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Victory in Strategic Studies: The Problematic Neglect of a Central Concept

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Within the academic sphere of strategic studies there seems to be no doubt that the concept of victory remains to be understudied.[i] Many scholars argue that the notion of victory is trapped in underdevelopment and thus lacks analytical merit due to the inherent fuzziness and contentiousness of the term.[ii] Nevertheless, considering that the very telos of war is winning and that the notion of victory occupies a central position in strategic thinking, it is all the more surprising that the concept of victory is most often not sufficiently considered.[iii] When taking into account that strategy as such has been described as a “theory of victory”, it seems indispensable to investigate why victory has not received as much attention as its importance in strategic thought suggests.[iv]

One might counter this statement arguing that the concept of victory has been a subject of strategic considerations throughout millennia. This notwithstanding, Martel concludes that “ideas about victory historically emerged haphazardly and erratically rather than as a coherent theory” – despite the plethora of literature on war.[v] Many theorists also tend to focus on the question of how to win war, while neglecting why one wins (the causal links between means and ends) and what it means to be victorious.[vi]

Victory is a highly contested term. This is because victory as a desired end state is often used ambiguously to accommodate strategic flexibility and adjust political objectives to the dynamics of war.[vii] The notion of an end state shall, however, not obscure that victory and defeat are not binary terms. As Bartholomees highlights, victory is predominantly a subjective assessment, not a fact or objective condition.[viii] This assessment, in addition, does not necessarily have to be permanent but can be reevaluated and challenged as e.g. the aftermath of World War I demonstrated.[ix] Victory further unfolds along different levels. Hence, military (tactical, operational) victory must not be equated with political (strategic or grand-strategic) victory, which is particularly hard to measure with quantifiable criteria.

However, that victory is a difficult concept which seems to elude final fixation must not be considered as sufficient explanation for the neglect of the study of victory in strategic studies. For that reason, in the following it shall be investigated whether victory has simply lost its relevance in the face of wars that – allegedly – cannot be won. In addition, the question shall be raised as to what extent liberal democratic values and the predominance of the just war paradigm can be considered as an explanation for the disregard of the concept of victory. For, as Hao puts it, “[a] military is not divorced from the society” – and neither is strategic thought.[x]

Further, this essay builds on the conviction that a more thorough study of victory is not only necessary but the continuing (relative) lack of attention to victory is also deeply problematic. Thus, this essay follows Martel’s assessment that “if policy-makers are unclear about what victory means, they are less likely to achieve it”.[xi] Among other aspects, this essay particularly aims to emphasize the necessity to establish a clear understanding of the meaning of victory for military interventions. This essay concludes that the notion of victory has endured the passing of time and will certainly continue to do so. Therefore, paying attention to the advancement of the concept of victory, especially regarding its adaptation to contemporary characteristics of warfare, and the establishment of a sound theoretical framework of victory will be inevitable.

Out of Sight, out of Mind – Is Victory Still Relevant?

The invention of nuclear weaponry led to a shift from winning wars to avoiding them (at least between nuclear powers).[xii] Consequently, during the Cold War, the perception arose that the concept of victory had become meaningless either due to the notion that nuclear wars could not be won or that hereby “no victory […] would be worth the price”.[xiii]

However, others claim that limited nuclear war could occur (with its corresponding victory and defeat). According to this strand of thinking, the concept of victory should not be rejected as practically unachievable and meaningless. In that sense, Gray outlines that the lack of a theory of victory within the overarching frame of nuclear strategy on NATO’s part was dangerous.[xiv] Firstly, because the focus on nuclear threat in contrast to nuclear execution (that is, the actual resort to nuclear weaponry) reduced the credibility of the fundamental goal of effective deterrence.[xv] Gray further argues that the concept of MAD functioned in terms of self-deterrence, which denied “freedom of strategic nuclear action” and hence hindered the development of a theory of victory here.[xvi] Thus, even if the advent of nuclear weaponry impeded strategic thinking about victory, the study of victory in the nuclear age might continue to be relevant – particularly in times of possible proliferation.

It seems to be commonly accepted that while the nature of war remains unchanged throughout history, the character of war (in terms of methodological, technological and ideological factors) is subject to fundamental change.[xvii] These new ways of waging war have been described as “unwinnable”, which would render it pointless to reflect about victory.[xviii]Firstly, the (not so new) concept of hybrid warfare must be considered, which is, for instance, applied by Russia in the Ukraine conflict using information warfare to obscure its goals.[xix] Thus, winning a hybrid war is difficult: If it is unclear what victory constitutes for the adversary, it is hard to prevent the opposing side from winning and in turn make oneself the winner.

Further, William Lind declared the emergence of “fourth generation warfare” and Mary Kaldor introduced the term “new wars” to capture the inclusion of non-state actors in warfare, the emphasis on identity politics and the return to the Hobbesian use of violence.[xx] Obviously, it is almost impossible to terminate such wars with “decisive victory”. The notion of wars that cannot be won particularly manifests itself in terms such as “perpetual” or “endless war”. These have been predominantly used to describe US involvement, most prominently regarding the so-called “War on Terror”.[xxi] While many argue that the “War on Terror” can simply not be won or reject the term altogether, Gordon emphasizes that “[a]l most entirely missing from this debate is a concept of what ‘victory’ in the war on terror would actually look like”.[xxii] This obscurity is best captured in former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s reply to the question of what victory constitutes within the “War on Terror”.[xxiii] To Rumsfeld, “victory is persuading the American people and the rest of the world that this is not a quick matter that is going to be over in a month or a year or even five years”.[xxiv]

Again, it is self-evident that such a conflict configuration cannot be resolved by decisive, military victory. However, as Howard highlights, wars ending with decisive victories do not constitute the norm but a historical anomaly.[xxv]Therefore, Gordon pleads for an understanding of victory that adapts to this “new and different kind of war” in order to “avert considerable pain, expense and trouble” – thus to put an end to this war’s endlessness.[xxvi]Consequently, the argument that the concept of victory has become irrelevant as wars are now “unwinnable” or “endless” does not hold. The question of victory is closely connected to the debate about the future of wars. Instead of declaring the notion of victory inapplicable in such contexts, the incentive should rather be to make victory finally keep pace with the times – especially regarding realistic outcomes and how to achieve them.

According to Blum, three developments have altered contemporary wars and notions of victory: “in the goals of war, the rules of war, and the targets of war”.[xxvii] In that sense, especially the rules of war have become increasingly restrictive after World War II. Human Rights Law is assumed to apply in war and the notion of human security has ever more permeated the conduct of war.[xxviii] Thus, Blum concludes that especially for those being committed to international law and morality (e.g. liberal democracies) it has become more difficult to aspire to go to war but also more costly to win.[xxix]For that reason, Blum argues that in order to reconcile the values, which especially liberal democracies are trying to uphold, with the necessary “evils of war”, victory is articulated in ever broader, blurrier terms.[xxx]

The difficulty of precisely articulating victory can further be connected to the framework of just war theory, which has become the predominant lens through which war and peace are being perceived in the West.[xxxi] However, victory is not problematized among contemporary just war theorists, which is highly problematic since “just war is just war”.[xxxii]This means that the central concept of victory cannot be euphemized but needs to be studied even if this uncovers dissatisfying aspects, namely that even a just war will produce unfavorable outcomes when victory is reached.[xxxiii]Thus, it seems as if the attempt to uphold particular values, which are enshrined in contemporary just war theory, have formed a mindset that hindered the formulation of a more pronounced concept of victory – in the practitioner’s and scholarly realm alike.

Victory as the Great Unknown – Consequences and Dangers

As has become clear, without a theory of victory that can answer questions such as “what does victory mean?”, “what are the benefits, costs, and risks of victory?” and“are we willing to pay the price of victory?”, wars cannot be won and set goals will not be achieved.[xxxiv] Roberts makes the case for the United States and argues that a continuous lack of a theory of victory regarding potential regional conflicts but also the changing character of war might result in US defeat in the next big war.[xxxv] Regarding the employment of nuclear weaponry, Gray emphasizes that if a theory of political victory is absent to reasoning about nuclear war, “there can be little justification for nuclear planning at all”.[xxxvi]

A theoretical framework of victory is indispensable for policymakers to be able to decide when it is necessary to use force.[xxxvii] This is particularly significant in the context of military interventions. If decisions about military interventions are based on a sound conception of victory, policymakers will be enabled to better achieve their goals, minimize costs, foresee the consequences of their decisions, and boost the prospect of success.[xxxviii]If military interventions are pursued without a concrete understanding of victory, as was arguably the case in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, military strategies are designed under great uncertainty, using inapt tools and might consequently be doomed to fail.[xxxix] This can have catastrophic consequences for both the intervening country and the country being intervened in. Similarly, peace operations operate on increasingly vague mandates. Thus, a coherent theory of victory is often absent – with all the negative consequences this entails.[xl]

Further, a clear definition of victory is crucial to enhance public support as transparency and public scrutiny can be ensured.[xli]More importantly, a theoretical framework of victory will provide the tools to meaningfully debate the (lacking) necessity of the use of military force and will thereby improve legitimacy.[xlii]

Hence, if victory continues to be theoretically and conceptually underdeveloped, the greatest danger will be the repetition of past mistakes – be it regarding miscalculations of necessary resources to achieve victory or the decision if it is worth to go to war.

Conclusion

De Landmeter concludes that “victory as a concept appears to be very problematic and might be devoid of meaning altogether” – especially regarding modern war.[xliii]The opposite is the case. It is true that the term victory has been (mis-) used as a shapeshifting, convenient catch-all term. Yet, as was demonstrated, above all the emergence of new ways of warfare presupposes not an abandonment of victory but a thorough theory of victory to enable policymakers and scholars to assess which aims can be realistically achieved, at what cost and under which risk. In sum, the concept of victory must be further theorized and adjusted to current contexts to unfold its full potential as a guidance for future strategic decisions and to prevent any rhetorical or strategic misuse.

War will not cease to exist, thus the strife for victory won’t either. While especially the Obama administration tried to ban victory from its “strategic lexicon”, President Trump had already returned to the rhetoric of victory.[xliv] Hence, victory is a sticky concept that is not to be defeated easily – even if attempts were made to avoid the term and replace it with the even vaguer notion of success.


[i] See, for instance, Armstrong, Jan and J. J. Widen, Contemporary Military Theory. The Dynamics of War (New York: Routledge, 2015), 44.

[ii] Mandel, Robert, Reassessing Victory in Warfare. Armed Forces & Society 37 no. 4 (2007), 13.

[iii] Angstrom and Widen, Contemporary Military Theory, 43.

[iv] King, Iain, Beyond Ends, Ways, and Means: We Need a Better Strategic Framework to Win in an Era of Great Power Competition. Accessible via: https://mwi.usma.edu/beyond-ends-ways-and-means-we-need-a-better-strategic-framework-to-win-in-an-era-of-great-power-competition/?fbclid=IwAR2M07YxxJ0FafODMGB9A80msbjbH4eOMI1qCbRB1ti0B3r7TPEY6GwOf9w [last access: December 19th 2020].

[v] Martel, William C., Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Strategy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 371.

[vi] Hoffman, Frank G., The Missing Element in Crafting National Strategy. A Theory of Success. JFQ 97 no. 2 (2020), 61 and Bartholomees, J. Boone, Theory of Victory. Parameters 38 (2008), 25.

[vii]Landmeter, Eric A. de, What constitutes victory in modern war? Militaire Spectator 187 no. 3 (2018), 141.

[viii]Bartholomees, Theory of Victory, 26.

[ix] Ibid., 30.

[x] Hao, Chong Shi, A Swift and Decisive Victory: The Strategic Implications of What Victory Means. PRISM 4 no. 4 (2014), 108.

[xi] Martel, William C., Victory in Scholarship on Strategy and War, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 24 no. 3 (2011), 518.

[xii]Ibid., 514.

[xiii]Brodie, Bernard, The Absolute Weapon: Atomic Power and World Order (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946), 75.

[xiv]Gray, Colin, Nuclear Strategy: The Case for a Theory of Victory. International Security 4 no. 1 (1979), 62.

[xv]Ibid., 63.

[xvi]Ibid., 70.

[xvii]Landmeter, What constitutes victory in modern war?, 144.

[xviii] O’Driscoll, Cian, No substitute for victory? Why just war theorists can’t win. European Journal of International Relations 26 no. 1 (2020), 198.

[xix]Snegovaya, Maria, Putin’s Information Warfare In Ukraine. Soviet Origins of Russia’s Hybrid Warfare. Russia Report I (2015), 15, accessible via: http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Report%201%20Putin’s%20Information%20Warfare%20in%20Ukraine-%20Soviet%20Origins%20of%20Russias%20Hybrid%20Warfare.pdf [last access: December 19th 2020].

[xx] Lind, William S., Understanding Fourth Generation War. Military Review (2004) and Kaldor, Mary, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999).

[xxi] In the context of the specific role of the US in “endless wars”, Stephen Wertheim argues in an interview on his new book “Tomorrow, the World” (Cambridge et al: Harvard University Press, 2020), that “US military dominance became an end unto itself. Endless dominance produced endless war” (For the interview in full length see https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674248663, last access: January 25th 2021).

[xxii] Gordon, Philip H., Can the War on Terror Be Won? Foreign Affairs 86 no. 6 (2007), 53.

[xxiii] Keen, David, Endless War? Hidden Functions of ‘The War on Terror’ (London: Pluto Press, 2006), 82.

[xxiv] https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/rumsfeld_092001.html [last access: January 25th 2021].

[xxv] Howard, Michael, When are wars decisive? Survival 41 no. 1 (1999), 129.

[xxvi] Gordon, Can the War on Terror Be Won?, 54.

[xxvii] Blum, Gabriella, The Fog of Victory. The European Journal of International Law 24 no. 1 (2013), 392.

[xxviii] Ibid., 393.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid. 420f.

[xxxi] O’Driscoll, No Substitute for Victory?, 189.

[xxxii] Ibid., 201.

[xxxiii] Ibid.

[xxxiv] Martel, Victory in War, 32.

[xxxv] Roberts, Brad, On the Need for a Blue Theory of Victory. War on the Rocks, September 17th 2020, accessible via: https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/on-the-need-for-a-blue-theory-of-victory/ [last access: December 20th 2020].

[xxxvi] Gray, Nuclear Strategy, 82.

[xxxvii] Martel, Victory in War, 371.

[xxxviii] Ibid., 38.

[xxxix] Blum, The Fog of Victory, 421.

[xl] Cf. Garcia, Antonio, South Africa and United Nations Peacekeeping Offensive Operations: Conceptual Models (Chitungwiza: Mwanaka Media and Publishing, 2018).

[xli] Martel, Victory in War, 382.

[xlii] Ibid., 376.

[xliii]Landmeter, What constitutes victory in modern war?, 146.

[xliv] O’Driscoll, No Substitute for Victory?, 190.

Sandra J. Bandemer graduated in History and Political Science at LMU Munich and is a second year Master student in Peace Research and International Politics at the University of Tübingen. Currently she is based in Paris and studies at Sciences Po. Her main focus lies on international security studies as well as the history and politics of the Middle East.

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The New World Order: The conspiracy theory and the power of the Internet

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“The Illuminati, a mysterious international organisation made up of the world’s top political and social elites, controls the workings of the entire world behind the scenes”. This is the world’s most famous conspiracy theory about the New World Order.

For hundreds of years, legends about the Illuminati have been spread and many people currently believe that the Illuminati still exist. It is believed that the Illuminati operate in various fields such as global politics, military affairs, finance and mass media and control the historical process of the entire world.

The ultimate goal is to establish a New World Order. Nobody can prove it, but many people believe it. This is the greatest paradox about conspiracy theories.

In the 2009 film, Angels and Demons – based on Dan Brown’s best seller of the same name about Professor Langdon, played by Tom Hanks – the story of the Illuminati, who supposedly originated in Europe during the Age of Enlightenment, was recalled. There were physicists, mathematicians and astronomers who questioned the “erroneous teachings” of the authority of the Holy See and dedicated themselves to the scientific field of the search for truth.

Eventually, the Illuminati were forced to become a clandestine organisation and have continued to recruit members for hundreds of years to this day. In Angels and Demons, the historical facts are clearly questionable, and the movie appeared after the great economic crisis of 2007-2008.

The New World Order conspiracy theory has been circulating for a long time and is full of mysterious theories that, however, convince many people who are powerless and dissatisfied with the current state of the world.

The Illuminati, who advocate the establishment of a New World Order through the planning of a series of political and financial events (the financial tsunami of 2007-2008 is said to have been planned by the Illuminati), attempt to influence the course of world history, and ultimately establish an authoritarian world government.

Supporters of the New World Order theory believe that even the powerful US government is now just a puppet government. While another “shadow government” made up of a few people makes decisions that will change the fate of the planet.

You might think that all of the above is just crackpot theories. Many people, however, believe this is true. According to a 2013 poll conducted by the Public Policy Polling Foundation, 28% of US voters believe that the New World Order is actually taking hold.

Brian L. Keeley, a professor of philosophy at Pitts College who devotes himself to the study of modern conspiracy theories, believes that an important feature of conspiracy theorists is that they cite some trivial and overlooked incidents and then propose a perfect explanation compared to an embarrassed official response. The reason why the conspiracy theory explanation can be widely disseminated is that it has no argumentation process to deny. It is just a judgement that jumps directly from hypothesis to conclusion. In the argumentation process, it is only a subjective interpretation of the event.

Nevertheless, for the public that does not fully understand the incident, the conspiracy theory provides an “explanation” for the unknown part of the said incident, and this “explanation” cannot be denied (because its very existence is not corroborated by real arguments and facts). It is therefore recognised as a valid argument by many people.

For example, no one has substantial evidence to prove that the Illuminati actually exist, but no one can prove that the Illuminati are purely fictitious. Therefore, you cannot deny their existence because their existence is “perfection without evidence”.

Columnist Martha Gill wrote in The Guardian on the subject, describing the Illuminati as the most enduring conspiracy theory organisation in world history.

“Conspiracy theories relating to the 1969 moon landing mission, the Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 attacks, etc., are all limited to a specific time and place. But conspiracy theories supporting the existence of the Illuminati can connect them. Anything about these connections, however, is difficult to prove”. In other words, the supporters of conspiracy theories may have common imagination and attribute everything to this organisation, so that every irrational phenomenon in the world can be explained.

Although no one can prove the real existence of the Illuminati, there is actually an alleged “global shadow government” in the world whose name is the Bilderberg Group. The Bilderberg Group holds an annual world-class private meeting and participants include elites from all walks of society such as government, business, media, science and technology.

Known as the “World’s Most Mysterious Conference”, the Bilderberg Group invites various famous political and economic figures to participate in its meetings every year.

Prince Bernhard van Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911-2004) held the first meeting in 1954. As the venue for the meeting was the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, that name was used as the name of the group.

The existence of the Bilderberg Group is not a secret, but the content of the topics discussed at the Conferences is absolutely confidential and mainstream media cannot report on the content of the meetings.

The Bilderberg Group issues a press release every year to introduce the Conference participants and the outline of the topics discussed. Over the years, participants have come from many places, including Prince Philip of Edinburgh (1921-2021) of the British Royal Family, Crown Prince Charles, former British Prime Ministers, French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel, former US Presidents Bush and Clinton, and even Bill Gates and other Internet giants. There were also Italians, as reported years ago in a newspaper of our country.

The 2018 Conference was held in Turin, Italy, in June. According to the description on the Bilderberg Group’s official website, the main topics included European populism, the development of artificial intelligence, quantum computer technology and the “post-truth” era. Obviously the actual content and results of the meeting’s discussion have never been reported.

Therefore, the Bilderberg Group has naturally become a locus where conspiracy theorists want to draw material. They describe the Bilderberg Group as true evidence of the theory that a very small number of elites controls the world, and the participants are planning a New World Order.

On the subject of strange things, let us give some examples. In June 2018, the British Royal Family was also caught up in conspiracy theories. When Prince Harry and his wife Meghan attended a show, they were caught on camera motionless, like two stiff and dull robots. Later related clips went viral on the Internet and netizens were in an uproar: many people believed that the distinguished members of the Royal Family were actually robots developed by high technology.

However, the management of the London museum, Madame Tussauds, later explained the mystery by stating that Harry and Meghan were only played by two actors who wore extremely high-realism wax masks on their faces – all to promote an exhibition of wax statues – and inadvertently caused an uproar.

In that short video, Harry and Meghan did not change their facial appearance and their expressions were stiff just like robots. Consequently, conspiracy theorists used this as evidence that they were robots secretly built by the British Royal Family.

This argument is an extension of the ‘trivial evidence’ mentioned above. The argument proponents ignore any argumentation process and directly draw the final conclusion through the above stated “trivial evidence”. This conclusion is highly topical and quite appealing. With the fast spread of the Internet, the “quick truth” will naturally be recognised and sought after by many people.

I think many people still remember the “Mandela effect” that spread wildly across the Internet in the early years as a false memory. The name “Mandela effect” is believed to have come from Fiona Broome, a self-described “paranormal consultant”, who created a website called the “Mandela effect”. Supporters of the ‘Mandela effect’ claim to “remember” that former South African President Mandela died in prison in the 1980s. But in reality, after being released from prison, Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and died in December 2013.

So why should anyone believe this seemingly absurd statement? The Internet has become a support platform for a lot of false content, fake news, as well as unreasonableness and lack of justification. When someone shared that ‘false memory’ with others on the Internet, many people believed it to be true, and even suddenly recalled having that memory: “Mandela died in prison that year”.

As a result, lies inconsistent with facts continue to spread. The lie is repeated thousands of times and many people consider it to be the truth: this learning phase is the first misleading rule on the Internet.

In the Internet era, multidimensional and multiplatform features have generated a number of online “malignancies” of conspiracy theories. Moreover, their dissemination ability is not limited to “believers” only. Since online social media provide a widespread and wide dissemination platform, one passes it onto ten people, ten spread it to a hundred, a hundred to a thousand, and so it goes on in geometric fashion, thus turning a ‘hot’ topic on the Internet into an absolute truth. Those who want to believe are naturally prepared and willing to do so. Moreover, these false opinions on the Internet may even have an impact on the real world.

For example, at the political level, everyone can now comment and participate in the online arena. For politicians to get the right to speak and set the agenda, the key is to rely on the public’s direction on the Internet. The Internet discourse has become the dominant factor of the political storytelling, and not vice versa. The characteristics of social networks are precisely the breeding ground for conspiracy theories.

The Internet is easy to spread among the public and it is exactly the breeding ground for conspiracy theories.

Nowadays, conspiracy theories are enough to influence politics and even political developments. A specific conspiracy theory gains a number of supporters through the Internet that promotes it to become a highly debated topic among the public. Consequently, it enters the real political arena coming from the virtual community and its influence can change the direction of governmental decisions.

Looking at it from another perspective, when conspiracy theories are put on the Internet and continue to proliferate – regardless of whether the Illuminati exist or not – they are enough to establish a New World Order. The real-world public opinions, as well as the composition of opinions and the basis of social discussions are changed, and thus world’s countries, politics and rulers are affected.

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USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware

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Pegasus Spyware Scandal has shaken whole India and several other countries. What will be its fallout no one knows as we know only tip of iceberg. Amidst Pegasus Spyware Scandal USA and Australia both have shown serious concerns about Cyber Attacks on US and Australian interests. Both say that China is hub of malware software and both face millions of such attacks daily.

I am trying to understand why a software is needed to spy on a particular individual when all calls, messages, data, emails are easily accessible from server. In most of cases these servers are located in USA and some cases these are located in host country. In certain sensitive cases Government Agencies have their own server like Central Intelligence Agency and hundreds of other agencies and military establishment world over including India. Now point is who installs those servers.

A couple of years back I had talked to Mr Mike Molloy who is Chief Executive Officer of Orion Global Technologies previously known as Orion SAS. He had explained me how his company installs servers in host countries on request of private or gov bodies. He talks about contract and trust. That means even when a company or Gov buys a server or software for designated uses the “Secrecy” Factor remain on discretion of company which has supplied server or software.

Now  if all data, e-mail, chat, messages, calls are accessible to Gov as per law and technology (Through Server all components of Communication are accessible and thats why  me and you see start seeing call recording of a person even after many years later), I am unable to understand why a Gov will be needing a software to Spy on any one.

Now coming to where Australia and USA wants to carry the whole debate.

Australian Foreign Minister Sen Marise Payne said, “Australian Government joins international partners in expressing serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security.

“In consultation with our partners, the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia. These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain”, She further added.

She opined, ”The Australian Government is also seriously concerned about reports from our international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government”.

She warned China by saying, “Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace.  China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage”.

On other hand USA’s The National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a Cybersecurity Advisory on Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations. National Security Advisor said, ”Chinese state-sponsored cyber activity poses a major threat to U.S. and allied systems. These actors aggressively target political, economic, military, educational, and critical infrastructure personnel and organizations to access valuable, sensitive data. These cyber operations support China’s long-term economic and military objectives”.

The information in this advisory builds on NSA’s previous release “Chinese State-Sponsored Actors Exploit Publicly Known Vulnerabilities.” The NSA, CISA, and FBI recommended mitigations empower our customers to reduce the risk of Chinese malicious cyber activity, and increase the defensive posture of their critical networks. 

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Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geopolitical blocs

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Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini  and Varundeep Singh*

On July 14, 2021 a terror attack was carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in which a number of Chinese engineers, working on the Dasu hydropower project (a project which is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor) were killed. The attack predictably evinced a strong response from China. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi speaking before a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meeting asked the Taliban to disassociate itself from ‘terrorist elements’ and in a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, asked Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to book. Earlier in April 2021, a car bomb attack took place at Serena hotel in Quetta which was hosting China’s Ambassador to Pakistan (four people were killed and twelve were injured)

Wang Yi significantly praised the Ashraf Ghani government, for its attempts towards building national unity and providing effective governance. Beijing clearly realizes that its economic investments in the country as well as big ticket infrastructural projects can not remain safe if there is no security. Afghanistan also criticized Pakistan for its role in sending 10000 Jihadis to Taliban, this is important in the context of the region’s geopolitics.

 Like all other countries, Beijing and Islamabad, would have expected uncertainty after the US withdrawal of troops but perhaps over estimated their capabilities in dealing with the turbulence which had been predicted by many.

Importance of Chinese Foreign Minister’s statements

Wang Yi’s statements are important because days earlier a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen had praised China and welcomed its role in the country’s reconstruction. He had also assured China that those involved in the insurgency in Xinjiang would not be given refuge in Afghanistan (one of China’s major concerns has been the support provided by Taliban to the East Turkmenistan movement)

While Beijing may have opened back channels with the Taliban and realized that it needs to adapt to the changing geopolitics, recent developments would have increased its skepticism vis-à-vis the Taliban. On the other hand, Russia has been more favorable towards the Taliban. Russia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in India, Roman Babushkin argued that the Taliban are a reality which needs to be accepted, and also that any military activities without a political process are insufficient.

Babushkin did make the point that for successful negotiations, Taliban needed to end violence.

‘that Taliban should deal with the problem of terrorism and other related issues in order to become legitimate, in order to [get] delisted [at the UN Security Council], in order to go ahead with the future Afghanistan and creation of the inclusive government

It would be pertinent to point out, that Zamir Kabulov, Russian President’s Afghanistan envoy went a step further and said that the Afghan government was not doing enough to make talks with Taliban a success.

China’s statements subtle warning to the Taliban, indicating its reservations, and praise of Ghani indicate a possibility of greater understanding between Washington and Beijing (even though Beijing has repeatedly attributed the current troubles in Afghanistan to Washington’s decision to withdraw troops).

Can US and China find common ground

 It remains to be seen if Biden who has exhibited dexterity on a number of complex issues reaches out to Xi Jinping to find common ground with regard to Afghanistan. Significantly, while US-Turkey relations had witnessed a downward trajectory and Biden has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and Human rights record, both leaders met on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June 2021. During the meeting Turkey agreed to secure Kabul Airport. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan while commenting on Turkey’s assurance said

‘The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport, and we are now working through how to execute to get to that,’

Taliban earlier this week warned Turkey of ‘consequences’ if the Middle Eastern nation increased its troop presence in Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Russia’s statements with regard to the Taliban indicate that it is not totally on the same page as China (its prior experience in Afghanistan has made it more cautious and circumspect), and that the Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geo-political blocs and traditional lenses. All major stakeholders in Afghanistan, both within the region and outside, seem to be understandably befuddled by the turn of events. It is not just the US, but even China which would be worried not just from an economic stand point but the overall security implications of the turmoil in Afghanistan. The terror attack in KPK indicates that other CPEC related projects could also face threats from militant groups. Beijing would thus need to be quick to react to the overtures from the Taliban in order to secure its economic assets and lives of Chinese workers in neighbouring Pakistan.

 It is especially important for Washington, Beijing and other important stakeholders in the region to work together for dealing with the near term turbulence as well as long term challenges Afghanistan is likely to face.

*Varundeep Singh is an Independent Policy Analyst.

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