19 March 2024

Hezbollah tells Iran it would fight alone in any war with Israel

Samia Nakhoul, Parisa Hafezi and Laila Bassam

With ally Hamas under attack in Gaza, the head of Iran's Quds Force visited Beirut in February to discuss the risk posed if Israel next aims at Lebanon's Hezbollah, an offensive that could severely hurt Tehran's main regional partner, seven sources said.

In Beirut, Quds chief Esmail Qaani met Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the sources said, for at least the third time since Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel and Israel's devastating retaliatory assault on Gaza.

The conversation turned to the possibility of a full Israeli offensive to its north, in Lebanon, the sources said. As well as damaging the Shi'ite Islamist group, such an escalation could pressure Iran to react more forcefully than it has so far since Oct. 7, three of the sources, Iranians within the inner circle of power, said.

Over the past five months, Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, has shown support for Hamas in the form of limited volleys of rockets fired across Israel's northern border.

At the previously unreported meeting, Nasrallah reassured Qaani he didn't want Iran to get sucked into a war with Israel or the United States and that Hezbollah would fight on its own, all the sources said.

"This is our fight," Nasrallah told Qaani, said one Iranian source with knowledge of the discussions.

Calibrated to avoid a major escalation, the skirmishes in Lebanon have nonetheless pushed tens of thousands of people from their homes either side of the border. Israeli strikes have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and six civilians.

An Alternate Strategy for Gaza

Raphael S. Cohen

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the Biden administration has tried to toe a delicate line: backing Israel's war against the group in Gaza, while pushing Israel to ease the humanitarian toll of its operations and take the Palestinians' legitimate political grievances seriously. By all accounts, toeing this line has been a frustrating and thankless endeavor—and, increasingly, a lonely one. Today, even the United States' closest allies are calling for an “immediate cease-fire” that would put an end to Israel's operations in Gaza. At home, the White House is facing increasing pressure from Democrats in the U.S. Congress and parts of the Democratic base to change its current tactics in dealing with Israel.

And yet, what the Biden administration understands—and what Israel's many critics miss—is that the international community cannot dictate a solution to the Israel-Hamas war by fiat. If the international community wants Israel to change strategies in Gaza, then it should offer a viable alternative strategy to Israel's announced goal of destroying Hamas in the strip. And right now, that alternate strategy simply does not exist.

There is a brutal logic to Israel's actions in Gaza. By its own estimates, Israel has destroyed three-quarters of Hamas's battalions and killed two of five brigade commanders, 19 of 24 battalion commanders, more than 50 platoon leaders, and 12,000 of Hamas's 30,000 foot soldiers. American intelligence estimates are lower, but not by much: Between 20 to 30 percent of Hamas's fighters and 20 to 40 percent of its tunnels are estimated to have been destroyed as of mid-January. It's also worth remembering that Hamas is structured more like a conventional military than a pure terrorist group. As a rule of thumb, conventional forces are considered combat ineffective once they lose more than 30 percent of their strength and destroyed once they lose 50 percent.

Violence Has Failed Palestinians

John Aziz

The path to Palestinian statehood has been crushed beneath an avalanche of bombs, bullets, smoke, and fire. “After Hamas is destroyed Israel must retain security control over Gaza to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel, a requirement that contradicts the demand for Palestinian sovereignty,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a prepared statement in January.

Playing Both Sides of the U.S.-Chinese Rivalry

Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Isaac Kardon

On a visit to Budapest in late February, China’s minister of public security, Wang Xiaohong, secured a face-to-face meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to establish a new bilateral security arrangement. China and Hungary agreed to cooperate on law enforcement, policing, and counterterrorism, putting security ties at the center of their relationship.

In many ways, it was a puzzling agreement, since Hungary is already a member of a security alliance—NATO—that protects it from armed attack. But Budapest’s pursuit of security relationships with both Beijing and Washington is a notable example of a global trend. Overlapping.

Tech, National Security, and China: Q&A with Jason Matheny

Q. You had three titles in the Biden Administration: deputy assistant to the president for national security, NSC coordinator for technology, and deputy director of the Office of Science and Technology [OSTP is the president's science adviser and his or her staff]. What was your role?

The role was created to help bridge the National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Typically, there hadn't been a dual-hatted person who could help bridge those two portfolios. My role was to help advise the national security advisor and the NSC and the science advisor in OSTP and ensure that the two portfolios—one related to national security, one related to science and technology policy—were in sync.

There is increasing attention to the way in which civilian science and technology issues are affecting national security. Dual-use technologies like AI, semiconductors, and synthetic biology have commercial applications and national security applications.

You have talked about creating a permanent so-called 'Red team' to think about what China is doing.

In cases where you need to simulate how another side might respond to one's policies, you might want to have a group that permanently plays the role of your competitor and tries to anticipate how they would react to policy X or policy Y. The idea here is to have a policy red team that was deeply immersed in Xi Jinping Thought and tried to imagine how Xi Jinping and other key parts of the CCP could interpret U.S. policy, and how they might respond in turn. Such a group might be a kind of an immersion program in absorbing PRC media and PRC Politburo information.

The goal then would be for them to impersonate the decisionmaking of Xi and his inner circle. There are things like this that have existed in the intelligence community before.

Can China Shift the Foundations of Its Economy?

Cameron Abadi and Adam Tooze

China’s government recently announced a 5 percent growth target for the country, which surprised many analysts in the West, where the consensus has been that China is struggling amid economic headwinds ranging from a burst real estate bubble to de-globalization. Some even suggest that the 5 percent target is the result of Beijing fudging its own economic data. What’s not in dispute is that the Chinese economy, after a historically rapid rise, needs to change some of its economic foundations to continue that rise in the future.

Tracking China’s Defense Spending

China is intensifying its defense modernization, planning to allocate $236.1 billion to defense this year. This figure excludes costs for military research and development, some procurement, paramilitary forces and the coast guard, indicating actual defense spending will significantly exceed the initial estimate. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute predicts China’s total military expenditure will be about a third higher than the official budget.

China maintains over 2 million active military personnel, necessitating substantial funding for salaries and equipment. China also faces a significant economic downturn, intensifying the competition for government resources. Moreover, prioritizing defense spending is crucial for China; the People’s Liberation Army is vital for regime security, especially as increased domestic unrest enhances the PLA’s role in maintaining stability. Finally, showcasing a robust military presence is strategically important for China, given its numerous territorial disputes and the military advancements of neighboring countries like Japan and South Korea.

Shipbuilding: the new battleground in the US-China trade war

Rana Foroohar

Shipping has been at the centre of the global economy for over 5,000 years, and it is no less important now than it was for our seafaring ancestors.

For all our technological advances, it is still the most effective means of importing and exporting goods and raw materials. It remains crucial to national security, not just for the long-standing role it has played in the defence of nations and of trade but also because today’s port software and logistics platforms hold crucial data about which countries and companies are moving goods around the world.

Even Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, believed that shipbuilding was one of the very few industries that deserved national support and should not be left to market forces alone.

That’s a key part of the argument being made in a new petition for trade relief and state support of the US shipbuilding industry under a so-called section 301 case filed by the United Steelworkers union and other labour organisations on March 12.

The petitioners accuse China of distorting global markets in the maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors through “unreasonable and discriminatory acts, policies, and practices”.

The petition, which the US government now has 45 days to respond to, seeks a variety of penalties and remedies to level the global playing field in shipbuilding and stimulate demand for commercial vessels built in the US. These include port fees on Chinese-built ships docking at US ports, and the creation of a Shipbuilding Revitalisation Fund to help the domestic industry and its workers.

A case that might appear focused on one industry in fact has dramatic global implications. Not only does it have the potential to reignite the US-China trade conflict, but it will also increase the focus on China’s growing military might and the massive commercial shipping industry that underpins it. At the same time, it raises questions about America’s ability and even willingness to reindustrialise in strategic sectors, which may bleed into the 2024 presidential election.

Vessel struck in Red Sea as Houthis promise attacks on more shipping lanes

A merchant vessel has been damaged in a missile strike in the Red Sea off Yemen, marine security monitors said, as the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels threatened to expand their attacks on shipping which have disrupted global trade.

The crew was not injured and the vessel continued its journey, said the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and security firm Ambrey, after the incident west of the rebel-held port of Hodeidah on Friday.

The British Navy’s UKMTO said the ship reported being “struck by a missile”.

“The vessel has sustained some damage,” the UKMTO said, and described the crew as being “safe”.

The Houthis did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, which comes as its leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said the group’s operations targeting vessels will escalate to prevent Israel-linked ships from passing through the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

“Our main battle is to prevent ships linked to the Israeli enemy from passing through not only the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but also the Indian Ocean towards the Cape of Good Hope. This is a major step and we have begun to implement our operations related to it,” al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday.

The Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel’s continuing war on Gaza.

Ending the Houthi Threat to Red Sea Shipping

Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Casey Coombs, Ibrahim Jalal, Kenneth M. Pollack, Baraa Shiban, and Katherine Zimmerman

Once again, the United States confronts an unexpected threat in the Middle East—this time, from the Houthis of Yemen, who have chosen to take their war against the government of Yemen out into the Red Sea to try to strangle the 12 percent of global shipping that flows through the Bab el-Mandeb. 1 The Houthis are ostensibly doing this in support of Hamas, but in reality, it is in pursuit of their wider ambitions in Yemen and the region and on behalf of their Iranian allies.

Once again, Americans are asking what is the least we can do to address this threat. Unfortunately, as we should have learned over the past 45 years, trying to do the least in the Middle East often means we end up having to do the most. A smart, feasible middle course is available to the United States and its allies, but it will require us to recognize that the United States has a real stake in the outcome of the Yemeni civil war and that that interest lies with ensuring the Houthis do not prevail. While it will require important changes from how we have tackled the problem so far, the best news is it should not require American boots on the ground in Yemen and is likely to be welcomed by most Yemenis and all of our allies in the Middle East.

Washington warned, punished, and warned the Houthis again against drone and missile attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea. Instead of stopping after joint US-UK strikes on Houthi targets in January, the Houthis escalated, including by launching one of their most complex attacks to date and increasingly focusing on US-owned vessels.2 They vowed to respond to a third round of joint US-UK strikes on February 3 that targeted “deeply buried” Houthi military capabilities.3 The Houthis remain undeterred and, in fact, are emboldened in the face of international pressure to back down.

Continued strikes targeting Houthi weapons caches and military sites are unlikely to change the Houthis’ behavior or the power imbalance; they weathered years of Saudi and Emirati air strikes and emerged the strongest power in Yemen. Since by all appearances the joint US-UK strikes on Houthi sites seem unlikely to stop the Houthi attacks, Washington will have to do more and better.

US officials say Houthi bombing campaign hindered by intel gaps

Felicia Schwartz

The US military’s attempt to halt Yemen-based attacks on Red Sea shipping is being hindered by insufficient intelligence about Houthi militants’ arsenal and full capabilities, according to American officials.

While the Pentagon is confident that weeks of missile strikes have destroyed much weaponry and forced Houthis into tactical adjustments, the extent of the damage is unclear because the US lacked a detailed assessment of the group’s capabilities before launching its bombing campaign, said current and former US officials.

Some of those concerns have been voiced in public in recent days. Dan Shapiro, the Pentagon’s top official on the Middle East, told a congressional hearing last week that while the US military had “a good sense” of what it had destroyed, it did not “fully know the denominator” — meaning the original make-up of the Houthis’ arsenal before the start of the US military campaign in January.

Shapiro’s public remarks reflect a growing concern expressed by senior US officials in private that the incomplete intelligence picture is clouding the Pentagon’s assessment of what capabilities the Iran-backed rebel group has retained.

Houthi attacks on vessels sailing through the Red Sea, a crucial shipping lane for global trade, began last year after Israel launched its war against Hamas in Gaza. The Iran-backed group has said its campaign will continue as long as Israel continues fighting in Gaza

The US and the UK, backed by other allies, launched air strikes on Houthi positions on January 12 and have pounded the group periodically in the seven weeks since. The campaign has destroyed or degraded 150 targets, the Pentagon said, including anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles launchers, communications facilities, drones, unmanned surface vessels, air surveillance, weapon depots and command facilities.

But the Houthis, who endured almost a decade of bombardment by a Saudi-led coalition before the current conflict, have proven adept at resupplying their positions, and have continued to menace ships in the region.

Two Years After Russia Invaded Ukraine: Q&A with RAND Experts

Q. How has the situation changed in the last year?

WILLIAM COURTNEY In 2023 in the ground war, both sides carried out failed offensives in eastern and southern Ukraine, leaving a stalemate on the ground. In the naval war, Ukraine's innovative drones and anti-ship missiles sank warships from Russia's Black Sea Fleet; Moscow relocated some remaining ships to the eastern Black Sea, helping to clear the way for Ukraine to resume grain and other merchant shipping via the Turkish straits. In the air war, Ukraine's defenses shot down growing numbers of Russian missiles and drones. U.S.-supplied Patriot interceptors even downed Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which Putin had claimed were invulnerable.

RAPHAEL COHEN Compared with last year, Ukraine faces two challenges. Militarily, the lines have largely stagnated, if not tilted by sheer force of mass, somewhat in Russia's favor. Politically, the West—and particularly the United States—has struggled to provide the military aid Ukraine needs to sustain the fight. Ukraine can't turn the military tide without more Western military aid, but Ukraine will struggle to get more military aid, unless it can demonstrate to skeptics—particularly in the United States—that it can win on the battlefield.

ANN DAILEY Western political leaders have finally realized this will be a long war. Follow-on effects from this realization vary depending on where a country stands in its support for Ukraine. Countries like Estonia and the United Kingdom have endeavored to invest in defense industrial base production and provide long-term funding to signal to Russia that they cannot hope to win by out-waiting Kyiv's partners. This year will be decisive not just because of what happens on the battlefield, but because 64 countries—including the United States—will go to the polls.

JAMES BLACK After the dramatic swings in territorial control during 2022, the war settled into a positional and attritional grind in 2023. Along with mounting Russian losses in the hundreds of thousands, and the destruction of huge swathes of equipment and consequent mobilization of Russia's economy onto a war footing to replace stocks, the grit of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has long since shattered any illusion that Russian society could be insulated from the dire costs of Putin's “special military operation.”

MARTA KEPE Over the last year the war has turned into a grinding war of attrition. Both sides have experienced various problems from logistics and sustainment to almost inescapable surveillance by the other side.

Where do you think the conflict will be one year from now?

COHEN To be blunt, it's going to depend a little on the U.S. elections and whether American aid to Ukraine keeps flowing. This war can only be won in Ukraine, but it can be lost here in Washington, D.C.

Beyond the Eye of the Storm

Bryan Frederick, Caitlin McCulloch

Climate change is on the verge of altering political, economic, and social systems in ways that could have far-reaching effects on U.S. security interests. There is growing awareness within the U.S. government that climate change could pose a serious national security threat. However, although the need to prepare for the physical effects of climate change on military operations and basing is well understood, how climate change might affect other aspects of international security has not been thoroughly studied.

This paper makes the case that there is still an enormous amount to be learned about how climate change may affect U.S. national security. To help close this gap, the authors highlight specific areas that researchers should study further and illustrate how the impacts of climate change in these areas may affect both the Department of Defense as a whole and the Department of the Air Force specifically.

U.S. Military Theories of Victory for a War with the People's Republic of China

Jacob L. Heim, Zachary Burdette, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

A military conflict between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) would entail escalation risks that the United States has not seriously considered since the Cold War. The authors of this paper consider how the United States can prevail in a limited war with the PRC while avoiding catastrophic escalation.

The authors do so by considering theories of victory for the United States in a war with China. A theory of victory is a causal story about how to defeat an adversary: It identifies the conditions under which the enemy will admit defeat and outlines how to shape the conflict in a way that creates those conditions. The authors consider five theories of victory and identify two as most viable: denial (persuading the enemy that it is unlikely to achieve its objectives and that further fighting will not reverse this failure) and military cost-imposition (using military force to persuade the enemy that the costs of continuing the war outweigh the benefits). The authors maintain that denial offers the best chance for delivering victory while avoiding catastrophic escalation, whereas military cost-imposition has lower prospects of success and higher chances for catastrophic escalation.

The Day After: Postwar U.S. Strategy Toward Russia

Miranda Priebe & Samuel Charap
Source Link

Preparing for the Aftermath

No matter when the hot phase of the current war ends, Russia will remain a threat both to Ukraine and to the interests of the United States and its allies. How, then, should the United States deal with Russia after the war? How should postwar considerations affect wartime policy?

Whenever the conflict ends, the way that the United States approaches its relationship with Russia will affect U.S. interests in Europe and, likely, around the globe. Given these stakes, U.S. strategists need to plan for the postwar period now.

Answers to these questions matter immensely. Decisions made in the immediate aftermath of wars can have significant long-term consequences. The settlements that ended the First and Second World Wars reshaped nations, societies, and the international order in ways that are still felt today. RAND analysis has found that policymakers' assumptions about the trajectory of major wars — such as how long such wars will last and what postwar environments will be — often prove wrong, complicating the planning for their aftermath.

Although the Russia-Ukraine war is not (as of this writing in late 2023) a great power conflict like World War I and World War II, it pits one major power against a large neighboring state that is supported by another major power, the United States, and its allies. Whenever the conflict ends, the way that the United States approaches its relationship with Russia will affect U.S. interests in Europe and, likely, around the globe. Given these stakes, U.S. strategists need to plan for the postwar period now. The first step is to identify possible U.S. policy approaches and assess their likely impact.

Imagining Possible Futures

Planning for after the war is fraught with significant uncertainty: Strategists do not know the conflict's trajectory, when the fighting will stop, or how the international environment will change as a result. Given this uncertainty, the implications of U.S. strategic choices must be explored in different contexts.

Washington Goes All-In on a TikTok Ban

Rishi Iyengar

After months of dormancy, the conversation around banning TikTok in the United States has erupted, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle resoundingly endorsing a bill that would remove the short-form video app from U.S. app stores unless its owner, Chinese tech giant ByteDance, sells it to a U.S. or U.S.-allied firm.

Sweden’s New Model Army

Gil Barndollar

Sweden officially joined NATO last week as the alliance’s 32nd member and the United States’ newest treaty ally. Analysts and commentators have been quick to highlight Sweden’s robust arms industry and the geographic benefits of an allied Sweden. With its control of 109-mile-long Gotland Island at the center of the Baltic Sea, Sweden will help turn the Baltic into a “NATO lake,” protecting the vulnerable trio of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. But Sweden’s greatest potential contribution to the alliance is curiously unsung. The selective conscription system that Sweden reauthorized in 2017 offers a critical example to the many European NATO militaries facing an existential threat at home: the struggle to find soldiers for their shrinking forces.

Hypersonic Vehicles are a Technological Tie that Binds U.S.-Sino Researchers


Executive Summary

1. Hypersonic Revolution: Hypersonic vehicles, traveling at speeds beyond Mach 5, promise to redefine aerospace and defense sectors. Their potential lies in rapid response, reconnaissance, and even commercial air travel, but they also present aerodynamic and control challenges.
2. Cross-border Collaborations: Hypersonic research isn’t limited by national boundaries. Collaborations, especially between technologically advanced nations like the US and China, can accelerate breakthroughs and pool resources.
3. China’s Hypersonic Strategy: China’s focus on hypersonic technologies over the past decade is strategic. They view these vehicles as potential game-changers, capable of neutralizing advanced defense systems of adversaries.
4. DF-ZF Hypersonic Glide Vehicle: Central to China’s hypersonic endeavors, the DF-ZF can glide and maneuver at Mach 5+ speeds. Its potential to deliver nuclear and conventional warheads while evading missile defenses poses global security challenges.
5. Starry Sky-2 Waverider’s Milestone: Successfully tested in 2018, this experimental wave rider can harness shock waves from its flight, achieving Mach 5.5 speeds and reaching altitudes of 30 km.
6. Strategic Global Implications: China’s hypersonic advancements challenge existing missile defense systems. Entities like the Pentagon are reevaluating defense strategies, viewing China’s progress as a potential global defense destabilizer.
7. Global Response: The absence of international treaties on hypersonic weapons and China’s rapid advancements have spurred major powers to accelerate their hypersonic programs.
8. Research Methodology: The analysis was based on a dataset of 1800 papers with “hypersonic vehicle” in the title or abstract, highlighting collaborations between US universities and Chinese affiliations.
9. Key Chinese Research Affiliations: Institutions like the National University of Defense Technology and Beihang University are leading China’s hypersonic research, covering areas from aerodynamics to control systems.

Leapfrogs and Shortcuts

Rachel L. Reynolds


Research Question

The United States’ technology development strategy is a system that can be mapped to an evolutionary landscape—a theoretical construct to describe the performance of complex systems based on inputs and interactions, originating from the field of evolutionary biology and since adapted by a myriad of social science studies. This evolutionary landscape framework helps conceptualize constraints on the routes to peak system performance (called available paths). Evolutionary landscapes are much like topographical maps where high points of elevation represent high fitness or performance in an environment. The mathematical function that describes the surface of the landscape represents all the possible combinations of inputs or traits that result in a given level of fitness or performance. In any environment, a system can only opt to follow the terrain described by the evolutionary landscape’s surface—that is, a system must follow available paths to performance. In technology development, inputs such as amount of money, time, or personnel resources spent result in a particular level of technological performance.

Other countries, especially China, engage in theft of militarily critical technologies, a phenomenon termed technology transfer. Notionally, their achievement of higher performance (or fitness peaks) through theft represents a contradiction of path availability in an evolutionary landscape. A contradiction in this sense means not following the contours of the landscape’s surface terrain upon which a route from one point to another is “available.” Such a contradictory path can be thought of as “leapfrogging” or “shortcutting” from a relatively low performance peak to a relatively high one via a route that does not follow the landscape’s topology.

This paper examines alternate paths to the acquisition of militarily critical technology and addresses the problem of whether the theft of such technology represents a viable path to strategic advantage. I approach this problem through the lens of evolutionary landscapes applied to cases of illegal Chinese technology transfer from the past 30 years. More specifically, the paper seeks to answer the following question: How does Chinese technology transfer deviate from the evolutionary landscape paths traversed by US technology development?

Army University Press Military Review, March- April 2024, v. 104, no. 2

Strengthening the Army Profession through the Harding Project

A “Light but Aggressive Command”: The 1945 Campaign in the Southern Philippines

Enabling Division Operations across the Conflict Continuum: What an SFAB Can Do for You

Lewis and Stokes: What Lawrence of Arabia and His Sergeants Teach Us about the Modern Combat Advisor

The First Forty-Eight Hours

Feeding the Troops: Searching for a Way Forward in China 1944–1945

Defender-Europe 2022: A Combined Arms Battalion’s Long-Range Movement across Europe

V Corps: A Case Study in Deterrence for Split-Based Headquarters with Regionally Aligned Forces

Lessons Learned by the 75th Ranger Regiment during Twenty Years of Tactical Combat Casualty Care

Blood Types and Titers: Saving Lives on the Battlefield with Blood Far Forward

Biological Electronics: A Transformational Technology for National Security

How to Win Arguments on the Internet

Deliberate Practice and the Acquisition of Military Expertise

Poem: Apparitions of the Mind

Haiku in the Classroom: Using Poetry to Educate Future Staff Officers

Using Alternative History to Think Through Current and Future Problems

D. Sean Barnett, Robert Citino, Yvonne K. Crane, Gian Gentile & Adam Givens

History cannot be relived or rerun as one might conduct laboratory experiments in the physical sciences. However, we can use history to help us understand what happened (and why) as a starting point for considering what might have occurred if things had turned out differently. Known as counterfactual historical analysis or alternative history, this approach allows us to use our imaginations to create laboratories of the mind, testing inputs to seek alternative results.

Considering historical scenarios that are counter to the facts—how things “might have been”—is a natural human tendency. From entertainment films like It's a Wonderful Life and Back to the Future to more serious contemplations of the nature of reality like Philip K. Dick's novella The Man in the High Castle and Amazon Prime Video's streaming adaptation of the book, counterfactuals allow us to contemplate things, not merely as they are, but how they might have been different with a tweak here and there in the timeline.

But beyond its entertainment value, counterfactual analysis has practical benefits when considering national security and defense matters for decisionmakers to plan for what is to come. Above all, they can be useful in putting policymakers and planners into the shoes of those who have gone before them, facing them with the same kinds of time-space dilemmas, resource limitations, and political constraints faced by the real historical actors. Standard history can often devolve into a form of determinism, enumerating a list of reasons why the historical event had to turn out the way it did. Indeed, so prevalent is this problem in historical writing that professional historians have coined the neologism “over-determined,” for cases in which the author leads the reader in a teleological fashion to the inevitability of the actual historical outcome.

Counterfactual analysis shatters the envelope of “over-determination” by making (often subtle) changes in the historical situation, either providing something that was missing or taking away something that was present. When done carefully and thoughtfully, the change can help bring the deeper reality of the situation into sharper focus. An earlier start to an operation or different weather or a particular weapon system arriving a decade or a generation sooner than it actually did allows participants in an exercise to develop deeper insights into the planning process (in the case of an operation's start time), the vagaries of chance on the battlefield (the weather), or the nature and importance of technology and innovation (in the case of a new weapon system). Counterfactuals let the true nature of historical contingency shine forth—in which small events can combine, “snowball,” and eventually develop into mighty outcomes.

The Age of Uncertainty—and Opportunity: Work in the Age of AI

Brent Orrell and David Veldran

In an era defined by rapid technological advancements, artificial intelligence has emerged as a so-called generalpurpose technology, akin to the steam engine, electricity, and the transistor, with the potential to reshape all aspects of our economy and lives. Much of AI’s transformative potential is due to recent developments in the field—particularly the rise of generative AI, which can create novel text, images, and audio. According to a recent report published by McKinsey & Company, this new wave of technology could add $2.6–$4.4 trillion annually to the global economy, with an outsized impact in industries such as banking, software and tech, and the life sciences (Chui, Hazan, et al. 2023). According to Goldman Sachs (2023), AI could raise the global gross domestic product (GDP) by 7 percent over 10 years.

Changes of this scale in growth and GDP will likely affect businesses and workers profoundly. The question is what those changes will be and how we can prepare for them. In this report, we review over a decade of research on AI’s potential and actual impacts on employment trends and demand for skills in the labor market. We then explore this research’s implications for skill development and worker training and offer recommendations for workers and policymakers.

As we stand on the threshold of an AI-driven economy, the future of work is at stake. Will work still be an important human activity, or will human labor be rendered surplus to requirements? While machine-based intelligence has loomed over human imagination for centuries,1 the modern idea of AI emerged in themid-20th century with the development of digital computers. As shown in Figures 1 and 2, while references to artificial intelligence in popular literature rose sharply in the late 20th century, peaking between 1985 and 1990, mentions of the term in academic literature remained relatively low until 2010. As the topic gained ground in scientific circles, references to it in popular literature also began to climb.

AI’s growing role in the public consciousness coincided with revolutionary change in fields such as image recognition and natural language processing, setting the stage for AI’s prominence in public discourse today (Roser 2022).

Cyberspace in War

Alphanso Adams


In 1942, the United States established an air route within the China-BurmaIndia Theater to supply materiel and people into Japanese-occupied China. The Army’s Signal Corps and Army Airways Communications Service were responsible for establishing communications across the theater and quickly discovered significant obstacles. India, the hub of the air route, lacked an extensive and reliable network to support the modern foreign air force of the United States.1 Aircraft and administrative message transmission became heavily reliant on radio communications, which overloaded the ad hoc network.2 When wired infrastructure was installed, it fell victim to a range of climatic, biological, and human interferences.3 Yet the air-to-ground and base-communications capabilities were critical to the conduct of operations for what was the most dangerous air route in the world.4

Today’s military strategist might be forgiven for perceiving cyberspace as a completely virtual domain, built solely on computer-coded logic and human interactions. Yet, cyberspace is not far beyond the wires and radio frequencies of battlefields 80 years prior. Analyses of the threats within cyberspace often grapple with the consequences of cyber weapons against populations, governments, militaries, and industries.5 Fear of an unsuspecting attack capable of crippling power grids, banking institutions, or military aircraft have contributed to a public consciousness of an impending cyberwar in scale and shock as impactful as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.6 This perception, however, overlooks a key commonality with those decades-old battlefield challenges. Just as air forces of World War II relied heavily on physical components to transmit information, so too do today’s military forces require physical infrastructure to access cyberspace

The US military, particularly the US Air Force and US Space Force, will need to operate in constrained environments without the level of access to cyberspace it has enjoyed when fighting against technologically inferior military forces. The US Air Force has operated with similar constraints in the past, and I will demonstrate how a combination of transmission technologies were employed to account for physical circumstances on the ground to overcome these constraints and to accomplish military objectives. Specifically, I will examine how the US Air Force addressed the physical challenges of the communications architecture in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. From these past experiences, I will extrapolate lessons that can apply to cyberspace to help shape military strategies for the future.

Directed Energy Dilemmas: Industrial Implications of a Military-Technological Revolution

Stuart Dee and James Black

Amidst fighting in the Red Sea, Israel-Gaza, and Ukraine, focus is intensifying on the threat presented by the proliferation of drones, missiles, and rockets and their potentially devastating use against both military and civilian targets. In a recent blog post, James Black at RAND Europe examined the potential for directed-energy weapons (DEW) such as high-powered lasers and microwave weapons to swing the balance away from the attacker and towards the defender in the ongoing struggle for control of contested battlespace. Alongside more traditional gun- and missile-based interceptors, DEWs are part of urgent investments by NATO members in a layered approach to integrated air and missile defence (IAMD). But with wide-ranging and disruptive implications for defence budgets and for industry that have only just begun to be considered, could the military impact of this possible DEW revolution be just the tip of the iceberg?

Small, cost-effective drones, including so-called loitering munitions that blur the line between a drone and a traditional missile, are changing both the military and economic calculus of conflict at an alarming pace. The bottom line is that it is becoming significantly cheaper to attack than it is to defend against such threats. Estimates suggest that Iranian-supplied Shahed drones, currently being utilised by the Houthis to harass shipping in the Red Sea and by the Russians to target Ukrainian cities, cost between $2,000–$20,000, depending on size.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have been deploying a similarly effective logic for over two years now in their defence against Russian invasion; crudely homemade projectiles attached to a commercially available drone can cost as little as $400 to assemble, yet are devastatingly effective at destroying expensive enemy equipment. A Ukrainian drone team assembled at a cost of just $700,000 disabled Russian equipment worth $80 million, the team's commander said in an AP interview. This is a lopsided exchange by any standards.

Software is the Navy’s New Warfighting Advantage


Setting a Course for Software Dominance

With technology rapidly changing the character of warfare from the Red Sea and Ukraine to the Western Pacific, the U.S. Navy finds itself at a historic inflection point akin to the shift from sail to steam. New Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa Franchetti highlighted the potential of new concepts and capabilities in her recent “America’s Warfighting Navy" speech at the 36th Surface Navy Association National Symposium, which suggested the Navy needed to overhaul its capability development approach to maintain maritime superiority in an increasingly contested and unstable environment. "Gone are the days of operating from a maritime sanctuary against competitors who cannot threaten us... We must think, act, and operate differently."

Admiral Franchetti argued that the key to maintaining an edge over opponents like China is to “integrate conventional capability with hybrid, unmanned, and disruptive technologies.” While defense officials have made this case for years, the Pentagon’s efforts at innovation continue to stall between demonstration and fielding. Experiments like the Navy’s Integrated Battle Problems demonstrate promising prototypes that could address commanders’ pressing operational problems, but they fail to reach the fleet in time or in relevant numbers.

Software is often the missing piece that prevents a disruptive new system or concept from reaching its full potential and becoming a credible capability. During the last 20 years, military forces transitioned from people integrating the force using voice communications and doctrine to machines integrating the force using datalinks and protocols. Just like our personal technology, the performance of the radars, sensors, signals, and combat systems are defined by the version of software that runs on them. The capability of the force is now as much about software as it is about weapons, platforms, systems, professional military education, and training.