Today's D Brief: Peacekeepers to Gaza?; Ukraine artillery-supply slumps; Report from the front; Xi-Biden upshot; And a bit more.
Developing: U.S. and European officials are converging on a plan for international peacekeepers in Gaza, which would go against Tel Aviv’s public plans to date for the future of the Palestinian enclave once Israeli troops conclude their Gaza invasion, Bloomberg reported Thursday. It’s not entirely clear how detailed the officials’ post-invasion plans are, “But they said even discussing the idea may help push Israel to think more about wrapping up the campaign and consider what might come next,” according to Bloomberg.
Several models are under consideration, including templates from Somalia, Haiti, and even “the UN Truce Supervision Organization, which was first established in 1949 to help implement armistice agreements between Palestinian Arabs and Israel following the war that broke out in 1948 after the creation of the Jewish State,” Simon Marks of Bloomberg writes.
At this point, Israel is unlikely to favor any of the proposals, and for several reasons including Tel Aviv’s “strained relationship with the UN…over many member states’ repeated push to condemn its actions.” Indeed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NPR in an interview that aired Friday, “Once we defeat Hamas, we have to make sure that there's no new Hamas, no resurgence of terrorism, and right now the only force that is able to secure that is Israel.”
As a result, diplomats and analysts increasingly expect Israel to face “a long and bloody insurgency,” Reuters reported separately on Friday. What’s more, “More than a dozen Gazans interviewed by Reuters said the Israeli invasion was spawning a new generation of militants.” And this was one of the points made by former CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel, speaking to Defense One last week.
“I wish there was a little bit more clarity in terms of the things that Israel was trying to accomplish, specifically accomplishing in Gaza vis-à-vis Hamas,” Votel said on the Defense One Radio podcast. “I mean, the dictum here has been to destroy them. I think we have to understand what destroy means; if it means taking away or eliminating their supplies, significantly degrading their leadership and command and control, and breaking them up and making it an environment that is inhospitable for them to conduct operations, then I think that's achievable. And that's not much different than what we tried to do against ISIS…But in the end, we didn't eliminate every ISIS fighter. And we may not have eliminated the ideology.”
So if Israel wants to kill every Hamas fighter, “I think that's going to be very difficult,” Votel warned. “And then importantly,” he went on, “is the idea of how you kill an idea that has been born and bred in generation after generation and Hamas fighters, and that's a really really difficult thing to do.”
Professor Barak Mendelsohn of Haverford College was of a similarly skeptical mind. “Even if Israel manages to destroy the leadership of Hamas and its military capabilities, there will always be a need for space for some kind of Islamist parties in any kind of future Palestinian political entity,” he said.
“So there is no logic in going into Gaza unless the day after involves rebuilding Palestinian hopes for Palestinian independent state,” Mendelsohn recommended. “That means going back to the two state solution, that means having to figure out ways that Palestinian authority can take over the Gaza Strip.” Both guests had much more to say, and you can hear those conversations in full, here.
- “Netanyahu says Israel 'not successful' at minimising Gaza casualties but blames Hamas,” the BBC reported from a CBS News interview that aired Thursday evening;
- “IDF locates cache of mortars inside daycare center in northern Gaza,” the Times of Israel reported Friday;
- “Israeli forces raid Jenin, surround Ibn Sina hospital in occupied West Bank,” al-Jazeera reported Friday;
- And perhaps unsurprisingly, “Russia's Putin sees political, economic upside to Israel's war with Hamas,” Reuters reported Friday from London.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1878, a knife-wielding anarchist tried to assassinate Italian King Umberto I during a parade in Naples. The king survived without a scratch; but 22 years later, a different anarchist killed Umberto when he shot him four times in the northern city of Monza. Two years prior, an anarchist killed Queen Elisabeth of Hungary; and in 1901, U.S. President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in Buffalo. Review a much longer list of worldwide anarchist violence leading up to and shortly after the turn of the 20th century, here.
President Joe Biden signed lawmakers’ latest temporary spending bill Thursday, again averting a potential government shutdown in the final hours before deadline. The new bill extends current funding for about two months before another round of House and Senate negotiations must yield a new spending plan or else the government could shut down again.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin praised passage of the spending bill, noting that it “will ensure that our brave troops and dedicated civilian workforce will be paid through the holidays.” However, he warned in a statement, “operating under short-term continuing resolutions hamstrings the Department’s people and programs and undermines both our national security and competitiveness.”
Austin also stressed the administration’s desire for supplemental funding to help Israel and Ukraine and to add “key investments in our defense industrial base across the country,” he said in his statement.
The SecDef wraps his weeklong Asia swing today. A recap of some news from his trip, as reported by Defense One’s Lauren C. Williams:
- US, Indonesia expand defense cooperation, starting with cyber and space
- India plans to make armored vehicles with US help, officials say
- Missile-defense platform shows warming relations between Japan, S. Korea
- U.S. military strikes more Syrian facilities
Ukraine’s president says artillery has been hard to come by since the Israel-Hamas war erupted over a month ago. Speaking to reporters Thursday, President Volodymir Zelenskyy said incoming allied and partner shipments of artillery shells in particular have “really slowed down” since October 7. Still, he admitted, “This is life. I'm not saying that this is positive, but this is life, and we have to defend what's ours.”
Here are five recent takeaways from an academic (Franz-Stefan Gady) who recently returned from Ukraine:
- Ukrainian troops’ “Morale remains high, but exhaustion among troops and impact [of] attrition on materiel is visible.”
- “The importance of the FPV drone adaption battle and ability to scale FPV production for current and future military operations by both sides cannot be overstated.”
- “This is and will remain an artillery-centric war.,” and “ammunition constraints/rationing for most types of ammo are a reality.”
- “Armor and protected mobility remains key for any sort of ground operation,” since “No ground assault can happen without mechanized support. This is a lesson we have seen time and again during our past research trips,” he added.
- And finally, “The importance of Starlink for closing of kill-chains and pervasive [surveillance] remains very high.” Gady goes into a little more detail in a social media thread here, and in Michael Kofman’s latest paid-access podcast from War on the Rocks, here.
From Russia’s military messaging machine this week we have a bit of nuclear saber-rattling in the form of an ICBM that this week was allegedly equipped with a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle. Reuters has more from the Russian military’s own TV channel, here.
Expert advice: Western leaders must “abandon [their] magical thinking about Russia and to develop a credible, long-term strategy for supporting Ukraine and containing an emboldened, revisionist Russia,” Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace advised this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed co-authored with his Carnegie colleague Eugene Rumer.
The gist: “All too often, policymakers have clung to the belief that ‘something’—a Ukrainian breakthrough on the battlefield, a Russian financial meltdown, fractures within the Russian elite, etc—will upend Putin’s strategic calculus about the war,” he explained on social media. But “Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen,” he said.
Defense industries in Europe and the U.S. are clearly not yet up to the task of supporting Ukraine, Weiss explained. And “In Putin’s ideal outcome, a newly elected Trump will simply cut Ukraine loose or tell the Europeans this is ‘their problem.’” (A bit more on that below.)
Among several big-picture recommendations, Weiss advises leaders in the West “must level with their own publics about the long-term nature of dealing with an expansionist, dangerous Russia and the fact that the war’s end, whenever that happens, is unlikely to quell the confrontation between Russia and the rest of Europe.” Read more at the Journal (gift link) here.
New: The Economist this week described Donald Trump as the biggest global danger of 2024. That blunt warning comes from the magazine’s annual guide to the coming year, “The World Ahead.” And editor Tom Standage warns in the intro that “in the 38 years that we have published this guide, no single person has ever eclipsed our analysis as much as Donald Trump eclipses 2024.”
“Next year’s election will probably be decided by a few tens of thousands of voters in a handful of American states,” Standage writes. “But their choice will have global implications.” Read on, here.
- “East Ukraine's Kharkiv builds underground schools as Russia keeps up attacks,” Reuters reported Friday;
- “In wartime Russia, soaring prices bite as election looms,” the wire service reported separately on Thursday;
- And take a look “Inside Ukraine’s Revolutionary Warfare,” where “Low-cost DIY technology is changing how battles are fought,” according to journalist Bennett Murray, reporting Thursday for The Dispatch.
Xi-Biden upshot. China’s willingness to resume mil-to-mil communications with the U.S. follows a long-established pattern in which Beijing cuts them to express displeasure, then agrees to resume them as a “concession,” writes Carneigie’s Isaac Kardon. The Wednesday agreement between the leaders is nonetheless a welcome development, yet “is only likely to buy down a small part of the risk on the far margins of increasingly tense U.S.-China military interactions in the Western Pacific.” Read, here.
A September survey found 2/3 of Americans support defending Taiwan—but not to the point of sending U.S. troops, the Chicago Council says.
How China’s three maritime forces work together to bully others in the South China Sea. See Fleets of Force, a useful explainer by the New York Times.
And lastly this week, we have a new window into the continually advancing nature of artificial intelligence and its various applications—including Lyria, from Google’s DeepMind and YouTube. Lyria is a generative AI program for music, and you can see it illustrated fairly impressively in this social media post from Jim Fan of NVIDIA.
One open question about this technology: Can it work effectively beyond a 30-second output? It’s not clear just yet, according to TechCrunch, which noted “the longer one listens to AI-generated music, the more distorted and surreal it starts to sound, moving further from the intended outcome.” Read more, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And you can catch us again on Monday!