Writing Contest Results — Below Threshold Competition: China

Divergent Options ran a Writing Contest from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020 and as of this writing all of the entries we received have been published.  On behalf of the Divergent Options Team of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein, and also on behalf of our judges Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, Wayne Hugar of the National Intelligence University, and Ali Wyne a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, we want to thank all of our writers who entered the contest.  Divergent Options would not be what it is without our writers, and for that we are eternally grateful.  All writings related to this contest can be found by clicking here, and the awards are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

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


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


Title:  Assessment of Opportunities to Engage with the Chinese Film Market

Date Originally Written:  July 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 11, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Drake Long is an analyst with RadioFreeAsia, covering the South China Sea and other maritime issues. He is also a 2020 Asia-Pacific Fellow for Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). He can be found on Twitter @DRM_Long and has previously written for RadioFreeAsia, The Diplomat, 9DASHLINE, and the Center for International Maritime Security. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States is competing with the People’s Republic of China and its landmark Belt and Road Initiative.

Date Originally Written:  July 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brandon Patterson is a graduate student at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, whose area of focus is China.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  July 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rukhsar Azamee is a graduate student at the school of professional studies, New York University. She can be found on Twitter @RukhsarAzamee. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. requires options to decrease trade tensions with China.

Date Originally Written:  July 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Johnathan Falcone is a United States Naval officer, entrepreneur, and graduate of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He can be found on Twitter @jdfalc1. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economic activities threaten the U.S.-led financial order.

Date Originally Written:  June 02, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 26, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Options for Subversion within China

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


Chris Wozniak is an independent analyst. He holds a BA in Political Economy from the University of Washington. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.

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


Eli Kravinsky is an undergraduate student at Haverford College. He previously spent a year in China on a State Department-funded language scholarship. He can be found on Twitter @elikravi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. is continuing to orient its foreign policy and defense policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Accordingly, PRC tactics that have proven successful against the U.S. thus far may begin to fail. This failure will cause the PRC to develop new tactics to use against the U.S. below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 19, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options for Taiwan to Better Compete with China

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


Thomas J. Shattuck is a Research Associate in the Asia Program and the Managing Editor at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Mr. Shattuck was a member of the 2019 class of scholars at the Global Taiwan Institute, receiving the Taiwan Scholarship. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Taiwan requires options to better compete with China in international organizations below the threshold of conflict.

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

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


Rusudan Zabakhidze is an International Conference of Europeanists coordinator at Council for European Studies at Columbia University and a non-resident fellow at Middle East Institute’s Frontier Europe Initiative. She can be found on Twitter @rusozabakhidze. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 12, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

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

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

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

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

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


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


National Security Situation:  The United States devotes considerable military resources to the Persian Gulf despite significantly reduced reliance on the region’s oil, while China buys more Gulf oil than the U.S. does.

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patrick M. Foran is a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He can be found on Twitter @Patrick__Foran and has a newsletter at CatalogofCurisoties.substack.com. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  July 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

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


William Freer is currently reading at War Studies at King’s College London. He was a European finalist in the KF-VUB Korea Chair Writing Competition in 2018. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing How Countries Can Compete with Chinese Hybrid Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 28, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Development of Chinese Soft Power in Central Asia

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 15th 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[11] Ibid.

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

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

2020 Civil Affairs Association / Eunomia Journal Writing Contest Results


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Major Thomas G. Pledger is a U.S. Army National Guard Infantry Officer and visiting military analyst at the Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesCenter on Military and Political Power. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both conventional and special operations forces. He has been selected to the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Thinkers Program and will be attending Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. His current academic and professional research is focused on network targeting, stability operations, and unconventional/gray zone warfare. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, a Master of Humanities in Organizational Dynamics, Group Think, and Communication from Tiffin University, and three graduate certificates in Advanced International Affairs from Texas A&M University in Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and Defense Policy and Military Affairs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 7, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Assessment of the Irrelevance of State Borders in 2035

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


Specialist Brandon White is a Civil Affairs Non-Commissioned Officer at the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, and recently served on a Civil Affairs Team in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. As a civilian, he presently works as a Consultant for National Security and Defense at Capgemini Government Solutions, and previously served as a Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be found on Twitter @bwhiteofficial and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bwhiteofficial/. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Irrelevance of State Borders in 2035

Date Originally Written:  June 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 31, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 2035

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


Tom Perkins is a 2010 graduate of the United States Military Academy. He commissioned into the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer and served at the Platoon, Company, and Battalion level. He is currently serving as a Southeast Asian Foreign Area Officer.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese Diaspora as Key to Southeast Asian Human Factor Influence Through 2035

Date Originally Written:  June 17, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 17, 2020.

Article and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from a U.S perspective concerning partnership in Southeast Asia vis-a-vis the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Summary:  The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is able to define the “Chinese” identity. This gives the CCP human factor influence over ethnic Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia. The PRC can use these community relationships to influence and even manipulate nations throughout Southeast Asia. Chinese Americans, as credible Chinese voices, can build relationships and define cultural norms that are not dictated by the CCP.

Text:  The Chinese Diaspora, or Chinese abroad, is a concept that developed from Chinese immigration throughout history but particularly the 19th and 20th centuries. This concept created tight knit, and in some places, large communities outside of China. The largest of these communities are in Southeast Asia. These communities traditionally defined their identity based on family, language, business, food, and traditional practices such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism etc. The large number of ethnic Chinese in various countries made the community a significant force for political mobilization. The most overt example of mobilization is the ethnic Chinese led Malayan Communist Party which waged a communist insurrection in Malaysia throughout the second half of the twentieth century[1].

Even when large scale political mobilization does not occur, the existence of these communities at times causes conflict in the host nations. Ethnic Chinese throughout Southeast Asia are perceived to be better connected in business than the local ethnic majorities of the countries they live in. As a result, distrust and resentment has occasionally erupted into the local ethnic majorities protesting and engaging in violence against the Chinese communities. There is no easy solution to such a conflict. Historically, efforts to force assimilation of these communities were generally unsuccessful at reducing conflict and erasing Chinese identity. Starting in 1966, under the Suharto presidency, Indonesia orchestrated a series of policies meant to discourage Chinese identity and culture in an attempt to forge a more nationalist Indonesian identity.  However, since the reform period in Indonesia, these policies have been rescinded[2]. These historical trends suggest overseas Chinese communities will continue to exist and grow as an independent cultural and social network into 2035.

The growth of China into the world’s second largest economy has given it a new level of prestige. China’s real economic power as well as soft and sharp power will continue to increase through 2035. The ability for the CCP to influence human factors among and through overseas Chinese is more favorable than it has ever been, and will continue to be more favorable into the future. The increased economic wealth of people in China makes them a natural source for business ties among the diaspora. It is conceivable that the CCP will leverage such relationships in the future to gain political influence throughout Southeast Asia. This leveraging can be an alarming prospect when one considers a long-term U.S partner, such as Thailand, has an ethnic Chinese population of around 7 million, which is approximately 10% of the population[3]. Actions by the CCP signal a desire to gain influence in Southeast Asia. Traditional soft power programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative promulgated by Xi Jinping are supplemented by more subtle gestures such as establishing Confucius Institutes. The latter being an example of the CCPs manipulation of human factors to increase political capital by using Confucius institutes as a communications platform for signaling Chinese cultural values.

The heart of the issue is that the CCP is able to define the Chinese identity. Thus, anyone who identifies as Chinese, will have an affinity for the culture, and will be more susceptible to CCP messaging. This is an old struggle in a new context. The Republic of China, aka Taiwan, has been raging against the CCP’s attempts to define what is and is not Chinese since the Chinese Civil War. The strategy throughout history was to lay claim to the terms “Chinese” and “China” with its own branding. The issue is that the CCP has been very successful at stamping out such branding attempts. This is why even well-traveled and educated Americans are surprised to learn that China Airlines is not based in China, it is based in Taiwan, and why there is nothing weird about some “Chinese” people marching into an Olympic stadium under a banner labeled “Chinese Taipei.”

The U.S is in a good position to address the CCP dominance of Chinese culture in Southeast Asia. The U.S is home to a large and relatively affluent ethnic Chinese population. The Department of State and accompanying agencies can make efforts to reach out to community and business leaders to empower them to define what it means to be overseas Chinese. By empowering ethnically Chinese Americans the United States can lead the overseas Chinese movement in Southeast Asia and prevent the business networks, family ties, social networks, and overall population from being tools of CCP sharp power. In popular culture influence, Chinese Americans could be leading the production of Mandarin language cinema and music. Southeast Asian Chinese could look to Chinese American businesses for capital investment as well as future markets. Additionally, U.S government messaging can reconsider usage of the term “Chinese” because of its implicit affiliation with the CCP. The word “Sino” sufficiently distinguishes the ethnic affiliations from national affiliations associated with the PRC. These actions are an effective start to neutralizing CCP appropriation of the ethnic Chinese identity.

As PRC state power grows, its ability to wield influence outside of its boarders increases. The State Department and supporting agencies can take initiative to combat messaging that implies the CCP monopolizes Chinese culture. The U.S can foster real relationships between Sino Americans and ethnic Sino populations throughout Southeast Asia. By doing this the U.S can deny the CCP human factor influence among partner nations in Southeast Asia.


Endnotes:

[1] Opper, M. (2020). People’s Wars in China, Malaya, and Vietnam. Washington D.C: University of Michigan Press.

[2] Kitamura, Y. (2019). The Re-recognition of Confucianism in Indonesia: An Example of China’s. In M. S. Dioko, H. M. Hsiao, & A. H. Yang, China’s Footprints in Southeast Asia (pp. 172-193). Singapore: NUS Press.

[3] Goodkind, D. (2019). The Chinese Diaspora: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Trends. Washington D.C: U.S Census Bureau.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Minority Populations and Diasporas Thomas Perkins

Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

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


Richard Tilley is a strategist within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Previously, Richard served as a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and a National Security Advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is on Twitter @RichardTilley6 and on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an unconventional warfare scholar and strategist. He believes renewed American interest in great power competition and Chinese approaches to unrestricted warfare require the United States national security apparatus to better appreciate the disruptive role advanced technology will play on the future battlefield.

Summary:  China’s dreams of regional and global hegemony require a dominant People’s Liberation Army that faces the dilemma of accruing military power while not raising the ire of the United States. To meet this challenge, the Chinese Communist Party has bet heavily on artificial intelligence as a warfighting game-changer that it can acquire surreptitiously and remain below-the-threshold of armed conflict with the United States.

Text:  President Xi Jinping’s introduction of the “The China Dream” in 2013 offers the latest iteration of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decades-long quest to establish China in its rightful place atop the global hierarchy. To achieve this goal, Xi calls for “unison” between China’s newfound soft power and the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) hard power[1]. But, by the CCP’s own admission, “The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries[2].” Cognizant of this capability deficit, Beijing adheres to the policy of former Chairman Deng Xiaoping, “Hide your strength, bide your time” until the influence of the Chinese military can match that of the Chinese economy.

For the PLA, Deng’s maxim presents a dilemma: how to build towards militarily eclipsing the United States while remaining below the threshold of eliciting armed response. Beijing’s solution is to bet heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to upend the warfighting balance of power.

In simple terms, AI is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI is not a piece of hardware but rather a technology integrated into nearly any system that enables computing more quickly, accurately, and intuitively. AI works by combining massive amounts of data with powerful, iterative algorithms to identify new associations and rules hidden therein. By applying these associations and rules to new scenarios, scientists hope to produce AI systems with reasoning and decision-making capabilities matching or surpassing that of humans.

China’s quest for regional and global military dominance has led to a search for a “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics[3].” An RMA is a game-changing evolution in warfighting that upends the balance of power. In his seminal work on the subject, former Under Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers found eighteen cases of such innovations in history such as massed infantry, artillery, railroad, telegraph, and atomic weapons[4]. In each case, a military power introduces a disruptive technology or tactic that rapidly and enduringly changes warfighting. The PLA believes that AI can be their game-changer in the next conflict.

Evidence of the PLA’s confidence in AI abounds. Official PRC documents from 2017 called for “The use of new generation AI technologies as a strong support to command decision-making, military deductions [strategy], and defense equipment, among other applications[5].” Beijing matched this rhetoric with considerable funding, which the U.S. Department of Defense estimated as $12 billion in 2017 and growing to as much as $70 billion in 2020[6].

AI’s potential impact in a Western Pacific military confrontation is significant. Using AI, PLA intelligence systems could detect, identify, and assess the possible intent of U.S. carrier strike groups more quickly and with greater accuracy than traditional human analysis. Then, PLA strike systems could launch swarming attacks coordinated by AI that overwhelm even the most advanced American aerial and naval defenses. Adding injury to insult, the PLA’s AI systems will learn from this engagement to strike the U.S. Military with even more efficacy in the future.

While pursuing AI the CCP must still address the dilemma of staying below the threshold of armed conflict – thus the CCP masterfully conceals moves designed to give it an AI advantage. In the AI arms race, there are two key components: technology and data. To surpass the United States, China must dominate both, but it must do so surreptitiously.

AI systems require several technical components to operate optimally, including the talent, algorithms, and hardware on which they rely. Though Beijing is pouring untold resources into developing first-rate domestic capacity, it still relies on offshore sources for AI tech. To acquire this foreign know-how surreptitiously, the CCP engages in insidious foreign direct investment, joint ventures, cyber espionage, and talent acquisition[7] as a shortcut while it builds domestic AI production.

Successful AI also requires access to mountains of data. Generally, the more data input the better the AI output. To build these data stockpiles, the CCP routinely exploits its own citizens. National security laws passed in 2014 and 2017 mandate that Chinese individuals and organizations assist the state security apparatus when requested[8]. The laws make it possible for the CCP to easily collect and exploit Chinese personal data that can then be used to strengthen the state’s internal security apparatus – powered by AI. The chilling efficacy seen in controlling populations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong can be transferred to the international battlefield.

Abroad, the CCP leverages robust soft power to gain access to foreign data. Through programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, China offers low-cost modernization to tech-thirsty customers. Once installed, the host’s upgraded security, communication, or economic infrastructure allows Beijing to capture overseas data that reinforces their AI data sets and increases their understanding of the foreign environment[9]. This data enables the PLA to better train AI warfighting systems to operate in anywhere in the world.

If the current trends hold, the United States is at risk of losing the AI arms race and hegemony in the Western Pacific along with it. Despite proclaiming that, “Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States[10],” Washington is only devoting $4.9 billion to unclassified AI research in fiscal year 2020[11], just seven percent of Beijing’s investment.

The keep pace, the United States can better comprehend and appreciate the consequences of allowing the PLA to dominate AI warfighting in the future. The stakes of the AI race are not dissimilar to the race for nuclear weapons during World War 2. Only by approaching AI with the same interest, investment, and intensity of the Manhattan Project can U.S. Military hegemony hope to be maintained.


Endnotes:

[1] Page, J. (2013, March 13). For Xi, a ‘China Dream’ of Military Power. Wall Street Journal Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324128504578348774040546346

[2] The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era. (p. 6)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vickers, M. G. (2010). The structure of military revolutions (Doctoral dissertation, Johns Hopkins University) (pp. 4-5). UMI Dissertation Publishing.

[5] PRC State Council, (2017, July 17). New Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan. (p. 1)

[6] Pawlyk, O. (2018, July 30). China Leaving the US behind on Artificial Intelligence: Air Force General. Military.com. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.military.com/defensetech/2018/07/30/china-leaving-us-behind-artificial-intelligence-air-force-general.html

[7] O’Conner, S. (2019). How Chinese Companies Facilitate Technology Transfer from the United States. U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission. (p. 3)

[8] Kharpal, A. (2019, March 5). Huawei Says It Would Never Hand Data to China’s Government. Experts Say It Wouldn’t Have a Choice. CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/huawei-would-have-to-give-data-to-china-government-if-asked-experts.html

[9] Chandran, N. (2018, July 12). Surveillance Fears Cloud China’s ‘Digital Silk Road.’ CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/11/risks-of-chinas-digital-silk-road-surveillance-coercion.html

[10] Trump, D. (2019, February 14). Executive Order 13859 “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.” Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-maintaining-american-leadership-artificial-intelligence

[11] Cornillie, C. (2019, March 28). Finding Artificial Intelligence Research Money in the Fiscal 2020 Budget. Bloomberg Government. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://about.bgov.com/news/finding-artificial-intelligence-money-fiscal-2020-budget

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Richard Tilley United States

Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

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


Matthew F. Smith is an active duty officer in the United States Army. He can be found on Twitter @Matt_F_Smith. The views expressed in this paper represent the personal views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Department of Defense or of the Department of the Army.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of resourcing the U.S. Executive Branch Departments and Agencies primarily responsible for executing foreign policy strategies below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:   U.S. policymakers are deciding how to compete with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and counteract their objectives. Given fiscal realities, the opportunity exists to rebalance current militaristic policy tendencies and force institutional reforms. The U.S. Department of State, due to its largely below-threshold mandate, is a good target for modernization so it can better lead foreign policy efforts through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.

Text:  Over the last decade, American foreign policy has focused increasingly on competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Regardless of the various administrations’ policies, the central strategic aim has been how the United States can best compete with China while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. The PRC’s central strategic aim is to undermine current U.S. alliances and other historically U.S. lead global institutions[1]. Given the $2.5 trillion in federal spending in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession, a fiscally conscience U.S. government is likely to exist moving forward[2]. As a result, future foreign policy decisions will focus on the smart application of strategic tools that are gauged not merely by measures of performance but also by the financial effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome. For the U.S. to maintain the fundamental ability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict, the State Department, whose mission is to “lead America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance”; requires equipping through bipartisan commitment of resources to compete in the current environment[3]. Understanding that near-term competition will likely remain below the threshold of large scale combat operations, and U.S. strategy aims to promote a range of acceptable options short of armed conflict, the resourcing of such efforts is a fundamental issue.

Just as the U.S. military is resourced to innovate and adapt in response to emerging military threats, undertaking the institutional reform necessary for the State Department to have the capability to lead an integrated approach to promote U.S. strategic interests is of vital importance. An environment that is competitive but not combative requires the State Department to be capable of frustrating Chinese interests in areas that cooperation is not possible while seizing fleeting moments of opportunity for mutually beneficial agreements. Without a properly resourced and organized State Department, opportunities to frustrate China will be lost altogether or be handled in such a manner that its potential benefit will be greatly diminished. The Indo-Pacific region is vital to U.S. objectives because of its continuing economic opportunities, and yet, to fully reap the benefits of those opportunities, the United States, China, and the other countries that are impacted by regional competition must work together to communally benefit whenever possible. Competing with China requires the U.S. to advance its position by smartly leveraging all instruments of national power that enable the current strategic approach.

Policymakers can ask themselves how the U.S. can be expected to compete below the threshold of armed conflict without adequately resourcing the primary agency responsible for executing the policies in that environment. The Department of Defense requested $705.4 billion for FY21; and while defense spending on military capability is an important component of a deterrence strategy, it only inadvertently promotes the U.S. capability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict[4]. The State Department requested $40.8 billion for FY21, which is an $11.7 billion, or 22-percent decrease from the 2020 enacted level[5]. In the face of reports calling for the State Department to modernize, the U.S., as is evident in the proposed budget, is prioritizing military capability for deterrence at the expense of investing in deterrence through greater diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts[6]. Ignoring the reality of State Department capability will lead to U.S. policy missteps and encourage China to expand their focus beyond military development and increase investing in other strategic sectors[7]. These sectors, which include the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are effective in increasing the political clout the PRC can wield in forming new alliances and dependencies while degrading the U.S. position in the region.

The current United States strategic approach to the PRC reaffirms many of the incorporative strategic approaches described in the 2017 National Security Strategy, 2018 National Defense Strategy, 2019 Department of State Strategy, and the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report[8]. Specifically, the current U.S. strategic documents accept China as a major power in its own right and describe many unconstrained approaches that will foster cooperation and competition wherever possible while not allowing rivalry to degrade the entire relationship. While these documents allude to a networked approach for competing with China in some areas while cooperating in others, the fiscal allocation of resources and the demonstration that when under stress, the liberal virtues championed in these strategies are easily sacrificed, make clear that execution of the supporting policies is an issue. To compete with China, policymakers can consider sufficiently budgeting the resources required for the State Department to increase its capability to promote U.S. strategic interests across the many non-military domains[9].

The State Department, as the primary agency that coordinates diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts, is critical in a competitive environment that falls below the threshold of armed conflict. The United States cannot effectively or efficiently compete with China while using inflexible and un-adaptive organizational structures that are ill-equipped to deliver relevant solutions[10]. Just as the U.S. military has been equipped to conduct modernization efforts, the Department of State requires the same focus of resourcing for their modernization efforts to successfully outcompete China. Without adequate funding, the State Department will not reform into a more agile institution that can deliver the strategic objectives in a manner reflective of the current period of great power competition[11]. The undervaluing of non-military strategic tools and agencies such as the State Department, over time, will make the military option the most preferred deterrence and engagement method for shaping foreign affairs. The United States’ costly global military presence as a result of the war on terror and extended campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have only reinforced this militaristic reality and are an impetus for assessing foreign policy approaches to foster more competitive practices below the threshold of armed conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Araya, D. (2019, October 20). China’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielaraya/2019/01/14/chinas-grand-strategy/#27ce4ef61f18

[2] Swagel, P. (2020, April 24). CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56335

[3] United States Department of State. (2019, May 13). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/about/about-the-u-s-department-of-state

[4] Department of Defense 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-9.pdf

[5] Department of State and Other International Programs 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-18.pdf

[6] United States Government Accountability Office. (2019, March). Integrated Action Plan Could Enhance Efforts to Reduce Persistent Overseas Foreign Service Vacancies. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697281.pdf

[7] Ju, S. F. (2018, March 6). China’s diplomacy budget doubles under Xi Jinping. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.ft.com/content/2c750f94-2123-11e8-a895-1ba1f72c2c11

[8] United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China. (2020, May 20). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/U.S.-Strategic-Approach-to-The-Peoples-Republic-of-China-Report-5.20.20.pdf

[9] Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State Diplomatic Engagement. (2020, March). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FY21-CBJ-Appendix-1-FINAL-for-GPA-Mar-26-2020.pdf

[10] Daalder, I., & Lindsay, J. (2001, March 1). How to Revitalize a Dysfunctional State Department. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gs_20170927_dos__usaid_listening_report_2017.pdf

[11] Office of Inspector General. (2019, November). Review of the Department of State’s Organizational Reform Effort. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.stateoig.gov/system/files/aud-mero-20-09.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Budgets and Resources China (People's Republic of China) Diplomacy Matthew F. Smith Option Papers United States

Options for African Nations Regarding Economic Collaboration with the U.S. and China

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


Ekene Lionel is the Executive Director for Military Africa.  He can be found on Twitter @LionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States and the People’s Republic of China are competing below the threshold of war for influence in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 27, 2020.

Author and / or Point of View:  The author believes that the possibility of a U.S.-Chinese economic collaboration in Africa is the only way forward, and that this collaboration will be key to competition in Africa below the threshold of war. The article is written from the point of view of Africa’s relationship between both major powers.

Background:  China is an increasingly important player in the politics, economic development, and security of Africa. China has prioritized strong diplomatic relations and political ties with African states. Beijing’s ideological aspiration, anchored on solidarity amongst the Third World countries, is appealing to African states.

Significance:  With China’s focus on Africa’s rich resources is to fuel its own domestic economic growth, this has placed it in direct competition with the United States.

Option #1:  The U.S. increases bilateral trade and investment in Africa to compete with China below the threshold of war.

Although China and the United States employ different strategies and tactics in Africa, they share very similar interests, and that their competition has been largely confined to the economic domain. Even though there is a fundamental distrust between both nations, particularly as the U.S. is cautious of China’s military entry into Africa, there is still much room for their cooperation in promoting peace and economic development on the continent.

With that said, the U.S. currently lacks a comprehensive approach to multilateral issues such as regional trade, governance, and infrastructural development that will serve Africa better than what China offers. Since trade is vital to Africa’s economic future and to improving lives and livelihoods, the U.S. can recognize that much of China’s appeal is its willingness to respond to Africa’s developmental priorities, and to project Africa as a promising hub for foreign investment. For several decades, U.S. investment is still heavily concentrated in the natural resource sector. Instead, for a long-term, sustainable economic growth, and development in Africa, America can identify and promote other sectors where U.S. businesses might have competitive advantages.

The United States can also work with African countries to take full advantage of both African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and worldwide trading opportunities and send exports to emerging markets such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil (BRIC). The AGOA, which was signed between 2002 and 2008, lowers tariff barriers for entry into the United States of African-produced textiles and other commodities[1].

Besides trade and foreign direct investment, America can leverage its relationship with Africa to encourage improvements in human rights practices and the pursuance of Western-style liberal democracy. In contrast, China has a policy of no political strings attached to its aid. Beijing maintains close relations with African governments whether they are democracies, autocracies, military regimes, or Islamists.

Risk:  Increased U.S. trade and investment in Africa angers China, who then takes steps to roll back U.S. efforts in Africa or elsewhere.

Gain:  This option will appeal to African nations on the basis of a common U.S-African interest in trade negotiations. At present, Africa has just 2 percent of all world trade, this is still low considering a large number of resources present in Africa. The U.S. will have to convince companies to invest in the region, and also opening its markets further to African exports.

Option #2:  The U.S. and China collaborate economically in Africa.

Militarily, the United States has a robust presence in Africa, and is particularly active in anti-piracy and counter-terror efforts, operating up to 29 different bases in the continent[2]. China cannot hope to match or contest U.S. military dominance in Africa. Africa is no stranger to conflict as the continent has been subjected to constant warfare for the past several decades. Africa will fiercely resist any attempt of international armed struggle for clout within the continent.

The United States and China use essentially the same political, economic, military, and cultural tools for implementing their policies in Africa. For China, the country has placed itself as the infrastructural vanguard of the new frontier, since Africa is now considered the fastest urbanizing continent globally. According to a 2017 report by the International Monetary Fund, in 2017, Africa boasted seven of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world[3].

Thus, China has position itself to capitalize and exploit this growth. Since 2005, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) China Global Investment Tracker determined that the total value of Chinese investments and construction in Africa is nearing $2 trillion[4]. The Chinese investment is compared with the just $39 billion combined trade value for the United States according to a 2017 United States Agency for International Development report. The U.S. is it Africa’s third-largest trading partner behind China and the European Union.

To consolidate its robust economic influence, China recently launched a $1 billion Belt and Road infrastructure fund for Africa, and a $60 billion African aid package[5]. Even though China is presenting itself humbly in its interaction with Africa, it has been accused of saddling developing countries with substantial volumes of hidden debt through its Belt and Road Initiative. This humility is rapidly changing as China’s political and economic power increases. As China looks to diversify its trade and investment relationships amid the protracted trade war with the U.S, Beijing’s opaqueness in issuing loans means debt burdens for recipient countries, which can cause potential problems for the African economy.

For now, Chinese firms have been actively building ports, roads, and railways to enhance integration and trade between African nations, mainly under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). AfCFTA intends to bring together all 55 African Union member states into the world’s largest free trade area, covering over 1.2 billion people. Besides, China now has more diplomatic offices in Africa than the U.S., and in some countries, Chinese influence counts for more[6].

In contrast, being the leader of the Western world since the end of World War II, the United States is sometimes perceived in Africa as insensitive and arrogant. U.S.-Africa trade has dipped in recent years. Nearly all of the assistance provided to Africa by the United States is in the form of grants and aids to Africa has been running at about $8 billion annually.

If the U.S continues to pursue military dominance or competition with China even below the threshold of war, it risks being a step or even two behind China in Africa for a long time. U.S. interests in Africa remain shaped, to its own detriment, by a perceived competition with China. The U.S. may accomplish more by focusing on areas of current or potential collaboration and to pay less attention to the debilitating debate about U.S-China competition.

Washington can collaborate with China, smoothing the way to trade will help more entrepreneurial African states, especially those with the thriving private business sector, to grow where it would be welcomed by the new generation of dynamic African entrepreneurs.

While there are areas in Africa where China and the United States might compete as major powers, especially below the threshold of war, there are many more areas where they can cooperate. For example, both Countries have a successful agricultural sector, components of which could be combined and adapted to improve production in Africa.

At this point, America likely cannot sit idly while countries such as China become more engaged with the aspirations of Africa’s next generation of leaders. Frankly, China is not a strategic threat to the United States in Africa. However, Beijing could pose serious political and commercial challenges for influence. Nonetheless, by engaging China more on Africa-centric socio-economic, diplomatic, and infrastructural development can the U.S. meet this challenge effectively.

Risk:  Chinese and U.S. investments in Africa further entangle the two nations and cause both to hesitate to take more important actions to preserve national security.

Gain:  A coordinated and dedicated diplomatic, commercial, and security strategy can increase U.S. investment and challenge Chinese influence in Africa.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), https://agoa.info/about-agoa.html

[2] Nick Turse, Pentagon’s map of US bases in Africa, The Intercept, February 27, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/27/africa-us-military-bases-africom

[3] IMF Annual Report 2017, Promoting inclusive growth, 2017, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/ar/2017/eng/pdfs/IMF-AR17-English.pdf

[4] AEI, China Global Investment Tracker, 2005-2019, https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/China-Global-Investment-Tracker-2019-Fall-FINAL.xlsx

[5] Silk Road Briefing, US$ 1 Billion Belt & Road Africa Fund Launched, July 04, 2019, https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2019/07/04/us-1-billion-belt-road-africa-fund-launched

[6] Ben Doherty , The Guardian, China leads world in number of diplomatic posts, leaving US in its wake, Tuesday 26 Nov 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/27/china-leads-world-in-number-of-diplomatic-posts-leaving-us-in-its-wake

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Ekene Lionel Option Papers United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 20, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

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


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


Title:  Assessing African Strategic Needs to Counter Undue Chinese Influence

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 13, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options for the United States to Compete with China Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

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


Matthew Ader is a second-year undergraduate taking War Studies at King’s College London.  He tweets occasionally from @AderMatthew, and is an editor at the Wavell Room. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China rises and the U.S. wants to avoid direct military confrontation, the U.S. requires options to compete with China below the threshold of armed conflict

Date Originally Written:  May 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 8, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a second-year undergraduate student at King’s College London with a broadly liberal foreign policy view. The article is written from the point of view of the United States towards the People’s Republic of China.

Background:  The United States has identified China as a key competitor and revanchist power seeking to undermine the U.S.-led international order.

Significance:  China is expanding its influence globally through competition below the threshold of armed conflict, to the detriment of U.S. interests. A conventional Sino-American war to counter or roll back these gains would be catastrophic. The below options enable the U.S. to compete against China short of war.

Option #1:  The United States deploys specialist surveillance and training capabilities, along with Coast Guard and Navy vessels, to enhance and expand existing multilateral efforts against maritime lawlessness – particularly illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – in the Indo-Pacific theatre.

Risk:  This option would put US personnel in close contact with Chinese maritime militia, coast guard, and fishing fleets on a regular basis – increasing the possibility of a geopolitical incident. It could also contribute to overstretch in the U.S. 7th Fleet. Further, while maritime lawlessness is recognised as a major problem by all countries in theatre, U.S. enforcement action could be seen as high-handed. One particular concern would be how the U.S. treats Japan – it is a key ally but is also heavy enmeshed in the IUU industry. Too heavy-handed a treatment would alienate Japan; too lenient would make the U.S. seem hypocritical. This option might also embroil the U.S. in regional disputes over maritime border claims.

Gain:  This option would strengthen the U.S. claim of being a status quo power upholding the law and rules-based international order against an aggressive and lawless China. Given that regional trust in the U.S. has sunk dramatically over the course of the Trump administration, this option could constitute a helpful corrective. Substantively, this option could also assist in pushing back on Chinese influence in the South China Sea; the current Freedom of Navigation Operations are inherently transient and can be avoided without change to broader Chinese strategy — persistent presence cannot. Lastly, it would permit U.S. forces to work alongside regional partners, gaining valuable operational expertise and local knowledge.

Option #2:  The United States increases funding for the journalists, civil rights activists, and anti-corruption campaigners in nations involved in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Risk:  This option may be seen as the U.S. meddling unduly in the affairs of foreign countries, and certainly would be portrayed as such by the Chinese state media. It is also difficult to assess the impact of such investments, which, given the kleptocratic or authoritarian nature of many BRI states, may be negligible. Moreover, this option could lead to activists and journalists being labelled as foreign agents. Further, while the material loss to U.S. interests resulting from states cracking down on individuals and organisations who receive U.S. funding is relatively small, the reputational risk is significant.

Gain:  This option allows the U.S. to contest and bog down Chinese BRI expansion in Africa and central Asia, as activists and journalists expose Chinese elite corruption and oppose predatory debt-trap diplomacy. It would involve no risk to U.S. personnel, and limited expenditure compared to more kinetic options. Moreover, this option could, with appropriate messaging, allow the U.S. to portray itself as siding with local populations against an overbearing China and its puppets – an advantage for international media coverage.

Option #3:  China is a highly aggressive and malign actor in cyberspace. The U.S. encourages and facilitates greater global regulation surrounding cyberwarfare and espionage. One specific option would be an international body, likely under United Nations authority, to identify the origin of cyberattacks.

Risk:  The U.S. is highly capable in the cyber domain, and there is a risk that by encouraging more regulation, it would be creating a purity test it cannot itself meet. This would, in turn, create substantial reputational problems for the U.S. Moreover, attributing cyberattacks is difficult, and it is possible that the U.S. might be inadvertently accused of a crime it did not commit. Lastly, while international naming and shaming can be effective, the extent to which it would matter to China is unclear; the option might therefore involve expending substantial U.S. diplomatic capital for limited returns.

Gain:  This option could lead to stronger norms against aggression in cyberspace. This may not discourage China from continuing its current aggressive policy, but it could increase the reputational costs and diplomatic consequences associated with it. Moreover, an impartial and open-source organisation for attributing cyberattacks could be a helpful resource against non-state actors and rogue states – especially given that U.S. efforts at attribution are often hampered by the need to protect sensitive intelligence sources and methods. Lastly, this option, as a recourse to multilateralism, would signal U.S. commitment to the rules-based international order, which may be important in restoring global trust in U.S. leadership.

Other Comments:  Sino-U.S. competition is and will continue to shape this century. New ways for the U.S. to compete below the threshold of armed conflict may be critical assets in assuring U.S. victory.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Larter, D. B. (2019, May 2). Here’s how the Japan-based 7th Fleet has changed since 17 sailors died in accidents 2 years ago. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/navy-league/2019/05/05/heres-how-the-japan-based-7th-fleet-has-changed-since-17-sailors-died-in-accidents-2-years-ago

[2] Mackie, J. (2019, October 18). Japan Has an Illegal Seafood Problem. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.hakaimagazine.com/news/japan-has-an-illegal-seafood-problem

[3] Rudd, K. (2020, May 6). The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-05-06/coming-post-covid-anarchy

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

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

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


Captain Matthew Hughes, U.S. Army, is a Western Hemisphere Foreign Area Officer. He is currently assigned to the Military Liaison Office of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil while he conducts in-region training. The opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  It is 2035 and a new form of tribalism has taken root throughout the world. This New Tribalism is a threat to U.S. interests.

Date Originally Written:  April 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 6, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alexander Craig works in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  Competition with China below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Todd Schmidt currently serves as an active-duty military service member.  He can be found on Twitter @Dreamseed6 and hosts his scholarly work at www.toddandrewschmidt.com.  His views are his own.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization, or group.


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

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 22, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 15, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 1: Power/Interest Grid[10]

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 7.30.17 AM


Endnotes:

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

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

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


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

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

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


Title:  Assessment of the Virtual Societal Warfare Environment of 2035

Date Originally Written:  April 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 3, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Captain Walker D. Mills is a Marine infantry officer. He is currently serving as an exchange officer with the Colombian Marine Corps. He is also pursuing an MA in international relations and contemporary war from King’s College London.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. and China are competing below the threshold of armed conflict and trying to best position themselves should conflict occur.  One area of competition focuses on Chinese rockets and missiles, and their potential use against U.S. aviation facilities.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

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


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


Title:  Assessing Russia’s Pursuit of Great Power

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 20, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

[5] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civil Affairs Association Contest (General)

Writing Contest — Below Threshold Competition: China

China, controlled and claimed regions, map

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

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

When:  Submit your 1,000 word Options Paper or Assessment Paper between May 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020 to submissions@divergentoptions.org.

Why:  To refine your thoughts on China, which, depending upon your point of view, could be an important trading partner, a complex competitor, or a sworn enemy.  Writers will have a chance to win $500 for 1st Place, $300 for 2nd Place, $100 for 3rd Place, or be one of three Honorable Mentions who receives $50.

How:  Submissions will be judged by strength of argument, relevance, uniqueness, adherence to format, adherence to length, and grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Submissions will be published during and after the contest closes.  Contest winners will be announced once the judging is complete.

Other Comments:  For the purposes of this contest we encourage writers to think in an unconstrained manner and to not worry about what authority or what organization would be used to execute a given option.  From a U.S. point of view, some examples of unconstrained thinking could include:

A.  Since China has established Confucius Institutes in the United States, what is the risk and gain of the United States establishing “Thomas Jefferson Institutes” in China?

B.  The U.S. Government provides agricultural subsidies to agribusinesses to supplement their income, manage the supply of agricultural commodities, and influence the cost and supply of such commodities.  What is the risk and gain of U.S. colleges and universities adopting a version of this program?  In this option the U.S. Government would provide subsidies to U.S. colleges and universities that ban the enrollment of Chinese students thus protecting U.S. intellectual capital without affecting college or university financing.  These subsidies would continue until the U.S. college or university could find students from countries that aid the U.S. in its competition with China to take the enrollment slots previously reserved for the Chinese students.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest China (People's Republic of China) Contest (General)

Writing Contest Winners!

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Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options ran a Writing Contest from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019 and as of this writing all of the entries we received have been published.  On behalf of the Divergent Options Team of myself (Phil Walter), Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein, and also on behalf of Dave Dilegge of Small Wars Journal, we want to thank all of our writers who entered the contest.  Not only was it a joy to read what you wrote, but for me personally, it is always an emotional event to see how Divergent Options has grown from a random idea scribbled in one of my notebooks to what it is today. Divergent Options would not be what it is without our writers, and for that I am eternally grateful.  All writings related to this contest can be found by clicking here, and the awards are as follows:

First Place $500:  Heather Venable – “Turning ‘Small’ Wars into ‘Big’ Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

Second Place $300:  Ekene Lionel – “Assessment of the Existential Threat Posed by a United Biafran and Ambazonian Separatist Front in West Africa

Third Place $200:  Naiomi Gonzalez – “An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Honorable Mention $100:  Scott Harr – “Assessment of the Impacts of Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030 on U.S. Efforts to Confront Iran

Honorable Mention $100:  Gregory Olsen – “Assessment of the Efficacy of the French Military Intervention in the Northern Mali Conflict

Honorable Mention $100:  Sam Canter – “An Assessment of Population Relocation in 21st Century Counterinsurgencies

Honorable Mention $100:  Samuel T. Lair – “Assessing the Jefferson Administration’s Actions During the First Barbary Wars and their Impact on U.S. Small War Policy

Honorable Mention $100:  Edwin Tran – “Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Intervention of Lebanon

 

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Announcements

Germany’s Options in the First Moroccan Crisis

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Rafael Loss is a California-based defense analyst. He can be found on Twitter @_RafaelLoss. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The German Empire was a latecomer to the “Scramble for Africa.” Looking for “a place under the sun,” the first Moroccan crisis in 1905-06 presented an opportunity for Germany to further its colonial ambitions and improve its position among Europe’s great powers.

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 19, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II[1]. While representative of the competing views within the German government, the two options presented are somewhat stylized to draw a starker contrast.

Background:  Following the Franco-Prussian war and its unification in 1871, the German Empire was a latecomer to the “Scramble for Africa.” Only in 1890 did it adopt Weltpolitik, seeking possessions abroad and equal status among the European imperial powers. On a visit to Tangier in March 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II provoked a diplomatic spat by challenging France’s dominance in Morocco. As the crisis escalated, Germany called up reserve units and France moved troops to the German border. In early 1906, a conference in the southern Spanish town of Algeciras sought to resolve the dispute[2].

Significance:  The Entente Cordiale of 1904, a series of agreements between Great Britain and France which saw a significant improvement in their relations, marked a major setback for German efforts, perfected during the Bismarckian period, to manipulate the European balance of power in Berlin’s favor[3]. The Entente not only threatened Germany’s colonial ambitions, but also its predominant position on the European continent—a vital national security interest. The Algeciras conference presented an opportunity to fracture the Franco-British rapprochement. In hindsight, it arguably also offered the best off-ramp for Europe’s diplomats to avert locking in the alignment patterns that contributed to the unraveling of the European order only eight years later.

Option #1:  Germany weakens the Entente by seeking closer relations with France (and Britain). This option required a constructive and conciliatory stance of Germany at Algeciras. (This option is associated with Hugo von Radolin, Germany’s Ambassador to France.)

Risk:  Rebuffing French bilateral overtures, Germany had insisted that a conference settle the Moroccan issue from the beginning of the crisis. Appearing too compromising at Algeciras risked undermining German credibility and status as a great power determined to pursue legitimate colonial interests. Alignment with France (and Britain) also jeopardized Germany’s relations with the Russian and Austro-Hungarian monarchies and could further increase domestic pressure for democratic reform.

Gain:  A successful pursuit of this option promised to alleviate Germany’s security dilemma, located between France to the west and Russia to the east, with the British navy threatening its sea lines of communication. This option would also reduce dependence on Austria-Hungary and Italy, who were seen by some as rather unreliable allies, and could eventually facilitate the emergence of a continental block—with France and Russia—against Britain’s maritime primacy. Moreover, this option could improve relations with the United States, a rising great power and increasingly important player in colonial affairs.

Option #2:  Germany weakens the Entente by pressuring France. This required a bellicose negotiating stance and raising the specter of war to deter Britain from coming to France’s aid. (This option is associated with Friedrich von Holstein, the Political Secretary of the German Foreign Office.)

Risk:  While consistent with Germany’s heretofore assertive opposition to France’s dominance in Morocco, leaning on France too hard at Algeciras risked escalating a peripheral diplomatic dispute to major war in Europe, for which public support was less than certain. It could also precipitate an arms race and alienate the other delegations, especially since Germany had already secured concessions from France, including the dismissal of a disliked foreign minister and the conference itself. Furthermore, it was uncertain whether even a total diplomatic victory for Germany at Algeciras could weaken the Franco-British rapprochement, as the status of the Entente itself was not part of the negotiations, or even strengthen their resolve in the face of German adversity.

Gain:  Successfully pressuring France promised not only greater influence in colonial affairs in North Africa but also exposure of the hollowness of the Entente Cordiale. Without British support for either France or Russia—Britain had sided with Japan during the Russo-Japanese war—Germany’s position on the European continent would improve considerably, particularly since Russia and Germany had discussed a defense treaty the prior year. Separately dealing with the challenges at land and at sea would also make it easier for Germany to contest Britain’s maritime primacy at a convenient time, perhaps even with French support as the end of the Entente might reignite Franco-British competition. Domestically, humiliating France yet again could be expected to increase popular support for the Kaiser and the conservative elites.

Other Comments:  Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow ultimately instructed their representatives at the conference to pursue Option #2.

With Britain, Italy, Russia, Spain, and the United States siding with France, however, Germany was largely isolated and, at last, had to accept an unsatisfying settlement. Germany’s actions in 1905 and its combative posturing at the conference failed to fracture the Entente[4]. To the contrary, rival blocks began to consolidate which severely limited the room for diplomatic maneuver in subsequent crises. Worsening tensions between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (Triple Alliance) on the one side and Britain, France, and Russia (Triple Entente) on the other, ultimately led to the outbreak of general war in August 1914.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Lepsius, J., Mendelssohn Bartholdy, A., & Thimme, F. (1927). Die grosse Politik der europäischen Kabinette, 1871-1914. Sammlung der diplomatischen Akten des Auswärtigen Amtes: Vols. 20.1 & 20.2. Entente cordiale und erste Marokkokrise, 1904-1905. Berlin, Germany: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft für Politik und Geschichte.

[2] Anderson, E. N. (1930). The first Moroccan crisis, 1904-1906. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

[3] Sontag, R. J. (1928). German foreign policy, 1904-1906. The American Historical Review, 33(2), 278-301.

[4] Jones, H. (2009). Algeciras revisited: European crisis and conference diplomacy, 16 January-7 April 1906 (EUI Working Paper MWP 2009/01). San Domenico di Fiesole, Italy: European University Institute.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Germany Morocco Option Papers Rafael Loss

Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander. He currently works in USAREC. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the American-led Constabulary during the American Occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 in Comparison to Later Occupations

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2019. 

Summary:  During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, the United States Marines officered a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Throughout the occupation, the Gendarmerie built infrastructure and assisted in the administration of the country. The success of the Gendarmerie can be compared with the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq.

Text:  The United States of America began its longest military occupation of a foreign country in August 1915 when United States Marines landed in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. The occupation was the Wilson administration’s reaction to the potential establishment of a European naval base that could control the Windward Passage, combined with growing instability in Haiti. This instability culminated in the violent execution of Haitian President Guillaume Sam by a group of Haitian elites. After landing, the Marines met little resistance and rapidly established control of the country. By September, the Marines had established garrisons in all the major towns in Haiti. In 1915 and again in 1918, the Marines used superior training and tactics to quell uprisings of the native cacos during the First and Second Caco Wars. Between these two wars and for the rest of the time that the Marines administered the government in Haiti, the Americans ran a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti[1].

The constabulary was comprised mostly of the noirs, which made up most of the population, but the officers of the constabulary were Marines. This was an attractive assignment for the Marines stationed in Haiti, as they would receive an additional stipend and a higher rank. For instance, a Corporal or Sergeant in the Marine Corps would be an officer in the Gendarmerie. In the same way, then Lieutenant Colonel Smedley Butler held the rank of Major General in the Gendarmerie while acting as its first commandant. The Gendarmerie d’Haiti was as a joint army-police organization, but their role didn’t stop there. The American-led constabulary also “administered prisons, roads, bridges, the water supply, telegraph lines, sanitation, and other vital services[2].” Despite allegations of war crimes and three resulting investigations, the American military presence in Haiti continued throughout the 1920s with general success. Towards the end of the decade, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti became gradually more comprised of Haitians, and in 1928, the government renamed it the Garde d’Haiti. With the help of the Garde d’Haiti, the American administrators ran an efficient government while reducing graft and increasing stability. Upon leaving Haiti in 1934, the American-run government left behind “1,000 miles of roads constructed, 210 major bridges, 9 major airfields, 1,250 miles of telephone lines, 82 miles of irrigation canals, 11 modern hospitals, 147 rural clinics” and more[3]. America also achieved its strategic goals of keeping out the Germans and creating stability. The occupation was ultimately a success, with the Gendarmerie a large part of that success.

Although the model used by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti had seen use in previous small wars, once the United States withdrew from Haiti, the native constabulary model did not see use again in the many counter-insurgency operations in the following century. The ensuing general distaste for overt American Imperialism ensured that white officers leading black foreigners in the service of an American-led government would not be a viable option. Instead, America favored train, advise, and assist (TAA) operations during the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts to the extent that the United States Army is now establishing units to carry on TAA operations as an enduring mission[4]. However, these operations were and are mainly concerned with establishing security to enable the success of a new government in an unstable nation. To truly examine the legacy of the American-led constabularies of the early 1900s, we must look to institutions that sought to exercise authority over a foreign government in an unstable state. The best example of this is the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) of the early Iraq War.

Formed in the early days of the Iraq War and led by L. Paul Bremer, the CPA exercised executive, legislative, and judicial power in Iraq for 14 months from April 2003 to June 2004 as a caretaker government which attempted to set the conditions for a sovereign Iraqi government to take control of the country[5]. Planners for the occupation of Iraq had looked to the military occupation of Japan for guidance, considering that if they modeled the occupation off a previously successful one, the occupation would transform Iraq into a functioning democracy[6]. In 2019, we know that this was not the case. Looking back at the CPA through the lens of the Haitian Gendarmerie can help us understand why.

The occupation of Haiti was successful compared to the occupation of Iraq due to the continuity and command-structure provided by the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. By giving enlisted Marines commissions in the Haitian constabulary, the occupying force garnered a commitment to the institution for which they were working. Furthermore, the Gendarmerie benefited from having the “advisors” in a command position over those they were seeking to influence. Unlike the current model of organizations tasked with TAA missions, placing Marines in command positions added to the buy-in needed to garner a vested interest in the organization. Finally, the constabulary gave the American administration the benefits of a military-run government. Like in the successful military occupation of Japan, the Marines of the Gendarmerie stayed for long periods of time, with a clear military structure. Compare these facts with the experience of the CPA. Few leaders in the CPA stayed for the duration of its short lifespan, and organizations within the CPA suffered from the lack of a clear structure[7]. The continuity and structure of the American-led constabulary allowed the Marines to see successes in their administration of the country.

Even considering the above, it is important to remember that the American-led Gendarmerie was not without its problems. The reintroduction of the corvée labor system and sometimes brutal methods of enforcing the corvée were morally wrong and almost immediately led to the Second Caco War, despite Butler’s predecessor abolishing the system in 1918. Also, not all Gendarmerie officers had enlightened views of their Haitian subordinates. Smedley Butler led them with affection, but Colonel Tony Waller had a decidedly more racist and less compassionate view of the Haitian gendarmes under his command[8]. Even with these problems, the Gendarmerie d’Haiti showed how an American-led military organization can aid in the occupation and administration of another nation. While the United States will likely not employ this type of organization in the future, the successes of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti are worth remembering if the United States once again engages in the risky act of nation building.


Endnotes:

[1] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Lopez, C. T. (2017, June). SFABs to Free BCTs from Advise, Assist Mission. Infantry Magazine, 4.

[5] Ward, C. J. (2005, May). United States Institute of Peace Special Report: The Coalition Provisional Authority’s Experience with Governance in Iraq (Rep. No. 139). Retrieved May 29, 2019, from https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr139.pdf

[6] Dower, J. W. (2003, April 01). Don’t expect democracy this time: Japan and Iraq. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/dont-expect-democracy-this-time-japan-and-iraq

[7] Hunter-Chester, D. (2016, May/June). The Particular Circumstances of Time and Place: Why the Occupation of Japan Succeeded and the Occupation of Iraq Failed. Military Review, 41-49.

[8] Boot, M. (2014). The savage wars of peace: Small wars and the rise of American power. NY, NY: Basic Books.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Haiti Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Travis Prendergast

An Assessment of Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Riley Murray is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force currently pursuing his master’s degree in the Georgetown Security Studies Program.  He can be found on Twitter @rileycmurray.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty Air Force Officer. The Article is written from the Point of View of the United States Air Force in Air Advising and Security Cooperation operations.

Summary:  Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.

Text:  Andrew Krepinevich coined the term “Army Concept” in his 1986 study of the Vietnam War. The U.S. Army uses the Army Concept framework to hypothesize how wars will be fought, and to shape its operational planning and training[1]. During the Vietnam War, the Army Concept focused on large-scale conventional warfare against the Soviets in Central Europe with emphasis on firepower and technology[2]. Krepinevich criticizes the Army for using this conventionally oriented concept to advise the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during its campaign against an irregular foe: The National Liberation Front (Viet Cong)[3]. This counterproductive (ineffective) assistance program resulted from a failure to understand the threat faced by the ARVN, a poorly conceived plan to address the insurgency, and advisors that had spent their careers preparing for conventional warfare[4]. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has made similar mistakes when advising its partner forces.

Any conceptual approach to advising begins by assessing the environment and threats partner forces face. This analysis is the basis for decisions regarding prioritization and risk that result in concepts of what air elements should be able to do[5]. This strategic view is then translated into operational and tactical tasks. However, planning and execution are heavily impacted by variety of factions involved in advising missions, each with unique concepts and different decision-making processes, leading to mixed outcomes. In an ideal world, planning any advising mission would be a cyclical process of tightly coordinated activities that continually reconsiders assumptions and adjusts policy accordingly. However, even under clear planning guidance, this policy-tailoring process can be undermined by the interests of subordinate organizations.

In Vietnam, the U.S. military attempted to meet the Kennedy administration’s directive to prepare for “wars of national liberation.” The USAF responded to this challenge by establishing the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron with the mission to develop and train foreign air forces on counter-guerrilla tactics[6]. Outside of this unit though, the USAF made no major changes in organizational guidelines or doctrine. Although the counterinsurgency mission was accepted, USAF doctrine did not highlight the role of local air forces or advising[7]. The USAF developed “what amounted to an absolute model of airpower in warfare,” based on the principles of classical airpower theory (primarily the primacy of offensive, strategic, and independent air operations)[8]. This single-minded view drove the USAF’s organization and mentality, but largely neglected the lessons learned from irregular conflicts since World War II and assumed that alternate concepts were unnecessary. The USAF failed to understand airpower’s role in effective irregular warfare strategy and to foresee the potential negative effects airpower could have when fighting a guerrilla force. This made the USAF ill-equipped to develop a reliable partner force in Vietnam.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy authorized an advising mission in 1961 to assist the South Vietnamese military in countering the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese supporters. The USAF was tasked with training the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), but its actions and ideas were often counterproductive to the VNAF[9]. The USAF entered Vietnam planning to develop tactics for fighting guerrillas but was unprepared and unwilling to effectively assess and address strategic and operational issues. USAF advisors helped the VNAF develop a centralized air control system in alignment with USAF doctrine, which increased efficiency, but also dramatically hindered air-ground coordination and resulted in operations that had little strategic value in counterinsurgency[10]. When the USAF and VNAF did develop useful tactics, many of these innovations were simply relearning the lessons of previous conflicts (such as the Marine Corps’ small wars in the Caribbean)[11]. U.S. assistance dramatically increased the VNAF’s size, but contemporary USAF emphasis on jet aircraft led to a force that was incredibly difficult to maintain without U.S. assistance. Rapid growth was coupled with USAF advisors frequently flying the missions themselves and neglecting the tactical development of the VNAF[12]. After a decade of advising efforts, the end result was a VNAF that could not independently perform many key processes and was poorly oriented towards the threat faced by South Vietnam.

Many of these conceptual failures continue to plague the USAF’s mission to advise the Afghan Air Force (AAF). As the Afghan Taliban resurgence threatened security in Afghanistan in 2007, the original USAF advisory mission of establishing an AAF presidential airlift capability was expanded and the AAF became a “helicopter/transport/light-attack-based fleet” oriented towards counterinsurgency[13]. Developing these capabilities has been difficult, particularly without consensus on the roles and missions the AAF should be able to conduct. USAF advisors have labored to develop a centralized control system, but this doctrinal solution continues to conflict with the structure of the Afghan military and its entrenched habits[14]. There is also a split between the conventional AAF and the Special Mission Wing and their respective advisors which focuses on direct support for Afghan special operations forces, resulting in two parallel concepts that remain poorly integrated at both the tactical and strategic levels[15]. The mission statement of the 428th Air Expeditionary Wing in 2014 emphasized the importance of developing “a professional, capable, and sustainable [Afghan] Air Force[16].” However, without a clear concept driving what these terms mean and how they should be pursued, air advising operations cannot be successful. In 2018, a DoD Inspector General report highlighted that Train Advise Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) lacked a defined end state for AAF development and failed to explain how the AAF would integrate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan[17]. Without an end state or effective strategic plan, the USAF cannot integrate and leverage its full range of advising capabilities.

While Vietnam highlighted the dangers of applying the wrong concept to air operations in counterinsurgency, Afghanistan demonstrates that the lack of a unified concept that similarly undercuts advising operations. Concepts are difficult to quantify, but they have had an unmistakable impact on advising operations. Success requires both a holistic view of the strategic value of air operations in irregular warfare and the capability to assess individual cases and tailor advising approaches. With a clear strategic concept, advising, planning and operations can be synchronized, ensuring that the United States effectively leverages its capabilities to assist partners and allies.


Endnotes:

[1] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. p. 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 258-260.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 11-14.

[6] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 238-239.

[7] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 242-243, 246-247.

[8] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 267-270.

[9] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 241-244.

[10] Sheehan, N. (2013). A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a division of Random House. pp. 112-115.

[11] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 261.

[12] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 271-273.

[13] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 51-52.

[14] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 156.

[15] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 55.

[16] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 186.

[17] United States, Department of Defense, Inspector General. (2018). Progress of U.S. and Coalition Efforts to Train, Advise, and Assist the Afghan Air Force (pp. 1-76). Arlington, VA: U.S. Department of Defense.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Afghanistan Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Riley Murray Training United States

Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Mathew Daniels is a graduate of Old Dominion University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in International Relations.  He served six years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.  He has a diverse professional background including both Law enforcement and education.  Fluent in both Spanish and English he is currently learning Japanese, while residing in Japan as a military spouse.  He has moved three different times in the past three years.  He just concluded student teaching and is preparing to take the Foreign Service Officer Test while awaiting to start employment with the Child Youth Military Program.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 5, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard  and a military spouse.

Summary:  As the Global War on Terror continues to expand, the U.S. believes it is important to maintain sound strategy and policy in order to bring about success and avoid costly foreign policy and militaristic commitments. This is especially true in Somalia, where the U.S. is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach, but risks of increased involvement are possible. 

Text:  The Global War on Terror continues to wax and wane with the foreign policy objectives of the United States. This is especially true in Africa, specifically in Somalia, where a U.S. presence has been in country intermittently since 2003. Somalia is one of the United States’ many small wars that are part of the campaign against Islamist Terrorism post 9/11.  The current terrorist organization that warrants a U.S. military presence is Al Shabaab. It is important to understand that Al Shabaab is allied with and mimics Al Qaeda.  However, some members claim that “they do not wish to wage a global jihad, merely to dominate East Africa[1].”  In this way Al Shabaab may differ from Al-Qaeda but this difference makes them no less of a threat to U.S. national security.  Furthermore, Al Shabaab routinely attacks civilian populations and is a threat to the  U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu. In 2007 African Union Forces were able to drive out Al Shabaab militants and retake most of Mogadishu, however Al Shabaab continued to exist in the suburbs and threaten the capital[2]. 

Presently, the Somalia National Army and police forces with assistance from African Union, Kenyan, and Ethiopian militaries, continue to wage a counter insurgency campaign against Al Shabaab. The United States continues to be involved indirectly in combating Al Shabaab by supporting regional forces with  military advisors. However, without a clear-cut purpose and end goal, the United States risks mission creep and more potential long-term militaristic commitments. 

As part of the Global War on Terror the U.S. has had a presence in Somalia since as early as 2003[3].  This early presence in Somalia was made up of the Central Intelligence Agency and small elements of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), specifically the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team 6. These early elements  focused on intelligence gathering and relying on local warlords bankrolled with U.S. cash to eliminate Islamist groups in the region[3]. 

In 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a drone strike campaign in Somalia targeting Al Shabaab[2].  This was a shift from the Bush administration whose primary focus was intelligence gathering and counter-piracy operations.   Under the current Trump administration, Obama’s  policy of drone strikes has continued, and JSOC has become heavily involved in Somalia[2]. This involvement  represents an increase of American commitment to the anti-Al Shabab effort over a significant amount of time. Combat by American forces is not officially confirmed. Multiple sources report that the Pentagon is extremely tight- lipped on operations in Africa and especially Somalia[2][4]. According to The New Yorker, the Pentagon did not respond to a request for information on ongoing operations in Somalia[2]. Nick Terse quotes a “reliable source within the JSOC community who stated, we are heavily engaged in combat as well as advise missions and have sustained casualties, but things are kept as quiet as possible[5].” It appears that the advise and assist role requires members of the U.S. military to accompany local forces on missions which can lead to actual combat for U.S. troops.  

Whatever the official policy, if U.S. forces are at risk, American public and policy makers awareness is of value so they can realize the potential consequences, should mishaps or potential loss of life occur. In fact, casualties have occurred in Somalia, Kenya, Chad and Cameroon  according to Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Donald Bolduc formerly in charge of special operations in Africa[5]. Make no mistake, American service members are at risk in these advise and assist operations, with or without public knowledge of their presence. Furthermore, absence of sound policy or strategy may mean that these service members sacrifices are in vain.

It is unclear whether U.S. policymakers and senior defense officials consulted the Powell-Weinberger doctrine prior to the deployment of forces to Somalia. Consulting this doctrine  would have helped provide needed clarification for the U.S. military mission in Somalia. For example, why is the U.S. in Somalia? To fight Al Shabaab? To preserve geopolitical stability? At what point will Al Shabaab be defeated? The Powell-Weinberger doctrine would ask if it is politically feasible to win in Somalia, and more importantly what does winning look like? What size of force would be needed to accomplish the goal? Also, what is the compelling U.S. national interest in Somalia?

It is significant to note that African Union forces will be withdrawing from Somalia in 2020[2]. Is the United States going to fill this security void by increasing their footprint, or maintain its current approach?  Without a clear end goal in mind, the American military in Somalia is left without a real direction, other than to train Somali forces and conduct joint raids against Al Shabaab.  It is worth considering that Somalia has lacked any real centralized government that maintained control since it was a colonial possession.  As a result of this weak government, insurgencies such as Al Shabaab thrive and prosper. The likelihood of the United States defeating the insurgency and propping up a stable government  in Somalia without a large  militaristic and diplomatic commitment is slim. Development of clear goals and strategy can help the U.S. achieve victory in Somalia without being dragged into a quagmire abroad. 


Endnotes:

[1] Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab? (2017, December 22). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15336689

[2] Ferguson, J. (2018, March/April). Trump’s Military Escalation in Somalia Is Spurring Hope and Fear. The NewYorker.

[3] Naylor, S. (2016). Relentless strike: The secret history of Joint Special Operations Command. New York, NY: St. Martins Griffin.

[4] Bowman, T. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On Terror?[Radio broadcast]. In 1A. Washington D.C.: NPR.

[5] Turse, N. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Mathew Daniels Policy and Strategy Somalia United States

Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Dr. Heather Venable is an Assistant Professor of Military and Security Studies at the Air Command and Staff College, where she teaches classes on airpower and the historical experience of combat. She has written a forthcoming book entitled How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918.  She also has written for War on the Rocks, Strategy Bridge, and other online blogs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2019.

Author / or Article Point of View:  The author is a professor of airpower. The author wants to point out the tensions in military thinking between the tactical and the strategic and how this has the potential to lead to escalation of “small” wars amidst the return to great power conflict.  

Summary:  Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends. 

Text:  He talked the talk. But he did not walk the walk. In a lecture given to the Air War College in May of 1953, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg initially exemplified strategic thinking by providing compelling reasons why the Korean War should remain confined to the peninsula. In the subsequent question and answer session, however, he demonstrated a clear desire to widen the war and target the Chinese mainland. Vandenberg’s lecture epitomizes the tensions in the minds of military leaders between tactical and strategic thinking, which pose dangerous risks of escalation, particularly in small wars. 

In the lecture, Vandenberg explained that he had no easy solutions “tied up in pink bows[1].” He also shared how his vantage point provided him with unparalleled perspective on the importance of allies and Cold War grand strategy. As such, he pointed out the problems he saw in expanding the war into China, explaining that striking a key air base inside Chinese territory required the U.S. to “do it with our eyes open” in light of a Sino-Soviet mutual defense treaty. Vandenberg also highlighted the risks of lengthening the United Nations’ own lines of communication. These comments epitomize a solid strategic consideration characterized by continually asking: then what? 

In the ensuing question and answer session, however, Vandenberg dangerously undercut his previous comments. When asked to discuss the Far East’s “strategic importance” during a “hot war,” Vandenberg ignored realities like the aforementioned treaty[2].  Caveating his opinion as being “almost as dangerous” as clamoring for preventative war against the Soviet Union, Vandenberg continued on recklessly:  “My solution has always been . . . we ought to put on a very strong blockade of the Chinese Coast; that we ought to break her rail lines of communication that carry the wheat from the North and the rice from the South . . . that we ought to mine her rivers . . . and that we ought to destroy those small industrial installations . . . .”

In addition to expanding the war and possibly inciting a famine, he suggested that the U.S. start its own “brushfire” to demonstrate, “BY GOD, that we are getting fed up with it.” Vandenberg’s address to War College students on the challenges of making sound strategic decisions devolved into sharing his emotionally-laden tactical responses, which lacked careful consideration of desired ends. Yet Vandenberg characterized his approach as “realistic[3].” 

Ironically, Vandenberg believed himself to be thinking rationally when, in fact, he was thinking romantically. In 1959, Bernard Brodie counterintuitively described the military mind as romantic, explaining how officers preferred “strong action over negotiation, boldness over caution, and feeling over reflection[4].” Vandenberg’s irrational suggestion that the U.S. start a new war because he was “fed up” epitomizes the mentality Brodie sketched. Today, many military officers also characterize themselves as pragmatic realists; in practice, though, they may act very differently.

This romantic attitude permeates tactical thinking, which can undermine a strategic vision. In theory, the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war are neatly bundled together. In reality, the frustrations of small wars often reveal the gaping seams between the tactical and the strategic as the limitations of military force to quickly meet political objectives become evident. 

A tactical thinker concentrates on the short-term prospect of winning a clear-cut victory. A strategic one, by contrast, seeks to play the long game. At times, these two inter-related but competing perspectives cause tension. In the case of a parent teaching a child to play chess, the tactical mindset of seeking to “win” a game sits at odds with the more strategic perspective of keeping children motivated to learn by letting them win[5]. 

Meanwhile, this seductive tactical vision entices military thinkers and decision makers with the promise of decisive action, with the potential to solve a problem once and for all. But nothing in warfare is ever final. The Army officers who produced a recent study on Operation Iraqi Freedom entitled The U.S. Army in Iraq epitomize the dangers of this tactical tendency. Chafing at what they consider to be the imposition of problematic “artificial geographic boundaries,” they wish the U.S. had enlarged the war to include Iran, thus eliminating the sanctuary areas of small wars that are understandably so frustrating to officers[6]. This “if only” mindset seeks short-term military advantage at the cost of a stronger, more durable state of peace that should be the guiding principle underlying and linking together each level of war. 

Small wars on the periphery remain highly likely even as the U.S. returns to stressing great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will demonstrate tension between the strategic and the tactical just as Gen Vandenberg did. Indeed, the likelihood of this tendency has increased because the U.S. military has become imbued with a “killing and destroying things” mindset[7].  In focusing more on how to kill and destroy than why, the military has reified the tactical and operational at the expense of the strategic. We can only hope that politicians choose not to follow through on fool-hardy tactical ventures; amidst the democratization of weapons technology, such impulses risk endangering us all[8]. 


Endnotes:

[1] Vandenberg, H. (1953, May 6). Lecture Presented by General Vandenberg to Air War College. K239.716253-118, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brodie, B. (1959). Strategy in the Missile Age. Palo Alto, CA: Rand, p. 266.

[5] Dolman, E. (2016). “Seeking Strategy” in Strategy: Context and Adaptation from Archidamus to Airpower. Eds. Richard Bailey and James Forsyth. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016, pp. 5-37.

[6] Finer, J. (2019, May 28). Learning the Wrong Lessons from Iraq. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2019-05-28/last-war-and-next. 

[7] Kagan, F. (2006). Finding the Target. New York: Encounter Books, 2006, p. 358.

[8] Krepinevich, A. (2011, August 15). Get Ready for the Democratization of Destruction. Foreign Affairs. https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/15/get-ready-for-the-democratization-of-destruction/.

 

 

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Dr. Heather Venable Mindset Policy and Strategy United States

Assessment of Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Ray K. Ragan, MAd (PM), PMP is a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and an Assistant Vice President of Project Management for a large Credit Union.  As a civilian, Ray worked in defense and financial technology industries, bringing machine learning, intelligence systems, along with speech and predictive analytics to enterprise scale.  Ray holds a Master’s degree in Administration from Northern Arizona University and a Certificate in Strategic Decision and Risk from Stanford University. He is a credentialed Project Management Profession (PMP) and has several Agile Project Management certifications.  Ray has served small and big war tours in Iraq and the Philippines with multiple mobilizations around the world, working in the U.S. National Interests.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Civilian Next-Generation Knowledge Management Systems for Managing Civil Information 

Date Originally Written:  May 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

Summary:  Current Civil Information Management Systems are not taking advantage of the leaps of technology in knowledge management, specifically in the realm of predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning. This creates a time cost that commanders must pay in real-time in their operating environment, particularly felt in small wars. This cost also diverts resources away from direct mission-enabling operations.

Text:  Currently Civil Information Management (CIM) systems employed by the U.S. Military are not keeping pace with the current revolution seen in civilian next-generation knowledge management systems (KMS)[1][2]. These KMS are possible through the convergence of modern computing, predictive analytics, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Machine Learning (ML)[3]. This CIM limitation is unnecessary and self-imposed as a KMS offers persistent and progressing inputs to the common operating picture. This assessment explores how civilian business harnessed this revolution and how to apply it to CIM.

Generally, CIM represents the operational variables (OV) of an operational environment (OE) and as practiced today, resides in the domain of information rather than knowledge[4]. The DIKW pyramid framework, named for its Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom structure informs the structure of learning[5]. Further, one can infer that traversing each step represents time and effort, a price paid by commanders in real-time during operations. Small wars demand speed and agility. Current CIM takes time to gather data, input it into a database, run queries, overlay on maps, and eventually infer some knowledge to inform decision making by the commander[6]. 

Using the 1999-invented Cynefin Framework to aid decision-making, commanders needlessly leave many of the OVs in the chaotic domain[7]. Moving from the chaotic to the complex domain the OVs must come from a KMS that is persistent and automatically progressing. Current CIMs do not automatically update by gathering information from public sources such as broadcast, print, and digital that are digitized with NLP and speech/text analytics[8].   Instead, human operators typically located in the OE, manually update these sources. Because of this, today’s CIMs go stale after the operators complete their mission or shift priorities, making what information was gathered devolve to historic data and the OE fog of war revert to chaos[9].

The single biggest advantage a quality KMS provides to a commander is time and decision-making in the OE[10]. Implemented as a simple search engine that is persistent and progressing for all OEs, would mean a commander does not need to spend operational time and effort on basic data gathering missions. Rather, a commander can focus spending operational resources on direct mission-enabling operations. Enticingly, this simple search engine KMS allows for the next advancement, one that businesses around the world are busily employing – operationalizing big data.

Business systems, such as search engines and other applications scour open sources like in court records and organizes them through a myriad of solutions. Data organized through taxonomy and algorithms allow businesses to offer their customers usable information[11]. The advent of ML permits the conversion of information to knowledge[12]. Civilian businesses use all these tools with their call centers to not only capture what customers are saying, but also the broader meta conversation: what most customers are not saying, but revealing through their behavior[13]. 

This leap in application of informatics, which civilian business use today, is absent in today’s CIM systems. The current model of CIM is not well adapted for tomorrow’s battlefield, which will almost certainly be a data-rich environment fed by robotics, signals, and public information[14]. Even the largest team of humans cannot keep up with the overwhelming deluge of data, let alone conduct analysis and make recommendations to the commander of how the civilian terrain will affect his OE[15].

In civilian business, empiricism is replacing the older model of eminence-based decision-making. No longer is it acceptable to take the word of the highest-paid person’s opinion, business decisions need to have evidence, especially at the multi-billion dollar level company level[16]. KMS enables for hypothesis, experimentation, and evidence. Applied in the civilian terrain, if the hypothesis is that by drilling a well reduces insurgency, a global KMS will reveal the truth through the metrics, which cannot be influenced, as former-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized[17]. 

Using text preprocessing with speech analytics and NLP, the KMS would solve an OE problem of data quality, as operators when supplementing the KMS with OE reports, would use speech whenever possible. This overcomes a persistent problem of garbage in and garbage out that plagues military and business systems alike. Rather than re-typing the field notes into a form, the human operator would simply use an interactive spoken dialog for input where feasible[18].

A persistent and progressive KMS also addresses a problem with expertise. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. State Department could not find enough experts and professionals to fill the voids in transitional governance. This problem was such that then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates volunteered to send Department of Defense civilians in their place[19]. With a KMS, commanders and policymakers can draw on a home-based cadre of experts to assess the data models of the KMS and offer contextualized insights into the system to commanders in the field.

As the breadth and quality of the data grows, system administrators can experiment with new algorithms and models on the data in a relentless drive to shorten OV-derived insights into operations planning. Within two years, this KMS data would be among the richest political science datasets ever compiled, inviting academia to write new hypothetical models and experiment. In turn, this will assist policy makers in sensing where new sources of instability emerge before they reveal themselves in actions[20].

“How do you put the genie of knowledge back in the bottle,” P. W. Singer rhetorically asked[21] in his book, Wired for War about the prospect of a robotic, data-enabled OE. This genie will not conveniently return to his bottle for robotics or data, instead commanders and policy makers will look to how to manage the data-enabled battlefield. While it may seem a herculean task to virtually recreate OEs in a future KMS, it is a necessary one. Working through the fog of war with a candle and ceding OVs to chaos is no longer acceptable. Civilian business already addressed this problem with next-generation knowledge management systems, which are ready for today’s OE.


Endnotes:

[1] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[2] Williams, Gregory (2016, December 2). WFX 16 tests Civil Affairs Soldiers. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.dvidshub.net/news/189856/wfx-16-tests-civil-affairs-soldiers

[3] Szilagyi and P. Wira (2018) An intelligent system for smart buildings using machine learning and semantic technologies: A hybrid data-knowledge approach, 2018 IEEE Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS), St. Petersburg, pp. 22-24.

[4] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 1-3 – 2-11.

[5] Fricke, Martin (2018, June 7). Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization: Knowledge pyramid The DIKW hierarchy. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from http://www.isko.org/cyclo/dikw

[6] Chief, Civil Affairs Branch et al. (2011). Joint Civil Information Management Tactical Handbook, Tampa, FL, pp. 5-5, 5-11.

[7] Kopsch, Thomas and Fox, Amos (2016, August 22). Embracing Complexity: Adjusting Processes to Meet the Challenges of the Contemporary Operating Environment. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/Online-Exclusive/2016-Online-Exclusive-Articles/Embracing-Complexity-Adjusting-Processes/

[8] APAN Staff (n.d.) Tools. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.apan.org/(S(12adofim0n1ranvobqiyfizu))/pages/tools-communities

[9] Neubarth, Michael (2013, June 28). Dirty Email Data Takes Its Toll. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.towerdata.com/blog/bid/116629/Dirty-Email-Data-Takes-Its-Toll

[10] Marczewski, Andrzey (2013, August 5). The Effect of Time on Decision Making. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.gamified.uk/2013/08/05/the-effect-of-time-on-decision-making/

[11] Murthy, Praveen et al. (2014, September). Big Data Taxonomy, Big Data Working Group, Cloud Security Alliance, pp. 9-29.

[12] Edwards, Gavin (2018, November 18). Machine Learning | An Introduction. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://towardsdatascience.com/machine-learning-an-introduction-23b84d51e6d0

[13] Gallino, Jeff (2019, May 14). Transforming the Call Center into a Competitive Advantage. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/customer-experience-2/transforming-the-call-center-into-a-competitive-advantage/

[14] Vergun, David (2018, August 21). Artificial intelligence likely to help shape future battlefield, says Army vice chief.  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/210134/artificial_intelligence_likely_to_help_shape_future_battlefield_says_army_vice_chief

[15] Snibbe, Alana Conner (2006, Fall). Drowning in Data. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/drowning_in_data

[16] Frizzo-Barker, Julie et al. An empirical study of the rise of big data in business scholarship, International Journal of Information Management, Burnaby, Canada, pp. 403-413.

[17] Rice, Condoleezza (2011) No Higher Honor. New York, NY, Random House Publishing, pp. 506-515.

[18] Ganesan, Kavita (n.d.) All you need to know about text preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.kdnuggets.com/2019/04/text-preprocessing-nlp-machine-learning.html

[19] Gates, Robert (2014). Duty. New York, NY, Penguin Random House Publishing, pp. 347-348.

[20] Lasseter, Tom (2019, April 26). ‘Black sheep’: The mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombs. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sri-lanka-blasts-mastermind-insight/black-sheep-the-mastermind-of-sri-lankas-easter-sunday-bombs-idUSKCN1S21S8

[21] Singer, Peter Warren (2009). Wired for War. The Penguin Press, New York, NY, pp. 11.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Information and Intelligence Information Systems Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Ray K. Ragan

Assessment of French Intervention in the Sahel Region, 2013-2019

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Hannah Richards has an M.A. in Conflict, Security and Development from the University of Exeter and has recently completed a research internship for the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense think tank. She can be found on Twitter at @h_k_richards.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of French Intervention in the Sahel Region, 2013-2019

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 12, 2019.

Summary:  Despite the initial success of Operation Serval in 2013, French intervention in the Sahel region has now reached impasse. The already intricate situation is further complicated by France’s status as a former colonizer operating in the region. Understanding how France’s former colonial status translates into relationships between local communities, French troops, and armed terrorist groups will influence long term engagement. 

Text:  In light of the growing instability in Libya, the enduring presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the territorial decline of the Islamic State in the Middle East, attention will increasingly turn to the Sahel as a crucial battleground in the fight against violent non-state actors. As such, the significance of recent French operations in the region cannot be understated.

Due its sheer scale, inaccessibility and geopolitical complexity, the Sahel provides optimal conditions that enable armed terrorist groups to prosper. It is no surprise, therefore, that the region has long served as an important theater for international counterterrorist operations. Launched in 2013 at the behest of the Malian government, the French-led Operation Serval marked an evolution in the level of international engagement in the region. Widely regarded as a military success, Serval was lauded for the rapid reaction and deployment of French troops and for meeting the ultimate objective of pushing back armed terrorist groups from the center of the country. Perhaps more unusually, it also received initial widespread praise from both local and international actors[1].  

However, time has revealed Serval’s successes to be momentary. The operation did little to contribute to the overall stabilization and restoration of Malian state authority, with the security situation now widely accepted to have worsened since 2014[2]. The decision to launch Operation Barkhane in 2014 confirmed that Serval, despite its strengths, had failed to address the underlying causes of the Malian conflict; causes which have only been compounded and exploited by the enduring presence of the armed terrorist groups and fighters traveling to the region from the Middle East[3]. 

Unlike Serval, which fielded small, highly agile forces that were tailored to the specific political goals of the intervention[4], Barkhane reflects a much broader regional counterterrorist effort. The declared aims of the operation are carefully aligned to those countries of the G5 Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) and emphasize the need for capacity building that enables local partners to secure their own safety independently[5]. This close coordination with, and emphasis on, local state actors in the region signifies a clear departure from the operational independence of Serval. Barkhane has had some notable achievements in terms of both hard and soft power[6], however, what constitutes success at a broader strategic level remains unclear. The wide-ranging aims of the current operation are ambiguous and ill-defined, ultimately rendering France’s departure an uncertain prospect. This vagueness, when viewed alongside the complexity of the region, is a clear indicator of the impasse that lies immediately ahead of French forces.

Despite these foreboding circumstances, there are numerous factors that have influenced France’s decision to remain firmly engaged with the region. The initial framing of Serval in the context of the ‘War on Terror’ is crucial to understanding continued involvement. Since Serval’s launch in 2013, France has suffered numerous domestic terrorist attacks. France’s continued investment in tackling terrorism overseas thus represents not only an attempt to ensure regional stability within the Sahel, but a broader commitment to safeguarding its own citizens both abroad and at home. With the acknowledgement that a premature departure could in fact worsen the situation and create conditions that would facilitate the expansion of international terrorist organisations, the idea of a quick exit for France is therefore difficult to entertain[7]. 

In addition, by presenting intervention predominantly through the lens of a counterterrorist mission, France has distanced itself from the intricate political problems within Mali and allowed for the expansion of operations into neighboring countries[8]. As such, a second motivation for remaining in the region becomes evident; Serval and Barkhane have enabled the establishment of French military bases across the region, placing it in a unique position amongst its allies. By redressing its diminished authority in the Sahel, these interventions have presented France with the opportunity to reaffirm its role as a key player on the international stage. 

However, certain international observers have interpreted this strong narrative of counterterrorism as a thinly veiled attempt to detract attention from France’s actual aim of furthering its own national interest in the region, with clear inferences being made to a neo-colonial agenda[9]. Although often crude and reductionist, such criticism does serve to highlight the symbolic connotations of a permanent French military presence in the Sahel for the first time since the end of the colonial period. Although theoretical discussions centered on neo-colonialism may appear ancillary to an assessment of military intervention to date, how these translate into dynamics on the ground will prove crucial to France’s ability to combat armed terrorist groups in the longer term.

The polarizing effect of French intervention on local communities is becoming apparent, demonstrating that it is not just foreign opinion that harbors skepticism about the enduring international presence in the region[10]. Journalistic accounts from Mali have highlighted that, in the aftermath of Serval, questions were raised about continued Malian dependence upon the French state which, followed by Barkhane, has left “many in the region to talk of neo-colonialism[11].” Similarly, images from recent protests, show the disdain felt by certain portions of the Malian population towards continued French presence[12].Should the armed terrorist groups operating in the region harness this acrimony and exploit such narratives to motivate, recruit and encourage others to commit acts of terrorism, the mere presence of French troops may ultimately prove beneficial to those that they are there to combat. 

Although the overall contribution of Barkhane to the stability of the Sahel is as yet unclear, France’s military commitment remains steadfast. When viewed in the context of its historic engagement with the region, the implications of a permanent French presence are vast. As such, a nuanced understanding of the different narratives at play will be increasingly important in determining whether French intervention is ultimately regarded as a success or failure. 


Endnotes:

[1] Boeke, S., & Schuurman, B. (2015). ‘Operation ‘Serval’: A Strategic Analysis of the French Intervention in Mali, 2013–2014’. Journal of Strategic Studies, 38(6), 801-825.

[2] Charbonneau, B. (2019, March 28). The Military Intervention in Mali and Beyond: An Interview with Bruno Charbonneau. Oxford Research Group. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/blog/the-french-intervention-in-mali-an-interview-with-bruno-charbonneau

[3] Carayol, R. (2018, July 1). Mali disintegrates. Le Monde Diplomatique. Retrieved April 27, 2019, from https://mondediplo.com/2018/07/02mali

[4] Shurkin, M. (2014). France’s War in Mali: Lessons for an Expeditionary Army. RAND Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2019 from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR770.html

[5] Le Drian, J. (2013, January 12). Conférence De Presse Du Ministre De La Défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian (France, Ministère des Armées). Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.defense.gouv.fr/actualites/operations/conference-de-presse-samedi-12-janvier-2013-mali-somalie

[6] Ministère des Armées. (2019, February). Dossier de Presse : Opération Barkhane [Press release]. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/barkhane/dossier-de-presentation/operation-barkhane

[7] Chalandon, M. & Gérard, M. (Producers). (2019, May 17). Table ronde d’actualité internationale Opération Barkhane : La France s’est-elle enlisée au Sahel ? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved May 29, 2019, from https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/cultures-monde/table-ronde-dactualite-internationale-operation-barkhane-la-france-sest-elle-enlisee-au-sahel

[8] S. D. Wing (2016) French intervention in Mali: strategic alliances, long-term regional presence?. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 27:1, 59-80

[9] See for example; Galy, M. (2014, December 4). Cinquante ans de fiasco de la « Françafrique ». Le Monde. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2013/12/04/cinquante-ans-de-fiasco-de-la-francafrique_3525416_3232.html, or Kane, P. S. (2014, September 6). Mali: The forgotten war. Al Jazeera. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/mali-forgotten-war-20149691511333443.html

[10] Chalandon, M. & Gérard, M.

[11] Hicks, C. (2016). How the French Operation Serval was viewed on the ground: A journalistic perspective. International Journal of Francophone Studies, 19(2), 193-207

[12] Mali attacks: Protests held against jihadist violence. (2019, April 5). BBC News. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-47834214

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers France Hannah Richards Sahel

Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Edwin Tran is a political analyst with the Encyclopedia Geopolitica and is an editor for the International Review.  Edwin focuses on Levantine politics and civil society, and can be found on Twitter at @En_EdwinT.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 8, 2019.

Summary:  The United States’ intervention in the Lebanese Civil War was a peacekeeping operation defined by long term strategic goals centered around increasing American hegemony in the region. The United States sought to leverage its position as a peacekeeper against Israeli and Syrian advances. However, significant overreach and unplanned events would play a substantial role in limiting the extent of American success in Lebanon. 

Text:  In 1975, tensions between Lebanon’s sectarian groups erupted into civil war[1]. The influx of Palestinian refugees throughout the 1940s-1960s threatened the political status quo of the country and civil war saw Palestinian militias engage Maronite militias[2]. As the Lebanese Civil War waged on, various peacekeeping operations were attempted. June 1976 saw the entrance of the Syrian military on behalf of Maronite President Suleiman Frangieh. This entrance was followed by a task force known as the Arab Deterrent Force founded in October of that year[3]. In response to the 1978 Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, the United Nations Security Council enacted resolutions 425 and 426, which created the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL)[4]. Despite these measures, further instability was promoted by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The U.S. Reagan administration was deeply divided by these actions, and after serious cabinet discussions, Secretary of State Alexander Haig resigned. Haig was replaced by George Shultz, and after further discussions with the Lebanese regime of Elias Sarkis, it was decided that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Italy would establish a peacekeeping mission[5]. Known as the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF), this iteration of international peacekeeping operations would, as described by U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes, “facilitate the restoration of Lebanese Government sovereignty and authority over the Beirut area and thereby further its efforts… to bring an end the violence which has tragically recurred[6].”

On August 21, 1982, the U.S. 2nd Battalion 8th Marines entered Beirut[7]. Additional forces would arrive in the following days. From the onset, the U.S. and its allies were chiefly involved in establishing peace in the direct vicinity of Beirut. Such ideations were made clear in covert meetings conducted between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib. Declassified Department of State documents reveal that in the months prior to the MNF intervention, negotiations with the Israelis emphasized “the serious situation in the city of Beirut, where [Habib was] informed of the lack of gas, electricity and other basic needs[8].” Contingent on such peace developments was the removal of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon. The removal was believed to be paramount for peace developments in the country[9]. August 30 became the climax of these operations, as the U.S. and its allies were successful in moving Yasser Arafat and a sizeable portion of the PLO out of Lebanon[10].

However, such actions in the first weeks of MNF operations represented a small aspect of more complicated designs. The Reagan administration, recognizing the strategic importance of the region, hoped to use these developments as leverage against the Israelis, Lebanese, and Syrians. Significant weight was placed on furthering the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, though this time with Lebanon and Jordan[11]. This culminated in the development of the Reagan Peace Plan, which was shown to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 1. This plan emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to peace throughout the region and to its specific operations in Lebanon[12]. More contentious were the Peace Plan’s desires for the Israelis to vacate the Palestinian territories, and for a potential merger between Palestinians and Jordan. Although Egypt accepted the deal, every other party was either hostile or highly suspicious.

Other strategic goals of the U.S. became threatened in the immediate aftermath of the PLO’s expulsion. It was believed by many that U.S. intervention would correlate with a weakened Syrian presence and a stronger central government. Such thought was justified by the results of the 1958 Lebanon War, where U.S. intervention resulted in the immediate stability of Lebanon and in the strengthening of Lebanese President Fuad Chehab’s political grip[13]. In the case of the 1982 intervention, the U.S. and its plans were abruptly derailed by the September 14th assassination of Bachir Gemayel, a senior member of the Christian Phalange party and the founder and supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia. Peacekeeping attempts by the MNF hinged on a strong Maronite presence in Beirut. With Bachir Gemayel assassinated, the Maronites would be prone to infighting, the Syrians would see a resurgence in military capabilities, and the MNF would have to exert additional efforts in maintaining stability as the Maronites attempted to find new leaders. 

Even before the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Beirut barracks, it was clear that the U.S. had failed in its strategic goals. According to U.S. intelligence officers, the unveiling of the Reagan Peace Plan created a situation that threatened Israeli sovereignty[14], and some postulated that the Israelis “could react to the President’s peace initiative by stirring up the pot[15].” Such ideas came to fruition as the Israelis strengthened their hold over West Beirut and engaged in additional attacks. The death of Gemayel, who had also been crucial for the Israelis, meant that Israel was now forced to act in Lebanon without internal actors they could coordinate with. For the U.S. the death of Gemayel meant its own actions would face similar problems and lacking a principle leader to rally behind meant U.S. peacekeeping operations would be examined with a sense of extra-judiciality[16].

In the aftermath of the 1983 bombings, President Reagan addressed to the U.S. public his reasoning for why Lebanon was so valuable. It was, according to the President, a region of substantial importance, an area that was “key to the economic and political life of the west[17].” While such ideals may have been the impetus for the U.S.’s involvement in Lebanon, the reality of the situation proved to be one of catastrophic failure, and the political blunders made by the Reagan administration meant that its efforts were wasted. These points are made somberly in a 1983 memo from National Intelligence Officer Graham E. Fuller to Acting Director William Casey of the Central Intelligence Agency. In it, Fuller writes that “the events of the past… present us with a singularly bleak outlook for U.S. interests in Lebanon… we must face the prospect that our current policies towards Lebanon are not going to work[17].”


Endnotes:

[1] Rabinovich, I. (1989). The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985. (pp.40-41) Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

[2] Khalaf, S. (2002). Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Human Contact. (pp. 167, 229) New York: Columbia University Press.

[3] Rabil, R. (2005). From Beirut to Algiers: The Arab League’s Role in the Lebanon Crisis. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/from-beirut-to-algiers-the-arab-leagues-role-in-the-lebanon-crisis

[4] United Nations Security Council (1978). Resolution 425. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://undocs.org/S/RES/425(1978)

[5] Goldschmidt, A. (1996). A Concise History of the Middle East. (pp. 348-350) Colorado: Westview Press.

[6] Speakes, L. (1982). Ronald Reagan Administration: Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Situation in Lebanon. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/deputy-press-secretary-speakes-on-the-situation-in-lebanon-september-1982

[7] Cimbala, S. and Foster, P. (2010). Multinational Military Intervention: NATO Policy, Strategy, and Burden Sharing. (pp. 37) Abingdon: Routledge.

[8] Lebanon: Second Meeting with Begin – June 1982 (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R000601490020-5.pdf

[9] National Intelligence Daily (Cable) 27 August 1982 (2016). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84T00301R000400010198-5.pdf

[10] P.L.O Troops begin Pullout in Beirut; French Enter City (1982). The Associated Press. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/08/22/world/plo-troops-begin-pullout-in-beirut-french-enter-city.html

[11] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60-61.

[12] The Reagan Plan (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://ecf.org.il/media_items/551

[13] Geyelin, P. (1982). Lebanon—1958 and Now. The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1982/08/03/lebanon-1958-and-now/66bde27f-c951-4a7c-bbd7-068ef601e5ad/

[14] Harkabi, Y. (1988). Israel’s Fateful Hour. (pp. 111) New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

[15] Talking Points on Lebanese Internal Situation for 3 September (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001800230010-2.pdf

[16] Talking Points on Lebanon: Post-Assassination Update (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001403460004-5.pdf

[17] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60.

[18] Downward Spiral in Lebanon (1983). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85M00364R001402440042-4.pdf

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Edwin Tran Lebanon United States

An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Naiomi Gonzalez is currently a doctoral student in history at Texas Christian University. She can be found on twitter at @AmericanUnInte1.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2019.

Summary:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required the support of the private military industry. However, the United States government’s increased reliance and dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy. In fact, the lack of accountability that has allowed certain sectors of the private military industry to act with impunity have arguably complicated the U.S. military’s already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Text:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought the United States government’s increased reliance on private military firms to the forefront[1]. During the Vietnam War, it is estimated that there was 1 contractor for every 55 uniformed military personnel. In Iraq the ratio has hovered around 1 contractor for every 1 military personnel and in Afghanistan the number is 1.43 for every 1 military personnel[2]. During specific time periods, the number of contractors has even surpassed that of uniformed military personnel[3].

Private military firms undoubtedly provide much needed services and therefore, should not be discounted for their services. Private military firms, for instance, can draw on a large pool of expertise in a variety of fields while the military is limited by who they can recruit. This private military firm manpower flexibility is particularly important as technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. The Department of Defense (DoD), like most other government agencies, already heavily relies on the private sector to meet many of its technological needs. For example, the DoD has close relationships with many commercial agencies and contractors in order to develop and maintain the latest computer systems. If the DoD were to focus on developing their own computer systems, it would take about seven years for it to become operational. By that time the system would be obsolete and the efforts a waste[4]. For the DoD, which is often inundated by numerous other concerns and responsibilities, it makes sense to team up with private enterprises whose expertise lie in remaining on the cutting edge of new technological advances. Likewise, when it comes to maintaining the military’s vast and increasingly sophisticated technological arsenal, it benefits the DoD to hire contractors who already have years of experience on using and maintaining these specialized weapon rather than rely on military technicians who are most likely not trained in the nuances of a specific piece of equipment[5].

Another benefit of using contractors is that they provide a degree of political flexibility that enables political and military leaders to engage in policies the larger American citizenry might find objectionable. For instance, since the Vietnam War, Americans have shown a disdain for large scale conflicts that result in a large number of U.S. military causalities[6]. This low tolerance for long, drawn out wars became more pronounced as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, year after year. However, this aversion to American casualties does not always extend to those working as contractors, especially if those contractors are locals or third-world nationals. Because their roles in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is not always obvious, contractor deaths and injuries usually attract little attention. Exceptions to this disinterest usually center on particularly vicious deaths or injuries[7]. While not a panacea for increasingly unpopular wars, the use of contractors, especially in place of uniformed military personnel, ensures that extended conflicts remain palpable to the American public for a longer period of time.

However, the use of private military firms also comes with some severe drawbacks. On the economic front, their cost-effectiveness is in doubt. By 2012 the U.S. had spent about $232.2 billion on contractors and about $60 billion had been lost as a result of waste, fraud and abuse on the part of the contractors[8].

Much more concerning is the lack of accountability and impunity that has plagued the industry. In April 2004, CBS News published photographs showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American personnel. While media focus centered on uniformed American personnel who were abusing prisoners and on their courts martial, contractors also played a role in the scandal. Two private military firms, Titan[9] and CACI provided all of the translators and about half of the interrogators involved in the abuse case[10]. Yet no contractor was held legally responsible for their role in the abuse.

Private military provider/security firms have their own unique sets of issues and problems. While they make up the smallest number of contractors[11], the controversy they provoke belies their relatively small numbers. Blackwater Security[12] was the most notorious of these private military provider firms.

The 2007 Nisour Square case involving Blackwater helped spur the wider American population to question the utility of private provider/security firms. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater contractors shot, killed, and injured dozens of Iraqi civilians, in what they claimed was an act of self-defense[13].” The killings provoked widespread outrage. The Iraq government claimed, “The murder of citizens in cold blood…by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians[14]…” At that time, questions arose regarding whether private provider firms aid or hinder the United States’ mission in Iraq. Then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that the provider firms’ singular focus on completing their mission, can at times mean that they are working “at cross-purposes to our larger mission in Iraq[15].”

This obsession with ensuring that they complete their assigned task, no matter their costs, can be attributed to the for-profit nature of the companies and the personnel they hire, many of whom have a mission-focused mindset from their former military experiences. Before the Nisour Square incident, Blackwater took pride in its ability to get the job done, no matter what. Such a mindset ensured its success and profitability. However, the Nisour Square episode forced contractors, the government and the public at large to doubt the utility of such a mindset, especially when it results in the deaths of civilians, which only inflames anti-American sentiment. It is difficult to win “hearts and minds” by killing civilians. Moreover, the process of holding the contractors legally responsible for civilian deaths has met with many obstacles. The legal cases against four contractors involved in the Nisour Square incident has dragged on for years[16] while mainstream media attention has faded.

Private military firms have played vital roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their roles will only continue to expand. However, the U.S. government’s increased dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy or problems. These problems and controversies have hindered rather than aided the U.S. in completing their already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Endnotes:

[1] Peter W. Singer divides private military firms into three groups: military provider firms (aka private security firms), military consulting firms, and military support firms. While in some cases it is clear which firms fall into what category, in other cases the lines are more blurred as some companies take on a variety of roles. For an in-depth explanation of the different groups see Singer, P. W. (2008). Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press

[2] Taylor, W. A. (2016). Military Service and American Democracy: From World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. (pg. 172) Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

[3] For instance, during the third quarter of fiscal year 2008, there were 162,428 total contractors in Iraq, compared to 153,300 uniformed military personnel. In Afghanistan the contrast in numbers is much more pronounced. During the fourth quarter of the 2009 fiscal year there were 104,101 total contractors compared to 62,300 uniformed personnel. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[4] Ettinger, A. (2016). The Patterns, Implications, and Risks of American Military Contracting. In S. V. Hlatky & H. C. Breede (Eds.), Going to War?: Trends in Military Interventions (pp. 115-132). Montreal, CA: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Stanger, A., & Williams, M. E. (Fall/Winter 2006). Private Military Corporations: Benefits and Costs of Outsourcing Security. Yale Journal of International Affairs, 4-19.

[7] For instance, on March 31, 2004 four Blackwater contractors were killed, dismembered and their body parts paraded through the streets of Fallujah. Blackwater faced criticism for its decision to send only four contractors instead of six into an incredibly hostile part of Iraq in jeeps that were armored only with one steel plate. See In Re: BlackWater Security Consulting LCC, http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/051949.P.pdf 1-28 (United Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 2006).

[8] Taylor, 117. This number is most likely an undercount.

[9] In 2005 Titan was acquired by L3 Communications. See Staff, SSI. “L-3 Communications Agrees to Merger With Titan Corp.” Security Sales & Integration, Security Sales & Integration, 7 June 2005, www.securitysales.com/news/l-3-communications-agrees-to-merger-with-titan-corp/.

[10] Singer, P. (2005, April). Outsourcing War. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2005-03-01/outsourcing-war.

[11] The number of private military provider/security firms peaked in Iraq at 15,000 individuals and in 2012 at 28,000. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[12] Blackwater was eventually sold and it underwent numerous name changes. It is currently called Academi. See Ukman, J. (2011, December 12). Ex-Blackwater Firm gets a Name Change, Again. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/ex-blackwater-firm-gets-a-name-change-again/2011/12/12/gIQAXf4YpO_blog.html

[13] A subsequent FBI investigation found the shooting to be unjustified. See Johnston, D., & Broder, J. M. (2007, November 14). F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/world/middleeast/14blackwater.html

[14] Tolchin, M., & Tolchin, S. J. (2016). Pinstripe patronage: Political favoritism from the clubhouse to the White House and beyond. Pg. 183 London, UK: Routledge.

[15] Spiegel, P. (2007, October 19). Gates: U.S., Guards are at Odds in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-oct-19-na-blackwater19-story.html

[16] See Collins, M. (2018, December 19). Former Blackwater Guard Convicted of Instigating Mass Shooting in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/19/iraq-war-jury-convicts-ex-blackwater-guard-second-time-massacre/1941149002/

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Afghanistan Assessment Papers Iraq Naiomi Gonzalez Private Military Companies (PMC etc) United States

Assessment of U.S. Involvement to Counter Hutu Extremists’ Plans for Tutsi Genocide in Early 1994

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


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 to Ft. Meade, Maryland.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Involvement to Counter Hutu Extremists’ Plans for Tutsi Genocide in Early 1994

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 29, 2019.

Summary:  The U.S. could have countered the genocide the April 1994 genocide in Rwanda. While it is very difficult to envision a scenario whereby the U.S. conducted unilateral military actions once the genocide started, the various indicators prior to that date offered the U.S. the opportunity, working through the United Nations (UN), to act to prevent the genocide before it started. 

Text:  On April 6, 2019, the world reflected on the 25th anniversary of the genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and sympathetic Hutus by Hutu extremists in Rwanda. Since then, many asked the question “Why didn’t someone stop this?” Since 1994, the U.S. expressed remorse at the genocide in Rwanda. Yet in 1994, the U.S. took pains to avoid direct involvement/action in Rwanda. Given a lack of significant geo-political or economic equities and disgusted by the failures of their humanitarian action in Somalia, the U.S. argued they had no role in Rwanda. Yet, with the U.S. taking a remorseful tone with the Rwandan Genocide, it begs the question: What if the U.S. did take action?

There is no shortage of debate on this issue. Some, such as former United Nations (UN) Ambassador Samantha Power, felt that U.S. military involvement, even on a small scale could have reduced if not halted the genocide[1]. Such actions ranged from the deployment of an Army Brigade (overseas or stateside based) to the use of the Air Force’s Commando Solo Electronic Warfare / Information Operations platform. Others, such as scholar Alan Kuperman, note that the U.S. did not have enough confirmation of genocide until April 20, by which time, most of the killing was completed[2]. Thus, the deployment of U.S. forces, in addition to not being in position to significantly impact the genocide, would place undue burdens on the U.S. military, and present America with another unnecessary U.S. humanitarian quagmire.  Subsequent analyses looked at options from the deployment of 5,000-150,000 troops, but a unilateral U.S.-led deployment, no matter the options, is always seen as unlikely, given the lack of bi-partisan political support in Washington D.C.  

Yet, the genocide did not spontaneously start in April 1994. After Rwandan independence in 1961, the long-standing differences between Hutu and Tutsi populations manifested themselves into multiple conflicts. Since 1990, conflict between displaced Tutsi (Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)) and the Hutu led-military/militia forces plagued the country. Despite international-led efforts to end the warfare, many within the Hutu-dominated government planned for actions to eliminate the Tutsi from Rwanda. The international community had indications of such plans as far back as 1992[3]. From 1990-1993, Hutu militias executed nearly 2000 Tutsi, a preview of Hutu plans[4]. By January 1994, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) received intelligence that the Hutu-led government was actively planning for a mass extermination of all known Tutsi and sympathetic elements within the country. The UNAMIR commander, Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, notified the UN Security Council on 11 January of this development and asked for authorization to deal with this emerging threat[5]. 

It is in this January 1994 scenario that the U.S. could have plausibly acted to counter the genocide, leveraging the UN Security Council to modify and increase the authority and resources of UNAMIR. Instead of working to withdraw forces from Rwanda, the U.S. and the UN Security Council could have reauthorized and increased troop deployments from the 2,500 in country in early 1994[6]. While 5,000 troops (the number requested by Dallaire to aid UNAMIR in 1994) would not be enough to halt a nation-wide genocide if it kicked off, a strong international presence, combined with a public proclamation and demonstration of increasing troop deployments to maintain peace and thwart extremist actions, might have curtailed Hutu ambitions[7]. While a major strategy of the Hutu extremists was to kill several of the international peacekeepers, taking active measures to protect those forces while not redeploying them would also thwart Hutu strategy. 

In this scenario, the U.S. would have provided political and logistical support. The U.S. faced logistical challenges dealing with a land-locked country, but its airpower had the capability to use existing airfields in Rwanda and neighboring countries[8]. While Hutu extremists could target U.S. assets and personnel, they were more likely not to directly interfere with international forces. During the actual genocide, while Hutu extremists killed 10 Belgian peacekeepers, Tutsis protected by the limited number of international forces usually found themselves safe from attack[9]. Even in situations where Hutu killers greatly outnumbered international forces, the Hutu did not attack the international peacekeepers[10]. 

This is not to say that increased authorities and manpower for the UN Peacekeepers would have solved all the problems. How the UN could have dealt with the Tutsi forces looking to reenter Rwanda and defeat the Hutu forces presented a difficult long-term problem. The Hutu extremists would not have simply stopped their efforts to drum up support for Tutsi elimination. It is possible the Hutu extremists would look to target UN forces and logistics, especially if it was an American asset, in a repeat of Somalia. Even by offering American equipment and indirect support, domestic political support would be tenuous at best and U.S. President William Clinton’s opponents would use those actions against him, with Clinton’s party still suffering historic losses in the 1994 midterm elections. It is possible that the Hutu and Tutsi would try to wait out the UN forces, coming to a “peaceful” government, only to hold their fire until after the peacekeepers are sent home. 

Yet, acting through the UN Peacekeepers before April might have stopped the genocide and all the ills that followed. While Paul Kagame may never come to power and Rwanda’s economic and social resurgence would have taken a different path, there may have been hundreds of thousands of Rwandans still alive to make their mark in improving the life of the nation. Additionally, the Hutu extremists may not have been so active in spreading their ethnic hatreds beyond their borders. The Congo Wars of the late 1990s/early 2000s have their genesis in the Hutu extremists who fled into the refugee camps[11]. If there is no mass displacement of those extremists into Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps Africa avoids a brutal conflict and over 5 million lives are saved[12]. Perhaps assisting the UNAMIR with U.S. support/logistics might not have been a popular move in 1994, but if executed, the U.S. may not have to look back in 2019 to say “We should have done something.” 


Endnotes:

[1] Power, Samantha (2001, September). Bystanders to Genocide. The Atlantic. retrieved 15 Mar 2019 from (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571/. 

[2] Kuperman, Alan J (2000, January/February). Rwanda in Retrospective. Foreign Affairs (Vol 79, no.1) 101. 

[3] Stanton, Gregory H. (2004, June). Could the Rwandan Genocide have been Prevented? Journal of Genocide Research. 6(2). 212

[4] Ibid 

[5] Ibid

[6] Rauch, J. (2001) Now is the Time to Tell the Truth about Rwanda, National Journal, 33(16) retrieved 14 Mar 2019 from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=4417527&site=ehost-live

[7] Wertheim, Stephen. (2010). A Solution from Hell: The United States and the Rise of Humanitarian Interventionism, 1991-2003. Journal of Genocide Research, 12(3-4), 155. 

[8] Stanley, George (2006) Genocide, Airpower and Intervention, 71. 

[9] Power, Samantha (2001, September). Bystanders to Genocide. The Atlantic. retrieved 15 Mar 2019 from https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571/.

[10] Ibid

[11] Beswick, Danielle (2014). The Risks African Military Capacity Building: Lessons from Rwanda. African Affairs, 113/451, 219. 

[12] Reid, Stuart A (Jan/Feb 2018). Congo’s Slide into Chaos. How a State Fails. Foreign Affairs, 97/1. 97. 

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Mass Killings Rwanda Scott Martin

Assessing the Jefferson Administration’s Actions During the First Barbary Wars and their Impact on U.S. Small War Policy

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Samuel T. Lair is a research associate at the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities.  He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada, Reno studying U.S. Foreign Policy and American Constitutionalism.  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 Jefferson Administration’s Actions During the First Barbary War and their Impact on U.S. Small Wars Policy

Date Originally Written:  May 24, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 25, 2019.

Summary:  The First Barbary War of 1801 was the first significant American engagement outside of the Western Hemisphere and the second significant engagement against a foreign state without a formal declaration of war. Furthermore, this war’s multilateral strategy of using a coalition and diplomatic pressure provides valuable insight into the elements of a successful limited military operation. 

Text:  In the early 18th century, the independent state of Morocco and the Ottoman vassal states of Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripolitania (comprising modern-day Libya) formed what is known as the Barbary States. These rogue states would frequently engage in piracy, slave trading, and extortion along the Mediterranean coast, harassing the mercantile fleets of Europe in a form of textbook state-sponsored terrorism[1]. Prior to 1776, the American mercantile fleet under the tutelage of the British Empire was provided indemnity from the molestation of its Mediterranean trade. However, with the procurement of self-determination came an abrogation of many of the former Colonies’ favorable commercial pacts, including that with the Barbary States of North Africa. The United States’ mercantile fleet soon became frequently subject to the harassment of the Berber corsairs, subjecting American citizens to foreign slave camps and threatening the economy of the fledgling republic. In response, U.S. President George Washington agreed to pay tribute to the Barbary States in 1796. Following the election of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in 1801, the Pasha of the Eyalet of Tripoli demanded increased tribute then shortly after declared war on the United States. In an unprecedented display of executive authority, President Jefferson responded by sending U.S. Navy Commodore Dale to protect U.S. interests in the Mediterranean and thus began the nation’s first small war.

Among the most impactful consequences of the First Barbary War was the now established authority of the Executive Branch to engage in limited military operations against foreign adversaries without a formal declaration of war. The President of the United States, although the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, has no expressed Constitutional authority to engage in acts of war without U.S. Congressional approval. Prior to the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the authority of the Executive Branch to proactively respond to threats against American interests abroad relied on the precedent of limited military operations beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s conduct during the First Barbary War. Jefferson received no formal authority from Congress before sending Commodore Dale in command of a small squadron to the courts of the Berber rulers to negotiate terms and protect U.S. merchant vessels, and it was not until after hostilities began that Congress retroactively authorized military force nearly nine months later[2]. Regardless, President Jefferson’s tactful use of executive authority in the commencement of the campaign and subsequent negotiation with the Maghreb states left an indelible mark for the standard of response to affronts on American interests.

Other notable precedents set during the First Barbary War was the multilateral approach of the Jefferson Administration. The war, though fought primarily by the United States Navy, was not entirely unilateral. The United States at the beginning of the war conducted operations jointly with the Royal Navy of Sweden in its blockade of Tripoli. Moreover, American forces received valuable logistical support from the Kingdom of Sicily, who provided ships, sailors, and a base of operations in the port city of Syracuse[2]. The American mission also applied ample diplomatic as well as military pressure in order to achieve its aims. In an apparent precursor to the Perry Expedition and the opening of Japanese markets to U.S. goods through gunboat diplomacy, the American mission was able to force the capitulation of both Morocco and Tunisia by employing bellicose diplomacy. The only Barbary State that the United States actively engaged in combat with was the Eyalet of Tripolitania under Pasha Yusuf Qaramanli.

In the commencement of military action against Pasha Qaramanli, the United States utilized both conventional and unconventional warfare. The first strategy was to deploy the United States Navy to blockade Tripoli and when appropriate, commence naval assaults on combatant naval forces and naval bombardments on Tripolitan cities. However, following the limited success of the naval operations, William Eaton, American consul to neighboring Tunisia, conspired to depose the Pasha and install his exiled brother, Hamet Qaramanli, on the Tripolitan throne[1]. Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, Eaton and Hamet with a small squadron of six U.S. Marines and a homogenous force of 400-500 Greek, Arab, and Turkish mercenaries began their march to Tripoli. En route, the motley force with naval support from U.S. Naval warships commenced the first land battle fought on foreign soil, assaulting and capturing the port city of Derna.

Despite the success of the Derna operation, it would be the joint use of force and diplomacy that would end hostilities between the United States and the Eyalet of Tripoli. With the Treaty of Tripoli, the United States agreed to abandon support for Hamet Qaramanli and pay 60,000 U.S. dollars. In return, the Pasha released all the American nationals taken as prisoner throughout the war and the United States once again received assurance its Mediterranean trade would commence unabated[2]. If not for the success of the Battle of Derna and the U.S. Naval Blockade, it is likely that such an agreeable settlement would not have been impossible. Although Eaton’s and Hamet’s forces may have been able to take Tripoli and forced peace without having to pay ransom for the American prisoners, it is equally plausible the continued campaign would have turned into a drawn out and increasingly costly venture. Therefore, an assured and expedient end to the war required both skilled diplomacy and military ferocity. 

The First Barbary War stands as a model for pragmatic foreign policy and whose lessons touch upon the nuance necessary for even contemporary issues of national interest. Its lessons demonstrate that sound foreign policy requires a balanced, multilateral approach which recognizes that military aggression ought to be matched with ample diplomatic pressure, the benefit of coalition building, the necessity of combined arms operations, and the opportunity in unconventional warfare. The United States’ engagement on the shores of Tripoli echoes in future engagements from Nicaragua to China and numerous other small wars which act as an indelible mark on American foreign policy. These engagements range in scope and outcome, geography and foe, but regardless, it is upon the bold precedent set by President Jefferson during the First Barbary War that all proceeding American small wars stand.


Endnotes:

[1] Turner, R. F. (2003). State Responsibility and the War on Terror: The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates. Chicago Journal of International Law, 121-140. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://heinonline org.unr.idm.oclc.org/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/cjil4&id=145&men_tab=srchresults

[2] Boot, M. (2014). The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YX7ODQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=savage+wars+of+peace+barbary+wars&ots=GxfcnIpmJY&sig=B7XyieNfzbC50MINDvo-92k4y7I#v=onepage&q=savage%20wars%20of%20peace%20barbary%20wars&f=false

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Africa Assessment Papers Piracy Samuel T. Lair United Nations

Options for U.S. Use of Private Military and Security Companies

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Christophe Bellens is a policy advisor at the European Parliament. He completed two MS degrees from the University of Antwerp in History (2017) and International Relations (2018).  His thesis focused on the use of Private Military and Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophe-bellens/ and on Twitter @ChristosBellens.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The use of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC) by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and its consequences on military effectiveness in a counterinsurgency.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  July 15, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article considers from the perspective of the United States government what options are on the table in the use private military forces. Decision makers have three possibilities, explained by their effectiveness in Iraq or Afghanistan, for a future PMSC-strategy.

Background:  Since the start of the ‘Global War on Terror’, U.S. government organizations such as the Department of Defense (DoD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (DoS) have contracted PMSCs to manage security risks. The employees of these corporations perform duties that until recently were fulfilled by military members, such as the protection of key personnel, convoys and sites. Due to a reduction in troop numbers and an environment where privatization was heavily favored, PMSCs became a vital component of counterinsurgency. Despite their importance, planners often overlook the role of these contractors. The two cases of Iraq and Afghanistan offer three pathways to reach the envisioned political, tactical, operational and strategic objectives during counterinsurgency. 

Significance:  Private security contractors are part of contemporary small wars. In 2010, around 30,479 contractors worked for the DoD in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the DoS and USAID employed around 1850 and 3770 security contractors respectively in Afghanistan alone. Hence, per 1 security contractor 3.7 U.S. military members were deployed in Afghanistan in 2010[1]. As a vital component of the security environment, they strongly influenced the outcome of the counterinsurgency. 

Option #1:  The US employs mainly security contractors from outside the host state as in Iraq. Between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013, 90% of the private security contractors were non-Iraqi citizens[2]. 

Risk:  Major potential drawbacks of employing non-native contractors exist in the political and strategic dimensions. PMSCs are there to protect their clients, not to win the hearts and minds of the population. This client protection focus led to a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’-policy vis-à-vis potential threats. During the ‘Nisour Square’-shooting seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed. The worldwide public outcry that followed, worsened relations between the Iraqi government and the U.S. Insurgents gladly used this outcry against the lawless look-alike U.S. military members. Insurgents later released a video named ‘bloody contracts’ bemoaning the abuse, aggression and indiscriminate killing by U.S. contractors[3].

Foreign nationality (especially British or U.S. citizens) make contractors a valuable target for insurgents[4]. During the 2004 Fallujah incident the non-American truck drivers were able to escape as the insurgents focused on what they imagined were agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. In fact, the convoy was rushed and understaffed by the PMSC to show how quick they could perform contract obligations. After a video of their bodies being paraded through the streets hit the news, U.S. President George W. Bush favored immediate military retaliation. The First Battle of Fallujah ended in an operational failure and shifted the focus away from the strategic goal of strengthening the Iraqi government. 

Gain:  These PMSCs were often well equipped. Their arsenal existed of a variety of small arms, machine guns and shotguns in addition with grenades, body armor and encrypted radio communication. Their vehicles ranged from local undercover secondhand cars to military-style high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles. Blackwater even had eight Boeing Little Bird helicopters in Baghdad. The personnel operating this equipment often had a law enforcement or military background. In addition, contractors for the DoS had to undergo 164 hours of training in protective detail[5]. Hence, experienced foreigners are likely to demonstrate the necessary skills to ensure the successful completion of the assigned tasks.

Option #2:  The U.S. employs mainly local contractors as in Afghanistan. Ninety percent of the private security contractors between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013 were Afghan citizens.

Risk:  Eighty percent of the Afghan contractors were former militiamen or part of an existing armed group[6]. While this often provided valuable combat experience, it was a potential security hazard. Consequently, foreigners protected high-profile targets. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s use of the PMSC Dyncorp security detail reinforced the image for many Afghans that he was a U.S. pawn. The former militiamen often lacked the ability to read or write, let alone speak a foreign language. This only reinforced the lack of integration with allied forces. 

While problems with equipment did exist as the contractor normally was obliged to bring their own aging gun (AK47, AMD-65, PKM and RPK), studies show that a PMSC had 3.47 firearms per contractor[7]. The problem here is the lack of disarmament and demobilization by legitimizing existing armed groups. Consequently, the Afghan state couldn’t create a monopoly on violence. 

Gain:  A major gain, among giving locals an instant job and income, is the use of local knowledge and connections. The downside, however, is the potential to insert oneself into local rivalries and even fuel conflict by starting competition over a contract[8]. 

Option #3:  The U.S. helps to create a public company in the host state that offers protection services. An example being the creation of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) in 2010.

Risk:  In the beginning, the APPF lacked equipment and had to be trained by PMSCs. Customers lamented the slow reaction of the APPF[9]. The force was mainly based in Kabul where they offered their services. If they managed to offer their services in the periphery, the gain of using local contractors, such as their local knowledge and connections was lost.

Secondly, the creation of a public company gives a -potentially corrupt- host leadership indirectly incentives to let some level of threat exist in its territory. The public company -and hence the state- would lose income if the security environment improves.  

Gain:  Compared to giving contracts to local warlords, the APPF-system reduces the risk of financing and legitimizing local organized crime and insurgent groups. 

Moreover, such a force can greatly improve the integration in the overall force due to centralization. In addition, in a state of emergency, the public enterprise can be used for the public good. 

Other Comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None.


 

Endnotes: 

[1] Bellens, Christophe, Antwerp. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 18 & 60-62.

[2] Ibid.

[3] S.N. (2008), “IAI Documentary Exposes Blackwater’s Crimes in Iraq”, CBSnews. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iai-documentary-exposes-blackwaters-crimes-in-iraq/

[4] S.N. (2007), “Blackwater says guards were betrayed by Iraqi forces on 2004 mission”, Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/blackwater-says-guards-were-betrayed-iraqi-forces-2004-mission-103555

[5] Isenberg, David (2008) “Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq”, Praeger Security International, 31.

[6] Joras, Ulrike, and Adrian Schuster, editors. (2008). “Private Security Companies and Local Populations: An Exploratory Study of Afghanistan and Angola”, Swisspeace, 13, 33-34.

[7] Small Arms Survey, Geneva. (2011). Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security (Small Arms Survey). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 15.

[8] See the case of Shindand airbase in: McCain, John. (2010). “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan”: Congressional Report: DIANE Publishing.

[9] Bellens, Christophe. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 23 & 33-34.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Afghanistan Christophe Bellens Iraq Option Papers Private Military Companies (PMC etc) United States

Assessment of the Existential Threat Posed by a United Biafran and Ambazonian Separatist Front in West Africa

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Ekene Lionel presently writes for African Military Blog as a defense technology analyst.  His current research focuses on how technology intersects national defense.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michael Okpara University.  He can be found on Twitter @lionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Existential Threat Posed by a United Biafran and Ambazonian Separatist Front in West Africa

Date Originally Written:  May 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 11, 2019.

Summary:  The Nigerian separatist group the Indigenous People’s of Biafra, under pressure from the Nigerian military, recently met with representatives from the Cameroonian separatist forces who operate under the banner of the Ambazonian Defense Force.  If these two organizations form an alliance, it could represent an existential threat to both Nigeria and Cameroon and lead to civil war.

Text:  Two countries currently at war, one against ravaging Islamist terrorists trying to carve out a new caliphate governed on the basis of Sharia law, the other, against Anglophone separatist forces seeking to establish a new autonomous nation. Nigeria is currently neck-deep in a bitter war against both the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP), as well as Boko Haram colloquially known as the Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad. However, Nigeria has successfully curtailed a growing threat in the form of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)– a highly organized separatist group led by Mazi Nnamdi Kano; a Nigerian with British citizenship. The IPOB was formed as a breakaway group of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra with the sole purpose of completely severing ties with Nigeria through non-violent secession.

Meanwhile, across Nigeria’s eastern border towards Cameroon, a new war has been brewing for some months’ now, the Ambazonia War. For years, Southern Cameroonian citizens predominately located in the Anglophone territories of the Northwest and Southwest region have been constantly oppressed by the Cameroonian Regime led by Paul Biya, a former rebel leader. This oppression led to protests across the Southern Cameroon region. Biya responded by cracking down on the protesters resulting in at least 17 people killed. As calls for either integration or autonomy grew louder, the regime stepped in with heavy-handed tactics. Security forces were deployed to the regions; protests were met with violence, arrests, killings, and hundreds of homes were razed. Biya’s actions forced separatist forces under the banner of the Ambazonian Defense Force (ADF) to initiate a full-fledged guerrilla war in Southern Cameroon[1].

At the moment, the West African battleground poses a unique challenge to defense planners in the region simply because the ADF continue to grow stronger despite determined efforts by the Cameroonian Military to dislodge them. Several different armed groups have since emerged in support of the ADF such as the Red Dragons, Tigers, ARA, Seven Kata, ABL amongst others[2].

The Ambazonian War has since caused the death of more than 2000 people while 530,000 have been displaced. About 180,000 Cameroonians have fled to Nigeria putting more pressure on the already stressed infrastructure in the country’s Eastern flank[3]. Furthermore, the Cameroonian military which was focused on the Boko Haram insurgency, has divided its attention and deployed on multiple fronts, resulting in an upsurge in Boko Haram activities in the country. On a more tactical level, the Cameroonian Military’s most elite fighting force, the Rapid Intervention Battalion, which has been traditionally tasked with halting the rampaging Boko Haram terrorist’s onslaught, has also been largely withdrawn from the North and redeployed to the Anglophone region[4].

On the Nigerian front, as the IPOB continuously loses focus, ground, and drive as a result of the Nigerian Government’s “divide and destroy tactics” coupled with the intimidation of the Biafran separatist members, this breeds resentment amongst the rank and file. With this in mind, the top echelons of the Biafran separatist struggle under the banner of the Pro Biafra Groups, met in Enugu State, with the prime minister of Biafra Government in Exile in attendance and some other diaspora leaders of other pro-Biafra groups where they resolved to work together. The coalition met with the leadership of the Ambazonian Republic from Southern Cameroon where it discussed bilateral relationship as well as a possible alliance in achieving their objective[5].

Leveraging cultural and historical sentiments, since they share a common history and heritage, both the Biafran and Ambazonian separatists could band together and present a more formidable opponent to national forces in the region. On a strategic level, this partnership or alliance makes perfect military sense, given that both share a similar ideology and ultimately, the same goal. In an asymmetric conflict, the separatist forces can easily share valuable scarce resources, bolster their depleted ranks, accumulate valuable combat experience, provide a safe haven for fighters and also acquire human intelligence through the notoriously porous Nigeria/Cameroon border. 

Such an alliance poses an existential threat to the unity and existence of both Nigeria and Cameroon given that at the moment, Boko Haram and ISWAP are constantly pushing and probing from the Northeast of Nigeria, bandits are ravaging the Northcentral along with the current farmer/herder crises still troubling Nigeria’s center. The Nigerian military, although quite tenacious, cannot realistically hold these multiple forces at bay without crumbling.

Nigeria is the largest oil and gas producer in Africa, with the majority of its crude oil coming from the delta basin. Nigeria desperately needs its oil revenue to keep its battered economy running. Also, the bulk of Cameroon’s industrial output, including its only refinery, is in the Ambazonian region[6][7]. Hence, the economic impact of such an alliance could threaten the integrity of the West Africa, the future of the Economic Community of West African States, also known as ECOWAS, and the overall security, stability and progress of the entire subcontinent. 

With the militaries of both Nigeria and Cameroon already stretched thin and battered by years of constant war, if an alliance of ADF and Biafran separatist is allowed to succeed, it would open up opportunities for Boko Haram and ISWAP to grow stronger and overrun several key cities in the region, destabilize the economic balance and also the equipoise of military region in Africa.


Endnotes:

[1] Sarah, L. (2018, June 14). Cameroon’s anglophone war, A rifle is the only way out. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://www.africanmilitaryblog.com/2018/06/cameroon-ambazonia-war

[2] BBC. (2018, Oct 4) Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis: Red Dragons and Tigers – the rebels fighting for independence. Retrieved 14 May 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45723211 

[3] Aljazeera (2018, August 2). In Nigeria, Anglophone Cameroonians turn to low paid labor. Retrieved 13 May 2019, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/nigeria-anglophone-cameroonians-turn-paid-labour-180801222453208.html

[4] The National Times. (2019, March 12). Insecurity Escalates In North Region As Gov’t, Military Concentrate In Anglophone Regions. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from  https://natimesnews.com/cameroon-national-times-there-has-been-growing-insecurity-in-the-three-northern-regions-of-cameroon-as-both-the-government-and-the-military-concentrate-their-strength-and-might-in-fighting-an-endles/ Archived

[5] Jeff, A. (2018, June 27). Pro-Biafra groups vow to be under one leadership. Retrieved 14 May 2019, from  https://www.sunnewsonline.com/biafra-pro-biafra-groups-vow-to-be-under-one-leadership/

[6] John, D. (2012, March 25). Cameroon, West Africa’s Latest Oil Battleground. Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Cameroon-West-Africas-Latest-Oil-Battleground.html

[7] Ajodo, A. (2017, September 12). Towards ending conflict and insecurity in the Niger Delta region. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/towards-ending-conflict-and-insecurity-niger-delta-region

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Africa Assessment Papers Cameroon Ekene Lionel Existential Threat Nigeria

Options for Maintaining Counterinsurgency Capabilities in the Great Power Era

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) struggle with retaining an enclave of counterinsurgency (COIN) capabilities alongside a renewed focus on training and equipping for great power competition.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 27, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Harrison Manlove is a Cadet with the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Kansas where he studies History and Peace and Conflict Studies.

Background:  The 2017 US National Security Strategy (NSS) identifies the return of great power competition as a strategic threat to U.S. interests across a variety of domains. Challenges to U.S. military and economic power are meant to “change the international order…” that the U.S. has overseen since the end of the Cold War. The NSS acknowledges the ability of near peer competitors to operate “below the threshold of open military conflict…”. In addition, the NSS identifies the need to “sustain our competence in irregular warfare…” in a long-term capacity[1]. This “competence” most certainly includes COIN, or the employment of various means of national power by a government to counter an insurgency “and address its roots causes[2].” DoD’s 2018 National Defense Strategy identifies “Long term strategic competition with China and Russia” as “the principal priorities for the Department…[3]” Both of the above mentioned documents indicate how non-state threats have slowly moved down the priority list.

Significance:  Recent decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump and the DoD to drawdown forces in a variety of conflict areas seem to reflect a desire to realign U.S. force posture to counter near-peer competitors in both Europe and Asia, and bolster conventional military capabilities. In December 2018, President Trump directed U.S. forces in Syria to withdraw, while simultaneously halving U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan over several months as peace talks continue[4]. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and General Purpose Forces (GPF) U.S. forces have spent almost two decades advising and training foreign forces as a function of COIN efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and others. Last fall, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) was directed to drawdown SOF missions on the continent over a period of three years[5]. SOF in Africa suffered a highly-publicized loss of troops in the 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush in Niger, while SOF personnel were also killed and wounded during an attack on their outpost in Somalia last year[6].

Option #1:  U.S. SOF addresses COIN threats through Direct Action.

Risk:  SOF conduct countless direct action missions, or “Short-duration strikes…”, against insurgent and terror groups in multiple countries across theaters like USAFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)[7]. American deaths during these operations has proven damaging for domestic opinion on global U.S. operations, exemplified by the 2017 deaths of four American Special Forces soldiers in Niger. An uninformed public, a largely opaque DoD concerning SOF missions and their specific purpose, and U.S. military roles within those missions, has created a wider civil-military gap. This lack of clarity has brought some American lawmakers to call the Niger scenario “an endless war” where “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing[8].” These lawmaker opinions underscores concerns about the scale and cost of worldwide U.S. military involvement and its impact on SOF personnel. In addition, raids often do not solve the political or economic challenges within COIN and can become a whack-a-mole strategy for targeting an insurgency’s network.

Gain:  The GPF often take the brunt of the task involved in conducting major COIN operations. Recent moves by the U.S. Army to retool brigade combat teams from infantry roles to Stryker and armored roles is one of the clearest examples of the “pivot back to the near-peer fight[9].” SOF addressing COIN threats through direct action drastically reduces the overall need for GPF on the frontlines in COIN and frees them up to focus on the near-peer fight.  Additionally, while direct action does not address the factors driving the insurgency, it does succeed in disrupting insurgent formations and presents metrics to Washington D.C. that are more easily understood than the more esoteric quantification of “winning of hearts and minds.”  Funding for U.S. Special Operations Command was given a massive hike to cover personnel increases to maintain a reliance on SOF[10]. SOF in Africa often operate under the Section 127e authority that allows SOF to accompany partner forces on missions, staying behind at the “last position of cover and concealment.” This has been touted by USAFRICOM Commander U.S. Marine Corps General Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, as “high payoff with low risk to US forces[11].” Direct action is relatively low-cost and, under 127e, also provides SOF the ability to directly control partner forces during operations to achieve US objectives.

Option #2:  Specially trained non-SOF units address COIN threats through Security Force Assistance.

Risk:  Global military engagement may be spreading U.S. forces too thinly if a near-pear conflict were to breakout. Since the 9/11 attacks, a focus on COIN and counterterrorism has resulted in U.S. deployments to 40% of the world’s countries[12]. The U.S. Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) deployed to Afghanistan in early 2018 to train and advise Afghan forces. Insider attacks by Afghan Taliban insurgents posing as members of the Afghan military have taken a toll on that deployment and highlight the potential dangers of a continued U.S. military presence there[13]. In mid-2018, the 2nd SFAB was established and is also slated for deployment to Afghanistan in 2019. SFABs could pull troops and resources from DoD’s ability to train and prepare for near-peer threats. DoD personnel involved in arms transfer, security assistance, and short-term military-to-military engagement programs are meager within the context of broader defense spending, but might offer an area for DoD to repurpose personnel and funding to critical capability gaps like artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber warfare.

Gain:  While military force is often the preferred method in COIN, an emphasis on non-kinetic means for DoD could provide better results at a much lower cost. The defense budget for fiscal year (FY) 2017 brought major reforms to security assistance authorities and organizations, a problem that had previously plagued those initiatives. Security assistance programs allow small teams of DoD personnel to train partner forces in basic military tactics and provide weapons training[14]. DoD spending as part of the foreign assistance budget totaled out to $6.4 billion spent worldwide in FY 2018, which includes these programs. Total spending for the foreign assistance budget in FY 2018 was $17.6 billion[15]. In comparison, the war in Afghanistan alone cost $45 billion in 2018, a little under half the $100 billion spent every year during the war’s height between 2010-2012[16]. DoD training with partner militaries is relatively inexpensive when compared with other DoD programs and deployments, and “builds relationships with friendly foreign forces, improves interoperability with and indirectly contributes to building the capability of key allies through exposure to United States tactics, techniques, and procedures…[17]” Capacity-building conducted by specially trained units could better enhance opportunities for partner forces to provide security in COIN conflict environments. The Army’s SFAB model appears to be a comprehensive training force, standing in contrast to the ad hoc approach used throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This option could alleviate pressure on SOF to manage similar missions on a global scale that would continue to strain overworked equipment and personnel.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

1. “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” The White House. December 2017. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

2. United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 54.

3. “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” January 19, 2018. May 2, 2019. https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.

4. Gibbons-Neff, Thomas, and Mujib Mashal. “U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say.” The New York Times. December 21, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/us/politics/afghanistan-troop-withdrawal.html.

5. Browne, Ryan. “US to Reduce Number of Troops in Africa.” CNN. November 15, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/politics/us-reduce-troops-africa/index.html.

6. Sonne, Paul. “U.S. Service Member Killed, Four Others Wounded in Somalia Attack.” The Washington Post. June 08, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-special-operations-soldier-killed-four-service-members-wounded-in-somalia-attack/2018/06/08/39265cda-6b5f-11e8-bbc5-dc9f3634fa0a_story.html

7. . United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 66.

8. Callimachi, Rukmini, Helene Cooper, Alan Blinder, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff. “‘An Endless War’: Why 4 U.S. Soldiers Died in a Remote …” The New York Times. February 20, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/17/world/africa/niger-ambush-american-soldiers.html.

9. South, Todd. “New in 2019: From Tanks to Strykers, Major Brigade Combat Team Conversions Are Coming This Year.” Army Times. January 02, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/.

10. South, Todd. “Special Operations Command Asks for More Troops, Biggest Budget Yet.” Military Times. February 27, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/02/23/special-operations-command-asks-for-more-troops-biggest-budget-yet/.

11. Morgan, Wesley. “Behind the Secret U.S. War in Africa.” POLITICO. July 02, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/secret-war-africa-pentagon-664005.

12.   Savall, Stephanie, “This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism.” Smithsonian.com. January 01, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/.

13.   LaPorta, James. “U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Was Highest Enlisted Soldier Supporting Army’s New Adviser Brigade.” Newsweek. October 04, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/afghanistan-soldier-killed-attack-us-1104697.

14.  Elliot, Adriane. “U.S. Security Assistance Soldiers, Nigerian Army Partner to Combat Terrorism.” Army Values. December 13, 2017. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.army.mil/article/198066/us_security_assistance_soldiers_nigerian_army_partner_to_combat_terrorism.

15.   “ForeignAssistance.gov.” Foreignassistance.gov. May 3, 2019. https://foreignassistance.gov/explore.

16.   Pennington, Matthew. “Pentagon Says War in Afghanistan Costs Taxpayers $45 Billion per Year.” PBS. February 06, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/pentagon-says-afghan-war-costs-taxpayers-45-billion-per-year

17.  “Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 President’s Budget Security Cooperation Consolidated Budget Display.” Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller). February 16, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/Security_Cooperation_Budget_Display_OUSDC.pdf.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Great Powers Harrison Manlove Option Papers Policy and Strategy United States

Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Brandon Quintin is the marketing manager of a museum in Dayton, Virginia.  He is a former editorial assistant at MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Legion as the Ideal Small Wars Force Structure

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 24, 2019.

Summary:  After the Massacre at the Wabash in 1791, George Washington and Henry Knox reformed the U.S. Army as the Legion of the United States. The Legion was a self-contained modular army composed of four identical combined-arms units. During the Fallen Timbers campaign, the Legion proved itself the ideal force structure for use in small wars. The Brigade Combat Team is the closest the U.S. Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. 

Text:  In 1791 the United States Army suffered one of the greatest defeats in its history. At the Massacre at the Wabash in modern Ohio, also known as St. Clair’s Defeat, a force of regulars and militia 1,000 strong was destroyed by an army of Indian warriors. The Northwest Indian War, as the greater conflict was called, was the definitive “small war.” President George Washington directed and oversaw the response: a punitive use of asymmetric military force against a loosely-organized tribal confederacy in contested territory. The Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 was the climax of the war, in which a reformed American army routed its Indian opponents and forced a peace where one could not be negotiated. 

But in 1791 the path to victory was far from clear. Year after year, American forces marched into the Northwest Territory only to be beaten back by an aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable enemy. George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox knew that significant change had to be made if the status quo was to be overcome. Tactical changes would not suffice. A redesign of the core force structure of the United States Army was required. 

The inspiration for Washington and Knox’s reformed army came from four primary sources: Ancient Rome, French Marshal Maurice de Saxe, British Colonel Henry Bouquet, and Washington’s famous drillmaster, the Prussian Baron Frederick William von Steuben. 

The ancient Roman legion is the greatest military unit the world has ever known. It effectively fought against the “conventional” forces of Greece, Carthage, Parthia, and other Roman legions during the Civil Wars. It fought against “unconventional” forces from Gaul and Britannia, to Judea. It built roads and forts and improved the state of infrastructure wherever it was sent. In all areas, and against all opponents, it was successful. It is no wonder that the Roman legion had so many admirers, especially among the early American officer corps. In a letter exchange, Henry Knox and South American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda called the legion “infinitely superior to any other organization or military arrangement we know yet[1].”

Maurice de Saxe took the operational concept of the legion and adapted it to the eighteenth century. The legion of ancient Rome predated much of the technology that allowed for combat arms designation. It was  was an almost entirely heavy infantry unit. Its excellence lie not in its composition, but in its effect. In his writings, Saxe advocated a resurrected legion that achieved the adaptability of its ancient forefather by adopting a combined-arms force structure—a revolutionary concept in its time[2]. Henry Bouquet, a Swiss-born Colonel in the British army, took the idea a step further and wrote that the modular combined-arms force structure was ideal for Indian-fighting in the Americas, i.e. for use against irregulars in unfavorable terrain[3]. 

Baron von Steuben wrote a letter in 1784 advocating that the United States adopt a permanent legionary force structure:

Upon a review of all the military of Europe, there does not appear to be a single form which could be safely adopted by the United States; they are unexceptionally different from each other, and like all human institutions, seem to have started as much out of accident as design … The Legion alone has not been adopted by any, and yet I am confident in asserting, that whether it be examined as applicable to all countries, or as it may more immediately apply to the existing or probable necessity of this, it will be found strikingly superior to any other[4].

Initially ignored upon publication, the letter acquired new meaning after the Massacre at the Wabash. Congress acceded to Washington’s demands and allowed the creation of the Legion of the United States.

President Washington and Secretary Knox abandoned the traditional regimental structure. Instead of a reliance on large regiments of either infantry, cavalry, or artillery, the Legion of the United States was one coherent unit with four self-contained armies making up its constituent parts. The armies, called Sub-Legions, contained 1,280 soldiers each, with two infantry battalions, one rifle battalion, an artillery company, and a cavalry company. The Legion of the United States was meant to address the failures of regimental design while accentuating the benefits of each combat arm. The end result was an adaptable, standardized force of 5,120 men—in no coincidence, exactly the same size as the famed legions of Julius Caesar.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers took place on August 20, 1794. The Legion of the United States proved its excellence by dispersing the opposing army, pacifying the Northwest Territory, and restoring order to the frontier. Its mission accomplished, the Legion was promptly disbanded.

The modular, combined-arms legion is an ideal small wars force structure. The same organizational principles that made the Legion of the United States a success in 1794 apply today. When a conventional power is faced with a number of different potential conflicts, over all scales of intensity and in all types of terrain, the unpredictability of the situation necessitates a standardized, generalist formation like the legion. Especially in an asymmetric scenario of regular versus irregular forces.

The modern Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is the closest the United States Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure. Semi-combined-arms units of nearly 5,000 soldiers, Brigade Combat Teams come in three varieties: Infantry, Stryker, and Armored. As of 2018, the  active U.S. Army has 31. While the advent of BCTs represents a step toward legionary warfare, a true revival of the design and spirit of the Legion of the United States would see the elimination of arms-designation between the BCTs and all echelons of unit organization above them. Small wars are the future of American warfare, and the legion has proven itself the perfect unit organization to overcome every situation such wars present. 


Endnotes:

[1] De Miranda, F. (1791, February 2). The Form of the Roman Legion [Letter to Henry Knox]. London.

[2] De Saxe, M. (1944). Reveries Upon the Art of War. Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing Company.

[3] Bouquet, H. (1764). Reflections on the War with the Savages of North America.

[4] Von Steuben, F. (1784). A Letter on the Subject of an Established Militia, and Military Arrangements, Addressed to the Inhabitants of the United States.

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Brandon Quintin Insurgency & Counteinsurgency

Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific.  He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific.

Summary:  The U.S. is scaling down the Global War on Terrorism and focusing on threats posed by a revisionist China and Russia and rogue nations such as Iran. In this context, limited military operations (small wars) will be useful in transforming counterterrorism methods, which previously dominated U.S. foreign policy, into being only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in pursuit of U.S. policy objectives in contested spaces.

Text:  Over the past decade, the global balance of power has shifted to a multipolar construct in which revisionist actors such as China and Russia attempt to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of the U.S.-led liberal order.  The ongoing rebalance has been gradual and often conducted through a myriad of activities beyond kinetic operations as Russia, China, and regional actors such as Iran have shown a capability to capitalize on and create domestic instability as a means to expand influence, gain access to key terrain and resources, and reduce western influence.  The capacity to utilize limited military operations (small wars) as part of a focused, tailored, and comprehensive whole of government approach to deter threats and expansion from revisionist powers is paramount in promoting U.S. and Western interests within the modern paradigm.  Despite the prominent role engaging in limited operations at or more importantly below the level of conflict fulfills within the context of great power competition, it is far from a proverbial silver bullet as the rebalancing of power brings new parameters and risks that U.S. policy makers must understand before engaging  in any small war. 

Since the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States and her Western allies have enjoyed an exorbitant amount of freedom to execute limited military operations and foreign domestic interventions due to what scholars termed the unipolar moment[1].   The 1990s saw the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) utilized as a guiding framework for Western engagement as liberal democracies intervened in the internal affairs of sovereign nations from Somalia to the Balkans to protect life and punish offenders[2].  Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and many of her longtime allies began the Global War on Terror (GWOT) fundamentally changing U.S. foreign policy for the next two decades.  The GWOT gave rise to an unprecedented increase in U.S. foreign intervention as the specter of terrorism emerged in all corners of the globe and a series of Secretary of Defense-approved Execute Orders granted the DoD broad authorities to conduct counterterrorism operations worldwide.  

The extent to which global terrorism poses an existential threat to U.S. and other Western powers has been debated with valid and well-researched positions on both sides[3], but what is not debatable is that GWOT consumed vast amounts of the West’s material resources and attention — the U.S. alone has spent an estimated $5.9 Trillion since 9/11[4].  With the West focusing on countering non-state actors, revisionist nations began to build power and expand which became evident when Russia annexed Crimea and China began aggressively expanding into the South China Sea.  The 2017 National Security Strategy marked a turning point in contemporary U.S. foreign policy by codifying an end to the CT-focused strategy of the previous sixteen years and placing an emphasis on great power competition with near-peers, as the document declares in very clear language “…after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned. China and Russia reassert their influence regionally and globally[5].”   

Despite recent attempts by China and Russia to close the military capabilities gap between themselves and the U.S., the U.S. maintains an advantage, specifically in the global application and projection of power[6]. To overcome this disadvantage revisionist and rogue states utilize soft balancing (utilization of international structures to disrupt and discredit U.S. hegemony) at the strategic level[7] and hybrid warfare (population-centric operations that create instability) at the tactical and operational levels[8] to expand their influence and territory through activities that avoid direct confrontation.  The utilization and application of limited military operations (small wars) combined with other elements of state power can both identify and counter the aforementioned strategies employed b