Call for Papers: Coordinating All The Things.

 Approval / Concurrence / Coordination / Consultation / Deconfliction / Notification

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Coordinating All The Things.

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 October 15, 2022.

Below is a list of prompts that may inspire potential writers:

– In the context of a global threat, assess whether existing coordination mechanisms within a specified national security organization are sufficient.

– In the context of a global threat, if existing coordination mechanisms within a specified national security organization are insufficient, provide options to improve said mechanisms.

– If two national security organizations with competing interests coordinate with each other and an impasse results, provide criteria / options that could help guide resolving the impasse.

– Assess the psychological impact and / or value of terms like Approval / Concurrence / Coordination / Consultation / Deconfliction / Notification within a national security organization.

– Assess whether all the things need to be coordinated.

– Assess whether Country X or Organization X has a culture that values coordination.

– Assess whether a career that emphasizes speed and decisiveness eventually backfires when a person rises to a level that is indifferent to tempo and values organization-wide coordination over execution.

– Provide options to identify employees with a coordination-mindset early, and put them on a career track that values coordinartion.

– Assess whether training and educational structures within a national security organizations are teaching their students to value coordination.

– If training and educational structures within national security organizations are not teaching their students to value coordination, provide options to remedy this situation.

– Assess the impact of choosing not to coordinate.

– Assess the impact of choosing to over-coordinate.

– Assess whether Global Coordination is possible in a specified national security organization.

– Provide options to improve Global Coordination in a specified national security organization.

Call For Papers

Assessing the Role of China’s Aircraft Carriers in a Taiwan Invasion

Michael G. Gallagher is an American expatriate and independent researcher living in Seoul, South Korea, with his Korean wife. He has MA and Ph.D. degrees in International Relations from the University of Miami in Coral, Gables, Florida.  Prior to residing in South Korea, he has lived in Mainland China and Hong Kong.  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 Role of China’s Aircraft Carriers in a Taiwan Invasion

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  July 11, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China in its present form poses a grave threat to the United States and its allies and that insufficient attention-at least in public- has been paid to certain aspects of Chinese military planning. This inattention may be the result of the U.S. Navy’s (USN) projecting its views of aircraft carrier strength onto its view of China.

Summary:  Despite the publicity China’s carrier force has received in the press, the huge ships, as impressive as they are, may only play a secondary role in Chinese naval operations during a Taiwan invasion. The function of China’s carrier force will be to clean up any remaining opposition after Chinese forces decisively defeat the U.S. and Japanese fleets using a blizzard of cyberattack and missile barrages.

Text:  China’s aircraft carriers have been in the news over the last few months.  The Liaoning and its escorts conducted exercises in the South China Sea May of this year[1].  China’s second carrier and its first domestically built one, the Shandong, was recently spotted with several drones on its flight deck[2]. Meanwhile, the Chinese have just launched a third carrier, the Fujian,  and planning for a fourth carrier, possibly nuclear-powered, is in the works[3]. There is even discussion of six People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) carrier groups by 2035[4].

Traditional reasons for building aircraft carriers includes sea control, showing the flag, having a mobile airfield that you and only you control, and the sheer prestige of having a large carrier force. However, none of these reasons cancel out the fact that aircraft carriers are an increasingly vulnerable weapons system that is already over 100 years old. The first full-fledged carrier was a converted battlecruiser, the  Royal Navy’s HMS Furious. The Furious entered service during World War I in 1917[5]. The first specifically designed carrier was the Japanese Hosho, launched in 1921[6].

Apart from its carrier force, China has expended enormous resources since the mid-1990s on capabilities that are specifically designed to sink the USN’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and wrest control of the waters of the Western Pacific from the United States and its allies. To achieve this strategic end, the PLAN has acquired an impressive arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles like the DF-21 land-based anti-ship ballistic missile and the DF-26 “Guam Killers” Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, which also has an anti-ship mode, H-6 medium-range bombers armed with ship-killing cruise missiles, a 79 boat strong submarine force, and numerous frigates and destroyers armed with anti-ship missiles[7][8][9][10]. 

If any assault against Taiwan is delayed until the late 2020s, China’s emerging hypersonic capability will likely play a significant role in in its attack plans. Mounted on  either  JL-2 or JL-3 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles or land-based weapons like the DF-26 Medium Range Ballistic Missile and the longer-range DF-41 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), nonnuclear hypersonic glide vehicles using kinetic energy impacts would devastate Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. Navy’s huge Pacific Fleet base at San Diego[11][12][13].

Non-nuclear hypersonic warheads mounted on ICBMs could even strike high-value civilian targets in the U.S. like Boeing’s huge Everett, Washington factory. These weapons would be doubly effective if they could be deployed as Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles. This potentially revolutionary advance was hinted at during China’s July 2021 hypersonic weapon test when the glide vehicle, mounted on a ballistic missile, may have released an extra payload while in flight[14].

Current U.S. Anti-Ballistic Missile systems like THAAD, Patriot-3 and the US Navy’s family of Standard missiles would have limited effectiveness against such weapons. And that gap in defensive capability may not be filled until around 2030[15].

The PLAN’s strong anti-carrier posture, when combined with the fiscal reality that it is less expensive to use a missile than put a carrier at risk, points to China’s carriers playing a clean-up role in a Taiwan invasion scenario.  This scenario would begin with a blizzard of cyberattack and missile barrages, accompanied by wave after wave of cruise and ballistic missile strikes against American and Japanese bases on Guam, Okinawa and elsewhere. PLAN carriers would then sink any remaining hostile warships and force the smaller nations of Southeast Asia, plus Australia and New Zealand, to bend their knee to Beijing[16].

Still, even if China scored huge gains early in any conflict over Taiwan, the stealthy U.S. and Japanese submarine fleets could cripple any Chinese naval campaign.  Chinese planners may assume that any enemy submarines at sea when the war began would be cut off from repair and resupply and would eventually wither on the vine.  This may be a valid assumption if the Chinese plans do involve strikes on U.S. home ports and possibly parts of U.S. industrial infrastructure.  However, until these U.S. and Japanese submarine forces run out of food, fuel, or munitions, they are still a threat.

Taiwan, the target of China’s violent, high velocity, high-technology assault, would almost certainly be forced to surrender. With Taiwan’s two potential saviors, the U.S. and Japanese fleets, having carriers resting on the bottom of the Pacific, the island democracy would be cut off from all possible aid by an impenetrable Chinese naval blockade.  Messy amphibious assaults against contested beaches would not be necessary.

China’s carrier force may wind up playing the same role the US Navy’s fast battleships did in the Pacific during World War Two. Those powerful warships, once the queens of battle, found themselves relegated to back up roles, providing fire support for amphibious landings and using their formidable antiaircraft batteries to help defend the now dominant carriers from air attack[17].


Endnotes:

[1] D, M. (2022, May 23). Chinese Carrier Group now operating in the East China Sea. USNI.org. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://news.usni.org/2022/05/23/chinese-carrier-strike-group-now-operating-in-east-china-sea

[2] A, W. (2022, June 3). Drones included in Refit for China’s second aircraft carrier Shandong. South China Morning Post. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3180265/drones-included-refit-chinas-second-aircraft-carrier-shandong

[3] K, M & D, R.(2022, June 17). China launches hi-tech aircraft carrier in naval milestone. Retrieved July 6, 2022, AP News. from https://apnews.com/article/beijing-china-shanghai-government-and-politics-6ce51d1901b3a5658cc9ef7e62b65000

[4] World’s biggest Naval Power: Can China Develop Six Aircraft Carriers By 2035 & Challenge Its Arch-Rival USA Eurasian Times Desk. (2021, December 23). Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://eurasiantimes.com/worlds-biggest-naval-power-can-china-develop-six-aircraft-carriers-by-2035-challenge-its-arch-rival-usa/

[5] History’s First Aircraft Carrier. Naval Encylopedia.com. (2021). Retrieved June 26, 2022 from https://naval-encyclopedia.com/ww1/uk/hms-furious-1917.php

[6] The Hosho, world’s first purpose built aircraft carrier. Naval Encylopedia.com. (2021). Retrieved June 26, 2022 from https://naval-encyclopedia.com/ww2/japan/hosho.php

[7] DF-21 (CSS-5). Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project (2022, March 28). Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-21/

[8] DF-26. Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project (2021, August 6) Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/dong-feng-26-df-26/

[9] Hanyang H-6 Medium Bomber. Military-Today.com. (2022).  Retrieved July 6, 2022 from http://www.military-today.com/aircraft/h6k.htm

[10] 2022 China Military Strength. Globalfirepower.com. (2022).. Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.php?country_id=china

[11] Missiles of China. Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project. (2021, April 12). Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/china/

[12] Missiles of China.  Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project. (2021, April 12). Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/china/

[13] DF-41 (Dongfeng-41/CSS-X-20). Missile Threat: CSIS Missile Defense Project. (2021, July 31). Retrieved July, 6 from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-41/

[14] N, T, R &, T, T, J. (2021, November 3). China’s Hypersonic Mystery Weapon Released Its Own Payload And Nobody Knows Why (Updated). The War Zone. Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/43242/chinas-hypersonic-mystery-weapon-released-its-own-payload-and-nobody-knows-why

[15] A, E. (2022, May 23). Just getting started: Too early to say when hypersonic interceptor will go live. Breaking Defense. Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://breakingdefense.com/2022/05/just-getting-started-too-early-to-say-when-hypersonic-interceptor-will-go-live/

[16] S,R.( 2021, June 21). China’s Third Aircraft Carrier is Aimed at a Post-US Asia. Foreign Policy. Retrieved July 6, 2022 from https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/06/21/china-third-aircraft-carrier-fujian/

[17] F,R.(2020, July 13). Rethinking the Technological Story of the Pacific Theater of the Second World War. The Diplomat. Retrieved July 9, 2022 from https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/rethinking-the-technological-story-of-the-pacific-theater-of-the-second-world-war/

 

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Major Regional Contingency Maritime Michael G. Gallagher Taiwan

Call for Papers: COVID19 and National Security

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to COVID19 and National Security.

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 21, 2022.

Call For Papers

Options for the U.S. to Approach India as a Fellow Superpower

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington MonthlyMerion WestWisdom of CrowdsCharged AffairsBraver Angels, and more. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.com/, and on Substack at The Non-Progressive Democrat.  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:  Options for the U.S. to Approach India as a Fellow Superpower

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 27, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes good relations between the United States and India, including respect for India as a fellow superpower, are vital for confronting challenges to U.S. interests, especially those presented by China. The author views India as a fellow superpower to the U.S. due to its population, gross domestic product, economic expansion in recent decades, military strength, and possession of nuclear weapons.

Background:  Across the early 21st century, the U.S. has developed closer political and security relations with India. The two countries participate in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“the Quad”)[1], a forum for coordinating security activities and holding joint military exercises[2], alongside U.S. allies Australia and Japan. In 2016, the U.S. designated India a Major Defense Partner (MDP), a status similar to that of Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA)[3].

Significance:  How Washington chooses to approach India will have extremely important implications for U.S. foreign policy, particularly U.S. efforts to confront and balance China. Respecting India as a fellow superpower will help the U.S. maximize the potential for positive bilateral relations.

Option #1:  The U.S. upgrades its MDP with India to a bilateral military alliance, placing India on the level of a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member.

Risk:  A formal U.S.-India alliance would frighten and anger China, seemingly confirming the fears of Chinese officials that the U.S. is seeking to surround it militarily. China would likely seek to increase its already close military and political ties with Russia[4]. Furthermore, if China believes it is about to be completely encircled geopolitically, it may believe it has a limited window of opportunity to bring Taiwan under its control, thus encouraging an invasion of the island.

This option would also frighten and anger Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state that has been a rival of India since their mutual independence from British rule in 1947. Although Pakistan is an MNNA of the U.S.[5], it is also a long-standing partner of China, a relationship motivated in large part by their shared rivalry with India[6]. Among other things, Pakistan may respond by refusing to cooperate with the U.S. in its approach to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Gain:  The prospect of two nuclear-armed states allied against China could make Beijing think twice about any aggressive move it made against the U.S. (either directly, or against a U.S. ally or partner like Japan or Taiwan) or against India (such as renewed border conflicts in the Himalayas)[7]. Option #1 would also mean that all of the U.S.’s fellow Quad members would be treaty allies[8][9], potentially turning the Quad into an Indo-Pacific equivalent of NATO. A formal alliance with the U.S. could also pull India away from Russia; the effects of India’s close relations with the Soviet Union, including in the area of arms sales, have lingered into the 21st century[10].

Option #2:  The U.S. tightens its security links to India short of a formal alliance, including efforts to build up India’s defense industrial base.

Risk:  Even without a formal alliance, any increase in U.S.-India defense cooperation will still worry China and Pakistan. Additionally, U.S. efforts to make India less dependent on foreign sources for its military equipment could irritate France, which sees increased defense exports to many countries, including India[11], as a key component of its security policy[12]. The diplomatic row in 2021 over Australia’s decision to cancel its purchase of French submarines in favor of U.S. vessels is a precedent the U.S. may want to avoid repeating[13].

Gain:  As well as deepening U.S.-India security cooperation, the U.S. building up India’s defense industry can decrease its reliance on Russia as a major provider of military equipment[14].

Option #3:  The U.S. Navy reactivates the First Fleet, and assigns a portion of the Indian Ocean as its area of responsibility.

Risk:  If the First Fleet takes waters away from the Seventh Fleet[15], it risks dividing the Indian and Pacific portions of U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy. This division could complicate any comprehensive U.S. effort to balance and counter Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region[16].

Gain:  Devoting a numbered fleet to the Indian Ocean[17] would signal a U.S. commitment to good relations with India, indicating that a good relationship is not merely an adjunct of Washington’s approach to China.

Option #4:  The U.S. defers to India as de facto hegemon of South Asia, intentionally putting U.S. interests in South Asia second to India’s.

Risk:  If the U.S. treats part of the world as India’s sphere of influence without any prioritization of U.S. interests there, it could set a dangerous precedent. This option would give rhetorical ammunition to Russia in its attempt to forcibly incorporate Ukraine (as well as potential attempts to bring other Eastern European countries into its sphere), and to China in its desire to gain control of Taiwan and expand its control in the South China Sea.

Encouraging India to see itself as rightfully dominant in its region could also make conflict between India and China more likely in locations where both powers have security interests, such as Afghanistan[18] and Tajikistan[19][20]. Option #4 would also run the risk of making Pakistan more anxious, and of curtailing U.S. efforts to fight Islamist extremism in Afghanistan.

Gain:  Deferring to India in South Asia would free up U.S. time, attention, and resources to protect its interests elsewhere, particularly interests related to competition with China in the Western Pacific, and with Russia in Eastern Europe. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “Japan-Australia-India-U.S.(Quad) Leaders’ Meeting.” May 24, 2022. https://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/nsp/page1e_000402.html

[2] Rajagopalan, Rajeswari Pillai. “The Quad Conducts Malabar Naval Exercise.” The Diplomat, August 27, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/the-quad-conducts-malabar-naval-exercise/

[3] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Security Cooperation With India.” January 20, 2021. https://www.state.gov/u-s-security-cooperation-with-india.

[4] Kofman, Michael. “The Emperors League: Understanding Sino-Russian Defense Cooperation.” War on the Rocks, August 6, 2020. https://warontherocks.com/2020/08/the-emperors-league-understanding-sino-russian-defense-cooperation/

[5] U.S. Department of State. “Major Non-NATO Ally Status.” January 20, 2021. https://www.state.gov/major-non-nato-ally-status/

[6] Khalid, Masood. “Pakistan-China Relations in a Changing Geopolitical Environment.” Institute of South Asian Studies, November 30, 2021. https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/

[7] Slater, Joanna. “Soldiers injured in fresh border skirmish between India and China.” Washington Post, January 25, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-china-clash-sikkim/2021/01/25/7d82883c-5edb-11eb-a177-7765f29a9524_story.html

[8] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Relations With Japan.” January 20, 2020. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-japan/

[9] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Relations With Australia.” June 9, 2022. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-australia/

[10] Sharma, Ashok. “India to boost arms output, fearing shortfall from Russia.” Associated Press, April 7, 2022. https://abc17news.com/news/2022/04/07/india-to-boost-arms-output-fearing-shortfall-from-russia/.

[11] Shiraishi, Togo and Moyuru Baba. “France and India partner on weapons tech in blow to Russia.” Nikkei Asia, May 6, 2022. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/France-and-India-partner-on-weapons-tech-in-blow-to-Russia.

[12] Mackenzie, Christina. “Here’s what’s behind France’s 72% jump in weapons exports.” Defense News, March 10, 2020. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/03/10/heres-whats-behind-frances-72-jump-in-weapons-exports/

[13] Willsher, Kim. “France recalls ambassadors to US and Australia after Aukus pact.” Guardian, September 17, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/17/france-recalls-ambassadors-to-us-and-australia-after-aukus-pact

[14] Banerjee, Vasabjit and Benjamin Tkach. “Helping India Replace Russia in the Value Arms Market.” War on the Rocks, May 20, 2022. https://warontherocks.com/2022/05/helping-india-replace-russia-in-the-value-arms-market/

[15] “USN Fleets (2009).” Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USN_Fleets_(2009).png

[16] White House. “Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States.” February 2022. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/U.S.-Indo-Pacific-Strategy.pdf

[17] Eckstein, Megan. “SECNAV Braithwaite Calls for New U.S. 1st Fleet Near Indian, Pacific Oceans.” USNI News, November 17, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/11/17/secnav-braithwaite-calls-for-new-u-s-1st-fleet-near-indian-pacific-oceans

[18] Adlakha, Hemant. “Will the China-Pakistan-Taliban troika in Afghanistan make India irrelevant?” Hindustan Times, January 18, 2022. https://www.hindustantimes.com/ht-insight/international-affairs/will-the-china-pakistan-taliban-troika-in-afghanistan-make-india-irrelevant-101642409043057.html

[19] Dutta, Sujan. “India renews interest in running its first foreign military base in Tajikistan.” Print, October 11, 2018. https://theprint.in/defence/india-renews-interest-in-running-its-first-foreign-military-base-in-tajikistan/132454/

[20] Shih, Gerry. “In Central Asia’s forbidding highlands, a quiet newcomer: Chinese troops.” Washington Post, February 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-central-asias-forbidding-highlands-a-quiet-newcomer-chinese-troops/2019/02/18/78d4a8d0-1e62-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html

Great Powers & Super Powers India Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers United States

Assessing China as a Superpower

James Ridley-Jones is a PhD student at King’s College London currently researching Geostrategy in Central Asia. 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 China as a Superpower

Date Originally Written:  June 14, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 20, 2022.   

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a PhD student studying Foreign Policy in Central Asia. The author believes that perception plays a key role in global power structures. The article is written from the point of view of the international community toward Chinese power.

Summary:  The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposed the gap between how the world assessed Russia’s might and influence and its actual performance.  Prior to a conflict, “power perceived is power achieved” is common.  When looking at China’s might and influence, and taking into account recent revelations during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, questions remain regarding what China can actually achieve in the long run.  

Text:  From a global power perspective the conflict in Ukraine taught the United States a significant lesson about reality comparative to perception. Russia was perceived to be a significant challenge to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces militarily, an economic influencer to Europe even if not the predominant economy, and a country with global influence across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, across Asia, and even holding some influence in South America. The reality is that although Russia is still considered a challenge in these areas, the challenge is not to the level believed prior to the conflict in Ukraine. This assessment however does not look to debate on Russia, their actions, capabilities or intentions, but rather to question if a superpower needs to possess such things, or just be perceived to possess such attributes, all in relation to China.

When considering military might, China is often assessed to be a significant player on potential capabilities. China has the largest military in the world, are significantly developing their technological capabilities, advancing new training programs, and reorganising their command structures. These changes demonstrate that China perceives problems within its military however, institutional change does not always guarantee success. China’s evolving military capabilities come with a host of their own problems and questions, not all of which there is evidence of resolutions. With growth comes organisation issues, technology requires application, and there is no demonstrated successful application of some technologies China might be developing. All of these problems plague even the most successful of militaries, but that doesn’t detract from these problems as considerations, especially given China’s more significant nature i.e. its size and development. Also evident is the limited combat experience of the Chinese military.  The last full conflict the Chinese military fought was against Vietnam in 1979 with limited experience beyond that other than peacekeeping missions and occasional sparring with the Indian military in the Himalayas, China lacks modern conflict experience[2].

Even with these military considerations, China prefers to employ economic and Soft Power, which merits consideration when envisioning China as a superpower.

When looking at the Chinese economy, the slowdown is a factor to consider. Chinese economic strength presently affords them significant sway globally.  If this economic strength were to slowdown, it is questionable as to whether China’s sway would continue to the same degree. Although there are considerably debated variables in the literature, Riikka Nuutilainen and Jouko Rautava suggest that as China’s economic growth slows, its contribution to Russia’s growth performance will likely decline as well[2]. Although their study is specific to Russia, it is more widely indicative of the potential impact to other countries of a withdrawal of Chinese investment, purchasing of raw materials, and slowing energy demand. If this slowdown were to happen, given Chinese utilization of such mechanisms for diplomatic engagement, there would be noticeable knock on effects.

In South America, Chinese economic relations and diplomatic positioning in the region has had an effect. Both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua most recently flipped their positions toward Taiwan after being offered financial incentives by China, including loans and infrastructure investments[3]. In this case a Chinese economic incentive has led to enough diplomatic pressure being exerted to change national relationships between several nations, specifically in South America, with Taiwan. These cases demonstrate that economic might can be wielded successfully as a tool to exert influence.

Another example case is Serbia, where Chinese economic power is perceived to be significant in the country, comparative to the reality. Forty percent of Serbians think that China gives the country the most aid of all those that contribute, when in actuality China is not even close to giving significant amounts of aid[4]. Of the 56 million Euros that China has pledged to Serbia since 2009, only 6.6 million has actually been delivered, which is significantly less that the European Union, who has given 1.8 billion, or even Germany who has given 189 million[5]. Although a specific case,  Serbia demonstrates that perceptions of Chinese economic influence and power are significantly higher than actuality.

In Central Asia, it is assumed that Chinese investment has had significant affect, but often this is not to the extent that is perceived as Chinese Soft Power fails to connect with the wider population beyond the national elites[6]. This Chinese failure demonstrates a lack of influence at a different level to government and could potentially have a significant impact over time should it not be addressed. Such failures merit review in other regions of the world as part of a wider understanding of actual Chinese global influence compared to the U.S. current view of it.

Given the changing nature of the Chinese economy from a production based manufacturing economy to a more consumer based economy, it is questionable as to whether the country will be able exert similar pressure as a customer and consumer, rather than its current position as a producer and investor.

U.S. current assessments of Chinese potential as a superpower is based heavily on perceptions of potential Chinese exertion of power with limited cases of exertion, rather than necessarily them having that actual power. South America illustrates successful economic influence, but to what extent is it perception based similarly to the case of Serbia, such details are currently lacking.

Whilst remaining cautious in order to not underestimate Chinese capabilities in any of their foreign policy, it is important to analyse more closely Chinese accomplishments to obtain a better understanding of Chinese potential in becoming a superpower, both to ensure a better position to challenge Chinese actions as well as to cooperate where possible.


Endnotes:

[1] Blasko, D. (2015). Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern War – War on the Rocks. War on the Rocks. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://warontherocks.com/2015/02/ten-reasons-why-china-will-have-trouble-fighting-a-modern-war/. 

[2] Nuutilainen, R., & Rautava, J. (2019). Russia and the slowdown of the Chinese economy [Ebook] (2nd ed.). Bank of Finland, BOFIT. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://helda.helsinki.fi/bof/bitstream/handle/123456789/16551/bpb0220.pdf.

[3] Roy, D. (2022). China’s Growing Influence in Latin America. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-influence-latin-america-argentina-brazil-venezuela-security-energy-bri. 

[4] Institute for Economic Affairs, 2020 in Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. (2020). Who Gives The Most Aid To Serbia? [Image]. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://www.rferl.org/a/who-gives-the-most-aid-to-serbia-/30660859.html. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ridley-Jones, J. (2020). Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia. Divergent Options. Retrieved 8 June 2022, from https://divergentoptions.org/2020/09/23/an-assessment-of-the-development-of-chinese-soft-power-in-central-asia/. 

 

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Competition Governing Documents and Ideas Great Powers & Super Powers James Ridley-Jones

Assessing that Canada will be the Last Superpower

Sharon Burke is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense and is currently the President of Ecospherics, a Washington, DC-based research and advisory organization focusing on environmental security. She can be found on Twitter @burkese and occasionally writes for the website tipofthesphere.substack.com and The Boston Globe. 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 that Canada will be the Last Superpower

Date Originally Written:  May 26, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 6, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a former U.S. defense official who believes that natural resource issues and industrial age legacy pollution will be shaping factors for the 21st century strategic landscape.

Summary:  If the world’s industrial nations fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, global environmental conditions will likely become increasingly inhospitable for human societies throughout the 21st and 22nd centuries. Canada, with its cold climate, vast territory, “green” mineral wealth, stable political culture, and its relative inaccessibility has the best prospects for adapting to a more extreme climate and becoming the next superpower, perhaps by default.

Text:  Even as global consensus about climate change has strengthened, greenhouse gas emissions have steadily increased[1]. Absent an abrupt geopolitical about face toward a massive global economic transformation[2], climate change will continue unabated for centuries to come. And while the Earth has experienced significant climate variability throughout its 4.5-billion-year geological history[3], humanity has not[4]. Whether the changes unfurl slowly over the next 50-200 years or suddenly if certain tipping points occur[5], the effects and impacts will hit all parts of the globe, if unevenly within countries and across regions[6]. Populations in sub-tropical, tropical, and dry or desert regions, for example, are already struggling with high heat[7] and changes in precipitation[8], which result in everything from adverse human health impacts to prolonged droughts to an increase in wildfires. In disadvantaged communities or countries with weak underlying political, legal, social, and economic foundations, these conditions can be unaffordable and destabilizing[9].

The current “Great Powers,” the United States and China, are relatively well positioned to manage climate change, both in terms of adaptive capacity and the comparatively mild, mid-latitudes climate. Both countries, however, have vulnerable communities as well as dry and sub-tropical areas that are likely to be heavily impacted by high heat and volatile weather, with the possibility of significant internal displacement[10]. In addition, shifts in access to resources, including water, arable land, energy, and critical minerals, will likely challenge economic growth and social cohesion for both nations[11].

While countries in the most northern latitudes will also have to contend with access to resources and more volatile natural conditions, including sea level rise[12], shifts in precipitation, and extreme weather events, they have more potential to absorb shocks. Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland currently rank among the most stable countries in the world[13], the most resilient to climate change[14], and all have low population density, given the cold temperatures and harsh conditions in much of their territory. These Arctic and boreal regions are warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world[15], and the land left behind by retreating ice and melting permafrost may eventually be suitable for agriculture, forestry, and habitation. While the rest of the world will be struggling with managed and chaotic retreat from increasingly uninhabitable areas, the northern countries may well be contending with a managed advance into new territory. Though to be sure, this advance would be highly disruptive, too, given the release of additional greenhouse gases and destruction of existing Arctic ecosystems and native cultures.

Based upon the above mentioned global environmental conditions, Canada has the potential to not only adapt but emerge a superpower. The world’s second largest country, Canada’s population is today almost entirely clustered along the southern border. The vast majority of the land mass is uninhabited or lightly populated by indigenous peoples uniquely adapted to current, disappearing conditions. With the world’s longest coastline, Canada will have entirely new sea lines of communication through the Arctic Ocean. Furthermore, Canada’s only contiguous neighbor is the United States, which will be dealing with climate displaced populations but is unlikely to have as much northward out migration as more heavily impacted areas with lower adaptive capacity, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Canada also has significant natural resources, including digital age minerals critical to modern military and energy technology and agricultural adaptation[16]. Again, no country will be immune to the negative effects of climate change, but with a stable, migrant-friendly political culture, Canada has the potential to manage this transition better than any other nation. As a high north country, Russia should enjoy these relative advantages, too, but the rigidity of their authoritarian form of government, the opportunity cost of their bellicosity, proximity to highly affected populations, lack of preparation for climate change, including the disruption to infrastructure built on permafrost, and unwelcoming culture for migrants all suggest a declining power.

The United States faces a range of options for how to deal with the geopolitics of climate change. First, it is always an option to do nothing, and either hope that the projections and models are incorrect, or that the current adaptive capacity in the United States is sufficient. Early experiences with extreme weather attributed to climate change suggest this would not be a prudent choice[17]. Fatalism is also an option – the scope and scale of the economic transformation required to change course is daunting and arguably infeasible, though such fatalism could prove devastating for an already fractious and restive polity. Another option is for the United States to place the highest domestic and foreign policy priority on expediting global cuts in greenhouse gasses. That would involve significantly larger outlays for research and development and climate-resilient economic development at home and around the world, but may present unacceptable opportunity costs for other priorities, such as strategic competition with China. Another option is to focus resources only on adaptation to changing conditions, which ultimately is another form of fatalism. The United States could also pursue a mixed option, making energy transition investments, including in the diversification of critical minerals supplies, and also building resilience and preparedness for shifting weather patterns. Across all options, the United States could consider deepening the bilateral relationship with its closest ally, Canada, given the country’s relative strength for a disrupted future.

Note that this is a highly speculative assessment, given that this level of environmental change is unprecedented for humanity, and a thawing cryosphere will have unpredictable consequences[18].


Endnotes:

[1] IPCC (2022). Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved May 24, 2022 at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/

[2] Dupont E, Germain M, Jeanmart H (2021, 11 May). Feasibility and economic impacts of the energy transition.  Retrieved May 20, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105345

[3] Westerhold, Thomas et al (2020, 11 September). An astronomically dated record of Earth’s climate and its predictability over the last 66 million years. Retrieved May 20, 2022 at https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aba6853

[4] Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K. et al (2009, 23 September). A safe operating space for humanity. Retrieved May 21, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1038/461472a

[5] Ripple, William J, et al (2021, September). World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency 2021.  Retrieved May 21, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab079

[6] Schiermeier, Quirin (2018, April 20). Clear signs of global warming will hit poorer countries first. Retrieved May 26, 2022 at doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-04854-2

[7] Zachariah, Mariam et al (2022, May 23). Climate change made devastating early heat in India and Pakistan 30 times more likely. Retrieved May 23, 2022 at https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/wp-content/uploads/India_Pak-Heatwave-scientific-report.pdf

[8] Ayugi, B., Eresanya, E., Onyango, A.O. et al (2022, March 14). Review of meteorological drought in Africa: Historical trends, impacts, mitigation measures, and prospects. Retrieved May 19, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1007/s00024-022-02988-z

[9] National Intelligence Council (2021, October). National intelligence estimate: Climate change and international responses increasing challenges to US national security through 2040. Retrieved May 24, 2022 at https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/NIE_Climate_Change_and_National_Security.pdf

[10] Lustgarten, Abrahm (2020, September 15). How climate migration will reshape America. Retrieved May 26, 2022 at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/15/magazine/climate-crisis-migration-america.html

[11] IPCC (2022). Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilityContribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. See especially chapter 10: Asia and Chapter 14: North America. Retrieved May 24, 2022 at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/

[12] Note that if the certain climate tipping points occur, the magnitude of sea level rise could be catastrophic and overwhelm even the most resilient country’s adaptive capacity. See Slater, T., Hogg, A.E. & Mottram, R (2020). Ice-sheet losses track high-end sea-level rise projections. Retrieved May 26, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0893-y

[13] The Fund for Peace (2021). Fragile states index. Retrieved May 24, 2022 at https://fragilestatesindex.org

[14] Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) country index. Retrieved May 25, 2022 at https://gain.nd.edu/our-work/country-index/

[15] Turton, Steve (2021, March 6). Climate explained: why is the Arctic warming faster than other parts of the world? Retrieved May 26, 2022 at https://council.science/current/blog/climate-explained-why-is-the-arctic-warming-faster-than-other-parts-of-the-world/

[16] Maloney, James (2021, June). From mineral exploration to advanced manufacturing: Developing value chains for critical minerals in Canada. Retrieved May 25, 2022 at https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/RNNR/report-6/

[17] Ornes, Stephen (2018, August 14). How does climate change influence extreme weather? Impact attribution research seeks answers. Retrieved May 23, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1811393115

[18] Newton, A (2010). Arctic ice across the ages.  Retrieved May 25, 2022 at https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo861

Canada Environmental Factors Great Powers & Super Powers Sharon Burke

Assessing Superpowers in 2050 – The Great Game Redefined

Rocco P Santurri III is a Wargame Analyst, independent Financial Consultant, and an American Football Coach. Currently he is also a graduate student in Strategic Communications at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Additionally, he serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command with the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion in Germany.  He has conducted Civil Affairs operations since 2011 throughout Asia and Europe.  He can be found on LinkedIn.com at www.linkedin.com/in/RoccoPSanturri3. 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 Superpowers in 2050 – The Great Game Redefined

Date Originally Written:   May 6, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  May 30, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the United States must transition from its current definition of Great Power Competition (GPC) to one that will reflect the operating environment in 2050.  He is concerned that the lobbying efforts of the Military-Industrial Complex will continue to result in policies being driven by the production of lucrative weapon systems with limited future utility, instead of being determined by realities in the operating environment. These lobbyist-driven policies will leave the U.S. prepared for the last conflict but not the next. The currently narrow focus on large conventional engagements must be shifted to one that embraces Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov’s often misunderstood concept of total, not hybrid, warfare, specifically within growing areas of conflict such as Artificial Intelligence, Cyberwarfare, Economics, Sub-Threshold Operations, and Information Operations. These are areas China has prioritized in its future planning concepts and will contribute to its ascension in 2050 to world’s dominant superpower.

Summary:  GPC in 2050 will be between China, Russia, and the United States. China will emerge as the world’s preeminent superpower, on the strength of its understanding of the future operating environment in 2050, as well as possession of the requisite resources to support its ambitions.  Russia and the United States will remain powerful, but as regional hegemons, due to deficiencies in mind for one, and in means for the other.

Text:  The world is changing, rapidly.  Geopolitics is certainly not immune to change, as GPC has seen significant, fundamental changes in recent years. The binary nature of the Cold War that gave way to one superpower has seen the rise of other competitors and a return to GPC[1].  Over the coming years this multipolar contest will produce a dominant superpower, but the competition itself will change in response to a different geopolitical operating environment[2]. New criterion will emerge and demand a new approach for GPC success.   

While some have written of new challengers in GPC, the run-up to 2050 for the title of top superpower plays like an enticing but predictable Hollywood rerun.  China, Russia, and the U.S., each with their strengths, each with their weaknesses, remain the three most qualified contestants for the title of dominate world superpower.  The strengths of the three are both seen and unseen: enormous populations and territories, economic strength, powerful militaries, robust clandestine services, and perhaps most important, permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council, or UNSC[3]. Their collective weaknesses are similar in visibility: aging or declining populations, internal political strife, and international overextension, to name but a few. But on aggregate, these three remain the principal contenders.  While fellow UNSC members and historic powers England and France, as well as emerging contenders Brazil and India, are also in the discussion, none warrant consideration in GPC circa 2050.  Instead, the focus remains on the “Big Three”. Analysis begins with examining their key strengths and weaknesses.

With over one billion people and $3 trillion in currency exchange reserves[4], China presents an economic powerhouse that is now acquiring a greater hunger for superpower status. President Xi Jinping has aggressively pursued a new role for China on the world stage.  China’s military continues to undergo a rapid upgrade in both size and quality. The Chinese navy, the largest in the world, continues to expand its presence in the South China Sea, while Belt and Road initiatives entice countries from Africa to South America to side with China while being rewarded with lavish infrastructure funding that also opens the door for Chinese military expansion[5].  China’s strengths are not without weaknesses; these include an aging population, underconsumption, few allies, international condemnation for its treatment of Uighurs, and an enormous police state that carefully tracks a populace that regularly protests restrictions on freedom[6]. These weaknesses make the Chinese ascent anything but guaranteed. 

The revanchism of Russian President Vladimir Putin has catapulted Russia back into GPC after a prolonged hangover following the dissolution of the Soviet Union[7].  However, the book cover of Russia has proven more impressive than the contents.  Russia’s stumbles in Ukraine in 2022 have shown its military to be a shadow of its former self. Despite abundant resources, Russia remains a country with a relatively small economy that is dependent upon gas and oil exports[8]. Additionally, there appears to be no succession plan when Mr. Putin is no longer de facto dictator of Russia[9].  With an all-pervasive security apparatus often faced inward to quell domestic unrest, Russia’s path to 2050 is littered with crucial questions, with the likely answers not boding well for Russian GPC aspirations. 

Boasting the world’s largest economy and military, the U.S. seems well-positioned to maintain its dominant superpower status.  But there are cracks in the armor that are becoming more visible with the passage of time.  Political gridlock, social unrest, a ballooning deficit, and an isolationist sentiment after the misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq cast the U.S. as more of a fading superpower, and not an ascending one[10]. Furthermore, the ever-present military lobby in the U.S. threatens to leave the U.S. prepared for current warfare, but not that of the future. Lastly, U.S. commitments to North Atlantic Treaty Organization, especially to “alliance a la carte” allies such as Hungary and Turkey, further complicate and undermine the U.S. focus on GPC while these countries actively support GPC adversaries China and Russia.  

In 2050, the world will witness China emerge as the winner of GPC, with Russia second.  The U.S. places a distant third due to its inability to perceive and adapt to the true nature of the future operating environment.  Epitomizing the adage of “fighting the last war”, the U.S. will continue to measure superpower qualifications on outdated criterion and fail to grasp the sweeping changes not on the horizon, but already upon us.  While the U.S. remains fixed on kinetic engagements with peer and near-peer adversaries, China capitalizes on its superior understanding of the future operational environment.  The U.S. wins the current paradigm of GPC, but it will lose the future incarnation.  The passing of the torch has already begun.  While the lobby of the Military-Industrial Complex keeps the U.S. fixated on weapon systems worth billions, China perceptively pushes ahead on a foundation of four specific areas.  These areas are economics, information operations, chemical and cyberwarfare, and technological advances, specifically advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Careful to avoid disastrous engagements such as the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq, China skillfully employs a long term view based on economic strength and the leverage it creates.

The world will be a drastically different place in 2050.  The future is often uncertain and difficult to predict.  No country’s leadership has a mastery of prognosticative skills, but some are certainly better than others.  Blending ancient beliefs, a long term view, an acute study of modern history, and a determined leader focused on his country’s ascent, China scores highest due its abilities in visualizing and navigating the way forward while possessing the resources to support the journey.  While Russia has similar qualities in terms of vision, its ability to exploit this advantage is limited by economic strength dependent upon the demand for its resources; this limits Russia to a distant second place position. And the U.S. relinquishes its top spot and is relegated to regional hegemon, a victim of fighting the previous war amid a world of competitors who have long since lost their “reverential awe[11]” for the American Empire. 


Endnotes:

[1] Kroenig, M. (2020). The Return of Great Power Rivalry: Democracy versus Autocracy from the Ancient World to the U.S. and China / Matthew Kroenig. Oxford University Press.

[2] Jones, B. (2017). Order from Chaos: The New Geopolitics. Retrieved on February 15, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/11/28/the-new-geopolitics/

[3] Bosco, D. Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

[4] Xu, M. et al. (2021). China’s FOREX Reserves Rise in October for First Time Since July. Retrieved on February 15, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/business/chinas-forex-reserves-rise-oct-first-time-since-july-2021-11-07/

[5] Shephard, W. (2020). How China’s Belt and Road Initiative Became a Global Trail of Trouble. Retrieved on May 4, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2020/01/29/how-chinas-belt-and-road-became-a-global-trail-of-trouble/?sh=49dcc5ad443d

[6] Human Rights Watch. (2022). China: Events of 2021. Retrieved on May 4, 2022, from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2022/country-chapters/china-and-tibet#:~:

[7] Jenkins, B. (2016). Dealing with a Revanchist Russia. The Rand Blog.  Retrieved on February 1, 2022, from https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/02/dealing-with-a-revanchist-russia.html

[8] Gobles, P. (2018). Russia More Dependent on Exports Now Than in 2018. The Jamestown

Foundation.  Retrieved on February 1, 2022, from https://jamestown.org/program/russia-more-dependent-on-raw-materials-exports-now-than-in-2008/

[9] Luhn, A. (2020). Who Will Replace Putin? Politico.  Retrieved on February 1, 2022, from https://www.politico.eu/article/who-will-replace-valdimir-putin-russia-kremlin/

[10] Ferguson, N. (2020). The Future of American Power. The Economist. Retrieved on February 1, 2022, retrieved from https://www.economist.com/by invitation/2021/08/20/niall-ferguson-on-why-the-end-of-americas-empire-wont-be peaceful

[11] Gibbon, & Milman, H. H. (2008). A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume 1. Project Gutenberg.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Competition Governing Documents and Ideas Great Powers & Super Powers Russia United States

Options for Defining the Next U.S. Defense Challenge

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. 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 (DoD) has a new classified National Defense Strategy (NDS), not yet released in an unclassified version, which is an occasion to consider what the next central defense challenge should be. The central defense challenge shapes prioritization of ends, ways, means, and helps define risk for U.S. defense policy makers. 

Date Originally Written:  May 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 23, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  If well-articulated, the NDS-established central defense challenge can drive the defense establishment to field more relevant forces, with decisive capabilities, that are postured to bolster deterrence and assurance in ways that help the U.S. avoid great power war. The author believes the 2018 central defense challenge – revisionist power plays – should be updated based on an assessment of the emerging security environment. 

Background:  The first NDS of the Biden administration is complete. A classified NDS was submitted to Congress in late March 2022, and an unclassified version is planned for release later in May or June, according to a Defense Department fact sheet[1]. The geostrategic situation is rapidly changing and where world politics and the international system are headed is hard to predict. Foreign policy expert Zalmay Khalilzad and defense expert David Ochmanek wrote in the late 1990s that the United States had not yet settled on any fundamental principles to guide national strategy[2]. The situation doesn’t seem that different today, and American defense discussions reference various state and non-state threats as primary. Great powers, bloc-based rivalry, and the possibility of major power war seem to be on the rise. National consensus on the central defense challenge will help lay a foundation for coherent security policy. 

Significance:  The emerging U.S. national security situation is especially volatile with the potential for major war, protracted violent competition, and weakening international order. The geopolitical commentator George Friedman has highlighted Chinese and Russian vulnerabilities – economic and military – while emphasizing that the United States has the opportunity to be the greatest of the great powers and steer international system to peace and stability[3]. The United States still possesses great capabilities and opportunities, but defense analysts need to clearly see the emerging situation to successfully navigate the threats and changes. 

How U.S. defense leaders prioritize challenges affects foreign perceptions of American commitment. U.S.-driven sanctions and materiel aid in the current Russo-Ukrainian war demonstrate that American power will continue to be directed toward stability and improving European security. The truth remains that U.S. great power is preferable to the hegemony of any other great power in the world[4]. Still, it is well for the United States to guard against overreaching. American policymakers face a problem of spreading national security resources too thin by prioritizing multiple state challengers, like China, Russia, and Iran or North Korea[5]. The next central defense challenge needs to prioritize U.S. military resources, planning, and posture – the full breadth of defense activities. 

More than at any time since 1991, as some kind of multipolar great power international system emerges in the coming years, U.S. policy makers can ensure the best investment in capabilities for achieving objectives over time by properly prioritizing challenges. 

Option #1:  The Secretary of Defense identifies China’s ability to impose regional military hegemony as the central defense challenge. This option would prioritize investing in a Joint Force that demonstrates the ability to counter hard military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has twice the U.S. number of active duty soldiers, a larger surface navy, the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile and DF-17 hypersonic missile, as well as increasingly capable joint commands[6]. Some researchers point to China’s recent fielding of powerful space-based capabilities to allow for real-time targeting of moving targets without ground support[7]. This option acknowledges that the geostrategic pivot for U.S. security is in Eurasia and especially the far eastern part. 

Risk:  Prioritizing the challenge from the PLA may embolden Russia, North Korea, and other capable threat actors as they assume American leaders will overfocus on one region and one great power rival. Development of capabilities for China and particularly the Western Pacific may leave the Joint Force poorly equipped for large-scale combined arms operations based on heavy, protected, mobile firepower and closer-range fires. A future force designed for maritime, air, and littoral environments might lack the ability to conduct prolonged urban combat. 

Gain:  Identifying PLA capabilities for regional hegemony as the primary defense challenge will make it easier to marshal resources and plan to employ joint forces in high-technology, protracted warfare – a more cost-intensive force development. Even a smaller-scale war with China would require prodigious amounts of long-range fires, air, surface, sub-surface, space, and cyberspace warfighting systems because of China’s potential economic and diplomatic power, and the ranges involved in reaching high-value PLA targets. 

Option #2:  The Secretary of Defense identifies the Russian Armed Forces’ ability to defeat U.S.-European security ties as the central defense challenge. This option would prioritize investing in a more capable North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) through Joint Force capabilities that are substantially more combined/coalition interoperable than today. This option acknowledges the Russian Armed Forces that invaded Ukraine in February 2022, after threatening Kyiv to varying degrees since 2014, and suggests that NATO deterrence was ineffective in convincing Moscow that military aggression was a losing policy. 

Risk:  Over-focusing on building alliance capabilities to counter Russian tank and artillery formations might inhibit needed modernization in U.S. air, maritime, and space capabilities, including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and fully networked joint/combined command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. 

Gain:  The Russian Armed Forces will likely continue to rely on hybrid forms of warfare, mixing conventional force employment with irregular ways, including information and psychological warfare, due to economic limitations. Focusing on building U.S. capabilities for state-based hybrid warfare will allow the future Joint Force to operate effectively along the full spectrum of conflict. 

Option #3:  The Secretary of Defense identifies transregional, non-state threats like climate change as the central defense challenge. This option acknowledges that non-state threats to U.S. interests are mixing with traditional military threats to create an especially complicated security environment[8]. Focusing on transregional, non-state threats aligns with prioritizing a stable global trade and financial system to the benefit of U.S. and partner economic interests. 

Risk:  The defense capabilities to address transregional, non-state threats do not have extensive overlap with those needed for state-based threats, conventional maneuver warfare, or great power war. The United States could reduce investment in great power war just when the chances of this form of conflict is rising. 

Gain:  Investment in addressing transregional, non-state threats could make the Joint Force more affordable in the long-term if breakthrough capabilities are developed such as new forms of energy production and transportation. 

Other Comments:  Core defense issues are always contentious as committed constituencies leverage establishment processes for the resources needed to realize their aims – this is true today about how to prioritize resources for the most capable future Joint Force. There are impassioned pleas for investing in military capabilities for competition, limited conflicts, and gray zone challenges[9]. Others argue that investing for gray zone conflict is a waste[10]. U.S. defense leaders are at a fork in the road. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Defense, “Fact Sheet: 2022 National Defense Strategy,” Defense-dot-gov, March 28, 2022, https://media.defense.gov/2022/Mar/28/2002964702/-1/-1/1/NDS-FACT-SHEET.PDF. 

[2] Zalmay M. Khalilzad and David A. Ochmanek, Strategic Appraisal 1997: Strategy and Defense Planning for the 21st Century (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1997), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA325070.pdf. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. defense leaders have opted for ambiguity in defining defense challenges primarily because the nation faced so many. The options here assume that as the United States loses its unipolar dominance, the value of stricter prioritization of challenges will become clearer. 

[3] George Friedman, “The Beginning of a New Era,” Geopolitical Futures, May 3, 2022, https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-beginning-of-a-new-era/. 

[4] Robert Kagan, “The World After the War,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2022, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2022-04-06/russia-ukraine-war-price-hegemony. 

[5] Francis P. Sempa, “Our Elites Need to Recognize that America’s ‘Unipolar Moment’ is Over,” RealClearDefense, March 24, 2022, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2022/03/24/our_elites_need_to_recognize_that_americas_unipolar_moment_is_over_823466.html. 

[6] Shawn Yuan, “Just How Strong is the Chinese Military?” Al Jazeera News, October 29, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/29/just-how-strong-is-the-chinese-military. 

[7] Ashish Dangwal, “Shadowing F-22 Raptor – China Plans To Turn Its Low-Cost Satellites Into Spy Platforms That Can Even Track Fighter Jets,” Eurasian Times, April 8, 2022, https://eurasiantimes.com/china-plans-to-turn-its-satellites-into-spy-fighter-jets/. 

[8] Sean MacFarland, “Joint Force Experimentation for Great-Power Competition,” Heritage Foundation, November 17, 2020, https://www.heritage.org/military-strength-topical-essays/2021-essays/joint-force-experimentation-great-power-competition. 

[9] Justin Magula, “Rebalancing the Army for Military Competition,” Modern War Institute, April 5, 2022, https://mwi.usma.edu/rebalancing-the-army-for-military-competition/. 

[10] Lyle Goldstein, “Commentary: The New Indo-Pacific Strategy is Too Shallow,” Defense News, February 24, 2022, https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2022/02/24/the-new-indo-pacific-strategy-is-too-shallow/. 

Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons Option Papers United States

Options for the U.S. Army to Build More Combat Condition Resilient Soldiers

J. Caudle is a Civilian Defense Contractor and a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves with 18 years of experience in all three U.S. Army components. He has specialties in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, Cavalry, and Armor operations and has a M.A. in National Security. He can be found on Twitter @MOPP_Ready. 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 United States Army overemphasizes safety during training which has the potential to create risk adverse Soldiers and Commanders.

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2022.

Date Originally Published: May 16, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has served in the Active Army Component, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserves as both an officer and a Non-Commissioned Officer. The author believes that soldiering is a dangerous business and that while Commanders should look out for the well-being of their Soldier, this looking out should not sacrifice combat effectiveness.

Background:  Soldiers that are treated like professional warfighters from day one and expected to embrace tough, realistic combat conditions will be less surprised by, and more resilient to, the stresses of combat. Commanders require the freedom to prioritize training Soldiers as warfighters over risk adversity.

Significance:  Commanders that are trained to be timid and driven by a fear of being relieved due to safety incidents in training may not be effective in combat. This ineffectiveness will negatively impact U.S. National Security. Soldiers led and trained by timid leaders have less potential to develop the aggressiveness and decisiveness needed to win battles. As Carl von Clausewitz said, “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage in war than audacity[1].”

Option #1:  The U.S. Army increases hardships to produce tougher, more resilient warfighters.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Maxim #58 says “The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second; hardship, poverty, and want are the best school for the soldier[2].” The ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want can be trained just like any other skill. Battlefield conditions require that leaders develop resilient Soldiers. One hardship that Soldiers endure on the battlefield is constant exposure to extreme weather conditions. Leaders can increase the amount of time their Soldiers are exposed to the weather while training. To enhance focus on the tactical mission instead of administrative box checking, the Army Physical Fitness Uniform could be abandoned in favor of the duty uniform during daily fitness training and during the Army Combat Fitness Test. Increasing the amount of training conducted in using Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JLIST) can also be done. Training in the JLIST increases Soldier proficiency in a simulated chemical warfare environment, adds physical stress into field problems, and trains the Soldier to focus on their mission instead of their physical discomfort in the suit. Leaders could also conduct training on a reverse cycle i.e. training at night and sleeping during the day. This reverse cycle would enable Soldiers to better know how they react to sleep deprivation so they can be effective in combat.

Risk:  Recruiting and retention would suffer as some Soldiers would not like this lifestyle. The Army will need a focused narrative on justifying this option. Army recruiting commercials would show these hardships for expectation management and also to attract a different type of recruit. There is also a safety risk as training gets harder, more mishaps are bound to occur.

Gain:  This option produces tougher, more resilient Soldiers. However, this option will only succeed if Soldiers are treated like professional warfighters. Training Soldiers in the ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want not only serves their unit and ultimately the nation, but may have a lifelong impact on the resilience of the Soldier and their mental health.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reevaluates its use of DD Form 2977, the Deliberate Risk Assessment Worksheet (DRAW).

The author has seen DRAWs up to 28 pages long that never make it down to the individual Soldiers it is designed to protect which establishes the perception that the DRAW itself is more important than actually implementing safety. In addition to the DRAW not being accessible to the Soldiers it is designed to protect, the U.S. Army’s implementation of the DRAW also ensures Commanders prioritize not being relieved due to a training mishap over conducting realistic training.

Better use of the DRAW would ensure the contents of the form are briefed to the Soldiers involved in the training. Additionally, Commanders would not let the DRAW overly restrain them in conducting realistic training. Keeping Soldiers unaware and training safely instead of realistically does not enable the U.S. Army “To deploy, fight, and win our Nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the Joint Force[3].”

Risk:  The option will increased the probability of training accidents.

Gain:  This option will build risk tolerant leaders within the U.S. Army. It will also build more resilient Soldiers that are experienced in completing more realistic training. This realistic training will increase Soldier resiliency by exposing them to battlefield stressors.

Other Comments:  Colonel David Hackworth, U.S. Army (retired) states “Training for war must be realistic at all costs. We can’t just discontinue a curriculum when something bad happens, provided that something is not the result of misconduct on the parts of sadistic or unqualified instructors.” He later states “Training casualties, tragic as they may be, must be accepted as an occupational hazard in the tough and dangerous business of soldiering. The emphasis on safety at the expense of realism…sets up soldiers it presumably is protecting for failure by stunting their growth and inhibiting their confidence in themselves and their supporting weapons[4]”.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]U.S. Army. (2019). ADP 6-0 Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army

[2] Bonaparte, N. (1902). Napoleon’s Maxims of War. (G. D’Aguilar, Trans.) Philadelphia: David McKay. Retrieved from Military-Info.com.

[3] U.S. Army. (2022). Army.mil. Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/about/

[4] Hackworth, D. H., & Sherman, J. (1989). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. New York: Simon and Schuster.

 

 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Governing Documents and Ideas J. Caudle Leadership Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

Assessing the Benefits of India’s Frustrating Pragmatic Energy

Chandler Myers is an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He holds a BS in English from the Air Force Academy and a MA in international relations with a focus in cyber diplomacy from Norwich University. Chandler contributes to WAR ROOM, the U.S. Armys online national security journal. Divergent Optionscontent 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 Benefits of India’s Frustrating Pragmatic Energy 

Date Originally Written:  May 3, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  May 9, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that India’s position on the Russian invasion has proven that it can champion international institutions and norms while being ferociously aware of its limitations.

Summary:  India choosing to fully condemn or support the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations would have negative consequences. India needs Russian military equipment. At the same time, India’s geography requires continual dialogue with China to resolve territorial disputes. With chilling precision, India’s unmistakable neutral position suits their complex, globally-integrated interest.

Text:  Efforts to keep a sufferable neutral status as Moscow encourages ever-more horrific atrocities in Ukraine has raised important Western concerns on New Delhi’s position. India has, for good reason, abstained from every resolution at the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly on this matter[1]. Though this decision may look different with time, one can argue that New Dehli’s related position is improving its global status. India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Damodardas Modi, recently speaking in Berlin, communicated: “we believe that no party can emerge victorious in this war.” He is right. But, that does not mean India cannot profit from Russia’s violence towards Ukraine. The Germany-India bilateral discussions on May 2, 2022, ended in documented agreements that supplement both country’s on-going sustainable development. The agreements cover wide ranging technical cooperation and German financial assistance in areas related to clean energy, sustainable urban development, climate adaptations, research and development, environmental protections, and so on[2]. Add to that, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also invited PM Modi, for what will be India’s fourth annual consecutive appearance, as a guest to the G-7 summit in June. 

On the opposite end, India is likely enjoying discounted Russian crude oil amidst ordinary buyers closing their ports due to Moscow’s war. According to India’s Ministry of Commerce, in 2021 Russian imported oil only made up 2% of India’s total imports[3]. This 2% is an obvious small share compared to a recent report by Kpler, a commodities research company. Captured in a British Broadcasting Corporation article, Kpler reported a higher figure of contracted purchased quantity of Russian oil from India in months spanning March through June (of 2022) than all of 2021. From that data, one can opine that India is having less trouble than the U.S., United Kingdom (UK) , and European Union (EU), if any at all, contending with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India will not plagiarize U.S., UK, and EU sanction decisions toward Russia as its decision lays elsewhere. 

Indian-Russo ties are well documented, most of which focus on defense. Stimson Center analysts estimated 85 percent of India’s military equipment is of Russian or Soviet origin[4]. Other estimates are figured as low as 45 percent[5]. Knowing this, India’s territorial disputes with Pakistan and China, who are allies of Russia, have intensified India’s views of its defense inventory. As recent as March 10, 2022, Pakistan claimed that a surface-to-surface missile shot from India into its Punjab province[6]. Additionally, Chinese and Indian counter claims over parts of the Kashmir region remain unchanged. Even with unresolved storied challenges, China and Russia have found a nation expected to be the most populous by 2030 seemingly on its side and they intend to take advantage. 

Before Russia’s February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine, the world saw numerous Western diplomats and heads of state meet with Kremlin leadership in hopes to reverse Moscow’s hardening language and military buildup. In Ukraine, the same and different leaders continue to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer symbolic and material support. As the war lengthens, similar leaders from the West have met with counterparts in India to deepen cooperation. Before Modi’s trip to European countries that include Germany, Denmark, and France in May 2022, he met with European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, in April. The specific details of the two-day meeting have yet to be uncovered, however, both parties signaled strengthening economic and technology cooperation with the creation of a new Trade and Technology Council[7]. India’s pragmatic stance is also seeing benefits from deeper security cooperation between it and the United Kingdom[8]. 

New Dehli’s position has also attracted Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. In a meeting between him and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Wang sought a cooling relationship between the two countries. Quoted in a Reuters article, Wang explained, “The two sides should … put the differences on the boundary issue in an appropriate position in bilateral relations, and adhere to the correct development direction of bilateral relations[9].”

The diplomatic atmosphere is not confined to governments meeting with one another either. The Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based in the U.S., has decided to use this opportunity to launch a new series, “India’s Opportunities in the 2020s[10].” It is without question that—for now—interest in India is finding enlarged footing by all sides.

Prime Minister Modi’s ethical scorecard has been declining long before Russia’s recent invasion. India voting at the United Nations to condemn or show full support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine would likely result in serious consequences for India. Rather than choose between the stated options, Modi has found, with exceptional clarity, the sweet spot. As frustrating it is for the United States, China wants to normalize relations with India. And in the same vein, Western countries want to deepen cooperation in areas like security, clean energy, and technology as Russian oil is on the cheap. Even with domestic troubles abound, Modi has cushioned criticism from abroad and elevated India’s attractiveness onto the world stage.  


Endnotes: 

[1] Mohan, C. “For India, Putin’s War Starts to Look like a Gift”. Foreign Policy, March 30, 2022. https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/30/india-ukraine-russia-war-china-oil-geopolitics/ 

[2] News On Air. “India and Germany to launch an Indo-German Partnership for Green and Sustainable Development”. 3 May, 2022. https://newsonair.com/2022/05/03/india-and-germany-to-launch-an-indo-german-partnership-for-green-and-sustainable-development/

[3] Menon, Shruti. “Ukraine crisis: Why India is buying more Russian oil”. BBC News, 26 April 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-60783874 

[4] O’Donnell, F. and Vasudeva, A. “Between a Rock and Hard Place: India’s Stance on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis”. Stimson Center, 4 March 2022. https://www.stimson.org/2022/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place-indias-stance-on-the-russia-ukraine-crisis/ 

[5] Tharoor, S. “Modi’s Big Mistake How Neutrality on Ukraine Weakens India”. 27 April, 2022. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/india/2022-04-27/modis-big-mistake 

[6] Associated Press. “Military says unarmed missile from India ends up in Pakistan”. 10 March, 2022. https://apnews.com/article/india-new-delhi-pakistan01cb6d4d7ce5d8aee98cd6135615712c 

[7] Kijewski, L. “EU and India vow to ramp up cooperation with new Trade and Technology Council”. 25 April, 2022. https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-and-india-vow-to-ramp-up-cooperation-with-new-trade-and-technology-council/ 

[8] Parkin, B. and Parker, G. Boris Johnson set to offer Narendra Modi increased UK-India defence co-operation”. 21 April, 2022. https://www.ft.com/content/7cd277bd-d17c-426e-9d63-addcb5405523 

[9] Das, K. and Miglani, S. “Chinese minister seeks normal India ties, Delhi says ease border tension first”. 25 March, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinese-foreign-minister-see-indian-counterpart-surprise-meeting-2022-03-25/ 

[10] Hoover Institution. “India’s Opportunities in the 2020s”. 17 May, 2022. https://www.hoover.org/events/indias-opportunities-2020s 

Assessment Papers Chandler Myers China (People's Republic of China) India Russia Ukraine United Nations

An Assessment of Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. 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 Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 2, 2022.

Summary:  There are critical, outstanding disconnects between U.S./western military theory, forces, and doctrine that hamper linking military strategy to national policy. Big ideas about future warfare matter primarily around seizing and maximizing advantages over potential adversaries to compel favorable policy outcomes. The big ideas are useful and matter because identifying, developing, and deploying warfighting advantages unfolds over long periods of time.

Text:  Far more than any particular revolution in military affairs, western powers are witnessing what may be called an extended revolution in strategic affairs. Such dramatic and wide-reaching change in warfare and how it is conceived involves 1) fundamental questions of the utility and most effective forms of power and diplomacy; 2) challenges to future force planning caused by advances in information technologies, long-range, precision fires, and hybrid combinations of symmetrical and asymmetrical capabilities, and whether these define a new warfighting regime and character of war; and 3) influences of globalization – or more specifically, the security environments created by the various forces making up social and economic globalization – on militaries. Bringing these three dynamics together – and more may be added to the list – in a deeply integrated way will almost certainly yield a new paradigm of warfare. 

Both change and continuity are expected characteristics of the future security environment. Thinking about future big ideas is really only possible because there is enough continuity in history and military affairs[1]. Understanding future war is helped by elaborating on seven critical contexts or broad categories of circumstances: political, social-cultural, economic, military-strategic, technological, geographical, and historical[2].

It is difficult if not impossible to talk about big ideas in future warfare without referencing the possibilities for revolutionary change. One of the more popular ideas about the likelihood of new forms of warfare is the revolution in military affairs, or RMA, which nearly dominated defense publications and discussions in the 1990s. The term has a special linguistic power by implying historic, almost inevitable change[3]. Examinations of military history yield periods of profound change in war’s ever-changing character, and sometimes these periods may be called revolutionary, but these assessments are still difficult to complete in a fully persuasive manner[4]. There is no consensus view of the RMA as a way of thinking about future warfare. 

The early days of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) seemed to fall both within and outside the more traditional lines of western war[5]. But just because the U.S. Air Force contributed the core capabilities that allowed Joint Force commanders to achieve effects with air power in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not mean that the character of military operations more broadly had changed. Early OEF was a case of what was possible given the seven critical contexts identified above. Although there are convincing reasons to believe that the character of future warfare will change, and probably change in significant ways, the fundamental nature of war will remain the same[6].

Defense planners thinking about the character of future warfare will be well-served by using a simplified list of four operational challenges. These operational challenges could be used to explore needed capabilities and force postures. The four might be: 1) early halt of an invasion with depth (e.g., Ukraine) or without (e.g., the Baltic states); 2) early attack and early counteroffensive to destroy an enemy combined arms army without the benefit of a massive force buildup first (e.g., Taiwan); 3) effective and low-risk intervention in an ongoing, complex conflict zone or region; and 4) effective low-risk peace enforcement in complex terrain including megacities[7]. There is nothing revolutionary about these four. 

It is inherently difficult to predict the exact course of future change, especially since future enemies will invariably have a say in these eventualities. Nonetheless it is important for defense planners to have a clear sense of the character and general scope of future conflict. While technology will almost certainly continue to evolve, including in the critical areas of reconnaissance and long-range precision fires, there is no overwhelming evidence that the character of future operations will change dramatically for ground forces in most types of missions, and especially in close combat in complex and urban terrain[8]. Tactical continuity is supreme. 

Big ideas about future warfare matter primarily around seizing and maximizing advantages over potential adversaries. Generally, the big ideas are useful and matter because identifying, developing, and deploying warfighting advantages always unfolds over longer periods of time. Finally, the exact nature of future warfighting advantages is highly situational – or contextual – and potential adversaries are presumably trying to counter friendly attempts to secure advantages[9]. The tension in “big idea versus context” illustrates the interactive nature of war. 

Doctrine and the other dimensions of force development are profoundly shaped by the reigning big ideas that capture the attention of military leaders and organizations. Those big ideas sketch what the organizations in question are prepared to do, against which opponents, in which operational environments[10]. So the U.S. Army, on the one hand, may want to cling to the big idea that the most consequential future conflicts will be major theater, conventional forces, maneuver and fire campaigns. Nonetheless, the indicators are that irregular fights – alongside large-scale combat operations – in complex hybrid combinations are not going anywhere. 

Implementing big ideas involves turning vision into things, concepts into capabilities and formations, and orchestrating grand actions in accordance with the vision[11]. Big ideas matter but after all, success is judged by adaptation.

Land forces, and particularly the U.S. Army, have been affected more than other military forces by the existential crisis in supposed relevance caused by the end of the Cold War, the lopsided victory in the First Gulf War, the advent of information technologies, revival of irregular and stability operations, and globalization. There are critical, outstanding disconnects between U.S./western military theory, forces, and doctrine that are, most likely, hampering the effective linking of military strategy to national policy. 


Endnotes:

[1] Colin S. Gray, “Another Bloody Century?” Infinity Journal, no. 4 (Fall 2011): 4–7, https://www.militarystrategymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Infinity_Journal_Special_Edition_war_and_strategy_back_to_basics.pdf#page=14. Gray makes some of the most reasonable and persuasive arguments against assuming too much change in the character of war over time. 

[2] Colin S. Gray, “The 21st Century Security Environment and the Future of War,” Parameters 38, no. 4 (2008): 18, https://press.armywarcollege.edu/parameters/vol38/iss4/7/. Also see Warren Chin, “Technology, War and the State: Past, Present and Future,” International Affairs 95, no. 4 (July 2019): 765–783. Chin concludes that the relationship between war and the state may be in for dramatic change – an existential crisis – as another wave of industrialization, impacts of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies on societies and economies, as well as possible global climate emergencies tax the modern state to the point of breakdown. 

[3] Lawrence Freedman, The Revolution in Strategic Affairs, 1st ed. (London: Routledge, 1998), 7–8. 

[4] Carlo Alberto Cuoco, The Revolution in Military Affairs: Theoretical Utility and Historical Evidence, Research Paper, no. 142 (Athens, Greece: Research Institute for European and American Studies, April 2010), https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/115259/rieas142b.pdf. 

[5] Colin McInnes, “A Different Kind of War? September 11 and the United States’ Afghan War,” Review of International Studies 29, no. 2 (2003): 165–184, https://library.fes.de/libalt/journals/swetsfulltext/16323302.pdf. 

[6] David J. Lonsdale, The Nature of War in the Information Age: Clausewitzian Future (London: Frank Cass, 2004). Also see P.E.C. Martin, “Cyber Warfare Schools of Thought: Bridging the Epistemological/Ontological Divide, Part 1,” Royal Canadian Air Force Journal 5, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 43–69, https://rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/assets/AIRFORCE_Internet/docs/en/cf-aerospace-warfare-centre/elibrary/journal/2016-vol5-iss3-summer.pdf#cyber-warfare-schools-of-thought. 

[7] Paul K. Davis, David C. Gompert, Richard Hillestad, and Stuart Johnson, Transforming the Force: Suggestions for DoD Strategy (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1998), https://www.rand.org/pubs/issue_papers/IP179.html. 

[8] Michael E. O’Hanlon, The Future of Land Warfare (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2015), https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/25774. 

[9] Colin S. Gray, The Airpower Advantage in Future Warfare: The Need for Strategy (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University, Airpower Research Institute, December 2007), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA477043.pdf. 

[10] Terry Terriff, “The Past as Future: The U.S. Army’s Vision of Warfare in the 21st Century,” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies 15, no. 3 (2014): 195–228, https://jmss.org/article/view/58119/43736. 

[11] Robert H. Scales, Future Warfare: Anthology (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2000), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA365316.pdf. 

Assessment Papers Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons Policy and Strategy U.S. Army

Call for Papers: The Next Superpower

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to The Next Superpower.  For the purposes of this Call for Papers, “Superpower” is defined as “a state that possesses military and economic might and global influence vastly superior to that of other states.”  Beyond this definition, writers could envision several states coming together via a cooperative agreement of some kind to assume a “superpower-like” status.

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 12, 2022.

Call For Papers

Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States NavyUnited States Marine Corps, and United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington MonthlyMerion West, Wisdom of Crowds, Charged AffairsBraver Angels, and more. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.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:  Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 25, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes American leaders’ expectation of quick victory in post-9/11 wars, and the concomitant refusal to ask for material sacrifice by the American public, undermined the ability to win those wars.

Summary:  Unlike World War II, America’s post-9/11 conflicts did not involve shared material sacrifice, such as tax increases or reducing oil use. Previous success during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and initial U.S. success in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks led then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to doubt the need for large troops deployments to Iraq. These factors left the U.S., as a whole, unprepared for the reality of post-conflict stabilization.

Text:  Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led to widespread popular support for war[1]. In both cases, the deaths of thousands of Americans catalyzed lengthy deployments of U.S. troops overseas. However, the two eras varied widely in the extent to which Americans outside the military were asked to sacrifice to win the wars.

While 16 million Americans served in the military during World War II[2], the entirety of American society was mobilized. At least 20 million Victory Gardens supplied 40% of the country’s produce by 1944[3]. Citizens were urged to carpool to save fuel and rubber[4]. The war saw the introduction of income tax withholding, turning a tax previously limited to wealthy Americans into a way ordinary citizens funded the war effort[5].

No such ethos of sacrifice emerged after 9/11. A month after the attacks, President George W. Bush argued, “We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop[6].” In 2003, President Bush signed a reduction in income tax rates[7]. Whatever the economic pros and cons of doing so, the decision to cut taxes during a war did not indicate the government intended to ask the public to sacrifice.

In the twelve years before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, major operations the U.S. led were brief and included relatively few American casualties. The 1991 Gulf War lasted six weeks, including only four days of ground combat, and fewer than 300[8] of the more than 500,000[9] Americans deployed were killed. The American-led interventions in Bosnia (lasting three weeks in 1995) and Kosovo (eleven weeks in 1999) consisted of air and missile strikes followed by deployments of NATO peacekeeping missions[10][11]. No Americans were killed in combat during the former conflict, and only two were killed in a training exercise during the latter[12]. After 9/11, the U.S. relied largely on air and missile strikes to oust the Taliban from control of Afghanistan in ten weeks; Afghan allies carried out most of the fighting on the ground[13].

Expecting a quick victory – and expecting Iraq to quickly stabilize after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was overthrown – Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Commander of U.S. Central Command General Tommy Franks underestimated the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq. Before the invasion, General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that stabilization would require “several hundred thousand soldiers[14].” Similarly, Middle East policy expert Kenneth Pollack argued for “two to three hundred thousand people altogether[15].” By contrast, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld expected the war to last a matter of months[16], while Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz dismissed Shinseki’s estimate, saying “It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in a post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself[17].”

When the invasion was launched, 145,000 U.S. troops were involved[18], along with 70,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters[19], 45,000 British troops[20], and others. A year later, the U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq numbered 162,000[21]. This proved inadequate to stabilize Iraq, particularly after the disbanding of the Iraqi army in 2003[22]. Until the “surge” of 2007, in which more than 28,000 additional troops[23] were deployed, brutal fighting between Iraqi factions was rife – more than 96,000 Iraqi civilians were killed from 2003-2007[24]. More than 3,900 Americans were killed from 2003-2007[25], compared to fewer than 600 from 2008-2011[26]. Meanwhile, American popular support for the war declined, from 72% in 2003 to 43% in 2007[27].

The role of oil in the debates surrounding the Iraq war links to the lack of shared sacrifice[28][29]. From 2002 to 2006, 12% of crude oil imported[30] into the U.S. came from Saudi Arabia[31]. Analysts such as New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman argued for a large increase in the federal gasoline tax[32], which would have echoed the reduction of fuel use during World War II. However, U.S. officials did not make decreased reliance on Middle Eastern oil a Policy priority.

Fuel dependence was also a factor in American casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a 2009 report by the Army Environmental Policy Institute, from 2003 to 2007, one in every 24 fuel and water resupply convoys in Afghanistan, and one in every 38 in Iraq, resulted in an American casualty[33]. But while the military has sought to reduce fossil fuel use in recent years[34], Americans at home were not asked to sacrifice for it at the height of the Iraq war.

While many factors contributed to America’s post-9/11 military struggles, one factor was the expectation of quick victory. Between underestimating the difficulty of stabilization and refusing to ask for material sacrifice by the public, American leaders were unprepared for a long struggle. This lack of preparation can serve as a lesson for leaders debating whether to fight future conflicts and preparing for difficult fights if they do.


Endnotes:

[1] Washington Post. “Post-ABC Poll: Terrorist Attacks.” September 13, 2001. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data091401.htm

[2] National World War II Museum. “WWII Veteran Statistics.” https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/wwii-veteran-statistics

[3] Smithsonian Gardens. “Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History.” https://gardens.si.edu/gardens/victory-garden/#:~:text=Roughly%20one%20half%20of%20all,by%20victory%20gardens%20by%201944

[4] Yale University. “’When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler!’ U.S. Government Propaganda Poster, 1943. https://energyhistory.yale.edu/library-item/when-you-ride-alone-you-ride-hitler-us-government-propaganda-poster-1943

[5] Hill, Adriene. “How tax withholding became the norm for American workers.” Marketplace, July 31, 2017.  https://www.marketplace.org/2017/07/31/how-tax-withholding-became-norm-american-workers/

[6] C-SPAN. “Presidential News Conference.” October 11, 2001. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4552776/user-clip-bush-shopping-quote

[7] White House. “President Bush Helped Americans Through Tax Relief.” https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/bushrecord/factsheets/taxrelief.html

[8] Defense Casualty Analysis System. “U.S. Military Casualties – Persian Gulf War Casualty Summary Desert Storm.” https://dcas.dmdc.osd.mil/dcas/pages/report_gulf_storm.xhtml

[9] U.S. Department of Defense. “Desert Storm: A Look Back.” January 11, 2019. https://www.defense.gov/News/Feature-Stories/story/Article/1728715/desert-storm-a-look-back/

[10] North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “History of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR)

in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” https://www.nato.int/sfor/docu/d981116a.htm

[11] North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “NATO’s role in Kosovo.” https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_48818.htm

[12] BBC News. “Two die in Apache crash.” May 5, 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/335709.stm

[13] Council on Foreign Relations. “The U.S. War in Afghanistan: 1999 – 2021.” https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan

[14] Mills, Nicolaus. “Punished for telling truth about Iraq war.” CNN, March 20, 2013. https://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/opinion/mills-truth-teller-iraq/index.html

[15] Lemann, Nicholas. “The Next World Order.” New Yorker, March 24, 2002. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/04/01/the-next-world-order

[16] Esterbrook, John. “Rumsfeld: It Would Be A Short War.” CBS News, November 15, 2002. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rumsfeld-it-would-be-a-short-war/

[17] Mills, Nicolaus. “The General who Understood Iraq from the Start.” Dissent, April 25, 2008. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-general-who-understood-iraq-from-the-start

[18] Mills, March 20, 2013.

[19] Peltier, Major Isaac J. “Surrogate Warfare: The Role of U.S. Army Special

Forces.” School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2005. http://www.jezail.org/03_archive/manuals_monogrms/Surrogate_war_UW.pdf

[20] NBC News. “Britain says most troops out of Iraq by June.” December 10, 2008. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna28161917

[21] Carney, Stephen A. “Allied Participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Center for Military History, United States Army, 2011. https://history.army.mil/html/books/059/59-3-1/CMH_59-3-1.pdf

[22] Thompson, Mark. “How Disbanding the Iraqi Army Fueled ISIS.” TIME, May 28, 2015. https://time.com/3900753/isis-iraq-syria-army-united-states-military/

[23] BBC News. “US Iraq troop surge ‘starts now.’” June 15, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6757329.stm

[24] Statista. “Number of documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war from 2003 to February 2022.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/269729/documented-civilian-deaths-in-iraq-war-since-2003/

[25] Statista. “Number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war from 2003 to 2020.”  https://www.statista.com/statistics/263798/american-soldiers-killed-in-iraq/

[26] Ibid.

[27] Pew Research Center. “Public Attitudes Toward the War in Iraq: 2003-2008.” March 19, 2008. https://www.pewresearch.org/2008/03/19/public-attitudes-toward-the-war-in-iraq-20032008/

[28] Ahmed, Nafeez. “Iraq invasion was about oil.” Guardian, March 20, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/20/iraq-war-oil-resources-energy-peak-scarcity-economy

[29] Tyagi, Tal. “The Iraq War Was Not About Oil.” Quillette, May 6, 2019. https://quillette.com/2019/05/06/the-iraq-war-was-not-about-oil/

[30] U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products.” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUS1&f=M

[31] U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Imports from Saudi Arabia of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products.” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUSSA1&f=M

[32] Friedman, Thomas L. “The Real Patriot Act.” New York Times, October 5, 2003. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/05/opinion/the-real-patriot-act.html

[33] Army Environmental Policy Institute. “Sustain the Mission Project: Casualty Factors

for Fuel and Water Resupply Convoys.” September 2009. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADB356341.pdf

[34] Gardner, Timothy. “U.S. military marches forward on green energy, despite Trump.” Reuters, March 1, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-military-green-energy-insight/u-s-military-marches-forward-on-green-energy-despite-trump-idUSKBN1683BL

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Michael D. Purzycki United States

U.S. Army Options to Regain Land Power Dominance

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the analysis presented here is the author’s alone, he has benefitted extensively from discussions with Dr. Ron Sega of U.S. Army Futures Command and Dr. Anthony “Tony” Tether a former Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 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. Army has a modernization enterprise that is second-to-none but facing the highly capable militaries of China and Russia is an unprecedented challenge. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army planned to have a Taiwan invasion capability no later than the early 2020s[1]. The Russian military will probably have substantially increased its missile-based stand-off capabilities by the mid-2020s[2]. More alarmingly, Russia has succeeded in modernizing approximately 82 percent of its nuclear forces[3]. Russian conventional and nuclear modernization have both been factors in Moscow’s recent three-pronged invasion of Ukraine. 

Date Originally Written:  April 5, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  April 18, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has researched future operational concept development through the Army Science Board. The author believes that U.S. Army decision makers and analysts can more aggressively leverage past future force initiatives to address emerging threats from China and Russia. 

Background:  The ability to operate directly against adversary centers of gravity defines dominance. Dominant land power refers here to the ability of a land force to operate directly against the most decisive points that sustain an adversary force[4]. In land operations, a final decision requires control – through seizure, occupation, or retention – of terrain, people and resources using actual or threatened destruction or presence, or both[5]. America’s position as a global leader rests on its dominant land power[6]. 

Significance:  The character of warfare, the increasing interaction between the levels of war, and a concomitant need for higher echelon commanders to exercise military art on a broader scale and wider scope than earlier in history, all demand the U.S. Army refocus on the operational level[7]. The planning and command challenges at the operational level are more demanding than current doctrine would suggest. Moreover, the consequences of failure in major operations are difficult to overcome[8]. What has been called the theater-strategic level of war, or higher operational art, is poorly understood[9]. Three decades of post-Cold War stability and support operations, and two decades of counterinsurgency have helped the U.S. Army lose touch with the art of major operations. 

In only a few years China will have a trained, equipped, and cohesive invasion force and Russia will have a combat-capable force with recent experience in cross-domain operations. U.S. Army strategic leaders are already pressing for force transformation against these large-scale threats[10]. The Army can build on more than five years of modernization, the 2018 multi-domain operations concept, and a new global posture strategy to maintain the momentum needed to break the mold of the Brigade Combat Team-centric, Unified Land Operations-based force[11]. Importantly, U.S. Army planners can rapidly harvest important work done since the end of the Vietnam era. In competition, crisis, and armed conflict – in war – the United States needs a ready land force to deter unwanted escalation, assure allies and key partners, and compel beneficial geostrategic outcomes through force, if necessary. 

Option #1:  The U.S. Army revives and updates AirLand Battle–Future (ALBF). ALBF was meant to be a follow-on doctrine to AirLand Battle but was interrupted by the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union. ALBF took the fundamentals of AirLand Battle and applied them to nonlinear battlefields and to advanced-technology capabilities – the same dynamics seen in the emerging operational environment. Additionally, ALBF extended operational concepts to operations short of war – like the competition short of armed conflict idea today[12]. 

Risk:  Major additions to the U.S. Army’s current doctrine development projects run the risk of delaying progress. Adding ALBF to the current Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) doctrine development may impose additional testing and validation demands. 

Gain:  An updated ALBF would provide a ready road map for the U.S. Army to move from the narrowly conceived 2018 Army in MDO concept to a published MDO doctrine which would replace Unified Land Operations. With the incorporation of a detailed view of multi-domain battle – still the heart of the MDO concept – an updated ALBF would provide the broad-based, low- to high-intensity doctrinal framework for the coming decades. 

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reinstitutes an updated Army of Excellence (AOE). The AOE was the last organization designed against a specified threat force – the Soviet Army and similarly-equipped enemy forces. The original rationale for the AOE was to reduce force “hollowness” by bringing personnel and materiel requirements within the limits of Army resources, enhance U.S. Army Corps-level capabilities to influence battle, and improve strategic mobility for immediate crisis response in regional conflicts[13]. This rationale is still relevant. Building on this rationale and using the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as a specified threat force, the Army could update the AOE (Light) Division to a “hybrid warfare” force and the AOE (Heavy) Division to a “high-technology, cross-domain maneuver” force. Echelons above division, with a reinstitution of corps-directed battle, could focus on layering advanced technology with multi-domain operations capabilities to conduct nonlinear and deep operations. 

Risk:  AOE was resource-intensive and a new AOE might also demand resources that may not materialize when needed. 

Gain:  An updated AOE organization would provide a familiar blueprint for fielding the land force for a more fully developed MDO doctrine. A new AOE would quickly restore robust and more survivable formations. 

Option #3:  The U.S. Army restarts the Army After Next (AAN). AAN locked on to technological maturation timelines that turned out to be wildly optimistic[14]. But many of the concepts, not least information dominance, precision fires, and focused logistics, were valid in the mid-1990s and remain so – the challenges are in testing, validation, and integration. Today, some of the early-envisioned AAN capabilities will soon be fielded. Various new fires systems, including Extended Range Cannon Artillery and Long-Range Precision Fire missiles, will provide the greatly extended range and higher accuracy needed to destroy enemy anti-access, area denial systems. As part of MDO, these new fires systems can be linked with forward operating F-35 multirole combat aircraft and ideally a constellation of low earth orbiting sensor platforms to achieve unprecedented responsiveness and lethality. The first battery of tactical directed energy weapons are in development, and even the combat cloud imagined by AAN planners, now called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or an alternative capability solution), is a near-term reality[15]. 

Risk:  AAN may not have focused enough on lethality at the operational level of war, and so in reviving the effort, it is possible this same shortcoming could hamper MDO against near-peer enemy forces. 

Gain:  What AAN provided that is missing today is a comprehensive blueprint to channel the Army’s genuine and ‘unifying’ modernization campaign under Army Futures Command[16]. 

Other Comments:  The U.S. Army’s strategy defines a land power dominant force by 2028[17]. Under the current Army Chief of Staff, beginning in 2020, the U.S. Army is trying to more closely link readiness, modernization, posture, and force structure under a broad plan for “transformation”[18]. To focus force transformation, the American Army could revive past work on nonlinear warfare, corps battle command, and technologically-enabled, globally integrated operations. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Interview: Ben Lowsen on Chinese PLA Ground Forces: Assessing the future trajectory of PLA ground forces development,” The Diplomat, April 8, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/interview-ben-lowsen-on-chinese-pla-ground-forces/. 

[2] Fredrik Westerlund and Susanne Oxenstierna, eds., Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective – 2019 (Stockholm: Swedish Defence Research Agency, December 2019), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337948965_Russian_Military_Capability_in_a_Ten-Year_Perspective_-_2019. 

[3] Dakota L. Wood, ed., 2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2021), https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/2021_IndexOfUSMilitaryStrength_WEB_0.pdf. 

[4] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020: America’s Military – Preparing for Tomorrow (Washington, DC: National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2000), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a526044.pdf. 

[5] Michael A. Vane and Robert M. Toguchi, “The Enduring Relevance of Landpower: Flexibility and Adaptability for Joint Campaigns,” Association of the United States Army, October 7, 2003, https://www.ausa.org/publications/enduring-relevance-landpower-flexibility-and-adaptability-joint-campaigns. 

[6] Williamson Murray, ed., Army Transformation: A View from the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001), https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/1560.pdf. 

[7] David Jablonsky, “Strategy and the Operational Level of War: Part I,” Parameters 17, no. 1 (1987): 65-76, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA516154.pdf. 

[8] Milan Vego, “On Operational Leadership,” Joint Force Quarterly 77 (2nd Quarter 2015): 60-69, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-77/Article/581882/on-operational-leadership/. 

[9] Michael R. Matheny, “The Fourth Level of War,” Joint Force Quarterly 80 (1st Quarter 2016): 62-66, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-80/Article/643103/the-fourth-level-of-war/. 

[10] James C. McConville, Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1, Unclassified Version (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, March 16, 2021), https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf. 

[11] Billy Fabian, “Back to the Future: Transforming the U.S. Army for High-Intensity Warfare in the 21st Century,” Center for a New American Security, November 19, 2020, https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/back-to-the-future-transforming-the-u-s-army-for-high-intensity-warfare-in-the-21st-century. One recent study concluded that Unified Land Operations does not sufficiently focus on large-scale war against an enemy force. See Alan P. Hastings, Coping with Complexity: Analyzing Unified Land Operations Through the Lens of Complex Adaptive Systems Theory (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2019), https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/api/collection/p4013coll3/id/3894/download. 

[12] Terry M. Peck, AirLand Battle Imperatives: Do They Apply to Future Contingency Operations? (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 1990), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a234151.pdf. 

[13] Pat Ford, Edwin H. Burba, Jr., and Richard E. Christ, Review of Division Structure Initiatives, Research Product 95-02 (Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization, 1994), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA297578. 

[14] Robert H. Scales, “Forecasting the Future of Warfare,” War on the Rocks, April 9, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/04/forecasting-the-future-of-warfare/. 

[15] Dan Gouré, “Creating the Army After Next, Again,” RealClearDefense, August 16, 2019, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2019/08/16/creating_the_army_after_next_again_114670.html. 

[16] U.S. Army, 2019 Army Modernization Strategy: Investing in the Future (Fort Eustis, VA: Army Futures Command, 2019), 1,  https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/2019_army_modernization_strategy_final.pdf.

[17] The United States Army, “The Army’s Vision and Strategy,” Army.mil, no date, https://www.army.mil/about/. The Army’s “WayPoint 2028” focused on concepts and modernization. The United States Army, “Gen. Michael Garrett Visit,” U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, August 18, 2020, https://usacac.army.mil/node/2739. The Army’s “AimPoint Force” structure plan was meant to revive capable warfighting echelons above brigade. Andrew Feickert, “In Focus: The Army’s AimPoint Force Structure Initiative,” Congressional Research Service, May 8, 2020, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IF11542.pdf. The “AimPoint Force” was about designing networked capabilities for overmatch. Devon Suits, “Futures and Concepts Center evaluates new force structure,” Army.mil, April 22, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/234845/futures_and_concepts_center_evaluates_new_force_structure. 

[18] Association of the United States Army, “McConville Advocates for Aggressive Transformation,” Association of the United States Army, October 14, 2020, https://www.ausa.org/news/mcconville-advocates-aggressive-transformation. 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Major Regional Contingency Marco J. Lyons Option Papers U.S. Army

Assessing the Tension Between Privacy and Innovation

Channing Lee studies International Politics at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She can be found on Twitter @channingclee. 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 Tension Between Privacy and Innovation

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 11, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a student of international politics. 

Summary:  Given the importance of data to emerging technologies, future innovation may be dependent upon personal data access and a new relationship with privacy. To fully unleash the potential of technological innovation, societies that traditionally prize individual privacy may need to reevaluate their attitudes toward data collection in order to remain globally competitive.

Text:  The U.S. may be positioning itself to lag behind other nations that are more willing to collect and use personal data to drive Artificial Intelligence (AI) advancement and innovation. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the idea of conducting contact tracing to assess virus exposure through personal devices sounded alarm bells across the United States[1]. However, that was not the first time technologies were engaged in personal data collection. Beyond the pandemic, the accumulation of personal data has already unlocked enhanced experiences with technology—empowering user devices to better accommodate personal preferences. As technology continues to advance, communities around the world will need to decide which ideals of personal privacy take precedence over innovation.

Some experts like Kai-Fu Lee argue that the collection of personal data may actually be the key that unlocks the future potential of technology, especially in the context of AI[2]. AI is already being integrated into nearly all industries, from healthcare to digital payments to driverless automobiles and more. AI works by training algorithms on existing data, but it can only succeed if such data is available. In Sweden, for example, data has enabled the creation of “Smart Grid Gotland,” which tracks electricity consumption according to wind energy supply fluctuations and reduces household energy costs[3]. Such integration of technology with urban planning, otherwise known as “smart cities,” has become a popular aspiration of governments across the globe to make their cities safer and more efficient. However, these projects also require massive amounts of data.

Indeed, data is already the driving force behind many research problems and innovations, though not without concerns. For example, AI is being used to improve cancer screening in cervical and prostate cancer, and AI might be the human invention that eventually leads scientists to discover a cancer cure[4]. Researchers like Dr. Fei Sha from the University of Southern California are working to apply big data and algorithmic models to “generate life-saving biomedical research outcomes[5].” But if patients deny access to their healthcare histories and other information, researchers will not have the adequate data to uncover more effective methods of treatment. Similarly, AI will likely be the technology that streamlines the advancement of digital payments, detecting fraudulent transactions and approving loan applications at a quicker speed. Yet, if people resist data collection, the algorithms cannot reach their full potential. As these examples demonstrate, “big data” can unlock the next chapter of human advances, but privacy concerns stand in the way.

Different societies use different approaches to deal with and respond to questions of data and privacy. In Western communities, individuals demonstrate strong opposition to the collection of their personal information by private sector actors, believing collection to be a breach of their personal privacy privileges. The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation  and its newly introduced Digital Services Act, Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act curb the non-consensual collection of personal information by businesses, thereby empowering individuals to take ownership of their data. Recently, big tech companies such as Meta and Google have come under public scrutiny for collecting personal data, and polls reveal that Americans are increasingly distrustful of popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram[6]. 

Still, the American public is not as guarded as it may appear. Video-focused social media app TikTok, whose parent company Bytedance is based in China, reported more than 100 million daily U.S. users in August 2020, up 800% since January 2018[7]. Despite warnings that the Shanghai-based company could potentially share personal data with Beijing, including threats by the Trump administration to “ban TikTok” for national security reasons, nearly a third of Americans continue to use the application on a daily basis, seemingly ignoring privacy concerns. While lawmakers have attempted to regulate the collection of data by large corporations, especially foreign companies, public opinion appears mixed.

Norms in the Eastern hemisphere tell a different story. Privacy laws exist, such as China’s Personal Information Protection Law and Japan’s upcoming ​​Amended Act on Protection of Personal Information, but the culture surrounding them is completely distinct, particularly when it comes to government collection of personal data. At the height of the pandemic, South Korea introduced a robust contact tracing campaign that relied on large databases constructed by data from credit card transactions[8]. Taiwan succeed in contact tracing efforts by launching an electronic security monitoring system that tracks isolating individuals’ locations through their cell phones[9]. In China, almost everything can be achieved through a single app, WeChat, which allows users to post pictures, order food, message friends, hire babysitters, hail a cab, pay for groceries, and more. This technological integration, which has transformed Chinese society, works because enough personal information is stored and linked together in the application. 

Some may argue that not all the data being collected by governments and even corporations has been neither voluntary nor consensual, which is why collection discussions require legal frameworks regarding privacy. Nevertheless, governments that emphasize the collective good over personal privacy have fostered societies where people possess less paranoia about companies utilizing their information and enjoy more technological progress. Despite aforementioned privacy concerns, WeChat topped more than one billion users by the end of 2021, including overseas users[10].

Regardless of a nation’s approach to technological innovation, one thing must be made clear: privacy concerns are real and cannot be diminished. In fact, personal privacy as a principle forms the foundation of liberal democratic citizenship, and infringements upon privacy threaten such societal fabrics. Law enforcement, for example, are more actively optimizing emerging technologies such as facial recognition and surveillance methods to monitor protests and collect individual location data. These trends have the potential to compromise civil liberties, in addition to the injustices that arise from data biases[11].

Yet there is also no doubt that the direction global privacy laws are headed may potentially stifle innovation, especially because developing technologies such as AI requires large quantities of data. 

The U.S. will soon need to reevaluate the way it conceives of privacy as it relates to innovation. If the U.S. follows the EU’s footsteps and tightens its grip on the act of data collection, rather than the technology behind the data collection, it might be setting itself up for failure, or at least falling behind. If the U.S. wants to continue leading the world in technological advancement, it may pursue policies that allow technology to flourish without discounting personal protections. The U.S. can, for example, simultaneously implement strident safeguards against government or corporate misuse of personal data and invest in the next generation of technological innovation. The U.S. has options, but these options require viewing big data as a friend, not a foe.


Endnotes:

[1] Kate Blackwood, “Study: Americans skeptical of COVID-19 contact tracing apps,” Cornell Chronicle, January 21, 2021, https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2021/01/study-americans-skeptical-covid-19-contact-tracing-apps.

[2] Kai-Fu Lee, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order (Boston: Mariner Books, 2018).

[3] “Data driving the next wave of Swedish super cities,” KPMG, accessed March 12, 2022, https://home.kpmg/se/sv/home/nyheter-rapporter/2020/12/data-driving-the-next-wave-of-swedish-super-cities.html.

[4] “Artificial Intelligence – Opportunities in Cancer Research,” National Cancer Institute, accessed February 15, 2022, https://www.cancer.gov/research/areas/diagnosis/artificial-intelligence.

[5] Marc Ballon, “Can artificial intelligence help to detect and cure cancer?,” USC News, November 6, 2017, https://news.usc.edu/130825/can-artificial-intelligence-help-to-detect-and-cure-cancer/.

[6] Heather Kelly and Emily Guskin, “Americans widely distrust Facebook, TikTok and Instagram with their data, poll finds,” The Washington Post, December 22, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/12/22/tech-trust-survey/.

[7] Alex Sherman, “TikTok reveals detailed user numbers for the first time,” CNBC, August 24, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/24/tiktok-reveals-us-global-user-growth-numbers-for-first-time.html.

[8] Young Joon Park, Young June Choe, Ok Park, et al. “Contact Tracing during Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, South Korea, 2020,” Emerging Infectious Diseases 26, no. 10 (October 2020):2465-2468. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article.

[9] Emily Weinstein, “Technology without Authoritarian Characteristics: An Assessment of the Taiwan Model of Combating COVID-19,” Taiwan Insight, December 10, 2020, https://taiwaninsight.org/2020/11/24/technology-without-authoritarian-characteristics-an-assessment-of-the-taiwan-model-of-combating-covid-19/.

[10] “WeChat users & platform insights 2022,” China Internet Watch, March 24, 2022, https://www.chinainternetwatch.com/31608/wechat-statistics/#:~:text=Over%20330%20million%20of%20WeChat’s,Account%20has%20360%20million%20users.

[11] Aaron Holmes, “How police are using technology like drones and facial recognition to monitor protests and track people across the US,” Business Insider, June 1, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/how-police-use-tech-facial-recognition-ai-drones-2019-10.

Assessment Papers Channing Lee Emerging Technology Governing Documents and Ideas Government Information Systems Privacy

Options to Modify Title 10 U.S. Code to Improve U.S. Security Force Assistance

Major James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer. He holds degrees from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Troy University and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the USG. 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:  Without modifications to Title 10 U.S. Code (USC), Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, §321 and §333, U.S. Security Force Assistance (SFA) contributions to strategic competition will not be fully realized.

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 4, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes SFA can address strategic competitors’ most likely and most dangerous courses of action while also supporting competitive efforts through other instruments of national power. 

Background:  The DoD defines SFA as “activities that support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions[1].”   SFA improves the ability of the Joint Force to support, enable, and enhance campaigning across all elements of the competition continuum[2].  Despite SFA’s prominent role in supporting the Integrated Deterrence concept underlying the 2022 National Defense Strategy, current statutory authorities limit SFA’s effectiveness. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) Section 1323 (Study on Certain Security Cooperation Programs) and Section 1261 (Report on Security Cooperation Authorities and Associated Resourcing in Support of the Security Force Assistance Brigades) of the Senate’s proposed NDAA signal Congressional interest in improving SFA authorities to address strategic competition[3][4].  

Significance:  Allies and Partners are a cornerstone of U.S. policy. The first National Security Strategy identified an “area of U.S. strength and Soviet weakness is alliance relationships[5].” Current DoD leadership continues to emphasize Allies and Partners as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities testified to the House Armed Service Committee “The U.S. network of alliances and partnerships is a strategic advantage our competitors cannot match[6].” That advantage enables the realization of Integrated Deterrence, the foundation of the 2022 National Defense Strategy. Integrated Deterrence synchronizes Joint Force and Interagency capabilities with those of Allies and Partners to deter or compel strategic competitors[7]. SFA builds the requisite partnerships and interoperability with Allies and Partners in key locations to generate Integrated Deterrent effects mitigating threats to U.S. interests. 

Sun Tzu prioritized negating an adversary’s strategy and then destabilizing their alliances[8]. China, America’s identified pacing threat, did this by investing in capabilities preventing the deployment of U.S. military power. China also uses diplomatic, information, and economic instruments of national power to degrade U.S. access, influence, and presence globally. From Anti-Access Area Denial technologies to coercive economic and diplomatic practices, China is denying options and increasing the costs for the U.S. military. Due to these concerted efforts, the Joint Force now faces two strategic challenges, “time and distance[9].” 

SFA provides options for combatant commanders to compete below levels of armed conflict through establishing or maintaining access, presence, and influence while improving partners’ military capability and interoperability with U.S. forces. SFA increases adversarial escalation costs and allows the Joint Force to begin conflict at a positional advantage. Despite SFA’s capabilities, the current statutory authorities do not enable the DoD to maximize its employment of purpose-built SFA formations, like the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and the Air Force’s Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons.

Title 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, authorizes the majority of DoD security cooperation activities, of which SFA is a subset. The current chapter 16 authorities represent the unipolar world of 1991-2003 or the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) from 2001-2017. Within the current legislative framework §321 (Training with Friendly Countries) and §333 (Foreign Security Forces: Authority to Build Capacity) are the primary mechanisms for the DoD to conduct SFA. Each authority has limitations and strengths but neither is optimized for strategic competition. 

Option #1:  Congress changes “only with the military forces” to “security forces” within the limitation clause of §321.

§321 authorizes general-purpose forces of the United States to train only with the militaries of partners for the overall benefit of the U.S. unit[10]. §321 prevents the development of new partner capabilities and restricts materiel, construction, or contract support to training events only. While §321 is a flexible option for combatant commanders to establish access, presence, and influence it limits the development and integration to indirect benefits of training with U.S. forces. 

Risk:  Expanding the amount and type of security forces that U.S. conventional units can train without State Department concurrence risks over-militarizing aspects of U.S. foreign policy and delegitimizing whole of government efforts to develop capacity in non-defense sectors. §321 expansion risks potentially duplicating authorities within §322 (Special operations forces: training with friendly foreign forces) without an overarching program manager like U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Combined Exchange Training. 

Gain:  Increasing the aperture of who U.S. conventional forces can train with increases the flexibility and utility of using §321 to establish access, presence, and influence. This is especially beneficial within nations that have internally-focused security forces that are not part of a traditional military architecture. 

Option #2:  Congress creates a tenth capacity category authorizing “improved combined military interoperability” in §333.

§333 authorizes materiel, training, and operational support to foreign partner forces in developing capabilities across nine different mission types with seven of the nine being focused on GWOT-era objectives. Unlike §321 activities, §333 missions require Department of State concurrence and coordination and have specific Congressionally appropriated funding through the international security cooperation programs account. 

Risk:  Despite developing long-term partner capabilities, §333 activities take 18-24 months to approve, preventing its use in emergent and unforeseen requirements. Additionally, both conventional and special operations forces use §333 and its associated funds and adding additional mission types will increase competition for an already limited resource, especially with the loss of overseas contingency operations funding. 

Gain:  SFA works best over prolonged periods through persistent presence. §333’s ability to build partner capacity and provide materiel and operational support make it ideal for improving the effectiveness of partner forces to deter aggression and generating interoperability with U.S. Forces. Department of State concurrence and monitoring of §333 also facilitates the integration of other instruments of national power.  

Option #3:  Congress creates an SFA-specific authority and funding source. 

§321 broadly allows combatant commanders some flexibility in where they conduct SFA requiring months to approve and fund but vastly limits the long-term impact of their activities. Inversely, §333 is specific in allowing concerted efforts with a given partner that takes years to approve and its codified mission types constrain use to developing nations. Creating a responsive SFA-specific authority and funding source provides the Joint Force the ability to address strategic competition and prioritizes Partners and Allies.

Risk:  After the failures of the Afghan National Security Forces in August 2021 and the deaths of four U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers during an ambush in 2017, there is substantial pushback on increasing the autonomy of the DoD to execute SFA. Increasing SFA’s ability to employ military members in advisory roles requires Congress to assume risk and put faith back into the DoD to execute global competition missions. 

Gain:  An SFA-specific authority and funding source highlights U.S. commitment to allies, partners, and strategic competition. This authority, with an accompanying appropriated funding source, will generate the long-term strategies needed to maximize the effects of SFA. 

Other Comments:  Combatant commanders continue to warn of legislative inaction in a world defined by competition between autocracies and democracies. In competition autocratic states enjoy an asymmetric advantage in speed, responsiveness, and reach due to no bureaucratic restrictions or adherence to international norms and laws. The Commander of U.S. Africa Command highlighted the issue of speed warning that U.S. assistance, “can sometimes take a long time to unfold, and that sometimes forces our African partners to go with the bird in hand, which is sometimes China, sometimes Russia[11].” The Commander of U.S. Southern Command outlined the need for flexibility when asking Congress to explore a “21st century flexible and responsible tool to allow us to outcompete and win by meeting our partner’s needs[12].” Inaction risks potential degradation of U.S. access, presence, and influence needed to establish integrated deterrence.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2021), DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. page 192. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2019) Competition Continuum (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19). Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233 defines three competition as having three nonlinear elements nonexclusive elements cooperation, competition below levels of armed conflict, and conflict.  

[3] United States. (2022). National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year: Conference report. Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1605/text

[4] United States. Congress. Conference Committees 2022. (2022). JOINT EXPLANATORY STATEMENT TO ACCOMPANY THE NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2022: Washington :U.S. Govt. Print. Off.. Retrieved from https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/17S1605-RCP117-21-JES-U1.pdf 

[5] Reagan, Ronald  (1987). National security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States. Retrieved from https://history.defense.gov/Portals/70/Documents/nss/nss1987.pdf

[6] C-SPAN (2022). Defense and State Officials Testify on U.S. Engagement with Allies. Retrieved from https://www.c-span.org/video/?518194-1/defense-state-officials-testify-us-engagement-allies 

[7] Garamone, Jim (2021). “Concept of Integrated Deterrence Will Be Key to National Defense Strategy, DOD Official Says.” U.S. Department of Defense – DOD News. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2866963/concept-of-integrated-deterrence-will-be-key-to-national-defense-strategy-dod-o/ 

[8] Griffith, S. B. (1963). Sun Tzu: The art of war (Vol. 39). London: Oxford University Press.

[9] McConville, James (2021).  Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1. Headquarters Department of the Army. Retrieved from https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf 

[10] 10 U.S.C. § 321 (2016), accessed 5 March 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2016-title10/html/USCODE-2016-title10-subtitleA-partI-chap16-subchapIII.htm.

[11] Senate Armed Service Committee. (2022). HEARING TO RECEIVE TESTIMONY ON THE POSTURE OF UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND AND UNITED STATES AFRICA COMMAND a.” Retrieved from https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/22-12_03-15-2022.pdf 

[12] House Armed Service Committee. (2021). National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in North and South America.” Retrieved from https://armedservices.house.gov/2021/4/full-committee-hearing-national-security-challenges-and-u-s-military-activity-in-north-and-south-america  

Allies & Partners Capacity / Capability Enhancement Competition James P. Micciche Option Papers U.S. Air Force U.S. Army

Assessing the Forces Driving the Redesign of U.S. Army Land Power

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the ideas here are the author’s alone, he benefitted from feedback provided by Colonel George Shatzer (Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College) on an earlier draft. 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 Forces Driving the Redesign of U.S. Army Land Power 

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 28, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that threat, geopolitical, and technological changes necessitate a reassessment of broad U.S. Army future force design parameters. Without this reassessment, the U.S. Army and the Joint Force risk wasting resources on obsolete conceptions. 

Summary:  Redesigning U.S. Army land power for the twenty-first century will require policy makers and defense leaders to negotiate numerous conflicting dynamics. Future U.S. Army forces will need to be immediately ready for crises but also adaptable. They will need to be powerful enough for major combat operations and organizationally flexible, but also tailored to missions and tasks. 

Text:  The principles that have historically guided U.S. Army force planning—size, mix, and distribution—to meet strategic needs include: early use of the Regular Component in a contingency; reliance on the Reserve Component for later-arriving forces; primacy of defeating an aggressor in major combat operations; capabilities for short-notice deployments; and the importance of readiness to deploy over cost considerations[1]. These principles will likely persist. 

Future technological factors will shape U.S. Army strategy, force structure, and planning decisions. Important technological changes that may decisively influence future U.S. Army force design include advances in information acquisition, processing, distribution, and utilization; capabilities for light, medium, and heavy forces; integrated air defense and protection; and changes to support and maintenance requirements for advanced systems. Demands to reconfigure forces for a broad range of contingencies will not shrink in the foreseeable future. The overriding imperative for air deploy-ability will not change significantly[2]. Like in the 1990s, come-as-you-are wars are still likely, but these require reconceptualization in a Great Power context. 

There will continue to be missions and tasks that only Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, or Airmen can realistically accomplish. Military power employment and military power integration and significantly different – the sum, integrated, is greater than the parts, acting independently. Missions and tasks of the future joint force will be assigned based on military necessity and objectives, and not based on predetermined formulas or a desire for equitability. Future force planning will balance forms of military power and the different major components within land power with the understanding that high-/low-technology mixes are generally superior to a reliance on only one end of the technology spectrum[3]. 

Military affairs are evolving rapidly as events in Ukraine illustrate. Ballistic missiles, precision strikes, unmanned systems, space and cyberspace, and weapon of mass destruction technologies are spreading to various areas around the world. The means and ways of warfare are changing. Battle space in the air, sea, space, and cyberspace domains, in which U.S. forces have enjoyed various degrees of dominance, is becoming increasingly contested[4]. This contestation directly threatens U.S. integration of joint functions, especially fires, movement and maneuver, and sustainment. 

Globalization creates both economic wealth and activity, along with security vulnerabilities. For many advanced economies, the range of security threats is expanding and becoming more varied. The twenty-first century is likely to see more so-called coalitions of the willing than formalized alliance structures like during World War Two. It is not clear that traditional military forces and capabilities will still retain their value and utility[5]. 

The unclassified summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) recognized a weakening, post-1945 international order. The 2018 NDS also called for increased strategic flexibility and freedom of action to manage a high volume of change[6]. Although accurately forecasting the future strategic environment is inherently prone to error, it is also practical to assume that major changes will happen rapidly in the wake of particular high-impact events[7]. 

Because future great power competitors will likely have formidable escalation capabilities, the importance of designing for escalation advantage in future force planning will increase. Part of the complexity being generated in the emerging operational environment is caused by the increasing number of competition-warfighting domains, expanding options for synergy between them, and their disparate considerations with respect to speed, range, and lethality. As the reach, penetrability, and effectiveness of sensors, networks, and weapon systems improve, the demands for integration of capabilities and effects across domains multiply[8]. One characteristic of the emerging operational environment worth watching is that more power centers have more ways to push events on the international stage to their liking[9]. This pushing might be called hyper-competition[10]. 

Future adversaries will almost invariably be fighting on or near land, near their home or otherwise controlled territory, with shorter and simpler lines of communications. Platform for platform, land ones are cheaper, less technologically complex, easier to produce in large numbers, and quicker to replace than their air and maritime counterparts[11]. Part of what makes the twenty-first century military challenge so seemingly intractable is that the drivers of change appear to be forcing adaptation across the full breadth of policy, security, and military dimensions[12]. This means that these traditional factors will almost certainly change in the near- to mid-future: federated military forces based on physical domains; alliances and partnerships of convenience; and “runaway” technological advances that are formulated for purely civilian use. 

Numerous dynamics suggest that the future joint force will be smaller but will still need to retain technological overmatch, rapid deploy-ability, joint and multinational interoperability, and organizational agility[13]. Force development is about getting the joint force to do what it does better while force design is about getting the joint force to do new things in new, more disruptive ways[14]. Changes to both force development and force design are needed to protect current and future overmatch. For national security, and for getting to the future force needed, force development is best when linked directly to the right kinds of research clusters looking at disruptive technologies, that can then be integrated quickly into the right kinds of military capabilities[15]. As for force design, U.S. Army Futures Command is a primary vehicle for delivering rapid technological integration to ground forces. Integrating various technological, research, and military activities based on a coherent view of future national security will take reformed national policy. 

Redesigning U.S. Army land power for the twenty-first century will require policy makers and defense leaders to negotiate numerous conflicting dynamics. Future U.S. Army forces will need to be immediately ready for crises but also adaptable. They will need to be powerful enough for major combat operations and organizationally flexible, but also tailored to missions and tasks. Countering Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine or the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will take forces dominant in and through the land domain while being fully relevant in all competition-warfighting domains – properly integrated with other forms of domain power. 


Endnotes:

[1] Joshua Klimas and Gian Gentile, Planning an Army for the 21st Century: Principles to Guide U.S. Army Force Size, Mix, and Component Distribution (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2018), https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE291/RAND_PE291.pdf. 

[2] National Research Council, Board on Army Science and Technology, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, STAR 21: Strategic Technologies for the Army of the Twenty-First Century (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1992), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a275948.pdf. 

[3] William T. Johnsen, Redefining Land Power for the 21st Century (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1998), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA349014.pdf. 

[4] John Gordon IV, Igor Mikolic-Torreira, et al, Army Fires Capabilities for 2025 and Beyond (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2019), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2124.html. 

[5] The United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, New World Coming: American Security in the 21st Century Major Themes and Implications, The Phase I Report on the Emerging Global Security Environment for the First Quarter of the 21st Century, September 15, 1999, https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=2087. 

[6] James Mattis, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018), https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=807329. 

[7] John A. Shaud, Air Force Strategy Study 2020-2030 (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, Air Force Research Institute, January 2011), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a540345.pdf. 

[8] Training and Doctrine Command, The Operational Environment, 2035-2050: The Emerging Character of Warfare (Fort Eustis, VA: United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, n.d.), https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/mad-scientist/m/articles-of-interest/217736. 

[9] Richard Kaipo Lum, “A Map with No Edges: Anticipating and Shaping the Future Operating Environments,” Small Wars Journal, November 2020, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/map-no-edges-anticipating-and-shaping-future-operating-environments. 

[10] Cf. Nathan P. Freier, John Schaus, and William G. Braun III, An Army Transformed: USINDOPACOM Hypercompetition and U.S. Army Theater Design (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College Press, 2020), https://press.armywarcollege.edu/monographs/912. 

[11] Shmuel Shmuel, “The American Way of War in the Twenty-first Century: Three Inherent Challenges,” Modern War Institute, June 30, 2020, https://mwi.usma.edu/american-way-war-twenty-first-century-three-inherent-challenges/. 

[12] National Defense Panel, Transforming Defense—National Security in the 21st Century, Report of the National Defense Panel, Arlington, VA, December 1997, https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=1834. 

[13] See Prepared Statement by Dr. Mike Griffin, Senate Hearing 115-847, Accelerating New Technologies to Meet Emerging Threats, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, 115th Congress, 2nd Session, April 18, 2018, U.S. Government Publishing Office, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115shrg41257/html/CHRG-115shrg41257.htm. 

[14] Jim Garamone, “National Military Strategy Addresses Changing Character of War,” Department of Defense (website), July 12, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1903478/national-military-strategy-addresses-changing-character-of-war/. 

[15] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Operating Environment, JOE 2035: The Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World (Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 14, 2016), https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joe_2035_july16.pdf?ver=2017-12-28-162059-917. 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons U.S. Army

Assessing the Cameroonian Anglophone Crisis and Potential Impacts of U.S. Inaction

Sam Gitlitz is Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy currently assigned in Washington D.C.  He previously was assigned in the Pentagon, where he supported OPNAV N2N6. 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 Cameroonian Anglophone Crisis and Potential Impacts of U.S. Inaction

Date Originally Written:  February 20, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  March 21, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author deployed to Cameroon in 2015-2016.  The instability caused by the Anglophone crisis threatens Cameroonian security and regional stabilization.  Based on his experience, the author believes that failure to recognize the strategic importance of the situation and plan accordingly will have negative, lasting second and third order effects.

Summary:  The Anglophone Conflict stems from 2016 when Anglophone teachers and lawyers mounted protests demanding better representation in Cameroon’s legal and educational systems.  The conflict is estimated to have killed thousands of people and displaced close to a million[1].  With the onset of the crisis, the U.S. reduced security assistance to the country with few other efforts to resolve the crisis.  Inaction by the U.S. could lead to further destabilization.

Text:  Cameroon is an amalgamation of former French and British territories combined into a single country in 1961. The North-West and South-West Regions (NWSW) of Cameroon are home to most of the country’s English-speaking population (Anglophones), roughly 20% of the total population.  The Anglophone Conflict stems from 2016 when Anglophone teachers and lawyers mounted protests demanding better representation in Cameroon’s legal and educational systems.  What started as peaceful protests quickly turned violent as demonstrators clashed with security personnel.  Cameroon President Paul Biya’s response included deploying U.S. trained special forces[2], curfews, and implementing regional communications blackouts. In 2017, Anglophone protestors switched tactics from wanting increased representation to demanding an independent state.  On October 1, 2017, Anglophone separationists unilaterally claimed independence from Cameroon creating the Federal Republic of Ambazonia which would be led by an interim government.

Ambazonia is now in quasi-civil war albeit with limited recognition from President Biya in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé.  He maintains that the conflict is a terrorist/criminal issue, which he promises to resolve through bureaucratic maneuvering and force[3].  The struggle continues to grow deadlier, with more improvised explosive device attacks taking place in the first five months of 2021 than all other years of the conflict combined[4]. The situation continues to deteriorate with separatists beginning kidnap for ransom operations and the Cameroonian state conducting cross border operations of questionable legality into Nigeria. The Cameroonian government’s harsh tactics against its citizenry prompted allegations of human rights abuses.

The magnitude of the crisis and numerous filmed events obtained by international aid organizations lends strong credence to the allegations.  As a result of the abuses, the U.S. cut military aid to Cameroon in 2019[5]. The U.S. is in a difficult position as Cameroon is a key ally against Islamist terrorism in the region, through their contribution to the Multi-national Joint Task Force and allowing U.S. forces to operate from bases in the country[6].  

Little is likely to be resolved in the immediate future.  The government is unable to claim victory, and the separatists have not gained and held ground, leading to in-fighting[7]. The separatists seek to change their fortunes through an alliance with Nigerian separatists and the purchase of weapons from foreign powers[8]. Another element to consider is President Biya.  At 89, Biya is the oldest elected official on the continent and the second longest serving.  Many, if not most, Cameroonians do not know life without Biya.  He has no intention of ceding power, and more importantly does not have any clear succession plans.  Disorganization from Biya’s hospitalization, death, or cessation of power may give Amabazonia the relief it needs to find better footing.

For a country battling Islamist terrorists in the north and separatists in the south, the death of an autocrat may be the final straw.  The U.S. would be well advised to consider response options to the Anglophone crisis beyond advocating for human rights. If the U.S. continues to ignore the Anglophone crisis and does not develop solid response options, it risks ceding regional leadership and allowing the problem to spiral. Considering the NWSW regions’ coastline and other natural resources, the area will draw international attention for cocoa, oil, or an Atlantic Port. In 2019, China wrote off a substantial portion of Cameroon’s debt[9], and is building the region’s largest deep-water port[10].  China is presumably ready to and willing to fill any partnership void caused by U.S. inaction.

There are several possible outcomes.  The first, already underway, is the continued stagnation of the crisis.  With neither side moving towards peace and conflict increasing, the growth of criminal activity, extremism, and continued human rights abuses is likely.  Combined with other regional instability and increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the equivalent of a West coast Somalia is an unattractive prospect.  

Second, should the crisis escalate, and Cameroon prove ineffective at containing the situation, say in the case of Biya’s death, would regional intervention be justified?  Is the U.S. prepared or able to, with Leahy Law requirements, support regional action to stabilize the area?  How would the U.S. react to Nigeria retaking the Bakassi peninsula under the premise of a responsibility to protect intervention?

Given the vast uncertainty facing Cameroon post-Biya, the U.S. and international community should not be shocked by  renewed claims of Ambazonian independence. Should Anglophone Cameroonians coalesce, they may prove more capable at maintaining security in the region than Yaoundé. The Anglophone Camerronians  would then have a solid footing for seeking recognition, which could prompt additional calls for succession from groups like the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta in neighboring Nigeria. As evidenced by recent events, a country seeking de jure recognition has the potential to disrupt the international order, in this case that could occur in an already unstable region which could prove disastrous for U.S. regional efforts.

The current situation is the culmination of bad international politics in the 1960’s which amalgamated peoples regardless of their language and culture.  The crisis will not be resolved as is and risks creating a generation of disenfranchised, displaced people nursing a grievance.


Endnotes:

[1] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon,” Crisis Group, accessed February 20, 2022, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon.

[2] Gareth Browne, “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International – Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2019, https://foreignpolicy-com.proxyau.wrlc.org/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

[3] Paul Biya, “Head of State’s New Year Message to the Nation – 31 December 2021,” accessed February 3, 2022, https://www.prc.cm/en/news/speeches-of-the-president/5611-head-of-state-s-new-year-message-to-the-nation-31-december-2021.

[4] Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, “Populations at Risk: Cameroon,” Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, December 1, 2021, https://www.globalr2p.org/countries/cameroon/.

[5] Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Is a Good Counterterrorism Partner, but US Cannot Ignore Alleged Atrocities, Says AFRICOM Head,” Military Times, February 7, 2019, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/02/07/cameroon-is-a-good-counterterrorism-partner-but-us-cannot-ignore-alleged-atrocities-says-africom-head/.

[6] Joshua Hammer, “Hunting Boko Haram: The U.S. Extends Its Drone War Deeper Into Africa With Secretive Base,” The Intercept (blog), February 25, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/us-extends-drone-war-deeper-into-africa-with-secretive-base/.

[7] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon’s Rival Separatist Groups Clash, Kill Fighters,” VOA, February 16, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/cameroon-s-rival-separatist-groups-clash-kill-fighters-/6444121.html.

[8] Browne, “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.”

[9] Jenni Marsh, “China Just Quietly Wrote off a Chunk of Cameroon’s Debt. Why the Secrecy?,” CNN, February 4, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/04/china/cameroon-china-debt-relief-intl/index.html.

[10] Xinhua, “From Blueprint to Reality, China-Africa Cooperation Bearing Rich Fruit,” From blueprint to reality, China-Africa cooperation bearing rich fruit, September 5, 2019, http://www.news.cn/english/2021-09/05/c_1310169378.htm.

Assessment Papers Cameroon Civil War United States

Assessing the Foundation of Future U.S. Multi-Domain Operations

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. The author thanks David E. Johnson for helpful comments on an earlier draft. 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 Foundation of Future U.S. Multi-Domain Operations 

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 14, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   The author believes that U.S. adversaries pose a greater threat if they outpace the U.S. in both technological development and integration.

Summary:  Both U.S. Joint Forces and potential adversaries are trying to exploit technology to lock in advantage across all domains. Through extensive human-machine teaming and better ability to exploit both initiative (the human quality augmented by AI/ML) and non-linearity, Army/Joint forces will lose the fight unless they perform better, even if only marginally better, than adversaries – especially at the operational level. 

Text:  The 2018 U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) 2028 is a future operational concept – not doctrine – and not limited to fielded forces and capabilities[1]. A future operational concept consists of a “problem set,” a “solution set,” and an explanation for why the solution set successfully addresses the problem set[2]. Since 2018, there have been ongoing debates about what MDO are – whether they are revamped AirLand Battle or they are a next evolution of joint operations[3]. Before the Army finishes translating the concept into doctrine, a relook at MDO through historical, theoretical, and doctrinal lenses is necessary. 

The historical context is the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the Korean War, and the European and Pacific Theaters of World War Two. The theoretical basis includes Clausewitzian war, combined arms, attrition, and Maneuver Warfare. The doctrinal basis includes not just AirLand Battle, but also AirLand Battle – Future (ALB–F), Non-Linear Operations, and the 2012 Capstone Concept for Joint Operations. ALB–F was meant to replace AirLand Battle as the Army’s operational concept for the 1990s, before the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union interrupted its development. Never incorporated into Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, ALB–F emphasized the nonlinear battlefield and conceived of combat operations through information-based technologies[4]. 

This assessment presupposes the possibility of great power war, defines potential enemies as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Russian Armed Forces, assumes the centrality of major theater operations, and accepts that the Army/Joint force may still have to operate in smaller-scale contingencies and against enemy forces that represent subsets of the PLA and Russian Armed Forces. By assuming the PLA and Russian Armed Forces, this conceptual examination is grounded in the characteristics of opposing joint forces, mechanized maneuver, and primarily area fires. 

The Army/Joint force faces a core problem at each level of war. At the strategic level, the problem is preclusion, i.e., potential adversaries will use instruments of national power to achieve strategic objectives before the U.S./coalition leaders have the opportunity to respond[5]. At the operational level, the central problem is exclusion[6]. Anti-access/area denial is just one part of operational exclusion. Potential adversaries will use military power to split combined/joint forces and deny U.S./coalition ability to maneuver and mass. The tactical problem is dissolution. By exploiting advantages at the strategic and operational levels, potential adversaries will shape tactical engagements to be close-to-even fights (and potentially uneven fights in their favor), causing attrition and attempting to break U.S./coalition morale, both in fighting forces and among civilian populations. 

The best area to focus conceptual effort combines the determination of alliance/coalition security objectives of the strategic level of warfare with the design of campaigns and major operations of the operational level of warfare. The Army/Joint force will only indirectly influence the higher strategic-policy level. The problem of preclusion will be addressed by national-multinational policy level decisions. The tactical level of warfare and its attendant problems will remain largely the same as they have been since 1917[7]. If Army/Joint forces are not able to win campaigns at the operational level and support a viable military strategy that is in concert with higher level strategy and policy, the outcomes in great power war (and other major theater wars) will remain in doubt. 

The fundamentals of operational warfare have not changed substantially, but the means available have shrunk in capacity, become outdated, capabilities have atrophied, and understanding has become confused. Today’s Unified Land Operations (ULO) doctrine is, not surprisingly, a product of full-dimensional and full-spectrum operations, which were themselves primarily informed by a geopolitical landscape free of great power threats. Applying ULO or even earlier ALB solution sets to great power threats will prove frustrating, or possibly even disastrous in war. 

Given the primary operational problem of contesting exclusion by peer-adversary joint and mechanized forces, using various forms of multi-system operations, future Army/Joint forces will have to move under constant threat of attack, “shoot” at various ranges across multiple domain boundaries, and communicate faster and more accurately than the enemy. One way to look at the operational demands listed above is to see them as parts of command and control warfare (C2). C2 warfare, which has probably always been part of military operations, has emerged much more clearly since Napoleonic warfare[8]. Looking to the future, C2 warfare will probably evolve into something like “C4ISR warfare” with the advent of more automation, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep neural networks. 

With technological advances, every force – or “node,” i.e., any ship, plane, or battalion – is able to act as “sensor,” “shooter,” and “communicator.” Command and control is a blend of intuition, creativity, and machine-assisted intelligence. Maximum exploitation of computing at the edge, tactical intranets (communication/data networks that grow and shrink depending on their AI-/ML-driven sensing of the environment), on-board deep data analysis, and laser/quantum communications will provide the technological edge leaders need to win tactical fights through initiative and seizing the offense. Tactical intranets are also self-defending. Army/Joint forces prioritize advancement of an “internet of battle things” formed on self-sensing, self-organizing, and self-healing networks – the basic foundation of human-machine teaming[9]. All formations are built around cross-domain capabilities and human-machine teaming. To maximize cross-domain capabilities means that Army/Joint forces will accept the opportunities and vulnerabilities of non-linear operations. Linear warfare and cross-domain warfare are at odds. 

Future major operations are cross-domain. So campaigns are built out of airborne, air assault, air-ground and air-sea-ground attack, amphibious, and cyber-ground strike operations – all enabled by space warfare. This conception of MDO allows service forces to leverage unique historical competencies, such as Navy’s Composite Warfare Commander concept and the Air Force’s concept of multi-domain operations between air, cyberspace, and space. The MDO idea presented here may also be seen – loosely – as a way to scale up DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare concept[10]. To scale MDO to the operational level against the potential adversaries will also require combined forces for coalition warfare. 

MDO is an evolution of geopolitics, technology, and the character of war – and it will only grow out of a complete and clear-eyed assessment of the same. Army/Joint forces require a future operational concept to expeditiously address emerging DOTMLPF-P demands. This idea of MDO could create a formidable Army/Joint force but it cannot be based on superiority, let alone supremacy. Great power war holds out the prospects for massive devastation and Army/Joint forces for MDO are only meant to deter sufficiently (not perfectly). Great power war will still be extended in time and scale, and Army/Joint forces for MDO are principally meant to help ensure the final outcome is never substantially in doubt. 


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Training and Doctrine Command, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 (Fort Eustis, VA: Government Printing Office, 2018). 

[2] U.S. Department of the Army, TRADOC Pamphlet 71-20-3, The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Concept Development Guide (Fort Eustis, VA: Headquarters, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, December 6, 2011), 5–6. 

[3] See Dennis Wille, “The Army and Multi-Domain Operations: Moving Beyond AirLand Battle,” New America website, October 1, 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/army-and-multi-domain-operations-moving-beyond-airland-battle/; and Scott King and Dennis B. Boykin IV, “Distinctly Different Doctrine: Why Multi-Domain Operations Isn’t AirLand Battle 2.0,” Association of the United States Army website, February 20, 2019, https://www.ausa.org/articles/distinctly-different-doctrine-why-multi-domain-operations-isn’t-airland-battle-20. 

[4] Stephen Silvasy Jr., “AirLand Battle Future: The Tactical Battlefield,” Military Review 71, no. 2 (1991): 2–12. Also see Jeff W. Karhohs, AirLand Battle–Future—A Hop, Skip, or Jump? (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, 1990). 

[5] This of course reverses what the Army identified as a U.S. advantage – strategic preclusion – in doctrinal debates from the late 1990s. See James Riggins and David E. Snodgrass, “Halt Phase Plus Strategic Preclusion: Joint Solution for a Joint Problem,” Parameters 29, no. 3 (1999): 70–85. 

[6] U.S. Joint Forces Command, Major Combat Operations Joint Operating Concept, Version 2.0 (Norfolk, VA: Department of Defense, December 2006), 49–50. The idea of operational exclusion was also used by David Fastabend when he was Deputy Director, TRADOC Futures Center in the early 2000s. 

[7] World War I was a genuine military revolution. The follow-on revolutionary developments, like blitzkrieg, strategic bombing, carrier warfare, amphibious assaults, and information warfare, seem to be essentially operational level changes. See Williamson Murray, “Thinking About Revolutions in Military Affairs,” Joint Force Quarterly 16 (Summer 1997): 69–76. 

[8] See Dan Struble, “What Is Command and Control Warfare?” Naval War College Review 48, no. 3 (1995): 89–98. C2 warfare is variously defined and explained, but perhaps most significantly, it is generally included within broader maneuver warfare theory. 

[9] Alexander Kott, Ananthram Swami, and Bruce J. West, “The Internet of Battle Things,” Computer: The IEEE Computer Society 49, no, 12 (2016): 70–75. 

[10] Theresa Hitchens, “DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare — Multi Domain Ops, But Faster,” Breaking Defense website, September 10, 2019, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/09/darpas-mosaic-warfare-multi-domain-ops-but-faster/. 

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons United States

Options to Mitigate Cognitive Threats

John Chiment is a strategic threat intelligence analyst and has supported efforts across the Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the LinQuest Corporation, any of LinQuest’s subsidiaries or parents, or the U.S. 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:  Cognitive attacks target the defender’s ability to accurately perceive the battlespace and react appropriately. If successful, these attacks may permit an attacker to defeat better equipped or positioned defenders. Defenders who deploy defenses poorly matched against the incoming threat – either due to mischaracterizing that threat or by rushing to respond – likely will suffer greater losses. Mitigation strategies for cognitive attacks all carry risks.

Date Originally Written:  January 31, 2022.

Date Originally Published:   March 7, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an American threat intelligence analyst with time in uniform, as a U.S. government civilian, and as a DoD contractor. 

Background:  Effectively countering an attack requires the defender to detect its existence, recognize the danger posed, decide on a course of action, and implement that action before the attack completes its engagement. An attacker can improve the odds of a successful strike by increasing the difficulty in each of these steps (via stealth, speed, deception, saturation, etc.) while defenders can improve their chances through preparation, awareness, and technical capabilities. Correct detection and characterization of a threat enables decision-makers to decide which available defense is the most appropriate. 

Significance:  A defender deploying a suboptimal or otherwise inappropriate defense benefits the attacker. Attackers who target the defender’s understanding of the incoming attack and their decision-making process may prompt defenders to select inappropriate defenses. Technological superiority – long a goal of western militaries – may be insufficient against such cognitive manipulations that target human decision-making processes rather than the capabilities the defender controls.

Option #1:  Defenders increase their number of assets collecting Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data in order to more rapidly detect threats.

Risk:  Increasing ISR data collection consumes industrial and financial resources and may worsen relationships with other powers and the general public. Increasing collection may also overwhelm analytic capabilities by providing too much data [1].

Gain:  Event detection begins the defender’s process and earlier detection permits the defender to develop more options in subsequent stages. By increasing the number of ISR assets that can begin the defender’s decision-making process, the defender increases their opportunities to select an appropriate defense.

Option #2:  The defender increases the number of assets capable of analyzing information in order to more rapidly identify the threat.

Risk:  Increasing the number of assets capable of accurately processing, exploiting, and disseminating (PED) information consumes intellectual and financial resources. Threat characterization decisions can also be targeted in the same ways as defense deployment decisions [2].

Gain:   A larger network of available PED analysts may better address localized spikes in attacks, more evenly distribute stress among analysts and analytic networks within supporting agencies, and lower the risk of mischaracterizing threats, likely improving decision-maker’s chances of selecting an appropriate defense.

Option #3:  The defender automates defense deployment decisions in order to rapidly respond with a defense.

Risk:  Automated systems may possess exploitable logical flaws that can be targeted in much the same way as defender’s existing decision-making process. Automated systems operate at greater speeds, limiting opportunities for the defender to detect and correct inappropriate decisions [3].

Gain:  Automated systems operate at high speed and may mitigate time lost to late detection or initial mischaracterization of threats. Automating decisions also reduces the immediate cognitive load on the defender by permitting defensive software designers to explore and plan for complex potentials without the stress of an incoming attack.

Option #4:  The defender increases the number of assets authorized to make defense deployment decisions in order to more likely select an appropriate defense.

Risk:  Increasing the available pool of authorized decision-makers consumes communication bandwidth and financial resources. Larger communication networks have larger attack surfaces and increase the risk of both data leaks and attackers maliciously influencing decisions into far-off engagements. Attacking the network segment may produce delays resulting in defenders not deploying appropriate defenses in time [4].

Gain:  A larger network of authorized decision-makers may better address localized spikes in attacks, more evenly distribute stress among decision-making personnel, and lower the risk of rushed judgements that may prompt inappropriate defense deployments.

Option #5:  The defender trains authorized decision-makers to operate at higher cognitive loads in order to more likely select an appropriate defense.

Risk:  Attackers likely can increase attacks and overwhelm even extremely well-trained decision-makers.  As such, this option is a short-term solution. Increasing the cognitive load on an already limited resource pool likely will increase burnout rates, lowering the overall supply of experienced decision-makers [5].

Gain:  Improving decision-maker training can likely be achieved with minimal new investments as it focusses on better utilization of existing resources.

Option #6:  The defender prepositions improved defenses and defense response options in order to better endure attacks regardless of decision-making timelines.

Risk:  Prepositioned defenses and response options consume logistical and financial resources. Actions made prior to conflict risk being detected and planned for by adversaries, reducing their potential value. Rarely used defenses have maintenance costs that can be difficult to justify [6].

Gain:  Prepositioned defenses may mitigate attacks not detected before impact by improving the targeted asset’s overall endurance, and attackers knowledgeable of the defender’s defensive capabilities and response options may be deterred or slowed when pursuing goals that will now have to contend with the defender’s assets.

Other Comments:  Risks to the decision-making processes cannot be fully avoided. Options #3 and #6 attempt to make decisions before any cognitive attacks target decision-makers while Options #2 and #4 attempt to mitigate cognitive attack impact by spreading the load across a larger pool of assets. Options #1 and #2 may permit decision-makers to make better decisions earlier in an active attack while Option #5 attempts to improve the decision-making abilities of existing decision-makers. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Krohley, N. (2017, 24 October). The Intelligence Cycle is Broken. Here’s How To Fix It. Modern Warfare Institute at West Point. https://mwi.usma.edu/intelligence-cycle-broken-heres-fix/

[2] Corona, I., Giancinto, G., & Roli, F. (2013, 1 August). Adversarial attacks against intrusion detection systems: Taxonomy, solutions and open issues. Information Sciences, 239, 201-225. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ins.2013.03.022

[3] Eykholt, K., Evtimov, I., Fernandes, E., Li, B., Rahmati, A. Xiao, C., Prakash, A., Kohno, T., & Song, D. (2018). Robust Physical-World Attacks on Deep Learning Visual Classification [Paper Presentation]. Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. https://arxiv.org/abs/1707.08945v5

[4] Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2016, 21 December). Countering Threat Networks (JP 3-25). https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_25.pdf

[5] Larsen, R. P. (2001). Decision Making by Military Students Under Severe Stress. Military Psychology, 13(2), 89-98. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327876MP1302_02

[6] Gerritz, C. (2018, 1 February). Special Report: Defense in Depth is a Flawed Cyber Strategy. Cyber Defense Magazine. https://www.cyberdefensemagazine.com/special-report-defense-in-depth-is-a-flawed-cyber-strategy/

Cyberspace Influence Operations Information and Intelligence John Chiment Option Papers

Assessing China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

John Guerrero is currently serving in the Indo-Pacific region. 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 China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

Date Originally Written:  February 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 28, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is currently serving in the Indo-Pacific region.  The author believes that China is more mature than the U.S. in projecting force in the cognitive space. This increased maturity is largely due to the China’s insistence on operating outside of the rules-based system. 

Summary:  China has largely been effective in pursuing their national interests through cognitive threats. In this cognitive space, China influences public opinion through propaganda, disinformation campaigns, censorship, and controlling critical nodes of information flow.  China’s understanding of U.S. politics, and its economic strength, will enable it to continue threatening U.S. national security. 

Text:  China is pursuing its national interests through its effective employment of cognitive threats- efforts undertaken to manipulate an adversary’s perceptions to achieve a national security objective. Cognitive threats generally include psychological warfare which target the enemy’s decision-making calculus causing him to doubt himself and make big blunders. Psychological warfare also includes strategic deception, diplomatic pressure, rumor, false narratives, and harassment[1].  Chinese actions illustrate their use of all of the above.  

The cognitive threat area illustrates the disparity between U.S. defensive efforts and China’s offensive actions below the threshold of war. The United States remains wedded to the state-versus-state construct that has kept strategists occupied since 1945. The stave-versus-state construct is antiquated and the commitment to it hamstrings the U.S. from pursuing more effective options.

China’s efforts in the cognitive space  exceed any other state. China understands the importance of influencing its competitors’ thinking. There are four lines of effort in China’s pursuit of favorable global public opinion. China aims to influence public opinion through propaganda, disinformation campaigns, censorship, and controlling critical nodes of information flow[2].

Globalization complicates problems in the cognitive space. Globalization creates opportunities, but it also creates multiple areas a nefarious actor can exploit. Corporations, as an example, are multi-national and have influence across borders. There are clear incentives for corporations to transact with the Chinese market. Chinese exposure for a corporation oftentimes translates into an uptick in revenue. However, there are consequences. Corporations are “expected to bend, and even violate, their interests and values when the Party demands[3].”

China’s reach into the United States is vast. One area of significant importance is the American pension plan. American pensioners are “underwriting their own demise” by contributing to their retirement accounts that may be tied to China[4]. Planning a financially stable future is noble, but it is not without unforeseen consequences. There are 248 corporations of Chinese origin listed on American stock exchanges[5]. The Chinese government enjoys significant influence over these corporations through their program called “Military-Civil Fusion[6].” Many index funds available to Americans include Chinese corporations. China’s economic strengths facilitate censorship over dissenters and any information aimed at painting the government in an unfavorable light. In another example of China’s expansive reach, they have recently placed an advertisement on digital billboards in Times Square attempting to sway onlookers into their favor[7].

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) understands that while global opinion is important, they cannot ignore domestic public opinion. Despite reports on their treatment of ethnic minorities[8], the Party continues to push the idea that they enjoy “political stability, ethnic unity and social stability[9].” China’s domestic news agencies critical to Party and Party leadership are few and far between. There are incentives to march to the Party’s tune- corporate survival.  

China’s efforts, and the U.S. response, in cognitive threats will progress along the four lines of effort discussed. China’s economic strength enables their strategic efforts to sway global public opinion in their favor. Few state, and non-state, actors can do this at this scale, but it does not preclude them from partaking. These smaller states, and non-states, will serve as proxies for China. 

China understands U.S. domestic politics. This understanding is critical to their national interests. The current state of U.S. domestic politics is divisive and presents opportunities for China. For example, China has exploited the U.S. media’s coverage of brutal treatment by law enforcement officers on Americans. China widens the division between Americans over these tragic events and accuses the United States of hypocrisy[10]. 

China is attempting to control, curate, and censor information for Americans and the world. Hollywood is the latest node of influence. “China has leveraged its market to exert growing influence over exported U.S. films, censoring content that could cast China in a negative light and demanding the addition of scenes that glorify the country[11].” Movies are not the full extent of Hollywood’s reach and influence. Celebrities active on social media could be advancing China’s interests and influence unknowingly. China’s adversaries, peer governments, aren’t the target of these cognitive threats. Rather, they target the ordinary citizen. In a democratic government, the ordinary citizen is the center of gravity- a fact the Chinese know very well. 

The cognitive threat arena is dynamic and evolves at a staggering pace. Technological advancements, while beneficial, presents opportunities for exploitation. The PRC continues to advance their footprint in this space. This is dangerous as it has far-reaching effects on the United States and its ability to pursue its national interests. Strategists should keep a watchful eye at how this pervasive and omnipresent threat progresses. These threats will continue to influence future conflicts.  


Endnotes:

[1] Sean McFate, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, First edition (New York, NY: William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2019).

[2] Sarah Cook, “China’s Global Media Footprint,” National Endowment for Democracy, February 2021, 24.

[3] Luke A. Patey, How China Loses: The Pushback against Chinese Global Ambitions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).

[4] Joe Rogan, “General H.R. McMaster,” accessed January 27, 2022, https://open.spotify.com/episode/2zVnXIoC5w9ZkkQAmWOIbJ?si=p1PD8RaZR7y1fA0S8FcyFw.

[5] “Chinese Companies Listed on Major U.S. Stock Exchanges” (Washington, DC: U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, May 13, 2021), https://www.uscc.gov/research/chinese-companies-listed-major-us-stock-exchanges.

[6] U.S. Department of State, “Military-Civil Fusion and the People’s Republic of China” (Department of State, 2021 2017), https://2017-2021.state.gov/military-civil-fusion/index.html.

[7] Eva Fu, “Chinese State Media Uses Times Square Screen to Play Xinjiang Propaganda,” http://www.theepochtimes.com, January 7, 2022, https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinese-state-media-uses-times-square-screen-to-play-xinjiang-propaganda_4200206.html.

[8] Adrian Zenz, “Uighurs in Xinjiang Targeted by Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans, Chinese Documents Show,” News Media, Foreign Policy, July 1, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/01/china-documents-uighur-genocidal-sterilization-xinjiang/.

[9] PRC Government, “China’s National Defense in the New Era” (The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, July 2019), https://armywarcollege.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-25289-dt-announcement-rid-963503_1/courses/19DE910001D2/China-White%20Paper%20on%20National%20Defense%20in%20a%20New%20Era.pdf.

[10] Paul D. Shinkman, “China Leverages George Floyd Protests Against Trump, U.S. | World Report | US News,” June 9, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2020-06-09/china-leverages-george-floyd-protests-against-trump-us.

[11] Gabriela Sierra, “China’s Starring Role in Hollywood,” accessed January 28, 2022, https://www.cfr.org/podcasts/chinas-starring-role-hollywood.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Influence Operations John Guerrero United States

Call for Papers: Societal, Organizational, and Personal Impacts of 2001-2021 National Security Decisions

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Societal, Organizational, and Personal Impacts of 2001-2021 National Security Decisions.

National security decisions made from 2001-2021 impacted both the victors and the vanquished.  Let’s talk about those impacts.  Below is a list of prompts that may inspire potential writers:

Societal:  Assess the impact of small unit technology developed during 2001-2021 becoming available to private citizens.

Societal:  Assess the impact of broad legislative authorities for the use of military force on future national security situations.

Societal:   Asses the impact of an authorization for the use of military force being used instead of a war declaration following the 9/11 attacks.

Organizational:  Provide options for the military recruiting process to assess mental resiliency to try to build a force that is less susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Organizational:  Assess how rapid unit growth to meet combat demands negatively impacted that unit’s traditional mission / skill set.

Organizational:  Assess how years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism campaigns negatively impacted the military’s ability to fight a near-peer competitor or perform any other missions.

Personal:  Assess how your service from 2001-2021 has personally impacted you.

Personal:  Assess how your service from 2001-2021 has impacted your professional group.

Personal:  Assess how your service from 2001-2021 has impacted your family.

– Personal:  Assess whether, knowing what you know now, you would do it again?

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 10, 2022.

Call For Papers

Assessing China’s Strategy to “Hide Capabilities and Bide Time”

Michael Losacco is a former active-duty U.S. Army officer who served in Afghanistan in 2017. He currently studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service where he focuses on U.S. National Security Policy and China relations. He can be found on Twitter @mplosacco. 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 China’s Strategy to “Hide Capabilities and Bide Time”

Date Originally Written:  January 20, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 21, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   The author is a former U.S. Army combat arms officer who served in South Asia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Security Studies at Georgetown University. 

Summary:  Since 2008, China has emerged on the world stage as a global power. Its growth within the political, economic, and military domains in international affairs has caught the world off guard. China’s success resulted from efforts undertaken to manipulate perceptions in Washington D.C., known as “hiding capabilities and biding time,” to achieve its core national security objectives.

Text:  China has made major achievements in its economic, military, and political development. With a gross domestic product rising from 54 trillion to 80 trillion yuan, it has maintained its position as the world’s second-largest economy[1]. Militarily, the Peoples Liberation Army has increased its ability to implement a sea-control strategy in the Indo-Pacific by implementing new technology and structural reform. Politically and economically, China has created a favorable external environment through the Belt and Road Initiative and regional institutions. China’s core national security objective—to achieve a “community of common destiny”—drives its success[2].  Under this objective, Western powers do not dictate, influence, or shape China’s political, economic, or security domains.

China’s current success resulted from a deception strategy pursued at the end of the Cold War, designed to manipulate Chinese threat perceptions in Washington. This deception campaign kept U.S. attention away from China, while it focused on building its economic and political might at home. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S. was the only superpower in the international system. If there was any perception that China wanted to challenge this status, the U.S. would have likely intervened and stopped it. As a result, it was in China’s interest to divert attention and mask its successes on the world stage.  

To understand China’s deception strategy, the reader must first consider the game-theory scenario of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma, Robert Jervis, Ph.D. explains the Prisoner’s Dilemma as an individual’s decision, after being arrested, on whether to cooperate with their co-prisoner and remain loyal or defect and testify on behalf of law enforcement[3]. Each choice can lead to varying levels of reward and punishment and is further compounded by the other party’s choice. Notably, neither prisoner is aware of the other’s intentions and, thus, fear of being exploited drives the decision-making process. 

Important to this decision-making process is how vulnerable the prisoner feels. Specifically, how each prisoner perceives the other prisoner’s likelihood to cooperate or defect. While neither prisoner will likely know the other’s true intentions, the perception of the other, based on previous history and actions, is critical in predicting the outcome of the dilemma. 

For example, if Prisoner A is predisposed to see Prisoner B as an adversary, Prisoner A will react more strongly and quickly than if either saw the other as benign. In this scenario, Prisoner A is more likely to readily testify against Prisoner B, capitalizing on the benefits of cooperating with law enforcement. Conversely, if perceptions stay hidden or are unknown, the playing field is equal, and neither prisoner can utilize their knowledge to take advantage of the other.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma directly reflects the strategy China pursued at the end of the Cold War. After the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Gulf War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, China went from viewing the U.S. as a potential partner to a potential adversary[4]. China knew it could not become powerful if it was perceived as a growing threat in Washington because the U.S. would intervene—economically, or perhaps militarily—to prevent it from challenging its position as a global hegemon. Thus, China began a deception campaign across political, military, and economic domains, coined under the phrase “hiding capabilities and biding time.” This campaign sought to mask growth and prevent the U.S. from predisposing China as an adversary. 

China focused on avoiding a security dilemma with the U.S. in the military domain by prioritizing its military strategy on sea denial, whereby China denies the enemy’s ability to use the sea without necessarily attempting to control the sea for its own use[4]. Sea denial was an inexpensive way to avoid setting off alarms and prevent the U.S. from traversing or intervening in the waters near China. China invested in inexpensive asymmetrical weapons such as the world’s largest mine arsenal, the world’s first anti-ship missile, and the world’s largest anti-submarine fleet. Compared to sea control, these efforts avoided a strategy focused on holding distant maritime territory that would raise concern in Washington. 

At the political level, China sought to join regional institutions to inhibit Washington from building an Asian order that could prevent China from growing[4]. China joined organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Asian Nations Regional Forum under the guise that it was open to transitioning to the liberal order, with a hidden agenda to blunt American power. China’s membership in these organizations allowed it to stall progress, wield institutional rules to constrain U.S. freedom to maneuver, and persuade worried neighbors that a U.S. balancing coalition was not its only option. 

China moved to couple at the economic level rather than decoupling from U.S. economic institutions[4]. Recognizing its dependence on the U.S. market, and that a strategy of decoupling would weaken China and raise alarm, China sought to strengthen its economic relationship with the U.S. and lobby for the removal of annual congressional renewal of Most Favored Nation status. By eliminating this procedural rule and making it permanent, China was able to expand investment opportunities and strengthen economic and trade exchanges, while deconstructing potential economic leverage that could be imposed by the U.S., particularly with trade sanctions, tariffs, and technology restrictions.  

In sum, China’s path to sustained growth required a strategy that masked its true intent to become a great power. By “hiding capabilities and biding time,” China simultaneously grew politically, economically, and militarily, while avoiding actions that could lead to U.S. suspicions. Like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, China understood that if the U.S. became predisposed to think China had ulterior motives to become a power and challenge the U.S., the U.S. would have intervened and taken advantage of China’s weakened state following the Cold War. Thus, China’s ability to manipulate its adversary’s perceptions was critical to achieving its core national security objectives. 


Endnotes:

[1] Jinping, X. (2017). 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era (pp. 1–6). Beijing. 

[2] Rolland, N. (2020). (Rep.). China’s Vision for a New World Order (83rd ed., pp. 35–41). Seattle, WA: The National Bureau of Asian Research.

[3] Jervis, R. (1978). Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma. World Politics, 30(2), 167–214. https://doi.org/10.2307/2009958.

[4] Doshi, R. (2021). Introduction. In The Long Game (pp. 11–12). Essay, Oxford University Press. 

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Michael Losacco

Options to Address Disinformation as a Cognitive Threat to the United States

Joe Palank is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he leads a Psychological Operations Detachment. He has also previously served as an assistant to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. He can be found on Twitter at @JoePalank. 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:  Disinformation as a cognitive threat poses a risk to the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  January 17, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 14, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Army Reservist specializing in psychological operations and information operations. He has also worked on political campaigns and for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He has studied psychology, political communications, disinformation, and has Masters degrees in Political Management and in Public Policy, focusing on national security.

Background:  Disinformation as a non-lethal weapon for both state and non-state actors is nothing new.  However the rise of the internet age and social media, paired with cultural change in the U.S., has given this once fringe capability new salience. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations pose the most pervasive and significant risks to the United States through their increasingly weaponized use of disinformation[1]. 

Significance:  Due to the nature of disinformation, this cognitive threat poses a risk to U.S. foreign and domestic policy-making, undercuts a foundational principle of democracy, and has already caused significant disruption to the U.S. political process. Disinformation can be used tactically alongside military operations, operationally to shape the information environment within a theater of conflict, and strategically by potentially sidelining the U.S. or allies from joining international coalitions.

Option #1:  The U.S. focuses domestically. 

The U.S. could combat the threat of disinformation defensively, by looking inward, and take a two-pronged approach to prevent the effects of disinformation. First, the U.S. could adopt new laws and policies to make social media companies—the primary distributor of disinformation—more aligned with U.S. national security objectives related to disinformation. The U.S. has an asymmetric advantage in serving as the home to the largest social media companies, but thus far has treated those platforms with the same laissez faire approach other industries enjoy. In recent years, these companies have begun to fight disinformation, but they are still motivated by profits, which are in turn motivated by clicks and views, which disinformation can increase[2]. Policy options might include defining disinformation and passing a law making the deliberate spread of disinformation illegal or holding social media platforms accountable for the spread of disinformation posted by their users.

Simultaneously, the U.S. could embark on widescale media literacy training for its populace. Raising awareness of disinformation campaigns, teaching media consumers how to vet information for authenticity, and educating them on the biases within media and our own psychology is an effective line of defense against disinformation[3]. In a meta-analysis of recommendations for improving awareness of disinformation, improved media literacy training was the single most common suggestion among experts[4]. Equipping the end users to be able to identify real, versus fake, news would render most disinformation campaigns ineffective.

Risk:  Legal – the United States enjoys a nearly pure tradition of “free speech” which may prevent the passage of laws combatting disinformation.

Political – Passing laws holding individuals criminally liable for speech, even disinformation, would be assuredly unpopular. Additionally, cracking down on social media companies, who are both politically powerful and broadly popular, would be a political hurdle for lawmakers concerned with re-election. 

Feasibility –  Media literacy training would be expensive and time-consuming to implement at scale, and the same U.S. agencies that currently combat disinformation are ill-equipped to focus on domestic audiences for broad-scale educational initiatives.

Gain:  A U.S. public that is immune to disinformation would make for a healthier polity and more durable democracy, directly thwarting some of the aims of disinformation campaigns, and potentially permanently. Social media companies that are more heavily regulated would drastically reduce the dissemination of disinformation campaigns worldwide, benefiting the entire liberal economic order.

Option #2:  The U.S. focuses internationally. 

Strategically, the U.S. could choose to target foreign suppliers of disinformation. This targeting is currently being done tactically and operationally by U.S. DoD elements, the intelligence community, and the State Department. That latter agency also houses the coordinating mechanism for the country’s handling of disinformation, the Global Engagement Center, which has no actual tasking authority within the Executive Branch. A similar, but more aggressive agency, such as the proposed Malign Foreign Influence Response Center (MFIRC), could literally bring the fight to purveyors of disinformation[5]. 

The U.S. has been slow to catch up to its rivals’ disinformation capabilities, responding to disinformation campaigns only occasionally, and with a varied mix of sanctions, offensive cyber attacks, and even kinetic strikes (only against non-state actors)[6]. National security officials benefit from institutional knowledge and “playbooks” for responding to various other threats to U.S. sovereignty or the liberal economic order. These playbooks are valuable for responding quickly, in-kind, and proportionately, while also giving both sides “off-ramps” to de-escalate. An MFIRC could develop playbooks for disinformation and the institutional memory for this emerging type of warfare. Disinformation campaigns are popular among U.S. adversaries due to the relative capabilities advantage they enjoy, as well as for their low costs, both financially and diplomatically[7]. Creating a basket of response options lends itself to the national security apparatus’s current capabilities, and poses fewer legal and political hurdles than changing U.S. laws that infringe on free speech. Moreover, an MFIRC would make the U.S. a more equal adversary in this sphere and raise the costs to conduct such operations, making them less palatable options for adversaries.

Risk:  Geopolitical – Disinformation via the internet is still a new kind of warfare; responding disproportionately carries a significant risk of escalation, possibly turning a meme into an actual war.

Effectiveness – Going after the suppliers of disinformation could be akin to a whack-a-mole game, constantly chasing the next threat without addressing the underlying domestic problems.

Gain:  Adopting this approach would likely have faster and more obvious effects. A drone strike to Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s headquarters, for example, would send a very clear message about how seriously the U.S. takes disinformation. At relatively little cost and time—more a shifting of priorities and resources—the U.S. could significantly blunt its adversaries’ advantages and make disinformation prohibitively expensive to undertake at scale.

Other Comments:  There is no reason why both options could not be pursued simultaneously, save for costs or political appetite.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Nemr, C. & Gangware, W. (2019, March). Weapons of Mass Distraction: Foreign State-Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age. Park Advisors. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://2017-2021.state.gov/weapons-of-mass-distraction-foreign-state-sponsored-disinformation-in-the-digital-age/index.html 

[2] Cerini, M. (2021, December 22). Social media companies beef up promises, but still fall short on climate disinformation. Fortune.com. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://fortune.com/2021/12/22/climate-change-disinformation-misinformation-social-media/

[3] Kavanagh, J. & Rich, M.D. (2018) Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/t/RR2314

[4] Helmus, T. & Keep, M. (2021). A Compendium of Recommendations for Countering Russian and Other State-Sponsored Propaganda. Research Report. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA894-1.html

[5] Press Release. (2020, February 14). Following Passage of their Provision to Establish a Center to Combat Foreign Influence Campaigns, Klobuchar, Reed Ask Director of National Intelligence for Progress Report on Establishment of the Center. Office of Senator Amy Klobuchar. https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/2/following-passage-of-their-provision-to-establish-a-center-to-combat-foreign-influence-campaigns-klobuchar-reed-ask-director-of-national-intelligence-for-progress-report-on-establishment-of-the-center

[6] Goldman, A. & Schmitt, E. (2016, November 24). One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program. New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/middleeast/isis-recruiters-social-media.html

[7] Stricklin, K. (2020, March 29). Why Does Russia Use Disinformation? Lawfare. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.lawfareblog.com/why-does-russia-use-disinformation

Cyberspace Influence Operations Information and Intelligence Joe Palank Option Papers Social Media United States

Assessing Strategy and Organized Crime

Juan Manuel Perez has served in the Guatemalan Army. He presently is retired. Throughout his military career, he took various military training courses as part of his professionalization including Strategic High Studies, War College, Command and Staff College, Human Rights, and Peacekeeping Operations. He can be found on Twitter @r_juanmanuel. 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 Strategy and Organized Crime

Date Originally Written:  September 15, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  February 7, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author is a retired military member. He believes the deep understanding of strategic theory helps people educate and discipline their thinking to align ends, ways, and means to protect national interests. 

Summary:  Organized crime organizations have stablished a global criminal system.  This influence and power wielded by this system has allowed them to damage the geopolitics, economic, social, and security situation in many countries. The deep understanding of both the threats posed by organized crime organizations, and the capabilities and limitations of strategy, will assure effectiveness when fighting these criminal organizations.

Text:  Illicit money is serious and appealing to criminals. Criminal activities pursuing illicit money progressively scale into criminal networks.  Drug trafficking also enables a criminal modality, establishing the core of organized groups where gangs, maras, and mafias play a starring role. 

The tracking and detection of illegal money into legal economies is a challenge.  Governments struggle to disrupt and cut off illicit capital flows.  This evil advances and progresses between a legal and illegal economy, resulting in a large-scale global network with geopolitical and geostrategic repercussions.  These criminal networks embedded into the financial system become practically undetectable, using technology, artificial intelligence, big data, social media, modern transportation, etc. to conceal and protect their activities[1].   

Criminal networks use geography to their advantage.  Robert D. Kaplan, in his book “The Revenge of Geography[2]” wrote about what the maps predict regarding coming conflicts and the battle against fate. In this sense, the mafia uses geography when it moves illicit shipments, controls multiple regions, zones, and places. The mafia’s global effect and quick process of replacement allow criminal partners to generate new routes and maps, and increase their criminal activity, including the movement and sale of illegal drugs.

The flow of illegal drugs is and will continue to be a critical social problem.  The use of drugs fuels the traffic of them leaving death and violence in its path.  American researchers Edwin Stier and Peter Richards write widely and rigorously about organized crime and point out its evolution in three fields of action.  Stier and Richards make an analogy of biological functions of living beings, where they describe the structural causes and reasons of gestation and development[3]. 

The first phase:  called the predatory phase, is the beginning and characterized by territorial reaffirmation of criminal groups that spread their power through violence, trying to defend their organizations, eliminate rivals, and gaining physical space and to hold their private monopoly on the use of force.  

The second phase:  called the parasitic phase, sees organized crime gain notable economic and political influence combined with a powerful capacity to corrupt public and private organizations.

The third phase:  called the symbiotic phase, is the final state and sees the political and economic system becoming so dependent on the parasite (the organized crime organization) that it expands its activity to satisfy the parasites needs.

Stier and Richards’ analogy symbolizes, in many ways, the features of Hydra, the fresh-water organisms, with many heads and the ability to regrow its tentacles when maimed. 

While Colin S. Gray, one of the great strategic thinkers of his age wrote: ‘’Strategy has a complex nature and a function that is unchanging over the centuries[4]’’, the development and execution of strategy in order to fight organized crime and the threats associated to it (i.e. illegal migration, drug trafficking, cybercrime, weapons trafficking, etc.) require constant reevaluation.  Harry R. Yarger’s book “Strategic Theory for the 21st Century: The little book on big Strategy[5],” aligns well with the dynamic threat posed by organized crime organizations.  As resources or budgets (means) are always limited, it is important to invest enough time defining, designing, and developing appropriate strategic guidance to reach the desired outcome. 

Finally, organized crime has taken advantage of the pandemic, increasing their criminal activities by others means. Right now, the organized crime is an authentic threat that affects the societies, governments, states, the security of financial institutions even the functioning of democracy and the international geopolitical equilibrium.  The security, defense, and protection of the citizens will continue one of the top priorities for the states.  


Endnotes:

[1] Phil Williams, “Crime Illicit Markets, and Money Laundering”

[2] Robert D. Kaplan, “The Revenge of Geography”

[3] Edwin Stier and Peter Richards, “Strategic Decision Making in Organized Crime Control: The Need for a Broadened Perspective”

[4] Colin S. Gray, “Modern Strategy,” Oxford: Oxford University Press

[5] Harry R. Yarger, “Strategic Theory for the 21st Century: The little book on big Strategy,” https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/20753/Strategic%20Theory%20for%20the%2021st%20Century.pdf

Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Drug Trade Juan Manuel Perez

Options to Address the Risk from Elected Officials Concurrently in the National Guard or Reserves

Marshall McGurk serves in the United States Army and has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. He presently works at the Joint Readiness Training Center as a Special Operations Forces Observer-Coach/Trainer. He can be found on Twitter @MarshallMcGurk and writes for the Havok Journal website. 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:  Elected Officials who concurrently serve in the National Guard or Reserves politicize the U.S. Armed Forces.

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 31, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty U.S. Army Officer. The author believes in the responsibilities and duties of military service.  The article is written from the point of view that boundaries must be made or enforced to prevent politicization within the Armed Forces.

Background:  Currently, there are 14 members of the 117th Congress still serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. “Six House Members and one Senator are still serving in the reserves, and seven House Members are still serving in the National Guard[1].” Veteran candidates for political office and those serving while elected find themselves under increased scrutiny.  This scrutiny comes from a public with different opinions regarding the January 6, 2021 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building in response to the 2020 election, a nation no longer at war in Iraq or Afghanistan, and a crippling global pandemic that has threatened the U.S. economy and national security.  Due to these events, numerous retired military officers from O-5 to General Officer/Flag Officer rank have publicly expressed their concerns for or against previous or current U.S. Presidents[2][3].

None of the options outlined hereafter prohibit non-partisan elected or appointed service allowed by Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.”

Significance:  In light of the background and the increasing airing of grievances, having elected officials serving concurrently in the military is a national security concern. The use of military uniforms, rank-based trappings, and influence in the electoral process is ripe for exploitation by foreign intelligence services. This situation sows seeds of division among military members, could negatively affect the trust that civilians and military members place in their elected officials, and could create undue influence of rank upon military members when the ballot is cast.

There is also a waning of civilian trust in the U.S. military. A November 2021 Reagan Foundation survey found only 45% of those surveyed had a great deal of confidence in the military institution[4]. Civilian trust in the military institution is vital for national defense. Serving while in elected office may lead to conflicts of interest while developing response options to foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Option #1:  DoD Requires Elected Military Members to Enter the Individual Ready Reserve

The Department of Defense could create regulations that place elected military members or those appointed to partisan national positions in the Individual Ready Reserve, without pay, benefits, or activation, for the duration of their elected service. The strictures of DoDD 1344.10 remain in place, allowing the elected official to state their military affiliation, while also confirming the primacy of their elected position. 

Risk:  Elected officials maintaining military affiliation through the little-known Individual Ready Reserve may lead to confusion within the electorate about roles and responsibilities of their elected officials. This may also trigger conflict of interest concerns if language in the legislation does not prohibit activation of concurrently serving officials for overseas or Defense Support of Civil Authorities missions. 

Gain:  Option #1 would allow for a possible win-win-win for military members seeking elected office, for the Legislative Branch, and for the Department of Defense. Elected officials could maintain affiliation to a trusted and respected institution, and the Legislative Branch and electorate would not endure their Representatives and Senators deploying to dangerous missions outside of their legislative duties.

Option #2:  DoD Prohibits Military Members from Seeking Elected Office

Another option is for the Department of Defense to modify DoDD 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces[5],” so military members are prohibited from seeking elected office entirely. Those seeking state or national elected office would have to agree to an honorable discharges or retirement from military service before declaring candidacy. This option includes all services, components, military occupational specialties, and functional areas.

Risk:  Option #2 would remove a historical precedent of concurrent service in the Legislative and Executive Branches of government going back to the founding of the United States and the Continental Congress. An adjustment to this precedent would spark debate in the Department of Defense, the greater Executive Branch, the Legislative branches, as well as debate in the public sphere by those wishing to maintain the status quo.  

Gain:  Option #2 reinforces the non-partisan nature of the United States Armed Forces in accordance with the spirit and intent of DoDD 1344.10.

Option #3:  Congress Bars Members from Reserve or National Guard Membership

One option is for Congress to pass legislation barring national elected officials or those appointed to partisan national positions from serving in the Reserve or National Guard. The newly elected or appointed official must resign or retire from their military position prior to their inauguration. There is historical precedent for this option as President Dwight D. Eisenhower resigned his military commission in 1952 prior to his presidency[6].

Risk:  This change in legislation would only affect those elected to national office.  This means states would have to make their own choices about whether or not to change their legislation. Human Resource departments within the Armed Forces may not be prepared to process resignations or retirements of elected officials currently serving.

Gain: The gain from option #3 is a removal of risk, a removal of misinformation and disinformation opportunities, and a clear delineation of military and civil responsibilities.

Other Comments:  All three options would require DoDD 1344.10 to be re-written, coordinated, adjudicated, and its new version approved by the Secretary of Defense.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Congress.gov. (2022, January 3). Membership of the 117 Congress: A profile. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46705 

[2] Open letter from retired generals and admirals. Flag Officers 4 America. (2021, May). Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/fb7c7bd8-097d-4e2f-8f12-3442d151b57d/downloads/2021%20Open%20Letter%20from%20Retired%20Generals%20and%20Adm.pdf?ver=1620643005025 

[3] Eaton, P. D., Taguba, A. M., & Anderson, S. M. (2022, January 6). Opinion | 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection. The Washington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/17/eaton-taguba-anderson-generals-military/ 

[4] Beacon Research (2021, November) U.S. National Survey Of Defense Attitudes On Behalf Of The Ronald Reagan Foundation Final Topline Results Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/Reagan%20Foundation%20-%20November%202021%20Survey%20-%20Topline%20Results.pdf 

[5] FVAP.gov  (2008, February 19) Department of Defense Directive Number 1344.10. Department of Defense. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/134410p.pdf   

[6] U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Eisenhower Military Chronology. National Parks Service. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/features/eise/jrranger/chronomil1.htm 

Armed Forces Marshall McGurk Option Papers Politicization United States

An Assessment of Nigeria’s Security Situation in 2021

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He now works for a leading airline in Nigeria. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. 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 Nigeria’s Security Situation in 2021

Date Originally Written:  January 8, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 24, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The open-source data on Nigeria’s security-related casualties indicates that insecurity remains a persistent threat in the country. The high number of deaths recorded between October 2020 and September 2021 shows that the nation is at war with itself.

Summary:  Quantitative definitions of armed conflicts relies on measuring casualties over time to determine violence intensity. One of the most popular and influential approaches was developed by David Singer and Melvin Small in the framework of the ‘Correlates of War (COW)’ project at Michigan University. This defines war as an armed conflict where at least 1,000 combatants are killed annually. By this definition, it is indisputable that Nigeria is at war on multiple fronts.

Text:  The recent analysis of combatant casualties compiled by SBM Intelligence paints a grim picture of Nigeria’s security situation[1]. SBM’s report, compiled using open-source data, was summarised with an infographic that listed the number of dead personnel belonging to various security agencies of the Nigerian state and armed groups all over the country. It covers the calendar year period from Q4 2020 to Q3 2021. The findings are summarized in the table below:

SBM’s report correlates with data collected by the Council on Foreign Relations and analysed by HumAngle Media[2][3]. Between January 1 and December 27, 2021, 10,398 persons were killed across Nigeria. This count includes 4,835 civilians, 1,760 Boko Haram members, 890 security personnel, 107 robbers and 92 kidnappers. This count makes 2021 the deadliest year for Nigeria since 2015 when 12, 795 people were killed. The data also indicates that 5,287 people were kidnapped in 2021, almost double the number abducted in 2020.

The Nigerian government is unwilling to disclose accurate personnel losses, especially in areas of major combat operations[4]. This unwillingness has led to the arrest of members of the press[5][6] aside from other punitive measures[7]. There have also been calls on the Nigerian media to tone down their reporting on security matters regardless of the accuracy of such reports[8]. These efforts to stifle frank security discussions aren’t isolated to the military as other law enforcement and security personnel, and violent non-state actors, have violated the rights of journalists carrying out their constitutionally protected duties[9][10][11][12][13][14]. When coupled with the tyranny of landmass and geography, it is safe to conclude that Nigeria’s conflict tolls are underreported.

The casualty statistics tell a tale of a country that has failed to pull itself together after 61 years of independence. They also make clear the inability of the state to exercise its authority over every part of its domain. The availability of ungoverned spaces, coupled with a proliferation of illicit arms[15], have created no man’s lands in various portions of the country where bad actors can dominate and wreak havoc. Political maladministration means that socioeconomic issues are left to fester until they cause violence. Corruption and mismanagement in law enforcement and security agencies mean that these organisations are unable to fulfill their mandates as laid out in the law[16][17][18][19][20].

One feature of governance and security operations in Nigeria is that low-level violence is usually ignored when civil authority and social interventions might still prove useful. Often, the complete breakdown of law and order is reached, necessitating the deployment of the armed forces. The high number of casualties in the military points to the intensity of internal military operations. Despite the proliferation of security services across the country, they have failed to step up and contribute extensively to safeguarding the nation. That airstrikes have been needed to lead attacks on various bandit camps shows how entrenched these non-state actors have become, and the weakness of the ground forces that need to establish a persistent presence and deny them spaces to regroup[21].

Attacks on police stations and checkpoints have become a feature of the secession agitation in the South East and South-South of the country[22]. This inability to protect themselves shows inadequacies in the current policing structure of the country. The aftermath of the Lekki Tollgate Massacre, and continued police brutality, will hamper efforts to build stable relationships between the police and the communities they are supposed to protect. The recent rejection by President Muhammadu Buhari of the devolution of armed police institutions to the various states shows that the deep institutional reforms needed will face significant hurdles[23]. The rejection also ignores the various security arrangements already established across the country including Amotekun, Yan Sakai, Onyabo, Ebube Agu and the Civilian Joint Task Force. Any conversation about addressing the lingering security problems without a thoughtful examination of the problems of policing a country with the size and population of Nigeria will fail.

As general elections approach, Nigeria’s history of political violence, and the focus on the gaining and retaining of political office, means that security issues might be exacerbated by armed groups pledging allegiance and receiving protection from political contestants[24]. However, as a group that derives legitimacy from the conduct of elections, it is hoped that politicians will not allow violent events to disrupt actual election days.

Apart from dealing with security issues, society must identify and deal with the real issues underwriting them. Punishing bad actors, protecting communities, strengthening early warning systems, providing economic opportunities, and investing in physical, social and human infrastructure will go a long way in calming the polity and bringing an end to this current era of open conflict in Nigeria.


Endnotes:

[1] SBM Intelligence. (2021, December 16). Chart of the Week: Nigeria at War. Retrieved December 28, 2021 from https://www.sbmintel.com/2021/12/chart-of-the-week-nigeria-at-war/

[2] Campbell J. Nigeria Security Tracker. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.cfr.org/nigeria/nigeria-security-tracker/p29483 

[3] Adebanjo, K. (2022, January 4). Insecurity: Nearly 10,400 Killed In Nigeria In 2021, Worst Toll In 6 Years. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://humanglemedia.com/insecurity-nearly-10400-killed-in-nigeria-in-2021-worst-toll-in-6-years/ 

[4] Channel TV. (2018, November 27). ICYMI: All Over The World, The Military Rarely Discloses Figures Of Its Casualties – Adesina. Retrieved January 2, 2022 from https://www.channelstv.com/2018/11/27/all-over-the-world-the-military-rarely-discloses-figures-of-its-casualties-adesina/  

[5] Africanews. (2016, September 6). Nigeria Army Arrest Journalist with links to Boko Haram. Retrieved January 4, 2022 from https://www.africanews.com/2016/09/06/nigerian-army-arrests-journalist-with-links-to-boko-haram//

[6] Haruna, A. (2020, January 31). Nigerian soldiers arrest journalist ‘over Boko Haram report’. Retrieved January 4, 2022 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/375256-nigerian-soldiers-arrest-journalist-over-boko-haram-report.htmlz

[7] Fatunmole, M (2021, April 3). Insurgency: Nigerian Army punishes journalist for asking questions on arms procurement. Retrieved January 4, 2022 from https://www.icirnigeria.org/insurgency-nigerian-army-punishes-journalist-for-asking-questions-on-arms-procurement/

[8] Onyedika-Ugoeze, M. (2021, October 26). Editors, security agencies, others chart ways to resolving rising spate of insecurity. Retrieved January 4, 2022 from https://guardian.ng/features/media/editors-security-agencies-others-chart-ways-to-resolving-rising-spate-of-insecurity/

[9] Akinpelu, Y. (2021, November 26). Nigerian journalist assaulted by Lagos task force for filming harassment of motorists. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/497543-nigerian-journalist-assaulted-by-lagos-task-force-for-filming-harassment-of-motorists.html 

[10] Adediran, I. (2020, September 10). How Nigeria police attacked, arrested journalists for covering protest. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/413685-how-nigeria-police-attacked-arrested-journalists-for-covering-protest.html 

[11] Okeoma, C. (2021, December, 7). NSCDC operatives brutalise PUNCH reporter, tag him ESN spy. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://punchng.com/nscdc-operatives-brutalise-punch-reporter-tag-him-esn-spy/ 

[12] Ekeanyanwu, O. (2016, February 23). Court to hear suit on ‘assault’ of journalist by customs. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.thecable.ng/suit-assault-journalist-customs-gets-hearing-date 

[13] Amnesty International (2019, October 14). Nigeria: Endangered voices: Attack on freedom of expression in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/9504/2019/en/ 

[14] International Press Center. Baseline Audit On State Of Safety Of Journalists In Nigeria. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/jsi_report_for_nigeria_ipdc_project_0.pdf 

[15] SBM Intelligence. (2021, February 22). Small arms, mass atrocities and migration in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.sbmintel.com/2021/02/small-arms-mass-atrocities-and-migration-in-nigeria/ 

[16] Ayeni, D. (2021, August 7).  EXCLUSIVE: Egbunike, Head of Abba Kyari Probe Panel, Joined Others to Approve N1bn for Fake Police Camp Projects. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://fij.ng/article/exclusive-egbunike-head-of-abba-kyari-probe-panel-joined-others-to-approve-n1bn-for-fake-police-camp-projects/ 

[17] Orizu, U (2022, January 3). 2019 Audit Report: 178,459 Firearms, Ammunition Missing from Police Armoury. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2022/01/03/2019-audit-report-178459-firearms-ammunition-missing-from-police-armoury/ 

[18] Campbell, J. (2019, April 4). Former Director General of Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency Arrested. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://www.cfr.org/blog/former-director-general-nigerias-national-intelligence-agency-arrested 

[19] Adepegba, A. (2021, December 24). Ex-NSCDC commandant forfeits 60 buildings, land to FG over corruption. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://punchng.com/ex-nscdc-commandant-forfeits-60-buildings-land-to-fg-over-corruption/ 

[20] News Agency of Nigeria. (2021, October 11). NSCDC boss dismisses fraud, corruption allegations. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://guardian.ng/news/nscdc-boss-dismisses-fraud-corruption-allegations/ 

[21] National Mail Online. Released Captives Reveal: Bandits Reeling Under Military Airstrike, Logistic Blockade. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://nationalmailonline.com/released-captives-reveal-bandits-reeling-under-military-airstrikelogistic-blockade/ 

[22] Adepegba, A. (2021, May 20). 127 South-South, South-East cops killed, 25 stations razed – Report. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://punchng.com/127-ssouth-seast-cops-killed-25-stations-razed-report/ 

[23] Ogundele, B. and Mordi, R. (2022, January 6). Insecurity: Buhari rejects state police. Retrieved January 7, 2022 from https://thenationonlineng.net/insecurity-buhari-rejects-state-police/ 

[24] Ibok, A.K. and Ogar, O.A. (2019, October 16). Political Violence in Nigeria and Its Implication for National Development. Retrieved January 8, 2022 from https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3491888 

Assessment Papers Damimola Olawuyi Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Nigeria

Assessing the Cognitive Threat Posed by Technology Discourses Intended to Address Adversary Grey Zone Activities

Zac Rogers is an academic from Adelaide, South Australia. Zac has published in journals including International Affairs, The Cyber Defense Review, Joint Force Quarterly, and Australian Quarterly, and communicates with a wider audience across various multimedia platforms regularly. Parasitoid is his first book.  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 Cognitive Threat Posed by Technology Discourses Intended to Address Adversary Grey Zone Activities

Date Originally Written:  January 3, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 17, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Australia-based academic whose research combines a traditional grounding in national security, intelligence, and defence with emerging fields of social cybersecurity, digital anthropology, and democratic resilience.  The author works closely with industry and government partners across multiple projects. 

Summary:  Military investment in war-gaming, table-top exercises, scenario planning, and future force design is increasing.  Some of this investment focuses on adversary activities in the “cognitive domain.” While this investment is necessary, it may fail due to it anchoring to data-driven machine-learning and automation for both offensive and defensive purposes, without a clear understanding of their appropriateness. 

Text:  In 2019 the author wrote a short piece for the U.S. Army’s MadSci website titled  “In the Cognitive War, the Weapon is You![1]” This article attempted to spur self-reflection by the national security, intelligence, and defence communities in Australia, the United States and Canada, Europe, and the United Kingdom.  At the time these communities were beginning to incorporate discussion of “cognitive” security/insecurity in their near future threat assessments and future force design discourses. The article is cited in in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Cognitive Warfare document of 2020[2]. Either in ways that demonstrate the misunderstanding directly, or as part of the wider context in which the point of that particular title is thoroughly misinterpreted, the author’s desired self-reflection has not been forthcoming. Instead, and not unexpectedly, the discourse on the cognitive aspects of contemporary conflict have consumed and regurgitated a familiar sequence of errors which will continue to perpetuate rather than mitigate the problem if not addressed head-on.  

What the cognitive threat is

The primary cognitive threat is us[3]. The threat is driven by a combination of, firstly, techno-futurist hubris which exists as a permanently recycling feature of late-modern military thought.  The threat includes a precipitous slide into scientism which military thinkers and the organisations they populate have not avoided[4].  Further contributing to the threat is the commercial and financial rent-seeking which overhangs military affairs as a by-product of private-sector led R&D activities and government dependence on and cultivation of those activities increasingly since the 1990s[5].  Lastly, adversary awareness of these dynamics and an increasing willingness and capacity to manipulate and exacerbate them via the multitude of vulnerabilities ushered in by digital hyper-connectivity[6]. In other words, before the cognitive threat is an operational and tactical menace to be addressed and countered by the joint force, it is a central feature of the deteriorating epistemic condition of the late modern societies in which said forces operate and from which its personnel, funding, R&D pathways, doctrine and operating concepts, epistemic communities and strategic leadership emerge. 

What the cognitive threat is not   

The cognitive threat is not what adversary military organisations and their patrons are doing in and to the information environment with regard to activities other than kinetic military operations. Terms for adversarial activities occurring outside of conventional lethal/kinetic combat operations – such as the “grey-zone” and “below-the-threshold” – describe time-honoured tactics by which interlocutors engage in methods aimed at weakening and sowing dysfunction in the social and political fabric of competitor or enemy societies.  These tactics are used to gain advantage in areas not directly including military conflict, or in areas likely to be critical to military preparedness and mobilization in times of war[7]. A key stumbling block here is obvious: its often difficult to know which intentions such tactics express. This is not cognitive warfare. It is merely typical of contending across and between cross-cultural communities, and the permanent unwillingness of contending societies to accord with the other’s rules. Information warfare – particularly influence operations traversing the Internet and exploiting the dominant commercial operations found there – is part of this mix of activities which belong under the normal paradigm of competition between states for strategic advantage. Active measures – influence operations designed to self-perpetuate – have found fertile new ground on the Internet but are not new to the arsenals of intelligence services and, as Thomas Rid has warned, while they proliferate, are more unpredictable and difficult to control than they were in the pre-Internet era[8]. None of this is cognitive warfare either. Unfortunately, current and recent discourse has lapsed into the error of treating it as such[9], leading to all manner of self-inflicted confusion[10]. 

Why the distinction matters

Two trends emerge from the abovementioned confusion which represent the most immediate threat to the military enterprise[11]. Firstly, private-sector vendors and the consulting and lobbying industry they employ are busily pitching technological solutions based on machine-learning and automation which have been developed in commercial business settings in which sensitivity to error is not high[12]. While militaries experiment with this raft of technologies, eager to be seen at the vanguard of emerging tech; to justify R&D budgets and stave off defunding; or simply out of habit, they incur opportunity cost.  This cost is best described as stultifying investment in the human potential which strategic thinkers have long identified as the real key to actualizing new technologies[13], and entering into path dependencies with behemoth corporate actors whose strategic goal is the cultivation of rentier-relations not excluding the ever-lucrative military sector[14]. 

Secondly, to the extent that automation and machine learning technologies enter the operational picture, cognitive debt is accrued as the military enterprise becomes increasingly dependent on fallible tech solutions[15]. Under battle conditions, the first assumption is the contestation of the electromagnetic spectrum on which all digital information technologies depend for basic functionality. Automated data gathering and analysis tools suffer from heavy reliance on data availability and integrity.  When these tools are unavailable any joint multinational force will require multiple redundancies, not only in terms of technology, but more importantly, in terms of leadership and personnel competencies. It is evidently unclear where the military enterprise draws the line in terms of the likely cost-benefit ratio when it comes to experimenting with automated machine learning tools and the contexts in which they ought to be applied[16]. Unfortunately, experimentation is never cost-free. When civilian / military boundaries are blurred to the extent they are now as a result of the digital transformation of society, such experimentation requires consideration  in light of all of its implications, including to the integrity and functionality of open democracy as the entity being defended[17]. 

The first error of misinterpreting the meaning and bounds of cognitive insecurity is compounded by a second mistake: what the military enterprise chooses to invest time, attention, and resources into tomorrow[18]. Path dependency, technological lock-in, and opportunity cost all loom large if  digital information age threats are misinterpreted. This is the solipsistic nature of the cognitive threat at work – the weapon really is you! Putting one’s feet in the shoes of the adversary, nothing could be more pleasing than seeing that threat self-perpetuate. As a first step, militaries could organise and invest immediately in a strategic technology assessment capacity[19] free from the biases of rent-seeking vendors and lobbyists who, by definition, will not only not pay the costs of mission failure, but stand to benefit from rentier-like dependencies that emerge as the military enterprise pays the corporate sector to play in the digital age. 


Endnotes:

[1] Zac Rogers, “158. In the Cognitive War – The Weapon Is You!,” Mad Scientist Laboratory (blog), July 1, 2019, https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/158-in-the-cognitive-war-the-weapon-is-you/.

[2] Francois du Cluzel, “Cognitive Warfare” (Innovation Hub, 2020), https://www.innovationhub-act.org/sites/default/files/2021-01/20210122_CW%20Final.pdf.

[3] “us” refers primarily but not exclusively to the national security, intelligence, and defence communities taking up discourse on cognitive security and its threats including Australia, the U.S., U.K., Europe, and other liberal democratic nations. 

[4] Henry Bauer, “Science in the 21st Century: Knowledge Monopolies and Research Cartels,” Journal of Scientific Exploration 18 (December 1, 2004); Matthew B. Crawford, “How Science Has Been Corrupted,” UnHerd, December 21, 2021, https://unherd.com/2021/12/how-science-has-been-corrupted-2/; William A. Wilson, “Scientific Regress,” First Things, May 2016, https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/scientific-regress; Philip Mirowski, Science-Mart (Harvard University Press, 2011).

[5] Dima P Adamsky, “Through the Looking Glass: The Soviet Military-Technical Revolution and the American Revolution in Military Affairs,” Journal of Strategic Studies 31, no. 2 (2008): 257–94, https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390801940443; Linda Weiss, America Inc.?: Innovation and Enterprise in the National Security State (Cornell University Press, 2014); Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths (Penguin UK, 2018).

[6] Timothy L. Thomas, “Russian Forecasts of Future War,” Military Review, June 2019, https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MJ-19/Thomas-Russian-Forecast.pdf; Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, “Cognitive Domain Operations: The PLA’s New Holistic Concept for Influence Operations,” China Brief, The Jamestown Foundation 19, no. 16 (September 2019), https://jamestown.org/program/cognitive-domain-operations-the-plas-new-holistic-concept-for-influence-operations/.

[7] See Peter Layton, “Social Mobilisation in a Contested Environment,” The Strategist, August 5, 2019, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/social-mobilisation-in-a-contested-environment/; Peter Layton, “Mobilisation in the Information Technology Era,” The Forge (blog), N/A, https://theforge.defence.gov.au/publications/mobilisation-information-technology-era.

[8] Thomas Rid, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, Illustrated edition (New York: MACMILLAN USA, 2020).

[9] For example see Jake Harrington and Riley McCabe, “Detect and Understand: Modernizing Intelligence for the Gray Zone,” CSIS Briefs (Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 2021), https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/211207_Harrington_Detect_Understand.pdf?CXBQPSNhUjec_inYLB7SFAaO_8kBnKrQ; du Cluzel, “Cognitive Warfare”; Kimberly Underwood, “Cognitive Warfare Will Be Deciding Factor in Battle,” SIGNAL Magazine, August 15, 2017, https://www.afcea.org/content/cognitive-warfare-will-be-deciding-factor-battle; Nicholas D. Wright, “Cognitive Defense of the Joint Force in a Digitizing World” (Pentagon Joint Staff Strategic Multilayer Assessment Group, July 2021), https://nsiteam.com/cognitive-defense-of-the-joint-force-in-a-digitizing-world/.

[10] Zac Rogers and Jason Logue, “Truth as Fiction: The Dangers of Hubris in the Information Environment,” The Strategist, February 14, 2020, https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/truth-as-fiction-the-dangers-of-hubris-in-the-information-environment/.

[11] For more on this see Zac Rogers, “The Promise of Strategic Gain in the Information Age: What Happened?,” Cyber Defense Review 6, no. 1 (Winter 2021): 81–105.

[12] Rodney Brooks, “An Inconvenient Truth About AI,” IEEE Spectrum, September 29, 2021, https://spectrum.ieee.org/rodney-brooks-ai.

[13] Michael Horowitz and Casey Mahoney, “Artificial Intelligence and the Military: Technology Is Only Half the Battle,” War on the Rocks, December 25, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/12/artificial-intelligence-and-the-military-technology-is-only-half-the-battle/.

[14] Jathan Sadowski, “The Internet of Landlords: Digital Platforms and New Mechanisms of Rentier Capitalism,” Antipode 52, no. 2 (2020): 562–80, https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12595.

[15] For problematic example see Ben Collier and Lydia Wilson, “Governments Try to Fight Crime via Google Ads,” New Lines Magazine (blog), January 4, 2022, https://newlinesmag.com/reportage/governments-try-to-fight-crime-via-google-ads/.

[16] Zac Rogers, “Discrete, Specified, Assigned, and Bounded Problems: The Appropriate Areas for AI Contributions to National Security,” SMA Invited Perspectives (NSI Inc., December 31, 2019), https://nsiteam.com/discrete-specified-assigned-and-bounded-problems-the-appropriate-areas-for-ai-contributions-to-national-security/.

[17] Emily Bienvenue and Zac Rogers, “Strategic Army: Developing Trust in the Shifting Strategic Landscape,” Joint Force Quarterly 95 (November 2019): 4–14.

[18] Zac Rogers, “Goodhart’s Law: Why the Future of Conflict Will Not Be Data-Driven,” Grounded Curiosity (blog), February 13, 2021, https://groundedcuriosity.com/goodharts-law-why-the-future-of-conflict-will-not-be-data-driven/.

[19] For expansion see Zac Rogers and Emily Bienvenue, “Combined Information Overlay for Situational Awareness in the Digital Anthropological Terrain: Reclaiming Information for the Warfighter,” The Cyber Defense Review, no. Summer Edition (2021), https://cyberdefensereview.army.mil/Portals/6/Documents/2021_summer_cdr/06_Rogers_Bienvenue_CDR_V6N3_2021.pdf?ver=6qlw1l02DXt1A_1n5KrL4g%3d%3d.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace Influence Operations Information Systems Zac Rogers

Options to Counter Foreign Influence Operations Targeting Servicemember and Veterans

Marcus Laird has served in the United States Air Force. He presently works at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command as a Strategic Plans and Programs Officer. He can be found on Twitter @USLairdForce.  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.  Divergent Options’ does not contain official information nor is it affiliated with the Department of Defense or the U. S. Air Force. The following opinion is of the author only, and is not official Air Force or Department of Defense policy. This publication was reviewed by AFRC/PA, and is cleared for public release and unlimited distribution.


National Security Situation:  Foreign Actors are using Social Media to influence Servicemember and Veteran communities. 

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 3, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a military member who has previously researched the impact of social media on US military internal dialogue for professional military education and graduate courses. 

Background:  During the lead up to the 2016 election, members of the U.S. Army Reserve were specifically targeted by advertisements on Facebook purchased by Russia’s Internet Research Agency at least ten times[1]. In 2017, the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) also detected social media profiles which were sophisticated mimics of their official web pages. These web pages were created for several reasons to include identity theft, fraud, and disseminating disinformation favorable to Russia. Further investigation revealed a network of fake personas attempting to make inroads within online military and veteran communities for the purpose of bolstering persona credibility to spread disinformation. Because these mimics used VVA logos, VVA was able to have these web pages deplatformed after two months due to trademark infringement[2].  

Alternatively, military influencers, after building a substantial following, have chosen to sell their personas as a means of monetizing their social media brands. While foreign adversary networks have not incorporated this technique for building an audience, the purchase of a persona is essentially an opportunity to purchase a turnkey information operation platform. 

Significance:  Servicemembers and veterans are trusted voices within their communities on matters of national security. The special trust society places on these communities makes them a particularly lucrative target for an adversary seeking to influence public opinion and shape policy debates[3]. Social media is optimized for advertising, allowing specific demographics to be targeted with unprecedented precision. Unchecked, adversaries can use this capability to sow mistrust, degrade unit cohesion, and spread disinformation through advertisements, mimicking legitimate organizations, or purchasing a trusted persona. 

Option #1:  Closing Legislative Loopholes 

Currently, foreign entities are prohibited from directly contributing to campaigns. However, there is no legal prohibition on purchasing advertising by foreign entities for the purpose of influencing elections. Using legislative means to close this loophole would deny adversaries’ abuse of platforms’ microtargeting capabilities for the purpose of political influence[4].

Risk:  Enforcement – As evidenced during inquiries into election interference, enforcement could prove difficult. Enforcement relies on good faith efforts by platforms to conduct internal assessments of sophisticated actors’ affiliations and intentions and report them. Additionally, government agencies have neither backend system access nor adequate resources to forensically investigate every potential instance of foreign advertising.

Gain:  Such a solution would protect society as a whole, to include the military and veteran communities. Legislation would include reporting and data retention requirements for platforms, allowing for earlier detection of potential information operations. Ideally, regulation would prompt platforms to tailor their content moderation standards around political advertising to create additional barriers for foreign entities.  

Option #2:  Deplatforming on the Grounds of Trademark Infringement

Should a foreign adversary attempt to use sophisticated mimicry of official accounts to achieve a veneer of credibility, then the government may elect to request a platform remove a user or network of users on the basis of trademark infringement. This technique was successfully employed by the VVA in 2017. Military services have trademark offices, which license the use of their official logos and can serve as focal points for removing unauthorized materials[5].

Risk:  Resources – since trademark offices are self-funded and rely on royalties for operations, they may not be adequately resourced to challenge large-scale trademark infringement by foreign actors.

Personnel – personnel in trademark offices may not have adequate training to determine whether or not a U.S. person or a foreign entity is using the organization’s trademarked materials. Failure to adequately delineate between U.S. persons and foreign actors when requesting to deplatform a user potentially infringes upon civil liberties. 

Gain:  Developing agency response protocols using existing intellectual property laws ensures responses are coordinated between the government and platforms as opposed to a pickup game during an ongoing operation. Regular deplatforming can also help develop signatures for sophisticated mimicry, allowing for more rapid detection and mitigation by the platforms. 

Option #3:  Subject the Sale of Influence Networks to Review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) 

Inform platform owners of the intent of CFIUS to review the sale of all influence networks and credentials which specifically market to military and veteran communities. CFIUS review has been used to prevent the acquisition of applications by foreign entities. Specifically, in 2019 CFIUS retroactively reviewed the purchase of Grindr, an LGBTQ+ dating application, due to national security concerns about the potential for the Chinese firm Kunlun to pass sensitive data to the Chinese government.  Data associated with veteran and servicemember social networks could be similarly protected[6]. 

Risk:  Enforcement – Due to the large number of influencers and the lack of knowledge of the scope of the problem, enforcement may be difficult in real time. In the event a sale happens, then ex post facto CFIUS review would provide a remedy.  

Gain:  Such a notification should prompt platforms to craft governance policies around the sale and transfer of personas to allow for more transparency and reporting.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Goldsmith, K. (2020). An Investigation Into Foreign Entities Who Are Targeting Servicemembers and Veterans Online. Vietnam Veterans of America. Retrieved September 17, 2019, from https://vva.org/trollreport/, 108.

[2] Ibid, 6-7.

[3] Gallacher, J. D., Barash, V., Howard, P. N., & Kelly, J. (2018). Junk news on military affairs and national security: Social media disinformation campaigns against us military personnel and veterans. arXiv preprint arXiv:1802.03572.

[4] Wertheimer, F. (2019, May 28). Loopholes allow foreign adversaries to legally interfere in U.S. elections. Just Security. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.justsecurity.org/64324/loopholes-allow-foreign-adversaries-to-legally-interfere-in-u-s-elections/.

[5] Air Force Trademark Office. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.trademark.af.mil/Licensing/Applications.aspx.

[6] Kara-Pabani, K., & Sherman, J. (2021, May 11). How a Norwegian government report shows the limits of Cfius Data Reviews. Lawfare. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-norwegian-government-report-shows-limits-cfius-data-reviews.

Cyberspace Influence Operations Marcus Laird Military Veterans and Military Members Option Papers Social Media United States

Call for Papers: Cognitive Threats

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Cognitive Threats.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers a “Cognitive Threat” is defined as efforts undertaken to manipulate an adversary’s perceptions in order to achieve a national security objective.

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 12, 2022.

Call For Papers

Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Michael Martinez is a consultant who specializes in data analysis, project management and community engagement. has a M.S. of Intelligence Management from University of Maryland University College. He can be found on Twitter @MichaelMartinez. Divergent Optionscontent 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:  Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Date Originally Written:  November 30, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 27, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that social media is not inherently good nor bad, but a tool to enhance discussion. Unless the national security apparatus understands how to best utilize Open Source Intelligence to achieve its stated goals, i.e. engaging the public on social media and public forums, it will lag behind its adversaries in this space.

Summary:  Stopping online radicalization of all varieties is complex and includes the individual, the government, social media companies, and Internet Service Providers. Artificial intelligence reviewing information online and flagging potential threats may not be adequate. Only through public-private partnerships can an effective system by created to support anti-radicalization endeavors.

Text:  The adage, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product[1],” cannot be further from the truth in the age of social media. Every user’s click and purchase are recorded by private entities such as Facebook and Twitter. These records can be utilized by other nations to gather information on the United States economy, intellectual property, as well as information on government personnel and agencies. This collation of data can be packaged together and be used to inform operations to prey on U.S. personnel.  Examples include extortion through ransomware, an adversary intelligence service probing an employee for specific national information by appealing to their subject matter expertise, and online influence / radicalization.

It is crucial to accept that the United States and its citizens are more heavily reliant on social media than ever before. Social media entities such as Meta (formerly Facebook) have new and yet to be released products for children (i.e., the “Instagram for Kids” product) enabling adversaries to prey upon any age a potential. Terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda utilize cartoons on outlets like YouTube and Instagram to entice vulnerable youth to carry out attacks or help radicalize potential suicide bombers[2]. 

While Facebook and YouTube are the most common among most age groups, Tik-Tok and Snapchat have undergone a meteoric arise among youth under thirty[3]. Intelligence services and terrorist organizations have vastly improved their online recruiting techniques including video and media as the platforms have become just as sophisticated. Unless federal, state, and local governments strengthen their public-private partnerships to stay ahead of growth in next generation social media platforms this adversary behavior will continue.  The national security community has tools at its disposal to help protect Americans from being turned into cybercriminals through coercion, or radicalizing individuals from overseas entities such as the Islamic State to potentially carry out domestic attacks.

To counter such trends within social media radicalization, the National Institutes of Justice (NIJ) worked with the National Academies to identify traits and agendas to facilitate disruption of these efforts. Some of the things identified include functional databases, considering links between terrorism and lesser crimes, and exploring the culture of terrorism, including structure and goals[4]. While a solid federal infrastructure and deterrence mechanism is vital, it is also important for the social media platform themselves to eliminate radical media that may influence at-risk individuals. 

According to the NIJ, there are several characteristics that contribute to social media radicalization: being unemployed, a loner, having a criminal history, a history of mental illness, and having prior military experience[5]. These are only potential factors that do not apply to all who are radicalized[6]. However, these factors do provide a base to begin investigation and mitigation strategies. 

As a long-term solution, the Bipartisan Policy Center recommends enacting and teaching media literacy to understand and spot internet radicalization[7]. Social media algorithms are not fool proof. These algorithms require the cyberspace equivalent of “see something, say something” and for users to report any suspicious activity to the platforms. The risks of these companies not acting is also vital as their main goal is to monetize. Acting in this manner does not help companies make more money. This inaction is when the government steps in to ensure that private enterprise is not impeding national security. 

Creating a system that works will balance the rights of the individual with the national security of the United States. It will also respect the rights of private enterprise and the pipelines that carry the information to homes, the Internet Service Providers. Until this system can be created, the radicalization of Americans will be a pitfall for the entire National Security apparatus. 


Endnotes:

[1] Oremus, W. (2018, April 27). Are You Really the Product? Retrieved on November 15, 2021, from https://slate.com/technology/2018/04/are-you-really-facebooks-product-the-history-of-a-dangerous-idea.html. 

[2] Thompson, R. (2011). Radicalization and the Use of Social Media. Journal of Strategic Security, 4(4), 167–190. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26463917 

[3] Pew Research Center. (2021, April 7). Social Media Use in 2021. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/ 

[4] Aisha Javed Qureshi, “Understanding Domestic Radicalization and Terrorism,” August 14, 2020, nij.ojp.gov: https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/understanding-domestic-radicalization-and-terrorism.

[5] The National Counterintelligence and Security Center. Intelligence Threats & Social Media Deception. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.dni.gov/index.php/ncsc-features/2780-ncsc-intelligence-threats-social-media-deception. 

[6] Schleffer, G., & Miller, B. (2021). The Political Effects of Social Media Platforms on Different Regime Types. Austin, TX. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from http://dx.doi.org/10.26153/tsw/13987. 

[7] Bipartisan Policy Center. (2012, December). Countering Online Radicalization in America. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BPC-_Online-Radicalization-Report.pdf 

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Michael Martinez Social Media United States

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McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

Lieutenant Colonel John Bolton, U.S. Army, is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.  He previously commanded Bravo Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, served as the Executive Officer for 2-25 Assault Helicopter Battalion, and the Brigade Aviation Officer for 4/25 IBCT (Airborne). He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Art of War Scholars Program and holds degrees in military history and mechanical engineering. An AH-64D/E Aviator, he has deployed multiple times with Engineer, Aviation, and Infantry units. 


Title:  McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

Date Originally Written:  November 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes some national security professionals are taking the wrong lessons from Afghanistan, blaming a non-existent lack of public support for the failure of the American campaign.

Summary:  Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, USA(ret) recently blamed the U.S. public for a “lack of support” in Afghanistan.  McMaster’s claim evokes the legacy of dangerous “stabbed in the back” mentalities that emerged after Germany’s defeat in WWI and the U.S. Army’s withdrawal from Vietnam. Instead of blaming others, the U.S. military would benefit from a far-reaching study to discover the institutional lapses and shortcomings that precipitated failure. 

Text:  Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), has rightfully lambasted the U.S. withdrawl from Afghanistan as embarrassing. However, McMaster goes too far in calling the withdrawl a “defeat” with severe implications for American credibility[1]. More troubling, in a recent column, McMaster blamed the U.S. public and unnamed leaders who allegedly failed to back the American military[2]. According to McMaster, “There are a lot of people in senior positions in government who have never led anything… they’ve never done anything except maybe in academic environments or write policy papers[3].”

McMaster is wrong about Afghanistan and his narrative endorses a praetorian mindset – one dangerously close to the “stab in the back” dogmas that took hold in Weimar Germany after World War I and among the American Military Officer Corps after Vietnam[4]. Leaving Afghanistan will have few, if any, long-term effects on American security but the war’s impact on civil-military relations portends pernicious tensions, especially if military leaders adopt McMaster’s mentality. 

McMaster says America was fighting “one-year wars” in Afghanistan for two decades, obscuring the reality that the U.S. military chose this rotational model and often failed to adapt to local conditions[5]. But the 2017 Afghanistan “surge” engineered by McMaster while he was APNSA was more of the same. The McMaster Surge did not quell violence, deter the Taliban, nor generate effective (or loyal) Afghan Defense Forces[6]. From 2017-2020 Americans did more of the same: hunting the Taliban and training and foisting expensive equipment on poorly trained and often barely literate Afghan forces[7]. Americans were also dying. During the author’s 2017-18 tour, six Soldiers died during a time when Afghans were supposedly in the lead. “Bureaucratic capture” is the only way to explain how otherwise intelligent professionals can endorse logically inconsistent, sunk-cost arguments about a strategically unimportant place.

Rather than explain why Central Asia has relevancy at home, McMaster and others have made expansive credibility arguments – we must stay there because we are there. In doing so, McMaster bastardizes historian Zachary Shore’s “strategic empathy[8].” But instead of understanding the domestic and cultural sources of U.S. adversaries’ actions, McMaster’s “strategic empathy” justifies expansive American action by equating all challenges as likewise threatening. Better to employ a rational consideration of interests and achievable ends, especially amid a public justifiably skeptical of employing force[9]. Moreover, American credibility has shades – eschewing a non-vital commitment in Afghanistan is hardly relevant to the enduring North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, for example. Tellingly, according to McMaster, violating the 2019 U.S.-Taliban agreement and staying in Afghanistan would not have affected American credibility.

Despite the folly of throwing good Soldiers after bad policy, McMaster and the praetorians see no systemic failure in American national security institutions. Instead, McMaster blames the “defeatist” U.S. public for a lack of support – as if 20 years and trillions of dollars materialized without public consent and Congressional support[10]. If anything, the public and Congress were far too lenient with oversight of the Afghan efforts, largely bequeathing whatever national security leaders wanted. 

The irony of a former APNSA decrying “policy paper writers” is palpable but McMaster certainly knows better. An accomplished soldier-scholar, his doctoral thesis (later turned in the book Dereliction of Duty) savaged senior officers who allowed President Lyndon Johnson to lurch America toward tragedy in Vietnam. Once U.S. forces began fighting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff did little to question U.S. Army General William Westmoreland’s fundamentally flawed strategy. Consequently, Johnson felt boxed in by his own military advisors. Unfortunately, in an unnerving reprisal, American strategy in Afghanistan developed little beyond asking for “more time,” “more money,” “more troops,” while leaders proclaimed “great progress” or “being on the right azimuth[11].” To paraphrase the Afghanistan Special Investigator General John Sopko, “so many corners were turned, we were spinning[12].” When Americans did speak out, as in the case of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer who grew tired of his Afghan partner’s pederasty or an officer who described rampant false reporting in 2012, they were ignored[13].  

As documented by the Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers,” false hopes and false reporting were mainstays of Afghanistan strategy across multiple administrations[14]. A 2014 Army report demonstrated the war’s toll on the ethics of Army Officers, finding lying and false reporting had become “common place[15].” Officers, the report said, were often “lying to themselves.” Civil-military distrust arising from Afghanistan needs to be analyzed in this context. If the public shares blame, it is for being too credulous – treating soldiers like saints and senior leaders as anointed heroes, too pious to be questioned, let alone contradicted. Blaming the public is insipid at best and dangerous at worst. Here McMaster espouses a praetorian view of civil-military relations grossly out of step with the American tradition. 

Leaving Afghanistan is exactly the exactly the type of prioritization McMaster called for in his 2017 National Security Strategy. While the Afghanistan withdrawal was embarrassing[16], leaving demonstrates that United States can make unpleasant distinctions between what is long-standing and what is vital. A perpetual counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan would (and did) distract from other regions. Rather than abandon a failed project, McMaster continues to advocate for doubling down on efforts that were often corrupt and ineffective[17]. It is foolhardy to adopt a national security paradigm predicated on long-term occupations and defense posture anathema to the American public and much of Congress. 

McMaster is an American hero, not only on the battlefield but in the war for the intellectual soul of the U.S. Army. His views on warfare helped shape a generation of officers, including the author. But his correct view of war’s nature has not translated into feasible policy. By failing to distinguish concerns from vital interests this worldview lacks the wherewithal to make difficult strategic decisions. 

America is and will remain the world’s sole superpower. But even massive reserves of power are finite, requiring an adept strategy based on a healthy understanding of the world as it is. Good strategy also requires an engaged but not overly deferential public. U.S. policy will succeed when it prioritizes threats and interests and aligns them with the resources available, not assuming it can do as it wishes abroad with no consequences to the nation’s budget, civil-military relationship, or moral standing. 


Endnotes:

[1] McMaster quoted in Hal Boyd, “Gen. H.R. McMaster on America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Deseret News, October 27, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/2021/10/27/22747222/general-hr-mcmaster-on-americas-withdrawal-from-afghanistan-trump-national-security-adviser-biden.

[2] H.R. McMaster, “Honor Veterans by Having the Will to Win,” Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/honor-vets-the-will-to-win-war-military-service-veterans-day-afghanistan-taliban-mcmaster-11636576955

[3] McMaster quoted at the 4th Great Power Competition Conference, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvx1rmU-QAU&t=2093s

[4] See Summers, On Strategy and Evans, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for discussion of the “stabbed in the back” narratives.

[5] McMaster interviewed by Chuck Todd, Meet the Press, August 29, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/mcmaster-afghanistan-a-one-year-war-fought-20-times-over-119712325910

[6] See Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Events of 2018,” https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/afghanistan; Craig Whitlock, “Afghan Security Forces’ Wholesale Collapse Was Years in the Making,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/afghan-security-forces-capabilities/2021/08/15/052a45e2-fdc7-11eb-a664-4f6de3e17ff0_story.html

[7] See Alexandra Kuimova and Siemon T. Wezeman, “Transfers of major arms to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2020,” SIPRI, September 3, 2021, https://www.sipri.org/commentary/topical-backgrounder/2021/transfers-major-arms-afghanistan-between-2001-and-2020.

[8] McMaster, lecture to George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, March 2021, https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/hr-mcmaster-stresses-strategic-empathy-effective-foreign-policy

[9] Anna Shortridge, “The U.S. War in Afghanistan Twenty Years On: Public Opinion Then and Now,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 7, 2021, https://www.cfr.org/blog/us-war-afghanistan-twenty-years-public-opinion-then-and-now

[10] Kyle Rempfer, “Trump’s former national security adviser says the public is fed ‘defeatist narrative’ that hurts the US in Afghanistan,” Military Times, May 9, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/hr-mcmaster-defeatist-narrative-hurting-us-afghanistan-strategy-2019-5

[11] See “Afghan ISAF commander John Allen sees ‘road to winning’,” BBC News, February 10, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-21399805; Sara Almukhtar, “What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?,” The New York Times, December 9, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/09/world/middleeast/afghanistan-war-cost.html; Chris Good, “Petraeus: Gains in Afghanistan ‘Fragile and Reversible’; Afghans Will Take Over in Select Province,” The Atlantic, March 15, 2011, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/03/petraeus-gains-in-afghanistan-fragile-and-reversible-afghans-will-take-over-in-select-provinces/72507.

[12] Dan Grazier, “Afghanistan Proved Eisenhower Correct,” Project on Government Oversight, November 1, 2021, https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2021/11/afghanistan-proved-eisenhower-correct/

[13] See Joseph Goldstein, “U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies,” The New York Times, September 20, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/asia/us-soldiers-told-to-ignore-afghan-allies-abuse-of-boys.html; Dan Davis, “Truth, Lies, and Afghanistan,” Armed Forces Journal, February 1, 2012, http://armedforcesjournal.com/truth-lies-and-afghanistan

[14]Craig Whitlock, “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War,” The Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

[15] Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, “Lying to Ourselves,” Strategic Studies Institute, February 2015, https://press.armywarcollege.edu/monographs/466

[16] The White House, “National Security Strategy,” https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf

[17] SIGAR, “Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” September 2016, https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/sigar-16-58-ll.pdf

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas John Bolton Policy and Strategy United States

Assessing Russian Use of Social Media as a Means to Influence U.S. Policy

Alex Buck is a currently serving officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He has deployed twice to Afghanistan, once to Ukraine, and is now working towards an MA in National Security.  Alex can be found on Twitter @RCRbuck.  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 Russian Use of Social Media as a Means to Influence U.S. Policy

Date Originally Written:  August 29, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 13, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that without appropriate action, the United States’ political climate will continue to be exploited by Russian influence campaigns. These campaigns will have broad impacts across the Western world, and potentially generate an increased competitive advantage for Russia.

Summary:  To achieve a competitive advantage over the United States, Russia uses social media-based influence campaigns to influence American foreign policy. Political polarization makes the United States an optimal target for such campaigns. 

Text:  Russia aspires to regain influence over the international system that they once had as the Soviet Union. To achieve this aim, Russia’s interest lies in building a stronger economy and expanding their regional influence over Eastern Europe[1]. Following the Cold War, Russia recognized that these national interests were at risk of being completely destroyed by Western influence. The Russian economy was threatened by the United States’ unipolar hegemony over the global economy[2]. A strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has threatened Russia’s regional influence in Eastern Europe. NATO’s collective security agreement was originally conceived to counter the Soviet threat following World War II and has continued to do so to this day. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, NATO expanded their membership to include former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. This expansion was done in an effort to reduce Russian regional influence [1]. Russia perceives these actions as a threat to their survival as a state, and needs a method to regain competitive advantage.

Following the Cold War, Russia began to identify opportunities they could exploit to increase their competitive advantage in the international system. One of those opportunities began to develop in the early-2000s as social media emerged. During this time, social media began to impact American culture in such a significant way that it could not be ignored. Social media has two significant impacts on society. First, it causes people to create very dense clusters of social connections. Second, these clusters are populated by very similar types of people[3]. These two factors caused follow-on effects to American society in that they created a divided social structure and an extremely polarized political system. Russia viewed these as opportunities ripe for their exploitation. Russia sees U.S. social media as a cost-effective medium to exert influence on the United States. 

In the late 2000s, Russia began experimenting with their concept of exploiting the cyber domain as a means of exerting influence on other nation-states. After the successful use of cyber operations against Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia and again in Ukraine in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2014 respectively, Russia was poised to attempt utilizing their concept against the United States and NATO[4]. In 2014, Russia slowly built a network of social media accounts that would eventually begin sowing disinformation amongst American social media users[3]. The significance of the Russian information campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election can not be underestimated. The Russian Internet Research Agency propagated ~10.4 million tweets on Twitter, 76.5 million engagements on Facebook, and 187 million engagements on Instagram[5]. Although within the context of 200 billion tweets sent annually this may seem like a small-scale effort, the targeted nature of the tweets contributed to their effectiveness. This Russian social media campaign was estimated to expose between 110 and 130 million American social media users to misinformation aimed at skewing the results of the presidential election[3]. The 2000 presidential election was decided by 537 votes in the state of Florida. To change the results of an American election like that of 2000, a Russian information campaign could potentially sway electoral results with a campaign that is 0.00049% effective.

The bifurcated nature of the current American political arena has created the perfect target for Russian attacks via the cyber domain. Due to the persistently slim margins of electoral results, Russia will continue to exploit this opportunity until it achieves its national aims and gains a competitive advantage over the United States. Social media’s influence offers Russia a cost effective and highly impactful tool that has the potential to sway American policies in its favor. Without coherent strategies to protect national networks and decrease Russian social influence the United States, and the broader Western world, will continue to be subject to Russian influence. 


Endnotes:

[1] Arakelyan, L. A. (2017). Russian Foreign Policy in Eurasia: National Interests and Regional Integration (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315468372

[2] Blank, S. (2008). Threats to and from Russia: An Assessment. The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 21(3), 491–526. https://doi.org/10.1080/13518040802313746

[3] Aral, S. (2020). The hype machine: How social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health–and how we must adapt (First edition). Currency.

[4] Geers, K. & NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. (2015). Cyber war in perspective: Russian aggression against Ukraine. https://www.ccdcoe.org/library/publications/cyber-war-in-perspective-russian-aggression-against-ukraine/

[5] DiResta, R., Shaffer, K., Ruppel, B., Sullivan, D., & Matney, R. (2019). The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency. US Senate Documents.

Alex Buck Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Russia Social Media United States

Assessing the Threat from Social Media Enabled Domestic Extremism in an Era of Stagnant Political Imagination


David Nwaeze is a freelance journalist and former political organizer based out of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, who has spent over two decades among the U.S. left.  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 Threat from Social Media Enabled Domestic Extremism in an Era of Stagnant Political Imagination

Date Originally Written:  November 19, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  November 29, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author contends that despite efforts by legislators and social media platforms to reduce online mediated domestic extremism, America’s political stagnation is a chief contributor to the appeal of extremist movements to the domestic public at large.

Summary:  Social media is enabling domestic extremism. Where recruitment and incitement to action once took a great deal more effort for domestic extremists, they can now instantly attract much larger audiences through social media. While some may blame social media echo chambers for the growth of domestic extremism in recent years, equally culpable is stagnant political imagination within the U.S.

Text:  The threat of social media enabled domestic extremism in the U.S. is all too real today.  Below are some recent examples:

– An 18-year-old Army National Guardsman murders two of his housemates in Tampa, Florida[1]. A fourth is later arrested, tried, and convicted of possessing explosive material. All four are members of a Neo-Nazi organization that’s been built up in the preceding years through social media chatrooms.

– A drive-by shooting takes the life of a security guard on contract with the Federal Protective Service at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, California[2]. The following weekend, a suspect in the attack kills a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sergeant and injures a deputy seeking to arrest him in relation to the attack. This suspect – along with another man – is arrested. Both suspects were part of an online subculture organized mainly over social media, oriented around preparing for or inciting a second American Civil War, or “boogaloo.”

– A mob of rioters storms the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.[3]. In the conflagration, there were five deaths and an unknown number of injuries[4]. To date, 695 individuals have been charged with crimes associated with this event[5]. Inspired by a mix of social media-mediated conspiracy theories, the January 6th attack would go on to wake America up to the real-world threat imposed by online extremism.

As we enter 2022, Americans are witnessing an uneasy calm following a violent awakening to the threat of social media enabled domestic extremism. What got us here? It is easy to look at recent history as moments in the process of evolution for online radicalization and mobilization toward violence:

– Email list-servs are used in 1999 to organize the shutdown of the World Trade Organization’s conference in Seattle[6]

– Al Qa’ida uses early social media as a propaganda and recruitment tool[7]

– The Islamic State dramatically improves this technique[7]

To understand where we are, the fundamental character of the present American mediascape needs examination. Today’s mediascape is unlike anything in human history. The internet provides an immense capability for anyone with a connection to transmit ideas and information at nearly instantaneous speeds worldwide. With this opportunity, however, comes the deep risk of information bottlenecks. According to SEO marketing strategist Brian Dean[8], “93.33% of [the] 4.8 billion global internet users and 85% of [the] 5.27 billion mobile phone users are on social media.” This means that the most popular social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc) substantially impact how internet users connect to news, information, and ideas.

Additionally, in late October 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked documents now known as The Facebook Papers[9]. In her testimony since the leak, she has identified the moral hazard faced by social media companies as their “engagement-based metrics” create “echo chambers that create social norms” which exacerbate the “normalization of hate, a normalization of dehumanizing others.” In her words, “that’s what leads to violent incidents[10].” In a threat-free environment, this would be worrying enough on its own. However, the American people face many ideological opponents – both at home and abroad – who seek to leverage this media space to violent ends. To understand U.S. vulnerability to these threats, let’s examine the underlying character of our political environment since “the end of history.”

In “The End of History and the Last Man[11],” Francis Fukuyama presents a case for liberal democracy as the apotheosis and conclusion of historical ideological struggle as viewed through the Hegelian lens. In his words, the end of the Cold War brought us to “the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Stemming from this, Fukuyama holds that humanity, once having achieved this “end-point,” would reach a condition in which “here would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled.” In other words, he concludes that humanity is no longer capable of achieving far-reaching social change. This political theory – and the phenomenon it sought to characterize – found its expression during the 1990s in the rise of neoliberalism, and its attendant policy shifts, in the anglo-American political space away from the welfare state and toward finance capital mediated economic goals. Such subsequent ideas have come to define the limits of the American political space.

In “The Return of History and the End of Dreams[12],” Robert Kagan responded to Fukuyama by framing an international political struggle characterized by the rise of a new impulse toward autocracy, led by Russia and China. Kagan goes on to propose a “concert of world democracies” work together to challenge this new international autocratic threat. Kagan’s solution to “the end of dreams” is to awaken to the ideological struggle at hand and rise to its challenge of identifying and affirming our values and promoting the fulfillment of democratic political dreams abroad.

In the spirit of Kagan’s response to Fukuyama, America won’t rise to meet the dual challenges of social media’s capability to enable far-reaching social change and the inevitability of ideological struggle with domestic extremists until it accepts that history has not ended.  Unless America can assertively identify and affirm its underlying national values, the convergence of information echo chambers with stagnant political imagination will continue to motivate this threat to U.S. national security.  America has seen the warning signs in the headlines. History illustrates what this may portend if not abated. America’s enemies are many. Chief among them, however, is dreamless slumber.


Endnotes:

[1] Thompson, A.C., Winston, A. and Hanrahan, J., (2018, February 23). Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.propublica.org/article/atomwaffen-division-inside-white-hate-group

[2] Winston, A., (2020, September 25). The Boogaloo Cop Killers. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.popularfront.co/boogaloo-cop-killers

[3] Reeves, J., Mascaro, L., and Woodward, C., (2021, January 11). Capitol assault a more sinister attack than first appeared. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://apnews.com/article/us-capitol-attack-14c73ee280c256ab4ec193ac0f49ad54

[4] McEvoy, J., (2021, January 8). Woman Possibly ‘Crushed To Death’: These Are The Five People Who Died Amid Pro-Trump Riots. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/01/08/woman-possibly-crushed-to-death-these-are-the-five-people-who-died-amid-pro-trump-riots/

[5] Hall, M., Gould, S., Harrington, R., Shamisian, J., Haroun, A., Ardrey, T., and Snodgrass, E., (2021, November 16). 695 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far. This searchable table shows them all. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.insider.com/all-the-us-capitol-pro-trump-riot-arrests-charges-names-2021-1

[6] Arquilla, J., & Ronfeldt, D. (2001). Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. RAND Corporation.

[7] Byman, D. L. (2015, April 29). Comparing Al Qaeda and ISIS: Different goals, different targets. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/comparing-al-qaeda-and-isis-different-goals-different-targets

[8] Dean, B. (2021, October 10). Social Network Usage & Growth Statistics: How Many People Use Social Media in 2021?. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://backlinko.com/social-media-users

[9] Chappell, B. (2021, October 25). The Facebook Papers: What you need to know about the trove of insider documents. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/25/1049015366/the-facebook-papers-what-you-need-to-know

[10] Sky News. (2021, October 25). Facebook groups push people to “extreme interests”, says whistleblower Frances Haugen. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://news.sky.com/story/facebook-groups-push-people-to-extreme-interests-says-whistleblower-frances-haugen-12444405

[11] Fukuyama, F. (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press.

[12] Kagan, R. (2009). The Return of History and the End of Dreams. Vintage.

Cyberspace David Nwaeze United States Violent Extremism

Assessing Contemporary Deterrence Parallel to Netflix’s Squid Game

Dr. Brooke Mitchell is a George Washington University Nuclear Security Working Group Fellow. She works on Capitol Hill for a member of the United States Congress and leads appropriation portfolios for defense, energy and water, and military construction and veteran’s affairs. Dr. Mitchell also serves as manager for the Congressional Nuclear Working Group. In addition, she is the Chief Academic Officer for the Small Business Consulting Corporation and principal investigator for Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) National Nuclear Strategy and Global Security Workshop for Practitioners. 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 Contemporary Deterrence Parallel to Netflix’s Squid Game

Date Originally Written:  November 17, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has placed an increased emphasis on the present era of strategic competition with Russia and China. The author uses the Netflix show Squid Game as a metaphor to draw attention to the value of understanding the players’ motivations as central to define the rules of the game in order to create clear focus around contemporary deterrence. 

Summary:  DoD’s view of deterrence is reminiscent of Netflix’s hit show, Squid Game[1]. Deterrence traditionally focuses on nation states implementing military actions which may deter adversary action[2]. Deterrence fails when the adversary proceeds anyway. Both deterrence and Squid Game involve players executing their free will to compete against the other players.  Deterrence becomes complicated today as players and game rules remain undiscovered.

Text:  It has historically been assumed that the strongest parties (i.e. individuals, groups, countries) have an advantage and can thus deter the weaker. Deterrence can be measured in terms of nuclear deterrence (including both weapons and weapons systems), along with conventional sources of warpower, and include additional forms of diplomatic, economic, or social variables that enhance one party’s ability to deny undesirable outcomes. 

The question remains though: how, in an era of strategic competition, do traditional deterrence theories or concepts hold true when many leaders, military strategists, and subject matter experts view the United States as facing near-peer competition with both Russia and China? If deterrence is still simply the ability to strategically maneuver strength, or capabilities, to the other parties than by this token the United States won this competition long ago. Yet, despite the present conundrum Russia and now China continues to grow their nuclear arsenals; are far outpacing the United States on the research, development, and fielding of hypersonic technologies; and exceed the United States in the militarization of space and other non-terrestrial warfighting domains[3]. 

In Squid Game players execute their free will to compete against the other players[4]. The idea is that these individuals have nothing to lose but their life and are gambling to both preserve their life and receive tangible gain. This idea pushes the competition to the brink. The game only ends if the majority agrees to stop playing. The psychological tug-of-war between the barbaric nature of the rules and then sentimental connection to the “fairness” of such a competitive (and lawless society made out to be equitable for all) by Squid Game leaders such as the Front Man, further exacerbates the rapidly shifting conclusions of the viewers. By the characters later chasing the money trail to the evil people funding the game, then pursuing the very master mind both controlling and holding the purse strings the viewer is left questioning, “How could I not see that coming?” or “Why did I miss that?” Only when there is crystal clear clarity around the rules and players of Squid Game can action in pursuit of strategically deterring the extreme nature of the game be confronted. 

The characters in Squid Game needing crystal clear clarity around the rules and players is very similar to the 21st century conditions surrounding deterrence. The United States and her allies are attempting to deter Russia and China in their respective activities that are nefarious to the well-being of the world. However, in this pursuit the convoluted, interwoven, sentiment to separate the motivations of how Russia and China are now playing the game from their priorities in how they are choosing to do so is vague and unclear. The money trail can certainly be traced and the United States’ ongoing efforts to modernize military capabilities and enhance its diplomacs capability with adversarial counterparts remains an option. Whether military and diplomatic modernization remain a viable, sustainable option against Russia and China in a contemporary context is a different question altogether. It is certainly feasible to continue building deterrence around existing frameworks but then again, if those frameworks were fool proof, then how on the United States watch did Russia and China gain both power and speed in their respective nuclear arsenals and in the contested domains of cyberspace and space? 

United States efforts to conduct thoughtful analysis and study the “game” within this era of strategic competition, will fail if it does not unpack the relationships and motivations of the players in order to effectively deter unwarranted outcomes on the homeland and abroad. While the conditions of strategic competition may appear intuitive, it is only by understanding the players, and their respective worldviews, that the rules can be effectively established and the turnabout path to maintaining a democratic, truly free, and just society preserved, as demonstrated in the Squid Game. 


Endnotes:

[1] Garamone, J. (2021, September 17) “DOD Policy Chief Kahl Discusses Strategic Competition with Baltic Allies,” https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Articles/Article/2780661/dod-policy-chief-kahl-discusses-strategic-competiton-with-baltic-allies. 

[2] Mazaar, M.J. (N.D.), “Understanding Deterrence,” RAND, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE295/RAND_PE295.pdf. 

[3] Congressional Research Service (19 October 2021), “Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress,” https://www.crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45811. 

[4] N Series, “Squid Game,” Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/title/81040344. 

Assessment Papers Competition Deterrence Dr. Brooke Mitchell

Assessing the Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

Scott Martin is a career U.S. Air Force officer who has served in a multitude of globally-focused assignments.  He studied Russian and International Affairs at Trinity University and received his Masters of Science in International Relations from Troy University.  He is currently assigned within the National Capitol Region. 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 Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

Date Originally Written:  October 27, 2021

Date Originally Published:  November 8, 2021

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. did receive significant warnings on the morning of December 7th, 1941 before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If those warnings had been acted upon in a timely fashion, the author believes that it is likely that the U.S. could have mitigated some of the damage inflicted by the Japanese. However, this author contends that the limited warning time would not have been sufficient to completely defeat the Japanese raid, and thus, Pearl Harbor would still be the event that drew the U.S. into World War II. 

Summary:  A key “what if?” about the attack on Pearl Harbor centers on the lack of U.S. action on the two main warnings received that morning i.e. the USS Ward’s sinking of a Japanese submarine and the Opana Radar Station detection of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Those warnings could have saved lives, but the limited warning time makes it unlikely the U.S. could have defeated the Japanese attack.

Text:  While most associate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the ultimate in surprise attacks, U.S. Forces did receive warnings of pending action, especially that morning. Chief among the warnings was the USS Ward sinking a Japanese mini-submarine at 0640L, nearly a full hour before the arrival of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Additionally, at 0701L, an Army radar installation at Opana on the western part of the island of Oahu detected a large mass of possible inbound flying objects, later determined to be the first wave of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. What if the command at Pearl Harbor, instead of ignoring the warnings, decided instead that the Ward and the radar station were the indications of an imminent attack? 

The Ward’s  radioing in that it sank a Japanese sub at the entrance of the harbor was not the first report/sighting of a Japanese submarine that day. At 0357L, the minesweeper USS Condor, reported a periscope near Pearl Harbor during patrol[1]. That information was passed to the Ward for action. Also, U.S. forces throughout the Pacific had been on a war alert status for over two weeks. For most, that meant a likely Japanese strike against locations far to the west of Hawaii[2]. The accounts of the Ward fell into the trap of more warnings/sightings that leadership did not feel warranted additional responses. 

The reporting of the Ward might have increased warning for possible sub-related intrusions, which U.S. Navy Admiral (ADM) Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, felt was a significant threat[3]. However, the sub sighting along might not warrant an increase in harbor air defense actions. The Opana Radar Station, powered on longer than its scheduled 0400-0700 shift, detected multiple inbound contacts to conduct additional training while they waited for transport to leave the station[4]. In the subsequent actions, the inexperienced radar operators, while able to determine several aircraft could be in route, could not positively identify the inbound tracks[5].  Another factor involves the Officer-in-Charge at the information center at Fort Shafter. Upon receiving the call from Opana, he did not seem unduly concerned, as he knew a flight of U.S.-based B-17 were due in that morning[6]. Thus, the first wave of Japanese carrier-based planes made their way towards the island unopposed. 

Where the impact of the Wards and any possible change in the assessment of the radar station reporting could have had on the events of that morning would start at approximately 0730L, when ADM Kimmel received the Wards report[7]. If ADM Kimmel had called for an increase in the alert status at that point, the fleet would have had nearly 15-20 minutes to prepare for any inbound aggressive actions. While that might not seem like a lot of time, especially on a Sunday morning, the Sailors on ship would have been able to ready their ship-mounted anti-aircraft guns. Of note is that the ships in harbor were preparing for a Monday morning inspection, meaning most of the hatches and doors were open, thus, some warning would see the crews batten down the hatches to secure the ships[8]. 

While the 15-20 minute warning does enable the readying of anti-aircraft guns and for hatches to be secured, it does not leave time for significant aircraft launching. While possible for some alert aircraft to take off, there would be little time for the ground crews to man or move most planes to more secure locations. The Japanese were also able to take advantage in the different threat perception between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army as U.S. Army Lieutenant General (LTG) Walter C. Short, Commander of the Hawaiian Department, deemed sabotage the greatest threat to the ground-based aircraft.  As such, the majority of the island’s fighters were parked wingtip to wingtip out in the open[9]. Additionally, most of the aircraft were on four-hour alert status, so minutes’ warning would make little impact[10].

A major factor in the confusion and lack of action on the reports from the Ward and the Opana radar station stemmed from the lack of poor communications between the Navy and Army commands. LTG Short did not receive notice of the Wards actions and ADM Kimmel did not receive word about the sighting from the radar station. While this disconnect speaks to larger communication issues, the shorter-term issue would be that if Kimmel and Short did speak on the issue of the submarine[11]. If Kimmel contacted Short following the submarine activity, and both men agreed to increase the alert, even with limited time before the Japanese planes entered Oahu airspace, more lives and materiel might have been saved. Given how quickly most Sailors and Soldiers scrambled to gun positions after the shock of the first wave and the response the second wave of Japanese aircraft, any pre-warning/alert before the first wave might have reduced American casualties/increased Japanese losses. 

While an earlier alert call from ADM Kimmel and LTG Short, from the time of the Wards actions and the reporting of many inbound aircraft would have further increased America’s defensive posture, it is still likely that the U.S. suffers losses at Pearl Harbor.  In this scenario the Japanese lose more aircraft and don’t inflict as much damage to the U.S. ships in harbor, while the damage to the aircraft parked on the ground remains. In this scenario Pearl Harbor remains a Japanese tactical victory, and the U.S. still enters World War II. However, people will recall the actions of the Ward and the Opana radar detection, and how much worse things might have been had the U.S. not acted on their reporting. 


Endnotes: 

[1] Slackman, M. (1990) Target: Pearl Harbor. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, p.74.

[2] Bar-Joseph, U. and McDermont, R.(2016) “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence of two men on the outcomes.” Intelligence and National Security, Vol 31 (No.7), p.952. Most analysts at the time thought that the Japanese would attack either the Philippines, the Malay peninsula or other American island holdings in the Pacific.

[3] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor. P. 55. Of note, ADM Kimmel, prior to his assignment as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, held the rank of RADM (Two Star). The position was a 4-star billet, thus, he was addressed as ADM vs. RADM. After his dimissing from his position in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he reverted to his original 2-star rank (RADM). 

[4] Twoney, S. (2016). Countdown to Pearl Harbor. The Twelve Days to the Attack. Simon and Shuster, New York. P. XII.

[5] Ibid, P. 275. The radar operators, even as inexperienced as they were, would have been able to determine the presence of 50 airborne signatures, which, if reported to Fort Shafter, would have given the OIC pause, as the US was not sending near that many bombers to Hawaii that morning.

[6] Ibid

[7] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P. 76.

[8] Bar-Joseph and McDermont. “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence for two men on the outcomes.” P. 954.

[9] Ibid

[10] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P.135.

[11] Prange, G. (1982) At Dawn We Slept. Penguin Books, New York, P. 497.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Japan Scott Martin United States World War 2

Call for Papers: Social Media and National Security

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

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

For the purpose of this Call for Papers, we encourage our writers to look at all aspects of how social media can impact national security.  Possible examples include social media as a means of exerting political pressure on an elected leader to do or not do something national security related; social media as an intelligence tool; social media as a means to influence adversary populations etcetera.

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 December 11, 2021.

Call For Papers

Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Stuart E. Gallagher is a Special Operations Officer in the United States Army and a graduate of the National Defense University. He has previously served as a Commander, a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State, and Senior Observer Coach Trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He currently serves as the Chief, G3/5 Plans and Analysis for the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization or group.


Title:  Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Date Originally Written:  August 26, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 18, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author has spent the majority of his career in U.S. Army special operations and on airborne status. The author contends that although there are a significant and legitimate number of reasons airborne status should be removed from special operations units, maintaining this status is essential to the posterity of elite Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF).

Summary:  Airborne operations date back to World War 2. During this time, airborne operations delivered large numbers of paratroopers and special operations personnel (Office of Strategic Services) into denied territories[1]. Today, despite improved technology and the rise of great power competition, there is still a place for this capability in the ARSOF as it still fosters “eliteness,” and camaraderie, and is an effective assessment and selection tool.

Text:  Since its humble beginnings, airborne operations have played a critical role in U.S. military operations throughout the world. From World War 2 to Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, paratroopers answered the nation’s call. However, as the face of battle has changed over the last century, so too has the need for delivering large numbers of paratroopers behind enemy lines. As this metamorphosis has taken place, many senior military and civilian decision makers have begun to question the practice of maintaining large standing formations of airborne qualified troops. This practice is called further into question when applied to ARSOF, as their employment is even less probable.  

There are many compelling arguments against keeping special operations soldiers on airborne status such as: money, training time, injuries and lack of practical application. The first, and arguably most discussed is cost – a paratrooper on status is currently paid 150.00 dollars per month for hazardous duty pay. This equates to 1,800.00 dollars per year per soldier. Multiplying that number over a battalion sized element of 800 soldiers equates to 1.44 million dollars per year. If applied to an airborne brigade of 4,500 paratroopers this number swells to 8.1 million dollars. This is just airborne pay to the soldiers – this number does not account for the maintenance and employment of the airframes and equipment utilized to conduct airborne operations. 

Another argument often made pertains to training time required to maintain currency. On average it takes, conservatively, anywhere between four and twelve hours to conduct an airborne operation depending on the number of personnel, type of aircraft and weather conditions. In order to maintain currency, by regulation, a paratrooper must jump four times per calendar year. This is time that could arguably be used for other training that promotes soldier and unit readiness. 

Finally, jumping out of airplanes is a hazardous endeavor, which often leads to a litany of injuries – back, knees, hip, ankle, and head, just to name a few. Injuries of this nature directly impact readiness either temporarily (soldier gets injured, recovers and returns to duty) or permanently (soldier gets injured, cannot make a full recovery and is in turn discharged from the Army altogether).  

So why should ARSOF maintain airborne status? 

Although all of the above are legitimate and justifiable arguments as to why airborne forces should become a thing of the past, there are a multitude of reasons to maintain airborne status in both conventional and ARSOF units such as: elitism, camaraderie, and assessment and selection. One of the most important is elitism. Although in many circumstances elitism is construed in a negative light, when applied to elite military units, this is not the case. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, elitism is defined as “the belief that some things are only for a few people who have special qualities or abilities [2].”  By definition, being a paratrooper is being one of the elite in the Army. Elitism promotes esprit de corps, and esprit de corps promotes the good order, confidence and discipline required in military units to fight and win in battle. 

Another intangible that is invaluable in military formations is camaraderie. As counterintuitive as it may sound, engaging in activities that are life threatening forges a bond between soldiers that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else – jumping out of airplanes is one such activity. Soldiers put their lives in one another’s hands on a daily basis. As such, it is imperative that they trust one another implicitly – that they have a tight bond. Airborne units forge and promote that bond as it pays tremendous dividends in stressful situations such as combat. 

Finally, in order to become a paratrooper, a soldier must volunteer for airborne school. For ARSOF, airborne school serves as a form of early assessment and selection. It is not uncommon for ARSOF soldiers to face danger and be uncomfortable. In fact, this facing of danger is more often than not a common occurrence. As all ARSOF units are airborne units, if a solider is unable or unwilling to jump out of airplanes, they are probably not the right fit for special operations.   

Throughout United States history, airborne forces have played a key role in the nation’s defense. However, for various reasons, over the past two decades, airborne units were scaled back, hence decreasing the number of paratroopers on airborne status. Although understandable in an age of shrinking military budgets and increasing technologies, there is still a place for the airborne as it is an elite force providing both the tangibles and the intangibles necessary to fight and win the nation’s wars. Airborne! 


Endnotes:

[1] The Office of Strategic Services or OSS was a wartime intelligence agency of the United States during WWII. It was the predecessor of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Army Special Forces (Green Berets). The organization was disbanded at the conclusion of WWII.  

[2] Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved August 26, 2021 from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/eltism

  

Assessment Papers Force Delivery Methods Special Operations Stuart E. Gallagher U.S. Army

Options to Make COVID19 Lessons Learned Permanent at the United Kingdom’s Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land)

Grant is a serving officer in the British Army.  This article is an individual submission as the content is not endorsed by Army Division or the Defence Academy.  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:  During the COVID19 pandemic, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) (ICSC(L)) was modified in several ways which, if made permanent, could improve the output leading to an overall increase in combat capability.

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  October 11, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has a technical background, recently attended ICSC(L), and believes in contributing to a wider discussion regarding COVID19 lessons learned.

Background:  The options below present a reasonable challenge[1] on how the ICSC(L) is delivered, support the Army’s Digital Transformation[2], and avoid unintentionally stepping back to pre-COVID19 delivery and content.  These options set the conditions for enabling future Integrated Operations by improving decision making.  

Significance:  The aim of ICSC(L) “is to train and educate majors for grade 1 and 2 staff appointments, and commands as majors by developing their leadership, analytical and communication skills, productivity, professionalism and mental agility, …. to develop the intellectual edge needed for success on operations and leadership in government[3]”.   ICSC(L) is traditionally a seven month residential course, but during the past three courses a large portion was delivered online due to COVID19.  This online delivery could continue[4] with no training deficiency identified in previous courses.

Option #1:  Embrace technology.  One of the key benefits of ICSC(L), per the instructor cadre there, is developing a “professional network,” as the students are in the “people business, that requires face to face” content delivery.  Hence on April 19, 2021, during a national lockdown, the course of over 200 students formed up for face to face learning delivered in part socially distanced with everyone sitting in a lecture hall, listening to speakers briefing using the Microsoft Teams application on a large screen at the front.

By the autumn of 2021, a project called “MyMOD Laptop” expects to have delivered 150,000 laptops enabling personnel to work effectively and collaboratively across the world.  If these laptops were issued at the start of ICSC(L)[5], and best practices training on the new tools e.g. Microsoft Teams provided, students could embrace new ways of working regarding collaborative planning and management. 

Risk:  The benefits of face to face lessons are clear.  For example, it is very challenging attempting a modeling exercise on Microsoft Teams.  

Gain:  University courses[6] are delivered in part by online work.  Training as you fight using the same information technology gives students a chance to experiment and develop new styles of working and sets conditions for success as a digital army rather than using labelled up paper handbooks[7].  As U.S. Army General Stanley McCrystal said in 2011, “instead of being able to get all the key leaders for a decision together in a single room and look them in the eye ……I’ve got to use other techniques. I’ve got to use VTC, I’ve got to use chat, I’ve got to use email ….. not just for communication, but for leadership[8]”.

Option #2:  Reduce duplicative instruction.

The post-Cold War era saw UK forces based in Germany lacking the understanding and technical communications to practice a joint approach.  The Army today is much more than ‘The Armored Brigade’ and arguably ceding to ‘Jointery,’ in the information age.  On the last ICSC(L), approximately a quarter of the course’s duration was dedicated to Combat Estimate Planning at Brigade and Division Headquarters.  Students at ICSC(L) saw Combat Estimate Planning as repeating what they had already learned at Junior Officer Tactical Awareness Course (4 weeks) and Junior Command Staff Course (6 weeks).  During COVID19, elements of the Combat Estimate delivery were condensed into a 14-day modular block.  This shortened block suffices as less than a tenth of students are posted into a Division or Brigade Headquarters roles that utilize the Combat Estimate with slightly more than a tenth assigned to roles[9] that use the Tactical Estimate that is briefed just once one the course.  This option leaves four fifths of the course where any estimate is beneficial but not essential.  

Risk:  Some students may, based on their learning style or career focus, need to be refreshed and / or re-taught certain subjects.  Removing duplicative instruction may put them at risk for not learning / retaining the material. 

Gain:  Reducing the overall course duration by shortening repetitive content would reduce the demands on both students and staff.   

Option #3:  Update course content.

ICSC(L) lacked any instruction related to considerations for mitigation of COVID19 in future units nor how, from a Ministry of Defense (MoD) point of view, a pandemic could effect national security operations.  Secondly, while the 2021 Integrated Review mentions the word “Cyber” 156 times, ICSC(L) only allocated a single afternoon lesson for cyber.  Future iterations of ICSC(L) could teach students how to plan for continued operations during a pandemic, and the integration of cyber operations at all levels. This instruction would utilize local knowledge of recent planning and mitigations that the ICSC(L) staff had to implement. 

Risk:  COVID19 and the reported major cyber incident[10] experiences may be too new and too localized and curriculum developed too fast could teach students the wrong things.

Gain:  Though localized, the cyber incident vignette or war story is just as relevant to future operations as Falklands or Iraq briefs and would boost MoD resilience.  “Chatham house rules, on this day on camp we discovered, how it unfolded, what we did and with hindsight, what we wished we had done or known, ideally supported by a subject matter expert.”  Additionally, graduates of ICSC(L) are more likely to have to plan around COVID19 and cyber incidents then develop a major war plan.

Option #4:  Integrate and cohere outside the Army.

Historically, two weeks of ICSC(L) is spent on a U.S. overseas visit.  Due to COVID19 this overseas visit has not happened for the last three ICSC(L) iterations and this time was replaced with two weeks of student research.  With a quarter of each of the ICSC(L) students posted out of the Army and into UK Strategic Command, these two weeks would be better spent learning about the command.  Strategic Command leads with billions of pounds of capabilities that are key to the digital Army of the future.  However, ICSC(L) students only receive a couple of days high-level familiarization[11].  Prioritizing learning about the wider Defence Organization would benefit the students posted into Strategic Command and provide a long term improvement in capabilities provided to the Army.  

Risk:  Permanently removing the overseas trip would hinder UK/U.S. understanding, but could be mitigated by distributed collaboration. 

Gain:  In this option students would achieve a greater understanding of Strategic Command’s capability development and how to influence efforts at inception.  Students would also get to interact with other services speakers[12], former government personnel, subject matter experts, and conference speakers and learn how they think.  All of the preceding would enable Multi Domain Integration and diversify outlooks from the current Land-centric view.  

Option #5:  Modular course delivery over an extended timeframe.

COVID 19 has proven that elements of ICSC(L) can be delivered in a modular format.   The current seven month residential course is for many the last formal and externally assessed training they receive prior to promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.  This option envisions implementing modular content delivery over six years, with completion being a pre-requisite for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. 

Risk:  The current in-person, seven month focused ICSC(L) provides the opportunity for students to develop their professional network and receive individual attention.

Gain:  This option follows Royal Air Force and Royal Navy equivalents with a condensed period of mandatory training with career managers and future employers selecting relevant additional modular elements.  This modular package exploits industry training (such as AGILE / DevSecOps,) relevant to roughly a third of the students being posed to capability and acquisition roles.  This option allows students to work around family commitments such as maternity leave.  Rather than the force losing 400 newly promoted Majors to the traditional seven month long residential ICSC(L) course, a modular option would enable students to remain in situ and, in theory, fills 50 currently gapped jobs in the army. This option would improve wider defense output, reduce the churn of postings while opening up options for attendance from the whole force[13], leading to enhanced networking and diversity of thought.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “The Good Operation,” Ministry of Defense, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/674545/TheGoodOperation_WEB.PDF

[2] “Army Digitalisation: the THEIA programme,”  

[3] Overview of ICSC(L), https://www.da.mod.uk/colleges-and-schools/joint-services-command-and-staff-college/army-division/.

[4] ICSC 17 Army Division Welcome Letter.

[5] International students would need to have limited system permissions similar to how international exchange officers are given limited access to headquarters.

[6] Such as the Cyber Operations MSc offered by Cranfield University, which is available at Shrivenham, a secure military site in partnership with the Defence Academy.

[7] Quote from one of the ICSC(L) course instruction videos where success of a staff officer is judged by how well labelled up their Staff Officers HandBook is.

[8] Stanley McChrystal, TED Talk, “Listen, learn… then lead,” March 2011, https://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal_listen_learn_then_lead.

[9] Such as the Permanent Joint Headquarters and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Rapid Reaction Corps

[10] The Sun Newspaper, 21 Mar 21, Ministry of Defence academy hit by major cyber attack by ‘foreign power, https://www.the-sun.com/news/2555777/mod-defence-academy-cyber-attack-foreign-power/

[11] STRATCOM & DES

[12] Online attendance of the Royal United Service Institute Land Warfare Conference 

[13] It is unlikely that the National Health Service would send a student for the 7-month courses but a two-week military planning-focused event may be appealing.  

Capacity / Capability Enhancement COVID-19 Grant Option Papers Training United Kingdom

Options to Counter Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa

Benjamin Fincham-de Groot is a masters candidate at Deakin University pursuing his masters of international relations with a specialization in conflict and security. He can be found on twitter at @Finchamde. Divergent Opinions’ 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:  Russia’s Wagner Group, a Private Military Company, conducts military-like operations in Africa.  As a PMC, Wagner Group’s activities can be disavowed by the Russian government.  

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 4, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Russia’s Wagner Group poses a threat to stability in Africa.  This article discusses options to project U.S. influence and protect American interests in the African theatre. 

Background:  Grey zone tactics are the use of civilian or non-military assets to achieve military or strategic objectives. These tactics are useful for state actors to use or project power while maintaining a plausible deniability that can minimise the chance of conflict escalation[1][2]. 

Broadly, there are two ways in which state actors work to effect change through grey zone tactics[3]. First, through grey zone tactics a state actor normalises transgressions through small violations that each create precedent to justify a greater violation[4]. Thus, whereas it would be unreasonable for one state actor to escalate to full-blown conflict over a freedom of navigation operation, or a lesser violation of airspace, each unanswered transgression creates precedent for greater transgression without repercussion.  One example is the steady escalation of Chinese military flight incursions into Taiwanese airspace[5]. Second, the fait accompli in which a state actor swiftly and suddenly achieves a strategic objective and positions near-peer rivals to choose between escalation and acceptance. This tactic can be pertinent to seizing an objective, extracting a person of interesting, or destroying an enemy asset.  

Antulio Echevarria believes that a key aspect of grey zone tactics has been ensuring that no transgression executed as a grey zone manoeuvre is so significant as to elicit a response from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) under Article Five.  This article states that any attack on a NATO member state should be treated as an attack on all of them; and that any military attack should be responded to in kind. To stay below the Article Five threshold, grey zone tactics in Europe have primarily been used in the cyber-domain. That said, the definition of what constitutes an attack under Article Five is evolving and has grown to include transgressions in both space and cyber. 

Significance:  Africa is increasingly become a theatre for great power competition[6]. The United States has a well-established presence there, both military in nature and for peace-keeping operations. China is developing its ability to project power from Africa and within it, and has recently completed its first port capable of servicing Chinese aircraft carriers away from Chinese sovereign territory in Djibouti. 

Through 2018 and 2019, pursuant to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir being convicted by the International Criminal Court of war crimes, Sudan was isolated within the global community. It was Vladimir Putin’s Russia that came to Sudan’s aid in supporting Sudan through trade generally, but also supplying Sudan with a significant supply of weapons. Further, when pro-democracy protesters pushed for al-Bashir to step down, the Russian paramilitary contractors known as Wagner Group were unleashed on the protesters. 

While officially unaffiliated with Putin, the Russian military or any part of Russian intelligence, Wagner Group nonetheless have ties with Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin insider[7]. Thus, because of their ties with Prigorzhin and the Kremlin, the actions of Wagner group are considered to be simultaneously enacting the Kremlin’s agenda and projecting Russian power, while also operating as a private military contractor whose behaviour cannot be held against any given state. That is to say, it is a reasonable assumption that any and all actions taken by Wagner Group are on behalf of or towards the strategic goals of the Kremlin, but must be considered as being beneath the threshold of war as they are not representing a state at this time[8]. 

While primarily operating in Sudan, Wagner Group has been active throughout Africa[9]. Wagner Group uses both gray zone tactics described above, normalizing transgressions and fait accompli.  As such, America and their allies and partners allied state actors have two options available to them that would allow them to combat or minimise the impact that Wagner Group are having in the African theatre[10]. 

Option #1:  First, given that American forces are already deployed in the African theatre, it is reasonable that some troops can be repositioned.  If Wagner Group were to act on key strategic or humanitarian objectives, they would have to choose between escalating and initiating combat with American forces or abandoning those objectives[11]. As much as openly pursuing Wagner Group assets for their war crimes would be difficult to justify to the United Nations Security Council, and might be seen as the pursuit of Russian nationals; positioning assets to defend strategic objectives minimises the capacity for Wagner Group to achieve Russian strategic goals[12]. This is not to say that these repositioned American forces should patrol endlessly, but rather be positioned around key objectives such that Wagner Group assets must risk greater escalation and greater personal risk in pursuing those strategic objectives.

Risk:  This option risks an escalation of conflict between Wagner group assets and the American military. 

Gain:  This option deters of Wagner Group assets from achieving their strategic goals, and minimizing Russian power projection in Africa. 

Option #2:  The U.S. could deploy their own paramilitary contractors into the African theatre to counter Wagner Group.  These paramilitary contractors, similar to the ones the Americans deployed into Afghanistan and Iraq, could be used to provide strategic pressure, or engage in combat with Wagner Group assets in the event in efforts to maintain the security of key assets. Significantly, the deployment of paramilitary contractors in defense of American and humanitarian assets would reasonably be below any threshold for war, and be unlikely to escalate beyond that initial conflict.

Risk:  This option risks an escalation of conflict between Wagner Group and American-employed paramilitary contractors. 

Gain:  This option protectis humanitarian assets in the African theatre, minimising Russian power  projection, and demonstrating American investment in protecting Allied assets.  Through the utilization of paramilitary contractors, this also frees up the U.S. military to focus on other threats.

Other Comments:  Africa is increasingly a theatre for great power competition. With Russia and China pursuing very different avenues of projecting power onto that continent, America and its allies need to clarify what their goals and strategic aims are in that region; and to what lengths the West is willing to go to in order to pursue them. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mazarr, Michael J. Mastering the gray zone: understanding a changing era of conflict. US Army War College Carlisle, 2015.

[2] Banasik, Miroslaw. “Unconventional war and warfare in the gray zone. The new spectrum of modern conflicts.” Journal of Defense Resources Management (JoDRM) 7, no. 1 (2016): 37-46.

[3] Echevarria, Antulio. “Operating in the Grey Zone: An Alternative Paradigm for US Military Strategy.” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College (2016). 

[4] Carment, David, and Dani Belo. War’s Future: The Risks and Rewards of GreyZone Conflict and Hybrid Warfare. Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2018.

[5] Jackson, Van. “Tactics of strategic competition: Gray zones, redlines, and conflicts before war.” Naval War College Review 70, no. 3 (2017): 39-62.

[6] Port, Jason Matthew. “State or Nonstate: The Wagner Group’s Role in Contemporary Intrastate Conflicts Worldwide.” (2021).

[7] Marten, Kimberly. “Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group.” Post-Soviet Affairs 35, no. 3 (2019): 181-204.

[8] Rondeaux, Candace. Decoding the Wagner group: Analyzing the role of private military security contractors in Russian proxy warfare. New America., 2019.

[9] Benaso, Ryan. “Invisible Russian Armies: Wagner Group in Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic.” (2021).

[10] Belo, Dani. “Conflict in the absence of war: a comparative analysis of China and Russia engagement in gray zone conflicts.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 26, no. 1 (2020): 73-91.

[11] Gannon, J. Andrés, Erik Gartzke, Jon R. Lindsay, and Peter Schram. “The Shadow of Deterrence: Why capable actors engage in conflict short of war.” (2021).

[12] Rizzotti, Michael A. “Russian Mercenaries, State Responsibility, and Conflict in Syria: Examining the Wagner Group under International Law.” Wis. Int’l LJ 37 (2019): 569.

Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Benjamin Fincham-de Groot Option Papers Private Military Companies (PMC etc) United States

Assessing Australia’s Cyber-Attack Attribution Issues


Jackson Calder is the Founder and CEO of JC Ltd., a futures modeling firm specialising in geopolitical risk advisory based in New Zealand, and holds a Masters of Strategic Studies from Victoria University of Wellington.  Divergent Optionscontent 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 Australia’s Cyber-Attack Attribution Issues

Date Originally Written:  August 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 27, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without more proactive and novel thinking by decision makers, strategic competition in the grey-zone is likely to continue to outpace meaningful policy responses.

Summary:  Recent years have proven that China can prevail over Australia in the threshold below war, particularly through cyber-attacks that go without attribution. Without building trust between agencies, implementing the right training and education, and properly conceptualizing cyber warfare to bolster political will, Canberra will not strengthen attribution capabilities and achieve greater strategic agility in the cyber domain.

Text:  Making an official attribution of a cyber-attack is one of the key techno-political challenges faced by governments today. Using China-Australia tensions as a case study, one can analyse how capability gaps, technical expertise, and political will all play a role in shaping attribution and assess how one state prevails over another in the grey-zone of conflict below the threshold of war. Thus far Australia has favoured freeriding upon its more powerful allies’ attribution capability vis-à-vis China, rather than make attributions of its own[1]. Unless Canberra greatly expands its cyber security and attribution capabilities it will not accrue more agency, independence and, ultimately, strategic agility in this domain.

Over the past three years Australia has been the victim of numerous large-scale cyber campaigns carried out by China, targeting critical infrastructure, political parties, and service providers. While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did state that a “sophisticated state-based actor” perpetrated these attacks, his government has thus far never made a public attribution to China[2]. Senior Australian officials have confirmed to media that they believe China is behind the attacks, raising questions around the lack of attribution[3].

Australia’s situation is representative of a wider strategic environment rife with frequent and sophisticated information operations, with China being a leading perpetrator of offensive cyber -attacks. Chinese hybrid warfare is undoubtedly inspired by Soviet political warfare dating back to the early 1920’s, but is perhaps grounded more in the concept of ‘unrestricted warfare’ posited by Liang and Xiangsui in 1999[4]. This concept manifested in the ‘Three Warfares’ doctrine of the early 2000’s, with offensive cyber operations being used as a key strategic tool since the PLA formed their Informatization Department in 2011[5]. Though described as ‘kinder weapons’, their ability to ‘strike at the enemy’s nerve center directly’ has indeed produced kinetic effects in recent years when used to sabotage critical infrastructure[6]. Whilst it is widely accepted that China is responsible for large-scale cyber operations, proving this can be a monumental task by virtue of cyber forensics being technically intensive and time-consuming.

In 2014, Thomas Rid and Ben Buchanan captured the nuance of cyber attribution excellently when they stated that ‘attribution is an art: no purely technical routine, simple or complex, can formalise, calculate, quantify, or fully automate attribution[7].’ While the art statement is true, technical routines exists to build attribution capability upon, and this is the crux of China’s prevailing over Australia in recent years. Canberra’s ‘freeriding’ on capabilities outside of the government and lack of streamlined inter-agency processes and accountability has severely limited their effectiveness in the cyber domain[8]. Attempts to remedy this have been made over the past two decades, with a number of agencies agreeing to communicate more and share responsibility for bringing an attribution forward, but they have been hamstrung by endemic underinvestment. Consequently, Australia’s response to a greatly increased threat profile in the cyber domain ‘has been slow and fragmented, thus ‘Australia’s play-book is not blank but it looks very different from those of pace-setter countries[9].’ 

Improving the speed and integrity of an attribution begins with ensuring that cyber security practitioners are not over-specialised in training and education. Though it may seem counterintuitive, evidence suggests that the most effective practitioners utilise general-purpose software tools more than others[10]. This means that organisational investment into specialised cyber security tools will not translate directly into improved capability without also establishing a training and work environment that pursues pragmatism over convoluted hyper-specialisation.

Attribution is less likely when there are low levels of trust between the government and civilian organisations involved in cyber security as this does not foster an operational environment conducive to the maturing of inter-agency responses. Trust is particularly important in Australia’s case in the relationship between more centralised intelligence agencies like the national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) based out of the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the civilian-run AusCERT. In 2017, Frank Smith and Graham Ingram addressed trust poignantly in stating that ‘the CERT community appears to have lacked the authority and funding needed to institutionalise trust – and thus depersonalise or professionalise it – enough to grow at scale[11].’ Trust between organisations, as well as between practitioners and the technology available to them, underpin the development of a robust and timely cyber security capability[12]. Without robust information sharing and clear lanes of responsibility failure will occur.

Attribution requires political will but competition in the cyber domain remains somewhat nebulous in its strategic conceptualisation, which constrains meaningful responses. If cyber war remains undefined, how do we know if we are in one or not[13]? Conceptualisation of the grey-zone as on the periphery of power competition, instead of at the centre of power competition itself, similarly confuses response thresholds and dampens political will. In 2016, James K. Wither stated that although information operations are non-kinetic, ‘the aim of their use remains Clausewitzian, that is to compel an opponent to bend to China’s will[14].’ Wither develops this point, arguing that within a rivalry dynamic where an ideological battle is also present, revisionist states wage hybrid warfare against the West ‘where, to reverse Clausewitz, peace is essentially a continuation of war by other means[15].’ Adopting this mindset is key to building political will, thus improving attribution external to technical capability. 

Finally, it is best to acknowledge Australia’s geopolitical environment may make attribution a less preferable course of action, even if a robust case is made. Foreign Minister Payne has stated that Australia ‘publicly attributes cyber incidents’ only ‘when it is in our interest to do so[16].’ Until attribution is tied to concrete consequences for the perpetrator, Canberra’s strategic calculus is likely to weigh potential Chinese economic and diplomatic retaliation as heavier than any potential benefits of making an official attribution. Nevertheless, it creates more options if Canberra possesses rapid and robust attribution capabilities, combined with political will to use them, to compete more effectively under the threshold of war.       


Endnotes:

[1] Chiacu, D., & Holland, S. (2021, July 19). U.S. and allies accuse China of global hacking spree. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-allies-accuse-china-global-cyber-hacking-campaign-2021-07-19/

[2] Packham, C. (2020, June 18). Australia sees China as main suspect in state-based cyberattacks, sources say. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-cyber-idUSKBN23P3T5

[3] Greene, A. (2021, March 17). China suspected of cyber attack on WA Parliament during state election. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-17/wa-parliament-targeted-cyber-attack/13253926

[4] Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (1999). Unrestricted warfare. Beijing, CN: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House Arts. https://www.c4i.org/unrestricted.pdf

[5] Raska, M. (2015). Hybrid Warfare with Chinese Characteristics. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 262). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. https://hdl.handle.net/10356/82086 p.1.

[6] Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (1999). Unrestricted warfare. Beijing, CN: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House Arts. https://www.c4i.org/unrestricted.pdf p.27.

[7] Rid, T., & Buchanan, B. (2014). Attributing Cyber Attacks. Journal of Strategic Studies, 38(1-2), 4-37. doi:10.1080/01402390.2014.977382 p.27.

[8] Smith, F., & Ingram, G. (2017). Organising cyber security in Australia and beyond. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(6), 642-660. doi:10.1080/10357718.2017.1320972 p.10.

[9] Joiner, K. F. (2017). How Australia can catch up to U.S. cyber resilience by understanding that cyber survivability test and evaluation drives defense investment. Information Security Journal: A Global Perspective, 26(2), 74-84. doi:10.1080/19393555.2017.1293198 p.1.

[10] Mcclain, J., Silva, A., Emmanuel, G., Anderson, B., Nauer, K., Abbott, R., & Forsythe, C. (2015). Human Performance Factors in Cyber Security Forensic Analysis. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, 5301-5307. doi:10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.621 p.5306.

[11] Smith, F., & Ingram, G. (2017). Organising cyber security in Australia and beyond. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(6), 642-660. doi:10.1080/10357718.2017.1320972 p.14.

[12] Robinson, M., Jones, K., & Janicke, H. (2015). Cyber warfare: Issues and challenges. Computers & Security. 49. 70-94. 10.1016/j.cose.2014.11.007. p.48.

[13] Ibid, p.12.

[14] Wither, J. K. (2016). Making Sense of Hybrid Warfare. Connections: The Quarterly Journal, 15(2), 73-87. doi:10.11610/connections.15.2.06 p.78.

[15] Ibid, p.79.

[16] Payne, M. (2018, December 21). Attribution of Chinese cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft. Retrieved from https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/attribution-chinese-cyber-enabled-commercial-intellectual-property-theft

Assessment Papers Australia Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace Jackson Calder

Assessing the Alignment of U.S. Diplomatic and Military Power to Forestall Armed Conflict

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, and the United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in Charged Affairs, Merion West, the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington Monthly, Braver Angels, France 24, the Truman National Security Project, and Arc Digital. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.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: Assessing the Alignment of U.S. Diplomatic and Military Power to Forestall Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes an expansion of the Department of State’s Foreign Service, and closer alignment of the efforts of the Departments of State and Defense, can help the United States forestall international conflicts before they turn violent, and give the U.S. military time to modernize and prepare for future conflicts.

Summary:  Regardless of whether the U.S. maintains its military edge, unless it invests in other forms of national power, armed conflict is very likely.  Without closer alignment between the Department of State and Department of Defense, on a long enough timeline, unnecessary wars will occur.

Text:  The United States has the world’s most powerful military. The U.S. military’s budget ($778 billion in 2020, compared to $252 billion for second-largest-spender China)[1], its global reach, and the skills of its personnel[2], are unmatched. Twenty-first century conflict, however, will not always require conventional military strength to win.  While there are steps the U.S. military can take to prepare, civilian power can help forestall conflict in the meantime.

The Foreign Service includes approximately 8,000 Foreign Service Officers (FSOs)[3]. Past FSOs have included some of America’s most renowned diplomats. Perhaps most famously, George Kennan, stationed in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, was one of the first observers to comprehensively analyze the Soviet threat to post-World War II peace. His 1946 “Long Telegram[4]” and 1947 “X-Article[5]” were key in forming the basis for the U.S. policy of containment throughout the Cold War.

Later FSOs perceptively analyzed the weaknesses of U.S. foreign policy. Richard Holbrooke, who would later negotiate the Dayton Accords ending the Bosnian War, began his diplomatic career as an FSO in South Vietnam, where he was skeptical that U.S. support could save the regime in Saigon[6]. In 1971, when Pakistani forces began to commit genocide during the Bangladesh War of Independence[7], FSO Archer Blood warned Washington of the massacres the American-supported Pakistani military was carrying out[8].

A large increase in the number of FSOs could give the U.S. many more diplomatic eyes and ears in potential conflict zones. More FSOs could increase the chance of the U.S. brokering peace deals between warring parties, or of better judging early on whether a conflict is one the U.S. military should stay out of. Early involvement by diplomats could preempt later involvement by troops.

Even with a much larger Foreign Service, there is still a chance the U.S. will be drawn into conflict. The foreign policy goals of Russia and China, powers not content to live in a U.S.-dominated international system, may overwhelm attempts to keep the peace. Nonetheless, an investment in diplomatic power, in building relationships with other countries’ leaders and policymakers, could pay off in the form of wars avoided.

Closer collaboration between the diplomatic and military arms of U.S. power would also have benefits. Even if the U.S. chooses to have a less militarized foreign policy, reducing the military’s absolute strength need not be the solution. Ensuring that diplomats and military commanders work closely together, and making clear that U.S. policymakers do not inherently favor one over the other, could increase the relative strength of civilian power without weakening the military. 

Both the Department of State (DoS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) divide the world into six regions (see first map below) for their operations[9]. DoS activities in each region are directed by an assistant secretary, while each DOD regional combatant command is headed by a four-star general or admiral. Additionally, the world’s oceans are divided among the U.S. Navy’s numbered fleets, some of whose boundaries correspond to those of the combatant commands (see second map below)[10]. However, DoS and DoD regions are not always aligned with each other. Aligning them, by shifting countries between regions, could better integrate civilian and military power.

 

For example, of the countries in DoS’ Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCAA), those with coastlines are in DoD’s U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet – except for Pakistan in U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), whose coast is under the 5th Fleet. Meanwhile, the Navy has discussed bringing back its deactivated 1st Fleet and giving it responsibility for part of the Indian Ocean[11].

Suppose 1st Fleet were established under the aegis of USINDOPACOM (as 7th Fleet currently is), and were to align with the coasts of the SCAA countries. Pakistan could move from USCENTCOM to USINDOPACOM, and from the 5th to the 1st Fleet. When DoS officials needed to work closely with DoD officials with regard to, for example, India and Pakistan — two nuclear-armed states with a rivalry dating back to their creation in 1947 — there would be one combatant commander and one Navy flag officer for them to communicate with, not two of each.

Similarly, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia could be moved from U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) to USCENTCOM, which already includes Egypt. This would align the DoS and DoD maps of North Africa as all five North African countries are currently in DoS’ Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Egypt, a long-time ally of the U.S. and a recipient of more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid annually[12], has taken sides in such events as the recent civil war in Libya[13] and domestic political turmoil in Tunisia[14]. If the U.S. wanted to leverage its relationship with Egypt to resolve conflicts in North Africa, it could benefit from such overlap between DoS and DoD.

Changes like these will be limited in what they can accomplish. For example, if part of the Indian Ocean is allocated to 1st Fleet, the southern boundary of the fleet’s waters will still have to be drawn. Furthermore, USINDOPACOM is already geographically large, and already includes three of the world’s four most populous countries: China, India, and Indonesia[15]. Adding Pakistan, the fifth most populous country [16], could stretch its burdens beyond the ability of its officers to manage them. Nevertheless, if this or similar changes increase collaboration between DoS and DoD, enabling the U.S. to better manage crises and avoid deployments of U.S. forces to conflict zones, they are worthy of consideration.

With the American public weary of extended overseas military deployments, and U.S. President Joseph Biden seeking to maintain America’s global power status without straining financial and military resources, a larger Foreign Service and a DoS in sync with DoD are worth discussing.


Endnotes:

[1] Statista. “Countries with the highest military spending worldwide in 2020.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/262742/countries-with-the-highest-military-spending/

[2] Greer, Col. Jim, U.S. Army (Ret.). “Training: The Foundation for Success in Combat.” Heritage Foundation, October 4, 2018. https://www.heritage.org/military-strength-topical-essays/2019-essays/training-the-foundation-success-combat

[3] Nutter, Julie. “The Foreign Service by the Numbers.” Foreign Service Journal, January/February 2020. https://afsa.org/foreign-service-numbers

[4] Wilson Center. “George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram.’” February 22, 1946. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116178.pdf

[5] Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. “Kennan and Containment, 1947.” https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/kennan

[6] Isaacson, Walter. “Richard Holbrooke, the Last Great Freewheeling Diplomat.” New York Times, May 9, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/books/review/george-packer-our-man-richard-holbrooke-biography.html

[7] Boissoneault, Lorraine. “The Genocide the U.S. Can’t Remember, But Bangladesh Can’t Forget.” Smithsonian Magazine, December 16, 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/genocide-us-cant-remember-bangladesh-cant-forget-180961490/

[8] Barry, Ellen. “To U.S. in ’70s, a Dissenting Diplomat. To Bangladesh, ‘a True Friend.’” New York Times, June 27, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/world/asia/bangladesh-archer-blood-cable.html

[9] “Joint Guide for Interagency Doctrine.” Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 4, 2019. https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/Interorganizational_Documents/jg_ia.pdf?ver=2020-02-03-151039-500

[10] “USN Fleets (2009).” Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USN_Fleets_(2009).png

[11] Eckstein, Megan. “SECNAV Braithwaite Calls for New U.S. 1st Fleet Near Indian, Pacific Oceans.” USNI News, November 17, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/11/17/secnav-braithwaite-calls-for-new-u-s-1st-fleet-near-indian-pacific-oceans

[12] Project on Middle East Democracy. “Fact Sheet – U.S. Military Assistance to Egypt: Separating Fact from Fiction.” July 2020. https://pomed.org/fact-sheet-u-s-military-assistance-to-egypt-separating-fact-from-fiction/

[13] Harchaoui, Jalel. “The Pendulum: How Russia Sways Its Way to More Influence in Libya.” War on the Rocks, January 7, 2021. https://warontherocks.com/2021/01/the-pendulum-how-russia-sways-its-way-to-more-influence-in-libya/

[14] Saied, Mohamed. “Cairo backs Tunisian president’s actions against Brotherhood.” Al-Monitor, August 10, 2021. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/08/cairo-backs-tunisian-presidents-actions-against-brotherhood

[15] “Population, total.” World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?most_recent_value_desc=true

[16] Ibid

Assessment Papers Defense and Military Reform Diplomacy Governing Documents and Ideas Major Regional Contingency Michael D. Purzycki United States

Space, Climate, and Comprehensive Defense Options Below the Threshold of War

Joe McGiffin has served in the United States Army for seven years. He is currently pursuing a M.A. in International Relations prior to teaching Defense and Strategic Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He can be found on Twitter @JoeMcGiffin. 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:  As the space domain, climate change, and views of military purpose evolve, multiple options below the threshold of war are required.

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 13, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty service member. This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. towards the anticipated operating environment of the next thirty years.

Background:  Conflict below the threshold of war is characterized by subversive tactics and the amoral use of force[1]. Democratic states cannot justify the use of these means in the defense of their national security interests[2]. The United States requires alternative strategies to bolster the free world order and deter or defeat adversaries through legitimate, transparent methods.

Significance:  The strategic environment is a fluid expression of geopolitical changes. A state’s ability to predict, adapt to, and manipulate those variables will determine its relative influence and security over the next thirty years. To be competitive strategically, free nations will need to synergize their private and public assets into courses of action which maximize effective and efficient use of resources.

Option #1:  Diversify Space Exploitation: The Techno-National Approach

The space industry has yet to scratch the surface of the domain’s strategic potential. Navigation, communications, surveillance[3], and even transportation are the starting point[4]. The United States and its allies can invest in new space capabilities to harden their physical and economic vulnerabilities. One approach could be the use of additive manufacturing and recycling of inert satellites in orbit to produce in-demand computer components[5]. This plausible course of action would reduce materiel costs for these parts and alleviate U.S. economic dependence on China. As the industry grows, so too will the technology, expanding potential for other space-based capabilities and options.

Risk:  This option requires a long-term commitment by public and private entities and offers few short-term returns. The exact timeline to achieving the desired end state will prove unpredictable as necessary technological breakthroughs are difficult to anticipate. Additionally, this approach may trigger the weaponization of space as these strategic platforms become the targets of adversaries.

Gain:  Industrial use of space will alleviate economic interdependence with adversaries and provide enhanced economic security and physical protection of strategic supply lines. There is also the potential for alliance and partnership-building by offering interstate collaboration on required research, development, and manufacturing.

Option #2:  Green and Lean Logistics: The Climate Change Approach

Rising sea levels, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and the diminishing supply of oil and natural gas will impact the geopolitical environment[6]. While the first two factors will require direct action to mitigate as they continue, finding alternative fuel options has national security implications that are not widely discussed. Previous DoD tests indicate that current technologies could reduce military fuel dependency by up to 90% without impacting operations[7]. As a higher research and investment priority, more astonishing gains can be anticipated.

Risk:  As one of the leading exporters of oil and natural gas, the United States’ transition to alternative energies will face even more staunch resistance than it has previously. Making alternative fuels a priority investment may also restrict defense spending on other strategic assets.

Gain:  This approach enhances military capability and could present a new means of promoting U.S. influence and democratic values internationally. The tooth to tail ratio of the resulting force will extend operational reach exponentially while curtailing vulnerabilities and expenses through the reduction of required support personnel, platforms, and installations. Alternatively, the sustainment network could be maintained with enhanced flexibility, capable of nesting with disaster response and humanitarian aid agencies to assist with international relief operations.

Option #3:  Comprehensive Defense Force: The Demographic Change Response

The sole purpose of a professional military in a democracy is defense. This option expands the definition of defense to include protection from all threats to the nation and the promotion of its ideals, not just those posed by enemy forces. International social unrest poses a danger that is not conventionally considered as a strategic threat. For example: Megacities are projected to present a critical factor of the international environment over the next thirty years[8]. They are typically in a stagnant or declining state, offering refuge for illicit non-state actors seeking to destabilize the host nation for their own purposes. Relieving the conditions which promote instability proactively defends the United States and her allies from criminal or terrorist actions against any potential target. Using the military in conjunction with other means could help defuse these regions if done in a deliberate and unified manner.

Risk:  U.S. military and aid personnel will be targeted by militant actors as they work to improve the megactiy’s administration and infrastructure. Additionally, host nation corruption could lead to fraudulent use of humanitarian resources or sympathetic support of an embedded actor, requiring strict supervision and involvement. There is also the potential that the non-state actor is a proxy or funded by an adversary and will execute missions with the intention to discredit allied aid operations.

Gain:  Aiding states improves ties, alleviates unrest, and promotes democratic values and U.S. influence. Eliminating their power bases neutralizes illicit non-state actors, depriving adversaries of proxy forces for use in subversive tactics. The military will integrate more completely with the U.S. interagency, resulting in increased impact from unity of effort in future strategic endeavors.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

 

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Defense and Military Reform Environmental Factors Joe McGiffin Option Papers Space

Assessing Shortcomings of the U.S. Approach for Addressing Conflict Below the Threshold of War

Joe McGiffin has served in the United States Army for seven years. He is currently pursuing a M.A. in International Relations prior to teaching Defense and Strategic Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He can be found on Twitter @JoeMcGiffin. 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 Shortcomings of the U.S. Approach for Addressing Conflict Below the Threshold of War.

Date Originally Written:  August 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 6, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author is an active-duty service member. This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. toward the anticipated operating environment of the next thirty years.

Summary:  The current U.S. national security approach is not suitable for addressing threats below the threshold of war. This approach focuses on achieving security through military superiority.  A more effective approach would achieve national security objectives derived from an analysis of geopolitical trends. This new approach will allow for more unified, synergistic use of national resources in the defense of U.S. interests.

Text:  By its own estimate, the United States is losing global influence as a result of strategic atrophy, permitting other actors the freedom to reshape the weakening world order through “all-of-nation long-term strategy[1].”  However, myopia, not atrophy, has eroded U.S. advantages. A new approach, one that can frame its national security problems within the changing geopolitical context, will result in a more resilient and agile security strategy.

The current U.S. approach is a dangerous misinterpretation of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) theory that originated from Soviet observations of the United States’ Second Offset Strategy which ended the Cold War[2]. Nuclear weapons created a conflict threshold, which neither power would cross, and spurred a race to tactical dominance in conflict below that level. Between their own success and the proliferation of assets which promised dominant battlefield knowledge, maneuver, and precision[3], the United States concluded that military supremacy was synonymous with national security. Though the defense community rebrands it as a new concept every decade (i.e., Transformation and Defense Innovative Initiative), the intellectual underpinnings do not change[4].

While RMA theory is appealing, history proves two points: that superior weaponry rarely equates directly to a strategic advantage; and that overemphasis on such advances disregards other critical factors of national security[5]. While military advancements have had profound impacts on the rise and fall of global powers in the past, those innovations were seldom developed in isolation from revolutionary change in society or culture[6]. For example, it was the socioeconomic isolation of the East and West that created the conditions for an arms race to determine the victor of the Cold War, not the weapons themselves. Near-exclusive focus on the military aspect of national security has left the United States committed to the pursuit of tactical superiority at the expense of strategic flexibility.

The Third Offset Strategy (3OS) and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program both illustrate this issue. The 3OS hinges entirely on having a technological advantage to negate adversary Anti-Access/Area Denial Operations: industrial espionage or an adversary’s own disruptive innovations could plausibly neutralize the 3OS rapidly enough to significantly disrupt U.S. foreign policy[7]. The F-35, for its part, demonstrates another issue. While the apex of air power for now, it came at exorbitant cost and will continue to be a resource strain on the U.S. defense budget[8]. Furthermore, whether or not the F-35 was worth the price is an important question with implications for future strategy. While military supremacy has continued to fill a pivotal role in deterring war between major actors, it is not a fungible advantage; that is, military innovations can be used only in military conflicts or to deter them. While the F-35 may be the best fighter available, it is important to consider what measurable security advantages it has or has not achieved for the United States and its other investors.

Today’s environment requires the United States to adopt a more inclusive framework for achieving security goals. Instead of focusing resources into a single element of power (i.e., the military), it could use a more comprehensive approach grounded in geopolitical analysis. Instead of preparing for future war, it could focus on the threats posed by the present: subversive tactics and strategic maneuvers by aggressors deliberately avoiding the overt use of military force. The new paradigm would strive for synergy across as many public and private stakeholders as possible in order to achieve a unified effort to secure national interests.

As an example, use of space assets, because of their extreme expense, has only been possible through close cooperation of the private and public sector. Co-usage of platforms between the military, government, and private sector continues to be a hallmark of this domain[9]. That synergistic use of resources to achieve specific goals, if applied to national security means across the other domains, will offer far more flexibility and resiliency than strict reliance on what military power can achieve.

While conventional war is the purview of the military, conflict below that threshold is far more calculated and nuanced. In order to retain its position of power and influence in the future, the United States will be required to synchronize its national resources in pursuit of security goals within the greater geopolitical context. The RMA-inspired Cold War paradigm will be supplanted by one with renewed emphasis on operating environment variables instead of arbitrary strategic means.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Department of Defense (2018). Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (NDS 2018). https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf United States Department of Defense. See also; Biden, J. (2021). Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NSC-1v2.pdf.  

[2] Beier, J.M. (2006). Outsmarting Technologies: Rhetoric, Revolutions in Military Affairs, and the Social Depth of Warfare. International Politics, 43(2), 266-280. DOI:10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800144. See also; Louth, J. & Taylor T. (2016) The US Third Offset Strategy. The RUSI Journal, 161(3), 66-71. DOI: 10.1080/03071847.2016.1193360

[3] Mowthorpe, M. (2005). The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA): The United States, Russian and Chinese Views. The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, 30(2), 137-153.

[4] Jensen, B.M. (2018). The Role of Ideas in Defense Planning: Revisiting the Revolution in Military Affairs, Defence Studies, 18(3), 302-317. DOI: 10.1080/14702436.2018.1497928

[5 Gray, C.S. (2003). Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History. Routledge.

[6] Murray, W. (1997). Thinking About Revolutions in Military Affairs. Joint Forces Quarterly, unk. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA354177.pdf

[7] Wellman, A. (2019). Parity Avoidance: A Proactive Analysis of the Obsolescence of the Third Offset Strategy. Homeland Security Affairs. https://www.hsaj.org/articles/15337 

[8] United States Government Accountability Office (2021). F-35 Sustainment: DOD Needs to Cut Billions in Estimated Costs to Achieve Affordability. Report to the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-505t 

[9] Madry, S. (2020). Disruptive Space Technologies and Innovations: The Next Chapter. Springer Nature.

 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Joe McGiffin United States

Call for Papers: Cyber Integration — Vertical and Horizontal

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related vertical and horizontal cyber integration.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers, cyber refers to capabilities that can produce effects in the cyber domain, and vertical and horizontal integration refers to these capabilities being used and / or taken into account at every level within an organization and within partner organizations.

For U.S. writers, we highly discourage you from discussing authorities related to the employment of cyber capabilities.  This Call for Papers will not devolve into Title 10 “versus” Title 50.

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 October 15, 2021.

Call For Papers

An Assessment of Capability Gaps that Contribute to Fighting Below the Threshold of War

Shri is from India. The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the author in his personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement. 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 Capability Gaps that Contribute to Fighting Below the Threshold of War

Date Originally Written:  August 9, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 30, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article analyses a current situation playing out in a very important part of the world which is a nuclear flashpoint as well.  While the reader can likely guess which countries the author is referring to, indirect references are used to appeal to the audiences living this situation day-to-day.

Summary:  Fighting below the threshold of war happens only due to inadequacies of the stronger power.  These inadequacies may be based in law, policy, doctrine, political preferences, and corruption.  Unless these inadequacies are addressed, stronger powers will dilute their true combat capability by acting as police forces either locally, regionally, or globally.

Text:  The countries of IN and PK have over seven decades of animosity between them. In the 1970s, PK was comprehensively defeated during a war with IN and in the process, lost almost half of its territory. Thereafter, based on experience PK gained as Country UA’s proxy in the fight against Country RU in Country AF, PK realised in its fight against IN, direct war is not the way ahead.  This realisation started something different in which PK waged a conflict below the threshold of war against Country IN by simply harboring, arming, and supporting terrorists. PK, where the military is the de-facto ruler, acts as a client state of Country CN, another adversary of IN, and all three possess nuclear weapons.

It is now three decades since PK began to carry out nefarious activities against IN. In other words, PK prevails over IN below the threshold of war and keeps IN tied down through a low cost and low risk method. This success is despite the fact that IN is larger than PK in every possible metric – economy, territory, armed forces, population etc. PK is taking advantage of some inherent weaknesses and capability gaps of IN and is prevailing.

IN’s capability gaps begin with it still believing in outdated definitions of war, and therefore believing that only armed forces fight wars, and is waiting for PK’s Armed Forces to start one. PK is not obliging IN, knowing well that PK cannot win. IN, not wanting to be labeled as an aggressor, is not waging war on PK, little realizing that IN has been under attack for many decades. A doctrinal change by IN could perhaps settle matters regarding what constitutes aggression and what will be IN’s response. This doctrinal change would amply warn PK and, if PK did not change its behavior, the change would give IN the required casus belli. Threshold of war is not something that has been defined by nature as each country decides according to each unique circumstance. In 1914, assassination of a sovereign led to the First World War[1]. Without an adjustment to current below threshold realities, IN will not get the better of PK. 

IN’s armed forces have been engaged in counterinsurgency operations against PK sponsored terrorists for several decades. This fight without end continues due to an undefined military end-state. The armed forces of a country is it’s last resort and therefore it should not be distracted from it’s main role of war-fighting.  PK understands this well and therefore does everything possible to tie down IN’s armed forces in operations below the threshold of war, which are essentially policing duties. Establishing an end state allowing the military to exit counterinsurgency operations and return to preparing for war is perhaps the only thing that will deter PK from continuing what it does below the threshold of war. Many in IN’s armed forces talk about the United States’ two decade long engagement in Afghanistan to justify IN’s continued presence in counterinsurgency operations. It is worth noting that the United States sent in its armed forces to Afghanistan because its police, perhaps as potent as some armies, have no global mandate. Moreover, while the US always had the luxury of pulling out, as it subsequently did[2], IN doesn’t.

IN is also ineffective below the threshold of war because fighting below the threshold is a comfortable place to be in- no national mobilization, limited death and destruction, life and fighting goes on hand in hand. There would always be many interest groups apart from the IN Armed Forces that have a stake in the fight. While the IN Armed Forces get brass, budget allocations, and a disproportionate say in matters otherwise in the realm of governance, others who benefit include the Military Industrial Complex (about whom U.S. President Eisenhower had warned five decades ago[3]), war contractors and also politicians, most of whom thrive on divisive agendas. History illustrates that whenever a country has resolved to finish a fight, it happened – Sri Lanka being the best example[4]. So next time when any country thinks of finishing the fight, it is good to know who are directly and indirectly benefiting from the fight continuing.

Sun Tzu has said that, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Present day militaries have wrapped this very thought in many definitions and names to include grey zone warfare, hybrid warfare etc. However, war is war.  PK added its own touch by trying to subdue IN, taking advantage of IN’s inhibitions, and some weaknesses, by fighting, albeit below the threshold of war. Until IN wakes up to PK, and demonstrates that IN is ready for a major war with PK, IN will continue to be stuck in the quagmire of fighting below the threshold of war.


Endnotes:

[1] Greenspan, J. (2014, June 26). The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/the-assassination-of-archduke-franz-ferdinand

[2] The United States Government. (2021, July 8). Remarks by President Biden on the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/07/08/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-drawdown-of-u-s-forces-in-afghanistan/

[3] Farewell address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961; Final TV Talk 1/17/61 (1), Box 38, Speech Series, Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President, 1953-61, Eisenhower Library; National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/research/online-documents/farewell-address/1961-01-17-press-release.pdf

[4] Layton, P. (2015, April 9). How sri lanka won the war. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2015/04/how-sri-lanka-won-the-war/

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) India Pakistan Shri

Assessing the Effect of the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review on Operations Below the Threshold of War

Bombardinio is the nom de plume of a staff officer who has served in the British armed forces, with operational experience in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She presently works for the Ministry of Defence in London where she looks at Defence policy. She has been published in the UK, USA and further afield. 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 Effect of the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review on Operations Below the Threshold of War

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 23, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a serving staff officer in the British military. The author believes in the importance of a well-resourced standing military that underpins defense policy for both national spending plans, international policies, and allied engagements.

Summary:  The United Kingdom government’s decision, articulated in the Integrated Review 2021, to concentrate on operating below the threshold of war, with insufficient resource to also maintain an effective warfighting capability is a folly, formulated without regard either to historical precedent or to the contemporary international scene. In these failings, it risks national and international security and Britain’s global position of influence.

Text:

Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.
Theodore Roosevelt

‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age, the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development, and Foreign Policy’ describes the United Kingdom (UK) government’s approach to contemporary international relations[1]. For UK Defense, it marks a de facto move from an emphasis on warfighting to one which privileges operating below the threshold of war. International competition below the threshold of war is neither new nor wholly unwelcome, the UK military have operated in this manner for centuries and this new policy recognizes the need for adaptation to reflect the changing character of warfare. The Integrated Review’s weakness lies in its ignorance of both historical experience and contemporary realities, these lacunae risk both national and international security and Britain’s global position.

The Grey Zone, that nebulous and ill-defined no-man’s land between peace and armed conflict, is fundamental to the nature of war[2]. If war is a continuation of politics by violent means, then military operations in the Grey Zone are part of that political continuum, just short of war. The width of the Zone is variable; while at times a personal affront or assault may form sufficient pretext for war – the War of Jenkin’s Ear (1739-48)[3] – on other occasions it will not – the Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack of 2018[4]. This variability is determined by political appetite informed by strategic balance. Political will is not purely the domain of politicians and statesmen, public opinion can affect the resolve of leaders considering armed conflict as a political tool; conversely, the public can be, and often have been, manipulated to support a resort to armed conflict. Whilst the will to fight provides the motivation for war, this is generally tempered by an analysis of the likelihood of success; in 1739, an eight-year old incident was allowed to presage war because Great Britain was confident of military superiority over Spain, in the 2018 nerve agent attack the advantage lay with the culprit.

The decision to concentrate on operating below the threshold of war will fail without considering the danger of crossing that threshold and understanding that the threshold is not self-determined, that freedom of decision is in the hands of the opposition, which will be making its own contiguous calculations with respect to its options. In 1861, the U.S. Navy seized the British ship ‘Trent’ in international waters and arrested two Confederate emissaries heading for Europe. This event led to the deployment of significant British land forces to Canada and naval units along the American east coast. War was only averted by a rapid apology by the Lincoln administration. While not a deliberate operation below the threshold of war, the Trent Affair is illustrative of the danger posed by military operations in a heightened political environment. Those who decided to risk the ire of the British had miscalculated both the appetite of the UK government to go to war and, more significantly, Britain’s military superiority.

The key to operating below the threshold of war is thus two-fold: understanding the adversary, their policy, strategy, risk calculus and appetite for armed conflict and maintaining sufficient credible military power to deter the adversary from retaliating through a resort to war. The Integrated Review identifies two systemic competitors, Russia and China, making it clear that the United Kingdom will seek to confront these nations below the threshold of war. Much of this confrontation will be done through enhancing the ways in which the UK protects itself and its interests and by engaging internationally in an attempt to persuade other countries that the West is a more attractive partner than either Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Communist China. These activities are relatively benign; the problem for UK Defense is that, despite a significant budget, it has failed to achieve value for money; the changed emphasis must hence be financed by significant cuts to conventional capability and thus deterrent effect[5]. In ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, the lightweight UK has chosen to enter a tag-team wrestling match, without its heavyweight partner.

Of course, it could be argued that as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the UK retains significant deterrent mass through the Alliance, theoretically this is true – the UK’s activities below the threshold of war are protected by the Treaty – but is that a practical reality[6]? The UK’s strategic decision to confront Russia is a reaction to widespread interference and subversion in Western societies, the perceived aim of which is to weaken and divide political resolve. The problem for the UK is that Russian interference and influence has succeeded in weakening resolve: although limited sanctions have been used by Western nations in response to Putin’s worst excesses, military action has never been in question except in protection of the territorial integrity of NATO nations. If German dependence on Russian gas[7], international tensions caused by Brexit[8], and NATO’s internal disagreements are taken into account, the likelihood of support in reaction to a targeted military strike by Russia begins to look shaky.

Recently, a British destroyer conducting a freedom of navigation mission off the coast of the Crimea was confronted by Russian ships and aircraft and ordered to leave what the Russians define as their territorial waters[9]. Shortly after, Putin threatened that a reoccurrence would be met by weapons against which the Royal Navy would have no defense[10]. If the recent confrontation in the Black Sea were to be repeated, at a time in the near future when the United Kingdom’s conventional deterrent is even more denuded, and a Royal Navy vessel were lost to a Russian hypersonic missile, would NATO nations go to war[11]? Russia may calculate that it has sufficiently eroded the Western will to fight, that outside of alliance borders most allies would be unwilling to enact NATO’s Article V, and that the UK has insufficient credible fighting power to respond, unless by resort to a strategic counterstroke by nuclear or offensive cyber operations, both of which would be irrationally escalatory. In such an instance, the UK would be isolated, her global position weakened, and NATO exposed as a paper tiger. The UK can only avoid this by listening to the wisdom of ages and bolstering her conventional forces, using the other levers of power to stiffen Western resolve, and exercise caution in operating below the threshold of war.


Endnotes:

[1] ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age’, UK Govt (July 2021). https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/the-integrated-review-2021 

[2] ‘Understanding the Grey Zone’, IISS Blog (April 2019). https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2019/04/understanding-the-grey-zone

[3] ‘The War of Jenkin’s Ear 1739-48’, Oxford Reference (August 2021). https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100019496 

[4] ’Salisbury poisoning: What did the attack mean for the UK and Russia’, BBC Website (March 2020).  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51722301  

[5] ‘UK second biggest defence spender in NATO’, UK Defence Journal (March 2021). https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/britain-second-biggest-defence-spender-in-nato/

[6] ‘NATO 2030: “A global Alliance for all seasons”, reality or rhetoric?, European Leadership Network (June 2021). https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/commentary/nato-2030-a-global-alliance-for-all-seasons-reality-or-rhetoric/  

[7] ‘Why Nordstream 2 is the world’s most controversial energy project’, The Economist (July 2021). https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/07/14/why-nord-stream-2-is-the-worlds-most-controversial-energy-project 

[8] ‘The UK and European Defence: will NATO be enough?, The Foreign Policy Centre (December 2020). https://fpc.org.uk/the-uk-and-european-defence-will-nato-be-enough/ 

[9] ‘British warship deliberately sailed close to Crimea, UK officials say’, The New York Times (24 June 2021).  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/world/europe/russia-uk-defender-crimea.html  

[10] ‘Putin says Russian Navy can carry out ‘unpreventable strike’ if needed’, Reuters (25 June 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-says-russian-navy-can-carry-out-unpreventable-strike-if-needed-2021-07-25/

[11] ‘No peace – no war. The future of the Russia-NATO relationship’, European Leadership Network (September 2018. https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/commentary/no-peace-no-war-the-future-of-the-russia-nato-relationship/ 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Bombardinio Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas United Kingdom

Assessing the April 2021 Conflict Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and the Impotency of Regional International Organizations

Sarah Martin is the 2021 Eurasia Fellow for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). She is Washington D.C.-based and works in human rights development in Europe and Eurasia. Prior to this, she was a Research Fellow at the Secretariate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where she covered the first dimension of political-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:  Assessing the April 2021 Conflict Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and the Impotency of Regional International Organizations

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 9, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of someone assessing the value of regional international organizations based on their actions and inactions in relation to the conflicts that occur in their respective regions.

Summary:  Violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in April 2021 led to tens of dead, hundreds wounded, and a fractured interstate relationship. Domestic politics headed by an authoritarian in Tajikistan and an ascending authoritarian in Kyrgyzstan exacerbated the situation. International organizations such as the OSCE or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) were designed to respond but fails to do so.

Text:  On April 28, 2021, in an exclave between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a skirmish over the installation of a security camera escalated from throwing stones to employing live ammunition. On the Kyrgyzstan side, approximately 34 people were killed, 132 wounded and more than 800 evacuated, while Tajikistan suffered 15 casualties[1]. On May 1, the countries signed a peace treaty, although, according to political scientist Emil Dzhuraev, it is unlikely relations between the two countries will ever be peaceful[2]. This latest surge of violence ended swiftly and with no intervention from one of the three international organizations to which either country claims membership. This assessment reflects on the conflict itself, and also the weakness of the international organizations that could have made an impact but failed to do so.

Under the Soviet Union, the lines between the Central Asian Republics did not matter, but independence following the end of the Cold War brought out old maps, mandates, and memories, each blurred from time[3]. Such interpretation has left Kyrgyzstan, the smallest of the five Republics, with exclaves of both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan within its southern panhandle. Relations among these ethnic groups and citizenships have been peaceful since the 1990s, though relations have soured in the past decade. Three issues are intensifying relations further — increasingly scarce water; the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, with whom Tajikistan borders; and the volatility of the autocratic leaders of all three countries[4].

Sadyr Japarov was recently elected to Kyrgyzstan’s presidency, following the ouster of the previous president by way of coup[5]. He is the fifth president of independent Kyrgyzstan and the fifth to reach that position through revolt. Although not technically an autocrat, Japarov is well on his way to becoming one[6][7]. Notably, he recently amended the constitution to shift powers from Parliament into his hands, and most of his cabinet is staffed by personal friends[8]. On the other side of the border is Emomali Rahmon, who has been in power since Tajikistan’s gained independence in 1991 and is an autocrat[9]. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, he had designated Tajikistan’s last independent news site as extremist and had its website blocked within the country[10]. During the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, Tajikistan was one of the last countries to admit they had cases of the virus[11]. For both Rahmon and Japarov, a small victorious war in the contested areas would have given them enough points to pursue their political interests. Japarov could use the small war to solidify his new regime; Rahmon to ensure the continuity of his decades-old one.

A flare-up of violence along contentious borders should make for a logical submission to an international organization. After all, conflict management is theoretically a core objective of such a union. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are members to three: the OSCE, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Each organization maintains a unique approach to internationalism. Each organization uniquely failed to respond to this crisis, and each uniquely demonstrated its waning relevance through inaction.

The OSCE is neither a military alliance like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nor a legislative body like the European Union (EU), but rather a forum for its 57 participating States to convene on matters of the military, environment and economics, and human rights[12]. Despite its amorphous nature, the OSCE is still built with human rights as a foundational tenant. In fact, if the OSCE is known for anything these days, it is for its election monitoring missions. The human rights component of the OSCE has long been a source of ire among some of the participating states—and Tajikistan is one of the louder complainants. In 2020 the organization faced a leadership crisis among key chairmanships of the Secretariat, and Tajikistan played a crucial role in instigating that crisis by blocking nominations[13].

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also represented in the CSTO, a Russian-built NATO equivalent [14][15], and the SCO, a Chinese-established sort-of EU analogue[16]. Both the CSTO and SCO claim to be alternatives to the Western models[17]: strictly economic and political agreements, respectively, without the hypocrisy inherent within a regime that claims to be based on human rights, as the OSCE’s does. Although one might expect to find it in Central Asia, there is not much competition between Russia, China, or their organizations. There is much speculation as to why there are not more hostilities, but it would not be outlandish to posit their détente is due to mutual competitors in the United States and EU.

April’s outbreak of violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan demonstrates the impotency of both approaches. Conflict mitigation is supposed to be one of the mandates of the political-military dimension of the OSCE, but it has failed to keep the tenuous peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Trilateral Contact Group has yet to yield sustainable results between Ukraine, Russia and the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered the CSTO as a venue of deliberation, but Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan refused, preferring to, and ultimately coming to, an agreement amongst themselves[18]. China provided statements calling for the peaceful resolution of the conflict but offered no role in facilitating peace[19]. The SCO also had little to say; in fact, members of the SCO met in May and the violence was not even mentioned[20].

The violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan highlights the clashing of two systems—one that claims it ought to address conflict with human rights as its basis, but ultimately cannot; and another that does not seem particularly interested in trying. Given that none of them, the OSCE, the CSTO or the SCO, were able to provide solutions for a relatively small conflict, they can likely do little in the shadow of larger regional crises, or the modern era’s border-transcending issues: pestilence, war, famine and the climate crisis that will exacerbate all.


Endnotes:

[1] Reuters. (2021, May 1). Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan agree ceasefire after border clashes. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/kyrgyzstan-accuses-tajikistan-amassing-troops-near-border-2021-05-01

[2] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict: How to Reconcile and Prevent It in The Future, Expert Opinions (Russian) https://rus.azattyq.org/a/31241010.html

[3] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva. (2021, May 2). Tempers flaring as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan come to deadly blows. Eurasianet. https://eurasianet.org/tempers-flaring-as-kyrgyzstan-tajikistan-come-to-deadly-blows

[4] Aliyev, N. (2021, May 25). Russia’s Power Play in Central Asia. The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. https://oxussociety.org/russias-power-play-in-central-asia

[5] Pikulicka-Wilczewska, A. (2021, January 12). Kyrgyzstan’s Sadyr Japarov: From a prison cell to the presidency. Kyrgyzstan News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/1/12/sadyr-japarov-from-a-prison-cell-to-the-presidency

[6] Umarov, T. (2021, May 19). Are There Any Winners of the War on the Kyrgyz-Tajik Border? Carnegie Moscow Center. https://carnegie.ru/commentary/84569

[7] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict: How to Reconcile and Prevent It in The Future, Expert Opinions (Russian) https://rus.azattyq.org/a/31241010.html

[8] Eurasianet. (2021, May 5). Kyrgyzstan: President signs new constitution into law. https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-president-signs-new-constitution-into-law

[9] RFE/RL. (2021, May 26). Tajik Election Sees Autocratic Leader Rahmon Set to Extend Rule. https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-s-autocratic-leader-rahmon-seen-extending-rule-as-voters-head-to-polls/30886412.html

[10] Pannier, B. (2020, July 20). How Tajikistan Blocked Term Extensions for Key OSCE Officials. RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. https://www.rferl.org/a/how-tajikistan-blocked-term-extensions-for-key-osce-officials/30738021.html

[11] Eurasianet. (2020, April 20). Tajikistan says it has no COVID-19, attributes new death to swine flu. https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-says-it-has-no-covid-19-attributes-new-death-to-swine-flu

[12] Epkenhans, T. (2007). The OSCE’s Dilemma in Central Asia. OSCE Yearbook 2006, 211–222. https://ifsh.de/file-CORE/documents/yearbook/english/06/Epkenhans-en.pdf

[13] Pannier, B. (2020), Tajikistan

[14] Aliyev, N. (2021), Russia

[15] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict

[16] BBC News Кыргыз Кызматы (Kyrgyz Service). (2021, May 1). Чек ара жаңжалыбы же агрессиябы? эл аралык эксперттердин пикири (Border conflict or aggression? Opinion of international experts). https://www.bbc.com/kyrgyz/kyrgyzstan-56956928

[17] Wolff, S. (2021, April 28). China: A Challenge or an Opportunity for the OSCE? | SHRM. Security and Human Rights Monitor. https://www.shrmonitor.org/china-a-challenge-or-an-opportunity-for-the-osce-shrm

[18] BBC News Кыргыз Кызматы (Kyrgyz Service)

[19] kaktus.media. (2021, April 30). Китай отреагировал на конфликт на границе Кыргызстана и Таджикистана (China reacted to the conflict on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). https://kaktus.media/doc/437308_kitay_otreagiroval_na_konflikt_na_granice_kyrgyzstana_i_tadjikistana.html

[20] Sheng, Y. (2021, May 12). China, Central Asian countries to strengthen cooperation on Afghan issue, counterterrorism and diversify energy sources. Global Times. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202105/1223313.shtml

Assessment Papers Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Kyrgyzstan Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Sarah Martin Tajikistan

Assessing a Situation where the Mission is a Headline

Samir Srivastava is serving in the Indian Armed Forces. The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the author in his personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement.  Divergent Opinions’ 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 a Situation where the Mission is a Headline

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  July 26, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is serving with the Indian Armed Forces.   The article is written from the point of view of India in its prevailing environment.

Summary:  While headlines in news media describe the outcome of military operations, in this information age, the world could now be heading towards a situation where military operations are the outcome of a desired headline.  In situations like this, goals can be achieved by taking into assured success, the target audience, connectivity in a retaliatory context, verifiability, and deniability.

Text:  When nations fight each other, there will be news media headlines. Through various mediums and platforms, headline(s) will travel to everyone – the belligerents, their allies/supporters and also neutral parties. Conflict will be presented as a series of headlines culminating in one headline that describes the final outcome. Thus, when operations happen, headlines also happen. Yet to be considered is when  an operation  is planned and executed to make a headline happen.

In nation versus nation conflict, the days of large scale wars are certainly not over, but as trends suggest these will be more of an exception rather than rule. The future war in all likelihood will be fought at a level without a formal war declaration and quite localised. The world has seen wars where each side endeavours to prevail upon the adversary’s bodies and materiel, but already greater emphasis is being laid on prevailing upon the enemy’s mind. In that case, a decision will be required regarding what objective is being pursued – attrition, territory or just a headline.

Today, a military operation is more often than not planned at the strategic level and executed at a tactical level. This model is likely to become a norm because if a strategic outcome is achievable through a standalone tactical action, there is no reason to let the fight get bigger and more costly in terms of blood and treasure. The Balakote Airstrike[1] by the Indian Air Force is a case in point. It has been over two years since that strike took place but there is nothing to show a change in Pakistan’s attitude, which continues to harbour terrorists on its soil who would very well be plotting the next strike on India. However, what has endured is the headlines of February 26-28, 2019, which carried different messages for different people and one for Pakistan as well.

Unlike propaganda where a story is made out of nothing, if the mission is to make a headline, then that particular operation will have taken place on ground.  In this context, Headline Selection and Target Selection are two sides of the same coin but the former is the driving force.  Beyond this, success is enhanced by taking into account the probability of success, the target audience, connectivity in a retaliatory context, verifiability and deniability.  

Without assured success, the outcome will be a mismatch between the desired headline and  target selection. Taking an example from movies, in the 1997 film  “Tomorrow Never Dies[2],” the entire plot focuses on  the protagonist, Agent 007,  spoiling antagonist Carver’s scheme of creating headlines to be beamed by his media network. Once a shot is fired or ordnance dropped, there will be a headline and it is best to make sure it is the desired one.

Regarding the target audience, it is not necessary that an event gains the interest of the masses. The recipient population may be receptive, non-receptive or simply indifferent.  A headline focused on  the largest receptive group who can further propagate it has the best chance of success. 

If the operation is carried out in a retaliatory context,  it is best to connect  the enemy action and friendly reaction. For example, while cyber-attacks or economic sanctions may be an apt response to an armed attack, the likelihood of achieving the desired headline is enhanced if there is something connecting the two- action and reaction.

The headline will have much more impact if the event and its effects can be easily verified, preferably by neutral agencies and individuals. A perfect headline would be that which an under resourced freelance journalist can easily report. To that end, targets in inaccessible locations or at places that don’t strike a chord with the intended audience will be of little use. No amount of satellite photos can match one reporter on ground.   

The headline cannot lend itself to any possibility of denial because even a feeble denial can lead to credibility being questioned. It therefore goes without saying that choice of target and mode of attack should be such. During U.S. Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR[3], the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan,  the first sliver of publicly available information was a tweet by someone nearby. This tweet could have very well closed any avenue for denial by Pakistan or Al Qaeda.

A well thought out headline can be the start point when planning an operation or even a campaign. This vision of a headline however needs different thinking tempered with a lot of imagination and creativity. Pre-planned headlines, understanding the expertise of journalists and having platforms at the ready can be of value.      

Every field commander, division and above should have some pre-planned headlines to speak of that their organization can create if given the opportunity. These headlines include both national headlines flowing out of the higher commander’s intent, and local headlines that are more focused on the immediate engagement area.

There is benefit to be gained from the expertise of journalists – both Indian and Foreign. Their practical experience will be invaluable when deciding on the correct headline and pinpointing a target audience. Journalists are already seen in war zones and media rooms as reporters, and getting them into the operations room as planners is worthy of consideration.

An array of reporters, platforms amd mediums can be kept ready to carry the desired headline far and wide. Freelance journalists in foreign countries coupled with internet will be a potent combination. In addition, the military’s public information organization cannot succeed in this new reality without restructuring.

Every battle in military history has name of some commander(s) attached to it. Hannibal crossing the Alps, U.S. General George S. Patton’s exploits during Battle of the Bulge, and then Indian Colonel Desmond Hayde in the Battle of Dograi. The day is not far when some field commander will etch his or her name in history fighting the Battle of the Headline or, more apt, the Battle for the Headline.      


Endnotes:

[1] BBC. (2019, February 26). Balakot: Indian air strikes target militants in Pakistan. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47366718.

[2] IMDb.com. (1997, December 19). Tomorrow Never Dies. IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120347.

[3] Olson, P. (2011, August 11). Man Inadvertently Live Tweets Osama Bin Laden Raid. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2011/05/02/man-inadvertently-live-tweets-osama-bin-laden-raid.

Assessment Papers India Influence Operations Information and Intelligence Samir Srivastava Social Media

Assessing Agile Gaming: War is Hard, Wargames Don’t Have to Be

Philip S. Bolger-Cortez is a Wargame Director with the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education at the Air University whose previous job was in Agile Gaming at Headquarters Air Force (HAF) A5.  Alexandria Brill is an Agile Gamer with HAF A5.  Divergent Opinions’ 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 Agile Gaming: War is Hard, Wargames Don’t Have to Be

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  July 12, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are professional wargamers and Agile Gaming practitioners. 

Summary:  With Department of Defense leaders so busy, they can rarely participate in large-scale wargames.  Agile Wargames approach a large problem by taking small bites rather than swallowing the whole elephant.  While a large-scale and highly detailed wargame may be viewed as perfection, perfection can be the enemy of good enough.  A tightly focused Agile Wargame that actually takes place, is superior to a large-scale wargame that can never fit into a schedule.

Text:  The most valuable commodity for any military commander is time. On any given day, a typical flag officer has a wall-to-wall schedule packed with meetings, decisions, more meetings, inspections, presentations, yet more meetings, and precious little time for anything that isn’t scheduled weeks or months in advance. Getting a full day of a general’s time is a Herculean task. Getting a full week is impossible without a signature from a higher ranking general or a congressional mandate. Getting the same amount of time out of field grade officers is not much easier.

Officers still want, and need, wargames. Discussions around large games run by the Air Force[1] have driven discussions in the defense community, in Congress, and at Headquarters Air Force[2][3]. 

Wargames are an essential step for military leaders to ensure confidence in plans, decisions, and concepts. Stakeholders, sponsors, and players agree that wargames can answer certain questions or problem sets. Yet, the average player’s demanding schedule remains an obstacle for participation.

Large wargames can account for the needs of many stakeholders and organizations. In a large game, hundreds of moving pieces compete for attention from many players. In an agile game, the focus is narrower—much of the war is abstracted out into a series of mechanics designed to show how the broader war impacts a narrow slice, without needing to focus on these other parts. Players often face only three to four decisions in a turn, such as where to place resources, what to use for operations, or who should conduct an action. The result is a lower fidelity game—but one easy to play, in only a few hours[4]. Similar fidelity games in the commercial space include Axis & Allies[5], World at War ’85[6], and Thunderbolt Apache Leader[7].

For concept writers looking to develop immature concepts, low fidelity games are helpful. The low time demand and ease of learning means the game can be played multiple times.  This increase in repetition of iterative low fidelity games feeding higher fidelity games in an event series has previously been identified as useful by wargaming grandmaster Matt Caffrey in his work On Wargaming[8]. 

It is the aim of agile games to use time wisely and concisely without sacrificing objectives and outputs. The goal of agile games is to approach any problem by taking small bites rather than swallowing the whole elephant, ideally leading to further concept refinement through either more detailed games, modeling and simulation, or concept writers using game insights to further their writing.

Agile gaming answers questions that are pressing or urgent—not completely, but just enough to set the decision makers in the right direction. Agile gaming requires being comfortable with sacrificing total fidelity to focus on a more playable, approachable game—for many nascent defense concepts, a 70% solution in three hours may be more useful than a 95% solution in a week of gameplay. Compare the commercial games Afrika Korps and Campaign for North Africa—the former is not perfectly realistic, but it is easily teachable and playable in a few hours, compared to the latter, which while more realistic, requires an excessive amount of table space, players, and time[9][10].

In the agile gaming methodology, a series of three or four iterations of the same game or topic may be necessary, with one difference between them. These multiple iterations could allow the gaming team to conduct difference-in-difference analyses. For example, an agile game might give players slightly more resources between iterations would allow for conversation and insights about how priorities change, or how resource allocation decisions are made under certain budgetary conditions[11]. 

To keep games quick and intuitive, agile gaming leverages gaming mechanics from the world of commercial recreational board gaming. The commercial gaming world is both broad and deep—thousands of designers have come up with game mechanics for everything from how to assemble a hamburger[12] to how to outfit an F/A-18 Hornet[13] to how to manufacture a car under the Kanban Just In Time manufacturing system[14].  Leveraging knowledge of these mechanics can shape the effectiveness of an agile game, showing how to translate complex systems to easily learnable game mechanics. 

With games varying in topic, complexity, and required expertise, the ideal agile gaming team will be a small footprint, modular team able to operate independently or with additions from external agencies. A small team allows for quick turns for gaming, while the modularity ensures that the team consults subject matter experts to ensure sufficient fidelity.

Agile gaming is not a perfect solution, more than any other approach to wargaming is—but agile gaming is a way to conduct rapid, iterative games. While agile gaming will not provide conclusive answers to national security problems, it can refine concepts and provide insights on how the US will conduct warfare today and tomorrow, as well as provide valuable stage setting for more detailed wargames.


Endnotes:

[1] Both authors adjudicated a Title 10 USAF game last year

[2] Insinna, V. (2012, April 12). A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030. Retrieved from Defense News: https://www.defensenews.com/training-sim/2021/04/12/a-us-air-force-war-game-shows-what-the-service-needs-to-hold-off-or-win-against-china-in-2030

[3] Trevethick, J. (2021, April 12). Today’s F-35As Not Worth Including In High-End War Games According To Air Force General. Retrieved from The Drive: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40142/air-force-general-says-current-generation-f-35as-not-worth-including-in-high-end-wargames

[4] Of the more than 15 games the Foxes conducted in 2020, the mean time of a game was below three hours

[5] Harris, L. (1981). Axis & Allies. USA: Milton Bradley.

[6] Tracton, K. (2019). World at War ’85: Storming the Gap. USA: Lock ‘n Load Publishing.

[7] Verssen, D. (2012). Thunderbolt Apache Leader. USA: Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

[8] Caffrey, M. (2019). On Wargaming. Newport, RI: Naval War College Press. Pg. 318

[9] Roberts, C. (1964). Afrika Korps. USA: Avalon Hill, Inc.

[10] Berg, R. (1979) Campaign for North Africa. USA: Simulations Publications, Inc.

[11] Observed by the authors in multiple agile games at HAF A5.

[12] Parkes, M. (2016). Burger Up. Australia: Greenbrier Games.

[13] Verssen, D. (2010). Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. USA: Dan Verssen Games (DVG).

[14] Lacerda, V. (2014). Kanban Driver’s Edition. Stronghold Games.

Alexandria Brill Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Philip S. Bolger-Cortez U.S. Air Force Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing Wargame Effectiveness: Using Natural Language Processing to Evaluate Wargaming Dynamics and Outcomes

Dr. Leah C. Windsor is a Research Associate Professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems at The University of Memphis.   Dr. Windsor can be found on Twitter @leahcwindsor.  Dr. Susan Allen is an Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi.  Dr. Allen can be found on Twitter at @lady_professor.  Divergent Opinions’ 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 Wargame Effectiveness: Using Natural Language Processing to Evaluate Wargaming Dynamics and Outcomes

Date Originally Written:  October 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 5, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from a neutral point of view to evaluate the conversational dynamics during wargames that are predictive of wargaming outcomes.

Summary:  Group decision-making research, while well-established, is not applied in wargames with a win / lose focus.  The deliberative data within wargaming can yield predictive metrics for game outcomes. Computational text analysis illuminates participant effects, such as status, gender, and experience. Analyzing participants’ language can provide insight into the intra-group and inter-group dynamics that exclude or invite potential solutions. 

Text:  The outcome of wargames reveals who wins and loses – but how do participants and strategists know if this is the optimal outcome from the range of potential outcomes? To understand why groups make particular decisions that lead to success or failure in wargames, the authors focus on the intra-group and inter-group communication that transpires during the wargame itself. The processes of group dynamics influence the outcomes of wargaming exercises, yet little attention is paid to these deliberations. Implicit biases manifest in language and other multimodal signals that influence participants and shape the process of negotiations [1][2]. 

A novel approach to analyzing wargames would include a process that informs the outcome, and models communicative interchanges computationally by examining linguistic features of participants’ deliberations. Participants’ exchanges and deliberations influence the dynamics within and across wargaming exercises and rounds of play. At present, the authors are aware of no computational models of wargaming deliberations exist that assess the intra-group and inter-group deliberations. A wealth of research using computational text-as-data approaches has established that language has predictive power in analyzing attributes like hierarchy, deception, and closeness [3][4][5]. 

Examining group dynamics is essential for understanding military and foreign policy decision-making because such choices are rarely made by individuals, particularly in democracies, but also within the winning coalition in autocracies. Despite the fact that deliberative group dynamics are affected by emotions, pride, status, reputation, and communication failures, these dynamics are seldom studied[6]. Natural language processing (NLP) approaches can help reveal why teams arrive at various outcomes, how power structures evolve and change within groups during deliberations, what patterns of group deliberation emerge across iterations, and how biases, whether implicit or through participant selection, affect the process of deliberations and outcomes. Because the dialogue patterns of participants have not been evaluated using the multimodal methods proposed, the authors anticipate that NLP will provide agenda-setting contributions to both the scientific and DoD communities.

To illustrate this point, the authors analyzed some of the communications from a wargaming exercise, Counter-Da’esh influence operations: Cognitive space narrative simulation insights[7]. Using computational linguistics techniques, the authors analyzed the use of language related to positive emotion over time, by rounds, across teams in this wargaming simulation. NLP can explore several aspects of between-group and within-group communications, as shown in Figure 1. First, NLP can compare the patterns of language between teams that lead to different outcomes, such as which team wins or loses. 

Second, NLP can model the language relationship between teams to understand which team is leading, and which team is following. Lexical entrainment, semantic similarity, and linguistic style-matching all refer to the process of speakers aligning their language as they collaborate and interact more [8][9][10]. This is visible especially in Rounds 2 and 3 where the Red and Blue teams show similar patterns of positive emotion language use, although with different magnitudes. 

Third, this analysis can be approached with more granularity to examine the individual participants within groups, over time, and between rounds, to determine who are the thought leaders, influencers, and idea entrepreneurs with the greatest power of persuasion. Sentiment analysis has been used to explain how leaders use emotionally evocative language to persuade followers, where positive emotion leads to improved public opinion ratings[11].

       Figure 1. Positive emotion by round, over time, and across teams for ICONS wargaming exercise

One of the critiques of wargaming has been that it is not always cross-culturally representative, which may introduce unintended cultural biases that lead to sub-optimal outcomes. Linguistic analysis of wargaming transcripts using cutting edge natural language processing approaches like Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers aka BERT[12] can help reveal how word meanings vary across issue area, culture, and context, and in doing so, provide objective metrics of language and cultural bias. Computational linguistics approaches can help reveal what people mean when they refer to particular concepts, and how this meaning is interpreted differently by other audiences. Figure 2 illustrates this point well: Windsor[13]  plots the use of two semantically related terms, conflict and war, over time between 1900 and 2000 in six different languages. While the use of these terms generally follow similar patterns, they vary in three different ways: over time; by language; and by term. 

In practice, war and conflict can be used interchangeably, but they also demonstrate remarkable differences over time and between languages. This means that when speakers use these terms, listeners may broadly share related interpretations of the words’ meanings, but room for misinterpretation clearly exists. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis suggests that language makes different interpretations of the world available based on the structure of language and lexicon available to speakers[14][15]. Using the BERT process on wargaming transcripts can help reveal instances where participants in the wargaming exercise misunderstand each other, and which concepts provide the most ambiguity and need the most clarification. In the field, understanding the opponent is part and parcel of the “winning hearts and minds” strategy. Gaps in cultural and linguistic understanding can create potentially dangerous, and unnecessary, chasms between people in conflict zones[16]. Computational linguistics approaches can help to identify these gaps so that military personnel, strategists, policymakers – and scholars – can better understand the optimal conditions for negotiating mutually beneficial outcomes. 

Figure 2. Trends in Google NGram for “War” and “Conflict” by Language (1900-2018), taken from Windsor (2021)

Theories of group decision-making are becoming more sophisticated as scholars of international relations and foreign policy re-embrace and return to the foundations of behavioral psychology. While Janis[17]  hypothesized about group-think a generation ago, more recently scholars focused on political psychology have highlighted the importance of experience, poly-think, and framing effects for groups[18]. While this research has advanced ideas about the nature of group decision-making, in practice the group dynamics that shape foreign policy decision-making are more opaque. Wargaming exercises prove a unique opportunity for exploring such theories. This approach builds on the extant literature on wargaming[19][20][21], and offers a path forward for advancing the study of wargaming using theoretically-grounded computational social science methods. 


Endnotes:

[1] Greenwald AG, Krieger LH. Implicit Bias: Scientific Foundations. Calif Law Rev. 2006;94: 945–967. doi:10.2307/20439056

[2] Jones HM, Box-Steffensmeier J. Implicit Bias and Why It Matters to the Field of Political Methodology. In: The Political Methodologist [Internet]. 31 Mar 2014 [cited 6 Jun 2018]. Available: https://thepoliticalmethodologist.com/2014/03/31/implicit-bias-and-why-it-matters-to-the-field-of-political-methodology

[3] Hancock JT, Curry LE, Goorha S, Woodworth M. On lying and being lied to: A linguistic analysis of deception in computer-mediated communication. Discourse Process. 2007;45: 1–23.

[4] Gonzales AL, Hancock JT, Pennebaker JW. Language style matching as a predictor of social dynamics in small groups. Commun Res. 2010;37: 3–19.

[5] Pennebaker JW, Chung CK, others. Computerized text analysis of Al-Qaeda transcripts. Content Anal Read. 2008; 453–465.

[6] Lin-Greenberg E, Pauly R, Schneider J. Wargaming for Political Science Research. Available SSRN. 2020.

[7] Linera R, Seese G, Canna S. Counter-Da’esh Influence Operations. May 2016 [cited 10 Jan 2021]. Available: https://nsiteam.com/counter-daesh-influence-operations

[8] Rogan RG. Linguistic style matching in crisis negotiations: a comparative analysis of suicidal and surrender outcomes. J Police Crisis Negot. 2011;11: 20–39.

[9] Taylor PJ, Thomas S. Linguistic Style Matching and Negotiation Outcome. Negot Confl Manag Res. 2008;1: 263–281. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-4716.2008.00016.x

[10] Taylor PJ, Dando CJ, Ormerod TC, Ball LJ, Jenkins MC, Sandham A, et al. Detecting insider threats through language change. Law Hum Behav. 2013;37: 267.

[11] Love G, Windsor L. Populism and Popular Support: Vertical Accountability, Exogenous Events, and Leader Discourse in Venezuela. Polit Res Q. 2017.

[12] Devlin J, Chang M-W, Lee K, Toutanova K. BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding. ArXiv181004805 Cs. 2019 [cited 20 Sep 2020]. Available: http://arxiv.org/abs/1810.04805

[13] Windsor L. Linguistic and Political Relativity: AI Bias and the Language of Internatioanl Relations. AI Ethics. Routledge; 2021.

[14] Whorf BL. Science and linguistics. Bobbs-Merrill Indianapolis, IN; 1940.

[15] Kay P, Kempton W. What is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Am Anthropol. 1984;86: 65–79.

[16] Morrison T, Conaway WA. Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries. Adams Media; 2006.

[17] Janis IL. Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. 1972.

[18] Hermann MG. Foreign policy role orientations and the quality of foreign policy decisions. Role Theory Foreign Policy Anal. 1987; 123–140.

[19] Asal V, Blake EL. Creating simulations for political science education. J Polit Sci Educ. 2006;2: 1–18.

[20] Brynen R. Virtual paradox: how digital war has reinvigorated analogue wargaming. Digit War. 2020; 1–6.

[21] Reddie AW, Goldblum BL, Lakkaraju K, Reinhardt J, Nacht M, Epifanovskaya L. Next-generation wargames. Science. 2018;362: 1362–1364.

Assessment Papers Dr. Leah C. Windsor Dr. Susan Allen Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Wargames and Wargaming

Call for Papers: Prevailing in Conflict Below the Threshold of War

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.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  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:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to prevailing in conflicts below the threshold of war.

For the purposes of this Call for Papers, Conflict is defined as “a serious incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests” and Below the Threshold of War is defined as “actions taken that do not require Congress (or a similar governmental organization) to declare war or issue a specific statutory authorization to introduce Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.”

To inspire potential writers, we provide the below prompts:

– Assess Country X’s capability gaps that contribute to their ineffectiveness below the threshold of war.

– Assess the psychological and organizational factors that motivate Country X to not invest in capabilities below the threshold of war.

– What options can Country X pursue to fill their capability gaps below the threshold of war?

– Country Y often prevails below the threshold of war, assess the factors that enable them do to this.

– While Country Y prevails below the threshold of war, why does this matter as far as Country X is concerned?  Provide an assessment.

– What can Country X do to make Country Y fail below the threshold of war?  Provide options.

– If your country is good at war, is it better to not invest in capabilities below the threshold of war and instead, ignore problems until they require a war, so your country can play to its strengths?  Provide an assessment.

– If Country Y, who excels below the threshold of war, is suddenly thwarted in its efforts by Country X, will this motivate Country Y to resort to war?  Provide an assessment.

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 13, 2021.

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Call For Papers

Options to Increase Diversity by Forging Pathways into the Wargaming Profession

Tom Vielott is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the creator of the Itooran Peace Game. He can be found at tvielott.wordpress.com. Divergent Opinions’ 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:  Options to Increase Diversity by Forging Pathways into the Wargaming Profession

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  June 28, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a longtime member of the hobby wargaming and tabletop roleplaying community and the designer of a serious game for training use in a university classroom. He is writing from his experiences in those communities and in attempting to find his place in the professional wargaming community. The author is not a member of a minority group and has not personally experienced discrimination on the basis of his gender, sexuality, or race.

Background:  It is not novel to notice that the demographic makeup of the ‘wargaming community’ – the military professionals, academics, policy researchers, and others who play, design, and facilitate serious games – is almost entirely white, male, heterosexual, able bodied, well educated, and often with a military background. One need only look around at the attendees at the average Connections Conference[1] to observe the fact of the matter: there is not much diversity in the wargaming community.

Significance:  A lack of diversity in the wargaming community leads it along a path of stagnation and, in the long term, irrelevance. As Sally Davis eloquently expresses in her Wavell Room piece[2], well made games are art, an intimate way of experiencing other perspectives and new ideas through direct experience. A wargaming community without significant participation by women; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender designers loses many great opportunities to expand ideas about war and international politics. The ultimate goal of diversity in the wargaming community is not only to produce a general improvement in the thoughtfulness, quality, and emotional range of games produced for serious purposes, but to also improve the lives of the marginalized within it. If this lack of diversity within the wargaming community continues, it risks relegating many wargames to exercises in bias-confirmation and self-aggrandizement rather than exploration and analysis.  

Action can be taken with an eye towards the recruitment of new gamers and designers, but the roots of this diversity problem are deeper than that. Every member of the community, from the oldest designers to the newest players, will have to adjust their attitudes and assumptions for any of these options to be successful[3].

Option #1:  Diversify Skillsets in Wargaming Roles. 

A brief look at the job market in wargames reveals two significant trends: First, most of the jobs require the applicant to already have military experience. Second, most require advanced degrees, often in specific modeling disciplines like physics or engineering or in policy analysis. These trends greatly restrict the kinds of people who are able to find paid work in serious gaming outside of academia to the dominant wargaming milieu described earlier. One might suspect that professional wargamers are seeking more people who look and think like them. It is a natural inclination, but one that the profession can fight against by revalidating and possibly relaxing those requirements and actively seeking out and training those with experience in other disciplines, particularly ones in the humanities, to be wargamers.

Risk:  Option #1 will be costly in time and resources to bring in those without intimate familiarity with the military or with analytical techniques up to speed on wargaming techniques. 

Gain:  Opening positions to skillsets outside of those traditionally held within the wargaming field will enable an increase in diversity by searching out people with different backgrounds and experiences and inviting them to join the wargaming community explicitly.

Option #2:  Make More Games Unclassified. 

Security classification is a major barrier to participation in the wargaming community. It means that a security clearance, often an existing one, is a requirement to become a part of many wargaming projects.  It also means that once created, games often languish and disappear from the consciousness of the community because they are not shared around because of the difficulty of getting approval for any kind of release. RAND’s Hedgemony[4] is an excellent example of a successful unclassified game with a public release which garnered interest both in the U.S. and abroad. More games following in Hedgemony’s footsteps could seek to be widely seen outside of the professional community. 

Risk:  Not utilizing classified information can make designing wargames harder and reduce the fidelity of highly analytical games. Ensuring games can be unclassified requires extra effort in some contexts since the content will have to undergo security review.

Gain:  Unclassified games can more easily involve people without clearances, especially if they are in a freelance or contractor position. These games can also be used in a far wider variety of contexts, especially in outreach and in the recruitment of more gamers and designers. As a further effect, the unclassified games will increase the pool of existing games from which designers can learn and expand their repertoire.

Option #3:  Expand Outreach Beyond the Traditional Wargaming Community. 

Many of the same problems in the professional community are mirrored in the hobby community[5]. There is a far greater diversity of designers and players in hobby communities outside of traditional wargaming, particularly in the independent (or ‘indie’) roleplaying community. More effort could be directed towards drawing members of these communities to wargames. Many members have experience with game jams[6] and other game design events.  Hosting similar events with a serious gaming focus with advertising in hobby spaces could draw new designers to the fold.

The Zenobia Award[7], which seeks out both underrepresented game concepts and underrepresented game designers, is an excellent example of what this could look like: challenges and collaborations that encourage people who otherwise would not be involved in serious gaming to try their hand at game design, and which offer them connections within the community, mentorship, and professional opportunities. 

Risk:  Some groups will react poorly to outreach, and serious efforts will have to be made to make them feel comfortable enough to participate and to prevent the intended audience from being crowded out.

Gain:  The option, if well executed, will provide a greater pool of diverse wargame designers, and a flowering of unusual game designs.

Other Comments:  The complexity and difficulty involved in this issue cannot be overemphasized.  Even successful execution of all of the options given above would not alone be sufficient to ‘solve’ the diversity problem. Only serious concerted effort to enact change along multiple axes, among them: hiring, institutional culture, outreach, personal behavior, and fundamental attitudes about the purpose of gaming, will address this situation.

The author would also like to thank Dr. Yuna Wong for being open to a frank conversation that deeply informed his writing on the topic.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Connections Wargaming Conference. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2021, from https://connections-wargaming.com. Connections is a family of conferences around the world which focus on the professional practice of the design and facilitation of ‘serious games’ including wargames and other tabletop exercises. Its attendees are generally representative of the most active members in the field.

[2] Davis, S. (2021, January 15). Wargaming has a Diversity Problem. Wavell Room. https://wavellroom.com/2021/01/15/wargaming-has-a-diversity-problem 

[3] My year of doing terrifying things for diversity and inclusion. (2020, December 31). PAXsims. https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/my-year-of-doing-terrifying-things-for-diversity-and-inclusion 

[4] Linick, M. E., Yurchak, J., Spirtas, M., Dalzell, S., Wong, Y. H., & Crane, Y. K. (2020). Hedgemony: A Game of Strategic Choices. Www.rand.org. https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL301.html#download 

[5] See for example: Why Don’t More Women Play Wargames? (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6atdeEMrLCE 

[6] Game jams. (n.d.). Itch.io. https://itch.io/jams. Itch.io, a hub of independent game activity, hosts a dizzying array of jams, most of which are for video games, but a sizable minority are for roleplaying games.

[7] Zenobia Award. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://zenobiaaward.org

Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Option Papers Tom Vielott Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing Wargaming in Turkey

M. Fatih BAS is a lecturer in the Department of History at the Turkish Military Academy in Ankara, Turkey.  He is currently pursuing a PhD in modern military history at Gazi University and can be found on Twitter @mefaba.  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 Wargaming in Turkey

Date Originally Written:  June 7, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  June 21, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a lecturer of military history in the Turkish Military Academy. The author believes that the absence of a wargaming culture in Turkey can be overcome by a close cooperation between the Turkish military and the academia.

Summary:  Wargaming in Turkey has a long history but it has always been confined to military circles. Wargaming was never a civilian hobby or educational tool for academics. Even in the military, wargaming is reserved almost exclusively for staff officers and higher echelons. Civilian-military cooperation to establish a wargaming community will improve the wargaming capacity of Turkish military and academia.

Text:  When the young Prussian Captain Helmuth von Moltke arrived in Istanbul as a military advisor in 1835, he was received by the Ottoman Minister of War Hüsrev Pasha who showed him a wargame kit and asked for his help with the rules. Hüsrev Pasha’s game was almost definitely a copy of Kriegsspiel designed by von Reisswitz the younger[1]. Hüsrev Pasha, being apparently enthusiastic about this new tactical training tool, could never have implemented it in the Ottoman Army at the time. The army was already going through a massive reform and the quality of the officer corps was far from ideal.