12 February 2024

How Gaza Reunited the Middle East

Toby Matthiesen

The war in the Gaza Strip is clearly no longer limited to Israel and Hamas. On December 25, an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard official, Sayyed Razi Mousavi, in the Shiite-controlled Sayyida Zaynab neighborhood of Damascus. On January 2, Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas and a founder of its military wing, was assassinated in an Israeli drone attack in south Beirut, a stronghold of the militant Shiite group Hezbollah. Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged fire almost daily since October 7, and Israel has assassinated several senior Hezbollah figures. In the Red Sea, the Houthis, who are adherents of a variant of Shiism, have relentlessly attacked commercial shipping, provoking the United States and the United Kingdom to strike Houthi targets in Yemen. And after a drone strike by a new and shadowy Shiite umbrella group called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq killed three American service personnel at a military outpost in Jordan in late January, the United States responded with a series of strikes on dozens of targets in Iraq and Syria. There is a real danger that this back-and-forth could lead to a direct U.S. military conflict with Iran.

As many have observed, these flash points show the growing reach of the so-called axis of resistance, the loose group of Iranian-backed militias that is attacking Israeli and U.S. interests across the Middle East. Less noted, however, has been the extent to which this broader conflict has blurred the sectarian divisions that have often shaped the region. After all, the vicious civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have all had a Shiite-Sunni component; for years, Iran and Saudi Arabia have invoked sectarian loyalties in their long-running contest for regional dominance. Yet the war in Gaza has defied this tension: Palestinians are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, and Hamas emerged out of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most important Sunni Islamist movement, with roots in Egypt. How is it that Hamas has found some of its strongest allies in Shiite-led groups and regimes in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen?

Why Israel Is Winning in Gaza


Anyone who has ever been in combat knows that the enemy is almost always invisible, because to remain alive one must remain behind good cover: The one and only time I saw live enemies walking toward me, I was so astonished that I hesitated before opening fire (ill-trained, they were walking into a blinding sun).

It is the same in urban combat, but much worse because the invisible enemy can be a sniper behind a window—and any one of the countless apartment houses in Gaza has dozens of windows—or he can wait with an RPG at ground level to pop out and launch his rocket, whose short range makes it of little use in open country but is amply sufficient across the width of a street. Mortars, which launch their bombs parabolically in an inverted U, are exceptionally valuable in urban combat because they can attack forces moving up one street from three streets away, beyond the reach of immediate counterfire.

Finally, there are mega-mines: not the standard land mines with five to 10 kilos of explosives placed on the ground or just under, but wired demolition charges with 10 times as much explosive covered over with asphalt, to be exploded when a tank, troop carrier, or truckload of soldiers is above them.

That is why, from the start of Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza, almost all the media military experts, including colonels and generals festooned with campaign ribbons (though few if any had ever seen actual combat) immediately warned that Israel’s invasion of Gaza could not possibly defeat Hamas, but would certainly result in a horrifying number of Israeli casualties, before resulting in a bloody and strategically pointless stalemate.

Netanyahu cannot risk losing America's affection - opinion


The war in Gaza marks a turning point in US policy toward the Middle East. The heavy toll exacted by the long, failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has dampened the American appetite for involvement in the region.

Over the past decade, Washington seemed to acquiesce to the efforts of Russia and China to fill the strategic vacuum left by the United States. However, amid fierce great power competition and the myriad actors involved in the current war – Hezbollah, the Houthis, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria, and of course, Iran – the US has been forced to reassess its Middle East policy. The recent attack that claimed the lives of three American soldiers stationed in Jordan underscores the repercussions of regional instability for the US itself.

After a prolonged period of passivity, in which numerous attacks were carried out against US forces in the region, President Joe Biden was compelled to respond militarily. Even before that, CIA director William Burns, in a comprehensive article in Foreign Affairs, stated that in his four decades of familiarity with the Middle East, he had “rarely seen it more tangled or explosive” than in the wake of October 7.

Burns asserts, “The United States is not exclusively responsible for resolving any of the Middle East’s vexing problems. But none of them can be managed, let alone solved, without active US leadership.”

Israel’s Self-Destruction

Aluf Benn

One bright day in April 1956, Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), drove south to Nahal Oz, a recently established kibbutz near the border of the Gaza Strip. Dayan came to attend the funeral of 21-year-old Roi Rotberg, who had been murdered the previous morning by Palestinians while he was patrolling the fields on horseback. The killers dragged Rotberg’s body to the other side of the border, where it was found mutilated, its eyes poked out. The result was nationwide shock and agony.

If Dayan had been speaking in modern-day Israel, he would have used his eulogy largely to blast the horrible cruelty of Rotberg’s killers. But as framed in the 1950s, his speech was remarkably sympathetic toward the perpetrators. “Let us not cast blame on the murderers,’’ Dayan said. “For eight years, they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages where they and their fathers dwelt into our estate.” Dayan was alluding to the nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” when the majority of Palestinian Arabs were driven into exile by Israel’s victory in the 1948 war of independence. Many were forcibly relocated to Gaza, including residents of communities that eventually became Jewish towns and villages along the border.

Dayan was hardly a supporter of the Palestinian cause. In 1950, after the hostilities had ended, he organized the displacement of the remaining Palestinian community in the border town of Al-Majdal, now the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Still, Dayan realized what many Jewish Israelis refuse to accept: Palestinians would never forget the nakba or stop dreaming of returning to their homes. “Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs living around us,’’ Dayan declared in his eulogy. “This is our life’s choice—to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.’’

Geopolitical Consequences Abound in Pakistan’s Elections

Leo von Breithen Thurn

The elections in Pakistan set for February 8, given the country’s strategic geopolitical location and role in regional dynamics, undoubtedly presents regional implications stemming from potential domestic instabilities. These implications can manifest in several key areas, including security, economic partnerships, and diplomatic relations within the South Asian region and beyond. Pakistan’s strategic position in South Asia, its role in regional security dynamics, particularly in relation to India, Afghanistan, and China, and its influence in Muslim-majority countries make its political stability and policy orientations crucial to regional and global affairs.

Pakistan general elections are under significant scrutiny due to the extensive influence of the military on the country’s politics. Historically, the military has played a kingmaker role in Pakistan’s elections, shaping the political landscape to its advantage. This year, the situation appears no different, with concerns about the fairness of the electoral process being raised by various stakeholders. This includes interference with cyber security and use of the internet. Suspicious timing of the internet outage, aligning with a planned online event by a political party, has led to speculation about deliberate restraints for political reasons. This suspicion is not unfounded, as similar disruptions occurred on December 17 and January 7, creating a pattern that raises questions about the motivations behind the internet blackouts.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a popular figure among the masses, finds himself out of the race due to legal challenges and a conviction on corruption charges, which many of his supporters claim are politically motivated. Khan was sentenced three times recently: 10 years for leaking classified documents, accusations of selling and keeping state gifts, and seven years for breaking marriage law. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), also sees many of its candidates banned from politics, further complicating the election landscape.

Why is there so much violence in Balochistan?

Iran and Pakistan have historically had good relations. Iran was the first country to recognise Pakistan after the partition of British India in 1947. The two countries co-operate closely on trade and defence. But the activities of Baloch militants in the region that straddles their border have long been a source of friction. Several groups operate there, often acting jointly. Recently the situation has grown worse. On January 16th Iran fired missiles into western Pakistan, saying it was aiming at Jaish al-Adl, Sunni militants whom it considers to be terrorists. Pakistan then fired missiles into eastern Iran, at what it called “terrorist hideouts”. Both countries recalled their diplomats, then quickly decided to patch things up. Their foreign ministers met on January 29th in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, where they agreed to fight the militant groups in their respective countries. On February 2nd, less than a week before a national election, Pakistan said it had killed 24 militants in Balochistan. What is going on there?

Confusion reigns in Pakistan’s rigged election

Until very recently Nawaz Sharif
seemed certain to be Pakistan’s next prime minister. On February 6th his Pakistan Muslim League (pml-n) party took out full-page adverts in major Pakistani newspapers announcing its imminent victory in elections on February 8th and anointing Mr Sharif the head of its new government. Assured of the support of the country’s powerful army, which has in effect been running the country through a loyal caretaker government since Parliament was dissolved in August, Mr Sharif, a three-time former prime minister, and his party appeared set to romp home.

That confidence is starting to look premature. Mr Sharif’s path had been cleared by the imprisonment of the country’s most popular politicians, the former prime minister Imran Khan, and de facto outlawing of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (pti) party. Yet early results suggest that pti candidates, running as independents, have nonetheless done much better than expected. More than 24 hours after polls closed, results had been announced for 148 of the country’s 265 directly-elected parliamentary seats. These give independent candidates 61 seats to the pml-n’s 43.

The unusually slow rate at which the results are being announced has raised suspicions that the result could yet be massaged by the army. Pakistan’s rumour-mill is always awhir. At the least, the country looked to be headed for a hung parliament, or complex coalition negotiations, rather than the expected shoo-in of Mr Sharif and his party.

The way the election has unfolded already looks awkward for the army, which had appeared as confident as Mr Sharif that voters would heed its warning not to support Mr Khan. In the weeks before the vote, many pti leaders were imprisoned or disqualified from running unless they pledged to leave the party, depriving it of its first tier candidates. Those that shrugged off the intimidation to run as independents were largely prevented from campaigning openly. The election commission stripped pti of its electoral symbol, a cricket bat—evoking Mr Khan’s past record as one of the country’s greatest sportsmen. (The country’s Supreme Court overturned a lower-court ruling that the symbol should be restored.)

China’s recognition of the Taliban sets a dangerous precedent

Adam Leslie

On 30 January, 2024, President Xi Jinping provided further evidence that China formally recognises the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. This sets a dangerous international precedent and is a morally moribund approach to international relations which puts selfish resource security concerns firmly ahead of human rights and global wellbeing as China’s primary philosophical approach to international affairs.

This event is representative of the fundamental reason strategic competition with China is so important. When distilled to its purist form, it is a protracted attritional duel between liberal democracy and authoritarian socialism that is quickly devolving into a slap fight. China’s recognition of the Taliban is its latest and most outrageous slap to the face of democracy.

Prior to the Taliban’s resurgence, China maintained a cooperative relationship with the Afghan government, which included security collaboration against Uyghur militants. Following the Taliban’s takeover, China initiated engagement with the new regime, aiming to prevent terrorism from affecting its regional interests and to secure its investments, including those related to the Belt and Road Initiative.

The ethical dimensions of China’s interactions with the Taliban are seemingly complex, even on the surface. On one hand, China’s engagement is driven by security concerns and economic interests, particularly in mining and infrastructure. On the other hand, the Taliban’s lack of international recognition and domestic legitimacy raises questions about the long-term viability of these agreements.

China’s promise of economic and development support to the Taliban, in exchange for security assurances, reflects a strategic approach that prioritises resource stability and the suppression of Uyghur militancy. This is consistent with the broader narrative that China’s rise should not be feared, rather it should be welcomed as a blessing for global development and prosperity. In this regard, China’s policy towards Afghanistan could be described as clear and consistent with its approach to any country, emphasising non-interference and respect for sovereignty.

Sunset of the Economists


This is what one prominent Chinese academic told me, on a recent trip to China. Like many scholars in the mainland, he didn’t want to be named for fear of career reprisals. He is a strident nationalist, who has long enjoyed tweaking the noses of Western visitors with his talk of a multipolar world. Now he fears that China’s leaders may have inadvertently engineered a return to American hegemony through their own incompetence.

His mood is so bleak that he talked of taking early retirement, and leaving Beijing entirely. The gloominess he evinced was echoed time and again, in my discussions with dozens of thinkers from some of China’s top universities and think tanks. Not everybody was as depressed or negative, but in over two decades of visiting China I have never encountered so much frustration and lack of hope. After Beijing’s economic exuberance in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, and again in the early Covid period of 2020-21 where China’s zero-Covid approach allowed a V-shaped bounce back, the atmosphere among Chinese economists is now sober.

Almost everyone in China agrees that the economy isn’t doing well. But the reasons behind their pessimism are different from those posited in the West. They think the potential for growth is high, and they are less concerned by structural factors — demography, debt, export controls — that Western analysts obsess over. Instead, some feel that China might be stuck in a trap of its elites’ own making, where the successes of the China model in recent years could counterintuitively create the most problems in the future.

Several argued that opposition from the U.S. does not pose the biggest economic challenge, but rather the miscalculations of China’s own leaders. Very few were willing to speak on the record, and the private conversations with a few dozen Chinese economic thinkers that this essay draws on are not necessarily representative of the population as a whole (like most elites in China, they tend to be slightly older and mostly male). But what they said spoke to a deep-seated malaise that is strikingly different to the bullishness of just a few years ago.

China is winning the battle for the Red Sea


Hardly for the first time, remote Arab tribesmen are reshaping the world. Piratical attacks on international shipping by Yemen-based Houthi rebels have created a significant security crisis in the Red Sea. The world’s largest shipping lines have been forced to suspend transit through the Red Sea and thus the Suez Canal. And with nearly a third of global container traffic typically flowing through Suez, this has seriously disrupted world trade. Yet the most enduring impact of the crisis may be on the geopolitical balance between two great powers, each many thousands of kilometres away from the scorching sands of the Arabian Peninsula: China and the United States.

As the world’s largest trading nation, China has much at stake in the Red Sea. Europe is China’s top trade partner, and more than 60% of that trade by value usually flows through the Suez Canal. With that route disrupted, cargo vessels are diverting around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, adding up to two weeks in additional travel time and vastly increasing shipping costs. By 25 January, the average cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Genoa spiked to $6,365, an increase of 464% from two months earlier. Insurance rates have also skyrocketed. What’s more, Chinese companies have in recent years poured billions of dollars’ worth of investment into assets in the region, such as the 20% stake in the East Port Said container terminal of the Suez Canal that is now owned by Chinese state shipping giant COSCO. At a time when China’s growth rate is already struggling, the crisis risks imposing a serious further drag on its economy.

Apparently perceiving this vulnerability, Washington has tried to use it as leverage to convince Beijing to help end the crisis. China is the top economic and geopolitical backer of Iran, which in turn backs the Houthis, using them as a proxy to needle Israel, the United States and its allies. Some officials in Washington are convinced that, if it really wanted to, Beijing could quickly pressure Tehran into ending the Houthi attacks. Biden administration officials have “repeatedly raised the matter with top Chinese officials in the past three months”, according to the Financial Times, and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently flew to Thailand to directly plead the administration’s case in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

US and Allies Warn Chinese Cyberattackers Preparing for War

John Feng

Chinese state-sponsored hackers are putting in place what they need for destructive cyberattacks on communications, energy, transport and water systems in the United States in case of a crisis or conflict, U.S. security agencies warned on Wednesday, saying some devices had been compromised for up to five years.

As Newsweek reported this week, Western security agencies are increasingly concerned that Chinese cyber actors are infecting critical online infrastructure in order to disrupt or disable them at short notice, in "pre-positioning" that could be vital to winning any future cyberwar.

The concerns come at a time of growing tension between the U.S. and China, which has invested widely in its military and cyber capabilities as it seeks to challenge the U.S. and achieve its goal of global pre-eminence by 2049.

The FBI recently announced a major counter-hacking operation in which U.S. agents identified a malicious botnet that had infiltrated vulnerable small office/home office internet routers in one example of pre-positioning. They successfully cut off communication between the malware and its controllers.

This week's warning on potential cyberattacks came from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI. Their statement was part of a joint advisory released by U.S. allies Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand—members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance.

It said the entity behind the attacks was a state-backed hacking group in China called Volt Typhoon—also known as Vanguard Panda, Bronze Silhouette, Dev-0391, UNC3236, Voltzite and Insidious Taurus.

Qatar’s Explosive Cash-for-Hostages Portfolio


Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, at right, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrive to give a press conference following a meeting in Doha on Jan. 7, 2024, during Blinken’s weeklong trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recently caught on a recording wondering why the Biden White House wasn’t putting more pressure on Qatar to squeeze Hamas and free more than a hundred Israeli, American, and other hostages still left in Gaza. Netanyahu told hostage families that Qatar “is no different in essence than the United Nations … and the Red Cross.” The controversial petro-emirate, he clarified, “is even more problematic.”

That mildly critical assessment of Iran’s bagman offended the Qataris—a Foreign Ministry spokesman complained that the emirate was “appalled” by Netanyahu’s remarks. It seems that in Qatar, calling someone “problematic” is as bad as calling their mother a whore. The Israeli leader’s comments, said the spokesman, are “obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages.”

Qatar says it gets hostage deals done because it doesn’t take sides, like a geopolitical marriage counselor, but that’s not what an impartial mediator is supposed to sound like. No, that sounds like a spin doctor for a political operation designed to turn Israeli opinion against their government during wartime: When Iran’s Palestinian proxy tortures your brothers and sisters held in captivity until they’re dead, blame Bibi. And indeed, Qatar is using the Oct. 7 hostage crisis as a platform for an Iranian information operation weaponized to demoralize the Israeli public and leave Hamas standing.

Inside the Houthis’ Stockpile of Iranian Weapons

Robbie Gramer

Armed supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels attend a rally in solidarity with Hamas in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

Armed supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels attend a rally in solidarity with Hamas in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Jan. 29, amid continuing battles between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza. 

Removal of Ukraine’s ‘Iron General’ Is One of Zelenskyy’s Biggest Gamble

Peter Dickinson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced the removal of Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, in the biggest shakeup of the country’s military leadership since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion almost two years ago.

In a statement confirming the move, Zelenskyy said he had decided to “renew the leadership” of the Ukrainian military as he seeks to regain the initiative following last year’s failed counteroffensive. The Ukrainian President praised Zaluzhny’s contribution to the Ukrainian war effort but noted that the changing nature of the conflict and a “feeling of stagnation” meant sweeping changes were now necessary.

The decision to change Ukraine’s military leadership comes following months of speculation over deteriorating personal relations between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny. Rumors of mounting tensions first began to circulate in 2022, with the Ukrainian President accused of viewing his top commander’s surging popularity among the Ukrainian public as a potential future threat to his own position.

During the early months of war, Zaluzhny emerged as a symbol of Ukraine’s fighting spirit as the country scored a string of remarkable victories against the invading Russians. He was soon being dubbed the “Iron General,” and was lionized in the Ukrainian and international media as a military mastermind.

The rift between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny finally went public in late 2023, with the Ukrainian leader rebuking his military chief for stating that the war had reached a “stalemate” during a high-profile interview with Britain’s The Economist magazine. In a strongly worded response, Zelenskyy rejected Zaluzhny’s downbeat battlefield assessment, warning that it “aided the aggressor” and risked stirring up panic among Ukraine’s Western partners. This spat highlighted Zaluzhny’s growing tendency to go “off message” and challenge official Ukrainian positions in his interactions with the media.

Russian Gas, Chinese Tech — Europe Responds

Clara Riedenstein and Bill Echikson

Europe became addicted to Russian gas. Today, it risks dependency on Chinese telephone infrastructure and electric vehicles.

In response, the European Commission has unveiled a series of proposals to protect its economy. The plan aims to tighten export controls, restrict investment abroad in sensitive industries, and screen inbound foreign investments in sensitive sectors.

It’s a cautious strategy, less ambitious than the US’ China-targeted security crusade — in large part due to the EU’s unwieldy structure. And while the EU targets today are Russia and China, some of the same measures could be redirected against Washington, particularly if Donald Trump becomes president.

The package builds on European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen’s geopolitical blueprint, which seeks to infuse national security considerations into economic policy. This translates into stepped-up public funding and protective tariffs or quotas to protect strategic industries such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductors. On both sides of the Atlantic, the immediate goals look similar — to hurt Russia and “de-risk” from China.

After Moscow’s full invasion of Ukraine, the US and EU coordinated export controls on Russia. They have moved together to prevent China from obtaining the latest semiconductor tools. The Netherlands banned the export of Dutch manufacturer ASML’s advanced silicon chip-making machines. The EU launched an investigation into Chinese e-vehicle imports.

Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas Wars Reveal All [Cyber] Conflicts Are Global


During an impassioned public plea in October, President Joe Biden linked the Gaza and Ukraine conflicts, saying each is “vital for America’s national security.” The subsequent funding bill also linked the two and quickly became political, with debates about the connection raging.

However, while debates continue, cyberspace reflects the two conflicts being intimately linked to broader geopolitical alliances. It also serves as proof of the blurring lines between traditional hacktivism as an ideologically motivated activity and organized nation-state actor attacks.
Cyber War’s Reach

The wide-reaching effects of cyber war mean that even civilians of countries not directly involved in a war might be impacted.

For instance, in 2020, Israel faced a significant cyber threat targeting critical water infrastructure. For the US, this threat became a reality in 2023. The Iranian CyberAv3ngers group exploited vulnerabilities in US industrial control systems, revealing significant cybersecurity weaknesses in American water utilities.

The nature of modern cyber warfare adds a global aspect to nearly every conflict. Nations must tackle the issue with universally coordinated and revamped tactics able to combat sophisticated nation-states in a truly global digital battlefield.
The Blurring of Lines

The trend of cybercriminals declaring allegiances to nation-states and actively participating in geopolitical conflicts comes as the distinction between hacktivists, cybercriminals, and nation-state actors continues to erode.

Russia’s Adaptation Advantage

Mick Ryan

Throughout the war in Ukraine, Kyiv and Moscow have waged an adaptation battle, trying to learn and improve their military effectiveness. In the early stages of the invasion, Ukraine had the advantage. Empowered by a rapid influx of Western weapons, motivated by the existential threat posed by Russia’s aggression, and well prepared for the attack, Kyiv was able to develop new ways of fighting in remarkably short order. Russia, in contrast, fumbled: a big, arrogant, and lumbering bear, overconfident of a rapid victory. The institutional shock of Russia’s lack of success, in turn, slowed its ability to learn and adapt.

But after two years of war, the adaptation battle has changed. The quality gap between Ukraine and Russia has closed. Ukraine still has an innovative and bottom-up military culture, which allows it to quickly introduce new battlefield technologies and tactics. But it can struggle to make sure that those lessons are systematized and spread throughout the entire armed forces. Russia, on the other hand, is slower to learn from the bottom up because of a reluctance to report failure and a more centralized command philosophy. Yet when Russia does finally learn something, it is able to systematize it across the military and through its large defense industry.

These differences are reflected in the ways the two states innovate. Ukraine is better at tactical adaptation: learning and improving on the battlefield. Russia is superior at strategic adaptation, or learning and adaptation that affects national and military policymaking, such as how states use their resources. Both forms of adaptation are important. But it is the latter type that is most crucial to winning wars.

The longer this war lasts, the better Russia will get at learning, adapting, and building a more effective, modern fighting force. Slowly but surely, Moscow will absorb new ideas from the battlefield and rearrange its tactics accordingly. Its strategic adaptation already helped it fend off Ukraine’s counteroffensive, and over the last few months it has helped Russian troops take more territory from Kyiv. Ultimately, if Russia’s edge in strategic adaptation persists without an appropriate Western response, the worst that can happen in this war is not stalemate. It is a Ukrainian defeat.

How Drones Could Turn Submarines Into Underwater Aircraft Carriers


The flying drones are designed to be ejected from the sub and then take flight.

This new capability addresses the traditionally poor situational awareness of the submarine.

It’s hard to know what’s going on when you’re underwater. For more than 100 years, submarines have struggled with a lack of situational awareness—the result of being low to the surface of the ocean or underneath it. Now, thanks to the drone revolution, submarines will have access to flying cameras, giving them their own eyes in the sky.

The World Through a Periscope
U.S. Navy
A naval officer looks through the periscope of the attack submarine USS Springfield in Busan, Republic of Korea, February 2023.

Report to Congress on Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense


The following is the Dec. 20, 2023, Congressional Research Service report Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report

The Aegis ballistic missile defense (BMD) program, which is carried out by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Navy, gives Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers a capability for conducting BMD operations. BMD-capable Aegis ships operate in European waters to defend Europe from potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as Iran, and in in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf to provide regional defense against potential ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran. The number of BMD-capable Aegis ships has been growing over time. MDA’s FY2024 budget submission states that “by the end of FY 2024, there will be 53 total BMD capable [Aegis] ships requiring maintenance support.” MDA testified on December 7, 2023, that the number of BMD-capable ships on that date was 49, and that under MDA’s FY2024 budget submission, the number is to grow to 56 by FY2025 and 69 by FY2030.

The Aegis BMD program is funded mostly through MDA’s budget. The Navy’s budget provides additional funding for BMD-related efforts. MDA’s proposed FY2024 budget requests a total of $1,747.2 million (i.e., about $1.7 billion) in procurement and research and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts, including funding for two Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania. MDA’s budget also includes operations and maintenance (O&M) and military construction (MilCon) funding for the Aegis BMD program.

Issues for Congress regarding the Aegis BMD program include the following:whether to approve, reject, or modify MDA’s annual procurement and research and development funding requests for the program;

Non-State Actors and the Phantom of Asymmetr

Ved Shinde

The sunny days of free-riding are receding. In some form or another, most countries have leeched off American power for the last three decades. The preponderance of U.S. military heft – that undergirded the world order – produced hyper-globalisation. From ensuring open sea lanes and freedom of navigation to protecting undersea fibre optic cables and conducting anti-piracy operations, Washington’s undisputed naval strength helped create our interconnected world.

That is why the current instability in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden points towards a new reality. That a “non-state” actor can recklessly jeopardise a vital artery of global commerce is startling. It paints a bleak picture of deterrence in a key sub-region adjacent to the Indo-Pacific. The fact that Australia is participating in Operation Prosperity Guardian – thousands of kilometres away from its shores – shows that maritime security has vast connotations. Lest we forget, instability spills fast.

The penetrative Janan Ganesh points to the explosion in “non-state” actors as a reemerging current in the global playground. Look at the Wagner group. Leaving aside Africa, these Russia-aided mercenaries operate in landscapes as far afield as Latin America, repeatedly undertaking clandestine operations and employing irregular warfare.

These types of groups are enigmatic, with their activities wrapped in the fluff of deniability. From Libya to Central Africa, groups like Wagner have proliferated. Security vacuums attract non-state actors like vultures to putrid meat.


Robert Leach 

Innovation is the lifeblood of progress, and in the context of the military, it is a crucial component of keeping pace with today’s rapid technological evolution. The multifaceted challenge of innovation—which requires understanding emerging threats, leveraging cutting-edge technology, and overturning established paradigms within tactical doctrine—is not merely pivotal; it is a strategic imperative. Tactical innovation, a subset of the broader military innovation ecosystem, must be driven by the on-the-ground practitioner and is based on four key pillars: ground-up ideation, rapid prototyping, deliberate fusion of technology and tactics, and the emergence of novel concepts.

Ground-up ideation, the first pillar, is problematic for most militaries—including the US joint force. Typically, military tactical organizations spend most of their training on doctrinal approaches, proficiency on mission essential task lists, and preparation for future deployments. This schedule is not necessarily conducive to an innovative mindset. Rather, it often hinders junior military members by limiting their ability to institute any meaningful change. While the need for the training and task proficiency is categorically correct, a parallel, integrated effort must be encouraged. Ground-level soldiers have the knowledge and intimate details of tactical applications that many at higher echelons no longer possess. Their understanding of the equipment, the application of its use in tactics, and the doctrinal templates used during training form the bedrock of tactical innovation. Upon this bedrock, creativity can solve contemporary challenges facing the tactical practitioner, igniting novel solutions that are impossible in an innovation pipeline driven from the top down.

Even when ground-up innovation exists, the missing component is often the ability to transform tactical ideas into functioning prototypes. Rapid prototyping, the second pillar, propels these nascent ideas from mere concepts to tangible realities. The traditional trajectory of prototyping, marked by bureaucratic processes and detachment from the original creator, is set aside in favor of a more hands-on approach. By enabling soldiers to actively participate in developing and refining concepts, a more nuanced and sought-after solution can be enabled, all the while steering clear of the pitfalls that bureaucratic, top-down processes often present. This dynamic process not only accelerates the timeline but ensures that innovations remain intimately connected to the tactical needs they aim to address.

Google Releases Gemini, an A.I.-Driven Chatbot and Voice Assistant

Cade Metz

As it races to compete with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google has retired its Bard chatbot and released a more powerful app.

Google said its new Gemini app was designed for tasks ranging from serving as a personal tutor to preparing job hunters for interviews.Credit...via Google

On Thursday, Google introduced Gemini, a smartphone app that behaves like a talking digital assistant as well as a conversational chatbot. Responding to voice and text requests, it can answer questions, write poetry, generate images, draft emails, analyze personal photos and take other actions, like setting a timer or placing a phone call.

Immediately available to English speakers in more than 150 countries and territories, including the United States, Gemini replaces Bard and Google Assistant. It is underpinned by artificial intelligence technology that the company has been developing since early last year.

The new app is designed to do an array of tasks, including serving as a personal tutor, helping computer programmers with coding tasks and even preparing job hunters for interviews, Google said.

“It can help you role-play in a variety of scenarios,” said Sissie Hsiao. a Google vice president in charge of the company’s Google Assistant unit, during a briefing with reporters.

When ChatGPT arrived from OpenAI at the end of 2022, wowing the public with the way it answered questions, wrote term papers and generated computer code, Google found itself playing catch-up. Like other tech giants, the company had spent years developing similar technology but had not released a product as advanced as ChatGPT.

Former Green Beret: “We Are in the Year 2024, and We Are in Full-Blown Cyber Warfare”

Eddie Wrenn

“We are in the year 2024, and we’re in full-blown cyber warfare.”

This is the view of former Green Beret turned cybersecurity expert Greg Hatcher, who this week sat down with Techopedia to explore the security landscape and warned that governments do not have the resources to fight threats against their nations.

His warning comes as the US Justice Department announced last week it had stopped a China-sponsored attack that saw hundreds of US routers infected with malware.

Key TakeawaysGreg Hatcher, former Green Beret and cybersecurity expert, warns that we are in full-blown cyber warfare in 2024.
Hatcher emphasizes China, Russia, and North Korea as major threats to the US cyberattack surface.
FBI Director warns that “China hackers outnumber FBI cyber personnel 50-1”
The Justice Department recently intercepted a China-sponsored attack targeting US civilian routers, highlighting ongoing cyber threats.

Only last week, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told a House hearing on Chinese cybersecurity threats that China “…has a bigger hacking program than that of every major nation combined.

Google Prepares for a Future Where Search Isn’t King


CEO Sundar Pichai tells WIRED that Google’s new, more powerful Gemini chatbot is an experiment in offering users a way to get things done without a search engine. It’s also a direct shot at ChatGPT.

GOOGLE’S CEO SUNDAR Pichai still loves the web. He wakes up every morning and reads Techmeme, a news aggregator resplendent with links, accessible only via the web. The web is dynamic and resilient, he says, and can still—with help from a search engine—provide whatever information a person is looking for.

Yet the web and its critical search layer are changing. We can all see it happening: Social media apps, short-form video, and generative AI are challenging our outdated ideals of what it means to find information online. Quality information online. Pichai sees it, too. But he has more power than most to steer it.

The way Pichai is rolling out Gemini, Google’s most powerful AI model yet, suggests that much as he likes the good ol’ web, he’s much more interested in a futuristic version of it. He has to be: The chatbots are coming for him.

Today Google announced that the chatbot it launched to counter OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Bard, is getting a new name: Gemini, like the AI model it’s based on that was first unveiled in December. The Gemini chatbot is also going mobile, and inching away from its “experimental” phase and closer to general availability. It will have its own app on Android and prime placement in the Google search app on iOS. And the most advanced version of Gemini will also be offered as part of a $20 per month Google One subscription package.

An AI-risk expert thinks governments should act to combat disinformation

One day last November, Olaf Scholz addressed the German people with an unexpected announcement: his government was to request the Federal Constitutional Court to ban the “fascist” Alternative für Deutschland, a far-right political party. A video containing the German leader’s message appeared on a website created specifically for that purpose.

Only it wasn’t the real Mr Scholz. A German group of guerrilla artists had used artificial intelligence (ai) to create a “deepfake”: an image or video generated by machine-learning software. Just a few hours after the clip went live, a government spokesman condemned the “manipulative” nature of such videos and their potential to “stir up uncertainty”.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre recently raised similar concerns that deepfakes could compromise democratic discourse and upcoming elections through targeted disinformation. As politicians fret about the trend, ordinary voters are growing more worried, too. According to a poll by Ipsos last year, a majority of people in numerous countries, including America, Britain and France, believe that ai will make disinformation worse.

Yet there is actually a lot of uncertainty about how real this danger is. Despite the use of advanced ai, the deepfake of Mr Scholz is easily given away as fake by out-of-sync lip movement and an unnatural voice. The same is true for the majority of deepfakes currently circulating on social media. Are fears of ai-generated disinformation exaggerated?

Some experts point to studies from before the rise of generative ai that show that disinformation campaigns are generally of limited success. For example, Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke University, and colleagues looked at a concerted Russian disinformation campaign on Twitter in 2017 and concluded that it largely failed to sow political division among Americans. People’s general reluctance to change their political views in response to any piece of information, though often a curse, might in this case be a blessing.