13 June 2024

U.S. Defenses Are Faltering, but Japan Can Help

Rahm Emanuel

At an infamous 1993 dinner in Washington, Defense Secretary Les Aspin warned American defense-industry leaders that they should brace for a reduction in the Pentagon’s budget. The Cold War had ended and the country needed to consolidate.

That was true—to a point. Unfortunately, the U.S. drastically overshot the mark. Since the 1990s, the number of prime defense contractors has shrunk from 51 to five. The sector lost an estimated 17,000 companies between 2018 and 2023, and the number of public naval shipyards plummeted from a World War II-era peak of 11 to four today.

Some degree of streamlining made sense after the Cold War. Today’s security situation, however, requires a fundamental rethinking. Within the first two months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. had supplied Kyiv with about a third of America’s Stinger anti-air and Javelin antiarmor missile stockpiles. Washington has since strained to keep up with demand for these and other weapons and to fulfill its pledges to allies.

America Is Losing the Arab World

Michael Robbins, Amaney A. Jamal, and Mark Tessler

October 7, 2023, was a watershed moment not just for Israel but for the Arab world. Hamas’s horrific attack occurred just as a new order appeared to be emerging in the region. Three years earlier, four members of the Arab League—Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—had launched processes to normalize their diplomatic relations with Israel. As the summer of 2023 drew to a close, the most important Arab country that still did not recognize Israel, Saudi Arabia, looked poised to do so, too.

Hamas’s assault and Israel’s subsequent devastating military operation in Gaza have curtailed this march toward normalization. Saudi Arabia has stated that it will not proceed with a normalization deal until Israel takes clear steps to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian state. Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel in November 2023, and a visit to Morocco by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned for late 2023 never materialized. Arab leaders have watched warily as their citizens have grown vocally opposed to the war in Gaza. In many Arab countries, thousands have turned out to protest Israel’s war and the humanitarian crisis it has produced. Protesters in Jordan and Morocco have also called for an end to their countries’ respective peace treaties with Israel, voicing frustration that their governments are not listening to the people.

The Forgotten Weapon of Mass Destruction

Huma Rehman

Radiological weapons, which are weapons designed to disperse radioactivity without a nuclear explosion, get little attention compared to nuclear and chemical weapons. But Death Dust: The Rise, Decline, and Future of Radiological Weapons Programs brings a new clarity to the worrisome potential of radiological warfare. Through a series of case studies, the authors shed light on the reasons behind the pursuit and eventual abandonment of these weapons by states such as the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Egypt, and Iraq.

They explore the unique motivations and strategic calculations that led these countries to pursue radiological weapons, despite the international community’s general abhorrence towards them, identifying patterns and deviations, and offering valuable lessons for policymakers and scholars in understanding the potential proliferation of these weapons in the future.

The case studies illuminate the historical drivers behind the pursuit of radiological weapons, such as the desire for a strategic advantage without resorting to full-scale nuclear war. However, technical difficulties beset the development of devices intended to spread radioactive materials over large areas. International pressure played a role, too. The United Kingdom ultimately abandoned its radiological weapons program due to the challenges of achieving the desired strategic effects and the moral implications of developing such weapons. The history of international concern over Iraq’s attempts to create a radiological weapon during Saddam Hussein’s regime are also well canvassed.

Could Iran be a Gateway for Central Asia?

Wilder Alejandro Sánchez

The China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project may finally get underway, according to Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Japarov. At the 8th annual Trans-Caspian Forum, organized by the Caspian Policy Center on May 21, Kyrgyz Ambassador to the U.S. Bakyt Amanbaev added that the project will connect with Pakistan to reach the Arabian Sea and “holds special significance for all of us [because it will have] enormous economic and social importance for the entire region.”

While Amanbaev mentioned Pakistan, Iran has been discussed as a potential point for sea access as well. Kyrgyz officials visited Iran’s port of Bander Abbas in 2021, prompting speculation that Bishkek wanted to reach the ocean by linking to it. In 2023, Kyrgyz Railway Company Deputy Director Dastan Usubakunov also noted, “We will get access to the Persian Gulf and Pacific Ocean [via] Bandar Abbas Port.”

At a recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, Iran’s ambassador to Tajikistan said that Iran can be Central Asia’s gateway to international markets. Ambassador Alireza Haghighian noted that given its location, Iran can help Central Asia obtain access to the Persian Gulf and, from there, to the broader world.

Don’t Bet Against the Dollar

Jared Cohen

It has been 80 years since the Bretton Woods Conference, when the U.S. dollar became the central pillar of the world economy and of U.S. economic statecraft. And for eight decades, we’ve also witnessed predictions about the dollar’s coming demise. But almost from the beginning, the debate about the future of the dollar has missed the mark. The question isn’t about whether an event or a crisis or a new technology will knock the dollar off its pedestal. Rather, it is about how the United States’ competitors, and even partners, are pushing the boundaries of the financial system in a global economy where the dollar still dominates but the post-Cold War consensus is breaking down.

Bombs Won't Break Through Hamas' Popularity. Here's What Might | Opinion

Bassem Eid

For me, as a Palestinian human rights activist, one of the most disappointing phenomena of the ongoing war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas is the enduring and indeed increasing support for Hamas among sectors of the Palestinian general public. Many of my friends are reflexively incredulous that some Palestinians could continue to support a violent faction that slaughtered 1,200 Israelis on a single day—Oct. 7—raping and genitally mutilating many of them, and taking more than 240 innocents hostage. The embedded support for Hamas is a complex phenomenon rooted in history, propaganda, and the influence of external forces seeking to exploit the Palestinian cause for their own agendas.

Not coincidentally, support for Hamas is much higher in the West Bank—misgoverned by Hamas's archrivals, the secular nationalist Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA)—than in Gaza, whose population is being actively brutalized by Hamas. Popular support for violence persists despite the devastating impact that following radical leaders and ideologies has historically had on the Palestinian people, as poignantly summed up by Israel's Abba Eban when he quipped that Arabs, including the Palestinians, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

Gaza Chief’s Brutal Calculation: Civilian Bloodshed Will Help Hamas

Rory Jones

For months, Yahya Sinwar has resisted pressure to cut a ceasefire-and-hostages deal with Israel. Behind his decision, messages the Hamas military leader in Gaza has sent to mediators show, is a calculation that more fighting—and more Palestinian civilian deaths—work to his advantage.

“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Sinwar said in a recent message to Hamas officials seeking to broker an agreement with Qatari and Egyptian officials.

Fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas units in the Gaza Strip’s south has disrupted humanitarian-aid shipments, caused mounting civilian casualties and intensified international criticism of Israel’s efforts to eradicate the Islamist extremist group.

For much of Sinwar’s political life, shaped by bloody conflict with an Israeli state that he says has no right to exist, he has stuck to a simple playbook. Backed into a corner, he looks to violence for a way out. The current fight in Gaza is no exception.

The EU has been shaken to its core


‘I cannot act as if nothing has happened’, said a weary, dejected Emmanuel Macron, in an unplanned address to his nation last night. The French president, bruised by an unprecedented showing for the right-wing populist National Rally (RN) on Sunday’s European Parliament elections, immediately dissolved the French parliament and announced snap legislative elections. The first round will take place in just three weeks’ time.

When Macron was elected president in 2017, he promised the French people that they will ‘no longer have a single reason to vote for the extremes’. Pro-EU centrists hailed his apparent defeat of nationalist, populist forces. Seven years later, RN is on course to achieve its best-ever result in an EU election. Marine Le Pen’s party is projected to win double the vote share of the president’s liberal, centrist Renaissance group. Clearly, the French feel that they have more reasons than ever to revolt against the mainstream.

Under siege, 3 world leaders say: Bring it on


In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this spring saw himself buffeted and thrown on the defensive by the unruly and impatient politics of his country. Facing an increasingly dire political future, he made a decision to call for parliamentary elections on July 4.

In the United States, President Joe Biden was facing his own unfavorable politics and had a similarly urgent need to shake up his race against former President Donald Trump. The result is the earliest-ever general election debate, scheduled for June 27.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night found himself humiliated in European Parliament elections by the strong showing of Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally party. In a sudden move that shocked Paris and is echoing Monday across the Continent, he decided to call for a snap election in the French Parliament, summoning voters to the polls across two days on June 30 and July 7.

The Rise of the Outside Insider Threat


They were trusted partners or supplied a reasonable technology alternative. But that was before.

Now, those individuals are a weapon of war. A capability that Russia leverages through voluntary or coercive means.

For example, a company that was operating in both Russia and Ukraine, supplying software to control critical infrastructure to both countries, chose to abandon its business with the invaders, but a gap was left unplugged: Russia-based employees.

“These people are now a weapon in the hands of Russian aggression against Ukraine. That knowledge about these solutions is used to attack Ukraine,” said Mart Noorma, director of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE).

Can the Hezbollah threat really be contained? - opinion


Back, in the first days after the Hamas attacks on October 7, the Israeli government made a decision not to go to war with Hezbollah. There were a number of considerations on the table at the time and some people were pushing for Hezbollah to be Israel’s target.

The Lebanese terrorist group almost immediately started attacking Israel, and intelligence information later discovered exposed that Hamas and Hezbollah had coordinated their attacks.

More important though was the argument that before taking on Hamas, Israel should first go after its stronger enemy.

For a couple of days there was a true debate about the issue, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was said to have leaned heavily on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to point the IDF northwards, to Lebanon.

Is Israel about to expand the war to Lebanon?


Israel is already fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza. Now it may be ready to expand the battle to Hezbollah. Israeli leaders are contemplating a "limited war" against the Islamic group in Lebanon, Axios said, because low-level fighting between the two sides has "dramatically escalated" in recent weeks. The Biden administration is working to discourage that idea, warning that an attack on Lebanon "could push Iran to intervene" and make a limited war not so limited.

"A full-blown war appears to have become more likely," Nadeen Ebrahim said at CNN. Clashes between the two sides "have grown in number and scale" since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, forcing the evacuation of thousands of Israeli civilians from the area. The most notable escalation? An attack on northern Israel that caused wildfires to break out across the region. "Whoever thinks that they can hurt us and that we will sit idly by is making a big mistake," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The Immigration Story Nobody Is Talking About

John Cassidy

Last week, President Joe Biden announced a crackdown on migrants trying to cross the southern border. The responses from immigrants’-rights groups, civil-rights groups, and some Democratic politicians were instantaneous. Senator Alex Padilla, of California, said that the new policy—which empowers border agents to quickly deport people who cross between ports of entry, by drastically restricting their ability to claim asylum—“undermined American values and abandoned our nation’s obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.”

But at least one economist, who strongly favors liberal immigration policies, was more sympathetic to the White House’s move. “The situation at the southern border has been chaotic,” Giovanni Peri, who directs the Global Migration Center at the University of California, Davis, told me. “It has been hurting the case for immigration because people have only been talking about that, and not talking about all the migrants who have been coming here and working and boosting the economy.”

Russian Submarine Hit By Missiles Now In New Hiding Place In Sevastopol

H I Sutton

The Russian Navy’s Improved-KILO class submarines remain a major concern for Ukraine. They are used to launch Kalibr cruise missiles, with some likely involved in the massive missile attacks on Ukraine on June 1 2024. And they pose a persistent threat to merchant ships sailing to and from Ukraine’s remaining Black Sea ports.

But one of these submarines, the Rostov-on-Don (B-237), was taken out by cruise missiles in September last year.

Analysis of multiple sources confirms that the submarine, the only hit so far, has now been moved. The submarine has been hidden deeper in the port. The fact that it is still in a dock reinforces the assessment that she is not seaworthy.

Strike On The Russian Submarine

On September 13 2023 Ukrainian missiles struck the Project 636.3 Improved-Kilo Class submarine Rostov-on-Don (B-237) while it was in a dry dock in Sevastopol. In one fell swoop the cruise missiles knocked out both a valuable submarine and the dry dock it was in. It has taken months to clear the wrecked submarine from the dry dock. And indications are that it will not be returning to the fight.

The Sixties’ Toxic Legacy

Juliana Geran Pilon

The Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989 was a deceptive victory. Exhilarated by crumbling stones, the West did not notice the crumbling of its own culture. Overlooked, too, was the complete failure of Western intelligence to anticipate not only the timing but the circumstances of the collapse. After “winning” the Cold War, it was back to pursuing the American dream of consumerist happiness. Americans showed little interest in seeking to understand the ideology that, had its lethality been appreciated, might have prevented millions of deaths from totalitarianism. They didn’t know, and they didn’t want to know.

Overconfident, underinformed, and naïve Americans squandered the unique unipolar moment when they stood as the sole superpower in history. They forgot that the age-old dialectic pitting pluralist communities against monolithic autocracies is endemic to history. So, the end of one tyranny can mean the start of another, even more deadly. The American foreign policy establishment had long ignored virulent fundamentalist Islamism, despite its having been brewing for decades, oblivious that its own inattention enabled that growth. Not having taken Osama Bin Laden at his word, America was caught entirely unprepared as a new century of strife dawned. 9/11 was literally a bolt out of the sunny blue sky.

Ukraine shows even the toughest tanks can't go to war anymore without cage armor to shield them from exploding drones

Chris Panella

The heavily armored M1 Abrams tank is widely regarded as one of the best and toughest tanks in Ukraine today, but even it can't ride out without cages to shield it from drones.

The overwhelming presence of drones, including ones that fly into military vehicles and explode or burst into flames, has become a defining element of the war in Ukraine, and both sides are working quickly to adapt to this growing threat.

Battle tanks and other armored vehicles, including US-provided Abrams and Bradleys, other Western tanks like the German Leopard, and top Russian tanks like the T-90M, have at times fallen prey to one-way attack drones. In many cases, elite weapons worth millions are being taken out by systems worth only a few hundred dollars.

What started as unusual has become commonplace. Main battle tanks often sport large, welded "cope cages" to stop exploding drones from taking them out. Some have looked crude and ineffective, but more recent models have appeared sturdier, more refined.

Israel's special forces hostage rescue was aided by US intelligence, report says

Rebecca Rommen

A team of US hostage recovery specialists stationed in Israel provided key intelligence and logistical support to the Israeli military, assisting a daytime operation that brought the hostages back to Israel after being held captive for eight months in Gaza, said several unnamed US and Israeli officials, the report said.

Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov, and Shlomi Ziv were rescued in the special forces operation, which IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari called "daring."

Palestinian gunmen kidnapped around 240 hostages following the terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Argamani's ordeal went viral on social media when she was kidnapped on October 7. She was abducted from the Nova festival via motorbike, and footage of her pleading "Don't kill me!"

Inside Israel’s hostage rescue: Secret plans and a deadly ‘wall of fire’

Steve Hendrix, Shira Rubin, Loveday Morris, Heba Farouk Mahfouz and Hajar Harb

It was a busy weekend morning in the market at the Nuseirat refugee camp, Osama Abu Asi recalled. Fighting could be heard in the distance, but it didn’t keep away the shoppers, who perused the few bags of flour and sugar he had spread on his blanket.

Abu Asi said he did not know that nearby, in an apartment one floor above the street, sat a young, dark-haired woman known around the world — last seen in a viral video clip being driven into Gaza on the back of motorcycle on Oct. 7, screaming, “Don’t kill me!”

She was Noa Argamani, one of about 250 Israeli hostages taken captive by Hamas.

Her 245th day in captivity had started like most others until, shortly after 11 a.m., she heard a knock at the door, followed by yelling. Suddenly, the room was filled with Israeli soldiers. “You are being rescued!” they shouted in Hebrew.

Ukrainian Activist Traces Roots of War in ‘Centuries of Russian Colonization’

Constant Méheut

On a recent afternoon in Kyiv, a professor of literature and a stand-up comedian ​got together to talk about Russian colonialism, a subject that has become ​a preoccupation among Ukrainian activists, cultural figures and bookstore owners.

​The moderator of the discussion, which was recorded for a new podcast for Ukraine’s national public broadcaster, was Mariam Naiem, a graphic designer and former philosophy student who has become an unlikely expert on the topic.

“This war is just the continuation of centuries of Russian colonization,” said Ms. Naiem, 32, ​referring to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “It’s the same playbook.”

Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s Hail Mary Pass in Manila

Manuel L. Quezon III

Embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s surprise whirlwind visit to Manila on June 3 was the kind of thing any Filipino president would appreciate: A pit stop specifically meant to court Philippine support which telegraphs that the Philippines – and its president, essentially one and the same thing in the eyes of our presidents -- matters. For Zelenskyy, it gave him the opportunity to repeat his core message in Singapore: that the People’s Republic of China is in an out-and-out alliance with Russia, using its regional influence in support of Russian aims.

Those aims increasingly seem unachievable. As The New York Times put it yesterday, “Officially, Ukraine still talks about total victory, pushing Russia out of every inch of territory it seized since the February 2022 invasion … But in Washington, those rallying calls sound increasingly unrealistic. Russia appears to be regaining momentum.” Zelenskyy has spent the past two weeks publicly asking for support to pressure his American counterpart to relax restrictions on using United States-sourced arms against Russia. Over the weekend, President Joe Biden finally ordered a small and very partial relaxation of the restriction.

Thus, even as the stockpiles of the Western alliance dwindled, Russia rallied Iranian, North Korean, and Chinese support to beef up its own ramped-up armament production with increased exports of their own, with China steadfastly denying any involvement. Between Europe and America’s inability to ramp up production, Washington’s bickering over and, thus, delaying funding for support for Ukraine, Russia can now look forward to reaping the expensive rewards of a war of attrition it can afford, but which Ukraine can’t.

The Terrorism Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again

Graham Allison and Michael J. Morell

From his confirmation hearing to become director of Central Intelligence in May 1997 until September 11, 2001, George Tenet was sounding an alarm about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. In those four years before al Qaeda operatives attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Tenet testified publicly no fewer than ten times about the threat the group posed to U.S. interests at home and abroad. In February 1999, six months after the group bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he claimed, “There is not the slightest doubt that Osama bin Laden . . . [is] planning further attacks against us.” In early 2000, he warned Congress again that bin Laden was “foremost among these terrorists, because of the immediacy and seriousness of the threat he poses” and because of his ability to strike “without additional warning.” Al Qaeda’s next attacks, Tenet said, could be “simultaneous” and “spectacular.” In private, Tenet was even more assertive. Breaking with standard protocols, he wrote personal letters to President Bill Clinton expressing his deep conviction about the gravity of the threat. And several times in 2001, he personally discussed his concerns about al Qaeda’s plans with President George W. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The CIA and the FBI may not have uncovered the time, place, or method of the 9/11 plot, but Tenet’s warnings were prophetic.

Two and a half decades later, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, is sounding similar alarms. His discussions within the Biden administration are private, but his testimony to Congress and other public statements could not be more explicit. Testifying in December to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wray said, “When I sat here last year, I walked through how we were already in a heightened threat environment.” Yet after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, “we’ve seen the threat from foreign terrorists rise to a whole nother level,” he added. In speaking about those threats, Wray has repeatedly drawn attention to security gaps at the United States’ southern border, where thousands of people each week enter the country undetected.

A War They Both Are Losing: Israel, Hamas and the Plight of Gaza

Daniel Byman

On 7 October 2023, Hamas launched a devastating terrorist attack on Israel, killing almost 1,200 Israelis and seizing around 243 hostages. The scale of the attack was off the charts for a small state – the greatest one-day loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust – and the nature of the killings, which included the deliberate killing of children and old people, as well as mass sexual violence, seared itself into Israel’s consciousness. In the months that followed, Israel waged a destructive campaign in Gaza, killing more than 34,000 people, including many children, in an attempt to destroy the terrorist group, putting all Palestinians in Gaza at grave risk of disease and starvation. The campaign continues, albeit at a slower pace than in its initial months.

Both Hamas and Israel may be losing. Each can point to quite real successes against the other, but when the fighting subsides, both are likely to be worse off than they were when the war started.

Hamas can claim to have brought pain to its enemy in a way that the Jewish state has not experienced in its history. Hamas has also restored its previously languishing ‘resistance’ credentials and, for the time being, increased its popularity among Palestinians at a time when leadership of the Palestinian national movement is in play. It has also at least temporarily stalled Israel’s regional normalisation. Yet Hamas has paid a tremendous price for these successes, and ordinary Palestinians have paid an even greater one. Hamas’s military forces and infrastructure are battered, its leadership under siege and its long-term popularity uncertain.

Algorithmic Stability: How AI Could Shape the Future of Deterrence

Benjamin Jensen, Yasir Atalan, and Jose M. Macias III


How will the adoption of AI/ML across a state’s national security enterprise affect crisis decisionmaking? For example, what would the Cuban Missile Crisis look like at machine speed?

Beyond current policy debates, congressional testimony, new strategies, and a drive to identify, test, and evaluate standards, there is a fundamental question of how computer algorithms will shape crisis interactions between nuclear powers.[1] Further, will refined AI/ML models pull people back from the brink or push them over the edge during crises that are as much about fear and emotion as they are rational decisionmaking? How will humans and machines interact during a crisis between nuclear powers?

To answer this question, the CSIS Futures Lab held a series of crisis simulations in early 2023 analyzing how AI/ML will shape the future of deterrence. The games—designed as a randomized control trial—explored human uncertainty regarding a rival great power’s level of AI/ML integration and how this factor affected strategic stability during a crisis.

Boeing Delivers First Operational F-15EX

Brian Everstine

Boeing on June 6 delivered the first operational F-15EX Eagle II to the U.S. Air National Guard—the seventh of the type to be handed over to the U.S. Air Force.

The Eagle, painted with the 142nd Wing’s Eagle tail flash, arrived at Portland International Airport in Oregon. The same day, Boeing showed the eighth F-15EX preparing to fly to Portland. The previous six F-15EXs have been delivered to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for operational and developmental test.

The F-15EX will replace the wing’s aging F-15C/D fleet for homeland defense. The delivery came about eight months later than expected, due to problems with Boeing in-sourcing forward fuselage production. The F-15QA, on which the EX is based, had its forward fuselage produced by Korea Aerospace Industries. For the Eagle II, Boeing is using its full-size determinant assembly (FSDA) process to build the forward fuselage in St. Louis.

Navy fires USS Somerset commanding officer

Geoff Ziezulewicz

The Navy fired the commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock Somerset on Thursday, less than a year after she assumed command of the ship.

As with all relief announcements, the Navy provided no specifics reasons for the relief of Capt. Michel Brandt, citing only a “loss of confidence in her ability to lead the crew.”

Capt. Tate Robinson has been named the ship’s interim CO, and Brandt will be administratively assigned to Naval Surface Force Pacific, according to the sea service.

“Navy commanding officers are held to high standards of personal and professional conduct,” the Navy said in a statement announcing Brandt’s relief. “They are expected to uphold the highest standards of responsibility, reliability and leadership, and the Navy holds them accountable when they fall short of those standards.”