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

Michael G. Gallagher is an American expatriate and independent researcher living in Seoul, South Korea, with his Korean wife. He has MA and Ph.D. degrees in International Relations from the University of Miami in Coral, Gables, Florida.  Prior to residing in South Korea, he has lived in Mainland China and Hong Kong.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  July 11, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Assessing China as a Superpower

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


Title: Assessing China as a Superpower

Date Originally Written:  June 14, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 20, 2022.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

 

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

Assessing Superpowers in 2050 – The Great Game Redefined

Rocco P Santurri III is a Wargame Analyst, independent Financial Consultant, and an American Football Coach. Currently he is also a graduate student in Strategic Communications at the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Additionally, he serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command with the 457th Civil Affairs Battalion in Germany.  He has conducted Civil Affairs operations since 2011 throughout Asia and Europe.  He can be found on LinkedIn.com at www.linkedin.com/in/RoccoPSanturri3. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


Title:  Assessing Superpowers in 2050 – The Great Game Redefined

Date Originally Written:   May 6, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  May 30, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Benefits of India’s Frustrating Pragmatic Energy

Chandler Myers is an officer in the U.S. Air Force. He holds a BS in English from the Air Force Academy and a MA in international relations with a focus in cyber diplomacy from Norwich University. Chandler contributes to WAR ROOM, the U.S. Armys online national security journal. Divergent Optionscontent does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Benefits of India’s Frustrating Pragmatic Energy 

Date Originally Written:  May 3, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  May 9, 2022. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Assessment of Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  An Assessment of Thinking Big About Future Warfare 

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 2, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States NavyUnited States Marine Corps, and United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington MonthlyMerion West, Wisdom of Crowds, Charged AffairsBraver Angels, and more. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.com/.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 25, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[18] Mills, March 20, 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[26] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Tension Between Privacy and Innovation

Channing Lee studies International Politics at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She can be found on Twitter @channingclee. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Tension Between Privacy and Innovation

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 11, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the ideas here are the author’s alone, he benefitted from feedback provided by Colonel George Shatzer (Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College) on an earlier draft. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


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

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 28, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam Gitlitz is Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy currently assigned in Washington D.C.  He previously was assigned in the Pentagon, where he supported OPNAV N2N6. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  February 20, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  March 21, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Cameroon Civil War United States

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

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. The author thanks David E. Johnson for helpful comments on an earlier draft. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


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

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 14, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

John Guerrero is currently serving in the Indo-Pacific region. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

Date Originally Written:  February 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 28, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Losacco is a former active-duty U.S. Army officer who served in Afghanistan in 2017. He currently studies at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service where he focuses on U.S. National Security Policy and China relations. He can be found on Twitter @mplosacco. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  January 20, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 21, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing Strategy and Organized Crime

Juan Manuel Perez has served in the Guatemalan Army. He presently is retired. Throughout his military career, he took various military training courses as part of his professionalization including Strategic High Studies, War College, Command and Staff College, Human Rights, and Peacekeeping Operations. He can be found on Twitter @r_juanmanuel. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Strategy and Organized Crime

Date Originally Written:  September 15, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  February 7, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Drug Trade Juan Manuel Perez

An Assessment of Nigeria’s Security Situation in 2021

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


Title:  An Assessment of Nigeria’s Security Situation in 2021

Date Originally Written:  January 8, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 24, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Damimola Olawuyi Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Nigeria

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

Zac Rogers is an academic from Adelaide, South Australia. Zac has published in journals including International Affairs, The Cyber Defense Review, Joint Force Quarterly, and Australian Quarterly, and communicates with a wider audience across various multimedia platforms regularly. Parasitoid is his first book.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  January 3, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 17, 2022.

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

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

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

What the cognitive threat is

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

What the cognitive threat is not   

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

Why the distinction matters

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Michael Martinez is a consultant who specializes in data analysis, project management and community engagement. has a M.S. of Intelligence Management from University of Maryland University College. He can be found on Twitter @MichaelMartinez. Divergent Optionscontent does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Date Originally Written:  November 30, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 27, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Michael Martinez Social Media United States

McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

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


Title:  McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

Date Originally Written:  November 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 20, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Buck is a currently serving officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He has deployed twice to Afghanistan, once to Ukraine, and is now working towards an MA in National Security.  Alex can be found on Twitter @RCRbuck.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


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

Date Originally Written:  August 29, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 13, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing Contemporary Deterrence Parallel to Netflix’s Squid Game

Dr. Brooke Mitchell is a George Washington University Nuclear Security Working Group Fellow. She works on Capitol Hill for a member of the United States Congress and leads appropriation portfolios for defense, energy and water, and military construction and veteran’s affairs. Dr. Mitchell also serves as manager for the Congressional Nuclear Working Group. In addition, she is the Chief Academic Officer for the Small Business Consulting Corporation and principal investigator for Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) National Nuclear Strategy and Global Security Workshop for Practitioners. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessing Contemporary Deterrence Parallel to Netflix’s Squid Game

Date Originally Written:  November 17, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has placed an increased emphasis on the present era of strategic competition with Russia and China. The author uses the Netflix show Squid Game as a metaphor to draw attention to the value of understanding the players’ motivations as central to define the rules of the game in order to create clear focus around contemporary deterrence. 

Summary:  DoD’s view of deterrence is reminiscent of Netflix’s hit show, Squid Game[1]. Deterrence traditionally focuses on nation states implementing military actions which may deter adversary action[2]. Deterrence fails when the adversary proceeds anyway. Both deterrence and Squid Game involve players executing their free will to compete against the other players.  Deterrence becomes complicated today as players and game rules remain undiscovered.

Text:  It has historically been assumed that the strongest parties (i.e. individuals, groups, countries) have an advantage and can thus deter the weaker. Deterrence can be measured in terms of nuclear deterrence (including both weapons and weapons systems), along with conventional sources of warpower, and include additional forms of diplomatic, economic, or social variables that enhance one party’s ability to deny undesirable outcomes. 

The question remains though: how, in an era of strategic competition, do traditional deterrence theories or concepts hold true when many leaders, military strategists, and subject matter experts view the United States as facing near-peer competition with both Russia and China? If deterrence is still simply the ability to strategically maneuver strength, or capabilities, to the other parties than by this token the United States won this competition long ago. Yet, despite the present conundrum Russia and now China continues to grow their nuclear arsenals; are far outpacing the United States on the research, development, and fielding of hypersonic technologies; and exceed the United States in the militarization of space and other non-terrestrial warfighting domains[3]. 

In Squid Game players execute their free will to compete against the other players[4]. The idea is that these individuals have nothing to lose but their life and are gambling to both preserve their life and receive tangible gain. This idea pushes the competition to the brink. The game only ends if the majority agrees to stop playing. The psychological tug-of-war between the barbaric nature of the rules and then sentimental connection to the “fairness” of such a competitive (and lawless society made out to be equitable for all) by Squid Game leaders such as the Front Man, further exacerbates the rapidly shifting conclusions of the viewers. By the characters later chasing the money trail to the evil people funding the game, then pursuing the very master mind both controlling and holding the purse strings the viewer is left questioning, “How could I not see that coming?” or “Why did I miss that?” Only when there is crystal clear clarity around the rules and players of Squid Game can action in pursuit of strategically deterring the extreme nature of the game be confronted. 

The characters in Squid Game needing crystal clear clarity around the rules and players is very similar to the 21st century conditions surrounding deterrence. The United States and her allies are attempting to deter Russia and China in their respective activities that are nefarious to the well-being of the world. However, in this pursuit the convoluted, interwoven, sentiment to separate the motivations of how Russia and China are now playing the game from their priorities in how they are choosing to do so is vague and unclear. The money trail can certainly be traced and the United States’ ongoing efforts to modernize military capabilities and enhance its diplomacs capability with adversarial counterparts remains an option. Whether military and diplomatic modernization remain a viable, sustainable option against Russia and China in a contemporary context is a different question altogether. It is certainly feasible to continue building deterrence around existing frameworks but then again, if those frameworks were fool proof, then how on the United States watch did Russia and China gain both power and speed in their respective nuclear arsenals and in the contested domains of cyberspace and space? 

United States efforts to conduct thoughtful analysis and study the “game” within this era of strategic competition, will fail if it does not unpack the relationships and motivations of the players in order to effectively deter unwarranted outcomes on the homeland and abroad. While the conditions of strategic competition may appear intuitive, it is only by understanding the players, and their respective worldviews, that the rules can be effectively established and the turnabout path to maintaining a democratic, truly free, and just society preserved, as demonstrated in the Squid Game. 


Endnotes:

[1] Garamone, J. (2021, September 17) “DOD Policy Chief Kahl Discusses Strategic Competition with Baltic Allies,” https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Articles/Article/2780661/dod-policy-chief-kahl-discusses-strategic-competiton-with-baltic-allies. 

[2] Mazaar, M.J. (N.D.), “Understanding Deterrence,” RAND, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE295/RAND_PE295.pdf. 

[3] Congressional Research Service (19 October 2021), “Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress,” https://www.crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45811. 

[4] N Series, “Squid Game,” Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/title/81040344. 

Assessment Papers Competition Deterrence Dr. Brooke Mitchell

Assessing the Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

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


Title:  Assessing the Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

Date Originally Written:  October 27, 2021

Date Originally Published:  November 8, 2021

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. did receive significant warnings on the morning of December 7th, 1941 before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If those warnings had been acted upon in a timely fashion, the author believes that it is likely that the U.S. could have mitigated some of the damage inflicted by the Japanese. However, this author contends that the limited warning time would not have been sufficient to completely defeat the Japanese raid, and thus, Pearl Harbor would still be the event that drew the U.S. into World War II. 

Summary:  A key “what if?” about the attack on Pearl Harbor centers on the lack of U.S. action on the two main warnings received that morning i.e. the USS Ward’s sinking of a Japanese submarine and the Opana Radar Station detection of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Those warnings could have saved lives, but the limited warning time makes it unlikely the U.S. could have defeated the Japanese attack.

Text:  While most associate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the ultimate in surprise attacks, U.S. Forces did receive warnings of pending action, especially that morning. Chief among the warnings was the USS Ward sinking a Japanese mini-submarine at 0640L, nearly a full hour before the arrival of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Additionally, at 0701L, an Army radar installation at Opana on the western part of the island of Oahu detected a large mass of possible inbound flying objects, later determined to be the first wave of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. What if the command at Pearl Harbor, instead of ignoring the warnings, decided instead that the Ward and the radar station were the indications of an imminent attack? 

The Ward’s  radioing in that it sank a Japanese sub at the entrance of the harbor was not the first report/sighting of a Japanese submarine that day. At 0357L, the minesweeper USS Condor, reported a periscope near Pearl Harbor during patrol[1]. That information was passed to the Ward for action. Also, U.S. forces throughout the Pacific had been on a war alert status for over two weeks. For most, that meant a likely Japanese strike against locations far to the west of Hawaii[2]. The accounts of the Ward fell into the trap of more warnings/sightings that leadership did not feel warranted additional responses. 

The reporting of the Ward might have increased warning for possible sub-related intrusions, which U.S. Navy Admiral (ADM) Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, felt was a significant threat[3]. However, the sub sighting along might not warrant an increase in harbor air defense actions. The Opana Radar Station, powered on longer than its scheduled 0400-0700 shift, detected multiple inbound contacts to conduct additional training while they waited for transport to leave the station[4]. In the subsequent actions, the inexperienced radar operators, while able to determine several aircraft could be in route, could not positively identify the inbound tracks[5].  Another factor involves the Officer-in-Charge at the information center at Fort Shafter. Upon receiving the call from Opana, he did not seem unduly concerned, as he knew a flight of U.S.-based B-17 were due in that morning[6]. Thus, the first wave of Japanese carrier-based planes made their way towards the island unopposed. 

Where the impact of the Wards and any possible change in the assessment of the radar station reporting could have had on the events of that morning would start at approximately 0730L, when ADM Kimmel received the Wards report[7]. If ADM Kimmel had called for an increase in the alert status at that point, the fleet would have had nearly 15-20 minutes to prepare for any inbound aggressive actions. While that might not seem like a lot of time, especially on a Sunday morning, the Sailors on ship would have been able to ready their ship-mounted anti-aircraft guns. Of note is that the ships in harbor were preparing for a Monday morning inspection, meaning most of the hatches and doors were open, thus, some warning would see the crews batten down the hatches to secure the ships[8]. 

While the 15-20 minute warning does enable the readying of anti-aircraft guns and for hatches to be secured, it does not leave time for significant aircraft launching. While possible for some alert aircraft to take off, there would be little time for the ground crews to man or move most planes to more secure locations. The Japanese were also able to take advantage in the different threat perception between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army as U.S. Army Lieutenant General (LTG) Walter C. Short, Commander of the Hawaiian Department, deemed sabotage the greatest threat to the ground-based aircraft.  As such, the majority of the island’s fighters were parked wingtip to wingtip out in the open[9]. Additionally, most of the aircraft were on four-hour alert status, so minutes’ warning would make little impact[10].

A major factor in the confusion and lack of action on the reports from the Ward and the Opana radar station stemmed from the lack of poor communications between the Navy and Army commands. LTG Short did not receive notice of the Wards actions and ADM Kimmel did not receive word about the sighting from the radar station. While this disconnect speaks to larger communication issues, the shorter-term issue would be that if Kimmel and Short did speak on the issue of the submarine[11]. If Kimmel contacted Short following the submarine activity, and both men agreed to increase the alert, even with limited time before the Japanese planes entered Oahu airspace, more lives and materiel might have been saved. Given how quickly most Sailors and Soldiers scrambled to gun positions after the shock of the first wave and the response the second wave of Japanese aircraft, any pre-warning/alert before the first wave might have reduced American casualties/increased Japanese losses. 

While an earlier alert call from ADM Kimmel and LTG Short, from the time of the Wards actions and the reporting of many inbound aircraft would have further increased America’s defensive posture, it is still likely that the U.S. suffers losses at Pearl Harbor.  In this scenario the Japanese lose more aircraft and don’t inflict as much damage to the U.S. ships in harbor, while the damage to the aircraft parked on the ground remains. In this scenario Pearl Harbor remains a Japanese tactical victory, and the U.S. still enters World War II. However, people will recall the actions of the Ward and the Opana radar detection, and how much worse things might have been had the U.S. not acted on their reporting. 


Endnotes: 

[1] Slackman, M. (1990) Target: Pearl Harbor. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, p.74.

[2] Bar-Joseph, U. and McDermont, R.(2016) “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence of two men on the outcomes.” Intelligence and National Security, Vol 31 (No.7), p.952. Most analysts at the time thought that the Japanese would attack either the Philippines, the Malay peninsula or other American island holdings in the Pacific.

[3] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor. P. 55. Of note, ADM Kimmel, prior to his assignment as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, held the rank of RADM (Two Star). The position was a 4-star billet, thus, he was addressed as ADM vs. RADM. After his dimissing from his position in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he reverted to his original 2-star rank (RADM). 

[4] Twoney, S. (2016). Countdown to Pearl Harbor. The Twelve Days to the Attack. Simon and Shuster, New York. P. XII.

[5] Ibid, P. 275. The radar operators, even as inexperienced as they were, would have been able to determine the presence of 50 airborne signatures, which, if reported to Fort Shafter, would have given the OIC pause, as the US was not sending near that many bombers to Hawaii that morning.

[6] Ibid

[7] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P. 76.

[8] Bar-Joseph and McDermont. “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence for two men on the outcomes.” P. 954.

[9] Ibid

[10] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P.135.

[11] Prange, G. (1982) At Dawn We Slept. Penguin Books, New York, P. 497.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Japan Scott Martin United States World War 2

Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Stuart E. Gallagher is a Special Operations Officer in the United States Army and a graduate of the National Defense University. He has previously served as a Commander, a Military Advisor to the United States Department of State, and Senior Observer Coach Trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He currently serves as the Chief, G3/5 Plans and Analysis for the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization or group.


Title:  Assessing Airborne Status in U.S. Army Special Operations Forces

Date Originally Written:  August 26, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 18, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author has spent the majority of his career in U.S. Army special operations and on airborne status. The author contends that although there are a significant and legitimate number of reasons airborne status should be removed from special operations units, maintaining this status is essential to the posterity of elite Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF).

Summary:  Airborne operations date back to World War 2. During this time, airborne operations delivered large numbers of paratroopers and special operations personnel (Office of Strategic Services) into denied territories[1]. Today, despite improved technology and the rise of great power competition, there is still a place for this capability in the ARSOF as it still fosters “eliteness,” and camaraderie, and is an effective assessment and selection tool.

Text:  Since its humble beginnings, airborne operations have played a critical role in U.S. military operations throughout the world. From World War 2 to Vietnam to Grenada to Iraq, paratroopers answered the nation’s call. However, as the face of battle has changed over the last century, so too has the need for delivering large numbers of paratroopers behind enemy lines. As this metamorphosis has taken place, many senior military and civilian decision makers have begun to question the practice of maintaining large standing formations of airborne qualified troops. This practice is called further into question when applied to ARSOF, as their employment is even less probable.  

There are many compelling arguments against keeping special operations soldiers on airborne status such as: money, training time, injuries and lack of practical application. The first, and arguably most discussed is cost – a paratrooper on status is currently paid 150.00 dollars per month for hazardous duty pay. This equates to 1,800.00 dollars per year per soldier. Multiplying that number over a battalion sized element of 800 soldiers equates to 1.44 million dollars per year. If applied to an airborne brigade of 4,500 paratroopers this number swells to 8.1 million dollars. This is just airborne pay to the soldiers – this number does not account for the maintenance and employment of the airframes and equipment utilized to conduct airborne operations. 

Another argument often made pertains to training time required to maintain currency. On average it takes, conservatively, anywhere between four and twelve hours to conduct an airborne operation depending on the number of personnel, type of aircraft and weather conditions. In order to maintain currency, by regulation, a paratrooper must jump four times per calendar year. This is time that could arguably be used for other training that promotes soldier and unit readiness. 

Finally, jumping out of airplanes is a hazardous endeavor, which often leads to a litany of injuries – back, knees, hip, ankle, and head, just to name a few. Injuries of this nature directly impact readiness either temporarily (soldier gets injured, recovers and returns to duty) or permanently (soldier gets injured, cannot make a full recovery and is in turn discharged from the Army altogether).  

So why should ARSOF maintain airborne status? 

Although all of the above are legitimate and justifiable arguments as to why airborne forces should become a thing of the past, there are a multitude of reasons to maintain airborne status in both conventional and ARSOF units such as: elitism, camaraderie, and assessment and selection. One of the most important is elitism. Although in many circumstances elitism is construed in a negative light, when applied to elite military units, this is not the case. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, elitism is defined as “the belief that some things are only for a few people who have special qualities or abilities [2].”  By definition, being a paratrooper is being one of the elite in the Army. Elitism promotes esprit de corps, and esprit de corps promotes the good order, confidence and discipline required in military units to fight and win in battle. 

Another intangible that is invaluable in military formations is camaraderie. As counterintuitive as it may sound, engaging in activities that are life threatening forges a bond between soldiers that simply cannot be replicated anywhere else – jumping out of airplanes is one such activity. Soldiers put their lives in one another’s hands on a daily basis. As such, it is imperative that they trust one another implicitly – that they have a tight bond. Airborne units forge and promote that bond as it pays tremendous dividends in stressful situations such as combat. 

Finally, in order to become a paratrooper, a soldier must volunteer for airborne school. For ARSOF, airborne school serves as a form of early assessment and selection. It is not uncommon for ARSOF soldiers to face danger and be uncomfortable. In fact, this facing of danger is more often than not a common occurrence. As all ARSOF units are airborne units, if a solider is unable or unwilling to jump out of airplanes, they are probably not the right fit for special operations.   

Throughout United States history, airborne forces have played a key role in the nation’s defense. However, for various reasons, over the past two decades, airborne units were scaled back, hence decreasing the number of paratroopers on airborne status. Although understandable in an age of shrinking military budgets and increasing technologies, there is still a place for the airborne as it is an elite force providing both the tangibles and the intangibles necessary to fight and win the nation’s wars. Airborne! 


Endnotes:

[1] The Office of Strategic Services or OSS was a wartime intelligence agency of the United States during WWII. It was the predecessor of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Army Special Forces (Green Berets). The organization was disbanded at the conclusion of WWII.  

[2] Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved August 26, 2021 from: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/eltism

  

Assessment Papers Force Delivery Methods Special Operations Stuart E. Gallagher U.S. Army

Assessing Australia’s Cyber-Attack Attribution Issues


Jackson Calder is the Founder and CEO of JC Ltd., a futures modeling firm specialising in geopolitical risk advisory based in New Zealand, and holds a Masters of Strategic Studies from Victoria University of Wellington.  Divergent Optionscontent does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Australia’s Cyber-Attack Attribution Issues

Date Originally Written:  August 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 27, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without more proactive and novel thinking by decision makers, strategic competition in the grey-zone is likely to continue to outpace meaningful policy responses.

Summary:  Recent years have proven that China can prevail over Australia in the threshold below war, particularly through cyber-attacks that go without attribution. Without building trust between agencies, implementing the right training and education, and properly conceptualizing cyber warfare to bolster political will, Canberra will not strengthen attribution capabilities and achieve greater strategic agility in the cyber domain.

Text:  Making an official attribution of a cyber-attack is one of the key techno-political challenges faced by governments today. Using China-Australia tensions as a case study, one can analyse how capability gaps, technical expertise, and political will all play a role in shaping attribution and assess how one state prevails over another in the grey-zone of conflict below the threshold of war. Thus far Australia has favoured freeriding upon its more powerful allies’ attribution capability vis-à-vis China, rather than make attributions of its own[1]. Unless Canberra greatly expands its cyber security and attribution capabilities it will not accrue more agency, independence and, ultimately, strategic agility in this domain.

Over the past three years Australia has been the victim of numerous large-scale cyber campaigns carried out by China, targeting critical infrastructure, political parties, and service providers. While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did state that a “sophisticated state-based actor” perpetrated these attacks, his government has thus far never made a public attribution to China[2]. Senior Australian officials have confirmed to media that they believe China is behind the attacks, raising questions around the lack of attribution[3].

Australia’s situation is representative of a wider strategic environment rife with frequent and sophisticated information operations, with China being a leading perpetrator of offensive cyber -attacks. Chinese hybrid warfare is undoubtedly inspired by Soviet political warfare dating back to the early 1920’s, but is perhaps grounded more in the concept of ‘unrestricted warfare’ posited by Liang and Xiangsui in 1999[4]. This concept manifested in the ‘Three Warfares’ doctrine of the early 2000’s, with offensive cyber operations being used as a key strategic tool since the PLA formed their Informatization Department in 2011[5]. Though described as ‘kinder weapons’, their ability to ‘strike at the enemy’s nerve center directly’ has indeed produced kinetic effects in recent years when used to sabotage critical infrastructure[6]. Whilst it is widely accepted that China is responsible for large-scale cyber operations, proving this can be a monumental task by virtue of cyber forensics being technically intensive and time-consuming.

In 2014, Thomas Rid and Ben Buchanan captured the nuance of cyber attribution excellently when they stated that ‘attribution is an art: no purely technical routine, simple or complex, can formalise, calculate, quantify, or fully automate attribution[7].’ While the art statement is true, technical routines exists to build attribution capability upon, and this is the crux of China’s prevailing over Australia in recent years. Canberra’s ‘freeriding’ on capabilities outside of the government and lack of streamlined inter-agency processes and accountability has severely limited their effectiveness in the cyber domain[8]. Attempts to remedy this have been made over the past two decades, with a number of agencies agreeing to communicate more and share responsibility for bringing an attribution forward, but they have been hamstrung by endemic underinvestment. Consequently, Australia’s response to a greatly increased threat profile in the cyber domain ‘has been slow and fragmented, thus ‘Australia’s play-book is not blank but it looks very different from those of pace-setter countries[9].’ 

Improving the speed and integrity of an attribution begins with ensuring that cyber security practitioners are not over-specialised in training and education. Though it may seem counterintuitive, evidence suggests that the most effective practitioners utilise general-purpose software tools more than others[10]. This means that organisational investment into specialised cyber security tools will not translate directly into improved capability without also establishing a training and work environment that pursues pragmatism over convoluted hyper-specialisation.

Attribution is less likely when there are low levels of trust between the government and civilian organisations involved in cyber security as this does not foster an operational environment conducive to the maturing of inter-agency responses. Trust is particularly important in Australia’s case in the relationship between more centralised intelligence agencies like the national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) based out of the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the civilian-run AusCERT. In 2017, Frank Smith and Graham Ingram addressed trust poignantly in stating that ‘the CERT community appears to have lacked the authority and funding needed to institutionalise trust – and thus depersonalise or professionalise it – enough to grow at scale[11].’ Trust between organisations, as well as between practitioners and the technology available to them, underpin the development of a robust and timely cyber security capability[12]. Without robust information sharing and clear lanes of responsibility failure will occur.

Attribution requires political will but competition in the cyber domain remains somewhat nebulous in its strategic conceptualisation, which constrains meaningful responses. If cyber war remains undefined, how do we know if we are in one or not[13]? Conceptualisation of the grey-zone as on the periphery of power competition, instead of at the centre of power competition itself, similarly confuses response thresholds and dampens political will. In 2016, James K. Wither stated that although information operations are non-kinetic, ‘the aim of their use remains Clausewitzian, that is to compel an opponent to bend to China’s will[14].’ Wither develops this point, arguing that within a rivalry dynamic where an ideological battle is also present, revisionist states wage hybrid warfare against the West ‘where, to reverse Clausewitz, peace is essentially a continuation of war by other means[15].’ Adopting this mindset is key to building political will, thus improving attribution external to technical capability. 

Finally, it is best to acknowledge Australia’s geopolitical environment may make attribution a less preferable course of action, even if a robust case is made. Foreign Minister Payne has stated that Australia ‘publicly attributes cyber incidents’ only ‘when it is in our interest to do so[16].’ Until attribution is tied to concrete consequences for the perpetrator, Canberra’s strategic calculus is likely to weigh potential Chinese economic and diplomatic retaliation as heavier than any potential benefits of making an official attribution. Nevertheless, it creates more options if Canberra possesses rapid and robust attribution capabilities, combined with political will to use them, to compete more effectively under the threshold of war.       


Endnotes:

[1] Chiacu, D., & Holland, S. (2021, July 19). U.S. and allies accuse China of global hacking spree. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-allies-accuse-china-global-cyber-hacking-campaign-2021-07-19/

[2] Packham, C. (2020, June 18). Australia sees China as main suspect in state-based cyberattacks, sources say. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-cyber-idUSKBN23P3T5

[3] Greene, A. (2021, March 17). China suspected of cyber attack on WA Parliament during state election. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-17/wa-parliament-targeted-cyber-attack/13253926

[4] Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (1999). Unrestricted warfare. Beijing, CN: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House Arts. https://www.c4i.org/unrestricted.pdf

[5] Raska, M. (2015). Hybrid Warfare with Chinese Characteristics. (RSIS Commentaries, No. 262). RSIS Commentaries. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. https://hdl.handle.net/10356/82086 p.1.

[6] Liang, Q., & Xiangsui, W. (1999). Unrestricted warfare. Beijing, CN: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House Arts. https://www.c4i.org/unrestricted.pdf p.27.

[7] Rid, T., & Buchanan, B. (2014). Attributing Cyber Attacks. Journal of Strategic Studies, 38(1-2), 4-37. doi:10.1080/01402390.2014.977382 p.27.

[8] Smith, F., & Ingram, G. (2017). Organising cyber security in Australia and beyond. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(6), 642-660. doi:10.1080/10357718.2017.1320972 p.10.

[9] Joiner, K. F. (2017). How Australia can catch up to U.S. cyber resilience by understanding that cyber survivability test and evaluation drives defense investment. Information Security Journal: A Global Perspective, 26(2), 74-84. doi:10.1080/19393555.2017.1293198 p.1.

[10] Mcclain, J., Silva, A., Emmanuel, G., Anderson, B., Nauer, K., Abbott, R., & Forsythe, C. (2015). Human Performance Factors in Cyber Security Forensic Analysis. Procedia Manufacturing, 3, 5301-5307. doi:10.1016/j.promfg.2015.07.621 p.5306.

[11] Smith, F., & Ingram, G. (2017). Organising cyber security in Australia and beyond. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 71(6), 642-660. doi:10.1080/10357718.2017.1320972 p.14.

[12] Robinson, M., Jones, K., & Janicke, H. (2015). Cyber warfare: Issues and challenges. Computers & Security. 49. 70-94. 10.1016/j.cose.2014.11.007. p.48.

[13] Ibid, p.12.

[14] Wither, J. K. (2016). Making Sense of Hybrid Warfare. Connections: The Quarterly Journal, 15(2), 73-87. doi:10.11610/connections.15.2.06 p.78.

[15] Ibid, p.79.

[16] Payne, M. (2018, December 21). Attribution of Chinese cyber-enabled commercial intellectual property theft. Retrieved from https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/attribution-chinese-cyber-enabled-commercial-intellectual-property-theft

Assessment Papers Australia Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace Jackson Calder

Assessing the Alignment of U.S. Diplomatic and Military Power to Forestall Armed Conflict

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, and the United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in Charged Affairs, Merion West, the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington Monthly, Braver Angels, France 24, the Truman National Security Project, and Arc Digital. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.com/.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title: Assessing the Alignment of U.S. Diplomatic and Military Power to Forestall Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes an expansion of the Department of State’s Foreign Service, and closer alignment of the efforts of the Departments of State and Defense, can help the United States forestall international conflicts before they turn violent, and give the U.S. military time to modernize and prepare for future conflicts.

Summary:  Regardless of whether the U.S. maintains its military edge, unless it invests in other forms of national power, armed conflict is very likely.  Without closer alignment between the Department of State and Department of Defense, on a long enough timeline, unnecessary wars will occur.

Text:  The United States has the world’s most powerful military. The U.S. military’s budget ($778 billion in 2020, compared to $252 billion for second-largest-spender China)[1], its global reach, and the skills of its personnel[2], are unmatched. Twenty-first century conflict, however, will not always require conventional military strength to win.  While there are steps the U.S. military can take to prepare, civilian power can help forestall conflict in the meantime.

The Foreign Service includes approximately 8,000 Foreign Service Officers (FSOs)[3]. Past FSOs have included some of America’s most renowned diplomats. Perhaps most famously, George Kennan, stationed in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, was one of the first observers to comprehensively analyze the Soviet threat to post-World War II peace. His 1946 “Long Telegram[4]” and 1947 “X-Article[5]” were key in forming the basis for the U.S. policy of containment throughout the Cold War.

Later FSOs perceptively analyzed the weaknesses of U.S. foreign policy. Richard Holbrooke, who would later negotiate the Dayton Accords ending the Bosnian War, began his diplomatic career as an FSO in South Vietnam, where he was skeptical that U.S. support could save the regime in Saigon[6]. In 1971, when Pakistani forces began to commit genocide during the Bangladesh War of Independence[7], FSO Archer Blood warned Washington of the massacres the American-supported Pakistani military was carrying out[8].

A large increase in the number of FSOs could give the U.S. many more diplomatic eyes and ears in potential conflict zones. More FSOs could increase the chance of the U.S. brokering peace deals between warring parties, or of better judging early on whether a conflict is one the U.S. military should stay out of. Early involvement by diplomats could preempt later involvement by troops.

Even with a much larger Foreign Service, there is still a chance the U.S. will be drawn into conflict. The foreign policy goals of Russia and China, powers not content to live in a U.S.-dominated international system, may overwhelm attempts to keep the peace. Nonetheless, an investment in diplomatic power, in building relationships with other countries’ leaders and policymakers, could pay off in the form of wars avoided.

Closer collaboration between the diplomatic and military arms of U.S. power would also have benefits. Even if the U.S. chooses to have a less militarized foreign policy, reducing the military’s absolute strength need not be the solution. Ensuring that diplomats and military commanders work closely together, and making clear that U.S. policymakers do not inherently favor one over the other, could increase the relative strength of civilian power without weakening the military. 

Both the Department of State (DoS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) divide the world into six regions (see first map below) for their operations[9]. DoS activities in each region are directed by an assistant secretary, while each DOD regional combatant command is headed by a four-star general or admiral. Additionally, the world’s oceans are divided among the U.S. Navy’s numbered fleets, some of whose boundaries correspond to those of the combatant commands (see second map below)[10]. However, DoS and DoD regions are not always aligned with each other. Aligning them, by shifting countries between regions, could better integrate civilian and military power.

 

For example, of the countries in DoS’ Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCAA), those with coastlines are in DoD’s U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet – except for Pakistan in U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), whose coast is under the 5th Fleet. Meanwhile, the Navy has discussed bringing back its deactivated 1st Fleet and giving it responsibility for part of the Indian Ocean[11].

Suppose 1st Fleet were established under the aegis of USINDOPACOM (as 7th Fleet currently is), and were to align with the coasts of the SCAA countries. Pakistan could move from USCENTCOM to USINDOPACOM, and from the 5th to the 1st Fleet. When DoS officials needed to work closely with DoD officials with regard to, for example, India and Pakistan — two nuclear-armed states with a rivalry dating back to their creation in 1947 — there would be one combatant commander and one Navy flag officer for them to communicate with, not two of each.

Similarly, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia could be moved from U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) to USCENTCOM, which already includes Egypt. This would align the DoS and DoD maps of North Africa as all five North African countries are currently in DoS’ Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Egypt, a long-time ally of the U.S. and a recipient of more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid annually[12], has taken sides in such events as the recent civil war in Libya[13] and domestic political turmoil in Tunisia[14]. If the U.S. wanted to leverage its relationship with Egypt to resolve conflicts in North Africa, it could benefit from such overlap between DoS and DoD.

Changes like these will be limited in what they can accomplish. For example, if part of the Indian Ocean is allocated to 1st Fleet, the southern boundary of the fleet’s waters will still have to be drawn. Furthermore, USINDOPACOM is already geographically large, and already includes three of the world’s four most populous countries: China, India, and Indonesia[15]. Adding Pakistan, the fifth most populous country [16], could stretch its burdens beyond the ability of its officers to manage them. Nevertheless, if this or similar changes increase collaboration between DoS and DoD, enabling the U.S. to better manage crises and avoid deployments of U.S. forces to conflict zones, they are worthy of consideration.

With the American public weary of extended overseas military deployments, and U.S. President Joseph Biden seeking to maintain America’s global power status without straining financial and military resources, a larger Foreign Service and a DoS in sync with DoD are worth discussing.


Endnotes:

[1] Statista. “Countries with the highest military spending worldwide in 2020.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/262742/countries-with-the-highest-military-spending/

[2] Greer, Col. Jim, U.S. Army (Ret.). “Training: The Foundation for Success in Combat.” Heritage Foundation, October 4, 2018. https://www.heritage.org/military-strength-topical-essays/2019-essays/training-the-foundation-success-combat

[3] Nutter, Julie. “The Foreign Service by the Numbers.” Foreign Service Journal, January/February 2020. https://afsa.org/foreign-service-numbers

[4] Wilson Center. “George Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram.’” February 22, 1946. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/116178.pdf

[5] Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. “Kennan and Containment, 1947.” https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/kennan

[6] Isaacson, Walter. “Richard Holbrooke, the Last Great Freewheeling Diplomat.” New York Times, May 9, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/09/books/review/george-packer-our-man-richard-holbrooke-biography.html

[7] Boissoneault, Lorraine. “The Genocide the U.S. Can’t Remember, But Bangladesh Can’t Forget.” Smithsonian Magazine, December 16, 2016. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/genocide-us-cant-remember-bangladesh-cant-forget-180961490/

[8] Barry, Ellen. “To U.S. in ’70s, a Dissenting Diplomat. To Bangladesh, ‘a True Friend.’” New York Times, June 27, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/world/asia/bangladesh-archer-blood-cable.html

[9] “Joint Guide for Interagency Doctrine.” Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 4, 2019. https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/Interorganizational_Documents/jg_ia.pdf?ver=2020-02-03-151039-500

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

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

[12] Project on Middle East Democracy. “Fact Sheet – U.S. Military Assistance to Egypt: Separating Fact from Fiction.” July 2020. https://pomed.org/fact-sheet-u-s-military-assistance-to-egypt-separating-fact-from-fiction/

[13] Harchaoui, Jalel. “The Pendulum: How Russia Sways Its Way to More Influence in Libya.” War on the Rocks, January 7, 2021. https://warontherocks.com/2021/01/the-pendulum-how-russia-sways-its-way-to-more-influence-in-libya/

[14] Saied, Mohamed. “Cairo backs Tunisian president’s actions against Brotherhood.” Al-Monitor, August 10, 2021. https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/08/cairo-backs-tunisian-presidents-actions-against-brotherhood

[15] “Population, total.” World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?most_recent_value_desc=true

[16] Ibid

Assessment Papers Defense and Military Reform Diplomacy Governing Documents and Ideas Major Regional Contingency Michael D. Purzycki United States

Assessing Shortcomings of the U.S. Approach for Addressing Conflict Below the Threshold of War

Joe McGiffin has served in the United States Army for seven years. He is currently pursuing a M.A. in International Relations prior to teaching Defense and Strategic Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He can be found on Twitter @JoeMcGiffin. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Shortcomings of the U.S. Approach for Addressing Conflict Below the Threshold of War.

Date Originally Written:  August 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 6, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author is an active-duty service member. This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. toward the anticipated operating environment of the next thirty years.

Summary:  The current U.S. national security approach is not suitable for addressing threats below the threshold of war. This approach focuses on achieving security through military superiority.  A more effective approach would achieve national security objectives derived from an analysis of geopolitical trends. This new approach will allow for more unified, synergistic use of national resources in the defense of U.S. interests.

Text:  By its own estimate, the United States is losing global influence as a result of strategic atrophy, permitting other actors the freedom to reshape the weakening world order through “all-of-nation long-term strategy[1].”  However, myopia, not atrophy, has eroded U.S. advantages. A new approach, one that can frame its national security problems within the changing geopolitical context, will result in a more resilient and agile security strategy.

The current U.S. approach is a dangerous misinterpretation of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) theory that originated from Soviet observations of the United States’ Second Offset Strategy which ended the Cold War[2]. Nuclear weapons created a conflict threshold, which neither power would cross, and spurred a race to tactical dominance in conflict below that level. Between their own success and the proliferation of assets which promised dominant battlefield knowledge, maneuver, and precision[3], the United States concluded that military supremacy was synonymous with national security. Though the defense community rebrands it as a new concept every decade (i.e., Transformation and Defense Innovative Initiative), the intellectual underpinnings do not change[4].

While RMA theory is appealing, history proves two points: that superior weaponry rarely equates directly to a strategic advantage; and that overemphasis on such advances disregards other critical factors of national security[5]. While military advancements have had profound impacts on the rise and fall of global powers in the past, those innovations were seldom developed in isolation from revolutionary change in society or culture[6]. For example, it was the socioeconomic isolation of the East and West that created the conditions for an arms race to determine the victor of the Cold War, not the weapons themselves. Near-exclusive focus on the military aspect of national security has left the United States committed to the pursuit of tactical superiority at the expense of strategic flexibility.

The Third Offset Strategy (3OS) and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program both illustrate this issue. The 3OS hinges entirely on having a technological advantage to negate adversary Anti-Access/Area Denial Operations: industrial espionage or an adversary’s own disruptive innovations could plausibly neutralize the 3OS rapidly enough to significantly disrupt U.S. foreign policy[7]. The F-35, for its part, demonstrates another issue. While the apex of air power for now, it came at exorbitant cost and will continue to be a resource strain on the U.S. defense budget[8]. Furthermore, whether or not the F-35 was worth the price is an important question with implications for future strategy. While military supremacy has continued to fill a pivotal role in deterring war between major actors, it is not a fungible advantage; that is, military innovations can be used only in military conflicts or to deter them. While the F-35 may be the best fighter available, it is important to consider what measurable security advantages it has or has not achieved for the United States and its other investors.

Today’s environment requires the United States to adopt a more inclusive framework for achieving security goals. Instead of focusing resources into a single element of power (i.e., the military), it could use a more comprehensive approach grounded in geopolitical analysis. Instead of preparing for future war, it could focus on the threats posed by the present: subversive tactics and strategic maneuvers by aggressors deliberately avoiding the overt use of military force. The new paradigm would strive for synergy across as many public and private stakeholders as possible in order to achieve a unified effort to secure national interests.

As an example, use of space assets, because of their extreme expense, has only been possible through close cooperation of the private and public sector. Co-usage of platforms between the military, government, and private sector continues to be a hallmark of this domain[9]. That synergistic use of resources to achieve specific goals, if applied to national security means across the other domains, will offer far more flexibility and resiliency than strict reliance on what military power can achieve.

While conventional war is the purview of the military, conflict below that threshold is far more calculated and nuanced. In order to retain its position of power and influence in the future, the United States will be required to synchronize its national resources in pursuit of security goals within the greater geopolitical context. The RMA-inspired Cold War paradigm will be supplanted by one with renewed emphasis on operating environment variables instead of arbitrary strategic means.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Department of Defense (2018). Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (NDS 2018). https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf United States Department of Defense. See also; Biden, J. (2021). Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NSC-1v2.pdf.  

[2] Beier, J.M. (2006). Outsmarting Technologies: Rhetoric, Revolutions in Military Affairs, and the Social Depth of Warfare. International Politics, 43(2), 266-280. DOI:10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800144. See also; Louth, J. & Taylor T. (2016) The US Third Offset Strategy. The RUSI Journal, 161(3), 66-71. DOI: 10.1080/03071847.2016.1193360

[3] Mowthorpe, M. (2005). The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA): The United States, Russian and Chinese Views. The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, 30(2), 137-153.

[4] Jensen, B.M. (2018). The Role of Ideas in Defense Planning: Revisiting the Revolution in Military Affairs, Defence Studies, 18(3), 302-317. DOI: 10.1080/14702436.2018.1497928

[5 Gray, C.S. (2003). Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History. Routledge.

[6] Murray, W. (1997). Thinking About Revolutions in Military Affairs. Joint Forces Quarterly, unk. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA354177.pdf

[7] Wellman, A. (2019). Parity Avoidance: A Proactive Analysis of the Obsolescence of the Third Offset Strategy. Homeland Security Affairs. https://www.hsaj.org/articles/15337 

[8] United States Government Accountability Office (2021). F-35 Sustainment: DOD Needs to Cut Billions in Estimated Costs to Achieve Affordability. Report to the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-505t 

[9] Madry, S. (2020). Disruptive Space Technologies and Innovations: The Next Chapter. Springer Nature.

 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Joe McGiffin United States

An Assessment of Capability Gaps that Contribute to Fighting Below the Threshold of War

Shri is from India. The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the author in his personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Capability Gaps that Contribute to Fighting Below the Threshold of War

Date Originally Written:  August 9, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 30, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article analyses a current situation playing out in a very important part of the world which is a nuclear flashpoint as well.  While the reader can likely guess which countries the author is referring to, indirect references are used to appeal to the audiences living this situation day-to-day.

Summary:  Fighting below the threshold of war happens only due to inadequacies of the stronger power.  These inadequacies may be based in law, policy, doctrine, political preferences, and corruption.  Unless these inadequacies are addressed, stronger powers will dilute their true combat capability by acting as police forces either locally, regionally, or globally.

Text:  The countries of IN and PK have over seven decades of animosity between them. In the 1970s, PK was comprehensively defeated during a war with IN and in the process, lost almost half of its territory. Thereafter, based on experience PK gained as Country UA’s proxy in the fight against Country RU in Country AF, PK realised in its fight against IN, direct war is not the way ahead.  This realisation started something different in which PK waged a conflict below the threshold of war against Country IN by simply harboring, arming, and supporting terrorists. PK, where the military is the de-facto ruler, acts as a client state of Country CN, another adversary of IN, and all three possess nuclear weapons.

It is now three decades since PK began to carry out nefarious activities against IN. In other words, PK prevails over IN below the threshold of war and keeps IN tied down through a low cost and low risk method. This success is despite the fact that IN is larger than PK in every possible metric – economy, territory, armed forces, population etc. PK is taking advantage of some inherent weaknesses and capability gaps of IN and is prevailing.

IN’s capability gaps begin with it still believing in outdated definitions of war, and therefore believing that only armed forces fight wars, and is waiting for PK’s Armed Forces to start one. PK is not obliging IN, knowing well that PK cannot win. IN, not wanting to be labeled as an aggressor, is not waging war on PK, little realizing that IN has been under attack for many decades. A doctrinal change by IN could perhaps settle matters regarding what constitutes aggression and what will be IN’s response. This doctrinal change would amply warn PK and, if PK did not change its behavior, the change would give IN the required casus belli. Threshold of war is not something that has been defined by nature as each country decides according to each unique circumstance. In 1914, assassination of a sovereign led to the First World War[1]. Without an adjustment to current below threshold realities, IN will not get the better of PK. 

IN’s armed forces have been engaged in counterinsurgency operations against PK sponsored terrorists for several decades. This fight without end continues due to an undefined military end-state. The armed forces of a country is it’s last resort and therefore it should not be distracted from it’s main role of war-fighting.  PK understands this well and therefore does everything possible to tie down IN’s armed forces in operations below the threshold of war, which are essentially policing duties. Establishing an end state allowing the military to exit counterinsurgency operations and return to preparing for war is perhaps the only thing that will deter PK from continuing what it does below the threshold of war. Many in IN’s armed forces talk about the United States’ two decade long engagement in Afghanistan to justify IN’s continued presence in counterinsurgency operations. It is worth noting that the United States sent in its armed forces to Afghanistan because its police, perhaps as potent as some armies, have no global mandate. Moreover, while the US always had the luxury of pulling out, as it subsequently did[2], IN doesn’t.

IN is also ineffective below the threshold of war because fighting below the threshold is a comfortable place to be in- no national mobilization, limited death and destruction, life and fighting goes on hand in hand. There would always be many interest groups apart from the IN Armed Forces that have a stake in the fight. While the IN Armed Forces get brass, budget allocations, and a disproportionate say in matters otherwise in the realm of governance, others who benefit include the Military Industrial Complex (about whom U.S. President Eisenhower had warned five decades ago[3]), war contractors and also politicians, most of whom thrive on divisive agendas. History illustrates that whenever a country has resolved to finish a fight, it happened – Sri Lanka being the best example[4]. So next time when any country thinks of finishing the fight, it is good to know who are directly and indirectly benefiting from the fight continuing.

Sun Tzu has said that, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Present day militaries have wrapped this very thought in many definitions and names to include grey zone warfare, hybrid warfare etc. However, war is war.  PK added its own touch by trying to subdue IN, taking advantage of IN’s inhibitions, and some weaknesses, by fighting, albeit below the threshold of war. Until IN wakes up to PK, and demonstrates that IN is ready for a major war with PK, IN will continue to be stuck in the quagmire of fighting below the threshold of war.


Endnotes:

[1] Greenspan, J. (2014, June 26). The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. History.com. https://www.history.com/news/the-assassination-of-archduke-franz-ferdinand

[2] The United States Government. (2021, July 8). Remarks by President Biden on the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/07/08/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-drawdown-of-u-s-forces-in-afghanistan/

[3] Farewell address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961; Final TV Talk 1/17/61 (1), Box 38, Speech Series, Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President, 1953-61, Eisenhower Library; National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/research/online-documents/farewell-address/1961-01-17-press-release.pdf

[4] Layton, P. (2015, April 9). How sri lanka won the war. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2015/04/how-sri-lanka-won-the-war/

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) India Pakistan Shri

Assessing the Effect of the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review on Operations Below the Threshold of War

Bombardinio is the nom de plume of a staff officer who has served in the British armed forces, with operational experience in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She presently works for the Ministry of Defence in London where she looks at Defence policy. She has been published in the UK, USA and further afield. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Effect of the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review on Operations Below the Threshold of War

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 23, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a serving staff officer in the British military. The author believes in the importance of a well-resourced standing military that underpins defense policy for both national spending plans, international policies, and allied engagements.

Summary:  The United Kingdom government’s decision, articulated in the Integrated Review 2021, to concentrate on operating below the threshold of war, with insufficient resource to also maintain an effective warfighting capability is a folly, formulated without regard either to historical precedent or to the contemporary international scene. In these failings, it risks national and international security and Britain’s global position of influence.

Text:

Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.
Theodore Roosevelt

‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age, the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development, and Foreign Policy’ describes the United Kingdom (UK) government’s approach to contemporary international relations[1]. For UK Defense, it marks a de facto move from an emphasis on warfighting to one which privileges operating below the threshold of war. International competition below the threshold of war is neither new nor wholly unwelcome, the UK military have operated in this manner for centuries and this new policy recognizes the need for adaptation to reflect the changing character of warfare. The Integrated Review’s weakness lies in its ignorance of both historical experience and contemporary realities, these lacunae risk both national and international security and Britain’s global position.

The Grey Zone, that nebulous and ill-defined no-man’s land between peace and armed conflict, is fundamental to the nature of war[2]. If war is a continuation of politics by violent means, then military operations in the Grey Zone are part of that political continuum, just short of war. The width of the Zone is variable; while at times a personal affront or assault may form sufficient pretext for war – the War of Jenkin’s Ear (1739-48)[3] – on other occasions it will not – the Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack of 2018[4]. This variability is determined by political appetite informed by strategic balance. Political will is not purely the domain of politicians and statesmen, public opinion can affect the resolve of leaders considering armed conflict as a political tool; conversely, the public can be, and often have been, manipulated to support a resort to armed conflict. Whilst the will to fight provides the motivation for war, this is generally tempered by an analysis of the likelihood of success; in 1739, an eight-year old incident was allowed to presage war because Great Britain was confident of military superiority over Spain, in the 2018 nerve agent attack the advantage lay with the culprit.

The decision to concentrate on operating below the threshold of war will fail without considering the danger of crossing that threshold and understanding that the threshold is not self-determined, that freedom of decision is in the hands of the opposition, which will be making its own contiguous calculations with respect to its options. In 1861, the U.S. Navy seized the British ship ‘Trent’ in international waters and arrested two Confederate emissaries heading for Europe. This event led to the deployment of significant British land forces to Canada and naval units along the American east coast. War was only averted by a rapid apology by the Lincoln administration. While not a deliberate operation below the threshold of war, the Trent Affair is illustrative of the danger posed by military operations in a heightened political environment. Those who decided to risk the ire of the British had miscalculated both the appetite of the UK government to go to war and, more significantly, Britain’s military superiority.

The key to operating below the threshold of war is thus two-fold: understanding the adversary, their policy, strategy, risk calculus and appetite for armed conflict and maintaining sufficient credible military power to deter the adversary from retaliating through a resort to war. The Integrated Review identifies two systemic competitors, Russia and China, making it clear that the United Kingdom will seek to confront these nations below the threshold of war. Much of this confrontation will be done through enhancing the ways in which the UK protects itself and its interests and by engaging internationally in an attempt to persuade other countries that the West is a more attractive partner than either Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Communist China. These activities are relatively benign; the problem for UK Defense is that, despite a significant budget, it has failed to achieve value for money; the changed emphasis must hence be financed by significant cuts to conventional capability and thus deterrent effect[5]. In ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, the lightweight UK has chosen to enter a tag-team wrestling match, without its heavyweight partner.

Of course, it could be argued that as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the UK retains significant deterrent mass through the Alliance, theoretically this is true – the UK’s activities below the threshold of war are protected by the Treaty – but is that a practical reality[6]? The UK’s strategic decision to confront Russia is a reaction to widespread interference and subversion in Western societies, the perceived aim of which is to weaken and divide political resolve. The problem for the UK is that Russian interference and influence has succeeded in weakening resolve: although limited sanctions have been used by Western nations in response to Putin’s worst excesses, military action has never been in question except in protection of the territorial integrity of NATO nations. If German dependence on Russian gas[7], international tensions caused by Brexit[8], and NATO’s internal disagreements are taken into account, the likelihood of support in reaction to a targeted military strike by Russia begins to look shaky.

Recently, a British destroyer conducting a freedom of navigation mission off the coast of the Crimea was confronted by Russian ships and aircraft and ordered to leave what the Russians define as their territorial waters[9]. Shortly after, Putin threatened that a reoccurrence would be met by weapons against which the Royal Navy would have no defense[10]. If the recent confrontation in the Black Sea were to be repeated, at a time in the near future when the United Kingdom’s conventional deterrent is even more denuded, and a Royal Navy vessel were lost to a Russian hypersonic missile, would NATO nations go to war[11]? Russia may calculate that it has sufficiently eroded the Western will to fight, that outside of alliance borders most allies would be unwilling to enact NATO’s Article V, and that the UK has insufficient credible fighting power to respond, unless by resort to a strategic counterstroke by nuclear or offensive cyber operations, both of which would be irrationally escalatory. In such an instance, the UK would be isolated, her global position weakened, and NATO exposed as a paper tiger. The UK can only avoid this by listening to the wisdom of ages and bolstering her conventional forces, using the other levers of power to stiffen Western resolve, and exercise caution in operating below the threshold of war.


Endnotes:

[1] ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age’, UK Govt (July 2021). https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/the-integrated-review-2021 

[2] ‘Understanding the Grey Zone’, IISS Blog (April 2019). https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2019/04/understanding-the-grey-zone

[3] ‘The War of Jenkin’s Ear 1739-48’, Oxford Reference (August 2021). https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100019496 

[4] ’Salisbury poisoning: What did the attack mean for the UK and Russia’, BBC Website (March 2020).  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51722301  

[5] ‘UK second biggest defence spender in NATO’, UK Defence Journal (March 2021). https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/britain-second-biggest-defence-spender-in-nato/

[6] ‘NATO 2030: “A global Alliance for all seasons”, reality or rhetoric?, European Leadership Network (June 2021). https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/commentary/nato-2030-a-global-alliance-for-all-seasons-reality-or-rhetoric/  

[7] ‘Why Nordstream 2 is the world’s most controversial energy project’, The Economist (July 2021). https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/07/14/why-nord-stream-2-is-the-worlds-most-controversial-energy-project 

[8] ‘The UK and European Defence: will NATO be enough?, The Foreign Policy Centre (December 2020). https://fpc.org.uk/the-uk-and-european-defence-will-nato-be-enough/ 

[9] ‘British warship deliberately sailed close to Crimea, UK officials say’, The New York Times (24 June 2021).  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/world/europe/russia-uk-defender-crimea.html  

[10] ‘Putin says Russian Navy can carry out ‘unpreventable strike’ if needed’, Reuters (25 June 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-says-russian-navy-can-carry-out-unpreventable-strike-if-needed-2021-07-25/

[11] ‘No peace – no war. The future of the Russia-NATO relationship’, European Leadership Network (September 2018. https://www.europeanleadershipnetwork.org/commentary/no-peace-no-war-the-future-of-the-russia-nato-relationship/ 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Bombardinio Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas United Kingdom

Assessing the April 2021 Conflict Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and the Impotency of Regional International Organizations

Sarah Martin is the 2021 Eurasia Fellow for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). She is Washington D.C.-based and works in human rights development in Europe and Eurasia. Prior to this, she was a Research Fellow at the Secretariate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), where she covered the first dimension of political-military affairs. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the April 2021 Conflict Between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and the Impotency of Regional International Organizations

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 9, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of someone assessing the value of regional international organizations based on their actions and inactions in relation to the conflicts that occur in their respective regions.

Summary:  Violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in April 2021 led to tens of dead, hundreds wounded, and a fractured interstate relationship. Domestic politics headed by an authoritarian in Tajikistan and an ascending authoritarian in Kyrgyzstan exacerbated the situation. International organizations such as the OSCE or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) were designed to respond but fails to do so.

Text:  On April 28, 2021, in an exclave between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a skirmish over the installation of a security camera escalated from throwing stones to employing live ammunition. On the Kyrgyzstan side, approximately 34 people were killed, 132 wounded and more than 800 evacuated, while Tajikistan suffered 15 casualties[1]. On May 1, the countries signed a peace treaty, although, according to political scientist Emil Dzhuraev, it is unlikely relations between the two countries will ever be peaceful[2]. This latest surge of violence ended swiftly and with no intervention from one of the three international organizations to which either country claims membership. This assessment reflects on the conflict itself, and also the weakness of the international organizations that could have made an impact but failed to do so.

Under the Soviet Union, the lines between the Central Asian Republics did not matter, but independence following the end of the Cold War brought out old maps, mandates, and memories, each blurred from time[3]. Such interpretation has left Kyrgyzstan, the smallest of the five Republics, with exclaves of both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan within its southern panhandle. Relations among these ethnic groups and citizenships have been peaceful since the 1990s, though relations have soured in the past decade. Three issues are intensifying relations further — increasingly scarce water; the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, with whom Tajikistan borders; and the volatility of the autocratic leaders of all three countries[4].

Sadyr Japarov was recently elected to Kyrgyzstan’s presidency, following the ouster of the previous president by way of coup[5]. He is the fifth president of independent Kyrgyzstan and the fifth to reach that position through revolt. Although not technically an autocrat, Japarov is well on his way to becoming one[6][7]. Notably, he recently amended the constitution to shift powers from Parliament into his hands, and most of his cabinet is staffed by personal friends[8]. On the other side of the border is Emomali Rahmon, who has been in power since Tajikistan’s gained independence in 1991 and is an autocrat[9]. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, he had designated Tajikistan’s last independent news site as extremist and had its website blocked within the country[10]. During the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, Tajikistan was one of the last countries to admit they had cases of the virus[11]. For both Rahmon and Japarov, a small victorious war in the contested areas would have given them enough points to pursue their political interests. Japarov could use the small war to solidify his new regime; Rahmon to ensure the continuity of his decades-old one.

A flare-up of violence along contentious borders should make for a logical submission to an international organization. After all, conflict management is theoretically a core objective of such a union. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are members to three: the OSCE, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Each organization maintains a unique approach to internationalism. Each organization uniquely failed to respond to this crisis, and each uniquely demonstrated its waning relevance through inaction.

The OSCE is neither a military alliance like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nor a legislative body like the European Union (EU), but rather a forum for its 57 participating States to convene on matters of the military, environment and economics, and human rights[12]. Despite its amorphous nature, the OSCE is still built with human rights as a foundational tenant. In fact, if the OSCE is known for anything these days, it is for its election monitoring missions. The human rights component of the OSCE has long been a source of ire among some of the participating states—and Tajikistan is one of the louder complainants. In 2020 the organization faced a leadership crisis among key chairmanships of the Secretariat, and Tajikistan played a crucial role in instigating that crisis by blocking nominations[13].

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are also represented in the CSTO, a Russian-built NATO equivalent [14][15], and the SCO, a Chinese-established sort-of EU analogue[16]. Both the CSTO and SCO claim to be alternatives to the Western models[17]: strictly economic and political agreements, respectively, without the hypocrisy inherent within a regime that claims to be based on human rights, as the OSCE’s does. Although one might expect to find it in Central Asia, there is not much competition between Russia, China, or their organizations. There is much speculation as to why there are not more hostilities, but it would not be outlandish to posit their détente is due to mutual competitors in the United States and EU.

April’s outbreak of violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan demonstrates the impotency of both approaches. Conflict mitigation is supposed to be one of the mandates of the political-military dimension of the OSCE, but it has failed to keep the tenuous peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Trilateral Contact Group has yet to yield sustainable results between Ukraine, Russia and the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered the CSTO as a venue of deliberation, but Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan refused, preferring to, and ultimately coming to, an agreement amongst themselves[18]. China provided statements calling for the peaceful resolution of the conflict but offered no role in facilitating peace[19]. The SCO also had little to say; in fact, members of the SCO met in May and the violence was not even mentioned[20].

The violence between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan highlights the clashing of two systems—one that claims it ought to address conflict with human rights as its basis, but ultimately cannot; and another that does not seem particularly interested in trying. Given that none of them, the OSCE, the CSTO or the SCO, were able to provide solutions for a relatively small conflict, they can likely do little in the shadow of larger regional crises, or the modern era’s border-transcending issues: pestilence, war, famine and the climate crisis that will exacerbate all.


Endnotes:

[1] Reuters. (2021, May 1). Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan agree ceasefire after border clashes. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/kyrgyzstan-accuses-tajikistan-amassing-troops-near-border-2021-05-01

[2] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict: How to Reconcile and Prevent It in The Future, Expert Opinions (Russian) https://rus.azattyq.org/a/31241010.html

[3] Ayzirek Imanaliyeva. (2021, May 2). Tempers flaring as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan come to deadly blows. Eurasianet. https://eurasianet.org/tempers-flaring-as-kyrgyzstan-tajikistan-come-to-deadly-blows

[4] Aliyev, N. (2021, May 25). Russia’s Power Play in Central Asia. The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs. https://oxussociety.org/russias-power-play-in-central-asia

[5] Pikulicka-Wilczewska, A. (2021, January 12). Kyrgyzstan’s Sadyr Japarov: From a prison cell to the presidency. Kyrgyzstan News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/1/12/sadyr-japarov-from-a-prison-cell-to-the-presidency

[6] Umarov, T. (2021, May 19). Are There Any Winners of the War on the Kyrgyz-Tajik Border? Carnegie Moscow Center. https://carnegie.ru/commentary/84569

[7] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict: How to Reconcile and Prevent It in The Future, Expert Opinions (Russian) https://rus.azattyq.org/a/31241010.html

[8] Eurasianet. (2021, May 5). Kyrgyzstan: President signs new constitution into law. https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-president-signs-new-constitution-into-law

[9] RFE/RL. (2021, May 26). Tajik Election Sees Autocratic Leader Rahmon Set to Extend Rule. https://www.rferl.org/a/tajikistan-s-autocratic-leader-rahmon-seen-extending-rule-as-voters-head-to-polls/30886412.html

[10] Pannier, B. (2020, July 20). How Tajikistan Blocked Term Extensions for Key OSCE Officials. RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. https://www.rferl.org/a/how-tajikistan-blocked-term-extensions-for-key-osce-officials/30738021.html

[11] Eurasianet. (2020, April 20). Tajikistan says it has no COVID-19, attributes new death to swine flu. https://eurasianet.org/tajikistan-says-it-has-no-covid-19-attributes-new-death-to-swine-flu

[12] Epkenhans, T. (2007). The OSCE’s Dilemma in Central Asia. OSCE Yearbook 2006, 211–222. https://ifsh.de/file-CORE/documents/yearbook/english/06/Epkenhans-en.pdf

[13] Pannier, B. (2020), Tajikistan

[14] Aliyev, N. (2021), Russia

[15] Radio Azattyk. (2021, May 7). Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict

[16] BBC News Кыргыз Кызматы (Kyrgyz Service). (2021, May 1). Чек ара жаңжалыбы же агрессиябы? эл аралык эксперттердин пикири (Border conflict or aggression? Opinion of international experts). https://www.bbc.com/kyrgyz/kyrgyzstan-56956928

[17] Wolff, S. (2021, April 28). China: A Challenge or an Opportunity for the OSCE? | SHRM. Security and Human Rights Monitor. https://www.shrmonitor.org/china-a-challenge-or-an-opportunity-for-the-osce-shrm

[18] BBC News Кыргыз Кызматы (Kyrgyz Service)

[19] kaktus.media. (2021, April 30). Китай отреагировал на конфликт на границе Кыргызстана и Таджикистана (China reacted to the conflict on the border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). https://kaktus.media/doc/437308_kitay_otreagiroval_na_konflikt_na_granice_kyrgyzstana_i_tadjikistana.html

[20] Sheng, Y. (2021, May 12). China, Central Asian countries to strengthen cooperation on Afghan issue, counterterrorism and diversify energy sources. Global Times. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202105/1223313.shtml

Assessment Papers Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Kyrgyzstan Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Sarah Martin Tajikistan

Assessing a Situation where the Mission is a Headline

Samir Srivastava is serving in the Indian Armed Forces. The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the author in his personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement.  Divergent Opinions’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing a Situation where the Mission is a Headline

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  July 26, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is serving with the Indian Armed Forces.   The article is written from the point of view of India in its prevailing environment.

Summary:  While headlines in news media describe the outcome of military operations, in this information age, the world could now be heading towards a situation where military operations are the outcome of a desired headline.  In situations like this, goals can be achieved by taking into assured success, the target audience, connectivity in a retaliatory context, verifiability, and deniability.

Text:  When nations fight each other, there will be news media headlines. Through various mediums and platforms, headline(s) will travel to everyone – the belligerents, their allies/supporters and also neutral parties. Conflict will be presented as a series of headlines culminating in one headline that describes the final outcome. Thus, when operations happen, headlines also happen. Yet to be considered is when  an operation  is planned and executed to make a headline happen.

In nation versus nation conflict, the days of large scale wars are certainly not over, but as trends suggest these will be more of an exception rather than rule. The future war in all likelihood will be fought at a level without a formal war declaration and quite localised. The world has seen wars where each side endeavours to prevail upon the adversary’s bodies and materiel, but already greater emphasis is being laid on prevailing upon the enemy’s mind. In that case, a decision will be required regarding what objective is being pursued – attrition, territory or just a headline.

Today, a military operation is more often than not planned at the strategic level and executed at a tactical level. This model is likely to become a norm because if a strategic outcome is achievable through a standalone tactical action, there is no reason to let the fight get bigger and more costly in terms of blood and treasure. The Balakote Airstrike[1] by the Indian Air Force is a case in point. It has been over two years since that strike took place but there is nothing to show a change in Pakistan’s attitude, which continues to harbour terrorists on its soil who would very well be plotting the next strike on India. However, what has endured is the headlines of February 26-28, 2019, which carried different messages for different people and one for Pakistan as well.

Unlike propaganda where a story is made out of nothing, if the mission is to make a headline, then that particular operation will have taken place on ground.  In this context, Headline Selection and Target Selection are two sides of the same coin but the former is the driving force.  Beyond this, success is enhanced by taking into account the probability of success, the target audience, connectivity in a retaliatory context, verifiability and deniability.  

Without assured success, the outcome will be a mismatch between the desired headline and  target selection. Taking an example from movies, in the 1997 film  “Tomorrow Never Dies[2],” the entire plot focuses on  the protagonist, Agent 007,  spoiling antagonist Carver’s scheme of creating headlines to be beamed by his media network. Once a shot is fired or ordnance dropped, there will be a headline and it is best to make sure it is the desired one.

Regarding the target audience, it is not necessary that an event gains the interest of the masses. The recipient population may be receptive, non-receptive or simply indifferent.  A headline focused on  the largest receptive group who can further propagate it has the best chance of success. 

If the operation is carried out in a retaliatory context,  it is best to connect  the enemy action and friendly reaction. For example, while cyber-attacks or economic sanctions may be an apt response to an armed attack, the likelihood of achieving the desired headline is enhanced if there is something connecting the two- action and reaction.

The headline will have much more impact if the event and its effects can be easily verified, preferably by neutral agencies and individuals. A perfect headline would be that which an under resourced freelance journalist can easily report. To that end, targets in inaccessible locations or at places that don’t strike a chord with the intended audience will be of little use. No amount of satellite photos can match one reporter on ground.   

The headline cannot lend itself to any possibility of denial because even a feeble denial can lead to credibility being questioned. It therefore goes without saying that choice of target and mode of attack should be such. During U.S. Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR[3], the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan,  the first sliver of publicly available information was a tweet by someone nearby. This tweet could have very well closed any avenue for denial by Pakistan or Al Qaeda.

A well thought out headline can be the start point when planning an operation or even a campaign. This vision of a headline however needs different thinking tempered with a lot of imagination and creativity. Pre-planned headlines, understanding the expertise of journalists and having platforms at the ready can be of value.      

Every field commander, division and above should have some pre-planned headlines to speak of that their organization can create if given the opportunity. These headlines include both national headlines flowing out of the higher commander’s intent, and local headlines that are more focused on the immediate engagement area.

There is benefit to be gained from the expertise of journalists – both Indian and Foreign. Their practical experience will be invaluable when deciding on the correct headline and pinpointing a target audience. Journalists are already seen in war zones and media rooms as reporters, and getting them into the operations room as planners is worthy of consideration.

An array of reporters, platforms amd mediums can be kept ready to carry the desired headline far and wide. Freelance journalists in foreign countries coupled with internet will be a potent combination. In addition, the military’s public information organization cannot succeed in this new reality without restructuring.

Every battle in military history has name of some commander(s) attached to it. Hannibal crossing the Alps, U.S. General George S. Patton’s exploits during Battle of the Bulge, and then Indian Colonel Desmond Hayde in the Battle of Dograi. The day is not far when some field commander will etch his or her name in history fighting the Battle of the Headline or, more apt, the Battle for the Headline.      


Endnotes:

[1] BBC. (2019, February 26). Balakot: Indian air strikes target militants in Pakistan. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47366718.

[2] IMDb.com. (1997, December 19). Tomorrow Never Dies. IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120347.

[3] Olson, P. (2011, August 11). Man Inadvertently Live Tweets Osama Bin Laden Raid. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2011/05/02/man-inadvertently-live-tweets-osama-bin-laden-raid.

Assessment Papers India Influence Operations Information and Intelligence Samir Srivastava Social Media

Assessing Agile Gaming: War is Hard, Wargames Don’t Have to Be

Philip S. Bolger-Cortez is a Wargame Director with the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education at the Air University whose previous job was in Agile Gaming at Headquarters Air Force (HAF) A5.  Alexandria Brill is an Agile Gamer with HAF A5.  Divergent Opinions’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessing Agile Gaming: War is Hard, Wargames Don’t Have to Be

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  July 12, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are professional wargamers and Agile Gaming practitioners. 

Summary:  With Department of Defense leaders so busy, they can rarely participate in large-scale wargames.  Agile Wargames approach a large problem by taking small bites rather than swallowing the whole elephant.  While a large-scale and highly detailed wargame may be viewed as perfection, perfection can be the enemy of good enough.  A tightly focused Agile Wargame that actually takes place, is superior to a large-scale wargame that can never fit into a schedule.

Text:  The most valuable commodity for any military commander is time. On any given day, a typical flag officer has a wall-to-wall schedule packed with meetings, decisions, more meetings, inspections, presentations, yet more meetings, and precious little time for anything that isn’t scheduled weeks or months in advance. Getting a full day of a general’s time is a Herculean task. Getting a full week is impossible without a signature from a higher ranking general or a congressional mandate. Getting the same amount of time out of field grade officers is not much easier.

Officers still want, and need, wargames. Discussions around large games run by the Air Force[1] have driven discussions in the defense community, in Congress, and at Headquarters Air Force[2][3]. 

Wargames are an essential step for military leaders to ensure confidence in plans, decisions, and concepts. Stakeholders, sponsors, and players agree that wargames can answer certain questions or problem sets. Yet, the average player’s demanding schedule remains an obstacle for participation.

Large wargames can account for the needs of many stakeholders and organizations. In a large game, hundreds of moving pieces compete for attention from many players. In an agile game, the focus is narrower—much of the war is abstracted out into a series of mechanics designed to show how the broader war impacts a narrow slice, without needing to focus on these other parts. Players often face only three to four decisions in a turn, such as where to place resources, what to use for operations, or who should conduct an action. The result is a lower fidelity game—but one easy to play, in only a few hours[4]. Similar fidelity games in the commercial space include Axis & Allies[5], World at War ’85[6], and Thunderbolt Apache Leader[7].

For concept writers looking to develop immature concepts, low fidelity games are helpful. The low time demand and ease of learning means the game can be played multiple times.  This increase in repetition of iterative low fidelity games feeding higher fidelity games in an event series has previously been identified as useful by wargaming grandmaster Matt Caffrey in his work On Wargaming[8]. 

It is the aim of agile games to use time wisely and concisely without sacrificing objectives and outputs. The goal of agile games is to approach any problem by taking small bites rather than swallowing the whole elephant, ideally leading to further concept refinement through either more detailed games, modeling and simulation, or concept writers using game insights to further their writing.

Agile gaming answers questions that are pressing or urgent—not completely, but just enough to set the decision makers in the right direction. Agile gaming requires being comfortable with sacrificing total fidelity to focus on a more playable, approachable game—for many nascent defense concepts, a 70% solution in three hours may be more useful than a 95% solution in a week of gameplay. Compare the commercial games Afrika Korps and Campaign for North Africa—the former is not perfectly realistic, but it is easily teachable and playable in a few hours, compared to the latter, which while more realistic, requires an excessive amount of table space, players, and time[9][10].

In the agile gaming methodology, a series of three or four iterations of the same game or topic may be necessary, with one difference between them. These multiple iterations could allow the gaming team to conduct difference-in-difference analyses. For example, an agile game might give players slightly more resources between iterations would allow for conversation and insights about how priorities change, or how resource allocation decisions are made under certain budgetary conditions[11]. 

To keep games quick and intuitive, agile gaming leverages gaming mechanics from the world of commercial recreational board gaming. The commercial gaming world is both broad and deep—thousands of designers have come up with game mechanics for everything from how to assemble a hamburger[12] to how to outfit an F/A-18 Hornet[13] to how to manufacture a car under the Kanban Just In Time manufacturing system[14].  Leveraging knowledge of these mechanics can shape the effectiveness of an agile game, showing how to translate complex systems to easily learnable game mechanics. 

With games varying in topic, complexity, and required expertise, the ideal agile gaming team will be a small footprint, modular team able to operate independently or with additions from external agencies. A small team allows for quick turns for gaming, while the modularity ensures that the team consults subject matter experts to ensure sufficient fidelity.

Agile gaming is not a perfect solution, more than any other approach to wargaming is—but agile gaming is a way to conduct rapid, iterative games. While agile gaming will not provide conclusive answers to national security problems, it can refine concepts and provide insights on how the US will conduct warfare today and tomorrow, as well as provide valuable stage setting for more detailed wargames.


Endnotes:

[1] Both authors adjudicated a Title 10 USAF game last year

[2] Insinna, V. (2012, April 12). A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030. Retrieved from Defense News: https://www.defensenews.com/training-sim/2021/04/12/a-us-air-force-war-game-shows-what-the-service-needs-to-hold-off-or-win-against-china-in-2030

[3] Trevethick, J. (2021, April 12). Today’s F-35As Not Worth Including In High-End War Games According To Air Force General. Retrieved from The Drive: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40142/air-force-general-says-current-generation-f-35as-not-worth-including-in-high-end-wargames

[4] Of the more than 15 games the Foxes conducted in 2020, the mean time of a game was below three hours

[5] Harris, L. (1981). Axis & Allies. USA: Milton Bradley.

[6] Tracton, K. (2019). World at War ’85: Storming the Gap. USA: Lock ‘n Load Publishing.

[7] Verssen, D. (2012). Thunderbolt Apache Leader. USA: Dan Verssen Games (DVG)

[8] Caffrey, M. (2019). On Wargaming. Newport, RI: Naval War College Press. Pg. 318

[9] Roberts, C. (1964). Afrika Korps. USA: Avalon Hill, Inc.

[10] Berg, R. (1979) Campaign for North Africa. USA: Simulations Publications, Inc.

[11] Observed by the authors in multiple agile games at HAF A5.

[12] Parkes, M. (2016). Burger Up. Australia: Greenbrier Games.

[13] Verssen, D. (2010). Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. USA: Dan Verssen Games (DVG).

[14] Lacerda, V. (2014). Kanban Driver’s Edition. Stronghold Games.

Alexandria Brill Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Philip S. Bolger-Cortez U.S. Air Force Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing Wargame Effectiveness: Using Natural Language Processing to Evaluate Wargaming Dynamics and Outcomes

Dr. Leah C. Windsor is a Research Associate Professor in the Institute for Intelligent Systems at The University of Memphis.   Dr. Windsor can be found on Twitter @leahcwindsor.  Dr. Susan Allen is an Associate Professor at the University of Mississippi.  Dr. Allen can be found on Twitter at @lady_professor.  Divergent Opinions’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessing Wargame Effectiveness: Using Natural Language Processing to Evaluate Wargaming Dynamics and Outcomes

Date Originally Written:  October 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 5, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from a neutral point of view to evaluate the conversational dynamics during wargames that are predictive of wargaming outcomes.

Summary:  Group decision-making research, while well-established, is not applied in wargames with a win / lose focus.  The deliberative data within wargaming can yield predictive metrics for game outcomes. Computational text analysis illuminates participant effects, such as status, gender, and experience. Analyzing participants’ language can provide insight into the intra-group and inter-group dynamics that exclude or invite potential solutions. 

Text:  The outcome of wargames reveals who wins and loses – but how do participants and strategists know if this is the optimal outcome from the range of potential outcomes? To understand why groups make particular decisions that lead to success or failure in wargames, the authors focus on the intra-group and inter-group communication that transpires during the wargame itself. The processes of group dynamics influence the outcomes of wargaming exercises, yet little attention is paid to these deliberations. Implicit biases manifest in language and other multimodal signals that influence participants and shape the process of negotiations [1][2]. 

A novel approach to analyzing wargames would include a process that informs the outcome, and models communicative interchanges computationally by examining linguistic features of participants’ deliberations. Participants’ exchanges and deliberations influence the dynamics within and across wargaming exercises and rounds of play. At present, the authors are aware of no computational models of wargaming deliberations exist that assess the intra-group and inter-group deliberations. A wealth of research using computational text-as-data approaches has established that language has predictive power in analyzing attributes like hierarchy, deception, and closeness [3][4][5]. 

Examining group dynamics is essential for understanding military and foreign policy decision-making because such choices are rarely made by individuals, particularly in democracies, but also within the winning coalition in autocracies. Despite the fact that deliberative group dynamics are affected by emotions, pride, status, reputation, and communication failures, these dynamics are seldom studied[6]. Natural language processing (NLP) approaches can help reveal why teams arrive at various outcomes, how power structures evolve and change within groups during deliberations, what patterns of group deliberation emerge across iterations, and how biases, whether implicit or through participant selection, affect the process of deliberations and outcomes. Because the dialogue patterns of participants have not been evaluated using the multimodal methods proposed, the authors anticipate that NLP will provide agenda-setting contributions to both the scientific and DoD communities.

To illustrate this point, the authors analyzed some of the communications from a wargaming exercise, Counter-Da’esh influence operations: Cognitive space narrative simulation insights[7]. Using computational linguistics techniques, the authors analyzed the use of language related to positive emotion over time, by rounds, across teams in this wargaming simulation. NLP can explore several aspects of between-group and within-group communications, as shown in Figure 1. First, NLP can compare the patterns of language between teams that lead to different outcomes, such as which team wins or loses. 

Second, NLP can model the language relationship between teams to understand which team is leading, and which team is following. Lexical entrainment, semantic similarity, and linguistic style-matching all refer to the process of speakers aligning their language as they collaborate and interact more [8][9][10]. This is visible especially in Rounds 2 and 3 where the Red and Blue teams show similar patterns of positive emotion language use, although with different magnitudes. 

Third, this analysis can be approached with more granularity to examine the individual participants within groups, over time, and between rounds, to determine who are the thought leaders, influencers, and idea entrepreneurs with the greatest power of persuasion. Sentiment analysis has been used to explain how leaders use emotionally evocative language to persuade followers, where positive emotion leads to improved public opinion ratings[11].

       Figure 1. Positive emotion by round, over time, and across teams for ICONS wargaming exercise

One of the critiques of wargaming has been that it is not always cross-culturally representative, which may introduce unintended cultural biases that lead to sub-optimal outcomes. Linguistic analysis of wargaming transcripts using cutting edge natural language processing approaches like Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers aka BERT[12] can help reveal how word meanings vary across issue area, culture, and context, and in doing so, provide objective metrics of language and cultural bias. Computational linguistics approaches can help reveal what people mean when they refer to particular concepts, and how this meaning is interpreted differently by other audiences. Figure 2 illustrates this point well: Windsor[13]  plots the use of two semantically related terms, conflict and war, over time between 1900 and 2000 in six different languages. While the use of these terms generally follow similar patterns, they vary in three different ways: over time; by language; and by term. 

In practice, war and conflict can be used interchangeably, but they also demonstrate remarkable differences over time and between languages. This means that when speakers use these terms, listeners may broadly share related interpretations of the words’ meanings, but room for misinterpretation clearly exists. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis suggests that language makes different interpretations of the world available based on the structure of language and lexicon available to speakers[14][15]. Using the BERT process on wargaming transcripts can help reveal instances where participants in the wargaming exercise misunderstand each other, and which concepts provide the most ambiguity and need the most clarification. In the field, understanding the opponent is part and parcel of the “winning hearts and minds” strategy. Gaps in cultural and linguistic understanding can create potentially dangerous, and unnecessary, chasms between people in conflict zones[16]. Computational linguistics approaches can help to identify these gaps so that military personnel, strategists, policymakers – and scholars – can better understand the optimal conditions for negotiating mutually beneficial outcomes. 

Figure 2. Trends in Google NGram for “War” and “Conflict” by Language (1900-2018), taken from Windsor (2021)

Theories of group decision-making are becoming more sophisticated as scholars of international relations and foreign policy re-embrace and return to the foundations of behavioral psychology. While Janis[17]  hypothesized about group-think a generation ago, more recently scholars focused on political psychology have highlighted the importance of experience, poly-think, and framing effects for groups[18]. While this research has advanced ideas about the nature of group decision-making, in practice the group dynamics that shape foreign policy decision-making are more opaque. Wargaming exercises prove a unique opportunity for exploring such theories. This approach builds on the extant literature on wargaming[19][20][21], and offers a path forward for advancing the study of wargaming using theoretically-grounded computational social science methods. 


Endnotes:

[1] Greenwald AG, Krieger LH. Implicit Bias: Scientific Foundations. Calif Law Rev. 2006;94: 945–967. doi:10.2307/20439056

[2] Jones HM, Box-Steffensmeier J. Implicit Bias and Why It Matters to the Field of Political Methodology. In: The Political Methodologist [Internet]. 31 Mar 2014 [cited 6 Jun 2018]. Available: https://thepoliticalmethodologist.com/2014/03/31/implicit-bias-and-why-it-matters-to-the-field-of-political-methodology

[3] Hancock JT, Curry LE, Goorha S, Woodworth M. On lying and being lied to: A linguistic analysis of deception in computer-mediated communication. Discourse Process. 2007;45: 1–23.

[4] Gonzales AL, Hancock JT, Pennebaker JW. Language style matching as a predictor of social dynamics in small groups. Commun Res. 2010;37: 3–19.

[5] Pennebaker JW, Chung CK, others. Computerized text analysis of Al-Qaeda transcripts. Content Anal Read. 2008; 453–465.

[6] Lin-Greenberg E, Pauly R, Schneider J. Wargaming for Political Science Research. Available SSRN. 2020.

[7] Linera R, Seese G, Canna S. Counter-Da’esh Influence Operations. May 2016 [cited 10 Jan 2021]. Available: https://nsiteam.com/counter-daesh-influence-operations

[8] Rogan RG. Linguistic style matching in crisis negotiations: a comparative analysis of suicidal and surrender outcomes. J Police Crisis Negot. 2011;11: 20–39.

[9] Taylor PJ, Thomas S. Linguistic Style Matching and Negotiation Outcome. Negot Confl Manag Res. 2008;1: 263–281. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-4716.2008.00016.x

[10] Taylor PJ, Dando CJ, Ormerod TC, Ball LJ, Jenkins MC, Sandham A, et al. Detecting insider threats through language change. Law Hum Behav. 2013;37: 267.

[11] Love G, Windsor L. Populism and Popular Support: Vertical Accountability, Exogenous Events, and Leader Discourse in Venezuela. Polit Res Q. 2017.

[12] Devlin J, Chang M-W, Lee K, Toutanova K. BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding. ArXiv181004805 Cs. 2019 [cited 20 Sep 2020]. Available: http://arxiv.org/abs/1810.04805

[13] Windsor L. Linguistic and Political Relativity: AI Bias and the Language of Internatioanl Relations. AI Ethics. Routledge; 2021.

[14] Whorf BL. Science and linguistics. Bobbs-Merrill Indianapolis, IN; 1940.

[15] Kay P, Kempton W. What is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Am Anthropol. 1984;86: 65–79.

[16] Morrison T, Conaway WA. Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries. Adams Media; 2006.

[17] Janis IL. Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. 1972.

[18] Hermann MG. Foreign policy role orientations and the quality of foreign policy decisions. Role Theory Foreign Policy Anal. 1987; 123–140.

[19] Asal V, Blake EL. Creating simulations for political science education. J Polit Sci Educ. 2006;2: 1–18.

[20] Brynen R. Virtual paradox: how digital war has reinvigorated analogue wargaming. Digit War. 2020; 1–6.

[21] Reddie AW, Goldblum BL, Lakkaraju K, Reinhardt J, Nacht M, Epifanovskaya L. Next-generation wargames. Science. 2018;362: 1362–1364.

Assessment Papers Dr. Leah C. Windsor Dr. Susan Allen Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing Wargaming in Turkey

M. Fatih BAS is a lecturer in the Department of History at the Turkish Military Academy in Ankara, Turkey.  He is currently pursuing a PhD in modern military history at Gazi University and can be found on Twitter @mefaba.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Wargaming in Turkey

Date Originally Written:  June 7, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  June 21, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a lecturer of military history in the Turkish Military Academy. The author believes that the absence of a wargaming culture in Turkey can be overcome by a close cooperation between the Turkish military and the academia.

Summary:  Wargaming in Turkey has a long history but it has always been confined to military circles. Wargaming was never a civilian hobby or educational tool for academics. Even in the military, wargaming is reserved almost exclusively for staff officers and higher echelons. Civilian-military cooperation to establish a wargaming community will improve the wargaming capacity of Turkish military and academia.

Text:  When the young Prussian Captain Helmuth von Moltke arrived in Istanbul as a military advisor in 1835, he was received by the Ottoman Minister of War Hüsrev Pasha who showed him a wargame kit and asked for his help with the rules. Hüsrev Pasha’s game was almost definitely a copy of Kriegsspiel designed by von Reisswitz the younger[1]. Hüsrev Pasha, being apparently enthusiastic about this new tactical training tool, could never have implemented it in the Ottoman Army at the time. The army was already going through a massive reform and the quality of the officer corps was far from ideal. 

It would take nearly half a century for the Ottoman professional military education to produce officers who would appreciate wargaming as a useful tool for training. Ottoman re-discovery of wargaming came soon after the first large-scale German military mission’s arrival in Istanbul, in 1882. The same year, Senior Captain Ömer Kâmil Efendi translated and published Colonel Verdy du Vernois’s wargame rules, which was the first appearance of wargaming in Turkish military literature[2]. 

During the Ottoman military modernization under German supervision, wargaming entrenched itself in Ottoman military regulations and manuals which were mostly word-by-word translations of the German ones. With the implementation of the so-called application method of the German professional military education, wargaming became an important part of the Army War College curriculum[3]. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Navy seemed not to be interested in wargaming, as the first ever mention of wargames in the Ottoman naval literature appeared in 1916 when Lieutenant Nail Efendi translated and published the wargaming conferences delivered in 1887 by William McCarty Little in the U.S. Naval War College[4]. 

Though the Ottoman Army tried to implement wargaming as a valid training tool, this never went beyond the classroom exercises in the War College, and does not seem to have been adopted by regular officers. Staff rides -another Prussian tradition- are known to have been regularly held with the attendance of staff officers from all ranks but there is no mention of wargames conducted by army headquarters or by the Ottoman Ministry of War. 

Things did not quite change after the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. But still, the first ever recorded large-scale Turkish wargame was conducted in 1924. The Turkish General Staff, with the attendance of army commanders and President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, tested various strategies to be employed in case of a joint aggression by Italy and Greece in Western Anatolia and Thrace[5]. In the modern Turkish Army, just like it was the case with its Ottoman predecessor, wargaming was confined to the halls of the War College. Wargaming remained an integral part of staff officer training and army regulations recommended it to staff officers as a useful training tool but the rest of the officer corps remained almost entirely oblivious to wargaming[6]. 

Wargaming habits of the Turkish Army changed very little in the past hundred years. While wargaming solutions developed by the government agencies such as the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), government affiliated corporations such as HAVELSAN or private software companies appear regularly in defense news[7], references to wargaming in Turkish military journals and official documents have always been extremely limited. Army field exercises regularly make the headlines of major national news outlets[8] but there is almost no open access information about regular wargaming activities of any branch of the Turkish Armed Forces. Currently, wargaming seems to remain almost exclusively as a training activity for staff officer candidates in the War College which has its own wargaming center in its campus. 

According to current military exercise regulation, each army headquarters of the Turkish Army is required to conduct wargames regularly[9]. Strategic-level political-military wargames seldomly take place and they are widely reported by the media when they do[10]. Also, every operational and tactical level headquarters is required to conduct regular command post exercises which are simulated with various software[11]. Such exercises are held exclusively as a headquarters readiness tests, rather than tactical training exercises. So, it is debatable if these exercises count as wargames. It is safe to assume that the majority of the Turkish officer corps complete their careers without participating in any kind of wargaming activity. 

Despite all its shortcomings, a tradition of professional wargaming exists in Turkey. One cannot say the same about hobby wargaming. Apart from a small minority who mostly play fantasy themed tabletop games, there is no wargaming hobby society known to have ever existed in Turkey. Strategy themed video games have always been popular, but realistic military simulations which can be categorized as wargames are virtually unknown to the Turkish gamers. The main reason for that is the language barrier. The need to digest lengthy rule sets written in English is not an appealing feature for the average Turkish gamer, even for the ones who are interested in military matters. 

Today, wargaming is creating its own academic field and it surely is not entirely a military activity any more[12]. Wargaming societies in academia are known to benefit initially from commercial wargames and hobby wargaming base in their respected countries[13]. The absence of the hobby aspect of wargaming in Turkey, naturally hinders wargaming in academia, and the academics remain mostly unaware of wargaming activities conducted by their colleagues in other countries. 

Developing a wargaming culture in Turkey would definitely be an uphill struggle. But a civilian-military cooperation may overcome this challenge. The current situation in Turkey is quite suitable for civilian-military cooperation in various subjects, and wargaming can be one of them. A jointly established wargaming community would be the first step in developing a wargaming culture that would benefit both the military and the academia. If this community receives adequate support, it would also be an excellent solution for increasing wargaming capabilities of the Turkish Armed Forces. 


Endnotes:

[1] Von Moltke, H. (1969). Moltkenin Türkiye Mektupları. (H. Örs, Translator). İstanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, p. 29.

[2] İhsanoğlu,E. et al. (2004). Osmanlı Askerlik Literatürü Tarihi, I. Cilt. İstanbul: İslam Tarih, Sanat ve Kültür Araştırma Merkezi, p. 195.

[3] İskora, M. M. (1944). Türk Ordusu Kurmaylık (Erkânıharbiye) Tarihçesi. Ankara: Harp Akademisi Matbaası, p. 57.

[4] Kıdemli Yüzbaşı Nail. (1916). “Sevkülceyşî Harb Oyunu Yahud Harita Manevrası”, Risâle-i Mevkute-i Bahriye 2/6, p. 273-288.

[5] Özkurt, F. (2017). Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ve Askerî Manevra ve Tatbikatlar (1909-1938) Ankara: Genelkurmay Basımevi, p. 71-81.

[6] Mehmed Nihad. (1925). Zabitin Harb Çantası Üçüncü Cüz’ü. İstanbul: Matbaa-i Askerî, p. 183-185. İskora, M. M. (1966). Harp Akademileri Tarihçesi 1846-1965 1inci Cilt. Ankara: Genelkurmay Basımevi, p. 80.

[7] For a piece on HAVELSAN’s Joint Wargame and Education Center see: MSI. (2019, June 11). HAVELSAN Müşterek Harp Oyunu ve Eğitim Merkezi. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://www.savunmahaber.com/havelsan-musterek-harp-oyunu-ve-egitim-merkezi-2/. For a piece on Turkish private corporation JEY Defense’s Joint Wargame Simulation see: Görgülü, E. (2018, October 19). TSK için ürettiler! Tatbikatlarda bir ilk. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/tsk-icin-urettiler-tatbikatlarda-bir-ilk-40991754.

[8] For a piece on recent joint exercise conducted with Azerbaijani Army see: Rehimov, R. (2021, May 22). Azerbaycan ve Türk askerleri ortak tatbikat yaptı. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/azerbaycan-ve-turk-askerleri-ortak-tatbikat-yapti/2250886

[9] Kara Kuvvetleri Komutanlığı. (2010). KKT 190-1 (B) Tatbikatların Sevk ve İdaresi. Ankara: KK Basımevi ve Basılı Evrak Depo Müdürlüğü, 3. Bölüm. 

[10] For a piece on the Joint/Combined Wargame conducted in İstanbul, in 2016 see: DHA. (2016, May 17). Yıldız 2016 Harp Oyunu. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/yildiz-2016-harp-oyunu-40105395

[11] Akkaya, S. (2003). “MUHSİMLEM Komutanlığının Görev ve Fonksiyonları”, Kara Kuvvetleri Dergisi Sayı: 5, p. 54-57.

[12] Brynen, R. (2019, 8 May). Wargaming as an academic discipline. Retrieved June 5, 2021, from https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/wargaming-as-an-academic-discipline/

[13] Sabin, P. (2012). Simulating War: Studying Conflict Through Simulation Games. London: Bloomsbury, Introduction.

Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) M. Fatih BAS Turkey Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing Practical Educational Wargaming

Mitch Reed has served in the United States Air Force since 1986 as both a commissioned officer and a government civilian. He presently works at Headquarters U.S. Air Force as wargamer and is also a hobby wargamer who runs the website NoDiceNoGlory.com. He can be reached at iprop27@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:  Assessing Practical Educational Wargaming 

Date Originally Written:  June 8, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  June 14, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) officer and a wargamer in both the USAF and the hobby communities. The article is written from the basis that wargaming is the perfect laboratory for social science students and helps develop leaders with critical decision-making skills. 

Summary:  Hard science educators use laboratory environments to assess student progress.  Social sciences and other areas of endeavor can do the same via wargaming.  While one may assume wargaming focuses solely on war, its applications are both for war and beyond, including nearly any context in which an organization or individual desires to determine the cost of action or inaction.  

Text:  Educators continuously seek means to validate the progress of their students. In hard science curriculums, educators often use a laboratory environment where the students can apply and hone their knowledge in a controlled manner. Subsequently, educators can truly assess the level of learning of their students – beyond a student’s ability to retain and recite the coursework. In contrast, social science courses lack a laboratory environment where knowledge transforms into practical application.  Within the Department of Defense, wargaming is used a practical exercise to validate learning.  A wargame creates a specific environment where the players face challenges and will need to apply their knowledge to come up with decisions to solve the problems that the game presents. 

In 2021, the author supported a global wargame at the Marine Corps University (MCU) where the War College students played the roles of various nations involved in a major conflict. The students were all senior Field Grade Officers with 16-18 years of military experience and various positions of leadership during their military career. Despite their years of experience, students consistently stated how the wargame enabled them to utilize what they learned over the preceding eight months in a manner where they were able to test the concepts in a simulated environment. This “eureka” moment was not evident at first. Initially, the students relied on concepts they felt most comfortable with, often reverting to knowledge they had before attending the course. Yet, the students quickly recognized that by synthesizing and applying the coursework, they could solve the problems that game presented. The students were able to leverage military capabilities and execute them across warfighting domains to generate the effects they desired to “win” the game. 

These observations validated two concepts; the first is that the students grasped the coursework and secondly, they were able to use what they learned during the wargame. This second point is critical because it indicates that after the students graduate the War College at MCU they will have the capability to apply the knowledge they have gained in a manner which will benefit the military operations they are involved in for the rest of their careers. These observations validate not only what the students learned at MCU but also the need for professional military education and the need for wargaming to play a major role in these courses. 

The author’s experience at MCU was not a singular. When teaching concepts such as military operational planning and execution as an instructor or mentor war-games are invaluable to reinforce the curriculum.  

It should be no mystery on why wargaming provides such a robust means of validating learning. Through a wargame, an instructor can tailor the environment of the game in such a manner where students apply the newly learned concepts in a pressure-filled environment[1]. Unlike a test where each question usually has only one correct answer, a wargame offers no simple answers, but a multitude of paths forward. Students possess several means to solve a problem and the outcome is not predetermined if the game uses a stochastic methodology. A risky gamble may succeed, a thorough plan may fail or vice versa – reflective of capricious reality. Ultimately, students must contend with decisions and their consequences.  

Seemingly counter intuitive, failure serves to illustrate several factors, which are often out of the control of the players that can affect the game’s outcome, which proves that the lessons of a game may be quite indirect[2] and gives the players a sense of uncertainty when making their decisions. Within its artificial environment, a wargame can pull a student out of their comfort zone and force them to make sound decisions rapidly to prevent a negative outcome in the game. Wargames also emulate the environment the students will have to make decisions in when in an operational assignment. 

The military is not the only benefactor of wargaming and the benefits of wargaming translates very well to other fields. Students learning about the failure of the Weimar government in 1930s Germany can use a game to examine a ‘What if” scenario that can uncover the events that lead to the election of the National Socialists in 1933. In business, a wargame can gain insight into how best to market a product or execute a product recall. The uses of wargaming in social science matters is endless and is worthy of inclusion in any course of study or decision-making process. 

Despite their value, war-games are not often included in the educational environment.  Wargames are not always the easiest of things to create and making a wargame that achieves all desired objectives is as much of an art and science.  No matter how tough the challenge, educators can gain by seeking out avenues in which wargaming can enrich the academic environment. 

Wargamers are the best ambassadors for wargames as an educational tool and are well positioned to describe the benefits of war-games and wargaming to the uninformed or curious.   Grassroots advocacy will ensure that wargaming grows and plays a major role in academia. 


Endnotes:

[1] Elg, Johan Erik, “Wargaming in Military Education for Army Officers and Officer Cadets,” King’s College London, September 2017.

[2] Wong, Bae, Bartels, Smith (2019) Next-Generation Wargaming for the U.S. Marine Corps, retrieved 21 May 2021; from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2227.html 

Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Mitch Reed Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing U.S. Army Diversity Efforts in the Context of Great Power Competition

Louis Melancon, PhD has served in the U.S. Army around the globe for 25 years. He presently represents the U.S. Army to the Joint Hard Targets Strategies 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 U.S. Army Diversity Efforts in the Context of Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  May 21, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  June 7, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty military member who believes diversity of work force is a potential asymmetric advantage in great power competition. 

Summary:  The heuristics (mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision) that people rely on matter.  Relying on outdated heuristics can be problematic. While U.S. Army talent management efforts have been important in realizing increased diversity, the effort to create matching heuristics is lacking. The result will likely undermine the U.S. Army’s efforts at achieving diversity. 

Text:  On May 20, 2021, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz made comments about U.S. Army recruiting advertisements[1]. Twitter users responded to the senator’s tweet quickly and in a highly negative manner.  Beyond these twitter responses, the situation Senator Cruz’s comments created highlights a larger implication of similar behaviors in the U.S. Army. The issue at hand is a reliance on flawed heuristics; approximations of knowledge that are useful in making immediate, though not necessarily the most efficient, decisions. 

Despite Senator Cruz’s attempts to back away from his position about the efficacy of the U.S. Army compared to the Russian military[2], the heuristic that he used is clear: efficacy of a military is defined by its ability shape its members into a similar, unthinking mold; a vessel to contain violence, unleashed automatically in response to a command given by their masters. The senator’s tweet illustrates a belief that soldiers are identical cogs in the machine of an army; when a cog breaks, it is replaced, and the machine grinds on. This heuristic echoes the industrial revolution and does an adequate job of describing Queen Victoria’s army[3], but is not useful today.

The nature of war remains constant, but the character of war changes[4]. The characteristics of an industrial revolution army are not useful in modern, great power competition. Senator Cruz’s heuristic is outdated. However, his foible highlights a similar problem of similar heuristics that are often used within the U.S. Army regarding talent management. 

The U.S. Army, over the past several years, has taken great steps to leverage the diversity of its force and should be applauded for this effort. A large talent management effort has created a web-based market place to match soldiers to units based on preferences. Official photos have been removed from personnel files in an attempt to reduce bias by units and in central selection boards. Gender neutral pronouns are now used in evaluations. New methods of selecting battalion and brigade leadership are in place[5]. These  steps improve diversity but by themselves will take too long, perhaps a full work generation of 15-20 years, to effectively address and correct biases that emerge from old, outdated heuristics. 

Breaking and replacing heuristics is hard; it takes energy, thoughtfulness, and leadership focus. Diversity of a population, and by the transitive property, the military force it raises, can be an asymmetric advantage in competition and conflict justifying that energy and leadership focus. Context matters in competition and conflict; strength only has value when placed in the context of an opponent and that opponent’s weakness. The goal is always to create an advantage and a successful military engages an opponent at their weakness. A military is deceiving itself if it relies on its self-assessed strength in isolation of an opponent.  Success in both competition and conflict comes from turning interactions with an opponent into an asymmetric engagement where the balance is not in the opponent’s favor.  For the U.S. Army, in this era of great power competition, this strength rests in the children of the American people, all the American people with all their diverse backgrounds. New technologies can be duplicated, new weapons can and will be countered, but a diverse people, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to problems, cannot be easily replicated. The longer the U.S. Army waits to break its talent management- related heuristics and fully utilize its soldiers, the more behind it falls in competition, especially with China.  

As a society, and as a military force, the U.S. and U.S. Army have significantly greater ethnic and gender diversity than either China or Russia. China’s People’s Liberation Army is a monument to glass ceilings for those that are not ethnic Han or male[6]. The picture is not better in the Russian military for those who are not ethnic Russian or male[7]. This is not to say either military force is monolithic in their outlook, but near homogeneity tends to create predictability, inflexibility, and an inability to identify self-weakness[8]. There is an opportunity here for the U.S. Army to truly find and leverage talent management as an asymmetric advantage against the Chinese and Russian military personnel systems, and so by extension their militaries as a whole. 

The U.S. Army has not been as effective in breaking and replacing old heuristics in conjunction with the active steps to increase diversity. Anecdotal evidence is emerging that new heuristics are naturally emerging within the force that will slow down the efforts to improve diversity; this is a result of not deliberately seeking to replace heuristics at pace with new diversity initiatives. As an example, rather than focus on matching skills needed for a position with a candidate, some units are seeking out personnel whose career trajectory closely matches previous concepts of a successful soldier. Preferring a concept of what makes a good soldier over recognized skills needed for mission success goes against what the U.S. Army desires with talent management. There is no maliciousness here, humans rely on heuristics and so older, flawed concepts are tweaked on the margins if nothing is provided to replace them. The units are seeking to do the right thing, but are limited by what the individuals within them know. Without a deliberate effort to shape heuristics that support new policies, the ones which emerge in the force will inevitably and inadvertently buttress the old biases.  

Senator Cruz provided a teachable moment. His constituents will decide with the ballot if he will have to pay a price for having outdated and flawed heuristics. Were the U.S. Army to share Senator Cruz’s outlook, the price paid in both competition and conflict with peer competitors will be much higher for soldiers if the issue of heuristics is not addressed now.


Endnotes:

[1] Cruz, Rafael E. [@tedcruz]. (20 May, 2021). “Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea…” Twitter. https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/1395394254969753601

[2] Cruz, Rafael E. [@tedcruz]. (20 May, 2021). “I’m enjoying lefty blue check marks losing their minds over this tweet, dishonestly claiming I’m “attacking the military.” Uh, no. We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies. The new Dem videos are terrible.” Twitter. https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/1395586598943825924 

[3] Brown, M. (2017). Cold Steel, Weak Flesh: Mechanism, Masculinity and the Anxieties of Late Victorian Empire. Cultural and Social History, 14(2), 155-181.

[4] Johnson, R. (2017). The Changing Character of War: Making Strategy in the Early Twenty-First Century. The RUSI Journal162(1), 6-12.

[5] The variety of in-place and future initiatives can be seen at https://talent.army.mil

[6] Kania, E. (4 October 2016). “Holding Up Half the Sky? (Part 1)—The Evolution of Women’s Roles in the PLA.” China Brief. https://jamestown.org/program/holding-half-sky-part-1-evolution-womens-roles-pla

[7] Chesnut, M. (18 September 2020) “Women in the Russian Military.” The Post-Soviet Post. Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/women-russian-military

[8] Cooke, A., & Kemeny, T. (2017). “Cities, Immigrant Diversity, and Complex Problem Solving.” Research Policy46(6), 1175-1185.

Assessment Papers Diversity Louis Melancon Readiness U.S. Army

Assessing Wargaming in New Zealand

Michael Gardiner is completing a Masters in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University. He is also a co-founder of the Victoria University of Wellington Wargaming Society which designs, implements, and teaches wargaming to students and other stakeholders within New Zealand. He can be found on Twitter @Mikey_Gardiner_. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing Wargaming in New Zealand

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 31, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a co-founder of the Victoria University of Wellington Wargaming Society. The author believes that New Zealand’s national security community, businesses and other organisations can benefit from using wargaming as an educational and analytical tool. 

Summary:  While New Zealand has a strong wargaming history, the country has a heavy reliance on tactical-level wargames that limits the scope of wargame utility to hobbyist and defence force practitioners. Contemporary practitioners such as the VUW Wargaming Society can plug the gap by providing strategic level thinking to policymakers and other actors. Wargaming will grow in popularity as New Zealand’s threat environment changes. 

Text:  New Zealand’s wargaming history is primarily one at the hobbyist level. ‘Miniature wargaming’ which focuses on assembling, painting, and playing with figurine armies became increasingly popular from the early 20th Century. Wargaming societies and suppliers soon established themselves across the country from Auckland to Dunedin. Founded in 1972 as the Wellington Wargames Section, the Wellington Warlords is one of New Zealand’s oldest wargaming societies and still attracts hundreds of members with an interest in miniature wargaming[1]. While the focus remains entrenched in building, painting, and playing with miniature armies, the philosophies of hobbyist wargames in New Zealand’s wargaming culture remain relevant to wider applications. Writing in the 1980s, Wellington wargamer Andrew Hatt notes “the charm of wargaming lies in its infinite adaptability[2].”  This practicality stemming from the country’s population of “do it yourselfers[3]” suggests New Zealand has a foundational hobbyist culture that would lend itself well to more professional wargaming ventures. 

New Zealand’s Defence Force also has experience participating in wargames. Computer wargames are important for simulating battlefield developments at the operational and tactical levels, particularly in training contexts. The New Zealand Army uses video games, such as those run by Bohemia Interactive’s Arma 3 engine for tactical training[4]. Inspired by the United States Marine Corps, the New Zealand Army’s Wargaming Battlelab in 2017 involved a series of tactical-level decision-making wargames that would culminate in the creation of a New Zealand specific module[5]. In terms of joint exercises, the New Zealand Army has significant experience wargaming with the United States military, such as in the 1978 exercise ‘First Foray[6].’ Meanwhile, the New Zealand Navy has participated in numerous joint exercises such as a humanitarian focused operation with Vanuatu[7] and more large-scale exercises such as RIMPAC[8]. International exercises to improve interoperability in space such as through the Schriever wargame, have also included New Zealand[9]. 

Outside of the tactical level, wargaming in New Zealand has failed to take off. A kaleidoscope of stakeholders can stand to reap the benefits of strategic level wargames. Providing the predictive capabilities of wargaming are not overestimated[10], the advantages of strategic level wargames include:

  • Strategic level wargames embrace the messiness of reality. The immersive nature of wargames allows participants to gain insights into situational complexities. These complexities are particularly useful for crisis simulations[11].  
  • Strategic level wargames enable interactions within a wargaming environment that promotes robust discussions and debates over key variables, information, and insights. Wargame disagreements, when handled effectively, lead to stronger policy and strategic recommendations[12].
  • Strategic level wargames can bring to light previously missed weak signals and whispers from the ‘grey zone[13].’ 

The newly created VUW Wargaming Society (VUWWS) seeks to fill the gap at the strategic level. Specialising in futures-casting and strategic tradecraft, VUWWS recognises the importance for wargaming as an analytical and educational tool[14]. In its nascent form, VUWWS could soon occupy an important position within New Zealand’s small national security apparatus. Works such as the soon-to-be-published Emperor Penguin report – which focuses on great power competition in the Antarctic region – will add important insights to New Zealand’s foreign policy and future strategic planning. Given the revived debate over New Zealand’s relationships with the United States and China, testing New Zealand’s strategy within the safe container of a strategic level wargame has never been more valuable. As such, VUWWS could become a significant force given its competitive advantage, the emerging confluence of strategic threats, and a return of national security concerns to New Zealand discourse. 

Naturally, wargaming does not have to focus explicitly on traditional threats and military power. New Zealand’s security is becoming increasingly challenged from a wide variety of sources, particularly from non-conventional threats. Consistent with New Zealand’s “all hazards – all risks” approach to national security[15], wargaming’s adaptability means it can be a useful tool for assessing national responses to issues like climate change, cyber-security, trans-national crime, natural disasters, etc. For example, while New Zealand has mitigated the threat from Covid-19, wargaming could have been used to identify blind spots in the response strategy to prevent more lockdowns and community transmission[16]. As “trade is not just about trade[17],” New Zealand’s geographic reality as a small island reliant on trade would significantly benefit from wargaming issues such as the impacts of policy decisions on supply chain resilience, especially given recent initiatives to diversify away from dependence on China. Businesses, non-governmental organisations, think tanks and other actors can also leverage the power of wargaming to test strategies, draw insights and act with more confidence despite future uncertainty.

The accessibility of wargaming knowledge and practice also improves the transparency of national security issues. Keeping constituencies and stakeholders in the dark around strategic issues and threat landscapes gives national security apparatuses ‘shadowy’ reputations[18]. While some information must remain classified for security reasons, more public debates around national security issues are valuable. New Zealand’s national security ecosystem and general public would stand to benefit from more enriching conversations about New Zealand’s place in the world, supported by publicly accessible wargaming tools and information created from it’s use. A student-oriented club like VUWWS uses open-source information, and as a result could find itself contributing to more national discussions. 

Finally, a thriving wargaming community within New Zealand offers the potential for greater security cooperation. A well-established and supported wargaming community within New Zealand’s national security apparatus signals a willingness to engage seriously regarding security concerns, particularly within the Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, working together with regional partners on joint-exercises and sharing wargaming best practice can become an important facet of Track II discussions. Relationships and cooperative outcomes can be developed through wargaming, with improved ties across governments, defence forces, academia, and wider society.  


Endnotes:

[1] History of the Club. Wellington Warlords. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18 2021, from  https://warlords.org.nz/history-of-the-club. 

[2] Hatt, A. (1981). Wargaming: A New Zealand handbook. Wellington: Wellington Wargames Society, p. 3

[3] Millar, A. (1975). So you want to play wargames. Wellington: Wellington Wargames Society, p. 4

[4] Curry, J. (2020). Professional wargaming: A flawed but useful tool. Simulation & Gaming, 51(5), 612-631. doi:10.1177/1046878120901852, p. 626

[5] Wargaming Battlelab. New Zealand Defence Force (2017, December 11). Army News. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE31102363, pp. 32-33

[6] Caffrey Jr., M. B. (2019). On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future. Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College Press. https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1043&context=newport-papers, p. 114

[7] Corby, S. (2018, May 01). New Zealand wargames Pacific intervention in Vanuatu. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/new-zealand-wargames-pacific-intervention-in-vanuatu

[8] Thomas, R. (2020, June 10). Rimpac war GAMES exercise: New Zealand government urged to withdraw. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/418720/rimpac-war-games-exercise-new-zealand-government-urged-to-withdraw

[9] Ministry of Defence. (2018). Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018. Wellington: Ministry of Defence. https://www.defence.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/8958486b29/Strategic-Defence-Policy-Statement-2018.pdf, p. 38

[10] Curry, J. (2020). Professional wargaming: A flawed but useful tool. Simulation & Gaming, 51(5), 612-631. doi:10.1177/1046878120901852, p. 612

[11] Schechter, B., Schneider, J., & Shaffer, R. (2021). Wargaming as a Methodology: The International Crisis Wargame and Experimental Wargaming. Simulation & Gaming, doi:10.1177/1046878120987581

[12] Nagle, T. (2021, May 11). Conflicts in wargames: Leveraging disagreements to build value. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/05/conflicts-in-wargames-leveraging-disagreements-to-build-value

[13] Rubel, R. C. (2021, March 08). Whispers from Wargames about the Gray Zone. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/03/whispers-from-wargames-about-the-gray-zone

[14] VUW Wargaming Society. Bio and contact details. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/students/campus/clubs/directory/wargaming-society 

[15] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. New Zealand’s national security system. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://dpmc.govt.nz/our-programmes/national-security-and-intelligence/national-security/new-zealands-national-security 

[16] Dyer, P. (2021). Policy & Institutional Responses to COVID-19: New Zealand. Brookings Doha Center. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/MENA-COVID-19-Survey-New-Zealand-.pdf, p. 16

[17] Sachdeva, S. (2021, May 13). UK diplomat: ‘Trade is never just about trade’. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.newsroom.co.nz/laura-clarke-trade-is-never-just-about-trade

[18] Manch, T. (2021, March 24). New Zealand’s national security apparatus remains shadowy, two years on from the March 15 terror attack. Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/124611960/new-zealands-national-security-apparatus-remains-shadowy-two-years-on-from-the-march-15-terror-attack

Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Michael Gardiner New Zealand Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing the Impact of a Kriegsspiel 2.0 in Modern Leadership and Command Training

This article is published as part of a Georgetown University Wargaming Society and Divergent Options Call for Papers on Wargaming which ran from May 1, 2021 to June 12, 2021.  More information about this Call for Papers can be found by clicking here.


Colonel (Generalstaff) Soenke Marahrens has served in the German Airforce since 1987.  Now he serves as Head of Research for Strategy and Forces.  He presently works at the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies in Hamburg.  He can be found on Twitter at @cdr2012neu. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of a Kriegsspiel 2.0 in Modern Leadership and Command Training.

Date Originally Written:  May 1, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 17, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active German military member with General Staff officer training. The author believes in wargaming as tool to teach leadership and command. He has written two master theses on the topic of the Prussian Wargame at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of the Armed Forces in Hamburg. Over the last four years the author observed and took part in a multiple Prussian-Kriegsspiel-sessions with civilian and military students run by the University of Würzburg[1]. The article is written from the point of view of a senior German officer towards military education and training and reflect his personal views.

Summary:  The Prussian Kriegsspiel was introduced in 1824 to educate and train officers in leadership and command in an interactive setting. Providing a fair and unbiased platform, it allows for modern forms of tutoring, mentoring, self-learning, and competence-based learning. However, without a moderate digitalization and conceptual makeover, the Kriegsspiel will not reach its full potential.

Text:  When Lieutenant v. Reisswitz[2] presented his Kriegsspiel[3] to the Chief of Defence General von Müffling in 1824[4], he couldn’t know, that his ideas would last forever. His Kriegsspiel allowed two parties of one or more players to solve military tasks under the adjudication of a neutral umpire. This neutral umpire oversaw running the simulation on a master map, executing orders of the parties, resolving battles, creating reports and providing feedback after the game.

Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel wasn’t the first of its kind. In his introduction he mentioned military games back to the old Greeks, but his “Kriegsspiel” – war game is the direct translation of the German word – was new in two regards: a. using a real-world map in 1:8000 scale and b. rolling dice to decide outcomes and losses. Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel challenged its players with a geographically correct battlefield merged with dice-driven randomness, what Clausewitz would 1832 call friction and the fog of war[5]. Reisswitz’ intent was to create an instructional tool rather than a game, he wrote: “Anyone, who can manoeuvre naturally and calmly, can quickly appreciate the idea of a plan, and follow it through logically, can make the most of good luck and adjust to bad luck, fully deserves approval. The winning or losing, in the sense of a card or board game, does not come into it[6].”

Following the dissemination of the Kriegsspiel to all Prussian Regiments by personal order of the king, Reisswitz’ rule set was revised. The first revision was by a group of young Prussian officers from 1826 – 1827, who published their findings as a Supplement in 1828[7]. The next revision came around 1846-1848, when the Wargaming-Societies of Magdeburg and Berlin updated the von Reisswitz rules in accordance with the technological advancements for artillery guns and infantry rifles[8][9]. In 1862[10], Lieutenant von Tschischwitz merged both rule sets into one abbreviated new rule set and published updates in 1867[11], 1870[12] and 1874[13]. Tschischwitz’ rule set started a renaissance of the Kriegsspiel in Prussia, which was attributed to the Prussian Victories[14]. Around 1873 Lieutenant von Meckel, a lecturer at the Kriegsschule in Hannover, criticised publicly, that the rigid use of dice and rules would diminish the personality of the umpire[15]. Lieutenant von Meckel’s criticism led to the creation of the “free” Kriegsspiel by Colonel Count Verdy du This Vernois[16], who discarded the dice.

Despite the discarding, the use of the dice and strict rules make the “rigid” Kriegsspiel a “fair” game for all players, unfortunately, adjudication by dice is a complex and time-consuming task for the umpire, deeming it almost unplayable. The freeplay -without dice and rules- Kriegsspiel occurs much faster but has become dependent on the personality and bias of the umpire, increasing the risk of fostering flattering behavior instead of intellectual debate amongst the players. The Kriegsspiel, even with its rigid use of dice, remains valuable for a variety of reasons.

1. The Kriegsspiel creates more immersion, engagement, and sustainability than any other classroom teaching on leadership and command.

2. While its use of historic artillery, infantry, and cavalry seems a rather artefactual approach to war, this approach:

a. Creates enough complexity to demonstrate the challenges to leadership and command as the coordination of space, time, and forces through information.

b. Minimizes discussions on the realism of rules, assets, and capabilities in its rigid version.

c. Is still close enough to war to discuss moral factors like impact of losses or moral hazards like winning for any price. Despite this

d. Risks “gamer mode behavior,” where players use game features like rules or limits of the underlying model to reach their given aims[17].

3. The Kriegsspiel allows players to experience a real Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop without a determined outcome while confronting a smart enemy, which fosters and promotes creative thinking. While the Kriegsspiel was traditionally just for officers, it can be used today to train all ranks.

4. The Kriegsspiel is particularly valuable as it reinforces the vanishing skills of map reading.

5. Through simple modifications, like adding levels of command or using staff setups, any aspects of leadership and command competencies can be self-experienced. Through Kriegsspiel the philosophy and principles of Auftragstaktik (which is more than leader centric mission command) can be taught and trained effectively.

6. Beyond its military applicability, Reisswitz’ Kriegsspiel is a military cultural property like Carl von Clausewitz “On War,” and should be preserved as a part of history.

However, to be relevant as a training tool for a modern environment and to overcome above-mentioned deficiencies, Kriegsspiel requires get a careful makeover through digitalization and some didactical concept work. A Kriegsspiel 2.0 would include a digital messaging system and digital umpire support system to accelerate move adjudication to that rules such as “One move equals two minutes” can be permanently observed. Kriegsspiel 2.0 would have an instructor’s book with specific (didactical) concepts and proposals for e.g. “How to teach Auftragstaktik” or objective skill assessment tables for superiors, tutors, mentors, or human resource evaluators, to prevent single impression evaluations. Due to its proven stability, Kriegsspiel 2.0 will have a rule set from around 1870 (e.g., v. Tschischwitz, 1870), also translated into English by Baring 1872. In this modern version of Kriegsspiel the rule sets can be further simplified due to the absence of expert knowledge on tactics and procedures on the player level. Moving beyond these envisioned minimums for Kriegsspiel 2.0, eventual versions could use augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. These technologies would:

1. Reduce the efforts of providing and maintaining a physical Kriegsspiel apparatus.

2. Enable the players to learn the basics of how to act, fight and lead in a modern virtual environment, and possibly enable experimentation with artificial intelligence as a part of leadership and command and control.

History has proven the value of the Kriegsspiel. An evolving security environment will force its adaptation to a modern world. Beyond this article, the author is working on a prototype for Kriegsspiel KS 2.0, and his results and experience will be reported.


Endnotes:

[1] Prof. Dr Jorit Wintjes, University of Würzburg is currently the only German Professor researching the Prussian Wargame. He was the scientific supervisor for the two co-master thesis’ of the author of this article. He has published a variety on articles on the Prussian Kriegsspiel e.g. Wintjes, Jorit (2017). When a Spiel is not a Game: The Prussian Kriegsspiel from 1824 to 1871, in: Vulcan 5., 5-28. 22.

[2] Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann v. Reisswitz (1794 -1827)

[3] Reisswitz, B. G. (1824). Anleitung zur Darstellung militaerischer Manoever mit dem Apparat des Kriegs-Spieles. Berlin: Trowitzsch und Sohn.

[4] Dannhauer, E. (1874), Das Reißwitzsche Kriegsspiel von seinem Beginn bis zum Tode des Erfinders, in Militair Wochenblatt 59, Berlin , P. 527–532.

[5] Clausewitz, C. v. (1991), Vom Kriege. (W. Hahlweg, Editor) Bonn: Ferdinand Dümmler, P. 233-234.

[6] Reisswitz (1824), P. 5, translated by Bill Leeson 1989. Anleitung zur Darstellung militairische Manover mit dem Apparat des Kriegsspiels. 2nd rev. ed, .Hemel Hempstead.

[7] Decker, C. v., & Witzleben, F. v. (1828), Supplement zu den bisherigen Kriegsspiel-Regeln. Zeitschrift für Kunst, Wissenschaft, und Geschichte des Krieges, Band 13. Berlin : Mittler, Editor, P. 68-105.

[8] Anonymus (1846), Anleitung zur Darstellung militärischer Manöver mit dem Apparat des Kriegsspiels. Berlin, Posen, Bromberg: Ernst Siegfried Mittler.

[9] v. Tschischwitz mentions the Berlin rules -collated by a Colonel Weigelt, in his foreword to his 1862 rules set.

[10] Tschischwitz, W. v. (1862). Anleitung zum Kriegsspiel. Neisse: Joseph Graveur.

[11] Tschischwitz, W. v. (1867). Anleitung zum Kriegsspiel (2. Auflage). Neisse: Graveur.

[12] Tschischwitz, W. v. (1870). Anleitung zum Kriegsspiel (3. Auflage). Neisse: Graveur, translated and applied to the British Force structure by Baring, E. (1872). Rules for the conduct of the War-Game. London: Superintendence by her Majesty’s Office.

[13] Tschischwitz, W. v. (1874). Anleitung zum Kriegs-Spiel (4. verbesserte Auflage). Neisse: Joseph Graveur (Neumann).

[14] Löbell, H. K. (1875), Jahresberichte über die Veränderungen und Fortschritte im Militairwesen 1874, Band 1. Berlin: Mittler und Sohn, P. 723

[15] Meckel, J. (1873). Studien ueber das Kriegsspiel. Berlin: Mittler und Sohn, P. 17.

[16] Verdy du Vernois, A. F. (1876). Beitrag zum Kriegsspiel. Berlin: Mittler und Sohn.

[17] Frank, Anders (2011). Gaming the Game: A Study of the Gamer Mode in Educational Wargaming. Research Article https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878111408796.

Assessment Papers Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Soenke Marahrens Wargames and Wargaming

Assessing the Application of a Cold War Strategic Framework to Establish Norms in the Cyber Threat Environment

Jason Atwell is an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and a Senior Manager with FireEye, Inc. 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 Application of a Cold War Strategic Framework to Establish Norms in the Cyber Threat Environment

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 29, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States and its Western allies as they seek to impose order on the increasingly fluid and frequently volatile cyber threat environment.

Summary:  The continued growth and maturity of cyber operations as a means of state sponsored espionage and, more recently, as a potential weapon of war, has generated a need for an “accepted” strategic framework governing its usage. To date, this framework remains unestablished. Cold War strategic frameworks could help govern the future conduct of cyber operations between nation states and bring some semblance of order to this chaotic battlespace.

Text:  The cyber threat environment continues to evolve and expand. Threat vectors like ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid, are now daily subjects for discussion among leaders in the public and private sectors alike. It is against this backdrop that high-level initiatives like the Cyberspace Solarium Commission have sought to formulate comprehensive, whole-of-government strategies for dealing with cyber threats and developing capabilities. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards in Technology issues a steady stream of best practices for cyber risk management and hygiene. Yet, no comprehensive framework to govern cyber operations at the macro, nation-to-nation level, has emerged and been able to achieve buy-in from all the affected parties. In fact, there are not even useful norms limiting the risk in many of these cyber interactions[1]. Industry leaders as well have lamented the lack of a coherent doctrine that governs relations in cyberspace and discourages the violating of doctrinal norms[2]. In some ways the Cold War norms governing armed conflict, espionage, and economic competition can be used to provide much needed stability to cyber and cyber-enabled operations. In other ways, the framing of current problems in Cold War vocabulary and rhetoric has proved unworkable at best and counterproductive at worst. 

Applying the accepted framework of great power interactions that was established during the Cold War presents both opportunities and challenges when it comes to the cyber threat environment. The rules which governed espionage especially, however informal in nature, helped to ensure both sides knew the red lines for conduct and could expect a standard response to common activities. On the individual level, frameworks like the informal “Moscow Rules” governed conduct and helped avoid physical confrontations[3]. When those rules were violated, and espionage came into the open, clear consequences were proscribed via precedent. These consequences made the use of persona-non-grata expulsions, facility closures, the use of neutral territories, exchanges and arrests were predictable and useful controls on behavior and means to avoid escalation. The application of these consequences to cyber, such as the closure of Russian facilities and expulsion of their diplomats has been used[4], however to little or no apparent effect as administrations have changed their approach over time. This uneven application of norms as cyber capabilities have advanced may in fact be leading the Russians in particular to abandon the old rules altogether[5]. In other areas, Cold War methods have been specifically avoided, such as the manner in which Chinese cyber operators have been indicted for the theft of intellectual property. Lowering this confrontation from high-level diplomatic brinkmanship to the criminal courts both prevents a serious confrontation while effectively rendering any consequences moot due to issues with extradition and prosecution. The dynamics between the U.S. and China have attracted a lot of discussion framed in Cold War terminology[6]. Indeed, the competition with China has many of the same hallmarks as the previous U.S.-Soviet Union dynamic[7]. What is missing is a knowledge of where the limits to each side’s patience lie when it comes to cyber activity. 

Another important component of Cold War planning and strategy was an emphasis on continuity of operations and government authority and survivability in a crisis. This continuity was pursued as part of a deterrence model where both sides sought to either convince the other that they would endure a confrontation and / or decisively destroy their opposition. Current cyber planning tends to place an emphasis on the ability to achieve overmatch without placing a similar emphasis on resilience on the friendly side. Additionally, deterrence through denial of access or geophysical control cannot ever work in cyberspace due to its inherently accessible and evolving nature[8]. Adopting a mindset and strategic framework based on ensuring the ability of command and control networks to survive and retaliate in this environment will help to impose stability in the face of potentially devastating attacks involving critical infrastructure[9]. It is difficult to have mutually assured destruction in cyberspace at this phase, because “destruction” is still nebulous and potentially impossible in cyberspace, meaning that any eventual conflict that begins in that domain may still have to turn kinetic before Cold War models begin to function.

As cyber capabilities have expanded and matured over time, there has been an apparent failure to achieve consensus on what the red lines of cyber confrontation are. Some actors appear to abide by general rules, while others make it a point of exploring new ways to raise or lower the bar on acceptable actions in cyberspace. Meanwhile, criminals and non-aligned groups are just as aggressive with their operations as many terrorist groups were during the height of the Cold War, and they are similarly frequently used or discarded by nation states depending on the situation and the need. However, nation states on the two sides were useful bulwarks against overzealous actions, as they could exert influence over the actions of groups operating from their territory or abusing their patronage. Espionage in cyberspace will not stop, nor can a framework anticipate every possible scenario that my unfold. Despite these imperfections, in the future an issue like the SolarWinds breach could lead to a series of escalatory actions a la the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the cyber threat environment could be governed by a Strategic Arms Limitation Talk-like treaty which bans cyber intrusions into global supply chains[10]. Applying aspects of the Cold War strategic framework can begin to bring order to the chaos of the cyber threat environment, while also helping highlight areas where this framework falls short and new ways of thinking are needed.


Endnotes:

[1] Bremmer, I., & Kupchan, C. (2021, January 4). Risk 6: Cyber Tipping Point. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.eurasiagroup.net/live-post/top-risks-2021-risk-6-cyber-tipping-point 

[2] Brennan, M., & Mandia, K. (2020, December 20). Transcript: Kevin MANDIA on “Face the Nation,” December 20, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-kevin-mandia-on-face-the-nation-december-20-2020/ 

[3] Sanger, D. (2016, December 29). Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/us/politics/russia-election-hacking-sanctions.html 

[4] Zegart, A. (2021, January 04). Everybody Spies in Cyberspace. The US Must Plan Accordingly. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2021/01/everybody-spies-cyberspace-us-must-plan-accordingly/171112/

[5] Devine, J., & Masters, J. (2018, March 15). Has Russia Abandoned the Rules of Spy-Craft? Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/interview/are-cold-war-spy-craft-norms-fading 

[6] Buchanan, B., & Cunningham, F. (2020, December 18). Preparing the Cyber Battlefield: Assessing a Novel Escalation risk in A Sino-American Crisis. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://tnsr.org/2020/10/preparing-the-cyber-battlefield-assessing-a-novel-escalation-risk-in-a-sino-american-crisis/ 

[7] Sayers, E. (2021, February 9). Thoughts on the Unfolding U.S.-Chinese Competition: Washington’s Policy Towards Beijing Enters its Next Phase. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/02/thoughts-on-the-unfolding-u-s-chinese-competition-washingtons-policy-towards-beijing-enters-its-next-phase/ 

[8] Borghard, E., Jensen, B., & Montgomery, M. (2021, February 05). Elevating ‘Deterrence By Denial’ in U.S. Defense Strategy. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2021/02/05/elevating_deterrence_by_denial_in_us_defense_strategy_659300.html 

[9] Borghard, E. (2021, January 04). A Grand Strategy Based on Resilience. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/01/a-grand-strategy-based-on-resilience/ 

[10] Lubin, A. (2020, December 23). SolarWinds as a Constitutive Moment: A New Agenda for International Law of Intelligence. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.justsecurity.org/73989/solarwinds-as-a-constitutive-moment-a-new-agenda-for-the-international-law-of-intelligence/

Arms Control Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cold War Cyberspace Governing Documents and Ideas Jason Atwell Soviet Union Treaties and Agreements United States

Assessing the Fungibility of U.S.-Soviet Competitive Strategies

James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently the G5 at the Security Forces Assistance Command and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Fungibility of U.S.-Soviet Competitive Strategies 

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 22, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that replicating Soviet Cold War strategy will not guarantee the United States success vis-à-vis China in 2021.  Rather than simply replicating Cold War strategy, the United States’ time would be better spent developing a deeper understanding of itself, its rival, and the operating environment. 

Summary:  Nations build successful competitive strategies around a comprehensive understanding of themselves, their rivals, and the environment in which they compete. As the United States and China enter a geopolitical rivalry there is merit in studying the strategy the United States implemented against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Albeit earlier success, the geopolitical environment of 2021 limits core tenets of U.S. Soviet strategy, requiring a more precise knowledge of the modern milieu to succeed.

Text:  Over the past decade U.S. foreign policy has increasingly focused on a rising geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 2011, the Obama administration implemented a “pivot to the pacific[1],” establishing a cooperative policy to counter rising Chinese influence throughout the region. The Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy, which mentions China 36 times, directly outlined both the global and regional challenges China represents to “American security and prosperity[2].” In his first foreign policy speech President Biden declared his administration will, “take on directly the challenges posed to our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China[3].”  

Sino-focused policy and rhetoric from three consecutive U.S. Presidential administrations has led policymakers, academics, and even the media to declare the United States and China are entering, or already in, a new Cold War. Codifying the relationship between the two powers as Cold War 2.0 creates a dangerous perception that implementing the same strategies used throughout the U.S.-Soviet Cold War will lead to a successful outcome for the United States over China.  While there is much utility in studying the competitive strategy utilized by the United States that contained Soviet expansion and facilitated the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) one cannot simply re-operationalize previous USSR-focused tenets against China and expect similar results.  J.C. Wylie warns of crafting strategy based solely on past success, “such a theory does not necessarily account for what could have happened but did not, and the theory cannot be applied to future events with consistent rigor[4].”  

The lack of fungibility of Soviet-era U.S. Policy to modern Sino-U.S. competition is predicated on the vast differences in the strategic operating environment between the two time periods. Due to the information age, hyper globalization, geographical differences, and the decreasing utility of military force many of the domain-specific advantages that the United States enjoyed in its 40-year struggle with the Soviet Union no longer exist or are in fact now beneficial to the PRC. This lack of domain-specific advantages nullifies portions of the successful U.S. competitive strategy utilized against the USSR which according to Gordon S. Barrass “was based on exploiting America’s sustainable comparative advantage[5].” 

To craft a comprehensive competitive strategy against China U.S. policy makers must understand the USSR and the PRC are different agents, as is the modern United States compared to the United States during the Cold War. Most importantly though, any successful strategy must first define and then operationalize the constraints, challenges, and opportunities that the strategic operating environment presents. 

The Cold War began in the aftermath of the Second World War in which most of Europe and large parts of Asia had suffered immense damage to infrastructure and staggering loss of life. Out of this geopolitical situation emerged a bipolar balance of power between the two nations best positioned at the end of the war: the USSR and the United States. Inversely, the rise of the Sino-U.S. rivalry has occurred in one of the most stable and peaceful time periods in modern history in terms of the number of interstate conflicts. Japan and Germany highlight how dissimilar the starting points between these two rivalries are as those two nations barely had functioning economies in 1947 and now represent the 3rd and 4th largest in terms of Gross Domestic Product[6].  In fact, scholars debate the very balance of power of the modern paradigm with scholastic descriptions ranging from unipolarity[7] to nonpolarity[8],a drastic difference from the bipolarity of 1947-1991. 

The development and expansion of the liberal rules base international order following World War 2 created an underlying hegemonic structure the Soviets were not part of. Instead, the USSR championed an ideological alternative system. Due to hyper globalization and its inclusion in multiple organizations and instruments of the liberal world order, China has become an integral and interdependent part of the global economic and diplomatic network. A revisionist actor who benefits from the same system as its primary competitor will attempt “rules-based revision[9]” by changing the system internally for its benefits, something the USSR could not attempt in the Cold War due to its isolation from and competition against the American led system. For example, in 2019 China accounted for the largest amount of U.S. imports and was the third largest destination for U.S. exports[10], a level of economic interdependence that was unheard of between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and a limiting factor to the types of strategies the U.S. can use against China, particularly in an environment in which military force is not as fungible as it once was[11].

Another marked difference is the ideological exportation of the USSR and the PRC. Throughout the Cold War the USSR and its allies attempted to export communism and while China is a “communist” nation it has not taken up the charge of fomenting a global socialist revolution since the USSR’s fall and in fact been a major part of global capitalism.  Rather, China exports a form of autocratic ideology through loans, projects, and technology enabling authoritarian regimes and leaders to stay in power and establishing corrupt and beneficial relationships for China across the globe especially in developing nations.

The final variance between the two periods is the diffusion of national barriers in the information age. Propaganda and information operations were significant facets of U.S. and Soviet strategies, but their effects were mitigated and diffused by national barriers.  In 2021 states bypass borders directly targeting select populations of rival states. This capability is not uniform and creates a glaring asymmetry between democracies and autocracies as the latter uses the former’s inherent liberties to “cut, razor-like, into the fabric of a society, stoking and amplifying existing divisions[12].” 

The successful competitive strategy the United States operationalized against the USSR in the latter half of the Cold War was predicated on detailed understanding of not just the adversary but more importantly the strategic environment. As the United States reenters a period that some are labeling a new Cold War, it will not succeed as it did against the USSR without redeveloping a comprehensive understanding of itself, its adversary, and the paradigm before it applies any previously successful framework.


Endnotes:

[1] Manyin, M. E., Daggett, S., Dolven, B., Lawrence, S. V., Martin, M. F., O’Rourke, R., & Vaughn, B. (2012, March). Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s” Rebalancing” Toward Asia. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE.

[2] Trump, D. J. (2017). National security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States.

[3] Biden, Joseph, (2021, February 4). Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World (transcript). The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/

[4] Wylie Jr, J. C. (2014). Military strategy: a general theory of power control. Naval Institute Press. Pg. 58

[5] Barrass, Gordon. (2012) U.S. Competitive Strategy During the Cold War. Mahnken, T. G. (Ed.). (2012). Competitive strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, history, and practice. Stanford University Press. 86-87

[6] World Bank, World Development Indicators, (2019), GDP (current US$){Data file}. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?most_recent_value_desc=true&year_high_desc=true

[7] Sears, Nathan A. (2016). China, Russia, and the Long ‘Unipolar Moment.’ The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2016/04/china-russia-and-the-unipolar-moment/

[8] Haass, R. N. (2008). The age of nonpolarity: what will follow US dominance. Foreign affairs, 44-56.

[9] Goddard, S. E. (2018). Embedded revisionism: Networks, institutions, and challenges to world order. International Organization, 72(4), 763-797.

[10] Office of the United States Trade Representatives. (2019). The People’s Republic of China. Country and Regions. https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/china-mongolia-taiwan/peoples-republic-china#:~:text=China%20is%20currently%20the%20United,was%20%24345.2%20billion%20in%202019.

[11] Baldwin, D. A. (1999). Force, fungibility, and influence.

[12] Walker, C., & Ludwig, J. (2017). From ‘soft power’to ‘sharp power’: Rising authoritarian influence in the democratic world. Sharp power: Rising authoritarian influence, 8-25

 

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Competition Economic Factors Governing Documents and Ideas James P. Micciche Soviet Union United States

Cold War Transferability, or Not: Assessing Industrial Constraints and Naval Power After Long Land Wars

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


Title:  Cold War Transferability or Not: Assessing Industrial Constraints and Naval Power After Long Land Wars

Date Originally Written:  February 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 21, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the role of naval power to the United States in confronting China in the 2020s is similar to its role in confronting the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He also sees economic and geopolitical similarities between the two eras.

Summary:  U.S. policymakers can learn from the last decade of the Cold War as they consider how to respond to China’s military, geopolitical, and economic ambitions. There are significant similarities between America’s situation forty years ago and its situation today, especially regarding manufacturing, trade, the defense industrial base (DIB), the exhaustion of U.S. land forces, and the importance of naval strength.

Text:  The United States in the 2020s finds itself in a position in relation to China similar to its position in relation to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have soured most Americans on extended land conflicts, much as the Vietnam War had by its conclusion in 1975. Likewise, U.S. worries about an aggressive and revisionist Chinese foreign policy (territorial claims in the South China Sea, harassment of Japanese vessels, attacks on Indian troops) parallel worries about Soviet foreign policy four decades ago (invasion of Afghanistan, continued grip on Eastern Europe, support for militant leftist forces like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Farabundo Martí National Libération Front or FMLN in El Salvador). In both cases, there are reasons to worry armed conflict will break out between the U.S. and its rival power.

However, there are also differences. While China’s military threat to U.S. interests parallels the Soviet Union’s, China’s economic position differs greatly. The Soviet economy in the 1980s was stagnant[1]. China, on the other hand, while it faces long-term economic challenges, has enjoyed decades of rapid growth[2]. China’s wealth has allowed it not only to greatly expand its military, but also to engage in economic statecraft on a massive scale, most notably through the Belt and Road Initiative.

In some regards, the U.S. faces economic difficulties today similar to those of forty years ago, including ways that affect national security. The loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the 21st century[3] has, among other effects, weakened the DIB[4][5]. Similarly, defense experts in the early 1980s expressed concern that America’s manufacturing sector would be unable to meet the military’s needs[6].

The reasons for America’s manufacturing struggles, however, are different now, as is the relationship between those struggles and America’s geopolitical concerns. Four decades ago, America’s main economic rivals were military allies, Japan and West Germany. While there were several reasons for the relative decline of U.S. manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s, one was the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to friendly countries (partly as a result of U.S. trade policy)[7]. While the U.S.-Chinese economic rivalry now is somewhat similar to U.S.-Japanese rivalry then, it is one thing for American jobs to go to an ally, and another for them to go to a potential foe.

China’s gains relative to the U.S., unlike Japan’s, have been both military and economic. And while Japan’s economic boom after World War II was possible because it enjoyed U.S. military protection[8], factors in China’s rise have included U.S. policy (the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations in 2000, paving the way for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization)[9], and hostile actions (forcing U.S. companies to share intellectual property with the Chinese government, or else simply stealing it)[10][11], as well as Beijing’s policies of national development.

The perceived shortfalls of the DIB forty years ago led some observers to emphasize U.S. naval power as the most efficient, effective way to check a possible Soviet attack[12]. With the U.S. Army dispirited after the Vietnam War, and the Red Army strengthening its presence and power in Eastern Europe[13], a greater reliance on naval power made sense. While this emphasis on U.S. naval power was coupled with a Western misperception of Soviet naval intentions – the U.S. expected the Soviet Navy to venture far from home during a war, which it did not plan to do[14] – America’s historic position as a maritime nation positioned it well for a reliance on maritime might.

Similarly, the stresses places on U.S. land forces by nearly two decades of war in the greater Middle East lend weight to the idea of emphasizing naval strength when confronting China. Also, the difference in the nature of America’s treaty allies (i.e., North Atlantic Treaty Organization members directly bordering the Warsaw Pact compared to Japan and the Philippines near China but offshore) makes naval preeminence sensible. The fact that the Pacific is wider and takes longer to cross from the continental United States than the Atlantic is also a driving force.

Then as now, there are different schools of thought as to what precise shape the U.S. Navy should take. Proposals for a 355-ship navy, and then a 500-ship navy, put forward in the past few years parallel U.S. President Reagan’s goal of a 600-ship navy. However, an attempt at a rapid buildup has downsides. The huge increases in the costs of the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship illustrate the perils of trying to buy too much, too quickly[15][16].

Convinced that the DIB’s weakness in the early 1980s would not allow the U.S. to overwhelm the Soviets with conventional forces in a war, some defense observers, such as U.S. Senator Gary Hart, sought to emphasize Maneuver Warfare, with the goal of outthinking the Soviets[17]. The Maneuver Warfare camp worried about a U.S. overreliance on large aircraft carriers, and suggested complementing them with smaller carriers[18]. This is strikingly similar to former Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer’s talk of using America-class amphibious assault ships as “lightning carriers[19].” A 2017 report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments also recommended construction of small carriers (CVLs) and continued building of larger ones[20]. The Navy’s decision to decommission the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard after its damage by a fire, combined with Marine Corps Commandant General David H. Berger’s expressed interest in deemphasizing the Marines’ reliance on large ships for amphibious operations, provide an opportunity to put the lightning carrier concept to the test[21].

As the Biden administration considers how to approach the challenge of China, it can learn from a past period of superpower rivalry, but must also bear differences between the two eras in mind. 


Endnotes:

[1] Trachtenberg, Marc. “Assessing Soviet Economic Performance During the Cold War: A Failure of Intelligence?” Texas National Security Review, February 2018. https://tnsr.org/2018/02/assessing-soviet-economic-performance-cold-war/

[2] Purdy, Mark. “China’s Economy, in Six Charts.” Harvard Business Review, November 29, 2013. https://hbr.org/2013/11/chinas-economy-in-six-charts#:~:text=China’s%20economy%20has%20entered%20a,China’s%20GDP%E2%80%9D%20chart%20below)

[3] Long, Heather. “U.S. has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.” CNN Business, March 29, 2016. https://money.cnn.com/2016/03/29/news/economy/us-manufacturing-jobs/

[4] Herman, Arthur. “Bringing the Factories Home.” Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2020. https://www.hudson.org/research/16236-bringing-the-factories-home

[5] Tadjdeh, Yasmin. “Report Finds U.S. Defense Industrial Base in Decline.” National Defense, February 5, 2020. https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/2/5/defense-industrial-base-earns-c-grade-in-new-report

[6] Rothenberg, Randall. The Neoliberals: Creating the New American Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, pp. 114-120. https://www.amazon.com/neoliberals-Creating-new-American-politics/dp/0671458817

[7] Atkinson, Robert D. and Michael Lind. “National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus.” American Affairs, Summer 2019. https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/05/national-developmentalism-from-forgotten-tradition-to-new-consensus/

[8] Ibid

[9] Salam, Reihan. “Normalizing Trade Relations With China Was a Mistake.” Atlantic, June 8, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/06/normalizing-trade-relations-with-china-was-a-mistake/562403/

[10] Shane, Daniel. “How China gets what it wants from American companies.” CNN Business, April 5, 2018. https://money.cnn.com/2018/04/05/news/economy/china-foreign-companies-restrictions/index.html

[11] Rosenbaum, Eric. “1 in 5 corporations say China has stolen their IP within the last year: CNBC CFO survey.” CNBC, March 1, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/28/1-in-5-companies-say-china-stole-their-ip-within-the-last-year-cnbc.html

[12] Rothenberg, pp. 114-120

[13] Federation of American Scientists. “Soviet Military Power: Chapter III – Theater Forces.” 1984. https://fas.org/irp/dia/product/smp_84_ch3.htm

[14] Alman, David. “Convoy Escort: The Navy’s Forgotten (Purpose) Mission.” War on the Rocks, December 30, 2020. https://warontherocks.com/2020/12/convoy-escort-the-navys-forgotten-purpose-mission

[15] Insinna, Valerie. “Inside America’s Dysfunctional Trillion-Dollar Fighter-Jet Program.” New York Times, August 21, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/magazine/f35-joint-strike-fighter-program.html

[16] Roblin, Sébastien. “The Navy spent $30B and 16 years to fight Iran with a littoral combat ship that doesn’t work.” NBC News, July 19, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/navy-spent-30b-16-years-fight-iran-littoral-combat-ship-ncna1031806

[17] Rothenberg, pp. 114-120

[18] Ibid

[19] Eckstein, Megan. “Marines Test ‘Lightning Carrier’ Concept, Control 13 F-35Bs from Multiple Amphibs.” USNI News, October 23, 2019. https://news.usni.org/2019/10/23/marines-test-lightning-carrier-concept-control-13-f-35bs-from-multiple-amphibs

[20] Clark, Bryan, Peter Haynes, Jesse Sloman, Timothy A. Walton. “Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 9, 2017. https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/restoring-american-seapower-a-new-fleet-architecture-for-the-united-states-

[21] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.” https://www.hqmc.marines.mil/Portals/142/Docs/%2038th%20Commandant%27s%20Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-16-200152-700

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Economic Factors Maritime Michael D. Purzycki United States

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

Major John Bolton is a U.S. Army officer and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. He previously commanded Bravo Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, served as the Executive Officer for 2-25 Assault Helicopter Battalion, and the Brigade Aviation Officer for 4/25 IBCT (Airborne). He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Art of War Scholars Program and holds degrees in military history and mechanical engineering. An AH-64D/E Aviator, he has deployed multiple times with Engineer, Aviation, and Infantry units. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  January 5, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  February 22, 2021.

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

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

Text:

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

– Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] McNamara quoted in Ibid. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  November 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 28, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing Ukraine’s Return to Stability

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


Title:  Assessing Ukraine’s Return to Stability

Date Originally Written:  September 22, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 9, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[8] Ibid.

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

Assessment Papers Diplomacy Russia Stuart E. Gallagher Ukraine

An Assessment of Realism in American Foreign Policy

Brandon Patterson is a graduate student of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Realism in American Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  September 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 7, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] Ibid (566-67).

[9] Ibid (p. 317).

Assessment Papers Brandon Patterson International Relations Theories United States

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  September 26, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

[2] Ibid, Waltz, Realism.

[3] Ibid, Waltz, Realsim

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

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

[6] Ibid, Soldatov.

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

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Scott Harr

An Assessment of the National Security Implications of First Contact

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence specialist who has worked in the commercial, defense, and aerospace sectors in the US and Middle East. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd. He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the National Security Implications of First Contact

Date Originally Written:  September 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Extraterrestrial Life Lee Clark

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

Steve MacBeth is a retired officer from the Canadian Forces. He recently transitioned to New Zealand and serves in the New Zealand Defence Force. He has deployed to Bosnia, completed three tours of duty in Khandahar, Afghanistan and most recently, as the Battle Group Commander of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  August 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 25, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

William H. Johnson, CAPT, USN/Ret, holds a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a MA in Military History from Norwich University. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle in the College of Aeronautics, teaching unmanned system development, control, and interoperability. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  August 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 18, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Roman Garcia can be found on Twitter @jesusfroman. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 16, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

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


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


Title:  Assessment of Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

Date Originally Written:  July 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 11, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Damimola Olawuyi has served as a Geopolitical Analyst for SBM Intelligence. He can be found on Twitter @DAOlawuyi. Paul Jemitola is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He can be reached on Linkedin. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Role of Civil Government Agencies in Irregular Warfare

Date Originally Written:  August 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 9, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brandon Patterson is a graduate student at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, whose area of focus is China.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  July 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patrick Knight is an active duty U.S. Army Officer and has served in a variety of tactical and force generation assignments. He is currently a student in the Army’s Command and General Staff College as part of a strategist training pipeline. He can be reached on LinkedIn or pjknight12@gmail.com. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.




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

Date Originally Written:  October 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  October 14, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

[2] ibid.

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

[4] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinpin