Options for Ukraine to Defend Civilian Centers from Russian Strikes

Michael C. DiCianna is a consultant in the national security field, and a staff member of the Center for International Maritime Security. He can be found on Twitter @navy_tobacco.  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:  Ukraine requires additional capabilities to defend its civilian centers from Russian strikes.

Date Originally Written:  October 25, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  October 31, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that with Ukrainian civilian centers defended from Russian strikes, the Ukrainian armed forces will be better able to focus on locating, closing with, and destroying Russian forces occupying Ukraine.

Background:  After the bombing of the Kerch Strait Bridge that links Russia to Ukraine’s Crimea —unclaimed but likely attributed to Ukrainian sabotage, Russia responded with missile strikes on civilian targets in Kyiv. As of the time of this writing, 19 people have been killed, and hundreds wounded. Some of these strikes used Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from ships in the Black and Caspian Seas[1]. Russia’s long-range missiles and artillery continue to threaten Ukrainian lives and allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to commit what amounts to war crimes[2][3]. Putin ordering his forces to shoot upwards of 100 missiles at civilian centers instead of the military targets reaffirms his commitment to use terror tactics to cover up for Russian military losses.

Significance:  Ukraine’s autumn counteroffensive has continued to degrade the Russian military on the front line. Western allies supplying arms and training continue to assist the Ukrainian military in its liberation efforts, but the Ukrainian capital and other major civilian centers are still being struck by Russian attacks. Protecting civilian lives and enabling the Ukrainian Armed Forces to focus on the front line will be vital to repelling the invasion.

Option #1:  Western allies increase Ukraine’s anti-ship capabilities.

Risk:  Putin has made it clear that the Kremlin will view all Western support to Ukraine as an escalation. Russian officials have made nearly weekly overt or implied nuclear threats. Previously, Russia implied that it would strike Western arms shipments in Ukraine, regardless of the point of delivery or casualties to North Atlantic Treaty Organization member countries. All increases to Ukrainian offensive and defensive capabilities risk Russian escalation, though this risk must be balanced against the importance of defending Ukrainian sovereignty. The addition of increased anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities might see reciprocal Russian assaults on Ukraine’s maritime infrastructure, or further attacks on major civilian centers. If Ukraine uses these hypothetical armaments to destroy Black Sea Fleet ships or infrastructure, Russa may feel even more cornered. Attacks against Crimea especially could increase the Kremlin’s perception of being “cornered.” Control of the Crimean Peninsula, including Sevastopol and thus a year-long naval base in the Black Sea, has been a core strategic objective of Russia since 2014.

Gain:  Destroying Russian long-range missile capabilities will be more effective at defending Ukraine’s population than relying on air defense systems.  Even the best air defense systems can be penetrated or overwhelmed. Ukrainians using Western-provided anti-ship capabilities to destroy Russian ships in the Black Sea not only removes Russian offensive capabilities, but it also damages the Russian strategic mission. Much like the loss of the illegally annexed territory of Lyman is a deep wound to the Russian agenda, a sunken Black Sea Fleet makes the Russian occupation of Crimea more and more irrelevant.

Increasing Ukrainian capability to strike Russian targets continues to degrade the Russian threat to the rest of Europe. Ukraine is fighting this war against Russia, and hopefully winning it, so that a similar war with Russia does not happen in Finland, Poland, or the Baltic States. This situation does not devalue the heroism of the Ukrainian cause, but it is a reminder to other European capitals that there is also a hard calculus behind supporting Ukraine. The Russian Army is being annihilated, and the Russian Air Force has taken serious losses. Losses to the Black Sea Fleet—already in a subpar state of upkeep—would be another drastic hit to Putin’s regime.

Option #2:  Western allies provide Ukraine limited air defense capabilities.

Risk:  Air defense systems will never be a complete shield over a city or other broad target. Even extensive air defense grids will leave gaps, and saturation strikes will overwhelm them. Providing Ukraine limited air defense capabilities will force Ukrainian military and civilian leaders to prioritize protection. Russian attacks could be targeting based on outdated maps, making it harder for Ukraine to predict which areas will be targeted[4]. Air defenses are vital to protecting civilian lives and military infrastructure, but limited Western support might not be enough in the face of further Russian bombardment. 

Gain:  An arms package containing limited air defense systems and provides Ukraine with no advanced long-range strike or antiship capabilities is likely viewed from a Western lens as a less escalatory option. Russia views all U.S. and Western arms deals for Ukraine as escalation and interference with a war it views as within its own periphery, but the Kremlin will still need to somehow maintain its own redlines[5]. Air defense systems designed to destroy Russian cruise missiles and drones are not as much of a threat to the Russian military as missiles designed to destroy Russian warships.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] The Economist Newspaper. (2022, October 10). Russia launches a wave of missiles across Ukraine. The Economist. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.economist.com/europe/2022/10/10/russia-launches-a-wave-of-missiles-across-ukraine

[2] Specia, M., Kramer, A. E., & Maria Varenikova, M. (2022, October 17). Buzzing Drones Herald Fresh Attacks on Kyiv, Killing Four. The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/10/17/world/russia-ukraine-war-news.

[3] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 8, paragraph 2.

[4] Knowles, D (Host). (2022, October 12). Private mercenaries, GCHQ’s nuclear response and on the ground in the Donbas. In Ukraine: The Lastest. The Telegraph. https://open.spotify.com/episode/14CJ4WAtCtuGP14e60S0q6?si=d86626ee3e334514

[5] Ellyatt, H. (2022, March 12). Western arms convoys to Ukraine are ‘legitimate targets,’ Russia warns. CNBC. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/11/ukraine-needs-more-weapons-the-west-fears-provoking-war-with-russia.html

 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Option Papers Russia Ukraine

Options for the U.S. to Approach India as a Fellow Superpower

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington MonthlyMerion WestWisdom of CrowdsCharged AffairsBraver Angels, and more. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.com/, and on Substack at The Non-Progressive Democrat.  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:  Options for the U.S. to Approach India as a Fellow Superpower

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  June 27, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes good relations between the United States and India, including respect for India as a fellow superpower, are vital for confronting challenges to U.S. interests, especially those presented by China. The author views India as a fellow superpower to the U.S. due to its population, gross domestic product, economic expansion in recent decades, military strength, and possession of nuclear weapons.

Background:  Across the early 21st century, the U.S. has developed closer political and security relations with India. The two countries participate in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“the Quad”)[1], a forum for coordinating security activities and holding joint military exercises[2], alongside U.S. allies Australia and Japan. In 2016, the U.S. designated India a Major Defense Partner (MDP), a status similar to that of Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA)[3].

Significance:  How Washington chooses to approach India will have extremely important implications for U.S. foreign policy, particularly U.S. efforts to confront and balance China. Respecting India as a fellow superpower will help the U.S. maximize the potential for positive bilateral relations.

Option #1:  The U.S. upgrades its MDP with India to a bilateral military alliance, placing India on the level of a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member.

Risk:  A formal U.S.-India alliance would frighten and anger China, seemingly confirming the fears of Chinese officials that the U.S. is seeking to surround it militarily. China would likely seek to increase its already close military and political ties with Russia[4]. Furthermore, if China believes it is about to be completely encircled geopolitically, it may believe it has a limited window of opportunity to bring Taiwan under its control, thus encouraging an invasion of the island.

This option would also frighten and anger Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state that has been a rival of India since their mutual independence from British rule in 1947. Although Pakistan is an MNNA of the U.S.[5], it is also a long-standing partner of China, a relationship motivated in large part by their shared rivalry with India[6]. Among other things, Pakistan may respond by refusing to cooperate with the U.S. in its approach to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Gain:  The prospect of two nuclear-armed states allied against China could make Beijing think twice about any aggressive move it made against the U.S. (either directly, or against a U.S. ally or partner like Japan or Taiwan) or against India (such as renewed border conflicts in the Himalayas)[7]. Option #1 would also mean that all of the U.S.’s fellow Quad members would be treaty allies[8][9], potentially turning the Quad into an Indo-Pacific equivalent of NATO. A formal alliance with the U.S. could also pull India away from Russia; the effects of India’s close relations with the Soviet Union, including in the area of arms sales, have lingered into the 21st century[10].

Option #2:  The U.S. tightens its security links to India short of a formal alliance, including efforts to build up India’s defense industrial base.

Risk:  Even without a formal alliance, any increase in U.S.-India defense cooperation will still worry China and Pakistan. Additionally, U.S. efforts to make India less dependent on foreign sources for its military equipment could irritate France, which sees increased defense exports to many countries, including India[11], as a key component of its security policy[12]. The diplomatic row in 2021 over Australia’s decision to cancel its purchase of French submarines in favor of U.S. vessels is a precedent the U.S. may want to avoid repeating[13].

Gain:  As well as deepening U.S.-India security cooperation, the U.S. building up India’s defense industry can decrease its reliance on Russia as a major provider of military equipment[14].

Option #3:  The U.S. Navy reactivates the First Fleet, and assigns a portion of the Indian Ocean as its area of responsibility.

Risk:  If the First Fleet takes waters away from the Seventh Fleet[15], it risks dividing the Indian and Pacific portions of U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy. This division could complicate any comprehensive U.S. effort to balance and counter Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region[16].

Gain:  Devoting a numbered fleet to the Indian Ocean[17] would signal a U.S. commitment to good relations with India, indicating that a good relationship is not merely an adjunct of Washington’s approach to China.

Option #4:  The U.S. defers to India as de facto hegemon of South Asia, intentionally putting U.S. interests in South Asia second to India’s.

Risk:  If the U.S. treats part of the world as India’s sphere of influence without any prioritization of U.S. interests there, it could set a dangerous precedent. This option would give rhetorical ammunition to Russia in its attempt to forcibly incorporate Ukraine (as well as potential attempts to bring other Eastern European countries into its sphere), and to China in its desire to gain control of Taiwan and expand its control in the South China Sea.

Encouraging India to see itself as rightfully dominant in its region could also make conflict between India and China more likely in locations where both powers have security interests, such as Afghanistan[18] and Tajikistan[19][20]. Option #4 would also run the risk of making Pakistan more anxious, and of curtailing U.S. efforts to fight Islamist extremism in Afghanistan.

Gain:  Deferring to India in South Asia would free up U.S. time, attention, and resources to protect its interests elsewhere, particularly interests related to competition with China in the Western Pacific, and with Russia in Eastern Europe. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. “Japan-Australia-India-U.S.(Quad) Leaders’ Meeting.” May 24, 2022. https://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/nsp/page1e_000402.html

[2] Rajagopalan, Rajeswari Pillai. “The Quad Conducts Malabar Naval Exercise.” The Diplomat, August 27, 2021. https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/the-quad-conducts-malabar-naval-exercise/

[3] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Security Cooperation With India.” January 20, 2021. https://www.state.gov/u-s-security-cooperation-with-india.

[4] Kofman, Michael. “The Emperors League: Understanding Sino-Russian Defense Cooperation.” War on the Rocks, August 6, 2020. https://warontherocks.com/2020/08/the-emperors-league-understanding-sino-russian-defense-cooperation/

[5] U.S. Department of State. “Major Non-NATO Ally Status.” January 20, 2021. https://www.state.gov/major-non-nato-ally-status/

[6] Khalid, Masood. “Pakistan-China Relations in a Changing Geopolitical Environment.” Institute of South Asian Studies, November 30, 2021. https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/

[7] Slater, Joanna. “Soldiers injured in fresh border skirmish between India and China.” Washington Post, January 25, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-china-clash-sikkim/2021/01/25/7d82883c-5edb-11eb-a177-7765f29a9524_story.html

[8] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Relations With Japan.” January 20, 2020. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-japan/

[9] U.S. Department of State. “U.S. Relations With Australia.” June 9, 2022. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-australia/

[10] Sharma, Ashok. “India to boost arms output, fearing shortfall from Russia.” Associated Press, April 7, 2022. https://abc17news.com/news/2022/04/07/india-to-boost-arms-output-fearing-shortfall-from-russia/.

[11] Shiraishi, Togo and Moyuru Baba. “France and India partner on weapons tech in blow to Russia.” Nikkei Asia, May 6, 2022. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/France-and-India-partner-on-weapons-tech-in-blow-to-Russia.

[12] Mackenzie, Christina. “Here’s what’s behind France’s 72% jump in weapons exports.” Defense News, March 10, 2020. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/03/10/heres-whats-behind-frances-72-jump-in-weapons-exports/

[13] Willsher, Kim. “France recalls ambassadors to US and Australia after Aukus pact.” Guardian, September 17, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/17/france-recalls-ambassadors-to-us-and-australia-after-aukus-pact

[14] Banerjee, Vasabjit and Benjamin Tkach. “Helping India Replace Russia in the Value Arms Market.” War on the Rocks, May 20, 2022. https://warontherocks.com/2022/05/helping-india-replace-russia-in-the-value-arms-market/

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

[16] White House. “Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States.” February 2022. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/U.S.-Indo-Pacific-Strategy.pdf

[17] 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

[18] Adlakha, Hemant. “Will the China-Pakistan-Taliban troika in Afghanistan make India irrelevant?” Hindustan Times, January 18, 2022. https://www.hindustantimes.com/ht-insight/international-affairs/will-the-china-pakistan-taliban-troika-in-afghanistan-make-india-irrelevant-101642409043057.html

[19] Dutta, Sujan. “India renews interest in running its first foreign military base in Tajikistan.” Print, October 11, 2018. https://theprint.in/defence/india-renews-interest-in-running-its-first-foreign-military-base-in-tajikistan/132454/

[20] Shih, Gerry. “In Central Asia’s forbidding highlands, a quiet newcomer: Chinese troops.” Washington Post, February 18, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-central-asias-forbidding-highlands-a-quiet-newcomer-chinese-troops/2019/02/18/78d4a8d0-1e62-11e9-a759-2b8541bbbe20_story.html

Great Powers & Super Powers India Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers United States

Options for Defining the Next U.S. Defense Challenge

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


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a new classified National Defense Strategy (NDS), not yet released in an unclassified version, which is an occasion to consider what the next central defense challenge should be. The central defense challenge shapes prioritization of ends, ways, means, and helps define risk for U.S. defense policy makers. 

Date Originally Written:  May 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 23, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  If well-articulated, the NDS-established central defense challenge can drive the defense establishment to field more relevant forces, with decisive capabilities, that are postured to bolster deterrence and assurance in ways that help the U.S. avoid great power war. The author believes the 2018 central defense challenge – revisionist power plays – should be updated based on an assessment of the emerging security environment. 

Background:  The first NDS of the Biden administration is complete. A classified NDS was submitted to Congress in late March 2022, and an unclassified version is planned for release later in May or June, according to a Defense Department fact sheet[1]. The geostrategic situation is rapidly changing and where world politics and the international system are headed is hard to predict. Foreign policy expert Zalmay Khalilzad and defense expert David Ochmanek wrote in the late 1990s that the United States had not yet settled on any fundamental principles to guide national strategy[2]. The situation doesn’t seem that different today, and American defense discussions reference various state and non-state threats as primary. Great powers, bloc-based rivalry, and the possibility of major power war seem to be on the rise. National consensus on the central defense challenge will help lay a foundation for coherent security policy. 

Significance:  The emerging U.S. national security situation is especially volatile with the potential for major war, protracted violent competition, and weakening international order. The geopolitical commentator George Friedman has highlighted Chinese and Russian vulnerabilities – economic and military – while emphasizing that the United States has the opportunity to be the greatest of the great powers and steer international system to peace and stability[3]. The United States still possesses great capabilities and opportunities, but defense analysts need to clearly see the emerging situation to successfully navigate the threats and changes. 

How U.S. defense leaders prioritize challenges affects foreign perceptions of American commitment. U.S.-driven sanctions and materiel aid in the current Russo-Ukrainian war demonstrate that American power will continue to be directed toward stability and improving European security. The truth remains that U.S. great power is preferable to the hegemony of any other great power in the world[4]. Still, it is well for the United States to guard against overreaching. American policymakers face a problem of spreading national security resources too thin by prioritizing multiple state challengers, like China, Russia, and Iran or North Korea[5]. The next central defense challenge needs to prioritize U.S. military resources, planning, and posture – the full breadth of defense activities. 

More than at any time since 1991, as some kind of multipolar great power international system emerges in the coming years, U.S. policy makers can ensure the best investment in capabilities for achieving objectives over time by properly prioritizing challenges. 

Option #1:  The Secretary of Defense identifies China’s ability to impose regional military hegemony as the central defense challenge. This option would prioritize investing in a Joint Force that demonstrates the ability to counter hard military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has twice the U.S. number of active duty soldiers, a larger surface navy, the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile and DF-17 hypersonic missile, as well as increasingly capable joint commands[6]. Some researchers point to China’s recent fielding of powerful space-based capabilities to allow for real-time targeting of moving targets without ground support[7]. This option acknowledges that the geostrategic pivot for U.S. security is in Eurasia and especially the far eastern part. 

Risk:  Prioritizing the challenge from the PLA may embolden Russia, North Korea, and other capable threat actors as they assume American leaders will overfocus on one region and one great power rival. Development of capabilities for China and particularly the Western Pacific may leave the Joint Force poorly equipped for large-scale combined arms operations based on heavy, protected, mobile firepower and closer-range fires. A future force designed for maritime, air, and littoral environments might lack the ability to conduct prolonged urban combat. 

Gain:  Identifying PLA capabilities for regional hegemony as the primary defense challenge will make it easier to marshal resources and plan to employ joint forces in high-technology, protracted warfare – a more cost-intensive force development. Even a smaller-scale war with China would require prodigious amounts of long-range fires, air, surface, sub-surface, space, and cyberspace warfighting systems because of China’s potential economic and diplomatic power, and the ranges involved in reaching high-value PLA targets. 

Option #2:  The Secretary of Defense identifies the Russian Armed Forces’ ability to defeat U.S.-European security ties as the central defense challenge. This option would prioritize investing in a more capable North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) through Joint Force capabilities that are substantially more combined/coalition interoperable than today. This option acknowledges the Russian Armed Forces that invaded Ukraine in February 2022, after threatening Kyiv to varying degrees since 2014, and suggests that NATO deterrence was ineffective in convincing Moscow that military aggression was a losing policy. 

Risk:  Over-focusing on building alliance capabilities to counter Russian tank and artillery formations might inhibit needed modernization in U.S. air, maritime, and space capabilities, including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and fully networked joint/combined command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. 

Gain:  The Russian Armed Forces will likely continue to rely on hybrid forms of warfare, mixing conventional force employment with irregular ways, including information and psychological warfare, due to economic limitations. Focusing on building U.S. capabilities for state-based hybrid warfare will allow the future Joint Force to operate effectively along the full spectrum of conflict. 

Option #3:  The Secretary of Defense identifies transregional, non-state threats like climate change as the central defense challenge. This option acknowledges that non-state threats to U.S. interests are mixing with traditional military threats to create an especially complicated security environment[8]. Focusing on transregional, non-state threats aligns with prioritizing a stable global trade and financial system to the benefit of U.S. and partner economic interests. 

Risk:  The defense capabilities to address transregional, non-state threats do not have extensive overlap with those needed for state-based threats, conventional maneuver warfare, or great power war. The United States could reduce investment in great power war just when the chances of this form of conflict is rising. 

Gain:  Investment in addressing transregional, non-state threats could make the Joint Force more affordable in the long-term if breakthrough capabilities are developed such as new forms of energy production and transportation. 

Other Comments:  Core defense issues are always contentious as committed constituencies leverage establishment processes for the resources needed to realize their aims – this is true today about how to prioritize resources for the most capable future Joint Force. There are impassioned pleas for investing in military capabilities for competition, limited conflicts, and gray zone challenges[9]. Others argue that investing for gray zone conflict is a waste[10]. U.S. defense leaders are at a fork in the road. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Defense, “Fact Sheet: 2022 National Defense Strategy,” Defense-dot-gov, March 28, 2022, https://media.defense.gov/2022/Mar/28/2002964702/-1/-1/1/NDS-FACT-SHEET.PDF. 

[2] Zalmay M. Khalilzad and David A. Ochmanek, Strategic Appraisal 1997: Strategy and Defense Planning for the 21st Century (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1997), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA325070.pdf. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. defense leaders have opted for ambiguity in defining defense challenges primarily because the nation faced so many. The options here assume that as the United States loses its unipolar dominance, the value of stricter prioritization of challenges will become clearer. 

[3] George Friedman, “The Beginning of a New Era,” Geopolitical Futures, May 3, 2022, https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-beginning-of-a-new-era/. 

[4] Robert Kagan, “The World After the War,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2022, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ukraine/2022-04-06/russia-ukraine-war-price-hegemony. 

[5] Francis P. Sempa, “Our Elites Need to Recognize that America’s ‘Unipolar Moment’ is Over,” RealClearDefense, March 24, 2022, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2022/03/24/our_elites_need_to_recognize_that_americas_unipolar_moment_is_over_823466.html. 

[6] Shawn Yuan, “Just How Strong is the Chinese Military?” Al Jazeera News, October 29, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/29/just-how-strong-is-the-chinese-military. 

[7] Ashish Dangwal, “Shadowing F-22 Raptor – China Plans To Turn Its Low-Cost Satellites Into Spy Platforms That Can Even Track Fighter Jets,” Eurasian Times, April 8, 2022, https://eurasiantimes.com/china-plans-to-turn-its-satellites-into-spy-fighter-jets/. 

[8] Sean MacFarland, “Joint Force Experimentation for Great-Power Competition,” Heritage Foundation, November 17, 2020, https://www.heritage.org/military-strength-topical-essays/2021-essays/joint-force-experimentation-great-power-competition. 

[9] Justin Magula, “Rebalancing the Army for Military Competition,” Modern War Institute, April 5, 2022, https://mwi.usma.edu/rebalancing-the-army-for-military-competition/. 

[10] Lyle Goldstein, “Commentary: The New Indo-Pacific Strategy is Too Shallow,” Defense News, February 24, 2022, https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/commentary/2022/02/24/the-new-indo-pacific-strategy-is-too-shallow/. 

Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons Option Papers United States

Options for the U.S. Army to Build More Combat Condition Resilient Soldiers

J. Caudle is a Civilian Defense Contractor and a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves with 18 years of experience in all three U.S. Army components. He has specialties in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear, Cavalry, and Armor operations and has a M.A. in National Security. He can be found on Twitter @MOPP_Ready. 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 Army overemphasizes safety during training which has the potential to create risk adverse Soldiers and Commanders.

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2022.

Date Originally Published: May 16, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has served in the Active Army Component, the Army National Guard, and the Army Reserves as both an officer and a Non-Commissioned Officer. The author believes that soldiering is a dangerous business and that while Commanders should look out for the well-being of their Soldier, this looking out should not sacrifice combat effectiveness.

Background:  Soldiers that are treated like professional warfighters from day one and expected to embrace tough, realistic combat conditions will be less surprised by, and more resilient to, the stresses of combat. Commanders require the freedom to prioritize training Soldiers as warfighters over risk adversity.

Significance:  Commanders that are trained to be timid and driven by a fear of being relieved due to safety incidents in training may not be effective in combat. This ineffectiveness will negatively impact U.S. National Security. Soldiers led and trained by timid leaders have less potential to develop the aggressiveness and decisiveness needed to win battles. As Carl von Clausewitz said, “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage in war than audacity[1].”

Option #1:  The U.S. Army increases hardships to produce tougher, more resilient warfighters.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Maxim #58 says “The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second; hardship, poverty, and want are the best school for the soldier[2].” The ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want can be trained just like any other skill. Battlefield conditions require that leaders develop resilient Soldiers. One hardship that Soldiers endure on the battlefield is constant exposure to extreme weather conditions. Leaders can increase the amount of time their Soldiers are exposed to the weather while training. To enhance focus on the tactical mission instead of administrative box checking, the Army Physical Fitness Uniform could be abandoned in favor of the duty uniform during daily fitness training and during the Army Combat Fitness Test. Increasing the amount of training conducted in using Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JLIST) can also be done. Training in the JLIST increases Soldier proficiency in a simulated chemical warfare environment, adds physical stress into field problems, and trains the Soldier to focus on their mission instead of their physical discomfort in the suit. Leaders could also conduct training on a reverse cycle i.e. training at night and sleeping during the day. This reverse cycle would enable Soldiers to better know how they react to sleep deprivation so they can be effective in combat.

Risk:  Recruiting and retention would suffer as some Soldiers would not like this lifestyle. The Army will need a focused narrative on justifying this option. Army recruiting commercials would show these hardships for expectation management and also to attract a different type of recruit. There is also a safety risk as training gets harder, more mishaps are bound to occur.

Gain:  This option produces tougher, more resilient Soldiers. However, this option will only succeed if Soldiers are treated like professional warfighters. Training Soldiers in the ability to endure fatigue, privation, hardship, poverty and want not only serves their unit and ultimately the nation, but may have a lifelong impact on the resilience of the Soldier and their mental health.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reevaluates its use of DD Form 2977, the Deliberate Risk Assessment Worksheet (DRAW).

The author has seen DRAWs up to 28 pages long that never make it down to the individual Soldiers it is designed to protect which establishes the perception that the DRAW itself is more important than actually implementing safety. In addition to the DRAW not being accessible to the Soldiers it is designed to protect, the U.S. Army’s implementation of the DRAW also ensures Commanders prioritize not being relieved due to a training mishap over conducting realistic training.

Better use of the DRAW would ensure the contents of the form are briefed to the Soldiers involved in the training. Additionally, Commanders would not let the DRAW overly restrain them in conducting realistic training. Keeping Soldiers unaware and training safely instead of realistically does not enable the U.S. Army “To deploy, fight, and win our Nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt, and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the Joint Force[3].”

Risk:  The option will increased the probability of training accidents.

Gain:  This option will build risk tolerant leaders within the U.S. Army. It will also build more resilient Soldiers that are experienced in completing more realistic training. This realistic training will increase Soldier resiliency by exposing them to battlefield stressors.

Other Comments:  Colonel David Hackworth, U.S. Army (retired) states “Training for war must be realistic at all costs. We can’t just discontinue a curriculum when something bad happens, provided that something is not the result of misconduct on the parts of sadistic or unqualified instructors.” He later states “Training casualties, tragic as they may be, must be accepted as an occupational hazard in the tough and dangerous business of soldiering. The emphasis on safety at the expense of realism…sets up soldiers it presumably is protecting for failure by stunting their growth and inhibiting their confidence in themselves and their supporting weapons[4]”.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]U.S. Army. (2019). ADP 6-0 Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army

[2] Bonaparte, N. (1902). Napoleon’s Maxims of War. (G. D’Aguilar, Trans.) Philadelphia: David McKay. Retrieved from Military-Info.com.

[3] U.S. Army. (2022). Army.mil. Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/about/

[4] Hackworth, D. H., & Sherman, J. (1989). About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. New York: Simon and Schuster.

 

 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Governing Documents and Ideas J. Caudle Leadership Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

U.S. Army Options to Regain Land Power Dominance

Marco J. Lyons is a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. Although the analysis presented here is the author’s alone, he has benefitted extensively from discussions with Dr. Ron Sega of U.S. Army Futures Command and Dr. Anthony “Tony” Tether a former Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Army has a modernization enterprise that is second-to-none but facing the highly capable militaries of China and Russia is an unprecedented challenge. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army planned to have a Taiwan invasion capability no later than the early 2020s[1]. The Russian military will probably have substantially increased its missile-based stand-off capabilities by the mid-2020s[2]. More alarmingly, Russia has succeeded in modernizing approximately 82 percent of its nuclear forces[3]. Russian conventional and nuclear modernization have both been factors in Moscow’s recent three-pronged invasion of Ukraine. 

Date Originally Written:  April 5, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  April 18, 2022. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has researched future operational concept development through the Army Science Board. The author believes that U.S. Army decision makers and analysts can more aggressively leverage past future force initiatives to address emerging threats from China and Russia. 

Background:  The ability to operate directly against adversary centers of gravity defines dominance. Dominant land power refers here to the ability of a land force to operate directly against the most decisive points that sustain an adversary force[4]. In land operations, a final decision requires control – through seizure, occupation, or retention – of terrain, people and resources using actual or threatened destruction or presence, or both[5]. America’s position as a global leader rests on its dominant land power[6]. 

Significance:  The character of warfare, the increasing interaction between the levels of war, and a concomitant need for higher echelon commanders to exercise military art on a broader scale and wider scope than earlier in history, all demand the U.S. Army refocus on the operational level[7]. The planning and command challenges at the operational level are more demanding than current doctrine would suggest. Moreover, the consequences of failure in major operations are difficult to overcome[8]. What has been called the theater-strategic level of war, or higher operational art, is poorly understood[9]. Three decades of post-Cold War stability and support operations, and two decades of counterinsurgency have helped the U.S. Army lose touch with the art of major operations. 

In only a few years China will have a trained, equipped, and cohesive invasion force and Russia will have a combat-capable force with recent experience in cross-domain operations. U.S. Army strategic leaders are already pressing for force transformation against these large-scale threats[10]. The Army can build on more than five years of modernization, the 2018 multi-domain operations concept, and a new global posture strategy to maintain the momentum needed to break the mold of the Brigade Combat Team-centric, Unified Land Operations-based force[11]. Importantly, U.S. Army planners can rapidly harvest important work done since the end of the Vietnam era. In competition, crisis, and armed conflict – in war – the United States needs a ready land force to deter unwanted escalation, assure allies and key partners, and compel beneficial geostrategic outcomes through force, if necessary. 

Option #1:  The U.S. Army revives and updates AirLand Battle–Future (ALBF). ALBF was meant to be a follow-on doctrine to AirLand Battle but was interrupted by the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union. ALBF took the fundamentals of AirLand Battle and applied them to nonlinear battlefields and to advanced-technology capabilities – the same dynamics seen in the emerging operational environment. Additionally, ALBF extended operational concepts to operations short of war – like the competition short of armed conflict idea today[12]. 

Risk:  Major additions to the U.S. Army’s current doctrine development projects run the risk of delaying progress. Adding ALBF to the current Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) doctrine development may impose additional testing and validation demands. 

Gain:  An updated ALBF would provide a ready road map for the U.S. Army to move from the narrowly conceived 2018 Army in MDO concept to a published MDO doctrine which would replace Unified Land Operations. With the incorporation of a detailed view of multi-domain battle – still the heart of the MDO concept – an updated ALBF would provide the broad-based, low- to high-intensity doctrinal framework for the coming decades. 

Option #2:  The U.S. Army reinstitutes an updated Army of Excellence (AOE). The AOE was the last organization designed against a specified threat force – the Soviet Army and similarly-equipped enemy forces. The original rationale for the AOE was to reduce force “hollowness” by bringing personnel and materiel requirements within the limits of Army resources, enhance U.S. Army Corps-level capabilities to influence battle, and improve strategic mobility for immediate crisis response in regional conflicts[13]. This rationale is still relevant. Building on this rationale and using the Chinese People’s Liberation Army as a specified threat force, the Army could update the AOE (Light) Division to a “hybrid warfare” force and the AOE (Heavy) Division to a “high-technology, cross-domain maneuver” force. Echelons above division, with a reinstitution of corps-directed battle, could focus on layering advanced technology with multi-domain operations capabilities to conduct nonlinear and deep operations. 

Risk:  AOE was resource-intensive and a new AOE might also demand resources that may not materialize when needed. 

Gain:  An updated AOE organization would provide a familiar blueprint for fielding the land force for a more fully developed MDO doctrine. A new AOE would quickly restore robust and more survivable formations. 

Option #3:  The U.S. Army restarts the Army After Next (AAN). AAN locked on to technological maturation timelines that turned out to be wildly optimistic[14]. But many of the concepts, not least information dominance, precision fires, and focused logistics, were valid in the mid-1990s and remain so – the challenges are in testing, validation, and integration. Today, some of the early-envisioned AAN capabilities will soon be fielded. Various new fires systems, including Extended Range Cannon Artillery and Long-Range Precision Fire missiles, will provide the greatly extended range and higher accuracy needed to destroy enemy anti-access, area denial systems. As part of MDO, these new fires systems can be linked with forward operating F-35 multirole combat aircraft and ideally a constellation of low earth orbiting sensor platforms to achieve unprecedented responsiveness and lethality. The first battery of tactical directed energy weapons are in development, and even the combat cloud imagined by AAN planners, now called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (or an alternative capability solution), is a near-term reality[15]. 

Risk:  AAN may not have focused enough on lethality at the operational level of war, and so in reviving the effort, it is possible this same shortcoming could hamper MDO against near-peer enemy forces. 

Gain:  What AAN provided that is missing today is a comprehensive blueprint to channel the Army’s genuine and ‘unifying’ modernization campaign under Army Futures Command[16]. 

Other Comments:  The U.S. Army’s strategy defines a land power dominant force by 2028[17]. Under the current Army Chief of Staff, beginning in 2020, the U.S. Army is trying to more closely link readiness, modernization, posture, and force structure under a broad plan for “transformation”[18]. To focus force transformation, the American Army could revive past work on nonlinear warfare, corps battle command, and technologically-enabled, globally integrated operations. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Interview: Ben Lowsen on Chinese PLA Ground Forces: Assessing the future trajectory of PLA ground forces development,” The Diplomat, April 8, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/interview-ben-lowsen-on-chinese-pla-ground-forces/. 

[2] Fredrik Westerlund and Susanne Oxenstierna, eds., Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective – 2019 (Stockholm: Swedish Defence Research Agency, December 2019), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337948965_Russian_Military_Capability_in_a_Ten-Year_Perspective_-_2019. 

[3] Dakota L. Wood, ed., 2021 Index of U.S. Military Strength (Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2021), https://www.heritage.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/2021_IndexOfUSMilitaryStrength_WEB_0.pdf. 

[4] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020: America’s Military – Preparing for Tomorrow (Washington, DC: National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, 2000), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a526044.pdf. 

[5] Michael A. Vane and Robert M. Toguchi, “The Enduring Relevance of Landpower: Flexibility and Adaptability for Joint Campaigns,” Association of the United States Army, October 7, 2003, https://www.ausa.org/publications/enduring-relevance-landpower-flexibility-and-adaptability-joint-campaigns. 

[6] Williamson Murray, ed., Army Transformation: A View from the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001), https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/1560.pdf. 

[7] David Jablonsky, “Strategy and the Operational Level of War: Part I,” Parameters 17, no. 1 (1987): 65-76, https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA516154.pdf. 

[8] Milan Vego, “On Operational Leadership,” Joint Force Quarterly 77 (2nd Quarter 2015): 60-69, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-77/Article/581882/on-operational-leadership/. 

[9] Michael R. Matheny, “The Fourth Level of War,” Joint Force Quarterly 80 (1st Quarter 2016): 62-66, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-80/Article/643103/the-fourth-level-of-war/. 

[10] James C. McConville, Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1, Unclassified Version (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, March 16, 2021), https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf. 

[11] Billy Fabian, “Back to the Future: Transforming the U.S. Army for High-Intensity Warfare in the 21st Century,” Center for a New American Security, November 19, 2020, https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/back-to-the-future-transforming-the-u-s-army-for-high-intensity-warfare-in-the-21st-century. One recent study concluded that Unified Land Operations does not sufficiently focus on large-scale war against an enemy force. See Alan P. Hastings, Coping with Complexity: Analyzing Unified Land Operations Through the Lens of Complex Adaptive Systems Theory (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2019), https://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/api/collection/p4013coll3/id/3894/download. 

[12] Terry M. Peck, AirLand Battle Imperatives: Do They Apply to Future Contingency Operations? (Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 1990), https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a234151.pdf. 

[13] Pat Ford, Edwin H. Burba, Jr., and Richard E. Christ, Review of Division Structure Initiatives, Research Product 95-02 (Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization, 1994), https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA297578. 

[14] Robert H. Scales, “Forecasting the Future of Warfare,” War on the Rocks, April 9, 2018, https://warontherocks.com/2018/04/forecasting-the-future-of-warfare/. 

[15] Dan Gouré, “Creating the Army After Next, Again,” RealClearDefense, August 16, 2019, https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2019/08/16/creating_the_army_after_next_again_114670.html. 

[16] U.S. Army, 2019 Army Modernization Strategy: Investing in the Future (Fort Eustis, VA: Army Futures Command, 2019), 1,  https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/2019_army_modernization_strategy_final.pdf.

[17] The United States Army, “The Army’s Vision and Strategy,” Army.mil, no date, https://www.army.mil/about/. The Army’s “WayPoint 2028” focused on concepts and modernization. The United States Army, “Gen. Michael Garrett Visit,” U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, August 18, 2020, https://usacac.army.mil/node/2739. The Army’s “AimPoint Force” structure plan was meant to revive capable warfighting echelons above brigade. Andrew Feickert, “In Focus: The Army’s AimPoint Force Structure Initiative,” Congressional Research Service, May 8, 2020, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IF11542.pdf. The “AimPoint Force” was about designing networked capabilities for overmatch. Devon Suits, “Futures and Concepts Center evaluates new force structure,” Army.mil, April 22, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/234845/futures_and_concepts_center_evaluates_new_force_structure. 

[18] Association of the United States Army, “McConville Advocates for Aggressive Transformation,” Association of the United States Army, October 14, 2020, https://www.ausa.org/news/mcconville-advocates-aggressive-transformation. 

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Governing Documents and Ideas Major Regional Contingency Marco J. Lyons Option Papers U.S. Army

Options to Modify Title 10 U.S. Code to Improve U.S. Security Force Assistance

Major James P. Micciche is a U.S. Army Strategist and Civil Affairs Officer. He holds degrees from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Troy University and can be found on Twitter @james_micciche. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the USG. 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:  Without modifications to Title 10 U.S. Code (USC), Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, §321 and §333, U.S. Security Force Assistance (SFA) contributions to strategic competition will not be fully realized.

Date Originally Written:  March 23, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 4, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes SFA can address strategic competitors’ most likely and most dangerous courses of action while also supporting competitive efforts through other instruments of national power. 

Background:  The DoD defines SFA as “activities that support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions[1].”   SFA improves the ability of the Joint Force to support, enable, and enhance campaigning across all elements of the competition continuum[2].  Despite SFA’s prominent role in supporting the Integrated Deterrence concept underlying the 2022 National Defense Strategy, current statutory authorities limit SFA’s effectiveness. The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) Section 1323 (Study on Certain Security Cooperation Programs) and Section 1261 (Report on Security Cooperation Authorities and Associated Resourcing in Support of the Security Force Assistance Brigades) of the Senate’s proposed NDAA signal Congressional interest in improving SFA authorities to address strategic competition[3][4].  

Significance:  Allies and Partners are a cornerstone of U.S. policy. The first National Security Strategy identified an “area of U.S. strength and Soviet weakness is alliance relationships[5].” Current DoD leadership continues to emphasize Allies and Partners as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities testified to the House Armed Service Committee “The U.S. network of alliances and partnerships is a strategic advantage our competitors cannot match[6].” That advantage enables the realization of Integrated Deterrence, the foundation of the 2022 National Defense Strategy. Integrated Deterrence synchronizes Joint Force and Interagency capabilities with those of Allies and Partners to deter or compel strategic competitors[7]. SFA builds the requisite partnerships and interoperability with Allies and Partners in key locations to generate Integrated Deterrent effects mitigating threats to U.S. interests. 

Sun Tzu prioritized negating an adversary’s strategy and then destabilizing their alliances[8]. China, America’s identified pacing threat, did this by investing in capabilities preventing the deployment of U.S. military power. China also uses diplomatic, information, and economic instruments of national power to degrade U.S. access, influence, and presence globally. From Anti-Access Area Denial technologies to coercive economic and diplomatic practices, China is denying options and increasing the costs for the U.S. military. Due to these concerted efforts, the Joint Force now faces two strategic challenges, “time and distance[9].” 

SFA provides options for combatant commanders to compete below levels of armed conflict through establishing or maintaining access, presence, and influence while improving partners’ military capability and interoperability with U.S. forces. SFA increases adversarial escalation costs and allows the Joint Force to begin conflict at a positional advantage. Despite SFA’s capabilities, the current statutory authorities do not enable the DoD to maximize its employment of purpose-built SFA formations, like the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and the Air Force’s Mobility Support Advisory Squadrons.

Title 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 16, authorizes the majority of DoD security cooperation activities, of which SFA is a subset. The current chapter 16 authorities represent the unipolar world of 1991-2003 or the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) from 2001-2017. Within the current legislative framework §321 (Training with Friendly Countries) and §333 (Foreign Security Forces: Authority to Build Capacity) are the primary mechanisms for the DoD to conduct SFA. Each authority has limitations and strengths but neither is optimized for strategic competition. 

Option #1:  Congress changes “only with the military forces” to “security forces” within the limitation clause of §321.

§321 authorizes general-purpose forces of the United States to train only with the militaries of partners for the overall benefit of the U.S. unit[10]. §321 prevents the development of new partner capabilities and restricts materiel, construction, or contract support to training events only. While §321 is a flexible option for combatant commanders to establish access, presence, and influence it limits the development and integration to indirect benefits of training with U.S. forces. 

Risk:  Expanding the amount and type of security forces that U.S. conventional units can train without State Department concurrence risks over-militarizing aspects of U.S. foreign policy and delegitimizing whole of government efforts to develop capacity in non-defense sectors. §321 expansion risks potentially duplicating authorities within §322 (Special operations forces: training with friendly foreign forces) without an overarching program manager like U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Combined Exchange Training. 

Gain:  Increasing the aperture of who U.S. conventional forces can train with increases the flexibility and utility of using §321 to establish access, presence, and influence. This is especially beneficial within nations that have internally-focused security forces that are not part of a traditional military architecture. 

Option #2:  Congress creates a tenth capacity category authorizing “improved combined military interoperability” in §333.

§333 authorizes materiel, training, and operational support to foreign partner forces in developing capabilities across nine different mission types with seven of the nine being focused on GWOT-era objectives. Unlike §321 activities, §333 missions require Department of State concurrence and coordination and have specific Congressionally appropriated funding through the international security cooperation programs account. 

Risk:  Despite developing long-term partner capabilities, §333 activities take 18-24 months to approve, preventing its use in emergent and unforeseen requirements. Additionally, both conventional and special operations forces use §333 and its associated funds and adding additional mission types will increase competition for an already limited resource, especially with the loss of overseas contingency operations funding. 

Gain:  SFA works best over prolonged periods through persistent presence. §333’s ability to build partner capacity and provide materiel and operational support make it ideal for improving the effectiveness of partner forces to deter aggression and generating interoperability with U.S. Forces. Department of State concurrence and monitoring of §333 also facilitates the integration of other instruments of national power.  

Option #3:  Congress creates an SFA-specific authority and funding source. 

§321 broadly allows combatant commanders some flexibility in where they conduct SFA requiring months to approve and fund but vastly limits the long-term impact of their activities. Inversely, §333 is specific in allowing concerted efforts with a given partner that takes years to approve and its codified mission types constrain use to developing nations. Creating a responsive SFA-specific authority and funding source provides the Joint Force the ability to address strategic competition and prioritizes Partners and Allies.

Risk:  After the failures of the Afghan National Security Forces in August 2021 and the deaths of four U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers during an ambush in 2017, there is substantial pushback on increasing the autonomy of the DoD to execute SFA. Increasing SFA’s ability to employ military members in advisory roles requires Congress to assume risk and put faith back into the DoD to execute global competition missions. 

Gain:  An SFA-specific authority and funding source highlights U.S. commitment to allies, partners, and strategic competition. This authority, with an accompanying appropriated funding source, will generate the long-term strategies needed to maximize the effects of SFA. 

Other Comments:  Combatant commanders continue to warn of legislative inaction in a world defined by competition between autocracies and democracies. In competition autocratic states enjoy an asymmetric advantage in speed, responsiveness, and reach due to no bureaucratic restrictions or adherence to international norms and laws. The Commander of U.S. Africa Command highlighted the issue of speed warning that U.S. assistance, “can sometimes take a long time to unfold, and that sometimes forces our African partners to go with the bird in hand, which is sometimes China, sometimes Russia[11].” The Commander of U.S. Southern Command outlined the need for flexibility when asking Congress to explore a “21st century flexible and responsible tool to allow us to outcompete and win by meeting our partner’s needs[12].” Inaction risks potential degradation of U.S. access, presence, and influence needed to establish integrated deterrence.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2021), DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. page 192. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2019) Competition Continuum (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19). Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233 defines three competition as having three nonlinear elements nonexclusive elements cooperation, competition below levels of armed conflict, and conflict.  

[3] United States. (2022). National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year: Conference report. Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1605/text

[4] United States. Congress. Conference Committees 2022. (2022). JOINT EXPLANATORY STATEMENT TO ACCOMPANY THE NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2022: Washington :U.S. Govt. Print. Off.. Retrieved from https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/17S1605-RCP117-21-JES-U1.pdf 

[5] Reagan, Ronald  (1987). National security strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of The President Washington DC Washington United States. Retrieved from https://history.defense.gov/Portals/70/Documents/nss/nss1987.pdf

[6] C-SPAN (2022). Defense and State Officials Testify on U.S. Engagement with Allies. Retrieved from https://www.c-span.org/video/?518194-1/defense-state-officials-testify-us-engagement-allies 

[7] Garamone, Jim (2021). “Concept of Integrated Deterrence Will Be Key to National Defense Strategy, DOD Official Says.” U.S. Department of Defense – DOD News. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2866963/concept-of-integrated-deterrence-will-be-key-to-national-defense-strategy-dod-o/ 

[8] Griffith, S. B. (1963). Sun Tzu: The art of war (Vol. 39). London: Oxford University Press.

[9] McConville, James (2021).  Army Multi-Domain Transformation: Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1. Headquarters Department of the Army. Retrieved from https://api.army.mil/e2/c/downloads/2021/03/23/eeac3d01/20210319-csa-paper-1-signed-print-version.pdf 

[10] 10 U.S.C. § 321 (2016), accessed 5 March 2021, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2016-title10/html/USCODE-2016-title10-subtitleA-partI-chap16-subchapIII.htm.

[11] Senate Armed Service Committee. (2022). HEARING TO RECEIVE TESTIMONY ON THE POSTURE OF UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND AND UNITED STATES AFRICA COMMAND a.” Retrieved from https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/22-12_03-15-2022.pdf 

[12] House Armed Service Committee. (2021). National Security Challenges and U.S. Military Activity in North and South America.” Retrieved from https://armedservices.house.gov/2021/4/full-committee-hearing-national-security-challenges-and-u-s-military-activity-in-north-and-south-america  

Allies & Partners Capacity / Capability Enhancement Competition James P. Micciche Option Papers U.S. Air Force U.S. Army

Options to Mitigate Cognitive Threats

John Chiment is a strategic threat intelligence analyst and has supported efforts across the Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the LinQuest Corporation, any of LinQuest’s subsidiaries or parents, or the U.S. Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Cognitive attacks target the defender’s ability to accurately perceive the battlespace and react appropriately. If successful, these attacks may permit an attacker to defeat better equipped or positioned defenders. Defenders who deploy defenses poorly matched against the incoming threat – either due to mischaracterizing that threat or by rushing to respond – likely will suffer greater losses. Mitigation strategies for cognitive attacks all carry risks.

Date Originally Written:  January 31, 2022.

Date Originally Published:   March 7, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an American threat intelligence analyst with time in uniform, as a U.S. government civilian, and as a DoD contractor. 

Background:  Effectively countering an attack requires the defender to detect its existence, recognize the danger posed, decide on a course of action, and implement that action before the attack completes its engagement. An attacker can improve the odds of a successful strike by increasing the difficulty in each of these steps (via stealth, speed, deception, saturation, etc.) while defenders can improve their chances through preparation, awareness, and technical capabilities. Correct detection and characterization of a threat enables decision-makers to decide which available defense is the most appropriate. 

Significance:  A defender deploying a suboptimal or otherwise inappropriate defense benefits the attacker. Attackers who target the defender’s understanding of the incoming attack and their decision-making process may prompt defenders to select inappropriate defenses. Technological superiority – long a goal of western militaries – may be insufficient against such cognitive manipulations that target human decision-making processes rather than the capabilities the defender controls.

Option #1:  Defenders increase their number of assets collecting Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) data in order to more rapidly detect threats.

Risk:  Increasing ISR data collection consumes industrial and financial resources and may worsen relationships with other powers and the general public. Increasing collection may also overwhelm analytic capabilities by providing too much data [1].

Gain:  Event detection begins the defender’s process and earlier detection permits the defender to develop more options in subsequent stages. By increasing the number of ISR assets that can begin the defender’s decision-making process, the defender increases their opportunities to select an appropriate defense.

Option #2:  The defender increases the number of assets capable of analyzing information in order to more rapidly identify the threat.

Risk:  Increasing the number of assets capable of accurately processing, exploiting, and disseminating (PED) information consumes intellectual and financial resources. Threat characterization decisions can also be targeted in the same ways as defense deployment decisions [2].

Gain:   A larger network of available PED analysts may better address localized spikes in attacks, more evenly distribute stress among analysts and analytic networks within supporting agencies, and lower the risk of mischaracterizing threats, likely improving decision-maker’s chances of selecting an appropriate defense.

Option #3:  The defender automates defense deployment decisions in order to rapidly respond with a defense.

Risk:  Automated systems may possess exploitable logical flaws that can be targeted in much the same way as defender’s existing decision-making process. Automated systems operate at greater speeds, limiting opportunities for the defender to detect and correct inappropriate decisions [3].

Gain:  Automated systems operate at high speed and may mitigate time lost to late detection or initial mischaracterization of threats. Automating decisions also reduces the immediate cognitive load on the defender by permitting defensive software designers to explore and plan for complex potentials without the stress of an incoming attack.

Option #4:  The defender increases the number of assets authorized to make defense deployment decisions in order to more likely select an appropriate defense.

Risk:  Increasing the available pool of authorized decision-makers consumes communication bandwidth and financial resources. Larger communication networks have larger attack surfaces and increase the risk of both data leaks and attackers maliciously influencing decisions into far-off engagements. Attacking the network segment may produce delays resulting in defenders not deploying appropriate defenses in time [4].

Gain:  A larger network of authorized decision-makers may better address localized spikes in attacks, more evenly distribute stress among decision-making personnel, and lower the risk of rushed judgements that may prompt inappropriate defense deployments.

Option #5:  The defender trains authorized decision-makers to operate at higher cognitive loads in order to more likely select an appropriate defense.

Risk:  Attackers likely can increase attacks and overwhelm even extremely well-trained decision-makers.  As such, this option is a short-term solution. Increasing the cognitive load on an already limited resource pool likely will increase burnout rates, lowering the overall supply of experienced decision-makers [5].

Gain:  Improving decision-maker training can likely be achieved with minimal new investments as it focusses on better utilization of existing resources.

Option #6:  The defender prepositions improved defenses and defense response options in order to better endure attacks regardless of decision-making timelines.

Risk:  Prepositioned defenses and response options consume logistical and financial resources. Actions made prior to conflict risk being detected and planned for by adversaries, reducing their potential value. Rarely used defenses have maintenance costs that can be difficult to justify [6].

Gain:  Prepositioned defenses may mitigate attacks not detected before impact by improving the targeted asset’s overall endurance, and attackers knowledgeable of the defender’s defensive capabilities and response options may be deterred or slowed when pursuing goals that will now have to contend with the defender’s assets.

Other Comments:  Risks to the decision-making processes cannot be fully avoided. Options #3 and #6 attempt to make decisions before any cognitive attacks target decision-makers while Options #2 and #4 attempt to mitigate cognitive attack impact by spreading the load across a larger pool of assets. Options #1 and #2 may permit decision-makers to make better decisions earlier in an active attack while Option #5 attempts to improve the decision-making abilities of existing decision-makers. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Krohley, N. (2017, 24 October). The Intelligence Cycle is Broken. Here’s How To Fix It. Modern Warfare Institute at West Point. https://mwi.usma.edu/intelligence-cycle-broken-heres-fix/

[2] Corona, I., Giancinto, G., & Roli, F. (2013, 1 August). Adversarial attacks against intrusion detection systems: Taxonomy, solutions and open issues. Information Sciences, 239, 201-225. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ins.2013.03.022

[3] Eykholt, K., Evtimov, I., Fernandes, E., Li, B., Rahmati, A. Xiao, C., Prakash, A., Kohno, T., & Song, D. (2018). Robust Physical-World Attacks on Deep Learning Visual Classification [Paper Presentation]. Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. https://arxiv.org/abs/1707.08945v5

[4] Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2016, 21 December). Countering Threat Networks (JP 3-25). https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_25.pdf

[5] Larsen, R. P. (2001). Decision Making by Military Students Under Severe Stress. Military Psychology, 13(2), 89-98. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327876MP1302_02

[6] Gerritz, C. (2018, 1 February). Special Report: Defense in Depth is a Flawed Cyber Strategy. Cyber Defense Magazine. https://www.cyberdefensemagazine.com/special-report-defense-in-depth-is-a-flawed-cyber-strategy/

Cyberspace Influence Operations Information and Intelligence John Chiment Option Papers

Options to Address Disinformation as a Cognitive Threat to the United States

Joe Palank is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he leads a Psychological Operations Detachment. He has also previously served as an assistant to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. He can be found on Twitter at @JoePalank. 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:  Disinformation as a cognitive threat poses a risk to the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  January 17, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 14, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Army Reservist specializing in psychological operations and information operations. He has also worked on political campaigns and for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He has studied psychology, political communications, disinformation, and has Masters degrees in Political Management and in Public Policy, focusing on national security.

Background:  Disinformation as a non-lethal weapon for both state and non-state actors is nothing new.  However the rise of the internet age and social media, paired with cultural change in the U.S., has given this once fringe capability new salience. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations pose the most pervasive and significant risks to the United States through their increasingly weaponized use of disinformation[1]. 

Significance:  Due to the nature of disinformation, this cognitive threat poses a risk to U.S. foreign and domestic policy-making, undercuts a foundational principle of democracy, and has already caused significant disruption to the U.S. political process. Disinformation can be used tactically alongside military operations, operationally to shape the information environment within a theater of conflict, and strategically by potentially sidelining the U.S. or allies from joining international coalitions.

Option #1:  The U.S. focuses domestically. 

The U.S. could combat the threat of disinformation defensively, by looking inward, and take a two-pronged approach to prevent the effects of disinformation. First, the U.S. could adopt new laws and policies to make social media companies—the primary distributor of disinformation—more aligned with U.S. national security objectives related to disinformation. The U.S. has an asymmetric advantage in serving as the home to the largest social media companies, but thus far has treated those platforms with the same laissez faire approach other industries enjoy. In recent years, these companies have begun to fight disinformation, but they are still motivated by profits, which are in turn motivated by clicks and views, which disinformation can increase[2]. Policy options might include defining disinformation and passing a law making the deliberate spread of disinformation illegal or holding social media platforms accountable for the spread of disinformation posted by their users.

Simultaneously, the U.S. could embark on widescale media literacy training for its populace. Raising awareness of disinformation campaigns, teaching media consumers how to vet information for authenticity, and educating them on the biases within media and our own psychology is an effective line of defense against disinformation[3]. In a meta-analysis of recommendations for improving awareness of disinformation, improved media literacy training was the single most common suggestion among experts[4]. Equipping the end users to be able to identify real, versus fake, news would render most disinformation campaigns ineffective.

Risk:  Legal – the United States enjoys a nearly pure tradition of “free speech” which may prevent the passage of laws combatting disinformation.

Political – Passing laws holding individuals criminally liable for speech, even disinformation, would be assuredly unpopular. Additionally, cracking down on social media companies, who are both politically powerful and broadly popular, would be a political hurdle for lawmakers concerned with re-election. 

Feasibility –  Media literacy training would be expensive and time-consuming to implement at scale, and the same U.S. agencies that currently combat disinformation are ill-equipped to focus on domestic audiences for broad-scale educational initiatives.

Gain:  A U.S. public that is immune to disinformation would make for a healthier polity and more durable democracy, directly thwarting some of the aims of disinformation campaigns, and potentially permanently. Social media companies that are more heavily regulated would drastically reduce the dissemination of disinformation campaigns worldwide, benefiting the entire liberal economic order.

Option #2:  The U.S. focuses internationally. 

Strategically, the U.S. could choose to target foreign suppliers of disinformation. This targeting is currently being done tactically and operationally by U.S. DoD elements, the intelligence community, and the State Department. That latter agency also houses the coordinating mechanism for the country’s handling of disinformation, the Global Engagement Center, which has no actual tasking authority within the Executive Branch. A similar, but more aggressive agency, such as the proposed Malign Foreign Influence Response Center (MFIRC), could literally bring the fight to purveyors of disinformation[5]. 

The U.S. has been slow to catch up to its rivals’ disinformation capabilities, responding to disinformation campaigns only occasionally, and with a varied mix of sanctions, offensive cyber attacks, and even kinetic strikes (only against non-state actors)[6]. National security officials benefit from institutional knowledge and “playbooks” for responding to various other threats to U.S. sovereignty or the liberal economic order. These playbooks are valuable for responding quickly, in-kind, and proportionately, while also giving both sides “off-ramps” to de-escalate. An MFIRC could develop playbooks for disinformation and the institutional memory for this emerging type of warfare. Disinformation campaigns are popular among U.S. adversaries due to the relative capabilities advantage they enjoy, as well as for their low costs, both financially and diplomatically[7]. Creating a basket of response options lends itself to the national security apparatus’s current capabilities, and poses fewer legal and political hurdles than changing U.S. laws that infringe on free speech. Moreover, an MFIRC would make the U.S. a more equal adversary in this sphere and raise the costs to conduct such operations, making them less palatable options for adversaries.

Risk:  Geopolitical – Disinformation via the internet is still a new kind of warfare; responding disproportionately carries a significant risk of escalation, possibly turning a meme into an actual war.

Effectiveness – Going after the suppliers of disinformation could be akin to a whack-a-mole game, constantly chasing the next threat without addressing the underlying domestic problems.

Gain:  Adopting this approach would likely have faster and more obvious effects. A drone strike to Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s headquarters, for example, would send a very clear message about how seriously the U.S. takes disinformation. At relatively little cost and time—more a shifting of priorities and resources—the U.S. could significantly blunt its adversaries’ advantages and make disinformation prohibitively expensive to undertake at scale.

Other Comments:  There is no reason why both options could not be pursued simultaneously, save for costs or political appetite.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Nemr, C. & Gangware, W. (2019, March). Weapons of Mass Distraction: Foreign State-Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age. Park Advisors. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://2017-2021.state.gov/weapons-of-mass-distraction-foreign-state-sponsored-disinformation-in-the-digital-age/index.html 

[2] Cerini, M. (2021, December 22). Social media companies beef up promises, but still fall short on climate disinformation. Fortune.com. Retrieved January 16, 2022 from https://fortune.com/2021/12/22/climate-change-disinformation-misinformation-social-media/

[3] Kavanagh, J. & Rich, M.D. (2018) Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/t/RR2314

[4] Helmus, T. & Keep, M. (2021). A Compendium of Recommendations for Countering Russian and Other State-Sponsored Propaganda. Research Report. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA894-1.html

[5] Press Release. (2020, February 14). Following Passage of their Provision to Establish a Center to Combat Foreign Influence Campaigns, Klobuchar, Reed Ask Director of National Intelligence for Progress Report on Establishment of the Center. Office of Senator Amy Klobuchar. https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/2/following-passage-of-their-provision-to-establish-a-center-to-combat-foreign-influence-campaigns-klobuchar-reed-ask-director-of-national-intelligence-for-progress-report-on-establishment-of-the-center

[6] Goldman, A. & Schmitt, E. (2016, November 24). One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed as Result of F.B.I. Program. New York Times. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/middleeast/isis-recruiters-social-media.html

[7] Stricklin, K. (2020, March 29). Why Does Russia Use Disinformation? Lawfare. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.lawfareblog.com/why-does-russia-use-disinformation

Cyberspace Influence Operations Information and Intelligence Joe Palank Option Papers Social Media United States

Options to Address the Risk from Elected Officials Concurrently in the National Guard or Reserves

Marshall McGurk serves in the United States Army and has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. He presently works at the Joint Readiness Training Center as a Special Operations Forces Observer-Coach/Trainer. He can be found on Twitter @MarshallMcGurk and writes for the Havok Journal website. 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:  Elected Officials who concurrently serve in the National Guard or Reserves politicize the U.S. Armed Forces.

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 31, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty U.S. Army Officer. The author believes in the responsibilities and duties of military service.  The article is written from the point of view that boundaries must be made or enforced to prevent politicization within the Armed Forces.

Background:  Currently, there are 14 members of the 117th Congress still serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. “Six House Members and one Senator are still serving in the reserves, and seven House Members are still serving in the National Guard[1].” Veteran candidates for political office and those serving while elected find themselves under increased scrutiny.  This scrutiny comes from a public with different opinions regarding the January 6, 2021 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building in response to the 2020 election, a nation no longer at war in Iraq or Afghanistan, and a crippling global pandemic that has threatened the U.S. economy and national security.  Due to these events, numerous retired military officers from O-5 to General Officer/Flag Officer rank have publicly expressed their concerns for or against previous or current U.S. Presidents[2][3].

None of the options outlined hereafter prohibit non-partisan elected or appointed service allowed by Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.”

Significance:  In light of the background and the increasing airing of grievances, having elected officials serving concurrently in the military is a national security concern. The use of military uniforms, rank-based trappings, and influence in the electoral process is ripe for exploitation by foreign intelligence services. This situation sows seeds of division among military members, could negatively affect the trust that civilians and military members place in their elected officials, and could create undue influence of rank upon military members when the ballot is cast.

There is also a waning of civilian trust in the U.S. military. A November 2021 Reagan Foundation survey found only 45% of those surveyed had a great deal of confidence in the military institution[4]. Civilian trust in the military institution is vital for national defense. Serving while in elected office may lead to conflicts of interest while developing response options to foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Option #1:  DoD Requires Elected Military Members to Enter the Individual Ready Reserve

The Department of Defense could create regulations that place elected military members or those appointed to partisan national positions in the Individual Ready Reserve, without pay, benefits, or activation, for the duration of their elected service. The strictures of DoDD 1344.10 remain in place, allowing the elected official to state their military affiliation, while also confirming the primacy of their elected position. 

Risk:  Elected officials maintaining military affiliation through the little-known Individual Ready Reserve may lead to confusion within the electorate about roles and responsibilities of their elected officials. This may also trigger conflict of interest concerns if language in the legislation does not prohibit activation of concurrently serving officials for overseas or Defense Support of Civil Authorities missions. 

Gain:  Option #1 would allow for a possible win-win-win for military members seeking elected office, for the Legislative Branch, and for the Department of Defense. Elected officials could maintain affiliation to a trusted and respected institution, and the Legislative Branch and electorate would not endure their Representatives and Senators deploying to dangerous missions outside of their legislative duties.

Option #2:  DoD Prohibits Military Members from Seeking Elected Office

Another option is for the Department of Defense to modify DoDD 1344.10, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces[5],” so military members are prohibited from seeking elected office entirely. Those seeking state or national elected office would have to agree to an honorable discharges or retirement from military service before declaring candidacy. This option includes all services, components, military occupational specialties, and functional areas.

Risk:  Option #2 would remove a historical precedent of concurrent service in the Legislative and Executive Branches of government going back to the founding of the United States and the Continental Congress. An adjustment to this precedent would spark debate in the Department of Defense, the greater Executive Branch, the Legislative branches, as well as debate in the public sphere by those wishing to maintain the status quo.  

Gain:  Option #2 reinforces the non-partisan nature of the United States Armed Forces in accordance with the spirit and intent of DoDD 1344.10.

Option #3:  Congress Bars Members from Reserve or National Guard Membership

One option is for Congress to pass legislation barring national elected officials or those appointed to partisan national positions from serving in the Reserve or National Guard. The newly elected or appointed official must resign or retire from their military position prior to their inauguration. There is historical precedent for this option as President Dwight D. Eisenhower resigned his military commission in 1952 prior to his presidency[6].

Risk:  This change in legislation would only affect those elected to national office.  This means states would have to make their own choices about whether or not to change their legislation. Human Resource departments within the Armed Forces may not be prepared to process resignations or retirements of elected officials currently serving.

Gain: The gain from option #3 is a removal of risk, a removal of misinformation and disinformation opportunities, and a clear delineation of military and civil responsibilities.

Other Comments:  All three options would require DoDD 1344.10 to be re-written, coordinated, adjudicated, and its new version approved by the Secretary of Defense.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Congress.gov. (2022, January 3). Membership of the 117 Congress: A profile. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46705 

[2] Open letter from retired generals and admirals. Flag Officers 4 America. (2021, May). Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/fb7c7bd8-097d-4e2f-8f12-3442d151b57d/downloads/2021%20Open%20Letter%20from%20Retired%20Generals%20and%20Adm.pdf?ver=1620643005025 

[3] Eaton, P. D., Taguba, A. M., & Anderson, S. M. (2022, January 6). Opinion | 3 retired generals: The military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection. The Washington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/17/eaton-taguba-anderson-generals-military/ 

[4] Beacon Research (2021, November) U.S. National Survey Of Defense Attitudes On Behalf Of The Ronald Reagan Foundation Final Topline Results Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/Reagan%20Foundation%20-%20November%202021%20Survey%20-%20Topline%20Results.pdf 

[5] FVAP.gov  (2008, February 19) Department of Defense Directive Number 1344.10. Department of Defense. Retrieved January 15, 2022 from https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/134410p.pdf   

[6] U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Eisenhower Military Chronology. National Parks Service. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://www.nps.gov/features/eise/jrranger/chronomil1.htm 

Armed Forces Marshall McGurk Option Papers Politicization United States

Options to Counter Foreign Influence Operations Targeting Servicemember and Veterans

Marcus Laird has served in the United States Air Force. He presently works at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command as a Strategic Plans and Programs Officer. He can be found on Twitter @USLairdForce.  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.  Divergent Options’ does not contain official information nor is it affiliated with the Department of Defense or the U. S. Air Force. The following opinion is of the author only, and is not official Air Force or Department of Defense policy. This publication was reviewed by AFRC/PA, and is cleared for public release and unlimited distribution.


National Security Situation:  Foreign Actors are using Social Media to influence Servicemember and Veteran communities. 

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 3, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a military member who has previously researched the impact of social media on US military internal dialogue for professional military education and graduate courses. 

Background:  During the lead up to the 2016 election, members of the U.S. Army Reserve were specifically targeted by advertisements on Facebook purchased by Russia’s Internet Research Agency at least ten times[1]. In 2017, the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) also detected social media profiles which were sophisticated mimics of their official web pages. These web pages were created for several reasons to include identity theft, fraud, and disseminating disinformation favorable to Russia. Further investigation revealed a network of fake personas attempting to make inroads within online military and veteran communities for the purpose of bolstering persona credibility to spread disinformation. Because these mimics used VVA logos, VVA was able to have these web pages deplatformed after two months due to trademark infringement[2].  

Alternatively, military influencers, after building a substantial following, have chosen to sell their personas as a means of monetizing their social media brands. While foreign adversary networks have not incorporated this technique for building an audience, the purchase of a persona is essentially an opportunity to purchase a turnkey information operation platform. 

Significance:  Servicemembers and veterans are trusted voices within their communities on matters of national security. The special trust society places on these communities makes them a particularly lucrative target for an adversary seeking to influence public opinion and shape policy debates[3]. Social media is optimized for advertising, allowing specific demographics to be targeted with unprecedented precision. Unchecked, adversaries can use this capability to sow mistrust, degrade unit cohesion, and spread disinformation through advertisements, mimicking legitimate organizations, or purchasing a trusted persona. 

Option #1:  Closing Legislative Loopholes 

Currently, foreign entities are prohibited from directly contributing to campaigns. However, there is no legal prohibition on purchasing advertising by foreign entities for the purpose of influencing elections. Using legislative means to close this loophole would deny adversaries’ abuse of platforms’ microtargeting capabilities for the purpose of political influence[4].

Risk:  Enforcement – As evidenced during inquiries into election interference, enforcement could prove difficult. Enforcement relies on good faith efforts by platforms to conduct internal assessments of sophisticated actors’ affiliations and intentions and report them. Additionally, government agencies have neither backend system access nor adequate resources to forensically investigate every potential instance of foreign advertising.

Gain:  Such a solution would protect society as a whole, to include the military and veteran communities. Legislation would include reporting and data retention requirements for platforms, allowing for earlier detection of potential information operations. Ideally, regulation would prompt platforms to tailor their content moderation standards around political advertising to create additional barriers for foreign entities.  

Option #2:  Deplatforming on the Grounds of Trademark Infringement

Should a foreign adversary attempt to use sophisticated mimicry of official accounts to achieve a veneer of credibility, then the government may elect to request a platform remove a user or network of users on the basis of trademark infringement. This technique was successfully employed by the VVA in 2017. Military services have trademark offices, which license the use of their official logos and can serve as focal points for removing unauthorized materials[5].

Risk:  Resources – since trademark offices are self-funded and rely on royalties for operations, they may not be adequately resourced to challenge large-scale trademark infringement by foreign actors.

Personnel – personnel in trademark offices may not have adequate training to determine whether or not a U.S. person or a foreign entity is using the organization’s trademarked materials. Failure to adequately delineate between U.S. persons and foreign actors when requesting to deplatform a user potentially infringes upon civil liberties. 

Gain:  Developing agency response protocols using existing intellectual property laws ensures responses are coordinated between the government and platforms as opposed to a pickup game during an ongoing operation. Regular deplatforming can also help develop signatures for sophisticated mimicry, allowing for more rapid detection and mitigation by the platforms. 

Option #3:  Subject the Sale of Influence Networks to Review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) 

Inform platform owners of the intent of CFIUS to review the sale of all influence networks and credentials which specifically market to military and veteran communities. CFIUS review has been used to prevent the acquisition of applications by foreign entities. Specifically, in 2019 CFIUS retroactively reviewed the purchase of Grindr, an LGBTQ+ dating application, due to national security concerns about the potential for the Chinese firm Kunlun to pass sensitive data to the Chinese government.  Data associated with veteran and servicemember social networks could be similarly protected[6]. 

Risk:  Enforcement – Due to the large number of influencers and the lack of knowledge of the scope of the problem, enforcement may be difficult in real time. In the event a sale happens, then ex post facto CFIUS review would provide a remedy.  

Gain:  Such a notification should prompt platforms to craft governance policies around the sale and transfer of personas to allow for more transparency and reporting.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Goldsmith, K. (2020). An Investigation Into Foreign Entities Who Are Targeting Servicemembers and Veterans Online. Vietnam Veterans of America. Retrieved September 17, 2019, from https://vva.org/trollreport/, 108.

[2] Ibid, 6-7.

[3] Gallacher, J. D., Barash, V., Howard, P. N., & Kelly, J. (2018). Junk news on military affairs and national security: Social media disinformation campaigns against us military personnel and veterans. arXiv preprint arXiv:1802.03572.

[4] Wertheimer, F. (2019, May 28). Loopholes allow foreign adversaries to legally interfere in U.S. elections. Just Security. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.justsecurity.org/64324/loopholes-allow-foreign-adversaries-to-legally-interfere-in-u-s-elections/.

[5] Air Force Trademark Office. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.trademark.af.mil/Licensing/Applications.aspx.

[6] Kara-Pabani, K., & Sherman, J. (2021, May 11). How a Norwegian government report shows the limits of Cfius Data Reviews. Lawfare. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from https://www.lawfareblog.com/how-norwegian-government-report-shows-limits-cfius-data-reviews.

Cyberspace Influence Operations Marcus Laird Military Veterans and Military Members Option Papers Social Media United States

Options to Make COVID19 Lessons Learned Permanent at the United Kingdom’s Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land)

Grant is a serving officer in the British Army.  This article is an individual submission as the content is not endorsed by Army Division or the Defence Academy.  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:  During the COVID19 pandemic, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) (ICSC(L)) was modified in several ways which, if made permanent, could improve the output leading to an overall increase in combat capability.

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2021. 

Date Originally Published:  October 11, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author has a technical background, recently attended ICSC(L), and believes in contributing to a wider discussion regarding COVID19 lessons learned.

Background:  The options below present a reasonable challenge[1] on how the ICSC(L) is delivered, support the Army’s Digital Transformation[2], and avoid unintentionally stepping back to pre-COVID19 delivery and content.  These options set the conditions for enabling future Integrated Operations by improving decision making.  

Significance:  The aim of ICSC(L) “is to train and educate majors for grade 1 and 2 staff appointments, and commands as majors by developing their leadership, analytical and communication skills, productivity, professionalism and mental agility, …. to develop the intellectual edge needed for success on operations and leadership in government[3]”.   ICSC(L) is traditionally a seven month residential course, but during the past three courses a large portion was delivered online due to COVID19.  This online delivery could continue[4] with no training deficiency identified in previous courses.

Option #1:  Embrace technology.  One of the key benefits of ICSC(L), per the instructor cadre there, is developing a “professional network,” as the students are in the “people business, that requires face to face” content delivery.  Hence on April 19, 2021, during a national lockdown, the course of over 200 students formed up for face to face learning delivered in part socially distanced with everyone sitting in a lecture hall, listening to speakers briefing using the Microsoft Teams application on a large screen at the front.

By the autumn of 2021, a project called “MyMOD Laptop” expects to have delivered 150,000 laptops enabling personnel to work effectively and collaboratively across the world.  If these laptops were issued at the start of ICSC(L)[5], and best practices training on the new tools e.g. Microsoft Teams provided, students could embrace new ways of working regarding collaborative planning and management. 

Risk:  The benefits of face to face lessons are clear.  For example, it is very challenging attempting a modeling exercise on Microsoft Teams.  

Gain:  University courses[6] are delivered in part by online work.  Training as you fight using the same information technology gives students a chance to experiment and develop new styles of working and sets conditions for success as a digital army rather than using labelled up paper handbooks[7].  As U.S. Army General Stanley McCrystal said in 2011, “instead of being able to get all the key leaders for a decision together in a single room and look them in the eye ……I’ve got to use other techniques. I’ve got to use VTC, I’ve got to use chat, I’ve got to use email ….. not just for communication, but for leadership[8]”.

Option #2:  Reduce duplicative instruction.

The post-Cold War era saw UK forces based in Germany lacking the understanding and technical communications to practice a joint approach.  The Army today is much more than ‘The Armored Brigade’ and arguably ceding to ‘Jointery,’ in the information age.  On the last ICSC(L), approximately a quarter of the course’s duration was dedicated to Combat Estimate Planning at Brigade and Division Headquarters.  Students at ICSC(L) saw Combat Estimate Planning as repeating what they had already learned at Junior Officer Tactical Awareness Course (4 weeks) and Junior Command Staff Course (6 weeks).  During COVID19, elements of the Combat Estimate delivery were condensed into a 14-day modular block.  This shortened block suffices as less than a tenth of students are posted into a Division or Brigade Headquarters roles that utilize the Combat Estimate with slightly more than a tenth assigned to roles[9] that use the Tactical Estimate that is briefed just once one the course.  This option leaves four fifths of the course where any estimate is beneficial but not essential.  

Risk:  Some students may, based on their learning style or career focus, need to be refreshed and / or re-taught certain subjects.  Removing duplicative instruction may put them at risk for not learning / retaining the material. 

Gain:  Reducing the overall course duration by shortening repetitive content would reduce the demands on both students and staff.   

Option #3:  Update course content.

ICSC(L) lacked any instruction related to considerations for mitigation of COVID19 in future units nor how, from a Ministry of Defense (MoD) point of view, a pandemic could effect national security operations.  Secondly, while the 2021 Integrated Review mentions the word “Cyber” 156 times, ICSC(L) only allocated a single afternoon lesson for cyber.  Future iterations of ICSC(L) could teach students how to plan for continued operations during a pandemic, and the integration of cyber operations at all levels. This instruction would utilize local knowledge of recent planning and mitigations that the ICSC(L) staff had to implement. 

Risk:  COVID19 and the reported major cyber incident[10] experiences may be too new and too localized and curriculum developed too fast could teach students the wrong things.

Gain:  Though localized, the cyber incident vignette or war story is just as relevant to future operations as Falklands or Iraq briefs and would boost MoD resilience.  “Chatham house rules, on this day on camp we discovered, how it unfolded, what we did and with hindsight, what we wished we had done or known, ideally supported by a subject matter expert.”  Additionally, graduates of ICSC(L) are more likely to have to plan around COVID19 and cyber incidents then develop a major war plan.

Option #4:  Integrate and cohere outside the Army.

Historically, two weeks of ICSC(L) is spent on a U.S. overseas visit.  Due to COVID19 this overseas visit has not happened for the last three ICSC(L) iterations and this time was replaced with two weeks of student research.  With a quarter of each of the ICSC(L) students posted out of the Army and into UK Strategic Command, these two weeks would be better spent learning about the command.  Strategic Command leads with billions of pounds of capabilities that are key to the digital Army of the future.  However, ICSC(L) students only receive a couple of days high-level familiarization[11].  Prioritizing learning about the wider Defence Organization would benefit the students posted into Strategic Command and provide a long term improvement in capabilities provided to the Army.  

Risk:  Permanently removing the overseas trip would hinder UK/U.S. understanding, but could be mitigated by distributed collaboration. 

Gain:  In this option students would achieve a greater understanding of Strategic Command’s capability development and how to influence efforts at inception.  Students would also get to interact with other services speakers[12], former government personnel, subject matter experts, and conference speakers and learn how they think.  All of the preceding would enable Multi Domain Integration and diversify outlooks from the current Land-centric view.  

Option #5:  Modular course delivery over an extended timeframe.

COVID 19 has proven that elements of ICSC(L) can be delivered in a modular format.   The current seven month residential course is for many the last formal and externally assessed training they receive prior to promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.  This option envisions implementing modular content delivery over six years, with completion being a pre-requisite for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. 

Risk:  The current in-person, seven month focused ICSC(L) provides the opportunity for students to develop their professional network and receive individual attention.

Gain:  This option follows Royal Air Force and Royal Navy equivalents with a condensed period of mandatory training with career managers and future employers selecting relevant additional modular elements.  This modular package exploits industry training (such as AGILE / DevSecOps,) relevant to roughly a third of the students being posed to capability and acquisition roles.  This option allows students to work around family commitments such as maternity leave.  Rather than the force losing 400 newly promoted Majors to the traditional seven month long residential ICSC(L) course, a modular option would enable students to remain in situ and, in theory, fills 50 currently gapped jobs in the army. This option would improve wider defense output, reduce the churn of postings while opening up options for attendance from the whole force[13], leading to enhanced networking and diversity of thought.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “The Good Operation,” Ministry of Defense, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/674545/TheGoodOperation_WEB.PDF

[2] “Army Digitalisation: the THEIA programme,”  

[3] Overview of ICSC(L), https://www.da.mod.uk/colleges-and-schools/joint-services-command-and-staff-college/army-division/.

[4] ICSC 17 Army Division Welcome Letter.

[5] International students would need to have limited system permissions similar to how international exchange officers are given limited access to headquarters.

[6] Such as the Cyber Operations MSc offered by Cranfield University, which is available at Shrivenham, a secure military site in partnership with the Defence Academy.

[7] Quote from one of the ICSC(L) course instruction videos where success of a staff officer is judged by how well labelled up their Staff Officers HandBook is.

[8] Stanley McChrystal, TED Talk, “Listen, learn… then lead,” March 2011, https://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal_listen_learn_then_lead.

[9] Such as the Permanent Joint Headquarters and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allied Rapid Reaction Corps

[10] The Sun Newspaper, 21 Mar 21, Ministry of Defence academy hit by major cyber attack by ‘foreign power, https://www.the-sun.com/news/2555777/mod-defence-academy-cyber-attack-foreign-power/

[11] STRATCOM & DES

[12] Online attendance of the Royal United Service Institute Land Warfare Conference 

[13] It is unlikely that the National Health Service would send a student for the 7-month courses but a two-week military planning-focused event may be appealing.  

Capacity / Capability Enhancement COVID-19 Grant Option Papers Training United Kingdom

Options to Counter Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa

Benjamin Fincham-de Groot is a masters candidate at Deakin University pursuing his masters of international relations with a specialization in conflict and security. He can be found on twitter at @Finchamde. Divergent Opinions’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Russia’s Wagner Group, a Private Military Company, conducts military-like operations in Africa.  As a PMC, Wagner Group’s activities can be disavowed by the Russian government.  

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 4, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that Russia’s Wagner Group poses a threat to stability in Africa.  This article discusses options to project U.S. influence and protect American interests in the African theatre. 

Background:  Grey zone tactics are the use of civilian or non-military assets to achieve military or strategic objectives. These tactics are useful for state actors to use or project power while maintaining a plausible deniability that can minimise the chance of conflict escalation[1][2]. 

Broadly, there are two ways in which state actors work to effect change through grey zone tactics[3]. First, through grey zone tactics a state actor normalises transgressions through small violations that each create precedent to justify a greater violation[4]. Thus, whereas it would be unreasonable for one state actor to escalate to full-blown conflict over a freedom of navigation operation, or a lesser violation of airspace, each unanswered transgression creates precedent for greater transgression without repercussion.  One example is the steady escalation of Chinese military flight incursions into Taiwanese airspace[5]. Second, the fait accompli in which a state actor swiftly and suddenly achieves a strategic objective and positions near-peer rivals to choose between escalation and acceptance. This tactic can be pertinent to seizing an objective, extracting a person of interesting, or destroying an enemy asset.  

Antulio Echevarria believes that a key aspect of grey zone tactics has been ensuring that no transgression executed as a grey zone manoeuvre is so significant as to elicit a response from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) under Article Five.  This article states that any attack on a NATO member state should be treated as an attack on all of them; and that any military attack should be responded to in kind. To stay below the Article Five threshold, grey zone tactics in Europe have primarily been used in the cyber-domain. That said, the definition of what constitutes an attack under Article Five is evolving and has grown to include transgressions in both space and cyber. 

Significance:  Africa is increasingly become a theatre for great power competition[6]. The United States has a well-established presence there, both military in nature and for peace-keeping operations. China is developing its ability to project power from Africa and within it, and has recently completed its first port capable of servicing Chinese aircraft carriers away from Chinese sovereign territory in Djibouti. 

Through 2018 and 2019, pursuant to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir being convicted by the International Criminal Court of war crimes, Sudan was isolated within the global community. It was Vladimir Putin’s Russia that came to Sudan’s aid in supporting Sudan through trade generally, but also supplying Sudan with a significant supply of weapons. Further, when pro-democracy protesters pushed for al-Bashir to step down, the Russian paramilitary contractors known as Wagner Group were unleashed on the protesters. 

While officially unaffiliated with Putin, the Russian military or any part of Russian intelligence, Wagner Group nonetheless have ties with Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin insider[7]. Thus, because of their ties with Prigorzhin and the Kremlin, the actions of Wagner group are considered to be simultaneously enacting the Kremlin’s agenda and projecting Russian power, while also operating as a private military contractor whose behaviour cannot be held against any given state. That is to say, it is a reasonable assumption that any and all actions taken by Wagner Group are on behalf of or towards the strategic goals of the Kremlin, but must be considered as being beneath the threshold of war as they are not representing a state at this time[8]. 

While primarily operating in Sudan, Wagner Group has been active throughout Africa[9]. Wagner Group uses both gray zone tactics described above, normalizing transgressions and fait accompli.  As such, America and their allies and partners allied state actors have two options available to them that would allow them to combat or minimise the impact that Wagner Group are having in the African theatre[10]. 

Option #1:  First, given that American forces are already deployed in the African theatre, it is reasonable that some troops can be repositioned.  If Wagner Group were to act on key strategic or humanitarian objectives, they would have to choose between escalating and initiating combat with American forces or abandoning those objectives[11]. As much as openly pursuing Wagner Group assets for their war crimes would be difficult to justify to the United Nations Security Council, and might be seen as the pursuit of Russian nationals; positioning assets to defend strategic objectives minimises the capacity for Wagner Group to achieve Russian strategic goals[12]. This is not to say that these repositioned American forces should patrol endlessly, but rather be positioned around key objectives such that Wagner Group assets must risk greater escalation and greater personal risk in pursuing those strategic objectives.

Risk:  This option risks an escalation of conflict between Wagner group assets and the American military. 

Gain:  This option deters of Wagner Group assets from achieving their strategic goals, and minimizing Russian power projection in Africa. 

Option #2:  The U.S. could deploy their own paramilitary contractors into the African theatre to counter Wagner Group.  These paramilitary contractors, similar to the ones the Americans deployed into Afghanistan and Iraq, could be used to provide strategic pressure, or engage in combat with Wagner Group assets in the event in efforts to maintain the security of key assets. Significantly, the deployment of paramilitary contractors in defense of American and humanitarian assets would reasonably be below any threshold for war, and be unlikely to escalate beyond that initial conflict.

Risk:  This option risks an escalation of conflict between Wagner Group and American-employed paramilitary contractors. 

Gain:  This option protectis humanitarian assets in the African theatre, minimising Russian power  projection, and demonstrating American investment in protecting Allied assets.  Through the utilization of paramilitary contractors, this also frees up the U.S. military to focus on other threats.

Other Comments:  Africa is increasingly a theatre for great power competition. With Russia and China pursuing very different avenues of projecting power onto that continent, America and its allies need to clarify what their goals and strategic aims are in that region; and to what lengths the West is willing to go to in order to pursue them. 

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mazarr, Michael J. Mastering the gray zone: understanding a changing era of conflict. US Army War College Carlisle, 2015.

[2] Banasik, Miroslaw. “Unconventional war and warfare in the gray zone. The new spectrum of modern conflicts.” Journal of Defense Resources Management (JoDRM) 7, no. 1 (2016): 37-46.

[3] Echevarria, Antulio. “Operating in the Grey Zone: An Alternative Paradigm for US Military Strategy.” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College (2016). 

[4] Carment, David, and Dani Belo. War’s Future: The Risks and Rewards of GreyZone Conflict and Hybrid Warfare. Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2018.

[5] Jackson, Van. “Tactics of strategic competition: Gray zones, redlines, and conflicts before war.” Naval War College Review 70, no. 3 (2017): 39-62.

[6] Port, Jason Matthew. “State or Nonstate: The Wagner Group’s Role in Contemporary Intrastate Conflicts Worldwide.” (2021).

[7] Marten, Kimberly. “Russia’s use of semi-state security forces: the case of the Wagner Group.” Post-Soviet Affairs 35, no. 3 (2019): 181-204.

[8] Rondeaux, Candace. Decoding the Wagner group: Analyzing the role of private military security contractors in Russian proxy warfare. New America., 2019.

[9] Benaso, Ryan. “Invisible Russian Armies: Wagner Group in Ukraine, Syria and the Central African Republic.” (2021).

[10] Belo, Dani. “Conflict in the absence of war: a comparative analysis of China and Russia engagement in gray zone conflicts.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 26, no. 1 (2020): 73-91.

[11] Gannon, J. Andrés, Erik Gartzke, Jon R. Lindsay, and Peter Schram. “The Shadow of Deterrence: Why capable actors engage in conflict short of war.” (2021).

[12] Rizzotti, Michael A. “Russian Mercenaries, State Responsibility, and Conflict in Syria: Examining the Wagner Group under International Law.” Wis. Int’l LJ 37 (2019): 569.

Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Benjamin Fincham-de Groot Option Papers Private Military Companies (PMC etc) United States

Space, Climate, and Comprehensive Defense Options 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.


National Security Situation:  As the space domain, climate change, and views of military purpose evolve, multiple options below the threshold of war are required.

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 13, 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. towards the anticipated operating environment of the next thirty years.

Background:  Conflict below the threshold of war is characterized by subversive tactics and the amoral use of force[1]. Democratic states cannot justify the use of these means in the defense of their national security interests[2]. The United States requires alternative strategies to bolster the free world order and deter or defeat adversaries through legitimate, transparent methods.

Significance:  The strategic environment is a fluid expression of geopolitical changes. A state’s ability to predict, adapt to, and manipulate those variables will determine its relative influence and security over the next thirty years. To be competitive strategically, free nations will need to synergize their private and public assets into courses of action which maximize effective and efficient use of resources.

Option #1:  Diversify Space Exploitation: The Techno-National Approach

The space industry has yet to scratch the surface of the domain’s strategic potential. Navigation, communications, surveillance[3], and even transportation are the starting point[4]. The United States and its allies can invest in new space capabilities to harden their physical and economic vulnerabilities. One approach could be the use of additive manufacturing and recycling of inert satellites in orbit to produce in-demand computer components[5]. This plausible course of action would reduce materiel costs for these parts and alleviate U.S. economic dependence on China. As the industry grows, so too will the technology, expanding potential for other space-based capabilities and options.

Risk:  This option requires a long-term commitment by public and private entities and offers few short-term returns. The exact timeline to achieving the desired end state will prove unpredictable as necessary technological breakthroughs are difficult to anticipate. Additionally, this approach may trigger the weaponization of space as these strategic platforms become the targets of adversaries.

Gain:  Industrial use of space will alleviate economic interdependence with adversaries and provide enhanced economic security and physical protection of strategic supply lines. There is also the potential for alliance and partnership-building by offering interstate collaboration on required research, development, and manufacturing.

Option #2:  Green and Lean Logistics: The Climate Change Approach

Rising sea levels, the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and the diminishing supply of oil and natural gas will impact the geopolitical environment[6]. While the first two factors will require direct action to mitigate as they continue, finding alternative fuel options has national security implications that are not widely discussed. Previous DoD tests indicate that current technologies could reduce military fuel dependency by up to 90% without impacting operations[7]. As a higher research and investment priority, more astonishing gains can be anticipated.

Risk:  As one of the leading exporters of oil and natural gas, the United States’ transition to alternative energies will face even more staunch resistance than it has previously. Making alternative fuels a priority investment may also restrict defense spending on other strategic assets.

Gain:  This approach enhances military capability and could present a new means of promoting U.S. influence and democratic values internationally. The tooth to tail ratio of the resulting force will extend operational reach exponentially while curtailing vulnerabilities and expenses through the reduction of required support personnel, platforms, and installations. Alternatively, the sustainment network could be maintained with enhanced flexibility, capable of nesting with disaster response and humanitarian aid agencies to assist with international relief operations.

Option #3:  Comprehensive Defense Force: The Demographic Change Response

The sole purpose of a professional military in a democracy is defense. This option expands the definition of defense to include protection from all threats to the nation and the promotion of its ideals, not just those posed by enemy forces. International social unrest poses a danger that is not conventionally considered as a strategic threat. For example: Megacities are projected to present a critical factor of the international environment over the next thirty years[8]. They are typically in a stagnant or declining state, offering refuge for illicit non-state actors seeking to destabilize the host nation for their own purposes. Relieving the conditions which promote instability proactively defends the United States and her allies from criminal or terrorist actions against any potential target. Using the military in conjunction with other means could help defuse these regions if done in a deliberate and unified manner.

Risk:  U.S. military and aid personnel will be targeted by militant actors as they work to improve the megactiy’s administration and infrastructure. Additionally, host nation corruption could lead to fraudulent use of humanitarian resources or sympathetic support of an embedded actor, requiring strict supervision and involvement. There is also the potential that the non-state actor is a proxy or funded by an adversary and will execute missions with the intention to discredit allied aid operations.

Gain:  Aiding states improves ties, alleviates unrest, and promotes democratic values and U.S. influence. Eliminating their power bases neutralizes illicit non-state actors, depriving adversaries of proxy forces for use in subversive tactics. The military will integrate more completely with the U.S. interagency, resulting in increased impact from unity of effort in future strategic endeavors.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

 

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Defense and Military Reform Environmental Factors Joe McGiffin Option Papers Space

Options to Increase Diversity by Forging Pathways into the Wargaming Profession

Tom Vielott is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the creator of the Itooran Peace Game. He can be found at tvielott.wordpress.com. Divergent Opinions’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Options to Increase Diversity by Forging Pathways into the Wargaming Profession

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  June 28, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a longtime member of the hobby wargaming and tabletop roleplaying community and the designer of a serious game for training use in a university classroom. He is writing from his experiences in those communities and in attempting to find his place in the professional wargaming community. The author is not a member of a minority group and has not personally experienced discrimination on the basis of his gender, sexuality, or race.

Background:  It is not novel to notice that the demographic makeup of the ‘wargaming community’ – the military professionals, academics, policy researchers, and others who play, design, and facilitate serious games – is almost entirely white, male, heterosexual, able bodied, well educated, and often with a military background. One need only look around at the attendees at the average Connections Conference[1] to observe the fact of the matter: there is not much diversity in the wargaming community.

Significance:  A lack of diversity in the wargaming community leads it along a path of stagnation and, in the long term, irrelevance. As Sally Davis eloquently expresses in her Wavell Room piece[2], well made games are art, an intimate way of experiencing other perspectives and new ideas through direct experience. A wargaming community without significant participation by women; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender designers loses many great opportunities to expand ideas about war and international politics. The ultimate goal of diversity in the wargaming community is not only to produce a general improvement in the thoughtfulness, quality, and emotional range of games produced for serious purposes, but to also improve the lives of the marginalized within it. If this lack of diversity within the wargaming community continues, it risks relegating many wargames to exercises in bias-confirmation and self-aggrandizement rather than exploration and analysis.  

Action can be taken with an eye towards the recruitment of new gamers and designers, but the roots of this diversity problem are deeper than that. Every member of the community, from the oldest designers to the newest players, will have to adjust their attitudes and assumptions for any of these options to be successful[3].

Option #1:  Diversify Skillsets in Wargaming Roles. 

A brief look at the job market in wargames reveals two significant trends: First, most of the jobs require the applicant to already have military experience. Second, most require advanced degrees, often in specific modeling disciplines like physics or engineering or in policy analysis. These trends greatly restrict the kinds of people who are able to find paid work in serious gaming outside of academia to the dominant wargaming milieu described earlier. One might suspect that professional wargamers are seeking more people who look and think like them. It is a natural inclination, but one that the profession can fight against by revalidating and possibly relaxing those requirements and actively seeking out and training those with experience in other disciplines, particularly ones in the humanities, to be wargamers.

Risk:  Option #1 will be costly in time and resources to bring in those without intimate familiarity with the military or with analytical techniques up to speed on wargaming techniques. 

Gain:  Opening positions to skillsets outside of those traditionally held within the wargaming field will enable an increase in diversity by searching out people with different backgrounds and experiences and inviting them to join the wargaming community explicitly.

Option #2:  Make More Games Unclassified. 

Security classification is a major barrier to participation in the wargaming community. It means that a security clearance, often an existing one, is a requirement to become a part of many wargaming projects.  It also means that once created, games often languish and disappear from the consciousness of the community because they are not shared around because of the difficulty of getting approval for any kind of release. RAND’s Hedgemony[4] is an excellent example of a successful unclassified game with a public release which garnered interest both in the U.S. and abroad. More games following in Hedgemony’s footsteps could seek to be widely seen outside of the professional community. 

Risk:  Not utilizing classified information can make designing wargames harder and reduce the fidelity of highly analytical games. Ensuring games can be unclassified requires extra effort in some contexts since the content will have to undergo security review.

Gain:  Unclassified games can more easily involve people without clearances, especially if they are in a freelance or contractor position. These games can also be used in a far wider variety of contexts, especially in outreach and in the recruitment of more gamers and designers. As a further effect, the unclassified games will increase the pool of existing games from which designers can learn and expand their repertoire.

Option #3:  Expand Outreach Beyond the Traditional Wargaming Community. 

Many of the same problems in the professional community are mirrored in the hobby community[5]. There is a far greater diversity of designers and players in hobby communities outside of traditional wargaming, particularly in the independent (or ‘indie’) roleplaying community. More effort could be directed towards drawing members of these communities to wargames. Many members have experience with game jams[6] and other game design events.  Hosting similar events with a serious gaming focus with advertising in hobby spaces could draw new designers to the fold.

The Zenobia Award[7], which seeks out both underrepresented game concepts and underrepresented game designers, is an excellent example of what this could look like: challenges and collaborations that encourage people who otherwise would not be involved in serious gaming to try their hand at game design, and which offer them connections within the community, mentorship, and professional opportunities. 

Risk:  Some groups will react poorly to outreach, and serious efforts will have to be made to make them feel comfortable enough to participate and to prevent the intended audience from being crowded out.

Gain:  The option, if well executed, will provide a greater pool of diverse wargame designers, and a flowering of unusual game designs.

Other Comments:  The complexity and difficulty involved in this issue cannot be overemphasized.  Even successful execution of all of the options given above would not alone be sufficient to ‘solve’ the diversity problem. Only serious concerted effort to enact change along multiple axes, among them: hiring, institutional culture, outreach, personal behavior, and fundamental attitudes about the purpose of gaming, will address this situation.

The author would also like to thank Dr. Yuna Wong for being open to a frank conversation that deeply informed his writing on the topic.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Connections Wargaming Conference. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2021, from https://connections-wargaming.com. Connections is a family of conferences around the world which focus on the professional practice of the design and facilitation of ‘serious games’ including wargames and other tabletop exercises. Its attendees are generally representative of the most active members in the field.

[2] Davis, S. (2021, January 15). Wargaming has a Diversity Problem. Wavell Room. https://wavellroom.com/2021/01/15/wargaming-has-a-diversity-problem 

[3] My year of doing terrifying things for diversity and inclusion. (2020, December 31). PAXsims. https://paxsims.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/my-year-of-doing-terrifying-things-for-diversity-and-inclusion 

[4] Linick, M. E., Yurchak, J., Spirtas, M., Dalzell, S., Wong, Y. H., & Crane, Y. K. (2020). Hedgemony: A Game of Strategic Choices. Www.rand.org. https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL301.html#download 

[5] See for example: Why Don’t More Women Play Wargames? (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6atdeEMrLCE 

[6] Game jams. (n.d.). Itch.io. https://itch.io/jams. Itch.io, a hub of independent game activity, hosts a dizzying array of jams, most of which are for video games, but a sizable minority are for roleplaying games.

[7] Zenobia Award. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2021, from https://zenobiaaward.org

Georgetown University Wargaming Society (GUWS) Option Papers Tom Vielott Wargames and Wargaming

Organizing for Large-Scale Maritime Combat Operations

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked as a communications and media analyst for the United States Marine Corps and a technical writer for the Department of the Navy. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in Charged Affairs (the journal of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy), Merion West, Braver Angels, the Washington Monthly, 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.


National Security Situation:  China and Russia pose threats to U.S. interests and allies. While the Biden administration seeks to deemphasize military force relative to other aspects of U.S. power, only a credible deterrence, including an appropriately sized and based maritime capability, can enable maximal use of America’s non-military strengths.

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 3, 2021. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of U.S. policymakers who seek to prepare the United States for the maritime aspect of large-scale combat operations with China and/or Russia. These policymakers are constrained by limited industrial and shipyard capacities, a shortage of Americans fit to serve, and probable cuts to military spending.

Background:  The U.S. defense industrial base is in decline[1]. The Navy’s public shipyards are unable to meet its repair needs[2][3]. The COVID-19 pandemic made nearly a quarter of the shipyards’ workforce “unable to come in to work due to being deemed ‘high risk[4].’” Data released by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2017 found 71% of Americans ages 17 to 24 would not qualify for military service, largely due to obesity, inadequate education, and criminal records[5]. Defense spending is likely to fall in the coming years. All these problems curtail the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to respond quickly to emerging threats and crises. 

Greater use of unmanned vessels offers a partial solution to manning problems. However, unmanned technology is still in its early stages, and the rapid cost increases of the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship are warnings not to scale up any major system too quickly[6][7]. 

Significance:  While increased investment by European and Indo-Pacific allies in their own militaries would greatly help the U.S., basing more U.S. vessels in allied ports would make clear America’s commitment to its allies’ security. Meanwhile, the stated wish of Commandant of the Marine Corps General David H. Berger to reduce reliance on “legacy” systems and large numbers of personnel provides an opportunity to experiment with smaller, more mobile Marine units[8].

Option #1:  The U.S. bases more vessels at locations closer to its great power competitors, and seeks new ports to host them.

Risk:  Increasing the number of U.S. vessels close to China and/or Russia may increase the sense of insecurity both countries feel. China and/or Russia may respond by attempting to base their own vessels in the Western Hemisphere. The March 2021 case of Argentina refusing a U.S. Coast Guard cutter the right to dock in its ports illustrates China’s influence in the South Atlantic: China has made major investments in Argentina’s energy and transportation infrastructure, and a Chinese company operates Brazil’s second-largest container port[9]. The fact that Argentina and Brazil are both Major Non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allies (MNNAs) of the U.S. does not mean they will not align with China on certain issues; Pakistan, also an MNNA, has long been a military partner of China due to the countries’ shared rivalry with India[10].

Increased forward basing may strain the Navy in some ways. In his award-winning 2018 essay for Proceedings, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” Captain Dale Rielage details how the U.S. could lose a major conflict in part by increasing forward deployment of vessels without maintaining enough vessels at home[11]. The importance of the total number of each type of vessel must not be forgotten.

Gain:  A greater number of vessels at a greater number of bases near China and Russia would give the U.S. more flexibility in responding to challenges. A 2017 study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments suggested South Korea and the United Kingdom as possible new locations, as well as increasing the number of ships based in Guam, Japan, and Spain[12]. The announcement in 2020 that USS Hershel WoodyWilliams would be based in Souda Bay makes Greece another potential host[13].

Increased forward basing at more locations also provides a hedge against possible threats to U.S. overseas bases from criticism and discontent by locals. For example, local opposition to the Marine Corps presence in Okinawa[14] has influenced the decision to move some Marine units based there to Guam[15]. If, to take one hypothetical example, Spanish political and public opinion turned against the presence of U.S. guided missile destroyers in Rota, Spain, then Souda Bay could provide an alternative location (although this, in turn, could strain already tense U.S.-Turkish relations)[16].

Option #2:  The Marine Corps reduces the size of its Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs).

Risk:  Depending on what sorts of conflict a MEU is deployed to, a smaller MEU may be less well suited than a larger one. Even if tanks are not necessary, it is plausible that, if a MEU’s Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) includes an LHA or LHD with fighters, it will fare better in a particular scenario than if it had come without fighters.

Gain:  With General Berger seeking to divest all the Marine Corps’ tanks and reduce its reliance on large vessels for amphibious operations[17], a smaller MEU, either in Marine Corps manpower or in the size of the ARG, is worth exploring. Fewer Marines, perhaps carried on fewer ships and aircraft, could deploy more quickly, making it easier for the U.S. to respond to crises. Scaling down the MEU so all its personnel and equipment could fit on one or two amphibious transport docks[18] could also free up amphibious assault ships, specifically the LHA/LHD, to serve as “lightning carriers,” giving the U.S. another option for sea-based airstrikes in addition to large aircraft carriers[19].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Tadjdeh, Yasmin. “Report Finds U.S. Defense Industrial Base in Decline.” National Defense, February 5, 2020. https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2020/2/5/defense-industrial-base-earns-c-grade-in-new-report

[2] Hooper, Craig. “The US Needs a New Public Shipyard.” Defense One, January 16, 2019. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2019/01/us-needs-new-public-shipyard/154221/

[3] Weisberger, Marcus. “As Navy Pushes for More Ships, Experts Warn Repair Yards Are Crumbling.” Defense One, September 30, 2020. https://www.defenseone.com/business/2020/09/navy-pushes-more-ships-experts-warn-repair-yards-are-crumbling/168905/

[4] Werner, Ben. “Navy Calling Up 1,600 Reservists to Fill in For Shipyard Workers Out for COVID-19.” USNI News, June 11, 2020. https://news.usni.org/2020/06/11/navy-calling-up-1600-reservists-to-fill-in-for-shipyard-workers-out-for-covid-19

[5] Heritage Foundation. “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military.” February 13, 2018. https://www.heritage.org/defense/report/the-looming-national-security-crisis-young-americans-unable-serve-the-military

[6] Insinna, Valerie. “Inside America’s Dysfunctional Trillion-Dollar Fighter-Jet Program.” New York Times, August 21, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/magazine/f35-joint-strike-fighter-program.html

[7] Roblin, Sébastien. “The Navy spent $30B and 16 years to fight Iran with a littoral combat ship that doesn’t work.” NBC News, July 19, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/navy-spent-30b-16-years-fight-iran-littoral-combat-ship-ncna1031806

[8] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.” https://www.hqmc.marines.mil/Portals/142/Docs/%2038th%20Commandant%27s%20Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-16-200152-700

[9] Espach, Ralph. “A New Great Game Finds the South Atlantic.” War on the Rocks, March 22, 2021. https://warontherocks.com/2021/03/a-new-great-game-finds-the-south-atlantic/

[10] Blank, Jonah. “Pakistan and China’s Almost Alliance.” RAND Corporation, October 16, 2015. https://www.rand.org/blog/2015/10/pakistan-and-chinas-almost-alliance.html

[11] Rielage, Captain Dale, U.S. Navy. “How We Lost the Great Pacific War.” Proceedings, May 2018. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/may/how-we-lost-great-pacific-war

[12] Clark, Bryan, Peter Haynes, Jesse Sloman, Timothy A. Walton. “Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 9, 2017. https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/restoring-american-seapower-a-new-fleet-architecture-for-the-united-states-

[13] Becatoros, Elena (The Associated Press), and Derek Gatopoulos (Associated Press). “Pompeo says USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams will be based at Souda Bay.” Navy Times, September 29, 2020. https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2020/09/29/pompeo-says-uss-hershel-woody-williams-will-be-based-at-souda-bay/

[14] Congressional Research Service. “U.S. Military Presence on Okinawa and Realignment to Guam.” April 9, 2019. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10672/3

[15] United States Marine Corps. “Marine Corps Activates Camp Blaz in Guam.” October 1, 2020. https://www.marines.mil/News/News-Display/Article/2367980/marine-corps-activates-camp-blaz-in-guam/

[16] Jakes, Lara. “U.S. Will Base Mammoth Ship in Greece, Near Disputed Territory.” New York Times, October 1, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/us/politics/greece-turkey-us-navy.html

[17] “Commandant’s Planning Guidance: 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps.”

[18] Waddell, Major Joshua C., U.S. Marine Corps. “Rethink the MEU for Tomorrow’s Expeditionary Operations.” Proceedings, April 2020. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2020/april/rethink-meu-tomorrows-expeditionary-operations

[19] Eckstein, Megan. “Marines Test ‘Lightning Carrier’ Concept, Control 13 F-35Bs from Multiple Amphibs.” USNI News, October 23, 2019. https://news.usni.org/2019/10/23/marines-test-lightning-carrier-concept-control-13-f-35bs-from-multiple-amphibs

China (People's Republic of China) Deterrence Major Regional Contingency Maritime Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers Russia United States

Options for a Dedicated Stability Operations Force Supporting Large Scale Combat Operations

Kevin Maguire is a graduate student in at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Officer.  He can be found on LinkedIn or at kevinpatrickmaguirejr@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.


National Security Situation:  As the U.S. military prepares for future large-scale combat operations (LSCO), it risks failure without a post-LSCO stabilization capability. 

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 26, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. (and allies) require specific formations to conduct post-LSSO stability operations (hereafter referred to as stability operations).

Background:  Though the U.S. Department of Defense continues to prepare for LSCO, it will fail in its mission without the ability to consolidate gains through stabilization. A telling example is post-Islamic State (IS) Iraq.  While ultimately successful in retaking territory from IS, the counter-IS campaign dealt a devastating blow to the Iraqi people. Cities like Mosul suffered thousands of dead, with billions in damages to infrastructure and the economy[1]. Despite nearly two decades of experience learning from the challenges of stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. (particularly the U.S. military) once again failed to conduct effective stability operations. Iraq remains highly volatile and unstable, and there are indications that an IS-led insurgency is growing[2].

Significance:  LSCO will see Mosul-like destruction and chaos in its immediate aftermath. Populated areas where future LSCO takes place risk the same issues as Mosul. One option for the U.S. military to mitigate stability issues is to have formations trained and capable of transitioning to stability operations. Retaining formations trained in stability operations capability will not only be helpful, but are necessary to plan for situations like Mosul on a greater scale. This option paper proposes three possible formations that could undertake post LSCO stability operations.

Option #1:  The DoD reorients its light and advisory forces to undertake stability operations.

The U.S.’ light military forces and Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) are already oriented towards stability tasks. Stability operations require presence patrols and other operations best suited to light forces’ dismounted capabilities. Advisory brigades already promote skills within their formations that complement stability tasks, such as the language and cultural awareness necessary to work with partner forces. Marine and other light Army brigades, augmented with military police, civil affairs, and other units with stability functions, are also suitable as the dedicated stability operations formations. Given the light and modular character of these forces, they can rapidly assume the stability role in post-LSCO environments. 

Risk:  Light forces still have an advantage in LSCO of operating in restricted terrain, and they may be employed in this manner prior to the cessation of hostilities. Training or emphasis on stability operations tasks will strain the light formation’s ability to train for actual combat missions. The culture of some combat-oriented organizations, such as the 82nd Airborne or Marine Expeditionary Units, might also not be receptive to stability tasks. Advisory forces for their part, are small, and could require additional personnel and support to oversee large areas requiring stabilization.

Gain:  Light forces are among the most adaptable formations in the U.S. arsenal. The Army’s light forces in particular have shifted their force structure several times since inception, to include the addition of a 3rd infantry battalion, the transformation of the special troops battalion to an engineer battalion, and the addition of new equipment and capabilities[3].   Marine formations are also, by nature, scalable based off theater needs. Given the flexible nature of light forces, they are more easily adapted to stability tasks.

Option #2:  The U.S. leads the formation of a multinational stability force. 

This option would leverage the stability-building capabilities of U.S. partner forces to allow U.S. forces to focus on LSCO. Partner forces possess experience in areas where U.S. forces do not typically engage, such as peacekeeping and monitoring missions. Partner forces often use this experience to leverage close ties with development agencies which will be necessary for stability operations. Some partner forces tasked with stability or policing functions fit the stability operations role, such as the Italian Carabinieri[4]. 

Risk:  Though many partner forces are capable, reorienting a nation’s military forces could face domestic pressure. In the United Kingdom for example, proposed cuts to some military capabilities as part of a defense review garnered significant criticism from opposition lawmakers[5]. Many partners will still require LSCO-capable formations due to geographical proximity to an adversary, such as European Union states that border Russia. Restrictions on partner forces reduce flexibility for entire nations, so much so that this option will require significant cooperation between the U.S. and LSCO partners.

Gain:  This option frees U.S. military forces to focus readiness efforts on strictly LSCO. It also ensures that U.S. partners and allies with restrictive defense budgets or rules can focus the bulk of their readiness efforts on post-LSCO stability scenarios. This arrangement also pushes towards greater interoperability between the U.S. and partner forces, strengthening U.S. alliances in the long term.  

Option #3:  The U.S. orients its national guard and reserve forces to conduct post-LSCO stability operations

This option would re-task reserve and national guard forces, namely those formations oriented for combat, as the primary stability operations formations in the U.S. military. National guard and reserve forces already conduct Defense Support for Civil Activities, supporting state governors in areas such as civil unrest, natural disaster response, and medical support. 

Risk:  There will be political pushback from state governors over re-tasking the national guard. In 2018, the Army’s attempt to swap National Guard AH-64 Apaches to active duty in exchange for UH-60 Blackhawks met significant opposition, despite the utility these helicopters provided for states[6]. Similar opposition should be expected with reorienting national guard and reserve formations to a stability role. As a part time force, the reserve and national guard will be challenged in ensuring stability operations readiness efforts meet the needs of active duty formations if required.  

Gain:  This option frees combat units to focus readiness efforts related to LSCO. It also allows the reserve and national guard to focus limited resources and time on very specific stability missions and tasks, rather than prepare for a multitude of other contingency operations. Many reserve formations are already suited to these tasks, especially the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command and numerous medical, military police, engineer, and other “enablers.” As a part time force, reserve and national guard personnel also bring civilian occupation skillsets that active duty personnel are not well versed in, especially those that serve in public service positions.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Three years after ISIS, Mosul residents still waiting to rebuild. (2020, July 10). The National. https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/mena/three-years-after-isis-mosul-residents-still-waiting-to-rebuild-1.1047089

[2] Nada, G. (2020, January 17). The U.S. and the Aftermath of ISIS. The Wilson Center. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/us-and-aftermath-isis

[3] Vazquez, D. (2020, April 17). Is the Infantry Brigade Combat Team Becoming Obsolete? War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/is-the-infantry-brigade-combat-team-becoming-obsolete

[4] Carabinieri. (n.d.). NATO Stability Policing Centre of Excellence. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.nspcoe.org/about-us/sponsoring-nations/italian-republic/carabinieri

[5] Sabbagh, D. (2021, March 21). UK defence cuts show gulf between ambition and action, says Labour. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/mar/22/uk-defence-cuts-gulf-ambition-action-labour-army-troops

[6] Sabbagh, D. (2021, March 21). UK defence cuts show gulf between ambition and action, says Labour. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/mar/22/uk-defence-cuts-gulf-ambition-action-labour-army-troops

Allies & Partners Civilian Concerns Defense and Military Reform Kevin Maguire Major Regional Contingency Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, Territorial Forces, Militias, etc) Option Papers United States

Assessing the Value of the Lariat Advance Exercise Relative to the Louisiana Maneuvers for Preparing the U.S. Army for Large-Scale Combat Operations

James Greer is retired U.S. Army Officer and an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.  You can follow him on Twitter @jameskgreer77.  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 Value of the Lariat Advance Exercise Relative to the Louisiana Maneuvers for Preparing the U.S. Army for Large-Scale Combat Operations

Date Originally Written:  March 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 19, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired military officer who served in the Cold War and now instructs officers who will likely lead the U.S. Army and Joint Force in future competition and conflicts.

Summary:  The U.S. Army’s organization and doctrine for Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO) are correct.  The Army lacks exercising multi-echelon command and control (C2), which was key to victories in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  If the U.S. Army resurrects a training event, the Cold War C2-focused Lariat Advance[1], is of more value than a new version of the Louisiana Maneuvers[2], to ensure future victory in LCSO.

Text:  The Louisiana Maneuvers were one of the great achievements in Army history. With little recent combat experience, rapidly expanding toward Corps and Armies in size but only having a small cadre of professionals, and confronted by large scale, mechanized warfare, the Army entering World War II, was largely unprepared. The Louisiana Maneuvers enabled the Army to understand that huge gulf between their capabilities in 1941 and the capabilities needed to compete with Axis forces in World War II. The maneuvers were eminently successful, enabling rapid development of doctrine, organizational training, systems, and logistics needed to fight high tempo, mechanized, integrated air-ground campaigns.

For today’s Army many of the challenges facing the Army of 1941 are not a problem. Today’s Army is a professional one, whose squads, platoons and companies are well trained, manned by volunteers, led by seasoned Non-Commissioned and Officers with professional military education and combat experience. Current Army doctrine is about right for LSCO, whether the Army fights tomorrow or in five years. Army organizations are balanced combined arms teams, coupled with a task organization process that enables force tailoring at every echelon to situation and mission requirements.

The present challenge is not that of the Army of 1941 that engaged in the Louisiana Maneuvers. Instead, the challenge is that this is an Army that has all the necessary pieces and parts, but has had little opportunity to put them together, routinely and consistently, in a way that will develop the excellence in multi-echelon operations necessary for victory in LSCO.

On November 8, 1990, VII Corps, stationed in Germany, was alerted and ordered to deploy to Saudi Arabia[3]. In Saudi Arabia, VII Corps would immediately move north, assemble into a coherent corps of multiple divisions, cavalry regiments, and separate brigades and conduct operations to defeat the Iraqi Republican Guard Corps and eject the Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Consider the challenge. VII Corps had spent the last 40 years preparing to defend in the hills, valleys, forests, and towns of Germany against an attacking Warsaw Pact foe. What they were being asked to do upon their arrival to Saudi Arabia was the exact opposite. Instead of defending, they were going to attack. Instead of rolling wooded and built-up terrain, they were going to maneuver across the flat open desert. And, they were going to do so over a distance of hundreds of kilometers when they had planned on defending Germany with a depth of a few dozen kilometers. Ultimately, there were many reasons for the U.S. overwhelming victory in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, most of which have been detailed elsewhere. But, one factor that is rarely written about is command and control, and, more specifically, multi-echelon C2.

Today’s Army has long had strong home station training programs that are effective in building competent and capable squads, platoons, and companies. And, for almost 4 decades now the U.S. Army has had Combat Training Centers[4] that enable effective training of battalions and brigades as combined arms teams. Finally, since 1987 the U.S. Army has had a Mission Command Training Program that trains the headquarters of Division and Corps[5].

What the Army has not had for more than three decades, since the end of the Cold War, is the means to put those three components together. Since Desert Storm, the only time the Army has fought a corps that consisted of multiple divisions and brigades was during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 when V Corps attacked north into Iraq. And, since the last REFORGER in 1993[6], the Army has conducted no training with entire Corps or Divisions, exercising C2 and operations. This year’s Defender Exercise will be an initial proof of principle of large-scale formation training similar to REFORGER, but expensive and not Army-wide[7].

Ultimately, headquarters at all echelons (Corps, Division, Brigade, Battalion, and Company) exist for one reason and one reason only. These headquarters translate the vision and decisions of the senior commander into reality on the ground through execution by platoons, sections, squads, crews and teams. The reason that VII Corps was as successful as it was under unbelievably challenging conditions during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm was because its various headquarters were able to do exactly that. And the only reason that they were able to take vision and decision and translate it into actions in orders was because they had practiced it over and over and over again.

For decades every month at a random and / or unknown time every unit in Germany would be alerted for deployment within two hours to be able to fight the Warsaw Pact and defend NATO as part of Lariat Advance. Every division, regiment, brigade, whether maneuver, fires, intelligence, protection, communications or support and every Soldier from Private to General would drop whatever they were doing and prepare to fight. And, the first thing they would do is establish communications from Corps down to the squad and every echelon in between. Then, they would execute some set of orders, whether a simple readiness inspection, or a deployment to a local dispersal area, or a 3-day field exercise. That meant every month the Corps exercised C2, commanders and staffs coordinated together, orders were given and executed, and the three components of small units, larger units, and formations were integrated together into a cohesive team. And, the lessons learned from Lariat Advance produced terrain walks, tactical exercises without troops, and command field exercises, led by commanders at all echelons, enabling the synchronization and integration necessary for victory in LSCO. While the Army’s doctrine and organization for LCSO is correct, it is out of practice in multi-echelon C2, which is why a return to Lariat Advance is more valuable than Louisiana Maneuvers for defeating a peer competitor in LSCO.


Endnotes:

[1] Wilson, W.B. (2015, June). The Fulda Gap. The Blackhorse Association. https://www.blackhorse.org/history-of-the-fulda-gap

[2] Gabel, C. (1992). The U.S. Army GHQ maneuvers of 1941. Center of Military History.

[3] Bourque, S. (2002). Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History.

[4] Kitfield, J. (1995). Prodigal soldiers: How the generation of officers born of Vietnam revolutionized the american style of war. Simon and Schuster.

[5] Kahan, J., Worley, D., Holroyd, S., Pleger, L., and Stasz, C. (1989). Implementing the Battle Command Training Program. RAND.

[6] Citino, R. (2004). Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm: The evolution of operational warfare. University of Kansas.

[7] U.S. Army Europe and Africa Public Affairs (2021). Defender – Europe 21activities begin this month. U.S. Army. https://www.army.mil/article/244260/defender_europe_21_activities_begin_this_month_include_two_dozen_nations

Cold War James Greer Major Regional Contingency Option Papers Training U.S. Army 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

Options to Build U.S. Army Headquarters Elements for Large Scale Combat Operations

Justin Magula is a U.S. Army Strategist at the U.S. Army War College. He is on Twitter @JustinMagula. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent those of the U.S. Army War College, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Of the United States Army’s four strategic roles in support of the Joint Force, prevailing in large-scale ground combat is the most important[1]. The Army cannot accomplish this strategic role without an appropriately designed operational headquarters.

Date Originally Written:  March 4, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 5, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that operational and strategic headquarters play a significant role in the Army’s ability to achieve success in large-scale combat operations and that the Army underinvests in these capabilities.

Background:  In the past seven decades, the United States Army has reduced the number of operational-level headquarters it employs as part of its total force reductions[2]. The United States Army currently uses theater armies, corps, and divisions in roles that often exceed their designated functions. While this method has achieved some success in fighting irregular wars, it would likely prove less successful against a peer competitor.

Theater armies fulfill five persistent tasks in support of geographic combatant commands: set conditions in a theater for the employment of landpower, support theater security cooperation, provide support to other services, maintain administrative control of all Army forces in the theater, and provide operational control and sustainment support of any assigned or attached forces. Even though a theater army performs an impressive array of tasks, it is not designed to command and control units in combat. Alternately, U.S. Army corps serve as the Army’s highest tactical echelon in large-scale ground combat operations, overseeing combat divisions and subordinate units. Where theater armies focus across an entire theater, corps focus on designated areas of responsibility.

Significance:  The possibility of large-scale combat operations against Russia and China continues to increase[4]. A war against either country would likely require the Army to deploy a sizable land force. For such operations, the Army would require more than one corps and operational-level headquarters to oversee tactical operations. Currently, the Army does not have a headquarters designed to effectively command and control multiple corps in large-scale ground combat or serve as a land component command in a joint operational area in the event of a great power war[5].

Historically, the U.S. Army used field armies to control multiple corps and subordinate units in large-scale combat operations, like in both World Wars and the Korean War. The U.S. Army no longer has such a headquarters. Creating new field armies would give the army the ability to quickly transition to combat operations and control multiple corps if required.

This option paper proposes two possible solutions to fill this critical headquarters gap: forward-stationed field armies or expeditionary field armies.

Option #1:  The U.S. Army establishes forward-stationed field armies.

In this option, the U.S. Army would create field armies and forward station them in specific theaters. For instance, the Army could station a field army in the Indo-Pacific region as a subordinate headquarters to U.S. Army Pacific and one in Europe to support U.S. Army Europe and Africa since these are the two most likely theaters where large-scale combat operations would occur.

Risk:  Placing field armies forward in a theater would increase their vulnerability as prime targets for enemy attacks in war. These units would have difficulty transferring to support other theaters if the need arose. The cost of new facilities, equipment, and personnel would be high and would rely on host nation contract support.

Gain:  Creating forward stationed field armies allows the theater armies, as the field armies’ higher headquarters, to focus their efforts across the entire theater during competition and conflict as they are designed to do[6]. Additionally, these field armies could conduct theater-specific exercises, integrate with partner nations forces, and provide training oversight for subordinate units during competition. If the need arose to transition to combat operations quickly, these headquarters would be trained, ready, and integrated across their respective theaters.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army establishes expeditionary field armies.

The Army could create expeditionary field armies and base them in the United States. These field armies would be the same size as the forward-stationed ones. Like its current divisions and corps, the Army could use these field armies in an expeditionary manner to support American objectives abroad.

Risk: Under this option, these field armies would not have the same level of understanding of a specific theater as a forward-stationed unit might or the same level of integration with other theater forces and partners. In crisis, these field armies could deploy directly to a combat zone. In peacetime, these headquarters could risk being stretched thin by global commitments, exercises, and training oversight if placed in charge of other stateside Army units.

Gain:  This option would give the Army the greatest versatility to respond to almost any combat mission. Each expeditionary field army could be deployed in a tailored package to meet the theater commander’s needs, thus reducing the burdens of the theater army staff. The field armies could provide training oversight of other Army units in the United States, enabling better large-scale combat training for them. The field armies could also assist U.S. Army North for homeland defense and Defense Security Cooperation Agency missions. This structure would also provide the greatest employment opportunities for American civilians supporting these headquarters.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 1, The Army. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), v.

[2] Bonin, J. and Magula, J. (2021). U.S. Army Europe and Africa Headquarters: Reforming for Future Success. War on the Rocks. Retrieved March 3,2021 from https://warontherocks.com/2021/02/u-s-army-europe-and-africa-headquarters-reforming-for-future-success/

[3] Lundy, M. (2018). “Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations Today and Tomorrow.” Military Review. Retrieved March 3, 2021 from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO/

 [4] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2018). “U.S. Army Concept: Multi-Domain Combined Arms Operations at Echelons Above Brigade 2025-2045.” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-8. Retrieved March 3, 2021 from https://adminpubs.tradoc.army.mil/pamphlets/TP525-3-8.pdf

[5] U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication (JP) 3-31, Joint Land Operations.  (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), I-11.

[6] U.S. Department of the Army, Field Manual (FM) 3-94, Theater Army, Corps, and Division Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014), 2-4.

Command and Control and Headquarters Issues Defense and Military Reform Justin Magula Major Regional Contingency Option Papers U.S. Army

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

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

Options for the U.S. Towards Pakistan

Jason Criss Howk has spent his career as a soldier-diplomat, educator, and advisor focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He writes a column for Clearance Jobs News and is an interfaith leader and Islamic studies professor. Find him on twitter @Jason_c_howk.  Sabir Ibrahimi is a Non-resident Fellow at NYUs Center on International Cooperation and hosts the Afghan Affairs Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @saberibrahimi. 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:  With the U.S. Global War on Terrorism and mission in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. requires new foreign policy towards Pakistan. 

Date Originally Written:  December, 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 8, 2020. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view the of the U.S. towards Pakistan. 

Background:  Since the Cold War, Pakistan-U.S. relations have been oft-based on militant support. Pakistan assisted the U.S. in removing the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan by aiding so-called mujahedeen Islamist militants fighting the Red Army and Afghan government. Post-Soviet-withdrawal, the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan and Pakistan; and Pakistan supported another round of militancy creating the Afghan Taliban to remove the “mujahedeen” government from Kabul. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. called upon Pakistan to help remove al Qaeda from the region. Pakistan joined the U.S. in the so-called war on terror but prevented another abandonment by the U.S. through a third round of militancy support[1], this time by rebuilding and supplying the Afghan Taliban remnants to weaken the newly formed Afghan government[2]. Pakistan does not trust America or Afghanistan to be helpful to Pakistan’s policies and the U.S. does not trust Pakistan[3].

Significance:  Pakistan impacts U.S. counterterrorism activities and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a key leverage-point Pakistan holds against the U.S., while the U.S. holds several forms of economic and diplomatic leverage against Pakistan[4]. Numerous terrorist groups operate in Pakistan; some of them aid the Pakistani military to destabilize India and Afghanistan, while some threaten Pakistan itself[5]. The U.S. State Department has designated Pakistan as the Country of Particular Concern (CPC). Pakistan’s economy is struggling, causing Islamabad to heavily rely on China. In 2020 a Pakistani General told an audience at U.S. Central Command conference that “China is Pakistan’s friend, despite the Uyghur treatment, because we can overlook anything right now for our economic wellbeing—our ailing economy is an existential threat[6].”  

This Options Paper looks at the possible future relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Where the administration of U.S. President Joseph Biden takes U.S. foreign policy towards Pakistan is unknown; but a question policy-makers will need to answer is: does being close to Pakistan help America?

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts an aggressive approach towards Pakistan.

Many U.S. objectives related to Pakistan remain unmet. A more aggressive approach could ensure Pakistan is not harboring, leading, or financially assisting terrorists; or ideologically brainwashing new recruits for terrorist/militant groups. The major U.S. goal of building peace in Afghanistan hinges on Pakistan policy.

In this option the U.S. would designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, upgrading it from CPC and, as a consequence of this cease all development and military aid to Pakistan. The U.S. would pressure its allies and partners to freeze all assets of Pakistan military and civilian officials related to terrorists. Targeted officials would have their visa revoked, to include their families, so they cannot study, vacation, or live outside of Pakistan. The U.S. would increase its counterterrorism programs in South Asia and follow any intelligence generated into Pakistan via proxies or clandestine forces. The U.S. government would deliver more focused efforts to identify and close radical-militant-owned businesses and non-profit organizations worldwide. U.S. drone and human intelligence programs would be increased to identify and track terrorists, militants, and Pakistan government terrorism-supporters; especially when entering Afghanistan. Armed-drone operations would NOT be included in this approach because the inevitable civilian casualties will increase militant/terrorist recruiting and responses.

Risk:  This option would increase suffering among Pakistani citizens due to decreases in U.S. development funding which could lead to more violence and radicalism. Lack of U.S. aid may lead to the U.S. losing its remaining allies in the civilian and military establishment in Pakistan. Pakistan would end its support of the Afghan peace process. Pakistan fully aligns with China. Pakistan’s military will sell the news of further U.S. abandonment of Pakistan to their citizens, and enact stronger military controls over the civilian government. Lack of U.S. aid could decrease nuclear security thereby increasing the likelihood of loose nuclear material or sales of nuclear science. 

Gain:  The U.S. may push the Pakistani civilian and military officials into recalibrating their alliances with militant groups and terrorists if economic, diplomatic, military pressure is deep enough. A robust public information campaign ensuring the Pakistani people know how to restart economic assistance may lead the people to pressure their government to stop supporting violent movement networks. The U.S. will save foreign relations funding. The U.S. can improve its image with Pakistani civilians and stop being blamed for bombing deaths by ceasing all armed drone operations in Pakistan.

Option #2:  The U.S. Partners with Pakistan more closely to lift them economically.

The United States could direct its energy to address what Pakistan calls an existential threat by increasing U.S.-Pakistan economic partnerships and diplomacy. The U.S. would encourage economic cooperation between Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan; and massively increase economic relations between India and Pakistan. This option would increase U.S. aid to development projects and ensure all military aid is conditions-based in exchange for counter-terrorism assistance, increasing civilian oversight of the military, and more elected leadership power in government. Publicly, the U.S. would be outspoken about human and minority rights, freedom of speech, and religious freedom. U.S. armed drone operations would cease and be replaced by quietly targeted sanctions at military officials recruiting militant groups and aiding violent missions in the region. Measures under this option would include freezing individual assets globally, and multi-nation travel restrictions. The U.S. would warn Pakistan privately of retaliations if they fail to meet U.S. security goals and give deadlines for decreases in terrorism/militant activity.

Risk:  Under this option Pakistan could continue the status quo, a double game with the U.S. whereby Pakistan extracts as much funding as possible before the U.S. stops the flow. Intelligence partnerships would remain unreliable; allowing terrorists/militants reside openly in Pakistan. Pakistan could see the U.S. funds as a way to pay their debt to China, which is not the purpose of the U.S. aid. While Pakistan could openly target extremist groups the U.S. names, it could clandestinely support other extremist groups unknown to the U.S. in order to keep the U.S. engaged and keep Afghanistan weakened. This option could set the conditions for Pakistan better hiding its terrorism support, and the U.S. inadvertently funding it meaning regional militancy continues as do Pakistan human rights violations and military rule.

Gain:  This option may improve economic and diplomatic activities. Increased economic partnerships could lead to increased military partnerships to rebuild trust between leaders. The funds Pakistan received could increase education, development, and humanitarian partnerships and improve the U.S. image in Pakistan. This option could contribute to more Pakistan support to get the Afghan Taliban to act seriously in the Afghan Peace Negotiations. The funds could also be used as leverage to improve counterterrorism partnerships across both governments and human rights. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Khan, S. (2018, October 28). Double Game: Why Pakistan Supports Militants and Resists U.S. Pressure to Stop. CATO. https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/double-game-why-pakistan-supports-militants-resists-us-pressure-stop

[2] Mazzetti, M. (2018, January 28). How Pakistan has Perpetuated the Afghan Conflict. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/the-pakistan-trap/550895

[3] Tankel, S. (2011, September 1). Restoring Trust: U.S.-Pakistan Relations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. https://carnegieendowment.org/2011/09/01/restoring-trust-u.s.-pakistan-relations-pub-45465

[4] U.S. Relations With Pakistan. (2020, December 1). United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-pakistan/

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Pakistan. (2020, December 1). United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/reports/country-reports-on-terrorism-2019/pakistan

[6] Jason Howk was a guest speaker at the 2020 U.S. Central Command Central and South Asia Conference and led a public discussion with Inter-Services Intelligence Officers attending the event on Pakistan’s further role in the Afghan peace process.  This discussion was a heated and brutally honest moment in the conference. See readouts of the event here: https://news.clearancejobs.com/2020/02/22/a-regional-perspective-on-the-war-in-afghanistan and https://dispatchesfrompinehurst.com/2020/02/23/briefing-on-pakistans-campaigns-against-afghanistan-and-why-they-have-failed-repeatedly

Afghanistan Jason Criss Howk Option Papers Pakistan Policy and Strategy Sabir Ibrahimi United States

Can You Have it All? – Options for Readying for Both Stability and Large Scale Combat Operations

Dr. Jacob Stoil is an Assistant Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies and Fellow of the West Point Modern War Institute. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Oxford. His research and publications primarily focus on indigenous force cooperation, Israeli military history, special operations in the Second World War, peripheral campaigns in global war, and the use of the subterranean environment in warfare. Dr. Stoil is a member of the International Working Group on Subterranean Warfare and the Second World War Research Group (North America).  He can be reached on Twitter at @JacobStoil.

Dr. Tal Misgav is a Chief Superintendent in MAGAV where he serves as the commander of the MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center. Prior to assuming his post in 2002 he served as special unites and training officer in the operations branch of the Israel Police. He holds a PhD in Military History from the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and MA in History from Touro College. Tal has served as an advisor to the commander of MAGAV on MAGAV’s combat history and structuring and building the future of the force. He has authored numerous articles and several books including a forthcoming work “The Legal Framework for Security Force Activity in Judea and Samaria” and “Between the Borders in a Changing Reality: Magav in the run up to and during the Six Day War.”

The views, facts, opinions, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and neither necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies or any other U.S. government agency nor Israeli Government, Israel Police, or MAGAV. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. military shift from stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN) to large scale combat operations (LSCO) requires challenging force structure decisions.

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that for the U.S. military to emerge victorious in future conflicts, it must retain the knowledge and capabilities for both large scale combat operations (LSCO) and stability / counterinsurgency operations (COIN), and that this will require deliberate planning.

Background:  Over the last twenty years, the U.S. military has paid a heavy price to learn the lessons for fighting COIN campaigns and stability operations. As the U.S. military now focuses more exclusively on LSCO, it risks having the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. The doctrine for LSCO recognizes that in the future, as in the past, stability operations and COIN will play a significant role in both the consolidation zone and the phase of consolidating gains[1]. The historical record supports this. In the Second World War and American Civil War, the U.S. Military expended significant resources on stability, security, and reconstruction[2]. There is every indication that stability and security operations will continue to play a major role in operations below the threshold of LSCO. While there are several ways the U.S. may try to address this problem, other countries, such as Israel, have come up with novel solutions.

Significance:  Historically, the U.S. military has tended to swing between focusing on COIN and stability and focusing on large scale conventional operations. As Iraq and Afghanistan showed, this swing had a cost. The U.S. can find a way to retain knowledge, expertise, and readiness to engage in stability and COIN as well as, and as part of, LSCO. It cannot rely on the experience of the officers and personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Soon there will be officers who have no experience in COIN or stability operations. Yet despite the challenge, developing and retaining expertise in COIN and stability will be critical to the success of future LSCO as well as combating hybrid threats.

Option #1:  The Israeli Option: The U.S. military models a portion of its forces on the experience of MAGAV (Israel’s Gendarme).

Among MAGAV’s responsibilities is maintaining security in the West Bank – an operation which the U.S. military would term as a COIN or stability operation[3]. In LSCO, MAGAV fulfills the same role in the consolidation area[4]. For example, in the 1982 Lebanon War, MAGAV entered Lebanon with the responsibility for security in the costal consolidation area[5]. In order to maintain its specialty for both LSCO and regular operations, MAGAV trains its personnel for operations among the civilian populations[6]. This process begins in boot camp which focuses on this mission, including instruction in how to deal with a wide range of civilian-led demonstrations and terrorist activities—among both friendly and hostile populaces[7]. This process continues in special bases known as “greenhouses” that enable service members to practice their skills in urban and open-territory scenarios as well as targeted training in dispersing demonstrations[8]. This training gives MAGAV a specialized skill set in COIN and stability operations[9].

Risk:  While soldiers from a COIN / stability centric branch like MAGAV would have the ability to conduct basic infantry tasks, they will not be interchangeable with conventional combat focused units. This may create a problem when it comes to deployments and missions as in the current strategic environment, the more stability focused branch will likely have more frequent deployments. Bureaucratically, this also means creating another career and training pipeline in which they can advance, which itself will have a budgetary effect.

Gain:  As the case of MAGAV demonstrates, having a specialty force for stability and COIN can take the pressure off the rest of the branches. This model already exists within the U.S. Army, whose various branches recognize the different skill sets and training required to conduct different types of missions and that the total force benefits from integration of the branches. The experience of MAGAV in the 1982 Lebanon War shows that a specialist branch will solve the challenge of the allocation of forces to consolidation zones in LSCO and may help prevent some the problems that plagued the Iraq War. This option will allow the Army to retain the knowledge and skills to prevail in stability and COIN operations while allowing the bulk of the Army to focus on LSCO.

Option #2:  The Generalist Option: The U.S. military tries to balance its force structure within existing concepts and constructs.

The U.S. military seeks to end the bifurcation between COIN and stability operations on one hand and LSCO on the other. In this option, the military recognizes that COIN and stability tasks are a critical facet of LSCO.  The focus on integrating the two will be in all training and professional military education (PME). While at the most basic level, the training requirements for LSCO may apply to COIN and stability tasks, at higher echelons the tasks and mindsets diverge. To compensate for this, COIN and stability will be included in training and PME for echelons above the battalion. This option would keep within the intent authored by Lieutenant General Michael D. Lundy, former Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, not to lose the lessons of COIN while pursuing LSCO[10]. However, this option differs from the tack that the U.S. military is currently taking by explicitly requiring the retention of a focus on COIN and stability operations, as well the capabilities and structures to execute them within the framework of a force preparing for LSCO.

Risk:  In a budget and time constrained environment this option can be supremely difficult to retain an integrated focus, which could leave critical aspects of COIN and LSCO uncovered. This option risks having one or the other type of operation undervalued, which will result in the continued problem of radical pendulum swings. Finally, even if it proves possible to incorporate stability and LSCO operations equally in training, education, structures, and thought, this option risks creating a force that is incapable of doing either well.

Gain:  This option will create the most agile possible force with a fungible skill set. It allows any formation to serve in either form of operation with equal efficacy, easing the job of planners and commanders. This option will create the broadest possible pool from which to draw, allowing deployments and other missions to be balanced across the force without leaving one or another formation overburdened.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hernandez, R. (2019, July 2). Operations to Consolidate Gains. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/NCO-Journal/Archives/2019/July-2019/Operations-to-Consolidate-Gains

[2] See for example: Shinn, David H. and Ofcansky, Thomas P. Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia p. 309; https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/Occ-GY/index.htm; https://history.army.mil/html/books/075/75-18/cmhPub_75-18.pdf 

[3] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Organizational Command #11/12, June 2012, p. 2; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, MAGAV Judea and Samaria, December 2015, p. 2

[4] According to FM 3-0 the consolidation area is the portion of an “area of operations that is designated to facilitate the security and stability tasks necessary for freedom of action in the close area and support the continuous consolidation of gains.” Dept of the Army (2017) Operations (FM 3-0). 1-158

[5] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Summary of MAGAV Action in Lebanon: 1982–1985, p. 3; 

[6] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Public Disturbance Trends, 2004, p. 9

[7] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Border Patrol Unit Course”, March 2012, pp. 9–12; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6

[8] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Rifle 05 Training Course” 2008, p. 6; MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, “Magav Commanders Course”, April 2014, p. 7

[9] MAGAV Heritage and Memorial Center, Survey of Magav—The Future Has Already Arrived, 2019, pp. 25–26

[10] Lundy, M. D. (2018, September). Meeting the Challenge of Large-Scale Combat Operations… Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/September-October-2018/Lundy-LSCO

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Dr. Jacob Stoil Dr. Tal Misgav Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Israel Option Papers Training U.S. Army United States

Options to Prioritize People and Improve Readiness: Decreasing OPTEMPO to Increase Learning

Josh Linvill has served in 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as a regimental planner, rifle company commander, and headquarters and headquarters troop commander. He is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division and serves as a planner for Operation Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. He can be found on Twitter @josh_linvill. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Army is transitioning its number one priority from readiness to people. Part of the transition is an attempt to reduce the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) so units can focus on dedicated periods for mission, training, and modernization.

Date Originally Written:  November 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 4, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s School for Advanced Military Studies whose research focused on how the Army can learn from Rotational Training Units’ (RTU) experiences. The author believes a lower OPTEMPO by focusing the purpose of Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations or reducing the number of CTC rotations will increase learning for the Army and therefore increase readiness.

Background:  In October 2020, the U.S. Army published its Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. The plan describes how the focus on readiness, “resulted in an unsustainable OPTEMPO and placed significant demands on units, leaders, and Soldiers and Families and stress on the force[1].” The action plan describes two ways the Army will reduce OPTEMPO; specially designed rotations where the entire brigade will not deploy to a CTC and potentially not requiring CTC rotations for units scheduled for non-combat deployments.

Significance:  Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provides a model, figure 1, the Army can use to increase learning while reducing OPTEMPO. Theorist David Kolb explains the dialectic nature of ELT, “learning is defined as ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.’ Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience[2].” The ELT cycle consists of four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. In ideal circumstances the learner grasps and transforms knowledge while progressing through each stage of the cycle. As Kolb writes, “immediate or concrete experiences are the basis for observations and reflections. Theses reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts from which new implications for action are drawn. These implications can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences[3].” Changing the current design and/or rate of CTC rotations, or concrete experiences for units, enables the Army to give primacy to the other stages of the ELT cycle. By implementing different options for CTC rotations the Army can learn more by harnessing the power of a complete ELT cycle.

Figure 1. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory Model. David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

Option #1:  The Army focuses CTC rotations on Army learning, not just the RTU. In this option, the Army can treat each CTC rotation as a means to an end by assessing and integrating the needs of the RTU with the overall needs of the Army. In other words, each CTC rotation can serve as a new concrete experience in the ELT cycle of the Army. The Army can use lessons learned from current conflicts or previous War Fighter Exercises and CTC rotations to tailor rotations focused on one unit or warfighting function. For example, division cavalry constructs, the use of armor in an Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaisance saturated environment, or consolidation area operations.

Risk:  The primary risk to Option #1 is that the experiments fail and a fiscal risk in that rotations are extremely expensive. If there is no balance between active experimentation and training the fundamentals of warfighting and therefore readiness will suffer.

Gain:  Rather than using similar rotational constructs for each Brigade Combat Team, in this option the Army will benefit from using the ELT cycles that begin with different experiences to test (ELT active experimentation) a theory or hypothesis (ELT abstract conceptualization) developed by reflecting on pervious experiences (ELT reflective observation). In this option ELT cycles that begin outside of CTCs will directly influence CTC rotations. By linking ELT cycles at CTCs the Army can develop new ideas following a variety of experiences.

Option #2:  The U.S. Army slows down to speed up learning. A certain level of detachment from experience is required to progress through every stage of the ELT cycle. An organization consumed by events cannot effectively learn. By reducing the number of CTC rotations the Army can learn more by focusing on the other stages of the ELT cycle and exploit the knowledge of other organizations who shared the experience with the RTU. Organizations like Operations Groups and the Opposing Force (OPFOR) are just some of the key players to extending the learning process. More time between rotations would allow these organizations time to progress through their own ELT cycles and share that knowledge directly with other units[4].

Risk:  Although quality over quantity is important and in-line with the Army Action Plan, this option risks leaders in key positions not having any CTC experience at all. Fewer events mean fewer concrete experiences to initiate the learning.

Gain:  Fewer rotations means CTC Operations Groups will be able to focus more time observing and coaching units through the entire ELT cycle instead of focusing on the concrete experience of each rotation. Fewer rotations will enable members of the Operations Groups to follow up with previous RTUs and coach them through the reflection on, conceptualization, and experimentation of ideas that began during their rotation, extending the learning cycle that started at the CTC. This same process could take place for units training for upcoming CTC rotations. Members of the Operations Groups would have the time to share the reflections and observations of previous RTUs and their own observations and ideas to support commanders training their units for a CTC rotation. Fewer rotations would also enable other CTC organizations, like members of the OPFOR, to take part in the process and further enhance units’ learning cycles.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Army, Action Plan to Prioritize People and Teams. Army.mil, October13, 2020, accessed October 25, 2020, https://www.army.mil/article/239837/action_plan_to_prioritize_people_and_teams

[2] David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2015), 51.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dr. Robert Foley examines the process of horizontal learning, using the experiences of other units to learn, is his article, A Case Study in Horizontal Military Innovation: The German Army, 1916-1918. Available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402390.2012.669737

Josh Linvill Option Papers Readiness U.S. Army

Options to Improve U.S. Army Ground Combat Platform Research and Development

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:  The modernization of U.S. Army ground combat platforms includes risks that are not presently mitigated.

Date Originally Written:  August, 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. Army’s over reliance on immature technologies are a risk to national security. Further, the author believes that the risk can be mitigated by slowing development and reducing research and development (R&D) investments while reinvesting in proven material solutions until new systems prove technologically reliable and fiscally feasible to implement.

Background:  The U.S. Army is investing in programs that remain unproven and are unlikely to provide the capabilities sought. Specifically, the Army is heavily investing in its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) and remote combat vehicles[1]. These programs are predicated on optimal battlefield conditions. Firstly, the assumption exists that enemy forces will not be able to degrade or destroy the battlefield network required to operate unmanned vehicles. Secondly, the risk of the enemy developing weapons that specifically target transmissions coming from control vehicles is a factor that needs to be taken seriously in threat assessments and in planning purposes[2].

Significance:  If the Army’s assumptions are incorrect and if these efforts fails to procure reliable and sustainable ground combat platforms for future operations, there will not be additional resources to mitigate this failure. Moreso, if the Army procures vulnerable systems that fail to deliver effects promised, the Army risks catastrophic defeat on the battlefield.

Option #1:  The U.S. Army could reduce and spread out its R&D investments to further invest in its legacy combat forces to offset the risks associated with funding unproven and unreliable technologies.

Risk:  The significant risks associated with Option #1 are that the technological investments needed for future capabilities will be delayed. The Army would lose its plan for fielding, as the Army will not fully field the OMFV until the early 2030’s, assuming there are no complications to the program of record. Additionally, Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) would be delayed until they can also be realistically evaluated. Lastly, investments into legacy systems could threaten the need for future platforms.

Gain:  If the Army elected Option #1, it would have the time to properly and realistically test RCV’s, OMFV and Manned-Unmanned Teaming concepts (MUM-T). This additional testing reduces the chances of investing significant resources into a programs that do not deliver as promised. It also reduces disingenuous and fraudulent claims prior to further funding requests. Simply put, the chances of ineffective systems being funded would be mitigated because proper and realistic testing from an independent entity would occur first. The Army would also gain additional capabilities for its current systems that otherwise would not be upgraded but yet will remain in service for decades.

Option #2:  The Army consolidates their modernization efforts and cancels select requirements. Currently the Army funds 4 major ground combat programs; the Mobile Protected Firepower, RCV program (Heavy, Medium and Light), OMFV, and CROWS-J/30mm. The Army could cancel the MPF program because the program is questionable due to its inability to defeat enemy near peer armored threats that will likely be encountered[3]. This cancelation would allow the Army to invest into the RCV light program, armed with the 50mm cannon and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM). The Army would retain a viable anti fortification and direct fire support vehicle, while reducing needless expenses. Further, the Army could cancel or delay the unmanned requirement of the OMFV until the technology and network is fully secured and matured, with no limitations or risks.

Risk:  A significant risk associated with Option #2 is that the Army will not get a light tank or get RCV Medium or Heavy platforms and it will not receive the “optionally manned” portion of the OMFV until later. The risk with not obtaining these desired capabilities mean that the Army would have to accept an alternative material solution that defeats enemy fortifications and armor as opposed to the MPF.

Gain:  The Army retains its desired capabilities while maximizing resources. The Robotic Combat Vehicle-(Light), armed with a 50mm cannon and ATGM’s, is less expensive, lighter and carries more ammunition than the MPF. Further, the RCV-L is better armed to defeat enemy armored threats, as the MPF’s 105mm cannon is inadequate to defeat enemy tanks[3]. Additionally, by removing the unmanned requirement from the OMFV, the Army would gain savings and reduce reliance on unproven technologies, reducing risk of battlefield defeat[4]. This option enables the Army to retain remote controlled concepts by shifting the focus to the RCV-L and equipping the Infantry Brigade Combat Team community with it, as opposed to the Army risking its combat strength and forcing immature technologies upon the Armored Brigade Combat Team community, which is the Army’s main combat formation for near peer conflict.

Other Comments:  The Army is heavily investing in vulnerable technologies without first ensuring it has an effective network able to completely support the operational concepts it desires. Without ensuring that the required network will be immune to enemy countermeasures, these technologies will not fully support operational requirements. Further, the costs associated with these efforts are already exceeding 60 billion dollars, and do not afford the service increased lethality or survivability, even by common English definitional sense. Army R&D efforts will continue to be at risk if they refuse to allow independent agencies full access and evaluation rights prior to further funding.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Freedberg Jr, Sydney. August 6th, 2020. Breaking Defense. GAO Questions Army’s 62B Cost Estimates for Combat Vehicles. Retrieved from: https://breakingdefense.com/2020/08/gao-questions-armys-62b-cost-estimates-for-combat-vehicles

[2] Trevithick, Joseph. May 11th 2020. The War Zone: This is What Ground Forces Look like to an Electronic Warfare System and Why It’s A Big Deal. Retrieved from: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/33401/this-is-what-ground-forces-look-like-to-an-electronic-warfare-system-and-why-its-a-big-deal

[3] Central Intelligence Agency. Gorman, Paul. Major General, USA. US Intelligence and Soviet Armor. 1980. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000624298.pdf

[4] Collins, Liam. Colonel, USA. July 26th 2018. Association of the United States Army: Russia Gives Lessons in Electronic Warfare. Retrieved from: https://www.ausa.org/articles/russia-gives-lessons-electronic-warfare

Budgets and Resources Emerging Technology Mel Daniels Option Papers Research and Development U.S. Army

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  June 02, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 26, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Options for Subversion within China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 19, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options for Taiwan to Better Compete with China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

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


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


Title:  Assessment of Sino-Russian Strategic Competition in Africa

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 12, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

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

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options to Manage the 2020 Election Cyber Threat Landscape

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence specialist who has worked in the commercial, defense, and aerospace sectors in the US and Middle East. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd. He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The 2020 U.S. General Election (the election) faces a nuanced and critical cyber threat landscape that requires careful navigation.

Date Originally Written:  September 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber intelligence professional and Election Officer in Virginia. This options paper will provide options for addressing cyber threats to election systems and infrastructure in the context of the 2020 election.

Background:  The cyber threat landscape of the November 2020 election in the U.S. is critical and complex. Election interference and propaganda efforts are not new on the global stage. However, the simultaneous merging of industrial-level disinformation operations, targeted cyber intrusions by state-funded organizations, and the woeful state of local cyber civil defenses in the U.S. combine to create a unique situation with challenging nuances and implications.

Cyber intrusions related to the 2016 General Election, mostly attributed to Russian-linked actors, are widely documented and analyzed in both the public and classified spheres of the national security community. The current threat landscape is more complex than in 2016, as evidenced by a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence indicating that cyber actors backed by China, Russia, and Iran are all actively attempting to influence the outcome of the election[1]. Defenses have also been bolstered in some areas, such as the Department of Defense taking an active role in the cybersecurity of the election, including deployments of cyber personnel abroad to hunt for threats to election systems[2].

The threat landscape is further complicated by public opinion, as demonstrated by the outrage connected to the publication of a false report that Russian threat actors stole and exposed voter databases from several U.S. states in August 2020. In reality, no cyber intrusion occurred and the data was publicly available. However, the public outcry over the incident indicates the potential for civic unrest in the event of a cyber attack that could be perceived to threaten the integrity of results[3].

Elections in the U.S. involve conflicting and competing stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations[4]. In a standard “Impact times Likelihood” threat matrix, the impact of a direct cyber attack compromising election results is high, but the likelihood is low. However, given the number of systems and interconnected networks used to coordinate elections, smaller attacks on peripheral or supporting systems are much more likely, though less impactful unless in a sufficient volume to cause widespread disruption[5].

Significance:  Election systems, including hardware and administrative organizations overseeing election operations, are classified by the Department of Homeland Security as critical national infrastructure[6]. The integrity of election results is critical to the validity and credibility of democratic governance in the U.S. A disputed election as a result of cyber aggression would be severely problematic for U.S. national security.

The geopolitical situation surrounding the election creates the potential for various adverse outcomes, including: deterioration of public faith in election processes; contested results in legislative and presidential races; civic unrest; and erosion of democratic processes. Elections are immensely complex and securing the cyber facets of elections involves national and local information and operational technology (IT and OT); registration databases; support software; and hardware used at polling places, including voting machines, ballot scanners, and devices like laptops and tablets. To manage the cyber threat landscape and mitigate potential harms resulting from threats, policymakers have three key options:

Option #1:  Launch a public education campaign focused on the logistics of managing election challenges to a) reduce the effectiveness of disinformation efforts seeking to undermine public trust in election processes and results and b) reduce public anxieties regarding the integrity of ballots.

Risk:  First, given the sociopolitical polarization among the U.S. electorate, it is likely that a significant portion of the voting public would view a public education campaign as factually incorrect or intentionally misleading. Second, this same polarization also indicates that a campaign would be unlikely to affect public opinion because the intended audience is unreceptive to information that would contradict preferred beliefs. Finally, this option is solely strategic and cultural in nature, and would not address the tangible, tactical level vulnerabilities that exist in election systems.

Gain:  If the press and social media (avenues for public information sharing) are considered supporting factors of election infrastructure, then a campaign to weaken disinformation networks could strengthen peripheral systems vulnerable to attack with a potentially high impact.

Option #2:  Provide a national fund to supplement the capabilities of national and local election administration organizations to implement best standards and practices including: current equipment, adequate staffing, standard written policy, and risk-limiting audits.

Risk:  First, efforts to provide funding to secure election systems have proven to be politically sensitive and difficult to move through Congress[7]. Second, this option would likely carry extreme financial cost to adequately address security needs The U.S. is currently experiencing a severe financial crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding what would be a difficult option even in a financially sound period.

Gain:  Providing supplementary funding for organizations charged with safeguarding election systems would likely allow the organizations to directly address actionable technical and administrative vulnerabilities that expose systems to attacks. Properly resourcing these organizations could exponentially reduce the threat landscape for future elections.

Option #3:  Provide a large scale staffing support program for local cyber offices using Federal or contracted personnel with relevant expertise to augment high-risk election precincts and help harden defenses.

Risk:  First, the state of the cybersecurity and IT job markets make it unlikely that sufficient numbers of experienced and qualified staff could be retasked or hired and placed in needed areas. Second, the logistics of placing such a large workforce at nationwide locations would require a significant financial burden. Finally, travel challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic would further complicate the ability of support staff to be placed and to effectively integrate with localized teams.

Gain:  Supplementing cybersecurity staff at local and national offices leading up to the election could allow those organizations to better prepare for potential threats, and could offer a chance for knowledge transfer and training that would benefit future election operations.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: Election Threat Update for the American Public. 2020. https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/item/2139-statement-by-ncsc-director-william-evanina-election-threat-update-for-the-american-public.

[2] Shannon Vavra. “Cyber Command Deploys Abroad to Fend Off Foreign Hacking Ahead of the 2020 Election.” CyberScoop. 2020. https://www.cyberscoop.com/2020-presidential-election-cyber-command-nakasone-deployed-protect-interference-hacking.

[3] Catalin Cimpanu. “Cisa and Fbi Say They Have Not Seen Cyber-Attacks This Year on Voter Registration Databases.” ZDNet. 2020. https://www.zdnet.com/article/cisa-and-fbi-say-they-have-not-seen-cyber-attacks-this-year-on-voter-registration-databases.

[4] Lee Clark. “An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense.” Divergent Options. 2019. https://divergentoptions.org/2019/11/11/an-assessment-of-the-current-state-of-u-s-cyber-civil-defense.

[5] Tara Seals. “Shoring Up the 2020 Election: Secure Vote Tallies Aren’t the Problem.” Threatpost. 2020. https://threatpost.com/2020-election-secure-vote-tallies-problem/158533.

[6] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. 2018. https://doi.org/10.17226/25120.

[7] Scott R. Anderson, Eugenia Lostri, Quinta Jurecic, and Margaret Taylor. “Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security—And a Partisan Fight Anyway.” Lawfare. 2019. https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway.

Election Lee Clark Option Papers United States

Alternative Future: Options to Address China’s Reaction to COVID-19 and Growing Anti-Chinese Sentiment

Sarah Lucinsky is an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and is a postgraduate at Charles Sturt University. She sometimes tweets from @LouSeaLu and has previously edited for JUR Press and presented at Asia-Pacific Week at Australian National University. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese activities in its disputed peripheries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing and anti-Chinese sentiment is growing. This increase and growth pose risk to nations on China’s periphery.

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that analysing an array of counter-factual scenarios and alternative futures through collegiate debate is valuable when tackling security issues.

Background:  China’s stated desire for ‘One China’ involves a forcible reunification of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis[1] this goal has been approached gradually by focussing on methods below the threshold of war. This is largely due to China’s desire to retain a level of world power credibility and consequently avoid widespread international backlash that risks dividing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Recently, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising[2] mostly due to COVID-19, but also due to growing awareness of China’s controversial territorial expansionism in the South and East China Seas (S/ECS). Simultaneously, Indo-Pacific militaries have progressively focussed on countering China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in these disputed areas. These two factors risk eroding China’s fear of international backlash that has historically prevented it from executing decisive military actions.

Significance: If China continues to face the current international backlash and counter-PLA military activity in proximity to its claimed territories, two concurrent issues will arise. Firstly, China will perceive that its sovereignty is being directly threatened by foreign militaries. Secondly, China will no longer believe there is value in exercising restraint in its disputed areas in order to protect its international image, as its image has been eroded anyway[3]. This could lead to a more expansionist and offensively postured China[4]. The introduction of China’s new national security laws in Hong Kong is quite possibly an example of how international perceptions now matter less to China under the current, evolving context[5].

Option #1:  Nations on China’s periphery form paramilitaries that conduct activities below the threshold of war, separate from conventional military forces. The paramilitaries operate with the express aim of countering the PLA’s coercive tactics in disputed areas of national interest.

Risk:  As China’s own paramilitary forces operate throughout the S/ECS, other nations introducing their own paramilitaries jeopardise their legal advantage achieved through the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against China. China may then use the new paramilitary forces as a justification for bolstered militarisation of outposts and concentration of conventional forces. A greater concentration of forces in the vicinity of disputed areas increases the risk for paramilitary engagements such as freedom of manoeuvre and ramming incidents[6].

Gain:  S/ECS claimant states can more effectively address the threat of the PLA’s coercive tactics near their territories whilst also retaining a level of political deniability[7]. Asymmetric platforms and tactics can level the playing field, enabling smaller nations to more effectively defend their territory and increase their deterrence ability, similar to Iran’s success with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy[8]. Additional paramilitaries equal additional, stealthier threats for China to identify, track and respond to. China will not be able to démarche nations with emergent paramilitary forces without highlighting their own.

Option #2:  Indo-Pacific nations establish bilateral military exercises and political summits with China that are widely covered by local media to improve regional perceptions of China.

Risk:  China may perceive this proactive attempt to bolster relationships as appeasement or worse, agreement with their territorial claims and coercive activities in S/ECS. Moreover, there is little scope to control or influence how these bilateral exercises and summits will be framed in Chinese state media. Even if this approach succeeds from the Chinese side, pro-China publicity may not gain traction in the host country due to trending national issues such as COVID-19 and territorial disputes. In a worst-case scenario this option may be counter-productive and lead to public outrage, protests or boycott attempts of China/Chinese goods. In turn, media coverage of the public’s negative response would also be reported on in China and undermine any successes achieved there.

Gain:  Pro-China sentiment may draw China back into the soft-power game of international engagement. This could reignite China’s desire to protect their international image and thus refrain from conducting decisive military actions like forcibly reunifying Taiwan. Further, sustained bilateral engagement will improve political relationships and develop mutual understanding, reducing the likelihood of misjudgement or miscalculation at the strategic and tactical levels. A tertiary gain is Indo-Pacific nations would gain intimate exposure to PLA personnel, platforms and operational art that could provide advantages in a future conflict scenario. Sometimes one must put the rifle down to really pick the rifle up.

Option #3:  The United States deepens its ties with Russia, creating a new modus vivendi, working towards a future alliance that alienates China.

Risk:  A U.S.-Russia alliance would require the two nations to find common ground on Crimea, Iran and North Korea, all of which are incredibly unlikely without significant costs from either side[9]. A close relationship with Russia has higher risks for the U.S. as it would directly challenge much of U.S. recent history and ideology, alienate North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and breed distrust amongst the five eyes community. Further, closer ties with Russia may include additional Russian scrutiny that could result in political interference, cyber and information warfare operations as well as increased Russian avenues for intelligence collection.

Gain:  Whilst this option would carry a significant ideological cost for America, a U.S.-Russia alliance would combine the lethality of two military superpowers, a significant deterrent if both parties could agree on its use in a counter-China context[10]. Even without reaching alliance status, closer U.S.-Russia relations that incorporates military engagement would still create an effect that China would need to consider as a significant factor prior to any attempts at decisive military action.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Yves-Heng Lim, “Expanding the Dragon’s Reach: The Rise of China’s Anti-Access Naval Doctrine and Forces,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40, no. 1-2 (2017).

[2] Motoko Rich, “As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Anti-Chinese Sentiment,” New York times 2020.

[3] Michael Swaine, “The Pla Navy’s Strategic Transformation to the “Far Seas”: How Far, How Threatening, and What’s to Be Done?,” in Going Global? The People’s Navy in a Time of Strategic Transformation (Rhode Island: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019).

[4] People’s Republic of China, “China’s Military Strategy,” (Xinhua News Agency2015).

[5] Eleanor Albert, “Which Countries Support the New Hong Kong National Security Law?,” The Diplomat 2020.

[6] Dhara Shah, “China’s Maritime Security Strategy: An Assessment of the White Paper on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 13, no. 1 (2017).

[7] Tobias Böhmelt and Govinda Clayton, “Auxiliary Force Structure: Paramilitary Forces and Progovernment Militias,” Comparative political studies 51, no. 2 (2017).

[8] Abhijit Singh, “”Dark Chill in the Persian Gulf” – Iran’s Conventional and Unconventional Naval Forces,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 6, no. 2 (2010).

[9] Legvold Robert, “All the Way: Crafting a U.S.-Russian Alliance,” no. 70 (2002).

[10] Ibid.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Sarah Lucinsky United States

Options for Ukraine to Address the Impact of the Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

Madison Sargeant is a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at Boston University and is currently studying International Relations and Statistical Methods. She can be found at @SargeantMadison on Twitter. 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 development of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea threatens Ukrainian economic and national security.

Date Originally Written:  June 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the perspective of the Ukrainian government.

Background:  Energy security is an increasingly pressing issue for the European Union (EU). As indigenous natural gas production diminishes, energy demands increase, and relations with the Russian Federation become more divisive, natural gas imports have become a widely debated topic among EU member states. The annexation of Crimea and subsequent support for separatists in eastern Ukraine by the Kremlin has prompted sanctions and statements of solidarity with Ukraine by the European Union. Despite this, EU member states, notably Germany and Italy, have moved forward with pipeline projects that eliminate Ukraine as a transit state for Russian gas.

Development of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses traditional routes through Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland to deliver natural gas directly from Russia to Germany has divided the EU in both political and energy strategy. Another pipeline project, TurkStream, will transport Russian gas through Turkey into southern Europe upon completion. The aggregate capacity of both Nord Stream pipelines, as well as the TurkStream pipeline, rival Ukraine’s entire capacity for Russian natural gas transit[1]. These projects have caused controversy within the EU and outrage from the United States, which has attempted to slow the pipeline’s completion through sanctions. Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream have highlighted the tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and the transatlantic community more broadly.

Significance:  If Russia can bypass transit through Ukraine, it will be less constrained in its war in the Donbass region. Similarly, the European Union will be less incentivized to moderate the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow. From an economic standpoint, Ukraine receives $3 billion U.S. Dollars in Russian gas transit fees annually—revenue that would be lost if Russia no longer needs Ukraine to get gas to its final destination. Ukraine’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018 was a mere 130.8 billion; the loss in revenues would be a significant obstacle to Kyiv’s military efforts in the east, as the government allocates funding between various departments, including that of defense[2]. A weakened economy and loss of European interest in the wellbeing of the Ukrainian state, coupled with safe transport of Russian gas without Ukraine’s pipelines increases the likelihood of Russia intensifying the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Option #1:  Diversification.

Ukraine could collaborate with the Caucasus and Central Asian states, namely Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan to develop energy transit routes across the Caspian and Black Seas, and through Ukraine into Europe. Introducing Central Asian energy into the European market will increase competition and reduce reliance on Russian gas by the EU. This option ensures Ukraine’s role as an energy transit state will not be squashed in the face of new pipeline projects circumventing it, while strengthening Ukraine’s relationship with regional partners.

Risk:  This option would not provide an immediate solution to Ukraine’s predicament as pipeline projects take upwards of ten years. Foreign investment in such a project may be unattractive at this time. Ukraine’s current tax laws dissuade foreign investment and are in need of reform. Europe’s plans to minimize fossil fuel use in the long term may also make this project undesirable, although investment in Nord Stream 2 and other new pipelines suggests otherwise. Most notably, this option does not eliminate the risk of Russia escalating the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russian gas would still circumvent Ukraine.

Gain:  Central Asian energy transit through Ukraine can replace the revenue lost from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Pipeline already exists in Ukraine to carry out transportation, and building pipelines in the Black Sea is less complicated and costly compared to the Baltic Sea[3]. Such a move also increases Ukraine’s political standing in the region and diminishes Russian influence.

Option #2:  Maintaining the status quo.

Ukraine may seek to extend the December 2019 contract with Russia regarding gas transit through Ukraine. This option maintains the status quo between Ukraine, the EU, and Russia. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is likely to remain frozen at its current level and Russia is unlikely to work towards ending it.

Risk:  This option relies on Russian cooperation with Ukraine. When both Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are fully online, Russia will have options regarding how it transports its natural gas to European clients. Ultimately, this option is one that only buys Ukraine time in finding a solution to the military conflict in the east.

Gain:  In the short term, Ukraine and Russia would remain dependent on one another for safe gas transit through Ukraine, which decreases the likelihood of Russia escalating the conflict. Additionally, Ukraine may not suffer greatly from loss of revenue depending on how many cubic meters of gas are redirected from Ukrainian pipelines to Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream. This option also incentives the EU member states to stay involved in the conflict resolution process in Ukraine.

Other Comments:  Both options require a reevaluation of the compatibility of the EU’s energy and Ukraine policies. The EU cannot actively support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and autonomy while engaging in economic developments that undermine Ukraine’s ability to fund its military activities against Russian aggression. With European investment in Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, it is substantially more difficult for Ukraine to attract the European support it needs to combat the problems it faces economically, politically, and militarily. EU policies that are coherent and consequential are critical to any improved standing for Ukraine.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Sydoruk, T., Stepanets, P., & Tymeichuk, I. (2019). Nord Stream 2 as a Threat to National Interests of Poland and Ukraine. Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, 19(3/4), 467-490.

[2] Ellyatt, H. (2019, December 16). Ukraine and Russia look to strike new gas deal amid US sanctions threat. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/16/ukraine-and-russia-look-to-strike-gas-transit-deal.html

[3] Oliker, O. (1999, December 31). Ukraine and the Caspian: An Opportunity for the United States. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/pubs/issue_papers/IP198.html

Madison Sargeant Option Papers Resource Scarcity Russia Ukraine

Alternative History: Options Other than the Doolittle Raid to Strike Japan After Pearl Harbor

2d Lt David Alman is an officer in the U.S. Air National Guard. In his civilian career, he has worked as an aerospace engineer and management consultant. Previously, he earned a BS and MS in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. He tweets @david_alman. 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 Japanese bombed the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. The U.S. is preparing options to strike back at Japan.

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Air National Guard officer with an interest in military effectiveness and military history / historiography. This article’s point of view is from the United States military in late 1941.

Background:  In response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the ensuing series of Allied losses in the Pacific, President Roosevelt tasked his War Cabinet to develop plans for striking back at Japan. The objective was to raise the morale of the American people[1]. The Doolittle Raid accomplished this mission using two aircraft carriers to launch 16 aircraft to bomb Japan. The total explosive weight delivered was 32,000 pounds.

Significance:  While a heroic effort, it appears little thought was given to alternate options that might have accomplished the same goal without risking a significant portion of American combat power. It is the duty of military officers to judiciously accept risk in the pursuit of objectives. The study of history demands more than veneration for those who went into harm’s way. Instead, students of history must ask whether it was necessary for so many to go into harm’s way in the first place as part of the Doolittle Raid. This options paper identifies other viable options to place the risk-reward tradeoff of the Doolittle Raid in context.

Option #1:  The U.S. launches Air Corps bombers from Navy aircraft carriers. Since one aircraft carrier will be loaded with bombers, another aircraft carrier will be required to escort the task force. The planes, B-25 Mitchells, will be modified for extended range. The planes will land in China after completing their mission.

Risk:  This operation will risk two of seven American aircraft carriers and their escorts[2]. If lost in action, the American Navy will lose a significant portion of its striking power and the American public will have lower morale than before. This operation will also risk the 16 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. This option will provide joint operations experience to the Navy-Air Corps team and could result in Japan pulling back forces to defend the home islands.

Option #2:  The U.S. constructs a forward air base in the Aleutian Islands and uses long-range B-24 bombers to strike Japan. The distance from Attu Island to Tokyo and on to Nanchang (the Doolittle Raiders’ landing point) is approximately 3,500 miles[3]. An un-modified B-24A had a ferry range of 4,000 miles[4]. A bombload equivalent to the B-25 would entail a 2,000 pound or 8% reduction in fuel, reducing range to approximately 3,700 miles[5]. With minor modifications, such as a smaller crew, this option would be sufficient for an Aleutians-launched B-24 force to reach the historical B-25 landing sites.

Risk:  Constructing an air base on Attu will be difficult. This operation will risk 16 B-24 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. The use of an air base instead of U.S. Navy ships lessens the risk to the U.S. fleet. The air base in the Aleutians could be reused for other military purposes.

Option #3:  The U.S. uses Navy “cruiser” submarines to shell Japanese targets. The US Navy possesses three “cruiser” submarines, USS Argonaut, USS Narwhal, and USS Nautilus. Each of these submarines carries two 6-inch deck guns, each delivering a 105-pound explosive out to 13 miles. The submarines could surface at night off the coast of Japan and deliver 304 shells to equal the explosive weight of the Doolittle Raid. Given six guns and a fire rate of 6 rounds per minute, this would take approximately 10 minutes[6]. After completing their fires, preferably just after dark for survivability, the submarines would escape at high speed.

Risk:  This operation would risk three submarines and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. It could result in Japan pulling anti-submarine warfare forces back to home waters.

Option #4:  The U.S. uses seaplanes, such as PBY Catalinas, to strike Japan. PBYs could stage from Midway Island and refuel from submarines or destroyers in the open ocean. Carrying 2,000 pounds of bombs would reduce fuel capacity by approximately 13%, leaving the seaplanes with a 2,000 mile range[7]. The seaplanes would likely refuel once approximately 800 miles off the coast of Japan (1,700 miles from Midway), conduct a max radius strike to rendezvous with the refueler approximately 1,200 miles off the coast of Japan (800 miles in, 1,200 miles out, 2,000 mile round trip – farther offshore to protect the retreating refueler), and then fly back to Midway (approximately 1,300 miles away). Refueling sixteen seaplanes twice would require a maximum of 384,000 pounds of fuel which is well within the capacity of a modified cruiser submarine.

Risk:  This operation would risk 16 aircraft and a submarine along with their crews.

Gain:  This operation will accomplish the objective if successful, and not risk any U.S. aircraft carriers.

Other Comments:  The Doolittle Raid was ultimately successful. The options presented here are intended to provoke reflection on alternate options that were never considered due to the Doolittle Raid idea coming first. Practitioners gain by critically examining military history to postulate if objectives could have been accomplished more effectively or with less risk to force.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] December 21st, 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day. http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/daybyday/daylog/december-21st-1941/

[2] In reality, only 6 aircraft carriers were useful given USS Ranger’s small size.

[3] This and other distances calculated using Google Maps and use great circle distance.

[4] The B-24A Liberator. The 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. https://www.456fis.org/B-24-A.htm and author’s math.

[5] This is an estimate based on a linear fuel burn. Two variables are responsible for the true variation from this number. One is that fuel burn throughout flight is in fact not linear. Because the airplane weighs less towards the end of its flight, the last gallons of fuel provide more range than the first gallons. The second factor is that the bombs are not carried for the whole flight because they are dropped on their target.

[6] 6”/53 (15.2 cm) Marks 12, 14, 15, and 18. NavWeaps. http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_6-53_mk12.php

[7] Author’s math.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals David Alman Japan Option Papers United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 27, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 8, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 6, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Options for a Consistent Response to Cyberattacks

Thomas G. Pledger is an U.S. Army Infantry Officer currently serving at the U.S. Army National Guard Directorate in Washington, DC. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both the Conventional and Special Operations Forces. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Public Administration at Texas A&M University, a Master of Humanities in Organizational Dynamics, Group Think, and Communication from Tiffin University, and three Graduate Certificates in Advanced International Affairs from Texas A&M University in Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and Defense Policy and Military Affairs. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. He currently serves on 1st NAEF’s External Advisory Board, providing insight on approaches for countering information operations. Tom’s current academic and professional research is focused on a holistic approach to counter-facilitation/network, stability operations, and unconventional warfare. 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 Government (USG) does not have a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the private sector and population. Instead, it evaluates each attack on a case by case basis. This lack of a consistent response strategy has enabled hackers to act with greater freedom of maneuver, increasing the number and types of cyberattacks.

Date Originally Written:  April 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that a lack of a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the United States private sector and population have emboldened foreign powers’ continued actions and prevented a coordinated response.

Background:  The United States private sector and population has become the target of an almost continuous barrage of cyberattacks coming from a long list of state-sponsored actors, including Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran[1]. These actors have used the low financial cost of execution and low cost of final attribution to utilize cyberattacks as a tool to stay below the threshold of armed conflict. In the United States, these attacks have primarily avoided negative impacts on critical infrastructure, as defined by the USG. Therefore, the USG has treated such attacks as a matter for the private sector and population to manage, conducting only limited response to such state-sponsored attacks.

Significance:  The number of known cyberattacks has increased at a near exponential rate since the 1990s. During this same period, these attacks have become more sophisticated and coordinated, causing increased damage to both real-world infrastructure, intellectual property, societal infrastructure, and digital communication platforms. This trend for cyberattacks will continue to rise as individuals, industry, and society’s reliance on and the number of connected devices increases.

Option #1:  The USG categorizes cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as an act of cyberterrorism.

Risk:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism could begin the process of turning every action conducted against the United States that falls below the threshold of armed conflict as terrorism. Patience in responding to these attacks, as attack attribution takes time, can be difficult. Overzealous domestic governments, both state and federal, could use Option #1 to suppress or persecute online social movements originating in the United States.

Gain:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism will utilize an established framework that provides authorities, coordination, and tools while simultaneously pressuring the USG to respond. Including the term “digital social infrastructure” will enable a response to persistent efforts by state actors to create divisions and influence the United States population. Option #1 also creates a message to foreign actors that the continued targeting of the United States private sectors and population by cyberattacks will begin to have a real cost, both politically and financially. A stated definition creates standard precedence for the use of cyberattacks not to target the United States’ private sector and population outside of declared armed conflict, which has been applied to other weapon systems of war.

Option #2:  The USG maintains the current case by case response against cyberattacks.

Risk:  The private sector will begin to hire digital mercenaries to conduct counter-cyberattacks, subjecting these companies to possible legal actions in United States Courts, as “hack the hacker” is illegal in the United States[2]. Cyberattacks conducted by the United States private sector could drag the United States unknowingly into an armed conflict, as responses could rapidly escalate or have unknown second-order effects. Without providing a definition and known response methodology, the continued use of cyberattacks will escalate in both types and targets, combined with that U.S. adversaries not knowing what cyberattack is too far, which could lead to armed conflict.

Gain:  Option #2 allows a case by case flexible response to individual cyberattacks by the USG. Examining the target, outcome, and implication allows for a custom response towards each event. This option maintains a level of separation between the private sector operating in the United States and the USG, which may allow these organizations to operate more freely in foreign countries.

Other Comments:  Although there is no single USG definition for terrorism, all definitions broadly include the use of violence to create fear in order to affect the political process. Cyberterrorism does not include the typical act of violence against a person or property. This lack of physical violence has led some administrations to define cyberattacks as “cyber vandalism[3],” even as the cyberattack targeted the First Amendment. Cyberattacks are designed to spread doubt and fear in the systems that citizens use daily, sowing fear amongst the population, and creating doubt in the ability of the government to respond.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “Significant Cyber Incidents.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Apr. 2020, http://www.csis.org/programs/technology-policy-program/significant-cyber-incidents.

[2] “Hacking Laws and Punishments.” Findlaw, Thomson Reuters, 2 May 2019, criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/hacking-laws-and-punishments.html.

[3] Fung, Brian. “Obama Called the Sony Hack an Act of ‘Cyber Vandalism.’ He’s Right.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/12/22/obama-called-the-sony-hack-an-act-of-cyber-vandalism-hes-right/.

Cyberspace Option Papers Policy and Strategy Thomas G. Pledger United States

Options for the Deployment of Robots on the Battlefield

Mason Smithers[1] is a student of robotics and aviation. He has taken part in building and programming robots for various purposes and is seeking a career as a pilot. 

Jason Criss Howk[2] is an adjunct professor of national security and Islamic studies and was Mason’s guest instructor during the COVID-19 quarantine.

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 deployment of robots on the battlefield raises many questions for nations that desire to do so.

Date Originally Written:  April, 5, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This paper is based on the assumption that robots will one day become the predominant actor on a battlefield, as AI and robotics technology advance. The authors believe it is the moral duty of national and international policy-makers to debate and establish the rules for this future now.

Background:  Robots on the battlefield in large quantities, where they make up the majority of the combatants making direct-contact with a nation’s enemies, will raise new concerns for national leaders and human rights scholars. Whether they are tethered to a human decision-maker or not, when robots become the primary resource that a nation puts at risk during war, there will be an avalanche of new moral and ethical questions to debate.

This shift in the “manning” of warfighting organizations could increase the chances that nations will go to war because they can afford to easily replace robots, and without a human-life cost, citizens may not be as eager to demand a war be ended or be avoided.

Significance:  While the U.S. currently uses human-operated ground and air robots (armed unmanned aircraft-AKA drones, reconnaissance robots, bomb technician’s assistants etc.), a robust debate about whether robots can be safely untethered from humans is currently underway. If the United States or other nations decide to mass produce infantry robots that can act, without a human controlling them and making critical decisions for them, what are the costs and risks associated? The answers to these questions about the future, matter now to every leader involved in warfare and peace preservation.

Option #1:  The U.S. continues to deploy robots in the future with current requirements for human decision-making (aka human in the loop) in place. In this option the humans in any military force will continue to make all decisions for robots with the capability to use deadly force.

Risk:  If other nations choose to use robots with their own non-human decision capability or in larger numbers, U.S. technology and moral limits may cause the U.S. force smaller and possibly outnumbered. Requiring a human in the loop will stretch a U.S. armed forces that is already hurting in the areas of retention and readiness. Humans in the loop, due to eventual distraction or fatigue, will be slower in making decisions when compared to robots. If other nations perfect this technology before the U.S., there may not be time to catch up in a war and regain the advantage. The U.S. alliance system may be challenged by differing views of whether or not to have a human in the loop.

Gain:  Having a human in the loop will decreases the risk of international incidents that cause wars due to greater an assumed greater discretion capacity with the human. A human can make decisions that are “most correct” and not simply the fastest or most logical. Humans stand the best chance at making choices that can create positive strategic impacts when a gray area presents itself.

Option #2:  The U.S. transitions to a military force that is predominantly robotic and delegate decision-making to the robots at the lowest, possibly individual robot, level.

Risk:  Programmers cannot account for every situation on the battlefield. When robots encounter new techniques from the enemy (human innovations) the robots may become confused and be easily defeated until they are reprogrammed. Robots may be more likely to mistake civilians for legal combatants. Robots can be hacked, and then either stopped or turned on the owner. Robots could be reprogrammed to ignore the Laws of Warfare to frame a nation for war crimes. There is an increased risk for nations when rules of warfare are broken by robots. Laws will be needed to determine who gets the blame for the war crimes (i.e. designers, owners, programmers, elected officials, senior commanders, or the closest user).  There will be a requirement to develop rights for the robots in warfare. There could be prisoner of war status issues and discussions about how shutdown and maintenance requirements work so robots are not operated until they malfunction and die.  This option can lead to the question, “if robots can make decisions, are they sentient/living beings?” Sentient status would require nations to consider minimum requirements for living standards of robots. This could create many questions about the ethics of sending robots to war.

Gain:  This option has a lower cost than human manning of military units. The ability to mass produce robots allows means the U.S. can quickly keep up with nations that produce large human or robotic militaries. Robots may be more accurate with weapons systems which may reduce civilian casualties.

Other Comments:  While this may seem like science fiction to some policy-makers, this future is coming, likely faster than many anticipate.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mason Smithers is a 13-year-old, 7th grade Florida student. He raised this question with his guest instructor Jason Howk during an impromptu national security class. When Mason started to explain in detail all the risks and advantages of robots in future warfare, Jason asked him to write a paper about the topic. Ninety percent of this paper is from Mason’s 13-year-old mind and his view of the future. We can learn a lot from our students.

[2]  Mason’s mother has given permission for the publication of his middle school project.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming Jason Criss Howk Mason Smithers Option Papers

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 22, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Aircraft Basing Options in Competition and Conflict with China

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


Captain Walker D. Mills is a Marine infantry officer. He is currently serving as an exchange officer with the Colombian Marine Corps. He is also pursuing an MA in international relations and contemporary war from King’s College London.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. and China are competing below the threshold of armed conflict and trying to best position themselves should conflict occur.  One area of competition focuses on Chinese rockets and missiles, and their potential use against U.S. aviation facilities.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty military member with a stake in potential future competition and conflict with China in the Pacific. The options are presented from the point of view of the United States.

Background:  In recent decades, the People’s Liberation Army within the People’s Republic of China has invested heavily in conventional cruise and ballistic missiles of several types. Today the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has thousands of missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers[1]. Their rocket force is among the premier in the world – U.S. and Russian militaries have not kept pace with Chinese missile development and deployment because, until recently, they were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Chinese missiles are more than capable of targeting fixed U.S. bases and ships. A recent Center for New American Security report noted that “…a preemptive missile strike against the forward bases that underpin U.S. military power in the Western Pacific could be a real possibility” and named it “the greatest military threat” to U.S. interests in Asia[2]. Analysis of images from missile ranges in the Gobi Desert indicates that the primary targets for these missiles are U.S. aircraft carriers and fixed aviation facilities like airplane hangers and runways[3]. The missiles have repeatedly been highlighted in military parades and are the cornerstone of the PLA’s capability to defeat and deter U.S. military action in the South and East China Seas and their anti-access, area-denial network[4].

Significance:  The increasing threat from Chinese missiles will prevent U.S. forces from being able to credibly threaten the use of force in the seas around China and the First Island Chain because of the extreme risk to U.S. bases and large ships. Without the credible ability to employ force in support of foreign policy objectives in the region, the U.S. may be unable to fulfill treaty obligations to allies in the region and will cede one of its primary tools for competition and foreign policy. The capability to credibly threaten the use of force is the cornerstone of U.S. deterrence in the region.

Option #1:  The United States can embark on a multi-national, multi-agency effort to build dual-use aviation facilities across the First Island Chain. Because the most of the First Island Chain is comprised of U.S. treaty allies, the U.S. can work with allies and partners to rapidly construct a large number of runways and aviation facilities for civilian and military use by foreign partners, which would become available for U.S. military use in the event of a conflict. There are also dozens if not hundreds of derelict runways from the Second World War across the First Island Chain that could be renovated at lower cost than new construction.

Risk:  Such a building program would be expensive, and would have to significantly increase the number of available airfields to achieve the desired effect. This option is also contingent up U.S. partners and allies accepting the U.S. construction programs and the proliferation of airfields on their sovereign territory which may face local political resistance. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  A significant proliferation of dual-use runways in the First Island Chain would complicate Chinese targeting and force the PLA to spread out their missiles across many more targets, limiting their effectiveness. This building plan would also serve as a type of foreign aid – is it a non-confrontational approach to competition with China and would be a gift to our partners because the airfields and support facilities would be intended for partner use and civilian use in times short of armed conflict.

Option #2:  The U.S. can invest in amphibious aircraft that do not need to operate from runways. Legacy U.S. amphibious aircraft like the PBY-Catalina, also call the ‘Flying Boat’ and the Grumman Albatross were highly effective as utility transports, search and rescue, and maritime patrol craft during the Second World War into the 1980s in the case of the Albatross. These aircraft are capable of operating from conventional runways or directly from the sea – which makes strikes on runways and traditional aviation facilities ineffective towards preventing their operation. These planes are able to operate from any coastal area or inland waterway. Other militaries in the region including the Chinese, Russian and Japanese are already modernizing and upgrading their respective fleets of amphibious aircraft.

Risk:  The risk to this option is that reinvestment in amphibious aircraft could be expensive for the U.S. military or too much of a burden for a niche capability. The risk is also that amphibious aircraft are not capable of performing the necessary roles or do not posses the necessary capabilities for operations in against a peer-adversary like China. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  The advantage of this option is that it mitigates the risk to U.S. aircraft in the First Island Chain by creating a reserve of aircraft not tied to easily targeted, fixed-bases. Also, amphibious aircraft can be deployed worldwide – and are relevant beyond East Asia. This option does not depend on allies or partners and the capability to operate from the water can be employed in any theater, against any threat, not just in the Pacific.

Other Comments:  Other types of unconventional aircraft may also be considered for development and acquisition. Wing-in-Ground-Effect vehicles can function like aircraft and operate completely from the water and aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capability can also be employed without traditional runways though struggle with logistics and maintenance in austere environments.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] RAND Corporation. (2017). The U.S. – China Military Scorecard. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

[2] Shugart, Thomas. (2017). First Strike: China’s Missile Threat to US Bases in Asia. Retrieved from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/first-strike-chinas-missile-threat-to-u-s-bases-to-asia.

[3] DeFraia, Daniel. (2013). China tests DF-21D missile on mock US aircraft carrier in Gobi Desert. Agence France-Presse. Retrived from https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-01-30/china-tests-df-21d-missile-mock-us-aircraft-carrier-gobi-desert.

[4] RT. (2015, September 3). China’s V-Day military parade in Beijing 2015 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoC0Xcjko0A&sns=em.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Air Forces Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers United States Walker D. Mills

Options for a United States Counterterrorism Strategy in Africa

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


National Security Situation:  United States counterterrorism operations in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States National Security Adviser.

Background:  In a speech before the Heritage Foundation[1], former National Security Adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, outlined a new Africa policy. This policy focused on countering the rising influence of China and by extension, other strategic competitors[2]. As great power competition returns to the fore, Africa is another battlefront between East and West. With vast mineral resources and a growing market, a new scramble for Africa has emerged between dominant and emerging powers. However, as military might has decimated violent Islamist groups in the Middle East, their subsidiaries in Africa have flourished. Groups like Islamic State for West Africa, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Ansar al-Sunna have capitalized on local government failings to entrench themselves. In recent days, they have carried out spectacular attacks on local government forces in Nigeria, Chad, Mali and Mozambique[3]. Although the involved governments and their allies have responded forcefully, it is clear that stability won’t be established in the near-term.

Significance:  The United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Russia and China have deployed military assets in various parts of the African continent. The majority of these forces are focused on countering violent Islamist groups. While U.S. foreign policy concerning Africa focuses on achieving American strategic goals on the continent[4], it also takes into consideration the need to address the various local conflicts that threaten the security of investments and viability of governments. For the foreseeable future, any foreign policy towards Africa will need a robust counter terrorism component.

Option #1:  The U.S. military increases its footprint in Africa with conventional forces.

Risk:  This will widen America’s forever wars without guaranteeing success, stretching the already limited resources of the armed forces. While there is currently bipartisan support for continued engagement with Africa[5], it is doubtful that such backing will survive a prolonged intervention with significant losses. This option will also require the expansion of the United States Africa Command Staff at the operational level. Finally, moving the headquarters of the command onto the African continent despite the public opposition of prominent countries will be reexamined[6].

Gain:  The presence of significant U.S. forces embedded with combat troops has proven to improve the combat performance of local forces[7]. By providing advisers, reconnaissance assets, and heavy firepower, the U.S. will boost the morale of the fighting forces and provide them with freedom of action. The counter Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria can serve as a template for such operations. Such deployment will also allow U.S. assets to monitor the activities of competitors in the deployed region.

Option #2:  The U.S. expands the scale and scope of special operations units on the African continent.

Risk:  The absence of U.S. or similarly capable conventional forces on the ground to provide combined arms support limits and their effectiveness. While special operations units bring unique abilities and options, they cannot always substitute for the punching power of appropriately equipped conventional troops. The United States, sadly, has a history of insufficiently resourced missions in Africa suffering major losses from Somalia[8][9] to Niger[10].

Gain:  Special operations units are uniquely positioned to work with local forces. Historically, unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense has been the responsibility of units like the U.S. Army Special Forces[11]. Combined with units like the Army Rangers dedicated to conduct raids and enhancing operational security, it will allow the United States to put pressure on violent groups while mentoring and leading local forces to fulfill their security needs. It will also increase the number of assets available to meet emergencies.

Option #3:  The United States limits its role to advising and equipping local forces.

Risk:  Despite American support for African states, the security situation in Africa has continued to deteriorate. Decades of political instability and maladministration has created disgruntled populations will little loyalty to their countries of birth. Their militaries, regarded as blunt instruments of repression by civilians, lack the credibility needed to win hearts and mind campaigns critical to counter-insurgences. The supply of U.S. weapons to such forces may send the wrong signal about our support for prodemocracy movements on the continent.

Gain:  This option will fit with the current posture of the United Africa Command of enabling local actors mainly through indirect support[12]. The is a low cost, low risk approach for the U.S. military to build relationships in a part of the world where the armed forces continues to be major power brokers in society. This option keeps our forces away from danger for direct action.

Other Comments:  It is critical to acknowledge that any military campaign will not address the underlying problems of many African states. The biggest threats to African countries are maladministration and political instability. The United States has traditionally been a model and pillar of support for human rights activists, democratic crusaders and governance reformers. A United States push to ensure that bad actors cannot take advantage of security vacuums caused by a failure of governance while providing support for those looking to deliver society’s benefits to majority of their fellow citizens, would likely contribute to U.S. foreign policy goals.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bolton, J. (2018, December 13). Remarks by National Security Advisor John Bolton on the Trump Administration’s New Africa Strategy. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-national-security-advisor-ambassador-john-r-bolton-trump-administrations-new-africa-strategy

[2] Landler, M. and Wong, E. (2018, December 13). Bolton Outlines a Strategy for Africa That’s Really About Countering China. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/us/politics/john-bolton-africa-china.html

[3] Jalloh, A. (2020, April 9). Increased terror attacks in Africa amid coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/increased-terror-attacks-in-africa-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/ar-BB12mZWm

[4] Wilkins, S. (2020, April 2). Does America need an African Strategy? Retrieved April 10 from
https://warontherocks.com/2020/04/does-america-need-an-africa-strategy

[5] Gramer, R. (2020, March 4). U.S. Congress Moves to Restrain Pentagon over Africa Drawdown Plans. Retrieved April 11 from
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/04/africa-military-trump-esper-pentagon-congress-africom-counterterrorism-sahel-great-power-competition

[6] (2008, February 18). U.S. Shifts on African base plans. Retrieved April 12 from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7251648.stm

[7] Tilghman, A. (2016, October 24). U.S. troops, embedded with Iraqi brigades and battalions, push towards Mosul’s city center. Retrieved April 10 from
https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2016/10/24/u-s-troops-embedded-with-iraqi-brigades-and-battalions-push-toward-mosuls-city-center

[8] Lee, M. (2017, September 16). 8 Things We Learnt from Colonel Khairul Anuar, A Malaysian Black Hawk Down Hero. Retrieved April 11 from
https://rojakdaily.com/lifestyle/article/3374/8-things-we-learned-from-colonel-khairul-anuar-a-malaysian-black-hawk-down-hero

[9] Fox, C. (2018, September 24). ‘Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story’ recalls the soldiers the movie overlooked. Retrieved April 11 from
https://taskandpurpose.com/entertainment/black-hawk-down-untold-story-documentary

[10] Norman, G. (2018, March 15). U.S. forces ambushed in Niger again, military says. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.foxnews.com/us/us-forces-ambushed-in-niger-again-military-says

[11] Balestrieri, S. (2017, August 17). Differences between Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Counter Intelligence (COIN). Retrieved April 11 from
https://sofrep.com/news/differences-foreign-internal-defense-fid-counter-insurgency-coin

[12] Townsend, S. (2020, January 30). 2020 Posture Statement to Congress. Retrieved April 11 from
https://www.africom.mil/about-the-command/2020-posture-statement-to-congress

Africa Damimola Olawuyi Option Papers Violent Extremism

U.S. Army Options for Professional Military Education Amidst COVID-19

Matt Sardo has served in the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces Branches. He is currently separating from Active Duty to attend Berkeley Law School and will remain in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor with the Golden Bears Battalion. He can be found on Twitter @MattSardowski. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Army Permanent Change of Station freeze amidst COVID-19 will challenge the Professional Military Education model.

Date Originally Written:  April 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  April 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Army Special Forces Branch O3(Promotable) preparing to start a Juris Doctorate at UC Berkeley. The author believes repairing the U.S. civilian-military divide is mission critical to U.S. dominance in a multidomain operating environment.

Background:  The U.S. Army freeze of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders presents both challenges and opportunities. The cohort of officers preparing to move their families for Intermediate Level Education (ILE) face an uncertain summer due to the global impact of COVID-19. Competitive officers, most of whom have made the decision to pursue the profession as a career, are funneled to the Army flagship institution at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC). This situation presents a challenge to the education model the Army has relied upon since George Marshall was a Lieutenant in 1906[1].

A model distributed between U.S. academic institutions and the Army Department of Distance Education (DDE) could both meet Army educational needs and ensure COVID-19 safety precautions are executed. The Army DDE provides Common Core and Advanced Operations Courses remotely. American academic institutions have rapidly developed the digital infrastructure to provide online certificate and degree programs in high-demand technology fields. Both Army remote education infrastructure and civilian institutions provide opportunities to modernize Army education.

Significance:  The civilian-military divide in America has long been studied and analyzed by leading scholars from across society; however, the gap in trust between these two groups is widening[2]. The current challenge faced by the Army Officer Corps presents an opportunity to immerse officers in civilian academic institutions. If operating within Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the Army cannot send it’s cohort of committed career officers to CGSC this summer.

It is difficult to say what the indicator for an all-clear will be during the COVID-19 pandemic outside of an effective vaccination program. Immediate decisions on essential manning, mission priorities, and geopolitical investments will occupy Army senior leaders for the coming weeks and months. The CDC will have a vote on the big decisions and Army leaders are beginning to understand their span of control during this period. Approving PCS orders for officers and their families will violate CDC guidance, and the decision space to identify an effective ILE alternative is rapidly shrinking.

The Army has come to the conclusion that its next challenge will be presented by a highly sophisticated, merciless nation-state adversary who will understand Army vulnerabilities better than the Army understands their own. Multi-domain operations (MDO), cyber support to kinetic strikes, and social influence are strong buzz words for modernizing training guidance; however, they do not answer the question of how the Army and the nation’s tech-savvy youth synchronize for those envisioned fictional battlefield effects. Integrating Army officer education with the American network of universities will provide both the needed education as well as interaction between two already socially distanced segments of American society.

Option #1:  Integrate the Army ILE curriculum with innovative universities in order to leverage sought after skills in the officer corps and build relationships with academic institutions. Either leverage local university graduate and certificate options as best as possible within CDC constraints or enroll in online courses with tech-centric institutions. A Fort Hood stationed armor officer attending the DDE Common Core this summer and completing UT Austin’s 33-week Cyber Academy will be prepared to make future resource decisions to integrate fires and effects with social-media based targeting[3]. A group of paratroopers and special operations soldiers from Fort Bragg will grasp the information landscape and agility of private sector procurement through a Duke Digital Media and Marketing Certificate or a University of North Carolina Masters in Business Administration concentration in strategy and consulting[4/5]. These are some of the skills and some of the options available through an integrated approach.

Risk:  The anti-agility voices throughout the Army will identify gaps in various equities from an integrated, localized, and remote ILE option. If university integration is proven valuable during our current time of crisis, the CGSC model may lose some prestige. There will also be risk associated in which universities are sought after for partnership with the DoD, and which universities deny a partnership based on the current civil-military misunderstandings. The risk of inaction may defer a year-group of officers needed in critical leadership positions in the near future.

Gain:  University integration will bring a human dimension of the Army into the civilian classroom. Option #1 will give opportunities for young minds to challenge the perspective of echo-chamber educated combat arms officers. It will provide an option for a current problem that addresses the institutional challenges of MDO from fires and effects, information operations, logistics, and command perspectives. Finally, this option will build a bridge between the Army and academia, and most importantly, it will solve the current PCS problem for summer movers.

Option #2:  Expand the bandwidth of the Army online ILE infrastructure already in place. The CGSC DDE model is an accredited ILE source which can be completed remotely while officers are observing social distancing. It will require a significant investment in digital infrastructure from the DDE; however, the overall cost-savings from CGSC PCS moves will allow investment in course modernization.

Risk:  The Army DDE portal and online interface are outdated, vulnerable to breach, and not equivalent to civilian online learning systems. Reliance on the DDE for the majority of officer ILE will present the system as a cyber target. Additionally, officers will not directly interact with their peers or mentors during a critical phase of professional development that can be achieved if the Army defers admittance for a semester.

Gain:  Investment in modernization of the premier PME institution will force the Army to learn how to develop better online learning systems. The lessons gained can be applied throughout other Army officer and NCO PME curriculums. Trusted relationships can be built with software developers among the tech sector as the traditional defense sector has proven less effective.

Other Comments:  Integrating Army ILE with university curriculums will not solve the civilian-military divide, but U.S. adversaries are watching closely. U.S. adversaries are most concerned by two aspects of American power. The first is the military’s tenacity and the second is the unrestrained innovation potential of American universities. Desegregation of the Army from academia increases the likelihood of future battlefield dominance.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalic, S. N. (2008). Honoring the Marshall Legacy. Command and General Staff Foundation News, Spring 2008.
https://www.marshallfoundation.org/marshall/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2014/04/HonoringtheMarshallLegacy_000.pdf

[2] Schake, K. N., & Mattis, J. N. (2016). Warriors and citizens: American views of our military. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institution Press.

[3] Cyber Academy Certificate Program. (2020, March 17). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://professionaled.utexas.edu/cyber-academy-certificate-program

[4] Digital Media & Marketing. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://learnmore.duke.edu/certificates/digital_marketing

[5] MBA Concentrations. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2020, from https://onlinemba.unc.edu/academics/concentrations

 

Defense and Military Reform Education Matt Sardo Option Papers

Options to Penetrate Adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems

Major Jeffrey Day is a Royal Canadian Engineer officer currently attending the United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He can be found on Twitter @JeffDay27. 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:  U.S. military Multi Domain Operations (MDO) to Penetrate adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems.

Date Originally Written:  February 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States military.

Background:  U.S. Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations warns of the potential for near-peer or great power conflict against adversaries who can compete and oppose the United States in all domains and achieve relative advantage either regionally or worldwide[1].  On the other hand, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 implies that if competition and deterrence fail, the Joint Force quickly penetrates and disintegrates (A2/AD) systems and exploits the resulting freedom in order to win[2]. The MDO concept at this time does not include a shaping phase. Field Manual 3-0 describes how “Global Operations to Shape” continue through the joint phases of conflict, but the tasks listed are passive[3].

Significance:  There is a contradiction between these two U.S. Army concepts. If an enemy can compete and oppose the United States across all domains, quickly penetrating and disintegrating the enemy’s A2/AD would be at best extremely costly in resources, effort, and lives, and at worst impossible. The U.S. military relies on having a position of relative advantage in an area which it can exploit to create the conditions to be able to penetrate and disintegrate enemy A2/AD. Achieving that position is essential to the successful application of the MDO concept, but the enemy A2/AD systems can post a threat to U.S. forces and maneuver hundreds of miles from their borders.

Option #1:  The U.S. military conducts shaping operations in the peripheries, exploiting the enemy’s vulnerabilities throughout the global maneuver space, to indirectly weaken A2/AD systems.

The Second World War has several examples of the belligerents exercising this option. Prior to D-Day, the Allies limited German access to weather information through the Greenland campaign. Weather intelligence from Greenland was extremely useful to accurately predict European weather[4]. Rear-Admiral E.H. Smith of the United States Coast Guard organized the Northeast Greenland Sledge Patrol in the fall of 1941. It consisted of Danish and Norwegian trappers and Inuit hired to regularly patrol the East coast of Greenland and report any signs of enemy activity[5]. Through their operations, and other missions, Germany access to quality weather information, and thus their ability to forecast European weather was greatly reduced. U.S. President Eisenhower highlighted the importance of the weather data secured by the Allies and denied to the Axis many years after the war. When President Kennedy asked President Eisenhower why the invasion of Normandy had been successful, Eisenhower’s response was, “Because we had better meteorologists than the Germans![6]” What Eisenhower really meant was that the Allies had better weather data than the Germans, a position of relative advantage which largely came from shaping operations prior to attempting to defeat the Atlantic Wall, which is an historic example of an early A2/AD system. Throughout the history of global war there are campaigns in the peripheries with similar objectives. Examples include Germany attempts to deny British access to middle eastern oil in the Second World War, and the British campaign to secure eastern Indian Ocean sea lines of communication by capturing Madagascar during the Second World War.

Risk:  It took the Allies until 1944 before they set the conditions to attack into northern mainland Europe. U.S. shaping efforts today will also take time, during which the enemy will be able to further prepare their defense or also exploit opportunities in the global maneuver space. Due to their lack of mass, the smaller U.S. forces committed to the peripheries will be vulnerable to an enemy set on retaining their position of advantage.

Gain:  Shaping operations in the peripheries can be useful by:

  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to critical resources
  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to intelligence
  • Defending access to or denying enemy access to strategic lines of communication

By retaining critical capabilities and degrading the enemy’s critical requirements, the United States may be able to force the enemy to rely solely on resources, information, and lines of communication within the enemy’s area of control. If this area of control is continually diminished through the continued execution of peripheral campaigns, the United States will be able to attack in the primary theaters at a time of their choosing and from a position of relative advantage or perhaps even absolute advantage. By weakening the enemy’s A2/AD systems peripherally over a longer period of time, there will be better assessments of their residual capabilities and duration of the weaknesses.

Option #2:  The U.S. military commits resources to ensure technological dominance within specific aspects of domains to permit the Joint Force to quickly penetrates and disintegrates A2/AD.

Through extensive scientific and technical research and development, as well as reliance on technical intelligence to understand the enemies’ capabilities, the United States can ensure that it maintains a position of relative advantage along critical segments of all domains. Option #2 will enable the exploitation of vulnerabilities in enemy A2/AD systems, permitting disruption at key times and locations. Secrecy and operational security will be essential to ensure the enemy is not aware of the U.S. overmatch until it is too late to react.

Risk:  If the enemy is able to counter and minimize the calculated U.S. overmatch through intelligence, superior science, or luck, joint force entry and MDO will fail. It also will be more difficult to assess the impact of actions made to degrade enemy A2/AD systems or the enemy may repair systems before the joint force is able to permanently disintegrate them.

Gain:  This option exploits and does not cede the current technological advantage the United States holds over its competitors. Additionally, it permits the United States to conduct short and decisive operations. Potential enemies will waste resources developing resilient A2/AD systems, with expensive defensive measures protecting all perceived vulnerabilities. To counter these measures, the United States military only has to develop specific specialized capabilities, to penetrate A2/AD at points of their choosing, therefore retaining the initiative.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2017), 13.

[2] TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 – The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028, December 6, 2018.

[3] The tasks listed in Field Manual 3-0 are: Promoting and protecting U.S. national interests and influence, building partner capacity and partnerships, recognizing and countering adversary attempts to gain positions of relative advantage, and setting the conditions to win future conflicts

[4] C.L Godske and Bjerknes, V, Dynamic Meteorology and Weather Forecasting (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1957), 536

[5] David Howarth, The Sledge Patrol (New York, NY: The MacMillan Company, 1960), 13.

[6] “Forecasting D-Day,” NASA Earth Observatory, last modified June 5, 2019, accessed October 27, 2019, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145143/forecasting-d-day.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Jeffrey Day Option Papers United States

Options for a Consistent U.S. Approach to Humanitarian Intervention

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


National Security Situation:  Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of mass violence lead to destabilizing refugee flows and constitute humanitarian catastrophes.

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States government.

Background:  The United States’ responses to episodes of mass killing in recent decades have been inconsistent. The U.S. has intervened militarily in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. It has declined to intervene in Rwanda, Darfur and Syria (prior to the conflict against the Islamic State). This inconsistency calls into question American moral and geopolitical leadership, and creates an opening for rivals, especially China and Russia, to fill. America’s decision not to respond with military force when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people arguably emboldened Assad’s ally Russia.  Following this U.S. non-response Russia sent forces to Syria in 2015 that have committed multiple atrocities, including intentional bombing of hospitals[1]. Meanwhile, massive flows of refugees from Syria, as well as from other Middle Eastern and African countries, have destabilized Europe politically, empowering demagogues and weakening European cohesion. Climate change is likely to exacerbate existing conflicts, and make massacres and refugee flows more common[2].

Significance:  From a strategic perspective, sudden massive inflows of refugees destabilize allies and weaken host country populations’ confidence in international institutions. From a moral perspective, the refusal of the U.S. to stop mass killing when it is capable of doing so threatens American moral credibility, and afflicts the consciences of those who could have intervened but did not, as in Rwanda[3]. From a perspective that is both strategic and moral, non-intervention in cases where U.S. and allied force can plausibly halt massacres, as in Bosnia before August 1995, makes the U.S. and its allies look weak, undermining the credibility of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other security institutions[4].

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts a policy of humanitarian intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. government could adopt a de facto policy of intervening in humanitarian crises when it is capable of doing so, and when intervention can plausibly halt mass violence. The policy need not be formalized, stated or written down, but need only be inferred from the actions of the U.S. The U.S. could adopt the following criteria for intervention:

“1. The actual or anticipated loss of life substantially exceeds the lives lost to violence in the United States.
2. The military operation to stop the massive loss of life would not put at risk anything close to the number of lives it would save.
3. The United States is able to secure the participation of other countries in the military intervention[5].”

Risk:  Even with military units prepared for and devoted to humanitarian intervention, it is possible a successful intervention will require a larger force than the U.S. is able to commit, thus possibly weakening the credibility of U.S. power in humanitarian crises. Commitment of too many units to intervention could harm America’s ability to defend allies or project power elsewhere in the world. An unsuccessful intervention, especially one with a large number of American casualties, could easily sour the American public on intervention, and produce a backlash against foreign commitments in general.

Gain:  Intervention can halt or reduce destabilizing refugee flows by ending mass killing. It can also help guarantee American moral leadership on the world stage, as the great power that cares about humanity especially if contrasted with such atrocities as Chinese abuse of Uighurs or Russian bombing of Syrian hospitals. The saving of lives in a humanitarian intervention adds a moral benefit to the strategic benefits of action.

Option #2:  The U.S. adopts a policy of non-intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. could refuse to intervene to halt atrocities, even in cases where intervention is widely believed to be able to stop mass violence. Rather than intervening in some cases but not others, as has been the case in the last three decades, or intervening whenever possible, the U.S. could be consistent in its refusal to use force to halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other atrocities. Absent a formal declaration of atrocity prevention as a vital national security interest, it would not intervene in such conflicts.

Risk:  A policy of non-intervention risks bringing moral condemnation upon the United States, from the international community and from portions of the U.S. population. The U.S. risks surrendering its moral position as the world’s most powerful defender of liberal values and human rights. Furthermore, refugee flows from ongoing conflicts threaten to further destabilize societies and reduce populations’ trust in liberal democracy and international institutions.

Gain:  Non-intervention lowers the risk of U.S. military power being weakened before a potential conflict with China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. This option helps the U.S. avoid charges of inconsistency that result from intervention in some humanitarian crises but not others. The U.S. could choose to ignore the world’s condemnation, and concern itself purely with its own interests. Finally, non-intervention allows other countries to bear the burden of global stability in an increasingly multi-polar age, an age in which U.S. power is in relative decline.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hill, Evan and Christiaan Triebert. “12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.” New York Times, October 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/world/middleeast/russia-bombing-syrian-hospitals.html

[2] “Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050: World Bank Report.” World Bank, March 19, 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/03/19/climate-change-could-force-over-140-million-to-migrate-within-countries-by-2050-world-bank-report

[3] Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” Atlantic, September 2001. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571

[4] Daalder, Ivo H. “Decision to Intervene: How the War in Bosnia Ended.” Brookings Institution, December 1, 1998. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/decision-to-intervene-how-the-war-in-bosnia-ended

[5] Solarz, Stephen J. “When to Go in.” Blueprint Magazine, January 1, 2000. https://web.archive.org/web/20070311054019/http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=1126&kaid=124&subid=158

Mass Killings Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers United States

U.S. Options to Combat Chinese Technological Hegemony

Ilyar Dulat, Kayla Ibrahim, Morgan Rose, Madison Sargeant, and Tyler Wilkins are Interns at the College of Information and Cyberspace at the National Defense UniversityDivergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  China’s technological rise threatens U.S. interests both on and off the battlefield.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States Government.

Background:  Xi Jinping, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. affirmed in 2012 that China is acting to redefine the international world order through revisionist policies[1]. These policies foster an environment open to authoritarianism thus undermining Western liberal values. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) utilizes emerging technologies to restrict individual freedoms of Chinese citizens, in and out of cyberspace. Subsequently, Chinese companies have exported this freedom-restricting technology to other countries, such as Ethiopia and Iran, for little cost. These technologies, which include Artificial Intelligence-based surveillance systems and nationalized Internet services, allow authoritarian governments to effectively suppress political dissent and discourse within their states. Essentially monopolizing the tech industry through low prices, China hopes to gain the loyalty of these states to obtain the political clout necessary to overcome the United States as the global hegemon.

Significance:  Among the technologies China is pursuing, 5G is of particular interest to the U.S.  If China becomes the leader of 5G network technologies and artificial intelligence, this will allow for opportunities to disrupt the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. China has been able to aid regimes and fragmented democracies in repressing freedom of speech and restricting human rights using “digital tools of surveillance and control[2].” Furthermore, China’s National Security Law of 2015 requires all Chinese tech companies’ compliance with the CCP. These Chinese tech companies are legally bound to share data and information housed on Chinese technology, both in-state and abroad. They are also required to remain silent about their disclosure of private data to the CCP. As such, information about private citizens and governments around the world is provided to the Chinese government without transparency. By deploying hardware and software for countries seeking to expand their networks, the CCP could use its authority over domestic tech companies to gain access to information transferred over Chinese built networks, posing a significant threat to the national security interests of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners. With China leading 5G, the military forces of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would be restricted in their ability to rely on indigenous telecoms abroad, which could cripple operations critical to U.S. interests [3]. This risk becomes even greater with the threat of U.S. Allies and Partners adopting Chinese 5G infrastructure, despite the harm this move would do to information sharing with the United States.

If China continues its current trajectory, the U.S. and its advocacy for personal freedoms will grow increasingly marginal in the discussion of human rights in the digital age. In light of the increasing importance of the cyber domain, the United States cannot afford to assume that its global leadership will seamlessly transfer to, and maintain itself within, cyberspace. The United States’ position as a leader in cyber technology is under threat unless it vigilantly pursues leadership in advancing and regulating the exchange of digital information.

Option #1:  Domestic Investment.

The U.S. government could facilitate a favorable environment for the development of 5G infrastructure through domestic telecom providers. Thus far, Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have been able to outbid major European companies for 5G contracts. American companies that are developing 5G infrastructure are not large enough to compete at this time. By investing in 5G development domestically, the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would have 5G options other than Huawei and ZTE available to them. This option provides American companies with a playing field equal to their Chinese counterparts.

Risk:  Congressional approval to fund 5G infrastructure development will prove to be a major obstacle. Funding a development project can quickly become a bipartisan issue. Fiscal conservatives might argue that markets should drive development, while those who believe in strong government oversight might argue that the government should spearhead 5G development. Additionally, government subsidized projects have previously failed. As such, there is no guarantee 5G will be different.

Gain:  By investing in domestic telecommunication companies, the United States can remain independent from Chinese infrastructure by mitigating further Chinese expansion. With the U.S. investing domestically and giving subsidies to companies such as Qualcomm and Verizon, American companies can develop their technology faster in an attempt to compete with Huawei and ZTE.

Option #2:  Foreign Subsidization.

The U.S. supports European competitors Nokia and Ericsson, through loans and subsidies, against Huawei and ZTE. In doing so, the United States could offer a conduit for these companies to produce 5G technology at a more competitive price. By providing loans and subsidies to these European companies, the United States delivers a means for these companies to offer more competitive prices and possibly outbid Huawei and ZTE.

Risk:  The American people may be hostile towards a policy that provides U.S. tax dollars to foreign entities. While the U.S. can provide stipulations that come with the funding provided, the U.S. ultimately sacrifices much of the control over the development and implementation of 5G infrastructure.

Gain:  Supporting European tech companies such as Nokia and Ericsson would help deter allied nations from investing in Chinese 5G infrastructure. This option would reinforce the U.S.’s commitment to its European allies, and serve as a reminder that the United States maintains its position as the leader of the liberal international order. Most importantly, this option makes friendlier telecommunications companies more competitive in international markets.

Other Comments:  Both options above would also include the U.S. defining regulations and enforcement mechanisms to promote the fair usage of cyberspace. This fair use would be a significant deviation from a history of loosely defined principles. In pursuit of this fair use, the United States could join the Cyber Operations Resilience Alliance, and encourage legislation within the alliance that invests in democratic states’ cyber capabilities and administers clearly defined principles of digital freedom and the cyber domain.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Economy, Elizabeth C. “China’s New Revolution.” Foreign Affairs. June 10, 2019. Accessed July 31, 2019. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution.

[2] Chhabra, Tarun. “The China Challenge, Democracy, and U.S. Grand Strategy.” Democracy & Disorder, February 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-china-challenge-democracy-and-u-s-grand-strategy/.

[3] “The Overlooked Military Implications of the 5G Debate.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/overlooked-military-implications-5g-debate.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming China (People's Republic of China) Cyberspace Emerging Technology Ilyar Dulat Kayla Ibrahim Madison Sargeant Morgan Rose Option Papers Tyler Wilkins United States