehran, the ongoing conflict may not end in anything like the clear-cut victory it has already claimed. Iran wants to be the Middle East’s dominant power, but it has not been willing to capitalize on the war in Gaza by having the axis of resistance open major new fronts against Israel or the United States. Hezbollah—Tehran’s most capable ally—has lobbed missiles at Israel, but it has not sparked an all-out war on the country’s northern border. The Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen have repeatedly menaced international shipping and targeted Israel with their missiles and drones, but these attacks have done little to pull Israel out of Gaza. The overall message is clear: Iran can cause chaos, but it is not strong enough to go on a real offensive. It still needs its regional allies primarily to defend its own territory. Tehran may therefore conclude that this conflict has made it look weaker rather than stronger. It may, accordingly, feel more vulnerable.

If that is the case, Tehran could make a final dash for the ultimate deterrent: nuclear weapons. Doing so would have risks, but it might provide Iran with the kind of immunity North Korea and Russia have enjoyed as they confront the West. A nuclear-armed Iran could also be more brazen in unleashing its partners across the Middle East, calculating that the backlash would be limited as its enemies work to avoid Armageddon.

Chinese narratives on the Israel-Hamas war

Patricia M. Kim, Kevin Dong, and Mallie Prytherch

How is China responding to the Israel-Hamas war?1 Since Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli strikes on Gaza, Beijing has positioned itself as an advocate for peace, calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state while criticizing the United States’ support for Israel. In the weeks following the attacks, China hosted the foreign ministers of four Arab states and Indonesia. The fact that the delegation chose Beijing as its first stop was heralded by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as a sign that “China is a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries.”

While more than 10 Chinese nationals have been killed, injured, or reported missing as a result of the crisis, the Israel-Hamas war has not, however, generated much of a public reaction in China. In fact, a close examination of Beijing’s official statements and activities, commentaries in state media, and social media narratives around the Israel-Hamas war reveals that while China seeks to portray itself as a proponent for peace and to signal its alignment with many non-Western states in advocating for the Palestinian cause, it remains reluctant to assume a substantive role in the ongoing conflict.

Parsing official Chinese statements and diplomatic activities

Official Chinese statements on the Israel-Hamas war have centered on expressing broad concern around the conflict’s escalation and its humanitarian consequences. Beijing has not explicitly condemned Hamas’ terrorist attacks while stressing that only a political settlement and a two-state solution can ultimately solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping commented publicly for the first time on the crisis nearly two weeks after the October 7 attacks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum. In a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Xi called for a permanent cease-fire and the need to prevent the conflict from spiraling out of control. His remarks that a two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine are the “only viable way” to resolve the longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine were again reiterated in his speech at an extraordinary BRICS summit on the crisis the following month.

Iran–Pakistan tensions: Why further escalation is unlikely

Dr Chietigj Bajpaee

The recent escalation of tensions between Iran and Pakistan has fuelled concerns of a potential spillover of conflict from the Middle East into South Asia. Events in recent months have highlighted Iran’s role as a volatile geopolitical actor through its support for regional proxies like Hamas and the Houthis.

Events in recent months have highlighted Iran’s role as a volatile geopolitical actor through its support for regional proxies like Hamas and the Houthis.

But on 16 January, Iran took direct action and carried out attacks on alleged strongholds of the militant group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. Pakistan responded two days later with its own air strikes on several targets in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province with the aim of targeting alleged safe havens and sanctuaries of the Baluchistan Liberation Army and Baluchistan Liberation Front. Both sides claimed there were civilian casualties.

In response, Islamabad recalled its ambassador from Tehran and barred the return of the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, although both sides have since agreed to restore diplomatic ties. Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, will visit Pakistan at the end of January in a further effort to re-normalize relations.

Calibrated response

Despite fears these developments would open a new front in the ongoing conflict and instability in the Middle East, both parties have maintained a relatively calibrated response so far. Both countries’ foreign ministries have stated their actions targeted insurgents sheltering within the other country’s territory, not the state itself.

This shows that Iran’s actions towards Pakistan are not directly connected to its actions in the Middle East and wider geopolitical developments. Neither country wants a broader conflict; Iran has its hands full on several fronts while Pakistan is dealing with a dire economic situation and preparing for next month’s general election.

Taiwan’s Early Warning for the Future of Tech

 Moira Whelan

President Biden recently said that he made clear to President Xi of China that he did not want to see China interfere in the upcoming Taiwanese elections on January 13. But for Taiwan, information interference is already underway and never really stopped. Taiwan’s allies, social media platforms, and civil society groups need to deepen their collaboration with organizations doing the important work of defending Taiwan’s information environment, support the multistakeholder model of internet governance that allows Taiwan to ensure its interests are pushed forward, and work to prevent information operations in advance of the 2024 election. For the rest of the world, Taiwan is a harbinger of the spread of digital authoritarianism, and the need to defend against it, in 2024 and beyond.

Disinformation around Taiwan's election is on the rise and shows what's coming for the world

China’s information operations in Taiwanese elections are well documented and, in 2020, held prescient examples for the world in terms of how deep partisanship within an electoral system could be exploited, as well as how YouTube could be used to influence the election. Fact checkers have been hard at work since the election debunking disinformation on topics ranging from imported eggs to nuclear wastewater that played on long standing fears about food safety and health among Taiwanese people.

According to the Taiwanese civil society database Cofacts, disinformation in Taiwan’s information space has increased by 40 percent since last year. Given that Taiwan is treated as a testbed for information manipulation campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party, much as Ukraine has historically been for Russia, the onslaught is notable. For instance, China is changing the tone and distribution mechanisms for its influence campaigns to prey on more localized concerns and to use platforms outside of the mainstream. Microsoft and Mandiant have found that China’s use of generative AI has become more prevalent, complex, and effective. Meta recently took down more than seven thousand accounts–their largest takedown ever–linked to a Chinese influence operation. These metrics indicate that the presence of disinformation around the Taiwanese elections will be greater and more insidious than previously seen.

New Chief of Naval Operations Calls For More "Wargaming" to Counter China


The newly arrived Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti called for more wargaming as a key part of a series of inspirational remarks about the Navy’s purpose and resolve as it surges quickly into a new threat environment.

Franchetti’s core message was quite clear … that the US Navy is no longer the singular global dominant maritime force in the world… to the extent to which it has been in recent decades.

“Gone are the days of operating from a maritime sanctuary against competitors who cannot threaten us,” Franchetti said.

Franchetti’s recently delivered inaugural remarks called “America’s Warfighting Navy” at the 2024 Surface Navy Association Symposium emphasized the growing need to deter and counter a fast growing “People’s Republic of China,” specifically suggesting that wargaming and disruptive technologies can ensure the US Navy can be “prepared to prevail” in a conflict with China.

“We must defend our homeland, deter strategic attack, deter and be prepared to prevail in conflict against the People’s Republic of China, and meet the acute challenge of an aggressive Russia and other persistent threats,” Franchetti writes in her America’s Warfighting Navy text.

While the Chinese threat has indeed been on the radar for many years at this point, Franchetti’s warning about the pace of Chinese growth and modernization in relation to a fast-evolving threat environment seems well placed, as it aligns with her emphasis upon the growing need for innovations, disruptive technologies and wargaming. Essentially, Franchetti challenges the Navy to embrace a new, potentially more intense and rigorously competitive mindset, based on the very realistic prospect of a conflict with China. At the same time, Franchetti is clear about intent, meaning that preparing an unrivaled warfighting Navy will “deter” China and therefore keep peace by preventing conflict. She instructs the Navy to “think differently.”

“We must think, act, and operate differently, leveraging wargaming and experimentation to integrate conventional capability with hybrid, unmanned, and disruptive technologies,” Franchetti writes.

This Chinese Startup Is Winning the Open Source AI Race


Meta shook up the race to build more powerful artificial intelligence last July by releasing Llama 2, an AI model similar to the one behind ChatGPT, for anyone to download and use. In November, a little-known startup from Beijing, 01.AI, released its own open source model that outperforms Llama 2 and scores near the top of many leaderboards used to compare the power of AI models.

Within a few days of its release 01.AI’s model, Yi-34B, rocketed to the top spot on a ranking maintained by startup Hugging Face, which compares the abilities of AI language models across various standard benchmarks for automated intelligence. A few months on, modified versions of 01.AI’s model consistently score among the top models available to developers and companies on the Hugging Face list and other leaderboards. On Monday, the startup launched a “multimodal” AI model called Yi-VL-34B that can process images and discuss their contents.

OpenAI, Google, and most other AI companies tightly control their technology, but 01.AI is giving away its AI models in hopes of inspiring a loyal developer base that helps it hatch some killer AI apps. 01.AI, founded in June of last year, has raised $200 million in investment from Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba and others and is valued at over $1 billion, according to Pitchbook.

The startup’s founder and CEO is Kai-Fu Lee, a prominent investor who did pioneering artificial intelligence research before founding Microsoft’s Beijing lab and then leading Google’s Chinese business until 2009, a year before the company largely pulled out of the country. He says the creation of Yi-34B is the culmination of his life’s work trying to build more intelligent machines.

“This has been the vision of my whole career,” Lee says over Zoom from a handsomely decorated apartment in Beijing. “It's been too long that we've had to learn computers’ language—we really need systems that can understand our language, which is speech and text.” In Chinese 01.AI is known as 零一万物, Ling-Yi Wan-Wu in Chinese, which means “zero-one, everything” and alludes to a passage from the Taoist text Tao Te Ching.

Preparing Russia for Permanent War

In the late eighteenth century, Catherine the Great planned a tour of Crimea, which her court favorite, Count Grigory Potemkin, had conquered a few years earlier. But while Potemkin had managed to seize the agriculturally rich peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, he had failed to achieve the promised colonization.

To save face, Potemkin ordered the construction of a row of painted pasteboard façades beside the river along which the empress would travel, and brought in cheerful villagers and herds of healthy livestock to complete the illusion. There was no prosperity, but it sure looked like there was.

Versions of “Potemkin villages” have been a staple of Russian history ever since. During Soviet times, the image that communism improved life for all obscured systemic violence and repression. And today, the Kremlin works tirelessly to create the impression that Russia is a beacon of stability and strength, and that a grateful people is fervently devoted to their leader, Vladimir Putin; but behind the façade, one finds disillusion, despair, fear, and rage.

You see this truth in contemporary Russian films and television, because popular culture finds it hard to lie completely about the state of politics. In the Russian crime drama The Boy’s World: Blood on the Asphalt, violent and chaotic politics translate into violent and chaotic streets. When leaders insist that enemies lurk everywhere and that the best defense is to strike first, paranoia, intolerance, and aggression grow.

It should be no surprise, then, that as Putin wages war on Ukraine, Russian children bully their classmates; teenagers film themselves attacking local residents; and adults get into public brawls.

Today’s Russia is nothing like the citadel of stability and satisfaction nor the bastion of prosperity that the Kremlin claims it to be. Though Russian GDP grew by more than 3% in 2023, despite Western sanctions, this hardly reflects genuine, let alone sustainable, economic dynamism.

Instead, it reflects the fact that the state has poured massive resources into the military-industrial complex. But those resources had to be reallocated from somewhere, and a series of catastrophes – including infrastructure disasters, energy-supply breakdowns, and fires at factories and warehouses – offer clues about where.

America's Middle East Tragedy—From Dream to Nightmare | Opinion

Max J. Joseph

In the distant realms of the Middle East, the American Dream has metamorphosed into a haunting nightmare. A grotesque manifestation of America's vices—unchecked violence, rampant theft, and insatiable avarice—plays out far from the American populace, making even its most corrupt televangelists blush.

Desperately, America has tried to pivot toward larger strategic concerns, like the looming shadow of China. Yet, its legacy in the Middle East persists like a scorned child pulling at America's coattails, reminding it of one last arms shipment destined for Gaza—a locale marking the culmination of decades of chaos, policy inertia, and lackluster checklists.

Israel: The Straw Breaking America's Back

Once the global enforcer armed with bags of gold and a heavy stick, America has lost interest in reversing its crowning shame—Israel and a two-state solution. Israel, now inevitably under the sway of radical right-wing zealots eager to save their own skin through perpetual, end-of-times branded war, has become the final blow to America's geopolitical primacy.

The scene is akin to America as the drunken uncle at the barbecue, turning up laden with meat and beer, and staggering around offering to help but unable to deliver. Years of malaise and rewarding incompetence internally and across the full of spectrum of Middle East conflict zones has rendered American foreign policy self-defeating, shackled to outdated strategies ill-suited for the 21st century.

Wider Middle East Context—A Tapestry of Catastrophes

The debacle extends beyond America's toothlessness when it comes to Israel; American policy in the Middle East has been an unmitigated disaster since the First Gulf War. From the costly misadventures in Afghanistan to the mass starvation-inducing Oil-for-Food sanctions in Iraq, as well as the state's ensuing radicalization and subsequent invasion, and the incomprehensible stances on Syria, Turkey, and Iran—every move seems destined for failure.

The Next Global War

Hal Brands

The post-Cold War era began, in the early 1990s, with soaring visions of global peace. It is ending, three decades later, with surging risks of global war. Today, Europe is experiencing its most devastating military conflict in generations. A brutal fight between Israel and Hamas is sowing violence and instability across the Middle East. East Asia, fortunately, is not at war. But it isn’t exactly peaceful, either, as China coerces its neighbors and amasses military power at a historic rate. 

Russia is starting to make its superiority in electronic warfare count

Most of the attention to what Ukraine needs in its protracted struggle to free its territory from the invading Russian forces has focused on hardware: tanks, fighter jets, missiles, air-defence batteries, artillery and vast quantities of munitions. But a less discussed weakness lies in electronic warfare (EW); something that Ukraine’s Western supporters have so far shown little interest in tackling.

Russia, says Seth Jones of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington, has for many years placed a “huge focus" on using its military-industrial complex to produce and develop an impressive range of EW capabilities to counter NATO’s highly networked systems. But Ukraine, according to its commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, found itself at the beginning of the war with mainly Soviet-era EW systems. Initially the discrepancy had only limited impact, but as relatively static lines of contact have emerged Russia has been able to position its formidable EW assets where they can have the greatest effect.

Ukraine discovered in March that its Excalibur GPS-guided shells suddenly started going off-target, thanks to Russian jamming. Something similar started happening to the JDAM-ER guided bombs that America had supplied to the Ukrainian air force, while Ukraine’s HIMARS-launched GMLRS long-range rockets also started missing their targets. In some areas, a majority of GMLRS rounds now go astray.

Even more worrying has been the increasing ability of Russian EW to counter the multitudes of cheap unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Ukraine has been using for everything from battlefield reconnaissance and communications to exploding on impact against targets such as tanks or command nodes.

Ukraine has trained an army of some 10,000 drone pilots who are now constantly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with increasingly adept Russian EW operators. The favoured drones are cheap, costing not much more than $1,000 each, and Ukraine is building enormous quantities of them. But losses to Russian EW, which either scrambles their guidance systems or jams their radio-control links with their operators, have at times been running at over 2,000 a week. The smitten drones hover aimlessly until their batteries run out and they fall to the ground.

The Myths That Warp How America Sees Russia—and Vice Versa

Michael Kimmage and Jeremy Shapiro

“Mythology is not a lie,” wrote Joseph Campbell, the great scholar of myth and archetype. “It is metaphorical.” Myths and metaphors provide the narratives that inspire patriotic devotion, motivate soldiers to fight, and help explain the outside world. And the myths that nations cherish about themselves often reinforce the complementary myths that they adopt about others.

Russia and the United States harbor especially powerful myths about each other. The myth that Russia believes about the United States is that it has vassals rather than allies—that it is a hegemonic power that hides ruthless ambition and self-interest behind appeals to liberal principles and legal order. Americans see Russia, meanwhile, as a country without domestic politics—the ultimate autocratic power whose malicious, unaccountable leader runs roughshod over what citizens want. As long ago as 1855, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln described Russia as a place “where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

After more than a century of tension and conflict, the U.S.-Russian relationship is now structured around these myths. Myths weigh down that relationship, obscuring nuance and clear perception. And they have shaped, and will continue to shape, each country’s part in the war in Ukraine. The myth that many Russians hold of the United States is continually driving the Kremlin toward harmful belligerence.

The myth that Americans hold of Russia is also a trap, leading policymakers to misread the Kremlin and to miss opportunities to weaken the regime or to find compromises. To minimize dangerous misinterpretations, U.S. leaders need to work harder to rise above these myths and archetypes. A better understanding of the United States’ own myths—and of Russia’s—would give U.S. policymakers more flexibility, help to foster strategic empathy, and anticipate future changes in the Russian body politic.


In Russia, it is conventional wisdom that the United States is power-mad. The American public, many Russians believe, is under the thumb of a megalomaniacal U.S. elite. Enthusiasm for a liberal international order gets little traction in Russia not because all Russians are realists but because their mythic view of the United States reduces the liberal international order to a vehicle of American ambition. Many Russians are convinced that U.S. leaders’ references to a supranational web of norms, laws, and partnerships are merely smokescreens for the cooptation that lies at the core of American foreign policy.

Pacific Islands Have Key Role In US-China Power Plays – Analysis

Dr. Theodore Karasik

In the Asian theater, the islands of the Pacific Ocean serve a specific function in terms of security awareness. The US and China continue to compete for influence and to project force on these islands and island chains, which are surrounded by vast expanses of water.

The world’s oceans, as we know, can become hotly contested spaces when politics enters the mix. And islands can play an important role in terms of security or, conversely, malign behavior.

The concept of “island chain strategy” is nothing new. It grew out of the lessons learned from the Second World War and the Korean War in the early 1950s. US security officials designed a five-chain concept for the Pacific Ocean islands, using geography as a tool. The island chains run north-to-south, with the first three mostly related to Taiwan and the Philippines, but also including Hawaii. Chains four and five focus more on the island chains that are contested today, especially those that lie deeper in the Indo-Pacific area.

China’s interests in the Pacific Ocean have expanded greatly, drawing a response from the US and its allies, including Australia and Japan. In an attempt to counter China, the US is upping its presence on islands in the mid-Pacific for the first time in almost 80 years.

Certainly, islands can function as important hubs no matter where they are in the world, but in the Pacific they are particularly significant because of the distances involved and their power projection capability.

US power in the Pacific is concentrated around a few large bases, including Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa. But if too much American air power is concentrated there, missile strikes on these bases could potentially cripple the ability of the US to hit back at an adversary. Therefore, Washington is playing a shell game on islands in the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to match moves by China.

The Pentagon’s latest connect-everything experiment shows progress, chief says


Recent experiments may have brought the Defense Department one step closer to achieving smoother, more interconnected communications, the deputy chief of the Pentagon’s lead data and AI office said Wednesday. But testing the initial product across programs will have to wait until Congress approves permanent funding for fiscal year 2024.

“Absolutely we have a new connection, a new set of connections across multiple data fabrics and applications,” Margaret Palmieri said during a Hudson Institute event in Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon has been conducting a series of "global information dominance experiments," called GIDE, to help the department become better at sharing information across the enterprise and as part of the larger goal of creating more seamless military communications—an effort it calls “combined joint all-domain command and control,” or JADC2.

The latest experiment, GIDE 8, in December yielded a minimally viable product, or early proof that an idea works with a prototype that can be used by early adopters. Palmieri described it as an amalgamation of existing technologies that improve data sharing “in new ways and have brought together a combination of new applications, new data services with users to create better workflows.”

The prototype needs two things before the Pentagon’s chief data and artificial intelligence office can weave it into operational programs: funding for this year and adoption by warfighters.

How a Group of Israel-Linked Hackers Has Pushed the Limits of Cyberwar


About eight minutes after 3 am on June 27, 2022, inside the Khouzestan steel mill near Iran's western coastline on the Persian Gulf, a massive lid lowered onto a vat of glowing, molten metal. Based on footage from a surveillance camera inside the plant, the giant vessel was several times taller than the two workers in gray uniforms and hardhats standing nearby, likely large enough to carry well over a hundred tons of liquid steel heated to several thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

In the video, the two workers walk out of frame. The clip jump-cuts forward 10 minutes. Then suddenly, the giant ladle is moving, swinging steadily toward the camera. A fraction of a second later, burning embers fly in all directions, fire and smoke fill the factory, and incandescent, liquid steel can be seen pouring freely out of the bottom of the vat onto the plant floor.

Written across the bottom of the video is a kind of disclaimer from Predatory Sparrow, the group of hackers who took credit for this cyber-induced mayhem and posted the video clip to their channel on the messaging service Telegram: “As you can see in this video,” it reads, “this cyberattack has been carried out carefully so to protect innocent individuals.”

A close watch of the video, in fact, reveals something like the opposite: Eight seconds after the steel mill catastrophe begins, two workers can be seen running out from underneath the ladle assembly, through the shower of embers, just feet away from the torrent of flaming liquid metal. “If they were closer to the ladle egress point, they would have been cooked,” says Paul Smith, the chief technology officer of industrial-focused cybersecurity firm SCADAfence, who analyzed the attack. “Imagine getting hit by 1,300-degrees-Celsius molten steel. That's instant death.”

A clip from a video posted by Predatory Sparrow hacker group showing the effects of its cyberattack on Khouzestan steel mill in Iran. Although the group claims in the video’s text to have taken care to protect “innocent individuals,” two steelworkers can be seen (circled in red) narrowly escaping the spill of molten metal and the resulting fire that the hackers triggered. 

The Pentagon’s IT agency is crafting its very own AI-chatbot


Battlefield commanders could soon get an assist from an AI-powered chatbot when making sense of sensitive, but unclassified, information. But the prototype must first be tested by the Pentagon’s top IT agency.

The Defense Information Systems Agency is developing “Concierge AI” technology that can take data from multiple sources, plug it into a model or database, “and then have a large language model bang against that database and present the user with answers,” Steve Wallace, the agency’s chief technology officer and head of emerging technologies, said Thursday.

The goal would be to do tasks like assisting battle captains with after-action reports and answering simple queries like “How do I get a new laptop? How do I get this software installed on my machine?” Wallace said during a panel at the AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va.

DISA is actively working on a prototype it expects to launch internally this year. But things are going slower than expected due to a small staff and security challenges with commercial vendors.

“To be blunt, I wish it were going faster,” Wallace said. “Many of the commercially released models live in commercial clouds. And so that ability to take [controlled unclassified information] queries and back them off of that and get an answer is kind of frowned upon.”

How one Army unit uses cheap drones and ChatGPT to train others in modern warfare


Army units learn fast that their cell phone signals stand out amid the vast, unpopulated pine forests of the Joint Readiness Training Center here.

The lesson is usually delivered when they are “killed” by the force playing their opposition, known as Geronimo, which uses cheap, commercial technology to target unwary soldiers. It’s a lesson U.S. forces should learn, says the Army’s chief of staff.

Inexpensive technology can be “very, very effective,” Gen. Randy George said in an interview at the center.

George cited a $75 decoy device built by Geronimo that mimics the electromagnetic signature of a command post. But that’s just the tip of the Geronimo’s home-built arsenal, which includes everything from computer code written by ChatGPT to a thermal-scoped, bomb-dropping version of the Army’s TS-M800 quadcopter.

The unit is not yet authorized to use FPV drones, commonly used as one-way attack drones in Ukraine, said chief warrant officer Christian Lehr, although he said he’s studied their use in Ukraine.

But Geronimo’s modified quadcopters can do plenty already. One TS-M800 carries scanners that can find cell and WiFi signals. By flying drones over the forest, Geronimo members told George on Monday, they could identify Army positions by picking up WiFI signals below.

In one case, an Army unit made Geronimo’s job even easier: they labeled their command post WiFi “command post.”

Even if an Army unit does mask itself well, a few slip-ups can quickly reveal its location or identity. In one instance, Lehr said, Geronimo noticed communication between different MAC addresses — unique identifiers used by networked devices.

They used ChatGPT to create software in the coding language Python that analyzed communication between MAC addresses. Based on their movement and communication patterns, Geronimo could deduce what types of units they were tracking.

How will the defense and security industry use ChatGPT?

Marie Donlon 

As the topic of ChatGPT — which is the natural language processing tool driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and created by the AI research firm OpenAI — makes daily headlines, GlobalSpec has been examining how it is affecting specific industries, with a series of feature articles about its impact on the oil and gas, healthcare, manufacturing and food and beverage industries, so far. This follow-up feature will examine the impact ChatGPT is expected to have on the defense and security industry.

The defense and security industry is an umbrella term for a host of other, more specific sub-categories, including military, cyber security, data privacy, personal security and everything in between. While each and every application under the defense and security industry umbrella will no doubt be impacted by the growing capabilities of ChatGPT and AI in general, GlobalSpec will specifically look at the chatbot’s likely impact on the military and cybersecurity.


Although the military applications for recent iterations of ChatGPT are currently limited by incorrect and potentially biased data and limited knowledge, the technology promises to change this and virtually every other industry in the very near future.


One such task that military personnel could offload onto the technology could be training related. The chatbot can reportedly be used to create training materials by autonomously generating training text. The chatbot could also be used to imagine training simulations, wherein trainees would be tasked with communication scenarios, decision-making assignments and, potentially, adversary interaction simulations.


Experts suggest that future iterations of ChatGPT could be used to support military robots by one day enabling the robots to understand and recognize verbal commands. Further, the chatbot could also possibly automate maintenance schedules for military robots and drones.

Governing Artificial Intelligence: A Conversation with Rumman Chowdhury

Kat Duffy, Rumman Chowdhury and Kyle Fendorf

Dr. Rumman Chowdhury has built solutions in the field of applied algorithmic ethics since 2017. She is the CEO and co-founder of Humane Intelligence, a nonprofit dedicated to algorithmic access and transparency, and was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in AI 2023. Previously, she was the Director of the Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability team at Twitter.

Artificial intelligence’s transformational possibility is currently the focus of conversations at everything from kitchen tables to UN Summits. What can be built today with AI to solve one of society's big challenges, and how can we drive attention and investment towards it?

Hand in hand with investment in technological innovation needs to be investment in the forms of AI systems that can protect humans from the augmentation of algorithmic bias. This might include new techniques for adversarial AI models that identify misinformation, toxic speech, or hateful content; this could mean more investment in proactive methods of illegal and malicious deepfake identification, and more.

Driving investment to this is simple: for every funding ask to develop some new AI capability must be equal investment in the research and development of systems to mitigate the inevitable harms that will follow.

The data underlying large language models raises fundamental questions about accuracy and bias, and whether these models should be accessible, auditable, or transparent. Is it possible to establish meaningful accountability or transparency for LLMs, and if so, what are effective means of achieving that?