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Emerging Threats and Opportunities

10 March 2020
Emerging Threats and Opportunities
Australian Army soldier Private Tautau Peleseuma from the 2nd Battalion (Amphibious), Royal Australian Regiment, assaults a pit during a platoon attack at Pohakuloa Training Area as part of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 18 (RIMPAC 18).

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.

Lessons

From ASPI Strategist, a piece from December last year that explores the idea that the US may have learnt a lesson of minimising engagement in the Middle East over the past two decades, and thus, considers what a reduced engagement posture might look like. Coming from Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, this is a line of thinking requiring consideration. CSIS explored this idea, using the terminology of a ‘Minimal Exposure Strategy’ recently, undoubtedly reflecting upon the narrative within US political circles.   

The Information/Cyber Domain

Also from ASPI Strategist in October last year, a good foundational piece from the eminent Joseph Nye of Harvard University. This piece builds upon an earlier article he wrote in June 2019 that explores the idea of deterrence theory operating in the cyber domain, and how such a deterrence lens may influence our discussion of regulation of emerging technologies and methodologies. This may prove to be a growing area of research and defence thinking beyond information environment / cyber effects, to new technologies such as hypersonics. The recent US fielding of low-yield, submarine-launched nuclear missiles represents a reminder that ‘classic’ deterrence theory should not yet be relegated to the Cold War history section of our bookshelves.

Irregular Warfare and Terrorism

From the Centre for a New American Security, this is the second podcast (approximately 30 minutes duration) debating recommendations for US counter-terrorism policy in Syria. Similar to the other podcasts on this topic in last week’s Emerging Threats and Opportunities update, this piece was recorded approximately 8 months ago. This piece is useful to reflect upon following the US policy choices of late 2019 and resurgent ISIS operational tempo across Syria and Iraq. This is the second of three podcasts in a series offering background to the Syrian mosaic of challenges. 

Major Power Competition

From the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, an article examining the aftermath of the Iranian ballistic missile attack on Al-Assad airbase in January. This attack has now reportedly generated over 100 Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) casualties in addition to the 64 causalities quoted in the article. Of note, it is picturing the shift in threat from indirect fire attacks (for those familiar with them from their military service in Iraq and Afghanistan), to the threat posed by major power precision strike capabilities, at extended range. It also speaks to the importance of robust air and missile defence capabilities going into the future, noting Iran has also proliferated such long-range systems to irregular forces, including Hezbollah and the Houthis. 

Defence innovation

From the Mad Scientist Laboratory, a short piece summarising a virtual conference examining the future operational environment. To summarise, issues include: interoperability as key but it is becoming increasingly difficult, asymmetry of ethics, the weaponisation of information, climate change and mass migration as the conflict drivers of greatest concern. The piece also highlights the importance of virtual training in the way military forces are prepared.

The Regional worldview

From the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia, a combined piece with the Observer Research Foundation and the Lowy Institute examining a case for deeper Australian-Indian-Indonesian trilateral cooperation. This piece is interesting given India and Indonesia’s historic efforts to remain ‘non-aligned’ while developing self-sufficient Defence capability. That this piece was produced with local perspectives suggests that perhaps this non-alignment criterion is less important than it once was. 

Longer reads

From the Centre for a New American Security, an extended piece (approximately 90 minute read) from Andrew Krepinevich exploring the challenges of future protracted great-power war. It argues the challenges inherent in limiting vertical escalation toward nuclear exchange and therefore the likelihood of horizontal escalation as a part of a strategy of exhaustion, examining social, economic and other implications of such a conflict. This piece is notable in the context of the ongoing relevance of deterrence theory, as it also highlights the similarly ongoing relevance of the ‘stability/instability paradox’. For a quick primer on these concepts, click here. Krepinevich’s article is therefore all the more notable where a broader scope for deterrence theory exists.  

From the NATO Strategic Communications Centre for Excellence (CoE), a primer explaining the nature of disinformation. This serves as a companion piece to last week’s material from NATO Strategic Communications CoE to assist in understanding Information Warfare. This is approximately a one hour read explaining the nature of disinformation, but is amplified by some regional (and non-regional) examples of the effects of disinformation in practice to help contextualise the theory provided.

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.

Discussion

Thomas Rose on 24 March 2020 - 3:50pm

Editor's note: This Land Power Forum post is now open for discussion.