An Assessment of the Global War on Terror via Deterrence Theory

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 27, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Ibid

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

Assessment Papers Deterrence James P. Micciche Violent Extremism

Options for Deterrence Below Armed Conflict

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


National Security Situation:  As military competition below armed conflict once again becomes the norm, the U.S. requires deterrence options.

Date Originally Written:  November 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 23, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that traditional nuclear deterrence will not suffice in the current national security paradigm as it is focused on mainly deterring nuclear war or major conflict, which are the least-likely situations to occur.

Background:  In June 2019, the United States Military’s Joint Staff published Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 1-19 “The Competition Continuum.”  The JDN further developed and refined the non-linear/non-binary continuum that defines the perpetual state of competition that exists between nations .  This perpetual state of competition was originally proposed in the “Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning (JCIC)[1].” Within the JDN continuum the Joint Force, in conjunction with other elements of national power (diplomacy, economic, information, etc.), simultaneously campaigns through a combination of cooperation, competition below armed conflict, and armed conflict to achieve desired strategic objectives including deterring actions and goals of rival states. The continuum represents a shift in U.S. military doctrine from a counterterrorism-centric security strategy to one focused on competing with a spectrum of international agents and actors.

Significance:  While not an authoritative document, JDNs generate and facilitate the creation and revision of joint and service specific doctrine. Therefore, the continuum proposed by the JDN will be integrated and operationalized by planners and doctrine writers across the Department of Defense (DoD). Within the JDN’s continuum, competition below armed conflict is not only the aspect that most regularly occurs, but also the most challenging for the DoD to operationalize. The JDN further refines the JCIC language by describing campaigning through competition below armed conflict as a protracted, constrained, often imbalanced, and diverse construct predicated upon a deep understanding of the operating environment where the joint force seeks to execute three newly codified tactical tasks: Enhance, Manage, and Delay.  Despite clarifying the language of competition below armed conflict, the JDN fails to provide concrete examples of the concepts implementation to include the Joint Force’s role in deterrence which is vaguely described “Deterrence in competition below armed conflict is similarly nuanced [to deterrence by armed conflict} and perhaps harder to judge[2].”  This paper will provide three options for planners and doctrine writers to employ deterring rivals through competition below armed conflict per the guidance outlined in the JDN and JCIC.

Option #1:  Persistent Presence.

The United States, at the behest of partner nations, overtly deploys conventional ground forces to key strategic regions / locations to prevent aggressive incursions from rival states in fear of causing U.S. casualties and invoking a potential kinetic response. This same principle is applied to the regular exercise of freedom of navigation though global commons that are considered vital to U.S. interests.

Risk:  Conventional U.S. force presence adjacent to competitor nations potentially escalates tensions and greatly increases the risk of armed conflict where U.S. personnel forward potentially face overwhelming force from a near peer competitor. The logistical and personnel requirements to deploy conventional forces forward are high and can lead partner nations to become overly dependent on U.S. forces thus creating enduring U.S. expenditures. The presence of a large U.S. footprint can facilitate competitor information operations focusing on delegitimizing the efficacy of host nation government / military possibly creating domestic instability, and prompting anti-U.S. sentiment amongst the population.

Gain:  There have been successful historic and contemporary applications of deterrence by presence from a proportionally smaller U.S. force compared to rivals. Examples include U.S. / North Atlantic Treaty Organization forward presence in Europe during the Cold War as part of a successful deterrence strategy against larger Eastern bloc forces and the recent expansion of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian forces into Northern Syria upon the departure of a small footprint of U.S. forces in October of 2019. Presence can also facilitate collaboration and interoperability between U.S. and regional partners supporting the two other elements of the competition continuum cooperation and armed conflict.

Option #2:  Civil Resiliency and Civil Engagement.

Many of the United States’ principal competitors attempt to advance their interests and achieve their objectives through various forms of population-centric warfare that seeks to instigate and capitalize on domestic instability. To deny access to, and mitigate the ability to influence populations needed to advance such a strategy, the Joint Force utilizes Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations capabilities to identify populations tied to key terrain and in conjunction with other elements of national power fosters civil resiliency to malign influence.

Risk:  Fostering civil resiliency in populations vulnerable to or targeted by malign influence operations is a long-term undertaking requiring enduring programming funds and command support to be effective. Assessments of population-centric operations are difficult to quantify making the establishment of measures of performance and effectiveness exceptionally difficult and impeding the understanding of effects of enemy, friendly, and partner actions within the complex system of the human domain.

Gain:  A population-centric engagement strategy facilitates interagency coordination enabling the utilization of multiple elements of national power to counter malign efforts by adversaries and simultaneously propagates U.S. soft power. Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations elements have exceptionally small personnel footprints and low logistical costs and can promote cooperation with host nation counterparts. Military-civil engagement programs and projects often permit personnel to operate in regions and nations where competitors have an established advantage.

Option #3:  Proxies and Regime Fragility.

Today, the United States’ chief competitors and their allies are regimes that are authoritarian in nature[3] and therefore all share the primacy of maintaining regime power as their supreme interest. The Joint Force can exploit this distinctive feature of authoritarianism and utilize clandestinely-supported proxies and / or focused information operations to threaten the domestic stability of autocrats taking actions against U.S. interests.

Risk:  Creating instability comes with many unknown variables and has the potential to produce unwanted secondary effects including expanding conflicts beyond a single nation and engulfing an entire region in war. There remains a long history of the United States equipping and training proxies that later become adversaries. If direct U.S involvement in a proxy conflict becomes publicly known, there could be irreversible damage to the United States’ international reputation degrading comparative advantages in soft power and the information domain.

Gain:  Operating through either a proxy or the information domain provides managed attribution to the Joint Force and increases freedom of maneuver within a normally constrained competition environment to threaten rival leadership in their most vulnerable areas. Working with proxies provides both an easy exit strategy with very few formal commitments and leads to little risk to U.S. personnel.

Other Comments:  The above listed options are not mutually exclusive and can be utilized in conjunction not only with each other but also together with other elements of the competition continuum to achieve an objective of deterring unwanted competitor actions while concurrently promoting U.S interests. The U.S. cannot compete in an omnipresent manner and ts planners would do well to pragmatically choose where and how to compete based on national interests, competitor action/inaction, available resources, and conditions within a competitive environment.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2018) Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2019) Competition Continuum (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19). Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233

[3] The Economist Intelligence Unit (2018). 2018 Democracy Index, The Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved from https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index

 

 

 

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence James P. Micciche Option Papers

Assessing the Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

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


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

Date Originally Written:  October 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 16, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

U.S. Options for Responding to Sharp Power Threats

Anthony Patrick is a student at Georgia State University where he majors in political science and conducts research on Sharp Power.  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:  Threats to U.S. and allied nations by sharp power actions (defined below).

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 30, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an undergraduate student of defense policies and an Officer Candidate in the United States Marine Corps.  This article is written with the base assumption that foreign actions against the U.S political system is a top national security challenge and a continuing threat.

Background:  Recent U.S. news cycles have been dominated by the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the U.S political system.  Other allied nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand have also recently dealt with foreign political influence campaigns[1].  While historically nations have projected power either through military might (hard power) or cultural influence (soft power), rising authoritarian actors like the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, Iran, and North Korea are resulting to a hybrid mix of classical power projection through emerging technologies with revisionist intent in the international system known as sharp power[2].  Sharp power is more direct than soft power, not as physically destructive as hard power, and does not cause enough damage to justify a military response like Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Sharp power actions are normally covert in nature allowing the perpetrator plausible deniability.  Given the combined military and economic power of western democracies, sharp power is the preferred method for disruptive actions against the international order by authoritarian powers.  The effectiveness of sharp power is amplified by the open nature of democratic societies, especially in the information age[3].  Other examples of sharp power attacks include the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures, the Iranian hacking of a dam in New York, PRC surveillance of Chinese students in foreign classrooms[4], and Russian actions in Ukraine and Moldova[5]. 

Significance:  The effects of sharp power actions can be very dangerous for western democracies.  One effect is a decrease in democratic legitimacy in an elected government.  When the citizens question if it was themselves or foreign actors who helped elect a government, that government is hamstrung due to a lack of legitimacy.  This lack of legitimacy can create new divisions or heighten polarization in the targeted countries.  Foreign actors can use the internet as a guise, pretend to be domestic actors, and push extreme ideas in communities, creating the potential for conflict.  This series of effects has already happened in U.S communities, where Russian actors have organized a protest and the counter protest[6].  These new divisions can also heighten political infighting, diverting political resources from international problems to deal with issues in the domestic sphere.  This heightened political infighting can give these revisionist actors the breathing room they need to expand their influence.  The increasing prevalence of these effects is a direct threat to U.S national security, chipping away at the government’s freedom of action and diverting resources to the domestic sphere away from international problems. 

Option #1:  Adopt military operational planning methodologies like Effects Based Operations (EBO) and Systematic Operational Design (SOD) at the interagency level to organize a response to adversary sharp power actions.

Risk:  The U.S also has the largest pool of soft power in the world and reverting to sharp power actions would hurt that important U.S resource[7].  Also, since these adversary countries are not as open, targeting would be a difficult task, and actions against the wrong group could be used as a rallying cry in the adversary country.  This rallying cry would give these adversaries a greater mandate to continue their actions against western democracies.  Lastly, successful sharp power actions against authoritarian countries could lead to more destructive domestic instability, harming allies in the region and disrupting global trading networks[8].

Gain:  By utilizing sharp power methodologies, the U.S would be able to strike back at opposing countries and deter further actions against the U.S.  The U.S has a large pool of resources to pull from in the interagency, and only needs a methodology to guide those resources.  Military style operational planning like EBO and SOD contain important theoretical constructs like System of System Analysis, Center of Gravity, and the constant reviewing of new information[9][10].  This planning style fits well for sharp power actions since it allows the government to create an operational plan for directed international political actions.  The U.S government can pull from the wealth of knowledge within the Department of Defense on how to combine these various frameworks to achieve sharp power action given their experience with designing complex operations on the joint level[11].  Successful actions would also give the U.S more leverage in negotiations with these countries on other areas and would divert their political resources from international actions 

Option #2:  Congress passes a Goldwater-Nichols-like Act to create a horizontal organization within the interagency, to address sharp power threats[12].

Risk:  Such reform would be substantial and would take a long time to implement.  The length of this process could delay any government response to both continued foreign interference and other international problems.  The congressional process is historically slow and designing the bill would also take a substantial amount of time.  Different agencies have set rules, procedures, and operating cultures, and changing those enough to allow effective interagency cooperation would also be difficult.  Option #2 would not change the defensive posture of the U.S government, thus it would not create the desired deterrent effect. 

Gain:  Streamlining the interagency process would increase the government’s ability to counter sharp power threats.  Option #2 would lead to better allocation of resources, more intelligence sharing, better allocation of authority during interagency deliberations, and provide more clarity on rules, regulations, and processes that govern interagency cooperation.  By adopting this reform, the national security council would be able to give task to a joint structure instead of a single lead agency.  This joint structure could operate like the joint command within the Department of Defense and create broad policy for interagency work[13].  By keeping a defensive posture, the U.S would also be able to protect its soft power appeal[14]. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kurlantzick, J. (2017, December 13). Australia, New Zealand Face China’s Influence. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/australia-new-zealand-face-chinas-influence

[2] National Endowment for Democracy. (2017, December 5). Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence. Retrieved from https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/

[3]  Wanless, A., & Berk, M. (2018, March 7). The Strategic Communication Ricochet: Planning Ahead for Greater Resiliency. Retrieved from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2018/3/7/the-strategic-communication-ricochet-planning-ahead-for-greater-resiliency

[4]  Sulmeyer, M. (2018, March 22). How the U.S. Can Play Cyber-Offense. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-03-22/how-us-can-play-cyber-offense

[5]  Way, L. A. (2018, May 17). Why Didn’t Putin Interfere in Armenia’s Velvet Revolution? Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/armenia/2018-05-17/why-didnt-putin-interfere-armenias-velvet-revolution

[6]  Lucas, R. (2017, November 01). How Russia Used Facebook To Organize 2 Sets of Protesters. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561427876/how-russia-used-facebook-to-organize-two-sets-of-protesters

[7]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (2018, January 24). How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-01-24/how-sharp-power-threatens-soft-power

[8]  Breen, J. G. (2017). Covert Actions and Unintended Consequences. InterAgency Journal,8(3), 106-122. Retrieved from http://thesimonscenter.org/featured-article-covert-action-and-unintended-consequences/

[9]  Strange, J., Dr., & Iron, UK Army, R., Colonel. (n.d.). Understanding Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities(United States, Department of Defense, United States Marine Corps War College).

[10]  Vego, M. N. (2006). Effects-based operations: A critique. National Defense University, Washington D.C. Institute for National Strategic Studies.

[11]  Beutel, C. (2016, August 16). A New Plan: Using Complexity In the Modern World. Retrieved    from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/8/16/a-new-plan-using-complexity-in-the-modern-world

[12]  Dahl, U.S. Army, K. R., Colonel. (2007, July 1). New Security for New Threats: The Case for Reforming the Interagency Process. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-security-for-new-threats-the-case-for-reforming-the-interagency-process/

[13]  United States, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning.

[14]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (summer 2004). Soft Power and American Foreign Policy. Political Science Quarterly,119(2), 255-270. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202345

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

Options to Deter Cyber-Intrusions into Non-Government Computers

Elizabeth M. Bartels is a doctoral candidate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an assistant policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.  She has an M.S. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in political science with a minor in Near Eastern languages and civilization from the University of Chicago.  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:  Unless deterred, cyber-intrusions into non-government computer systems will continue to lead to the release of government-related information.

Date Originally Written:  March 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is a PhD candidate in policy analysis, whose work focuses on wargaming and defense decision-making.

Background:  Over the years, a great deal of attention has been paid to gaining security in cyberspace to prevent unauthorized access to critical infrastructure like those that control electrical grids and financial systems, and military networks.  In recent years a new category of threat has emerged: the cyber-theft and subsequent public release of large troves of private communications, personal documents and other data.

This category of incident includes the release of government data by inside actors such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.  However, hacks of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, a Democratic party strategist, illustrate that the risk goes beyond the theft of government data to include information that has the potential to harm individuals or threaten the proper functioning of government.  Because the federal government depends on proxies such as contractors, non-profit organizations, and local governments to administer so many public functions, securing information that could harm the government – but is not on government-secured systems – may require a different approach.

Significance:  The growing dependence on government proxies, and the risk such dependence creates, is hardly new[1], and neither is concern over the cyber security implications of systems outside government’s immediate control[2].  However, recent attacks have called the sufficiency of current solutions into question.

Option #1:  Build Better Defenses.  The traditional approach to deterring cyber-exploitation has focused on securing networks, so that the likelihood of failure is high enough to dissuade adversaries from attempting to infiltrate systems.  These programs range from voluntary standards to improve network security[3], to contractual security standards, to counter-intelligence efforts that seek to identify potential insider threats.  These programs could be expanded to more aggressively set standards covering non-governmental systems containing information that could harm the government if released.

Risk:  Because the government does not own these systems, it must motivate proxy organizations to take actions they may not see as in their interest.  While negotiating contracts that align organizational goals with those of the government or providing incentives to organizations that improve their defenses may help, gaps are likely to remain given the limits of governmental authority over non-governmental networks and information[4].

Additionally, defensive efforts are often seen as a nuisance both inside and outside government.  For example, the military culture often prioritizes warfighting equipment over defensive or “office” functions like information technology[5], and counter-intelligence is often seen as a hindrance to intelligence gathering[6].  Other organizations are generally focused on efficiency of day-to-day functions over security[7].  These tendencies create a risk that security efforts will not be taken seriously by line operators, causing defenses to fail.

Gain:  Denying adversaries the opportunity to infiltrate U.S. systems can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive material and deter future attempted incursions.

Option #2:  Hit Back Harder.  Another traditional approach to deterrence is punishment—that is, credibly threatening to impose costs on the adversary if they commit a specific act.  The idea is that adversaries will be deterred if they believe attacks will extract a cost that outweighs any potential benefits.  Under the Obama administration, punishment for cyber attacks focused on the threat of economic sanctions[8] and, in the aftermath of attacks, promises of clandestine actions against adversaries[9].  This policy could be made stronger by a clear statement that the U.S. will take clandestine action not just when its own systems are compromised, but also when its interests are threatened by exploitation of other systems.  Recent work has advocated the use of cyber-tools which are acknowledged only to the victim as a means of punishment in this context[10], however the limited responsiveness of cyber weapons may make this an unattractive option.  Instead, diplomatic, economic, information, and military options in all domains should be considered when developing response options, as has been suggested in recent reports[11]. 

Risk:  Traditionally, there has been skepticism that cyber incursions can be effectively stopped through punishment, as in order to punish, the incursion must be attributed to an adversary.  Attributing cyber incidents is possible based on forensics, but the process often lacks speed and certainty of investigations into traditional attacks.  Adversaries may assume that decision makers will not be willing to retaliate long after the initiating incident and without “firm” proof as justification.  As a result, adversaries might still be willing to attack because they feel the threat of retaliation is not credible.  Response options will also need to deal with how uncertainty may shape U.S. decision maker tolerance for collateral damage and spillover effects beyond primary targets.

Gain:  Counter-attacks can be launched regardless of who owns the system, in contrast to defensive options, which are difficult to implement on systems not controlled by the government.

Option #3:  Status Quo. While rarely discussed, another option is to maintain the status quo and not expand existing programs that seek to protect government networks.

Risk:  By failing to evolve U.S. defenses against cyber-exploitation, adversaries could gain increased advantage as they develop new ways to overcome existing approaches.

Gain:  It is difficult to demonstrate that even the current level of spending on deterring cyber attacks has meaningful impact on adversary behavior.  Limiting the expansion of untested programs would free up resources that could be devoted to examining the effectiveness of current policies, which might generate new insights about what is, and is not, effective.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  John J. Dilulio Jr. [2014], Bring Back the Bureaucrats: Why More Federal Workers Will Lead to Better (and Smaller!) Government, Templeton Press.

[2]  President Barack Obama [2013], Executive Order—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, The White House Office of the Press Secretary.

[3]  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [2017], Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, Draft Version 1.1.

[4]  Glenn S. Gerstell, NSA General Councel, Confronting the Cybersecurity Challenge, Keynote address at the 2017 Law, Ethics and National Security Conference at Duke Law School, February 25, 2017.

[5]  Allan Friedman and P.W. Singer, “Cult of the Cyber Offensive,” Foreign Policy, January 15, 2014.

[6]  James M. Olson, The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence, 2007.

[7]  Don Norman, “When Security Gets in the Way,” Interactions, volume 16, issue 6: Norman, D. A. (2010).

[8]  President Barack Obama [2016], Executive Order—Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.

[9]  Alex Johnson [2016], “US Will ‘Take Action’ on Russian Hacking, Obama Promises,” NBC News.

[10]  Evan Perkoski and Michael Poznansky [2016], “An Eye for an Eye: Deterring Russian Cyber Intrusions,” War on the Rocks.

[11]  Defense Science Board [2017], Task Force of Cyber Deterrence.

Cyberspace Deterrence Elizabeth M. Bartels Non-Government Entities Option Papers

Options for the People’s Republic of China following the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996

Captain Robert N. Hein is a career Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.  He previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) and the USS Nitze (DDG-94).  He can be found on Twitter @the_sailor_dog.  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.  


“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence, supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting, thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans.”  -Sun Tzu  

National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is vying to establish itself as the Asian Hegemon.  What caused this rapid shift in the PRC’s foreign Policy?  Why, after decades of growth, where the PRC was ascribed the long view, has it rapidly accelerated military growth, reorganization, and a diplomatic and economic expansion across the world stage in a scale not seen since Zheng He’s voyages of the 15th century?

Date Originally Written:  February 2, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 3, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is taken from the point of view of the PRC toward the U.S in the two decades following the third Taiwan Straight crisis of 1996.

Background:  In 1995, Taiwan’s president visited the U.S. to attend his graduate school reunion at Cornell.  His visit, coupled with the U.S. sale of F-16s to Taiwan, incensed the PRC at what they viewed as possible changes in the U.S. and Taiwan view of the One China Policy.  The PRC commenced a series of missile tests near Taiwan.  The U.S. responded by sending two aircraft carriers to the vicinity of the Strait of Taiwan[1].  The PRC realized they could do little to respond to U.S. actions and needed a way to ensure they never experienced this humiliation again.

Significance:  The law of unintended consequences often applies to national security.  While U.S. action in 1996 was a clear demonstration of U.S. resolve, the PRC’s response has been to pursue a series of actions to reduce and possibly prevent the ability of the U.S. to influence events in Asia.

Option #1:  After viewing the U.S. way of war against Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, whereby the U.S. consistently pushes its aircraft carriers close to the coast and launches strike fighters and tomahawk land attack missiles against targets ashore, the PRC must find a way to extend its borders out to sea into the ocean.  This can be accomplished by placing relatively cheap long-range anti-ship missile batteries along the shore, increasing the number of ships and submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy and, in a bold stroke, build islands in the South China Sea (SCS), and claim the surrounding waters as historical boundaries of the PRC.

Risk:  There is a real danger that the U.S. will react to the build-up of PRC forces and rebuild its navy to maintain global influence.  Previous U.S. administrations justified naval build ups to counter the Soviet threat however, by keeping activities below the threshold of armed conflict, we believe the U.S. will not be able to convince its public of the need for a large military buildup, especially following the years of conflict the U.S. has recently experience in the Middle East.  While Asian nations could turn to the U.S. out of fear, this can be mitigated through strong economic measures.  Asian nations may also attempt to challenge the PRC in the international courts, but the lack of enforcement measures in the international system removes this a real concern.

Gain:  Option #1 will prevent U.S. access to the waters they need to block the PRC from maneuvering against Taiwan.  Due to the proliferation of short-range fighters, and the lack of anti-surface capability of many U.S. warships, the ability of the U.S. to offer a timely response to a forcible re-unification of Taiwan could be prevented.

Option #2:  When we look back to Sun Tzu, and realize the best course of action is to attack the enemy’s strategy, we must determine what other strategy the enemy could impose.  While Option #1 will be effective in countering the U.S. ability to easily execute its traditional means of bombardment from the sea, another option is available to the U.S.; the long-range containment strategy used against the Soviet Union could possibly be executed with a long-range blockade.  By focusing on key choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab Al-Mandeb from the Red Sea, an adversary could block much-needed commodities such as oil and rare earth elements needed in the PRC defense industry.  Just as the PRC invoked the historical nine-dash line to establish autonomy in the SCS, revitalizing the historical one belt one road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa will easily stop any means of isolating or containing the PRC.  By continuing investment throughout the world, especially in economically disenfranchised areas, the PRC can prevent the types of alliances used by the U.S. during the Cold War to isolate the Soviet Union.

Risk:  If the PRC moves out too quickly, it spreads itself too thin internationally, and risks alienating the very countries with whom it hopes to partner.  The drain on resources over time will become increasingly difficult.  The PRC’s ability to be a free rider on U.S. security will winnow as other countries will expect the same from the PRC.

Gain:  The PRC establishes itself as a both a regional hegemon, and a global power.  The PRC asserts influence over the global economy and geopolitics to rival the U.S. in a multi-polar world.  Option #2 removes the ability of the U.S. to polarize the eastern hemisphere against the PRC.

Other Comments:  Through a rapid economic development program centered on an export economy in a globalizing world, the PRC has embarked on a multitude of options, covering the diplomatic, informational, military and economic spectrum.  It has employed both above options, which have caused the world to react, often favorably to the PRC.  The question for the PRC now is how to maintain the momentum, solidify their role in a changing world order, and not show their hand too quickly lest they implode.  The question for the U.S. is whether it will continue to pursue the U.S. way of war that has been studied so ably by the PRC, or pursue other options as it both cooperates and competes with the PRC on a rapidly evolving world stage.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ross, Robert, International Security, Vol 25, No 2 (Fall 2000) p 87 The 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Confrontation

Bob Hein China (People's Republic of China) Containment Deterrence Option Papers South China Sea Taiwan

Anti-Access / Area Denial Options in the South China Sea

Ryan Kort is a Strategic Plans and Policy Officer (Functional Area 59) in the U.S. Army.  He currently serves as the Chief of the Strategy Branch at U.S. Army Africa / Southern European Task Force in Vicenza Italy.  He is on Twitter @kort_ryan36.  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 (PRC) creation of islands and militarization of reclaimed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  February 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   This article, written from the point of view of a U.S. national security staffer, aims to provide both a collective security and an Anti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) deterrent option to the U.S. National Security Advisor.

Background:   The PRC adopted a policy of island building over shallow shoals in the SCS.  The PRC forcibly evicted and continues to harass commercial and naval vessels from other SCS claimants such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia through use of fisherman ‘militias’ as naval proxies and other means of gray-zone or ‘hybrid’ warfare[1].  The PRC continues the rapid transformation of many of these semi-submerged reefs into islands replete with hard surface runways for strike aircraft and long-range air defense and fires (both tube and missile) capabilities, which pose an A2/AD threat to any actors the PRC may seek to keep out of its claimed ‘9 dash line’ area[2].  

Significance:  Other nations that border the SCS view the PRC’s actions as destabilizing, illegitimate, and threatening to their important national security and economic interests.  Several reclaimed islands are within the Exclusive Economic Zones recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas[3].  The SCS is a critical economic transit route, which approximately 30 percent of all annual maritime trade passes through, including $1.2 Trillion worth of goods destined for U.S. markets[4].  In times of crisis, the People’s Liberation Army, Navy and Airforce could disrupt the free movement of commerce through the area and coerce other nations in the region to recognize PRC dominion over the SCS.

Option #1:  Utilize diplomatic efforts to contain the PRC through the creation of a collective security organization, similar to the now defunct Southeast Asian Treaty Organization also known as SEATO.  This treaty organization would provide a deterrent option aimed at containing PRC adventurism and change PRC strategic calculation on future island building.  

Risk:  The PRC will view this diplomatic effort to isolate their nation as overt containment and respond in a variety of ways with multiple means[5].  At the greatest risk will be those nations the PRC deems vulnerable to coercion that it could peel away from the organization and undermine U.S. legitimacy.  Additionally, this option risks immediate failure if those partners critical to the success of the collective security organization do not join- specifically Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.  This option also may become obsolete if the PRC completes the construction and garrisoning of the islands it needs to assert complete dominance over the SCS before an alliance to balance against it is in place[6].  

Gain:  The U.S. checks the rise of a regional and potential global peer competitor.  The U.S. stands to gain increased security cooperation and economic ties with the nations in the collective security organization.   

Option #2:  Utilizing a multi-domain concept, the U.S. and select allies create an A2AD challenge for the PRC along both the ‘first’ and ‘second’ island chains in order to negate some of the operational and tactical advantages of PRC bases in the region.  The entire coastline of the PRC is vulnerable to area denial.  A strong foundation of U.S. Army maneuver, fires, and sustainment capabilities would enable the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to operate more effectively within the region, while presenting the additional dilemma of embarked U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces capable of striking critical facilities.  An archipelagic defense through deterrence by denial would need expanded access to existing bases in Japan, with new footprints in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia[7].  The U.S. could employ a mixture of permanent or rotational forces in the region to demonstrate U.S. capability and resolve.  Additionally, the U.S. must have sufficient forces in the region capable of blockading PRC transit through the Strait of Malacca if required.

Risk:  The key risk associated with this option is vertical and horizontal escalation.  A minor incident could intensify quickly and impact other theaters in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility, such as Korea.  Another risk is loss of or initial refusal to allow access to bases in the nations mentioned earlier, which would unhinge this option.  Additionally, resourcing this A2/AD effort with sufficient forces would commit limited U.S. resources, such as air defense and long-range joint fires, to this single problem set.

Gain:  The U.S. deters conflict through placing PRC assets at risk in both the SCS and across the majority of the Chinese seaboard.  Additionally, this option presents the PRC with a dilemma if it should attempt to utilize hybrid or militia forces due to the increased presence of U.S. and allied forces capable of deterring such ‘hybrid’ aggression at the tactical and operational level.     

Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes:

[1]  De Luce, Dan and McLeary, Paul, In South China Sea, a Tougher U.S. Stance, Foreign Policy, 02 October, 2015, accessed 09 February, 2017  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/10/02/in-south-china-sea-a-tougher-u-s-stance/

[2]   Kennedy, Connor and Erickson, Andrew, (21 April 2016). Model Maritime Militia- Tanmen’s leading role in the Scarborough Shoal Incident,  Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), accessed 06 January, 2017, http://www.andrewerickson.com/2016/04/model-maritime-militia-tanmens-leading-role-in-the-april-2012-scarborough-shoal-incident/

[3]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  page 7

[4]  Corr, Anders, How the US can help the Philippines Counter China’s occupation of Mischief Reef, Forbes Magazine Online, 28 January 2017, accessed 09 February 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/anderscorr/2017/01/28/is-war-against-china-justified/#5066ccc774fb

[5]  Lieberthal, Kenneth and Jisi, Wang, Addressing U.S- China Strategic Distrust, March 2012, Brookings Institute.  Washington’s security ties with other nations in the region and other actions viewed by China as efforts to constrain China.

[6]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  Page i

[7]  Krepinevich, Andrew, Foreign Affairs, Volume 94, Number 2,  How to Deter China- The Case for Archipelagic Defense, pp 78-86, March/April 2015  

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners China (People's Republic of China) Deterrence Option Papers Ryan Kort South China Sea United States

Options to Deter Russia Through U.S.-NATO Military Exercises

Barefoot Boomer is a U.S. Army officer and has served in both the Infantry and Armor.  He is currently a Strategic Planner serving in Texas.  Boomer has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with an emphasis in military history from the University of Missouri at Saint Louis and a Master of Science degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  He can be found on Twitter at @BarefootBoomer.  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:  Deterring Russia through military exercises between the U.S. and Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 23, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Barefoot Boomer is a Strategic Planner with the U.S. Army and has previously served in the Operation Inherent Resolve Coalition headquarters which leads the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  His current focus is mainly on Northern European and NATO security interests.

Background:  For decades during the Cold War the U.S. and its NATO allies conducted REFORGER (REturn of FORces to GERmany) exercises in order to deter aggression and ensure U.S. military forces could respond quickly to a Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe.  REFORGER was also designed to be the operational defensive plan executed if a Soviet and Warsaw Pact attack occurred.  Annually, large numbers of U.S. military forces would rapidly deploy from bases in the U.S. to Europe and conduct exercises with NATO partner nations at training sites across Germany.  The last REFORGER exercise was formally conducted in 1993.

Significance:  As tensions have risen the last few years between Russia and the West, NATO has begun to increase its defense posture as well as member’s defense spending.  Russian incursions into Crimea, their invasion of Ukraine, and operations in Syria have also strained Russia-NATO relations.  In response, since 2014 the U.S. and her NATO allies have conducted Operation Atlantic Resolve[1], small-scale exercises and military-to-military training with northern and Baltic NATO nations.  Examples include the U.S. 2nd Cavalry Regiment executing Operation Dragoon Ride[2], a show of support to NATO allies by conducting a road march through six nations while training with host nation partner forces, and the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade sending units to train with their counterparts in the Baltic region.  Other NATO countries have sent forces east to conduct joint air patrols and exercises with partner nations.  These exercises and alliance contacts are designed to not only deter Russian threats to these partner nations but also to increase the capability, interoperability and responsiveness of the force.

Option #1:  Continue Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Risk:  The risk to continuing Operation Atlantic Resolve is minimal to NATO as well as to the U.S. overall yet could be higher to those NATO countries closest to the border with Russia.  The small-scale deployments of U.S. forces to the Baltic region with NATO partners such as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as with larger ally Poland, have been conducted by forces regionally aligned to Europe.  These deployments are focused mainly at the company-level or lower and concentrated on building partner capacity, military-to-mililitary cooperation, and integration into NATO command structures.  These small deployments and exercises may not be substantial enough to enable NATO to deter Russia.

Gain:  Any exercises conducted to strengthen NATO resolve and foster a more secure environment is a gain.  Operation Atlantic Resolve has shown this to be valid as it has grown larger over the past couple years to include more NATO partners eager to participate.  The positive response from the local population in each nation has also born this out.  If Atlantic Resolve continues at its current size and pace any further gain may be minimal at best.

Option #2:  Expand Operation Atlantic Resolve into a reconstituted large-scale REFORGER exercise.

Risk:  The risk from NATO executing larger, more rigorous exercises is that this may further increase tensions between Russia and NATO.  Even though NATO conducted large exercises in the past, and Russia has been conducting some themselves, increasing NATO’s footprint along Russia’s border may be seen as provocative and escalatory.

Gain:  There is much to gain from conducting wider-scale exercises like REFORGER that may outweigh any increased risk.  This gain includes everything from shrinking deployment timelines as our forces get better at rapidly deploying, sharpening the U.S. logistics capability, and increasing the cohesion of partner forces at higher command echelons.  In essence, conducting exercises as large as REFORGER can do certain things that smaller exercises cannot.  For example, decades of executing REFORGER were instrumental in the deployment of forces to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm.  Moving thousands of pieces of equipment, men, and materiel and the logistics to support them is a large part of any exercise and must be trained along with combined arms maneuver[3].  The deployment of an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Poland is a start but incorporating higher echelons of command, such as Divisions and Corps,  should be a priority to ensure the interoperability and close coordination with NATO partner forces.

Other Comments:  Deterrence only works when there is sufficient force behind it to threaten escalation and reaction, if required.  Smaller exercises are good for conducting exchanges with partner forces but executing larger scale exercises and deployments ensures that, if deterrence fails, NATO forces have the ability to react with enough size, strength, and most of all interoperability, to defend NATO Member States.  Larger exercises will also allow the inclusion of all members of the Joint Force, to include the Reserves and National Guard.  It has been over two decades since NATO has conducted a REFORGER, and while NATO has experience working together from years of operations in Afghanistan, they have lost the “muscle memory” of executing large, coalition operations and must regain it in order to deter Russia.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Atlantic Resolve | U.S. Army in Europe. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.eur.army.mil/atlanticresolve/

[2]  Vandiver, J. (2015, March 12). Dragoon Ride will send US troops through eastern Europe in show of support. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from http://www.stripes.com/news/dragoon-ride-will-send-us-troops-through-eastern-europe-in-show-of-support-1.334021

[3]  Scales, Robert H., Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War, Brassey’s Inc., 1994, pg. 46.

Barefoot Boomer Deterrence North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia