2 February 2024

How Netanyahu's Growing Defiance Is a Problem for Biden

Daniel Bush

President Joe Biden has made calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a central element of his strong support for Israel's war against Hamas, which is increasingly unpopular with some of his own backers.

But in recent weeks Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed the proposals for a long-term peace with growing defiance, complicating Biden's relationship with key allies in the Middle East as he seeks to stabilize tensions in the region and navigate a complex political issue which also has implications for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

Netanyahu's repeated rejections of a two-state solution make it harder for Biden to justify his support for an Israeli military operation against Hamas that has resulted in more than 25,000 deaths and that led to a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Middle East analysts said.

"It hurts Biden's ability to work with important U.S. allies [in the region] and also his domestic credibility" on the Middle East, said Daniel Byman, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

The war's ripple effect in the region has already extended to the U.S.-brokered negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize relations, a process that had begun under Biden's predecessor and likely 2024 election opponent Donald Trump.

Resolving the question of Palestinian statehood was a sticking point in the talks before Hamas killed roughly 1,200 people in a brutal attack inside Israel on Oct. 7. But the talks stalled after the attack, and now experts said the U.S. will likely face more pressure from Saudi Arabia to get Israel to agree on some sort of pathway to a two-state solution as part of a final agreement.

"It's essential for Biden to get some results in the form of shifts in Israeli actions" toward support of an independent Palestinian state, said Brian Katulis, the vice president of policy at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.

We need to build social capital for a better quality of urban life

Nitin Pai 

Five years after Bengaluru's Church Street received a facelift, it is struggling with dumped garbage, broken pavements, damaged street lights, brazen illegal parking and inadequate maintenance in general. It has been painful to observe this deterioration right outside my office.

At this point, you are perhaps rolling your eyes and saying "what's new?", since we all know about the corruption in local government, incompetence of city authorities and the 'lack of civic sense' among our people.

Chaos on the Indus: Pakistan’s Election Maelstrom

Tushar Shetty

For the next episode in our Road to ‘24 series, Beyond the Indus host Tushar Shetty sat down with Michael Kugelman and Kunwar Khuldune Shahid to break down Pakistan’s chaotic election campaign. Kugelman is the director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., and Shahid is a Pakistan-based correspondent for The Diplomat.

Taking place in the backdrop of an ever-growing economic and security crisis, the Pakistan election is shadowed by the conflict between the arrested-yet-still popular Imran Khan and a military establishment that is determined to see him out of power. With the return of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to lead the PML-N and the machinations of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the PPP, this election will set the tone for Pakistan’s fragile democracy for many years to come.

Air-to-air missiles push the performance, payload envelope

Douglas Barrie

Loitering munitions and hypersonic glide vehicles are grabbing most of the attention when it comes to air force modernisation efforts, but that focus risks overlooking enhancements in another area of combat: air-to-air missiles (AAMs).

China and its close aerospace partner Pakistan are among those pursuing upgrades to make their combat aircraft more lethal. Beijing may be near to introducing a very-long-range AAM into service, while Islamabad is upgrading aircraft to carry more of the weapons. Meanwhile, the United States, in addition to developing a longer-range AAM to adjust to a more complex threat environment, is working on increasing by 50% the number of medium-range AAMs it can pack into the main internal bay of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II combat aircraft.

Big stick

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) appears to be on the brink of fielding an AAM that could pose a challenge to potential adversaries. The PL-17 (CH-AA-X-12) likely has a range of around 400 kilometres, using a dual-pulse solid rocket motor combined with a lofted trajectory to achieve the distance. The weapon is intended to engage what are sometimes referred to as high-value airborne assets, such as airborne early warning or tanker aircraft.

The PL-17 first publicly emerged in a 2016 picture that showed a very large missile carried by a Shenyang J-16 Flanker N during the development and test programme. Images of a J-16 carrying a PL-17 appeared on social media in December 2023. That missile body was painted blue, indicating it was a training or ground-handling round rather than a live weapon. Its appearance, however, suggests the missile is being introduced into service.

China has not released design details of the weapon or what company is behind it. However, the PL-17 may well feature active and passive radar guidance. The passive sensor would be intended to detect radar emissions from aircraft such as the Boeing E-3D or E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning aircraft at considerable range. The active seeker would be used for terminal guidance. The PL-17 may combine use of a passive sensor with receiving target-location updates from offboard sensors for much of the missile flight, making it harder for the aircraft being targeted to recognise it was under attack.

US, Japan are developing AI for drone to assist stateof-the-art fighter


Japanese robotic skills and American know-how in artificial intelligence merge conveniently in a project to bring unmanned vehicles to air combat, a U.S. academic said Tuesday. 

The U.S. Department of Defense and Japan’s Ministry of Defense agreed last month to combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with advanced, unmanned aerial vehicles. 

“The AI developed in this joint research is expected to be applied to UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) operated alongside Japan’s next fighter aircraft,” both defense departments said in a joint news release Dec. 22. 

Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy aim to build, by the mid-2030s, an aircraft that combines speed, stealth, advanced sensors and AI that can fire hypersonic missiles and be flown without a pilot if required, the BBC reported Dec. 9. 

While both Japan and the United States have broad high-technology competence, Japan is particularly strong in robotic systems, especially for factory automation, according to Arizona State University engineering professor Braden Allenby. 

“Importantly, Japanese capabilities do not just involve a few leading firms, but a deep ecosystem,” he said by email Tuesday. “The Americans are, of course, world leaders in AI.” 

The cooperation is driven by geopolitical challenges such as Russian aggression and troublemaking, and the increasing militarism and technical competence of China, Allenby said. 

While the AI-drone program has received attention, there could also be collaboration on AI systems for undersea and surface naval warfare, Allenby said. 

Meanwhile, U.S. aerospace firm Boeing and the Australian air force are developing the MQ28A Ghost Bat, an unmanned aircraft that will also support fighter jets.

The Ghost Bat is designed to fly independently or as part of a team providing intelligence and reconnaissance support and “fighter-like performance,” according to Boeing’s website.

China’s Nuclear Forces Continue to Expand

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Earlier this month, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists published its annual assessment of China’s nuclear forces. The authors of the latest assessment state that China has gone through significant expansion and modernization of its nuclear forces as well as enhancing the size of its arsenal. Despite the relative lack of transparency involving China’s nuclear weapons program, which makes it difficult to quantify, the report said that it is “likely the fastest-growing arsenal in the world.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported in December 2023 that new evidence suggested China is possibly readying a military base in order “to test a new generation of nuclear weapons.” If it is the case, it could be unsettling for the region and the global non-proliferation order in many ways.

The authors of the “Chinese nuclear weapons, 2024” Bulletin report note that since the 2023 edition of the assessment, China has kept up with the work on its three new missile silo fields, focusing on solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). According to this report, China also appears to have “expanded the construction of new silos for its liquid-fuel DF-5 ICBMs” as well as “developing new variants of ICBMs and advanced strategic delivery systems, and has likely produced excess warheads for eventual upload onto these systems once they are deployed.” The authors also added that China has “further expanded its dual-capable DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile force, which appears to have completely replaced the medium-range DF-21 in the nuclear role.”

The efficacy of these systems is a different question entirely, particularly in light of reports on extensive corruption within the Chinese military, especially the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force. According to media reports, the U.S. assesses that there are “several examples of the impact of graft, including missiles filled with water instead of fuel and vast fields of missile silos in western China with lids that don’t function in a way that would allow the missiles to launch effectively.”

Would a U.S.-China War Mean the End of U.S.-China Trade?

Robert Farley

What does great power competition (GPC) mean for the future of the global economy? Put simply, the U.S.-China trade relationship has fueled a considerable portion of the world’s economic growth for the last forty years, and the prospect of a serious disruption of that relationship (which has yet to happen) should be disconcerting for everyone. GPC could have a range of outcomes from relatively restrained political nastiness to a Cold War-style disconnect to a punctuated series of hot wars. The question has particular resonance today given that extensive trade contacts between China and the United States have not prevented a growing sense of alarm about the prospects for war.

An article by Mariya Grinberg in the journal International Security points out that the idea that war means the end of trade is both recent and of uncertain accuracy. Nations at war can continue to trade if they require imports for long-term economic well-being and if they believe that exports cannot immediately be transformed into military gains. The reticence to completely cut off trade extends to the modern-day; Yugoslavia and Croatia continued to trade even as they conducted their messy war in the 1990s.

Britain and France famously traded with one another during the Napoleonic War, with the core logic of the Continental System being to amass a favorable balance of trade by increasing exports and reducing imports. This meant that Britain tried its best to smuggle goods into Europe, while France was happy to export foodstuffs and other goods to Britain during times of shortage. Despite the naval blockade, the United States traded extensively with the Confederate States during the Civil War, only sometimes in the form of smuggling.

Of course, during the 19th century a different understanding of the relationship between war and trade held. But even in World War I, the British struggled to come to the conclusion that they needed to cut off trade with Germany, and especially with third countries that essentially laundered British goods for the German market. 

The Dependency On China And ‘Blood Minerals’ For EV Batteries Supported By Our Government – OpEd

Ronald Stein

Many of us had a chance to view the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio that portrays many of the similar atrocities now occurring in poorer developing countries in pursuit of the those exotic minerals and metals to support the “green” movement within wealthy countries, i.e., “Blood Minerals”.

The “green” movement continues promoting environmental degradation to landscapes in poorer underdeveloped countries, and imposes humanity atrocities to citizens with yellow, brown, and black skinned workers in those poorer countries being exploited for the green movement of the few wealthy nations.

Despite the Biden administration declaration in 2022 that batteries from China may be tainted by child labor and a report by the U.S. Labor Department that excoriated “clean energy” supply chains for using forced labor, the march toward more ”blood minerals” continues.

Today, policymakers and EV owners have NO ethical or moral apprehensions of the Clean Energy Exploitations of people that support the supply chain of “blood minerals” for EV batteries!

Short of visiting a mining operation to see for themselves, policymakers and potential EV buyer should read the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations – Helping Citizens Understand the Environmental and Humanity Abuses That Support Clean Energy. The book does an excellent job of discussing the lack of transparency to the world of the green movement’s impact upon humanity exploitations in the developing countries that are mining for the exotic minerals and metals required to create the batteries needed to store “green energy”, and the environmental degradation to their landscapes.

In those developing countries, those mining operations exploit child labor, and are responsible for the most egregious human rights’ violations of vulnerable minority populations. These operations are also directly destroying the planet through environmental degradation.

Chinese crime and geopolitics in 2024

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Diana Paz García, and Vibha Bajji

The global footprint of criminal groups from China1 has expanded along with China’s economic and geopolitical presence around the world. North America’s fentanyl crisis thrust China-linked criminal networks and their expanding international connections, such as with the Sinaloa Cartel, to U.S. policy forefront.

However, the scope of organized crime from China extends far beyond global drug trafficking and money laundering. Internationally, Chinese criminal groups engage in poaching and wildlife trafficking, cybercrime, and elaborate fraud and scams, also featuring people trafficking and enslavement. Long experienced in illegally bringing people to the United States and Canada, criminal networks from China have intensified activities at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Chinese fishing vessels, often illegally devastating protected marine areas and other countries’ exclusive economic zones, can facilitate drug trafficking and serve as the Chinese government’s maritime militia proxies in extraterritorial claims and military confrontations. They can also augment Chinese espionage around the world.

Indeed, these criminal networks provide a variety of services to the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and Chinese legal enterprises. They help build networks of corruption and influence among foreign politicians and businesses. In interviews with Vanda Felbab-Brown, current and former law enforcement officials from the United States, Asia, Australia, and Africa stated that China-linked criminal groups monitor the Chinese diaspora and act as extralegal enforcers on behalf of Chinese authorities against those who speak and act against the Chinese government and CCP. Thus, Chinese government officials often unofficially extend the umbrella of party protection and government authority to these actors.


Dean D. LaGattuta

It was bitterly cold. Soldiers huddled together wearing heavy winter jackets and black, Army-issued beanies underneath their helmets. The engines of Humvees and trucks hummed collectively, a cacophony of noise that drowned out conversations. The battalion convoy was ready to step off from Germany for a NATO exercise in Latvia. My battalion commander approached as I hopped into my Humvee. Somewhat jokingly, over the din of running engines and soldiers preparing to move out, he asked, “Which day do you think it is going to happen? I think Friday.” I responded, “My bet is on Wednesday, sir.” The date was February 13, 2022.

Both of our guesses missed the mark, but not by much. The following week, on Thursday, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, kicking off the war that has raged for nearly two years.

During the six-day convoy I read a book that I had started in December 2021 as the Russian military buildup along the border with Ukraine continued. Titled Appeasing Hitler, the historical work by Tim Bouverie provides insight into the rationale behind the British policy of appeasement in the period leading up to World War II. It also serves as a cautionary tale of the appeasement strategy’s failure. A policy premised on acquiescing to a tyrant’s demands in the hopes of avoiding war accomplished the opposite. Instead, appeasement served to increase Hitler’s appetite for conquest and contributed to the eruption of the most destructive conflict in human history.

There have been many comparisons between Russian President Vladimir Putin’s words and those of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Both asserted the importance of reclaiming historical lands, protecting their respective countries’ ethnic populations living in the near abroad, and the fact that their aggressive actions were defensive—that they were the victims instead of the aggressors. And although it is understandable why many compare Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to the actions of Adolf Hitler in the lead up to World War II, Bouverie’s Appeasing Hitler provides an opportunity for a different comparison, to a much lesser-known war.

Playing Chess With Iran: Deterrence Without Provocation – Analysis

Leon Hadar

The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 came out of the blue. The Palestinian terrorist group struck at a time when the White House believed there wasn’t any major threat to stability in the Middle East and was expecting a process of normalizing the relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia. No one anticipated a new Arab-Israeli war.

President Joe Biden’s administration took time to assess the situation prior to formulating a geo-strategic response. It then drew up the outline of an American response, that would secure US interests and manage those of its regional partner, namely Israel and the Arab-Sunni states.

As the US government saw it, Hamas, a close partner of Tehran and financial and military dependent of Tehran, was the driving force in the crisis. The Palestinian terrorist group had hoped the surprise attack on Israel, coupled with the kidnapping of close to 250 hostages, would nullify the deterrence capability of its adversary and sabotage the American plan to normalize Saudi-Israeli relations.

In that context, in addition to giving Hamas the green light to attack Israel, the Iranian government also gave a green light to its regional allies, including Hizballah guerrillas in Lebanon, to launch a series of attacks on northern Israel. Shiite groups in Syria and Iraq and Yemen’s Houthi rebels also carried out attacks.

Policymakers in Washington were worried that Israel was distraught by the Hamas attack, the kidnapping of the hostages, Hizballah’s blitzes, and the loss of their deterrence power. As a result, US officials were concerned that Israel’s military response could transform into a major regional military conflagration involving Israel and Iran, especially if the Israel Defense Forces were to attack Hizballah’s bases in Lebanon.

In case of a war between Israel and Iran, the United States would have little choice but to come to the Jewish state’s assistance and find its military forces directly drawn into the new war in the Middle East.

Iranian UAV “Hid Behind” US Drone To Bamboozle, Breach Tower 22 US Military Outpost In Jordan – Reports

Parth Satam

The drone traveled and hid itself behind another friendly remotely piloted aircraft, because of which it remained undetectable, reports claimed.

The incident has led to an outrage in certain sections of the American political establishment, who have been clamoring for striking Iran and launching a full-scale war.

Will the US Hit Iran?

The political and military leadership has, however, not yet shown any inclination towards attacking Iran directly, given its current engagement in the Red Sea against the Yemen-based Houthis, arming Israel in its war with Hamas and supplying military aid to Ukraine and Taiwan.

Attacking Iran directly would entail a “massive escalation and not something the US would consider lightly,” said a BBC report.

“It is doubtful, although not inconceivable, that the US retaliation would include hitting targets on Iranian sovereign territory. (But) neither Washington nor Tehran want to get into a full-scale war, and both have said so. Iran’s response could well include attempting to close the economically vital Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil and gas flow. (Thus) the challenge for the US is to find the right balance between deterrence and escalation.”

Nevertheless, it has made a formal announcement of retribution. President Joe Biden vowed to hold all those responsible “at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”

Moreover, Washington also does not have definitive proof that Iran was behind the attack and suggests that militia planned and operated the strike independently. During a routine media briefing, the Pentagon spokesperson responded when asked if they had clear, conclusive evidence of active Iranian hand that they “only know…as a general matter that…Iran…the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) funds these groups…the Kataib Hezbollah, but (we) don’t have more to share.”

Biden’s unspectacular but solid national security record

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Three years into his presidency, U.S. President Joe Biden’s hopes that his lifetime of foreign policy experience would make national security a natural political strength continue to encounter rough seas. After a reasonably good start in early 2021, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal and unseemly unveiling of the AUKUS deal with the U.K. and Australia (at France’s expense) took the sheen off his young presidency. The war in Ukraine and more recently the Middle East conflict have since taken further tolls. The latter tragedies may not have been his fault, but an incumbent is rewarded or penalized for what happens on their watch, fairly or not.

However, despite the mistakes and blemishes, Biden’s national security track record is better than widely perceived. (Fewer than 40 percent of Americans give him good grades in foreign policy in most recent polls, while nearly 60 percent typically give him an unfavorable assessment.) The key reason is this: The country is still reasonably safe, and great-power relations, while surely fraught, do not have the United States on the brink of war. As I argued in 2022, unlike his predecessor and likely 2024 challenger, Donald Trump, who took the nation closer to war against North Korea in 2017 than is commonly appreciated, and unlike certain prominent Republicans who have suggested the United States consider recognizing Taiwan independence even at heightened risk of war with China, Biden has been calm and de-escalatory, yet resolute on core matters of national interest.

Recognizing the subjectivity associated with grading a president, I would give the Biden administration a B+ in its national security record.

Recognizing the subjectivity associated with grading a president, I would give the Biden administration a B+ in its national security record (similar to my assessment in the fall of 2022 in an earlier paper). Its overall approach to both Russia and China has been fairly strong. Its policies toward other crucial issues with enduring relevance to national security—North Korea, Iran, terrorism, fentanyl, climate, the national debt, and thus long-term national power—are more mixed. (I do not attempt a broader assessment of all aspects of Biden’s foreign policy here but focus on those of greatest relevance to the nation’s safety—that is, national security in a specific and literal sense.) My verdict is that the Biden administration’s national security policy may not be sensational, but it has been generally solid on the biggest and most consequential issues.

A Famed Analyst’s Final Forecast Is the Fall of the U.S. Economy

Rob Copeland

Over his 54 years as a financial analyst, Richard X. Bove perfected the art of grabbing attention.

Through thousands of newspaper interviews, cable news appearances and radio segments, Mr. Bove turned what can be a dull, by-the-numbers career into a more showy one. Weighing in on the economy and the inner workings of Wall Street, he often bucked conventional wisdom and made enemies along the way. By his own recollection, he never turned down a media request; American Banker once called him “the country’s most quotable bank analyst.”

Last week, a few hours after completing a spot on Bloomberg television, the 83-year-old announced his retirement. He took that weekend off — and then jumped right back in. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bove (pronounced “boe-VAY”), who goes by Dick, shared a dire outlook on the U.S. economy and his former profession.

“The dollar is finished as the world’s reserve currency,” Mr. Bove said matter-of-factly, perched in an armchair outside his home office just north of Tampa, from which he predicted that China will overtake the U.S. economy. No other analysts will say the same because they are, as he put it, “monks praying to money,” unwilling to speak out on the mainstream financial system that employs them.

Many analysts are rewarded for coming up with unique but inconsequential and “arcane” ideas, he said, peppering his criticism with profanities. Mr. Bove worked at 17 brokerage firms during his career.

As he spoke, a technician was trying to restore his home internet after his final employer, the boutique brokerage Odeon Capital, pulled the plug on his last day.

Mr. Bove, who began his career before A.T.M.s were commonplace, began appearing in the media in the late 1970s, when he was a construction industry analyst with pessimistic views on homes that didn’t always pan out.

Biden Vows to Retaliate After Strike Against American Forces in Jordan

Peter Baker

This was the day that President Biden and his team had feared for more than three months, the day that relatively low-level attacks by Iranian proxy groups on American troops in the Middle East turned deadly and intensified the pressure on the president to respond in kind.

With three American service members killed and two dozen more injured by a drone in Jordan, Mr. Biden must decide how far he is willing to go in terms of retaliation at the risk of a wider war that he has sought to avoid ever since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas touched off the current Middle East crisis.

Until now, the president had carefully calibrated his responses to the more than 150 attacks by Iranian-backed militias on American forces in the region since Oct. 7. He essentially ignored the majority that were successfully intercepted or did little to no damage while authorizing limited U.S. strikes focused mainly on buildings, weapons and infrastructure after attacks that were more brazen, most notably against the Houthis in Yemen who have targeted shipping in the Red Sea.

The first deaths of American troops under fire, however, will require a different level of response, American officials said, and the president’s advisers were in consensus about that as they consulted with him by secure videoconference on Sunday. What remained unclear was whether Mr. Biden would strike targets inside Iran itself, as his Republican critics urged him to do, saying he would be a “coward” if he did not, as one put it.

“The question Biden faces is whether he just wants to react to events in the region or whether he wants to send a bigger message that attempts to restore a sense of deterrence that just hasn’t existed in the region for months now,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who worked in national security positions under President Bill Clinton.

“I’m sure they’re looking for some kind of Goldilocks response here,” he added, meaning “not too hard” that it provokes a full-fledged war, “not too soft” that it just prolongs the conflict “but something that seems just right.”

Ukraine Wants a Million Drone Army – 'Ground Drones' are Ready to Roll Into Action

Peter Suciu

Last year Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to build a "million-drone army" that could serve as a force multiplier in its war with Russia. Already, the Ukrainian military has deployed tens of thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the frontlines where they have struck Russian tanks, forward operating bases, and other high-value targets – while Kyiv has employed sea-based drones that have been used in attacks on the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

The aerial and sea drones have enabled Ukraine's forces to strike back, sometimes deep into Russian-controlled territory. This has included the use of commercially available "off-the-shelf" drones that have been modified with little more than artillery shells, grenades, and other ordnance – turning the inexpensive UAVs into deadly killing machines.

As Ukraine has run short on artillery shells, it has increasingly relied on drones, which may be less powerful but are far more accurate.

Russia too has employed drones and so-called loitering munitions as well, and it has changed the very nature of the war. Both sides continue to scramble to find innovative – and times low-tech – solutions to counter the drone attacks. This has included laser-guided munitions that can shoot over the adversary's drones, while in some cases soldiers with shotguns and sabot rounds serve as the last line of defense.

Land-based Drones – the Next Game-Changer

The next part of the ongoing "Drone Wars" could be on the ground. As Newsweek reported this week, Ukraine is literally rolling out a new type of uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV), which has been dubbed "Ironclad." The small wheeled vehicle is reported to be equipped with a Shablya M2 machine gun mounted to a robotic combat turret, while it has an armored shell that protects it from small arms fire.

South Korea’s Nuclear Education

Clinton Work

The trends driving the U.S.-ROK alliance to enhance cooperation around extended deterrence and establish the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in 2023—advancing North Korean capabilities, increasingly virulent threats, and a worsening strategic environment—have only accelerated and, with greater North Korean-Russian cooperation, expanded. Such trends naturally motivate further strengthening of the NCG. So, too, does the shadow of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. Given growing concerns that Trump’s return to the White House would undermine efforts to institutionalize the NCG, officials are moving to secure “substantive progress in an expedited manner” in the first half of 2024, according to the joint press statement following the second NCG meeting held in Washington in December.

Following that meeting, ROK Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo said that U.S. and ROK officials “agreed to complete guidelines regarding the planning and operation of a nuclear strategy by the middle of next year.” In his New Year’s Day address, President Yoon Suk-yeol remarked: “By the first half of this year, we will complete the enhanced South Korea-U.S. extended deterrence system to fundamentally deter any North Korean nuclear and missile threats.” Reinforcing the message, ROK Minister of Defense Shin Won-shik stated the commitments outlined in the Washington Declaration would be “cemented” this coming summer. Joint nuclear deterrence against North Korea will be “institutionalized” and “signed into measures of irreversibility.” Yet the insistence with which such statements are made reveals the fragility of the enterprise.

Although new bureaucratic processes (i.e., the NCG’s workstreams) take time and deliberation to set up, alliance managers must avoid allowing the process itself to take the place of concrete outcomes. Such a dynamic could undermine expectations and cause alliance fissures. Furthermore, this applies to ROK nuclear education and training, a potentially promising yet little-covered area that grew out of President Yoon’s April 2023 State Visit and the Washington Declaration.

America’s National Debt Is Massive: What Is To Be Done?

Grover G. Norquist

The debt is too high. The deficit is too big. Economic growth is too slow.

Those are the symptoms. The problem—it is worth repeating—is spending. The problem is spending. The problem is spending.

The national debt recently surpassed $34 trillion. American taxpayers also face unfunded liabilities—federal government commitments to spend beyond expected revenues for programs–such as Medicare and Social Security, of about $150 trillion.

At the end of World War II, the U.S. debt was 119.8 percent of GDP. Today, the debt is 124 percent of GDP and is projected to climb to 257 percent by 2043.

Federal outlays are about 24 percent of GDP but are expected to increase continually to at least 29 percent in twenty years.

Net interest payments on the national debt alone are now about 15 percent of the total budget, the highest share since 2001, and will likely continue to climb. These net interest payments are now about 3.6 percent of GDP, the highest share since 1999, and will likely increase to 6.2 percent of GDP in 20 years.

This trend of spending is unsustainable. But when and how will it end? Other nations have inflated away their debt or defaulted on it.

That has not worked well.

A Drone Attack Devastated U.S. Troops in Their Sleep. Is This the New Normal?


The night of January 27, U.S. military personnel were sleeping in a tent serving as temporary living quarters at a forward base called Tower 22 (located near the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border) when a buzzing kamikaze drone swooped down and exploded. The blast killed three U.S. Army Reservists from the Georgia-based 718th Engineer Company and injured over 40 more troops. Eight were evacuated abroad for treatment, and are thankfully in stable condition.

Established in 2015, Tower 22 is one of many outposts set up by the Pentagon throughout the Middle East to support anti-ISIS operations. Along with several other nearby bases, Tower 22 has extensive aviation facilities and hosts logistics, security, and engineering units that support a key U.S. special forces base just 12 miles away across the border in at-Tanf, Syria.

As Tower 22 reportedly housed 350 U.S. soldiers and airmen, roughly one-tenth of its personnel were killed or wounded by the drone attack.

Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, 2023, there have already been around 165 attacks mounted on various U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed militant groups collectively dubbed the ‘Axis of Resistance’. Thanks to stout air defenses and luck, none had yet proven fatal, but they had already caused 170 injuries.
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This was the first attack on U.S. forces since October 7 to have lethal results (though two Navy SEALs were also lost at sea during an operation intercepting arms smugglers in the Red Sea).

Spycraft and Statecraft

William J. Burns

For as long as countries have kept secrets from one another, they have tried to steal them from one another. Espionage has been and will remain an integral part of statecraft, even as its techniques continually evolve. America’s first spies spent the Revolutionary War using ciphers, clandestine courier networks, and invisible ink to correspond with each other and their foreign allies. In World War II, the emerging field of signals intelligence helped uncover Japanese war plans. During the early Cold War, the United States’ intelligence capabilities literally went into the stratosphere, with the advent of the U-2 and other high-altitude spy planes that could photograph Soviet military installations with impressive clarity.

The simple stars etched on the memorial wall at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, honor the 140 agency officers who gave their lives serving their country. The memorial offers an enduring reminder of countless acts of courage. Yet those instances of heroism and the CIA’s many quiet successes remain far less well known to the American public than the mistakes that have sometimes marred the agency’s history. The defining test for intelligence has always been to anticipate and help policymakers navigate profound shifts in the international landscape—the plastic moments that come along only a few times each century.

As President Joe Biden has reiterated, the United States faces one of those rare moments today, as consequential as the dawn of the Cold War or the post-9/11 period. China’s rise and Russia’s revanchism pose daunting geopolitical challenges in a world of intense strategic competition in which the United States no longer enjoys uncontested primacy and in which existential climate threats are mounting. Complicating matters further is a revolution in technology even more sweeping than the Industrial Revolution or the beginning of the nuclear age. From microchips to artificial intelligence to quantum computing, emerging technologies are transforming the world, including the profession of intelligence. In many ways, these developments make the CIA’s job harder than ever, giving adversaries powerful new tools to confuse us, evade us, and spy on us.

How Many ‘Limited’ Wars Are Enough?

Sohrab Ahmari

Three Jordanian-based US troops were killed and at least 34 injured in a drone attack likely conducted by Iran-backed militias. Par for the course, Republican hawks are urging the Biden administration to launch a war and think later. “Hit Iran now,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina exclaimed on the app formerly known as Twitter. “Hit them hard.” Nevertheless, unless Nikki Haley clinches first the GOP nomination and then the presidency—an increasingly long-shot prospect—Graham and other Holden Bloodfeast types won’t get the apocalyptic conflagration they salivate for.

The more likely pattern is the United States getting itself embroiled in a growing number of proxy wars and indecisive interventions along a wide geographic range, stretching from Europe’s burning eastern and southern peripheries to the Middle East to East Asia. Indeed, that’s what the Biden administration and the bipartisan establishment seem to have been up to ever since they wrapped up the fruitless post-9/11 wars: carefully calibrating escalation and support to US proxies to punish rising powers for challenging Washington in its sphere of influence—the whole planet, more or less—but without triggering all-out wars.

It is a risky strategy, since it involves frequently tangoing with two nuclear-armed states (Russia and China) and a third that might be a nuclear-threshold state (Iran). Political leaders aren’t perfectly rational actors, and the nations they rule are even more vulnerable to the power of sentiment and passion. What looks to Washington elites as a careful turn of the escalation dial might come across as a humiliating insult to, say, Xi Jinping personally or the Putin regime’s hard-core nationalist base—and then what?

But let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that calibrated escalation doesn’t accidentally launch us into World War III, and that the United States is in the absolute moral right in each case (two highly questionable premises). Even so, Americans should ask themselves a couple of fundamental questions before we accept our status as a nation of permanent proxy warriors and limited interventionists: How many proxy or limited wars is too many for a country with limited means in a world still characterized by scarcity? And what is the overall goal here—what vision of the world does the United States want to bring about that necessitates this level of hyperactivity, which leaves much of the rest of the world frequently befuddled and sometimes horrified?

“Radical Shift In Warfighting”: Real-Time Soldiers Fight Real Soldiers In Ukraine War; Emerge Victorious

Parth Satam

The employment of small suicide drones in anti-infantry roles is preventing Russian soldiers from coming to the frontlines or getting picked out by the UAVs. Russia’s credible electronic warfare (EW), too, is catching up, and a top retired Ukrainian general admitted how Moscow keeps finding new ways to jam the UAVs.

The developments follow previous analyses in the EurAsian Times, which reported on the escalation of the drone war and rapidly developing tactics ever since both countries began strapping commercial quadcopters with explosives. The technological advantage keeps shifting as Ukraine adopts a loitering munition-centric strategy for all its land warfare roles, including as substitutes for artillery.

This results from the defense industrial problems in Europe and the US, where they cannot ramp up production and meet Kyiv’s massive need for thousands of artillery rounds daily.

Russian journalists and government reports also reveal an overwhelmed industry and forward units. While pushing forward at the strategic level, Moscow faces tremendous losses tactically, harrowed by looming UAVs while awaiting jammers in sufficient numbers.

‘Mother’ Drone Controlling Other Kamikaze UAVs?

Izvestia journalist Dmitry Zimenkin posted a video of an interview with a Russian soldier on his Telegram channel, where the latter reported the new drone tactics. The soldier, identified with the call sign “Screw,” said Ukraine uses “a big flying queen and a flock of her little drones,” enemy in the Seversky direction.

Will Artificial Intelligence Lead to War?

Patrick M. Cronin & Audrey Kurth Cronin

Adeterrence strategy depends on adversaries’ perceptions of both capabilities and intentions. Today, large language models and other fast-evolving forms of generative AI could change those perceptions in ways we can scarcely anticipate. Machine learning is becoming routine in predictive maintenance, logistics, personnel systems, route calculation, and even weapon targeting. However, the impact of generative AI on strategic thinking could have a much broader effect on global stability.

Consider the Indo-Pacific region. American defense officials are fixated on preserving deterrence there, striving to ensure that revisionist powers like China and North Korea understand that U.S. security guarantees are “ironclad,” and that aggression would lead to dire costs. But our words and even our signaling actions could be discounted if defense planners in Beijing or Pyongyang believe they can use AI tools to predict what we will do. Chinese and North Korean experimentation with large-language models could reshape their perceptions of how and when the United States will use force to defend its allies and partners, such as Taiwan or South Korea. Deterrence is based on threats. It could be difficult to bluff if, after distilling vast amounts of data, an adversary believes he has perfect insight into your thinking or actions and simply doesn’t believe what you say.

It will all depend on the datasets. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) may create accurate perceptions of the danger of war and thus reinforce deterrence. Or it may just as easily fabricate misperceptions and increase the risk of conflict erupting. We simply do not know. And that is potentially destabilizing, a wild card increasing the risk of war.

Consider some examples. China wants to use AI as part of a “smart deterrence” policy to keep the United States from intervening in a cross-strait contingency. But the unfortunate implication is that the technology—and the blind confidence it instills—could be a catalyst for war rather than a deterrent. As the PLA races to achieve the ability to impose a potential blockade or even invade Taiwan, the role predictive AI could play in Beijing’s calculations is an important emerging unknown factor. Put differently, just because PLA officials think AI has found a “peaceful” way to seize more control over the island democracy doesn’t mean any U.S. leader will behave according to that model. It’s hard enough when a person is in the loop, but over-reliance on AI and machine learning in strategic decision-making could add distortion, contribute to false confidence, and even tip the balance from confrontation into lethal conflict.

Marine Corps plans to upgrade 50,000 radios across the force


The Marine Corps intends to upgrade 50,000 radios with new multi-channel, software-defined models that will be more resistant to adversary threats.

The capabilities are being modernized with NSA cryptographic standards, which the agency is mandating across the Department of Defense.

Marine Corps System Command has already fielded over 4,000 of the platforms since October 2023, with tentative plans to complete fielding of new radios and upgrading existing systems in fiscal 2025, according to a spokesperson.

The tools will be issued to units throughout the Marine Air Ground Task Force and supporting organizations. The spokesperson said the technologies will initially be fielded according to current tables of equipment reflected in the Total Force Structure Management System. Replacement is being prioritized for units that possess radios that can’t accommodate required updates.

Software-defined capabilities allow for them to be rapidly updated, enabling forces to keep pace with current threats.

“The closest analogy to our current transition in radio technology is akin to moving from the era of flip phones to the advanced world of smartphones,” Richard Sessions, program manager for Communications Systems, said in a statement. “In the past, we were limited to purchasing radios with fixed capabilities and had to replace them with newer models as technology evolved. Now, we’re shifting towards acquiring highly adaptable hardware radios that are not just modular but also capable of supporting new waveforms, marking a significant milestone in our communication capabilities.”


Michael N. Schmitt

In an Articles of War post last week, Professor Terry Gill discussed his new book, The Use of Force and the International Legal System, co-authored with Dr. Kinga Tibori Szabó. It is a fascinating journey through the jus ad bellum, the law governing the use of force by States as an instrument of their national policy. Dancing elegantly across history, content, and controversies, the authors take a deep dive into the two pillars of the jus ad bellum, the prohibition on the “use of force” in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and Article 51’s right of self- and collective-defense in the face of an “armed attack.” Both provisions are, in substantial part, reflective of customary international law.

Inspired by and building on their work, I would like to offer my thoughts on a topic the authors highlighted: the impact of new technologies of warfare on these rules. I begin by offering my perspective on how to approach that issue conceptually. I then turn to weapons characteristics that I believe have the potential to impact the jus ad bellum. In their study, Professor Gill and Dr. Szabó examined lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), cyber and digital warfare, remotely piloted aerial vehicles (drones), and hypersonic weapons. I consider them and others to tease loose the features of certain weapons (a term I use here to include weapon systems and other means of directly harming an enemy, such as cyber capabilities) that potentially affect the content and effectiveness of this body of law.

Understanding Impact

In my view, weapons potentially affect the jus ad bellum in two ways. First, they can influence the actual content of the law, usually by causing States, tribunals, and experts to interpret aspects of the prohibition on the use of force and the right of self-defense in new or different ways. The paradigmatic example is the advent of the nuclear age, which eventually led in 1996 to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons advisory opinion. Albeit controversial when issued, the opinion today is often treated as authoritative on the parameters of the jus ad bellum.