Assessing the Impact of the Information Domain on the Classic Security Dilemma from Realist Theory

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


Title:  Assessing the Impact of the Information Domain on the Classic Security Dilemma from Realist Theory

Date Originally Written:  September 26, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 2, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that realist theory of international relations will have to take into account the weaponization of information in order to continue to be viable.

Summary:  The weaponization of information as an instrument of security has re-shaped the traditional security dilemma faced by nation-states under realist theory. While yielding to the anarchic ordering principle from realist thought, the information domain also extends the classic security dilemma and layers it with new dynamics. These dynamics put liberal democracies on the defensive compared to authoritarian regimes.

Text:  According to realist theory, the Westphalian nation-state exists in a self-interested international community[1]. Because of the lack of binding international law, anarchy, as an ordering principle, characterizes the international environment as each nation-state, not knowing the intentions of those around it, is incentivized to provide for its own security and survival[2]. This self-help system differentiates insecure nations according to their capabilities to provide and project security. While this state-of-play within the international community holds the structure together, it also creates a classic security dilemma: the more each insecure state invests in its own security, the more such actions are interpreted as aggression by other insecure states which initiates and perpetuates a never-ending cycle of escalating aggression amongst them[3]. Traditionally, the effects of the realist security dilemma have been observed and measured through arms-races between nations or the general buildup of military capabilities. In the emerging battlefield of the 21st century, however, states have weaponized the Information Domain as both nation-states and non-state actors realize and leverage the power of information (and new ways to transmit it) to achieve security objectives. Many, like author Sean McFate, see the end of traditional warfare as these new methods captivate entities with security interests while altering and supplanting the traditional military means to wage conflict[4]. If the emergence and weaponization of information technology is changing the instruments of security, it is worth assessing how the realist security dilemma may be changing along with it.

One way to assess the Information Domain’s impact on the realist security dilemma is to examine the ordering principle that undergirds this dilemma. As mentioned above, the realist security dilemma hinges on the anarchic ordering principle of the international community that drives (compels) nations to militarily invest in security for their survival. Broadly, because no (enforceable) international law exists to uniformly regulate nation-state actions weaponizing information as a security tool, the anarchic ordering principle still exists. However, on closer inspection, while the anarchic ordering principle from realist theory remains intact, the weaponization of information creates a domain with distinctly different operating principles for nation-states existing in an anarchic international environment and using information as an instrument of security. Nation-states espousing liberal-democratic values operate on the premise that information should flow freely and (largely) uncontrolled or regulated by government authority. For this reason, countries such as the United States do not have large-scale and monopolistic “state-run” information or media channels. Rather, information is, relatively, free to flow unimpeded on social media, private news corporations, and print journalism. Countries that leverage the “freedom” operating principle for information implicitly rely on the strength and attractiveness of liberal-democratic values endorsing liberty and freedom as the centerpiece for efforts in the information domain. The power of enticing ideals, they seem to say, is the best application of power within the Information Domain and surest means to preserve security. Nevertheless, reliance on the “freedom” operating principle puts liberal democratic countries on the defensive when it comes to the security dimensions of the information domain.

In contrast to the “freedom” operating principle employed by liberal democratic nations in the information domain, nations with authoritarian regimes utilize an operating principle of “control” for information. According to authors Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov, when the photocopier was first invented in Russia in the early 20th century, Russian authorities promptly seized the device and hid the technology deep within government archives to prevent its proliferation[5]. Plainly, the information-disseminating capabilities implied by the photocopier terrified the Russian authorities. Such paranoid efforts to control information have shaped the Russian approach to information technology through every new technological development from the telephone, computer, and internet. Since authoritarian regimes maintain tight control of information as their operating principle, they remain less concerned about adhering to liberal values and can thus assume a more offensive stance in the information domain. For this reason, the Russian use of information technology is characterized by wide-scale distributed denial of services attacks on opposition voices domestically and “patriot hackers” spreading disinformation internationally to achieve security objectives[6]. Plausible deniability surrounding information used in this way allows authoritarian regimes to skirt and obscure the ideological values cherished by liberal democracies under the “freedom” ordering principle.

The realist security dilemma is far too durable to be abolished at the first sign of nation-states developing and employing new capabilities for security. But even as the weaponization of information has not abolished the classic realist dilemma, it has undoubtedly extended and complicated it by adding a new layer with new considerations. Whereas in the past the operating principles of nation-states addressing their security has been uniformly observed through the straight-forward build-up of overtly military capabilities, the information domain, while preserving the anarchic ordering principle from realist theory, creates a new dynamic where nation-states employ opposite operating principles in the much-more-subtle Information Domain. Such dynamics create “sub-dilemmas” for liberal democracies put on the defensive in the Information Domain. As renowned realist scholar Kenneth Waltz notes, a democratic nation may have to “consider whether it would prefer to violate its code of behavior” (i.e. compromise its liberal democratic values) or “abide by its code and risk its survival[7].” This is the crux of the matter as democracies determine how to compete in the Information Domain and all the challenges it poses (adds) to the realist security dilemma: they must find a way to leverage the strength (and attractiveness) of their values in the Information Domain while not succumbing to temptations to forsake those values and stoop to the levels of adversaries. In sum, regarding the emerging operating principles, “freedom” is the harder right to “control’s” easier wrong. To forget this maxim is to sacrifice the foundations that liberal democracies hope to build upon in the international community.


Endnotes:

[1] Waltz, Kenneth. Realism and International Politics. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2008.

[2] Ibid, Waltz, Realism.

[3] Ibid, Waltz, Realsim

[4] Mcfate, Sean. The New Rules Of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. New York: Harper Collins Press, 2019.

[5] Soldatov, Andrei and Borogan, Irina. The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries. New York: Perseus Books Group, 2015.

[6] Ibid, Soldatov.

[7] Waltz, Kenneth Neal. Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Scott Harr

An Assessment of the National Security Implications of First Contact

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence specialist who has worked in the commercial, defense, and aerospace sectors in the US and Middle East. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd. He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. 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 Implications of First Contact

Date Originally Written:  September 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber intelligence professional in the aerospace industry. This paper will assess the hypothetical international security fallout and nuances of first contact with alien life. The paper assumes that no human-extraterrestrial interaction has ever occurred. Thus, Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) reports are not considered evidence of contact. The author does not believe humans have ever encountered aliens, but does not rule out the possibility that life may exist elsewhere in the universe.

Summary:   Despite fictional portrayals of first contact, it is most likely that alien life encountered by humanity would be so different from any life encountered by people on earth that it would be inconceivable to plan for, and possibly even unrecognizable. First contact protocols in this scenario would likely be led by scientists. In the unlikely event that humanity encounters intelligent / communicative life, the response would more resemble a whole-of-society approach.

Text:  The main precedent for managing contact with intelligent alien life in the public space is the post-contact policy of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence institute (SETI), once a NASA program and now a privately-funded research entity[1]. SETI focuses on radio signals, and their protocol is designed on the premise that aliens would send them a deliberate signal. Under SETI’s protocol, initial response to the revelation of intelligent alien life via radio signal would be guided primarily by the astrophysics community.

The SETI model, laudable though their mission is, has two key weaknesses. First, the likelihood that alien life would have developed along a similar enough trajectory and timeline to human civilization that the two societies would both have compatible radio technology is so small as to be negligible. If there is alien life with sentience and societal construction, their biology, ecology, sociology, and technology would be adapted to their unique home environment, as humans have adapted to the realities and limitations of Earth. Alien life is much less likely to resemble a little green man in a spaceship than, for instance, a jellyfish, anemone, or perhaps a sentient cloud of gas. The possibility of alien life, having developed in an alien environment, evolving to produce sentience, intelligence, and technology as humans conceive of them is extremely unlikely. If they do have technology, it would be adapted to their own needs, not ours. If humans find aliens first, it will likely not be because the aliens send humans a radio signal, or land on the White House lawn. If humanity wishes to find life elsewhere, it would most likely require a dedicated effort across the scientific community, including sending secondary sensors and exploration mission equipment on routine space missions.

Second, the implications of the existence of alien life, especially intelligent life or one or more developed societies, is so far-reaching that the first response cannot be responsibly left to the scientific community alone. A collaborative response by the international community would likely include a three-pronged approach: First, a group to handle contact consisting of an international team of civilian expertise such as linguists, engineers, astrophysicists, mathematicians, diplomats, and biologists. Second, an international defense team consisting of security expertise including tactical and strategic intelligence professionals, military strategists and leaders, and legal experts. Third and finally, an international team to manage public relations, likely a collaboration of civilian and military public affairs experts to determine if, when, and how much to reveal to the general public.

Even this approach has flaws: the likelihood that any nation discovering alien life would share it with other nations and coordinate a joint response is less than the likelihood of a nation concealing the information and attempting to use it to strategic advantage, as evidenced by the geopolitics surrounding the sharing of a potential COVID-19 vaccine between nations[2]. The internet, social media, and global disinformation campaigns would also make the calm, procedural, constructive handling of the revelation unlikely, and the potential for public panic or other severe obstacles is high[3].

If this article assumes no contact has ever occurred between humans and alien life (i.e. UFOs and television-style government conspiracies are fictitious or not related to actual alien existence), there are two overarching paths that first contact could take, both with numerous implications. The first is that alien life is intelligent and / or some form of sustained communication is possible. This is by far the least likely path. The second path is that alien life is not intelligent or sentient, or that no communication is possible.

If humanity were to discover intelligent aliens (or they were to discover us) and communication is possible, there are three basic possibilities that fall along a sliding scale of conflict. Relations between humans and intelligent aliens would either be peaceful and diplomatic, hostile and violent, or some fluctuation between the two over time. The possibilities within this framework are endless. Perhaps initial contact will be peaceful, only for hostilities to break out later into the relationship, or vise versa. Perhaps the aliens will be vastly more technologically sophisticated than humans, or vice versa, or perhaps the level of technological advancement between the two civilizations would be balanced. Unfortunately, these eventualities are largely impossible to prepare for, outside of potentially designating task forces to manage the situation should it ever arise.

The second path is overwhelmingly most likely, that any alien life encountered by humanity would be so different from any life encountered by people on earth that it would be inconceivable to plan for, and possibly even unrecognizable as life at all. Earlier the example of a jellyfish was used, but even this is a fallacy. A jellyfish, being alive and carnivorous, but lacking a skeleton, muscles, circulatory system, brain, or often deliberate motor functionality, is the closest approximation imaginable, since jellyfish evolved for a drastically different ecosystem. It is not difficult to imagine the first human to encounter a jellyfish not understanding that the creature was alive, and this would likely mirror the first time humans encounter an alien lifeform too different to be immediately recognized as alive. Human concept of life and biology is intrinsically shaped by the observable reality they exist in, but the environment of alien homeworlds would almost certainly be so different that life could never progress along similar lines to human civilization.

Along the second path, contact with non-intelligent life, the response would likely be driven much more by the scientific community: biologists, physicists, chemists, astronomers, and engineers. The potential for speculation of uses of this life, and it’s conservation, could be endless: military, pharmaceutical, aeroespacial?

The disappointing, if not bleak, reality is that humans will almost certainly never encounter alien life, much less intelligent life capable of sustained communication. The probability is simply too low. That said, the potential significance of the existence of aliens means that there may be value in investing limited funds and efforts into the search. Outside of the hard national security and scientific implications of alien life, there is another, perhaps equally important facet of the search and preparation: sociocultural. Aliens are so entrenched in the popular mind that dedicating some small resources to the search may have public affairs benefits. Put another way: people want to believe.


Endnotes:

[1] Paul Davies. The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence. 2011. https://www.amazon.com/Eerie-Silence-Renewing-Search-Intelligence/dp/B005OHT0WS.

[2] Chao Deng. “China Seeks to Use Access to Covid-19 Vaccines for Diplomacy.” The Wall Street Journal. August 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-seeks-to-use-access-to-covid-19-vaccines-for-diplomacy-11597690215.

[3] Daniel Oberhaus. “Twitter Has Made Our Alien Contact Protocols Obsolete.” Motherboard. 2017. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z4gv53/twitter-has-made-our-alien-contact-protocols-obsolete.

Assessment Papers Extraterrestrial Life Lee Clark

Targeting North Atlantic Treaty Organization Article 5: Assessing Enhanced Forward Presence as a Below War Threshold Response

Steve MacBeth is a retired officer from the Canadian Forces. He recently transitioned to New Zealand and serves in the New Zealand Defence Force. He has deployed to Bosnia, completed three tours of duty in Khandahar, Afghanistan and most recently, as the Battle Group Commander of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. 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:  Targeting North Atlantic Treaty Organization Article 5: Assessing Enhanced Forward Presence as a Below War Threshold Response

Date Originally Written:  August 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 25, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Article 5 does not provide the agility for forward deployed forces to effectively respond to challenges below the threshold of war. These challenges are also known as Grey Zone activities. This paper is a summation of a chapter the author wrote for publication at the NATO Staff College in Rome, regarding NATO in the Grey Zone, which was edited Dr Howard Coombes, Royal Military College of Canada.

Summary:  Russia has been careful, for the most part, to avoid direct confrontation with NATO. The Russian focus on indirect mechanisms targets the weaknesses of NATO’s conventional response and highlights the requirement to revisit Article 5 within context of the deployed enhanced Forward Presence Activities. Conflict through competitive and Grey Zone activities is omnipresent and does not follow the template that Article 5 was designed for[1] .

Text:  U.S. Army Major General Eric J. Wesley, Commander, U.S. Army Futures Command, has noted that western militaries and governments may need to adjust between a “continuum of conflict” that denotes “war” and “peace” to an age of constant competition and covert pressure punctuated by short violent overt struggle[2]. The Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov reflected upon this approach for the Russian military journal VPK in 2013. “Methods of conflict,” wrote Gerasimov, have changed, and now involve “the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non-military measures.” All of this, he said, could be supplemented by utilizing the local populace as a fifth column and by “concealed” armed forces[3]. These actions demonstrate a Russian philosophy of achieving political objectives by employing a combination of attributable/non-attributable military and other actions. Operating under the threshold of traditional warfare, these adversarial behaviours, known as Grey Zone activities, deliberately target the weaknesses of the traditional NATO responses.

Reactions to aggression are governed by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 5 provides the Alliance’s collective defence paradigm, stating an “attack on one is an attack on all,” signaling the shared intent to deal with armed aggression vigorously[4]. Article 5 does not address Grey Zone activities that demand rapid, unified decision making and action. NATO crisis response is predicated on a system that acts in a predictable and deliberate manner to deal with overt aggression. Though NATO has recognized the Grey Zone there has been little adaption to this threat and NATO has not demonstrated that it is prepared to act decisively in the case of a Russian Grey Zone incursion. The NATO forces positioned to deter potential Russian aggression on the Alliance’s eastern flank are the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle groups. This military commitment is structured and authorized to counter overt Article 5 threats. Paradoxically, the most likely danger they may encounter are Grey Zone challenges. Combine this capability to likely threat mismatch with the speed at which political and military decisions are required during crisis, like a limited Russian incursion with pre-conditions set by Grey Zone actions, and NATO may not be able to react effectively. Consequently, it may be time for NATO to re-visit its current Article 5 deterrence activities, in the context of Grey Zone activities. This re-visit would acknowledge the Eastern NATO nations require every opportunity to answer any form of threat to their security and fully enable the NATO forces arrayed within their countries.

Presently, the enhanced Forward Presence is an ‘activity’ and not an NATO mission. The forces remain under national control for all, but specifically pre-agreed tasks and lack common funding resources. For all intents and purposes NATO missions, with the exceptions of “operational limitations,” indicating national caveats or activities in which a contributing nation will not participate, contribute to a single military force under a unified NATO command structure. In the eFP context, this unified command structure does not exist. Outside of an invocation of an Article 5 response, the various elements of the eFP battle groups remain under national command. The Russian determination of conflict leans towards a state of constant, below the threshold of war competition utilizing deception, information, proxies, and avoiding attributable action. Russian efforts are focussed on NATO’s greatest vulnerability and, at times, source of frustration, lengthy centralized deliberation. At the best of times this need for consensus creates slow decision making and resultantly a diminution of strategic, operational, and tactical agility[6]. If the Russian trend of Grey Zone actions continue, Article 5 responses by the Alliance may become irrelevant due to this slowness of decision making. For the eFP battlegroups, which can react to conventional threats, the Grey Zone poses difficult challenges, which were not fully recognized when the eFP concept was originally proposed and implemented[7].

The Baltic countries are strengthened by having eFP forces garrisoned within their nations, but there is a capability gap in providing Article 5 deterrence. The lack of authority for eFP battle groups to compete below the threshold of conflict leaves Baltic allies uncertain if and how NATO can support them. Enhanced Forward Presence battle groups are not currently able to deal with Grey Zone eventualities. Consequently, in several important aspects, the Alliance response remains handicapped. Bringing about achieving rapid consensus for a crisis response operations in the face of an ambiguous attack, or in response to ostensibly unrelated low-level provocations, like those imbued in the Grey Zone, will not be an easy task in the current framework[8].


Endnotes:

[1] M. Zapfe. “Hybrid Threats and NATO’s Forward Presence”, Centre of Security Studies Policy Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 7, 2016, pp. 1-4.

[2] E. Wesley, “Future Concept Centre Commander Perspectives – Let’s Talk Multi-Domain Operations”, Modern War Institute Podcast., 2019. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lets-talk-multi-domain-operations/id1079958510 (accessed 15 March 2020)

[3] V. Gerasimov, “The Value of Science in Prediction”, Trans. R. Coalson, Military-Industrial Kurier, 2013, pp.

[4] “The North Atlantic Treaty Washington D.C. – 4 April 1949”, NATO, last modified 10 April 2019. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm (accessed 22 May 2020).

[5] The eFP Battle Group is an ad hoc grouping based upon an armoured or infantry battalion, which is normally commanded by a lieutenant-colonel (NATO O-4). It usually consists of a headquarters, a combination of integral and attached armour and infantry subunits, with their integral sustainment, elements. Also included are combat support organizations, which provide immediate tactical assistance, in the form of reconnaissance, mobility, counter-mobility or direct and indirect fire support, to combat elements. Additional sustainment elements may be attached as it is deemed necessary. eFP battle groups are integrated into host nation brigades. “Factsheet: NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence”, NATO, 2017. https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2017_05/1705-factsheet-efp.pdf (accessed 12 July 2020); C. Leuprecht. “The enhanced Forward Presence: innovating NATO’s deployment model for collective defence – NDC Policy Brief No. 22”, Rome, NATO Defense College, 2019, p. 3.

[6] J. Deni, “NATO’s Presence in the East: Necessary But Still Not Sufficient”, War on The Rocks Commentary, 2017. https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/natos-presence-in-the-east-necessary-but-still-not-sufficient (accessed 10 April 2020).

[7] For a synopsis of the apparent benefits of the eFP see C. Leuprecht. “The enhanced Forward Presence: innovating NATO’s deployment model for collective defence – NDC Policy Brief No. 22”, Rome, NATO Defense College, 2019.

[8] J. Deni, “The Paradox at the Heart of NATO’s Return to Article 5”, RUSI Newsbrief, Vol. 39, No. 10, 2019, p. 2. https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/20191101_newsbrief_vol39_no10_deni_web.pdf (accessed April 15 2020).

 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Governing Documents and Ideas North Atlantic Treaty Organization Steve MacBeth

Options to Improve U.S. Army Ground Combat Platform Research and Development

Mel Daniels has served in the United States military for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. 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 or person.


National Security Situation:  The modernization of U.S. Army ground combat platforms includes risks that are not presently mitigated.

Date Originally Written:  August, 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. Army’s over reliance on immature technologies are a risk to national security. Further, the author believes that the risk can be mitigated by slowing development and reducing research and development (R&D) investments while reinvesting in proven material solutions until new systems prove technologically reliable and fiscally feasible to implement.

Background:  The U.S. Army is investing in programs that remain unproven and are unlikely to provide the capabilities sought. Specifically, the Army is heavily investing in its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and remote combat vehicles[1]. These programs are predicated on optimal battlefield conditions. Firstly, the assumption exists that enemy forces will not be able to degrade or destroy the battlefield network required to operate unmanned vehicles. Secondly, the risk of the enemy developing weapons that specifically target transmissions coming from control vehicles is a factor that needs to be taken seriously in threat assessments and in planning purposes[2].

Significance:  If the Army’s assumptions are incorrect and if these efforts fails to procure reliable and sustainable ground combat platforms for future operations, there will not be additional resources to mitigate this failure. Moreso, if the Army procures vulnerable systems that fail to deliver effects promised, the Army risks catastrophic defeat on the battlefield.

Option #1:  The U.S. Army could reduce and spread out its R&D investments to further invest in its legacy combat forces to offset the risks associated with funding unproven and unreliable technologies.

Risk:  The significant risks associated with Option #1 are that the technological investments needed for future capabilities will be delayed. The Army would lose its plan for fielding, as the Army will not fully field the OMFV until the early 2030’s, assuming there are no complications to the program of record. Additionally, Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) would be delayed until they can also be realistically evaluated. Lastly, investments into legacy systems could threaten the need for future platforms.

Gain:  If the Army elected Option #1, it would have the time to properly and realistically test RCV’s, OMFV and Manned-Unmanned Teaming concepts (MUM-T). This additional testing reduces the chances of investing significant resources into a programs that do not deliver as promised. It also reduces disingenuous and fraudulent claims prior to further funding requests. Simply put, the chances of ineffective systems being funded would be mitigated because proper and realistic testing from an independent entity would occur first. The Army would also gain additional capabilities for its current systems that otherwise would not be upgraded but yet will remain in service for decades.

Option #2:  The Army consolidates their modernization efforts and cancels select requirements. Currently the Army funds 4 major ground combat programs; the Mobile Protected Firepower, RCV program (Heavy, Medium and Light), OMFV, and CROWS-J/30mm. The Army could cancel the MPF program because the program is questionable due to its inability to defeat enemy near peer armored threats that will likely be encountered[3]. This cancelation would allow the Army to invest into the RCV light program, armed with the 50mm cannon and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM). The Army would retain a viable anti fortification and direct fire support vehicle, while reducing needless expenses. Further, the Army could cancel or delay the unmanned requirement of the OMFV until the technology and network is fully secured and matured, with no limitations or risks.

Risk:  A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the Army will not get a light tank or get RCV Medium or Heavy platforms and it will not receive the “optionally manned” portion of the OMFV until later. The risk with not obtaining these desired capabilities mean that the Army would have to accept an alternative material solution that defeats enemy fortifications and armor as opposed to the MPF.

Gain:  The Army retains its desired capabilities while maximizing resources. The Robotic Combat Vehicle-(Light), armed with a 50mm cannon and ATGM’s, is less expensive, lighter and carries more ammunition than the MPF. Further, the RCV-L is better armed to defeat enemy armored threats, as the MPF’s 105mm cannon is inadequate to defeat enemy tanks[3]. Additionally, by removing the unmanned requirement from the OMFV, the Army would gain savings and reduce reliance on unproven technologies, reducing risk of battlefield defeat[4]. This option enables the Army to retain remote controlled concepts by shifting the focus to the RCV-L and equipping the Infantry Brigade Combat Team community with it, as opposed to the Army risking its combat strength and forcing immature technologies upon the Armored Brigade Combat Team community, which is the Army’s main combat formation for near peer conflict.

Other Comments:  The Army is heavily investing in vulnerable technologies without first ensuring it has an effective network able to completely support the operational concepts it desires. Without ensuring that the required network will be immune to enemy countermeasures, these technologies will not fully support operational requirements. Further, the costs associated with these efforts are already exceeding 60 billion dollars, and do not afford the service increased lethality or survivability, even by common English definitional sense. Army R&D efforts will continue to be at risk if they refuse to allow independent agencies full access and evaluation rights prior to further funding.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Freedberg Jr, Sydney. August 6th, 2020. Breaking Defense. GAO Questions Army’s 62B Cost Estimates for Combat Vehicles. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2020/08/gao-questions-armys-62b-cost-estimates-for-combat-vehicles

[2] Trevithick, Joseph. May 11th 2020. The War Zone: This is What Ground Forces Look like to an Electronic Warfare System and Why It’s A Big Deal. Retrieved from: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

[3] Central Intelligence Agency. Gorman, Paul. Major General, USA. US Intelligence and Soviet Armor. 1980. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000624298.pdf

[4] Collins, Liam. Colonel, USA. July 26th 2018. Association of the United States Army: Russia Gives Lessons in Electronic Warfare. Retrieved from: https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

Budgets and Resources Emerging Technology Mel Daniels Option Papers Research and Development U.S. Army

Simple Lethality: Assessing the Potential for Agricultural Unmanned Aerial and Ground Systems to Deploy Biological or Chemical Weapons

William H. Johnson, CAPT, USN/Ret, holds a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a MA in Military History from Norwich University. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle in the College of Aeronautics, teaching unmanned system development, control, and interoperability. 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:  Simple Lethality: Assessing the Potential for Agricultural Unmanned Aerial and Ground Systems to Deploy Biological or Chemical Weapons

Date Originally Written:  August 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 18, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired U.S. Naval Flight Officer who held command of the Navy’s sole unmanned air system squadron between 2001 and 2002. He has presented technical papers on unmanned systems, published on the same in professional journals, and has taught unmanned systems since 2016. The article is written from the point of view of an American analyst considering military force vulnerability to small, improvised, unmanned aerial or ground systems, hereby collectively referred to as UxS, equipped with existing technology for agricultural chemical dispersal over a broad area.

Summary:  Small, locally built unmanned vehicles, similar to those used in agriculture, can easily be configured to release a chemical or biological payload. Wide, air-dispersed agents could be set off over a populated area with low likelihood of either interdiction or traceability. Domestic counter-UAS can not only eliminate annoying imagery collection, but also to mitigate the growing potential for an inexpensive chemical or biological weapon attack on U.S. soil.

Text:  The ongoing development and improvement of UxS – primarily aerial, but also ground-operated – to optimize efficiency in the agricultural arena are matters of pride among manufacturers.  These developments and improvements are of interest to regulatory bodies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, and offer an opportunity to those seeking to inflict easy chemical or biological operations on U.S. soil. While the latter note concerning opportunity for enemies, may appear flippant and simplistic at first blush, it is the most important one on the list. Accepting the idea that hostile entities consider environment and objective(s) when choosing physical or cyber attack platforms, the availability of chemical-dispersing unmanned vehicles with current system control options make such weapons not only feasible, but ideal[1].

Commercially available UxS, such the Yamaha RMAX[2] or the DJI Agras MG-1[3], can be launched remotely, and with a simple, available autopilot fly a pre-programmed course until fuel exhaustion. These capabilities the opportunity for an insurgent to recruit a similarly minded, hobbyist-level UAS builder to acquire necessary parts and assemble the vehicle in private. The engineering of such a small craft, even one as large as the RMAX, is quite simple, and the parts could be innocuously and anonymously acquired by anyone with a credit card. Even assembling a 25-liter dispersal tank and setting a primitive timer for release would not be complicated.

With such a simple, garage-built craft, the dispersal tank could be filled with either chemical or biological material, launched anytime from a suburban convenience store parking lot.  The craft could then execute a straight-and-level flight path over an unaware downtown area, and disperse its tank contents at a predetermined time-of-flight. This is clearly not a precision mission, but it would be quite easy to fund and execute[4].

The danger lies in the simplicity[5]. As an historical example, Nazi V-2 “buzz bomb” rockets in World War II were occasionally pointed at a target and fueled to match the rough, desired time of flight needed to cross the planned distance. The V-2 would then simply fall out of the sky once out of gas. Existing autopilots for any number of commercially available UxS are far more sophisticated than that, and easy to obtain. This attack previously described would be difficult to trace and almost impossible to predict, especially if assembly were done with simple parts from a variety of suppliers. The extrapolated problem is that without indication or warning, even presently available counter-UxS technology would have no reason to be brought to bear until after the attack. The cost, given the potential for terror and destabilization, would be negligible to an adversary. The ability to fly such missions simultaneously over a number of metropolitan areas could create devastating consequences in terms of panic.

The current mitigations to UxS are few, but somewhat challenging to an entity planning such a mission. Effective chemical or weaponized biological material is well-tracked by a variety of global organizations.  As such, movement of any amount of such into the United States would be quite difficult for even the best-resourced individuals or groups. Additionally, there are some unique parts necessary for construction of a heavier-lift rotary vehicle.  With some effort, those parts could be cataloged under processes similar to existing import-export control policies and practices.

Finally, the expansion of machine-learning-driven artificial intelligence, the ongoing improvement in battery storage, and the ubiquity of UxS hobbyists and their products, make this type of threat more and more feasible by the day. Current domestic counter-UxS technologies have been developed largely in response to safety threats posed by small UxS to manned aircraft, and also because of the potential for unapproved imagery collection and privacy violation. To those, it will soon be time to add small scale counter-Weapons of Mass Destruction to the rationale.


Endnotes:

[1] Ash Rossiter, “Drone usage by militant groups: exploring variation in adoption,” Defense & Security Analysis, 34:2, 113-126, https://doi.org/10.1080/14751798.2018.1478183

[2] Elan Head, “FAA grants exemption to unmanned Yamaha RMX helicopter.” Verticalmag.com, online: https://www.verticalmag.com/news/faagrantsexemptiontounmannedyamaharmaxhelicopter Accessed: August 15, 2020

[3] One example of this vehicle is available online at https://ledrones.org/product/dji-agras-mg-1-octocopter-argriculture-drone-ready-to-fly-bundle Accessed: August 15, 2020

[4] ”FBI: Man plotted to fly drone-like toy planes with bombs into school. (2014).” CBS News. Retrieved from
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fbi-man-in-connecticut-plotted-to-fly-drone-like-toy-planes-with-bombs-into-school Accessed: August 10, 2020

[5] Wallace, R. J., & Loffi, J. M. (2015). Examining Unmanned Aerial System Threats & Defenses: A Conceptual Analysis. International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 2(4). https://doi.org/10.15394/ijaaa.2015.1084

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons Unmanned Systems William H. Johnson

Assessing Morocco’s Below War Threshold Activities in Spanish Enclaves in North of Africa and the Canary Islands

Jesus Roman Garcia can be found on Twitter @jesusfroman. 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 Morocco’s Below War Threshold Activities in Spanish Enclaves in North of Africa and the Canary Islands

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 16, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that given the current economic and public health weakness and the climate of social instability in Spain, Morocco could try, once again, to execute activities below the threshold of war to achieve its strategic, political, and territorial objectives in the Spanish territories of North Africa.

Summary:  Spain is currently in a situation of economic and public health weakness and emerging social instability. Morocco, as a master of activities below the threshold of war, could take advantage of Spain’s situation to obtain political and territorial benefits in North of Africa and the Canary Islands. This risks escalation between the two countries and could decrease security for all near the Strait of Gibraltar.

Text:  The Strait of Gibraltar has always been an important strategic zone, and although it has been stable in the recent decades, it has not always been that way. The most recent relevant landmark between Moroccan-Spanish was the beginning of the Rif War in 1911. This war lasted until 1927 with the dissolution of the Rif Republic. Since then, what is known as the “Places of sovereignty” (Perejil Islet, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Peñón de Alhucemas and the Chafarinas Islands) plus Ceuta, Melilla and the Alboran Islands, together with the former territory of Western Sahara and the Canary Islands, and the territorial waters of all the aforementioned territories have been the subject of disputes between Spain and Morocco. Morocco claims the territories or parts thereof as sovereign territory and does not recognize them as integral parts of Spain. This is the source of constant tension and conflict between the two countries.

There is little debate about the potential threat of a direct attack by Morocco on the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla but, given that Spain has plans for a difficult defense of such territories, this option seems very unlikely[1]. Beyond direct attack though, Morocco has a long tradition of activities below the threshold of war. One of Morocco’s most successful movements below the threshold of war involved invading the territory of Western Sahara during the Green March in 1975 with the help of a peaceful march of some 350,000 civilians demonstrators accompanied by some 20,000 Moroccan troops. This below threshold activity expelled the Spanish administration and army from Western Sahara without the need to use a single bullet[2].

Jumping well ahead in time, the Perejil Islet was the scene of crisis between Morocco and Spain in July 2002. During this crisis, Morocco militarily occupied the uninhabited territory with 12 Marines under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking in the area and refusing to vacate the island afterwards. In this case, a bloodless action by the Spanish Army would solve the conflict and the situation would return to its previous status quo. In this case, the threshold of war was very close to being reached and the conflict de-escalated shortly afterwards[3].

Although Morocco also gets political advantage classified as peaceful competition in fields like immigration control, fishing agreements with Spanish fishers, or anti-terrorist cooperation, the Moroccan government also has tried to influence the Spanish territories by carrying out what some authors have described as hybrid actions which seek destabilization. Examples of these actions include:

-2007 Moroccan public condemnation of the visit of the Kings of Spain to Ceuta and Melilla.

-2010 issuing Moroccan passports of people originally born in Ceuta or Melilla which attributed the possession of both cities to Morocco.

-Since 2000 — selective regulation of the migratory flow of irregular immigrants who cross to Ceuta and Melilla and also to the peninsula by land or sea as a way of political pressure.

-2018-2020 unilateral closure of the commercial border between Ceuta and Melilla.

-2019 the Moroccan Government prohibits its officials with diplomatic or private passports from entering to Ceuta or Melilla.

-2020 veto at the entry of fresh fish into the city of Ceuta[4].

On other occasions, Morocco has frontally challenged Spanish sovereignty, as in the case of the new delimitation of its territorial waters[5]. In December 2014, Spain formally requested to the United Nations an extension of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Canary Archipelago to 350 miles in accordance with the current legislation on Admiralty Law (International Maritime Law). In February 2020, Morocco approved a law on its parliament for the expansion of the EEZ of the militarily occupied territory of Western Sahara (which Morocco understands as its own), also of 350 miles, similar to the Spanish one, but with null international validity and colliding with the previous Spanish request. The object in dispute is the underwater mountain of Mount Tropic, where it is believed that there may be important deposits of Tellurium and cobalt, fundamental for the manufacture of electrical or solar panels. In this case, the main intention is not to directly dispute these waters, but to establish a lead position for future negotiation. In nearby waters there is also the low possibility of undersea oil fields[6].

Beyond the history of disputes between the Moroccan and Spanish governments in the area is growing destabilization due to different factors that could lead Morocco to a new attempt to try to obtain political or territorial revenue at the expense of Spain. These factors include: the demographic change in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in favor of the population of Moroccan background, the COVID-19 crisis in both countries and the creation of social tension as a result of the mismanagement of the crisis, and the return of jihadists from the Middle East originally from the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Further contributing factors include the fact that both cities are not protected by the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations’ Article 5, the rearmament of Algeria and the subsequent rearmament of Morocco, the migration crisis due to the civil war in Libya. Finally, the search for a common foreign enemy by the Moroccan authorities as a way to quell the growing internal discontent due to the lack of democratic freedoms combined with the departure from Spain of King Juan Carlos I with whom the Moroccan Royal Family maintained very good relations adds to the tensions.

One of the main keys is to understand that Morocco, due to its demographic, economic, and political weight, is currently in a situation of inferiority in relation to Spain. Based upon this inferiority, the most cost-effective scenario and maybe the only possible one in which Morocco can profit, is by continuing to pursue activities below the threshold of war. As described above, Morocco has mastered these below threshold activities and they have sometimes proved very successful. The current situation sets ideal conditions for Morocco to try once again to obtain some political (and territorial) benefit from the crisis that Spain is currently suffering. Therefore, it will depend on Spain’s preparation for these eventual activities that may probably occur when the country is the weakest. Avoiding falling into the trap of escalating the conflict, but directly and unambiguously addressing the challenges that may arise as result of such provocations, may be the only options for Spain to keep the current status quo in the area.


Endnotes:

[1] Gutiérrez, Roberto (2019, December 31) Ceuta y Melilla: ¿una defensa imposible? Retrieved August 10, 2020 https://www.revistaejercitos.com/2019/12/31/ceuta-y-melilla-una-defensa-imposible

[2] Villanueva, Christian D. (2018, September 27) La zona Gris. Retrieved August 10, 2020 https://www.revistaejercitos.com/2018/09/27/la-zona-gris

[3] Jordán, Javier (2018, June) Una reinterpretación de la crisis del Islote Perejil desde la perspective de la amenaza híbrida. https://www.ugr.es/~jjordan/amenaza-hibrida-perejil.pdf

[4] Jordán, Javier (2020, March 24) Ceuta y Melilla: ¿emplea Marruecos estrategias híbridas contra España? Retrieved August 10, 2020 https://global-strategy.org/ceuta-y-melilla-emplea-marruecos-estrategias-hibridas-contra-espana

[5] RTVE.es (2020, February 04) Marruecos da un paso más en la delimitación de sus aguas territoriales. https://www.rtve.es/noticias/20200204/marruecos-da-paso-mas-delimitacion-aguas-territoriales/1999044.shtml

[6] García, Rafael (2019, January 23) Canarias y la previsible ampliación de su plataforma continental: el difícil equilibrio entre España, Marruecos y Sáhara Occidental. https://revistas.uam.es/reim/article/view/reim2019.26.008/11212

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Jesus Roman Garcia Morocco Spain

Writing Contest Results — Below Threshold Competition: China

Divergent Options ran a Writing Contest from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020 and as of this writing all of the entries we received have been published.  On behalf of the Divergent Options Team of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein, and also on behalf of our judges 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, we want to thank all of our writers who entered the contest.  Divergent Options would not be what it is without our writers, and for that we are eternally grateful.  All writings related to this contest can be found by clicking here, and the awards are as follows:

First Place $500:  Michael D. Purzycki – “Options for Altering Global Energy Developments to America’s Advantage and China’s Disadvantage

Second Place $300:  James P. Micciche – “U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

Third Place $100:  Eli Kravinsky – “Below Threshold Options for China Against the U.S.

Honorable Mention $50:  Thomas J. Shattuck – “Options for Taiwan to Better Compete with China

Honorable Mention $50:  Drake Long – “U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

Honorable Mention $50:  William Freer – “Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

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

Assessment of Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

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.


Irk is a freelance writer. 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 Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

Date Originally Written:  July 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 11, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the film industry remains a relatively underexploited channel that can be used to shape the soft power dynamic in the U.S.-China relationship.

Summary:  While China’s film industry has grown in recent years, the market for Chinese films remains primarily domestic. Access to China’s film market remains heavily restricted, allowing the Chinese Communist Party to craft a film industry that can reinforce its values at home and abroad. However, there are opportunities for the United States to liberalize the Chinese film market which could contribute to long-term social and political change.

Text:  The highest-grossing Chinese film is 2017’s Wolf Warrior 2, netting nearly $900 million globally. For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the only problem is that a mere 2% of this gross came from outside the country. For the CCP, this is a troubling pattern replicated across many of China’s most financially successful films[1]. Last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted that the Chinese film market would surpass the United States’ (U.S.) in 2020, growing to a total value of $15.5 billion by 2023[2]. Despite tremendous growth by every metric – new cinema screens, films released, ticket revenue – the Chinese film industry has failed to market itself to the outside world[3].

This failure is not for lack of trying: film is a key aspect of China’s project to accumulate soft power in Africa[4], and may leave a significant footprint on the emergent film markets in many countries. The Chinese film offensive abroad has been paired with heavy-handed protectionism at home, fulfilling a desire to develop the domestic film industry and guard against the influence introduced by foreign films. In 1994 China instituted an annual quota on foreign films which has slowly crept upwards, sometimes being broken to meet growing demand[5]. But even so, the number of foreign films entering the Chinese market each year floats between only 30-40. From the perspective of the CCP, there may be good reasons to be so conservative. In the U.S., research has indicated that some films may nudge audiences in ideological directions[6] or change their opinion of the government[7]. As might be expected, Chinese censorship targets concepts like “sex, violence, and rebellious individualism”[8]. While it remains difficult to draw any definite conclusions from this research, the threat is sufficient for the CCP to carefully monitor what sorts of messaging (and how much) it makes widely available for consumption. In India, economic liberalization was reflected in the values expressed by the most popular domestic films[9] – if messaging in film can be reflected in political attitudes, and political attitudes can be reflected in messaging in film, there is the possibility of a slow but consistent feedback loop creating serious social change. That is, unless the government clamps down on this relationship.

China’s “national film strategy” has gone largely un-countered by the U.S., in spite of its potential relevance to political change within the country. In 2018, Hollywood’s attempt to push quota liberalization was largely sidelined[10] and earlier this year the Independent Film & Television Alliance stated that little progress had been made since the start of the China-U.S. trade war[11]. Despite all this, 2018 revealed that quota liberalization was something China was willing to negotiate. This is an opportunity which could be exploited in order to begin seriously engaging with China’s approach to film.

In a reappraisal of common criticisms levied against Chinese engagement in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Alastair Iain Johnston of Harvard University notes that Chinese citizens with more connections to the outside world (facilitated by opening and reform) have developed “more liberal worldviews and are less nationalistic on average than older or less internationalized members of Chinese societies”[12]. The primary market for foreign films in China is this group of “internationalized” urban citizens, both those with higher disposable income in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Beijing, and Tianjin[13] and those in non-coastal “Anchor Cities” which are integrated into transport networks and often boast international airports[14]. These demographics are both likely to be more amenable to the messaging in foreign films and capable of consuming them in large amounts.

During future trade negotiations, the U.S. could be willing to aggressively pursue the offered concession regarding film quotas, raising the cap as high as possible. In exchange, the United States Trade Representative could offer to revoke tariffs imposed since the trade war. As an example, the “phase one” trade deal was able to secure commitments from China solely by promising not to impose further tariffs and cutting a previous tariffs package by 50%[15]. The commitments asked of China in this agreement are far more financially intensive than film market liberalization, but it is difficult to put a price tag on the ideological component of film. Even so, the party has demonstrated willingness to put the quota on the table, and this is an offer that could be explored as part of a strategy to affect change within China.

In addition to focusing on quota liberalization in trade negotiations, state and city governments in the U.S. could engage in local diplomacy to establish cultural exchange through film. In 2017, China initiated a China-Africa film festival[16], and a similar model could be pursued by local government in the U.S. The low appeal of Chinese films outside of China (compared to the high appeal of American films within China) means that the exchange would likely be a “net gain” for the U.S. in terms of cultural impression. Chinese localities with citizens more open to foreign film would have another avenue of engagement, while Chinese producers who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to present in exclusive U.S. markets may have to adjust the overtones in their films, possibly shedding some nationalist messaging. Federal or local government could provide incentives for theaters to show films banned in China for failing to meet these messaging standards. Films like A Touch of Sin that have enjoyed critical acclaim within the U.S. could reach a wider audience and create an alternate current of Chinese film in opposition to CCP preference.

Disrupting the development of China’s film industry may provide an opportunity to initiate a process of long-term attitudinal change in a wealthy and open segment of the Chinese population. At the same time, increasing the market share of foreign films and creating countervailing notions of “the Chinese film” could make China’s soft power accumulation more difficult. Hollywood is intent on marketing to China; instead of forcing them to collaborate with Chinese censors, it may serve American strategic objectives to allow competition to consume the Chinese market. If Chinese film producers adapt in response, they will have to shed certain limitations. Either way, slow-moving change will have taken root.


Endnotes:

[1] Magnan-Park, A. (2019, May 29). The global failure of cinematic soft power ‘with Chinese characteristics’. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://theasiadialogue.com/2019/05/27/the-global-failure-of-cinematic-soft-power-with-chinese-characteristics

[2] PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2019, June 17). Strong revenue growth continues in China’s cinema market. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.pwccn.com/en/press-room/press-releases/pr-170619.html

[3] Do Chinese films hold global appeal? (2020, March 13). Retrieved July 29, 2020 from
https://chinapower.csis.org/chinese-films

[4] Wu, Y. (2020, June 24). How media and film can help China grow its soft power in Africa. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/how-media-and-film-can-help-china-grow-its-soft-power-in-africa-97401

[5] Do Chinese films hold global appeal? (2020, March 13). Retrieved July 29, 2020 from
https://chinapower.csis.org/chinese-films

[6] Glas, J. M., & Taylor, J. B. (2017). The Silver Screen and Authoritarianism: How Popular Films Activate Latent Personality Dispositions and Affect American Political Attitudes. American Politics Research, 46(2), 246-275. doi:10.1177/1532673×17744172

[7] Pautz, M. C. (2014). Argo and Zero Dark Thirty: Film, Government, and Audiences. PS: Political Science & Politics, 48(01), 120-128. doi:10.1017/s1049096514001656

[8] Do Chinese films hold global appeal? (2020, March 13). Retrieved July 29, 2020 from
https://chinapower.csis.org/chinese-films

[9] Adhia, N. (2013). The role of ideological change in India’s economic liberalization. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 44, 103-111. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2013.02.015

[10] Li, P., & Martina, M. (2018, May 20). Hollywood’s China dreams get tangled in trade talks. Retrieved July 29, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-movies/hollywoods-china-dreams-get-tangled-in-trade-talks-idUSKCN1IK0W0

[11] Frater, P. (2020, February 15). IFTA Says U.S. Should Punish China for Cheating on Film Trade Deal. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://variety.com/2020/film/asia/ifta-china-film-trade-deal-1203505171

[12] Johnston, A. I. (2019). The Failures of the ‘Failure of Engagement’ with China. The Washington Quarterly, 42(2), 99-114. doi:10.1080/0163660x.2019.1626688

[13] Figure 2.4 Urban per capita disposable income, by province, 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.unicef.cn/en/figure-24-urban-capita-disposable-income-province-2017

[14] Liu, S., & Parilla, J. (2019, August 08). Meet the five urban Chinas. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/06/19/meet-the-five-urban-chinas

[15] Lawder, D., Shalal, A., & Mason, J. (2019, December 14). What’s in the U.S.-China ‘phase one’ trade deal. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-details-factbox/whats-in-the-u-s-china-phase-one-trade-deal-idUSKBN1YH2IL

[16] Fei, X. (2017, June 19). China Africa International Film Festival to open in October. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from http://chinaplus.cri.cn/news/showbiz/14/20170619/6644.html

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Film and Entertainment Influence Operations Irk

Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on Linkedin. 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 Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Date Originally Written:  August 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that governments engaged in countering violent extremists must pair hard and soft power to consolidate gains and bring about lasting peace.

Summary:  There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare as leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Responses to militant non-state actors will be ineffective without a whole of government effort that emphasizes military and nonmilitary interventions in appropriate measures to defeat violent threats, stabilize territories and restore the lives of affected populations.

Text:  As the world resumes Great Power Competition, irregular warfare will continue to be a means for states and groups to project power beyond their conventional means[1][2]. As in the Cold War, powerful nations will continue to employ indirect means to counter adversaries and shape events in the wider world[3]. As political leaders deal with the new global order, states can move from a military-first model of countering violent non-state actors and move to a whole of government approach that encompasses every facet of state power[4][5].

Countries confronting irregular warfare usually have underlying socio-economic difficulties[6][7]. Often, the authority of governing structures has been discredited by discontentment[8]. Both terrorists and insurgents usually seek to achieve political objectives by violence, either against the civil population, representatives of government, or both[9]. This violence to political transition implies that while military forces may defeat the irregular combatants and shape events on the ground, other means of power projection options are required to bring about durable peace. Without integrated and synchronized political, economic, legal, security, economic, development, and psychological activities[6], strategies against guerrillas, insurgents, and militias will not be effective.

Law enforcement agencies are often the most visible symbols of a government’s authority and the target of most attacks by insurgents and terrorists[10]. Historically, police action is the most effective strategy that ends terrorist groups that don’t abandon violence for political action[11]. The police organization’s ability to maintain a significant presence on the ground undercuts any narrative of strength insurgents may seek to project. Police Officers may carry out their usual functions of enforcing the law, mediating in disputes between locals, and protecting the population from criminals looking to take advantage of security vacuums.

Paramilitary forces can protect critical infrastructure, assist in force protection, expand the capacity of law enforcement, and deter militant activity with expanded presence and routine patrols. As these groups are often made up of volunteers from the local population, they can also serve as invaluable sources of intelligence and are less intimidating than armed forces[12][13].

Intelligence agencies can gather information about the combatants to facilitate a proper understanding of what the government is confronting how best to address them[14]. Human Intelligence from interrogations and agents, Signals Intelligence from intercepted communications, and other means of data gathering can help develop the picture of the guerillas, their leadership structures, the forces, the equipment available to them, and their support system both local and international[15][16]. These intelligence activities will include working with financial authorities to cut off their sources of funding and supporting military, security, and law enforcement tactical and operational actions[17].

The government can deploy its diplomatic corps to ensure international support for itself while dissuading foreign actors from intervening in support of the insurgents. These diplomats will ensure that the government’s narrative finds receptive audiences in foreign capitals and populations. This narrative can be converted to concrete support in terms of aid for securing military materiel and social-economic interventions in areas affected by the conflict. These diplomats will also work to dissuade foreign actors from providing aid to the militants and prolonging the conflict unduly[18].

Government agencies may provide social and economic interventions to support refugees and returnees seeking to rebuild their societies. The provision of health care, nutritional aid, job training, and economic opportunities will go a long way to break the attraction of militants and ensure that the population is invested in keeping the peace[19].

The government may encourage well-spirited Non-Government Organizations (NGO) and international agencies seeking to assist people caught up in the conflict. These agencies usually have vast experience and technical knowledge operating the areas of conflict around the world. While ensuring that these groups are acting in good faith, the government does not unduly burden them with regulatory requirements. Security for NGOs can be guaranteed to the extent possible[20].

Political leaders can ensure their words and deeds do not inflame tensions. They can seek to forge national identities that transcend tribal and ethnic leanings. They can address the concerns of indigenous population in the areas under attack work to separate legitimate grievances from violent acts. The governed must be able to advocate peacefully for change without resorting to violence. Governing structures can be focused on meeting societal needs to ensure peace and prosperity. Military and nonmilitary forces can be properly resourced and adequately overseen. They can facilitate understanding and unity of purpose. Concerns raised by security agencies can get the desired attention and support for measured actions to address them. The advent of nationalism and the non-applicability of democracy to all cultures demands that peoples be given sufficient avenues and support to organize themselves and that their demands be respected.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, built up the appetite of politicians for military interventions at home and abroad. This emphasis on military powers was to the detriment of other levers of power. Unfortunately, the abuse of military power to achieve goals best left to civilian or political institutions unfairly discredited the use of force in the eyes of the general public. This discrediting made it harder for politicians to justify military interventions even in situations where its deployment could be justified. While the military may continue to have a legitimate and even necessary role in countering irregular warfare, any successful strategy requires every element of national power. There are no recent success stories of a multifaceted approach to irregular warfare. This is because national leaders have been unwilling to engage in the work required. Political leaders can lead the way to move from violent responses to civil but more effective means to address conflicts.


Endnotes:

[1] Vrolyk, J. (2019, December 19). Insurgency, Not War, is China’s Most Likely Course of Action. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2019/12/insurgency-not-war-is-chinas-most-likely-course-of-action

[2] Goodson, J. (2020, May 20). Irregular Warfare in a New Era of Great-Power Competition. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://mwi.usma.edu/irregular-warfare-new-era-great-power-competition

[3] Fowler, M. (2019, November 4). The Rise of the Present Unconventional Character of Warfare. Retrieved July 02, 2020, from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2019/11/4/the-rise-of-the-present-unconventional-character-of-warfare

[4] McDonnell, E. (2013, January 7). Whole-of-Government Support for Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/whole-of-government-support-for-irregular-warfare

[5] White, N. (2014, December 28). Organizing for War: Overcoming barriers to Whole-of-Government Strategy in the ISIL Campaign. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://cco.ndu.edu/Portals/96/Documents/Articles/White_Organizing-for-War-Overcoming-Barriers-to-Whole-of-Government-Strategy-in-the-ISIL-Campaign-2014-12-28.pdf

[6] US Government (2012). Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=713599

[7] Cox, D., Ryan, A. (2017). Countering Insurgency and the Myth of “The Cause”. Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASPJ_French/journals_E/Volume-08_Issue-4/cox_e.pdf

[8] Nyberg, E. (1991). Insurgency: The Unsolved Mystery. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1991/NEN.htm

[9] Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2020, June). DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Retrieved July 04, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

[10] Celeski, J. (2009, February). Policing and Law Enforcement in COIN – the Thick Blue Line. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.socom.mil/JSOU/JSOUPublications/JSOU09-2celeskiPolicing.pdf

[11] Jones, S. and Libicki, M. (2008). How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG741-1.pdf

[12] Espino, I. (2004, December). Counterinsurgency: The Role of Paramilitaries. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://calhoun.nps.edu/bitstream/handle/10945/1269/04Dec_Espino.pdf

[13] Dasgupta, S. (2016, June 6). Paramilitary groups: Local Alliances in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/06_counterinsurgency_dasgupta.pdf

[14] Clark, D. (2008, June 27). The Vital Role of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA448457.pdf

[15] White, J. (2007, April 14). Some Thoughts on Irregular Warfare. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/96unclass/iregular.htm

[16] Steinmeyer, W. (2011, August 5). The Intelligence Role in Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol9no4/html/v09i4a06p_0001.htm

[17] Department of the Army. (2006, December) Counterinsurgency. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=468442

[18] Murray, S. Blannin, P. (2017, September 18). Diplomacy and the War on Terror. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/diplomacy-and-the-war-on-terror

[19] Godson, J. (2015, August 16). Strategic Development and Irregular Warfare: Lessons from the High Water Mark of Full-Spectrum COIN. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/strategic-development-and-irregular-warfare-lessons-from-the-high-water-mark-of-full-spectr

[20] Penner, G. (2014, July 07). A Framework for NGO-Military Collaboration. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-framework-for-ngo-military-collaboration

Assessment Papers Civilian Concerns Damimola Olawuyi Dr. Paul Jemitola Government Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare

U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

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.


Drake Long is an analyst with RadioFreeAsia, covering the South China Sea and other maritime issues. He is also a 2020 Asia-Pacific Fellow for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). He can be found on Twitter @DRM_Long and has previously written for RadioFreeAsia, The Diplomat, 9DASHLINE, and the Center for International Maritime Security. 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 is competing with the People’s Republic of China and its landmark Belt and Road Initiative.

Date Originally Written:  July 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes ‘great power competition’ as prescribed by the National Defense Strategy is in reality a competition for the favor of unaligned countries, most especially the economically dynamic middle powers and rising powers in Africa.

Background:  Thirty-nine African countries have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an infrastructure and investment project that is synonymous with Chinese foreign policy[1]. More African college students attend Chinese universities over that of the U.K. and U.S., largely through programs like the China-Africa Action Plan that recruits 100,000 African civil servants and military officers annually[2]. However, African countries have also grown wary of Chinese investment, renegotiating their debt with China as a bloc this year[3].

Significance:  BRI projects are one method of co-opting African political elites, as the ‘corrosive capital’ of Chinese investment often exacerbates existing inequality and graft issues in developing countries[4]. Certain Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) hold virtual monopolies on certain materials like cobalt, found only in a select few places on the African continent, to secure materials necessary for an advanced economy[5]. On top of this, China’s co-opting of local media means negative coverage of China is suppressed.

Option #1:  The U.S. facilitates local journalism in African countries at the center of China’s Belt and Road Initiative through specialized grants to local news outlets and public-private partnerships to create tertiary journalism schools.

Chinese BRI projects are often signed on opaque or parasitic terms. Exposure in the public press creates upward pressure on African elites to cancel these projects or renegotiate them, hurting Chinese soft power, influence, and economic dominance over certain sectors of the African economy[6].

A free press is ultimately good for elite accountability, and elite accountability spells doom for Chinese influence efforts. In some cases, exposing kleptocracy can lead to a change in government, removing officials previously eager to sign BRI deals for potential kickbacks[7].

If the U.S. were to use existing tools to better support local journalism in small-but-pivotal African states along the BRI, this would facilitate opposition to Chinese influence. Targeted grants to local and sub-regional news outlets is one method of achieving this, but the training of journalists in African countries is pivotal, too. As such, existing agencies could partner with experienced U.S. news organizations to create schools and training initiatives that would seed a new generation of journalists in African countries.

Risk:  Some negative coverage of U.S. investments and multinational companies operating in Africa may also occur.

Gain:  This option will create a stronger network of accountability for African elites susceptible to Chinese corrosive capital, and expose China’s BRI projects without the stigma of being the U.S. government and thus not impartial.

Option #2:  The U.S. strengthens labor unions and they more forcefully advocate labor rights in African countries.

Organized labor has played a critical role in exposing worker abuse and poor conditions at the sites of Chinese BRI investment before, most notably in Kenya, where a railway strike in 2018 brought Chinese railway projects to a halt[8].

Many of China’s business and infrastructure projects in certain African countries are facilitated by bribes to local officials. Labor movements bypass this ‘elite capture’ by exposing ties between Chinese and African oligarchs, and pressuring those same elites to cancel BRI projects or negotiate terms that are more favorable to African workers.

At the same time, organized labor in Africa faces steep challenges: labor migration is largely unregulated[9] and labor unions have long been marginalized from developing economies, holding little actual political power in the modern day[10].

If the U.S. were to give labor and trade unions targeted support similar to other civil society initiatives, it would create domestic pressures on Chinese investors in African countries. Expanding the U.S. Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau would provide accurate data on labor movements and labor rights, and placing a Labor section on the National Security Council Staff would assist policy coordination.

Risk:  This option would potentially anger non-Chinese multinational corporations with a presence in those countries as well.

Gain:  African labor movements could shut down BRI projects entirely or put pressure on national governments to renegotiate terms with Chinese SOEs.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Risberg, P. (2019). The Give-and-Take of BRI in Africa. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.csis.org/give-and-take-bri-africa

[2] Acker, Kevin, Deborah Brautigam, and Yufan Huang. (2020). Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics. Working Paper No. 2020/39. China Africa Research Initiative, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.sais-cari.org/publications

[3] Natalunya, Paul. (2020). China Promotes Its Party-Army Model in Africa. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/china-promotes-its-party-army-model-in-africa

[4] John Morrell et al. (2018). Channeling the Tide: Protecting Democracies from a Flood of Corrosive Capital. Retrieved from https://www.cipe.org/resources/channeling-the-tide-protecting-democracies-amid-a-flood-of-corrosive-capital

[5] Jack Farchy and Hayley Warren. (2018) China has a secret weapon in the race to dominate electric cars. Bloomberg News. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-china-cobalt

[6] Shikongo, Arlana. (2019). ‘Chinese invasion’ claims hit cement factory. The Namibian. Retrieved from https://www.namibian.com.na/191934/archive-read/Chinese-invasion-claims-hit-cement-factory

[7] Hursh, John. (2019). A Bump in the Belt and Road: Tanzania pushes back against Chinese port project. Center for International Maritime Security. Retrieved from http://cimsec.org/a-bump-in-the-belt-and-road-tanzania-pushes-back-against-chinese-port-project/42449

[8] Kenyan workers’ strike halts Chinese railway project. (2018). GlobalConstructionReview. Retrieved from https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/kenyan-workers-strike-halts-chinese-railway-projec

[9] An assessment of labour migration and mobility governance in the IGAD region. (2020). International Labor Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—africa/—ro-abidjan/—sro-addis_ababa/documents/publication/wcms_740549.pdf

[10] Pitcher, M. (2007). What Has Happened to Organized Labor in Southern Africa? International Labor and Working-Class History, (72), 134-160. Retrieved August 1, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/27673096

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa China (People's Republic of China) Competition Drake Long Journalism / The Press Option Papers United States

An Assessment of the American National Interest in Sino-American Competition

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.


Brandon Patterson is a graduate student at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, whose area of focus is China.  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 American National Interest in Sino-American Competition

Date Originally Written:  July 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 2, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the United States, in order to maintain a sense of proportion in dealing with China, must find criteria over which in must resist Beijing.  Additionally, wherever the U.S. makes practical accommodations, in order to transcend Cold War-like conditions, and to create a basic American approach to relations with China that can be passed from one administration to the next with a high degree of continuity, it should do so.

Summary:  As tensions rise between the United States and China, Washington requires a concept of the national interest to serve as a guide in navigating this new dynamic. Wearing ideological blinders nearly tore the American psyche apart at key moments during the Cold War. As competition with China develops, America can prevent itself from falling into the Cold War era Manichaeism that shook domestic consensus on the nature of its task.

Text:  In light of deteriorating relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, emphasis on so-called great power competition enters the American lexicon[1]. Competition implies a victor; yet great power relations are a process with no terminal point. Complicating matters is the fact that the relationship between Washington and Beijing has acquired ideological contours, which serve as a blight on the minds of American policymakers who tend to lose a sense of proportion when facing ideological opponents[2]. Under these conditions, competition becomes an end in itself as foreign policy becomes a struggle between good and evil rather than the threading together of various issues into a relationship neither entirely friendly nor wholly adversarial. A clear set of objectives on the American side of this competition, and how they are enmeshed in a grand strategy aimed at a concept of world order is necessary. In other words, before Washington acts, American policy makers ask themselves:

  • What is this supposed competition about and how should one define success?
  • What threat does China pose to international order?
  • What changes must the United States resist by forceful means?

Though unexceptional, these questions are uniquely crucial for a country lacking a geopolitical tradition. The United States can look beyond the aspects of China’s domestic structure which the U.S. rejects in order to retain a clear conception of how the United States may accommodate China without turning the world over to it. This is the space America is obliged to navigate. The national interest, still so vaguely defined in American strategic thought, will fail unless clearly articulated in order to provide criteria by which America’s relationship with China can be assessed and altered. The emphasis on “competition below the threshold of armed conflict” requires examination. To abjure from the use of force — or to define precisely where one is unwilling to go to war — is to define a limit to the national interest.

The United States is the ultimate guarantor of the global balance of power. In order for there to be stability in the world, equilibrium must prevail. This equilibrium is America’s most vital interest, its primary responsibility to international order, and is thus the limiting condition of its foreign policy. The United States cannot permit any power, or any grouping of powers, to attain hegemony over Eurasia, or any of its constituent sub-regions[3]. The People’s Republic of China, whatever its intentions, by the nature of its power, poses the greatest threat to global equilibrium. Tensions are therefore inherent.

It is equally true, however, that the United States and China are likely to be the twin pillars of world order, and that the peace and progress of mankind will likely depend on their conceiving order as a shared enterprise rather than a Cold War in which one perception emerges dominant. Of course, Beijing retains a vote, and if a Cold War becomes unavoidable, Washington requires a clear conception of its necessities to prevent the wild oscillations between overcommitment and over-withdrawal to which it is prone.

American foreign policy can reflect this Janus-like dynamic. This is when the national interest becomes imperative. The United States and China can convey to one another what interests they consider vital, the violation of which will result in conflict. For America, such a threat is more difficult to determine now than during even the Cold War. The Belt and Road initiative is the most awe inspiring example. This initiative represents a Chinese attempt to restructure Eurasia such that China reemerges as the Middle Kingdom[4]. America for its part cannot permit any single country to achieve hegemony over Eurasia; yet Belt and Road is not a military enterprise, and so the threat it poses remains ambiguous, and the best means of countering it is far from self-evident. It thus becomes imperative that American administrations establish what they consider to be a threat to equilibrium and find means of conveying this to the Chinese.

Keeping this competition below the threshold of armed conflict rests upon the ability of Washington to drive home to Beijing precisely what is likely to lead to war while such threats remain ambiguous, and thus manageable. This also implies an early response to Chinese probing actions — such as in the South China Sea — lest they acquire a false sense of security, prompting more reckless actions down the road.

Calculations of power become more complex for the United States than for China however, as America is steeped in a tradition of idealism for which no corresponding impulse can be found in China. The United States is an historic champion of human rights, spending blood and treasure in its defense on multiple occasions since the end of the Second World War. In order to be true to itself, the United States stands for its basic values — it too is a duty to the world. This finds expression in America’s support for the cause of Hong Kong’s protests[5], for the victims of China’s excesses in Xinjiang[6], and for political prisoners[7].

The question is not whether America should stand for these values, but rather the extent to which it does so, and at what cost. The United States cannot directly influence the internal evolution of an historic culture like China’s, and that attempting to do so will manufacturer tensions over issues with no resolution, which in turn renders practical issues within the realm of foreign policy less soluble, combining the worst of every course of action.

A wise course for American policy makers then, is to use the national interest as a compass in navigating what will be a journey without a clear historical precedent. Equilibrium is the obvious limiting condition and starting point for such an effort. Moral purpose guides pragmatic actions just as pragmatism makes idealism sustainable. Such an approach is not an abrogation of American values, rather it is the best means of vindicating them over a prolonged period. For, in Sino-American relations, there will be no ultimate victory nor final reconciliation.


Endnotes:

[1] Jones, B. (February 2020). China and the Return of Great Power Strategic Competition. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_china_power_competition_jones.pdf

[2] Debate Over Detente. (1973, November 17). Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/1973/11/17/archives/debate-over-detente.html

[3] Spykman, N. J. (2007). America’s Strategy in World Politics: The United States and the Balance of Power (1st ed., pp. 194-199). Routledge.

[4] Kaplan, R.D. (March 6, 2018). The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century. (pp.). New York: Random House.

[5] Edmundson, C. (2020, July 2). Senate Sends Trump a Bill to Punish Chinese Officials Over Hong Kong. Retrieved July 3, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/02/us/politics/senate-china-hong-kong-sanctions.html

[6] Pranshu, V. & Wong, E. (2020, July 9). U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Mass Detention of Muslims. Retrieved July 10, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/world/asia/trump-china-sanctions-uighurs.html?searchResultPosition=1

[7] Puddington, A. (2018, July 26). China: The Global Leader in Political Prisoners. Retrieved July 10, from https://freedomhouse.org/article/china-global-leader-political-prisoners

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Brandon Patterson China (People's Republic of China) Competition Policy and Strategy United States

An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Patrick Knight is an active duty U.S. Army Officer and has served in a variety of tactical and force generation assignments. He is currently a student in the Army’s Command and General Staff College as part of a strategist training pipeline. He can be reached on LinkedIn or pjknight12@gmail.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:  An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Date Originally Written:  October 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of China towards regional states and the U.S.

Summary:  China has become a dominant regional and global power through its export-centric mercantilist practices. This mercantilism underpins a larger expansionist foreign policy. China has reacted to U.S. and global economic pressure by instituting the Dual Circulation strategy, focusing on domestic consumption markets. U.S. strategies that do not take into account China’s Dual Circulation strategy will not be effective.

Text:  Mercantilism, specifically Chinese mercantilism, is the macroeconomic policy of emphasizing exports and minimizing imports, and relates to the broad long-term economic strategy of Chinese trade and supply chain management. Mercantilism is tied to the broader concepts of Chinese expansion strategy which underpin its foreign policy. That Chinese foreign economic policy is growing and seeks to become a dominant regional and global power has, at the time of this authorship, become a relatively elementary platitude. Chinese economic and larger foreign policy is more complex and nuanced. The 2020 introduction of a Dual Circulation policy calls into question the monolithic approach of mercantilism, and has critical implications for U.S. strategists[1].

For historical background, in 1987, a Chinese economic policy advisor, Yuon Geng, suggested to then de facto state leader Deng Xaopeng the concept of Dual Circulation. In that context, he meant relying on low labor costs within the Chinese labor market to develop export capabilities, building foreign investments which thus improve domestic financial resources[1]. This suggestion began an economic opening of China, and in the decades that followed, China developed into an export centric nation. The Chinese socialist system’s advantage in focusing and underwriting industrial capabilities allows China to, in Deng Xaopeng’s words, “concentrate power to do great things[2].” In this way, China emerged as the commonly understood world’s factory, especially after China’s admittance into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

With the now famous One Belt and One Road Initiative, China has devoted significant financial and diplomatic resources to developing infrastructure and trade relationships with dozens of states in the Indo-pacific region and beyond. This is a foundational tenet of Xi Jingping’s foreign policy.

One could thus assume that China uniformly pursues mercantilism strategy of concentrating all instruments of national power to develop a dominant, yet supporting, relationship in emerging markets and developing states and bolster an export economy.

However, the new reintroduction of a Dual Circulation Strategy adjusts the original meaning of Dual Circulation as intended by Yuon Geng. Here, China seeks to enhance its domestic markets and consumption over foreign investments, markets, and technology. It seeks to ease its dependence on foreign markets in favor of the domestic[1].

China’s policy goals of moving up the value chain, improving the overall wealth of China, and having a resilient economy are working under its export centric strategy, yet there has been an inward shift via Dual Circulation. China policy expert Andrew Polk believes that this inward shift is not a response to internal demand in China as much as it is a reaction to the external environment[1]. External variables have changed significantly in recent years. In one way, the global economy and its state actors have exerted pressure on Chinese technology companies, such as in the case of the semiconductor industry. Second, the massive impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the global economy has not yet receded. The Chinese export industry has been negatively affected as consumer demand falls. Dual Circulation is a reaction of the vagaries of the external economy that China seeks to remain resilient.

For those familiar with the ways, means, and ends framework of strategic thinking, Chinese economic ends have not changed. The ways, relying on and enhancing domestic economic capabilities, has shifted within the national strategic framework.

Vice Premier Liu He, Xi Jingping’s top economic advisor, has developed the Dual Dirculation concept, and seeks to de-risk the oversupplied industrial sector. This de-risking is reminiscent of his proposed Supply Side Structural Reform strategy of 2015, in which Liu He feared China relied too much on the export industry[2].

Most imperatively, the introduction of Dual Circulation amidst China’s mercantilist tendencies signifies a fundamental inflection point in strategy and macroeconomic thinking. Proximately, Dual Circulation means that China is unified on restructuring its macroeconomic strategy, which directly challenges other high-end manufacturing economies. More broadly, Dual Circulation indicates that China is vulnerable, or at least reactive, to external pressure and environments. This new policy further demonstrates that China estimates that powerful western economies, such as the U.S. and U.K., have focused too much on services and consumer centric industries and have not adequately supported and developed their manufacturing capabilities[2]. China seeks to add the most value by dominating the high-end manufacturing sector in both its domestic and global economy, what Polk refers to as the German economic model of manufacturing.

Lingling Wei of the Wall Street Journal believes that Dual Circulation also exposes key defense industry implications in Chinese policy making. She argues that now is China’s “Sputnik moment” in that the recent U.S. trade war provides an opportunity to make significant policy shifts[2][3]. The Chinese defense industry has been a focus of Xi Jingping’s reforming attention in recent months, moving key political allies with defense industry background. The defense industry focus includes recently installing a new deputy of the National Development Reform Commission. Wei suggests that China acknowledges its exposure in the defense supply chain where competitors like the U.S. can exert pressure.

Dual Circulation is highly relevant to U.S. national security and economic strategists. Since March, U.S. President Donald Trump has increased pressure on China, significantly shifting his policy azimuth. The Trump administration has closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas on charges of espionage, dispatched carrier strike groups to the South China Sea, blocked Chinese technology company activites, increased support to Taiwan, and made headlines with conflict and eventual merger with Tik Tok[3]. Numerous political factors contributed to President Trump’s decisions which are outside the scope of this assessment. However, U.S. and allied leadership needs to understand the degree and nature of the impact from President Trump’s efforts. Strategists use all elements of national power to impact the environment: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. China has signaled it will adjust its ways, enhancing domestic economic consumer markets, in order to ensure its ends, a resilient and regionally dominant economy, based on the external environment. If China can successfully pivot away from a pure mercantilism economy to a more resilient, self-sustaining economy, U.S. strategists may calculate a diminishing effect of its pressure tactics.


Endnotes:

[1] Center for Strategic & International Studies. Online Event: The End of Chinese Mercantilism? YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnyYbMPrBM&t=1080s

[2] Blanchette, J. & Polk, Andrew (24 August, 2020). Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged Integration Strategy. Center for Strategic & International Studies. https://www.csis.org/analysis/dual-circulation-and-chinas-new-hedged-integration-strategy

[3] Davis, B., O’Keeffe, K, & Wei, L. (16 October, 2020). U.S.’s China Hawks Drive Hard-Line Policies After Trump Turns on Beijing. Wall Street Journal.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Patrick Knight Trade United States

Options to Decrease Trade Tensions Between the U.S. and 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.


Rukhsar Azamee is a graduate student at the school of professional studies, New York University. She can be found on Twitter @RukhsarAzamee. 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. requires options to decrease trade tensions with China.

Date Originally Written:  July 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the U.S-China relations point of view. It elaborates on how the U.S. and China can decrease the trade tensions and how they can continue their collaboration in the future.

Background:  China’s economic growth in the last decades has started a new chapter in the international arena. After 9/11, America started the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq[1] while China kept strengthening its economy. China became the world’s second-largest economy in 2010[2]. Currently, China is considered the world’s largest economy by the purchasing power parity (PPP). China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by PPP is approximately $24.5 trillion, while America’s GDP by PPP is $20.5 trillion[3]. The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy declared China as a competitor, and as a threat to the United States[4].

Recognizing China officially as a competitor is a policy shift for the U.S., the United States followed the “engagement” policy towards China’s rise under two assumptions in the past.  The first U.S. assumption was that a strong China would serve the interests of America, and the second assumption was that a prosperous China would share American values by fostering regime change. The United States had not considered China a threat to its future[5].

China started modernizing its military by investing in missile and other military technology. From 2005 to 2014, China increased its military spending by 9.5% per year. China invested heavily in cyber operations. The argument is that China has strengthened its military to deter America’s intervention in its neighbors and to resolve Taiwan’s status[6]. China’s president Xi Jinping, unlike his predecessors, seeks to establish China as a Great Power again[7]. The competition is between the U.S. and China, and both countries are trying to prevail.

After the 2016 election in America, professor Yang Qijing of Renmin University stated in his report, “Trump Wins, Immense Challenges for China” implying that President Trump would focus on U.S. domestic economic growth. Yang said that Trump administration would seek a protectionist approach towards China and the U.S. started a trade war with China in 2018 by imposing tariffs on the import of Chinese goods in the U.S.[8] The trade war has hurt U.S-China relations, but it has also damaged the global economy[9]. The International Monetary Fund’s officials encouraged both countries to decrease the trade tensions in its 2019 reports[10].

Furthermore, China’s top talent in artificial intelligence (A.I.) end up working in America. Fifty-four percent of Chinese A.I. students come to the U.S. for their A.I education and research and then stay to work at U.S. firms[11]. Cyberattacks, and A.I theft remain a challenge in U.S.-China relations. A report by the U.S. National Security Agency noted 600 instances of Chinese hackers stealing confidential information from U.S. companies from 2009 to 2013 and a cybersecurity firm named Mandiant presented documents of 115 attacks against the U.S. by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2013[12]. The Trump administration decided to cancel the visa of those students/researchers with ties with China’s military in 2020[13].

China is trying to form a new tributary system through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. Sri-Lanka, as an example, can demonstrate China’s expansionist ambition. In 2017, Sri-Lanka was unable to pay the loan taken from China under the BRI project. Sri-Lanka defaulted and signed a 99-years lease of its port to Chinese state-owned enterprises[14]. On the other hand, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia was re-launched in 2017 to counterbalance China’s assertive policies in the indo-pacific region[15].

Significance:  The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies. The management of U.S competition with China will affect other countries’ policies towards China.

Option #1:  The U.S. embraces China as a Great Power, promote strategic economic engagement with China, and create frameworks that would regulate A.I and cyberspace for both countries.

Risk:  There are two risks. The first is that Japan, India, and Australia would work hard to stop China from becoming a Great Power[16]. The second is that China might seek global dominance after achieving regional power based on “Chinese dreams” or “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” strategy discussed by the Chinese president[17].

Gain:  The U.S.-China competition is different and it sets itself apart in two ways. First, China has not shown desires for global dominance, and while they have been expanding their presence in the neighboring islands in the Pacific, China has not shown an appetite for the use of military force to enhance its influence[18] (in contrast to Russia’s approach to the Balkans for example, or even the supply of weapons to Syria). Second, China is seeking regional dominance through debt diplomacy. Therefore, this option allows China to achieve its goal, and it de-escalates the tension among both countries by being strategically engaged.

Option #2:  The U.S. creates a veto power alliance against China within the Security Council of the United Nations. The veto power could block China’s foreign policies that do not meet international standards.

Risk:  There is a high likelihood that Russia would not join this alliance. Russia is more likely to side with China against the U.S. than join a three-way pact[19].

Gain:  Advanced nations with powerful economies blocking China would isolate it, putting pressure on China to change its foreign policies. Eventually, this option would ensure a peaceful international order by regulating China’s assertive actions, and it set a precedence for any rising powers to be mindful and comply with the international community in the future.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Four Scenarios for U.S.-China Relations and What They Mean for Japan
https://www.tokyoreview.net/2019/05/four-scenarios-us-china-relations

[2] China overtakes Japan as world’s second-largest economy
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/aug/16/china-overtakes-japan-second-largest-economy

[3] The world Bank – Open Data- “GDP, PPP (current international $) – China, United States”
https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.PP.CD?locations=CN-US

[4] 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905-2.pdf 

[5] What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump- by James B. Steinberg
https://tnsr.org/2020/01/what-went-wrong-u-s-china-relations-from-tiananmen-to-trump

[6] The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress- Ian E. Rinehart -Analyst in Asian Affairs March 24, 2016
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R44196.pdf

[7] Saving America’s Alliances- By Mira Rapp-Hooper, March/April 2020
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-02-10/saving-americas-alliances

[8] Towards Economic Decoupling? Mapping Chinese Discourse on the China–U.S. Trade War- by Li Wei
https://academic.oup.com/cjip/article/12/4/519/5650490

[9] US-China trade Dangerous miscalculations
https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/08/08/dangerous-miscalculations

[10] IMF’s country reports/Article IV consultation 2019, Executive Board Assessment (China and U.S.)
https://www.imf.org/en/countries

[11] A U.S. Secret Weapon in A.I.: Chinese Talent
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/technology/china-ai-research-education.html

[12] International Law Norms, Actors, Process (Aspen Casebook Series) 5th – Jeffrey Dunoff (State Responsibility: Attributing Malicious Cyber Conduct)

[13] A U.S. Secret Weapon in A.I.: Chinese Talent
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/technology/china-ai-research-education.html

[14]H.R. McMaster, “How China Views the World,”
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/2020/04/19/how_china_sees_the_world–and_how_we_should_see_china_508340.html

[15] The US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Indo-Pacific alignment or foam in the ocean?
https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/the-us-japan-india-australia-quadrilateral-security-dialogue

[16] The US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue: Indo-Pacific alignment or foam in the ocean?
https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/the-us-japan-india-australia-quadrilateral-security-dialogue

[17] H.R. McMaster, “How China Views the World,”
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/2020/04/19/how_china_sees_the_world–and_how_we_should_see_china_508340.html

[18] Saving America’s Alliances- By Mira Rapp-Hooper, March/April 2020
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-02-10/saving-americas-alliances

[19] CHINA AND THE RETURN OF GREAT POWER STRATEGIC COMPETITION- by BRUCE JONES- P8
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_china_power_competition_jones.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Rukhsar Azamee Trade United States

2021 Call for Papers Topics

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-revenue generating non-politically aligned national security website that does not conduct political activities.  In 1,000 words or less, we provide 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 2021 Call for Papers Schedule Our Call for Papers process is meant to motivate, not exclude.  If you are not interested in writing on these topics, 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!

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At Divergent Options we write using a specified format.  Are you interested in assessing a national security situation and providing options to address it?  Then our Options Paper format is for you.  Are you interested in assessing a national security situation only?  Then our Assessment Paper is for you.  Are you a bit anxious?  Then check out our Writer Testimonial page.

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2021 Call for Papers Topics:

Topic:  Cold War Transferability of Lack Thereof

Call for Papers Begins:  January 2021

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-February 2021

Publish Date:  Late-February 2021

Topic:  Organizing for Large Scale Combat Operations

Call for Papers Begins:  March 2021

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-April 2021

Publish Date:  Late-April 2021

Topic:  Wargaming (In Partnership with the Georgetown University Wargaming Society)

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Publish Date:  Late-June 2021

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Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-August 2021

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Call for Papers Begins:  November 2021

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Publish Date:  Late-December 2021

Call For Papers

Options for the U.S. to Counter China’s Disruptive Economic Activities

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.


Johnathan Falcone is a United States Naval officer, entrepreneur, and graduate of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He can be found on Twitter @jdfalc1. 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 People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economic activities threaten the U.S.-led financial order.

Date Originally Written:  June 02, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 26, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that conflict between the U.S. and China is underway, and China has fired the first salvos in the economic and financial domains. The article is from the perspective of U.S. economic strategy to maintain competition below the threshold of kinetic war.

Background:  The PRC emerged from the 2008 financial crisis with increased capability to influence markets abroad and undermine U.S. leadership. Through new institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and new development plans, including Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is making strides towards bifurcating the international financial system[1].

Significance:  Beijing uses its growing economic might to erode international support for the Republic of China (ROC) (Taiwan / Taipei)– the most likely source of armed conflict – and to increase military capacity beyond its shores[2]. Coercive economic strategies like tacit regional acquiescence and strategic land acquisition threaten the non-kinetic nature of today’s competitive environment[3]. Below are economic-based options to strengthen the existing U.S.-built financial order while simultaneously limiting the PRC’s capacity to project regional influence and stage wartime assets.

Option #1:  The U.S. takes action via proxy and encourages Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries to increase bi-lateral trade volume with the ROC.

For countries in China’s near-abroad, diplomatic recognition of Taiwan is not possible. On the other hand, increasing trade with the ROC, a World Trade Organization member, is less provocative.

Risk:  As Taiwan’s largest trading partner, China will threaten and apply economic pressure to achieve political aims on the island. If Taiwan diversified its trade activity, economic coercion may no longer prove effective. This ineffectiveness might encourage China to pivot to military pressure against Taipei and its citizens. Substantiating this concern is the fact that China has already demonstrated its willingness to aggressively protect its economic interests in the South China Sea[4].

Further, the existing One-China Policy may be endangered if an increase in bi-lateral partnerships appeared to be U.S.-orchestrated. Although ROC independence would not be explicitly recognized, encouraging action symbolically consistent with an independent international actor could increase military posturing between the U.S. and China, as seen in the 1995-96 Taiwan Straits Crisis[5]. If tensions were to heighten again, the U.S. Navy would be opposing a much more capable People’s Liberation Army-Navy force than in previous crises.

Gain:  In addition to limiting China’s ability to apply economic pressure, bi-lateral trade would tie regional interests to ROC. China’s BRI has undermined relationships between ROC and neighboring countries, reducing incentives to aid Taiwan militarily and limiting U.S. military capacity to respond if China were to act aggressively in the region[6]. Substantive partnerships with the ROC create de facto buy-in to the U.S.-led financial system, increasing the number of potential partners to assist U.S. forces in case of war.

Option #2:  The U.S. lowers barriers to trade and access to markets by joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement.

The original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was developed as part of the U.S.’ “strategic pivot to Asia” during President Obama’s administration. President Trump campaigned that he would withdraw the United States from negotiations and did so in 2017.

Risk:  The new CPTPP has left the door open for the PRC to join[7]. If Beijing and Washington were members of the same trade zone, it would become easier for both to circumvent tariffs, thereby undermining each state’s ability to compete with non-military tools.

Also, when it comes to CPTPP, friction exists between U.S. grand strategy and domestic politics. TPP received harsh opposition from both the political left and right[8][9]. Although there was agreement that there would likely be overall economic growth, many feared that American middle-class workers would be negatively impacted. As such, this option may be politically untenable.

Gain:  This option encourages regional buy-in to the U.S.-led financial order. CPTPP already creates a new market bloc that will bring about economic prosperity under U.S.-influenced rules. U.S. membership in the agreement would amplify its benefits. Chinese markets will have to liberalize to remain competitive, undermining the PRC’s alternative offerings to nearby states.

Today, China bullies developing countries into economic agreements with political concessions in exchange for access to Chinese markets[10]. U.S. entrance into CPTPP would decrease both PRC coercive power and regional dependency on Chinese markets.

Option #3: The U.S. leverages international institutions and assists strategically significant holders of Chinese debt obligations to refinance through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

China infamously financed the Hambantota Port Project, a port in southern Sri Lanka with access to the Indian Ocean. When the project failed, China negotiated a deal with Sri Lanka and now owns the port and surrounding land, granting Beijing unchallenged access to strategic waterways[11].

Risk:  Existing tensions between Western and the five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) states could be exacerbated at the World Bank and IMF. BRICS nations have routinely called for fundamental reforms to the Bretton Woods system to reflect the rising economic influence of developing states[12]. This financial intervention to refinance Chinese debt through Western channels could accelerate BRICS’ efforts to develop a competing financial channel.

Gain:  Beijing touts development projects in the Maldives and Djibouti, whose outstanding debt owed to China stands at 30 percent and 80 percent of their national Gross Domestic Products, respectively[13]. Default by either state would resign strategic territory in the Indian Ocean and mouth of the Red Sea to the PRC. Refinancing would ensure China does not acquire access to these strategic staging areas and would demonstrate the liberal financial system’s willingness to protect vulnerable states from predatory practices.

Other Comments:  The PRC will continue to project influence and hold an alternative vision for the world economy. The objective is to demonstrate the value of free markets to developing states and tie regional interests to ROC’s quasi-independent status.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hillman, J. (2020, March 13). A ‘China Model?’ Beijing’s Promotion of Alternative Global Norms and Standards. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/china-model-beijings-promotion-alternative-global-norms-and-standards.

[2] Kynge, J. (2020, July 10). China, Hong Kong and the world: is Xi Jinping overplaying his hand? Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/a0eac4d1-625d-4073-9eee-dcf1bacb749e.

[3] Leung, Z. (2020, May 15). The Precarious Triangle: China, Taiwan, and United States. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/the-precarious-triangle-china-taiwan-and-united-states; Kristof, N. (2019, September 4). This Is How a War With China Could Begin. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/opinion/china-taiwan-war.html.

[4] Stavridis, J. (2020, May 30). World cannot ignore Chinese aggression in South China Sea. Retrieved from https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/World-cannot-ignore-Chinese-aggression-in-South-China-Sea.

[5] Suettinger, R. (2003). Beyond Tiananmen: The Politics of U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000. Brookings Institution Press.

[6] Meick, E., Ker, M., & Chan, H.M. (2018, June 14). China’s Engagement in the Pacific Islands:
Implications for the United States. Retrieved from https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/China-Pacific%20Islands%20Staff%20Report.pdf.

[7] Zhou, W., & Gao, H. (2020, June 7). China and the CPTPP: is it time to rethink Beijing’s involvement in the trans-Pacific trade pact? Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/economy/article/3087725/china-and-cptpp-it-time-rethink-beijings-involvement-trans-pacific-trade.

[8] Stiglitz, J. (2016, March 28). Why TPP Is a Bad Deal for America and American Workers. Retrieved from https://rooseveltinstitute.org/why-tpp-bad-deal-america-and-american-workers

[9] McBride, J. & Chatzky, A. (2019, January 4). What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp.

[10] Grossman, D., & Chase, M.S. (2019, December 9). What Does Beijing Want from the Pacific Islands? Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/12/what-does-beijing-want-from-the-pacific-islands.html.

[11] Abi-habib, M. (2018, June 25). How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough up a Port. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[12] Gangopadhyay, A., & Kala, A.V. (2012, March 29). Brics Wants World Bank, IMF Reforms. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303816504577311012331186378.

[13] The Economic Times. (2019, May 09). China Building ‘International Network of Coercion through Predatory Economics’: US. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/china-building-international-network-of-coercion-through-predatory-economics-us/articleshow/69257396.cms.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors Johnathan Falcone Option Papers United States

Call for Papers: Readiness

 

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 readiness.  Examples of what could be looked at as part of this call for papers include readiness associated with mindset, policies / strategies and other governing documents, organizational, and materiel.

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

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

Call For Papers

Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Coby Goldberg is a researcher with the Asia-Pacific Program at the Center for a New American Security. His writing has been published in The National Interest, World Politics Review, and The Wire China. Follow him on Twitter @CobyGoldberg. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Date Originally Written:  October 14, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Chinese President Xi Jinping sees himself at the helm of a boat pushed along by the tides of history. Today the tides carry that boat towards a more globalized, interconnected, and in many ways peaceful world, but the tides may be turning.

Summary:  Dialectical materialism – the belief that history has a force of its own beyond the power of human ideals or willpower, and that this force is not static throughout time, but always changing – provides insight into how the Chinese Communist Party thinks about its strategic options. While Xi Jinping tells Party members the tide of history points towards greater economic integration today, the dialectic teaches him the tides could turn against peace tomorrow.

Text:  For all the debates about the guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chairman Xi Jinping has made his views rather plain to Party members. Take the opening lines of a speech to the CCP Central Committee on January 23, 2015, later re-published in Qiushi, the authoritative CCP journal of theory: “Dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communists[1].” The practical impact of this “worldview and methodology” can be significant for the average (non-CCP member) reader.

The CCP has a materialistic worldview, an inheritance from Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. Many of Marx’s and Engels’ contemporaries were idealists, who argued that adherence to a concept born of the mind, namely faith, could determine the reality of the world. Marx and Engels, by contrast, believed in the indomitable force of the material world. The material world shapes laws of history to which man must submit, like it or not. Or, as Xi put it in his 2015 speech: “The most important thing is that we proceed always from objective reality rather than subjective desire[2].”

If the ways of the world are governed not by the will of the individual but by external material conditions –by “objective reality rather than subjective desire” – then history’s arc can be read but not bent. Xi often compares material trends to the ocean. “The tide of the world is surging forward,” he told an audience in Russia. The people of the world must “rally closely together like passengers in the same boat[3].”

According to Xi, the two trends of his time are increasing multipolarity produced by the rise of the developing world, and ever-growing economic integration produced by globalization[4]. Together, these two trends form an inexorable movement that countries can either participate in and benefit or reject to the detriment of all. In the lens of this analogy, the United States has been rocking the collective boat with its recent complaints about a world order that has allowed many countries to flourish, none more so than China.

Military force is a detriment to a globalized economy. At the Party Congress in 2012, Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, declared that “peace and development remain the underlying trends of our time[5].” This statement has held true amidst the downward spiral of the U.S.-China relationship. Xi and the CCP have taken to referring to “profound changes never seen in a century” underway on the world stage, “yet peace and development remain the underlying trend of the times,” Xi reaffirmed as recently as September 22, 2020[6].

These statements appear to be cheap talk offered up for foreign audiences, but the chief audience of Xi Jinping are those listening to his lectures, namely Party members who are habitually called to Beijing to imbibe the Party line. “One does not call every ambassador to Beijing just to bore them with the latest propaganda hacks,” Taiwan-based analyst Tanner Greer writes. “Addresses like these are less like stump speeches on the campaign trail than they are like instruction manuals[7].” For now, the instruction manual says that the underlying trend of the time is peace and development.

Through the materialist worldview of the CCP, Xi has concluded that history’s tides are moving towards economic integration, not military confrontation. However, dialectal materialism teaches Xi that the dialectic, – the state of permanent flux created as contradictions in the world emerge and resolve themselves, producing progress and new contradictions – requires that the CCP remain ever vigilant to the changing conditions of the material that forms reality.

Dialectical thinking helps explain what many observers describe as the CCP’s ideological flexibility. Material conditions might at one time dictate that the CCP must eradicate the capitalist class as it attempted under Mao Tse-tung, and the next year lead the CCP to welcome entrepreneurs into its ranks as members it officially did in the 1990s. Material conditions could make the United States the enemy in the 1950s, and a partner in the 1970s. The dialect effects such changes. “Objective reality is not fixed, but rather develops and changes all the time. Change is the most natural thing in the world,” Xi told Party members. “If we cling to our perception of China’s realities as they were in the past without adjustment, we will find it difficult to move forward[8].” Unfortunately, the material conditions that once set history on the path of economic integration across a multipolar world could evolve into the conditions of fragmentation and conflict. If the tide of history were blowing in that direction, expect China to behave very differently than it has for the past three decades.

As Americans seek to steer the US-China relationship through the “profound changes never seen in a century” that are powering China’s rise as a global competitor, Xi’s advice works for both parties. Both the U.S. and China will be required to balance perceptions of each other’s previous realities with adapting to material conditions today. The best both can consider, to quote Deng Xiaoping, might be to “cross the river by feeling for the stones.”


Endnotes:

[1] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

[2] ibid.

[3] Xi Jinping (2013, March 23). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Peace and Development in the World. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1033246.shtml.

[4] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[5] Hu Jintao. (2020, November 18). Full text of Hu Jintao’s report at 18th Party Congress. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/744889.shtml.

[6] (2020, September 22). Peace, development remain underlying trend of times: Xi. Retrieved October 13 from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-09/22/c_139388433.htm.

[7] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[8] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Coby Goldberg Governing Documents and Ideas

U.S. Options for Subversion within 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.


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.


National Security Situation:  China is seeking to reclaim their historical role in Asia. Under current international norms this is seen as revisionist by the United States which holds the post World War 2 system as the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States seeking options that erode Chinese influence abroad and interfere with China’s ability to reassert historical tools of influence.

Background:  The steady rise of China’s relative power on the international stage has placed it in competition with the United States and the international system of which the U.S. is the steward and chief stakeholder. While the international system is currently Westphalian in flavor, a resurgent China sees the world in starkly different terms. Traditional Chinese political philosophy took the view that their place in the world was as the center of a system based on influence and coercion. Today, China seeks to restore this system through the Belt and Road Initiative which extracts resources, establishes leasing agreements, and enhances influence abroad with the intent to secure resources and control commercial flows.

Significance:  Expansion of Chinese influence abroad presents a challenge to the interests and values of the United States. U.S. politics and business interests have often compromised diplomatic initiatives while military options remain prohibitively costly. A third path may be found in covert actions designed to subvert the information control that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership enjoys domestically and deprive them of access to technologies that support force projection.

Option #1:  The U.S. undermines Chinese ambitions abroad by creating diversionary doubt at home. This diversionary doubt would create an environment for political dissent by targeting CCP social control mechanisms.

A U.S. cyber campaign designed to delete or corrupt data in the Social Credit System administered by the People’s Bank of China is launched to reduce the level of scrutiny the population is under. Simultaneously, the U.S. promotes awareness or access to tools that circumvent information controls to break the information monopoly of the CCP.

Risk:  Chinese citizens have an extreme aversion to foreign interference rooted in China’s historical experience with Western powers. Coupled with the intense focus the CCP has on maintaining political orthodoxy, any discovery of meddling with Chinese domestic sphere would elicit severe consequences in diplomatic relations, trade, and military postures in the region. The sophistication that a cyber operation would require to disrupt, let alone cripple the PRC Social Credit program – and undermine its credibility in the same manner as the anti-Maduro TeamHDP attack on Venezuela’s much less robust social credit system did – would implicate the United States[1]. Moreover, tools such as virtual private networks for circumventing China’s Great FireWall (GFW) as an information barrier is publicly known information that most technically unsophisticated individuals can use.

Gain:  The obsession of the CCP on assuring the pervasiveness of the party in Chinese life would mean that even an unsuccessful Option #1 would likely result in extensive efforts to preserve the status quo information environment. Any subsequent diversion of resources into domestic programs fraught with difficulties would put other ambitions abroad on hold until a level of control was re-established. Any discovery of responsibility for the cyberattacks could be explained away as analogous to the Chinese theft of Office of Personnel Management data in 2015 to mitigate blowback.

Covert action aiming to lower barriers to foreign information would further roll back controls over China’s population. Undermining the GFW by promoting circumvention as a gateway to electronic gaming, sports broadcasts, and other media in demand but blocked in China is one promising area of focus. An estimated 768 million gamers are projected for China by 2022[2]. Enabling access by a growing population that trends young presents an opportunity to influence a substantial slice of the population with narratives that run counter to those government censors allow.

Option #2:  The U.S. subverts Chinese progress towards the military-industrial base that is needed for power projection.

A prerequisite to Chinese ambition abroad is establishing the military-industrial base to sustain economic growth and project power. The rapid development of China’s industry has been facilitated by student programs, scientific exchanges, forced technology transfer, and industrial espionage. Espionage has proven particularly difficult for western counterintelligence to manage because of their scale and persistence. A covert action program to feed disinformation to Chinese collectors engaged in industrial espionage could hinder development of the military-industrial base so critical to Chinese ambitions.

Risk:  Successful implementation may prove difficult in the face of robust efforts by Chinese collectors and vetting of the information by intelligence customers. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) aggressively recruits students to spy for China before they go abroad. If even one percent of the estimated 360,000 students who study in the United States are recruited, that means there are 3,600 potential long term agents seeking sensitive information[3]. The challenge increases when control of an agent is given to the Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense also known as COSTIND whose agents are technically educated and more likely to detect misinformation. The impact of any program designed to deceive China will be potentially limited in scope to sensitive technologies being developed in the United States in order to maintain the credibility of the deception and make vetting of information more difficult. This makes for a risky gamble when the ideal approach to managing sensitive information is to reveal nothing at all.

Gain:  Deception could prove a more cost effective approach than the predominant mindset of reactive counterintelligence predicated on scrutiny of potential foreign agents. Potential espionage by Chinese students alone already invalidates this approach due to personnel requirements. By dangling bait in the form of falsified technical information sensitive industries and facilities, the United States can reverse the benefits of large unsophisticated espionage efforts and take a preventative approach. If coordinated with Allied intelligence services of countries suffering from similar intellectual property theft the effects of a deception campaign would be magnified. The MSS would doubtless struggle to adapt if caught up in a sea of misinformation.

Other Comments:  None of these options are decisive factors in competition between the United States and China but should prove useful in preparing the battlefield prior to any confrontation.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Berwick, A. (2018, November 14). How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control. Retrieved June 4, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/venezuela-zte

[2] Takahashi, D. (2018, May 7). Niko Partners: China will surpass 768 million gamers and $42 billion in game revenue by 2022. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://venturebeat.com/2018/05/07/niko-partners-china-will-surpass-1-billion-gamers-and-42-billion-in-game-revenue-by-2022

[3] Trade war: How reliant are US colleges on Chinese students? (2019, June 12). Retrieved July 7, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48542913

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Chris Wozniak Option Papers United States

Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.

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.


Eli Kravinsky is an undergraduate student at Haverford College. He previously spent a year in China on a State Department-funded language scholarship. He can be found on Twitter @elikravi. 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. is continuing to orient its foreign policy and defense policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Accordingly, PRC tactics that have proven successful against the U.S. thus far may begin to fail. This failure will cause the PRC to develop new tactics to use against the U.S. below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 19, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an American undergraduate student interested in China and security studies. The article is written from the perspective of the PRC and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) towards the U.S.

Background:  Strategic competition between the U.S. and China has increased in recent years. China’s strategy is to carefully escalate tensions so as to enable it to create “facts on the ground”, such as de-facto Chinese control over much of the South China Sea, without allowing tensions to boil over into full-scale war, which could result in China’s gains being rolled back[1].

Significance:  The U.S. has started taking much stronger notice of China’s below-threshold tactics and is responding increasingly harshly. As such, China must innovate new, carefully calibrated below-threshold tactics.

Option #1:  The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN) can deliberately ram a U.S. Navy (USN) ship in the South China Sea.

While PLAN ships sometimes ‘brush up’ on USN ships, an actual crash – intentional or otherwise – is unprecedented. However, in the 2001 EP-3 incident a PLA fighter jet crashed into a USN reconnaissance aircraft[2]. An easy method to create plausible deniability and reduce the risk to the PRC side would be to instead use a civilian freighter operating under the Maritime Militia. In the summer of 2017, two USN Arleigh Burke-class destroyers collided with civilian ships, both suffering severe damage and casualties. Even though the two incidents both occurred close to shore, Search and Rescue vessels and aircraft did not arrive until several hours after the initial crash in both cases[3]. As such, a USN response in force would likely arrive late, especially given that a deliberate ramming attack would occur closer to Chinese shores. Accordingly, the PLAN could pre-position ships to rapidly secure the site of the incident, and the U.S. side would have to confirm the incident was deliberate and not an accident as in the 2017 incidents.

Risk:  This would constitute a significant escalation of tensions between the two militaries. There is an appreciable chance that such an incident would be treated by the U.S. as a casus belli, especially if it caused casualties on the U.S. side.

Gain:  If executed successfully, this move could deter the USN from operating within China’s claimed waters. While the USN understands the PLA can impose costs on it via access-denial weaponry in an actual conflict, this option would impose similar costs even under competition that falls short of war. Additionally, doing so could allow the PLA to board a damaged or possibly crippled USN ship under the guise of rescue operations, offering a valuable opportunity to study USN technology and damage-control procedures up close. Tellingly, in the EP-3 incident, the PLA exploited the situation to extract numerous secrets from the downed USN reconnaissance aircraft[4]. Lastly, were the USN ship to be sufficiently damaged the PLAN could effectively intern the crew under the guise of rescuing them. This would give the PRC leverage over the U.S. in the unfolding crisis, as it would effectively be holding U.S. military personnel as hostages.

Option #2:  The CCP can secretly support extremist protest movements in the U.S.

Risk:  The most appreciable risk is that the U.S. would respond in kind, and offer support to dissident groups in China, such as Hong Kong separatists. However, a convincing argument can be made that the CCP believes the U.S. is already secretly doing so[5][6], meaning the CCP may well be willing to stomach this risk. Likewise, the PRC can control the flow of information within its borders and call upon an effective domestic security apparatus to stem anti-Party civil disturbances. The risk of a harsh U.S. response would be contingent on how well the CCP could keep the funding secret or maintain plausible deniability.

Gain:  Recent events such as the anti-lockdown protests and anti-police brutality protests have shown the risk of domestic instability in the U.S.[7][8]. The CCP knows all too well from its own history how internal instability can sap a state’s ability to deal with external threats. Secretly channeling funding to extremist groups in the U.S., such as armed militias, would be an effective and cheap way to create a security headache for the U.S. government at home.

Option #3:  The PLAN could impose a maritime blockade on Taiwan. The CCP views Taiwan as an incredibly sensitive issue, to the extent that “reunifying” it with the mainland is the ultimate test of its legitimacy[9]. As such, the CCP is concerned about U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and especially the possibility that the U.S. might relieve Taiwan were the PRC to attempt to invade Taiwan. One option to resolve both of these concerns, as well as potentially sap Taiwan’s will to resist would be to launch a maritime blockade of Taiwan[10].

Risk:  This option entails considerable risk. Although the PLAN and PLA Air Force are rapidly expanding their capabilities, this would still be a very difficult task[11][12]. Were the U.S. or its allies to attempt to relieve Taiwan, war could easily erupt from a localized incident at sea. This would also have huge knockoff effects on the shipping industry, as insurance rates would skyrocket amidst rising tensions. China’s exports sector would foot much of the bill. Lastly, doing so would likely backfire and strengthen Taiwan’s desire to protect itself from China, instead of weakening it. However, as the 1996 Taiwan Straits Incident shows, the CCP often fails to appreciate how a heavy-handed policy towards Taiwan can be against its own interests. The key to predicting this possibility isn’t a perfectly objective cost-benefit analysis, but an awareness of how constraints on the CCP could cause it to make a self-defeating choice.

Gain:  If executed successfully, this option could cripple the Taiwanese economy and make U.S. intervention in a Taiwan-PRC conflict vastly more difficult, making USN access to the Western Pacific increasingly difficult.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Erickson, A. S., Martinson, Martinson, R. D. (March 15, 2019) China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations. China Maritime Studies Institute and Naval Institute Press

[2] Sanger, D. E., Rosenthal, E. (2001, April 2) U.S. Plane In China After It Collides With Chinese Jet. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/02/world/us-plane-in-china-after-it-collides-with-chinese-jet.html

[3] Department of the Navy/Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. (2017). Memorandum for Distribution:  Report on the Collision between USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) and Motor Vessel ACX CRYSTAL, Report on the Collision between USS JOHN S MCCAIN (DDG 56) and Motor Vessel ALNIC MC. Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/CHINFO/USS+Fitzgerald+and+USS+John+S+McCain+Collision+Reports.pdf

[4] Zetter, K. Burn After Reading: Snowden Documents Reveal Scope of Secrets Exposed to China in 2001 Spy Plane Incident. The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2017/04/10/snowden-documents-reveal-scope-of-secrets-exposed-to-china-in-2001-spy-plane-incident

[5] Buckley, C. (2013, August 19). China Takes Aim at Western Ideas. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/20/world/asia/chinas-new-leadership-takes-hard-line-in-secret-memo.html

[6] Higgins, A. (2019, August 9). China’s Theory for Hong Kong Protests: Secret American Meddling. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/08/world/asia/hong-kong-black-hand.html

[7] Picchi, A. (2020, January 6). Top Global Risk in 2020? It’s American politics, experts say. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-top-risk-in-2020-its-u-s-politics-geopolitical-analysts-say

[8] Purtill, J. (2020 June 17) This Model forecast the US’s current unrest a decade ago. It now says ‘civil war’. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. https://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/model-predicting-united-states-disorder-now-points-to-civil-war/12365280

[9] Yeung, J. T. (2019, October). Why is Taiwan so important? The manipulation of nationalism in legitimizing​ one-party rule in China. The Yale Review of International Studies. http://yris.yira.org/essays/3613

[10] Easton, I. (2017). The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia. Project 2049 Institute.

11] Yoshihara, T., Holmes, J. (2018). Red Star over the Pacific, Revised Edition: China’s Rise and the Challenge to US Maritime Strategy.  Naval Institution Press.

[12] Lee, J. (2019, April 3). Why a US Sale of Fighter Jets to Taiwan Matters. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2019/04/why-a-us-sale-of-fighter-jets-to-taiwan-matters

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Eli Kravinsky Option Papers United States

Options for Taiwan to Better Compete 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.


Thomas J. Shattuck is a Research Associate in the Asia Program and the Managing Editor at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Mr. Shattuck was a member of the 2019 class of scholars at the Global Taiwan Institute, receiving the Taiwan Scholarship. 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:  Taiwan requires options to better compete with China in international organizations below the threshold of conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a research associate at a non-partisan foreign policy think tank.

Background:  One of the key national security priorities of the People’s Republic of China is to force Taiwan into unification. Part of that strategy is to limit Taiwan’s ability to participate fully in the international community, specifically in international organizations in which Taiwan is not a full member[1]. Such pressure would be removed upon China-Taiwan unification.

Significance:  In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the full participation and cooperation of the entire international community is needed to understand best practices in limiting the spread of the virus. The pandemic has shown the importance of public and global health for a country’s national security. Taiwan’s exclusion from the May 2020 United Nations (UN) World Health Assembly—after dual campaigns by major international players in support of Taiwan’s observership bid and by China to keep Taiwan out—demonstrates the danger and limitations of excluding certain states based on their geopolitical situation[2]. Taiwan is prevented from learning important information or receiving key data in a timely fashion. Also, it is more difficult for Taiwan to share its expertise in stopping the virus’ spread, something that Taipei has succeeded at doing despite its limitations[3]. The spread of viruses endangers the entire world, and political maneuvering by Beijing has damaged the global response effort.

Option #1:  Taipei works with like-minded nations, particularly the United States, to develop a new, non-UN-membership-based international entity, initially focused on health issues with a plan for expansion into other areas.

Risk:  There are two primary risks to such an endeavor. The first risk is the possibility that Beijing will pressure nations into not participating. By threatening various economic or political repercussions, leaders in China have been able to stop Taiwan from expanding its international participation. Such a campaign would likely occur in light of any effort by Taipei to work around current Beijing-imposed limitations. If such a new entity does not receive enough international buy-in, then Taipei risks getting embarrassed for failing to garner support. Second, Beijing would likely direct even greater backlash at Taipei for attempting to challenge it internationally. This could include more assertive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

Gain:  Successfully establishing a new international entity would demonstrate that Taipei does not have to live within Beijing-imposed boundaries. As the recent COVID-19 example has shown, Taiwan has much to contribute internationally, but international organizations and members will quickly revert to Beijing’s stance when it comes to Taiwan. It was Taipei that first sounded the alarm regarding the potential danger of COVID-19[4]. Without those confines, Taiwan would be able to showcase its COVID-19 success story and teach other nations its best public health practices. It also would be able to receive information in a timelier fashion. Taiwan’s international participation would no longer be limited by the current status of cross-Strait relations and could be further integrated into the international community. Such an effort would complement the Trump administration’s desire to form some sort of “alliance of democracies” to meet the China challenge[5].

Option #2:  Taiwan relaunches its bid for membership in the UN so that it could become a full member of all UN-affiliated international organizations and ones that require statehood for membership.

Risk:  Any attempt by Taipei to join the United Nations will be stopped by Beijing. The vote would fail in the same way that Taiwan’s bids for guest or observer status in international organizations have since 2016. Depending on the form that such a bid takes (i.e., independence referendum for establishment of the “Republic of Taiwan”), the bid could have catastrophic effects, i.e., Chinese military action against Taiwan or an invasion. If such a move is conducted similarly to past attempts, then it would cause Beijing to lash out in a ways below the threshold of war—perhaps more intense forms of aggression that have become regularized since 2016[6].

Gain:  Even though a UN membership bid would fail, it would once again place Taiwan’s confusing geopolitical status in the limelight. Taiwan’s international plight receives sympathetic news coverage in democratic nations, and forcing countries to vote for the record on where it stands on this issue could spark new conversations about a country’s relationship with Taiwan. With increasingly assertive and aggressive actions by Beijing on various fronts, launching a UN membership bid could help Taipei enhance ties with current “friends” or find new ones because how China treats Taiwan would be given even greater focus across the world. The current international spotlight on China’s behavior at home and abroad may lead to countries working to strengthen relations with Taiwan. Positive outcomes are possible even if the membership bid fails.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Dreyer, J. T. (2018, August 13). The Big Squeeze: Beijing’s Anaconda Strategy to Force Taiwan to Surrender. Foreign Policy Research Institute. https://www.fpri.org/article/2018/08/the-big-squeeze-beijings-anaconda-strategy-to-force-taiwan-to-surrender

[2] Tan, H. (2020, May 19). Taiwan ‘disappointed and angry’ about being excluded from WHO meeting, says it is developing its own coronavirus vaccine. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/19/taiwan-says-it-is-disappointed-and-angry-being-excluded-from-who-meeting.html

[3] Griffiths, J. (2020, April 5). Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/04/asia/taiwan-coronavirus-response-who-intl-hnk/index.html

[4] Watt, L. (2020, May 19). Taiwan Says It Tried to Warn the World About Coronavirus. Here’s What It Really Knew and When. Time. https://time.com/5826025/taiwan-who-trump-coronavirus-covid19

[5] Pompeo, M. (2020, July 23). Communist China and the Free World’s Future. U.S. Department of State. https://www.state.gov/communist-china-and-the-free-worlds-future

[6] Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily. (2020, July 22). Associated Press. https://apnews.com/2126b0fbdf2b7d2e6a5a77c464aeb7b1

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Taiwan Thomas J. Shattuck

Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

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.


Rusudan Zabakhidze is an International Conference of Europeanists coordinator at Council for European Studies at Columbia University and a non-resident fellow at Middle East Institute’s Frontier Europe Initiative. She can be found on Twitter @rusozabakhidze. 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 Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 12, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that increasing Russian and Chinese influence in Africa is yet another external attempt to exploit African resources. The absence of democratic preconditions from cooperation agreements between African countries that work with Russia and China undermines U.S. democratization efforts in the region and create obstacles for international transparency and accountability.

Summary:  The Sino-Russian strategic competition in Africa is characterized by the complex interplay of mutual interests, yet divergent means and ways of achieving the strategic interests. In comparison to China, Russian economic cooperation with African countries is modest, however, deep military cooperation across the continent places Russia in an adventitious position to change the conditions for the economic development by stirring the local or regional instability, if desired.

Text:  Rapid urbanization and the economic rise of the African continent in the past decades have harnessed the potential for a redefined development path. Colonial legacy has earned the European powers a controversial status in contemporary affairs of African countries. Alternatively, China has grasped an opportunity to fill the vacuum and advance its strategic interests. The mainstream discourse around the geopolitical competition in Africa is mostly dominated by the U.S.-China rivalry, however, increasing Russian influence suggests that the current power dynamics across Africa are much more complex.

To assess the comparative advantage or disadvantage of the Russian position in Africa, it is helpful to delineate the key drivers of Russian strategic interests. As a resurgent power, Russia has been challenging the Western-centric world order globally; hence, the African continent represents yet another territory for projecting its global power status. While similar to other external actors in Africa Russia is interested in accessing natural resources[1], Russian connections with African countries are most notable in defense sector. The absence of democratic preconditions for various forms of cooperation serves the mutual interest of Russia and recipient African governments[2].

The Sino-Russian strategic competition in Africa is characterized by the interplay of similar interests, yet different means and ways towards attaining these goals. In terms of projecting the global power image, China and Russia share a common revisionist agenda based on offering an alternative to the western models of governance. Chinese and Russian discourses are built around emphasizing the superiority of their non-interference approach[3] that is based on respectful cooperation in contrast to the colonial practices of European powers. Patterns of rapid urbanization and accelerated economic growth of African countries enable China to draw comparisons to its own past in the 1990s[4]. Such parallels place China in an advantageous position to advocate for its governance model across the continent. China and Russia also try to use the cooperation with African governments as a supporting mechanism for their global power image in other parts of the world. Namely, African countries represent the largest voting bloc in the United Nations and regardless of the diversity of political positions of the national governments, both Russia and China have tried to use their influence over the voting behavior in favor of their positions within the UN system[5].

The differences between the Sino-Russian strategic competition is best visible in the economic cooperation trends. Russian economic engagement in African countries is relatively modest compared to large-scale Chinese investments. This difference is a logical amalgam of general economic trends in both countries and the retrospective of cooperative efforts. Unlike Russia, China has remained a steady interest in Africa since the decolonization period. The establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000 supported the facilitation of the cooperation efforts[6]. On the other hand, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia temporarily detached itself from African politics. Belated Russian rapprochement was therefore met with a Chinese dominant presence. African markets with the fastest growing population and increased consumption needs, present an attractive venue for selling Chinese goods[7]. Almost all African countries are benefiting from diversified Chinese foreign direct investment. Oil and extractive natural resources account for a large share of investments, however, financial services, construction, transportation, and manufacturing make up half of Chinese FDI in Africa[8]. Against this backdrop, despite its own rich mineral resources, Russia has a shortage of certain raw materials, including chrome, manganese, mercury, and titanium that are essential for steel production[9]. Therefore, Russian economic interests in African countries mostly revolve around accessing these resources.

Russia’s strategic advantage over China is more visible in military cooperation with African countries. Russia has become the largest supplier of arms to Africa, accounting for 35% of arms exports, followed by China (17%), U.S. (9.6%), and France (6.9%)[10]. Besides arms trade, Russia provides military advice[11]. Reportedly, Wagner Group, a private military company with a history of fighting in Ukraine and Syria and has close ties to the Russian government has also shifted its focus towards Africa[12]. Even though Russia has a marginal advantage in military cooperation over China and western powers, Chinese actions in this direction should not be under-looked. Chinese defense strategy in Africa is based on a comprehensive approach, combining arms sales with other trade and investment deals, cultural exchanges, medical assistance, and building infrastructure. For instance, the package deal for building a Chinese military base in Djibouti covers the large non-military investment projects[13].

In support of the above-given strategic interests, Russia and China are actively using soft power tools. Confucius Institutes that promote Chinese language and culture are rapidly popping up across Africa and are now present in over 40 countries[14]. China is also becoming a popular destination for African students[15]. China also boosts its image through media cooperation. The Chinese Communist Party has organized four annual forums bringing together the representatives of Africa state-owned and private media agencies to discuss the global media environment and the state of African media[16]. These gatherings are unprecedented compared to China’s media-related efforts in other regions. On the other hand, Russia is also actively using the media as a medium for projecting its positive image. Russia Today and Sputnik – media agencies aligning with the discourses favorable to the Russian government, have expanded their reach to the African continent as well[17]. The number of the Russian World Foundation, known as Russkiy Mir, is also increasing in African countries[18]. Somewhat different from the Chinese approach is using the Russian Orthodox Church as the way to approach the Christian communities in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia[19]. Even though current Chinese and Russian efforts to promote their image through media and cultural activities are not targeted at deterring the influence of each other, both actors have the potential to exploit the information space through controlled media platforms. Such developments can significantly undermine the social cohesion, as well as the trust and confidence in targeted actors.


Endnotes:

[1] Adlbe, J. (2019, November 14). What does Russia really want from Africa? Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2019/11/14/what-does-russia-really-want-from-africa

[2] Procopio, M. (2019, November 15). Why Russia is not like China in Africa. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/why-russia-not-china-africa-24409

[3] Ibid.

[4] Diop, M. (2015, January 13). Lessons for Africa from China’s growth. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2015/01/13/lessons-for-africa-from-chinas-growth

[5] Spivak, V. (2019, October 25). Russia and China in Africa: Allies or Rivals? Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://carnegie.ru/commentary/80181

[6] Nantulya, P. (2018, August 30). Grand Strategy and China’s Soft Power Push in Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/grand-strategy-and-chinas-soft-power-push-in-africa

[7] Maverick, B. (2020, April). The three reasons why Chinese invest in Africa. Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/active-trading/081315/3-reasons-why-chinese-invest-africa.asp

[8] Pigato, M. (2015). China and Africa: Expanding Economic Ties in and Evolving Global Context. The World Bank. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Event/Africa/Investing%20in%20Africa%20Forum/2015/investing-in-africa-forum-china-and-africa.pdf

[9] Hedenskog, J. (2018, December). Russia is Stepping Up its Military Cooperation in Africa. FOI, retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.foi.se/rest-api/report/FOI%20MEMO%206604

[10] Adlbe, J. (2019, November 14). What does Russia really want from Africa? Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2019/11/14/what-does-russia-really-want-from-africa

[11] Russel, M & Pichon E. (2019, November). Russia in Africa. A new area for geopolitical competition. European Parliament’s Research Service, Retrieved July 30, 2020 from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2019/642283/EPRS_BRI(2019)642283_EN.pdf

[12] Hauer, N. (2018, August 27). Russia’s Favorite Mercenaries. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/russian-mercenaries-wagner-africa/568435

[13] Benabdallah, L. (2018). China-Africa military ties have deepened. Here are 4 things to know. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/07/06/china-africa-military-ties-have-deepened-here-are-4-things-to-know

[14] Nantulya, P. (2018, August 30). Grand Strategy and China’s Soft Power Push in Africa. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://africacenter.org/spotlight/grand-strategy-and-chinas-soft-power-push-in-africa

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Arbunies, P. (2019). Russia’s sharp power in Africa: the case of Madagascar, CAR, Sudan and South Africa, retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.unav.edu/web/global-affairs/detalle/-/blogs/russia-s-sharp-power-in-africa-the-case-of-madagascar-central-africa-republic-sudan-and-south-africa

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Russia Rusudan Zabakhidze

Options for Altering Global Energy Developments to America’s Advantage and China’s Disadvantage

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.


Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher, analyst, writer and editor 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 Braver Angels, and has also been published in Merion West, Washington Monthly, the Truman National Security Project, France 24, and Arc Digital. 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:  The United States devotes considerable military resources to the Persian Gulf despite significantly reduced reliance on the region’s oil, while China buys more Gulf oil than the U.S. does.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of U.S. policymakers who wish to indirectly increase economic and military burdens on the People’s Republic of China, in ways that benefit the United States and do not lead to armed conflict.

Background:  The United States has drastically reduced its reliance on oil from the Persian Gulf over the last decade, as the U.S. has become the world’s largest producer of crude oil[1]. China purchases significantly more oil from Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest producer and the largest producer in the Gulf, than the U.S. does[2]. However, the U.S. still expends considerable military and financial resources in the Gulf, part of the estimated $81 billion per year it devotes to protecting global oil supplies[3]. Meanwhile, as demand for electric cars increases in response to climate change, China’s share of global electric vehicle production is double that of the U.S.[4].

Significance:  While there are multiple reasons for the U.S. presence in the Gulf region, such as deterring Iranian aggression and combatting terrorism, every ship, aircraft, vehicle and service member not protecting oil is one that can be deployed elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, despite the increase in oil prices that would likely result from more vulnerable oil supplies, an incentive to develop alternatives to petroleum would be a positive aspect, given climate change.

Option #1:  The United States ceases to deploy naval vessels to the Persian Gulf.

Risk:  A reduced military presence in the Gulf would increase the vulnerability of oil supplies to attacks by Iran, its proxies, and terrorist organizations, and will likely lead to a rise in global oil prices[5]. Saudi Arabia will fear the U.S. is abandoning it, and may begin developing nuclear weapons to guard against the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. Countries that rely more heavily on Gulf oil than the U.S. does – not only U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, but China’s rival India – may be harmed economically by less secure oil[6].

Gain:  Ceasing to deploy vessels to the Gulf leaves more vessels available for the U.S. to use in the Asia-Pacific. A risk of greater instability in the Gulf may lead China to expand its current naval presence in the region, leaving fewer vessels available elsewhere[7]. U.S. vessels would no longer be vulnerable to attacks by Iranian forces. Chillier U.S.-Saudi relations will loosen America’s connection to the aggressive and brutal regime of Mohammad bin Salman, improving America’s moral position[8]. Meanwhile, given petroleum’s contribution to climate change, a rise in oil prices can be embraced as an incentive to reduce reliance on oil, regardless of its source.

Option #2:  The United States prohibits oil exports to China in concert with withdrawal from the Gulf, and steers additional oil exports to major importers of Gulf oil, compensating them for Gulf oil’s increased vulnerability.

Risk:  Embargoing crude oil would likely stall or end negotiations for a U.S.-China trade deal[9]. Furthermore, the U.S. is a relatively minor source of oil for China, meaning the impact of an embargo will likely be weak[10]. China may also retaliate with new and/or higher tariffs on U.S. exports. Also, even with additional imports of U.S. oil, America’s trading partners may still endure a negative economic impact from higher oil prices during a global recession.

Gain:  If compensatory exports of U.S. oil are proportionate to a country’s purchases of Gulf oil, the largest beneficiaries would likely be Japan, South Korea and India (respectively the first, third and fifth largest purchasers of Saudi oil)[2]. The first two have deep, long-lasting economic and defense relationships with the U.S., while India is a potential counterweight to Chinese hegemonic ambitions in Asia. Thus compensatory oil supplies could link these countries close to the U.S. in a multilateral effort to tie China’s hands regarding Gulf oil.

Option #3:  The United States partners with countries importing Gulf oil to develop alternatives to petroleum products, and pointedly excludes China from the partnership. Public policies to this end can include increased investment in clean energy research and development, and initiatives to produce more electric cars at lower prices, as well as car charging stations powered by non-fossil energy.

Risk:  China might portray itself as a victim if it is excluded from international efforts to reduce fossil fuel use. This option might also portray the U.S. as not serious about climate change, arguing that if the U.S. really wanted to solve the problem it would cooperate with any country, including China.

Gain:  Participation in multinational efforts to reduce petroleum use would position the U.S. as a leader in the fight against climate change. U.S. clean energy development lags behind China’s, and during a global recession, a major stimulus of clean energy technology, including in the transportation sector, would provide economic and environmental benefits[11]. If, as with Option #2, America’s primary partners are Japan, South Korea and India, it will be collaborating with countries that are home to car manufacturers listed on the Global 500, companies well-positioned to benefit from an electric car boom[12].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “What countries are the top producers and consumers of oil?” U.S. Energy Information Administration, April 1, 2020.
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php

[2] Stevens, Harry, Lauren Tierney, Adrian Blanco and Laris Karklis. “Who buys Saudi Arabia’s oil?” Washington Post, September 16, 2019.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/09/16/who-buys-saudi-arabias-oil

[3] “The Military Cost of Defending the Global Oil Supply.” Securing America’s Future Energy, September 21, 2018.
http://secureenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Military-Cost-of-Defending-the-Global-Oil-Supply.-Sep.-18.-2018.pdf

[4] Bledsoe, Paul. “New Ideas for a Do Something Congress No. 7: Winning the Global Race on Electric Cars.” Progressive Policy Institute, April 1, 2019.
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/publication/winning-the-global-race-on-electric-cars

[5] Cordesman, Anthony H. “The Strategic Threat from Iranian Hybrid Warfare in the Gulf.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 13, 2019.
https://www.csis.org/analysis/strategic-threat-iranian-hybrid-warfare-gulf

[6] “Iraq continues to be India’s top oil supplier, imports from US rises 4-folds.” Economic Times, May 1, 2019.
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/oil-gas/iraq-continues-to-be-indias-top-oil-supplier-imports-from-us-rises-4-folds/articleshow/69129071.cms

[7] Eckstein, Megan. “5th Fleet CO: China Laying Groundwork in Middle East to Pose Future Threats; International Coalitions Pushing Back Against Iran.” USNI News, July 23, 2020.
https://news.usni.org/2020/07/23/5th-fleet-co-china-laying-groundwork-in-middle-east-to-pose-future-threats-international-coalitions-pushing-back-against-iran

[8] Editorial Board. “One year later, our murdered friend Jamal has been proved right.” Washington Post, September 30, 2019.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/30/one-year-later-our-murdered-friend-jamal-has-been-proved-right

[9] Swanson, Ana and Keith Bradsher. “Once a Source of U.S.-China Tension, Trade Emerges as an Area of Calm.” New York Times, July 25, 2020.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/25/business/economy/us-china-trade-diplomacy.html

[10] “China’s crude oil imports surpassed 10 million barrels per day in 2019.” U.S. Energy Information Administration, March 23, 2020.
https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43216

[11] Bledsoe, Paul. “Jumpstarting U.S. Clean Energy Manufacturing in Economic Stimulus and Infrastructure Legislation.” Progressive Policy Institute, May 2020.
https://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PPI_Clean-Manufacturing-Infrastructure_Embargoed.pdf

[12] “Global 500: Motor Vehicles & Parts.” Fortune, 2019.
 https://fortune.com/global500/2019/search/?sector=Motor%20Vehicles%20%26%20Parts

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers Resource Scarcity United States

Assessing the U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G 

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.


Martina Victoria Abalo is an Argentinian undergrad student majoring in international affairs from The University of San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She can be found on Twitter as @Martilux. 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 U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an advanced undergrad student of International Affairs from Argentina.

Summary:  Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump see the world similarly. At the same time, China’s investment in Brazil is significantly more than the U.S. investment. With China trying to put 5G antennas into Brazil, and the U.S. trying to stop China from doing the same worldwide, President Bolsonaro finds himself in a quandary and thus far has not decided to side with the U.S. or China.

Text:  When thinking about China and the U.S., most tend to see the big picture. However, often unseen are the disputes that are going in the shadows for alignment. This article will assess how U.S. tries to counterbalance China in Brazil, as China pursues the alignment of the South American power for 5G.

The relationship between China and Brazil must be understood in context. Before the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, China was Brazil’s most important ally economically and one of the closest politically[1]. However, with the assumption of the Presidency by Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, Brazil’s foreign policy towards China turned 180 degrees[2]. Although Brazil has been famous for having a foreign policy autonomous from their domestic one[3], Bolsonaro’s office changed that and started a close linkage with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Having a similar political outlook, Bolsonaro and Trump have made Brazil and the U.S. closer than they have ever been. Nevertheless, this closeness comes with a price, especially for Brazil, which seems to be playing the role of the second state in a bandwagon for survival relationship[4] with the United States. This role can be seen in the first months of 2019 when Jair tried to follow the U.S. lead in the international community. Though alignment with the U.S. may be well or poorly appreciated, it remains to be seen what impacts Brazil will feel from China following this alignment.

Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. did not last long because no matter how uncomfortable Bolsonaro feels with the Chinese political model, China remains Brazil’s first economic partner. In 2018 the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product GDP was 12,79%[5] and during 2019 China bought assets in Brazil for U.S. $62.871 billion and had total trade of U.S. $98.142 billion[6] between these two countries. In parallel with this, Brazil’s second-best trade partner, the U.S., was far behind China, with a two – way trade of U.S. $59.646 billion. As we know, the United States can not offer to Brazil the economic benefits that China does and clearly, this is no secret in Brazil. With this trade disparity, the question is whether the U.S. can offer something as powerful as China, to persuade Brazil from signing more agreements with China, such as installation of 5G antennas?

Even though 5G antennas are faster than the 4G, there are two concerns around this new technology. The first one is the privacy of the users because it is easy to get the exact user location. The second is that the owner of the 5G network or a hacker could spy on the internet traffic passing through said network[8].

In 2020, the United States is attempting to thwart China from signing agreements to place 5G antennas in countries worldwide. While the United Kingdom and France[9] rejected any kind of deal with China, in Brazil the official decision keeps on being delayed, and as of this writing nobody knows whether Bolsonaro align with China or the U.S.

China is trying to persuade Brazil to sign an agreement with Huawei which aims to develop 5G technology by placing 5G antennas all along Brazil[10]. This quest to convince Brazil to sign with Huawei has been going on for months. Despite the lack of a signed agreement Huawei, who has been operating in Brazil for a long time now, is opening a lab of 5G technology in Brasilia[11].

The U.S. does not have a viable counteroffer to Brazil for the placement of Huawei 5G antennas across the country[12]. The Trump administration keeps trying to persuade their political allies to not sign with Huawei, although the United States has not developed this kind of alternative technology. However, there are some companies interested in placing 5G on Brazil alike the Mexican telecommunications company Claro[13].

President Bolsonaro, in an effort to balance the U.S. and China’s interest in Brazil, will likely have to find a middle way. Regarding the influence of China when it comes to Brazil’s economy, it is naïve to think that there will not be any consequence if Brazil says no to Huawei. Of course, this possible “no” does not mean that China will break any economical entanglement with Brazil, but clearly, China would not be pleased by this decision. A yes decision by Bolsonaro might be a deal-breaker for the Trump-Bolsonaro relationship. Additionally, Bolsonaro started his presidency seeking to be Trump’s southern ally to ensure survival. Bolsonaro remains as hopeful as Jair that Brazil would be a secondary state[14], and that following the U.S. will help Brazil to change their political and economic allies. Finally, the close relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is quite good, and the U.S. can support Bolsonaro politically and diplomatically speaking in ways that China is simply not able.

In conclusion, Brazil is placed between a rock and a hard place and the solution to this matter will not satisfy all participants. It might be rather expensive for the future of Brazil if the U.S. does not back Bolsonaro if he says yes to China, and China might turn back on the Brazilian administration if they say no to Huawei.


Endnotes:

[1] Ferreyra, J. E. (n.d.). Acciones de política exterior de Brasil hacia organismos multilaterales durante las presidencias de Lula Da Silva [Grado, Siglo 21]. https://repositorio.uesiglo21.edu.ar/bitstream/handle/ues21/12989/FERREYRA%20Jorge%20E..pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[2] Guilherme Casarões. (2019, December 20). Making Sense of Bolsonaro’s Foreign Policy at Year One. Americas Quarterly. https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/making-sense-of-bolsonaros-foreign-policy-at-year-one

[3] Jacaranda Guillén Ayala. (2019). La política exterior del gobierno de Bolsonaro. Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica. http://revistafal.com/la-politica-exterior-del-gobierno-de-bolsonaro

[4] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

[5] Brasil—Exportaciónes de Mercancías 2019. (2019). Datos Macro. https://datosmacro.expansion.com/comercio/exportaciones/brasil

[6] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[7] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[8] Vandita Grover. (2019, October 16). In the Age of 5G Internet Is Data Privacy Just A Myth? | MarTech Advisor. Martech Advisor. https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/mobile-marketing/5g-internet-and-data-privacy

[9] George Calhoun. (2020, July 24). Is The UK Ban On Huawei The “Endgame” For Free Trade? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgecalhoun/2020/07/24/is-the-uk-ban-on-huawei-the-endgame-for-free-trade/#6735924d46db

[10] Oliver Stunkel. (2020, June 30). Huawei or Not? Brazil Faces a Key Geopolitical Choice. Americas Quarterly. https://americasquarterly.org/article/huawei-or-not-brazil-faces-a-key-geopolitical-choice

[11] Huawei to open 5G lab in Brasília. (2020, July 23). BNamericas.Com. https://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/huawei-to-open-5g-lab-in-brasilia

[12] Gabriela Mello. (2020, July 7). Huawei says U.S. pressure on Brazil threatens long delays in 5G rollout. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-huawei-tech-brazil-5g-idUSKBN2482WS

[13] Forbes Staff. (2020, July 8). Claro, de Carlos Slim, iniciará la carrera del 5G en Brasil. Forbes México. https://www.forbes.com.mx/tecnologia-claro-slim-5g-brasil

[14] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Brazil China (People's Republic of China) Competition Emerging Technology United States

Minerals, Minds, and Accommodation: U.S. Options Against 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.


Patrick M. Foran is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He can be found on Twitter @Patrick__Foran and has a newsletter at CatalogofCurisoties.substack.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.


National Security Situation:  As China grows richer, more powerful, and more revanchist, the U.S., as the world’s current-yet-faltering hegemon, requires options to meet this rising challenger that plays to the edge of, but stays below the threshold of, armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri – St. Louis with a broadly realist foreign policy point of view. The article is written from the point of view of the United States towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Background:  The U.S. under President Donald Trump understands that “great power competition” has “returned,” as announced in the 2017 National Security Strategy[1]. Yet “complex interdependence” between the U.S. and the PRC has created liabilities, challenges, and an entangled relationship that is a double-edged sword for the U.S. should they uncouple without care[2].

Significance:  The significance of this interdependence cannot be overstated. The U.S.-China relationship is certainly the most important in the world, and this goes for finance, climate, trade, the future of international institutions and regime maintenance, and so much more.

Option #1:  The U.S. could attempt to carefully decouple its critical minerals relationship and defense-industrial base needs in a neo-Hamiltonian way, referring to the Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton and his belief in infant industry support and fostering research and development to build competitive industries. This option would be understood as support for re-developing and re-conceptualizing what is critical using the broad scope of powers delegated to the president under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act[3]. The U.S. would also form a Five Eyes or Democratic Club-like international agreement with fellow liberal democracies. This agreement would ensure cooperation regarding research and development, logistics, and ensure robustness and sustainability. This cooperation would look like a shared pool similar to the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve but for minerals and high-tech components with the addition of ally access to the reserve. This pool would be shared with Western and liberal allies who agree to shun China’s current dominance in the realm of rare earth minerals.


Risk:  This option risks sparking a “beggar thy neighbor” system, where zero-sum moves engaged by those inside and outside the system produce a worst world for all. In other words, it risks a new Cold War that hardens into blocs, blocs that would make future pandemics, for example, or future financial crises harder to manage. Further, this option risks more realpolitik when it comes to ocean exploration and when it comes to African state sovereignty where rare earth minerals are present.

Gain:  This option contributes to a renewed liberal international order, one that is modern, looking towards the future, and one that is concerned with sustainability and shared prosperity. Offering an “opt-in” for liberal and democratic countries is aligned with much evidence that shows that positive inducements work more than negative inducements; and also the fear of kinetic conflict with China nudges allies to take strategic materials and infrastructure seriously[4]. Moreover, much of the gains would accrue to the U.S. since it would be the leader and sustainer of this strategic mineral reserve; new U.S. companies could be created to manage such an important reserve.

Option #2:  The United States creates a sister channel to Radio Free Asia that exclusively highlights the horrors of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This radio station’s content would encourage the use of onion addresses and virtual proxy networks as ways to pursue internet freedom, and could feature audio essays of “Civil Disobedience,” “The Rights of Man,” and the U.S. Constitution, for example.

Risk:  This option risks escalation in this sphere. And, shouts of hypocrisy could fairly be leveraged by the CCP against the U.S. since this option could be interpreted as a violation of the United Nations Charter, Article II, Section 7 which states that “states that the United Nations has no authority to intervene in matters which are within the domestic jurisdiction of any State[5].”

Gain:  This option bolsters support for already existing information programs. It suggests that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy and about pushing back against China’s goal of spreading its influence worldwide. And, more importantly, this option counters the spreading of the CCP’s “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” model around the world.

Option #3:  A perhaps counterintuitive option involves the U.S. could taking a long-term accommodation strategy. This strategy would be built on the assumption that China’s internal problems and international liabilities are so vast and challenging that a bearish strategy is warranted. This is still a great power strategy yet privileges a “foreign policy begins at home” concept: rebuild American schools, roads, infrastructure, and human and social capital[6].

Risk:  Without the U.S. checking its behavior, China becomes hyperaggressive and revisionist, even more so, leaving the world with worst options, which increase the likelihood of war or disorder.

Gain:  The gains are enormous. To ensure that the U.S. remains “unrivaled,” truly rebuilding American institutions that make them more democratic, more responsive, and more with institutions in mind. This rebuilding would oppose the current situation where institutions are personalistic and engage in performative displays. Through this option the U.S. can become a sustainable superpower, one that once again reminds that world that a hegemon can be liberal, democratic, and patient.

Other Comments:  The U.S. U.S.-China is a dyadic relationship, one situated in an international system. Relationships are managed—they are not problems to be solved. How the U.S.-China dyad evolves and how it shapes the world is the most important question of the next few decades and this seriousness deserves careful consideration.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Trump, Donald J. (December 2017). “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” Retrieved July 19, 2020, from http://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-2017

[2] Keohane, R. O. and Joseph s. Nye. [1977] (2012) Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Boston: Longman Books.

[3] The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (1977). Title 50, §§1701–1707.

[4] Axelrod, R. (1981). The Emergence of Cooperation Among Egoists. American Political Science Review, 75 (2), 306-18. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from DOI:
10.2307/1961366 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1961366; Axelrod, R. (1984) The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books; Drezner, D. W. (1999/2000). The Trouble with Carrots: Transaction Costs, Conflict Expectations, and Economic Inducements. Security Studies, 9 (1-2), 188-218. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0963641990842939; Nincic, M. (2010). Getting What You Want: Positive Inducements in International Relations. International Security, 35(1), 138-183. Retrieved July 26, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40784650

[5] UN Charter, Article II, Section 7.

[6] Haass, R. N (2013). Foreign Policy Begins At Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order. New York: Basic Books.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Patrick M. Foran Psychological Factors Resource Scarcity United States

Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid 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.


William Freer is currently reading at War Studies at King’s College London. He was a European finalist in the KF-VUB Korea Chair Writing Competition in 2018. 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 Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 28, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a soon to be graduated War Studies student reading at King’s College London who strongly believes in the upholding of the rules-based international order.

Summary:  Beijing’s continued use and development of coercive tactics below the threshold of armed conflict, sometimes referred to as ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Grey Zone’ conflict, threatens to undermine the existing rules-based international order. Rather than responding to Beijing at the tactical level, her competitors can instead develop their response on the strategic level and do so multilaterally.

Text:  Hybrid warfare is nothing new. States unable to compete (with the United States) in conventional military terms have long been evolving their capabilities below the threshold of armed conflict from cyber warfare to ‘Ambiguous’ warfare and everything in between[1]. The world has seen these tactics in use for decades in attempts by revanchist states to undermine the existing international order, yet there is little agreement on which tactics work best to counter them. In order to successfully compete with Beijing below the threshold of armed conflict, countries in South/East Asia can look to developing their responses on the strategic level and in a multilateral way.

The main problem this strategic level response poses is that it will require a great deal of multilateral cooperation. Beijing prefers to target states with its diplomacy and hybrid warfare individually rather than collectively[2]. By doing so, Beijing can maximise its coercive potential. When compared to Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia and even India or Japan, China’s economic and military strength is far greater[3]. These Chinese strengths have seen the placing of oil rigs in the claimed waters of other states or regular intrusions into the claimed waters of other states by Chinese naval vessels (from fishing boats to warships)[4]. These tactics are difficult to counter. The Vietnamese, for example, attempted to interfere with a Chinese oil drill’s operation in their waters through harassing it with coast guard cutters, but this did not prove effective in deterring Beijing’s activities. Simply responding in kind to Beijing’s tactics like this will in fact further serve to undermine the rules-based international order.

It is hard for individual states to counter these activities on the tactical level. The same cannot be said for the strategic level, however. Through more meaningful multilateral engagement, states can use their collective power to more effectively compete with Beijing, this multilateral engagement can (and must) come in many different forms.

The most important way in which states can help each other to compete with Beijing is through intelligence sharing. Good intelligence is vital in allowing for states to effectively combat tactics below the threshold of armed conflict. The less wealthy of China’s neighbours are severely restricted by the resources at their disposal and can therefore seek to pool their intelligence capabilities as much as possible. This pooling would not be a simple task; it will involve highly sensitive information and states typically jealously guard their secrets. To be able to stand a chance in competing against an adversary, especially in the use of hybrid warfare, knowledge of Chinese activities is essential. There is already a great deal of the necessary diplomatic framework in place for this sharing to happen. The Association of South East Asian Nations could provide a useful starting point for its members to better share intelligence. There is also talk of the Five Eyes program being expanded to include Japan, which is a step in the right direction[5].

Much of the competition between China and other countries is playing out across the Indo-Pacific region (from Japan and the central Pacific to the western end of the Indian Ocean), this is an inherently maritime region[6]. As such, any meaningful multilateral cooperation by those countries that compete with Beijing will need to include a maritime element.

This maritime angle presents many possibilities. For example, the joint patrolling of each other’s waters or joint responses to intrusions by Beijing’s naval assets is one way this could be done. Another would be to embed military personnel into each other’s forces. Actions like these would serve an important purpose in disabling Beijing’s ability to target countries bilaterally and thus minimise the leverage that Beijing could bring to bear on its competitors. If these actions were taken, Beijing would have to seriously re-evaluate when and where they employ coercive tactics. Already moves in this direction are being made as Japan, India, the United States and others conduct regular joint exercises[7]. These joint exercises could be taken to the next stage in the form of regular joint deployments and should even go as far as to include joint coast guard duties. This strategy could also include land-based options, military observers embedded with Indian forces along their contested borders with China for example.

The main problem in making a success out of multilateral engagement will be overcoming trust issues. Many of the countries that will need to support each other have their own disputes and complex histories. Take the Spratly Islands for example, it is not only China and Vietnam who have claims there, but also the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan[8]. Even so, these countries could learn to put aside their differences for now. Some countries appear to be trying to avoid competition with Beijing, but whether they like it or not Xi Jinping’s China will compete with them. Unless the countries of the Indo-Pacific work together, Beijing will be able to target them bilaterally at will.

The U.S. could encourage and support these actions and indeed this may be a necessary component for success. However, for it to work it is vital that the US does not take a leading role, but instead allows the regional countries to take these steps on their own initiative. In this way, these countries will not feel pressured towards an unwanted confrontation with Beijing by the US. If successful, this non-leading role for the U.S. will avoid tit-for-tat responses and the further undermining of international norms.

Beijing has become adept at making use of hybrid warfare, so why try and play them at their own game? By taking the competition with Beijing below the threshold of armed conflict to the strategic level, countries can prevent bilateral coercion from Beijing. If Beijing believes that actions against one country will result in involving many others into the situation, they will be far less likely to do so. Increased multilateral cooperation can have many different facets, in terms of competition with Beijing, the intelligence and maritime domains are the most important and so these would be the areas for countries to prioritise.


Endnotes:

[1] Connell, Mary Ellen and Evans, Ryan (2015, May). Russia’s “Ambiguous Warfare” and implications for the U.S. Marine Corps. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/DOP-2015-U-010447-Final.pdf

[2] Miller, Tom (2019). Chapter 6. In China’s Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the New Silk Road (pp. 199-235). London: Zed Books.

[3] Blackwill, Robert D. & Harris, Jennifer M. (2016). Chapter 5. In War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft (pp 129-152). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

[4] Cole, Bernard D. (2016) Chapter 3. In China’s Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil and Foreign Policy. (pp 85-114). Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

[5] Howell, David (2020, June 30). Why Five Eyes should now become six. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/06/30/commentary/japan-commentary/five-eyes-now-become-six

[6] Patalano, Dr Alessio (2019). UK Defence from the ‘Far East’ to the ‘Indo-Pacific’. London: Policy Exchange. Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/UK-Defence-from-the-%E2%80%98Far-East%E2%80%99-to-the-%E2%80%98Indo-Pacific%E2%80%99.pdf

[7] Oros, Andrew L (2017) Chapter 5. In Japan’ Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century (pp 126-168). New York: Columbia University Press.

[8] Hawksley, Humphrey (2018) Part I. In Asian Waters: The Struggle over the Asia-Pacific and the Strategy of Chinese Expansion (pp 22-57). London: Duckworth Overlook.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) William Freer

Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia

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.


James Ridley-Jones is a PhD student at King’s College London currently researching Geostrategy in Central Asia. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia

Date Originally Written:  July 15th 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Chinese Soft Power, initiative failures are indicative of wider Chinese strategic engagement failures in the Central Asian region. For the purposes of this assessment Soft Power is defined as the use of investment diplomacy and cultural engagement to build relationships and project influence below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:  Chinese Soft Power initiatives remain key to facilitating relations alongside Chinese investment. Although China retains good bi-lateral relations with the Central Asian states, a closer examination of Chinese initiatives demonstrates failures amongst the region’s general populations comparative to the ruling elites.

Text:  The announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative by Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan 2013 led to the required development of Chinese Soft Power within the region. The purpose of this Soft Power is to enable political security alongside economic investment. The Belt and Road Initiative encompasses economic investment and diplomatic initiatives, which, when combined, develop working partnerships and economic corridors along projected routes. The initiative has also absorbed prior programs and investments into this framework.

Chinese investment in the region allows for key infrastructure developments that might improve economic and social capacities. Diplomatic and co-operative initiatives take the form of exhibitions, student engagement and the notorious Confucius Institutes. All of these aim to engage students, businessmen and key officials in cultural engagement for the promotion of relations.

Chinese Soft Power actions are not without a downside. High levels of one-sided investment can be, and are, perceived negatively. The often debated debt-trap diplomacy employed by China, together with the use of a Chinese workforce for such projects, leaves poor public perceptions of these investments, irrespective of the benefits.

Similarly, the potential reach of Soft Power initiatives is limited within the countries that China targets. This limitation is due to population dispersal and the extent of possible population engagement. Although there have been multiple exhibitions in Tashkent for example, they only reach a small percentage of the population.

Soft power through language learning to encourage engagement is increasing, but still falls behind state languages, the lingua franca Russian, and English for both tourism and business purposes. In Almaty Kazakhstan, the Confucius Institute remains one of the few places Mandarin can be learnt, compared with English which is far more prevalent in foreign language schools.

China, however, does attract significantly more students to its Universities (2017-2018), with approximately 12,000 Kazakh students currently studying in China[1]. Comparatively there are only 1,300 Kazahk students in the United Kingdom[2] and 1,865 in the United States[3]. Although distance can be included as a factor for this decision, there are also additional Chinese grants and scholarships given to Central Asian students to encourage their attendance at Chinese Universities. This Soft Power will go on to affect the next generation of Kazakhs in the future.

The effectiveness of Chinese diplomatic initiatives is impeded in Central Asia by two main factors:

The first is the disparity between key parts of the target countries’ political and financial elite and the general population.

Although policymakers and businessmen in Central Asia benefit from Chinese initiatives and as such look to engage with China on business, such perceptions remain different to those of the general population who do not benefit in such ways. This disconnect requires a two-tier Chinese approach to inter-country relations that currently does not exist.

The second is the Uyghur problem, where current Chinese policy and actions are perceived very negatively by Central Asian populations. These differences on the Uyghur problem are illustrated in the government support given to Chinese actions, compared to feelings amongst the general populace. An indicator of this is a lack of support from specific Central Asian nations. Only the Governments of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (the two most closed off Central Asian nations) signed a letter in support of Chinese actions, suggesting the other countries are in more turmoil over the decision[4].

The Uyghur have ethnic, cultural and religious similarities to the other Turkic ethnic groups within Central Asia, as well as there being Uyghur minorities in Central Asia. Because of such ties Chinese attitudes in Xinjiang have significant negative connotations within the Central Asian general populace. Although this might not be demonstrated at a governmental level, Sinophobia can be noted across the general population.

Both of these issues take the form of anti-Chinese protests, such as those in Almaty, to even the car bombing of the Chinese embassy in Bishkek (2016). This car bombing, it was reported, was the action of an Islamist, but it has also been suggested that it was in retaliation for the mistreatment of the Uyghur people and Sinophobia.

In 2016, land reform protests revealed underlying concerns of potential Chinese control over agriculture in Kazakhstan[5]. In 2019, there were protests at a Kyrgyzstan mine over environmental quality concerns, greatly affecting the local population[6]. This issue is likely to be compounded with additional mines given or sold to Chinese investors.

More recent protests in Almaty and Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan and in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan September 2019 suggest relations remain frayed. The Kazakhstan protests stem from a variety of reasons to do with increasing Chinese influence in the region[7]. Similarly, in Kyrgyzstan protests grew as a result of Chinese businesses side-lining existing Kyrgyz businesses in the capital[8].

All of these protests demonstrate the disconnect between Chinese investment and maintaining relations with the general populace through diplomatic initiatives.

Given the nature of the regimes in Central Asia, there is no available data on opinion polls of China, and if data was available the validity of results might also be questionable. Public protest in these countries becomes an available method of assessing public opinion, though it is limited in scope and nuance.

The increasing numbers of Central Asian students at Chinese Universities through both grants, scholarships and engagement programs, will most likely be the continued Soft Power tactic.

Although relatively ineffective currently, the Confucius Institutes will look to further develop language teaching capabilities and promote further cultural engagement.

Chinese exhibitions will most likely continue, but at a similar rate of engagement with the population, limiting their effectiveness.

Understanding and analysing Chinese Soft Power failures is important to the development of counter- Chinese strategy. Although inaction by others would allow for continued Chinese failure, these Chinese actions will eventually become successful as newer generations, specifically elites, are increasingly influenced by Chinese Soft Power initiatives, particularly through Universities.

Chinese Soft Power failure is a lack of ability to connect with the wider population beyond the national elites. Critically, Chinese Soft Power failure indicates a lack of cohesive strategy incorporating both investment and diplomacy.


Endnotes:

[1] Uatkhanov, Y. Kazakh Students Also Seek Education in the East – Edge : Kazakhstan. Edge : Kazakhstan. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.edgekz.com/kazakh-students-also-seek-education-in-the-east.

[2] Shayakhmetova, Z. (2019). Kazakh students seek degrees in best UK universities – The Astana Times. The Astana Times. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://astanatimes.com/2019/12/kazakh-students-seek-degrees-in-best-uk-universities.

[3] Kazakhstan – Education. Export.gov. (2019). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.export.gov/apex/article2?id=Kazakhstan-Education.

[4] Putz, C. (2019).Which Countries Are For or Against China’s Xinjiang Policies?. Thediplomat.com. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2019/07/which-countries-are-for-or-against-chinas-xinjiang-policies.

[5] Why Kazakhstan’s protests are unusual. BBC News. (2016). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36163103.

[6] Putz, C. (2019). Tensions Flare at Kyrgyz Gold Mine. Thediplomat.com. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2019/08/tensions-flare-at-kyrgyz-gold-mine.

[7] Dozens detained in Kazakhstan at anti-China protests. reuters.com. (2019). Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kazakhstan-china-protests-detentions/dozens-detained-in-kazakhstan-at-anti-china-protests-idUSKBN1W60CS.

[8] Kruglov, A. (2019). Sinophobia simmers across Central Asia. Asia Times. Retrieved 20 July 2020, from https://asiatimes.com/2019/11/sinophobia-simmers-across-central-asia.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Central Asia China (People's Republic of China) Coercive Diplomacy Diplomacy James Ridley-Jones

U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against 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.


James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently a Command and General Staff Officer Course student and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China rises to become a Great Power and other nations lack the will to counter this rise via armed conflict, options below the level of armed conflict are required.

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 21, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the United States must increase its capability and efforts to compete with China below levels of armed conflict.

Background:  The 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) specifically identifies China as a revisionist competing against the United States. The NSS describes the objectives of revisionist nations as, “contesting our geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor[1].” Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth identify China as the driving force of a systemic realignment, “the system has shifted from 1 superpower plus X great powers to 1+1+X, with China occupying a middle category as an emerging potential superpower[2].”

Significance:  China currently avoids directly challenging U.S. hegemony and instead utilizes two primary strategies to expand influence and advance objectives below levels of conflict.

The first strategy, “Three Warfares,” seeks “to break adversary resistance and achieve Chinese national objectives with little or no actual fighting[3].” The three “warfares” are public opinion, psychological operations, and legal warfare. The first two warfares attempt to dominate the information domain and the third warfare targets both international and national structures as a means to make them more conducive to Chinese objectives.

The second strategy uses China’s growing economic power to expand China’s political power.  This expansion is done through a combination of debt-laden investments, economic coercion, and predatory liberalism, which describes how China weaponizes market access to suppress public criticism from companies and nations alike[4].

These two strategies mutually support each other as predatory liberalism enables information dominance facilitating further coercive economic expansion enabling systemic changes to legal structures. Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster described this vanguard of Chinese expansion as “a delegation of bankers and party officials with duffel bags full of cash[5],” rather than the traditional military elements of national power associated with historical revisionist expansion. This paper will provide three options to degrade China’s capability and deter their will to execute the aforementioned strategies.

Option #1:  The United States resurrects previous capabilities in an effort to dominate the information environment.

China’s Three Warfares and economic programs are predicated upon dominance of the information environment which is “comprised of and aggregates numerous social, cultural, cognitive, technical, and physical attributes that act upon and impact knowledge, understanding, beliefs, world views, and, ultimately, actions of an individual, group, system, community, or organization[6].” The United States is unable to compete within this environment due to a lack of bureaucratic coherence and leadership[7]. In this option, the United States recreates an Information Age version of the United States Information Agency (USIA) empowering it not only to counter malign Chinese efforts but also potentially propagate messaging into China itself against an autocratic state that severely restricts external information access to its citizens.

Risk:  Establishing an empowered and aggressive USIA could lead to an increase in China’s use of psychological operations, sharp power, and media manipulation against the U.S. and other regional partners. There are also legal concerns regarding U.S. Government filters on speech, press, or information consumed by U.S. citizens.

Gain:  Reestablishing information dominance enhances U.S. soft power globally and fosters resiliency against Chinese manipulation both domestically and abroad. Gaining the capability to target domestic Chinese populations as a form of punitive deterrence restricts China’s aggression across the whole spectrum of competition.

Option #2:  The United States reestablishes and expands the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region that excludes China.

This TPP 2.0 would specifically address intellectual property rights, Chinese foreign direct investment review processes, and provide smaller nations access to development funds through USAID, The World Bank, and similar organizations. TPP 2.0 would expand from the original 11 signatories to include India, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Risk:  By utilizing their quasi command economy and authoritarian state structure, China could attempt to take substantial economic losses to create an alternative structure to counter U.S. efforts. There might be apprehension from potential TPP 2.0 members due to the unilateral withdraw from TPP by the Trump administration in 2017 placing the United States at a disadvantage in negotiations.

Gain:  TPP 2.0 would provide preferential treatment to U.S. goods, thus increasing market access. It would improve the economies of small Indo-Pacific nations, fostering resiliency to Chinese economic coercion. TPP 2.0 would deny China access to benefits unless it discontinued intellectual property theft, predatory FDI practices, and other malign economic behaviors. Increased trade costs and potential exclusion would undercut much of the funding needed to complete Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. TPP 2.0 enables the creation of alternate supply chains and offshoring options outside of China allowing U.S. firms to protect intellectual property while still reducing costs to U.S. consumers and remaining globally competitive.

Option #3:  The United States harasses and impedes China’s terrestrial expansion.

Chinese competition below levels of conflict includes land and sea-based building programs ranging from constructing artificial islands within the South China Sea to infrastructure projects associated with the BRI initiative. The United States could take overt and covert actions to drive up the costs of Chinese expansion. Overt efforts include funding local environmental and cultural heritage groups that oppose Chinese projects and foster local resistance, which increase regulatory or construction costs. Covert efforts include incentivizing maritime proxies to harass and impede the use of Chinese paramilitary maritime militia in the South China Sea.

Risk:  If direct U.S. funding of proxies becomes known, there could be irreversible damage to the United States’ reputation and advantages in soft power and the information domains. Funding or supporting proxies can lead to secondary support for nonstate actors that seek to destabilize regional partners as well as China. Any escalation in the South China Sea could lead to armed conflict.

Gain:  Increasing Chinese costs could severely restrict their capability to continue expansion and complete projects per agreements with host nations. Combining overt resistance campaigns with coordinated messaging enables the United States to degrade China’s soft and economic power. Directly confronting Chinese maritime militia with similarly designed forces presents a unique geopolitical challenge with few positive outcomes.

Other Comments:  These options are not mutually exclusive and can be utilized in conjunction with other elements of national power to support competition below levels of conflict.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Trump, Donald J., National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States, 2017, 27

[2] Brooks, Stephen G., and William C. Wohlforth. “The rise and fall of the great powers in the twenty-first century: China’s rise and the fate of America’s global position.” International Security 40, no. 3 (2016): 7-53, 43

[3] Livermore, Doug. “China’s “Three Warfares” in theory and practice in the South China Sea.” Georgetown Security Studies Review (2018).

[4] Cha, Victor, and Andy Lim. “Flagrant Foul: China’s Predatory Liberalism and the NBA.” The Washington Quarterly 42, no. 4 (2019): 23-42.

[5] McMaster, H. R., “How China Sees the World,” The Atlantic, (2020), accessed April 22 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

[6] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Operating in the Information Environment (JCOIE), Department of Defense, Washington DC (2018)

[7] Cobaugh, Paul, “Combat Ineffective: Ethical Influence, the Broken-down Rusting Vehicle of American Power” Narrative Strategies, (2020) accessed April 23 2020, https://www.narrative-strategies.com/failed-usg-influence

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) James P. Micciche Option Papers United States

Options to Manage the 2020 Election Cyber Threat Landscape

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence specialist who has worked in the commercial, defense, and aerospace sectors in the US and Middle East. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd. He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. 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 2020 U.S. General Election (the election) faces a nuanced and critical cyber threat landscape that requires careful navigation.

Date Originally Written:  September 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber intelligence professional and Election Officer in Virginia. This options paper will provide options for addressing cyber threats to election systems and infrastructure in the context of the 2020 election.

Background:  The cyber threat landscape of the November 2020 election in the U.S. is critical and complex. Election interference and propaganda efforts are not new on the global stage. However, the simultaneous merging of industrial-level disinformation operations, targeted cyber intrusions by state-funded organizations, and the woeful state of local cyber civil defenses in the U.S. combine to create a unique situation with challenging nuances and implications.

Cyber intrusions related to the 2016 General Election, mostly attributed to Russian-linked actors, are widely documented and analyzed in both the public and classified spheres of the national security community. The current threat landscape is more complex than in 2016, as evidenced by a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence indicating that cyber actors backed by China, Russia, and Iran are all actively attempting to influence the outcome of the election[1]. Defenses have also been bolstered in some areas, such as the Department of Defense taking an active role in the cybersecurity of the election, including deployments of cyber personnel abroad to hunt for threats to election systems[2].

The threat landscape is further complicated by public opinion, as demonstrated by the outrage connected to the publication of a false report that Russian threat actors stole and exposed voter databases from several U.S. states in August 2020. In reality, no cyber intrusion occurred and the data was publicly available. However, the public outcry over the incident indicates the potential for civic unrest in the event of a cyber attack that could be perceived to threaten the integrity of results[3].

Elections in the U.S. involve conflicting and competing stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations[4]. In a standard “Impact times Likelihood” threat matrix, the impact of a direct cyber attack compromising election results is high, but the likelihood is low. However, given the number of systems and interconnected networks used to coordinate elections, smaller attacks on peripheral or supporting systems are much more likely, though less impactful unless in a sufficient volume to cause widespread disruption[5].

Significance:  Election systems, including hardware and administrative organizations overseeing election operations, are classified by the Department of Homeland Security as critical national infrastructure[6]. The integrity of election results is critical to the validity and credibility of democratic governance in the U.S. A disputed election as a result of cyber aggression would be severely problematic for U.S. national security.

The geopolitical situation surrounding the election creates the potential for various adverse outcomes, including: deterioration of public faith in election processes; contested results in legislative and presidential races; civic unrest; and erosion of democratic processes. Elections are immensely complex and securing the cyber facets of elections involves national and local information and operational technology (IT and OT); registration databases; support software; and hardware used at polling places, including voting machines, ballot scanners, and devices like laptops and tablets. To manage the cyber threat landscape and mitigate potential harms resulting from threats, policymakers have three key options:

Option #1:  Launch a public education campaign focused on the logistics of managing election challenges to a) reduce the effectiveness of disinformation efforts seeking to undermine public trust in election processes and results and b) reduce public anxieties regarding the integrity of ballots.

Risk:  First, given the sociopolitical polarization among the U.S. electorate, it is likely that a significant portion of the voting public would view a public education campaign as factually incorrect or intentionally misleading. Second, this same polarization also indicates that a campaign would be unlikely to affect public opinion because the intended audience is unreceptive to information that would contradict preferred beliefs. Finally, this option is solely strategic and cultural in nature, and would not address the tangible, tactical level vulnerabilities that exist in election systems.

Gain:  If the press and social media (avenues for public information sharing) are considered supporting factors of election infrastructure, then a campaign to weaken disinformation networks could strengthen peripheral systems vulnerable to attack with a potentially high impact.

Option #2:  Provide a national fund to supplement the capabilities of national and local election administration organizations to implement best standards and practices including: current equipment, adequate staffing, standard written policy, and risk-limiting audits.

Risk:  First, efforts to provide funding to secure election systems have proven to be politically sensitive and difficult to move through Congress[7]. Second, this option would likely carry extreme financial cost to adequately address security needs The U.S. is currently experiencing a severe financial crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding what would be a difficult option even in a financially sound period.

Gain:  Providing supplementary funding for organizations charged with safeguarding election systems would likely allow the organizations to directly address actionable technical and administrative vulnerabilities that expose systems to attacks. Properly resourcing these organizations could exponentially reduce the threat landscape for future elections.

Option #3:  Provide a large scale staffing support program for local cyber offices using Federal or contracted personnel with relevant expertise to augment high-risk election precincts and help harden defenses.

Risk:  First, the state of the cybersecurity and IT job markets make it unlikely that sufficient numbers of experienced and qualified staff could be retasked or hired and placed in needed areas. Second, the logistics of placing such a large workforce at nationwide locations would require a significant financial burden. Finally, travel challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic would further complicate the ability of support staff to be placed and to effectively integrate with localized teams.

Gain:  Supplementing cybersecurity staff at local and national offices leading up to the election could allow those organizations to better prepare for potential threats, and could offer a chance for knowledge transfer and training that would benefit future election operations.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: Election Threat Update for the American Public. 2020. https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/item/2139-statement-by-ncsc-director-william-evanina-election-threat-update-for-the-american-public.

[2] Shannon Vavra. “Cyber Command Deploys Abroad to Fend Off Foreign Hacking Ahead of the 2020 Election.” CyberScoop. 2020. https://www.cyberscoop.com/2020-presidential-election-cyber-command-nakasone-deployed-protect-interference-hacking.

[3] Catalin Cimpanu. “Cisa and Fbi Say They Have Not Seen Cyber-Attacks This Year on Voter Registration Databases.” ZDNet. 2020. https://www.zdnet.com/article/cisa-and-fbi-say-they-have-not-seen-cyber-attacks-this-year-on-voter-registration-databases.

[4] Lee Clark. “An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense.” Divergent Options. 2019. https://divergentoptions.org/2019/11/11/an-assessment-of-the-current-state-of-u-s-cyber-civil-defense.

[5] Tara Seals. “Shoring Up the 2020 Election: Secure Vote Tallies Aren’t the Problem.” Threatpost. 2020. https://threatpost.com/2020-election-secure-vote-tallies-problem/158533.

[6] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. 2018. https://doi.org/10.17226/25120.

[7] Scott R. Anderson, Eugenia Lostri, Quinta Jurecic, and Margaret Taylor. “Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security—And a Partisan Fight Anyway.” Lawfare. 2019. https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway.

Election Lee Clark Option Papers United States

Alternative Future: Options to Address China’s Reaction to COVID-19 and Growing Anti-Chinese Sentiment

Sarah Lucinsky is an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and is a postgraduate at Charles Sturt University. She sometimes tweets from @LouSeaLu and has previously edited for JUR Press and presented at Asia-Pacific Week at Australian National University. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese activities in its disputed peripheries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing and anti-Chinese sentiment is growing. This increase and growth pose risk to nations on China’s periphery.

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that analysing an array of counter-factual scenarios and alternative futures through collegiate debate is valuable when tackling security issues.

Background:  China’s stated desire for ‘One China’ involves a forcible reunification of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis[1] this goal has been approached gradually by focussing on methods below the threshold of war. This is largely due to China’s desire to retain a level of world power credibility and consequently avoid widespread international backlash that risks dividing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Recently, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising[2] mostly due to COVID-19, but also due to growing awareness of China’s controversial territorial expansionism in the South and East China Seas (S/ECS). Simultaneously, Indo-Pacific militaries have progressively focussed on countering China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in these disputed areas. These two factors risk eroding China’s fear of international backlash that has historically prevented it from executing decisive military actions.

Significance: If China continues to face the current international backlash and counter-PLA military activity in proximity to its claimed territories, two concurrent issues will arise. Firstly, China will perceive that its sovereignty is being directly threatened by foreign militaries. Secondly, China will no longer believe there is value in exercising restraint in its disputed areas in order to protect its international image, as its image has been eroded anyway[3]. This could lead to a more expansionist and offensively postured China[4]. The introduction of China’s new national security laws in Hong Kong is quite possibly an example of how international perceptions now matter less to China under the current, evolving context[5].

Option #1:  Nations on China’s periphery form paramilitaries that conduct activities below the threshold of war, separate from conventional military forces. The paramilitaries operate with the express aim of countering the PLA’s coercive tactics in disputed areas of national interest.

Risk:  As China’s own paramilitary forces operate throughout the S/ECS, other nations introducing their own paramilitaries jeopardise their legal advantage achieved through the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against China. China may then use the new paramilitary forces as a justification for bolstered militarisation of outposts and concentration of conventional forces. A greater concentration of forces in the vicinity of disputed areas increases the risk for paramilitary engagements such as freedom of manoeuvre and ramming incidents[6].

Gain:  S/ECS claimant states can more effectively address the threat of the PLA’s coercive tactics near their territories whilst also retaining a level of political deniability[7]. Asymmetric platforms and tactics can level the playing field, enabling smaller nations to more effectively defend their territory and increase their deterrence ability, similar to Iran’s success with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy[8]. Additional paramilitaries equal additional, stealthier threats for China to identify, track and respond to. China will not be able to démarche nations with emergent paramilitary forces without highlighting their own.

Option #2:  Indo-Pacific nations establish bilateral military exercises and political summits with China that are widely covered by local media to improve regional perceptions of China.

Risk:  China may perceive this proactive attempt to bolster relationships as appeasement or worse, agreement with their territorial claims and coercive activities in S/ECS. Moreover, there is little scope to control or influence how these bilateral exercises and summits will be framed in Chinese state media. Even if this approach succeeds from the Chinese side, pro-China publicity may not gain traction in the host country due to trending national issues such as COVID-19 and territorial disputes. In a worst-case scenario this option may be counter-productive and lead to public outrage, protests or boycott attempts of China/Chinese goods. In turn, media coverage of the public’s negative response would also be reported on in China and undermine any successes achieved there.

Gain:  Pro-China sentiment may draw China back into the soft-power game of international engagement. This could reignite China’s desire to protect their international image and thus refrain from conducting decisive military actions like forcibly reunifying Taiwan. Further, sustained bilateral engagement will improve political relationships and develop mutual understanding, reducing the likelihood of misjudgement or miscalculation at the strategic and tactical levels. A tertiary gain is Indo-Pacific nations would gain intimate exposure to PLA personnel, platforms and operational art that could provide advantages in a future conflict scenario. Sometimes one must put the rifle down to really pick the rifle up.

Option #3:  The United States deepens its ties with Russia, creating a new modus vivendi, working towards a future alliance that alienates China.

Risk:  A U.S.-Russia alliance would require the two nations to find common ground on Crimea, Iran and North Korea, all of which are incredibly unlikely without significant costs from either side[9]. A close relationship with Russia has higher risks for the U.S. as it would directly challenge much of U.S. recent history and ideology, alienate North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and breed distrust amongst the five eyes community. Further, closer ties with Russia may include additional Russian scrutiny that could result in political interference, cyber and information warfare operations as well as increased Russian avenues for intelligence collection.

Gain:  Whilst this option would carry a significant ideological cost for America, a U.S.-Russia alliance would combine the lethality of two military superpowers, a significant deterrent if both parties could agree on its use in a counter-China context[10]. Even without reaching alliance status, closer U.S.-Russia relations that incorporates military engagement would still create an effect that China would need to consider as a significant factor prior to any attempts at decisive military action.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Yves-Heng Lim, “Expanding the Dragon’s Reach: The Rise of China’s Anti-Access Naval Doctrine and Forces,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40, no. 1-2 (2017).

[2] Motoko Rich, “As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Anti-Chinese Sentiment,” New York times 2020.

[3] Michael Swaine, “The Pla Navy’s Strategic Transformation to the “Far Seas”: How Far, How Threatening, and What’s to Be Done?,” in Going Global? The People’s Navy in a Time of Strategic Transformation (Rhode Island: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019).

[4] People’s Republic of China, “China’s Military Strategy,” (Xinhua News Agency2015).

[5] Eleanor Albert, “Which Countries Support the New Hong Kong National Security Law?,” The Diplomat 2020.

[6] Dhara Shah, “China’s Maritime Security Strategy: An Assessment of the White Paper on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 13, no. 1 (2017).

[7] Tobias Böhmelt and Govinda Clayton, “Auxiliary Force Structure: Paramilitary Forces and Progovernment Militias,” Comparative political studies 51, no. 2 (2017).

[8] Abhijit Singh, “”Dark Chill in the Persian Gulf” – Iran’s Conventional and Unconventional Naval Forces,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 6, no. 2 (2010).

[9] Legvold Robert, “All the Way: Crafting a U.S.-Russian Alliance,” no. 70 (2002).

[10] Ibid.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Sarah Lucinsky United States

Boxing Out: Assessing the United States’ Cultural Soft Power Advantage in Africa Over 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.


Scott Martin is a career U.S. Air Force officer who has served in a multitude of globally-focused assignments.  He studied Russian and International Affairs at Trinity University and received his Masters of Science in International Relations from Troy University.  He is currently assigned within the National Capitol Region. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Boxing Out: Assessing the United States’ Cultural Soft Power Advantage in Africa Over China

Date Originally Written:  July 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that as a mechanism to counter China’s rising influence in Africa, the U.S. can leverage some of its soft power advantages. In particular, the popularity of American cultural offerings, such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) offers an opportunity for the U.S. to counter China and its soft power efforts in a geographically critical area of the globe.

Summary:  Chinese investment in hard and soft power in Africa over the past several decades presents a challenge to the U.S. role on the continent. While the Chinese focus in Africa is yielding positive results for China’s image and influence, there are still areas where the U.S. outpaces China. American advantages in soft power, such as the popularity of its cultural exports, like the NBA, offer an opportunity for the U.S. to counter Chinese efforts in Africa.

Text:  Since the Cold War, Chinese investment and engagement in Africa is a strong point of their foreign policy. For several decades, China has pumped billions in economic aid, estimated at over $100 billion[1]. The combination of presenting economic assistance on business terms only without dictating values and lack of historical barriers (ala Western Europe’s colonial past and American insistence on adherence to values such a human rights for economic assistance) has made China a formidable force on the African continent, offering an attractive “win-win” relationship[2]. However, while China dominates when it comes to economic engagement, they have not shut out the West when it comes to various forms of soft power. In particular, U.S.-based forms of entertainment, from movies to sporting events, still out-pace Chinese variants.

Since political scientist Joseph Nye first defined “soft power” in the 1990s as the concept of “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants…in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants”, the concept has gained many political and academic converts[3]. The Chinese look to promote their soft power capabilities, and it is a stated goal of Chinese leaders since Hu Jintao in 2007[4]. These efforts appear to pay off, as surveys show Africans with positive opinions related to China[5].

Yet, while China makes strides in promoting its soft power, it still faces challenges. For all the positive responses it engenders with its efforts, it has not won over all Africans. In various surveys, many ordinary Africans do not always feel that China’s continued investment in their respective countries benefits them as much as it does political leaders[6]. Additionally, Chinese efforts for the promotion of soft power lack the impact of its Western/U.S. competitors. In cultural examples, to include entertainment, the Chinese lag far behind the U.S. It is in this area that the U.S. can leverage its soft power capabilities to help promote itself and counter some aspects of China power projection.

Many aspects of American culture and entertainment find a home in Africa. American cinematic offers dwarf all other international offering by a significant margin, to include China[7]. American music, especially hip-hop and rhythm and blues, dominate African music channels. An American traveling through the continent is considerably more likely to run across American music than the Chinese equivalent[8]. While the Chinese promote their educational capabilities, more African will look towards American colleges/universities if given the chance to attend[9]. While hard power economic and military investment numbers might favor China, the U.S. continues to hold a significant lead in soft power ratings over China in Africa[9].

In one key example, the U.S.-based NBA is arguably the most popular U.S.-based sports league on the continent. While professional football/soccer might be the most popular international sport, the NBA has grown in global popularity over the past 20 years, which includes Africa. Prior to the suspension of the NBA season due to COVID-19, 40 players born in Africa or descended African-born parents were on NBA rosters, to include reigning league Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Joel Embiid[10]. Factor in NBA Hall of Famers such as Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, and the NBA has significant connections with Africa. Additionally, NBA merchandising and broadcasting takes in significant money, and previous games played in Africa posted sell-out crowds[11]. At the start of 2020, the NBA established an NBA Africa league for the continent, with participation from multiple countries. While COVID-19 disrupted plans for this league, the NBA will be eager to re-engage with Africa post-pandemic.

For the U.S., the NBA efforts offer an opportunity to counter Chinese activity, playing to America’s significant soft power advantage. While the NBA is becoming a more international game, the league is still an American corporation, with mainly American stars. While jersey sales focus on the individual names, which will include African players, the designs and logos are still from the American-based teams. Additionally, with the NBA’s current relationship with China severely curtailed after Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey retweeted a message support Democratic protestors in Hong Kong, the NBA, facing a pre-COVID-19 shortfall of $400M from Chinese boycotting, is looking for additional revenue streams[12]. A U.S./NBA relationship in Africa can be a version of “win-win.”

While most view soft power as more effective when it is not directly promoted by the power projecting country, the U.S. can leverage its soft power advantages to counter Chinese actions in Africa. When it comes to the promotion of American cultural imports, U.S. officials, while not explicitly stating that the U.S. government supports that activity, can do things such as promote their attendance at such events via social media as well as take advantage of other communication forums to promote the successes of such ventures in Africa. Additionally, when applicable, the U.S. government can promote favorable messaging at efforts to expand U.S.-based cultural exports, such as the release of American-owned movies and music recordings and clear any governmental administrative hold-ups for entities like the NBA to promote their games and products in Africa.

Granted, promotion of American-based culture and entertainment, such as the NBA, cannot offset the extensive Chinese economic investment in Africa, and the U.S. will have to face its own challenges in soft power projection. However, by playing to its strengths, especially in soft power realm, the NBA in Africa can open the door towards showing a positive image and outreach of American and Western values. This NBA actions can also open the door toward future engagements that can both benefit Africa and challenge Chinese efforts. American cultural offerings are not a cure-all magic bullet, but the U.S. does have the ability to leverage them for soft power advantages, which could stem an increasingly powerful China whose influence across Africa is growing.


Endnotes:

[1] Versi, Anver (Aug/Sept 2017).“What is China’s Game in Africa?” New African, 18. https://newafricanmagazine.com/15707.

[2] Tella, Oluswaseun (2016) “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions: An Analysis of China’s Power of Attraction in Africa and the Middle East” Africa Review, 8 (2) 135. https://www.academia.edu/30299581/Africa_Review_Wielding_soft_power_in_strategic_regions_an_analysis_of_Chinas_power_of_attraction_in_Africa_and_the_Middle_East.

[3] Lai, Hongyi (2019) “Soft Power Determinants in the World and Implications for China: A Quantitative Test of Joseph Nye’s Theory of Three Soft Power Resources and of the Positive Peace Argument.” The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, 37(1) 10.

[4] Schmitt, Gary J (19 June 2014) “A Hard Look at Soft Power in East Asia” American Enterprise Institute Research, 5. https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/a-hard-look-at-soft-power-in-east-asia.

[5] Tella, Oluswaseun, “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions” 137.

[6] Langmia, Kehbuma (2011). “The Secret Weapon of Globalization: China’s Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa” Journal of Third World Studies, XXVIII (2), 49. https://www.academia.edu/31196408/THE_SECRET_WEAPON_OF_GLOBALIZATION_CHINAS_ACTIVITIES_IN_SUB-SAHARAN_AFRICA_By_Kehbuma_Langmia.

[7] 2015-2020 Worldwide Box Office, IMDb Pro, Accessed 13 June 2020, https://www.boxofficemojo.com/year/world/?ref_=bo_nb_in_tab

[8] Tella, Oluswaseun. “Wielding Soft Power in Strategic Regions” 161.

[9] Lai, Hongyi. “Soft Power Determinants in the World and Implications for China” 29.

[10] Mohammed, Omar (2 April 2019) “NBA to Invest Millions of Dollars in New African League” Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nba-africa-idUSKCN1RE1WB.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Young, Jabari (2020, 16 Feb). “NBA will Lose Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Due to Rift with China, Commissioner Says” CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/16/nba-will-lose-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-due-to-rift-with-china-commissioner-says.html.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Private Sector Scott Martin United States

2020 Civil Affairs Association / Eunomia Journal Writing Contest Results


The Civil Affairs Association’s Eunomia Journal and Divergent Option ran a Writing Contest from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020 and as of this announcement all of the entries have been published.

On behalf of the Eunomia Journal and Divergent Options teams, we want to thank all of the writers who submitted entries to the contest.  The quality of writing and innovative perspectives that examined the role of human factors in armed conflict and / or competition below levels of conflict within the world of 2035 were outstanding and enhanced the dialog of this important topic.  The entries not only examined a wide range of critical topics, including virtual societal warfare, cognitive domain operations, and emerging tribalism but also presented a global perspective with entries analyzing nations ranging from Hungary to Afghanistan.

Eunomia Journal would like to thank the Divergent Options team, specifically Phil Walter, for their willingness to partner with us on this contest and help our newly established journal host our first contest, foster participation, and establish readership. Eunomia Journal and Divergent Options would not be viable platforms without their writers.  As such, we are eternally grateful to all of our participants and hope you will write again for us in the future.  All writings related to this contest can be found by clicking here, and the awards are as follows

First Place $250:  Brandon White – “An Assessment of the Irrelevance of State Borders in 2035

Second Place $150:  Alexander L. Carter  – “An Assessment of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs’ Capability to Provide Commanders with Improved Situational Awareness in Population-Centric Operations

Third Place $100:  Todd Schmidt – “Options to Wage Conflict in the Cognitive Domain

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Civil Affairs Association

Assessing Religion, Law, Reform, and Human Factors in Afghanistan 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.


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


Title:  Assessing Religion, Law, Reform, and Human Factors in Afghanistan 2035

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an independent analyst who believes that the Afghan Taliban (Taliban) need to be studied with level of scholarship that is independent of polemic.

Summary:  The Taliban, since being toppled by the U.S. following the 9/11 attacks, has evolved from violent insurgency to achieving political legitimacy.  This evolution was not an admission of weakness, nor that violence is not a valid instrument to achieve their desired ends, but part of a longer term strategy for the Taliban to once again achieve power.

Text:  In 2004, one act of the Taliban’s resurgence following the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, was the launching of a web based magazine, Da Mujahed Zhagh. The July 18th issue contained a satirical article called “An Interview with Satan[1].” The interview began by describing the physical appearance of the subject:

“…the eyes of Bush, the cap and gown of Karzai, the waistcoat of Mr. Qanuni, the beard of Sayyaf and the nose and trousers of the Father of the Nation.”

Da Mujahed Zhagh viewed Satan’s outward form as comprised of the U.S. President, the newly installed Afghan President, a powerful politician, warlord and power broker, a Cabinet Minister, and the last Afghan King.

This brief, ironic article is worth noting because it shows that the Taliban were not only highly aware of Twentieth Century Afghan history, but the real target of the satire was the 2004 Constitutional Loya Jirga.  It also shows that the recently revitalized Taliban were aware that as a seemingly defeated force, they were excluded from the “new” Afghanistan. This new country was being built by a coalition of Western powers, the Taliban’s long-term enemies, and members of the expatriate elite.

The ratified Afghan Constitution, and its implicit tension between Islamic law and Western human rights, would continue to be problematic[2]. Both Afghan and Western secularists would point to the Constitution as being the real barrier to Afghan progress towards a democratic society. One example of that view can be found in “Afghanistan: Apostasy case reveals constitutional contradictions” by Amin Tarzi[3].

In the years leading up to talks between the Taliban the Afghan Government, one argument that was offered, as evidence that the Taliban may grudgingly accept the existing Constitution was that much of their leadership lived in Pakistan, a country with a democratic Constitution (but with a strong component of Islamic Law.) This assertion of the Taliban’s intentions was problematic; they defined themselves as a government in exile, fighting toward the goal of returning and ruling Afghanistan, and so referred to their movement as The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Objecting to the structure of Pakistan’s Constitution would make little sense.

The Taliban were deeply aware that as a movement that arose from conservative, village roots, their conflict with the Western human rights standards was a process. They arose as antidote to chaos, and they employed extremely harsh methods to contain that chaos, in a climate of occupation and war.

The Taliban’s fatal decision to provide a safe haven to Osama bin Laden allowed their failings to assume mythic status. Their villainy became legendary and boundless in the post-9/11 rhetoric. Ultimately, the U.S. desire for punitive actions focused solely on the Taliban ended up being a bad model to follow, for winning a war[4].

In such cases, what happens when warring parties try to make peace? A good clue can be found from an informal meeting that occurred in Chantilly, France in 2012. During this “test the waters” gathering of Taliban and Northern Alliance groups, two Taliban participants, Mawlawi Dilawar, and Dr. Naemm, presented a statement that outlined what the Islamic Emirate regarded as an ideal Constitution. It would “not contain any articles and clauses opposing Islamic principles, national interests and Afghan mores[5].” The speaker made a point of adding: “The current constitution of Afghanistan is illegitimate because it is written under the shadow of B-52 aircraft.” This speech also mentioned women’s rights, although always stressing that it would “abide by all those rights given to women by the noble religion of Islam.”

These examples provide background on why the Taliban would never consent to any unconditional acceptance of the 2004 Constitution without reform, according to their religious views. But, there was a certain caveat. The Taliban were entirely aware of the need for development, economic assistance, good relations with countries and an Afghan defense system.

By fully recognizing the realities of governance, the previous model of the nineteen nineties was in no way a tenable guide for any success for the Taliban as a political entity. This was the first step in accepting comprises, not as an admission of weakness, but rather as a long-term project in both strengthening and reforming aspects the Taliban movement. The move from a violent insurgency to political legitimacy is a vast subject. The very narrow scope of this paper will examine how, in this case, Civil Affairs could exert an influence over reshaping the identity of an insurgent movement, while retaining its core aspect. In the case of the Taliban, this would be their reputation for resisting corruption.

How did this work? The overarching curse of corruption, which certainly has its own separate and vast history, always worked in the Taliban’s favor. The insecurity of post-Civil War Afghanistan allowed the Taliban to take power, and the corruption of both individuals and institutions in the first two decades of the 21st Century gave them a political agenda, which differentiated them from the most unpopular aspect of Afghan governance and society. Their courts and judges could not be bribed. Although there is room for scrutiny, the Taliban mobile court system did have a role in developing their legitimacy.

In post-conflict Afghanistan, the changes were slow, incremental, and sometimes fraught. But what reformed the Taliban as a political entity, was first nascent and then growing stability. Young Afghans became “liberated” by professionalism and civil society, in contrast with secularism, humanism, and the desire to remake Afghanistan into a post-Enlightenment state. During the U.S. presence, rapid influxes of money fueled the worst corruption, and turned into an entrenched leviathan. As warlords, politicians, power brokers and criminals fled or faced justice, the Taliban could then distance itself from its past. As the powerful were held accountable, the public was satisfied.

When any society experiences a growing prosperity, along with a secure environment, life takes root in the private, rather than public sphere. The legendary harshness of Taliban justice no longer served a purpose. This didn’t happen as a response to pressure from the United Nations or Western governments, but as Afghan civil society developed it became a rational choice.


Endnotes:

[1] Strick, Alex, and Felix Kuehn. The Taliban Reader : War, Islam and Politics. London, C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd, 2018, p. 241.

[2} Rubin, Barnett R. Afghanistan from the Cold War through the War on Terror. Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 159.

[3] Tarzi, A. (2006, March). Afghanistan: Apostasy case reveals constitutional contradictions. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from https://www.refworld.org/docid/46f2581a17.html

[4] The author strongly recommends the following book to readers who would like more information: Anand Gopal. No Good Men among the Living : America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes. New York, N.Y., Picador, 2015.

[5] (Strick and Kuehn, The Taliban Reader : War, Islam and Politics 399)

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Afghanistan Civil Affairs Association Governing Documents and Ideas Suzanne Schroeder Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan)

Assessment on the 2035 Sino-U.S. Conflict in Africa Below the Level of War

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.


Major Thomas G. Pledger is a U.S. Army National Guard Infantry Officer and visiting military analyst at the Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesCenter on Military and Political Power. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both conventional and special operations forces. He has been selected to the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Thinkers Program and will be attending Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. His current academic and professional research is focused on network targeting, stability operations, and unconventional/gray zone warfare. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service 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.  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 on the 2035 Sino-U.S. Conflict in Africa Below the Level of War

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China’s male population bulge will cause conflict in Africa.

Summary:   The year is 2035 and the world’s major production facilities have shifted from China to Africa. In Africa, Western business interests and the interests of the People’s Republic of China have begun to intersect and interfere with one another. No government wants a conventional conflict where the goods are produced. This interference leads instead to gray-zone operations and information warfare.

Text:  The year is 2035 and over the last decade a landmark shift in the location of production and manufacturing facilities of the world occurred. China has suffered a self-inflicted population crisis. The One-Child Policy, established in 1980[1] and modified in 2016[2], created a Chinese population with a gender imbalance of 50 million excess males and a rapidly expanding older population bulge. By 2050 the median age in China is expected to be 50 years old[3]. Earlier this century, China recognized this demographic shift and began investing in Africa’s infrastructure to increase control and influence on global production means. China’s implementation of this policy through loan-debt traps to improve local infrastructure was complemented by the permanent movement of Han Chinese from China to Africa. Moving these populations served multiple purposes for China. First, it eased resource demands in China. Second, it increased the Chinese economic and political influence in African countries. Lastly, it allowed China to use Chinese workers instead of African workers, thus using the loans from the loan-debt traps to pay local African Chinese reinvesting these Chinese loans in Chinese workers and Chinese corporations, instead of the local African population or businesses. Once the Chinese populations had moved to the African countries, China rapidly implemented the Chinese Social Credit System in Africa. Chinese communities in Africa remained isolationist. These actions would disenfranchise most local African communities to direct Chinese influence in their countries.

Many international Western corporations, which depended on cheap labor in China, began to recognize this future shift in Chinese demographics around 2025. These corporations’ analysis of the world provided two likely locations for future labor markets, South America and Africa. In South America, those nations with low wages remained politically unstable and unlikely to support Western businesses. Africa was subject to impacts from local or regional Islamists, but governments were supportive of international business opportunities. Africa, in addition to low wages and a large working-age population, also provided many of the raw resources, to include rare earth metals[4]. The major hindrance to expansion in Africa was a lack of stable infrastructure.

Unlikely as it was, Chinese funded infrastructure in Africa would enable Western businesses. The proximity of Western economic interests and Chinese efforts to consolidate political influence and commercial control created a region in which no nation wanted a conventional conflict, but gray-zone and information warfare were dominant.

Complicating the efforts for Western influence operations were those advertising campaigns conducted by private industry occurring at the same time as Western government efforts, creating information fratricide for Western efforts. The Chinese Communist Party-controlled Chinese efforts were unified.

Chinese efforts targeted local infrastructure with cyberattacks to disrupt Western production facilities while simultaneously blaming the disruptions on Western companies’ energy demands. Chinese banking officials pressured local African governments to place undue taxes and administrative hardships on Western corporations, for the possibility of reduced interest rates and small portions of loan forgiveness against the Chinese loans. The use of the social credit system in Africa was challenging to implement. The Chinese built 6G communication systems were largely ignored by the local population, due to concerns for personal security, and access to space-based internet. U.S. Government messaging was one of the significant successes of the coordination between the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), and the forward-deployed Military Information Support Operation (MISO) Teams. Another major win for USCYBERCOM was the deployment of Cyber Operation Liaison Officers (LNO). These LNOs were established to coordinate security, protection, and, if necessary, responses to support U.S. businesses with operations in foreign countries from attacks by any nation. This authority had occurred with the passing of legislation after the 2020 Pandemic, recognizing that many of America’s business interests, supported National Security Interests.

The U.S. government’s efforts were specifically designed and implemented to keep a light military footprint while enabling local security and governance to support the population and allow the local governments to be supported by the local community. U.S. Military training missions increased the capabilities of regional militaries to conduct security operations to improve border security and counter Islamist influence. These light military efforts were coordinated with the Department of State’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP increased the number of involved African countries during the late ’20s from 15 countries to 49 countries[5]. This increase in SPP participation also created a rise in the Sister Cities Program[6]. These two programs created a synergistic relationship creating regular exchanges between U.S. State and local governments and African governments and cities in a concerted effort to increase local government efficiency and effectiveness. The U.S. Agency for International Development worked with the Department of State SPP to bring professional health care organizations and U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Air National Guard capabilities to improve, build, and train locally sustainable healthcare facilities. Along the Chinese built roads and rails, microloans from Western sources began to flow in, creating local businesses, starting the foundation for local economies. The use of Foreign Military Sales was targeted not on tanks or U.S. weapons and aircraft, but rather engineering equipment. Engineering equipment was selected to enable the local African governments to repair the Chinese built and funded roads and rails.

The unsung hero for coordinating and supporting all these efforts was the Civil Affairs Officers and Bilateral Affairs Officers working diligently to synchronize and present a positive U.S. presence and counter Chinese dominance, enabled by the delegated approval authority. This field-based synchronization authority streamlined staffing times from over a year to months or weeks. These coordinations were with the Country Teams, the National Guard Bureau, the Department of State, non-governmental organizations, MISO Teams, and others.


Endnotes:

[1] Kenneth Pletcher, “One-Child Policy,” Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. , https://www.britannica.com/topic/one-child-policy.

[2] Feng Wang, Baochang Gu, and Yong Cai, “The End of China’s One-Child Policy,” Brookings Institution https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-end-of-chinas-one-child-policy.

[3] Karen Zraick, “China Will Feel One-Child Policy’s Effects for Decades, Experts Say,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015 2015.

[4] JP Casey, “Into Africa: The Us’ Drive for African Rare Earth Minerals,” Verdict Media Limited, https://www.mining-technology.com/features/into-africa-the-us-drive-for-african-rare-earth-minerals.

[5] “The State Partnership Program (Spp),” National Guard Bue, https://www.nationalguard.mil/Leadership/Joint-Staff/J-5/International-Affairs-Division/State-Partnership-Program.

[6] “Sister Cities International,” Sister Cities International, https://sistercities.org.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Thomas G. Pledger United States

Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Jessa Hauck is a graduate of Suffolk University and an experienced analyst.  She has a passion for studying terrorism both at home and abroad.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  July 8, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes a whole-of-society approach is needed to disrupt the rise of domestic terrorism.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Government (USG) has used substantial resources for overseas counterterrorism. With the rise of domestic terrorism, the USG has an opportunity to define Lone Actor Terrorism in law or policy. This definition would enable better recognition of behavior patterns related to the online radicalization process and enable the development of effective detection and prevention strategies.

Text:  Billions of dollars, material resources, and research have been dedicated to the overseas counterterrorism effort since 9/11. As a result, potential attacks were thwarted, terrorists were detained and tried, and Congress passed the Patriot Act of 2001 which provided law enforcement with tools to investigate terrorists, increased penalties for convicted terrorists, and addressed the lack of information sharing and coordination between government agencies. Yet, despite this success, domestic terrorism, in particular lone actor, has grown in significance. Some experts have suggested that prior mass killings committed by Jared Loughner, Dylann Roof and others should have, but were not labeled as Lone Actor Terrorism. As a consequence, standard detection and prevention strategies to combat future lone actor attacks have not received adequate attention from policymakers and law enforcement. However part of the problem is the lack of an established definition for the term.

Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 research study defined Lone Actor Terrorism as “political violence perpetrated by individuals who act alone; who do not belong to an organized terrorist group or network; who act without the direct influence of a leader or hierarchy; and whose tactics and methods are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or direction[1].” This definition is a good starting point but individuals with no terrorism tendencies could also fit this description.

Without a standard definition detection efforts are diffused. Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn and Edwin Bakker studied lone actors using character traits such as age, mental health disposition, employment status and education level to create a behavior profile. However their results showed no specific traits emerged significantly enough to establish a pattern[2]. Graduate students from the Georgetown National Security Critical Task Force also confirmed in their study that profiling potential actors was ineffective since most lone actors seem to fit a broad pattern of traits such as white, single male with a criminal record[3]. Georgetown did however, concur with Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 study which focused more on lone actor behavior patterns. Hamm and Spaaji created a group of categories that accurately reflect a lone actor’s inability to fit into an already established network: lone soldiers, lone vanguard, loners and lone followers. Lone soldiers are supported by a terrorist network but act alone; lone vanguard acts alone to advance individual ideology and is not tied to a terrorist organization; a loner is an individual who acts alone to advance goals and is not accepted by network; and the lone followers who align with the ideology of a group, but aren’t socially competent enough for acceptance. These distinct categories provide a better methodology in which to bin behavior patterns. Alternatively, Bart Schuurman and colleagues advocated for a re-evaluation of the “lone wolf” terminology arguing its connotation was inaccurate. They concluded that individual actors were not socially alone but held some ties to networks and made their intent to attack publicly known early in the process[4]. Re-evaluation of the term is not widely discussed and perhaps it should be in order to develop a more complete picture.

Prevention of online radicalization and effective community outreach and engagement are key to disrupting the radicalization cycle. With the increased use of online resources, and isolated online social networks, lone actors have endless ways to be radicalized and discuss their intent to carry out an attack. Law enforcement, in coordination with social media companies have developed ways to identify these potential threats. However, not enough is being done with the resources available. Melanie Smith, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell argue that social media companies need to do a better job of reporting high risk behavior on their platforms to law enforcement and suggest they develop a coordinated approach to monitoring extremist groups and potential recruits[5]. Alternatively, Alison Smith suggests focusing on the radicalization process itself and cites work done by the New York City Police Department to do just that. She indicates there are four stages to radicalization including pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination and jihadization[6]. The key stage in this model is self-identification or the introduction and acceptance of extremist views, but if potential lone actors are not identified at this stage, looking out for intent declarations is a solid second avenue. Emmet Halm in his review of prevention procedures focused on breaking the radicalization cycle and explained that since 9/11 76% of lone actors clearly communicated their intent in letters, manifestos and proclamations[7]. Although posting statements of intent are helpful to identify potential individuals at risk, law enforcement must be vigilant in determining where an individual is in their development since posting intentions can simply be an exercise in practicing their right to free speech.

Prevention of online radicalization has the potential to be incredibly effective in identifying at risk individuals, but community outreach and engagement cannot be forgotten[8]. Jeffrey Simon suggests it’s imperative that law enforcement not only learn and educate themselves about lone actor behavior patterns, they must educate the community as well. Many lone actors make their views and intentions to attack known to family members, friends, and other members of their unique communities, however most indications are never reported or are brushed aside.

Hampered by the lack of a standard definition, no universally acknowledged profile or behavior pattern, and prevention tactics that are not effectively enforced or discussed, Lone Actor Terrorism has the potential to become a major threat within the U.S., particularly within the current political climate. Lone Actor Terrorism could be defined in law, or policy, and provide a roadmap for government agencies, law enforcement and social media platforms on effective detection and prevention strategies to combat future attacks. Recent reports from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security acknowledge the rise of lone actor attacks and address their respective agency roles and abilities in detection and prevention efforts. These reports provide a glimmer of hope that further government efforts will soon follow.


Endnotes:

[1] Hamm, Mark S. and Ramón Spaaij. Lone Wolf Terrorism in America: Using Knowledge of Radicalization Pathways to Forge Prevention Strategies. Terre Haute, IN: Indiana State University, 2015. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248691.pdf

[2] Bakker, Edwin and Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn. Lone-Actor Terrorism: Policy Paper 1: Personal Characteristics of Lone-Actor Terrorists. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 5. Hague: International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/201602_CLAT_Policy-Paper-1_v2.pdf

[3] Alfaro-Gonzales, Lydia, et al. Report: Lone Wolf Terrorism. Washington, DC: Georgetown University (2015)
https://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/NCITF-Final-Paper.pdf

[4] Schuurman, Bart, et al. End of the Lone Wolf: The typology That Should Not Have Been: Journal Studies of Conflict and Terrorism Journal. Studies in Conflict &Terrorism. Volume 42, Issue 8, 2019. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1419554

[5] Smith, Melanie, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell. Lone Wolf Terrorism Policy Paper 3: Motivations, Political Engagement and Online Activity. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 7. London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/CLAT-Series-7-Policy-Paper-3-ISD.pdf

[6] Smith, Alison G., Ph.D. National Institute of Justice. How Radicalization to Terrorism Occurs in the United States: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us. June 2018. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250171.pdf

[7] Halm, Emmet. Wolf Hunting: Unique Challenges and Solutions to Lone-Wolf Terrorism. Harvard Political Review. October 21, 2019. https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/wolf-hunting

[8] Hunt, Leigh. Beware the Lone Wolf. Police. Police Magazine. October 17, 2013. https://www.policemag.com/341043/beware-the-lone-wolf

[9] National Center for the Analyses of Violent Crime. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Behavioral Threat Assessment Center. Behavioral Analysis Unit. Lone Offender: A Study of Lone OffenderTerrorism in the U.S. (1972-2015). November, 2019. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/lone-offender-terrorism-report-111319.pdf/view

[10] DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence. September, 2019. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/19_0920_plcy_strategic-framework-countering-terrorism-targeted-violence.pdf

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Jessa Hauck United States Violent Extremism

An Assessment of the Irrelevance of State Borders 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.


Specialist Brandon White is a Civil Affairs Non-Commissioned Officer at the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, and recently served on a Civil Affairs Team in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As a civilian, he presently works as a Consultant for National Security and Defense at Capgemini Government Solutions, and previously served as a Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be found on Twitter @bwhiteofficial and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bwhiteofficial/. 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 Irrelevance of State Borders in 2035

Date Originally Written:  June 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 2, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that by 2035, the primary drivers of civil instability and the main threats to human security will be cross-border, rendering states functionally border-less.

Summary:  By 2035, the primary drivers of conflict and competition will transcend the system of state borders that traditionally define national security policy. These threats will center on the physical security of individuals and communities, environmental crises, and economic vulnerability, and will demand a problem-solving approach that is similarly cross-border in nature.

Text:  Throughout the course of human history, there have been eras of great contrast: of peace and war, prosperity and poverty, vibrancy and plague. One consistent theme throughout has been the trend towards greater interconnectedness among people and the formation of bonds across physical and cultural divides. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 created the concept of territorial sovereignty[1] and the Montevideo Convention of 1933 required that a state have a defined territory and a permanent population[2]. The concept of territorial sovereignty has fundamentally shaped international relations and therefore every U.S. national security decision. Likewise, since the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the world has approached problem-solving within the construct of state borders. This approach is increasingly detrimental to global security because populations and the threats they face can rarely be confined in that way, with cross-border threats growing in prominence. By 2035, states will be functionally border-less as the primary threats to human security transcend the system of borders first conceived in 1648 and demand a different approach to solving them. These threats include the physical security of individuals and communities, environmental crises, and economic vulnerabilities.

Personal and community security includes protection from physical violence from state and non-state actors such as Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) or Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs), sectarian or ethnic groups, or violent criminals[3]. VEOs such as the Islamic State and Al-Shabaab violently pursue ethnic or religious homogenization and operate freely across state borders in the Middle East and Africa. TCOs such as MS-13 threaten vulnerable populations across the Northern Tier of Central America, leaving civilians with few options but to flee. These groups often seek out areas that are challenging for states to govern or maintain a meaningful presence, showing how easily a state’s territorial sovereignty can be undermined. As authoritarianism rises across the world[4], state-based repression will likely also increase, prompting migration alongside state-sanctioned violence. The Syrian Civil War is one example of how domestic political repression can lead to regional instability, create global migration crises, and intensify the spread of extremism. By the time a threat to a population’s physical security becomes a U.S. national security concern, it is certain that the threat would have major cross-border implications requiring the attention of U.S.-led, joint security organizations such as the Combined Joint Task Forces supporting Operation Inherent Resolve or operations in the Horn of Africa, or Joint Task Force-Bravo in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, or other regional and multilateral entities.

Environmental crises linked to climate change are inherently cross-border, such as rising sea levels, drought, and the frequency of severe storms. With these types of events, food supplies become less reliable and more expensive, a lack of clean water heightens hygiene and sanitation concerns and the spread of preventable disease, and vulnerable populations are pressed to relocate resulting in economic decline and cross-border displacement. As a result, it is wise to anticipate increased conflict over scarce resources, mass migration toward more habitable areas, and faster spread of disease. Some experts have already suggested climate change may have played a role in increasing the tensions which led to the Syrian Civil War[5]. The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review highlighted the importance of addressing environmental threats because they act as “threat multipliers,” aggravating “political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence”[6]. Additionally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report of 2014 detailed all aspects of human security, including economic, health, and food security, that will affect both rural and urban areas as a result of growing environmental threats[7]. For the Department of Defense (DoD), both Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response operations and longer term, interagency coordinated stability operations will require a cross-border approach.

Globally, economic instability is growing in the form of extreme poverty, severe wealth inequality, and an overall lack of economic opportunity. These factors increase civil instability by fueling migration and enabling the exploitation of vulnerable individuals and communities. Due to the global recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic[8], these economic threats to human security are likely to worsen by 2035. Competition between the U.S. and China will also shape the national security landscape, and the ability to increase economic opportunity domestically and among regional and global partners will be a critical factor in the U.S.’ ability to ensure its own security. Already, the U.S. and Europe have struggled to manage large numbers of migrants seeking work and economic opportunity, which has exacerbated the economic anxieties of domestic populations and distracted from addressing underlying vulnerabilities[9]. The solutions to these problems are inherently cross-border, demanding creative regional and multilateral approaches to trade and investment, and the promotion of new, less exploitative, and more sustainable industries.

Upon accepting that the threat landscape in 2035 will be predominantly cross-border, national security professionals can begin to shape regional and multilateral solutions that address the underlying human factors of conflict and competition that often fester in the blind spots of state-based strategic interests. First, the U.S. can strengthen and contribute to the reform of regional and multilateral security organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, political organizations like the Organization of American States, and economic organizations like regional development banks to ensure the U.S. has viable mechanisms for working with allies and partners to counter these cross-border threats. Second, the U.S. government can reassess its bureaucratic organization and associated legal authorities to ensure its efforts are not hindered by structural inefficiencies or limitations. Legal authorities and funding streams can be flexible enough to meet these challenges, and partnerships with multilateral institutions can be solidified. Whether in Syria, Central America, Afghanistan, or the Sahel, DoD is increasingly asked to address cross-border security threats stemming from human factors in conflict and competition. Therefore, in order to increase the likelihood of mission success across all theaters, DoD has a vested interest in working with interagency partners to drive the evolution of the U.S. approach to addressing the human factors of conflict and competition that will define the border-less 2035 threat landscape.


Endnotes:

[1] Treaty of Westphalia. (1648, October 24). Retrieved from The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/westphal.asp

[2] Convention on Rights and Duties of States. (1933, December 26). Retrieved from Organization of American States, Department of International Law: http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/sigs/a-40.html

[3] (1994). Human Development Report, 1994. United Nations Development Programme. New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://www.hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/255/hdr_1994_en_complete_nostats.pdf

[4] Unit, E. I. (2020, January 21). Democracy Index 2019. Retrieved from Economist Intelligence Unit: https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index

[5] Kelley, C. P., Mohtadi, S., Cane, M. A., Seager, R., & Kushnir, Y. (2015). Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(11), 3241-3246. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/112/11/3241.full.pdf

[6] (2014). Quadrennial Defense Review. Washington, DC: Department of Defense. Retrieved from https://archive.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf

[7] (2014). Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2

[8] Lu, J. (2020, June 12). World Bank: Recession Is The Deepest In Decades. Retrieved from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/06/12/873065968/world-bank-recession-is-the-deepest-in-decades

[9] Karasapan, O. (2017, April 12). Refugees, Migrants, and the Politics of Fear. Retrieved from Brookings: Future Development: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2017/04/12/refugees-migrants-and-the-politics-of-fear

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers Border Security Brandon White Civil Affairs Association Governing Documents and Ideas

Call for Papers: Words Ending in Ist and Ism

Common+Suffixes+NOUN+SUFFIXES+SUFFIX+MEANING+EXAMPLE+-ism

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 words that end in Ist and Ism.  Examples could include terrorism, revisionism, colonialism, or their -ist counterparts terrorist, revisionist, colonist etc.

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

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by October 17, 2020.

Call For Papers

Assessing the U.S. Shift to Great Power Competition and the Risk from North Korea

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.


Richard McManamon is an U.S. Army Officer and a graduate student at the National Defense University. The views expressed are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the U.S. Shift to Great Power Competition and the Risk from North Korea

Date Originally Written:  July 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 31, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Richard McManamon is an U.S. Army Officer and a graduate student at the National Defense University.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategic shift towards Russia and China has de-prioritized North Korea. Following multiple summits between the two nations, minimal lasting progress has been made. As the U.S. shifts focus to great power competition, a comprehensive approach towards North Korea to protect U.S. interests will be of value.

Text:  Individual human factors, both behavioral and psychological, have played a critical role in countless global conflicts and the contemporary security environment is equally impacted by these factors. Following President Trump’s election, a new National Security Strategy (NSS) was published in 2017 that emphasized a shift from a counter-terrorism focused strategy to one that challenges near-peer threats from China and Russia. The Department of Defense implemented the NSS in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), where the document specifically labeled China “a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors” and highlighted Russia’s attempt to reshape the world through their authoritarian mode[1]l.

The NSS and NDS emphasizing Russia and China reduces focus on North Korea. President Trump’s relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been highly volatile and the U.S. relationship with North Korea further destabilized as North Korea tested twenty-three rockets in 2017 alone[2]. Throughout 2017, President Trump expressed his feeling towards North Korea through multiple tweets, for example, labeling the North Korean ruler “Little Rocket Man[3].” Kim disregarded Trump’s emotionally driven responses and continued rocket testing, which escalated tensions even higher. As the situation escalated toward a breaking point, Trump and Kim met in 2018 and again in 2019. Furthermore, in June 2019 President Trump made a trip to the Korean peninsula for further nuclear negotiations, which marked the first time a U.S. sitting president entered North Korea[4].

Since 2017, both leaders applied various human factors that contributed to a bilateral relationship. Nevertheless, the promising start that followed multiple summits began to dramatically falter when North Korea conducted its first missile launch of 2020 on March 21st showcasing its desire to maintain its position in the global order[5]. The 2020 missile launch combined with new satellite imagery showing a possible expansion of a rocket launch facility signaled to the U.S. and other Western powers that North Korea is maintaining its hardened stance and attempting to portray an image of strength[6]. To Kim, the U.S. realignment of resources toward Russia and China may look like an opportunity. Moreover, this shift to China and Russia can provide enough space for North Korea to expand their rocket research and development. Further highlighting the North Korea challenge, a 2019 RAND report highlighted that North Korea is on a trajectory of nuclear development that has transformed it into a fundamentally different kind of strategic challenge[7].

While the U.S. transitions to China and Russia, it still maintains numerous sanctions on North Korea. For years the U.S. and United Nations Security Council have placed sanctions on the country ranging from export/import restrictions to economic restrictions[8]. The longer the sanctions are in place, the less effective they are. Furthermore, the continued U.S. use of sanctions can provide a false sense of security to the U.S. as it realigns its global strategy towards China and Russia. The U.S. prioritization of China and Russia allows North Korea to maintain its status within the global order without new pressure from western nations to promote change in governance.

President Trump has successfully communicated with Kim in the past by leveraging his attributes and finding common ground with the North Korean leader. While the complete dismantling of North Korea’s rocket and nuclear program may no longer be feasible, the U.S. can reestablish meaningful diplomatic relations with North Korea to influence Northern peninsula. This is not to suggest that if the U.S. were to extend an olive branch that North Korean missiles would be instantly dismantled. However, progress with North Korea can likely be increased through human interaction and an emotional connection versus harsher sanctions that may harm the population more than the senior leaders of the country. Lastly, the opportunity cost of the U.S. not meeting the challenge now is that inaction can embolden Kim Jong Un to develop a more capable missile program that threatens U.S. national interests and its allies globally.

As the U.S. continues a strategy shift to China and Russia, countries like North Korea are losing their much-needed prioritization within the U.S. government. While both China and Russia pose risks to U.S. interests, acknowledging such risk does not justify a neglect of other threats on the world stage. Small risks can quickly transition to substantial risks if not appropriately managed. The ramifications of not placing significant resources and attention on North Korea creates opportunities for Kim to exploit, with short and long-term costs for U.S. interests and regional security. President Trump has the tools to build a relationship with North Korea to achieve good governance and order. Moving forward, the U.S. can ensure a comprehensive strategy that effectively challenges China and Russia, but not at the cost of neglecting smaller countries. Such a strategy starts with increased diplomatic relations, revisits sanction negotiations with the input from key nations and lastly, works towards a manageable missile treaty with North Korea.


Endnotes:

[1] Department of Defense, National Defense Strategy (2018). Retrieved from https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.

[2] Berlinger, J. (2017). North Korea’s missile tests: What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/29/asia/north-korea-missile-tests/index.html

[3] Hirsh, M. (2019). Trump just gave North Korea more than it ever dreamed of. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/06/30/trump-has-already-given-north-korea-more-than-it-dreamed-of

[4] Ripley, W. (2019). Trump and Kim make history, but a longer and more difficult march lies ahead. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/30/asia/trump-kim-history/index.html

[5] Masterson, J. (2020). North Korea tests first missiles of 2020 . Retrieved from https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-04/news/north-korea-tests-first-missiles-2020

[6] Brumfiel, G. (2020). North Korea seen expanding rocket launch facility it once promised to dismantle. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/03/27/822661018/north-korea-seen-expanding-rocket-launch-facility-it-once-promised-to-dismantle

[7] Gian Gentile, Yvonne K. Crane, Dan Madden, Timothy M. Bonds, Bruce W. Bennett, Michael J. Mazarr, Andrew Scobell. (2019). Four problems on the Korean peninsula. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL271.html

Schoff, J., & Lin, F. (2018). Making sense of UN sanctions on North Korea. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/publications/interactive/north-korea-sanctions

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Policy and Strategy Richard McManamon United States

Options for Ukraine to Address the Impact of the Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

Madison Sargeant is a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at Boston University and is currently studying International Relations and Statistical Methods. She can be found at @SargeantMadison on Twitter. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The development of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea threatens Ukrainian economic and national security.

Date Originally Written:  June 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the perspective of the Ukrainian government.

Background:  Energy security is an increasingly pressing issue for the European Union (EU). As indigenous natural gas production diminishes, energy demands increase, and relations with the Russian Federation become more divisive, natural gas imports have become a widely debated topic among EU member states. The annexation of Crimea and subsequent support for separatists in eastern Ukraine by the Kremlin has prompted sanctions and statements of solidarity with Ukraine by the European Union. Despite this, EU member states, notably Germany and Italy, have moved forward with pipeline projects that eliminate Ukraine as a transit state for Russian gas.

Development of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses traditional routes through Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland to deliver natural gas directly from Russia to Germany has divided the EU in both political and energy strategy. Another pipeline project, TurkStream, will transport Russian gas through Turkey into southern Europe upon completion. The aggregate capacity of both Nord Stream pipelines, as well as the TurkStream pipeline, rival Ukraine’s entire capacity for Russian natural gas transit[1]. These projects have caused controversy within the EU and outrage from the United States, which has attempted to slow the pipeline’s completion through sanctions. Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream have highlighted the tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and the transatlantic community more broadly.

Significance:  If Russia can bypass transit through Ukraine, it will be less constrained in its war in the Donbass region. Similarly, the European Union will be less incentivized to moderate the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow. From an economic standpoint, Ukraine receives $3 billion U.S. Dollars in Russian gas transit fees annually—revenue that would be lost if Russia no longer needs Ukraine to get gas to its final destination. Ukraine’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018 was a mere 130.8 billion; the loss in revenues would be a significant obstacle to Kyiv’s military efforts in the east, as the government allocates funding between various departments, including that of defense[2]. A weakened economy and loss of European interest in the wellbeing of the Ukrainian state, coupled with safe transport of Russian gas without Ukraine’s pipelines increases the likelihood of Russia intensifying the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Option #1:  Diversification.

Ukraine could collaborate with the Caucasus and Central Asian states, namely Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan to develop energy transit routes across the Caspian and Black Seas, and through Ukraine into Europe. Introducing Central Asian energy into the European market will increase competition and reduce reliance on Russian gas by the EU. This option ensures Ukraine’s role as an energy transit state will not be squashed in the face of new pipeline projects circumventing it, while strengthening Ukraine’s relationship with regional partners.

Risk:  This option would not provide an immediate solution to Ukraine’s predicament as pipeline projects take upwards of ten years. Foreign investment in such a project may be unattractive at this time. Ukraine’s current tax laws dissuade foreign investment and are in need of reform. Europe’s plans to minimize fossil fuel use in the long term may also make this project undesirable, although investment in Nord Stream 2 and other new pipelines suggests otherwise. Most notably, this option does not eliminate the risk of Russia escalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russian gas would still circumvent Ukraine.

Gain:  Central Asian energy transit through Ukraine can replace the revenue lost from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Pipeline already exists in Ukraine to carry out transportation, and building pipelines in the Black Sea is less complicated and costly compared to the Baltic Sea[3]. Such a move also increases Ukraine’s political standing in the region and diminishes Russian influence.

Option #2:  Maintaining the status quo.

Ukraine may seek to extend the December 2019 contract with Russia regarding gas transit through Ukraine. This option maintains the status quo between Ukraine, the EU, and Russia. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is likely to remain frozen at its current level and Russia is unlikely to work towards ending it.

Risk:  This option relies on Russian cooperation with Ukraine. When both Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are fully online, Russia will have options regarding how it transports its natural gas to European clients. Ultimately, this option is one that only buys Ukraine time in finding a solution to the military conflict in the east.

Gain:  In the short term, Ukraine and Russia would remain dependent on one another for safe gas transit through Ukraine, which decreases the likelihood of Russia escalating the conflict. Additionally, Ukraine may not suffer greatly from loss of revenue depending on how many cubic meters of gas are redirected from Ukrainian pipelines to Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream. This option also incentives the EU member states to stay involved in the conflict resolution process in Ukraine.

Other Comments:  Both options require a reevaluation of the compatibility of the EU’s energy and Ukraine policies. The EU cannot actively support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and autonomy while engaging in economic developments that undermine Ukraine’s ability to fund its military activities against Russian aggression. With European investment in Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, it is substantially more difficult for Ukraine to attract the European support it needs to combat the problems it faces economically, politically, and militarily. EU policies that are coherent and consequential are critical to any improved standing for Ukraine.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Sydoruk, T., Stepanets, P., & Tymeichuk, I. (2019). Nord Stream 2 as a Threat to National Interests of Poland and Ukraine. Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, 19(3/4), 467-490.

[2] Ellyatt, H. (2019, December 16). Ukraine and Russia look to strike new gas deal amid US sanctions threat. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/16/ukraine-and-russia-look-to-strike-gas-transit-deal.html

[3] Oliker, O. (1999, December 31). Ukraine and the Caspian: An Opportunity for the United States. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/pubs/issue_papers/IP198.html

Madison Sargeant Option Papers Resource Scarcity Russia Ukraine

Alternative History: The Newburgh Conspiracy Succeeds — An After-Action Review

Thomas Williams is a Part-Time member of the faculty at Quinnipiac University.  He is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a member of the Military Writer’s Guild, and tweets at @twilliams01301.  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:  The Newburgh Conspiracy Succeeds — An After-Action Review

Date Originally Written:  June 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired Army Reservist and former member of the Distance Education Program at the U.S. Army War College.  This article is presented as a vehicle to discuss the vagaries of planning in open systems.

Summary:  March, 1783. General Washington and his closest advisors discuss the General’s inability to prevent the coup fomenting among Continental Army Officers camped in Newburgh, New York[1]. This alternative history teaches readers to recognize the capricious nature of plans and how it’s essential to be humble as sometimes the smallest and most irrational inputs can have unpredictable and disproportionate effects.

Text:  General George Washington was disgusted beyond measure. The Army was now commanded by his former deputy Horatio Gates, and Washington was in hiding. Gates and a faction of disgruntled officers and men were moving toward Philadelphia with the expressed purpose of intimidating the people, and by extension, Congress, into supporting its cause: backpay, pensions, and respect.

Sitting now with his closest associates, Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox (whose own writings did not do much to help this current situation), and a few dozen other compatriots who comprised an after-action review team, Washington wanted to discuss how he lost control when the cabal met in Newburgh, NY.

What an irony, Washington bemoaned, as this move was likely to erase their eight-year struggle for freedom from the British. Although Yorktown was already two years past, the war wasn’t technically over, and no one present at this after-action review knew the status of negotiations in Paris. The British, who maintained an Army in New York, were showing signs of taking advantage of Gate’s burgeoning coup, including ending negotiations and resuming hostilities.

Hamilton wasn’t present in Newburgh, so he took the lead in asking questions. “How did it all unfold?” he needed to know.

Washington and Knox were the first to share. Knox said “The crowd was restless. Insolent, even.”

“The Continental Army officers at camped at Newburg, New York?” Hamilton asked.

“Yes,” Knox allowed, adding that many of the would-be conspirators were good, reliable men who had been with the Army for most of its eight years. “I suspect we could reason with any individual,” Knox continued, “but there was a madness to the crowd, whipped up, I suspect, by Horatio Gates himself.”

That Gates was a chief conspirator surprised no one, and as Knox told it, the man seethed with a personal resentment toward Washington. Every man in today’s discussion knew that this was not Gates’ first run at Washington. Back in 1777, and flush from his victory at Saratoga, Gates and a Brigadier General named Thomas Conway were secretly corresponding with members of Congress to have Gates named as the Army’s commander in chief. Ultimately, the “Conway Cabal” failed[2], but all the resentments lingered.

Hamilton now turned his attention to Washington who was not present at Newburgh for all that Knox described. By design, Washington entered the Newburgh meeting room in dramatic fashion, at the last possible minute. Hamilton asked Washington, “What happened when you entered the room?”

“The moment had the desired impact,” Washington replied. Washington wasn’t expected to attend the Newburgh conference, so his sudden entrance from a side door at the exact moment Gates rose to open the proceedings momentarily cooled the firebrands.

Washington knew the power of his position. He had been in command of the Army since 1775 and shared in all its deprivations. The General knew the majority of these conspiring officers and shared many of their frustrations.

Washington recollected that his remarks were logical, rational, and delivered solidly enough, but what he had to say also seemed insufficient.

Hamilton interjected, asking what the members of the after-action review team thought of this characterization. Many agreed with General Washington saying that they too thought there was an edgy, even sinister demeanor among the conspirators.

Washington continued with his story saying that at Newburgh he next intended to read a letter from a prominent Virginia congressman containing assurances that Congress was doing all in its power to redress the Army’s complaints.

Knox interrupted, noting to Hamilton that Washington seemed to struggle with the words of this letter and was reading haltingly.

“Let’s avoid any indictments, Henry,” Hamilton said. “That’s not what we’re here for.”

“Yes, that is correct,” Washington said. “I was reaching for my spectacles and fumbled as I did so. I decided to continue reading as I looked.”

“That wasn’t your plan,” Hamilton said. “It was less about the letter than the use of your spectacles as a deliberate prop.”

Washington’s faced flushed in anger. Hamilton was correct about the intended theatrics. “My hope,” Washington, intoned, “was to use my loss of sight as an appeal for sympathy.” Washington went on to say that he was going to beg the conspirators’ pardon, to forgive his hesitant reading with words about going gray and blind in his service.

“I never had the chance,” Washington said, recounting how the conspirators seized the initiative and leveled the most vile accusations toward him. “The invective tipped the balance in a room predisposed to anger,” he noted.

Hamilton spoke again, “What conclusions can we draw; what might have been done differently?”

Knox, an avid reader and bookshop owner before the war, started an impromptu lecture on Greek rhetoric. He opined about logos (logic), ethos (Washington’s character) and began talking about pathos (passion).

“General Washington needed to focus on his oratory. He was bland,” Knox said.

Hamilton thought about it for a moment and turned back at Knox saying, “Henry, you’re wrong—the answer is ‘nothing’.” “Nothing,” he repeated. “Humility and pathos were our aim. Our plan was right the first time. It simply went awry.”

Hamilton speculated out loud that this incalculably small moment may have made all the difference. Had Washington been able to produce his spectacles more quickly, he might have earned that planned sympathy.

“I got to my spectacles seconds later, but the moment was fleeting,” Washington said.
Knox banged the table, shouting, “No one can plan for this. And frankly from what you’re saying, even if General Washington succeeded with these theatrics, something else might have gone wrong.”

“Shakespeare,” whispered Washington. “Richard III.” How fickle our designs, how arrogant our plans when even a King cannot secure a needed horse,” he added[3].

“What’s to be done, then?” asked Hamilton. “Where do we go from here?”

No one had the chance to answer as the shouts of British officers began to echo across the courtyard just beyond their door. Washington, Knox, and Hamilton knew at once; they were found.

Knowledgeable readers will recognize the moment this story deviated from the historical record. In reality, Washington quickly found his glasses, and as he put them on, he said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind[4].”

In a way that’s hard for us to understand in our age of cynicism, this simple gesture brought men to tears and back into Washington’s camp, so to speak.

The conspirators dropped their demands and accepted their subordination to civilian authority, no matter how flawed. The revolution held fast, the Treaty of Paris was signed in September of that year, and the British evacuated their armies.


Endnotes:

[1] For a quick understanding of the Newburgh Conspiracy, see Martin, J. K. (2015, March 12). The Newburgh Conspiracy [Video]. George Washington’s Mount Vernon. https://www.mountvernon.org/video/playlist/36

[2] To know more, see Scythes, J (ND) The Conway Cabal. George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/conway-cabal

[3] From Shakespeare’s Richard III, published circa 1593, Act 5, Scene 4. Richard exclaims, “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” http://shakespeare.mit.edu/richardiii/full.html.

[4] Ferling, J. (2009). The ascent of George Washington: The hidden political genius of an American icon (p. 234). Bloomsbury Publishing.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Thomas Williams United States

Alternative History: Options Other than the Doolittle Raid to Strike Japan After Pearl Harbor

2d Lt David Alman is an officer in the U.S. Air National Guard. In his civilian career, he has worked as an aerospace engineer and management consultant. Previously, he earned a BS and MS in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. He tweets @david_alman. 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 Japanese bombed the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. The U.S. is preparing options to strike back at Japan.

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Air National Guard officer with an interest in military effectiveness and military history / historiography. This article’s point of view is from the United States military in late 1941.

Background:  In response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the ensuing series of Allied losses in the Pacific, President Roosevelt tasked his War Cabinet to develop plans for striking back at Japan. The objective was to raise the morale of the American people[1]. The Doolittle Raid accomplished this mission using two aircraft carriers to launch 16 aircraft to bomb Japan. The total explosive weight delivered was 32,000 pounds.

Significance:  While a heroic effort, it appears little thought was given to alternate options that might have accomplished the same goal without risking a significant portion of American combat power. It is the duty of military officers to judiciously accept risk in the pursuit of objectives. The study of history demands more than veneration for those who went into harm’s way. Instead, students of history must ask whether it was necessary for so many to go into harm’s way in the first place as part of the Doolittle Raid. This options paper identifies other viable options to place the risk-reward tradeoff of the Doolittle Raid in context.

Option #1:  The U.S. launches Air Corps bombers from Navy aircraft carriers. Since one aircraft carrier will be loaded with bombers, another aircraft carrier will be required to escort the task force. The planes, B-25 Mitchells, will be modified for extended range. The planes will land in China after completing their mission.

Risk:  This operation will risk two of seven American aircraft carriers and their escorts[2]. If lost in action, the American Navy will lose a significant portion of its striking power and the American public will have lower morale than before. This operation will also risk the 16 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. This option will provide joint operations experience to the Navy-Air Corps team and could result in Japan pulling back forces to defend the home islands.

Option #2:  The U.S. constructs a forward air base in the Aleutian Islands and uses long-range B-24 bombers to strike Japan. The distance from Attu Island to Tokyo and on to Nanchang (the Doolittle Raiders’ landing point) is approximately 3,500 miles[3]. An un-modified B-24A had a ferry range of 4,000 miles[4]. A bombload equivalent to the B-25 would entail a 2,000 pound or 8% reduction in fuel, reducing range to approximately 3,700 miles[5]. With minor modifications, such as a smaller crew, this option would be sufficient for an Aleutians-launched B-24 force to reach the historical B-25 landing sites.

Risk:  Constructing an air base on Attu will be difficult. This operation will risk 16 B-24 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. The use of an air base instead of U.S. Navy ships lessens the risk to the U.S. fleet. The air base in the Aleutians could be reused for other military purposes.

Option #3:  The U.S. uses Navy “cruiser” submarines to shell Japanese targets. The US Navy possesses three “cruiser” submarines, USS Argonaut, USS Narwhal, and USS Nautilus. Each of these submarines carries two 6-inch deck guns, each delivering a 105-pound explosive out to 13 miles. The submarines could surface at night off the coast of Japan and deliver 304 shells to equal the explosive weight of the Doolittle Raid. Given six guns and a fire rate of 6 rounds per minute, this would take approximately 10 minutes[6]. After completing their fires, preferably just after dark for survivability, the submarines would escape at high speed.

Risk:  This operation would risk three submarines and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. It could result in Japan pulling anti-submarine warfare forces back to home waters.

Option #4:  The U.S. uses seaplanes, such as PBY Catalinas, to strike Japan. PBYs could stage from Midway Island and refuel from submarines or destroyers in the open ocean. Carrying 2,000 pounds of bombs would reduce fuel capacity by approximately 13%, leaving the seaplanes with a 2,000 mile range[7]. The seaplanes would likely refuel once approximately 800 miles off the coast of Japan (1,700 miles from Midway), conduct a max radius strike to rendezvous with the refueler approximately 1,200 miles off the coast of Japan (800 miles in, 1,200 miles out, 2,000 mile round trip – farther offshore to protect the retreating refueler), and then fly back to Midway (approximately 1,300 miles away). Refueling sixteen seaplanes twice would require a maximum of 384,000 pounds of fuel which is well within the capacity of a modified cruiser submarine.

Risk:  This operation would risk 16 aircraft and a submarine along with their crews.

Gain:  This operation will accomplish the objective if successful, and not risk any U.S. aircraft carriers.

Other Comments:  The Doolittle Raid was ultimately successful. The options presented here are intended to provoke reflection on alternate options that were never considered due to the Doolittle Raid idea coming first. Practitioners gain by critically examining military history to postulate if objectives could have been accomplished more effectively or with less risk to force.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] December 21st, 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day. http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/daybyday/daylog/december-21st-1941/

[2] In reality, only 6 aircraft carriers were useful given USS Ranger’s small size.

[3] This and other distances calculated using Google Maps and use great circle distance.

[4] The B-24A Liberator. The 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. https://www.456fis.org/B-24-A.htm and author’s math.

[5] This is an estimate based on a linear fuel burn. Two variables are responsible for the true variation from this number. One is that fuel burn throughout flight is in fact not linear. Because the airplane weighs less towards the end of its flight, the last gallons of fuel provide more range than the first gallons. The second factor is that the bombs are not carried for the whole flight because they are dropped on their target.

[6] 6”/53 (15.2 cm) Marks 12, 14, 15, and 18. NavWeaps. http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_6-53_mk12.php

[7] Author’s math.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals David Alman Japan Option Papers United States

Assessing the Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 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.


Tom Perkins is a 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer and served at the Platoon, Company, and Battalion level. He is currently serving as a Southeast Asian Foreign Area Officer.  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 Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 2035

Date Originally Written:  June 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 17, 2020.

Article and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from a U.S perspective concerning partnership in Southeast Asia vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Summary:  The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is able to define the “Chinese” identity. This gives the CCP human factor influence over ethnic Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia. The PRC can use these community relationships to influence and even manipulate nations throughout Southeast Asia. Chinese Americans, as credible Chinese voices, can build relationships and define cultural norms that are not dictated by the CCP.

Text:  The Chinese Diaspora, or Chinese abroad, is a concept that developed from Chinese immigration throughout history but particularly the 19th and 20th centuries. This concept created tight knit, and in some places, large communities outside of China. The largest of these communities are in Southeast Asia. These communities traditionally defined their identity based on family, language, business, food, and traditional practices such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism etc. The large number of ethnic Chinese in various countries made the community a significant force for political mobilization. The most overt example of mobilization is the ethnic Chinese led Malayan Communist Party which waged a communist insurrection in Malaysia throughout the second half of the twentieth century[1].

Even when large scale political mobilization does not occur, the existence of these communities at times causes conflict in the host nations. Ethnic Chinese throughout Southeast Asia are perceived to be better connected in business than the local ethnic majorities of the countries they live in. As a result, distrust and resentment has occasionally erupted into the local ethnic majorities protesting and engaging in violence against the Chinese communities. There is no easy solution to such a conflict. Historically, efforts to force assimilation of these communities were generally unsuccessful at reducing conflict and erasing Chinese identity. Starting in 1966, under the Suharto presidency, Indonesia orchestrated a series of policies meant to discourage Chinese identity and culture in an attempt to forge a more nationalist Indonesian identity.  However, since the reform period in Indonesia, these policies have been rescinded[2]. These historical trends suggest overseas Chinese communities will continue to exist and grow as an independent cultural and social network into 2035.

The growth of China into the world’s second largest economy has given it a new level of prestige. China’s real economic power as well as soft and sharp power will continue to increase through 2035. The ability for the CCP to influence human factors among and through overseas Chinese is more favorable than it has ever been, and will continue to be more favorable into the future. The increased economic wealth of people in China makes them a natural source for business ties among the diaspora. It is conceivable that the CCP will leverage such relationships in the future to gain political influence throughout Southeast Asia. This leveraging can be an alarming prospect when one considers a long-term U.S partner, such as Thailand, has an ethnic Chinese population of around 7 million, which is approximately 10% of the population[3]. Actions by the CCP signal a desire to gain influence in Southeast Asia. Traditional soft power programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative promulgated by Xi Jinping are supplemented by more subtle gestures such as establishing Confucius Institutes. The latter being an example of the CCPs manipulation of human factors to increase political capital by using Confucius institutes as a communications platform for signaling Chinese cultural values.

The heart of the issue is that the CCP is able to define the Chinese identity. Thus, anyone who identifies as Chinese, will have an affinity for the culture, and will be more susceptible to CCP messaging. This is an old struggle in a new context. The Republic of China, aka Taiwan, has been raging against the CCP’s attempts to define what is and is not Chinese since the Chinese Civil War. The strategy throughout history was to lay claim to the terms “Chinese” and “China” with its own branding. The issue is that the CCP has been very successful at stamping out such branding attempts. This is why even well-traveled and educated Americans are surprised to learn that China Airlines is not based in China, it is based in Taiwan, and why there is nothing weird about some “Chinese” people marching into an Olympic stadium under a banner labeled “Chinese Taipei.”

The U.S is in a good position to address the CCP dominance of Chinese culture in Southeast Asia. The U.S is home to a large and relatively affluent ethnic Chinese population. The Department of State and accompanying agencies can make efforts to reach out to community and business leaders to empower them to define what it means to be overseas Chinese. By empowering ethnically Chinese Americans the United States can lead the overseas Chinese movement in Southeast Asia and prevent the business networks, family ties, social networks, and overall population from being tools of CCP sharp power. In popular culture influence, Chinese Americans could be leading the production of Mandarin language cinema and music. Southeast Asian Chinese could look to Chinese American businesses for capital investment as well as future markets. Additionally, U.S government messaging can reconsider usage of the term “Chinese” because of its implicit affiliation with the CCP. The word “Sino” sufficiently distinguishes the ethnic affiliations from national affiliations associated with the PRC. These actions are an effective start to neutralizing CCP appropriation of the ethnic Chinese identity.

As PRC state power grows, its ability to wield influence outside of its boarders increases. The State Department and supporting agencies can take initiative to combat messaging that implies the CCP monopolizes Chinese culture. The U.S can foster real relationships between Sino Americans and ethnic Sino populations throughout Southeast Asia. By doing this the U.S can deny the CCP human factor influence among partner nations in Southeast Asia.


Endnotes:

[1] Opper, M. (2020). People’s Wars in China, Malaya, and Vietnam. Washington D.C: University of Michigan Press.

[2] Kitamura, Y. (2019). The Re-recognition of Confucianism in Indonesia: An Example of China’s. In M. S. Dioko, H. M. Hsiao, & A. H. Yang, China’s Footprints in Southeast Asia (pp. 172-193). Singapore: NUS Press.

[3] Goodkind, D. (2019). The Chinese Diaspora: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Trends. Washington D.C: U.S Census Bureau.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Minority Populations and Diasporas Thomas Perkins

Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

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.


Richard Tilley is a strategist within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Previously, Richard served as a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and a National Security Advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is on Twitter @RichardTilley6 and on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an unconventional warfare scholar and strategist. He believes renewed American interest in great power competition and Chinese approaches to unrestricted warfare require the United States national security apparatus to better appreciate the disruptive role advanced technology will play on the future battlefield.

Summary:  China’s dreams of regional and global hegemony require a dominant People’s Liberation Army that faces the dilemma of accruing military power while not raising the ire of the United States. To meet this challenge, the Chinese Communist Party has bet heavily on artificial intelligence as a warfighting game-changer that it can acquire surreptitiously and remain below-the-threshold of armed conflict with the United States.

Text:  President Xi Jinping’s introduction of the “The China Dream” in 2013 offers the latest iteration of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decades-long quest to establish China in its rightful place atop the global hierarchy. To achieve this goal, Xi calls for “unison” between China’s newfound soft power and the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) hard power[1]. But, by the CCP’s own admission, “The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries[2].” Cognizant of this capability deficit, Beijing adheres to the policy of former Chairman Deng Xiaoping, “Hide your strength, bide your time” until the influence of the Chinese military can match that of the Chinese economy.

For the PLA, Deng’s maxim presents a dilemma: how to build towards militarily eclipsing the United States while remaining below the threshold of eliciting armed response. Beijing’s solution is to bet heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to upend the warfighting balance of power.

In simple terms, AI is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI is not a piece of hardware but rather a technology integrated into nearly any system that enables computing more quickly, accurately, and intuitively. AI works by combining massive amounts of data with powerful, iterative algorithms to identify new associations and rules hidden therein. By applying these associations and rules to new scenarios, scientists hope to produce AI systems with reasoning and decision-making capabilities matching or surpassing that of humans.

China’s quest for regional and global military dominance has led to a search for a “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics[3].” An RMA is a game-changing evolution in warfighting that upends the balance of power. In his seminal work on the subject, former Under Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers found eighteen cases of such innovations in history such as massed infantry, artillery, railroad, telegraph, and atomic weapons[4]. In each case, a military power introduces a disruptive technology or tactic that rapidly and enduringly changes warfighting. The PLA believes that AI can be their game-changer in the next conflict.

Evidence of the PLA’s confidence in AI abounds. Official PRC documents from 2017 called for “The use of new generation AI technologies as a strong support to command decision-making, military deductions [strategy], and defense equipment, among other applications[5].” Beijing matched this rhetoric with considerable funding, which the U.S. Department of Defense estimated as $12 billion in 2017 and growing to as much as $70 billion in 2020[6].

AI’s potential impact in a Western Pacific military confrontation is significant. Using AI, PLA intelligence systems could detect, identify, and assess the possible intent of U.S. carrier strike groups more quickly and with greater accuracy than traditional human analysis. Then, PLA strike systems could launch swarming attacks coordinated by AI that overwhelm even the most advanced American aerial and naval defenses. Adding injury to insult, the PLA’s AI systems will learn from this engagement to strike the U.S. Military with even more efficacy in the future.

While pursuing AI the CCP must still address the dilemma of staying below the threshold of armed conflict – thus the CCP masterfully conceals moves designed to give it an AI advantage. In the AI arms race, there are two key components: technology and data. To surpass the United States, China must dominate both, but it must do so surreptitiously.

AI systems require several technical components to operate optimally, including the talent, algorithms, and hardware on which they rely. Though Beijing is pouring untold resources into developing first-rate domestic capacity, it still relies on offshore sources for AI tech. To acquire this foreign know-how surreptitiously, the CCP engages in insidious foreign direct investment, joint ventures, cyber espionage, and talent acquisition[7] as a shortcut while it builds domestic AI production.

Successful AI also requires access to mountains of data. Generally, the more data input the better the AI output. To build these data stockpiles, the CCP routinely exploits its own citizens. National security laws passed in 2014 and 2017 mandate that Chinese individuals and organizations assist the state security apparatus when requested[8]. The laws make it possible for the CCP to easily collect and exploit Chinese personal data that can then be used to strengthen the state’s internal security apparatus – powered by AI. The chilling efficacy seen in controlling populations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong can be transferred to the international battlefield.

Abroad, the CCP leverages robust soft power to gain access to foreign data. Through programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, China offers low-cost modernization to tech-thirsty customers. Once installed, the host’s upgraded security, communication, or economic infrastructure allows Beijing to capture overseas data that reinforces their AI data sets and increases their understanding of the foreign environment[9]. This data enables the PLA to better train AI warfighting systems to operate in anywhere in the world.

If the current trends hold, the United States is at risk of losing the AI arms race and hegemony in the Western Pacific along with it. Despite proclaiming that, “Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States[10],” Washington is only devoting $4.9 billion to unclassified AI research in fiscal year 2020[11], just seven percent of Beijing’s investment.

The keep pace, the United States can better comprehend and appreciate the consequences of allowing the PLA to dominate AI warfighting in the future. The stakes of the AI race are not dissimilar to the race for nuclear weapons during World War 2. Only by approaching AI with the same interest, investment, and intensity of the Manhattan Project can U.S. Military hegemony hope to be maintained.


Endnotes:

[1] Page, J. (2013, March 13). For Xi, a ‘China Dream’ of Military Power. Wall Street Journal Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324128504578348774040546346

[2] The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era. (p. 6)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vickers, M. G. (2010). The structure of military revolutions (Doctoral dissertation, Johns Hopkins University) (pp. 4-5). UMI Dissertation Publishing.

[5] PRC State Council, (2017, July 17). New Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan. (p. 1)

[6] Pawlyk, O. (2018, July 30). China Leaving the US behind on Artificial Intelligence: Air Force General. Military.com. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.military.com/defensetech/2018/07/30/china-leaving-us-behind-artificial-intelligence-air-force-general.html

[7] O’Conner, S. (2019). How Chinese Companies Facilitate Technology Transfer from the United States. U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission. (p. 3)

[8] Kharpal, A. (2019, March 5). Huawei Says It Would Never Hand Data to China’s Government. Experts Say It Wouldn’t Have a Choice. CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/huawei-would-have-to-give-data-to-china-government-if-asked-experts.html

[9] Chandran, N. (2018, July 12). Surveillance Fears Cloud China’s ‘Digital Silk Road.’ CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/11/risks-of-chinas-digital-silk-road-surveillance-coercion.html

[10] Trump, D. (2019, February 14). Executive Order 13859 “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.” Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-maintaining-american-leadership-artificial-intelligence

[11] Cornillie, C. (2019, March 28). Finding Artificial Intelligence Research Money in the Fiscal 2020 Budget. Bloomberg Government. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://about.bgov.com/news/finding-artificial-intelligence-money-fiscal-2020-budget

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Richard Tilley United States

Alternative Future: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

John J. Borek served as a strategic intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army and later as a civilian intelligence analyst in the U.S. Intelligence Community.  He is currently an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University where he teaches courses in governance and public policy. 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: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 12, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of a U.S. Congressional inquiry excerpt into an intelligence failure and the loss of Taiwan to China in 2035.

Summary:  The growing reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide situational awareness and predictive analysis within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) resulted in an opportunity for China to execute a deception plan.  This successful deception plan resulted in the sudden and complete loss of Taiwan’s independence in 2035.

Text:  The U.S. transition away from humans performing intelligence analysis to the use of AI was an inevitable progression as the amount of data collected for analysis reached levels humans could not hope to manage[1] while machine learning and artificial neural networks developed simultaneously to the level they could match, if not outperform, human reasoning[2]. The integration of data scientists with analytic teams, which began in 2020, resulted in the attrition of of both regional and functional analysts and the transformation of the duties of those remaining to that of editor and briefer[3][4].

Initial successes in the transition led to increasing trust and complacency. The “Black Box” program demonstrated its first major success in identifying terrorist networks and forecasting terrorist actions fusing social media, network analysis, and clandestine collection; culminating in the successful preemption of the 2024 Freedom Tower attack. Moving beyond tactical successes, by 2026 Black Box was successfully analyzing climatological data, historical migration trends, and social behavior models to correctly forecast the sub-Saharan African drought and resulting instability, allowing the State Department to build a coalition of concerned nations and respond proactively to the event, mitigating human suffering and unrest.

The cost advantages and successes large and small resulted in the IC transitioning from a community of 17 coordinating analytic centers into a group of user agencies. In 2028, despite the concerns of this Committee, all analysis was centralized at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under Black Box. Testimony at the time indicated that there was no longer any need for competitive or agency specific analysis, the algorithms of Black Box considered all likely possibilities more thoroughly and efficiently than human analysts could. Beginning that Fiscal Year the data scientists of the different agencies of the IC accessed Black Box for the analysis their decision makers needed. Also that year the coordination process for National intelligence Estimates and Intelligence Community Assessments was eliminated; as the intelligence and analysis was uniform across all agencies of government there was no longer any need for contentious, drawn out analytic sessions which only delayed delivery of the analysis to policy makers.

Regarding the current situation in the Pacific, there was never a doubt that China sought unification under its own terms with Taiwan, and the buildup and modernization of Chinese forces over the last several decades caused concern within both the U.S. and Taiwan governments[5]. This committee could find no fault with the priority that China had been given within the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. The roots of this intelligence failure lie in the IC inability to factor the possibility of deception into the algorithms of the Black Box program[6].

AI relies on machine learning, and it was well known that machines could learn biases based on the data that they were given and their algorithms[7][8]. Given the Chinese lead in AI development and applications, and their experience in using AI it to manage people and their perceptions[9][10], the Committee believes that the IC should have anticipated the potential for the virtual grooming of Black Box. As a result of this intelligence postmortem, we now know that four years before the loss of Taiwan the People’s Republic of China began their deception operation in earnest through the piecemeal release of false plans and strategy through multiple open and clandestine sources. As reported in the National Intelligence Estimate published just 6 months before the attack, China’s military modernization and procurement plan “confirmed” to Black Box that China was preparing to invade and reunify with Taiwan using overwhelming conventional military forces in 2043 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth.

What was hidden from Black Box and the IC, was that China was also embarking on a parallel plan of adapting the lessons learned from Russia’s invasions of Georgia and the Ukraine. Using their own AI systems, China rehearsed and perfected a plan to use previously infiltrated special operations forces, airborne and heliborne forces, information warfare, and other asymmetric tactics to overcome Taiwan’s military superiority and geographic advantage. Individual training of these small units went unnoticed and was categorized as unremarkable and routine.

Three months prior to the October 2035 attack we now know that North Korea, at China’s request, began a series of escalating provocations in the Sea of Japan which alerted Black Box to a potential crisis and diverted U.S. military and diplomatic resources. At the same time, biometric tracking and media surveillance of key personalities in Taiwan that were previously identified as being crucial to a defense of the island was stepped up, allowing for their quick elimination by Chinese Special Operations Forces (SOF).

While we can’t determine with certainty when the first Chinese SOF infiltrated Taiwan, we know that by October 20, 2035 their forces were in place and Operation Homecoming received the final go-ahead from the Chinese President. The asymmetric tactics combined with limited precision kinetic strikes and the inability of the U.S. to respond due to their preoccupation 1,300 miles away resulted in a surprisingly quick collapse of Taiwanese resistance. Within five days enough conventional forces had been ferried to the island to secure China’s hold on it and make any attempt to liberate it untenable.

Unlike our 9/11 report which found that human analysts were unable to “connect the dots” of the information they had[11], we find that Black Box connected the dots too well. Deception is successful when it can either increase the “noise,” making it difficult to determine what is happening; or conversely by increasing the confidence in a wrong assessment[12]. Without community coordination or competing analysis provided by seasoned professional analysts, the assessment Black Box presented to policy makers was a perfect example of the latter.


Endnotes:

[1] Barnett, J. (2019, August 21). AI is breathing new life into the intelligence community. Fedscoop. Retrieved from https://www.fedscoop.com/artificial-intelligence-in-the-spying

[2] Silver, D., et al. (2016). Mastering the game of GO with deep neural networks and tree search. Nature, 529, 484-489. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nature16961

[3] Gartin. G. W. (2019). The future of analysis. Studies in Intelligence, 63(2). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-63-no-2/Future-of-Analysis.html

[4] Symon, P. B., & Tarapore, A. (2015, October 1). Defense intelligence in the age of big data. Joint Force Quarterly 79. Retrieved from https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Media/News/Article/621113/defense-intelligence-analysis-in-the-age-of-big-data

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense. (2019). Annual report to Congress: Military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2019. Retrieved from https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf

[6] Knight, W. (2019). Tainted data can teach algorithms the wrong lessons. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/tainted-data-teach-algorithms-wrong-lessons

[7] Boghani, P. (2019). Artificial intelligence can be biased. Here’s what you should know. PBS / Frontline Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/artificial-intelligence-algorithmic-bias-what-you-should-know

[8] Angwin, J., Larson, J., Mattu, S., & Kirchner, L. (2016). Machine bias. ProPublica. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

[9] Fanning, D., & Docherty, N. (2019). In the age of AI. PBS / Frontline. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai

[10] Westerheide, F. (2020). China – the first artificial intelligence superpower. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/01/14/china-artificial-intelligence-superpower/#794c7a52f053

[11] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (2004). The 9/11 Commission report. Retrieved from https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.htm

[12] Betts, R. K. (1980). Surprise despite warning: Why sudden attacks succeed. Political Science Quarterly 95(4), 551-572. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2150604.pdf

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Information and Intelligence John J. Borek Taiwan

Alternative Future: Assessing Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Performance in the Third Chechen War

1LT Andrew Shaughnessy is a U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer and current Field Artillery Captain Career Course student. He commissioned out of Georgetown University in 2016 and previously served in 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division as a Fire Direction Officer, Platoon Leader, and Executive Officer. 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: Assessing Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Performance in the Third Chechen War

Date Originally Written:  June 11, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a company-grade U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer interested in the military implications of emerging technologies. The author has previously written on the effects of additive manufacturing and predictive maintenance on the U.S. Army.

Summary:  The Russian Army’s artillery forces played a decisive role in the Third Chechen War due to the effectiveness of the Reconnaissance Fire Complex. Empowered by Target Acquisition Companies that employed Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Electronic Warfare, the Russian Army showcased a devastatingly fast artillery targeting cycle.

Text:  Beginning in 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian War created a laboratory for the Russian Army to develop new tactics on how to employ their artillery. The successful use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to coordinate artillery strikes in Ukraine[1] caused the Russian Army to make UAS a central element of their targeting process[2]. Electronic Warfare (EW) platforms also proved to be effective target acquisition systems by detecting electromagnetic signatures and then targeting them with artillery[3]. Learning from their experience in the Russo-Ukrainian War, the Russian Army significantly invested in these systems as part of their artillery modernization program. Ultimately, these systems would give the Russian Army a decisive advantage in their 2033 War in Chechnya.

Despite budgetary pressures in the 2020s, the Russian Army continued to invest in its advanced Reconnaissance Fire Complex due to it being a valued Soviet-era concept and its operational validation during the Russo-Ukrainian War[4]. This concept aimed to digitally link advanced target acquisition sensors, UAS, and Military Command systems to artillery platforms to provide incredibly responsive fires. The Russian investment in the Reconnaissance Fire Complex during the 2020s took the lessons learned from Ukraine and made them a permanent part of the Russian force structure.

In a 2028 reorganization, each Russian Brigade received a dedicated Artillery UAS Company and EW Target Acquisition Company. While the Brigade retained other UAS and EW assets, these companies existed for the sole purpose of continuously pulling targeting data to feed the largely autonomous Reconnaissance Fire Complex.

Major technology advances that supported the Reconnaissance Fire Complex included sophisticated UAS platforms, automated fire direction systems, and improved EW capabilities. The lethality of the Artillery UAS Companies improved substantially with the advent of autonomous UAS[5], drone swarming[6], and 3D-printed UAS[7]. Advances in military Artificial Intelligence programs allowed most UAS sensor to shooter loops to occur free of human intervention[8]. Electronic Warfare detection systems became more precise, mobile, and networked with other systems. These advances allowed Artillery UAS Companies to field hundreds of autonomous UAS platforms simultaneously while the EW Target Acquisition Company hunted for high-value targets based on electromagnetic signatures. The effective integration of autonomous UAS and EW companies played a decisive role in the 2033 War in Chechnya.

The 2033 War in Chechnya was the product of Chechen fighters returning from Syria, the assassination of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, and the collapse of oil prices. Compounding instability and the inability of the Russian political establishment to respond allowed rogue paramilitaries to seize control of the republic and declare the new Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Following several years of autonomy, a resurgent Russian state invaded Chechnya in April-2033.

While separatist Chechen forces had organized, they proved to be no match for the extraordinary performance of the Russian Army’s artillery and automated fire support network. In less than a month, the Russian army had destroyed all of Chechnya’s conventional forces and thoroughly depleted their ranks of irregular fighters. While the Russian Army performed adequately overall, it was their Reconnaissance Fire Complex that drove their successive victories.

During the Third Chechen War, the Chechen sky was continuously saturated with an enormous number of autonomous UAS platforms. Interwoven with each other and the broader Reconnaissance Fire Complex, these UAS platforms autonomously detected probable targets such as mechanized vehicles. Autonomy and swarming allowed the Russians to deploy hundreds of these UAS simultaneously. UAS coming from 3D-printed manufacturing meant that low cost made them expendable. Even when the Chechens successfully shot down a UAS, due to forward 3D-print capabilities, Russian forces would replace it within minutes.

Without human intervention, UAS pushed probable targets to Russian Fire Direction Centers (FDC) that further assessed targeting criteria using machine learning to avoid misidentification or fratricide. Within seconds, a UAS-detected target bounced from the sensor, to the FDC, to the artillery platform set to engage the target. The result was that as soon as any Chechen vehicles or heavy equipment began to move, Russian forces detected and engaged them with artillery, destroying them within minutes. While most of this artillery fire came in the form of massed thermobaric and cluster munition strikes, UAS would laser designate for guided Krasnopol artillery shells when Russian forces required precision[9]. Chechen forces could never escape the panopticon of Russian UAS, and given the Russian preference for long-range artillery, could always be engaged 10]. This perfect synchronization of sensors and firing assets allowed them to destroy all of Chechnya’s mechanized and motorized forces within days.

EW Target Acquisition Companies also played a major role. At the advent of the conflict, Russian forces remotely triggered kill switches within Chechnya’s Russian-made military radios, rendering them ineffective[11]. This forced Chechen forces to rely on less secure commercial off the shelf radios and cellphones as their primary communication systems. This commercial reliance proved to be an enormous vulnerability, as Russian forces were able to quickly pinpoint specific cellphone locations by using both social engineering and heat maps, allowing them to locate and target Chechen leadership[12].

EW Target Acquisition Companies forces would measure electromagnetic signatures for large swaths of an area, create heat maps of where signatures were emanating from, and then target what they believed to be enemy command nodes[13]. As soon as a large group of cellphones or radios began to concentrate outside of a city, Russian EW companies designated that as a possible target. While this method was imprecise, often generating considerable civilian causalities, Russian forces considered that a secondary concern. EW Target Acquisition Companies also targeted smartphone applications with malware to pull refined location data from probable combatants[14]. EW-based targeting proved highly effective against Chechnya’s cadre of irregular fighters, decimating them. By May-2033, with Chechnya’s forces defeated, the province capitulated and was back under Russian control.

The effectiveness of the Reconnaissance Fire Complex allowed Russian artillery to be an overwhelming force in the Third Chechen War. Without it, Russian maneuver forces would have been mired in a prolonged conflict. A devastatingly fast artillery targeting cycle, empowered by autonomous UAS, Artificial Intelligence, and EW systems resulted in a rapid and decisive Russian victory[15].


Endnotes:

[1] Freedberg, S. J., JR. (2015, November 23). Russian Drone Threat: Army Seeks Ukraine Lessons. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://breakingdefense.com/2015/10/russian-drone-threat-army-seeks-ukraine-lessons

[2] Grau and Bartles (2016). The Russian Way of War. Foreign Military Studies Office. (Pages 239, 373-377) https://www.armyupress.army.mil/special-topics/world-hot-spots/russia

[3] Asymmetric Warfare Group (2016). Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook. Asymmetric Warfare Group. https://www.awg.army.mil/AWG-Contributions/AWG-Recruiting/Article-View/Article/1809255/the-us-army-has-a-handbook-on-russian-hybrid-warfare

[4] Grau and Bartles (2018, May). The Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Comes of Age. The University of Oxford Changing Character Of War Centre. http://www.ccw.ox.ac.uk/blog/2018/5/30/the-russian-reconnaissance-fire-complex-comes-of-age

[5] Tucker, P. (2019, November 08). Russia Says It Used Autonomous Armed Strike Drones in a Wargame. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/11/russia-were-testing-autonomous-armed-strike-drones-wargames/161187

[6] Atherton, K. (2019, December 18). Russia will test swarms for anti-robot combat in 2020. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2019/12/13/russia-will-test-swarms-for-anti-robot-combat-in-2020

[7] Bartles, C. (2015). 3D Printers will “Bake” Future Russian UAVs. Foreign Military Studies Office OE Watch, Vol 5. (Issue 7), 48-49. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195454

[8] Konaev, M., & Bendett, S. (2019, July 30). Russian AI-Enabled Combat: Coming to a City Near You? Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2019/07/russian-ai-enabled-combat-coming-to-a-city-near-you

[9] Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (2019, May 20). The Use of Krasnopol Artillery Shells in Ukraine. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://medium.com/dfrlab/the-use-of-krasnopol-artillery-shells-in-ukraine-d185ef4743b7

[10] Collins, L., & Morgan, H. (2019, January 24). King of Battle: Russia Breaks Out the Big Guns. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.ausa.org/articles/king-battle-russia-breaks-out-big-guns

[11] Trevithivk, Joseph. (2019, October 30th). Ukrainian Officer Details Russian Electronic Warfare Tactics Including Radio “Virus.” The War Zone. Retrieved June 07, 2020, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/30741/ukrainian-officer-details-russian-electronic-warfare-tactics-including-radio-virus

[12] Collins, Liam. (2018, July 26th) Russia gives lessons in Electronic Warfare. AUSA. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from, https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

[13] Trevithivk, Joseph. (2020, May 11th) This is what Ground Forces look like to an Electronic Warfare System and why it’s a big deal. The War Zone. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

[14] Volz, Dustin. (2016, December 21). Russian hackers tracked Ukrainian artillery units using Android implant: report. Reuters. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-ukraine/russian-hackers-tracked-ukrainian-artillery-units-using-android-implant-report-idUSKBN14B0CU

[15] The author would like to extend his appreciation to Andrew Gibbs and Primo Ramirez for reviewing and giving feedback to the first draft of this paper.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Andrew Shaughnessy Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles Assessment Papers Chechnya Russia Unmanned Systems

Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

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.


Matthew F. Smith is an active duty officer in the United States Army. He can be found on Twitter @Matt_F_Smith. The 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 Army.  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 Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of resourcing the U.S. Executive Branch Departments and Agencies primarily responsible for executing foreign policy strategies below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:   U.S. policymakers are deciding how to compete with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and counteract their objectives. Given fiscal realities, the opportunity exists to rebalance current militaristic policy tendencies and force institutional reforms. The U.S. Department of State, due to its largely below-threshold mandate, is a good target for modernization so it can better lead foreign policy efforts through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.

Text:  Over the last decade, American foreign policy has focused increasingly on competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Regardless of the various administrations’ policies, the central strategic aim has been how the United States can best compete with China while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. The PRC’s central strategic aim is to undermine current U.S. alliances and other historically U.S. lead global institutions[1]. Given the $2.5 trillion in federal spending in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession, a fiscally conscience U.S. government is likely to exist moving forward[2]. As a result, future foreign policy decisions will focus on the smart application of strategic tools that are gauged not merely by measures of performance but also by the financial effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome. For the U.S. to maintain the fundamental ability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict, the State Department, whose mission is to “lead America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance”; requires equipping through bipartisan commitment of resources to compete in the current environment[3]. Understanding that near-term competition will likely remain below the threshold of large scale combat operations, and U.S. strategy aims to promote a range of acceptable options short of armed conflict, the resourcing of such efforts is a fundamental issue.

Just as the U.S. military is resourced to innovate and adapt in response to emerging military threats, undertaking the institutional reform necessary for the State Department to have the capability to lead an integrated approach to promote U.S. strategic interests is of vital importance. An environment that is competitive but not combative requires the State Department to be capable of frustrating Chinese interests in areas that cooperation is not possible while seizing fleeting moments of opportunity for mutually beneficial agreements. Without a properly resourced and organized State Department, opportunities to frustrate China will be lost altogether or be handled in such a manner that its potential benefit will be greatly diminished. The Indo-Pacific region is vital to U.S. objectives because of its continuing economic opportunities, and yet, to fully reap the benefits of those opportunities, the United States, China, and the other countries that are impacted by regional competition must work together to communally benefit whenever possible. Competing with China requires the U.S. to advance its position by smartly leveraging all instruments of national power that enable the current strategic approach.

Policymakers can ask themselves how the U.S. can be expected to compete below the threshold of armed conflict without adequately resourcing the primary agency responsible for executing the policies in that environment. The Department of Defense requested $705.4 billion for FY21; and while defense spending on military capability is an important component of a deterrence strategy, it only inadvertently promotes the U.S. capability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict[4]. The State Department requested $40.8 billion for FY21, which is an $11.7 billion, or 22-percent decrease from the 2020 enacted level[5]. In the face of reports calling for the State Department to modernize, the U.S., as is evident in the proposed budget, is prioritizing military capability for deterrence at the expense of investing in deterrence through greater diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts[6]. Ignoring the reality of State Department capability will lead to U.S. policy missteps and encourage China to expand their focus beyond military development and increase investing in other strategic sectors[7]. These sectors, which include the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are effective in increasing the political clout the PRC can wield in forming new alliances and dependencies while degrading the U.S. position in the region.

The current United States strategic approach to the PRC reaffirms many of the incorporative strategic approaches described in the 2017 National Security Strategy, 2018 National Defense Strategy, 2019 Department of State Strategy, and the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report[8]. Specifically, the current U.S. strategic documents accept China as a major power in its own right and describe many unconstrained approaches that will foster cooperation and competition wherever possible while not allowing rivalry to degrade the entire relationship. While these documents allude to a networked approach for competing with China in some areas while cooperating in others, the fiscal allocation of resources and the demonstration that when under stress, the liberal virtues championed in these strategies are easily sacrificed, make clear that execution of the supporting policies is an issue. To compete with China, policymakers can consider sufficiently budgeting the resources required for the State Department to increase its capability to promote U.S. strategic interests across the many non-military domains[9].

The State Department, as the primary agency that coordinates diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts, is critical in a competitive environment that falls below the threshold of armed conflict. The United States cannot effectively or efficiently compete with China while using inflexible and un-adaptive organizational structures that are ill-equipped to deliver relevant solutions[10]. Just as the U.S. military has been equipped to conduct modernization efforts, the Department of State requires the same focus of resourcing for their modernization efforts to successfully outcompete China. Without adequate funding, the State Department will not reform into a more agile institution that can deliver the strategic objectives in a manner reflective of the current period of great power competition[11]. The undervaluing of non-military strategic tools and agencies such as the State Department, over time, will make the military option the most preferred deterrence and engagement method for shaping foreign affairs. The United States’ costly global military presence as a result of the war on terror and extended campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have only reinforced this militaristic reality and are an impetus for assessing foreign policy approaches to foster more competitive practices below the threshold of armed conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Araya, D. (2019, October 20). China’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielaraya/2019/01/14/chinas-grand-strategy/#27ce4ef61f18

[2] Swagel, P. (2020, April 24). CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56335

[3] United States Department of State. (2019, May 13). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/about/about-the-u-s-department-of-state

[4] Department of Defense 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-9.pdf

[5] Department of State and Other International Programs 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-18.pdf

[6] United States Government Accountability Office. (2019, March). Integrated Action Plan Could Enhance Efforts to Reduce Persistent Overseas Foreign Service Vacancies. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697281.pdf

[7] Ju, S. F. (2018, March 6). China’s diplomacy budget doubles under Xi Jinping. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.ft.com/content/2c750f94-2123-11e8-a895-1ba1f72c2c11

[8] United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China. (2020, May 20). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/U.S.-Strategic-Approach-to-The-Peoples-Republic-of-China-Report-5.20.20.pdf

[9] Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State Diplomatic Engagement. (2020, March). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FY21-CBJ-Appendix-1-FINAL-for-GPA-Mar-26-2020.pdf

[10] Daalder, I., & Lindsay, J. (2001, March 1). How to Revitalize a Dysfunctional State Department. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gs_20170927_dos__usaid_listening_report_2017.pdf

[11] Office of Inspector General. (2019, November). Review of the Department of State’s Organizational Reform Effort. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.stateoig.gov/system/files/aud-mero-20-09.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Budgets and Resources China (People's Republic of China) Diplomacy Matthew F. Smith Option Papers United States

Assessing the Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

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 the Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. Following Charles de Gaulle’s quote that nations do not have friends, but interests, he believes in the dominance of political realism over ethical considerations when it comes to vital national interests. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how economic considerations dominate U.S. foreign policy.

Summary:  “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable.” Niccolò Machiavelli described in this way the discrepancy between ethics, politics, and policy. The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, illustrates the differences between its words that proclaim it as the lighthouse of liberty and democracy, and how it acts when torn between ethics, ambition, and necessity.

Text:  The Iranian attack on a Saudi Arabian oil production facility in September 2019 was, so far, the peak of continuously growing hostilities between these two regional powers. Besides official protests from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the U.S. condemned Iranian aggression. Although U.S. President Donald Trump finally refused to take retaliatory measures against Iran, this attack led to a remarkable deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. Why does the U.S., the self-proclaimed lighthouse of liberty and democracy, feels so affiliated with a Kingdom that is repeatedly condemned for human rights violations?

A nation’s purpose is to ensure a society’s existence. In this regard, nations develop strategies, consisting of ends, ways, and means, facilitating a desired end state. In the National Security Strategy (NSS), the U.S. defines the desired end state “America First,” facilitated by the four goals[1]. Although the NSS clearly outlines the U.S.’ unique national capacities, it emphasizes the importance of partnerships and alliances[2]. One of the U.S.’s critical partners is the KSA. The fact that the KSA’s Wahabi monarchy is a country restricting religious freedom, denying gender equality, and promoting the Sharia founding religious schools in that spirit around worldwide makes the partnership appear at least strange[3]. At first glance, the characteristic is not congruent with the idea of “the American Way of Life.” Might it be “Bismarck-ian strategic thinking[4],” the idea of maintaining an ally instead of destroying or even gaining an enemy[5], ties the U.S. to KSA?

The most problematic sphere of the U.S. – Saudi relationship is linked to the goal (1) “Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life.” The majority of the terrorists responsible for 9/11 came from KSA. Rumors about financial support to terror organizations never silenced. Osama Bin-Laden even lived in the Wahabi Kingdom[6]. All of that is contradictory to the idea of the NSS. What are the U.S.’ benefits from this partnership?

U.S. National Security Strategy Goals

(1) Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life:

The benefit of the U.S. – Saudi Arabian relationship is at least questionable. The possible infliction of the Wahabi Kingdom in terror attacks even had a severe impact on this relationship[7]. In consequence, Saudi Arabia promotes its efforts on counter-terrorism operations since 9/11[8].

Additionally, promoting the Sharia, political assassination[9], and beheadings as death-penalty hardly correlates with the American Way of Life. However, economic prosperity, facilitated by ties to the Middle East, is a precondition for protecting the American way of life.

(2) Promote American Prosperity:

The U.S. and KSA have close economic ties, based on oil, reciprocal investments, and weapon sales. Most of the Saudi Arabian economic key leaders studied in the U.S. and are, therefore, eager to maintain close connections[10]. Saudi Arabia possesses the second-largest oil reserves (the U.S. is the 10th largest[11]) worldwide after Venezuela. When it comes to dealing arms, the Wahabi leadership negotiated a 110 billion dollars treaty with follow-on investments within the next ten years, worth 350 billion dollars[12].

Saudi Arabia is mentioned once in the NSS. Although just in a regional context, it is mentioned – like Egypt – as an area of interest to modernize its economy. U.S. military presence is very often an expression of national interest. Within KSA, there are five U.S. Air Force bases[13], hosting military capability packages to survey the essential sea lines of communication from the Arab Gulf along the Yemeni coast, the Bab El Mandeb through the Suez channel, the lifeline for U.S. oil imports from the Arab world[14]. The U.S. military’s force posture is in line with the national interests, according to the NSS.

(3) Preserve Peace through Strength:

It is an inherent part of the U.S.’ strategic understanding to ensure its national security by a deterrent military force such as the one based in the KSA. Strategic partnerships and the U.S. Navy keep conflicts out of the continental U.S. Consequently, the U.S. military is focused on out-of-area and expeditionary warfare. During the Second World War, the U.S. has proven its unique capabilities to conduct amphibious operations, accomplishing the landings in Italy, the Pacific, and on the Normandy’s shores. Nevertheless, the price-tag in soldiers’ lives was extraordinarily high[15]. It is unlikely that a nation would be willing to suffer such losses again in the 21st century, a period of reluctance to bear heavy losses[16].

It appears logical to establish and maintain strategic partnerships – regardless of ideological distances/differences – to avoid the necessity to conduct amphibious operations again. In consequence, worldwide partnerships are a reasonable approach for permanent pre-positioning of forces and, in a follow-on phase, to be used as assembly as well as staging areas for large scale combat operations. It is an interesting detail that in the KSA the U.S.’ military areas of interest overlap with its economic ones. Partnerships and deterrent armed forces require, like the American way of life, economic prosperity to finance national interests.

(4) Advance American Influence:

Partnerships and alliances are crucial for the U.S.[17] They are the tools for advancing American influence. Besides the fact that these partnerships and alliances enable a strong force posture towards upcoming or recent adversaries, they immensely support end (2) American prosperity. The inclusion of eastern European states in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (reducing Russian influence, primarily economically[18]) is a remarkable example of forcefully advancing the U.S.’ influence, followed by pushing for a more significant military commitment of European NATO members (overtaking the [financial] burden of deterring Russia to free forces[19]), pre-deploying forces to South Korea, and maintaining the partnership with Japan (containing China’s expansionism[20]). In the vein, the KSA is an economical source of strength for the U.S. and a potential staging area to maintain an appropriate force flow for military operations in the Middle East.

Economic prosperity, goal (2), is the critical requirement within the U.S. NSS. Consequently, it dictates necessities for the political level, regardless of the ideological differences and ethical considerations. Niccolò Machiavelli described an eternal rule: “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable[21].”


Endnotes:

[1] National Security Strategy of the United States of America: NSS (2017), II-VI.

[2] Ibid., 1.

[3] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations: Relations Between the Two Countries, Long Bound by Common Interests in Oil and Security, Have Strained over What Some Analysts See as a More Assertive Saudi Foreign Policy”, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-saudi-arabia-relations (accessed October 1, 2019).

[4] Geoffrey Parker, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West/ Edited by Geoffrey Parker, Rev. and updated ed., Cambridge illustrated Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 236.

[5] Peter Paret, Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age/ Edited by Peter Paret with Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), 293-295.

[6] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[7] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (2018), 18-19.

[8] Saudi Arabia and Counterterrorism (2019), passim.

[9] Ian Black, “Jamal Khashoggi Obituary: Saudi Arabian Journalist Who Fell Foul of His Country’s Ruling Dynasty After Moving Abroad so He Could Criticise It More Freely,” The Guardian, October 19, 2018, Saudi Arabian journalist who fell foul of his country’s ruling dynasty after moving abroad so he could criticize it more freely.

[10] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[11] Howard J. Shatz, US International Economic Strategy in a Turbulent World (2016), 35.

[12] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, 21-22.

[13] MilitaryBases.com, “U.S. Military Bases in Saudi Arabia,”, https://militarybases.com/overseas/saudi-arabia/ (accessed October 1, 2019).

[14] Jean-Paul Rodrigue, “International Oil Transportation: Petroleum Remains a Strategic Resource in the Global Economy Underlining the Challenges of Producing and Transporting Oil,”, https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=6757 (accessed October 1, 2019).

[15] Klaus Roch, Viribus Unitis – Analyse Von Operationen: Ausgewählte Seminararbeiten Des 20. Generalstabslehrganges, Militärwissenschaftliches Journal der Landesverteidigingsakademie 2015, Band 16 (Wien: Republik Österreich, Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung und Sport, 2015), 108-110.

[16] Martin van Creveld, Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West and What Can Be Done About It, First edition (Mevasseret Zion, Israel: DLVC Enterprises, 2016), 224-229.

[17] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 26.

[18] Ibid., 38.

[19] Posture Statement US EUCOM (2019), 3-5.

[20] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 47.

[21] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 2nd ed. (Chicago, Ill., London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), XVIII.

 

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Diplomacy Matthias Wasinger Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) United States

Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher, analyst, writer and editor 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 Braver Angels, and has also been published in Merion West, 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.


Title:  Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

Date Originally Written:  June 9, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes that the United States launched air and missile strikes on Syria in August 2013, in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. It is written from the perspective of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) for an audience of U.S. national security policymakers.

Summary:  One year after U.S. air and missile strikes in Syria, a stalemate exists  between the Assad regime and rebel groups. While Assad is far from defeated, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) held its own, thanks to U.S. assistance, and positions itself as a viable political alternative to both Assad and the Islamic State (IS). This stance is tenuous, however, and is threatened by both continued bombardment by regime forces and the international community’s focus on defeating IS.

Text:  On August 21, 2013, the Syrian military fired rockets containing sarin gas at civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, as well as conventionally armed rockets at Western Ghouta. Estimates of the resulting death toll range from 281 (estimated by French intelligence[1]) to 1,729 (alleged by the FSA[2]). A preliminary U.S. Intelligence Community estimate, released nine days after the attacks, “determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children[3].”

After receiving the IC’s estimate, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered air and missile strikes against Assad regime command and control centers, and bases from which helicopters are deployed[4]. While the combined strikes did not curtail the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons, they impeded communication between units armed with chemical weapons and their commanders, and reduced the use of barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Assad concluded that the benefits of further use of chemical weapons did not outweigh the costs of possible further U.S. or French strikes.

Instead of using chemical weapons, Assad continued his use of conventional weapons against his opponents, including civilians. For example, in November and December 2013, as government forces attempted to break a stalemate with rebels in Aleppo, government air strikes killed up to 425 civilians, of whom 204 were killed in a four-day period[6]. While the FSA has fought capably on the ground against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), its fighters and the civilians they protect remain vulnerable to air strikes.

In January 2014, President Obama expanded Timber Sycamore, the supply of weapons and training to Syrian rebels by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)[7]. In addition to providing greater numbers of rifles, machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and anti-tank missiles, the CIA provided rebels with a limited number of man-portable air defense systems. While the rebels have repeatedly asked for more of these antiaircraft systems, the U.S. has declined to provide them, due to fears of them ending up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) or other extremists[8]. Thus, while the FSA has shot down several regime warplanes, fighter aircraft have largely continued to operate unimpeded over rebel-held territory.

The U.S. and France have launched strikes against SAA command and control locations on three additional occasions in the last year. While these strikes have not significantly curbed the regime’s use of conventional weapons, they have slowed the pace at which regime forces can plan and carry out their attacks. This slowing pace has enabled the FSA to better prepare for upcoming attacks, and thus reduce the number of deaths both among their ranks and among nearby civilians.

While fighting between the regime and the FSA has continued, IS has emerged over the past year as the primary extremist organization opposing Assad. In addition to its capture of large swaths of Iraq, including the city of Mosul in June 2014[9], it controls portions of northern, central and eastern Syria[10]. While IS’ former partner Jabhat al-Nusra remains focused on fighting the Assad regime, IS’ goal is the perpetuation of an Islamist proto-state, where it can govern in accordance with its extremely strict, puritanical interpretation of Islam.

The strength of IS has benefited Assad; he has cited IS’s extreme brutality as evidence that he must remain in power and crush his opponents, making no distinction between IS, the FSA, or any other force opposing the regime. The international community’s focus on defeating IS in Iraq gives Assad more opportunities to target his non-IS opponents. While it is in the U.S. interest to play a leading role in dislodging IS from its strongholds in Iraq, it risks losing influence over the Syrian opposition if it does not continue its actions in Syria. The FSA may look to other actors, such as Saudi Arabia, to help it fight Assad if it feels it is being ignored by the U.S.[11]

U.S. support, including air and missile strikes, has helped the FSA endure in the face of regime attacks. However, Syria’s non-extremist opposition faces considerable challenges. While IS’ extreme governance model of what a post-Assad Syria might look like is imposing, and is attracting thousands of foreign fighters[12], the FSA’s potential democratic and pluralist model has not inspired to the same extent. The vulnerability of the FSA and the areas it holds to regime air strikes is a significant weakness. If the U.S. insists that Assad must not be allowed to remain in power[13], he is likely to focus his attacks on the FSA, potentially overwhelming it, while leaving the U.S.-led coalition to fight IS.


Endnotes:

[1] “Syria/Syrian chemical programme – National executive summary of declassified intelligence.” Ministre de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères, September 3, 2013. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Syrian_Chemical_Programme.pdf

[2] “Bodies still being found after alleged Syria chemical attack: opposition.” Daily Star, August 22, 2013 http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Aug-22/228268-bodies-still-being-found-after-alleged-syria-chemical-attack-opposition.ashx

[3] “Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.” White House, August 30, 2013 https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

[4] Shanker, Thom, C. J. Chivers and Michael R. Gordon. “Obama Weighs ‘Limited’ Strikes Against Syrian Forces.” New York Times, August 27, 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/world/middleeast/obama-syria-strike.html

[5] Walt, Vivienne. “France’s Case for Military Action in Syria.” TIME, August 31, 2013. https://world.time.com/2013/08/31/frances-case-for-military-action-in-syria

[6] “Syria: Dozens of Government Attacks in Aleppo.” Human Rights Watch, December 21, 2013. https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/21/syria-dozens-government-attacks-aleppo

[7] Mazzetti, Mark, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria.” New York Times, August 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html

[8] Seldin, Jeff and Jamie Dettmer. “Advanced Weapons May Reach Syrian Rebels Despite US Concerns.” Voice of America, October 26, 2015. https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/advanced-weapons-may-reach-syrian-rebels-despite-us-concerns

[9] Sly, Liz and Ahmed Ramadan. “Insurgents seize Iraqi city of Mosul as security forces flee.” Washington Post, June 10, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/insurgents-seize-iraqi-city-of-mosul-as-troops-flee/2014/06/10/21061e87-8fcd-4ed3-bc94-0e309af0a674_story.html

[10] Gilsinan, Kathy. “The Many Ways to Map the Islamic ‘State.’” Atlantic, August 27, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/08/the-many-ways-to-map-the-islamic-state/379196

[11] Chivers, C.J. and Eric Schmitt. “Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms.” New York Times, February 25, 2013.
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/world/middleeast/in-shift-saudis-are-said-to-arm-rebels-in-syria.html

[12] Karadsheh, Jomana, Jim Sciutto and Laura Smith-Spark. “How foreign fighters are swelling ISIS ranks in startling numbers.” CNN, September 14, 2014. https://www.cnn.com/2014/09/12/world/meast/isis-numbers/index.html

[13] Wroughton, Lesley and Missy Ryan. “U.S. insists Assad must go, but expects he will stay.” Reuters, June 1, 2014. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria/u-s-insists-assad-must-go-but-expects-he-will-stay-idINKBN0EC1FE20140601

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Michael D. Purzycki Syria United States

Options for African Nations Regarding Economic Collaboration with the U.S. and 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.


Ekene Lionel is the Executive Director for Military Africa.  He can be found on Twitter @LionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States and the People’s Republic of China are competing below the threshold of war for influence in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 27, 2020.

Author and / or Point of View:  The author believes that the possibility of a U.S.-Chinese economic collaboration in Africa is the only way forward, and that this collaboration will be key to competition in Africa below the threshold of war. The article is written from the point of view of Africa’s relationship between both major powers.

Background:  China is an increasingly important player in the politics, economic development, and security of Africa. China has prioritized strong diplomatic relations and political ties with African states. Beijing’s ideological aspiration, anchored on solidarity amongst the Third World countries, is appealing to African states.

Significance:  With China’s focus on Africa’s rich resources is to fuel its own domestic economic growth, this has placed it in direct competition with the United States.

Option #1:  The U.S. increases bilateral trade and investment in Africa to compete with China below the threshold of war.

Although China and the United States employ different strategies and tactics in Africa, they share very similar interests, and that their competition has been largely confined to the economic domain. Even though there is a fundamental distrust between both nations, particularly as the U.S. is cautious of China’s military entry into Africa, there is still much room for their cooperation in promoting peace and economic development on the continent.

With that said, the U.S. currently lacks a comprehensive approach to multilateral issues such as regional trade, governance, and infrastructural development that will serve Africa better than what China offers. Since trade is vital to Africa’s economic future and to improving lives and livelihoods, the U.S. can recognize that much of China’s appeal is its willingness to respond to Africa’s developmental priorities, and to project Africa as a promising hub for foreign investment. For several decades, U.S. investment is still heavily concentrated in the natural resource sector. Instead, for a long-term, sustainable economic growth, and development in Africa, America can identify and promote other sectors where U.S. businesses might have competitive advantages.

The United States can also work with African countries to take full advantage of both African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and worldwide trading opportunities and send exports to emerging markets such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil (BRIC). The AGOA, which was signed between 2002 and 2008, lowers tariff barriers for entry into the United States of African-produced textiles and other commodities[1].

Besides trade and foreign direct investment, America can leverage its relationship with Africa to encourage improvements in human rights practices and the pursuance of Western-style liberal democracy. In contrast, China has a policy of no political strings attached to its aid. Beijing maintains close relations with African governments whether they are democracies, autocracies, military regimes, or Islamists.

Risk:  Increased U.S. trade and investment in Africa angers China, who then takes steps to roll back U.S. efforts in Africa or elsewhere.

Gain:  This option will appeal to African nations on the basis of a common U.S-African interest in trade negotiations. At present, Africa has just 2 percent of all world trade, this is still low considering a large number of resources present in Africa. The U.S. will have to convince companies to invest in the region, and also opening its markets further to African exports.

Option #2:  The U.S. and China collaborate economically in Africa.

Militarily, the United States has a robust presence in Africa, and is particularly active in anti-piracy and counter-terror efforts, operating up to 29 different bases in the continent[2]. China cannot hope to match or contest U.S. military dominance in Africa. Africa is no stranger to conflict as the continent has been subjected to constant warfare for the past several decades. Africa will fiercely resist any attempt of international armed struggle for clout within the continent.

The United States and China use essentially the same political, economic, military, and cultural tools for implementing their policies in Africa. For China, the country has placed itself as the infrastructural vanguard of the new frontier, since Africa is now considered the fastest urbanizing continent globally. According to a 2017 report by the International Monetary Fund, in 2017, Africa boasted seven of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world[3].

Thus, China has position itself to capitalize and exploit this growth. Since 2005, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) China Global Investment Tracker determined that the total value of Chinese investments and construction in Africa is nearing $2 trillion[4]. The Chinese investment is compared with the just $39 billion combined trade value for the United States according to a 2017 United States Agency for International Development report. The U.S. is it Africa’s third-largest trading partner behind China and the European Union.

To consolidate its robust economic influence, China recently launched a $1 billion Belt and Road infrastructure fund for Africa, and a $60 billion African aid package[5]. Even though China is presenting itself humbly in its interaction with Africa, it has been accused of saddling developing countries with substantial volumes of hidden debt through its Belt and Road Initiative. This humility is rapidly changing as China’s political and economic power increases. As China looks to diversify its trade and investment relationships amid the protracted trade war with the U.S, Beijing’s opaqueness in issuing loans means debt burdens for recipient countries, which can cause potential problems for the African economy.

For now, Chinese firms have been actively building ports, roads, and railways to enhance integration and trade between African nations, mainly under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). AfCFTA intends to bring together all 55 African Union member states into the world’s largest free trade area, covering over 1.2 billion people. Besides, China now has more diplomatic offices in Africa than the U.S., and in some countries, Chinese influence counts for more[6].

In contrast, being the leader of the Western world since the end of World War II, the United States is sometimes perceived in Africa as insensitive and arrogant. U.S.-Africa trade has dipped in recent years. Nearly all of the assistance provided to Africa by the United States is in the form of grants and aids to Africa has been running at about $8 billion annually.

If the U.S continues to pursue military dominance or competition with China even below the threshold of war, it risks being a step or even two behind China in Africa for a long time. U.S. interests in Africa remain shaped, to its own detriment, by a perceived competition with China. The U.S. may accomplish more by focusing on areas of current or potential collaboration and to pay less attention to the debilitating debate about U.S-China competition.

Washington can collaborate with China, smoothing the way to trade will help more entrepreneurial African states, especially those with the thriving private business sector, to grow where it would be welcomed by the new generation of dynamic African entrepreneurs.

While there are areas in Africa where China and the United States might compete as major powers, especially below the threshold of war, there are many more areas where they can cooperate. For example, both Countries have a successful agricultural sector, components of which could be combined and adapted to improve production in Africa.

At this point, America likely cannot sit idly while countries such as China become more engaged with the aspirations of Africa’s next generation of leaders. Frankly, China is not a strategic threat to the United States in Africa. However, Beijing could pose serious political and commercial challenges for influence. Nonetheless, by engaging China more on Africa-centric socio-economic, diplomatic, and infrastructural development can the U.S. meet this challenge effectively.

Risk:  Chinese and U.S. investments in Africa further entangle the two nations and cause both to hesitate to take more important actions to preserve national security.

Gain:  A coordinated and dedicated diplomatic, commercial, and security strategy can increase U.S. investment and challenge Chinese influence in Africa.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), https://agoa.info/about-agoa.html

[2] Nick Turse, Pentagon’s map of US bases in Africa, The Intercept, February 27, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/27/africa-us-military-bases-africom

[3] IMF Annual Report 2017, Promoting inclusive growth, 2017, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/ar/2017/eng/pdfs/IMF-AR17-English.pdf

[4] AEI, China Global Investment Tracker, 2005-2019, https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/China-Global-Investment-Tracker-2019-Fall-FINAL.xlsx

[5] Silk Road Briefing, US$ 1 Billion Belt & Road Africa Fund Launched, July 04, 2019, https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2019/07/04/us-1-billion-belt-road-africa-fund-launched

[6] Ben Doherty , The Guardian, China leads world in number of diplomatic posts, leaving US in its wake, Tuesday 26 Nov 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/27/china-leads-world-in-number-of-diplomatic-posts-leaving-us-in-its-wake

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Ekene Lionel Option Papers United States

Assessing the Paradox of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Expansion

Stuart E. Gallagher is a graduate of National Defense University and a recognized expert in Russia / Ukraine affairs. He has served as a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State during the outset of the Ukraine crisis and has delivered briefings on Russian New Generation Warfare throughout the interagency and the Department of Defense. 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 Paradox of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Expansion

Date Originally Written:  May 25, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 22, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author maintains a keen interest in Russia  /Ukraine affairs. The author contends that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion and encroachment on Russian borders exacerbates Kremlin paranoia of the West creating a paradox for Western policymakers.

Summary:  The 1991 Soviet Union collapse irreversibly changed the security environment. The world moved from a bi-polar world to that of a uni-polar world overnight leaving the United States as the sole superpower. NATO found itself in uncharted waters and pursued new purpose including the expansion of the alliance. NATO’s expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union and its encroachment on Russian borders creates a paradox for Western policymakers.

Text:  NATO was founded in 1949 soon after the conclusion of World War II. The overall intent of the organization was to maintain peace and stability in Europe. As the Cold War escalated, the Soviet Union responded to the West by founding a security organization of their own – the Warsaw Pact. This organization included all of the Soviet republics and Eastern Bloc countries that fell within the Soviet Union’s orbit and provided a level of parity with the West. By all accounts, NATO was successful in executing its charge during the Cold War. Peace and stability were maintained in Europe. However, in 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in a tectonic change to the security environment. The geopolitical landscape shifted from a bi-polar world to that of a uni-polar overnight. This immediately left the U.S. as the sole superpower. As the Cold War warriors of the era celebrated this monumental achievement, the Soviet Union quickly descended into chaos.

The government in shambles, the economy devastated, and the military essentially emasculated, it would take decades before Russia would effectively return to the world stage as a great power. The U.S. in essence had become the proverbial dog that caught the car inheriting global primacy and all the responsibility associated therewith. It was a phenomenon that can very aptly be summed up in the famous words of George Bernard Shaw, “There are two tragedies in life – one is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it[1].”

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Warsaw Pact was disbanded while NATO endured and grew. It was this moment in time where politicians and journalists alike would call into question the requirement for NATO. Was NATO truly still needed to maintain peace and stability in Europe with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact now defunct? What would be its mission moving forward with no real threat to speak of? The answer was NATO 2.0.

At the height of the Cold War, 16 countries were members of the NATO alliance. During the post-Cold War period, NATO expansion pressed forth despite recommendations from experts such as George Kennan, a well-known American diplomat and historian. In 1997, Kennan predicted that pushing ahead with the expansion “would inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western, and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,…have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy,” and “restore the atmosphere of Cold War to East-West relations[2].”

Between 1991 and 2020, NATO would add 14 more countries to its roster, increasing the grand total to 30. NATO 2.0 included countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (former Soviet Union satellite republics); and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (former Soviet republics). For these countries, this inclusion into NATO was a logical step as “new member states found joining an existing, successful alliance preferable to forming an entirely new alliance[3].” Moreover, many of these countries were intent on protecting themselves from revisiting the oppressive relationship that they had with Russia in years past.

At the outset of NATO expansion, something was left out of the calculus, or perhaps more appropriately ignored altogether – Russia’s response to NATO expansion and encroachment on its borders. Looking to history, Russia has consistently survived existential threats through defense in depth. That is to say, Russia maintained a geographical buffer zone between itself and that of its adversaries, which provided a level of stand-off and protection critical to its survival.

In the words of Henry Kissenger, “Here is a country that has never had a friendly neighbor, that has always had shifting borders, that has never had a clearly defined security arrangement – a country, quite frankly that has been either too weak or too strong for the peace of Europe, a country that at one and the same time has been a central element of the balance of power and a threat to it[4].”

This buffer zone strategy has served Russia well throughout the years from the likes of Napoleon, the Nazis, and most recently from the West during the Cold War. Quite simply, in the Russian mind, geography is equated to security.

So is Russia paranoid? “Champions of NATO expansion aver that it maintains peace in Europe and promotes democracy in East-Central Europe. They add that Russia has nothing to fear[5].” However, the view from Moscow is quite the contrary. To Russia, NATO encroachment is not a perception – it is a reality. Considering Russia’s intimate experience with existential threat, their response may be well justified. The inclination to protect itself from NATO expansion was noted from the beginning when “Russia registered its objections [to NATO expansion] early, frequently, and emphatically[6].” This was not long after the fall of the Soviet Union and at a time when Russia was in no position to dictate terms or push back against the West with any sort of positive outcome.

Unlike the end of the Cold War, in 2014 when the Russian-backed President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from office, Russia was in a different position, and could dictate terms. At this point, Russia had bolstered its instruments of national power (Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic) that led to the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine with limited resistance from the West. The following year, Russia recast NATO as an adversary. George Kennan’s prediction from 1997 was now a reality.

At present, the Western policymaker is now left with a paradox – the NATO 2.0 paradox. If NATO expansion continues, will Europe truly be safer and more stable as the advocates of NATO expansion contend? From a Western lens, “the United States [and the West] would like Russia to see that a great state can live in security and prosperity in a world which big buffer areas do not have the strategic value they once did[7].” However, this is as idealistic as it is unfair as the West continues to encroach on Russia’s borders. And, if Ukraine is any measure of Russia’s response and resolve to protect the integrity of its borders and regional hegemony, it may be prudent to rethink future NATO expansion altogether, for not doing so could very well lead to increased destabilization in the region, more bloodshed and degraded East-West relations with the West gaining little in return.


Endnotes:

[1] Kissenger, Henry. “Russian and American Interests after the Cold War.” Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 1.

[2] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Springer Link. (May 2020): 374, https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00235-7

[3] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

[4] Kissenger, Henry. Russian and American Interests after the Cold War. Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 3.

[5] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

[6] Kissenger, Henry. “Russian and American Interests after the Cold War.” Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 7.

[7] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

Assessment Papers North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Stuart E. Gallagher

Alternative Future: An Assessment of U.S. Re-Engagement with Hungary 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.


Rocco P. Santurri III is an independent Financial Representative and Security Consultant.  He also serves as a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He recently completed an assignment with the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary.  While there, he conducted polling throughout the country to capture populace sentiment on a host of national and international issues. He also conducted strategic communications initiatives through the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. He can be found on LinkedIn.com at www.linkedin.com/in/RoccoPSanturri3Divergent 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. Re-Engagement with Hungary in 2035

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current U.S. Army Reservist. He believes in a pragmatic U.S. approach to relations with Hungary that takes into consideration the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the Hungarian human domain and their corresponding political viewpoints.

Summary:  In 2020, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused to relinquish his COVID-19 emergency powers[1]. Following this, relations with the West soured and Hungary was expelled from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since Orban’s death, key figures in the Hungarian government have signaled their interest in resuming relations with NATO. This situation represents an opportunity for the U.S. to re-establish relations with Hungary.

Text:  As the U.S. prepares for strategic level talks with the Government of Hungary, Washington’s strategy of re-engagement is under intense scrutiny. Most political pundits assumed the U.S. would adopt a fresh approach in the chaotic post-Orban era, as the memories of well-documented policy failures are still fresh. However, a review of the U.S. platform reveals a strong similarity to previous policies, perhaps owing to institutional inertia within the Department of State. While the U.S. approach can rightfully retain some familiar core elements from the past, it can also consider the Hungarian human domain in its policy calculation. A critical error of U.S. policy toward Hungary in the 2010s was a failure to understand the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the populace.  The projection of American attributes on Hungary set the conditions for misguided U.S. strategy and messaging that ignored populace sentiment.  This projection was compounded on a regional scale in Romania and Bulgaria, which also resulted in disappointing returns on the American diplomatic and financial investment. Examining what led to the current situation is critical, as it reveals how these failures led to a break in relations for over 15 years. Perhaps more importantly, an objective examination of the past also leads to a path forward.

Engagement between Hungary and the U.S. began in earnest following the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and culminated in Hungary joining NATO in 1997[2].  NATO was eager to capitalize on their Cold War victory by bringing former Warsaw Pact countries into the fold. It is difficult to fault the aggressiveness of NATO in seeking to exploit a cataclysmic paradigm shift in East-West relations.  But without a solid understanding of the psyche of these new-to-NATO countries, it was inevitable that relations would be problematic in the long-run. Hungary’s history spawned belief systems within the human domain that run counter to core NATO principles.

The “Golden Age” for Hungary began in the mid-1800s and represented the height of Hungarian power and prestige. Though imperfect, this era saw the upward mobility of a large segment of the population[3]. This Golden Age came to a crashing halt with defeat in World War I. Hungary lost 70% of her territory and 13 million citizens as part of the Treaty of Trianon[4]. Graffiti demonizing this treaty exists throughout the country today and serves as a painful reminder of what most Hungarians see as a crime committed against their country.  The monarchy, a symbol of national pride for Hungarians, abruptly ended. World War II brought more pain and suffering to the Hungarian psyche.  Again, a poor choice in allies by Hungary, and another bitter Hungarian defeat. The post-war years of 1956-1988 consisted of a strong political figure (albeit a Kremlin puppet) dominating the political scene[5].  Free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and freedom of the press were brutally co-opted or suppressed by the state security apparatus.

Fast forward to the rapid fire events of the fall of the USSR.  Suddenly the order of the USSR-inspired political environment was replaced by the disorder and chaos of a forced democratic transformation. Societal adjustment preceded at a glacial pace.  The uncertainty of the new order made many Hungarians long for days past.  As the years passed, the oppression of life under the USSR grew dimmer in memory, while the recollection of the order and stability of those days grew more enticing. Against this backdrop Hungarian engagement with the West began in which neither side completely understood the other.  Western consideration of Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes was lost amid grandiose goals of democracy, free markets and open borders, concepts it assumed were wholeheartedly accepted by the Hungarian populace.  The West perceived Hungary’s desire to join NATO as a clear repudiation of all things Soviet. This fostered a zero sum game mentality, a competition that the West felt was won by being the diametrical opposite of the USSR. Overlooked were the more practical reasons for Hungarians to seek inclusion, as well as populace sentiment.

As the years progressed, the cracks in the inherently shaky foundation of the relationship grew larger.  Enter PM Orban, chisel in hand and a finger on the pulse of the Hungarian population, to deepen the fissures.  While NATO and Brussels reprimanded PM Orban over several issues, Hungarians perceived life as better under him as the economy grew, quality of life increased, and pride was restored, while negative views on immigration remained prevalent throughout society.   With a super majority in Parliament, PM Orban was perfectly positioned to take advantage of COVID-19 to give himself dictatorial powers. Few in Hungary protested.  Strong authoritarian leadership was comfortable and familiar to Hungarians throughout their history.  While the death of PM Orban opens the door to reintegration with the West, the sentiment of the populace remains.

With this knowledge, the U.S. efforts can employ a realistic platform of engagement. Hungary will not be a model example of thriving liberalism and Jeffersonian democracy — the edges will still be rough.  Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes remain rooted in their history. Hungarian taste for capitalism greatly exceeds their tolerance of open borders.  “Hungary for Hungarians” remains a common refrain throughout the country. A strong leader who bends the rules by centralizing power and limiting some freedoms, but maintains order and promotes economic growth, is tolerable so long as the pendulum does not swing too far, as it did towards the end with PM Orban.

As Russia lurks nearby, a now much younger nation[6] has limited memory of the USSR. The U.S. has the opportunity to decide if an ally in the region with illiberal tendencies is better than no ally at all, for as Hungary goes, so might its like-minded neighbors Romania and Bulgaria. While this presents the U.S. with a difficult decision, the past again offers a path forward. Throughout its history the U.S. has overlooked questionable policies by an ally because they supported U.S. interests, especially during the Cold War[7]. Realpolitik amid great power competition demands it. So does the populace of a proud country of 10 million.


Endnotes:

[1] Tharoor, I. (2020, March 30). Coronavirus Kills Its First Democracy. Retrieved May 4, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/31/coronavirus-kills-its-first-democracy

[2] Associated Press (1997, November 17). Hungarians Vote to Join NATO. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-nov-17-mn-54753-story.html

[3] Gero, A. (2016, May 1). The Lost Golden Age of Hungary. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from http://geroandras.hu/en/blog/2016/05/01/the-lost-golden-age-of-hungary

[4] KafkaDesk (2018, December 5). Why Is The Treaty of Trainon So Controversial? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://kafkadesk.org/2018/12/05/hungary-why-is-the-trianon-treaty-so-controversial

[5] Balazs, S. (2013, February 21). Knock in the Night. Refugee Press, Hillsborough, North Carolina.

[6] Velkoff, V.A. (1992, October). Aging trends: Hungary. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 7, 429–437. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01848702

[7] Boot, M. (2018, October 19). Yes, The US Sometimes Supports Warlords and Dictators So When Should We Stop? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/10/19/yes-the-u-s-sometimes-supports-warlords-and-dictators-so-when-should-we-stop

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Diplomacy Hungary Rocco P. Santurri III United States

Assessment of a Tutoring Model as a Replacement for Conventional Teaching and Learning

Thomas Williams is a Part-Time member of the faculty at Quinnipiac University.  He is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a member of the Military Writer’s Guild, and tweets at @twilliams01301.  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 a Tutoring Model as a Replacement for Conventional Teaching and Learning

Date Originally Written:  May 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 15, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired military reservist who teaches (adjunct status) in higher education. The author believes that education is lagging in its role as a bulwark of national security. The article is written from the point of view of an educational outsider who has been privileged to teach part time at the undergraduate level since 2008, but is not that of an administrator who must work out the logistics.

Summary:  Today’s college graduates are not adequately prepared for the world they will inherit, especially with its complex national security challenges. The current system teaches students to regurgitate the answers they are instructed to value, thus creating “excellent sheep.” A tutoring regimen combining student-educator interaction, team discussions, and individual efforts, will better prepare current students for the challenges of tomorrow.

Text:  Too many undergraduates seek credentials rather than pursue knowledge. The degree is their goal. Learning is ancillary. This observation is not an indictment of the current generation of students but of the system. These students behave as rational actors in a system designed to be efficient and risk averse.

The education system values compliant behavior, submitting carefully crafted papers on time, scoring well on tests, and participating in class, usually earns an A grade. Yet the sad truth is that students can write papers and score well on tests without actually learning the material. Former Yale professor turned full-time author William Deresiewicz derides this circumstance as the “game of school” and these A students as “excellent sheep[1].”

Furthermore, the game of school leaves many graduates incapable of using habits of mind that constitute critical thinking. Students do not learn and practice critical thinking as a discrete skill. Students learn the strategies of critical thinking by tangibly associating its many abstract concepts with domain specific problems. In other words, real-world practice. For instance, a student cannot consider multiple points of view if they do not possess basic knowledge of an event’s participants. Absent domain knowledge critical thinking becomes a meaningless phrase.

The strategies of critical thinking are more than just using evidence in support of an argument, or minding the dozens of common heuristics. The critical thinker is capable of forming novel conclusions from the information at hand. If students merely parrot back the same truths they have been told to esteem, they are, no matter how clever, only answering questions[2]. They are not practicing critical thinking. It is a troubling prospect to consider that educators are training presumed most educated citizens to be excellent sheep.

Students who obtain credentials yet avoid an education will eventually harm our the United States’ ability to compete in the global market and compromise its ability to protect and advance its interests around the world[3]. What is worse, because educated citizens are more likely to hold their governments accountable, compromising said citizens ability to think on their own jeopardizes the foundations of the republic[4].

Some Colleges and Universities offer innovative degrees and programs, but they are the exception. There are also pedagogies that try to adopt student-centered approaches, everything from problem-based learning and case-method learning to flipped classrooms and inquiry. When combined with evidenced-based learning practices, they are all strong steps in the right direction. However, none are sufficient to desist the majority of students from seeking the efficient path toward a credential.

An alternative to the conventional 50-minute Monday, Wednesday, Friday regimen is a tutoring model such as what one might find in graduate school, or in the United Kingdom at Oxford. Making allowances for student developmental levels, a class of 20 students can be divided into four teams of five. These teams meet with their Professor for 50 minutes only, one day of the week. They met as a team without a Professor on another day of their own choosing to work on various projects. On the remaining 50-minute period of the week, they wrote a short paper, usually a reflection on learning. Despite the lack of constant supervision, it is common for students to accept the imperative that they come to each session well-prepared to engage in an in-depth conversation[5].

Evolving information technology systems also enable this alternative approach to work online, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many educators and students to connect virtually.

Using this alternative, students shift from performance goals and an emphasis on products to mastery and the desire to understand in multiple contexts, take risks, and question. Initially this change in behavior is less about attitude and more the physical reality of having no back row in which to hide, but in the end the shift was genuine.

The Professor’s role is varied, but includes facilitating the discussions, recommending content readings (covering multiple perspectives), and monitoring student learning. A significant task is to watch for instances when students rely on misconceptions or use factually incorrect information in their arguments.

In many ways, teaching with a tutoring model resembles the military’s philosophy of mission command. There is an expectation of disciplined initiative from the student. The professor emphasizes purpose in any prompt, with permission given to deviate from the task to fit the purpose, and develops in students a tolerance for risk, which turns to acceptance as they develop competence. Trust replaces rules and policies.

There are always hiccups in a course that challenges convention, and some students struggle more than others. A few students even demand a return to a military-style command and control climate, as they worry about not giving the Professor what he or she wants. Paradoxically, giving students what they demand eliminates any chance of developing their critical thinking strategies. Sometimes the conversations that result from student failure offer more lessons than the topic at hand.

Only through risk taking on the part of Professors will the current system improve. When students test boundaries, this is not a reason to abandon the trust-based system. Instead, this testing is an opportunity to recognize and channel maverick behavior into something productive. Professors responding in a traditional way, with punitive action, ends the trust-based relationship. Students will quickly surmise that a Professors actions matter more than words and they will revert to doing only as they are told. Reducing fear is vital to fostering initiative.

In this alternative, while some students struggle early on, the end-of-course evaluations will likely be good. The students will embrace having ownership of the work and the freedom to explore. Student comments regularly contrast their experience in the tutoring model with their conventional classes and they express a desire to see more of the former. These comments are a clear signal that the typical undergraduate student truly does love learning and under the right circumstances can also love school[6].


Endnotes:

[1] Deresiewicz, W. (2008). The disadvantages of an elite education. American Scholar, 77(3), 20.

[2] Willingham, D. T. (2008). Critical thinking: Why is it so hard to teach? Arts Education Policy Review, 109(4), 21-32. doi:10.3200/AEPR.109.4.21-32

[3] Skaggs, D. (2014). Higher education as a matter of national security: Can a democracy plan ahead? Liberal Education, 100(1), 32.

[4] Botero, J., Ponce, A., & Shleifer, A. (2013). Education, complaints, and accountability. The Journal of Law & Economics, 56(4), 959-996. doi:10.1086/674133

[5] Horn, J. (2013). Signature pedagogy/powerful pedagogy: The oxford tutorial system in the humanities. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 12(4), 350-366. doi:10.1177/1474022213483487

[6] Blum, S. D. (2016). “I love learning; I hate school”: An anthropology of college (1st ed.). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. doi:10.7591/j.ctt20d8b00

Assessment Papers Education Thomas Williams

Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

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.


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 African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China’s current posture in Africa, if left unchecked, will turn the continent into a battleground for Great Power Competition below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:  China, despite its claims of peaceful rise, has steadily exercised its military, economic and diplomatic might. With strong leadership that is not afraid of compromise, African countries can enforce their independence as they ensure peace and prosperity on the continent.

Text:  When Deng Xiaoping liberalized the Chinese economy in 1978[1], his goals were to lift 860 million Chinese from poverty and power the Chinese economy to overtake its neighbors[2]. From an agrarian, state-controlled economy, China is now an industrial, largely private sector-led economic superpower[3]. However, as China’s economic power has grown, concerns about China’s global agenda have emerged[4]. China, along with Russia, is determined to reorder the world in its image[5], making conflict with the West more likely[6]. Yet, despite professing a policy of “Peaceful Rise[7]”, Chinese actions in the South China Sea[8] and its isolation campaign against Taiwan[9] show that Beijing isn’t afraid to flex its diplomatic, economic and military muscles.

Africa has attracted the interest of Great Powers through the ages. Often this interest has been to the detriment of Africans. From the destruction of Carthage[10] to slave trade[11][12] and colonization[13], Africa has faced privations from empires looking to exploit its resources. Even after independence, warring powers continued to interfere in the internal conflicts of African countries[14] throughout the Cold War. With a large and growing African population, sophisticated middle class, and increased connectivity to the rest of the world, Africa will continue to be both a source of materials and destination for goods and services.

As China expands its international footprint, it has deliberately increased its African ties. It supplies weapons to African countries without regard to the human rights practices of their leaders[15]. China is now Africa’s biggest trading partner[16] while providing financing for infrastructural projects through its Belt and Road Initiative. These projects have often been sponsored without regard to their sustainability or economic viability. The inability of countries to repay such loans have forced them to surrender critical infrastructure, with potential military implications[17][18].

As Great Power competition returns and China’s stance becomes more confrontational, and African leaders fail to act, the continent will again become just another front for global rivalries without regard for the well being of Africans. Global powers have fought their wars on African soil since the 18th Century. Regardless of the winners of these conflicts, Africans lose more than they gain. Africans, more than ever, can shape their destinies and work for the 21st Century to become Africa’s Century.

Africa nations can work to secure peace on the continent. By leveraging multilateral organizations operating on the continent, African leaders can make the painful compromises required to settle their inter-state disputes and move to cooperative models that engender peace based on common interests. African leaders can expand intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area and exploit regional organizations to tackle transnational crimes including human trafficking, illegal extraction of resources, religious extremism, and corruption under joint platforms.

Leaders can resolve the various internal stresses that keep their countries in political crises. Many African countries have been unable to foster a national identity, leaving their people clinging to tribal and religious identities without regard for the state’s interest. By decentralizing power, increasing citizen participation, respecting the rule of law, and reforming governance models for efficient service delivery, populations can begin to develop their sense of nationhood. Food security, public sanitation, healthcare, power, justice, and education programs can be implemented smartly and with consideration to the direct needs of their citizens, to prevent the resentment that bad actors can exploit.

African countries can take deliberate steps to diversify their technical, industrial, and financial sources. Governments can implement open standards, secure sensitive infrastructure from interference, and break up monopolies. As COVID-19 exposes the weakness of China’s role as the world’s manufacturing hub, countries can invest in manufacturing abilities and build capabilities to scale up production of critical items to safeguard their supply chains.

Most importantly, African leaders can declare that China will not be allowed to use its assets on the continent for military purposes in its competition with the West. Individual countries can also demonstrate the will to prevent the militarization of Chinese financed projects in their jurisdictions. Regional blocs can come together and draw up contingencies to retake control, by force if necessary, any dual-use facilities in member states. The status of Chinese bases on the continent can be spelled out, and appropriate contingencies planned should open conflict break out.

Ultimately, Africans can make deliberate decisions about the future of the continent. They have more agency than at any other time in history to shape the direction of the continent. While many may balk at the redirections needed to make themselves independent of Chinese machinations as well as the costs involved, such actions are crucial to ensure that African countries have the freedom to pursue policies most favorable to them.


Endnotes:

[1] Le, Y., Rabinovitch, S. (2008, December 8). TIMELINE: China milestones since 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-reforms-chronology-sb-idUKTRE4B711V20081208

[2] Kopf, D., Lahiri, T. (2018, December 18). The charts that show how Deng Xiaoping unleashed China’s pent-up capitalist energy in 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://qz.com/1498654/the-astonishing-impact-of-chinas-1978-reforms-in-charts

[3] Brandt, L., Rawski, G. (2008, April 14). China’s Great Economic Transformation.

[4] Arace, A. (2018, August 8). China Doesn’t Want to Play by the World’s Rules. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/08/china-doesnt-want-to-play-by-the-worlds-rules

[5] Stent, A. (2020, February). Russia and China: Axis of Revisionist? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_russia_china_stent.pdf

[6] Kaplan, R. (2019, January 7). A New Cold War Has Begun. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/07/a-new-cold-war-has-begun

[7] Bijian, Z. Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/20050616bijianlunch.pdf

[8] Axe, D. (2020, March 23). How China is Militarizing the South China Sea with a Ton of Missiles. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/how-china-militarizing-south-china-sea-ton-missiles-136297

[9] Myers, S. and Horton, C. (2018, May 25). China Tries to Erase Taiwan, One Ally (and Website) at a Time. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/world/asia/china-taiwan-identity-xi-jinping.html

[10] Kierana, B. (2004, August 1). The First Genocide: Carthage, 146 BC. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://gsp.yale.edu/sites/default/files/first_genocide.pdf

[11] M’Bokolo, E. (1998, April). The impact of the slave trade on Africa. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://mondediplo.com/1998/04/02africa

[12] Nunn, N. (2017, February 27). Understanding the long-run effects of Africa’s slave trades. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxt3gk7/revision/1

[13] Settles, J. (1996). The Impact of Colonialism on African Economic Development. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from
https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1182&context=utk_chanhonoproj

[14] Schmidt, E. (2016, July 26). Conflict in Africa: The Historical Roots of Current Problems. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/summer-2016/conflict-in-africa-the-historical-roots-of-current-problems

[15] Hull, A. Markov, D. (2012, February 20). Chinese Arms Sales to Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.ida.org/-/media/feature/publications/2/20/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa.ashx

[16] Smith, E. (2019, October 9). The US-China Trade Rivalry is Underway in Africa, and Washington is playing catch-up. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/09/the-us-china-trade-rivalry-is-underway-in-africa.html

[17] Abi-Habib, Maria. (2018, June 25). How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[18] Paris, C. (2019, February 21). China Tightens Grip on East African Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-tightens-grip-on-east-african-port-11550746800

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Damimola Olawuyi Great Powers

Options for the United States to Compete with China 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.


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


National Security Situation:  As China rises and the U.S. wants to avoid direct military confrontation, the U.S. requires options to compete with China below the threshold of armed conflict

Date Originally Written:  May 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 8, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London with a broadly liberal foreign policy view. The article is written from the point of view of the United States towards the People’s Republic of China.

Background:  The United States has identified China as a key competitor and revanchist power seeking to undermine the U.S.-led international order.

Significance:  China is expanding its influence globally through competition below the threshold of armed conflict, to the detriment of U.S. interests. A conventional Sino-American war to counter or roll back these gains would be catastrophic. The below options enable the U.S. to compete against China short of war.

Option #1:  The United States deploys specialist surveillance and training capabilities, along with Coast Guard and Navy vessels, to enhance and expand existing multilateral efforts against maritime lawlessness – particularly illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – in the Indo-Pacific theatre.

Risk:  This option would put US personnel in close contact with Chinese maritime militia, coast guard, and fishing fleets on a regular basis – increasing the possibility of a geopolitical incident. It could also contribute to overstretch in the U.S. 7th Fleet. Further, while maritime lawlessness is recognised as a major problem by all countries in theatre, U.S. enforcement action could be seen as high-handed. One particular concern would be how the U.S. treats Japan – it is a key ally but is also heavy enmeshed in the IUU industry. Too heavy-handed a treatment would alienate Japan; too lenient would make the U.S. seem hypocritical. This option might also embroil the U.S. in regional disputes over maritime border claims.

Gain:  This option would strengthen the U.S. claim of being a status quo power upholding the law and rules-based international order against an aggressive and lawless China. Given that regional trust in the U.S. has sunk dramatically over the course of the Trump administration, this option could constitute a helpful corrective. Substantively, this option could also assist in pushing back on Chinese influence in the South China Sea; the current Freedom of Navigation Operations are inherently transient and can be avoided without change to broader Chinese strategy — persistent presence cannot. Lastly, it would permit U.S. forces to work alongside regional partners, gaining valuable operational expertise and local knowledge.

Option #2:  The United States increases funding for the journalists, civil rights activists, and anti-corruption campaigners in nations involved in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Risk:  This option may be seen as the U.S. meddling unduly in the affairs of foreign countries, and certainly would be portrayed as such by the Chinese state media. It is also difficult to assess the impact of such investments, which, given the kleptocratic or authoritarian nature of many BRI states, may be negligible. Moreover, this option could lead to activists and journalists being labelled as foreign agents. Further, while the material loss to U.S. interests resulting from states cracking down on individuals and organisations who receive U.S. funding is relatively small, the reputational risk is significant.

Gain:  This option allows the U.S. to contest and bog down Chinese BRI expansion in Africa and central Asia, as activists and journalists expose Chinese elite corruption and oppose predatory debt-trap diplomacy. It would involve no risk to U.S. personnel, and limited expenditure compared to more kinetic options. Moreover, this option could, with appropriate messaging, allow the U.S. to portray itself as siding with local populations against an overbearing China and its puppets – an advantage for international media coverage.

Option #3:  China is a highly aggressive and malign actor in cyberspace. The U.S. encourages and facilitates greater global regulation surrounding cyberwarfare and espionage. One specific option would be an international body, likely under United Nations authority, to identify the origin of cyberattacks.

Risk:  The U.S. is highly capable in the cyber domain, and there is a risk that by encouraging more regulation, it would be creating a purity test it cannot itself meet. This would, in turn, create substantial reputational problems for the U.S. Moreover, attributing cyberattacks is difficult, and it is possible that the U.S. might be inadvertently accused of a crime it did not commit. Lastly, while international naming and shaming can be effective, the extent to which it would matter to China is unclear; the option might therefore involve expending substantial U.S. diplomatic capital for limited returns.

Gain:  This option could lead to stronger norms against aggression in cyberspace. This may not discourage China from continuing its current aggressive policy, but it could increase the reputational costs and diplomatic consequences associated with it. Moreover, an impartial and open-source organisation for attributing cyberattacks could be a helpful resource against non-state actors and rogue states – especially given that U.S. efforts at attribution are often hampered by the need to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods. Lastly, this option, as a recourse to multilateralism, would signal U.S. commitment to the rules-based international order, which may be important in restoring global trust in U.S. leadership.

Other Comments:  Sino-U.S. competition is and will continue to shape this century. New ways for the U.S. to compete below the threshold of armed conflict may be critical assets in assuring U.S. victory.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Larter, D. B. (2019, May 2). Here’s how the Japan-based 7th Fleet has changed since 17 sailors died in accidents 2 years ago. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/navy-league/2019/05/05/heres-how-the-japan-based-7th-fleet-has-changed-since-17-sailors-died-in-accidents-2-years-ago

[2] Mackie, J. (2019, October 18). Japan Has an Illegal Seafood Problem. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.hakaimagazine.com/news/japan-has-an-illegal-seafood-problem

[3] Rudd, K. (2020, May 6). The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-05-06/coming-post-covid-anarchy

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

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.