Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

“Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.
- Nick Cohen
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”
- H.L. Mencken

“When musicians are telling people who to vote for, I think that’s an abuse of power. You’re telling your fans not to think for themselves, just to think like you. Rock ’N Roll is about freedom and that's not freedom.”
- Alice Cooper


2. China’s Economy Won’t Overtake the U.S., Some Now Predict

3. HIMARS: The Rocket Weapon Creating Chaos for Russia in Ukraine

4. Russia could be ‘North Korea on steroids’: Economist and ex–Kremlin adviser warns what could happen if Putin is replaced

5. EXCLUSIVE: Air Force clears CV-22 Ospreys to fly after 2-week safety shutdown

6. Ukrainian Verdun

7. Why Are We in Ukraine?

8. Troops, Veterans Are Targets in the Disinformation War, Even if They Don’t Know It Yet

9. Three reasons why Taiwanese people are increasingly opposed to ‘reunification’ with China

10. Opinion | Why Star Wars' Boba Fett is the ultimate Special Forces soldier

11. Ukraine Sees Many Ways to Hurt Russia in Kherson Offensive

12. High Seas Deception: How Shady Ships Use GPS to Evade International Law

13.  ‘Is there a purge?’: John Harwood’s CNN exit viewed as strategy shift

14. U.S. to sell $1.1 billion in anti-ship, air-to-air weapons to Taiwan

15. Putin’s Private Army Accused of Committing Their Most Heinous Massacre Yet

16. When Israel Struck Syria’s Reactor: What Really Happened – Analysis

17. Turn of the tide: Authoritarian regimes' influence waning around the world

18. Americans aren't as polarized as they think they are

19. Spirals of Delusion: How AI Distorts Decision-Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous

20. Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage




Sep 2, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian and proxy officials are solidifying their narratives surrounding the Ukrainian counteroffensive to amplify false claims that the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast is detrimental to Ukraine’s continued existence. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed on September 2 that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky planned the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast solely to create an illusion among “Western curators” that Ukrainian forces can conduct an effective counteroffensive.[5] Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Deputy Interior Minister Vitaly Kiselyov claimed that Ukrainian forces’ engagement in the counteroffensive was (referring to the offensive in past tense) “collective suicide” and suffered high casualties.[6] Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed on September 1 that internal Ukrainian divisions will soon force the military conflict to end.[7] Russian milbloggers increased their amplification of these narratives on September 1-2 as the information space around the success and tempo of the Ukrainian counteroffensive remained murky.[8] Russian sources will likely continue propagating these false information narratives to exploit Ukrainian operational silence. As ISW has previously noted, complex counteroffensives cannot be resolved overnight or in a matter of days, and the Russian presentation of an immediate Ukrainian failure due to a lack of constant Ukrainian claims of territorial gains is a deliberate obfuscation of reality.[9]

Key Takeaways

  • Independent polling showed that a majority of Russians still support the Russian war in Ukraine.
  • Russian and proxy officials are solidifying their narratives surrounding the Ukrainian counteroffensive to claim it will debilitate the Ukrainian military.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that positional battles are underway in unspecified areas of Kherson Oblast and that Ukrainian forces are continuing to strike Russian ground lines of communications (GLOCs), logistics nodes, and reinforcement efforts throughout southern and central Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks south and northeast of Bakhmut and along the western and northern outskirts of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces continued targeting Ukrainian rear areas along GLOCs and may be reinforcing the Southern Axis by reallocating equipment from Russian rear areas in Donbas and Crimea.
  • Ukrainian sources claim that Russia can pull an additional 300,000-350,000 military personnel from support units in Russia, Syria, Armenia, Tajikistan, Nagorno Karabakh, and Kazakhstan. These figures do not accurately represent the fact that support units placed into combat roles will not generate substantial combat power and are necessary for supporting combat, training, and other operations.

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Ukrainian military officials reported that positional battles continued in unspecified areas of Kherson Oblast, but maintained operational silence on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive on September 2.[10] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched an unsuccessful ground assault in the direction of Potomkyne (just south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border), and notably launched airstrikes on Khreshchenivka in northern Kherson Oblast.[11] ISW previously assessed that Russian forces controlled Khreshchenivka, but Russian airstrikes in the area suggest Ukrainian forces could have advanced nearby. Russian milbloggers amplified a claim that Russian forces encircled Ukrainian troops in Petrivka, corroborating indications that Ukrainian forces likely entered Petrivka.[12] NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) remotely sensed data for September 2 showed fires south of Khreshchenivka, which may further corroborate a Ukrainian advance in the area. ISW previously reported that FIRMS data showed fire activity in Petrivka (north of Khreshchenivka) on August 31 before Russian milbloggers reported on a Ukrainian presence in Petrivka the following day.[13] The Ukrainian General Staff also recorded airstrikes near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, notably in Sukhyi Stavok.[14] ISW reported that many milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced to Sukhyi Stavok on August 29.[15]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over northern Kherson, September 2 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

Ukrainian military officials reiterated that Ukrainian forces are continuing to target Russian GLOCs, reinforcements, and ammunition depots.[16] The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian forces struck Russian ferry crossings across the Dnipro River in Lvove (west of Nova Kakhovka) and Kozatske (north of Nova Kakhovka).[17] Ukrainian military officials also reported striking a Russian military equipment concentration point in Tariisk (east of Nova Kakhovka) and destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations center in Pravdyne (about 33km due northwest of Kherson City), indicating that the August 29 CNN report about Ukrainian forces’ capture of Pravdyne was likely inaccurate.[18] The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian forces destroyed three Russian artillery systems, an ammunition depot, and a Russian company in the vicinity of Enerhodar and Kherson with precision strikes.[19] It is unclear how close the Ukrainian strike “near Enerhodar” was to Enerhodar City. Ukrainian military officials also noted that Ukrainian forces destroyed five ammunition depots in the Bashtanskyi, Beryslavsky, and Khersonsky raions, and nine command posts in unspecified areas.[20] The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed (likely falsely) to have intercepted 14 rounds of HIMARS rockets over Kherson City and Nova Kakhovka.[21] Geolocated footage showed Ukrainian forces continuing to strike Russian forces on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River in Novohrednyeve.[22]

Visual evidence from social media footage shows that Ukrainian forces continued striking Russian positions and GLOCs in central and southern Kherson Oblast on September 1 and September 2. Satellite imagery and geolocated photos from September 1 show a fire burning around the Kozats'ke grain terminal near Nova Kakhovka.[23] Social media footage from September 2 reportedly showed rocket plumes near Nova Kakhovka.[24] Local residents reported that Ukrainian forces may have struck a Russian pontoon crossing near the Antonivsky Railroad Bridge and footage showed smoke clouds rising near the bridge area.[25] Social media users also reported that Ukrainian forces struck Russian military equipment awaiting the ferry near the railway bridge in Oleshky (about 9km southeast of Kherson City), and the pontoon crossing in Darivka.[26] It is unclear if social media users witnessed a new strike on a crossing in Darivka, or repeated reports about the confirmed strike on the crossing on September 1.[27] Geolocated footage also showed the aftermath of a strike on the Kherson City branch of the Odesa State University of Internal Affairs where Ukrainian social media users claimed that Russian forces quartered their troops.[28] Combat footage published on September 1 and 2 showed Ukrainian forces using Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to provide Ukrainian forces tactical air support on September 1 and August 31.[29]

Russian milbloggers claimed that fighting continued in four directions, but ISW cannot independently verify all of these claims. Several milbloggers claimed that fighting continued east and west of Vysokopillya south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border, southeast of the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, around Snihurivka about 65km east of Mykolaiv City, and north of Kherson City.

Several milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces continued to launch counteroffensives from the Kryvyi Rih direction and noted that Russian forces are using rocket artillery and aviation to repel Ukrainian attacks on settlements east of Vysokopillya.[30] Milbloggers also claimed that Ukraine’s main objective is to reach Beryslav (just north of Nova Kakhovka).[31] The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Russian forces continued to shell Ukrainian troops along the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border.[32] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are attempting to accumulate enough forces to gain control over Vysokopillya, and another noted that Russian drones have been directing artillery fire at advancing Ukrainian military equipment in the vicinity of Vysokopillya.[33] The Russian Ministry of Defense also reported striking Ukrainian positions northwest of Vysokopillya.[34] Milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced south of Kostromka (10km southeast of the Ukrainian bridgehead) to Bezimenne, after failing to advance to Shchastlyve (west of Bezimenne and in the direction of the T2207 highway).[35] Milbloggers additionally stated that Russian forces continued to use aviation to drop over a dozen FAB-500 500kg bombs on Ukrainian forces in Bezimenne.[36] The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have destroyed Ukrainian weapons in Bila Krynytsia (between the Ukrainian bridgehead and Davydiv Brid), inadvertently admitting to some Ukrainian advances in the area.[37] A milblogger stated that Ukrainian forces lost two infantry fighting vehicles after unsuccessfully attempting to launch an assault on Blahodatne (west of Snihurivka).[38] Milbloggers noted that Russian forces regained control over Zeleny Hai and Ternovi Pody (approximately 25km north of Kherson City), while Ukrainian forces maintained positional defenses in Myrne (approximately seven kilometers west of Zeleny Hai) and Lyubomyrivka (just north of Ternovi Pody).[39] Some milbloggers noted that Russian forces are preparing a strike group, increasing artillery and multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) fire, and are requesting air support in the direction of Posad-Pokrovske (about 27km northwest of Kherson City).[40]

The Russian Ministry of Defense maintained that Ukrainian forces continued to launch unsuccessful counteroffensive operations in the Mykolaiv-Kryvyi Rih direction.[41] The Russian Ministry of Defense added that Russian forces captured two Ukrainian prisoners of war, and some milbloggers reposted interrogation footage of a claimed Ukrainian POW.[42] Pro-Kremlin radio channel ”Komsomolska Pravda” interviewed Russian military expert Vladislav Shuryhin who likely falsely claimed that Ukrainian forces decided to launch a counteroffensive in the south out of fear of the newly-forming Russian 3rd Army Corps.[43] Russian forces likely instead accelerated the formation of the 3rd Army Corps to reinforce Russian positions around Izyum and eastern Zaporizhia Oblast and to replace Russian forces redeployed from other axes to reinforce Kherson Oblast before the Ukrainians announced their August 29 counteroffensive.[44]

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Ukrainian Counteroffensives
  • Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
  • Russian Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Russian Main Effort- Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort- Southern Kharkiv and Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Note: We have revised our organization of Russian lines of effort to include Russian operations in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast as part of the Donetsk Oblast effort due to recently observed force allocations indicating the Russian grouping east of Hulyaipole, previously grouped with the Southern Axis, will support efforts southwest of Donetsk City.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks along the Izyum-Slovyansk axis or toward Siversk on September 2 and continued routine shelling in these areas.[45]

Russian forces continued ground attacks south and northeast of Bakhmut on September 2. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops attempted to advance toward Vesela Dolyna (5km southeast of Bakhmut) and that Chechen units conducted attacks around Zaitseve and Mayorsk, both about 20km southwest of Bakhmut on the outskirts of Horlivka.[46] Russian troops also reportedly continued ground assaults northeast of Bakhmut in the Soledar-Bakhmutske area.[47] Russian sources indicated that Wagner Group fighters and units of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) are active to the northeast and south of Bakhmut.[48]

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the northern and western outskirts of Donetsk City on September 2. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian troops attempted to advance toward Opytne, Pervomaiske, and Nevelske, all within 10km of the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City.[49] Russian sources claimed that Russian and proxy forces, including the 11th DNR regiment, are using recently captured positions in Pisky to push westward of Donetsk City and establish strongholds around Pervomaiske.[50] Russian troops also reportedly continued offensive operations in the Avdiivka-Krasnohorivka area, about 5km north of Donetsk City’s outskirts.[51]

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks southwest of Donetsk City or in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast on September 2 and continued routine artillery strikes in these areas.[52]

Supporting Effort #1- Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication – GLOCs – to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on September 2 and continued routine shelling of Kharkiv City and its environs.[53] Russian sources claimed on September 2 that Russian forces repelled a 12-person Ukrainian reconnaissance group that attempted to break Russian defensive lines near Dementiivka (20km north of Kharkiv City) on September 1.[54] A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces defeated the beginning of an unspecified Ukrainian attack near Ruska Lozova on September 1.[55] ISW cannot independently verify these claims, however.

The Ukrainian General Staff notably reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian warehouse in Novoosynove, about 100km southeast of Kharkiv City along the Russian-controlled ground line of communication (GLOC) that runs into Kupyansk.[56]

Supporting Effort #2- Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Russian forces targeted rear areas along Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCS) in Mykolaiv and Odesa Oblasts on September 2. The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed that Russian forces struck several settlements heading towards Kryvyi Rih, including Bashtanka (near the N11 GLOC), Berenezhuvate (on the R81 highway), and Dobre (on the T1509 highway).[57] Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces conducted airstrikes in Mykolaiv City and areas northeast of the city.[58] Odesa Oblast Military Administration Spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk reported that Russian forces struck Odesa City with Onyx cruise missiles on September 2.[59]

Russian forces did not conduct any ground attacks west of Hulyaipole and continued routine shelling along the line of contact in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 2.[60] Russian sources claimed that Russian anti-tank mines stopped a Ukrainian advance near Orikhiv (at the intersection of the T0408, T0803, T0812, and T0815 highways) on an unspecified date.[61] A different Russian source posted footage of a Russian armored personnel carrier exploding after driving over a Ukrainian mine in the Zaporizhia direction on an unspecified date.[62]

Russian forces are likely reallocating military assets from rear areas to the Southern Axis. Ukrainian Adviser to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko stated that Russian forces transported 10 tanks through Mariupol toward Berdyansk and noted that Russian forces have intensified the movement of military equipment west from Donetsk Oblast, through Mariupol, and towards Berdyansk over the last several days.[63] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Crimean branch Krym Realii posted footage of a Russian military convoy heading north from the Kerch Bridge toward the Ukrainian mainland, likely to reinforce Russian units in Kherson Oblast.[64]

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Secretary General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on September 2 that there is evidence of violations of the physical integrity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (but did not specify an actor) and that the IAEA is establishing a continued presence at the ZNPP.[65] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces removed all military equipment from the grounds of the ZNPP ahead of the IAEA delegation’s arrival, transporting 100 pieces to the Atomenergomash plant in central Enerhodar and distributing the remaining equipment among nearby settlements.[66] There were more reports of shelling around the ZNPP on September 2.[67] The Russian MoD and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu accused Ukrainian forces of committing “nuclear terrorism” and endangering the ZNPP, supporting ISW’s prior assessment that Russian authorities will likely step up their efforts to portray Ukrainian forces as a danger to the international IAEA observers.[68] Ukrainian nuclear energy agency Energoatom reported that nuclear reactor No. 5 came back online on September 2 after Russian shelling reportedly caused it to disconnect on September 1.[69]

Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Spokesperson Vadym Skibitskyi stated that the Russian military can deploy an additional 300,000-350,000 personnel to Ukraine from units within Russia, Syria, Armenia, Tajikistan, Nagorno Karabakh, and Kazakhstan.[70] While Skibitsky’s statement may be technically correct in that Russia has over 300,000 personnel in uniform in these locations, the vast majority of these personnel are support personnel not employable in direct combat roles, are required to maintain permanent positions, and would not generate effective combat power. Some elements that Skibitsky mentioned—such as Russian elements in Syria and Nagorno Karabakh—reportedly already deployed to Ukraine several months ago, and these figures may be distorted. Russian authorities remain unlikely to generate substantial combat power for deployment into Ukraine.[71]

Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing to recruit and deploy volunteer battalions to Ukraine. Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported on September 2 that the Nizhny Novgorod-based “Kuzma Minin” tank battalion is deploying to Ukraine in pieces, a report consistent with ISW’s previous assessment that some volunteer battalions are deploying elements without their full complement.[72] Kommersant reported that the ”Kuzma Minin” tank battalion generated about 400 volunteers, a dramatic increase from a previous August 16 report stating that the unit only generated 30 out of 160 desired recruits.[73] It is unlikely the battalion’s recruitment rate dramatically increased by that margin in two weeks, and Nizhny Novgorod authorities may be intentionally inflating or misrepresenting recruitment numbers. The Russian-appointed governor of occupied Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, stated on September 2 that over 1,200 Crimean volunteers are fighting in Ukraine, the first public Russian statement about Crimean volunteer soldiers.[74] It is unclear what formations these volunteer soldiers are fighting in. Aksyonov claimed that an additional 100 Crimeans will deploy to the frontlines in Ukraine by September 12.[75]

Russian force generation efforts are placing additional financial strain on Russian federal subjects. Russian Oryol City officials approved adjustments to the Oryol City budget to allocate 6.2 million rubles (approximately $103,000) to the “special military operations” in the “shortest time possible.”[76] The Oryol Oblast budget previously allocated only 2 million rubles (approximately $33,000) for the war.[77] Deputy Mayor of Oryol City Aleksei Stepanov stated that 41 Oryol residents have enlisted into the 3rd Army Corps after Oryol Oblast had previously introduced a one-time bonus of 100,000 rubles for those who enlist with the 3rd Army Corps, in addition to the standard enlistment bonus of 200,000 rubles.[78]

Russian officials continued mobilizing citizens from occupied territories into the Russian military.[79] Ukrainian sources in Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, posted images of summons calling Zaporizhzhia Oblast residents who received Russian passports to conscription centers.[80]

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Nothing significant to report.

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.

[1] https://www.levada dot ru/2022/09/01/konflikt-s-ukrainoj-avgust-2022-goda/

[2] https://www.levada dot ru/2022/09/01/konflikt-s-ukrainoj-avgust-2022-goda/

[3] https://www.levada dot ru/2022/09/01/konflikt-s-ukrainoj-avgust-2022-goda/

[7] https://russian dot;

[43] https://newsua dot ru/news/82949-podkreplenie-na-podkhode-novyj-3-j-armejskij-korpus-vs-rf-zastavil-vsu-zanervnichat-eksper



[70] dot ua/content/rosiiske-viisko-vidchulo-kadrovyi-holod-odrazu-pislia-vtorhnennia-do-ukrainy.html;

[72] https://www dot kommersant dot ru/doc/5546150

[73] https://gordonua dot com/news/war/v-rossii-sorvalos-formirovanie-tankovogo-batalona-ne-nashlos-zhelayushchih-1621660.html; https://www dot

[74] https://zn dot ua/UKRAINE/hauljajter-aksenov-skazal-skolko-krymchan-dobrovolno-poshli-voevat-protiv-ukrainy.html;

[75] https://zn dot ua/UKRAINE/hauljajter-aksenov-skazal-skolko-krymchan-dobrovolno-poshli-voevat-protiv-ukrainy.html;

[76] https://newsorel dot ru/fn_1147872.html

[77] https://newsorel dot ru/fn_1147872.html

[78] https://newsorel dot ru/fn_1147872.html

[79] https://www dot; https://ria-m dot tv/news/297192/v_melitopole_startovala_prinuditelnaya_mobilizatsiya_poluchivshim_pasport_rf_nachali_prinosit_povestki_(foto).html

[80] https://www dot; https://ria-m dot tv/news/297192/v_melitopole_startovala_prinuditelnaya_mobilizatsiya_poluchivshim_pasport_rf_nachali_prinosit_povestki_(foto).html

2. China’s Economy Won’t Overtake the U.S., Some Now Predict

China’s Economy Won’t Overtake the U.S., Some Now Predict

Slowing growth has dampened expectations that the Chinese economy will be the world’s largest by the end of the decade

By Stella Yifan XieFollow

Updated Sept. 2, 2022 10:48 am ET

HONG KONG—The sharp slowdown in China’s growth in the past year is prompting many experts to reconsider when China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy—or even if it ever will.

Until recently, many economists assumed China’s gross domestic product measured in U.S. dollars would surpass that of the U.S. by the end of the decade, capping what many consider to be the most extraordinary economic ascent ever.

But the outlook for China’s economy has darkened this year, as Beijing-led policies—including its zero tolerance for Covid-19 and efforts to rein in real-estate speculation—have sapped growth. As economists pare back their forecasts for 2022, they have become more worried about China’s longer term prospects, with unfavorable demographics and high debt levels potentially weighing on any rebound.

In one of the most recent revisions, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a U.K. think tank, thinks China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy two years later than it previously expected when it last made a forecast in 2020. It now thinks it will happen in 2030.

The Japan Center for Economic Research in Tokyo has said it thinks the passing of the baton won’t happen until 2033, four years later than its previous forecast.

Other economists question whether China will ever claim the top spot.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said China’s aging population and Beijing’s increasing tendency to intervene in corporate affairs, along with other challenges, have led him to substantially lower his expectations for Chinese growth.

He sees parallels between forecasts of China’s rise and earlier prognostications that Japan or Russia would overtake the U.S.—predictions that look ridiculous today, he said.

“I think there is a real possibility that something similar would happen with respect to China,” said Mr. Summers, now a Harvard University professor.

Researchers debate how meaningful GDP rankings are, and question whether much will change if China does overtake the U.S. The depth and openness of the U.S. economy mean the U.S. will still have outsize influence. The dollar is expected to remain the world’s reserve currency for years to come.

A real-estate slowdown has contributed to slowing economic growth in China.


Size alone doesn’t reflect the quality of growth, said Leland Miller, chief executive officer of China Beige Book, a research firm. Living standards in the U.S., measured by per capita gross domestic product, are five times greater than in China, and the gap is unlikely to close soon.

Still, a change in the ranking would be a propaganda win for Beijing as it seeks to show the world—and its own population—that China’s state-led model is superior to Western liberal democracy, and that the U.S. is declining both politically and economically. Over time, it could lead to more-substantive changes as more countries reorient their economies to serve Chinese markets.

“If China slows down substantially in its growth, it impacts China’s capacity to project power,” said Mr. Summers.U.S. vs. China: The Race to Build the World’s 

How the two countries stack up economically matters to Chinese leaders: After the U.S. economy grew faster than China’s during the last quarter of 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping told officials to ensure the country’s growth outpaces the U.S.’s this year, the Journal previously reported.

Economic fortunes can reverse quickly. In 2020, when China bounced back faster than the U.S. did from initial Covid-19 outbreaks, it looked like China’s economy might surpass the U.S. sooner than expected.

Some economists appear less perturbed by near-term threats to China’s growth. Justin Yifu Lin, a former chief economist at the World Bank who has long been bullish on China’s potential, argues its larger population means the country’s economy will wind up twice as big as the U.S.’s eventually. At a forum in Beijing in May, he predicted that process would continue despite the country’s latest slowdown.

Nevertheless, economic problems keep piling up in China, in part because of policy choices Beijing has made to contain Covid-19 and rein in debt.

“But it would never establish a meaningful lead over the United States and would remain far less prosperous and productive per person than America, even by mid-century,” it wrote. Its growth also wouldn’t be enough to give it any significant competitive advantage.

In a response to questions, the Lowy Institute said China’s further economic slowdown since the report came out has “at minimum pushed back the likely moment when China might overtake the U.S., and made it more likely that China might in fact never be able to do so.”

With China’s urban youth unemployment at a high, a job fair was held in Beijing last month.


Measured by purchasing power, which takes into account differing costs of goods and services across countries, China already overtook the U.S.’s economy in 2016, according to World Bank figures.

Measured in U.S. dollar terms, however, China’s GDP was 77% of the size of the U.S’s. in 2021, up from 13% in 2001, data from the World Bank shows.

Capital Economics researchers wrote in a report early last year that their most likely scenario envisions China’s economy expanding to about 87% of the size of the U.S.’s in 2030, before dropping back to 81% in 2050. It blamed China’s shrinking working population and weak productivity growth, among other factors.

“A lot of people for a long time have overestimated the competence of China’s leadership and have been shocked by the missteps with Covid and the property sector,” wrote Mark Williams, the firm’s chief Asia economist, in an email in which he reaffirmed his firm’s forecast. “The weakness these crises have revealed have been present and growing for a long time.”

Some researchers say China’s ability to overtake the U.S. will depend on whether it pursues more economic policy changes.

China’s government has taken steps to curb real-estate speculation; a Zhenjiang housing development.


Bert Hofman, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore and a former economist at the World Bank, said he believes China can surpass the U.S. in GDP size by 2035, if it raises its retirement age, allows more rural workers to move to cities, and takes steps to enhance productivity such as spending more on education and healthcare.

But China won’t be able to catch the U.S. if policy makers pursue only “limited reforms,” he said, or if it suffers a debt crisis. Further decoupling with the U.S. could make it harder for China to advance, as the flow of knowledge from abroad is disrupted, he said.

Other economists worry that size comparisons risk eliciting nationalism that can be detrimental to both countries.

“Too many people have lost sight of the fact that our economies are mutually beneficial,” said Andy Rothman, an investment strategist at Matthews Asia. Since China joined the World Trade Organization, he noted, U.S. exports to China are up over 600%, compared with 126% to the rest of the world.

“Looking at the Chinese economy and the U.S. economy as a zero-sum game—that’s not accurate,” he said.

A line for Covid testing in Beijing, as the ‘zero-Covid’ policy continues to dampen the economy.


Write to Stella Yifan Xie at

3. HIMARS: The Rocket Weapon Creating Chaos for Russia in Ukraine

I hope the creators of HIMARS are recognized for the development of their weapons system. Did anyone envision this level of effectiveness?

HIMARS: The Rocket Weapon Creating Chaos for Russia in Ukraine · by Harrison Kass · September 3, 2022

What is HIMARS? An Expert Explains – The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is just what the name suggests: a mobile rocket launcher. Relatively lightweight, the system is capable of launching multiple rockets from its mounting on the back of a standard U.S. Army M1140 truck frame. The system carries a pod that can be equipped with six 227mm GMLRS rockets, or alternatively, with one 610mm ATACMS missile.

The HIMARS is “protecting our soldiers with combat proven reliability,” Lockheed Martin, the systems designer, said on its website. “Adversaries around the globe are becoming more sophisticated. To protect soldiers, citizens and infrastructure, our customers require the most advanced tactical missile capabilities. The Lockheed Martin High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is a strategic capability, improving homeland and important asset defense while reducing overall mission costs.”

Multiple Rocket System on Wheels

The HIMARS is essentially a M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on wheels.

Employing a shoot-and-scoot capability, the system enhances the crew’s ability to survive in a combat zone. “HIMARS can emplace, fire, relocate and conduct reload in a matter of minutes,” Lockheed Martin said, “dramatically reducing an adversary’s ability to locate and target HIMARS.”

The HIMARS pod is actually identical to the MLRS pod. Developed in the 1990s, the HIMARS first saw action in the Middle East, where the U.S. was embroiled in two decades of conflict. The HIMARS made headlines in 2010 when an HIMARS launched rocket killed 12 civilians in Afghanistan during Operation Moshtarak. Use of the HIMARS was suspended while an investigation was conducted.

Initially, there were concerns that the rocket system had fallen short, hitting the wrong target. But a British officer argued that the rockets were on target, that the civilian deaths were attributable to the Taliban, who used civilians as human shields. Lockheed, of course, maintains that the system is highly accurate. “With a recognized and proven range up to 300km and a variety of future munitions in development that will offer extended range beyond 499 km, HIMARS delivers affordable, quick, long-range precision strikes.”

Highly Transportable

The HIMARS is highly transportable and deployable just about anywhere. The entire system, truck and all, can conveniently be loaded into the back of a C-130 Hercules at which point the system can then be flown in, even to remote airfields. The HIMARS saw heavy action in Iraq against ISIS; in 2015, the U.S. Army reported that it had fired over 400 HIMARS rockets at ISIS.

By 2016, Lockheed was boasting that the system had crossed the 1 million operational hours threshold and had achieved a commendable 99 percent operational readiness rate. Since 2016, the operational hours have more than doubled. “The HIMARS solution is a highly reliable, combat proven, fielded system that has exceeded all performance requirements. There are more than 540 fielded systems worldwide that have accumulated over 2,000,000 operating hours,” Lockheed Martin said.

Currently, the weapons platform is seeing action in Ukraine; initially, the U.S. supplied Ukraine with four HIMARS systems. But as the system has proven successful against Russian invaders, the U.S. has continued supplying Ukraine with more HIMARS systems. Allegedly, eight Ukrainian HIMARS systems have destroyed 30 Russian command stations, plus ammunition storage facilities – although this is highly disputed. Today, Ukraine is operating as many as 16 HIMARS systems.

The system is one of the foreign-supplied weapons systems that is helping Ukraine thwart a much larger Russian force.

The Ukrainians have even created decoy HIMARS out of wood, to draw Russian fire.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass. · by Harrison Kass · September 3, 2022

4. Russia could be ‘North Korea on steroids’: Economist and ex–Kremlin adviser warns what could happen if Putin is replaced


Guriev said that in his two decades in office, Putin has focused on building himself up as a crucial cog holding Russia’s political system together. The consequences of that strategy, however, are that the system becomes very fragile once that centerpiece is removed.
In his 2021 book, Weak Strongman, American political scientist Timothy Frye put Putin’s regime into similar terms. Frye wrote that while Russia’s relatively weak political institutions made it easy for an autocrat like Putin to take power, their fragility also made the country more difficult to govern. 
Putin consolidated his rule by assembling various elite businessmen close to him and placing them in positions of power and in control of Russia’s institutions, Frye wrote, but this system was also highly vulnerable, as it depended on Putin being around to manage any conflicts arising between the elites he had installed.
Should Putin leave office or be removed, Guriev says it is unlikely that his replacement will be selected democratically, and cracks would begin to show quickly in Putin’s absence.

Russia could be ‘North Korea on steroids’: Economist and ex–Kremlin adviser warns what could happen if Putin is replaced


September 2, 2022 at 11:31 AM EDT

Fortune · by Politics ·putin

Guriev said that Putin has built up Russia’s government in a way that, should he be removed or replaced, the entire system would cease to function, and lead to either a collapse or at the very least a significant rehaul.

Guriev is a liberal-minded economist who fled Russia in 2013 amid a mounting Kremlin investigation. At the time, the economist wrote in a New York Times opinion article that he “feared losing my freedom.”

Since then, Guriev sees Russia’s government as having become only more insulated and fragile, largely owing to the nature of Putin’s rule.

“People around him don’t trust each other, sometimes hate each other, so if he is gone the system will change somehow,” Guriev told CNBC.

Russia’s fragility

Putin won his first official election in March 2000, which secured him two consecutive presidential terms until 2008. He then served as prime minister between 2008 and 2012, when he returned to the presidential post.

A 2008 constitutional amendment lengthened Russian presidential terms to six years instead of four, and Putin’s current fourth term as president runs to 2024.

Last year, Putin signed into law a new bill that grants him the right to run twice more in his lifetime, meaning he could conceivably remain in office until 2036 at the earliest, at which point he would be 83 years old.

Guriev said that in his two decades in office, Putin has focused on building himself up as a crucial cog holding Russia’s political system together. The consequences of that strategy, however, are that the system becomes very fragile once that centerpiece is removed.

In his 2021 book, Weak Strongman, American political scientist Timothy Frye put Putin’s regime into similar terms. Frye wrote that while Russia’s relatively weak political institutions made it easy for an autocrat like Putin to take power, their fragility also made the country more difficult to govern.

Putin consolidated his rule by assembling various elite businessmen close to him and placing them in positions of power and in control of Russia’s institutions, Frye wrote, but this system was also highly vulnerable, as it depended on Putin being around to manage any conflicts arising between the elites he had installed.

Should Putin leave office or be removed, Guriev says it is unlikely that his replacement will be selected democratically, and cracks would begin to show quickly in Putin’s absence.

“Probably initially it will be some kind of ultranationalist guy or military junta, but it will not last for long exactly because the system is built around Putin. And eventually, I think the system will collapse,” Guriev said.

He added that a reformed Russian society could emerge as being more willing to engage with other countries than Putin has been, although there was an equal chance that the end result would be a country even more isolated than North Korea, another famously alienated pariah to the West.

“It could be North Korea on steroids, who knows? But it could also be a situation where the system collapses and somebody who wants to rebuild the economy reaches out to the West,” Guriev said.

Age of engagement

While Putin has been carefully building this system throughout his presidency, for a long time it appeared just as likely that Russia could “go either way,” Guriev said, referring to the possibility that the West and Russia could engage with each other and coexist peacefully.

But this period of engagement may well have ended with the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Guriev said, after which Putin “continued to build his war machine” and the West did not adequately punish the Russian president.

If the period of trying to engage peacefully and diplomatically with Russia was not over in 2014, as Guriev suggested, Putin’s ordering of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February may have brought it to a definitive end.

Last April, U.K. Foreign Secretary and current prime minister hopeful Liz Truss declared that “the age of engagement with Russia is over,” and suggested that the West begin prioritizing strategies to deter Putin altogether.

Fortune · by Politics ·putin

5. EXCLUSIVE: Air Force clears CV-22 Ospreys to fly after 2-week safety shutdown

EXCLUSIVE: Air Force clears CV-22 Ospreys to fly after 2-week safety shutdown - Breaking Defense​

Long-term, the service still seeks to understand what is actually the root cause of the issue, and “finding and implementing a materiel solution," according to a spokeswoman. · by Aaron Mehta · September 2, 2022

A CV-22 Osprey prepares to take off in a file photo. (DVDS)

WASHINGTON — Air Force Special Operations Command today cleared its CV-22 Osprey fleet to resume operations, but pilots will be required to operate using a series of risk-mitigation techniques in order to avoid a safety issue related to the engines on the rotorcraft.

Breaking Defense first revealed the AFSOC shutdown on Aug. 17. AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife ordered the safety standdown in the wake of two safety incidents that had occurred over the previous six weeks, with a total of four such events occurring since 2017.

The problem in question, according to AFSOC, is a “hard clutch engagement” or HCE. Basically, the clutch inside a gearbox that connects one of the CV-22’s two Rolls-Royce Liberty AE1107C engines to the propeller rotor is slipping for an unknown reason. When that happens, the power load transfers nearly instantaneously to the other engine — a design feature that would allow the Osprey to keep flying even if one engine fails. Then, in most cases, the initial clutch re-engages, and the power load rapidly shifts back to the original propeller rotor and engine.

As a result of the rapid movement of power across engines, the aircrew is forced to land the CV-22 immediately, and a spokeswoman noted on Aug. 17 that “if the aircrew were unable to control the aircraft when the incident occurs, it could result in loss of control and uncontrolled landing of the aircraft.”

According to AFSOC spokeswoman Lt. Col. Becky Heyse, Slife made the decision to return to flight operations after gathering data and input from aircrews. All CV-22 aircrews took part in working groups led by the Joint Program Office, and a series of surveys were set up to give aircrews a way to provide direct feedback on the issue and propose possible solutions.

“Informed by analysis of the data and inputs from the CV-22 aircrew enterprise, Lt Gen Slife, AFSOC commander, authorized resumption of CV-22 flight operations Sept 2, 2022 with risk control mitigations in place,” Heyse told Breaking Defense. “These mitigation guidelines are focused on flight operations where the preponderance of HCEs were experienced. Until a root cause is identified, and solution implemented, the focus is on mitigating operations in flight regimes where HCEs are more prevalent and ensuring our aircrews are trained as best as possible to handle HCEs when they do occur.”

What does “risk mitigation techniques” mean in real terms? It’s a mix of changing how pilots takeoff, discussions with leadership ahead of a potentially risky missions and new training.

For instance, pilots will now be told not to push the throttle to full power on takeoff, but rather bring the power to full more slowly. Training simulators will be loaded up with more scenarios where the HCE issue occurs, in order for pilots to have experience with what to do in such an emergency situation. And when planning out an operation, a leader at the lieutenant colonel level or higher will have to lead a discussion about whether more risky techniques and maneuvers will be required, and what to do should an HCE occur during an operation.

“These mitigation guidelines are focused on flight operations where the preponderance of HCEs were experienced,” Heyse said. “Until a root cause is identified, and solution implemented, the focus is on mitigating operations in flight regimes where HCEs are more prevalent and ensuring our aircrews are trained as best as possible to handle HCEs when they do occur.”

However, the return to flight does not mean the Air Force is satisfied the clutch issue has been solved. Slife has set up a system of near-, medium- and long-term goals for solving the issue.

Near term, CV-22 maintainers are “completing one-time inspections to verify data within the Air Force maintenance information system and compare it to the components that are physically installed on aircraft,” per Heyse. The goal is to ensure the service has the most accurate, up to date information on the drivetrain component in question, which will be sent to both the V-22 Joint Program Office and contractor Bell-Textron.

Medium term, the service will review and analyze the data, and consider replacing drivetrain components once they reach “specific flight hours,” based on what the data says.

And long-term, the goal is to understand what is actually the root cause of the issue, and “finding and implementing a materiel solution.”

After the Air Force shutdown, the Marine Corps, which also operates a V-22 variant, declared it would not be shutting down its fleet.

“The hard clutch issue has been known to the Marine Corps since 2010, and as such, we have trained our pilots to react with the appropriate emergency control measures should the issue arise during flight,” the service said in a statement Aug. 18. “We also remain engaged with the joint program office, NAVAIR engineering, and our industry partners to resolve the issue at the root cause.”

It is worth noting that the operational profile for the Air Force and Marines are different. Where the Marine Corps primarily use their MV-22 for transport, the Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 is used for missions such as infiltration or exfiltration in dangerous environments, requiring a different flight profile.

Valerie Insinna in Washington contributed to this report.

6. Ukrainian Verdun


Eventually, stalemates end. Sometimes, the exhausted belligerents recognize the futility of continuing hostilities. Other times, one of the combatants gains a war-winning advantage and emerges victorious. In either case, the issue becomes: Can the former enemies secure a lasting peace?

Ukrainian Verdun

By Robert Purssell

September 03, 2022

In the last weeks of August 2022, the Russia-Ukraine War has become an asymmetric stalemate. Russian artillery keeps the Ukrainians at bay, while the Ukrainians rely heavily on NATO-supplied high-tech weaponry, such as man-portable and mobile precision-guided missiles and launchers, precision artillery, and increasingly sophisticated drones to stop the Russians.

After six months of fighting, neither side in the Russia-Ukraine War seems able to make any meaningful progress toward either victory or resolution. This reality raises the question: Is there any useful historical precedent, and what does that precedent presage for the future of this stalemated conflict?

By January 1916, the German General Staff realized that their initial plan to rout the French forces, seize Paris, and defeat France had failed, consequently stalemating the German army in France and Belgium. Erich von Falkenhayn (Chief of the German General Staff) introduced an alternative strategy of using massive artillery bombardments to attrit the French army. Implemented in and around Verdun, the German attack launched on 21 February 1916 inflicted casualties and pushed the defenders back.

During the spring of 1916, the German attacks at Verdun, devoid of the element of surprise, produced a high German casualty rate for fewer and fewer gains. In June, the Russians launched their ‘Brusilov offense,’ quickly devastating the Austro-Hungarian army. On 1 July, the Battle of Somme began. The demands of both Entente attacks forced von Falkenhayn to redeploy artillery and infantry away from Verdun. In the summer and fall of 1916, the initiative shifted away from the Germans to the French.

In late August 1916, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff replaced von Falkenhayn. The new leadership soured on the Verdun offense, and, with the trench lines approximately where the fighting had begun, the battle of Verdun ended on 18 December.

The Western Front’s unalterable stalemate vexed commands on both sides of the trenches. Heralded as solutions, new weapons (poison gas) and tactics (mining under enemy positions) failed to deliver. Not until 1918, with the advent of massed tank formations, did the offense once again become a practical reality.

The course of the War in Ukraine approximates the First World War and the Battle of Verdun: First, a failed initial Russian campaign to overwhelm the Ukrainians and seize Kyiv; Next, an initially successful artillery-heavy Russian assault to capture the Donbas that eventually stalled; Now, a shift in the initiative, characterized by the Ukrainians and Russians both battling for limited territorial gains along the 500 kilometers of contested front lines, while also exchanging artillery and missile strikes on rear areas.

In 1914, most pre-War observers felt an offensive war of attack, employing the traditional cavalry, infantry, and fortification-busting artillery, would dominate and lead to a short conflict. Similarly, in 2022 before hostilities commenced, most military experts expected armor and airpower would steamroller the Ukrainian defense leading to a quick Russian victory. In neither case did the expected occur. Large-scale attacks yielded disappointing results. In World War I, machine guns, wire entanglements, and artillery stalled advances, leading to trench warfare. In 2022, Russian attacks faltered against man-portable anti-armor and anti-aircraft missiles, while the Ukrainians could not sustain advances against Russian artillery barrages.

When viewed from the perspective of offense versus defense, like the Western Front of World War I, the Russia-Ukraine War has seen the defense predominate:

First, with their man-portable missiles, the infantry gained a defensive advantage and prevailed against armor, low-flying attack aircraft, and helicopters. In the Russia-Ukraine War, the long-dominate, primarily offensive weapons have achieved little, and their destruction and wreckage often appear in cell phone images and videos.

Second, as videos testify, drones, often low-cost models, have proven deadly attackers, with their small bombs destroying numerous vehicles of all types.

Third, personnel, weapons, and supply concentrations have proven vulnerable to drone-directed, precision long-range artillery fires of both shells and missiles. Unlike World War II, where the offense dominated, prepared mass attacks of concentrated formations of soldiers and armor charging across a battlefield have become ineffective and costly.

Fourth, long-range precision-guided missile strikes have frequently destroyed: critical rear-area supply depots, command and control facilities, and high-value targets (ships, bridges, and airfields.)

Fifth, the widespread use of drones and satellite imagery has vastly improved battlefield surveillance. Surprising one’s adversary has become much harder to achieve. Increasingly, the element of surprise will require smaller units to accomplish their attacks quicker.

With the defense so clearly dominant, will the Russia-Ukraine War remain a slugfest between Russia’s more numerous but less sophisticated weaponry and Ukraine’s growing NATO-supplied high-tech missiles and artillery? Or will a new weapon, like the 1918 tank, emerge and give the currently moribund offense new life?

Unless one side or the other does something remarkable, neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians likely have a super weapon lurking in the shadows, ready to give their side the offensive oomph needed to be victorious. The Russians seem to have tried all that they have in their arsenal. The Ukrainians, pre-War, did not have much in the way of game-changing offensive weaponry. They now rely on mainly American and, to a lesser extent, European weapons, which give them a qualitative, but not a decisive, edge over the Russians.

Both Ukrainian and Russian commands now face the reality of a conflict where the defense is in the ascendancy. So far, the Russians have tried twice to attack and win. Both times, they failed. The Ukrainians talk of an offensive but have shown little inclination to initiate the determined and continuing attacks needed to evict the Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. Like the 1917 Western Front deadlock, neither the belligerents nor their allies in the Russia-Ukraine War seem to have a viable way to break the military stalemate.

Is there another option; Can either side do something to break the impasse?

In early 1917, recognizing that the German army could not: break through the enemy’s defenses, achieve a decisive victory, and end the strategic stalemate, the Germans shifted from military to naval and political means. U-boats resumed the unrestricted submarine warfare they had discontinued after the Lusitania sinking. Intent on crippling Russia from within, the German leadership arranged for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and his exiled Communist revolutionaries to travel on the famous/infamous ‘sealed train’ to the Russian capital, Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Both actions had a profound effect on the war. The unrestricted submarine war brought the United States into the conflict in April 1917. And with that entry, the Allies had a new set of war aims, Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points. In November 1917, the Lenin-led Bolsheviks seized power in the ‘October Revolution.’ Russia, now the Soviet Union, exited the war in March 1918 with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

After World War I’s Verdun battle, expanded military strategies, policy choices, or political changes, rather than a continuation of the current battlefield tactics, may transform the belligerents’ prospects in the Russia-Ukraine War. First, three obvious moves:

  1. Russia stops natural gas deliveries to Europe? Without needed natural gas, will European resolve crumble in the face of winter cold, or will European support for Ukraine remain firm?
  2. Russian financial incentives spur the recruiting of contract soldiers, allowing Russia to meet its army’s manpower needs and to continue its Ukrainian campaign.
  3. While the Russians batter their country, the Ukrainians endure until NATO, and the United States, equip and train their forces. Then those forces and the nation tolerate the casualties they must take to evict the Russian Army from Ukrainian territory.

Assuming the stalemate continues, or its position worsens, will Russia:

  1. Declare war, mobilize its manpower reserves, and rely on the sheer weight of numbers to overwhelm Ukrainian resistance. Can hastily trained Russian conscripts, equipped with outdated and flawed weapons, likely poorly led, and lacking motivation, defeat a determined and increasingly well-equipped Ukrainian army?
  2. Cause a radiation-spewing incident at a nuclear reactor hoping this escalation will change the conflict to Russia’s advantage?
  3. Find a foreign power (e.g., North Korea) willing to supply Russia with needed soldiers.

If the weaponry and support already supplied to the Ukrainians does not break the stalemate or if Russia resumes making battlefield gains, what additional steps can the Ukrainians and their international supporters take:

  1. Make the sanctions even more draconian and thus further cripple Russia.
  2. Provide the Ukrainians with the capability to achieve aerial dominance over all of Ukraine’s airspace and defeat Russian airpower.
  3. Increase the intensity of Ukraine’s guerilla activities to include the entirety of Russian-occupied territory.

Additionally, high-risk, or unlikely possible actions include:

  1. Russia initiates a nuclear strike hoping for a collapse of NATO and Ukrainian resolve. Alternatively, such a move begins a full-fledged nuclear war.
  2. An anti-Putin movement (possibly backed by Ukraine) emerges, gains significant support within Russia, and topples the Putin regime.
  3. A statesman generates a war aims document (similar in purpose to Wilson’s 14 points) that defines an alternative to Putin’s justification of his imperialistic aggression. Hopefully, the war aims will gain wide acceptance from both belligerent populations and their supporters.

Eventually, stalemates end. Sometimes, the exhausted belligerents recognize the futility of continuing hostilities. Other times, one of the combatants gains a war-winning advantage and emerges victorious. In either case, the issue becomes: Can the former enemies secure a lasting peace?

Robert (Bob) Purssell is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, Bob worked in the defense and semiconductor industry first as an engineer and subsequently as an engineering manager. Currently retired, he writes novels and gives talks on military and historical events.

7. Why Are We in Ukraine?

The argument for why we should seek peace in Ukraine now. The author says Putin's War (my words) is no longer a war of choice for Putin or for the US.


The attempt to isolate Russia from the American world system has had a striking unintended consequence—the possible founding of an alternative world system that would draw power away from the existing one. Twenty years ago, under George W. Bush, the United States removed the Iraqi deterrent from Iran’s neighborhood, transforming Iran overnight into a regional power. This year, under Joe Biden, the United States has made China a gift of Russia’s exportable food and mineral resources. We are displaying an outright genius for identifying our most dangerous military adversary and solving its most pressing strategic challenge. The attention of China is now engaged. Joe Biden argues that any wavering in the cause of obliterating Russia will be understood by China as a green light on Taiwan. He may have a point, but the U.S. management of the Ukraine situation over the past decade has constituted encouragement enough.
Administration officials often describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war of choice. Although this may have been true at the outset, it is not now. Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules cannot stop fighting. As long as the United States is involved in arming Russia’s enemies and bankrupting its citizens, they are quite right to believe themselves in a war for their country’s survival. The United States, thus far in a less bloody way, is also involved in a war it chose but cannot exit—in this case, for fear of undermining the international system from which it has drawn its power and prosperity for the past three quarters of a century.
Now may seem like the wrong moment to make peace. But seldom in wars such as this one do the prospects for peace grow more favorable with time.

Why Are We in Ukraine? - Claremont Review of Books

A steep bill comes due for decades of democracy promotion.

by Christopher Caldwell · by Charles R. Kesler

On March 24, a month after Russian tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders, the Biden White House summoned America’s partners (as its allies are now called) to a civilizational crusade. The administration proclaimed its commitment to those affected by Russia’s recent invasion—“especially vulnerable populations such as women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and persons with disabilities.” At noon that same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted about the “massive, unprecedented consequences” American sanctions were wreaking on Russia, and claimed Russia’s economic “collapse” was imminent.

Never has an official non-belligerent been more implicated in a war. Russia and its sympathizers assert that the U.S. attempt to turn Ukraine into an armed anti-Russian camp is what the war is about in the first place. Even those who dismiss this view will agree that the United States has made itself a central player in the conflict. It is pursuing a three-pronged strategy to defeat Russia through every means short of entering the war—which, of course, raises the risk that the United States will enter the war. One prong is the state-of-the-art weaponry it is supplying to Ukraine. Since June, thousands of computer-guided artillery rockets have been wreaking havoc behind Russian lines. A second prong is sanctions. With western European help, Washington has used its control of the choke points of the global marketplace to impoverish Russians, in hopes of punishing Russia. Finally, the U.S. seeks to rally the world’s peoples to a culture war against an enemy whose traditionalism, even if it does not constitute the whole of his evil, is at least a symbol of it.

It would be foolish to bet against the United States, a mighty global hegemon with a military budget 12 times Russia’s. Yet something is going badly off track. Russia’s military tenacity was to be expected—bloodying and defeating more technologically advanced armies has been a hallmark of Russian civilization for 600 years. But the economic sanctions, far from bringing about the collapse Blinken gloated over, have driven up the price of the energy Russia sells, strengthened the ruble, and threatened America’s western European allies with frostbite, shortages, and recession. The culture war has found few proponents outside of the West’s richest latte neighborhoods. Indeed, cultural self-defense may be part of the reason India, China, and other rising countries have conspicuously declined to cut economic ties with the Russians.

There have been signs for years that a new Iron Curtain was about to drop on the European continent. In 2008, the U.S. announced plans to bring certain non-Baltic republics of the former Soviet Union—notably Ukraine and Georgia—into NATO and the American sphere of influence. Should Ukraine prevail in this proxy war the U.S. will have succeeded, in a way. But it will have done so at an almost unspeakable price. It will have undermined the international economic architecture on which rests its control of global markets (and its ability to safely run government deficits). It will have carried out a shotgun wedding of Russia and China, forcing the most natural-resource-rich country on the planet into the arms of the West’s most dangerous adversary. Should Ukraine fail, the Ukraine policy of the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations will be counted among the significant foreign policy blunders in American history.

Provoking Russia

There are basically two conflicting explanations of how the United States got into this position—a practical/narrative one and a moral/psychological one. The first has been put forward by the University of Chicago foreign relations professor John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer is skeptical of idealistic crusades, such as the one in Iraq that George W. Bush drew the country into in 2003. He is also skeptical of the idea that America has permanent moral commitments that transcend national interest, including the alliance America has maintained with Israel across the decades. To Mearsheimer, the American strategy of rights- and democracy-promotion since the end of the Cold War appears largely foolish and self-defeating. On the one hand the architects of that policy hold Mearsheimer in low esteem—Bush and Trump advisors no less than Obama and Biden ones. On the other hand Mearsheimer has been, over the two decades since the Iraq invasion, far more often right than wrong. Mearsheimer has been laying out his explanation of the Ukraine conflict to packed lecture halls for almost a decade. One talk that he gave in Chicago in 2015 has been posted to YouTube and viewed 27 million times.

The impulse that culminated in the Iraq war did not end with the debacle there. Diplomats and defense experts were still trying to “spread democracy” even in the Bush Administration’s dying days. The key moment, in Mearsheimer’s view, came at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, when the American delegation put forward a statement that both Ukraine and Georgia “will become” NATO members. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the Bush Administration of the consequences. “I was very sure…that Putin was not going to just let that happen,” Merkel later explained. “From his perspective, that would be a declaration of war.”

More Americans than dared to say so felt the same. Mearsheimer cites William Burns, then-U.S. ambassador in Moscow, now President Biden’s director of central intelligence. Burns wrote a memo to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin). In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players, from knuckle draggers in the dark recesses of the Kremlin to Putin’s sharpest liberal critics I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests. NATO would be seen as throwing down the strategic gauntlet. Today’s Russia will respond. Russian-Ukrainian relations will go into a deep freeze. It will create fertile soil for Russian meddling in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Russia was never without an excuse to meddle in Ukraine. The Ukrainians are an ancient people. But rather like the Kurds they inhabit a dangerous neighborhood, and for most of their modern history have been unable to found a real nation-state. Under Communism Ukraine became one of the Soviet socialist republics. This was an administrative statehood, not a real sovereignty. Still, it was better than what they got in the decade after Communism fell. Living standards plummeted by 60%. Corruption rose to levels unique in Europe.

The cultural lines between Russia and Ukraine have always been blurry. They are fraternal peoples and arch-foes. They are, it seems, the entities for which the word “frenemy” was coined. In many parts of the country—notably the Crimean peninsula, with its ports and its centuries-old Russian naval bases, and in the eastern mining and manufacturing region called the Donbass—people feel themselves considerably more Russian than Ukrainian. In 1944 Stalin complicated the situation (or, by his lights, simplified it) when he deported the Muslim Tatars who had been resident there, primarily in Crimea, for centuries. Russian has for generations been the lingua franca of business and culture in Ukraine—although its public use has been suppressed since 2014.

That was a hinge year. Ukrainian diplomats had been negotiating an “association agreement” with the European Union that would have created closer trade relations. Russia outbid the E.U. with its own deal, which included $15 billion in incentives for Ukraine. President Viktor Yanukovych signed it. Protests, backed by the United States, broke out in Kiev’s main square, the Maidan, and in cities across the country. By then the U.S. had spent $5 billion to influence Ukraine’s politics, according to a 2013 speech by State Department official Victoria Nuland. Russia now viewed this activity as having funded subversion and revolt. Like every Ukrainian government since the end of the Cold War, Yanukovych’s government was corrupt. Unlike many of them it was legitimately elected. When shootings near the Maidan in Kiev left dozens of protesters dead, Yanukovych fled the country, and the United States played a central role in setting up a successor government.

Meddling with vital Russian interests at Russia’s doorstep turned out to be more dangerous than orating about democracy. Rather than see the Russophone and pro-Russian region of Crimea transformed from a Russian naval stronghold into an American one, Russia invaded it. “Took over” might be a better verb, because there was no loss of life due to the military operation. Whether the Russian takeover was a reaction to American crowding or an unprovoked invasion, one thing was clear: In Russia’s view, Ukraine’s potential delivery of Crimea to NATO was a more serious threat to its survival in 2014 than—to take an example—Islamic terrorism had been to America’s in 2001 or 2003. Understanding that Russia would respond accordingly to any attempt to wrest it back, Russia’s European and Black Sea neighbors tended thenceforth to treat Crimea as a de facto part of Russia. So, for the most part, did the United States. The Minsk accords, signed by Russia and Ukraine, were meant to guarantee a measure of linguistic and political autonomy in the culturally Russian Donbass. (Russia claims the violation of these accords as a casus belli.)

Anyone who watched the first Trump impeachment in 2019 will know that U.S. Ukraine policy—and the personnel carrying it out—did not change, in its essence, between the Obama and Trump administrations. Through steady deliveries of weaponry and military know-how, the failed state of 2014, defended by a ramshackle collection of hooligans and oligarch-sponsored militias, was transformed by 2021 into the third-largest army in Europe, fully interoperable with that of the United States. Ukraine, with a quarter-million men under arms, was outmanned only by Turkey and Russia. The real caesura came not with Trump’s arrival but with his departure. In the first weeks of 2021, Joe Biden committed his administration to a considerably more aggressive Ukraine policy. Last November 10, Blinken signed a “strategic partnership” that not only reasserted the Bush Administration’s commitment to admit Ukraine into NATO, but also reopened contested sovereignty questions, including that of strategically vital, culturally Russian Crimea.

The Mearsheimer account culminates with an implicit question: What did you think Russia would do?

Putin and Partisanship

There is, of course, a different explanation, the moral/psychological explanation put forward by the Biden administration and its defenders. It differs from Mearsheimer’s account not so much in facts as in its apportionment of moral blame. In this account, the spur to war was not American encroachment but the erratic behavior of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with focusing on Putin. Since coming to power in 2000 he has been one of the defining political figures of our era. On the one hand he managed, if not to defeat the mafias who had taken over the “privatization” of the Soviet economy under Boris Yeltsin, then at least to loosen their hold on the state and make them somewhat accountable to the law, an achievement that proved beyond the leaders of Ukraine, for example. He revived an economy in which life expectancy had fallen to the level of Bangladesh’s, and for a few years presided over a Russia that was freer in most respects than it had been in a century. On the other hand, this was a Russia in which enemies of the regime were attacked and murdered, at home and abroad. Whether or not Putin is held personally accountable for these killings, they are a blot on his regime.

Putin certainly had reasons to wish Ukraine kept in Russia’s sphere of influence. But in most Western accounts of what led to the invasion of Ukraine last February, these reasons are presented as psychopathological, not geostrategic. Putin comes off as Hitler. He wants to reconstitute the Soviet Union. Or the tsarist empire. He rides a horse bare-chested. “He gets support because he is perceived to be a strongman,” Francis Fukuyama wrote on his blog in March. “What does he have to offer once he demonstrates incompetence and is stripped of his coercive power?” “He was very sexist towards me,” Hillary Clinton recalled in an interview with the Financial Times, explaining Henry Kissinger’s skepticism about the Biden Administration’s Ukraine policy with the remark, “He values his relationship with Putin so much.” On Capitol Hill, too, Putin has become a symbol and a pretext for partisan political maneuvering, notably in the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016.

But the worst thing about this psycho-moral approach to Russian-Ukrainian affairs is that it produces bad foreign-policy thinking. It implies that, once you account for Putin’s personality, the war is actually about nothing—at least nothing political. And if the war is about nothing, then there is no need to consider what brought it about or where it might be going.

Few people have paid attention to how rapidly Ukrainian society has been evolving since the Maidan protests. In a recent interview in the New Left Review, the sociologist Volodymyr Ishchenko described a power bloc that has lately come into being, uniting Ukraine’s globalizing oligarchs, Western-funded progressive foundations, and Ukrainian nationalists. The latter argued for ripping up the Minsk accords and ripping out the Russian roots of Ukrainian public life and high culture, leaving Ukraine with a hard-line form of political correctness. After 2014, according to Ishchenko, “a wide range of political positions supported by a large minority, sometimes even by the majority, of Ukrainians—sovereigntist, state-developmentalist, illiberal, left-wing—were blended together and labeled ‘pro-Russian narratives’ because they challenged the dominant pro-Western, neoliberal and nationalist discourses in Ukraine’s civil society.” Those who hold such views have often felt driven out of public life.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, today the symbol of resolute anti-Russian resistance, has himself undergone a transformation. An influential Ukrainian actor and TV producer, he won a landslide in 2019 on the promise he would render life tolerable for the Russia-friendly east. His popularity quickly eroded, according to Ishchenko, and shortly after the Biden inauguration, Zelensky began censoring Russophile channels, websites, and blogs.

For years, Aleksei Arestovich, a young polymath who is among Zelensky’s shrewdest and most voluble policy advisors, has been putting forward the idea that war with Russia is inevitable, and that it might even be in Ukraine’s interest. Arestovich believes that Putin has a long-range plan to reconstitute something like the Soviet Union, and that “if we don’t enter NATO, then it’s the end for us.” In 2019 he told an interviewer that “the cost of us getting into NATO will be a huge war with Russia.”

Figuring out just how huge this war is going to be is the key to figuring out what the West should do next.

The Pivot of History

Those who back a bigger role for the West in supporting Ukraine often put their position in the form of a question: once he gets control of Ukraine, why should Putin stop there? The question has a simple answer: because he knows something about history and he can count. He doesn’t have the guns. He doesn’t have the soldiers. Putin invaded Ukraine with 190,000 men. That is just slightly more than the 170,000 Soviet soldiers who died trying—and failing—to retake the city of Kharkov in 1942. There were four battles of Kharkov in World War II, and Kharkov was only one of the cities fought over.

Poltava, Sevastopol, the clashes Germany fought on the road to Stalingrad and Kursk…Ukraine has always been potentially the most violent spot on earth. As the strategist Halford Mackinder wrote at the turn of the 20th century, “European civilization is, in a very real sense, the outcome of secular struggle against Asiatic invasion.” Ukraine is the place where those invasions can be stopped by a combination of wide, defensible rivers and massive conscript armies. Wars fought there tend to be world wars. That is why Mackinder called this part of the world “The Geographical Pivot of History.” Former secretary of state Zbigniew Brzezinski used the same “pivot” metaphor to describe Ukraine in his post-Cold War book The Grand Chessboard (1997). “Without Ukraine,” he wrote, “Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

Reducing Russia’s dimensions appears to be America’s overriding war aim. It is a risky one. Those Western leaders with the ambition to bring Europe to the gates of Moscow have sometimes brought the warriors of the Eurasian steppes onto the streets of Paris and Berlin.

For more than a century, the United States has entered world conflicts as a tertius gaudens. After two adversaries have bled and exhausted each other, big advantages can be won with a relatively small expenditure of blood and treasure. In this case, the U.S. is making the entirety of its contribution to the Ukrainian war effort in treasure, none of it so far in blood. On top of the armament and training provided over the past eight years, it has provided Ukraine with $50 billion worth of advanced weaponry in the last six months. Since the beginning of the war, the United States has also provided targeting information for drone strikes on Russian generals and missile attacks on Russian ships.

The American course comes with obvious moral temptations. Traditionally, danger is allied to conscience in dissuading statesmen from overreach. Any statesman with the ambition to dominate, plunder, or instruct another people is faced, sooner or later, with the question of how many of his own nation’s sons he is willing to sacrifice for the purpose. For the past quarter-century the United States has been able to fight significant wars that do not put many of its youth in the line of fire. Conspicuous in this respect was the only previous interstate war fought on the European continent since World War II. The 1999 Kosovo War was an American air campaign against a Serbia that had inadequate air defenses. U.S. bombers were able to hit Belgrade for weeks while suffering no casualties. A country that can fight wars on these terms has the liberty to fight wars over practically anything.

The Ukraine war is special, though. American immunity from danger may be illusory. The progress of technology has imperceptibly eroded a longstanding distinction between supporting a combatant and entering the fray as a combatant oneself. In June, the U.S. began providing Ukraine with M142 HIMARS computer-targeted rocket artillery systems, and these present the problem in an acute form: the role of technology in the lethality of a weapon has grown to the point where the role of the human warrior is, relatively speaking, rendered negligible. An encounter with a sword is an encounter with a swordsman. An encounter with an arrow is an encounter with an only slightly more distant bowman. But an encounter with an M31 rocket fired from a HIMARS launcher is an encounter with General Dynamics. And it is the human warrior who is the repository of all the longings-to-be-vindicated and the sacrifices-freely-undertaken that consecrate war as a cause. With advanced weaponry, the soldier operating it almost doesn’t need to be there. Which is to say that, in this proxy war between Russia and the United States, Ukraine doesn’t need to be there. In these HIMARS artillery strikes, in the assassinations by drone of Russian officers, in the sinking of naval ships with advanced missiles, it is the United States, not Ukraine, that has become the battlefield adversary of Russia.

The offer by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk early in the war to provide Ukrainians with his company’s Starlink satellite communications system has been written up in the Western press as practically an act of philanthropy. In June, the political consultant Ian Bremmer called SpaceX, Microsoft, and Google “literal belligerents in the war,” and even professed himself hopeful about the world they were creating, observing that corporations and banks have “a hell of a lot more impact in what the global outlook on climate will be than any government.” But this brave new world will not be a stable one. A “literal belligerent” is a legitimate target. In China, reportedly, the People’s Liberation Army is studying “soft and hard kill methods” for taking Starlink’s system down. What is more, if an entity has a “hell of a lot more impact” on policy issues than a government, then it is a government, no matter what you call it, and probably a government that is the more dangerous and irresponsible for being able to pretend it is something else. There are a bunch of questions here that have not even been raised, let alone addressed.

The New Economic Warfare

American policymakers have chosen this moment to launch a similarly novel system of economic warfare, which they expect to be just as effective as battlefield warfare while generating none of battlefield warfare’s hard feelings.

The U.S. has cut off all Russian imports of energy, and has encouraged its European allies—thus far with only limited success—to do the same. The whole sanctions package is intended to be of an unprecedented destructiveness. American Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo, the administration’s point man on sanctions, says that President Biden’s order is to “make sure that we maximize the pain on Russia…degrading Russia’s energy production capabilities,” in order to “further starve them of the resources they need to conduct the kind of wars they are doing today.” French economics minister Bruno LeMaire adds, “We will provoke the collapse of the Russian economy.”

Sanctions invariably inflict their worst damage not on society’s leaders but on common people. In a sanctions regime, starving a people “of resources,” as Adewale puts it, is usually done by starving them, full stop. That is why blockades are traditionally considered acts of war. If something is more effective than a weapon, then it is a weapon. For sanctions to work effectively, they need to be imposed on a country that is democratic enough for the targeted population to make its own discomfort felt by the targeted government. That population must also be disinclined to reflexive patriotism—otherwise sanctions will backfire, and strengthen enemy morale. Sanctions, in other words, work best where the ethical case for sanctions is weakest. These practical dilemmas and moral paradoxes have come up again and again whenever sanctions are proposed, whether on Cuba, Iran, or Iraq.

What is new and reckless about these American sanctions is the threat they pose not to Russia but to the United States. The Biden Administration has been abusing—and thus undermining—the American position as custodian of the global economy.

Financial weapons, like battlefield weapons, change in nature as they become more technologically advanced. It didn’t used to be possible to impose a watertight financial embargo. But now the weapon exists, and the United States, which has not received proper training in using it, is waving it around like a barroom drunk. In May, at American urging, Russia was cut off from the private-but-universal Brussels-based SWIFT system, which for the past 50 years has become the highway of international bank transfers and payments. Later that month, Janet Yellen’s Treasury Department froze all of Russia’s payments to its American bondholders and in late June declared Russia to be in default—an act of regulatory chicanery that does nothing to taint Russia’s real creditworthiness but does taint the United States’ reputation for integrity as a neutral global-economy regulator.

The United States has led seven Western countries in freezing the hard currency reserves of the Russian central bank—roughly $284 billion. Similar things have been done before—the United States froze Iran’s assets after its 1979 revolution, releasing most of them two years later. (A certain amount remained outstanding until Barack Obama’s “Iran deal” in 2016.) In the wake of the 2021 U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration froze $7 billion of the country’s reserves—and then set aside half of them as a pool that could be tapped in damage suits connected to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.

The measures against Russia, though, are of unprecedented scope. Both President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have declared their willingness to seize those hundreds of billions in order to “rebuild Ukraine.” The United States has for a long time lived off the “exorbitant privilege” of its reserve currency and its role as the global regulator of first resort. Neither will survive for long if the United States manages the world’s assets in a non-fiduciary way.

Despite having bankers like Adeyemo in its top ranks, the Biden Administration appears to have forgotten this. It seems to believe Russia will just suck up the insults and inconvenience to which it is being subjected. Even if Russia had the best will in the world, it could not. Once its dollar reserves were seized and it was cut off from all means of transferring money and paying its debts in dollars, Russia asked for payment in rubles from the countries to which it exports gas. European members of the G7—the club of the richest Western democracies—called the request “unacceptable,” and a “weaponization” of energy resources. But how can a business accept payment in a currency it is not allowed to spend? Europe quickly, if quietly, agreed.

The people who make U.S. Ukraine policy were apparently incapable of thinking things through to this point. Rather than beg its way back into the U.S.-led global financial order, the Russians are trying to build a new one with new partners. They have a chance of pulling it off. In a speech at a June economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin complained that the roughly $10 trillion that any trading country must hold in dollar and Euro currency reserves is being devalued at 8% a year by U.S. inflation. “Moreover,” he said, “they can be confiscated or stolen any time if the United States dislikes something in the policy of the states involved.” Putin called for a replacement for the SWIFT system. “The development of a convenient and independent payment infrastructure in national currencies is a solid and predictable basis for deepening international cooperation,” he said. Until recently such an appeal would have fallen on deaf ears. This time it did not.

Power and Influence

Complications and escalations may arise out of the Ukraine war. One dreads that they will. But thus far, the war’s most important world-historical consequence has been the failure of the United States to rally a critical mass of what it used to call “the world community” to repel Russia’s contestation of the American-built world system.

In part, the great story we see playing out is the fulfillment of a prediction that people have been making for a generation: power and influence are shifting away from the United States and Europe, and toward Asia. In the 1990s, when the United States was imposing its will on Iraq and Kosovo, the G7 made up 70% of the world economy. Today it makes up 43%. India and China are both giant export markets for Russian oil and gas. It is clear why Russia would want to sell to India and China. The more complicated question is why India (tacitly) and China (explicitly) would back Russia against what American progressives call the “rules-based international order.”

In 2020, the Hamburg-based Körber Foundation took a poll of German adults in their twenties and early thirties, and found that 46% backed closer ties between their country and China, versus only 35% who called for closer ties with the United States. In Italy, 36% of adults wanted ties to China, versus only 30% to the U.S. The difference may reflect that the United States is, on the international level, a police power. The U.S. not only claims a role in Russia’s near abroad; eight years ago it threatened to boycott Russia’s Olympics over its laws about teaching sexuality to schoolchildren. China (to take one example) made no such boycott threats. Post-Brexit, Britain is trying to adjust the trade regime with Ireland that is laid out in the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Biden Administration and Nancy Pelosi have warned them of consequences if they do. India (to take one example) does not think British-Irish relations are its business.

A guarantor of economic order, the United States has come to mistake itself for a promulgator of international law, able to consign any country, at any time, to the status of an international pariah. Rival great powers see the United States actively engaged in undermining them, and sometimes they are right to. In early June, the Wall Street Journal covered trade secretary Gina Raimondo’s attempts to negotiate the so-called Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) with a number of Eastern countries, excluding China. The United States was reportedly offering little to its trade partners, certainly not the opening of U.S. domestic markets. In fact, to read between the lines of Raimondo’s explanation, the U.S. delegation was less interested in a trade agreement than in a penal code that could be wielded against China:

Rather than unilaterally bar the export of U.S. technology to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. “convinced 36 other countries to align their own export controls with us,” Ms. Raimondo said. That, she said, could be the model for the IPEF. “We’re going to have a whole negotiation around export controls for semiconductors. It would be very powerful if we had some number of countries in that region aligning their own systems with us…. If something like [Russia’s] invasion happened, you would be able to swiftly move with your allies the way we did within the Russia situation.”

Yes, the West “swiftly moved” against Russia, but six months in, these moves seemed surprisingly ineffective. The reason is that, no matter where you place the fulcrum and the lever, Russia, China, and India collectively are now too much for the United States to lift. Inducements can be offered to get one country to break solidarity with the other two. But cooperating would be foolish, on any terms. At the end of the day, a country that permits itself to be isolated by the United States this way is increasing the risk that it will itself be subjected to a media-and-boycott campaign of destruction like the one we are now witnessing with Russia. A few words about the condition of the Uyghurs, a few talking points on Hindu nationalism, and the U.S. can crank this whole machinery of economic destruction into operation against China or India. They know it, too. The Italian writer Marco D’Eramo reported that, after a March 18 phone call between Biden and Xi Jinping, one Chinese anchorman joked that Biden’s message had been: “Can you help me fight your friend so that I can concentrate on fighting you later?”

The attempt to isolate Russia from the American world system has had a striking unintended consequence—the possible founding of an alternative world system that would draw power away from the existing one. Twenty years ago, under George W. Bush, the United States removed the Iraqi deterrent from Iran’s neighborhood, transforming Iran overnight into a regional power. This year, under Joe Biden, the United States has made China a gift of Russia’s exportable food and mineral resources. We are displaying an outright genius for identifying our most dangerous military adversary and solving its most pressing strategic challenge. The attention of China is now engaged. Joe Biden argues that any wavering in the cause of obliterating Russia will be understood by China as a green light on Taiwan. He may have a point, but the U.S. management of the Ukraine situation over the past decade has constituted encouragement enough.

Administration officials often describe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war of choice. Although this may have been true at the outset, it is not now. Vladimir Putin and the Russia he rules cannot stop fighting. As long as the United States is involved in arming Russia’s enemies and bankrupting its citizens, they are quite right to believe themselves in a war for their country’s survival. The United States, thus far in a less bloody way, is also involved in a war it chose but cannot exit—in this case, for fear of undermining the international system from which it has drawn its power and prosperity for the past three quarters of a century.

Now may seem like the wrong moment to make peace. But seldom in wars such as this one do the prospects for peace grow more favorable with time. · by Charles R. Kesler

8. Troops, Veterans Are Targets in the Disinformation War, Even if They Don’t Know It Yet


“Media literacy is not about telling people what to think. It’s about thinking critically about the information you’re consuming,” she says.
“Education is the simplest thing, and the most immediate thing, and the most effective thing that we can do at our level for the individual. Because at the end of the day, mis- and disinformation is only effective if the recipient is vulnerable to it.”

Troops, Veterans Are Targets in the Disinformation War, Even if They Don’t Know It Yet · by Sonner Kehrt · September 1, 2022

In the summer of 2015, active-duty troops began to arrive in Bastrop, Texas, for a military training exercise. The exercise wasn’t much different from previous joint training exercises, except perhaps for its size. Over the course of two months, more than a thousand troops conducted training focused on operating in overseas combat environments.

It was different in one other respect, as well: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise. A civilian watchdog group formed to keep an eye on things, too. In D.C., Texas Sen. Ted Cruz reached out to the Pentagon ahead of the training—asking for reassurance that the exercise was, in fact, just an exercise.

Alpha Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, participates in Operation Jade Helm to demonstrate the effectiveness of integrated operations with conventional forces in 2016 at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Camp Bullis, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Defense Department.

Online, news of the training had quickly transformed into rumors and conspiracy theories. Operation Jade Helm, as the exercise was known, was a government ploy to seize people’s guns. The president was facilitating an invasion by Chinese troops. The exercise presaged an asteroid strike, which was going to wipe out civilization.

None of those things was true. At the end of Operation Jade Helm, the military went home. People still had their guns. No asteroid struck Earth. Three years later, in 2018, Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, said the tidal wave of theories around the operation had been the result of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Over the past several years, disinformation, or the intentional deployment of false information for malicious ends, has emerged as a critical threat to public discourse and national unity. Events like Operation Jade Helm demonstrate just how quickly something ordinary can morph—online, and in people’s minds—into something extraordinary. The military community is not immune. In fact, veterans were among those who shared false rumors about Jade Helm.


White Supremacy in the Military "Like a Drop of Cyanide in Your Drink"

While much of the conversation about social media and the military recently has focused on the specific concern around extremist radicalization, more garden-variety disinformation is also a growing issue. Disinformation can undermine critical thinking, sow confusion and suspicion, and threaten unit cohesion and force readiness. But the scope and unusual nature of the problem means it is difficult to protect troops.

“We prepare and train up for classic cyber threats,” says Peter W. Singer, author of the book LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media and senior fellow at New America. “We don’t prepare and train up servicemembers for its evil twin, which is the information warfare side.”

‘All Warfare Is Based on Deception’

Disinformation is nothing new. Way back in the 5th century B.C., the Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote, “All warfare is based on deception.”

But the modern incarnation of deception—with its lightning-fast propagation on social media and the alarming ease with which people are weaponized, typically without their knowledge, to spread it—is new. The problem affects anyone who is online—and increasingly people offline as well, as ideas that form on the internet spill over into the physical world.

Peter Singer, senior fellow with the New America Foundation, offers an outlook on future defense challenges and opportunity to a packed King Auditorium for a Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture in 2019 in Monterey, California. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Dionne, courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

While disinformation (and its slightly more benign cousin, misinformation, which generally refers to false information) started to become a problem as social media exploded in popularity, it didn’t become clear the extent to which malicious actors, including foreign governments, intentionally spread false information until the 2016 presidential election. The Covid-19 pandemic then ignited what the World Health Organization deemed an “infodemic”: such an extraordinary amount of information, much of it false or misleading, that it becomes difficult for individuals to navigate, and, consequently, undermines public trust in authorities.

“People are deep in cognitive dissonance and institutional cynicism, and they just don’t believe they can trust anything—except for what’s coming from this one little echo chamber of belief, because they found a bunch of people who share that one specific set of beliefs,” says John Silva, a Marine veteran and the senior director of professional learning at the News Literacy Project, which teaches skills to counter misinformation.

Mis- and disinformation campaigns are effective because they feed into people’s beliefs and emotions. “We tap into people’s cynicism and […] other fears and anxieties,” he says. “And we have a lot of these bad actors out there that are influencing that and exploiting that.”

The problem can be particularly acute, he says, when beliefs we hold close are at stake—such as our health or service to our country.

Award-Winning Journalism in Your Inbox

“When we start to talk about these big things—like patriotism, like our respect and admiration for our troops and our veterans—there’s deep emotions there,” Silva says. “It’s really hard to have a critical conversation.”

In 2019, Vietnam Veterans of America released a report revealing that servicemembers and veterans are at particular risk of disinformation campaigns. Its extensive two-year investigation found “persistent, pervasive, and coordinated online targeting of American servicemembers, veterans, and their families by foreign entities who seek to disrupt American democracy.” The threats detailed in the report range from foreign actors creating Facebook groups purporting to represent veterans service organizations, to Russian-backed ads selling pro-U.S. military merchandise, to viral memes designed to encourage veterans to share with other veterans.

This graphic displays good sources for coronavirus disease 2019 news and tips for finding real news. Graphic by Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

While sharing something on Facebook may feel benign, these campaigns grow with every repost. Given public trust in the military, posts by veterans and service members can lend a degree of credibility to an idea or narrative. But ultimately, disinformation campaigns are designed to exploit differences and encourage suspicions of people who disagree—which poses a real threat to unit cohesion, and ultimately to national security.

“We all need to be able to think critically. One of the demands of being in the Marine Corps is being able to make good decisions in stressful environments,” says Jennifer Giles, a Marine Corps major who has written about misinformation and military readiness. “You need to be able to protect your cognitive space.”

‘Certain Things Can Make You a Soft Target’

The military has long recognized that force readiness depends on individual troop readiness. For instance, service members must maintain physical fitness: Lethality on the battlefield depends on it. More recently, troop training includes Anti-Terrorism Force Protection, or the idea that military members who may be targeted in terrorist attacks can take simple steps to minimize their susceptibility—things like varying routes to and from work and not wearing a uniform in public.

U.S. Army Maj. Trisha Wyman prepares to present her master’s thesis research during the annual Defense Analysis Research Week. Wyman, a December 2019 graduate of the university, performed a detailed analysis of a Russian disinformation campaign designed to shape U.S. perceptions of nuclear capabilities. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan K. Serpico, courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

“Certain things like that, that can make you like a soft target,” says Jay Hagwood, a Coast Guard lieutenant commander who has organized media literacy training for Coast Guard members. The question, he says, is, “How do you harden that a little bit?”

The same question applies to online information. Simple steps, like understanding how disinformation campaigns work, verifying information before sharing, and improving critical thinking, can go a long way toward protecting service members. “What you’re a target for online, it can sometimes be just as damaging, in some ways,” Hagwood says.

But while the military has accepted and even embraced information warfare as a battlefield, the requirements for individual troop readiness haven’t developed commensurately. In part, that’s because the problem is so new. But misinformation is also a complex issue. It spans everything from sophisticated ideological campaigns originating in Russian troll farms to individual behavior on social media that can harm the military’s image, Singer says.

A post about manipulation from the military misinformation/disinformation campaign for social media. Photo by Staff Sgt. George Davis, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

“The issue of the weaponization of social media is not only about extremism. It’s about Russian information warfare, to coronavirus vaccine disinformation, to Knucklehead on TikTok,” he says. “It’s not just about what you push out. It’s also about what you draw in, what you share. It’s about your entire behavior.”

Because of that pervasive, pernicious nature, there’s unlikely to be a single event that serves as a wake-up call for the military—like the worm Agent.btz that infected Pentagon computers in 2008, highlighting the need for force-wide cybersecurity readiness and ultimately paving the way to establish Cyber Command. It’s difficult to trace the divisiveness and suspicions caused by disinformation back to a particular origin.

And then there’s the inherently political nature of the problem. Misinformation about misinformation posits that the concept is itself a hoax—that it’s a made-up problem. Monitoring for misinformation can feel uncomfortably close to policing free speech.

“It feels like a third rail,” Singer says.

‘Disinformation Is Only Effective if The Recipient Is Vulnerable’

Last fall, Hagwood teamed up with the News Literacy Project to deliver training about misinformation to his Coast Guard unit in Los Angeles.

“It was an awareness objective,” Hagwood says. “Let’s learn the lexicon that is mis- and disinformation. Let’s learn what impostor content is. What’s false context? What’s fabricated content?”

The training was well-received, he says. Eventually, the admiral overseeing Coast Guard operations in California expanded it to all the units in his command.

“It was a lot of positive engagement,” Hagwood says. People came up to him afterward and told him how overwhelming the media environment felt. But a few days later, the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website known for publishing conspiracy theories, wrote about the training. The headline read, “Coast Guard Collaborate with Leftwing Hack to Indoctrinate Guardsmen on Leftist Propaganda in Forced 2-Hour Zoom Meeting Training.”

U.S. Army Europe and Africa communication experts warn troops about the spreading of fake news. Photo illustration by Sgt. Stephen P. Perez, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

When Hagwood saw the article, he couldn’t help but think that it made an ideal case for the need to invest more in this sort of education. “It hits on everything that the training was designed to kind of illuminate for folks,” he says.

Silva, who conducted the training, says the episode highlighted why misinformation is such a difficult problem to confront. “I’ve tapped into something that they believe and I struck a nerve,” he says. “They’re going to lash out.”

But he and others who advocate for more training on misinformation argue there is nothing inherently political about learning to, as Giles puts it, “protect your cognitive space.”

Our Journalism Depends on Your Support

“Media literacy is not about telling people what to think. It’s about thinking critically about the information you’re consuming,” she says.

“Education is the simplest thing, and the most immediate thing, and the most effective thing that we can do at our level for the individual. Because at the end of the day, mis- and disinformation is only effective if the recipient is vulnerable to it.”

This War Horse feature was reported by Sonner Kehrt, edited by Kelly Kennedy, fact-checked by Ben Kalin, and copy-edited by Mitchell Hansen-Dewar. Abbie Bennett wrote the headlines. · by Sonner Kehrt · September 1, 2022

9. Three reasons why Taiwanese people are increasingly opposed to ‘reunification’ with China


An independent identity

Political divisions: “We’ve gotten used to democracy”

Liberal values — and a generational divide

What’s to come: “The trend is not reversible”

Three reasons why Taiwanese people are increasingly opposed to ‘reunification’ with China

Surveys show people in Taiwan are worried about what China might do to their democracy and liberal social values.

Cleo Li-Schwartz, China Reporting Assistant, Lili Pike, China Reporter, and Alex Leeds Matthews, Data Visualization ReporterSeptember 2, 2022

An “unstoppable trend.” A “shared aspiration of all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation.” That’s how the Chinese Communist Party described its goal of “reuniting” with Taiwan in the weeks following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) August visit to the island.

The rhetoric came with the added punch of unprecedented Chinese military exercises, but it’s nothing new. Chinese leaders have hammered home that message for decades, maintaining that Taiwan is part of “One China” and that people on both sides of the strait yearn to be “reunited.”

But increasingly, people on the Taiwanese side don’t feel that way at all. Under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has essentially existed as an independent state, without declaring as much for fear of stoking China’s anger. And fewer and fewer people in Taiwan back “reunification” with the mainland. Only 6.5 percent of Taiwanese people say they support unification at some point, according to a recent poll conducted by the National Chengchi University in Taipei. Meanwhile, more than 30 percent are in favor of moving toward independence — up from just 15 percent in 2018.

“If you look at the change in the past two decades, it is very clear that there is already a consensus in Taiwan of ‘anti-unification,’” Fang-Yu Chen, an assistant professor of political science at Soochow University in Taiwan, told Grid.


Grid analyzed public opinion surveys and spoke to people in Taiwan to better understand the evolution of Taiwanese views involving identity, democracy and social issues. What we uncovered is a strong current of anti-China sentiment, along with a growing sense of an independent Taiwanese identity. As China cranks up the pressure on Taiwan, these trends suggest that the regime in Beijing is fighting against a powerful tide. Many Taiwanese citizens feel that political and social reforms in Taiwan have pushed the two states further apart, and they are also worried — rather than enthusiastic — about what a mainland takeover might mean for them.

An independent identity

Decades ago, many Taiwanese people thought of themselves first and foremost as Chinese. But over the years, that has shifted significantly. Ask a resident of Taiwan today about mainland China — especially someone under 30 — and you are likely to find a lot of people firmly opposed to being identified with China in any way. Although Taiwan’s official name is still “the Republic of China,” several recent studies have shown that a growing percentage of Taiwanese people now see themselves as solely Taiwanese. As of June, 64 percent of people reported identifying as Taiwanese, while the percentage of people who consider themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese fell to 30 percent, according to the Chengchi University survey.

A sense of distinct identity is even stronger among younger citizens. Research from Pew has found that among 18- to 29-year-olds in Taiwan, 83 percent consider themselves solely Taiwanese. It’s likely that number is actually higher; the Pew survey was conducted in 2020, and tensions and animosity toward China have only risen since then.

That has left people like Henry Chang in the minority. An auto parts salesman born and raised in Taipei to parents who left the mainland after the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Chang told Grid he considers himself both Chinese and Taiwanese — and given his own history, that stands to reason; his parents were born on the mainland, and he has lived his entire life on Taiwan. But he recognizes that his dual allegiance is increasingly uncommon. “Young people’s relationships to China are increasingly weak,” he said.

Chang believes that’s due to media influence and a steady decrease in China-related curricula in Taiwanese schools. The surveys suggest many Taiwanese genuinely prefer the circumstances of their lives thanks to political and social reforms, or are tired of what they see as a growing militancy from the mainland. Or both.


Political divisions: “We’ve gotten used to democracy”

For Taiwanese today, opposition to “reunification” with China is driven less by questions of identity — and more by politics and current events.

China has long pledged that Taiwan should be governed under a “One Country, Two Systems” approach, similar to the mainland’s official stance on Hong Kong. During the early 1980s, when Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were both authoritarian states on what looked like a liberalizing track, unification — the ultimate outcome of the “one country” principle — seemed more plausible. More Taiwanese felt the strong tie to the mainland that Chang still feels — and political and ideological divides were nothing like what they are today. But Taiwan raced down that liberal track and emerged from the shadow of authoritarianism in the 1990s. Democracy has become deeply rooted on the island, while over the same period, mainland China has headed in the other direction. The likelihood of political liberalization in the PRC today appears almost nonexistent.

In the 2014 Asian Barometer Survey, results showed that Taiwanese held a largely utilitarian attitude toward democracy, seeing it as useful so long as it facilitated economic development. Chang, who says he votes “99 percent” of the time for the more pro-mainland KMT party, still maintains this view: “Democracy is very good,” he said, “but I think only on the precondition that everyone can live in peace and contentment, with good jobs, a stable family and enough food to eat.” His complaint is that of late, Taiwan has not regularly delivered those core economic rewards.

Nonetheless, that same survey found that 88 percent supported the idea that democracy is the best form of government, whatever its problems. That rate has gone up with the rise of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has championed closer political alignment with the U.S. and a more confrontational approach to China. That survey finding stands in stark contrast with the mainland view — or at least the view of the government in Beijing. (The PRC defines itself as a “people’s democratic dictatorship” — “democratic” in the sense that the party’s self-proclaimed mandate is to govern according to the wishes of the people.)

Soochow University’s Chen told Grid that the democratic shift in Taiwan has made “reunification” harder to imagine. “We’ve had elections every four years since democratization, and we have local elections every two years, just like the U.S. So we’ve gotten used to democracy, and that is normal life.”


Liberal values — and a generational divide

Along with a democratic process, Taiwan has embraced social reforms in recent years that have further deepened the contrast with China. Those reforms have been particularly popular among Taiwan’s younger citizens — and that in turn has been one more driver of a shift away from the mainland.

“President Tsai’s formula to win widespread support from the youth generation is not simply political in nature, but also rooted in promotion of liberal and progressive values that attract loyal followers,” wrote Min-Hua Huang, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, in a recent analysis of the Asian Barometer Surveys. Huang said the surveys, taken from 2001 to 2018, show “that the youth generation is always more liberal than other generations by a significant margin, and more importantly, Taiwanese society as a whole continuously exhibits such an upward trend for the past two decades.”

Perhaps most notable among Taiwan’s recent liberal shifts was the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2019 — a first for any Asian government. A survey taken on the three-year anniversary of the legalization showed an increase in support for same-sex marriage, as well as broad support for gender equality and expression. Chen told Grid that “certain events like the legalization of same-sex marriage make Taiwan more proud of itself,” especially because the watershed moment led to widespread positive global media coverage of Taiwan.

The gay rights trajectory has been different in mainland China. Homosexuality was illegal in China until the late 1990s. A 2020 study found that “Chinese LGBT groups consistently experience discrimination in various aspects of their daily lives.” Under President Xi Jinping’s rule, there have been significant crackdowns on media depictions of gay characters and themes, and educational policies have been introduced with a view to shaping a more conservative and conformist Chinese social system.

More broadly, social life and civil rights are fundamentally different in the two societies. Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2022 report rated Taiwan 94 (out of a high score of 100); the island drew high marks across a range of political rights and civil liberties. By contrast, the U.S. clocked in at 83, and China a bleak nine. Under the category of “Freedom of Expression and Belief,” Taiwan achieved a perfect score of 100, with the report describing Taiwan as a country where “the news media are generally free, reflecting a diversity of views and reporting aggressively on government policies, though many outlets display strong party affiliation in their coverage … [and] personal expression and private discussion are largely free of improper restrictions.” China is of course infamous for its extreme censorship regime.

These differences matter to people in Taiwan. When asked why she opposes “reunification” with China, Amang Hung, a Taiwanese poet, told Grid, “the mainland suppresses freedom of thought and freedom of speech, does not respect life, and does not allow diverse values.”

What’s to come: “The trend is not reversible”

Cultural and geographic ties mean that China and Taiwan will likely remain connected in many ways despite the growing turbulence and these broad differences in opinion.

Yet recent trends suggest that as time passes and the younger generation takes the helm, a more strident sense of Taiwanese identity will become the norm. And that suggests that support for “reunification” will continue to fall. “The trend is not reversible,” said Chen, “but China is doing as much as it can to deter Taiwan’s independence.”

That deterrence now includes economic sanctions, frequent harsh rhetoric, and more regular military exercises in and around the Taiwan Strait. China’s crackdown on some forms of expression in Hong Kong has chastened many Taiwanese — and Beijing has tried to reassure residents of the island that they have nothing to fear. A recently released PRC white paper on Taiwan says that “Taiwan’s social system and its way of life will be fully respected, and the private property, religious beliefs, and lawful rights and interests of the people in Taiwan will be fully protected.”

Surveys and interviews suggest many Taiwanese don’t trust those pledges. “China broke its promise to Hong Kong to maintain [independent] political order for 50 years, failing in 23 years,” Chen said. “That shocked a lot of Taiwanese people because Taiwan is highly connected to Hong Kong.”


The war in Ukraine has also been an eye-opener for many in Taiwan — for a different reason. The conflict — different in many ways, but also involving a major power moving against a much smaller population — has raised concerns about the island’s self-defense. A recent poll found that 74 percent of respondents said they would be willing to fight to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Above all, for many people in Taiwan, living under the shadow of near-constant tensions with China has led to a growing weariness.

Amang, the Taiwanese poet, told Grid, “I’m Taiwanese. In my next life, I hope I won’t have to make a choice. That is a truly free person.”

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.

10. Opinion | Why Star Wars' Boba Fett is the ultimate Special Forces soldier

Maybe I will have to finally watch a Star Wars movie.


Of course, there is a final battle between Fett and his allies and the Pykes. Fett and Djarin use psychological warfare tactics by sending the mayor’s chief aide to distract the Pykes with a negotiation under false pretenses, as Fett’s forces strike. Freetown’s citizens and the cyborgs arrive later, and with the help of Grogu, Fett and his retinue defeat the Pyke forces. At the same time, Shand, Fett’s chief lieutenant, conducts a commando-style raid to infiltrate the headquarters and kill the Pyke’s boss and other officials. In the end, Fett appears to turn over the leadership of the area to the cyborg gang, just as the goal of COIN is to create a government that is stable and can take over governance.
All that said, I feel compelled to note that my son didn’t like the show because he thought Boba was boring. But I was impressed that we saw someone practicing unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency operations, and not relying on blasters only. Fett not only stopped the Pykes from enslaving the planet and imposing their criminal enterprise on the people, but he also united the populace under local leadership and made life better for the average citizen. Now, you might say that the whole thing was just a fight over who was going to be the primary crime boss, which is absolutely true, but I’ll take a crime boss who uses COIN over some door-kicking space bandit any day of the week.

Opinion | Why Star Wars' Boba Fett is the ultimate Special Forces soldier

Boba Fett would have made one hell of a Green Beret.

BY EDWARD SALO | PUBLISHED SEP 1, 2022 8:28 AM · by Edward Salo · September 1, 2022

As a member of Generation X, I have been a fan of Star Wars since I first saw the movie in 1977. I watched everything I could, and I even remember sending away five “proofs of purchase” to get the new Boba Fett figure after seeing him in the Star Wars Holiday Special. Boba Fett was an armored bounty hunter who developed a huge following even though he had very little screen time because he was considered to be such a badass. This reputation was primarily based on his mysterious nature; fans considered Fett to be a John Wick-type killing machine.

So after the commercial success of The Mandalorian, a Disney+ show about another armored bounty hunter (Din Djarin) that also featured the return of Boba Fett (as well as a baby Yoda — aka, Grogu — who stole the show), Disney announced The Book of Boba Fett, a show about Fett taking over Jabba the Hutt’s crime network of Tatooine and consolidating his power against other criminals (the Pykes), corrupt politicians, and others.

One needs to understand that Tatooine is a frontier world, and the local government is controlled by criminal gangs. But rather than a guy who just shoots everyone, in the Book of Boba Fett, we get a more thoughtful individual who builds alliances and uses other methods besides violence. The show has two interconnected storylines: Fett’s rise to becoming the Daimyo of the criminal empire on the planet, and his efforts to consolidate his power and defend against threats from the crime bosses from off-planet, known as the Pykes.

Watching the weekly episodes got me thinking; in the book, Strategy Strikes Back, numerous scholars examined how it was possible to use the Star Wars movies to teach military strategy, because military officers from other nations might not know western military history, but they know Star Wars. For example, one could discuss retreats by talking about the battle of Hoth.

(The Book of Boba Fett/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

From the articles about the show that I read, it seemed like everyone expected Fett to be like some “door-kicking” commando. But I saw Fett using the skills and doctrine of Army Special Forces to conduct counter-insurgency (COIN) and unconventional warfare (UW), similar to the original mission of Special Forces from the 1950s. The first part shows Fett’s efforts to develop his COIN force, and the second part displays Fett’s actions to destroy the insurgency (a corrupt criminal group that was trying to take over the planet). Like Special Forces soldiers, Fett works with native groups, builds alliances with local tribes, and attempts to conduct diplomacy to build coalitions. And when he does act, he uses surgical strikes to decapitate the leadership of the insurgency. I contend that Boba Fett’s strategy shows that while popular culture celebrates the “door kickers” of the special operations community, success is rooted in the tenets of unconventional warfare taught to Green Berets since the 1950s.

The first aspect of UW that we see Fett utilize is working with native groups to build a partisan force, much like Special Forces did with the Montagnards — the hill tribes of Vietnam who allied themselves with the United States during the war.

After surviving the Sarlacc pit, Fett is captured by the Tusken Raiders, a nomadic group that lives in the deserts of Tatooine. While a prisoner, Fett gains the tribe’s respect by saving a child’s life. The Tuskens teach Fett how they fight and how to live in the desert, and Fett teaches them military tactics and how to use speeder bikes. Fett leads the Tuskens to attack a Pyke drug train after the Pykes attack the Tuskens. The raid was similar to T.E. Lawrence’s raid on a Saudi train during World War I, as dramatically depicted in the 1962 movie, Lawrence of Arabia.

After this raid, Fett joins the tribe and they give him a gaffi stick, a traditional weapon and status symbol. Later in the show, the Tuskens are massacred by the Pykes, and Fett looks to build another military from the people of Freetown to fight against their common enemy. Like the Special Forces soldiers that used different tribes as an irregular militia to fight in Vietnam, Fett trained and fought alongside different tribes, while learning their tactics and sharing with them his military knowledge.

In addition to working with native tribes, Fett utilizes locals that might become insurgents as allies. For example, when Lortha Peel, a water monger, asks Fett — in his role as the Daimyo — to punish a gang of cyborgs who were stealing his water, Fett realizes that the group was only stealing water in order to help the average tribesman because Peel had raised the price of water so high.

(The Book of Boba Fett/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Fett integrates the gang into his organization and forces Peel to lower the price of water to help the citizens. He gains essential allies and the support of the people in doing so. Fett also practices maintaining his presence with the populace — this is called population-centric counterinsurgency. When he walks around the town, he takes off his helmet off so the citizens can see him. Fett comments, “Jabba ruled through fear; I intend to rule through respect.”

While Fett is conducting a classic counter-insurgency operation, the Pykes utilize terror tactics to stop him and his forces from gaining the support of the people. The Pykes massacre the Tusken Raiders for their role in the attack on the train. They also bomb the Sanctuary, a popular nightclub, as a way to demonstrate to the citizens that Fett cannot actually provide the protection he’d promised. Finally, the Pykes hire Cade Bane, another bounty hunter, to coerce the people of Freetown to stop allying with Fett. Bane also shoots the sheriff and his deputy, the town’s only real local political leaders. The Pykes use the same terror tactics as seen in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan by insurgents to destabilize the government and keep the citizens from helping with any defense.

Of course, there is a final battle between Fett and his allies and the Pykes. Fett and Djarin use psychological warfare tactics by sending the mayor’s chief aide to distract the Pykes with a negotiation under false pretenses, as Fett’s forces strike. Freetown’s citizens and the cyborgs arrive later, and with the help of Grogu, Fett and his retinue defeat the Pyke forces. At the same time, Shand, Fett’s chief lieutenant, conducts a commando-style raid to infiltrate the headquarters and kill the Pyke’s boss and other officials. In the end, Fett appears to turn over the leadership of the area to the cyborg gang, just as the goal of COIN is to create a government that is stable and can take over governance.

All that said, I feel compelled to note that my son didn’t like the show because he thought Boba was boring. But I was impressed that we saw someone practicing unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency operations, and not relying on blasters only. Fett not only stopped the Pykes from enslaving the planet and imposing their criminal enterprise on the people, but he also united the populace under local leadership and made life better for the average citizen. Now, you might say that the whole thing was just a fight over who was going to be the primary crime boss, which is absolutely true, but I’ll take a crime boss who uses COIN over some door-kicking space bandit any day of the week.


Edward Salo is an associate professor of history and the associate director of the Heritage Studies Ph.D. program at Arkansas State University. He enjoys researching and writing about military history, as well as comic books and Star Wars. · by Edward Salo · September 1, 2022

11. Ukraine Sees Many Ways to Hurt Russia in Kherson Offensive


“We need the enemy to be unable and unwilling to resist effectively,” said Mr. Arestovych, the Ukrainian presidential adviser.
Russian attempts to retreat across the rivers would make rich targets for Ukrainian drones, rockets and artillery.
Ukrainian forces appear already to have retaken some small towns outside Kherson, according to open-source intelligence reports. Gen. Twitty said the incremental gains count as a tactical success because “these little towns mean a lot” to Ukrainians, who see compatriots liberated, and to Kyiv’s Western backers, who want to see progress against Russia.
Ukraine’s larger strategic objective of regaining its land and repelling Russian forces is vital because the war is likely to end in some form of negotiation, Gen. Twitty said.
“The long-term perspective is, the more gains Ukraine can make, the better off they will be at the negotiating table,” he said.

Ukraine Sees Many Ways to Hurt Russia in Kherson Offensive

A string of small fights is more likely than a massed attack as Kyiv protects its troops

By Daniel MichaelsFollow

 in Brussels and James MarsonFollow

 in Kyiv

Sept. 3, 2022 7:10 am ET

Ukrainian officials say their military’s southern offensive is going slowly. They also say that is precisely the plan.

The announcement Monday of a thrust in the south raised hopes that Ukraine could reclaim territory Russia seized early in the war, including the regional capital of Kherson.

But success could take many shapes, say officials and Western analysts. Even without quickly regaining much ground, Kyiv can achieve progress by forcing Russia to expose its troop locations and supply bases, take a defensive posture and thereby appear weak or pull troops from other parts of the country. Ukraine can also gain intelligence about Russian formations, vulnerabilities and will to fight.

Ukrainian officials say they have neither the armor nor the manpower to make a quick advance. Instead, the military aims to weaken front-line Russian forces while also using long-range artillery and rockets, such as Himars provided by the U.S., to hit critical installations behind Russian lines such as command posts and ammunition depots.

Kherson sits on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which Russian troops must cross to enter, resupply or leave the city. Ukraine’s military says its strikes on bridges across the Dnipro and the smaller Inhulets River to the city’s northeast have largely cut supply lines to Russian forces in the city.

Ukraine’s southern push could draw Russian resources away from other areas targeted in the invasion, such as the heavily shelled northeastern city of Kharkiv.


Russia has roughly 20,000 troops in and around Kherson, Western officials estimate, cautioning the figure isn’t precise. Trapping them could potentially force a surrender, allow Ukraine to decimate them or force them to flee. Whatever happens, Ukraine hopes to retake Kherson without having to engage in bloody street fighting.

Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, called the strategy “the systemic grinding of Putin’s army.” He said Kyiv’s forces are working “to uncover their operational logistical supply system and destroy it with artillery and Himars,” a process that can take time.

“There’s no rush,” he said.

Area controlled by Russia



Inhulets River

Dnipro River



Area of detail


Source: Institute for the Study of War and the American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project (areas of control)

While Ukraine ultimately wants to evict Russian forces from Kherson—the city’s occupation is one of Moscow’s most significant gains since invading on Feb. 24—Kyiv could still boast of success if it retakes towns outside the city, captures or kills a large number of Russian troops or compels some to retreat.

The Kherson offensive also represents an element of Ukraine’s broader strategy to strain Russia’s entire invasion force, from around Kharkiv in the northeast to Crimea on the Black Sea.

By attacking in so many places, “you keep the Russians wondering where the Ukrainians are going to strike next,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty. “You want an unpredictable fight to keep the Russians on their heels.”

Gen. Twitty, who participated in Operation Desert Storm, said not to expect a massed attack.

Bridges across the Dnipro River have become key targets in Ukraine’s effort to cut supply lines to Russian forces in Kherson.


“We’re going to see multiple locations of small units, which is going to wreak havoc on the Russians and is a great way to fight,” he said. But he cautioned: “In this type of fighting, you have to take a long-term perspective.”

Ukraine’s fighters may advance and pause to prepare for a subsequent attack, said Billy Fabian, a former U.S. Defense Department analyst. “You’re always thinking about the next operation.”

Ukrainian forces will move slowly because they are attempting an operation that military planners consider exceedingly difficult: dislodging an entrenched defender without overwhelming force or air superiority. Kyiv has a limited number of skilled or veteran troops and must deploy them across a vast front line. Ukrainian commanders want to put at risk the smallest number of troops possible.

Attempting “a deliberate storming of Kherson city would likely be a mistake,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank, in an analysis posted Friday.

Instead, Ukraine is capitalizing on the region’s geography, aiming to push Russian troops against riverbanks. Ukrainian forces appear to be advancing on land from the north and west while increasing the tempo of strikes on bridges and supply facilities. Their goal is to starve Russian forces of supplies while closing in on them.

Long-range weapons such as the U.S.-supplied Himars have allowed Ukraine to reach behind Russian lines.


“We need the enemy to be unable and unwilling to resist effectively,” said Mr. Arestovych, the Ukrainian presidential adviser.

Russian attempts to retreat across the rivers would make rich targets for Ukrainian drones, rockets and artillery.

Ukrainian forces appear already to have retaken some small towns outside Kherson, according to open-source intelligence reports. Gen. Twitty said the incremental gains count as a tactical success because “these little towns mean a lot” to Ukrainians, who see compatriots liberated, and to Kyiv’s Western backers, who want to see progress against Russia.

Ukraine’s larger strategic objective of regaining its land and repelling Russian forces is vital because the war is likely to end in some form of negotiation, Gen. Twitty said.

“The long-term perspective is, the more gains Ukraine can make, the better off they will be at the negotiating table,” he said.

Stephen Fidler contributed to this article.

Write to Daniel Michaels at and James Marson at

12. High Seas Deception: How Shady Ships Use GPS to Evade International Law

High Seas Deception: How Shady Ships Use GPS to Evade International Law · September 3, 2022

A technology enabling the transmission of fake locations to carry out murky or even illegal business operations could have profound implications for the enforcement of international law.

Reliable, left, a ship registered in Cyprus, taking on oil at a refinery in Venezuela. The oil tanker has transmitted fake location coordinates to circumvent international laws and sanctions. Credit...Adriana Loureiro Fernandez for The New York Times

The scrappy oil tanker waited to load fuel at a dilapidated jetty projecting from a giant Venezuelan refinery on a December morning. A string of abandoned ships listed in the surrounding turquoise Caribbean waters, a testament to the country’s decay after years of economic hardships and U.S. sanctions.

Yet, on computer screens, the ship — called Reliable — appeared nearly 300 nautical miles away, drifting innocuously off the coast of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. According to Reliable’s satellite location transmissions, the ship had not been to Venezuela in at least a decade.

Shipping data researchers have identified hundreds of cases like Reliable, where a ship has transmitted fake location coordinates in order to carry out murky and even illegal business operations and circumvent international laws and sanctions.

The digital mirage — enabled by a spreading technology — could transform how goods are moved around the world, with profound implications for the enforcement of international law, organized crime and global trade.

Tampering this way with satellite location trackers carried by large ships is illegal under international law, and until recently, most fleets are believed to have largely followed the rules.

But over the past year, Windward, a large maritime data company that provides research to the United Nations, has uncovered more than 500 cases of ships manipulating their satellite navigation systems to hide their locations. The vessels carry out the deception by adopting a technology that until recently was confined to the world’s most advanced navies. The technology, in essence, replicates the effect of a VPN cellphone app, making a ship appear to be in one place, while physically being elsewhere.

Its use has included Chinese fishing fleets hiding operations in protected waters off South America, tankers concealing stops in Iranian oil ports, and container ships obfuscating journeys in the Middle East. A U.S. intelligence official, who discussed confidential government assessments on the condition of anonymity, said the deception tactic had already been used for weapons and drug smuggling.

“It’s a new way for ships to transmit a completely different identity,” said Matan Peled, a founder of Windward. “Things have unfolded at just an amazing and frightening speed.”

Under a United Nations maritime resolution signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015, all large ships must carry and operate satellite transponders, known as automatic identification systems, or AIS, which transmit a ship’s identification and navigational positional data. The resolution’s signatories, which include practically all seafaring nations, are obligated under the U.N. rules to enforce these guidelines within their jurisdictions.

The spread of AIS manipulation shows how easy it has become to subvert its underlying technology — the Global Positioning System, or GPS — which is used in everything from cellphones to power grids, said Dana Goward, a former senior U.S. Coast Guard official and the president of Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, a Virginia-based GPS policy group.

“This shows just how vulnerable the system is,” he said.

Mr. Goward said that until now, all major global economy players had a stake in upholding an order built on satellite navigation systems.

But rising tensions between the West, Russia and China could be changing that. “We could be moving toward a point of inflection,” Mr. Goward said.

Analysts and Western security officials say the U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russian energy imports as a result of the war in Ukraine could drive Russia’s trade underground in coming months, obscuring shipments of even permitted goods in and out of the country. A large shadow economy risks escalating maritime deception and interference to unprecedented levels.

U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that the spread of AIS manipulation is a growing national security problem, and a common technique among sanctioned countries. But China has also emerged in recent years as a source of some of the most sophisticated examples of AIS manipulation, officials said, and the country goes to great lengths to conceal the illegal activities of its large fishing industry.

Windward is one of the main companies that provide shipping industry data to international organizations, governments and financial institutions — including the United Nations, U.S. government agencies and banks like HSBC, Société Générale and Danske Bank. At least one client, the U.N. Security Council body that monitors North Korea’s sanctions compliance, has used Windward’s data to identify ships that breach international laws.

The Israeli company’s research offers a glimpse into the inner workings of the usually opaque and loosely regulated shipping industry.

Dror Salzman, Windward’s product manager, first spotted a civilian ship transmitting a fake voyage early last year, in Venezuela. A tanker called Berlina had been transmitting a strange drifting pattern for several weeks just outside the South American country’s waters.

The idle movements did not make sense — keeping such a vessel at sea costs tens of thousands of dollars each day. Berlina’s movement also defied basic physics, he said. The ship, at one point, turned its 270-meter body 180 degrees in only a few minutes; its perfectly straight drift defied the effects of the tide and the Earth’s rotation.

These anomalies could not be blamed on a technological glitch. Because AIS transmissions are compiled by multiple sources — including nearby ships, satellites and onshore stations — experts say they tend to track a large vessel’s movements nearly perfectly, especially in busy shipping areas like the Caribbean.

In fact, Berlina was nowhere near its purported location at that time. It was loading oil in the eastern Venezuelan port of José, according to Vortexa, another shipping data company that identified the ship through port sightings, and shared its findings with Windward.

The United States is the only country that bans dealings with Venezuela’s state oil company, meaning that Berlina’s oil transfer was not illegal in Venezuela or Cyprus, where the ship is registered. But because of Washington’s outsize role in global finance, many ships try to hide their presence in Venezuela to avoid being ostracized by banks, insurance companies and customers.

After learning to spot fake ship movements, Windward researchers realized the technology was proliferating at lightning speed. “What seemed to be a localized practice at first has soon spread to nearly all known maritime regions,” the company said in a report late last year.

The spread of the deception tactic could be mitigated by the United Nations’ adopting stricter security protocols for the software that is installed in the AIS transponders by commercial manufacturers, maritime officials and satellite data experts said.

The technology to fake satellite signals, either from the ship itself or from a remote location, has existed for decades, but was previously confined to military use, according to Windward. In the past two years, however, military grade AIS transponders, or at least the software that replicates its effects, appear to have become available for sale on the black market, spreading rapidly among dealers of sanctioned and illicit goods.

The war in Ukraine is likely to accelerate its adoption. After the invasion began in February, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration reported an increase in cases of AIS manipulation and jamming in the Black Sea, coinciding with U.S. and Ukrainian claims that Russia was trying to hide its oil exports and smuggle stolen Ukrainian grain.

The Department of Transportation referred questions to the United States Coast Guard, which confirmed an increase in reported cases of AIS manipulation.

U.S. officials declined to say how they would react to the spread of the deceptive technique, for fear of exposing intelligence-gathering operations, but in the past, the U.S. Treasury Department has banned ships from doing business with American entities, or even confiscated their cargo, for violating sanctions.

In the future, the technology could also become available to airplanes, which use a similar satellite transponder to AIS, with potentially significant implications for terrorism, smuggling and people’s ability to cross national borders undetected, said Windward’s Mr. Peled.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said.

Attempts by ships to hide their tracks are as old as seafaring. Pariah states like North Korea, weapons runners and Iranian oil traders have for decades tried dodging detection by constantly changing ships’ registrations, painting fake ship names on hulls and assuming identities of different vessels.

After satellite navigations systems became dominant in the 2000s, those seeking to avoid detection adapted by turning their trackers off while carrying out illicit activity, a practice known as “going dark.”

But the tactic had shortcomings. Ships with dark activity spells are shunned by banks and insurance companies and scrutinized by regulators.

The proliferation of AIS manipulation has once again tipped the scales in the deceivers’ favor by allowing them to carry out illicit business while maintaining a veneer of respectability, said Mr. Salzman of Windward. By transmitting a fake location, a ship can claim deniability.

The technology behind this deception tactic is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. The impossible movement patterns that Mr. Salzman noted last year are being replaced by transmissions of coordinates stolen from other ships, replicating real voyages.

The result has been the expansion of illegal activity to the mainstream sectors of the shipping industry.

About 40 percent of all AIS manipulation cases identified by Windward were carried out by ships registered in countries with at least some ability to enforce international laws. For example, Reliable and Berlina, the tankers shipping Venezuelan oil, both manipulated AIS while being registered in Cyprus, a member of the European Union that markets itself as “Europe’s largest ship management center.”

Overall, Windward says its analysis of AIS transmissions has identified 18 Cyprus ships that have manipulated their location coordinates. Separately, Lloyd’s List Intelligence, another shipping data company, has found that many of the same ships have recently started trading Venezuelan oil that is under U.S. sanctions.

The spread of AIS manipulation by E.U.-registered vessels shows how advances in technology allow some shipowners to earn windfall profits from commodities under sanction while benefiting from European financial services and legal safeguards.

Cyprus’s deputy shipping minister, Vassilios Demetriades, said illegal manipulation of on-ship equipment is punishable by fines or criminal penalties under the island’s laws. But he has downplayed the problem, saying AIS’s “value and trustworthiness as a location device is rather limited.”

According to Cyprus’s corporate documents, Reliable belongs to a company owned by Christos Georgantzoglou, 81, a Greek businessman. The ship crossed the Atlantic for the first time shortly after Mr. Georgantzoglou’s company bought it last year, and has transmitted locations around eastern Caribbean Islands since, according to Windward’s analysis.

But Venezuela’s state oil company records reviewed by The New York Times show that Reliable was working for the Venezuelan government in the country during that time.

Mr. Georgantzoglou and his company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Their Venezuelan dealings appear to contradict a promise made by Greece’s powerful shipowners association in 2020 to stop transporting the country’s oil. The association did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Reliable is still moving fuel around Venezuelan ports or loading crude onto Asia-bound ships in open waters to hide its origin, according to two Venezuelan oil businessmen, who asked not to be named for security reasons. It still broadcasts coordinates of a ship adrift in the Caribbean Sea. · September 3, 2022

13. ‘Is there a purge?’: John Harwood’s CNN exit viewed as strategy shift

​Can CNN move to "centrist journalism" and if so will it be sufficiently profitable to be sustained? And as important will anyone think it is centrist or will tha hard prejudices doom it to failure?

The fourth estate has many challenges. My sense is that it is not necessarily the journalists that are at the heart of the problem. It is the business model, the editorial control, and the management. But the journalists will be blamed.


In an interview last month with the New York Times, Malone denied that he was involved in the decision to push out Stelter. He said he wants “the news portion of CNN to be more centrist” but that he is “not in control or directly involved.”

In a memo to staff in May, Licht said he wants CNN to help regain the trust that many people have lost in media, by “fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think,’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints.”

But one of the CNN journalists who spoke with The Post said that colleagues are still trying to figure out where, exactly, the new lines are being drawn. “I think they’re hoping people will just guess what to do.”

A veteran producer at the network, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, expressed concerns about how the recent departures — and the message they have sent internally — will affect coverage of the upcoming midterm and presidential elections, which could include Trump as a candidate.

“It’s a really confusing and unsettling time from top to bottom at CNN,” the producer said. “I don’t know anyone who is happy right now.”

‘Is there a purge?’: John Harwood’s CNN exit viewed as strategy shift

The veteran White House correspondent’s parting words were a defense of an outspoken kind of journalism that CNN insiders think has fallen out of favor under a new boss.

The Washington Post · by Jeremy Barr · September 2, 2022

CNN parted ways with veteran White House correspondent John Harwood on Friday in what network insiders viewed as the latest evidence of a shift to a less politically charged tone under new leader Chris Licht.

Harwood, who could not be reached for comment, appeared on CNN Friday morning, reporting from the grounds of the White House. But at noon, he announced his departure on Twitter. He wrote that he is “proud of the work” he did at CNN and “[looks] forward to figuring out what’s next.”

Harwood, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter, joined the network in January 2020, after working as CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent from 2006 to 2019. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Harwood still had time remaining on his CNN contract, which suggests that network brass decided to end his tenure prematurely.

Representatives for CNN declined to comment on the reason for his departure. “We appreciate John’s work covering the White House, and we wish him all the best,” they said in a statement.

As a reporter who often provided political analysis, Harwood was a regular presence on the network’s airwaves who was “clearly in-demand by the shows,” one surprised CNN insider said.

His exit follows the abrupt departure of CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of the weekly media news show “Reliable Sources,” which had aired for three decades until it was canceled last month. Like Harwood, Stelter had time remaining on his contract. Another longtime CNN commentator, legal-affairs pundit Jeffrey Toobin, announced his departure on Aug. 12.

Several current and former CNN employees who spoke with The Washington Post — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly — are interpreting the sudden exodus as evidence that Licht, who joined the network as chairman and CEO in May, is starting his tenure by casting out voices that had often been critical of former president Donald Trump and his allies, in an effort to present a new, more ideologically neutral CNN. That aligns with a vision repeatedly expressed by David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery.

Zaslav hired Licht to replace Jeff Zucker, the network’s ousted longtime leader, who had encouraged an earlier tonal shift at CNN by allowing the network’s stars to express more emotion and opinion.

“People are freaked out,” said one CNN journalist. “It almost feels like there’s a pattern. Is there a purge going on? They seem to be sending a message: ‘Watch what you say. Watch what you do.’”

Licht has provided little guidance publicly about a new mission for CNN, leaving some employees feeling unmoored. “Longtime CNN personalities are disappearing, and the viewers don’t know why,” another CNN insider said, noting that Licht has not hired many new voices to replace them.

Harwood’s vocal commentary set him apart from many of his CNN peers. In his final reporting appearance Friday morning, Harwood called Trump a “dishonest demagogue” when discussing President Biden’s address from Philadelphia the previous night. Harwood added that the “core point” of Biden’s speech, which asserted that Trump and his supporters present a threat to democracy, “is true.”

Harwood acknowledged on-air that his own statement veered from the conventions of traditional journalism. “We are brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them,” he said. “But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements.”

Harwood’s comment came across as an intentional “last salvo,” said Wajahat Ali, a political commentator who served as a CNN contributor in 2019 and 2020. “I don’t think it was an accident,” Ali said.

Ali speculated that the forced departures of Stelter and Harwood will send a message to other CNN journalists that they should curb their political analysis for fear of crossing a line into opinion, at risk of losing “a plum job that everyone wants.”

Licht has told CNN staff that he hopes to see more Republican politicians making guest appearances. He visited Capitol Hill in July and held meetings with key Democrats and Republicans.

But the network has pushed back on suggestions that Licht was specifically trying to curry favor with Republicans, saying that he just wants to make CNN “a place for fair and respectful dialogue, analysis and debate.”

Licht’s early actions in the job are being closely watched in light of comments by John Malone, a major shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery, who said on CNBC last fall that he “would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists.”

In an interview last month with the New York Times, Malone denied that he was involved in the decision to push out Stelter. He said he wants “the news portion of CNN to be more centrist” but that he is “not in control or directly involved.”

In a memo to staff in May, Licht said he wants CNN to help regain the trust that many people have lost in media, by “fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think,’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints.”

But one of the CNN journalists who spoke with The Post said that colleagues are still trying to figure out where, exactly, the new lines are being drawn. “I think they’re hoping people will just guess what to do.”

A veteran producer at the network, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, expressed concerns about how the recent departures — and the message they have sent internally — will affect coverage of the upcoming midterm and presidential elections, which could include Trump as a candidate.

“It’s a really confusing and unsettling time from top to bottom at CNN,” the producer said. “I don’t know anyone who is happy right now.”

The Washington Post · by Jeremy Barr · September 2, 2022

14. U.S. to sell $1.1 billion in anti-ship, air-to-air weapons to Taiwan

U.S. to sell $1.1 billion in anti-ship, air-to-air weapons to Taiwan

The Washington Post · by Ellen Nakashima · September 2, 2022

The Biden administration Friday formally notified Congress of its intent to sell Taiwan $1.1 billion worth of defensive arms as Beijing continues its heightened military air and sea presence around the island in the wake of a high-profile visit to Taipei by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month.

The package, which includes 60 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 100 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and support for a surveillance radar system, is the fifth and largest arms sale to Taiwan advanced by the Biden administration. It is widely expected to clear Congress, which is considering legislation to surge the amount of security assistance provided to Taiwan over the next four years.

Such sales generally take several years to be delivered because of larger structural challenges arising out of how foreign military sales are completed. Laura Rosenberger, White House senior director for Taiwan and China, said the administration has undertaken a “substantial effort” to accelerate the process. “We’re acutely aware of the need to expedite delivery,” she said.

The package, which was first reported by Politico, is part of the administration’s broader strategy to deter Beijing’s aggression, officials said. That strategy also calls for working with allies and partners through joint exercises in the region and building Taipei’s economic resilience so it can withstand increased pressure from China, they said. The United States will soon launch trade talks with Taiwan.

“The biggest threats we see that Taiwan will face are going to come from the sea and from the air,” Rosenberger said. “So it is really critical that they are able to use the Harpoons in support of the coastal defense and the Sidewinders in support of their air defense.”

Rosenberger stressed, however, that the administration sees the threat from China against Taiwan as long-term and so Washington’s response needs to be both sustained and comprehensive. Last month, for instance, the United States conducted a joint air exercise with Japan near Okinawa, and last week it sent two U.S. warships through the Taiwan Strait — the first such transit since Pelosi’s visit.

“We will not be reflexive or knee-jerk,” White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters last month. “We will be patient and effective, will continue to fly sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Taiwan’s status is the most fraught issue in the U.S.-China relationship. Washington, under its one-China policy, recognizes Beijing as the sole legal government of China. But it has never endorsed Beijing’s position that Taiwan, a self-governed island, is part of China. Nonetheless, under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is committed to providing Taipei “defense articles and defense services” necessary to enable it to defend itself.

For months and even years before Pelosi’s visit, Beijing was stepping up aggressive actions in the region. President Xi Jinping saw a visit by Pelosi, who was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997, as highly provocative and effectively an effort to further change relations between Washington and Taipei.

But the Biden administration said it is China that is seeking to upend the status quo. “What we see is a real effort by Beijing to increase its coercive pressure campaign against Taiwan,” Rosenberger said. “We believe that Beijing is trying to change the status quo and its efforts are jeopardizing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

The backlogs in arms sales are getting worse because the demand is growing as threats around the world multiply, experts said. “It usually takes four or five years for weapons to be delivered and deployed — that is a normal timeline for the foreign military sales process,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, which tracks arms sales closely.

“The ability of the primary defense contractors to ramp up production quickly simply is not there,” he said. “That’s for fighter jets, ships, missiles. When we need more HIMARS [multiple-rocket launchers] for Ukraine, there just isn’t the capacity in the production lines.”

According to Hammond-Chambers, none of the weapons in the previous packages approved by the Biden administration have been delivered. In fact, very little of the hardware approved under the Trump administration for Taiwan has been delivered, he said.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is driving up demand in Eastern Europe for U.S. weapons. The threat from Iran is driving procurement from the Emirates. In Asia, China’s military buildup has heightened demand for U.S. weapons from the Indians, Australians and Japanese, he said.

“Those are all real threats to our country and friends and partners,” he said. “When you get right down to prioritizing who gets what when, is Iran the bigger threat? Is Russia? Is China? Sequencing is really tricky.”

The anti-ship and air-to-air missiles that Washington is selling Taipei are what the administration calls “asymmetric” in that they are intended to neutralize larger and more expensive assets such as warships or fighter jets. But some analysts say the ground-launched Harpoons are more likely to survive Chinese targeting than those launched from F-16s, as called for in this package. Nonetheless, they are a step in the right direction, other analysts say.

“No single sale is going to solve Taiwan’s problems, but a sustained level of investment in anti-ship and anti-air capabilities that builds credible stockpiles is a positive trend,” said Eric Sayers, a former adviser to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and now a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Furnishing arms to Taipei in advance of a conflict is crucial because once fighting breaks out, it will be near impossible to resupply Taiwan via land, sea or sea, analysts said. “NATO has been able to supply weapons to Ukraine relatively easily” through its land border with Poland, noted Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund. “If a conflict between Taiwan and China breaks out, a PLA [People’s Liberation Army] blockade would prevent the United States from supplying weapons to Taiwan so they need to store a large inventory of munitions.”

The Washington Post · by Ellen Nakashima · September 2, 2022

15. Putin’s Private Army Accused of Committing Their Most Heinous Massacre Yet


There have been reports of Russian-linked forces targeting women in CAR before now. In May, The Daily Beast reported how Wagner mercenaries allegedly stormed a hospital in the capital Bangui the previous month and attacked mothers recovering from childbirth, as well as medical personnel looking after them, on multiple occasions. One of the victims, according to a local independent news outlet which spoke to an eyewitness, was allegedly sexually assaulted for hours by the mercenaries.
Sources who spoke to The Daily Beast about the alleged incidents said they were appalled that the victims may not even be related to those whose crimes they were being punished for.
“Watching helpless women beg for their lives and seeing them slaughtered like animals is the worst thing a man can do to a fellow human being,” said Ali. “I have no words to describe what these [Russian] soldiers have done.”

Putin’s Private Army Accused of Committing Their Most Heinous Massacre Yet


Witnesses are pointing a finger at the Wagner Group over a series of gruesome killings that allegedly involved disemboweling several women.

Philip Obaji Jr.

Updated Sep. 03, 2022 3:13AM ET / Published Sep. 02, 2022 11:33PM ET 

The Daily Beast · September 3, 2022


Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

EBAM, Cameroon—It was the “most barbaric” act of violence Nas Ali said he has witnessed since the Central African Republic (CAR) welcomed Russian mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group, which some have called Vladimir Putin’s “private army,” about four years ago.

While having a conversation with a female friend under a mango tree about 50 meters away from his home, and having a good view of his compound from where they both stood in the western CAR village of Bèzèrè, the 32-year-old said he watched from afar as about a dozen Russian paramilitaries, who appeared from nowhere, dragged the wives of two of his neighbors out of the compound, stabbed them in their abdomen and then disemboweled the two women.

“The women were screaming and begging for mercy,” Ali, who now lives as a refugee in Cameroon, told The Daily Beast. “The white soldiers [as many in CAR refer to Wagner mercenaries as] didn’t listen. They killed the women and removed their stomach and intestines.”

The incident, according to Ali and another witness, occurred on Dec. 6 last year. They said at least six other women in Bèzèrè were killed in the same manner across the village.

“As I was leaving the village, I saw the body of a woman who was pregnant,” Malik Tete, a 29-year-old bricklayer who fled Bèzèrè to Cameroon after the incident, told The Daily Beast. “They had cut her open, removed her baby and her intestines and left them on top of her dead body.”

Following the violence in Bèzèrè, thousands of people, according to Ali and Tete, fled the village to Bocaranga, about 27 kilometers southeast of Bèzèrè. Many others, including the witnesses, sought refuge in settlements for refugees in the eastern part of Cameroon.

“We were scared that these white soldiers would return and kill all of us, so we had to leave the village,” said Ali, who fled to Ngaoundere town in the central Adamawa region of Cameroon. “If we didn’t run away, we probably would have been dead by now.”

It wasn’t only in Bèzèrè that women were said to have been slaughtered by the Russians last December. In the nearby Létélé community, locals told The Daily Beast that they found the disemboweled bodies of four women lying dead in different locations on the day Russian mercenaries stormed the village in search of rebels from the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) group.

“I saw with my eyes when a white soldier stabbed a woman with a knife on her belly,” Bissafi, a 30-year-old farmer now living in CAR's capital city of Bangui, told The Daily Beast. “They said she was being punished for marrying a man working for a rebel group.”

Given the manner in which the victims were allegedly killed, the Russians “clearly wanted to torture the women to death,” said Sylvestre, who—like other witnesses residing in CAR—The Daily Beast is choosing to identify by his first name to protect him from possible retribution.

Those who recognized some of the alleged victims in both Bèzèrè and Létélé said they were women residing in areas in the two villages where rebels of the 3R faction, one of CAR’s most powerful armed groups—which presents itself as a self-defense militia—have been active.

“They [Russian mercenaries] believe all the men in the areas where 3R rebels are present are part of the rebel group,” Souleyman, a local vigilante in Létélé, told The Daily Beast. “Each time they meet people from these areas, they accuse them of supporting the rebels and even physically attack them.”

Some of the victims, according to Souleyman, who has been in touch with their families as well as persons who witnessed the killings, are wives of young men accused of being “too friendly” with 3R militants.

Made up of mostly Muslim cattle herders, the 3R group was originally formed in 2015 to protect the minority Puehl population in northwestern CAR, where conflicts with farmers are common. In December 2020, the group joined the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), an alliance of CAR’s armed groups that began an offensive just before the country’s presidential election to stop the re-election of President Faustin Archange Touadéra and overthrow his government. The rebels constantly target CAR forces and allied Russian paramilitaries who, in response, have been conducting a counter-offensive against the militants. But, as a number of locals have alleged, the Russians may now be taking war to civilians who live in the exact communities where these rebels operate.

“It is sad that they [Russian mercenaries] are now targeting our women,” Djibril, a Bèzèrè-born artisanal miner based in the southwestern city of Berbérati, told The Daily Beast. “I know two people whose wives were brutally killed in December by these [Russian] soldiers.”

Neither the CAR government nor Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close friend of President Vladimir Putin who reportedly runs the Wagner Group, responded to The Daily Beast’s request for comments on the alleged disemboweling of women in Bèzèrè and Létélé. Emails sent to the spokesperson of CAR’s Ministry of Communication and Media and to Concord Management, a company majority-owned by Prigozhin, went unanswered.

“I have no words to describe what these [Russian] soldiers have done.”

A local official in Ouham Prefecture, which covers Bèzèrè and Létélé, told The Daily Beast the prefecture’s government was aware of the alleged incidents in the two areas and had informed authorities in Bangui about them.

“No one [in Bangui] has even condemned what was done to the women in the communities involved,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject. “This is so unfortunate.”

There have been reports of Russian-linked forces targeting women in CAR before now. In May, The Daily Beast reported how Wagner mercenaries allegedly stormed a hospital in the capital Bangui the previous month and attacked mothers recovering from childbirth, as well as medical personnel looking after them, on multiple occasions. One of the victims, according to a local independent news outlet which spoke to an eyewitness, was allegedly sexually assaulted for hours by the mercenaries.

Sources who spoke to The Daily Beast about the alleged incidents said they were appalled that the victims may not even be related to those whose crimes they were being punished for.

“Watching helpless women beg for their lives and seeing them slaughtered like animals is the worst thing a man can do to a fellow human being,” said Ali. “I have no words to describe what these [Russian] soldiers have done.”

The Daily Beast · September 3, 2022

16. When Israel Struck Syria’s Reactor: What Really Happened – Analysis

​No mention of north Korea assistance or the presence of north Korean technicians at this site.

When Israel Struck Syria’s Reactor: What Really Happened – Analysis · by Middle East Quarterly · September 3, 2022

By Ehud Barak*


When I joined Ehud Olmert’s government on June 18, 2007, as minister of defense, it was almost three months since planning of the destruction of the Syrian reactor in Deir az-Zor had begun (in late March). I was aware of this activity, having been briefed in late April about the reactor’s existence by Olmert, Mossad head Meir Dagan, and IDF head of intelligence Amos Yadlin. Asked for my opinion on what should be done, I answered on the spot: “We must destroy it.” This issue was the reason for my insistence on entering the defense ministry as soon as possible. I assumed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was deep into preparations to execute an operation, and I believed I could contribute to the operation’s success.

Two Flawed Plans

On my first day at the ministry (I had already served as defense minister alongside my premiership, 1999-2001), I convened a “status of operation” discussion with participation of all relevant operational arms—Intelligence, Mossad, and Air Force (IAF), as well as experts on nuclear reactors. The two operational plans for the reactor’s destruction on which the Air Force and others had been working were presented to me in full detail. The prevailing view in the room, as well as the conventional wisdom in the Prime Minister’s Office, was that of an urgent, immediate need to implement the plan, preferably within a week or two. It was also perceived as critical to proceed swiftly lest our awareness of the reactor’s existence became public, which would significantly complicate its destruction, and before the reactor became “hot” and rendered the operation impractical. There was a general unanimity regarding the need “to destroy the reactor and avoid a wider clash with Syria.” To my surprise, I found that both plans, quickly nearing “D-day,” failed to meet these requirements.

The first plan envisaged a massive air attack that might surely destroy the reactor but would involve a direct engagement with the Syrian air force and air defense. Such an attack could not conceivably be denied the morning after and carried a significant risk of triggering a wide clash with Syria and possible deterioration to full-fledged confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon as well. I called this plan “Fat Shkedi” (Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkedi was the then-IAF commander). The second plan, prepared in the past for another mission, was an extremely “low signature” operation that would not trigger a major clash but could not assure—beyond serious doubt—the destruction of the reactor.

I pointedly asked again: “How much time do we have before the reactor becomes hot?” The answer was: “Around three months.” “Will we know for sure if and when our window starts closing, even if this happens earlier than predicted?” I asked. The answer came: “Yes, absolutely.” I summarized as follows:

A great intelligence achievement allowed us to start working on the project when the reactor is still in construction phase. A lot of important operational work has been done to bring us up to here. However, the two presented plans did not stand up to the needed constraints.

I then redefined the limiting parameters more clearly:

We need at least one, preferably two, plans that can ensure both the reactor’s destruction and a high probability of avoiding a wider confrontation with Syria and Hezbollah.

I directed all concerned actors to start working in this vein.

Two “Low Signature” Plans

Keenly aware of the risks attending my directive, I ordered that “Fat Shkedi” be brought ASAP to operational completion so that it could be executed on very short notice as a hedge against the risk of a possible leak. Moreover, being unable to ensure that despite our efforts to avoid such an eventuality we would not find ourselves in a wide clash in the north, I instructed the Northern and Home Commands to increase and deepen preparations for a wide-scale confrontation.

I also asked Washington for precision munitions, spare parts, and other necessary means in the event war ensued. In order to avoid these preparations from being leaked, all these activities had to be done under a thick veil of secrecy through a variety of explanations and disguises. Indeed, it worked. On a Friday night in August, without leaks or media footprint, a U.S. vessel in the port of Ashdod unloaded 35,000 tons of munitions and spare parts necessary for possible deterioration to a full-scale war—the equivalent of 230 heavy transport airplanes carrying about 150 tons each.

IAF commander Eliezer Shkedi (above) came to Barak with a better plan. Barak told the general to start preparing the new plan immediately.

The first person to come with an idea for a better plan was Shkedi himself. About a week after the above discussion, during a visit to an IAF base where preparations for “Fat Shkedi” were presented to us, he asked me to have a cup of tea with him. There, across the table, he took a triangular paper napkin, opened it flat, and drew on it a sketch of a “surgical air raid” on the reactor, which had a dramatically lower signature than the one in preparation. I asked how long it would take to have it prepared, and he said, “It could have taken a month, but since I have first to polish and ready the ‘Fat’ plan, it might take a little bit more.”

“Very good,” I said. “Start preparing it immediately and, later on, bring it for my approval.”

“Why didn’t you go this way in the first place?” I wondered.

“It was originally presented as a mission to be executed immediately within the shortest time possible, and probably carried out if a leak started developing, even before preparation had been fully completed,” said Shkedi. I dabbed the new plan “Lean Shkedi” (also meaning lean and mean).

The second person to approach me with an alternative idea was Head of Intelligence Yadlin, a former IAF senior commander who participated as a young F-16 pilot in the destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. He came with a totally different idea than “Lean Shkedi,” and a somewhat more complicated plan, which involved a very low footprint that could ensure both the reactor’s destruction and a very high chance of avoiding a wider confrontation. I asked how long it would take to prepare the plan, to which Yadlin replied, “Probably two months.” “Very good,” I told him. “Start preparing immediately and bring it for my approval later.”

In the coming weeks, I led an intensive series of discussions regarding all aspects of the operation. These involved first and foremost the needs of the budding new “low signature” plans, “Lean Shkedi” and “Yadlin”; a detailed intelligence analysis of possible Syrian reactions and our possible responses; the IDF’s preparation for a possible major confrontation that could escalate to full scale war; diplomatic containment of Syria in the immediate wake of the operation, and initial thoughts about the “day after,” including implications for the struggle against the Iranian nuclear program, the risks of rising questions regarding Israeli strategic capabilities, etc. Naturally, some of these discussions were followed by similar consultations with the prime minister and the inner cabinet. On July 26, I issued a set of directives to the IDF to be ready for “a possible war in the north (Syria and Hezbollah),” and on August 3, I ordered the completion of preparations for the two “low signature” operations by September 1 as a first target date.

One has to bear in mind that, in Israel, most of these subjects fall under the responsibility of the minister of defense, unlike in the United States where the president is the commander in chief with the secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs of staffs acting during operations as advisers to the commander in chief rather than as two links in the “chain of command” that goes directly from the president to the commanding generals. In Israel, the government as a collective, or its inner security cabinet, are the equivalent of the commander in chief. The prime minister is the most important member, yet he is formally just “first among equals.” The minister of defense is the person responsible for the IDF on behalf of the government and/or the inner cabinet. He is in the “chain of command” representing the government, and according to the Basic Law of the IDF, “the chief-of-staff, the top uniformed person, is subordinated to the minister of defense, reports to him and is also the next link in the ‘chain of command.'”

Many inaccurate, at times even distorted, stories and urban legends, many of them critical in tone, have been spread over the years regarding my abrupt and forceful intervention in the course of events. However, in the so-called “bottom-line test”—the test of reality—the picture that transpired is clear and definitely positive. When we sat down on September 5, 2007, to decide how to destroy the Syrian reactor, the two leading operational plans were exactly the two low signature plans that resulted from my intervention rather than those that were originally planned. And the story did not leak, nor did the reactor become “hot.” Not to mention that the operation carried out that night was extremely successful and did not lead to any clash at all.

Tense Deliberations

There was tension in the air in every discussion on the prime ministerial or cabinet level. And there were many of them, several times every week. I could feel the eagerness, a hasty and impatient desire to stop this nerve-wrecking, slow advance and “just do it.” I even felt an underlying theme, well articulated in a recent Middle East Quarterly article,[1] that, for some improper reasons, I tried to delay or even to dodge the operation.

None of these thoughts had ever crossed my mind. We needed the cool-headed approach attending my experience in order to ensure the operation’s complete success: the reactor’s assured destruction, minimizing the risks of wider confrontation, and preparedness for the worst-case scenario of escalation to a full-fledged war. I just was confident that my opponents were wrong.

Thus, somewhat humorously, I made it a rule that whenever I had to talk I would say:

I tell you now at the beginning, and I’ll tell you again at the end, and if I don’t tell you in the middle, do forgive me for forgetting: “This reactor has to be destroyed! And it will be! And now for the serious discussion.”

During one of these frustrating debates, a senior minister with a deep security background told me:

Ehud, what we see here is the difference between an amateur, inexperienced, and somewhat shallow person who is overwhelmed by the case and a cold-nerved professional who planned and executed special operations all his life.

In the first eight days of August, three cabinet discussions brought tensions to a head. Basically the prime minister tried to forge a majority in the cabinet, together with military and intelligence officers, who all, except for myself, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Minister of Internal Security Avi Dichter, supported an immediate attack.

The attempt to reach a majority or even consensus is legitimate, but the chosen way was not. PM Olmert basically asked the IDF’s top echelons to present an opinion and recommendations supporting an immediate attack. But he arranged it as a bypass of the basic procedural rules in Israel, where, as mentioned above, the position of the defense bodies should be first approved by the minister of defense. Of course, officers can have different views from their minister and should be allowed to express them and try to convince the cabinet. But in the Israeli constitutional framework, officers cannot bring to the cabinet “recommendations for action” that were never presented to the minister of defense who is their direct superior in the chain of command. So, to some people’s surprise, I ordered the presentation to be halted when the recommendations began to be read. The prime minister, somewhat oddly, decided to read them to the forum himself with Yadlin expressing his view as well. Yadlin could do this because, according to the same law, the IDF head of intelligence is responsible for “national net assessment” and, as such, reports directly to the government in this regard—and only in this regard. The atmosphere got heated, but the somewhat “tricky track” did not work.

In another meeting a few days later, I presented to the cabinet the ministry of defense’s position. A fierce debate ensued where the prime minister and several others expressed anxieties about a “doomsday scenario” whereby a leak of the IDF planning combined with a hot reactor would generate an irreversible rush toward a Syrian bomb, followed by apocalyptic pictures of panicky Israeli citizens fleeing abroad and the Jewish state seemingly hovering on the verge of collapse. I strongly rejected this exaggeration and insisted on the following:

  • We have to, and we will, destroy the reactor once the low signature plans are ready.
  • We still have some time and will know for sure when we have run out of time.
  • We have the “Fat Shkedi” plan as an insurance policy in the event of a leak.
  • We must complete our preparations for a possible escalation to war despite our desire to avoid this eventuality.

By way of cooling down the sense of panic in the room, I noted that we were lucky to have discovered the reactor before it turned hot:

Imagine that we found it when it was already hot. Should we then panic? Pack our belongings and flee to North Africa and East Europe? No! We are here to stay! And we are still the most powerful country in the region! We would have discussed the new severe situation and found the right way to destroy it under these new circumstances. Only a sick imagination can interpret such a remark as recommending to wait for next year and consciously allow the reactor to become hot.

In a third meeting a few days later, we were subjected to a long exposition by PM Olmert detailing in somewhat legalistic language the development of the project from day one and his arguments for an early attack. I kept disagreeing, claiming that we had to use all the time at our disposal to be as best prepared as we could under the circumstances, and then strike while trying to avoid being dragged into a wide scale confrontation.

These tense cabinet meetings were followed by exchange of letters between me and the prime minister that actually ironed out much of the apparent dispute, ending around mid-August with the prime minister realizing that dialogue and understanding were the right way to reach the necessary balanced solution to legitimate disputes, rather than corridor manipulations and “power games.”

Two Possible Leaks

Mossad head Meir Dagan had concerns that leaks might compel the government to strike immediately. But, no leaks were ever published.

Toward the end of July, we came to the prime minister’s residence for the weekly summary of developments and final approval of a sensitive operational step to be executed over the weekend with regard to the “Yadlin option.” To our surprise, we were told that the step probably had to be cancelled for reasons that cannot be detailed here. I argued that there was no need to halt any step and recommended withholding a decision for some time while checking if the problems had not been overestimated. A few hours later, it became clear that I was right.

On another Friday noon meeting, sometime in early August, Mossad Head Dagan brought a serious piece of information that according to his feeling had to compel us to overcome all hesitations and strike immediately: “CIA Head Hayden called at 3 am to tell me that, under U.S. commitments, they were forced to share the information with the British intelligence services.”

Hence, he argued that we were facing an immediate risk of leakage that had to be preempted. I did not buy this alarm. Telling the forum that I happened to know the British intelligence services quite well from my experience as head of intelligence, chief of staff, prime minister, and minister of defense, if I had to assess where the bigger risk of a leak lay—from the British services or from this room—I would point inside. Indeed, the British never leaked the secret.

A week later, Dagan warned again of a possible leak, this time from U.S. sources, suggesting we accelerate a decision. I wondered who the possible leaker was but did not get an answer. I said that if I had more information about the publication where the story was going to be published I could have a better sense where the leak was coming from. No further information came, and again, no leak was published.

A Decision Made

Towards the end of August, preparations for the two low signature plans were almost completed with “Lean Shkedi” fully finalized and the “Yadlin plan” almost there. Provisions for war were at an advanced stage. All in all, this signified a miss of my original target date of September 1 by at most a few days. The prime minister and I then discussed the legal aspects of such a decision with the attorney general and made sure that the cabinet was authorized to make the general decision to destroy the reactor and delegate the choice of the concrete plan and the timing of its execution to the prime minister, myself, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni. This was needed since the dramatic nature of such a decision made it prone to be leaked in short time. The intention was to remain vague regarding the exact way and timing and then, immediately after the cabinet’s decision, to meet briefly, one by one, with the heads of Mossad, Intelligence, and the IDF chief of staff to hear their recommendations and immediately make the final, formal decision to execute it the same night.

Around September 1, we agreed to convene the cabinet on September 5 for a final decision. The previous evening, following consultation with Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy, I informed Olmert that my recommendation the next day would be to use “Lean Shkedi” as the preferred option. Both plans were viable and ready, but the “Yadlin plan,” which I liked very much, was clearly less likely to gain consensus. It was clear to me that Olmert thought the same. The cabinet meeting began around noon and ended in late afternoon-early evening. It was a relatively focused and short meeting. The participants were acquainted with the different options and somewhat relieved by the absence of the usual tension in the air. In a way, it was simply a ritual, however important, with results known in advance. When the vote came, only Dichter, a former head of the Secret Service (Shabak), abstained.

Immediately after the ministers departed, we continued the process as agreed upon in advance. Olmert, myself, and Livni remained in the room and decided to execute “Lean Shkedi” that very night, meaning that airplanes had to take off in a few hours. The chief of staff and his people, as well as the many hundreds in IAF squadrons and in Intelligence who participated in the operation knew in advance to be ready to execute it that very night. Many thousands in other parts of the armed forces without concrete knowledge of what was happening felt the uniqueness of that evening.

Before leaving my Tel Aviv residence on the 31st floor of a high-rise building, I looked outside into the city’s fading night view and suddenly realized that I was watching the F-15s or F-16s flying near my home towards the reactor, some hundred feet underneath my window. Two hours later, from the underground IAF headquarters, we watched the operation. It went as smoothly as we could hope. I could not stop thinking of the violent confrontation that might have ensued under the “Fat Shkedi” alternative. What a difference. After more than an hour-and-a-half, the fighter planes pulled up and released their munitions. A minute or so later came the report: “Accept: Arizona.” The reactor had been successfully destroyed. A partial sigh of relief.

More than an hour later, all planes landed safely. According to foreign reports, Bashar Assad was informed of the reactor’s destruction sometime soon after the event. It took another twelve hours to confirm our intelligence assessment that a low signature plan would give the Syrian president sufficient leeway to keep the attack under wraps by avoiding any clash with us. The fact that the circle of people in Syria who knew about the attack was extremely narrow also helped. A great mission accomplished.

The operation succeeded because despite all our disagreements, we had a strong unity of purpose that brought us all together: The devoted Mossad operatives under Dagan’s extremely creative leadership who brought the original proof of the reactor’s existence; the IDF’s intelligence analysts and operational units under Yadlin, a gifted and effective leader; Chief of Staff Ashkenazy, the tireless IDF commander who coordinated the military activities between the IAF and prepared the army for a potential full scale war; Ministry of Defense Director Gen. (res.) Pinhas Buchris, a most capable out-of-the-box thinker, who together with his dedicated subordinates safeguarded the massive supply line needed for the worst-case scenario of war; and, of course, IAF Commander Shkedi, a great commander and great man, with his top teams of pilots and aircrews who did the actual planning, preparation, training, and execution of the operation. Certain credit is due to our internal teams—generals Herzog and Dangot in my office, Turbovitz and Turgeman in the prime minister’s office. A special credit must also be given to Prime Minister Olmert who bore the supreme responsibility from day one, never lost sight of the need to destroy the reactor, and took upon himself the burden of the most sensitive contacts with the U.S. government on all levels. I genuinely salute them all, without giving up any of the above criticism. This is the way operational capabilities and national standards of confronting challenges are created: by combining mutual respect with honest, critical, and at times painful discussions of what really happened and what has to be corrected.

Last Thoughts

It is in this respect that I asked myself time and again what created and fed the continued emotional tension around this operation. I assume that other participants have their own views on the same questions. I can hardly fault Olmert for writing, while in prison, a personal, bitter autobiography on his entire life (including the story of the reactor’s destruction). Others, myself included, might also have certain personal biases but it is important not to try deliberately to mislead any future student of the case.

Looking back on my entry into the picture, my first memory is of the intense, emotionally loaded, impatient drive for immediate action shared by most people in the room, reinforced by genuine concern lest the operation be torpedoed by a premature leak. Was this due to the overriding influence of PM Olmert on the one hand, and the relative passivity of the outgoing defense minister, Amir Peretz (who had no operational experience), on the other? Or was it due to being on the verge of execution after intensive months of planning, only to be interrupted all of a sudden by a new minister who started raising profound questions, as if the whole planning process had to be restarted all over again? Having commanded this group’s members for many years (during my IDF service and as PM and defense minister), I knew all participants in the room much better than both the prime minister or the outgoing minister of defense, which might be somewhat frustrating for them. Whatever the reasons for the tension, I considered preparation of the two low-signature plans an absolute necessity and ensured that they be pushed all the way to successful execution on September 6, 2007.

There was, however, another side to the ledger. Upon assuming my post, I noticed a certain disturbing similarity between what had unfolded in this project during the past three months and the way that the second Lebanon war had been opened and conducted.

A year earlier, on July 12, 2006, an Israeli patrol along the Lebanese border had been attacked with two soldiers killed and two abducted. A short time afterward, a tank that crossed the border in search of the missing soldiers stumbled on a big explosive charge and another five soldiers were killed. It was clear to all that this aggression called for a tough response, yet one that needed to be made in a calm and cool-headed fashion: What were the operation’s goals and how to achieve them? What was the “exit strategy”? What would Hezbollah’s likely response be, and what were the broader implications of our chosen options? That is what professional standards would dictate.

But nothing of the sort actually happened. Instead, within a few hours, an IAF contingency plan for the destruction of all known Hezbollah missiles and rockets was grabbed from the shelf—where it had been for the preceding six years—and executed the next morning. Dubbed “Specific Weight” and prepared as a surprise opening gambit of an all-out war with Hezbollah, the plan was completed in 2001 and was continuously updated and checked in training exercise every two years or so. Neither I nor Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after me used it even when soldiers were abducted along the border or terror attacks from Lebanon killed several Israelis. Rather, we kept it for the event of a full-fledged war. Yet, on July 13, 2006, Israel found itself in a war that the government did not plan, did not want, and did not prepare for. In fact, when the cabinet met that evening and made the decisions for the next morning, including the execution of “Specific Weight,” it did not know it was initiating a war. Thus, reservists, who constitute the main fighting body of the ground forces, were not mobilized and an emergency situation was not announced. The economy was not put on war footing, and objectives for the war/campaign were not defined. That is not the way for a war to be started, and Israel paid the price for this rush decision in the ensuing thirty-four days. When, after the war, I asked one government minister and most involved generals what happened, how did this lapse of judgment come to pass, the most common answer was,

I really don’t know. There was a unique atmosphere of extreme urgency to act that swayed all of us. It seemed that you acted improperly if you raised doubts or second thoughts.

One of them added:

It was the triumph of form over substance. We watched and took part in a show of decisiveness that lacked the gravitas to back it up. We put the cart before the horses, and it had its price.

History never repeats itself, and the two cases differ on many levels. But there is a strong similarity in the hasty adoption of a contingency plan that was prepared for something else, together with a hyperactive plan (“Fat Shkedi”), and rush to execute it without an orderly process of considered examination of all things in advance. Systematic thinking and analysis should precede action. Not follow it.

I was cautious not to explicitly express this observation until at the somewhat panicky cabinet meeting on the first week of August, when Deputy PM Mofaz, a former minister of defense and IDF chief of staff, suddenly erupted: “Are you crazy? Is it a replay of the last Lebanon war?”

His question remained unanswered. I can understand the huge pressures that probably influenced Olmert’s judgement. Not only did he face the burden of leading the nascent operation, but he had simultaneously to handle a criminal investigation that was to cloud the rest of his premiership (and eventually force him out of office) and an official commission of inquiry of the Lebanon war, headed by Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Winograd. In these pressuring circumstances, his inner circle fabricated the charge that “Barak was postponing the reactor’s destruction in anticipation of his downfall.” Complete nonsense. There were too many weighty reasons for my actions, and reality proved them to be fully vindicated.

*About the author: Ehud Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier and IDF chief of staff (1991-95), served as Israel’s prime minister (1999-2001) and minister of defense (1999-2001, 2007-13).

Source: This article was published in the Middle East Quarterly FALL 2022 • VOLUME 29: NUMBER 4

[1] Ori Wertman, “When Israel Destroyed Syria’s Nuclear Reactor: The Inside Story,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2022. · by Middle East Quarterly · September 3, 2022

17. Turn of the tide: Authoritarian regimes' influence waning around the world

But I do not think CHina has given up its overall strategy: China seeks to export its authoritarian political system around the world in order to dominate regions, co-opt or coerce international organizations, create economic conditions favorable to China alone, and displace democratic institutions.

And I wonder why they never include north Korea in these discussions.

Turn of the tide: Authoritarian regimes' influence waning around the world | DW | 02.09.2022

A decade ago, the influence of China and Russia was expanding and authoritarianism appeared to be spreading worldwide. But Bulgarian political scientist Evgenii Dainov believes the tide has now turned.

DW · by Deutsche Welle (

There are different ways of looking at the world. One is to see it as a batch of things arranged in a certain manner. Another is to see it as a cluster of processes that are always on the move, creating what Shakespeare called "tides in the affairs of men."

Back in 2016, there were several authoritarian populist regimes in Europe. In a fit of extraordinary levity, the United Kingdom voted for Brexit, and the US voted for Donald Trump. Further east, Russian President Vladimir Putin was tightening his grip on Europe's economy and its elites, while Chinese leader Xi Jinping was quietly increasing his Communist Party's control over everyday life. The future looked distinctly authoritarian.

That tide is now beginning to turn. Three almost simultaneous events in recent weeks are clear indicators.

First came the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, which Beijing failed to stop, despite making a great deal of noise about it. Official China was reduced, as the Russian saying goes, to "swinging its fists in the air after the fight has ended" by conducting military exercises around the island. By that point, Pelosi was long gone.

Then came the explosions at the Russian military air base Saky, in Crimea. The third event was the FBI search of Trump's home in Florida.

Beijing's response to Pelosi visit

No serious observer expected China to start making warlike noises because of an American politician's visit to Taiwan. Even Chinese commentators — insofar as they managed to make themselves heard on the other side of the "bamboo curtain" — seemed flabbergasted by Beijing's haste and rashness. Such behavior is atypical. After all, those in the Forbidden City have a habit of planning generations in advance.

Just 10 years ago, while the West was trying not to drown in its financial and sovereign debt crises, China was being painted as the economic "model" of the future. Moreover, its economic "soft power" seemed to be gradually taking over Asia, Africa, Latin America — and even the Balkans.

Decline in China's prosperity and influence

But any historian worth his or her salt will tell you that dictatorship, economic prosperity and growing international influence cannot exist side by side for long. Either the dictatorship has to go, or the prosperity and influence begin to dwindle. This is what has happened to China. As the dictatorship has grown stronger, the country's prosperity and influence have waned.

Today, China admits to a debt that is over 250% of its GDP — Greece was declared bankrupt at 127%. China experts have warned that there is additional hidden debt, which is around 44% of the admitted debt. Add all this up and we are talking about a total debt in the region of 350% of GDP — a completely incredible and totally untenable situation.

When dozens of provincial banks became unable to serve their customers recently, tanks were sent in to protect the banks from the incensed population.

Mobilizing support with belligerent behavior

Xi Jinping wants to be reelected general secretary of his party. Yet he cannot afford to stand in that election as the man on whose watch the economy went "belly up," as the Americans say. He has obviously decided to "do a Putin," in other words to mobilize support with belligerent behavior.

We no longer see a China that is confident that the future is hers. We see a failing authoritarian regime on the verge of panic.

BRICS fails to reach stated aims

The blowing up of the Saky air base in Crimea tells us something similar — this time about Russia.

Only 10 years ago, while China looked like the great economic power of the future, Russia seemed to be a hegemonic geopolitical power in the making. Back in 2006, it had even cobbled together an international alliance called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China, joined by South Africa in 2010), the stated aim of which was to end global American hegemony in the field of advanced technology.

The original BRIC states also vowed to undermine the international standing of the US dollar by producing their own BRIC currency. In Europe, Russian hybrid "soft power" was taking over politics, culture and the media.

By 2020, however, it was becoming clear that the BRICS alliance had been unable to achieve any of its stated aims. BRICS had not superseded the Americans in the field of advanced technology, nor managed to dent the US dollar.

Russia's soft power on the wane

Meanwhile, Russia's version of "soft power" was also beginning to fizzle out. Trump lost the presidential election in the US in 2020, and in Europe, authoritarian and populist parties sustained and (in some cases) financed by Putin were rapidly losing ground.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election against Putin ally Marine Le Pen, running on a modern, progressive, non-nationalist platform. In the Bavarian election of 2018, the far-right Alternative for Germany party, instead of sweeping the board as expected, was undermined by the Greens, which became the second-most powerful party.

In 2019, the Strache scandal decapitated the Austrian far right. In Poland and Hungary, the regimes began losing control of big cities in local elections. Finally, despite much pre-election bombast, the European far right did not win the 2019 elections to the European Parliament.

Europe: Putin's allies begin to lose sway

Europeans were turning Putin's friends out of power, replacing them with centrist-liberal-green coalitions. In 2021, the far right was thrown out of parliament in Bulgaria, as people elected to power a progressive center-green coalition. Two months previously, Germany had elected a left-green-liberal coalition government.

As he saw his "soft power" taking hits throughout the civilized world, Putin saw that "hard power" was his only remaining option to influence the course of geopolitical events. On February 24, 2022, he used that hard power.

The plan was obvious: Putin expected to subjugate Ukraine in a matter of days, whereupon he would move further West to begin redrawing the borders of European states. He planned to attain with tanks what he had failed to attain with "hybrid" weapons.

No quick victory for Russia

But the Ukrainians did not share Putin's faith in his tanks. By August 2022, Moscow's army had lost the initiative and was reduced to taking up defensive positions. In this context, the explosions in Crimea have demonstrated that Russia's defensive positions are not easily tenable and that Russia is likely to lose this war — and after that, everything. Its "hard power" has become the laughing stock of the world. It no longer has "soft power." It also no longer has a viable economy.

We are witnessing the end of the ideologies of the "Russian world" and of the "Chinese model." It is becoming clear that we in the democratic world are not doomed sooner or later to live under such "models." They are no longer advancing. They are retreating.

Trump facing criminal charges

The FBI's search of Trump's home, in turn, signals the waning of the threat of authoritarianism within the democratic world.

Ten years ago, America, that bastion of democracy, seemed to be teetering on the brink. By 2016 it had elected a president who was openly in awe of dictators around the world. People worried that America was on the road to its own authoritarian "model." Today, Trump is no longer president and instead may soon face criminal charges.

Serbia and Hungary

The nations of Europe have also grasped the connection between authoritarianism, criminality and ultimately, war — as in the case of Putin. Europe today has only two surviving authoritarian regimes, those in Serbia and Hungary. In Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic is visibly trying to wriggle out of Moscow's embrace and doesn't appear to be on the ascendant at all.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is no longer propagating his model of an "illiberal state" as the future, having been reduced to acting as the foreign sales manager for Gazprom in Europe. That is not a good position for an autocratic strongman to be in, and his nation will turn her back on him, as the Bulgarians did in similar circumstances, abandoning "strongman" Boyko Borissov after 12 years.

In any case, nobody looks up to Hungary and Serbia as models of a desirable future. On the contrary, both regimes seem like rusted wreckage from a dark, bygone age.

Tide has turned

Against this backdrop, the FBI raid on Trump's home is a signal not only that the political time of such men (why does it always seem to be men?) has passed, but also that, as their political futures disappear, what awaits them are criminal charges.

People like Putin, Xi Jinping and their imitators will be around for a long time. But theirs is not the future. The "tide in the affairs of men" has turned. Now it is our job to take it "at the flood," securing a future in which government of the people, by the people, for the people remains dominant.

Bulgarian academic, author and political analyst Evgenii Dainov is professor of politics at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia.

Edited by: Rüdiger Rossig and Aingeal Flanagan

DW · by Deutsche Welle (

18. Americans aren't as polarized as they think they are

Americans aren't as polarized as they think they are

Axios · by Jessica Boehm · September 2, 2022

5 hours ago - Politics

Everyday Americans agree more than disagree. So why are we so angry?

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Earlier this week, I moderated a panel at the Arizona League of Cities and Towns conference about civility in the public sphere — something that's diminished as I've covered local governments for the past decade.

Why it matters: Local politics are supposed to be immune from the partisan hostility that's pervasive at the national level.

  • In Arizona, city elections are nonpartisan, and there's that old cliché "There's no Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole."

Yes, but: The increased polarization in national politics in the past decade has seeped into city halls as council members compete for retweets and residents use council meetings to air their national grievances.

State of play: Panelist Keith Allred of the National Institute for Civil Discourse shared academic research showing that Americans are the most polarized we've ever been.

  • We've also never experienced the kind of "multi-decade accelerating polarization" that's been going on since the late '70s.

1 glimmer of hope: Everyday Americans — people who aren't politicians or politically active — actually agree on issues more often than not, Allred said.

  • This category of people represents about 70% to 80% of the population.

Engage the unengaged: Allred and panelist Jack McCain of the McCain Institute noted the importance of engaging non-political residents in local government to help return local governance to civility and good policymaking.

  • These individuals aren't likely to speak at council meetings, so local leaders should reach out to them directly and assemble advisory councils to hear from them, Allred said.

Do better: McCain noted that politicians need to knock off the social media "owning" and angry partisan rhetoric that, while good for campaigning, makes for bad governing.

  • He said that if city leaders want their residents to be respectful and insightful during public meetings, they need to model that behavior.

Parting shot: "The best social media is just being a good person. Maybe it's not as rewarded — you're probably going to have to work twice as hard to fundraise, but at the end of the day… you're going to end up being a more effective person at governing," said McCain, whose father, the late Sen. John McCain, was a frequent target of hateful social media attacks.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Phoenix.

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Phoenix stories

No stories could be found

Axios · by Jessica Boehm · September 2, 2022

19. Spirals of Delusion: How AI Distorts Decision-Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous

​Should we exploit it or should we help mitigate the weaknesses? We can all sing Kumbaya. I think first we have to ensure we fully understand the nature, objectives, and strategies of our adversaries.

Perhaps, even more cynically, policymakers in the West may be tempted to exploit the closed loops of authoritarian information systems. So far, the United States has focused on promoting Internet freedom in autocratic societies. Instead, it might try to worsen the authoritarian information problem by reinforcing the bias loops that these regimes are prone to. It could do this by corrupting administrative data or seeding authoritarian social media with misinformation. Unfortunately, there is no virtual wall to separate democratic and autocratic systems. Not only might bad data and crazy beliefs leak into democratic societies from authoritarian ones, but terrible authoritarian decisions could have unpredictable consequences for democratic countries, too. As governments think about AI, they need to realize that we live in an interdependent world, where authoritarian governments’ problems are likely to cascade into democracies.
A more intelligent approach, then, might look to mitigate the weaknesses of AI through shared arrangements for international governance. Currently, different parts of the Chinese state disagree on the appropriate response to regulating AI. China’s Cyberspace Administration, its Academy of Information and Communications Technology, and its Ministry of Science and Technology, for instance, have all proposed principles for AI regulation. Some favor a top-down model that might limit the private sector and allow the government a free hand. Others, at least implicitly, recognize the dangers of AI for the government, too. Crafting broad international regulatory principles might help disseminate knowledge about the political risks of AI.
This cooperative approach may seem strange in the context of a growing U.S.-Chinese rivalry. But a carefully modulated policy might serve Washington and its allies well. One dangerous path would be for the United States to get sucked into a race for AI dominance, which would extend competitive relations still further. Another would be to try to make the feedback problems of authoritarianism worse. Both risk catastrophe and possible war. Far safer, then, for all governments to recognize AI’s shared risks and work together to reduce them.

Spirals of Delusion

How AI Distorts Decision-Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous

By Henry Farrell, Abraham Newman, and Jeremy Wallace

September/October 2022

Foreign Affairs · September 2, 2022

In policy circles, discussions about artificial intelligence invariably pit China against the United States in a race for technological supremacy. If the key resource is data, then China, with its billion-plus citizens and lax protections against state surveillance, seems destined to win. Kai-Fu Lee, a famous computer scientist, has claimed that data is the new oil, and China the new OPEC. If superior technology is what provides the edge, however, then the United States, with its world class university system and talented workforce, still has a chance to come out ahead. For either country, pundits assume that superiority in AI will lead naturally to broader economic and military superiority.

But thinking about AI in terms of a race for dominance misses the more fundamental ways in which AI is transforming global politics. AI will not transform the rivalry between powers so much as it will transform the rivals themselves. The United States is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian regime, and machine learning challenges each political system in its own way. The challenges to democracies such as the United States are all too visible. Machine learning may increase polarization—reengineering the online world to promote political division. It will certainly increase disinformation in the future, generating convincing fake speech at scale. The challenges to autocracies are more subtle but possibly more corrosive. Just as machine learning reflects and reinforces the divisions of democracy, it may confound autocracies, creating a false appearance of consensus and concealing underlying societal fissures until it is too late.

Early pioneers of AI, including the political scientist Herbert Simon, realized that AI technology has more in common with markets, bureaucracies, and political institutions than with simple engineering applications. Another pioneer of artificial intelligence, Norbert Wiener, described AI as a “cybernetic” system—one that can respond and adapt to feedback. Neither Simon nor Wiener anticipated how machine learning would dominate AI, but its evolution fits with their way of thinking. Facebook and Google use machine learning as the analytic engine of a self-correcting system, which continually updates its understanding of the data depending on whether its predictions succeed or fail. It is this loop between statistical analysis and feedback from the environment that has made machine learning such a formidable force.

What is much less well understood is that democracy and authoritarianism are cybernetic systems, too. Under both forms of rule, governments enact policies and then try to figure out whether these policies have succeeded or failed. In democracies, votes and voices provide powerful feedback about whether a given approach is really working. Authoritarian systems have historically had a much harder time getting good feedback. Before the information age, they relied not just on domestic intelligence but also on petitions and clandestine opinion surveys to try to figure out what their citizens believed.

Now, machine learning is disrupting traditional forms of democratic feedback (voices and votes) as new technologies facilitate disinformation and worsen existing biases—taking prejudice hidden in data and confidently transforming it into incorrect assertions. To autocrats fumbling in the dark, meanwhile, machine learning looks like an answer to their prayers. Such technology can tell rulers whether their subjects like what they are doing without the hassle of surveys or the political risks of open debates and elections. For this reason, many observers have fretted that advances in AI will only strengthen the hand of dictators and further enable them to control their societies.

The truth is more complicated. Bias is visibly a problem for democracies. But because it is more visible, citizens can mitigate it through other forms of feedback. When, for example, a racial group sees that hiring algorithms are biased against them, they can protest and seek redress with some chance of success. Authoritarian countries are probably at least as prone to bias as democracies are, perhaps more so. Much of this bias is likely to be invisible, especially to the decision-makers at the top. That makes it far more difficult to correct, even if leaders can see that something needs correcting.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, AI can seriously undermine autocratic regimes by reinforcing their own ideologies and fantasies at the expense of a finer understanding of the real world. Democratic countries may discover that, when it comes to AI, the key challenge of the twenty-first century is not winning the battle for technological dominance. Instead, they will have to contend with authoritarian countries that find themselves in the throes of an AI-fueled spiral of delusion.


Most discussions about AI have to do with machine learning—statistical algorithms that extract relationships between data. These algorithms make guesses: Is there a dog in this photo? Will this chess strategy win the game in ten moves? What is the next word in this half-finished sentence? A so-called objective function, a mathematical means of scoring outcomes, can reward the algorithm if it guesses correctly. This process is how commercial AI works. YouTube, for example, wants to keep its users engaged, watching more videos so that they keep seeing ads. The objective function is designed to maximize user engagement. The algorithm tries to serve up content that keeps a user’s eyes on the page. Depending on whether its guess was right or wrong, the algorithm updates its model of what the user is likely to respond to.

Machine learning’s ability to automate this feedback loop with little or no human intervention has reshaped e-commerce. It may, someday, allow fully self-driving cars, although this advance has turned out to be a much harder problem than engineers anticipated. Developing autonomous weapons is a harder problem still. When algorithms encounter truly unexpected information, they often fail to make sense of it. Information that a human can easily understand but that machine learning misclassifies—known as “adversarial examples”—can gum up the works badly. For example, black and white stickers placed on a stop sign can prevent a self-driving car’s vision system from recognizing the sign. Such vulnerabilities suggest obvious limitations in AI’s usefulness in wartime.

Diving into the complexities of machine learning helps make sense of the debates about technological dominance. It explains why some thinkers, such as the computer scientist Lee, believe that data is so important. The more data you have, the more quickly you can improve the performance of your algorithm, iterating tiny change upon tiny change until you have achieved a decisive advantage. But machine learning has its limits. For example, despite enormous investments by technology firms, algorithms are far less effective than is commonly understood at getting people to buy one nearly identical product over another. Reliably manipulating shallow preferences is hard, and it is probably far more difficult to change people’s deeply held opinions and beliefs.

Authoritarian governments often don’t have a good sense of how the world works.

General AI, a system that might draw lessons from one context and apply them in a different one, as humans can, faces similar limitations. Netflix’s statistical models of its users’ inclinations and preferences are almost certainly dissimilar to Amazon’s, even when both are trying to model the same people grappling with similar decisions. Dominance in one sector of AI, such as serving up short videos that keep teenagers hooked (a triumph of the app TikTok), does not easily translate into dominance in another, such as creating autonomous battlefield weapons systems. An algorithm’s success often relies on the very human engineers who can translate lessons across different applications rather than on the technology itself. For now, these problems remain unsolved.

Bias can also creep into code. When Amazon tried to apply machine learning to recruitment, it trained the algorithm on data from résumés that human recruiters had evaluated. As a result, the system reproduced the biases implicit in the humans’ decisions, discriminating against résumés from women. Such problems can be self-reinforcing. As the sociologist Ruha Benjamin has pointed out, if policymakers used machine learning to decide where to send police forces, the technology could guide them to allocate more police to neighborhoods with high arrest rates, in the process sending more police to areas with racial groups whom the police have demonstrated biases against. This could lead to more arrests that, in turn, reinforce the algorithm in a vicious circle.

The old programming adage “garbage in, garbage out” has a different meaning in a world where the inputs influence the outputs and vice versa. Without appropriate outside correction, machine-learning algorithms can acquire a taste for the garbage that they themselves produce, generating a loop of bad decision-making. All too often, policymakers treat machine learning tools as wise and dispassionate oracles rather than as fallible instruments that can intensify the problems they purport to solve.


Political systems are feedback systems, too. In democracies, the public literally evaluates and scores leaders in elections that are supposed to be free and fair. Political parties make promises with the goal of winning power and holding on to it. A legal opposition highlights government mistakes, while a free press reports on controversies and misdeeds. Incumbents regularly face voters and learn whether they have earned or lost the public trust, in a continually repeating cycle.

But feedback in democratic societies does not work perfectly. The public may not have a deep understanding of politics, and it can punish governments for things beyond their control. Politicians and their staff may misunderstand what the public wants. The opposition has incentives to lie and exaggerate. Contesting elections costs money, and the real decisions are sometimes made behind closed doors. Media outlets may be biased or care more about entertaining their consumers than edifying them.

All the same, feedback makes learning possible. Politicians learn what the public wants. The public learns what it can and cannot expect. People can openly criticize government mistakes without being locked up. As new problems emerge, new groups can organize to publicize them and try to persuade others to solve them. All this allows policymakers and governments to engage with a complex and ever-changing world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an artificial intelligence conference in Moscow, November 2021

Sergey Guneev / Sputnik / Reuters

Feedback works very differently in autocracies. Leaders are chosen not through free and fair elections but through ruthless succession battles and often opaque systems for internal promotion. Even where opposition to the government is formally legal, it is discouraged, sometimes brutally. If media criticize the government, they risk legal action and violence. Elections, when they do occur, are systematically tilted in favor of incumbents. Citizens who oppose their leaders don’t just face difficulties in organizing; they risk harsh penalties for speaking out, including imprisonment and death. For all these reasons, authoritarian governments often don’t have a good sense of how the world works or what they and their citizens want.

Such systems therefore face a tradeoff between short-term political stability and effective policymaking; a desire for the former inclines authoritarian leaders to block outsiders from expressing political opinions, while the need for the latter requires them to have some idea of what is happening in the world and in their societies. Because of tight controls on information, authoritarian rulers cannot rely on citizens, media, and opposition voices to provide corrective feedback as democratic leaders can. The result is that they risk policy failures that can undermine their long-term legitimacy and ability to rule. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disastrous decision to invade Ukraine, for example, seems to have been based on an inaccurate assessment of Ukrainian morale and his own military’s strength.

Even before the invention of machine learning, authoritarian rulers used quantitative measures as a crude and imperfect proxy for public feedback. Take China, which for decades tried to combine a decentralized market economy with centralized political oversight of a few crucial statistics, notably GDP. Local officials could get promoted if their regions saw particularly rapid growth. But Beijing’s limited quantified vision offered them little incentive to tackle festering issues such as corruption, debt, and pollution. Unsurprisingly, local officials often manipulated the statistics or pursued policies that boosted GDP in the short term while leaving the long-term problems for their successors.

There is no such thing as decision-making devoid of politics.

The world caught a glimpse of this dynamic during the initial Chinese response to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in Hubei Province in late 2019. China had built an internet-based disease-reporting system following the 2003 SARS crisis, but instead of using that system, local authorities in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, punished the doctor who first reported the presence of a “SARS-like” contagion. The Wuhan government worked hard to prevent information about the outbreak from reaching Beijing, continually repeating that there were “no new cases” until after important local political meetings concluded. The doctor, Li Wenliang, himself succumbed to the disease and died on February 7, triggering fierce outrage across the country.

Beijing then took over the response to the pandemic, adopting a “zero COVID” approach that used coercive measures to suppress case counts. The policy worked well in the short run, but with the Omicron variant’s tremendous transmissibility, the zero-COVID policy increasingly seems to have led to only pyrrhic victories, requiring massive lockdowns that have left people hungry and the economy in shambles. But it remained successful at achieving one crucial if crude metric—keeping the number of infections low.

Data seem to provide objective measures that explain the world and its problems, with none of the political risks and inconveniences of elections or free media. But there is no such thing as decision-making devoid of politics. The messiness of democracy and the risk of deranged feedback processes are apparent to anyone who pays attention to U.S. politics. Autocracies suffer similar problems, although they are less immediately perceptible. Officials making up numbers or citizens declining to turn their anger into wide-scale protests can have serious consequences, making bad decisions more likely in the short run and regime failure more likely in the long run.


The most urgent question is not whether the United States or China will win or lose in the race for AI dominance. It is how AI will change the different feedback loops that democracies and autocracies rely on to govern their societies. Many observers have suggested that as machine learning becomes more ubiquitous, it will inevitably hurt democracy and help autocracy. In their view, social media algorithms that optimize engagement, for instance, may undermine democracy by damaging the quality of citizen feedback. As people click through video after video, YouTube’s algorithm offers up shocking and alarming content to keep them engaged. This content often involves conspiracy theories or extreme political views that lure citizens into a dark wonderland where everything is upside down.

By contrast, machine learning is supposed to help autocracies by facilitating greater control over their people. Historian Yuval Harari and a host of other scholars claim that AI “favors tyranny.” According to this camp, AI centralizes data and power, allowing leaders to manipulate ordinary citizens by offering them information that is calculated to push their “emotional buttons.” This endlessly iterating process of feedback and response is supposed to produce an invisible and effective form of social control. In this account, social media allows authoritarian governments to take the public’s pulse as well as capture its heart.

But these arguments rest on uncertain foundations. Although leaks from inside Facebook suggest that algorithms can indeed guide people toward radical content, recent research indicates that the algorithms don’t themselves change what people are looking for. People who search for extreme YouTube videos are likely to be guided toward more of what they want, but people who aren’t already interested in dangerous content are unlikely to follow the algorithms’ recommendations. If feedback in democratic societies were to become increasingly deranged, machine learning would not be entirely at fault; it would only have lent a helping hand.

More machine learning may lead authoritarian regimes to double down on bad decisions.

There is no good evidence that machine learning enables the sorts of generalized mind control that will hollow out democracy and strengthen authoritarianism. If algorithms are not very effective at getting people to buy things, they are probably much worse at getting them to change their minds about things that touch on closely held values, such as politics. The claims that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, employed some magical technique to fix the 2016 U.S. presidential election for Donald Trump have unraveled. The firm’s supposed secret sauce provided to the Trump campaign seemed to consist of standard psychometric targeting techniques—using personality surveys to categorize people—of limited utility.

Indeed, fully automated data-driven authoritarianism may turn out to be a trap for states such as China that concentrate authority in a tiny insulated group of decision-makers. Democratic countries have correction mechanisms—alternative forms of citizen feedback that can check governments if they go off track. Authoritarian governments, as they double down on machine learning, have no such mechanism. Although ubiquitous state surveillance could prove effective in the short term, the danger is that authoritarian states will be undermined by the forms of self-reinforcing bias that machine learning facilitates. As a state employs machine learning widely, the leader’s ideology will shape how machine learning is used, the objectives around which it is optimized, and how it interprets results. The data that emerge through this process will likely reflect the leader’s prejudices right back at him.

As the technologist Maciej Ceglowski has explained, machine learning is “money laundering for bias,” a “clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability.” What will happen, for example, as states begin to use machine learning to spot social media complaints and remove them? Leaders will have a harder time seeing and remedying policy mistakes—even when the mistakes damage the regime. A 2013 study speculated that China has been slower to remove online complaints than one might expect, precisely because such griping provided useful information to the leadership. But now that Beijing is increasingly emphasizing social harmony and seeking to protect high officials, that hands-off approach will be harder to maintain.

Artificial intelligence–fueled disinformation may poison the well for democracies and autocracies alike.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is aware of these problems in at least some policy domains. He long claimed that his antipoverty campaign—an effort to eliminate rural impoverishment—was a signature victory powered by smart technologies, big data, and AI. But he has since acknowledged flaws in the campaign, including cases where officials pushed people out of their rural homes and stashed them in urban apartments to game poverty statistics. As the resettled fell back into poverty, Xi worried that “uniform quantitative targets” for poverty levels might not be the right approach in the future. Data may indeed be the new oil, but it may pollute rather than enhance a government’s ability to rule.

This problem has implications for China’s so-called social credit system, a set of institutions for keeping track of pro-social behavior that Western commentators depict as a perfectly functioning “AI-powered surveillance regime that violates human rights.” As experts on information politics such as Shazeda Ahmed and Karen Hao have pointed out, the system is, in fact, much messier. The Chinese social credit system actually looks more like the U.S. credit system, which is regulated by laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, than a perfect Orwellian dystopia.

More machine learning may also lead authoritarian regimes to double down on bad decisions. If machine learning is trained to identify possible dissidents on the basis of arrest records, it will likely generate self-reinforcing biases similar to those seen in democracies—reflecting and affirming administrators’ beliefs about disfavored social groups and inexorably perpetuating automated suspicion and backlash. In democracies, public pushback, however imperfect, is possible. In autocratic regimes, resistance is far harder; without it, these problems are invisible to those inside the system, where officials and algorithms share the same prejudices. Instead of good policy, this will lead to increasing pathologies, social dysfunction, resentment, and, eventually, unrest and instability.


The international politics of AI will not create a simple race for dominance. The crude view that this technology is an economic and military weapon and that data is what powers it conceals a lot of the real action. In fact, AI’s biggest political consequences are for the feedback mechanisms that both democratic and authoritarian countries rely on. Some evidence indicates that AI is disrupting feedback in democracies, although it doesn’t play nearly as big a role as many suggest. By contrast, the more authoritarian governments rely on machine learning, the more they will propel themselves into an imaginary world founded on their own tech-magnified biases. The political scientist James Scott’s classic 1998 book, Seeing Like a State, explained how twentieth-century states were blind to the consequences of their own actions in part because they could see the world through only bureaucratic categories and data. As sociologist Marion Fourcade and others have argued, machine learning may present the same problems but at an even greater scale.

This problem creates a very different set of international challenges for democracies such as the United States. Russia, for example, invested in disinformation campaigns designed to sow confusion and disarray among the Russian public while applying the same tools in democratic countries. Although free speech advocates long maintained that the answer to bad speech was more speech, Putin decided that the best response to more speech was more bad speech. Russia then took advantage of open feedback systems in democracies to pollute them with misinformation.

Demonstrating the facial recognition system of a Chinese artificial intelligence firm, Beijing, February 2022

Florence Lo / Reuters

One rapidly emerging problem is how autocracies such as Russia might weaponize large language models, a new form of AI that can produce text or images in response to a verbal prompt, to generate disinformation at scale. As the computer scientist Timnit Gebru and her colleagues have warned, programs such as Open AI’s GPT-3 system can produce apparently fluent text that is difficult to distinguish from ordinary human writing. Bloom, a new open-access large language model, has just been released for anyone to use. Its license requires people to avoid abuse, but it will be very hard to police.

These developments will produce serious problems for feedback in democracies. Current online policy-comment systems are almost certainly doomed, since they require little proof to establish whether the commenter is a real human being. Contractors for big telecommunications companies have already flooded the U.S. Federal Communications Commission with bogus comments linked to stolen email addresses as part of their campaign against net neutrality laws. Still, it was easy to identify subterfuge when tens of thousands of nearly identical comments were posted. Now, or in the very near future, it will be trivially simple to prompt a large language model to write, say, 20,000 different comments in the style of swing voters condemning net neutrality.

Artificial intelligence–fueled disinformation may poison the well for autocracies, too. As authoritarian governments seed their own public debate with disinformation, it will become easier to fracture opposition but harder to tell what the public actually believes, greatly complicating the policymaking process. It will be increasingly hard for authoritarian leaders to avoid getting high on their own supply, leading them to believe that citizens tolerate or even like deeply unpopular policies.


What might it be like to share the world with authoritarian states such as China if they become increasingly trapped in their own unhealthy informational feedback loops? What happens when these processes cease to provide cybernetic guidance and instead reflect back the rulers’ own fears and beliefs? One self-centered response by democratic competitors would be to leave autocrats to their own devices, seeing anything that weakens authoritarian governments as a net gain.

Such a reaction could result in humanitarian catastrophe, however. Many of the current biases of the Chinese state, such as its policies toward the Uyghurs, are actively malignant and might become far worse. Previous consequences of Beijing’s blindness to reality include the great famine, which killed some 30 million people between 1959 and 1961 and was precipitated by ideologically driven policies and hidden by the unwillingness of provincial officials to report accurate statistics. Even die-hard cynics should recognize the dangers of AI-induced foreign policy catastrophes in China and elsewhere. By amplifying nationalist biases, for instance, AI could easily reinforce hawkish factions looking to engage in territorial conquest.

Data may be the new oil, but it may pollute rather than enhance a government’s ability to rule.

Perhaps, even more cynically, policymakers in the West may be tempted to exploit the closed loops of authoritarian information systems. So far, the United States has focused on promoting Internet freedom in autocratic societies. Instead, it might try to worsen the authoritarian information problem by reinforcing the bias loops that these regimes are prone to. It could do this by corrupting administrative data or seeding authoritarian social media with misinformation. Unfortunately, there is no virtual wall to separate democratic and autocratic systems. Not only might bad data and crazy beliefs leak into democratic societies from authoritarian ones, but terrible authoritarian decisions could have unpredictable consequences for democratic countries, too. As governments think about AI, they need to realize that we live in an interdependent world, where authoritarian governments’ problems are likely to cascade into democracies.

A more intelligent approach, then, might look to mitigate the weaknesses of AI through shared arrangements for international governance. Currently, different parts of the Chinese state disagree on the appropriate response to regulating AI. China’s Cyberspace Administration, its Academy of Information and Communications Technology, and its Ministry of Science and Technology, for instance, have all proposed principles for AI regulation. Some favor a top-down model that might limit the private sector and allow the government a free hand. Others, at least implicitly, recognize the dangers of AI for the government, too. Crafting broad international regulatory principles might help disseminate knowledge about the political risks of AI.

This cooperative approach may seem strange in the context of a growing U.S.-Chinese rivalry. But a carefully modulated policy might serve Washington and its allies well. One dangerous path would be for the United States to get sucked into a race for AI dominance, which would extend competitive relations still further. Another would be to try to make the feedback problems of authoritarianism worse. Both risk catastrophe and possible war. Far safer, then, for all governments to recognize AI’s shared risks and work together to reduce them.

Foreign Affairs · September 2, 2022

20. Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage

Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage

Nathalia Holt (Author)



$28.00 $26.04



SHIPS SEP 13, 2022





From the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls comes the never-before-told story of a small cadre of influential female spies in the precarious early days of the CIA--women who helped create the template for cutting-edge espionage (and blazed new paths for equality in the workplace) in the treacherous post-WWII era.In the wake of World War II, four agents were critical in helping build a new organization that we now know as the CIA. Adelaide Hawkins, Mary Hutchison, Eloise Page, and Elizabeth Sudmeier, called the "wise gals" by their male colleagues because of their sharp sense of humor and even quicker intelligence, were not the stereotypical femme fatale of spy novels. They were smart, courageous, and groundbreaking agents at the top of their class, instrumental in both developing innovative tools for intelligence gathering--and insisting (in their own unique ways) that they receive the credit and pay their expertise deserved.

Throughout the Cold War era, each woman had a vital role to play on the international stage. Adelaide rose through the ranks, developing new cryptosystems that advanced how spies communicate with each other. Mary worked overseas in Europe and Asia, building partnerships and allegiances that would last decades. Elizabeth would risk her life in the Middle East in order to gain intelligence on deadly Soviet weaponry. Eloise would wield influence on scientific and technical operations worldwide, ultimately exposing global terrorism threats. Through their friendship and shared sense of purpose, they rose to positions of power and were able to make real change in a traditionally "male, pale, and Yale" organization--but not without some tragic losses and real heartache along the way.

Meticulously researched and beautifully told, Holt uses firsthand interviews with past and present officials and declassified government documents to uncover the stories of these four inspirational women. Wise Gals sheds a light on the untold history of the women whose daring foreign intrigues, domestic persistence, and fighting spirit have been and continue to be instrumental to our country's security.

Product Details


$28.00  $26.04


G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publish Date

September 13, 2022




6.0 X 9.1 X 1.5 inches | 1.15 pounds







BISAC Categories:



Intelligence & Espionage

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.


About the Author

Nathalia Holt, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket GirlsThe Queens of Animation, and Cured. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesThe AtlanticSlatePopular Science, and Time. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Pacific Grove, CA.

De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161


Phone: 202-573-8647


David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

Company Name | Website
Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest