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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 20, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[16] Ibid

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 6, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  August 23, 2021.

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

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

Text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Options to Counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Cadet Third Class Sierra Hillard is a History and Biology major at the United States Air Force Academy. The views expressed are the author’s and do not represent the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Department of the Air Force, or the Department of Defense. PA#: USAFA-DF-2021-146 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’s Belt and Road Initiative solidifies, the United States faces a rising threat from their near-peer adversary with several possible response options outlined below.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 24, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cadet (active duty military member) at the United States Air Force Academy and believes the United States must take a stance toward China’s actions with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Background:  The U.S. National Security Strategy outlines China as a challenge to American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity, and thus a near-peer adversary requiring the attention of the United States[1]. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) created by President Xi Jinping in 2013 poses one such threat. The BRI represents China’s growing ambitions to create connections and influence across the world[2]. Currently, the BRI includes 71 countries representing almost two-thirds of the world’s population and a third of the world’s Gross Domestic Product[3]. The BRI refers to the countries China has given financial aid to in exchange for influence and control of that country.

Significance:  BRI is a risk to U.S. power and could lead to the U.S. losing its influence on the world stage. China primarily interacts in a form of indirect warfare. The BRI creates connections and alliances that China can use to gain political and economic control of many nations around the world.

Option #1:  The U.S. develops its own version of the BRI.

The United States could develop a similar plan to build alliances and connections to counteract those created by China’s BRI. Currently, Europe is considering following a similar option. The economic security of Europe relies on maintaining an orderly and open line of trade in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean[4]. The United States relies on the same. Europe has developed the European Union (EU)-Japan Connectivity Partnership. In order to solidify and protect their political and economic interests, the EU created the partnership with European and Asian nations. The partnership gives nations an alternative to the BRI and provides structure and confidence in trading with the EU[4]. The goal would be to create a similar program geared towards insuring the protection of U.S. interests.

Risk:  The United States reputation could be negatively impacted. The BRI and a similar program created by the U.S. would directly create more infrastructure and could receive push back as being environmentally irresponsible[2]. Additionally, the option could lead to a more visible international power struggle between the U.S. and China over other nations. The program would also be incredibly expensive and the U.S. would be starting 15 years behind China. With more focus on this indirect approach, the U.S. could lose capacity and capability in more direct approaches such as conventional styles of warfare. China’s reaction to this option the largest unknown and most vital factor to the outcome. “At any point in the future, the resulting equilibrium will reside somewhere along a spectrum that extends from pure cooperation at one end to unrestrained competition at the other[4].”

Gain:  The option would cultivate relations with partners and allies and require the U.S. to update their current financial institutions[5]. It would also encourage the U.S. to take a proactive approach to infrastructure while maintaining a check on China’s spread of influence without directly attacking the BRI. Additionally, the option increases the possibility of trade.

Option #2:  The United States takes actions to decrease China’s BRI’s effectiveness.

This option includes actively preventing China from controlling the South China Sea, the U.S. rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership[6], and engaging in active “burden-shifting”[7]. Burden-shifting is allowing China to take the brunt of the expenses in areas where U.S. and Chinese interests significantly overlap[7]. Actions taken could be area specific, for example, focusing on local news outlets in African countries at the center of China’s BRI[8]. The key would be actively engaging with China to clearly express U.S intolerance over the BRI and to actively attempt to disrupt the BRI’s effectiveness. This option would be the closest to direct engagement with China.

Risk:  The option poses the risk of China taking active steps against the U.S., shifting from economic instruments of power to military instruments of power. Additionally, the U.S. could be viewed as the aggressor, causing an escalation of completion between the two nations. This option would also demand significant resources and be draining for the U.S.

Gain:  The approach is more proactive and gives the U.S. an opportunity to demonstrate their global power and influence. The option would also minimize China’s spread of influence and demonstrate the capabilities of the U.S. on the international level. Additionally, it would utilize economic instruments of power.

Option #3:  The United States could continue its current position and remain a “neutral party, while maintaining military dominance[5].”

The U.S. would maintain its current trajectory and focus on initiatives close to home. The option would focus on developing infrastructure within the U.S. and not overreach into other nations. The BRI is extremely expensive for China and the U.S. could wait for China to deplete their own resources. China has to take into account transport, trade, infrastructure, and energy use, all of which are extremely expensive on the international level[9]. The U.S. would allow China to test the sustainability of a program like BRI[10]. This option would be following a path of restraint.

Risk:  The U.S. risks a loss of global influence, particularly in Asia. It could have a negative impact on international trade and the U.S. economy. The option could lead to a power vacuum as the area normally filled by the U.S. slowly becomes open for other nations to utilize. China is known for taking advantage of such power vacuums and the result could be disastrous for the U.S.[11]. Overall, the U.S. would be in a weaker position internationally.

Gain:  The U.S. would become stronger domestically. Additionally, it would be a low cost option and simple to maintain. The option would conserve American labor for use towards domestic development projects and potentially save American lives if a war were avoided.

Other Comments:  None.

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. Page 2

[2] Hong, C.-S., & Johnson, O. (2018). Mapping potential climate and development impacts of China’s Belt and Road Initiative:: a participatory approach. Stockholm Environment Institute.

[3] Belt and Road Initiative. (2020). Belt and Road Initiative, 1. https://www.beltroad-initiative.com/belt-and-road

[4] Geeraerts, G. (2019). Europe and China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Growing Concerns, More Strategy. Egmont Institute.

[5] Kliman, D., & Grace, A. (2018). Power Play: Addressing China’s Belt and Road Strategy. Center for the New American Security.

[6] Micciche, J. (2020, September 20). U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China. Divergent Options. https://divergentoptions.org/2020/09/21/u-s-below-war-threshold-options-against-china

[7] Ratner, E., & Greenberg, M. (2018). Geostrategic and Military Drivers and Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative. Council on Foreign Relations.

[8] Long, D. (2020, November 1). U.S. Options for Countering the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. Divergent Options. https://divergentoptions.org/2020/11/04/u-s-options-for-countering-the-belt-and-road-initiative-in-africa

[9] China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative: An ESCAP Report. (2017). Population and Development Review, 43(3), 583–587. https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12089

[10] Pratiwi, F. (2020). China Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) in Indonesia’s Socio-Economic Security Challenges: A Policy Recommendation. Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

[11] Yagci, M. (2018). Rethinking Soft Power in Light of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Uluslararası İlişkiler Konseyi İktisadi İşletmesi: International Relations, 15(57).

China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors Governing Documents and Ideas Sierra Hillard Treaties and Agreements United States

Options to Ensure the Best Indo-Pacific Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense

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


National Security Situation:  Since the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef) has focused on the Middle East at the expense of the other, greater threats. While U.S. interest in the Indo-Pacific has increased since 2009[1], there has not been a SecDef with deep professional experience in this region.  While some may look at the SecDef, as the principal member in the DoD responsible for executing defense strategy to fulfill U.S. policy goals strictly as a generalist, without a sizable length of professional experience in the Indo-Pacific region, or the right mix of Indo-Pacific experts available for consultation, risk of military failure increases.   

Date Originally Written:  March 25, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 12, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that while the DoD’s increasing focus on the Indo-Pacific is the correct strategy, that bureaucratic inertia can cause too many people or not the right people to be in the room when policy decisions are made.  This inertia can contribute to failure and guarding against it is a must[2].

Background:  In an effort to realign the unbalanced focus and strategy the U.S. military executed in the Middle East from 2000-2008, President Barack Obama broke from tradition to restore engagement in and focus on Indo-Pacific regional issues that impact U.S. security, and the security of U.S. allies and partners. President Obama and SecDef Leon Panetta renewed America’s security investments in the Indo-Pacific through increased deployments and enhancing allied and partner collective and individual security capability[3]. The driving force causing President Obama’s redirection was U.S.-Sino relations. After President Obama reaffirmed U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific, he ordered SecDef Panetta to increase planning and troop deployments as one way to compete with China’s military modernization and assertive claims to disputed maritime territory[4]. While President Obama’s direction changed the region, SecDef Panetta had little to no experience there[5].  Indo-Pacific problems require thinking in an Indo-Pacific context. U.S. security goals in the region are contingent more on the professional experience of the SecDef, or the access he has to an experienced workforce to help him execute policy goals, not the advancement of the tools the military wields. 

Significance:  The U.S.-China security relationship is arduous in many facets.  Recommendations and options to assuage the relationship bend toward making changes in DoD force structure, but few focus on expertise within the DoD. 

Option #1:  The President nominates people with deeper professional experience in the Indo-Pacific to the position of Secretary of Defense.

Risk:  A mandate that requires professional experience in the Indo-Pacific will greatly limit who can be nominated to be SecDef.  Additionally, a SecDef with highlighted experience in the Indo-Pacific may fall into a similar strategic trap as past SecDefs who served during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM; in a sense that, instead of ignoring China to focus on current operations, they will ignore other parts of the world to focus on China.

Gain:  This option will ensure the SecDef has the experience necessary to ensure the development and execution of DoD policies and strategies to support the President’s policy goals in the Indo-Pacific.  A SecDef equipped with Indo-Pacific experience atop the Pentagon will make fewer strategy errors and more wisely employ the military instrument of power in the Indo-Pacific. 

Option #2:  The SecDef establishes an Indo-Pacific Advisory Board, separate from any current advisory boards in existence, to provide him expert advice on the region that will be used to complement the advice he receives in current DoD channels.

Risk:  This option risks alienating the Indo Pacific-focused DoD workforce across both the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and Defense Intelligence Components.  The employees of these organizations, once they learn that non-DoD personnel are advising the SecDef on the Indo-Pacific, may feel ignored or neglected and their work may suffer.

Gain:  Under this option, the SecDef now has an additional channel to receive specialist advice from Indo-Pacific experts.  This non-DoD channel would enable him to look at Indo-Pacific issues through a different lens.  This different lens would be a valuable complement to the information and advice provided by the DoD workforce and ensure that the SecDef is not looking at courses of action that may only serve the DoD, but contribute to U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific more broadly. 

Other comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Obama, B. November 14th 2009. Remarks by President Barack Obama at Suntory Hall. Retrieved from:  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-barack-obama-suntory-hall

[2] Komer, R. January 1st 1972. Bureaucracy Does Its thing: Institutional constraints on U.S.-GVN performance in Vietnam. Retrieved from:  https://www.rand.org/pubs/reports/R967.html 

[3] Lieberthal, Kenneth. December 21st 2011. Brookings Institute. The American Pivot to Asia. Retrieved from:  https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-american-pivot-to-asia/ 

[4] Manyin, Mark, et al. March 28th 2012. Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s “Rebalancing” Toward Asia. Retrieved from:  https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42448.pdf 

[5] Department of Defense Historical office. January 22nd 2021. Secretaries of Defense. Retrieved from:  https://history.defense.gov/DOD-History/Secretaries-of-Defense/ 

Chandler Myers China (People's Republic of China) Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Option Papers Policy and Strategy United States

Assessing the Application of a Cold War Strategic Framework to Establish Norms in the Cyber Threat Environment

Jason Atwell is an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and a Senior Manager with FireEye, Inc. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Application of a Cold War Strategic Framework to Establish Norms in the Cyber Threat Environment

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 29, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States and its Western allies as they seek to impose order on the increasingly fluid and frequently volatile cyber threat environment.

Summary:  The continued growth and maturity of cyber operations as a means of state sponsored espionage and, more recently, as a potential weapon of war, has generated a need for an “accepted” strategic framework governing its usage. To date, this framework remains unestablished. Cold War strategic frameworks could help govern the future conduct of cyber operations between nation states and bring some semblance of order to this chaotic battlespace.

Text:  The cyber threat environment continues to evolve and expand. Threat vectors like ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid, are now daily subjects for discussion among leaders in the public and private sectors alike. It is against this backdrop that high-level initiatives like the Cyberspace Solarium Commission have sought to formulate comprehensive, whole-of-government strategies for dealing with cyber threats and developing capabilities. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards in Technology issues a steady stream of best practices for cyber risk management and hygiene. Yet, no comprehensive framework to govern cyber operations at the macro, nation-to-nation level, has emerged and been able to achieve buy-in from all the affected parties. In fact, there are not even useful norms limiting the risk in many of these cyber interactions[1]. Industry leaders as well have lamented the lack of a coherent doctrine that governs relations in cyberspace and discourages the violating of doctrinal norms[2]. In some ways the Cold War norms governing armed conflict, espionage, and economic competition can be used to provide much needed stability to cyber and cyber-enabled operations. In other ways, the framing of current problems in Cold War vocabulary and rhetoric has proved unworkable at best and counterproductive at worst. 

Applying the accepted framework of great power interactions that was established during the Cold War presents both opportunities and challenges when it comes to the cyber threat environment. The rules which governed espionage especially, however informal in nature, helped to ensure both sides knew the red lines for conduct and could expect a standard response to common activities. On the individual level, frameworks like the informal “Moscow Rules” governed conduct and helped avoid physical confrontations[3]. When those rules were violated, and espionage came into the open, clear consequences were proscribed via precedent. These consequences made the use of persona-non-grata expulsions, facility closures, the use of neutral territories, exchanges and arrests were predictable and useful controls on behavior and means to avoid escalation. The application of these consequences to cyber, such as the closure of Russian facilities and expulsion of their diplomats has been used[4], however to little or no apparent effect as administrations have changed their approach over time. This uneven application of norms as cyber capabilities have advanced may in fact be leading the Russians in particular to abandon the old rules altogether[5]. In other areas, Cold War methods have been specifically avoided, such as the manner in which Chinese cyber operators have been indicted for the theft of intellectual property. Lowering this confrontation from high-level diplomatic brinkmanship to the criminal courts both prevents a serious confrontation while effectively rendering any consequences moot due to issues with extradition and prosecution. The dynamics between the U.S. and China have attracted a lot of discussion framed in Cold War terminology[6]. Indeed, the competition with China has many of the same hallmarks as the previous U.S.-Soviet Union dynamic[7]. What is missing is a knowledge of where the limits to each side’s patience lie when it comes to cyber activity. 

Another important component of Cold War planning and strategy was an emphasis on continuity of operations and government authority and survivability in a crisis. This continuity was pursued as part of a deterrence model where both sides sought to either convince the other that they would endure a confrontation and / or decisively destroy their opposition. Current cyber planning tends to place an emphasis on the ability to achieve overmatch without placing a similar emphasis on resilience on the friendly side. Additionally, deterrence through denial of access or geophysical control cannot ever work in cyberspace due to its inherently accessible and evolving nature[8]. Adopting a mindset and strategic framework based on ensuring the ability of command and control networks to survive and retaliate in this environment will help to impose stability in the face of potentially devastating attacks involving critical infrastructure[9]. It is difficult to have mutually assured destruction in cyberspace at this phase, because “destruction” is still nebulous and potentially impossible in cyberspace, meaning that any eventual conflict that begins in that domain may still have to turn kinetic before Cold War models begin to function.

As cyber capabilities have expanded and matured over time, there has been an apparent failure to achieve consensus on what the red lines of cyber confrontation are. Some actors appear to abide by general rules, while others make it a point of exploring new ways to raise or lower the bar on acceptable actions in cyberspace. Meanwhile, criminals and non-aligned groups are just as aggressive with their operations as many terrorist groups were during the height of the Cold War, and they are similarly frequently used or discarded by nation states depending on the situation and the need. However, nation states on the two sides were useful bulwarks against overzealous actions, as they could exert influence over the actions of groups operating from their territory or abusing their patronage. Espionage in cyberspace will not stop, nor can a framework anticipate every possible scenario that my unfold. Despite these imperfections, in the future an issue like the SolarWinds breach could lead to a series of escalatory actions a la the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the cyber threat environment could be governed by a Strategic Arms Limitation Talk-like treaty which bans cyber intrusions into global supply chains[10]. Applying aspects of the Cold War strategic framework can begin to bring order to the chaos of the cyber threat environment, while also helping highlight areas where this framework falls short and new ways of thinking are needed.


Endnotes:

[1] Bremmer, I., & Kupchan, C. (2021, January 4). Risk 6: Cyber Tipping Point. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.eurasiagroup.net/live-post/top-risks-2021-risk-6-cyber-tipping-point 

[2] Brennan, M., & Mandia, K. (2020, December 20). Transcript: Kevin MANDIA on “Face the Nation,” December 20, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-kevin-mandia-on-face-the-nation-december-20-2020/ 

[3] Sanger, D. (2016, December 29). Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/29/us/politics/russia-election-hacking-sanctions.html 

[4] Zegart, A. (2021, January 04). Everybody Spies in Cyberspace. The US Must Plan Accordingly. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2021/01/everybody-spies-cyberspace-us-must-plan-accordingly/171112/

[5] Devine, J., & Masters, J. (2018, March 15). Has Russia Abandoned the Rules of Spy-Craft? Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/interview/are-cold-war-spy-craft-norms-fading 

[6] Buchanan, B., & Cunningham, F. (2020, December 18). Preparing the Cyber Battlefield: Assessing a Novel Escalation risk in A Sino-American Crisis. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://tnsr.org/2020/10/preparing-the-cyber-battlefield-assessing-a-novel-escalation-risk-in-a-sino-american-crisis/ 

[7] Sayers, E. (2021, February 9). Thoughts on the Unfolding U.S.-Chinese Competition: Washington’s Policy Towards Beijing Enters its Next Phase. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/02/thoughts-on-the-unfolding-u-s-chinese-competition-washingtons-policy-towards-beijing-enters-its-next-phase/ 

[8] Borghard, E., Jensen, B., & Montgomery, M. (2021, February 05). Elevating ‘Deterrence By Denial’ in U.S. Defense Strategy. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2021/02/05/elevating_deterrence_by_denial_in_us_defense_strategy_659300.html 

[9] Borghard, E. (2021, January 04). A Grand Strategy Based on Resilience. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://warontherocks.com/2021/01/a-grand-strategy-based-on-resilience/ 

[10] Lubin, A. (2020, December 23). SolarWinds as a Constitutive Moment: A New Agenda for International Law of Intelligence. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.justsecurity.org/73989/solarwinds-as-a-constitutive-moment-a-new-agenda-for-the-international-law-of-intelligence/

Arms Control Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cold War Cyberspace Governing Documents and Ideas Jason Atwell Soviet Union Treaties and Agreements United States

Assessing the Fungibility of U.S.-Soviet Competitive Strategies

James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently the G5 at the Security Forces Assistance Command and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Fungibility of U.S.-Soviet Competitive Strategies 

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 22, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that replicating Soviet Cold War strategy will not guarantee the United States success vis-à-vis China in 2021.  Rather than simply replicating Cold War strategy, the United States’ time would be better spent developing a deeper understanding of itself, its rival, and the operating environment. 

Summary:  Nations build successful competitive strategies around a comprehensive understanding of themselves, their rivals, and the environment in which they compete. As the United States and China enter a geopolitical rivalry there is merit in studying the strategy the United States implemented against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Albeit earlier success, the geopolitical environment of 2021 limits core tenets of U.S. Soviet strategy, requiring a more precise knowledge of the modern milieu to succeed.

Text:  Over the past decade U.S. foreign policy has increasingly focused on a rising geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 2011, the Obama administration implemented a “pivot to the pacific[1],” establishing a cooperative policy to counter rising Chinese influence throughout the region. The Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy, which mentions China 36 times, directly outlined both the global and regional challenges China represents to “American security and prosperity[2].” In his first foreign policy speech President Biden declared his administration will, “take on directly the challenges posed to our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China[3].”  

Sino-focused policy and rhetoric from three consecutive U.S. Presidential administrations has led policymakers, academics, and even the media to declare the United States and China are entering, or already in, a new Cold War. Codifying the relationship between the two powers as Cold War 2.0 creates a dangerous perception that implementing the same strategies used throughout the U.S.-Soviet Cold War will lead to a successful outcome for the United States over China.  While there is much utility in studying the competitive strategy utilized by the United States that contained Soviet expansion and facilitated the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) one cannot simply re-operationalize previous USSR-focused tenets against China and expect similar results.  J.C. Wylie warns of crafting strategy based solely on past success, “such a theory does not necessarily account for what could have happened but did not, and the theory cannot be applied to future events with consistent rigor[4].”  

The lack of fungibility of Soviet-era U.S. Policy to modern Sino-U.S. competition is predicated on the vast differences in the strategic operating environment between the two time periods. Due to the information age, hyper globalization, geographical differences, and the decreasing utility of military force many of the domain-specific advantages that the United States enjoyed in its 40-year struggle with the Soviet Union no longer exist or are in fact now beneficial to the PRC. This lack of domain-specific advantages nullifies portions of the successful U.S. competitive strategy utilized against the USSR which according to Gordon S. Barrass “was based on exploiting America’s sustainable comparative advantage[5].” 

To craft a comprehensive competitive strategy against China U.S. policy makers must understand the USSR and the PRC are different agents, as is the modern United States compared to the United States during the Cold War. Most importantly though, any successful strategy must first define and then operationalize the constraints, challenges, and opportunities that the strategic operating environment presents. 

The Cold War began in the aftermath of the Second World War in which most of Europe and large parts of Asia had suffered immense damage to infrastructure and staggering loss of life. Out of this geopolitical situation emerged a bipolar balance of power between the two nations best positioned at the end of the war: the USSR and the United States. Inversely, the rise of the Sino-U.S. rivalry has occurred in one of the most stable and peaceful time periods in modern history in terms of the number of interstate conflicts. Japan and Germany highlight how dissimilar the starting points between these two rivalries are as those two nations barely had functioning economies in 1947 and now represent the 3rd and 4th largest in terms of Gross Domestic Product[6].  In fact, scholars debate the very balance of power of the modern paradigm with scholastic descriptions ranging from unipolarity[7] to nonpolarity[8],a drastic difference from the bipolarity of 1947-1991. 

The development and expansion of the liberal rules base international order following World War 2 created an underlying hegemonic structure the Soviets were not part of. Instead, the USSR championed an ideological alternative system. Due to hyper globalization and its inclusion in multiple organizations and instruments of the liberal world order, China has become an integral and interdependent part of the global economic and diplomatic network. A revisionist actor who benefits from the same system as its primary competitor will attempt “rules-based revision[9]” by changing the system internally for its benefits, something the USSR could not attempt in the Cold War due to its isolation from and competition against the American led system. For example, in 2019 China accounted for the largest amount of U.S. imports and was the third largest destination for U.S. exports[10], a level of economic interdependence that was unheard of between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and a limiting factor to the types of strategies the U.S. can use against China, particularly in an environment in which military force is not as fungible as it once was[11].

Another marked difference is the ideological exportation of the USSR and the PRC. Throughout the Cold War the USSR and its allies attempted to export communism and while China is a “communist” nation it has not taken up the charge of fomenting a global socialist revolution since the USSR’s fall and in fact been a major part of global capitalism.  Rather, China exports a form of autocratic ideology through loans, projects, and technology enabling authoritarian regimes and leaders to stay in power and establishing corrupt and beneficial relationships for China across the globe especially in developing nations.

The final variance between the two periods is the diffusion of national barriers in the information age. Propaganda and information operations were significant facets of U.S. and Soviet strategies, but their effects were mitigated and diffused by national barriers.  In 2021 states bypass borders directly targeting select populations of rival states. This capability is not uniform and creates a glaring asymmetry between democracies and autocracies as the latter uses the former’s inherent liberties to “cut, razor-like, into the fabric of a society, stoking and amplifying existing divisions[12].” 

The successful competitive strategy the United States operationalized against the USSR in the latter half of the Cold War was predicated on detailed understanding of not just the adversary but more importantly the strategic environment. As the United States reenters a period that some are labeling a new Cold War, it will not succeed as it did against the USSR without redeveloping a comprehensive understanding of itself, its adversary, and the paradigm before it applies any previously successful framework.


Endnotes:

[1] Manyin, M. E., Daggett, S., Dolven, B., Lawrence, S. V., Martin, M. F., O’Rourke, R., & Vaughn, B. (2012, March). Pivot to the Pacific? The Obama Administration’s” Rebalancing” Toward Asia. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE.

[2] Trump, D. J. (2017). National security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States.

[3] Biden, Joseph, (2021, February 4). Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World (transcript). The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/

[4] Wylie Jr, J. C. (2014). Military strategy: a general theory of power control. Naval Institute Press. Pg. 58

[5] Barrass, Gordon. (2012) U.S. Competitive Strategy During the Cold War. Mahnken, T. G. (Ed.). (2012). Competitive strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, history, and practice. Stanford University Press. 86-87

[6] World Bank, World Development Indicators, (2019), GDP (current US$){Data file}. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?most_recent_value_desc=true&year_high_desc=true

[7] Sears, Nathan A. (2016). China, Russia, and the Long ‘Unipolar Moment.’ The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2016/04/china-russia-and-the-unipolar-moment/

[8] Haass, R. N. (2008). The age of nonpolarity: what will follow US dominance. Foreign affairs, 44-56.

[9] Goddard, S. E. (2018). Embedded revisionism: Networks, institutions, and challenges to world order. International Organization, 72(4), 763-797.

[10] Office of the United States Trade Representatives. (2019). The People’s Republic of China. Country and Regions. https://ustr.gov/countries-regions/china-mongolia-taiwan/peoples-republic-china#:~:text=China%20is%20currently%20the%20United,was%20%24345.2%20billion%20in%202019.

[11] Baldwin, D. A. (1999). Force, fungibility, and influence.

[12] Walker, C., & Ludwig, J. (2017). From ‘soft power’to ‘sharp power’: Rising authoritarian influence in the democratic world. Sharp power: Rising authoritarian influence, 8-25

 

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Competition Economic Factors Governing Documents and Ideas James P. Micciche Soviet Union United States

Options to Apply Cold War-Like Security Institutions to the Indo-Pacific

Michael Gardiner is a graduate student in International Relations at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He can be found on Twitter @Mikey_Gardiner_. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China continues to extend its influence in the Indo-Pacific region, this influence could be addressed by the development of security institutions.

Date Originally Written:  February 2, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 15, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of New Zealand’s security calculus and whether it should join the “QUAD Plus” if given the opportunity. The author believes a shift in New Zealand’s view of the Indo-Pacific can take advantage of regional changes in a “New Cold War.” 

Background:  The emergence of a New Cold War between the United States and China has catalysed significant changes to the Indo-Pacific’s security outlook. While not completely analogous to the original Cold War, there are discernible similarities between the past and the present. New security institutions have been created by both sides for the purposes of strategic competition. China has established alternative geo-economic institutions in the region such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is interested in establishing alternative regional security institutions similar to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation[1]. A reinvigorated Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which features the United States, Australia, India, and Japan, has been touted as a forthcoming “Asian North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)” by U.S. officials, and appears to be purpose-built to contain China’s regional ambitions[2]. 

China is naturally displeased with the QUAD’s revival, criticising the institution as representing a “Cold War mentality” and labelling it a “big underlying security risk[3].”  While its institutional arrangements are still relatively shallow, high-level meetings between QUAD officials has become more frequent since 2017. The QUAD harbours greater ambitions as a nascent NATO-esque institution in the Indo-Pacific. Expansion of QUAD membership in the long-term is possible, with the QUAD Plus incorporating New Zealand, South Korea, and Vietnam during a meeting in early 2020 at the vice-ministerial level[4]. 

Significance:  The formation of a QUAD Plus is underestimated in terms of its significance to the region’s geopolitics.  While the QUAD currently lacks the institutional requirements to fulfil its role as an Asian NATO, the idea of formalising QUAD into a collective security arrangement is gaining momentum. Other states will need to decide on how they will secure themselves in a new era of “Great Power Competition,” especially if they are pressured into choosing between the United States and China. The QUAD Plus membership requirements will be scrutinised by small states such as New Zealand, who rely heavily on trade with China for economic prosperity but lean on traditional partners for security. If the QUAD Plus becomes a viable security institution modelled off NATO in the future, New Zealand will need to assess its strategic options and interrogate the price of admission.  

Option #1:  New Zealand continues with the status quo – a hedging strategy which balances its economic relationship with China and security relationship with the United States. Under this option, New Zealand does not join the QUAD Plus. 

Risk:  New Zealand’s credibility among its traditional security partners takes another hit. New Zealand has already been singled out for being the “soft underbelly” of Five Eye[5]. After New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor suggested Australia should show more respect to China in January 2021, an Australian newspaper referred to the country as “New Xi-Land[6].” Not joining the QUAD Plus could negatively impact New Zealand’s reputation and endanger its traditional security partnerships.

Gain:  A more flexible strategy allows New Zealand to better navigate uncertainty. New Zealand affords itself time and greater manoeuvrability if the United States retrenches to focus on domestic issues. New Zealand can continue to reap the benefits of its free trade deal with China. This option can build on the Washington Declaration by improving New Zealand’s bilateral security relationship with the United States. New Zealand also remains a member of Five Eyes, thus securing the best of both worlds.  

Option #2:  New Zealand officially recognises China as a threat to the rules-based international order by joining the QUAD Plus. 

Risk:  Risks in this option include the high likelihood of jeopardising New Zealand’s economic relationship with China. New Zealand will have paid close attention to Beijing’s coercive diplomacy towards Australia, after China imposed punitive trade sanctions on Australian goods, restricted imports, and accused Australia of dumping wine[7]. As New Zealand recovers from the economic costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, angering China by joining the QUAD Plus could hinder New Zealand’s economic recovery, should Beijing set an example of New Zealand through measures comparable to those used in the Australian case. Depending on its level of institutionalisation, the QUAD Plus could significantly restrict New Zealand’s strategic options and tie the country down to unattractive commitments.

Gain:  New Zealand improves upon its moral standing as a defender of the rules-based international order. New Zealand’s reputation abroad as a fair-minded, peaceful nation improves the legitimacy and viability of the QUAD Plus as a bona-fide alliance network, attracting other countries in the region to join the institution. Membership within the QUAD Plus offers greater opportunities to diversify supply chains and develop stronger relationships with players like India. This option signals a renewed commitment to traditional security partners, avoiding the risks of Option #1. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Parameswaran, Prashanth. October 19th 2016. The Diplomat. Can China Reshape Asia’s Security Architecture? Retrieved from: https://thediplomat.com/2016/10/can-china-shape-asias-security-architecture/

[2] Biegun, Stephen. August 31st 2020. U.S. Department of State. Deputy Secretary Biegun Remarks at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Retrieved from: https://2017-2021.state.gov/deputy-secretary-biegun-remarks-at-the-u-s-india-strategic-partnership-forum/index.html

[3] Jaipragas, Bhavan & Tashny Sukumaran. 13th October 2020. South China Morning Post. ‘Indo-Pacific Nato’: China’s Wang Yi slams US-led ‘Quad’ as underlying security risk at Malaysia meeting. Retrieved from: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3105299/indo-pacific-nato-chinas-wang-yi-slams-us-led-quad-underlying

[4] Grossman, Derek. April 9th 2020. The RAND Blog. Don’t Get Too Excited, ‘Quad Plus’ Meetings Won’t Cover China. Retrieved from: https://www.rand.org/blog/2020/04/dont-get-too-excited-quad-plus-meetings-wont-cover.html

[5] Satherley, Dan. 31st May 2018. Newshub. NZ labelled ‘soft underbelly’ of Five Eyes spy network in Canadian report. Retrieved from: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/05/nz-labelled-soft-underbelly-of-five-eyes-spy-network-in-canadian-report.html

[6] Small, Zane. 29th January 2021. Newshub. Daily Telegraph newspaper’s ‘New Xi-land’ jab as China declares New Zealand ‘an example for Australia’. Retrieved from: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/01/daily-telegraph-newspaper-s-new-xi-land-jab-as-china-declares-new-zealand-an-example-for-australia.html

[7] Stitt, Ross. 2nd December 2020. Newsroom. Beware the dragon: What the Australia-China trade war means for NZ. Retrieved from: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/beware-the-dragon 

China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Governing Documents and Ideas Michael Gardiner New Zealand Option Papers Security Institutions

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

Major John Bolton is a U.S. Army officer and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. He previously commanded Bravo Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, served as the Executive Officer for 2-25 Assault Helicopter Battalion, and the Brigade Aviation Officer for 4/25 IBCT (Airborne). He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Art of War Scholars Program and holds degrees in military history and mechanical engineering. An AH-64D/E Aviator, he has deployed multiple times with Engineer, Aviation, and Infantry units. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  January 5, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  February 22, 2021.

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

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

Text:

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

– Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] McNamara quoted in Ibid. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] Ibid. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 1, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Kaplan, R.D. Ibid. 

Brandon Patterson Cold War Governing Documents and Ideas

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

Mel Daniels has served the United States for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group or person. 


National Security Situation:  With the pending departure of U.S. President Donald Trump, it remains to be seen how the administration of President Joseph Biden views the People’s Republic of China.

Date Originally Written:  November, 24, 2020. 

Date Originally Published:  January 18, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Military Force Deployment Options to Deter China

Mel Daniels has served in the United States military for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group or person.


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

Date Originally Written:  October 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting North Atlantic Treaty Organization Article 5: Assessing Enhanced Forward Presence as a Below War Threshold Response

Steve MacBeth is a retired officer from the Canadian Forces. He recently transitioned to New Zealand and serves in the New Zealand Defence Force. He has deployed to Bosnia, completed three tours of duty in Khandahar, Afghanistan and most recently, as the Battle Group Commander of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Targeting North Atlantic Treaty Organization Article 5: Assessing Enhanced Forward Presence as a Below War Threshold Response

Date Originally Written:  August 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 25, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Article 5 does not provide the agility for forward deployed forces to effectively respond to challenges below the threshold of war. These challenges are also known as Grey Zone activities. This paper is a summation of a chapter the author wrote for publication at the NATO Staff College in Rome, regarding NATO in the Grey Zone, which was edited Dr Howard Coombes, Royal Military College of Canada.

Summary:  Russia has been careful, for the most part, to avoid direct confrontation with NATO. The Russian focus on indirect mechanisms targets the weaknesses of NATO’s conventional response and highlights the requirement to revisit Article 5 within context of the deployed enhanced Forward Presence Activities. Conflict through competitive and Grey Zone activities is omnipresent and does not follow the template that Article 5 was designed for[1] .

Text:  U.S. Army Major General Eric J. Wesley, Commander, U.S. Army Futures Command, has noted that western militaries and governments may need to adjust between a “continuum of conflict” that denotes “war” and “peace” to an age of constant competition and covert pressure punctuated by short violent overt struggle[2]. The Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov reflected upon this approach for the Russian military journal VPK in 2013. “Methods of conflict,” wrote Gerasimov, have changed, and now involve “the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non-military measures.” All of this, he said, could be supplemented by utilizing the local populace as a fifth column and by “concealed” armed forces[3]. These actions demonstrate a Russian philosophy of achieving political objectives by employing a combination of attributable/non-attributable military and other actions. Operating under the threshold of traditional warfare, these adversarial behaviours, known as Grey Zone activities, deliberately target the weaknesses of the traditional NATO responses.

Reactions to aggression are governed by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Article 5 provides the Alliance’s collective defence paradigm, stating an “attack on one is an attack on all,” signaling the shared intent to deal with armed aggression vigorously[4]. Article 5 does not address Grey Zone activities that demand rapid, unified decision making and action. NATO crisis response is predicated on a system that acts in a predictable and deliberate manner to deal with overt aggression. Though NATO has recognized the Grey Zone there has been little adaption to this threat and NATO has not demonstrated that it is prepared to act decisively in the case of a Russian Grey Zone incursion. The NATO forces positioned to deter potential Russian aggression on the Alliance’s eastern flank are the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle groups. This military commitment is structured and authorized to counter overt Article 5 threats. Paradoxically, the most likely danger they may encounter are Grey Zone challenges. Combine this capability to likely threat mismatch with the speed at which political and military decisions are required during crisis, like a limited Russian incursion with pre-conditions set by Grey Zone actions, and NATO may not be able to react effectively. Consequently, it may be time for NATO to re-visit its current Article 5 deterrence activities, in the context of Grey Zone activities. This re-visit would acknowledge the Eastern NATO nations require every opportunity to answer any form of threat to their security and fully enable the NATO forces arrayed within their countries.

Presently, the enhanced Forward Presence is an ‘activity’ and not an NATO mission. The forces remain under national control for all, but specifically pre-agreed tasks and lack common funding resources. For all intents and purposes NATO missions, with the exceptions of “operational limitations,” indicating national caveats or activities in which a contributing nation will not participate, contribute to a single military force under a unified NATO command structure. In the eFP context, this unified command structure does not exist. Outside of an invocation of an Article 5 response, the various elements of the eFP battle groups remain under national command. The Russian determination of conflict leans towards a state of constant, below the threshold of war competition utilizing deception, information, proxies, and avoiding attributable action. Russian efforts are focussed on NATO’s greatest vulnerability and, at times, source of frustration, lengthy centralized deliberation. At the best of times this need for consensus creates slow decision making and resultantly a diminution of strategic, operational, and tactical agility[6]. If the Russian trend of Grey Zone actions continue, Article 5 responses by the Alliance may become irrelevant due to this slowness of decision making. For the eFP battlegroups, which can react to conventional threats, the Grey Zone poses difficult challenges, which were not fully recognized when the eFP concept was originally proposed and implemented[7].

The Baltic countries are strengthened by having eFP forces garrisoned within their nations, but there is a capability gap in providing Article 5 deterrence. The lack of authority for eFP battle groups to compete below the threshold of conflict leaves Baltic allies uncertain if and how NATO can support them. Enhanced Forward Presence battle groups are not currently able to deal with Grey Zone eventualities. Consequently, in several important aspects, the Alliance response remains handicapped. Bringing about achieving rapid consensus for a crisis response operations in the face of an ambiguous attack, or in response to ostensibly unrelated low-level provocations, like those imbued in the Grey Zone, will not be an easy task in the current framework[8].


Endnotes:

[1] M. Zapfe. “Hybrid Threats and NATO’s Forward Presence”, Centre of Security Studies Policy Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 7, 2016, pp. 1-4.

[2] E. Wesley, “Future Concept Centre Commander Perspectives – Let’s Talk Multi-Domain Operations”, Modern War Institute Podcast., 2019. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lets-talk-multi-domain-operations/id1079958510 (accessed 15 March 2020)

[3] V. Gerasimov, “The Value of Science in Prediction”, Trans. R. Coalson, Military-Industrial Kurier, 2013, pp.

[4] “The North Atlantic Treaty Washington D.C. – 4 April 1949”, NATO, last modified 10 April 2019. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_17120.htm (accessed 22 May 2020).

[5] The eFP Battle Group is an ad hoc grouping based upon an armoured or infantry battalion, which is normally commanded by a lieutenant-colonel (NATO O-4). It usually consists of a headquarters, a combination of integral and attached armour and infantry subunits, with their integral sustainment, elements. Also included are combat support organizations, which provide immediate tactical assistance, in the form of reconnaissance, mobility, counter-mobility or direct and indirect fire support, to combat elements. Additional sustainment elements may be attached as it is deemed necessary. eFP battle groups are integrated into host nation brigades. “Factsheet: NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence”, NATO, 2017. https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2017_05/1705-factsheet-efp.pdf (accessed 12 July 2020); C. Leuprecht. “The enhanced Forward Presence: innovating NATO’s deployment model for collective defence – NDC Policy Brief No. 22”, Rome, NATO Defense College, 2019, p. 3.

[6] J. Deni, “NATO’s Presence in the East: Necessary But Still Not Sufficient”, War on The Rocks Commentary, 2017. https://warontherocks.com/2018/06/natos-presence-in-the-east-necessary-but-still-not-sufficient (accessed 10 April 2020).

[7] For a synopsis of the apparent benefits of the eFP see C. Leuprecht. “The enhanced Forward Presence: innovating NATO’s deployment model for collective defence – NDC Policy Brief No. 22”, Rome, NATO Defense College, 2019.

[8] J. Deni, “The Paradox at the Heart of NATO’s Return to Article 5”, RUSI Newsbrief, Vol. 39, No. 10, 2019, p. 2. https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/20191101_newsbrief_vol39_no10_deni_web.pdf (accessed April 15 2020).

 

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Governing Documents and Ideas North Atlantic Treaty Organization Steve MacBeth

An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Patrick Knight is an active duty U.S. Army Officer and has served in a variety of tactical and force generation assignments. He is currently a student in the Army’s Command and General Staff College as part of a strategist training pipeline. He can be reached on LinkedIn or pjknight12@gmail.com. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.




Title:  An Assessment of Chinese Mercantilism as a Dual Circulation Strategy with Implications for U.S. Strategy

Date Originally Written:  October 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of China towards regional states and the U.S.

Summary:  China has become a dominant regional and global power through its export-centric mercantilist practices. This mercantilism underpins a larger expansionist foreign policy. China has reacted to U.S. and global economic pressure by instituting the Dual Circulation strategy, focusing on domestic consumption markets. U.S. strategies that do not take into account China’s Dual Circulation strategy will not be effective.

Text:  Mercantilism, specifically Chinese mercantilism, is the macroeconomic policy of emphasizing exports and minimizing imports, and relates to the broad long-term economic strategy of Chinese trade and supply chain management. Mercantilism is tied to the broader concepts of Chinese expansion strategy which underpin its foreign policy. That Chinese foreign economic policy is growing and seeks to become a dominant regional and global power has, at the time of this authorship, become a relatively elementary platitude. Chinese economic and larger foreign policy is more complex and nuanced. The 2020 introduction of a Dual Circulation policy calls into question the monolithic approach of mercantilism, and has critical implications for U.S. strategists[1].

For historical background, in 1987, a Chinese economic policy advisor, Yuon Geng, suggested to then de facto state leader Deng Xaopeng the concept of Dual Circulation. In that context, he meant relying on low labor costs within the Chinese labor market to develop export capabilities, building foreign investments which thus improve domestic financial resources[1]. This suggestion began an economic opening of China, and in the decades that followed, China developed into an export centric nation. The Chinese socialist system’s advantage in focusing and underwriting industrial capabilities allows China to, in Deng Xaopeng’s words, “concentrate power to do great things[2].” In this way, China emerged as the commonly understood world’s factory, especially after China’s admittance into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

With the now famous One Belt and One Road Initiative, China has devoted significant financial and diplomatic resources to developing infrastructure and trade relationships with dozens of states in the Indo-pacific region and beyond. This is a foundational tenet of Xi Jingping’s foreign policy.

One could thus assume that China uniformly pursues mercantilism strategy of concentrating all instruments of national power to develop a dominant, yet supporting, relationship in emerging markets and developing states and bolster an export economy.

However, the new reintroduction of a Dual Circulation Strategy adjusts the original meaning of Dual Circulation as intended by Yuon Geng. Here, China seeks to enhance its domestic markets and consumption over foreign investments, markets, and technology. It seeks to ease its dependence on foreign markets in favor of the domestic[1].

China’s policy goals of moving up the value chain, improving the overall wealth of China, and having a resilient economy are working under its export centric strategy, yet there has been an inward shift via Dual Circulation. China policy expert Andrew Polk believes that this inward shift is not a response to internal demand in China as much as it is a reaction to the external environment[1]. External variables have changed significantly in recent years. In one way, the global economy and its state actors have exerted pressure on Chinese technology companies, such as in the case of the semiconductor industry. Second, the massive impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the global economy has not yet receded. The Chinese export industry has been negatively affected as consumer demand falls. Dual Circulation is a reaction of the vagaries of the external economy that China seeks to remain resilient.

For those familiar with the ways, means, and ends framework of strategic thinking, Chinese economic ends have not changed. The ways, relying on and enhancing domestic economic capabilities, has shifted within the national strategic framework.

Vice Premier Liu He, Xi Jingping’s top economic advisor, has developed the Dual Dirculation concept, and seeks to de-risk the oversupplied industrial sector. This de-risking is reminiscent of his proposed Supply Side Structural Reform strategy of 2015, in which Liu He feared China relied too much on the export industry[2].

Most imperatively, the introduction of Dual Circulation amidst China’s mercantilist tendencies signifies a fundamental inflection point in strategy and macroeconomic thinking. Proximately, Dual Circulation means that China is unified on restructuring its macroeconomic strategy, which directly challenges other high-end manufacturing economies. More broadly, Dual Circulation indicates that China is vulnerable, or at least reactive, to external pressure and environments. This new policy further demonstrates that China estimates that powerful western economies, such as the U.S. and U.K., have focused too much on services and consumer centric industries and have not adequately supported and developed their manufacturing capabilities[2]. China seeks to add the most value by dominating the high-end manufacturing sector in both its domestic and global economy, what Polk refers to as the German economic model of manufacturing.

Lingling Wei of the Wall Street Journal believes that Dual Circulation also exposes key defense industry implications in Chinese policy making. She argues that now is China’s “Sputnik moment” in that the recent U.S. trade war provides an opportunity to make significant policy shifts[2][3]. The Chinese defense industry has been a focus of Xi Jingping’s reforming attention in recent months, moving key political allies with defense industry background. The defense industry focus includes recently installing a new deputy of the National Development Reform Commission. Wei suggests that China acknowledges its exposure in the defense supply chain where competitors like the U.S. can exert pressure.

Dual Circulation is highly relevant to U.S. national security and economic strategists. Since March, U.S. President Donald Trump has increased pressure on China, significantly shifting his policy azimuth. The Trump administration has closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas on charges of espionage, dispatched carrier strike groups to the South China Sea, blocked Chinese technology company activites, increased support to Taiwan, and made headlines with conflict and eventual merger with Tik Tok[3]. Numerous political factors contributed to President Trump’s decisions which are outside the scope of this assessment. However, U.S. and allied leadership needs to understand the degree and nature of the impact from President Trump’s efforts. Strategists use all elements of national power to impact the environment: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. China has signaled it will adjust its ways, enhancing domestic economic consumer markets, in order to ensure its ends, a resilient and regionally dominant economy, based on the external environment. If China can successfully pivot away from a pure mercantilism economy to a more resilient, self-sustaining economy, U.S. strategists may calculate a diminishing effect of its pressure tactics.


Endnotes:

[1] Center for Strategic & International Studies. Online Event: The End of Chinese Mercantilism? YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQnyYbMPrBM&t=1080s

[2] Blanchette, J. & Polk, Andrew (24 August, 2020). Dual Circulation and China’s New Hedged Integration Strategy. Center for Strategic & International Studies. https://www.csis.org/analysis/dual-circulation-and-chinas-new-hedged-integration-strategy

[3] Davis, B., O’Keeffe, K, & Wei, L. (16 October, 2020). U.S.’s China Hawks Drive Hard-Line Policies After Trump Turns on Beijing. Wall Street Journal.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Patrick Knight Trade United States

Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Coby Goldberg is a researcher with the Asia-Pacific Program at the Center for a New American Security. His writing has been published in The National Interest, World Politics Review, and The Wire China. Follow him on Twitter @CobyGoldberg. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

Date Originally Written:  October 14, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Chinese President Xi Jinping sees himself at the helm of a boat pushed along by the tides of history. Today the tides carry that boat towards a more globalized, interconnected, and in many ways peaceful world, but the tides may be turning.

Summary:  Dialectical materialism – the belief that history has a force of its own beyond the power of human ideals or willpower, and that this force is not static throughout time, but always changing – provides insight into how the Chinese Communist Party thinks about its strategic options. While Xi Jinping tells Party members the tide of history points towards greater economic integration today, the dialectic teaches him the tides could turn against peace tomorrow.

Text:  For all the debates about the guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chairman Xi Jinping has made his views rather plain to Party members. Take the opening lines of a speech to the CCP Central Committee on January 23, 2015, later re-published in Qiushi, the authoritative CCP journal of theory: “Dialectical materialism is the worldview and methodology of Chinese Communists[1].” The practical impact of this “worldview and methodology” can be significant for the average (non-CCP member) reader.

The CCP has a materialistic worldview, an inheritance from Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. Many of Marx’s and Engels’ contemporaries were idealists, who argued that adherence to a concept born of the mind, namely faith, could determine the reality of the world. Marx and Engels, by contrast, believed in the indomitable force of the material world. The material world shapes laws of history to which man must submit, like it or not. Or, as Xi put it in his 2015 speech: “The most important thing is that we proceed always from objective reality rather than subjective desire[2].”

If the ways of the world are governed not by the will of the individual but by external material conditions –by “objective reality rather than subjective desire” – then history’s arc can be read but not bent. Xi often compares material trends to the ocean. “The tide of the world is surging forward,” he told an audience in Russia. The people of the world must “rally closely together like passengers in the same boat[3].”

According to Xi, the two trends of his time are increasing multipolarity produced by the rise of the developing world, and ever-growing economic integration produced by globalization[4]. Together, these two trends form an inexorable movement that countries can either participate in and benefit or reject to the detriment of all. In the lens of this analogy, the United States has been rocking the collective boat with its recent complaints about a world order that has allowed many countries to flourish, none more so than China.

Military force is a detriment to a globalized economy. At the Party Congress in 2012, Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, declared that “peace and development remain the underlying trends of our time[5].” This statement has held true amidst the downward spiral of the U.S.-China relationship. Xi and the CCP have taken to referring to “profound changes never seen in a century” underway on the world stage, “yet peace and development remain the underlying trend of the times,” Xi reaffirmed as recently as September 22, 2020[6].

These statements appear to be cheap talk offered up for foreign audiences, but the chief audience of Xi Jinping are those listening to his lectures, namely Party members who are habitually called to Beijing to imbibe the Party line. “One does not call every ambassador to Beijing just to bore them with the latest propaganda hacks,” Taiwan-based analyst Tanner Greer writes. “Addresses like these are less like stump speeches on the campaign trail than they are like instruction manuals[7].” For now, the instruction manual says that the underlying trend of the time is peace and development.

Through the materialist worldview of the CCP, Xi has concluded that history’s tides are moving towards economic integration, not military confrontation. However, dialectal materialism teaches Xi that the dialectic, – the state of permanent flux created as contradictions in the world emerge and resolve themselves, producing progress and new contradictions – requires that the CCP remain ever vigilant to the changing conditions of the material that forms reality.

Dialectical thinking helps explain what many observers describe as the CCP’s ideological flexibility. Material conditions might at one time dictate that the CCP must eradicate the capitalist class as it attempted under Mao Tse-tung, and the next year lead the CCP to welcome entrepreneurs into its ranks as members it officially did in the 1990s. Material conditions could make the United States the enemy in the 1950s, and a partner in the 1970s. The dialect effects such changes. “Objective reality is not fixed, but rather develops and changes all the time. Change is the most natural thing in the world,” Xi told Party members. “If we cling to our perception of China’s realities as they were in the past without adjustment, we will find it difficult to move forward[8].” Unfortunately, the material conditions that once set history on the path of economic integration across a multipolar world could evolve into the conditions of fragmentation and conflict. If the tide of history were blowing in that direction, expect China to behave very differently than it has for the past three decades.

As Americans seek to steer the US-China relationship through the “profound changes never seen in a century” that are powering China’s rise as a global competitor, Xi’s advice works for both parties. Both the U.S. and China will be required to balance perceptions of each other’s previous realities with adapting to material conditions today. The best both can consider, to quote Deng Xiaoping, might be to “cross the river by feeling for the stones.”


Endnotes:

[1] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

[2] ibid.

[3] Xi Jinping (2013, March 23). Follow the Trend of the Times and Promote Peace and Development in the World. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjdt_665385/zyjh_665391/t1033246.shtml.

[4] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[5] Hu Jintao. (2020, November 18). Full text of Hu Jintao’s report at 18th Party Congress. Retrieved October 13 from https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/744889.shtml.

[6] (2020, September 22). Peace, development remain underlying trend of times: Xi. Retrieved October 13 from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-09/22/c_139388433.htm.

[7] Greer, T. (2020, July 8). The Theory of History That Guides Xi Jinping. Retrieved October 13 from https://palladiummag.com/2020/07/08/the-theory-of-history-that-guides-xi-jinping.

[8] Xi Jinping (2019). Dialectical Materialism Is the Worldview and Methodology of Chinese Communists. Qiushi Journal, 11(38). Retrieved October 13 from http://english.qstheory.cn/2019-07/09/c_1124508999.htm?fbclid=IwAR32Q9zVU8NXgSu5UrFMP75srZoTV7lyggtTxLoGC5p_wJ4uKyI2w_QwY-s.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Coby Goldberg Governing Documents and Ideas

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)

Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Jessa Hauck is a graduate of Suffolk University and an experienced analyst.  She has a passion for studying terrorism both at home and abroad.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  July 8, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes a whole-of-society approach is needed to disrupt the rise of domestic terrorism.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Government (USG) has used substantial resources for overseas counterterrorism. With the rise of domestic terrorism, the USG has an opportunity to define Lone Actor Terrorism in law or policy. This definition would enable better recognition of behavior patterns related to the online radicalization process and enable the development of effective detection and prevention strategies.

Text:  Billions of dollars, material resources, and research have been dedicated to the overseas counterterrorism effort since 9/11. As a result, potential attacks were thwarted, terrorists were detained and tried, and Congress passed the Patriot Act of 2001 which provided law enforcement with tools to investigate terrorists, increased penalties for convicted terrorists, and addressed the lack of information sharing and coordination between government agencies. Yet, despite this success, domestic terrorism, in particular lone actor, has grown in significance. Some experts have suggested that prior mass killings committed by Jared Loughner, Dylann Roof and others should have, but were not labeled as Lone Actor Terrorism. As a consequence, standard detection and prevention strategies to combat future lone actor attacks have not received adequate attention from policymakers and law enforcement. However part of the problem is the lack of an established definition for the term.

Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 research study defined Lone Actor Terrorism as “political violence perpetrated by individuals who act alone; who do not belong to an organized terrorist group or network; who act without the direct influence of a leader or hierarchy; and whose tactics and methods are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or direction[1].” This definition is a good starting point but individuals with no terrorism tendencies could also fit this description.

Without a standard definition detection efforts are diffused. Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn and Edwin Bakker studied lone actors using character traits such as age, mental health disposition, employment status and education level to create a behavior profile. However their results showed no specific traits emerged significantly enough to establish a pattern[2]. Graduate students from the Georgetown National Security Critical Task Force also confirmed in their study that profiling potential actors was ineffective since most lone actors seem to fit a broad pattern of traits such as white, single male with a criminal record[3]. Georgetown did however, concur with Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 study which focused more on lone actor behavior patterns. Hamm and Spaaji created a group of categories that accurately reflect a lone actor’s inability to fit into an already established network: lone soldiers, lone vanguard, loners and lone followers. Lone soldiers are supported by a terrorist network but act alone; lone vanguard acts alone to advance individual ideology and is not tied to a terrorist organization; a loner is an individual who acts alone to advance goals and is not accepted by network; and the lone followers who align with the ideology of a group, but aren’t socially competent enough for acceptance. These distinct categories provide a better methodology in which to bin behavior patterns. Alternatively, Bart Schuurman and colleagues advocated for a re-evaluation of the “lone wolf” terminology arguing its connotation was inaccurate. They concluded that individual actors were not socially alone but held some ties to networks and made their intent to attack publicly known early in the process[4]. Re-evaluation of the term is not widely discussed and perhaps it should be in order to develop a more complete picture.

Prevention of online radicalization and effective community outreach and engagement are key to disrupting the radicalization cycle. With the increased use of online resources, and isolated online social networks, lone actors have endless ways to be radicalized and discuss their intent to carry out an attack. Law enforcement, in coordination with social media companies have developed ways to identify these potential threats. However, not enough is being done with the resources available. Melanie Smith, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell argue that social media companies need to do a better job of reporting high risk behavior on their platforms to law enforcement and suggest they develop a coordinated approach to monitoring extremist groups and potential recruits[5]. Alternatively, Alison Smith suggests focusing on the radicalization process itself and cites work done by the New York City Police Department to do just that. She indicates there are four stages to radicalization including pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination and jihadization[6]. The key stage in this model is self-identification or the introduction and acceptance of extremist views, but if potential lone actors are not identified at this stage, looking out for intent declarations is a solid second avenue. Emmet Halm in his review of prevention procedures focused on breaking the radicalization cycle and explained that since 9/11 76% of lone actors clearly communicated their intent in letters, manifestos and proclamations[7]. Although posting statements of intent are helpful to identify potential individuals at risk, law enforcement must be vigilant in determining where an individual is in their development since posting intentions can simply be an exercise in practicing their right to free speech.

Prevention of online radicalization has the potential to be incredibly effective in identifying at risk individuals, but community outreach and engagement cannot be forgotten[8]. Jeffrey Simon suggests it’s imperative that law enforcement not only learn and educate themselves about lone actor behavior patterns, they must educate the community as well. Many lone actors make their views and intentions to attack known to family members, friends, and other members of their unique communities, however most indications are never reported or are brushed aside.

Hampered by the lack of a standard definition, no universally acknowledged profile or behavior pattern, and prevention tactics that are not effectively enforced or discussed, Lone Actor Terrorism has the potential to become a major threat within the U.S., particularly within the current political climate. Lone Actor Terrorism could be defined in law, or policy, and provide a roadmap for government agencies, law enforcement and social media platforms on effective detection and prevention strategies to combat future attacks. Recent reports from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security acknowledge the rise of lone actor attacks and address their respective agency roles and abilities in detection and prevention efforts. These reports provide a glimmer of hope that further government efforts will soon follow.


Endnotes:

[1] Hamm, Mark S. and Ramón Spaaij. Lone Wolf Terrorism in America: Using Knowledge of Radicalization Pathways to Forge Prevention Strategies. Terre Haute, IN: Indiana State University, 2015. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248691.pdf

[2] Bakker, Edwin and Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn. Lone-Actor Terrorism: Policy Paper 1: Personal Characteristics of Lone-Actor Terrorists. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 5. Hague: International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/201602_CLAT_Policy-Paper-1_v2.pdf

[3] Alfaro-Gonzales, Lydia, et al. Report: Lone Wolf Terrorism. Washington, DC: Georgetown University (2015)
https://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/NCITF-Final-Paper.pdf

[4] Schuurman, Bart, et al. End of the Lone Wolf: The typology That Should Not Have Been: Journal Studies of Conflict and Terrorism Journal. Studies in Conflict &Terrorism. Volume 42, Issue 8, 2019. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1419554

[5] Smith, Melanie, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell. Lone Wolf Terrorism Policy Paper 3: Motivations, Political Engagement and Online Activity. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 7. London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/CLAT-Series-7-Policy-Paper-3-ISD.pdf

[6] Smith, Alison G., Ph.D. National Institute of Justice. How Radicalization to Terrorism Occurs in the United States: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us. June 2018. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250171.pdf

[7] Halm, Emmet. Wolf Hunting: Unique Challenges and Solutions to Lone-Wolf Terrorism. Harvard Political Review. October 21, 2019. https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/wolf-hunting

[8] Hunt, Leigh. Beware the Lone Wolf. Police. Police Magazine. October 17, 2013. https://www.policemag.com/341043/beware-the-lone-wolf

[9] National Center for the Analyses of Violent Crime. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Behavioral Threat Assessment Center. Behavioral Analysis Unit. Lone Offender: A Study of Lone OffenderTerrorism in the U.S. (1972-2015). November, 2019. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/lone-offender-terrorism-report-111319.pdf/view

[10] DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence. September, 2019. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/19_0920_plcy_strategic-framework-countering-terrorism-targeted-violence.pdf

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Jessa Hauck United States Violent Extremism

An Assessment of the Irrelevance of State Borders in 2035

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  June 29, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing U.S. Space-Focused Governing Documents from the Astropolitik Model of State Competition  

Anthony Patrick is an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing U.S. Space-Focused Governing Documents from the Astropolitik Model of State Competition

Date Originally Written:  March 26, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 22, 2019.

Summary:  How the United States invests time and resources into space over the next few decades will have long-term strategic effects.  While current U.S. governing documents focused primarily on space align with the Astropolitik Model of state competition, which focuses on the employment of all instruments of national power, this appears to be incidental.  Without a cohesive suite of documents to focus space efforts, the U.S. could fall behind its competitors.

Text:  On April 18, 2018 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff released Joint Publication 3-14 Space Operations (JPSO)[1]. The JSPO, along with the 2010 National Space Policy (NSP)[2], the 2011 National Security Space Strategy (NSSS)[3], and the Department of Defense’s Space Policy of 2016 (DOD SP)[4], are meant to guide U.S governmental actions impacting the civilian, commercial, and military efforts in space. These governing documents work together to form the bedrock of American power projection in space. It is key that these governing documents are able to harmonize action along the necessary lines of effort in order to protect U.S national interests. It is also important to assess these documents through appropriate theoretical models on space power projection. Everett C. Dolman ‘s Astropolitik Model, a determinist political theory used to describe the relationship between state power and outer space control, provides such a framework[5]. 

Space by its very nature is a radically different domain of state competition when compared to land, sea, and air. Not only are there differences in how physical objects interact but there are also key differences in the effects of these interactions on the rest of planet. Doctrines of state competition will likely find it best to recognize the global effects of space operations. Satellites can not only effect targeting of fires across a whole combatant command and the navigational abilities of units in that area but also effect the greater network that supports global operations. The JPSO and other governing documents do recognize the global nature of space operations, which will assist planners in “balancing operational level requirements for current support [in an area of operation (AO)] with strategic level requirements to preserve space capabilities for other times and places.” U.S governing documents focused on space also recognize the need for synchronization in procurement programs. Space technology is expensive and takes years to develop, and all four documents describe the necessity for a competitive and flexible U.S space industry with long-term procurement planning that is looking forward to the next battle while also being consistent across political administrations. 

Orbital space is already starting to be crowded by both civilian and governmental satellites from both U.S allies and adversaries. The 2011 NSSS recognized the need for space to be viewed as a contested and competitive domain. This concern was also described in great detail by the JPSO and is evident by the development and testing of anti-satellite capabilities by both the Peoples Republic of China (2007)[6] and the U.S (2008)[7]. While the NSP focuses mainly on the U.S right to self-defense and the importance of alliance building, it also helps guide other governing documents in the right path towards increasing the U.S’s ability to operate in a contested space environment.

Lastly, U.S governing documents focused on space, like the Astropolitik Model, recognize the importance of utilizing all aspects of state power to project power in space. The JPSO describes in detail the mutualistic relationship between space and cyber assets. The DOD SP also mentions the importance of cost sharing between the DOD and other agencies within the U.S government, while the NSP and NSSS recognize the importance of utilizing both civilian, commercial, and military resources to project power into space. 

There are however certain issues with U.S governing documents focused on space when viewed from the Astropolitik Model. First, U.S governing documents focused on space do not attempt to gain complete dominance over the space domain. Controlling certain topographic features in space, from the Earth’s ‘high point’ in the gravity well (geostationary orbit), to the use of Lagrange Points (a point in space where an object is fixed between the gravitational fields of two bodies)[8], can allow a state to dictate what happens in space during state on state conflict. Defensive satellites in geostationary orbit can detect the use of Earth based anti-satellite weapons and trigger countermeasures before they are destroyed.

While U.S governing documents focused on space do point out the importance of utilizing the current U.S. alliance structure, none of the mentioned documents describe dominating the topography of space to advance U.S interest in space. The 2010 NSP also does not recognize the inevitable militarization of space. As more and more countries deploy satellites to space, they become part of that nation’s infrastructure. Just like with any key power plant, road, or bridge, nations will, at some point, likely deploy capabilities that will allow them to defend their assets and attack an enemy’s capability. Space is the universal Center of Gravity for any country that integrates national security operations with space-based assets. The 2010 NSP does mention that peaceful use of space allows for national and homeland security activities, but that still does not provide clear guidance on how much militarization U.S policy will allow. Being clear in this matter is important since it will allow planners to begin the proper procurement programs that are needed to defend U.S national security interest. 

It is important to U.S national security interest that the U.S is able to effectively plan and execute operations in the heavens. To accomplish this task, a consistent and well thought approach to governing documents that allows guidance for planners to accomplish the tasks laid out by decision makers in the U.S government is a plus. Adopting these documents in line with the Astropolitik Model allows the U.S to effectively dominate space and secure its peaceful use for all nation. Inaction is this realm could lead to further competition from other states and degrade the U.S’s ability to operate effectively both in space and on Earth. 


Endnotes:

[1] United States., Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018, April 10). Joint Publication 3-14 Space Operations. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_14.pdf

[2] United States, The White House, The President of the United States. (2010, June 28). National Space Policy of the United States of America. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://history.nasa.gov/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf

[3] United States, Department of Defense, Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (2011). Naitonal Security Space Strategy Unclassified Summary. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=10828

[4] United States, Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense. (2016, November 4). DOD Directive 3100.10 Space Policy. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/d3100_10.pdf

[5] Dolman, E. C. (2002). Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age. London: Cass.

[6] Weeden, B. (2010, November 23). 2007 Chinese Anti-Satellite Test Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://swfound.org/media/9550/chinese_asat_fact_sheet_updated_2012.pdf

[7] Hagt, E. (2018, June 28). The U.S. satellite shootdown: China’s response. Retrieved March 25, 2019, from https://thebulletin.org/2008/03/the-u-s-satellite-shootdown-chinas-response/

[8] Howell, E. (2017, August 22). Lagrange Points: Parking Places in Space. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html

Anthony Patrick Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Space

Episode 0010: The 1986 Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options)

GWN

Image:  www.realcleardefense.com

On this episode of The Smell of Victory PodcastBob Hein and Phil Walter discussed the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Issues touched on and quotes from this episode include:

– Does Goldwater-Nichols inhibit the military’s ability to plan against global threats?

– Does Goldwater-Nichols inadvertently make consensus the goal, vice best military advice?

– Are we ready for Four Star Fight Club in the military to resolve resourcing issues?

– Has the last commanding General of U.S. forces in Afghanistan been born yet?

– The purpose of the game is to perpetuate the game.

– It is time to give more authority to the services for the movement of forces globally.

– Should there only be one service (as per Harry Truman)?

– Listen to the genesis of the next best-selling genre at Amazon: National Security Children’s Books.

– Why does the Unified Command Plan seem to drive all the seams to sea?

– Should the Military, Department of Defense, and the Department of State use the same geographical organization, or does that just make too much sense?

– So who does global defense strategy? Not the Combatant Commands.

– What if before the war everyone showed up?

And much more!

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

Governing Documents and Ideas The Smell of Victory Podcast by Divergent Options

Assessing How Article 51 of the United Nations Charter Prevents Conflict Escalation

Jared Zimmerman is an M.A. candidate at American University’s School of International Service where he is studying United States Foreign Policy and National Security with a concentration in terrorism and political violence.  He can be found on Twitter @jaredezimmerman.  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 Article 51 of the United Nations Charter Prevents Conflict Escalation

Date Originally Written:  March 8, 2018

Date Originally Published:  June 4, 2018.

Summary:  Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is sufficiently vague to allow states to assert their right to self-defense without escalating a conflict. While either side in a conflict may see the other as the aggressor acting beyond mere self-defense, Article 51 is vague enough that neither side can prove the other has acted offensively. This vagueness can aid in, if not the de-escalation of conflicts, preventing the rapid escalation of conflicts.

Text:  The first sentence of Article 51 of Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter reads as follows:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security[1].

This sentence is particularly vague on the following points:

  1. It does not define what constitutes an attack. Is the seizure of ships or aircraft an attack? Is the accidental or intentional violation of another country’s airspace an attack? Is industrial espionage an attack? Is a spy satellite taking photographs of military installations an attack?
  2. It does not define what constitutes an armed attack. For example, is a cyber attack an armed attack?
  3. It does not define “collective self-defence.” Does the attacked nation need to request assistance or can other nations preemptively intervene and claim their intervention constitutes collective self-defense? Requiring the attacked nation to request assistance might seem like the most responsible position, but this requires that the United Nations Security Council determine who the original aggressor and defender are. This determination may not be possible or delivered in a timely manner.
  4. The phrase “…until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security” begs several questions. What if the Security Council does nothing? What if the Security Council does act, but these actions are not sufficient to resolve the conflict? What constitutes a resolution and who decides whether a resolution is satisfactory?
  5. The phrase: “international peace and security” also begs several questions. What is international peace and security? Was the world at peace during the Cold War? Is the world not at peace when great powers are not in conflict but relatively small regional or civil wars are ongoing? Is the world at peace when there is no open conflict between states but despots murder and oppress their own people?

It is apparent from the questions in the preceding paragraphs that the first sentence of Article 51 is exceedingly vague. Opposed parties in a real-world conflict are certain to interpret portions of the sentence in their own best interest, and these interpretations could be wildly different yet equally valid[2]. But this begs the question, does this vagueness expand and escalate conflicts or limit and de-escalate them?

On the surface it might appear that a more explicit Article 51 is to be desired. If it was clear to states what actions constitute an armed attack and what circumstances allow for collective self-defense, perhaps states would judiciously aim to abide by these rules lest they risk United Nations’ intervention. There are several problems with this approach:

  1. It would be impossible to explicitly account for all types of armed attacks, not simply because of the variety that exists today, but because new types are continually being invented. For example, the authors of the United Nations Charter could hardly have conceived of cyber warfare in 1945.
  2. States are ingenious and will always find new ways to circumvent—or even outright ignore—any explicit rules that are laid out.
  3. If a state realizes it must break one explicit rule to advance its agenda, why not break more? If the United Nations Security Council does not intervene when one rule is broken, will it if two are broken? Three? Four? States will test how far they can push the boundaries because it is advantageous to do so.

Is it possible, however, that having a vague Article 51 is advantageous? The world is not rigid, so would it be beneficial to have a rigid Article 51? Given the reasons above, a rigid Article 51 is certainly not practical. Let us take the Iranian drone shot down by the Israeli Defense Force in February 2018 as an example of the advantages of a vague Article 51.

On February 10th, 2018 an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace and was shot down by an Israeli helicopter. The Israeli Defense Force followed up by attacking what they believed to be the “drone launch components in Syrian territory[3].” Later, Israeli Air Force (IAF) aircraft attacked 12 targets in Syria, including a mix of Syrian and Iranian military targets. “During the attack, multiple anti-aircraft missiles were fired at IAF aircraft. The two pilots of an F-16 jet ejected from the aircraft as per procedure, one of whom was seriously injured and taken to the hospital for medical treatment[4].”

To summarize, Iranians in Syria used a drone to violate Israeli airspace. The Israelis responded by destroying the drone and the drone’s launch structures in Syria. The Israelis then violated Syrian airspace to attack Syrian and Iranian infrastructure. While doing so, one of their F-16’s was shot down and one of its crew was wounded. All of this has occurred, yet Iran and Israel have not declared war in response.

Incidents like this are so common that it is easy to overlook the miraculous fact that while such incidents are not “peaceful,” the world does not face open war in response to each of them. There are certainly a variety of reasons for this lack of open war that can be unique to each situation such as level-headed leaders on either side, mutually assured destruction, war-weary populations, etc. One compelling reason that many share, however, is that each side can claim it was acting in self-defense while not being able to convince the international community and United Nations Security Council that this is true. In this above example, Israel could claim that it was attacked when the Iranian drone entered its airspace so its response was in self-defense. Iran and Syria could claim that their drone was unarmed and entered Israeli airspace accidentally. Israel then attacked them and they downed an Israeli aircraft in self-defense. This familiar dance occurs in other comparable situations: opposing sides take limited aggressive actions towards each other but generally stop short of open war. Article 51 doesn’t eliminate conflict, but prevents it from escalating or at least escalating quickly.


Endnotes:

[1] United Nations. (n.d.). Charter of the United Nations: Chapter VII. Retrieved February 27, 2018, from http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/

[2] Glennon, M. (2018, February 13). ILO L201: Public International Law [Class discussion]. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.

[3] IDF intercepts Iranian UAV. (2018, February 10). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/press-releases/idf-intercepts-iranian-uav/

[4] IDF intercepts Iranian UAV. (2018, February 10). Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/press-releases/idf-intercepts-iranian-uav/

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Jared Zimmerman United Nations

Options for Streamlining U.S. Department of Defense Decision Making

Dr. John T. Kuehn has served at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 2000.  He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 with the rank of Commander.  He presently teaches as a Professor of Military History in the Department of Military History, as well as teaching for Norwich University (Vermont), Naval War College (Rhode Island), and Wolverhampton University (UK) as an adjunct professor.  He can be found on Twitter @jkuehn50 and writes at https://networks.h-net.org/node/12840/blog.  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.

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  Updating the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47) so that Department of Defense (DoD) decision-making is as streamlined as possible.

Date Originally Written:  August 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired Naval Officer and values a return to a national defense structure that includes a broader range of advice and decentralization of power as represented by cabinet secretaries.

Background:  NSA 47 has outlived its utility in the service of the national security of the United States.  In a post-Cold War world of the 21st Century, the system the United States used prior to 1947 is much more suitable to its traditions, Constitution, and the range of threats posed today.  NSA 47 has gone beyond the utility it provided to the United States after World War II.  NSA 47 once had value, especially in a bi-polar Cold War strategic dynamic informed by the terror of atomic and thermonuclear weapons[1].  However, NSA 47’s utility and value have degraded, especially with the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991.  History moved forward while the United States’ macro-security structure remained static.  Subsequent reforms to the 1947 re-organization, such as that by the Goldwater-Nichols Reform Act of 1987 (GNA), have merely “polished the bowling ball,” not recast it into a new shape[2].

Significance:  The Project for National Security Reform (PNSR) began looking at this issue in 2008 and found that NSA 47 no longer fit the strategic environment we are currently facing or will face in the 21st Century[3].  The 2011 PNSR did a good job of describing the problem and challenges in reforming and reorganizing the system[4].  However, the 2011 PNSR provided little else—no bold recommendations about how to make this happen.  What follows are options I modified from a summation of recommendations the PNSR solicited from me in 2011-12:

Option #1:  Disestablish the position of Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  The SecDef / OSD structure has too broad a span of control and this limits the scope of strategic advice Presidents receive.  The SecDef functions would move back under the civilian secretaries of the military departments: Army, Navy and Air Force.

Risk:  Medium.  The risk here was much lower when I first made this recommendation in 2010.  It is higher right now because of the North Korean situation and the need for unity of command of the nuclear arsenal if the worst happens and the U.S. needs to conduct a retaliatory strike should North Korea use nuclear weapons first.  However, the ultimate transfer of that unity of command could go to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) although the President would have to be a direct participant in any nuclear release, just as he is now.  One need not burn the Pentagon down and start afresh, but certainly who answers to whom is a legitimate topic worthy of serious discussion and, more importantly, serious action—by Congress AND the President.

Gain:  DoD decision-making is decentralized to the Military Departments and thus decisions are made quicker.  OSD manpower is redistributed to the Military Departments and the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thus increasing their respective capability to support the military operations conducted by the Combatant Commands.

Option #2:  Move the civilian Secretaries of Navy, Air Force, and Army back into the cabinet, but retain the SecDef, similar to the way things were organized prior to and during World War II.  The SecDef would still be a part of cabinet, but would be co-equal with the other civilian service secretaries.  Retain the current JCS organization and staff, but enhance the Chairman’s role on the National Security Council (NSC).  As an appointed position, the Chairman can always be relieved in the same manner that President Truman relieved General MacArthur.

Risk:  Low to medium low, for similar reasons listed for Option #1, the security situation is fluid as of this writing with threat of nuclear war.  No other current “crisis,” though, need impede the move to reform.  JCS Chairman role on NSC should include a substantial decrease in the size of the NSC staff, which should leverage more the capabilities of existing organizations like the JCS and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Gain:  A balance is struck between decentralizing and streamlining decision-making to the Secretaries of the Military Departments while maintaining a SecDef in a coordinating role.  Option #2 is likely more palatable to Congress as current structures are maintained manpower wise yet power is shifted around.

Other Comments:  Congress must be a part of the solution[5].  Policy recommendations need Congressional oversight, responsibility, and accountability so that if a President goes against an NSC-recommended policy or strategy Congress will be in the loop.  One fear has been that this might drive the U.S. toward a “cabinet” system of government and curtail Presidential power.  That fear sounds like a benefit to me.

Additionally, there will be a need for a national debate that includes social media—where politicians quit pre-emptively tweeting and sniping at each other and instead “message” about national security reform—staying on task and staying on message as the public participates in the dialog.  We might turn again to the past, as a generation of millennial Publius’s step forward in a new round of Federalist Paper-type thinking and writing to kick these ideas around and to build real consensus—not just that of Washington insiders[6].  There is no deficit of political and intellectual talent out there-despite what the pundits say and write.  All too often, however, we consult the advice of specially constituted commissions (such as that for 9/11) and then ignore their advice or imperfectly implement only the portions that stop the media howl.

The United States has time.  The current system, as ineffective as it is, is not so broken that we must act quickly and without reflection.  However, I prefer to close with an even more powerful means of highlighting the problem—a story.  Every year, at the end of my World War II series of classes to military officers attending the Army Command and General Staff Office Course, I post the following questions: “The security system that existed prior to and during World War II was so ineffective that it had to be replaced in 1947, right?  This was the same system that the United States used to lose the most desperate and far-ranging war in its history, right?”  Wrong—we won World War II–handily–and we can win again by adopting a system that proved successful in a pre-Cold War world that looks a lot like our world of today.  So-called progress does not always lead to better solutions.  The founders looked backwards to go forward, so can we.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] This is not the first time the author has made this argument, see John T. Kuehn, “Abolish the Office of the Secretary of Defense?” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 47, 4th Quarter 2007, 114-116.

[2] Recent attempt have been made to have a second round of GNA via the Project for National Security Reform effort, see James Locher et al. “Project for National Security Reform: Preliminary Findings” January 2008 (hereafter PNSR 2008), Washington, D.C.; and more recently the follow-on report from the PNSR from November 2011, “AMERICA’S FIRST QUARTER MILLENNIUM: ENVISIONING A TRANSFORMED NATIONAL SECURITY SYSTEM IN 2026,” see www.pnsr.org (accessed 7/31/2017). Full disclosure, the author was an unpaid consultant for the second report.

[3] PNSR, 2008 and 2011.

[4] PNSR, 2011, p.5.

[5] John T. Kuehn, “I Liked Ike . . . Whence Comes Another? Why PME Needs a Congressional Advocate,” in Joint Force Quarterly 83 (4th Quarter, October 2016): 40-43.

[6] Publius was the pen name for the authors of the Federalist Papers who argued the merits and reasoning behind the Constitution: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and (especially) James Madison. See, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, The Federalist Papers (New York: Penguin, 1987), paperback.

Contest (General) Governing Documents and Ideas John T. Kuehn Option Papers United States

Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Jeremy J. Grunert is an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently stationed in the United Kingdom.  He has served in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkey.  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.

Editors Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Able to be Implemented.


Title:  Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 16, 2017.

Summary:  The National Security Act of 1947 played a significant role in establishing the U.S. as the global superpower it is today.  Despite the broad range of challenges facing the U.S. today, a large-scale update to the Act is likely as dangerous as it is politically infeasible.  Instead, Congress may adopt incremental changes to address threats facing our nation, beginning with the system of classification and security clearance review.

Text:  The National Security Act of 1947 (hereafter “NSA”), signed into law by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1947, is the progenitor of the U.S. intelligence and military establishment as we know it today.  The NSA created the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency; established the United States Air Force as an independent military service; and merged the United States’ military services into what would become the Department of Defense, overseen by one Secretary of Defense.  The NSA’s reorganization of the defense and intelligence agencies set the stage for the United States’ post-World War II rise as, first, a military superpower, and, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, a global hegemon.

Seventy years after the passage of the NSA, the U.S. finds itself in an increasingly challenging security environment.  The lingering war in Afghanistan; the continued threat of terrorism; Russian military adventurism and cyber-meddling; a rising People’s Republic of China; and an increasingly bellicose North Korea all present significant security challenges for the U.S.  Given the solid foundation the NSA provided for the United States’ rise to global hegemony in the difficult period after World War II, is it time to update or amend the NSA to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?

Drastically altering the U.S. security framework as the original NSA did is likely as unwise as it is politically infeasible.  The wholesale creation of new intelligence and military services, or far-reaching changes to the structure of the Department of Defense, would result in confusion and bureaucratic gridlock that the U.S. can ill afford.  Instead, any updates to the NSA would be better done in an incremental fashion—focusing on areas in which changes can be made without resulting in upheaval within the existing security structure.  Two particular areas in which Congressional action can address serious security deficiencies are the realms of intelligence classification and security clearance review.

Proper intelligence classification and proper intelligence sharing—both among organizations within the U.S. national security establishment and between the U.S. and its foreign allies—is imperative to accomplish the U.S.’s strategic aims and protect its citizens.  Improper classification and over-classification, however, pose a continuing threat to the U.S.’s ability to act upon and share intelligence.  At the same time, a mind-bogglingly backlogged system for granting (and renewing) security clearances makes ensuring the proper people are accessing classified information a continuing challenge[1].

Congress has previously amended the NSA to address over-classification[2], and, in conjunction with other Congressional actions, may do so again.  First, whether within the NSA or in a new piece of legislation, Congress may examine amending portions of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order (EO) 13526.  Specifically, Congress could mandate a reduction of the automatic declassification time for classified intelligence from 10 years to 5 years, absent an agency showing that a longer period of classification is necessary.  Additionally, Congress could amend § 102A of the NSA (codifying the responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence, including for such things as “Intelligence Information Sharing” under § 102A(g)) by adding a paragraph giving the Director of National Intelligence the authority to create a rapid-reaction board for the speedy declassification or “step-down” of certain classified intelligence.  Chaired, perhaps, by the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (who can be delegated declassification authority per EO 13526), this board would be used to quickly reach “step-down” decisions with respect to intelligence submitted to the board for release at a certain specified level of classification.  A particularly good example of this sort of request would be a petition to “step-down” certain SECRET//NOFORN (i.e. only releasable to U.S. persons) intelligence for release to U.S. allies or coalition partners.  The goal would be to have a clear method, with a fixed timeframe measured in weeks rather than months, for the review and possible “step-down” of classified information.

Congress may also attempt to address the ever-growing backlog of security clearance applications and renewals.  One way to confront this problem is to amend 50 U.S. Code § 3341(b) and update Title VIII of the NSA (“Access to Classified Information”) to decentralize the process of investigating security clearance applicants.  Section 3341(b) currently requires the President to select a single agency to “direct[] day-to-day oversight of investigations and adjudications for personnel security clearances” and to “serv[e] as the final authority to designate an authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency” for security clearances[3].  Currently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the vast majority of security clearance investigations for U.S. government employees.  The massive backlog of clearance investigations, however, belies the idea that a single government agency can or should be responsible for this undertaking.  Congress could also amend § 3341(b) to allow an agency chosen by the President to establish minimum standards for security clearance investigation, but permit the decentralization of investigative responsibility into the military and intelligence agencies themselves.

An update to Title VIII of the NSA would work in conjunction with an amendment to § 3341(b).  Specifically, Congress could add a paragraph to § 801(a) of the NSA requesting the President require each executive agency, at least within the Defense and Intelligence communities, to establish an investigative section responsible for conducting that agency’s security clearance investigations.  Under the aegis of the minimum standards set forth in § 3341(b), this would allow the various Defense and Intelligence agencies to develop additional standards to meet their own particular requirements, and subject potential clearance candidates to more rigorous review when necessary.  Allowing greater agency flexibility in awarding clearances may reduce the likelihood that a high-risk individual could obtain a clearance via the standard OPM vetting process.

The changes to the National Security Act of 1947 and other laws described above are small steps toward addressing significant security challenges.  Addressing the security challenges facing the United States requires incremental changes—changes which will address concrete problems without an upheaval in our Defense and Intelligence agencies.  Focusing on fixing deficiencies in the United States’ classification and security clearance review systems is an excellent place to start.


Endnotes:

[1] Riechmann, D. (2017, September 11). Security clearance backlog leads to risky interim passes. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/security-clearance-backlog-leads-to-risky-interim-passes/2017/09/11/b9fb21dc-972b-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.e487926aac60

[2] Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-258, 124 Stat. 2648 (2010). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/laws/reducing-over-classification-act-2010

[3] 50 U.S.C. § 3341(b).  Retrieved September 22, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/3341

Assessment Papers Contest (General) Governing Documents and Ideas Jeremy J. Grunert Security Classification United States

Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure

Michael C. Davies has written three books on the Wars of 9/11 and is a progenitor of the Human Domain concept.  He currently works for an international law firm.  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. 

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  Unless the National Security Act of 1947 is scrapped and replaced, the United States will inevitably suffer grand strategic failure.  After 16 years of repeated, overlapping, and cascading strategic failures[1], the ineptitude of the U.S. national security system has been laid bare for all to see.  These failures have allowed America’s enemies to view the National Security Act’s flaws and provided the time and space to develop effective competitive strategies against the U.S. and successfully threaten both the international order and the U.S. social contract.

Date Originally Written:  September 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of an individual who previously conducted research on the Wars of 9/11 at the U.S. National Defense University and concluded that the United States of America, as a government, a military, and a society, is currently functionally and cognitively incapable of winning a war, any war.

Background:  Because the U.S. national security system, modeled via the 1947 Act, is built for a different era, different enemies, and different mental models, it is incapable of effectively creating, executing, or resourcing strategies to match the contemporary or future strategic environment.  The deficiencies of the current system revolve around its inability to situate policy and politics as the key element in strategy, competitively match civilian and military forces with contemporary and future environments and missions, maintain strategic solvency, end organizational stovepipes, and consider local and regional politics in strategic decision-making.

Significance:  Without immediate and revolutionary reorganization, a series of ever-more consequential strategic failures is inevitable, eventually leading to grand strategic failure.

Option #1:  Revolutionary Reorganization.

The list below offers the necessary revolutionary reorganization of the national security system to negate the previously mentioned deficiencies.

  1. Command and control of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) is moved to the Department of State.  Senate-approved civilian Ambassadors are given unity of command over all civilian and military forces and policymaking processes in their area.
  2. The Department of State is reorganized around foreign policymaking at the GCCs, super-empowered Chiefs of Mission in each country[2], and functional areas of expertise[3].
  3. The Department of Defense is reorganized into mission-centric cross-functional corps[4].
  4. The intelligence community is rationalized into a smaller number of agencies and reorganized around, and made dependent on, the above structures.
  5. The National Security Council is curtailed into a presidential advisory unit, a grand strategy unit headed by the Secretary of State to align national objectives, GCC policies, civilian and military force structures, and budgets, and a red team cell.
  6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff remain, but transfer all organizational power to the GCCs and the cross-functional corps.  The Chairman remains as the President’s chief military advisor.  The heads of each military Service will retain a position as military advisors to the President and ceremonial heads of the respective Services.
  7. A second tier is added to the All-Volunteer Force to allow for rapid scaling of civilian personnel into military service as needed, negating the need for National Service and the use of contractors.  Second tier individuals undertake a fast-track boot camp, provided functional training according to skills and need, given operational ranks, and assigned to units as necessary to serve a full tour or more.

Because of the magnitude of power given to the Executive Branch by this Act, the War Powers Resolution must be redrafted into a constitutional amendment.  Congress must now approve any action, whether a Declaration of War or an Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF), within 5 days of the beginning of combat by simple majority.  The President, the relevant GCC Ambassador, and the relevant country-team Ambassador(s) will be automatically impeached if combat continues without Congressional approval.  All majority and minority leaders of both houses and the relevant Committees will be automatically impeached if an authorizing vote is not held within the 5-day period.  Any AUMF must be re-authorized at the beginning of each new Congressional term by a super-majority of both houses.

Risk:  This reorganization will cause significant turmoil and take time to organizationally and physically relocate people, agencies, and bureaucratic processes to the new structure.  Large-scale resignations should be expected in response also.  Effective execution of policy, processes, and institutional knowledge will likely be diminished in the meantime.  Furthermore, the State Department is not currently designed to accept this structure[5], and few individuals exist who could effectively manage the role as regional policy proconsul[6].  This reorganization therefore demands significant planning, time, and care in initial execution.

Gain:  This reorganization will negate the current sources of strategic failure and align national policy, ground truth, and effective execution.  It will free the President and the Executive Branch from attempting to manage global politics on a granular level daily.  It will enable local and regional expertise to rise to the forefront and lessen the impact of ideologues and military operationalists on foreign policy.  And above all else, America will be capable of winning wars again.

Option #2:  Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency.

The implementation of all the recommendations from the Project for National Security Reform’s, Forging a New Shield[7], will allow for superior strategic decision-making by lessening the negative impact of organizational stovepipes.

Risk:  The maintenance of a strong President-centric system, Departmental stovepipes, and the military Services as independent entities that overlay Forging’s proposed interagency teams retains too much of the current national security system to be forcefully effective in negating the factors that have caused repeated strategic failures.  This option could be also used to give the appearance of reform without investing the time and energy to make its goals a reality.

Gain:  This reorganization can be readily adopted onto current national security structures with minimal disruption.  Demands for a ‘Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency’ is an oft-repeated call to action, meaning that significant support for these reforms is already present.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kapusta, P. (2015, Oct.-Dec.) The Gray Zone. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/27727

[2] Lamb, C. and Marks, E. (2010, Dec.) Chief of Mission Authority as a Model for National Security Integration. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/inss/StrategicPerspectives-2.pdf

[3] Marks, E. (2010, Mar.) A ‘Next Generation’ Department of State: A Proposal of the Management of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2010/0103/oped/op_marks.html

[4] Brimley, S. and Scharre, P. (2014, May 13) CTRL + ALT + DELETE: Resetting America’s Military. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/05/13/ctrl-alt-delete

[5] Schake, K. (2012, March 1) State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.hooverpress.org/State-of-Disrepair-P561.aspx

[6] Blair, D., Neumann, R., and Olson, E., (2014, Aug. 27) Fixing Fragile States. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/fixing-fragile-states-11125

[7] Project for National Security Reform (2008, Nov.) Forging a New Shield. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Uploads/001/Media/pnsr_forging_a_new_shield_report.pdf

Contest (General) Governing Documents and Ideas Michael C. Davies Option Papers United States

Options for Constitutional Change in Afghanistan

David Benson is a Professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the United States Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), part of Air University in Montgomery, Alabama.  His area of focus includes online politics and international relations.  He can be found on Twitter @davidcbenson.  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 attempting to broker peace in Afghanistan allowing it to remove troops, leaving behind a stable country unlikely to be used to stage transnational terror attacks.

Date Originally Written:  August 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 25, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article provides a neutral assessment of two possible courses of action available to the U.S. and Afghan Governments.

Background:  Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, religious and linguist state.  Nicknamed “the graveyard of empires,” the disparate nature of the country has prevented both foreign empires and domestic leaders from consolidating control in the country.  The most successful domestic leaders have used Afghanistan’s rough terrain and complicated ethnography to retain independence, while playing larger states off each other to the country’s advantage.

The U.S. and its allies have been conducting military operations in Afghanistan for 16 years.  In that time, the coalition of opposition known as the Taliban has gone from control of an estimated 90% of the country, down to a small fraction, and now controls approximately 50% of the country.  At the time of the U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban was a pseudo-governmental organization capable of fielding a military that used modern tactics, but since than has devolved into a less hierarchical network, and in some ways is better thought of as a coalition of anti-government forces.  Although officially a religious organization, the Taliban has historically drawn its greatest support from among the Pashto majority in the country.  The current Afghan government is at Kabul and has supporters amongst every ethnic group, but has never controlled much territory outside of Kabul.

Following the collapse of the Taliban the U.S.-sponsored government installed a constitution which established a strong central government.  Although the constitution recognizes the various minority groups, and provides protections for minority communities, it reserves most authority for the central government.  For example, though the government recognizes 14 ethnic groups and as many as 5 language families as part of Afghanistan, it still calls for a single centrally developed educational curriculum.  The president even appoints regional governors.

Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his key advisors have raised the possibility of a negotiated solution in Afghanistan.  Such a negotiation would necessarily include the Taliban, and Taliban associated groups.  Insofar as the ongoing conflict is between the central government and those opposed to the central government, a natural accommodation could include a change in the government structure.

Significance:  Afghanistan was the base of operation for the terrorist organization al-Qa’ida, and where the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were planned.  The importance of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. and international consciousness cannot be overstated.  The perceived threat of international terrorism is so great that if Afghanistan is not stable enough to prevent transnational terror attacks from originating there, regional and global powers will be constantly tempted to return.  Afghanistan is also a potential arena for competition between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.  India seeks an ally that can divide Pakistan’s attention away from India and the Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan wants to avoid encirclement.

Option #1:  Do not change the constitution of Afghanistan which would continue to centralize authority with the government in Kabul.

Risk:  The conflict never ends.  The Afghan constitution provides for a far more centralized government than any western democracy, and yet Afghanistan is more heterogeneous than any of those countries.  Ongoing populist revolts against elite leadership personified by Brexit in the United Kingdom and the election of President Trump demonstrate the desire for local control even in stable democracies.  Combined with Afghanistan’s nearly 40 year history of war, such desires for local control that are currently replicated across the globe could easily perpetuate violence in the country.  Imagine the local popular outrage in the U.S. when Barack Obama and Donald Trump were elected if the President also appointed the governors of every state, and dictated the curriculum in every school.

A second-order risk is heightened tension between India and Pakistan.  So long as Afghanistan is internally fractured, it is a source of conflict between India and Pakistan.  If Pakistan is able and willing to continue to foment the Taliban to thwart India’s outreach into the country, then this raises the possibility of escalation between the two nuclear countries.

Gain:  Afghanistan externally looks more like other states, at least on paper.  The Taliban and other terror groups are in violation of local and international law, and there is a place in Kabul for the U.S. and others to press their claims.  The advantage of the constitution as it now stands is that there is a single point of institutional control.  If the president controls the governors, and the governors control their provinces, then Afghanistan is a more easily manageable problem internationally, if not domestically.

Option #2:  Change the constitution of Afghanistan decentralizing some governing authority.

Risk:  Once the Afghan constitution is on the table for negotiation, then there is no telling what might happen.  The entire country could be carved up into essentially independent territories, with the national state of Afghanistan dissolving into a diplomatic fiction.  Although this would essentially replicate de jure what is de facto true on the ground, it could legitimize actors and outcomes that are extremely deleterious for international peace.  At worst, it might allow bad actors legal protection to develop power bases in regions of the country they control without any legal recourse for other countries.

Gain:  A negotiated solution with the Taliban is much more likely to succeed.  Some Taliban members may not give up their arms in exchange for more autonomy, and perhaps even a legal seat at the table, but not all people fighting for the Taliban are “true believers.”  The incentives for people who just want more local control, or official recognition of the control they already exercise, change with a constitution that cedes control from the central government.  Ideally the constitution would replicate to some degree the internal autonomy with external unity created in the 20th under the monarchy.

Other Comments:  War, even civil war, is always a political problem.  As such, a political solution may be more practical than a military one.  While changes can be applied to force structure, rules of engagement and strategy, until all involved are willing and able to change the politics of the situation, failure is imminent.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan David Benson Governing Documents and Ideas Option Papers United States