13 February 2024

Under Gaza’s Shadow, Syria Faces a New Welter of Conflict

Paulo Pinheiro, Hanny Megally and Lynn Welchman

Mr. Pinheiro is the chair of the U.N. Syria Commission of Inquiry. Mr. Megally and Ms. Welchman are members of the commission.

The scale and ferocity of the conflict in Gaza and the unspeakable suffering of its civilians have rightly provoked the world’s outrage. But in Syria, a steep escalation of violence that has forced the flight of tens of thousands more people in what remains the world’s largest displacement crisis is taking place largely unnoticed outside the region.

Syria, too, desperately needs a halt to the violence. But instead, the more than 12-year-long war there grows more intense, now along five fronts in a kaleidoscope of conflict.

Syrian government and Russian forces are fighting armed opposition groups in the northwest; ISIS is stepping up its attacks across the country; Turkey is attacking Kurdish-led forces in the northeast; the Kurdish-led forces are fighting local tribes; and the United States and Israel are hitting back against forces linked to Iran.

With the region in turmoil, a dedicated international effort to contain the fighting on Syrian soil is imperative. Over a decade of bloodshed needs a diplomatic end. A lasting truce in Gaza would also considerably calm the situation in Syria, decreasing tensions between the foreign powers — including the United States, Israel and Iran through its proxies — that are active militarily inside the country.

In Homs, in western Syria, a drone attack by unknown assailants killed and injured scores of cadets, family members and others at a military academy graduation ceremony on Oct. 5. The Syrian military and Russian forces, which have been backing President Bashar al-Assad, retaliated by attacking at least 2,300 locations in the opposition-controlled northwest, with schools, hospitals, markets and camps for Syrians forced from their homes among them. Some 120,000 people — many of whom had already been displaced several times, including by the huge earthquake last February — were sent fleeing, and at least 500 civilians were injured or killed just in the incidents that our commission has tracked since October.

The War in Gaza May End Soon, but Not the Fighting

Yaakov Katz

On March 27, 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber disguised as a woman walked into the Park Hotel in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya and blew himself up. Thirty Israelis who had just sat down for the festive Passover Seder were killed in the horrific attack.

The terrorist had come from the West Bank city of Qalqilya and the bombing came after a month which saw more than 100 Israelis murdered by Palestinians in cold blood in attacks across the country. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided that enough was enough and that same evening ordered the Israel Defense Forces to come up with a plan to change the paradigm. Two days later he gave the green light to launch a full-scale offensive in the West Bank known as Operation Defensive Shield.

The high-intensity stage of the 2002 operation lasted for just a few months. However, the results of the offensive, which saw the Israeli military return to all the Palestinian cities it had evacuated a couple of years earlier as part of the peace process, have been felt now for almost 22 years. In late January, for example, the whole world got to watch security footage of a group of Israeli commandos disguised as Palestinians covertly enter a hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin where they eliminated three alleged Hamas terrorists.

Gaza: The False Allure of the Gallant Plan

Rob Geist Pinfold

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s recently outlined plan for a post-war Gaza may appear to constitute a positive vision for the day after the fighting concludes, but it has little chance of being implemented and is fundamentally flawed.

On 4 January, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant publicised his ‘day after Hamas’ scenario for the Gaza Strip. Previously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had refused to even outline a post-war plan for Gaza, and expressly forbade his ministers from doing so. That Gallant became the first Israeli minister to detail a post-war plan is therefore a substantial policy shift. For the first time, observers have an on-the-record insight into how key decision-makers within Israel’s government envision the Israel–Hamas conflict ending.

The announcement is significant for a different yet equally important reason. That Gallant was willing to delineate a post-war plan implies that influential figures in Israel’s government are finally openly acknowledging that the conflict might soon end. The timing is also no coincidence: several days after Gallant announced his plan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a whistle-stop tour of the Middle East with the explicit purpose of soliciting regional buy-in for the Biden administration’s vision for a post-war Gaza.
The ‘Gallant Plan’

The plan’s primary objective – that Hamas will not exercise any political or military power in the coastal enclave after hostilities conclude – is unsurprising and commands a consensus within Israel’s mainstream political spectrum.

When Houthis fire missiles, these Navy warship officers must make split-second decisions

Courtney Kube and Rich Schapiro and Mosheh Gains

ABOARD THE USS MASON in the Red Sea — They sit crammed inside a windowless control room for hours at a time, staring at radar screens for any sign of an incoming threat. The officers aboard this Navy warship sometimes have less than 15 seconds to assess and shoot down an incoming missile or drone.

“It’s all muscle memory,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Kozlowski, a combat system officer aboard the USS Mason.

The Navy destroyer is among the warships tasked with protecting commercial and military vessels traversing the Red Sea amid attacks by Iranian-backed rebels.

Since October, Houthi forces in Yemen have launched more than 40 drone and missile attacks against ships in the vital waterway separating Africa and Asia. The strikes have disrupted global trade and heightened tensions in the region amid the ongoing conflict in Israel. They have also challenged American sailors.

“I won’t beat around the bush — this is a kinetic environment,” said Capt. David Coles, who is leading Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition of countries working to protect ships in the Red Sea. “The Houthis have caused a lot of mayhem here.”

Governing Gaza After the War: The Israeli Perspectives


The Gaza war has set off a number of acrimonious and polarized debates. One of the most consequential ones for policymaking in the Middle East and internationally has focused on the fate and governance of Gaza and its population.

Earlier discussions tended to be based on a “day after,” in which fighting would stop, Israel would withdraw, humanitarian conditions would improve, displaced families would return, and local governance structures would be devised or repaired. But key actors—Palestinian, Israeli, regional, and global—have staked out very different, often antagonistic positions on critical questions.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Program has asked a group of experts to present how the issues look from various perspectives. We invited them to focus not simply on what they think are ideal answers but on what answers they think are emerging or likely to emerge.

In this first group of short essays, we present analyses of likely Israeli responses. In the following weeks, we will continue to publish pieces tackling Palestinian, regional, and international responses.

—Amr Hamzawy and Nathan J. Brown


Of all forms of human error, prophecy is the most avoidable. As a historian, I typically refrain from peering beyond the annals of the past into the intricate tapestry of the present and the alarming unknowns of the future. Yet, while taking the risk of being gratuitously wrong, I can see three major vectors or possible courses of action for Israel in the post–October 7 era.

Israel’s war cabinet charts next steps in Gaza


Israeli political leadership says it is beginning to see signs of victory in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops on February 5 that 75% of Hamas battalions have been defeated in Gaza. Given that Hamas had approximately 24 battalions at the onset of the war, this statement implies that 18 of them no longer function. “We are on the path to total victory,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also portrayed Hamas as being on the verge of defeat. “The IDF is operating with great intensity and precision, as ground operations advance and achieve their objectives. Hamas’s battalions have been dismantled and are no longer functioning within their military framework, with over half of Hamas terrorists being either injured or killed.” He said Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was on the run and having trouble communicating with what remains of Hamas forces.

In addition, Benny Gantz, a political party leader and former Chief of Staff of the IDF who is part of the War Cabinet, also discussed the path to success in Gaza during a press conference on February 6. Describing Israel’s more focused and precise form of fighting, he explained that the IDF is continuing to operate in northern Gaza but could soon reach Rafah, a city still controlled by Hamas on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Gantz added that humanitarian aid should reach Gaza without having to go through the hands of Hamas. He hinted at a Gaza without Hamas, a claim that Israeli leaders have made since October. He did not mention who might be in power in the absence of Hamas. This and other key questions surrounding the future in Gaza remain unanswered.

The IDF has encircled Khan Younis and defeated most of the above-ground terrorist elements therein. A Hamas stronghold, it took the IDF more than two months to defeat terrorists here. This due was in part to Israel’s new phase of lower-intensity fighting which consists of fewer airstrikes and more precise maneuvers going neighborhood-to-neighborhood. The IDF says it has eliminated “dozens of terrorists” and detained 80 Gazans between February 5 and 6 in Khan Younis. After Khan Younis, all eyes will be on the one major urban area where the IDF has not yet operated: Rafah.



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth and final in a four-part series of articles on how national security professionals should (and should not) approach the fraught task of learning lessons from something as complex as war. We have assembled a team of sharp minds and pens in the business to apply their varying perspectives to the question opened by the Army War College’s Chase Metcalf, how do we think about learning lessons from war? It is a fitting end to 2023 and, unfortunately, will likely be essential in 2024 as well.

For the U.S. Army specifically, the lessons “learned” from previous counterinsurgency operations quickly became a kind of intellectual straitjacket during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

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

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

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

Dragon In The Maldives: Red Alert For India’s Regional Leadership – Analysis

A. Jathindra

The Maldives, a small country, was once well-known mainly for its pristine beaches and luxury resorts. However, it has now become a symbol of Sino-Indian strategic rivalry in the Indian Ocean region. Viewed against this background, “the Maldives is shaping up to be the regional test case,” but it is also a vivid example of what will happen when China’s interference grows in smaller countries. ‘India Out’ actions in the Maldives have intensified since pro-China Mohamed Muizzu seized power in September 2023.

The culmination of this is that Muizzu made his first official visit to China. It is contrary to the foreign policy tradition followed by India’s neighboring countries. Amid the tensions, three Maldivian ministers made derogatory posts against India. They purposely spread insulting words against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Through this, the tensions with India were systematically intensified before Muizzu traveled to China.

During the visit, the two heads of state announced the elevation of the Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership (2024-2028) and documents on cooperation in such areas as Belt and Road cooperation, economic and technical cooperation, the blue economy, the digital economy, green development, infrastructure construction, and assistance for people’s livelihoods.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “under the new circumstances, China-Maldives relations face a historic opportunity to build on past achievements and forge ahead.” China stands ready to exchange governance experience with the Maldives, strengthen the synergy of development strategies, advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and set a new benchmark for the China-Maldives friendship, he added.

What Does China Think About India’s Increased Anti-Piracy Patrols Amid the Red Sea Crisis?

Andrew Orchard

In response to threats to maritime shipping in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) – particularly stepped-up attacks on civilian vessels from the Houthis in Yemen – the Indian Navy (IN) has deployed a force comparable to the U.S.-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Operating under national authority, ten or more IN ships with reconnaissance aircraft now patrol the western Indian Ocean, conducting counter-piracy operations. The task force also “maintains a deterrent presence” against threats to shipping. To date, the IN has thwarted multiple pirate attacks and helped seafarers in need.

Retired Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla argued the ongoing operations prove India is a proactive contributor to the international community and a maritime power.

The Houthi attacks and uptick in piracy demonstrate the importance of securing sea lines of communication (SLOC) for India, particularly in the Indian Ocean Region. Retired Admiral Arun Prakash thus sees the current situation as an opportunity to reexamine India’s IOR maritime strategy. Prakash believes a new IOR strategy is required to foster a favorable maritime operating environment given current threats and regional dynamics, including the India-Maldives diplomatic row and the growing presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Chinese experts understand the importance of IOR SLOCs to New Delhi. It is essential in protecting critical trade routes for the Indian economy. Between $235-240 billion worth of India’s annual trade passes through the Red Sea.

However, Chinese experts are skeptical of New Delhi’s intentions.

India going down the familiar import route, this time on UAVs

Bharat Karnad

There are good reasons for redoubled skepticism about Narendra Modi’s policy of atmnirbharta (self-sufficiency) in armaments. My books and writings over the past decade have detailed why it seems to be more a political slogan than a serious substantive programme the Indian government, Defence Ministry, and the Indian military are committed to.

While the services’ chiefs of staff ceaselessly talk of atmnirbharta, in actual practice indigenous weapons programmes aren’t afforded half a chance to survive an imports-tilted military procurement process. There are many villains to blame for this state of affairs, for the country’s still being an abject arms dependency — a shameful status annually broadcast by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In March 2023, SIPRI reminded the world that India had once again topped the list of countries with the highest arms imports, accounting for 11% of global arms sales (followed by Saudi Arabia at 9.6%), a position it has held, incidentally, since 1993, i.e., in a time span covering both Congress Party and BJP governments. This factual record pretty much hollows out the current claims for ‘atmnirbhar Bharat’ in defence.

There are many culprits, in the main — Defence Research & Development Organisation and the armed services. DRDO has grown fat on promises it has made to the nation and the military without consistently delivering on them. No DRDO project has EVER produced a piece of military hardware within the original time and cost parameters. Indeed, it has perfected a modus operandi detailed in my 2015 book — Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet), that perpetually feathers its own nest whilst shrugging off responsibility. This is how it works: the initial financial outlays on any major programme are used, not to invest in technology creation, installation of production wherewithal or related activity, but in building staff quarters for the prospective project personnel complete with officers’ clubs amd swimming pools! After a few thousand crores are first spent on this extraneous construction and passage of several years of colonising some new parcel of hundreds of acres of defence land usually in and around Bangalore or Hyderabad, DRDO goes back to the government asking for funds to actually get the project going! By then the original weapon system the project was tasked to produce is, technology-wise, already approaching obsolescence, and the concerned armed service wants to have nothing to do with it. Worse, more often than not, the weapons system finally produced is the result of DRDO cobbling together something out of imported components and assemblies and pasting DRDO labels on the finished product! Thus, whole projects are rendered a gigantic waste of national wealth and resources whilst generally creating no worthwhile assets in-country.

U.S.-China Rivalry in a Neomedieval World

Timothy R. Heath, Weilong Kong, Alexis Dale-Huang

Research QuestionsWhat is neomedievalism, and what does it consist of?

What do neomedieval conditions mean for U.S. defense work regarding China?

What do neomedieval conditions mean for potential warfare involving the United States and China?

This report examines how U.S.-China rivalry might unfold under conditions characterized by a blend of some aspects of modern life with a much more substantial attenuation or regression of other aspects, a condition the authors label neomedievalism.

The report outlines key trends that collectively suggest that the future of the U.S.-China rivalry will bear little resemblance to the titanic struggles of the past two centuries. U.S.-China peacetime competition appears headed to unfold under conditions featuring a high degree of international disorder, decaying state capacity, pervasive and acute domestic challenges, and severe constraints imposed by economic and social factors that are vastly different from those industrial nation-states experienced in the 19th and 20th centuries. These trends interact with and compound the effects of one another and are unlikely to be reversed. The net effect will be to considerably weaken virtually all states, including the United States and China. At the same time, severe resource constraints and a nearly overwhelming array of threats will stress the U.S. and China militaries and impair their ability to contend with one another. Many theories and ideas of why and how great powers compete may need to be reconsidered.

Key Findings

Russia’s Dependence on China May Not Be Enough to Save Economy

Antonia Colibasanu

Executive Summary:Russia’s increasing reliance on China for trade underscores potential vulnerabilities due to China’s economic woes and the yuan’s currency controls. This is prompting Russia to aggressively pursue the digital ruble.

Despite Western sanctions, Russia-China trade has increased, enhancing bilateral commerce and financial cooperation. Trade is also increasingly denominated in yuan and rubles, furthering the two countries’ goals of de-dollarization.

Russia’s economic growth relies heavily on state spending for military purposes, potentially leading to inflation and social unrest. The push for a digital ruble aims to manage these challenges, but highlights long-term economic vulnerabilities.

On January 29, the Central Bank of Russia declared that it is in talks with BRICS member states about adopting “digital currencies” to facilitate international commerce. It emphasized the potential for integration of the digital ruble (CRDR) into the global economy with similar foreign currencies and usage in international trade. The CRDR, however, has yet to be launched properly. Banks and retailers are progressively joining a pilot program, bringing testing to millions of customers across regions (Crypto News, January 31). In August 2023, Anatoly Asakov, a member of the Russian State Duma, suggested that Russia might soon use the CRDR in its trade with China (TASS, August 15, 2023). Russia’s rising reliance on China, however, might swiftly become an issue, given China’s economic woes at home. Moscow is likely concerned about such developments because the yuan is not freely convertible because Beijing imposes controls on its value. The likelihood of a Chinese financial crisis, which was widely discussed in January, does not inspire confidence in Moscow (International Banker, January 18). This is likely one of the reasons Russia is aggressively pushing for a full launch of the CRDR.

The Empty Sloganeering of a “Two-State Solution”

Danielle Pletka

It is beyond ironic that the vile attacks of October 7 have revived the notion of a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians—an idea that was, until that moment, politically moribund. Of course, such a “solution” was far from Hamas’s aim, but it remains the only idea available to the lazy diplomatic and peace-processing class. The two-state idea serves the aims of political leaders in the United States and Europe flailing for a response to the far Left’s anti-Israel-driven outrage over the war in Gaza. It answers the mail to the demand to “do something.”

But the one question no one has bothered to ask is, Is it good for the Palestinians? And the short answer to that question is no.

“Two-state solution” is part of the lexicon of sloganeering-cum-politics that includes “black lives matter,” “defund the police,” and “cease-fire now.” And like all of those reductionist bumper stickers, it crumbles under scrutiny. The evolution of each of these ideas is predicated on a grain of truth: Of course black lives matter. There is indeed police brutality. A cease-fire now would indeed end the fighting in Gaza, albeit briefly. And a two-state solution would certainly satisfy the symbolic demands for a Palestinian state.

Also true of these parallel political constructions is that the slogan has precious little to do with the actual lives it purports to value. The Black Lives Matter movement, while soothing to upper-class suburban whites focused intently on their virtue and their Land Rovers, has enriched a few grifters at its heart and delivered shockingly little to the actual blacks who live in America’s cities and are disproportionately victims of crime, beset by poor schooling, drugs, broken families, and more.

Global Terrorism Threat Assessment 2024

Catrina Doxsee, Alexander Palmer, and Riley McCabe

Terrorism is no longer the leading international threat to the United States or its top defense priority, but challenges related to violent extremism remain. The threat from Salafi-jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State has declined, and ethnonationalist threats are largely contained. However, a broader patchwork of violent far-right and far-left extremist ideologies has become more prominent on the global stage. Meanwhile, terrorism continues to overlap in significant ways with strategic competition, especially via Iran's support to terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

This report was made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

Our Restraint Destroys Your Deterrence

Michael Hochberg & Leonard Hochberg

From left: Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Kyrgyzstan's First Deputy Prime Minister Adylbek Kasymaliev and Uzbekistan's Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov pose for a group photo ahead of a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council of the EAEU countries in an expanded format at the Atakent Business Cooperation Center in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Dmitry Astakhov, Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)

Dear Allies: Do not look to the United States for your defense.

The wars in Gaza, Ukraine, and the Red Sea, as well as the ongoing Chinese harassment of Taiwan, are not individual brush fires. They are hotspots in a world-wide forest fire.

Recent events have shown that the United States will not vigorously and reliably defend you. The United States cannot credibly threaten escalation to defend our allies. Nuclear-armed, autocratic, Eurasian regimes have developed a formula for deterring the United States.

Consider Ukraine. A Western-oriented, prosperous Ukraine, integrated with NATO, would present severe challenges for a revanchist Russia. The United States and NATO had a long window, from 1989 to 2013, in which to enhance Ukraine’s defenses. Instead, the U.S. focused on removing Ukraine’s nuclear weapons and on avoiding ‘provocation’ of Russia. Ukraine was left devastatingly vulnerable.

After the 2014 invasion, the U.S. emphasized negotiation and peace. While peace is a laudable aspiration, accommodating a bellicose Russia rewarded aggression.

While there were quiet efforts to train Ukrainian forces, the measures that could have deterred an invasion were ignored: Western air defenses, artillery, tanks, long range fires, and aircraft were not provided. Bases were not established. Only after the invasion of 2022 did equipment arrive – slowly – after a surge of support from the American public. Every enhancement to U.S. support for Ukraine since has been telegraphed in advance to Russia.

Russia is using SpaceX’s Starlink satellite devices in Ukraine, sources say


Russian forces appear to be using SpaceX’s Starlink communications service inside Ukraine, suggesting that a company celebrated for helping the defenders is now also aiding the invaders.

Ukrainian troops first detected Russia’s frontline use of the satellite-connected devices several months ago, according to one Ukrainian source. A second Ukrainian source confirmed the use of Starlink, and added that its usage appeared to be increasing. Both sources were granted anonymity to discuss topics that they were not authorized to discuss.

Right now, Russian forces appear to be using tens of Starlink terminals across the long front, the first Ukrainian source said.

“When they have hundreds, it’ll be hard for us to live,” the first Ukrainian source said.

Russia’s use of Starlink compounds the problems faced by the Ukrainian military, which is already severely short of munitions. Ukrainian artillery units, for example, are firing around 2,000 shells per day, barely a fifth as many as their Russian counterparts.

Reports that Russian forces were using the Starlink service within Ukraine first appeared in Ukrainian media, citing social-media posts. Prominent Russian volunteer groups supporting the Russian invasion have also shown off Starlink terminals purchased for army units.

Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Jurgensen said U.S. officials are aware of the reports, but referred questions to “our Ukrainian partners for any current operational information regarding satellite communications activities of this kind.”

US Intelligence Community Targets GenAI, New Personnel to Boost OSINT Collectio


In order to catch up with competitors like the People’s Republic of China’s intelligence collection efforts, the U.S. intelligence community is looking to bring in new leadership and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Bloomberg writes that veteran analyst and cyber expert Jason Barrett has been recruited by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to assist with open-source intelligence gathering and that the Central Intelligence Agency is working with ChatGPT.

Open-source intelligence, or OSINT, is a major focus for China — rather than conducting furtive espionage, the country boasts a science and technology intel workforce of 100,000, among which are analysts and operatives who seek publicly available data like internet content, conference summaries, databases and more.

OSINT was a hot topic at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2023 Intel Summit. The event’s 10th edition is coming in September — register here now to save a seat at the early bird rate. This extremely popular event annually recruits some of the biggest names in the IC, like Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Dr. Stacey Dixon and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director VADM Frank Whitworth.

“The revolution in artificial intelligence, and the avalanche of open-source information alongside what we collect clandestinely, creates historic new opportunities for the CIA’s analysts,” Bill Burns, director of the CIA, wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs.

It has been reported that the agency is beginning to harness generative AI like ChatGPT to sort through the reams of available data that fall under OSINT. Still, they and Barrett’s team have a long way to go, as two Georgetown University analysts (one a former CIA official) reported that the PRC is “two orders of magnitude ahead of us, at least, in terms of open-source exploitation.”

The dismissal of Valery Zaluzhny is a crucial new phase in the war

News is hardly the best word to describe an announcement that has been rumoured for weeks but never quite come about. Even so, when Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, at last replaced Valery Zaluzhny with
Oleksandr Syrsky as the commander of his armed forces, as part of a broader reorganisation on February 8th, it was as if something momentous had just happened.

This is partly because of General Zaluzhny’s crucial role in the country’s valiant, against-the-odds repulse of Russian forces in the early days of the invasion, and his popularity among his troops and Ukraine’s civilians. But the general’s dismissal is arresting for another, more important reason. It marks a new and crucial phase in the war—one that Mr Zelensky is in danger of getting wrong.

The differences between the actor-turned-politician and his battle-hardened commander were partly about culture and personality. After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th 2022, these differences were unimportant—indeed, they may even have been a strength. In an inspiring example of Ukraine’s “networked” culture, each component of the country’s resistance focused on its own task. Rather than exert central control, Mr Zelensky got on with being patriot-in-chief, giving voice to his nation’s defiant refusal to yield in the face of Russia’s aggression. General Zaluzhny, who had in effect already been at war with Russia for years, focused on the fighting. Only as the Russian and Ukrainian armies dug themselves in, and the front lines stagnated, did these frictions start to cause harm.

"It's the economy, stupid" doesn't ring so true in era of hyperpartisanship

Cullen S. Hendrix 

As the 2024 election season gets under way, one has to look pretty hard to find bad economic news coming out of the United States. The stock market is at all-time highs, unemployment is low, and inflation is coming down. Real wage growth has returned to its pre-pandemic upward trend. Even gas prices have come down since peaking during summer driving season and the uncertainty in July 2022 related to the Russia-Ukraine war.

But rosy economic prospects are not translating into higher approval ratings for President Joseph R. Biden Jr., which remain near 40 percent. Why isn’t Biden getting credit for presiding over a good economy?

The answer is a subject of much debate among economists and political analysts, with some saying it’s only a matter of time before Biden benefits. But it’s also true that as US partisan politics have become more vicious, voters are less and less likely to judge incumbents on the state of the economy. Candidates and campaigns spend less time trying to persuade potential swing voters with strong economic performance and more time trying to animate their bases around social issues (abortion, gun control) and appeals to their identities or groups. This trend augurs poorly not just for social harmony and democracy but for the economy as well.


Economic voting theory posits that since the state of the economy is one of the most significant determinants of social and individual welfare, voters will reward candidates and parties who have presided over good economic times and punish those who have not.

There are nuances, of course, but the general conclusion can be summed up by political consultant James Carville’s message to Bill Clinton’s campaign staff regarding messaging in the 1992 presidential race, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Evidence from the United States—but also from Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere—is consistent with “the responsibility hypothesis” that voters hold the government accountable for economic performance. As Michael Lewis-Beck and Mary Stegmaier put it in 2000, “Although voters do not look exclusively at economic issues, they generally weigh those more heavily than any others, regardless of the democracy they vote in.”

Zelensky Finds a General

Eliot A. Cohen

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he was removing General Valerii Zaluzhny from command of the military, and promoting General Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of the ground forces, to replace him. Predictably and understandably, there has already been a great deal of hand-wringing about Ukraine’s president cashiering his top general. Such concern is misplaced, not merely because it may be misinformed, but because it bespeaks a misunderstanding of sound civil-military relations.

Begin with what is actually known rather than rumored or surmised about the president and his general: that there has been tension for some time, possibly for as long as a year now. This rules out one possibility, which is that the dismissal reflects a major dispute about manpower, and specifically about conscription. In fact, Ukraine already has male conscription. There are real questions about mobilization and whether to call up those who have already served or who are currently exempt, but this debate seems to be more recent than the tension between Zelensky and Zaluzhny. Moreover, such decisions—involving the delicate balance among military needs, economic and defense-industrial requirements, and domestic political stability—need to rest in the hands of civilians, as was the case in the United States during the world wars, through the Selective Service System.

Blinken Finds Hardened Political Landscape During Middle East Tour – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has found a hardened political landscape as he tours the Middle East for the fifth time since the Gaza war erupted.

The war has toughened Israeli and Palestinian positions. At the same time, Saudi Arabia appears eager to finalise a comprehensive package deal that would include recognition of Israel.

Even so, the obstacles to securing a ceasefire and the exchange of the remaining 136 Hamas-held hostages and bodies of captives killed in Gaza for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons remain formidable. So, do the impediments to bridging differences on achieving a package deal.

Hamas kidnapped some 250 civilians and Israeli military personnel during its October 7 attack on Israel in which more than 1,100 people, mostly civilians, were killed. In November, Qatar negotiated a one-week truce during which Hamas swapped more than 100 hostages for 240 Palestinians incarcerated in Israel.

Raising the stakes, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this week left Mr. Blinken seemingly empty-handed by rejecting as “crazy” a Hamas proposal for a prolonged ceasefire and a prisoner swap. The proposal was a response to a ceasefire plan drafted by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.

Mr. Netanyahu implied there was no need to engage with Hamas because “we are nearly there with complete victory” adding that Israel would “not do less than that.”

For his part, Mr. Blinken described a ceasefire agreement as “essential,” raising the question whether Israeli-US relations have reached a point where the US will have to apply overt pressure rather than maintain its bear hug approach to force Mr. Netanyahu’s hand.

Will Ukraine Survive?


What Ukraine and its Western backers have accomplished in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion is extraordinary. But with congressional Republicans blocking further US military aid, even as Russia begins to make gains on the battlefield, there is reason to be concerned about what the war's third year will bring.

NEW YORK – Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is about to enter its third year. There is much to feel good about, but there are also grounds for worry. In short, it is time to take stock.

What Ukraine and its Western backers have accomplished in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion is extraordinary. Russia, a nuclear-armed power with three and a half times the population of Ukraine, ten times the GDP, and a military with many times the personnel and equipment, has been fought to something close to a draw. Ukraine controls some 80% of its territory, much as it did two years ago.

Russian President Vladimir Putin obviously calculated that his war of conquest would resemble his previous invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when Russian forces swept in and quickly seized Crimea and much of the eastern Donbas region. He saw Ukraine, Europe, and the United States as weak and divided. He also believed his generals when they promised that Russia’s military was strong and would overwhelm whatever resistance Ukraine could muster.

Top Army generals for cyber, space and special ops convene

Dottie White

PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — The U.S. Army’s top generals for cyber, space and special operations forces met to discuss the Triad partnership and how they can further develop, operationalize and institutionalize the collaboration.

Commanding Generals Lt. Gen. Maria B. Barrett, U.S. Army Cyber Command; Lt. Gen. Jonathon P. Braga, U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and Lt. Gen. Sean A. Gainey, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, met Jan. 31, 2024, for the third Triad 3-Star General Officer Steering Committee at USASMDC headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base.

Members of the committee emphasized the importance of the Triad due to the ever-changing character of warfare. Along with this evolution, the threats and the nature of deterrence are changing for the United States. The Triad looks to develop innovative and comprehensive solutions.

“The Cyber-Space-SOF Triad provides one of these solutions,” Braga said. “It is a ‘Modern-Day Triad’ designed to converge unique accesses, capabilities, authorities, understanding and effects in many of the same ways we have implemented combined arms operations. Additionally, the Triad provides operational and strategic advantage during active campaigning, crisis and conflict, while presenting options to senior leaders that are less escalatory than current strategic deterrence options.”

Gainey said that they must continue building upon the significant progress the Triad has already made in the development of concepts, capabilities and formations that enable exquisite operational preparation of the environment. The commands have already developed a unified exercise, experimentation and engagement plan for fiscal year 2024 and fiscal year 2025.

The Rise of Consumer Crypto


CAMBRIDGE – Since its inception with the launch of Bitcoin in 2008, blockchain technology has gone through numerous cycles of public attention. Over time, growing interest and investment in the best-known cryptocurrencies has led to greater acceptance, as highlighted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF (exchange-traded fund) in January. While blockchains and their associated “crypto” assets have yet to be adopted by a truly broad base of consumers, that is starting to change, owing to a shift in how these technologies are being used.

Contrary to what mainstream media coverage often suggests, for many people, the value of these innovations lies not so much in cryptocurrencies as in blockchain-based digital goods such as virtual sneakers, gaming assets, and membership passes – all managed by way of non-fungible tokens. As we explain in our new book, The Everything Token, NFTs – often misunderstood and even derided – are a general and flexible solution for establishing and tracking ownership across all manner of digital assets. (We both personally hold NFTs and other digital assets and advise companies with interests in this sector.)

NFTs are already being used in a wide range of contexts – from course credentials to coffee rewards – and they are poised to reshape the management of everything from concert tickets to health-care data. Since these are business contexts that affect consumers’ everyday experiences, NFTs may start to drive widespread consumer adoption on a scale that previous crypto applications have not.

Drink, Think, Link Guiding Online Mentorship

Lt. Col. Erik Davis, U.S. Army
Lt. Col. Nicholas Frazier, U.S. Army

Nick and I read Steve Leonard’s article “Scotch and Cigars: In Search of the Elusive Military Mentor” just a couple months after we launched NSTR.1 Doctrine Man’s alter ego decried the loss of mentorship and reverse mentorship that the beer calls of his lieutenant years had fostered. The officer clubs had died, and with them, the Army had lost one of the most effective mentorship tools it ever had. While the Army has an entire field manual (FM) dedicated to developing leaders, you won’t find the words “beer,” “scotch,” or “cigar” in it.2 Ashes to ashes.

In the absence of formal clubs, informal mentorship groups have sprung up all over. Typically coined “drink and think,” or “scotch and cigars,” these “thinking beer calls” are about more than just officer club culture.3 As Nate Finney writes, “These gatherings [are] about meeting new people, forging stronger bonds, and leveraging a strong network by growing the diversity of the group … a way to experience ‘discovery activities.’”4 Finney continues,

This is the “New Model” Mentoring. We are no longer constrained to mentorship by our chain of command or bosses. Instead, we get our development, support, and direction from peers and seniors in informal settings, across careers and experiences.5

Good units have formal professional development programs. Great units have both formal and informal mentorship activities. You might see a unit staff ride or case study on Operation Causeway, and you should. But you’re less likely to see formal professional development instruction on how to write an email or an officer evaluation report (OER); the former is what you’ll write most in the Army, but the latter is the most impactful. In twenty years of service, the Army never gave either of us a class on how to write an OER. It was mentors along the way who taught us, mentors who spent hours late at night in Iraq and Afghanistan typing on mIRC (internet relay chat) to help us navigate trying times. However, not everyone is so lucky.