A Wicked Cultural Problem: Options for Combating New Tribalism in 2035

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Captain Matthew Hughes, U.S. Army, is a Western Hemisphere Foreign Area Officer. He is currently assigned to the Military Liaison Office of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil while he conducts in-region training. The opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, 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:  It is 2035 and a new form of tribalism has taken root throughout the world. This New Tribalism is a threat to U.S. interests.

Date Originally Written:  April 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States in 2035 towards New Tribalism adherent groups imposing dangerous cultures on others.

Background:  Culture overrides ideological, political, or economic distinctions among peoples, driving global conflict in 2035[1]. While tremors of conventional conflict occur along fault lines between civilizations, localized conflicts erupt within civilizations as ethnicities and tribes seek to impose their ways of life upon others[2]. Governments struggle to meet societies’ demands for political and economic stability, leading them to turn inward and adopt protectionist policies, which erodes international coalitions that historically managed localized conflicts through small wars[3]. Cultural conflicts and weak multilateral cooperation accelerate the transition of predominant terrorism ideologies from a religious wave (1979 – late 2020s) to a wave known as New Tribalism, characterized by terrorist groups promulgating violent cultures based on ethnic, racial, or tribal mysticism[4]. Children are the vanguard of New Tribalism; child soldiers and child brides are cultural norms[5]. Rape and ethnic cleansing are integral in establishing a new human race[6]. New Tribalism thus “disrupts traditional cultures [by violating] even the most traditional elements of a society” by imposing its apocalyptic vision of how society should function[7]. In 2035, the U.S. faces the wicked problem of combating dangerous cultures of New Tribalism adherents before they topple governments, beget genocide, prompt mass migrations, and trigger regional instability.

Significance:  Although New Tribalism movements face inward as adherents seek to purify their homelands, their harmful cultures threaten regional political and economic stability. These groups seek to unify and consolidate adherents of their cultures, often across international boundaries. The scope of effects as these violent cultures spread includes genocide, massive volumes of displaced persons, ousting national-level political figures, and geographic impacts. The U.S. response will establish a precedent on how to combat New Tribalism’s dangerous cultures in a global dynamic where isolationism has become the norm.

Option #1:  The U.S. intervenes through armed conflict.

The U.S. deploys forces to countries where New Tribalism erupts in order to defeat adherent groups and mitigate the effects of their violent cultures. The U.S. threatens sanctions against countries providing external support to these groups to degrade their operations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) focuses on economic development projects and refugee relief efforts. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) engage in deradicalization efforts with former New Tribalism communities. Military information support operations emphasize legitimacy of friendly operations and incompatibility of New Tribalism with traditional norms.

Risk:  Numerous small wars with prolonged U.S. troop presence, significant casualties, and heavy financial costs, weaken the U.S. military’s ability to fight major regional contingencies. Weak international coalitions increase this likelihood and associated costs. U.S. Forces may receive domestic and international criticism for collateral deaths of children during kinetic military actions, given New Tribalism cultural norms of using child soldiers and holding child prisoners.

Gain:  Armed conflict with New Tribalism adherents delays the spread of their dangerous cultures; additional efforts by NGOs and soft power instruments will help to exterminate them. This option can degrade adherent groups’ capabilities, disrupt their operations, and ultimately defeat them. U.S. intervention may halt an insurgency and preserve national institutions, salvaging Defense Institution Building (DIB) efforts spanning decades. Intervention decreases the likelihood of genocide and can mitigate the extent and severity of mass migration. The protected government and populace develop greater trust in the U.S. as a partner, positively influencing future relations.

Option #2:  The U.S. assists groups battling the New Tribalists below the level of armed conflict.

U.S. regionally-aligned forces and / or special operations forces train, advise, and assist rivals of New Tribalism adherent groups (e.g., armed forces of conflict country and neighboring countries) to manage the effects of adherent groups and their dangerous cultures[8]. U.S. intelligence assets find and fix adherent group targets and share information with allies and partners to finish targets. The U.S. leverages soft power tools to enhance partner nation governance and its national security apparatus and delay the spread of New Tribalism cultures.

Risk:  This option relies on successful security assistance activities and multinational cooperation. Due to persistent political and security challenges in New Tribalism conflict areas, Leahy vetting will identify units and leaders among potential allies which committed human rights violations when quelling rebellions or amassing power for strongmen in recent decades, limiting possibilities for security assistance.

Gain:  This option enhances the capabilities of adherent groups’ rivals (i.e., tactical training; targeting efforts; equipment). Financial costs and U.S. troop loss are significantly lower than in armed conflict. This option affords the U.S. time to assess the developing situation and act prudently, escalating to armed conflict through decision points, if deemed necessary. The proximity of U.S. troops grants the U.S. flexibility to respond to dynamic security conditions and execute contingency operations.

Option #3:  The U.S. contains New Tribalism.

In this option the U.S. does not intervene directly via troops in combat. Instead, it prevents the territorial spread of dangerous cultural norms and practices by deploying forces to New Tribalism peripheries. The U.S. leads multilateral efforts to secure national borders surrounding conflict areas. USAID coordinates relief efforts for refugees and NGOs conduct deradicalization efforts with captured combatants and liberated slaves.

Risk:  This option puts the onus for intervention through armed conflict on the United Nations Security Council and neighboring countries, risking either a delayed response to genocide or no intervention if there is insufficient multinational cooperation. Hence, there is inherent risk for domestic and international criticism for U.S. inaction, catastrophic political ramifications (including sunk costs for DIB), and a regional refugee crisis. The victimized population feels abandoned by the U.S., negatively impacting relations for decades.

Gain:  By securing national borders and improving economic conditions, this option enhances the host country’s ability to defeat violent groups and exterminate their harmful cultures[9]. Containment offers a sustainable strategy with likely domestic and international support. The U.S. avoids financial costs and troop loss associated with military intervention and prolonged engagement. This option grants the U.S. flexibility to commit troops and resources to other conflicts.

Other Comments:  All options reflect the need for a whole-of-government approach to counter dangerous cultures.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Huntington, S. P. (2011). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[2] Huntington, S. P. (2011). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[3] National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (p. v). Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf.

[4] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[5] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[6] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[7] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[8] I-VEO Knowledge Matrix. (2011, June). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://start.foxtrotdev.com/. See hypothesis for Literary Reviews 157 and 175.

[9] I-VEO Knowledge Matrix. (2011, June). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://start.foxtrotdev.com/. See hypothesis for Literary Review 136.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Civil Affairs Association Matthew Hughes Option Papers Sub-State Groups United States

Call for Papers: Activities 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 Activities Below the Threshold of War.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers, while activities below the threshold of war are innumerable, and we encourage writers to address them, we are very interested in exploring the idea of activities being designed from the beginning to stay below a threshold.  One example could be that 42 U.S. Code § 5195c defines “critical infrastructure,” what can be done to the U.S. in the cyber domain that stays below this definition?  Another example is that Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty does not define “armed attack.”  As such, what can be done to North Atlantic Treaty Organization Member States that ensures debate as to whether the action is considered an “armed attack,” and thus ensure a response is slow in coming?  More ideas regarding Below Established Threshold Activities can be found in this 2016 Lawfare article.  (And yes, Below Established Threshold Activities or BETA is why there is a picture of a Betamax video tape at the top of this Call for Papers.)

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 15, 2020.

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Call For Papers

Options for a Five Eyes Response to Below Threshold Competition with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Alexander Craig works in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. 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:  Competition with China below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of the ‘Five Eyes’ nations: the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Background:  The Five Eyes nations are united not just by security cooperation, but by shared history, language, culture and a commitment to democracy, free market institutions and the rule of law. Being few in number compared to the European Union’s 27 members and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 30, the Five Eyes have the potential to act with depth and agility against a common challenge on the world stage beyond that of other international affiliations.

Significance:  China is promoting its authoritarian model abroad as a superior alternative to liberal democracy and the free market[1]. In doing so China is seeking to undermine the current rules based international order; with Xi Jinping openly stating in 2014 that China should be “constructing international playgrounds” and “creating the rules”[2]. If left unchecked, this below threshold competition will undermine democratic norms, support for the free market, and subvert global institutions.

Option #1:  The UK grants full citizenship to Hong Kong’s British Overseas Nationals.
There are approximately 250,000 holders of British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passports.[3] Holders are permanent Hong Kong residents who voluntarily registered prior to 1997. They are not afforded the protection and right that full British citizenship would bring.

Risk:  It is likely that the Chinese government would seek to portray this as an act of interference in its domestic affairs. There is a possibility that BN(O) holders would be seen by the authorities as a suspect group, and this measure could be the catalyst for the victimisation of BN(O) passport holders. Domestically, there would likely be concern in the UK about the possible impact of the instant granting of citizenship to quarter of a million people.

Gain:  By granting full citizenship, the UK demonstrates its support to these citizens of Hong Kong. This act would reassure the people of Hong Kong that international support did not just amount to words; and demonstrates that there can be effective soft power responses to China’s use of hard power against its own citizens.

Option #2:  The Five Eyes nations establish their own Free Trade Agreement.

China uses access to its markets as a tool of both influence and punishment, as seen in recent threats levelled towards Australia[4]. Several unconnected arrangements already link most of the Five Eyes nations such as free trade agreements between the United States, Australia and Canada[5][6]. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union presents an opportunity to simplify and formalise arrangements between the five nations.

Risk:  Free trade agreements can prove controversial[7] and domestic support for free trade often fluctuates, especially in the United States[8]. Increased rhetoric regarding the need for protectionism and claims that the coronavirus has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains could combine to make the early 2020s a difficult period for advancing ambitious free trade agreements[9].

Gain: The establishment of a simple and transparent free trade area by democratic nations deeply committed to the institutions of the free market and the rule of law (and with already existing security arrangements) would provide a global market where participants need not be at the mercy of an autocratic state. This free trade area would be the largest in the world, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of 26.73 trillion dollars, almost double that of China and exceeding the European Union’s[10].

Option #3:  The Five Eye nations give Taiwan full diplomatic recognition.

Currently 15 nations recognise Taiwan, a decrease of seven since 2016. This is primarily a result of pressure placed on smaller nations by China[11].

Risk:  The recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation would be highly provocative and would almost certainly be met with a response from China. U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed into law the TAIPEI Act[12], which prompted the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson to respond “We urge the United States to correct its mistakes, not implement the law, or obstruct the development of relations between other countries and China, otherwise it will inevitably encounter a resolute strike back by China[13].” This option might entail having to be prepared to face this threatened ‘strike back’.

Gain:  The Chinese government’s opposition to international recognition of a prosperous free market democracy is enforced through threats and coercion. Recognition would be a declaration that, on the world stage, aggressive rhetoric and punitive use of boycotts and market access by larger nations do not trump the rule of law, democracy, and the sovereignty of smaller nations. If China does attempt a forced reunification, previous recognition of Taiwan makes clear what crime has been committed: the invasion of a sovereign nation by another – not a conclusion to the civil war, or the reigning in of a secessionist province.

Other Comments:  Suggestions for addressing the risks posed by Chinese competition are often reactive in nature and assume China has the initiative: preventing dominance of 5G networks, preventing mass corporate theft, reducing the influence of Confucius Institutes etc. While each suggestion is valid, there is a risk that the assumption of Chinese advantage fosters a pessimistic attitude. Instead, what authoritarian regimes often see as the West’s weaknesses are often strengths, and in the words of U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, “we have far more leverage than we are employing[14].”

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

[2] Economy, E. 2018. China’s New Revolution. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution

[3] UK House of Commons. 2020. British Overseas Passport Holders in Hong Kong. Hansard https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-01-29/debates/AC02FF56-64CB-4E14-92FD-D2EF59859782/BritishOverseasPassportHoldersInHongKong

[4] McCullough, D. 2020. China threatens to stop Australian imports. Canberra Times. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6736562/china-threatens-to-stop-australian-imports

[5] Office of the United States Trade Representative. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements

[6] Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://www.agriculture.gov.au/market-access-trade/fta

[7] Pengelly, M. 2017.Trump threatens to terminate Nafta, renews calls for Mexico to pay for wall. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/27/donald-trump-camp-david-nafta-mexico-wall-canada

[8] Wofe, R., & Acquaviva, 2018 Where does the public sit on NAFTA? Policy Options. https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2018/public-sit-nafta

[9] O’Leary, L. 2020. The Modern Supply Chain is Snapping. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/supply-chains-and-coronavirus/608329

[10] The World Bank. 2020. GDP (current US$). The World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

[11] Lyons, K. 2020. Taiwan loses second ally in a week as Kiribati switches to China. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/20/taiwan-loses-second-ally-in-a-week-as-kiribati-switches-to-china

[12] Hille, K. 2020. US steps up support of Taiwan in open rebuke to China. The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/161e1b6b-8b5c-44a8-a873-76687427b522

[13] Blanchard, B., & Tian, Y. U.S. increases support for Taiwan, China threatens to strike back. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-usa/us-increases-support-for-taiwan-china-threatens-to-strike-back-idUSKBN21E0B7

[14] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Alexander Craig Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers

U.S. Options for a Consistent Response to Cyberattacks

Thomas G. Pledger is an U.S. Army Infantry Officer currently serving at the U.S. Army National Guard Directorate in Washington, DC. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both the Conventional and Special Operations Forces. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Public Administration at Texas A&M University, a Master of Humanities in Organizational Dynamics, Group Think, and Communication from Tiffin University, and three Graduate Certificates in Advanced International Affairs from Texas A&M University in Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and Defense Policy and Military Affairs. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. He currently serves on 1st NAEF’s External Advisory Board, providing insight on approaches for countering information operations. Tom’s current academic and professional research is focused on a holistic approach to counter-facilitation/network, stability operations, and unconventional warfare. 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 Government (USG) does not have a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the private sector and population. Instead, it evaluates each attack on a case by case basis. This lack of a consistent response strategy has enabled hackers to act with greater freedom of maneuver, increasing the number and types of cyberattacks.

Date Originally Written:  April 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that a lack of a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the United States private sector and population have emboldened foreign powers’ continued actions and prevented a coordinated response.

Background:  The United States private sector and population has become the target of an almost continuous barrage of cyberattacks coming from a long list of state-sponsored actors, including Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran[1]. These actors have used the low financial cost of execution and low cost of final attribution to utilize cyberattacks as a tool to stay below the threshold of armed conflict. In the United States, these attacks have primarily avoided negative impacts on critical infrastructure, as defined by the USG. Therefore, the USG has treated such attacks as a matter for the private sector and population to manage, conducting only limited response to such state-sponsored attacks.

Significance:  The number of known cyberattacks has increased at a near exponential rate since the 1990s. During this same period, these attacks have become more sophisticated and coordinated, causing increased damage to both real-world infrastructure, intellectual property, societal infrastructure, and digital communication platforms. This trend for cyberattacks will continue to rise as individuals, industry, and society’s reliance on and the number of connected devices increases.

Option #1:  The USG categorizes cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as an act of cyberterrorism.

Risk:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism could begin the process of turning every action conducted against the United States that falls below the threshold of armed conflict as terrorism. Patience in responding to these attacks, as attack attribution takes time, can be difficult. Overzealous domestic governments, both state and federal, could use Option #1 to suppress or persecute online social movements originating in the United States.

Gain:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism will utilize an established framework that provides authorities, coordination, and tools while simultaneously pressuring the USG to respond. Including the term “digital social infrastructure” will enable a response to persistent efforts by state actors to create divisions and influence the United States population. Option #1 also creates a message to foreign actors that the continued targeting of the United States private sectors and population by cyberattacks will begin to have a real cost, both politically and financially. A stated definition creates standard precedence for the use of cyberattacks not to target the United States’ private sector and population outside of declared armed conflict, which has been applied to other weapon systems of war.

Option #2:  The USG maintains the current case by case response against cyberattacks.

Risk:  The private sector will begin to hire digital mercenaries to conduct counter-cyberattacks, subjecting these companies to possible legal actions in United States Courts, as “hack the hacker” is illegal in the United States[2]. Cyberattacks conducted by the United States private sector could drag the United States unknowingly into an armed conflict, as responses could rapidly escalate or have unknown second-order effects. Without providing a definition and known response methodology, the continued use of cyberattacks will escalate in both types and targets, combined with that U.S. adversaries not knowing what cyberattack is too far, which could lead to armed conflict.

Gain:  Option #2 allows a case by case flexible response to individual cyberattacks by the USG. Examining the target, outcome, and implication allows for a custom response towards each event. This option maintains a level of separation between the private sector operating in the United States and the USG, which may allow these organizations to operate more freely in foreign countries.

Other Comments:  Although there is no single USG definition for terrorism, all definitions broadly include the use of violence to create fear in order to affect the political process. Cyberterrorism does not include the typical act of violence against a person or property. This lack of physical violence has led some administrations to define cyberattacks as “cyber vandalism[3],” even as the cyberattack targeted the First Amendment. Cyberattacks are designed to spread doubt and fear in the systems that citizens use daily, sowing fear amongst the population, and creating doubt in the ability of the government to respond.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “Significant Cyber Incidents.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Apr. 2020, http://www.csis.org/programs/technology-policy-program/significant-cyber-incidents.

[2] “Hacking Laws and Punishments.” Findlaw, Thomson Reuters, 2 May 2019, criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/hacking-laws-and-punishments.html.

[3] Fung, Brian. “Obama Called the Sony Hack an Act of ‘Cyber Vandalism.’ He’s Right.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/12/22/obama-called-the-sony-hack-an-act-of-cyber-vandalism-hes-right/.

Cyberspace Option Papers Policy and Strategy Thomas G. Pledger United States

Options for the Deployment of Robots on the Battlefield

Mason Smithers[1] is a student of robotics and aviation. He has taken part in building and programming robots for various purposes and is seeking a career as a pilot. 

Jason Criss Howk[2] is an adjunct professor of national security and Islamic studies and was Mason’s guest instructor during the COVID-19 quarantine.

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 deployment of robots on the battlefield raises many questions for nations that desire to do so.

Date Originally Written:  April, 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This paper is based on the assumption that robots will one day become the predominant actor on a battlefield, as AI and robotics technology advance. The authors believe it is the moral duty of national and international policy-makers to debate and establish the rules for this future now.

Background:  Robots on the battlefield in large quantities, where they make up the majority of the combatants making direct-contact with a nation’s enemies, will raise new concerns for national leaders and human rights scholars. Whether they are tethered to a human decision-maker or not, when robots become the primary resource that a nation puts at risk during war, there will be an avalanche of new moral and ethical questions to debate.

This shift in the “manning” of warfighting organizations could increase the chances that nations will go to war because they can afford to easily replace robots, and without a human-life cost, citizens may not be as eager to demand a war be ended or be avoided.

Significance:  While the U.S. currently uses human-operated ground and air robots (armed unmanned aircraft-AKA drones, reconnaissance robots, bomb technician’s assistants etc.), a robust debate about whether robots can be safely untethered from humans is currently underway. If the United States or other nations decide to mass produce infantry robots that can act, without a human controlling them and making critical decisions for them, what are the costs and risks associated? The answers to these questions about the future, matter now to every leader involved in warfare and peace preservation.

Option #1:  The U.S. continues to deploy robots in the future with current requirements for human decision-making (aka human in the loop) in place. In this option the humans in any military force will continue to make all decisions for robots with the capability to use deadly force.

Risk:  If other nations choose to use robots with their own non-human decision capability or in larger numbers, U.S. technology and moral limits may cause the U.S. force smaller and possibly outnumbered. Requiring a human in the loop will stretch a U.S. armed forces that is already hurting in the areas of retention and readiness. Humans in the loop, due to eventual distraction or fatigue, will be slower in making decisions when compared to robots. If other nations perfect this technology before the U.S., there may not be time to catch up in a war and regain the advantage. The U.S. alliance system may be challenged by differing views of whether or not to have a human in the loop.

Gain:  Having a human in the loop will decreases the risk of international incidents that cause wars due to greater an assumed greater discretion capacity with the human. A human can make decisions that are “most correct” and not simply the fastest or most logical. Humans stand the best chance at making choices that can create positive strategic impacts when a gray area presents itself.

Option #2:  The U.S. transitions to a military force that is predominantly robotic and delegate decision-making to the robots at the lowest, possibly individual robot, level.

Risk:  Programmers cannot account for every situation on the battlefield. When robots encounter new techniques from the enemy (human innovations) the robots may become confused and be easily defeated until they are reprogrammed. Robots may be more likely to mistake civilians for legal combatants. Robots can be hacked, and then either stopped or turned on the owner. Robots could be reprogrammed to ignore the Laws of Warfare to frame a nation for war crimes. There is an increased risk for nations when rules of warfare are broken by robots. Laws will be needed to determine who gets the blame for the war crimes (i.e. designers, owners, programmers, elected officials, senior commanders, or the closest user).  There will be a requirement to develop rights for the robots in warfare. There could be prisoner of war status issues and discussions about how shutdown and maintenance requirements work so robots are not operated until they malfunction and die.  This option can lead to the question, “if robots can make decisions, are they sentient/living beings?” Sentient status would require nations to consider minimum requirements for living standards of robots. This could create many questions about the ethics of sending robots to war.

Gain:  This option has a lower cost than human manning of military units. The ability to mass produce robots allows means the U.S. can quickly keep up with nations that produce large human or robotic militaries. Robots may be more accurate with weapons systems which may reduce civilian casualties.

Other Comments:  While this may seem like science fiction to some policy-makers, this future is coming, likely faster than many anticipate.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mason Smithers is a 13-year-old, 7th grade Florida student. He raised this question with his guest instructor Jason Howk during an impromptu national security class. When Mason started to explain in detail all the risks and advantages of robots in future warfare, Jason asked him to write a paper about the topic. Ninety percent of this paper is from Mason’s 13-year-old mind and his view of the future. We can learn a lot from our students.

[2]  Mason’s mother has given permission for the publication of his middle school project.

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Jason Criss Howk Mason Smithers Option Papers

Options for the U.S. to Wage Conflict in the Cognitive Domain

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Todd Schmidt currently serves as an active-duty military service member.  He can be found on Twitter @Dreamseed6 and hosts his scholarly work at www.toddandrewschmidt.com.  His views are his own.  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.


National Security Situation:  U.S. challenges to waging conflict in the cognitive domain.

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 22, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author’s body of scholarly work focuses primarily on the influence of military elites on national security through the lens of epistemic community theory. This article is written from the point of view of an international relations/foreign policy scholar assessing challenges in future conflict through the lens of political psychology.

Background:  Humans live in bounded reality – a reality bounded by cognitive limitations[1]. Humans see the world they want, not as it is. The complexity of the world triggers information overload in the mind. Coping with complexity, humans use mental shortcuts to filter information that informs decision-making. Mental shortcuts, known as heuristics, are influenced by personal human factors.

In political psychology, human factors include emotions, belief systems, culture, education, psychological/behavioral attributes, and experiences that filter the overwhelming information to which humans are exposed[2]. Information filters reinforce perceptions of reality that conform to values and beliefs, or “operational code[3].” Filters act as cognitive limitations in the mind and the cognitive domain, which creates vulnerabilities and permits influence.

Current operational environments witness adversaries increasingly avoiding conventional conflict and achieving their objectives through other means of influence. The consequence is a future of persistent, unending great power competition that resides in a gray zone between war and peace. Adversaries will challenge U.S. power in this gray zone to erode strategic advantage and influence action. According to military doctrine, adversaries currently deploy capabilities “in all domains – Space, Cyber, Air, Sea, and Land” to challenge U.S. power[4]. This doctrine denies the cognitive domain.

Significance:  The cognitive domain will gain prominence in future strategic environments, conflict, and multi-domain operations. The cognitive domain of war has been explored and contested for centuries. Ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu refers to winning war through intelligence, information, and deception; attacking enemies where they are least prepared; and subduing adversaries indirectly without fighting. To win campaigns of influence in the cognitive domain requires achieving cognitive superiority.

Current Chinese military doctrine recognizes the importance of cognitive superiority, particularly in pre-kinetic stages of war. In pre-kinetic stages, unconventional “attacks” in the cognitive domain will shape how adversarial populations think. Human capital will be targeted. Targets will include societal weaknesses, social networks, and cyber and information systems. By weakening or defeating “systems” across all domains, below the threshold of kinetic conflict, an adversary’s strategic advantages, defenses, and deterrent capabilities are compromised[5].

Cognitive superiority is achieved through education and professional development, organizational learning and adaptability, technological advantage, and leadership. Taken together, these means translate into the ability to gather, decipher, process, and understand tremendous amounts of data and information faster than the enemy. Fusing and communicating knowledge faster than a competitor ensures the ability to disrupt enemy decision-cycles; influence their perceived reality; and impose U.S. will.

Option #1:  The U.S. improves public education, which includes a reevaluation of its investment in human capital, education systems, and professional development.

Risk:  Public education and pursuance of tertiary education will continue to fall behind U.S. allies and adversaries[6]. American society will be targeted by misinformation and influence campaigns; and bombardment by opinions masquerading as fact. The public will be challenged in discerning the origination of attacks, whether they originate domestically, outside sovereign borders, or through complicity. Finally, a trend of hyper-politicization of public policy related to education will result in low prioritization, under-funding, and a society dispossessed of the cognitive complexity to question and discern truth.

Gain:  Future generations, a population of which will serve in the armed forces, will have an educational foundation that better provides for the ability to detect and discern misinformation. Those that choose to serve will be better-equipped for achieving intellectual overmatch with adversaries that the joint force requires[7].

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in organizational learning and adaptation.

Risk:  Organizations that fail to learn and adapt in a manner that creates advantage and innovation, particularly in complex, competitive environments, are challenged to maintain relevance[8].

Gain:  Organizational learning and adaption is enabled by a professional, educated, trained workforce[9]. Investment in organizational learning and adaptation builds a healthy organizational culture reinforced by professionalism, common ethos and values, and competitiveness. Such characteristics are imperative to understanding complex challenges in uncertain environments[10].

Option #3:  The U.S. invests in technological innovation and advantage.

Risk:  Adversaries will forage and steal intellectual property. They have done so for decades, unhindered and unpunished[11]. American business, venture capital, and entrepreneurs, as well as the U.S. economy as a whole, will be unnecessarily impeded in the ability to compete in a world economy, threatening U.S. national interests.

Gain:  American entrepreneurial spirit is motivated and sustained by the advantages and rewards of a market-driven economy. The profit and gain achieved through investment in and maintenance of technological innovation and advantage fosters economic productivity. Taken together, these dynamics incentivize public policy that creates and fosters healthy, competitive, and profitable business environments and practices[12].

Option #4:  The U.S. Government incentivizes ‘unity of effort’ through public-private partnerships.

Risk:  Liberal democracies and free market economies may resist a perceived ‘militarization’ of the cognitive domain. Public officials may lack the intellectual curiosity or political will to recognize, understand, and engage in the cognitive domain to protect U.S. interests. Private-sector leaders and the public may be wary of partnering with the government. Leading a synchronized ‘unity of effort’ across governmental institutions and the private-sector is an incredibly challenging and complex task.

Gain:  With safeguards to civil liberties, the synergy between public- and private-sector efforts to achieve cognitive superiority would overcome adversarial incursion, influence, and competition in the cognitive domain.

Other Comments:  In a future epoch, the current era will be considered transitional and revolutionary. In this revolutionary era, the U.S. will be required to continually assess and ensure that adversaries and the strategic environment do not outpace the intellectual capacity of leaders, government, and society to understand and harness the age in which we live.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mintz, A. and K. DeRouen. (2010). Understanding foreign policy decision making. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Cottam, M., E. Mastors, T. Preston and B. Dietz. (2016). Introduction to Political Psychology, 3rd Ed. New York: Routledge.

[3] George, A. (1969). “The ‘operational code’: A neglected approach to the study of political leaders and decision-making.” International studies quarterly. 13:2. 190-222.

[4] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2018). “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.tradoc.army.mil/Portals/14/Documents/MDO/TP525-3-1_30Nov2018.pdf

[5] Laird, B. (2017). “War Control: Chinese Writings on the Control of Escalation in Crisis and Conflict.” Center for a New American Security. March 20. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/war-control

[6] OECD. (2019). “United States.” Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2019_1e0746ed-en#page1.

[7] Joint Staff. (2019). “Developing Today’s Joint Officers for Tomorrow’s Ways of War.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff Vision and Guidance for Professional Military Education and Talent Management. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/MECC2019/jcs_vision_pme_tm_draft.pdf?ver=2019-10-17-143200-470

[8] Darwin, C. (1859). The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Reprinted in 1957. New York: Random House.

[9] Schmidt, T. (2013). “Design, Mission Command, and the Network: Enabling Organizational Adaptation.” The Land Warfare Papers. No 97. August. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://ausa.org/files/design-mission-command-and-networkpdf

[10] Pierce, J. (2010). “Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of Its Senior Level Officer Corps?” The Letort Papers. September. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/2097.pdf

[11] Department of Justice. (2020). “Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases.” Press Release. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/harvard-university-professor-and-two-chinese-nationals-charged-three-separate-china-related

[12] Gill, I. (2020). “Whoever leads in artificial intelligence in 2030 will rule the world until 2100.” Brookings Institute. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2020/01/17/whoever-leads-in-artificial-intelligence-in-2030-will-rule-the-world-until-2100

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Civil Affairs Association Mindset Option Papers Todd Schmidt United States

Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian 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.


Title:  Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. He believes in the importance of employing all national instruments of power in warfare in a comprehensive approach, including non-state actors as well as allies, coalition forces, and partners. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how China plans to achieve its objectives.

Summary:  The Thucydides trap – it is a phenomenon destining a hegemon and an emerging power to war. The People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are currently following this schema. China aims at reaching a status above all others. To achieve that, it employs all instruments of national power in a concerted smart power approach, led by the constant political leadership. China fills emerging gaps in all domains and exploits U.S. isolationism.

Text:  The People’s Republic of China and the U.S. are competing actors. As an emerging power, China challenges the current hegemon[1]. Whereas the U.S. sees itself “first” amongst others[2], China aims at being “above” all[3]. To achieve this goal, China adheres to a whole of nation approach[4]. In the current stage of national resurrection, China will not challenge the U.S. in a direct approach with its military[5]. However, it balances hard and soft power, consequently employing smart power[6]. Within this concept, China follows examples of the U.S., further develops concepts, or introduces new ones. Foremost, China is willing to fill all emerging gaps the U.S. leaves in any domain. Its exclusive political system provides a decisive advantage towards other competitors. China’s political leadership has no pressure to succeed in democratic elections. Its 100-year plan for the great rejuvenation until 2049 is founded on this constancy[7].

China’s diplomacy is framed by several dogmata, executed by the Chinese People’s Party that stands for entire China, its well-being, and development. China’s view of the world is not pyramidic but concentric. That given, it might be easier to understand why China is ignoring concerns about internal human rights violations, adheres to a One-China policy regarding Taiwan, and assumes Tibet as Chinese soil. Maintaining North Korea as a buffer-zone to a U.S. vassal and developing the “string of pearls” in the South China Sea are more examples for the concentric world perception. These examples are the inner circle. They are indisputable[8].

Additionally, China’s diplomacy overcame the pattern of clustering the world by ideology. Necessity and opportunity are the criteria for China’s efforts[9]. Western nations’ disinterest in Africa led – like the European Union’s incapability in stabilizing states like Greece after the 2008 economic crisis – to close diplomatic, economic, and military ties with China. Whereever the so-called west leaves a gap, China will bridge it[10]. The growing diplomatic self-esteem goes, thereby, hand in hand with increasing China’s economic and military strength. China exploits the recent U.S. isolationism and the lacking European assertiveness. It aims at weak points.

In the fight for and with information, China showed an impressive evolution in information technology[11]. This field is of utmost importance since gathering data is not the issue anymore, but processing and disseminating. The infinite amount of information in the 21st century requires computer-assisted processes. Since China gained “Quantum Supremacy”, it made a step ahead of the United States of America[12]. Under this supremacy, China’s increasing capabilities in both Space and Cyberspace gain relevance. Information is collected almost equally fast by competitors, but more quickly fed into the political decision-making process in China[13]. The outcome is superiority in this field[14].

In the information domain, China follows a soft power approach, turning its reputation into a benevolent one. Lately, even the COVID-19 crisis was facilitated to make China appear as a supporter, delivering medical capacities worldwide. China makes use of the western community’s vast and open media landscape while restricting information for the domestic population. China will continue to show a domestically deterrent but supportive expeditionary appearance.

A strong economy and an assertive military are the Chinese political leadership’s source of strength[15]. Concerning the economy, China achieved remarkable improvements. From being a high-production rate, but low-quality mass-producer, it switches increasingly towards quality industries — their chosen path led via industrial espionage and plagiarism towards further developing imported goods[16]. Automobile and military industries are two illustrative examples. The former led to Chinese cars being banned, for example, from the U.S. market, not due to lacking quality but to protect U.S. automobile industries. The latter is based on Russian imports that were analyzed and improved. In doing so, China was able to raise its domestic weapons industry, literally rushing through development stages that took other nations decades.

China requires economic development. Only a strong economy ensures social improvements for its population, a precondition for internal stability. As long as this social enhancement is perceived, China’s domestic population bears restrictions. China will, therefore, maintain its economic growth with all given means. Modern technologies will be pursued in China, and resources will be either imported or, as seen in Africa, entire land strips or regions will be acquired. An essential capstone in this regard will be the “Belt and Road Project”, connecting the Chinese economy with other relevant markets such as Europe[17]. Concentrically, China will extend its influence along this trade route and grow its influence by creating dependence[18].

Establishing and maintaining contested economic routes requires capable security forces. China’s military keeps the pace. Founded as a revolutionary force, the military achieved the goal of combat readiness. Until 2049, China’s ambition is to build armed forces, able to fight and win wars. In a regional context, deterrence is the requirement. However, China seeks more. Superseding the U.S. means exceeding U.S. maritime capabilities. China’s strategic goal is to build the most capable blue-water navy[19]. The “string of pearls” is just an intermediate step until its naval fleet as assets of power-projecting will be established. China will maintain its land forces and increase its capabilities in all other domains. Regional conflicts will be facilitated to test doctrine, technology, and combat readiness.

China is aware of its geopolitical situation. It has to deter Russia militarily while marginalizing it economically. It will avoid a direct military confrontation that might hamper economic growth[20]. China has to shape the surrounding Asian nations’ attitude so they would not provide U.S. forces further staging areas. It will exploit U.S. isolationism, influence Europe economically, and diminish transatlantic influence using the information domain.

The U.S., being a maritime power, is eager to maintain its status as a hegemon by controlling opposite coast-lines such as Europe via Great Britain or Asia via Japan and South Korea. Reluctance to directly compete with China will enable the concentric power growth to reach the U.S. territory, finally overwhelming it. Interventionism will be exploited in the information domain, and isolationism is even a precondition for China’s success.


Endnotes:

[1] Allison, G. (2018, 24). Destined for War.

[2] The President of the United States. (2017, 1). National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

[3] Ward, J. (2019, 5). China’s Vision of Victory.

[4] Ward (2019, 92). Ibid.

[5] Ward (2019, 31-36). Ibid.

[6] Allison, G. (2018, 22). Destined for War.

[7] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[8] Ward (2019, 54-61). China’s Vision of Victory.

[9] Raik et al. (2018, 22-26). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[10] Allison (2018, 20-24). Destined for War.

[11] Ward (2019, 85-87). China’s Vision of Victory.

[12] Ward (2019, 86). Ibid.

[13] Preskill (2018, 7). Quantum Computing in the NISQ.

[14] Poisel (2013, 49-50). Information Warfare and Electronic Warfare.

[15] Raik et al. (2018, 36). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[16] Ward (2019, 92-95). China’s Vision of Victory.

[17] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[18] Ward (2019, 116-118). China’s Vision of Victory.

[19] Ward (2019, 61). Ibid.

[20] Raik et al. (2018, 34). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Matthias Wasinger United States

An Assessment of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs’ Capability to Provide Commanders with Improved Situational Awareness in Population-Centric Operations

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Lieutenant Colonel Alexander L. Carter is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer who deployed twice to Iraq as a Civil Affairs Team Leader. He presently works at the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve as an Army Senior Strategist. He can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alexcarter2016. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs’ Capability to Provide Commanders with Improved Situational Awareness in Population-Centric Operations

Date Originally Written:  April 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 15, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty Army officer currently serving at Headquarters, Department of the Army as a Senior Strategist. The author believes that the U.S. Army Civil Affairs community lacks sufficient stakeholder engagement skills needed to prepare commanders for population-centric operations in 2035 and suggests new approaches to identifying, prioritizing, and engaging with stakeholders.

Summary:  Successful population-centric operations will be achieved only when military forces understand underlying human behavior, attitudes, and predispositions of local populations. This knowledge can be taught by introducing new techniques in stakeholder engagement. Army Civil Affairs operators are the natural choice for this new training to support commanders conducting population-centric operations.

Text:  A recently published review of the U.S. Army’s involvement in the Iraq war revealed an unflinching account of significant failures in the planning and execution of population-centric operations[1]. One explanation for these failures is that the Army underestimated the physical, cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of individuals and groups that influenced local Iraqi perceptions, understanding, and interactions. As the Army focuses on modernization, readiness, and reform initiatives to prepare for the future fight, Army Civil Affairs (CA) are the logical choice to leverage lessons learned from recent experiences in Iraq and elsewhere and develop a much-needed capability to identify, prioritize, and engage with individuals and groups to favorably influence conditions on the ground. Specifically, CA adopting and implementing new stakeholder engagement techniques to better understand and leverage human attitudes, behaviors, and sentiments will impact the Supported Commander’s ability to accomplish the mission and achieve the desired end-state.

While certain communication or key leader engagement skills are taught at the CA branch qualification course and regularly practiced during exercises and other training events, more deliberate, comprehensive stakeholder management practices are not. In fact, such practices are absent from Army and Joint publications. To launch this new initiative in stakeholder outreach or engagement, one must start with a definition.

A stakeholder is “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives[2].” To support the commander’s mission, CA operators must first identify stakeholders who can positively impact the mission. There are at least two methods for identifying stakeholders – Center of Gravity (COG) analysis and Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats or (SWOT) analysis. COG analysis begins with desired end state and identifies supporting critical capabilities needed to achieve the end state[3]. COG analysis identifies those critical capabilities that are also most vulnerable to ‘enemy’ or critical vulnerabilities[4]. Stakeholders are then identified that can either strengthen existing capabilities or mitigate the vulnerabilities of other capabilities.

Similarly, SWOT analysis can be used to generate a list of stakeholders. SWOT analysis identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats bearing upon a command or unit contemplating a proposed operation. Strengths and weaknesses are internally focused while opportunities and threats are external to the organization[5]. A re-purposing of traditional SWOT analysis focuses on opportunities and threats to identify stakeholders that help the organization capitalize on opportunities and mitigate threats. Once identified, these stakeholders are then prioritized to determine whether deliberate outreach to them is necessary.

There are different ways to prioritize stakeholders. One technique is the power/interest grid[6]. Stakeholders are plotted on any one of four quadrants, along the axes, based on a collective assessment of their relative power and interest. The degree of power for each stakeholder is assessed subjectively considering various types of power sources, such as legitimate, informal, referent, expert, coercive, connective, etc., that may be associated with an individual stakeholder[7]. The degree of interest is assessed based on the perceived level of interest that the stakeholder has on the outcome of the strategy or plan. Because stakeholders need to be managed differently based on their relative authority (power) and level of concern (interest), those stakeholders assessed as having a high degree of power and interest will be classified as “Manage Closely,” and actively managed.

Once stakeholders are identified and categorized into one of four quadrants on the grid, leaders allocate resources (team members) to engage with stakeholders deemed critical for solicitation. Stakeholders assessed as having high interest and high power (“Manage Closely”) are further assessed to determine their current and desired dispositions toward such plans[8]. Stakeholder engagements are calendared and reported through leader-led meetings. Engagements are planned with supporting goals and objectives for each stakeholder, ideally moving the stakeholder’s current disposition towards a desired disposition relative to the commander’s goals. In this process, CA operators could gauge stakeholders’ sentiments, thoughts, and feelings toward a command’s developing or proposed operations. Why choose the CA community to be the proponent for such expertise?

Civil Affairs operators are doctrinally and operationally aligned to be highly successful enablers to Supporting Commanders conducting population-centric operations because of CA’s laser focus on working exclusively in the human domain. The recently published joint concept for operating in such a contested, information environment states that commanders are tasked to gain “shared situational awareness…and establishment of relationships that reduce or eliminate barriers to the integration of physical power and informational power[9]. Through more deliberate, calculated, and, ultimately, effective stakeholder engagement, commanders will receive the information they need from CA operators to make better informed decisions that could make the difference between success or failure in population-centric warfare in the years to come.

Figure 1: Power/Interest Grid[10]

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 7.30.17 AM


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Army, (2016). The U.S. Army in the Iraq War Volume 2: Surge and Withdrawal 2007–2011, U.S. Army War College Press, 625.[2] Freeman, E. R. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman, 31.

[3] Kornatz, S. D. (2016). The primacy of COG in planning: Getting back to basics. Joint Force Quarterly, (82), 93.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Helms, M. M., & Nixon, J. (2010). Exploring SWOT analysis – where are we now?: A review of academic research from the last decade. Journal of Strategy and Management, 3(3), 216. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247630801_Exploring_SWOT_analysis_-_where_are_we_now_A_review_of_academic_research_from_the_last_decade.

[6] Smith, P. A. (2017). Stakeholder Engagement Framework. Information & Security: An International Journal, 38, 35–45. http://dx.doi.org/10.11610/isij.3802.

[7] Turcotte, W. E., Calhoun W.M., and Knox, C. (2018). Power and Influence, research paper, U.S. Naval War College. 2–3.

[8] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th ed (2013). Project Management Institute. 13.2.2.3.

[9] Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment. https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_13.pdf.

[10] Eden, C. (1999). Making strategy: The journey of strategic management. Management Research News, 22(5). 37.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Alexander L. Carter Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Civilian Concerns

Assessing the Role of Career Diplomats in National Security

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Confidence MacHarry is a Security Analyst at the same firm and can be found on Twitter @MacHarryCI. 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 Career Diplomats in National Security.

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that the relegation of career diplomats in shaping national security policy has robbed governments of vital perspectives sorely needed in great power competition.

Summary:  Career diplomats are an essential component of any national security apparatus. Their ability to understand allies and adversaries at the most basic levels means that governments are less likely to stumble down the path of armed conflict while securing the most favorable positions for themselves on the international stage. When diplomatic efforts take a back seat to those of military and security forces, the likelihood of conflict increases.

Text:  Diplomacy is one of the few professions which has remained true to its earliest history, albeit with a few marked adaptations to suit changing times. Harold Nicholson described diplomacy as “guiding international relations through negotiations, and how it manages ambassadors and envoys of these relations, and diplomatic working man or his art[1].”

The Greek style of diplomacy was founded on the abhorrence of secret pacts between leaders arising out of the distrust Greeks have for their leaders. The Greek diplomats pursued this narrative of intergovernmental relations, beginning with relations between the city-states, eventually extending to governments of non-Greek origin, most notably Persia.

The rise of international organizations has transformed the conduct of diplomacy between two entities into a multifaceted discipline. In its original form as relations between states, the conduct of diplomacy involved the exchange of officials in various capacities. Usually, the ambassador is the most important officer of one state’s relations to another. But, as international relations has grown over the last two centuries, diplomacy’s substance has transcended politics to include economic and socio-cultural relations, hence the entrance of consular officers and other subject matter experts amongst others. The exchange of ambassadors is not done without ceremony, and before a country accepts an ambassador, the sending country has to inform the recipient country about who is being sent. When the ambassador arrives, he or she is required to present a letter of credence to the head of state of the host country.

For relations between states to happen without friction, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 spelled out the rules of engagement. Article 27.3 states that the diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained, while Article 27.4 states that the packages constituting the diplomatic bag must bear visible external marks of their character and may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for official use[2]. Given the vulnerability of communications sent by wireless, by telephone, or by correspondence through public facilities—described in the commentary on Article 27.1 and 27.2 and increasing as technology advances and leaking meets with public sympathy—States attach prime importance to the security of the diplomatic bag for reliable transmission of confidential material.

No nation survives on autarky. Diplomacy, along with economic and cultural resources, makes up the soft power of a nation[3]. The importance of diplomats in ensuring state existence cannot be overemphasized and can be seen in the role they play in both peace and war. The ability to achieve foreign policy objectives via attracting and co-opting rather than hard power or coercion means that the country is spared the costs of waging wars[4].

Career diplomats (along with intelligence officers and analysts), through long service and academic study, serve as cultural experts and assist their political leaders in understanding developments from foreign countries. Diplomats understand the ideological leanings, beliefs, and fears of allies and adversaries. Such understanding is useful in crafting appropriate responses to developments. Diplomats are best positioned to seek out countries who share the same ideals with them, making alliances for national security easy. By building relationships with their counterparts from other nations, more channels for conflict resolution between countries become apparent.

These diplomatic understandings and relationships also facilitate both sides taking advantage of opportunities for military, political, and economic cooperation. Cultural attachés can facilitate educational exchanges, military attachés can prepare for joint exercises, and trade attachés can help businesses navigate the business environment in a foreign nation. All of these efforts deepen the bonds that bind countries together and make the peaceful resolution of disagreements more beneficial for all parties.

More importantly, career diplomats help their nations understand shared security threats and ensure a more effective joint response. The work that was done by American diplomats[5] to persuade China and Russia that a nuclear-armed Iran was not in their best interest comes to mind[6]. The sanctions regime that was created forced Iran to negotiate the status of its nuclear program under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The alternative, military action against Iranian nuclear sites, had no guarantee of success and risked a wider, Middle East conflict.

Ultimately, diplomats are required in the entire spectrum of relationships between nations. In peace, they facilitate understanding and rapport between countries. In a crisis, they defuse tensions and calm fraying nerves. In war, they can negotiate terms to bring all sides to lay down their arms and win the peace. All these tasks can only be done if the political masters can be convinced that the price for peace is cheaper than the blood of brave men and women. If peace is valued, then competent civil servants positioned to represent their countries to the world and provide the platform to realize this goal.


Endnotes:

[1] Nicholson, H. (1939). Diplomacy.

[2] Denza, E. (2016, January 14). Diplomatic Law: Commentary on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Retrieved April 16, 2020 from
https://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law/9780198703969.001.0001/law-9780198703969-chapter-27

[3] Smith, A. (2007, October). Turning on the Dime: Diplomacy’s Role in National Security. Retrieved April 17, 2020 from
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep11348

[4] Nye, J. (2004). Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

[5] DePetris, D. (2016, August 9). Diplomacy, Not Force, Was the Best Choice With Iran. Retrieved April 22, 2020 from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/diplomacy-not-force-was-the-best-choice-iran-17292

[6] Almond, R. (2016, March 8). China and the Iran Nuclear Deal. Retrieved April 22, 2020 from
https://thediplomat.com/2016/03/china-and-the-iran-nuclear-deal

Assessment Papers Confidence MacHarry Damimola Olawuyi Diplomacy

Assessing China’s Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. 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 Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Date Originally Written:  March 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 8, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that observing China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can inform national security researchers and practitioners as to how China may respond to other crises.

Summary:  COVID-19 has highlighted China’s strengths in terms of rapid quarantine implementation and mobilizing national-level resources quickly. It has also highlighted failures in China’s bureaucratic nature and failing public health systems and breakdowns on the military front.  COVID-19 has enabled outsiders a rare look to both analyze and assess the China’s current capabilities for crisis response.

Text:  COVID-19 has engulfed not only the entirety of People’s Republic of China (PRC) but also the world. From quarantining entire regions in China to mobilizing national-level assets, the PRC has been forced to demonstrate its crisis response abilities in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic. Crisis response is a particularly vital capability for the PRC to possess in order to truly legitimize its standing on the global stage, with these abilities allowing China to project power internally and externally. The reactionary nature of the PRC’s response to COVID-19 can be analyzed to showcase its current capabilities when applied to a variety of other scenarios, from insurgent threats to bioweapon attacks.

The PRC has responded to COVID-19 in two distinct ways that can be applauded, with these specific crisis response initiatives being drastic quarantine measures and the mobilization of national-level assets. The large-scale quarantine ordered in the Hubei province by Beijing in January 2020 demonstrated a specific capability to employ scalable options in terms of reducing the number of COVID-19 cases from this region[1], with other areas in China also following suit. The Hubei quarantine was no small feat, given Wuhan’s status as the capital of the Hubei province with some estimates placing the number of affected individuals to approximately 35 million people[2]. Furthermore, the PRC’s mobilization of national-level assets demonstrates a consolidated ability to action resources, potentially in an expeditionary capability. Aside from the cancellation of major Lunar New Year events throughout the country[3] and the mass recall of manufacturing workers to produce face masks[4], PRC authorities also deployed resources to build multiple hospitals in a time of less than several weeks, to include the 1,000 bed Huoshenshan hospital and the 1,600 bed Leishenshan hospital with 1,600 beds[5]. These actions demonstrated the PRC’s crisis response strengths in attempting to contain COVID-19. China’s stringent mass-quarantine measures and mobilization of national-level resources showcased the PRCs ability to exercise its authority in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

While the PRC has proven itself effective on some levels, COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses in the PRC’s crisis response apparatus in both civilian and military infrastructure systems. From a civil perspective, the PRC’s multi-tiered bureaucratic nature has showcased itself as a point of failure during the PRC’s initial response to COVID-19. With a top-down approach emphasizing strict obedience to superiors and centralized PRC leadership, local-level officials hesitated in relaying the dire nature of COVID-19 to their superiors, going so far as to continue local Lunar New Year Events, shut out experts, and even silence whistleblowers[6]. The PRC’s already over-burdened health system did not fare much better[7], with Chinese hospitals quickly exhausting available supplies, personnel, and hospital beds in the initial weeks of the declared coronavirus outbreak[8].

Chinese military response efforts also experienced similar breakdowns in purported capabilities. The PRC’s Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF), a Wuhan-headquartered force purported to comprise of “multiple units, ammunition depots, warehouses, fuel depots, hospitals, and underground facilities spread over a wide geographic area,” has seen relatively little activation in support of the PRC’s crisis response efforts thus far[9]. The JLSF has mobilized less than 2,000 personnel in support of COVID-19 response efforts as of the writing of this article, playing a role more in-line with situation monitoring and self-protection[10]. Additionally, military logistics were further highlighted by a significant shortage in the amount of available nucleic acid testing kits[11], highlighting issues between both JLSF and People’s Liberation Army enterprise-at-large. Therefore, it is only possible for one to conclude that the PRC’s military crisis response capabilities may not be as developed as otherwise advertised.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will be a defining medical pandemic with global impact. Testing the PRC at a real-time level, COVID-19 has highlighted Beijing’s strengths in terms of rapid quarantine implementation and the ability to mobilize national-level resources quickly. On the other hand, China’s ineffectiveness in terms of crisis response has also been showcased, with failures emerging from the PRC’s bureaucratic nature and failing public health systems combined with breakdowns on the PRC’s military front. As devastating as its effects continue to be, the coronavirus provides immense value into understanding the PRC’s capabilities for crisis response.


Endnotes:

[1] Woodward, A. (2020, January 28). Wuhan, China, and at least 15 other cities have been quarantined as China attempts to halt the spread of the coronavirus. That’s about 50 million people on lockdown. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/wuhan-coronavirus-officials-quarantine-entire-city-2020-1

[2] Bernstein, L. & Craig S. (2020, January 25). Unprecedented Chinese quarantine could backfire, experts say. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/unprecedented-chinese-quarantine-could-backfire-experts-say/2020/01/24/db073f3c-3ea4-11ea-8872-5df698785a4e_story.html

[3] Reuters (2020, January 23). Beijing cancels New Year events to curb virus spread. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/china-health-newyear/beijing-cancels-new-year-events-to-curb-virus-spread-beijing-news-idUSB9N29F025

[4] Zhang L. & Goh, B. (2020, January 23). China’s mask makers cancel holidays, jack up wages as new virus spurs frenzied demand. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-health-masks-idUSKBN1ZM18E

[5] Wang, J. & Zhu, E. (2020, February 6). How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals in Just Over a Week. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-china-can-build-a-coronavirus-hospital-in-10-days-11580397751

[6] Wang, D. (2020, March 10). Wuhan officials tried to cover up covid-19 — and sent it careening outward. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/10/wuhan-officials-tried-cover-up-covid-19-sent-it-careening-outward

[7] Shim, E. (2020, February 6). China’s ‘grand gestures,’ propaganda aim to calm fears about coronavirus. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/02/06/Chinas-grand-gestures-propaganda-aim-to-calm-fears-about-coronavirus/8971580989891

[8] Buckley, C. & Qin, A. (2020, January 30). Coronavirus Anger Boils Over in China and Doctors Plead for Supplies. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/30/world/asia/china-coronavirus-epidemic.html

[9] China’s Military Reforms and Modernization: Implications for the United State: Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. 115th Cong. (2018) (testimony of Kevin McCauley).

[10] ANI. (2020, February 5). PLA rushes to the rescue in Wuhan. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/pla-rushes-to-the-rescue-in-wuhan/articleshow/73951301.cms

[11] Wee, S.L. (2020, February 9). As Deaths Mount, China Tries to Speed Up Coronavirus Testing. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/world/asia/china-coronavirus-tests.html

 

Aid / Development / Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement China (People's Republic of China) COVID-19 Hugh Harsono

Assessing Iran in 2020 Regarding the United Nations Arms Embargo and the U.S. Elections

Khaled Al Khalifa is a Bahraini International Fellow at the U.S. Army War College (Academic Year 2020).  He has deployment and service experience in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf.  He has an interest in Middle Eastern security and defense studies.  He can be found on twitter @KhalidBinAli.  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 Iran in 2020 Regarding the United Nations Arms Embargo and the U.S. Elections

Date Originally Written:  May 18,2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes in the importance of efforts that lead to stability in the Arabian Gulf and the wider Middle East. However, these efforts must start with a true understanding of the environment.

Summary:  The United Nations (U.N.) arms embargo will end in October 2020[1]. U.S. President Donald Trump sees this as a failure of the Iran deal, which allows Iran to acquire sophisticated weapon systems[2]. Iran altered its behavior in response to recent actions undertaken by the Trump administration, but Iran also sees opportunity. Stemming from this position, Iran will attempt to undermine the Trump administration through grey zone actions in the near future.

Text:  The Islamic Republic of Iran is entrenched in a fierce and continuous grey zone competition, where it pushes an incremental grand strategy designed to achieve net gains to protect it from adversaries and assert itself on the world stage as a dominant regional power. Iran established itself in the regional and international arenas as an aggressive competitor by using an array of tools to further its position. This competitive nature can be traced to much older times when Iran’s policies were hegemonic and aspirational[3]. The current status of Iran’s outlook is not much different; in fact, it became more deliberate and ambitious after it developed the capable means to achieve slow but cumulative gains. Soon after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the institutionalization of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) provided the Islamic Republic with a hybrid tool to control the economy and pursue an eager foreign policy[4]. On the international stage, the Iranian nuclear program enabled Iran to increase its diplomatic signaling and allowed it to engage in negotiations with the West. Regionally, the IRGC oversaw the expansion of the Iranian geopolitical project by asserting itself directly and indirectly through links with state officials used as proxies or the sponsorship of militias and terrorist organizations. The sanctions imposed through the United Nations Security Council in 2006 were taking their toll; nonetheless, Iran remained defiant, signaling a high tolerance[5]. The nuclear deal relieved Tehran, bought its leadership some time, and freed up financial resources to continue funding their geopolitical project[6]. Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq, the Houthi militia in Yemen and the tremendous lethal and financial support for the Assad regime in Syria, coincided with the 18 months of diplomatic talks that resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)[7]. The P5+1 partitioned the deal by separating it from addressing Iran’s malign behavior and focusing on the nuclear program exclusively. The exclusion of Iran’s support to terrorist organizations and nonstate actors through IRGC handlers in the deal resulted in a signal of acquiescence where Iran’s geopolitical project continued in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond.

The JCPOA was a political and economic win for Iran; it received $1.7 billion from its frozen assets and had economic trade deals with Europe, while it maintained its malign geopolitical activities[8]. In 2015, some U.S. allies in the region voiced their concern privately and while others did so publicly by saying “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and the world”[9]. Iran was winning in the grey zone to the point it began to boast to the world and taunt its rivals[10]. Nonetheless, this euphoria didn’t last long. In May 2018, the United States government led by the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose the sanctions that were lifted under the deal. This move was explained in a White House briefing by the president citing a compelling list of reasons that the deal fails to protect America’s national security interests[11]. Iran’s response was more of the same, it used its nuclear program to signal defiance and maintained its hostilities to the region.

Recently, Iran probed its regional and international competitors in a series of actions which were designed to identify a threshold of tolerance below armed conflict and continue operating right below it. In June 2019, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone and attacked two oil tankers near the Straight of Hurmuz, disrupting one of the world’s most important oil and gas passageways. In September of the same year, Iran launched a drone attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil processing facilities, which significantly impacted the oil market and crude prices. In December, a rocket attack killed an American contractor and injured several others in Iraq. Although no official claim of responsibility was made, the U.S. held Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian backed militia, responsible. As a result, the U.S. retaliated by targeting Hezbollah in Iraq and, not long after, Qassim Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC. These actions caused a short escalation from Iran, which resulted in more U.S. targeting of Iranian proxies in Iraq. Since then, Iran has halted its hostile activities and reverted to using its nuclear program diplomatically as a bargaining tool.

Iran is observing two events that are important for it to calculate its next moves—the arms embargo expiration date and the U.S. elections in November. The U.S. is leading an effort to extend the embargo in coordination with the U.N. Security Council and urge the other E3 countries of China and Russia to support this action. This effort is a continuation of the “maximum pressure” campaign, which started after the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA to coerce Iran into a new deal[12]. Iran’s President threatened a “crushing response” if the arms embargo was prolonged as reaching that date is a significant political goal. The rapprochement established under the Obama administration created diplomatic channels, which resulted in understanding and agreement between the leadership of both countries. Iran is keen on reestablishing those channels to work towards lifting the sanctions and sticking to the terms of the JCPOA. The political investment, past gains, and official Iranian statements all indicate their high interest in reverting to the JCPOA days. Therefore, the U.S. elections is an important date on Iran’s calendar. Concessions before those dates are not foreseeable as the Trump administration continues to signal an open door to negotiate a new deal that guarantees the curtailment of Iran’s nuclear path and addresses Iran’s behavior in the region and around the world. Any move that Iran makes before those dates will be designed to incur audience costs against the Trump administration. An election year amid a pandemic crisis offers enough obscurity for Iran to remain in the grey zone and continue its destabilizing activities and policies.


Endnotes:

[1] Iran nuclear deal: Key details. (2019, June 11). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655

[2] Pamuk, H. (2020, April 29). U.S. will not let Iran buy arms when U.N. embargo ends: Pompeo. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-sanctions-idUSKBN22B29T

[3] McGlinchey, S. (2013, August 2). How the Shah entangled America. Retrieved from https://nationalinterest.org/commentary/how-the-shah-entangled-america-8821
[4] Iran’s revolutionary guards.(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/irans-revolutionary-guards

[5] Resolution 1737 (2006) adopted by the security council at its 5612th meeting, on 23 December 2006. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/unsc_res1737-2006.pdf

[6] Silinsky, M. D. (Ed.). (n.d.). Iran’s Islamic revolutionary guard corps: Its foreign policy and foreign legion. Retrieved from https://www.usmcu.edu/Outreach/Marine-Corps-University-Press/Expeditions-with-MCUP-digital-journal/Irans-Islamic-Revolutionary-Guard-Corps

[7] Shannon, M. (2015, September 29). The United States and Iran: A great rapprochement? Retrieved from https://lobelog.com/the-united-states-and-iran-a-great-rapprochement

[8] Katzman, K. (2020, April). Iran’s sanctions. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS20871.pdf

[9] Hafezi, P. (2015, July 14). Iran deal reached, Obama hails step towards ‘more hopeful world’. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/iran-deal-reached-obama-hails-step-towards-more-hopeful-world-idUSKCN0PM0CE20150714

[10]Heard, L. S. (2014, November 3). Another Iranian proxy in the making? Retrieved from https://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/654531

[11] President Donald J. Trump is ending United States participation in an unacceptable Iran deal. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-ending-united-states-participation-unacceptable-iran-deal

[12] Advancing the U.S. maximum pressure campaign on Iran: United States department of state. (2020, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/advancing-the-u-s-maximum-pressure-campaign-on-iran

Arms Control Assessment Papers Iran Khaled Al Khalifa United Nations United States

Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


James Kratovil is a Civil Affairs Officer in the United States Army, currently working in the Asia-Pacifc region.

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono.

Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group


Title:  Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Both authors believe that emerging societal warfare is a risk to U.S. interests worldwide.

Summary:  The world of 2035 will see the continued fracturing of the online community into distinctive tribes, exacerbated by sophisticated disinformation campaigns designed to manipulate these siloed groups. Anonymity on the internet will erode, thus exposing individuals personally to the masses driven by this new form of Virtual Societal Warfare, and creating an entirely new set of rules for interaction in the digital human domain.

Text:  The maturation of several emerging technologies will intersect with the massive expansion of online communities and social media platforms in 2035 to create historic conditions for the conduct of Virtual Societal Warfare. Virtual Societal Warfare is defined by the RAND Corporation as a “broad range of techniques” with the aim of changing “people’s fundamental social reality[1].” This form of warfare will see governments and other organizations influencing public opinion in increasingly precise manners. Where once narratives were shaped by professional journalists, unaltered videos, and fact-checked sources, the world of 2035 will be able to convincingly alter history itself in real time. Citizens will be left to the increasingly difficult task of discerning reality from fantasy, increasing the rate at which people will pursue whatever source of news best fits their ideology.

By 2035, the maturation of artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the information landscape. With lessons learned from experiences such as Russia’s interference with the 2016 elections in the U.S.[2], AI will continue to proliferate the issue of deep fakes to the point where it will be substantially more challenging to identify disinformation on the internet, thus increasing the effectiveness of disinformation campaigns. These AI systems will be able to churn out news stories and video clips showing fabricated footage in a remarkably convincing fashion.

With the population of the global community currently continuing to trend upwards, there is no doubt that an increasing number of individuals will seek information from popular social media platforms. The current figures for social media growth support this notion, with Facebook alone logging almost 2.5 billion monthly active users[3] and Tencent’s WeChat possessing an ever-growing user base that currently totals over 1.16 billion individuals[4]. An explosion in the online population will solidify the complete fracturing of traditional news sites into ones that cater to specific ideologies and preferences to maintain profits. This siloed collection of tailored realities will better allow disinformation campaigns of the future to target key demographics with surgical precision, making such efforts increasingly effective.

Where social media, the information environment, and online disinformation were once in their infancy of understanding, in 2035 they will constitute a significant portion of future organizational warfare. States and individuals will war in the information environment over every potentially significant piece of news, establishing multiple realities of ever starker contrast, with a body politic unable to discern the difference. The environment will encompass digital participation from governments and organizations alike. Every action taken by any organizational representative, be it a public affairs officer, a Department of Defense spokesperson, or key leader will have to take into account their engagement with online communities, with every movement being carefully planned in order to account for synchronized messaging across all web-based platforms. Organizations will need to invest considerable resources into methods of understanding how these different communities interact and react to certain news.

A digital human domain will arise, one as tangible in its culture and nuances as the physical, and organizations will have to prepare their personnel to act appropriately in it. Ostracization from an online community could have rippling effects in the physical world. One could imagine a situation where running afoul of an influential group or individual could impact the social credit score of the offender more than currently realized. Witness the power of WeChat, which not only serves as a messaging app but continually evolves to encompass a multitude of normal transactions. Everything from buying movie tickets to financial services exist on a super application home to its own ecosystem of sub-applications[5]. In 2035 this application constitutes your identity and has been blurred and merged across the digital space into one unified identity for social interactions. The result will be the death of online anonymity. Offend a large enough group of people, and you could see your social rating plummet, impacting everything from who will do business with you to interactions with government security forces.

Enter the new age disinformation campaign. While the internet has become less anonymous, it has not become any less wild, even within the intranets of certain countries. Communities set up in their own bubbles of reality are more readily excited by certain touchpoints, flocking to news organizations and individuals that cater to their specific dopamine rush of familiar news. A sophisticated group wanting to harass a rival organization could unleash massive botnets pushing AI-generated deep fakes to generate perceived mass negative reaction, crashing the social score of an individual and cutting them off from society.

Though grim, several trends are emerging to give digital practitioners and the average person a fighting chance. Much of the digital realm can be looked at as a never-ending arms race between adversarial actors and those looking to protect information and the privacy of individuals. Recognizing the growing problem of deepfakes, AI is already in development to detect different types, with a consortium of companies recently coming together to announce the “Deepfake Detection Challenge[6].” Meanwhile, the privacy industry has continued development of increasingly sophisticated forms of anonymity, with much of it freely available to a tech savvy public. The proliferation of virtual machines, Virtual Private Networks, Onion Routers, blockchain[7], and encryption have prolonged a cat and mouse game with governments that will continue into the future.

Where social media, the information environment, and online disinformation were once in their infancy of understanding, in 2035 they will be key elements used by governments and organizations in the conduct of Virtual Societal Warfare. The merging and unmasking of social media will leave individuals critically exposed to these online wars, with casualties on both sides weighed not in lives lost, but rather everyday lives suppressed by the masses. Ultimately, it will be up to individuals, corporations, and governments working together to even the odds, even as they advance the technology they seek to counter.


Endnotes:

[1] Mazarr, M., Bauer, R., Casey, A., Heintz, S. & Matthews, L. (2019). The emerging risk of virtual societal warfare : social manipulation in a changing information environment. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

[2] Mayer, J. (2018, September 24). How Russia Helped to Swing the Election for Trump. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/01/how-russia-helped-to-swing-the-election-for-trump

[2] Petrov, C. (2019, March 25). Gmail Statistics 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://techjury.net/stats-about/gmail-statistics/#gref

[3] Clement, J. (2020, January 30). Number of Facebook users worldwide 2008-2019. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-

[4] Thomala, L. L. (2020, March 30). Number of active WeChat messenger accounts Q2 2011-Q4 2019. Retrieved April 18, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/255778/number-of-active-wechat-messenger-accounts

[5] Feng, Jianyun. (2019, September 26). What is WeChat? The super-app you can’t live without in China. Retrieved April 25, 2020 from https://signal.supchina.com/what-is-wechat-the-super-app-you-cant-live-without-in-china

[6] Thomas, Elise. (2019, November 25). In the Battle Against Deepfakes, AI is being Pitted Against AI. Retrieved April 30, 2020 from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/deepfakes-ai

[7] Shaan, Ray. (2018, May 4). How Blockchains Will Enable Privacy. Retrived April 30, 2020 from https://towardsdatascience.com/how-blockchains-will-enable-privacy-1522a846bf65

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Cyberspace James Kratovil Non-Government Entities

Assessing How India’s ‘Fourth Arm of Defence’ Decreased the United States’ Munitions

Michael Lima, D.B.A., is an Ammunition Warrant Officer and has served 21 years in the United States military.  He can be found on Twitter @Mike_k_Lima and provides pro bono consulting in munitions and explosives safety on MikeLimaConsulting.org.  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 How India’s ‘Fourth Arm of Defence’ Decreased the United States’ Munitions

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 1, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes in India’s growing military-industrial complex. The article’s point of view is from India towards the United States’ defense security cooperation programs.

Summary:  India has a growing military-industrial complex that includes state-owned enterprises, and has been less reliant on the United States and Russia for munitions production. This complex simultaneously builds political ties with other nations and builds partners and allies in the world. Surround by hostile nations and increasing its industrial base, India increased its internal strength and therefore its influence.

Text:  Mohandas Gandhi said that “Democracy necessarily means a conflict of will and ideas, involving sometimes a war of the knife between different ideas.” He is one of India’s most famous leaders who believed in non-violence, and successfully lead independence from the British without using a gun.

When the discussion of a nation’s industrial base for arms production comes around, three countries come to mind, the United States, China, and Russia. One country that is not associated with arms production in the world stage is the Republic of India. But in 2017, Indian companies ranked in the Top 100 categorized by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as an emerging producer nation[1]. The achievement in production was due to a combination of defense production facilities and state-owned enterprises. The ‘Make in India’ nation-building initiative has transformed India into a global manufacturing hub[2]. India has shown the ability to produce and export at an international level, but its efforts are concentrated towards internal ordnance production known as its ‘Fourth Arm of Defence.’

At the heart of the Indian ordnance production is the Ordnance Factory Board, under the direction of the Department of Defence Production. This government organization is responsible for vertical integration of munitions with 41 factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centers, and four regional Controllers of Safety[3]. The board is one of the oldest and dates to the 1775 colonial period, with the East India Company of England and British authorities’ establishment of Board of Ordnance[4]. Along with the defense facilitates, additional facilities are run by state-owned enterprises such as Hindusthan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, and Bharat Dynamics Limited. These enterprises make up most of India’s arms production. With this amount of production, it is difficult to understand why India needs the United States’ armament.

The United States is the second-largest arms supplier to India, and Russia being the first[5]. Through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the United States supports India with major aircraft programs such as AH-64E Apaches and C-17 Globemaster III[6], and sales of armament as the AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles[7]. The Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation of Russia assists India with larger weapon systems such as the T-90S tanks[8] and Russian S-400 surface to air missile systems[9]. The Indian government, with an impressive military-industrial complex, does not yet have the same capabilities as its two leading importers. The Republic of India does a balancing act of building relationships with both the United States and the Russian government while having contested borders with China. Also, of note politically is India’s near war with its main rival Pakistan over the Jammu and Kashmir region[10]. These circumstances have driven India to be independent and less reliant on external support.

The United States arms exports to India decreased by 51%, and Russian arms exports to India were reduced by 47% between the periods of 2010–14 and 2015–19. [11] The ability for India to have major ownership of the supply chain of the military-industrial complex, allows India to produce munitions systems comparable to the United States and Russia. This, in turn, brings about the success required to decrease import sales from both countries. Between 2010–14 and 2015–19, India’s overall arms imports decreased by 32%, which aligns with their stated objective to produce their own major arms, but still have plans for the imports of major systems[12].

Even with an overall decrease in imports, India continues to increase arms imports from other major powers like Israel and France by 175 and 71%, respectively, in the same time frame. Simultaneously reducing dependency on world superpowers and building political ties with other strategic and critical partners throughout the geopolitical spectrum. Additionally, India managed to have an increase of 426% of arms to smaller countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius[13]. Showing the capability of their industrial complex to produce and export.

The United States and India have a partnership based on shared values, including democratic principles, and the U.S. supports India’s emergence as a leading global power to ensure regional peace in the Indo-Pacific[14]. With the acknowledgment of India’s advancement as a superpower, the United States will eventually concede that its partner has a military-industrial complex that can rival its own. State-owned enterprises increased the capacity of India’s defense production and technical expertise. While the United States is a leading arms exporter to India, working with India to use both U.S. and Indian arms exporting as an instrument of influence within the Indo-Pacific, will likely be required to offset China’s rise.


Endnotes:

[1] The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-producing and Military Services Companies, 2017. (2018). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2018/sipri-fact-sheets/sipri-top-100-arms-producing-and-military-services-companies-2017

[2] Ordnance Factory Board. About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.makeinindia.com/about

[3] Ordnance Factory Board. OFB in Brief. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://ofbindia.gov.in/pages/ofb-in-brief

[4] Ordnance Factory Board. https://ofbindia.gov.in/pages/history

[5] Pubby, M. (2020, March 10). In a first, India figures on arms exporters list. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/in-a-first-india-figures-on-arms-exporters-list/articleshow/74557571.cms

[6] The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. India. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.dsca.mil/tags/india

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Moscow Times. (2019, April 09). India to Buy Over 450 Russian Tanks Worth $2Bln – Reports. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/04/09/india-to-buy-over-450-russian-tanks-worth-2bln-reports-a65146

[9] The Moscow Times. (2019, September 05). India’s Russian Arms Purchases Hit’ Breakthrough’ $14.5Bln, Official Says. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/09/05/indias-russian-arms-purchases-hit-breakthrough-145bln-official-says-a67153

[10] Kugelman, M. (2019, December 31). India and Pakistan Are Edging Closer to War in 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/31/afghanistan-taliban-nuclear-india-pakistan-edging-closer-war-2020

[11] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[12] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[13] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[14] U.S. Relations With India – United States Department of State. (2019, June 21). Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-india

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement India Michael Lima United States

U.S. Aircraft Basing Options in Competition and Conflict with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Captain Walker D. Mills is a Marine infantry officer. He is currently serving as an exchange officer with the Colombian Marine Corps. He is also pursuing an MA in international relations and contemporary war from King’s College London.  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. and China are competing below the threshold of armed conflict and trying to best position themselves should conflict occur.  One area of competition focuses on Chinese rockets and missiles, and their potential use against U.S. aviation facilities.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty military member with a stake in potential future competition and conflict with China in the Pacific. The options are presented from the point of view of the United States.

Background:  In recent decades, the People’s Liberation Army within the People’s Republic of China has invested heavily in conventional cruise and ballistic missiles of several types. Today the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has thousands of missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers[1]. Their rocket force is among the premier in the world – U.S. and Russian militaries have not kept pace with Chinese missile development and deployment because, until recently, they were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Chinese missiles are more than capable of targeting fixed U.S. bases and ships. A recent Center for New American Security report noted that “…a preemptive missile strike against the forward bases that underpin U.S. military power in the Western Pacific could be a real possibility” and named it “the greatest military threat” to U.S. interests in Asia[2]. Analysis of images from missile ranges in the Gobi Desert indicates that the primary targets for these missiles are U.S. aircraft carriers and fixed aviation facilities like airplane hangers and runways[3]. The missiles have repeatedly been highlighted in military parades and are the cornerstone of the PLA’s capability to defeat and deter U.S. military action in the South and East China Seas and their anti-access, area-denial network[4].

Significance:  The increasing threat from Chinese missiles will prevent U.S. forces from being able to credibly threaten the use of force in the seas around China and the First Island Chain because of the extreme risk to U.S. bases and large ships. Without the credible ability to employ force in support of foreign policy objectives in the region, the U.S. may be unable to fulfill treaty obligations to allies in the region and will cede one of its primary tools for competition and foreign policy. The capability to credibly threaten the use of force is the cornerstone of U.S. deterrence in the region.

Option #1:  The United States can embark on a multi-national, multi-agency effort to build dual-use aviation facilities across the First Island Chain. Because the most of the First Island Chain is comprised of U.S. treaty allies, the U.S. can work with allies and partners to rapidly construct a large number of runways and aviation facilities for civilian and military use by foreign partners, which would become available for U.S. military use in the event of a conflict. There are also dozens if not hundreds of derelict runways from the Second World War across the First Island Chain that could be renovated at lower cost than new construction.

Risk:  Such a building program would be expensive, and would have to significantly increase the number of available airfields to achieve the desired effect. This option is also contingent up U.S. partners and allies accepting the U.S. construction programs and the proliferation of airfields on their sovereign territory which may face local political resistance. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  A significant proliferation of dual-use runways in the First Island Chain would complicate Chinese targeting and force the PLA to spread out their missiles across many more targets, limiting their effectiveness. This building plan would also serve as a type of foreign aid – is it a non-confrontational approach to competition with China and would be a gift to our partners because the airfields and support facilities would be intended for partner use and civilian use in times short of armed conflict.

Option #2:  The U.S. can invest in amphibious aircraft that do not need to operate from runways. Legacy U.S. amphibious aircraft like the PBY-Catalina, also call the ‘Flying Boat’ and the Grumman Albatross were highly effective as utility transports, search and rescue, and maritime patrol craft during the Second World War into the 1980s in the case of the Albatross. These aircraft are capable of operating from conventional runways or directly from the sea – which makes strikes on runways and traditional aviation facilities ineffective towards preventing their operation. These planes are able to operate from any coastal area or inland waterway. Other militaries in the region including the Chinese, Russian and Japanese are already modernizing and upgrading their respective fleets of amphibious aircraft.

Risk:  The risk to this option is that reinvestment in amphibious aircraft could be expensive for the U.S. military or too much of a burden for a niche capability. The risk is also that amphibious aircraft are not capable of performing the necessary roles or do not posses the necessary capabilities for operations in against a peer-adversary like China. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  The advantage of this option is that it mitigates the risk to U.S. aircraft in the First Island Chain by creating a reserve of aircraft not tied to easily targeted, fixed-bases. Also, amphibious aircraft can be deployed worldwide – and are relevant beyond East Asia. This option does not depend on allies or partners and the capability to operate from the water can be employed in any theater, against any threat, not just in the Pacific.

Other Comments:  Other types of unconventional aircraft may also be considered for development and acquisition. Wing-in-Ground-Effect vehicles can function like aircraft and operate completely from the water and aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capability can also be employed without traditional runways though struggle with logistics and maintenance in austere environments.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] RAND Corporation. (2017). The U.S. – China Military Scorecard. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

[2] Shugart, Thomas. (2017). First Strike: China’s Missile Threat to US Bases in Asia. Retrieved from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/first-strike-chinas-missile-threat-to-u-s-bases-to-asia.

[3] DeFraia, Daniel. (2013). China tests DF-21D missile on mock US aircraft carrier in Gobi Desert. Agence France-Presse. Retrived from https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-01-30/china-tests-df-21d-missile-mock-us-aircraft-carrier-gobi-desert.

[4] RT. (2015, September 3). China’s V-Day military parade in Beijing 2015 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoC0Xcjko0A&sns=em.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Air Forces Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers United States Walker D. Mills

Assessing China’s Economic Influence in Latin America

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  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 Economic Influence in Latin America

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 25, 2020.

Summary:  Similar to the Soviet Union during Cold War, China is seeking victory without war.  In this Latin America case however, China is leveraging its economic instrument of power to achieve influence instead of supplying fellow communists with materiel like the Soviet Union did.  China’s efforts in this arena are a threat to U.S. interests in Latin America.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes China’s investments and financial deals throughout Latin America can threaten U.S. interests in the long-term.

Text:  In 2008, China published a White Paper expressing their long-term goals in Latin America. This White Paper highlighted several areas of cooperation to include trade, investment, and financing throughout the region[1]. Over a decade later, China almost built a canal in Nicaragua, negotiated several free trade agreements with countries like Brazil and El Salvador, and funded several infrastructure projects throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, China has successfully used its economic instrument of power to coerce countries and legally advance their global interests against competitors like the United States.

Over the past decade, China has become the largest trading partner to countries like Brazil and El Salvador. However, these trading dependencies have caused countries like Brazil to fall into recessions because of their reliance on China’s economy, as seen in 2015[2]. China’s approach has increased Latin American countries dependencies with them, which can be a risk to their economies and the region. A good example is China’s loans-for-oil deal with Venezuela, which contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse due to falling oil prices and their inability to repay Chinese loans[3]. However, China’s trade is not limited to only natural resources; it also includes building infrastructure throughout the region as another means to trap countries into default, holding them hostage to more Chinese coercion.

China has taken on several infrastructure projects to consolidate its influence throughout Latin America. In December 2019, the President of El Salvador met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalize a deal on several infrastructure projects for the country[4]. These projects include a large sports stadium and a water treatment plant[5]. This deal came after El Salvador broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and publicly announcing their support to the One-China Policy[6]. The agreement with El Salvador demonstrates China’s ability to undermine international support for Taiwan through investment opportunities in developing countries. These risky investments in Latin America are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in countries throughout Asia.

Throughout Asia and Africa, China has leveraged long-term leases of ports in vulnerable countries that have failed to pay off loans. For example, China was able to negotiate a 99-year lease over the port of Hambantota with Sri Lanka due to debt[7]. This long-term lease to pay off loans is not isolated to Asia but could be used to leverage territories in Central and South America with countries in debt to China. China’s investments are strategic, knowing that developing countries in Latin America that default on payments may feel pressured to lease out territories like their ports.

China has already attempted this approach in Central American countries like El Salvador. In 2018, China tried to purchase Isla Perico, an Island off the coast of El Salvador, and to relocate its population to the mainland[8]. China also requested a 100-year lease for areas near a port and tax exemptions for Chinese companies[9]. More importantly, these offers came at a time when the U.S. had suspended aid to El Salvador because of mass migration issues leaving a gap for China to exploit. Although the U.S. has temporarily stalled these negotiations, it demonstrates China’s ability to target vulnerable states to advance their agenda legally.

Chinese investment in Latin America also includes the technology sector. This technology consists of similar systems used in China to conduct surveillance on their people. In 2016, Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp assisted with Venezuela’s “fatherland card” that tracked citizens and linked it to government subsidized food and health programs[10]. The risk with this technology is that other governments may want to acquire it from China and use this to reward loyalists and oppress those perceived as not loyal, increasing instability, as seen in Venezuela. This pattern is worrying and without mitigation could be a harbinger of more Orwellian-type surveillance state behavior spreading throughout Latin America.

China’s interests throughout Latin America continue to increase, as seen with their recent attempt to lease port lying areas in El Salvador. Much like in Sri Lanka, China aggressively pursues developing countries to legally entrap them and coerce them into long-term commitments for compensation. Although their priority in Latin America is to gain an economic foothold, their actions also shape Latin American perceptions and buys political influence in the region. China’s economic advancement in Latin America has the potential to become a national security threat to the U.S. and its interests throughout the region.


Endnotes:

[1] Peters, E. (2015). China’s Evolving Role in Latin America: Can It Be a Win-Win? (pp. 5-11, Rep.). Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep03629.5

[2] Patey, L. (2016, November 21). Trouble Down South: Xi Jinping’s Latin American Tour. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/south-america/2016-11-21/trouble-down-south

[3] Guevara, C. (2020, January 13). China’s support for the Maduro regime: Enduring or fleeting? Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/chinas-support-for-the-maduro-regime-enduring-or-fleeting

[4] Renteria, N. (2019, December 3). China signs on for ‘gigantic’ investment in El Salvador infrastructure. Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-el-salvador-china/china-signs-on-for-gigantic-investment-in-el-salvador-infrastructure-idUSKBN1Y7266

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Schultz, K. (2017, December 12). Sri Lanka, Struggling with Debt, Hands a Major Port to China. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/asia/sri-lanka-china-port.html

[8] Londono, E. (2019, September 21). To Influence El Salvador, China Dangled Money. The U.S. Made Threats. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/world/americas/china-el-salvador-trump-backlash.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] Berwick, A. (2018, November 14). How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/venezuela-zte

Assad Raza Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors

Assessing Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Stuart E. Gallagher has served as a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State during the outset of the Ukraine crisis and is a recognized subject matter expert on Russian / Ukrainian affairs. He can be contacted at: s_gallagher@msn.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 Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author serves as a subject matter expert on Russian / Ukrainian affairs. The author contends that Russia has and will continue to pursue great power status seeking legitimacy from the international community.

Summary:  The Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 forced Russia to cede its Superpower status. This event embarrassed Russian leadership who then retooled Russia’s instruments of national power and redefined how Russia engaged globally. This ceding of power also motivated Vladimir Putin and his retinue to pursue Great Power status. Russia will use crises to their advantage, including COVID-19, viewing global power as a zero sum game thereby strengthening itself at the expense of the west.

Text:  As the world embarks on a new decade looking to the horizon and 2035, it is important to take pause and consider the United States future relationship with Russia. Looking back, the United States’ relationship with Russia changed dramatically in the summer of 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union leaving the United States as the sole Superpower in the world. Russia struggled throughout the 1990’s politically, economically, and militarily. In the early 2000’s Russia began to get back on its feet showing early aspirations of returning to great power status as evidenced by systematically retooling and bolstering its instruments of national power (diplomacy, information, military, economic or DIME). In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a sovereign territory of Ukraine, and destabilized southeastern Ukraine employing what is now commonly referred to as New Generation Warfare. These actions redefined the contemporary security environment in a way not seen since the Cold War. Yet, 2020 ushered in a new and unexpected challenge to the contemporary security environment – the virus called COVID-19. Russia used COVID-19 to its advantage by exploiting the unpreparedness of other countries. Considering Russia’s past actions, it is safe to assume that it will use future events of this nature in the same manner to “legitimately,” in its view, return to Great Power status thereby re-establishing a new level of parity with the United States and other great power nations throughout the world.

A Great Power is “a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence, which may cause middle or small powers to consider the Great Powers’ opinions before taking actions of their own[1].” Russia was thoroughly embarrassed with the collapse of the Soviet Union as demonstrated in an address to the nation by President Putin where he stated that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century[2].” At the turn of the century, when Vladimir Putin was about to enter the office of President of Russia, he delivered his manifesto. This manifesto focused on Russia’s past, present, and future struggles, providing a form of road map for what was required to return to great power status[3].

Since the turn of the century, Russia has taken many actions leveraging its vertically aligned instruments of national power to increase its standing in the world. Russia’s most profound action was the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of southeastern Ukraine by Russian backed separatist forces in 2014. However, today, with COVID-19 threatening the world, Russia has adopted a new mantle – that of savior. During a time when the world scrambles to contain COVID-19 and muster resources, Russia has swooped in to the rescue providing expertise and medical supplies to hard-hit Italy, affectionately referred to as “from Russia with love[4].” This assistance was viewed by “senior European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization diplomats less as generosity and more as a geopolitical move asserting Russian power and extending influence[5].” These diplomatic views are understandable considering the dubious, unsolicited “humanitarian assistance” Russia provided in eastern Ukraine in 2014[6]. In another recent instance, Russia provided an Antonov cargo plane full of medical supplies to help ease the burden as the United States struggled with the escalation of COVID-19 on its populace. These acts demonstrated that Russia could do what Great Powers should do in times of world crisis – help. Consequently, a United States concern about Russia’s actions providing legitimacy to their Great Power status quest is justified. Not only will the Kremlin use global-reaching events to highlight their humanity and power, but they will also manipulate these situations in a way that displays the weakness of the west.

One of the banner events the United States had to address in 2014 that redefined the contemporary security environment was the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. This annexation caught the United States senior leadership off guard resulting in significantly delayed reaction time(s). However, now that Russia has reasserted itself on the world stage as a Great Power, it is time to define Great Power Competition. At present, the United States government does not have a policy or a single working definition for great power competition. Simply put, “without a single definition – they [stakeholders to include: US military, the defense industry, elements of diplomacy and US policymakers] will inevitably develop different, and possibly competing, interpretations of great-power competition, with consequent effects for US national security and foreign policy[7].”

So, as the United States sits in the year 2020 and looks to the future, will Russia’s Great Power status be granted, and what are the second and third order effects of doing so? To complicate these questions further, “there are no set or defined characteristics of a great power. These characteristics have often been treated as empirical, self-evident to the assessor[8].” In other words, granting legitimacy to a state is completely subjective in nature. Considering this fact, Russia could effectively grant itself legitimacy as a Great Power. Whether or not the international community would recognize this legitimacy is another issue altogether. On the other hand, by virtue of its position in the world, if the United States were to grant legitimacy to Russia, the international community would be inclined, if not compelled, to recognize this status as well. This granting of status would also reveal a paradox. The United States granting legitimacy to Russia as a Great Power would arguably re-establish parity more quickly, which would be especially helpful during times of world crisis, such as COVID-19 pandemic. However, this granting could also come at a high price, possibly resulting in another arms race, a series of proxy wars or worse. Regardless, at some point, the United States will be required to address this issue and the outcomes, for said decision(s) will have far-reaching impacts on both United States/Russia relations and the security environment well beyond 2035.


Endnotes:

[1] Neumann, Iver B. “Russia as a Great Power, 1815–2007.” Journal of International Relations and Development 11.2 (2008): 128-151.

[2] “Putin: Soviet Collapse a ‘Genuine Tragedy.’” World New on NBC News.com (2005). Retrieved April 20, 2020 from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7632057/ns/world_news/t/putin-soviet-collapse-genuine-tragedy.

[3] Putin, Vladimir. “Russia at the Turn of the Millennium.” Nezavisimaia Gazeta 4, Rossiia Na Rubezhe Tysiacheletii (1999): pp. 209-229. Retrieved April 18, 2020 from: https://pages.uoregon.edu/kimball/Putin.htm.

[4] Emmott, Robin and Andrew Osborn. “Russian Aid to Italy Leaves EU Exposed.” Reuters, World News (2020): Retrieved April 21, 2020 from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-russia-eu/russian-aid-to-italy-leaves-eu-exposed-idUSKBN21D28K.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Ukraine Crisis: Russian Convoy ‘Invades Ukraine.’” BBC News. (2014): Retrieved April 21, 2020 from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28892525.

[7] Boroff, Alexander. “What is Great-Power Competition Anyway?” Modern War Institute. (17 April 2020). Retrieved from: https://mwi.usma.edu/great-power-competition-anyway.

[8] Waltz, Kenneth N (1979). Theory of International Politics. McGraw-Hill. p. 131.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Competition Great Powers Russia Stuart E. Gallagher

Assessing the Threat posed by Artificial Intelligence and Computational Propaganda

Marijn Pronk is a Master Student at the University of Glasgow, focusing on identity politics, propaganda, and technology. Currently Marijn is finishing her dissertation on the use of populist propagandic tactics of the Far-Right online. She can be found on Twitter @marijnpronk9. 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 posed by Artificial Intelligence and Computational Propaganda

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 18, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The Author is a Master Student in Security, Intelligence, and Strategic Studies at the University of Glasgow. The Author believes that a nuanced perspective towards the influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on technical communication services is paramount to understanding its threat.

Summary: 
 AI has greatly impacted communication technology worldwide. Computational propaganda is an example of the unregulated use of AI weaponized for malign political purposes. Changing online realities through botnets which creates a distortion of online environments could affect voter’s health, and democracies’ ability to function. However, this type of AI is currently limited to Big Tech companies and governmental powers.

Text:  
A cornerstone of the democratic political structure is media; an unbiased, uncensored, and unaltered flow of information is paramount to continue the health of the democratic process. In a fluctuating political environment, digital spaces and technologies offer great platforms for political action and civic engagement[1]. Currently, more people use Facebook as their main source of news than via any news organization[2]. Therefore, manipulating the flow of information in the digital sphere could not only pose as a great threat to the democratic values that the internet was founded upon, but also the health of democracies worldwide. Imagine a world where those pillars of democracy can be artificially altered, where people can manipulate the digital information sphere; from the content to the exposure range of information. In this scenario, one would be unable to distinguish real from fake, making critical perspectives obsolete. One practical embodiment of this phenomenon is computational propaganda, which describes the process of digital misinformation and manipulation of public opinion via the internet[3]. Generally, these practices range from the fabrication of messages, the artificial amplification of certain information, to the highly influential use of botnets (a network of software applications programmed to do certain tasks). With the emergence of AI, computational propaganda could be enhanced, and the outcomes can become qualitatively better and more difficult to spot.

Computational propaganda is defined as ‘’the assemblage of social media platforms, autonomous agents, algorithms, and big data tasked with manipulating public opinion[3].‘’ AI has the power to enhance computational propaganda in various ways, such as increased amplification and reach of political disinformation through bots. However, qualitatively AI can also increase the sophistication and the automation quality of bots. AI already plays an intrinsic role in the gathering process, being used in datamining of individuals’ online activity and monitoring and processing of large volumes of online data. Datamining combines tools from AI and statistics to recognize useful patterns and handle large datasets[4]. These technologies and databases are often grounded in in the digital advertising industry. With the help of AI, data collection can be done more targeted and thus more efficiently.

Concerning the malicious use of these techniques in the realm of computational propaganda, these improvements of AI can enhance ‘’[..] the processes that enable the creation of more persuasive manipulations of visual imagery, and enabling disinformation campaigns that can be targeted and personalized much more efficiently[4].’’ Botnets are still relatively reliant on human input for the political messages, but AI can also improve the capabilities of the bots interacting with humans online, making them seem more credible. Though the self-learning capabilities of some chat bots are relatively rudimentary, improved automation through computational propaganda tools aided by AI could be a powerful tool to influence public opinion. The self-learning aspect of AI-powered bots and the increasing volume of data that can be used for training, gives rise for concern. ‘’[..] advances in deep and machine learning, natural language understanding, big data processing, reinforcement learning, and computer vision algorithms are paving the way for the rise in AI-powered bots, that are faster, getting better at understanding human interaction and can even mimic human behaviour[5].’’ With this improved automation and data gathering power, computational propaganda tools aided by AI could act more precise by affecting the data gathering process quantitatively and qualitatively. Consequently, this hyper-specialized data and the increasing credibility of bots online due to increasing contextual understanding can greatly enhance the capabilities and effects of computational propaganda.

However, relativizing AI capabilities should be considered in three areas: data, the power of the AI, and the quality of the output. Starting with AI and data, technical knowledge is necessary in order to work with those massive databases used for audience targeting[6]. This quality of AI is within the capabilities of a nation-state or big corporations, but still stays out of reach for the masses[7]. Secondly, the level of entrenchment and strength of AI will determine its final capabilities. One must differ between ‘narrow’ and ‘strong’ AI to consider the possible threat to society. Narrow AI is simply rule based, meaning that you have the data running through multiple levels coded with algorithmic rules, for the AI to come to a decision. Strong AI means that the rules-model can learn from the data, and can adapt this set of pre-programmed of rules itself, without interference of humans (this is called ‘Artificial General Intelligence’). Currently, such strong AI is still a concept of the future. Human labour still creates the content for the bots to distribute, simply because the AI power is not strong enough to think outside the pre-programmed box of rules, and therefore cannot (yet) create their own content solely based on the data fed to the model[7]. So, computational propaganda is dependent on narrow AI, which requires a relatively large amount of high-quality data to yield accurate results. Deviating from this programmed path or task severely affects its effectiveness[8]. Thirdly, the output or the produced propaganda by the computational propaganda tools vary greatly in quality. The real danger lies in the quantity of information that botnets can spread. Regarding the chatbots, which are supposed to be high quality and indistinguishable from humans, these models often fail tests when tried outside their training data environments.

To address this emerging threat, policy changes across the media ecosystem are happening to mitigate the effects of disinformation[9]. Secondly, recently researchers have investigated the possibility of AI assisting in combating falsehoods and bots online[10]. One proposal is to build automated and semi-automated systems on the web, purposed for fact-checking and content analysis. Eventually, these bottom-top solutions will considerably help counter the effects of computational propaganda. Thirdly, the influence that Big Tech companies have on these issues cannot be negated, and their accountability towards creation and possible power of mitigation of these problems will be considered. Top-to-bottom co-operation between states and the public will be paramount. ‘’The technologies of precision propaganda do not distinguish between commerce and politics. But democracies do[11].’


Endnotes:

[1] Vaccari, C. (2017). Online Mobilization in Comparative Perspective: Digital Appeals and Political Engagement in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Political Communication, 34(1), pp. 69-88. doi:10.1080/10584609.2016.1201558

[2] Majo-Vazquez, S., & González-Bailón, S. (2018). Digital News and the Consumption of Political Information. In G. M. Forthcoming, & W. H. Dutton, Society and the Internet. How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives (pp. 1-12). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3351334

[3] Woolley, S. C., & Howard, P. N. (2018). Introduction: Computational Propaganda Worldwide. In S. C. Woolley, & P. N. Howard, Computational Propaganda: Political Parties, Politicians, and Political Manipulation on Social Media (pp. 1-18). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oso/9780190931407.003.0001

[4] Wardle, C. (2018, July 6). Information Disorder: The Essential Glossary. Retrieved December 4, 2019, from First Draft News: https://firstdraftnews.org/latest/infodisorder-definitional-toolbox

[5] Dutt, D. (2018, April 2). Reducing the impact of AI-powered bot attacks. CSO. Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.csoonline.com/article/3267828/reducing-the-impact-of-ai-powered-bot-attacks.html

[6] Bolsover, G., & Howard, P. (2017). Computational Propaganda and Political Big Data: Moving Toward a More Critical Research Agenda. Big Data, 5(4), pp. 273–276. doi:10.1089/big.2017.29024.cpr

[7] Chessen, M. (2017). The MADCOM Future: how artificial intelligence will enhance computational propaganda, reprogram human culture, and threaten democracy… and what can be done about it. Washington DC: The Atlantic Council of the United States. Retrieved December 4, 2019

[8] Davidson, L. (2019, August 12). Narrow vs. General AI: What’s Next for Artificial Intelligence? Retrieved December 11, 2019, from Springboard: https://www.springboard.com/blog/narrow-vs-general-ai

[9] Hassan, N., Li, C., Yang, J., & Yu, C. (2019, July). Introduction to the Special Issue on Combating Digital Misinformation and Disinformation. ACM Journal of Data and Information Quality, 11(3), 1-3. Retrieved December 11, 2019

[10] Woolley, S., & Guilbeault, D. (2017). Computational Propaganda in the United States of America: Manufactoring Consensus Online. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational Propaganda. Retrieved December 5, 2019

[11] Ghosh, D., & Scott, B. (2018, January). #DigitalDeceit: The Technologies Behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet. Retrieved December 11, 2019, from New America: https://www.newamerica.org/public-interest-technology/policy-papers/digitaldeceit

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Cyberspace Emerging Technology Influence Operations Marijn Pronk

Assessing 9/11 Lessons and the Way Ahead for Homeland Defense Against Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Peter L. Hickman, Major, United States Air Force, holds a PhD from Arizona State University in International Relations and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science in Joint Warfare. He is currently a Defense Legislative Fellow for a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Prior to this position, he worked as a Requirements Manager on Air Combat Command HQ staff and the Chief of Weapons and Tactics at the 225th Air Defense SquadronThe views expressed in this paper represent the personal views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Department of Defense or of the Department of the Air Force.  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 9/11 Lessons and the Way Ahead for Homeland Defense Against Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a field-grade, U.S. Air Force Weapons Officer who has worked in homeland air defense for the past 8 years at tactical and headquarters levels. He is currently a Defense Fellow assigned to the office of a member of the House Armed Services Committee. The article is written from the point of view of an American strategic analyst viewing the emerging threat of small unmanned systems in the context of the current state of North American air defense.

Summary:   For small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), the current state of North American air defense is analogous to its state prior to the 9/11 attacks, and therefore the risk posed by an sUAS attack is currently high. However, the lessons of 9/11 for adapting air defense to a new class of threat provides a model to prepare for the threat of sUAS before an attack occurs.

Text:  The beginning of the twenty first century has seen rapid development of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). Violent extremist organizations and others with malign intent have already demonstrated the threat posed by sUAS in attacks overseas. Though a successful attack has not yet occurred in North America, current limitations of the North American air defense system suggest that chances of defeating one when it does occur are very low. However, the hard lessons of the 9/11 attacks provide a model for proactive measures that will enable effective defense if an sUAS attack occurs in North America.

The first documented non-state use of an sUAS as an improvised explosive device (IED) in an attack was by Hezbollah in 2006[1]. More recently, Houthi fighters in Yemen have used sUAS to damage radar systems[2], and the Islamic State and other groups have used sUAS to drop small explosives on forces on the ground, at one point even resulting in the halt of a U.S. ground force advance on Mosul[3]. Rebels in Ukraine used an sUAS to destroy an arms depot resulting in damage that has been estimated as high as a billion dollars[4]. The first documented fatalities from sUAS attacks occurred in 2016 when two Kurdish fighters were killed, and two members of French special operations forces were wounded by an sUAS-based IED[5]. There are also reports from as far back as 2014 of fatal non-state sUAS attacks[6].

The proven lethal potential of sUAS attacks is not limited to far off battlefields. sUAS attacks on North America have already been foiled by intelligence and law enforcement organizations in 2011 and 2015, and gaps in security were demonstrated when an sUAS was inadvertently flow over the White House in January of 2015[7]. Even more alarming incidents have taken place in Europe and Japan, including a 2013 demonstration against German Chancellor Angela Merkel where an sUAS was flown onto the stage where she was speaking[8]. Another bizarre incident found an sUAS on the roof of the Prime Minister of Japan’s house that was “marked with radioactive symbols, carried a plastic bottle with unidentifiable contents, and registered trace levels of radiation[9].

Systems are currently available that can provide point defense against sUAS for a small area for a limited time. These systems are effective for some military applications overseas as well as providing limited point defense for specific events and facilities in North America. However, a point defense approach is not effective for extending the existing air defense system of North America to include wide area defense against sUAS. This lack of effectiveness is because the current North American air defense system was originally designed to defend against state actors and was updated in the aftermath of 9/11 to defend against manned aircraft attacks that originate from within the U.S.. Though the current system is not postured to provide effective wide area defense against sUAS, the changes that were made just after 9/11 provide a model for urgently needed changes.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, North American air defense was adapted in three main ways: increased domain awareness, interagency coordination, and additional defeat measures. Immediately post-9/11, NORAD & NORTHCOM gained access to interior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radars and radios which enabled the domain awareness capabilities that were lacking on 9/11. Interagency coordination tactics, techniques, and procedures were developed so that the FAA could notify air defense tactical units within seconds of detection of concerning flight behavior. Finally, a widespread constellation of alert aircraft and other defeat measures was established that would enable persistent timely response to any event in the national airspace. The net result of the post-9/11 changes to air defense was not to eliminate the risk entirely of a successful air attack, but to mitigate that risk to an acceptable level.

These post-9/11 measures are effective for mitigating the risk of the last attack, but they will not be for the next. The legacy radar systems providing surveillance for air defense were designed to detect manned aircraft at typical transit altitudes and are not well suited to targets that are small, slow, and low in altitude. The federal air traffic management procedures that form the basis of effective interagency coordination aren’t yet in place for sUAS. Though simple restrictions on operating areas exist, the lack of a comprehensive sUAS traffic management plan means that the FAA does not have the tools that would enable timely notification of suspicious sUAS activity. Finally, existing alert bases and response options assume that targets will be moving on manned aircraft scales, measured in hundreds of miles, which means that the existing constellation of alert bases and response postures are well situated to defend major population centers and critical assets from manned aircraft. sUAS operate on scales that render this existing approach ineffective, both in terms of the times and distances required to make an intercept, but also in terms of the size of the aircraft, which are very difficult for manned pilots to acquire with onboard systems, and almost impossible to visually acquire while traveling as much as ten times faster than the target.

Without effective domain awareness, interagency coordination, or defeat measures, relative to sUAS, North American air defense is in a state analogous to pre-9/11. Fortunately, the lessons learned on 9/11 provide a model of what is now required to anticipate the next attack, though the details will be different. The unique characteristics of sUAS suggest that sensor coverage volumes may not need to be as comprehensive as they are above 18,000 feet, and existing and emerging sensors can be augmented with sophisticated data analysis to better report sUAS detections that today are dismissed as radar noise. The framework for broad interagency coordination exists today, but lacks specific tactics, techniques, and procedures tailored to communicating an unfolding sUAS threat. The decreased ranges of sUAS potentially enable much better target envelope predictions which translates to much more tightly focused interagency coordination and rapid, targeted risk mitigation for any threat. Modest hardening and warning-based shelter-in-place or evacuation can provide a much larger measure of risk mitigation than they can against a hijacked airliner or cruise missile, which likely reduces the need for exquisite defeat mechanisms.

Though the existing North American air defense system is not well position to defeat an sUAS attack, the lessons of 9/11 suggest that adaptation of our current system to mitigate risk of sUAS attack may be closer we think. There are near term opportunities to weave a tailored blend of increased domain awareness, interagency coordination, and defeat measures to enable risk mitigation specific to the threat of a small sUAS. The only question now is whether this adaptation takes place before, or after, the first sUAS attack in the homeland.


Endnotes:

[1] Ash Rossiter, Drone Usage by Militant Groups: Exploring Variation in Adoption, Defense & Security Analysis 34, no. 2 (April 3, 2018): 116, https://doi.org/10.1080/14751798.2018.1478183.

[2] Ibid, 116.

[3] Ibid, 117.

[4] Ibid, 117.

[5] Ibid, 116.

[6] Ibid, 117.

[7] Ryan Wallace and Jon Loffi, Eamining Unmanned Aerial System Threats & Defenses: A Conceptual Analysis, International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 2015, 1, https://doi.org/10.15394/ijaaa.2015.1084.

[8] Ibid, 1.

[9]Ibid, 2.

Assessment Papers Homeland Defense Peter L. Hickman United States Unmanned Aerial Systems

An Assessment of U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Dr. Heather Marie Stur is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. She is the author of several books, including Saigon at War: South Vietnam and the Global Sixties (Cambridge 2020 forthcoming), The U.S. Military and Civil Rights Since World War II (Praeger/ABC-CLIO 2019), and Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (Cambridge 2011). Her articles have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, National Interest, War on the Rocks, Diplomatic History, and War & Society. Stur was a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam, where she was a professor in the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. She can be found on Twitter @HeatherMStur. 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 U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a diplomatic and military historian who is interested in U.S. history in a global context. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of international alliances to address issues of global security.

Summary:  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) enables the U.S. to assert leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. Although U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP, he indicated in 2018 that he would consider returning to the alliance. Regional tensions make this a favorable time for the U.S. to enter the TPP as a way to challenge China’s dominance.

Text:  As 2019 drew to a close, leaders from China, Japan, and South Korea met to discuss strengthening trade and security ties. But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the development of closer regional relations and has created a chance for the U.S. to assert economic leadership in Asia. The U.S. vehicle for doing this is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP’s origins go back to 2008, when talks between several Asia-Pacific countries eventually brought the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore together in a proposed sweeping trade agreement aimed at strengthening relations among the member countries and limiting China’s economic influence. Former U.S. President Barack Obama saw the TPP as the centerpiece of his foreign policy “pivot” to Asia[1]. Yet President Donald Trump rejected the agreement, asserting that the U.S. could make better trade deals working on its own[2].

Trump was not the TPP’s only opponent. Critics of the agreement have decried the secret negotiations that shaped it and have argued that the TPP favors corporations over labor[3]. After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, the remaining 11 members forged ahead, renaming the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In March 2018, Trump attempted to put his “go-it-alone” strategy into practice, announcing that the U.S. would levy new tariffs on Chinese imports, but in December 2019, he back-pedaled, declaring that not only would the U.S. not impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, it would also lower existing ones[4]. With U.S.-China trade relations in flux and COVID-19 threatening the global economy the U.S. could reconsider its exit from the TPP.

The TPP offers a framework in which the U.S. can assert itself as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, a primary reason for Obama’s support of the deal. The agreement isn’t just about trade; it’s about international rules of engagement in areas including intellectual property, labor relations, the environment, and human rights. U.S. leaders have been particularly concerned about Chinese theft of American intellectual property (IP), which was one of the motivations behind Trump’s 2018 tariffs. Protecting US IP was also a priority for the Obama administration, and American negotiators pushed for strong IP protections in the original TPP contract[5]. With the U.S. at the helm of an alliance that would cover about 800 million people and 40 percent of the global economic output, the Trump administration could shape and even make the rules. Returning to the TPP now wouldn’t be a radical move for Trump. In April 2018, he suggested that he would consider returning the U.S. to the alliance.

Joining the TPP would also allow the U.S. to capitalize on regional discord. Despite a December 2019 meeting in Chengdu that brought together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss regional stability and shared concerns, Japan is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reduce its economic dependence on China. The Japanese government’s pandemic stimulus package includes more than $2 million USD for companies that move production out of China[6]. Vietnam and China have a contentious relationship that dates back nearly two millennia. One of Vietnam’s most famous legends is that of the Trung sisters, who led a successful rebellion against Chinese control of Vietnam in the year 40 and subsequently ruled their country for three years. Earlier this year, Vietnamese defense officials published a white paper that indicated Vietnam’s desire to build closer ties with the U.S. while drifting away from the Chinese orbit[7]. Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S. are among China’s largest trading partners, and all three were members of the talks that produced the original TPP. A restored alliance that includes the U.S. could modify its terms of agreement to respond to current regional and global phenomena.

Among those phenomena are wild game farming and pandemic preparedness. The wild game industry in China involves the farming of animals such as bats, pangolins, and peacocks, which are then sold for human consumption in wet markets throughout the country. The practice has been at the center of two global health crises, the SARS outbreak that began in 2002 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S.-led TPP could put economic pressure on the Chinese government to shut down the wild game industry and regulate wet markets more rigorously to uphold internationally-accepted hygiene and food safety standards.

If and when another pandemic occurs, the U.S. will need to be more prepared than it was for COVID-19. Some economists have indicated that Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products caused shortages in the U.S. of ventilators, masks, and other medical equipment that are made in China[8]. A renewed TPP contract could include provisions for the manufacture and sale of medical supplies by member nations.


Endnotes:

[1] McBride, James and Chatzky, Andrew. (2019, January 4). “What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?” Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp

[2] Dwyer, Colin. (2018, March 8). “The TPP is Dead. Long Live the Trans-Pacific Trade Deal,” National Public Radio. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/08/591549744/the-tpp-is-dead-long-live-the-trans-pacific-trade-deal

[3] BBC News. (2017, January 23). “TPP: What is it and why does it matter?” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715

[4] Franck, Thomas. (2019, December 13). “Trump halts new China tariffs and rolls back some of the prior duties on $120 billion of imports,” CNBC. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/trump-says-25percent-tariffs-will-remain-but-new-china-duties-will-not-take-effect-sunday.html

[5] Baker McKenzie. (2018, April 22). “Reconsidering the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Impact on Intellectual Property.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en/insight/publications/2018/04/reconsidering-the-tpp-and-impact-on-ip

[6] Reynolds, Isabel and Urabe, Emi. (2020, April 8). “Japan to Fund Firms to Shift Production Out of China.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/japan-to-fund-firms-to-shift-production-out-of-china

[7] Kurlantzick, Joshua. (2020, January 30). “Vietnam, Under Increasing Pressure From China, Mulls a Shift Into America’s Orbit.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28502/as-china-vietnam-relations-deteriorate-hanoi-mulls-closer-ties-with-the-u-s

[8] The World. (2020, March 23). “Trump’s China tariffs hampered U.S. coronavirus preparedness, expert says.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2020-03-23/trumps-china-tariffs-hampered-us-coronavirus-preparedness-expert-says

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Dr. Heather Marie Stur Economic Factors United States

Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. 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 COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the Philippines are important to U.S. national security efforts and is concerned that China will use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to further exacerbate U.S.-Philippine relations.

Summary:  The Philippines is currently at a pivotal crossroads, with the coronavirus hastening the Philippines’ decision to choose a strategic partner in light of actions by Philippine President Duterte. Choosing between a historic relationship with the United States or a newer one with either China or Russia, the Philippines’ actions in the immediate future will set the stage for world history.

Text:  The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has placed the Philippines at a critical point in history in terms of Great Power Competition. Through a variety of extraneous factors, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the Philippines’ decision to choose between its close historic relationships with America and a potentially prosperous economic future with its more regionally-aligned Chinese and Russian neighbors. Through careful analysis, readers will be able to understand how and why this sole event has forced the Philippines to this point in history, with this pivotal time potentially shaping the future of Asia for the next millennia.

The Philippines and the United States share a myriad of close ties, many of them deeply rooted in both nation’s histories. For example, the Philippines and America enjoy very close military bonds. In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s force structure closely mirrors that of America’s, to include similar civilian control mechanisms providing oversight over military actions, in addition to existing close relationships between the Philippine and United States’ Military Academies[1]. These relationships are further strengthened through events such as annual bilaterally-led Balikatan exercises, combined with a myriad of episodic engagements to include military Joint Combined Exchange Training, Balance Pistons[2], law-enforcement oriented Badge Pistons[3], counter-narcotics Baker Pistons[4], and regular civil-military events[5]. The Philippines and the United States’ close relationships have even extended into the cultural realm, with a mutual shared love of fast food, basketball, and American pop culture[6]. These factors, combined with the Filipino diaspora in the West and high rates of positive perceptions of America in the Philippines[7], showcase the close bonds between the Philippines and America.

However, since his election in May 2016, Filipino President Duterte has made it a point to form increasingly close relationships with China. Just several months after his election in October 2016, President Duterte announced a “separation” from the United States, with his trade secretary simultaneously announcing over $13 billion dollars of trade deals[8]. President Duterte has also regularly supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) development project, going so far as to court Chinese tourists to the point where mainland Chinese tourists account for the Philippines’ second-largest source of tourist arrivals, with a 41% increase from 2018 to 2019 and a projected 30% average growth by 2022[9]. Additionally, China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 has so far gone uncontested during President Duterte’s reign, to the point where China is developing military facilities on Scarborough Shoal, among other areas in the South China Sea[10]. This pursuance of Chinese military favor through inaction has also paid off for President Duterte, with China supplying the Philippines with aid ranging from rifles in October 2017 to boats and rocket launchers in July 2018[11][12], and even a state-of-the-art surveillance system in November 2019[13], culminating recently in the first-ever Philippines/Chinese joint maritime exercise in January 2020[14].

On a similar note, President Duterte has also sought closer ties between the Philippines and Russia. In October 2019, the Philippines and Russia signed several business agreements focused on infrastructure development, agriculture, and even nuclear power plant growth[15]. On the military front, Russia has so far made a landmark donation of weapons and equipment to the Philippines through two military deals in October 2017[16], with an additional promise of further equipment procurement in September 2019[17]. These landmark military procurement efforts have also been seen in military cooperation through the posting of respective defense attachés to both nations’ capitals, marking a new era of defense cooperation[18].

Despite being able to effectively balance between supporting historic partnerships with the United States and its new ones with China and Russia, the Philippines has now been forced to choose between the three due to implications stemming from the coronavirus. While President Duterte announced his decision to pursue “separation” from the United States in October 2016, the announcement of the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between America and the Philippines was not made until February 2020, with an effective termination date of August 2020[19]. Under normal conditions, this revocation would allow the United States a total of six months to plan for full retrograde of personnel and equipment from the Philippines. However, the coronavirus has hastened this process, with an emphasis on force protection measures and a tightening of international and local travel restrictions throughout the Philippines[20]. As a result, this revocation opens immense opportunities for both China and Russia, particularly as these developing bi-lateral security pacts become an increasing reality.

The preceding is where the Philippines become a primary pivotal point in terms of Great Power Competition. The Philippines has enjoyed a long-standing and stable relationship with the West with America being a stabilizing regional guarantor, a fact highlighted in the chaotic aftermath of the American withdrawal from the Philippines in the 1990s[21]. At the same time, many other nations are looking at the Philippines as a test ground of China’s BRI, particularly amidst allegations of predatory lending and “debt-trap diplomacy[22] [23].” On the same note, others see the Philippines as being the key to forging a free trade agreement between the Russian-centric Eurasian Economic Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations community, further showcasing the critical importance of the Philippines at this pivotal time in history[24].

There is no question that multi-domain partnerships will a play important role for the Philippines to select a future strategic partner. America’s historic relationships and nuanced expertise in security programming create a strong choice for the United States as a strategic partner. However, economic and matériel promise by both China and Russia also make these two countries enticing strategic partners, particularly as Filipino financial markets struggle amidst the coronavirus[25]. The world will watch this evolving situation closely, particularly as the Philippines precariously approaches a crossroads in terms of selecting a strategic partner.


Endnotes:

[1] Steffen J. (2015). The Role of the U.S. Military in the Professionalization of the Armed Forces of Liberia (Master’s thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States of America). Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a623974.pdf

[2] Leuthner, S. & Cabahug, S. (2015). Joint Combined Exchange Training Evaluation Framework: A Crucial Tool in Security Cooperation Assessment (Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterrey, California, United States of America). Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=790460

[3] U.S. and Philippine Forces Conduct Joint Training in Negros Occidental. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-forces-conduct-joint-training-in-negros-occidental

[4] Taboada, J. (2019, August 30). Baker Piston 19-2 holds counter-narcotics simulated exercise. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from https://palawan-news.com/baker-piston-19-2-holds-counter-narcotics-simulated-exercise

[5] U.S. and Philippine Service Members Jointly Volunteer at Day Care. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-service-members-jointly-volunteer-at-day-care

[6] Meyers, J. (2019, October 29). Ties between the U.S. and Philippines run deep. It won’t be easy for Rodrigo Duterte to unravel them. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-us-philippines-explainer-20161031-story.html

[7] Poushter, J. & Bishop, C. (2017, September 21). People in the Philippines Still Favor U.S. Over China, but Gap Is Narrowing. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2017/09/21/people-in-the-philippines-still-favor-u-s-over-china-but-gap-is-narrowing

[8] Reuters (2016). Duterte: Philippines is separating from US and realigning with China. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/20/china-philippines-resume-dialogue-south-china-sea-dispute

[9] Xinhua. Philippines expects to attract 4 mln Chinese tourists annually by end of 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/20/c_138646442.htm

[10] CIMSEC (2020). China’s Military Modernization Is Becoming A Real Problem For America. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/chinas-military-modernization-becoming-real-problem-america-138537

[11] Zheng, S. (2017, October 5). China arms Philippine police for counterterrorism mission. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2114152/china-arms-philippine-police-counterterrorism-mission

[12] Reuters. (2018, July 30). China donates small boats and RPG launders to Philippines. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2157406/china-donates-small-boats-and-rpg-launchers-philippines

[13] CNN. (2019, November 22). DILG launches Chinese CCTV surveillance system in Metro Manila. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/11/22/DILG-Chinese-CCTV-Manila-Safe-Philippines.html

[14] Maitem J. (2020, January 15). Philippine, Chinese Coast Guards Stage Joint Drill in South China Sea. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/philippine/coast-guards-joint-drill-01152020135718.html

[15] ABS-CBN News. 2019, October 04). Philippines, Russia ink 10 business agreements. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/04/19/philippines-russia-ink-10-business-agreements

[16] Mogato, M. (2017, October 25). Philippines, Russia sign two military deals. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-russia-defence/philippines-russia-sign-two-military-deals-idUSKBN1CU1K6

[17] Simes, D. (2019, November 4). Why Russia is arming a longtime US ally in Asia. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.ozy.com/around-the-world/why-is-russia-arming-a-long-time-u-s-ally-in-asia/220634

[18] Russia posts first defense attaché to Philippines. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/04/c_138365216.htm

[19] Esguerra, D. (2020, February 11). Philippines officially terminates VFA with US. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://globalnation.inquirer.net/185186/fwd-breaking-philippines-officially-terminates-vfa-with-us

[20] Santos, A. (2020, March 09). Crossing the Pacific to beat the Philippines’ coronavirus lockdown. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2020/03/crossing-pacific-beat-philippines-coronavirus-lockdown-200319022504907.html

[21] Winger, G. (2020, February 06). For want of a visa? Values and Institutions in U.S.-Philippine Relations. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2020/02/for-want-of-a-visa-values-and-institutions-in-u-s-philippine-relations

[22] Green, M. (2019, April 25). China’s Debt Diplomacy. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/25/chinas-debt-diplomacy

[23] Pandey, A. (2019, September 05). China: A loan shark or the good Samaritan? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/china-a-loan-shark-or-the-good-samaritan/a-48671742

[24] Ramani, S. (2017, January 07). The Growing Russia-Philippines Partnership. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2017/01/the-growing-russia-philippines-partnership

[25] Tu, L. & Sayson, I. (2020, March 17). Philippines becomes first country to shut financial markets thanks to virus. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-16/philippines-shuts-financial-markets-after-virus-spurs-stock-rout

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Competition COVID-19 Great Powers Hugh Harsono Philippines United States

Options for a United States Counterterrorism Strategy in Africa

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. 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.


National Security Situation:  United States counterterrorism operations in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States National Security Adviser.

Background:  In a speech before the Heritage Foundation[1], former National Security Adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, outlined a new Africa policy. This policy focused on countering the rising influence of China and by extension, other strategic competitors[2]. As great power competition returns to the fore, Africa is another battlefront between East and West. With vast mineral resources and a growing market, a new scramble for Africa has emerged between dominant and emerging powers. However, as military might has decimated violent Islamist groups in the Middle East, their subsidiaries in Africa have flourished. Groups like Islamic State for West Africa, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Ansar al-Sunna have capitalized on local government failings to entrench themselves. In recent days, they have carried out spectacular attacks on local government forces in Nigeria, Chad, Mali and Mozambique[3]. Although the involved governments and their allies have responded forcefully, it is clear that stability won’t be established in the near-term.

Significance:  The United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Russia and China have deployed military assets in various parts of the African continent. The majority of these forces are focused on countering violent Islamist groups. While U.S. foreign policy concerning Africa focuses on achieving American strategic goals on the continent[4], it also takes into consideration the need to address the various local conflicts that threaten the security of investments and viability of governments. For the foreseeable future, any foreign policy towards Africa will need a robust counter terrorism component.

Option #1:  The U.S. military increases its footprint in Africa with conventional forces.

Risk:  This will widen America’s forever wars without guaranteeing success, stretching the already limited resources of the armed forces. While there is currently bipartisan support for continued engagement with Africa[5], it is doubtful that such backing will survive a prolonged intervention with significant losses. This option will also require the expansion of the United States Africa Command Staff at the operational level. Finally, moving the headquarters of the command onto the African continent despite the public opposition of prominent countries will be reexamined[6].

Gain:  The presence of significant U.S. forces embedded with combat troops has proven to improve the combat performance of local forces[7]. By providing advisers, reconnaissance assets, and heavy firepower, the U.S. will boost the morale of the fighting forces and provide them with freedom of action. The counter Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria can serve as a template for such operations. Such deployment will also allow U.S. assets to monitor the activities of competitors in the deployed region.

Option #2:  The U.S. expands the scale and scope of special operations units on the African continent.

Risk:  The absence of U.S. or similarly capable conventional forces on the ground to provide combined arms support limits and their effectiveness. While special operations units bring unique abilities and options, they cannot always substitute for the punching power of appropriately equipped conventional troops. The United States, sadly, has a history of insufficiently resourced missions in Africa suffering major losses from Somalia[8][9] to Niger[10].

Gain:  Special operations units are uniquely positioned to work with local forces. Historically, unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense has been the responsibility of units like the U.S. Army Special Forces[11]. Combined with units like the Army Rangers dedicated to conduct raids and enhancing operational security, it will allow the United States to put pressure on violent groups while mentoring and leading local forces to fulfill their security needs. It will also increase the number of assets available to meet emergencies.

Option #3:  The United States limits its role to advising and equipping local forces.

Risk:  Despite American support for African states, the security situation in Africa has continued to deteriorate. Decades of political instability and maladministration has created disgruntled populations will little loyalty to their countries of birth. Their militaries, regarded as blunt instruments of repression by civilians, lack the credibility needed to win hearts and mind campaigns critical to counter-insurgences. The supply of U.S. weapons to such forces may send the wrong signal about our support for prodemocracy movements on the continent.

Gain:  This option will fit with the current posture of the United Africa Command of enabling local actors mainly through indirect support[12]. The is a low cost, low risk approach for the U.S. military to build relationships in a part of the world where the armed forces continues to be major power brokers in society. This option keeps our forces away from danger for direct action.

Other Comments:  It is critical to acknowledge that any military campaign will not address the underlying problems of many African states. The biggest threats to African countries are maladministration and political instability. The United States has traditionally been a model and pillar of support for human rights activists, democratic crusaders and governance reformers. A United States push to ensure that bad actors cannot take advantage of security vacuums caused by a failure of governance while providing support for those looking to deliver society’s benefits to majority of their fellow citizens, would likely contribute to U.S. foreign policy goals.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bolton, J. (2018, December 13). Remarks by National Security Advisor John Bolton on the Trump Administration’s New Africa Strategy. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-national-security-advisor-ambassador-john-r-bolton-trump-administrations-new-africa-strategy

[2] Landler, M. and Wong, E. (2018, December 13). Bolton Outlines a Strategy for Africa That’s Really About Countering China. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/us/politics/john-bolton-africa-china.html

[3] Jalloh, A. (2020, April 9). Increased terror attacks in Africa amid coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/increased-terror-attacks-in-africa-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/ar-BB12mZWm

[4] Wilkins, S. (2020, April 2). Does America need an African Strategy? Retrieved April 10 from
https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/does-america-need-an-africa-strategy

[5] Gramer, R. (2020, March 4). U.S. Congress Moves to Restrain Pentagon over Africa Drawdown Plans. Retrieved April 11 from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/04/africa-military-trump-esper-pentagon-congress-africom-counterterrorism-sahel-great-power-competition

[6] (2008, February 18). U.S. Shifts on African base plans. Retrieved April 12 from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7251648.stm

[7] Tilghman, A. (2016, October 24). U.S. troops, embedded with Iraqi brigades and battalions, push towards Mosul’s city center. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2016/10/24/u-s-troops-embedded-with-iraqi-brigades-and-battalions-push-toward-mosuls-city-center

[8] Lee, M. (2017, September 16). 8 Things We Learnt from Colonel Khairul Anuar, A Malaysian Black Hawk Down Hero. Retrieved April 11 from
https://rojakdaily.com/lifestyle/article/3374/8-things-we-learned-from-colonel-khairul-anuar-a-malaysian-black-hawk-down-hero

[9] Fox, C. (2018, September 24). ‘Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story’ recalls the soldiers the movie overlooked. Retrieved April 11 from
https://taskandpurpose.com/entertainment/black-hawk-down-untold-story-documentary

[10] Norman, G. (2018, March 15). U.S. forces ambushed in Niger again, military says. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.foxnews.com/us/us-forces-ambushed-in-niger-again-military-says

[11] Balestrieri, S. (2017, August 17). Differences between Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Counter Intelligence (COIN). Retrieved April 11 from
https://sofrep.com/news/differences-foreign-internal-defense-fid-counter-insurgency-coin

[12] Townsend, S. (2020, January 30). 2020 Posture Statement to Congress. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.africom.mil/about-the-command/2020-posture-statement-to-congress

Africa Damimola Olawuyi Option Papers Violent Extremism

Call for Papers: Alternative Futures & Alternative Histories

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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 Alternative Futures or Alternative Histories.

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

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

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

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

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by June 13, 2020.

Call For Papers

Assessing the Kettlebell One Arm Long Cycle for the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test

J David Thompson is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Major. He has a Juris Doctorate from Washington Lee University School of Law. He also holds a BS in Economics and MBA-Leadership from Liberty University. Outside the military, he’s worked at the UN Refugee Agency, Department of Defense, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. He holds a basic kettlebell certification and two national ranks in kettlebell sport. Look him up at www.jdavidthompson.com or follow him on Twitter @jdthompson910. 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 Kettlebell One Arm Long Cycle for the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 27, 2020.

Summary:  The U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) inaccurately measures fitness. The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is better, but transition to the ACFT has been slowed due to units not receiving equipment and the COVID-19 virus pandemic delaying soldiers’ ability to properly train. The kettlebell one arm long cycle (OALC) is a much better of measure of fitness than the APFT and less resource intensive than the ACFT.

Text:  The Army correctly determined that the APFT was an inaccurate measure of fitness. The APFT—consisting of two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run—failed to test a soldier’s ability to perform the job in a combat environment. The ACFT does a good job at measuring a soldier’s fitness levels. The ACFT includes: three repetition maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand release push-ups with arm extension, sprint drag carry, leg tucks, and a 2-mile run. Compared to the APFT, the ACFT is a much better measure of fitness.

The benefit of the APFT, though, was that it required no equipment. A soldier in an austere environment could work on push-ups and sit-ups. The ACFT requires a lot of equipment—hex bars, bumper plates, kettlebells, cones, sleds, and medicine balls. Many units still do not have the equipment to test, and soldiers cannot adequately train without access to a gym. The ACFT requires a lot of time to set-up, test, and tear down.

Somewhere between the validity and equipment extremes of the APFT and ACFT the Army could find a balance. The one arm long cycle (OALC) is simple, effective, and only requires a kettlebell. The OALC measures strength, endurance, and stamina. An OALC physical fitness test could easily take less than thirty minutes for an entire unit to administer.

The proposed test is ten minutes of OALC. To start the test, the participant stands behind the kettlebell. At the command “GO,” the participant cleans the kettlebell from the ground to the chest (the rack position). The participant then launches the kettlebell overhead as part of the “jerk” phase of the lift. The grader counts the repetition once the kettlebell is motionless, fixated overhead, and the participant has knees, hips, and elbow generally straight[1].

After the jerk, the participant returns the kettlebell to the rack position. Participants must re-clean the kettlebell between each jerk. Participants may change hands as many times as desired using a one-handed swing, but participants may not set the kettlebell down for the duration of the test. If the participant sets the kettlebell down, the grader must terminate the test.

The scoring system uses a power-to-weight ratio, enabling soldiers to accurately measure fitness despite bodyweight and size. A power-to-weight ratio incentivizes strength, endurance, and a healthy bodyweight. To calculate score, multiply the kettlebell weight in kilograms by the number of repetitions performed, then divide the product by the individual’s bodyweight in kilograms.

Score = (weight of kettlebell in kilograms x repetitions performed) / bodyweight in kilograms. Males use a 24 kilogram kettlebell. Women use a 16 kilogram kettlebell.

For example, a male Soldier that weighs 90 kilograms performs 100 repetitions in ten minutes scores 26.67. A male Soldier weighing 100 kilogram would have to perform 112 repetitions to match the score. A female Soldier weighing 65 kilograms would have to perform 109 repetitions to equal the 90 kilogram male Soldier’s score.

The minimum score for the test would be 20. The maximum score would be between 30 and 35. Final scoring standards come after a period of testing. The Army could even have different standards based on job requirements.

Not all kettlebells are created equal. To institutionalize this test the Army would need a standardized kettlebell to ensure a standardized test. Kettlebells generally come in two styles: cast iron or steel. Cast iron kettlebells are what most people probably know. They come in various sizes depending on weight and manufacturer. The grips of them vary depending on manufacturer. Steel kettlebells are used for kettlebell sport. These competition style kettlebells are the same size regardless of weight, and the handles are either 33mm or 35mm. One way to ensure the Army has a standardized test is to use a sole manufacturer. The other way is to purchase competition kettlebells.

To field the equipment to units and Soldiers, the Army would provide one kettlebell to soldiers as part of a basic issue. For those currently in the Army, the Army has several options to ensure units receive kettlebells. The quickest and most cost-efficient process may be to have units purchase kettlebells by providing a link (or links) of approved manufacturers (for example: Kettlebell Kings, Kettlebells USA, Rogue Fitness, etc.). Giving each soldier a kettlebell as part of his/her standard issue ensures the soldier has the resources to train for the fitness test. It also gives the soldiers a portable gym because the kettlebell can be used for a variety of exercises.

The Army correctly identified that the APFT did not adequately test a soldier’s physical fitness to meet current and future demands. The ACFT is a much better measure of fitness than the APFT, but it is very resource intensive. The proposed OALC fitness test gives the Army a measure of fitness that far surpasses the APFT and requires less equipment (and time) than the ACFT. The proposed scoring standard uses a power-to-weight ratio, incentivizing a well-rounded approach to health and fitness. As a personal observation, the author is currently deployed in a remote area. The author would not be able to take the ACFT in this deployed environment. The author did administer the proposed fitness test to other soldiers present. All participants found the test challenging and fun while recommending it as a standardized test with appropriate training.

Should the Army accept this proposed test, initial testing could take a period of a couple months. Using commercially available kettlebells enables the Army to implement the test Army-wide quickly and efficiently. Kettlebells provide a fun, dynamic way to exercise. They could also create a fitter military.


Endnotes:

[1] One Arm Long Cycle, Mike Stefano, July 5, 2020, retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5VdP0F-dtQ

 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement J David Thompson United States

U.S. Army Options for Professional Military Education Amidst COVID-19

Matt Sardo has served in the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces Branches. He is currently separating from Active Duty to attend Berkeley Law School and will remain in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor with the Golden Bears Battalion. He can be found on Twitter @MattSardowski. 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 Permanent Change of Station freeze amidst COVID-19 will challenge the Professional Military Education model.

Date Originally Written:  April 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Army Special Forces Branch O3(Promotable) preparing to start a Juris Doctorate at UC Berkeley. The author believes repairing the U.S. civilian-military divide is mission critical to U.S. dominance in a multidomain operating environment.

Background:  The U.S. Army freeze of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders presents both challenges and opportunities. The cohort of officers preparing to move their families for Intermediate Level Education (ILE) face an uncertain summer due to the global impact of COVID-19. Competitive officers, most of whom have made the decision to pursue the profession as a career, are funneled to the Army flagship institution at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC). This situation presents a challenge to the education model the Army has relied upon since George Marshall was a Lieutenant in 1906[1].

A model distributed between U.S. academic institutions and the Army Department of Distance Education (DDE) could both meet Army educational needs and ensure COVID-19 safety precautions are executed. The Army DDE provides Common Core and Advanced Operations Courses remotely. American academic institutions have rapidly developed the digital infrastructure to provide online certificate and degree programs in high-demand technology fields. Both Army remote education infrastructure and civilian institutions provide opportunities to modernize Army education.

Significance:  The civilian-military divide in America has long been studied and analyzed by leading scholars from across society; however, the gap in trust between these two groups is widening[2]. The current challenge faced by the Army Officer Corps presents an opportunity to immerse officers in civilian academic institutions. If operating within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the Army cannot send it’s cohort of committed career officers to CGSC this summer.

It is difficult to say what the indicator for an all-clear will be during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of an effective vaccination program. Immediate decisions on essential manning, mission priorities, and geopolitical investments will occupy Army senior leaders for the coming weeks and months. The CDC will have a vote on the big decisions and Army leaders are beginning to understand their span of control during this period. Approving PCS orders for officers and their families will violate CDC guidance, and the decision space to identify an effective ILE alternative is rapidly shrinking.

The Army has come to the conclusion that its next challenge will be presented by a highly sophisticated, merciless nation-state adversary who will understand Army vulnerabilities better than the Army understands their own. Multi-domain operations (MDO), cyber support to kinetic strikes, and social influence are strong buzz words for modernizing training guidance; however, they do not answer the question of how the Army and the nation’s tech-savvy youth synchronize for those envisioned fictional battlefield effects. Integrating Army officer education with the American network of universities will provide both the needed education as well as interaction between two already socially distanced segments of American society.

Option #1:  Integrate the Army ILE curriculum with innovative universities in order to leverage sought after skills in the officer corps and build relationships with academic institutions. Either leverage local university graduate and certificate options as best as possible within CDC constraints or enroll in online courses with tech-centric institutions. A Fort Hood stationed armor officer attending the DDE Common Core this summer and completing UT Austin’s 33-week Cyber Academy will be prepared to make future resource decisions to integrate fires and effects with social-media based targeting[3]. A group of paratroopers and special operations soldiers from Fort Bragg will grasp the information landscape and agility of private sector procurement through a Duke Digital Media and Marketing Certificate or a University of North Carolina Masters in Business Administration concentration in strategy and consulting[4/5]. These are some of the skills and some of the options available through an integrated approach.

Risk:  The anti-agility voices throughout the Army will identify gaps in various equities from an integrated, localized, and remote ILE option. If university integration is proven valuable during our current time of crisis, the CGSC model may lose some prestige. There will also be risk associated in which universities are sought after for partnership with the DoD, and which universities deny a partnership based on the current civil-military misunderstandings. The risk of inaction may defer a year-group of officers needed in critical leadership positions in the near future.

Gain:  University integration will bring a human dimension of the Army into the civilian classroom. Option #1 will give opportunities for young minds to challenge the perspective of echo-chamber educated combat arms officers. It will provide an option for a current problem that addresses the institutional challenges of MDO from fires and effects, information operations, logistics, and command perspectives. Finally, this option will build a bridge between the Army and academia, and most importantly, it will solve the current PCS problem for summer movers.

Option #2:  Expand the bandwidth of the Army online ILE infrastructure already in place. The CGSC DDE model is an accredited ILE source which can be completed remotely while officers are observing social distancing. It will require a significant investment in digital infrastructure from the DDE; however, the overall cost-savings from CGSC PCS moves will allow investment in course modernization.

Risk:  The Army DDE portal and online interface are outdated, vulnerable to breach, and not equivalent to civilian online learning systems. Reliance on the DDE for the majority of officer ILE will present the system as a cyber target. Additionally, officers will not directly interact with their peers or mentors during a critical phase of professional development that can be achieved if the Army defers admittance for a semester.

Gain:  Investment in modernization of the premier PME institution will force the Army to learn how to develop better online learning systems. The lessons gained can be applied throughout other Army officer and NCO PME curriculums. Trusted relationships can be built with software developers among the tech sector as the traditional defense sector has proven less effective.

Other Comments:  Integrating Army ILE with university curriculums will not solve the civilian-military divide, but U.S. adversaries are watching closely. U.S. adversaries are most concerned by two aspects of American power. The first is the military’s tenacity and the second is the unrestrained innovation potential of American universities. Desegregation of the Army from academia increases the likelihood of future battlefield dominance.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalic, S. N. (2008). Honoring the Marshall Legacy. Command and General Staff Foundation News, Spring 2008.
https://www.marshallfoundation.org/marshall/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2014/04/HonoringtheMarshallLegacy_000.pdf

[2] Schake, K. N., & Mattis, J. N. (2016). Warriors and citizens: American views of our military. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institution Press.

[3] Cyber Academy Certificate Program. (2020, March 17). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://professionaled.utexas.edu/cyber-academy-certificate-program

[4] Digital Media & Marketing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://learnmore.duke.edu/certificates/digital_marketing

[5] MBA Concentrations. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://onlinemba.unc.edu/academics/concentrations

 

Defense and Military Reform Education Matt Sardo Option Papers

Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. 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:  Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

Date Originally Written:  April 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author maintains a keen interest in the geopolitical implications of conflicts and alliances. The author believes that any assistance towards parties in conflict must be bound in an overarching strategic framework that allows both donor and receiver achieve their aims.

Summary:  Military aid is a significant part of any foreign diplomatic effort. While aid, properly constructed, can provide significant advantages for all parties involved, the failure of such a policy will result in serious political repercussions for both sides beyond the ceasing of such transfers.

Text:  Ever since nations have been established, they have supported allies in prosecuting armed conflict, including fighting interstate conflict, terrorism, and counter-insurgencies[1]. The Egyptian-Hittite treaty is the first treaty of which both sides’ independent copies have survived. The treaty spoke to providing aid in case of attacks on either party[2]. While the treaty was between adversaries, it aligned the interests of both parties in putting down external military threats and stabilizing their internal jurisdictions.

Military aid takes various forms, often tailored to meet the perceived needs of the receiver as well as strategic considerations guiding the relationships. One form of military aid is the provision of men and firepower for direct combat like the Russian intervention in Syria[3]. Donor countries may provide instructors and advisers like the Military Assistance Advisory Groups that operated around the world during the Cold War[4]. Donors will also sell weapons and the instruct allies in their employment, managed in the United States by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency under its Foreign Military Sales program[5].

The deployment of military aid allows donors to show support to allies and deter aggressive behavior from adversaries. As part of its diplomatic strategy, aid will allow the sponsor to deepen personal and institutional bonds with the recipient. Industries can develop overseas markets via follow-on contracts and opening of the recipient’s markets to trade. The donor can fine tune doctrines, test equipment, and prepare personnel for future military campaigns[6][7]. By exhibiting the lethality and reliability of its weapons, the donor can attract sales from other countries looking to expand their military capacities and capabilities. The threat of withholding aid may be used to shape the behavior of receiver countries[8]. Finally, the donor may leverage the platform of the recipient to project power and influence in the recipient’s region.

The recipient gains access to military capabilities often beyond the ability of local industries to manufacture. By leveraging relationships with allies, those capabilities can be obtained at favorable conditions not available to others. This access to top level technology may also enable the recipient jumpstart local industries to meet civil and military needs. Exposure to military training and expertise from first rate armies will allow the beneficiary military to professionalize faster than organic capacity will permit. The presence of a patron will result in more freedom of action for operations while curtailing the ability of their adversaries to act without risking escalation.

However, the provision of military aid may result in adverse consequences. The Athenian support for the Ionian Revolt precipitated the 50-year Greco-Persian War[9]. Aid may encourage unproductive behavior in the recipient, especially by prolonging the conflict. Once aid is passed to the beneficiary, there is limited donor control over its use, resulting in potential exposure of the benefactor to accusations of enabling war crimes[10]. There is no certainty that the aid will result in a favorable outcome for the recipient[11] and the fall of the ally may result in sensitive technology passing into hands of adversaries[12].

Ultimately, foreign military aid type, size, and duration, requires constant critiquing. Military aid, for both the donor and receiver, is a crucial extension of defense and diplomatic policies. The consequences of a failed aid policy will exert political costs far beyond currency figures. It is crucial that political leaders are made aware of the multiple options available to them in deciding what is sent, who it is sent to and how it is sent.


Endnotes:

[1] Shah, A. (2010, May 3). Military Aid. Retrieved April 2, 2020 from
https://www.globalissues.org/article/785/military-aid

[2] Bryce, T. (2006). The Eternal Treaty from the Hittite perspective. Retrieved April 2, 2020 from https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_263207/UQ263207_OA.pdf

[3] O’Connor, T. (2018, August 23). How many Russian Troops in Syria? Military reveals full count as U.S. told to leave. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.newsweek.com/how-many-russia-troops-syria-military-reveals-full-count-us-told-leave-1088409

[4] Liebman, O., Midkiff, J. and Minor, M. (1963). Preliminary Inventory of the Records of Interservice Agencies. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/334.html

[5] Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Foreign Military Sales. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.dsca.mil/programs/foreign-military-sales-fms

[6] Musciano, W. (2004, September). Spanish Civil War: German Condor Legion’s Tactical Air Power. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
https://www.historynet.com/spanish-civil-war-german-condor-legions-tactical-air-power.htm

[7] Oppenheimer, P. (1986). From the Spanish Civil War to the Fall of France: Luftwaffe Lessons Learned and Applied. Retrieved April 3, 2020 from
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v07/v07p133_Oppenheimer.html

[8] Shah, S., Entous, A., Lubold, G. (2015, August 21). U.S. Threatens to Withhold Pakistan Aid. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-threatens-to-withhold-pakistan-aid-1440163925

[9] White, M. (2011, November). The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definite Chronicles of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities.

[10] Hathaway, O., Haviland, A. Kethireddy, S., Francis, A., Yamamoto, A. (2018, March 7). The Legality of U.S. Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia for Use in Yemen. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from https://www.justsecurity.org/53449/u-s-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-yemen

[11] Cohen, R. (1988, April 22). The Soviet’s Vietnam. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1988/04/22/the-soviets-vietnam/5e7fde43-6a0c-46fb-b678-dbb89bcb720b

[12] Demerly, T. (2019, May 31). The Secret is Out: How Russia Somehow Captured U.S. Fighters (And Tested Them Out. Retrieved April 4, 2020 from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/secret-out-how-russia-somehow-captured-us-fighters-and-tested-them-out-60487

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Damimola Olawuyi

Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest

EunomiaAdVER2

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The Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options are sponsoring a writing contest to promote the launch of The Civil Affairs Association’s new journal Eunomia (Eunomia was the Greek goddess of law, governance, and good order.)

What:  A 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper examining the role of human factors in armed conflict and / or competition below levels of conflict within the world of 2035.  For the purposes of this competition, human factors are defined per Joint Publication 2-0 – Joint Intelligence as, “The physical, cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of an individual or group that influence perceptions, understanding, and interactions.”

When:  Submit your 1,000-word Options Paper or Assessment Paper between April 7, 2020 and July 7, 2020 to submissions@divergentoptions.org.

Why:  To help develop an understanding of the evolving role of population-centric operations in both conflict and competition, get your ideas published in Eunomia and Divergent Options, and have a chance to win $250 for 1st place, $150 for 2nd place, and $100 for 3rd place.

How:  Submissions will be judged by content, adherence to format, adherence to length, and grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Contest winners will be announced once the judging is complete in late July.  The judging panel will consist of members of the Civil Affairs Association including an United States Agency for International Development Office Director, retired General Officers, Soldiers, Marines, Officers, Noncomissioned Officers, Reservists, and Active Duty personnel.

Other Comments:  For the purposes of this contest authors may examine and explore existing research and policy and how it will affect the future or they may choose to describe the environment of 2035 through the lens of alternative futures e.g. “An Assessment of U.S. Information Operations During the Sino-Tawanese Conflict of 2035” or “Options for Combating Virtual Terrorist Governance Structures.”  While the definition of human factors is derived from U.S. Joint Doctrine, we greatly encourage participation from all who are interested in this topic and understand that different nations have different definitions of population-centric operations.

Civil Affairs Association Contest (General)

Options to Penetrate Adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems

Major Jeffrey Day is a Royal Canadian Engineer officer currently attending the United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He can be found on Twitter @JeffDay27. 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:  U.S. military Multi Domain Operations (MDO) to Penetrate adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems.

Date Originally Written:  February 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States military.

Background:  U.S. Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations warns of the potential for near-peer or great power conflict against adversaries who can compete and oppose the United States in all domains and achieve relative advantage either regionally or worldwide[1].  On the other hand, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 implies that if competition and deterrence fail, the Joint Force quickly penetrates and disintegrates (A2/AD) systems and exploits the resulting freedom in order to win[2]. The MDO concept at this time does not include a shaping phase. Field Manual 3-0 describes how “Global Operations to Shape” continue through the joint phases of conflict, but the tasks listed are passive[3].

Significance:  There is a contradiction between these two U.S. Army concepts. If an enemy can compete and oppose the United States across all domains, quickly penetrating and disintegrating the enemy’s A2/AD would be at best extremely costly in resources, effort, and lives, and at worst impossible. The U.S. military relies on having a position of relative advantage in an area which it can exploit to create the conditions to be able to penetrate and disintegrate enemy A2/AD. Achieving that position is essential to the successful application of the MDO concept, but the enemy A2/AD systems can post a threat to U.S. forces and maneuver hundreds of miles from their borders.

Option #1:  The U.S. military conducts shaping operations in the peripheries, exploiting the enemy’s vulnerabilities throughout the global maneuver space, to indirectly weaken A2/AD systems.

The Second World War has several examples of the belligerents exercising this option. Prior to D-Day, the Allies limited German access to weather information through the Greenland campaign. Weather intelligence from Greenland was extremely useful to accurately predict European weather[4]. Rear-Admiral E.H. Smith of the United States Coast Guard organized the Northeast Greenland Sledge Patrol in the fall of 1941. It consisted of Danish and Norwegian trappers and Inuit hired to regularly patrol the East coast of Greenland and report any signs of enemy activity[5]. Through their operations, and other missions, Germany access to quality weather information, and thus their ability to forecast European weather was greatly reduced. U.S. President Eisenhower highlighted the importance of the weather data secured by the Allies and denied to the Axis many years after the war. When President Kennedy asked President Eisenhower why the invasion of Normandy had been successful, Eisenhower’s response was, “Because we had better meteorologists than the Germans![6]” What Eisenhower really meant was that the Allies had better weather data than the Germans, a position of relative advantage which largely came from shaping operations prior to attempting to defeat the Atlantic Wall, which is an historic example of an early A2/AD system. Throughout the history of global war there are campaigns in the peripheries with similar objectives. Examples include Germany attempts to deny British access to middle eastern oil in the Second World War, and the British campaign to secure eastern Indian Ocean sea lines of communication by capturing Madagascar during the Second World War.

Risk:  It took the Allies until 1944 before they set the conditions to attack into northern mainland Europe. U.S. shaping efforts today will also take time, during which the enemy will be able to further prepare their defense or also exploit opportunities in the global maneuver space. Due to their lack of mass, the smaller U.S. forces committed to the peripheries will be vulnerable to an enemy set on retaining their position of advantage.

Gain:  Shaping operations in the peripheries can be useful by:

  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to critical resources
  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to intelligence
  • Defending access to or denying enemy access to strategic lines of communication

By retaining critical capabilities and degrading the enemy’s critical requirements, the United States may be able to force the enemy to rely solely on resources, information, and lines of communication within the enemy’s area of control. If this area of control is continually diminished through the continued execution of peripheral campaigns, the United States will be able to attack in the primary theaters at a time of their choosing and from a position of relative advantage or perhaps even absolute advantage. By weakening the enemy’s A2/AD systems peripherally over a longer period of time, there will be better assessments of their residual capabilities and duration of the weaknesses.

Option #2:  The U.S. military commits resources to ensure technological dominance within specific aspects of domains to permit the Joint Force to quickly penetrates and disintegrates A2/AD.

Through extensive scientific and technical research and development, as well as reliance on technical intelligence to understand the enemies’ capabilities, the United States can ensure that it maintains a position of relative advantage along critical segments of all domains. Option #2 will enable the exploitation of vulnerabilities in enemy A2/AD systems, permitting disruption at key times and locations. Secrecy and operational security will be essential to ensure the enemy is not aware of the U.S. overmatch until it is too late to react.

Risk:  If the enemy is able to counter and minimize the calculated U.S. overmatch through intelligence, superior science, or luck, joint force entry and MDO will fail. It also will be more difficult to assess the impact of actions made to degrade enemy A2/AD systems or the enemy may repair systems before the joint force is able to permanently disintegrate them.

Gain:  This option exploits and does not cede the current technological advantage the United States holds over its competitors. Additionally, it permits the United States to conduct short and decisive operations. Potential enemies will waste resources developing resilient A2/AD systems, with expensive defensive measures protecting all perceived vulnerabilities. To counter these measures, the United States military only has to develop specific specialized capabilities, to penetrate A2/AD at points of their choosing, therefore retaining the initiative.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2017), 13.

[2] TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 – The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028, December 6, 2018.

[3] The tasks listed in Field Manual 3-0 are: Promoting and protecting U.S. national interests and influence, building partner capacity and partnerships, recognizing and countering adversary attempts to gain positions of relative advantage, and setting the conditions to win future conflicts

[4] C.L Godske and Bjerknes, V, Dynamic Meteorology and Weather Forecasting (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1957), 536

[5] David Howarth, The Sledge Patrol (New York, NY: The MacMillan Company, 1960), 13.

[6] “Forecasting D-Day,” NASA Earth Observatory, last modified June 5, 2019, accessed October 27, 2019, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145143/forecasting-d-day.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Jeffrey Day Option Papers United States

Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy and theory. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

Date Originally Written:  March 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to U.S. relative decline vis-à-vis Russia and China.

Summary:  American policy since World War II imposed “world order,” which is fraught with the inability to enforce as well as aspirations exceeding capabilities. As a result, America is entangled in futile Middle Eastern conflicts, plagued with populism and President Trump, faced with the rise of Russia and China, debt, polarization, and public health issues. This situation prompts a paradigm shift from excess militarization to the elevation of national spirit.

Text:  In the early 20th century, a British historian named E.H. Carr made an odd proclamation: “Only the West is in decline.” The author sought to explore this idea by writing a book titled “Is The West in Decline? A Study of World Order and U.S. Relative Decline” published January 2018. This article seeks to summarize the findings of this book by making a few key points.

The United States, as the linchpin of Western civilization after Europe’s collapse in the 20th century, is not going through absolute decline. Rather, the United States is experiencing what Joseph Nye of Harvard University calls “relative decline,” which means other countries are rising as a result of America’s slowdown which can turn around. But the slowdown is yet to be a cause for severe concern. In a short book titled “Is the American Century Over?” Nye conducts an assessment and concludes that the United States is at least fifty years ahead of its nearest competitors in terms of military and economic capabilities.

But there are clear symptoms of American relative decline vis-à-vis other countries. In a number of public lectures, Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago argues that there are three evident symptoms of American decline: entanglement in Middle Eastern conflicts, the rise of Russia and China, and the emergence of President Donald Trump. In addition to this are three internal symptoms that result from Mearsheimer’s list of external symptoms: the growing national debt, polarization, and a downturn in public health. One can argue that the national debt is the biggest threat to national security. As a result of debt, the United States barely has the capacity to stem the rise of polarization as evinced by problems such as domestic terrorism and health problems such as the recent opioid crisis and the mental health epidemic. When combining these six symptoms, the resulting decline in American power is evident. For example, one of America’s key tasks during the post-World War II period was to keep Europe united within political institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. These institutions are presently fraying as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and Britain’s faltering relationship with Germany.

From a big picture perspective, American foreign policy boils down to the fulfillment of one task after it emerged as the world’s foremost power subsequent to World War II, which was the maintenance of what is known as “world order.” During Sir Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” Speech in Fulton, Missouri, Britain passed the responsibility of managing world affairs to the United States after its empire had severely contracted during the 1940’s. Now, the United States no longer seeks to shoulder the entire burden of maintaining world order. President Donald Trump has made “America First” the main priority of his political agenda. World Order has always been fraught with two permanent conditions. For one, aspirations always exceed capabilities, as noted by Pankaj Mishra in a book titled “The Age of Anger.” Second is the issue of enforcement, as noted by Henry Kissinger in his last book titled “World Order.” It is simply impossible for one nation, despite their capabilities, to enforce law and order on the entire world.

These conditions have led to the failure of liberal democracy as a system that can be imposed on the world.  The result is the United States incurring ongoing costs by defaulting to a realpolitik approach towards Russia and China, and in turn the costs have led to polarization and populism domestically. America is now faced with the option of experimenting with a constructivist foreign policy and a paradigm shift from a militaristic and costly realpolitik approach to a diplomatic approach that brings multiple parties together in the way of a burden-sharing approach to world order. Combined, Europe and East Asia have a higher GDP than America; it would be remiss to not ask these two regions to increase their share of defense spending. America will eventually be forced to advance its security and economic interests to contribute its fair share to world order, while considering a shift from an offensive approach to a defensive approach to national security. Overreach and America’s unnecessary entanglement in Afghanistan, which is considered “The Graveyard of Empires”, has led to the neglect of America’s first ever foreign policy proclamation, namely, “The Monroe Doctrine.” Because of Afghanistan, which Andrew Bacevich has called “a flight of fancy,” Russia and China have found apparent holes in American defense and have penetrated Africa and Latin America to the detriment of America’s hemispheric security.

For a long time, America has traded off a truly free market system, education, and health care for militarization and the imposition of world order. International relations theorists call this “the security dilemma.” John Herz, an international relations theorist, has called it “the absolute predicament and irreducible dilemma,” which is the inability to allocate resources to social welfare due to security concerns. As a result, radical leaders like President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders who appeal to American pathos are gaining momentum. Europe, Arab Gulf Countries, and East Asia have long prospered from the U.S. security umbrella by enjoying U.S. defense subsidies that enable these regions to invest in human development instead of defense, to the detriment of American citizens. To resolve this “security dilemma,” one must evaluate the main threat, which is not a physical one; rather, the threat is a moral and spiritual one. Baudelaire wrote of the “baseness of men’s hearts” that will lead to what Kierkegaard called “the common plight of man.” From a realist perspective, this threat is relevant. Hans Morgenthau, in “The Politics of Nations,” identified six dimensions of power: military, economic, population, territory, natural resources, and spirit. As long as there is a disproportionate amount of focus on militarization at the expense of national spirit, the United States will not be able to reverse what is known as “relative decline” vis-à-vis Russia and China.


Endnotes:

[1] Azim, A. A. (2018). Is The West In Decline? A Study of World Order and U.S. Relative Decline. Brandylane Publishing. / https://www.amazon.com/Decline-Study-World-Order-Relative/dp/0692967168

Adam A. Azim Assessment Papers Budgets and Resources Competition United States

An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 26, 2020.

Author and / Article Point of View:  The author is a field-grade, maneuver officer with nearly 30 years of commissioned service. The article is written from the point of view of an American strategic analyst viewing the developments in the national security space since the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy.

Summary:  The U.S. Military is overextending its intellectual resources regarding great power competition and is losing its focus on core warfighting concepts. Recent national security documents have codified the great power security environment. The absence of any coherent foreign policy and subsequent strategy, coupled with over reliance on the military as the single foreign policy tool, puts U.S. military planning at a critical juncture.

Text:  Dutifully, the U.S. Armed Services (Services) seized upon the competition task following publication of the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) and has-especially at the Joint Staff level-expended considerable effort framing[1] the military aspects of competition. At the same time, the Services are attempting to realize fundamental concepts which embrace the new challenges of a multi-domain environment with the vocabulary of competition seeping into its foundational documents. Without question, a nation’s military makes up part of its power and in the case of the U.S., holds the charge that they fight and persecute the nation’s wars securing victory through its unique capabilities. Logically, it follows then, the expansive idea of competition-at heart an international relations framework- should not be the sole conceptual focus of its military planning.

Seizing upon competition as a framework for structure and employment of the Services is understandable given recent history. The genesis of today’s U.S.’s strategic atrophy coincides with the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union left America with a sense of winning-if not hubris. The spectacular victory in Desert Shield/Desert Storm clinched this idea of a unipolar moment for the U.S. The promise of the “fog-lifting” Revolution in Military Affairs, the lack of an ideological or near peer competitor and selective military engagements (Bosnia, Somalia, Desert Fox in Iraq / Kuwait, et al) did not place demands for any type of comprehensive national strategy thinking let alone theory development. Operationally, the military was unsurpassed in its capability.

Then the 9/11 attacks occurred and the nation entered the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The opening phases of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially about regime change, were successful. However, lack of a meaningful goals for the successive phases of the GWOT, a lack of sustained, whole of nation effort to conduct the GWOT saw counterinsurgency and counter terrorism tactics elevate to take the place of actual strategy[2]. Simultaneously, debates about the utility of military force in such environments became more frequent in political and scholarship spheres. Frustration with quantifiable or sustainable goals in either campaign began to center on simple timelines and troop levels. Two decades of GWOT was exacerbating this period of strategic atrophy.

The military was not going to give up the initiative as it sought to make lasting impacts in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. The military design movement began to find leverage in the Services as formations struggled to achieve sustainable outcomes in their areas of operations. Design “how-to’s” began to fill the pages of military journals, institutional curricula and be integrated into exercises. Tactical formations were left to seek the best way to leverage their capabilities in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan[3].  Attempting to leverage design was further evidence of an absence of strategy. Design was an awkward and uncomfortable translation into formations which normally are assigned an objective set of mission essential tasks to master and execute.

Enter the 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy and the corresponding concept of great power competition (GPC). Correctly identifying today’s national security realities, strategic competition is-in the context of the current environment-a concept requiring more thought and analysis for it to be a useful national security construct[4]. “Competition,” as a government wide framework, is not encouraging. The U.S. Department of State strategic plan for 2018-2022 mentions the term “competition” three times; the Treasury Department’s equivalent, once. While not an exhaustive review of interdepartmental policy coordination, it stands witness to the lack of whole of nation integration, if not linkage of competition at the national level. In the absence of a definitive “competition” strategy at the national level, the Joint Staff and Services must resist the temptation to unnecessarily militarize GPC.

The NSS and NDS provide the Services a framework to begin their realignment within an environment of GPC. However, as documents such as the Joint Staff’s Competition Continuum[1] frame the role of the Services as a function of competition. This is a mistake. Strategic competition is an environment for the military and is best if it informs broad decisions in the Services’ role of man, train and equip, but not its warfighting approaches. The Continuum document reflects a tremendous amount of intellectual capacity devoted to and carefully considering the aspects of competition: it is thought provoking, but misplaced. The American military would do well to resist, once again, elevating its capabilities to fulfill a strategic gap at the national levels and instead focus on core warfighting abilities and tasks.

The Services are at a crucial stage in the planning and programming for the out years; all with fresh eyes towards their obligations in an era of GPC. The U.S. Army has initiated a well-intentioned intellectual renaissance on large scale combat operations. The U.S. Army and Air Force (and the others) are collaborating and struggling with realizing Multidomain Operations[5]. In reviving and focusing on these ideas, the Services can appropriately complement national power as an element of GPC vice being its foundation. Until workable GPC foreign policy goals are established, acceptable political risks are identified and corresponding national strategies are in place, best would be for the Services to carefully navigate the contours of GPC.

The Joint Doctrine notes mentioned earlier and related documents (ie. Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning) are not helping in this cognitive framework. Their prominent use of a continuum of conflict[6] as a foundational model conflates national strategy formulation with military campaigning. While these sample documents speak to the role of interagency contributions to competition, recent campaigns make such whole of government intentions suspect. Most notably, the continuum of completion-conflict-competition is fertile ground for obscuring definitive political objectives. A lack of political objectives upends strategy formulation. Combined, this is not the space to expand military planning efforts. Competition is without a doubt, part of the global security environment, but it is a condition of that environment, not a principle of warfighting planning.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum. Washington, DC. From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233

[2] Stachan, H. (2013). The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

[3] Keller, J. (2018, January 22). The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://taskandpurpose.com/analysis/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan

[4] Wyne, A. (2019, February 11). America’s Blind Ambition Could Make It a Victim of Global Competition. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-blind-ambition-could-make-it-victim-global-competition-44227

[5] Air Force, Army Developing Multidomain Doctrine. (2018, January 25). Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Media/News/News-Display/Article/1425475/air-force-army-developing-multidomain-doctrine/

[6] U.S. Department of Defense. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Washington, DC. p. 8 From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

Assessment Papers Competition Defense and Military Reform Great Powers United States

Assessing U.S. Use of Coercive Diplomacy

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds a M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing U.S. Use of Coercive Diplomacy

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the U.S. should only use coercive diplomacy if the situation is vital to U.S. interests, and the U.S. is prepared to go to war if necessary.

Summary:  U.S. use of coercive diplomacy has conflicting results. The 2018 missile strikes to compel the Syrian regime to stop using chemical weapons on civilians succeeded. The 2020 killing of an Iranian general to compel Iran to stop its aggression in the Middle East failed. To date, North Korea has not abandoned its nuclear program despite U.S. military threats, sanctions, and diplomatic talks.  Coercive diplomacy’s success isn’t guaranteed and it risks escalation.

Text:  Throughout history, the United States has used coercive diplomacy as a diplomatic strategy to influence adversaries’ behaviors. However, the U.S. success rate on the use of this strategy has mixed results. One example is the failed U.S. attempts to persuade the government of Iraq to cease their weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program before the 2003 invasion[3]. A more recent example is the January 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani that failed to compel Iran to stop its aggression in the Middle East and provoked their retaliation, which could have quickly escalated to conflict[2]. These two examples highlight the importance of understanding the motives and perceptions of the adversary that can limit the effectiveness of coercive diplomacy.

Coercive diplomacy is the use of military and non-military threats to primarily persuade an adversary to cease a specific action. Former Stanford University political professor, Alexander L. George, defined coercive diplomacy as a “defensive strategy that is employed to deal with the efforts of an adversary to change a status quo situation in his own favor, by persuading the adversary to stop what it is doing or to undo what it had done[3].” A successful example of coercive diplomacy is the 2018 U.S. missile strikes against the Syrian regime to compel them to stop chemical attacks on civilians[4].

When employing coercive diplomacy, the coercing power must have a credible threat for non-compliance. According to Alexander George, “…the military weaker side may be strongly motivated by what is at stake and refuse to back down, in effect calling the bluff of the coercing power[5].” An excellent example of this “calling of bluff” is U.S. President Barack Obama’s threats to use military action on the Syrian regime if they crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons on civilians. Once Syria crossed this red line, in August 2013, President Obama did not follow through on his threat, thus hurting U.S. credibility[6]. Failing to respond to non-compliance can cause the coercing power to lose credibility and negatively impact how it is perceived internationally as it did not follow through on its military promises.

Additionally, coercive diplomacy can include a mixture of military and non-military threats to influence an adversary’s behavior[7]. Yet, depending on what is at stake, not every actor will respond to these combinations of threats the same. For example, to date, North Korea has not abandoned its nuclear program and ballistic missile testing from the combination of U.S. military threats, sanctions, and diplomatic talks[8]. However, North Korea’s non-compliance may be due to their perceptions of the U.S. views on their nuclear program and the low risk of U.S. military actions based on U.S history towards them over the past 25 years.

One major risk of coercive diplomacy is the difficulty in calculating the adversary’s response. As Robert Art and Patrick Cronin wrote, “… mistakes are easy to make in situations where resolve is hard to estimate. …the coercer often underestimates the targets will to resist. Consequently, the coercer has to apply larger amounts of force, but then it entered the realm of war[9].” Two examples of this type of escalation are the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s air campaign due to Serbian non-compliance to stop their persecution of Kosovo Albanians and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq to halt their WMD program. Hence, there are no guarantees that the use of coercive diplomacy will persuade the adversary to stop an action or, worse, the adversary’s miscalculations could escalate the situation.

As mentioned earlier, before employing coercive diplomacy, it is crucial to understand the adversary’s motivations and what is at stake for them. The January 2020 drone strike that killed the Iranian general is an example of the need for understanding motivational factors to calculate an adversary’s response. Iran’s potential loss of credibility within their own country and the region may have driven their retaliatory missile attacks at the two bases in Iraq[10]. Although there were no U.S. fatalities, with the right miscalculations, this retaliation could have escalated past coercive diplomacy to full-on war. This example reveals the risk of employing coercive diplomacy and the difficulties with calculating adversaries’ countermeasures.

In summary, the recent use of U.S. coercive diplomacy has conflicting results. For example, the 2018 missile strikes to compel the Syrian regime to stop using chemical weapons civilians achieved its objectives, but the 2020 drone strike of the Iranian general to compel Iran to stop its aggression in the Middle East did not. Iran’s retaliation demonstrates that weaker states will respond back if they believe their credibility is at stake. Also, the use of coercive diplomacy against North Korea shows the difficulty of changing an adversary’s behavior when their most vital program for survival is at stake. Moreover, coercive diplomacy is only of value if the threat is credible, and the nation is prepared to go to war if necessary. Lastly, coercive diplomacy is a risky strategy as it depends on the adversary’s motivations, and any wrong calculation can escalate the situation to full-on war, as seen with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Endnotes:

[1] Jervis, R. (2013). Getting to Yes with Iran: The Challenges of Coercive Diplomacy. Foreign Affairs, 92(1), 105-115. Retrieved February 17, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/41721008

[2] Missy Ryan, J. D. (2020, January 4). How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general. Retrieved February 23, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-trump-decided-to-kill-a-top-iranian-general/2020/01/03/77ce3cc4-2e62-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html

[3] Levy, J. (2008). Deterrence and Coercive Diplomacy: The Contributions of Alexander George. Political Psychology, 29(4), 537-552. Retrieved February 17, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/20447143

[4] Anne Gearan, M. R. (2018, April 14). U.S. and allies warn Syria of more missile strikes if chemical attacks used again. Retrieved February 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-launches-missile-strikes-in-syria/2018/04/13/c68e89d0-3f4a-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

[5] George, A. L. (1991). Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.

[6] Chollet, D., Glover, J., Greenfield, J., & Glorioso, A. (2016, July 19). Obama’s Red Line, Revisited. Retrieved February 23, 2020, from https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/obama-syria-foreign-policy-red-line-revisited-214059

[7] George, A. L. (1991). Forceful persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.

[8] North Korea. (2019, August). Retrieved February 23, 2020, from https://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea

[9] Cronin, P. M., & Art, R. J. (2003). United States and Coercive Diplomacy. Washington, D.C.: United States Inst. of Peace Press.

[10] Bender, B., Zanona, M., Ferris, S., O’Brien, C., Starks, T., & Forgery, Q. (2020, January 7). Iran retaliates with missile attacks on U.S. troop locations in Iraq. Retrieved February 2020, from https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/07/iran-retaliation-iraq-base-095869

 

Assad Raza Assessment Papers Coercive Diplomacy Diplomacy

An Assessment of Nationalism’s Impact on Security and Stability in Switzerland

Editor’s Note:  This article is the result of a partnership between Divergent Options and a course on nationalism at the George Washington University.


Gracie Jamison is a sophomore at The George Washington University and studies political science and history.  She can be found on Twitter at @grjamison13 and writes for the GW Hatchet, an independent student-run newspaper.  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 Nationalism’s Impact on Security and Stability in Switzerland

Date Originally Written:  August 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 2, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author was an exchange student in Switzerland in 2015. The author supports multicultural policies, but believes nationalism is useful in promoting Swiss national unity. The article is written from the point of view of an American observing trends in Switzerland.

Summary:  Swiss citizens feel safer and more secure due to Switzerland’s nationalist policies of mandatory military service and stringent naturalization requirements[1]. The Swiss overcome ethnolinguistic tensions that threaten to divide them through a sense of security allowed by mass military military mobilization and local participation in the naturalization process which supports a key part of Switzerland’s national identity.

Text:  Given Switzerland’s cultural heterogeneity, as exemplified by its four national languages and the diversity of ethnic groups, it would be well to ask how a strong Swiss identity is possible. And yet, not only does a strong Swiss identity exist, with “a common national identity as Swiss over and above their separate linguistic, religious, and cantonal identities,” but evidence shows that Swiss nationalist policies help exert a stabilizing force on the country as a whole and provide an opportunity to realize national strength and unity amidst the variety of ethnicities and cultures[2].

Swiss nationalism consists of several different factors, a particularly dominant one being a strong political culture, as Switzerland is rooted in shared political spirit and belief in common ideals rather than cultural similarities. While a country based upon political will and a desire to achieve a common civic vision may seem fragile, it has united a remarkable number of diverse language, cultural, and ethnic groups throughout Swiss history and provides a helpful model of civic nationalism for other diverse nations.

Nationalist policies in Switzerland have pursued this common vision and balanced the conflicting identities through several mechanisms, but mandatory military service, starting around age 20 for men as well as women who choose to join, is perhaps the most successful. While the forced requirement to join an institution could very easily lead to resentment and protest, a staggeringly high percentage of Swiss citizens support the continuation of mandatory service[3]. Perhaps even more revealing is the amount of young people, the very demographic required to join the institution itself, who support the military–nearly eight in ten respondents reported positive feelings toward the military, and the number is climbing[4]. According to scholar Stephen Van Evera, perceived security of borders and faith in institutions are two of the most important factors for predicting nationalist violence. Swiss support for the military, nationalism in a civic sense, buries ethnolinguistic divisions and prevents the nationalist violence that could arise when such groups may otherwise feel ignored or threatened by such institutions instead of relying on them for external security[5]. Fundamentally, where borders are secure and there is intrinsic faith in institutions, nationalist violence is much less likely to occur.

This burying of ethnolinguistic divisions is particularly evident in a statistic that shows a majority of citizens feel that Switzerland’s famous neutrality is linked to their national identity[6]. Switzerland’s role as mediator in major wars throughout history has given Swiss citizens a sense of pride and security in their global standing- critically, without the potential for violence that has accompanied other countries involved in conflicts. The concept of neutrality has become so tied to the image of the nation itself that to desire one’s security often requires one to support the nation and its institutions[7]. It is this sense of security then, as well as the faith in institutions like the military, that showcases the link between nationalism and the stabilizing force it exerts in Swiss life.

Although the ways in which nationalism helps promote external security are important, internal stability is another vital aspect of the Swiss national identity and is supported by stringent naturalization policies. The restrictions surrounding who can live in the country and become a citizen involves an incredible amount of local participation compared to most countries, as applications for citizenship are not considered on a federal level “but rather by the country’s cantons and municipalities—and the applicants’ peers have a say in whether naturalization gets granted.”[8] Residents in local villages vote on whether they feel their neighbor should receive citizenship or not, and communal assemblies allow citizens to voice their concerns, procedures that would seem strange to many Americans but one that would perhaps give them more faith in their institutions and a sense of value that may be lacking. Being able to decide who comes in and why within the populace leads to a deep sense of security about borders, and also upholds the common Swiss belief in political participation and pride in their direct democracy, with 65 percent of Swiss citizens saying they are satisfied with their government[9]. This naturalization practice also helps to explain Switzerland’s success at what many Swiss consider to be at the heart of their national identity: “the idea that several linguistic communities [coexisting] within a single nation based on a degree of shared political culture while preserving and developing their cultural distinctiveness in other spheres.”[10] Switzerland’s economy is also relevant to this particular point, as, given the dependence on sectors like banking that require massive amounts of coordination and precise understanding, it is not only reassuring to Swiss citizens that immigrants assimilate but necessary for the strength of the economy[11].

Switzerland is rooted in civic nationalism that goes back to the writing of the Swiss constitution, a document “whose explicit goal was to consolidate the Swiss national unity and national sentiment through policy centralisation,” and has contributed to a national identity that is based upon shared political culture and the concept of neutrality[12]. Furthermore, nationalistic policies and programs in Switzerland ensure that tensions or divisions that might otherwise threaten a sense of a united Swiss nation are superseded by faith in institutions and the desire for the security that they provide, as well as a strong belief and participation in the political culture. While all of the preceding works well for Switzerland, it remains to be seen if Swiss-like civic nationalism can be successfully adopted by other countries who also have multi-ethnic populations.


Endnotes:

[1] Swissinfo.ch. (2018, May 25). Swiss feel safe and trust security forces, says report. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-security-study_swiss-feel-safe-and-trust-security-forces–says-report/4414477

[2] Miller, D. 1995. On Nationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[3] Davis, M. (2019, March 23). What makes Switzerland different. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/switzerland-high-gun-ownership

[4] Swissinfo.ch. (2018, May 25). Swiss feel safe and trust security forces, says report. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from
https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-security-study_swiss-feel-safe-and-trust-security-forces–says-report/4414477

[5] Evera, S. V. (1994). Hypotheses on Nationalism and War. International Security, 18(4), 5-39. doi:10.2307/2539176

[6] Kużelewska, Elżbieta. (2016). Language Policy in Switzerland. Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric. 45. 10.1515/slgr-2016-0020.

[7] Swissinfo.ch. (2018, May 25). Swiss feel safe and trust security forces, says report. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-security-study_swiss-feel-safe-and-trust-security-forces–says-report/44144770

[8] Garber, M. (2017, January 14). In Switzerland, You Can Be Denied Citizenship for Being Too Annoying. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/switzerland-citizenship-nancy-holten/513212

[9] Lucchi, M., Swiss Public Affairs, & World Economic Forum. (2017, July 31). This is how Switzerland’s direct democracy works. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/07/switzerland-direct-democracy-explained

[10] Helbling, M., & Stojanović, N. (2011). Switzerland: Challenging the big theories of nationalism1. Nations and Nationalism, 17(4), 712-717. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2011.00516.x

[11] Morris, D. (2018, October 25). Swiss Model of Positive Nationalism. Retrieved August 8, 2019, from https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1991-09-01-1991244083-story.html

[12] Helbling, M., & Stojanović, N. (2011). Switzerland: Challenging the big theories of nationalism1. Nations and Nationalism, 17(4), 712-717. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8129.2011.00516.x

Assessment Papers Gracie Jamison Nationalism Switzerland

Call for Papers: Emerging Technologies and Emerging Concepts

Background:

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

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Emerging Technologies and Emerging Concepts.  For the purposes of this Call for Papers we define Emerging Technologies and Emerging Concepts as technologies and concepts whose development, practical application, or both, are unrealized in 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 April 12, 2020.

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

Writing Contest — Below Threshold Competition: China

China, controlled and claimed regions, map

It is a new year and Divergent Options has enlisted Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, Wayne Hugar of the National Intelligence University, and Ali Wyne a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council to be the judges for our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest.

What:  A 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper examining how countries can compete more effectively with China below the threshold of armed conflict.  We are also interested in writers examining how China will continue to compete and evolve their tactics below the threshold of armed conflict.

When:  Submit your 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper between May 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 to submissions@divergentoptions.org.

Why:  To refine your thoughts on China, which, depending upon your point of view, could be an important trading partner, a complex competitor, or a sworn enemy.  Writers will have a chance to win $500 for 1st Place, $300 for 2nd Place, $100 for 3rd Place, or be one of three Honorable Mentions who receives $50.

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

Other Comments:  For the purposes of this contest we encourage writers to think in an unconstrained manner and to not worry about what authority or what organization would be used to execute a given option.  From a U.S. point of view, some examples of unconstrained thinking could include:

A.  Since China has established Confucius Institutes in the United States, what is the risk and gain of the United States establishing “Thomas Jefferson Institutes” in China?

B.  The U.S. Government provides agricultural subsidies to agribusinesses to supplement their income, manage the supply of agricultural commodities, and influence the cost and supply of such commodities.  What is the risk and gain of U.S. colleges and universities adopting a version of this program?  In this option the U.S. Government would provide subsidies to U.S. colleges and universities that ban the enrollment of Chinese students thus protecting U.S. intellectual capital without affecting college or university financing.  These subsidies would continue until the U.S. college or university could find students from countries that aid the U.S. in its competition with China to take the enrollment slots previously reserved for the Chinese students.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Contest (General)

Options for a Consistent U.S. Approach to Humanitarian Intervention

Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher, analyst and writer based in Arlington, Virginia.  He is a former communications and media analyst for the United States Marine Corps.  He writes regularly for Charged Affairs (the journal of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy) and Better Angels, and has also been published in Merion West, the Washington Monthly, the Truman National Security Project, and France 24.  He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki and on Medium at https://medium.com/@mdpurzycki.  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:  Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of mass violence lead to destabilizing refugee flows and constitute humanitarian catastrophes.

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States government.

Background:  The United States’ responses to episodes of mass killing in recent decades have been inconsistent. The U.S. has intervened militarily in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. It has declined to intervene in Rwanda, Darfur and Syria (prior to the conflict against the Islamic State). This inconsistency calls into question American moral and geopolitical leadership, and creates an opening for rivals, especially China and Russia, to fill. America’s decision not to respond with military force when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people arguably emboldened Assad’s ally Russia.  Following this U.S. non-response Russia sent forces to Syria in 2015 that have committed multiple atrocities, including intentional bombing of hospitals[1]. Meanwhile, massive flows of refugees from Syria, as well as from other Middle Eastern and African countries, have destabilized Europe politically, empowering demagogues and weakening European cohesion. Climate change is likely to exacerbate existing conflicts, and make massacres and refugee flows more common[2].

Significance:  From a strategic perspective, sudden massive inflows of refugees destabilize allies and weaken host country populations’ confidence in international institutions. From a moral perspective, the refusal of the U.S. to stop mass killing when it is capable of doing so threatens American moral credibility, and afflicts the consciences of those who could have intervened but did not, as in Rwanda[3]. From a perspective that is both strategic and moral, non-intervention in cases where U.S. and allied force can plausibly halt massacres, as in Bosnia before August 1995, makes the U.S. and its allies look weak, undermining the credibility of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other security institutions[4].

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts a policy of humanitarian intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. government could adopt a de facto policy of intervening in humanitarian crises when it is capable of doing so, and when intervention can plausibly halt mass violence. The policy need not be formalized, stated or written down, but need only be inferred from the actions of the U.S. The U.S. could adopt the following criteria for intervention:

“1. The actual or anticipated loss of life substantially exceeds the lives lost to violence in the United States.
2. The military operation to stop the massive loss of life would not put at risk anything close to the number of lives it would save.
3. The United States is able to secure the participation of other countries in the military intervention[5].”

Risk:  Even with military units prepared for and devoted to humanitarian intervention, it is possible a successful intervention will require a larger force than the U.S. is able to commit, thus possibly weakening the credibility of U.S. power in humanitarian crises. Commitment of too many units to intervention could harm America’s ability to defend allies or project power elsewhere in the world. An unsuccessful intervention, especially one with a large number of American casualties, could easily sour the American public on intervention, and produce a backlash against foreign commitments in general.

Gain:  Intervention can halt or reduce destabilizing refugee flows by ending mass killing. It can also help guarantee American moral leadership on the world stage, as the great power that cares about humanity especially if contrasted with such atrocities as Chinese abuse of Uighurs or Russian bombing of Syrian hospitals. The saving of lives in a humanitarian intervention adds a moral benefit to the strategic benefits of action.

Option #2:  The U.S. adopts a policy of non-intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. could refuse to intervene to halt atrocities, even in cases where intervention is widely believed to be able to stop mass violence. Rather than intervening in some cases but not others, as has been the case in the last three decades, or intervening whenever possible, the U.S. could be consistent in its refusal to use force to halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other atrocities. Absent a formal declaration of atrocity prevention as a vital national security interest, it would not intervene in such conflicts.

Risk:  A policy of non-intervention risks bringing moral condemnation upon the United States, from the international community and from portions of the U.S. population. The U.S. risks surrendering its moral position as the world’s most powerful defender of liberal values and human rights. Furthermore, refugee flows from ongoing conflicts threaten to further destabilize societies and reduce populations’ trust in liberal democracy and international institutions.

Gain:  Non-intervention lowers the risk of U.S. military power being weakened before a potential conflict with China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. This option helps the U.S. avoid charges of inconsistency that result from intervention in some humanitarian crises but not others. The U.S. could choose to ignore the world’s condemnation, and concern itself purely with its own interests. Finally, non-intervention allows other countries to bear the burden of global stability in an increasingly multi-polar age, an age in which U.S. power is in relative decline.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hill, Evan and Christiaan Triebert. “12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.” New York Times, October 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/world/middleeast/russia-bombing-syrian-hospitals.html

[2] “Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050: World Bank Report.” World Bank, March 19, 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/03/19/climate-change-could-force-over-140-million-to-migrate-within-countries-by-2050-world-bank-report

[3] Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” Atlantic, September 2001. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571

[4] Daalder, Ivo H. “Decision to Intervene: How the War in Bosnia Ended.” Brookings Institution, December 1, 1998. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/decision-to-intervene-how-the-war-in-bosnia-ended

[5] Solarz, Stephen J. “When to Go in.” Blueprint Magazine, January 1, 2000. https://web.archive.org/web/20070311054019/http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=1126&kaid=124&subid=158

Mass Killings Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers United States

U.S. Options to Combat Chinese Technological Hegemony

Ilyar Dulat, Kayla Ibrahim, Morgan Rose, Madison Sargeant, and Tyler Wilkins are Interns at the College of Information and Cyberspace at the National Defense UniversityDivergent 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:  China’s technological rise threatens U.S. interests both on and off the battlefield.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States Government.

Background:  Xi Jinping, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. affirmed in 2012 that China is acting to redefine the international world order through revisionist policies[1]. These policies foster an environment open to authoritarianism thus undermining Western liberal values. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) utilizes emerging technologies to restrict individual freedoms of Chinese citizens, in and out of cyberspace. Subsequently, Chinese companies have exported this freedom-restricting technology to other countries, such as Ethiopia and Iran, for little cost. These technologies, which include Artificial Intelligence-based surveillance systems and nationalized Internet services, allow authoritarian governments to effectively suppress political dissent and discourse within their states. Essentially monopolizing the tech industry through low prices, China hopes to gain the loyalty of these states to obtain the political clout necessary to overcome the United States as the global hegemon.

Significance:  Among the technologies China is pursuing, 5G is of particular interest to the U.S.  If China becomes the leader of 5G network technologies and artificial intelligence, this will allow for opportunities to disrupt the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. China has been able to aid regimes and fragmented democracies in repressing freedom of speech and restricting human rights using “digital tools of surveillance and control[2].” Furthermore, China’s National Security Law of 2015 requires all Chinese tech companies’ compliance with the CCP. These Chinese tech companies are legally bound to share data and information housed on Chinese technology, both in-state and abroad. They are also required to remain silent about their disclosure of private data to the CCP. As such, information about private citizens and governments around the world is provided to the Chinese government without transparency. By deploying hardware and software for countries seeking to expand their networks, the CCP could use its authority over domestic tech companies to gain access to information transferred over Chinese built networks, posing a significant threat to the national security interests of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners. With China leading 5G, the military forces of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would be restricted in their ability to rely on indigenous telecoms abroad, which could cripple operations critical to U.S. interests [3]. This risk becomes even greater with the threat of U.S. Allies and Partners adopting Chinese 5G infrastructure, despite the harm this move would do to information sharing with the United States.

If China continues its current trajectory, the U.S. and its advocacy for personal freedoms will grow increasingly marginal in the discussion of human rights in the digital age. In light of the increasing importance of the cyber domain, the United States cannot afford to assume that its global leadership will seamlessly transfer to, and maintain itself within, cyberspace. The United States’ position as a leader in cyber technology is under threat unless it vigilantly pursues leadership in advancing and regulating the exchange of digital information.

Option #1:  Domestic Investment.

The U.S. government could facilitate a favorable environment for the development of 5G infrastructure through domestic telecom providers. Thus far, Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have been able to outbid major European companies for 5G contracts. American companies that are developing 5G infrastructure are not large enough to compete at this time. By investing in 5G development domestically, the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would have 5G options other than Huawei and ZTE available to them. This option provides American companies with a playing field equal to their Chinese counterparts.

Risk:  Congressional approval to fund 5G infrastructure development will prove to be a major obstacle. Funding a development project can quickly become a bipartisan issue. Fiscal conservatives might argue that markets should drive development, while those who believe in strong government oversight might argue that the government should spearhead 5G development. Additionally, government subsidized projects have previously failed. As such, there is no guarantee 5G will be different.

Gain:  By investing in domestic telecommunication companies, the United States can remain independent from Chinese infrastructure by mitigating further Chinese expansion. With the U.S. investing domestically and giving subsidies to companies such as Qualcomm and Verizon, American companies can develop their technology faster in an attempt to compete with Huawei and ZTE.

Option #2:  Foreign Subsidization.

The U.S. supports European competitors Nokia and Ericsson, through loans and subsidies, against Huawei and ZTE. In doing so, the United States could offer a conduit for these companies to produce 5G technology at a more competitive price. By providing loans and subsidies to these European companies, the United States delivers a means for these companies to offer more competitive prices and possibly outbid Huawei and ZTE.

Risk:  The American people may be hostile towards a policy that provides U.S. tax dollars to foreign entities. While the U.S. can provide stipulations that come with the funding provided, the U.S. ultimately sacrifices much of the control over the development and implementation of 5G infrastructure.

Gain:  Supporting European tech companies such as Nokia and Ericsson would help deter allied nations from investing in Chinese 5G infrastructure. This option would reinforce the U.S.’s commitment to its European allies, and serve as a reminder that the United States maintains its position as the leader of the liberal international order. Most importantly, this option makes friendlier telecommunications companies more competitive in international markets.

Other Comments:  Both options above would also include the U.S. defining regulations and enforcement mechanisms to promote the fair usage of cyberspace. This fair use would be a significant deviation from a history of loosely defined principles. In pursuit of this fair use, the United States could join the Cyber Operations Resilience Alliance, and encourage legislation within the alliance that invests in democratic states’ cyber capabilities and administers clearly defined principles of digital freedom and the cyber domain.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Economy, Elizabeth C. “China’s New Revolution.” Foreign Affairs. June 10, 2019. Accessed July 31, 2019. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution.

[2] Chhabra, Tarun. “The China Challenge, Democracy, and U.S. Grand Strategy.” Democracy & Disorder, February 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-china-challenge-democracy-and-u-s-grand-strategy/.

[3] “The Overlooked Military Implications of the 5G Debate.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/overlooked-military-implications-5g-debate.

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming China (People's Republic of China) Cyberspace Emerging Technology Ilyar Dulat Kayla Ibrahim Madison Sargeant Morgan Rose Option Papers Tyler Wilkins United States

Options for a Joint Support Service

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hughes has served in roles from Platoon Leader to the Joint Staff with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and operational deployments to Africa and Haiti.  He is presently the Commander of 10th Field Hospital, a 148 bed deployable hospital.  He can be found on Twitter @medical_leader, manages the Medical Service Corps Leader Development Facebook page, and writes for The Medical Leader.  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 Department of Defense will reform its business practices to gain the full benefit of every dollar spent, and to gain and hold the trust of the American people. We must be good stewards of the tax dollars allocated to us. Results and accountability matter[1].” – Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

Date Originally Written:  December 24, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without dynamic modernization solutions the DoD will be unable to sharpen the American Military’s competitive edge and realize the National Defense Strategy’s vision of a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force. While DoD’s strategic guidance has evolved, its force structure has not.

Background:  Common support roles across the military create redundant overhead, separate doctrines, equipment and force designs, development and acquisition processes, and education and recruiting programs. Resources are scarce, yet organizations within DoD compete against each other developing three of everything when the DoD only requires one joint capability to support the operational requirement.

The Department’s sloth-like system and redundant capabilities across services create an opportunity for change. Reform and efficiencies realized in manpower, resources, and overhead cost directly support Lines of Effort One and Three of the National Defense Strategy[2]. Consolidation efforts could realize a 20-40% overhead[3], training, and equipment savings while providing the Joint Force access to low density, high demand capabilities.  Each Armed Service recruits, trains, and educates; develops policy, doctrine, and equipment; and manages careers separately for similar requirements. A review of similar capabilities across the services illustrates 16 commodities that could possibly be consolidated:

  • Human Resources
  • Logistics
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Intelligence
  • Medical
  • Cyber
  • Public Affairs
  • Religious
  • Finance
  • Contracting
  • Legal
  • Military Police / Criminal Investigation Forces
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
  • Operations Research/Systems Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulations

Significance:  Similar reform efforts – health care transition from the services to the Defense Health Agency – have or will produce significant savings and efficiencies. Dollars saved focus scarce resources on combat readiness and lethality at the tip of the spear.

Option #1:  The DoD establishes a separate Armed Service focused on Joint Support.

The commodities listed above are consolidated into a separate Joint Support Service with Title 10 authorities commensurate with line requirements. The line (other Services) provides the requirement and “buys” what they need. This system is similar to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) relationship with the U.S. Navy (USN) regarding medical support. In this relationship the USMC defines their requirement and “buys” the commodity from the USN.

Risk:  Armed Service requirements documents are esoteric and do not allow the Joint Support Service to plan for force structure and requirements to meet those concepts.

Gain:  Option #1 ensures commonality and interoperability for the Joint Force (e.g., one scalable Damage Control Surgery set versus 8-10 service sets; fuel distribution systems that can support all forces; management of low density, high demand assets (Trauma Surgeons, Chaplains etc)).

Option #2:  The DoD pursues “Pockets of Excellence.”

The commodities listed above are centralized into a single existing Armed Service. The Secretary of Defense would redesign or select an Armed Service to manage a commodity, removing it from the other Armed Services. The lead Armed Service for a specific commodity then produces capacity that meets other Armed Service’s operational demands while building capability, doctrine, equipment, education and recruiting center of excellence for that commodity.

Risk:  The Armed Services, with resident expertise in specific commodities may impose their doctrine on other services instead of building a true joint capability that supports line operations across multiple Armed Services.

Gain:  The Armed Services are more likely to support this effort if they receive the manpower and appropriations increasing their bottom line.

Option #3:  Hybrid.

Each Armed Service develops commodity talent at the junior officer / Non-Commissioned Officer level much like today. This talent transfers into the Joint Support Service, providing support at “Echelons above Brigade,” later in their career.

Risk:  This option increases overhead in the Department by building a Joint Support Force without eliminating existing Armed Service requirements.

Gain:  This option would create a Joint Support Force that brings understanding of Armed Service systems, culture, and requirements.

Other Comments:  Lethality requires a support force organized for innovation that delivers performance at the speed of relevance, commensurate with line operational requirements, using a global operating model. The Armed Services hurt themselves by competing within the DoD. This competing leaves the overall DoD unable to produce a streamlined force using rapid, iterative approaches from development to fielding, that directly supporting the defeat of U.S. enemies, while protecting the American people and their vital interests at a sustainable cost to the taxpayer.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mattis, J. N. (2018, January 19). Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/

[2] LOE 1: Rebuilding Military Readiness as we build a more lethal Joint Force; LOE 2: Reform the Department’s business practices for greater performance and affordability.

[3] German military reform forecasted a reduced total force by 18% while tripling the readiness force availability to support crisis management deployments. Larger cost savings should be expected in a force that is much larger than the German military. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/opinion/30thu2.html

 

 

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Jason Hughes Option Papers United States

Assessing a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds a M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  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 a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

Date Originally Written:  December 23, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes a policy of Détente, easing tension, with China would benefit the U.S. to avoid a military confrontation and increase economic opportunities between major powers.

Summary:  Any U.S. confrontation with China, which is the world’s second-largest economy and an emerging major power, would impact the global economy. The U.S. and its allies and partners cannot sever ties with China due to economic interdependencies. For these reasons, a policy of Détente with China that balances cooperation and deterrence to avoid a military confrontation would not only benefit the U.S. but the entire world.

Text:  In 1971 the United States set the conditions to integrate China into the international community. That year U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Beijing twice, and the United States voted for China’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council[1]. Now, 48 years later, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is saying that “China is the greatest threat the U.S. faces[2].” As an emerging major power, China’s foreign policy and competitive economy can threaten U.S. interests in the long-term.

To secure U.S. interests, a U.S. policy of Détente would ease U.S. tensions with China thus avoiding a military confrontation that could expand on a global scale. According to author Fareed Zakaria, “The U.S. risks squandering the hard-won gains from four decades of engagement with China, encouraging Beijing to adopt confrontational policies of its own, and leading the world’s two largest economies into a treacherous conflict of unknown scale and scope that will inevitably cause decades of instability and insecurity[3].” In a globalized world, the U.S. and several allies are economically interdependent, and any confrontation with China would have a drastic effect on the global economy. For this reason, improved U.S. relations with China would increase economic opportunities and reduce the risk of confrontation.

China is the second-largest economy and the largest trading partner in the world. As a result of this, any confrontation, either economically or militarily, will drastically impact the entire world. China’s recent economic decline and current U.S. trade disputes demonstrate China’s impact on the global economy. For example, Japan, China’s second-largest trading partner, blames China’s economic downturn for its first global trade deficit (1.2 trillion yen) since 2015[4]. Understanding China’s economic ties will likely drive U.S. policy development towards China. A China policy taking into account economic cooperation in areas of mutual interest will reduce the risk of a global market crash.

Beyond economic concerns, a U.S. policy towards China could include an arms agreement to limit a potential arms race and identify areas of cooperative research between the two countries. A good example is the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) that was part of the 1972 Nixon-Kissinger strategy of Détente with the Soviet Union[5]. Although negotiations over various strategic delivery systems (nuclear) continued through several administrations, this treaty did establish the necessary groundwork to prevent an accidental escalation of a nuclear war. A similar model to SALT with China would avoid the risk of confrontation and promote peace between major powers. A treaty between both countries does not imply that deterrence is not an option to manage any military ambitions China may have, for example, with Taiwan and the South China Sea.

In addition to economic and arms concerns, a policy of cooperation in technology and space with China would benefit the U.S. diplomatically and economically. During the Cold War, the U.S. pursued cooperative space research with the former Soviet Union. Although tensions at the time limited the extent of the cooperation, Russia’s technological contributions, pre- and post-Cold War, did benefit with establishing the International Space Station[6]. Additionally, cooperation in space also promoted U.S. foreign policy objectives in areas such as nonproliferation and arms control with Russia. Involving China in selected areas of cooperation in technology and space can ease tensions and increase diplomatic engagements in areas of mutual interests for both countries. Moreover, this space involvement can provide opportunities for the U.S. to engage with China on their nuclear program as they continue to build out their military capabilities.

The U.S. cannot sever ties with China due to the economic interdependence between China, the U.S., and its allies and partners. Additionally, several U.S. based companies want access to the growing market in China. According to the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), William Reinsch, “With 1.2 billion people, you can’t be a multinational company or a global company without some kind of presence there one way or the other[7].” Hence, U.S. companies would benefit from a U.S. policy that eases tension and increases economic ties with China. However, the topic of human rights abuses, censorship, and mass surveillance in China will continue to be debated between U.S. businesses, the U.S. government, and China.

China’s domestic behavior and foreign policy do threaten the liberal international order, for example, with human rights. However, severing ties with China would empower them to continue those repressive behaviors and influence other developing countries to follow suit. A U.S. policy that increases relations with China can provide the necessary leverage in the future to reinforce their commitment to human rights and promote peace within their borders.

For the U.S., a multi-faceted policy of Détente, compared to severing ties with from China, would better benefit the nation in the long-term. According to the chief economist at Enodo Economics, Diana Choyleva, severing ties with from China “…would mean cost-push inflation, it would mean the slowing down of innovation and technological progress, it would mean that each economy trying to solve the issues of increased inequality will find it that much harder to do so[8].” For this reason, a policy of Détente with China that balances cooperation and deterrence to avoid a military confrontation would not only benefit the U.S. but the entire world.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute (n.d.). Rapprochement with China, 1972. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1969-1976/rapprochement-china

[2] Schwartz, I. (2018). Pompeo: China Is The Greatest Threat U.S. Faces. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/12/10/pompeo_china_is_the_greatest_threat_us_faces.html

[3] Zakaria, F. (2019). The New China Scare. Foreign Affairs, 99(1), 52–69. DOI: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2019-12-06/new-china-scare

[4] Johnston, M. (2019). China’s Top Trading Partners. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/092815/chinas-top-trading-partners.asp 

[5] United States Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute (n.d.). Strategic Arms Limitations Talks/Treaty (SALT) I and II. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1969-1976/salt 

[6] U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1995). U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space, OTA-ISS-618. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9546/9546.PDF 

[7] Disis, J. (2019). American companies are taking enormous risks to do business in China. Retrieved December 23, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/11/business/us-china-trade-war-business/index.html 

[8] Mistreanu, S. (2019). Beyond ‘Decoupling’: How China Will Reshape Global Trade In 2020 . Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/siminamistreanu/2019/12/03/beyond-decoupling-how-china-will-reshape-global-trade-in-2020/#44bda74065b7 

 

Assad Raza Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Détente / Detente

An Assessment of the Global War on Terror via Deterrence Theory

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


Title:  An Assessment of the Global War on Terror via Deterrence Theory

Date Originally Written:  December 27, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the 2017 National Security Strategy marked an end to the Global War on Terrorism.  Based upon this belief, it is important to start assessing U.S. policy during the Global War on Terrorism era through multiple theoretical lenses and practical frameworks to understand its successes and failures.

Summary:  The Global War on Terrorism’s goal was deterrence based — preventing terror attacks against the U.S. and extending that deterrence to other nations through a policy of denial and punishment. While the U.S. element of this goal was successful, the extension part was not as both terrorism deaths and the number of attacks from 2015-2019 still exceed pre-Global War on Terrorism levels, raising questions about the validity of deterring terror.

Text:  On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda conducted a series of coordinated attacks on the United States marking an emergence of a new era of American foreign policy. Nine days later before a joint session of Congress, President George W. Bush declared, “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated[1].” Bush’s speech ushered in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), a construct that would define the lens and transactional medium through which U.S. policy makers would shape foreign policy for the next 16 years.

The 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS) codified Bush’s charge by clearly defining that to achieve its strategic interests the United States will: “strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends[2].” In addition to the overarching principles within the NSS, two additional policy documents guided the initial operationalizing of the GWOT, the National Strategy for Homeland Security and the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. The former focused on preventing terrorist attacks within and against the United States while the ladder established a strategy to “Identify and defuse threats before they reach our borders[3].” These two documents outlined the GWOT’s foundational objectives that endured throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, a narrow goal of protecting the America and Americans and a comprehensive objective of averting international terrorist attacks by both defeating named terrorist organizations and preventing new ones to form.

Despite the 2006 NSS’s declaration that “terrorists cannot be deterred[4],” the foundational documents above clearly establish objectives based on deterrence. At its core, the GWOT sought to prevent a specific behavior, terrorism, against the United States and partners by means of both core tenets of deterrence, denial and punishment. Deterrence, simply put, is an agent preventing another agent from undertaking unwanted action or behaviors. The vast majority of deterrence theories identify two primary methods through which nations can deter others from taking undesirable actions — denial and punishment. The former increases the cost of conducting unwanted behaviors and decreases the chance of their success while the ladder threatens punitive action against agents who engage in such behaviors. Furthermore, it is important to analyze the scope of a nation’s deterrence efforts by defining if they are direct and concentrated only on preventing action against the nation itself or extended beyond national borders to other agents[5].

The GWOT utilized a bifurcated approach of denial by first directly hardening the United States homeland from terrorist attack by establishing new government agencies and implementing laws and structures that denied terrorists the opportunity to attack the United States. Secondly, the United States extended the GWOT to third parties by proactively attempting to deny terrorists the economic, social, and cultural conditions needed to thrive and form through development and democracy building efforts. Concurrently, the United States waged an aggressive punitive based deterrent policy against those that engaged and supported terror, including state actors, attempting to extend deterrence globally. If one is to examine the amount of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding that Congress authorized as part of the aforementioned efforts, it becomes clear that DoD-led punitive deterrence was the emphasized and preferred method throughout the GWOT. Of the nearly $2 Trillion spent on the GWOT-related OCO funding from 2001 to 2019 the U.S. Government allocated 92% towards DoD efforts, 8% for the U.S. Agency for International Development and Department of State development programs, and less than 1% on Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard operations[6]. Punitive deterrence presents unique challenges against non-state actors who have no territorial sovereignty and often coexist with neutral civilian populations making preemptive and disciplinary action a calculated risk as it has the potential to support recruitment and propaganda narratives and counter ongoing denial efforts. Furthermore, punitive and preemptive actions against state actors also present the prospective of creating instability and under governed spaces conditions in which terrorist organizations form and thrive.

If one is to assess at the goal of extended global deterrence then the GWOT failed to achieve its objective as global terrorism related deaths were almost three and half times higher in 2017 (26,445) than in 2001 (7729) with numbers of attacks following similar growth rates[7]. Additionally, the GWOT period saw the rise of new violent extremist organizations such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State, despite ongoing extended denial efforts and punitive strikes and raids. Furthermore, two nations at the center of U.S. GWOT efforts, Afghanistan and Iraq, have remained the most impacted by terror despite nearly two decades of U.S. efforts[8]. Even longstanding U.S. treaty allies such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries have had their terror rates increase during the GWOT period. Despite the overall increase in global terror rates throughout the GWOT period, the past four years (2015-2019) have witnessed a decline in both deaths and number of attacks but still exceeds pre-GWOT levels.

The GWOT goal of direct deterrence has been far more successful than its extended counterpart as there have been no attacks on U.S soil that are comparable to the scale of 9/11. Moreover, from 2002 to 2018, North America experienced 431 terrorist attacks and 317 related deaths, only Central America and the Caribbean saw lower rates with 212 and 164 respectively; for comparison, Europe experienced 4290 attacks and 2496 deaths during the same period[9]. Despite the relative success of preventing terrorism compared to other regions, the United States still experienced deadly terrorist attacks from across the spectrum of ideologies such as the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 and El Paso shooting of 2017.

In closing, assessing the GWOT through the lens of deterrence presents mixed results based on the scope of efforts; direct deterrence achieved far greater outcomes than extended efforts with less allocated funding. Furthermore, the GWOT raises questions about the validity of deterring non-state actors through punitive measures, the prospects of waging war against a tactic, and if a given level of terrorism is a constant risk within the modern world. U.S. Africa Command’s 2019 strategic priority of reducing terror threats to a “level manageable by internal security forces[10]” highlights a strategic shift in thinking and the acceptance of inherent levels of global terrorist activity.


Endnotes:

[1] Gregg, Gary L. “George W. Bush: Foreign Affairs.” The Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/president/gwbush/foreign-affairs. (retrieved 29Nov19)

[2] Bush, George W. , National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Officer of the President, Washington DC, Washington United States 2002

[3] Bush, George W., National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. Executive Officer of the President, Washington DC, Washington United States 2006

[4] Bush, George W., National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Officer of the President, Washington DC, Washington United States 2006

[5] Mazarr, Michael J. Understanding Deterrence. RAND 2018

[6] Mazarr, Michael J. Understanding Deterrence. RAND 2018 McGarry, Brendan W. and Morgenstern, Emily M. “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status.” Library of Congress. Washington D 2019

[7] McGarry, Brendan W. and Morgenstern, Emily M. “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status.” Library of Congress. Washington D 2019 Global Terrorism Database https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?search=&sa.x=54&sa.y=3

[8] Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism, Sydney, November 2019. Available from: http://visionofhumanity.org/reports (accessed 20 Dec 2019).

[9] Ibid

[10] Waldhauser, Thomas. United States Africa Command Posture Statement. Washington DC: DoD, 2019.

Assessment Papers Deterrence James P. Micciche Violent Extremism

An Assessment of the Forest Brothers’ Response to Invasion of the Baltics

Adam Paul Hunt is a freelance writer with a background in political science.  Adam wide-ranging writing has been featured in Library Journal, Premier Guitar, and Dirt Rag.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  An Assessment of the Forest Brothers’ Response to Invasion of the Baltics

Date Originally Written:  November 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that in today’s security environment many lessons can be learned from how the Baltic nations historically defended themselves against a militarily superior foe.

Summary:  According to the Rand Corporation, Russia could invade the Baltic nations and reach the capitols of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania within 60 hours[1].  The Baltic nations are not strangers to defending themselves against invasion.  History shows that Baltic-based resistance groups, though their actions may be complicated or undesired, can penalize a militarily superior foe.

Text:  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the election of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia in 1999, the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have felt uneasy concerning their larger and more powerful Russian neighbor. The Baltic States have a long history of resisting Russian aggression, but as with most histories, the relationship between the Baltic States and Russia is complex and sometimes the line between hero and villain is indistinct.

During the Russian Revolution of 1905, small groups of Baltic peasants and teachers sought refuge from Tsarist forces and hid in the forests. These groups become known as The Forest Brothers[2]. After the chaos of World War I and the 1918 Bolshevik revolution, the Baltic States were able to break away from Russia. In 1940 that independence would come to a halt, with the Soviets seizing control of the Baltic States. As in 1905, small groups fled into the forests and attempted to resist the Soviets and the German Nazis. Some of The Forest Brother groups were hopeful that they could depend on the 1941 Atlantic Charter signatories, the United Kingdom and the United States, to come to their aid. The lack of action of the Atlantic Charter nations, among other factors, would eventually doom the resistance group efforts to failure[3].

In 1941, the first resistance group in Lithuania called the Lithuanian Activist Front, was formed to fight the Soviets[4]. A year later, The Supreme Committee for Liberation of Lithuania was set up to resist Nazi occupation. Curiously, partisan resistance did not start in earnest until 1944, even though the resistance would last until 1953 and the last Lithuanian partisan, Benediktas Mikulis, would be arrested in 1971[5]. While the exact numbers of those that took up arms against the Soviets are unknown, it’s estimated that between 30,000 – 50,000 did and another 50,000 people were active helpers; which means 1-20 Lithuanians were active in the struggle for independence[6]. The pinnacle of partisan efforts in 1945 clearly represents a culminating point that forced the Lithuanian resistance movement to shift their operations drastically. Ultimately, based on the totality of evidence, this 1945 culminating point split the resistance into two stages: 1) 1944-1945 – conventional war operations, a period of traditional offensive warfare by an organized partisan movement; and 2) 1946-1953 – irregular warfare operations, a period of unremitting decline by a significantly diminished resistance, relegated to a more defensive posture and small scale offensive operations.

Two men, Povilas Plechavičius[7][8] and Adolfas Ramanauskas[9][10] (“Vanagas”)would emerge as during World War II as symbols of Lithuanian independence. Plechavičius had been involved in the 1918 war of independence and the 1926 Lithuanian coup d’état that overthrew Lithuanian President Kazys Grinius. Ramanauskas was an American of Lithuanian dissent who became a platoon commander to the chairman of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters.

By 1944, the tide had started to turn against Germany. Nazi occupation forces had begun conscripting members of the German minority in Estonia and Latvia into the Waffen-SS. In keeping with blurring the line between hero and villain, Povilas Plechavičius cooperated with SS Obergruppenführer, and police general Friedrich Jackeln and Chief-of-Staff of the Northern Front Field Marshal Walther Model[11]. However, Plechavičius refused Jackeln’s demand for a Lithuanian SS division[12] and formed a local group called the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force instead[13][14].

One of the most famous of the Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisans was Adolfas Ramanauskas[15]. Ramanauskas was born 1918 in Connecticut, United States of America, but in 1921 he and his family moved to Lithuania. While in Lithuania he would eventually study at the Kanus War School, join the reserve forces, rise to the rank of second lieutenant, and participate in the anti-Soviet uprising in 1941.

Ramanauskas organized a sizable resistance group called the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Union (LLKS) and directly engaged the Soviet Ministry of Interior’s forces, the NKVD. The group’s most daring assault was an effort to free prisoners located in Merkinė and destroy Soviet records. The attack was only partly successful, ending in the destruction of the records[16]. Merkinė was also the site of the extinction of 854 Jews by fellow Lithuanians. Their bodies were deposited in a mass grave near the Jewish cemetery[17].

One of the controversies surrounding Ramanauskas is the event of July 19, 1941. Along with German forces, the LLKS partisans held partial control of the Lithuanian town of Druskininkai and participated in the roundup of communists and Jews, and the disarming of Poles. Those detained were then transported to the Treblinka death camp[18].

At the end of World War II, The Forest Brothers would continue to defy Soviet occupation and hope that the United States and Great Britain would support their resistance[19]. Plechavičius ordered his men to disband and organize resistance groups to fight Soviet occupation. Plechavičius would eventually be arrested by the Soviets and deported to Latvia. In 1949, Plechavičius moved to the United States and would die in 1973[20].

Ramanauskas would continue to resist Soviet occupation, but due to a series of defeats and lack of outside support, he would eventually suspend armed resistance in favor of passive resistance and publish newspapers in Russian and Lithuanian. He would continue to evade Soviet authorities until his arrest in 1956. Ramanauskas would be tortured by the Soviet Committee for State Security, the KGB, and was eventually executed in 1957[21].

The occupation of Lithuania by the Third Reich and the Soviet Union was brutal. Between extermination campaigns by the Wehrmacht and Einsatzgruppen, mass deportations (notably operations Vesna, Priboli, and Osen), and “Sovietization” campaign, it’s estimated that between 60-70,000 Lithuanians were forced into exile[22]. Between 1940 and 1944, 460,000 civilians and military personnel were killed (out of a population of 2,442,000). Also, in 1953 nearly 120,000 people, (about 5% of the population) would be deported. Lastly, the Germans exterminated between 143,000-195,000 Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews).

The lessons that can be learned from Lithuania are many, and range from: history is messy, the distinction between hero and villain isn’t always clear, commitments like Atlantic Charter are not always honored, and changing tactics as circumstances change is necessary, especially against superior forces.


Endnotes:

[1] Kyle, J. (2019, January 16), “Contextualizing Russia and the Baltic States,” Retrieved December 15, 2013, from https://www.fpri.org/article/2019/01/contextualizing-russia-and-the-baltic-states/.

[2] Woods, Alan. “Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution Archived 2012-12-10,” Wellred Publications, London, 1999.

[3] Leskys, Major Vylius M. United States Army. “‘Forest Brothers,’ 1945: The culmination of the Lithuanian Partisan movement” Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Military Studies. United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, 2009.

[4] Piotrowski,Tadeusz, “Poland’s Holocaust”, McFarland & Company, 1997

[5] Buttar, Prit, “Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II” Osprey Publishing, 2015.

[6] Ruin, Pahl, “The forest brothers – heroes & villains of the partisan war in Lithuania” Baltic Worlds http://balticworlds.com/the-forest-brothers-heroes-villains/, 2016.

[7] Povilas Plechavičius, http://partizanai.org/gen-povilas-plechavicius

[8] Roszkowski,Wojciech and Kofman, Jan, “Biographical Dictionary of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century” Routledge, 2008.

[9] Adolfas Ramanauskas, http://www.draugas.org/news/adolfas-ramanauskas-the-hawk-vs-the-ussr/

[10] “Ceremony of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas state funeral,” Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania, https://kam.lt/en/ceremony_of_adolfas_ramanauskas-vanagas_state_funeral.html 

[11] Povilas Plechavičius, http://partizanai.org/gen-povilas-plechavicius

[12] Villani, Gerry and Georg, Jennifer, “Soldiers of Germania – The European volunteers of the Waffen SS”. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.

[13] “Karys Nr. 2 (2018) 2014 m.” (PDF). Karys: 46–52. 2014, https://kam.lt/download/39937/maketas%20visas.pdf, Retrieved 2 October 2019.

[14] Eidintas, Alfonsas et al., “The History of Lithuania. 2nd rev. ed”. Vilnius: Eugrimas, 2015.

[15] Adolfas Ramanauskas, https://www.baltictimes.com/lithuania_pays_tribute_to_partisan_commander_ramanauskas-vanagas_in_state_funeral/

[16] Adolfas Ramanauskas, https://peoplepill.com/people/adolfas-ramanauskas/

[17] Balčiūnas, Evaldas, “Footprints of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas in the Mass Murder of the Jews of Druskininkai” http://defendinghistory.com/footprints-adolfas-ramanauskas-vanagas-mass-murder-jews-druskininkai/65177, 2014.

[18] Balčiūnas, Evaldas, “Footprints of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas in the Mass Murder of the Jews of Druskininkai” http://defendinghistory.com/footprints-adolfas-ramanauskas-vanagas-mass-murder-jews-druskininkai/65177, 2014.

[19] Leskys, Major Vylius M. United States Army. “‘Forest Brothers,’ 1945: The culmination of the Lithuanian Partisan movement” Submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Military Studies. United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Marine Corps University, 2009.

[20] Povilas Plechavičius, http://partizanai.org/gen-povilas-plechavicius

[21] Adolfas Ramanauskas, http://www.draugas.org/news/adolfas-ramanauskas-the-hawk-vs-the-ussr/

[22] “The Genocidal Temptation: Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Rwanda, and Beyond,” edited by Robert S. Frey, 2004, https://books.google.com/books?id=NkE1LGCxiR0C&lpg=PA79&dq=Soviet%20deportations%20from%20Lithuania&lr&pg=PA79#v=onepage&q=Soviet%20deportations%20from%20Lithuania&f=false

Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia Germany Irregular Forces Latvia Lithuania Russia

An Assessment of the National Security Impact of Digital Sovereignty

Kathleen Cassedy is an independent contractor and open source specialist. She spent the last three years identifying, cataloging, and analyzing modern Russian and Chinese political and economic warfare efforts; the role of foreign influence operations in gray zone problem sets; global influence of multi-national entities, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals; and virtual sovereignty, digital agency, and decentralized finance/cryptocurrency. She tweets @Katnip95352013.

Ian Conway manages Helios Global, Inc., a risk analysis consultancy that specializes in applied research and analysis of asymmetric threats. Prior to conducting a multi-year study of political warfare operations and economic subversion, he supported DoD and homeland security programs focused on counterterrorism, counterproliferation, hard and deeply buried targets, and critical infrastructure protection.

Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the National Security Impact of Digital Sovereignty

Date Originally Written:  December 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that traditional notions of citizenship and sovereignty are rapidly changing and that the U.S. could gain competitive advantage by embracing a tiered citizenship model, including e-residency.

Summary:  Money, people, and companies drove globalization’s disruption of centuries of power domination by nation-states, while increasing the agency and autonomy of corporations and individuals. The balance of power has shifted, and if governments do not learn how to adapt, they will be relegated to the back seat in influence and decision making for this century. One opportunity for adaptation lies in embracing, not rejecting, digital sovereignty.

Text:  In the past 25 years, the globalization of the world’s economic systems and the introduction of Internet ubiquity have had profound effects on humankind and centuries-old governance structures. Electronic commerce has transformed international supply chain dynamics and business finance. Physical borders have become less meaningful in the face of digital connectedness and supranational economic zones. The largest multinational corporations have market caps which challenge or exceed the gross domestic product of most of the countries in the world. These changes have made international transactions – and investments – executable with the click of a button, transactions that once required weeks or months of travel to finalize.

Facilitating and empowering the citizens of the world to engage in the global marketplace has created a new dynamic. This dynamic involves the provision of safety and security of the people being increasingly transferred to the private sector thus forcing governments to outsource their most basic sovereign responsibility and reserving the most complete and effective solutions for those who can afford them. This outsourcing includes fiscal security (or social welfare), especially in free market economies where the responsibility for savings and investment is on the individual, not the government. As safety and security – personal and fiscal – becomes further privatized, individuals are taking steps to wrest control of themselves – their identities, their businesses, and their freedom of movement – from the state. Individuals want to exercise self-determination and attain individual sovereignty in the globalized world. This desire leaves the nation state, particularly in western democracies, in a challenging position. How does a government encourage self-sufficiency (often because states can no longer afford the associated costs) and democracy when globalized citizens are redefining what it means to be a citizen?

The first war of the 21st century, the Global War on Terrorism, was one of individuals disenfranchised from the state developing subnational, virtual organizations to employ terror and insurgent tactics to fight the nation states’ monopoly on power. The second war – already well underway but one that governments have been slow to recognize and engage – is great power competition short of kinetic action, to remake the geopolitical balance of power into multi-polar spheres of influence. The third war this century may likely be over amassing talent and capital, which in turn drives economic power. America’s near-peer adversaries, particularly China[1], are already moving aggressively to increase their global hegemony for this century, using all means of state power available. How can America counter its near-peers? The U.S. could position itself to exert superiority in the expanding competition for wealth by proactively embracing self-determination and individual autonomy as expressed by the digital sovereignty movement.

Digital sovereignty is the ultimate expression of free market capitalism. If global citizens have freedom of movement – and of capital, access to markets, encouragement to start businesses – they will choose the market and the society with the fewest barriers to entry. Digital sovereignty gives the advantage to countries who operate on free market capitalism and self-determination. Digital sovereignty is also an unexpected counter to China’s and Russia’s authoritarian models, thus disrupting the momentum that both those competitors have gained during the great power competition. In addition to acting as a disrupter in global geopolitics, proactive acceptance and adoption of digital sovereignty opens new potential tax and economic boosts to the U.S. Further, digital sovereignty could serve as an opportunity to break down barriers between Silicon Valley (particularly its techno-libertarians) and the U.S. government, by leveraging one of the tech elite’s most progressive socio-cultural concepts.

What might digital sovereignty look like in the U.S.? One approach is Estonia’s forward-looking experiments with e-residency[2] for business purposes but with the U.S. extending these ideas further to a tiered citizenship structure that includes U.S.-issued identity and travel benefits. One can be a citizen and contribute to the U.S. economy with or without living there. People can incorporate their business and conduct banking in the U.S., all using secure digital transactions. Stateless (by choice or by circumstance) entrepreneurs can receive travel documents in exchange for tax revenue. This is virtual citizenship.

The U.S. government could opt to act now to throw its weight behind digital sovereignty. This is a democratic ideal for the 21st century, and the U.S. has an opportunity to shape and influence the concept. This policy approach would pay homage to the Reagan-Bush model of free movement of labor. In this model, people don’t get full citizenship straight away, but they can legally work and pay taxes in the U.S. economy, while living where they like.

The U.S. government could create two tiers of citizenship. Full conventional citizenship – with voting privileges and other constitutionally guaranteed rights – could remain the domain of natural born and naturalized citizens. A second level of citizenship for the e-citizen could avoid the provision of entitlements but allow full access to the economy: free movement across borders, the ability to work, to start a business, to open a bank account. E-citizenship could be a path to earning full citizenship if that’s what the individual wants. If not, they can remain a virtual citizen, with some but not all privileges of full citizenship. Those who do wish to pursue full legal citizenship might begin contributing to the American economy and gain some benefits of association with the U.S., but they could do so from wherever they are currently located. This approach might also encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and hard work – the foundations of the American dream.

Both historically and at present – irrespective of what party is in office – the U.S. has always desired to attract immigrants that want the opportunity to pursue a better life for themselves and their children through hard work. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: the foundational concept of the United States. Accordingly, if the U.S. is the first great power to embrace and encourage digital sovereignty, acting in accordance with core American values, then the U.S. also shapes the future battlespace for the war for talent and capital by exerting first-mover advantage.


Endnotes:

[1] Shi, T. (2017, October 17). “Xi Plans to Turn China Into a Leading Global Power by 2050”. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-17/xi-to-put-his-stamp-on-chinese-history-at-congress-party-opening.

[2] Republic of Estonia. “The new digital nation: What is E-Residency?” Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://e-resident.gov.ee/.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Economic Factors Estonia United States

Call for Papers: Ethics in 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.

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Ethics in 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 February 15, 2020.

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

Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia.  He holds a Master’s Degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC.  His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy.  He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 30, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Summary:  Afghanistan is part of an American effort to create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles. This effort began in post-World War II reconstruction projects, the success of which rested on abstention from extending the project into countries like Russia and China and accommodating their security and military interests.

Text:  The rationale for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan can vary depending on whether one views the presence through a realist or liberal lens. On one hand, there is sufficient cause to suggest that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is based on realpolitik, where the U.S. is pursuing security and economic interests by thwarting the possibility of Afghanistan again becoming a transnational terrorist safe haven all while tapping into natural resources such as uranium, lithium, rare earth materials, and opium that are vital for the sustenance of modern high-tech industries and the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, an idealist would justify the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as part of an overall pursuit of what John Mearsheimer calls “liberal hegemony” where the U.S. is seeking to establish a world system based on the principles of liberal democracy, such as global peace and security, free-market economics, as well as rule of law and the adjudication of conflicts.

In reality, U.S. foreign policy is a balance of both approaches, where the pursuit of military and economic power is combined with principle to shape the nature of foreign policy. Unlike China, whose foreign policy is based purely on the concept of realpolitik and the pursuit of its own security and economic interests, the U.S. is one of the few superpowers in world history to have combined the realpolitik approach of foreign policy with one that is based on the promotion of liberal-democratic principles. Much of America’s efforts on the global stage since World War II have been focused on institution building on a global level in various areas of concern to all nations, such as security with the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and economics through the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and international law through the creation of the United Nations. The United States has applied both realpolitik and liberal hegemony as approaches to its involvement in Afghanistan. There is both a moral justification to America’s presence in Afghanistan and a military and economic justification.

The question remains whether the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will persist and possess the lifespan of the U.S. presence in other places such as Germany and the Korean Peninsula. The American public has put immense pressure on its politicians to withdraw American forces and personnel from the Middle East and Afghanistan. From a legal standpoint, the U.S. government has the legal justification for its involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan through laws that were passed in the post-9/11 era such as the Patriot Act as well as an “Authorization to Use Military Force.” The United Nations and the European Union have also pledged support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. government may decide to announce a withdrawal of a significant number of troops and personnel from Afghanistan to placate its public, but it is highly unlikely that the United States will initiate a full withdrawal from Afghanistan after all the investments that it has made there over the past eighteen years.

As mentioned before, the mission in Afghanistan is part of an overall effort to organize the world and create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles while maintaining the pursuit of American military and economic power to sustain the liberal hegemonic effort. This liberal hegemonic effort has its roots in America’s post-World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia, and this effort has now extended in scope by covering areas that are novel to the United States such as the Middle East and Afghanistan. However, it is a fact that the focus of the United States has been lopsided towards countries where America has vested security and economic interests. Furthermore, there has not been a significant push on the part of the United States to implement international law in places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan who are allied to the United States but are in violation of liberal-democratic principles. Nevertheless, the global strategy for the United States is in place with clear objectives, and the implementation of such a strategy will inevitably face challenges and roadblocks imposed by authoritarian powers such as Russia and China who like the United States have regional and possibly global ambitions.

One component of America’s global strategy will also include a “live and let die” component by using all the levers of power at its disposal to place pressure as well as sanctions on countries that will resist America’s liberal hegemonic project such as Iran and Russia. However, it is unlikely that Russia and China will seek to thwart America’s global strategy simply because the capabilities are not there to mount such an effort. Instead, the Russians and the Chinese will seek to find opportunities to negotiate and engage in dialogue with the United States to preserve their respective security and economic interests. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the Russians and the Chinese initially had no objections to America’s involvement in Afghanistan, and the Russians even encouraged Uzbekistan to allow the United States to stage its Afghan-related operations there in 2001.

While America’s liberal hegemonic effort has staying power in Afghanistan and possibly the Middle East, it may run into a dead end if America seeks to extend the effort inside of Russia and China. It is highly unlikely that Russia and China will seek to dislodge the United States from Afghanistan via proxy as long as America engages in sustainable diplomacy with Russia and China and find ways to accommodate Russian and Chinese security and economic interests. Short of Russia joining the European Union and America engaging with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for the purpose of economic and infrastructural development in Asia, American efforts in Afghanistan regarding Russia and China will continue to be one-offs and not be underpinned by a formal structure.


Endnotes:

None.

Adam A. Azim Afghanistan Assessment Papers Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Options for Deterrence Below Armed Conflict

James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  He can be found on Twitter @james_miccicheDivergent 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 military competition below armed conflict once again becomes the norm, the U.S. requires deterrence options.

Date Originally Written:  November 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 23, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that traditional nuclear deterrence will not suffice in the current national security paradigm as it is focused on mainly deterring nuclear war or major conflict, which are the least-likely situations to occur.

Background:  In June 2019, the United States Military’s Joint Staff published Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 1-19 “The Competition Continuum.”  The JDN further developed and refined the non-linear/non-binary continuum that defines the perpetual state of competition that exists between nations .  This perpetual state of competition was originally proposed in the “Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning (JCIC)[1].” Within the JDN continuum the Joint Force, in conjunction with other elements of national power (diplomacy, economic, information, etc.), simultaneously campaigns through a combination of cooperation, competition below armed conflict, and armed conflict to achieve desired strategic objectives including deterring actions and goals of rival states. The continuum represents a shift in U.S. military doctrine from a counterterrorism-centric security strategy to one focused on competing with a spectrum of international agents and actors.

Significance:  While not an authoritative document, JDNs generate and facilitate the creation and revision of joint and service specific doctrine. Therefore, the continuum proposed by the JDN will be integrated and operationalized by planners and doctrine writers across the Department of Defense (DoD). Within the JDN’s continuum, competition below armed conflict is not only the aspect that most regularly occurs, but also the most challenging for the DoD to operationalize. The JDN further refines the JCIC language by describing campaigning through competition below armed conflict as a protracted, constrained, often imbalanced, and diverse construct predicated upon a deep understanding of the operating environment where the joint force seeks to execute three newly codified tactical tasks: Enhance, Manage, and Delay.  Despite clarifying the language of competition below armed conflict, the JDN fails to provide concrete examples of the concepts implementation to include the Joint Force’s role in deterrence which is vaguely described “Deterrence in competition below armed conflict is similarly nuanced [to deterrence by armed conflict} and perhaps harder to judge[2].”  This paper will provide three options for planners and doctrine writers to employ deterring rivals through competition below armed conflict per the guidance outlined in the JDN and JCIC.

Option #1:  Persistent Presence.

The United States, at the behest of partner nations, overtly deploys conventional ground forces to key strategic regions / locations to prevent aggressive incursions from rival states in fear of causing U.S. casualties and invoking a potential kinetic response. This same principle is applied to the regular exercise of freedom of navigation though global commons that are considered vital to U.S. interests.

Risk:  Conventional U.S. force presence adjacent to competitor nations potentially escalates tensions and greatly increases the risk of armed conflict where U.S. personnel forward potentially face overwhelming force from a near peer competitor. The logistical and personnel requirements to deploy conventional forces forward are high and can lead partner nations to become overly dependent on U.S. forces thus creating enduring U.S. expenditures. The presence of a large U.S. footprint can facilitate competitor information operations focusing on delegitimizing the efficacy of host nation government / military possibly creating domestic instability, and prompting anti-U.S. sentiment amongst the population.

Gain:  There have been successful historic and contemporary applications of deterrence by presence from a proportionally smaller U.S. force compared to rivals. Examples include U.S. / North Atlantic Treaty Organization forward presence in Europe during the Cold War as part of a successful deterrence strategy against larger Eastern bloc forces and the recent expansion of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian forces into Northern Syria upon the departure of a small footprint of U.S. forces in October of 2019. Presence can also facilitate collaboration and interoperability between U.S. and regional partners supporting the two other elements of the competition continuum cooperation and armed conflict.

Option #2:  Civil Resiliency and Civil Engagement.

Many of the United States’ principal competitors attempt to advance their interests and achieve their objectives through various forms of population-centric warfare that seeks to instigate and capitalize on domestic instability. To deny access to, and mitigate the ability to influence populations needed to advance such a strategy, the Joint Force utilizes Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations capabilities to identify populations tied to key terrain and in conjunction with other elements of national power fosters civil resiliency to malign influence.

Risk:  Fostering civil resiliency in populations vulnerable to or targeted by malign influence operations is a long-term undertaking requiring enduring programming funds and command support to be effective. Assessments of population-centric operations are difficult to quantify making the establishment of measures of performance and effectiveness exceptionally difficult and impeding the understanding of effects of enemy, friendly, and partner actions within the complex system of the human domain.

Gain:  A population-centric engagement strategy facilitates interagency coordination enabling the utilization of multiple elements of national power to counter malign efforts by adversaries and simultaneously propagates U.S. soft power. Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations elements have exceptionally small personnel footprints and low logistical costs and can promote cooperation with host nation counterparts. Military-civil engagement programs and projects often permit personnel to operate in regions and nations where competitors have an established advantage.

Option #3:  Proxies and Regime Fragility.

Today, the United States’ chief competitors and their allies are regimes that are authoritarian in nature[3] and therefore all share the primacy of maintaining regime power as their supreme interest. The Joint Force can exploit this distinctive feature of authoritarianism and utilize clandestinely-supported proxies and / or focused information operations to threaten the domestic stability of autocrats taking actions against U.S. interests.

Risk:  Creating instability comes with many unknown variables and has the potential to produce unwanted secondary effects including expanding conflicts beyond a single nation and engulfing an entire region in war. There remains a long history of the United States equipping and training proxies that later become adversaries. If direct U.S involvement in a proxy conflict becomes publicly known, there could be irreversible damage to the United States’ international reputation degrading comparative advantages in soft power and the information domain.

Gain:  Operating through either a proxy or the information domain provides managed attribution to the Joint Force and increases freedom of maneuver within a normally constrained competition environment to threaten rival leadership in their most vulnerable areas. Working with proxies provides both an easy exit strategy with very few formal commitments and leads to little risk to U.S. personnel.

Other Comments:  The above listed options are not mutually exclusive and can be utilized in conjunction not only with each other but also together with other elements of the competition continuum to achieve an objective of deterring unwanted competitor actions while concurrently promoting U.S interests. The U.S. cannot compete in an omnipresent manner and ts planners would do well to pragmatically choose where and how to compete based on national interests, competitor action/inaction, available resources, and conditions within a competitive environment.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2018) Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

[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

[3] The Economist Intelligence Unit (2018). 2018 Democracy Index, The Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved from https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index

 

 

 

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence James P. Micciche Option Papers

Assessing the Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan. His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant. He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. 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 Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

Date Originally Written:  October 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 16, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the U.S perspective, with regards to the significance of the F-35 aircraft, in terms of protecting U.S assets in Syria and the Levant amidst various local and foreign hostile forces.

Summary:  In 2019 the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was used for the first time in the Middle East. As major world players further their national interests in Syria, the United States is forced to be more active in the region. The Turkish offensive against the Kurds, the Islamic State, and Russian influence are the major concerns for the U.S. The F-35 could be used effectively to not only protect the U.S ground forces but also to deter its enemies from attacking the American assets.

Text:  Amidst the fickle and intricate geopolitics of Syria, perhaps the only constant in this melting pot, is the United States’ lack of strategic clarity. After over eight years of the ongoing Syrian civil war, the average American might not pay much heed to this seemingly incessant conflict, other than when this issue involves their fellow countrymen and tax money. Regardless, the geo-strategic significance of Syria, coupled with the kind of major players involved in this conflict, calls for proactivity and sometimes, grudging, yet necessary entailment on the part of the United States.

The emergence and the consequential establishment of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate, amongst the ashes of burning Levant, is perhaps the most pertinent issue of concern, not only for United States but for most of the Western powers. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, the scale of the conflict has only exacerbated[1], to the point where almost all global powers are somehow involved in the Syrian crisis. Whether this involvement is due to a lack of U.S. long-term vision for Syria and the greater Levant, or the reluctance to be proactive and protect its national interests in the region, the fact remains that rival powers, Iran and Russia, have more strategic depth and the leverage to protect their interests in the region than any time in recent years[2].

Since 2011, there have been many turns and changes with regards to the U.S objectives in Syria. However, containment and impairment of the IS caliphate, opposition of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and halting increasing Iranian influence in the region have continued to be the among the main priorities of the United States in Syria. With a limited number of boots on ground the U.S also relies on its allies to such as Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), to protect its interests in the region. The SDF, which are commonly regarded as “rebel forces,” are primarily comprised of Kurdish fighters, who have actively fighting against the Syrian army and IS simultaneously[3]. With three main local factions fighting each other for the control of territory and resources of the country, each foreign power is supporting their side. For the United States, the prevailing objective is to not only undermine the threat of IS, but also to deny the unholy trinity of Assad, Iran, and Russia sole dominion over the geopolitical landscape.

With limited amount of manpower, unfamiliar terrain, presence of multiple hostile fronts, and a threat of inadvertent clash with the Iranian or Russian forces, how does the United States protect its assets, while keeping the hostile forces at bay? Regardless of where the U.S ground forces might be, their competitive advantage, in many instances, is the fact that they are supported by arguably the best, in terms of operational capacity and technological prowess. To this end, the recently developed F-35 fighter jet[4] is likely to play a vital role in maintaining a buffer between the American/coalition forces and the local hostile factions.

As the only other credible air force present in the region, the Russian air force, has maintained a safe distance with the American forces. Disregarding an unlikely scenario, at least in the near future, of a direct confrontation between the American and the Russian forces, the only remaining airpower against the F-35 is the Syrian Arab Air force[5]. With its fighter fleet mainly comprised of MiG-23s, Su-17 and the Fencer (Su-24), theoretically there is no threat to the F-35’s air superiority in the region.

In April 2019, the first U.S combat use of the F-35 was observed in the Middle East, when an IS munitions cache was targeted, to thwart the group’s possible resurgence[6]. To compensate for its numerical disadvantage and to protect strategically vital oilfields, the F-35’s role against the hostile local groups is likely to increase overtime. With its initiation into combat, it seems as if the Unites States envisions a key role for the F-35 in the region’s future. The only criticism is on the jet’s lack of energy maneuverability, due to its lower thrust to weight ratio compared to its rivals, which makes the jet less nimble in a dogfight[7]. However, the recent footage released by the U.S. Air Force depicts the F-35 making significant strides in this aspect, which has halted many of the objections on its close combat capabilities[8]. Despite its dogfight nimbleness, the competitive advantage of the F-35 is its computational capacity. The F-35, as a 5th-generation fighter, is unmatched at intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and targeting aircraft from a distance beyond visual range, significantly far away from the range of any of its possible competitors. Furthermore, the F-35’s stealth capability makes it difficult to detect, early and accurately[9].

As the United States sends its largest contingent of troops in Syria thus far, there is new threat looming over which might challenge the U.S interests in the area. As the Turkish forces target the Kurdish fighters, the threat of IS reprisal looms over, and Russia justifies its military presence in the area, as a “balancing act” between the Turkish and Syrian forces, the coming days for the United States will be precarious. As evident by the combat testing against IS earlier this year, the F-35 will play an ever-increasing role in Syria and greater Levant, where its stealth may be used to venture inside hostile territory to preemptively target terror networks. The F-35’s superior recon may be used to provide a bird’s eye to the American forces in Northeast Syria, and perhaps, most importantly, to deter the Russian forces and their proxies as they attempt to use their numerical advantage against the American land forces to control the lucrative energy fields of Northeastern Syria.


Endnotes:

[1] Bernard A and Saad H. (2018, February 8). It’s Hard to Believe but Syria’s Wat is Getting Even Worse. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/world/middleeast/syria-war-idlib.html

[2] Neely B, Smith S. (2019, October 15). As the U.S. withdraws, Assad and Putin are emerging as the winners in Syria. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-withdraws-assad-putin-are-emerging-winners-syria-n1066231

[3] Shapiro A. (2019, October 10). A Look At The History Of The U.S. Alliance With The Kurds. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/10/769044811/a-look-at-the-history-of-the-u-s-alliance-with-the-kurds

[4] Staff. (2019, October 29). Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=23

[5] Majumdar D. (2017, April 17). The Syrian Air Force: What Is Left? Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-syrian-air-force-what-left-20135

[6] Insinna V. (2019, April 30). US Air Force conducts airstrikes with F-35 for first time ever. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/04/30/us-air-force-conducts-airstrikes-with-f-35-for-first-time-ever/

[7] Robinson T. (2015, July 10). Does the F-35 really suck in air combat? Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.aerosociety.com/news/does-the-f-35-really-suck-in-air-combat/

[8] Lockie A. (2017, April 19). Here’s why the F-35 once lost to F-16s, and how it made a stunning comeback. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/f-35-vs-f-16-15-18-lost-beaten-flatley-comeback-2017-4

[9] Thompson L. (2019, May 13). The F-35 Isn’t Just ‘Stealthy’: Here’s How Its Electronic Warfare System Gives It An Edge. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2019/05/13/how-a-super-agile-electronic-warfare-system-makes-f-35-the-most-invincible-combat-aircraft-ever

 

Assessment Papers Deterrence F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) Humayun Hassan Syria United States

Divergent Options at the 2019 #NatSecGirlSquad Conference

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d_o-short

Phil Walter, Founder of Divergent Options, attended the 2019 #NatSecGirlSquad Conference where he spoke at a breakout session called How to Brief Well.  At this breakout session Phil discussed how he prepares to brief others and his experiences building and executing briefs.  If you could not attend, Phil’s one page reference that he spoke to during this breakout session can be found here.

#NatSecGirlSquad

Assessing the Relationship of Sikh-Canadians with Canada and India

Editor’s Note:  This article is the result of a partnership between Divergent Options and a course on nationalism at the George Washington University.


Nikita Khurana is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and minoring in International 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 Relationship of Sikh-Canadians with Canada and India

Date Originally Written:  October 19, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 9, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author of this piece identifies as a first-generation Indian-American. This article is written in the point of view of Sikhs living in Canada that have a strong religious identity.

Summary:  Canada is home to nearly half a million Sikhs, thus becoming one of the largest Sikh diaspora populations in the world. While most diaspora populations have difficulty settling into their new home countries, political tensions with the Indian state was a driving force in Sikh-Canadian integration. Even though Sikh-Canadians faced discrimination from white Canadians, the Khalistan movement (a Sikh separatist movement) helped create a strong Sikh community within Canada.

Text:  Canada is home to one of the largest Sikh diaspora communities in the world. As of 2011, Sikhs accounted for 1.4% of the Canadian population with over 400,000 residents[1]. Legal immigration from the Indian province of Punjab is the root cause for the prominence of the Sikh religion in Canada. Sikh immigration into Canada can be separated into two waves: the early twentieth century and the 1960s. Due to political differences in their homeland, Sikhs in Canada have been able to integrate into Canadian society and even gain political power, despite the initial unwelcoming actions of white Canadians.

South Asia has been home to numerous religious movements including the creation of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. In the late fifteenth century, Guru Nanak established the Sikh religion. Sikhism is a prominent ideology with over 27 million followers, thus making it the fifth largest religion in the world. Followers of Skihism believe that there is a total of ten gurus, including Guru Nanak, and upon the death of the final spiritual leader, the essence of the eternal Guru transferred itself into the sacred Sikh scripture[2].

From their initial migration to Canada, Sikhs were met with profound racial discrimination[3]. This discrimination took the international stage in April of 1914 when the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship ship carrying Sikh passengers, was refused entry into Canada[4]. Nonetheless, Sikhs established strong religious institutions through gurudwaras or Sikh temples. South Asian immigration was completely halted until 1920, when wives and children of Sikh-Canadians were finally allowed to enter the country.

In contrast to the American society depicted as a ‘melting pot,’ Canada is seen as a ‘mixed salad’ of cultural differences today, where all faiths, ethnicities, and traditions are accommodated instead of assimilated. However, throughout the twentieth century, white Canadians were resistant to non-white immigrants. From the 1920s to the 1960s, Sikhs in Canada experienced a religious revision. Instead of maintaining traditional practices, children of immigrants adopted Sahajdhari practices. Being a Sahajdhari meant that men were able to break from practices that prevented them from cutting their hair and adopting Canadian dress codes[5].

The second wave of immigration coincided with the birth of the Sikh separatist movement in India. Even though Sikhs and Hindus lived peacefully amongst each other for centuries, tensions arose in the late 1960s when the Sikh population in Punjab gained economic prosperity following the Green Revolution in India. With growing wealth and a flourishing agricultural industry, Punjabi society slowly became increasingly more detached from mainstream Indian culture. In an effort to relieve political stress, Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi attempted to transfer the city of Chandigarh to the Punjab province. However, with no success, this olive branch was never fully executed, further strengthening distrust of the Prime Minister amongst the Sikh population. By the 1980s, the Sikh Khalistan movement was in full force.

The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement that calls for an autonomous Sikh nation-state. As scholar Stephen Van Evera suggests that nationalist movements are inherently violent, the Khalistan movement quickly turned violent against the Indian state[6]. In 1984, the Indian army staged a siege of the Golden Temple, a sacred Sikh shrine, in an effort to take down Sikh extremists. After the altercation, more than 1,000 people died, and the temple was nearly destroyed. This results of the siege ignited support from the Sikh diaspora in Canada, both financially and socially. Sikhs in Canada began to fund the separatist movement in India, which resulted in the deterioration of the relationship between Canadian Sikhs and their Indian homeland[7]. Additionally, the sudden violence of the Khalistan movement caused a mass migration of Sikhs to western countries, most prominently in Canada.

The growing Sikh population in Canada has recently become a concern to India. Within the last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become wary of Canada and their foreign policies. Indian officials worry that western governments have become sympathetic to the Sikh separatists and will act in their interests when considering foreign policy[8]. In 2017, the Canadian Parliament declared the siege on the Golden Temple in Punjab a genocide committed by the Indian state against the Sikh religious minority. This genocide declaration has further strained the relationship between Sikh-Canadians and the Indian State. Being a stateless nation, the Sikh population in Canada has essentially become a political organization where they have gained the agency to influence politics in Canada[9]. Thus, the Canadian government has been an active participant in accommodating Sikh-Canadians and Sikh immigrants. On March 2, 2006, the Canadian Supreme court notably struck down a ban on allowing Sikh students to carry a kirpan, ceremonial dagger, in school[10].

Pop culture is another important indicator of the relationship between white Canadians and Sikhs. Within the past century, major pop culture figures of Sikh roots have gained popularity among all Canadians. Most famously, Lilly Singh, also known as iiSuperwomanii, was the highest paid female on the video hosting website YouTube in 2016. She is a vocal Sikh who was born and brought up in the Ontario province of Canada[11].

Sikh immigrants were not initially welcomed with open arms into Canada. Due to racial discrimination by white Canadians, South Asians had a slow assimilation into Canadian society. However, political tensions with the Indian state weakened the connection Sikh immigrants had with their homeland. Hence, integration and assimilation into a new national identity was possible. Sikhs in Canada have risen to political power with nearly twenty Sikh Members of Parliament. While Sikh-Canadians’ connection to India may have been weakened, Sikh identity in Canada was strengthened due to support for the Khalistan movement and Sikh nation, instead of the actual Indian state.


Endnotes:

[1] “History.” Canadian Sikh Heritage. Accessed August 11, 2019. http://canadiansikhheritage.ca/history/.

[2] McLeod, William Hewat. “Sikhism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., June 21, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sikhism

[3] “Sikhism in Canada.” Sikhism in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed August 9, 2019. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sikhism.

[4] “History.” Canadian Sikh Heritage. Accessed August 11, 2019. http://canadiansikhheritage.ca/history/.

[5] “Who Is a ‘Sehajdhari’?: India News – Times of India.” The Times of India. Accessed August 11, 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Who-is-a-sehajdhari/articleshow/9830416.cms.

[6] Evera, Stephen Van. “Hypotheses on Nationalism and War.” International Security18, no. 4 (1994): 5. https://doi.org/10.2307/2539176.

[7] “Sinews of the Nation: Constructing Irish and Zionist Bonds in the United States” 51, no. 03 (2013). https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.51-1737.

[8] Sunny Hundal @sunny_hundal. “India’s Indifference to the Sikh Diaspora Is Damaging Western Foreign Policy towards the Country.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, February 25, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/india-sikh-justin-trudeau-separatism-canada-foreign-policy-a8223641.html.

[9] Harris Mylonas & Nadav G. Shelef (2014) Which Land Is Our Land? Domestic Politics and Change in the Territorial Claims of Stateless Nationalist Movements,Security Studies, 23:4, 754-786, DOI: 10.1080/09636412.2014.964996

[10] CBC News, “Ban on Sikh kirpan overturned by Supreme Court,” March 2, 2006. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ban-on-sikh-kirpan-overturned-by-supreme-court-1.618238.

[11] Maya Oppenheim @mayaoppenheim. “The Highest-Paid Female YouTuber, and the Astonishing Amount She Earns.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, March 6, 2017. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/lilly-singh-youtube-highest-paid-richest-forbes-list-2016-a7458441.html.

 

Assessment Papers Canada India Nikita Khurana

Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and technology, Pakistan.  His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant.  He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written:  September 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 2, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the Chinese standpoint, with regards to U.S and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member country (NATO) presence in Afghanistan and the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Summary:  Afghanistan is important to Chinese strategic interests. To ensure stability in its autonomous region of Xinjiang, expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and counter a perceived “encirclement of China” strategy, Afghanistan holds the key for China. Therefore, China is consolidating its interests in Afghanistan through “economic diplomacy”, facilitation of peace talks, and working with other regional players.

Text:  As a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is establishing multiple economic passages, across Eurasia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. A total of six economic[1] corridors are designed to connect China with most of the major markets of the world. To consolidate her direct access to these markets, it is pivotal for China to maintain regional and political stability, especially in areas that directly pertain to these economic corridors. Two of these six corridors, namely CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and China-Central Asia and West Asia economic corridors pass through the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. This network of railroads, energy projects, and infrastructure is meant to connect Beijing with Central and Western Asia, along with the Middle East. Xinjiang is not only one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped regions of China, but is also home to almost 10-12 million Uighurs Muslims. In the past few years, Muslims in Xinjiang have caught significant media spotlight[2], due to growing sense of discontent among the local population with the Chinese administration. While the official Chinese narrative depicts a few Uighurs groups to be supportive of terrorist activities, the opposing viewpoint highlights internment camps[3] and over-representation of police force in the region. Nevertheless, the geo-economic importance of Xinjiang is paramount, which is why China is willing to use aggressive measures to restore stability in the area.

The militant factions of the Uighur community are supported by various group operating from Afghanistan. The Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement, is considered to be the primary organization undermining the Chinese sovereignty in Western China. In the past, this group has primarily operated from Afghanistan, with alliances with the Afghan Taliban (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda. However, since 2015, China has another reason to be cautious of protecting its economic[4] interests in the region. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) chapter of the violent extremist organization the Islamic State was established that year, with an aim to create its terror network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from tacitly supporting the Uighurs militant factions, IS-K has openly threatened to attack the ongoing CPEC projects, not only inside Pakistan but also in Western China[5].

The encirclement of China strategy advocates for constant U.S military and political presence in Chinese proximity[6]. With forces in Afghanistan the United States and NATO have opened up a new pressure point for China, a country that is already coping with the U.S forces in South China Sea and Japan, on the eastern front. After almost 18-years of non-conclusive war in Afghanistan, the U.S and Afghan forces have failed subdue the Taliban[7]. As the Kabul administration is facing financial and political turmoil, the U.S is considering reducing military presence in the country, and leaving a friendly government in Afghanistan. China seems to be aware of the political vacuum that awaits Afghanistan, which is why it presents an opportunity for it to find new allies in the country and work with other stakeholders to bring in a friendly government. This government vacuum-filling may not only allow China to neutralize U.S encirclement from Afghanistan, but will also help suppress terrorist organizations operating from Afghanistan. The latest developments in lieu of U.S-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar indicate that China is enhancing ties with the Taliban. A Taliban government in Afghanistan may be suitable for China, at least in consideration of the available options. Not only have the Taliban declared war against IS-K[8], an entity that has openly threatened to disparage Chinese interests in the region and support militants in Western China, but also remained silent on the alleged persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. This war declaration may be regarded as a major milestone in the China-Taliban relations, since the late 1990s when the Taliban government in the country allowed militant groups, such as Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

For the first few years of the Afghan war, China passively supported it. However, as the United States, under the Obama administration started to hint a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, China assumed a more active role in the country. Since the initiation of BRI, Chinese exports to Afghanistan have increased significantly[9]. For the first time in modern China-Afghanistan relations, China has offered military aid to the Afghanistan. The Chinese foreign minister also expressed a desire to expand the ongoing CPEC into Afghanistan as well[10]. Another aspect that is often discredited is the natural resource potential in the country. Afghanistan incorporates some of the largest Lithium reserves, which are particularly essential for the manufacturing of most electronic products. As per the American Geological Survey, Afghanistan holds approximately $3 trillion worth of natural resources[11]. This alone makes Afghanistan an area of interest for major world powers.

In conclusion, China’s approach towards Afghanistan may be best deciphered by a paradigm shift. From a strategic limited involvement to active leadership, China has now become one of the key stakeholders in the Afghan peace process. With an apparent failure of the Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and U.S, the situation is deteriorating quickly. The Taliban, since then, have vowed to double down on militancy. From a Chinese standpoint, continuation of U.S presence in Afghanistan and the anticipated increase in violence would be the least desired outcome. China, over the years, has strategically played a balancing act between all the internal stakeholders of Afghanistan, from offering aid to the national government to hosting a Taliban delegation in Beijing. Therefore, any political settlement in the country, whether it is the creation of a new “national government” with the Taliban or a truce between the fighting forces within the country may suit the Chinese in the long-run. As the BRI initiative enters the next stage, and threats of terror activities in the Xinjiang loom, and the race to tap into Afghanistan’s natural resources intensifies, China is now in unchartered waters, where any significant development in Afghanistan will directly effects its regional political and economic interests. It seems that, in coming times, China may assume the central role in organizing new peace initiatives, ensuring that whoever comes to power in Afghanistan may not thwart China’s ambitions in the country.


Endnotes:

[1]1 Hillman, J. (2019, September 4). China’s Belt and Road Is Full Of Holes. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-belt-and-road-full-holes

[2] Sudworth, J. (2019, July 4). China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48825090

[3] Shams, S. (2015, July 24). Why China’s Uighurs are joining jihadists in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.dw.com/en/why-chinas-uighurs-are-joining-jihadists-in-afghanistan/a-18605630

[4] Pandey, S. (2018, September 22). China’s Surreptitious Advance in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/chinas-surreptitious-advance-in-afghanistan/

[5] Aamir, A. (2018, August 17). ISIS Threatens China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/isis-threatens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor

[6] Gunner, U. (2018, January 18). Continuity of Agenda: US Encirclement of China Continues Under Trump. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.globalresearch.ca/continuity-of-agenda-us-encirclement-of-china-continues-under-trump/5626694

[7] Wolfgang, B. Taliban now stronger than when Afghanistan war started in 2001, military experts say. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/sep/9/taliban-strongest-afghanistan-war-started-2001/

[8] Burke, J. (2019, August 19). With Kabul wedding attack, Isis aims to erode Taliban supremacy. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/19/with-kabul-wedding-attack-isis-aims-to-erode-taliban-supremacy

[9] Zia, H. (2019, February 14). A surge in China-Afghan trade. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201902/14/WS5c65346ba3106c65c34e9606.html

[10] Gul, A. (2018, November 1). China, Pakistan Seeking CPEC Extension to Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/china-pakistan-seeking-cpec-extension-afghanistan

[11] Farmer, B. (2010, June 17). Afghanistan claims mineral wealth is worth $3trillion. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7835657/Afghanistan-claims-mineral-wealth-is-worth-3trillion.html

 

Afghanistan Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Great Powers Humayun Hassan

Assessing North Korea’s Cyber Evolution

Ali Crawford has an M.A. from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce where she focused on diplomacy, intelligence, cyber policy, and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing North Korea’s Cyber Evolution

Date Originally Written:  September 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 25, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the international community’s focus on addressing North Korea’s nuclear capability sets the conditions whereby their cyber capabilities can evolve unchecked.

Summary:  Despite displaying a growing and capable cadre of cyber warriors, North Korean cyber prowess has been overshadowed by threats of nuclear proliferation. While North Korea remains extremely isolated from the global community, it has conducted increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks over a short span of time. In a relatively short period of time, North Korea has cultivated a cyber acumen worth recognizing as threatening as its nuclear program.

Text:  As the internet quickly expanded across the globe and changed the nature of business and communication, Western nations capitalized on its capabilities. Authoritarian regimes felt threatened by the internet’s potential for damaging the regime’s power structure. In the 1990s, Kim Jong-il, father of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, restricted internet access, usage, and technology in his country[1]. Eventually, Kim Jong-il’s attitude shifted after recognizing the potential benefits of the internet. The North likely received assistance from China and the Soviet Union to begin training a rudimentary cyber corps during the 80s and 90s[2]. Cyber was and still is reserved explicitly for military or state leadership use.

The expansion of North Korea’s cyber program continued under Kim Jong-un, who today seeks to project military might by displays of a capable nuclear program. But Kim Jong-un, who possesses a degree in computer science, also understood the potential for cultivating cyber power. For North Korea, cyber is not just an asymmetrical medium of warfare, but also a method of surveillance, intelligence-gathering, and circumventing sanctions[3]. Within the last decade, North Korea has demonstrated an impressive understanding and application of offensive cyber competence. Several experts and reports estimate North Korean cyber forces range from 1,800 to upwards of 6,000 professionals[4]. Internet access is reportedly routed through China, which lends added difficulty to attribution but provides a measure of defense[5]. North Korea is largely disconnected from the rest of the world and maintains a rudimentary internet infrastructure[6]. The disconnect between the state and the internet leaves a significantly small and less vulnerable attack surface for other nations to exploit. 

Little information is available regarding the internal structure of North Korea’s cyber forces. What is thought to be known suggests an organizational hierarchy that operates with some autonomy to achieve designated mission priorities. Bureau 121, No. 91 Office, and Lab 110 report to North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB)[7]. Each reportedly operate internally and externally from Pyongyang. Bureau 121’s main activities include intelligence gathering and coordinating offensive cyber operations. Lab 110 engages in technical reconnaissance, such as network infiltration and malware implantation. No. 91 Office is believed to orchestrate hacking operations. Other offices situated under Bureau 121 or the RGB likely exist and are devoted entirely to information warfare and propaganda campaigns[8]. 

In the spring of 2013, a wave of cyber attacks struck South Korea. A new group called Dark Seoul emerged from North Korea armed with sophisticated code and procedures. South Korean banks and broadcasting companies were among the first institutions to endure the attacks beginning in March. In May, the South Korean financial sector was paralyzed by sophisticated malware. Later in June, marking the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, various South Korean government websites were taken offline by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Although Dark Seoul had been working discreetly since 2009, its successful attacks against major South Korean institutions prompted security researchers to more seriously consider the North Koreans as perpetrators[9]. The various attacks against financial institutions would be a prequel to the massive cyber financial heists the North would eventually manage, possibly making South Korea a testing ground for North Korea’s code and malware vehicles.

North Korea’s breach of Sony Pictures in 2014 catapulted the reclusive regime to international cyber infamy. Members of an organization calling themselves the Guardians of Peace stole nearly 40 gigabytes of sensitive data from Sony Pictures, uploaded damaging information online, and left behind a bizarre image of a red skeleton on employees’ desktop computers[10]. This was the first major occurrence of a nation-state attacking a United States corporation in retribution for something seemingly innocuous. While the Sony hack was an example of how vague rules for conducting cyber war and crime differ between nations, the attack  was more importantly North Korea’s first true display of cyber power. Sony executives felt compelled to respond and sought counsel from the U.S. government. The government was hesitant to let a private company respond to an attack led by the military apparatus of a foreign adversary. Instead, President Barack Obama publicly named North Korea as the perpetrator and vaguely hinted at a potential U.S. response, becoming the first U.S. president to do so.

Cyber crime also provides alternative financing for the regime’s agenda. In February 2016, employees at the Bank of Bangladesh were struggling to recover a large sum of money that had been transferred to accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The fraudulent transactions totaled $81 million USD[11]. Using Bangladesh Bank employee credentials, the attackers targeted the bank’s SWIFT account. SWIFT is an international money transfer system used by financial institutions to transfer large sums of money. After-action analysis revealed the malware had been implanted a month prior and shared similarities with the malware used to infiltrate and exploit Sony in 2014[12]. The Bangladesh Bank heist was intensively planned and researched, which lent credence to the North’s growing cyber acumen. As of 2019, North Korea has accumulated an estimated $2 billion USD exclusively from cyber crime[13]. Security assessments indicate the Sony attack, the Bangladesh Bank hack, and the WannaCry attacks are related which lends some understanding to how North Korean cyber groups operate. In 2018, the United States filed criminal charges against a North Korean man for all three cyber crimes as part of a grander strategy for deterrence[14].

Finally, it is important to consider how North Korea’s cyber warfare tactics and strategies will evolve. North Korea has already proven to be a capable financial cyber crime actor, but how would its agencies perform in full-scale warfare? In terms of numbers, the North Korean military is one of the largest conventional forces in the world despite operating with rudimentary technology[15]. Studies suggest that while the North may confidently rely on its nuclear program to win a conventional war, it is unlikely that North Korea would be able to sustain its forces in long-term war[16]. North Korea would need to promptly engage in asymmetric warfare to disorient enemy forces to gain a technological advantage while continuously attempting to attack enemy systems to disrupt crucial communications. The regime could conduct several cyber operations against its adversaries, deny responsibility, then use the wrongful attribution as grounds for a kinetic response. North Korea has threatened military action in the past after being hit with additional sanctions[17]. 

Despite North Korea’s display of a growing and expansive cyber warfare infrastructure coupled with a sophisticated history of cyber attacks, the international community remains largely concerned with the regime’s often unpredictable approach to nuclear and missile testing. With the international community focused elsewhere, North Korea’s cyber program continues to grow unchecked. It remains to be seen if someday the international community will diplomatically engage North Korea regarding their cyber program with the same intensity as their nuclear program.


Endnotes:

[1] David E. Sanger, The Perfect Weapon, Crown Publishing, 2018, p. 127

[2] The Perfect Weapon, p.127-128; and Eleanor Albert, Council on Foreign Relations: North Korea’s Military Capabilities, 25 July 2019, retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities

[3] David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick, Nicole Perloth, New York Times: The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No more, 15 October 2017, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/15/world/asia/north-korea-hacking-cyber-sony.html

[4] Ibid; and 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi, Military Review: North Korean Cyber Support to Combat Operations, July/August 2017, retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20170831_TOSI_North_Korean_Cyber.pdf

[5] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi

[6] David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick, Nicole Perloth

[7] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi; and Kong Ji Young, Lim Jong In, and Kim Kyoung Gon, NATO CCDCOE:The All-Purpose Sword: North Korea’s Cyber Operations and Strategies, 2019, retrieved from https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2019/06/Art_08_The-All-Purpose-Sword.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Symantec Security Response, Four Years of DarkSeoul Cyberattacks Against South Korea Continue on Anniversary of Korean War, 26 June 2013, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/four-years-darkseoul-cyberattacks-against-south-korea-continue-anniversary-korean-war; and Kong Ji Young, Lim Jong In, and Kim Kyoung Gon, NATO CCDCOE Publications, The All-Purpose Sword: North Korea’s Cyber Operations and Strategy, 2019, retrieved from https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2019/06/Art_08_The-All-Purpose-Sword.pdf

[10] Kim Zetter, Wired: Sony Got Hacked Hard: What We Know and Don’t Know So Far, 3 December 2014, retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2014/12/sony-hack-what-we-know/

[11] Kim Zetter, Wired: That Insane, $81M Bangladesh Bank Heist? Here’s What We Know, 17 May 2016, retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/05/insane-81m-bangladesh-bank-heist-heres-know/

[12] Ibid.

[13] Michelle Nichols, Reuters: North Korea took $2 billion in cyberattacks to fund weapons program: U.N. report, 5 August 2019, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-cyber-un/north-korea-took-2-billion-in-cyberattacks-to-fund-weapons-program-u-n-report-idUSKCN1UV1ZX

[14] Christopher Bing and Sarah Lynch, Reuters: U.S. charges North Korean hacker in Sony, WannaCry cyberattacks, 6 September 2018, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-northkorea-sony/u-s-charges-north-korean-hacker-in-sony-wannacry-cyberattacks-idUSKCN1LM20W

[15] Eleanor Albert, Council on Foreign Relations, What Are North Korea’s Military Capabilities?, 25 July 2019, retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities

[16] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi, Military Review: North Korean Cyber Support to Combat Operations, July/August 2017, retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20170831_TOSI_North_Korean_Cyber.pdf

[17] Jack Kim and Ju-min Park, Reuters:Cyber-attack on South Korea may not have come from China after all, 22 March 2013, retrieved from  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-korea/cyber-attack-on-south-korea-may-not-have-come-from-china-after-all-regulator-idUSBRE92L07120130322

 

 

Assessment Papers Cyberspace North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

Assessment of Militia Forces as a Model for Recruitment and Retention in Cyber Security Forces

Franklin Holcomb is a graduate student from the U.S. at the University of Tartu, Estonia and a former research analyst on Eastern European security issues in Washington, D.C. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Militia Forces as a Model for Recruitment and Retention in Cyber Security Forces

Date Originally Written:  September 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 18, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate student from the U.S. at the University of Tartu, Estonia and a former research analyst on Eastern European security issues in Washington, D.C. He is a strong believer in the Euro-American relationship and the increasing relevance of innovation in security and governance.

Summary:  U.S. and Western Armed Forces are struggling with recruitment and retention in their cyber units, which leaves their countries vulnerable to hostile cyber actors. As society becomes increasingly digitalized in coming years, the severity of these vulnerabilities will increase. The militia model adopted by the Baltic states provides a format to attract civilian experts and decrease vulnerabilities.

Text:  The U.S. Armed Forces are facing difficulties recruiting and retaining cyber-security talent. To meet this challenge the U.S. Marine Corps announced in April 2019 that it would establish a volunteer cyber-auxiliary force (Cyber Aux) consisting of a “small cadre of highly-talented cyber experts who train, educate, advise, and mentor Marines to keep pace with constantly-evolving cyber challenges[1].” The Cyber Aux will face many of the issues that other branches, and countries, have in attracting and retaining cyber-security professionals. Cyber Aux takes notably important steps towards increasing the appeal of participation in the U.S. armed forces for cyber-security experts, such as relaxing grooming and fitness standards. But Cyber Aux will struggle to attract enough professionals due to factors such as its role as a mentorship organization, rather than one that conducts operations, and the wide military-civilian pay gap in the cyber-security field[2]. These factors will ensure U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military forces will have suboptimal and likely understaffed cyber components; increasing their vulnerabilities on and off the battlefield.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been on the geographic and virtual frontlines of many challenges faced by NATO. The severity of threats facing them has made security innovation a necessity rather than a goal. While not all innovations have succeeded, these countries have created a dynamic multi-layered defense ecosystem which combines the skillsets of civil society and their armed forces to multiply their defense capabilities and increase national resilience. There are numerous organizations that play a role in these innovations including civilian groups as well as the militias of each state[3]. The militias, non-professional military forces who gain legitimacy and legality from state authorization, play a key role in increasing the effective strength of forces in the region. The Estonian Defense League, the Latvian National Guard, and the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Association all draw on civilian talent to form militias. These organizations are integrated, to different extents, with military structures and play supporting roles in a time of crisis that would free regular forces to conduct operations or support their operations directly.

These militias have established cyber units which are models for integrating civilian cyber-security professionals into military structures. The Baltic cyber-militias engage directly in practical cyber-security concerns, rather than being restricted to academic pursuit or mentoring like Cyber Aux. In peacetime, these organizations conduct training for servicemen and civilians with the goal of raising awareness of the risks posed by hostile cyber actors, increasing civilian-military collaboration in cyber-security, and improving cyber-security practices for critical systems and infrastructure[4]. In crisis, these units mobilize to supplement state capabilities. The Estonian Defense League and Latvian National Guard have both established cyber-defense units, and Lithuania intends to complete a framework through which its militia could play a role in supporting cyber-defense capabilities by January 2020[5]. 

The idea of a cyber-militia is not new, yet the role these organizations play in the Baltic states as a talent bridge between the armed forces and civil society provides a very useful policy framework for many Western states. Currently cyber-auxiliaries are used by many states such as Russia and China who rely on them to supplement offensive cyber capacities[6]. This situational, and often unofficial use of auxiliaries in cyber operations has advantages, prominently including deniability, but these should not overshadow the value of having official structures that are integrated into both civil society and national cyber-defense. By creating a reserve of motivated civilian professionals that can be called on to supplement military cyber units during a time of crisis, the Baltic states are also effectively increasing not only their resilience to a major cyber incident while it is underway, but raising the up-front cost of conducting such an attack in the first place.

As NATO and European policymakers consider the best courses available to improve their Armed Forces’ cyber capacities, the models being adopted in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are likely of value. Estonia pioneered the concept in the region[7], but as the model spreads to other states Western states could learn from the effectiveness of the model. Cyber-militias, which play a supportive role in cyber operations, will strengthen the cyber forces of militaries in other NATO states which are undermined by low recruitment and retention.


Endnotes:

[1] (2019, May 13). Marine Corps Establishes Volunteer Cyber Auxiliary to Increase Cyberspace Readiness. Marines.mil. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://www.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Press-Release-Display/Article/1845538/marine-corps-establishes-volunteer-cyber-auxiliary-to-increase-cyberspace-readi

[2] Moore E., Kollars N. (2019, August 21). Every Marine a Blue-Haired Quasi-Rifleperson? War on the Rocks. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2019/08/every-marine-a-blue-haired-quasi-rifleperson/; Cancian M., (2019, September 05) Marine Cyber Auxiliaries Aren’t Marines, and Cyber “Warriors” aren’t Warriors. War on the Rocks. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2019/09/marine-cyber-auxiliaries-arent-marines-and-cyber-warriors-arent-warriors/

[3] Thompson T. (2019, January 9) Countering Russian Disinformation the Baltic nations’ way. The Conversation. Retrieved September 25, 2019. http://theconversation.com/countering-russian-disinformation-the-baltic-nations-way-109366

[4] (2019, September 24). Estonian Defense League’s Cyber Unit. Estonian Defense League. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. http://www.kaitseliit.ee/en/cyber-unit; (2013). National Armed Forces Cyber Defense Unit (CDU) Concept. Latvian Ministry of Defense. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://www.mod.gov.lv/sites/mod/files/document/cyberzs_April_2013_EN_final.pdf; (2015, January 15). National Guard opens cyber-defense center. Public Broadcasting of Latvia. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/society/national-guard-opens-cyber-defense-center.a113832/; Kaska K, Osula A., Stinnissen J. (2013) The Cyber Defence Unit of the Estonian Defense League NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence. Tallinn, Estonia. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2018/10/CDU_Analysis.pdf; Pernik P. (2018, December). Preparing for Cyber Conflict: Case Studies of Cyber Command. International Centre for Defense and Security. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://icds.ee/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ICDS_Report_Preparing_for_Cyber_Conflict_Piret_Pernik_December_2018-1.pdf

[5] (2019, July 03) The Government of the Republic of Lithuania: Ruling on the Approval of the Interinstitutional Action Plan for the Implementation of National Cybernet Security Strategy. Lithuanian Parliament. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/faeb5eb4a6c811e9aab6d8dd69c6da66?jfwid=dg8d31595

[6] Applegate S. (2011, September/October) Cybermilitias and Political Hackers- Use of Irregular Forces in Cyberwarfare. IEEE Security and Privacy. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220497000_Cybermilitias_and_Political_Hackers_Use_of_Irregular_Forces_in_Cyberwarfare

[7] Ruiz M. (2018.January 9) Is Estonia’s Approach to Cyber Defense Feasible in the United States? War on the Rocks. Accessed: September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/estonias-approach-cyber-defense-feasible-united-states/; Drozdiak N. (2019, February 11) One of Russia’s Neighbors Has Security Lessons for the Rest of Us. Bloomberg. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-11/a-russian-neighbor-has-cybersecurity-lessons-for-the-rest-of-us

Assessment Papers Baltics Cyberspace Estonia Franklin Holcomb Latvia Lithuania Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, Territorial Forces, Militias, etc)

2020 Call for Papers Topics

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2020 Call for Papers Topics:

Topic:  Ethics in National Security

Call for Papers Begins:  January 2020

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-February 2020

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An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence analyst currently working on cyber defense strategy in the Middle East.  He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Date Originally Written:  September 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an early-career cybersecurity analyst with experience advising private and public sector organizations on cyber threats and building cyber threat intelligence programs.

Summary:  Local civic organizations in the U.S. are experiencing a wave of costly and disruptive low-sophistication cyberattacks on a large scale, indicating widespread vulnerabilities in networks. In light of past and ongoing threats to U.S. cyber systems, especially election systems, this weak cybersecurity posture represents a serious national security concern.

Text:  The state of cyber defenses among public sector entities in the United States is less than ideal. This is especially true among smaller civic entities such as city utility companies, local government offices (including local election authorities), and court systems. There is currently an ongoing wave of cyberattacks against government systems in cities across the U.S. In 2019, more than 40 local government organizations experienced successful ransomware attacks[1]. These widespread attacks indicate an attractive attack surface and vulnerable profile to potential cyber aggressors, which has broad implications for the security of U.S. cyber systems, including election systems.

Ransomware is a vector of cyberattack in which malicious actors compromise a victim’s computer and encrypt all available files, while offering the victim an encryption key to decrypt files in exchange for a ransom payment, typically in the form of a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. If victims refuse to pay or cannot pay, the files are left encrypted and the infected computer(s) are rendered useless. In some cases, files can be decrypted by specialists without paying the ransom. In other cases, even if victims pay, there is in reality no decryption key and files are permanently locked. 

Ransomware is among the most common and least sophisticated forms of cyberattack in the field today. Attacks of this type have grown exponentially in recent years, and one study found that in 2019, 18% of all cyber-related insurance claims internationally were linked to ransomware incidents, second only to business email compromises[2]. In some cases, insurance companies were found encouraging clients to pay ransoms because it saved money and promoted the criminal practice, enhancing the market for cyber insurance services[3]. 

Ransomware attacks are relatively easy to execute on the part of attackers, and often target computers can be infected by tricking a victim into clicking on a malicious link through a phishing email disguised as a legitimate business communication. For example, in 2018, city computer networks in Allentown, Pennsylvania were offline for weeks after ransomware infected the system through an employee’s email after the employee failed to install security updates and clicked on a phishing email. The attack cost the city around USD 1 million to resolve and ongoing security improvements are costing approximately USD 420,000 per year[4].

Local city systems make for attractive targets for cyber attackers for several reasons: 

1) Such organizations often carry cyber insurance, indicating an ability to pay and a higher likelihood of attackers being paid quickly without difficulty.

2) Local government offices have a reputation for being soft targets, often with lax and/or outdated security software and practices.

3) Infecting systems requires very little investment of resources on the attacker’s part, such as time, technical skill, focus, and labor, since phishing emails are often sufficient to gain access to targeted networks.

4) Executing successful attacks against such organizations often results in widespread media attention and tangible damages, including monetary cost to the organization, disruption to services, and public backlash, all of which enhance the attacker’s reputation in criminal communities.

Because of the ongoing prevalence of ransomware attacks, U.S. officials recently voiced public concern about the plausibility of ransomware attacks against election systems during the 2020 elections[5]. A chief concern is that if attackers have enough systems access to lock the files, the attackers very likely also have the ability to alter and/or steal files from an infected system. This concern is compounded by recent revelations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russian-linked threat actors targeted election systems in all 50 states in 2016, most successfully in Illinois and Arizona[6]. 

It should be noted that U.S. federal agencies and private consulting firms have engaged in a large-scale effort to increase security measures of election systems since 2016 in preparation for the 2020 election, including hiring specialists and acquiring new voting machines[7]. The specifics, technical details, and effectiveness of these efforts are difficult to properly measure from open source materials, but have drawn criticism for their limited scope[8].

In the U.S., election security is among the most complex and difficult challenges facing the cybersecurity field. Elections involve countless competing and interacting stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations. These nuances combine to present a unique challenge to U.S. national security concerns, especially from a cyber-viewpoint. It is a matter of public record that U.S. election systems are subject to ongoing cyber threats from various actors. Some known threats operate with advanced tactics, techniques, procedures, and resources supported by technologically-sophisticated nation states. 

The recent wave of ransomware attacks on local governments compounds election security concerns because the U.S. election system relies heavily on local government organizations like county clerk and poll offices. Currently, local systems are demonstrably vulnerable to common and low-effort attacks, and will remain so without significant national-level efforts. If local defenses are not developed enough to resist a ransomware attack delivered in a phishing email, it is difficult to imagine a county clerk’s office in Ohio or Kentucky having sufficient cyber defenses to repel a sophisticated attack by a Russian or Chinese-backed advanced persistent threat group. 

After the beginning of the nuclear arms race in the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. government developed a national civil defense program by which to prepare local jurisdictions for nuclear attacks. This effort was prominent in the public mind and expensive to execute. Lessons from this national civil defense program may be of value to adequately prepare U.S. civic cyber systems to effectively resist both low and high-sophistication cyber intrusions.

Unlike nuclear civil defense, which has been criticized for achieving questionable results in terms of effective defense, cyber civil defense effectiveness could be benchmarked and measured in tangible ways. While no computer system can be entirely secure, strong indicators of an effective cybersecurity posture include up-to-date software, regular automatic security updates, periodic security audits and vulnerability scans, established standard operating procedures and best practices (including employee cyber awareness training), and a well-trained and adequately-staffed cybersecurity team in-house.


Endnotes:

[1] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[2] Cimpanu, C. (2019, September 2). BEC overtakes ransomware and data breaches in cyber-insurance claims. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/bec-overtakes-ransomware-and-data-breaches-in-cyber-insurance-claims/

[3] Dudley, R. (2019, August 27). The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/the-extortion-economy-how-insurance-companies-are-fueling-a-rise-in-ransomware-attacks

[4] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[5] Bing, C. (2019, August 27). Exclusive: U.S. officials fear ransomware attack against 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-election-exclusive/exclusive-us-officials-fear-ransomware-attack-against-2020-election-idUSKCN1VG222

[6] Sanger, D. E., & Edmondson, C. (2019, July 25). Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/us/politics/russian-hacking-elections.html

[7] Pearson, R. (2019, August 5). 3 years after Russian hackers tapped Illinois voter database, officials spending millions to safeguard 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-illinois-election-security-russian-hackers-20190805-qtoku33szjdrhknwc7pxbu6pvq-story.html 

[8] Anderson, S. R., Lostri, E., Jurecic, Q., & Taylor, M. (2019, July 28). Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security-And a Partisan Fight Anyway. Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway

Assessment Papers Civil Defense Cyberspace Lee Clark United States

Assessing Black Swans and their Pre-Incident Indicators

Charles Cameron, is a poet first and foremost, managing editor of the Zenpundit blog, and one-time Senior Analyst with The Arlington Institute and Principal Researcher with The Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. He holds an MA Oxon, having studied theology at Christ Church, Oxford, under AE Harvey. He is the designer of the HipBone family of creative and analytic games, based on Hermann Hesse’s Nobel-winning novel, The Glass Bead Game. 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 Black Swans and their Pre-Incident Indicators

Date Originally Written:  August 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author, who earned a living as a professional futurist during the 1999/2000 rollover, believes Black Swan Events will disrupt our best efforts to predict future threats.  However, with cognitive humility firmly in place national security analysts can observe the cross-disciplinary impacts of trends and can at least begin to think better about where these trends may lead.

Summary:  Black Swan Events come as a surprise, have a major effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.  Rather than watching the Black Swan take off from the lake, identifying its initial wing flaps, as warning of the impending event, and where other events intersect, is valuable.  

Text:  Watching a black swan take off is instructive.  It starts, invisibly, on the lake of time, skeeting with wing-flaps to gain speed, achieves lift-off, after quite a while, and whang, whang, whang, ups itself to optimal speed and altitude – at which point we, in our hide in the marshes, recognize “Hey, there’s a black swan here,” and note where on the lake of time the occurrence occurred.  National security analysts often opine on Black Swan Events, which are events that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.  Equally if not more important than the Black Swan Event are the pre-incident indicators of the event, the flaps of the swan’s wings if you will, that enabled the Black Swan to take flight. 

A first flap might have been Ramon Llull’s devices for calculating all possible knowledge by means of wheels and tables.  As History-Computer.com suggests, “One can ask ‘What exactly is Ramon Llull’s place in the history of computers and computing?’ The answer is Llull is one of the first people who tried to make logical deductions in a mechanical, rather than a mental way.”  On the lake of time, that preliminary wing-flap occurs around 1275 CE.  Llull, a Franciscan, was called Doctor Illuminatus, and beatified by the Church in 1514 CE.

Skipping a few possible Renaissance wing-flaps from the general type of magus on which Shakespeare based his Prospero, and oh, Pascal and Leibniz, we can reach Charles Babbage.  Babbage attained lift-off but not optimal speed or flight altitude with his Difference and Analytical mechanical computing engines.  While Llull’s were wing-flaps with the swan’s orange webbed feet still tracing ripples in the waters of time, Babbage’s definitively cleared the lake, it’s reflection, however, still allowing us to date it to the reign of Queen Victoria and Lewis Carroll’s river-boating tales with Alice – circa 1833 to 1871.  Insufficient funding prevented the construction of Babbage’s engine – an indication that general awareness of a black swan in flight was still lacking.  Even the powerful flap of Vannevar Bush’s memex machine, described in his 1945 Atlantic piece “As We May Think” wasn’t enough.

Next are the wing-flaps of Johnny von Neumann, or International Business Machines aka IBM mainframes at a time when Thomas Watson said no more than six computers would suffice for world-wide supply.  Even the first personal computers (PC), or the portable Osbornes and KayPros made a few flaps, but it’s Steve Jobs’ Macintosh that hits speed and altitude, popularity and elegance.  In 1984 the Macintosh dragged the reluctant PC world into Windows behind it.  Black Swan, we cry, as ARPANET, an internet precursor, becomes the World Wide Web which sets the conditions for Facebook and QAnon.  “We didn’t see it coming” analyst cry, turning to Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s book, “Black Swan,” for an excuse.  Taleb, meanwhile, has moved on, writing more books and a stream of articles – and thinking as yet unwritten thoughts.

The lake of time by now has become, for all practical purposes, the timeline of computing, but the flight plan of the Black Swan has still not been announced.  Black Swans in general don’t issue flight plans and – here’s the catch – are generally recognized only in retrospect.  So the future can be intuited to some degree by assessing the black swans already in flight such as social media and climate change, and tracking them to their national security implications such as weakening of the nation state, the rise of nationalist movements, protest movements, and massive migrations / movements.  But beyond that, and in terms of Black Swans just now achieving lift-off – the future is black, blank, invisible, unseen, and unguessable.  This un-guessability is you will is partly because the future lies where the paths of Black Swans such as mass migration and climate change intersect and cross-pollinate.

Pollination is from a different discourse than swan lift-off, of course – it’s mixing metaphors.  But then by now, interdisciplinarity and perhaps intersectionality intersect, too.  “Only connect” wrote English novelist EM Forster, flapping his dark wings back before the First World War in 1910: “Only connect!” that was the whole of her sermon.  “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.  Live in fragments no longer.”

Cognitive humility is valuable to not only surviving Black Swans but identifying the early flap of their wings.  While best assessments of future threats can be made, exploring the cross-over impacts of these assessments can be of value.  So too can considering outside influences and whether possible events will unfold in a sequence or lack thereof.  As national security threats are driven by the needs of people and their actions, returning frequently to climate change and cross-border mass migration threats can be of value.  Finally, one’s depth of historical knowledge will greatly one’s reach of futuristic thinking.  And, despite all this, the future Black Swan Event may still come at us from behind.  

Endnotes:

None.

Assessment Papers Charles Cameron Major Events / Unforeseen Events / Black Swans

Call for Papers: Deterrence and Détente

Background:

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

Call for Papers:

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

For the purpose of this Call for Papers we define Deterrence as the maintenance of military power for the purpose of discouraging attack.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers we define Détente as as the relaxation of strained relations or tensions (as between nations).

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Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by December 13, 2019.

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Call For Papers

Alternative History: An Assessment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Azhdar Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

David R. Strachan is a naval analyst and founder of Strikepod Systems (strikepod.com), a provider of current and strategic fiction intelligence (FICINT) on global naval affairs, with an emphasis on unmanned maritime systems.  He can be found on Twitter @Strikepod.  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:  Alternative History: An Assessment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Azhdar Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes that the anonymous tanker attacks of May 12, 2019, were carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) using an indigenously-developed unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), and that the United States subsequently uncovered evidence of an Iranian offensive UUV, the Azhdar. It is written from the perspective of the U.S. Intelligence Community for an audience of national security policymakers.

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2019.

Summary:  U.S. intelligence has uncovered evidence that Iran has repurposed its e-Ghavasi swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) as an offensive UUV.  This repurposing is a potentially game-changing capability for Iranian naval forces with grave implications for regional stability.

Text:  On the morning of May 12, 2019, four oil tankers anchored off the coast of the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), sustained damage from what was alleged to be limpet mines placed by Iranian divers or fast boat operatives. However, scientific intelligence obtained from a clandestine source working alongside UAE investigators suggests that the blast damage was in fact inconsistent with the use of limpet mines. The source also reports that UAE investigators reached conclusions similar to those of an unnamed Norwegian insurance company (as reported by Reuters on May 17, 2019), namely that the IRGCN was behind the attacks, that these attacks were likely carried out using “underwater drones carrying 30-50 kg (65-110 lb.) of high-grade explosives,” and that the release of such information would cause significant alarm and exacerbate regional instability[1]. Additional supporting evidence was not provided, but if confirmed, this type of attack would represent a deeply concerning development for the United States, its  allies, and a potentially game-changing breakthrough for the IRGCN. 

Despite years of crippling economic sanctions, Iran has managed to acquire a potent undersea warfare capability, including three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, nearly two dozen Ghadir-class midget submarines, two domestically produced classes of attack submarine (Fateh and Besat), and an assortment of special operations vehicles and mines[2]. Given the IRGCN’s experience with undersea operations, including offensive mining, and the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and IRGCN have historically been skilled early adopters of unmanned technologies, we anticipated that Iran would seek to acquire an unmanned undersea capability, either through illicit acquisition or indigenous manufacture. Even a crude UUV would provide a considerable asymmetric advantage to Iran and its nonstate proxies operating in the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb Strait. As such, U.S. collection efforts expanded in 2010 to include monitoring for indications of Iranian procurement of UUV-related technologies. 

In 2012, a report surfaced that Iran had managed to domestically produce a UUV, dubbed the Phoenix, that was capable of 18 knots while submerged[3]. Given Tehran’s history of exaggerating or outright fabricating military capabilities, the veracity of this report was questionable. We were aware, however, that Iran had been attempting to acquire commercially available UUVs by tapping into the global defense marketplace via a complex web of front companies and smuggling operations. Iran was also attempting to acquire commercial off-the-shelf components, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes (used in inertial guidance systems), marine magnetometers, electro-hydraulic pressure sensors, and undersea modems. In the months leading up to May 12, 2019, we were well aware of Iranian materiel gains, but believed that the technical and operational challenges involved in deploying an offensive UUV were too great for Iran to overcome. However, given the UAE investigation, and intelligence recently provided by a highly placed source within the Iranian naval establishment, we no longer believe this to be the case.

We are now certain that Iran has repurposed its e-Ghavasi SDV as a weaponized UUV, and that four of these vehicles were in fact used to carry out the May 12, 2019 attacks. With its ready-made hullform and operational propulsion system, Iranian engineers successfully retrofitted a crude but effective onboard inertial guidance system. Coupled with its capacity to accommodate a large multi-influence mine, the weaponized, unmanned e-Ghavasi, dubbed the Azhdar, is now a highly mobile, stealthy, and lethal mine platform.

The weaponized UUV Azhdar is 533mm in diameter, which makes it compatible with standard heavyweight torpedo tubes. In order to fit, the vehicle’s forward diving planes and rear stabilizer have been recessed into the hull and are spring loaded to deploy upon launch. The vehicle’s cargo bay is large enough to carry a 480kg seabed mine, and it is likely, given the scale of the damage, that only a fraction of its ordnance capacity was utilized in the May 12, 2019 attacks[4]. Approximately twelve units are currently in the IRGCN inventory.  Assuming current Iranian defense industrial capacity and an uninterrupted connection to illicit supply lines, we believe Iran is capable of producing two to three weaponized UUVs per month.

The Azhdar is essentially a mobile mine that can be programmed to detonate at a particular time or place, or when influenced by specific sensory inputs. It can be deployed from surface or subsurface platforms, and is extremely hard to detect and neutralize. Although relatively slow and lumbering when compared to a torpedo or encapsulated torpedo mine, it is extremely quiet and stealthy, and, given its mobility, is largely immune to mine countermeasures. Azhdar undersea deployments would be far more covert than indiscriminate mining, which would take several days of highly visible surface activity. Also, the psychological effect of targeted Azhdar attacks could enable the Iranians to effectively close the Strait of Hormuz while enjoying deniability and maintaining a vital economic lifeline for oil exports.

The Azhdar poses a unique and significant tactical challenge for the U.S. Navy, as it would likely render traditional mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics ineffective. In a manner consistent with Iranian torpedo tactics, we believe that Azhdars would be deployed from Ghadir-class midget submarines operating on the seabed in shallow, cluttered coastal areas where they would be effectively masked from sonar detection. But unlike a torpedo launch, which would expose the Ghadir to near-immediate counter-detection and counterattack by U.S. ASW assets, an Azhdar deployment would be extremely difficult if not impossible to detect. Once deployed, the Azhdars would proceed slowly and quietly, approaching their targets without warning and detonating on contact or from magnetic influence. The Ghadir could then rearm while surfaced or submerged using divers from an IRGCN surface vessel to facilitate the reloading process[5]. 

The Azhdar UUV is a force multiplier for the IRGCN, combining the sea denial capability of conventional offensive mine warfare with the stealth, mobility, and plausible deniability of unmanned undersea operations. It is a game-changer for Iranian seapower, with far-reaching implications for the United States and its regional interests.


Endnotes:

[1] Reuters, (2019, May 17) Exclusive: Insurer says Iran’s Guards likely to have organized tanker attacks https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-oil-tankers-exclusive/exclusive-insurer-says-irans-guards-likely-to-have-organized-tanker-attacks-idUSKCN1SN1P7

[2] See Covert Shores, (2017, December 29) Iranian e-Ghavasi Human Torpedo http://www.hisutton.com/Iran_Chariot.html; Covert Shores, (2015, October 10) Demystified – new low profile Iranian SDV http://www.hisutton.com/Demystified%20-%20new%20low-profile%20Iranian%20SDV.html; Covert Shores, (2016, August 28) Nahang Class http://www.hisutton.com/Nahang%20Class.html; Office of Naval Intelligence, (2017, February) Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies https://www.oni.navy.mil/Portals/12/Intel%20agencies/iran/Iran%20022217SP.pdf

[3] Navy Recognition, (2012, January 24) Iran reportedly designed an unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/year-2012-news/january-2012-navy-world-naval-forces-maritime-industry-technology-news/294-iran-reportedly-designed-an-unmanned-underwater-vehicle-uuv.html

[4] Covert Shores, (2017, December 29) Iranian e-Ghavasi Human Torpedo http://www.hisutton.com/Iran_Chariot.html

[5] Tasnim News Agency, (2016, January 30) Iranian Navy Forces Practice Off-Dock Torpedo Loading in Drills https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/01/30/985644/iranian-navy-forces-practice-off-dock-torpedo-loading-in-drills

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers David R. Strachan Iran Underwater Capabilities

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ Options to Counter the 1941 German Invasion

Timothy Heck is a free-lance editor focusing on military history and national security topics.  An artillery officer by trade, he is working on several projects related to the Red Army during and after the Great Patriotic War.  He can be found on Twitter @tgheck1 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:  On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Date Originally Written:  August 13, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 24, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the Soviet High Command’s (Stavka) options for handling the German invasion of the USSR which began on June 22, 1941.

Background:  On June 22, 1941 German troops in significant strength (at least Army-sized) attacked the border of the Soviet Union in all military districts.  The attacks came as a surprise to the Soviets, in spite of the presence of several operational indicators[1].  At the strategic level, intelligence failed to detect obvious signals of an imminent invasion[2].  Despite intelligence shortcomings, the Soviet Red Army repelled these attacks and defended the Motherland at heavy cost.

On June 23 positional fighting continued with Soviet defenses holding firm in most sectors and making small gains in others.  Today, the Germans are expected to continue attacks in local settings in division-level or below strength.  The Red Army has several options to respond.  Options 1a and 1b are manpower-based decisions while Options 2a and 2b involve combat deployment.  

Significance:  Massed German forces pose an existential threat to the Soviet Union’s security.  German military capability and capacity remain high.  While the German campaign model is of short, aggressive thrusts, a long war would likely involve the destruction of recent Soviet significant economic and social progress made during recent five-year plans. Conversely, failure to destroy the Hitlerites presents a threat to the long-term stability of the USSR.

Option #1a:  The USSR initiates a full military mobilization. 

While reservists in the Kiev and the Western Special Military Districts remain mobilized until autumn 1941, complete mobilization is required for full war.  Mobilization Plan 41 (MP-41) would activate approximately 8.7 million men and women, arrayed in over 300 divisions, which outweighs estimated German strength of approximately 200 available divisions[3].  

Risk: 

Economic:  Full mobilization would result in significant disruption to the Soviet economic base. First, mobilized manpower would be removed from the labor pool, tightening all sectors’ resources. Second, the necessary industrial retooling from peacetime to war material is a long-term detriment of the Soviet economy.  Third, mobilized manpower would be unavailable for the upcoming harvest.  Fourth, as the majority of Soviet economic assets travel via rail lines, their use for mobilized forces will impact delivery of necessary civilian goods, including agricultural products and raw materials.  

Equipment:  Current industrial capacity and military stores are unable to fully equip the mobilized force in the near term.  Furthermore, a full-scale mobilization risks adding excessive use to all items not specifically needed to address the German threat, requiring accelerated replacement and procurement plans. 

Gain: 

Strategic flexibility:  A fully mobilized Red Army provides flexibility without concerns about manpower restrictions should further combat operations become necessary.  MP-41 gives commanders strategic and operational reserves needed for mobile warfare, regardless of whether Option 2a or 2b is selected.

Readiness:  A full-scale mobilization brings all reserve formations to table of organization and equipment strength, allowing commanders to improve individual and collective training levels, and improving combat readiness.

Option #1b:  The USSR initiates a partial military mobilization.

A limited mobilization could be used to replenish losses in forward units, recall specialists to duty, and / or reinforce against potential Japanese aggression in the East.  A limited mobilization would focus on current operational and strategic needs. 

Risk: 

Excessive scope/scale:  Any level of mobilization creates excess manpower to train, administer, and equip.  Given current Red Army shortages, excess personnel risk being underused.  Furthermore, an excessive mobilization shortens service life for items used by excess personnel.  

Inadequate scope/scale:  Inadequate mobilization fails to give the Red Army the manpower needed for either Option 2a or 2b.  Likely, subsequent mobilizations would be required, increasing the complexity of operational-level planning by adding phasing requirements.

Gain:

Planned preparedness:  Recalling selected personnel / units tailors the mobilization to meet current or anticipated needs without creating waste.

Minimized disruption:  The impact on the Soviet economy would be reduced, allowing for continued progress on the Third Five Year Plan and its focus on consumer goods.  Excessive disruption would adversely impact the Soviet citizens’ quality of life.

Option #2a:  The Red Army counterattacks against the German forces.

With the forces currently or soon to be available, launch an immediate counterattack along the East Prussia-Berlin or Prague-Vienna axes[4].  

Risk: 

Material readiness:  While the Red Army possesses approximately 13,000 tanks along the German-Soviet border, many units have limited mobility needed for offensive operations[5].  Many airfields are overcrowded and squadrons displaced as a result of recent re-alignment in the Red Air Force[6].

Japanese involvement:  Given the Japanese-German-Italian alliance, the possibility exists that Japan will declare war against the USSR.  This would necessitate dividing forces to deal with both enemies, a risk compounded if forces are relocated from Siberian and Manchurian districts.

Gain: 

Operational initiative:  Choosing when and where to attack gives the Red Army the operational initiative in support of strategic objectives.

Potential alliance with Western Allies:  An immediate counterattack would align with Western interests and possibly set the conditions for an alliance.  Such an alliance would gain access to Western technologies, intelligence, and equipment while further dividing German attention and strength.  While capitalist states cannot fully be trusted, there exist mutually aligned interests in countering Germany that could be exploited.

Option #2b:  The Red Army maintains current defensive posture along the western border.  

Risk:

Continuing threat:  Without internal political collapse in Germany, the German military threat cannot be removed by a defensive Red Army.  In any war, the most one can hope for when playing defense is a tie.

Unprepared defenses:  Soviet defenses, especially in recently liberated territories, remain vulnerable.  Assuming continued German aggression and nationalist remnants, these territories are at risk of capture by German forces.

Gain:

Flexibility:  Remaining on the strategic defense now does not preclude going onto the offensive at a later date.  Furthermore, the Red Army can rebuild on its chosen timeline and to its desired end state (Option 1a or 1b).  

International support:  By remaining on the defensive rather than waging war on the German forces, including their civilians, the Soviet Union retains moral superiority, furthering the cause of Socialism worldwide.  Given recent Capitalist propaganda during and after the Finnish War, appealing to the League of Nations would advance Soviet interests in the long-term by showing a respect for the organization and giving the appeal a perceived moral grounding.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Alexander Hill, The Red Army and the Second World War.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, p. 206.  For more on available indications and warnings, see David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Revised and Expanded Edition. (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 2015), pp. 48-51.  See also Amnon Sella, “‘Barbarossa’: Surprise Attack and Communication.’” Journal of Contemporary History 13, No. 3 (July, 1978).

[2] Viktor Suvorov, Icebreaker: Who Started World War II? (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1990), pp. 320-321.

 [3] Hill, 198 and 192-3.

 [4] Hill, 196.

 [5] Hill, 199.

[6] See Mikhail Timin and Kevin Bridge, trans. Air Battles Over the Baltic: The Air War on 22 June 1941—The Battle for Stalin’s Baltic Region. Solihull, UK: Helion, 2018.

Germany Option Papers Timothy Heck Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

U.S. Options to Respond to North Vietnam’s 1973 Violations of the Paris Peace Accords

Timothy Heck is a free-lance editor focusing on military history and national security topics.  An artillery officer by trade, he lived and worked in Southeast Asia for four years.  He can be found on Twitter @tgheck1.  Josh Taylor is a U.S. Navy Foreign Area Officer and a 2018 Federal Executive Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.  He is presently Head of International Plans & Policy at Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, HI.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  In 1973 North Vietnam violated the Paris Peace Accords.

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2019.

Article and / or Article Point of View:  This article summarizes some of the options presented by U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and his Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG), to U.S. President Richard Nixon to address North Vietnamese violations of the Paris Peace Accords in the spring of 1973.  These options are based on realities as they existed on April 18, 1973, the day before the U.S. agreed to another round of talks with North Vietnam in Paris and U.S. Congress Representative Elizabeth Holtzman sued Secretary of Defense Schlesinger to stop the “secret” bombing of Cambodia. Nixon addressed the nation on Watergate on April 30, 1973, effectively closing the door on military options to coerce North Vietnamese compliance.  Included in this article are several errors in judgment common in WSAG or with Kissinger at the time.

Background:  On January 28, 1973, the ceasefire in Vietnam began in accordance with the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, also known as the Paris Peace Accords.  Since the ceasefire began, repeated violations of the Accords, specifically Articles 7 and 20, have occurred as a result of North Vietnamese action[1].  At the recent WSAG meetings on April 16-17, 1973, National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger asked for options on how to address North Vietnamese violations. The WSAG presents the below two options to meet Dr. Kissinger’s desired end state of securing North Vietnamese compliance with the Accords.  

Significance:  The collapsing security in Southeast Asia presents several concerns for American national security.  First, failure to forcefully respond to gross North Vietnamese violations of the Accords makes the U.S. seem impotent, undermines U.S. credibility, and endangers the President’s Peace with Honor goal. Second, unimpeded infiltration of men and equipment into South Vietnam place it at risk in the event of another North Vietnamese general offensive. Third, given the weak governments in Laos and Cambodia, further violations by North Vietnam risk destabilizing those nations with spillover effects on South Vietnam and Thailand. Fourth, any recalcitrance on behalf of North Vietnam risks damaging ongoing U.S. negotiations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), long known to be their primary patron. 

Option #1:  The U.S. conducts airstrikes against the Ho Chi Minh Trail (HCMT).

Recent North Vietnamese resupply efforts to their forces in South Vietnam offer numerous targets for the resumption of a massive aerial campaign lasting between three to seven days.  These airstrikes would be conducted by the Thailand-based U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force against targets in Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam.  Targets along the HCMT in Laos will require strikes against surface-to-air missile sites located near Khe Sanh.

Risk: 

New U.S. Prisoners of War (POW):  With the repatriation of the last American POWs on March 29, 1973, the creation of new POWs resulting from military action would cause a domestic uproar. Such an uproar risks reinvigorating the Administration’s political enemies, jeopardizing other initiatives.

Domestic criticism:  Continued military actions in Indochina fuel growing concerns over continued involvement in Indochina post-Accord.  It is reported that Representative Holtzman (D-NY) will be filing a federal lawsuit over bombing in Cambodia in an effort to stop the President’s efforts there. 

International reprobation:  The Agreement did not specify how violations would be addressed. Though the North Vietnamese bear little political cost for blatant disregard of the Accords, it will damage U.S. international credibility if we do not scrupulously adhere to its articles as we would be seen as violating the ceasefire despite our efforts to enforce it.

United States Air Force (USAF) limitations:  Previous losses during the similar OPERATION LINEBACKER II were significant and wing metal fatigue limits the availability of B-52D bombers. Converting nuclear-capable B-52Gs to conventional B-52Ds is time prohibitive and would reduce strategic readiness[2]. Additionally, the USAF possesses limited stocks of the precision stand-off weapons needed to strike targets on the HCMT (40-55 nautical mile range).

Ceasefires in Laos and Cambodia:  Currently, bombing operations are being conducted in the vicinity of Tha Viang, Laos against a Pathet Lao assault.  While in violation of the ceasefire treaty, the measure is being taken to dissuade further Pathet Lao violations.  Larger bombing operations, however, risk the fragile ceasefires in place or being sought in Laos and Cambodia. 

Gain: 

Signals to North Vietnam:  As Dr. Kissinger stated in his meetings, North Vietnam only respects brutality.  Thus, massive bombing will increase their likelihood of compliance with the Accords.

Demonstrates American power and resolve:  By demonstrating the U.S. is willing to back up its words with force, we reinforce messaging of enduring support to our Allies and Partners.  Importantly in Indochina, bombing demonstrates U.S. commitment to our allies, Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, Souvanna Phouma of Laos, and Lon Nol of Cambodia, that the U.S. is not cutting off their support after the Accords.  

Attrition of North Vietnamese Supplies & Equipment:  Bombing the HCMT significantly reduces North Vietnamese capacity to launch a general offensive in the short term.  Given the significant disruption the 1972 Easter Offensive created in South Vietnam, diminishing the North Vietnamese capacity for a repeat offensive is crucial to South Vietnamese survival.

Encourages PRC involvement:  The PRC only supports the U.S. when they feel we are unrestrained.  Any escalation of our actions will induce them to compel the North Vietnamese to comply with the terms of the Accords[3].

Option #2:  The U.S. continues negotiations with North Vietnam.

An insolent cable from North Vietnamese foreign minister Le Duc Tho to Dr. Kissinger offered to open another round of talks in Paris on May 15, 1973[4].  Any discussions about ceasefire violations should include all members of the Four Parties (U.S., Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (Viet Cong)) so that the diplomatic process is respected.  Significant headway was made during previous negotiations.

Risk:

North Vietnam stalling for time:  Given the recent surge in resupply, this meeting could begin too late given recent Central Intelligence Agency warnings of an imminent North Vietnamese offensive[5]. 

South Vietnamese intransigence:  While the U.S. remains South Vietnamese President Thieu’s staunchest ally and largest benefactor, Thieu may resist returning to negotiations as a means of holding out for additional financial and military aid and support. As he demonstrated in the fall of 1972, he has no qualms about scuttling negotiations that he feels are not in the best interest of his country. South Vietnam must participate if the negotiations are to have any credibility or effect.

Highlights diplomatic weakness:  There is no indication that North Vietnam will adhere to any new agreements any more than it has the original

Gain: 

Supports Peace with Honor:  The U.S. maintains international and domestic support by scrupulously adhering to the Agreement and avoiding additional bloodshed.

Preserves domestic political capital:  This option safeguards Congressional and public support for financial reconstruction assistance to South Vietnam and potentially North Vietnam as part of the Accords.

Military options remain open:  Option #2 discussions do not preclude a future employment of military options and allows time for the reconstitution of the USAF’s conventional bomber fleet.

Other Comments:  President Nixon is slated to address the nation on April 30, 1973 regarding recent developments in the Watergate incident[6].  

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Article 7: [T]he two South Vietnamese parties shall not accept the introduction of troops, military advisers, and military personnel including technical military personnel, armaments, munitions, and war material into South Vietnam.  Article 20: The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of one another and of other countries. (b) Foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Cambodia and Laos, totally withdraw from and refrain from reintroducing into these two countries troops, military advisers and military personnel, armaments, munitions and war material. Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris, 27 January 1973) https://www.cvce.eu/content/publication/2001/10/12/656ccc0d-31ef-42a6-a3e9-ce5ee7d4fc80/publishable_en.pdf

[2] “Memorandum from the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 11, 1973 in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 188.

[3] “Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting,” Washington, April 16, 1973, 10:03–11:45 a.m. in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 196.

[4] “Transcript of Telephone Conversation between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 21, 1973, 11:40 a.m. in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 206-207.

[5] “Memorandum from the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 11, 1973 in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 188.

[6] “Address to the Nation about the Watergate Investigations, April 30, 1973” in Public papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, containing the public messages, speeches, and statements of the President by United States and Richard M. Nixon. 1975. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Office, 328-333.

Josh Taylor Option Papers Timothy Heck United States Vietnam

Alternative Future: Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander.  He currently serves as a Company Commander in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  He has just started tweeting as @strategy_boi, where he shares fiction and non-fiction content.  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:  Alternative Future:  Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  August 10th, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current military member who served at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2018. The article is written from the point of view of a historian in the mid-2030s, examining shifts in great power competition in East Africa.

Summary:  After the United States lost its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2024, a series of operational and strategic challenges arose in East Africa. The departure of certain operational assets degraded America’s capability to conduct crisis response. At a strategic level, the ability of the United States to stem Chinese foreign direct investment and influence in Africa also suffered.

Text:  Looking back, it is easy to pinpoint the shift in America’s strategic position in East Africa to the 2024 decision by Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to not allow the United States to extend its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ). As a former commander of United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) had once said of the then $1.2 billion worth of Djiboutian debt to China, there did indeed come a time when that money would be collected[1]. The collection came at a steep price for Djibouti, as the country was forced to hand over control of the Doraleh Container Terminal to Beijing, an outcome many had feared would be the eventual result of the Chinese debt trap[2]. However, the United States paid the steepest price of all by losing its strategic position at CLDJ, which was at the time the United States’ longest enduring military base in Africa and headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Whether the loss came as a result of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) influx of money and influence into the Djiboutian government, or as a result of American foreign policy changes, is still in debate even ten years later. It is clear though that the loss of CLDJ triggered strategic and operational effects that are still being felt today.

With the loss of CLDJ, the United States’ already tenuous grasp on Africa, best illustrated by the failure of USAFRICOM to establish its headquarters on the continent itself, slipped further. First used by America in 2001 and expanded in 2007, the camp had been a hub for a variety of United States operations not just in East Africa, but in Yemen as well[3]. As the base expanded, so did its mission set, resulting in the United States basing not just special operations forces and Marines there, but also conventional Army units[4]. This expansion of the base and the operational support that Camp Lemonnier provided to the operations in Yemen and East Africa only intensified the impact of the loss of the American lease on CLDJ.

The immediate scramble to plan for and then re-locate the 4,000 personnel on Camp Lemonnier and their attendant functions to other locations left little time to plan for contingency operations in the Horn of Africa. Just as the United States military was completing its phased transition out of Camp Lemonnier, riots in the South Sudanese capital of Juba in 2026 threated American embassy personnel and tested USAFRICOM’s ability to respond to crises on the continent from outside the continent. With the departure of the East Africa Response Force from Camp Lemonnier, the United States could no longer provide a rapid response force as outlined in the New Normal procedures that had been in put in place in reaction to the Benghazi consulate attacks in 2012[5][6]. Instead, USAFRICOM and the Department of State had to rely on another child of the Benghazi attacks: the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) located in Moron, Spain and Sigonella, Italy[7]. In the vast distances of the African continent, the time spent getting from Sigonella to Juba proved costly, and by the time the SP-MAGTF element secured the embassy, two American diplomats were dead. In the investigations in the months that followed, it was not lost on American legislators that a failure to maintain a foothold in East Africa had contributed to the loss of American lives and property in Juba.

Beyond the immediate operational costs of losing CLDJ, America faced a greater strategic loss in East Africa. As part of the BRI that China had been pursuing for over a decade prior to 2024, the Export-Import Bank of China had loaned Djibouti nearly $957 million as of 2018 in order to finance development projects[8]. Also under the BRI, China constructed the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, a 3.5 billion dollar project[9]. After losing its foothold in Djibouti, the United States had little diplomatic clout to resist the continued investment of Chinese capital into East African states, furthering the debt trap situation beyond the borders of Djibouti. Furthermore, with the departure of the United States military from Djibouti, long-term American humanitarian projects in Djibouti, such as the 2019 opening of a medical clinic in the town of Ali Oune, no longer had a logistical base from which to draw support[10]. With America out of the way, any non-Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) was left in the hands of the French, Japanese, and other foreign powers present in Djibouti. America could no longer use its military to try to match, in some small way, the FDI provided by China.

Despite the American military departure from the region beginning in 2024, several of America’s allies remain to this day. Although the French Senate had previously expressed concern over Chinese influence overshadowing French influence in Djibouti, France’s defense clause remains in place and ensures that the French will remain in Djibouti even as China grows in power[11]. With piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa no less prevalent than in the late 2010s, the Japanese anti-piracy base just outside the old Camp Lemonnier gate continues its operations. However, no amount of anti-piracy operations or promises of defense can match the sheer influx of money that China promised, and delivered, under their BRI. As the world moves toward the 2040s and the completion of the multi-decade BRI, the world is left wondering if the 21st century will be a Chinese century. With the departure of the American military from Djibouti, the answer seems to be that in Africa, it already is.


Endnotes:

[1] Browne, R. (2018, April 08). US military resumes air operations in Djibouti. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/08/politics/us-air-operations-djibouti/index.html

[2] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[3] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Martin, P. (2019, March 20). East Africa Response Force deployed to Gabon. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/218891/east_africa_response_force_deployed_to_gabon

[6] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[7] Egnash, M. (2019, January 14). Legacy of Benghazi: Marine force stays ready for quick Africa deployment. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.stripes.com/news/legacy-of-benghazi-marine-force-stays-ready-for-quick-africa-deployment-1.564342

[8] Daly, J. C. (2018, April 11). Geostrategic position draws foreign powers to Djibouti. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://thearabweekly.com/geostrategic-position-draws-foreign-powers-djibouti

[9] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[10] Nickel, S. (2019, January 31). U.S. Navy Seabees turn over Ali Oune Medical Clinic to Djiboutian officials. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.hoa.africom.mil/story/22489/u-s-navy-seabees-turn-over-ali-oune-medical-clinic-to-djiboutian-officials

[11] Griffin, C. (2018, October 28). Strategic Competition for Bases in Djibouti: TRENDS. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from http://trendsinstitution.org/strategic-competition-for-bases-in-djibouti/

Africa Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti Horn of Africa Travis Prendergast United States

Alternative Futures: An Assessment of the 2040 Security Environment absent Great Power Competition

Mike Sweeney is a former think tanker who lives and writes in New Jersey.  He is the author of the essays, “Could America Lose a War Well?” and “Could America Leave the Middle East by 2031?” He’s still not sure about the answer to either question.  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:  Alternative Futures: An Assessment of the 2040 Security Environment absent Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presupposes that the challenges the United States will face as it approaches the mid-century mark could be quite different from the great-power conflicts with China and Russia that are now being anticipated and planned for. This article attempts to jar thinking to promote consideration of an entirely different set of threats. 

Summary:  America is likely to be ill-prepared for the security threats circa 2040. The tasks the U.S. military may be asked to perform in the face of global political instability, mass migration, and environmental degradation are likely to be both unconventional and unwanted. 

Text:  By 2040, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China are twilight powers whose strategic influence and military strength are waning. The former is mainly pre-occupied with internal stability and reform in the post-Putin era[1]. The latter has solidified its influence over the South China Sea, but the extreme costs of maintaining internal control over its domestic population and territories inhibit China from translating its resources into true global power[2]. The great-power conflict many postulated in the early twenty-first century never comes to pass. Instead, the U.S. military is forced to confront diverse but persistent low-level threats spurred on by forced migration, environmental degradation, and growing global inequality.

Several regions begin to undergo major political and social change, notably the Middle East. The region’s traditional rentier system breaks down in the face of falling oil revenue as the world belatedly transforms to a post-hydrocarbon economy. The Arab monarchies and secular authoritarian regimes begin to crumble in a second, more wide-ranging “Arab Spring[3].” While increasing the personal freedom of the region’s citizens, this second Arab Spring also enhances instability and creates a loose security environment where weapons and terrorist safe-havens are plentiful. 

Globally, there is a growing antipathy towards the world’s “have’s” among its many “have not’s.” Part of this antipathy is due to the economic insecurity in regions affected by major social and political transformation. But just as significant is the impact of environmental degradation on the livability of areas home to millions of people. By mid-century, ecological decline provokes massive refugee movements, dwarfing those seen earlier in the century[4]. As the stateless population increases substantially, the ability of Western governments to cope is severely stressed, necessitating assignation of military forces to administer refugee settlements and to interdict migrant flows. 

The increased stateless population, coupled with the turmoil brought about by political change in the Middle East and other regions, provides ample recruits for revolutionary organizations. Conservative, religious extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been discredited due to their social backwardness and exploitative hierarchies. However, the cycle of violence swings back to new incarnations of the violent Marxism that dominated terrorism at various points during the twentieth century. In contrast to religious extremists, the Marxist revivalists embrace many nominally noble ideas like gender and racial equality, the existence of universal human rights, and place an emphasis on securing dignity for the oppressed individual. They also draw an explicit link between the existing health of the world’s stable, prosperous nations and past exploitation of both poorer regions and the world’s environment as a whole. 

These Marxist beliefs form the basis for their targeting of the United States and other mature industrial states like Japan and most European nations. Despite their ostensibly laudable goals, the new wave of Marxists are willing to employ extreme violence to achieve them. The lethality of these groups is enhanced by major advances in biotechology which create new opportunities for relatively small groups to initiate catastrophic terrorist strikes. Proliferation of directed energy weapons renders civilian aircraft of all types increasingly vulnerable from terrorist attack from the ground. 

After decades of largely ignoring the value of international organizations, U.S. efforts to resuscitate such bodies to deal with many of the transnational problems undergirding new terrorist threats are ineffective. The result is an ad hoc approach where the United States works bilaterally where it can with whomever it can to address regional migration and poverty. 

For the U.S. military, the consequences are severe. Most of the equipment purchased or developed for great-power conflict with Russia and China is ill-suited for the challenges it faces in 2040. The U.S. military’s heavy investment in robotics still yields some benefits in the realms of logistics and reconnaissance. However, the complexities of dealing with challenges like migration flows, globally distributed low-intensity conflicts, and Marxist terrorism places limits on the applicability of robotic systems to combat. 

Above all else, well-trained manpower remains at a premium. The nature of many tasks the military is asked to carry out – directly guarding American borders, providing security and humanitarian aid to refugee camps, “humanely” interdicting migration flows, conducting counter-insurgency against impoverished, sometimes displaced populations – makes securing qualified personnel difficult. Some consideration is given to establishing a standing force of paid professionals drawn from outside the United States for particularly distasteful jobs, essentially “an American Foreign Legion.” 

The specific extent to which America should go abroad to address transnational threats is a source of intense domestic debate, with a wide disparity among political groups on the issue. One school of thought argues for developing and implementing truly imposing physical and technological barriers to seal the United States off completely from the outside world. These barriers are referred to as “the Fortress America” model. Another approach favors a robust and invasive effort to interdict the sources of Marxist terrorism through a range of humanitarian and nation-building initiatives. In this model, the U.S. military becomes something of a global gendarme mated with a strong civil engineering component. A third line of thinking argues for modestly increasing the physical barriers to entry into America while conducting specific interdiction missions against groups, leaders, and weapons facilities. These raids are initially referred to as “Abbottabad on steroids,” where small units deploy from the U.S. for short periods – up to a week – to secure and clear “zones of concern” around the world. 

The intense domestic debate over the military’s role in addressing transnational threats makes long-term procurement planning difficult. Many military members grow increasingly despondent with the thankless security tasks the challenges of 2040 require. The ubiquitous coverage of most U.S. military actions through everyday technology like cell phones increases civilian debate and military dissatisfaction. Force retention reaches a crisis, as does the mental health of military personnel. Most Americans agree that administering large migrant camps or attempting to address environmental degradation abroad aren’t what they want their military to do; most also concede that given the scope of these problems by mid-century, there are few other qualified options. 


Endnotes:

[1] For an excellent discussion of four scenarios for Russia’s future, see Lynch, A. (2018, October 25). What Will Russia Be. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/10/25/what-russia-will-be/

[2] See the discussion of China’s future prospects in Beckley, M. (2018). Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower. Ithaca and London: Cornel University Press.

[3] For a discussion of the rentier system and its role in maintaining authoritarian governments in the Middle East, see Muasher, M. (2018, November/December). The Next Arab Uprising. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2018-10-15/next-arab-uprising 

[4] For another possible extrapolation of the security impacts of the climate-refugee link, see Ader, M. (2019, July 2). Climate Refugees: Our Problem from Hell. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://wavellroom.com/2019/07/02/climate-refugees-our-problem-from-hell/

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Great Powers Mike Sweeney

Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

T.S. Whitman is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2019.

Summary:  Due to increased levels of militia activity and right-wing extremism, individuals radicalized on the far right-end of the political spectrum remain an awkward elephant in the room for policymakers. Despite a clear threat from right-wing extremists, an effective response is often limited by political posturing and pressure.

Text:  The rise of alt-right ideology, availability of firearms, and increased militia membership over the past decade creates a unique problem for policymakers. Setting aside the unlikely, worst-case scenario of whole-scale rebellion, even a single militia can pose a threat that exceeds the operational capacity of law enforcement personnel. There is no easy way to address this issue, as even openly discussing it probes sensitivities and fuels political resentment.

The ascent of militias has not occurred in a vacuum. It can be attributed to a sharp increase in political polarization over the past two decades, particularly after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. This widening gap in ideology and values has led to rising animosity between Americans. Nearly 1-in-5 Americans believe that many members of the opposite party “lack the traits to be considered fully human”; and 13% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats believe that violence would be justified in response to an electoral loss in 2020[1]. Despite high-levels of animus from both sides of the political spectrum, right-wing violence represents an increasing share of terrorist activity. The slice of terrorist violence by right-wing extremists increased from 6% of attacks in 2010 to 35% by 2016, while left-wing terrorist violence during the same period dropped from 64% of attacks to just 12%[2]. Furthermore, right-wing violence quadrupled between 2016 and 2017[3]. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, “Although violent left-wing groups and individuals also present a threat, far-right-networks appear to be better armed and larger[4].” Many acts or plots of right-wing violence have involved militia members[5].

Some militia groups are conducting so-called “operations.” One frequent spot for militia activity is the U.S.-Mexican border, where one militia recently detained several hundred immigrants illegally crossing the border[6]. Meanwhile, over the past decade, there have been a number of prominent incidents involving right-wing militia members. In 2014, following what had been two decades of legal disputes between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Cliven Bundy over grazing fees, the BLM moved to confiscate Bundy’s cattle. What followed was a tense standoff between Bundy’s armed supporters, many of whom had militia ties, and BLM agents. Out of fear of armed violence, the BLM caved and returned Bundy’s livestock[7]. In 2016, Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, led a group of armed protestors affiliated with militias and the sovereign citizen movement to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, in response to federal charges against two farmers, Stephen and Dwight Hammond. By the time the standoff ended, one armed occupier was dead and 27 more were arrested and charged. In June, 2019, after eleven Oregon Republican state Senators refused to attend a legislative session for a cap-and-trade bill, Governor Kate Brown ordered state police to apprehend and bring them to the state capitol for a vote on the bill. All eleven Senators went on the run. During a television interview, Senator Brian Boquist (R) said, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” They received support from militia groups in Oregon and Idaho, the former of which was involved in the aforementioned Bundy Ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Reserve standoffs. According to Real Three Percenters Idaho militia leader Eric Parker, “We’re doing what we can to make sure that they’re safe and comfortable.” He added that his group was communicating with the Oregon Three Percenters militia about the Senators. One militiaman with the Oregon Three Percenters wrote on Facebook that his militia “vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need[8].” The crisis ended after an agreement between Republican and Democratic leadership was reached to kill the cap-and-trade bill.

Attempted or fulfilled acts of political violence and terrorism by domestic extremists, though often bloody, have overwhelmingly been perpetrated by an individual or small cells. In almost every case, law enforcement officers have been able to preempt, apprehend, or kill the responsible parties. However, the size, organization, and armament of many right-wing militias gives the government cause for concern. Based upon the result of the 2014 Bundy standoff and the disastrous outcome of the 1993 Waco siege, it stands to reason that even a small militia of 100 armed personnel would require U.S. military capabilities to suppress[9]. However, the contemporary history of domestic military operations is fraught with confusion. For instance, during the L.A. Riots in 1992, Joint Task Force-Los Angeles lacked legal experts in Chapter 15, Title 10, Sections 331-334, and military lawyers were initially confused by the Posse Comitatus Act[10].

Discussing right-wing extremism requires delicacy and nuance, but will remain an inflammatory topic regardless of how it is addressed. In attempt to position itself to respond to right-wing domestic terrorism and political violence, the government has faced allegations of political bias. The earliest assessment of right-wing extremism under the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came under severe scrutiny for anti-conservatism and was subsequently retracted. According to Daryl Johnson, a career intelligence analyst and author of the report, the political fallout led to the end of “work related to violent right-wing extremism[11].” It was reported by The Daily Beast in April 2019 that the DHS had disbanded its domestic terrorism intelligence unit. Some officials have anonymously alleged that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of domestic terrorism assessments as a result[12].

Despite the challenge of addressing right-wing militia extremism, the average American is unlikely to ever be killed or injured by one. The chances of being killed in a terrorist attack, committed by a right-wing extremist or otherwise, are 1 in 3,269,897[13]. More concerning is the threat posed by insurrection, even if it is isolated and not widespread. Keith Mines, a veteran Special Forces officer and diplomat, estimated a 60% chance that America would experience “violence that requires the National Guard to deal with[14].” Ignoring this possibility will only place America at a disadvantage if an extreme militia group collectively turns to violence.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalmoe, N. P., & Mason, L. (2019, January). pp. 17-24. Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates, and Electoral Contingencies (pp. 1-41). Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.dannyhayes.org/uploads/6/9/8/5/69858539/kalmoe___mason_ncapsa_2019_-_lethal_partisanship_-_final_lmedit.pdf

[2] Ideological Motivations of Terrorism in the United States, 1970-2016 (Rep.). (2017, November). Retrieved April 10, 2019, from University of Maryland website: https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_IdeologicalMotivationsOfTerrorismInUS_Nov2017.pdf

[3] Clark, S. (2019, March 07). Confronting the Domestic Right-Wing Terror Threat. Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2019/03/07/467022/confronting-domestic-right-wing-terrorist-threat/

[4] Jones, S. G. (2018, November 07). The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/rise-far-right-extremism-united-states

[5] Goldman, A. (2019, June 04). F.B.I., Pushing to Stop Domestic Terrorists, Grapples With Limits on Its Power. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/us/politics/fbi-domestic-terrorism.html

[6] Hernandez, S. (2019, April 19). A Militia Group Detained Hundreds Of Migrants At Gunpoint At The Border. Retrieved July 05, 2019, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/militia-group-border-migrants-detain-united-constitutional

[7] Prokop, A. (2015, May 14). The 2014 controversy over Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, explained. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.vox.com/2014/8/14/18080508/nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-explained

[8] Sommer, W. (2019, June 21). Armed Militias Pledge to Fight for Fugitive Oregon GOP Lawmakers ‘At Any Cost’. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/armed-militias-pledge-to-fight-for-fugitive-oregon-gop-lawmakers-at-any-cost

[9] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 4: The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Posse Comitatus Act. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[10] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 6: Conclusions. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[11] Johnson, D. (2017, August 21). I Warned of Right-Wing Violence in 2009. Republicans Objected. I Was Right. Washington Post. Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/21/i-warned-of-right-wing-violence-in-2009-it-caused-an-uproar-i-was-right/

[12] Woodruff, B. (2019, April 02). Exclusive: Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit. The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/homeland-security-disbands-domestic-terror-intelligence-unit

[13] Nowrasteh, A. (2018, March 08). More Americans Die in Animal Attacks than in Terrorist Attacks. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.cato.org/blog/more-americans-die-animal-attacks-terrorist-attacks

[14] Ricks, T. E. (2017, March 10). Will we have a civil war? A SF officer turned diplomat estimates chances at 60 percent. Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/10/will-we-have-a-civil-war-a-sf-officer-turned-diplomat-estimates-chances-at-60-percent/

Assessment Papers T.S. Whitman United States Violent Extremism

Alternative Futures: Assessment of the 2027 Afghan Opium Trade

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


Title:  Alternative Futures: Assessment of the 2027 Afghan Opium Trade

Date Originally Written:  July 3, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 3, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a United Nations report outlining the rise Afghan heroin production and the consequences both within and beyond Afghan borders.

Summary:  A sudden exit of western troops from Afghanistan has fostered dramatic expansion of the already robust opium trade. Peace, profitability, and cynical policy calculations have led Afghan and regional players to embrace cultivation and trafficking at a cost to their licit economies, public health, and security. International players seem to think that Afghan peace on these terms is worth the corrosive influence that opium exports are carrying abroad.

Text:  In this 2027 30th anniversary edition of the World Drug Report, we have added an auxiliary booklet with an unprecedented singular focus on Afghanistan’s global impact on the drug supply chain and the threat it poses to security and development across multiple continents. This booklet covers the political landscape that allowed Afghanistan to become the world’s heroin epicenter and key players in the heroin trade. It also addresses the international response to the crisis and the global implications of the Afghan drug economy.

Five years after China’s 2022 acquisition of the port of Karachi through predatory One Belt One Road loans and a cooling in relations with Russia following the annexation of Belarus, major sea and air resupply routes to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were closed or compromised, making sustained operations in Afghanistan logistically untenable. The subsequent departure of all ISAF troops removed a principal roadblock in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban (Taliban): withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The resulting hastily negotiated peace deal formalized a power sharing agreement between the existing Afghan government and Taliban shadow government in exchange for renunciation of support and safe haven for transnational terrorists. In practice, a crude federalization has taken effect that leaves the Taliban politically represented in Kabul and in control of the majority of arable countryside used for poppy growth. The Western-supported government of Afghanistan largely retains control of urban centers and major highways needed for processing and export. This delicate equilibrium is largely sustained due to recognition that uninterrupted Afghan opium production is in the interest of both Afghans and international stakeholders and any violence would negatively impact profitability.

Within Afghanistan, an influential lobby shaping the political environment that has had a hand in the opium trade for decades is the transport mafia. Afghanistan has historically been a crossroads of trade and transport interests have long exploited opportunities for profit. The modern transport mafia became robust beginning in 1965 following the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA). The agreement allowed the duty free trade of goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan, leading to smuggling of the same goods back across the border for illicit profit. Soviet-Afghan war transport mafia activities included cross-border smuggling of arms to the mujahideen and smuggling of opium on the return journey. Post 9/11, theft of American supplies shipped via Karachi and destined for Afghanistan was another common scheme[1]. The influence of transport mafia interests in Afghanistan is profound in the political and developmental arenas as well. Popular support of the Taliban in the 1990s was largely attributable to the Taliban elimination of highway bandits, making transport much more predictable. Following the improvement in conditions, the profitability of opium smuggling by transport interests proved too popular for even the Taliban’s ban on poppy cultivation and opium. Following the 2001 arrival of American and ISAF personnel, transportation interests continued to grow alongside poppy cultivation, and in 2017 cultivation reached an all-time high of approximately 420,000 hectares – seventy-five percent of the global total[2]. Yields have continued to improve in the years since as Afghans have repaired irrigation infrastructure all over the south and east of the country. Reconstruction of qanats destroyed in the Soviet-Afghan war when they were utilized as tunnels for covert mujahideen movement has been especially important to year-over-year poppy yield increases. Many of the improvements were enabled by international donations until media coverage revealed poppy farmers to be the chief beneficiaries. Subsequent donor fatigue has depressed additional rounds of Afghan development funding, making improvements in health care and education unlikely. With few alternatives, most Afghans are now completely dependent on either poppy cultivation or the transport enterprise for their livelihoods.

Regional players surrounding Afghanistan all reap unique rewards by allowing opium trade to continue. Pakistan has doubled down on the idea of “strategic depth” in any conflict with India that is afforded to them by a friendly Afghan power structure. Allowing the proliferation of poppy farming in Taliban-controlled districts and refining labs throughout the Hindu Kush has benefited Pakistan by restoring a major proxy force that is now self-sustaining. Moreover, extraction of rents from producers and traffickers by Pakistani military and intelligence factions supports asymmetric operations against India in the disputed Kashmir region. Iran has been exploiting the European heroin epidemic by extracting concessions from European stakeholders in nuclear talks in exchange for closure of their border with Afghanistan, thereby closing a major trafficking highway to Europe. Iran’s border closure has had the unforeseen consequence of driving the flow of narcotics north into the Central Asian states and the Russian Federation. Subsequently, Russia has made heroin trafficking into Europe their latest asymmetric effort to disrupt European cohesion, with reports that tacit support of the Russian Mafia by the state has expanded the volume of the Moscow trafficking hub from one third of all heroin being trafficked to Europe to two thirds today[3]. As for the United States, the domestic political atmosphere continues to reward an exit from Afghan affairs despite the diplomatic and security costs incurred abroad. For all of these actors, inaction or an embrace of Afghan heroin is a devil’s bargain. In Pakistan, the drug economy has further hollowed out the licit economy, risking the stability of a nuclear state and calling into question the security of its nuclear materials. For Russia and Central Asian States, drug use has skyrocketed and Russia’s population has been particularly hard hit by a corresponding rise in HIV/AIDS, tripling from an estimated one million citizens in 2016 to just over three million in 2025[4].

Peace in Afghanistan has been achieved at the cost of the public health, security, and economies of nations across the Eurasian landmass. Moreover, it is a peace sustained by a tenuous illicit economy and cynical policy calculations that steadily erode the licit economies of neighboring nations and transit states. Without multinational cooperation to address the corrosive fallout of Afghan heroin exports, the international community will continue to feel the negative effects for years to come.


Endnotes:

[1] Looted U.S. Army Gear For Sale in Pakistan,
Chris Brummitt – http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39542359/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/looted-us-army-gear-sale-pakistan/#.XR0AcZNKgb0

[2] World Drug Report 2018 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9).

[3] Crimintern: How the Kremlin Uses Russia’s Criminal Networks in Europe,
Mark Galeotti – https://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/crimintern_how_the_kremlin_uses_russias_criminal_networks_in_europe

[4] Russia At Aids Epidemic Tipping Point As Hiv Cases Pass 1 Million – Official,
Andrew Osborn – https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-aids/russia-at-aids-epidemic-tipping-point-as-hiv-cases-pass-1-million-official-idUSL2N1551S7

Afghanistan Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Chris Wozniak Drug Trade

Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

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


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Date Originally Written:  June 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2019.

Author and / or Author Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. National Security Council after the 1962 Geneva Accords to determine the effectiveness of programs in Laos and their use in future foreign policy actions.

Summary:  From 1954-1962 the deployment of U.S. Army Special Forces teams, Central Intelligence Agency officers, economic and military aid prevented a communist takeover of Laos, considered a strategically important country in Southeast Asia. A pro-West Laos was desired under Eisenhower, but the transition to a neutral coalition government was ultimately supported by the Kennedy administration to keep Laos from becoming a Communist foothold in Indochina.

Text:  Counterinsurgency (COIN) can be defined as government actions to counter the “organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region[1]”. U.S. COIN in Laos had a broad focus to include: building the capacity of the Forces Armées du Royaume (FAR) – the Lao Royal Armed Forces, training a thousands-strong Hmong paramilitary force, economic and military aid packages, and defeating insurgent threats within Laos. Despite little strategic value, the French war in Indochina had convinced the Eisenhower administration that Laos could be the first potential ‘domino’ to cause Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to fall to communism[2]. 

In 1954, economic aid began flowing into Laos through a United States Operations Mission (USOM) based in Vientiane[3]. The 1954 Geneva Agreement brought the fighting to a (relative) end, established an independent and neutral Laos, and issued a withdrawal of French military units and Viet Minh elements, leaving only a small French force to train the FAR. The Pathet Lao, a communist political movement and organization in Laos, would move to the northeast for eventual demobilization[4]. 

The Programs Evaluation Office (PEO) was established in 1955 as an element of USOM to facilitate defense aid to the FAR, supporting the fight against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) presence in northeastern Laos. Laotian neutrality meant the PEO was staffed and led by civilians who were almost all former military[5]. The Vientiane Agreements, signed in 1957, incorporated the Pathet Lao into the FAR. However, a 1959 coup conducted by Laotian General Phoumi Savanna signaled the continued tenuous situation in Laos[6]. 

In 1959 U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) personnel deployed to Laos as part of Project Hotfoot to train FAR personnel. Hotfoot was spread across the five military regions within Laos. Led by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Arthur ‘Bull’ Simons of the 77th Special Forces Group, training responsibilities for Hotfoot were divided in two. “France would provide the tactical training to Laotian forces while non-uniformed U.S. SF would equip and provide technical training[Emphasis in original][7].” Hotfoot transitioned and expanded after Kennedy took office. 

In August 1960, Laotian Captain Kong Le led an FAR airborne battalion to Vientiane in a coup against the Royal Lao Government (RLG) to form a neutralist government. Lack of pay and the burden of continuous operations led to the coup[8]. While U.S. efforts under Hotfoot became Operation White Star in 1961, SF began Operation Pincushion, a training program for the Kha tribal areas with village defense units each up to 100 strong[9]. The PEO also became a Military Assistance Advisory Group with personnel donning uniforms, signaling the transition to an overt military presence[10]. During French rule the Auto Defense Choc (ADC), or self defense units, were established at the village level and filled by local populations. CIA began a covert operation, called Momentum, to build off the ADC program and establish a large paramilitary force of ethnic Hmong to fight the Pathet Lao insurgents and Kong Le’s forces[11].

Vang Pao was a Hmong officer in the FAR who had earlier received assistance from SF to create an irregular Hmong force. In 1961, CIA paramilitary officer James W. Lair approached Vang Pao to expand the operation which became Momentum. The second White Star rotation in the spring of 1961 became part of Momentum. The operation would equip and train nearly 10,000 recruits who proved extremely effective in the field[12].

CIA used its proprietary airline – Air America –  to support operations taking place throughout Laos. H-34 helicopters (replacing the weaker H-19), C-46, C-47, C-123 transport aircraft, and single-engine short take-off and landing aircraft provided airlift capabilities to CIA officers moving throughout the country, and FAR and Hmong units who received supplies through airdrops[13].

U.S. activities were critically challenged by Pathet Lao radio broadcasts (with Soviet support) which “were convincingly portraying the U.S. as obstructing peace and neutrality in Laos (while downplaying their own efforts to do so)[14].” The U.S. Information Agency field office in Laos “had two main objectives: improve the credibility of the Laotian government in the eyes of the population, and counter-Communist propaganda[15].” Small radios