Alternative Future: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

John J. Borek served as a strategic intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army and later as a civilian intelligence analyst in the U.S. Intelligence Community.  He is currently an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University where he teaches courses in governance and public policy. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Future: The Perils of Trading Artificial Intelligence for Analysis in the U.S. Intelligence Community

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 12, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of a U.S. Congressional inquiry excerpt into an intelligence failure and the loss of Taiwan to China in 2035.

Summary:  The growing reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide situational awareness and predictive analysis within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) resulted in an opportunity for China to execute a deception plan.  This successful deception plan resulted in the sudden and complete loss of Taiwan’s independence in 2035.

Text:  The U.S. transition away from humans performing intelligence analysis to the use of AI was an inevitable progression as the amount of data collected for analysis reached levels humans could not hope to manage[1] while machine learning and artificial neural networks developed simultaneously to the level they could match, if not outperform, human reasoning[2]. The integration of data scientists with analytic teams, which began in 2020, resulted in the attrition of of both regional and functional analysts and the transformation of the duties of those remaining to that of editor and briefer[3][4].

Initial successes in the transition led to increasing trust and complacency. The “Black Box” program demonstrated its first major success in identifying terrorist networks and forecasting terrorist actions fusing social media, network analysis, and clandestine collection; culminating in the successful preemption of the 2024 Freedom Tower attack. Moving beyond tactical successes, by 2026 Black Box was successfully analyzing climatological data, historical migration trends, and social behavior models to correctly forecast the sub-Saharan African drought and resulting instability, allowing the State Department to build a coalition of concerned nations and respond proactively to the event, mitigating human suffering and unrest.

The cost advantages and successes large and small resulted in the IC transitioning from a community of 17 coordinating analytic centers into a group of user agencies. In 2028, despite the concerns of this Committee, all analysis was centralized at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under Black Box. Testimony at the time indicated that there was no longer any need for competitive or agency specific analysis, the algorithms of Black Box considered all likely possibilities more thoroughly and efficiently than human analysts could. Beginning that Fiscal Year the data scientists of the different agencies of the IC accessed Black Box for the analysis their decision makers needed. Also that year the coordination process for National intelligence Estimates and Intelligence Community Assessments was eliminated; as the intelligence and analysis was uniform across all agencies of government there was no longer any need for contentious, drawn out analytic sessions which only delayed delivery of the analysis to policy makers.

Regarding the current situation in the Pacific, there was never a doubt that China sought unification under its own terms with Taiwan, and the buildup and modernization of Chinese forces over the last several decades caused concern within both the U.S. and Taiwan governments[5]. This committee could find no fault with the priority that China had been given within the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. The roots of this intelligence failure lie in the IC inability to factor the possibility of deception into the algorithms of the Black Box program[6].

AI relies on machine learning, and it was well known that machines could learn biases based on the data that they were given and their algorithms[7][8]. Given the Chinese lead in AI development and applications, and their experience in using AI it to manage people and their perceptions[9][10], the Committee believes that the IC should have anticipated the potential for the virtual grooming of Black Box. As a result of this intelligence postmortem, we now know that four years before the loss of Taiwan the People’s Republic of China began their deception operation in earnest through the piecemeal release of false plans and strategy through multiple open and clandestine sources. As reported in the National Intelligence Estimate published just 6 months before the attack, China’s military modernization and procurement plan “confirmed” to Black Box that China was preparing to invade and reunify with Taiwan using overwhelming conventional military forces in 2043 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth.

What was hidden from Black Box and the IC, was that China was also embarking on a parallel plan of adapting the lessons learned from Russia’s invasions of Georgia and the Ukraine. Using their own AI systems, China rehearsed and perfected a plan to use previously infiltrated special operations forces, airborne and heliborne forces, information warfare, and other asymmetric tactics to overcome Taiwan’s military superiority and geographic advantage. Individual training of these small units went unnoticed and was categorized as unremarkable and routine.

Three months prior to the October 2035 attack we now know that North Korea, at China’s request, began a series of escalating provocations in the Sea of Japan which alerted Black Box to a potential crisis and diverted U.S. military and diplomatic resources. At the same time, biometric tracking and media surveillance of key personalities in Taiwan that were previously identified as being crucial to a defense of the island was stepped up, allowing for their quick elimination by Chinese Special Operations Forces (SOF).

While we can’t determine with certainty when the first Chinese SOF infiltrated Taiwan, we know that by October 20, 2035 their forces were in place and Operation Homecoming received the final go-ahead from the Chinese President. The asymmetric tactics combined with limited precision kinetic strikes and the inability of the U.S. to respond due to their preoccupation 1,300 miles away resulted in a surprisingly quick collapse of Taiwanese resistance. Within five days enough conventional forces had been ferried to the island to secure China’s hold on it and make any attempt to liberate it untenable.

Unlike our 9/11 report which found that human analysts were unable to “connect the dots” of the information they had[11], we find that Black Box connected the dots too well. Deception is successful when it can either increase the “noise,” making it difficult to determine what is happening; or conversely by increasing the confidence in a wrong assessment[12]. Without community coordination or competing analysis provided by seasoned professional analysts, the assessment Black Box presented to policy makers was a perfect example of the latter.


Endnotes:

[1] Barnett, J. (2019, August 21). AI is breathing new life into the intelligence community. Fedscoop. Retrieved from https://www.fedscoop.com/artificial-intelligence-in-the-spying

[2] Silver, D., et al. (2016). Mastering the game of GO with deep neural networks and tree search. Nature, 529, 484-489. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/nature16961

[3] Gartin. G. W. (2019). The future of analysis. Studies in Intelligence, 63(2). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-63-no-2/Future-of-Analysis.html

[4] Symon, P. B., & Tarapore, A. (2015, October 1). Defense intelligence in the age of big data. Joint Force Quarterly 79. Retrieved from https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Media/News/Article/621113/defense-intelligence-analysis-in-the-age-of-big-data

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense. (2019). Annual report to Congress: Military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2019. Retrieved from https://media.defense.gov/2019/May/02/2002127082/-1/-1/1/2019_CHINA_MILITARY_POWER_REPORT.pdf

[6] Knight, W. (2019). Tainted data can teach algorithms the wrong lessons. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/tainted-data-teach-algorithms-wrong-lessons

[7] Boghani, P. (2019). Artificial intelligence can be biased. Here’s what you should know. PBS / Frontline Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/artificial-intelligence-algorithmic-bias-what-you-should-know

[8] Angwin, J., Larson, J., Mattu, S., & Kirchner, L. (2016). Machine bias. ProPublica. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

[9] Fanning, D., & Docherty, N. (2019). In the age of AI. PBS / Frontline. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai

[10] Westerheide, F. (2020). China – the first artificial intelligence superpower. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/01/14/china-artificial-intelligence-superpower/#794c7a52f053

[11] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. (2004). The 9/11 Commission report. Retrieved from https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.htm

[12] Betts, R. K. (1980). Surprise despite warning: Why sudden attacks succeed. Political Science Quarterly 95(4), 551-572. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2150604.pdf

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Information and Intelligence John J. Borek Taiwan

Alternative Future: Assessing Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Performance in the Third Chechen War

1LT Andrew Shaughnessy is a U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer and current Field Artillery Captain Career Course student. He commissioned out of Georgetown University in 2016 and previously served in 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division as a Fire Direction Officer, Platoon Leader, and Executive Officer. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Future: Assessing Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Performance in the Third Chechen War

Date Originally Written:  June 11, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a company-grade U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer interested in the military implications of emerging technologies. The author has previously written on the effects of additive manufacturing and predictive maintenance on the U.S. Army.

Summary:  The Russian Army’s artillery forces played a decisive role in the Third Chechen War due to the effectiveness of the Reconnaissance Fire Complex. Empowered by Target Acquisition Companies that employed Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Electronic Warfare, the Russian Army showcased a devastatingly fast artillery targeting cycle.

Text:  Beginning in 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian War created a laboratory for the Russian Army to develop new tactics on how to employ their artillery. The successful use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to coordinate artillery strikes in Ukraine[1] caused the Russian Army to make UAS a central element of their targeting process[2]. Electronic Warfare (EW) platforms also proved to be effective target acquisition systems by detecting electromagnetic signatures and then targeting them with artillery[3]. Learning from their experience in the Russo-Ukrainian War, the Russian Army significantly invested in these systems as part of their artillery modernization program. Ultimately, these systems would give the Russian Army a decisive advantage in their 2033 War in Chechnya.

Despite budgetary pressures in the 2020s, the Russian Army continued to invest in its advanced Reconnaissance Fire Complex due to it being a valued Soviet-era concept and its operational validation during the Russo-Ukrainian War[4]. This concept aimed to digitally link advanced target acquisition sensors, UAS, and Military Command systems to artillery platforms to provide incredibly responsive fires. The Russian investment in the Reconnaissance Fire Complex during the 2020s took the lessons learned from Ukraine and made them a permanent part of the Russian force structure.

In a 2028 reorganization, each Russian Brigade received a dedicated Artillery UAS Company and EW Target Acquisition Company. While the Brigade retained other UAS and EW assets, these companies existed for the sole purpose of continuously pulling targeting data to feed the largely autonomous Reconnaissance Fire Complex.

Major technology advances that supported the Reconnaissance Fire Complex included sophisticated UAS platforms, automated fire direction systems, and improved EW capabilities. The lethality of the Artillery UAS Companies improved substantially with the advent of autonomous UAS[5], drone swarming[6], and 3D-printed UAS[7]. Advances in military Artificial Intelligence programs allowed most UAS sensor to shooter loops to occur free of human intervention[8]. Electronic Warfare detection systems became more precise, mobile, and networked with other systems. These advances allowed Artillery UAS Companies to field hundreds of autonomous UAS platforms simultaneously while the EW Target Acquisition Company hunted for high-value targets based on electromagnetic signatures. The effective integration of autonomous UAS and EW companies played a decisive role in the 2033 War in Chechnya.

The 2033 War in Chechnya was the product of Chechen fighters returning from Syria, the assassination of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, and the collapse of oil prices. Compounding instability and the inability of the Russian political establishment to respond allowed rogue paramilitaries to seize control of the republic and declare the new Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Following several years of autonomy, a resurgent Russian state invaded Chechnya in April-2033.

While separatist Chechen forces had organized, they proved to be no match for the extraordinary performance of the Russian Army’s artillery and automated fire support network. In less than a month, the Russian army had destroyed all of Chechnya’s conventional forces and thoroughly depleted their ranks of irregular fighters. While the Russian Army performed adequately overall, it was their Reconnaissance Fire Complex that drove their successive victories.

During the Third Chechen War, the Chechen sky was continuously saturated with an enormous number of autonomous UAS platforms. Interwoven with each other and the broader Reconnaissance Fire Complex, these UAS platforms autonomously detected probable targets such as mechanized vehicles. Autonomy and swarming allowed the Russians to deploy hundreds of these UAS simultaneously. UAS coming from 3D-printed manufacturing meant that low cost made them expendable. Even when the Chechens successfully shot down a UAS, due to forward 3D-print capabilities, Russian forces would replace it within minutes.

Without human intervention, UAS pushed probable targets to Russian Fire Direction Centers (FDC) that further assessed targeting criteria using machine learning to avoid misidentification or fratricide. Within seconds, a UAS-detected target bounced from the sensor, to the FDC, to the artillery platform set to engage the target. The result was that as soon as any Chechen vehicles or heavy equipment began to move, Russian forces detected and engaged them with artillery, destroying them within minutes. While most of this artillery fire came in the form of massed thermobaric and cluster munition strikes, UAS would laser designate for guided Krasnopol artillery shells when Russian forces required precision[9]. Chechen forces could never escape the panopticon of Russian UAS, and given the Russian preference for long-range artillery, could always be engaged 10]. This perfect synchronization of sensors and firing assets allowed them to destroy all of Chechnya’s mechanized and motorized forces within days.

EW Target Acquisition Companies also played a major role. At the advent of the conflict, Russian forces remotely triggered kill switches within Chechnya’s Russian-made military radios, rendering them ineffective[11]. This forced Chechen forces to rely on less secure commercial off the shelf radios and cellphones as their primary communication systems. This commercial reliance proved to be an enormous vulnerability, as Russian forces were able to quickly pinpoint specific cellphone locations by using both social engineering and heat maps, allowing them to locate and target Chechen leadership[12].

EW Target Acquisition Companies forces would measure electromagnetic signatures for large swaths of an area, create heat maps of where signatures were emanating from, and then target what they believed to be enemy command nodes[13]. As soon as a large group of cellphones or radios began to concentrate outside of a city, Russian EW companies designated that as a possible target. While this method was imprecise, often generating considerable civilian causalities, Russian forces considered that a secondary concern. EW Target Acquisition Companies also targeted smartphone applications with malware to pull refined location data from probable combatants[14]. EW-based targeting proved highly effective against Chechnya’s cadre of irregular fighters, decimating them. By May-2033, with Chechnya’s forces defeated, the province capitulated and was back under Russian control.

The effectiveness of the Reconnaissance Fire Complex allowed Russian artillery to be an overwhelming force in the Third Chechen War. Without it, Russian maneuver forces would have been mired in a prolonged conflict. A devastatingly fast artillery targeting cycle, empowered by autonomous UAS, Artificial Intelligence, and EW systems resulted in a rapid and decisive Russian victory[15].


Endnotes:

[1] Freedberg, S. J., JR. (2015, November 23). Russian Drone Threat: Army Seeks Ukraine Lessons. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://breakingdefense.com/2015/10/russian-drone-threat-army-seeks-ukraine-lessons

[2] Grau and Bartles (2016). The Russian Way of War. Foreign Military Studies Office. (Pages 239, 373-377) https://www.armyupress.army.mil/special-topics/world-hot-spots/russia

[3] Asymmetric Warfare Group (2016). Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook. Asymmetric Warfare Group. https://www.awg.army.mil/AWG-Contributions/AWG-Recruiting/Article-View/Article/1809255/the-us-army-has-a-handbook-on-russian-hybrid-warfare

[4] Grau and Bartles (2018, May). The Russian Reconnaissance Fire Complex Comes of Age. The University of Oxford Changing Character Of War Centre. http://www.ccw.ox.ac.uk/blog/2018/5/30/the-russian-reconnaissance-fire-complex-comes-of-age

[5] Tucker, P. (2019, November 08). Russia Says It Used Autonomous Armed Strike Drones in a Wargame. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/11/russia-were-testing-autonomous-armed-strike-drones-wargames/161187

[6] Atherton, K. (2019, December 18). Russia will test swarms for anti-robot combat in 2020. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2019/12/13/russia-will-test-swarms-for-anti-robot-combat-in-2020

[7] Bartles, C. (2015). 3D Printers will “Bake” Future Russian UAVs. Foreign Military Studies Office OE Watch, Vol 5. (Issue 7), 48-49. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195454

[8] Konaev, M., & Bendett, S. (2019, July 30). Russian AI-Enabled Combat: Coming to a City Near You? Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2019/07/russian-ai-enabled-combat-coming-to-a-city-near-you

[9] Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (2019, May 20). The Use of Krasnopol Artillery Shells in Ukraine. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://medium.com/dfrlab/the-use-of-krasnopol-artillery-shells-in-ukraine-d185ef4743b7

[10] Collins, L., & Morgan, H. (2019, January 24). King of Battle: Russia Breaks Out the Big Guns. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.ausa.org/articles/king-battle-russia-breaks-out-big-guns

[11] Trevithivk, Joseph. (2019, October 30th). Ukrainian Officer Details Russian Electronic Warfare Tactics Including Radio “Virus.” The War Zone. Retrieved June 07, 2020, https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/30741/ukrainian-officer-details-russian-electronic-warfare-tactics-including-radio-virus

[12] Collins, Liam. (2018, July 26th) Russia gives lessons in Electronic Warfare. AUSA. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from, https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

[13] Trevithivk, Joseph. (2020, May 11th) This is what Ground Forces look like to an Electronic Warfare System and why it’s a big deal. The War Zone. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

[14] Volz, Dustin. (2016, December 21). Russian hackers tracked Ukrainian artillery units using Android implant: report. Reuters. Retrieved June 07, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-ukraine/russian-hackers-tracked-ukrainian-artillery-units-using-android-implant-report-idUSKBN14B0CU

[15] The author would like to extend his appreciation to Andrew Gibbs and Primo Ramirez for reviewing and giving feedback to the first draft of this paper.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Andrew Shaughnessy Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles Assessment Papers Chechnya Russia Unmanned Aerial Systems

Assessing the Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. Following Charles de Gaulle’s quote that nations do not have friends, but interests, he believes in the dominance of political realism over ethical considerations when it comes to vital national interests. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how economic considerations dominate U.S. foreign policy.

Summary:  “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable.” Niccolò Machiavelli described in this way the discrepancy between ethics, politics, and policy. The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, illustrates the differences between its words that proclaim it as the lighthouse of liberty and democracy, and how it acts when torn between ethics, ambition, and necessity.

Text:  The Iranian attack on a Saudi Arabian oil production facility in September 2019 was, so far, the peak of continuously growing hostilities between these two regional powers. Besides official protests from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the U.S. condemned Iranian aggression. Although U.S. President Donald Trump finally refused to take retaliatory measures against Iran, this attack led to a remarkable deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. Why does the U.S., the self-proclaimed lighthouse of liberty and democracy, feels so affiliated with a Kingdom that is repeatedly condemned for human rights violations?

A nation’s purpose is to ensure a society’s existence. In this regard, nations develop strategies, consisting of ends, ways, and means, facilitating a desired end state. In the National Security Strategy (NSS), the U.S. defines the desired end state “America First,” facilitated by the four goals[1]. Although the NSS clearly outlines the U.S.’ unique national capacities, it emphasizes the importance of partnerships and alliances[2]. One of the U.S.’s critical partners is the KSA. The fact that the KSA’s Wahabi monarchy is a country restricting religious freedom, denying gender equality, and promoting the Sharia founding religious schools in that spirit around worldwide makes the partnership appear at least strange[3]. At first glance, the characteristic is not congruent with the idea of “the American Way of Life.” Might it be “Bismarck-ian strategic thinking[4],” the idea of maintaining an ally instead of destroying or even gaining an enemy[5], ties the U.S. to KSA?

The most problematic sphere of the U.S. – Saudi relationship is linked to the goal (1) “Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life.” The majority of the terrorists responsible for 9/11 came from KSA. Rumors about financial support to terror organizations never silenced. Osama Bin-Laden even lived in the Wahabi Kingdom[6]. All of that is contradictory to the idea of the NSS. What are the U.S.’ benefits from this partnership?

U.S. National Security Strategy Goals

(1) Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life:

The benefit of the U.S. – Saudi Arabian relationship is at least questionable. The possible infliction of the Wahabi Kingdom in terror attacks even had a severe impact on this relationship[7]. In consequence, Saudi Arabia promotes its efforts on counter-terrorism operations since 9/11[8].

Additionally, promoting the Sharia, political assassination[9], and beheadings as death-penalty hardly correlates with the American Way of Life. However, economic prosperity, facilitated by ties to the Middle East, is a precondition for protecting the American way of life.

(2) Promote American Prosperity:

The U.S. and KSA have close economic ties, based on oil, reciprocal investments, and weapon sales. Most of the Saudi Arabian economic key leaders studied in the U.S. and are, therefore, eager to maintain close connections[10]. Saudi Arabia possesses the second-largest oil reserves (the U.S. is the 10th largest[11]) worldwide after Venezuela. When it comes to dealing arms, the Wahabi leadership negotiated a 110 billion dollars treaty with follow-on investments within the next ten years, worth 350 billion dollars[12].

Saudi Arabia is mentioned once in the NSS. Although just in a regional context, it is mentioned – like Egypt – as an area of interest to modernize its economy. U.S. military presence is very often an expression of national interest. Within KSA, there are five U.S. Air Force bases[13], hosting military capability packages to survey the essential sea lines of communication from the Arab Gulf along the Yemeni coast, the Bab El Mandeb through the Suez channel, the lifeline for U.S. oil imports from the Arab world[14]. The U.S. military’s force posture is in line with the national interests, according to the NSS.

(3) Preserve Peace through Strength:

It is an inherent part of the U.S.’ strategic understanding to ensure its national security by a deterrent military force such as the one based in the KSA. Strategic partnerships and the U.S. Navy keep conflicts out of the continental U.S. Consequently, the U.S. military is focused on out-of-area and expeditionary warfare. During the Second World War, the U.S. has proven its unique capabilities to conduct amphibious operations, accomplishing the landings in Italy, the Pacific, and on the Normandy’s shores. Nevertheless, the price-tag in soldiers’ lives was extraordinarily high[15]. It is unlikely that a nation would be willing to suffer such losses again in the 21st century, a period of reluctance to bear heavy losses[16].

It appears logical to establish and maintain strategic partnerships – regardless of ideological distances/differences – to avoid the necessity to conduct amphibious operations again. In consequence, worldwide partnerships are a reasonable approach for permanent pre-positioning of forces and, in a follow-on phase, to be used as assembly as well as staging areas for large scale combat operations. It is an interesting detail that in the KSA the U.S.’ military areas of interest overlap with its economic ones. Partnerships and deterrent armed forces require, like the American way of life, economic prosperity to finance national interests.

(4) Advance American Influence:

Partnerships and alliances are crucial for the U.S.[17] They are the tools for advancing American influence. Besides the fact that these partnerships and alliances enable a strong force posture towards upcoming or recent adversaries, they immensely support end (2) American prosperity. The inclusion of eastern European states in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (reducing Russian influence, primarily economically[18]) is a remarkable example of forcefully advancing the U.S.’ influence, followed by pushing for a more significant military commitment of European NATO members (overtaking the [financial] burden of deterring Russia to free forces[19]), pre-deploying forces to South Korea, and maintaining the partnership with Japan (containing China’s expansionism[20]). In the vein, the KSA is an economical source of strength for the U.S. and a potential staging area to maintain an appropriate force flow for military operations in the Middle East.

Economic prosperity, goal (2), is the critical requirement within the U.S. NSS. Consequently, it dictates necessities for the political level, regardless of the ideological differences and ethical considerations. Niccolò Machiavelli described an eternal rule: “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable[21].”


Endnotes:

[1] National Security Strategy of the United States of America: NSS (2017), II-VI.

[2] Ibid., 1.

[3] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations: Relations Between the Two Countries, Long Bound by Common Interests in Oil and Security, Have Strained over What Some Analysts See as a More Assertive Saudi Foreign Policy”, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-saudi-arabia-relations (accessed October 1, 2019).

[4] Geoffrey Parker, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West/ Edited by Geoffrey Parker, Rev. and updated ed., Cambridge illustrated Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 236.

[5] Peter Paret, Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age/ Edited by Peter Paret with Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), 293-295.

[6] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[7] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (2018), 18-19.

[8] Saudi Arabia and Counterterrorism (2019), passim.

[9] Ian Black, “Jamal Khashoggi Obituary: Saudi Arabian Journalist Who Fell Foul of His Country’s Ruling Dynasty After Moving Abroad so He Could Criticise It More Freely,” The Guardian, October 19, 2018, Saudi Arabian journalist who fell foul of his country’s ruling dynasty after moving abroad so he could criticize it more freely.

[10] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[11] Howard J. Shatz, US International Economic Strategy in a Turbulent World (2016), 35.

[12] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, 21-22.

[13] MilitaryBases.com, “U.S. Military Bases in Saudi Arabia,”, https://militarybases.com/overseas/saudi-arabia/ (accessed October 1, 2019).

[14] Jean-Paul Rodrigue, “International Oil Transportation: Petroleum Remains a Strategic Resource in the Global Economy Underlining the Challenges of Producing and Transporting Oil,”, https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=6757 (accessed October 1, 2019).

[15] Klaus Roch, Viribus Unitis – Analyse Von Operationen: Ausgewählte Seminararbeiten Des 20. Generalstabslehrganges, Militärwissenschaftliches Journal der Landesverteidigingsakademie 2015, Band 16 (Wien: Republik Österreich, Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung und Sport, 2015), 108-110.

[16] Martin van Creveld, Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West and What Can Be Done About It, First edition (Mevasseret Zion, Israel: DLVC Enterprises, 2016), 224-229.

[17] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 26.

[18] Ibid., 38.

[19] Posture Statement US EUCOM (2019), 3-5.

[20] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 47.

[21] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 2nd ed. (Chicago, Ill., London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), XVIII.

 

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Diplomacy Matthias Wasinger Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) United States

Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher, analyst, writer and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He is a former communications and media analyst for the United States Marine Corps. He writes regularly for Charged Affairs (the journal of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy) and Braver Angels, and has also been published in Merion West, Washington Monthly, the Truman National Security Project, and France 24. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki and on Medium at https://medium.com/@mdpurzycki. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

Date Originally Written:  June 9, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes that the United States launched air and missile strikes on Syria in August 2013, in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. It is written from the perspective of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) for an audience of U.S. national security policymakers.

Summary:  One year after U.S. air and missile strikes in Syria, a stalemate exists  between the Assad regime and rebel groups. While Assad is far from defeated, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) held its own, thanks to U.S. assistance, and positions itself as a viable political alternative to both Assad and the Islamic State (IS). This stance is tenuous, however, and is threatened by both continued bombardment by regime forces and the international community’s focus on defeating IS.

Text:  On August 21, 2013, the Syrian military fired rockets containing sarin gas at civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, as well as conventionally armed rockets at Western Ghouta. Estimates of the resulting death toll range from 281 (estimated by French intelligence[1]) to 1,729 (alleged by the FSA[2]). A preliminary U.S. Intelligence Community estimate, released nine days after the attacks, “determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children[3].”

After receiving the IC’s estimate, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered air and missile strikes against Assad regime command and control centers, and bases from which helicopters are deployed[4]. While the combined strikes did not curtail the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons, they impeded communication between units armed with chemical weapons and their commanders, and reduced the use of barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Assad concluded that the benefits of further use of chemical weapons did not outweigh the costs of possible further U.S. or French strikes.

Instead of using chemical weapons, Assad continued his use of conventional weapons against his opponents, including civilians. For example, in November and December 2013, as government forces attempted to break a stalemate with rebels in Aleppo, government air strikes killed up to 425 civilians, of whom 204 were killed in a four-day period[6]. While the FSA has fought capably on the ground against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), its fighters and the civilians they protect remain vulnerable to air strikes.

In January 2014, President Obama expanded Timber Sycamore, the supply of weapons and training to Syrian rebels by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)[7]. In addition to providing greater numbers of rifles, machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and anti-tank missiles, the CIA provided rebels with a limited number of man-portable air defense systems. While the rebels have repeatedly asked for more of these antiaircraft systems, the U.S. has declined to provide them, due to fears of them ending up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) or other extremists[8]. Thus, while the FSA has shot down several regime warplanes, fighter aircraft have largely continued to operate unimpeded over rebel-held territory.

The U.S. and France have launched strikes against SAA command and control locations on three additional occasions in the last year. While these strikes have not significantly curbed the regime’s use of conventional weapons, they have slowed the pace at which regime forces can plan and carry out their attacks. This slowing pace has enabled the FSA to better prepare for upcoming attacks, and thus reduce the number of deaths both among their ranks and among nearby civilians.

While fighting between the regime and the FSA has continued, IS has emerged over the past year as the primary extremist organization opposing Assad. In addition to its capture of large swaths of Iraq, including the city of Mosul in June 2014[9], it controls portions of northern, central and eastern Syria[10]. While IS’ former partner Jabhat al-Nusra remains focused on fighting the Assad regime, IS’ goal is the perpetuation of an Islamist proto-state, where it can govern in accordance with its extremely strict, puritanical interpretation of Islam.

The strength of IS has benefited Assad; he has cited IS’s extreme brutality as evidence that he must remain in power and crush his opponents, making no distinction between IS, the FSA, or any other force opposing the regime. The international community’s focus on defeating IS in Iraq gives Assad more opportunities to target his non-IS opponents. While it is in the U.S. interest to play a leading role in dislodging IS from its strongholds in Iraq, it risks losing influence over the Syrian opposition if it does not continue its actions in Syria. The FSA may look to other actors, such as Saudi Arabia, to help it fight Assad if it feels it is being ignored by the U.S.[11]

U.S. support, including air and missile strikes, has helped the FSA endure in the face of regime attacks. However, Syria’s non-extremist opposition faces considerable challenges. While IS’ extreme governance model of what a post-Assad Syria might look like is imposing, and is attracting thousands of foreign fighters[12], the FSA’s potential democratic and pluralist model has not inspired to the same extent. The vulnerability of the FSA and the areas it holds to regime air strikes is a significant weakness. If the U.S. insists that Assad must not be allowed to remain in power[13], he is likely to focus his attacks on the FSA, potentially overwhelming it, while leaving the U.S.-led coalition to fight IS.


Endnotes:

[1] “Syria/Syrian chemical programme – National executive summary of declassified intelligence.” Ministre de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères, September 3, 2013. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Syrian_Chemical_Programme.pdf

[2] “Bodies still being found after alleged Syria chemical attack: opposition.” Daily Star, August 22, 2013 http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Aug-22/228268-bodies-still-being-found-after-alleged-syria-chemical-attack-opposition.ashx

[3] “Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.” White House, August 30, 2013 https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

[4] Shanker, Thom, C. J. Chivers and Michael R. Gordon. “Obama Weighs ‘Limited’ Strikes Against Syrian Forces.” New York Times, August 27, 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/world/middleeast/obama-syria-strike.html

[5] Walt, Vivienne. “France’s Case for Military Action in Syria.” TIME, August 31, 2013. https://world.time.com/2013/08/31/frances-case-for-military-action-in-syria

[6] “Syria: Dozens of Government Attacks in Aleppo.” Human Rights Watch, December 21, 2013. https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/21/syria-dozens-government-attacks-aleppo

[7] Mazzetti, Mark, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria.” New York Times, August 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html

[8] Seldin, Jeff and Jamie Dettmer. “Advanced Weapons May Reach Syrian Rebels Despite US Concerns.” Voice of America, October 26, 2015. https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/advanced-weapons-may-reach-syrian-rebels-despite-us-concerns

[9] Sly, Liz and Ahmed Ramadan. “Insurgents seize Iraqi city of Mosul as security forces flee.” Washington Post, June 10, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/insurgents-seize-iraqi-city-of-mosul-as-troops-flee/2014/06/10/21061e87-8fcd-4ed3-bc94-0e309af0a674_story.html

[10] Gilsinan, Kathy. “The Many Ways to Map the Islamic ‘State.’” Atlantic, August 27, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/08/the-many-ways-to-map-the-islamic-state/379196

[11] Chivers, C.J. and Eric Schmitt. “Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms.” New York Times, February 25, 2013.
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/world/middleeast/in-shift-saudis-are-said-to-arm-rebels-in-syria.html

[12] Karadsheh, Jomana, Jim Sciutto and Laura Smith-Spark. “How foreign fighters are swelling ISIS ranks in startling numbers.” CNN, September 14, 2014. https://www.cnn.com/2014/09/12/world/meast/isis-numbers/index.html

[13] Wroughton, Lesley and Missy Ryan. “U.S. insists Assad must go, but expects he will stay.” Reuters, June 1, 2014. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria/u-s-insists-assad-must-go-but-expects-he-will-stay-idINKBN0EC1FE20140601

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Michael D. Purzycki Syria United States

Assessing the Paradox of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Expansion

Stuart E. Gallagher is a graduate of National Defense University and a recognized expert in Russia / Ukraine affairs. He has served as a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State during the outset of the Ukraine crisis and has delivered briefings on Russian New Generation Warfare throughout the interagency and the Department of Defense. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Paradox of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Expansion

Date Originally Written:  May 25, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 22, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author maintains a keen interest in Russia  /Ukraine affairs. The author contends that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion and encroachment on Russian borders exacerbates Kremlin paranoia of the West creating a paradox for Western policymakers.

Summary:  The 1991 Soviet Union collapse irreversibly changed the security environment. The world moved from a bi-polar world to that of a uni-polar world overnight leaving the United States as the sole superpower. NATO found itself in uncharted waters and pursued new purpose including the expansion of the alliance. NATO’s expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union and its encroachment on Russian borders creates a paradox for Western policymakers.

Text:  NATO was founded in 1949 soon after the conclusion of World War II. The overall intent of the organization was to maintain peace and stability in Europe. As the Cold War escalated, the Soviet Union responded to the West by founding a security organization of their own – the Warsaw Pact. This organization included all of the Soviet republics and Eastern Bloc countries that fell within the Soviet Union’s orbit and provided a level of parity with the West. By all accounts, NATO was successful in executing its charge during the Cold War. Peace and stability were maintained in Europe. However, in 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in a tectonic change to the security environment. The geopolitical landscape shifted from a bi-polar world to that of a uni-polar overnight. This immediately left the U.S. as the sole superpower. As the Cold War warriors of the era celebrated this monumental achievement, the Soviet Union quickly descended into chaos.

The government in shambles, the economy devastated, and the military essentially emasculated, it would take decades before Russia would effectively return to the world stage as a great power. The U.S. in essence had become the proverbial dog that caught the car inheriting global primacy and all the responsibility associated therewith. It was a phenomenon that can very aptly be summed up in the famous words of George Bernard Shaw, “There are two tragedies in life – one is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it[1].”

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Warsaw Pact was disbanded while NATO endured and grew. It was this moment in time where politicians and journalists alike would call into question the requirement for NATO. Was NATO truly still needed to maintain peace and stability in Europe with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact now defunct? What would be its mission moving forward with no real threat to speak of? The answer was NATO 2.0.

At the height of the Cold War, 16 countries were members of the NATO alliance. During the post-Cold War period, NATO expansion pressed forth despite recommendations from experts such as George Kennan, a well-known American diplomat and historian. In 1997, Kennan predicted that pushing ahead with the expansion “would inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western, and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,…have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy,” and “restore the atmosphere of Cold War to East-West relations[2].”

Between 1991 and 2020, NATO would add 14 more countries to its roster, increasing the grand total to 30. NATO 2.0 included countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (former Soviet Union satellite republics); and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (former Soviet republics). For these countries, this inclusion into NATO was a logical step as “new member states found joining an existing, successful alliance preferable to forming an entirely new alliance[3].” Moreover, many of these countries were intent on protecting themselves from revisiting the oppressive relationship that they had with Russia in years past.

At the outset of NATO expansion, something was left out of the calculus, or perhaps more appropriately ignored altogether – Russia’s response to NATO expansion and encroachment on its borders. Looking to history, Russia has consistently survived existential threats through defense in depth. That is to say, Russia maintained a geographical buffer zone between itself and that of its adversaries, which provided a level of stand-off and protection critical to its survival.

In the words of Henry Kissenger, “Here is a country that has never had a friendly neighbor, that has always had shifting borders, that has never had a clearly defined security arrangement – a country, quite frankly that has been either too weak or too strong for the peace of Europe, a country that at one and the same time has been a central element of the balance of power and a threat to it[4].”

This buffer zone strategy has served Russia well throughout the years from the likes of Napoleon, the Nazis, and most recently from the West during the Cold War. Quite simply, in the Russian mind, geography is equated to security.

So is Russia paranoid? “Champions of NATO expansion aver that it maintains peace in Europe and promotes democracy in East-Central Europe. They add that Russia has nothing to fear[5].” However, the view from Moscow is quite the contrary. To Russia, NATO encroachment is not a perception – it is a reality. Considering Russia’s intimate experience with existential threat, their response may be well justified. The inclination to protect itself from NATO expansion was noted from the beginning when “Russia registered its objections [to NATO expansion] early, frequently, and emphatically[6].” This was not long after the fall of the Soviet Union and at a time when Russia was in no position to dictate terms or push back against the West with any sort of positive outcome.

Unlike the end of the Cold War, in 2014 when the Russian-backed President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from office, Russia was in a different position, and could dictate terms. At this point, Russia had bolstered its instruments of national power (Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic) that led to the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine with limited resistance from the West. The following year, Russia recast NATO as an adversary. George Kennan’s prediction from 1997 was now a reality.

At present, the Western policymaker is now left with a paradox – the NATO 2.0 paradox. If NATO expansion continues, will Europe truly be safer and more stable as the advocates of NATO expansion contend? From a Western lens, “the United States [and the West] would like Russia to see that a great state can live in security and prosperity in a world which big buffer areas do not have the strategic value they once did[7].” However, this is as idealistic as it is unfair as the West continues to encroach on Russia’s borders. And, if Ukraine is any measure of Russia’s response and resolve to protect the integrity of its borders and regional hegemony, it may be prudent to rethink future NATO expansion altogether, for not doing so could very well lead to increased destabilization in the region, more bloodshed and degraded East-West relations with the West gaining little in return.


Endnotes:

[1] Kissenger, Henry. “Russian and American Interests after the Cold War.” Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 1.

[2] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Springer Link. (May 2020): 374, https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00235-7

[3] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

[4] Kissenger, Henry. Russian and American Interests after the Cold War. Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 3.

[5] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

[6] Kissenger, Henry. “Russian and American Interests after the Cold War.” Rethinking Russia’s National Interest. (1994): 7.

[7] Menon, Rajan and William Ruger. “NATO Enlargement and U.S. Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment.” Real Clear Public Affairs. May 14, 2020, https://www.realclearpublicaffairs.com/public_affairs/2020/05/14/nato_enlargement_and_us_grand_strategy_a_net_assessment_491628.html

Assessment Papers North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Stuart E. Gallagher

Alternative Future: An Assessment of U.S. Re-Engagement with Hungary in 2035

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


Rocco P. Santurri III is an independent Financial Representative and Security Consultant.  He also serves as a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He recently completed an assignment with the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary.  While there, he conducted polling throughout the country to capture populace sentiment on a host of national and international issues. He also conducted strategic communications initiatives through the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. He can be found on LinkedIn.com at www.linkedin.com/in/RoccoPSanturri3Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of U.S. Re-Engagement with Hungary in 2035

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current U.S. Army Reservist. He believes in a pragmatic U.S. approach to relations with Hungary that takes into consideration the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the Hungarian human domain and their corresponding political viewpoints.

Summary:  In 2020, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused to relinquish his COVID-19 emergency powers[1]. Following this, relations with the West soured and Hungary was expelled from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since Orban’s death, key figures in the Hungarian government have signaled their interest in resuming relations with NATO. This situation represents an opportunity for the U.S. to re-establish relations with Hungary.

Text:  As the U.S. prepares for strategic level talks with the Government of Hungary, Washington’s strategy of re-engagement is under intense scrutiny. Most political pundits assumed the U.S. would adopt a fresh approach in the chaotic post-Orban era, as the memories of well-documented policy failures are still fresh. However, a review of the U.S. platform reveals a strong similarity to previous policies, perhaps owing to institutional inertia within the Department of State. While the U.S. approach can rightfully retain some familiar core elements from the past, it can also consider the Hungarian human domain in its policy calculation. A critical error of U.S. policy toward Hungary in the 2010s was a failure to understand the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the populace.  The projection of American attributes on Hungary set the conditions for misguided U.S. strategy and messaging that ignored populace sentiment.  This projection was compounded on a regional scale in Romania and Bulgaria, which also resulted in disappointing returns on the American diplomatic and financial investment. Examining what led to the current situation is critical, as it reveals how these failures led to a break in relations for over 15 years. Perhaps more importantly, an objective examination of the past also leads to a path forward.

Engagement between Hungary and the U.S. began in earnest following the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and culminated in Hungary joining NATO in 1997[2].  NATO was eager to capitalize on their Cold War victory by bringing former Warsaw Pact countries into the fold. It is difficult to fault the aggressiveness of NATO in seeking to exploit a cataclysmic paradigm shift in East-West relations.  But without a solid understanding of the psyche of these new-to-NATO countries, it was inevitable that relations would be problematic in the long-run. Hungary’s history spawned belief systems within the human domain that run counter to core NATO principles.

The “Golden Age” for Hungary began in the mid-1800s and represented the height of Hungarian power and prestige. Though imperfect, this era saw the upward mobility of a large segment of the population[3]. This Golden Age came to a crashing halt with defeat in World War I. Hungary lost 70% of her territory and 13 million citizens as part of the Treaty of Trianon[4]. Graffiti demonizing this treaty exists throughout the country today and serves as a painful reminder of what most Hungarians see as a crime committed against their country.  The monarchy, a symbol of national pride for Hungarians, abruptly ended. World War II brought more pain and suffering to the Hungarian psyche.  Again, a poor choice in allies by Hungary, and another bitter Hungarian defeat. The post-war years of 1956-1988 consisted of a strong political figure (albeit a Kremlin puppet) dominating the political scene[5].  Free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and freedom of the press were brutally co-opted or suppressed by the state security apparatus.

Fast forward to the rapid fire events of the fall of the USSR.  Suddenly the order of the USSR-inspired political environment was replaced by the disorder and chaos of a forced democratic transformation. Societal adjustment preceded at a glacial pace.  The uncertainty of the new order made many Hungarians long for days past.  As the years passed, the oppression of life under the USSR grew dimmer in memory, while the recollection of the order and stability of those days grew more enticing. Against this backdrop Hungarian engagement with the West began in which neither side completely understood the other.  Western consideration of Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes was lost amid grandiose goals of democracy, free markets and open borders, concepts it assumed were wholeheartedly accepted by the Hungarian populace.  The West perceived Hungary’s desire to join NATO as a clear repudiation of all things Soviet. This fostered a zero sum game mentality, a competition that the West felt was won by being the diametrical opposite of the USSR. Overlooked were the more practical reasons for Hungarians to seek inclusion, as well as populace sentiment.

As the years progressed, the cracks in the inherently shaky foundation of the relationship grew larger.  Enter PM Orban, chisel in hand and a finger on the pulse of the Hungarian population, to deepen the fissures.  While NATO and Brussels reprimanded PM Orban over several issues, Hungarians perceived life as better under him as the economy grew, quality of life increased, and pride was restored, while negative views on immigration remained prevalent throughout society.   With a super majority in Parliament, PM Orban was perfectly positioned to take advantage of COVID-19 to give himself dictatorial powers. Few in Hungary protested.  Strong authoritarian leadership was comfortable and familiar to Hungarians throughout their history.  While the death of PM Orban opens the door to reintegration with the West, the sentiment of the populace remains.

With this knowledge, the U.S. efforts can employ a realistic platform of engagement. Hungary will not be a model example of thriving liberalism and Jeffersonian democracy — the edges will still be rough.  Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes remain rooted in their history. Hungarian taste for capitalism greatly exceeds their tolerance of open borders.  “Hungary for Hungarians” remains a common refrain throughout the country. A strong leader who bends the rules by centralizing power and limiting some freedoms, but maintains order and promotes economic growth, is tolerable so long as the pendulum does not swing too far, as it did towards the end with PM Orban.

As Russia lurks nearby, a now much younger nation[6] has limited memory of the USSR. The U.S. has the opportunity to decide if an ally in the region with illiberal tendencies is better than no ally at all, for as Hungary goes, so might its like-minded neighbors Romania and Bulgaria. While this presents the U.S. with a difficult decision, the past again offers a path forward. Throughout its history the U.S. has overlooked questionable policies by an ally because they supported U.S. interests, especially during the Cold War[7]. Realpolitik amid great power competition demands it. So does the populace of a proud country of 10 million.


Endnotes:

[1] Tharoor, I. (2020, March 30). Coronavirus Kills Its First Democracy. Retrieved May 4, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/31/coronavirus-kills-its-first-democracy

[2] Associated Press (1997, November 17). Hungarians Vote to Join NATO. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-nov-17-mn-54753-story.html

[3] Gero, A. (2016, May 1). The Lost Golden Age of Hungary. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from http://geroandras.hu/en/blog/2016/05/01/the-lost-golden-age-of-hungary

[4] KafkaDesk (2018, December 5). Why Is The Treaty of Trainon So Controversial? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://kafkadesk.org/2018/12/05/hungary-why-is-the-trianon-treaty-so-controversial

[5] Balazs, S. (2013, February 21). Knock in the Night. Refugee Press, Hillsborough, North Carolina.

[6] Velkoff, V.A. (1992, October). Aging trends: Hungary. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 7, 429–437. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01848702

[7] Boot, M. (2018, October 19). Yes, The US Sometimes Supports Warlords and Dictators So When Should We Stop? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/10/19/yes-the-u-s-sometimes-supports-warlords-and-dictators-so-when-should-we-stop

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Diplomacy Hungary Rocco P. Santurri III United States

Assessment of a Tutoring Model as a Replacement for Conventional Teaching and Learning

Thomas Williams is a Part-Time member of the faculty at Quinnipiac University.  He is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a member of the Military Writer’s Guild, and tweets at @twilliams01301.  Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.

Title:  Assessment of a Tutoring Model as a Replacement for Conventional Teaching and Learning

Date Originally Written:  May 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 15, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired military reservist who teaches (adjunct status) in higher education. The author believes that education is lagging in its role as a bulwark of national security. The article is written from the point of view of an educational outsider who has been privileged to teach part time at the undergraduate level since 2008, but is not that of an administrator who must work out the logistics.

Summary:  Today’s college graduates are not adequately prepared for the world they will inherit, especially with its complex national security challenges. The current system teaches students to regurgitate the answers they are instructed to value, thus creating “excellent sheep.” A tutoring regimen combining student-educator interaction, team discussions, and individual efforts, will better prepare current students for the challenges of tomorrow.

Text:  Too many undergraduates seek credentials rather than pursue knowledge. The degree is their goal. Learning is ancillary. This observation is not an indictment of the current generation of students but of the system. These students behave as rational actors in a system designed to be efficient and risk averse.

The education system values compliant behavior, submitting carefully crafted papers on time, scoring well on tests, and participating in class, usually earns an A grade. Yet the sad truth is that students can write papers and score well on tests without actually learning the material. Former Yale professor turned full-time author William Deresiewicz derides this circumstance as the “game of school” and these A students as “excellent sheep[1].”

Furthermore, the game of school leaves many graduates incapable of using habits of mind that constitute critical thinking. Students do not learn and practice critical thinking as a discrete skill. Students learn the strategies of critical thinking by tangibly associating its many abstract concepts with domain specific problems. In other words, real-world practice. For instance, a student cannot consider multiple points of view if they do not possess basic knowledge of an event’s participants. Absent domain knowledge critical thinking becomes a meaningless phrase.

The strategies of critical thinking are more than just using evidence in support of an argument, or minding the dozens of common heuristics. The critical thinker is capable of forming novel conclusions from the information at hand. If students merely parrot back the same truths they have been told to esteem, they are, no matter how clever, only answering questions[2]. They are not practicing critical thinking. It is a troubling prospect to consider that educators are training presumed most educated citizens to be excellent sheep.

Students who obtain credentials yet avoid an education will eventually harm our the United States’ ability to compete in the global market and compromise its ability to protect and advance its interests around the world[3]. What is worse, because educated citizens are more likely to hold their governments accountable, compromising said citizens ability to think on their own jeopardizes the foundations of the republic[4].

Some Colleges and Universities offer innovative degrees and programs, but they are the exception. There are also pedagogies that try to adopt student-centered approaches, everything from problem-based learning and case-method learning to flipped classrooms and inquiry. When combined with evidenced-based learning practices, they are all strong steps in the right direction. However, none are sufficient to desist the majority of students from seeking the efficient path toward a credential.

An alternative to the conventional 50-minute Monday, Wednesday, Friday regimen is a tutoring model such as what one might find in graduate school, or in the United Kingdom at Oxford. Making allowances for student developmental levels, a class of 20 students can be divided into four teams of five. These teams meet with their Professor for 50 minutes only, one day of the week. They met as a team without a Professor on another day of their own choosing to work on various projects. On the remaining 50-minute period of the week, they wrote a short paper, usually a reflection on learning. Despite the lack of constant supervision, it is common for students to accept the imperative that they come to each session well-prepared to engage in an in-depth conversation[5].

Evolving information technology systems also enable this alternative approach to work online, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many educators and students to connect virtually.

Using this alternative, students shift from performance goals and an emphasis on products to mastery and the desire to understand in multiple contexts, take risks, and question. Initially this change in behavior is less about attitude and more the physical reality of having no back row in which to hide, but in the end the shift was genuine.

The Professor’s role is varied, but includes facilitating the discussions, recommending content readings (covering multiple perspectives), and monitoring student learning. A significant task is to watch for instances when students rely on misconceptions or use factually incorrect information in their arguments.

In many ways, teaching with a tutoring model resembles the military’s philosophy of mission command. There is an expectation of disciplined initiative from the student. The professor emphasizes purpose in any prompt, with permission given to deviate from the task to fit the purpose, and develops in students a tolerance for risk, which turns to acceptance as they develop competence. Trust replaces rules and policies.

There are always hiccups in a course that challenges convention, and some students struggle more than others. A few students even demand a return to a military-style command and control climate, as they worry about not giving the Professor what he or she wants. Paradoxically, giving students what they demand eliminates any chance of developing their critical thinking strategies. Sometimes the conversations that result from student failure offer more lessons than the topic at hand.

Only through risk taking on the part of Professors will the current system improve. When students test boundaries, this is not a reason to abandon the trust-based system. Instead, this testing is an opportunity to recognize and channel maverick behavior into something productive. Professors responding in a traditional way, with punitive action, ends the trust-based relationship. Students will quickly surmise that a Professors actions matter more than words and they will revert to doing only as they are told. Reducing fear is vital to fostering initiative.

In this alternative, while some students struggle early on, the end-of-course evaluations will likely be good. The students will embrace having ownership of the work and the freedom to explore. Student comments regularly contrast their experience in the tutoring model with their conventional classes and they express a desire to see more of the former. These comments are a clear signal that the typical undergraduate student truly does love learning and under the right circumstances can also love school[6].


Endnotes:

[1] Deresiewicz, W. (2008). The disadvantages of an elite education. American Scholar, 77(3), 20.

[2] Willingham, D. T. (2008). Critical thinking: Why is it so hard to teach? Arts Education Policy Review, 109(4), 21-32. doi:10.3200/AEPR.109.4.21-32

[3] Skaggs, D. (2014). Higher education as a matter of national security: Can a democracy plan ahead? Liberal Education, 100(1), 32.

[4] Botero, J., Ponce, A., & Shleifer, A. (2013). Education, complaints, and accountability. The Journal of Law & Economics, 56(4), 959-996. doi:10.1086/674133

[5] Horn, J. (2013). Signature pedagogy/powerful pedagogy: The oxford tutorial system in the humanities. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 12(4), 350-366. doi:10.1177/1474022213483487

[6] Blum, S. D. (2016). “I love learning; I hate school”: An anthropology of college (1st ed.). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. doi:10.7591/j.ctt20d8b00

Assessment Papers Education Thomas Williams

Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

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


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


Title:  Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that China’s current posture in Africa, if left unchecked, will turn the continent into a battleground for Great Power Competition below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:  China, despite its claims of peaceful rise, has steadily exercised its military, economic and diplomatic might. With strong leadership that is not afraid of compromise, African countries can enforce their independence as they ensure peace and prosperity on the continent.

Text:  When Deng Xiaoping liberalized the Chinese economy in 1978[1], his goals were to lift 860 million Chinese from poverty and power the Chinese economy to overtake its neighbors[2]. From an agrarian, state-controlled economy, China is now an industrial, largely private sector-led economic superpower[3]. However, as China’s economic power has grown, concerns about China’s global agenda have emerged[4]. China, along with Russia, is determined to reorder the world in its image[5], making conflict with the West more likely[6]. Yet, despite professing a policy of “Peaceful Rise[7]”, Chinese actions in the South China Sea[8] and its isolation campaign against Taiwan[9] show that Beijing isn’t afraid to flex its diplomatic, economic and military muscles.

Africa has attracted the interest of Great Powers through the ages. Often this interest has been to the detriment of Africans. From the destruction of Carthage[10] to slave trade[11][12] and colonization[13], Africa has faced privations from empires looking to exploit its resources. Even after independence, warring powers continued to interfere in the internal conflicts of African countries[14] throughout the Cold War. With a large and growing African population, sophisticated middle class, and increased connectivity to the rest of the world, Africa will continue to be both a source of materials and destination for goods and services.

As China expands its international footprint, it has deliberately increased its African ties. It supplies weapons to African countries without regard to the human rights practices of their leaders[15]. China is now Africa’s biggest trading partner[16] while providing financing for infrastructural projects through its Belt and Road Initiative. These projects have often been sponsored without regard to their sustainability or economic viability. The inability of countries to repay such loans have forced them to surrender critical infrastructure, with potential military implications[17][18].

As Great Power competition returns and China’s stance becomes more confrontational, and African leaders fail to act, the continent will again become just another front for global rivalries without regard for the well being of Africans. Global powers have fought their wars on African soil since the 18th Century. Regardless of the winners of these conflicts, Africans lose more than they gain. Africans, more than ever, can shape their destinies and work for the 21st Century to become Africa’s Century.

Africa nations can work to secure peace on the continent. By leveraging multilateral organizations operating on the continent, African leaders can make the painful compromises required to settle their inter-state disputes and move to cooperative models that engender peace based on common interests. African leaders can expand intra-African trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area and exploit regional organizations to tackle transnational crimes including human trafficking, illegal extraction of resources, religious extremism, and corruption under joint platforms.

Leaders can resolve the various internal stresses that keep their countries in political crises. Many African countries have been unable to foster a national identity, leaving their people clinging to tribal and religious identities without regard for the state’s interest. By decentralizing power, increasing citizen participation, respecting the rule of law, and reforming governance models for efficient service delivery, populations can begin to develop their sense of nationhood. Food security, public sanitation, healthcare, power, justice, and education programs can be implemented smartly and with consideration to the direct needs of their citizens, to prevent the resentment that bad actors can exploit.

African countries can take deliberate steps to diversify their technical, industrial, and financial sources. Governments can implement open standards, secure sensitive infrastructure from interference, and break up monopolies. As COVID-19 exposes the weakness of China’s role as the world’s manufacturing hub, countries can invest in manufacturing abilities and build capabilities to scale up production of critical items to safeguard their supply chains.

Most importantly, African leaders can declare that China will not be allowed to use its assets on the continent for military purposes in its competition with the West. Individual countries can also demonstrate the will to prevent the militarization of Chinese financed projects in their jurisdictions. Regional blocs can come together and draw up contingencies to retake control, by force if necessary, any dual-use facilities in member states. The status of Chinese bases on the continent can be spelled out, and appropriate contingencies planned should open conflict break out.

Ultimately, Africans can make deliberate decisions about the future of the continent. They have more agency than at any other time in history to shape the direction of the continent. While many may balk at the redirections needed to make themselves independent of Chinese machinations as well as the costs involved, such actions are crucial to ensure that African countries have the freedom to pursue policies most favorable to them.


Endnotes:

[1] Le, Y., Rabinovitch, S. (2008, December 8). TIMELINE: China milestones since 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-reforms-chronology-sb-idUKTRE4B711V20081208

[2] Kopf, D., Lahiri, T. (2018, December 18). The charts that show how Deng Xiaoping unleashed China’s pent-up capitalist energy in 1978. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://qz.com/1498654/the-astonishing-impact-of-chinas-1978-reforms-in-charts

[3] Brandt, L., Rawski, G. (2008, April 14). China’s Great Economic Transformation.

[4] Arace, A. (2018, August 8). China Doesn’t Want to Play by the World’s Rules. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/08/china-doesnt-want-to-play-by-the-worlds-rules

[5] Stent, A. (2020, February). Russia and China: Axis of Revisionist? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/FP_202002_russia_china_stent.pdf

[6] Kaplan, R. (2019, January 7). A New Cold War Has Begun. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/07/a-new-cold-war-has-begun

[7] Bijian, Z. Speeches of Zheng Bijian 1997-2004. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/20050616bijianlunch.pdf

[8] Axe, D. (2020, March 23). How China is Militarizing the South China Sea with a Ton of Missiles. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/how-china-militarizing-south-china-sea-ton-missiles-136297

[9] Myers, S. and Horton, C. (2018, May 25). China Tries to Erase Taiwan, One Ally (and Website) at a Time. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/world/asia/china-taiwan-identity-xi-jinping.html

[10] Kierana, B. (2004, August 1). The First Genocide: Carthage, 146 BC. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://gsp.yale.edu/sites/default/files/first_genocide.pdf

[11] M’Bokolo, E. (1998, April). The impact of the slave trade on Africa. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://mondediplo.com/1998/04/02africa

[12] Nunn, N. (2017, February 27). Understanding the long-run effects of Africa’s slave trades. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxt3gk7/revision/1

[13] Settles, J. (1996). The Impact of Colonialism on African Economic Development. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from
https://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1182&context=utk_chanhonoproj

[14] Schmidt, E. (2016, July 26). Conflict in Africa: The Historical Roots of Current Problems. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from
https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/summer-2016/conflict-in-africa-the-historical-roots-of-current-problems

[15] Hull, A. Markov, D. (2012, February 20). Chinese Arms Sales to Africa. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.ida.org/-/media/feature/publications/2/20/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa/2012-chinese-arms-sales-to-africa.ashx

[16] Smith, E. (2019, October 9). The US-China Trade Rivalry is Underway in Africa, and Washington is playing catch-up. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/09/the-us-china-trade-rivalry-is-underway-in-africa.html

[17] Abi-Habib, Maria. (2018, June 25). How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html

[18] Paris, C. (2019, February 21). China Tightens Grip on East African Port. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-tightens-grip-on-east-african-port-11550746800

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Damimola Olawuyi Great Powers

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

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


Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 15, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 1: Power/Interest Grid[10]

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 7.30.17 AM


Endnotes:

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

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Role of Career Diplomats in National Security

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Confidence MacHarry is a Security Analyst at the same firm and can be found on Twitter @MacHarryCI. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Role of Career Diplomats in National Security.

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 10, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Confidence MacHarry Damimola Olawuyi Diplomacy

Assessing China’s Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group. 


Title:  Assessing China’s Civil and Military Crisis Response Capabilities

Date Originally Written:  March 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 8, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Khaled Al Khalifa is a Bahraini International Fellow at the U.S. Army War College (Academic Year 2020).  He has deployment and service experience in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf.  He has an interest in Middle Eastern security and defense studies.  He can be found on twitter @KhalidBinAli.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  May 18,2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 5, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

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


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

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

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


Title:  Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 3, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Lima, D.B.A., is an Ammunition Warrant Officer and has served 21 years in the United States military.  He can be found on Twitter @Mike_k_Lima and provides pro bono consulting in munitions and explosives safety on MikeLimaConsulting.org.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 1, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement India Michael Lima United States

Assessing Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

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


Stuart E. Gallagher has served as a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State during the outset of the Ukraine crisis and is a recognized subject matter expert on Russian / Ukrainian affairs. He can be contacted at: s_gallagher@msn.com. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 20, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Threat posed by Artificial Intelligence and Computational Propaganda

Marijn Pronk is a Master Student at the University of Glasgow, focusing on identity politics, propaganda, and technology. Currently Marijn is finishing her dissertation on the use of populist propagandic tactics of the Far-Right online. She can be found on Twitter @marijnpronk9. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Threat posed by Artificial Intelligence and Computational Propaganda

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 18, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter L. Hickman, Major, United States Air Force, holds a PhD from Arizona State University in International Relations and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science in Joint Warfare. He is currently a Defense Legislative Fellow for a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Prior to this position, he worked as a Requirements Manager on Air Combat Command HQ staff and the Chief of Weapons and Tactics at the 225th Air Defense SquadronThe views expressed in this paper represent the personal views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Department of Defense or of the Department of the Air Force.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 13, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

[2] Ibid, 116.

[3] Ibid, 117.

[4] Ibid, 117.

[5] Ibid, 116.

[6] Ibid, 117.

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

[8] Ibid, 1.

[9]Ibid, 2.

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

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

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


Dr. Heather Marie Stur is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. She is the author of several books, including Saigon at War: South Vietnam and the Global Sixties (Cambridge 2020 forthcoming), The U.S. Military and Civil Rights Since World War II (Praeger/ABC-CLIO 2019), and Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (Cambridge 2011). Her articles have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, National Interest, War on the Rocks, Diplomatic History, and War & Society. Stur was a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam, where she was a professor in the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. She can be found on Twitter @HeatherMStur. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group. 


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

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J David Thompson is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Major. He has a Juris Doctorate from Washington Lee University School of Law. He also holds a BS in Economics and MBA-Leadership from Liberty University. Outside the military, he’s worked at the UN Refugee Agency, Department of Defense, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. He holds a basic kettlebell certification and two national ranks in kettlebell sport. Look him up at www.jdavidthompson.com or follow him on Twitter @jdthompson910. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 27, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement J David Thompson United States

Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

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


Title:  Assessing the Effect of Military Aid on Both Donor and Receiver

Date Originally Written:  April 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 13, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Damimola Olawuyi

Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

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


Title:  Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

Date Originally Written:  March 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 23, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 26, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Competition Defense and Military Reform Great Powers United States

Assessing U.S. Use of Coercive Diplomacy

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


Title:  Assessing U.S. Use of Coercive Diplomacy

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 9, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Assad Raza Assessment Papers Coercive Diplomacy Diplomacy

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

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


Gracie Jamison is a sophomore at The George Washington University and studies political science and history.  She can be found on Twitter at @grjamison13 and writes for the GW Hatchet, an independent student-run newspaper.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  August 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Gracie Jamison Nationalism Switzerland

Assessing a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

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


Title:  Assessing a U.S. Policy of Détente with China

Date Originally Written:  December 23, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 27, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

An Assessment of the Global War on Terror via Deterrence Theory

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 27, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid

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

Assessment Papers Deterrence James P. Micciche Violent Extremism

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

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

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

Date Originally Written:  November 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 13, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia Germany Irregular Forces / Irregular Warfare Latvia Lithuania Russia

An Assessment of the National Security Impact of Digital Sovereignty

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 6, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Economic Factors Estonia United States

Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 30, 2019.

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

Summary:  Afghanistan is part of an American effort to create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles. This effort began in post-World War II reconstruction projects, the success of which rested on abstention from extending the project into countries like Russia and China and accommodating their security and military interests.

Text:  The rationale for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan can vary depending on whether one views the presence through a realist or liberal lens. On one hand, there is sufficient cause to suggest that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is based on realpolitik, where the U.S. is pursuing security and economic interests by thwarting the possibility of Afghanistan again becoming a transnational terrorist safe haven all while tapping into natural resources such as uranium, lithium, rare earth materials, and opium that are vital for the sustenance of modern high-tech industries and the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, an idealist would justify the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as part of an overall pursuit of what John Mearsheimer calls “liberal hegemony” where the U.S. is seeking to establish a world system based on the principles of liberal democracy, such as global peace and security, free-market economics, as well as rule of law and the adjudication of conflicts.

In reality, U.S. foreign policy is a balance of both approaches, where the pursuit of military and economic power is combined with principle to shape the nature of foreign policy. Unlike China, whose foreign policy is based purely on the concept of realpolitik and the pursuit of its own security and economic interests, the U.S. is one of the few superpowers in world history to have combined the realpolitik approach of foreign policy with one that is based on the promotion of liberal-democratic principles. Much of America’s efforts on the global stage since World War II have been focused on institution building on a global level in various areas of concern to all nations, such as security with the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and economics through the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and international law through the creation of the United Nations. The United States has applied both realpolitik and liberal hegemony as approaches to its involvement in Afghanistan. There is both a moral justification to America’s presence in Afghanistan and a military and economic justification.

The question remains whether the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will persist and possess the lifespan of the U.S. presence in other places such as Germany and the Korean Peninsula. The American public has put immense pressure on its politicians to withdraw American forces and personnel from the Middle East and Afghanistan. From a legal standpoint, the U.S. government has the legal justification for its involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan through laws that were passed in the post-9/11 era such as the Patriot Act as well as an “Authorization to Use Military Force.” The United Nations and the European Union have also pledged support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. government may decide to announce a withdrawal of a significant number of troops and personnel from Afghanistan to placate its public, but it is highly unlikely that the United States will initiate a full withdrawal from Afghanistan after all the investments that it has made there over the past eighteen years.

As mentioned before, the mission in Afghanistan is part of an overall effort to organize the world and create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles while maintaining the pursuit of American military and economic power to sustain the liberal hegemonic effort. This liberal hegemonic effort has its roots in America’s post-World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia, and this effort has now extended in scope by covering areas that are novel to the United States such as the Middle East and Afghanistan. However, it is a fact that the focus of the United States has been lopsided towards countries where America has vested security and economic interests. Furthermore, there has not been a significant push on the part of the United States to implement international law in places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan who are allied to the United States but are in violation of liberal-democratic principles. Nevertheless, the global strategy for the United States is in place with clear objectives, and the implementation of such a strategy will inevitably face challenges and roadblocks imposed by authoritarian powers such as Russia and China who like the United States have regional and possibly global ambitions.

One component of America’s global strategy will also include a “live and let die” component by using all the levers of power at its disposal to place pressure as well as sanctions on countries that will resist America’s liberal hegemonic project such as Iran and Russia. However, it is unlikely that Russia and China will seek to thwart America’s global strategy simply because the capabilities are not there to mount such an effort. Instead, the Russians and the Chinese will seek to find opportunities to negotiate and engage in dialogue with the United States to preserve their respective security and economic interests. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the Russians and the Chinese initially had no objections to America’s involvement in Afghanistan, and the Russians even encouraged Uzbekistan to allow the United States to stage its Afghan-related operations there in 2001.

While America’s liberal hegemonic effort has staying power in Afghanistan and possibly the Middle East, it may run into a dead end if America seeks to extend the effort inside of Russia and China. It is highly unlikely that Russia and China will seek to dislodge the United States from Afghanistan via proxy as long as America engages in sustainable diplomacy with Russia and China and find ways to accommodate Russian and Chinese security and economic interests. Short of Russia joining the European Union and America engaging with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for the purpose of economic and infrastructural development in Asia, American efforts in Afghanistan regarding Russia and China will continue to be one-offs and not be underpinned by a formal structure.


Endnotes:

None.

Adam A. Azim Afghanistan Assessment Papers Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Assessing the Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and Technology, Pakistan. His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant. He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

Date Originally Written:  October 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 16, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the U.S perspective, with regards to the significance of the F-35 aircraft, in terms of protecting U.S assets in Syria and the Levant amidst various local and foreign hostile forces.

Summary:  In 2019 the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was used for the first time in the Middle East. As major world players further their national interests in Syria, the United States is forced to be more active in the region. The Turkish offensive against the Kurds, the Islamic State, and Russian influence are the major concerns for the U.S. The F-35 could be used effectively to not only protect the U.S ground forces but also to deter its enemies from attacking the American assets.

Text:  Amidst the fickle and intricate geopolitics of Syria, perhaps the only constant in this melting pot, is the United States’ lack of strategic clarity. After over eight years of the ongoing Syrian civil war, the average American might not pay much heed to this seemingly incessant conflict, other than when this issue involves their fellow countrymen and tax money. Regardless, the geo-strategic significance of Syria, coupled with the kind of major players involved in this conflict, calls for proactivity and sometimes, grudging, yet necessary entailment on the part of the United States.

The emergence and the consequential establishment of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate, amongst the ashes of burning Levant, is perhaps the most pertinent issue of concern, not only for United States but for most of the Western powers. Since the civil war broke out in 2011, the scale of the conflict has only exacerbated[1], to the point where almost all global powers are somehow involved in the Syrian crisis. Whether this involvement is due to a lack of U.S. long-term vision for Syria and the greater Levant, or the reluctance to be proactive and protect its national interests in the region, the fact remains that rival powers, Iran and Russia, have more strategic depth and the leverage to protect their interests in the region than any time in recent years[2].

Since 2011, there have been many turns and changes with regards to the U.S objectives in Syria. However, containment and impairment of the IS caliphate, opposition of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and halting increasing Iranian influence in the region have continued to be the among the main priorities of the United States in Syria. With a limited number of boots on ground the U.S also relies on its allies to such as Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), to protect its interests in the region. The SDF, which are commonly regarded as “rebel forces,” are primarily comprised of Kurdish fighters, who have actively fighting against the Syrian army and IS simultaneously[3]. With three main local factions fighting each other for the control of territory and resources of the country, each foreign power is supporting their side. For the United States, the prevailing objective is to not only undermine the threat of IS, but also to deny the unholy trinity of Assad, Iran, and Russia sole dominion over the geopolitical landscape.

With limited amount of manpower, unfamiliar terrain, presence of multiple hostile fronts, and a threat of inadvertent clash with the Iranian or Russian forces, how does the United States protect its assets, while keeping the hostile forces at bay? Regardless of where the U.S ground forces might be, their competitive advantage, in many instances, is the fact that they are supported by arguably the best, in terms of operational capacity and technological prowess. To this end, the recently developed F-35 fighter jet[4] is likely to play a vital role in maintaining a buffer between the American/coalition forces and the local hostile factions.

As the only other credible air force present in the region, the Russian air force, has maintained a safe distance with the American forces. Disregarding an unlikely scenario, at least in the near future, of a direct confrontation between the American and the Russian forces, the only remaining airpower against the F-35 is the Syrian Arab Air force[5]. With its fighter fleet mainly comprised of MiG-23s, Su-17 and the Fencer (Su-24), theoretically there is no threat to the F-35’s air superiority in the region.

In April 2019, the first U.S combat use of the F-35 was observed in the Middle East, when an IS munitions cache was targeted, to thwart the group’s possible resurgence[6]. To compensate for its numerical disadvantage and to protect strategically vital oilfields, the F-35’s role against the hostile local groups is likely to increase overtime. With its initiation into combat, it seems as if the Unites States envisions a key role for the F-35 in the region’s future. The only criticism is on the jet’s lack of energy maneuverability, due to its lower thrust to weight ratio compared to its rivals, which makes the jet less nimble in a dogfight[7]. However, the recent footage released by the U.S. Air Force depicts the F-35 making significant strides in this aspect, which has halted many of the objections on its close combat capabilities[8]. Despite its dogfight nimbleness, the competitive advantage of the F-35 is its computational capacity. The F-35, as a 5th-generation fighter, is unmatched at intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and targeting aircraft from a distance beyond visual range, significantly far away from the range of any of its possible competitors. Furthermore, the F-35’s stealth capability makes it difficult to detect, early and accurately[9].

As the United States sends its largest contingent of troops in Syria thus far, there is new threat looming over which might challenge the U.S interests in the area. As the Turkish forces target the Kurdish fighters, the threat of IS reprisal looms over, and Russia justifies its military presence in the area, as a “balancing act” between the Turkish and Syrian forces, the coming days for the United States will be precarious. As evident by the combat testing against IS earlier this year, the F-35 will play an ever-increasing role in Syria and greater Levant, where its stealth may be used to venture inside hostile territory to preemptively target terror networks. The F-35’s superior recon may be used to provide a bird’s eye to the American forces in Northeast Syria, and perhaps, most importantly, to deter the Russian forces and their proxies as they attempt to use their numerical advantage against the American land forces to control the lucrative energy fields of Northeastern Syria.


Endnotes:

[1] Bernard A and Saad H. (2018, February 8). It’s Hard to Believe but Syria’s Wat is Getting Even Worse. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/world/middleeast/syria-war-idlib.html

[2] Neely B, Smith S. (2019, October 15). As the U.S. withdraws, Assad and Putin are emerging as the winners in Syria. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-withdraws-assad-putin-are-emerging-winners-syria-n1066231

[3] Shapiro A. (2019, October 10). A Look At The History Of The U.S. Alliance With The Kurds. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/10/769044811/a-look-at-the-history-of-the-u-s-alliance-with-the-kurds

[4] Staff. (2019, October 29). Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=23

[5] Majumdar D. (2017, April 17). The Syrian Air Force: What Is Left? Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-syrian-air-force-what-left-20135

[6] Insinna V. (2019, April 30). US Air Force conducts airstrikes with F-35 for first time ever. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.defensenews.com/air/2019/04/30/us-air-force-conducts-airstrikes-with-f-35-for-first-time-ever/

[7] Robinson T. (2015, July 10). Does the F-35 really suck in air combat? Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.aerosociety.com/news/does-the-f-35-really-suck-in-air-combat/

[8] Lockie A. (2017, April 19). Here’s why the F-35 once lost to F-16s, and how it made a stunning comeback. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/f-35-vs-f-16-15-18-lost-beaten-flatley-comeback-2017-4

[9] Thompson L. (2019, May 13). The F-35 Isn’t Just ‘Stealthy’: Here’s How Its Electronic Warfare System Gives It An Edge. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2019/05/13/how-a-super-agile-electronic-warfare-system-makes-f-35-the-most-invincible-combat-aircraft-ever

 

Assessment Papers Deterrence F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) Humayun Hassan Syria United States

Assessing the Relationship of Sikh-Canadians with Canada and India

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


Nikita Khurana is an undergraduate student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and minoring in International Affairs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Relationship of Sikh-Canadians with Canada and India

Date Originally Written:  October 19, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 9, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author of this piece identifies as a first-generation Indian-American. This article is written in the point of view of Sikhs living in Canada that have a strong religious identity.

Summary:  Canada is home to nearly half a million Sikhs, thus becoming one of the largest Sikh diaspora populations in the world. While most diaspora populations have difficulty settling into their new home countries, political tensions with the Indian state was a driving force in Sikh-Canadian integration. Even though Sikh-Canadians faced discrimination from white Canadians, the Khalistan movement (a Sikh separatist movement) helped create a strong Sikh community within Canada.

Text:  Canada is home to one of the largest Sikh diaspora communities in the world. As of 2011, Sikhs accounted for 1.4% of the Canadian population with over 400,000 residents[1]. Legal immigration from the Indian province of Punjab is the root cause for the prominence of the Sikh religion in Canada. Sikh immigration into Canada can be separated into two waves: the early twentieth century and the 1960s. Due to political differences in their homeland, Sikhs in Canada have been able to integrate into Canadian society and even gain political power, despite the initial unwelcoming actions of white Canadians.

South Asia has been home to numerous religious movements including the creation of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. In the late fifteenth century, Guru Nanak established the Sikh religion. Sikhism is a prominent ideology with over 27 million followers, thus making it the fifth largest religion in the world. Followers of Skihism believe that there is a total of ten gurus, including Guru Nanak, and upon the death of the final spiritual leader, the essence of the eternal Guru transferred itself into the sacred Sikh scripture[2].

From their initial migration to Canada, Sikhs were met with profound racial discrimination[3]. This discrimination took the international stage in April of 1914 when the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship ship carrying Sikh passengers, was refused entry into Canada[4]. Nonetheless, Sikhs established strong religious institutions through gurudwaras or Sikh temples. South Asian immigration was completely halted until 1920, when wives and children of Sikh-Canadians were finally allowed to enter the country.

In contrast to the American society depicted as a ‘melting pot,’ Canada is seen as a ‘mixed salad’ of cultural differences today, where all faiths, ethnicities, and traditions are accommodated instead of assimilated. However, throughout the twentieth century, white Canadians were resistant to non-white immigrants. From the 1920s to the 1960s, Sikhs in Canada experienced a religious revision. Instead of maintaining traditional practices, children of immigrants adopted Sahajdhari practices. Being a Sahajdhari meant that men were able to break from practices that prevented them from cutting their hair and adopting Canadian dress codes[5].

The second wave of immigration coincided with the birth of the Sikh separatist movement in India. Even though Sikhs and Hindus lived peacefully amongst each other for centuries, tensions arose in the late 1960s when the Sikh population in Punjab gained economic prosperity following the Green Revolution in India. With growing wealth and a flourishing agricultural industry, Punjabi society slowly became increasingly more detached from mainstream Indian culture. In an effort to relieve political stress, Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi attempted to transfer the city of Chandigarh to the Punjab province. However, with no success, this olive branch was never fully executed, further strengthening distrust of the Prime Minister amongst the Sikh population. By the 1980s, the Sikh Khalistan movement was in full force.

The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement that calls for an autonomous Sikh nation-state. As scholar Stephen Van Evera suggests that nationalist movements are inherently violent, the Khalistan movement quickly turned violent against the Indian state[6]. In 1984, the Indian army staged a siege of the Golden Temple, a sacred Sikh shrine, in an effort to take down Sikh extremists. After the altercation, more than 1,000 people died, and the temple was nearly destroyed. This results of the siege ignited support from the Sikh diaspora in Canada, both financially and socially. Sikhs in Canada began to fund the separatist movement in India, which resulted in the deterioration of the relationship between Canadian Sikhs and their Indian homeland[7]. Additionally, the sudden violence of the Khalistan movement caused a mass migration of Sikhs to western countries, most prominently in Canada.

The growing Sikh population in Canada has recently become a concern to India. Within the last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become wary of Canada and their foreign policies. Indian officials worry that western governments have become sympathetic to the Sikh separatists and will act in their interests when considering foreign policy[8]. In 2017, the Canadian Parliament declared the siege on the Golden Temple in Punjab a genocide committed by the Indian state against the Sikh religious minority. This genocide declaration has further strained the relationship between Sikh-Canadians and the Indian State. Being a stateless nation, the Sikh population in Canada has essentially become a political organization where they have gained the agency to influence politics in Canada[9]. Thus, the Canadian government has been an active participant in accommodating Sikh-Canadians and Sikh immigrants. On March 2, 2006, the Canadian Supreme court notably struck down a ban on allowing Sikh students to carry a kirpan, ceremonial dagger, in school[10].

Pop culture is another important indicator of the relationship between white Canadians and Sikhs. Within the past century, major pop culture figures of Sikh roots have gained popularity among all Canadians. Most famously, Lilly Singh, also known as iiSuperwomanii, was the highest paid female on the video hosting website YouTube in 2016. She is a vocal Sikh who was born and brought up in the Ontario province of Canada[11].

Sikh immigrants were not initially welcomed with open arms into Canada. Due to racial discrimination by white Canadians, South Asians had a slow assimilation into Canadian society. However, political tensions with the Indian state weakened the connection Sikh immigrants had with their homeland. Hence, integration and assimilation into a new national identity was possible. Sikhs in Canada have risen to political power with nearly twenty Sikh Members of Parliament. While Sikh-Canadians’ connection to India may have been weakened, Sikh identity in Canada was strengthened due to support for the Khalistan movement and Sikh nation, instead of the actual Indian state.


Endnotes:

[1] “History.” Canadian Sikh Heritage. Accessed August 11, 2019. http://canadiansikhheritage.ca/history/.

[2] McLeod, William Hewat. “Sikhism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., June 21, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sikhism

[3] “Sikhism in Canada.” Sikhism in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed August 9, 2019. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sikhism.

[4] “History.” Canadian Sikh Heritage. Accessed August 11, 2019. http://canadiansikhheritage.ca/history/.

[5] “Who Is a ‘Sehajdhari’?: India News – Times of India.” The Times of India. Accessed August 11, 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Who-is-a-sehajdhari/articleshow/9830416.cms.

[6] Evera, Stephen Van. “Hypotheses on Nationalism and War.” International Security18, no. 4 (1994): 5. https://doi.org/10.2307/2539176.

[7] “Sinews of the Nation: Constructing Irish and Zionist Bonds in the United States” 51, no. 03 (2013). https://doi.org/10.5860/choice.51-1737.

[8] Sunny Hundal @sunny_hundal. “India’s Indifference to the Sikh Diaspora Is Damaging Western Foreign Policy towards the Country.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, February 25, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/india-sikh-justin-trudeau-separatism-canada-foreign-policy-a8223641.html.

[9] Harris Mylonas & Nadav G. Shelef (2014) Which Land Is Our Land? Domestic Politics and Change in the Territorial Claims of Stateless Nationalist Movements,Security Studies, 23:4, 754-786, DOI: 10.1080/09636412.2014.964996

[10] CBC News, “Ban on Sikh kirpan overturned by Supreme Court,” March 2, 2006. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ban-on-sikh-kirpan-overturned-by-supreme-court-1.618238.

[11] Maya Oppenheim @mayaoppenheim. “The Highest-Paid Female YouTuber, and the Astonishing Amount She Earns.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, March 6, 2017. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/lilly-singh-youtube-highest-paid-richest-forbes-list-2016-a7458441.html.

 

Assessment Papers Canada India Nikita Khurana

Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Humayun Hassan is an undergraduate student at National University of Sciences and technology, Pakistan.  His areas of research interests include 5th and 6th generation warfare and geopolitics of the Levant.  He can be found on Twitter @Humayun_17. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Increased Chinese Strategic Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written:  September 15, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 2, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the Chinese standpoint, with regards to U.S and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member country (NATO) presence in Afghanistan and the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Summary:  Afghanistan is important to Chinese strategic interests. To ensure stability in its autonomous region of Xinjiang, expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and counter a perceived “encirclement of China” strategy, Afghanistan holds the key for China. Therefore, China is consolidating its interests in Afghanistan through “economic diplomacy”, facilitation of peace talks, and working with other regional players.

Text:  As a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is establishing multiple economic passages, across Eurasia, Africa, and Southeast Asia. A total of six economic[1] corridors are designed to connect China with most of the major markets of the world. To consolidate her direct access to these markets, it is pivotal for China to maintain regional and political stability, especially in areas that directly pertain to these economic corridors. Two of these six corridors, namely CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and China-Central Asia and West Asia economic corridors pass through the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. This network of railroads, energy projects, and infrastructure is meant to connect Beijing with Central and Western Asia, along with the Middle East. Xinjiang is not only one of the most impoverished and underdeveloped regions of China, but is also home to almost 10-12 million Uighurs Muslims. In the past few years, Muslims in Xinjiang have caught significant media spotlight[2], due to growing sense of discontent among the local population with the Chinese administration. While the official Chinese narrative depicts a few Uighurs groups to be supportive of terrorist activities, the opposing viewpoint highlights internment camps[3] and over-representation of police force in the region. Nevertheless, the geo-economic importance of Xinjiang is paramount, which is why China is willing to use aggressive measures to restore stability in the area.

The militant factions of the Uighur community are supported by various group operating from Afghanistan. The Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement, is considered to be the primary organization undermining the Chinese sovereignty in Western China. In the past, this group has primarily operated from Afghanistan, with alliances with the Afghan Taliban (Taliban) and Al-Qaeda. However, since 2015, China has another reason to be cautious of protecting its economic[4] interests in the region. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) chapter of the violent extremist organization the Islamic State was established that year, with an aim to create its terror network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from tacitly supporting the Uighurs militant factions, IS-K has openly threatened to attack the ongoing CPEC projects, not only inside Pakistan but also in Western China[5].

The encirclement of China strategy advocates for constant U.S military and political presence in Chinese proximity[6]. With forces in Afghanistan the United States and NATO have opened up a new pressure point for China, a country that is already coping with the U.S forces in South China Sea and Japan, on the eastern front. After almost 18-years of non-conclusive war in Afghanistan, the U.S and Afghan forces have failed subdue the Taliban[7]. As the Kabul administration is facing financial and political turmoil, the U.S is considering reducing military presence in the country, and leaving a friendly government in Afghanistan. China seems to be aware of the political vacuum that awaits Afghanistan, which is why it presents an opportunity for it to find new allies in the country and work with other stakeholders to bring in a friendly government. This government vacuum-filling may not only allow China to neutralize U.S encirclement from Afghanistan, but will also help suppress terrorist organizations operating from Afghanistan. The latest developments in lieu of U.S-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar indicate that China is enhancing ties with the Taliban. A Taliban government in Afghanistan may be suitable for China, at least in consideration of the available options. Not only have the Taliban declared war against IS-K[8], an entity that has openly threatened to disparage Chinese interests in the region and support militants in Western China, but also remained silent on the alleged persecution of the Uighurs in Xinjiang. This war declaration may be regarded as a major milestone in the China-Taliban relations, since the late 1990s when the Taliban government in the country allowed militant groups, such as Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

For the first few years of the Afghan war, China passively supported it. However, as the United States, under the Obama administration started to hint a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, China assumed a more active role in the country. Since the initiation of BRI, Chinese exports to Afghanistan have increased significantly[9]. For the first time in modern China-Afghanistan relations, China has offered military aid to the Afghanistan. The Chinese foreign minister also expressed a desire to expand the ongoing CPEC into Afghanistan as well[10]. Another aspect that is often discredited is the natural resource potential in the country. Afghanistan incorporates some of the largest Lithium reserves, which are particularly essential for the manufacturing of most electronic products. As per the American Geological Survey, Afghanistan holds approximately $3 trillion worth of natural resources[11]. This alone makes Afghanistan an area of interest for major world powers.

In conclusion, China’s approach towards Afghanistan may be best deciphered by a paradigm shift. From a strategic limited involvement to active leadership, China has now become one of the key stakeholders in the Afghan peace process. With an apparent failure of the Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and U.S, the situation is deteriorating quickly. The Taliban, since then, have vowed to double down on militancy. From a Chinese standpoint, continuation of U.S presence in Afghanistan and the anticipated increase in violence would be the least desired outcome. China, over the years, has strategically played a balancing act between all the internal stakeholders of Afghanistan, from offering aid to the national government to hosting a Taliban delegation in Beijing. Therefore, any political settlement in the country, whether it is the creation of a new “national government” with the Taliban or a truce between the fighting forces within the country may suit the Chinese in the long-run. As the BRI initiative enters the next stage, and threats of terror activities in the Xinjiang loom, and the race to tap into Afghanistan’s natural resources intensifies, China is now in unchartered waters, where any significant development in Afghanistan will directly effects its regional political and economic interests. It seems that, in coming times, China may assume the central role in organizing new peace initiatives, ensuring that whoever comes to power in Afghanistan may not thwart China’s ambitions in the country.


Endnotes:

[1]1 Hillman, J. (2019, September 4). China’s Belt and Road Is Full Of Holes. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-belt-and-road-full-holes

[2] Sudworth, J. (2019, July 4). China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48825090

[3] Shams, S. (2015, July 24). Why China’s Uighurs are joining jihadists in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.dw.com/en/why-chinas-uighurs-are-joining-jihadists-in-afghanistan/a-18605630

[4] Pandey, S. (2018, September 22). China’s Surreptitious Advance in Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/chinas-surreptitious-advance-in-afghanistan/

[5] Aamir, A. (2018, August 17). ISIS Threatens China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.chinausfocus.com/peace-security/isis-threatens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor

[6] Gunner, U. (2018, January 18). Continuity of Agenda: US Encirclement of China Continues Under Trump. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from https://www.globalresearch.ca/continuity-of-agenda-us-encirclement-of-china-continues-under-trump/5626694

[7] Wolfgang, B. Taliban now stronger than when Afghanistan war started in 2001, military experts say. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/sep/9/taliban-strongest-afghanistan-war-started-2001/

[8] Burke, J. (2019, August 19). With Kabul wedding attack, Isis aims to erode Taliban supremacy. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/19/with-kabul-wedding-attack-isis-aims-to-erode-taliban-supremacy

[9] Zia, H. (2019, February 14). A surge in China-Afghan trade. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201902/14/WS5c65346ba3106c65c34e9606.html

[10] Gul, A. (2018, November 1). China, Pakistan Seeking CPEC Extension to Afghanistan. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/china-pakistan-seeking-cpec-extension-afghanistan

[11] Farmer, B. (2010, June 17). Afghanistan claims mineral wealth is worth $3trillion. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7835657/Afghanistan-claims-mineral-wealth-is-worth-3trillion.html

 

Afghanistan Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Great Powers Humayun Hassan

Assessing North Korea’s Cyber Evolution

Ali Crawford has an M.A. from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce where she focused on diplomacy, intelligence, cyber policy, and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing North Korea’s Cyber Evolution

Date Originally Written:  September 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 25, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the international community’s focus on addressing North Korea’s nuclear capability sets the conditions whereby their cyber capabilities can evolve unchecked.

Summary:  Despite displaying a growing and capable cadre of cyber warriors, North Korean cyber prowess has been overshadowed by threats of nuclear proliferation. While North Korea remains extremely isolated from the global community, it has conducted increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks over a short span of time. In a relatively short period of time, North Korea has cultivated a cyber acumen worth recognizing as threatening as its nuclear program.

Text:  As the internet quickly expanded across the globe and changed the nature of business and communication, Western nations capitalized on its capabilities. Authoritarian regimes felt threatened by the internet’s potential for damaging the regime’s power structure. In the 1990s, Kim Jong-il, father of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, restricted internet access, usage, and technology in his country[1]. Eventually, Kim Jong-il’s attitude shifted after recognizing the potential benefits of the internet. The North likely received assistance from China and the Soviet Union to begin training a rudimentary cyber corps during the 80s and 90s[2]. Cyber was and still is reserved explicitly for military or state leadership use.

The expansion of North Korea’s cyber program continued under Kim Jong-un, who today seeks to project military might by displays of a capable nuclear program. But Kim Jong-un, who possesses a degree in computer science, also understood the potential for cultivating cyber power. For North Korea, cyber is not just an asymmetrical medium of warfare, but also a method of surveillance, intelligence-gathering, and circumventing sanctions[3]. Within the last decade, North Korea has demonstrated an impressive understanding and application of offensive cyber competence. Several experts and reports estimate North Korean cyber forces range from 1,800 to upwards of 6,000 professionals[4]. Internet access is reportedly routed through China, which lends added difficulty to attribution but provides a measure of defense[5]. North Korea is largely disconnected from the rest of the world and maintains a rudimentary internet infrastructure[6]. The disconnect between the state and the internet leaves a significantly small and less vulnerable attack surface for other nations to exploit. 

Little information is available regarding the internal structure of North Korea’s cyber forces. What is thought to be known suggests an organizational hierarchy that operates with some autonomy to achieve designated mission priorities. Bureau 121, No. 91 Office, and Lab 110 report to North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB)[7]. Each reportedly operate internally and externally from Pyongyang. Bureau 121’s main activities include intelligence gathering and coordinating offensive cyber operations. Lab 110 engages in technical reconnaissance, such as network infiltration and malware implantation. No. 91 Office is believed to orchestrate hacking operations. Other offices situated under Bureau 121 or the RGB likely exist and are devoted entirely to information warfare and propaganda campaigns[8]. 

In the spring of 2013, a wave of cyber attacks struck South Korea. A new group called Dark Seoul emerged from North Korea armed with sophisticated code and procedures. South Korean banks and broadcasting companies were among the first institutions to endure the attacks beginning in March. In May, the South Korean financial sector was paralyzed by sophisticated malware. Later in June, marking the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, various South Korean government websites were taken offline by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Although Dark Seoul had been working discreetly since 2009, its successful attacks against major South Korean institutions prompted security researchers to more seriously consider the North Koreans as perpetrators[9]. The various attacks against financial institutions would be a prequel to the massive cyber financial heists the North would eventually manage, possibly making South Korea a testing ground for North Korea’s code and malware vehicles.

North Korea’s breach of Sony Pictures in 2014 catapulted the reclusive regime to international cyber infamy. Members of an organization calling themselves the Guardians of Peace stole nearly 40 gigabytes of sensitive data from Sony Pictures, uploaded damaging information online, and left behind a bizarre image of a red skeleton on employees’ desktop computers[10]. This was the first major occurrence of a nation-state attacking a United States corporation in retribution for something seemingly innocuous. While the Sony hack was an example of how vague rules for conducting cyber war and crime differ between nations, the attack  was more importantly North Korea’s first true display of cyber power. Sony executives felt compelled to respond and sought counsel from the U.S. government. The government was hesitant to let a private company respond to an attack led by the military apparatus of a foreign adversary. Instead, President Barack Obama publicly named North Korea as the perpetrator and vaguely hinted at a potential U.S. response, becoming the first U.S. president to do so.

Cyber crime also provides alternative financing for the regime’s agenda. In February 2016, employees at the Bank of Bangladesh were struggling to recover a large sum of money that had been transferred to accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The fraudulent transactions totaled $81 million USD[11]. Using Bangladesh Bank employee credentials, the attackers targeted the bank’s SWIFT account. SWIFT is an international money transfer system used by financial institutions to transfer large sums of money. After-action analysis revealed the malware had been implanted a month prior and shared similarities with the malware used to infiltrate and exploit Sony in 2014[12]. The Bangladesh Bank heist was intensively planned and researched, which lent credence to the North’s growing cyber acumen. As of 2019, North Korea has accumulated an estimated $2 billion USD exclusively from cyber crime[13]. Security assessments indicate the Sony attack, the Bangladesh Bank hack, and the WannaCry attacks are related which lends some understanding to how North Korean cyber groups operate. In 2018, the United States filed criminal charges against a North Korean man for all three cyber crimes as part of a grander strategy for deterrence[14].

Finally, it is important to consider how North Korea’s cyber warfare tactics and strategies will evolve. North Korea has already proven to be a capable financial cyber crime actor, but how would its agencies perform in full-scale warfare? In terms of numbers, the North Korean military is one of the largest conventional forces in the world despite operating with rudimentary technology[15]. Studies suggest that while the North may confidently rely on its nuclear program to win a conventional war, it is unlikely that North Korea would be able to sustain its forces in long-term war[16]. North Korea would need to promptly engage in asymmetric warfare to disorient enemy forces to gain a technological advantage while continuously attempting to attack enemy systems to disrupt crucial communications. The regime could conduct several cyber operations against its adversaries, deny responsibility, then use the wrongful attribution as grounds for a kinetic response. North Korea has threatened military action in the past after being hit with additional sanctions[17]. 

Despite North Korea’s display of a growing and expansive cyber warfare infrastructure coupled with a sophisticated history of cyber attacks, the international community remains largely concerned with the regime’s often unpredictable approach to nuclear and missile testing. With the international community focused elsewhere, North Korea’s cyber program continues to grow unchecked. It remains to be seen if someday the international community will diplomatically engage North Korea regarding their cyber program with the same intensity as their nuclear program.


Endnotes:

[1] David E. Sanger, The Perfect Weapon, Crown Publishing, 2018, p. 127

[2] The Perfect Weapon, p.127-128; and Eleanor Albert, Council on Foreign Relations: North Korea’s Military Capabilities, 25 July 2019, retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities

[3] David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick, Nicole Perloth, New York Times: The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No more, 15 October 2017, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/15/world/asia/north-korea-hacking-cyber-sony.html

[4] Ibid; and 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi, Military Review: North Korean Cyber Support to Combat Operations, July/August 2017, retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20170831_TOSI_North_Korean_Cyber.pdf

[5] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi

[6] David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick, Nicole Perloth

[7] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi; and Kong Ji Young, Lim Jong In, and Kim Kyoung Gon, NATO CCDCOE:The All-Purpose Sword: North Korea’s Cyber Operations and Strategies, 2019, retrieved from https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2019/06/Art_08_The-All-Purpose-Sword.pdf

[8] Ibid.

[9] Symantec Security Response, Four Years of DarkSeoul Cyberattacks Against South Korea Continue on Anniversary of Korean War, 26 June 2013, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/four-years-darkseoul-cyberattacks-against-south-korea-continue-anniversary-korean-war; and Kong Ji Young, Lim Jong In, and Kim Kyoung Gon, NATO CCDCOE Publications, The All-Purpose Sword: North Korea’s Cyber Operations and Strategy, 2019, retrieved from https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2019/06/Art_08_The-All-Purpose-Sword.pdf

[10] Kim Zetter, Wired: Sony Got Hacked Hard: What We Know and Don’t Know So Far, 3 December 2014, retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2014/12/sony-hack-what-we-know/

[11] Kim Zetter, Wired: That Insane, $81M Bangladesh Bank Heist? Here’s What We Know, 17 May 2016, retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/05/insane-81m-bangladesh-bank-heist-heres-know/

[12] Ibid.

[13] Michelle Nichols, Reuters: North Korea took $2 billion in cyberattacks to fund weapons program: U.N. report, 5 August 2019, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-cyber-un/north-korea-took-2-billion-in-cyberattacks-to-fund-weapons-program-u-n-report-idUSKCN1UV1ZX

[14] Christopher Bing and Sarah Lynch, Reuters: U.S. charges North Korean hacker in Sony, WannaCry cyberattacks, 6 September 2018, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-northkorea-sony/u-s-charges-north-korean-hacker-in-sony-wannacry-cyberattacks-idUSKCN1LM20W

[15] Eleanor Albert, Council on Foreign Relations, What Are North Korea’s Military Capabilities?, 25 July 2019, retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities

[16] 1st Lt. Scott J. Tosi, Military Review: North Korean Cyber Support to Combat Operations, July/August 2017, retrieved from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20170831_TOSI_North_Korean_Cyber.pdf

[17] Jack Kim and Ju-min Park, Reuters:Cyber-attack on South Korea may not have come from China after all, 22 March 2013, retrieved from  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-korea/cyber-attack-on-south-korea-may-not-have-come-from-china-after-all-regulator-idUSBRE92L07120130322

 

 

Assessment Papers Cyberspace North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

Assessment of Militia Forces as a Model for Recruitment and Retention in Cyber Security Forces

Franklin Holcomb is a graduate student from the U.S. at the University of Tartu, Estonia and a former research analyst on Eastern European security issues in Washington, D.C. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Militia Forces as a Model for Recruitment and Retention in Cyber Security Forces

Date Originally Written:  September 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 18, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate student from the U.S. at the University of Tartu, Estonia and a former research analyst on Eastern European security issues in Washington, D.C. He is a strong believer in the Euro-American relationship and the increasing relevance of innovation in security and governance.

Summary:  U.S. and Western Armed Forces are struggling with recruitment and retention in their cyber units, which leaves their countries vulnerable to hostile cyber actors. As society becomes increasingly digitalized in coming years, the severity of these vulnerabilities will increase. The militia model adopted by the Baltic states provides a format to attract civilian experts and decrease vulnerabilities.

Text:  The U.S. Armed Forces are facing difficulties recruiting and retaining cyber-security talent. To meet this challenge the U.S. Marine Corps announced in April 2019 that it would establish a volunteer cyber-auxiliary force (Cyber Aux) consisting of a “small cadre of highly-talented cyber experts who train, educate, advise, and mentor Marines to keep pace with constantly-evolving cyber challenges[1].” The Cyber Aux will face many of the issues that other branches, and countries, have in attracting and retaining cyber-security professionals. Cyber Aux takes notably important steps towards increasing the appeal of participation in the U.S. armed forces for cyber-security experts, such as relaxing grooming and fitness standards. But Cyber Aux will struggle to attract enough professionals due to factors such as its role as a mentorship organization, rather than one that conducts operations, and the wide military-civilian pay gap in the cyber-security field[2]. These factors will ensure U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military forces will have suboptimal and likely understaffed cyber components; increasing their vulnerabilities on and off the battlefield.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been on the geographic and virtual frontlines of many challenges faced by NATO. The severity of threats facing them has made security innovation a necessity rather than a goal. While not all innovations have succeeded, these countries have created a dynamic multi-layered defense ecosystem which combines the skillsets of civil society and their armed forces to multiply their defense capabilities and increase national resilience. There are numerous organizations that play a role in these innovations including civilian groups as well as the militias of each state[3]. The militias, non-professional military forces who gain legitimacy and legality from state authorization, play a key role in increasing the effective strength of forces in the region. The Estonian Defense League, the Latvian National Guard, and the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Association all draw on civilian talent to form militias. These organizations are integrated, to different extents, with military structures and play supporting roles in a time of crisis that would free regular forces to conduct operations or support their operations directly.

These militias have established cyber units which are models for integrating civilian cyber-security professionals into military structures. The Baltic cyber-militias engage directly in practical cyber-security concerns, rather than being restricted to academic pursuit or mentoring like Cyber Aux. In peacetime, these organizations conduct training for servicemen and civilians with the goal of raising awareness of the risks posed by hostile cyber actors, increasing civilian-military collaboration in cyber-security, and improving cyber-security practices for critical systems and infrastructure[4]. In crisis, these units mobilize to supplement state capabilities. The Estonian Defense League and Latvian National Guard have both established cyber-defense units, and Lithuania intends to complete a framework through which its militia could play a role in supporting cyber-defense capabilities by January 2020[5]. 

The idea of a cyber-militia is not new, yet the role these organizations play in the Baltic states as a talent bridge between the armed forces and civil society provides a very useful policy framework for many Western states. Currently cyber-auxiliaries are used by many states such as Russia and China who rely on them to supplement offensive cyber capacities[6]. This situational, and often unofficial use of auxiliaries in cyber operations has advantages, prominently including deniability, but these should not overshadow the value of having official structures that are integrated into both civil society and national cyber-defense. By creating a reserve of motivated civilian professionals that can be called on to supplement military cyber units during a time of crisis, the Baltic states are also effectively increasing not only their resilience to a major cyber incident while it is underway, but raising the up-front cost of conducting such an attack in the first place.

As NATO and European policymakers consider the best courses available to improve their Armed Forces’ cyber capacities, the models being adopted in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are likely of value. Estonia pioneered the concept in the region[7], but as the model spreads to other states Western states could learn from the effectiveness of the model. Cyber-militias, which play a supportive role in cyber operations, will strengthen the cyber forces of militaries in other NATO states which are undermined by low recruitment and retention.


Endnotes:

[1] (2019, May 13). Marine Corps Establishes Volunteer Cyber Auxiliary to Increase Cyberspace Readiness. Marines.mil. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://www.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Press-Release-Display/Article/1845538/marine-corps-establishes-volunteer-cyber-auxiliary-to-increase-cyberspace-readi

[2] Moore E., Kollars N. (2019, August 21). Every Marine a Blue-Haired Quasi-Rifleperson? War on the Rocks. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2019/08/every-marine-a-blue-haired-quasi-rifleperson/; Cancian M., (2019, September 05) Marine Cyber Auxiliaries Aren’t Marines, and Cyber “Warriors” aren’t Warriors. War on the Rocks. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2019/09/marine-cyber-auxiliaries-arent-marines-and-cyber-warriors-arent-warriors/

[3] Thompson T. (2019, January 9) Countering Russian Disinformation the Baltic nations’ way. The Conversation. Retrieved September 25, 2019. http://theconversation.com/countering-russian-disinformation-the-baltic-nations-way-109366

[4] (2019, September 24). Estonian Defense League’s Cyber Unit. Estonian Defense League. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. http://www.kaitseliit.ee/en/cyber-unit; (2013). National Armed Forces Cyber Defense Unit (CDU) Concept. Latvian Ministry of Defense. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://www.mod.gov.lv/sites/mod/files/document/cyberzs_April_2013_EN_final.pdf; (2015, January 15). National Guard opens cyber-defense center. Public Broadcasting of Latvia. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/society/national-guard-opens-cyber-defense-center.a113832/; Kaska K, Osula A., Stinnissen J. (2013) The Cyber Defence Unit of the Estonian Defense League NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence. Tallinn, Estonia. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://ccdcoe.org/uploads/2018/10/CDU_Analysis.pdf; Pernik P. (2018, December). Preparing for Cyber Conflict: Case Studies of Cyber Command. International Centre for Defense and Security. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://icds.ee/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ICDS_Report_Preparing_for_Cyber_Conflict_Piret_Pernik_December_2018-1.pdf

[5] (2019, July 03) The Government of the Republic of Lithuania: Ruling on the Approval of the Interinstitutional Action Plan for the Implementation of National Cybernet Security Strategy. Lithuanian Parliament. Retrieved September 25, 2019. https://e-seimas.lrs.lt/portal/legalAct/lt/TAD/faeb5eb4a6c811e9aab6d8dd69c6da66?jfwid=dg8d31595

[6] Applegate S. (2011, September/October) Cybermilitias and Political Hackers- Use of Irregular Forces in Cyberwarfare. IEEE Security and Privacy. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220497000_Cybermilitias_and_Political_Hackers_Use_of_Irregular_Forces_in_Cyberwarfare

[7] Ruiz M. (2018.January 9) Is Estonia’s Approach to Cyber Defense Feasible in the United States? War on the Rocks. Accessed: September 25, 2019. https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/estonias-approach-cyber-defense-feasible-united-states/; Drozdiak N. (2019, February 11) One of Russia’s Neighbors Has Security Lessons for the Rest of Us. Bloomberg. Retrieved on September 25, 2019. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-11/a-russian-neighbor-has-cybersecurity-lessons-for-the-rest-of-us

Assessment Papers Baltics Cyberspace Estonia Franklin Holcomb Latvia Lithuania Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, Territorial Forces, Militias, etc)

An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence analyst currently working on cyber defense strategy in the Middle East.  He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Date Originally Written:  September 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an early-career cybersecurity analyst with experience advising private and public sector organizations on cyber threats and building cyber threat intelligence programs.

Summary:  Local civic organizations in the U.S. are experiencing a wave of costly and disruptive low-sophistication cyberattacks on a large scale, indicating widespread vulnerabilities in networks. In light of past and ongoing threats to U.S. cyber systems, especially election systems, this weak cybersecurity posture represents a serious national security concern.

Text:  The state of cyber defenses among public sector entities in the United States is less than ideal. This is especially true among smaller civic entities such as city utility companies, local government offices (including local election authorities), and court systems. There is currently an ongoing wave of cyberattacks against government systems in cities across the U.S. In 2019, more than 40 local government organizations experienced successful ransomware attacks[1]. These widespread attacks indicate an attractive attack surface and vulnerable profile to potential cyber aggressors, which has broad implications for the security of U.S. cyber systems, including election systems.

Ransomware is a vector of cyberattack in which malicious actors compromise a victim’s computer and encrypt all available files, while offering the victim an encryption key to decrypt files in exchange for a ransom payment, typically in the form of a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. If victims refuse to pay or cannot pay, the files are left encrypted and the infected computer(s) are rendered useless. In some cases, files can be decrypted by specialists without paying the ransom. In other cases, even if victims pay, there is in reality no decryption key and files are permanently locked. 

Ransomware is among the most common and least sophisticated forms of cyberattack in the field today. Attacks of this type have grown exponentially in recent years, and one study found that in 2019, 18% of all cyber-related insurance claims internationally were linked to ransomware incidents, second only to business email compromises[2]. In some cases, insurance companies were found encouraging clients to pay ransoms because it saved money and promoted the criminal practice, enhancing the market for cyber insurance services[3]. 

Ransomware attacks are relatively easy to execute on the part of attackers, and often target computers can be infected by tricking a victim into clicking on a malicious link through a phishing email disguised as a legitimate business communication. For example, in 2018, city computer networks in Allentown, Pennsylvania were offline for weeks after ransomware infected the system through an employee’s email after the employee failed to install security updates and clicked on a phishing email. The attack cost the city around USD 1 million to resolve and ongoing security improvements are costing approximately USD 420,000 per year[4].

Local city systems make for attractive targets for cyber attackers for several reasons: 

1) Such organizations often carry cyber insurance, indicating an ability to pay and a higher likelihood of attackers being paid quickly without difficulty.

2) Local government offices have a reputation for being soft targets, often with lax and/or outdated security software and practices.

3) Infecting systems requires very little investment of resources on the attacker’s part, such as time, technical skill, focus, and labor, since phishing emails are often sufficient to gain access to targeted networks.

4) Executing successful attacks against such organizations often results in widespread media attention and tangible damages, including monetary cost to the organization, disruption to services, and public backlash, all of which enhance the attacker’s reputation in criminal communities.

Because of the ongoing prevalence of ransomware attacks, U.S. officials recently voiced public concern about the plausibility of ransomware attacks against election systems during the 2020 elections[5]. A chief concern is that if attackers have enough systems access to lock the files, the attackers very likely also have the ability to alter and/or steal files from an infected system. This concern is compounded by recent revelations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russian-linked threat actors targeted election systems in all 50 states in 2016, most successfully in Illinois and Arizona[6]. 

It should be noted that U.S. federal agencies and private consulting firms have engaged in a large-scale effort to increase security measures of election systems since 2016 in preparation for the 2020 election, including hiring specialists and acquiring new voting machines[7]. The specifics, technical details, and effectiveness of these efforts are difficult to properly measure from open source materials, but have drawn criticism for their limited scope[8].

In the U.S., election security is among the most complex and difficult challenges facing the cybersecurity field. Elections involve countless competing and interacting stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations. These nuances combine to present a unique challenge to U.S. national security concerns, especially from a cyber-viewpoint. It is a matter of public record that U.S. election systems are subject to ongoing cyber threats from various actors. Some known threats operate with advanced tactics, techniques, procedures, and resources supported by technologically-sophisticated nation states. 

The recent wave of ransomware attacks on local governments compounds election security concerns because the U.S. election system relies heavily on local government organizations like county clerk and poll offices. Currently, local systems are demonstrably vulnerable to common and low-effort attacks, and will remain so without significant national-level efforts. If local defenses are not developed enough to resist a ransomware attack delivered in a phishing email, it is difficult to imagine a county clerk’s office in Ohio or Kentucky having sufficient cyber defenses to repel a sophisticated attack by a Russian or Chinese-backed advanced persistent threat group. 

After the beginning of the nuclear arms race in the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. government developed a national civil defense program by which to prepare local jurisdictions for nuclear attacks. This effort was prominent in the public mind and expensive to execute. Lessons from this national civil defense program may be of value to adequately prepare U.S. civic cyber systems to effectively resist both low and high-sophistication cyber intrusions.

Unlike nuclear civil defense, which has been criticized for achieving questionable results in terms of effective defense, cyber civil defense effectiveness could be benchmarked and measured in tangible ways. While no computer system can be entirely secure, strong indicators of an effective cybersecurity posture include up-to-date software, regular automatic security updates, periodic security audits and vulnerability scans, established standard operating procedures and best practices (including employee cyber awareness training), and a well-trained and adequately-staffed cybersecurity team in-house.


Endnotes:

[1] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[2] Cimpanu, C. (2019, September 2). BEC overtakes ransomware and data breaches in cyber-insurance claims. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/bec-overtakes-ransomware-and-data-breaches-in-cyber-insurance-claims/

[3] Dudley, R. (2019, August 27). The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/the-extortion-economy-how-insurance-companies-are-fueling-a-rise-in-ransomware-attacks

[4] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[5] Bing, C. (2019, August 27). Exclusive: U.S. officials fear ransomware attack against 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-election-exclusive/exclusive-us-officials-fear-ransomware-attack-against-2020-election-idUSKCN1VG222

[6] Sanger, D. E., & Edmondson, C. (2019, July 25). Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/us/politics/russian-hacking-elections.html

[7] Pearson, R. (2019, August 5). 3 years after Russian hackers tapped Illinois voter database, officials spending millions to safeguard 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-illinois-election-security-russian-hackers-20190805-qtoku33szjdrhknwc7pxbu6pvq-story.html 

[8] Anderson, S. R., Lostri, E., Jurecic, Q., & Taylor, M. (2019, July 28). Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security-And a Partisan Fight Anyway. Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway

Assessment Papers Civil Defense Cyberspace Lee Clark United States

Assessing Black Swans and their Pre-Incident Indicators

Charles Cameron, is a poet first and foremost, managing editor of the Zenpundit blog, and one-time Senior Analyst with The Arlington Institute and Principal Researcher with The Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. He holds an MA Oxon, having studied theology at Christ Church, Oxford, under AE Harvey. He is the designer of the HipBone family of creative and analytic games, based on Hermann Hesse’s Nobel-winning novel, The Glass Bead Game. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Black Swans and their Pre-Incident Indicators

Date Originally Written:  August 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author, who earned a living as a professional futurist during the 1999/2000 rollover, believes Black Swan Events will disrupt our best efforts to predict future threats.  However, with cognitive humility firmly in place national security analysts can observe the cross-disciplinary impacts of trends and can at least begin to think better about where these trends may lead.

Summary:  Black Swan Events come as a surprise, have a major effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.  Rather than watching the Black Swan take off from the lake, identifying its initial wing flaps, as warning of the impending event, and where other events intersect, is valuable.  

Text:  Watching a black swan take off is instructive.  It starts, invisibly, on the lake of time, skeeting with wing-flaps to gain speed, achieves lift-off, after quite a while, and whang, whang, whang, ups itself to optimal speed and altitude – at which point we, in our hide in the marshes, recognize “Hey, there’s a black swan here,” and note where on the lake of time the occurrence occurred.  National security analysts often opine on Black Swan Events, which are events that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.  Equally if not more important than the Black Swan Event are the pre-incident indicators of the event, the flaps of the swan’s wings if you will, that enabled the Black Swan to take flight. 

A first flap might have been Ramon Llull’s devices for calculating all possible knowledge by means of wheels and tables.  As History-Computer.com suggests, “One can ask ‘What exactly is Ramon Llull’s place in the history of computers and computing?’ The answer is Llull is one of the first people who tried to make logical deductions in a mechanical, rather than a mental way.”  On the lake of time, that preliminary wing-flap occurs around 1275 CE.  Llull, a Franciscan, was called Doctor Illuminatus, and beatified by the Church in 1514 CE.

Skipping a few possible Renaissance wing-flaps from the general type of magus on which Shakespeare based his Prospero, and oh, Pascal and Leibniz, we can reach Charles Babbage.  Babbage attained lift-off but not optimal speed or flight altitude with his Difference and Analytical mechanical computing engines.  While Llull’s were wing-flaps with the swan’s orange webbed feet still tracing ripples in the waters of time, Babbage’s definitively cleared the lake, it’s reflection, however, still allowing us to date it to the reign of Queen Victoria and Lewis Carroll’s river-boating tales with Alice – circa 1833 to 1871.  Insufficient funding prevented the construction of Babbage’s engine – an indication that general awareness of a black swan in flight was still lacking.  Even the powerful flap of Vannevar Bush’s memex machine, described in his 1945 Atlantic piece “As We May Think” wasn’t enough.

Next are the wing-flaps of Johnny von Neumann, or International Business Machines aka IBM mainframes at a time when Thomas Watson said no more than six computers would suffice for world-wide supply.  Even the first personal computers (PC), or the portable Osbornes and KayPros made a few flaps, but it’s Steve Jobs’ Macintosh that hits speed and altitude, popularity and elegance.  In 1984 the Macintosh dragged the reluctant PC world into Windows behind it.  Black Swan, we cry, as ARPANET, an internet precursor, becomes the World Wide Web which sets the conditions for Facebook and QAnon.  “We didn’t see it coming” analyst cry, turning to Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s book, “Black Swan,” for an excuse.  Taleb, meanwhile, has moved on, writing more books and a stream of articles – and thinking as yet unwritten thoughts.

The lake of time by now has become, for all practical purposes, the timeline of computing, but the flight plan of the Black Swan has still not been announced.  Black Swans in general don’t issue flight plans and – here’s the catch – are generally recognized only in retrospect.  So the future can be intuited to some degree by assessing the black swans already in flight such as social media and climate change, and tracking them to their national security implications such as weakening of the nation state, the rise of nationalist movements, protest movements, and massive migrations / movements.  But beyond that, and in terms of Black Swans just now achieving lift-off – the future is black, blank, invisible, unseen, and unguessable.  This un-guessability is you will is partly because the future lies where the paths of Black Swans such as mass migration and climate change intersect and cross-pollinate.

Pollination is from a different discourse than swan lift-off, of course – it’s mixing metaphors.  But then by now, interdisciplinarity and perhaps intersectionality intersect, too.  “Only connect” wrote English novelist EM Forster, flapping his dark wings back before the First World War in 1910: “Only connect!” that was the whole of her sermon.  “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height.  Live in fragments no longer.”

Cognitive humility is valuable to not only surviving Black Swans but identifying the early flap of their wings.  While best assessments of future threats can be made, exploring the cross-over impacts of these assessments can be of value.  So too can considering outside influences and whether possible events will unfold in a sequence or lack thereof.  As national security threats are driven by the needs of people and their actions, returning frequently to climate change and cross-border mass migration threats can be of value.  Finally, one’s depth of historical knowledge will greatly one’s reach of futuristic thinking.  And, despite all this, the future Black Swan Event may still come at us from behind.  

Endnotes:

None.

Assessment Papers Charles Cameron Major Events / Unforeseen Events / Black Swans

Alternative History: An Assessment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Azhdar Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

David R. Strachan is a naval analyst and founder of Strikepod Systems (strikepod.com), a provider of current and strategic fiction intelligence (FICINT) on global naval affairs, with an emphasis on unmanned maritime systems.  He can be found on Twitter @Strikepod.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative History: An Assessment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Azhdar Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes that the anonymous tanker attacks of May 12, 2019, were carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) using an indigenously-developed unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), and that the United States subsequently uncovered evidence of an Iranian offensive UUV, the Azhdar. It is written from the perspective of the U.S. Intelligence Community for an audience of national security policymakers.

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2019.

Summary:  U.S. intelligence has uncovered evidence that Iran has repurposed its e-Ghavasi swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) as an offensive UUV.  This repurposing is a potentially game-changing capability for Iranian naval forces with grave implications for regional stability.

Text:  On the morning of May 12, 2019, four oil tankers anchored off the coast of the Port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), sustained damage from what was alleged to be limpet mines placed by Iranian divers or fast boat operatives. However, scientific intelligence obtained from a clandestine source working alongside UAE investigators suggests that the blast damage was in fact inconsistent with the use of limpet mines. The source also reports that UAE investigators reached conclusions similar to those of an unnamed Norwegian insurance company (as reported by Reuters on May 17, 2019), namely that the IRGCN was behind the attacks, that these attacks were likely carried out using “underwater drones carrying 30-50 kg (65-110 lb.) of high-grade explosives,” and that the release of such information would cause significant alarm and exacerbate regional instability[1]. Additional supporting evidence was not provided, but if confirmed, this type of attack would represent a deeply concerning development for the United States, its  allies, and a potentially game-changing breakthrough for the IRGCN. 

Despite years of crippling economic sanctions, Iran has managed to acquire a potent undersea warfare capability, including three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, nearly two dozen Ghadir-class midget submarines, two domestically produced classes of attack submarine (Fateh and Besat), and an assortment of special operations vehicles and mines[2]. Given the IRGCN’s experience with undersea operations, including offensive mining, and the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and IRGCN have historically been skilled early adopters of unmanned technologies, we anticipated that Iran would seek to acquire an unmanned undersea capability, either through illicit acquisition or indigenous manufacture. Even a crude UUV would provide a considerable asymmetric advantage to Iran and its nonstate proxies operating in the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb Strait. As such, U.S. collection efforts expanded in 2010 to include monitoring for indications of Iranian procurement of UUV-related technologies. 

In 2012, a report surfaced that Iran had managed to domestically produce a UUV, dubbed the Phoenix, that was capable of 18 knots while submerged[3]. Given Tehran’s history of exaggerating or outright fabricating military capabilities, the veracity of this report was questionable. We were aware, however, that Iran had been attempting to acquire commercially available UUVs by tapping into the global defense marketplace via a complex web of front companies and smuggling operations. Iran was also attempting to acquire commercial off-the-shelf components, such as accelerometers and gyroscopes (used in inertial guidance systems), marine magnetometers, electro-hydraulic pressure sensors, and undersea modems. In the months leading up to May 12, 2019, we were well aware of Iranian materiel gains, but believed that the technical and operational challenges involved in deploying an offensive UUV were too great for Iran to overcome. However, given the UAE investigation, and intelligence recently provided by a highly placed source within the Iranian naval establishment, we no longer believe this to be the case.

We are now certain that Iran has repurposed its e-Ghavasi SDV as a weaponized UUV, and that four of these vehicles were in fact used to carry out the May 12, 2019 attacks. With its ready-made hullform and operational propulsion system, Iranian engineers successfully retrofitted a crude but effective onboard inertial guidance system. Coupled with its capacity to accommodate a large multi-influence mine, the weaponized, unmanned e-Ghavasi, dubbed the Azhdar, is now a highly mobile, stealthy, and lethal mine platform.

The weaponized UUV Azhdar is 533mm in diameter, which makes it compatible with standard heavyweight torpedo tubes. In order to fit, the vehicle’s forward diving planes and rear stabilizer have been recessed into the hull and are spring loaded to deploy upon launch. The vehicle’s cargo bay is large enough to carry a 480kg seabed mine, and it is likely, given the scale of the damage, that only a fraction of its ordnance capacity was utilized in the May 12, 2019 attacks[4]. Approximately twelve units are currently in the IRGCN inventory.  Assuming current Iranian defense industrial capacity and an uninterrupted connection to illicit supply lines, we believe Iran is capable of producing two to three weaponized UUVs per month.

The Azhdar is essentially a mobile mine that can be programmed to detonate at a particular time or place, or when influenced by specific sensory inputs. It can be deployed from surface or subsurface platforms, and is extremely hard to detect and neutralize. Although relatively slow and lumbering when compared to a torpedo or encapsulated torpedo mine, it is extremely quiet and stealthy, and, given its mobility, is largely immune to mine countermeasures. Azhdar undersea deployments would be far more covert than indiscriminate mining, which would take several days of highly visible surface activity. Also, the psychological effect of targeted Azhdar attacks could enable the Iranians to effectively close the Strait of Hormuz while enjoying deniability and maintaining a vital economic lifeline for oil exports.

The Azhdar poses a unique and significant tactical challenge for the U.S. Navy, as it would likely render traditional mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics ineffective. In a manner consistent with Iranian torpedo tactics, we believe that Azhdars would be deployed from Ghadir-class midget submarines operating on the seabed in shallow, cluttered coastal areas where they would be effectively masked from sonar detection. But unlike a torpedo launch, which would expose the Ghadir to near-immediate counter-detection and counterattack by U.S. ASW assets, an Azhdar deployment would be extremely difficult if not impossible to detect. Once deployed, the Azhdars would proceed slowly and quietly, approaching their targets without warning and detonating on contact or from magnetic influence. The Ghadir could then rearm while surfaced or submerged using divers from an IRGCN surface vessel to facilitate the reloading process[5]. 

The Azhdar UUV is a force multiplier for the IRGCN, combining the sea denial capability of conventional offensive mine warfare with the stealth, mobility, and plausible deniability of unmanned undersea operations. It is a game-changer for Iranian seapower, with far-reaching implications for the United States and its regional interests.


Endnotes:

[1] Reuters, (2019, May 17) Exclusive: Insurer says Iran’s Guards likely to have organized tanker attacks https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-oil-tankers-exclusive/exclusive-insurer-says-irans-guards-likely-to-have-organized-tanker-attacks-idUSKCN1SN1P7

[2] See Covert Shores, (2017, December 29) Iranian e-Ghavasi Human Torpedo http://www.hisutton.com/Iran_Chariot.html; Covert Shores, (2015, October 10) Demystified – new low profile Iranian SDV http://www.hisutton.com/Demystified%20-%20new%20low-profile%20Iranian%20SDV.html; Covert Shores, (2016, August 28) Nahang Class http://www.hisutton.com/Nahang%20Class.html; Office of Naval Intelligence, (2017, February) Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies https://www.oni.navy.mil/Portals/12/Intel%20agencies/iran/Iran%20022217SP.pdf

[3] Navy Recognition, (2012, January 24) Iran reportedly designed an unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/year-2012-news/january-2012-navy-world-naval-forces-maritime-industry-technology-news/294-iran-reportedly-designed-an-unmanned-underwater-vehicle-uuv.html

[4] Covert Shores, (2017, December 29) Iranian e-Ghavasi Human Torpedo http://www.hisutton.com/Iran_Chariot.html

[5] Tasnim News Agency, (2016, January 30) Iranian Navy Forces Practice Off-Dock Torpedo Loading in Drills https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/01/30/985644/iranian-navy-forces-practice-off-dock-torpedo-loading-in-drills

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers David R. Strachan Iran Underwater Capabilities

Alternative Future: Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander.  He currently serves as a Company Commander in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  He has just started tweeting as @strategy_boi, where he shares fiction and non-fiction content.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Future:  Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  August 10th, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current military member who served at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2018. The article is written from the point of view of a historian in the mid-2030s, examining shifts in great power competition in East Africa.

Summary:  After the United States lost its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2024, a series of operational and strategic challenges arose in East Africa. The departure of certain operational assets degraded America’s capability to conduct crisis response. At a strategic level, the ability of the United States to stem Chinese foreign direct investment and influence in Africa also suffered.

Text:  Looking back, it is easy to pinpoint the shift in America’s strategic position in East Africa to the 2024 decision by Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to not allow the United States to extend its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ). As a former commander of United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) had once said of the then $1.2 billion worth of Djiboutian debt to China, there did indeed come a time when that money would be collected[1]. The collection came at a steep price for Djibouti, as the country was forced to hand over control of the Doraleh Container Terminal to Beijing, an outcome many had feared would be the eventual result of the Chinese debt trap[2]. However, the United States paid the steepest price of all by losing its strategic position at CLDJ, which was at the time the United States’ longest enduring military base in Africa and headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Whether the loss came as a result of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) influx of money and influence into the Djiboutian government, or as a result of American foreign policy changes, is still in debate even ten years later. It is clear though that the loss of CLDJ triggered strategic and operational effects that are still being felt today.

With the loss of CLDJ, the United States’ already tenuous grasp on Africa, best illustrated by the failure of USAFRICOM to establish its headquarters on the continent itself, slipped further. First used by America in 2001 and expanded in 2007, the camp had been a hub for a variety of United States operations not just in East Africa, but in Yemen as well[3]. As the base expanded, so did its mission set, resulting in the United States basing not just special operations forces and Marines there, but also conventional Army units[4]. This expansion of the base and the operational support that Camp Lemonnier provided to the operations in Yemen and East Africa only intensified the impact of the loss of the American lease on CLDJ.

The immediate scramble to plan for and then re-locate the 4,000 personnel on Camp Lemonnier and their attendant functions to other locations left little time to plan for contingency operations in the Horn of Africa. Just as the United States military was completing its phased transition out of Camp Lemonnier, riots in the South Sudanese capital of Juba in 2026 threated American embassy personnel and tested USAFRICOM’s ability to respond to crises on the continent from outside the continent. With the departure of the East Africa Response Force from Camp Lemonnier, the United States could no longer provide a rapid response force as outlined in the New Normal procedures that had been in put in place in reaction to the Benghazi consulate attacks in 2012[5][6]. Instead, USAFRICOM and the Department of State had to rely on another child of the Benghazi attacks: the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) located in Moron, Spain and Sigonella, Italy[7]. In the vast distances of the African continent, the time spent getting from Sigonella to Juba proved costly, and by the time the SP-MAGTF element secured the embassy, two American diplomats were dead. In the investigations in the months that followed, it was not lost on American legislators that a failure to maintain a foothold in East Africa had contributed to the loss of American lives and property in Juba.

Beyond the immediate operational costs of losing CLDJ, America faced a greater strategic loss in East Africa. As part of the BRI that China had been pursuing for over a decade prior to 2024, the Export-Import Bank of China had loaned Djibouti nearly $957 million as of 2018 in order to finance development projects[8]. Also under the BRI, China constructed the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, a 3.5 billion dollar project[9]. After losing its foothold in Djibouti, the United States had little diplomatic clout to resist the continued investment of Chinese capital into East African states, furthering the debt trap situation beyond the borders of Djibouti. Furthermore, with the departure of the United States military from Djibouti, long-term American humanitarian projects in Djibouti, such as the 2019 opening of a medical clinic in the town of Ali Oune, no longer had a logistical base from which to draw support[10]. With America out of the way, any non-Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) was left in the hands of the French, Japanese, and other foreign powers present in Djibouti. America could no longer use its military to try to match, in some small way, the FDI provided by China.

Despite the American military departure from the region beginning in 2024, several of America’s allies remain to this day. Although the French Senate had previously expressed concern over Chinese influence overshadowing French influence in Djibouti, France’s defense clause remains in place and ensures that the French will remain in Djibouti even as China grows in power[11]. With piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa no less prevalent than in the late 2010s, the Japanese anti-piracy base just outside the old Camp Lemonnier gate continues its operations. However, no amount of anti-piracy operations or promises of defense can match the sheer influx of money that China promised, and delivered, under their BRI. As the world moves toward the 2040s and the completion of the multi-decade BRI, the world is left wondering if the 21st century will be a Chinese century. With the departure of the American military from Djibouti, the answer seems to be that in Africa, it already is.


Endnotes:

[1] Browne, R. (2018, April 08). US military resumes air operations in Djibouti. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/08/politics/us-air-operations-djibouti/index.html

[2] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[3] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Martin, P. (2019, March 20). East Africa Response Force deployed to Gabon. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/218891/east_africa_response_force_deployed_to_gabon

[6] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[7] Egnash, M. (2019, January 14). Legacy of Benghazi: Marine force stays ready for quick Africa deployment. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.stripes.com/news/legacy-of-benghazi-marine-force-stays-ready-for-quick-africa-deployment-1.564342

[8] Daly, J. C. (2018, April 11). Geostrategic position draws foreign powers to Djibouti. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://thearabweekly.com/geostrategic-position-draws-foreign-powers-djibouti

[9] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[10] Nickel, S. (2019, January 31). U.S. Navy Seabees turn over Ali Oune Medical Clinic to Djiboutian officials. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.hoa.africom.mil/story/22489/u-s-navy-seabees-turn-over-ali-oune-medical-clinic-to-djiboutian-officials

[11] Griffin, C. (2018, October 28). Strategic Competition for Bases in Djibouti: TRENDS. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from http://trendsinstitution.org/strategic-competition-for-bases-in-djibouti/

Africa Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti Horn of Africa Travis Prendergast United States

Alternative Futures: An Assessment of the 2040 Security Environment absent Great Power Competition

Mike Sweeney is a former think tanker who lives and writes in New Jersey.  He is the author of the essays, “Could America Lose a War Well?” and “Could America Leave the Middle East by 2031?” He’s still not sure about the answer to either question.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Futures: An Assessment of the 2040 Security Environment absent Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presupposes that the challenges the United States will face as it approaches the mid-century mark could be quite different from the great-power conflicts with China and Russia that are now being anticipated and planned for. This article attempts to jar thinking to promote consideration of an entirely different set of threats. 

Summary:  America is likely to be ill-prepared for the security threats circa 2040. The tasks the U.S. military may be asked to perform in the face of global political instability, mass migration, and environmental degradation are likely to be both unconventional and unwanted. 

Text:  By 2040, Russia and, to a lesser extent, China are twilight powers whose strategic influence and military strength are waning. The former is mainly pre-occupied with internal stability and reform in the post-Putin era[1]. The latter has solidified its influence over the South China Sea, but the extreme costs of maintaining internal control over its domestic population and territories inhibit China from translating its resources into true global power[2]. The great-power conflict many postulated in the early twenty-first century never comes to pass. Instead, the U.S. military is forced to confront diverse but persistent low-level threats spurred on by forced migration, environmental degradation, and growing global inequality.

Several regions begin to undergo major political and social change, notably the Middle East. The region’s traditional rentier system breaks down in the face of falling oil revenue as the world belatedly transforms to a post-hydrocarbon economy. The Arab monarchies and secular authoritarian regimes begin to crumble in a second, more wide-ranging “Arab Spring[3].” While increasing the personal freedom of the region’s citizens, this second Arab Spring also enhances instability and creates a loose security environment where weapons and terrorist safe-havens are plentiful. 

Globally, there is a growing antipathy towards the world’s “have’s” among its many “have not’s.” Part of this antipathy is due to the economic insecurity in regions affected by major social and political transformation. But just as significant is the impact of environmental degradation on the livability of areas home to millions of people. By mid-century, ecological decline provokes massive refugee movements, dwarfing those seen earlier in the century[4]. As the stateless population increases substantially, the ability of Western governments to cope is severely stressed, necessitating assignation of military forces to administer refugee settlements and to interdict migrant flows. 

The increased stateless population, coupled with the turmoil brought about by political change in the Middle East and other regions, provides ample recruits for revolutionary organizations. Conservative, religious extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have been discredited due to their social backwardness and exploitative hierarchies. However, the cycle of violence swings back to new incarnations of the violent Marxism that dominated terrorism at various points during the twentieth century. In contrast to religious extremists, the Marxist revivalists embrace many nominally noble ideas like gender and racial equality, the existence of universal human rights, and place an emphasis on securing dignity for the oppressed individual. They also draw an explicit link between the existing health of the world’s stable, prosperous nations and past exploitation of both poorer regions and the world’s environment as a whole. 

These Marxist beliefs form the basis for their targeting of the United States and other mature industrial states like Japan and most European nations. Despite their ostensibly laudable goals, the new wave of Marxists are willing to employ extreme violence to achieve them. The lethality of these groups is enhanced by major advances in biotechology which create new opportunities for relatively small groups to initiate catastrophic terrorist strikes. Proliferation of directed energy weapons renders civilian aircraft of all types increasingly vulnerable from terrorist attack from the ground. 

After decades of largely ignoring the value of international organizations, U.S. efforts to resuscitate such bodies to deal with many of the transnational problems undergirding new terrorist threats are ineffective. The result is an ad hoc approach where the United States works bilaterally where it can with whomever it can to address regional migration and poverty. 

For the U.S. military, the consequences are severe. Most of the equipment purchased or developed for great-power conflict with Russia and China is ill-suited for the challenges it faces in 2040. The U.S. military’s heavy investment in robotics still yields some benefits in the realms of logistics and reconnaissance. However, the complexities of dealing with challenges like migration flows, globally distributed low-intensity conflicts, and Marxist terrorism places limits on the applicability of robotic systems to combat. 

Above all else, well-trained manpower remains at a premium. The nature of many tasks the military is asked to carry out – directly guarding American borders, providing security and humanitarian aid to refugee camps, “humanely” interdicting migration flows, conducting counter-insurgency against impoverished, sometimes displaced populations – makes securing qualified personnel difficult. Some consideration is given to establishing a standing force of paid professionals drawn from outside the United States for particularly distasteful jobs, essentially “an American Foreign Legion.” 

The specific extent to which America should go abroad to address transnational threats is a source of intense domestic debate, with a wide disparity among political groups on the issue. One school of thought argues for developing and implementing truly imposing physical and technological barriers to seal the United States off completely from the outside world. These barriers are referred to as “the Fortress America” model. Another approach favors a robust and invasive effort to interdict the sources of Marxist terrorism through a range of humanitarian and nation-building initiatives. In this model, the U.S. military becomes something of a global gendarme mated with a strong civil engineering component. A third line of thinking argues for modestly increasing the physical barriers to entry into America while conducting specific interdiction missions against groups, leaders, and weapons facilities. These raids are initially referred to as “Abbottabad on steroids,” where small units deploy from the U.S. for short periods – up to a week – to secure and clear “zones of concern” around the world. 

The intense domestic debate over the military’s role in addressing transnational threats makes long-term procurement planning difficult. Many military members grow increasingly despondent with the thankless security tasks the challenges of 2040 require. The ubiquitous coverage of most U.S. military actions through everyday technology like cell phones increases civilian debate and military dissatisfaction. Force retention reaches a crisis, as does the mental health of military personnel. Most Americans agree that administering large migrant camps or attempting to address environmental degradation abroad aren’t what they want their military to do; most also concede that given the scope of these problems by mid-century, there are few other qualified options. 


Endnotes:

[1] For an excellent discussion of four scenarios for Russia’s future, see Lynch, A. (2018, October 25). What Will Russia Be. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/10/25/what-russia-will-be/

[2] See the discussion of China’s future prospects in Beckley, M. (2018). Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower. Ithaca and London: Cornel University Press.

[3] For a discussion of the rentier system and its role in maintaining authoritarian governments in the Middle East, see Muasher, M. (2018, November/December). The Next Arab Uprising. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2018-10-15/next-arab-uprising 

[4] For another possible extrapolation of the security impacts of the climate-refugee link, see Ader, M. (2019, July 2). Climate Refugees: Our Problem from Hell. Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://wavellroom.com/2019/07/02/climate-refugees-our-problem-from-hell/

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Great Powers Mike Sweeney

Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

T.S. Whitman is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2019.

Summary:  Due to increased levels of militia activity and right-wing extremism, individuals radicalized on the far right-end of the political spectrum remain an awkward elephant in the room for policymakers. Despite a clear threat from right-wing extremists, an effective response is often limited by political posturing and pressure.

Text:  The rise of alt-right ideology, availability of firearms, and increased militia membership over the past decade creates a unique problem for policymakers. Setting aside the unlikely, worst-case scenario of whole-scale rebellion, even a single militia can pose a threat that exceeds the operational capacity of law enforcement personnel. There is no easy way to address this issue, as even openly discussing it probes sensitivities and fuels political resentment.

The ascent of militias has not occurred in a vacuum. It can be attributed to a sharp increase in political polarization over the past two decades, particularly after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. This widening gap in ideology and values has led to rising animosity between Americans. Nearly 1-in-5 Americans believe that many members of the opposite party “lack the traits to be considered fully human”; and 13% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats believe that violence would be justified in response to an electoral loss in 2020[1]. Despite high-levels of animus from both sides of the political spectrum, right-wing violence represents an increasing share of terrorist activity. The slice of terrorist violence by right-wing extremists increased from 6% of attacks in 2010 to 35% by 2016, while left-wing terrorist violence during the same period dropped from 64% of attacks to just 12%[2]. Furthermore, right-wing violence quadrupled between 2016 and 2017[3]. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, “Although violent left-wing groups and individuals also present a threat, far-right-networks appear to be better armed and larger[4].” Many acts or plots of right-wing violence have involved militia members[5].

Some militia groups are conducting so-called “operations.” One frequent spot for militia activity is the U.S.-Mexican border, where one militia recently detained several hundred immigrants illegally crossing the border[6]. Meanwhile, over the past decade, there have been a number of prominent incidents involving right-wing militia members. In 2014, following what had been two decades of legal disputes between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Cliven Bundy over grazing fees, the BLM moved to confiscate Bundy’s cattle. What followed was a tense standoff between Bundy’s armed supporters, many of whom had militia ties, and BLM agents. Out of fear of armed violence, the BLM caved and returned Bundy’s livestock[7]. In 2016, Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, led a group of armed protestors affiliated with militias and the sovereign citizen movement to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, in response to federal charges against two farmers, Stephen and Dwight Hammond. By the time the standoff ended, one armed occupier was dead and 27 more were arrested and charged. In June, 2019, after eleven Oregon Republican state Senators refused to attend a legislative session for a cap-and-trade bill, Governor Kate Brown ordered state police to apprehend and bring them to the state capitol for a vote on the bill. All eleven Senators went on the run. During a television interview, Senator Brian Boquist (R) said, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” They received support from militia groups in Oregon and Idaho, the former of which was involved in the aforementioned Bundy Ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Reserve standoffs. According to Real Three Percenters Idaho militia leader Eric Parker, “We’re doing what we can to make sure that they’re safe and comfortable.” He added that his group was communicating with the Oregon Three Percenters militia about the Senators. One militiaman with the Oregon Three Percenters wrote on Facebook that his militia “vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need[8].” The crisis ended after an agreement between Republican and Democratic leadership was reached to kill the cap-and-trade bill.

Attempted or fulfilled acts of political violence and terrorism by domestic extremists, though often bloody, have overwhelmingly been perpetrated by an individual or small cells. In almost every case, law enforcement officers have been able to preempt, apprehend, or kill the responsible parties. However, the size, organization, and armament of many right-wing militias gives the government cause for concern. Based upon the result of the 2014 Bundy standoff and the disastrous outcome of the 1993 Waco siege, it stands to reason that even a small militia of 100 armed personnel would require U.S. military capabilities to suppress[9]. However, the contemporary history of domestic military operations is fraught with confusion. For instance, during the L.A. Riots in 1992, Joint Task Force-Los Angeles lacked legal experts in Chapter 15, Title 10, Sections 331-334, and military lawyers were initially confused by the Posse Comitatus Act[10].

Discussing right-wing extremism requires delicacy and nuance, but will remain an inflammatory topic regardless of how it is addressed. In attempt to position itself to respond to right-wing domestic terrorism and political violence, the government has faced allegations of political bias. The earliest assessment of right-wing extremism under the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came under severe scrutiny for anti-conservatism and was subsequently retracted. According to Daryl Johnson, a career intelligence analyst and author of the report, the political fallout led to the end of “work related to violent right-wing extremism[11].” It was reported by The Daily Beast in April 2019 that the DHS had disbanded its domestic terrorism intelligence unit. Some officials have anonymously alleged that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of domestic terrorism assessments as a result[12].

Despite the challenge of addressing right-wing militia extremism, the average American is unlikely to ever be killed or injured by one. The chances of being killed in a terrorist attack, committed by a right-wing extremist or otherwise, are 1 in 3,269,897[13]. More concerning is the threat posed by insurrection, even if it is isolated and not widespread. Keith Mines, a veteran Special Forces officer and diplomat, estimated a 60% chance that America would experience “violence that requires the National Guard to deal with[14].” Ignoring this possibility will only place America at a disadvantage if an extreme militia group collectively turns to violence.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalmoe, N. P., & Mason, L. (2019, January). pp. 17-24. Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates, and Electoral Contingencies (pp. 1-41). Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.dannyhayes.org/uploads/6/9/8/5/69858539/kalmoe___mason_ncapsa_2019_-_lethal_partisanship_-_final_lmedit.pdf

[2] Ideological Motivations of Terrorism in the United States, 1970-2016 (Rep.). (2017, November). Retrieved April 10, 2019, from University of Maryland website: https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_IdeologicalMotivationsOfTerrorismInUS_Nov2017.pdf

[3] Clark, S. (2019, March 07). Confronting the Domestic Right-Wing Terror Threat. Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2019/03/07/467022/confronting-domestic-right-wing-terrorist-threat/

[4] Jones, S. G. (2018, November 07). The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/rise-far-right-extremism-united-states

[5] Goldman, A. (2019, June 04). F.B.I., Pushing to Stop Domestic Terrorists, Grapples With Limits on Its Power. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/us/politics/fbi-domestic-terrorism.html

[6] Hernandez, S. (2019, April 19). A Militia Group Detained Hundreds Of Migrants At Gunpoint At The Border. Retrieved July 05, 2019, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/militia-group-border-migrants-detain-united-constitutional

[7] Prokop, A. (2015, May 14). The 2014 controversy over Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, explained. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.vox.com/2014/8/14/18080508/nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-explained

[8] Sommer, W. (2019, June 21). Armed Militias Pledge to Fight for Fugitive Oregon GOP Lawmakers ‘At Any Cost’. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/armed-militias-pledge-to-fight-for-fugitive-oregon-gop-lawmakers-at-any-cost

[9] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 4: The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Posse Comitatus Act. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[10] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 6: Conclusions. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[11] Johnson, D. (2017, August 21). I Warned of Right-Wing Violence in 2009. Republicans Objected. I Was Right. Washington Post. Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/21/i-warned-of-right-wing-violence-in-2009-it-caused-an-uproar-i-was-right/

[12] Woodruff, B. (2019, April 02). Exclusive: Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit. The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/homeland-security-disbands-domestic-terror-intelligence-unit

[13] Nowrasteh, A. (2018, March 08). More Americans Die in Animal Attacks than in Terrorist Attacks. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.cato.org/blog/more-americans-die-animal-attacks-terrorist-attacks

[14] Ricks, T. E. (2017, March 10). Will we have a civil war? A SF officer turned diplomat estimates chances at 60 percent. Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/10/will-we-have-a-civil-war-a-sf-officer-turned-diplomat-estimates-chances-at-60-percent/

Assessment Papers T.S. Whitman United States Violent Extremism

Alternative Futures: Assessment of the 2027 Afghan Opium Trade

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


Title:  Alternative Futures: Assessment of the 2027 Afghan Opium Trade

Date Originally Written:  July 3, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 3, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a United Nations report outlining the rise Afghan heroin production and the consequences both within and beyond Afghan borders.

Summary:  A sudden exit of western troops from Afghanistan has fostered dramatic expansion of the already robust opium trade. Peace, profitability, and cynical policy calculations have led Afghan and regional players to embrace cultivation and trafficking at a cost to their licit economies, public health, and security. International players seem to think that Afghan peace on these terms is worth the corrosive influence that opium exports are carrying abroad.

Text:  In this 2027 30th anniversary edition of the World Drug Report, we have added an auxiliary booklet with an unprecedented singular focus on Afghanistan’s global impact on the drug supply chain and the threat it poses to security and development across multiple continents. This booklet covers the political landscape that allowed Afghanistan to become the world’s heroin epicenter and key players in the heroin trade. It also addresses the international response to the crisis and the global implications of the Afghan drug economy.

Five years after China’s 2022 acquisition of the port of Karachi through predatory One Belt One Road loans and a cooling in relations with Russia following the annexation of Belarus, major sea and air resupply routes to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were closed or compromised, making sustained operations in Afghanistan logistically untenable. The subsequent departure of all ISAF troops removed a principal roadblock in peace talks with the Afghan Taliban (Taliban): withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The resulting hastily negotiated peace deal formalized a power sharing agreement between the existing Afghan government and Taliban shadow government in exchange for renunciation of support and safe haven for transnational terrorists. In practice, a crude federalization has taken effect that leaves the Taliban politically represented in Kabul and in control of the majority of arable countryside used for poppy growth. The Western-supported government of Afghanistan largely retains control of urban centers and major highways needed for processing and export. This delicate equilibrium is largely sustained due to recognition that uninterrupted Afghan opium production is in the interest of both Afghans and international stakeholders and any violence would negatively impact profitability.

Within Afghanistan, an influential lobby shaping the political environment that has had a hand in the opium trade for decades is the transport mafia. Afghanistan has historically been a crossroads of trade and transport interests have long exploited opportunities for profit. The modern transport mafia became robust beginning in 1965 following the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement (ATTA). The agreement allowed the duty free trade of goods from Pakistan into Afghanistan, leading to smuggling of the same goods back across the border for illicit profit. Soviet-Afghan war transport mafia activities included cross-border smuggling of arms to the mujahideen and smuggling of opium on the return journey. Post 9/11, theft of American supplies shipped via Karachi and destined for Afghanistan was another common scheme[1]. The influence of transport mafia interests in Afghanistan is profound in the political and developmental arenas as well. Popular support of the Taliban in the 1990s was largely attributable to the Taliban elimination of highway bandits, making transport much more predictable. Following the improvement in conditions, the profitability of opium smuggling by transport interests proved too popular for even the Taliban’s ban on poppy cultivation and opium. Following the 2001 arrival of American and ISAF personnel, transportation interests continued to grow alongside poppy cultivation, and in 2017 cultivation reached an all-time high of approximately 420,000 hectares – seventy-five percent of the global total[2]. Yields have continued to improve in the years since as Afghans have repaired irrigation infrastructure all over the south and east of the country. Reconstruction of qanats destroyed in the Soviet-Afghan war when they were utilized as tunnels for covert mujahideen movement has been especially important to year-over-year poppy yield increases. Many of the improvements were enabled by international donations until media coverage revealed poppy farmers to be the chief beneficiaries. Subsequent donor fatigue has depressed additional rounds of Afghan development funding, making improvements in health care and education unlikely. With few alternatives, most Afghans are now completely dependent on either poppy cultivation or the transport enterprise for their livelihoods.

Regional players surrounding Afghanistan all reap unique rewards by allowing opium trade to continue. Pakistan has doubled down on the idea of “strategic depth” in any conflict with India that is afforded to them by a friendly Afghan power structure. Allowing the proliferation of poppy farming in Taliban-controlled districts and refining labs throughout the Hindu Kush has benefited Pakistan by restoring a major proxy force that is now self-sustaining. Moreover, extraction of rents from producers and traffickers by Pakistani military and intelligence factions supports asymmetric operations against India in the disputed Kashmir region. Iran has been exploiting the European heroin epidemic by extracting concessions from European stakeholders in nuclear talks in exchange for closure of their border with Afghanistan, thereby closing a major trafficking highway to Europe. Iran’s border closure has had the unforeseen consequence of driving the flow of narcotics north into the Central Asian states and the Russian Federation. Subsequently, Russia has made heroin trafficking into Europe their latest asymmetric effort to disrupt European cohesion, with reports that tacit support of the Russian Mafia by the state has expanded the volume of the Moscow trafficking hub from one third of all heroin being trafficked to Europe to two thirds today[3]. As for the United States, the domestic political atmosphere continues to reward an exit from Afghan affairs despite the diplomatic and security costs incurred abroad. For all of these actors, inaction or an embrace of Afghan heroin is a devil’s bargain. In Pakistan, the drug economy has further hollowed out the licit economy, risking the stability of a nuclear state and calling into question the security of its nuclear materials. For Russia and Central Asian States, drug use has skyrocketed and Russia’s population has been particularly hard hit by a corresponding rise in HIV/AIDS, tripling from an estimated one million citizens in 2016 to just over three million in 2025[4].

Peace in Afghanistan has been achieved at the cost of the public health, security, and economies of nations across the Eurasian landmass. Moreover, it is a peace sustained by a tenuous illicit economy and cynical policy calculations that steadily erode the licit economies of neighboring nations and transit states. Without multinational cooperation to address the corrosive fallout of Afghan heroin exports, the international community will continue to feel the negative effects for years to come.


Endnotes:

[1] Looted U.S. Army Gear For Sale in Pakistan,
Chris Brummitt – http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39542359/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/t/looted-us-army-gear-sale-pakistan/#.XR0AcZNKgb0

[2] World Drug Report 2018 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.18.XI.9).

[3] Crimintern: How the Kremlin Uses Russia’s Criminal Networks in Europe,
Mark Galeotti – https://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/crimintern_how_the_kremlin_uses_russias_criminal_networks_in_europe

[4] Russia At Aids Epidemic Tipping Point As Hiv Cases Pass 1 Million – Official,
Andrew Osborn – https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-aids/russia-at-aids-epidemic-tipping-point-as-hiv-cases-pass-1-million-official-idUSL2N1551S7

Afghanistan Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Chris Wozniak Drug Trade

Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

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


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Date Originally Written:  June 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2019.

Author and / or Author Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. National Security Council after the 1962 Geneva Accords to determine the effectiveness of programs in Laos and their use in future foreign policy actions.

Summary:  From 1954-1962 the deployment of U.S. Army Special Forces teams, Central Intelligence Agency officers, economic and military aid prevented a communist takeover of Laos, considered a strategically important country in Southeast Asia. A pro-West Laos was desired under Eisenhower, but the transition to a neutral coalition government was ultimately supported by the Kennedy administration to keep Laos from becoming a Communist foothold in Indochina.

Text:  Counterinsurgency (COIN) can be defined as government actions to counter the “organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region[1]”. U.S. COIN in Laos had a broad focus to include: building the capacity of the Forces Armées du Royaume (FAR) – the Lao Royal Armed Forces, training a thousands-strong Hmong paramilitary force, economic and military aid packages, and defeating insurgent threats within Laos. Despite little strategic value, the French war in Indochina had convinced the Eisenhower administration that Laos could be the first potential ‘domino’ to cause Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to fall to communism[2]. 

In 1954, economic aid began flowing into Laos through a United States Operations Mission (USOM) based in Vientiane[3]. The 1954 Geneva Agreement brought the fighting to a (relative) end, established an independent and neutral Laos, and issued a withdrawal of French military units and Viet Minh elements, leaving only a small French force to train the FAR. The Pathet Lao, a communist political movement and organization in Laos, would move to the northeast for eventual demobilization[4]. 

The Programs Evaluation Office (PEO) was established in 1955 as an element of USOM to facilitate defense aid to the FAR, supporting the fight against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) presence in northeastern Laos. Laotian neutrality meant the PEO was staffed and led by civilians who were almost all former military[5]. The Vientiane Agreements, signed in 1957, incorporated the Pathet Lao into the FAR. However, a 1959 coup conducted by Laotian General Phoumi Savanna signaled the continued tenuous situation in Laos[6]. 

In 1959 U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) personnel deployed to Laos as part of Project Hotfoot to train FAR personnel. Hotfoot was spread across the five military regions within Laos. Led by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Arthur ‘Bull’ Simons of the 77th Special Forces Group, training responsibilities for Hotfoot were divided in two. “France would provide the tactical training to Laotian forces while non-uniformed U.S. SF would equip and provide technical training[Emphasis in original][7].” Hotfoot transitioned and expanded after Kennedy took office. 

In August 1960, Laotian Captain Kong Le led an FAR airborne battalion to Vientiane in a coup against the Royal Lao Government (RLG) to form a neutralist government. Lack of pay and the burden of continuous operations led to the coup[8]. While U.S. efforts under Hotfoot became Operation White Star in 1961, SF began Operation Pincushion, a training program for the Kha tribal areas with village defense units each up to 100 strong[9]. The PEO also became a Military Assistance Advisory Group with personnel donning uniforms, signaling the transition to an overt military presence[10]. During French rule the Auto Defense Choc (ADC), or self defense units, were established at the village level and filled by local populations. CIA began a covert operation, called Momentum, to build off the ADC program and establish a large paramilitary force of ethnic Hmong to fight the Pathet Lao insurgents and Kong Le’s forces[11].

Vang Pao was a Hmong officer in the FAR who had earlier received assistance from SF to create an irregular Hmong force. In 1961, CIA paramilitary officer James W. Lair approached Vang Pao to expand the operation which became Momentum. The second White Star rotation in the spring of 1961 became part of Momentum. The operation would equip and train nearly 10,000 recruits who proved extremely effective in the field[12].

CIA used its proprietary airline – Air America –  to support operations taking place throughout Laos. H-34 helicopters (replacing the weaker H-19), C-46, C-47, C-123 transport aircraft, and single-engine short take-off and landing aircraft provided airlift capabilities to CIA officers moving throughout the country, and FAR and Hmong units who received supplies through airdrops[13].

U.S. activities were critically challenged by Pathet Lao radio broadcasts (with Soviet support) which “were convincingly portraying the U.S. as obstructing peace and neutrality in Laos (while downplaying their own efforts to do so)[14].” The U.S. Information Agency field office in Laos “had two main objectives: improve the credibility of the Laotian government in the eyes of the population, and counter-Communist propaganda[15].” Small radios were distributed to provide pro-government messages in the Lao language, which was limited by the various local dialects around the country. In 1961 the U.S. Army deployed the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion consisting of 12 men, whose “primary role was augmenting the U.S. Information Service (USIS).” and their under-resourced staff[16]. 

Under U.S. policy from 1954-1962, COIN efforts to support the RLG were a relative success. In 1962 a neutralist-majority coalition government was formed including rightists (from the RLG) and members of the Pathet Lao. The 1962 Geneva Accords again declared Laotian neutrality and barred any re-deployment of foreign forces to Laos. Fighting had slowed, but the Kennedy administration was disappointed with the political result. Neutrality was not a complete policy failure for the Kennedy administration, as a communist government would not be in place[17]. In accordance with the agreement SF teams withdrew from Laos, while Air America flights slowed[18]. However, future American operations would be covert, and conducted primarily by the CIA beginning after the coalition collapse in 1964 to the Pathet Lao defeat of the RLG in 1975. 

From a policy perspective, the American commitment to Laos was consistent with containment and halting the global spread of communism. The covert nature of U.S. operations reflected not only the declarations of neutrality by the RLG, but the larger possibility of U.S. embarrassment on the domestic and world stages if U.S. objectives did fail. Even with no discernible strategic interests in the region, particularly Laos, “National prestige was, as always, closely linked to its apparent success or failure in foreign policy[19].”


Endnotes:

[1] United States, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency (p. ix)

[2] Mcnamara, R. S. (1996). In retrospect. Random House Usa. (pp. 35-37)

[3] Leeker, J. F. (2006). Air America in Laos II – military aid (p. 1, Rep.). Part I

[4] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 128).; United Nations. (1954). Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Laos 20 July 1954.

[5] Castle, T. N. (1991). At war in the shadow of Vietnam: United States military aid to the Royal Lao government, 1955-75 (Doctoral dissertation).

[6] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 147).

[7] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html. 

[8] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 80). 

[9] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 171). 

[10] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 87).

[11] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 121).

[12] Ahern, T. L., Jr. (2006). Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos 1961-1973. (p. 45).; Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html.

[13] Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html. 

[14] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[15] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[16] Tracy, James M., PhD. “More Than Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Psywar in Laos.” Veritas 14, no. 2 (2018): 1. https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n2_shoot_and_salute_pt2_page_1.html.

[17] Goldstein, M. E. (1973). American policy toward Laos. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. (pp. 263-267).; United Nations. (1962). No. 6564. DECLARATION 1 ON THE NEUTRALITY OF LAOS. SIGNED AT GENEVA, ON 23 JULY 1962https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume 456/volume-456-I-6564-English.pdf.

[18] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 247).

[19] Koprowski, D. C. (2000). John F. Kennedy, the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and American intervention in Laos, 1961-1963 (Doctoral dissertation). University of Massachusetts Amherst. Masters Theses 1911 – February 2014. 1682 https://scholarworks.umass.edu/theses/1682.

Assessment Papers Harrison Manlove Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Laos United States

Alternative Futures: Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

Michael Barr is a military historian and Director of Ronin Research, which specializes in high stress performance improvement.  He has 47 years’ experience in close quarter control and combat and is also the Director of the Jiki Ryu Aikijujutsu Association.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

Date Originally Written:  May 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This assessment paper provides an alternative history and therefore an alternative future to U.S. actions in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.  This paper is written from the point of view of a staff officer providing an overview of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan from 2001-2021 to an incoming political appointee in the Department of Defense.

Summary:  Despite conventional force cries for large troop footprints in Afghanistan following the ousting of the Afghan Taliban in late 2001, the U.S. chose a different route.  The combined interagency efforts of U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of State have enabled minimization (not defeat) of threats to U.S. interests in Afghanistan thus enabling the U.S. military to remain prepared for large scale threats posed by Russia and China.

Text:  The initial response to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan after 9/11 involved U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA restored old ties with Afghan tribal leaders in the Northern Alliance. Backed by U.S. air power, the operation toppled the Taliban within two months and leveled the playing field allowing for the aspirations of various tribal leaders. 

With these initial operations complete, conventional force proponents argued for a text book counterinsurgency operation using a series of forward operating bases to project force and prop up a weak central government in Kabul. Asymmetric proponents argued for a return to influence and shaping operations and a strategy of stabilization and deterrence. No matter how noble the objective or heroic the effort, the U.S. would not achieve a political victory through a massive intervention that would have a large foreign footprint that even our Afghan allies did not favor. In Afghanistan, the U.S. had something to lose but nothing to gain in the conventional sense. Stability was the objective and that would be better achieved by helping the Afghans fight their own war rather than U.S. troops fight it for them. The more the U.S. efforts were unseen, the better. Instead of fighting a pointless counterinsurgency, a pragmatic strategy of forging relationships necessary to keeping Islamists from developing any significant power base in Afghanistan was pursued. 

The Afghanistan Bureau (AFBU) was created as part of U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), to follow a strategy of realistic, attainable goals, and restricted rules of engagement, with operations calibrated to the Afghan political, cultural, physical, and mental landscapes. AFBU allowed strategy to be custom-tailored to the reality on the ground. As a result AFBU has created stability through an often tedious and contentious negotiation of tribal interests with a minimum use of force. AFBU is primarily an intelligence and influence / shaping organization that makes suggestions and entreaties to various tribal elements. Within AFBU is the Afghan Operations Group (AOG) which includes both FID (foreign internal defense) and UW (unconventional warfare) elements:

  • 100 long term advisors from CIA, SOF, and the Department of State are embedded at the tribal leadership level.
  • A fluctuating number of specialists rotate through AOG based on tribal requests and advisor observations. These specialists have included military trainers, civil affairs, engineers, teachers, medical and even civilian specialist in blacksmithing and agriculture.
  • Sufficient procurement and logistics elements to both support the AFBU and train their partners in the Afghan military.
  • AOG forces: A light, strong, mobile force of 2000 men that continually rotates its presence living and purchasing from the various tribes. This rotation creates a pragmatic symbiotic relationship. Various force components have been temporarily added. An active drone force is maintained. Support Force provides intelligence to AFBU, solidifies tribal relations, acts as a deterrent, and makes periodic strikes to reduce opposition build ups. Terrorists may never be eliminated but AOG keeps them minimized. In this way AOG imitates the Israeli response to terrorism threats. 
  • A clandestine force works from within tribal support areas to collect human intelligence and reduce the need for intervention.

Despite public claims, Afghanistan is not a nation state but a tribal society with tribal interests. Even the urban elite are really a tribe. Cash and other assets which can be measured and accounted for, are capable of accommodating many tribal needs. Limited cash and assets help solidify existing relations with tribal leaders. Refusal to provide assets, threats by other leaders, the presence of AOG forces, and loss of prestige has proven an effective mix in maintaining the peace. There is a constant battle among interested parties to supplant opium income, but the broad mix of assets available to AFBU has served as a greater inducement than illicit income. 

AFBU’s strategy leverages the fact that the parties do not like or get along with each other. AFBU’s small but effective presence and its outsider position allows it to orchestrate adversaries more as a referee. This relationship works to U.S. benefit and against U.S. enemies. AFBU is not creating Jeffersonian liberals but selectively supporting dependable leaders who can create stability and minimize Islamist capability. Sometime this means winning over factions of the Taliban. This winning over has been controversial, but a 51% reduction in extremism is sometimes better than nothing at all. Every tribal leader affiliated with AFBU is one less enemy and it allows us to monitor and influence their behavior.

AFBU has succeeded because of:

  • Sufficient funding and bipartisan Congressional support.
  • General public support or at least no vocal opposition.
  • Clear, pragmatic policy objectives.
  • Restraint imposed by the force size and the acceptance that there are limits to U.S. influence.
  • Emphasis on assembling tools in innovative ways which are applied with sufficient foresight and duration to achieve lasting effect while avoiding major combat operations.
  • High priority on intelligence.  

AFBU has converted some opposition tribes, neutralized others to ineffectiveness, and isolated most resistance to the Waziristan region. Pakistan’s ambiguous blind eye support of the Taliban, although still operative, has been muted by AFBU operations. AFBU has been able to provide long term stability for the past 20 years at a minimum investment of money, materiel, and manpower. AFBU has established a template for an overall influencing and shaping strategy which provides a structure for projecting power with a minimum of intrusion and risk. By calibrating to local concerns, similar strategies have been successful in Syria. Venezuela, Central America, Cuba, the Philippines, and even larger states like Ukraine. These small operations have allowed more resources to go to conventional near peer preparation while creating a matrix of support and influence in areas distant from the United States. 

In conclusion, AFBU has provided outsized results for its limited investment, while providing a first option for achieving U.S. objectives without large expenditures of personnel, material, and political support. The model has proven an excellent counter to gray zone conflicts related to Russia, China, and Iran.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Michael Barr United States

Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

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


Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander. He currently works in USAREC. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2019. 

Summary:  During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, the United States Marines officered a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Throughout the occupation, the Gendarmerie built infrastructure and assisted in the administration of the country. The success of the Gendarmerie can be compared with the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq.

Text:  The United States of America began its longest military occupation of a foreign country in August 1915 when United States Marines landed in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The occupation was the Wilson administration’s reaction to the potential establishment of a European naval base that could control the Windward Passage, combined with growing instability in Haiti. This instability culminated in the violent execution of Haitian President Guillaume Sam by a group of Haitian elites. After landing, the Marines met little resistance and rapidly established control of the country. By September, the Marines had established garrisons in all the major towns in Haiti. In 1915 and again in 1918, the Marines used superior training and tactics to quell uprisings of the native cacos during the First and Second Caco Wars. Between these two wars and for the rest of the time that the Marines administered the government in Haiti, the Americans ran a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti[1].

The constabulary was comprised mostly of the noirs, which made up most of the population, but the officers of the constabulary were Marines. This was an attractive assignment for the Marines stationed in Haiti, as they would receive an additional stipend and a higher rank. For instance, a Corporal or Sergeant in the Marine Corps would be an officer in the Gendarmerie. In the same way, then Lieutenant Colonel Smedley Butler held the rank of Major General in the Gendarmerie while acting as its first commandant. The Gendarmerie d’Haiti was as a joint army-police organization, but their role didn’t stop there. The American-led constabulary also “administered prisons, roads, bridges, the water supply, telegraph lines, sanitation, and other vital services[2].” Despite allegations of war crimes and three resulting investigations, the American military presence in Haiti continued throughout the 1920s with general success. Towards the end of the decade, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti became gradually more comprised of Haitians, and in 1928, the government renamed it the Garde d’Haiti. With the help of the Garde d’Haiti, the American administrators ran an efficient government while reducing graft and increasing stability. Upon leaving Haiti in 1934, the American-run government left behind “1,000 miles of roads constructed, 210 major bridges, 9 major airfields, 1,250 miles of telephone lines, 82 miles of irrigation canals, 11 modern hospitals, 147 rural clinics” and more[3]. America also achieved its strategic goals of keeping out the Germans and creating stability. The occupation was ultimately a success, with the Gendarmerie a large part of that success.

Although the model used by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti had seen use in previous small wars, once the United States withdrew from Haiti, the native constabulary model did not see use again in the many counter-insurgency operations in the following century. The ensuing general distaste for overt American Imperialism ensured that white officers leading black foreigners in the service of an American-led government would not be a viable option. Instead, America favored train, advise, and assist (TAA) operations during the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts to the extent that the United States Army is now establishing units to carry on TAA operations as an enduring mission[4]. However, these operations were and are mainly concerned with establishing security to enable the success of a new government in an unstable nation. To truly examine the legacy of the American-led constabularies of the early 1900s, we must look to institutions that sought to exercise authority over a foreign government in an unstable state. The best example of this is the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) of the early Iraq War.

Formed in the early days of the Iraq War and led by L. Paul Bremer, the CPA exercised executive, legislative, and judicial power in Iraq for 14 months from April 2003 to June 2004 as a caretaker government which attempted to set the conditions for a sovereign Iraqi government to take control of the country[5]. Planners for the occupation of Iraq had looked to the military occupation of Japan for guidance, considering that if they modeled the occupation off a previously successful one, the occupation would transform Iraq into a functioning democracy[6]. In 2019, we know that this was not the case. Looking back at the CPA through the lens of the Haitian Gendarmerie can help us understand why.

The occupation of Haiti was successful compared to the occupation of Iraq due to the continuity and command-structure provided by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. By giving enlisted Marines commissions in the Haitian constabulary, the occupying force garnered a commitment to the institution for which they were working. Furthermore, the Gendarmerie benefited from having the “advisors” in a command position over those they were seeking to influence. Unlike the current model of organizations tasked with TAA missions, placing Marines in command positions added to the buy-in needed to garner a vested interest in the organization. Finally, the constabulary gave the American administration the benefits of a military-run government. Like in the successful military occupation of Japan, the Marines of the Gendarmerie stayed for long periods of time, with a clear military structure. Compare these facts with the experience of the CPA. Few leaders in the CPA stayed for the duration of its short lifespan, and organizations within the CPA suffered from the lack of a clear structure[7]. The continuity and structure of the American-led constabulary allowed the Marines to see successes in their administration of the country.

Even considering the above, it is important to remember that the American-led Gendarmerie was not without its problems. The reintroduction of the corvée labor system and sometimes brutal methods of enforcing the corvée were morally wrong and almost immediately led to the Second Caco War, despite Butler’s predecessor abolishing the system in 1918. Also, not all Gendarmerie officers had enlightened views of their Haitian subordinates. Smedley Butler led them with affection, but Colonel Tony Waller had a decidedly more racist and less compassionate view of the Haitian gendarmes under his command[8]. Even with these problems, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti showed how an American-led military organization can aid in the occupation and administration of another nation. While the United States will likely not employ this type of organization in the future, the successes of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti are worth remembering if the United States once again engages in the risky act of nation building.


Endnotes:

[1] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Lopez, C. T. (2017, June). SFABs to Free BCTs from Advise, Assist Mission. Infantry Magazine, 4.

[5] Ward, C. J. (2005, May). United States Institute of Peace Special Report: The Coalition Provisional Authority’s Experience with Governance in Iraq (Rep. No. 139). Retrieved May 29, 2019, from https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr139.pdf

[6] Dower, J. W. (2003, April 01). Don’t expect democracy this time: Japan and Iraq. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/dont-expect-democracy-this-time-japan-and-iraq

[7] Hunter-Chester, D. (2016, May/June). The Particular Circumstances of Time and Place: Why the Occupation of Japan Succeeded and the Occupation of Iraq Failed. Military Review, 41-49.

[8] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Haiti Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Travis Prendergast

An Assessment of Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

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


Riley Murray is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force currently pursuing his master’s degree in the Georgetown Security Studies Program.  He can be found on Twitter @rileycmurray.  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 Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty Air Force Officer. The Article is written from the Point of View of the United States Air Force in Air Advising and Security Cooperation operations.

Summary:  Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.

Text:  Andrew Krepinevich coined the term “Army Concept” in his 1986 study of the Vietnam War. The U.S. Army uses the Army Concept framework to hypothesize how wars will be fought, and to shape its operational planning and training[1]. During the Vietnam War, the Army Concept focused on large-scale conventional warfare against the Soviets in Central Europe with emphasis on firepower and technology[2]. Krepinevich criticizes the Army for using this conventionally oriented concept to advise the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during its campaign against an irregular foe: The National Liberation Front (Viet Cong)[3]. This counterproductive (ineffective) assistance program resulted from a failure to understand the threat faced by the ARVN, a poorly conceived plan to address the insurgency, and advisors that had spent their careers preparing for conventional warfare[4]. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has made similar mistakes when advising its partner forces.

Any conceptual approach to advising begins by assessing the environment and threats partner forces face. This analysis is the basis for decisions regarding prioritization and risk that result in concepts of what air elements should be able to do[5]. This strategic view is then translated into operational and tactical tasks. However, planning and execution are heavily impacted by variety of factions involved in advising missions, each with unique concepts and different decision-making processes, leading to mixed outcomes. In an ideal world, planning any advising mission would be a cyclical process of tightly coordinated activities that continually reconsiders assumptions and adjusts policy accordingly. However, even under clear planning guidance, this policy-tailoring process can be undermined by the interests of subordinate organizations.

In Vietnam, the U.S. military attempted to meet the Kennedy administration’s directive to prepare for “wars of national liberation.” The USAF responded to this challenge by establishing the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron with the mission to develop and train foreign air forces on counter-guerrilla tactics[6]. Outside of this unit though, the USAF made no major changes in organizational guidelines or doctrine. Although the counterinsurgency mission was accepted, USAF doctrine did not highlight the role of local air forces or advising[7]. The USAF developed “what amounted to an absolute model of airpower in warfare,” based on the principles of classical airpower theory (primarily the primacy of offensive, strategic, and independent air operations)[8]. This single-minded view drove the USAF’s organization and mentality, but largely neglected the lessons learned from irregular conflicts since World War II and assumed that alternate concepts were unnecessary. The USAF failed to understand airpower’s role in effective irregular warfare strategy and to foresee the potential negative effects airpower could have when fighting a guerrilla force. This made the USAF ill-equipped to develop a reliable partner force in Vietnam.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy authorized an advising mission in 1961 to assist the South Vietnamese military in countering the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese supporters. The USAF was tasked with training the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), but its actions and ideas were often counterproductive to the VNAF[9]. The USAF entered Vietnam planning to develop tactics for fighting guerrillas but was unprepared and unwilling to effectively assess and address strategic and operational issues. USAF advisors helped the VNAF develop a centralized air control system in alignment with USAF doctrine, which increased efficiency, but also dramatically hindered air-ground coordination and resulted in operations that had little strategic value in counterinsurgency[10]. When the USAF and VNAF did develop useful tactics, many of these innovations were simply relearning the lessons of previous conflicts (such as the Marine Corps’ small wars in the Caribbean)[11]. U.S. assistance dramatically increased the VNAF’s size, but contemporary USAF emphasis on jet aircraft led to a force that was incredibly difficult to maintain without U.S. assistance. Rapid growth was coupled with USAF advisors frequently flying the missions themselves and neglecting the tactical development of the VNAF[12]. After a decade of advising efforts, the end result was a VNAF that could not independently perform many key processes and was poorly oriented towards the threat faced by South Vietnam.

Many of these conceptual failures continue to plague the USAF’s mission to advise the Afghan Air Force (AAF). As the Afghan Taliban resurgence threatened security in Afghanistan in 2007, the original USAF advisory mission of establishing an AAF presidential airlift capability was expanded and the AAF became a “helicopter/transport/light-attack-based fleet” oriented towards counterinsurgency[13]. Developing these capabilities has been difficult, particularly without consensus on the roles and missions the AAF should be able to conduct. USAF advisors have labored to develop a centralized control system, but this doctrinal solution continues to conflict with the structure of the Afghan military and its entrenched habits[14]. There is also a split between the conventional AAF and the Special Mission Wing and their respective advisors which focuses on direct support for Afghan special operations forces, resulting in two parallel concepts that remain poorly integrated at both the tactical and strategic levels[15]. The mission statement of the 428th Air Expeditionary Wing in 2014 emphasized the importance of developing “a professional, capable, and sustainable [Afghan] Air Force[16].” However, without a clear concept driving what these terms mean and how they should be pursued, air advising operations cannot be successful. In 2018, a DoD Inspector General report highlighted that Train Advise Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) lacked a defined end state for AAF development and failed to explain how the AAF would integrate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan[17]. Without an end state or effective strategic plan, the USAF cannot integrate and leverage its full range of advising capabilities.

While Vietnam highlighted the dangers of applying the wrong concept to air operations in counterinsurgency, Afghanistan demonstrates that the lack of a unified concept that similarly undercuts advising operations. Concepts are difficult to quantify, but they have had an unmistakable impact on advising operations. Success requires both a holistic view of the strategic value of air operations in irregular warfare and the capability to assess individual cases and tailor advising approaches. With a clear strategic concept, advising, planning and operations can be synchronized, ensuring that the United States effectively leverages its capabilities to assist partners and allies.


Endnotes:

[1] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. p. 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 258-260.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 11-14.

[6] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 238-239.

[7] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 242-243, 246-247.

[8] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 267-270.

[9] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 241-244.

[10] Sheehan, N. (2013). A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a division of Random House. pp. 112-115.

[11] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 261.

[12] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 271-273.

[13] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 51-52.

[14] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 156.

[15] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 55.

[16] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 186.

[17] United States, Department of Defense, Inspector General. (2018). Progress of U.S. and Coalition Efforts to Train, Advise, and Assist the Afghan Air Force (pp. 1-76). Arlington, VA: U.S. Department of Defense.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Afghanistan Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Riley Murray Training United States

Assessment of the European Intervention Initiative and Overcoming Nationalist Barriers

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


David Perron is a recent graduate of The George Washington University, with a B.A. in International Affairs and concentration in international economics.  His interests lie in the intersection of international relations and private enterprises, and regionally in France and the European Union.  He can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-perron/. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the European Intervention Initiative and Overcoming Nationalist Barriers

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 6, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article examines the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) within the long-term goals and vision of French president Emmanuel Macron: that EI2 would lead to a “real European army,” which would increase security and foreign policy-making capabilities for the continent. 

Summary:  EI2 is a proposed joint-European military force which would protect European security interests abroad. Member states would benefit from increased power projection capabilities which would enhance collective security and reduce military reliance on the U.S. However, nationalism may pose risks to future EI2 membership and its long-term durability.

Text:  French President Emmanuel Macron has become a leading supporter of the European Intervention Initiative (EI2). EI2 will be a joint military force which would deploy forces abroad in response to European security interests. Work on EI2 began in response to threats posed by Russia after their 2014 annexation of Crimea. EI2 has been further catalyzed due to recent uncertainty in European Union (EU)-U.S. relations. EI2’s official objective is to “develop a shared strategic culture, which will enhance our ability, as European states, to carry out military missions and operations under the framework of the EU, NATO, the UN and/or ad hoc coalition[1].” However, Macron has publicly stated that he envisions a “real European army” which would remove the continent’s security dependence on the U.S.[2].

EI2 would create European joint operations, which could involve the use of military forces outside of Europe, in both combat and non-combat operations. EI2 is intended to increase the security of its member states while maximizing their total military resources. For Macron, and other EI2 proponents, the long-term strategic benefits would be vast. Europe would not only have greater collective security, but it would gain a powerful option in its foreign-policy toolkit. EI2 would secure Europe’s long-term position against rising actors such as Russia, China, and transnational terrorist groups.

But EI2’s goals also imply that member states will lose some level of sovereignty with regards to use of their military forces. Similar characteristics can be observed in the integration policies of the EU. EU members give up some sovereignty in exchange for greater social, economic, or political benefits. This surrendering of sovereignty has led to backlash from populist movements, with right-wing nationalist movements calling for the dissolution of the EU. The consequences of such backlash have been increased political division and economic uncertainty, such as in the case of Brexit. But in other cases, the surrendering of sovereignty has led to violence, as seen in the Yellow Vest protests in France. The areas that nationalist-populist groups in Europe contest include immigration, culture, and security[3]. These protested areas are issues in national identity, and the link between what the national unit is and what the state is. These are subjects which are inherently national. 

Conflicts with European integration policies have created national sentiment. As scholar Ernest Gellner states in Nations and Nationalism, “nationalist sentiment is the feeling of anger aroused by the violation of the principle, or the feeling of satisfaction aroused by its fulfilment[4].” The principal nationalist violation which arises from European integration policies is that of political rule. Nationalist sentiment can arise “if the rulers of the political unit belong to a nation other than that of the majority ruled[5].” In this case, sentiment will arise when the EI2, as a supranational institution governed by people who are not all members of the nation, make decisions which are perceived as either neglecting or hurting the nation. The world should expect a positive relationship between the increase in military cooperation and reactionary nationalist sentiment in EI2 member states.

National sentiment would challenge the development and durability of EI2. States will need to be convinced to set aside some sovereignty and national interests as EI2 integration continues. Furthermore, Brexit and the rise of nationalist-populist political parties have shown that European integration can be fragile. Thus, the durability of EI2 will continue to be contested by certain groups within member states. This is an area Russia can continue to exploit to destabilize European nations. If Macron and other EI2 proponents want the initiative to be successful, they will need to address nationalist sentiments through accommodation or construction.

There have already been some concerns voiced over EI2, as Germany has signaled a reluctance to take a part in “unnecessary military adventures” led by French foreign interests[6]. France’s foreign interventions have been largely related to its former colonies. Meanwhile, Germany’s memories of the World Wars have made them cautious of military operations. The different foreign policy focuses of France and Germany are guided by their distinct constitutive stories. From a constructivist view, these are stories which shape national identity. As Rogers M. Smith states, constitutive stories typically have three features: (1) they are intrinsically normative, (2) explain the importance of membership in the nation, and (3) are “less subject to tangible evidence than economic or political power stories[7].” Each member of EI2 has a distinct constitutive story, recurrent in their politics and culture, and distributed through mass-schooling and social traditions. Currently, the way that EI2 has been drafted has accommodated these differing stories by making compromises in its policies.

But another possibility which may be pursued is to change the construct of nationality. An important element of this change will be to alter Europe’s constitutive story, just as the EU is attempting to. This change is implied within the first part of the EI2 objective statement: “The ultimate objective of EI2 is to develop a shared strategic culture[8].”  The EU, for example, emphasizes values such as pluralism, secularism, and suffrage as preconditions to acceptance and profiting from various economic and political agreements. These are values which deemphasize Europe’s historical legacies of feudalism, non-secularism, and authoritarianism. This EI2 “strategic culture” could create a shared constitutive story which unifies members under a new narrative thereby defining when intervention is morally correct and what its benefits are, beyond strictly political or economic terms. If all EI2 members accept and recirculate this story, it could create popular support for the project, increasing membership in EI2 and make it more durable.

For Macron, nationalism presents a great barrier to EI2 and his aspirations for a “real European army.” For EI2 to work, it must transcend barriers created by distinct constitutive stories. EI2 will either develop in a manner which reduces nationalist sentiments by accommodating each nation’s unique demands, or leaders will change the constitutive story all together. If these nationalist barriers are overcome, the payoff would be a more secure, more capable, and more unified Europe.


Endnotes:

[1] Ministère des Armées. (2018). Letter of Intent Between Defense Ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom Concerning the Development of the European Intervention Initiative (EI2). Paris, FR: Author.

[2] Europe 1. (2018, November 26). Emmanuel Macron: son interview par Nikos Aliagas sur Europe 1 (INTEGRALE) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/ilggBgh8Lhw

[3] Gramlich, J., & Simmons, K. (2018). 5 key takeaways about populism and the political landscape in Western Europe. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: https://pewrsr.ch/2N6j8cx

[4] Gellner, E. (1983). Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

[5] Gellner, E. (1983). Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

[6] Sanders, L. (2018). Germany cautious as France leads European defense initiative. DW News. Retrieved from: https://p.dw.com/p/37r61

[7] Smith, R. M. (2001). Citizenship and the Politics of People-Building. Citizenship Studies, 5(1), 73-96.

[8] Ministère des Armées. (2018). Letter of Intent Between Defense Ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom Concerning the Development of the European Intervention Initiative (EI2). Paris, FR: Author.

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers David Perron Europe European Union France Nationalism

Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

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


Mathew Daniels is a graduate of Old Dominion University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in International Relations.  He served six years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.  He has a diverse professional background including both Law enforcement and education.  Fluent in both Spanish and English he is currently learning Japanese, while residing in Japan as a military spouse.  He has moved three different times in the past three years.  He just concluded student teaching and is preparing to take the Foreign Service Officer Test while awaiting to start employment with the Child Youth Military Program.  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 Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 5, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard  and a military spouse.

Summary:  As the Global War on Terror continues to expand, the U.S. believes it is important to maintain sound strategy and policy in order to bring about success and avoid costly foreign policy and militaristic commitments. This is especially true in Somalia, where the U.S. is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach, but risks of increased involvement are possible. 

Text:  The Global War on Terror continues to wax and wane with the foreign policy objectives of the United States. This is especially true in Africa, specifically in Somalia, where a U.S. presence has been in country intermittently since 2003. Somalia is one of the United States’ many small wars that are part of the campaign against Islamist Terrorism post 9/11.  The current terrorist organization that warrants a U.S. military presence is Al Shabaab. It is important to understand that Al Shabaab is allied with and mimics Al Qaeda.  However, some members claim that “they do not wish to wage a global jihad, merely to dominate East Africa[1].”  In this way Al Shabaab may differ from Al-Qaeda but this difference makes them no less of a threat to U.S. national security.  Furthermore, Al Shabaab routinely attacks civilian populations and is a threat to the  U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu. In 2007 African Union Forces were able to drive out Al Shabaab militants and retake most of Mogadishu, however Al Shabaab continued to exist in the suburbs and threaten the capital[2]. 

Presently, the Somalia National Army and police forces with assistance from African Union, Kenyan, and Ethiopian militaries, continue to wage a counter insurgency campaign against Al Shabaab. The United States continues to be involved indirectly in combating Al Shabaab by supporting regional forces with  military advisors. However, without a clear-cut purpose and end goal, the United States risks mission creep and more potential long-term militaristic commitments. 

As part of the Global War on Terror the U.S. has had a presence in Somalia since as early as 2003[3].  This early presence in Somalia was made up of the Central Intelligence Agency and small elements of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), specifically the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team 6. These early elements  focused on intelligence gathering and relying on local warlords bankrolled with U.S. cash to eliminate Islamist groups in the region[3]. 

In 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a drone strike campaign in Somalia targeting Al Shabaab[2].  This was a shift from the Bush administration whose primary focus was intelligence gathering and counter-piracy operations.   Under the current Trump administration, Obama’s  policy of drone strikes has continued, and JSOC has become heavily involved in Somalia[2]. This involvement  represents an increase of American commitment to the anti-Al Shabab effort over a significant amount of time. Combat by American forces is not officially confirmed. Multiple sources report that the Pentagon is extremely tight- lipped on operations in Africa and especially Somalia[2][4]. According to The New Yorker, the Pentagon did not respond to a request for information on ongoing operations in Somalia[2]. Nick Terse quotes a “reliable source within the JSOC community who stated, we are heavily engaged in combat as well as advise missions and have sustained casualties, but things are kept as quiet as possible[5].” It appears that the advise and assist role requires members of the U.S. military to accompany local forces on missions which can lead to actual combat for U.S. troops.  

Whatever the official policy, if U.S. forces are at risk, American public and policy makers awareness is of value so they can realize the potential consequences, should mishaps or potential loss of life occur. In fact, casualties have occurred in Somalia, Kenya, Chad and Cameroon  according to Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Donald Bolduc formerly in charge of special operations in Africa[5]. Make no mistake, American service members are at risk in these advise and assist operations, with or without public knowledge of their presence. Furthermore, absence of sound policy or strategy may mean that these service members sacrifices are in vain.

It is unclear whether U.S. policymakers and senior defense officials consulted the Powell-Weinberger doctrine prior to the deployment of forces to Somalia. Consulting this doctrine  would have helped provide needed clarification for the U.S. military mission in Somalia. For example, why is the U.S. in Somalia? To fight Al Shabaab? To preserve geopolitical stability? At what point will Al Shabaab be defeated? The Powell-Weinberger doctrine would ask if it is politically feasible to win in Somalia, and more importantly what does winning look like? What size of force would be needed to accomplish the goal? Also, what is the compelling U.S. national interest in Somalia?

It is significant to note that African Union forces will be withdrawing from Somalia in 2020[2]. Is the United States going to fill this security void by increasing their footprint, or maintain its current approach?  Without a clear end goal in mind, the American military in Somalia is left without a real direction, other than to train Somali forces and conduct joint raids against Al Shabaab.  It is worth considering that Somalia has lacked any real centralized government that maintained control since it was a colonial possession.  As a result of this weak government, insurgencies such as Al Shabaab thrive and prosper. The likelihood of the United States defeating the insurgency and propping up a stable government  in Somalia without a large  militaristic and diplomatic commitment is slim. Development of clear goals and strategy can help the U.S. achieve victory in Somalia without being dragged into a quagmire abroad. 


Endnotes:

[1] Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab? (2017, December 22). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15336689

[2] Ferguson, J. (2018, March/April). Trump’s Military Escalation in Somalia Is Spurring Hope and Fear. The NewYorker.

[3] Naylor, S. (2016). Relentless strike: The secret history of Joint Special Operations Command. New York, NY: St. Martins Griffin.

[4] Bowman, T. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On Terror?[Radio broadcast]. In 1A. Washington D.C.: NPR.

[5] Turse, N. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Mathew Daniels Policy and Strategy Somalia United States

Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

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


George Taboada has worked in the 19th District New Jersey State Legislative Office in the United States of America.  He currently is an undergraduate student at The George Washington University.  He can be reached at gleetaboada@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:  Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

Date Originally Written:  August 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a grandchild of Cuban immigrants to the United States of America. He believes that progressive political action (anti-discrimination, improved access to healthcare, debt-relief, etc.) is necessary to form a truly democratic society in the USA. 

Summary:  The rise of far-right terrorism in the United States is bringing the question of who and what constitutes the American nation to the forefront of public consciousness. If Americans fail to write their own history as one of inclusion rather than exclusion, violence and ostracization will continue.

Text:  In the wake of two mass shootings and the new surge in far-right terrorism, Americans peer further and further into the belly of the beast that is their nation. What has been statistically clear has slowly drilled itself into the center of the public consciousness: most terrorist attacks in the United States are perpetrated by domestic far right elements rather than Islamist actors. Between 2009 and 2018, 73.3% of murders related to extremist political ideologies were committed by those on the right-wing[1]. The names of innocent communities such as Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and Parkland have become synonymous with fascist violence. The United States as a whole is beginning to garner a similar dark reputation; Uruguay and Venezuela joined an already expansive list of countries that issue travel warnings to citizens visiting the US due to white supremacist and gun violence[2]. 

It is no coincidence that Jill Lepore published her article “A New Americanism” in the midst of a very old kind of American violence. Indeed, she writes that the conflict between egalitarian and ethnocentric forces “was a struggle over two competing ideas of the nation-state. This struggle has never ended; it has just moved around[3].” In this, Lepore explores a framework of understanding American history that is most condensed in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Alexander describes an America where successive generations “have not ended racial caste in America… but… merely redesigned it.” The slavery, the lynching, the segregation, the poverty, and the police brutality inflicted upon African Americans are not separate systems, but rather the same perpetual phenomenon that is modified to make their suffering palatable to the white majority[4]. At the essence of both of these arguments are the questions that floats through the minds of Americans after the terror and sorrow of a brutal hate crime subsides. Who are we and how much more are we willing to tolerate fascist violence?

There are new factors in this current discourse, but it is also retreading themes of classical literature on nationalism. In fact, Jill Lepore cites Ernest Renan’s defining work, “What is a Nation?[5].” According to Renan, nationalist ideology “presupposes a past but is reiterated in the present by a tangible fact: consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life[6].” Despite the myths of great men being the writers of history, the core dynamic of nationalism is in the hands of anyone who reads, writes, and reforms it. The discourse that defines the nation occurs not just in Congress, but in classrooms, in cafes, in homes, and in the street. Renan’s theory of nationalism is at its core democratic; in the “daily plebiscite,” the people themselves give the nation substance by supporting it and participating in its reformations.

However, republics are vulnerable to those who participate in their institutions with the intent to destroy the values that define and defend democracy. The danger of democratic backsliding is that those who are assaulting human rights do so while wrapping their language in the rhetoric used by those trying to defend it. White supremacists have a long history of doing just that. Leading Nazi figure Joseph Goebbels wrote, “We enter the Reichstag to arm ourselves with democracy’s weapons. If democracy is foolish enough to give us free railway passes and salaries, that is its problem… We are coming neither as friends or neutrals. We come as enemies! As the wolf attacks the sheep, so come we[7].”

This “boots for suits” tactic is not a foreign phenomenon; Lepore and Alexander have both chronicled its centrality to the American republic. The Confederate government formalized white supremacy by writing it into their constitution[8]. Alexander traces the family history of Jarvious Cotton, an American man. Time and time again, the Cottons are denied the fundamental ability to participate in Renan’s daily plebiscite: the ballot. Either through legal restrictions or through real physical violence. The slave-owner, the Klansman, and the police beat black people out of the discourse; constitutions, Jim Crow, and laws make the public feel as though that abuse is justified[9].

Beyond the question an American may ask themselves regarding who they are and how much longer they are willing to tolerate fascist violence lies another question: How much longer should we wait to end fascist ostracization? There is only one answer: immediately. But answering that question has eluded Americans of all kinds for over four centuries. The United States’ constitutive story as a nation is one that promises people freedom and viciously excludes wide swaths of humanity from those inalienable rights. To academicize the question of, “Who are we?”, the author posits, “How do we include people in a constitutive story written to specifically exclude them?”

Without a truly democratic daily plebiscite, those who are victimized by far-right violence will continue to be pushed to the margins of American society. To counter disenfranchisement, a discursive space where all are able to contribute to the building of the nation is necessary. However, open discourse about the nation’s path cannot exist as long as people who seek to raze it to the ground are afforded the same privileges as those who seek to enrich it. Without safeguards that prevent those who target the most vulnerable in society from disenfranchising them, marginalization will persist.

By including the experiences of other nations in the fight for liberation, Americans can further shatter the illusion of a racial ethnostate. Americans can find answers to their soul-searching in a wide range of countries and societies. There is already a prolific literature comparing denazification in Germany to American Reconstruction after the Civil War. From Germans, Americans can learn how to secure justice after a civilizational crime[10]. Another example is the progress of LGBTQ+ rights in Cuba. After the Revolution succeeded in 1959, Cuba was the second country in the world to establish marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution. Since the turn of the century, Cuban society has been more inclusive and more proactive towards achieving LGBTQ+ equality. Those LGBTQ+ who were once violently excluded from the foundation of the Cuban nation were able to write themselves into the Revolution and make it their own. 

To conclude, if Americans fail to write their own stories, those who carry the torches of Klansmen will gladly pick up the pen.


Endnotes:

[1] Anti-Defamation League (2019). Murder and Extremism in the United State in 2018. ADL. 

[2] Hu, Caitlin (2019, August 10). What they really think: America seen through the world’s travel warnings. CNN.

[3] Lepore, Jill (March/April 2019). A New Americanism. Foreign Affairs, 98.

[4] Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.

[6] Renan, Ernest (1882, March 11) What is a Nation? text of a conference delivered at the Sorbonne on, in Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?, Paris, Presses-Pocket, 1992. (translated by Ethan Rundell).

[7] Goebbels, Joseph (1935) Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit. Der Angriff, pp. 71-73.

[8] Lepore, Jill (March/April 2019). A New Americanism. Foreign Affairs, 98.

[9] Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.

[10] Neiman, Susan (2013, August 12). History and guilt: Can America face up to the terrible reality of slavery in the way that Germany has faced up to the Holocaust? Aeon.

[11] De Llano, Pablo (2018, July 23). After decades of homophobia, Cuba closer to allowing same-sex marriage. El País.

Assessment Papers George Taboada Human Rights / Universal Rights Nationalism United States

Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

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


Dr. Heather Venable is an Assistant Professor of Military and Security Studies at the Air Command and Staff College, where she teaches classes on airpower and the historical experience of combat. She has written a forthcoming book entitled How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918.  She also has written for War on the Rocks, Strategy Bridge, and other online blogs.  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:  Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2019.

Author / or Article Point of View:  The author is a professor of airpower. The author wants to point out the tensions in military thinking between the tactical and the strategic and how this has the potential to lead to escalation of “small” wars amidst the return to great power conflict.  

Summary:  Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends. 

Text:  He talked the talk. But he did not walk the walk. In a lecture given to the Air War College in May of 1953, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg initially exemplified strategic thinking by providing compelling reasons why the Korean War should remain confined to the peninsula. In the subsequent question and answer session, however, he demonstrated a clear desire to widen the war and target the Chinese mainland. Vandenberg’s lecture epitomizes the tensions in the minds of military leaders between tactical and strategic thinking, which pose dangerous risks of escalation, particularly in small wars. 

In the lecture, Vandenberg explained that he had no easy solutions “tied up in pink bows[1].” He also shared how his vantage point provided him with unparalleled perspective on the importance of allies and Cold War grand strategy. As such, he pointed out the problems he saw in expanding the war into China, explaining that striking a key air base inside Chinese territory required the U.S. to “do it with our eyes open” in light of a Sino-Soviet mutual defense treaty. Vandenberg also highlighted the risks of lengthening the United Nations’ own lines of communication. These comments epitomize a solid strategic consideration characterized by continually asking: then what? 

In the ensuing question and answer session, however, Vandenberg dangerously undercut his previous comments. When asked to discuss the Far East’s “strategic importance” during a “hot war,” Vandenberg ignored realities like the aforementioned treaty[2].  Caveating his opinion as being “almost as dangerous” as clamoring for preventative war against the Soviet Union, Vandenberg continued on recklessly:  “My solution has always been . . . we ought to put on a very strong blockade of the Chinese Coast; that we ought to break her rail lines of communication that carry the wheat from the North and the rice from the South . . . that we ought to mine her rivers . . . and that we ought to destroy those small industrial installations . . . .”

In addition to expanding the war and possibly inciting a famine, he suggested that the U.S. start its own “brushfire” to demonstrate, “BY GOD, that we are getting fed up with it.” Vandenberg’s address to War College students on the challenges of making sound strategic decisions devolved into sharing his emotionally-laden tactical responses, which lacked careful consideration of desired ends. Yet Vandenberg characterized his approach as “realistic[3].” 

Ironically, Vandenberg believed himself to be thinking rationally when, in fact, he was thinking romantically. In 1959, Bernard Brodie counterintuitively described the military mind as romantic, explaining how officers preferred “strong action over negotiation, boldness over caution, and feeling over reflection[4].” Vandenberg’s irrational suggestion that the U.S. start a new war because he was “fed up” epitomizes the mentality Brodie sketched. Today, many military officers also characterize themselves as pragmatic realists; in practice, though, they may act very differently.

This romantic attitude permeates tactical thinking, which can undermine a strategic vision. In theory, the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war are neatly bundled together. In reality, the frustrations of small wars often reveal the gaping seams between the tactical and the strategic as the limitations of military force to quickly meet political objectives become evident. 

A tactical thinker concentrates on the short-term prospect of winning a clear-cut victory. A strategic one, by contrast, seeks to play the long game. At times, these two inter-related but competing perspectives cause tension. In the case of a parent teaching a child to play chess, the tactical mindset of seeking to “win” a game sits at odds with the more strategic perspective of keeping children motivated to learn by letting them win[5]. 

Meanwhile, this seductive tactical vision entices military thinkers and decision makers with the promise of decisive action, with the potential to solve a problem once and for all. But nothing in warfare is ever final. The Army officers who produced a recent study on Operation Iraqi Freedom entitled The U.S. Army in Iraq epitomize the dangers of this tactical tendency. Chafing at what they consider to be the imposition of problematic “artificial geographic boundaries,” they wish the U.S. had enlarged the war to include Iran, thus eliminating the sanctuary areas of small wars that are understandably so frustrating to officers[6]. This “if only” mindset seeks short-term military advantage at the cost of a stronger, more durable state of peace that should be the guiding principle underlying and linking together each level of war. 

Small wars on the periphery remain highly likely even as the U.S. returns to stressing great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will demonstrate tension between the strategic and the tactical just as Gen Vandenberg did. Indeed, the likelihood of this tendency has increased because the U.S. military has become imbued with a “killing and destroying things” mindset[7].  In focusing more on how to kill and destroy than why, the military has reified the tactical and operational at the expense of the strategic. We can only hope that politicians choose not to follow through on fool-hardy tactical ventures; amidst the democratization of weapons technology, such impulses risk endangering us all[8]. 


Endnotes:

[1] Vandenberg, H. (1953, May 6). Lecture Presented by General Vandenberg to Air War College. K239.716253-118, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brodie, B. (1959). Strategy in the Missile Age. Palo Alto, CA: Rand, p. 266.

[5] Dolman, E. (2016). “Seeking Strategy” in Strategy: Context and Adaptation from Archidamus to Airpower. Eds. Richard Bailey and James Forsyth. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016, pp. 5-37.

[6] Finer, J. (2019, May 28). Learning the Wrong Lessons from Iraq. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2019-05-28/last-war-and-next. 

[7] Kagan, F. (2006). Finding the Target. New York: Encounter Books, 2006, p. 358.

[8] Krepinevich, A. (2011, August 15). Get Ready for the Democratization of Destruction. Foreign Affairs. https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/15/get-ready-for-the-democratization-of-destruction/.

 

 

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Dr. Heather Venable Mindset Policy and Strategy United States

Assessment of Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information

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


Ray K. Ragan, MAd (PM), PMP is a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and an Assistant Vice President of Project Management for a large Credit Union.  As a civilian, Ray worked in defense and financial technology industries, bringing machine learning, intelligence systems, along with speech and predictive analytics to enterprise scale.  Ray holds a Master’s degree in Administration from Northern Arizona University and a Certificate in Strategic Decision and Risk from Stanford University. He is a credentialed Project Management Profession (PMP) and has several Agile Project Management certifications.  Ray has served small and big war tours in Iraq and the Philippines with multiple mobilizations around the world, working in the U.S. National Interests.  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 Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information 

Date Originally Written:  May 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

Summary:  Current Civil Information Management Systems are not taking advantage of the leaps of technology in knowledge management, specifically in the realm of predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning. This creates a time cost that commanders must pay in real-time in their operating environment, particularly felt in small wars. This cost also diverts resources away from direct mission-enabling operations.

Text:  Currently Civil Information Management (CIM) systems employed by the U.S. Military are not keeping pace with the current revolution seen in civilian next-generation knowledge management systems (KMS)[1][2]. These KMS are possible through the convergence of modern computing, predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML)[3]. This CIM limitation is unnecessary and self-imposed as a KMS offers persistent and progressing inputs to the common operating picture. This assessment explores how civilian business harnessed this revolution and how to apply it to CIM.

Generally, CIM represents the operational variables (OV) of an operational environment (OE) and as practiced today, resides in the domain of information rather than knowledge[4]. The DIKW pyramid framework, named for its Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom structure informs the structure of learning[5]. Further, one can infer that traversing each step represents time and effort, a price paid by commanders in real-time during operations. Small wars demand speed and agility. Current CIM takes time to gather data, input it into a database, run queries, overlay on maps, and eventually infer some knowledge to inform decision making by the commander[6]. 

Using the 1999-invented Cynefin Framework to aid decision-making, commanders needlessly leave many of the OVs in the chaotic domain[7]. Moving from the chaotic to the complex domain the OVs must come from a KMS that is persistent and automatically progressing. Current CIMs do not automatically update by gathering information from public sources such as broadcast, print, and digital that are digitized with NLP and speech/text analytics[8].   Instead, human operators typically located in the OE, manually update these sources. Because of this, today’s CIMs go stale after the operators complete their mission or shift priorities, making what information was gathered devolve to historic data and the OE fog of war revert to chaos[9].

The single biggest advantage a quality KMS provides to a commander is time and decision-making in the OE[10]. Implemented as a simple search engine that is persistent and progressing for all OEs, would mean a commander does not need to spend operational time and effort on basic data gathering missions. Rather, a commander can focus spending operational resources on direct mission-enabling operations. Enticingly, this simple search engine KMS allows for the next advancement, one that businesses around the world are busily employing – operationalizing big data.

Business systems, such as search engines and other applications scour open sources like in court records and organizes them through a myriad of solutions. Data organized through taxonomy and algorithms allow businesses to offer their customers usable information[11]. The advent of ML permits the conversion of information to knowledge[12]. Civilian businesses use all these tools with their call centers to not only capture what customers are saying, but also the broader meta conversation: what most customers are not saying, but revealing through their behavior[13]. 

This leap in application of informatics, which civilian business use today, is absent in today’s CIM systems. The current model of CIM is not well adapted for tomorrow’s battlefield, which will almost certainly be a data-rich environment fed by robotics, signals, and public information[14]. Even the largest team of humans cannot keep up with the overwhelming deluge of data, let alone conduct analysis and make recommendations to the commander of how the civilian terrain will affect his OE[15].

In civilian business, empiricism is replacing the older model of eminence-based decision-making. No longer is it acceptable to take the word of the highest-paid person’s opinion, business decisions need to have evidence, especially at the multi-billion dollar level company level[16]. KMS enables for hypothesis, experimentation, and evidence. Applied in the civilian terrain, if the hypothesis is that by drilling a well reduces insurgency, a global KMS will reveal the truth through the metrics, which cannot be influenced, as former-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized[17]. 

Using text preprocessing with speech analytics and NLP, the KMS would solve an OE problem of data quality, as operators when supplementing the KMS with OE reports, would use speech whenever possible. This overcomes a persistent problem of garbage in and garbage out that plagues military and business systems alike. Rather than re-typing the field notes into a form, the human operator would simply use an interactive spoken dialog for input where feasible[18].

A persistent and progressive KMS also addresses a problem with expertise. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. State Department could not find enough experts and professionals to fill the voids in transitional governance. This problem was such that then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates volunteered to send Department of Defense civilians in their place[19]. With a KMS, commanders and policymakers can draw on a home-based cadre of experts to assess the data models of the KMS and offer contextualized insights into the system to commanders in the field.

As the breadth and quality of the data grows, system administrators can experiment with new algorithms and models on the data in a relentless drive to shorten OV-derived insights into operations planning. Within two years, this KMS data would be among the richest political science datasets ever compiled, inviting academia to write new hypothetical models and experiment. In turn, this will assist policy makers in sensing where new sources of instability emerge before they reveal themselves in actions[20].

“How do you put the genie of knowledge back in the bottle,” P. W. Singer rhetorically asked[21] in his book, Wired for War about the prospect of a robotic, data-enabled OE. This genie will not conveniently return to his bottle for robotics or data, instead commanders and policy makers will look to how to manage the data-enabled battlefield. While it may seem a herculean task to virtually recreate OEs in a future KMS, it is a necessary one. Working through the fog of war with a candle and ceding OVs to chaos is no longer acceptable. Civilian business already addressed this problem with next-generation knowledge management systems, which are ready for today’s OE.


Endnotes:

[1] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[2] Williams, Gregory (2016, December 2). WFX 16 tests Civil Affairs Soldiers. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.dvidshub.net/news/189856/wfx-16-tests-civil-affairs-soldiers

[3] Szilagyi and P. Wira (2018) An intelligent system for smart buildings using machine learning and semantic technologies: A hybrid data-knowledge approach, 2018 IEEE Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS), St. Petersburg, pp. 22-24.

[4] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 1-3 – 2-11.

[5] Fricke, Martin (2018, June 7). Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization: Knowledge pyramid The DIKW hierarchy. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from http://www.isko.org/cyclo/dikw

[6] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 5-5, 5-11.

[7] Kopsch, Thomas and Fox, Amos (2016, August 22). Embracing Complexity: Adjusting Processes to Meet the Challenges of the Contemporary Operating Environment. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2016-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Embracing-Complexity-Adjusting-Processes/

[8] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[9] Neubarth, Michael (2013, June 28). Dirty Email Data Takes Its Toll. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.towerdata.com/blog/bid/116629/Dirty-Email-Data-Takes-Its-Toll

[10] Marczewski, Andrzey (2013, August 5). The Effect of Time on Decision Making. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.gamified.uk/2013/08/05/the-effect-of-time-on-decision-making/

[11] Murthy, Praveen et al. (2014, September). Big Data Taxonomy, Big Data Working Group, Cloud Security Alliance, pp. 9-29.

[12] Edwards, Gavin (2018, November 18). Machine Learning | An Introduction. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://towardsdatascience.com/machine-learning-an-introduction-23b84d51e6d0

[13] Gallino, Jeff (2019, May 14). Transforming the Call Center into a Competitive Advantage. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/customer-experience-2/transforming-the-call-center-into-a-competitive-advantage/

[14] Vergun, David (2018, August 21). Artificial intelligence likely to help shape future battlefield, says Army vice chief.  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/210134/artificial_intelligence_likely_to_help_shape_future_battlefield_says_army_vice_chief

[15] Snibbe, Alana Conner (2006, Fall). Drowning in Data. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/drowning_in_data

[16] Frizzo-Barker, Julie et al. An empirical study of the rise of big data in business scholarship, International Journal of Information Management, Burnaby, Canada, pp. 403-413.

[17] Rice, Condoleezza (2011) No Higher Honor. New York, NY, Random House Publishing, pp. 506-515.

[18] Ganesan, Kavita (n.d.) All you need to know about text preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.kdnuggets.com/2019/04/text-preprocessing-nlp-machine-learning.html

[19] Gates, Robert (2014). Duty. New York, NY, Penguin Random House Publishing, pp. 347-348.

[20] Lasseter, Tom (2019, April 26). ‘Black sheep’: The mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombs. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sri-lanka-blasts-mastermind-insight/black-sheep-the-mastermind-of-sri-lankas-easter-sunday-bombs-idUSKCN1S21S8

[21] Singer, Peter Warren (2009). Wired for War. The Penguin Press, New York, NY, pp. 11.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Information and Intelligence Information Systems Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Ray K. Ragan

Assessment of French Intervention in the Sahel Region, 2013-2019

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


Hannah Richards has an M.A. in Conflict, Security and Development from the University of Exeter and has recently completed a research internship for the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense think tank. She can be found on Twitter at @h_k_richards.  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 French Intervention in the Sahel Region, 2013-2019

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 12, 2019.

Summary:  Despite the initial success of Operation Serval in 2013, French intervention in the Sahel region has now reached impasse. The already intricate situation is further complicated by France’s status as a former colonizer operating in the region. Understanding how France’s former colonial status translates into relationships between local communities, French troops, and armed terrorist groups will influence long term engagement. 

Text:  In light of the growing instability in Libya, the enduring presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the territorial decline of the Islamic State in the Middle East, attention will increasingly turn to the Sahel as a crucial battleground in the fight against violent non-state actors. As such, the significance of recent French operations in the region cannot be understated.

Due its sheer scale, inaccessibility and geopolitical complexity, the Sahel provides optimal conditions that enable armed terrorist groups to prosper. It is no surprise, therefore, that the region has long served as an important theater for international counterterrorist operations. Launched in 2013 at the behest of the Malian government, the French-led Operation Serval marked an evolution in the level of international engagement in the region. Widely regarded as a military success, Serval was lauded for the rapid reaction and deployment of French troops and for meeting the ultimate objective of pushing back armed terrorist groups from the center of the country. Perhaps more unusually, it also received initial widespread praise from both local and international actors[1].  

However, time has revealed Serval’s successes to be momentary. The operation did little to contribute to the overall stabilization and restoration of Malian state authority, with the security situation now widely accepted to have worsened since 2014[2]. The decision to launch Operation Barkhane in 2014 confirmed that Serval, despite its strengths, had failed to address the underlying causes of the Malian conflict; causes which have only been compounded and exploited by the enduring presence of the armed terrorist groups and fighters traveling to the region from the Middle East[3]. 

Unlike Serval, which fielded small, highly agile forces that were tailored to the specific political goals of the intervention[4], Barkhane reflects a much broader regional counterterrorist effort. The declared aims of the operation are carefully aligned to those countries of the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) and emphasize the need for capacity building that enables local partners to secure their own safety independently[5]. This close coordination with, and emphasis on, local state actors in the region signifies a clear departure from the operational independence of Serval. Barkhane has had some notable achievements in terms of both hard and soft power[6], however, what constitutes success at a broader strategic level remains unclear. The wide-ranging aims of the current operation are ambiguous and ill-defined, ultimately rendering France’s departure an uncertain prospect. This vagueness, when viewed alongside the complexity of the region, is a clear indicator of the impasse that lies immediately ahead of French forces.

Despite these foreboding circumstances, there are numerous factors that have influenced France’s decision to remain firmly engaged with the region. The initial framing of Serval in the context of the ‘War on Terror’ is crucial to understanding continued involvement. Since Serval’s launch in 2013, France has suffered numerous domestic terrorist attacks. France’s continued investment in tackling terrorism overseas thus represents not only an attempt to ensure regional stability within the Sahel, but a broader commitment to safeguarding its own citizens both abroad and at home. With the acknowledgement that a premature departure could in fact worsen the situation and create conditions that would facilitate the expansion of international terrorist organisations, the idea of a quick exit for France is therefore difficult to entertain[7]. 

In addition, by presenting intervention predominantly through the lens of a counterterrorist mission, France has distanced itself from the intricate political problems within Mali and allowed for the expansion of operations into neighboring countries[8]. As such, a second motivation for remaining in the region becomes evident; Serval and Barkhane have enabled the establishment of French military bases across the region, placing it in a unique position amongst its allies. By redressing its diminished authority in the Sahel, these interventions have presented France with the opportunity to reaffirm its role as a key player on the international stage. 

However, certain international observers have interpreted this strong narrative of counterterrorism as a thinly veiled attempt to detract attention from France’s actual aim of furthering its own national interest in the region, with clear inferences being made to a neo-colonial agenda[9]. Although often crude and reductionist, such criticism does serve to highlight the symbolic connotations of a permanent French military presence in the Sahel for the first time since the end of the colonial period. Although theoretical discussions centered on neo-colonialism may appear ancillary to an assessment of military intervention to date, how these translate into dynamics on the ground will prove crucial to France’s ability to combat armed terrorist groups in the longer term.

The polarizing effect of French intervention on local communities is becoming apparent, demonstrating that it is not just foreign opinion that harbors skepticism about the enduring international presence in the region[10]. Journalistic accounts from Mali have highlighted that, in the aftermath of Serval, questions were raised about continued Malian dependence upon the French state which, followed by Barkhane, has left “many in the region to talk of neo-colonialism[11].” Similarly, images from recent protests, show the disdain felt by certain portions of the Malian population towards continued French presence[12].Should the armed terrorist groups operating in the region harness this acrimony and exploit such narratives to motivate, recruit and encourage others to commit acts of terrorism, the mere presence of French troops may ultimately prove beneficial to those that they are there to combat. 

Although the overall contribution of Barkhane to the stability of the Sahel is as yet unclear, France’s military commitment remains steadfast. When viewed in the context of its historic engagement with the region, the implications of a permanent French presence are vast. As such, a nuanced understanding of the different narratives at play will be increasingly important in determining whether French intervention is ultimately regarded as a success or failure. 


Endnotes:

[1] Boeke, S., & Schuurman, B. (2015). ‘Operation ‘Serval’: A Strategic Analysis of the French Intervention in Mali, 2013–2014’. Journal of Strategic Studies, 38(6), 801-825.

[2] Charbonneau, B. (2019, March 28). The Military Intervention in Mali and Beyond: An Interview with Bruno Charbonneau. Oxford Research Group. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/blog/the-french-intervention-in-mali-an-interview-with-bruno-charbonneau

[3] Carayol, R. (2018, July 1). Mali disintegrates. Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved April 27, 2019, from https://mondediplo.com/2018/07/02mali

[4] Shurkin, M. (2014). France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army. RAND Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2019 from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR770.html

[5] Le Drian, J. (2013, January 12). Conférence De Presse Du Ministre De La Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian (France, Ministère des Armées). Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.defense.gouv.fr/actualites/operations/conference-de-presse-samedi-12-janvier-2013-mali-somalie

[6] Ministère des Armées. (2019, February). Dossier de Presse : Opération Barkhane [Press release]. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/barkhane/dossier-de-presentation/operation-barkhane

[7] Chalandon, M. & Gérard, M. (Producers). (2019, May 17). Table ronde d’actualité internationale Opération Barkhane : La France s’est-elle enlisée au Sahel ? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved May 29, 2019, from https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/cultures-monde/table-ronde-dactualite-internationale-operation-barkhane-la-france-sest-elle-enlisee-au-sahel

[8] S. D. Wing (2016) French intervention in Mali: strategic alliances, long-term regional presence?. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 27:1, 59-80

[9] See for example; Galy, M. (2014, December 4). Cinquante ans de fiasco de la « Françafrique ». Le Monde. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2013/12/04/cinquante-ans-de-fiasco-de-la-francafrique_3525416_3232.html, or Kane, P. S. (2014, September 6). Mali: The forgotten war. Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/mali-forgotten-war-20149691511333443.html

[10] Chalandon, M. & Gérard, M.

[11] Hicks, C. (2016). How the French Operation Serval was viewed on the ground: A journalistic perspective. International Journal of Francophone Studies, 19(2), 193-207

[12] Mali attacks: Protests held against jihadist violence. (2019, April 5). BBC News. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-47834214

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers France Hannah Richards Sahel

Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

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


Edwin Tran is a political analyst with the Encyclopedia Geopolitica and is an editor for the International Review.  Edwin focuses on Levantine politics and civil society, and can be found on Twitter at @En_EdwinT.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 8, 2019.

Summary:  The United States’ intervention in the Lebanese Civil War was a peacekeeping operation defined by long term strategic goals centered around increasing American hegemony in the region. The United States sought to leverage its position as a peacekeeper against Israeli and Syrian advances. However, significant overreach and unplanned events would play a substantial role in limiting the extent of American success in Lebanon. 

Text:  In 1975, tensions between Lebanon’s sectarian groups erupted into civil war[1]. The influx of Palestinian refugees throughout the 1940s-1960s threatened the political status quo of the country and civil war saw Palestinian militias engage Maronite militias[2]. As the Lebanese Civil War waged on, various peacekeeping operations were attempted. June 1976 saw the entrance of the Syrian military on behalf of Maronite President Suleiman Frangieh. This entrance was followed by a task force known as the Arab Deterrent Force founded in October of that year[3]. In response to the 1978 Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, the United Nations Security Council enacted resolutions 425 and 426, which created the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL)[4]. Despite these measures, further instability was promoted by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The U.S. Reagan administration was deeply divided by these actions, and after serious cabinet discussions, Secretary of State Alexander Haig resigned. Haig was replaced by George Shultz, and after further discussions with the Lebanese regime of Elias Sarkis, it was decided that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Italy would establish a peacekeeping mission[5]. Known as the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF), this iteration of international peacekeeping operations would, as described by U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes, “facilitate the restoration of Lebanese Government sovereignty and authority over the Beirut area and thereby further its efforts… to bring an end the violence which has tragically recurred[6].”

On August 21, 1982, the U.S. 2nd Battalion 8th Marines entered Beirut[7]. Additional forces would arrive in the following days. From the onset, the U.S. and its allies were chiefly involved in establishing peace in the direct vicinity of Beirut. Such ideations were made clear in covert meetings conducted between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib. Declassified Department of State documents reveal that in the months prior to the MNF intervention, negotiations with the Israelis emphasized “the serious situation in the city of Beirut, where [Habib was] informed of the lack of gas, electricity and other basic needs[8].” Contingent on such peace developments was the removal of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon. The removal was believed to be paramount for peace developments in the country[9]. August 30 became the climax of these operations, as the U.S. and its allies were successful in moving Yasser Arafat and a sizeable portion of the PLO out of Lebanon[10].

However, such actions in the first weeks of MNF operations represented a small aspect of more complicated designs. The Reagan administration, recognizing the strategic importance of the region, hoped to use these developments as leverage against the Israelis, Lebanese, and Syrians. Significant weight was placed on furthering the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, though this time with Lebanon and Jordan[11]. This culminated in the development of the Reagan Peace Plan, which was shown to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 1. This plan emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to peace throughout the region and to its specific operations in Lebanon[12]. More contentious were the Peace Plan’s desires for the Israelis to vacate the Palestinian territories, and for a potential merger between Palestinians and Jordan. Although Egypt accepted the deal, every other party was either hostile or highly suspicious.

Other strategic goals of the U.S. became threatened in the immediate aftermath of the PLO’s expulsion. It was believed by many that U.S. intervention would correlate with a weakened Syrian presence and a stronger central government. Such thought was justified by the results of the 1958 Lebanon War, where U.S. intervention resulted in the immediate stability of Lebanon and in the strengthening of Lebanese President Fuad Chehab’s political grip[13]. In the case of the 1982 intervention, the U.S. and its plans were abruptly derailed by the September 14th assassination of Bachir Gemayel, a senior member of the Christian Phalange party and the founder and supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia. Peacekeeping attempts by the MNF hinged on a strong Maronite presence in Beirut. With Bachir Gemayel assassinated, the Maronites would be prone to infighting, the Syrians would see a resurgence in military capabilities, and the MNF would have to exert additional efforts in maintaining stability as the Maronites attempted to find new leaders. 

Even before the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Beirut barracks, it was clear that the U.S. had failed in its strategic goals. According to U.S. intelligence officers, the unveiling of the Reagan Peace Plan created a situation that threatened Israeli sovereignty[14], and some postulated that the Israelis “could react to the President’s peace initiative by stirring up the pot[15].” Such ideas came to fruition as the Israelis strengthened their hold over West Beirut and engaged in additional attacks. The death of Gemayel, who had also been crucial for the Israelis, meant that Israel was now forced to act in Lebanon without internal actors they could coordinate with. For the U.S. the death of Gemayel meant its own actions would face similar problems and lacking a principle leader to rally behind meant U.S. peacekeeping operations would be examined with a sense of extra-judiciality[16].

In the aftermath of the 1983 bombings, President Reagan addressed to the U.S. public his reasoning for why Lebanon was so valuable. It was, according to the President, a region of substantial importance, an area that was “key to the economic and political life of the west[17].” While such ideals may have been the impetus for the U.S.’s involvement in Lebanon, the reality of the situation proved to be one of catastrophic failure, and the political blunders made by the Reagan administration meant that its efforts were wasted. These points are made somberly in a 1983 memo from National Intelligence Officer Graham E. Fuller to Acting Director William Casey of the Central Intelligence Agency. In it, Fuller writes that “the events of the past… present us with a singularly bleak outlook for U.S. interests in Lebanon… we must face the prospect that our current policies towards Lebanon are not going to work[17].”


Endnotes:

[1] Rabinovich, I. (1989). The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985. (pp.40-41) Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

[2] Khalaf, S. (2002). Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Human Contact. (pp. 167, 229) New York: Columbia University Press.

[3] Rabil, R. (2005). From Beirut to Algiers: The Arab League’s Role in the Lebanon Crisis. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/from-beirut-to-algiers-the-arab-leagues-role-in-the-lebanon-crisis

[4] United Nations Security Council (1978). Resolution 425. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://undocs.org/S/RES/425(1978)

[5] Goldschmidt, A. (1996). A Concise History of the Middle East. (pp. 348-350) Colorado: Westview Press.

[6] Speakes, L. (1982). Ronald Reagan Administration: Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Situation in Lebanon. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/deputy-press-secretary-speakes-on-the-situation-in-lebanon-september-1982

[7] Cimbala, S. and Foster, P. (2010). Multinational Military Intervention: NATO Policy, Strategy, and Burden Sharing. (pp. 37) Abingdon: Routledge.

[8] Lebanon: Second Meeting with Begin – June 1982 (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R000601490020-5.pdf

[9] National Intelligence Daily (Cable) 27 August 1982 (2016). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84T00301R000400010198-5.pdf

[10] P.L.O Troops begin Pullout in Beirut; French Enter City (1982). The Associated Press. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/08/22/world/plo-troops-begin-pullout-in-beirut-french-enter-city.html

[11] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60-61.

[12] The Reagan Plan (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://ecf.org.il/media_items/551

[13] Geyelin, P. (1982). Lebanon—1958 and Now. The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1982/08/03/lebanon-1958-and-now/66bde27f-c951-4a7c-bbd7-068ef601e5ad/

[14] Harkabi, Y. (1988). Israel’s Fateful Hour. (pp. 111) New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

[15] Talking Points on Lebanese Internal Situation for 3 September (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001800230010-2.pdf

[16] Talking Points on Lebanon: Post-Assassination Update (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001403460004-5.pdf

[17] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60.

[18] Downward Spiral in Lebanon (1983). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85M00364R001402440042-4.pdf

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Edwin Tran Lebanon United States

An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

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


Naiomi Gonzalez is currently a doctoral student in history at Texas Christian University. She can be found on twitter at @AmericanUnInte1.  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 Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2019.

Summary:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required the support of the private military industry. However, the United States government’s increased reliance and dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy. In fact, the lack of accountability that has allowed certain sectors of the private military industry to act with impunity have arguably complicated the U.S. military’s already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Text:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought the United States government’s increased reliance on private military firms to the forefront[1]. During the Vietnam War, it is estimated that there was 1 contractor for every 55 uniformed military personnel. In Iraq the ratio has hovered around 1 contractor for every 1 military personnel and in Afghanistan the number is 1.43 for every 1 military personnel[2]. During specific time periods, the number of contractors has even surpassed that of uniformed military personnel[3].

Private military firms undoubtedly provide much needed services and therefore, should not be discounted for their services. Private military firms, for instance, can draw on a large pool of expertise in a variety of fields while the military is limited by who they can recruit. This private military firm manpower flexibility is particularly important as technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. The Department of Defense (DoD), like most other government agencies, already heavily relies on the private sector to meet many of its technological needs. For example, the DoD has close relationships with many commercial agencies and contractors in order to develop and maintain the latest computer systems. If the DoD were to focus on developing their own computer systems, it would take about seven years for it to become operational. By that time the system would be obsolete and the efforts a waste[4]. For the DoD, which is often inundated by numerous other concerns and responsibilities, it makes sense to team up with private enterprises whose expertise lie in remaining on the cutting edge of new technological advances. Likewise, when it comes to maintaining the military’s vast and increasingly sophisticated technological arsenal, it benefits the DoD to hire contractors who already have years of experience on using and maintaining these specialized weapon rather than rely on military technicians who are most likely not trained in the nuances of a specific piece of equipment[5].

Another benefit of using contractors is that they provide a degree of political flexibility that enables political and military leaders to engage in policies the larger American citizenry might find objectionable. For instance, since the Vietnam War, Americans have shown a disdain for large scale conflicts that result in a large number of U.S. military causalities[6]. This low tolerance for long, drawn out wars became more pronounced as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, year after year. However, this aversion to American casualties does not always extend to those working as contractors, especially if those contractors are locals or third-world nationals. Because their roles in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is not always obvious, contractor deaths and injuries usually attract little attention. Exceptions to this disinterest usually center on particularly vicious deaths or injuries[7]. While not a panacea for increasingly unpopular wars, the use of contractors, especially in place of uniformed military personnel, ensures that extended conflicts remain palpable to the American public for a longer period of time.

However, the use of private military firms also comes with some severe drawbacks. On the economic front, their cost-effectiveness is in doubt. By 2012 the U.S. had spent about $232.2 billion on contractors and about $60 billion had been lost as a result of waste, fraud and abuse on the part of the contractors[8].

Much more concerning is the lack of accountability and impunity that has plagued the industry. In April 2004, CBS News published photographs showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American personnel. While media focus centered on uniformed American personnel who were abusing prisoners and on their courts martial, contractors also played a role in the scandal. Two private military firms, Titan[9] and CACI provided all of the translators and about half of the interrogators involved in the abuse case[10]. Yet no contractor was held legally responsible for their role in the abuse.

Private military provider/security firms have their own unique sets of issues and problems. While they make up the smallest number of contractors[11], the controversy they provoke belies their relatively small numbers. Blackwater Security[12] was the most notorious of these private military provider firms.

The 2007 Nisour Square case involving Blackwater helped spur the wider American population to question the utility of private provider/security firms. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater contractors shot, killed, and injured dozens of Iraqi civilians, in what they claimed was an act of self-defense[13].” The killings provoked widespread outrage. The Iraq government claimed, “The murder of citizens in cold blood…by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians[14]…” At that time, questions arose regarding whether private provider firms aid or hinder the United States’ mission in Iraq. Then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that the provider firms’ singular focus on completing their mission, can at times mean that they are working “at cross-purposes to our larger mission in Iraq[15].”

This obsession with ensuring that they complete their assigned task, no matter their costs, can be attributed to the for-profit nature of the companies and the personnel they hire, many of whom have a mission-focused mindset from their former military experiences. Before the Nisour Square incident, Blackwater took pride in its ability to get the job done, no matter what. Such a mindset ensured its success and profitability. However, the Nisour Square episode forced contractors, the government and the public at large to doubt the utility of such a mindset, especially when it results in the deaths of civilians, which only inflames anti-American sentiment. It is difficult to win “hearts and minds” by killing civilians. Moreover, the process of holding the contractors legally responsible for civilian deaths has met with many obstacles. The legal cases against four contractors involved in the Nisour Square incident has dragged on for years[16] while mainstream media attention has faded.

Private military firms have played vital roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their roles will only continue to expand. However, the U.S. government’s increased dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy or problems. These problems and controversies have hindered rather than aided the U.S. in completing their already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Endnotes:

[1] Peter W. Singer divides private military firms into three groups: military provider firms (aka private security firms), military consulting firms, and military support firms. While in some cases it is clear which firms fall into what category, in other cases the lines are more blurred as some companies take on a variety of roles. For an in-depth explanation of the different groups see Singer, P. W. (2008). Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press

[2] Taylor, W. A. (2016). Military Service and American Democracy: From World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. (pg. 172) Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

[3] For instance, during the third quarter of fiscal year 2008, there were 162,428 total contractors in Iraq, compared to 153,300 uniformed military personnel. In Afghanistan the contrast in numbers is much more pronounced. During the fourth quarter of the 2009 fiscal year there were 104,101 total contractors compared to 62,300 uniformed personnel. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[4] Ettinger, A. (2016). The Patterns, Implications, and Risks of American Military Contracting. In S. V. Hlatky & H. C. Breede (Eds.), Going to War?: Trends in Military Interventions (pp. 115-132). Montreal, CA: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Stanger, A., & Williams, M. E. (Fall/Winter 2006). Private Military Corporations: Benefits and Costs of Outsourcing Security. Yale Journal of International Affairs, 4-19.

[7] For instance, on March 31, 2004 four Blackwater contractors were killed, dismembered and their body parts paraded through the streets of Fallujah. Blackwater faced criticism for its decision to send only four contractors instead of six into an incredibly hostile part of Iraq in jeeps that were armored only with one steel plate. See In Re: BlackWater Security Consulting LCC, http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/051949.P.pdf 1-28 (United Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 2006).

[8] Taylor, 117. This number is most likely an undercount.

[9] In 2005 Titan was acquired by L3 Communications. See Staff, SSI. “L-3 Communications Agrees to Merger With Titan Corp.” Security Sales & Integration, Security Sales & Integration, 7 June 2005, www.securitysales.com/news/l-3-communications-agrees-to-merger-with-titan-corp/.

[10] Singer, P. (2005, April). Outsourcing War. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2005-03-01/outsourcing-war.

[11] The number of private military provider/security firms peaked in Iraq at 15,000 individuals and in 2012 at 28,000. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[12] Blackwater was eventually sold and it underwent numerous name changes. It is currently called Academi. See Ukman, J. (2011, December 12). Ex-Blackwater Firm gets a Name Change, Again. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/ex-blackwater-firm-gets-a-name-change-again/2011/12/12/gIQAXf4YpO_blog.html

[13] A subsequent FBI investigation found the shooting to be unjustified. See Johnston, D., & Broder, J. M. (2007, November 14). F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/world/middleeast/14blackwater.html

[14] Tolchin, M., & Tolchin, S. J. (2016). Pinstripe patronage: Political favoritism from the clubhouse to the White House and beyond. Pg. 183 London, UK: Routledge.

[15] Spiegel, P. (2007, October 19). Gates: U.S., Guards are at Odds in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-oct-19-na-blackwater19-story.html

[16] See Collins, M. (2018, December 19). Former Blackwater Guard Convicted of Instigating Mass Shooting in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/19/iraq-war-jury-convicts-ex-blackwater-guard-second-time-massacre/1941149002/