The CSS Blog Network

The Return of Conventional War?

Kuwaiti tanks

Kuwaiti tanks. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr.

What future scenarios should NATO be prepared once the final US-led troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014? Will a new array of threats reinforce the importance of ‘conventional’ military thinking and planning in the United States and Europe? These were among the questions raised at The Return of Conventional War?, a panel discussion hosted on 11 September by our parent organization, the Center for Security Studies (CSS).

In the following podcast, the guest panelists outline their respective positions on prospects for the return of conventional war and strategic planning. The CSS’ Martin Zapfe is convinced that after 13 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, Western militaries will increasingly turn to the more ‘conventional’ challenges posed by the likes of China and Russia. The Institute for Security Policy Kiel’s Joachim Krause sees no point, however, in thinking about conventional threats to security. Instead, the West should continue to focus upon the myriad threats and security challenges that actually exist today. » More

Disarming Egypt’s Militarized State

Free Officers

The Free Officers in Egypt in 1953. Photo: Nasser Bibalex/flickr.

LONDON – Egypt’s crisis has been called the worst in its history. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to a previous episode, almost 60 years ago.

On February 28, 1954, more than a 100,000 protesters besieged Cairo’s Abdin Palace, then being used by Gamal Abdel Nasser and other leaders of the July 1952 coup. The protesters’ main demands were the restoration of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions, the release of political prisoners, and the army’s return to its barracks.

The two-month crisis of 1954 was sparked by the removal of Egypt’s president, General Mohammed Naguib, by Nasser and his faction. As in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was at the center of events, mobilizing on the side of the deposed Naguib. But, following Nasser’s promises to hold elections in June 1954 and to hand over power to civilians, one of the Brotherhood’s leaders, Abd al-Qadr Audeh, dismissed the protesters. » More

Can a Divided Egypt Build an Egypt for All?

Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi was ousted on on 2 July 2013. Photo: Bora S. Kamel/flickr.

With the dawn of Egyptian nationalism in the late nineteenth century came a powerful slogan: “Egypt for Egyptians.” The phrase captured the anti-colonial sentiment that permeated the Egyptian streets for more than half a century, from the Urabi revolt of 1879–1882 to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s military coup in 1952.

In Tahrir Square last week, as with the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, the phrase was being used again, albeit with a significant alteration: “Egypt for All Egyptians.” This additional adjective conveys a widespread frustration with unrepresentative government—first directed against Mubarak, and now against Morsi.

While some consider Morsi’s overthrow last week to be a blow to democracy, others deem it a “democratic coup.” The reality is not quite as black or white: Egypt is forcing the world to re-examine the scope and limitation of concepts like “democracy,” “legitimacy,” and “coup.” And what started as a call for a more inclusive form of government in Egypt may yet produce the most divided Egypt the world has seen. » More

The Pros and Cons of Drafting Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in Israel

Israel Defense Forces share a photo on flickr of Ultra-Orthodox soldiers finishing a course in 2010 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Many Israelis object to decades-old legislation that allows the country’s ultra-orthodox community to avoid military service. However, this may be about to change. For the first time in 18 years, an Israeli prime minister has formed a government without the ultra-orthodox parties and loyal coalition partners Shas and United Torah Judaism. As a result, Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews may eventually be required to undertake national service. .

The reason for the surprising exclusion of the ultra-orthodox parties is the meteoric rise of the secular Yesh Atid party, headed by former TV personality and columnist, Yair Lapid. One of the main focuses of Lapid’s campaign was the demand for an “equal share of the burden” of military service. This would mean an end to the policy of allowing ultra-orthodox men to avoid army service if they continue their religious studies past the age of 18. » More

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Suicide-Bombs Without the Suicides: Why Drones Are So Cool

The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle

The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. Photo: JimNtexas/flickr.

The final years of the cold war in the 1970s-1980s were dominated by nuclear issues, including the nuclear arms-race, Trident, the Soviet SS-20 missile and the cruise-missiles deployed at Greenham Common and elsewhere. Within that controversial period there were some remarkable technical developments that have a huge relevance decades later, one of them being the long-range cruise-missile itself.

Many of these were nuclear-armed, but even more were conventionally-armed. A great number was used in the attacks of January-February 1991 againstthe Iraqi forces that had occupied Kuwait. The crucial element was the production of small, super-efficient turbo-fan engines that could propel the craft over 1,500 kilometres or more. These also had advanced-guidance systems, including Tercom (terrain-contour-matching) that enabled remarkable accuracy of less than twenty metres over that range. They were, however, self-contained – their pre-programmed onboard computers did all the work, so the target coordinates could not be changed after launch. » More

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