Options for U.S. Use of Private Military and Security Companies

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Christophe Bellens is a policy advisor at the European Parliament. He completed two MS degrees from the University of Antwerp in History (2017) and International Relations (2018).  His thesis focused on the use of Private Military and Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophe-bellens/ and on Twitter @ChristosBellens.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The use of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC) by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and its consequences on military effectiveness in a counterinsurgency.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  July 15, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article considers from the perspective of the United States government what options are on the table in the use private military forces. Decision makers have three possibilities, explained by their effectiveness in Iraq or Afghanistan, for a future PMSC-strategy.

Background:  Since the start of the ‘Global War on Terror’, U.S. government organizations such as the Department of Defense (DoD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (DoS) have contracted PMSCs to manage security risks. The employees of these corporations perform duties that until recently were fulfilled by military members, such as the protection of key personnel, convoys and sites. Due to a reduction in troop numbers and an environment where privatization was heavily favored, PMSCs became a vital component of counterinsurgency. Despite their importance, planners often overlook the role of these contractors. The two cases of Iraq and Afghanistan offer three pathways to reach the envisioned political, tactical, operational and strategic objectives during counterinsurgency. 

Significance:  Private security contractors are part of contemporary small wars. In 2010, around 30,479 contractors worked for the DoD in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the DoS and USAID employed around 1850 and 3770 security contractors respectively in Afghanistan alone. Hence, per 1 security contractor 3.7 U.S. military members were deployed in Afghanistan in 2010[1]. As a vital component of the security environment, they strongly influenced the outcome of the counterinsurgency. 

Option #1:  The US employs mainly security contractors from outside the host state as in Iraq. Between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013, 90% of the private security contractors were non-Iraqi citizens[2]. 

Risk:  Major potential drawbacks of employing non-native contractors exist in the political and strategic dimensions. PMSCs are there to protect their clients, not to win the hearts and minds of the population. This client protection focus led to a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’-policy vis-à-vis potential threats. During the ‘Nisour Square’-shooting seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed. The worldwide public outcry that followed, worsened relations between the Iraqi government and the U.S. Insurgents gladly used this outcry against the lawless look-alike U.S. military members. Insurgents later released a video named ‘bloody contracts’ bemoaning the abuse, aggression and indiscriminate killing by U.S. contractors[3].

Foreign nationality (especially British or U.S. citizens) make contractors a valuable target for insurgents[4]. During the 2004 Fallujah incident the non-American truck drivers were able to escape as the insurgents focused on what they imagined were agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. In fact, the convoy was rushed and understaffed by the PMSC to show how quick they could perform contract obligations. After a video of their bodies being paraded through the streets hit the news, U.S. President George W. Bush favored immediate military retaliation. The First Battle of Fallujah ended in an operational failure and shifted the focus away from the strategic goal of strengthening the Iraqi government. 

Gain:  These PMSCs were often well equipped. Their arsenal existed of a variety of small arms, machine guns and shotguns in addition with grenades, body armor and encrypted radio communication. Their vehicles ranged from local undercover secondhand cars to military-style high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles. Blackwater even had eight Boeing Little Bird helicopters in Baghdad. The personnel operating this equipment often had a law enforcement or military background. In addition, contractors for the DoS had to undergo 164 hours of training in protective detail[5]. Hence, experienced foreigners are likely to demonstrate the necessary skills to ensure the successful completion of the assigned tasks.

Option #2:  The U.S. employs mainly local contractors as in Afghanistan. Ninety percent of the private security contractors between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013 were Afghan citizens.

Risk:  Eighty percent of the Afghan contractors were former militiamen or part of an existing armed group[6]. While this often provided valuable combat experience, it was a potential security hazard. Consequently, foreigners protected high-profile targets. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s use of the PMSC Dyncorp security detail reinforced the image for many Afghans that he was a U.S. pawn. The former militiamen often lacked the ability to read or write, let alone speak a foreign language. This only reinforced the lack of integration with allied forces. 

While problems with equipment did exist as the contractor normally was obliged to bring their own aging gun (AK47, AMD-65, PKM and RPK), studies show that a PMSC had 3.47 firearms per contractor[7]. The problem here is the lack of disarmament and demobilization by legitimizing existing armed groups. Consequently, the Afghan state couldn’t create a monopoly on violence. 

Gain:  A major gain, among giving locals an instant job and income, is the use of local knowledge and connections. The downside, however, is the potential to insert oneself into local rivalries and even fuel conflict by starting competition over a contract[8]. 

Option #3:  The U.S. helps to create a public company in the host state that offers protection services. An example being the creation of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) in 2010.

Risk:  In the beginning, the APPF lacked equipment and had to be trained by PMSCs. Customers lamented the slow reaction of the APPF[9]. The force was mainly based in Kabul where they offered their services. If they managed to offer their services in the periphery, the gain of using local contractors, such as their local knowledge and connections was lost.

Secondly, the creation of a public company gives a -potentially corrupt- host leadership indirectly incentives to let some level of threat exist in its territory. The public company -and hence the state- would lose income if the security environment improves.  

Gain:  Compared to giving contracts to local warlords, the APPF-system reduces the risk of financing and legitimizing local organized crime and insurgent groups. 

Moreover, such a force can greatly improve the integration in the overall force due to centralization. In addition, in a state of emergency, the public enterprise can be used for the public good. 

Other Comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None.


 

Endnotes: 

[1] Bellens, Christophe, Antwerp. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 18 & 60-62.

[2] Ibid.

[3] S.N. (2008), “IAI Documentary Exposes Blackwater’s Crimes in Iraq”, CBSnews. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iai-documentary-exposes-blackwaters-crimes-in-iraq/

[4] S.N. (2007), “Blackwater says guards were betrayed by Iraqi forces on 2004 mission”, Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/blackwater-says-guards-were-betrayed-iraqi-forces-2004-mission-103555

[5] Isenberg, David (2008) “Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq”, Praeger Security International, 31.

[6] Joras, Ulrike, and Adrian Schuster, editors. (2008). “Private Security Companies and Local Populations: An Exploratory Study of Afghanistan and Angola”, Swisspeace, 13, 33-34.

[7] Small Arms Survey, Geneva. (2011). Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security (Small Arms Survey). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 15.

[8] See the case of Shindand airbase in: McCain, John. (2010). “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan”: Congressional Report: DIANE Publishing.

[9] Bellens, Christophe. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 23 & 33-34.

Afghanistan Christophe Bellens Iraq Option Papers Private Military Companies (PMC etc) Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

Assessment of the Existential Threat Posed by a United Biafran and Ambazonian Separatist Front in West Africa

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Ekene Lionel presently writes for African Military Blog as a defense technology analyst.  His current research focuses on how technology intersects national defense.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michael Okpara University.  He can be found on Twitter @lionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Existential Threat Posed by a United Biafran and Ambazonian Separatist Front in West Africa

Date Originally Written:  May 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 11, 2019.

Summary:  The Nigerian separatist group the Indigenous People’s of Biafra, under pressure from the Nigerian military, recently met with representatives from the Cameroonian separatist forces who operate under the banner of the Ambazonian Defense Force.  If these two organizations form an alliance, it could represent an existential threat to both Nigeria and Cameroon and lead to civil war.

Text:  Two countries currently at war, one against ravaging Islamist terrorists trying to carve out a new caliphate governed on the basis of Sharia law, the other, against Anglophone separatist forces seeking to establish a new autonomous nation. Nigeria is currently neck-deep in a bitter war against both the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP), as well as Boko Haram colloquially known as the Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad. However, Nigeria has successfully curtailed a growing threat in the form of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)– a highly organized separatist group led by Mazi Nnamdi Kano; a Nigerian with British citizenship. The IPOB was formed as a breakaway group of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra with the sole purpose of completely severing ties with Nigeria through non-violent secession.

Meanwhile, across Nigeria’s eastern border towards Cameroon, a new war has been brewing for some months’ now, the Ambazonia War. For years, Southern Cameroonian citizens predominately located in the Anglophone territories of the Northwest and Southwest region have been constantly oppressed by the Cameroonian Regime led by Paul Biya, a former rebel leader. This oppression led to protests across the Southern Cameroon region. Biya responded by cracking down on the protesters resulting in at least 17 people killed. As calls for either integration or autonomy grew louder, the regime stepped in with heavy-handed tactics. Security forces were deployed to the regions; protests were met with violence, arrests, killings, and hundreds of homes were razed. Biya’s actions forced separatist forces under the banner of the Ambazonian Defense Force (ADF) to initiate a full-fledged guerrilla war in Southern Cameroon[1].

At the moment, the West African battleground poses a unique challenge to defense planners in the region simply because the ADF continue to grow stronger despite determined efforts by the Cameroonian Military to dislodge them. Several different armed groups have since emerged in support of the ADF such as the Red Dragons, Tigers, ARA, Seven Kata, ABL amongst others[2].

The Ambazonian War has since caused the death of more than 2000 people while 530,000 have been displaced. About 180,000 Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria putting more pressure on the already stressed infrastructure in the country’s Eastern flank[3]. Furthermore, the Cameroonian military which was focused on the Boko Haram insurgency, has divided its attention and deployed on multiple fronts, resulting in an upsurge in Boko Haram activities in the country. On a more tactical level, the Cameroonian Military’s most elite fighting force, the Rapid Intervention Battalion, which has been traditionally tasked with halting the rampaging Boko Haram terrorist’s onslaught, has also been largely withdrawn from the North and redeployed to the Anglophone region[4].

On the Nigerian front, as the IPOB continuously loses focus, ground, and drive as a result of the Nigerian Government’s “divide and destroy tactics” coupled with the intimidation of the Biafran separatist members, this breeds resentment amongst the rank and file. With this in mind, the top echelons of the Biafran separatist struggle under the banner of the Pro Biafra Groups, met in Enugu State, with the prime minister of Biafra Government in Exile in attendance and some other diaspora leaders of other pro-Biafra groups where they resolved to work together. The coalition met with the leadership of the Ambazonian Republic from Southern Cameroon where it discussed bilateral relationship as well as a possible alliance in achieving their objective[5].

Leveraging cultural and historical sentiments, since they share a common history and heritage, both the Biafran and Ambazonian separatists could band together and present a more formidable opponent to national forces in the region. On a strategic level, this partnership or alliance makes perfect military sense, given that both share a similar ideology and ultimately, the same goal. In an asymmetric conflict, the separatist forces can easily share valuable scarce resources, bolster their depleted ranks, accumulate valuable combat experience, provide a safe haven for fighters and also acquire human intelligence through the notoriously porous Nigeria/Cameroon border. 

Such an alliance poses an existential threat to the unity and existence of both Nigeria and Cameroon given that at the moment, Boko Haram and ISWAP are constantly pushing and probing from the Northeast of Nigeria, bandits are ravaging the Northcentral along with the current farmer/herder crises still troubling Nigeria’s center. The Nigerian military, although quite tenacious, cannot realistically hold these multiple forces at bay without crumbling.

Nigeria is the largest oil and gas producer in Africa, with the majority of its crude oil coming from the delta basin. Nigeria desperately needs its oil revenue to keep its battered economy running. Also, the bulk of Cameroon’s industrial output, including its only refinery, is in the Ambazonian region[6][7]. Hence, the economic impact of such an alliance could threaten the integrity of the West Africa, the future of the Economic Community of West African States, also known as ECOWAS, and the overall security, stability and progress of the entire subcontinent. 

With the militaries of both Nigeria and Cameroon already stretched thin and battered by years of constant war, if an alliance of ADF and Biafran separatist is allowed to succeed, it would open up opportunities for Boko Haram and ISWAP to grow stronger and overrun several key cities in the region, destabilize the economic balance and also the equipoise of military region in Africa.


Endnotes:

[1] Sarah, L. (2018, June 14). Cameroon’s anglophone war, A rifle is the only way out. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.africanmilitaryblog.com/2018/06/cameroon-ambazonia-war

[2] BBC. (2018, Oct 4) Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis: Red Dragons and Tigers – the rebels fighting for independence. Retrieved 14 May 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45723211 

[3] Aljazeera (2018, August 2). In Nigeria, Anglophone Cameroonians turn to low paid labor. Retrieved 13 May 2019, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/nigeria-anglophone-cameroonians-turn-paid-labour-180801222453208.html

[4] The National Times. (2019, March 12). Insecurity Escalates In North Region As Gov’t, Military Concentrate In Anglophone Regions. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from  https://natimesnews.com/cameroon-national-times-there-has-been-growing-insecurity-in-the-three-northern-regions-of-cameroon-as-both-the-government-and-the-military-concentrate-their-strength-and-might-in-fighting-an-endles/ Archived

[5] Jeff, A. (2018, June 27). Pro-Biafra groups vow to be under one leadership. Retrieved 14 May 2019, from  https://www.sunnewsonline.com/biafra-pro-biafra-groups-vow-to-be-under-one-leadership/

[6] John, D. (2012, March 25). Cameroon, West Africa’s Latest Oil Battleground. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Cameroon-West-Africas-Latest-Oil-Battleground.html

[7] Ajodo, A. (2017, September 12). Towards ending conflict and insecurity in the Niger Delta region. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/towards-ending-conflict-and-insecurity-niger-delta-region

Africa Assessment Papers Cameroon Ekene Lionel Existential Threat Nigeria Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Assessment of Rising Extremism in the Central Sahel

Chris Wozniak is an independent analyst. He holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of Washington. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Rising Extremism in the Central Sahel

Date Originally Written:  May 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 8, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a civilian analyst with an interest in national security, diplomatic, and development issues. This article is written from the point of view of a United States committed to its strategic objective of denying transnational terrorists safe havens in ungoverned spaces. 

Summary:  Violent extremist organizations in the Central Sahel (the Fezzan in Libya’s south, Niger and the Lake Chad Basin) are exploiting environmental change, economic grievances, and longstanding social cleavages to recruit and expand. United States Africa Command is explicitly tasked with countering significant terrorist threats but fluctuating resources and underuse of diplomatic and economic tools risks allowing extremists to consolidate their gains and establish safe havens. 

Text:  The 2018 National Defense Strategy advocates for the use of multilateral relationships to address significant terrorist threats in Africa. Tasked with the execution of this goal, the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) has adopted a “by, with, and through” approach emphasizing partner-centric solutions in a challenging operating environment. Africa’s population is expected to nearly double by 2050 while climate change continues unabated[1]. These twin pressures increase food insecurity and exacerbate social cleavages, providing opportunities for violent extremist organizations (VEOs) to operate, recruit, and expand. African governments struggling to respond to the threat find themselves resource constrained, lacking training, and derelict in their governance of vulnerable areas.  As one of the regions most vulnerable to these pressures, the Central Sahel is a key area for USAFRICOM to mobilize its limited resources in the global campaign against extremism in order to deny terrorists access to ungoverned territory where they can consolidate their organizations.  

USAFRICOM faces intensifying VEO activity in the Central Sahel and efforts to stem the violence have centered primarily on joint exercises with partner nations. The number of reported violent events linked to militant Islamist group activity in the Sahel has doubled every year since 2016, with 465 instances recorded in 2018. Reported fatalities have also risen from 218 in 2016 to 1,110 in 2018[2]. Joint training exercises such as the annually recurring Operation Flintlock incepted in 2005, are designed to enhance the capabilities of the G5 Sahel nations (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), foster coordination with regional and western partners, bolster the protection of civilians, and deny VEOs safe havens. Mali’s 2012 crisis underscores the need for these exercises. In the absence of adequate training and security coordination between Sahel and western nations, a coalition of extremist Islamist groups and separatists – chiefly Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Dine and Tuareg separatists – were able to cooperate and seize several cities. It ultimately took a multiple brigade, eighteen-month unilateral French military intervention to oust the extremists. Mali remains the epicenter of violence in the region, accounting for roughly 64 percent of the reported events in the region in 2018[3].

Mali is not only the focal point of violence in the Sahel, it is also exemplary of how efforts to stamp out VEOs must address the inter-communal conflicts, lack of economic opportunity, and poor governance that fuel them. Operating in central Mali, the Macina Liberation Front (FLM) has exploited these factors to operate, recruit, and expand.  Invoking the memory of the 19th century Macina Empire – which was primarily composed of the Fulani ethnic group – the FLM has exploited the absence of economic opportunity available to Fulani herdsmen to drive a wedge between them, local farmers, and the Malian government[4]. FLM leadership relentlessly propagandizes longstanding tensions between Fulanis and farmers with whom they compete for land, pasture, and water resources in an increasingly arid environment. The growing intensity of competition increasingly boils over into tit-for-tat ethnic violence, driving desperate herdsmen into the arms of VEOs in search of security and a reliable wage[5]. Malian government attempts to provide security and basic services in the area have been followed by complaints of corruption, poor oversight, and retaliatory violence[6]. Similar cleavages exist in all Sahel nations and the cost of economic, environmental, and governance problems that drive VEO recruitment in the Central Sahel are quantifiable; Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was the only operational group in 2012 compared to more than ten active groups in 2018[7]. 

USAFRICOM’s capability to address this proliferation of VEOs has been complicated by fluctuations in resources and autonomy that the command is able to wield in the region. Currently USAFRICOM commands approximately 6,000 troops supported by 1,000 civilians or contractors, but plans to cut personnel ten percent overall by 2022. This reduction will disproportionately affect operations troops, who will experience a fifty percent reduction[8]. Cutbacks in special operations troops will be keenly felt given that they are well suited to carrying out the training and assist operations core to USAFRICOM’s strategy. Over the same timeline, the United States plans a tenfold increase of military equipment support for the Burkinabe military totaling $100 million from a total of $242 million in military aid to the G5 Sahel as a whole[9]. The effect of reducing training resources yet increasing equipment and funding remains to be seen. However, the memory of a well-equipped Iraqi army’s 2014 defeat by Islamic State militants is still fresh. Operational autonomy within USAFRICOM has also been curtailed following the widely publicized 2017 Niger ambush that left four American Special Forces Soldiers killed in action. Restrictions stemming from fallout of the ambush include a requirement for sufficient Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) resources and stricter mission planning[10]. USAFRICOM can expect a reduction in the number of operations it can conduct overall due to the frequently limited availability of ISR platforms. Fewer personnel and tighter oversight could make it more difficult for AFRICOM to provide a healthy security environment crucial to any diplomatic or economic project addressing the causes of VEO proliferation. 

Nearly twenty years into the war on terror, VEOs continue to thrive and proliferate amid escalating violence in the Sahel. USAFRICOM’s multilateral strategy has enhanced the Sahel G5 nations’ ability to cooperate and mitigate the risk of campaigns analogous to Mali’s 2012 crisis. However, the strategy has been slow to address underlying causes of extremism. U.S. diplomatic and economic instruments will play a key role in any future moves to address the environmental pressures, economic grievances, and governance issues plaguing the region and fueling extremist activity. Reducing the U.S. footprint in the area does not signal USAFRICOM will be equipped to provide the security environment necessary for such projects. If the United States neglects the increasingly stressed Central Sahel region, it risks allowing extremist exploitation of ungoverned areas that has historically enabled VEOs to consolidate, train, and launch international attacks.


Endnotes:

[1] United States, Department of Defense, Africa Command. (2018, March 13). Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.africom.mil/about-the-command/2018-posture-statement-to-congress

[2] The Complex and Growing Threat of Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel (Rep.). (2019, February 15). Retrieved April 12, 2019, from Africa Center for Strategic Studies website: https://africacenter.org/spotlight/the-complex-and-growing-threat-of-militant-islamist-groups-in-the-sahel/

[3] Ibid 

[4] Le Roux, P. (2019, February 22). Confronting Central Mali’s Extremist Threat (Publication). Retrieved April 17, 2019, from Africa Center for Strategic Studies website: https://africacenter.org/spotlight/confronting-central-malis-extremist-threat/

[5] Dufka, C. (2018, December 7). “We Used to Be Brothers” Self-Defense Group Abuses in Central Mali (Rep.). Retrieved April 18, 2019, from Human Rights Watch website: https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/12/07/we-used-be-brothers/self-defense-group-abuses-central-mali

[6] Le Roux 

[7] Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2019, February 15

[8] Schmitt, E. (2019, March 1). Where Terrorism Is Rising in Africa and the U.S. Is Leaving. The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/01/world/africa/africa-terror-attacks.html

[9] Ibid

[10] Department of Defense, United States Africa Command. (2018, May 10). Department of Defense Press Briefing on the results of the Investigation into the October 4, 2017, Ambush in Niger [Press release]. Retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://dod.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1518332/department-of-defense-press-briefing-on-the-results-of-the-investigation-into-t/

Africa Assessment Papers Chris Wozniak Lake Chad Niger Violent Extremism

Options for the U.S. Department of Defense to Balance Peer Competition with Military Operations Other Than War

Greg Olsen is a cyber security professional and postgraduate researcher at University of Leicester doing his PhD on peacekeeping and civil wars. He can be found on Twitter at @gtotango. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Department of Defense faces a significant challenge trying to balance preparations for peer competition while maintaining the capability of executing military operations other than war (MOOTW).

Date Originally Written:  May 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber security professional currently researching the determinants for successful peacekeeping in civil wars for a PhD at University of Leicester.

Background:  With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the United States is executing a policy pivot towards preparing for peer competition and away from nearly two decades of counterinsurgency. Yet, the most likely future military conflicts will continue to be small wars[1] and MOOTW—such as security force assistance, counter terrorism missions, evacuating U.S. nationals from conflict zones, and robust peacekeeping.

Significance:  The post-Cold War period of unipolarity has ended with a return to great power competition. Revisionist great powers are asserting themselves militarily in their near abroad and challenging Western hegemony. Consequently, the United States’ national security priorities have shifted to counter the threat. However, small wars and MOOTW are likely to be the dominant form of actual military conflict for foreseeable future. The challenge for the U.S. military is preparing for peer competition and continental conflict while maintaining the ability to execute MOOTW. For example, the U.S. Army has shifted from Brigade Combat Teams designed for counter insurgency warfare to warfare against peers[2]. What follows are three options for addressing the continuing need for conducting MOOTW.

Option #1:  The U.S. primarily employs Special Operations Forces (SOF) to address small wars and MOOTW. Currently, much of the U.S. counter terrorism mission is executed by SOF. Within SOF, the U.S. Army Special Forces were created to assist host governments in developing the capabilities to execute counter insurgency and counter terrorism missions. Other SOF are trained and deployed for direct action missions against high value targets. In many ways SOF is ideal forces for executing certain missions with a low footprint.

Risk:  The principal risk to this option is that special operations forces are not large enough nor equipped and trained to execute certain types of MOOTW, for example, evacuation of nationals during conflict, humanitarian disaster response, nor peacekeeping/peace enforcement missions.

Another risk is the inability to train and deploy enough SOF to the myriad conflict zones around the world. There is currently an arc of ethnic and sectarian conflict from Mali in western Africa through central Africa to the Horn of Africa[3]. Libya, Somalia and South Sudan are already failed states[4]. Transnational terrorist networks are active in the Sahel, the Middle East, and South Asia, and Southeast Asia[5]. Three Latin American states are in crisis: Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela[6]. These forces are part but not the whole solution to the MOOTW challenges across the globe.

Gain: SOF are ideal for executing hostage rescue, counter terrorism missions, and for training partner forces in counter insurgency missions.  SOF taking the lead for MOOTW frees up conventional forces to focus on their conventional mission.

Option #2:  The U.S. primarily employee military reserve units to address small wars and MOOTW.

Military reserve units provide capabilities that are useful for various types of MOOTW. The military reserves have been the bank upon which the active duty draws specialized capability from in surge scenarios, such as logistics, communications, intelligence, medicine, construction, and military policing.

Risk:  The principal risk to a strategy based on mobilizing reserve forces is political. If reserves were mobilized for a mission with low stakes, such as six months of peacekeeping in South Sudan, then public opposition to the policy is likely to be high. Furthermore, significant casualties would increase opposition and limit policy options.  An additional risk is the time it takes to mobilize these forces.  Certain crises require a rapid reaction and these forces take time to prepare for overseas deployment to a conflict zone.

Gain: These military reserve capabilities would be valuable to missions such as humanitarian disaster relief, occupation, security sector reform and partner training missions, and peacekeeping.

Option #3:  The U.S. primarily employee the Marine Corps, in a role it has historically held, to address small wars and MOOTW.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Marines were landed for America’s “small wars”. Indeed, the deployments to Haiti (1915-1934) and Nicaragua (1926-1933) were precursors to modern twenty-first century robust peacekeeping operations[7]. Marines landed to restore order, evacuate nationals and/or secure multinational corporation property, organize and supervise elections, train police and military forces, and conduct counter insurgency operations. This “halls of Montezuma” and “shores of Tripoli” heritage is part of the strategic culture of the USMC.

Risk:  The principal risk is that it will divert the USMC from operating concepts needed for peer competition, but this risk can be overstated. Presence is key to the deterrence mission. In the European theater, this is the principal role of the USMC: deter by presence as both a trip wire and force for countering adversary hybrid warfare strategies[8]. In the Pacific theater, two operating concepts define the USMC role in great power conflict: (1) Littoral operations in a contested environment and (2) expeditionary advanced base operations[9]. The viability of both concepts has been brought into question based on analogies from World War II. The opposed amphibious landing may be an obsolete operating concept due to the political price paid for the high casualties that result if facing a peer enemy. The expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) concept is innovative but may not be viable. EABO proposes to use land-based resources to augment the Navy’s surface fleet for sea control, logistics, and ISR. The fundamental flaw is the vulnerability of forces ashore. A ship on an ocean is a difficult target to find and fix, but an atoll is a stationary target. Like the defenders at Wake Island in World War II, they are exceedingly vulnerable. The primary benefit of deployment to islands in the Pacific is as a tripwire deterrent, not as a viable fighting force when the shooting starts.

An additional risk is the damage that may be done to esprit de corps, if Marines begin to think that they are not contributing to the primary strategic challenge of peer competition. The USMC must guard against the impression that MOOTW amounts to “scallywag soldiering” like that of the period of British high empire. The USMC has a unique warrior ethos that must be maintained. In addition to the primary mission of small wars, the USMC must continue to be able to deter aggression and blunt the military adventures of a peer adversary as the “first to fight.”

Gain:  The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. Rapid reaction and a flexible mix of capabilities makes this an ideal tool, especially in non-permissive environments. A battalion of Marines is the wrong tool for counter terrorism missions, it is the best tool when coercive presence is required.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford: Stanford University, 2012.

[2] Todd South, “New in 2019: From tanks to Strykers, major brigade combat team conversions are coming this year,” Army Times, 2 January 2019. Retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/

[3] SIPRI Yearbook 2018, Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2018.

[4] Fragile State Index Annual Report 2019, Washington, D.C.: The Fund for Peace, 2019.

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State, 2018.

[6] SIPRI op cit.

[7] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

[8] Shawn Snow, “No more Marine rotations to the Black Sea. The Corps is focusing here instead,” Marine Corps Times, 29 November 2019. Retrieved from https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/11/29/no-more-marine-rotations-to-the-black-sea-the-corps-is-focusing-on-the-arctic-instead/

[9] Sam LaGrone, “Lt. Gen. David Berger Nominated as Next Marine Corps Commandant,“ USNI News, 27 March 2019. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2019/03/27/lt-gen-david-berger-nominated-next-marine-corps-commandant#more-42200

Greg Olsen Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

Call for Papers: Alternative Futures and Alternative Histories

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Alternative Futures or Alternative Histories.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers we define an Alternative Future as a theory about the character of the future national security environment that is grounded in knowledge of current trends and emerging threats.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers we define an Alternative History as envisioning a historical national security situation occurred in a different way and discussing the logical ramifications related to this difference.

To inspire potential writers, previous articles that were submitted as Alternative Futures may be viewed here.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by August 10, 2019.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea. We look forward to hearing from you!

Call For Papers

Options for Maintaining Counterinsurgency Capabilities in the Great Power Era

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) struggle with retaining an enclave of counterinsurgency (COIN) capabilities alongside a renewed focus on training and equipping for great power competition.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 27, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Harrison Manlove is a Cadet with the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Kansas where he studies History and Peace and Conflict Studies.

Background:  The 2017 US National Security Strategy (NSS) identifies the return of great power competition as a strategic threat to U.S. interests across a variety of domains. Challenges to U.S. military and economic power are meant to “change the international order…” that the U.S. has overseen since the end of the Cold War. The NSS acknowledges the ability of near peer competitors to operate “below the threshold of open military conflict…”. In addition, the NSS identifies the need to “sustain our competence in irregular warfare…” in a long-term capacity[1]. This “competence” most certainly includes COIN, or the employment of various means of national power by a government to counter an insurgency “and address its roots causes[2].” DoD’s 2018 National Defense Strategy identifies “Long term strategic competition with China and Russia” as “the principal priorities for the Department…[3]” Both of the above mentioned documents indicate how non-state threats have slowly moved down the priority list.

Significance:  Recent decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump and the DoD to drawdown forces in a variety of conflict areas seem to reflect a desire to realign U.S. force posture to counter near-peer competitors in both Europe and Asia, and bolster conventional military capabilities. In December 2018, President Trump directed U.S. forces in Syria to withdraw, while simultaneously halving U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan over several months as peace talks continue[4]. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and General Purpose Forces (GPF) U.S. forces have spent almost two decades advising and training foreign forces as a function of COIN efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and others. Last fall, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) was directed to drawdown SOF missions on the continent over a period of three years[5]. SOF in Africa suffered a highly-publicized loss of troops in the 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush in Niger, while SOF personnel were also killed and wounded during an attack on their outpost in Somalia last year[6].

Option #1:  U.S. SOF addresses COIN threats through Direct Action.

Risk:  SOF conduct countless direct action missions, or “Short-duration strikes…”, against insurgent and terror groups in multiple countries across theaters like USAFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)[7]. American deaths during these operations has proven damaging for domestic opinion on global U.S. operations, exemplified by the 2017 deaths of four American Special Forces soldiers in Niger. An uninformed public, a largely opaque DoD concerning SOF missions and their specific purpose, and U.S. military roles within those missions, has created a wider civil-military gap. This lack of clarity has brought some American lawmakers to call the Niger scenario “an endless war” where “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing[8].” These lawmaker opinions underscores concerns about the scale and cost of worldwide U.S. military involvement and its impact on SOF personnel. In addition, raids often do not solve the political or economic challenges within COIN and can become a whack-a-mole strategy for targeting an insurgency’s network.

Gain:  The GPF often take the brunt of the task involved in conducting major COIN operations. Recent moves by the U.S. Army to retool brigade combat teams from infantry roles to Stryker and armored roles is one of the clearest examples of the “pivot back to the near-peer fight[9].” SOF addressing COIN threats through direct action drastically reduces the overall need for GPF on the frontlines in COIN and frees them up to focus on the near-peer fight.  Additionally, while direct action does not address the factors driving the insurgency, it does succeed in disrupting insurgent formations and presents metrics to Washington D.C. that are more easily understood than the more esoteric quantification of “winning of hearts and minds.”  Funding for U.S. Special Operations Command was given a massive hike to cover personnel increases to maintain a reliance on SOF[10]. SOF in Africa often operate under the Section 127e authority that allows SOF to accompany partner forces on missions, staying behind at the “last position of cover and concealment.” This has been touted by USAFRICOM Commander U.S. Marine Corps General Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, as “high payoff with low risk to US forces[11].” Direct action is relatively low-cost and, under 127e, also provides SOF the ability to directly control partner forces during operations to achieve US objectives.

Option #2:  Specially trained non-SOF units address COIN threats through Security Force Assistance.

Risk:  Global military engagement may be spreading U.S. forces too thinly if a near-pear conflict were to breakout. Since the 9/11 attacks, a focus on COIN and counterterrorism has resulted in U.S. deployments to 40% of the world’s countries[12]. The U.S. Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) deployed to Afghanistan in early 2018 to train and advise Afghan forces. Insider attacks by Afghan Taliban insurgents posing as members of the Afghan military have taken a toll on that deployment and highlight the potential dangers of a continued U.S. military presence there[13]. In mid-2018, the 2nd SFAB was established and is also slated for deployment to Afghanistan in 2019. SFABs could pull troops and resources from DoD’s ability to train and prepare for near-peer threats. DoD personnel involved in arms transfer, security assistance, and short-term military-to-military engagement programs are meager within the context of broader defense spending, but might offer an area for DoD to repurpose personnel and funding to critical capability gaps like artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber warfare.

Gain:  While military force is often the preferred method in COIN, an emphasis on non-kinetic means for DoD could provide better results at a much lower cost. The defense budget for fiscal year (FY) 2017 brought major reforms to security assistance authorities and organizations, a problem that had previously plagued those initiatives. Security assistance programs allow small teams of DoD personnel to train partner forces in basic military tactics and provide weapons training[14]. DoD spending as part of the foreign assistance budget totaled out to $6.4 billion spent worldwide in FY 2018, which includes these programs. Total spending for the foreign assistance budget in FY 2018 was $17.6 billion[15]. In comparison, the war in Afghanistan alone cost $45 billion in 2018, a little under half the $100 billion spent every year during the war’s height between 2010-2012[16]. DoD training with partner militaries is relatively inexpensive when compared with other DoD programs and deployments, and “builds relationships with friendly foreign forces, improves interoperability with and indirectly contributes to building the capability of key allies through exposure to United States tactics, techniques, and procedures…[17]” Capacity-building conducted by specially trained units could better enhance opportunities for partner forces to provide security in COIN conflict environments. The Army’s SFAB model appears to be a comprehensive training force, standing in contrast to the ad hoc approach used throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This option could alleviate pressure on SOF to manage similar missions on a global scale that would continue to strain overworked equipment and personnel.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

1. “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” The White House. December 2017. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

2. United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 54.

3. “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” January 19, 2018. May 2, 2019. https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.

4. Gibbons-Neff, Thomas, and Mujib Mashal. “U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say.” The New York Times. December 21, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/us/politics/afghanistan-troop-withdrawal.html.

5. Browne, Ryan. “US to Reduce Number of Troops in Africa.” CNN. November 15, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/politics/us-reduce-troops-africa/index.html.

6. Sonne, Paul. “U.S. Service Member Killed, Four Others Wounded in Somalia Attack.” The Washington Post. June 08, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-special-operations-soldier-killed-four-service-members-wounded-in-somalia-attack/2018/06/08/39265cda-6b5f-11e8-bbc5-dc9f3634fa0a_story.html

7. . United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 66.

8. Callimachi, Rukmini, Helene Cooper, Alan Blinder, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff. “‘An Endless War’: Why 4 U.S. Soldiers Died in a Remote …” The New York Times. February 20, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/17/world/africa/niger-ambush-american-soldiers.html.

9. South, Todd. “New in 2019: From Tanks to Strykers, Major Brigade Combat Team Conversions Are Coming This Year.” Army Times. January 02, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/.

10. South, Todd. “Special Operations Command Asks for More Troops, Biggest Budget Yet.” Military Times. February 27, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/02/23/special-operations-command-asks-for-more-troops-biggest-budget-yet/.

11. Morgan, Wesley. “Behind the Secret U.S. War in Africa.” POLITICO. July 02, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/secret-war-africa-pentagon-664005.

12.   Savall, Stephanie, “This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism.” Smithsonian.com. January 01, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/.

13.   LaPorta, James. “U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Was Highest Enlisted Soldier Supporting Army’s New Adviser Brigade.” Newsweek. October 04, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/afghanistan-soldier-killed-attack-us-1104697.

14.  Elliot, Adriane. “U.S. Security Assistance Soldiers, Nigerian Army Partner to Combat Terrorism.” Army Values. December 13, 2017. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.army.mil/article/198066/us_security_assistance_soldiers_nigerian_army_partner_to_combat_terrorism.

15.   “ForeignAssistance.gov.” Foreignassistance.gov. May 3, 2019. https://foreignassistance.gov/explore.

16.   Pennington, Matthew. “Pentagon Says War in Afghanistan Costs Taxpayers $45 Billion per Year.” PBS. February 06, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/pentagon-says-afghan-war-costs-taxpayers-45-billion-per-year

17.  “Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 President’s Budget Security Cooperation Consolidated Budget Display.” Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller). February 16, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/Security_Cooperation_Budget_Display_OUSDC.pdf.

Great Powers Harrison Manlove Option Papers Small Wars Journal Writing Contest Strategy United States

Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Brandon Quintin is the marketing manager of a museum in Dayton, Virginia.  He is a former editorial assistant at MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 24, 2019.

Summary:  After the Massacre at the Wabash in 1791, George Washington and Henry Knox reformed the U.S. Army as the Legion of the United States. The Legion was a self-contained modular army composed of four identical combined-arms units. During the Fallen Timbers campaign, the Legion proved itself the ideal force structure for use in small wars. The Brigade Combat Team is the closest the U.S. Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. 

Text:  In 1791 the United States Army suffered one of the greatest defeats in its history. At the Massacre at the Wabash in modern Ohio, also known as St. Clair’s Defeat, a force of regulars and militia 1,000 strong was destroyed by an army of Indian warriors. The Northwest Indian War, as the greater conflict was called, was the definitive “small war.” President George Washington directed and oversaw the response: a punitive use of asymmetric military force against a loosely-organized tribal confederacy in contested territory. The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 was the climax of the war, in which a reformed American army routed its Indian opponents and forced a peace where one could not be negotiated. 

But in 1791 the path to victory was far from clear. Year after year, American forces marched into the Northwest Territory only to be beaten back by an aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable enemy. George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox knew that significant change had to be made if the status quo was to be overcome. Tactical changes would not suffice. A redesign of the core force structure of the United States Army was required. 

The inspiration for Washington and Knox’s reformed army came from four primary sources: Ancient Rome, French Marshal Maurice de Saxe, British Colonel Henry Bouquet, and Washington’s famous drillmaster, the Prussian Baron Frederick William von Steuben. 

The ancient Roman legion is the greatest military unit the world has ever known. It effectively fought against the “conventional” forces of Greece, Carthage, Parthia, and other Roman legions during the Civil Wars. It fought against “unconventional” forces from Gaul and Britannia, to Judea. It built roads and forts and improved the state of infrastructure wherever it was sent. In all areas, and against all opponents, it was successful. It is no wonder that the Roman legion had so many admirers, especially among the early American officer corps. In a letter exchange, Henry Knox and South American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda called the legion “infinitely superior to any other organization or military arrangement we know yet[1].”

Maurice de Saxe took the operational concept of the legion and adapted it to the eighteenth century. The legion of ancient Rome predated much of the technology that allowed for combat arms designation. It was  was an almost entirely heavy infantry unit. Its excellence lie not in its composition, but in its effect. In his writings, Saxe advocated a resurrected legion that achieved the adaptability of its ancient forefather by adopting a combined-arms force structure—a revolutionary concept in its time[2]. Henry Bouquet, a Swiss-born Colonel in the British army, took the idea a step further and wrote that the modular combined-arms force structure was ideal for Indian-fighting in the Americas, i.e. for use against irregulars in unfavorable terrain[3]. 

Baron von Steuben wrote a letter in 1784 advocating that the United States adopt a permanent legionary force structure:

Upon a review of all the military of Europe, there does not appear to be a single form which could be safely adopted by the United States; they are unexceptionally different from each other, and like all human institutions, seem to have started as much out of accident as design … The Legion alone has not been adopted by any, and yet I am confident in asserting, that whether it be examined as applicable to all countries, or as it may more immediately apply to the existing or probable necessity of this, it will be found strikingly superior to any other[4].

Initially ignored upon publication, the letter acquired new meaning after the Massacre at the Wabash. Congress acceded to Washington’s demands and allowed the creation of the Legion of the United States.

President Washington and Secretary Knox abandoned the traditional regimental structure. Instead of a reliance on large regiments of either infantry, cavalry, or artillery, the Legion of the United States was one coherent unit with four self-contained armies making up its constituent parts. The armies, called Sub-Legions, contained 1,280 soldiers each, with two infantry battalions, one rifle battalion, an artillery company, and a cavalry company. The Legion of the United States was meant to address the failures of regimental design while accentuating the benefits of each combat arm. The end result was an adaptable, standardized force of 5,120 men—in no coincidence, exactly the same size as the famed legions of Julius Caesar.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers took place on August 20, 1794. The Legion of the United States proved its excellence by dispersing the opposing army, pacifying the Northwest Territory, and restoring order to the frontier. Its mission accomplished, the Legion was promptly disbanded.

The modular, combined-arms legion is an ideal small wars force structure. The same organizational principles that made the Legion of the United States a success in 1794 apply today. When a conventional power is faced with a number of different potential conflicts, over all scales of intensity and in all types of terrain, the unpredictability of the situation necessitates a standardized, generalist formation like the legion. Especially in an asymmetric scenario of regular versus irregular forces.

The modern Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is the closest the United States Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. Semi-combined-arms units of nearly 5,000 soldiers, Brigade Combat Teams come in three varieties: Infantry, Stryker, and Armored. As of 2018, the  active U.S. Army has 31. While the advent of BCTs represents a step toward legionary warfare, a true revival of the design and spirit of the Legion of the United States would see the elimination of arms-designation between the BCTs and all echelons of unit organization above them. Small wars are the future of American warfare, and the legion has proven itself the perfect unit organization to overcome every situation such wars present. 


Endnotes:

[1] De Miranda, F. (1791, February 2). The Form of the Roman Legion [Letter to Henry Knox]. London.

[2] De Saxe, M. (1944). Reveries Upon the Art of War. Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing Company.

[3] Bouquet, H. (1764). Reflections on the War with the Savages of North America.

[4] Von Steuben, F. (1784). A Letter on the Subject of an Established Militia, and Military Arrangements, Addressed to the Inhabitants of the United States.

Assessment Papers Brandon Quintin Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific.  He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific.

Summary:  The U.S. is scaling down the Global War on Terrorism and focusing on threats posed by a revisionist China and Russia and rogue nations such as Iran. In this context, limited military operations (small wars) will be useful in transforming counterterrorism methods, which previously dominated U.S. foreign policy, into being only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in pursuit of U.S. policy objectives in contested spaces.

Text:  Over the past decade, the global balance of power has shifted to a multipolar construct in which revisionist actors such as China and Russia attempt to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of the U.S.-led liberal order.  The ongoing rebalance has been gradual and often conducted through a myriad of activities beyond kinetic operations as Russia, China, and regional actors such as Iran have shown a capability to capitalize on and create domestic instability as a means to expand influence, gain access to key terrain and resources, and reduce western influence.  The capacity to utilize limited military operations (small wars) as part of a focused, tailored, and comprehensive whole of government approach to deter threats and expansion from revisionist powers is paramount in promoting U.S. and Western interests within the modern paradigm.  Despite the prominent role engaging in limited operations at or more importantly below the level of conflict fulfills within the context of great power competition, it is far from a proverbial silver bullet as the rebalancing of power brings new parameters and risks that U.S. policy makers must understand before engaging  in any small war. 

Since the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States and her Western allies have enjoyed an exorbitant amount of freedom to execute limited military operations and foreign domestic interventions due to what scholars termed the unipolar moment[1].   The 1990s saw the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) utilized as a guiding framework for Western engagement as liberal democracies intervened in the internal affairs of sovereign nations from Somalia to the Balkans to protect life and punish offenders[2].  Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and many of her longtime allies began the Global War on Terror (GWOT) fundamentally changing U.S. foreign policy for the next two decades.  The GWOT gave rise to an unprecedented increase in U.S. foreign intervention as the specter of terrorism emerged in all corners of the globe and a series of Secretary of Defense-approved Execute Orders granted the DoD broad authorities to conduct counterterrorism operations worldwide.  

The extent to which global terrorism poses an existential threat to U.S. and other Western powers has been debated with valid and well-researched positions on both sides[3], but what is not debatable is that GWOT consumed vast amounts of the West’s material resources and attention — the U.S. alone has spent an estimated $5.9 Trillion since 9/11[4].  With the West focusing on countering non-state actors, revisionist nations began to build power and expand which became evident when Russia annexed Crimea and China began aggressively expanding into the South China Sea.  The 2017 National Security Strategy marked a turning point in contemporary U.S. foreign policy by codifying an end to the CT-focused strategy of the previous sixteen years and placing an emphasis on great power competition with near-peers, as the document declares in very clear language “…after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned. China and Russia reassert their influence regionally and globally[5].”   

Despite recent attempts by China and Russia to close the military capabilities gap between themselves and the U.S., the U.S. maintains an advantage, specifically in the global application and projection of power[6]. To overcome this disadvantage revisionist and rogue states utilize soft balancing (utilization of international structures to disrupt and discredit U.S. hegemony) at the strategic level[7] and hybrid warfare (population-centric operations that create instability) at the tactical and operational levels[8] to expand their influence and territory through activities that avoid direct confrontation.  The utilization and application of limited military operations (small wars) combined with other elements of state power can both identify and counter the aforementioned strategies employed by contemporary Western rivals while concurrently advancing U.S. strategic objectives. Within the small war paradigm, military actors have a wide range of applications that support U.S. strategic objectives that fall into three mutually supportive activities, mil-to-mil engagement, civ-mil engagement, and resistance operations.  

Persistent mil-to-mil engagements, exercises, and training missions help establish the U.S. as a partner of choice in strategically significant nations while simultaneously building partner capabilities within or adjacent to contested regions.  The deployment of Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations elements foster resiliency within vulnerable populations, denying adversaries access to key human terrain needed to conduct hybrid operations.  Resistance operations can manifest in defensive or offensive postures either supporting a partner nation from externally provoked and supported insurrection or undermining the capacity of rival nations to exert malign influence by supporting armed and unarmed opposition to the state. Military interventions are best as only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in which the DoD might not be the lead agency.  Furthermore, as rivals compete over contested spaces the chances for escalation and international incident grows, a threat exponentially increased by the internationalization of civil wars, placing increased risk in direct military engagements. 

In the evolving context of great power competition, U.S. assets may not always be the best funded or equipped.  They will often face bureaucratic restrictions their rivals do not and potentially be deprived of access to key individuals or institutions.  These conditions will place a premium on individual interpersonal skills and international U.S. perception, so the U.S. can maintain a comparative advantage in soft power. To facilitate that advantage the U.S. will likely need to differentiate and categorize partners on not only their geopolitical importance but also the values that they represent and the company they keep.  Specifically the U.S. will likely examine the risks of collaborating with autocratic governments whose actions have the propensity to create domestic instability and an environment conducive to hybrid warfare.  Additionally, any government with substantial human rights concerns degrades the soft power of those that the international community perceives as their partners, a perception adversary information operations can greatly amplify.

As U.S. security strategy adapts and returns to a construct that places emphasis on challenges and threats from state actors the function, employment, and role of the small war will be useful to transform from a method of CT into a strategic instrument of national power that can support long-term U.S. objectives across the globe often below levels of conflict. 


Endnotes:

[1] Krauthammer, C. (1990). The Unipolar Moment. Foreign Affairs, 23-33. Retrieved from Foreign Affairs.

[2] Evans, G., & Sahnoun, M. (2002). The Responsibility to Protect. Foreign Affairs, 99-110.

[3] Brookings Institution. (2008, February 21). Have We Exaggerated the Threat of Terrorism. Retrieved from The Brookings Institution : https://www.brookings.edu/events/have-we-exaggerated-the-threat-of-terrorism/

[4] Crawford, N. C. (2018, November 14). United States Budgetary Csts of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spend and Obligated. Retrieved from Watson Institute: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2018/Crawford_Costs%20of%20War%20Estimates%20Through%20FY2019%20.pdf

[5] United States. (2017). The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington D.C. : The White House.  Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf

[6] Heginbotham, E. M. (2019). The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.

[7] Pape, R. A. (2005). Soft Balancing Against the United States. International Security, 7-45.

[8] Chives, C. S. (2017, March 22). Understanding Russian “Hybrid Warfare” and What Can Be Done About IT. Retrieved from Rand Corporation : https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/testimonies/CT400/CT468/RAND_CT468.pdf

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Great Powers James P. Micciche Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Counterfactual: Assessment of Risks to the American Reunification Referendum by the Confederate States of America’s Counterinsurgency Campaign in Cuba

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Hal Wilson lives in the United Kingdom, where he works in the aerospace industry. A member of the Military Writers Guild, Hal uses narrative to explore future conflict.  He has been published by the Small Wars Journal, and has written finalist entries for fiction contests with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and the Atlantic Council’s Art of the Future Project.  Hal graduated with first-class honours in War Studies and History from King’s College, London, and is studying an MA on the First World War.  He tweets at @HalWilson_.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of Risks to the American Reunification Referendum by the Confederate States of America’s Counterinsurgency Campaign in Cuba

Date Originally Written:  March 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 13, 2019. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a Confederate victory in the U.S. Civil War. Now, in the counterfactual year 1965, the Confederate States of America (CSA) are pursuing a counterinsurgency campaign in their conquered island colony of Cuba. The United States of America (USA) are meanwhile on the cusp of reunifying with the CSA through an historic referendum, but must prevent an escalation in Cuba that could derail the reunification process.  The audience for this Assessment Paper is the National Security Advisor to the President of the USA.

Summary:  The historic opportunity of the American Reunification Referendum (ARR) is directly challenged by the ongoing CSA counterinsurgency campaign in Cuba. Unless the USA applies diplomatic pressure to the CSA to achieve CSA-de-escalation in Cuba, the ARR is at risk.

Text:  The ARR, which was delayed this year due to CSA intransigence over Cuba, represents the culmination of a literal generation of effort. Decades of trans-American outreach have overcome cultural obstacles and built positive relations between the USA and the CSA. Following the 1963 Gettysburg Presidential Summit two years ago, commemorating 100 years since General Robert E. Lee’s narrow victory, Presidents Barnes and Nixon redoubled long-established policies of cross-border cooperation. These policies included a transnational committee to oversee the final dismantling of the former Mason-Dixon Demilitarised Zone. The underlying drivers of this trend – including robust cross-border trade and persistent financial crisis within the CSA – are unlikely to change. However, the CSA’s violent counterinsurgency in Cuba may provoke third-party intervention and thereby derail the ARR.

Cuba remains an emotionally charged topic within the CSA, reflecting as it does the ‘high-water-mark of the Confederacy’: the victorious Spanish War of 1898, which saw Spanish Caribbean possessions ceded to Richmond. We assess that CSA determination over Cuba is nevertheless fragile. Proposals for increased trans-American trade liberalisation could be used to entice short-term, de-escalatory moves from the CSA. Likewise, discrete offers to use our good offices for bilateral mediation could lessen tension while earning mutual goodwill. We also possess a remarkable asset in the shape of personal friendship between Presidents Barnes and Nixon, which may expedite top-down progress.

Our efforts will also benefit from the growing human cost of the CSA’s occupation. Last month’s destruction of two battalions of the 113th Florida Light Infantry near Holguin underlined the increasingly formidable abilities of the Cuban revolutionaries. Our efforts on Cuba should avoid antagonise the rebels, who have aligned around increasing desires for autonomy from Richmond. Notably, in an effort to enhance their credibility in any negotiated peace, the rebels have eliminated extremists from their own ranks such as the rogue Argentine, Che Guevara, who advocated the radical ideas of an obscure Russian writer, V.I. Lenin. Our efforts on Cuba should also not directly assist the rebels: should USA activity result in the death of even a single CSA serviceman, the ARR will be permanently compromised. 

By leveraging support from the Deutsches Kaiserreich, which offers German military and financial aid for preferential oil contracts in the Gulf of Mexico, Richmond has sustained military pressure against the Cuban rebels. In particular, the CSA’s Cuban Command (CUBACOM) numbers over 100,000 personnel and, following last month’s visit to Richmond by Kronprinz Maximilian von Thunn, boasts the latest ‘Gotha’ jet-bomber models. The USA faces no direct military threat from these developments. Indeed, CUBACOM represents a CSA military ‘best effort’, achieved only by hollowing-out mainland formations. 

While London remains focused on combating Islamist terrorism against the British Raj, organised and conducted from the German client-state of Afghanistan, London has demonstrated mounting displeasure over CSA conduct in Cuba. Last week’s wayward airstrike by CSA jets, for example, killed twenty Cuban civilians and drew further condemnation from the British Empire. The revived Wilberforce Act, first used by the British Empire to strong-arm the cessation of CSA slave-trading in 1880, once again prevents the carriage of CSA goods on British or Imperial merchant marine. Combined with wider sanctions, the British Empire has driven growing inflation within the CSA, not least by forcing Richmond to take the CSA Dollar off the gold standard. Recent evidence of illicit British support to Cuban rebels underlines London’s willingness to punish a perceived German client, and we assess a mounting risk of military escalation by the British Empire against the CSA.

Direct British intervention over Cuba would fatally compromise the likelihood of a successful ARR. USA public opinion will not tolerate overt support for CSA dominion over Cuba, and any direct conflict with London risks repeating our loss in the War of 1812. Conversely, our failure to offer tangible aid would poison CSA goodwill on the ARR. As such, any British military escalation should be forestalled by inducing a CSA climb-down.  

CSA persistence with their ‘small’ war likely demands that the USA exerts diplomatic pressure against Richmond. This is for the preservation of Cuban life and the USA’s interests: namely, to avert the risk of British military escalation against the CSA, and thereby assure a successful ARR.  

Our diplomatic pressure against the CSA would likely result in the establishment of a Cuban ‘Home Rule’ model, as pioneered by the British Empire in Ireland at the start of this century. Increased Cuban civil rights will undercut the revolutionary casus belli, and diminish the violence which offers the British Empire a pretext to intervene. Simultaneously, the CSA will be able to claim a victory by retaining its Cuban possessions – and the door can be reopened to a successfully completed ARR. 

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Hal Wilson Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

Assessment of the Effects of Chinese Nationalism on China’s Foreign Policy

Adam Ni is a China researcher at the the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University in Sydney. He can be found on his personal website here or on Twitter. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Effects of Chinese Nationalism on China’s Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 10, 2019.

Summary:  Chinese nationalism can affect Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations through: 1) framing narratives and debates; 2) restricting Beijing’s foreign policy options; and 3) providing justifications for Chinese actions and/or leverages in negotiations. However, the effects of popular nationalism on foreign policy outcomes may not be significant. 

Text:  Chinese nationalism today is rooted in narratives of China’s past humiliations and weaknesses, present day revival, and aspirations for national rejuvenation. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively tries to shape nationalist discourses to bolster its popular legitimacy. State-led nationalism attempts to cast Chinese foreign policy in a positive light, and to prevent discontent on foreign policy issues from kindling widespread criticism of the Chinese government for its perceived weaknesses and inability to uphold Chinese interests and dignity.

The rise of Chinese nationalism is often seen as a cause of China’s increasing assertive foreign policy, including its approach to territorial disputes. The argument is quite simple: China is becoming richer and more powerful, and as a result its citizens are more proud, and this is reflected in China’s new-found confidence. Despite the simple and intuitive appeal of this line of reasoning, the empirical evidence is unclear[1]. Putting aside the complexity of defining Chinese nationalism in the first place, it is unclear that Chinese nationalism is in fact rising. Indeed, there are trends that may be working against rising nationalism, including increased exposure to foreign peoples and cultures due to economic globalization, and improved education.

Despite the lack of clarity regarding Chinese nationalism,  there is evidence that Chinese public opinion is generally hawkish[2]. The Chinese support greater defense spending and using armed forces to deal with territorial disputes, such as these in the East and South China Seas. They also see U.S. military presence in Asia as a threat. Generally speaking, younger Chinese hold more hawkish views than their parents.

Given these hawkish views, and even if assuming Chinese nationalism have risen over recent years, it does not necessarily follow that popular sentiments have a major effect on Chinese foreign policy. One study looking at China’s foreign policy in the South and East China Seas since 2007, for example, found that popular nationalism had minimal effects on China’s assertive turn[3]. Indeed, other factors may be more important in Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations, including strategic considerations and preferences of top Chinese leaders.

The current international environment makes caution all the more important in China’s foreign policy-making. The intensifying strategic competition between the U.S. and China, and the increasing wariness with which countries around the world are viewing China’s growing power, makes China adopting nationalist prescriptions to its international challenges all the more risky.

In addition, China’s authoritarian political system arguably better insulates foreign policy making from public opinion than liberal democracies. For one, the ruling CCP does not face public elections. In fact, the Chinese government has at its disposal a range of powerful tools to shape public opinion, and if need be, shut down public debates. This include powerful state media and censorship systems, and the ability to silence dissent with swift and harsh efficiency.

Another difficulty in linking popular nationalistic sentiments to foreign policy outcomes is that Chinese nationalism gives rise to all kinds of foreign policy prescriptions, including contradictory ones. For example, nationalist discourses can prescribe a cautious approach to China’s international relations that focus on keeping a low profile, instead of advocating a confrontational approach.

Despite the difficulties in conceptualizing and measuring Chinese nationalism, there are a number of ways in which public opinion can affect China’s foreign policy. First, popular nationalist narratives, such as ones based on China’s past humiliations at the hands of encroaching foreign powers, frame and color contemporary foreign policy debates. In fact, a mentality of victimhood makes China more likely to react with a sense of grievance and moral righteousness to perceived slights to its dignity.

Second, Beijing’s spectrum of foreign policy options are constrained by popular sentiments. Perceived weakness and inability to defend China’s interests and dignity is costly for the Chinese government and leaders. The CCP have long feared that popular discontent on international issues could kindle widespread criticism directed at the Chinese government. Moreover, Chinese leaders are keen to appear tough on international issues to the domestic audience lest they weaken their position in the party system vis-à-vis their internal rivals.

Third, domestic pressures are sometimes used as justifications for Chinese actions or leverages in negotiations. Chinese leaders, for example, have attributed China’s more assertive stance in the South China Sea to the hardening of popular opinion[4]. Appeals to domestic pressures driven by nationalistic sentiments do play a role in China’s foreign policy. Whether these purported pressures are real or not is another question all together.

The above analyses indicate that Chinese nationalism could affect China’s foreign policy in a number of ways despite the difficulties of working out precisely how much popular sentiments influence Beijing’s foreign policy deliberations. This inability to measure influence is complicated by the fact that China’s authoritarian system enables the CCP to shape public debates in a way that would be impossible in liberal democracies. The lines between state-led and popular nationalism are blurry at the best of times.

Lastly, understanding nationalist discourses in China is still important for analysing Chinese foreign policy because it provides the domestic context for China’s international actions. There is little doubt that nationalist discourses in China will continue to exert an important influence on Chinese perceptions of its national past and aspirations for the future.


Endnotes:

[1] Alastair Iain Johnston, “Is Chinese Nationalism Rising? Evidence from Beijing,” International Security, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Winter 2016/17), 7-43. Available at: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/ISEC_a_00265.

[2] Jessica Chen Weiss, “How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public? Another Look at “Rising Nationalism” and Chinese Foreign Policy,” Journal of Contemporary China, published online March 7, 2019. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10670564.2019.1580427.

[3] Andrew Chubb, “Assessing public opinion’s influence on foreign policy: the case of China’s assertive maritime behavior,” Asian Security, published online March 7, 2018. See https://doi.org/10.1080/14799855.2018.1437723.

[4] Ying Fu and Shicun Wu, “South China Sea: How We Got to This Stage,” The National Interest, May 9, 2016. Available at: https://nationalinterest.org/feature/south-china-sea-how-we-got-stage-16118.

 

Adam Ni Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Nationalism

An Assessment of the U.S. Punitive Expedition of 1916

Roger Soiset graduated from The Citadel in 1968 with a B.S. in history, and after serving in the U.S. Army graduated from California State University (Long Beach) with a Master’s degree in history.   Roger’s fields of specialization are ancient history and the Vietnam Era.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the U.S. Punitive Expedition of 1916

Date Originally Written:  April 7, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 3, 2019.

Summary:  Prior to the 9/11 attacks was Pancho Villa’s 1916 attack on Columbus, New Mexico.  Large-scale efforts to capture Villa failed.  Border violence continued until the success of a more focused U.S. response in 1919.  Today the U.S.-Mexico border remains unsecured and discussions continue to determine the best approach. 

Text:  The attack by Al Qaeda on 9/11/2001 was the second such attack on the continental U.S., the first being in the 20th century.  In view of ongoing discussions about U.S. border security, it is useful to look at the U.S. response to terrorist attacks from Mexico a hundred years ago.  

Emerging as the hero of the Mexican Revolution was Francisco Madero, elected president in 1911 and soon enjoying cordial relations with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.  The U.S. and Mexico both had presidents who were liberal reformers until Madero was murdered.  Madero’s purported murderer was his successor, Victoriana Huerta.  Following Madero’s death, rebellions promptly broke out in several areas, led by men like “Pancho” Villa,  Emiliano Zapata, and Venustiano Carranza.

The U.S. had already occupied a Mexican seaport, Veracruz, in April 1914 in order to prevent the landing of arms for rebels by a German ship.  Believed to be Mausers direct from Hamburg, it turned out the rifles were Remingtons from New York, but that was not discovered until later. The occupation of Veracruz lasted five months and saw lives lost on both sides.  Huerta’s departure in 1915, the successful blocking of “German” arms and U.S. recognition of Carranza’s government smoothed the troubled U.S.-Mexico relations for everyone except Pancho Villa[1].  Wilson’s arms embargo applied to all the parties involved in the revolution except for the legitimate government, so this meant Carranza was not affected–but Villa was[2].

Villa’s anger resulted in U.S. civilian casualties in Mexico when 17 U.S. mining personnel were executed by Villa’s men in January 1916[3].  Then on March 6, 1916, Villa and about a thousand of his men raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing nine civilians and eight soldiers.  The demand for Wilson to “do something” was not to be denied and he invoked the “hot pursuit” doctrine.  President Carranza’s foreign minister Jesus Acuna informed Wilson that he agreed in principle “to the reciprocity of hot pursuit of bandits…if the raid at Columbus should unfortunately be repeated elsewhere[4].”  Wilson chose to ignore this last caveat and took the message to be an unrestricted right to pursue Pancho Villa into Mexico.  Carranza desperately needed U.S. support, so remained largely silent.  

Despite the ruthless treatment of many Mexican towns by Villa and his men, he was still supported by most Mexicans; or perhaps they feared the local bandit more than their weak government and the “yanquis” whom they hoped would soon go home.  Carranza, seeing his popularity sinking due to his corruption and tolerance of this “gringo” invasion, increasingly made life difficult for U.S. Army General John J. Pershing and his 10,000 men who were pursuing Villa in Mexico.   Perhaps the best examples of Carranza’s efforts were his denial to Pershing the use of the Mexican Northwestern Railway to move troops and positioning Mexican federal troops in the Americans’ path[5].  

Notwithstanding the politics, weather, terrain and the difficulty of the mission, Pershing continued the pursuit some 300 miles into Mexico before two skirmishes occurred between the U.S. and Mexican Army forces with casualties on both sides.  After six weeks, the punitive expedition had come to its Rubicon: fight the hostile Mexican Army before them and possibly start a war, or withdraw.  The withdrawal option was taken, although it took more than seven months before the last U.S. troops crossed back into Texas in February 1917…just in time to pack new gear for World War I in France.  Despite Pershing not capturing Villa,  the nine months in Mexico had proven invaluable insofar as getting the U.S. Army in shape for World War I and giving new equipment a field trial.         

But it wasn’t over in 1917—Pancho Villa and his “Army of the North” were busy looting and shooting up Juarez, Mexico, again in June 1919, just across the Rio Grande from Ft. Bliss.  Bullets from the raid killed and wounded U.S. personnel on the base, and this time prompt action was taken.  A combined infantry and cavalry force attacked Villa’s band of approximately 1200 men and destroyed or disbursed them so effectively that Villa never rode again[6].  One wonders what the course of events might have been after a similar action in January 1915 at the town of Naco in Sonora, Mexico, when a Villa band had driven Carranza’s forces from that border town.  Stray bullets killed one American and wounded twenty-six more in Douglas, Arizona.  The U.S. reaction was to remove the Tenth Cavalry four miles north of the danger zone[7]. This reaction, viewed as weakness, encouraged contempt and further violence.  A limited response in 1915 like the later one in 1919 might very well have discouraged another such incident—and the violence at Columbus might never have happened.     

If President Wilson had recognized Victoriana Huerta as the legitimate ruler of Mexico as did most other countries, it is likely that the Mexican Revolution would have ended in 1913.  If Wilson had not decided to stop Germany from supplying arms to rebels in 1914, Pancho Villa’s relations with the U.S would not have soured.  The revolutions in Morelos (Zapata), Coahuila (Carranza) and Chihuahua (Villa) might very well have burned themselves out without the added incentive of a foreign army invading their land.  As it was, Carranza would become the undisputed president after the murder of his rival Zapata in 1919 and the bribing of Villa into retirement (which was made permanent in 1923 with his murder).  One is reminded of that description of Europe after the Hundred Years War: “They made a desert and called it peace.”

It is said that good fences make good neighbors.  The incidents cited in this paper show the truth of this from a hundred years ago, and certainly events today beg the question: What is the best approach to securing the U.S. border with Mexico?    


Endnotes:

[1] Mason, Herbert Molloy, Jr, pp. 45-50.  “The Great Pursuit: Pershing’s Expedition to Destroy Pancho Villa”, Smithmark Publishers, 1970.”  Hereafter, “Mason”.

[2] Eisenhower, John S. D., p. 185. “Intervention! The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917”. W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.  Hereafter, “Eisenhower”.

[3] “U.S. Imperialism and Progressivism 1896 to 1920”, ed. Jeff Wallenfeldt, p. 41. 

[4] Mason, p. 71.

[5] Eisenhower, p. 236.

[6] Eisenhower, p. 312.

[7] Eisenhower, p. 171.

Assessment Papers Border Security Mexico Roger Soiset United States

#PartnerArticle Assessing Nigeria’s Vulnerability To Extreme Weather Events

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


Assessing Nigeria’s Vulnerability To Extreme Weather Events

Note: This paper is also downloadable in PDF format from the bottom of the page.

Authors Point Of View:  Sola Tayo is a Senior Associate Fellow at the Conflict and Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, a Broadcast journalist with the BBC and an Associate Fellow at The Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).

Murtala Abdullahi is a Junior Associate Researcher at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, focusing on the impacts of climate change and environmental/ecological degradation on stability and security. He tweets via @murtalaibn.

Summary:  Nigeria’s recent heatwave saw temperatures climb beyond 40 degrees Celsius in coastal areas, while in more arid areas of its north, temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius were recorded, between March and May.

As a developing country with multiple developmental challenges and a fast growing population, infrastructure and economic development have been the main focus for successive governments. But while the current administration grapples with how to increase electricity generation and improve transport connectivity one thing that is not discussed as much is Nigeria’s preparedness for dealing with the effects of climate change and minimising the damage caused by extreme weather events.

This paper attempts to assess how Nigeria is affected by climate change and what measures the government has put in place to protect the population from the health and economic risks associated with it.

Text:

Climate Change Vulnerability

According to a recent Pew Research poll[1] 41% of Nigerians see climate change as a major threat to their nation compared to 71% of Kenyans. While there are caveats for polls from Nigeria, it is however undeniable that climate change is not the biggest concern of many Nigerians, however its effects are felt by the population, with extreme weather events impacting directly and indirectly on their employment, education and health.

As the population grows and demand for resources increases there is a risk that Nigeria’s ability to secure food supplies for its 200 million population, which is rapidly growing is increasingly coming under strain.

Excessive heat and other extreme weather events also pose threats to the long term future of the healthcare system– with mass outbreaks of dehydration, heatstroke and all kins of diseases during such periods of national emergencies occasioned by extreme weather events, further burdening a chronically stretched and underfunded healthcare system.

Then there is the issue of climate related conflicts which have contributed immensely to violence between elements of the nomadic and settled population in the central part of the country, as well as an increase in migration from conflict-addled rural areas  to relatively safe urban areas which is creating sprawls of camps for displaced persons.

Also as agricultural communities increasingly suffer from erratic weather that has seen the rains this year delayed by as much as three months into the planting season this year, people are forced to abandon the farms and head to the towns, thus fueling a demand for land for building. Like much of Africa, access to and ownership of land is a highly emotional issue in Nigeria and change of land usage as a result of climate change will only contribute to increased tensions and conflict within communities.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammad’s Buhari stressed Nigeria’s commitment to tackling climate change in his 2015 inaugural speech.[2] Nigeria became a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 and ratified its Kyoto Protocol (which set international emissions reducing targets) in 2004. So while Nigeria’s international commitments aren’t in doubt, it is not yet clear how active the government is in dealing with events at home, or preparing for the future.

The Difficulties Of Responding

A C40 study called “The future we don’t want”[3] found that 354 major cities across the globe already experience average summer temperatures over 35C.  This number is predicted to climb to 970 by 2050. On days when temperatures reach 35C, a marked increase in hospital admissions and deaths occur in most countries.  The research shows that only a few cities in Africa are dealing with extreme heat currently but this is set to increase dramatically, particularly for southern, western and northern Africa. By 2050, many of the most at risk cities with large urban populations in poverty will be in West Africa, including Nigeria which the regions most populous country..

According to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Nigeria experienced extreme temperatures this year between March and May. The worst hit states were Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, and Jigawa. The situation also prompted fears of outbreaks of diseases such as meningitis, cholera, among others[4]. The three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are at the epicentre of the Boko Haram conflict which has raged since 2009. Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina States, have been plagued by a decade long series of low intensity conflicts revolving around rural banditry, which has recently started to pick up steam, leading to the depopulation of many communities.

The Nigerian government’s ability to tackle climate related issues is hindered by active internal conflicts, weak political will and, in some cases, poor governance. Nigeria’s main internal conflicts are in regions heavily affected by climate related environmental degradation. In the Northeast, an insurgency by militants linked to the Islamic State group is one of many factors disrupting efforts to restore the biodiversity and halt the degradation of the Lake Chad. In the North Central a reduction in available grazing land is fueling violence between farmers and nomadic cattle herders.

In the South, the Niger Delta, home to Nigeria’s oil producing states, has long been a hotbed of armed conflict between militants and a government they hold responsible for allowing oil companies to pollute their region’s land and in turn destroy the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen. Although many of the region’s environmental problems are man made (in the form of oil spills and air and water pollution as a result of the activities of the extractive industries) the Niger Delta states are also vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

Nigeria increasingly experiences floods, and heatwaves, and is considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change[5].

Land degradation is also a problem as Nigeria’s population increases putting stress on the availability of several resources. Almost a quarter – 24 percent – of the population live in high climate exposure areas[6] according to the USAID.

The southern coastal areas are vulnerable to storm damage while its internal network of rivers are at a constant risk of flooding. Flooding is one of Nigeria’s biggest environmental concerns and a cause of large scale internal displacement. In 2012, Nigeria saw some of the worst flooding in its recent history. 431 people died and 1.3 million were displaced when unexpected heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow[7] Farms, communities and critical infrastructure were destroyed or washed away.

2015 brought more deadly flooding when more than 1200 people were displaced and 4,500 farms destroyed by flooding in Cross River State in the coastal area. In the North of the country 53 people died and 100,000 were displaced.

Farmers in the South of Nigeria, are familiar with the effects of flash flooding – common during Nigeria’s “rainy season” –  which waterlogs farmland and renders it infertile. However a bigger problem may come in the form of salt water which can enter farming land as a result of a rise in sea levels and ruin crops and make land useless for conventional farming.

Research is being carried out to try and turn this negative into a positive with some encouraging results that could see farming with salty water as more of a help than a hinderance in the war on food insecurity. The Netherlands has had success with growing saline tolerant crops and in 2016 invested in research in Ghana.[8] Food is now being grown on previously abandoned farming land[9]. In Senegal, farming communities are adopting a different approach by building dykes to keep out salty water and protect their supplies of fresh water[10]. However, there is no discernible government-led effort to study and adapt any of the aforementioned innovations, to aid Nigerian farmers in adapting to the challenges posed by climate change in food production.

Small scale farmers will be the hardest hit by the effects of climate change. They are vulnerable to a reduction in productivity, the loss of crops and lack of stable employment, and there is no discernible long term planning or programming by the Nigerian government, yet, to prepare these farmers for the inevitable future.

According to Nigeria’s submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) in 2015 if nothing is done to protect farmers from the effects of climate change, agricultural productivity could decline between 10 to 25 per cent by 2080 and in parts of the north, the yield from rain fed agriculture could see a drop of up to 50 percent. [11]

Southern Nigeria’s coastline is already changing as a result of erosion caused by sea surges and tidal waves. Nigeria’s submission to the UNFCC warns that global warming attributed sea level rises would result in the loss of 35 percent of the Niger Delta. This could rise to 75 percent by 2100 if current trends continue. If action is not taken to combat rising sea levels the Niger Delta will lose land which will increase climate and resource induced migration, to other area. Given Nigeria’s long history of intercommunal and ethnic violence, it is hard to imagine such a future without imagining large scale violence between such migrant communities out of the receding Delta, and the indigenous populations in the areas they migrate to.

Water

Fewer than 40% of Nigerians have access to potable water.  Unpredictable weather brings variations in rainfall often resulting in a wetter south and a much drier and less humid north. This can increase the risk of drought and dry up water bodies in the north while flooding areas of the south.

In the far north east of Nigeria, the Lake Chad, which is also shared by Chad, Niger and Cameroon is the main source of water, food and employment for tens of millions of people.  But the lake has fluctuated in size since the 1960s as a result of an increase in population and the impacts of a global rise in temperatures which have contributed to an increase in already high rates of evaporation. The changing size of Lake Chad has had a catastrophic effect on the region’s food security and has contributed to the destabilisation of the region.

The local biodiversity has suffered as a result of the reduction in surface water.  But in recent times the region has suffered droughts and combined with the fluctuating lake and ongoing insurgencies, has led to a reduction in pastures for herders. This has led to a southward migration of cattle herders which, in turn, has created local internal conflicts between landowners and nomads along the routes the herders have followed south.

The governments of the nations that share the Lake Chad have, for decades, tried to address the depletion of the local ecosystem. The Lake Chad Basin Commission was created in 1964 by the four countries bordering the lake and was later expanded to include Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan and Algeria. The Commission’s aim is to coordinate the development of the region and sustainably manage the use of water, land and natural resources.In the immediate Lake Chad basin, more than 4 million people suffer from food insecurity.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission has launched public awareness campaigns advising on the best means of preserving natural resources as well as holding high level conferences with heads of governments, multilateral agencies and civil society groups.   But the challenges remain and the region continues to suffer the effects of desertification, insecurity and mass migration.

The International Conference on Lake Chad – a meeting supported by the Commission, UNESCO and the Nigerian government –  with the aim of restoring the depleting ecosystem was held in February 2018. The member states of the Commission agreed to an action plan with the aim of educating and empowering communities on how to build resilience to climate change.

The insurgencies led by Boko Haram and groups affiliated with the Islamic State group have further complicated efforts to address the problems of the region and are the cause of large scale internal displacement of sections of the population. A pan regional approach to promoting a more efficient use of water is crucial to rebuilding the lake’s ability to continue to serve as a provider of food, water and employment for millions of people.

Nigeria’s Actions In Combating Climate Change

The most recent estimates show that Nigeria is responsible for 490 metric tonnes of green house gas emissions  annually which equates to just over 1 per cent of global production. Thirty nine per cent of this arises from land-use change and forestry; 33 per cent from energy production (oil and gas extraction, and the power sector); 14 per cent from waste (incineration of municipal waste); 13 per cent from agriculture; and 2 per cent from industry.

As a party to the Paris Agreement, Nigeria has committed to reducing its green house gas  emissions by 20 per cent relative to a business-as-usual scenario of economic and emissions growth by 2030, and to pursuing a 45 per cent reduction if sufficient international support is received. It intends to achieve this by ending gas flaring (burning of excess gas from oil and gas production), increasing the use of renewable energy, implementing climate-smart agriculture and championing reforestation efforts.

As part of the Nigeria Climate Change Policy Response (adopted in 2012) the government pledged to increase public awareness and increase public sector participation in addressing the challenges of climate change.

The government also pledged to strengthen institutions to better develop a functional framework for climate governance. A series of strategies, measures and policies were published that include:

  • The increased usage of irrigation systems in agriculture
  • An increase in access to drought resistant crops and livestock feeds
  • Iimproving the management of forest reserves and enforcement of low impact logging practices
  • Expanding sustainable energy sources
  • The incorporation of Climate Change into business planning
  • Eliminating gas flaring by 2030
  • A revival of Nigeria’s railway networks to reduce emission caused by trucks using the roadways

Nigeria’s commitment on paper, to contributing to global efforts to combat climate change is evident. However its many societal challenges may not allow for rapid changes to be seen at home. During the recent heatwave a lot of advice was centred around drinking plenty of water and staying cool in shaded and air conditioned areas and seeking medical assistance where necessary. This advice was double-edged as Nigeria’s power supply is notoriously erratic and many people who can afford to, rely on diesel and petrol generators, thus exacerbating the problem of global warming through the release of greenhouse gases.


End Notes

[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/18/a-look-at-how-people-around-the-world-view-climate-change/

[2] https://dailypost.ng/2015/05/29/full-text-of-president-buharis-inauguration-speech/ “I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century”.

[3] https://www.c40.org/other/the-future-we-don-t-want-homepage

[4] https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/heatwave-hits-borno-kano-adamawa-katsina-others.html

[5] https://www.cop24afdb.org/en/page/implications-africa

[6] https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00TBFK.pdf

[7] http://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2012/10/10/worst-flooding-decades

[8] https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2017/02/23/dutch-saline-agricultural-knowledge-brings-breakthrough-in-food-security

[9] https://www.rabobank.com/en/raboworld/articles/smart-farmer-stories-marc-van-rijsselberghe.html

[10] http://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2017/09/14/success-against-salt-senegalese-farmers-battle-major-climate-change-threat

[11] https://www.cop24afdb.org/en/page/implications-africa

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Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

#PartnerArticle Assessing The Impacts Of A Potential US-Iran War On Nigeria

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


Assessment Paper

First Published May 2019

Assessing The Impacts Of A Potential US-Iran War On Nigeria

Note:  This paper is also downloadable in PDF format.

Author’s Point of View:  Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project At The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. He is a national security policy and strategy advisor and conflict researcher. He sometimes tweets via @fulannasrullah.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary:  With US-Iranian confrontation seemingly spinning closer to all-out war, Nigeria’s current administration and the national security establishment, are worried about the potential fallout of a US-Iran war on national and regional stability and security.

Text:  Relations between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which were established during the regime of the Shah, while nominally cordial, are underlined by Nigerian efforts to counter Iranian moves to initiate a proxy war with Israel and the United States on Nigerian soil. This silent confrontation began when Iranian-backed converts to Shi’ism led by Ibrahim Az-Zakzaky[1] established a group called the Islamic Movement of Nigeria- which organised and propagated the Khomeinist doctrine of Wilaayatul-Faqih, starting from the 1980’s, and was soon recognised as a nascent Iranian proxy[2].

While the Az-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria(IMN), initially tried to develop an extensive armed capability, an intense coordinated security campaign to ensure the group was kept disarmed – which ran through the 90’s and 2000’s during both military and civilian governments – ensured that by 2012 the group was largely demilitarised.

In 2010 a weapons shipment containing 107mm rockets, assault rifles, rocket launchers and associated ammunition, from Iran was intercepted at the Port of Lagos, in Southwestern Nigeria[3]. This shipment, although destined ultimately for the Gambia, was routed through Lagos by a Nigerian Shia with links to Az-Zakzaky, acting as an agent for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force (IRG-QF)[4].

At the time the head of the Quds Force’s Unit 6000 (the section responsible for African operations of the IRG-QF) Ali Akbar Tabatabaie was in Nigeria on a non-diplomatic passport, and together with the head of IRG-QF operations in Nigeria, Azim Adhajani who was directly fingered in the investigation, fled to hide in the Iranian Embassy in Abuja, escaping arrest by mere minutes[5]. Mr Tabatabaie remained inside the Embassy, until with tacit approval of Nigeria’s government[6], he was exfiltrated out of Nigeria on the plane of the Iranian Foreign Minister when he came for a visit four months later. Mr Adhajani would later be surrendered by the Iranian government, held by the Nigerians for two years before being tried and sentenced to five years in prison[7].

Three years later, the State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria’s internal security agency, arrested three Iranian assets, part of a locally recruited terror network, for plotting to attack American and Israeli interests in Nigeria. This cell was also accused of plotting to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Nigeria[8].

In the past ten years, Nigeria has expelled or asked to be withdrawn, two Iranian Ambassadors, for their involvement in covert Iranian operations deemed detrimental to Nigeria’s national security[9].

Iran’s efforts in the late 2000’s and in the last decade, to coopt the government of the Gambia, (a small West Africa country long considered a Nigerian satellite state[10]), prompted Nigeria to prevail on the then Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, to severe diplomatic ties with Iran in 2010 after the Iranian arms shipment was intercepted in Lagos. From 2015, with Iran’s intelligence and covert operations networks in Nigeria largely considered degraded, Nigerian-Iranian relations mostly shifted from being governed by the security agenda to a new foundation on economic ties.

On assuming office in 2015 Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, had to simultaneously deal with the falling oil prices and decreased revenues for the Nigerian government which is largely dependent on oil, along with the return of Iranian oil to the international market as sanction reliefs under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA)[11]between Iran and world powers worried about its nuclear programme, kicked in. In addition, Nigeria’s dream of becoming a supplier of cheap Liquified Natural Gas(LNG) to European markets was also threatened by the lifting of sanctions on Iran.

To smooth over the various points of potential conflict, Nigeria’s president visited Tehran ostensibly in November 2015 to attend a summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum(GECF)[12]. While billed for a bilateral working meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, President Buhari would however be received in a special audience by Supreme Leader Khamenei[13], including a closed door meeting between the two leaders with only their translators present.

US-Iran Confrontation

Reduced Iranian oil exports on the international oil scene, since the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA and the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran, is benefiting Nigeria through increased revenue from oil sales. However a potential war between Iran and the United States, comes with a mixed bag of expectations for Abuja.

Nigeria is for religious and historical reasons[14] closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and for cultural and historical reasons it is also firmly tied to the Western powers. In addition, Nigeria has long running and strong security relationships with Israel and Jordan, two countries that have not been shy about their anti-Iran credentials in recent times. However while Nigeria ultimately believes that although Iran is an unconventional anti-Westphalian state, it also see Iran as very much containable and open conflict should be the last option to be used in confronting it[15].

Recent American moves that seem to signal an escalation toward open conflict, unnerve Nigerian national security officials, as there is a strong belief that pro-Iran elements – IRG-QF assets and linked cells that are still existing across the country, and Hezbollah’s extensive West African infrastructure particularly in Southwest Nigeria and the neighbouring Republic of Benin – might be activated to carry out terror attacks against US and Israeli interests in Nigeria and its immediate environs. Thus straining even more, already stressed counterterrorism resources of the Nigerian government.

In addition, Hezbollah’s extensive infrastructure in Côte D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Senegal, could be used to carry out attacks in those countries against Western interests. In both Sierra Leone and Côte D’Ivoire there is a growing pro-Iran Shia population fueled by Iranian proselyting. An insufficient local counterterror capability means Nigeria will be expected to provide support to stabilise these two countries which are fragile, perhaps together with France (in Côte D’Ivoire) and the United Kingdom(in Sierra Leone), depending on domestic politics in those countries. This is a potential responsibility that will further drain on Nigeria’s heavily strained resources.

However, a positive side-effect of a US-Iran war on Nigeria, will be the expected collapse of Iran’s oil and gas economic sectors for a period of time, which will inevitably drive up global oil prices to Nigeria’s benefit. Currently, Nigeria’s government spends about 60% of its income on debt repayments[16]. Increased global oil and gas prices will expand its margin of income and impact on what it has available to spend on big ticket infrastructural projects in the next four years of the current administration.

End Notes

[1] Loimeier, Roman, “Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria”.

[2] In the late seventies and early eighties, a young Az-Zakzaky who had been an activist affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood current, had led protests against Nigeria’s secular state dominated by a military and political elite that were mostly split between Capitalists, Socialists and Marxist-Leninists. Arrested multiple times and largely shunned in polite society, Az-Zakzaky had found the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be an inspiration, and by 1982 he had converted to Shi’ism and began leading the clarion call for a revolution emulating Iran’s to happen in Nigeria, in addition with working with other converts to Shi’ism, most of whom had studied in Iran, to propagate the Shia faith, and also build the necessary structure to carry out the hoped for revolution. This organisation, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, while portrayed by its members as Islamic and not specifically Shia, was however, by the early 90’s, identified by Nigeria’s intelligence services, as a proxy for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.

[3] Tattersall Nick. Reuters 2010. “Weapons Seized In Nigeria, Came From Iran: Shipping Company. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-weapons/weapons-seized-in-nigeria-came-from-iran-shipping-company-idUSTRE69T1YT20101030

[4]US Treasury Department. “Treasury Targets Iranian Arms Shipments”. March 27, 2012. Retrieved from: https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1506.aspx

[5] Author’s conversation with officials in the know of details of the operation to shut down IRG-QF network in Nigeria post 2010.

[6] Ibid

[7]2013. Nigeria Gives Iranian, Nigerian, Fives Years For Arms Smuggling. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-iran/nigeria-gives-iranian-nigerian-five-years-for-arms-smuggling-idUSBRE94C0QS20130513

[8] Mazen, Maram. Bloomberg News. “Nigeria Arrests Iran Linked Suspects Planning Attacks.” Retrieved from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-02-20/nigeria-arrests-iran-linked-suspects-planning-attacks

[9] Hussein Abdullahi, a known Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Intelligence Organisation operative was forced to leave in 2010, officially for permitting Tabatabaie and Adhajani to receive sanctuary in the Embassy and thus posing a direct threat to Nigeria’s national security. However some sources the author spoke to, say that he was an operative of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence rather than the IRG-IO. Saeed Koozechi, was expelled/or was withdrawn on Nigerian insistence in 2016 when he made comments deemed inimical to Nigeria’s national interests, by interfering through his words on the Nigerian Army’s 2016 crackdown on Ibrahim Az-Zakzaky and his followers. Koozechi was said to be an IRG-QF operative, and is said to had personally overseen the subsequent rebuilding of the structure to support IRG-QF operations in Nigeria following the near total destruction of that network between 2010 and 2015.

[10] Over the course of the Gambia’s history since its independence in 1965, Nigeria has played a large role in its affairs, acting as a balance to Senegalese influence. The 1994 coup which brought Yahya Jammeh to power, was reported backed by Nigeria’s military ruler at the time, General Sani Abacha, and his removal in 2017 was negotiated and signed off on by Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari. From 1965, Nigeria has continuously provided technical state building assistance to the Gambia, sending doctors, teachers, judges and bureaucrats to serve in that country’s service, and also training Gambians to be able to take over these roles. This is in addition to providing training and advisory support to the Gambia’s military.

[11] The JCPOA was negotiated by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union, to address Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme, which was viewed as posing a threat to international peace and stability. As part of the terms of the ndeal under which Iran agreed to restrictions on its enrichment programme, the US and the other parties committed to lift specific sanctions on Iran, including sanctions targeting Iranian oil. In 2018, US President, Donald J. Trump announced that his country was withdrawing from the JCPOA, automatically bringing back US sanctions on Iran.

[12] Vanguard NG. 2015. “President Buhari Arrives Tehran For 3rdGECF Summit”. Retrieved from: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2015/11/president-buhari-arrives-tehran-for-3rd-gecf-summit/

[13] Leader.ir. 2015. “Leader meets with Nigerian President in Tehran”. Retrieved from: https://www.leader.ir/en/pictures/13882/The-Leader-meeting-with-the-Nigerian-President-in-Tehran?category=1&year=2017

[14] In addition to being a Muslim majority country, Nigeria is currently being governed by an elite from Muslim parts of Northern Nigeria. Muslims from Northern Nigeria, also form a relative majority within the defence and national security establishment, and a significant minority in the foreign service.

[15] Author’s conversations with Nigerian national security and foreign service officials.

[16] Stears.NG. 2018. “Nigeria Is Going Broke”. Retrieved from: https://www.stearsng.com/article/nigeria-is-going-broke

 

Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Episode 0013: Spies and Satire with Alex Finley (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

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On this episode of The Smell of Victory Podcast, Bob Hein and Phil Walter interrogated former CIA Officer Alex Finley on her new book, “Victor in the Jungle,” which follows her first book, “Victor in the Rubble.”  Key Intelligence Questions posed to Alex during this interrogation include:

– Who has the worst travel claim processing in D.C., the CIA, the military, or defense contractors?

– What does fictional character and intelligence operative Victor Caro do when he is tired of the Total War on Terror in West Africa?

– What did a young Alex Finley do as a child to prepare for life in the CIA?

– Has the CIA forgotten the art of spying?

– After over a decade and a half fighting the war on terror, do intelligence services have the tools for great power competition?

– Does the CIA really have cat fashion shows?

– Are there metrics that can measure the value of an intelligence report?

– What is the danger of management consultants in the national security arena?

– How do terrorist organizations get rid of undesirables?

– Where and when are Alex’s book launch parties going to occur?

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here. You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed.

 

The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Options for Europe to Address Climate Refugee Migration

Matthew Ader is a first-year undergraduate taking War Studies at King’s College London. He tweets inexpertly from @AderMatthew. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Climate refugees are people who, due to factors related to climate change, are driven from their country.  Climate refugee movement has the potential to cause instability.

Date Originally Written:  April 11, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a first-year undergraduate student at King’s College London with a broadly liberal foreign policy view. The article is written from the point of view of the European Union (EU) towards African and Middle Eastern countries, particularly those on the Mediterranean basin. 

Background:  Climate change is expected to displace an estimated 200 million people by 2050[1]. Many of these individuals will originate from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.  

Significance:  Extrapolating from current trends, it is likely that most of these refugees will attempt to flee to Europe[2]. Such a mass movement would have serious impacts on European political and economic stability. Combined with other impacts of climate change, such a mass migration is likely to destabilise many nations in the Middle East or North Africa. The movement of climate refugees is a significant concern for policy makers both in Europe and its near abroad. 

Option #1:  Pan-European countries increase their border defences to keep climate refugees out, by force if necessary. 

Risk:  This option would lead to the deaths of a relatively large number of climate refugees. It would also demand a significant commitment of resources and expertise, potentially distracting European nations from near-peer threats. Further, turning away refugees would impact the European reputation on the global stage, and breed resentment and instability among nations on the Mediterranean rim who would be left having to accommodate the refugee influx with limited support. Some climate refugees would also be resentful, and many others desperate, providing opportunities for non-state armed actors – as has already taken place, for example in the Dadaab refugee camp[3]. 

Gain:  This option would push the risk off-shore from Europe, avoiding significant domestic political challenges and instability. It would also protect economic opportunities for low-income workers, particularly in Mediterranean basin countries. 

Option #2:  Pan-European countries take in and integrate significant numbers –in the low double-digit millions – of climate refugees. 

Risk:  This option would lead to significant political instability in Europe, as there is already dissatisfaction with current rates of immigration in broad swathes of European society[4]. Current immigration rates – substantially lower than under this option – have already caused the greatest rise in far-right political parties in Europe since the 1930s. Moreover, this option would stress the structure of the EU, as Mediterranean basin countries would be unwilling to take all the refugees, leading to a quota system forcing all EU nations to take in a certain number of refugees. Quota systems have historically caused resentment and would likely do so again. Lastly, it is unclear whether EU nations could avoid unintentionally ghettoising and marginalising refugees, to negative political and economic effect.  

Gain:  This option would avoid destabilising fragile states in the Middle East and North Africa, denying potential staging grounds to terrorist groups and soaking up EU resources on heavy border protection. Further, it would enhance EU standing abroad, as the German policy of compassion – taking in over 1 million migrants in 2014 – previously did. 

Option #3:  Heavy investment in Middle Eastern and North African countries to increase their capabilities to deal with the climate challenges that cause climate refugees. 

Risk:  It is unclear whether such investment would be effective[5]. Many of these nations have fragile security situations and high rates of endemic corruption. Development assistance in this environment has previously given a low return on investment and expecting different could result in the expenditure of billions of euros for limited impact. Secondly, even if success could be guaranteed, the amount of money and time required would be substantial. At a time when the popularity of foreign aid budgets is low, and the pressure on the EU’s eastern flank from Russia is high, convincing nations to contribute substantial assets could prove very difficult. A discontinuity of investment from different nations would further north-south recriminations in the EU. 

Gain:  This option could forestall a climate refugee crisis entirely by increasing the internal capabilities of Middle East and North African states to deal with the impacts of climate change. In the event that climate refugee movements still take place, the EU would be shielded by capable partners who could take the brunt of the negative impact without destabilization to the extent of seriously damaging EU interests. 

Other Comments:  The climate refugee challenge is not immediately pressing and therefore can be dismissed by European nations embroiled with other priorities. Climate refugees will be a definitional security challenge to the EU in the mid and late 21st century. Unless serious thought is applied to this problem now, unpreparedness is likely in the future. 

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes: 

[1] Kamal, Baher. “Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050.” Inter Press Service News Agency, August 21, 2017. Retrieved From: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-migrants-might-reach-one-billion-by-2050/ 

[2] No Author Stated, “Refugee crisis in Europe.” European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, June 20, 2016. Retrieved From: https://ec.europa.eu/echo/refugee-crisis 

[3] McSweeney, Damien. “Conflict and deteriorating security in Dadaab.” Humanitarian Practice Network, March 2012. Retrieved From: https://odihpn.org/magazine/conflict-and-deteriorating-security-in-dadaab/ 

[4] Silver, Laura. “Immigration concerns fall in Western Europe, but most see need for newcomers to integrate into society.” Pew Research Centre, October 22, 2018. Retrieved From: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/22/immigration-concerns-fall-in-western-europe-but-most-see-need-for-newcomers-to-integrate-into-society/ 

[5] Dearden, Lizzie. “Emmanuel Macron claims Africa held back by ‘civilisational’ problems and women having ‘seven or eight children’.” The Independent, July 11, 2017. Retrieved From: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-africa-development-civilisation-problems-women-seven-eight-children-colonialism-a7835586.html 

Environmental Factors Matthew Ader Migrants Option Papers

Book Review: “Victor in the Jungle” by Alex Finley

Phil Walter is the founder of www.DivergentOptions.org.  All of his written works and podcasts, which do not contain information of an official nature, can be found at www.philwalter1058.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


victorinthejungle_hirescover

With this opening paragraph I am very pleased to announce to the reader that Victor Caro is back! What? You have never heard of Victor Caro? Aah, well then I am duty bound to bring you up to speed. Victor Caro is a Case Officer with the CYA who hunted down the terrorist Omar al-Suqqit during his tour in West Africa. But, in the case of Victor, it wasn’t the capturing of al-Suqqit that was the victory. Instead, Victor’s victory was overcoming the bureaucracy of both the CYA and the Intelligence Über Director (IUD) who together worried more about receipts for expenditures than recruiting spies to steal secrets and capturing the baddies.

On a more serious note, Victor Caro is a fictional character invented by Alex Finley (https://alexzfinley.com), a former officer in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Directorate of Operations. Victor made his debut in Alex’s first book, “Victor in the Rubble,” which was a joy to read and a true satire focused on CIA human intelligence (HUMINT) activities. As I had leaned on Alex in the past for writing advice with my own fictional pursuits, she was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her second book, “Victor in the Jungle,” and I am pleased to review it here as a one-time deviation from Divergent Options’ regular content.

“Victor in the Jungle” takes place seven or so years after the first book and finds Victor married with one child and assigned to Guyandes, a fictional country in South America. In this book the reader bears witness to the efforts of Victor and his colleagues to break up an alliance between one country’s charismatic autocrat and a narco-trafficking revolutionary group in the country next door. When Victor and his team aren’t enough, he enlists help from his wife who has just the connections needed to accomplish the mission.

“Victor in the Jungle” brought me joy and tears (of both laughter and sadness) in a similar manner to the first book. This time around we get to meet a cast of characters that I submit most people who have worked in or around HUMINT are well aware of. CYA Case Officer Mike pursues and achieves promotion despite his only operational experience being in a cubicle in Iraq where he occasionally recruited a walk-in source. Frank is a CYA Contractor who, when he is not loving on different women who all share the name Maria, provides security for Victor. Simon is a tech-guru from Des Moines, Iowa but insists that he be called See-mone, as is the local custom. Adam is a CYA Case Officer on his first tour, and not yet as experienced (read: jaded) as Victor. Sergio works on a floor of the Embassy that does not exist and, despite his unconventional appearance, provides Victor and his colleagues the additional intelligence information they need to succeed.

All of the preceding characters work for the Chief of Station Patrón, a highly accomplished CYA Case Officer who, having angered the CYA Director, chose to be Chief of Station in Guyandes as a way to lay low until the political winds changed. I smiled widely when Victor once overhears Patrón on the phone saying “Of course I drank it! He was a murderous drug dealer, I didn’t want to offend him,” as, in HUMINT, rapport can be everything. I loved reading about Patron, not only because I know people who have needed to lay low for a while, but also how he expertly employed his personnel in accordance with their capabilities. Patrón directs one of this Case Officers to pursue things that don’t matter on the ground but matter to the CYA Director (we call these low-hanging fruit) so the rest of the team can be left alone to do real work.

While I enjoyed reading about each of these characters, my favorite part of the book was watching Victor’s wife, who I shall not name as maybe you are familiar with her from the first book, “Victor in the Rubble,” navigate the world of a CYA dependent. At one point Victor’s wife exclaims “It’s like fucking Real Housewives, U.S. Embassy Edition.” Victor’s wife adjusts to her new life amidst a fellow CYA dependent who addresses every Guyanden as “Jorge” despite what their real name may be and the music of Eminem blasting at maximum watts from the Marine House.

Alex Finley described writing “Victor in the Rubble” as a catharsis. She describes writing “Victor in the Jungle” as pure fun. In both cases, I can see why. For me, reading both books made me feel at home, motivated, disgusted, and laugh out loud. In chapter 12 of “Victor in the Jungle” I came across a word that is extremely obscure and only used by those in HUMINT (can you find it?). This word caused me to laugh so loud my daughter asked me what was so funny. Later, in chapter 27, I swallowed hard as prior to a high risk meeting Victor tells his team “I’ll see you at the site. If they try to kidnap me, don’t let them take me alive.” My hard swallow was based upon me delivering similar direction to my team in one of my previous lives.

The book ends with, well, I am not going to tell you how it ends. But I will say this, I look forward to Victor’s next posting, which might be his retirement tour. How will things go at this next posting? We don’t know. Will Victor be able to adjust to eventual retirement? Time will tell. Well, time won’t tell, but author Alex Finley will. Also, I hope to attend the “Victor in the Jungle” book launch party (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/victor-in-the-jungle-book-launch#/) in Washington DC on June 7, 2019 — maybe Alex Finley will be able to explain to me exactly what Victor’s “Swedish Porn Vest” looked like.

Phil Walter

Assessment of the Threat of Nationalism to the State Power of Democracies in the Information Age

James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific.  He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Threat of Nationalism to the State Power of Democracies in the Information Age

Date Originally Written:  April 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  May 20, 2019.

Summary:  Historically, both scholars and political leaders have viewed nationalism as an advantageous construct that enhanced a state’s ability to both act and exert power within the international system.  Contrary to historic precedence, nationalism now represents a potential threat to the ability of modern democracies to project and exercise power due to demographic trends, globalized economies, and the information age. 

Text:  At its very core a nation is a collection of individuals who have come together through common interest, culture, or history, ceding a part of their rights and power to representatives through social compact, to purse safety and survival against the unknown of anarchy.  Therefore, a nation is its population, and its population is one measure of its overall power relative to other nations.  Academics and policy makers alike have long viewed nationalism as a mechanism that provides states an advantage in galvanizing domestic support to achieve international objectives, increasing comparative power, and reducing the potential impediment of domestic factors within a two-level game.  Globalization, the dawn of the information age, and transitioning demographics have fundamentally reversed the effects of nationalism on state power with the concept now representing a potential threat to both domestic stability and relative power of modern democracies. 

Looking beyond the material facets of population such as size, demographic trends, and geographic distribution, Hans Morgenthau identifies both “National Character” and “National Morale” as key elements of a nation’s ability to exert power. Morgenthau explains the relationship between population and power as “Whenever deep dissensions tear a people apart, the popular support that can be mustered for a foreign policy will always be precarious and will be actually small if the success or failure of the foreign policy has a direct bearing upon the issue of domestic struggle[1].  Historically, scholars have highlighted the role nationalism played in the creation and early expansion of the modern state system as European peoples began uniting under common identities and cultures and states utilized nationalism to solidify domestic support endowing them greater autonomy and power to act within the international system[2].  As globalization and the international movement of labor has made western nations ethnically more diverse, nationalism no longer functions as the traditional instrument of state power that was prevalent in periods where relatively homogenous states were the international norm.  

Key to understanding nationalism and the reversal of its role in state power is how it not only differs from the concept of patriotism but that the two constructs are incompatible within the modern paradigm of many industrialized nations that contain ever-growing heterogeneous populations.  Walker Connor described patriotism as “an emotional attachment to one’s state or country and its political institutions” and nationalism as “an attachment to ones people[3].”  A contemporary manifestation of this concept was the rise of Scottish Nationalism during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum that was in direct opposition to the greater state of the United Kingdom (patriotism) leading to the prospective loss of British power.  Furthermore, the term nationalism both conceptually and operationally requires a preceding adjective that describes a specific subset of individuals within a given population that have common cause, history, or heritage and are often not restricted to national descriptors. Historically these commonalities have occurred along ethnic or religious variations such as white, Hindu, Arab, Jewish, or black in which individuals within an in-group have assembled to pursue specific interests and agendas regardless of the state(s) in which they reside, with many such groups wishing to create nations from existing powers, such as Québécois or the Scots.  

The idea that industrialized nations in 2019 remain relatively homogenous constructs is a long outdated model that perpetuates the fallacy that nationalism is a productive tool for democratic states.  The average proportion of foreign-born individuals living in a given European country is 11.3% of the total population, Germany a major economic power and key NATO ally exceeds 15%[4].   Similar trends remain constant in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that have long histories of immigrant populations and as of 2015 14% of the U.S. population was foreign-born[5].    Furthermore, projections forecast that by 2045 white Americans will encompass less than 50% of the total population due to a combination of immigration, interracial marriages, and higher minority birth rates[6].  The aforementioned transitions are byproducts of a modern globalized economy as fertility rates within Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations have dropped below replacement thresholds of 2.1[7] the demand for labor remains.

One of the central components of the information age is metadata. As individuals navigate the World Wide Web, build social networks, and participate in e-commerce their personal attributes and trends transform into storable data. Data has become both a form of currency and a material asset that state actors can weaponize to conduct influence or propaganda operations against individuals or groups whose network positions amplifies effects.   Such actors can easily target the myriad of extra-national identities present within a given nation in attempts to mobilize one group against another or even against the state itself causing domestic instability and potential loss of state power within the international system.  Russian digital information operations have recently expanded from the former Soviet space to the U.S. and European Union and regularly target vulnerable or disenfranchised populations to provoke domestic chaos and weakening governance as a means to advance Russian strategic objectives[8].

As long as western democracies continue to become more diverse, a trend that is unalterable for at least the next quarter century, nationalism will remain a tangible threat, as malign actors will continue to subvert nationalist movements to achieve their own strategic objectives.  This threat is only intensified by the accessibility of information and the ease of engaging groups and individuals in the information age.  Nationalism in various forms is on the rise throughout western democracies and often stems from unaddressed grievances, economic misfortunes, or perceived loss of power that leads to consolidation of in-groups and the targeting of outgroup.  It remains justifiable for various individuals to want equal rights and provisions under the rule of law, and ensuring that systems are in place to protect the rights of both the masses from the individual (tyranny) but also the individual from the masses (mob rule) has become paramount for maintaining both state power and domestic stability.  It falls on citizens and policy makers alike within democracies to promote national identities that facilitate patriotism and integration and assimilation of various cultures into the populace rather than segregation and outgrouping that creates divisions that rival states will exploit. 


Endnotes:

[1] Morgenthau, H., & Thompson, K. (1948). Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace-6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[2] Mearsheimer, J. J. (2011). Kissing Cousins: Nationalism and Realism. Yale Workshop on International Relations, vol. 5.

[3] Connor, W. (1993). Beyond Reason: The Nature of The Ethnonational Bond. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 373 – 389.

[4] Connor, P., & Krogstad, J. (2016, June 15). Immigrant share of population jumps in some European countries. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/06/15/immigrant-share-of-population-jumps-in-some-european-countries/

[5] Pew Resarch Center. (2015). Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S. Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065. Washington DC: Pew Rsearch Center.

[6] Frey, W. H. (2018, March 14). The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, Census projects. Retrieved April 8, 2019, from The Brookings Institution : https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/

[7] World Bank. (2019). Fertility Rate, Total (Births per Women). Retrieved April 9, 2019, from The World Bank Group: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN

[8] Klein, H. (2018, September 25). Information Warfare and Information Perspectives: Russian and U.S. Perspectives.Retrieved April 6, 2019, from Columbia SIPA Journal of International Affairs:https://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/information-warfare-and-information-perspectives-russian-and-us-perspectives

Assessment Papers Information Systems James P. Micciche Nationalism

Assessment of the Efficacy of the French Military Intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Greg Olsen is a cyber security professional and postgraduate researcher at University of Leicester doing his PhD on peacekeeping and civil wars.  He can be found on Twitter at @gtotango.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Efficacy of the French Military Intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 7, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  May 13, 2019.

Summary:  The French military intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict in 2013 (Operation Serval) was a military success and met the criteria for success established by civilian leadership, however, it did not alter the trajectory of conflict in the region.  It subsequently became conjoined to a United Nations liberal peacebuilding effort in Mali with low prospects for rapid success, resulting in a lengthy “forever war” in the Sahel.

Text:  In January 2012, an insurgency broke out in the Azawad region of northern Mali, as the Tuareg’s fought for an independent or at least autonomous homeland.  The Northern Mali Conflict began as a classic example of an ethnic conflict in a weak state[1].  However, the chaotic conflict enabled multiple domestic and transnational Islamist insurgent groups to enter it in the summer of 2012. By fall 2012, Mali was partitioned between multiple factions.  But in January 2013, the conflict entered a new phase towards either an Islamist victory or a Hobbesian conflict between multiple groups in a failed state[2].  In likely response to the United Nations (UN) Security Council authorizing an Economic Community of West African States military intervention in Mali in December 2012 (African-led International Support Mission to Mali aka AFISMA), Islamist insurgents launched an offensive which threatened to defeat the central government of Mali and capture the capital of Bamako.  Due to a slow response from other African regional security partners and intergovernmental organizations, the French government determined that it had to intervene.

Domestic political considerations in France were, as always, part of the calculus of intervention.  Mali was an opportunity for French President Francois Hollande to improve his popularity, which had been in decline from the moment he took office, but there were also real security concerns around transnational terrorism justifying intervention.  Hollande announced on January 11, 2013, the following three objectives for the intervention: (1) stop terrorist aggression, (2) protect French nationals, and (3) restore territorial integrity to Mali.  The operation would be limited in duration and not an open-ended commitment to occupation or nation-building.

French operations began with the insertion of special operations forces and an air offensive.  At the same time, ground forces were moved into theater from neighboring states and France with the help of other nations in transport, aerial refueling, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.  Major ground operations commenced on January 15.  In total, France deployed approximately 4,000 troops to the conflict and had achieved the initial three military objectives by February. Withdrawal was announced on March 8.  According to a RAND Corporation study, Operation Serval was a high-risk operation, because it involved a small expeditionary force waging maneuver warfare with low logistical support and consisted of platoons and companies pulled from multiple units.  But in the end, Operation Serval demonstrated the viability of a force pieced together at the sub-battalion level into a competent fighting force suited for counterinsurgency warfare[3].  This piecemeal approach to deployment is a very different model than expeditionary deployment by the U.S. Marine Corps which deploys a complete combined arms unit around a reinforced division, brigade, or battalion, depending on the mission.

French military operations in Mali did not end with Operation Serval.  In April 2013, the UN Security Council authorized a Chapter VII (i.e., peace enforcement) mission, Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali aka MINUSMA.  Additionally, UN Security Council resolution 2100 authorized “French troops, within the limits of their capacities and areas of deployment, to use all necessary means…to intervene in support of elements of MINUSMA when under imminent and serious threat[4].”  As a practical matter, France’s troops became the chief counter-terrorism arm of MINUSMA.  

After announced withdrawal, France relabeled its intervention to Operation Barkhane (approximately 3,000 troops deployed) and spanned the G5 Sahel in the countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Mali.  This continued deployment is a repeated pattern seen in civil wars.  With no peace to keep, the UN relies on a parallel “green helmet” force alongside “blue helmet” peacekeepers to maintain security and assist in maintaining order in a conflict zone (e.g., Unified Task Force aka UNITAF in Somalia, the Australian led International Force East Timor aka INTERFET in East Timor).  

MINUSMA followed the standard liberal peacebuilding playbook: disarmament, demobilization, reinsertion of combatants; security sector reform; some form of “truth and reconciliation commission;” constitutional democratic governance; re-establishment of state sovereignty over the territory; and rebuilding civil society.  The UN playbook of liberal peacebuilding was a qualified success in both Cambodia[5] and East Timor[6], where the UN supervised the withdrawal of foreign armies (Vietnam and Indonesia respectively) and was in effect the civilian administration and military.  The UN successfully ran free elections to bring a new democratically elected government into power.  

From a conventional military perspective, Operation Serval was a success, routing multiple irregular forces on the battlefield and securing the central government and French nationals in Mali in a month-long campaign.  It also demonstrated the viability of sub-battalion-level deployment of expeditionary units.  However, Operation Serval did not address any of the underlying state weakness that enabled the insurgency in the first place.  Instead, the French Army has become embroiled in a “forever war” as the UN attempts to build a liberal state from a failed state, under very different circumstances from their previous successes in Cambodia and East Timor.

In Mali, multiple non-state actors—various coalitions of Tuareg clans, and multiple domestic and transnational Islamist insurgent groups—pose a threat to the incumbent government.  The French are in a sense captive to a UN playbook that has worked in cases dissimilar to the situation in Mali.  According to the opportunity model of civil war, it is state capacity, not the redress of grievances, that cause civil wars.  There is an inverted U-shaped relationship between government and civil war.  Strong autocracies don’t have civil wars and strong democracies don’t have civil wars[7].  It is the middle ground of anocracies that have wars, because they are weak institutionally.  This weakness explains the difficulty that post-colonial states have in making transitions from autocracy to multi-party democracy[8], and explains the durability of rebel victories[9].  Because the UN is transitioning an autocracy, Mali will be vulnerable.  Therefore, France and any multilateral partners whom they enlist to support them are set up as the de facto guarantor of security in Mali for a long time to come.


Endnotes:

[1] Hironaka, A. (2005). Neverending Wars: The International Community, Weak States, and the Perpetuation of Civil War. (pp. 80-86) Cambridge: Harvard University.

[2] Kraxberger, B. M. (2007). Failed States: Temporary Obstacles to Democratic Diffusion or Fundamental Holes in the World Political Map?. Third World Quarterly 28(6):1055-1071.

[3] Shurkin, M. (2014). France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

[4] United Nations Security Council (2013, April 25). Resolution 2100. Retrieved 7 April 2013 from http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/2100

[5] Doyle, M. W. and Suzuki, A. (1995). Transitional Authority in Cambodia. In The United Nations and Civil Wars. Weiss, T. G., ed. (pp. 127-149). Boulder: Lynne Rienner.

[6] Howard, L. M. (2008). UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars. (pp. 260-298) Cambridge: Cambridge University.

[7] Bates, R. H. (2008). State Failure. Annual Review of Political Science 11:1-12.

[8] Huntington, S. P. (1968). Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University.

[9] Toft, M. D. (2010). Securing the Peace: The Durable Settlement of Civil Wars. Princeton: Princeton University.

Assessment Papers France Greg Olsen Mali Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Assessment of the Operational Implications of 21st Century Subterranean Conflict

Major Haley Mercer was commissioned in 2006 as an Engineer Officer from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is completing the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). Prior to SAMS, Haley completed the Command and General Staff College (USCGSC) and two MS degrees from the University of Missouri S&T (2010) and Georgia Tech (2015). She served as Deputy Detachment Commander of the 521st Explosive Hazards Coordination Cell. Haley also has two operational deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, Consolidation II (2007-2009) and Transition I (2012-2013). She can be found on Twitter @SappersW.    Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


 Title:  Assessment of the Operational Implications of 21st Century Subterranean Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  May 8, 2019. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the U.S. Army and future large-scale ground combat operations. 

Summary:  At the operational level, the United States Army’s mental model does not work against the deep fight against an enemy whose subterranean networks make them impervious to lethal, deep-fires effects. The answer to the subterranean threat is not in the next tactical solution, rather it is in the operational artist’s creative and critical thinking and ability to reframe the problem, apply systematic processes, and provide better solutions to the commander. 

Text:  The subterranean battlefield poses unique challenges, and the U.S. Army lacks the requisite skills to operate within that complex environment. Success against a subterranean threat begins at the operational level of war. While tactical implications must be addressed, they do not solve the larger problem of effectively designing, planning, and executing operations against an enemy that leverages the subterranean domain. A lack of preparedness at the operational level results in the U.S. Army reaching its culminating point short of achieving its strategic aims.

Similar to quantum mechanics, no one can ever project with certainty when, where, how, and with whom the next great conflict will occur.  However, with historical trends and patterns, a keen operational planner can embrace the reality of complexity and make predictions that focus future combat preparations[1].

Today, the United States is more observable, predictable, and understandable than ever before.  While still a critical part of the equation, superior military strength and might is no longer a guaranteed formula for victory.  The 21st century battlefield is more complex than ever, and it requires new ways of thinking. Today’s operational artists must display coup d’ oeil, seeking answers beyond simplistic assessments perpetuated by past experiences, heuristics, and expertise in order to shape the deep fight against an enemy whose subterranean networks make them impervious to traditional, lethal, deep-fires effects.

Shaping the deep fight against a subterranean threat in large scale conflict requires a distinctly different approach. Figure 3 below depicts the systematic approach for effective deep area shaping against a subterranean enemy. Step 1, cognitive design.  Cognitive design is the operational planners’ ability to leverage creative and critical thinking to reframe and develop a plan that address the underlying problem rather than the symptoms. The design process requires a non-traditional systems approach involving a holistic understanding of the relationships and connections between all actors in the system. There must be a deep understanding of what reinforces the enemy’s actions and behaviors through a relational understanding of their values, desires, morals, worldview, beliefs, and language. One cannot defeat what one does not understand. All of this cannot be accomplished without cognitive patience and the ability to communicate understanding to others resulting in action.

The U.S. Army’s current mental framework focuses on combating an adversary’s use of the subterranean domain, but this domain also offers opportunities. In January 2019, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency announced the initiative to expand the combined arms maneuver space to include a vertical dimension, to exploit both natural and man-made subterranean environments[2]. The United States can benefit from the same subterranean opportunities that are afforded to our adversaries. A friendly subterranean infrastructure could supply secure basing and extend operational reach within an area of conflict while minimizing exposure to the enemy. Furthermore, it can mitigate the logistical challenges posed by the Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) threat and decrease vulnerability to enemy fires.  

Step 2, virtual effects. According to current U.S. Army doctrine, FM 3-0, Operations, Joint force commanders gain and maintain the initiative by projecting fires, employing forces, and conducting information operations[3]. Capabilities within the virtual domain are viewed as a supporting role to projecting fires and employing forces. Against a subterranean threat, virtual effects will likely serve a primary role with traditional physical effects in support. Shaping the deep fight through virtual effects includes all capabilities inherent within electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, and both offensive and defensive cyber actions. With nested and synchronized objectives, all of these assets provide the friendly forces with deception opportunities and narrative control to shape the deep fight prior to arrival of any physical effects. A formulated narrative can promote proactive thinking, gain public support, and deliver false information in support of a deception plan[4].  

Step 3, physical effects. Against a subterranean threat, physical effects are most effective subsequent to cognitive design and virtual effects. Some common physical effects include lethal fires, A2AD, counter weapons of mass destruction, boots on ground, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and humanitarian support. The physical effects include the combined arms tasks that lead to enemy destruction, exploiting opportunities, minimizing risk, and ultimately shaping the deep fight for the lower echelon elements. Countering a subterranean threat is manpower intensive thus, the solution lies in the partnerships and relationships with the joint, interagency, and multi-national forces. The subterranean threat is not just a U.S. Army problem, rather it’s a defense problem requiring combined resources and assets at all echelons. However, physical effects are most effective when they are preceded by deliberate cognitive design and virtual shaping effects.   

Mercer_Graphic

Figure 3. Shaping The Deep Fight, A Systems Approach. Source: MAJ Haley E. Mercer

Surprise is a primary principle of joint operations and creates the conditions for success at the tactical, operation, and strategic level of war. Surprise is non-negotiable and necessary for gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy.  Surprise affords the attacker the ability to disrupt rival defensive plans by achieving rapid results and minimizing enemy reaction time[5].   According to Carl von Clausewitz, “surprise lies at the root of all operations without exception, though in widely varying degrees depending on the nature and circumstance of the operation.”  Deception operations are essential to achieving surprise[6]. Deception operations do well to integrate electronic warfare capabilities and signature residue manipulation. Electronic signatures are everywhere on the modern battlefield making it difficult to hide from the enemy. From Fitbits, to Apple watches, to RFID tags, to global positioning systems, surprise is difficult to achieve unless operational planners can creatively alter virtual fingerprints to effect enemy actions.  

While still an important facet, the answer to the subterranean threat is not in the next technological advancement or tactical solution, rather it is in the operational artist’s creative and critical thinking and ability to reframe the problem, apply systematic thinking, and provide better options to the commander. Success against a subterranean threat lies at the operational level of war.


Endnotes:

[1] Everett C Dolman, Pure Strategy: Power and Principle in the Space and Information Age (London; New York: Frank Cass, 2005), 100.

[2] “The U.S. Military’s Next Super Weapon: Tactical Tunnels, The National Interest,” accessed March 27, 2019, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/us-militarys-next-super-weapon-tactical-tunnels-46027.

[3] US Army, FM 3-0 (2017), 5-1.

[4] H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, 2nd ed., Cambridge introductions to literature (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 12.

[5] US Army, ADRP 3-90 (2012), 3-2.

[6] Clausewitz, Howard, and Paret, On War, 198.

Assessment Papers Haley Mercer Option Papers Subterranean / Underground

An Assessment of Population Relocation in 21st Century Counterinsurgencies

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Sam Canter is an Infantry Officer in the United States Army and has completed an MA in Military History at Norwich University, where his thesis focused on the failures of the Revolution in Military Affairs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Population Relocation in 21st Century Counterinsurgencies

Date Originally Written:  March 28, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2019.

Summary:  Despite its endlessly debated efficacy, population relocation represents a frequently employed method of counterinsurgency warfare. Notwithstanding the military usefulness of this technique, its deployment in the 21st century is increasingly tied to questions of human rights and international law. As other methods of counterinsurgency fail, population relocation will continue to hold the fascination of military planners, even as it grows increasingly controversial.

Text:  No domain of military operations has proven quite as difficult for Western nations to master as counterinsurgency operations (COIN). Many different techniques have been brought to bear in efforts to defeat insurgencies, stabilize governments, and pacify local populations. Historically, one of the most frequently employed techniques in COIN operations is population relocation[1]. Either through brute force or more subtle coercion, this technique entails physically removing a segment of the population from the battlefield, with the purpose of depriving insurgents of their logistical and moral support base.

On a fundamental level, this population relocation makes perfect military sense. In a traditional COIN campaign, insurgents and opposing military forces compete for the “hearts and minds” of a population. For occupying forces, this technique contains a fundamental military flaw: electing to directly engage an enemy in a domain in which they possess an absolute advantage – culturally, linguistically, and fraternally. Population relocation, therefore, represents an asymmetric tactic. Rather than engage the enemy in a favorable domain, a conventional force physically alters the military paradigm by changing the human terrain. Relocating the population theoretically allows for more conventional methods of warfare to take place.

Regardless of the military wisdom of population relocation as a tactic, broader considerations inevitably come into play. The moral and legal issues associated with population relocation naturally invite condemnation from the larger international community. There are negative connotations – both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union practiced forced population relocation with genocidal results. Given the history of population relocation, this practice is unpalatable and unacceptable to the vast majority of Western nations. The United Nations considers forced evictions a violation of human rights, except in rare cases of “public interest” and “general welfare[2].” A COIN campaign might well meet that rare case bar, but it remains an open question if such a policy – even well-intended – can ever be enacted without force.

A recent example of population relocation viewed through a human right lens occurred in Egypt. To combat the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt engaged in concerted efforts to remove the insurgent group’s local base of support. However, within the context of a COIN paradigm, Egypt’s efforts represented a fifty percent solution of sorts. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Egypt has demolished almost 7,000 buildings in the Sinai, with virtually no efforts made to relocate those displaced, many of whom do not support the Islamic State[3]. In the absence of a practical and humane relocation plan, it is difficult to discern what Egypt hopes to accomplish. While Egypt is not a Western nation and is not necessarily bound by the moral or political consideration that Western democracies are, from a purely practical standpoint their relocation efforts have achieved little other than inviting international condemnation. Even so, given that Egypt’s efforts took place within the context of a legitimate COIN campaign – rather than a wholesale ethnic slaughter as a COIN tactic, such as recently occurred in Myanmar – their case is illustrative of the inherent tension in executing population relocation[4].

For Western nations, political tensions largely outweigh purely military considerations. In Afghanistan – the proving ground for North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries to execute COIN operations – population relocation has proven unviable for many reasons. Certainly, the culture, history, and geography of Afghanistan do nothing to suggest that such a tactic would succeed. Unlike the British experience in Malaya during the 1950s – usually cited as the textbook example of successful resettlement – attempts to implement population relocation would alienate the Afghan people, in addition to encountering a myriad of practical difficulties[5]. Therefore, the opportunity for Western nations to implement a “case study” of sorts in Afghanistan did not present itself. The United States instead recalls the failed legacy of the Strategic Hamlet program in Vietnam as its most recent military experience with population relocation[6].

With all this considered, it is quite evident that in the 21st century, population relocation as a COIN tool has been the purview of some less than exemplary militaries and has remained mostly unpracticed by Western nations. However, this does not necessarily forbid its use in a future COIN operation. If population relocation is to prove viable in the future, a series of conditions must be met to make this course of action suitable to the problem at hand, feasible to implement, and acceptable to Western governments and the international community.

In pursuit of population relocation efforts that are politically acceptable, first, the population must be amenable to such a move. This scenario will only result from the satisfaction of two sub-conditions. The population selected for relocation must be actively seeking greater security and lack historical ties to the land which they inhabit, factors which may preclude this tactic’s use in agrarian societies. Only upon meeting this condition can population relocation efforts avoid the condemnation of the international community. Second, before any attempts to implement this program, a site for relocation or integration will already need to exist. Ideally, the move to a new location should also equate to an increased standard of living for those resettled. Last, verifiable forms of identification are vital, as the process of separating insurgents from the general population must remain the central focus. It is crucial that those practicing COIN not underestimate the level of local support for an insurgency, as these techniques only stand a chance of success if the locals’ primary motivation is one of safety and security rather than cultural loyalty and ideology.

These are high standards to meet, but given the bloody history associated with population relocation, they are wholly appropriate. In COIN operations, many analyze the concept of asymmetry from the standpoint of the insurgent, but asymmetric tactics have a role for conventional occupying forces as well. If insurgents possess an absolute advantage in the human domain, then it is merely foolish for counter-insurgents to engage in direct competition. Therefore, and in the absence of other asymmetric practices, population relocation may still have some utility as a 21st century COIN practice, but only in scenarios that favor its use from a combined moral, legal, and practical standpoint.


Endnotes:

[1] Examples in the 20th century include South Africa, the Philippines, Greece, Malaya, Kenya, Algeria and Vietnam among others. For a cogent examination of the effects of these various campaigns, see Sepp, Kalev I. (1982). Resettlement, Regroupment, Reconcentration: Deliberate Government-Directed Population Relocation in Support of Counter-Insurgency Operations. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Command and General Staff College.

[2] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. (2014). Forced Evictions (Fact Sheet No. 25/Rev. 1). New York, NY: United Nations.

[3] Human Rights Watch. (May 22, 2018). Egypt: Army Intensifies Sinai Home Demolitions. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/05/22/egypt-army-intensifies-sinai-home-demolitions

[4] Rowland, Sarah. (2018) The Rohingya Crisis: A Failing Counterinsurgency. Small Wars Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2018, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/rohingya-crisis-failing-counterinsurgency

[5] For an analysis of Malaya as a prototypical COIN operation, see Hack, Karl. (2009). The Malayan Emergency as counter-insurgency paradigm. Journal of Strategic Studies, 32(3), 383–414.

[6] Leahy, Peter Francis. (1990). Why Did the Strategic Hamlet Program Fail? Fort Leavenworth, KS: Command and General Staff College.

Assessment Papers Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Sam Canter Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Call for Papers: Contemporary Conflict

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to conflicts that are presently occurring.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by June 14, 2019.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea. We look forward to hearing from you!

Call For Papers

An Assessment of the Small Wars Manual as an Implementation Model for Strategic Influence in Contemporary and Future Warfare

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Bradley L. Rees is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, retiring in March 2013 as a Foreign Area Officer, 48D (South Asia).  He has served in general purpose and special operations forces within the continental United States and in numerous combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is a graduate of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College and their School of Advanced Warfighting, and the Army War College’s Defense Strategy Course.  He presently works at United States Cyber Command where he is the Deputy Chief, Future Operations, J35.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  The opinions expressed in this assessment are those of the author, and do not represent those of the United States Government, Department of Defense, Air Force, or Cyber Command.

Title:  An Assessment of the Small Wars Manual as an Implementation Model for Strategic Influence in Contemporary and Future Warfare

Date Originally Written:  March 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 29, 2019.

Summary:  A disparity between how most within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) understand 20th-century information operations and 21st-century information warfare and strategic influence has produced a cognitive dissonance.  If not addressed quickly, this dichotomy will further exasperate confusion about Information as the Seventh Joint Function[1] and long-term strategic competition[2] in and through the Information Environment[3].

Text:  The United States has ceded the informational initiative to our adversaries.  As Shakespeare said, “Whereof what is past is prologue.”  If the DoD is to (re)gain and maintain the initiative against our adversaries, its actions are best informed by such a prologue.  An analogy exists between how, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Antonio encourages Sebastian to kill his father in order for Sebastian to become king and how most within the DoD think about responsive and globally integrated[4] military information and influence activities.  Antonio’s attempts at conveying to Sebastian that all past actions are purely contextual – an introduction or prologue –  is meant to narrow Sebastian’s focus on the future rather than the past[5].

The Department likely finds value in viewing that anecdote entirely relevant when attempting to answer what it means for Information to be a Joint Function in contemporary and future warfare.  If the Department seeks to (re)gain and maintain the initiative, appreciating history is a valuable first step, while critically important from a contextual perspective, is second only to how society today holds operational and strategic information and influence activities at a much higher premium than in years’ past.  With that, there is much to learn from the U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) development of its Small Wars Manual (SWM).

Today, many may question what the relevance and utility are of a 1940 USMC reference publication that focuses on peacekeeping and counterinsurgency (COIN) best practices collected from the turn of the 20th century, particularly in relation to contemporary and future warfare framed by Information as a Joint Function, strategic influence operations and their nexus with technology, and long-term strategic competition.  However, the SWM is one of those rare documents that is distinct within the broader chronicles of military history, operational lessons learned, and best practices.  It is not doctrine; it is not an operational analysis of expeditionary operations, nor is it necessarily a strategy.  Its uniqueness, however, lies in how it conveys a philosophy – an underlying theory – that addresses complexity, the necessity for adaptability,  and the criticality given to understanding the social, psychological, and informational factors that affect conflict.  The SWM reflects how ill-defined areas of operations, open-ended operational timelines, and shifting allegiances are just as relevant today, if not more so than relative combat power analyses and other more materially oriented planning factors have been in most of two century’s worth of war planning.  More so, the SWM places significant weight on how behavior, emotions, and perceptions management are central in shaping decision-making processes.

Currently, the DoD does not have the luxury of time to develop new philosophies and theories associated with military information and influence as did the USMC regarding small wars.  Similarly, the Department cannot wait an additional 66 years to develop relevant philosophies, theories, strategies, and doctrine relating to information warfare as did the U.S. Army and the USMC when they released COIN doctrine in 2006.  The Department does, however, have within the SWM a historiographic roadmap that can facilitate the development of relevant theory relating to Information as a Joint Function and strategic influence relative to long-term strategic competition.

The DoD does not intrinsically rest the development of defense and military strategies on an overarching philosophy or theory.  However, it does link such strategies to higher-level guidance; this guidance resting on a broader, more foundational American Grand Strategy, which academia has addressed extensively[6][7][8],  and on what has been termed the “American Way of War” and the broader institutional thinking behind such American ways of warfighting for more than a century[9].  Such grand strategies and ways of warfighting are best informed by deductive reasoning.  Conversely, in the absence of deductive reasoning, practitioners usually rely on induction to guide sound judgment and decisive action[10].  Despite this fact, a considerable dearth of DoD-wide organizational, institutional, and operational observations and experiences burden the Department’s ability to fully embrace, conceptualize, and operationalize globally integrated information and influence-related operations.

While the USMC did not have a century’s worth of thinking on small wars,  their three decades of experiences in peacekeeping and COIN served as the foundation to the SWM.  Throughout those three decades, the Marine Corps paid particular attention to the psychological and sociological aspects of the environment that impacted operations.  They realized that military action was doomed for failure if it was undertaken absent a well-rounded understanding of what the DoD now refers to as systems within the Operational Environment[11][12].  The SWM has an entire section dedicated to the psychological and sociological aspects that potentially motivate or cause insurrection[13].  Such considerations are just as relevant today as they were in 1940.

Today, the DoD lacks a straightforward and applicable information and influence roadmap that can be used to navigate long-term strategic competition.  The SWM provides such a navigational guide.  Studying it can provide the insights on a wide variety of factors that the Marine Corps recognized as having a significant influence on the ever-changing character of the conduct in war, the relationships and interaction between a philosophy or theory to military practice, and how its understanding of small wars impacted the development of strategy and campaign planning.  The SWM can inform the DoD on how to quickly and effectively address Information as the Seventh Joint Function, strategic influence, and long-term strategic competition in contemporary and future warfare.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Staff, Joint Publication 3-0, Operations, pp. xiii, III-1, III-17 through III-27, (Washington, D.C., United States Printing Office, October 22, 2018).

[2] Office of the Secretary of Defense, The 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, January 19, 2018).

[3] Joint Staff.  Joint Publication 2-01.3, Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment, pp. III-19 to III-26, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, May 21, 2014).

[4] Joint Staff. (2018), Chairman’s Vision of Global Integration [Online] briefing.  Available:  www.jcs.mil\Portals\36\Documents\Doctrine\jdpc\11_global_integration15May.pptx [accessed March 17, 2019].

[5] Shakespeare, W. (1610), The Tempest, Act II, Scene 1 [Online]. Available:  https://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/html/Tmp.html#line-2.1.0 [accessed March 16, 2019].

[6] Weigley, R. F., The American Way of War:  A History of United States Strategy and Policy, (Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1978).

[7] Biddle, T. M., “Strategy and Grand Strategy:  What Students and Practitioners Need to Know,” Advancing Strategic Thought Series, (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania:  Strategic Studies Institute and Army War College Press, 2015).

[8] Porter, P., “Why America’s Grand Strategy has not Changed:  Power, Habit, and the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Spring 2018), pp. 9–46, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 2018).

[9] Weigley.

[10] Bradford, A. (2017), Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning [Online]. Available:  https://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html [accessed March 17, 2019].

[11] Joint Staff.  Joint Publication 2-01.3, Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment, pp. III-38 to III-40, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, May 21, 2014).

[12] Ibid, p. xi.

[13] Department of the Navy, Headquarters United States Marine Corps. Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication 12-15, Small Wars Manual, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, 1940).

Assessment Papers Bradley L. Rees Information and Intelligence Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

#PartnerArticle GICS Report: Survival and Expansion, the Islamic State’s West African Province

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


The Global Initiative For Civil Stablisation (GICS), and the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at GICS (CSAAP) in a bid to further expand the general understanding of dynamics around the conflict in Northeast Nigeria, is releasing this report. Headlined by the Executive Director of the CSAAP, Fulan Nasrullah, this report collates and presents research spanning the period from 2016-early 2019.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Almost three years after the new Islamic State’s West African Province was separated from the Abubakar Shekau BH, it has grown to become the major group in the immediate area of the Lake Chad, posing a long-term threat to regional stability.

The greatest success for ISWAP, has been its ability to co-opt local grievances, economic activities and networks into its campaign to establish a state-appendage of the Global Islamic State in the region. No other actor, including regional governments and BH, come close to the level of success ISWAP has experienced in this regard.

While Islamic State financial support was crucial to the survival of ISWAP in 2016, and to the expansion of its resources and capabilities in 2017, by 2018 that support had sharply dropped to just 3.41% of ISWAP funding by 2018.

We estimate, based on data we collected in both ISWAP controlled and government-controlled territories in Niger and Nigeria, that ISWAP in 2018 earned as much as $35.2m in Naira, US Dollars, and West African CFA France, from taxes, fees charged local traders, smugglers, transporters, and involvement in the trade and production of dried fish, dried pepper and rice. A large part of this income went into paying salaries, providing for the civilians in territories it controls, and fueling its war machine.

Taxes in 2018 brought ISWAP some 45% of its income, the fish trade provided another 30% of its income, and the trade in dried pepper and rice provided 10% and 11.39% each.

From interviews with ISWAP affiliated individuals (regional states’ military, military intelligence and civilian intelligence officers with extensive knowledge of combat engagements with ISWAP over the past three years), analysis of data collected on attacks and numbers involved in ISWAP combat engagements we estimate that currently ISWAP has between 18,000 and 20,000 fighters in its ranks. This ties it for numbers with the strength of Nigerian Army troops in the immediate theatre  (Northern Borno, Northern Yobe), which we believe (with caveats explained within the report) to be about 18,000 troops.

However, the Nigerian government forces have more than 30,000 Civilian Joint Task Force militiamen in Borno State alone, of which a significant but indeterminate number are deployed alongside the Army in Northern Borno, absorbing casualties as much as the Army in some instances. When Nigerien troops in Diffa Prefecture are factored in, it becomes clear that the balance of numbers is firmly in the favour of regional states, although it is not enough to seize, hold and dominate territory in the area.

KEY FINDINGS

– Over the past two years, the landscape of the Islamist insurgency in Northeast Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region, has largely changed, with the Islamic State’s West African Province gradually becoming the leading insurgent grouping.

– The Islamic State’s West African Province has evolved into a largely competent and disciplined (in the local context) fighting force.

– The Global Islamic State’s effort in enabling and moulding ISWAP is targeted, directed, and enduring. It increased substantially in the last quarter of 2018 and is on track to rise exponentially in 2019.

– ISWAP is evolving into a major part of a global machine, the Global Islamic State, that particularly seems to invest in co-opting local organisations with deep community ties.

– The main success of ISWAP has been its ability to effectively appeal to, and seamlessly and gradually co-opt local networks, while blending a globalist caliphate messaging with local grievances and competently use it to establish legitimacy in the eyes of local communities. ISWAP has deliberately adopted a strategy of avoiding unnecessary violence and exploitation against civilian populations.

– When necessary, ISWAP will visit harsh punishments on erring individual civilians.

– Although ISWAP’s primary target for now is locally focused, the machinery to attack Western interests in the region currently exists, and should conditions be determined to be right, such attacks will occur.

– The infrastructure to target Western homelands if a future need arises, is currently being developed by ISWAP. While ISWAP by itself currently doesn’t have the capabilities to carry out attacks against Western homelands, findings indicate that resources are being dedicated to developing such capabilities for the future.

– Regional militaries unless substantially reformed, do not possess the capabilities to decisively defeat and eliminate the group, nor will they be able to contain it.

– Clamping down on trades critical to the local economy around the Lake area, is breeding resentment among the civilian populations, against local government, as livelihoods are destroyed and no alternative provided in their place.

– There is a widespread intense hate within ISWAP ranks for the United Nations and its various agencies working in the Lake Chad area, and this hate – should opportunity present itself – will transform into active targeting of UN-affiliated aid workers.

You may download the entire report from the Divergent Options website by clicking here.

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Islamic State Variants Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Assessing U.S. Space-Focused Governing Documents from the Astropolitik Model of State Competition  

Anthony Patrick is an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing U.S. Space-Focused Governing Documents from the Astropolitik Model of State Competition

Date Originally Written:  March 26, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 22, 2019.

Summary:  How the United States invests time and resources into space over the next few decades will have long-term strategic effects.  While current U.S. governing documents focused primarily on space align with the Astropolitik Model of state competition, which focuses on the employment of all instruments of national power, this appears to be incidental.  Without a cohesive suite of documents to focus space efforts, the U.S. could fall behind its competitors.

Text:  On April 18, 2018 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff released Joint Publication 3-14 Space Operations (JPSO)[1]. The JSPO, along with the 2010 National Space Policy (NSP)[2], the 2011 National Security Space Strategy (NSSS)[3], and the Department of Defense’s Space Policy of 2016 (DOD SP)[4], are meant to guide U.S governmental actions impacting the civilian, commercial, and military efforts in space. These governing documents work together to form the bedrock of American power projection in space. It is key that these governing documents are able to harmonize action along the necessary lines of effort in order to protect U.S national interests. It is also important to assess these documents through appropriate theoretical models on space power projection. Everett C. Dolman ‘s Astropolitik Model, a determinist political theory used to describe the relationship between state power and outer space control, provides such a framework[5]. 

Space by its very nature is a radically different domain of state competition when compared to land, sea, and air. Not only are there differences in how physical objects interact but there are also key differences in the effects of these interactions on the rest of planet. Doctrines of state competition will likely find it best to recognize the global effects of space operations. Satellites can not only effect targeting of fires across a whole combatant command and the navigational abilities of units in that area but also effect the greater network that supports global operations. The JPSO and other governing documents do recognize the global nature of space operations, which will assist planners in “balancing operational level requirements for current support [in an area of operation (AO)] with strategic level requirements to preserve space capabilities for other times and places.” U.S governing documents focused on space also recognize the need for synchronization in procurement programs. Space technology is expensive and takes years to develop, and all four documents describe the necessity for a competitive and flexible U.S space industry with long-term procurement planning that is looking forward to the next battle while also being consistent across political administrations. 

Orbital space is already starting to be crowded by both civilian and governmental satellites from both U.S allies and adversaries. The 2011 NSSS recognized the need for space to be viewed as a contested and competitive domain. This concern was also described in great detail by the JPSO and is evident by the development and testing of anti-satellite capabilities by both the Peoples Republic of China (2007)[6] and the U.S (2008)[7]. While the NSP focuses mainly on the U.S right to self-defense and the importance of alliance building, it also helps guide other governing documents in the right path towards increasing the U.S’s ability to operate in a contested space environment.

Lastly, U.S governing documents focused on space, like the Astropolitik Model, recognize the importance of utilizing all aspects of state power to project power in space. The JPSO describes in detail the mutualistic relationship between space and cyber assets. The DOD SP also mentions the importance of cost sharing between the DOD and other agencies within the U.S government, while the NSP and NSSS recognize the importance of utilizing both civilian, commercial, and military resources to project power into space. 

There are however certain issues with U.S governing documents focused on space when viewed from the Astropolitik Model. First, U.S governing documents focused on space do not attempt to gain complete dominance over the space domain. Controlling certain topographic features in space, from the Earth’s ‘high point’ in the gravity well (geostationary orbit), to the use of Lagrange Points (a point in space where an object is fixed between the gravitational fields of two bodies)[8], can allow a state to dictate what happens in space during state on state conflict. Defensive satellites in geostationary orbit can detect the use of Earth based anti-satellite weapons and trigger countermeasures before they are destroyed.

While U.S governing documents focused on space do point out the importance of utilizing the current U.S. alliance structure, none of the mentioned documents describe dominating the topography of space to advance U.S interest in space. The 2010 NSP also does not recognize the inevitable militarization of space. As more and more countries deploy satellites to space, they become part of that nation’s infrastructure. Just like with any key power plant, road, or bridge, nations will, at some point, likely deploy capabilities that will allow them to defend their assets and attack an enemy’s capability. Space is the universal Center of Gravity for any country that integrates national security operations with space-based assets. The 2010 NSP does mention that peaceful use of space allows for national and homeland security activities, but that still does not provide clear guidance on how much militarization U.S policy will allow. Being clear in this matter is important since it will allow planners to begin the proper procurement programs that are needed to defend U.S national security interest. 

It is important to U.S national security interest that the U.S is able to effectively plan and execute operations in the heavens. To accomplish this task, a consistent and well thought approach to governing documents that allows guidance for planners to accomplish the tasks laid out by decision makers in the U.S government is a plus. Adopting these documents in line with the Astropolitik Model allows the U.S to effectively dominate space and secure its peaceful use for all nation. Inaction is this realm could lead to further competition from other states and degrade the U.S’s ability to operate effectively both in space and on Earth. 


Endnotes:

[1] United States., Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018, April 10). Joint Publication 3-14 Space Operations. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_14.pdf

[2] United States, The White House, The President of the United States. (2010, June 28). National Space Policy of the United States of America. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://history.nasa.gov/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf

[3] United States, Department of Defense, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (2011). Naitonal Security Space Strategy Unclassified Summary. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=10828

[4] United States, Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense. (2016, November 4). DOD Directive 3100.10 Space Policy. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/d3100_10.pdf

[5] Dolman, E. C. (2002). Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age. London: Cass.

[6] Weeden, B. (2010, November 23). 2007 Chinese Anti-Satellite Test Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://swfound.org/media/9550/chinese_asat_fact_sheet_updated_2012.pdf

[7] Hagt, E. (2018, June 28). The U.S. satellite shootdown: China’s response. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://thebulletin.org/2008/03/the-u-s-satellite-shootdown-chinas-response/

[8] Howell, E. (2017, August 22). Lagrange Points: Parking Places in Space. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html

Anthony Patrick Assessment Papers Governing Documents Space

Options to Bridge the U.S. Department of Defense – Silicon Valley Gap with Cyber Foreign Area Officers

Kat Cassedy is a qualitative analyst with 20 years of work in hard problem solving, alternative analysis, and red teaming.  She currently works as an independent consultant/contractor, with experience in the public, private, and academic sectors.  She can be found on Twitter @Katnip95352013, tweeting on modern #politicalwarfare, #proxywarfare, #NatSec issues, #grayzoneconflict, and a smattering of random nonsense.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The cultural gap between the U.S. Department of Defense and Silicon Valley is significant.  Bridging this gap likely requires more than military members learning tech speak as their primary duties allow.

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  April 15, 2019. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author’s point of view is that the cyber-sector may be more akin to a foreign culture than a business segment, and that bridging the growing gulf between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley may require sociocultural capabilities as much or more so than technical or acquisition skills. 

Background:  As the end of the third decade of the digital revolution nears an end, and close to a year after the U.S. Cyber Command was elevated to a Unified Combatant Command, the gap between the private sector’s most advanced technology talents, intellectual property (IP), services, and products and that of the DoD is strained and increasing. Although the Pentagon needs and wants Silicon Valley’s IP and capabilities, the technorati are rejecting DoD’s overtures[1] in favor of enormous new markets such as those available in China. In the Information Age, DoD assesses that it needs Silicon Valley’s technology much the way it needed the Middle East’s fossil fuels over the last half century, to maintain U.S. global battlespace dominance. And Silicon Valley’s techno giants, with their respective market caps rivaling or exceeding the Gross Domestic Product of the globe’s most thriving economies, have global agency and autonomy such that they should arguably be viewed as geo-political power players, not simply businesses.  In that context, perhaps it is time to consider 21st century alternatives to the DoD way of thinking of Silicon Valley and its subcomponents as conventional Defense Industrial Base vendors to be managed like routine government contractors. 

Significance:  Many leaders and action officers in the DoD community are concerned that Silicon Valley’s emphasis on revenue share and shareholder value is leading it to prioritize relationships with America’s near-peer competitors – mostly particularly but not limited to China[2] – over working with the U.S. DoD and national security community. “In the policy world, 30 years of experience usually makes you powerful. In the technical world, 30 years of experience usually makes you obsolete[3].” Given the DoD’s extreme reliance on and investment in highly networked and interdependent information systems to dominate the modern global operating environment, the possibility that U.S. companies are choosing foreign adversaries as clients and partners over the U.S. government is highly concerning. If this technology shifts away from U.S. national security concerns continues, 1)  U.S. companies may soon be providing adversaries with advanced capabilities that run counter to U.S. national interests[4]; and 2) even where these companies continue to provide products and services to the U.S., there is an increased concern about counter-intelligence vulnerabilities in U.S. Government (USG) systems and platforms due to technology supply chain vulnerabilities[5]; and 3) key U.S. tech startup and emerging technology companies are accepting venture capital, seed, and private equity investment from investors who’s ultimate beneficial owners trace back to foreign sovereign and private wealth sources that are of concern to the national security community[6].

Option #1:  To bridge the cultural gap between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon, the U.S. Military Departments will train, certify, and deploy “Cyber Foreign Area Officers” or CFAOs.  These CFAOs would align with DoD Directive 1315.17, “Military Department Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs[7]” and, within the cyber and Silicon Valley context, do the same as a traditional FAO and “provide expertise in planning and executing operations, to provide liaison with foreign militaries operating in coalitions with U.S. forces, to conduct political-military activities, and to execute military-diplomatic missions.”

Risk:  DoD treating multinational corporations like nation states risks further decreasing or eroding the recognition of nation states as bearing ultimate authority.  Additionally, there is risk that the checks and balances specifically within the U.S. between the public and private sectors will tip irrevocably towards the tech sector and set the sector up as a rival for the USG in foreign and domestic relationships. Lastly, success in this approach may lead to other business sectors/industries pushing to be treated on par.

Gain:  Having DoD establish a CFAO program would serve to put DoD-centric cyber/techno skills in a socio-cultural context, to aid in Silicon Valley sense-making, narrative development/dissemination, and to establish mutual trusted agency. In effect, CFAOs would act as translators and relationship builders between Silicon Valley and DoD, with the interests of all the branches of service fully represented. Given the routine real world and fictional depictions of Silicon Valley and DoD being from figurative different worlds, using a FAO construct to break through this recognized barrier may be a case of USG policy retroactively catching up with present reality. Further, considering the national security threats that loom from the DoD losing its technological superiority, perhaps the potential gains of this option outweigh its risks.

Option #2:  Maintain the status quo, where DoD alternates between first treating Silicon Valley as a necessary but sometimes errant supplier, and second seeking to emulate Silicon Valley’s successes and culture within existing DoD constructs.  

Risk:  Possibly the greatest risk in continuing the path of the current DoD approach to the tech world is the loss of the advantage of technical superiority through speed of innovation, due to mutual lack of understanding of priorities, mission drivers, objectives, and organizational design.  Although a number of DoD acquisition reform initiatives are gaining some traction, conventional thinking is that DoD must acquire technology and services through a lengthy competitive bid process, which once awarded, locks both the DoD and the winner into a multi-year relationship. In Silicon Valley, speed-to-market is valued, and concepts pitched one month may be expected to be deployable within a few quarters, before the technology evolves yet again. Continual experimentation, improvisation, adaptation, and innovation are at the heart of Silicon Valley. DoD wants advanced technology, but they want it scalable, repeatable, controllable, and inexpensive. These are not compatible cultural outlooks.

Gain:  Continuing the current course of action has the advantage of familiarity, where the rules and pathways are well-understood by DoD and where risk can be managed. Although arguably slow to evolve, DoD acquisition mechanisms are on solid legal ground regarding use of taxpayer dollars, and program managers and decision makers alike are quite comfortable in navigating the use of conventional DoD acquisition tools. This approach represents good fiscal stewardship of DoD budgets.

Other Comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes:

[1] Malcomson, S. Why Silicon Valley Shouldn’t Work With the Pentagon. New York Times. 19APR2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/opinion/silicon-valley-military-contract.html.

[2] Hsu, J. Pentagon Warns Silicon Valley About Aiding Chinese Military. IEEE Spectrum. 28MAR2019. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/military/pentagon-warns-silicon-valley-about-aiding-chinese-military.

[3] Zegart, A and Childs, K. The Growing Gulf Between Silicon Valley and Washington. The Atlantic. 13DEC2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/growing-gulf-between-silicon-valley-and-washington/577963/.

[4] Copestake, J. Google China: Has search firm put Project Dragonfly on hold? BBC News. 18DEC2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46604085.

[5] Mozur, P. The Week in Tech: Fears of the Supply Chain in China. New York Times. 12OCT2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/12/technology/the-week-in-tech-fears-of-the-supply-chain-in-china.html.

[6] Northam, J. China Makes A Big Play In Silicon Valley. National Public Radio. 07OCT2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.npr.org/2018/10/07/654339389/china-makes-a-big-play-in-silicon-valley.

[7] Department of Defense Directive 1315.17, “Military Department Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs,” April 28, 2005.  Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/131517p.pdf.

 

Cyberspace Emerging Technology Information Systems Kat Cassedy Option Papers Public-Private Partnerships and Intersections United States

An Assessment of the Threat Posed by Increased Nationalist Movements in Europe

Major Jeremy Lawhorn is an active duty U.S. Army Psychological Operations Officer with over a decade in Special Operations.  He has served in the United States Army for over 19 years in a variety of leadership and staff officer positions, both domestically and internationally.  His academic interest is primarily in military strategy, specifically the competition phase. His current research focuses on understanding resistance movements. He currently holds a Master’s Degree from Norwich University, Duke University, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  He is currently working on his Doctorate at Vanderbilt University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Army or any other government agency.


Title:  An Assessment of the Threat Posed by Increased Nationalist Movements in Europe

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 15, 2019.

Summary:  If left unchecked, the current nationalist movements on the rise throughout Europe threaten the integrity of the European Union (EU), the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Alliance, and the overall security of Europe. Leveraging nationalist sentiments, Russia is waging a hybrid warfare campaign to support nationalist opposition parties and far-right extremist groups to  create disengagement among EU and NATO members.

Text:  In recent years there has been a groundswell of nationalism and far-right extremism across Europe, allowing far-right political parties to gain power in several countries as well as representation in the European Parliament. Today there are more than 59 nationalist parties, 15 regionalist parties, more than 60 active nationalist-separatist movements, and a growing radical right-wing extremist movements throughout the EU. Collectively, far-right nationalist groups occupy 153 of 751 seats in the European Parliament representing 21 of the 28 EU member states. This rise in nationalist sentiment is the result of growing Euroscepticism that has been driven in part by the Eurozone debt crisis, increased opposition to mass immigration, fear of cultural liberalization, and the perceived surrender of national sovereignty to external organizations. These nationalist movements threaten the integrity of the EU, the future of the NATO Alliance, and the overall security and stability of Europe. Leveraging nationalist sentiments, Russia is waging a hybrid warfare campaign to achieve their own political objectives by supporting nationalist opposition parties and far-right extremist groups to increase Euroscepticism and ultimately create disengagement among EU and NATO members.

Today’s nationalist movements are gaining strength in part because they are creating large networks of support across Europe. These movements have created transnational alliances to support each other to oppose the EU. The Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD or EFD2), and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) are nationalist Eurosceptic groups made up of members from several EU members states that collectively have significant representation in the European parliament. These group’s stated purpose is to work for freedom and co-operation among peoples of different States to return power back to the people of sovereign states, to focus on respect for Europe’s history, traditions and cultural values with the belief that peoples and Nations of Europe have the right to protect their borders and strengthen their own historical, traditional, religious and cultural values[1]. These groups are also committed to sovereignty, democracy, freedom and ending mass immigration so that members may advance their own interests at the domestic level[2]. The collective strength of these groups empower local nationalist movements, enabling them to gain influence and power that might not otherwise be possible. As each individual nationalist movement gains power, the larger alliance gains power to support other movements.

The rise of nationalist sentiments is also emboldening right-wing extremism groups. While not all nationalist parties are affiliated with right-wing extremism, the similarity in ideologies creates sympathetic leanings that are destructive for society. In recent years, right-wing political movements have brought together coalitions of Neo-Nazis with mainstream free-market conservatives, normalizing political ideologies[3]. These relationships can be used to serve mutually supportive positions while leaving room for plausible deniability. These violent far-right groups have not only embraced similar populist language of the nationalist political movements, they also espouse openly racist epithets and employ violence to pursue their goals of reestablishing ethnically homogenous states[4]. Not unlike the Nazi party of the past and consistent with nationalist rhetoric, these groups portray immigrants and ethnic minorities as the cause for economic troubles and demonize as threats to the broader national identity[5]. In essence, nationalist parties benefit from national fervor generated by these right-wing extremist without having to openly support their violent activities.

European nationalist parties are not the only ones benefitting from the growth in nationalist sentiments. Russia is also a key beneficiary and benefactor of European nationalist movements. Russia generally views the West with contempt as they see the expansion of NATO and the influence of the EU as an encroachment on their sphere of influence. Anything that challenges the cohesion of NATO and the EU is seen as a benefit for Russia. While Russia may not be responsible for creating these movements, they have supported a variety of nationalist opposition and far-right extremist groups throughout Europe to achieve their own political aims. Russia is playing a vital role to empower these groups with offers of cooperation, loans, political cover and propaganda. The Kremlin is cultivating relationships with these far-right parties, by establishing ‘‘cooperation agreements’’ between the dominant United Russia party and parties like Austria’s Freedom Party, Hungary’s Jobbik, Italy’s Northern League, France’s National Front, and Germany’s AfD (Alternative for Germany)[6]. Kremlin-linked banks are also providing financial support for nationalist parties like France’s National Front party to support their anti-EU platform. Kremlin-linked oligarchs are also supporting European extremist groups like Germany’s neo-Nazi NPD party, Bulgaria’s far-right Ataka party, Greece’s KKK party, and the pro-Kremlin Latvian Russian Union party[7].

Russian propaganda is also playing a major role in destabilizing the EU and fueling the growth of nationalist and anti-EU sentiment. According to a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in November 2016, Russian strategic communication is part of a larger subversive campaign to weaken EU cooperation and the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of the Union and its Member States. Russia’s goal is to distort truths, provoke doubt, divide EU Member states, and ultimately undermine the European narrative[8]. In one example, Russian attempted to create division by manipulating the Brexit referendum. Researchers at Swansea University in Wales and the University of California at Berkeley found that more than 150,000 Russian-sponsored Twitter accounts that tweeted about Brexit in order to sow discord. In the 48 hours leading up to referendum, Russian-sponsored accounts posted more than 45,000 divisive messages meant to influence the outcomes[9]. Another example of Russian interference was during the Catalan crisis in 2017. Pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts amplified the Catalan crisis by 2,000% in an effort to support the Catalan Independence Referendum and cause further friction within Europe[10]. On October 1, 2017, 92 percent of the population voted in favor of independence and on October 27 the Parliament of Catalan declared independence from Spain sparking unrest in Spain.

This rise in nationalism presents a challenge not only to the future integrity of the EU, but also the security and stability of the region. Continuing to capitalize on the growing nationalist sentiments, Russia is achieving its interests by supporting nationalist political parties and far-right extremist groups that are increasing fractures within and between European states. These actions present an existential threat to European security and the future viability of the EU and NATO.


Endnotes:

[1] Janice, A. (n.d.). About Europe of Nations and Freedom. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from http://www.janiceatkinson.co.uk/enf/

[2] Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2019, from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections-2014/en/political-groups/europe-of-freedom-and-direct-democracy/

[3] Holleran, M. (2018, February 16). The Opportunistic Rise of Europe’s Far Right. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://newrepublic.com/article/147102/opportunistic-rise-europes-far-right

[4] Frankel, B., Zablocki, M., ChanqizVafai, J., Lally, G., Kashanian, A., Lawson, J., Major, D., Nicaj, A., Lopez, R., Britt, J., Have, J.,&  Hussain, A., (Eds.). (2019, March 06). European ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements thrive. Homeland Security Newswire. Retrieved March 10, 2019, from http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20190306-european-ethnonationalist-and-white-supremacist-movements-thrive

[5] Ibid., 2019

[6] Smale, A. (2016, December 19). Austria’s Far Right Signs a Cooperation Pact With Putin’s Party. The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/world/europe/austrias-far-right-signs-a-cooperation-pact-with-putins-party.html

[7] Rettman, A, (2017, April 21) Illicit Russian Money Poses Threat to EU Democracy, EUobserver, Retrieved February 20, 2019, from https://euobserver.com/foreign/137631

[8] European Parliament Resolution of (2016, November 23) EU Strategic Communication to Counteract Propaganda against it by Third Parties, 2016/2030(INI), Nov. 23, 2016. . Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/printficheglobal.pdf

[9] Mostrous, A., Gibbons, K., & Bridge, M. (2017, November 15). Russia used Twitter bots and trolls ‘to disrupt’ Brexit vote. The Times. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russia-used-web-posts-to-disrupt-brexit-vote-h9nv5zg6c

[10] Alandete, D. (2017, October 01). Pro-Russian networks see 2,000% increase in activity in favor of Catalan referendum. El Pais. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/10/01/inenglish/1506854868_900501.html

 

Assessment Papers Europe Jeremy Lawhorn Nationalism Option Papers

Options to Address U.S. Federal Government Budget Process Dysfunction

Thomas is a Sailor in the United States Navy.  He can be found on Twitter @CTNope.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the United States Navy, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The current arrangements of tasks related to funding the U.S. Government enables government shutdowns to occur.  These shutdowns cause massive disruptions on many levels.

Date Originally Written:  January 30th, 2019.

Date Originally Published: 
 April 8, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Navy sailor and undergraduate student, interested in the U.S. Government, foreign policy, and national security matters.

Background:  The United States Government is funded every year through an appropriations bill or through a continuing resolution of a previous bill. This bill, like all others, begins in the House of Representatives, is sent to the Senate, and signed by the President. Since 1976, when the current budget and appropriations process was adopted, there have been over 20 gaps in budget funding, commonly referred to as shutdowns. These shutdowns have lasted as little as 1 day to the recent 34 day shutdown of the Trump Administration. During a shutdown, federal agencies are unable to complete their missions, as their levels of funding degrade or run out entirely[1].

Significance: When the Federal Government runs out of funding, consequences arise at
all levels of society. Constituents, businesses, and institutions find it difficult to or are unable to execute tasks, such as filing tax returns, receiving permits for operations, or litigating judicial cases. Lapses in funding often lead to unforeseen, third-order of effect consequences[2]. It is challenging enough to strategically plan for the myriad of problems the United States faces, it is even more difficult to plan on a previous budget’s continuing resolution. But when the government runs out of funding, and agencies close, planning becomes all but impossible. While government shutdowns often end quickly, lapses in funding raise criticism on the stability of the United States and the ability of
elected officials to govern.

Option #1:  The budget process is changed from an annual to a biennial budget process. Congress would adopt a budget and all appropriation bills during the first year of a session, authorizing two years of funding, ensuing the budgets are only passed in non-election years. In addition, a review of tax expenditures would be mandated by a new law. This review would be conducted by creating a baseline projection of tax expenditures, drafted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and an automatic review of all tax expenditures when baseline projections are exceeded.

Risk:  The changes outlined in Option 1 might not be effective in combating the symptoms of the dysfunction inside of the budget process. While extending the timeline of the budget cycle could mitigate the potential for a shutdown, it is still possible for shutdowns to occur, as the Congress and President must still come to a compromise. The creation of a tax review could give policymakers a non-partisan foundation to make policy changes, yet policymakers already have similar resources, stemming from think tanks, academia, or the CBO[3].

Gain:  While not perfect, enacting Option 1 would be challenging but not impossible in the current political climate. According to Gallup[4], changes to the budget cycle are widely supported and bipartisan. Option 1 allows Congress to better fulfill their appropriation responsibilities. In addition, in not having to work on an annual budget, Congress will have more time for oversight and reauthorizations of programs, better utilizing limited resources. Furthermore, the review of tax expenditures will allow Congress to ensure that it is meeting its mission of sustainable funding the Government.

Option #2:  Take budget approval power away from the President. This option entails creating a joint standing committee, specifically called the Semi-Annual Budget Committee, with 8 members of the Senate and 16 members of the House. The Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House Representatives would each appoint 8 members. The Majority and Minority Leader of the Senate would each appoint 4 members. The President would no longer sign the budget into law, rather, the responsibility would rest completely with the Congress. The President would submit budget requests, but those would be requests only – as the executive would cease to sign the budget. Lastly, this option has precedent. From the adoption of the Constitution until 1921, with the signing of the Budget and Accounting Act during the Harding Administration, the legislature had the majority of the “power of the purse”, the power to raise taxes and appropriate resources[5].

Risk:  While the Government would no longer shut down due to conflicts between the executive and legislature, this radical restructuring of responsibilities could have significant consequences. Specifically, partisanship, so common inside the beltway, could threaten the productivity of the Committee. If another hypothetical ‘Tea Party’ or equally populist leftist movement were to materialize, it is not difficult to foresee the Semi-Annual Budget Committee bogging down in a partisan slugging match.

Gain:  This option would ensure a degree of budget stability for the future by preventing the President from vetoing budget bills.

Other Comments:  Regardless of the chosen course of action, the current political landscape holds unique opportunities. According to Gallup data, a significant percentage of Americans support reforms to the current budget process[6]. With this board public approval, lawmakers could institute various reforms that previously were politically impractical. Furthermore, reform doesn’t have to be radical. It can take the form of incremental change over multiple Congressional sessions.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Cooper, Ryan. “Make Government Shutdowns Impossible Again.” The Week, January 23, 2019. Retrieved From: https://theweek.com/articles/819015/make-government-shutdowns-impossible-again.

[2] Walshe, Shushannah (October 17, 2013). “The Costs of the Government Shutdown”. ABC News. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 

[3] United States Government Congressional Budget Office. “Processes.” Congressional Budget Office. (n.d.). Retrieved From:  https://www.cbo.gov/about/processes#baseline

[4] Gallup Pollsters. “Federal Budget Deficit.” Gallup. March 2018. Retrieved From: https://news.gallup.com/poll/147626/federal-budget-deficit.aspx.

[5] Constitution of the United States, Article I, 

[6] Gallup Pollsters. “Federal Budget Deficit.” Gallup. March 2018. Retrieved From: https://news.gallup.com/poll/147626/federal-budget-deficit.aspx.

Budgets and Resources Congress Option Papers Thomas United States

Assessment of the Impacts of Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030 on U.S. Efforts to Confront Iran

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Scott Harr is a U.S. Army Special Forces officer with deployment and service experience throughout the Middle East.  He has contributed articles on national security and foreign policy topics to military journals and professional websites focusing on strategic security issues.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Impacts of Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030 on U.S. Efforts to Confront Iran

Date Originally Written:  March 7, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2019.

Summary:  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030 plan to transform its economy and society will have significant effects on the U.S. ability to confront and counter Iran. In either success or failure, Vision2030 will alter the balance of power in the Middle East, conferring advantages to either a strong American ally (Saudi Arabia) or the most formidable and long-standing U.S. adversary in the region (Iran).

Text:  Amidst the continuing turmoil and instability that touches many parts of the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) maintain a fierce rivalry vying for regional and Islamic dominance. Both countries factor prominently into U.S. regional goals and interests as Iran (since its Islamic Revolution in 1979) serves as the preeminent regional threat and adversary to the U.S. while the KSA, in many ways, serves as the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to counter and degrade Iranian influence in the region[1]. As the region’s premiere Islamic rivals, internal social, economic, and political movements within the KSA and the IRI inherently shape and inform U.S. actions and efforts aimed at undermining hostile (IRI) objectives while supporting friendly (KSA) initiatives. U.S. President Trump, for instance, was quick to voice support in early 2018 for protesters in Iran railing against (among other things) perceived regime inaction and contribution to the stagnant Iranian economy[2]. Alternatively, Trump preserved U.S. support to the KSA even after allegations of KSA government involvement in the killing of a prominent and outspoken journalist[3]. Such dynamics underscore how the inner-workings of regional rivals create venues and opportunities for the advancement of U.S. interests confronting regional threats by applying pressure and defining alliances using different elements of national power.

In 2016, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, known as “MBS,” unveiled an ambitious and grandiose plan for economic, cultural, and social change in the Kingdom. In response to a worldwide decline in oil prices that drastically shrunk Saudi cash reserves and simultaneously highlighted the precarious state of the Kingdom’s oil-dependent economy, MBS released “Vision2030”- a sweeping program of reform that aimed to create a vibrant society, build a thriving economy, and establish a culture of ambition within the Kingdom[4]. Motivating these ideas was a desire to increase the privatization of the economy and make Saudi society attractive to foreign investment to diversify the economy and decrease its dependence on oil[5]. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the mechanisms of change that drive the execution of MBS’ Vision2030 rest on the extent to which Western values (namely free-market principles and social liberalism) can be inculcated into a historically conservative and closed society. Given the magnitude of Vision2030’s scope, targeting all of Saudi society, the ideology involved in its execution (incorporating Western values), and the KSA’s geopolitical status as a key U.S. ally against Iranian foreign policy objectives, the implementation and execution of Vision2030 cannot fail but to have far-reaching impacts on both Middle Eastern regional stability in general and U.S. efforts confronting Iran in particular.

Whether Vision2030 succeeds or fails, the sheer scope and scale of its desired effects will shape (or re-shape) the momentum of America’s ongoing conflict with Iran and perhaps play a decisive role in determining who (American friend or foe) holds sway in the Middle East. On an ideological plane, if Vision2030 succeeds and successfully introduces Western values that contribute to a balanced and prosperous economy as well as a (more) foreigner-friendly open society, the KSA immediately serves as a blueprint for other Middle Eastern societies plagued by government corruption, limited economic opportunities, and social restrictions. In Iran specifically, Saudi success at transforming their society will perhaps reinvigorate popular protests against a ruling regime that many perceive as purveyors of exactly the kind of corruption and social control described above[6]. That the impetus for change in KSA sprang from the government’s desire for reform (and not citizens engaged in resistance –as in Iran) may further buoy popular unrest in Iran as Vision2030 allows the Saudi government to be cast as benevolent leaders in stark contrast to the Iranian regime’s reputation as corrupt and heavy-handed rulers. Increased unrest in Iran opens the door for increased American support and actions aimed at dislodging the current hostile regime and supporting popular Iranian efforts to introduce democratic reforms. On an economic plane, the success of Vision2030 will potentially decrease the economic capability of the IRI as the desired foreign investment into the KSA resulting from Vision2030 will presumably draw resources from traditional IRI economic partners and cause them to re-invest in a more open and friendly KSA market[7]. This potential economic success will potentially make it more difficult for the IRI to circumvent U.S. actions in the economic realm (sanctions) designed to coerce the IRI into abandoning hostile policies towards U.S. interests.

There will also be significant regional repercussions should Vision 2030 fail and the KSA proves unsuccessful in transforming its economy and society. On an ideological plane, Vision 2030’s failure will likely serve as a referendum on the viability of Western values in the Islamic world and, as such, help sustain the IRI ruling regime. Just as a failing Venezuela has become a symbol and warning of the dangers of socialism to America, so too will the KSA become fodder for IRI propaganda denouncing Western values[8]. On an economic plane, the failure of Vision2030 will, by default, mean that the KSA was unsuccessful in diversifying its economy and severing its reliance on oil for prosperity. Given the tumultuous state of oil prices and the gradual (but palpable) desire of advanced countries to decrease their dependence on oil, this will likely mean that the KSA, as a whole, will be a weakened and less-capable ally against the IRI.

The success of Vision2030 is far from a foregone conclusion in the KSA as recent government implementation measures have encountered staunch resistance from a Saudi citizenry not accustomed to a reduced supporting role from the government[9]. However, what seems clear enough is that the endeavor, regardless of its success or failure, will create effects that reverberate across the Middle East and alter (for better or worse) the balance of power and impact the U.S. ability to confront, counter, and compete against the IRI in the region.


Endnotes:

[1] David, J. E. (2017, May 20). US-Saudi Arabia seal weapons deal worth nearly $110 billion immediately, $350 billion over 10 years. Retrieved March 05, 2019, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/20/us-saudi-arabia-seal-weapons-deal-worth-nearly-110-billion-as-trump-begins-visit.html

[2] Mindock, C. (2018, January 03). Donald Trump says Iranian protesters will see ‘great support’ from US. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.indepeent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-iran-protests-us-support-twitter-hassan-rouhami-iranians-corruption-terrorism-a8139836.html

[3] Harte, J., & Holland, S. (2018, November 17). Trump calls CIA assessment of Khashoggi murder premature but possible. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-khashoggi-trump-idUSKCN1NM0FI

[4] Full text of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. (2016, April 26). Retrieved March 6, 2019, from http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/04/26/Full-text-of-Saudi-Arabia-s-Vision-2030.html

[5] Khashan, H. (2017). Saudi Arabia’s Flawed “Vision 2030”. Middle East Quarterly, 24(1), 1-8. Retrieved February 27, 2019.

[6] Pourzand, A. (2010). Change They Don’t Believe In: The Political Presence of the Basij in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Kennedy School Review, 10, 99. Retrieved March 6, 2019.

[7] Al Gergawi, M. (2017, October 26). China Is Eyeballing a Major Strategic Investment in Saudi Arabia’s Oil. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/26/china-is-eyeballing-a-major-strategic-investment-in-saudi-arabias-oil/

[8] Montgomery, L. K. (2018, May 22). Venezuela should remind Americans about the dangers of socialism. Retrieved March 6, 2019, from https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/venezuela-should-remind-americans-about-the-dangers-of-socialism-kennedy

[9] Ghitis, F. (2017, April 27) Is Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Reform Plan Faltering—or Succeeding? Retrieved March 6, 2019 from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/21969/is-saudi-arabia-s-vision-2030-reform-plan-faltering-or-succeeding

Assessment Papers Iran Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) Scott Harr Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

Options for the West to Address Russia’s Unconventional Tactics

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Jesse Short was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps infantry and served in the Republic of Iraq between 2005 and 2008.  He currently works as a security contractor in the Middle East and recently finished his M.S. in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University.  He can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-s-4b10a312a. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The Russian Federation’s limited forms of warfare against western states and associated influence in other regions challenges the world as it is conducted below the threshold of war.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 25, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a veteran of the infantry in both the United States Marine Corps and United States Army. The author believes in checking clear threats to western states with strong and decisive, but intelligent responses. This article is written from the point of view of western states under the threat of the ‘unconventional’ actions of the Russian Federation.  

Background:  Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, has established its foreign policy in the last ten years on interrupting and negatively influencing the stability of other states. This foreign policy has largely gone unanswered by the international community and only serves to reinforce the use of these actions by Russian actors. Georgia was the first case and Ukraine is a much more dynamic second example of this policy[1]. These two policy tests have proven to Russia, and in some sense to other states like China, that limited forms and unconventional forms of coercion, intimidation, and violence will go unchecked so long as they do not go too far with these actions. The West’s lack of imagination and adherence to one-sided western rules and laws are its glaring weakness. This weakness is being exploited relentlessly with little meaningful response.   

Significance:  Since around the time of Russia’s incursion into the Republic of Georgia in 2008, Putin has been operating unchecked around the world. Putin’s actions have been disastrous for what is an already tumultuous world order. If continued, these actions will create more direct and indirect issues in the future and increase the threat to western stability. 

Option #1:  The West influences Russia within its border.

The equal and opposite response to Russian transgressions around the world would be to attempt to spread misinformation and potentially destabilize Russian society by targeting the citizenry’s trust in Putin and his government. The aim with this approach is to distract the Russian government and intelligence services to preoccupy them with trouble within their own borders as to limit their ability to function effectively outside of their state borders. 

Risk:  While this approach is opposite to what actions most western societies are willing to take, this option can also have severely negative consequences on a political level in domestic politics in the West. While Russia can take similar actions as a semi-authoritarian state with little repercussion, the proposed actions would be a bigger issue in western democracies which are at the mercy of public opinion[2]. Russian media also has greater pull and influence within its community than western media does in the West, so Russia can shape its truth accordingly. Another large issue is that the Russian people should not be made to suffer for the actions that are mostly to be blamed on what appears to be their poorly representative government. This option could serve to galvanize polarity between Russians and western citizens unjustly if discovered. Finally, it is unlikely that western intelligence services would be given the support or be able to maintain the secrecy required to conduct these actions effectively without it being made public and having even more severe consequences once those actions were exposed[3]. 

Gain:  A misinformation campaign or the exposure to hidden truths covered up by the Russian government may have a positive effect on Russians and their relationship with / control of their government. Exposing voters to what their government is doing around the world with state funds may influence that relationship in a more positive manner. Also, if things did work out according to plan, Russia may be forced to withdraw somewhat from its politically divisive ventures in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, and perhaps Africa and Belarus.     

Option #2:  The West responds outside of Russia.

Western states could act more aggressively in checking Russian support of small political factions and insurgencies in specific regions. The issue of Russian occupation in the Republic of Georgia and Russian material and personnel support in eastern Ukraine are the best places to start. A greater commitment to supporting the incoming regime following Ukraine’s upcoming elections and the involvement of western states in more intensive training and operations with Ukrainian forces would be a welcomed adjustment of policy[4]. The West’s turning of the other cheek that has largely followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics send the wrong messages to the friends and enemies of western powers.

Risk:  The risks that are ever-present with a stronger approach to Russian interventionist tactics are mainly geared at avoiding a larger conflict. The reason behind Russia’s low-intensity application of force and influence is to scare the faint-hearted away[5]. It is working. No state wants a war. War with Russia would not end well for any party that is involved. While war is unlikely, it is still a possibility that needs to be considered when additional states become involved in these limited conflicts. Again, politics must be factored into the commitment of force with warfighters, financial support, or materiel support. Democratic leaders are going to be hesitant to become involved in small wars with no strategy to back them up. Afghanistan and Iraq have already done enough damage to western powers with their lack of direction and their continued drain on resources to no end. 

Gain:  Showing aggressive states that their divisive actions will be met with a sure and solid response is the best thing that could happen for international stability in the coming years. The negligence the world community has shown to an overaggressive Russia and China in recent years has set a very dangerous precedent.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Congress: Commission on Security Cooperation in Europe. (2018). Russia’s Occupation of Georgia and the Erosion of the International Order: Hearing before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, Second Session, July 17, 2018.

[2] Zakem, V., Saunders, P., Hashimova, U., & Frier, P. (2017). Mapping Russian Media Network: Media’s Role in Russian Foreign Policy and Decision-Making (No. DRM-2017-U-015367-1Rev). Arlington, Virginia: CNA Analysis and Solutions. 

[3] Reichmann, D. (2017). “CIA boss Mike Pompeo says ‘leaker worship’ compromising American intelligence”. Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3554008/mike-pompeo-leakers-us-intelligence/

[4] Deychakiwsky, O. (2018). “Analysis: U.S. Assistance to Ukraine”. U.S. Ukraine Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.usukraine.org/analysis-u-s-assistance-ukraine/

[5] Khramchikhin, A. (2018). “Rethinking the Danger of Escalation: The Russia-NATO Military Balance”. Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/01/25/rethinking-danger-of-escalation-russia-nato-military-balance-pub-75346.    

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Jesse Short Option Papers Russia Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

#PartnerArticle – Q & A: Assessing a Second Buhari Presidency in Nigeria

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


Q & A: Assessing A Second Buhari Presidency in Nigeria.

Compiled and Edited by:  Sola Tayo, Senior Associate Fellow, CSAAP and Fulan Nasrullah, Executive Director, CSAAP

Nigerians have voted to give President Muhamadu Buhari another term in office. The presidential and legislative elections that took place on the 23rd of February 2019 were seen as a referendum on his leadership and that of his governing party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

That the APC has managed to solidify its position is reflective of the cut throat, winner takes all system of Nigerian politics. Although the party initially appeared cohesive when it was formed in 2013, cracks soon began to appear and it fell into the same spiral of power struggles and Machiavellian politics that brought down the previous governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But after a series of high-profile defections to the PDP it managed to regain its focus and keep its position as governing party for another four years.

One of the APC’s strengths lies in its national appeal -it was initially seen as an inclusive party with representation across all regions. But the clear regional divide in votes in the South and the drop in share of the popular vote for Buhari in the South West might recast the APC as a party of the North and may impact on its performance in the 2023 polls.

As for the PDP which finds itself in opposition for the second time, there are decisions to be made about its future direction. Will it allow itself a much-needed period of introspection and reform into an effective opposition capable of challenging the APC at local and national level or will it continue to rely on defections and possible further discord within the APC?

The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is preparing a legal challenge to overturn the result. Should he win, it will be unprecedented as no presidential election result has been successfully challenged since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.

Assuming the PDP is unsuccessful, Nigerians have another term of a Muhammadu Buhari led government. But what have the past four years of his leadership meant for Nigeria and what can we expect to see in his next term?

Prior to the elections, and after a noticeably slow start, his government has commenced a number of big infrastructure projects – largely focusing on road and rail building. There are also LNG projects underway while the electricity sector reform is continuing.

However, questions remain over his protectionist economic policies and inward looking approach to Nigeria’s development at a time when other African states are adopting a more open approach to intercontinental trade. Nigeria remains one of a handful of African nations that has not signed up to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTFA). The AfCTFA will create a single market and free trade area which will supposedly improve and enhance intra–African trade and Nigeria (the continent’s largest economy) will not be a part of it.

To better help the policy and strategy community understand what four more years of a Muhammadu Buhari administration will shape up to be, the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP) at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation(GICS), reached out to a cross-section of the Nigeria experts community, to find out where they think Nigeria is heading.

Below are their views of on Muhammadu Buhari’s management of a number of policy issues from economic and infrastructure development to security and the rule of law.

RULE OF LAW

Rotimi Fawole – Lawyer and Columnist

“He is not a believer in the supremacy of the Rule of Law. This is not surprising given his military background on the one hand, but also the reason he gave for his conversion to being a democrat, on the other. According to him in his pre-2015 rebranding, he converted to democracy because he was amazed at how the Soviet Union fell without a single bullet being fired. Of course, he did not elaborate.

However, what we have seen from his Presidency is an egregious disregard for the Judiciary. Supported, either tacitly or explicitly, by the Attorney-General, the chairman of his anti-corruption committee and his Vice-President (all Senior Advocates of Nigeria), orders of court have been routinely ignored, it has been canvassed that the constitution be suspended to facilitate the so-called War on Corruption, and Justices of the Supreme Court have been assaulted. In his second term of office, the destruction of the pillars of justice is assured.

Some people genuinely believe that the economy nose-dived because “Buhari blocked corruption money”. Government spending as a fraction of GDP between 1999 and 2016 averaged less than 10% (the Federal Government’s is probably only half of that) but somehow, withholding a fraction of this tiny fraction has killed the rest.

And as for the war on corruption, the administration is quick to cite the number of ex-officials who have admitted to looting and refunded all or part of their booty. This is a good thing, to be clear. The problem is with the contentious matters, where the accused put the government to the strictest proof of its allegations. The government has shown itself completely hapless at building cases that meet evidentiary thresholds and well-inclined to dispense with rights and constitutional safeguards. In a Buhari second term, these precepts will be tested more audaciously than ever before.

The anti corruption fight has to stop being selective to be credible and he needs to respect the rule of law and separation of powers of the arms of the government.”

ECONOMY, DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Ronak Gopaldas – Director, Signal Risk

“There needs to be an urgent change in relations between business and the private sector. The current haphazard approach adopted by the government with regards to the regulatory environment (particularly in relation to foreign businesses and how they operate in Nigeria) has rattled investors and created an environment of distrust and unpredictability.

Given the current state of the Nigerian economy, clear, consistent and coherent economic policy direction and messaging is important to get investors back onside. There needs to be a recognition that Nigeria’s problems are too significant to overcome alone, and that the private sector should be a partner rather than an adversary in solving the country’s developmental challenges. The current antagonistic relationship is not sustainable.

It is important too, that Nigeria also ratifies the continental free trade agreement which could be a game changer for the African continent.”

JOHN ASHBOURNE – Capital Economics

“Another term for Mr Buhari will probably mean the continuation of the current policy framework – including the multiple track exchange rate system, Foreign Exchange rationing, and a focus on state-driven economic management. As a whole, we think that this will cause growth in Nigeria to fall far below its potential over the coming few years.”

Matthew Page – Associate Fellow, Chatham House

“Buhari is a leopard who is unlikely to change his spots at this late stage. His insular and undynamic governing style will ensure his second term resembles his first. Infrastructure development will remain state-driven and won’t meet the country’s pent up and ever-growing demand. Foreign investors will remain focused on engaging in those few states that are realising governance and ease of doing business improvements instead of waiting for federal level reforms that failed to materialise in Buhari’s first term.

On the AfCFTA: Nigeria appears to be on track to sign on to the AfCFTA, but President Buhari might ultimately decide against joining. Even if Buhari signs the pact, it is unclear whether his government would implement it. Nigeria, for example, has yet to fully implement the ECOWAS Common External Tariff adopted back in 2013. Overall, Nigeria is well positioned to reap huge economic benefits by joining the AfCFTA, but the parochial interests of some powerful businesses and Buhari’s penchant for protectionism could influence Nigeria’s final decision on the AfCFTA.

For President Buhari to make progress developing Nigeria and growing its economy, he needs to govern more dynamically and empower a wider network of talented, reform-minded Nigerians to energise and professionalise the country’s key institutions. He needs to rein in wasteful spending, cut red tape, right-size government, deliver public goods and push back against the patronage-based narratives that underpin Nigeria’s deeply flawed political culture.”

Feyi Fawehimi – Accountant and Public Affairs Commentator

”To an extent he has a much freer hand now. He is no longer seeking re-election and this mandate seems even more resounding than the 2015 one. For a man whose ideas have been held in aspic for a long time, there really is no incentive for him to change course. So I expect more of the same but this time, since everyone knows what to expect, they will find ways to work around him.

I don’t expect more changes except perhaps he takes a more hands off role and delegates more powers to his VP who has a more liberal approach to economic matters. But as 2023 campaigning will begin almost immediately, President Buhari will wield enormous powers over the process as he is the only one who can unite the north in a bloc vote so his endorsement is going to be priceless for anyone who can secure it and they will fall over themselves to do so. So Buhari’s ideas – a more active role for the state,focus on agriculture, fx and fuel price stability, hostility to the market economy – will continue to dominate going forward.”

NATIONAL SECURITY, PUBLIC SAFETY, BOKO HARAM

Chidi Nwaonu – Defence and Security Expert, Director of Peccavi Consults

“The question is:  How do you see the next four years of the Buhari Admin shaping up in the following areas?

Rule of Law:  We have the benefit of the last few years to make judgments, the Buhari Administration has shown a willingness to ignore court orders and due process in issues it believes to be vital to its core interest such as the Nnamdi Kanu, Dasuki, Zakzaky cases or the Chief Justice of Nigeria cases and the detention of journalists and commentators. Without the worry of reelection and having obtained a comfortable margin f victory, it is likely that this pattern will continue as there is no reason or incentive to change.

What could they do differently?  They could change the narrative by adhering even cosmetically to court rulings, very little would be lost by releasing Zakzaky to house arrest etc. From a selfish point of view as the Administrations term comes to an end they would have to consider how they would be treated if another party takes power. A good project for the Vice President to build his own patronage system (see below) would be judicial reform, using his offices and experience to reform and improve the Judiciary

Politics:  Politics will be fascinating, a cabinet reshuffle should logically follow a win, what will be interesting will be seeing how the different members of the coalition (ACN/ CPC et al) as well as PDP defectors are given The overarching political imperative is the fight for the 2023 Presidential slot, whilst this should naturally fall to the Vice President, it is likely he will be challenged by several prominent politicians from the North and the South East. How far the Northern challengers go will be key to how politically stable the next few years will be. Indicators will be how much of a free hand the VP has during any medical or other absences of the President and how many important or critical portfolios he is given to oversee. Without any of these he is unable to build up a patronage network or the necessary alliances to face down a challenge.

The opposition PDP will remain in disarray attracting disgruntled APC members and others whose brand is too toxic to cross carpet. By Nigeria’s rotational system their next candidate should be from the South East, however that would almost certainly end in electoral defeat, thus further internal tensions will arise when it appears the party reneges on this agreement. This apparent disenfranchisement of the Igbo’s gives another window to the neo-Biafrans of IPOB to regain the credibility they lost with their farcical performance this election cycle.

What could they do differently?  Logically the party would aim for an orderly transition and telegraph this early by increasing the Vice President’s powers and giving higher profile jobs to his recommended candidates. The President could also use his street credibility to sell the VP to the masses as someone who will represent their interest. At the same time, a concerted effort to reach out and mollify other Regions such as the South and South East with policies that would assist the people or large-scale infrastructure projects would help temper the narrative of the Buhari Administration of being sectional.

Public Safety:  Public safety will continue to decrease, outside of the main conurbations, the risk of kidnap and robbery, will continue to increase as the overstretched security forces fail to arrest the increasing criminality. Response to issues such as communal clashes, farmer/ herder clashes, armed robbery and banditry will continue to be reactive with the military being used to reinforce or replace the police as is the norm currently.

What could they do differently?  They should address deteriorating public safety as an urgent national emergency, setting up a Task Force led and coordinated at Ministerial level bringing together the various public safety and internal security agencies to stem the tide. Foreign assistance can be sought to reform the police and expand it to deal with the security threats. Local vigilantes in each state should be brought into the Police chain of command as local auxiliaries, with training, legal authority, uniforms and pay. Domestic intelligence gathering must be better streamlined and focused, with better coordination

Defense and National Security:  National security will continue to deteriorate, many of Nigeria’s problems remain beyond the control of the security forces, nor has there been any indication of a move towards a joined-up approach to defence and security. A key moment will be when/ whether the Service Chiefs are replaced, which will see yet another shake up in key staff positions in the Defence Headquarters and the Army. President Buhari has intimated that regime protection is at least part of his calculations in keeping the Service Chiefs in place however in order to maintain the loyalty of the wider cadre of General Officers, opportunities for upward advancement must be created, non of which can happen until the Service Chiefs are retired.

Operationally, the North West will continue to increase in lethality, it is likely that 2019/20 will see an organised defined anti-government armed group emerging in that region. General lawlessness will either increase or coalesce around this group or groups. The North Central crisis is likely to rumble on, and the cycle of violence will continue.

External threats include spillover of conflicts from Nigeria’s neighbours, Niger and Cameroon. Nigerian security forces will continue to be overstretched with a heavy reliance on firepower to solve problems. But there are likely to be more bilateral engagements in the regional security area, with neighbouring countries.

What could they do differently? A national defence review to look at Nigeria’s security problems holistically. However a massive expansion of the ground forces will be needed, with an appropriate uplift int he capabilities of the Armed Forces’ sustainment efforts. In addition to increasing numbers, training, equipment and doctrine should be changed to reflect current realities.

Foreign Policy:  Nigeria’s foreign policy such as it is will continue as it does now. There will be a lack of focus on African issues, rather the focus of this administration will be on relationships with China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

What could they do differently?  Nigeria would need to once more take a proactive and robust position on West African and African affairs. As Nigeria does not need to hew to any particular power bloc, it can identify its central foreign policy positions and manoeuvre relationships around that rather than reacting to events as they come up.

The Boko Haram Conflict:  Without a major foreign intervention or the recruiting and mobilisation of significant forces, it is likely that Nigerian forces could mostly cede Northern Borno and Yobe, holding only token positions. It is likely that ISWAP will tolerate these token positions as they (and their logistics chain) will serve as a source of supplies for them.

Boko Haram is likely to continue with its current level of violence, the question would be if Shekau died or became sufficiently weakened would it lead to infighting amongst junior commanders, wholesale defections to ISWAP, disintegration into smaller groups of fighters/ bandits or surrender to the security forces?

What could they do differently? Well built, well defended Forward Operating Bases would adequately resist enemy forces and deny them freedom of movement, while a well led, well equipped, and highly mobile group of forces would be able to chase Boko Haram or ISWAP into their safe areas and destroy them.

This would require a radical reform of training and deployment of troops, including recruiting a large number of fresh soldiers in order to continue the campaign and eventually relieve the troops in theatre. The reliance on air power should be refined to ensure response times improve and air strikes can be controlled by ground troops. Artillery use and accuracy needs to be increased and improved enabling troops to provide their own operational support.”

Jacob Zenn – Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University(USA), Associate Fellow at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at GICS

“President Buhari did not put new, innovative ideas on the table about countering Boko Haram before the elections and, if anything, the incentive he had was before the election to quell the violence to help his chances to win. Now that he has won there is no extra incentive to keep the insurgency down as much as he would like to do so in an ideal world. The Chadian forces in Borno may pressure ISWAP but their mandate has not been well articulated.

ISWAP, and to a lesser extent Boko Haram, is a strategic actor, and they will likely develop their lines of control slowly and gradually and benefit from learning from the mistakes IS “core” made in attracting too many foreign enemies; at the same time ISWAP will increasingly interact with the “core”, including receiving “advisors” from the Syria and Iraq theaters. There is no reason to foresee a weaker ISWAP four years from now while Boko Haram will likely remain stable, but what may be new is a resurgence from Ansaru (Ansarul-Muslimeena Fee Bilaadis-Sudan) to capitalize on unrest in Zamfara and mix with local populations and receive support from its Al-Qaeda allies in Mali.”

Vincent Foucher – Research Fellow, Centre Nationale De La Recherche Scientifique (France)

“The Northeast needs to be given priority again. This is not 2015-2016 anymore. Al-Barnawi’s faction ISWAP has survived the Nigerian Army’s pushback and has adapted. It now seems even Shekau is adapting, and many observers suspect the two factions may be coming closer. ISWAP is waging a guerrilla war while offering governance and services to civilians in and around the Lake. It is building credibility, an arsenal and an experienced force. It also seems contacts with, and possibly support from, the Islamic State have increased. This is a serious challenge, and the trend is worrisome. Key steps are fairly obvious:

  1. There needs to be a serious improvement of the operations of the Nigerian Army. It needs to provide a credible response, key to keeping the neighbouring countries involved. Military leaders need to be made accountable to the very top and on both their results and their use of the resources allocated to them. A serious recruitment drive seems necessary to allow for a better rotation of troops. Improvements in management seem necessary. Coordination between Air Force and Army needs to be drastically improved. While more airpower will come in handy, it cannot be a solution by itself.
  2. ISWAP is gaining recognition from the population, and even some support, partly because it punishes abusers within its ranks. The Nigerian Army has improved its human rights record, but it should do more, and publicly so. No guerrilla war can be won through massive human rights abuses.
  3. ISWAP is good at offering business opportunities, using the natural resources of Lake Chad and a comparatively light quasi-taxation to encourage people to produce and trade in the areas it controls. It provides a modicum of public services, including some justice, some education and some health (I hear it even recently embarked on a campaign to build latrines). The state needs to compete and provide solid services in the trench towns it controls.
  4. The Nigerian authorities suffer a serious credibility gap when it comes to cooperation with regional or international partners. They need to show commitment and welcome cooperation, even if that comes with some embarrassment, criticism and soul-searching.
  5. While there does not seem to be much room for serious talks right now, they will come at some point, and the authorities must keep that in mind. Meanwhile, offering decent, credible exit ways for Boko Haram fighters and supporters who want out (for there still are some, notably with Shekau) is essential – this includes Boko Haram wives under government control, who can offer a way to their husbands.
  6. War is too serious a matter to be left to the military, said French World War I Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau. There needs to be a greater opening of the public sphere in the northeast – journalists, academics, national and international NGOs, UN agencies, politicians must feel they can operate without pressure from the military. Their criticisms, even if at times unfair, must be borne and indeed should be encouraged – they can play a key part in improving the response. The security forces themselves need to be more transparent about developments on the ground. The recent insistence by security officials that the rockets fired by ISWAP on Maiduguri were actually a security training may seem like a minor episode, but over time, these episodes mean nobody trusts security officials, not even their own subordinates.

What is likely to happen?

Given the seriousness of the challenges in the northeast and the many other pressing issues in Nigeria, I fear that the regime may be tempted to rely too exclusively on expected improvements in air power rather than tackle the difficult but necessary improvements to the Army and to the government’s operations in the North east.

A reunification of Boko Haram and ISWAP would be surprising, given the bad blood – the division was not just a feud between Shekau and Nur. But some mutual tolerance and local cooperation is possible. Beyond that, the dynamics between the two factions is hard to predict. I suspect ISWAP will try to expand operations in Yobe and Adamawa, maybe even try and build up capacity in other northern states. It would make sense for ISWAP to look for better anti-aircraft systems than the guns it has for now – if they succeed, it could be worrisome.”

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Lake Chad Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project Sola Tayo

#NatSecGirlSquad: The Conference Edition White Paper — The Future of U.S. Relations and Security in the Western Hemisphere Panel

Editor’s Note:  On November 15, 2018, #NatSecGirlSquad hosted a conference in Washington D.C. at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  Over the coming months Divergent Options, as a partner for this event, will be deviating from our traditional content and publishing a series of white papers in various formats that capture each panel at this event.


Mattea Cumoletti is the Fellow for “The Future of U.S. Relations and Security in the Western Hemisphere Panel” at the #NatSecGirlSquad Conference, and she also works on the website. Mattea is a graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she specialized in human security and gender analysis of international affairs.  Find her on Twitter @matteacumo. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Panel Title:  The Future of U.S. Relations and Security in the Western Hemisphere

Overview:  The Western Hemisphere has become an increasingly chaotic microcosm of international threats and geopolitical concerns with global ramifications, but the complex security issues in the region are often misunderstood or overlooked. At the NatSecGirlSquad (NSGS) Conference, experts came together to unpack regional security issues and offer policy solutions for improving the United States’ relationship with Latin America. Dante Disparte, the Chief Executive Officer of Risk Cooperative, moderated the panel, which included Christine Balling, Senior Fellow for Latin American Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, Dr. Vanessa Neumann, president of the political risk firm Asymmetrica, and Ana Quintana, Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation. 

The December 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy on the Western Hemisphere emphasizes the importance of shared democratic values and economic interests in the region to reduce threats to common security[1]. As Ana remarked in at the onset of the panel, “the U.S. has a deep and abiding geopolitical interest in seeing a secure, stable, and economically prosperous Western Hemisphere.” However, while Latin America has emerged from decades of dictatorships, familiar challenges remain, and emerging issues are threatening the stability of the region. Overall, political corruption continues to be the source of much of the volatility in Latin America. Authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, recently dubbed the “Troika of Tyranny” by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, have triggered social upheaval, a pressing humanitarian crisis, and massive migration. The migrant caravan coming from Central America is not only testing U.S. immigration policy, but calling attention to the terrible political and social conditions in the Northern Triangle that motivate desperate people to flee. In Mexico, after the election of the anti-establishment left-wing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly referred to as AMLO, questions remain about the direction of his agenda. While Colombia has made strides in the peace process with the guerilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC, the new administration faces a growing Venezuelan refugee crisis and an upshot in narcotics production. Meanwhile, it appears that the U.S. has disengaged from the region in many ways, leaving a power vacuum that is being filled by Chinese and Russian influence and increased regional cooperation. The panel discussed these key issues and reflected on the future of U.S. relations with Latin America.

Troika of Tyranny and Crisis in Venezuela:  In the beginning of November 2018, the Trump administration laid out its intentions to confront the oppressive regimes of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, calling it the “Troika of Tyranny,” harkening back to Cold War tropes. Trump had already set a policy aim to pull back from the Obama administration’s attempt to normalize relations with Cuba, but this new approach raises questions about whether a comprehensive regional strategy will follow[2]. On the panel, Dr. Neumann addressed the catchy new phrase, and particularly the increasingly volatile crisis in Venezuela. She quipped that the Cold War “never really went away,” and many of the issues in Venezuela are more sophisticated moves from the Cuba’s Cold War playbook. Experts in the region are unsurprised that the fast-growing political crisis in Nicaragua is a more brutal version of Venezuela. All panelists agreed that Venezuela is a failed state—as President Nicolás Maduro has continued former President Chavez’s practices of economic mismanagement which has trickled down to the poor, who are now feeling the effects of the corruption—a veritable man-made humanitarian disaster. Ana explained how Venezuela is one of the best examples of squandering its economic potential. As one of the world’s largest proven oil reserves, the country was flush with oil money during the commodities boom in the 2000s. But rather than saving money and investing in oil infrastructure and development, Chavez used oil wealth as a “slush fund” for government corruption, and Maduro’s government has become “essentially a narco-dictatorship.” Currently, most of Venezuela’s oil wealth is used to pay off foreign debts, and in a country that has more oil than Saudi Arabia, there are regular black-outs, an extreme shortage of food and medicine, hyperinflation, and increasing authoritarian policies and social controls[3]. Foreign interests are also preventing Venezuela from getting out from the situation—for example, Cuban intelligence services have stopped every coup attempt from within the military. 

The country is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the history of the hemisphere, with one in three Venezuelans planning to leave. One million Venezuelans have already settled in Colombia, and about 50,000 continue cross into Colombia daily. At this rate, the region will soon be facing a migration crisis double the size of the Syria’s, and with the same far-reaching effects. Increased migration to the European Union triggered a rise of right-wing populism, fracture of traditional political parties, and social upheaval—destabilizing forces that are already happening in Latin America. Though Colombia feels a sense of reciprocal responsibility after Venezuela was a safe-haven for migrants fleeing FARC violence, there has already been pushback, border skirmishes, and a rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric, which Dr. Neumann predicts will only grow. 

Migrant Caravan and Northern Triangle:  Another area of focus on the panel was the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. According to Ana, these are countries that should be considered failed states—”thousands of people from these countries are willing to risk their lives and their children’s lives for a dangerous and uncertain journey to the U.S. because their countries haven’t provided them any other options or opportunities.” News about the current migrant caravan has saturated U.S. media, and the U.S. response has become a hotly politicized and debated issue. Over 5,000 U.S. troops were sent to the border, and other restrictive policies have limited the means to claim asylum in the United States[4]. However, Ana argued that country of origin conditions are being ignored in the policy debate, and U.S. asylum policies should be “point Z in the conversation and point A has to be, ‘why are these countries not able to provide their people with at least a remotely dignified livelihood?’” Panelists agreed that migration is often discussed as a domestic issue, but it should be viewed as a foreign policy issue. International attention should focus on the caravan organizers, according to Ana. These are far-leftist political organizations that are “essentially weaponizing poor migrants and using them as political pawns.” It takes a well-mobilized and organized effort to move thousands of people through cartel terrain to the U.S. border—the caravan was not spontaneous. Ana learned on a recent trip to Mexico that the organizers are selling migrants a “false bill of goods,” promising that the United Nations will meet them with protection at the U.S. border, and not to trust the Mexican government’s offer of asylum, education, work, and housing. Therefore, a strong policy recommendation to the international community is to shift focus from just U.S. border policy and “go after the real boogeymen.” A question from the panel audience raised the idea of a Marshall Plan initiative in Latin America—to further bolster economic aid in the countries of migrants’ origin. However, the panel argued that this sort of policy prescription would just shift the burden of responsibility away from the Northern Triangle countries and further allow the international community to bail them out. A history of corruption has proven that increased development funds from the international community would more likely go towards building mansions for the elite than paving roads or feeding children. Ana concluded that “to really be humanitarian and compassionate is to not embolden the governments that are oppressing their people,” and political pressure should shift to the countries at the root of the migration problem. 

Mexico:  Recent contentious elections in the region represent a general breakdown of the traditional political system. While Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s win in Brazil shifts the country to the far-right, AMLO’s populist ascension in Mexico is also “very Trumpian in a way,” according to Dr. Neumann. In Mexico, the concern is not so much that the country is veering to the left, but that AMLO may not respect government institutions and his broad mandate could lead to a consolidation of power. The Mexican people are strongly supportive of the third-party AMLO because they feel that the two-party system that came before him only served to enrich the elite and disenfranchise the rest of the country. But with the presidency, a super majority in congress, and a majority of state legislatures, there is a risk of a one-party unchecked system in Mexico. However, despite the risks and critics’ likening to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, AMLO has promised to fight corruption and has a huge mandate to do so, which panelists agreed could present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity[5]. 

Colombia:  The panel also discussed Colombia, which has been the United States’ largest foreign aid recipient in the region. While Colombia has done significant work in dealing with the demobilization of the FARC guerillas under the new peace deal, Christine argued that there were a lot of promises made by the Santos administration to the FARC and Colombian citizens which cannot be fulfilled by the new administration. Cocaine production has actually increased since the 2016 peace accords, mostly because Santos had conceded to end the U.S.-funded aerial coca eradication program. FARC dissidents have continued to attack military and civilian targets, and the Venezuelan refugee crisis is only increasing in size and urgency[6]. Despite these challenges, Colombia has made great strides since recent decades of turmoil—the economy is doing well and it is an example of bright spot in the region. Christine pointed out that there is very little media highlighting the investment that the U.S. military and USAID have made successfully in the region, especially in Colombia—“the U.S. military is largely involved with civil affairs, community relations projects, and has actually done a great deal in supporting the Colombian military and military police in their fight against the bad actors there.” The U.S. must now decide how it can continue to support Colombia, which can in turn strengthen regional peace.

U.S. Policy and External Engagement:  The panelists acknowledged that the vacuum of U.S. engagement, trade, and investment in Latin America is being filled largely by China and Russia. It is no secret that China and Russia are vying for economic influence in the region[7]. Dr. Neumann pointed out that China gives fewer conditions to their loans and often turns a blind eye to corruption, but they’re loans, not investments—”they don’t develop, they indebt.” This type of “debt diplomacy” is cause for concern, because it creates the capacity for social controls. However, as Christine argued, the U.S. can’t just tell it’s allies to say no when it comes to Chinese money, and countries in the region have to act in their own best interest.

The looming question on the panel remained—what exactly is the United States goal in Latin America? In the past, it was always defined by defeating communism, and in some ways that still shapes the current administration’s rhetoric. However, the “end-game” for the U.S. in Latin America doesn’t seem to be clear. As Dante inquired, is U.S. strategy informed primarily by drugs, migration, and narrow interests with oil? Or are there broader interests?

Ana argued that one of the biggest issues in answering this question is simply that the Trump administration has done a poor job communicating their policies and what exactly they’ve done in the region. When it comes to Venezuela, for example, “it seems like they have a myopic focus on oil, but that could not be further from the truth.” The U.S. has been extremely engaged in promoting human rights and democratic governance in country. The U.S. has sanctioned over 70 Venezuelan government officials in the past year and a half alone. The administration has also emboldened the region and our regional partners to finally speak up on these issues as well—the Colombians have issued reciprocal sanctions, and Panama is looking at how can they freeze illicit Venezuelan government assets. Therefore, much of the U.S. policy discussion for the Western Hemisphere could involve a shift in the narrative. Panelists agreed that the narrative that has been propagated successfully is that historically, U.S. policy in the region has been the source of much of the current turmoil, but they argue that is not quite the case. In fact, despite the changes and upheavals of the last 100 years of U.S. involvement, it was Spanish colonization that had a more dynamic and long-lasting role in shaping the region as it is today. 

Despite what seems to be U.S. disengagement and unclear policy in the region, panelists agreed that a silver lining has been the strengthened regional cooperation that has resulted from a more hands-off U.S. approach. The Pacific Alliance, for example, is a great free trade deal between Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile, which Dr. Neumann predicts will soon expand[8]. Economic integration is a key step for greater regional security cooperation, and hopefully puts the Western Hemisphere on the cusp of true prosperity. 


Endnotes:

[1] United States & Trump, D. (2017) National security strategy of the United States: The White House. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.pdf

[2] Rogin, Josh. (2018, November 1). Bolton promises to confront Latin America’s ‘Troika of Tyranny.’ The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/bolton-promises-to-confront-latin-americas-troika-of-tyranny/2018/11/01/df57d3d2-ddf5-11e8-85df-7a6b4d25cfbb_story.html

[3] Labrador, R.C. (2018, December 7). Venezuela: the rise and fall of a petrostate. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/venezuela-crisis

[4] Gibbons-Neff, T. and Cooper, H. Deployed inside the United States: the military waits for the migrant caravan. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/10/us/deployed-inside-the-united-states-the-military-waits-for-the-migrant-caravan.html

[5] Johnson, K. and Gramer, R. (2018, November 30) How will AMLO govern Mexico? Foreign Policy. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/30/how-will-amlo-govern-mexico-lopez-obrador-morena-pri-pan/

[6] Balling, C. (2018, April 11) Colombia’s political problems are an opportunity for America. The National Interest. Retrieved from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/colombias-political-problems-are-opportunity-america-25324

[7] Royal, T. (2017, December 4). How China and Russia are teaming up to degrade U.S. influence in South America. The National Interest. Retrieved from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-china-russia-are-teaming-degrade-us-influence-south-23458

[8] Marczak, J. (2018, July 24). Latin America’s future begins with the Pacific Alliance. Atlantic Council. Retrieved from http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/latin-america-s-future-begins-with-the-pacific-alliance

 

#NatSecGirlSquad Mattea Cumoletti

Options for Peace in the Continuing War in Afghanistan

Suzanne Schroeder is an independent analyst.  She can be found on Twitter @SuzanneSueS57, and on Tumblr.  She is currently working on a long-term project on school poisonings in Afghanistan and has previously written for War on the Rocks.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  The war in Afghanistan continues to hurt the Afghan people, Afghan Government, Afghan Taliban (Taliban), and causes the U.S. and its Allies and Partners to expend lives and treasure in pursuit of elusive political objectives. The goal of a defeated Taliban has proven to be outside of the realm of realistic expectations, and pursing this end does not advance American standing.

Date Originally Written:  February 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 11, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Suzanne Schroeder is an independent analyst. She has a particular interest in the history of the Taliban movement, and how it will continue to evolve.

Background:  As of this writing, talks have begun between the U.S. and the Taliban. What decisions can promote and sustain constructive dialogue?

Significance:  It remains to be seen if, after almost eighteen years in Afghanistan, the U.S. can achieve a “respectable” peace, with a credible method of ensuring long-term security.

Option #1:  The U.S. makes peace with the Taliban, and begins a withdrawal of U.S. forces. 

Risk:  Terrorists with global ambitions will again operate from Afghanistan, without being checked the Afghan Government. In the past two weeks, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has written two pieces, and was interviewed in a third, warning of the dangers of making a hasty peace deal with the Taliban. In a February 10, 2019 interview for New York magazine, Crocker replied to a question about the chances of the Taliban (if they took power), allowing Afghanistan to be used as a “staging ground, for U.S. attacks.” Crocker replied: “Well, that’s one way to look at it. Another way is that the Taliban decided it would continue to stand with Al Qaeda, even though it cost them the country. They would not break those ties, and I would absolutely not expect them to do so now[1].” In the recently published work, The Taliban Reader, Section 3, which covers the period when the Taliban re-emerged as an insurgency, is introduced with this remark: “In the run-up to Operation Enduring Freedom, opinions among the Taliban leadership were split: some were convinced the US would attack, others-including Mullah Mohammed Omar-did not think the US would go to war over bin Laden[2].” The Taliban Reader essentially challenges Crocker’s assertion, that the Taliban made a conscious decision to lose their Emirate, in defense of Al Qaeda.

Gain:  The gain would be an end to a costly and destructive war that U.S. President Donald Trump has stated is “not in our national interest.” Peace with the Taliban might allow Afghanistan to achieve a greater level of stability through regional cooperation, and a more towards level of self-sufficiency.  This assumes that supportive means are well thought-out, so the war’s end would not be viewed as U.S. abandonment. In the absence of ongoing conflict, civil institutions might develop and contribute to social stability. Obviously, this is a delicate and precarious process, and it cannot be judged, until the participation of the Afghan Government takes place.

In July 2018, Dr. Barnett Rubin, the Director of the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, appeared on Tolo News to discuss the Eid Ceasefire that had just taken place between the Taliban and Afghan Government forces the previous month. Dr. Rubin made the following statement about the Taliban: “They have acted in reciprocity to the Afghan Government’s offer, which shows that they are part of the Afghan political system, whether they accept its current legal framework or not[3].” Dr. Rubin’s point was that the Taliban, at some juncture, must enter the Afghan system not defined as necessarily entering the Afghan Government per se, but no longer being a party to conflict, and an eventual end to the restrictions that were currently in place would give them a means to full civil participation. 

Negotiations are at an initial stage and will not be fully underway until the Taliban begins to speak to the current Afghan Government. But with the widespread perception that the Afghan government is not viable without continued U.S. support, this means that the Afghan Government will be negotiating from a disadvantaged position. A possible way to overcome this may be for the Taliban to be included in international development initiatives, like the Chabahar Port[4] and the Belt and Road Initiative[5].  With a role that would require constructive participation and is largely non-ideological, former enemies might become stakeholders in future economic development.

Option #2:  The U.S. and Afghan Government continue to apply pressure on the Taliban — in short, “talk and fight.” 

Risk:  This strategy is the ultimate double-edged sword, from the Taliban’s point of view. It’s said that every civilian casualty wins the Taliban a new supporter. But these casualties also cause an increased resentment of Taliban recalcitrance, and stirs anger among segments of the population that may not actively oppose them. The Afghan Peace march, which took place in the summer of 2018, shows the level of war fatigue that motivated a wide range of people to walk for hundreds of miles with a unified sense of purpose. Their marchers four main demands were significant in that they did not contain any fundamental denouncements, specifically directed at the Taliban. Rather, they called for a ceasefire, peace talks, mutually agreed upon laws, and the withdrawal for foreign troops[6] (italics added). With such strong support for an end to this conflict, the U.S., the Afghan Government and the Taliban all damage themselves, by ignoring very profound wishes for peace, shared by a large segment of the Afghan population. The U.S. also recognized taking on a nuclear-armed Pakistan may not be worth it, especially as the conflict in Kashmir has once again accelerated, and it’s unlikely that Pakistan will take measures against the Taliban.

Gain:  U.S. and Afghan forces manage to exert sufficient pressure on the Taliban, to make them admit to the futility of continued conflict. The U.S. manages to construct a narrative that focuses on the complexities of the last thirty years of Afghan history, rather than the shortcomings of U.S. policy in the region.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hart, B. (2019, February 10). A Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Thinks Trump’s Exit Strategy Is a Huge Mistake. NewYork.

[2] Linschoten, A. S., & Kuehn, F. (2018). The Taliban Reader: War, Islam and Politics in their Own Words. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[3] Tolo News Special Interview with US Expert Barnett Rubin [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEEDrRTlrvY

[4] Afghanistan opens new export route to India through Iran’s Chabahar port – Times of India. (2019, February 24). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/international-business/afghanistan-launches-new-export-route-to-india-through-irans-chabahar-port/articleshow/68140985.cms

[5] Afghanistan’s Role in the Belt and Road Initiative (Part 1). (2018, October 11). Retrieved from http://www.outlookafghanistan.net/topics.php?post_id=21989

[6] Ali M Latifi for CNN. (2018, June 18). Afghans who marched hundreds of miles for peace arrive in Kabul. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/asia/afghanistan-peace-march-intl/index.html

Afghanistan Option Papers Suzanne Schroeder United States

A Thank You to our Strategic Advisors!

Strategic Advisory Board

On March 5, 2017 Divergent Options assembled a five person Strategic Advisory Board to help guide and inspire our work.  Though they have extremely busy lives, we were fortunate to receive advice and assistance from Janine Davidson, Nate Freier, Stephen Rosen, Kori Schake, and Tamara Cofman Wittes.  Divergent Options would not be where we are today without our Strategic Advisors, and for that we say thank you!

Today marks the end of the two-year time period that our Strategic Advisors agreed to serve.  Divergent Options wishes each of our Strategic Advisors well and looks forward to continued contact with them in the future.

 

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Janine Davidson is the president of Metropolitan State University of Denver.  A former Air Force officer and pilot, she served in the Barack Obama administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for plans and, most recently, as the 32nd Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy.

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Mr. Nathan P. Freier is an Associate Professor of National Security Studies with the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI).  He came to SSI in August 2013 after 5 years with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where he was a senior fellow in the International Security Program.  Mr. Freier joined CSIS in April 2008 after completing a 20-year career in the U.S. Army.  His last military assignment was as Director of National Security Affairs at SSI.  From August 2008 to July 2012, Mr. Freier also served as a visiting research professor in strategy, policy, and risk assessment at the U.S. Army War College’s (USAWC) Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) under the provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act.  Mr. Freier is a veteran of numerous strategy development and strategic planning efforts at Headquarters (HQ), Department of the Army; the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and two senior-level military staffs in Iraq.  Mr. Freier has been published widely on a range of national security issues and continues to provide expert advice to the national security and defense communities.  His areas of expertise are defense strategy, military strategy and policy development, as well as strategic net and risk assessment.  Mr. Freier holds master’s degrees in both international relations and politics, and is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College.

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Stephen P. Rosen is the Beton Michael Kaneb Professor of National Security and Military Affairs at Harvard University, where he has also been a Harvard College Professor, the Master of Winthrop House, and Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies.  He was the civilian assistant to the director, Net Assessment, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Political-Military Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council, and a professor in the Strategic Department at the Naval War College.  He participated in the President’s Commission on Integrated Long Term Strategy, and in the Gulf War Air Power Survey sponsored by the Secretary of the Air Force, and he has published widely on nuclear proliferation, ballistic missile defense, limited war, and the American national character as it affects foreign policy.  His first book, Winning the Next War: Innovation and the Modern Military (Cornell University Press, 1994), won the 1992 Furniss Prize.  His subsequent books are Societies and Military Power: India and its Armies (Cornell University Press, 1996) and War and Human Nature (Princeton University Press, 2004).  Rosen received his A.B. and his Ph.D. from Harvard University.

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Dr. Kori Schake is Deputy Director-General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  She is the editor, with Jim Mattis, of the book Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military.  She teaches Thinking About War at Stanford, is a columnist for Foreign Policy magazine, and a contributor to War on the Rocks.  Her history of the Anglo-American hegemonic transition is forthcoming (2017) from Harvard University Press.

She has served as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and in various policy roles including at the White House for the National Security Council; at the Department of Defense for the Office of the Secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department for the Policy Planning Staff.  During the 2008 presidential election, she was Senior Policy Advisor on the McCain-Palin campaign.

She has been profiled in publications ranging from national news to popular culture including the Los Angeles TimesPolitico, and Vogue Magazine.

Her recent publications include: Republican Foreign Policy After Trump (Survival, Fall 2016), National Security Challenges for the Next President (Orbis, Winter 2017), Will Washington Abandon the Order?, (Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2017).

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Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.  Wittes served as the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from 2009 to 2012.  She also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as the deputy special coordinator for Middle East transitions, organizing the U.S. government’s response to the Arab awakening.  Wittes is a co-host of Rational Security, a weekly podcast on foreign policy and national security issues.  She wrote Freedom’s Unsteady March: America’s Role in Building Arab Democracy and edited How Israelis and Palestinians Negotiate: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Oslo Peace Process.  She serves on the board of the National Democratic Institute.

Strategic Advisory Board

An Assessment of Daesh’s Strategic Communication Efforts to Recruit in Syria

Kierat Ranautta-Sambhi works at Le Beck International as a regional security analyst focusing on the Middle East. She can be found on Twitter @kieratsambhi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Daesh’s Strategic Communication Efforts to Recruit in Syria

Date Originally Written:  February 4, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 4, 2019.

Summary:  In the Syrian theatre, Daesh’s strategic communications included incorporating a trifecta of local issues: (1) anti-Assad sentiment, (2) sectarian cleavages, and (3) socio-economic challenges, all of which continue to exist. Consequently, these long-lasting issues at the heart of Daesh’s local narratives may continue to pose a threat, holding some potency with Daesh’s target audience(s) in the country, despite the collapse of its physical caliphate.

Text:  With the U.S. Department of Defense estimating some 14,000 Daesh militants remain in Syria despite the fall of the group’s physical caliphate[1], the “enduring defeat” of Daesh is yet to be achieved[2]. In the Syrian theatre, the group (initially) gained support within the local context – at least in part – by preying on long-standing grievances (with others having joined Daesh for its ideology, amongst other reasons). In relatively simple terms, Daesh’s strategic communications included incorporating a trifecta of local issues: (1) anti-Assad sentiment, (2) sectarian cleavages, and (3) socio-economic challenges. All three issues remain unresolved despite the collapse of the territorial caliphate. Given the initial success of such narratives in gaining support for the group, and the fact that such issues have outlasted Daesh’s initial territorial successes, this trifecta of grievances could still pose a threat moving forward, even as Daesh shifts (back) towards insurgency.

Firstly, for some Daesh recruits, the initial attraction to the group resulted from the perception that it was “the only force standing up to Assad.” According to interviews with two Daesh defectors, joining Daesh provided them with a means to “take revenge” against the Assad regime for killing family members, a prospect which resonated with several recruits from Homs (at least in the early days of caliphal rule)[3]. 

Subsequently, while its own brutal rule became increasingly apparent in Daesh-controlled territory – and resulted in some defections[4] – the grievances at the heart of its narrative remain. Indeed, allegations since levelled against Assad – including the use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, torture, and extrajudicial killings – feed Daesh’s strategic communications efforts. Failure to adequately address such actions leaves open the risk for Daesh to capitalise on the continued hostility towards the Syrian regime as part of its recruitment strategy. 

Secondly, beyond appealing to those seeking to confront the brutality of the Assad regime, Daesh strategic communications also enflamed sectarian cleavages, preying on the feeling of marginalisation and appealing to those feeling sidelined under the Alawite (a minority sect) regime. As such, the Syrian civil war has provided ripe breeding ground for Daesh’s influence: Daesh’s narrative provides a particularly “empowering narrative for a disenfranchised, disengaged individual.[5]” 

Such grievances (including corruption, nepotism and associated socio-economic divisions) contributed to the outbreak of the civil war, with Daesh narratives during the war itself compounding the existence of sectarian bias. This notably included Daesh depicting itself as the “protector of Sunnis against oppression and annihilation by ‘apostate’ regimes,” including the Syrian regime[6]. The group’s propaganda materials propagated an illusion of equality and unity for those who supported the caliphate[7], constructing a narrative that effectively resonated with some marginalised Sunnis. 

Despite the fall of the caliphate, and, with it, Daesh’s ability to offer (the perception of) belonging to a meritocratic state, such narratives still maintain some potency. With Sunnis seemingly being blamed by association (despite being counted among Daesh’s victims), these narratives have the potential to continue resonating with certain individuals, “creating fertile conditions for a repeat of the cycle of marginalization and radicalization that gave rise to the Islamic State in the first place[8].” Indeed, while much of the territory previously under Daesh’s control has been recaptured, issues of marginalisation and discrimination in any post-war period remain, especially considering liberating forces sizeably include Shiites and Kurds.

Thirdly, and in relation to the aforementioned narrative strand, Daesh has also tapped into more long-standing socio-economic grievances, inevitably exacerbated by almost eight years of war. For instance, Assad’s regime failed to properly address socio-economic concerns, particularly those affecting rural areas which housed a significant proportion of Syria’s poor, and, prior to the outbreak of war, were particularly “restive[9].” Amidst such economic woes and disenfranchisement, coupled with the fact that tribal areas often lacked a significant state security presence[10], Daesh managed to depict itself as capable of fulfilling the “social contract[11],” seeming to step up where the Assad regime had not (or, at the very least, providing an economically convincing alternative). In this context, Daesh proved particularly adept at tapping into local concerns. 

One such example is the group’s publicising of its ability to provide bread in areas under its control, highlighting its understanding of location- and context-specific factors when targeting its audience(s). In Syria, the provision of (subsidised) bread has long constituted “an indisputable governmental responsibility towards its citizenry[12],” tied to “governmental legitimacy[13].” As such, Daesh publicised its efforts to provide bread, including, for example, the distribution of pamphlets incorporating a promise to “manage bakeries and mills to ensure access to bread for all” in Aleppo, as well as outlining longer-term plans to plant and harvest wheat[14]. 

While such narratives held more sway while the caliphate was at its peak and Daesh was credibly able to depict itself as a capable ruler and provider, the long-standing socio-economic cleavages used in its strategic communications still remain. While in the contemporary context, Daesh is no longer able to credibly portray itself as financially and physically capable of addressing such issues as it had under the caliphate, the Assad regime is similarly unlikely to be able (or even willing) to adequately address such socio-economic issues. That’s to say nothing of additional issues such as infrastructural damage, food security issues and inflation provoked by more than seven years of war.

Many, if not all, such grievances still exist despite the crumbling of the caliphate. With regional precedent in Iraq[15] highlighting the risk for the Syrian regime’s gains to similarly be temporary, coupled with its ongoing unpopularity, Daesh’s utilisation of this trifecta of narratives suggests that the group is, indeed, prepared for the “long game”. While these three narrative strands undoubtedly held more sway while presented alongside a physical caliphate, the issues at the heart of Daesh’s strategic communications campaigns are long-lasting. As such, the risk remains that they may continue to hold some potency with Daesh’s target audience(s) in Syria, with the potential to feed into a (adapted) strategy for the new state of play, and still serve as a means to gain/maintain support, even as it shifts (back) towards insurgency.


Endnotes:

[1] BBC. (2018, December 20). After the Caliphate: Has Is Been Defeated? Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-45547595 

[2] Seldin, J. (2018, December 19). Defeat Of Islamic State’s Caliphate Is Not Defeat Of Is. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://voanews.com/a/defeat-of-islamic-state-caliphate-is-not-the-defeat-of-is/4708131.html

[3] Revkin, M. & Mhidi, A. (May 1, 2016). Quitting Isis. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs/com/articles/syria/2016-05-01/quitting-isis

[4] Ibid.

[5] Levitt, M. (2016, April 12). The Islamic State, Extremism, and the Spread of Transnational Terrorism. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/041216_Levitt_Testimony.pdf

[6] Munoz, M. (2018, November).  Selling the Long War: Islamic State Propaganda after the Caliphate. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://ctc.usma.edu/selling-long-war-islamic-state-propaganda-caliphate/

[7] See Revkin, M. & Mhidi, A. (May 1, 2016). Quitting Isis. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs/com/articles/syria/2016-05-01/quitting-isis

[8] Sly, L. (2016, November 23). ISIS: A Catastrophe for Sunnis. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/world/2016/11/23/isis-a-catastrophe-for-sunnis/?utm_term=.4d2a1544150b 

[9] Coutts, A. (2011, May 18). Syria’s uprising could have been avoided through reform. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/may/18/syria-uprising-reform-bashar-al-assad 

[10] Khatib, L. (2015, June). The Islamic State’s Strategy: Lasting and Expanding. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://carnegieendowment.org/files/islamic_state_strategy.pdf 

[11] Revkin, M. (2016, January 10). ISIS’ Social Contract. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2016-01-10/isis-social-contract

[12] Martínez, J. & Eng, B. (2017). Struggling to Perform the State: The Politics of Bread in the Syrian Civil War. International Political Sociology, 1-18. doi: 10.1093/ips/olw026

[13] Martínez, J. & Eng, B. (2014, July 29). Islamic State works to win hearts, minds with bread. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/islamic-state-bread-subsidies-syria-iraq-terrorism.html 

[14] Ibid.

[15] Hassan, H. (2018, September 18). ISIS Is Poised to Make a Comeback in Syria. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/09/isis-is-poised-to-make-a-comeback-in-syria/569986/ 

Assessment Papers Islamic State Variants Kierat Ranautta-Sambhi Syria

#PartnerArticle – Briefing Note: Insurgent Activities In Northeast Nigeria And The 2019 Elections

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


On February 23, 2019 the Nigerian Presidential and Federal Parliamentary Elections were finally held after being postponed for one week by Nigeria’s elections commission.
Prior to the elections, the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization initiated a process led by Fulan Nasrullah to track developments regarding the insurgent organisations in Northeast Nigeria as these developments related to the elections.
This Briefing Note contains the first part of the results of this process and once complete will also cover the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections, which will occur on March 9, 2019.

This briefing note may be downloaded from Divergent Options by clicking here.

Africa Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Call for Papers: Nationalism and Extremism

Nationalism

Image: https://eyes-on-europe.eu/nationalism-a-turning-point-for-europe/

 

extremist

Image: https://www.localgov.co.uk/Suspected-jihadis-offered-houses-in-counter-extremism-programme-/44109

 

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to nationalism and extremism.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by April 12, 2019.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Call For Papers Nationalism Violent Extremism

Episode 0012: Hollywood, the U.S. Military, and Civil-Military Relations (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

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On this episode of The Smell of Victory Podcast Bob Hein, Steve Leonard, and Phil Walter discussed Hollywood, the U.S. Military, and Civil-Military Relations.

Issues touched on and quotes from this episode include:

– Hollywood, the strategic communications branch of civil-military relations.

– World War 2 gave us movies of epic battles, now we get damaged Veterans and rogue super soldiers.

– The damaged Veteran sells, and that is the most important lesson in Hollywood.

– Is Hollywood’s depiction of broken Veterans tied to the clarity of the objectives pursued in the war?

– Is Stripes the quintessential Cold War Movie?

– The strength of the Desert Storm movie “Three Kings” was its accurate portrayal of a tension pneumothorax.

– Does “The Hurt Locker” capture the reality of the Iraq war or further the rogue warrior adrenaline junkie myth (or both)?

– Is the HBO series “Generation Kill” the most accurate portrayal of a modern forward military unit?

– Would anybody watch a movie about military staff officers?

– Why are there no movies about Medal of Honor winners from Iraq and Afghanistan?

– Where is the Army in “Save the World “ movies like Battleship, The Last Ship, and Independence Day?

– Gran Torino is the quintessential veteran movie.

And much more!

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here. You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

 

The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest

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Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options have joined forces in 2019 and are sponsoring a writing contest.

What:  A 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper examining a small war as defined in chapter 1 of the United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual of 1940.  This definition is as follows “As applied to the United States, small wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation.”

When:  Submit your 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper between March 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019 to submissions@divergentoptions.org.

Why:  To refine your thoughts on small wars, get your thoughts published on both Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options, and have a chance to win $500 for 1st Place, $300 for 2nd Place, $200 for 3rd Place, or be one of five Honorable Mentions that receives $100.

How:  Submissions will be judged by content, adherence to format, adherence to length, and grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Submissions will be published after the contest closes.  Contest winners will be announced once the judging is complete.

Other Comments:  For the purposes of this contest a writer may examine a current or historical small war or also look at a small war through the lens of an alternative future e.g. “An Assessment of the Impact of the U.S. Divesting its Small War Capability” or an alternative history e.g. “An Assessment of the Impact of the U.S. Not Supporting the Coup Against Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam in 1963” or “An Assessment of the Impact of the U.S. Not Assisting Iraq in Combatting the Islamic State.”  Also, while the definition of “small war” is U.S. centric, we encourage entries from all who are interested in writing on this topic as we understand that each country has its own “small war” policies and capabilities.

Announcements Small Wars Journal Writing Contest

An Assessment of the Role of Unmanned Ground Vehicles in Future Warfare

Robert Clark is a post-graduate researcher at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, and is a British military veteran. His specialities include UK foreign policy in Asia Pacific and UK defence relations.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Role of Unmanned Ground Vehicles in Future Warfare

Date Originally Written:  February 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 25, 2019.

Summary:  The British Army’s recent land trials of the Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System of Unmanned Ground Vehicles, seeks to ensure that the British Army retains its lethality in upcoming short to medium level intensity conflicts.  These trials align with the announcements by both the British Army’s Chief of General Staff, General Carleton-Smith, and by the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, regarding the evolving character of warfare.

Text:  The United Kingdom’s (UK) current vision for the future role of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) originates from the British Army’s “Strike Brigade” concept, as outlined in the Strategic Defence Security Review 2015[1]. This review proposed that British ground forces should be capable of self-deployment and self-sustainment at long distances, potentially global in scope. According to this review, by 2025 the UK should be able to deploy “a war-fighting division optimised for high intensity combat operations;” indeed, “the division will draw on two armoured infantry brigades and two new Strike Brigades to deliver a deployed division of three brigades.” Both Strike Brigades should be able to operate simultaneously in different parts of the world, and by incorporating the next generation autonomous technology currently being trialled by the British Army, will remain combat effective post-Army 2020.

The ability for land forces of this size to self-sustain at long-range places an increased demand on logistics and the resupply chain of the British Army, which has been shown to have been overburdened in recent conflicts[2]. This overburdening is likely to increase due to the evolving character of warfare and of the environments in which conflicts are likely to occur, specifically densely populated urban areas. These densely populated areas are likely to become more cluttered, congested and contested than ever before. Therefore, a more agile and flexible logistics and resupply system, able to conduct resupply in a more dynamic environment and over greater distances, will likely be required to meet the challenges of warfare from the mid-2020s and beyond.

Sustaining the British Armed Forces more broadly in densely populated areas may represent something of a shift in the UK’s vision for UGV technology. This UGV technology was previously utilised almost exclusively for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and for Countering-Improvised Explosive Devices for both the military and the police, as opposed to being truly a force-multiplier developing the logistics and resupply chains.

Looking at UGVs as a force multiplier, the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL) is currently leading a three-year research and development programme entitled Autonomous Last Mile Resupply System (ALMRS)[3]. The ALMRS research is being undertaken to demonstrate system solutions which aim to reduce the logistical burden on the entire Armed Forces, in addition to providing new operational capability and to reduce operational casualties. Drawing on both commercial technology as well as conceptual academic ideas – ranging from online delivery systems to unmanned vehicles – more than 140 organisations from small and medium-sized enterprises, to large military-industrial corporations, submitted entries.

The first phase of the ALMRS programme challenged industry and academia to design pioneering technology to deliver vital supplies and support to soldiers on the front line, working with research teams across the UK and internationally. This research highlights the current direction with which the British vision is orientated regarding UGVs, i.e., support-based roles. Meanwhile, the second phase of the ALMRS programme started in July 2018 and is due to last for approximately twelve months. It included ‘Autonomous Warrior’, the Army Warfighting Experiment 18 (AWE18), a 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade battlegroup-level live fire exercise, which took place on Salisbury Plain in November 2018. This live fire exercise saw each of the five remaining projects left in the ALMRS programme demonstrate their autonomous capabilities in combined exercises with the British Armed Forces, the end user. The results of this exercise provided DSTL with user feedback, crucial to enable subsequent development; identifying how the Army can exploit developments in robotics and autonomous systems technology through capability integration.

Among the final five projects short-listed for the second phase of ALMRS and AWE18 was a UGV multi-purpose platform called TITAN, developed by British military technology company QinetiQ, in partnership with MILREM Robotics, an Estonian military technology company. Developing its Tracked Hybrid Modular Infantry System (THeMIS), the QinetiQ-led programme impressed in the AWE18.

The THeMIS platform is designed to provide support for dismounted troops by serving as a transport platform, a remote weapon station, an IED detection and disposal unit, and surveillance and targeting acquisition system designed to enhance a commander’s situational awareness. THeMIS is an open architecture platform, with subsequent models based around a specific purpose or operational capability.

THeMIS Transport is designed to manoeuvre equipment around the battlefield to lighten the burden of soldiers, with a maximum payload weight of 750 kilograms. This 750 kilogram load would be adequate to resupply a platoon’s worth of ammunition, water, rations and medical supplies and to sustain it at 200% operating capacity – in essence, two resupplies in one. In addition, when utilised in battery mode, THeMIS Transport is near-silent and can travel for up to ninety minutes. When operating on the front-line, THeMIS Transport proves far more effective than a quad bike and trailer, which are presently in use with the British Army to achieve the same effect. Resupply is often overseen by the Platoon Sergeant, the platoon’s Senior Non-Commissioned Officer and most experienced soldier. Relieving the Platoon Sergeant of such a burden would create an additional force multiplier during land operations.

In addition, THeMIS can be fitted to act as a Remote Weapons System (RWS), with the ADDER version equipped with a .51 calibre Heavy Machine Gun, outfitted with both day and night optics. Additional THeMIS models include the PROTECTOR RWS, which integrates Javelin anti-tank missile capability. Meanwhile, more conventional THeMIS models include GroundEye, an EOD UGV, and the ELIX-XL and KK-4 LE, which are surveillance platforms that allow for the incorporation of remote drone technology.

By seeking to understand further the roles within the British Armed Forces both artificial intelligence and robotics currently have, in addition to what drives these roles and what challenges them, it is possible to gauge the continued evolution of remote warfare with the emergence of such technologies. Specifically, UGVs and RWS’ which were trialled extensively in 2018 by the British Army. Based upon research conducted on these recent trials, combined with current up-to-date in-theatre applications of such technology, it is assessed that the use of such equipment will expedite the rise of remote warfare as the preferred method of war by western policy makers in future low to medium level intensity conflicts seeking to minimise the physical risks to military personnel in addition to engaging in conflict more financially viable.


Endnotes:

[1] HM Government. (2015, November). National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478933/52309_Cm_9161_NSS_SD_Review_web_only.pdf

[2] Erbel, M., & Kinsey, C. (2015, October 4). Think again – supplying war: Reappraising military logistics and its centrality to strategy and war. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01402390.2015.1104669

[3] Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. (2017). Competition document: Autonomous last mile resupply. Retrieved February 17, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/accelerator-competition-autonomous-last-mile-supply/accelerator-competition-autonomous-last-mile-resupply

 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Emerging Technology Robert Clark United Kingdom

#PartnerArticle – Sexual Enslavement of Women from the Lake Chad Conflict, through the Gidan Drama System

The following is content from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original content can be viewed here.  


In 2018, the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation commissioned research into the rumoured trafficking and sexual enslavement of women and young girls displaced from the raging conflict in Northeast Nigeria, and the wider Lake Chad region, to ascertain the veracity of these rumours and how widespread the issue was.

The sum of this research process is contained in the briefing note “Sexual Enslavement of Women from the Lake Chad Conflict, through the Gidan Drama System.”  This report has to a large extent peeled off the surface of the underworld trafficking and trade in female victims of the conflict in the Lake Chad across Southern Nigeria and parts of the West African coast.

This briefing note may be downloaded from Divergent Options by clicking here.

Africa Lake Chad Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Does Rising Artificial Intelligence Pose a Threat?

Scot A. Terban is a security professional with over 13 years experience specializing in areas such as Ethical Hacking/Pen Testing, Social Engineering Information, Security Auditing, ISO27001, Threat Intelligence Analysis, Steganography Application and Detection.  He tweets at @krypt3ia and his website is https://krypt3ia.wordpress.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Does Rising Artificial Intelligence Pose a Threat?

Date Originally Written:  February 3, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 18, 2019. 

Summary:  Artificial Intelligence or A.I. has been a long-standing subject of science fiction that usually ends badly for the human race in some way. From the ‘Terminator’ films to ‘Wargames,’ an A.I. being dangerous is a common theme. The reality though is that A.I. could go either way depending on the circumstances. However, at the present state of A.I. and it’s uses today, it is more of a danger than a boon in it’s use on the battlefield both political and militarily.

Text:  Artificial intelligence (A.I.) has been a staple in science fiction over the years but recently the technology has become a more probable reality[1]. The use of semi-intelligent computer programs and systems have made our lives a bit easier with regard to certain things like turning your lights on in a room with an Alexa or maybe playing some music or answering questions for you. However, other uses for such technologies have already been planned and in some cases implemented within the military and private industry for security oriented and offensive means.

The notion of automated or A.I. systems that could find weaknesses in networks and systems as well as automated A.I.’s that have fire control on certain remotely operated vehicles are on the near horizon. Just as Google and others have made automated self-driving cars that have an A.I. component that make decisions in emergency situations like crash scenarios with pedestrians, the same technologies are already being talked about in warfare. In the case of automated cars with rudimentary A.I., we have already seen deaths and mishaps because the technology is not truly aware and capable of handling every permutation that is put in front of it[2].

Conversely, if one were to hack or program these technologies to disregard safety heuristics a very lethal outcome is possible. This is where we have the potential of A.I. that is not fully aware and able to determine right from wrong leading to the possibility for abuse of these technologies and fears of this happening with devices like Alexa and others[3]. In one recent case a baby was put in danger after a Nest device was hacked through poor passwords and the temp in the room set above 90 degrees. In another instance recently an Internet of Things device was hacked in much the same way and used to scare the inhabitants of the home with an alert that North Korea had launched nuclear missiles on the U.S.

Both of the previous cases cited were low-level attacks on semi dumb devices —  now imagine one of these devices with access to weapons systems that are networked and perhaps has a weakness that could be subverted[4]. In another scenario, such A.I. programs as those discussed in cyber warfare, could also be copied or subverted and unleashed not only by nation-state actors but a smart teen or a group of criminals for their own desires. Such programs are a thing of the near future, but if you want an analogy, you can look at open source hacking tools or platforms like MetaSploit which have automated scripts and are now used by adversaries as well as our own forces.

Hackers and crackers today have already begun using A.I. technologies in their attacks and as the technology becomes more stable and accessible, there will be a move toward whole campaigns being carried out by automated systems attacking targets all over the world[5]. This automation will cause collateral issues at the nation state-level in trying to attribute the actions of such systems as to who may have set them upon the victim. How will attribution work when the system itself doing the attacking is actually self-sufficient and perhaps not under the control of anyone?

Finally, the trope of a true A.I. that goes rogue is not just a trope. It is entirely possible that a program or system that is truly sentient might consider humans an impediment to its own existence and attempt to eradicate us from its access. This of course is a long distant possibility, but, let us leave you with one thought — in the last presidential election and the 2020 election cycle to come, the use of automated and A.I. systems have and will be deployed to game social media and perhaps election systems themselves. This technology is not just a far-flung possibility, rudimentary systems are extant and being used.

The only difference between now and tomorrow is that at the moment, people are pointing these technologies at the problems they want to solve. In the future, the A.I. may be the one choosing the problem in need of solving and this choice may not be in our favor.


Endnotes:

[1] Cummings, M. (2017, January 1). Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/publications/research/2017-01-26-artificial-intelligence-future-warfare-cummings-final.pdf

[2] Levin, S., & Wong, J. C. (2018, March 19). Self-driving Uber kills Arizona woman in first fatal crash involving pedestrian. Retrieved February 2, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/19/uber-self-driving-car-kills-woman-arizona-tempe

[3] Menn, J. (2018, August 08). New genre of artificial intelligence programs take computer hacking… Retrieved February 2, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-conference-ai/new-genre-of-artificial-intelligence-programs-take-computer-hacking-to-another-level-idUSKBN1KT120

[4] Jowitt, T. (2018, August 08). IBM DeepLocker Turns AI Into Hacking Weapon | Silicon UK Tech News. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from https://www.silicon.co.uk/e-innovation/artificial-intelligence/ibm-deeplocker-ai-hacking-weapon-235783

[5] Dvorsky, G. (2017, September 12). Hackers Have Already Started to Weaponize Artificial Intelligence. Retrieved February 1, 2019, from https://gizmodo.com/hackers-have-already-started-to-weaponize-artificial-in-1797688425

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Emerging Technology Scot A. Terban

Alternative Futures: United Kingdom Options in Venezuela

Hal Wilson is a member of the Military Writers Guild, and uses narrative to explore future conflict.  His finalist fiction contest entries have been published by the leading national security journal War on the Rocks, as well as the Atlantic Council’s Art of the Future Project.  His fiction has also been published by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Australian Army Logistics Training Centre.  Hal graduated with first-class honours in War Studies and History from King’s College, London, and is studying an MA on the First World War. He tweets at @HalWilson_.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  In an alternative future, the United States and Brazil will intervene imminently in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The United Kingdom (UK) faces being pulled into the crisis. 

Date Originally Written:  February 2, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 11, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the UK National Security Adviser personally briefing 10, Downing Street on potential courses of action.

Background:  The Venezuelan state has collapsed, leaving the country in the grip of growing civil strife.  The recent death of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro in last month’s crash of a Cessna Citation – registration number YV2030, frequently used by the Maduro family[1] – failed to leave a clear successor.  As such, the ‘Bolivarian’ armed forces, affiliated militias (‘colectivos’) and even government-aligned criminal networks (‘pranes[2]’) are clashing for control of the socialist regime.

Mounting violence has seen the abduction-and-murder of opposition leader Juan Guaidó by regime intelligence on February 29, 2019[3], followed by last week’s shoot-down of a Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130J, tail registration 64-0008. C-130J / 64-0008 was supporting in Operation DELIVER COMFORT – the ongoing U.S. effort to airdrop aid over Venezuela. UK Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood now confirms that, late yesterday evening, the Bolivarian Navy of Venezuela (BNV) attacked the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Agrippa.

Agrippa, a maritime support ship, was in-region to conduct Atlantic Patrol Tasking North – the UK’s standing patrol to support Caribbean Commonwealth partners and British Overseas Territories (BOTs). While departing Grenada for Monserrat, a single anti-ship missile (AShM) was fired against Agrippa, which successfully destroyed the missile with its Phalanx Close-In-Weapons-System. The BNV patrol boat – most likely Constitución-class, ironically built in the UK during the 1970s[4]  – withdrew immediately after firing.

It remains unclear why the Agrippa was attacked. Even despite recent aggressiveness by the BNV towards U.S. shipping[5], this represents a grave escalation.

Significance:  Without a leadership figure in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, the Agrippa incident and the loss of 64-0008 to a Man-Portable-Air-Defence-System (MANPADS) demonstrate a probable loss of control over state arsenals. Despite limited professionalism among the armed forces[6], the availability of such sophisticated weapon-systems is a major threat to regional stability. The risk of proliferation of MANPADS on the black-market is a particular concern.

Uproar over the loss of 64-0008 has also made intervention all but certain: repeated[7] warnings[8] to avert an intervention in Venezuela have lost weight in Washington and Brasilia[9]. U.S. enthusiasm in particular is buoyed in direct proportion to the likely share of effort which will be borne by Brazilian troops[10].

Although the UK faces no direct risk, Commonwealth partners and already-vulnerable BOTs stand to suffer if the violence continues to spill-over. A regional Notice to Mariners has been issued, complementing last week’s Notice to Airmen after the loss of 64-0008. The resultant increase of shipping insurance is further disrupting vital supply chains to isolated BOTs such as Monserrat. The UK is obliged to protect these territories.

Option #1:  The UK provides aerial support to the probable U.S.-Brazilian joint humanitarian intervention.

Risk:  Between Brazilian forces and the U.S. Global Response Force[11], the Venezuelan military will be rapidly overrun[12]. It is illustrative to note the Venezuelan Air Force is grounded by flight-safety issues[13] and defections[14] – to the point where DELIVER COMFORT remains unchallenged by any Venezuelan military aircraft.

The primary challenge will be the U.S./Brazilian occupation of major urban centres such as Caracas or Maracaibo. These cities include neighbourhoods dominated by loyalists to the socialist regime, and will pose considerable counter-insurgency challenges. Improvised explosive devices have already been employed by the opposition[15] and it can only be assumed regime loyalists will use similar techniques following an invasion.

UK sealift capacity is largely tied down supporting EXERCISE SAIF SAIREEA 6 in Oman. This conveniently precludes the prospect of large-scale UK ground contribution in Venezuela. The Royal Air Force (RAF) can nevertheless offer FGR4 Typhoons and Voyager aerial tankers to stage out of Puerto Rico, drawing on experience in long-range deployments[16].

Gain:  The UK will win favour in Washington while avoiding the more substantial risks of a ground deployment. By helping to crush the vying armed groups within Venezuela, Caribbean BOTs and Commonwealth partners will be reassured of ongoing UK support to their security.

Option #2:  The UK coordinates the acquisition or sabotage of Venezuelan MANPADS & AShM systems.

Risk:  By targeting sophisticated weapon-systems, we can not only neutralise a key threat to our U.S. & Brazilian allies, but also the main source of disruption to regional Commonwealth partners and BOTs. Bribery or staged purchases can be used to render these weapons harmless, or to have them delivered to UK hands for safekeeping. A similar activity was pursued by the Secret Intelligence Service during the 1982 Falklands War, targeting stocks of the ‘Exocet’ AShM[17].

This route, however, cannot guarantee complete success – especially where MANPADS may be held by regime loyalists, for instance. The risk to UK contacts inside Venezuela will be severe, besides the public-relations risk of UK taxpayer money being used in the illicit trade of arms. As a covert activity, it will also fail to publicly reassure local Commonwealth partners and the BOTs of a diminishing threat.

Gain:  This averts the expense of a full RAF deployment, while delivering results which can speed the U.S./Brazilian occupation of Venezuela – and ultimately assuring improved Caribbean stability. By not directly involving ourselves in the invasion, we also avoid inadvertent attacks against Russian mercenary forces in-country[18], or Russian civilians engaged in arms deliveries to the regime[19].

Option #3:  The UK enhances Royal Navy (RN) patrols in the Caribbean.

Risk:  The RN is currently thinly stretched. Besides ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organization deployments and ships based at Bahrain, significant resources are tied up in the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH Maritime Task Group to Singapore. A Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dido, can nevertheless be made available. With a significant anti-missile capability[20], Dido can intercept any further AShM attacks and better protect local shipping than the Agrippa.

This will, however, fail to address the wider issue of MANPADS proliferation within Venezuela itself. The presence of a single additional air-defence warship will also do little to assist the U.S./Brazilian invasion: Washington may perceive the deployment as a token gesture.

Gain:  This option again averts the potential costs of an RAF engagement in the upcoming invasion of Venezuela, while offering highly visible reassurance to Caribbean Commonwealth partners and BOTs. Shipping insurance may be induced to return to pre-crisis levels, alleviating local supply chain disruptions.

Other comments:  The Venezuelan crisis poses an increasing destabilization risk to already-vulnerable BOTs and Commonwealth friends in the Caribbean. We must take action to assure their safety and prosperity.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bellingcat, (2018, Dec 22)Identifying Aircraft in the Comina Operation in Venezuela https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2018/12/22/identifying-aircraft-in-the-canaima-operation-in-venezuela/

[2] Centre for Strategic & International Studies, (2019, Jan 23) The Struggle for Control of Occupied Venezuela https://www.csis.org/analysis/struggle-control-occupied-venezuela

[3] The New York Times, (2019, Jan 13) Venezuela Opposition Leader is Arrested After Proposing to Take Power https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/world/americas/venezeula-juan-guaido-arrest.html

[4] Hazegray.org, (2001, Oct 26) World Navies Today: Venezuela
https://www.hazegray.org/worldnav/americas/venez.htm

[5] Navaltoday.com, (2018, Dec 25) Venezuelan Navy stops ExxonMobil ship in Guyana Dispute
https://navaltoday.com/2018/12/25/venezuelan-navy-stops-exxonmob%E2%80%8Eil-ship-in-guyana-dispute/

[6] Bellingcat, (2018, May 13) “We are going to surrender! Stop shooting!”: Reconstructing Oscar Perez’s Last Hours
https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2018/05/13/we-are-going-to-surrender-stop-shooting-reconstructing-oscar-perezs-last-hours/

[7] Foreign Affairs, (2017, Nov 8) What Would a U.S. Intervention in Venezuela Look Like?
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/venezuela/2017-11-08/what-would-us-intervention-venezuela-look

[8] TIME, (2019, Jan 31) I Commanded the U.S. Military in South America. Deploying Soldiers to Venezuela Would Only Make Things Worse
http://time.com/5516698/nicolas-maduro-juan-guaido-venezuela-trump-military/

[9] The Guardian, (2018, Dec 14) Rightwing Venezuelan exiles hope Bolsonaro will help rid them of Maduro
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/13/brazil-bolsonaro-maduro-venezuela-dissidents-rightwing

[10] Twitter, (2019. Feb 2)
https://twitter.com/saveriovivas/status/1091733430151364610

[11] RAND, (2016) Enabling the Global Response Force, Access Strategies for the 82nd Airborne Division https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1161.html

[12] Military Review: The Professional Journal of the US Army, (January 2019) Venezuela, A ‘Black Swan’ Hot Spot
https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/Jan-Feb-2019/Delgado-Venezuela/

[13] The Aviationist,(2012, Nov 28) Photo shows pilots ejecting from their jet moments before it crashed into the ground https://theaviationist.com/2012/11/28/k8-crash/

[14] Daily Sabah, (2019, Feb 2) Venezuela air force general defects in rebellion against President Maduro https://www.dailysabah.com/americas/2019/02/02/venezuela-air-force-general-defects-in-rebellion-against-president-maduro

[15] Bellingcat, (2017, Sept 2) The Bombs of Caracas
https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2017/09/02/the-bombs-of-caracas/

[16] Forces Network, (2016, Sept 29) RAF Typhoons Head to Far East Amid Heightened Tensions https://www.forces.net/services/raf/raf-typhoons-head-far-east-amid-heightened-tensions

[17] The Telegraph (2002, Mar 13) How France helped us win Falklands War, by John Nott https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1387576/How-France-helped-us-win-Falklands-war-by-John-Nott.html

[18] The Guardian (2019, Jan 13) Russian mercenaries reportedly in Venezuela to protect Maduro https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/25/venezuela-maduro-russia-private-security-contractors

[19] TASS, (2018, Apr 4) Kalashnikov plant in Venezuela to start production in 2019 http://tass.com/defense/997625

[20] Savetheroyalnavy.com (2015, Sep 28) UK and NATO navies take further small steps in developing ballistic missile defence
https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/uk-and-nato-navies-take-further-small-steps-in-developing-ballistic-missile-defence/

 

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Brazil Option Papers United Kingdom Venezuela

Assessing Military Thought in Post-Soviet Russia

Jonathan Hall is a security and political risk analyst focused on Eurasian geopolitics, military affairs, and emerging technologies.  Follow Jonathan on Twitter at _JonathanPHall.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Military Thought in Post-Soviet Russia

Date Originally Written:  January 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 4, 2019.

Summary:  While the geopolitical landscape of the 21st century is characteristically different than it was during the time of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia’s underlying political interests remain largely unchanged. As such, rather than any abeyance to the previously popular strategies of the USSR, Russia’s activities in the information sphere and on the battlefield are no more than the continuation, and refinement, of Soviet-era tactics and operational concepts. 

Text:  Predominantly following the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the assumption that Russian tactics have drastically changed may be chiefly explained by the growing popularity of the terms “hybrid warfare” and the “Gerasimov Doctrine.” The former, a potentially applicable military concept to modern day examples of war has yet to find an agreed upon definition. Despite lacking agreement, hybrid war is, unfortunately, used as a for label nearly every example of Russian strategy. The latter, however, is neither a real doctrine, nor fully Gerasimov’s idea. The term originates from an article written by Dr. Mark Galeotti[1]. In it, Galeotti provides his commentary on a 2013 piece written in the Military-Industrial Kurier by Russian General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation. Galeotti’s article included a disclaimer that the term “Gerasimov Doctrine” was merely used for its value as a title, however that did little good as many began to quote the term without reading the article, or likely even knowing where it came from. 

Gerasimov’s article, “The Value of Science in Prediction,” was his response to the then-recent Arab Springs, and how the face of warfare is evolving. Gerasimov’s most widely cited statement, “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” has interestingly been used by some to form their conclusion that Russian military thought has undergone a transformation. However, rather than anything new, Gerasimov’s writing – largely building on the work of his predecessor, Nikolai Makarov – repeatedly cites Soviet military strategists such as Aleksandr Svechin who wrote, “Each war represents a partial case, requiring the establishment of its own peculiar logic, and not the application of some sort of model[2].” 

Svechin’s quote provides evidence that he was invariably familiar with the writings of Carl von Clausewitz, who similarly posited that “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions[3].” Taken from On War, written between 1816 and 1830, Russia’s current General Staff not only anchors its strategy in Soviet-era thought – it is founded upon the principles Clausewitz first presented in the early nineteenth century. For analysts and defense planners today, understanding that they are currently facing Soviet adaptations is critical. The notion that history repeats itself is alive and well in the Russian General Staff.  

A perennial component in the Kremlin’s toolbox has been its disinformation campaign. This concept finds its roots in spetspropaganda, or special propaganda. First taught as a subject at the Russian Military Institute of Foreign Languages in 1942, it was removed from the curriculum in the 1990s. Unsurprisingly, it was reinstated by Putin, a former Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) officer, in 2000[4].  

Specific tactics within Russia’s strategy of information warfare are based upon the idea of “reflexive control.” Developed during the Soviet Union, the theory of reflexive control states that, “control can be established through reflexive, unconscious responses from a target group. This group is systematically supplied with (dis)information designed to provoke reactions that are predictable and, to Russia, politically and strategically desirable[5].” Allowing the Kremlin to exploit preconceptions and differences in opinion amongst its enemies, this tactic which was prolific during the Soviet Union is once again being used against Ukraine and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries. 

All of these so-called nonmilitary tactics, as the current Russian General Staff defines them, are no more than “active measures” which date back to the 1920s[6]. Once used by Cheka (the Soviet secret police organization), the OGPU (Unified State Political Administration), the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), and the KGB during the Soviet Union, the practice is being continued by the Federal Security Service (FSB), Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU), and other government agencies. Founded in Leninist-thinking, these subversive activities may be used within or without the framework of a larger kinetic operation. Detailed by former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, they were designed to “weaken the West,” and, “to drive wedges in the Western community alliances[7].” 

These concepts, alluded to by Gerasimov, more narrowly focus on the non-kinetic components of the Kremlin’s strategy. However, official Russian documents, while echoing similar language, combine them with more traditional military means of executing operational plans. The 2010 Russian Military Doctrine highlighted the importance of integrating nonmilitary resources with military forces. This was further detailed in 2014 to include, “participation of irregular armed force elements,” and, “use of indirect and asymmetric methods of operations[8].

Illustrating this in practice, the best example of Russia’s use of irregular armed forces would be – in post-annexation parlance – its “little green men.” This tactic of sending Russian Spetsnaz without insignia into a foreign country to destabilize its political environment and assume control has been discussed as somewhat of a novel concept. However, going back to December 1979, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began with around 700 Spetsnaz, many of them Soviet Muslims, in Afghan uniforms taking Afghanistan President Amin’s palace by storm, along with several key military, media, and government installations[9]. 

With many other useful parallels to draw upon, the idea here is not to deny change has occurred in the nearly three decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Thanks to emerging technologies and progressive military thinking, tactical choice in Post-Soviet Russia has certainly advanced. But in many ways these advancements are no more than superficial – fitting in with the argument that the characteristics of war may change, but its nature may not[10]. 

The ideas Russia has presented in both word and deed surely deserve detailed analysis. That analysis, however, should be conducted with an understanding that the concepts under review are the continuation of Soviet thinking, rather than a departure. Moving forward, the Kremlin will continue to design, perfect, and implement new strategies. In looking to respond, history remains our greatest tool in discerning the practical applications of Russian military thinking. As Gerasimov would likely agree, the theoretical underpinnings of the Soviet Union provide us with a more perceptive lens of inspection than any new model of warfare ever could.


Endnotes:

[1] Galeotti, M. (2014). The “Gerasimov doctrine” and Russian non-linear war. Moscow’s Shadows, 6(7), 2014. https://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/the-gerasimov-doctrine-and-russian-non-linear-war/

[2] Gerasimov, V. (2013). Tsennost Nauki V Predvidenii. Military-Industrial Kurier. https://vpk-news.ru/sites/default/files/pdf/VPK_08_476.pdf 

[3] Howard, M., & Paret, P. (1976). On War (Vol. 117), pg. 593. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[4] Smoleňová, I. (2016). The Pro-Russian Disinformation Campaign in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. per Concordiamhttps://www.marshallcenter.org/MCPUBLICWEB/mcdocs/files/College/F_Publications/perConcordiam/pC_V7_SpecialEdition_en.pdf 

[5] Snegovaya, M. (2015). “Reflexive control”: Putin’s hybrid warfare in Ukraine is straight out of the Soviet playbook. Business insider.https://www.businessinsider.com/reflexive-control-putins-hybrid-warfare-in-ukraine-is-straight-out-of-the-soviet-playbook-2015-9

[6] Watts, C. (2017). Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns. Statement prepared for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/os-kalexander-033017.pdf 

[7] Pomerantsev, P., & Weiss, M. (2014). The menace of unreality: How the Kremlin weaponizes information, culture and money (Vol. 14). New York: Institute of Modern Russia.http://www.galerie9.com/blog/the_menace_of_unreality_fin.pdf 

[8] Kofman, M., & Rojansky, M. (2015). A Closer Look at Russia’s’ Hybrid War. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/190090/5-kennan%20cable-rojansky%20kofman.pdf 

[9] Popescu, N. (2015). Hybrid tactics: neither new nor only Russian. EUISS Issue Alert, 4. https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/187819/Alert_4_hybrid_warfare.pdf 

[10] Gray, C. S. (2015). The future of strategy. John Wiley & Sons.

Assessment Papers Jonathan Hall Russia

#NatSecGirl Squad: The Conference Edition White Paper — The Role of the Intelligence Community in National Security and Defense

Editor’s Note:  On November 15, 2018, #NatSecGirlSquad hosted a conference in Washington D.C. at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  Over the coming months Divergent Options, as a partner for this event, will be deviating from our traditional content and publishing a series of white papers in various formats that capture each panel at this event.


Abigail P. Gage is a U.S. Army Veteran.  She recently earned a Master of Arts from Johns Hopkins SAIS.  Previously, Abigail worked for the House Armed Services Committee and served on active duty in Iraq and Germany.  She continues to serve today in the U.S. Army National Guard. Find her on Twitter @AbigailPGage. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Panel Title:  Creative Problem Solving: The Role of the Intelligence Community (IC) in National Security and Defense

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Abigail P. Gage is a national security policy professional with defense experience in the military and on Capitol Hill. This paper is the result of her work with the #NatSecGirlSquad Conference edition, where she designed a panel exploring modern challenges faced by the IC.

Background:  When most people imagine life inside the intelligence community, they either picture high-paced, action-filled adventures, or the tedious life of a computer-bound analyst. In reality, the IC is constantly and simultaneously shaping U.S. international relations, responding to the ever-changing diplomatic environment around the globe. There is an unprecedented opportunity to harness new technology and digital communication platforms, including social media, to solve traditional problems, while also anticipating new issues before they become problems.

Exploring these issues at #NatSecGirlSquad Conference edition, Erin Simpson, Director of Strategic Analysis at Northrop Grumman, led three panelists through a discussion on the modern IC: Paula Doyle, Professor at Georgetown Security Studies and former Associate Deputy Director of Operations, Central Intelligence Agency; Kirsten Gnipp, Chief, Homeland and Prevention Planning Group, Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning, National Counterterrorism Center; Cortney Weinbaum, Management Scientist, RAND Corporation.

Significance:  The IC plays a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy, enabling diplomats and policymakers to respond to ever-changing global conditions by providing crucial information on both U.S. allies and enemies. The IC can analyze a world leader’s Twitter to understand how she makes decisions, can use YouTube and Instagram to track a terrorist group’s growth, and can even track financial transactions to understand how a rogue state is financing itself. But how do these new tools support decision-making? The key question is: “How is the IC using new technology and tradition tradecraft for creative problem-solving in the modern world.”

Issue #1: Optimization of Technology for the IC mission.

Whether it is a question of using technology to enhance the IC’s recruitment cycle, improve information processing workflows, or uncover new threats, the IC can use technology to increase efficiency and accuracy. Technology enhances the IC’s recruitment cycle by enabling operations officers abroad to pre-identify individuals prime for targeting – using big data to find foreign assets who are accessible to local case officers. Once recruited, technology also allows the IC to validate people and their information. In this way, the IC is already successfully harnessing technology to improve productivity and accuracy in their work.

On the other hand, the IC might be missing a major opportunity to create new, unclassified workflows – theoretically decreasing insider threat risk by distributing the open-source workforce away from centralized Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities. Given the growing length of the security clearance process, reducing the number of people who have to be cleared because they work in a specific space, not because of the work they do, could lead to increased productivity and decrease costs for the taxpayer. It could also have the effect of increasing the pool of analysts – after all, does everyone want to live in the Washington DC commuting area? Despite these benefits, the IC will have significant cultural barriers to overcome to implement a distributed workforce, including reconsidering how they process human resources information such as time-cards. More significantly open-source intelligence work would have to be siphoned off, generating an addition silo operating in isolation from the rest of the IC.

Finally, there are the ever-present questions: How do we discover if there is or is not a new threat? How do know if there is or is not a new organization? The IC was slow to recognize the threat posed by the emerging Afghan Taliban, which started out as a student group. Then the U.S. National Security apparatus collectively misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State until they were advancing rapidly through Iraq in the spring and summer of 2014. In both cases, the organizations were savvy about their use of digital media. The latter literally announced its moves play-by-play through social media, spreading its regime of terror like the wake before a storm. If the IC is to remain a player in today’s modern, digital environment, they too will have to master social media and information operations – both in the following and delivering.

Issue #2: Cyber Operations

The opportunity for the IC to increase its social media and digital presence leads to a second issue, managing cyber operations in national security. This can take the form of overwhelming amounts of data or complicated legal limitations. Leading cyber operations during the height of the Iraq War, Paula Doyle recalled rarely, if ever, having a name to match the large data sets they tracked – and yet her team was confident that they were tracking enemy operations. They found, over time and with increasingly refined the data sets that they could positively identify a target even without a name. The IC had to culturally adjust, to learn to manage without names. Historically, targets would be named with home and work addresses. Now it was the opposite. A target was no longer a name, the team might never know “who” it was, but had an email address or cell phone to target and track.

This increasing power of cyber operations is not without limits or risks. Boundaries do not exist on the on the world-wide internet as they do the geographic globe. Most intelligence agencies, with rare exception, are barred from domestic intelligence work. When it comes to running sources and traditional, physical collection techniques, these guidelines work well. After all, most were created in a pre-cyber era. But when faced with technology and national security efforts domestically, members of the IC have to consider ethical and legal questions, ensuring they respect national borders on a platform that does not have clear boundaries.

The biggest limitation could be considered consent. For example, Virginia uses drive-by boxes to test vehicle emission. This is a form of government surveillance, but people consent because it is easier than going for an inspection at a pre-designated location. As government surveillance expands, some experts worry about a slippery slope, envisioning a world where the psychological thriller Minority Report could become a reality. Digital data companies are already building comprehensive online pictures of each internet user: who she is, what he wants. We give away much of our privacy to the private sector giants like Amazon and Google. How much of our privacy will we eventually grant to the government?

Furthermore, if we can already surmise, through social media, emails, or even google searches, what an individual is thinking about doing, how long will it be before the IC, law-enforcement, or Google figures out how to predict what people will do. Then a new question arises: can the government ethically pull information on individuals to predict and prevent violence. Historically this is a nation-wide Catch-22: when the government is known to invade our privacy, Americans demand a rollback of intelligence programs. But if the government fails to uncover and prevent an attack, we demand answers to the perceived intelligence failure.

#NatSecGirlSquad Abigail P. Gage Information and Intelligence

Assessing the Failure of Minsk II in Ukraine and the Success of the 2008 Ceasefire in Georgia

Sarah Martin is a recent graduate of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where she wrote her thesis on Chechen foreign fighters in Syria.  She was previously a fellow at NatSecGirlSquad, supporting the organization’s debut conference on November 15, 2018.  She can be found on Twitter @amerikitkatoreo. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title: Assessing the Failure of Minsk II in Ukraine and the “Success” of the 2008 Ceasefire in Georgia

Date Originally Written:  December 16, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  January 21, 2019.

Summary:  In 2019 the Donbass War in Ukraine will enter its fifth year. Over 10,000 people have been killed, 3,000 of them civilians, and one million displaced. Two ceasefire agreements between Moscow and Kyiv have failed, and no new agreements are forthcoming. When compared to the agreement of the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia, ending the stalemate in Ukraine and determining a victor might be the key to brokering a lasting ceasefire.

Text:  It is easy to find comparisons between the ongoing Donbass War in Ukraine and the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia. However, despite their similarities, one ended swiftly, in less than a month, while the other continues without even the slightest hint of deescalation in the near future. This paper seeks to assess the endpoints of these conflicts in order to begin a conversation exploring why the conflict in Georgia ended, and why the conflict in Ukraine continues.

The ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia did not necessarily bring about the end of hostilities, especially at first. Indeed, even into 2018, Russia has been in violation of this agreement in a number of ways, including inching the South Ossetian border fence deeper into Georgia[1]. However, major operations between Moscow and Tbilisi have ceased, while they have not in Ukraine.

The current conflict in Ukraine involves two main players: the central government of Kyiv, and factions under the self-ascribed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). The DPR and LPR are heavily supported by Moscow by way of private mercenary forces such as the Wagner Group[2] and regular soldiers and weapons [3]. Kyiv is supported by the United State (U.S.), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). This support is mostly political with some weapons sales and training, though the U.S. has recently begun to sell lethal weapons[4].

Kyiv seeks to maintain internal state integrity and political independence from Russia[5]. The DPR and LPR are keen not to be independent states, but to be united with the Russian Federation, as they see themselves as an ethnolinguistic minority with closer ties to Russia than their Ukrainian-speaking counterparts[6]. Other stakeholders have their own objectives. Western partners wish to maintain international order and to guarantee Ukraine’s national right to self-determination. Russia has always struggled with the concept of an independent Ukraine and is wary of any attempts of “democratic reform,” which it sees as a Western plot pursuing regime change within the Kremlin[7].

There have been two major attempts to bring this conflict to an end: the September 2014 Minsk Protocol and February 2015 Minsk II. In 2015, DPR representatives openly considered the possibility of reintegration with Kyiv[8]. Current Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, ran on a platform of ending the conflict and achieving peace[9]. There was, at one time, at least some political will to see the violence stop. But the Minsk Protocol fell apart practically overnight, and despite early hopes, Minsk II did not stand much longer[10].

The August War in 2008 between Georgia and Russia was equally complex. The war broke out that summer as the endpoint of a series of escalating tensions between Tbilisi, South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region, Abkhazia, and Moscow. Although the European Council’s fact-finding mission pointed to Georgia as the actor responsible for the start of the war by firing heavy artillery into Tskhinvali, the region’s main town, the report noted Georgia’s actions came in response to pressure and provocation from Moscow[11].

The primary actors in the August War were the Georgian government in Tbilisi and rebellious factions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are two ethnic minority regions of Georgia and have sought independence from Tbilisi since the 1990s. Other stakeholders were Russia, the U.S., and the broader Western alliance. Russia acted unilaterally in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, overtly using their fleets and their soldiers, claiming to be defending peacekeepers and South Ossetians who were, as they claimed, Russian citizens[12].

In the months leading up to the outbreak of violence, Georgia sought EU and NATO membership, and Russia found such steps away from their influence unacceptable[13]. The U.S. and its Western allies supported Georgia’s desires to varying degrees; most agreed that the integration ought to happen, though when exactly it should, was left to some innocuous “future” date[14].

Moscow responded to the situation in Georgia with overwhelming force and had the city of Tbilisi in their sights within days. Having positioned themselves on the border during their quadrennial Kavkaz (Caucasus) military exercises and having a much more sophisticated army and modern weapons, Moscow was ready for combat. Georgia scrambled, underestimating Moscow’s interest in South Ossetia and overestimating Western willingness to intervene[15].

There are many similarities between the 2008 August War in Georgia and the ongoing Donbass War in Ukraine. However, what is strikingly different, and perhaps the most important element, is the swiftness and assuredness by which the conflict came to an end. There was a clear winner. When Nicolas Sarkozy, then acting president of the European Commission, and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to the terms which officially brought the August War to an end, Medvedev said, “the aggressor was punished, suffering huge losses[16].”

While both Ukraine and Russia have much to gain by keeping the conflict ongoing, Ukraine—on its own—does not have the capability to bring the war to an end[17]. Ending the Donbass War is squarely in Moscow’s court, so long as Kyiv bears the brunt of its own defense. Moscow is, after all, in charge of the separatists driving the conflict[18]. The failure of both Minsk agreements is an example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. To both Kyiv and Moscow, the end of this conflict is positioned as a lose / lose situation. Compromise is not an option, but on a long enough timeline, something has to give.

An end of the violence will not be the end of the conflict in the Donbass, as noted in the case of Russo-Georgian relations. However, a cessation of shelling and the laying of mines means that people can return home and the dead can be properly mourned. A ceasefire is not the final step, but the first one. The road to peace in the Donbass is a long and winding journey, but it cannot and will not begin without that first step.


Endnotes:

[1] Oliphant, R. (2015, July 16). EU condemns Russia over ‘creeping annexation’ of Georgia. The Telegraph. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/11745510/EU-condemns-Russia-over-creeping-annexation-of-Georgia.html

[2] Sukhankin, S. (2018, July 13). ‘Continuing War by Other Means’: The Case of Wagner, Russia’s Premier Private Military Company in the Middle East. The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://jamestown.org/program/continuing-war-by-other-means-the-case-of-wagner-russias-premier-private-military-company-in-the-middle-east/

[3] RFE/RL. Kyiv Says 42,500 Rebels, Russian Soldiers Stationed In East Ukraine. (2015, June 8). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russian-troops-fighting-poltorak/27059578.html

[4] Borger, J. (2018, September 01). US ready to boost arms supplies to Ukraine naval and air forces, envoy says. The Guardian. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/31/ukraine-kurt-volker-us-arms-supplies

[5] International Republican Institute, & The Government of Canada. (2016, January 01). Public Opinion Survey Residents of Ukraine: May 28-June 14, 2016 [PPT]. Washington, DC: International Republican Institute. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.iri.org/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/2016-07-08_ukraine_poll_shows_skepticism_glimmer_of_hope.pdf

[6] Al Jazeera News. (2017, February 17). ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ seeks sense of nationhood. Al Jazeera. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/donetsk-people-republic-seeks-sense-nationhood-170217043602195.html

[7] Ioffe, J. (2018, January/February). What Putin Really Wants. The Atlantic. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/putins-game/546548/

[8] VICE News. (2015). The War May be Over: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 110). Clip. United States: Vice News. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsr1J6F76XY

[9] Webb, I. (2017, February 6). Kiev Is Fueling the War in Eastern Ukraine, Too. Foreign Policy. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/06/its-not-just-putin-fueling-war-in-ukraine-trump-donbas/

[10] The Economist. (2016, September 14). What are the Minsk agreements? The Economist. Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2016/09/13/what-are-the-minsk-agreements

[11] Council of the European Union. (2009). Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia: Report (Vol. 1, Publication). Brussels: The European Council. https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/HUDOC_38263_08_Annexes_ENG.pdf

[12] Allison, R. (2008). Russia resurgent? Moscow’s campaign to ‘coerce Georgia to peace’. International Affairs, 84(6), 1145-1171. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2346.2008.00762.x

[13] Percy, N. (Producer). (2012). Putin, Russia and the West, Part III: War. Documentary movie. United Kingdom: BBC.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Waal, T. D. (2010). The Caucasus: An Introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[16] Finn, P. (2008, August 13). Moscow Agrees To Georgia Truce. Washington Post Foreign Service. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/12/AR2008081200365.html

[17] Webb, I. “Kiev War.”

[18] Pifer, S. (2017, February 15). Minsk II at two years. Retrieved December 19, 2018, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/02/15/minsk-ii-at-two-years/

Assessment Papers Georgia Russia Sarah Martin Ukraine

#PartnerArticle – Assessing Nigerian Air Power Employment In Counter Insurgency Operations

The following is an article from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original article can be viewed here.  


Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project At The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. He is national security policy and strategy advisor and conflict researcher. He sometimes tweets via @fulannasrullah.

Murtala Abdullahi is a Junior Associate Researcher with the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at The Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation. His areas of focus are on Nigeria’s military, local conflict drivers across Nigeria, conflict prevention, and effects of climate change on national security. He tweets via @murtalaibin.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary – The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), deployed air power in support of the Joint task force: Operation Restore Order and has sustained operational support to Nigerian Army as operational mandate changed. This is in addition to supporting regional Multinational Joint Task Force operations against Boko Haram groups, as well. The performance of the Nigerian Air Force has greatly improved compared to when operations in the Northeast first began, as it has taken on varied missions from Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance( ISR), to close air support to the Army’s manoeuvre units in theatre. However, air operations efficiency is affected by scarce national defence spending and a shortage of aircraft.

Text– Nigeria’s counter insurgency area of operations covers the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, or over 125,000 square kilometres of land area. This complex terrain encompasses the Nigerian side of Lake Chad with hundreds of islands, the massive Sambisa Forest Area, the Gwoza Hills, and the Mandara Mountains range which mostly hem in the region from the east.

The Nigerian Air Force, began operations against Boko Haram groups in 2010, as military operations under the Joint Task Force (JTF) of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and State Security Service were initiated (in succession) under the code names, Restore order I, II and III, to flush out insurgent fighters from built up areas of Borno between December 2011 and mid 2013.

As the conflict escalated, the Nigerian government on May 14, 2013, declared a state of emergency in the three worst affected states (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) and expanded the JTF operations into Operation Boyona with the objective of securing the nation’s borders and asserting territorial integrity.

As part of Operation Boyona, the Nigerian Air Force conducted air strikes targeted at insurgents camps in July-September 2013 employing NAF’s Mi-35P Hind attack helicopters, in the opening salvo of what was evolving into a campaign of aerial bombardment against insurgent held territory.

Operation Boyona was later renamed Operation Zaman Lafiya with the Nigerian Air Force providing the aerial component in August 2013. The air component was under Boko Karam threat to it’s fixed- and rotary-wing operations, with NAF’s Mi 24V/Mi-35P attack helicopters, F-7NI and Alpha Jets fixed wing attack planes, coming under enemy anti-aircraft fire of up to 30mm caliber, forcing them to fly higher in order to deliver strike packages. This also required the Nigerian Air Force to fit longer-range rockets, removed from its MiG-21s, onto the attack helicopters [1]. By August 2014, the Nigerian air force had carried out 2,468 ground-attack missions against Boko Haram, in addition to conducting 1,443 surveillance missions with its DA-42s, ATR-42s and King Air 350Is, plus 1,479 airlift transport missions [2].

The Boko Haram conflict soon reached its peak between the last quarter of 2014 and early 2015 as the insurgents overran towns and military bases across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. The Nigerian Government followed up with a counter-offensive campaign, in tandem with offensives launched by troops of neighbouring Lake Chad countries, to retake the territory overrun by the insurgents.

The Nigerian Air Force component of Operation Zaman Lafiya, played a key role in assisting ground forces in rolling back Boko Haram groups from territories they had occupied. The MI-35P helicopters flew over 900 combat sorties within this period [3]. In July 2015, Nigerian forces, launched Operation Lafiya Dole, replacing Zaman Lafiya.

As part of the new Operation Lafiya Dole, the NAF component of the joint military forces battling the Boko Haram insurgents, was expanded to an air task force with leeway to conduct independent missions [4]. This was in addition to carrying out missions in support of Nigerian Army troops engaged in the Army specific Operations Deep Punch I&II and Operation Last Hold, while also providing air support to the regional MNJTF’s Operations Rawan Gada and Gaman Aiki.

Between Dec. 25, 2015 and the end of January 2016, the Nigerian Air Force conducted 286 strike missions against Boko Haram targets, for a total of 536 flight hours. During the 18 months between July 2015 and mid-January 2017, the air task force (ATF) carried out 2,105 missions across the entire aerial spectrum [5].

From the beginning of Operation Zaman Lafiya and now Operation Lafiya Dole, the Nigerian air force has suffered relatively few losses directly related to the Combat. Two Chengdu F-7Nis, one Alpha Jet, two Mi-35Ps, one A109LUH, and at least two Mi-17s have been shot down or destroyed in accidents over active battlefields.

The Nigerian Air Force’s combined aircraft inventory is estimated at between 200-250 aircraft[6], comprising an estimated three operational C-130Hs, sixteen Alpha Jet E trainer variants acquired in the ‘80s and around twenty Alpha Jet A[7] ground attack aircraft, thirteen Aero L-39 ZA Albatross, ten used Mi-24Vs acquired from the Ukraine, around twenty Mi-35Ps and MI-35Ms acquired from Russia, 10 Pakistani Super Mushshak trainers, two Bell 412, four EC-135 and over a dozen Agusta Westland helicopters. In addition an unknown number of Chinese-built CH-3 rainbow unmanned combat aerial vehicles and indigenous Gulma|Tsaigumi UAV are in service, along with Austrian DA-42 Twin Star light patrol aircraft, ATR-42 maritime patrol aircraft, Super Puma, MI-17 and Beechcraft Super King Air 350i ISR-optimised turboprop aircraft [8].

In addition the Nigerian Air Force is expecting delivery of six AgustaWestland AW109, unknown number of Yabhon Flash 20 unmanned aerial vehicle, and an unknown number of CAC/PAC JF-17 fighter-bombers from Pakistan[9].

The Nigerian Air Force has also ordered twelve A29 Super Tucanos, a turboprop aircraft built for the kind of engagements it has to carry out currently, i.e a counterinsurgency. The much criticised $593m deal for these planes, however comes with 100 GBU-12(500lb) Paveway II(PW-II) Tail Kits, 100 GBU-58(250lb) PW-II Tail Kits, 400 laser guided rockets with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, 2,000 MK-81 (250lb) bombs, 6,000 Hydra 70 unguided rockets(70mm, 1000 of which are practice rockets), 20,000 rounds of .50/12.7mm calibre machine gun ammunition, seven AN/AAQ-22F electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designators [10]. Also, these planes will be equipped with software to support forward-looking infra-red targeting pods.

Service operable aircraft increased from about 36 per cent in 2015 to between 78 and 82 per cent currently [11]. This contributed to the Air Task Force in Operation Lafiya Dole’s ability to, from June 1 2015 to October 31 2018, fly 51,852 flight hours in 39,807 day and night sorties including close air support, strike, ISR and humanitarian support missions.

However, despite these improvements, the Nigerian Air Force still faces significant challenges in asserting aerial supremacy over the terrain, despite insurgent air defence capabilities being limited largely to varied calibre anti-aircraft guns (including ZSU-23-4 quad-barreled self-propelled platforms). This is due to the size of the terrain in question, plus a lack of systems to set up and maintain an integrated kill-chain from finding the enemy to maintaining ISR presence over him, to ultimately finishing him off and gathering information to be exploited for analysis purposes. There are improvements to be made in this regard.

Also, logistical challenges including a lack of spare parts, inadequate number of precision guided and stand-off weapons, and a shortage of personnel trained to standard to maintain increasingly complex modern weapons of war will continue to prove a major hindrance to the Nigerian Air Force, at least for the foreseeable future.


End Notes:

[1] Chris Pocock. February 2, 2015.Nigerian Air Power Hindered in Boko Haram Fight. Retrieved from: https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2015-02-02/nigerian-airpower-hindered-boko-haram-fight

[2] Same as No. 1 above

[3] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[4] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[5] Author’s conversations with ranking NAF officers involved with pertinent operations

[6] Global fire power. “Nigeria military strength”. Retrieved from: https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=nigeria

[7] Murtala Abdullahi. Options For Supporting Nigerian Air Operations In The Lake Chad Conflict. Conflict Studies And Analysis Project. Retrieved from: https://conflictstudies.gics.live/2019/01/01/options-for-supporting-nigerian-air-operations-in-the-lake-chad-conflict/

[8] Same as No.7 above

[9] Author conversations with ranking Nigerian Air Force officers for this paper.

[10] FederalRegister.Gov. “Arms Sales Notification”. Retrieved from: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/08/28/2017-18201/arms-sales-notification

[11] Author conversations with ranking NAF officers, confirmed by the Nigerian Chief of Air Staff during his presentation at the International Air Power Seminar in Abuja, Nigeria. Chief of Air Staff remarks retrieved from: https://www.today.ng/multimedia/photo/sadique-abubakar-role-public-irregular-warfare-critical-172227

 

Africa Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project United Kingdom

An Assessment Of Britain’s Relations With Nigeria In 2018

The following is an article from our partners at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project.  During 2019 you will occasionally see their content on our website and vice versa.  The original article can be viewed here.  


Sola Tayo is a BBC journalist, a Senior Associate Fellow at the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project at the Global Initiative For Civil Stabilisation, and an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs/Chatham House. Sola tweets via @tayos02.

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project’s content does not contain information of a classified or otherwise official nature, neither does the content represent the position of any governmental or non governmental entity.

Summary: Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies is facing several internal security threats. Violence has devastated the northeast in the form of an insurgency with Islamic State linked groups while bloody resource based conflicts have at varying times wreaked havoc on the oil and agriculture industries and contributed to wide-scale outbreaks of violence.

Nigeria has traditionally played a role in conflict resolution and its military has been deployed on peacekeeping operations across the continent. But Nigeria’s military has been increasingly deployed to tackle its own internal conflicts. Underfunded ad overstretched,  its military at times struggles to battle better equipped militants.

Although Nigeria is considered a regional powerhouse, it receives a lot of assistance from its western allies – the United Kingdom, the United States and France.

This paper discusses the defence and security relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom in 2018.

Text:

Since gaining its independence in 1960, Nigeria has maintained strong relations with the United Kingdom, its former colonial master. The United Kingdom is now one of Nigeria’s strongest allies and as such its security issues are of great concern to London. Nigeria’s location on the edge of the Sahel – a region that has seen an alarming rise in the activity of Islamic State linked insurgents – leave it vulnerable to cross border activity by insurgents. Its struggles with home-grown insurgents are considered a potential threat to global security. The UK, like many of Nigeria’s allies, is worried that the increased presence of the Islamic State in the country could become a threat way beyond Nigeria’s borders.

2018 was an important year for British-Nigerian official relations. Of particular significance was the visit of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Abuja and (Nigeria’s commercial capital) Lagos in August. Nigeria was one of three African countries (including Kenya and South Africa) visited by Mrs May as part of a mission to reset the United Kingdom’s relations with former colonies in Africa as it prepares to leave the European Union this year.

The focus of her visit was to discuss improving bilateral relations between the two countries. Security was very much on the agenda and both countries signed a defence and security agreement[1].

In addition the UK’s Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, visited Nigeria in November.  He reiterated the UK’s commitment to the agreement stressing that it was in his country’s interest to help keep Nigeria secure to avoid insurgents establishing a caliphate and plotting attacks against the West.[2]

Nigeria is a key area for defence engagement for the UK and most of the work involves training and intelligence sharing. The British Army and Royal Air Force send Short Term Training Teams (STTTs) to provide infantry training to the Nigerian Army and Air Force.

Most of the UK’s work in Nigeria is focussed on the North East where the insurgency by insurgent groups has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2009[3]. The insurgency has also displaced more than 2 million Nigerians and, in 2016, put more than 5 million people in the region at risk of food shortages when aid workers were unable to enter the region with supplies[4].

 The United Kingdom says the defence and security agreement will transform the way both countries work together to combat shared threats. The UK will expand its current programme of training for Nigeria’s military as well as offering a broader supply of equipment.

The provision of training and equipment is centred around protecting soldiers from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and includes the gifting of a range of £775,000 worth of counter IED equipment to the Nigerian army.

The UK also pledged to – for the first time – train full army units (as opposed to the current system where individual soldiers are trained) before they are deployed to the North East.

The UK has avoided providing Nigeria with arms because of allegations of human rights abuses by its military so the Prime Minister’s pledge to review this will give the Nigerian army a boost in its fight against the militants.

Education has suffered as a result of the insurgency.  Schools have been destroyed or closed, there is a chronic shortage of teachers (many have fled) and there are few crisis response systems in place to protect civilians from attacks by terrorists. Under the agreement both countries will work together on a £13 million programme to educate 100,000 children living in the affected areas of the region.

The UK under this agreement, committed to help Nigeria to implement a crisis response mechanism to help civilians keep safe. In addition the UK has offered to help with teacher training in conflict zones.The United Kingdom also hopes its investment in education will help to reduce the ability of insurgent groups to attract impressionable people by engaging communities to counter the propaganda used as a recruitment tool.

The agreement also encompasses cooperation on improving policing (which is chronically under-resourced in Nigeria), tackling kidnapping, human trafficking and other organised crime, corruption (through the creation of a civil asset recovery task force to help recover stolen assets) and the ongoing issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

The UK’s Defence Secretary in 2018, also announced the establishment of the UK’s first specialist army training team to tackle sexual violence and the use of female and child suicide bombers.  The team will primarily work in east Africa where the militant group Al-Shabaab has brutalised civilian populations in Somalia and the region. It is expected that afterwards the training will expand to Nigeria which has seen a rise in the use child and female suicide bombers by Boko Haram insurgents.

Nigeria is also experiencing another devastating conflict in the form of violent clashes between farmers and cattle herders.  Although the roots of the violence is largely resource based, the demographic of the parties involved and the way it has been reported by the media has led to it being labelled a conflict based on religion.

The herder/farmer violence is said to have claimed at least 2000 lives in 2018 alone[5]. The outbreaks of violence are not new but have taken an increasingly bloody turn in recent times.  So concerned is the UK that British parliamentarians – through a cross party parliamentary group on religious freedom –  have been engaged in debates on the subject.

The UK parliamentarians – many of who see it as a conflict based on religious discrimination – are pressuring UK government ministers to get tough on Nigeria for not doing enough to protect mainly (but not exclusively) Christian farmers against violence from armed Muslim herders from the Fulani ethnic group.

Although a reaction to the farmer/herder violence has yet to form a part of the UK’s engagement with Nigeria, it has been the purpose of visits to affected areas by UK parliamentarians.  The UK’s Minister for Africa said it was something she and the Prime Minister discussed with president Buhari and during their visit to Nigeria[6].

At the end of 2018 the UK Foreign Secretary commissioned a review into the persecution of Christians around the world[7].  The review will cover particular countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Officials from the Foreign Office have said the aim of the review is to eventually produce policy recommendations to protect religious minorities.

It is expected that Nigeria will be one of the countries studied in the review – despite Christianity not being a minority religion.

Last year saw a lot of activity and interest in Nigeria and the Sahel region from the United Kingdom, as it seeks to increase its footprint and extend its influence in Nigeria’s immediate region.


End Notes:

[1] UK. UK And Nigeria Step Up Cooperation To End Boko Haram Threat. Retrieved from; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-nigeria-step-up-cooperation-to-end-boko-haram-threat

[2] Daily Mail. British Defence Secretary Warns Nigerian Jihadists Pose Growing Threat To Britain. Retrieved from: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6404117/Defence-Secretary-warns-jihadists-Nigeria-pose-growing-threat-Britain.html

[3] Premium Times. 100,00 Killed In Boko Haram Conflict. Retrieved from: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/223399-shocking-revelation-100000-killed-two-million-displaced-boko-haram-insurgency-borno-governor-says.html

[4] https://www.unocha.org/story/five-things-know-about-crisis-nigeria

[5] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/12/nigeria-government-failures-fuel-escalating-conflict-between-farmers-and-herders-as-death-toll-nears-4000/

[6] “Colleagues have asked about the role of the UK Government, who are of course extremely concerned about the violence. It is destroying communities and poses a grave threat to Nigeria’s stability, unity and prosperity. It poses significant risks to the peaceful conduct of next year’s important presidential elections; so we take every opportunity to raise our concerns with the Nigerian Government at every level. When the Prime Minister and I were in Nigeria in August, she discussed the issue with President Buhari, and I was able to raise it with the Vice-President and Foreign Minister.”    — https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-11-27/debates/818A5775-5E16-4C15-84CB-8DA497FD0FBB/NigeriaArmedViolence(RuralCommunities)

[7] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-announces-global-review-into-persecution-of-christians

Nigeria Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project United Kingdom

An Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cyber Strategy and Cyber Challenges

Ali Crawford has an M.A. from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce where she focused on diplomacy, intelligence, cyber policy, and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cyber Strategy and Cyber Challenges

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  January 14, 2019.

Summary:  Cyber capabilities are changing the character of warfare.  Nations procure and develop cyber capabilities aimed at committing espionage, subversion, and compromising the integrity of information.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has evolved to meet these modern challenges by consistently implementing new policies, creating governing structures, and providing education to member-states.

Text:  In 2002, leaders from various nations met in Prague to discuss security challenges at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit.  Agenda items included enhancing capabilities to more appropriately respond to terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to consider the pending memberships of several Eastern European nations, and for the first time in NATO history, a pledge to strengthen cyber defenses.  Since 2002, NATO has updated its cyber policies to more accurately reflect the challenges of a world that is almost exclusively and continuously engaged in hybrid warfare. 

As NATO is a defensive organization, its primary focus is collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.  Early cyber policy was devoted exclusively to better network defense, but resources were limited; strategic partnerships had not yet been developed; and structured frameworks for policy applications did not exist.  When Russian Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks temporarily disrupted Estonian banking and business sectors in 2007, the idea of collective defense was brought to fruition.  Later, in 2008, another wave of vigorous and effective Russian DDoS attacks precluded an eventual kinetic military invasion of Georgia.  This onslaught of cyber warfare, arguably the first demonstration of cyber power used in conjunction with military force, prompted NATO to revisit cyber defense planning[1].  Today, several departments are devoted to the strategic and tactical governance of cybersecurity and policy. 

NATO’s North Atlantic Council (NAC) provides high-level political oversight on all policy developments and implementation[2].  Under the NAC rests the Cyber Defence Committee which, although subordinate to the NAC, leads most cyber policy decision-making.  At the tactical level, NATO introduced Cyber Rapid Reaction teams (CRRT) in 2012 which are responsible for cyber defense at all NATO sites[3].  The CRRTs are the first to respond to any cyber attack.  The Cyber Defence Management Board (CDMB), formerly known as the Defence Policy and Planning Committee (Cyber Defence), maintains responsibility for coordinating cyber defense activities among NATO’s civil and military bodies[4].  The CDMB also serves as the most senior advisory board to the NAC.  Additionally, the NATO Consultation, Control, and Command Board serves as the main authority and consultative body regarding all technical aspects and implementation of cyber defense[5]. 

In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit, NATO adopted its first political body of literature concerning cyber defense policy which primarily affirmed member nations’ shared responsibility to develop and defend its networks while adhering to international law[6].  Later, in 2010, the NAC was tasked with developing a more comprehensive cyber defense strategy which eventually led to an updated Policy on Cyber Defense in 2011 to reflect the rapidly evolving threat of cyber attacks[7].  NATO would continue to evolve in the following years.  In 2014, NATO began establishing working partnerships with industry leaders in cybersecurity, the European Union, and the European Defense Agency[8].  When NATO defense leaders met again at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, the Alliance agreed to name cyberspace as a domain of warfare in which NATO’s full spectrum of defensive capabilities do apply[9]. 

Despite major policy developments and resource advancements, NATO still faces several challenges in cyberspace.  Some obstacles are unavoidable and specific to the Internet of Things, which generally refers to a network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.  First, the problem of misattribution is likely. Attribution is the process of linking a group, nation, or state actor to a specific cyber attack[10].  Actors take unique precautions to remain anonymous in their efforts, which creates ambiguities and headaches for the response teams investigating a particular cyber attack’s origin.  Incorrectly designating a responsible party may cause unnecessary tension or conflict. 

Second, as with any computer system or network, cyber defenses are only as strong as its weakest link.  On average, NATO defends against 500 attempted cyber attacks each month[11].  Ultimately, the top priority is management and security of Alliance-owned security infrastructure.  However, because NATO is a collection of member states with varying cyber capabilities and resources, security is not linear.  As such, each member nation is responsible for the safety and security of their own networks.  NATO does not provide security capabilities or resources for its members, but it does prioritize education, training, wargaming, and information-sharing[12].

To the east of NATO, Russia’s aggressive and tenacious approach to gaining influence in Eastern Europe and beyond has frustrated the Alliance and its strategic partners.  As demonstrated in Estonia and Georgia, Russia’s cyber power is as equally frustrating, as Russia views cyber warfare as a component of a larger information war to control the flow and perception of information and distract, degrade, or confuse opponents[13].  U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparroti sees Russia using cyber capabilities to operate under the legal and policy thresholds that define war. 

A perplexing forethought is the potential invocation of NATO Article 5 after a particularly crippling cyber attack on a member nation.  Article 5 bounds all Alliance members to the collective defense principle, stating that an attack on one member nation is an attack on the Alliance[14].  The invocation of Article 5 has only occurred one time in NATO history following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States[15].  The idea of proportional retaliation often arises in cyber warfare debates.  A retaliatory response from NATO is also complicated by potential misattribution.

Looking ahead, appears that NATO is moving towards an active cyber defense approach.  Active defense is a relatively new strategy that is a set of measures designed to engage, seek out, and proactively combat threats[16].  Active defense does have significant legal implications as it transcends the boundaries between legal operations and “hacking back.”  Regardless, in 2018 NATO leadership agreed upon the creation and implementation of a Cyber Command Centre that would be granted the operational authority to draw upon the cyber capabilities of its members, such as the United States and Great Britain[17].  Cyber Deterrence, as opposed to strictly defense, is attractive because it has relatively low barriers to entry and would allow the Alliance to seek out and neutralize threats or even to counter Russian information warfare campaigns.  The Command Centre is scheduled to be fully operational by 2023, so NATO still has a few years to hammer out specific details concerning the thin line between cyber defense and offense. 

The future of cyber warfare is uncertain and highly unpredictable.  Some experts argue that real cyber war will never happen, like German professor Thomas Rid, while others consider a true act of cyber war will be one that results in the direct loss of human life[18].  Like other nations grappling with cyber policy decision-making, NATO leadership will need to form a consensus on the applicability of Article 5, what precisely constitutes a serious cyber attack, and if the Alliance is willing to engage in offensive cyber operations.  Despite these future considerations, the Alliance has developed a comprehensive cyber strategy that is devoted to maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of sensitive information. 


Endnotes:

[1] Smith, David J., Atlantic Council: Russian Cyber Strategy and the War Against Georgia, 17 January 2014, retrived from http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/russian-cyber-policy-and-the-war-against-georgia; and White, Sarah P., Modern War Institute: Understanding Cyber Warfare: Lessons From the Russia-Georgia War, 20 March 2018, retrieved from https://mwi.usma.edu/understanding-cyberwarfare-lessons-russia-georgia-war/

[2] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[3] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[8] Ibid; and NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center for Excellence, History, last updated 3 November 2015, https://ccdcoe.org/history.html

[9] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[10] Symantec, The Cyber Security Whodunnit: Challenges in Attribution of Targeted Attacks, 3 October 2018, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/blogs/expert-perspectives/cyber-security-whodunnit-challenges-attribution-targeted-attacks

[11] Soesanto, S., Defense One: In Cyberspace, Governments Don’t Know How to Count, 27 September 2018, retrieved from: https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/09/cyberspace-governments-dont-know-how-count/151629/; and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, last modified 18 February 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2018_02/20180213_1802-factsheet-cyber-defence-en.pdf

[12] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, last modified 18 February 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[13] U.S. Department of Defense, “NATO moves to combant Russian hybrid warfare,” 29 September 2018, retrieved from https://dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1649146/nato-moves-to-combat-russian-hybrid-warfare/

[14] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Collective defence – article 5, 12 June 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_110496.htm

[15] Ibid.

[16] Davis, D., Symantec: Navigating The Risky Terrain of Active Cyber Defense, 29 May 2018, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/blogs/expert-perspectives/navigating-risky-terrain-active-cyber-defense

[17] Emmott, R., Reuters: NATO Cyber Command to be fully operational in 2023, 16 October 2018, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-cyber/nato-cyber-command-to-be-fully-operational-in-2023-idUSKCN1MQ1Z9

[18] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Cyber War Will Not Take Place”: Dr Thomas Rid presents his book at NATO Headquarters,” 7 May 2013, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_100906.htm

 

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace North Atlantic Treaty Organization Strategy

Episode 0011: U.S.-China Relations with Special Guest Ali Wyne (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

On this episode of The Smell of Victory PodcastBob Hein and Phil Walter discussed U.S.-China relations with Ali Wyne a Political Scientist at RAND Corporation and the co-author of “Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States, and the World.

Issues touched on and quotes from this episode include:

– From Presidents Nixon to Obama, China policy was one of the few points of bipartisan consensus.

– President Trump’s concerns about China are not unique to his administration.

– China took advantage of the U.S. wars in the Middle East to rise without challenge.

– What could the U.S. have done, short of military confrontation to address China’s island reclamation?

– What would a timeline overlay of U.S. deployments to the Middle East look like, against Chinese expansionary decisions?

– China is not like a movie you can pause, rather it is a television mini-series that isn’t on Netflix.

– Could the U.S. have checked Chinese military expansion while allowing its economic expansion?

– Is China a hubristic incompetent upstart or an inexorably ascendant colossus? (Or both?)

– The U.S. competition with China comes down to who will have more high quality friends.

– Diagnosis is the prerequisite for strategy.

– The U.S. challenge with China is not a new Cold War….Get over it.

– If China is neither friend nor enemy, should we go to the High Schools of America to learn how to deal with Frenemies?

And much more!

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here. You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

9M2vSSDs

China (People's Republic of China) The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Options for the U.S. Middle East Strategic Alliance

Colby Connelly is an MA Candidate in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  He previously worked in Saudi Arabia for several years.  He can be found on Twitter @ColbyAntonius.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Disunity among U.S. partners in the Persian Gulf threatens prospects for the establishment of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA).

Date Originally Written:  January 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 8, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate student interested in U.S. security policy towards Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Background:  The Trump Administration has expressed the intention to create a Sunni Arab alliance aimed at countering Iranian influence in the Middle East through the establishment of MESA, often referred to as the “Arab North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)[1].” Prospective MESA member states are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, and Egypt. Such an alliance would constitute a unified bloc of U.S.-backed nations and theoretically indicate to the Iranian government that a new, highly coordinated effort to counter Iranian influence in the region is taking shape.

Significance:  Since the inception of the Carter Doctrine, which firmly delineates American national security interests in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. has developed extensive political, security, and economic ties with through the GCC. GCC members include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. While the Trump Administration envisions the GCC members making up the backbone of MESA, in recent years the bloc has been more divided than at any time in its history. The GCC is effectively split between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, who favor more assertive measures to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, and Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, who advocate a softer approach to the Iranian question. How to approach Iranian influence is one issue among others that has contributed to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt since 2017. The Trump Administration has encouraged a settlement to the dispute but has made little headway.

Option #1:  The Trump Administration continues to advocate for the formation of MESA.

Risk:  Forming MESA is a challenge as there is no agreement among potential members regarding the threat Iran poses nor how to best address it[2]. Historically, GCC states are quicker to close ranks in the face of a commonly perceived threat. The GCC was formed in response to the Iran-Iraq war, and the bloc was most united in its apprehension to what it perceived as U.S. disengagement from the Middle East during the Obama Administration. So long as the GCC states feel reassured that the U.S. will remain directly involved in the region, they may see no need for national security cohesion amongst themselves. The ongoing GCC crisis indicates that Arab Gulf states place little faith in regional institutions and prefer bilateralism, especially where security issues are concerned. The failure of the Peninsula Shield Force to ever develop into an effective regional defense body able to deter and respond to military aggression against any GCC member is perhaps the most prolific example of this bilateralism dynamic[3]. Further, a resolution to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by GCC members would almost certainly be a prerequisite to the establishment of MESA. Even if the Qatar crisis were to be resolved, defense cooperation would still be impeded by the wariness with which these states will view one another for years to come.

Gain:  The formation of a unified bloc of U.S. partner states committed to balancing Iranian influence in the Middle East may serve to deter increased Iranian aggression in the region. This balancing is of particular relevance to the Strait of Hormuz and Bab El-Mandab Strait; both of which are chokepoints for global commercial shipping that can be threatened by Iran or armed groups that enjoy Iran’s support[4]. In backing MESA, the U.S. would also bolster the strength of the relationships it already maintains with prospective member states, four of which are major non-NATO Allies. As all prospective MESA members are major purchasers of U.S. military equipment, the alliance would consist of countries whose weapons systems have degrees of interoperability, and whose personnel all share a common language.

Option #2:  The Trump Administration continues a bilateral approach towards security partners in the Middle East.

Risk:  Should an imminent threat emerge from Iran or another actor, there is no guarantee that U.S. partners in the region would rush to one another’s defense. For example, Egypt may be averse to a military engagement with Iran over its activities in the Gulf. This may leave the U.S. alone in defense of its partner states. A bilateral strategy may also lack some of the insulation provided by multilateral defense agreements that could dissuade adversaries like Iran and Russia from exploiting division among U.S. partners. For instance, Russia has courted Qatar since its expression of interest in purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense system, which is not interoperable with other U.S.-made systems deployed throughout the Gulf region[5].

Gain:  The U.S. can use a “hub and spoke” approach to tailor its policy to regional security based on the needs of its individual partners. By maintaining and expanding its defense relationships in the Gulf, including the U.S. military presence in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, the U.S. can ensure that both itself and its allies are equipped to handle threats as they emerge. Devoting increased resources and efforts to force development may deter Iranian aggression more so than simply establishing new regional institutions, which with few exceptions have often held a poor track record in the Middle East. An approach that favors bilateralism may sacrifice some degree of power projection, but would perhaps more importantly allow the U.S. to ensure that its partners are able to effectively expand their defense capabilities.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] NATO for Arabs? A new Arab military alliance has dim prospects. (2018, October 6). Retrieved from The Economist: https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/10/06/a-new-arab-military-alliance-has-dim-prospects

[2] Kahan, J. H. (2016). Security Assurances for the Gulf States: A Bearable Burden? Middle East Policy, 23(3), 30-38.

[3] Bowden, J. (2017). Keeping It Together: A Historical Approach to Resolving Stresses and Strains Within the Peninsula Shield Force. Journal of International Affairs, 70(2), 134-149.

[4] Lee, J. (2018, 26 July). Bab el-Mandeb, an Emerging Chokepoint for Middle East Oil Flows. Retrieved from Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-26/bab-el-mandeb-an-emerging-chokepoint-for-middle-east-oil-flows

[5] Russia and Qatar discuss S400 missile deal. (2018, July 21). Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-qatar-arms/russia-and-qatar-discuss-s-400-missile-systems-deal-tass-idUSKBN1KB0F0

Allies & Partners Colby Connelly Middle East Option Papers United States

#NatSecGirl Squad: The Conference Edition White Paper — Communicating with Non-Experts

Editor’s Note:  On November 15, 2018, #NatSecGirlSquad hosted a conference in Washington D.C. at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  Over the coming months Divergent Options, as a partner for this event, will be deviating from our traditional content and publishing a series of white papers in various formats that capture each panel at this event.


Panel Title:  Communicating with Non-Experts

White Paper Authors:  Sarah Martin and Tabitha H. Sanders

Background:  On November 15, 2018, #NatSecGirlSquad hosted its first all-day conference at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)-Americas headquarters in Washington, DC. As a membership organization, #NatSecGirlSquad was founded by Maggie Feldman-Piltch to foster “competent diversity across the national security apparatus.” This event represents the core of #NatSecGirlSquad: holding purposeful dialogues to disentangle complex issues and provide solutions to policy concerns that are often overlooked in other spaces. #NatSecGirlSquad was proud to host this conference with the help from its sponsors: IISS, Divergent Options, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, the Center for New American Security, the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, GirlSecurity, and additional support from the International Counterterrorism Youth Network.

The purpose of this White Paper is to concisely present the ideas and topics discussed during the first panel, “Communicating with Non-Experts.” This panel was moderated by Quinta Jurecic, the Managing Editor of Lawfare. Commentary was provided by Beverly Kirk, the director for outreach in the CSIS International Security Program and director of the CSIS Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative; Valerie Insinna, air warfare reporter for Defense News; and Phil Walter, founder of Divergent Options, a non-politically aligned national security website that does not conduct political activities.

Executive Summary:  National security is a difficult subject to parse even when the audience also works in the field. Each sector – or even department – has unique jargon and objectives; each person has their own position, interests, and styles of learning. When talking to individuals outside of the field, the challenges become tenfold. Despite its complexities, national security is too vital an area to ignore or communicate poorly. To kick off the conference, this first panel allowed speakers the space to reflect on the challenges that arise when trying to talk to non-experts.

Each panelist agreed that understanding the audience and the briefing objective are essential to conveying information. Phil Walter emphasized that one should identify not only who the audience is, but the means by which they learn. Beverly Kirk of CSIS found that the best way to engage an audience is to meet them where they already are—namely, social media. She noted that the trick to translating complex information is to “simplify without dumbing down” or patronizing the audience, which can sometimes have a negative effect. Valerie Insinna of Defense News added that building credibility is one way to build trust among an ambivalent audience, and one crucial way to do that is to acknowledge mistakes.

Another element echoed among panelists was the resistance to acronyms and industry jargon. As Walter pointed out, Beltway industries have developed strong tribal instincts, and the usage of jargon can be an active gatekeeping mechanism. Phil Walter noted that this can be a form of gatekeeping between the various “tribes” of DC, noting that various governmental departments have a tendency to use different phrases for the same issue. At the same time, Jurecic noted that jargon can also be a quick way for someone to indicate expertise in a subject, thereby gaining trust. However, overuse can alienate an unfamiliar audience. There is a real danger to assuming common knowledge when speaking with people across industries—or even government departments. Walter advises against “throwing around” acronyms, and relying instead on common life experiences to help bridge gaps.

A twenty-minute discussion launched from questions posed by the moderator and the audience, drilling into the particulars of the opening remarks.  

Opening Remarks:  Quinta Jurecic set the tone of the conversation by reflecting on the current moment and setting the stakes. There are two opposing, but equally strong trends now—a deepening mistrust towards Washington, and a growing appetite for knowledge from Washington. As the Managing Editor of Lawfare, Jurecic noticed that her audience had grown from attracting those already familiar with national security to include people from outside the field. These trends can make the already-difficult task of decoding national security to non-experts a near-Herculean endeavor. There is a balance to strike between asserting one’s expertise and shunning those who are less familiar with DC’s lingua franca of acronyms.

Phil Walter was the first to speak, and he provided a practical framework to consider when preparing for a briefing to a non-expert. As a military veteran and former Intelligence Community employee, Walter pulled from his own experience preparing for and executing information briefings and discussions. He laid out his routine in a step-by-step process: first, identify the context of the conversation; second, understand the values and incentive structures of the organization or individual being briefed; third, tell a story; fourth, don’t discount the audience’s concerns. Finally, he emphasized, is the importance of trying to end the meeting on a high note. To best identify the context of the conversation, determine the purpose of the brief by asking the following question: is it to inform, to influence, or to ask for something? Note the difference between the statements: “It is going to rain today,” “I think it’s raining; you’ll want your raincoat,” and “Do you think it’s going to rain today?”

The essence of Walter’s remarks rested in his second point. There are elements outside of the speaker’s control that must be identified and mitigated when preparing the briefing. One in particular is organizational culture, specifically the individual values and incentive structures. The various branches within the constellation of the United States federal government have different expectations and objectives; each contractor or other mediary have their own forms and figures to adhere to. For instance, members of the legislature must be cognizant of their political relationships, at-home elections, and committee budgets—restrictions that Defense Department personnel are less encumbered by.

“It’s not about talking the way we like to talk, it’s about talking in a way that the audience receives it.”

Phil Walter

Walter also mentioned recognizing the audience’s personal preferences. If they prefer visuals, make sure to provide graphs and images. If the person wants straight text, a few footnotes, and even fewer bullet points – know this, and fill in the gaps. Additionally, elements surrounding the time and day of the briefing will affect audience reception and ought to be accounted for. A morning versus late afternoon briefing might require different adjustments, and speaking to a legislative aide during budget season or recess will yield varying degrees of success. The impact of the briefing will depend on outside factors that, while out of the speaker’s control, the effects of which can be mitigated. “If you can,” Walter said, “bring snacks.”

In terms of substance, Walter urged members of the audience to ground their briefings in a narrative. “Tell a story,” he said, as it is difficult for most people to connect the minutiae of policy. Touches of well-placed and well-timed comedy can not only lighten a somber mood, but can be more memorable than a graph. Walter advised speakers not to disregard their audiences concerns, even if the questions seem “bad” or superfluous. It is still important for the speaker to answer them, and to do so politely. The adage from high school is true: there is no such thing as a silly question. Walter concluded by telling speakers to try their best to end on a high note. The primary goal of any briefing is to pass along knowledge, but the second goal is to convince the room that they want to continue the relationship, and to “bring you back.”

Beverly Kirk shifted the discussion to drill into the packaging of the message. Kirk explained that CSIS works to produce not just written reports, but a variety of content: commentaries, critical questions, videos, and podcasts. The most effective way to communicate with anyone, Kirk said, is to “put the information in a format that they use or that they’re most likely to use, and to make it easy to find.” This means taking advantage of the “new media” —social media and podcasts, in addition to the maintenance of traditional websites. Many people in the industry might look upon social media as the place where “the kids” are, and Kirk agreed, but she was quick to add that, “The kids need to know what we’re talking about.”

With these different methods of packaging the message, the idea is to draw out the essence of those reports to inform and to entice the audience to seek out the original text. “Most people do not take the time, whether they have it or not, to read a twenty-five or thirty page white paper,” Kirk said frankly. She told conference attendees about a video her department at CSIS put together on the threat posed by North Korea. It distilled the complex and controversial issue into maps and graphics and “made it all make sense.” While the visuals might not be something often considered in communications, especially when the default might be to explain the situation in words, it is crucial to modern messaging, because it helps create a story.

“Put the information in a format that they use or that they’re most likely to use, and to make it easy to find.”

Beverly Kirk

Kirk also emphasized the importance of contextualizing for non-experts. Too often, a non-expert audience might be dismissed as not being interested or engaged. However, Kirk countered that most are receptive to information when they better understand how the issues impact them. “When I’m home in Kentucky, I’m explaining what I do in DC,” Kirk said, “and when I’m in DC, I’m explaining the people that I come from. I talk to both sides the same way.”

With a background in journalism, Kirk said the 4 Ws—who, what, where, when, and how—are a good metric to form an explanation. She urged attendees to steer from the jargon or acronyms that are ubiquitous in the field. Such language signals that the speaker is conversing among themselves, but not engaging new audiences. She pressed for people to take the time to explain, to “simplify without dumbing down.”

As a journalist, Valerie Insinna speaks to quite a general audience. When asked how she walks the line between writing a piece that is understandable to a general audience, while also informing the expert who seeks context and background, she admitted it was a frequent challenge. Her advice was three-fold: don’t rely on jargon, tell a story, and try to grab people’s interest.

“Don’t rely on jargon, tell a story, and try to grab people’s interest.”

Valerie Insinna

Authenticity is a difficult note to strike, but Insinna argued that her experiences tells her that audiences are quite responsive to those who acknowledge they are wrong. “Even if you’re not a journalist,” she said, “being open to feedback is important to making sure your ideas are heard.”

Discussion:  To respond to their comments, Jurecic asked the panel how they might make an idea accessible without losing its nuances.

Kirk responded with a variety of starting points. She said that one must approach such conversations- be they in person or on paper- with the enthusiasm and conciseness as though one were speaking with their best friend. Begin with, “You won’t believe what happened today!” as that will help identify the discussion’s key points and framing.  Like the best friend, one should begin by speaking to the person who doesn’t understand the issues, and then returning to the narrative to weave in critical and complicated factors. She cautioned, though, that reaching simplicity is not a simple task, and remains a critical skills despite being the hardest part of the craft.

Turning then to the audience, the panelists took a number of questions and used the opportunity to build on their earlier comments. One audience member, identifying as an employee at the Department of Defense, questioned the advice of the panel to explain information as simply as possible. Her issue sparked a larger conversation about the line between communicating concisely and “dumbing down” complex information.

Sometimes, though, the issue with communication is not necessarily a disagreement over facts or partisan issues, but can stem from a deep distrust of the national security establishment. Military affairs and security topics are undoubtedly divisive, and it can be difficult to talk about these issues with those uncomfortable or hostile to them. Phil Walter proposed practical measures—taking the effort to diagnose elements of national security that someone might not be familiar or comfortable with. The ultimate goal, he said, is to find common ground, however minute it may be.

Kirk acknowledged that speaking to an audience entrenched in a set of ideas is one of the greatest challenges any outlet faces today. She admitted that she has yet to figure out a way to “break through that wall” of bias, but she advised that the best thing to do is to “find people where they are.” More and more, information is bifurcated into silos to such an extent that, even when people are getting the right facts, it can be a challenge to get them to trust it. The best way to combat preconceived bias, she argued, is to stick to the facts and the data. Echoing Insinna’s earlier comments, she also advised that if the information isn’t immediately at hand, it’s better to say so. Transparency builds trust, which in turn builds accountability.

A student from the George Washington University asked for the panel’s endorsements for good national security sources. Kirk recommended her CSIS colleagues Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Heather Conley, especially the book Conley co-wrote with James Mina, Martin Vladimirov, and Ruslan Stefanov, The Kremlin Playbook. She also plugged anything produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Insinna recommended the Bombshell podcast, and to read Defense media. Walter offered Rational Security, and noted how much he enjoyed the mix of jovialness between the hosts and the seriousness of their topics. Jurecic plugged the Lawfare blog and podcast as well.  

In closing, one audience member lamented that they didn’t feel that it was enough to make audiences understand an issue, but that they wanted to motivate them to do something about it. For content producers, researchers, and members of the media, Jurecic reminded that no single article or podcast episode will be the silver bullet for an idea that you’re pushing. The best thing is to keep pushing out these ideas, knowing that “they’ll return with a vengeance.” Keep getting good stuff out there, she advised.

Takeaways:  This panel offered an in-depth look at the challenges and methods by which people in national security are working communicate to ever-wider audiences. While the current moment has made it more difficult to have conversations with these audiences, to impart knowledge and to gain trust, there remain five key points to remember when preparing a briefing. The first is to tell a story, as it is easier for most audiences to process narrative threads than raw data. Second, to understand how the audience is approaching the issue, and to meet them where they are, whether on social media or in the conference room. Third, when errors happen—and they will—it is best to admit them and to make open and transparent course corrections. This is where authenticity and trust are built-in an otherwise skeptical audience. Fourth, write simply, but do not condescend the audience. Fifth and finally, the panels urged those in attendance to keep making good content.

#NatSecGirlSquad Sarah Martin Tabitha H. Sanders

Partnership Announcement: Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP)

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Fulan Nasrullah is the Executive Director of the Nigeria-based Conflict Studies And Analysis Project (CSAAP).  The CSAAP is an intellectual exchange platform created to provide open source information and analysis on conflicts and security policy issues in the Lake Chad-Sahel region.  In addition to being the Executive Director of CSAAP, Divergent Options counts Fulan among our ranks of writers when in March 2018 he wrote “Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region.

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The CSAAP is part of the Global Initiative for Civil Stabilization (GICS).  The GICS is a mediation, humanitarian support, advocacy and research foundation, established to uphold the principles of responsibility to protect, impartiality, confidentiality, and independence.

building-relationships

In 2019 Divergent Options is partnering with CSAAP.  From a readers point of view, twice a month, on days other than when we publish our regular content, you will see CSAAP content posted on Divergent Options and Divergent Options content posted at CSAAP.  Additionally, CSAAP will provide writing prompts to support our Call for Papers efforts.  Writers who write to the CSAAP writing prompts will be published at both Divergent Options and CSAAP.  We are pleased that a relationship with one of our writers has blossomed into something more and are excited about what awaits both efforts in 2019!

Announcements Fulan Nasrullah Partner - Conflict Studies And Analysis Project

Call for Papers: The Next Pivot / The Next Threat

 

Pivot

Image: https://betanews.com

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© Jérôme Rommé / Fotolia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to countries choosing to pivot their focus away from one issue and towards another.  We are also interested in national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to new threats that countries may be facing.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by February 8, 2019.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

To inspire potential writers we offer the following writing prompts:

– Did U.S. President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to the Pacific” or “Rebalancing Towards Asia” succeed?  Provide an assessment.

– What options does the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have as the U.S. pivots away from Syria?

– As the U.S. pivots away from Afghanistan, what options exist for the Afghan Government?  What options exist for the Afghan Taliban?

– What threats are posed by the continued evolution of hypersonic technology?  Provide an assessment.

– Artificial intelligence is rising.  What threat does it pose?  Provide an assessment.

– Assess the next threat that countries effected by the Arab Spring will face.

– Assess China’s efforts globally.  Do they represent a pivot?  If so, what are they pivoting toward and what is the impact?  When did this pivot begin?

– What are the next threats to emerge in Central America or South America?  Provide an assessment.

– Does any country need to pivot towards addressing organized crime?  Provide an assessment.

– Will U.S. President Donald Trump’s pivot away from Syria and Afghanistan succeed?  Provide an assessment.

– As Britain pivots away from the European Union, what options does it have to maintain its status in the world?

– Is Russia pivoting away from Soviet-era tactics and towards something else?  Provide an assessment.

– What country is pivoting towards cyber warfare above all others?  Provide an assessment.

– Assess the U.S. pivot away from the Global War on Terrorism.  While this may happen, will it make more terrorists pivot towards the U.S.?

Our partners at the The Conflict Studies and Analysis Project at the The Global Initiative for Civil Stabilisation offer the following prompts:

– Assess the potential use / misuse of Artificial Intelligence in future war crimes /crimes against humanity investigations.

– What options exist to reduce Chinese dominance of cellular, internet, and other network infrastructure in poorer countries?

– Assess the use of loans by China to curtail the sovereignty of African States.  This assessment can also be done within the context of U.S.-China Competition.

Call For Papers Strategy

Assessment of the Future of “Russkiy Mir” in Russia’s Grand Strategy

Gabriela Rosa-Hernández was the U.S.-Russia Relationship Research Intern at the American Security Project.  Rosa-Hernández is a David L. Boren Scholar and a Critical Language Scholarship recipient for Russian Language.  Collectively, she’s resided for nearly two years in post-soviet spaces such as Russia, Latvia, and the Republic of Georgia.  Rosa-Hernández can be found on Twitter @GabrielaIRosa.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Editor’s Note:  All translations were done by the author.

Title:  Assessment of the Future of “Russkiy Mir” in Russia’s Grand Strategy

Date Originally Written:  December 10, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 31, 2018.

Summary:  In October 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the 6th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad and approved a migration policy.  In 2014, Russia utilized its “Russian World” rhetoric to justify its illegal annexation of Crimea and its support of secessionist groups in the Donbass.  Following Russia’s demographic decline, and its economic issues; it is likely that the “Russian World” narrative will continue and focus on compatriot resettlement.

Text:  “Russian World” is perhaps Russia’s most controversial piece of policy.  While the terms “Compatriots” and “Russian Diaspora” were not new when President Vladimir Putin took office, the first time he officially mentioned the term “Russian World” was in 2001 before the first World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad[1].  Specifically, Putin stated, “the notion of the Russian World extends far from Russia’s geographical borders and even far from the borders of the Russian ethnicity[2].”  From this moment on, the Russian government erased the boundaries between ethnic Russians and those who identified themselves belonging to the cultural-linguistic-spiritual sphere of the Russian Federation.  “Russian World,” can be best described as the ideological concept guiding the way in which Russia’s responsibility to “compatriots” abroad manifests itself into concrete policy[3].  Overall, “Russian World” is such a versatile piece of policy that it can be observed in Russia’s 2015 National Security Strategy just as it can be seen in Russia’s 2018 “Decree on the Concept of the State Migration Policy.”

On December 31, 2015, the Russian government released its National Security Strategy and the term “compatriot” was mentioned twice therein.  The first mention of “compatriot” was located under the “Russia in the Contemporary World” section[4].  The document directly read that “Russia has shown the ability to defend the rights of compatriots abroad.”  Right after this, the strategy remarked how Russia’s role has increased in solving important world problems.  The strategy posed “defending the rights of compatriots abroad” as an international issue where Russia could bolster its role in the international arena. “Compatriot” was also casually mentioned under the “Culture” section[5]. 

The “Culture” section of the strategy regarded Russian language as not only a tool of interethnic interaction within the Russian Federation but the basis of integration processes in the post-Soviet space.  It remarked that the function of the Russian language as a state language was also a means of meeting the language and cultural requirements of “compatriots” abroad.  Essentially, Russia visualized Russian language as something far more than its state language.  Instead, Russia views the Russian language as the means to interethnic communication in the post-Soviet space, particularly Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states.  The document also mentioned that Russia supported Russian language and cultural programs in CIS member states to further the Eurasian integration process[6].  Overall, Russian language was politicized in the document, and Russia declared its intent to keep Russian language alive in at least CIS member states.  This intent is crucial to understand because Russia considers all those former-Soviet citizens with a linguistic affiliation to the Russian Federation under its compatriot policy. 

In October 2018, nearly three years after the release of Russia’s National Security Strategy, Putin stated in the 6th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad, “all together – represent a huge community of Russian-like compatriots, represent one large, huge, Russian world, which has never been exclusively built on only ethnic, national, or religious ground[7].”  Putin further commented that Russian World unites all with a spiritual connection with Russia and all those who consider themselves carriers of Russian language, Russian culture and Russian history[8].  Putin’s words followed the same line as Russia’s national security strategy; a strategy which listed the lowered role of Russian language in the world and the quality of its teaching as a national security threat[9].

Russia effectively visualizes the use of Russian language and culture as a soft power tool to be employed not only in the international arena but the domestic arena as well.  During the same speech, Putin declared that Russia would defend the interests and rights of compatriots by using all the international and bilateral mechanisms available to do so[10].  Putin made this statement after accusing the Baltics and Ukraine of altering historical monuments and Russian language[11].  While Putin’s speech reflected the principles written in Russia’s national security strategy, the speech did not reflect the narrative within the decree he signed and released on the same day on Russia’s state migration policy.

Instead of highlighting the role of the interests of compatriots abroad, the decree focused on facilitating conditions for compatriots to resettle in the Russian Federation.  This decree was a shift from a rhetoric which focused on international presence of foreign citizens who are native carriers of the Russian language.  The shift signaled a change in narrative from an international policy brought down to the domestic level.  Ultimately, the decree stated that the migration influx (2012-2017) into Russia compensated for Russia’s natural population decline before discussing state programs towards compatriots[12].  This present change of emphasis regarding compatriots is likely due to Russia’s demographic decline.  Overall, Russia’s new state migration policy shows how the concept of “Russian World” is adapted to fit the needs of the Russian state in a time of demographic decline. 

In conclusion, the rhetoric of “Russian World” served as justification for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the Donbass[13].  Because of this, Russia’s “Russian World” is looked upon with suspicion by its neighbors[14].  However, in the latest piece of policy regarding “compatriots,” instead of focusing on “Eurasian integration,” Russia seeks to attract “compatriots” into its territory.  Following Russia’s demographic decline, and its economic issues, it is likely that “Russian World’s” narrative on compatriot resettlement will become stronger.  This narrative will hold more importance over the “defending the rights of compatriots abroad” narrative.  Due to the lack of tangible benefits of “defending the rights of compatriots abroad,” compatriot resettlement is likely to play a larger role in Russia’s future national security strategy. 


Endnotes:

[1] Laurelle, M. (2015, May). The ‘Russian World’: Russia’s Soft Power and Geopolitical Aspirations. Retrieved from http://globalinterests.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/FINAL-CGI_Russian-World_Marlene-Laruelle.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Zevelev, I. (2016, August 22). The Russian World in Moscow’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-world-moscows-strategy

[4] President of Russia. (2015, December 31). On the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. Retrieved from http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/l8iXkR8XLAtxeilX7JK3XXy6Y0AsHD5v.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] President of Russia. (2018, October 31). World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59003

[8] Ibid.

[9] President of Russia. (2015, December 31). On the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. Retrieved from http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/l8iXkR8XLAtxeilX7JK3XXy6Y0AsHD5v.pdf

[10] President of Russia. (2018, October 31). World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59003

[11] Ibid.

[12] President of Russia. (2018, October 21). Decree on the Concept of the State Migration Policy of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025. Retrieved from http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/58986

[13] Zevelev, I. (2016, August 22). The Russian World in Moscow’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/russian-world-moscows-strategy

[14] Ibid.

Assessment Papers Gabriela Rosa-Hernández Russia Strategy

Options for Countering the Rise of Chinese Private Military Contractors

Anthony Patrick is a graduate of Georgia State University and an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Future threats to United States (U.S.) interests abroad from Chinese Private Military Contractors.

Date Originally Written:  November, 26, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 24, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a United States Marine Corps Officer and currently attending The Basic School. 

Background:  Over the last six months, the media has been flooded with stories and articles about the possibility of a trade war between the U.S and the People Republic of China (PRC). These talks have mainly focused around specific trade policies such as intellectual property rights and the trade balance between the two nations. These tensions have risen from the PRC’s growing economic influence around the world. While many problems persist between the U.S and the PRC due to the latter’s rise, one issue that is not frequently discussed is the growing use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) by the PRC. As Chinese companies have moved operations further abroad, they require protection for those investments. While the current number of Chinese PMCs is not large, it has been growing at a worrying rate, which could challenge U.S interests abroad[1]. 

Significance:  Many countries have utilized PMCs in foreign operations. The most significant international incidents involving PMCs mainly come from those based in the U.S and the Russian Federation. However, many other countries with interests abroad have increasingly started to utilize PMCs. One of the most significant examples has been the growing use of Chinese PMC’s. These PMCs pose a very unique set of threats to U.S national security interest abroad[2]. First, like most PMC’s, Chinese contractors come mainly from the Peoples Liberation Army and policing forces. This means that the PMCs have a significant amount of military training. Secondly, the legal relationship between the PMC’s and the PRC is different than in most other countries. Since the PRC is an authoritarian country, the government can leverage multiple forms of coercion to force PMC’s into a certain course of action, giving the government a somewhat deniable capability to control foreign soil. Lastly, the Chinese can use PMC’s as a means to push their desired political endstate on foreign countries. With the U.S still being ahead of the PRC militarily, and with both states having nuclear capabilities, conventional conflict is highly unlikely. One way for the Chinese to employ forces to counter U.S. interests abroad is through the use of PMC’s, similar to what Russia has done in Syria[3]. With this in mind, the U.S will need a proactive response that will address this problem both in the short and long term.  

Option #1:  Increase the Department of Defense’s (DoD) focus on training to counter irregular/asymmetric warfare to address the threat posed by PRC PMCs. 

Risk:  The new National Defense Strategy (NDS) focuses on many aspects of the future conventional battlefield like increasing the size of the U.S Navy, cyber operations, and cutting edge weapons platforms[4]. By focusing more of the DoD’s resources on training to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare, the military will not be able to accomplish the goals in the NDS. This option could also lead to a new generation of military members who are more adept at skills necessary for smaller operations, and put the U.S at a leadership disadvantage if a war were to break out between the U.S and a near peer competitor. 

Gain:  Another major conventional war is highly unlikely. Most U.S. near peer competitors are weaker militarily or have second strike nuclear capabilities. Future conflicts will most likely require the U.S. to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare methodologies, which PRC PMCs may utilize.  By focusing DoD resources in this area, the U.S would gain the ability to counter these types of warfare, no matter who employs them. In addition to being better able to conduct operations similar to Afghanistan, the U.S. would also have the tools to address threats posed by PRC PMCs.  Emphasizing this type of warfare would also give U.S actions more international legitimacy as it would be employing recognized state assets and not trying to counter a PRC PMC with a U.S. PMC. 

Option #2:  The U.S. pursues an international treaty governing the use of PMC’s worldwide.  

Risk:   Diplomatic efforts take time, and are subject to many forms of bureaucratic blockage depending on what level the negations are occurring. Option #2 would also be challenging to have an all-inclusive treaty that would cover every nation a PMC comes from or every country from which an employee of these firms might hail. Also, by signing a binding treaty, the U.S would limit its options in foreign conflict zones or in areas where Chinese PMC’s are operating or where the U.S. wants to use a PMC instead of the military.

Gain:  A binding international treaty would help solve most of the problems caused by PMC’s globally and set the stage for how PRC PMC’s act as they proliferate globally[5]. By making the first move in treaty negotiations, the U.S can set the agenda for what topics will be covered. The U.S can build off of the framework set by the Montreux document, which sets a non-binding list of good practices for PMCs[6]. By using the offices of the United Nations Working Group on PMCs the U.S would be able to quickly pull together a coalition of like minded countries which could drive the larger negotiation process. Lastly, Option #2 would help solve existing problems with PMC’s operating on behalf of other countries, like the Russian Federation. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Swaine, M. D., & Arduino, A. (2018, May 08). The Rise of China’s Private Security (Rep.). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from Carnegie Endowment For International Peace website: https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/05/08/rise-of-china-s-private-security-companies-event-6886

[2] Erickson, A., & Collins, G. (2012, February 21). Enter China’s Security Firms. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://thediplomat.com/2012/02/enter-chinas-security-firms/3/

[3] United States., Department of Defense, (n.d.). Summary of the 2018 National Defense strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge (pp. 1-14).

[4] Gibbons-neff, T. (2018, May 24). How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/world/middleeast/american-commandos-russian-mercenaries-syria.html

[5] Guardians of the Belt and Road. (2018, August 16). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.merics.org/en/china-monitor/guardians-of-belt-and-road

[6] Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of International Law. (2008, September 17). The Montreux Document. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0996.pdf

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Irregular Forces Non-Government Entities Option Papers

Assessing the Widening Russian Presence in Africa

Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Widening Russian Presence in Africa

Date Originally Written:  November 26, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 17, 2018.

Summary:  Africa is quickly regaining its past place in world affairs as a proxy battleground. Amidst a potential U.S. military drawdown in Africa, Russia seeks to maintain and expand political and economic influence on the continent through military deployments and arms deals with several states. While Russia may face potential blowback due to a ham-fisted approach, lack of U.S. presence in Africa could enable Russian success.

Text:  The deployment of advisers – military and civilian – and the provision of security assistance to several African states is indicative of a renewed Russian interest on the continent. Russia’s speed of action in this line of effort has caught many observers off-guard, causing the issue to be an under-reported element of Russian foreign policy actions.

Russia’s national security strategy, published at the end of 2015, identifies instability in several regions – including Africa – as a security threat. Ethnic conflict and terrorism are outlined as two key concerns. The strategy places emphasis on “reliable and equal security,” trade partnerships, and the use of diplomacy to preclude conflict. The strategy dictates force as a last resort[1].

Counter-terrorism operations and civil wars dominate the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. Continued volatility has undermined Western influence there and opened opportunities for exploitation. For the Russians, old Soviet allies in Africa – like Angola and Sudan – offer opportunities to provide military equipment, training, and technical assistance. Over the last three years, the Russian government has signed approximately 19 “military cooperation deals” with sub-Saharan states, to include U.S. allies, such as Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger. Russian cooperation ranges from arms shipments to joint exercises[2]. Resource acquisition is also potential motivating factor for Moscow, as seen in the Central African Republic with its large deposits of gold. Regarding instability, attempts to intervene with marginal force, and the provision of aid packages and security assistance is standard Russian practice. Russian aid programs are growing, however that line of effort is not covered in this assessment.

The Central African Republic (CAR) has seen a major increase in violence since the start of its civil war at the end of 2012. In 2013, an arms embargo against the CAR was put in place by the United Nations (UN) after an outbreak of violence. Outside the capital, Bangui, the rule of law is scant, enforced instead by local Muslim and Christian militias and armed groups. A French military operation, Operation Sangaris, ended in October 2016 after reports of “sexual violence and abuse against civilians” battered the deployment. A UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR has also come under attack by armed groups, losing a total of fourteen peacekeepers thus far[3]. Security in the CAR is generally limited to the capital. In December 2017, Russia was given UN authorization to supply arms to the CAR after repeated requests by CAR President Faustin Archange Touadéra[4]. Some 175 Russian advisers have deployed to supply arms and provide equipment training. Five advisers are Russian military personnel, while most others are civilians working with private contracting firms[5].

The Russian approach in the CAR is destabilizing. Brokering talks between rebel factions and the presence of Russian personnel assisting “prospectors” in mining operations in areas controlled by the primary rebel group in the CAR, the Front Populaire Pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), is exacerbating an area already under crisis. Recently, FPRC leadership has called for the withdrawal of Russian personnel from the CAR, placing the Russian mission and its objectives – even at the regional level – in danger[6].

Cameroon is a likely area for Russian influence. In February 2018, reports surfaced that Russian military equipment was seized from a ship sailing for Douala, Cameroon. The ship docked at Sfaz, Tunisia due to major mechanical problems. It was searched by customs authorities who found the weapons shipment inside. To be sure, the ship’s track and timeline was followed by a Russian maritime blog, which found the ship’s track unusual for a course to Cameroon[7]. A plan for U.S. Special Forces to exit Cameroon was submitted by United States Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, as part of an alignment with the U.S. National Defense Strategy released at the beginning of the year. The strategy moves to a focus on great power competition, rather than counterterrorism. The exit would be continent-wide, affecting several U.S. missions in Africa[8].

Elsewhere on the continent, military to military cooperation is integral to Russia’s relationship with Egypt. Bilateral airborne exercises have been held in both countries since 2015. Recent Russian arms sales and deliveries to Egypt include some 50 MiG- 29 fighter aircraft, 46 Kamov Ka- 52 Alligator attack and reconnaissance helicopters, the Ka-52K model helicopter designed for maritime use, and an advanced model of the S-300 mobile air defense system. In keeping with traditional policy stemming from its colonial history, Egypt has been careful in sidestepping foreign aid dependency. This dependence avoidance is evident in Egyptian purchases of fighter aircraft, ships, and submarines from countries like France, Germany, and South Korea[9].

Libya’s continued instability has offered another arena in which Russian influence can take hold. In March 2017, Reuters reported a possible Russian special operations unit operating near Egypt’s western border with Libya. This presence was denied by Russian officials, however U.S. military sources have posited that Russia has deployed to the region to “strengthen its leverage over whoever ultimately holds power” in Libya’s civil war[10]. Russian support for Khalifa Hiftar, the primary challenger to the Government of National Accord in Libya, seems to indicate a desire to re-forge old overseas Soviet relationships.

In early 2017, members of Russian private military contractor RSB Group were reportedly operating in Libya[11]. Similarly, Wagner – a Russian contracting firm with ties to a Putin associate – has had a reported presence in Syria, supplementing Syrian government forces in ground operations. Reporting on Wagner’s deployments to Syria have shown a high level of security and potential consequences for those members who disclose any information about the firm. The Russian government has denied any presence of contractors in Syria[12]. In August 2018, three Russian journalists were murdered in the Central African Republic under murky circumstances[13]. While investigating the Wagner deployment there, the journalists were gunned down in what has been officially called a robbery. However, Western suspicion surrounds the incident and the story has been called into question, casting even greater light on the proliferation of contractors operating in Russia’s areas of interest[14].

The Russian approach in Africa is indicative of a general trend set in its 2014 intervention in Ukraine: low-visibility, low-cost exploitation of instability to secure political and economic objectives through marginal force deployments and security assistance to areas that once held Soviet influence. The potential decline of a U.S. military presence on the continent could drive further expansion, while access to resources provides a set of economic objectives for Russia to act upon.


Endnotes:

[1] Russian National Security Strategy. 31 Dec. 2015, www.ieee.es/Galerias/fichero/OtrasPublicaciones/Internacional/2016/Russian-National-Security-Strategy-31Dec2015.pdf.

[2] “Factbox: Russian Military Cooperation Deals with African Countries.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 17 Oct. 2018, uk.reuters.com/article/uk-africa-russia-factbox/factbox-russian-military-cooperation-deals-with-african-countries-idUKKCN1MR0KZ.

[3] “Global Conflict Tracker.” Council on Foreign Relations, 2018, www.cfr.org/interactives/global-conflict-tracker#!/conflict/violence-in-the-central-african-republic.

[4] “UN Gives Green Light on Russia Arms to C Africa.” News24, 16 Dec. 2017, www.news24.com/Africa/News/un-gives-green-light-on-russia-arms-to-c-africa-20171216.

[5] McGregor, Andrew. “How Russia Is Displacing the French in the Struggle for Influence in the Central African Republic.” The Jamestown Foundation, 15 May 2018, jamestown.org/program/how-russia-is-displacing-the-french-in-the-struggle-for-influence-in-the-central-african-republic/.

[6] Goble, Paul. “Moscow’s Neo-Colonial Enterprise Running Into Difficulties in Central African Republic.” The Jamestown Foundation, 6 Nov. 2018, jamestown.org/program/moscows-neo-colonial-enterprise-running-into-difficulties-in-central-african-republic/.

[7] Voytenko, Mikhail. “Secret Russian Arms Shipment? Cargo Ship with Arms Detained in Tunisia. UPDATE.” Maritime Bulletin, 9 Apr. 2018, maritimebulletin.net/2018/02/16/secret-russian-arms-shipment-cargo-ship-with-arms-detained-in-tunisia/.

[8] Cooper, Helene, and Eric Schmitt. “U.S. Prepares to Reduce Troops and Shed Missions in Africa.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/world/africa/us-withdraw-troops-africa.html.

[9] McGregor, Andrew. “How Does Russia Fit Into Egypt’s Strategic Plan.” The Jamestown Foundation, 14 Feb. 2018, jamestown.org/program/russia-fit-egypts-strategic-plan/.

[10] Stewart, Phil, et al. “Exclusive: Russia Appears to Deploy Forces in Egypt, Eyes on Libya…” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 14 Mar. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-libya-exclusive-idUSKBN16K2RY.

[11] Tsvetkova, Maria. “Exclusive: Russian Private Security Firm Says It Had Armed Men in…” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 13 Mar. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-libya-contractors-idUSKBN16H2DM.

[12] “Secret Flights and Private Fighters: How Russia Supports Assad in Syria.” Public Radio International, PRI, 6 Apr. 2018, www.pri.org/stories/2018-04-06/secret-flights-and-private-fighters-how-russia-supports-assad-syria.

[13] Plichta, Marcel. “What Murdered Russian Journalists Were Looking For in the Central African Republic.” World Politics Review, 22 Aug. 2018, www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/25640/what-murdered-russian-journalists-were-looking-for-in-the-central-african-republic.

[14] Higgins, Andrew, and Ivan Nechepurenko. “In Africa, Mystery Murders Put Spotlight on Kremlin’s Reach.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/08/07/world/europe/central-african-republic-russia-murder-journalists-africa-mystery-murders-put-spotlight-on-kremlins-reach.html.

Africa Assessment Papers Harrison Manlove Russia

Announcing the Divergent Options Writer’s Forum

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We recently discovered that we have the ability to establish discussion forums as part of our website.

Based upon this discovery we decided to build a closed forum for people who have written for Divergent Options.

We envision this closed forum as a place for our writers to have discussions, refine their thoughts on issues, network, seek guidance, and share opportunities.

We have contacted all of our writers via the last e-mail address we had on file to notify them of forum establishment.  If you have written for Divergent Options but have not been contacted regarding the forum please email us submissions@divergentoptions.org.

We look forward to seeing you on the forum soon!

Announcements

Episode 0010: The 1986 Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

GWN

Image:  www.realcleardefense.com

On this episode of The Smell of Victory PodcastBob Hein and Phil Walter discussed the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Issues touched on and quotes from this episode include:

– Does Goldwater-Nichols inhibit the military’s ability to plan against global threats?

– Does Goldwater-Nichols inadvertently make consensus the goal, vice best military advice?

– Are we ready for Four Star Fight Club in the military to resolve resourcing issues?

– Has the last commanding General of U.S. forces in Afghanistan been born yet?

– The purpose of the game is to perpetuate the game.

– It is time to give more authority to the services for the movement of forces globally.

– Should there only be one service (as per Harry Truman)?

– Listen to the genesis of the next best-selling genre at Amazon: National Security Children’s Books.

– Why does the Unified Command Plan seem to drive all the seams to sea?

– Should the Military, Department of Defense, and the Department of State use the same geographical organization, or does that just make too much sense?

– So who does global defense strategy? Not the Combatant Commands.

– What if before the war everyone showed up?

And much more!

You can listen via Sticher by clicking here, or iTunes by clicking here. You can also listen on our website by clicking play below or download The Smell of Victory to your favorite podcatcher via our RSS feed below.

Governing Documents The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Forces in the Baltic States: Credible Deterrent or Paper Tiger?

Mr. Callum Moore currently works for Intelligence Fusion, where he operates as an analyst focusing the Baltic States and Finland.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Forces in the Baltic States: Credible Deterrent or Paper Tiger?

Date Originally Written:  November 9, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 10, 2018.

Summary:  North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces deployed to the Baltic States are severely unprepared to fight a conventional war with Russia. Their presence in the Baltic States is merely a token gesture of support. The gesture is not only a paper tiger, but exposes the deployed forces to the possible risk of annihilation by Russia. Despite this, there are valid arguments to suggest that a paper tiger is enough to deter hybrid warfare.

Text:  In late 2016 NATO coalition members decided that they would send troops to support the Baltic States. This decision was made in light of the recent invasion of Crimea by Russian Federation troops in 2014 and the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. At this time the Baltic States were left in a vulnerable position, being both former members of the Soviet Union and current members of NATO and the European Union. The NATO troops sent to the Baltic States came largely from the United Kingdom, Canada, America, Germany, Denmark and France. The United Kingdom sent a force to Estonia, consisting of 800 British troops with handheld drones, which were accompanied by four Challenger tanks and Warrior armoured fighting vehicles. Both the German and Canadian expeditions consisted of similar numbers and equipment.

The vulnerability of the Baltic States position in 2015 is highlighted by David Blair, a writer for the Telegraph. Mr Blair indicates that Latvian troop numbers consisted of 1,250 troops and three training tanks, Lithuanian forces consisted of 3200 troops and Estonian forces consisted of 5300 troops. Opposing these Baltic forces were 1,201 Russian aircraft, 2,600 tanks and 230,000 troops[1]. It is clear militarily that the combined forces of the Russian Federation far outweigh that of the Baltic States, both in numbers and equipment. Altogether the coalition forces reinforced the Baltic States with 3,200 troops, with an additional 4,000 U.S. troops deployed just south in Poland[2]. These troops pose little threat to the Russian forces.  This lack of