Options for the Demilitarization of Security in Nigeria

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He now works for a leading airline in Nigeria. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The increased use of the Nigerian military to carry out constabulary duties[1] has created an undue strain on the armed forces[2] and left it unable to focus on its core functions. This strain has coincided with a continued diminishing of Nigeria’s internal security[3].

Date Originally Written:  January 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 8, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the roles of the various armed services of the Nigerian state have become unnecessarily blurred by the willingness of political leaders to deploy force (too often deadly) for roles best served by other levers of governance.

Background:  Over two decades after Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the military has continued to play an outsized role in governance at the highest levels[4]. The election and appointment of former military and security personnel into political positions has stifled alternative voices and catalyzed despotic tendencies, even in politicians without regimented backgrounds. The continued deployment of the military in scenarios better served by other agencies has left it unable to deal with the insurgencies ravaging the North-West, North East, and Middle-Belt geopolitical zones of Nigeria[5]. 

Significance:  There is a pressing need to reinvigorate other branches of law enforcement and security in Nigeria[6][7]. Too often, political leaders authorize the deployment of military force as quick fixes to problems better solved by the long term application of legal, political, and social interventions, or other avenues of conflict resolution. These military deployments have lacked oversight and often resulted in human rights violations against Nigerians living in the crisis areas[5].

Option #1:  The Nigerian Government bans the use of the military in Internal Security Operations. 

Risk:  This option risks forcing the government to rely on inappropriate or insufficient resources domiciled in law enforcement or other internal security organizations to deal with violent events. As was seen during the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre[8], unforeseen situations may require capabilities that only the military can provide. Considering Nigeria’s current internal security crises, there will be the need for a transition period for current security operations to be transferred from the military to the civilian side of government.  Considering the length of some of these operations, the transfer may be messy and cause serious operational deficiencies that malign actors may exploit to wreak havoc. The resultant transfer of heavy weapons to civilian law enforcement and security agencies, with their continued lack of accountability and history of corruption and human rights violations, will only exacerbate the lack of trust from the larger society

Gain:  The removal of the option of military force to resolve internal security challenges will force the political class to invest in the manning, training and equipping of those agencies who are primarily tasked with securing the nation from within. This option will also incentivize proactive confrontation of violent and fringe groups before they manifest as major challenges to the peace of the nation. This option will also encourage the deployment of other forces of persuasion in dealing with issues. By freeing the nation’s armed forces of their local constabulary obligations, they are freed to focus on external threats from the near abroad.

Option #2:  The Nigerian Government imposes reporting requirements on the deployment of the military for internal security operations. Also, the military must answer to predefined civil authorities and agencies for the duration of their engagement. 

Risk:  In this option, politicians unwilling to meet additional requirements before deploying troops will simply refuse to call on military assistance when it is appropriate. This option may also exacerbate the inter-service rivalries between the various armed services that have often turned deadly[9][10][11][12][13]. Also, the current lack of accountability that pervades governance in Nigeria means that these requirements will likely simply be ignored without repercussion.

Gain:  Nigerian Government Officials will have to publicly justify their deployment of military force and may face potential repercussions for their choices in the national security sphere. This option also provides a framework for nongovernment security analysts and commentators to examine the decision-making processes of government in the civilian sphere.

Option #3:  The Nigerian Government bans serving and retired personnel of the armed services from holding executive political positions over armed agencies.

Risk:  This option will be very radical and risk alienating very powerful members of the political class. Political leaders without military or paramilitary experience lose a unique insight into the thinking and abilities of the military and how they can contribute in times of extreme national emergency. This blanket ban will rob former military officers with the requisite qualities from serving in these positions.

Gain:  The military has, directly and indirectly, continued to exert a very powerful influence over the direction of Nigeria’s security. This option goes beyond the U.S. National Security Act of 1947[14], which requires a waiver for former military officers separated by less than seven years from service in certain positions. This option ensures that those who are appointed to oversee armed agencies can face political accountability for their actions. This option will make politicians less willing to deploy military might without justification.

Option #4:  The Nigerian Government creates legislation setting out clear limits for when and how military force can deploy in internal security operations.

Risk:  The ambiguity that will result from possibly poorly worded legislation will only intensify the friction between the military and various security agencies. A lack of institutional robustness means that career military personnel, law enforcement agents, and civil servants are unable to prevent political leaders who wish to simply ignore the provisions of such legislation. This option may also lead to a situation where unanswered jurisdictional questions will create cracks to be exploited by malevolent actors who wish to keep their activities below a level that will allow the authorization of more forceful response from the government.

Gain:  This legislation will force the various nonmilitary agencies to scrutinize their capabilities and work towards shoring up any deficiencies. This option will provide another incentive for political leaders to expend the political capital required to pursue non-violent solutions to situations. Option #4 allows the military to begin to transfer the burden of continuous internal deployments and begin to rest and refit to tackle challenges more appropriate to its abilities.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] SBM Intelligence (2020, January 15). Chart of the Week: Military exercises in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.sbmintel.com/2020/01/chart-of-the-week-military-exercises-in-nigeria/ 

[2] Ogundipe, S. (2016, August 4). Insecurity: Soldiers deployed in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/208055-insecurity-soldiers-deployed-30-nigerias-36-states-report.html 

[3] Nwabuezez, B. (2018, February 3). Why ‘Nigeria’ is now qualified as a failed state. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/02/nigeria-now-qualified-failed-state/ 

[4] Osogbue, E. (2018, December 1). Military Hangover and The Nigerian Democracy. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/12/military-hangover-and-the-nigerian-democracy/ 

[5] Shehu, S. (2019, August 13). Making Military Reform and Civilian Oversight a Reality in Nigeria. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.cfr.org/blog/making-military-reform-and-civilian-oversight-reality-nigeria 

[6] Solomon, S. (2020, December 2). After Outcry Over Abuse, Nigeria’s Police Reforms Under Scrutiny. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.voanews.com/africa/after-outcry-over-abuse-nigerias-police-reform-efforts-under-scrutiny 

[7] Page, M. (2019, April 2). Nigeria Struggles With Security Sector Reform. Retrieved January 7 from https://www.chathamhouse.org/2019/04/nigeria-struggles-security-sector-reform 

[8] Chambers, G. (2018, August 15). 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: What happened and why is Jeremy Corbyn under fire? Retrieved January 7 from https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/1972-munich-olympics-massacre-what-happened-and-why-is-jeremy-corbyn-under-fire-a3911491.html 

[9] Polgreen, L. (2005, October 6). 3 Killed as Nigerian Police and Soldiers Clash. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/06/world/africa/3-killed-as-nigerian-police-and-soldiers-clash.html 

[10] Ugbodaga, K. (2011, June 23). Soldiers, Policemen Clash Again. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2011/06/23/soldiers-policemen-clash-again/ 

[11] (2013, August 22). Police, army clash in Nigeria. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/police-army-clash-in-nigeria 

[12] Ogundipe, S. (2018, March 14). Updated: Tension as Police, soldiers clash with Road Safety officers in Abuja. Retrieved February 6 from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/261751-updated-tension-as-police-soldiers-clash-with-road-safety-officers-in-abuja.html 

[13] (2018, June 15). Three die as soldiers clash with Police in Aba. Retrieved February 6 from https://thenationonlineng.net/three-die-as-soldiers-clash-with-police-in-aba/ 

[14] Levine, D. (2016, December 1). Why James Mattis Needs a Waiver to Be Trump’s Defense Secretary. Retrieved January 7 from https://heavy.com/news/2016/12/why-does-james-mad-dog-mattis-need-waiver-donald-trump-defense-secretary-pentagon-george-marshall-gillibrand/ 

Damimola Olawuyi Defense and Military Reform Government Homeland Defense Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Nigeria

Episode 0014: The Knocking the Rust Off Edition (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

Sailors use needle guns to remove rust from the anchor chain of the USS Porter at Naval Station Rota, Spain, Feb. 23, 2019. — https://www.defense.gov/observe/photo-gallery/igphoto/2002093852/

It has been quite awhile since we recorded and published an episode of The Smell of Victory Podcast, and, truth be told, it shows in this episode.  Of course we suggest that you tune in anyway, and listen to Bob Hein and Phil Walter (whose microphone was too close to his mouth) knock of their rusty podcasting skills as they discuss challenges that President Biden will face during the next four years.  Topics cussed and discussed on this episode include:

– COVID19 and its use as leverage in foreign policy

– Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific Region

– Russia and its threat or lack thereof

– Iran!  Iran!  Iran!  (Said like Jan Brady “Marcia!  Marcia!  Marcia!”)

– Violent Extremism

– 4+1, 1+4, and other bumper sticker math problems that attempt to oversimplify U.S. national security priorities

– Discussing the gifts that Bob and Phil received for Christmas which include a yodeling pickle

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

 

The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Call for Papers: Organizing for Large Scale Combat Operations

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 organizing for large scale combat operations.

To inspire potential writers, we provide the below prompts:

– Assess how the People’s Republic of China is organizing to conduct large scale combat operations.

– Assess how the U.S. is organizing to conduct large scale combat operations.

– What options do smaller or less militarily capable countries have to counter larger countries when the larger country conducts a large scale combat operation?

– Assess whether Country X’s people, and / or their political leaders, have the will to endure the casualties that will be incurred during a large scale combat operation.

– The last time Country X maneuvered a Corps or larger in either training or combat was decades ago, what options exist for Country X to prepare to do this in a war?

– Assess the viability of the U.S. conducting a Louisiana Maneuvers-like exercise today.

– Where and how would the U.S. conduct a Louisiana Maneuvers-like exercise today?  Provide options.

More information on the Louisiana Maneuvers can be found on the amazing twitter feed of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, more specifically here, here, here, and here.  Many thinks to Mother_of_Tanks for drawing our attention to this tweet series!

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

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by April 16, 2021.

Call For Papers

Options to Improve Individual and Small Unit Readiness in Great Power Competition

Skye Viera currently serves as an 11B in the Texas Army National Guard and deployed to Djibouti with his current unit. Prior to this he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 Infantry Rifleman, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Skye recently returned from Kabul where he was employed as a Private Security Contractor supporting the Department of Defense. You can find Skye on Twitter @sjviera34. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  As the Department of Defense (DoD) pivots from the Global War on Terrorism, which involved fighting irregular forces, to focusing on Great Power Competitors like China and Russia, two countries with regular militaries, more attention to detail and creativity regarding individual and small unit readiness is required. Small things that may have been overlooked with little consequence when fighting an irregular force, will have consequences when fighting a regular force.

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 1, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that readiness goes beyond the minimum mandatory requirements and that if small units are ready, the military as a whole is likely ready. Since the Service Members (SM), are the ones responsible for their own readiness, they have an obligation as professionals, to ensure their small unit’s readiness and develop ideas and solutions to move beyond the minimums.

Background:  With senior leadership more focused on minimum mandatory metrics, the small unit level i.e. the Fire Team (four person unit) and below, often gets overshadowed. As such, it is up to the service members at the Fire Team level and below to ensure their own readiness.

Significance:  Emerging threats such as remote weapons systems[1], social media[2], and unmanned aerial systems from state, irregular, and Private Military Companies (PMC)[3] add new concepts to readiness. Individuals and Fire Teams will have to evolve their traditional measures of readiness and turn into adaptable organisms, able to cope in a complex world, if they are to survive and accomplish their mission.

Option #1:  Self-Assessment.

The goal of this self-assessment is for the SM to ask themselves “Am I ready to deploy tomorrow and face the full-spectrum of missions?” This self-assessment can fall into three categories. The first, Technical Readiness, is the SM confident to operate the multiple weapons systems, communication equipment, and use other skills such as land-navigation, first aid, radio procedures, and mission planning? The second, Personal Readiness, is the SM physically fit to endure long missions with limited recovery time and imperfect nutrition, and free of minor injuries that could flare up and result in loss of capability? The third, Mental Readiness, is the most important aspect of individual readiness, and the one with the biggest stigma attached. The SM should have taken care of personal affairs and sought help long before deployment to resolve personal-anything that could distract from the mission.  The SM should be mentally prepared to face deployment hardships easily and adjust to life without internet, clean water, and endure daily instability. All of these issues are manageable for the SM if they are willing to both prepare and seek help. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, it is a sign of strength to want to better oneself. 

With the DoD pivoting towards China and Russia, individual readiness will evolve. The use of personal electronic devices (PED) will have to be curtailed with the SM restraining the use of cell phones, smart watches, and off the shelf Global Positioning Systems. “Digital camouflage” will increase in importance, especially if the adversaries can identify the unit they are opposing as they can conduct psychological operations on the home front. With the ability to target SM family members through the use of social media, the SM will have to prepare themselves and their family to be resilient against online personal attacks.  The SM must be prepared to cut ties with social media, have DoD censors possibly monitor their online activities, and switch to more secure means to communicate with their families. 

Risk:  A risk with Option #1 comes from out of pocket expenses if the SM wants to use private sector resources in pursuit of individual readiness. Other risks stems from institutional bias, depending on the environment created by leadership, as the SM could be ostracized in seeking help for physical and mental injuries. Also, rather than abandon their digital device to protect their unit and family, the SM could try to enhance their digital security themselves in an incorrect manner, thus increasing vulnerability.

Gain:  SM improving their own readiness will ensure they are mission ready with or without a preplanned training cycle, thus increasing the speed of possible deployment. This option will also minimize the SM’s digital footprint and thus make the SM and their families harder to target both on and off the battlefield. Finally, Option #1 increases the strength of individual replacements, which can lead to a more professional environment that nullifies the toxic elements found in a unit. 

Option #2:  Fire Team Assessment.

Knowing the true mission readiness of a Fire Team at a glance is next to impossible unless you are a member. Pivoting to prepare to fight China and Russia requires the Fire Team to ponder what this type of combat will look like and develop procedures to rehearse. In addition to the China and Russia threats, the Fire Team will need to prepare to act against PMCs such as Russia’s Wagner Group, which may behave more unconventionally and not wear a military uniform. A new procedure will likely be developed that focuses on digital checks prior to conducting a mission i.e. turning off or discarding personal electronic devices. Following a mission or an incident the Fire Team will need to conduct rigorous examination of the actions taken and adapt as needed using their own creativity to create procedures to ensure mission accomplishment and battlefield survival. The members of the Fire Team will look to themselves to improve their teams readiness. Developing skills and procedures to shift on demand between a conventional military threat and an unconventional PMC threat will be challenging as, while the U.S. may differentiate between these threats, the enemy only sees them as capabilities contributing towards their end goal.

Risk:  The primary risk with Option #2 is a higher-level command element being uncomfortable with their smallest unit, the Fire Team, being highly individualistic and adaptable, and seeing this creativity as a threat, seeking to eliminate it.

Gain:  Option #2 enables the Fire team to truly take their survival into their own hands through scenario examination and procedure development. This option develops Fire Team planning, networking, and leadership skills. Option #2 allows higher leadership to trust their smallest units to operate in a dispersed manner without constant supervision.

Other Comments:  It is up to the individual, no matter the rank, to be mission ready on demand, regardless of their motivation to serve. Being mission ready, with or without a preplanned training cycle, is the ultimate sign of individual readiness. 


Endnotes:

[1]Hand, Gorge E. “GRAPHIC: What the Azerbaijani Drone Strike Footage Tells Us.” SOFREP, 3 Oct. 2020, www.sofrep.com/news/armenian-azerbaijani-drone-strike-footage-graphic.

[2]Doffman, Zak. “Cyber Warfare: Army Deploys Social Media Warfare Division To Fight Russia.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 Aug. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/08/01/social-media-warfare-new-military-cyber-unit-will-fight-russias-dark-arts.

[3]“Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State.” Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State | Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS Executive Education Program, 25 Sept. 2020, www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state.

China (People's Republic of China) Great Powers Readiness Russia Skye Viera United States

Assessing Early Cold War Overestimations of Soviet Capabilities and Intent and its Applicability to Current U.S.- China Relations

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

Date Originally Written:  January 5, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  February 22, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Active Duty U.S. Army Officer attending a PhD program focused on American Foreign Policy. The author believes America tends to overestimate threat capabilities and too quickly resorts to military analysis or responses without considering better Whole of Government approaches. 

Summary:  Though it can illuminate adversaries’ worldview, when predicting actions, analyzing ideology is less effective than traditional balance of power frameworks. During the Cold War, American assumptions about a monolithic Communist block controlled by Moscow blinded American policymakers to opportunities (and challenges) from China to Vietnam. Even in ideological conflicts, states tend to act rationally in the international sphere.

Text:

“When it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect. We have never once gotten it right[1].

– Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense

A paramount transferable Cold War lesson is the need to disconnect ideology from assessment of state behavior. During the initial stages of the Cold War (1947-1953), American administrations habitually overestimated Soviet military capability and viewed Soviet and Chinese actions through an East vs. West ideological lens that was often inaccurate. Moreover, American policymakers assumed ideological agreement easily translated into operational coordination, even when America and its allies could hardly manage to do so. As a result of this ideological focus, the United States expended resources and energy building far more nuclear weapons than balance required and unnecessarily shunned Communist China for over 20 years. Today this pattern is repeating as scholars and defense planners increasingly ascribe China’s actions to ideological, rather than geopolitical factors[2]. Or, failing to see the obvious, policymakers have coined new monikers such as “revisionist” toward normal, if aggressive, behavior. 

Ideology does far better in explaining a state’s domestic rather than international actions. Viewed using Waltz’s 3rd image (interstate interactions), states consider their interests and the balance of power, rather than what their domestic ideology demands[3]. As a result, interstate behavior is remarkably consistent with the balance of power. To be sure, some states are more aggressive than others due to ideology, governmental structure, or individual leaders. However, according to defense analysis geopolitical factors remain predominant as they have since the Peloponnesian War[4].

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s capitulation to Adolph Hitler’s demand at Munich in 1938 is widely considered to have contributed to the German invasion of Poland the following year. However, Chamberlain’s acquiesce to Hitler’s demands came as much from balance of power analysis based on British and French weakness as a desire for peace or pacifist leanings at home[5]. Had the Allies been better prepared for war; a more stable balance of power could have preempted, or at least stalled, Nazi aggression. 

American policy during the Cold War drew heavily from George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” and 1947 “X” article. Kennan, based on extensive personal experience, depicted the insular, paranoid nature of Soviet Stalinism. Such a state could not be changed but would eventually collapse as a result of a defunct government and sclerotic body politic[6]. As a result, Kennan recommended that the United States “contain” the Soviets within their current sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Though he stood by his description of Soviet society and his prognosis for the eventual demise of the Soviet System, Kennan would later distance himself from the aggressive form of containment adopted in his name[7].

Two brief examples illustrate the perils of assuming too much regarding an opponent’s ideology: the U.S.-Soviet “Missile Gap” and the American failure to foresee the Sino-Soviet Spilt. The “Missile Gap” was the alleged insufficiency of American nuclear forces relative to Soviet missiles that became a major talking point after the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik. Despite officials under U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower repeatedly providing intelligence demonstrating U.S.-Soviet parity, and a general qualitative and quantitative American superiority, then-senator John F. Kennedy and defense hawks lambasted the Eisenhower Administration as “weak” for the supposed failure to match Soviet arms[8]. The “gap,” however, never existed. Robert McNamara, President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense later called the missile gap a “myth…[created] by emotionally guided but nonetheless patriotic individuals in the Pentagon[9].”

Likewise, American policy toward Communist China took a hard turn toward the ideological, isolating Communist China even more so than the Soviet Russia. Though a dedicated Marxist-Leninist, Chinese leader Chairman Mao Tse-tung was foremost a patriot, focused on restoring a strong, independent China. Soviet influence, much less command and control, was limited, especially when compared to communist movements in Europe. From the Chinese Communist (CCP) takeover in 1949 until the Korean War, many State Department officials believed that after 2-3 years the U.S. and China could renew relations – that Mao could function as an Asian counterpart to Tito’s relatively moderate communism in Yugoslavia[10]. After the Korean War, however, with Cold War frameworks hardened, American policymakers failed to see clear indications of the forthcoming Sino-Soviet split, despite ample evidence from as early as the end of WWII[11]. The net result was delaying for nearly forestalling for 20 years what became a highlight of American diplomacy, the U.S.-China rapprochement under Nixon.

For a nation so heavily committed to freedom, Americans have shown a strange persistent tendency to simplify other states to ideological stereotypes we discount for ourselves. This has terribly clouded the contemporary China debate. China as a competitor is a function of geopolitics, namely structural and geographic factors, more so than ideology[12]. This conclusion does not discount the importance of CCP ideology, but provides context. While Chinese President Xi Jinping and the CCP have espoused the “China Dream” and embraced a particularly aggressive form of Chinese Nationalism, this has not necessarily translated into China’s international actions, which are much better explained by balance of power analysis. As a growing state in a competitive environment, China’s actions make sense as it seeks to flex its power and establish regional supremacy. China’s history of foreign intrusion and suffering during the “Century of Humiliation” of course color its contemporary maneuvers, but they are not substantially different from what we would expect any emerging power to do. It is also worth considering that Xi’s use of nationalism is largely focused on domestic audiences as a means to consolidate CCP power[13].

Nothing in the previous paragraph discounts the very real challenge China presents to the United States and smaller states of Southeast Asia, two of which are American allies. However, Xi’s development of a Chinese sphere of influence, largely built on bilateral trade agreements is not necessarily about “freezing out” the United States. In short, China is not a Communist state focused on world domination; in fact, its xenophobic nationalism of late is detrimental to that end. China is focused on its own exceptionalism, not ending America’s[14]. 

A clear lesson of the Cold War is the danger of oversimplification. Doing so makes caricatures of real conflicts and leads to poor policy. In the examples above the United States lost 20 years of exploiting the Sino-Soviet Split and spent billions on arguably useless extra nuclear weapons. Moreover, a presumption that ideological coherence between disparate adversaries leads operational coordination is foolhardy without evidence. Even in the midst of an ideological conflict, it is best the United States detaches an overly simplistic ideological lens to properly respond with the most effective means at our disposal[15]. Analysis requires rationality. 


Endnotes:

[1] Zenko, Micah (October 12, 2012). 110% Right 0% of the Time, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/10/16/100-right-0-of-the-time.

[2] Huang, Yanzhong. (September 8, 2020). America’s Political Immune System Is Overreacting to China. From https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/08/america-overreacting-to-china-political-immune-system; Colby, Elbridge, discussion regarding State Department’s May 2020 China Policy Paper, from https://youtu.be/KyBVmSaua5I.

[3] Waltz, K. N. (2018). Man, the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis. New York: Columbia University Press.159-170.

[4] Kaplan, R. D. (2013). The Revenge Of Geography: What The Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts And The Battle Against Fate.

[5] Munich Agreement, Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Munich-Agreement.

[6] See https://www.trumanlibraryinstitute.org/this-day-in-history-2/; Kennan, (July 1947). The Sources of Soviet Conduct, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/1947-07-01/sources-soviet-conduct.

[7] Hogan, M. J. (1998). A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State, 1945–1954. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511664984

[8] Preble, Christopher (December 2003). “Who Ever Believed in the ‘Missile Gap’?”: John F. Kennedy and the Politics of National Security. Presidential Studies Quarterly 33, no. 4. 

[9] McNamara quoted in Ibid. 

[10] See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, The Far East: China, Volume VII, Documents 6, 270, 708, 617; Finkelstein, D. M. (1993). Washington’s Taiwan Dilemma, 1949-1950: From Abandonment to Salvation. George Mason University Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=8RW7AAAAIAAJ

[11] Butterworth, Walton. (May 1950). China in Mid-Revolution, Speech at Lawrenteville, NJ, May 1950, Butterworth Papers, George Marshall Library, Lexington, VA. Box 3, Folder 13.

[12] Lester, Simon. (January 6, 2019). Talking Ourselves into a Cold War with China. From https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/talking-ourselves-cold-war-china; Wang, Z. (2012). Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations. Columbia University Press.

[13] Colby, Elbridge, discussion regarding State Department’s May 2020 China Policy Paper, from https://youtu.be/KyBVmSaua5I.

[14] Bacevich, Andrew. (January 4, 2021). America’s Defining Problem In 2021 Isn’t China: It’s America, from https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/americas-defining-problem-in-2021-isnt-china-its-america.

[15] Herring, George. (2002). America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975. McGraw-Hill, 225-235.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Governing Documents and Ideas John Bolton Policy and Strategy Russia Soviet Union

The Merits and Perils of Containment: Assessing the American View of the Chinese Challenge

Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.  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:  The Merits and Perils of Containment: Assessing the American View of the Chinese Challenge

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 15, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. Brandon believes the Cold War concept of containment, at this point in history, is not fully applicable to the Chinese challenge to international order. 

Summary:  Containment retains a strong hold on American historical memory for both its hard-headed realism and its utopian vision which came to fruition. Attempting to graft Containment onto Sino-American relations absent historical context risks running heedlessly into the abyss, turning a peacetime competitor into a clear enemy. 

Text:  By 1946, the United States finally realized the threat posed by Soviet armies bestriding central Europe. America had cast itself into upholding the global balance of power — rebuilding Europe, establishing America’s first military alliance, and parrying early Soviet expansion toward Greece. Containing the Soviet threat was the order of the day. The Containment policy which saw America through the Cold War, was tailored to the unique challenge represented by the Soviet Union. It has become conventional wisdom to treat the challenge posed by China in a Containment-like fashion, as Cold War terminology returns to the American vernacular[1]. Trying to repeat Containment’s Cold War performance today may create new dangers rather than alleviate them.

Containment was the prescription for the challenge posed by the amalgam of communist ideology and tsarist expansionism. As George Kennan warned, the objective of Soviet foreign policy was to avail itself “every nook and cranny available to it in the basin of world power…. But if it finds unassailable barriers in its path, it philosophically accepts and accommodates itself to them[2],” for Marxist theory did not submit a deadline for the end of history. The remedy, according to Kennan, was “a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world[3].”  

Kennan concluded that if the U.S. could only man the ramparts, one day the Soviet Union would collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Containment was thus created precisely to meet the challenge of a Marxist-Leninist superpower. For if the correlation of forces was favorable, the Soviets had an historical duty to advance; if they were unfavorable, remaining within their borders was merely a tactical decision, and the struggle would continue by other means. It was a mechanical approach to foreign policy with no category of thought for restraint. Containment was the only means of constraining so ideological a menace. 

Today, Containment is not directly applicable to the challenge posed by a rising — that is to say, re-emerging — China. Contemporary China, in spite of its proclaimed communist rulers and heritage, is not a revolutionary power like the Soviet Union, but an ancient civilization which conceives of world order as a hierarchical structure based on approximation to Chinese cultural characteristics. China more often expanded by osmosis rather than conquest[4]. 

The challenge of the present is how to construct a world order based on principles agreed upon by the major components operating the international system; how to translate transformation into acceptance; to create a pattern of obligations which becomes spontaneous in its operation. When a power sees the world order or its legitimizing principle as fundamentally oppressive or in conflict with its self-image, a revolutionary situation will ensue[5].  

When Containment was theorized, a revolutionary situation was already in existence. The destruction of one revolutionary power, Germany, merely clarified the danger posed by another, the Soviet Union. The new international order being built could only be upheld by force, necessitating containment. Even “Detente”, a late-1960s beginning complement to Containment, was a means of moderating Soviet conduct by forcing a choice between national interests and ideological fervor, backed by the threat of American military power[6]. 

Given the manner in which the burgeoning Sino-American rivalry is cast in ideological terms, it is easy to forget that China does not yet represent an ideological threat in the manner of the Soviets. This nuance is critical. A consensus has emerged among American intellectuals that an alliance of democracies is needed to “confront” China[7]. Such an approach poses grave dangers. Though it is appropriate for democracies to cooperate to combat common dangers, an alliance directed at a particular country — namely China — creates the conditions for a rupture. Stability does not require an absence of unsatisfied claims, but the absence of a perceived injustice so great that the aggrieved power will seek to overturn the existing order. Talk of punishing China for subverting international norms ignores the nature of legitimacy, for China played no role in writing the rules of the current system and so does not feel justly bound by them. The question that those who seek to uphold the “rules-based” order face is whether a symmetry can be found between China’s self-image and the most cherished principles of the system, or whether China’s objectives are so incompatible with the prevailing order that the only recourse is a form of containment. Attempting to berate Beijing from one side of the dividing line into accepting the West’s worldview is a prescription for turning China into a revolutionary power while such an outcome may still be avoidable. 

This is not to say China’s present aggression is the fault of the United States, and China may yet evolve into a revolutionary challenge requiring firm containment. But it would be a tragedy to turn fears of Chinese aggression into a self-fulfilling Containment prophecy. America and its allies are correct to defend the basic principles of international order; but it is important to determine what principles are inviolable and where adjustment to contemporary realities is necessary before engaging in confrontation on every front.  If there is one point of Containment that is easily transferable to today, it is that the world will be selective about where it chooses to challenge China, just like it was when containing the Soviet Union.  

Containment, moreover, though indeed tailored to the Soviet challenge, in another sense represented nothing new in diplomacy. Sophisticated students of history like George Kennan and Dean Acheson, saw in containment a means of conveying to the American public and Congress the principles of the balance of power in terms which they would both comprehend and accept. World order requires equilibrium, and so a “containment” of a potential aggressor will always be necessary, though it may manifest in more subtle forms than in previous periods. 

The South China Sea is illustrative. In geopolitical terms, China’s objective is domination of its “marginal seas” so as to gain access to the wider Indo-Pacific, and forestall its historic fear of encirclement[8]. The United States and its allies will not permit hegemony or disruption of international waterways, as America has gone to war on several occasions to vindicate these principles. This is the space the two countries are obliged to navigate. For in a legitimate order two types of equilibrium exist: the physical, which makes domination by a single power or grouping impossible; and the moral, which defines the relations of powers to each other in terms of their particular histories[9]. This is the essence of diplomacy. 

The great Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich was correct when he asserted that those with no past can have no future, but Austria doomed its future in seeking to petrify its past. America can avoid this trap; the means of doing so is historical context. 


Endnotes:

[1] Gladstone, R. (July 22, 2020). “How the Cold War Between the U.S. and China is Intensifying.” Retrieved December 27, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/world/asia/us-china-cold-war.html

[2] Kennan, G.F. (July 1947). “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.” Retrieved December 27, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/1947-07-01/sources-soviet-conduct

[3] Ibid. 

[4] Kissinger, H. (2012). On China (pp. 18-22) New York: Penguin. 

[5] Kissinger, H. (1957). A World Restored: Castlereagh, Metternich, and the Problems of Peace (p. 2). Echopoint Books and Media.   

[6] Kissinger, H. (1979). The Whitehouse Years (pp.113-130). Simon and Schuster.  

[7] Cimmino, J. & Kroenig, M. “Global Strategy 2021: An Allied Strategy for China.” Retrieved December 18, from https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Global-Strategy-2021-An-Allied-Strategy-for-China.pdf

[8] Auslin, M. (May 1, 2020). Asias New Geopolitics: Essays on reshaping the Indo-Pacific (pp.12-14). Hoover Institution Press.

[9] Kissinger, H. (1957). Ibid (p. 147). 

Brandon Patterson China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Containment Governing Documents and Ideas Option Papers Policy and Strategy United States

Options for the U.S. Towards Pakistan

Jason Criss Howk has spent his career as a soldier-diplomat, educator, and advisor focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He writes a column for Clearance Jobs News and is an interfaith leader and Islamic studies professor. Find him on twitter @Jason_c_howk.  Sabir Ibrahimi is a Non-resident Fellow at NYUs Center on International Cooperation and hosts the Afghan Affairs Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @saberibrahimi. 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:  With the U.S. Global War on Terrorism and mission in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. requires new foreign policy towards Pakistan. 

Date Originally Written:  December, 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 8, 2020. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view the of the U.S. towards Pakistan. 

Background:  Since the Cold War, Pakistan-U.S. relations have been oft-based on militant support. Pakistan assisted the U.S. in removing the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan by aiding so-called mujahedeen Islamist militants fighting the Red Army and Afghan government. Post-Soviet-withdrawal, the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Pakistan supported another round of militancy creating the Afghan Taliban to remove the “mujahedeen” government from Kabul. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. called upon Pakistan to help remove al Qaeda from the region. Pakistan joined the U.S. in the so-called war on terror but prevented another abandonment by the U.S. through a third round of militancy support[1], this time by rebuilding and supplying the Afghan Taliban remnants to weaken the newly formed Afghan government[2]. Pakistan does not trust America or Afghanistan to be helpful to Pakistan’s policies and the U.S. does not trust Pakistan[3].

Significance:  Pakistan impacts U.S. counterterrorism activities and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a key leverage-point Pakistan holds against the U.S., while the U.S. holds several forms of economic and diplomatic leverage against Pakistan[4]. Numerous terrorist groups operate in Pakistan; some of them aid the Pakistani military to destabilize India and Afghanistan, while some threaten Pakistan itself[5]. The U.S. State Department has designated Pakistan as the Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Pakistan’s economy is struggling, causing Islamabad to heavily rely on China. In 2020 a Pakistani General told an audience at U.S. Central Command conference that “China is Pakistan’s friend, despite the Uyghur treatment, because we can overlook anything right now for our economic wellbeing—our ailing economy is an existential threat[6].”  

This Options Paper looks at the possible future relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Where the administration of U.S. President Joseph Biden takes U.S. foreign policy towards Pakistan is unknown; but a question policy-makers will need to answer is: does being close to Pakistan help America?

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts an aggressive approach towards Pakistan.

Many U.S. objectives related to Pakistan remain unmet. A more aggressive approach could ensure Pakistan is not harboring, leading, or financially assisting terrorists; or ideologically brainwashing new recruits for terrorist/militant groups. The major U.S. goal of building peace in Afghanistan hinges on Pakistan policy.

In this option the U.S. would designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, upgrading it from CPC and, as a consequence of this cease all development and military aid to Pakistan. The U.S. would pressure its allies and partners to freeze all assets of Pakistan military and civilian officials related to terrorists. Targeted officials would have their visa revoked, to include their families, so they cannot study, vacation, or live outside of Pakistan. The U.S. would increase its counterterrorism programs in South Asia and follow any intelligence generated into Pakistan via proxies or clandestine forces. The U.S. government would deliver more focused efforts to identify and close radical-militant-owned businesses and non-profit organizations worldwide. U.S. drone and human intelligence programs would be increased to identify and track terrorists, militants, and Pakistan government terrorism-supporters; especially when entering Afghanistan. Armed-drone operations would NOT be included in this approach because the inevitable civilian casualties will increase militant/terrorist recruiting and responses.

Risk:  This option would increase suffering among Pakistani citizens due to decreases in U.S. development funding which could lead to more violence and radicalism. Lack of U.S. aid may lead to the U.S. losing its remaining allies in the civilian and military establishment in Pakistan. Pakistan would end its support of the Afghan peace process. Pakistan fully aligns with China. Pakistan’s military will sell the news of further U.S. abandonment of Pakistan to their citizens, and enact stronger military controls over the civilian government. Lack of U.S. aid could decrease nuclear security thereby increasing the likelihood of loose nuclear material or sales of nuclear science. 

Gain:  The U.S. may push the Pakistani civilian and military officials into recalibrating their alliances with militant groups and terrorists if economic, diplomatic, military pressure is deep enough. A robust public information campaign ensuring the Pakistani people know how to restart economic assistance may lead the people to pressure their government to stop supporting violent movement networks. The U.S. will save foreign relations funding. The U.S. can improve its image with Pakistani civilians and stop being blamed for bombing deaths by ceasing all armed drone operations in Pakistan.

Option #2:  The U.S. Partners with Pakistan more closely to lift them economically.

The United States could direct its energy to address what Pakistan calls an existential threat by increasing U.S.-Pakistan economic partnerships and diplomacy. The U.S. would encourage economic cooperation between Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan; and massively increase economic relations between India and Pakistan. This option would increase U.S. aid to development projects and ensure all military aid is conditions-based in exchange for counter-terrorism assistance, increasing civilian oversight of the military, and more elected leadership power in government. Publicly, the U.S. would be outspoken about human and minority rights, freedom of speech, and religious freedom. U.S. armed drone operations would cease and be replaced by quietly targeted sanctions at military officials recruiting militant groups and aiding violent missions in the region. Measures under this option would include freezing individual assets globally, and multi-nation travel restrictions. The U.S. would warn Pakistan privately of retaliations if they fail to meet U.S. security goals and give deadlines for decreases in terrorism/militant activity.

Risk:  Under this option Pakistan could continue the status quo, a double game with the U.S. whereby Pakistan extracts as much funding as possible before the U.S. stops the flow. Intelligence partnerships would remain unreliable; allowing terrorists/militants reside openly in Pakistan. Pakistan could see the U.S. funds as a way to pay their debt to China, which is not the purpose of the U.S. aid. While Pakistan could openly target extremist groups the U.S. names, it could clandestinely support other extremist groups unknown to the U.S. in order to keep the U.S. engaged and keep Afghanistan weakened. This option could set the conditions for Pakistan better hiding its terrorism support, and the U.S. inadvertently funding it meaning regional militancy continues as do Pakistan human rights violations and military rule.

Gain:  This option may improve economic and diplomatic activities. Increased economic partnerships could lead to increased military partnerships to rebuild trust between leaders. The funds Pakistan received could increase education, development, and humanitarian partnerships and improve the U.S. image in Pakistan. This option could contribute to more Pakistan support to get the Afghan Taliban to act seriously in the Afghan Peace Negotiations. The funds could also be used as leverage to improve counterterrorism partnerships across both governments and human rights. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Khan, S. (2018, October 28). Double Game: Why Pakistan Supports Militants and Resists U.S. Pressure to Stop. CATO. https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/double-game-why-pakistan-supports-militants-resists-us-pressure-stop

[2] Mazzetti, M. (2018, January 28). How Pakistan has Perpetuated the Afghan Conflict. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/the-pakistan-trap/550895

[3] Tankel, S. (2011, September 1). Restoring Trust: U.S.-Pakistan Relations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://carnegieendowment.org/2011/09/01/restoring-trust-u.s.-pakistan-relations-pub-45465

[4] U.S. Relations With Pakistan. (2020, December 1). United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-pakistan/

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Pakistan. (2020, December 1). United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/country-reports-on-terrorism-2019/pakistan

[6] Jason Howk was a guest speaker at the 2020 U.S. Central Command Central and South Asia Conference and led a public discussion with Inter-Services Intelligence Officers attending the event on Pakistan’s further role in the Afghan peace process.  This discussion was a heated and brutally honest moment in the conference. See readouts of the event here: https://news.clearancejobs.com/2020/02/22/a-regional-perspective-on-the-war-in-afghanistan and https://dispatchesfrompinehurst.com/2020/02/23/briefing-on-pakistans-campaigns-against-afghanistan-and-why-they-have-failed-repeatedly

Afghanistan Jason Criss Howk Option Papers Pakistan Policy and Strategy Sabir Ibrahimi United States

The Challenge of Abstraction: Assessing Cold War Analogies to the Present Period

Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.  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:  The Challenge of Abstraction: Assessing Cold War Analogies to the Present Period

Date Originally Written:  December 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 1, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. Brandon believes that though the Cold War may be of great use in specific cases to policymakers and scholars seeking to use the past to engage with the present, it should not be the only historical instance from which they draw. 

Summary:  A study of history is a prerequisite to effective statesmanship and a creative policy. Scholars and statesmen are wise to look to the Cold War for insights which can be applied to our era, but it would be unwise to expect perfect correspondence. Even where the Cold War is applicable, it may not be the only relevant experience, and this is not limited to the context of relations with China. 

Text:  The task of studying history is to abstract from the multiplicity of experience. To derive general rules from the past presupposes accepting the significance of the range of experience[1]. Yet history provides no self-interpreting lessons; the reader is obliged to determine what is — and is not — analogous. The Cold War was a struggle virtually made to order for American preconceptions. Victory achieved without war; an adversary converted rather than defeated, as the architects of containment earnestly sought[2]. It is therefore understandable why American policymakers may seek to draw upon this experience today. Although examining the Cold War is valuable for a number of characteristics that define today’s era of so-called Great Power Competition, this examination does not exhaust the range of relevant experience. 

As the world today is without a single, clear historical precedent, it is useful to abstract from a broader range of historical experiences. Humans do not live in a perfectly bipolar world, and China is not in every manifestation analogous to the Soviet Union (nor, for that matter, is Russia). In its narrowest interpretation, the Eastern Hemisphere could be said to be analogous to Europe after the unification of Germany. 

China, like Germany, is a recently consolidated land power which seeks to construct a great navy. The United States, like Britain, is a maritime power with considerable interests on the continent[3]. Indeed, the American role across Eurasia is, stripped to its essentials, analogous to that of Britain in Europe for several centuries. Further, China’s aggressive diplomacy, unnerving all of its neighbors (and even countries further afield) brings to mind the amateurish and power-obsessed Weltpolitik of the young and impetuous Kaiser William II — all the more unsettling for its vagueness. Russia returns to its historic patterns, torn between the requirements of equilibrium and the temptations of the Russian national spirit. 

Yet this analogy alone fails to fully satisfy, for today, despite technological advances, also resembles a more antiquated era. Europe has lost its substance as a cultural and geopolitical entity and is in danger of simply becoming an appendage of the Eurasian landmass. China too operates according to its historic rhythms. Unlike a young Germany with no concept of its national interest and run by an insecure ruler, China represents an ancient civilization returning to a place of eminence whose perception of history is not fully compatible with the existing order. China’s Belt and Road Initiative represents their attempt to reorganize Eurasia according to Beijing’s perception of its historic role. Thus, China and America may become engaged in a contest over the nature of the international system, and this context is much like the Cold War. 

The performances of Iran and Turkey are best understood through the prism of their imperial legacies, as each attempt to impose order on chaos through familiar modes of operation. A subtle rivalry — leavened by cooperation — persists, informed by the Ottoman-Safavid conflicts of the early-modern period. India remains a world unto itself, even as its posture from the Suez to Singapore stands as a both a vestige British rule and a function of geography. Yet New Delhi’s new-found rivalry with China — a confluence of unique evolutions — has no precedent in human history. As Robert D. Kaplan elucidates, the world of today would not be fully unfamiliar to medieval observers[4].  

Even so, the Cold War carries profound lessons. The burgeoning age of cyber weapons strikes a rough similarity to the opening days of the nuclear era: arms control is nonexistent; doctrine regarding its implementation remains unsettled. Yet arms control in the cyber realm faces unique perils. Arms control emerged during the Cold War as a means of regulating the composition and implementation of each side’s arsenal in order to reduce the incentive for preemption[5]. Transparency was a prerequisite, not evidence of approbation. By contrast, the age of cyberweapons reveals a predilection for opacity; stockpiling is not a factor as the rate of change breeds obsolescence after short intervals. In an age of nuclear proliferation and artificial intelligence, traditional concepts of deterrence via physical violence — products of the Cold War — will likely require fundamental reassessment[6]. 

The civil war in Syria provides a paradoxical case. The old edifice has collapsed and a multiplicity of contestant’s clash over the remains. Several revolutions are occurring simultaneously. On one level is a struggle to determine both the political evolution of the state, and whether the state is to be a secular or religious instrument, and thus, the principles and procedures by which the sovereign’s mandate is legitimized. On another level exists a contest to define which interpretation of Islam may predominate. Finally, a rebellion against the state system itself roils. Amid this blend of political and religious motivations, with external powers seizing their share of the spoils, allusions to the Thirty Years War are apt. 

Yet, Syria bears striking resemblance to central Europe in another period of revolutionary struggle. In this country, the United States aligned with a revolutionary power to combat a common, apparently overriding threat. Military victory opened a vacuum which permitted the acquisitive power — Iran — to extend its reach several hundred miles to the west in each case. A policy to contain the spread of Iranian Influence was implemented thereafter, at least conceptually. Thus, Syria after 2015 may be likened to Germany after 1945. For another layer of complexity, one may note that Iran in its present condition — sterile yet ideological; sclerotic yet expansionist — is somewhat analogous to the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev era[7]. The essence of compatibility is not duplication of circumstances, but the similarity of the problem being confronted. 

The Cold War will likely remain a fount of experience from which American policymakers and scholars draw in this period. But history seldom repeats perfectly. The burden of abstraction falls on the statesman, whose mistakes are irretrievable amid a reality that is not self-interpreting. Applying historical analogies cannot be done with mathematical certainty, for statesmanship is not a science, but an art. 


Endnotes: 

[1] Kissinger, H. (1954). A World Restored: Castlereagh, Metternich, and the Problems of Peace (p. 332).  

[2] “National Security Council Report, NSC 68, ‘United States Objectives and Programs for National Security’,” April 14, 1950, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, US National Archives. Retrieved December 18, from http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116191

[3] Alison, G. (May 30, 2017). Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydidess Trap? Mariner Books (pp. 55-71)

[4] Kaplan, R.D. (March 6, 2018), The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century. (Chapter 1). New York: Random House.

[5] Kissinger, H. (April 4, 1995). Diplomacy. New York: Simon and Schuster (p. 715)

[6] Bracken, P. (May 19, 1999). Fire in The East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age. Harper. 

[7] Kaplan, R.D. Ibid. 

Brandon Patterson Cold War Governing Documents and Ideas

Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Kristofer Seibt is an active-duty United States Army Officer and a graduate student at Columbia University.  Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Date Originally Written:  December 13, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 25, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty U.S. Army officer.  The author is critical of the tendency to equate modernization with costly technology or equipment investments, and the related tendency to conflate operational and structural readiness.

Summary:  Modernizing the military by optimizing access to, and employment of, readily available digital capabilities such as cell phones and personal computers offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years.  Persistent ambivalence towards basic digital tools and processes across the Department of Defense presents vulnerabilities and opportunity costs for both operational and structural readiness.

Text:  The U.S. Armed Forces and the wider public have long appreciated cutting edge technology and powerful equipment as the cornerstone of a modern and ready military.  As the national security strategy and subordinate defense, military, and service strategies shift to address the still undefined Great Power Competition, and long wars in the Middle East ostensibly wind down, modernizing the military for future conflict is a widely discussed topic[1].  Despite an inevitable reduction in military spending at some point in the near future, alongside the already unparalleled levels of military appropriation, a strong narrative has re-emerged that portrays new or upgraded capabilities as a common and unquestionable pillar of operational and structural readiness[2].  

As a function of readiness, America’s military technology obsession ignores the more pressing need to modernize basic and often neglected components of daily military operations in garrison, on mission, and at war.  Outmoded systems, tools, and processes in military organizations and on military installations are one readiness issue that can be solved today with if they had a similar level of investment and top-level coordination traditionally afforded to more costly programs.  Investing in modernizing the military by overhauling daily operations today, at a wide scale, offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years, regardless of the unknowable capability requirements future warfare will demand and the uncertain results of technology or capability development[3].

The elephant in the room, so to speak, is the Department of Defense’s mixed feelings towards digital tools and processes[4]. Besides obvious and widely known inefficiencies encountered in all facets of daily military life, at all levels, these mixed feelings contribute to security vulnerabilities and operational constraints on a similar scale.  Consider daily communication, often via cell phone and email[5]. Today, most Military Members are asked to conduct official business on personally procured devices that are connected by personally funded data plans on domestic telecommunications networks.  

Official business conducted at the speed that daily operations in the military supposedly require, out of a perception of necessity and expedience, often occurs through a mixture of unsecure text message, unsecure messaging app, and personal teleconferencing software ungoverned by any DoD or Military Department policy or procedure.  Military workflows on digital devices rely on inefficient methods and limited collaboration through outdated tools on semi-closed government networks requiring a wired connection and a government-issued workstation.   The compounding constraints generated by limited access to networks, phones, computers, and the attendant inefficiencies of their supported workflows necessitate a parallel or “shadow” system of getting things done i.e. the use of personal electronic devices.  

While the DoD certainly issues computers and phones to select Military Members in many organizations, especially executive staffs and headquarters, government-procured devices on government-funded plans/infrastructure remain the privilege of a relative few, ostensibly due to security and cost.  Company Commanders in the U.S. Army (responsible for 100-150 Military Members), for example, are no longer authorized government cell phones in most organizations.  For those lucky enough to have a government-issued computer, before the COVID19 pandemic, obtaining permission to enable their personal hardware’s wireless capabilities or conduct official business remotely via Virtual Private Network had become increasingly difficult. 

In contrast to peacetime and garrison environments, in combat or combat-simulation training environments Military Members are asked to ignore their personally owned or even government-provided unclassified digital tools in favor of radios or classified, internally networked computers with proprietary software.  That leaders in tactical training environments with government cell phones may sneak away from the constraints of the exercise to coordinate with less friction than that offered by their assigned tactical equipment, as the author has routinely witnessed, underscores the artificiality of the mindset erected around (and the unrealized opportunity afforded by) digital technology.

Digital communication technologies such as cell phones, computers, and internet-enabled software were once at the cutting edge, just as unmanned systems are now, and artificial intelligence will be.  Much like a period of degraded operational readiness experienced when militaries field, train, and integrate new capabilities, military organizations have generally failed to adapt their own systems, processes, or cultures to optimize the capabilities offered by modern communication technologies[6].  

Talk of modernization need not entail investment into the development of groundbreaking new technologies or equipment.  An overabundance of concern for security and disproportionate concern for cost have likely prevented, to this point, the wide-scale distribution of government-procured devices to the lowest level of the military.  These concerns have also likely prevented the U.S. Armed Forces from enabling widespread access to official communication on personal devices.  While prioritizing military modernization is challenging, and costly systems often come out on top, there is goodness in investments that enable military organizations to optimize their efficiency, their effectiveness, and their agility through existing or easily procured digital technologies.  

Systems, processes, and culture are intangible, but modernization evokes an image of tangible or materiel outcomes.  The assessment above can link the intangible to the tangible when mapped back onto concepts of operational and structural readiness.  For example, imagine deploying a platoon on a disaster relief mission or a brigade to a Pacific island as part of a deterrence mission related to Great Power Competition.  In this scenario, the Military Members in these deployed units have everything they need to communicate, plan, and execute their mission on their personal government-issued phones which can be used securely on a host nation cell network.  Cameras, mapping software, and communications capabilities already on these government devices are widely embedded in the daily operations of each unit allowing the units to get on the first available plane and start operating.  

The tangible benefits of a digitally adept military therefore also bridge to structural readiness, whereby the force can absorb reductions in size and become systemically, procedurally, and culturally ready to employ new capabilities that demand organizations operate flexibly and at high speeds[7].  If modernization investments today imagine a future with networked artificial intelligence, ubiquitous unmanned systems, and convergent data — ostensibly secure and enmeshed deeply enough to be leveraged effectively — that same imagination can be applied to a future where this same security and optimization is applied to a suite of government-issued, personal digital hardware and internet-enabled software.


Endnotes:

[1] For one example of analysis touching on modernization within the context of the defense budget, see Blume, S., & Parrish, M. (2020, July 9). Investing in Great-Power Competition. Center for a New American Security. https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/investing-in-great-power-competition

[2] For definitions, their relationship, and their conflation with modernization, see Betts, R. K. (1995). Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices, Consequences (pp. 40-41, 134-136). Brookings Institution Press.

[3] Barno, D., & Bensahel, N. (2020, September 29). Falling into the Adaptation Gap. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/falling-into-the-adaptation-gap

[4] Kroger, J. (2020, August 20). Office Life at the Pentagon Is Disconcertingly Retrograde. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-office-life-at-the-pentagon-is-disconcertingly-retrograde

[5] Ibid.; the author briefly recounts some of the cultural impediments to efficiency at the Pentagon, specifically, and their subsequent impact on leveraging technology.

[6] See Betts, Military Readiness, for an expanded discussion of the trade-off in near-term operational readiness alluded to here.

[7] For a broader advocation for bridging structural readiness, modernization imperatives, and current forces, see Brands, H., & Montgomery, E. B. (2020). One War is Not Enough: Strategy and Force Planning for Great-Power Competition. Texas National Security Review, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.26153/tsw/8865

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Kristofer Seibt United States

Can You Have it All? – Options for Readying for Both Stability and Large Scale Combat Operations

Dr. Jacob Stoil is an Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies and Fellow of the West Point Modern War Institute. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. His research and publications primarily focus on indigenous force cooperation, Israeli military history, special operations in the Second World War, peripheral campaigns in global war, and the use of the subterranean environment in warfare. Dr. Stoil is a member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare and the Second World War Research Group (North America).  He can be reached on Twitter at @JacobStoil.

Dr. Tal Misgav is a Chief Superintendent in MAGAV where he serves as the commander of the MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center. Prior to assuming his post in 2002 he served as special unites and training officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police. He holds a PhD in Military History from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and MA in History from Touro College. Tal has served as an advisor to the commander of MAGAV on MAGAV’s combat history and structuring and building the future of the force. He has authored numerous articles and several books including a forthcoming work “The Legal Framework for Security Force Activity in Judea and Samaria” and “Between the Borders in a Changing Reality: Magav in the run up to and during the Six Day War.”

The views, facts, opinions, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and neither necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies or any other U.S. government agency nor Israeli Government, Israel Police, or MAGAV. 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. military shift from stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to large scale combat operations (LSCO) requires challenging force structure decisions.

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that for the U.S. military to emerge victorious in future conflicts, it must retain the knowledge and capabilities for both large scale combat operations (LSCO) and stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and that this will require deliberate planning.

Background:  Over the last twenty years, the U.S. military has paid a heavy price to learn the lessons for fighting COIN campaigns and stability operations. As the U.S. military now focuses more exclusively on LSCO, it risks having the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The doctrine for LSCO recognizes that in the future, as in the past, stability operations and COIN will play a significant role in both the consolidation zone and the phase of consolidating gains[1]. The historical record supports this. In the Second World War and American Civil War, the U.S. Military expended significant resources on stability, security, and reconstruction[2]. There is every indication that stability and security operations will continue to play a major role in operations below the threshold of LSCO. While there are several ways the U.S. may try to address this problem, other countries, such as Israel, have come up with novel solutions.

Significance:  Historically, the U.S. military has tended to swing between focusing on COIN and stability and focusing on large scale conventional operations. As Iraq and Afghanistan showed, this swing had a cost. The U.S. can find a way to retain knowledge, expertise, and readiness to engage in stability and COIN as well as, and as part of, LSCO. It cannot rely on the experience of the officers and personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Soon there will be officers who have no experience in COIN or stability operations. Yet despite the challenge, developing and retaining expertise in COIN and stability will be critical to the success of future LSCO as well as combating hybrid threats.

Option #1:  The Israeli Option: The U.S. military models a portion of its forces on the experience of MAGAV (Israel’s Gendarme).

Among MAGAV’s responsibilities is maintaining security in the West Bank – an operation which the U.S. military would term as a COIN or stability operation[3]. In LSCO, MAGAV fulfills the same role in the consolidation area[4]. For example, in the 1982 Lebanon War, MAGAV entered Lebanon with the responsibility for security in the costal consolidation area[5]. In order to maintain its specialty for both LSCO and regular operations, MAGAV trains its personnel for operations among the civilian populations[6]. This process begins in boot camp which focuses on this mission, including instruction in how to deal with a wide range of civilian-led demonstrations and terrorist activities—among both friendly and hostile populaces[7]. This process continues in special bases known as “greenhouses” that enable service members to practice their skills in urban and open-territory scenarios as well as targeted training in dispersing demonstrations[8]. This training gives MAGAV a specialized skill set in COIN and stability operations[9].

Risk:  While soldiers from a COIN / stability centric branch like MAGAV would have the ability to conduct basic infantry tasks, they will not be interchangeable with conventional combat focused units. This may create a problem when it comes to deployments and missions as in the current strategic environment, the more stability focused branch will likely have more frequent deployments. Bureaucratically, this also means creating another career and training pipeline in which they can advance, which itself will have a budgetary effect.

Gain:  As the case of MAGAV demonstrates, having a specialty force for stability and COIN can take the pressure off the rest of the branches. This model already exists within the U.S. Army, whose various branches recognize the different skill sets and training required to conduct different types of missions and that the total force benefits from integration of the branches. The experience of MAGAV in the 1982 Lebanon War shows that a specialist branch will solve the challenge of the allocation of forces to consolidation zones in LSCO and may help prevent some the problems that plagued the Iraq War. This option will allow the Army to retain the knowledge and skills to prevail in stability and COIN operations while allowing the bulk of the Army to focus on LSCO.

Option #2:  The Generalist Option: The U.S. military tries to balance its force structure within existing concepts and constructs.

The U.S. military seeks to end the bifurcation between COIN and stability operations on one hand and LSCO on the other. In this option, the military recognizes that COIN and stability tasks are a critical facet of LSCO.  The focus on integrating the two will be in all training and professional military education (PME). While at the most basic level, the training requirements for LSCO may apply to COIN and stability tasks, at higher echelons the tasks and mindsets diverge. To compensate for this, COIN and stability will be included in training and PME for echelons above the battalion. This option would keep within the intent authored by Lieutenant General Michael D. Lundy, former Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, not to lose the lessons of COIN while pursuing LSCO[10]. However, this option differs from the tack that the U.S. military is currently taking by explicitly requiring the retention of a focus on COIN and stability operations, as well the capabilities and structures to execute them within the framework of a force preparing for LSCO.

Risk:  In a budget and time constrained environment this option can be supremely difficult to retain an integrated focus, which could leave critical aspects of COIN and LSCO uncovered. This option risks having one or the other type of operation undervalued, which will result in the continued problem of radical pendulum swings. Finally, even if it proves possible to incorporate stability and LSCO operations equally in training, education, structures, and thought, this option risks creating a force that is incapable of doing either well.

Gain:  This option will create the most agile possible force with a fungible skill set. It allows any formation to serve in either form of operation with equal efficacy, easing the job of planners and commanders. This option will create the broadest possible pool from which to draw, allowing deployments and other missions to be balanced across the force without leaving one or another formation overburdened.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hernandez, R. (2019, July 2). Operations to Consolidate Gains. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2019/July-2019/Operations-to-Consolidate-Gains

[2] See for example: Shinn, David H. and Ofcansky, Thomas P. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia p. 309; https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/Occ-GY/index.htm; https://history.army.mil/html/books/075/75-18/cmhPub_75-18.pdf 

[3] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Organizational Command #11/12, June 2012, p. 2; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, MAGAV Judea and Samaria, December 2015, p. 2

[4] According to FM 3-0 the consolidation area is the portion of an “area of operations that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and support the continuous consolidation of gains.” Dept of the Army (2017) Operations (FM 3-0). 1-158

[5] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Summary of MAGAV Action in Lebanon: 1982–1985, p. 3; 

[6] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Public Disturbance Trends, 2004, p. 9

[7] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Border Patrol Unit Course”, March 2012, pp. 9–12; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6

[8] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Magav Commanders Course”, April 2014, p. 7

[9] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Magav—The Future Has Already Arrived, 2019, pp. 25–26

[10] Lundy, M. D. (2018, September). Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations… Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Dr. Jacob Stoil Dr. Tal Misgav Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Israel Option Papers Training U.S. Army United States

U.S. Options to Incentivize People’s Republic of China Behavior

Mel Daniels has served the United States 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:  With the pending departure of U.S. President Donald Trump, it remains to be seen how the administration of President Joseph Biden views the People’s Republic of China.

Date Originally Written:  November, 24, 2020. 

Date Originally Published:  January 18, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The idea that the U.S. should support the responsible rise of China has failed.  Any future foreign policies that support this idea will also fail.  This failure is due to the U.S. not understanding China’s strategic ambitions. Further, continuing this foreign policy harms U.S. national security and ignores thirty years’ worth of evidence[1]. The author believes the risk that China poses to U.S. interests can be mitigated by adopting an incentive-based approach which offers China a choice between harmony and conflict[2].

Background:  There is an effort in the U.S. to return to a welcoming policy towards China. In this policy, the U.S. accepts and encourages China’s rise and seeks to influence China through diplomacy. In theory, this strategy will shape China into a global partner. This theory is predicated on nearly thirty years of efforts, dating back to the early 1980s[3]. This theory assumes that China will adopt fair practices, reduce regional belligerence, and respect human rights. 

Significance:  Foreign policies that welcome China’s rise will result in continued threats to regional allies, violations of human rights, and continued harm to U.S. interests. These foreign policies allow for unchecked and continued Chinese hostility[1]. Continuing to appease China via these policies, hoping China will alter its behavior, is unrealistic. These policies harm the U.S. significantly because they send the message that U.S. policy, in general, is one of appeasement[4].

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts incentive-based policies towards China by linking China’s undesirable behaviors with U.S. commerce. First, the incoming administration would publicly declare China a threat to U.S. national security and the global order. This declaration would be followed by briefing the entire U.S. Congress regarding the true security situation with China and a proposed path forward. Following this, the incoming administration would take actions within the Executive Branch and submit legislative proposals to Congress that would link all commerce between the U.S. and China to China’s human rights record, and its behavior towards U.S. regional allies in Asia, including Taiwan[5].  By linking U.S.-China commerce to China’s undesirable behaviors, China would have to make many hard choices.

Risk:  U.S. actions in Option #1 could cause additional tension and infuriate China and likely incur reprisals. Further, Option #1 would likely harm the U.S. economy as it is linked to Chinese imports. This option would likely worry regional allies in the Indo-Pacific region, forcing some to potentially distance themselves from the U.S. and seek to reassure China of their neutrality, thereby emboldening China to adopt further anti-U.S. policies. Lastly, should the Congress reject the legislative proposals, this rejection would serve to illustrate the limited options the incoming administration has and provide China additional exploitable fissures in the U.S. political system.

Gain:  Option #1 offers a firm approach and stops the failed policies of the last several decades. This option brings to the forefront the realities of the U.S. situation with China. Option #1 forces U.S. law makers to act or abdicate on the issue, with action or inaction being publicly available for all to see [6]. Further, this option officially links U.S. security, the security of U.S. allies, and the security of the international order, to Chinese policies. This option also reaffirms the U.S. as an advocator for democracy and champion of freedom, valuing human rights[6], U.S. interests, and the security of U.S. partners and allies, over the positive impact China has on the U.S. economy. This option forces China to be a positive member of the global order or lose U.S. commerce and access[7].

With regards to the multiple risks associated with Option #1, the majority have either already occurred or are occurring[1]. It is intellectually dishonest to advocate continued appeasement to China in the hope that China alters its actions by ignoring the long history of Chinese actions that threaten U.S. interests[8]. Regarding the risk of angering China, the gain brings an unpleasant truth to the forefront; China is a global competitor and threat to U.S. interests. Linking human rights and destabilization to trade is not a belligerent act. China’s theft of data and intellectual property, gross human rights violations, and threats of war against U.S. regional allies however, are belligerent actions. Option #1 does harm the U.S. economy, initially[9], but offers the U.S. the option to alternatively source imports from nations who align with democratic principles and values human rights[10]. Option #1 also allows the U.S. to further relations with India, which can offer the U.S. the majority of imports currently found in China, at a competitive price[2][10]. 

Option #2:  The U.S. returns to the approach of welcoming China’s rise and seeks to increase access to Chinese markets, in order to influence China long-term through its populace. Concurrently, the U.S. seeks to influence China internationally through the United Nations on significant security and human right issues.  

Risk:  A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the U.S. will not alter Chinese actions and China will continue to threaten U.S. national interests without penalty.  Further, Option #2 continues to excuse and ignore Chinese hostility, gross human rights violations, and detrimental actions to U.S. security. Lastly, this option continues to hope that China has an intent of peaceful co-existence with other nations and the interests of other nations are respected.

Gain:  The U.S. retains diplomatic options by having commerce with China and tolerates Chinese actions and threats concerning security and human rights violations. Option #2 improves bilateral ties with China. Further, the U.S. reduces the chances of major conflict and reinforces China’s global influence.

Other Comments:  The U.S. policy of welcoming China’s rise has undeniably failed to produce results sought. This policy failed when the Tiananmen Square massacre occurred. This policy failed during the 1996 Taiwanese Straight crises. Most recently, this Policy failed when it became known that China violated the rights of nearly one million Muslim Uighur citizens with impunity.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]. U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY AND MILITARY/COMMERCIAL CONCERNS WITH THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA. The Cox Report. Volume 1. January 3rd 1999. Retrieved from: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CRPT-105hrpt851/pdf/GPO-CRPT-105hrpt851.pdf

[2]. Karwal, Rajeev. October 13th 2020. A 250 Billion Dollar Opportunity. How India can replace China as the World’s Factory. Retrieved from: https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/how-can-india-replace-china-as-worlds-factory-component-manufacturing-hub-local-innovation/story/418751.html

[3].Thayer, Bradley. A. April 30th 2020. Real Clear Defense. Why was the U.S so late to recognize the Chinese Threat? Retrieved from: https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/04/30/why_was_the_us_so_late_to_recognize_the_china_threat_115238.html

[4]. Columbia-Harvard: China and the World program. China’s Near Seas Combat Capacities, Naval War College, China Maritime Study 11. February, 2014. Dutton, Peter, Erickson, Andrew, S and others. Retrieved from: https://cwp.sipa.columbia.edu/news/china%e2%80%99s-near-seas-combat- capabilities-cwp-alumni-andrew-erickson

[5]. Human Rights Watch. China’s Global Threat to Human Rights. 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/global#

[6]. Amnesty International. China 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/china/report-china/

[7]. [7]. Fallows, James. The Atlantic. China’s Great Leap Backward. December 2016 Issue. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/12/chinas-great-leap-backward/505817/

[8]. Report to Congress, pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Act on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. Retrieved from: http://archive.defense.gov/news/Jun2000/china06222000.htm

[9].Trump, Donald.  July 21, 2020.  Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States.  Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-assessing-strengthening-manufacturing-defense-industrial-base-supply-chain-resiliency-united-states/

[10]. United States Census. Trade in Goods with India. 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5330.html

China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors Governing Documents and Ideas Mel Daniels United States

Options to Enhance Security in U.S. Networked Combat Systems

Jason Atwell has served in the U.S. Army for over 17 years and has worked in intelligence and cyber for most of that time. He has been a Federal employee, a consultant, and a contractor at a dozen agencies and spent time overseas in several of those roles. He is currently a senior intelligence expert for FireEye, Inc. and works with government clients at all levels on cyber security strategy and planning.  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 combat systems within DoD become more connected via networks, this increases their vulnerability to adversary action.

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 11, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a reservist in the U.S. Army and a cyber security and intelligence strategist for FireEye, Inc. in his day job. This article is intended to draw attention to the need for building resiliency into future combat systems by assessing vulnerabilities in networks, hardware, and software as it is better to discover a software vulnerability such as a zero day exploit in a platform like the F-35 during peacetime instead of crisis.

Background:  The United States is rushing to field a significant number of networked autonomous and semi-autonomous systems[1][2] while neglecting to secure those systems against cyber threats. This neglect is akin to the problem the developed world is having with industrial control systems and internet-of-things devices[3]. These systems are unique, they are everywhere, they are connected to the internet, but they are not secured like traditional desktop computers. These systems won’t provide cognitive edge or overmatch if they fail when it matters most due to poorly secured networks, compromised hardware, and untested or vulnerable software.

Significance:  Networked devices contain massive potential to increase the resiliency, effectiveness, and efficiency in the application of combat power[4]. Whether kinetic weapons systems, non-lethal information operations, or well-organized logistics and command and control, the advantages gained by applying high-speed networking and related developments in artificial intelligence and process automation will almost certainly be decisive in future armed conflict. However, reliance on these technologies to gain a competitive or cognitive edge also opens the user up to being incapacitated by the loss or degradation of the very thing they rely on for that edge[5]. As future combat systems become more dependent on networked autonomous and semi-autonomous platforms, success will only be realized via accompanying cybersecurity development and implementation. This formula for success is equally true for ground, sea, air, and space platforms and will take into account considerations for hardware, software, connectivity, and supply chain. The effective application of cyber threat intelligence to securing and enabling networked weapons systems and other defense technology will be just as important to winning in the new multi-domain battlefield as the effective application of other forms of intelligence has been in all previous conflicts.

Option #1:  The Department of Defense (DoD) requires cybersecurity efforts as part of procurement. The DoD has been at work on applying their “Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification” to vendors up and down the supply chain[6]. A model like this can assure a basic level of protection to hardware and software development and will make sure that controls and countermeasures are at the forefront of defense industrial base thinking.

Risk:  Option #1 has the potential to breed complacency by shifting the cybersecurity aspect too far to the early stages of the procurement process, ignoring the need for continued cyber vigilance further into the development and fielding lifecycle. This option also places all the emphasis on vendor infrastructure through certification and doesn’t address operational and strategic concerns around the resiliency of systems in the field. A compliance-only approach does not adapt to changing adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Gain:  Option #1 forces vendors to take the security of their products seriously lest they lose their ability to do business with the DoD. As the model grows and matures it can be used to also elevate the collective security of the defense industrial base[7].

Option #2:  DoD takes a more proactive approach to testing systems before and during fielding. Training scenarios such as those used at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center (NTC) could be modified to include significant cyber components, or a new Cyber-NTC could be created to test the ability of maneuver units to use networked systems in a hostile cyber environment. Commanders could be provided a risk profile for their unit to enable them to understand critical vulnerabilities and systems in their formations and be able to think through risk-based mitigations.

Risk:  This option could cause significant delay in operationalizing some systems if they are found to be lacking. It could also give U.S. adversaries insight into the weaknesses of some U.S. systems. Finally, if U.S. systems are not working well, especially early on in their maturity, this option could create significant trust and confidence issues in networked systems[8].

Gain:  Red teams from friendly cyber components could use this option to hone their own skills, and maneuver units will get better at dealing with adversity in their networked systems in difficult and challenging environments. This option also allows the U.S. to begin developing methods for degrading similar adversary capabilities, and on the flip side of the risk, builds confidence in systems which function well and prepares units for dealing with threat scenarios in the field[9].

Option #3:  The DoD requires the passing of a sort of “cybersecurity sea trial” where the procured system is put through a series of real-world challenges to see how well it holds up. The optimal way to do this could be having specialized red teams assigned to program management offices that test the products.

Risk:  As with Option #2, this option could create significant delays or hurt confidence in a system. There is also the need for this option to utilize a truly neutral test to avoid it becoming a check-box exercise or a mere capabilities demonstration.

Gain:  If applied properly, this option could give the best of all options, showing how well a system performs and forcing vendors to plan for this test in advance. This also helps guard against the complacency associated with Option #1. Option #3 also means systems will show up to the field already prepared to meet their operational requirements and function in the intended scenario and environment.

Other Comments:  Because of advances in technology, almost every function in the military is headed towards a mix of autonomous, semi-autonomous, and manned systems. Everything from weapons platforms to logistics supply chains are going to be dependent on robots, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence. Without secure resilient networks the U.S. will not achieve overmatch in speed, efficiency, and effectiveness nor will this technology build trust with human teammates and decision makers. It cannot be overstated the degree to which reaping the benefits of this technology advancement will depend upon the U.S. application of existing and new cybersecurity frameworks in an effective way while developing U.S. offensive capabilities to deny those advantages to U.S. adversaries.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Judson, Jen. (2020). US Army Prioritizes Open Architecture for Future Combat Vehicle. Retrieved from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/ausa/2020/10/13/us-army-prioritizes-open-architecture-for-future-combat-vehicle-amid-competition-prep

[2] Larter, David B. The US Navy’s ‘Manhattan Project’ has its leader. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.c4isrnet.com/naval/2020/10/14/the-us-navys-manhattan-project-has-its-leader

[3] Palmer, Danny. IOT security is a mess. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-security-is-a-mess-these-guidelines-could-help-fix-that

[4] Shelbourne, Mallory. (2020). Navy’s ‘Project Overmatch’ Structure Aims to Accelerate Creating Naval Battle Network. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2020/10/29/navys-project-overmatch-structure-aims-to-accelerate-creating-naval-battle-network

[5] Gupta, Yogesh. (2020). Future war with China will be tech-intensive. Retrieved from https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/future-war-with-china-will-be-tech-intensive-161196

[6] Baksh, Mariam. (2020). DOD’s First Agreement with Accreditation Body on Contractor Cybersecurity Nears End. Retrieved from https://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2020/10/dods-first-agreement-accreditation-body-contractor-cybersecurity-nears-end/169602

[7] Coker, James. (2020). CREST and CMMC Center of Excellence Partner to Validate DoD Contractor Security. Retrieved from https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/crest-cmmc-validate-defense

[8] Vandepeer, Charles B. & Regens, James L. & Uttley, Matthew R.H. (2020). Surprise and Shock in Warfare: An Enduring Challenge. Retrieved from https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/10/27/surprise_and_shock_in_warfare_an_enduring_challenge_582118.html

[9] Schechter, Benjamin. (2020). Wargaming Cyber Security. Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/wargaming-cyber-security

Cyberspace Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Information Systems Jason Atwell United States

Options to Prioritize People and Improve Readiness: Decreasing OPTEMPO to Increase Learning

Josh Linvill has served in 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as a regimental planner, rifle company commander, and headquarters and headquarters troop commander. He is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division and serves as a planner for Operation Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. He can be found on Twitter @josh_linvill. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Army is transitioning its number one priority from readiness to people. Part of the transition is an attempt to reduce the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) so units can focus on dedicated periods for mission, training, and modernization.

Date Originally Written:  November 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 4, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s School for Advanced Military Studies whose research focused on how the Army can learn from Rotational Training Units’ (RTU) experiences. The author believes a lower OPTEMPO by focusing the purpose of Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations or reducing the number of CTC rotations will increase learning for the Army and therefore increase readiness.

Background:  In October 2020, the U.S. Army published its Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. The plan describes how the focus on readiness, “resulted in an unsustainable OPTEMPO and placed significant demands on units, leaders, and Soldiers and Families and stress on the force[1].” The action plan describes two ways the Army will reduce OPTEMPO; specially designed rotations where the entire brigade will not deploy to a CTC and potentially not requiring CTC rotations for units scheduled for non-combat deployments.

Significance:  Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides a model, figure 1, the Army can use to increase learning while reducing OPTEMPO. Theorist David Kolb explains the dialectic nature of ELT, “learning is defined as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.’ Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience[2].” The ELT cycle consists of four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. In ideal circumstances the learner grasps and transforms knowledge while progressing through each stage of the cycle. As Kolb writes, “immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observations and reflections. Theses reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action are drawn. These implications can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences[3].” Changing the current design and/or rate of CTC rotations, or concrete experiences for units, enables the Army to give primacy to the other stages of the ELT cycle. By implementing different options for CTC rotations the Army can learn more by harnessing the power of a complete ELT cycle.

Figure 1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory Model. David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

Option #1:  The Army focuses CTC rotations on Army learning, not just the RTU. In this option, the Army can treat each CTC rotation as a means to an end by assessing and integrating the needs of the RTU with the overall needs of the Army. In other words, each CTC rotation can serve as a new concrete experience in the ELT cycle of the Army. The Army can use lessons learned from current conflicts or previous War Fighter Exercises and CTC rotations to tailor rotations focused on one unit or warfighting function. For example, division cavalry constructs, the use of armor in an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance saturated environment, or consolidation area operations.

Risk:  The primary risk to Option #1 is that the experiments fail and a fiscal risk in that rotations are extremely expensive. If there is no balance between active experimentation and training the fundamentals of warfighting and therefore readiness will suffer.

Gain:  Rather than using similar rotational constructs for each Brigade Combat Team, in this option the Army will benefit from using the ELT cycles that begin with different experiences to test (ELT active experimentation) a theory or hypothesis (ELT abstract conceptualization) developed by reflecting on pervious experiences (ELT reflective observation). In this option ELT cycles that begin outside of CTCs will directly influence CTC rotations. By linking ELT cycles at CTCs the Army can develop new ideas following a variety of experiences.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army slows down to speed up learning. A certain level of detachment from experience is required to progress through every stage of the ELT cycle. An organization consumed by events cannot effectively learn. By reducing the number of CTC rotations the Army can learn more by focusing on the other stages of the ELT cycle and exploit the knowledge of other organizations who shared the experience with the RTU. Organizations like Operations Groups and the Opposing Force (OPFOR) are just some of the key players to extending the learning process. More time between rotations would allow these organizations time to progress through their own ELT cycles and share that knowledge directly with other units[4].

Risk:  Although quality over quantity is important and in-line with the Army Action Plan, this option risks leaders in key positions not having any CTC experience at all. Fewer events mean fewer concrete experiences to initiate the learning.

Gain:  Fewer rotations means CTC Operations Groups will be able to focus more time observing and coaching units through the entire ELT cycle instead of focusing on the concrete experience of each rotation. Fewer rotations will enable members of the Operations Groups to follow up with previous RTUs and coach them through the reflection on, conceptualization, and experimentation of ideas that began during their rotation, extending the learning cycle that started at the CTC. This same process could take place for units training for upcoming CTC rotations. Members of the Operations Groups would have the time to share the reflections and observations of previous RTUs and their own observations and ideas to support commanders training their units for a CTC rotation. Fewer rotations would also enable other CTC organizations, like members of the OPFOR, to take part in the process and further enhance units’ learning cycles.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Army, Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. Army.mil, October13, 2020, accessed October 25, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/239837/action_plan_to_prioritize_people_and_teams

[2] David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dr. Robert Foley examines the process of horizontal learning, using the experiences of other units to learn, is his article, A Case Study in Horizontal Military Innovation: The German Army, 1916-1918. Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402390.2012.669737

Josh Linvill Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

Assessment of the Use of Poisons as the Weapon of Choice in Putin’s Russia

Rylee Boyd is an incoming MSc candidate in Strategic Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Her areas of focus are Russia, CBRN weapons, and human security. She can be found on twitter @_RyleeBoyd. Divergent Option’s content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Use of Poisons as the Weapon of Choice in Putin’s Russia

Date Originally Written:  November 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 28, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the use of poison as an assassination weapon is a strategic choice by Russian President Vladimir Putin due to several different factors beyond just the goal of inflicting death on political enemies. Understanding these choices is important to countries hoping to respond with consequences for Russia when such poisonings do occur.

Summary:  Poison is the weapon of choice in Putin’s Russia as it makes attack attribution challenging. This attribution challenge is especially true for Putin, as even if he did not order a poisoning, these attacks certainly don’t get carried out without his approval or at least his passive acceptance. Both of these factors make it difficult to leverage sanctions or other consequences against the perpetrators of the attacks. The availability of poison also makes it a keen choice for use.

Text:  Russia’s chemical weapons program dates back to the early 20th century when it created a laboratory solely dedicated to creating different poisons. During the time of the Soviet Union, the government commonly used poison on political prisoners. Though Russia claims that the poison program was dissolved along with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the 21st century poisonings certainly raise questions about the credibility of that claim[1]. Moscow made news on August 20th when Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Putin and someone who exposed corruption within the Russian government, had to be transported to a hospital in Omsk due to a suspected poisoning[2]. It has now been confirmed that Navalny has been poisoned with Novichok, a chemical nerve agent from the Soviet-era chemical weapons program, that was also used in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom in 2018[3]. Navalny is the latest victim in a long line of poisonings of Putin critics and supposed threats to the Kremlin, which brings about the recurring question of why poison seems to be a common weapon of choice.

The use of poison by Moscow is a strategic decision that results in the ability to feign ignorance by Putin and the difficulty in attributing the attack to anyone specific. Because poisons are only detectable in one’s system for a certain amount of time, Moscow uses its ability to prevent victims from leaving Russia for a period of time after the attack in order to prevent detection. In the case of the Activist Pyotr Verzilov who fell ill in 2018, he was kept in a Russian intensive care ward for a few days before being allowed to be released to Berlin[4]. German doctors suspected that Verzilov was poisoned, but they were not able to find a trace of it, and Verzilov blamed the Russian authorities for the attack and keeping him quarantined in Russia for a period of time[5]. This delay tactic can also be exemplified through the recent poisoning of Alexei Navalny, when Russia initially refused to allow him to be transferred to Berlin for treatment. Russia eventually ceded to the request to move to Germany, and thankfully by the time Navalny got to Berlin doctors were still able to find traces of Novichok in his system[6].

The fact that the poison cannot always be detected by the time of hospital admittance in another country, and that it can be difficult to determine how the victim came into contact with the poison, makes attack attribution extremely difficult. This attribution challenge in turn makes it difficult to leverage consequences against the perpetrators of the attacks. This attribution challenge has not stopped many countries though, for the use of diplomatic expulsions and sanctions have been used to bring ramifications against specific members of the Kremlin apparatus[7].

Another reason for the use of poisons is the ease with which they seem to be accessed. While the use of any chemical weapon, especially poison, requires precise expertise and intricate devising, the history of the Soviet chemical weapons program and recent poisonings make it clear that Russia still has quite the stockpile of poisons. The experience of using poison against people both in and outside of Russia also has a history dating back to Soviet times[8]. Even though Russia is a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which bans the use of any toxic agents as chemical weapons, over seven poisonings in the past two decades suggest that Russia clearly still has some store of chemical weapons[9]. Poisons are not easy to make from scratch, and the manner of poisonings and frequency of the attacks suggest that the security services are invariably involved in such onslaughts.

The use of poison is also to make a symbolic point. Poison usage shows that Putin or someone else high up in the Kremlin apparatus can more or less get away with poisoning critics without any serious consequences. And while these attacks do not always result in death, they still serve as a success for Russia, as the attack may likely scare the victim enough to prevent them from continuing any work or activism against Putin and his cronies. However, it is notable that evidence suggests that poison as a deterrence is not always successful. Navalny has already stated that he plans to return to Moscow, even though he has to know that he is at quite a risk now[10]. The poisoning of Anna Politkovskaya in 2004 occurred as she was making her way to report on the hostage situation of a school in Beslan. She survived the poisoning and continued her work as a journalist reporting honestly on issues of corruption and human rights, but was later shot in her apartment building elevator two years later[11].

The use of poison as the weapon of choice against Moscow’s political enemies is a strategic choice as a weapon that causes more than just death or serious illness. While denying Russia its stores of chemical weapon stores and ensuring poison attacks can be attributed and followed by consequences, is an obvious solution, this is easier said than done.


Endnotes:

[1] Herman, E. (2018, June 23). Inside Russia’s long history of poisoning political enemies. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://nypost.com/2018/06/23/inside-russias-long-history-of-poisoning-political-enemies

[2] Chappell, B., & Schmitz, R. (2020, August 24). Navalny Was Poisoned, But His Life Isn’t in Danger, German Hospital Says. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2020/08/24/905423648/navalny-was-poisoned-but-his-life-isnt-in-danger-german-hospital-says

[3] Halasz, S., Jones, B., & Mezzofiore, G. (2020, September 03). Novichok nerve agent used in Alexey Navalny poisoning, says German government. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/02/europe/alexey-navalny-novichok-intl/index.html

[4] Groch, S. (2020, August 30). Beware the tea: Why do Russians keep being poisoned? Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/beware-the-tea-why-do-russians-keep-being-poisoned-20200827-p55poy.html

[5] Miriam Berger, A. (2020, August 30). Why poison is the weapon of choice in Putin’s Russia. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/08/21/why-poison-is-weapon-choice-putins-russia

[6] Chappell, B., & Schmitz, R.

[7] Shesgreen, D. (2018, August 09). Trump administration to impose new sanctions on Russia for attempted assassination of ex-Russian spy. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/08/russia-sanctions-trump-team-responds-poisoning-sergei-skripal/938147002

[8] Factbox: From polonium to a poisoned umbrella – mysterious fates of Kremlin foes. (2018, March 06). Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-russia-factbox/factbox-from-polonium-to-a-poisoned-umbrella-mysterious-fates-of-kremlin-foes-idUSKCN1GI2IG

[9] Arms Control Today. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-11/news/novichok-used-russia-opcw-finds

[10] Bennhold, K., & Schwirtz, M. (2020, September 14). Navalny, Awake and Alert, Plans to Return to Russia, German Official Says. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/world/europe/navalny-novichok.html

[11] Anna Politkovskaya. (2018, October 23). Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://pen.org/advocacy-case/anna-politkovskaya

Assessment Papers Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons Russia Rylee Boyd

Call for Papers: Cold War Transferability or Lack Thereof

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 actions that were done during the 1947-1991 Cold War, and whether those actions or portions of them are transferable to today’s national security environment.

To inspire potential writers, we provide the below prompts:

– Assess the validity of the U.S. spectrum of Containment -> Competition -> Rollback used when thinking about the Soviet Union towards the People’s Republic of China.

– Assess how the linkage between the U.S. and China economies will impact national security differently than the linkage between the U.S. and Soviet Union economies did.

– Can products the U.S. acquires for China be acquired elsewhere?  If so, what acquisition options are available and how will this impact national security?

– Can earlier Offset Strategies used during the Cold War be applied to China?  If so, what options are available for their application and what conditions need to exist to ensure their success?

For further inspiration, we highly recommend potential writers read the chapter “Soviet military thought and the U.S. competitive strategies initiative” by John Battilega, which can be found within the book “Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice” by Thomas G. Mahnken.

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

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by February 13, 2021.

Call For Papers

Assessing the Role of Armed Forces in Activities Below the Threshold of War

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Dr Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on LinkedIn at Paul Jemitola. 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 Armed Forces in Activities Below the Threshold of War

Date Originally Written: September 26, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 21, 2020.

Authors and / or Article Point of View:  The return to Great Power competition and the utilization by various rising powers of the current world order of hybrid warfare and destabilizing activities short of war has increased the calls for governments to refocus their priorities to other levers of power. Even as the authors support increased investment in other areas of government to enhance their contributions to national security, it is important to articulate the role that armed forces could play in interactions that would fall short of armed conflict.

Summary:  As the world returns to Great Power competition, militaries will continue to play a role even in activities below the threshold of war. As the Global War on Terror winds down from a period of intensity, policymakers can identify those roles the military must play without needless overlap with the jurisdiction of other government agencies and shape their policy decisions accordingly.

Text:  The rise of new powers willing to upend the current global order has given rise to new flashpoints while rekindling old rivalries[1][2]. While the interconnected nature of the global economy disincentivizes direct conflict between major powers[3][4], the rise of nationalism, especially in the developed world[5], demands that political leaders take strong actions to counter perceived competitors. This demand for action drives countries to find ways to undermine their opponents without engaging in direct conflict[6].

This reality, combined with the mixed records of military interventions in recent times, has caused many to call for governments to shift resources away from the military to fund other means of projecting national power short of sustained armed conflicts[7]. While governments must maintain various options in foreign policy and defence [8][9], the role of the military in maintaining peace, whether against near-peer adversaries or non-state actors, cannot be diminished and will be crucial in the next Cold War as it was in the last[10].

Militaries can continue to serve as instruments of deterrence against hostile activities of competitors[11][12]. The presence of military power and highly visible demonstrations of its capabilities can reinforce messages being passed through diplomatic and political channels. From gunboat diplomacy to freedom of navigation operations, these shows of force are meant to demonstrate the willingness of their governments to challenge actions against their interests while reassuring allies that their interests were also being catered to. A credible deterrence means that adversaries are less likely to engage in costly conventional military actions and will keep their activities confined below war threshold levels[13].

Militaries can provide security for other arms of governments operating in hostile environments[14][15]. Diplomats and politicians visiting or serving in warzones and other adversarial conditions can be protected by military units with experience in Executive Protection. This security support to diplomacy will be keeping in traditions of the United States Marine Corps and especially its Marine Corps Embassy Security Group[16]. In case of emergencies, the military can provide contingency support to reinforcing security or evacuating personnel[17].

Militaries can build relationships with counterparts through exercises, personnel exchange programs, conferences, and intergovernmental military alliance meetings[18]. In many countries, the armed forces continue to serve as independent power bases largely separate from political leaders[19][20]. These military to military engagements require that senior military commanders engage with their opposite numbers and deliver a unified message alongside diplomatic and political overtures. This unified messaging ensures that actions agreed to by political leaders are not disrupted by the militaries of those countries.

Militaries seek to attract the best and brightest of society[21]. Military education programs and professional training also serve as a platform to develop professionals with critical skills needed by other government agencies. Intelligence collectors and analysts, language and cultural experts, and logistics and security specialists are just some of the skills routinely trained and deployed by the military. Government agencies can tap into the existing military structures to train their professionals[22] or hire veterans with training and experience. Militaries can also second their officers to work directly in civil or political organizations as subject matter experts or even leaders/managers[23].

The military may continue to provide relevant military intelligence on the military capabilities of allies, competitors, and adversaries to political leaders to support policy making[24]. By compiling and presenting information on how capable militaries and other state and non-state actors in the area of interest are, the military can help policymakers determine how much to depend on military power and how much to rely on other means of influencing the situation.

The military can provide support to civil government agencies seeking to leverage military capabilities to achieve civilian goals[25][26]. From logistical support in disaster relief, crisis management during unplanned contingencies, cybersecurity, or even the regular movement of daily items for diplomats and civilian government workers deployed abroad, the military can use its already established logistics networks to support the missions of agencies who do not need to establish duplicating functions in their agencies.

The military can also play a niche role in grey-zone or paramilitary operations usually the preserve of intelligence agencies[27]. As the Global War on Terror and the new competition between states continue to evolve, the military may continue to provide the personnel to carry out the planning and execution phase of clandestine operations previously left to the paramilitary forces of intelligence agencies.

The military can play a critical role in the protection of critical infrastructure[28], especially in cyberspace. In the age of information / political warfare[29], cyber-attacks[30], and election interference[31], the ability to identify, classify, and defeat external threats in real-time depends on military forces and intelligence agencies facing outwards as much as security services and law enforcement agencies looking inwards. The ability to deliver a proportionate response beyond the domain attacked adds additional credibility to deterrence [32]. By its nature, warfare in cyberspace will not be limited to a single service or agency but will require the entire society to build resilience and respond appropriately. The military will necessarily be a part of any response to such threats, either to the Defense Industrial Base Sector or to the wider society.

As the dawn of a new era in international relations begins, leaders will need to rely on every available lever of power to achieve favourable outcomes as they compete for a favourable place on the global stage. While many events will occur outside the realm of armed conflict, it will not diminish the role the armed forces plays to ensure successful outcomes. Thus as governments take critical decisions on the means of expressing their nation’s will and safeguarding its interests, they can embrace neither neglecting their militaries nor limit their contribution to simply to the waging of its wars.


Endnotes:

[1] Mullan, T. (2019, June 25). The World Order is Dead. Long Live the New World Order. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from https://www.cfr.org/blog/world-order-dead-long-live-world-order

[2] Friedman, U. (2019, August 6). The New Concept Everyone in Washington Is Talking About. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/08/what-genesis-great-power-competition/595405

[3] Adorney, G. (2013, October 15). Want Peace, Promote Free Trade. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://fee.org/articles/want-peace-promote-free-trade

[4] Mooney, L. (2014, May 28). Matthew O. Jackson: Can Trade Prevent? Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/matthew-o-jackson-can-trade-prevent-war

[5] Ulansky, E and Witenberg. W. (2016, May 31). Is Nationalism on the Rise Globally? Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-nationalism-on-the-ris_b_10224712

[6] Barno, D. (2014, July 28). The Shadow Wars of the 21st Century. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2014/07/the-shadow-wars-of-the-21st-century

[7] Hick, K. (2020, March/April). Getting to Less: The Truth About Defense Spending. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2020-02-10/getting-less

[8] Schweitzer, C. (2004, December 1). Building an alternative to military intervention. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://peacenews.info/node/3634/building-alternative-military-intervention

[9] (2007, November). Alternatives to military intervention: What is done by the military that could be done better by civilians? Retrieved September 26, 2020, from http://www.irenees.net/bdf_fiche-analyse-707_en.html

[10] Kaplan, R. (2019, January 7). A New Cold War has Begun. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/07/a-new-cold-war-has-begun

[11] Flournoy, M. (2020, August 18). How to Prevent a War in Asia. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-06-18/how-prevent-war-asia

[12] Mauroni, A. (2019, October 8). Deterrence: I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://mwi.usma.edu/deterrence-dont-think-means-think-means

[13] Walter, P. (2016, August 15). National Security Adaptations to Below Established Threshold Activities. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.lawfareblog.com/national-security-adaptations-below-established-threshold-activities

[14] Roper, G. (2010, February 17). Soldiers train to protect VIPs. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.army.mil/article/34558/soldiers_train_to_protect_vips

[15] Elite UK ForcesSAS – Close Protection. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.eliteukforces.info/special-air-service/close-protection

[16] Martinez, L. (2019, May 1). An inside look at the training for Marines who protect US embassies. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/inside-training-marines-protect-us-embassies/story?id=62736016

[17] Atlamazoglou, S. (2020, March 4). Exclusive: Army Special Forces Command Disbands Elite Unit. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://sofrep.com/news/exclusive-army-special-forces-command-disbands-elite-units

[18] Myers, D. (2018, August 17). The Importance of Educating Foreign Military Officers. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/importance-educating-foreign-military-officers

[19] Feldberg, R. (1970, Spring). Political System and the Role of the Military. The Sociological Quarterly, 11(2), 206-218. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/4105402

[20] Gutteridge, W. (1982). The military in African politics — Success or failure?, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 1:2, 241-252, Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02589008208729384

[21] Barno, D. and Benshael, N. (2015, November 5). Can the U.S. Military Halt Its Brain Drain? Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/us-military-tries-halt-brain-drain/413965

[22] National Defense University. Attending National War College. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://nwc.ndu.edu/Students/Attending-NWC

[23] UN Secretary-General. (2016, July 29). Seconded active-duty military and police personnel: Report of the Secretary-General. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/837050/files/A_71_257-EN.pdf

[24] Katz, B. (2018, November 14). Intelligence and You: A Guide for Policymakers. . Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2018/11/intelligence-and-you-a-guide-for-policymakers

[25] Buchalter, A. (2007, February). Military Support to Civil Authorities: The Role of the Department of Defence in Support of Homeland Defense. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/CNGR_Milit-Support-Civil-Authorities.pdf

[26] US Government. (2018, October 29). Defence Support of Civil Authorities. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_28.pdf

[27] Livermore, D. (2019, September 10). Passing the paramilitary touch from the CIA to the Special Operations Command. Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2019/09/10/passing-the-paramilitary-torch-from-the-cia-to-special-operations-command

[28] Vergun, D. (2019, September 6). Cyber Strategy Protects Critical U.S. Infrastructure. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1954009/cyber-strategy-protects-critical-us-infrastructure

[29] Robinson, L. Helmus, T. Cohen, R. Nader, A. Radin, A. Magnuson, M. and Migacheva, K. (2018). Modern Political Warfare: Current Practices and Possible Responses. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1700/RR1772/RAND_RR1772.pdf

[30] Wallace, I. (2013, December 16). The Military Role in National Cybersecurity Governance. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from, https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-military-role-in-national-cybersecurity-governance

[31] U.S. Cyber Command. (2020, February 10). DOD Has Enduring Role in Election Defense. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from, https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/2078716/dod-has-enduring-role-in-election-defense

[32] Monaghan, S. Cullen, P. and Wegge N. (2019, March). MCDC Countering Hybrid Warfare Project: Countering Hybrid Warfare. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/784299/concepts_mcdc_countering_hybrid_warfare.pdf

Armed Forces Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Damimola Olawuyi Dr. Paul Jemitola

U.S. Military Force Deployment Options to Deter China

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:  To avoid a war, the U.S. requires additional force deployment options to deter China.

Date Originally Written:  October 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. strategy to deter Chinese aggression is failing as a result of strategic mismanagement and procurement efforts that are not properly aligned with operational and intelligence realities. The author believes the risk that China poses to U.S. interests can be mitigated by altering current and future operational concepts and by procuring the correct weapons to deter Chinese aggression.

Background:  The U.S. aims to deter China by forward positioning forces in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Further, by centering its operational concepts on Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) and Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operation (EABO)[1], the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps need the appropriate equipment to successfully execute, while remaining able to support the U.S. Air Force in the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons[2]. These concepts are designed to restrict Chinese freedom of maneuver and establish an Americanized version of an Anti-Access and Area Denial bubble (A2/AD).

Significance:  As a result of forward deployment, the entirety of U.S. forces in the region are within striking range of China and suffer from an inferior ratio of forces[3]. The Chinese are also expected to attack first, disabling U.S capabilities in both Japan and the Republic of Korea, which negates joint operational capabilities between the U.S Navy and the U.S Air Force[4]. To further illustrate the significance, and the basis for defense industrial base related Executive Order 13806[5], it would take years for the U.S. to replenish losses[6]. Lastly, if China decided to attack first, the U.S. would suffer significant loses in lives and material, as well as suffer from a humiliating and relatively preventable defeat.

Option #1:  The U.S. alters its current strategy by significantly reducing its forces in Japan and the Republic of Korea to mitigate losses in the event of a Chinese attack. In this option, the U.S. adopts an strategy that leverages the entirety of its power to reposition its forces near strategic key terrain that threaten China’s vulnerable sea lanes of communication, centered around Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and India. The minimal U.S forces located within the First Island Chain could then be reequipped to conduct DMO and EABO operations, focusing on long range A2/AD efforts.

Risk:  The significant risks associated with Option #1 are that U.S. actions could be seen as a withdrawal from Japan and the Republic of Korea and the abandonment of allies. Further, Option #1 may reduce the defense capabilities of Japan and the Republic of Korea, thereby emboldening China.

Gain:  Option #1 deters and if deterrence fails, defeats China without significant losses. China cannot defend their lines of communication and therefore, its commerce and energy imports are held at risk. Further, China’s military is not ideally suited for operations beyond the First Island Chain, far from the Chinese coastline. Option #1 allows the U.S to preserve its combat power and reduce Chinese advantages. Furthermore, Option #1, if explained properly, does not abandon U.S allies or cede the field to China. This option merely repositions to a favorable location that preserves U.S. flexibility, interdicts Chinese lines of communication and maneuvers China into an untenable situation, while retaining minimal U.S forces in Japan and Korea focused on DMO and EABO supporting efforts.

Option #2:  The U.S. alters its current strategy of forward deployment, repositions the majority of its forces found in Japan and the Republic of Korea to Hawaii, and seeks to increase its presence near Australia.

Risk:  A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the U.S could be seen as abandoning its allies in the region by repositioning its forces to areas that protect Hawaii and Australia.

Gain:  The U.S. retains flexibility by having forces based in Hawaii and significantly reduces Chinese military options by increasing the distance between Chinese forces and U.S forces. This option forces China seek out and bring the U.S. to battle far away from the Chinese coast line which will likely lead to China incurring unacceptable losses in the event of a conflict. Further, the U.S. would retain minimal forces in both Japan and Korea which would allow the U.S. to disperse and maximize its capabilities while exploiting Chinese weaknesses. Option #2 also preserves the U.S. alliance with both Japan and the Republic of Korea, while, containing China, without excessive trip wire forces being endangered. This option in turn continues to force the Chinese to accept conflict with the entirety of forces from the U.S, Japan and the Republic of Korea, while still having to contend with its vulnerable lines of communication, trade and an increasingly alarmed India.

Other Comments:  The U.S. strategy of forward basing and employing DMO and EABO cannot work as due to the incorrect systems being funded and the sheer proximity of Chinese military capabilities to U.S. forces in Japan and the Republic of Korea. DMO and EABO rely upon China not attacking first and rely upon weapons with a significant range that can actually interdict Chinese options. China has closed the capability gap due to our inability to procure the correct weapon systems and platforms for conflict within the First Island Chain. Further, this isn’t news, as China’s agenda has been known since the year 2000[7].

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) Handbook Considerations for Force Development and Employment 1 June 2018. Retrieved from: https://mca-marines.org/wp-content/uploads/Expeditionary-Advanced-Base-Operations-EABO-handbook-1.1.pdf

[2] U.S. Naval War College. Air Sea Battle Service Collaboration. 2013. Retrieved from: https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/csf/1/ and A COOPERATIVE STRATEGY FOR 21ST CENTURY SEAPOWER. (MARCH 2015). Retrieved from: http://www.navy.mil/local/maritime/150227-CS21R-Final.pdf

[3] The RAND Corporation: National Security Research Division: Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth: Chinese Air Force Employment Concepts in the 21st Century. By Roger Cliff, John Fei, Jeff Hagen, and others 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG915.pdf and Columbia-Harvard: China and the World program. China’s Near Seas Combat Capacities, Naval War College, China Maritime Study 11. February, 2014. Dutton, Peter, Erickson, Andrew, S and others. Retrieved from: https://cwp.sipa.columbia.edu/news/china%E2%80%99s-near-seas-combat-capabilities-cwp-alumni-andrew-erickson

[4] U.S. Naval War College. Air Sea Battle Service Collaboration. 2013.

[5] Trump, Donald. July 21, 2020. Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States. Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-assessing-strengthening-manufacturing-defense-industrial-base-supply-chain-resiliency-united-states

[6] Haper, Jon. January 24th, 2020. National Defense Magazine: Vital Signs 2020: Industrial Base Could Struggle to Surge Production in Wartime. Retrieved from: https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/1/24/industrial-base-could-struggle-to-surge-production-in-wartime

[7] Report to Congress, pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Act on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China. Retrieved from: http://archive.defense.gov/news/Jun2000/china06222000.htm and Holmes, James. (2015, February, 3rd). The Diplomat. The Long Strange Trip of China’s First Aircraft Carrier Liaoning: And what it says about Beijing’s naval ambitions. Retrieved from: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/03/the-long-strange-trip-of-chinas-first-aircraft-carrier-liaoning

China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Mel Daniels United States

Assessing Ukraine’s Return to Stability

Stuart E. Gallagher is a United States Army Officer and a graduate of the National Defense University. He served as a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State during the outset of the Ukraine crisis and is a recognized subject matter expert on Russian-Ukrainian affairs. He currently serves as the Chief, G3/5 Plans and Analysis for the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization or group.


Title:  Assessing Ukraine’s Return to Stability

Date Originally Written:  September 22, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 9, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author maintains a keen interest in Russian-Ukrainian affairs. The author contends that Ukraine will not return to a position of stability as long as the West continues to seek a military solution to the conflict – the military instrument of national power will only serve as a supporting effort. Stability in Ukraine will only be attained through thoughtful and effective diplomacy.

Summary:  Russia sees Ukraine as critical to its security and economy. Viewing Ukraine as a zero sum game, Russia will continue to destabilize it, to prevent Ukraine’s inclusion into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. The solution to Russian destabilization of Ukraine is not military means – this situation will require diplomatic intervention with compromise by both sides – if there is to be any enduring peace and stability in the region.

Text:  Throughout history, Ukraine has played a critical role in Russia’s security and economy. The Soviet Union collapse in 1991 led to a techtonic change in the security environment that endures to this day. This change also opened the door to self-determination, enabling Ukraine to become a state of its own. Since that time Russia has remained intent on keeping Ukraine in it’s orbit as Ukraine plays a crucial role in providing a geographic buffer between Russia and the West.

When the former President of Ukraine Yanukovych fled the country in February of 2014, Ukraine began to gravitate increasingly more towards the West. As a result, Russia took immediate action. In 2014, Russia occupied eastern Ukraine and invaded Crimea ultimately destabilizing the country and effectively blocking its inclusion into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union. Russia’s actions relied heavily on information and the military as their primary instruments of national power.

When considering the Ukraine conflict, one of the first questions one must ask is why? Why does Russia care so much about western expansion? The first part of this answer derives from the country’s history. More specifically, 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[1]. The second part of this answer is a perceived broken promise by the West that NATO would not expand. As some recently declassified documents illustrate, “Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given a host of assurances that the NATO alliance would not expand past what was then the German border in 1990[2].” This point is one that Vladimir Putin reminded western leaders about during the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007 when he stated, “What happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today[3]?” The third part of this answer lies in the Russian perception of the West taking advantage of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, which included and continues to include Western encroachment on Russian borders. Debating the merits of whether or not this perception is a reality is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that in the Russian mind, when it comes to NATO expansion and encroachment, perception is reality thus justifying any and all Russian actions in the near abroad.

The warnings concerning Russia’s actions in Ukraine over the course of the past five years have been voiced on multiple occasions since the 1990s. In 1997, Zbigniew Brzenzinski, former counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter stated, “If Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia[4].” In a similar vein, George Kennan, former American diplomat and historian, professed that pushing ahead with expansion “would inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western, and militaristic tendancies in Russian opinion,…have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy,” and “restore the atomosphere of Cold War to East-West relations[5].” Considering Russia’s actions, it would appear that these warnings were ignored until 2014.

Today the situation in eastern Ukraine remains grim. Despite the litany of economic sanctions placed on Russia by the West, over 1 billion dollars of military aid to Ukraine and a multitude of diplomatic engagements to include the Minsk agreements, the conflict in Ukraine endures with no end in sight – a conflict that has claimed more than 10,300 lives, 24,000 injuries and displaced over 1.5 million people since April of 2014[6]. To exacerbate matters, the conflict has for the most part fallen out of the media, eclipsed by other events deemed more pressing and newsworthy.

Although the Ukrainian military is making great strides in training, manning and equiping their force with Western assistance, they are still a long way from unilaterally standing up to a military power like Russia with any sort of positive outcome. Even if Ukraine could stand up militarily to Russia, a land war between Russia and Ukraine would be catastrophic for all involved. Hence, the solution to the conflict in Ukraine and the future stability of the region does not lie with the military. On the contrary, it will ultimately be resolved through diplomacy and compromise. The question is when?

It is safe to assume that no western leader wants to see the conflict in Ukraine escalate. However, as it sits, the frozen conflict in the region is likely to endure as the West continues to struggle with the new geopolitical landscape that Russia instigated. “The prospect of [the West] recognizing Russia as an aggressor is too scary. It means that a country that was a founding or key member for setting up the world’s post-World War II security and diplomatic institutions has undermined those institutions and deemed them redundant. The world has no idea how to deal with this massive shift in Russia’s international relations[7].” Further, “Modern diplomacy presumes that everyone plays by the same rules, which include at least some political will to negotiate once you sit at the round table, and the readiness to implement agreements once they are signed[8].” Unfortunately, Russia and the West’s interests continue to be mutually exclusive in nature. In order for diplomacy to work, the West will need to understand and admit to this paradigm shift and adapt its diplomatic efforts accordingly. However, the Kremlin does not want Ukraine to slip into a Western orbit as it threatens their economic and security interests in the region. The result… diplomatic gridlock.

Albert Einstein once surmised that, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them[9].” This is a thought that aptly applies to the conflict in Ukraine. Ukraine simply cannot be viewed as a zero-sum game and/or a prize between Russia and the West. Moreover, although the military will play a role, the situation will not be solved with shear military might alone. The long-term solution to this in Ukraine will only be realized through meaningful, informed diplomatic dialogue and compromise on both sides of the conflict. This road less traveled will take time and be fraught with disagreement and frustration, but the alternative is much worse. It is one riddled with more death, more destruction and an enduring instability that will impact Russian and European interests for years to come.


Endnotes:

[1] Gallagher, Stuart. Assessing the Paradox of NATO Expansion. Real Clear Defense (2020). Retrieved September 14, 2020 from: https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/06/02/assessing_russias_pursuit_of_great_power_115341.html

[2] Majumdar, Dave. Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO Wouldn’t Move Past East German Border. The National Interest (2017). Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/newly-declassified-documents-gorbachev-told-nato-wouldnt-23629

[3] Ibid.

[4] Zbignew Brezezinski. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperitives (1997). Retrieved September 14, 2020 from: https://www.cia.gov/library/abbottabad-compound/36/36669B7894E857AC4F3445EA646BFFE1_Zbigniew_Brzezinski_-_The_Grand_ChessBoard.doc.pdf

[5] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Springer Link (2020). Retrieved September 15, 2020 from: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00235-7

[6] Council on Foreign Relations. Global Conflict Tracker (2020). Retrieved September 11, 2020 from: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine

[7] Gorchinskaya, Katya. “A Deadly Game of Hide-and-Seek: Why a Diplomatic Solution in Russia/Ukraine War is Nowhere in Sight.” Institute for Human Sciences (2015). Retrieved October 1, 2020 from: https://www.iwm.at/transit-online/deadly-game-hide-seek-diplomatic-solution-russiaukraine-war-nowhere-sight.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Einstein, Albert. Brainy Quote. Retrieved September 16, 2020 from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_121993

Assessment Papers Diplomacy Russia Stuart E. Gallagher Ukraine

An Assessment of Realism in American Foreign Policy

Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.  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 Realism in American Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  September 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that neither realism nor its traditional opponent, Wilsonianism, can stand on their own, and must be linked for a coherent concept of the national interest, fusing America’s strategic necessities, its power, and its values.

Summary:  The existence of realism as a school of thought is a product of America’s unique sense of security. Realism, emphasizing what in other countries is taken for granted, cannot stand as an independent school of thought; yet, as a component in a comprehensive policy taking into account both power and values, it is vital. Realism absent values tempts constant tests of strength; idealism unmoored from strategy is sterile. The two are likely best when blended.

Text:  The intellectual tradition in American foreign policy is without parallel. Whereas most of the world found itself navigating the international system with narrow margins of survival, the United States, driven by a belief in the universal applicability of its values, conceived the objective of American engagement abroad not as traditional foreign policy, but the vindication of the nation’s founding values to the betterment of mankind. Such high-minded ideals have time and again collided with the contradictions of the international system, creating a friction that tugged at the American psyche throughout the twentieth century and into the present.

Symptomatic of this intellectual blight is the existence of “realism” — a focus on power and the national interest — as an independent school of thought, fabricating a purely theological dialectic in which realism and idealism are presented as opposing perceptions rather than components of a shared existence, just as human agency and material factors merge to conceive history itself. In systems which have developed geopolitical traditions, realism requires no definition. Since Cardinal de Richelieu first filtered foreign policy through the prism of Raison D’état, the requirements of survival were axiomatic, spontaneous even[1]. By contrast, the notion of the national interest in American thought is defined by its self-consciousness. Only in the United States can there be a debate about what precisely the national interest is and only in a system with such an idealistic tradition can “realism” be employed as a label.

Realism poses a number of impediments to a thoughtful and creative foreign policy. For instance, realism as a school of thought is inherently vacuous. Accepting the overriding necessities of geopolitics does not constitute a philosophy any more than accepting the existence of the inherent laws of the natural world constitutes a science. What is more important in both cases is the implications of these realities as they affect human free will. In other words, realism treats factors which can be assumed as given as though it is a worldview subject to debate, which in fact blunts its objective rather than serving it. Hans Morgenthau was not wrong when he noted that the world is “the result of forces inherent in human nature[2].” In fact, Morgenthau was profoundly correct. But he and his ideological adherents capture only part of the reality of international affairs. Such facts are self-evident; their interpretation by statesmen are not.

Despite its hard edges, or perhaps because of them, realism often becomes a subterfuge for avoiding difficult action. For example, the men tasked with upholding the rickety Post-World War I Versailles Order — United Kingdom Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chief among them — fancied themselves as “realists” in their justification for presiding over the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, when in fact, a more sound geopolitical assessment would have urged rapid action against Germany as it reoccupied the Rhineland, when the threat remained ambiguous. Though Morgenthau and Walt Lippmann, the great thinkers of the American realist tradition, were correct in their critiques of American involvement in Vietnam[3], their advocacy for unilateral withdrawal rebelled against strategic analysis[4].

Realism, moreover, when unmoored from basic values, has a tendency to turn on itself[5]. Witness German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, perhaps the greatest statesmen of his day. Whatever the moderation of his policy or the dexterity of his maneuvers, because he had no moral foundation for his policies — in this case, what purpose a unified Germany would serve in Europe — every move he made became an act of sheer will[6]. No statesman, not even the master, could have sustained such an effort indefinitely. Power, however vital, cannot be conceived as its own justification. A philosophical basis for the outcomes one seeks is imperative.

Inevitably, realism produces a counterpoise in idealism, in this case drawn from the Wilsonian tradition of American foreign policy. Wilsonianism, with its overriding emphasis on self-determination, democracy, and international law, is equally dissolving when unleavened by geopolitics. Each camp emphasizes its own perception at the expense of the other. This perception emphasis is only possible in the academy, as upon entering government, the “idealists” are awakened to geopolitical realities; while “realists” are likely to find that perfect flexibility in policy is an illusion; the range of choice is limited not only by physical but cultural factors — the basic values of the American people.

For instance, during the Suez Crisis, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower refused to face down the strategic challenge posed by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser on the basis of opposition to colonialism[7]; while that same year, Eisenhower was forced to succumb to geopolitical realities as the pro-democracy upheaval in Hungary was brutally suppressed[8]. The supposed distinction between the ideal and the real is not as stark as the adherents of each pretend. Indeed, Chamberlain tolerated German excesses on the basis of self-determination; the absence of such a pretense is what finally brought London to oppose Nazi expansion, never mind the dictates of the balance of power[9]. Morgenthau’s opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, moreover, placed him in league with the highly ideological peace movement. Thus, even those most dedicated to one school find themselves grappling with the realities of the other.

The solution to this quandary then, is to realize that the choice between the ideal and the real is a chimera. The two are best when blended. The most coherent policy is one that manages the friction between what is physically achievable and what the society will view as legitimate in accordance with its fundamental values. Ideals are absolute; strategy is subject to condition. The factors relevant to making a decision require careful reflection; ideals require no reinterpretation calibrated to circumstance — indeed, they become inconsistent with it. Friction is therefore inherent. Policy makers, and academics can strike this balance, and accept that the relative emphasis of each strain will depend on the specific situation one confronts. The tragedy of American foreign policy is the struggle between a desire for moral perfection and the inherent imperfection which defines the world we inhabit. Tragedy, of course, is in the very nature of statesmanship.


Endnotes:

[1] Hill, H.B. (Translator) (1954). The political Testament of Cardinal de The Significant Chapters and Supporting Selections (1st ed). University of Wisconsin Press.

[2] Morgenthau, H (1948, 2006). Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Revised by Kenneth W. Thompson and W. David Clinton (p. 3). New York: McGraw Hill.

[3] Logevall, F. (1995). First Among Critics: Walter Lippmann and the Vietnam War. The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 4(4), 351-375. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23612509

[4] Quoted in Podhoretz, N. (1982) Why We Were in Vietnam (p. 100). New York: Simon and Schuster., Bew, J. (2015) Realpolitik: A History (pp.261-62 ). Oxford University Press

[5] Bew, Ibid (pp.259-60 ).

[6] Kennan, G.F. (1979). The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order: Franco-Russian Relations 1875-1890. Princeton University Press

[7] Kissinger, H. (1994). Diplomacy (pp. 540-542). New York: Simon and Schuster.

[8] Ibid (566-67).

[9] Ibid (p. 317).

Assessment Papers Brandon Patterson International Relations Theories United States

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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Please send us your original, unpublished, un-submitted-elsewhere article, or participate in one of our Call for Papers below, by emailing us at:  submissions@divergentoptions.org

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.

Please note that a national security situation can be one that is externally focused e.g. what is Country X going to do about County Y or internally focused e.g. Country X should invest more in Y capability.

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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Publish Date:  Late-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.