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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

Soldiers walking towards helicopter, backs to the camera.

Emerging Threats and Opportunities (ETOs) is a regular blog series on the Land Power Forum that collects together blogs, podcasts and articles of interest with the goal of creating discussion on the topic of land power.


From the Modern War Institute, and continuing with the trend from last week, a summary of the tactical lessons from the Battle of Marawi, articulated by Lieutenant General Pamonag of the Filipino Army. This is a long talk (approximately 90 minutes in total), which explores a host of tactical innovations—ranging from unorthodox use of UAV, through to the ‘breaching the gap’ of an urban engagement area. This topic has also been explored recently by Charles Knight and Katja Theodorakis writing for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  

The Information/Cyber Domain

From War on the Rocks, a discussion about the challenges in recruiting talent in the US military for the cyber domain. This topic challenges military norms in force generation and is therefore a necessary discussion. I would add to this narrative the challenge inherent in militaries generating a foreign language capability to support international engagement objectives. Australia’s rich diversity of ethnic backgrounds similarly provides a resource that could be leveraged for capability development considerations.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

From the Centre for a New American Security, an interesting podcast (approximately 40 minutes duration) debating recommendations for US counter-terrorism policy in Syria and its focus upon targeting. Of note, this was recorded approximately 8 months ago, and is a useful debate to reflect upon following the successful targeting of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019. This podcast is also of note following the recent release of a UN Security Council report speaking to the reassertion of ISIL attacks in Iraq and Syria—what might be termed a return to a Maoist Revolutionary Warfare - Phase 1 (Latent/Incipient) environment. 

Major Power Competition

From Defence One, an article discussing the need for collaboration even in competition, as was the case during the Cold War through Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. A dialogue about constraints for new technologies, in particular AI, is argued. The efforts being pursued by the International Committee for the Red Cross seeking to address the consequences of using explosive weapons in populated areas are notable in this context.

Defence innovation

From The National Interest, a short piece exploring the emptying of the battlespace through the employment of autonomous systems; it draws attention to a Chinese military article outlining its vision for employment of AI within its military. This discussion of increasing lethality in battlespace fires, as a result of improved surveillance systems, improving decision-support tools, tightened sensor-shooter linkages and improved range, are themes that will be explored further over the coming weeks.

The Regional worldview

From RSIS, Singapore, a short piece examining Vietnam’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, suggesting several issues likely to become focal points under this stewardship. The importance of Vietnam as a growing power, heavily pressured in the South China Sea, is of note. With roughly 40% of its population having emerged from poverty in their lifetime and a booming digital economy, Vietnam has a growing means to back its objectives.

Longer reads

From New America, an analysis by Nate Rosenblatt and David Kilcullen exploring the way in which ISIS seized control of Raqqa. This article builds on the outstanding work done by Prof Craig Whiteside at the Naval Postgraduate School in understanding continuities between Cold War-era Revolutionary Warfare and the contemporary rise of the Islamic State over the past two decades. In short, there are tight parallels between the three-phase Maoist Revolutionary Warfare model and the way in which ISIS infiltrated, subverted and grew its power within Iraq/Syria. This ‘Maoist’ methodology can also be observed within Frederic Wehrey’s work examining the Libyan conflict, The Burning Shores

From the NATO Strategic Communications Centre for Excellence—a coda for understanding Information Warfare. This is an excellent read for those struggling to understand the mechanisms of Influence, while also applying this coda to the Lessons learnt from the seizure of Crimea. By developing a taxonomy of influence strategies, this article introduces means of condition, control and confront, with a total of 23 discrete actions—termed ‘plays’—that can be identified. The report goes on to examine the case study of the Crimea through the lens of these plays, which were generally used in combination. Consequently, the report allows for the understanding of plays across variables of transparency and engagement. Overall, this taxonomy presents as a user’s guide to decoding actions in the Information Environment.

The establishment of NATO Centres for Excellence in a broad range of military fields represents a growing resource for self-generated Professional Military Education.

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The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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