An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Lee Clark is a cyber intelligence analyst currently working on cyber defense strategy in the Middle East.  He holds an MA in intelligence and international security from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School. He can be found on Twitter at @InktNerd.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense

Date Originally Written:  September 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an early-career cybersecurity analyst with experience advising private and public sector organizations on cyber threats and building cyber threat intelligence programs.

Summary:  Local civic organizations in the U.S. are experiencing a wave of costly and disruptive low-sophistication cyberattacks on a large scale, indicating widespread vulnerabilities in networks. In light of past and ongoing threats to U.S. cyber systems, especially election systems, this weak cybersecurity posture represents a serious national security concern.

Text:  The state of cyber defenses among public sector entities in the United States is less than ideal. This is especially true among smaller civic entities such as city utility companies, local government offices (including local election authorities), and court systems. There is currently an ongoing wave of cyberattacks against government systems in cities across the U.S. In 2019, more than 40 local government organizations experienced successful ransomware attacks[1]. These widespread attacks indicate an attractive attack surface and vulnerable profile to potential cyber aggressors, which has broad implications for the security of U.S. cyber systems, including election systems.

Ransomware is a vector of cyberattack in which malicious actors compromise a victim’s computer and encrypt all available files, while offering the victim an encryption key to decrypt files in exchange for a ransom payment, typically in the form of a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. If victims refuse to pay or cannot pay, the files are left encrypted and the infected computer(s) are rendered useless. In some cases, files can be decrypted by specialists without paying the ransom. In other cases, even if victims pay, there is in reality no decryption key and files are permanently locked. 

Ransomware is among the most common and least sophisticated forms of cyberattack in the field today. Attacks of this type have grown exponentially in recent years, and one study found that in 2019, 18% of all cyber-related insurance claims internationally were linked to ransomware incidents, second only to business email compromises[2]. In some cases, insurance companies were found encouraging clients to pay ransoms because it saved money and promoted the criminal practice, enhancing the market for cyber insurance services[3]. 

Ransomware attacks are relatively easy to execute on the part of attackers, and often target computers can be infected by tricking a victim into clicking on a malicious link through a phishing email disguised as a legitimate business communication. For example, in 2018, city computer networks in Allentown, Pennsylvania were offline for weeks after ransomware infected the system through an employee’s email after the employee failed to install security updates and clicked on a phishing email. The attack cost the city around USD 1 million to resolve and ongoing security improvements are costing approximately USD 420,000 per year[4].

Local city systems make for attractive targets for cyber attackers for several reasons: 

1) Such organizations often carry cyber insurance, indicating an ability to pay and a higher likelihood of attackers being paid quickly without difficulty.

2) Local government offices have a reputation for being soft targets, often with lax and/or outdated security software and practices.

3) Infecting systems requires very little investment of resources on the attacker’s part, such as time, technical skill, focus, and labor, since phishing emails are often sufficient to gain access to targeted networks.

4) Executing successful attacks against such organizations often results in widespread media attention and tangible damages, including monetary cost to the organization, disruption to services, and public backlash, all of which enhance the attacker’s reputation in criminal communities.

Because of the ongoing prevalence of ransomware attacks, U.S. officials recently voiced public concern about the plausibility of ransomware attacks against election systems during the 2020 elections[5]. A chief concern is that if attackers have enough systems access to lock the files, the attackers very likely also have the ability to alter and/or steal files from an infected system. This concern is compounded by recent revelations by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russian-linked threat actors targeted election systems in all 50 states in 2016, most successfully in Illinois and Arizona[6]. 

It should be noted that U.S. federal agencies and private consulting firms have engaged in a large-scale effort to increase security measures of election systems since 2016 in preparation for the 2020 election, including hiring specialists and acquiring new voting machines[7]. The specifics, technical details, and effectiveness of these efforts are difficult to properly measure from open source materials, but have drawn criticism for their limited scope[8].

In the U.S., election security is among the most complex and difficult challenges facing the cybersecurity field. Elections involve countless competing and interacting stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations. These nuances combine to present a unique challenge to U.S. national security concerns, especially from a cyber-viewpoint. It is a matter of public record that U.S. election systems are subject to ongoing cyber threats from various actors. Some known threats operate with advanced tactics, techniques, procedures, and resources supported by technologically-sophisticated nation states. 

The recent wave of ransomware attacks on local governments compounds election security concerns because the U.S. election system relies heavily on local government organizations like county clerk and poll offices. Currently, local systems are demonstrably vulnerable to common and low-effort attacks, and will remain so without significant national-level efforts. If local defenses are not developed enough to resist a ransomware attack delivered in a phishing email, it is difficult to imagine a county clerk’s office in Ohio or Kentucky having sufficient cyber defenses to repel a sophisticated attack by a Russian or Chinese-backed advanced persistent threat group. 

After the beginning of the nuclear arms race in the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. government developed a national civil defense program by which to prepare local jurisdictions for nuclear attacks. This effort was prominent in the public mind and expensive to execute. Lessons from this national civil defense program may be of value to adequately prepare U.S. civic cyber systems to effectively resist both low and high-sophistication cyber intrusions.

Unlike nuclear civil defense, which has been criticized for achieving questionable results in terms of effective defense, cyber civil defense effectiveness could be benchmarked and measured in tangible ways. While no computer system can be entirely secure, strong indicators of an effective cybersecurity posture include up-to-date software, regular automatic security updates, periodic security audits and vulnerability scans, established standard operating procedures and best practices (including employee cyber awareness training), and a well-trained and adequately-staffed cybersecurity team in-house.


Endnotes:

[1] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[2] Cimpanu, C. (2019, September 2). BEC overtakes ransomware and data breaches in cyber-insurance claims. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/bec-overtakes-ransomware-and-data-breaches-in-cyber-insurance-claims/

[3] Dudley, R. (2019, August 27). The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks. Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/the-extortion-economy-how-insurance-companies-are-fueling-a-rise-in-ransomware-attacks

[4] Fernandez, M., Sanger, D. E., & Martinez, M. T. (2019, August 22). Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/ransomware-attacks-hacking.html

[5] Bing, C. (2019, August 27). Exclusive: U.S. officials fear ransomware attack against 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-election-exclusive/exclusive-us-officials-fear-ransomware-attack-against-2020-election-idUSKCN1VG222

[6] Sanger, D. E., & Edmondson, C. (2019, July 25). Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/us/politics/russian-hacking-elections.html

[7] Pearson, R. (2019, August 5). 3 years after Russian hackers tapped Illinois voter database, officials spending millions to safeguard 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-illinois-election-security-russian-hackers-20190805-qtoku33szjdrhknwc7pxbu6pvq-story.html 

[8] Anderson, S. R., Lostri, E., Jurecic, Q., & Taylor, M. (2019, July 28). Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security-And a Partisan Fight Anyway. Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway

Assessment Papers Civil Defense Cyberspace Lee Clark United States

U.S. Options to Respond to North Vietnam’s 1973 Violations of the Paris Peace Accords

Timothy Heck is a free-lance editor focusing on military history and national security topics.  An artillery officer by trade, he lived and worked in Southeast Asia for four years.  He can be found on Twitter @tgheck1.  Josh Taylor is a U.S. Navy Foreign Area Officer and a 2018 Federal Executive Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.  He is presently Head of International Plans & Policy at Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, HI.  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:  In 1973 North Vietnam violated the Paris Peace Accords.

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2019.

Article and / or Article Point of View:  This article summarizes some of the options presented by U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and his Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG), to U.S. President Richard Nixon to address North Vietnamese violations of the Paris Peace Accords in the spring of 1973.  These options are based on realities as they existed on April 18, 1973, the day before the U.S. agreed to another round of talks with North Vietnam in Paris and U.S. Congress Representative Elizabeth Holtzman sued Secretary of Defense Schlesinger to stop the “secret” bombing of Cambodia. Nixon addressed the nation on Watergate on April 30, 1973, effectively closing the door on military options to coerce North Vietnamese compliance.  Included in this article are several errors in judgment common in WSAG or with Kissinger at the time.

Background:  On January 28, 1973, the ceasefire in Vietnam began in accordance with the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, also known as the Paris Peace Accords.  Since the ceasefire began, repeated violations of the Accords, specifically Articles 7 and 20, have occurred as a result of North Vietnamese action[1].  At the recent WSAG meetings on April 16-17, 1973, National Security Advisor Dr. Henry Kissinger asked for options on how to address North Vietnamese violations. The WSAG presents the below two options to meet Dr. Kissinger’s desired end state of securing North Vietnamese compliance with the Accords.  

Significance:  The collapsing security in Southeast Asia presents several concerns for American national security.  First, failure to forcefully respond to gross North Vietnamese violations of the Accords makes the U.S. seem impotent, undermines U.S. credibility, and endangers the President’s Peace with Honor goal. Second, unimpeded infiltration of men and equipment into South Vietnam place it at risk in the event of another North Vietnamese general offensive. Third, given the weak governments in Laos and Cambodia, further violations by North Vietnam risk destabilizing those nations with spillover effects on South Vietnam and Thailand. Fourth, any recalcitrance on behalf of North Vietnam risks damaging ongoing U.S. negotiations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), long known to be their primary patron. 

Option #1:  The U.S. conducts airstrikes against the Ho Chi Minh Trail (HCMT).

Recent North Vietnamese resupply efforts to their forces in South Vietnam offer numerous targets for the resumption of a massive aerial campaign lasting between three to seven days.  These airstrikes would be conducted by the Thailand-based U.S. Support Activities Group/7th Air Force against targets in Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam.  Targets along the HCMT in Laos will require strikes against surface-to-air missile sites located near Khe Sanh.

Risk: 

New U.S. Prisoners of War (POW):  With the repatriation of the last American POWs on March 29, 1973, the creation of new POWs resulting from military action would cause a domestic uproar. Such an uproar risks reinvigorating the Administration’s political enemies, jeopardizing other initiatives.

Domestic criticism:  Continued military actions in Indochina fuel growing concerns over continued involvement in Indochina post-Accord.  It is reported that Representative Holtzman (D-NY) will be filing a federal lawsuit over bombing in Cambodia in an effort to stop the President’s efforts there. 

International reprobation:  The Agreement did not specify how violations would be addressed. Though the North Vietnamese bear little political cost for blatant disregard of the Accords, it will damage U.S. international credibility if we do not scrupulously adhere to its articles as we would be seen as violating the ceasefire despite our efforts to enforce it.

United States Air Force (USAF) limitations:  Previous losses during the similar OPERATION LINEBACKER II were significant and wing metal fatigue limits the availability of B-52D bombers. Converting nuclear-capable B-52Gs to conventional B-52Ds is time prohibitive and would reduce strategic readiness[2]. Additionally, the USAF possesses limited stocks of the precision stand-off weapons needed to strike targets on the HCMT (40-55 nautical mile range).

Ceasefires in Laos and Cambodia:  Currently, bombing operations are being conducted in the vicinity of Tha Viang, Laos against a Pathet Lao assault.  While in violation of the ceasefire treaty, the measure is being taken to dissuade further Pathet Lao violations.  Larger bombing operations, however, risk the fragile ceasefires in place or being sought in Laos and Cambodia. 

Gain: 

Signals to North Vietnam:  As Dr. Kissinger stated in his meetings, North Vietnam only respects brutality.  Thus, massive bombing will increase their likelihood of compliance with the Accords.

Demonstrates American power and resolve:  By demonstrating the U.S. is willing to back up its words with force, we reinforce messaging of enduring support to our Allies and Partners.  Importantly in Indochina, bombing demonstrates U.S. commitment to our allies, Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, Souvanna Phouma of Laos, and Lon Nol of Cambodia, that the U.S. is not cutting off their support after the Accords.  

Attrition of North Vietnamese Supplies & Equipment:  Bombing the HCMT significantly reduces North Vietnamese capacity to launch a general offensive in the short term.  Given the significant disruption the 1972 Easter Offensive created in South Vietnam, diminishing the North Vietnamese capacity for a repeat offensive is crucial to South Vietnamese survival.

Encourages PRC involvement:  The PRC only supports the U.S. when they feel we are unrestrained.  Any escalation of our actions will induce them to compel the North Vietnamese to comply with the terms of the Accords[3].

Option #2:  The U.S. continues negotiations with North Vietnam.

An insolent cable from North Vietnamese foreign minister Le Duc Tho to Dr. Kissinger offered to open another round of talks in Paris on May 15, 1973[4].  Any discussions about ceasefire violations should include all members of the Four Parties (U.S., Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (Viet Cong)) so that the diplomatic process is respected.  Significant headway was made during previous negotiations.

Risk:

North Vietnam stalling for time:  Given the recent surge in resupply, this meeting could begin too late given recent Central Intelligence Agency warnings of an imminent North Vietnamese offensive[5]. 

South Vietnamese intransigence:  While the U.S. remains South Vietnamese President Thieu’s staunchest ally and largest benefactor, Thieu may resist returning to negotiations as a means of holding out for additional financial and military aid and support. As he demonstrated in the fall of 1972, he has no qualms about scuttling negotiations that he feels are not in the best interest of his country. South Vietnam must participate if the negotiations are to have any credibility or effect.

Highlights diplomatic weakness:  There is no indication that North Vietnam will adhere to any new agreements any more than it has the original

Gain: 

Supports Peace with Honor:  The U.S. maintains international and domestic support by scrupulously adhering to the Agreement and avoiding additional bloodshed.

Preserves domestic political capital:  This option safeguards Congressional and public support for financial reconstruction assistance to South Vietnam and potentially North Vietnam as part of the Accords.

Military options remain open:  Option #2 discussions do not preclude a future employment of military options and allows time for the reconstitution of the USAF’s conventional bomber fleet.

Other Comments:  President Nixon is slated to address the nation on April 30, 1973 regarding recent developments in the Watergate incident[6].  

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

[1] Article 7: [T]he two South Vietnamese parties shall not accept the introduction of troops, military advisers, and military personnel including technical military personnel, armaments, munitions, and war material into South Vietnam.  Article 20: The parties participating in the Paris Conference on Vietnam undertake to refrain from using the territory of Cambodia and the territory of Laos to encroach on the sovereignty and security of one another and of other countries. (b) Foreign countries shall put an end to all military activities in Cambodia and Laos, totally withdraw from and refrain from reintroducing into these two countries troops, military advisers and military personnel, armaments, munitions and war material. Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris, 27 January 1973) https://www.cvce.eu/content/publication/2001/10/12/656ccc0d-31ef-42a6-a3e9-ce5ee7d4fc80/publishable_en.pdf

[2] “Memorandum from the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 11, 1973 in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 188.

[3] “Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting,” Washington, April 16, 1973, 10:03–11:45 a.m. in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 196.

[4] “Transcript of Telephone Conversation between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 21, 1973, 11:40 a.m. in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 206-207.

[5] “Memorandum from the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),” Washington, April 11, 1973 in FRUS: X, VN, 1973, 188.

[6] “Address to the Nation about the Watergate Investigations, April 30, 1973” in Public papers of the Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon, containing the public messages, speeches, and statements of the President by United States and Richard M. Nixon. 1975. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Office, 328-333.

Josh Taylor Option Papers Timothy Heck United States Vietnam

Alternative Future: Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander.  He currently serves as a Company Commander in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  He has just started tweeting as @strategy_boi, where he shares fiction and non-fiction content.  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:  Alternative Future:  Assessment of the Effects of the Loss of the American Lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  August 10th, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current military member who served at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2018. The article is written from the point of view of a historian in the mid-2030s, examining shifts in great power competition in East Africa.

Summary:  After the United States lost its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in 2024, a series of operational and strategic challenges arose in East Africa. The departure of certain operational assets degraded America’s capability to conduct crisis response. At a strategic level, the ability of the United States to stem Chinese foreign direct investment and influence in Africa also suffered.

Text:  Looking back, it is easy to pinpoint the shift in America’s strategic position in East Africa to the 2024 decision by Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh to not allow the United States to extend its lease on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ). As a former commander of United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) had once said of the then $1.2 billion worth of Djiboutian debt to China, there did indeed come a time when that money would be collected[1]. The collection came at a steep price for Djibouti, as the country was forced to hand over control of the Doraleh Container Terminal to Beijing, an outcome many had feared would be the eventual result of the Chinese debt trap[2]. However, the United States paid the steepest price of all by losing its strategic position at CLDJ, which was at the time the United States’ longest enduring military base in Africa and headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Whether the loss came as a result of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) influx of money and influence into the Djiboutian government, or as a result of American foreign policy changes, is still in debate even ten years later. It is clear though that the loss of CLDJ triggered strategic and operational effects that are still being felt today.

With the loss of CLDJ, the United States’ already tenuous grasp on Africa, best illustrated by the failure of USAFRICOM to establish its headquarters on the continent itself, slipped further. First used by America in 2001 and expanded in 2007, the camp had been a hub for a variety of United States operations not just in East Africa, but in Yemen as well[3]. As the base expanded, so did its mission set, resulting in the United States basing not just special operations forces and Marines there, but also conventional Army units[4]. This expansion of the base and the operational support that Camp Lemonnier provided to the operations in Yemen and East Africa only intensified the impact of the loss of the American lease on CLDJ.

The immediate scramble to plan for and then re-locate the 4,000 personnel on Camp Lemonnier and their attendant functions to other locations left little time to plan for contingency operations in the Horn of Africa. Just as the United States military was completing its phased transition out of Camp Lemonnier, riots in the South Sudanese capital of Juba in 2026 threated American embassy personnel and tested USAFRICOM’s ability to respond to crises on the continent from outside the continent. With the departure of the East Africa Response Force from Camp Lemonnier, the United States could no longer provide a rapid response force as outlined in the New Normal procedures that had been in put in place in reaction to the Benghazi consulate attacks in 2012[5][6]. Instead, USAFRICOM and the Department of State had to rely on another child of the Benghazi attacks: the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) located in Moron, Spain and Sigonella, Italy[7]. In the vast distances of the African continent, the time spent getting from Sigonella to Juba proved costly, and by the time the SP-MAGTF element secured the embassy, two American diplomats were dead. In the investigations in the months that followed, it was not lost on American legislators that a failure to maintain a foothold in East Africa had contributed to the loss of American lives and property in Juba.

Beyond the immediate operational costs of losing CLDJ, America faced a greater strategic loss in East Africa. As part of the BRI that China had been pursuing for over a decade prior to 2024, the Export-Import Bank of China had loaned Djibouti nearly $957 million as of 2018 in order to finance development projects[8]. Also under the BRI, China constructed the Djibouti International Free Trade Zone, a 3.5 billion dollar project[9]. After losing its foothold in Djibouti, the United States had little diplomatic clout to resist the continued investment of Chinese capital into East African states, furthering the debt trap situation beyond the borders of Djibouti. Furthermore, with the departure of the United States military from Djibouti, long-term American humanitarian projects in Djibouti, such as the 2019 opening of a medical clinic in the town of Ali Oune, no longer had a logistical base from which to draw support[10]. With America out of the way, any non-Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) was left in the hands of the French, Japanese, and other foreign powers present in Djibouti. America could no longer use its military to try to match, in some small way, the FDI provided by China.

Despite the American military departure from the region beginning in 2024, several of America’s allies remain to this day. Although the French Senate had previously expressed concern over Chinese influence overshadowing French influence in Djibouti, France’s defense clause remains in place and ensures that the French will remain in Djibouti even as China grows in power[11]. With piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa no less prevalent than in the late 2010s, the Japanese anti-piracy base just outside the old Camp Lemonnier gate continues its operations. However, no amount of anti-piracy operations or promises of defense can match the sheer influx of money that China promised, and delivered, under their BRI. As the world moves toward the 2040s and the completion of the multi-decade BRI, the world is left wondering if the 21st century will be a Chinese century. With the departure of the American military from Djibouti, the answer seems to be that in Africa, it already is.


Endnotes:

[1] Browne, R. (2018, April 08). US military resumes air operations in Djibouti. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/08/politics/us-air-operations-djibouti/index.html

[2] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[3] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Martin, P. (2019, March 20). East Africa Response Force deployed to Gabon. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.army.mil/article/218891/east_africa_response_force_deployed_to_gabon

[6] Schmitt, E. (2014, May 06). U.S. Signs New Lease to Keep Strategic Military Installation in the Horn of Africa. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/world/africa/us-signs-new-lease-to-keep-strategic-military-installation-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

[7] Egnash, M. (2019, January 14). Legacy of Benghazi: Marine force stays ready for quick Africa deployment. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.stripes.com/news/legacy-of-benghazi-marine-force-stays-ready-for-quick-africa-deployment-1.564342

[8] Daly, J. C. (2018, April 11). Geostrategic position draws foreign powers to Djibouti. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://thearabweekly.com/geostrategic-position-draws-foreign-powers-djibouti

[9] Belt and Road Initiative strikes again… Djibouti risks Chinese takeover with massive loans – US warns. (2018, September 02). Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2018/09/02/belt-and-road-initiative-strikes-again-djibouti-risks-chinese-takeover-with-massive-loans-us-warns/

[10] Nickel, S. (2019, January 31). U.S. Navy Seabees turn over Ali Oune Medical Clinic to Djiboutian officials. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from https://www.hoa.africom.mil/story/22489/u-s-navy-seabees-turn-over-ali-oune-medical-clinic-to-djiboutian-officials

[11] Griffin, C. (2018, October 28). Strategic Competition for Bases in Djibouti: TRENDS. Retrieved August 07, 2019, from http://trendsinstitution.org/strategic-competition-for-bases-in-djibouti/

Africa Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti Horn of Africa Travis Prendergast United States

Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

T.S. Whitman is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri.  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 Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2019.

Summary:  Due to increased levels of militia activity and right-wing extremism, individuals radicalized on the far right-end of the political spectrum remain an awkward elephant in the room for policymakers. Despite a clear threat from right-wing extremists, an effective response is often limited by political posturing and pressure.

Text:  The rise of alt-right ideology, availability of firearms, and increased militia membership over the past decade creates a unique problem for policymakers. Setting aside the unlikely, worst-case scenario of whole-scale rebellion, even a single militia can pose a threat that exceeds the operational capacity of law enforcement personnel. There is no easy way to address this issue, as even openly discussing it probes sensitivities and fuels political resentment.

The ascent of militias has not occurred in a vacuum. It can be attributed to a sharp increase in political polarization over the past two decades, particularly after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. This widening gap in ideology and values has led to rising animosity between Americans. Nearly 1-in-5 Americans believe that many members of the opposite party “lack the traits to be considered fully human”; and 13% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats believe that violence would be justified in response to an electoral loss in 2020[1]. Despite high-levels of animus from both sides of the political spectrum, right-wing violence represents an increasing share of terrorist activity. The slice of terrorist violence by right-wing extremists increased from 6% of attacks in 2010 to 35% by 2016, while left-wing terrorist violence during the same period dropped from 64% of attacks to just 12%[2]. Furthermore, right-wing violence quadrupled between 2016 and 2017[3]. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, “Although violent left-wing groups and individuals also present a threat, far-right-networks appear to be better armed and larger[4].” Many acts or plots of right-wing violence have involved militia members[5].

Some militia groups are conducting so-called “operations.” One frequent spot for militia activity is the U.S.-Mexican border, where one militia recently detained several hundred immigrants illegally crossing the border[6]. Meanwhile, over the past decade, there have been a number of prominent incidents involving right-wing militia members. In 2014, following what had been two decades of legal disputes between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Cliven Bundy over grazing fees, the BLM moved to confiscate Bundy’s cattle. What followed was a tense standoff between Bundy’s armed supporters, many of whom had militia ties, and BLM agents. Out of fear of armed violence, the BLM caved and returned Bundy’s livestock[7]. In 2016, Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, led a group of armed protestors affiliated with militias and the sovereign citizen movement to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, in response to federal charges against two farmers, Stephen and Dwight Hammond. By the time the standoff ended, one armed occupier was dead and 27 more were arrested and charged. In June, 2019, after eleven Oregon Republican state Senators refused to attend a legislative session for a cap-and-trade bill, Governor Kate Brown ordered state police to apprehend and bring them to the state capitol for a vote on the bill. All eleven Senators went on the run. During a television interview, Senator Brian Boquist (R) said, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” They received support from militia groups in Oregon and Idaho, the former of which was involved in the aforementioned Bundy Ranch and Malheur National Wildlife Reserve standoffs. According to Real Three Percenters Idaho militia leader Eric Parker, “We’re doing what we can to make sure that they’re safe and comfortable.” He added that his group was communicating with the Oregon Three Percenters militia about the Senators. One militiaman with the Oregon Three Percenters wrote on Facebook that his militia “vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need[8].” The crisis ended after an agreement between Republican and Democratic leadership was reached to kill the cap-and-trade bill.

Attempted or fulfilled acts of political violence and terrorism by domestic extremists, though often bloody, have overwhelmingly been perpetrated by an individual or small cells. In almost every case, law enforcement officers have been able to preempt, apprehend, or kill the responsible parties. However, the size, organization, and armament of many right-wing militias gives the government cause for concern. Based upon the result of the 2014 Bundy standoff and the disastrous outcome of the 1993 Waco siege, it stands to reason that even a small militia of 100 armed personnel would require U.S. military capabilities to suppress[9]. However, the contemporary history of domestic military operations is fraught with confusion. For instance, during the L.A. Riots in 1992, Joint Task Force-Los Angeles lacked legal experts in Chapter 15, Title 10, Sections 331-334, and military lawyers were initially confused by the Posse Comitatus Act[10].

Discussing right-wing extremism requires delicacy and nuance, but will remain an inflammatory topic regardless of how it is addressed. In attempt to position itself to respond to right-wing domestic terrorism and political violence, the government has faced allegations of political bias. The earliest assessment of right-wing extremism under the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came under severe scrutiny for anti-conservatism and was subsequently retracted. According to Daryl Johnson, a career intelligence analyst and author of the report, the political fallout led to the end of “work related to violent right-wing extremism[11].” It was reported by The Daily Beast in April 2019 that the DHS had disbanded its domestic terrorism intelligence unit. Some officials have anonymously alleged that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of domestic terrorism assessments as a result[12].

Despite the challenge of addressing right-wing militia extremism, the average American is unlikely to ever be killed or injured by one. The chances of being killed in a terrorist attack, committed by a right-wing extremist or otherwise, are 1 in 3,269,897[13]. More concerning is the threat posed by insurrection, even if it is isolated and not widespread. Keith Mines, a veteran Special Forces officer and diplomat, estimated a 60% chance that America would experience “violence that requires the National Guard to deal with[14].” Ignoring this possibility will only place America at a disadvantage if an extreme militia group collectively turns to violence.


Endnotes:

[1] Kalmoe, N. P., & Mason, L. (2019, January). pp. 17-24. Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates, and Electoral Contingencies (pp. 1-41). Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.dannyhayes.org/uploads/6/9/8/5/69858539/kalmoe___mason_ncapsa_2019_-_lethal_partisanship_-_final_lmedit.pdf

[2] Ideological Motivations of Terrorism in the United States, 1970-2016 (Rep.). (2017, November). Retrieved April 10, 2019, from University of Maryland website: https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_IdeologicalMotivationsOfTerrorismInUS_Nov2017.pdf

[3] Clark, S. (2019, March 07). Confronting the Domestic Right-Wing Terror Threat. Center for American Progress. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2019/03/07/467022/confronting-domestic-right-wing-terrorist-threat/

[4] Jones, S. G. (2018, November 07). The Rise of Far-Right Extremism in the United States. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.csis.org/analysis/rise-far-right-extremism-united-states

[5] Goldman, A. (2019, June 04). F.B.I., Pushing to Stop Domestic Terrorists, Grapples With Limits on Its Power. Retrieved July 08, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/us/politics/fbi-domestic-terrorism.html

[6] Hernandez, S. (2019, April 19). A Militia Group Detained Hundreds Of Migrants At Gunpoint At The Border. Retrieved July 05, 2019, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/militia-group-border-migrants-detain-united-constitutional

[7] Prokop, A. (2015, May 14). The 2014 controversy over Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, explained. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.vox.com/2014/8/14/18080508/nevada-rancher-cliven-bundy-explained

[8] Sommer, W. (2019, June 21). Armed Militias Pledge to Fight for Fugitive Oregon GOP Lawmakers ‘At Any Cost’. Retrieved from https://www.thedailybeast.com/armed-militias-pledge-to-fight-for-fugitive-oregon-gop-lawmakers-at-any-cost

[9] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 4: The 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Posse Comitatus Act. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[10] Matthews, M. (2012, February 07). Chapter 6: Conclusions. In The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/matthews.pdf

[11] Johnson, D. (2017, August 21). I Warned of Right-Wing Violence in 2009. Republicans Objected. I Was Right. Washington Post. Retrieved April 09, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/08/21/i-warned-of-right-wing-violence-in-2009-it-caused-an-uproar-i-was-right/

[12] Woodruff, B. (2019, April 02). Exclusive: Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit. The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 11, 2019, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/homeland-security-disbands-domestic-terror-intelligence-unit

[13] Nowrasteh, A. (2018, March 08). More Americans Die in Animal Attacks than in Terrorist Attacks. Retrieved April 10, 2019, from https://www.cato.org/blog/more-americans-die-animal-attacks-terrorist-attacks

[14] Ricks, T. E. (2017, March 10). Will we have a civil war? A SF officer turned diplomat estimates chances at 60 percent. Foreign Policy. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/10/will-we-have-a-civil-war-a-sf-officer-turned-diplomat-estimates-chances-at-60-percent/

Assessment Papers T.S. Whitman United States Violent Extremism

Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Counterinsurgency Efforts in Laos 1954-1962

Date Originally Written:  June 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2019.

Author and / or Author Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. National Security Council after the 1962 Geneva Accords to determine the effectiveness of programs in Laos and their use in future foreign policy actions.

Summary:  From 1954-1962 the deployment of U.S. Army Special Forces teams, Central Intelligence Agency officers, economic and military aid prevented a communist takeover of Laos, considered a strategically important country in Southeast Asia. A pro-West Laos was desired under Eisenhower, but the transition to a neutral coalition government was ultimately supported by the Kennedy administration to keep Laos from becoming a Communist foothold in Indochina.

Text:  Counterinsurgency (COIN) can be defined as government actions to counter the “organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region[1]”. U.S. COIN in Laos had a broad focus to include: building the capacity of the Forces Armées du Royaume (FAR) – the Lao Royal Armed Forces, training a thousands-strong Hmong paramilitary force, economic and military aid packages, and defeating insurgent threats within Laos. Despite little strategic value, the French war in Indochina had convinced the Eisenhower administration that Laos could be the first potential ‘domino’ to cause Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to fall to communism[2]. 

In 1954, economic aid began flowing into Laos through a United States Operations Mission (USOM) based in Vientiane[3]. The 1954 Geneva Agreement brought the fighting to a (relative) end, established an independent and neutral Laos, and issued a withdrawal of French military units and Viet Minh elements, leaving only a small French force to train the FAR. The Pathet Lao, a communist political movement and organization in Laos, would move to the northeast for eventual demobilization[4]. 

The Programs Evaluation Office (PEO) was established in 1955 as an element of USOM to facilitate defense aid to the FAR, supporting the fight against the Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) presence in northeastern Laos. Laotian neutrality meant the PEO was staffed and led by civilians who were almost all former military[5]. The Vientiane Agreements, signed in 1957, incorporated the Pathet Lao into the FAR. However, a 1959 coup conducted by Laotian General Phoumi Savanna signaled the continued tenuous situation in Laos[6]. 

In 1959 U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) personnel deployed to Laos as part of Project Hotfoot to train FAR personnel. Hotfoot was spread across the five military regions within Laos. Led by U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Arthur ‘Bull’ Simons of the 77th Special Forces Group, training responsibilities for Hotfoot were divided in two. “France would provide the tactical training to Laotian forces while non-uniformed U.S. SF would equip and provide technical training[Emphasis in original][7].” Hotfoot transitioned and expanded after Kennedy took office. 

In August 1960, Laotian Captain Kong Le led an FAR airborne battalion to Vientiane in a coup against the Royal Lao Government (RLG) to form a neutralist government. Lack of pay and the burden of continuous operations led to the coup[8]. While U.S. efforts under Hotfoot became Operation White Star in 1961, SF began Operation Pincushion, a training program for the Kha tribal areas with village defense units each up to 100 strong[9]. The PEO also became a Military Assistance Advisory Group with personnel donning uniforms, signaling the transition to an overt military presence[10]. During French rule the Auto Defense Choc (ADC), or self defense units, were established at the village level and filled by local populations. CIA began a covert operation, called Momentum, to build off the ADC program and establish a large paramilitary force of ethnic Hmong to fight the Pathet Lao insurgents and Kong Le’s forces[11].

Vang Pao was a Hmong officer in the FAR who had earlier received assistance from SF to create an irregular Hmong force. In 1961, CIA paramilitary officer James W. Lair approached Vang Pao to expand the operation which became Momentum. The second White Star rotation in the spring of 1961 became part of Momentum. The operation would equip and train nearly 10,000 recruits who proved extremely effective in the field[12].

CIA used its proprietary airline – Air America –  to support operations taking place throughout Laos. H-34 helicopters (replacing the weaker H-19), C-46, C-47, C-123 transport aircraft, and single-engine short take-off and landing aircraft provided airlift capabilities to CIA officers moving throughout the country, and FAR and Hmong units who received supplies through airdrops[13].

U.S. activities were critically challenged by Pathet Lao radio broadcasts (with Soviet support) which “were convincingly portraying the U.S. as obstructing peace and neutrality in Laos (while downplaying their own efforts to do so)[14].” The U.S. Information Agency field office in Laos “had two main objectives: improve the credibility of the Laotian government in the eyes of the population, and counter-Communist propaganda[15].” Small radios were distributed to provide pro-government messages in the Lao language, which was limited by the various local dialects around the country. In 1961 the U.S. Army deployed the 1st Psychological Warfare Battalion consisting of 12 men, whose “primary role was augmenting the U.S. Information Service (USIS).” and their under-resourced staff[16]. 

Under U.S. policy from 1954-1962, COIN efforts to support the RLG were a relative success. In 1962 a neutralist-majority coalition government was formed including rightists (from the RLG) and members of the Pathet Lao. The 1962 Geneva Accords again declared Laotian neutrality and barred any re-deployment of foreign forces to Laos. Fighting had slowed, but the Kennedy administration was disappointed with the political result. Neutrality was not a complete policy failure for the Kennedy administration, as a communist government would not be in place[17]. In accordance with the agreement SF teams withdrew from Laos, while Air America flights slowed[18]. However, future American operations would be covert, and conducted primarily by the CIA beginning after the coalition collapse in 1964 to the Pathet Lao defeat of the RLG in 1975. 

From a policy perspective, the American commitment to Laos was consistent with containment and halting the global spread of communism. The covert nature of U.S. operations reflected not only the declarations of neutrality by the RLG, but the larger possibility of U.S. embarrassment on the domestic and world stages if U.S. objectives did fail. Even with no discernible strategic interests in the region, particularly Laos, “National prestige was, as always, closely linked to its apparent success or failure in foreign policy[19].”


Endnotes:

[1] United States, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency (p. ix)

[2] Mcnamara, R. S. (1996). In retrospect. Random House Usa. (pp. 35-37)

[3] Leeker, J. F. (2006). Air America in Laos II – military aid (p. 1, Rep.). Part I

[4] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 128).; United Nations. (1954). Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Laos 20 July 1954.

[5] Castle, T. N. (1991). At war in the shadow of Vietnam: United States military aid to the Royal Lao government, 1955-75 (Doctoral dissertation).

[6] Adams, N. S., & McCoy, A. W. (1970). Laos: War and revolution. New York: Harper & Row. (p. 147).

[7] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html. 

[8] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 80). 

[9] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 171). 

[10] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 87).

[11] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 121).

[12] Ahern, T. L., Jr. (2006). Undercover Armies: CIA and Surrogate Warfare in Laos 1961-1973. (p. 45).; Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html.

[13] Leary, W. M. (1999-2000). CIA Air Operations in Laos, 1955-1974. Studies in Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art7.html. 

[14] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[15] Tracy, J. M., PhD. (2018). Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Special Warfare in Laos. Veritas, 14(1), (p. 2). Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n1_shoot_and_salute_pt1_page_2.html.

[16] Tracy, James M., PhD. “More Than Shoot & Salute: U.S. Army Psywar in Laos.” Veritas 14, no. 2 (2018): 1. https://www.soc.mil/ARSOF_History/articles/v14n2_shoot_and_salute_pt2_page_1.html.

[17] Goldstein, M. E. (1973). American policy toward Laos. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. (pp. 263-267).; United Nations. (1962). No. 6564. DECLARATION 1 ON THE NEUTRALITY OF LAOS. SIGNED AT GENEVA, ON 23 JULY 1962https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTS/Volume 456/volume-456-I-6564-English.pdf.

[18] Celeski, J. D. (2019). The Green Berets in the land of a million elephants: U.S. army special warfare and the secret war in Laos, 1959-74. Havertown: Casemate. (p. 247).

[19] Koprowski, D. C. (2000). John F. Kennedy, the development of counterinsurgency doctrine and American intervention in Laos, 1961-1963 (Doctoral dissertation). University of Massachusetts Amherst. Masters Theses 1911 – February 2014. 1682 https://scholarworks.umass.edu/theses/1682.

Assessment Papers Harrison Manlove Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Laos United States

Alternative Futures: Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

Michael Barr is a military historian and Director of Ronin Research, which specializes in high stress performance improvement.  He has 47 years’ experience in close quarter control and combat and is also the Director of the Jiki Ryu Aikijujutsu Association.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

Date Originally Written:  May 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This assessment paper provides an alternative history and therefore an alternative future to U.S. actions in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.  This paper is written from the point of view of a staff officer providing an overview of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan from 2001-2021 to an incoming political appointee in the Department of Defense.

Summary:  Despite conventional force cries for large troop footprints in Afghanistan following the ousting of the Afghan Taliban in late 2001, the U.S. chose a different route.  The combined interagency efforts of U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of State have enabled minimization (not defeat) of threats to U.S. interests in Afghanistan thus enabling the U.S. military to remain prepared for large scale threats posed by Russia and China.

Text:  The initial response to the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan after 9/11 involved U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA restored old ties with Afghan tribal leaders in the Northern Alliance. Backed by U.S. air power, the operation toppled the Taliban within two months and leveled the playing field allowing for the aspirations of various tribal leaders. 

With these initial operations complete, conventional force proponents argued for a text book counterinsurgency operation using a series of forward operating bases to project force and prop up a weak central government in Kabul. Asymmetric proponents argued for a return to influence and shaping operations and a strategy of stabilization and deterrence. No matter how noble the objective or heroic the effort, the U.S. would not achieve a political victory through a massive intervention that would have a large foreign footprint that even our Afghan allies did not favor. In Afghanistan, the U.S. had something to lose but nothing to gain in the conventional sense. Stability was the objective and that would be better achieved by helping the Afghans fight their own war rather than U.S. troops fight it for them. The more the U.S. efforts were unseen, the better. Instead of fighting a pointless counterinsurgency, a pragmatic strategy of forging relationships necessary to keeping Islamists from developing any significant power base in Afghanistan was pursued. 

The Afghanistan Bureau (AFBU) was created as part of U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), to follow a strategy of realistic, attainable goals, and restricted rules of engagement, with operations calibrated to the Afghan political, cultural, physical, and mental landscapes. AFBU allowed strategy to be custom-tailored to the reality on the ground. As a result AFBU has created stability through an often tedious and contentious negotiation of tribal interests with a minimum use of force. AFBU is primarily an intelligence and influence / shaping organization that makes suggestions and entreaties to various tribal elements. Within AFBU is the Afghan Operations Group (AOG) which includes both FID (foreign internal defense) and UW (unconventional warfare) elements:

  • 100 long term advisors from CIA, SOF, and the Department of State are embedded at the tribal leadership level.
  • A fluctuating number of specialists rotate through AOG based on tribal requests and advisor observations. These specialists have included military trainers, civil affairs, engineers, teachers, medical and even civilian specialist in blacksmithing and agriculture.
  • Sufficient procurement and logistics elements to both support the AFBU and train their partners in the Afghan military.
  • AOG forces: A light, strong, mobile force of 2000 men that continually rotates its presence living and purchasing from the various tribes. This rotation creates a pragmatic symbiotic relationship. Various force components have been temporarily added. An active drone force is maintained. Support Force provides intelligence to AFBU, solidifies tribal relations, acts as a deterrent, and makes periodic strikes to reduce opposition build ups. Terrorists may never be eliminated but AOG keeps them minimized. In this way AOG imitates the Israeli response to terrorism threats. 
  • A clandestine force works from within tribal support areas to collect human intelligence and reduce the need for intervention.

Despite public claims, Afghanistan is not a nation state but a tribal society with tribal interests. Even the urban elite are really a tribe. Cash and other assets which can be measured and accounted for, are capable of accommodating many tribal needs. Limited cash and assets help solidify existing relations with tribal leaders. Refusal to provide assets, threats by other leaders, the presence of AOG forces, and loss of prestige has proven an effective mix in maintaining the peace. There is a constant battle among interested parties to supplant opium income, but the broad mix of assets available to AFBU has served as a greater inducement than illicit income. 

AFBU’s strategy leverages the fact that the parties do not like or get along with each other. AFBU’s small but effective presence and its outsider position allows it to orchestrate adversaries more as a referee. This relationship works to U.S. benefit and against U.S. enemies. AFBU is not creating Jeffersonian liberals but selectively supporting dependable leaders who can create stability and minimize Islamist capability. Sometime this means winning over factions of the Taliban. This winning over has been controversial, but a 51% reduction in extremism is sometimes better than nothing at all. Every tribal leader affiliated with AFBU is one less enemy and it allows us to monitor and influence their behavior.

AFBU has succeeded because of:

  • Sufficient funding and bipartisan Congressional support.
  • General public support or at least no vocal opposition.
  • Clear, pragmatic policy objectives.
  • Restraint imposed by the force size and the acceptance that there are limits to U.S. influence.
  • Emphasis on assembling tools in innovative ways which are applied with sufficient foresight and duration to achieve lasting effect while avoiding major combat operations.
  • High priority on intelligence.  

AFBU has converted some opposition tribes, neutralized others to ineffectiveness, and isolated most resistance to the Waziristan region. Pakistan’s ambiguous blind eye support of the Taliban, although still operative, has been muted by AFBU operations. AFBU has been able to provide long term stability for the past 20 years at a minimum investment of money, materiel, and manpower. AFBU has established a template for an overall influencing and shaping strategy which provides a structure for projecting power with a minimum of intrusion and risk. By calibrating to local concerns, similar strategies have been successful in Syria. Venezuela, Central America, Cuba, the Philippines, and even larger states like Ukraine. These small operations have allowed more resources to go to conventional near peer preparation while creating a matrix of support and influence in areas distant from the United States. 

In conclusion, AFBU has provided outsized results for its limited investment, while providing a first option for achieving U.S. objectives without large expenditures of personnel, material, and political support. The model has proven an excellent counter to gray zone conflicts related to Russia, China, and Iran.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Michael Barr United States

An Assessment of Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Riley Murray is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force currently pursuing his master’s degree in the Georgetown Security Studies Program.  He can be found on Twitter @rileycmurray.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of Air Force Advising Concepts in Small Wars, “Paper Falcons”

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty Air Force Officer. The Article is written from the Point of View of the United States Air Force in Air Advising and Security Cooperation operations.

Summary:  Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.

Text:  Andrew Krepinevich coined the term “Army Concept” in his 1986 study of the Vietnam War. The U.S. Army uses the Army Concept framework to hypothesize how wars will be fought, and to shape its operational planning and training[1]. During the Vietnam War, the Army Concept focused on large-scale conventional warfare against the Soviets in Central Europe with emphasis on firepower and technology[2]. Krepinevich criticizes the Army for using this conventionally oriented concept to advise the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during its campaign against an irregular foe: The National Liberation Front (Viet Cong)[3]. This counterproductive (ineffective) assistance program resulted from a failure to understand the threat faced by the ARVN, a poorly conceived plan to address the insurgency, and advisors that had spent their careers preparing for conventional warfare[4]. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has made similar mistakes when advising its partner forces.

Any conceptual approach to advising begins by assessing the environment and threats partner forces face. This analysis is the basis for decisions regarding prioritization and risk that result in concepts of what air elements should be able to do[5]. This strategic view is then translated into operational and tactical tasks. However, planning and execution are heavily impacted by variety of factions involved in advising missions, each with unique concepts and different decision-making processes, leading to mixed outcomes. In an ideal world, planning any advising mission would be a cyclical process of tightly coordinated activities that continually reconsiders assumptions and adjusts policy accordingly. However, even under clear planning guidance, this policy-tailoring process can be undermined by the interests of subordinate organizations.

In Vietnam, the U.S. military attempted to meet the Kennedy administration’s directive to prepare for “wars of national liberation.” The USAF responded to this challenge by establishing the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron with the mission to develop and train foreign air forces on counter-guerrilla tactics[6]. Outside of this unit though, the USAF made no major changes in organizational guidelines or doctrine. Although the counterinsurgency mission was accepted, USAF doctrine did not highlight the role of local air forces or advising[7]. The USAF developed “what amounted to an absolute model of airpower in warfare,” based on the principles of classical airpower theory (primarily the primacy of offensive, strategic, and independent air operations)[8]. This single-minded view drove the USAF’s organization and mentality, but largely neglected the lessons learned from irregular conflicts since World War II and assumed that alternate concepts were unnecessary. The USAF failed to understand airpower’s role in effective irregular warfare strategy and to foresee the potential negative effects airpower could have when fighting a guerrilla force. This made the USAF ill-equipped to develop a reliable partner force in Vietnam.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy authorized an advising mission in 1961 to assist the South Vietnamese military in countering the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese supporters. The USAF was tasked with training the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), but its actions and ideas were often counterproductive to the VNAF[9]. The USAF entered Vietnam planning to develop tactics for fighting guerrillas but was unprepared and unwilling to effectively assess and address strategic and operational issues. USAF advisors helped the VNAF develop a centralized air control system in alignment with USAF doctrine, which increased efficiency, but also dramatically hindered air-ground coordination and resulted in operations that had little strategic value in counterinsurgency[10]. When the USAF and VNAF did develop useful tactics, many of these innovations were simply relearning the lessons of previous conflicts (such as the Marine Corps’ small wars in the Caribbean)[11]. U.S. assistance dramatically increased the VNAF’s size, but contemporary USAF emphasis on jet aircraft led to a force that was incredibly difficult to maintain without U.S. assistance. Rapid growth was coupled with USAF advisors frequently flying the missions themselves and neglecting the tactical development of the VNAF[12]. After a decade of advising efforts, the end result was a VNAF that could not independently perform many key processes and was poorly oriented towards the threat faced by South Vietnam.

Many of these conceptual failures continue to plague the USAF’s mission to advise the Afghan Air Force (AAF). As the Afghan Taliban resurgence threatened security in Afghanistan in 2007, the original USAF advisory mission of establishing an AAF presidential airlift capability was expanded and the AAF became a “helicopter/transport/light-attack-based fleet” oriented towards counterinsurgency[13]. Developing these capabilities has been difficult, particularly without consensus on the roles and missions the AAF should be able to conduct. USAF advisors have labored to develop a centralized control system, but this doctrinal solution continues to conflict with the structure of the Afghan military and its entrenched habits[14]. There is also a split between the conventional AAF and the Special Mission Wing and their respective advisors which focuses on direct support for Afghan special operations forces, resulting in two parallel concepts that remain poorly integrated at both the tactical and strategic levels[15]. The mission statement of the 428th Air Expeditionary Wing in 2014 emphasized the importance of developing “a professional, capable, and sustainable [Afghan] Air Force[16].” However, without a clear concept driving what these terms mean and how they should be pursued, air advising operations cannot be successful. In 2018, a DoD Inspector General report highlighted that Train Advise Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) lacked a defined end state for AAF development and failed to explain how the AAF would integrate with U.S. forces in Afghanistan[17]. Without an end state or effective strategic plan, the USAF cannot integrate and leverage its full range of advising capabilities.

While Vietnam highlighted the dangers of applying the wrong concept to air operations in counterinsurgency, Afghanistan demonstrates that the lack of a unified concept that similarly undercuts advising operations. Concepts are difficult to quantify, but they have had an unmistakable impact on advising operations. Success requires both a holistic view of the strategic value of air operations in irregular warfare and the capability to assess individual cases and tailor advising approaches. With a clear strategic concept, advising, planning and operations can be synchronized, ensuring that the United States effectively leverages its capabilities to assist partners and allies.


Endnotes:

[1] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. p. 5.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 258-260.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Krepinevich, A. F. (1990). The Army and Vietnam. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. P. pp. 11-14.

[6] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 238-239.

[7] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 242-243, 246-247.

[8] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 267-270.

[9] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 241-244.

[10] Sheehan, N. (2013). A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York, NY: Vintage Books, a division of Random House. pp. 112-115.

[11] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 261.

[12] Corum, J. S., & Johnson, W. R. (2003). Airpower in South Vietnam, 1954-1965. In Airpower in small wars: Fighting insurgents and terrorists (pp. 225-278). Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 271-273.

[13] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 51-52.

[14] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 156.

[15] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 55.

[16] Marion, F. L. (2018). Flight Risk: The Coalition’s Air Advisory Mission in Afghanistan: 2005-2015. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 186.

[17] United States, Department of Defense, Inspector General. (2018). Progress of U.S. and Coalition Efforts to Train, Advise, and Assist the Afghan Air Force (pp. 1-76). Arlington, VA: U.S. Department of Defense.

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Riley Murray Small Wars Journal Writing Contest Training United States

Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Mathew Daniels is a graduate of Old Dominion University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in International Relations.  He served six years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.  He has a diverse professional background including both Law enforcement and education.  Fluent in both Spanish and English he is currently learning Japanese, while residing in Japan as a military spouse.  He has moved three different times in the past three years.  He just concluded student teaching and is preparing to take the Foreign Service Officer Test while awaiting to start employment with the Child Youth Military Program.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 5, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard  and a military spouse.

Summary:  As the Global War on Terror continues to expand, the U.S. believes it is important to maintain sound strategy and policy in order to bring about success and avoid costly foreign policy and militaristic commitments. This is especially true in Somalia, where the U.S. is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach, but risks of increased involvement are possible. 

Text:  The Global War on Terror continues to wax and wane with the foreign policy objectives of the United States. This is especially true in Africa, specifically in Somalia, where a U.S. presence has been in country intermittently since 2003. Somalia is one of the United States’ many small wars that are part of the campaign against Islamist Terrorism post 9/11.  The current terrorist organization that warrants a U.S. military presence is Al Shabaab. It is important to understand that Al Shabaab is allied with and mimics Al Qaeda.  However, some members claim that “they do not wish to wage a global jihad, merely to dominate East Africa[1].”  In this way Al Shabaab may differ from Al-Qaeda but this difference makes them no less of a threat to U.S. national security.  Furthermore, Al Shabaab routinely attacks civilian populations and is a threat to the  U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu. In 2007 African Union Forces were able to drive out Al Shabaab militants and retake most of Mogadishu, however Al Shabaab continued to exist in the suburbs and threaten the capital[2]. 

Presently, the Somalia National Army and police forces with assistance from African Union, Kenyan, and Ethiopian militaries, continue to wage a counter insurgency campaign against Al Shabaab. The United States continues to be involved indirectly in combating Al Shabaab by supporting regional forces with  military advisors. However, without a clear-cut purpose and end goal, the United States risks mission creep and more potential long-term militaristic commitments. 

As part of the Global War on Terror the U.S. has had a presence in Somalia since as early as 2003[3].  This early presence in Somalia was made up of the Central Intelligence Agency and small elements of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), specifically the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team 6. These early elements  focused on intelligence gathering and relying on local warlords bankrolled with U.S. cash to eliminate Islamist groups in the region[3]. 

In 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a drone strike campaign in Somalia targeting Al Shabaab[2].  This was a shift from the Bush administration whose primary focus was intelligence gathering and counter-piracy operations.   Under the current Trump administration, Obama’s  policy of drone strikes has continued, and JSOC has become heavily involved in Somalia[2]. This involvement  represents an increase of American commitment to the anti-Al Shabab effort over a significant amount of time. Combat by American forces is not officially confirmed. Multiple sources report that the Pentagon is extremely tight- lipped on operations in Africa and especially Somalia[2][4]. According to The New Yorker, the Pentagon did not respond to a request for information on ongoing operations in Somalia[2]. Nick Terse quotes a “reliable source within the JSOC community who stated, we are heavily engaged in combat as well as advise missions and have sustained casualties, but things are kept as quiet as possible[5].” It appears that the advise and assist role requires members of the U.S. military to accompany local forces on missions which can lead to actual combat for U.S. troops.  

Whatever the official policy, if U.S. forces are at risk, American public and policy makers awareness is of value so they can realize the potential consequences, should mishaps or potential loss of life occur. In fact, casualties have occurred in Somalia, Kenya, Chad and Cameroon  according to Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Donald Bolduc formerly in charge of special operations in Africa[5]. Make no mistake, American service members are at risk in these advise and assist operations, with or without public knowledge of their presence. Furthermore, absence of sound policy or strategy may mean that these service members sacrifices are in vain.

It is unclear whether U.S. policymakers and senior defense officials consulted the Powell-Weinberger doctrine prior to the deployment of forces to Somalia. Consulting this doctrine  would have helped provide needed clarification for the U.S. military mission in Somalia. For example, why is the U.S. in Somalia? To fight Al Shabaab? To preserve geopolitical stability? At what point will Al Shabaab be defeated? The Powell-Weinberger doctrine would ask if it is politically feasible to win in Somalia, and more importantly what does winning look like? What size of force would be needed to accomplish the goal? Also, what is the compelling U.S. national interest in Somalia?

It is significant to note that African Union forces will be withdrawing from Somalia in 2020[2]. Is the United States going to fill this security void by increasing their footprint, or maintain its current approach?  Without a clear end goal in mind, the American military in Somalia is left without a real direction, other than to train Somali forces and conduct joint raids against Al Shabaab.  It is worth considering that Somalia has lacked any real centralized government that maintained control since it was a colonial possession.  As a result of this weak government, insurgencies such as Al Shabaab thrive and prosper. The likelihood of the United States defeating the insurgency and propping up a stable government  in Somalia without a large  militaristic and diplomatic commitment is slim. Development of clear goals and strategy can help the U.S. achieve victory in Somalia without being dragged into a quagmire abroad. 


Endnotes:

[1] Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab? (2017, December 22). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15336689

[2] Ferguson, J. (2018, March/April). Trump’s Military Escalation in Somalia Is Spurring Hope and Fear. The NewYorker.

[3] Naylor, S. (2016). Relentless strike: The secret history of Joint Special Operations Command. New York, NY: St. Martins Griffin.

[4] Bowman, T. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On Terror?[Radio broadcast]. In 1A. Washington D.C.: NPR.

[5] Turse, N. (Writer). (2019, February/March). How Global Is The Global War On

Assessment Papers Mathew Daniels Small Wars Journal Writing Contest Somalia Strategy United States

Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

Editor’s Note:  This article is the result of a partnership between Divergent Options and a course on nationalism at the George Washington University.


George Taboada has worked in the 19th District New Jersey State Legislative Office in the United States of America.  He currently is an undergraduate student at The George Washington University.  He can be reached at gleetaboada@gmail.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

Date Originally Written:  August 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a grandchild of Cuban immigrants to the United States of America. He believes that progressive political action (anti-discrimination, improved access to healthcare, debt-relief, etc.) is necessary to form a truly democratic society in the USA. 

Summary:  The rise of far-right terrorism in the United States is bringing the question of who and what constitutes the American nation to the forefront of public consciousness. If Americans fail to write their own history as one of inclusion rather than exclusion, violence and ostracization will continue.

Text:  In the wake of two mass shootings and the new surge in far-right terrorism, Americans peer further and further into the belly of the beast that is their nation. What has been statistically clear has slowly drilled itself into the center of the public consciousness: most terrorist attacks in the United States are perpetrated by domestic far right elements rather than Islamist actors. Between 2009 and 2018, 73.3% of murders related to extremist political ideologies were committed by those on the right-wing[1]. The names of innocent communities such as Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and Parkland have become synonymous with fascist violence. The United States as a whole is beginning to garner a similar dark reputation; Uruguay and Venezuela joined an already expansive list of countries that issue travel warnings to citizens visiting the US due to white supremacist and gun violence[2]. 

It is no coincidence that Jill Lepore published her article “A New Americanism” in the midst of a very old kind of American violence. Indeed, she writes that the conflict between egalitarian and ethnocentric forces “was a struggle over two competing ideas of the nation-state. This struggle has never ended; it has just moved around[3].” In this, Lepore explores a framework of understanding American history that is most condensed in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Alexander describes an America where successive generations “have not ended racial caste in America… but… merely redesigned it.” The slavery, the lynching, the segregation, the poverty, and the police brutality inflicted upon African Americans are not separate systems, but rather the same perpetual phenomenon that is modified to make their suffering palatable to the white majority[4]. At the essence of both of these arguments are the questions that floats through the minds of Americans after the terror and sorrow of a brutal hate crime subsides. Who are we and how much more are we willing to tolerate fascist violence?

There are new factors in this current discourse, but it is also retreading themes of classical literature on nationalism. In fact, Jill Lepore cites Ernest Renan’s defining work, “What is a Nation?[5].” According to Renan, nationalist ideology “presupposes a past but is reiterated in the present by a tangible fact: consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue a common life[6].” Despite the myths of great men being the writers of history, the core dynamic of nationalism is in the hands of anyone who reads, writes, and reforms it. The discourse that defines the nation occurs not just in Congress, but in classrooms, in cafes, in homes, and in the street. Renan’s theory of nationalism is at its core democratic; in the “daily plebiscite,” the people themselves give the nation substance by supporting it and participating in its reformations.

However, republics are vulnerable to those who participate in their institutions with the intent to destroy the values that define and defend democracy. The danger of democratic backsliding is that those who are assaulting human rights do so while wrapping their language in the rhetoric used by those trying to defend it. White supremacists have a long history of doing just that. Leading Nazi figure Joseph Goebbels wrote, “We enter the Reichstag to arm ourselves with democracy’s weapons. If democracy is foolish enough to give us free railway passes and salaries, that is its problem… We are coming neither as friends or neutrals. We come as enemies! As the wolf attacks the sheep, so come we[7].”

This “boots for suits” tactic is not a foreign phenomenon; Lepore and Alexander have both chronicled its centrality to the American republic. The Confederate government formalized white supremacy by writing it into their constitution[8]. Alexander traces the family history of Jarvious Cotton, an American man. Time and time again, the Cottons are denied the fundamental ability to participate in Renan’s daily plebiscite: the ballot. Either through legal restrictions or through real physical violence. The slave-owner, the Klansman, and the police beat black people out of the discourse; constitutions, Jim Crow, and laws make the public feel as though that abuse is justified[9].

Beyond the question an American may ask themselves regarding who they are and how much longer they are willing to tolerate fascist violence lies another question: How much longer should we wait to end fascist ostracization? There is only one answer: immediately. But answering that question has eluded Americans of all kinds for over four centuries. The United States’ constitutive story as a nation is one that promises people freedom and viciously excludes wide swaths of humanity from those inalienable rights. To academicize the question of, “Who are we?”, the author posits, “How do we include people in a constitutive story written to specifically exclude them?”

Without a truly democratic daily plebiscite, those who are victimized by far-right violence will continue to be pushed to the margins of American society. To counter disenfranchisement, a discursive space where all are able to contribute to the building of the nation is necessary. However, open discourse about the nation’s path cannot exist as long as people who seek to raze it to the ground are afforded the same privileges as those who seek to enrich it. Without safeguards that prevent those who target the most vulnerable in society from disenfranchising them, marginalization will persist.

By including the experiences of other nations in the fight for liberation, Americans can further shatter the illusion of a racial ethnostate. Americans can find answers to their soul-searching in a wide range of countries and societies. There is already a prolific literature comparing denazification in Germany to American Reconstruction after the Civil War. From Germans, Americans can learn how to secure justice after a civilizational crime[10]. Another example is the progress of LGBTQ+ rights in Cuba. After the Revolution succeeded in 1959, Cuba was the second country in the world to establish marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution. Since the turn of the century, Cuban society has been more inclusive and more proactive towards achieving LGBTQ+ equality. Those LGBTQ+ who were once violently excluded from the foundation of the Cuban nation were able to write themselves into the Revolution and make it their own. 

To conclude, if Americans fail to write their own stories, those who carry the torches of Klansmen will gladly pick up the pen.


Endnotes:

[1] Anti-Defamation League (2019). Murder and Extremism in the United State in 2018. ADL. 

[2] Hu, Caitlin (2019, August 10). What they really think: America seen through the world’s travel warnings. CNN.

[3] Lepore, Jill (March/April 2019). A New Americanism. Foreign Affairs, 98.

[4] Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.

[6] Renan, Ernest (1882, March 11) What is a Nation? text of a conference delivered at the Sorbonne on, in Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?, Paris, Presses-Pocket, 1992. (translated by Ethan Rundell).

[7] Goebbels, Joseph (1935) Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit. Der Angriff, pp. 71-73.

[8] Lepore, Jill (March/April 2019). A New Americanism. Foreign Affairs, 98.

[9] Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.

[10] Neiman, Susan (2013, August 12). History and guilt: Can America face up to the terrible reality of slavery in the way that Germany has faced up to the Holocaust? Aeon.

[11] De Llano, Pablo (2018, July 23). After decades of homophobia, Cuba closer to allowing same-sex marriage. El País.

Assessment Papers George Taboada Human Rights / Universal Rights Nationalism United States

Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Dr. Heather Venable is an Assistant Professor of Military and Security Studies at the Air Command and Staff College, where she teaches classes on airpower and the historical experience of combat. She has written a forthcoming book entitled How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918.  She also has written for War on the Rocks, Strategy Bridge, and other online blogs.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Turning “Small” Wars into “Big” Wars: How Tacticians Endanger Us All

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2019.

Author / or Article Point of View:  The author is a professor of airpower. The author wants to point out the tensions in military thinking between the tactical and the strategic and how this has the potential to lead to escalation of “small” wars amidst the return to great power conflict.  

Summary:  Small wars remain highly likely even as the U.S. stresses the return to great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will exhibit tension between strategic and tactical thinking. This tendency can be seen in the following discussion of Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg, who had a problematic vision of targeting the Chinese mainland during the Korean War that exemplifies tactical thinking at the expense of considering strategic ends. 

Text:  He talked the talk. But he did not walk the walk. In a lecture given to the Air War College in May of 1953, Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg initially exemplified strategic thinking by providing compelling reasons why the Korean War should remain confined to the peninsula. In the subsequent question and answer session, however, he demonstrated a clear desire to widen the war and target the Chinese mainland. Vandenberg’s lecture epitomizes the tensions in the minds of military leaders between tactical and strategic thinking, which pose dangerous risks of escalation, particularly in small wars. 

In the lecture, Vandenberg explained that he had no easy solutions “tied up in pink bows[1].” He also shared how his vantage point provided him with unparalleled perspective on the importance of allies and Cold War grand strategy. As such, he pointed out the problems he saw in expanding the war into China, explaining that striking a key air base inside Chinese territory required the U.S. to “do it with our eyes open” in light of a Sino-Soviet mutual defense treaty. Vandenberg also highlighted the risks of lengthening the United Nations’ own lines of communication. These comments epitomize a solid strategic consideration characterized by continually asking: then what? 

In the ensuing question and answer session, however, Vandenberg dangerously undercut his previous comments. When asked to discuss the Far East’s “strategic importance” during a “hot war,” Vandenberg ignored realities like the aforementioned treaty[2].  Caveating his opinion as being “almost as dangerous” as clamoring for preventative war against the Soviet Union, Vandenberg continued on recklessly:  “My solution has always been . . . we ought to put on a very strong blockade of the Chinese Coast; that we ought to break her rail lines of communication that carry the wheat from the North and the rice from the South . . . that we ought to mine her rivers . . . and that we ought to destroy those small industrial installations . . . .”

In addition to expanding the war and possibly inciting a famine, he suggested that the U.S. start its own “brushfire” to demonstrate, “BY GOD, that we are getting fed up with it.” Vandenberg’s address to War College students on the challenges of making sound strategic decisions devolved into sharing his emotionally-laden tactical responses, which lacked careful consideration of desired ends. Yet Vandenberg characterized his approach as “realistic[3].” 

Ironically, Vandenberg believed himself to be thinking rationally when, in fact, he was thinking romantically. In 1959, Bernard Brodie counterintuitively described the military mind as romantic, explaining how officers preferred “strong action over negotiation, boldness over caution, and feeling over reflection[4].” Vandenberg’s irrational suggestion that the U.S. start a new war because he was “fed up” epitomizes the mentality Brodie sketched. Today, many military officers also characterize themselves as pragmatic realists; in practice, though, they may act very differently.

This romantic attitude permeates tactical thinking, which can undermine a strategic vision. In theory, the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war are neatly bundled together. In reality, the frustrations of small wars often reveal the gaping seams between the tactical and the strategic as the limitations of military force to quickly meet political objectives become evident. 

A tactical thinker concentrates on the short-term prospect of winning a clear-cut victory. A strategic one, by contrast, seeks to play the long game. At times, these two inter-related but competing perspectives cause tension. In the case of a parent teaching a child to play chess, the tactical mindset of seeking to “win” a game sits at odds with the more strategic perspective of keeping children motivated to learn by letting them win[5]. 

Meanwhile, this seductive tactical vision entices military thinkers and decision makers with the promise of decisive action, with the potential to solve a problem once and for all. But nothing in warfare is ever final. The Army officers who produced a recent study on Operation Iraqi Freedom entitled The U.S. Army in Iraq epitomize the dangers of this tactical tendency. Chafing at what they consider to be the imposition of problematic “artificial geographic boundaries,” they wish the U.S. had enlarged the war to include Iran, thus eliminating the sanctuary areas of small wars that are understandably so frustrating to officers[6]. This “if only” mindset seeks short-term military advantage at the cost of a stronger, more durable state of peace that should be the guiding principle underlying and linking together each level of war. 

Small wars on the periphery remain highly likely even as the U.S. returns to stressing great power conflict. In these coming conflicts, some frustrated military leaders will demonstrate tension between the strategic and the tactical just as Gen Vandenberg did. Indeed, the likelihood of this tendency has increased because the U.S. military has become imbued with a “killing and destroying things” mindset[7].  In focusing more on how to kill and destroy than why, the military has reified the tactical and operational at the expense of the strategic. We can only hope that politicians choose not to follow through on fool-hardy tactical ventures; amidst the democratization of weapons technology, such impulses risk endangering us all[8]. 


Endnotes:

[1] Vandenberg, H. (1953, May 6). Lecture Presented by General Vandenberg to Air War College. K239.716253-118, Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Brodie, B. (1959). Strategy in the Missile Age. Palo Alto, CA: Rand, p. 266.

[5] Dolman, E. (2016). “Seeking Strategy” in Strategy: Context and Adaptation from Archidamus to Airpower. Eds. Richard Bailey and James Forsyth. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016, pp. 5-37.

[6] Finer, J. (2019, May 28). Learning the Wrong Lessons from Iraq. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2019-05-28/last-war-and-next. 

[7] Kagan, F. (2006). Finding the Target. New York: Encounter Books, 2006, p. 358.

[8] Krepinevich, A. (2011, August 15). Get Ready for the Democratization of Destruction. Foreign Affairs. https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/08/15/get-ready-for-the-democratization-of-destruction/.

 

 

Assessment Papers Dr. Heather Venable Mindset Small Wars Journal Writing Contest Strategy United States

Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Edwin Tran is a political analyst with the Encyclopedia Geopolitica and is an editor for the International Review.  Edwin focuses on Levantine politics and civil society, and can be found on Twitter at @En_EdwinT.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Strategic Goals Through Peacekeeping Operations in the 1982 Lebanon Intervention

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 8, 2019.

Summary:  The United States’ intervention in the Lebanese Civil War was a peacekeeping operation defined by long term strategic goals centered around increasing American hegemony in the region. The United States sought to leverage its position as a peacekeeper against Israeli and Syrian advances. However, significant overreach and unplanned events would play a substantial role in limiting the extent of American success in Lebanon. 

Text:  In 1975, tensions between Lebanon’s sectarian groups erupted into civil war[1]. The influx of Palestinian refugees throughout the 1940s-1960s threatened the political status quo of the country and civil war saw Palestinian militias engage Maronite militias[2]. As the Lebanese Civil War waged on, various peacekeeping operations were attempted. June 1976 saw the entrance of the Syrian military on behalf of Maronite President Suleiman Frangieh. This entrance was followed by a task force known as the Arab Deterrent Force founded in October of that year[3]. In response to the 1978 Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, the United Nations Security Council enacted resolutions 425 and 426, which created the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL)[4]. Despite these measures, further instability was promoted by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The U.S. Reagan administration was deeply divided by these actions, and after serious cabinet discussions, Secretary of State Alexander Haig resigned. Haig was replaced by George Shultz, and after further discussions with the Lebanese regime of Elias Sarkis, it was decided that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Italy would establish a peacekeeping mission[5]. Known as the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF), this iteration of international peacekeeping operations would, as described by U.S. Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes, “facilitate the restoration of Lebanese Government sovereignty and authority over the Beirut area and thereby further its efforts… to bring an end the violence which has tragically recurred[6].”

On August 21, 1982, the U.S. 2nd Battalion 8th Marines entered Beirut[7]. Additional forces would arrive in the following days. From the onset, the U.S. and its allies were chiefly involved in establishing peace in the direct vicinity of Beirut. Such ideations were made clear in covert meetings conducted between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib. Declassified Department of State documents reveal that in the months prior to the MNF intervention, negotiations with the Israelis emphasized “the serious situation in the city of Beirut, where [Habib was] informed of the lack of gas, electricity and other basic needs[8].” Contingent on such peace developments was the removal of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) from Lebanon. The removal was believed to be paramount for peace developments in the country[9]. August 30 became the climax of these operations, as the U.S. and its allies were successful in moving Yasser Arafat and a sizeable portion of the PLO out of Lebanon[10].

However, such actions in the first weeks of MNF operations represented a small aspect of more complicated designs. The Reagan administration, recognizing the strategic importance of the region, hoped to use these developments as leverage against the Israelis, Lebanese, and Syrians. Significant weight was placed on furthering the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel, though this time with Lebanon and Jordan[11]. This culminated in the development of the Reagan Peace Plan, which was shown to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 1. This plan emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to peace throughout the region and to its specific operations in Lebanon[12]. More contentious were the Peace Plan’s desires for the Israelis to vacate the Palestinian territories, and for a potential merger between Palestinians and Jordan. Although Egypt accepted the deal, every other party was either hostile or highly suspicious.

Other strategic goals of the U.S. became threatened in the immediate aftermath of the PLO’s expulsion. It was believed by many that U.S. intervention would correlate with a weakened Syrian presence and a stronger central government. Such thought was justified by the results of the 1958 Lebanon War, where U.S. intervention resulted in the immediate stability of Lebanon and in the strengthening of Lebanese President Fuad Chehab’s political grip[13]. In the case of the 1982 intervention, the U.S. and its plans were abruptly derailed by the September 14th assassination of Bachir Gemayel, a senior member of the Christian Phalange party and the founder and supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia. Peacekeeping attempts by the MNF hinged on a strong Maronite presence in Beirut. With Bachir Gemayel assassinated, the Maronites would be prone to infighting, the Syrians would see a resurgence in military capabilities, and the MNF would have to exert additional efforts in maintaining stability as the Maronites attempted to find new leaders. 

Even before the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Beirut barracks, it was clear that the U.S. had failed in its strategic goals. According to U.S. intelligence officers, the unveiling of the Reagan Peace Plan created a situation that threatened Israeli sovereignty[14], and some postulated that the Israelis “could react to the President’s peace initiative by stirring up the pot[15].” Such ideas came to fruition as the Israelis strengthened their hold over West Beirut and engaged in additional attacks. The death of Gemayel, who had also been crucial for the Israelis, meant that Israel was now forced to act in Lebanon without internal actors they could coordinate with. For the U.S. the death of Gemayel meant its own actions would face similar problems and lacking a principle leader to rally behind meant U.S. peacekeeping operations would be examined with a sense of extra-judiciality[16].

In the aftermath of the 1983 bombings, President Reagan addressed to the U.S. public his reasoning for why Lebanon was so valuable. It was, according to the President, a region of substantial importance, an area that was “key to the economic and political life of the west[17].” While such ideals may have been the impetus for the U.S.’s involvement in Lebanon, the reality of the situation proved to be one of catastrophic failure, and the political blunders made by the Reagan administration meant that its efforts were wasted. These points are made somberly in a 1983 memo from National Intelligence Officer Graham E. Fuller to Acting Director William Casey of the Central Intelligence Agency. In it, Fuller writes that “the events of the past… present us with a singularly bleak outlook for U.S. interests in Lebanon… we must face the prospect that our current policies towards Lebanon are not going to work[17].”


Endnotes:

[1] Rabinovich, I. (1989). The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985. (pp.40-41) Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

[2] Khalaf, S. (2002). Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Human Contact. (pp. 167, 229) New York: Columbia University Press.

[3] Rabil, R. (2005). From Beirut to Algiers: The Arab League’s Role in the Lebanon Crisis. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/from-beirut-to-algiers-the-arab-leagues-role-in-the-lebanon-crisis

[4] United Nations Security Council (1978). Resolution 425. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://undocs.org/S/RES/425(1978)

[5] Goldschmidt, A. (1996). A Concise History of the Middle East. (pp. 348-350) Colorado: Westview Press.

[6] Speakes, L. (1982). Ronald Reagan Administration: Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Situation in Lebanon. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/deputy-press-secretary-speakes-on-the-situation-in-lebanon-september-1982

[7] Cimbala, S. and Foster, P. (2010). Multinational Military Intervention: NATO Policy, Strategy, and Burden Sharing. (pp. 37) Abingdon: Routledge.

[8] Lebanon: Second Meeting with Begin – June 1982 (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R000601490020-5.pdf

[9] National Intelligence Daily (Cable) 27 August 1982 (2016). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84T00301R000400010198-5.pdf

[10] P.L.O Troops begin Pullout in Beirut; French Enter City (1982). The Associated Press. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/08/22/world/plo-troops-begin-pullout-in-beirut-french-enter-city.html

[11] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60-61.

[12] The Reagan Plan (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://ecf.org.il/media_items/551

[13] Geyelin, P. (1982). Lebanon—1958 and Now. The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1982/08/03/lebanon-1958-and-now/66bde27f-c951-4a7c-bbd7-068ef601e5ad/

[14] Harkabi, Y. (1988). Israel’s Fateful Hour. (pp. 111) New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

[15] Talking Points on Lebanese Internal Situation for 3 September (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001800230010-2.pdf

[16] Talking Points on Lebanon: Post-Assassination Update (1982). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP84B00049R001403460004-5.pdf

[17] Aruri, N. H. (1985). The United States’ Intervention in Lebanon. Arab Studies Quarterly 7(4), 60.

[18] Downward Spiral in Lebanon (1983). Retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85M00364R001402440042-4.pdf

Assessment Papers Edwin Tran Lebanon Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Naiomi Gonzalez is currently a doctoral student in history at Texas Christian University. She can be found on twitter at @AmericanUnInte1.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Private Military Industry and its Role in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2019.

Summary:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan required the support of the private military industry. However, the United States government’s increased reliance and dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy. In fact, the lack of accountability that has allowed certain sectors of the private military industry to act with impunity have arguably complicated the U.S. military’s already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Text:  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought the United States government’s increased reliance on private military firms to the forefront[1]. During the Vietnam War, it is estimated that there was 1 contractor for every 55 uniformed military personnel. In Iraq the ratio has hovered around 1 contractor for every 1 military personnel and in Afghanistan the number is 1.43 for every 1 military personnel[2]. During specific time periods, the number of contractors has even surpassed that of uniformed military personnel[3].

Private military firms undoubtedly provide much needed services and therefore, should not be discounted for their services. Private military firms, for instance, can draw on a large pool of expertise in a variety of fields while the military is limited by who they can recruit. This private military firm manpower flexibility is particularly important as technology continues to develop at a rapid pace. The Department of Defense (DoD), like most other government agencies, already heavily relies on the private sector to meet many of its technological needs. For example, the DoD has close relationships with many commercial agencies and contractors in order to develop and maintain the latest computer systems. If the DoD were to focus on developing their own computer systems, it would take about seven years for it to become operational. By that time the system would be obsolete and the efforts a waste[4]. For the DoD, which is often inundated by numerous other concerns and responsibilities, it makes sense to team up with private enterprises whose expertise lie in remaining on the cutting edge of new technological advances. Likewise, when it comes to maintaining the military’s vast and increasingly sophisticated technological arsenal, it benefits the DoD to hire contractors who already have years of experience on using and maintaining these specialized weapon rather than rely on military technicians who are most likely not trained in the nuances of a specific piece of equipment[5].

Another benefit of using contractors is that they provide a degree of political flexibility that enables political and military leaders to engage in policies the larger American citizenry might find objectionable. For instance, since the Vietnam War, Americans have shown a disdain for large scale conflicts that result in a large number of U.S. military causalities[6]. This low tolerance for long, drawn out wars became more pronounced as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, year after year. However, this aversion to American casualties does not always extend to those working as contractors, especially if those contractors are locals or third-world nationals. Because their roles in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is not always obvious, contractor deaths and injuries usually attract little attention. Exceptions to this disinterest usually center on particularly vicious deaths or injuries[7]. While not a panacea for increasingly unpopular wars, the use of contractors, especially in place of uniformed military personnel, ensures that extended conflicts remain palpable to the American public for a longer period of time.

However, the use of private military firms also comes with some severe drawbacks. On the economic front, their cost-effectiveness is in doubt. By 2012 the U.S. had spent about $232.2 billion on contractors and about $60 billion had been lost as a result of waste, fraud and abuse on the part of the contractors[8].

Much more concerning is the lack of accountability and impunity that has plagued the industry. In April 2004, CBS News published photographs showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American personnel. While media focus centered on uniformed American personnel who were abusing prisoners and on their courts martial, contractors also played a role in the scandal. Two private military firms, Titan[9] and CACI provided all of the translators and about half of the interrogators involved in the abuse case[10]. Yet no contractor was held legally responsible for their role in the abuse.

Private military provider/security firms have their own unique sets of issues and problems. While they make up the smallest number of contractors[11], the controversy they provoke belies their relatively small numbers. Blackwater Security[12] was the most notorious of these private military provider firms.

The 2007 Nisour Square case involving Blackwater helped spur the wider American population to question the utility of private provider/security firms. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater contractors shot, killed, and injured dozens of Iraqi civilians, in what they claimed was an act of self-defense[13].” The killings provoked widespread outrage. The Iraq government claimed, “The murder of citizens in cold blood…by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians[14]…” At that time, questions arose regarding whether private provider firms aid or hinder the United States’ mission in Iraq. Then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that the provider firms’ singular focus on completing their mission, can at times mean that they are working “at cross-purposes to our larger mission in Iraq[15].”

This obsession with ensuring that they complete their assigned task, no matter their costs, can be attributed to the for-profit nature of the companies and the personnel they hire, many of whom have a mission-focused mindset from their former military experiences. Before the Nisour Square incident, Blackwater took pride in its ability to get the job done, no matter what. Such a mindset ensured its success and profitability. However, the Nisour Square episode forced contractors, the government and the public at large to doubt the utility of such a mindset, especially when it results in the deaths of civilians, which only inflames anti-American sentiment. It is difficult to win “hearts and minds” by killing civilians. Moreover, the process of holding the contractors legally responsible for civilian deaths has met with many obstacles. The legal cases against four contractors involved in the Nisour Square incident has dragged on for years[16] while mainstream media attention has faded.

Private military firms have played vital roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their roles will only continue to expand. However, the U.S. government’s increased dependency on private military firms has not been without controversy or problems. These problems and controversies have hindered rather than aided the U.S. in completing their already difficult missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Endnotes:

[1] Peter W. Singer divides private military firms into three groups: military provider firms (aka private security firms), military consulting firms, and military support firms. While in some cases it is clear which firms fall into what category, in other cases the lines are more blurred as some companies take on a variety of roles. For an in-depth explanation of the different groups see Singer, P. W. (2008). Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press

[2] Taylor, W. A. (2016). Military Service and American Democracy: From World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. (pg. 172) Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

[3] For instance, during the third quarter of fiscal year 2008, there were 162,428 total contractors in Iraq, compared to 153,300 uniformed military personnel. In Afghanistan the contrast in numbers is much more pronounced. During the fourth quarter of the 2009 fiscal year there were 104,101 total contractors compared to 62,300 uniformed personnel. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[4] Ettinger, A. (2016). The Patterns, Implications, and Risks of American Military Contracting. In S. V. Hlatky & H. C. Breede (Eds.), Going to War?: Trends in Military Interventions (pp. 115-132). Montreal, CA: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Stanger, A., & Williams, M. E. (Fall/Winter 2006). Private Military Corporations: Benefits and Costs of Outsourcing Security. Yale Journal of International Affairs, 4-19.

[7] For instance, on March 31, 2004 four Blackwater contractors were killed, dismembered and their body parts paraded through the streets of Fallujah. Blackwater faced criticism for its decision to send only four contractors instead of six into an incredibly hostile part of Iraq in jeeps that were armored only with one steel plate. See In Re: BlackWater Security Consulting LCC, http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/051949.P.pdf 1-28 (United Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit 2006).

[8] Taylor, 117. This number is most likely an undercount.

[9] In 2005 Titan was acquired by L3 Communications. See Staff, SSI. “L-3 Communications Agrees to Merger With Titan Corp.” Security Sales & Integration, Security Sales & Integration, 7 June 2005, www.securitysales.com/news/l-3-communications-agrees-to-merger-with-titan-corp/.

[10] Singer, P. (2005, April). Outsourcing War. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2005-03-01/outsourcing-war.

[11] The number of private military provider/security firms peaked in Iraq at 15,000 individuals and in 2012 at 28,000. See Peters, H. M., & Plagakis, S. (2019, May 10). Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq: 2007-2018. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R44116.html

[12] Blackwater was eventually sold and it underwent numerous name changes. It is currently called Academi. See Ukman, J. (2011, December 12). Ex-Blackwater Firm gets a Name Change, Again. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/ex-blackwater-firm-gets-a-name-change-again/2011/12/12/gIQAXf4YpO_blog.html

[13] A subsequent FBI investigation found the shooting to be unjustified. See Johnston, D., & Broder, J. M. (2007, November 14). F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause. Retrieved May 27, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/world/middleeast/14blackwater.html

[14] Tolchin, M., & Tolchin, S. J. (2016). Pinstripe patronage: Political favoritism from the clubhouse to the White House and beyond. Pg. 183 London, UK: Routledge.

[15] Spiegel, P. (2007, October 19). Gates: U.S., Guards are at Odds in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-oct-19-na-blackwater19-story.html

[16] See Collins, M. (2018, December 19). Former Blackwater Guard Convicted of Instigating Mass Shooting in Iraq. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/12/19/iraq-war-jury-convicts-ex-blackwater-guard-second-time-massacre/1941149002/

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Iraq Naiomi Gonzalez Private Military Companies (PMC etc) Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

Options for U.S. Use of Private Military and Security Companies

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Christophe Bellens is a policy advisor at the European Parliament. He completed two MS degrees from the University of Antwerp in History (2017) and International Relations (2018).  His thesis focused on the use of Private Military and Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophe-bellens/ and on Twitter @ChristosBellens.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The use of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC) by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and its consequences on military effectiveness in a counterinsurgency.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  July 15, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article considers from the perspective of the United States government what options are on the table in the use private military forces. Decision makers have three possibilities, explained by their effectiveness in Iraq or Afghanistan, for a future PMSC-strategy.

Background:  Since the start of the ‘Global War on Terror’, U.S. government organizations such as the Department of Defense (DoD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (DoS) have contracted PMSCs to manage security risks. The employees of these corporations perform duties that until recently were fulfilled by military members, such as the protection of key personnel, convoys and sites. Due to a reduction in troop numbers and an environment where privatization was heavily favored, PMSCs became a vital component of counterinsurgency. Despite their importance, planners often overlook the role of these contractors. The two cases of Iraq and Afghanistan offer three pathways to reach the envisioned political, tactical, operational and strategic objectives during counterinsurgency. 

Significance:  Private security contractors are part of contemporary small wars. In 2010, around 30,479 contractors worked for the DoD in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the DoS and USAID employed around 1850 and 3770 security contractors respectively in Afghanistan alone. Hence, per 1 security contractor 3.7 U.S. military members were deployed in Afghanistan in 2010[1]. As a vital component of the security environment, they strongly influenced the outcome of the counterinsurgency. 

Option #1:  The US employs mainly security contractors from outside the host state as in Iraq. Between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013, 90% of the private security contractors were non-Iraqi citizens[2]. 

Risk:  Major potential drawbacks of employing non-native contractors exist in the political and strategic dimensions. PMSCs are there to protect their clients, not to win the hearts and minds of the population. This client protection focus led to a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’-policy vis-à-vis potential threats. During the ‘Nisour Square’-shooting seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed. The worldwide public outcry that followed, worsened relations between the Iraqi government and the U.S. Insurgents gladly used this outcry against the lawless look-alike U.S. military members. Insurgents later released a video named ‘bloody contracts’ bemoaning the abuse, aggression and indiscriminate killing by U.S. contractors[3].

Foreign nationality (especially British or U.S. citizens) make contractors a valuable target for insurgents[4]. During the 2004 Fallujah incident the non-American truck drivers were able to escape as the insurgents focused on what they imagined were agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. In fact, the convoy was rushed and understaffed by the PMSC to show how quick they could perform contract obligations. After a video of their bodies being paraded through the streets hit the news, U.S. President George W. Bush favored immediate military retaliation. The First Battle of Fallujah ended in an operational failure and shifted the focus away from the strategic goal of strengthening the Iraqi government. 

Gain:  These PMSCs were often well equipped. Their arsenal existed of a variety of small arms, machine guns and shotguns in addition with grenades, body armor and encrypted radio communication. Their vehicles ranged from local undercover secondhand cars to military-style high mobility multi-wheeled vehicles. Blackwater even had eight Boeing Little Bird helicopters in Baghdad. The personnel operating this equipment often had a law enforcement or military background. In addition, contractors for the DoS had to undergo 164 hours of training in protective detail[5]. Hence, experienced foreigners are likely to demonstrate the necessary skills to ensure the successful completion of the assigned tasks.

Option #2:  The U.S. employs mainly local contractors as in Afghanistan. Ninety percent of the private security contractors between Q3 2008 and Q4 2013 were Afghan citizens.

Risk:  Eighty percent of the Afghan contractors were former militiamen or part of an existing armed group[6]. While this often provided valuable combat experience, it was a potential security hazard. Consequently, foreigners protected high-profile targets. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s use of the PMSC Dyncorp security detail reinforced the image for many Afghans that he was a U.S. pawn. The former militiamen often lacked the ability to read or write, let alone speak a foreign language. This only reinforced the lack of integration with allied forces. 

While problems with equipment did exist as the contractor normally was obliged to bring their own aging gun (AK47, AMD-65, PKM and RPK), studies show that a PMSC had 3.47 firearms per contractor[7]. The problem here is the lack of disarmament and demobilization by legitimizing existing armed groups. Consequently, the Afghan state couldn’t create a monopoly on violence. 

Gain:  A major gain, among giving locals an instant job and income, is the use of local knowledge and connections. The downside, however, is the potential to insert oneself into local rivalries and even fuel conflict by starting competition over a contract[8]. 

Option #3:  The U.S. helps to create a public company in the host state that offers protection services. An example being the creation of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) in 2010.

Risk:  In the beginning, the APPF lacked equipment and had to be trained by PMSCs. Customers lamented the slow reaction of the APPF[9]. The force was mainly based in Kabul where they offered their services. If they managed to offer their services in the periphery, the gain of using local contractors, such as their local knowledge and connections was lost.

Secondly, the creation of a public company gives a -potentially corrupt- host leadership indirectly incentives to let some level of threat exist in its territory. The public company -and hence the state- would lose income if the security environment improves.  

Gain:  Compared to giving contracts to local warlords, the APPF-system reduces the risk of financing and legitimizing local organized crime and insurgent groups. 

Moreover, such a force can greatly improve the integration in the overall force due to centralization. In addition, in a state of emergency, the public enterprise can be used for the public good. 

Other Comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None.


 

Endnotes: 

[1] Bellens, Christophe, Antwerp. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 18 & 60-62.

[2] Ibid.

[3] S.N. (2008), “IAI Documentary Exposes Blackwater’s Crimes in Iraq”, CBSnews. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iai-documentary-exposes-blackwaters-crimes-in-iraq/

[4] S.N. (2007), “Blackwater says guards were betrayed by Iraqi forces on 2004 mission”, Newsweek. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/blackwater-says-guards-were-betrayed-iraqi-forces-2004-mission-103555

[5] Isenberg, David (2008) “Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq”, Praeger Security International, 31.

[6] Joras, Ulrike, and Adrian Schuster, editors. (2008). “Private Security Companies and Local Populations: An Exploratory Study of Afghanistan and Angola”, Swisspeace, 13, 33-34.

[7] Small Arms Survey, Geneva. (2011). Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security (Small Arms Survey). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 15.

[8] See the case of Shindand airbase in: McCain, John. (2010). “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan”: Congressional Report: DIANE Publishing.

[9] Bellens, Christophe. (2018). “De impact van de uitbesteding aan Private Military and Security Companies op de militaire doeltreffendheid van de COIN-campagnes in Irak en Afghanistan”, 23 & 33-34.

Afghanistan Christophe Bellens Iraq Option Papers Private Military Companies (PMC etc) Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

Options for the U.S. Department of Defense to Balance Peer Competition with Military Operations Other Than War

Greg Olsen is a cyber security professional and postgraduate researcher at University of Leicester doing his PhD on peacekeeping and civil wars. He can be found on Twitter at @gtotango. 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 faces a significant challenge trying to balance preparations for peer competition while maintaining the capability of executing military operations other than war (MOOTW).

Date Originally Written:  May 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber security professional currently researching the determinants for successful peacekeeping in civil wars for a PhD at University of Leicester.

Background:  With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the United States is executing a policy pivot towards preparing for peer competition and away from nearly two decades of counterinsurgency. Yet, the most likely future military conflicts will continue to be small wars[1] and MOOTW—such as security force assistance, counter terrorism missions, evacuating U.S. nationals from conflict zones, and robust peacekeeping.

Significance:  The post-Cold War period of unipolarity has ended with a return to great power competition. Revisionist great powers are asserting themselves militarily in their near abroad and challenging Western hegemony. Consequently, the United States’ national security priorities have shifted to counter the threat. However, small wars and MOOTW are likely to be the dominant form of actual military conflict for foreseeable future. The challenge for the U.S. military is preparing for peer competition and continental conflict while maintaining the ability to execute MOOTW. For example, the U.S. Army has shifted from Brigade Combat Teams designed for counter insurgency warfare to warfare against peers[2]. What follows are three options for addressing the continuing need for conducting MOOTW.

Option #1:  The U.S. primarily employs Special Operations Forces (SOF) to address small wars and MOOTW. Currently, much of the U.S. counter terrorism mission is executed by SOF. Within SOF, the U.S. Army Special Forces were created to assist host governments in developing the capabilities to execute counter insurgency and counter terrorism missions. Other SOF are trained and deployed for direct action missions against high value targets. In many ways SOF is ideal forces for executing certain missions with a low footprint.

Risk:  The principal risk to this option is that special operations forces are not large enough nor equipped and trained to execute certain types of MOOTW, for example, evacuation of nationals during conflict, humanitarian disaster response, nor peacekeeping/peace enforcement missions.

Another risk is the inability to train and deploy enough SOF to the myriad conflict zones around the world. There is currently an arc of ethnic and sectarian conflict from Mali in western Africa through central Africa to the Horn of Africa[3]. Libya, Somalia and South Sudan are already failed states[4]. Transnational terrorist networks are active in the Sahel, the Middle East, and South Asia, and Southeast Asia[5]. Three Latin American states are in crisis: Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela[6]. These forces are part but not the whole solution to the MOOTW challenges across the globe.

Gain: SOF are ideal for executing hostage rescue, counter terrorism missions, and for training partner forces in counter insurgency missions.  SOF taking the lead for MOOTW frees up conventional forces to focus on their conventional mission.

Option #2:  The U.S. primarily employee military reserve units to address small wars and MOOTW.

Military reserve units provide capabilities that are useful for various types of MOOTW. The military reserves have been the bank upon which the active duty draws specialized capability from in surge scenarios, such as logistics, communications, intelligence, medicine, construction, and military policing.

Risk:  The principal risk to a strategy based on mobilizing reserve forces is political. If reserves were mobilized for a mission with low stakes, such as six months of peacekeeping in South Sudan, then public opposition to the policy is likely to be high. Furthermore, significant casualties would increase opposition and limit policy options.  An additional risk is the time it takes to mobilize these forces.  Certain crises require a rapid reaction and these forces take time to prepare for overseas deployment to a conflict zone.

Gain: These military reserve capabilities would be valuable to missions such as humanitarian disaster relief, occupation, security sector reform and partner training missions, and peacekeeping.

Option #3:  The U.S. primarily employee the Marine Corps, in a role it has historically held, to address small wars and MOOTW.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Marines were landed for America’s “small wars”. Indeed, the deployments to Haiti (1915-1934) and Nicaragua (1926-1933) were precursors to modern twenty-first century robust peacekeeping operations[7]. Marines landed to restore order, evacuate nationals and/or secure multinational corporation property, organize and supervise elections, train police and military forces, and conduct counter insurgency operations. This “halls of Montezuma” and “shores of Tripoli” heritage is part of the strategic culture of the USMC.

Risk:  The principal risk is that it will divert the USMC from operating concepts needed for peer competition, but this risk can be overstated. Presence is key to the deterrence mission. In the European theater, this is the principal role of the USMC: deter by presence as both a trip wire and force for countering adversary hybrid warfare strategies[8]. In the Pacific theater, two operating concepts define the USMC role in great power conflict: (1) Littoral operations in a contested environment and (2) expeditionary advanced base operations[9]. The viability of both concepts has been brought into question based on analogies from World War II. The opposed amphibious landing may be an obsolete operating concept due to the political price paid for the high casualties that result if facing a peer enemy. The expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) concept is innovative but may not be viable. EABO proposes to use land-based resources to augment the Navy’s surface fleet for sea control, logistics, and ISR. The fundamental flaw is the vulnerability of forces ashore. A ship on an ocean is a difficult target to find and fix, but an atoll is a stationary target. Like the defenders at Wake Island in World War II, they are exceedingly vulnerable. The primary benefit of deployment to islands in the Pacific is as a tripwire deterrent, not as a viable fighting force when the shooting starts.

An additional risk is the damage that may be done to esprit de corps, if Marines begin to think that they are not contributing to the primary strategic challenge of peer competition. The USMC must guard against the impression that MOOTW amounts to “scallywag soldiering” like that of the period of British high empire. The USMC has a unique warrior ethos that must be maintained. In addition to the primary mission of small wars, the USMC must continue to be able to deter aggression and blunt the military adventures of a peer adversary as the “first to fight.”

Gain:  The United States Marine Corps (USMC), with its embarked Marine Expeditionary Concept, is ideal for rapid response to humanitarian disasters, evacuation of nationals from conflict zones, robust peacekeeping, and military assistance to host governments facing an insurgency. Rapid reaction and a flexible mix of capabilities makes this an ideal tool, especially in non-permissive environments. A battalion of Marines is the wrong tool for counter terrorism missions, it is the best tool when coercive presence is required.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford: Stanford University, 2012.

[2] Todd South, “New in 2019: From tanks to Strykers, major brigade combat team conversions are coming this year,” Army Times, 2 January 2019. Retrieved from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/

[3] SIPRI Yearbook 2018, Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2018.

[4] Fragile State Index Annual Report 2019, Washington, D.C.: The Fund for Peace, 2019.

[5] Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State, 2018.

[6] SIPRI op cit.

[7] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

[8] Shawn Snow, “No more Marine rotations to the Black Sea. The Corps is focusing here instead,” Marine Corps Times, 29 November 2019. Retrieved from https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2018/11/29/no-more-marine-rotations-to-the-black-sea-the-corps-is-focusing-on-the-arctic-instead/

[9] Sam LaGrone, “Lt. Gen. David Berger Nominated as Next Marine Corps Commandant,“ USNI News, 27 March 2019. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2019/03/27/lt-gen-david-berger-nominated-next-marine-corps-commandant#more-42200

Greg Olsen Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

Options for Maintaining Counterinsurgency Capabilities in the Great Power Era

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Harrison Manlove is a Cadet in the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the at the University of Kansas and is currently studying History and Peace and Conflict Studies. Harrison has also written for The Strategy Bridge, where he examined Russia’s strategy in Syria and the Middle East. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) struggle with retaining an enclave of counterinsurgency (COIN) capabilities alongside a renewed focus on training and equipping for great power competition.

Date Originally Written:  May 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 27, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Harrison Manlove is a Cadet with the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Kansas where he studies History and Peace and Conflict Studies.

Background:  The 2017 US National Security Strategy (NSS) identifies the return of great power competition as a strategic threat to U.S. interests across a variety of domains. Challenges to U.S. military and economic power are meant to “change the international order…” that the U.S. has overseen since the end of the Cold War. The NSS acknowledges the ability of near peer competitors to operate “below the threshold of open military conflict…”. In addition, the NSS identifies the need to “sustain our competence in irregular warfare…” in a long-term capacity[1]. This “competence” most certainly includes COIN, or the employment of various means of national power by a government to counter an insurgency “and address its roots causes[2].” DoD’s 2018 National Defense Strategy identifies “Long term strategic competition with China and Russia” as “the principal priorities for the Department…[3]” Both of the above mentioned documents indicate how non-state threats have slowly moved down the priority list.

Significance:  Recent decisions by U.S. President Donald Trump and the DoD to drawdown forces in a variety of conflict areas seem to reflect a desire to realign U.S. force posture to counter near-peer competitors in both Europe and Asia, and bolster conventional military capabilities. In December 2018, President Trump directed U.S. forces in Syria to withdraw, while simultaneously halving U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan over several months as peace talks continue[4]. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and General Purpose Forces (GPF) U.S. forces have spent almost two decades advising and training foreign forces as a function of COIN efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and others. Last fall, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) was directed to drawdown SOF missions on the continent over a period of three years[5]. SOF in Africa suffered a highly-publicized loss of troops in the 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush in Niger, while SOF personnel were also killed and wounded during an attack on their outpost in Somalia last year[6].

Option #1:  U.S. SOF addresses COIN threats through Direct Action.

Risk:  SOF conduct countless direct action missions, or “Short-duration strikes…”, against insurgent and terror groups in multiple countries across theaters like USAFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM)[7]. American deaths during these operations has proven damaging for domestic opinion on global U.S. operations, exemplified by the 2017 deaths of four American Special Forces soldiers in Niger. An uninformed public, a largely opaque DoD concerning SOF missions and their specific purpose, and U.S. military roles within those missions, has created a wider civil-military gap. This lack of clarity has brought some American lawmakers to call the Niger scenario “an endless war” where “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing[8].” These lawmaker opinions underscores concerns about the scale and cost of worldwide U.S. military involvement and its impact on SOF personnel. In addition, raids often do not solve the political or economic challenges within COIN and can become a whack-a-mole strategy for targeting an insurgency’s network.

Gain:  The GPF often take the brunt of the task involved in conducting major COIN operations. Recent moves by the U.S. Army to retool brigade combat teams from infantry roles to Stryker and armored roles is one of the clearest examples of the “pivot back to the near-peer fight[9].” SOF addressing COIN threats through direct action drastically reduces the overall need for GPF on the frontlines in COIN and frees them up to focus on the near-peer fight.  Additionally, while direct action does not address the factors driving the insurgency, it does succeed in disrupting insurgent formations and presents metrics to Washington D.C. that are more easily understood than the more esoteric quantification of “winning of hearts and minds.”  Funding for U.S. Special Operations Command was given a massive hike to cover personnel increases to maintain a reliance on SOF[10]. SOF in Africa often operate under the Section 127e authority that allows SOF to accompany partner forces on missions, staying behind at the “last position of cover and concealment.” This has been touted by USAFRICOM Commander U.S. Marine Corps General Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, as “high payoff with low risk to US forces[11].” Direct action is relatively low-cost and, under 127e, also provides SOF the ability to directly control partner forces during operations to achieve US objectives.

Option #2:  Specially trained non-SOF units address COIN threats through Security Force Assistance.

Risk:  Global military engagement may be spreading U.S. forces too thinly if a near-pear conflict were to breakout. Since the 9/11 attacks, a focus on COIN and counterterrorism has resulted in U.S. deployments to 40% of the world’s countries[12]. The U.S. Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) deployed to Afghanistan in early 2018 to train and advise Afghan forces. Insider attacks by Afghan Taliban insurgents posing as members of the Afghan military have taken a toll on that deployment and highlight the potential dangers of a continued U.S. military presence there[13]. In mid-2018, the 2nd SFAB was established and is also slated for deployment to Afghanistan in 2019. SFABs could pull troops and resources from DoD’s ability to train and prepare for near-peer threats. DoD personnel involved in arms transfer, security assistance, and short-term military-to-military engagement programs are meager within the context of broader defense spending, but might offer an area for DoD to repurpose personnel and funding to critical capability gaps like artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber warfare.

Gain:  While military force is often the preferred method in COIN, an emphasis on non-kinetic means for DoD could provide better results at a much lower cost. The defense budget for fiscal year (FY) 2017 brought major reforms to security assistance authorities and organizations, a problem that had previously plagued those initiatives. Security assistance programs allow small teams of DoD personnel to train partner forces in basic military tactics and provide weapons training[14]. DoD spending as part of the foreign assistance budget totaled out to $6.4 billion spent worldwide in FY 2018, which includes these programs. Total spending for the foreign assistance budget in FY 2018 was $17.6 billion[15]. In comparison, the war in Afghanistan alone cost $45 billion in 2018, a little under half the $100 billion spent every year during the war’s height between 2010-2012[16]. DoD training with partner militaries is relatively inexpensive when compared with other DoD programs and deployments, and “builds relationships with friendly foreign forces, improves interoperability with and indirectly contributes to building the capability of key allies through exposure to United States tactics, techniques, and procedures…[17]” Capacity-building conducted by specially trained units could better enhance opportunities for partner forces to provide security in COIN conflict environments. The Army’s SFAB model appears to be a comprehensive training force, standing in contrast to the ad hoc approach used throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. This option could alleviate pressure on SOF to manage similar missions on a global scale that would continue to strain overworked equipment and personnel.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

1. “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” The White House. December 2017. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

2. United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 54.

3. “Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” January 19, 2018. May 2, 2019. https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.

4. Gibbons-Neff, Thomas, and Mujib Mashal. “U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say.” The New York Times. December 21, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/us/politics/afghanistan-troop-withdrawal.html.

5. Browne, Ryan. “US to Reduce Number of Troops in Africa.” CNN. November 15, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/politics/us-reduce-troops-africa/index.html.

6. Sonne, Paul. “U.S. Service Member Killed, Four Others Wounded in Somalia Attack.” The Washington Post. June 08, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-special-operations-soldier-killed-four-service-members-wounded-in-somalia-attack/2018/06/08/39265cda-6b5f-11e8-bbc5-dc9f3634fa0a_story.html

7. . United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 2019. 66.

8. Callimachi, Rukmini, Helene Cooper, Alan Blinder, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff. “‘An Endless War’: Why 4 U.S. Soldiers Died in a Remote …” The New York Times. February 20, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/17/world/africa/niger-ambush-american-soldiers.html.

9. South, Todd. “New in 2019: From Tanks to Strykers, Major Brigade Combat Team Conversions Are Coming This Year.” Army Times. January 02, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/01/02/new-in-2019-from-tanks-to-strykers-major-brigade-combat-team-conversions-are-coming-this-year/.

10. South, Todd. “Special Operations Command Asks for More Troops, Biggest Budget Yet.” Military Times. February 27, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/02/23/special-operations-command-asks-for-more-troops-biggest-budget-yet/.

11. Morgan, Wesley. “Behind the Secret U.S. War in Africa.” POLITICO. July 02, 2018. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/02/secret-war-africa-pentagon-664005.

12.   Savall, Stephanie, “This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism.” Smithsonian.com. January 01, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/.

13.   LaPorta, James. “U.S. Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Was Highest Enlisted Soldier Supporting Army’s New Adviser Brigade.” Newsweek. October 04, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/afghanistan-soldier-killed-attack-us-1104697.

14.  Elliot, Adriane. “U.S. Security Assistance Soldiers, Nigerian Army Partner to Combat Terrorism.” Army Values. December 13, 2017. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.army.mil/article/198066/us_security_assistance_soldiers_nigerian_army_partner_to_combat_terrorism.

15.   “ForeignAssistance.gov.” Foreignassistance.gov. May 3, 2019. https://foreignassistance.gov/explore.

16.   Pennington, Matthew. “Pentagon Says War in Afghanistan Costs Taxpayers $45 Billion per Year.” PBS. February 06, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/pentagon-says-afghan-war-costs-taxpayers-45-billion-per-year

17.  “Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 President’s Budget Security Cooperation Consolidated Budget Display.” Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller). February 16, 2018. Accessed May 3, 2019. https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/Security_Cooperation_Budget_Display_OUSDC.pdf.

Great Powers Harrison Manlove Option Papers Small Wars Journal Writing Contest Strategy United States

Counterfactual: Assessment of Risks to the American Reunification Referendum by the Confederate States of America’s Counterinsurgency Campaign in Cuba

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Hal Wilson lives in the United Kingdom, where he works in the aerospace industry. A member of the Military Writers Guild, Hal uses narrative to explore future conflict.  He has been published by the Small Wars Journal, and has written finalist entries for fiction contests with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and the Atlantic Council’s Art of the Future Project.  Hal graduated with first-class honours in War Studies and History from King’s College, London, and is studying an MA on the First World War.  He tweets at @HalWilson_.  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 Risks to the American Reunification Referendum by the Confederate States of America’s Counterinsurgency Campaign in Cuba

Date Originally Written:  March 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 13, 2019. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a Confederate victory in the U.S. Civil War. Now, in the counterfactual year 1965, the Confederate States of America (CSA) are pursuing a counterinsurgency campaign in their conquered island colony of Cuba. The United States of America (USA) are meanwhile on the cusp of reunifying with the CSA through an historic referendum, but must prevent an escalation in Cuba that could derail the reunification process.  The audience for this Assessment Paper is the National Security Advisor to the President of the USA.

Summary:  The historic opportunity of the American Reunification Referendum (ARR) is directly challenged by the ongoing CSA counterinsurgency campaign in Cuba. Unless the USA applies diplomatic pressure to the CSA to achieve CSA-de-escalation in Cuba, the ARR is at risk.

Text:  The ARR, which was delayed this year due to CSA intransigence over Cuba, represents the culmination of a literal generation of effort. Decades of trans-American outreach have overcome cultural obstacles and built positive relations between the USA and the CSA. Following the 1963 Gettysburg Presidential Summit two years ago, commemorating 100 years since General Robert E. Lee’s narrow victory, Presidents Barnes and Nixon redoubled long-established policies of cross-border cooperation. These policies included a transnational committee to oversee the final dismantling of the former Mason-Dixon Demilitarised Zone. The underlying drivers of this trend – including robust cross-border trade and persistent financial crisis within the CSA – are unlikely to change. However, the CSA’s violent counterinsurgency in Cuba may provoke third-party intervention and thereby derail the ARR.

Cuba remains an emotionally charged topic within the CSA, reflecting as it does the ‘high-water-mark of the Confederacy’: the victorious Spanish War of 1898, which saw Spanish Caribbean possessions ceded to Richmond. We assess that CSA determination over Cuba is nevertheless fragile. Proposals for increased trans-American trade liberalisation could be used to entice short-term, de-escalatory moves from the CSA. Likewise, discrete offers to use our good offices for bilateral mediation could lessen tension while earning mutual goodwill. We also possess a remarkable asset in the shape of personal friendship between Presidents Barnes and Nixon, which may expedite top-down progress.

Our efforts will also benefit from the growing human cost of the CSA’s occupation. Last month’s destruction of two battalions of the 113th Florida Light Infantry near Holguin underlined the increasingly formidable abilities of the Cuban revolutionaries. Our efforts on Cuba should avoid antagonise the rebels, who have aligned around increasing desires for autonomy from Richmond. Notably, in an effort to enhance their credibility in any negotiated peace, the rebels have eliminated extremists from their own ranks such as the rogue Argentine, Che Guevara, who advocated the radical ideas of an obscure Russian writer, V.I. Lenin. Our efforts on Cuba should also not directly assist the rebels: should USA activity result in the death of even a single CSA serviceman, the ARR will be permanently compromised. 

By leveraging support from the Deutsches Kaiserreich, which offers German military and financial aid for preferential oil contracts in the Gulf of Mexico, Richmond has sustained military pressure against the Cuban rebels. In particular, the CSA’s Cuban Command (CUBACOM) numbers over 100,000 personnel and, following last month’s visit to Richmond by Kronprinz Maximilian von Thunn, boasts the latest ‘Gotha’ jet-bomber models. The USA faces no direct military threat from these developments. Indeed, CUBACOM represents a CSA military ‘best effort’, achieved only by hollowing-out mainland formations. 

While London remains focused on combating Islamist terrorism against the British Raj, organised and conducted from the German client-state of Afghanistan, London has demonstrated mounting displeasure over CSA conduct in Cuba. Last week’s wayward airstrike by CSA jets, for example, killed twenty Cuban civilians and drew further condemnation from the British Empire. The revived Wilberforce Act, first used by the British Empire to strong-arm the cessation of CSA slave-trading in 1880, once again prevents the carriage of CSA goods on British or Imperial merchant marine. Combined with wider sanctions, the British Empire has driven growing inflation within the CSA, not least by forcing Richmond to take the CSA Dollar off the gold standard. Recent evidence of illicit British support to Cuban rebels underlines London’s willingness to punish a perceived German client, and we assess a mounting risk of military escalation by the British Empire against the CSA.

Direct British intervention over Cuba would fatally compromise the likelihood of a successful ARR. USA public opinion will not tolerate overt support for CSA dominion over Cuba, and any direct conflict with London risks repeating our loss in the War of 1812. Conversely, our failure to offer tangible aid would poison CSA goodwill on the ARR. As such, any British military escalation should be forestalled by inducing a CSA climb-down.  

CSA persistence with their ‘small’ war likely demands that the USA exerts diplomatic pressure against Richmond. This is for the preservation of Cuban life and the USA’s interests: namely, to avert the risk of British military escalation against the CSA, and thereby assure a successful ARR.  

Our diplomatic pressure against the CSA would likely result in the establishment of a Cuban ‘Home Rule’ model, as pioneered by the British Empire in Ireland at the start of this century. Increased Cuban civil rights will undercut the revolutionary casus belli, and diminish the violence which offers the British Empire a pretext to intervene. Simultaneously, the CSA will be able to claim a victory by retaining its Cuban possessions – and the door can be reopened to a successfully completed ARR. 

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Hal Wilson Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

An Assessment of the U.S. Punitive Expedition of 1916

Roger Soiset graduated from The Citadel in 1968 with a B.S. in history, and after serving in the U.S. Army graduated from California State University (Long Beach) with a Master’s degree in history.   Roger’s fields of specialization are ancient history and the Vietnam Era.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the U.S. Punitive Expedition of 1916

Date Originally Written:  April 7, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 3, 2019.

Summary:  Prior to the 9/11 attacks was Pancho Villa’s 1916 attack on Columbus, New Mexico.  Large-scale efforts to capture Villa failed.  Border violence continued until the success of a more focused U.S. response in 1919.  Today the U.S.-Mexico border remains unsecured and discussions continue to determine the best approach. 

Text:  The attack by Al Qaeda on 9/11/2001 was the second such attack on the continental U.S., the first being in the 20th century.  In view of ongoing discussions about U.S. border security, it is useful to look at the U.S. response to terrorist attacks from Mexico a hundred years ago.  

Emerging as the hero of the Mexican Revolution was Francisco Madero, elected president in 1911 and soon enjoying cordial relations with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.  The U.S. and Mexico both had presidents who were liberal reformers until Madero was murdered.  Madero’s purported murderer was his successor, Victoriana Huerta.  Following Madero’s death, rebellions promptly broke out in several areas, led by men like “Pancho” Villa,  Emiliano Zapata, and Venustiano Carranza.

The U.S. had already occupied a Mexican seaport, Veracruz, in April 1914 in order to prevent the landing of arms for rebels by a German ship.  Believed to be Mausers direct from Hamburg, it turned out the rifles were Remingtons from New York, but that was not discovered until later. The occupation of Veracruz lasted five months and saw lives lost on both sides.  Huerta’s departure in 1915, the successful blocking of “German” arms and U.S. recognition of Carranza’s government smoothed the troubled U.S.-Mexico relations for everyone except Pancho Villa[1].  Wilson’s arms embargo applied to all the parties involved in the revolution except for the legitimate government, so this meant Carranza was not affected–but Villa was[2].

Villa’s anger resulted in U.S. civilian casualties in Mexico when 17 U.S. mining personnel were executed by Villa’s men in January 1916[3].  Then on March 6, 1916, Villa and about a thousand of his men raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing nine civilians and eight soldiers.  The demand for Wilson to “do something” was not to be denied and he invoked the “hot pursuit” doctrine.  President Carranza’s foreign minister Jesus Acuna informed Wilson that he agreed in principle “to the reciprocity of hot pursuit of bandits…if the raid at Columbus should unfortunately be repeated elsewhere[4].”  Wilson chose to ignore this last caveat and took the message to be an unrestricted right to pursue Pancho Villa into Mexico.  Carranza desperately needed U.S. support, so remained largely silent.  

Despite the ruthless treatment of many Mexican towns by Villa and his men, he was still supported by most Mexicans; or perhaps they feared the local bandit more than their weak government and the “yanquis” whom they hoped would soon go home.  Carranza, seeing his popularity sinking due to his corruption and tolerance of this “gringo” invasion, increasingly made life difficult for U.S. Army General John J. Pershing and his 10,000 men who were pursuing Villa in Mexico.   Perhaps the best examples of Carranza’s efforts were his denial to Pershing the use of the Mexican Northwestern Railway to move troops and positioning Mexican federal troops in the Americans’ path[5].  

Notwithstanding the politics, weather, terrain and the difficulty of the mission, Pershing continued the pursuit some 300 miles into Mexico before two skirmishes occurred between the U.S. and Mexican Army forces with casualties on both sides.  After six weeks, the punitive expedition had come to its Rubicon: fight the hostile Mexican Army before them and possibly start a war, or withdraw.  The withdrawal option was taken, although it took more than seven months before the last U.S. troops crossed back into Texas in February 1917…just in time to pack new gear for World War I in France.  Despite Pershing not capturing Villa,  the nine months in Mexico had proven invaluable insofar as getting the U.S. Army in shape for World War I and giving new equipment a field trial.         

But it wasn’t over in 1917—Pancho Villa and his “Army of the North” were busy looting and shooting up Juarez, Mexico, again in June 1919, just across the Rio Grande from Ft. Bliss.  Bullets from the raid killed and wounded U.S. personnel on the base, and this time prompt action was taken.  A combined infantry and cavalry force attacked Villa’s band of approximately 1200 men and destroyed or disbursed them so effectively that Villa never rode again[6].  One wonders what the course of events might have been after a similar action in January 1915 at the town of Naco in Sonora, Mexico, when a Villa band had driven Carranza’s forces from that border town.  Stray bullets killed one American and wounded twenty-six more in Douglas, Arizona.  The U.S. reaction was to remove the Tenth Cavalry four miles north of the danger zone[7]. This reaction, viewed as weakness, encouraged contempt and further violence.  A limited response in 1915 like the later one in 1919 might very well have discouraged another such incident—and the violence at Columbus might never have happened.     

If President Wilson had recognized Victoriana Huerta as the legitimate ruler of Mexico as did most other countries, it is likely that the Mexican Revolution would have ended in 1913.  If Wilson had not decided to stop Germany from supplying arms to rebels in 1914, Pancho Villa’s relations with the U.S would not have soured.  The revolutions in Morelos (Zapata), Coahuila (Carranza) and Chihuahua (Villa) might very well have burned themselves out without the added incentive of a foreign army invading their land.  As it was, Carranza would become the undisputed president after the murder of his rival Zapata in 1919 and the bribing of Villa into retirement (which was made permanent in 1923 with his murder).  One is reminded of that description of Europe after the Hundred Years War: “They made a desert and called it peace.”

It is said that good fences make good neighbors.  The incidents cited in this paper show the truth of this from a hundred years ago, and certainly events today beg the question: What is the best approach to securing the U.S. border with Mexico?    


Endnotes:

[1] Mason, Herbert Molloy, Jr, pp. 45-50.  “The Great Pursuit: Pershing’s Expedition to Destroy Pancho Villa”, Smithmark Publishers, 1970.”  Hereafter, “Mason”.

[2] Eisenhower, John S. D., p. 185. “Intervention! The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917”. W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.  Hereafter, “Eisenhower”.

[3] “U.S. Imperialism and Progressivism 1896 to 1920”, ed. Jeff Wallenfeldt, p. 41. 

[4] Mason, p. 71.

[5] Eisenhower, p. 236.

[6] Eisenhower, p. 312.

[7] Eisenhower, p. 171.

Assessment Papers Border Security Mexico Roger Soiset United States

An Assessment of the Small Wars Manual as an Implementation Model for Strategic Influence in Contemporary and Future Warfare

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Bradley L. Rees is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, retiring in March 2013 as a Foreign Area Officer, 48D (South Asia).  He has served in general purpose and special operations forces within the continental United States and in numerous combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is a graduate of the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College and their School of Advanced Warfighting, and the Army War College’s Defense Strategy Course.  He presently works at United States Cyber Command where he is the Deputy Chief, Future Operations, J35.  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.  The opinions expressed in this assessment are those of the author, and do not represent those of the United States Government, Department of Defense, Air Force, or Cyber Command.

Title:  An Assessment of the Small Wars Manual as an Implementation Model for Strategic Influence in Contemporary and Future Warfare

Date Originally Written:  March 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 29, 2019.

Summary:  A disparity between how most within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) understand 20th-century information operations and 21st-century information warfare and strategic influence has produced a cognitive dissonance.  If not addressed quickly, this dichotomy will further exasperate confusion about Information as the Seventh Joint Function[1] and long-term strategic competition[2] in and through the Information Environment[3].

Text:  The United States has ceded the informational initiative to our adversaries.  As Shakespeare said, “Whereof what is past is prologue.”  If the DoD is to (re)gain and maintain the initiative against our adversaries, its actions are best informed by such a prologue.  An analogy exists between how, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Antonio encourages Sebastian to kill his father in order for Sebastian to become king and how most within the DoD think about responsive and globally integrated[4] military information and influence activities.  Antonio’s attempts at conveying to Sebastian that all past actions are purely contextual – an introduction or prologue –  is meant to narrow Sebastian’s focus on the future rather than the past[5].

The Department likely finds value in viewing that anecdote entirely relevant when attempting to answer what it means for Information to be a Joint Function in contemporary and future warfare.  If the Department seeks to (re)gain and maintain the initiative, appreciating history is a valuable first step, while critically important from a contextual perspective, is second only to how society today holds operational and strategic information and influence activities at a much higher premium than in years’ past.  With that, there is much to learn from the U.S. Marine Corps’ (USMC) development of its Small Wars Manual (SWM).

Today, many may question what the relevance and utility are of a 1940 USMC reference publication that focuses on peacekeeping and counterinsurgency (COIN) best practices collected from the turn of the 20th century, particularly in relation to contemporary and future warfare framed by Information as a Joint Function, strategic influence operations and their nexus with technology, and long-term strategic competition.  However, the SWM is one of those rare documents that is distinct within the broader chronicles of military history, operational lessons learned, and best practices.  It is not doctrine; it is not an operational analysis of expeditionary operations, nor is it necessarily a strategy.  Its uniqueness, however, lies in how it conveys a philosophy – an underlying theory – that addresses complexity, the necessity for adaptability,  and the criticality given to understanding the social, psychological, and informational factors that affect conflict.  The SWM reflects how ill-defined areas of operations, open-ended operational timelines, and shifting allegiances are just as relevant today, if not more so than relative combat power analyses and other more materially oriented planning factors have been in most of two century’s worth of war planning.  More so, the SWM places significant weight on how behavior, emotions, and perceptions management are central in shaping decision-making processes.

Currently, the DoD does not have the luxury of time to develop new philosophies and theories associated with military information and influence as did the USMC regarding small wars.  Similarly, the Department cannot wait an additional 66 years to develop relevant philosophies, theories, strategies, and doctrine relating to information warfare as did the U.S. Army and the USMC when they released COIN doctrine in 2006.  The Department does, however, have within the SWM a historiographic roadmap that can facilitate the development of relevant theory relating to Information as a Joint Function and strategic influence relative to long-term strategic competition.

The DoD does not intrinsically rest the development of defense and military strategies on an overarching philosophy or theory.  However, it does link such strategies to higher-level guidance; this guidance resting on a broader, more foundational American Grand Strategy, which academia has addressed extensively[6][7][8],  and on what has been termed the “American Way of War” and the broader institutional thinking behind such American ways of warfighting for more than a century[9].  Such grand strategies and ways of warfighting are best informed by deductive reasoning.  Conversely, in the absence of deductive reasoning, practitioners usually rely on induction to guide sound judgment and decisive action[10].  Despite this fact, a considerable dearth of DoD-wide organizational, institutional, and operational observations and experiences burden the Department’s ability to fully embrace, conceptualize, and operationalize globally integrated information and influence-related operations.

While the USMC did not have a century’s worth of thinking on small wars,  their three decades of experiences in peacekeeping and COIN served as the foundation to the SWM.  Throughout those three decades, the Marine Corps paid particular attention to the psychological and sociological aspects of the environment that impacted operations.  They realized that military action was doomed for failure if it was undertaken absent a well-rounded understanding of what the DoD now refers to as systems within the Operational Environment[11][12].  The SWM has an entire section dedicated to the psychological and sociological aspects that potentially motivate or cause insurrection[13].  Such considerations are just as relevant today as they were in 1940.

Today, the DoD lacks a straightforward and applicable information and influence roadmap that can be used to navigate long-term strategic competition.  The SWM provides such a navigational guide.  Studying it can provide the insights on a wide variety of factors that the Marine Corps recognized as having a significant influence on the ever-changing character of the conduct in war, the relationships and interaction between a philosophy or theory to military practice, and how its understanding of small wars impacted the development of strategy and campaign planning.  The SWM can inform the DoD on how to quickly and effectively address Information as the Seventh Joint Function, strategic influence, and long-term strategic competition in contemporary and future warfare.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Staff, Joint Publication 3-0, Operations, pp. xiii, III-1, III-17 through III-27, (Washington, D.C., United States Printing Office, October 22, 2018).

[2] Office of the Secretary of Defense, The 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, January 19, 2018).

[3] Joint Staff.  Joint Publication 2-01.3, Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment, pp. III-19 to III-26, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, May 21, 2014).

[4] Joint Staff. (2018), Chairman’s Vision of Global Integration [Online] briefing.  Available:  www.jcs.mil\Portals\36\Documents\Doctrine\jdpc\11_global_integration15May.pptx [accessed March 17, 2019].

[5] Shakespeare, W. (1610), The Tempest, Act II, Scene 1 [Online]. Available:  https://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/html/Tmp.html#line-2.1.0 [accessed March 16, 2019].

[6] Weigley, R. F., The American Way of War:  A History of United States Strategy and Policy, (Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1978).

[7] Biddle, T. M., “Strategy and Grand Strategy:  What Students and Practitioners Need to Know,” Advancing Strategic Thought Series, (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania:  Strategic Studies Institute and Army War College Press, 2015).

[8] Porter, P., “Why America’s Grand Strategy has not Changed:  Power, Habit, and the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Spring 2018), pp. 9–46, (Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 2018).

[9] Weigley.

[10] Bradford, A. (2017), Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning [Online]. Available:  https://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html [accessed March 17, 2019].

[11] Joint Staff.  Joint Publication 2-01.3, Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment, pp. III-38 to III-40, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, May 21, 2014).

[12] Ibid, p. xi.

[13] Department of the Navy, Headquarters United States Marine Corps. Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication 12-15, Small Wars Manual, (Washington, D.C., United States Government Printing Office, 1940).

Assessment Papers Bradley L. Rees Information and Intelligence Small Wars Journal Writing Contest United States

Options to Bridge the U.S. Department of Defense – Silicon Valley Gap with Cyber Foreign Area Officers

Kat Cassedy is a qualitative analyst with 20 years of work in hard problem solving, alternative analysis, and red teaming.  She currently works as an independent consultant/contractor, with experience in the public, private, and academic sectors.  She can be found on Twitter @Katnip95352013, tweeting on modern #politicalwarfare, #proxywarfare, #NatSec issues, #grayzoneconflict, and a smattering of random nonsense.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The cultural gap between the U.S. Department of Defense and Silicon Valley is significant.  Bridging this gap likely requires more than military members learning tech speak as their primary duties allow.

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  April 15, 2019. 

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author’s point of view is that the cyber-sector may be more akin to a foreign culture than a business segment, and that bridging the growing gulf between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley may require sociocultural capabilities as much or more so than technical or acquisition skills. 

Background:  As the end of the third decade of the digital revolution nears an end, and close to a year after the U.S. Cyber Command was elevated to a Unified Combatant Command, the gap between the private sector’s most advanced technology talents, intellectual property (IP), services, and products and that of the DoD is strained and increasing. Although the Pentagon needs and wants Silicon Valley’s IP and capabilities, the technorati are rejecting DoD’s overtures[1] in favor of enormous new markets such as those available in China. In the Information Age, DoD assesses that it needs Silicon Valley’s technology much the way it needed the Middle East’s fossil fuels over the last half century, to maintain U.S. global battlespace dominance. And Silicon Valley’s techno giants, with their respective market caps rivaling or exceeding the Gross Domestic Product of the globe’s most thriving economies, have global agency and autonomy such that they should arguably be viewed as geo-political power players, not simply businesses.  In that context, perhaps it is time to consider 21st century alternatives to the DoD way of thinking of Silicon Valley and its subcomponents as conventional Defense Industrial Base vendors to be managed like routine government contractors. 

Significance:  Many leaders and action officers in the DoD community are concerned that Silicon Valley’s emphasis on revenue share and shareholder value is leading it to prioritize relationships with America’s near-peer competitors – mostly particularly but not limited to China[2] – over working with the U.S. DoD and national security community. “In the policy world, 30 years of experience usually makes you powerful. In the technical world, 30 years of experience usually makes you obsolete[3].” Given the DoD’s extreme reliance on and investment in highly networked and interdependent information systems to dominate the modern global operating environment, the possibility that U.S. companies are choosing foreign adversaries as clients and partners over the U.S. government is highly concerning. If this technology shifts away from U.S. national security concerns continues, 1)  U.S. companies may soon be providing adversaries with advanced capabilities that run counter to U.S. national interests[4]; and 2) even where these companies continue to provide products and services to the U.S., there is an increased concern about counter-intelligence vulnerabilities in U.S. Government (USG) systems and platforms due to technology supply chain vulnerabilities[5]; and 3) key U.S. tech startup and emerging technology companies are accepting venture capital, seed, and private equity investment from investors who’s ultimate beneficial owners trace back to foreign sovereign and private wealth sources that are of concern to the national security community[6].

Option #1:  To bridge the cultural gap between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon, the U.S. Military Departments will train, certify, and deploy “Cyber Foreign Area Officers” or CFAOs.  These CFAOs would align with DoD Directive 1315.17, “Military Department Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs[7]” and, within the cyber and Silicon Valley context, do the same as a traditional FAO and “provide expertise in planning and executing operations, to provide liaison with foreign militaries operating in coalitions with U.S. forces, to conduct political-military activities, and to execute military-diplomatic missions.”

Risk:  DoD treating multinational corporations like nation states risks further decreasing or eroding the recognition of nation states as bearing ultimate authority.  Additionally, there is risk that the checks and balances specifically within the U.S. between the public and private sectors will tip irrevocably towards the tech sector and set the sector up as a rival for the USG in foreign and domestic relationships. Lastly, success in this approach may lead to other business sectors/industries pushing to be treated on par.

Gain:  Having DoD establish a CFAO program would serve to put DoD-centric cyber/techno skills in a socio-cultural context, to aid in Silicon Valley sense-making, narrative development/dissemination, and to establish mutual trusted agency. In effect, CFAOs would act as translators and relationship builders between Silicon Valley and DoD, with the interests of all the branches of service fully represented. Given the routine real world and fictional depictions of Silicon Valley and DoD being from figurative different worlds, using a FAO construct to break through this recognized barrier may be a case of USG policy retroactively catching up with present reality. Further, considering the national security threats that loom from the DoD losing its technological superiority, perhaps the potential gains of this option outweigh its risks.

Option #2:  Maintain the status quo, where DoD alternates between first treating Silicon Valley as a necessary but sometimes errant supplier, and second seeking to emulate Silicon Valley’s successes and culture within existing DoD constructs.  

Risk:  Possibly the greatest risk in continuing the path of the current DoD approach to the tech world is the loss of the advantage of technical superiority through speed of innovation, due to mutual lack of understanding of priorities, mission drivers, objectives, and organizational design.  Although a number of DoD acquisition reform initiatives are gaining some traction, conventional thinking is that DoD must acquire technology and services through a lengthy competitive bid process, which once awarded, locks both the DoD and the winner into a multi-year relationship. In Silicon Valley, speed-to-market is valued, and concepts pitched one month may be expected to be deployable within a few quarters, before the technology evolves yet again. Continual experimentation, improvisation, adaptation, and innovation are at the heart of Silicon Valley. DoD wants advanced technology, but they want it scalable, repeatable, controllable, and inexpensive. These are not compatible cultural outlooks.

Gain:  Continuing the current course of action has the advantage of familiarity, where the rules and pathways are well-understood by DoD and where risk can be managed. Although arguably slow to evolve, DoD acquisition mechanisms are on solid legal ground regarding use of taxpayer dollars, and program managers and decision makers alike are quite comfortable in navigating the use of conventional DoD acquisition tools. This approach represents good fiscal stewardship of DoD budgets.

Other Comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes:

[1] Malcomson, S. Why Silicon Valley Shouldn’t Work With the Pentagon. New York Times. 19APR2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/opinion/silicon-valley-military-contract.html.

[2] Hsu, J. Pentagon Warns Silicon Valley About Aiding Chinese Military. IEEE Spectrum. 28MAR2019. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/military/pentagon-warns-silicon-valley-about-aiding-chinese-military.

[3] Zegart, A and Childs, K. The Growing Gulf Between Silicon Valley and Washington. The Atlantic. 13DEC2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/12/growing-gulf-between-silicon-valley-and-washington/577963/.

[4] Copestake, J. Google China: Has search firm put Project Dragonfly on hold? BBC News. 18DEC2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46604085.

[5] Mozur, P. The Week in Tech: Fears of the Supply Chain in China. New York Times. 12OCT2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/12/technology/the-week-in-tech-fears-of-the-supply-chain-in-china.html.

[6] Northam, J. China Makes A Big Play In Silicon Valley. National Public Radio. 07OCT2018. Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.npr.org/2018/10/07/654339389/china-makes-a-big-play-in-silicon-valley.

[7] Department of Defense Directive 1315.17, “Military Department Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs,” April 28, 2005.  Retrieved 15APR2019, from https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodd/131517p.pdf.

 

Cyberspace Emerging Technology Information Systems Kat Cassedy Option Papers Public-Private Partnerships and Intersections United States

Options to Address U.S. Federal Government Budget Process Dysfunction

Thomas is a Sailor in the United States Navy.  He can be found on Twitter @CTNope.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the United States Navy, 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:  The current arrangements of tasks related to funding the U.S. Government enables government shutdowns to occur.  These shutdowns cause massive disruptions on many levels.

Date Originally Written:  January 30th, 2019.

Date Originally Published: 
 April 8, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Navy sailor and undergraduate student, interested in the U.S. Government, foreign policy, and national security matters.

Background:  The United States Government is funded every year through an appropriations bill or through a continuing resolution of a previous bill. This bill, like all others, begins in the House of Representatives, is sent to the Senate, and signed by the President. Since 1976, when the current budget and appropriations process was adopted, there have been over 20 gaps in budget funding, commonly referred to as shutdowns. These shutdowns have lasted as little as 1 day to the recent 34 day shutdown of the Trump Administration. During a shutdown, federal agencies are unable to complete their missions, as their levels of funding degrade or run out entirely[1].

Significance: When the Federal Government runs out of funding, consequences arise at
all levels of society. Constituents, businesses, and institutions find it difficult to or are unable to execute tasks, such as filing tax returns, receiving permits for operations, or litigating judicial cases. Lapses in funding often lead to unforeseen, third-order of effect consequences[2]. It is challenging enough to strategically plan for the myriad of problems the United States faces, it is even more difficult to plan on a previous budget’s continuing resolution. But when the government runs out of funding, and agencies close, planning becomes all but impossible. While government shutdowns often end quickly, lapses in funding raise criticism on the stability of the United States and the ability of
elected officials to govern.

Option #1:  The budget process is changed from an annual to a biennial budget process. Congress would adopt a budget and all appropriation bills during the first year of a session, authorizing two years of funding, ensuing the budgets are only passed in non-election years. In addition, a review of tax expenditures would be mandated by a new law. This review would be conducted by creating a baseline projection of tax expenditures, drafted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and an automatic review of all tax expenditures when baseline projections are exceeded.

Risk:  The changes outlined in Option 1 might not be effective in combating the symptoms of the dysfunction inside of the budget process. While extending the timeline of the budget cycle could mitigate the potential for a shutdown, it is still possible for shutdowns to occur, as the Congress and President must still come to a compromise. The creation of a tax review could give policymakers a non-partisan foundation to make policy changes, yet policymakers already have similar resources, stemming from think tanks, academia, or the CBO[3].

Gain:  While not perfect, enacting Option 1 would be challenging but not impossible in the current political climate. According to Gallup[4], changes to the budget cycle are widely supported and bipartisan. Option 1 allows Congress to better fulfill their appropriation responsibilities. In addition, in not having to work on an annual budget, Congress will have more time for oversight and reauthorizations of programs, better utilizing limited resources. Furthermore, the review of tax expenditures will allow Congress to ensure that it is meeting its mission of sustainable funding the Government.

Option #2:  Take budget approval power away from the President. This option entails creating a joint standing committee, specifically called the Semi-Annual Budget Committee, with 8 members of the Senate and 16 members of the House. The Speaker and the Minority Leader of the House Representatives would each appoint 8 members. The Majority and Minority Leader of the Senate would each appoint 4 members. The President would no longer sign the budget into law, rather, the responsibility would rest completely with the Congress. The President would submit budget requests, but those would be requests only – as the executive would cease to sign the budget. Lastly, this option has precedent. From the adoption of the Constitution until 1921, with the signing of the Budget and Accounting Act during the Harding Administration, the legislature had the majority of the “power of the purse”, the power to raise taxes and appropriate resources[5].

Risk:  While the Government would no longer shut down due to conflicts between the executive and legislature, this radical restructuring of responsibilities could have significant consequences. Specifically, partisanship, so common inside the beltway, could threaten the productivity of the Committee. If another hypothetical ‘Tea Party’ or equally populist leftist movement were to materialize, it is not difficult to foresee the Semi-Annual Budget Committee bogging down in a partisan slugging match.

Gain:  This option would ensure a degree of budget stability for the future by preventing the President from vetoing budget bills.

Other Comments:  Regardless of the chosen course of action, the current political landscape holds unique opportunities. According to Gallup data, a significant percentage of Americans support reforms to the current budget process[6]. With this board public approval, lawmakers could institute various reforms that previously were politically impractical. Furthermore, reform doesn’t have to be radical. It can take the form of incremental change over multiple Congressional sessions.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Cooper, Ryan. “Make Government Shutdowns Impossible Again.” The Week, January 23, 2019. Retrieved From: https://theweek.com/articles/819015/make-government-shutdowns-impossible-again.

[2] Walshe, Shushannah (October 17, 2013). “The Costs of the Government Shutdown”. ABC News. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 

[3] United States Government Congressional Budget Office. “Processes.” Congressional Budget Office. (n.d.). Retrieved From:  https://www.cbo.gov/about/processes#baseline

[4] Gallup Pollsters. “Federal Budget Deficit.” Gallup. March 2018. Retrieved From: https://news.gallup.com/poll/147626/federal-budget-deficit.aspx.

[5] Constitution of the United States, Article I, 

[6] Gallup Pollsters. “Federal Budget Deficit.” Gallup. March 2018. Retrieved From: https://news.gallup.com/poll/147626/federal-budget-deficit.aspx.

Budgets and Resources Congress Option Papers Thomas United States

Options for Peace in the Continuing War in Afghanistan

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


National Security Situation:  The war in Afghanistan continues to hurt the Afghan people, Afghan Government, Afghan Taliban (Taliban), and causes the U.S. and its Allies and Partners to expend lives and treasure in pursuit of elusive political objectives. The goal of a defeated Taliban has proven to be outside of the realm of realistic expectations, and pursing this end does not advance American standing.

Date Originally Written:  February 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 11, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Suzanne Schroeder is an independent analyst. She has a particular interest in the history of the Taliban movement, and how it will continue to evolve.

Background:  As of this writing, talks have begun between the U.S. and the Taliban. What decisions can promote and sustain constructive dialogue?

Significance:  It remains to be seen if, after almost eighteen years in Afghanistan, the U.S. can achieve a “respectable” peace, with a credible method of ensuring long-term security.

Option #1:  The U.S. makes peace with the Taliban, and begins a withdrawal of U.S. forces. 

Risk:  Terrorists with global ambitions will again operate from Afghanistan, without being checked the Afghan Government. In the past two weeks, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has written two pieces, and was interviewed in a third, warning of the dangers of making a hasty peace deal with the Taliban. In a February 10, 2019 interview for New York magazine, Crocker replied to a question about the chances of the Taliban (if they took power), allowing Afghanistan to be used as a “staging ground, for U.S. attacks.” Crocker replied: “Well, that’s one way to look at it. Another way is that the Taliban decided it would continue to stand with Al Qaeda, even though it cost them the country. They would not break those ties, and I would absolutely not expect them to do so now[1].” In the recently published work, The Taliban Reader, Section 3, which covers the period when the Taliban re-emerged as an insurgency, is introduced with this remark: “In the run-up to Operation Enduring Freedom, opinions among the Taliban leadership were split: some were convinced the US would attack, others-including Mullah Mohammed Omar-did not think the US would go to war over bin Laden[2].” The Taliban Reader essentially challenges Crocker’s assertion, that the Taliban made a conscious decision to lose their Emirate, in defense of Al Qaeda.

Gain:  The gain would be an end to a costly and destructive war that U.S. President Donald Trump has stated is “not in our national interest.” Peace with the Taliban might allow Afghanistan to achieve a greater level of stability through regional cooperation, and a more towards level of self-sufficiency.  This assumes that supportive means are well thought-out, so the war’s end would not be viewed as U.S. abandonment. In the absence of ongoing conflict, civil institutions might develop and contribute to social stability. Obviously, this is a delicate and precarious process, and it cannot be judged, until the participation of the Afghan Government takes place.

In July 2018, Dr. Barnett Rubin, the Director of the Center for International Cooperation at New York University, appeared on Tolo News to discuss the Eid Ceasefire that had just taken place between the Taliban and Afghan Government forces the previous month. Dr. Rubin made the following statement about the Taliban: “They have acted in reciprocity to the Afghan Government’s offer, which shows that they are part of the Afghan political system, whether they accept its current legal framework or not[3].” Dr. Rubin’s point was that the Taliban, at some juncture, must enter the Afghan system not defined as necessarily entering the Afghan Government per se, but no longer being a party to conflict, and an eventual end to the restrictions that were currently in place would give them a means to full civil participation. 

Negotiations are at an initial stage and will not be fully underway until the Taliban begins to speak to the current Afghan Government. But with the widespread perception that the Afghan government is not viable without continued U.S. support, this means that the Afghan Government will be negotiating from a disadvantaged position. A possible way to overcome this may be for the Taliban to be included in international development initiatives, like the Chabahar Port[4] and the Belt and Road Initiative[5].  With a role that would require constructive participation and is largely non-ideological, former enemies might become stakeholders in future economic development.

Option #2:  The U.S. and Afghan Government continue to apply pressure on the Taliban — in short, “talk and fight.” 

Risk:  This strategy is the ultimate double-edged sword, from the Taliban’s point of view. It’s said that every civilian casualty wins the Taliban a new supporter. But these casualties also cause an increased resentment of Taliban recalcitrance, and stirs anger among segments of the population that may not actively oppose them. The Afghan Peace march, which took place in the summer of 2018, shows the level of war fatigue that motivated a wide range of people to walk for hundreds of miles with a unified sense of purpose. Their marchers four main demands were significant in that they did not contain any fundamental denouncements, specifically directed at the Taliban. Rather, they called for a ceasefire, peace talks, mutually agreed upon laws, and the withdrawal for foreign troops[6] (italics added). With such strong support for an end to this conflict, the U.S., the Afghan Government and the Taliban all damage themselves, by ignoring very profound wishes for peace, shared by a large segment of the Afghan population. The U.S. also recognized taking on a nuclear-armed Pakistan may not be worth it, especially as the conflict in Kashmir has once again accelerated, and it’s unlikely that Pakistan will take measures against the Taliban.

Gain:  U.S. and Afghan forces manage to exert sufficient pressure on the Taliban, to make them admit to the futility of continued conflict. The U.S. manages to construct a narrative that focuses on the complexities of the last thirty years of Afghan history, rather than the shortcomings of U.S. policy in the region.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hart, B. (2019, February 10). A Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Thinks Trump’s Exit Strategy Is a Huge Mistake. NewYork.

[2] Linschoten, A. S., & Kuehn, F. (2018). The Taliban Reader: War, Islam and Politics in their Own Words. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[3] Tolo News Special Interview with US Expert Barnett Rubin [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEEDrRTlrvY

[4] Afghanistan opens new export route to India through Iran’s Chabahar port – Times of India. (2019, February 24). Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/international-business/afghanistan-launches-new-export-route-to-india-through-irans-chabahar-port/articleshow/68140985.cms

[5] Afghanistan’s Role in the Belt and Road Initiative (Part 1). (2018, October 11). Retrieved from http://www.outlookafghanistan.net/topics.php?post_id=21989

[6] Ali M Latifi for CNN. (2018, June 18). Afghans who marched hundreds of miles for peace arrive in Kabul. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/asia/afghanistan-peace-march-intl/index.html

Afghanistan Option Papers Suzanne Schroeder United States

Options for the U.S. Middle East Strategic Alliance

Colby Connelly is an MA Candidate in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  He previously worked in Saudi Arabia for several years.  He can be found on Twitter @ColbyAntonius.  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:  Disunity among U.S. partners in the Persian Gulf threatens prospects for the establishment of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA).

Date Originally Written:  January 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 8, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a graduate student interested in U.S. security policy towards Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.

Background:  The Trump Administration has expressed the intention to create a Sunni Arab alliance aimed at countering Iranian influence in the Middle East through the establishment of MESA, often referred to as the “Arab North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)[1].” Prospective MESA member states are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan, and Egypt. Such an alliance would constitute a unified bloc of U.S.-backed nations and theoretically indicate to the Iranian government that a new, highly coordinated effort to counter Iranian influence in the region is taking shape.

Significance:  Since the inception of the Carter Doctrine, which firmly delineates American national security interests in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. has developed extensive political, security, and economic ties with through the GCC. GCC members include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. While the Trump Administration envisions the GCC members making up the backbone of MESA, in recent years the bloc has been more divided than at any time in its history. The GCC is effectively split between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, who favor more assertive measures to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, and Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman, who advocate a softer approach to the Iranian question. How to approach Iranian influence is one issue among others that has contributed to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt since 2017. The Trump Administration has encouraged a settlement to the dispute but has made little headway.

Option #1:  The Trump Administration continues to advocate for the formation of MESA.

Risk:  Forming MESA is a challenge as there is no agreement among potential members regarding the threat Iran poses nor how to best address it[2]. Historically, GCC states are quicker to close ranks in the face of a commonly perceived threat. The GCC was formed in response to the Iran-Iraq war, and the bloc was most united in its apprehension to what it perceived as U.S. disengagement from the Middle East during the Obama Administration. So long as the GCC states feel reassured that the U.S. will remain directly involved in the region, they may see no need for national security cohesion amongst themselves. The ongoing GCC crisis indicates that Arab Gulf states place little faith in regional institutions and prefer bilateralism, especially where security issues are concerned. The failure of the Peninsula Shield Force to ever develop into an effective regional defense body able to deter and respond to military aggression against any GCC member is perhaps the most prolific example of this bilateralism dynamic[3]. Further, a resolution to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by GCC members would almost certainly be a prerequisite to the establishment of MESA. Even if the Qatar crisis were to be resolved, defense cooperation would still be impeded by the wariness with which these states will view one another for years to come.

Gain:  The formation of a unified bloc of U.S. partner states committed to balancing Iranian influence in the Middle East may serve to deter increased Iranian aggression in the region. This balancing is of particular relevance to the Strait of Hormuz and Bab El-Mandab Strait; both of which are chokepoints for global commercial shipping that can be threatened by Iran or armed groups that enjoy Iran’s support[4]. In backing MESA, the U.S. would also bolster the strength of the relationships it already maintains with prospective member states, four of which are major non-NATO Allies. As all prospective MESA members are major purchasers of U.S. military equipment, the alliance would consist of countries whose weapons systems have degrees of interoperability, and whose personnel all share a common language.

Option #2:  The Trump Administration continues a bilateral approach towards security partners in the Middle East.

Risk:  Should an imminent threat emerge from Iran or another actor, there is no guarantee that U.S. partners in the region would rush to one another’s defense. For example, Egypt may be averse to a military engagement with Iran over its activities in the Gulf. This may leave the U.S. alone in defense of its partner states. A bilateral strategy may also lack some of the insulation provided by multilateral defense agreements that could dissuade adversaries like Iran and Russia from exploiting division among U.S. partners. For instance, Russia has courted Qatar since its expression of interest in purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense system, which is not interoperable with other U.S.-made systems deployed throughout the Gulf region[5].

Gain:  The U.S. can use a “hub and spoke” approach to tailor its policy to regional security based on the needs of its individual partners. By maintaining and expanding its defense relationships in the Gulf, including the U.S. military presence in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain, the U.S. can ensure that both itself and its allies are equipped to handle threats as they emerge. Devoting increased resources and efforts to force development may deter Iranian aggression more so than simply establishing new regional institutions, which with few exceptions have often held a poor track record in the Middle East. An approach that favors bilateralism may sacrifice some degree of power projection, but would perhaps more importantly allow the U.S. to ensure that its partners are able to effectively expand their defense capabilities.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] NATO for Arabs? A new Arab military alliance has dim prospects. (2018, October 6). Retrieved from The Economist: https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2018/10/06/a-new-arab-military-alliance-has-dim-prospects

[2] Kahan, J. H. (2016). Security Assurances for the Gulf States: A Bearable Burden? Middle East Policy, 23(3), 30-38.

[3] Bowden, J. (2017). Keeping It Together: A Historical Approach to Resolving Stresses and Strains Within the Peninsula Shield Force. Journal of International Affairs, 70(2), 134-149.

[4] Lee, J. (2018, 26 July). Bab el-Mandeb, an Emerging Chokepoint for Middle East Oil Flows. Retrieved from Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-26/bab-el-mandeb-an-emerging-chokepoint-for-middle-east-oil-flows

[5] Russia and Qatar discuss S400 missile deal. (2018, July 21). Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-qatar-arms/russia-and-qatar-discuss-s-400-missile-systems-deal-tass-idUSKBN1KB0F0

Allies & Partners Colby Connelly Middle East Option Papers United States

An Assessment of U.S. Navy Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Options at Leyte Gulf

Jon Klug is a U.S. Army Colonel and PhD Candidate in Military and Naval History at the University of New Brunswick.  He taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and at the U.S. Naval Academy, and he holds degrees from the U.S. Military Academy, Louisiana State University, and the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.  In his next assignment, Jon will serve as a U.S. Army War College Professor.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title: An Assessment of U.S. Navy Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey’s Options at Leyte Gulf

Date Originally Written:  October 21, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  November 19, 2018.

Summary:  On the night of 24/25 October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf U.S. Navy Admiral William “Bull” Halsey addressed competing priorities by attacking the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) while maintaining a significant surface force to protect the landings at Leyte Island. Halsey’s decision was influenced by the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Halsey’s understanding his operational advantage, and his aggressive spirit[1].

Text:  During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, U.S. Navy Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s Third Fleet inflicted heavy damage on the most powerful Japanese surface group in the Sibuyan Sea, forcing IJN Admiral Kurita Takeo to retreat to the west. At roughly 5:00pm Halsey received work from search aircraft that Kurita had turned his forces around and they were once again heading east. In response to this, Halsey maneuvered Third fleet as a whole to attack Kurita’s forces[2].  Before assessing Halsey’s decision-making, some background information is needed.

First, prior to the Battle of Leyte Gulf many U.S. naval officers criticized Admiral Raymond Spruance’s decision-making during the Battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June, 1944) because several of the Japanese aircraft carriers escaped destruction. These officers felt that Spruance was too cautious and too focused on protecting the amphibious forces. At the time, not knowing the depths of the Japanese difficulty in replacing aircrews, many U.S. naval officers worried that the Japanese would just replenish the carriers with new aircraft and new aircrews. Halsey certainly knew of these criticisms of Spruance, and he wanted to crush the Japanese aircraft carriers once and for all[3].

In addition to the criticisms of Spruance, Halsey also knew that few Japanese aircraft had reacted to the previous U.S. carrier raids, so he may have suspected that the Japanese husbanded carrier-based and land-based aircraft for the decisive fleet action. Furthermore, Halsey knew the Japanese had used a shuttle-bombing attack against Spruance’s forces during the Marianas Campaign in mid-June 1944. The Japanese had launched planes from aircraft carriers that bombed American naval forces in route to airfields on Saipan, from which they rearmed and then attacked the American forces in route back to the aircraft carriers[4]. Although this tactic failed in the Marianas, their use of shuttle-bombing demonstrated that the Japanese were still a dangerous and creative opponent. This tactic too may have been on his mind when Halsey maneuvered Third fleet as a whole to attack Kurita’s forces.  

Historians often neglect the impact of where Halsey positioned himself with respect to his forces and the Japanese forces in their discussion of the Battle of Leyte Gulf: in other words, where was his flagship? As Halsey hailed from New Jersey, he made the new fast battleship USS New Jersey his flagship[5]. This matters. New Jersey as well as the Iowa, two more battleships, six cruisers, and fourteen destroyers made up Task Force 34 (TF 34)[6]. These battleships and their anti-aircraft weapons would be important if Japanese aircraft attacked Halsey’s three aircraft carrier groups, which were Halsey’s primary concern. If Halsey had broken out TF 34, including the New Jersey, to protect the landings at the Island of Leyte, he would have undoubtedly wanted to move to another flagship, as the new flagship would have been part of the force attacking IJN Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo’s carriers. Halsey would have wanted to be close to the decisive battle. 

The Battle of Surigao Strait is the final aspect in any assessment of Halsey’s decision-making. After Halsey had made his actual decision, which was to take all of Third Fleet to destroy the Japanese carriers, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid sent U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf and his Bombardment and Fire Support group to defend the Surigao Strait.  This force compromised the majority of Kinkaid’s surface combat power, which included several of the refurbished battleships from Pearl Harbor. Oldendorf’s enemy counterpart was IJN Vice Admiral Nishimura Shoji who commanded a Japanese surface group.  Oldendorf prepared a brilliant defense with a textbook example of “capping the T” that destroyed Nishimura’s force on the night of 24/25 October[7]. Thus, Halsey went north, Kinkaid’s heavy surface ships went south, and together they left the middle open for Kurita who had again turned east.

Sean Connery as Admiral Ramius in the movie Hunt for Red October was the author’s inspiration behind selecting this historical situation for analysis. Connery’s distinctive delivery helped create a classic quote when Ramius evaluated Jack Ryan’s work on Admiral Halsey at Leyte Gulf, “I know this book. Your conclusions were all wrong, Ryan. Halsey acted stupidly[8].” Did he? 

Using historical reenactment as a method one must consider the historical facts and what we can surmise about Halsey. More specifically, what did Halsey know of the strategic, operational, and tactical context, and what was his state of mind when he needed to decide on an option? He chose to attack the Japanese aircraft carriers with all of Third Fleet (Option #1 from the Options Paper), and in his report to Nimitz on 25 October, 1944, the day after the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Halsey wrote:

“To statically guard SAN BERNARDINO STRAITS until enemy surface and carrier air attacks could be coordinated would have been childish to three carrier groups were concentrated during the night and started north for a surprise dawn attack on the enemy carrier fleet. I considered that the enemy force in SIBUYAN SEA had been so badly damaged that they constituted no serious threat to Kinkaid and that estimate has been borne out by the events of the 25th off SURIGAO[9].”

This quote provides insight into what Halsey was thinking and his nature – he believed there was no need for a more cautious option. However, a more careful review shows that Halsey was very lucky that Kurita decided to withdraw. If he had not, many more U.S. lives would certainly have been lost as the Yamato and the other Japanese heavy surface vessels fought to the death in and among Kinkaid’s amphibious forces. This fight may have been like a bull fight in a ring that is too small – although the matador and his assistants are assured of ultimate victory, the bull will exact a horrible price before it expires. Given his knowledge of the situation at the time, Halsey could have left TF 34 (Option #2 from the Options Paper) with minimal risk, as the number of U.S. carriers, aircraft, and air crews handled properly should have been sufficient to destroy the remaining IJN carriers.

Protecting the landing at the Island of Leyte as Halsey’s primary focus (Option #3 from the Options Paper), goes against goes against the grain of aggressive U.S. military and U.S. Navy culture, but, Halsey had a huge advantage and knew it, just like Spruance did months before. Any escaping IJN forces would appear again at the next major operation.  There was no way for Halsey to see this far ahead, but Spruance’s decision making in the Battle of the Philippine Sea is in line with Halsey’s option to keep Third Fleet concentrated in supporting distance of the Leyte landings (Option #3 from the Options Paper). Taking page from another the movie, in this case the 1998 poker movie Rounders[10], if you have the chip lead, all you have to do is lean on them, and that was all Spruance and Halsey had to do in late 1944 and early 1945: lean on the IJN until it collapsed. Historical reenactment demonstrates that Ramius’s opinion is correct in the sense that the Japanese suckered Halsey into going “all in” and only Kurita’s mistake in turning away from the Leyte Gulf landings prevented what would have been at least a severe mauling of U.S. forces.


Endnotes:

[1] This assessment paper uses historical reenactment as its method to reconstruct historical events and senior leader’s thought processes and options, augmenting historical facts by surmising when necessary.  More information is available here: Jon Klug, Options at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, November 12, 2018,  https://divergentoptions.org/2018/11/12/options-at-the-battle-of-leyte-gulf/

[2] Samuel Eliot Morison, Leyte, June 1944-January 1945, Vol. 12 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1953), 192-193; Ronald H. Spector, Eagle against the Sun: The American War with Japan (New York, NY: Vintage, 1985), 431-432; and Craig L. Symonds, The Naval Institute Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995), 180-181.

[3] Morison, 58-59; and Spector, 433.

[4] Spector, 307; Symonds, 168 and 169; and Samuel Eliot Morison, New Guinea and the Marianas, March 1944-August 1944, Vol. 8 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1953), 233 and 248-249.

[5] Merrill, 131; Spector, 428.

[6] Symonds, 180.

[7] Symonds, 180; Morison, 86-241; Merrill, 160-163.

[8] The Hunt for Red October, directed by John McTiernan, Paramount Pictures, 1990.  Symonds, 180; Morison, 86-241; Merrill, 160-163.

[9] Chester W. Nimitz, Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Volume 5 (Newport, RI: United States Naval War College, 2013), 564. The quotation is an excerpt from Halsey’s reports to Nimitz.

[10] Rounders, directed by John Dahl, Miramax Films, 1998.

Assessment Papers Japan Jon Klug United States

Options at the Battle of Leyte Gulf

Jon Klug is a U.S. Army Colonel and PhD Candidate in Military and Naval History at the University of New Brunswick.  He taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and at the U.S. Naval Academy, and he holds degrees from the U.S. Military Academy, Louisiana State University, and the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies.  In his next assignment, Jon will serve as a U.S. Army War College Professor.  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. Navy Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s options during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on the night of 24/25 October 1944.

Date Originally Written:  October 21, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  November 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Robin Collingwood pioneered the concept of historical reenactment[1]. Historian Jon Sumida discussed Collingwood’s concept in Decoding Clausewitz, in which he argued that Carl von Clausewitz anticipated Collingwood by incorporating self-education through “theory-based surmise about decision-making dynamics[2].” This paper uses a method of historically reconstructing events and reenacting a senior leader’s thought processes and options, augmenting historical facts by surmising when necessary[3], to examine Halsey’s options during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Background:  In 1944 U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur commanded the Southwest Pacific Area, and U.S. Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded the Pacific Ocean Areas. In October, U.S. forces remained firmly on the strategic offensive in the Pacific and the Island of Leyte was their next target[4].

KING II was the U.S. codename for the seizure of Leyte via amphibious assault, and there were command issues due to the long-standing division of the Pacific into two theaters of operation. After almost three years of war, these two forces were converging and neither the Army nor the Navy was willing to allow one joint commander. The Army would not accept Nimitz because MacArthur was senior to him, and the Navy did not believe MacArthur sufficiently understood sea power to command its fleet carriers[5]. This led to the unwieldy compromise of U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet working directly for MacArthur and U.S. Navy Admiral William Halsey’s Third Fleet reporting to Nimitz. In KING II, Halsey was to “cover and support the Leyte Operation[6].” The desire to destroy the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carriers was why Nimitz included the following in the plan: “In case opportunity for destruction of major portion of the enemy fleet is offered or can be created, such destruction becomes the primary task[7].” Thus, the plan was a confusing compromise between services with inherent divided command and control and tasks.

SHO-I was the Japanese codename for their attack to foil the American attempt to seize the island of Leyte. The plan had four major fleet elements converging at Leyte Gulf. The first two were surface groups from Japanese-occupied territories in Southeast Asia, of which IJN Admiral Kurita Takeo commanded the powerful surface group, including the mighty Yamato and Musashi[8]. The third group was a cruiser force and the fourth group was a carrier group, both from the north. The carrier group, commanded by IJN Vice Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo, was bait. They hoped Halsey would attack the carriers and inadvertently allow the three surface groups to slip behind the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet and destroy the landings[9]. The Japanese did not expect anyone to return if SHO-I worked[10].

Significance:   U.S. carrier raids against Japanese bases in September met with unexpectedly light opposition, and Halsey interpreted the weak response as overall Japanese weakness, which was incorrect as they were husbanding their aircraft. Based off of Halsey’s view, the U.S. cancelled some operations and moved up the invasion of Leyte[11]. Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet began landing MacArthur’s forces on Leyte Island on 21 October. Consequently, the Japanese put SHO-I in motion.

Alerted by submarines and air patrols on 24 October, Halsey’s carrier aircraft inflicted heavy damage on the most powerful Japanese surface group in the Sibuyan Sea, forcing Kurita to retreat to the west. At roughly 5:00 PM word reached Halsey that search aircraft had spotted the Japanese carriers. Unbeknownst to Halsey, IJN Admiral Kurita had turned his forces around and again headed east.

Option #1:  Halsey maneuvers Third Fleet as a whole to attack IJN Vice Admiral Ozawa’s aircraft carriers.

Risk:  This assumes the greatest levels of tactical, operational, and strategic risk for the chance of achieving a great victory. Halsey moving his forces without breaking out Rear Admiral Willis Lee’s Task Force 34 (TF 34) would leave no fleet carriers or fast battleships to protect the landings on Leyte. If an unexpected threat arises, there are scant uncommitted forces within supporting range of the landings, which is a great tactical risk to landings. The operational risk is the catastrophic failure of the landings and destruction of the forces ashore, which would result in a multi-month setback to retaking the Philippines. Assuming no knowledge of the atomic bomb, the strategic risk was a setback in the overall timeline and a likely change to the post-war situation.

Gain:  Aggressive and bold tactical maneuver often allows the best chance to achieve decisive victory, and U.S. Navy leaders wanted the remaining Japanese carriers sunk. In fact, many criticized U.S. Navy Admiral Raymond Spruance for letting the same IJN carriers escape at the earlier Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Option #2:  Halsey leaves TF 34 to protect the landings at the Island of Leyte while Third Fleet attacks IJN Admiral Kurita’s forces.

Risk:  Halsey leaving TF 34 to protect the Leyte Gulf landings accepts less tactical, operational, and strategic risk than Option #1. Tactically, Halsey’s forces still had an overwhelming advantage over the IJN carriers. Although Halsey knew this, he would also have wanted to be strong at the decisive point and win the decisive last naval battle in the Pacific, and TF 34’s six battleships would not be able to help protect his carriers from aerial attack. Operationally, Halsey felt that there was no real threat to the landings, as his aircraft had previously forced the Japanese center force retreat. Halsey also believed Kinkaid could handle any remaining threat[12]. Strategically, Halsey wanted to ensure that the IJN carriers did not get away and prolonged the war.

Gain:  This option afforded Halsey the opportunity to destroy the IJN carriers while still maintaining a significant surface force to protect the landings[13]. This provides insurance that Halsey had uncommitted and powerful surface forces to react to threats and, more importantly, protect the landings.

Option #3:  Halsey’s Third Fleet protects the landings at the Island of Leyte.

Risk:  This option accepts minimal tactical risk but some operational and strategic risk. If an unexpected threat arose, Halsey would have the entire Third Fleet in range to support the landings, thus avoiding any danger. Operationally, U.S. forces would have had to face any IJN forces that escaped again later. Strategically, the escaped IJN forces may have set back the overall timeline of the operation.


Gain:  Conservative decision-making tends to simultaneously minimize risk as well as opportunity. This option would ensure that Halsey protected the landing force. However, this also provides the smallest probability of sinking the elusive IJN carriers.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History. Revised ed. (1946, repr., London: Oxford University Press, 2005), 302-315.

[2] Jon T. Sumida, Decoding Clausewitz, (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2008), 150.

[3] Collingwood, 110-114; and Sumida, 65 and 177.

[4] Ronald H. Spector, Eagle against the Sun: The American War with Japan (New York, NY: Vintage, 1985), 214-217, 259-273, 285-294, 308-312, 418-420.

[5] Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980, repr., Annapolis Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2012), 190-191.

[6] Samuel Eliot Morison, Leyte, June 1944-January 1945, Vol. 12 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1953), 55-60.

[7] Ibid., 58, 70.

[8] James M. Merrill, A Sailor’s Admiral: A Biography of William F. Halsey (New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976), 149.

[9]  Craig L. Symonds, The Naval Institute Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995), 176-178; Ernest J. King and Walter Muir Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1953), 367-368.

[10] Morison, Leyte, 167.

[11] Symonds, 176; Morison, 13-16.

[12] Symonds, 180.

[13] Chester W. Nimitz, Command Summary of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Volume 5 (Newport, RI: United States Naval War College, 2013), 282.

Japan Jon Klug Option Papers United States

Options for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Five Eyes Alliance

Dan Lee is a government employee who works in Defense, and has varying levels of experience working with Five Eyes nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).  He can be found on Twitter @danlee961.  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:  Options for Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Five Eyes Alliance

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  October 29, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of Five Eyes national defense organizations. 

Background:  The Five Eyes community consists of the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Canada, Australia and New Zealand; its origins can be traced to the requirement to cooperate in Signals Intelligence after World War Two[1]. Arguably, the alliance is still critical today in dealing with terrorism and other threats[2].

Autonomous systems may provide the Five Eyes alliance an asymmetric advantage, or ‘offset’, to counter its strategic competitors that are on track to field larger and more technologically advanced military forces. The question of whether or not to develop and employ Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) is currently contentious due to the ethical and social considerations involved with allowing machines to choose targets and apply lethal force without human intervention[3][4][5]. Twenty-six countries are calling for a prohibition on LAWS, while three Five Eyes partners (Australia, UK and the US) as well as other nations including France, Germany, South Korea and Turkey do not support negotiating new international laws on the matter[6]. When considering options, at least two issues must also be addressed.

The first issue is defining what LAWS are; a common lexicon is required to allow Five Eyes partners to conduct an informed discussion as to whether they can come to a common policy position on the development and employment of these systems. Public understanding of autonomy is mostly derived from the media or from popular culture and this may have contributed to the hype around the topic[7][8][8]. Currently there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a fully autonomous lethal weapon system, which has in turn disrupted discussions at the United Nations (UN) on how these systems should be governed by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCWUN)[10]. The US and UK have different definitions, which makes agreement on a common position difficult even amongst like-minded nations[11][12]. This lack of lexicon is further complicated by some strategic competitors using more liberal definitions of LAWS, allowing them to support a ban while simultaneously developing weapons that do not require meaningful human control[13][14][15][16].

The second issue one of agreeing how autonomous systems might be employed within the Five Eyes alliance. For example, as a strategic offset technology, the use of autonomous systems might mitigate the relatively small size of their military forces relative to an adversary’s force[17]. Tactically, they could be deployed completely independently of humans to remove personnel from danger, as swarms to overwhelm the enemy with complexity, or as part of a human-machine team to augment human capabilities[18][19][20].

A failure of Five Eyes partners to come to a complete agreement on what is and is not permissible in developing and employing LAWS does not necessarily mean a halt to progress; indeed, this may provide the alliance with the ability for some partners to cover the capability gaps of others. If some members of the alliance choose not to develop lethal systems, it may free their resources to focus on autonomous Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) or logistics capabilities. In a Five Eyes coalition environment, these members who chose not to develop lethal systems could provide support to the LAWS-enabled forces of other partners, providing lethal autonomy to the alliance as whole, if not to individual member states.

Significance:  China and Russia may already be developing LAWS; a failure on the part of the Five Eyes alliance to actively manage this issue may put it at a relative disadvantage in the near future[21][22][23][24]. Further, dual-use civilian technologies already exist that may be adapted for military use, such as the Australian COTSbot and the Chinese Mosquito Killer Robot[25][26]. If the Five Eyes alliance does not either disrupt the development of LAWS by its competitors, or attain relative technological superiority, it may find itself starting in a position of disadvantage during future conflicts or deterrence campaigns.

Option #1:  Five Eyes nations work with the UN to define LAWS and ban their development and use; diplomatic, economic and informational measures are applied to halt or disrupt competitors’ LAWS programs. Technological offset is achieved by Five Eyes autonomous military systems development that focuses on logistics and ISR capabilities, such as Boston Dynamics’ LS3 AlphaDog and the development of driverless trucks to free soldiers from non-combat tasks[27][28][29][30].

Risk:  In the event of conflict, allied combat personnel would be more exposed to danger than the enemy as their nations had, in essence, decided to not develop a technology that could be of use in war. Five Eyes militaries would not be organizationally prepared to develop, train with and employ LAWS if necessitated by an existential threat. It may be too late to close the technological capability gap after the commencement of hostilities.

Gain:  The Five Eyes alliance’s legitimacy regarding human rights and the just conduct of war is maintained in the eyes of the international community. A LAWS arms race and subsequent proliferation can be avoided.

Option #2:  Five Eyes militaries actively develop LAWS to achieve superiority over their competitors.

Risk:  The Five Eyes alliance’s legitimacy may be undermined in the eyes of the international community and organizations such as The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the UN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Public opinion in some partner nations may increasingly disapprove of LAWS development and use, which could fragment the alliance in a similar manner to the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty[31][32].

The declared development and employment of LAWS may catalyze a resource-intensive international arms race. Partnerships between government and academia and industry may also be adversely affected[33][34].

Gain:  Five Eyes nations avoid a technological disadvantage relative to their competitors; the Chinese information campaign to outmanoeuvre Five Eyes LAWS development through the manipulation of CCWUN will be mitigated. Once LAWS development is accepted as inevitable, proliferation may be regulated through the UN.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Tossini, J.V. (November 14, 2017). The Five Eyes – The Intelligence Alliance of the Anglosphere. Retrieved from https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/the-five-eyes-the-intelligence-alliance-of-the-anglosphere/

[2] Grayson, K. Time to bring ‘Five Eyes’ in from the cold? (May 4, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/time-bring-five-eyes-cold/

[3] Lange, K. 3rd Offset Strategy 101: What It Is, What the Tech Focuses Are (March 30, 2016). Retrieved from http://www.dodlive.mil/2016/03/30/3rd-offset-strategy-101-what-it-is-what-the-tech-focuses-are/

[4] International Committee of the Red Cross. Expert Meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems Statement (November 15, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.icrc.org/en/document/expert-meeting-lethal-autonomous-weapons-systems

[5] Human Rights Watch and
Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. Fully Autonomous Weapons: Questions and Answers. (October 2013). Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/supporting_resources/10.2013_killer_robots_qa.pdf

[6] Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Report on Activities Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems – United Nations Geneva – 9-13 April 2018. (2018) Retrieved from https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/KRC_ReportCCWX_Apr2018_UPLOADED.pdf

[7] Scharre, P. Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘Slaughterbots’. (December 22, 2017). Retrieved from https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/military-robots/why-you-shouldnt-fear-slaughterbots

[8] Winter, C. (November 14, 2017). ‘Killer robots’: autonomous weapons pose moral dilemma. Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/killer-robots-autonomous-weapons-pose-moral-dilemma/a-41342616

[9] Devlin, H. Killer robots will only exist if we are stupid enough to let them. (June 11, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/11/killer-robots-will-only-exist-if-we-are-stupid-enough-to-let-them

[10] Welsh, S. Regulating autonomous weapons. (November 16, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/regulating-autonomous-weapons/

[11] United States Department of Defense. Directive Number 3000.09. (November 21, 2012). Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=726163

[12] Lords AI committee: UK definitions of autonomous weapons hinder international agreement. (April 17, 2018). Retrieved from http://www.article36.org/autonomous-weapons/lords-ai-report/

[13] Group of Governmental Experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects – Geneva, 9–13 April 2018 (first week) Item 6 of the provisional agenda – Other matters. (11 April 2018). Retrieved from https://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/E42AE83BDB3525D0C125826C0040B262/$file/CCW_GGE.1_2018_WP.7.pdf

[14] Welsh, S. China’s shock call for ban on lethal autonomous weapon systems. (April 16, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.janes.com/article/79311/china-s-shock-call-for-ban-on-lethal-autonomous-weapon-systems

[15] Mohanty, B. Lethal Autonomous Dragon: China’s approach to artificial intelligence weapons. (Nov 15 2017). Retrieved from https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/lethal-autonomous-weapons-dragon-china-approach-artificial-intelligence/

[16] Kania, E.B. China’s Strategic Ambiguity and Shifting Approach to Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems. (April 17, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.lawfareblog.com/chinas-strategic-ambiguity-and-shifting-approach-lethal-autonomous-weapons-systems

[17] Tomes, R. Why the Cold War Offset Strategy was all about Deterrence and Stealth. (January 14, 2015) Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2015/01/why-the-cold-war-offset-strategy-was-all-about-deterrence-and-stealth/

[18] Lockie, A. The Air Force just demonstrated an autonomous F-16 that can fly and take out a target all by itself. (April 12, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com.au/f-16-drone-have-raider-ii-loyal-wingman-f-35-lockheed-martin-2017-4?r=US&IR=T

[19] Schuety, C. & Will, L. An Air Force ‘Way of Swarm’: Using Wargaming and Artificial Intelligence to Train Drones. (September 21, 2018). Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2018/09/an-air-force-way-of-swarm-using-wargaming-and-artificial-intelligence-to-train-drones/

[20] Ryan, M. Human-Machine Teaming for Future Ground Forces. (2018). Retrieved from https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/Human_Machine_Teaming_FinalFormat.pdf

[21] Perrigo, B. Global Arms Race for Killer Robots Is Transforming the Battlefield. (Updated: April 9, 2018). Retrieved from http://time.com/5230567/killer-robots/

[22] Hutchison, H.C. Russia says it will ignore any UN ban of killer robots. (November 30, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-will-ignore-un-killer-robot-ban-2017-11/?r=AU&IR=T

[23] Mizokami, K. Kalashnikov Will Make an A.I.-Powered Killer Robot – What could possibly go wrong? (July 20, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/news/a27393/kalashnikov-to-make-ai-directed-machine-guns/

[24] Atherton, K. Combat robots and cheap drones obscure the hidden triumph of Russia’s wargame. (September 25, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2018/09/24/combat-robots-and-cheap-drones-obscure-the-hidden-triumph-of-russias-wargame/

[25] Platt, J.R. A Starfish-Killing, Artificially Intelligent Robot Is Set to Patrol the Great Barrier Reef Crown of thorns starfish are destroying the reef. Bots that wield poison could dampen the invasion. (January 1, 2016) Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-starfish-killing-artificially-intelligent-robot-is-set-to-patrol-the-great-barrier-reef/

[26] Skinner, T. Presenting, the Mosquito Killer Robot. (September 14, 2016). Retrieved from https://quillorcapture.com/2016/09/14/presenting-the-mosquito-killer-robot/

[27] Defence Connect. DST launches Wizard of Aus. (November 10, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/key-enablers/1514-dst-launches-wizard-of-aus

[28] Pomerleau, M. Air Force is looking for resilient autonomous systems. (February 24, 2016). Retrieved from https://defensesystems.com/articles/2016/02/24/air-force-uas-contested-environments.aspx

[29] Boston Dynamics. LS3 Legged Squad Support Systems. The AlphaDog of legged robots carries heavy loads over rough terrain. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bostondynamics.com/ls3

[30] Evans, G. Driverless vehicles in the military – will the potential be realised? (February 2, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.army-technology.com/features/driverless-vehicles-military/

[31] Hambling, D. Why the U.S. Is Backing Killer Robots. (September 15, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a23133118/us-ai-robots-warfare/

[32] Ministry for Culture and Heritage. ANZUS treaty comes into force 29 April 1952. (April 26, 2017). Retrieved from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/anzus-comes-into-force

[33] Shalal, A. Researchers to boycott South Korean university over AI weapons work. (April 5, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tech-korea-boycott/researchers-to-boycott-south-korean-university-over-ai-weapons-work-idUSKCN1HB392

[34] Shane, S & Wakabayashi, D. ‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon. (April 4, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/technology/google-letter-ceo-pentagon-project.html

 

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming Australia Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) Autonomous Weapons Systems Canada Dan Lee New Zealand Option Papers United Kingdom United States

An Assessment of the Iranian Ballistic Missile Arsenal and Regional Preparedness

Miguel Miranda is the founder of 21st Century Asian Arms Race.  He frequently writes about modern weapons and the different conflicts being fought across the world today.  He also runs the Twitter account @21aar_show to scrutinize arms fairs and military/security conferences.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Iranian Ballistic Missile Arsenal and Regional Preparedness

Date Originally Written:  September 17, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  October 8, 2018.

Summary:  As battle lines are drawn across the Middle East, the U.S. is sinking deeper into a protracted struggle with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  But any plans to confront the neighbourhood’s penultimate rogue actor don’t acknowledge its single greatest capability—an enormous ballistic missile stockpile that can strike the capital cities and military bases of its enemies.

Text:  In August 2018, Iran’s defence ministry unveiled two new weapons.  One was a long-range air-to-air missile called the Fakour[1].  The other is the latest addition to the Fateh-series of short-range tactical ballistic missiles called the “Fateh Mobin[2].”

Then in September 2018, a barrage of Fateh-110B missiles launched from northwestern Iran struck a target 200 kilometres away in Iraqi Kurdistan[3].  Although condemned by press statements, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) attack on a Kurdish militant base had zero repercussions from a docile Iraq.  The Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) countries struggling to defeat the Houthis in Yemen are in the same pickle.  Try as they might, continuous Iranian support for the Houthis means regular launches of guided and unguided munitions aimed at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Iran’s missile activity is reason enough for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to start thinking about anti-ballistic missile defences in the region.  After all, DoD outposts in Eastern Syria are very close to local Iranian proxies.  Meanwhile, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs controlled by Tehran have quietly acquired large diameter battlefield rockets and perhaps a few missiles[4].  Keep in mind, DoD air defences are legacy “platforms” such as the Avenger ADS and the MIM-104 Patriot.  Neither legacy platform is suited for intercepting large diameter rockets, much less current generation ballistic missiles.  Then consider the almost two dozen DoD bases in the Gulf and the Levant.  What protection do they have from Iranian missiles?

Since 2000 at least two new large diameter rockets or ballistic missiles are unveiled each year by the Iranian media, who are complicit in spinning these as homegrown “innovations.”  While it’s true some Iranian weapons are blatant fakes[6], there are two niches where Iran’s state-owned military industries excel: drones and missiles.

Iran’s obsession with missiles dates to the war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from 1980-1988.  Towards the end of the bitter conflict an exhausted Iraq launched its Scud A rockets at Iranian cities[8].  With its air force crippled by attrition and a lack of spare parts, Iran’s war planners concocted an elaborate scheme to acquire the same capability as Iraq.  In an arrangement whose details remain muddled, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Hafez Assad, and North Korea’s Kim il Sung all agreed to supply Iran with hand-me-down Scud B’s after years of selling conventional weapons to Tehran.

As both Iraq and Iran endured economic sanctions in the 1990s, Tehran kept spending vast sums on its missiles because its airpower and naval fleet had atrophied.  Since the advent of the first domestically produced Shahab missile, which was modelled after a North Korean Scud C variant called the Nodong/No Dong[8], Iran persisted in improving its conventional missiles on top of an immense rocket artillery arsenal.  Imitating Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean doctrine, both the Artesh (regular army) and the IRGC have a multitude of short, medium, and long-range rockets whose quantity now surpasses those of neighbouring countries.  In recent years, only Azerbaijan’s bloated defence expenditures has produced an inventory to rival Iran’s battlefield rocket stockpile[9].  When it comes to missiles, however, there are no specifics on how many Iran has, but a total above four digits is the lowest estimate[10].

For the reader’s benefit, below is an easy guide to Iranian ballistic missiles:

Fateh-100 “family” – Comparable to the Soviet SS-21 Scarab and even the SS-26 Stone (Iskander) surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.  Fatehs are made in eight variants, with the Fateh Mobin and the Zolfaqar being the deadliest with ranges of 700 kilometres[10].

Scud C – North Korean Hwasong 6 or “Scud C” missiles with a range of several hundred kilometres.  It’s assumed Pyongyang also helped build a production facility somewhere in Iran.

Shahab “family” – Introduced in the 2000s, the Shahabs resemble the Scud C 6 but have varying capabilities.  The Shahab-3 is considered a nuclear capable medium-range ballistic missile that can reach targets more than a thousand kilometres away. 

Khorramshahr – This road mobile medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) is suspected to have been developed with North Korean assistance and its range covers much of South Asia and the Middle East.  Analysts acknowledge its resemblance to the Musudan MRBM that Pyongyang showed off in its annual parades until early 2018[11].

Soumar – A land-based variant of the Soviet Kh-35 naval cruise missile.  In December 2017 Houthi fighters launched a cruise missile resembling the Soumar at a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi.  Although the result of the attack is unknown, it proves how Iran can strike its enemies anywhere[12].

Although the U.S.-developed Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries are in service with Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, these don’t count as serious anti-ballistic missile defenses as a layered network is best.  So far, only the UAE  is close to achieving this layered network with its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) batteries complemented by short-range SAMs.  Of course, Israel is in a better position to stop Iranian missiles since it built a network for the PAC-3 together with its own Arrow 2/3 long-range SAM, the David’s Sling, and the Iron Dome[13].

Remarkably, Saudi Arabia is the most vulnerable to an Iranian missile barrage.  Since 2016 not a month has gone by without the Houthis in Yemen sending either large diameter rockets or ballistic missiles into the Kingdom, with successful intercepts by Saudi air defences up for debate[14].  Even with a defence budget considered the third largest in the world, Saudi Arabia’s collection of Patriot’s won’t be able to thwart multiple launches at its major cities and energy infrastructure[15].  Worse, Riyadh’s orders for either the S-400 Triumf or the THAAD have yet to arrive[16].

If the Trump Administration is serious about confronting Iran in the region, it’s doing an abysmal job preparing for the small and big fights where the IRGC and its proxies can bring asymmetric weapons to bear.  Whether or not Gulf allies agree to host a top of the line DoD ballistic missile defense capabilities like AEGIS Ashore[17], genuine layered anti-ballistic missile defences[18] are needed to protect U.S. bases against hundreds of potential missile and rocket attacks by Iran in a future war.  Thousands of American servicemen and women are at grave risk without one.


Endnotes:

[1] Miranda, M. (2018, July 29). Iran made a big deal about a copycat missile. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/07/29/iran-made-a-big-deal-about-a-copycat-missile/

[2] Miranda, M. (2018, August 14). Iran unveiled a juiced up ballistic missile this week. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/08/14/iran-unveiled-a-juiced-up-ballistic-missile-this-week/

[3] Miranda, M. (2018, September 11) Iran just bombarded kurdish rebels with missiles. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/09/11/iran-just-bombarded-kurdish-rebels-with-missiles/

[4]  Karako, T. (2015, August 10). Getting the GCC to Cooperate on Missile Defense. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://warontherocks.com/2015/05/getting-the-gcc-to-cooperate-on-missile-defense/ 

[5] Irish, J. (2018, August 31). Exclusive: Iran moves missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-iraq-missiles-exclusive/exclusive-iran-moves-missiles-to-iraq-in-warning-to-enemies-idUSKCN1LG0WB?il=0

[6] Miranda, M. (2018, August 26). Iran military industries are promoting fake modernization. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/08/26/iranian-military-industries-are-promoting-fake-modernization/

[7] Press, A. (1988, March 14). ‘War of Cities’ Truce Ends as Iraqi Missile Hits Tehran. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/1988-03-14/news/mn-734_1_iraqi-news-agency

[8] No-dong. September 17, 2018, from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/musudan/

[9] Miranda, M. (2018, July 12). Azerbaijan is showing off new weapons again. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2018/06/12/azerbaijan-is-showing-off-new-weapons-again/

[10] Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. (2017, September 21). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2017/06/iran-ballistic-missile-capabilities-170621125051403.html

[11] Iran Inaugurates Production Line Of New Missile. (2016, September 26). September 17, 2018, from http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/iran-inaugurates-production-line-new-missile

[12] Musudan (BM-25). September 17, 2018, from https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/musudan/

[13] Yemen’s Houthis claim to fire missile toward unfinished Abu Dhabi nuclear reactor. (2017, December 3). September 17, 2018, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/03/world/yemens-houthis-claim-fire-missile-toward-unfinished-abu-dhabi-nuclear-reactor/#.W56g0_ZoTIU

[14] Defense, I. (2018, February 19). Israel Successfully Test Fires Arrow 3 Missile System. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from http://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/33120

[15] Gambrell, J. (2018, March 26). Videos raise questions over Saudi missile intercept claims. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.defensenews.com/global/mideast-africa/2018/03/26/videos-raise-questions-over-saudi-missile-intercept-claims/

[16] Riedel, B. (2018, March 27). What you need to know about the latest Houthi attack on Riyadh. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/27/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-latest-houthi-attack-on-riyadh/

[17] Saudi Arabia wants Russian help for its arms industry. (2017, October 7). Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://21stcenturyasianarmsrace.com/2017/10/07/saudi-arabia-wants-russian-help-for-its-arms-industry/

[18] Larter, D. (2018, June 20). The US Navy is fed up with ballistic missile defense patrols. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/06/16/the-us-navy-is-fed-up-with-ballistic-missile-defense-patrols/

Assessment Papers Iran Middle East Miguel Miranda Rockets and Missiles United States

Assessment of Russia’s Cyber Relations with the U.S. and its Allies

Meghan Brandabur, Caroline Gant, Yuxiang Hou, Laura Oolup, and Natasha Williams were Research Interns at the College of Information and Cyberspace at National Defense University.  Laura Oolup is the recipient of the Andreas and Elmerice Traks Scholarship from the Estonian American Fund.  The authors were supervised in their research by Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Feehan, United States Army and Military Faculty member.  This article was edited by Jacob Sharpe, Research Assistant at the College of Information and Cyberspace.  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 Russia’s Cyber Relations with the U.S. and its Allies

Date Originally Written:  August 7, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  October 1, 2018.

Summary:  Russia frequently employs offensive cyber operations to further its foreign policy and strategic goals.  Prevalent targets of Russian activity include the United States and its allies, most recently culminating in attacks on Western national elections by using cyber-enabled information operations.  Notably, these information operations have yielded national security implications and the need for proactive measures to deter further Russian offenses.

Text:  The United States and its allies are increasingly at risk from Russian offensive cyber operations (OCOs).  Based on the definition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, OCOs are operations which aim “to project power in or through cyberspace[1].”  Russia utilizes OCOs to further their desired strategic end state: to be perceived as a great power in a polycentric world order and to wield greater influence in international affairs.  Russia uses a variety of means to achieve this end state, with cyber tools now becoming more frequently employed.

Since the 2007 cyber attacks on Estonia, Russia has used OCOs against the United States, Great Britain, France, and others[2].  These OCOs have deepened existing societal divisions, undermined liberal democratic order, and increased distrust in political leadership in order to damage European unity and transatlantic relations.  Russian OCO’s fall into two categories: those projecting power within cyberspace, which can relay kinetic effects, and those projecting power indirectly through cyberspace.  The latter, in the form of cyber-enabled information operations, have become more prevalent and damaging. 

Throughout the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Russia conducted an extended cyber-enabled information operation targeting the U.S. political process and certain individuals whom Russia viewed as a threat[3].  Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, known for her more hawkish views on democracy-promotion, presented a serious political impediment to Russian foreign policy[4].  Thus, Russia’s information operations attempted to thwart Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. 

At the same time, the Russian operation aimed to deepen existing divisions in the society which divided U.S. citizens along partisan lines, and to widen the American public’s distrust in their democratic system of government.  These actions also sought to decrease U.S. primacy abroad by demonstrating how vulnerable the U.S. is to the activity of external actors.  The political reasoning behind Russia’s operations was to promote a favorable environment within which Russian foreign policy and strategic aims could be furthered with the least amount of American resistance.  That favorable environment appeared to be through the election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. Presidency, a perception that was reflected in how little Russia did to damage the Trump operation by either OCO method.

Russia also targeted several European countries to indirectly damage the U.S. and undermine the U.S. position in world affairs.  As such, Russian OCOs conducted in the U.S. and Europe should not be viewed in isolation.  For instance, presidential elections in Ukraine in 2014 and three years later in France saw cyber-enabled information operations favoring far-right, anti-European Union candidates[5]. 

Russia has also attempted to manipulate the results of referendums throughout Europe.  On social media, pro-Brexit cyber-enabled information operations were conducted in the run-up to voting on the country’s membership in the European Union[6].  In the Netherlands, cyber-enabled information operations sought to manipulate the constituency to vote against the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement that would have prevented Ukraine from further integrating into the West, and amplified existing fractions within the European Union[7].

These cyber-enabled information operations, however, are not a new tactic for Russia, but rather a contemporary manifestation of Soviet era Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (K.G.B.) techniques of implementing, “aktivniye meropriyatiya,” or, “‘active measures’”[8].  These measures aim to “[influence] events,” and to “[undermine] a rival power with forgeries,” now through the incorporation of the cyber domain[9]. 

Russia thus demonstrates a holistic approach to information warfare which actively includes cyber, whereas the Western viewpoint distinguishes cyber warfare from information warfare[10].  However, Russia’s cyber-enabled information operations – also perceived as information-psychological operations – demonstrate how cyber is exploited in various forms to execute larger information operations [11].

Although kinetic OCOs remain a concern, we see that the U.S. is less equipped to deal with cyber-enabled information operations[12].  Given Western perceptions that non-kinetic methods such as information operations, now conducted through cyberspace, are historically, “not forces in their own right,” Russia is able to utilize these tactics as an exploitable measure against lagging U.S. and Western understandings of these capabilities[13].  Certain U.S. political candidates have already been identified as the targets of Russian OCOs intending to interfere with the 2018 U.S. Congressional midterm elections[14].  These information operations pose a great threat for the West and the U.S., especially considering the lack of consensus towards assessing and countering information operations directed at the U.S. regardless of any action taken against OCOs. 

Today, cyber-enabled information operations can be seen as not only ancillary, but substitutable for conventional military operations[15].  These operations pose considerable security concerns to a targeted country, as they encroach upon their sovereignty and enable Russia to interfere in their domestic affairs. Without a fully developed strategy that addresses all types of OCOs including the offenses within cyberspace and the broader information domain overall Russia will continue to pose a threat in the cyber domain. 


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). “JP 3-12, Cyberspace Operations”, Retrieved July 7, 2018, from http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_12.pdf?ver=2018-06-19-092120-930, p. GL-5.

[2] For instance: Brattberg, Erik & Tim Maurer. (2018). “Russian Election Interference – Europe’s Counter to Fake News and Cyber Attacks”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.; Burgess, Matt. (2017, November 10). “Here’s the first evidence Russia used Twitter to influence Brexit”, Retrieved July 16, 2018 from http://www.wired.co.uk/article/brexit-russia-influence-twitter-bots-internet-research-agency; Grierson, Jamie. (2017, February 12). “UK hit by 188 High-Level Cyber-Attacks in Three Months”, Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/12/uk-cyber-attacks-ncsc-russia-china-ciaran-martin; Tikk, Eneken, Kadri Kaska, Liis Vihul. (2010). International Cyber Incidents: Legal Considerations. Retrieved July 8, 2018, from https://ccdcoe.org/publications/books/legalconsiderations.pdf; Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (2017, January 6). “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution” Retrieved July 9, 2018, from https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf. 

[3] Office of the Director of National Intelligence. (2017, January 6). “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution” Retrieved July 9, 2018 https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf p.1.

[4] Flournoy, Michèle A. (2017).  Russia’s Campaign Against American Democracy: Toward a Strategy for Defending Against, Countering, and Ultimately Deterring Future Attacks Retrieved July 9, 2018, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt20q22cv.17, p. 179. 

[5] Nimmo, Ben. (2017, April 20). “The French Election through Kremlin Eyes” Retrieved July 15, 2018, from https://medium.com/dfrlab/the-french-election-through-kremlin-eyes-5d85e0846c50

[6] Burgess, Matt. (2017, November 10). “Here’s the first evidence Russia used Twitter to influence Brexit” Retrieved July 16, 2018, from http://www.wired.co.uk/article/brexit-russia-influence-twitter-bots-internet-research-agency 

[7] Cerulus, Laurens. (2017, May 3). “Dutch go Old School against Russian Hacking” Retrieved August 8, 2018, from https://www.politico.eu/article/dutch-election-news-russian-hackers-netherlands/ ; Van der Noordaa, Robert. (2016, December 14). “Kremlin Disinformation and the Dutch Referendum” Retrieved August 8, 2018, from https://www.stopfake.org/en/kremlin-disinformation-and-the-dutch-referendum/

[8] Osnos, Evan, David Remnick & Joshua Yaffa. (2017, March 6). “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War” Retrieved July 9, 2018 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/trump-putin-and-the-new-cold-war 

[9] Ibid.

[10] Connell, Michael & Sarah Vogler. (2017). “Russia’s Approach to Cyber Warfare” Retrieved July 7, 2018, from  https://www.cna.org/cna_files/pdf/DOP-2016-U-014231-1Rev.pdf ; Giles, Keir. & William Hagestad II (2013). “Divided by a Common Language: Cyber Definitions in Chinese, Russian and English”. In K. Podins, J. Stinissen, M. Maybaum (Eds.), 2013 5th International Conference on Cyber Conflict.  Retrieved July 7, 2018, from  https://ccdcoe.org/publications/2013proceedings/d3r1s1_giles.pdf, pp. 420-423; Giles, Keir. (2016). “Russia’s ‘New’ Tools for Confronting the West – Continuity and Innovation in Moscow’s Exercise of Power” Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/publications/2016-03-russia-new-tools-giles.pdf, p. 62-63.

[11] Iasiello, Emilio J. (2017). “Russia’s Improved Information Operations: From Georgia to Crimea” Retrieved August 10, 2018 from https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/parameters/issues/Summer_2017/8_Iasiello_RussiasImprovedInformationOperations.pdf p. 52. 

[12] Coats, Dan. (2018, July 18). “Transcript: Dan Coats Warns The Lights Are ‘Blinking Red’ On Russian Cyberattacks” Retrieved August 7, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/2018/07/18/630164914/transcript-dan-coats-warns-of-continuing-russian-cyberattacks?t=1533682104637

[13] Galeotti, Mark (2016). “Hybrid, ambiguous, and non-linear? How new is Russia’s ‘new way of war’?” Retrieved July 10, 2018, from Small Wars & Insurgencies, Volume 27(2), p. 291.

[14] Geller, Eric. (2018, July 19) . “Microsoft reveals first known Midterm Campaign Hacking Attempts” Retrieved August 8, 2018, from https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/19/midterm-campaign-hacking-microsoft-733256 

[15] Inkster, Nigel. (2016). “Information Warfare and the US Presidential Election” Retrieved July 9, 2018, from Survival, Volume 58(5), p. 23-32, 28 https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2016.1231527

Caroline Gant Cyberspace Jacob Sharpe Laura Oolup Matthew Feehan Meghan Brandabur Natasha Williams Option Papers Psychological Factors Russia United States Yuxiang Hou

Alternative Futures: U.S. Options for a Chinese Invasion of North Korea (Part 3 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you have enjoyed all three articles and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. 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:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 14, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 10, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. Secretary of Defense personally briefing the President of the United States regarding a potential Chinese invasion into North Korea, circa 2020.

Background:  The U.S. has a complicated relationship with China.  This complicated relationship spans the nineteenth century to now, including the turn of the twentieth century when the U.S. Army fought alongside allied nations inside Beijing proper to defeat the Boxer rebellion[1].

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown in power and strength, so have their ambitions.  They have worked to seal the South China Sea from the surrounding nations; they have conducted incursions into Bhutan and engaged with dangerous stand-offs with the Indian Army; they have repeatedly provoked incidents with the Japanese government off the Japanese Senkaku islands[2][3][4].

Against the U.S., the PRC has hacked our systems and stolen intelligence, intercepted our aircraft, and shadowed our fleets.  China is not a friend to the U.S. or to the world at large[5][6][7].

During the Korean War in 1950, as U.S. forces—with our South Korean and United Nations (UN) allies—neared victory, the Chinese attacked across the Yalu River, stretching out the war and quadrupling our casualties[8].

While the North Koreans in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are also not a U.S. friend, relations with them have improved while our relations with the PRC simultaneously fell.  Our relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south has never been stronger: we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them for seventy years, and their troops fought alongside ours in Vietnam and Afghanistan.  The South Koreans support territorial claims by the North Koreans, thus it’s a near certainty they will see an invasion of the North by the Chineseas as invasion against all of Korea.

Significance:  Our satellites confirm the movement of three Chinese Army Groups towards the North Korean border.  At best, the Chinese plan to invade the Northern provinces, seizing the majority of the North Korean nuclear launch sites and giving themselves a port on the Sea of Japan.  At worst, the Chinese will invade to where North Korea narrows near Kaechon, giving themselves the best possible defensive line upon which to absorb the almost guaranteed combined DPRK and ROK counterattack.  We estimate DPRK forces are currently outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  The U.S. remains neutral.

Risk:  This option maintains our currently relationship with China, and technically is in accordance with the original UN charter and our defense treaties.  If we are not asked to participate, we lose nothing; but if the ROK asks for our assistance and we remain neutral, our allies around the world will question our commitment to their defense.

Gain:  Staying neutral allows us the best possible positioning to advocate for a peaceful ending to hostilities.  Neutrality also allows our nation the opportunity to provide humanitarian aid and assistance, and as war depresses all belligerent economies, our economy will likely strengthen as international investors look for a safe haven for funds.

Option #2:  The U.S. ally with the ROK, but ground forces do not proceed north of the DMZ.

Risk:  For decades, our motto for troops stationed in Korea has been “Katchi Kapshida, ‘We go forward together’.”  If we are asked but decline to fight inside North Korea alongside our long-time South Korean allies, it may bring turmoil and resentment at the diplomatic and military levels.  The PRC may see it as a show of weakness, and push back against us in every domain using a global hybrid warfare approach.

Gain:  Option #2 would preserve our forces from the hard infantry fight that will certainly define this war, while also upholding our treaty obligations to the letter.  We could use our robust logistic commands to support the ROK from within their borders, and every air wing or brigade we send to defend their land is another unit they can free up to deploy north, hopefully bringing the war to a quicker conclusion.

Option #3:  The U.S. fights alongside the ROK across the entire peninsula.

Risk:  North Korea is a near-continuous mountainous range, and the fighting would be akin to a war among the Colorado Rockies.  This will be an infantry war, fought squad by squad, mountaintop to mountaintop.  This is the sort of war that, despite advancements in medical technology, evacuation procedures, and body armor, will chew units up at a rate not seen since at least the Vietnam War.  We will receive thousands of U.S. casualties, a wave of fallen that will initially overwhelm U.S. social media and traditional news outlets, and probably tens-of-thousands of injured who our Department of Veterans Affairs will treat for the rest of their lives.

Also worth noting is that North Korean propaganda for decades told stories of the barbaric, dangerous U.S. troops and prepared every town to defend themselves from our forces.  Even with the permission of the North Korean government, moving forward of the DMZ would bring with it risks the ROK solders are unlikely to face.  We would face a determined foe to our front and have uncertain lines of supply.

Gain:  Fighting alongside our ROK allies proves on the world stage that the U.S. will not sidestep treaty obligations because it may prove bloody.  We have put the credibility of the United States on-line since World War 2, and occasionally, we have to pay with coin and blood to remind the world that freedom is not free.  Fighting alongside the ROK in North Korea also ensures a U.S. voice in post-war negotiations.

Option #4:  The U.S. fights China worldwide.

Risk:  Thermonuclear war.  That is the risk of this option, there is no way to sugarcoat it.  The PRC has left themselves vulnerable at installations around the world, locations we could strike with impunity via carrier groups or U.S.-based bombers.  More than the previous options, this option risks throwing the Chinese on the defensive so overwhelmingly they will strike back with the biggest weapon in their arsenal.  U.S. casualties would be in the millions from the opening nuclear strikes, with millions more in the post-blast environment.  While we would also gain our measure of vengeance and eliminate millions of Chinese, the ensuing “nuclear autumn” or full-on “nuclear winter” would drop international crops by 10-20%, driving worldwide famines and economic collapse.  Short-term instant gains must be balanced with an equally intense diplomatic push by uninvolved nations to keep the war conventional.

Gain:  Quick and easy victories across the globe with a bloody stalemate in the North Korean mountains may push the Chinese to quickly accept a cease-fire and return to the pre-conflict borders.  A well-run media campaign focusing on the numbers of PRC casualties to one-child families across the world may help push the Chinese citizens to overthrow the government and sue for peace before nuclear weapons are used.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica. Boxer Rebellion. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion 

[2] Guardian, (2018, May 19) China lands nuclear strike-capable bombers on South China Sea islands. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/19/china-says-air-force-lands-bombers-on-south-china-sea-islands

[3] Panda, A. (2017, October 22). The Doklam Standoff Between India and China is far from over. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-doklam-standoff-between-india-and-china-is-far-from-over/ 

[4] Graham-Harrison, E. (2017, February 4). Islands on the frontline of a new global flashpoint: China v japan. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/china-v-japan-new-global-flashpoint-senkaku-islands-ishigaki

[5] Nakashima, E. and Sonne, P. (2018, June 8). China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/china-hacked-a-navy-contractor-and-secured-a-trove-of-highly-sensitive-data-on-submarine-warfare/2018/06/08/6cc396fa-68e6-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html

[6] Ali., I. (2017, July 24) Chinese jets intercept U.S. surveillance plane: U.S. officials. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKBN1A91QE 

[7] Kubo, N. (2016, June 14) China spy ship shadows U.S., Japanese, Indian naval drill in Western Pacific. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pacific-exercises-idUSKCN0Z10B8 

[8] Stewart, R. The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention. Archived 2011, Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20111203234437/http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/kw-chinter/chinter.htm

Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Assessment of North Korean Strategy in Preparation for High Level Diplomacy in September 2018

David Maxwell is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation For Defense of Democracies focusing on Korea and East Asian security.  He is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel with five tours in Korea.  He tweets @DavidMaxwell161 and blogs at the Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of North Korean Strategy in Preparation for High Level Diplomacy in September 2018

Date Originally Written:  September 4, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 7, 2018.

Summary:  The only way the U.S. will see an end to the nuclear program, threats, and crimes against humanity committed by the North Korean mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea (UROK).  The UROK would be secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government determined by the Korean people.

Text:  For Kim Jong-un, the Panmunjom Declaration and Singapore joint statement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula are like contracts that specify the precise sequences in which negotiations and action should proceed:

1.  Declare an end to the Korean civil war

2.  Reduce and then end sanctions

3.  Denuclearize South Korea (i.e. end the Republic of Korea (ROK) / U.S. alliance, remove U.S. troops from the peninsula, and remove the U.S. nuclear umbrella over the ROK and Japan)

4.  After completing all of the above, begin negotiation on how to dismantle the North’s nuclear program[1]

The September 2018 summit in Pyongyang between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could set the conditions to end the Korean civil war at the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of the month.  While there is disagreement among Korean analysts as to North Korea’s true intent, North Korean actions are best viewed through the lens of the Kim family regime’s decades-old strategy.  This strategy wants to ensure the survival of the Kim family regime, unify the peninsula via subversion, coercion, and use of force to guarantee regime survival, and to split the ROK / U.S. alliance to expel U.S. forces from the peninsula.  Additionally, Kim wants SALT/START-like talks in which the North is co-equal to the U.S. like the Soviets were – but Kim will likely settle for Pakistan-like acceptance.

While U.S. President Donald Trump moved past the last administration’s unofficial policy of strategic patience and now conducts unconventional[2], experimental[3], and top-down diplomacy, it is necessary to consider the full scope of the Korea problem, not just the nuclear issue.  U.S. policy towards North Korea and the U.S. / ROK alliance is based on answers to the following:

1.  What does the U.S. want to achieve in Korea?

2.  What is the acceptable and durable political arrangement than will protect, serve, and advance U.S. and ROK / U.S. alliance interests on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia?

3.  Does the U.S. believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned Pyongyang’s seven decades-old strategy of subversion, coercion, and the use of force to achieve northern domination of a unified peninsula in order to ensure the survival of the Kim family regime?

4.  Does the U.S. believe that Kim Jong-un has abandoned the objective of splitting the ROK / U.S. alliance to get U.S. forces off the peninsula?  In short, has he abandoned his “divide and conquer” strategy: divide the ROK / U.S. alliance and conquer the South[4]?

While pursuing high-level nuclear diplomacy, the U.S. and ROK will keep in mind the entire spectrum of existing threats (The Big 5) and potential surprises that can affect negotiations.

1.  War – The U.S. and ROK must deter, and if attacked, defend, fight, and win because miscalculation or a deliberate decision by Kim could occur at any time.

2.  Regime Collapse – The U.S. and ROK must prepare for this very real possibility and understand it could lead to war; both war and regime collapse could result in resistance to unification within the North.

3.  Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity (Gulags, external forced labor, etc.) –Oppression of the population keeps the Kim regime in power and it uses slave labor to do everything from overseas work to mining uranium for the nuclear program.  Furthermore, U.S. / ROK focus on human rights is a threat to the Kim family regime because this undermines domestic legitimacy – and most importantly, addressing this issue is a moral imperative.

4.  Asymmetric Threats – North Korean asymmetric threats include provocations to gain political and economic concessions, coercion through its nuclear and missile programs, cyber-attacks, special operations activities, and global illicit activities such as those conducted by North Korea’s Department 39.  All of these asymmetric threats keep the regime in power, support blackmail diplomacy, and provide capabilities to counter alliance strengths across the spectrum of conflict.  These asymmetric threats also facilitate resistance following a potential regime collapse.

5.  Unification – The biggest challenge since the division of the peninsula is the fundamental reason for the North-South conflict.  Unification is also the solution to the Korea question.  Note that President Trump in the June 30, 2017 joint statement supported the ROK’s leading role in fostering an environment for peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula[5].

While the focus is naturally on North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, the conventional threat from the North remains significant.  Seventy percent of its 1.2 million-man army is offensively postured between the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Pyongyang.  The northern artillery in deeply buried and hardened targets poses a dangerous threat to a millions of Koreans in and around Seoul[6].  Since the Moon-Kim and Trump-Kim summits in April and June 2018 respectively, there has been no reduction in these forces and no confidence-building measures from the North Korean side.

While maintaining its aggressive conventional posture, Pyongyang is also pushing for a peace treaty to remove the justification for U.S. forces on the peninsula, as ROK presidential adviser Moon Chung-in wrote in April 2018[7].  However, the legal basis for U.S. presence lies in the ROK / U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953, which makes no mention of North Korea or the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and exists to defend both nations from threats in the Pacific Region[8].  As such, the treaty would remain valid even if Seoul and Pyongyang were technically at peace.

It is the ROK / U.S. alliance and presence of U.S. forces that has deterred hostilities on the peninsula.  As long as there is a conventional and nuclear threat from the North, the ROK / U.S. alliance is required for deterrence.  Based upon this need for a U.S. deterrent, the North’s desire for the removal of U.S. troops must be treated with deep skepticism.

The challenge for the ROK, the U.S., regional powers, and the international community is how to get from the current state of armistice and temporary cessation of hostilities to unification.  While peaceful unification would be ideal, the most likely path will involve some level of conflict ranging from war to internal civil conflict and potentially horrendous human suffering in the northern part of Korea.  The ROK and its friends and allies face an extraordinary security challenge because of the “Big Five.” War, regime collapse, and the north’s nuclear and missile programs pose an existential threat to the ROK.  Finally, although some advocate that the U.S. should keep the human rights as a separate issue; it is a moral imperative to work to relieve the suffering of the Korean people who live in the worst sustained human rights conditions in modern history.


Endnotes:

[1]  David Maxwell. “Three Simple Things the Trump-Kim Summit Could—and Should—Achieve.” Quartz. https://qz.com/1300494/three-simple-things-the-trump-kim-summit-could-and-should-achieve/ (September 4, 2018).

[2]  James Jay Carafano. July 17, 2018. “Donald Trump and the Age of Unconventional Diplomacy.” The National Interest. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/donald-trump-and-age-unconventional-diplomacy-26011 (August 10, 2018)

[3]  Patrick M. Cronin, Kristine Lee. 2018. “Don’t Rush to a Peace Treaty on North Korea.” The National Interest. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/dont-rush-peace-treaty-north-korea-26936 (August 3, 2018).

[4]  Ibid., Maxwell

[5]  “Joint Statement between the United States and the Republic of Korea.” The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/joint-statement-united-states-republic-korea/ (September 4, 2018).

[6]  “Defense Intelligence Agency: Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2017 A Report to Congress Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.” https://media.defense.gov/2018/May/22/2001920587/-1/-1/1/REPORT-TO-CONGRESS-MILITARY-AND-SECURITY-DEVELOPMENTS-INVOLVING-THE-DEMOCRATIC-PEOPLES-REPUBLIC-OF-KOREA-2017.PDF

[7]  Moon, Chung-in. 2018. “A Real Path to Peace on the Korean peninsula.” Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2018-04-30/real-path-peace-korean- peninsula (August 6, 2018).

[8]  “Avalon Project – Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of Korea; October 1, 1953.” http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/kor001.asp (August 6, 2018).

Assessment Papers David Maxwell North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

An Assessment of U.S. Women in Islamic State-related Cases

Brandee Leon is a freelance analyst of counter-terrorism and international relations, focusing on terror in Europe.  She frequently covers women in terrorism.  She has been published in Business Insider, The Strategy Bridge, and The Eastern Project. She can be found on Twitter at @misscherryjones.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of U.S. Women in Islamic State-related Cases

Date Originally Written:  June 20, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 13, 2018.

Summary:  Since the inception of Islamic State, ten percent of the related cases in the United States have involved women. The roles of the women involved have varied, from material support to bomb-making. The numbers are small compared to their European counterparts, but there is a definite presence in the United States. But like those in Europe, they are not a group that should be ignored.

Text:  George Washington University’s Program on Extremism (PoE) has been compiling cases of U.S persons involved in Islamic State(IS)-related offenses since 2014[1]. As of April 2018, they have found that 160 individuals have been charged. This article’s analysis to date reveals that 16 of those cases have involved women. The following is an overview of those cases, as well as why they are worth paying attention.

According to the latest infographic put out by GWU PoE, 90 percent of those charged with IS-related offenses in the U.S. have been male. This is up from 86 percent as of December 2015. The average age for the women in the cases is 33, five years older than the overall average age of 28. The oldest woman was 55, and the youngest was 19.

Thirteen of the women are U.S. citizens, six of whom are U.S.-born. Other nationalities represented among the women include Bosnia-Hercegovina[2], Pakistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of the women have children. In one case, the woman’s sons had traveled to Syria in support of Islamic State[3].

The women involved tend to received drastically shorter prison sentences than the overall average: just 5.4 years compared to 13.4 years. One woman (so far) has been acquitted by trial, while another is still at large.

Most of the charges leveled against the women fell under 18 USC §2339, providing material support to terrorists or designated terror organizations. The next, most-frequent charge was 18 USC §1001(a)(2), providing false statements. Money laundering, transmission of a threat, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government were among the other charges. Two women were charged with 18 USC §2332a (a)(2), use of weapons of mass destruction, which represents the only straightforward “operational” charges against IS-connected women in America to date[4].

Several of the women conspired with a romantic partner, whether via online contact with a purported member of IS[5], or with a husband or boyfriend[6]. One woman actually traveled to Syria and married a well-known IS fighter[7].

Women in America who have been charged with crimes relating to the Islamic State tend to be slightly older than the male average. The women who have been sentenced to date have received significantly lesser sentences. Nearly all the women were charged with crimes relating to support rather than traveling to join the terror group. The women rarely act on their own, usually partnering with a significant other, either in person or virtually. While comprising just ten percent of the known cases of Americans in Islamic State related offenses, women are actively supporting the cause.

The numbers of American women getting involved with Islamic State are still small compared to the numbers of European women supporting the terror group. One estimate puts the number of European women traveling to join IS at over 500[8], with nearly 100 from Britain, and over 300 from France. The proximity to the Middle East and the larger Muslim population in Europe are likely factors in the numbers. U.S. women, however, could have greater ease of movement and agency, as some European countries are cracking down on Muslim women by way of headscarf and burka bans.

As the author has written before, the roles of women in these groups continue to evolve, and those in the business of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism will need to shed any preconceived notions of women-as-victim. Women are increasingly playing active roles in these organizations, and doing so voluntarily[9]. Most of the focus of women and terrorism remains on European women, but as shown in this article, there is a presence in the U.S.

However small the number of U.S. women actively supporting IS, it does not mean they should not be taken as serious a threat as the men. As the group’s territory disappears, they will find other areas in which to operate. They group has repeatedly called on its supporters to attack locally if they cannot physically travel to Syria or Iraq. And most recently, the group has seemingly loosened its restrictions on women taking up arms for the cause[10]. The Trump administration’s rhetoric and policies toward Muslims could also be a driving force. Whether the above mentioned factors mean there will be an increase in activity in the United States remains to be seen, but this is an issue deserving additional study, particularly regarding the motivations of Western women who choose to affiliate themselves with IS.

“To underestimate or neglect women jihadists would be a huge mistake for security services…– and one they may pay for in the near future.” – Abu Haniyah


Endnotes:

[1] ISIS in America, https://extremism.gwu.edu/isis-america

[2] Seamus Hughes & Bennett Clifford, “First He Became an American—Then He Joined ISIS,” The Atlantic, 25 May 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/05/first-he-became-an-americanthen-he-joined-isis/527622/

[3] US Department of Justice, Collin County Couple Sentenced for Lying to Federal Agents, 13 February 2018, https://www.justice.gov/usao-edtx/pr/collin-county-couple-sentenced-lying-federal-agents

[4] “2 Women Arrested In New York City For Alleged ISIS-Inspired Terror Plot,” CBS New York, 2 April 2015, http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/04/02/sources-tell-cbs2-2-women-arrested-in-new-york-city-for-alleged-isis-inspired-terror-plot/

[5] “Shannon Conley, Arvada teen who tried to join ISIS to wage jihad, sentenced to 4 years in prison,” TheDenverChannel, 23 January 2015, https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/sentencing-for-shannon-conley-arvada-teen-who-tried-to-join-isis-to-wage-jihad

[6] Joshua Berlinger and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Mississippi woman pleads guilty on charge that she tried to join ISIS,” CNN, 30 March 2016, https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/30/us/mississippi-isis-guilty-plea-jaelyn-young/index.html

[7] Tresa Baldas, “FBI translator secretly married Islamic State leader,” USA Today, 2 May 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/02/fbi-translator-secretly-married-islamic-state-leader/309137001/

[8] Shiraz Maher, “What should happen to the foreign women and children who joined Isis?,” New Statesman, 28 August 2017, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/middle-east/2017/08/what-should-happen-foreign-women-and-children-who-joined-isis

[9] Brandee Leon, “Thinking about women’s roles in terrorism,” The View From Here, 12 June 2017, https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/thinking-about-womens-roles-in-terrorism/

[10] Brandee Leon, “Changing Roles? Women as Terror Threat,” The View From Here, 28 February 2018, https://misscherryjones.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/changing-roles-women-as-terror-threat/

Assessment Papers Brandee Leon Islamic State Variants United States Women

U.S. Options for Responding to Sharp Power Threats

Anthony Patrick is a student at Georgia State University where he majors in political science and conducts research on Sharp Power.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Threats to U.S. and allied nations by sharp power actions (defined below).

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 30, 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divergent Trajectories for U.S. Military Power

Jeff Becker is a consultant in the U.S. Joint Staff J-7, Joint Concepts Division and writes extensively on military futures and joint force development, including the 2016 edition of the Joint Operating Environment:  The Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World. He can be found at LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-becker-10926a8 or at Jeffrey.james.becker@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:  Divergent trajectories for U.S. military power.

Date Originally Written:  May 30, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 23, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a military futurist supporting the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff J7 which is responsible for the six functions of joint force development: Doctrine, Education, Concept Development & Experimentation, Training, Exercises and Lessons Learned.  The author is a classical realist and believes strongly in the importance of husbanding U.S. strategic power and avoiding wasting conflicts around the world, while simultaneously believing in the judicious use of the U.S. military to protect its interests and support and defend a favorable world order. 

Background:  Today U.S. understanding of the long-term trajectory of its power is at a crossroads, with two divergent and highly consequential potential futures as options[1].  Each future is plausible.  Each future has widely different implications for the kind of Joint Force that the U.S. will need.

Significance:  New national security and national defense strategies direct a recapitalization of the Joint Force after nearly two decades of war.  Clarifying which future is more probable and the force modernization implications that flow from each can help to illuminate what the U.S. and its military can reasonably aspire to and achieve in the future[2].  Basing force design on sound assumptions about the relative trajectory of U.S. power – particularly economic power, but also other intangibles such as scientific innovation or social cohesion – is central to well-defined Joint Force roles and missions and the requisite concepts and capabilities it will need in the future

Articulating two distinct visions for the possible trajectory of American power, and then consistently anchoring force design choices on the expected one, will ensure the future armed forces can be an effective part of future national strategy. 

Option #1:  The consensus future understands the U.S. to remain as the single most powerful state on the world stage.  In this view, the economic and military potential of the U.S. remains relatively constant – or at the very worst – only sees a slight decline relative to other countries over the next two decades.  In such a world, the U.S. and its Joint Force, though generally superior, will be increasingly challenged and the Joint Force is forced to adapt as its power relative to others undergoes a slow erosion.  Such a world emphasizes the need to address great powers, in a period of “long term strategic competition between nations[3].”  Competition is multi-faceted, but nations generally avoid the overt use military force and pursue regional opportunities to challenge U.S. interests and objectives – particularly within their regions – in indirect and subversive ways.    

Risk:  In a world in which U.S. power is perceived as too formidable to confront directly, state rivals may prioritize indirect, proxy, and hybrid approaches as well as new forms of cyber and information confrontation that avoid open clashes with the Joint Force.  This places the Joint Force in a dilemma, as the large nuclear and conventional forces required to keep conflict contained are likely unsuitable to these indirect coercive challenges.  Option #1 would leave the U.S. more vulnerable to threats arising from persistent disorder, substate violent conflict, political subversion, influence operations, and novel and unexpected asymmetric military developments that avoid confronting the U.S. military directly.   

Gain:  Joint Force development activities in this world will be able to take advantage of greater freedom of action – including a large and capable alliance system and ability to operate through and from global commons – to deter and impose costs on competitors and adversaries.  The U.S. may have the strategic and military margins to direct more resources and effort as a “systems administrator” for the global commons.  In this role the U.S. would use military power to secure maritime global trade, open and uninhibited use of space, and thus, continue to support and defend an open world order largely favorable to U.S. against even great power competitors.

Option #2:  In this alternative future, relative U.S. economic and technological decline translate into significant strategic and military challenges more rapidly than many expect.  This world is plausible.  A particularly striking assessment in the U.K.’s Global Strategic Trends describes a 2045 People’s Republic of China (PRC) with an economy more than double that of the United States ($62.9 trillion versus $30.7 trillion) and noting that even today, the PRC military may already be “close to matching that of the U.S., perhaps exceeding it in some areas.”  A CSBA study notes that the trajectory of PRC growth means that it “poses a far greater economic challenge to the United States than did Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, or Nazi Germany[4].”  In this world, great powers are able to translate this growing relative power into more expansive and often hostile national objectives.  

Risk:  The military consequences of a world in which the U.S. possesses one-fourth the population and one half the economy of the PRC would be profound.  Here, the U.S. is the “smaller superpower” and the PRC translates demographic potential and economic and technological prowess into more expansive strategic goals and potentially overmatches the Joint Force in a number of important capability areas.   In such a world, other competitive and openly aggressive adversaries may also pursue military spheres of influence and make regional and local arrangements incompatible with a free and open international order.  Adversaries may be able to project power globally with advanced expeditionary forces, but also through new space, information, cyber weapons, and long-range precision strike systems.  Combined, these may force the U.S. to invest more in homeland defense at the expense of our own global power projection capabilities.

Gain:  Joint force development efforts in this world are forced to be agile enough to confront aggressive and powerful adversaries in asymmetric, unexpected, and flexible ways.  Counterintuitively, in such a world it may be easier for the U.S. military to counter aggressive adversary moves.  In a world of powerful defensive capabilities in which projecting power through dense and connected defensive complexes is extremely difficult, the U.S. could optimize the Joint Force to construct defensive systems and perimeters around Allies and Partners.  The U.S. can also invest in strategic mobile defenses in-depth to raise the risk and cost of adversary initiatives around the world. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  These alternative futures are derived from “challenged assumption #1 in a Joint Staff J7 study, Challenged Assumptions and Potential Groupthink (April 2018), p. 9.

[2]  See, Joint Operating Environment 2035 (July 2016), p. 50-51

[3]   Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (January 2018), p. 2.

[4]   Andrew Krepinevich, Preserving the Balance: A U.S. Eurasia Defense Strategy, CSIS (2017), p. 40

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Capacity / Capability Enhancement Economic Factors Jeff Becker Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

David Mattingly serves on the board of directors for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.  The views reflected are his own and do not represents the United States Government of any of its agencies.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  March 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  June 11, 2018.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. policy in Africa has focused primarily on defeating Al-Qaeda franchises and other violent extremists.  Djibouti’s natural deep-water harbor and stable government have made it the primary transshipment point for maritime trade in Northeastern Africa and as a naval base.  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent investment in the Port of Djibouti, a country with a U.S. military base, begins another chapter in geopolitical competition.

Text:  The U.S. has a standing requirement for overseas bases to support its global operations.  The U.S. Navy ship USS Cole was attacked in October 2000 in Yemen by Al Qaeda.  In 2003, the U.S. established Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) on the French Army’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, to support combat operations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2007, a reorganization of the U.S. military’s unified command structure created United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) based in Germany.  In Djibouti, since the establishment of USAFRICOM, the CJTF-HOA mission has increased with the growth of al-Qaeda and other groups such as the Islamic State, the conflict in Libya and Yemen, and pirate attacks on merchant shipping in the region.  In addition to the U.S., Camp Lemonnier is used by France, Japan, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners.

Djibouti’s growth as a transshipment port has increased with the global demand for containerized shipping[1].  Additionally, Africa depends on maritime shipping to carry 90% of its imports and exports.  France created the port of Djibouti in 1888 and it became the capital of French Somaliland in 1892.  Once established, the port of Djibouti quickly became an important refueling station and cargo storage facility for ships traversing the Red Sea to and from the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.  During the closure of the Suez Canal (1967-1975) Djibouti suffered a severe decline in shipping volume.

Today, Djibouti is the linchpin to the PRC’s access to trade with Africa.  Business Tech’s 2015 assessment of African shipping ports states, “Djibouti’s is the only reliable port along the main shipping lanes between Europe and the Gulf and also between Asia on the eastern coast of Africa.” Additionally, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea during its war with Eritrea (1998-2000) and now relies on Djibouti as its transshipment access point.

In 2013, PRC President Xi Jinping, announced the resurgence of the ancient “Silk Road” which linked the PRC to markets in the Middle East and Europe and the idea was formalized in the Belt and Road Action Plan released in 2015.  This plan set out to improve trade relationships through infrastructure investments.  The PRC planned to invest $8 trillion for infrastructure in 68 countries which included Djibouti[2].  The port of Djibouti is critical to both the PRC’s African and European Roads. With the increasing demand for port services, the PRC negotiated to expand existing facilities, build new port facilities, and expand the inland transportation network of Djibouti and Ethiopia.  Due to the lack of natural resources, Djibouti depends on the revenue of its transportation facilities and a 2015 International Monetary Fund Report states “Diversifying [Djibouti’s] economic base remains difficult given that the country lacks natural resources and [its] agriculture and industrial sectors are almost non-existent[3].”

The PRC is the largest source of capital in Djibouti and has provided 40% of the financing for Djibouti’s major infrastructure projects.  Additionally, PRC-based firms built three of the largest projects in Djibouti and the PRC is the minority owners and operators of two of the three[4].

Since the emergence of the Somali pirate threat, the PRC has sought basing rights for the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) ships which joined in the international effort to protect shipping in the region.  The PRC’s interest in a navy base was born out of several ship engineering problems that developed while PLA(N) ships were deployed to the region and military ties had not been established between the PRC and Djibouti.  Although it was only speculated at the time, the PRC negotiated basing rights for the PLA(N) ships in a 2015 finance package and the base became active in September 2017.  The South China Morning Post reported, “The scale of the wharf should allow for the docking of a four-ship flotilla at least, including China’s new generation Type-901 supply ship with a displacement of more than 40,000 tons, destroyers and frigates, as well as amphibious assault ships for combat and humanitarian missions[5].”

The Trump administration released its 2017 National Security Strategy and though the administration appears to be aware of the situation in Djibouti stating, “China is expanding its economic and military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today,” the strategy lacks any concrete steps describing how U.S. diplomacy should proceed in the region.

An analysis of U.S. soft power in the Trump administration was recently published in Foreign Policy by Max Boot.  The article notes a recent Gallup Poll of “approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%.”  While the PRC is leveraging its economic power to enhance its military position, Boot opines that Trump’s America First campaign has resulted in the declining global opinion of the U.S. which in the long-term may result in a global environment more hostile to U.S. interests.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Henry Kissinger was quoted regarding trends and events that emerged from the Cold War and concludes, “…the rise of India and China is more important than the fall of the Soviet Union[6].”  The U.S. and PRC competition in Djibouti is only the beginning.  While both nations assess each others military forces in Djibouti, other instruments of national power are at work both in Djibouti and elsewhere on the continent.  The U.S. and PRC competition in Africa will likely expand, and be worthy of monitoring over the coming decades.


Endnotes:

[1] Africa’s biggest shipping ports. (2015, March 8). Business Techhttps://businesstech.co.za/news/general/81995/africas-biggest-shipping-ports/

[2] Bruce-Lockhart, Anna. China’s $900 billion New Silk Road. What you need to know. World Economic Forum, June 26, 2017 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/

[3] Djibouti Selected Subjects. International Monetary Fund. November 18, 2015 https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2016/cr16249.pdf

[4] Downs Erica, and Jeffrey Becker, and Patrick deGategno. China’s Military Support Facility in Djibouti: The Economic and Security Dimensions of Chinas First Overseas Base. The CNA Corporation, July 2017. https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/DIM-2017-U-015308-Final2.pdf

[5] Chan, Minnie. (2017, September 27). China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[6] Mead, W. R. (2018, February 5). A word from Henry Kissinger. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-word-from-henry-kissinger-1517876551

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) David Mattingly Djibouti United States

The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Linn Pitts spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  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 Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 28, 2018.

Summary:  Whether migrant has voluntarily relocated to the US from a country in turmoil or a refugee being resettled to the US, the individual may still face factors that pull them towards the conflict of their homeland and may push them from full acculturation in their new society.

Text:  While it is important for the U.S. to have good foreign policies that are able to help address turmoil in African countries, equally important is the posture taken by entities in the U.S. towards migrants that may have moved or been displaced. According to Boyle and Ali [1] the general theories of migration include three broad categories concerning acculturation (the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures) at the end of the migrant’s journey. The categories include group dynamics, reception of the new society, and the nature of the exit from their home country. All of these categories serve as excellent assessment points for developing an understanding of the issues faced by migrants. For the purposes of this assessment, the primary focus is group dynamics and the reception of a new society. If policy makers understand the nuances of group dynamics and the reception possibilities of a new society, they will be better prepared to provide good governance.

Group dynamics include cultural aspects and family dynamics illustrated by interactions within extended families and communities. These group dynamics can be problematic as Boyle and Ali explain as family structures are impacted by what U.S. law has deemed a family such as the exclusion of polygamy, the allowance of only nuclear family members to migrate as a group, and the lack of elder support in their transplanted home. Boyle and Ali further indicate that conflicts from their home countries have already broken some families apart. Each migratory situation will vary depending on the state of being a migrant or a refugee as noted by Bigelow [2]. Boyle and Ali further specified that the loss of extended family members severely impact the migrant families such as limiting child care and a lack of traditional family roles. In seeking to properly conceptualize these aspects, a purposeful interview was conducted with a migrant. In personal communications with Mia (pseudonym), she noted her family moved to the U.S. when she was approximately eight years of age and she is now 21 years of age. The relocation to the U.S. was prompted by tribal conflicts that limited opportunities in her home country in Central Africa. She confirmed that since arriving in the U.S., the lack of extended family was problematic, especially regarding the roles her parents once held in their home country. In general, these issues would categorically further migrant reliance on state resources such as outside parties to resolve disputes and the social service programs.

The reception of the new society as noted by Boyle and Ali entails a period of adaptation and sometimes it is a struggle due to the removal of family support. Whereas dependence on social service programs may provide time for adaptation and development of social capital, it may not completely replace the extended family. Mia stated she found it difficult to acculturate due to bullying, issues with racial identity, and struggles adapting academically primarily based on differences in English, a point supported by Bigelow. Mia was bullied by African-American children in part due to misperceptions, “African-Americans view (sic) Africans as savages, uneducated, and poor,” Mia remarked. Continuing, she said “often time I do not see myself as black but as African.” It is an interesting concept supported by the work of Bigelow revealing migrant parents of Somali youth were concerned about the perceptions of the interactions with African-American children, especially if their children are viewed as unruly. Mia noted the parental views had merit concerning an understanding of the difficult transitions to life in the United States. While Central African and Horn of African nations are distinct entities in different regions of the Africa, Mia described the cultural contexts as “that’s just African,” She found friendship with children who had relocated from Kenya and Nigeria. Bigelow noted that the migrant children are living in two worlds, their world at home and their world at school. This two-world construct was also supported by Zhou [3] in a discussion of cultural identity and the impact on children of migrants.

Another point of reception in a new society deals with the aspects of understanding local laws during a period of acculturation. The transition can be aided by groups and religious organizations seeking to aid in the transition to the U.S. While recent arrests and later convictions of Minnesota-based Somalis seeking to join the Islamic State captured headlines, consider efforts of municipal agencies in Minnesota [4] and Clarkston, Georgia located on the outskirts metro-Atlanta. According to David (personal communications), a missionary in Clarkston, the city was chosen to be a refugee resettlement area in the 1990s. He noted the area was a prime location for refugee resettlement due to the high degree of apartment complexes (near 80%), featured a low-cost of living, it was close proximity to a major airport, and it had a public transit available to Atlanta. Moreover, he detailed that Time Magazine deemed this portion of Clarkston as the most diverse square mile in the U.S. As an example, approximately 100 languages were spoken at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston. When asked about the Somali population, David stated it was previously the largest migrant population in Clarkston but population dynamics recently shifted due to the Myanmar Crisis. Clarkston is a success because people who come to the U.S. as a result of U.S. asylum and refugee resettlement programs not only have a place to settle, but that place has many features which, according to Salehyan and Gleditsch [5], can help minimize tensions during acculturation. Clarkston, through its ability to make acculturation smoother, allows grievances to be addressed early so they do not lead migrants down extremist pathways.

Regarding grievances and tensions, Somalis, like most inhabitants of developing countries, have a legacy of distrust with the police [6] an aspect intensified by recent efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials [7]. Boyle and Ali found Somali men feel persecuted in the United States by law enforcement mainly due to enforcement of laws such as domestic violence. Whereas in Somalia, the family elder may intervene to address problems, due to aforementioned issues the elders are not present. Law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in their daily activities, unless arrest is mandated by statute such as domestic violence. Even if law enforcement acts in good faith with the intent of upholding the law, issues could still arise. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik [8] identified that law enforcement may create resentment and ultimately diminish cooperation from communities if these communities are policed in a way seen as culturally incompatible. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik suggested a community health approach. This approach was indirectly supported by Boyle and Ali in their examination and later assessed by Cummings, Kamaboakai, Kapil, and Stone. In closing, while generous U.S. policies enable migrants to come to the U.S., unless the location where they finally arrive is prepared to receive them, and local capabilities are ready to provide close and continuing support during acculturation, the migrant will likely continue to face a friction-filled existence. This existence may make the migrant feel pulled back home and simultaneously pushed into a new society which they do not understand.


Endnotes:

[1] Boyle, E.H., & Ali, A. (2010). Culture, structure, and the refugee experience in Somali immigrant family transformation. International Migration, 48(1), 47-79.

[2] Bigelow, M. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

[3] Zhou, M. (2003). Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[4] Cumings, P., Kamaboakai, E. T., Kapil, A., & Stone, C. (2016). A Growing Community: Helping Grand Forks increase inclusion of new Americans.

[5] Salehyan, I., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2006). Refugees and the spread of civil war. International Organization, 60, 335-366.

[6] Haugen, G. A., & Boutros, V. (2015). The locust effect: Why the end of poverty requires the end of violence. Oxford University Press.

[7] Redmond, J. (2017, April 13). Immigration arrests target Somalis in Atlanta area. Atlanta Journal Constitutional. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/news/immigration-arrests-target-somalis-atlanta-area/uYatzrGTOkEGWuwocYmReJ/

[8] Weine, S., Eisenman, D. P., Kinsler, J., Glik, D. C., & Polutnik, C. (2017). Addressing violent extremism as public health policy and practice. Behavioral sciences of terrorism and political aggression, 9(3), 208-221.

Africa Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Migrants United States

Options for U.S. Naval Force Posture in East Africa

Matt Hein is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently studying for his Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University.  He can be found on Twitter @Matt_TB_Hein.  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:  Low intensity maritime conflict and engagement in Eastern Africa.

Date Originally Written:  February 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 21, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article addresses U.S. naval force posture options in East Africa and the implications for a resource-constrained force.

Background:  Demands for counter-piracy operations, countering maritime human smuggling, countering the growth of violent extremism in Sub-Saharan African countries, and partner nation capacity building require the constant presence of U.S. naval forces in East African littoral zones.  Friction arises when high-end combatants such as aircraft carriers and destroyers divert from their East African littoral mission to the nearby Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea to conduct other missions.

Significance:  U.S. naval presence in East Africa has improved maritime security and facilitated operations on land.  Coalition efforts reduced piracy incidents from 237 attempted hijackings in 2011 to only three such attempts in 2017[1].  Joint exercises, such as Cutlass Express, have developed partner nation maritime law enforcement capacity[2].  Intelligence gathering from sea based platforms has enabled multiple U.S. military missions ashore[3].  Increasing demand for high-end combatants in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea leaves the East African littoral mission vulnerable to having its gains reversed and questions the utility of those ships for low intensity missions.  Enhanced naval presence from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region, most notably the establishment of a port facility in Djibouti, further complicates force posture decision-making.   Despite the incredible gains realized for maritime security in the region, there is a demand signal for deliberate planning to match appropriate naval assets with a growing range of regional needs.

Option #1:  The U.S. maintains its current naval force posture for the East Africa littoral mission.

Risk:  Current naval force posture rotates multiple Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups through the region annually, in addition to several independent deployers dispatched for counter-piracy operations[4].  The opportunity cost of these deployments is enormous.  These ships were designed for much more complex operating environments and can often be better utilized in those environments.  Using multi-billion dollar warships for low intensity engagement not only limits the utility of these ship’s advanced combat systems but also inflates the likelihood they will be diverted to other specialized missions such as ballistic missile defense or integrated air defense.

Gain:  The existing force posture is responsible for enhanced maritime security already realized in the region.  While expanding threats may challenge the ability to maintain these gains, this hasn’t happened to the extent that a dramatic rise in piracy or a drop in partner nation capacity has occurred.  Further, the historical integration and corporate knowledge of U.S. ships deploying to the theater gives them an inherent advantage for conducting these types of operations.

Option #2:  The U.S. forward deploys two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Djibouti Naval Base.

Risk:  Forward-deploying the LCS is expensive and would require a large logistics and maintenance footprint in Djibouti.  Maintenance issues have plagued the LCS and will be exacerbated by a remote maintenance infrastructure with little experience.  Maintenance issues are compounded by difficult crew rotation schedules that have already hampered a similar forward deployment of LCS to Singapore[5].  The probability that forward deployed LCS will provide a persistent capability for the East Africa littoral mission is limited significantly by these LCS-wide problems.

Gain:  The LCS surface warfare mission package is uniquely suited for the East Africa littoral mission.  The LCS uses a combination of high speeds and shallow draft to operate aviation facilities, dedicated boarding teams, and anti-surface capabilities in littoral environments[6].  These attributes make the LCS ideal for intelligence gathering, capacity building, and counter-piracy missions.  Additionally, the use of LCS allows the multi-billion dollar warships currently conducting these missions to operate in more contested environments and across a broader swath of missions in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.   Option #2 also builds on the surge of LCS in similar mission sets from counter-drug operations in the Caribbean to fisheries patrols and bilateral engagements in Southeast Asia.

Option #3:  The U.S. decreases its naval presence in East Africa.

Risk:  The construction of the PRC naval base in Djibouti means the gap in activity from the U.S. Navy would likely be filled, at least in part, by a PRC presence.  The construction of a military docking facility, capable of berthing most People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ships, means previous PRC task forces deployed to the region could become a permanent fixture[7].  As foreign investment pours into East Africa, a reduced naval presence could cause countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia to turn elsewhere for maritime security support of their burgeoning economies.  Option #3 could further challenge the efficacy of counter-extremist efforts on land that require logistical and intelligence support from offshore assets.

Gain:  Decreasing U.S. naval presence does not mean disavowing the East Africa littoral mission entirely.  A P-3 squadron forward-deployed to Djibouti naval base combined with transiting strike groups still leaves intermittent capacity in the region to continue to support the East Africa littoral mission.  Option #3 also eliminates the requirements of keeping ships off the coast of Djibouti.  Not having to keep ships off Djibouti would allow a refocus towards heightened Iranian tensions, threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen, or even relocation to the Pacific fleet operating area in support of growing requirements.

Other Comments:  The Surface Navy Strategic Readiness Review, released in December 2017, stated that increasing readiness “require(s) a variety of naval assets and capabilities tailored to best achieve desired results[8].”  Shifting from a “demand” to “supply” model for naval surface forces means capabilities must be optimized against the mission with which they are tasked.  The options presented in this paper are three examples, of many, for shifting to a supply-based model for naval assets without sacrificing the East Africa littoral mission.

Recommendation:   None.


Endnotes:

[1] Sow, M. (2017, April 12). Figures of the week: Piracy and Illegal Fishing in Somalia. Africa in Focus.Retrieved February 9, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2017/04/12/figures-of-the-week-piracy-and-illegal-fishing-in-somalia/

[2] Williams, F. (2018, February 7), Exercise Cutlass Express 2018 Closes. Retrieved February 10, 2018. http://www.c6f.navy.mil/news/exercise-cutlass-express-2018-closes

[3] Eckstein, M. (2017, July 5).Textron’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Eligible for Navy Sea-Based ISR. United States Naval Institute News. Retrieved February 10, 2018. https://news.usni.org/2017/07/05/textrons-aerosonde-small-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-eligible-navy-sea-based-isr

[4] Defense Media Activity for U.S. Navy Office of Information. Navy Versus Piracy  #PresenceMatters. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/antipiracy/index.html

[5] Lartner, D. (2017, February 20) LCS crew marooned in Singapore on open-ended
deployment. Navy Times. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/02/20/lcs-crew-marooned-in-singapore-on-an-open-ended-deployment/

[6] United States Navy Chief of Information. Fact File: Littoral Combat Ships – Surface Warfare Mission Package. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2100&tid=437&ct=2.

[7] Chan, M (2017, September 17) China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2112926/china-plans-build-djibouti-facility-allow-naval

[8] Bayer, M. Roughead, G. (2017, December 4) United States Navy Strategic Readiness
Review. Pg.20. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from http://s3.amazonaws.com/CHINFO/
SRR+Final+12112017.pdf

Africa China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti East Africa Horn of Africa Maritime Matt Hein Option Papers United States

Options for Decentralized Local Defence Forces in Iraq & Afghanistan

Patrick Blannin (@PatrickBlannin) is a PhD Candidate, teaching fellow and research assistant at Bond University, Queensland, Australia.  The authors doctoral research focuses on the role and scope of defence diplomacy in contemporary counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.  The author has published a research monograph titled Defence Diplomacy in the Long War (Brill) as well as peer-reviewed journal articles on topics related to transnational terrorism (organisations, funding sources and counter measures).  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:  Can decentralized Local Defence Forces (LDF) reliably fill the security void in the Long War (Iraq and Afghanistan)?  Will LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police generate or maintain stability until the capability of state forces improves?  Or should such entities remain as a state sanctioned, locally drawn, semi-autonomous component of a formal security apparatus[1]?

Date Originally Written:  January 29, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 23, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  From an academic perspective, the author analyses national security issues, and the responses to them, through the lens of a whole-of-government approach.  This approach ensures all the U.S.’ tools of statecraft (DIMEFIL) are utilized pursuant of its national security strategic objectives[2].

Background:  In a perfect world, when the long-arm of the state is unable or unwilling to extend through the entirety of its sovereign territory, effectively filling the security vacuum by calling for a grass-roots approach to security and policing would represent a “compelling argument[2].”  However, the Long War theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan are far from perfect, and for over a decade numerous iterations of so-called Local Defence Forces (LDF, or Local Police Forces, Community Defence Units, Public Protection Force, etc.) have been stood up.  Results are mixed, with often short-term benefits yielding mid-term pain.  For example, the highly vaulted Sons of Iraq (’Sahawa al-Anbar’, the Sunni Awakening) constituted a number of strategically aligned LDFs which combined to facilitate the routing of Al Qa’ida from Western Iraq (primarily Anbar Province)[3].  At the time however, with stories of its recent successes reported around the world, some analysts were guarded in their praise, identifying the short-term security gains in at least some areas, while recognizing “[T]here is little guarantee that these gains will persist, and there is some chance that the strategy will backfire in the medium term[4].”  Similar conversations, and associated apprehension, regarding Afghanistan were occurring before, during and after the 2009 ‘Surge[5].’  The intoxicating aroma of tactical victory soon fades and is replaced by the lingering odour of arms races and power grabs between tribally aligned militias, and the often undermining influence and/or actions of the state.

Significance:  Over the past 16 years, the U.S. and its Coalition partners have encouraged the Iraq and Afghan governments, such as they were, to incorporate LDFs into their national security strategy.  LDFs are designed to contribute to clearing or holding missions as well as local law enforcement in broader stabilization efforts.  Although each theatre offers innumerable differences and associated challenges, one constant remains, that short-term tactical successes are followed by mid-term strategic losses.  A legacy of its Long War experience, U.S. and Coalition civilian and military decision-makers have a ‘better’ understanding of the social/cultural anthropology in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Although lessons have been learned and mistakes addressed, repeating the same flawed approach remains a primary strategic choice, and our expectations continually failed to be met[6].

Option #1:  Firstly, limit the size of LDFs.  Secondly, ensure U.S. and Coalition personnel play a role, clandestinely wherever possible, in the vetting and training process which would allow the U.S. and its partners to identify recruits and influence the operating culture of the LDF.  Additional constraints could include the amount, and type of weaponry supplied, limit or equalize the political influence/politicization of all LDF leadership as well as introducing an enforceable set of operating parameters[7].

Risk:  Attempts to constrain LDFs by limiting their size, political influence, or access to weapons risks undermining the capacity of the LDF to fulfill their objective.  Moreover, a constrained and disempowered force can leverage traditional community relations to operate a shadow or parallel security apparatus which effectively monopolizes the use of violence within their respective area of operations which would undermine broader stabilization efforts[8].

Gain:  Limiting the size and capability of the LDF makes it more able to be managed by the government.  Additionally, introducing a personnel cap in conjunction with more rigorous vetting would create a more effective and perhaps malleable security force.  Standing up an effective LDF may mitigate the role/presence/agenda of existing militias affording tribal leadership the ability to pursue legitimate, non-violent, political activities[9].

Option #2:  Firstly, acknowledge, accept and plan for the inherent challenges and limitations of LDFs[10].  Secondly, increase the tempo of the current, centrally controlled train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable and police force capacity building programs, leveraging the arrival of the nascent U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigades and private sector trainers/advisors.  Centrally controlled, locally drawn LDFs can be generated through the existing security, stabilization and capacity building framework[11].

Risk:  Convincing/guaranteeing local militia and populations that their acquiescence to a degree of central government control and/or oversight will not prove detrimental to their local security objectives will be a challenge.  Lack of progress in establishing security creates a security vacuum which nefarious actors will exploit rendering the situation worse than prior to implementing this option.

Gain:  Using the existing capacity building framework expedites implementation of this option.  Moreover, generating requisite personnel should not represent a barrier, with existing militiae and a willing local population providing significant pool to draw from.

Other Comments:  For many, a situation in which locals (including LDFs) governed locals would significantly reduce tensions.  However, this local-for-local governance does not equate with the preferred central government model.  Both options are based on realities on the ground rather than a theoretical construct, thus LDFs such as the Tribal Mobilization Forces and the Afghan Local Police represent a rare triptych.  This triptych is an opportunity to empower in situ populations, reduce the anxiety of the central government, and achieve the stabilization objectives of the U.S./Coalition Long War strategy.  The objectives and concerns of all stakeholders are legitimate, yet they are diverse and need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.  LDFs do deliver short-term tactical benefits and can positively contribute to the strategic objective of sustainable stabilization in Iraq and Afghanistan[12].

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes: 

[1] Clark, K. (2017). ‘Update on Afghan Local Police: Making Sure they are armed, trained, paid and exist’, Afghan Analysts Network at https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/update-on-the-afghan-local-police-making-sure-they-are-armed-trained-paid-and-exist/; Gaston, E. (2017). ‘Sunni Tribal Forces’, Global Public Policy Institute Report at http://www.gppi.net/publications/sunni-tribal-forces/ ; For a comprehensive list of Article about the Afghan Local Police from Afghan War News see: http://www.afghanwarnews.info/police/ALPnews.htm

[2] Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations, defines the “instruments of national power” as Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic, normally referred to as the DIME.  The DIMEFIL acronym encapsulates: Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence & Law Enforcement. DIMEFIL is an extension of the DIME construct that can be found in the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (NSCT-2003) and the National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism (NMSP-WOT). The NMSP-WOT defines DIMEFIL as the means, or the resources, used for the War on Terrorism (2006: 5) at http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2006-01-25-Strategic-Plan.pdf; For a brief overview of DIMEFIL see: Smith, A.K. (2007), Turning on a DIME: Diplomacy’s Role in National Security, Carlisle, VA: Strategic Studies Institute, pp. 1-17 at https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB801.pdf

[3] Arraf, J. (2014). ‘A New Anbar Awakening’, Foreign Policy at http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/01/08/a-new-anbar-awakening/; Jones, S. G. (2011). ‘Security from the Bottom Up’, Time at ; Theros, M & Kaldor, (2007) M. ‘Building Afghan Peace from the Ground Up’, A Century Foundation Report, New York: The Century Foundation, pp. 1-60 at http://www.operationspaix.net/DATA/DOCUMENT/4311~v~Building_Afghan_Peace_from_the_Ground_Up.pdf

[4] Hamilton, B. (2017). ‘Illusions of Victory: The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State’, US Army; Kagan, E, (2007). ‘The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from its Stronghold in Western Iraq’, Iraq Report, The Institute for the Study of War & the Weekly Standard, pp. 1-18 at http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/reports/IraqReport03.pdf

[5] Long, A. 2008). ‘The Anbar Awakening’, Survival’, Vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 67-94 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00396330802034283?needAccess=true

[6] Human Rights Watch. (2012). Impunity, Militias, and the “Afghan Local Police”, pp.  1-100 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police ; Long, A., Pezard, S., Loidolt, B & Helmus, T. C. (2012). Locals Rule: Historic Lessons for Creating Local Defence Forces for Afghanistan and Beyond, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, pp. 1-232 at https://www.hrw.org/report/2011/09/12/just-dont-call-it-militia/impunity-militias-and-afghan-local-police

[7] Dearing, M. P. (2011). ‘Formalizing the Informal: Historical Lessons on Local Defense in Counterinsurgency’, Small Wars Journal at http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/formalizing-the-informal-historical-lessons-on-local-defense-in-counterinsurgency .

[8] Mansour, R & Jabar, F. A. (2017). ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces and Iraq’s Future’, Carnegie Middle East Center at http://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810 ;  Gharizi, O & Al-Ibrahimi, H. (2018). ‘Baghdad Must Seize the Chance to Work with Iraq’s Tribes’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2018/01/baghdad-must-seize-chance-work-iraqs-tribes/

[9] Gibbs, D. 1986). ‘The Peasant as Counter Revolutionary: The Rural Origins of the Afghan’, International Development, Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 37–45 at http://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/sites/dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/files/peasant.pdf

[10] El-Hameed, R. (2017). ‘The Challenges of Mobilizing Sunni Tribes in Iraq’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/59401; n/a. (2016). Militias in Iraq: The hidden face of terrorism, Geneva International Center for Justice at http://www.gicj.org/GICJ_REPORTS/GICJ_report_on_militias_September_2016.pdf

[11] Cox, M. (2017). ‘Army Stands Up 6 Brigades to Advise Foreign Militaries’, Military.com; Cooper, N. B. (2017). ‘Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades get Manning and Intel Right?’, War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/ ; Gutowski, A. (2017). ‘Newly created ‘teaching’ brigade prepares to deploy to Afghanistan, FDD Long War Journal at https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2018/01/sfab.php ; Keller, J. (2018). ‘The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror’, Task & Purpose at  https://taskandpurpose.com/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan/  Strandquist, J. (2015). ‘Local defence forces and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: learning from the CIA’s Village Defense Program in South Vietnam’, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 90–113 at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09592318.2014.959772?needAccess=true ; Green, D. (2017). In the Warlord’s Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and their Fight Against the Taliban, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017, pp. 1-256.

[12] Al-Waeli, M. (2017). ‘Rationalizing the Debate Over the PMF’s Future: An Organizational Perspective’, 1001 Iraqi Thoughts at http://1001iraqithoughts.com/2017/12/14/rationalizing-the-debate-over-the-pmfs-future-an-organizational-perspective/

[13] Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations. (2017). Operation Inherent Resolve, Report to the U.S. Congress-July 2017-September 2017, pp. 1-126; U.S. Department of Defence. (2016). Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Report to Congress, pp. 1-106 at https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Afghanistan-1225-Report-December-2016.pdf ; Hammes, T. X. (2015). ‘Raising and Mentoring Security Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq’, in Hooker Jr, R. D., & Joseph J. Collins. J. J. (eds.), Lessons Encountered: Learning from the Long War, Fort MacNair: National Defence University, pp. 277-344 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0030438715000691

Afghanistan Allies & Partners Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Iraq Irregular Forces Option Papers Patrick Blannin United States

Options for the U.S. to Deter China in the East & South China Seas

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Curtin is a Field Artillery Officer with over 20 years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, including at the Pacific Division of Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Annie Kowalewski is a Chinese military and defense researcher at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. 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 militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

Date Originally Written:  March 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are a military member and a defense researcher.  The authors believe that Chinese actions in the East and South China Sea are destabilizing and threaten to shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background:  China is showing no evidence of slowing down its territorial aspirations within the “nine dash line” and continues to emplace anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems on its man-made islands in the East and South China Seas[1].  China also uses its maritime militia to bully neighboring countries and extend Chinese fishing rights and territorial reach.  The United States has thus far been unsuccessful in responding to or deterring these Chinese challenges to the status quo.

Significance:  Chinese actions represent a “salami-slicing” strategy aimed at slowly changing regional norms and asserting Chinese dominance in the East and South China Seas.  This strategy allows China to exert influence and establish itself as a regional hegemon, thereby threatening the balance of power and U.S. primacy in the region.  Chinese militarization and power projection also threaten the United States’ allies and security partners, some of which the United States is bound by treaty to offer security assistance.

Option #1:  The United States invests in capabilities-based deterrents that can deter specific Chinese actions.

Risk:  China has objected to the capabilities that provide this type of deterrent, such as the new F-35B fighter operating on naval vessels in the pacific[2].  China may use the deployment of these capabilities as an excuse to finally militarize islands such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Gain:  A capabilities-based deterrent will make Chinese islands in the East and South China Seas vulnerable and, ultimately, a military liability rather than an advantage.  New technologies such as the F-35B allow the United States more flexibility when operating in the Pacific, by providing U.S. and allied commanders with a 5th generation aircraft that is normally only employed off traditional U.S. aircraft carriers.  Option #1 would not only help offset the eventual Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) numerical superiority in the Pacific, but also demonstrate the U.S. commitment to modernizing a capability that has been historically suited for military operations against static, geographically isolated island targets.  This option may help shift China’s risk calculus when deciding how aggressively it hopes to militarize the islands, once it realizes that increased island investment actually increases vulnerability instead of capability.

Option #2:  The United States invests in strategic deterrence by helping boost allies’ and security partners’ amphibious capabilities.

Risk:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities runs the risk of antagonizing China.  China has already strongly condemned proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution calling for a larger defense budget[3].  China has been known to use economic and political coercion to pressure regional countries to adopt, or abandon, policies.

Gain:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities will be key to creating a sea force able to challenge an increasingly capable PLA(N).  This option would also allow allies and security partners to better deal with Chinese salami-slicing activities by providing them with the capability to deter or engage the Chinese on their own, rather than rely on U.S. deployments and assistance[4].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bader, Jeffrey. (2014). The U.S. and China’s Nine-Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity/.

[2] Lockheed Martin. (2018). The F-26B Lightning II. Retrieved from https://www.f35.com/about/variants/f35b.

[3] Huang, Kristin. (2017, October 23). China to keep wary watch on Abe’s push to change pacifist constitution. Retreived from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2116635/china-keep-wary-watch-abes-push-change-pacifist.

[4] Erickson, Andrew. (2016, September 21). Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea. Retreived from https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/seapower-and-projection-forces-south-china-sea.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners Annie Kowalewski China (People's Republic of China) Christopher Curtin Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University.  His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy.  He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni.  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 (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.  The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  February 28, 2018.

Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a scholar of China’s foreign and security policy.  The article is written from the point of view of Chinese decision-makers considering policy options in response to the Quad’s challenges.

Background:  The Quad can be traced back to 2007 when diplomatic efforts culminated in a multilateral naval exercise off the Bay of Bengal.  While the countries involved contended that their activities were not aimed at China, it was clear that these activities were largely a response to China’s growing power.  However, the Quad was short-lived with Australia pulling out in February 2008 under Chinese pressure[1].

Recently, the Quad has been revived in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China with expanded geopolitical ambitions.  In November 2017, officials from the Quad nations met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines and agreed that a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” is in the interest of all countries[2].  This meeting was followed in January by the meeting of the Quad navy chiefs at the Raisina Dialogue in India.  During the meeting, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, characterized China as a “disruptive, transitional force” in the region, and urged Quad nations to take measures against China’s “unilateral ways to change the use of global commons” and uphold “rule-based freedom of navigation[3].”  This sentiment was echoed by the navy chiefs of the other three Quad nations.

Significance:  While it is still too early to tell what the Quad would entail, in theory, it aims to constrain China’s growing power and to ameliorate China’s behavior by altering Beijing’s strategic calculus.  The military dimension of the Quad could take the form of expanded military cooperation that would raise the cost for China to use or threaten the use of force, including in relation to the East and South China Seas.  The economic dimension could take the form of expanded economic and infrastructure cooperation that would compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a grand plan to reshape the world economy with China at the center.

Option #1:  Reassurance.  China continues to emphasize to the Quad nations its intent to develop peacefully through public statements and diplomatic channels.

Risk:  Without pushing back against the Quad, the Quad nations and others in the region may believe that China is unwilling to impose a cost on them for challenging China’s security and economic interests.  This lack of push back may lead to further coalescence of the Quad and may even draw in other states in the region that have become wary of China’s growing power, including those that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Gain:  Option #1 may help to undermine the narrative of an ambitious China with a willingness to adopt coercive means to protect and advance its interests.  This option would strengthen the arguments of domestic forces in the Quad nations that advocate a softer approach in responding to Chinese power.

Option #2:  Punishment.  China applies a high degree of economic and diplomatic pressure on Quad nations to demonstrate the cost of challenging China’s interests and thus deter further challenges.  This option could take the form of economic coercion, formal diplomatic protests, and the downgrading of bilateral cooperation in key fields.

Risk:  Option #2 would strengthen the rationale for the Quad and the argument for constraining China’s power in the first place by demonstrating China’s willingness to adopt coercive measures against those that challenge its interests.  This option may further exacerbate the negative perception of China among the Quad nations, especially where there is already a lively debate about China’s influence (such as in Australia and the United States).  In addition, economic coercion may damage the Chinese economy and in the long run make the target economies less dependent on China.

Gain:  China demonstrating strength and resolve early on may lead to the collapse of the Quad if the Quad nations are not willing to pay the high cost of challenging China’s interests.  For example, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade and investment flows.  The Chinese government could put in place measures to reduce Chinese tourists or students from going to Australia and link these restrictions to Australia’s involvement with the Quad.  Such measures may also deter other regional countries from cooperating with the Quad against China’s interests.

Option #3:  Reassurance and caution.  China continues to emphasize its peaceful intent while also signaling its willingness to impose an economic and political cost on the Quad nations should they continue to challenge China’s interests.

Risk:  Option #3 may not be effective due to a lack of concrete cost imposed on the Quad nations, through, for example, coercive economic measures.  At the same time, the cautioning may be interpreted as an aggressive warning of China’s coercive intent, further exacerbating public anxiety in the Quad nations.

Gain:  This approach may be enough to forestall the further development of the Quad through providing reassurance but also signals China’s resolve to protects its interests.  Option #3’s key benefit is that it does not incur large political or economic cost for China immediately, but hinges Chinese retaliation on further Quad activities.

Other Comments:  The revived Quad is still in the early stages of its development, and it is too early to tell what the Quad would entail.  The above options are presented on the basis that the Quad may involve military and economic dimensions that challenge China’s interests, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative.  Given the diversity of strategic interests between the Quad nations in relation to China, there is a likelihood that the Quad will not develop beyond a mechanism for dialogue.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Indrani Bagchi, “Australia to pull out of ‘quad’ that excludes China,” Times of India, February 6, 2008. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Australia-to-pull-out-of-quad-that-excludes-China/articleshow/2760109.cms.

[2] “India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific (November 12, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 12, 2017. Available at: http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/29110/IndiaAustraliaJapanUS_Consultations_on_IndoPacific_November_12_2017

[3] “‘China a disruptive power,’ say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations,” Times of India, January 19, 2018. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-a-disruptive-power-quad-nations-navy-chiefs/articleshow/62562144.cms.

Adam Ni Australia China (People's Republic of China) India Japan Option Papers United States

Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region

Fulan Nasrullah is a national security policy adviser based in Nigeria.  He currently works for an international research and policy advisory firm.  Fulan tweets at @fulannasrullah and blogs here.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government.


National Security Situation:  Counterinsurgency and stabilisation campaigns in the Lake Chad region.

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point Of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a Nigerian National Security Advisor, offering options on the building of key local capabilities in the Lake Chad region to further degrade destabilising non-state armed groups in the region, while fostering stability in the area.

Background:  With the launch of conventional offensives by the Nigerian and Chadian armies in 2015, non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region and Northeast Nigeria have lost much of the territory which they had earlier captured.  The successes of the regional governments’ conventional offensives have forced the non-state armed groups to return to a heavy emphasis on revolutionary and asymmetric warfare, which the local armies and governments are ill prepared to confront.

The conventional offensive resulted in a situation where local security capabilities, already inadequate, are  increasingly overstretched and worn down, by having to manage multiple security problems over such a wide area.

The Nigerian Army has an estimated 40,000-45,000 combat and support personnel (out of a total 130,000+ personnel) deployed in Northeast Nigeria, in over forty combat battalions.  These include the battalions that make up the in theatre 7 and 8 Divisions, plus those backfilling from 3, 1 and 2 Divisions.  These forces represent the majority of the Nigerian Army’s combat deployable strength, most of whom have been serving a minimum of 2 years of continuous deployment in the Northeast theatre.

However, unlike the much larger Nigerian military, other regional armies involved in this conflict have fewer manpower and material resources to expend.  These less capable forces struggle to combat an insurgency that has proven itself adaptable, and which despite losing conventionally, has sustained itself and progressively gained momentum on the asymmetric front.  The insurgency specifically uses armed groups to offset the disadvantage they suffer in conventional strength, through guerrilla operations, terror, and a heavy focus on information operations and ideological education and propagation targeted at local populations in rural areas.

Weak institutional capabilities, in addition to lack of intelligence and analysis-based understanding of these armed groups, have contributed to multiple conflicting and unrealistic strategies from the regional states, plus enhanced insurgent momentum.

Significance:  United States investment in building local capabilities is a necessity for both the U.S. and Lake Chad regional states, both to degrade active non-state armed groups in the region, and to build, foster, and maintain stability.  Without this investment by the United States, regional states will  be unable to stop the conflict which, though currently at a  strategic stalemate, could turn into a strategic victory for the insurgent groups.

While Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad poses a serious threat to local stability, the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP) is a greater worry for United States’ interests globally and in the long-term.  The power vacuum created by regional states failing to degrade insurgent capabilities[1], thus ceding territory, will create a huge opening for ISWAP and its local affiliates in the Lake Chad, Sahel, and Libyan regions to exploit.  Power vacuums have already been created in the Lake Chad Islands[2], and will be further created as the Nigerian government plans to abandon the rural Borno State[1].

Option #1:  The U.S. invests solely in a kinetic buildup, by establishing a regional infantry and counterinsurgency training centre in Nigeria, in the mold of the Fort Irwin National Training Centre, drawing on lessons the U.S. military learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan, to train local militaries.  A kinetic build up would also involve providing training and funding for more troops and units for the Nigerian and Chadian armies.  These troops would be dedicated to the clearing out of the Lake Chad Islands and areas around the Lake, in addition to training and funding more special operations units with the firepower and mobility necessary to engage in relentless pursuit of insurgents.  Finally, this option would invest in training, funding, and arming already existing local volunteer militia and paramilitary organisations such as the Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria, while embedding U.S. advisors with both militia, paramilitary, and regular armed forces units down to the platoon level.

Risk:  Option #1 results in the U.S. de facto owning the war against non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region.  In the U.S. this owning would lead to deeper engagement in yet another foreign war in an era of President Donald Trump’s “America First,” and increase the risks of more American combat deaths in this region with the accompanying political blowback.  Within the region, Option #1 would increase resistance from local political and military elements who do not want to admit they are incapable of dealing with the crisis themselves, or who may simply be war profiteers not interested in this conflict ending.

Gain:  Option #1 results in the degrading of the military, logistic, and organisational capabilities of ISWAP and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad and the rolling back of ISWAP’s growing structure in the region.  This degrading and rolling back would place destabilising actors under constant crushing military pressure, increase the tactical performance of local military forces, and use existing volunteer militias to stabilize the government-controlled areas when the conventional military forces depart.  All of the preceding will enable military units to concentrate on offensive operations thus eliminating the ability of global-level actors, e.g. the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, to use bases and ungoverned spaces in the region to attack U.S. interests.

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in a non-kinetic build-up, by helping to establish and expand regional states’ information operations capabilities particularly in electronic warfare, psychological operations, and targeted information dissemination via “Radio-In-A-Box” and other mediums.  Option #2 also includes the U.S. providing training and funding for comprehensive reformations of local intelligence services to create lacking signals intelligence, human intelligence, and intelligence analysis capabilities.  Option #2 will enhance the U.S. Security Governance Initiative programme[3] which seeks to enhance local civil administration capabilities in law enforcement, anti-corruption, and criminal justice, and enhance local capabilities to deliver humanitarian support and government services to communities in the conflict zone.

Risk:  Option #2 reduces emphasis on degrading insurgent capabilities so soft-power efforts are properly funded.  This option would leave the insurgents alone and lead to indirect validation of regional government falsehoods that the insurgents have been defeated and the war is over.  This indirect validation will foster nonchalance and complacency from states of the region, to the strategic advantage of the insurgents. Option #2 will ensure de facto reduction of pressure on the insurgents, which gives room for the insurgents and their external allies to exploit the resultant power vacuum.

Gain:  Option #2 strengthens local governance capabilities, increases civil stability in government controlled areas, and is less expensive, less visible, and shorter term in an era of “America First.”  Option #2 would greatly reduce the risk of American combat deaths.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Carsteen, Paul and Lanre, Ola. (December 1, 2017) “Nigeria Puts Fortress Towns At Heart Of New Boko Haram Strategy”, Reuters, retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security-borno/nigeria-puts-fortress-towns-at-heart-of-new-boko-haram-strategy-idUSKBN1DV4GU

[2] Taub, Ben (December 4, 2017), “Lake Chad: World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster”, New Yorker Magazine, retrieved from: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/12/04/lake-chad-the-worlds-most-complex-humanitarian-disaster

[3] Chalfin, Julie E. and Thomas-Greenfield, Linda. (May 16, 2017), “The Security Governance Intiative” PRISM Vol 6. No.4, Center For Complex Operations, National Defense University (US) retrieved from: http://cco.ndu.edu/News/Article/1171855/the-security-governance-initiative/

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Irregular Forces Lake Chad Option Papers United States

Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Ian Wilkie is an American lawyer and terrorism expert living outside of New York City.  Wilkie has lived in Europe, Asia, and Africa and speaks multiple foreign languages.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Army (Infantry), completed French Foreign Legion commando training, and graduated from Vassar College and Tulane Law School.  Wilkie lived in South Asia post-9/11 where he conducted research and has been a consultant and advisor to two U.S. government agencies.  He has also worked for two of the three largest law firms in the world and has served as general counsel to hedge funds.  Wilkie possesses a deep knowledge of terrorist strategy and is currently working on a book called “Checkmate: Jihad’s Endgame.”  Follow Wilkie on Twitter @Wilkmaster.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi”

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  January 1, 2018.

Summary:  U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter[1] and Ronald Reagan[2] aligned the U.S. with jihadists in Afghanistan against Russia and later gave weapons to Salafi-jihadis allied with Osama Bin Laden[3].  Less than 20 years later, Al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon.  Presently the U.S. is bogged down in Syria and continues to make the foreign policy mistake of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi.”

Text:  The United States has been fitfully fighting Muslim-majority countries since shortly after the founding of the nation.  President Thomas Jefferson saw enough of a piracy and kidnap threat to mobilize the Navy and newly formed Marine Corps and deploy them to Africa[4].  Centuries later, the use of violence against civilians is a hallmark of Islamist extremists.  Informed by Islamist interpretations of ample examples in scripture (Qu’ran[5] and Hadith[6]), religious “holy warriors” find it easy to commit atrocities and justify them on perceived religious grounds.  Some clerics support this violence, and some have even gone so far as to condone the use of nuclear[7] and biological[8] weapons against “infidels” based their interpretation of sacred texts.  The violence of these Islamist actors, whether on 9/11 or in Europe, Africa, or the various countries of the Middle East today, is not in doubt.  The history of violence associated with the Islamist jihad (“struggle”) to convert the world to Islam is rife with examples of massacres and forced conversions[9].  Put bluntly, the blood lust of these violent Islamists is not even an open question, yet the U.S. still works with some of the extremists, while trying to kill others.

Afghanistan in the decade from 1979-1989 saw the U.S. advance a strategy of opposing Russia without fighting Russia directly.  The U.S., primarily the Congress and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), believed that Russia could be bloodied and beaten if the “right” people were given the right weapons, clandestinely.  To this end, close ties were forged between the CIA and jihadists and Salafi-jihadis who believed in pedophilia, polygamy, and the liberal application of violence against civilians, including religious minorities.  America knew what Osama bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar stood for, yet we still worked with them according to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” theory of geopolitics[10].  On September 11, 2001, America and the world learned the true dangers of allying with Islamist religious zealots: they may kill U.S. enemies, but they will never be U.S. allies.  Islamist religious zealots answer to their God and no one else, regardless of which faith they profess.

The cold, realpolitik calculus that the CIA made in Afghanistan to work with jihadists and Salafi-Jihadis may have hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it also hastened the end of America’s moral leadership in the eyes of the world.  When these “good” jihadis the U.S. once armed and trained utilized tactics from World War 2[11] against American buildings, the American response was telling: the Saudi allies and sponsors of violent jihad were permitted to leave the U.S., no questions asked[12].  The softball investigation of official Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 reflected yet another Machiavellian choice by Washington; the oil money and strategic advantage of remaining allied to the bandit Kingdom[13] outweighed any practical considerations of justice for the victims.  The Saudi departures and lackluster investigation were a clear case of vested interests and money overwhelming U.S. morality and yet, almost two decades later, the survivors and the almost 3,000 dead still demand justice.

America’s reaction to 9/11 consisted of removing the Afghan Taliban from power, but not eliminating their base of support in Pakistan, their illicit drug networks, or their financial backing across the Sunni Muslim world.  The American response largely ignored the fundamentalist horrors of the Afghan Taliban’s behavior towards women, children, and minorities and focused only on which “externally focused” terrorists they were giving refuge to.  Rather like its 180° shift on Osama Bin Laden, the U.S. went from bombing the Afghan Taliban to inviting them to peace talks, in effect treating them like normal people and not the barbarians that they are.  In 2017, the U.S. is still open to sitting across the table from “men” who rape little boys[14] as a matter of honor and shoot schoolgirls in the face[15] as a point of pride, which is moral capitulation of the very worst kind.

Shifting to Syria, we encounter the most egregious examples of playing “Good Jihadi-Bad Jihadi” that the U.S. has ever engaged in.  The fact that the CIA was willing to advance the fiction that foreign fighters from Sunni theocracies were anything but jihadis shows you how gullible and uninformed they believe Americans are[16].  From an ethical point of view, there is no such thing as a “moderate” Sunni foreign insurgent in Syria and there never will be.  Syria is another example of the U.S. trying to advance a larger goal (oppose Shia Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) by making a moral compromise and allying with malign forces.  In Syria, the U.S. has sent entire warehouses full of weapons to some of the most suspect killers on the planet[17].  For example, U.S. antitank missiles have been used by “friendly, moderate rebels” to attack medevac missions and even journalists[18].  Jihadis that the U.S. knows, and possibly trained[19], have used chemical weapons dozens of times in that conflict[20].  That the insurrection in Syria failed is largely due to the fact that Islamist jihadis don’t fight in lanes; they fight everyone and especially each other.  The U.S. continues to arm “bad” jihadis, as there is no such thing as a “good” jihadi, and the results speak for themselves.


Endnotes:

[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew (Interview). “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen” https://www.counterpunch.org/1998/01/15/how-jimmy-carter-and-i-started-the-mujahideen/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2107).

[2] Kaplan, Fred. “Reagan’s Osama Connection” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/war_stories/2004/06/reagans_osama_connection.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[3] Harnden, Toby. “Taliban still have Reagan’s Stingers” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/1357632/Taliban-still-have-Reagans-Stingers.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[4] Hitchens, Christopher. “Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates” https://www.city-journal.org/html/jefferson-versus-muslim-pirates-13013.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[5] Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. “Islam Is a Religion of Violence” http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/09/islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-ayaan-hirsi-ali-debate-islamic-state/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[6] Anonymous. “1.B Violence in Hadith Books” https://islamreligionofwar.wordpress.com/1b-violence-in-hadith-books/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[7] Tobey, William & Zolotarev, Pavel. “The Nuclear Terrorism Threat” https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/nuclearterrorismthreatthailand2014.pdf (p.10, Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[8] Gunaratna, Rohan & Pita, René. “Revisiting Al-Qa`ida’s Anthrax Program” https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/revisiting-al-qaida’s-anthrax-program (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[9] Konrad, Mike. “The Greatest Murder Machine in History” http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/05/the_greatest_murder_machine_in_history.html (Accessed 5 December 2017).

[10] Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin, pp. 125-128.

[11] Editor, Military History Now. “One Way Ticket – Japan’s Kamikazes Weren’t the Only Suicide Pilots of WW2” http://militaryhistorynow.com/2014/03/17/one-way-ticket-japans-kamikazes-werent-the-only-suicide-pilots-of-ww2/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[12] Sperry, Paul. “Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup” https://nypost.com/2013/12/15/inside-the-saudi-911-coverup/ (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

[13] Zakaria, Fareed. “Saudi Arabia: The devil we know” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/saudi-arabia-the-devil-we-know/2016/04/21/2109ecf6-07fd-11e6-b283-e79d81c63c1b_story.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[14] Agence France-Presse. “Male rape and paedophilia: How Taliban uses ‘honey trap’ boys to kill Afghan police” http://www.firstpost.com/world/male-rape-and-paedophilia-how-taliban-uses-honey-trap-boys-to-kill-afghan-police-2837546.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[15] Johnston, Ian. “Malala Yousafzai: Being shot by Taliban made me stronger” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/malala-yousafzai-being-shot-taliban-made-me-stronger-f6C10612024 (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[16] Mazzetti, Mark, Goldman, Adam & Schmidt, Michael S. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html (Accessed 4 Dec 2017).

[17] Sanger, David E. “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[18] Russia Today. “US anti-tank TOW missile used in attack on RT journalists in Syria” https://www.rt.com/news/323810-us-missile-journalists-attack-syria/ (Accessed 5 Dec 2017).

[19] Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “State Dept: US-Backed Forces Executed Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria” http://yournewswire.com/state-dept-us-forces-chemical-weapons-syria/ (Accessed 22 Nov 2017).

[20] “State Dep. Admits Opposition in Syria Has Chemical Weapons”
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/State-Dep.-Admits-Opposition-in-Syria-Has-Chemical-Weapons-20171020-0006.html (Accessed 24 Nov 2017).

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Ian Wilkie Islamic State Variants Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States Violent Extremism

Assessment on the Revised Use of Afghan Militias

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


Date Originally Written:  November 27, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 25, 2017.

Summary:  A new plan is under consideration by the Afghan Government to transform the Afghan Local Police into an Afghan Territorial Army.  While this transformation contributes to the current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, without proper oversight, the Afghan Territorial Army could be co-opted by regional strong men.

Text:  The number of U.S. and North American Treaty Organization troops currently in Afghanistan is insufficient to carry out U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy.  This strategy has multiple parts involving an increased use of air power, employing Special Operations Forces in more ambitious ways, and a constant fight to reverse Taliban gains and prevent the Taliban from securing additional territory.  Additionally, there is a counter-terrorism part of the U.S. mission, which unilaterally focuses on containing/defeating the Islamic State-Khorasan Province[1].

On November 19, 2017, The Guardian newspaper reported that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is currently considering a U.S. proposal to restructure the Afghan Local Police into the Afghan Territorial Army, modeled after the Indian Territorial Army[2].  The Guardian also reported that the proposal would start with 1,000 men, and possibly reach 20,000, over two years[3].  This proposal has raised numerous concerns with human rights groups, including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, that fear any new iteration of the militia system will revive the serious abuses that the militias have been accused of in the past ranging  from child sexual abuse to extra judicial killings.  As global attention shifts away from Afghanistan, increased misuses of power are a concern.

If one types the word “arbakis,“ the Pashto world that generally means militias, into the search field on the Taliban’s alemarah website the result is 81 pages where the term is used.  Despite the deceptions and exaggerations that often appear in Taliban propaganda, the negative opinions regarding militias allow the Taliban to gain political capital by exploiting the distrust of these groups based on their records of abusive practices towards civilians.  If this anti-militia narrative did not produce some benefit for the Taliban, it is doubtful they would continue to adhere to it so closely.

The plans to form an Afghan Territorial Army are an attempt to provide a second-line defense against Taliban gains.  The Taliban understand that repeated attacks on military and police targets accomplish the goal of psychological intimidation.  For anyone who may be considering joining the Afghan National Security Forces, the awareness of how often security forces are targeted is a strong deterrent.  Taliban attacks on police and military targets have become increasingly ambitious, complex, and deadly.

The war in Afghanistan is both regionally strategic, and a micro-level conflict driven by local concerns.  All regional players have their own motives for involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan, whether related to security concerns (containing the Islamic State for both Russia and Iran, as an example), or economic opportunities, as in the case with India and the People’s Republic of China.  Also involved are the ever-complex machinations of Pakistan and its security services.  Concurrently, there are numerous local competitions for resources, favors, development projects, drugs, and all other commodities.  These conditions have allowed local powerbrokers, most of whom have connections to the Afghan National Unity Government, to consolidate their power and establish local fealties, policed by militias.  The idea that an Afghan Territorial Army would not be co-opted in some fashion by regional strong men seems dangerously naïve.  Afghan Territorial Army units might also be used as conduits for influence from other regional actors.  There is no reason why Russia, who already assists the Taliban with small arms and a fuel supply scheme[4], wouldn’t seek to co-opt the Afghan Territorial Army.  Any establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army must also take into account the shifting of alliances, which have been so characteristic of this conflict.

A critical part of the counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan includes the avoidance of another civil war, such as the devastating one that followed the Soviet departure in 1989.  While the continuation of Western aid would seem to prevent this outcome, it’s still a danger that existing conditions can be worsened by sectarianism, social inequality, and the ever-present corruption, that is too entrenched to be effectively combated.  The establishment of an Afghan Territorial Army that is unregulated and operates outside of an accountability structure, would further fuel declining social and political cohesion.  Combined with abuses, and little or no means of redress, Afghan hostilities may be directed at the Afghan National Unity Government, which ironically is greatly lacking in “unity.”  The inability of Afghans to redress the actions of an unregulated Afghan Territorial Army would ensure the Taliban gains support.  One way to preempt this inability of redress is to truly model the Afghan Territorial Army after the Indian Territorial Army, which is subordinated to the Indian Army to ensure proper oversight.

An Afghan Territorial Army with sufficient oversight, including maintaining an accurate inventory of its weapons and equipment, could contribute towards the U.S. strategic goal of recapturing territory from the Taliban (80% back in Afghan government control, after two years), and sufficiently degrading Taliban capabilities to make negotiations seem a reasonable option[5]. While this strategic goal is lofty, a narrower tactical goal could be an Afghan Territorial Army that succeeds in addressing the localized nature of the conflict and offsets the high level of desertions, among other problems that plague the Afghan National Army.

Any future development of the Afghan Territorial Army will require a functioning, sustainable system of oversight, and an awareness of consequences that could potentially damage U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, thus strengthening support for the Taliban.  If the U.S. is invested the creation of an Afghan Territorial Army, then Afghan partners must be willing to adhere to mutually agreed upon guidelines for its employment and oversight, and due care must be taken to evaluate both the potential successes and failures of this type of program throughout its life.


Endnotes:

[1] Author interview, with The Guardian’s Kabul correspondent, Sune Engel Rasmussen, September 11, 2017.

[2] Rasmussen, S. E. (2017, November 19). UN concerned by controversial US plan to revive Afghan militias. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/19/afghanistan-militias-us-un-diplomats

[3] Ibid.

[4] Loyd, A. (2017, November 11). Afghanistan: the war that never ends. Retrieved November 27, 2017, from https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/afghanistan-the-war-that-never-ends-mchjpgphh

[5] Stewart, P., Ali, I. (2017, November 20).  U.S. General Sets Two-Year Goal for Driving Back Afghan Taliban.  Retrieved November 27, 2017, from www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-11-20/us-general-sets-two-year-goal-for-driving-back-afghan-taliban

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Irregular Forces Suzanne Schroeder Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Assessment of the Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Jason Criss Howk conducted defense, intelligence, diplomatic, and education missions for the U.S. Government focusing on Afghanistan and Muslim cultures for 23 years.  He now teaches, writes, and speaks nationally to decrease anti-religious bigotry.  He shares a variety of information on Twitter @jason_c_howk and at dispatchesFromPinehurst.com. His award-winning book is The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Trump Administration’s Communications with the “Muslim World”

Date Originally Written:  December 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 18, 2017.

Summary:  Fear of Muslims is irrational. Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorist groups is too. The continuing success of terror recruiting reveals their ideology is a center of gravity, but you cannot shoot an ideology. You have to expose its flaws and turn people against it. One must use the correct terminology when you speak or it empowers terrorists. This is where the Trump Administration has taken 3-steps forward but 1-step back.

Text:  Fear of Muslims is irrational.  Prohibiting a discussion of Islam’s relationship to modern terrorism is too.  President George W. Bush took America into a War on Terrorism[1], President Barack Obama shifted to countering violent extremism[2].  Both stated correctly that America was not at war with Islam.  While acknowledging the importance of countering a terrorist’s ideology[3], neither slowed the spread of violent radical Islamist or khawarij ideologies used to recruit.  Not talking about Islam and its relationship to terrorism has likely contributed to increasing bigotry against Muslims and damaged America’s ability to decrease recruiting.

The number of nations plagued by terrorists has increased, despite America’s excellence at hunting terrorists.  The continuing success of recruiting hints that their ideology is the likely center of gravity.  You cannot shoot or “drone”[4] an ideology.  You have to understand it, expose its flaws, argue about it, and turn people against it thus ensuring the world understands that violent radical Islamism (separate from the religion of Islam) is a failed political ideology causing death and destruction is critical.

Incorrect terminology further empowers mankind’s enemy.  Here the Trump Administration has improved since the campaign yet occasionally stumbles.   President Trump should listen to his advisors that have operated in the “Muslim World,” listen to solid Muslim allies, and only use precise language that helps Muslims to separate violent radicals from society.  President Trump loses ground when he echoes false experts or bigots that push him to use “alpha-male” language that sounds tough, but makes it more difficult for Muslims to stanch the bloodshed.

Not all terrorists are Muslim and not all Muslims are terrorists; only ignorant people believe otherwise.  So, put the straw-man argument aside that says explaining the role of Islam in modern terrorist propaganda will cause anti-Muslim hatred.  The majority of the deadliest terrorists think they are the most pious Muslims in the world.  Their first murder victims were likely Muslims that they deemed “not Muslim enough for them;” (an old khawarij concept).  Most terrorism victims since 2001 were Muslim. It’s illogical not talk about Islam in relation to modern terrorism.

I have spent almost three years leading talks about the religion of Islam, the political ideology of Islamism, and the khawarij or “violent radical Islamist” ideology used by terrorists.  A few things were made clear to me–often angrily.  First, the American people never felt Bush or Obama understood the enemy.  Second, they felt that neither was able to explain a logical strategy for victory.  Finally, audiences felt the Presidents failed them by not talking about how Islam, Islamism, and terrorist ideologies are connected and disconnected.  Americans felt the Presidents believed their citizens were too stupid to have a discussion about Islam.

Instead of civilly talking about Islam and how terrorists can use some parts of the Qur’an to attract fighters to their cause, previous presidents presented straw-man arguments about why they should or would not discuss Islam.  At my discussions, it takes 45 minutes for people who have never studied Islam to grasp this entire concept.  After Bush and Obama, a third president cannot underestimate the intelligence and curiosity of the American people.

If the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia can talk about extreme interpretations of Islam[5] and its relationship to many terrorist groups, and the King of Jordan can succinctly label our enemy as Khawarij[6] using terminology from Islam’s history, the American President can have a straightforward conversation about the topic.

America’s terminology should not drive a wedge between the U.S. and our Muslim allies.  Our language should help Muslims drive a wedge between the khawarij butchers and possible recruits and supporters of this deadly cause.

America can’t use words that help our enemy by complementing murderers or lumping them in with hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims.

Violent radical Islamists want to be called mujahedeen, jihadis, and Muslims.  The word jihad in the Qur’an means to struggle or strive nobly with all your person and wealth in the way of God.  A parallel in Catholicism is the system of sainthood.  Only the most selfless Catholics following God’s path to help others are sainted.  Similarly, in a religious sense, only the best among Muslims should be called mujahedeen (jihadis) which means someone who has performed true jihad.  The word is only used about 14 times in the Qur’an and should be returned to its religious context and taken away from butchers and human rights abusers.  You can’t make jihad into a negative term in a religious sense; so, don’t use it at all.

Instead, insult and brand these violent radical Islamists.  Use the term butcher, murderer, terrorist, khawarij, violent Islamist, loser, Islamist ideologue, distorter or corruptor of Islam, people ignorant of the Qur’an, disgraces, or betrayers of God.

Don’t call violent radical Islamists Muslims or use any negative modifiers in front of the word Islam or Muslim.  These corruptors have left Islam and should be a disgrace to their families.  “Islam” and “Muslims” are both positive words in the Islamic world.  Attaching “Radical” to it is often viewed to mean the entire religion or all Muslims are radical and therefore evil.

Every generation of violent radical Islamist butchers seems to form faster, become more radicalized, kill more gruesomely, and think they are more pious.  The world must stop this trend.

President Trump (obviously not an Islamic scholar) has asked his team and America’s allies to talk clearly about extreme interpretations of the Qur’an and the ideology used by our enemies.  His Riyadh speech[7] was pointed, and by mostly using correct terminology, supported a change[8] that is already underway[9] in the Muslim world.  Start this same discussion in America and ensure that violent radical Islamists and the people who sponsor and provide top-cover for the modern-day Khawarij are exposed and shut down.  Help decrease bigotry towards Muslims.

The world should applaud organizations like this Kuwaiti business[10] that honestly confronted those who purposely misinterpret the Qur’an to justify murder.  All governments should be this brave and clear.

Education won’t end terrorism, but it will impact the long-term fight against Islamist inspired terrorists.  No problem ever improved by refusing to fully examine it and honestly talk about it.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Government (2003, February) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017,  https://www.cia.gov/news-information/cia-the-war-on-terrorism/Counter_Terrorism_Strategy.pdf

[2] U.S. Government (2011, June) National Strategy for Counterterrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/counterterrorism_strategy.pdf

[3] U.S. Government (2006, September) National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism, retrieved December 11, 2017, https://fas.org/irp/threat/nsct2006.pdf

[4] Friedersdorf, Conor (2016, December 23) Obama’s Weak Defense of His Record on Drone Killings, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/president-obamas-weak-defense-of-his-record-on-drone-strikes/511454/

[5] Chulov, Martin (2017, October 24) I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince

[6] Jordan Times (2015, June 11) Nothing treats Islam with more contempt than Khawarij actions — King, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/nothing-treats-islam-more-contempt-khawarij-actions-—-king

[7] U.S. Government (2017, May) President Trump’s Speech in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://dispatchesfrompinehurst.com/2017/05/22/howks-notes-of-president-trumps-speech-in-saudi-arabia/

[8] Bergen, Peter (2017 September 27) Saudi women driving a sign bigger change is coming, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/opinions/symbolism-of-saudi-women-driving/index.html

[9] IRNA, (2017 October 29) Iranian woman appointed first ever no. 2 at Oil Ministry, retrieved December 11, 2017 http://www.irna.ir/en/News/82712122

[10] Zain Mobile (2017 May 26) Anti-Terrorism Video for Ramadan 2017, retrieved December 11, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508

Assessment Papers Jason Criss Howk Trump (U.S. President) United States Violent Extremism

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

Dr. John T. Kuehn has served at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 2000.  He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 with the rank of Commander.  He presently teaches as a Professor of Military History in the Department of Military History, as well as teaching for Norwich University (Vermont), Naval War College (Rhode Island), and Wolverhampton University (UK) as an adjunct professor.  He can be found on Twitter @jkuehn50 and writes at https://networks.h-net.org/node/12840/blog.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 4, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] PNSR, 2008 and 2011.

[4] PNSR, 2011, p.5.

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

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

Contest Governing Documents John T. Kuehn Option Papers United States

Options for U.S. National Service

Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International of Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.  He is based in Israel.  He can be found on Twitter at @YefetGlobal.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

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


National Security Situation:  A revised National Security Act of 1947 could create a national service requirement.

Date Originally Written:  September 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 20, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.  He writes here as an American concerned with U.S. National Security.

Background:  Seventy years after the signing of the 1947 National Security Act, the world is still an unpredictable and dangerous place, but it is not governed by the same fears.  In 1947, the chief concerns of U.S. national security professionals were re-establishing European stability, and preparing for the coming Cold War with the Soviet Union, and ensuring the United States remained atop the new post-war order in an age of industrialized, mass-produced warfare and nuclear bombs.  The urgency of a threat could be measured in the number of troops, tanks, ships, missiles etcetera that enemy states could marshal.  As such, the 1947 National Security Act established an American military and intelligence complex meant to sustain American interests in the face of these challenges.  Today, conventional warfare remains a primary concern, but not the only one.

Significance:  The modern American political environment has revealed intense cleavages in American socio-politics.  Social trust seems on the verge of breakdown as citizens retreat to curated information bubbles not limited to of-the-day political commentary but expanding into the very facts and analysis of events both modern and historical.  Shared truths are shrinking and becoming a thing of the past.  Internal divisions are the greatest existential threat to the United States of America.  A 2017 National Security Act that includes provisions to bridge this divide could reunite the American people behind the values that helped shape America.

Option #1:  Mandatory National Service.  

A new National Security Act could include a provision for one year of mandatory national service to be required of all Americans to be completed between a certain age rage, for example between the ages of 18 and 25.  There would need to a be a number of service options, some existing, some needing to be created, including service in any of the military branches (which would require longer service) or one of several national organizations such as Peace Corps, Teach for America, and City Year.  New services to be created could involve public, local community, and international development, such as public works projects, agriculture development, vocational work, early childhood development, and senior care.  National service will affect all Americans equally, across socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, gender, racial, and religious lines. No one can buy their way out of the program.

Risk:  The creation of a national service program in peaceful and relatively prosperous times would be a massive economic and political endeavor that would reshape several industries with an influx of cheap labor.  The financial investment on the part of the government to train, house, and pay even a meager salary would be enormous.  The transition process within affected industries would be long and complicated and would face a winding legal path.  The executive power to do so and the consent of the government and the governed to receive it may be impossible to create outside the aftermath of a sharp crisis like World War II and the ensuing Cold War that brought about the original National Security Act.

The gaping political divide and widespread political disillusionment the program seeks to solve would be two of the greatest threats to undermine the program before it got started.  A requirement of national service would be anathema to many Americans as an assault on their principles of limited government and freedom.  Bipartisan political support may not be enough in the current political environment.  Prolonged resistance to service could be politicized and create another ugly divide within the nation.  A program plagued by political divides and undermined from the beginning would risk doing more harm than good.

Gain:  This requirement to serve would be an opportunity for young Americans to live, work, and consociate and will bind them to each other in common national cause.  Service will create an equal opportunity for American citizens to work and learn in a team environment with a sense of national purpose.

Americans found a significant common bond in the 20th century in the course of winning two world wars, crossing the Depression in between, and living the fears and competitions of the Cold War.  Success in these endeavors came from a sense of purpose, for American victory, and required massive government investments in people, jobs, infrastructure and science that paid off in the creation of our modern state and economy a modern global order that has delivered peace and prosperity to more people than at any previous time in human history.  A mandatory national service program would give all American’s a common bond of shared burden that comes before political divisions.

Option #2:  Re-Instate the Draft.

The United States military is stretched thin from the two longest wars in the country’s history, and the global deployment of troops and resources.  If these conflicts are going to be seen to a successful end while maintaining the U.S. military as the strongest in the world, the United States must ask more of its citizens.  Global politics are entering a transitional period heralding the decline of the American-led global order established after World War II.  Interstate and intrastate conflicts are spreading across the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.  The future of international relations and affairs is unknowable but the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus should be prepared for catastrophic events.  The Selective Service and Training Act[1] already requires young men, and now women, to register.  The foundation already exists for America’s men and women to be called to service.

Risk:  The peacetime draft of potentially millions of citizens will require the enlargement of the already massive Defense Department budget.  The long-term increased costs for veteran support areas of the government, especially health care, would be significant.  The influx of potentially millions of troops, many of whom do not want to be there will demand experienced leadership from military and political figures who may not be up to the task.  The draft may have the effect of lowering the standards of the military branches as they seek to find places for new soldiers and retain them into the future to meet the demands of American foreign policy.

Gain:  All Americans will share the burden of America’s global role as a military and economic superpower.  Service will give the United States government the manpower it needs to be prepared for the conflicts of the present and future.  The American people called to service will have a greater appreciation of their responsibility as citizens in the management of American democracy and American foreign policy.  The draft would pull in America’s best and brightest for service to the nation’s security.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] 50 U.S.C. – SELECTIVE TRAINING AND SERVICE ACT OF 1940. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCODE-2009-title50/USCODE-2009-title50-app-selective-dup1

Contest National Service Option Papers United States

Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Ali Crawford is a current M.A. Candidate at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  She studies diplomacy and intelligence with a focus on cyber policy and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Date Originally Written:  September 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 13, 2017.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump instructed the Department of Defense to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to the status of Unified Combatant Command (UCC).  Cyber Command as a UCC could determine the operational standards for missions and possibly streamline decision-making.  Pending Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ nomination, the Commander of Cyber Command will have the opportunity to alter U.S. posturing in cyberspace.

Text:  In August 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin initiating Cyber Command’s elevation to a UCC[1].  With the elevation of U.S. Cyber Command there will be ten combatant commands within the U.S. military infrastructure[2].  Combatant commands have geographical[3] or functional areas[4] of responsibility and are granted authorities by law, the President, and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to conduct military operations.  This elevation of Cyber Command to become a UCC is a huge progressive step forward.  The character of warfare is changing. Cyberspace has quickly become a new operational domain for war, with battles being waged each day.  The threat landscape in the cyberspace domain is always evolving, and so the U.S. will evolve to meet these new challenges.  Cyber Command’s elevation is timely and demonstrates the Department of Defense’s commitment to defend U.S. national interests across all operational domains.

Cyber Command was established in 2009 to ensure the U.S. would maintain superiority in the cyberspace operational domain.  Reaching full operational capacity in 2010, Cyber Command mainly provides assistance and other augmentative services to the military’s various cyberspace missions, such as planning; coordinating; synchronizing; and preparing, when directed, military operations in cyberspace[5].  Currently, Cyber Command is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, but housed within the National Security Agency (NSA).  Cyber Command’s subordinate components include Army Cyber Command, Fleet Cyber Command, Air Force Cyber Command, Marine Forces Cyber Command, and it also maintains an operational relationship with the Coast Guard Cyber Command[6].  By 2018, Cyber Command expects to ready 133 cyber mission force teams which will consist of 25 support teams, 27 combat mission teams, 68 cyber protection teams, and 13 national mission teams[7].

Admiral Michael Rogers of the United States Navy currently heads Cyber Command.  He is also head of the NSA.  This “dual-hatting” of Admiral Rogers is of interest.  President Trump has directed SecDef James Mattis to recommend a nominee to head Cyber Command once it becomes a UCC.  Commanders of Combatant Commands must be uniformed military officers, whereas the NSA may be headed by a civilian.  It is very likely that Mattis will nominate Rogers to lead Cyber Command[8].  Beyond Cyber Command’s current missions, as a UCC its new commander would have the power to alter U.S. tactical and strategic cyberspace behaviors.  The elevation will also streamline the time-sensitive process of conducting cyber operations by possibly enabling a single authority with the capacity to make independent decisions who also has direct access to SecDef Mattis.  The elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC led by a four-star military officer may also point to the Department of Defense re-prioritizing U.S. posturing in cyberspace to become more offensive rather than defensive.

As one can imagine, Admiral Rogers is not thrilled with the idea of splitting his agencies apart.  Fortunately, it is very likely that he will maintain dual-authority for at least another year[9].  The Cyber Command separation from the NSA will also take some time, pending the successful confirmation of a new commander.  Cyber Command would also need to demonstrate its ability to function independently from its NSA intelligence counterpart[10].  Former SecDef Ash Carter and Director of Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper were not fans of Rogers’ dual-hat arrangement.  It remains to be seen what current SecDef Mattis’ or DNI Coats’ think of the “dual hat” arrangement.

Regardless, as this elevation process develops, it is worthwhile to follow.  Whoever becomes commander of Cyber Command, whether it be a novel nominee or Admiral Rogers, will have an incredible opportunity to spearhead a new era of U.S. cyberspace operations, doctrine, and influence policy.  A self-actualized Cyber Command may be able to launch Stuxnet-style attacks aimed at North Korea or speak more nuanced rhetoric aimed at creating impenetrable networks.  Regardless, the elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC signals the growing importance of cyber-related missions and will likely encourage U.S. policymakers to adopt specific cyber policies, all the while ensuring the freedom of action in cyberspace.


Endnotes:

[1] The White House, “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Elevation of Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/18/statement-donald-j-trump-elevation-cyber-command

[2] Unified Command Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.defense.gov/About/Military-Departments/Unified-Combatant-Commands/

[3] 10 U.S. Code § 164 – Commanders of combatant commands: assignment; powers and duties. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/164

[4] 10 U.S. Code § 167 – Unified combatant command for special operations forces. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/167

[5] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[6] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[7] Richard Sisk, Military, “Cyber Command to Become Unified Combatant Command,” 18 August 2017, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/08/18/cyber-command-become-unified-combatant-command.html

[8] Department of Defense, “The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0415_Cyber-Strategy/

[9] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, “President Trump announces move to elevate Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/08/18/president-trump-announces-move-to-elevate-cyber-command/

[10] Ibid.

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Cyberspace United States

Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Jeremy J. Grunert is an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently stationed in the United Kingdom.  He has served in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkey.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

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


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

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 16, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Contest Governing Documents Jeremy J. Grunert Security Classification United States

Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure

Michael C. Davies has written three books on the Wars of 9/11 and is a progenitor of the Human Domain concept.  He currently works for an international law firm.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 

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


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

Date Originally Written:  September 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 9, 2017.

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

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

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

Option #1:  Revolutionary Reorganization.

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

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

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

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

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

Option #2:  Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency.

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contest Governing Documents Michael C. Davies Option Papers United States

Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Past projects include development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project and development of Chaff countermeasures.  Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part-time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.  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 North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Date Originally Written:  August 25, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 2, 2017.

Summary:  Syria has repeatedly used chemical weapons for large-scale assaults on its own citizens.  North Korea has been instrumental in helping develop those weapons, despite numerous sanctions.  Without being put in check, North Korea’s current regime, led by Kim Jong Un, will likely continue this behavior.

Text:  A confidential report released by the United Nations (U.N.) in August of 2017 indicates that North Korea had sent two shipments, which were intercepted, to front companies for the Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC)[1].  The SSRC is known to handle Syria’s chemical weapons program.  These shipments violate sanctions placed on North Korea, and U.N. experts note that they are looking into reports about Syria and North Korea working together on chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and conventional arms.

One U.N. member state believes the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) has a contract with Syria and both intercepted shipments were part of that contract.  In 2009, the U.N. Security Council blacklisted KOMID under concerns that it was North Korea’s key arms dealer and exported supplies for conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.

This is just the latest example of North Korea’s ties to chemical weapons.  In February of this year, Kim Jong Nam, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, died in Malaysia[2].  Malaysian police called the death an assassination done using the nerve agent VX, which is part of the same chemical weapons family as sarin but considerably more deadly.  North Korea has denied any involvement in Kim Jong Nam’s death and attributes the death to a medical condition.  Many didn’t believe this denial, and the incident led to people calling for North Korea to be put back on the list for state sponsors of terrorism[3].  In April, the United States’ House of Representatives voted 394-1 in favor of putting Korea back on that list[4].

North Korea has continually crossed the line and ignored sanctions regarding its weapons programs and supplying weapons to other nations.  This puts the United States and its allies in a difficult position, as they can’t let North Korea operate unchecked, but they can’t trust the country’s current regime to comply with sanctions and agreements.

North Korea’s ties to Syria are particularly concerning.  Syria has used chemical weapons for years, and even though it made a deal with the United States and Russia in 2013 to destroy these weapons, it didn’t follow through.  There have been multiple uses of weaponized chlorine and sarin, a nerve agent, although the Syrian government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

North Korea has made its support for Syria clear both publicly and privately.  In April 2017 Kim Jong Un sent a message of congratulations to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, for the anniversary of the country’s ruling party[5].  This was the same time that Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people, killing 86, which prompted worldwide outrage and a missile strike by the United States on the Syrian airbase of Shayrat[6].

In addition to this public message, there have been several shipments from North Korea to Syria intercepted in recent years.  Contents have included ampoules, chemical suits, masks, and other supplies vital in developing chemical weapons.  North Korea has increased its assistance of Syria during the latter nation’s civil war by sending more chemical weapons, providing advice to the Syrian military and helping with the development of SCUD missiles, which can deliver chemical weapons[7].

Although Syria’s use of chemical weapons is appalling[8], it’s North Korea which is proliferating those weapons and others.  In 2007 North Korea was building a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert.  The Israeli Air Force destroyed the reactor.  The desert where the reactor once was, as of this writing, is territory of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Without the attack by Israel, ISIS might have possessed a nuclear reactor that was near completion.  And with the right help and ability to operate unchecked, it is easy to imagine ISIS trying to weaponize the reactor in some manner.

Yet even when the United States catches a North Korean weapons shipment, diplomatic issues can make it difficult to take any action.  That’s what happened in December 2002, when a North Korean ship, the So San, was stopped by anti-terrorist Spanish commandos after weeks of surveillance by the United States[9].  The ship had 15 SCUD missiles on it, which were hidden beneath sacks of cement, and it was on its way to Yemen[10].  In 2001, Yemen, known for harboring terrorists, agreed to stop getting weapons from North Korea.  When the So San was first stopped, the Yemeni government said it wasn’t involved in any transaction related to the ship.

Once the United States commandeered the vessel, Yemen changed its story, filing a diplomatic protest stating that it did purchase the missiles from North Korea as part of an old defense contract and that the United States needed to release the missiles.  It took hours of negotiating between Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was president of Yemen at the time, and both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Saleh guaranteed that the missiles would only be used for Yemen’s defense and that the nation wouldn’t make any more deals with North Korea, and the United States released the ship.  The United States was developing a counterterrorism partnership with Yemen at that time, and there were few other options to keep the relationship on good terms, but this incident shows that catching North Korea’s weapons shipments is far from the only challenge.

Efforts to halt the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons by North Korea may lead to destabilizing the current regime.  Although there are worries that this destabilization will lead to loose Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the evidence suggests that the spread of WMD is even more likely under Kim Jong Un’s rule.  Sanctions and more thorough inspections of North Korea’s shipments may help here, but it will require that the United States takes a hard-line on any weapons shipments originating from North Korea, and doesn’t allow them simply for diplomatic reasons.

Other approaches may involve penalizing ports that aren’t inspecting shipments thoroughly and flagging those states that reflag ships from North Korea to conceal their country of origin.  Although this could work, it will take time.  It’s all a matter of determining whether the risk is greater with a more aggressive stance towards North Korea or allowing them to continue proliferating weapons.


Endnotes:

[1] Nichols, M. (2017, August 21). North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-syria-un-idUSKCN1B12G2

[2] Heifetz, J. and Perry, J. (2017, February 28). What is VX nerve agent, and what could North Korea do with it? Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/vx-nerve-agent/index.html

[3] Stanton, J. (2017, February 24). N. Korea just killed a guy with one of the WMDs that caused us to invade Iraq … in a crowded airport terminal, in a friendly nation. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/02/24/n-korea-just-killed-a-guy-with-one-of-the-wmds-that-caused-us-to-invade-iraq-in-a-crowded-airport-terminal-in-a-friendly-nation/

[4] Marcos, C. (2017, April 3). House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/327106-house-votes-to-move-toward-designating-north-korea-as-state-sponsor

[5] Stanton, J. (2017, April 7). If Assad is the murderer of Idlib, Kim Jong-un was an accessory. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/04/07/if-assad-is-the-murderer-or-idlib-kim-jong-un-was-an-accessory/

[6] Brook, T.V. and Korte, G. (2017, April 6). U.S. launches cruise missile strike on Syria after chemical weapons attack. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/06/us-launches-cruise-missile-strike-syria-after-chemical-weapons-attack/100142330/

[7] Tribune, W. (2013, August 26). Reports: Cash-strapped N. Korea ‘stepped up’ chemical weapons shipments to Syria. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.worldtribune.com/archives/reports-cash-strapped-n-korea-stepped-up-chemical-weapons-shipments-to-syria/

[8] Stanton, J. (2017, August 22). Latest cases of chemical proliferation remind us why Kim Jong-Un must go. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/08/22/latest-cases-of-chemical-proliferation-remind-us-why-kim-jong-un-must-go

[9] Lathem, N. (2002, December 12). Korean SCUDs Can Skedaddle; Yemen Gets to Keep Missiles by Promising ‘Defense Only’. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://nypost.com/2002/12/12/korean-scuds-can-skedaddle-yemen-gets-to-keep-missiles-by-promising-defense-only/

[10] Goodman, A. (2002, December 12). U.S. lets Scud ship sail to Yemen. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/12/11/us.missile.ship/

Arms Control Assessment Papers North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Sam Bocetta United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Options for Constitutional Change in Afghanistan

David Benson is a Professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the United States Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), part of Air University in Montgomery, Alabama.  His area of focus includes online politics and international relations.  He can be found on Twitter @davidcbenson.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States is attempting to broker peace in Afghanistan allowing it to remove troops, leaving behind a stable country unlikely to be used to stage transnational terror attacks.

Date Originally Written:  August 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 25, 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan David Benson Governing Documents Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Basing Forces to Deter North Korea

Mark Loncar is retired from the United States Air Force and is a graduate of the Defense Intelligence College, now called National Intelligence University.  He served in South Korea for 23 months.  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. faces a growing existential Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Date Originally Written: August 1, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a U.S. foreign policy advisor.

Background:  North Korea recently tested another ballistic missile, the second major test in a month, as part of a nuclear weapons program that, if brought to fruition, could threaten the U.S.  Policymakers in the U.S. are understandably reticent because of the serious threat that North Korea may respond with aggressive military action against South Korea and bring the U.S. into another Korean conflict.

The U.S. security commitment to its South Korea ally has not been in doubt since the Korean War started in 1950.  However, the positioning of U.S. forces in South Korea has been debated, and over the years, the number of U.S. troops has decreased from the mid-30 thousands before the North Korean nuclear program started in the 1990s to around 28,000 today.  Amid the present North Korean nuclear challenge, it is time to reexamine the utility of keeping U.S. forces in South Korea.

Significance:  The Korean peninsula is no longer the center of gravity in any hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. as North Korea’s ICBM capability, according to media reports, could reach Honolulu, Anchorage, and Seattle.  U.S. policy must adapt to this drastic expansion of the threat in order to end the impasse that characterizes U.S. dealings with the North Korean ICBM challenge.  In expanding his nuclear capability to ICBMs, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has turned what was a Korean peninsula-centric issue into more of an eyeball-to-eyeball existential threat to the U.S..

Option #1:  U.S. forces remain positioned in South Korea.

Risk:  U.S. policy options concerning the North Korean nuclear program will continue to be limited due to the risk of war to South Korea.  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea preserves the status quo, but does not move the U.S. closer to a solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge.  Having U.S. forces in South Korea also complicates U.S. – South Korea relations and gives South Korea leverage in how the U.S. should respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, further constraining U.S. freedom of movement to respond to North Korea.

Gain:  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea signals U.S. resolve in the Korean Conflict through a sharing of risk with South Korean allies.  This option maintains a U.S. capability to respond quickly and forcibly to North Korean conventional incursions and other hostile actions against South Korea.

Option #2:  U.S. forces redeploy from South Korea to present cleaner options for dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons threat.  The policy would relocate U.S. forces from South Korea to Japan and other countries and bases in the region.  A continued U.S. military presence near the Korean peninsula will help to reassure South Korea and Japan that the long-time security commitments will abide.  The redeployment would also represent a continuation of major U.S. conventional capability in the area to counter any North Korean conventional aggression.

Risk:  Perception of outright appeasement by U.S. allies.  How could the U.S. proceed with redeployment of forces from South Korea without communicating to friends and adversaries that it would be engaging in all-out appeasement of the North Korean regime and surrendering important U.S. and allied interests in Northern Asia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?

Gain:  The removal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a major inducement for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program or for the PRC to pressure it to do so.  Indeed, North Korea’s paranoia concerning U.S. – South Korea intentions toward its regime could be significantly pacified by moving U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, the stakes would be raised for Kim Jong-un and his PRC benefactors to change behavior on terms attractive to all parties—agreeing to a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a reduced threat of war on the peninsula.

Second, removing the threat to U.S. forces on the peninsula would present less cumbersome options for the U.S. with respect to the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge, especially concerns about war on the Korean peninsula.  The U.S. would also be less constrained in deciding to preempt or respond directly to North Korean nuclear aggression.  This is the real capability of such a redeploying U.S. forces from South Korea.  North Korea and the PRC would be on notice that if North Korea continued its nuclear weapons ICBM development after a redeployment of U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula, the regime’s action may be met with the gravest of responses.

Third, this option would deny North Korea a pretext for attacking South Korea should the U.S. strike Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities.  Such a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would come only after a U.S. redeployment from the peninsula and the North Korean regime’s obstinate refusal to scrap its nuclear weapons program.  In this security construct, any North Korean attack below the 38th parallel in retaliation for a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would likely elicit the immediate destruction of the North Korean state.

Other Comments:  An opportunity is in reach to have a return to the status quo without a Korean peninsula-centric relationship.  This relationship would be more North Korea-South Korea focused, with the U.S. and the PRC overseeing the relationship.  The U.S. would no longer be in the middle of the mix with its own forces physically present in South Korea.  It may not be the best the U.S. could hope for – that would be a democratic government in North Korea if not an eventual unification of North and South Korea.  However, a U.S. redeployment to incentivize peninsula denuclearization and present cleaner options concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program may be a more viable alternative than accepting and having to deter a North Korean global ICBM capability, or to fight another war on the Korean peninsula.  In the end, by removing U.S. forces from South Korea, friend and foe should understand that if North Korea refuses to scrap its nuclear weapons capability, it will be the North Korean regime alone against the overwhelming power of the U.S..


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Mark Loncar North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

Options for U.S. National Guard Defense of Cyberspace

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  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 has not organized its battlespace to defend against cyberattacks.  Cyberattacks are growing in scale and scope and threaten surprise and loss of initiative at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.  Shortfalls in the nation’s cybersecurity workforce and lack of division of labor amongst defenders exacerbates these shortfalls.

Date Originally Written:  July 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This paper is written from a perspective of a U.S. Army field grade officer with maneuver battalion command experience who is a senior service college graduate.  The officer has also been a practitioner of delivery of Information Technology (IT) services and cybersecurity for his organization for over 15 years and in the IT industry for nearly 20 years.

Background:  At the height of the Cold War, the United States, and the North American (NA) continent, organized for defense against nuclear attack.  A series of radar early warning lines and control stations were erected and arrayed across the northern reaches of the continent to warn of nuclear attack.  This system of electronic sentries were controlled and monitored through a series of air defense centers.  The actual air defense fell to a number of key air bases across the U.S. ready to intercept and defeat bombers from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics entering the NA airspace.  The system was comprehensive, arrayed in-depth, and redundant[1].  Today, with threats posed by sophisticated cyber actors who directly challenge numerous United States interests, no equivalent warning structure exists.  Only high level, broad outlines of responsibility exist[2].  Existing national capabilities, while not trivial, are not enough to provide assurances to U.S. states as these national capabilities may require a cyber event of national significance to occur before they are committed to address a state’s cyber defense needs.  Worse, national entities may notify a state after a breach has occurred or a network is believed to be compromised.  The situation is not sustainable.

Significance:  Today, the vast Cold War NA airspace has its analog in undefended space and gray area networks where the cyber threats propagate, unfettered from active security measures[3].  While the capabilities of the myriad of companies and firms that make up the critical infrastructure and key resource sectors have considerable cybersecurity resources and skill, there are just as many that have next to nothing.  Many companies and firms cannot afford cyber capability or worse are simply unaware of the threats they face.  Between all of these entities the common terrain consists of the numerous networks, private and public, that interconnect or expose all of these actors.  With its Title 32 authorities in U.S. law, the National Guard is well positioned to take a key role in the unique spot interface between private industry – especially critical infrastructure – in that it can play a key role in this gray space.

There is a unique role for the National Guard cyber forces in gray space of the internet.  The National Guard could provide a key defensive capability in two different ways.

Option #1:  The National Guard’s Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Element (DCO-E), not part of the Department of Defense Cyber Mission Force, fulfills an active role providing depth in their states’ networks, both public and private.  These elements, structured as full-time assets, can cooperatively work to negotiate the placement of sensors and honeypots in key locations in the network and representative sectors in their states.  Data from these sensors and honey pots, optimized to only detect high-threat or active indicators of compromise, would be aggregated in security operations centers manned primarily by the DCO-Es but with state government and Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) participation.  These security operations centers provide valuable intelligence, analytics, cyber threat intelligence to all and act to provide depth in cybersecurity.  These units watch for only the most sophisticated threats and allow for the CIKR private industry entities to concentrate their resources on internal operations.  Surveilling gray space networks provides another layer of protection and builds a shared understanding of adversary threats, traffic, exploitation attempts returning initiative to CIKR and preventing surprise in cyberspace.

Risk:  The National Guard cannot be expected to intercept every threat that is potentially targeted at a state entity.  Negative perceptions of “mini-National Security Agencies (NSAs)” within each state could raise suspicions and privacy concerns jeopardizing the potential of these assets.  Duplicate efforts by all stakeholders threaten to spoil an available capability rather than integrating it into a whole of government approach.

Gain:  Externally, this option builds the network of cyber threat intelligence and unifies efforts within the particular DCO-E’s state.  Depth is created for all stakeholders.  Internally, allowing National Guard DCO-Es to focus in the manner in this option provides specific direction, equipping options, and training for their teams.

Option #2:  The National Guard’s DCO-Es offer general support functions within their respective states for their Adjutants General, Governors, Department of Homeland Security Advisors, etc.  These elements are tasked on an as-needed basis to perform cybersecurity vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructure when requested or when directed by state leadership.  Assessments and follow-on recommendations are delivered to the supported entity for the purpose of increasing their cybersecurity posture.  The DCO-Es fulfill a valuable role especially for those entities that lack a dedicated cybersecurity capability or remain unaware of the threats they face.  In this way, the DCO-Es may prevent a breach of a lessor defended entity as the entry point for larger scale attacks or much larger chain-reaction or cascading disruptions of a particular industry.

Risk:  Given the hundreds and potentially thousands of private industry CIKR entities within any particular state, this option risks futility in that there is no guarantee the assessments are performed on the entities at the greatest risk.  These assessments are a cybersecurity improvement for the state overall, however, given the vast numbers of industry actors this option is equivalent to trying to boil the ocean.

Gain:  These efforts help fill in the considerable gap that exists in the cybersecurity of CIKR entities in the state.  The value of the assessments may be multiplied through communication of the results of these assessments and vulnerabilities at state and national level industry specific associations and conferences etc.  DCO-Es can gradually collect information on trends in these industries and attempt to use that information for the benefit of all such as through developing knowledge bases and publishing state specific trends.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Winkler, D. F. (1997). SEARCHING THE SKIES: THE LEGACY OF THE UNITED STATES COLD WAR DEFENSE RADAR PROGRAM(USA, Headquarters Air Combatant Command).

[2]  Federal Government Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/Cybersecurity/2013march21_cyberroleschart.authcheckdam.pdf

[3]  Brenner, J. (2014, October 24). Nations everywhere are exploiting the lack of cybersecurity. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joel-brenner-nations-everywhere-are-exploiting-the-lack-of-cybersecurity

 

 

 

Cyberspace Jeffrey Alston Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, Territorial Forces, Militias, etc) Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Jeremiah Cushman is a senior analyst at Military Periscope, where he writes about weapons.  He holds an M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University.  He can be found on Twitter @jdcushman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Search for Security in the Eastern Baltic

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2017.

Summary:  For much of the last 800 years, the natives of the Baltic States and Finland were ruled by others, whether Baltic Germans, Swedes, Russians or Hitler’s Germany.  History shows these countries that, to retain independence, they must be willing and able to fight for it, and possibly join collective security organizations.

Text:  Lithuania existed as an independent nation prior to 1918, in contrast to Estonia, Latvia and Finland.  In 1385, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined with the Kingdom of Poland via a dynastic marriage.  Although not specifically made for security purposes, the result was a great Central European power that eventually spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This was, however, an unstable union, with divergent interests between the Lithuanian and Polish halves.  (Poland ultimately became the dominant power.)  Efforts were made to strengthen the union, culminating with the establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.  The commonwealth eventually succumbed to its own weaknesses and the machinations of neighboring powers, Austria, Prussia and Russia, which divided it among themselves in the partitions of 1772, 1790 and 1795.  If ultimately unsuccessful, the commonwealth nevertheless provided security for the Lithuanians for centuries.

Upon gaining independence in 1918, the Baltic States struggled to navigate their security environment.  For the most part, they sought refuge in the collective security arrangements of the League of Nations.  Different threat perceptions, a territorial dispute over Vilnius between Lithuania and Poland, and the maneuvers of the Germans and Soviets hindered trilateral defense efforts.  A proposed four-way alliance among Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland foundered on Finnish reservations.  Helsinki elected to focus on a Scandinavian orientation.  Estonia and Latvia managed to conclude a defense alliance in 1923.

The Soviet Union saw Baltic cooperation as a threat and worked to undermine it.  The Baltic States concluded their own treaty of cooperation and friendship in 1934, although little came from it.  Non-aggression pacts signed with Moscow and Berlin came to nought and the three nations were occupied by Soviet forces in 1940 and annexed.  While Finland fought for its independence and survived World War II, Baltic failures to prepare, and the overwhelming strength of the Soviet and German states that opposed them, ended their initial experiment with independence.

Finland was able to maintain its independence during and after World War II, fighting the Soviet Union twice in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.  The Finnish state was saved, though it lost the Karelia region to the Soviets.  Viewing Moscow as a direct threat, Helsinki allied with the Nazi regime as Berlin prepared its own attack on the Soviet Union.  The Finnish government took pains to portray its own war as separate from that of Germany’s, without much success.

At the end of the war, Finland was left with an 830-mile border with Russia and a difficult position between its preferred partners in the democratic West and the Soviet Union.  Moscow was able to dictate terms as the Finnish war effort collapsed in 1944 along with the fortunes of its German allies.  In 1948, the Finnish government concluded a mutual assistance treaty with Moscow, including military obligations to come to the Soviet Union’s assistance in the event of an attack by Germany or its allies, or an attack from Finnish territory.  The goal was to maintain independence and reduce the chance of conflict in Northern Europe.

By resolving Moscow’s security concerns, Finland was able to pursue trade with Western countries and play an active role in détente during the 1970s.  The Nordic country benefited from trade with its eastern neighbor, while holding off Soviet efforts to tighten military relations.  While this “Finlandization” policy ensured the nation’s sovereignty during the Cold War, it came at a cost to Finland’s freedom of action.  Habits formed over those decades continue to influence national policy, including hindering those who might prefer new security arrangements in light of Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture.

The Baltic States declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Remembering the lessons of 1940, they immediately focused on trilateral cooperation and integration with European security organizations to secure their freedom.  Their security bodies focused on developing modern, capable forces on the Western model with the object of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).  These goals were achieved in 2004.  NATO’s Article 5 pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all is seen as the cornerstone of Baltic security.  Accordingly, all three countries recognize the United States as their most important security partner.  The Baltic States also pursue regional cooperation with their Nordic neighbors.  These multilateral cooperation efforts have, in some cases, detracted from trilateral endeavors. Small countries have limited resources.

Accession to NATO and the EU, which has its own security mechanisms, seemed to resolve the security concerns of the Baltic States.  However, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has led to uncertainty about the wisdom of relying on Washington.  Trump has threatened to assist only those NATO members who meet the alliance’s defense spending goals and his commitment to Article 5 appears uncertain, despite efforts from other administration officials to reinforce American support for the Baltic allies.  Trump’s apparent ties to Russia cause additional discomfort in the region.

Officially, the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasize the continued importance of security ties with the U.S. and a belief that Trump will live up to Washington’s NATO commitments should it become necessary.  So far, U.S. and NATO activities in the Baltic region have been unchanged from the previous administration, with multinational battalion task groups active in all three countries.

As for Finland, it has eschewed its former relationship with Moscow in favor of closer security relations with NATO and the U.S., and strengthened ties with neighboring Sweden.  Helsinki still sees a strong national defense capability as vital for its security.  NATO membership remains politically challenging, although Finland potentially benefits from E.U. mutual assistance mechanisms.

The lessons of history for this region are simple.  To retain independence, one must first be willing and able to fight for it.  States as small as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania must additionally find allies to bolster their own defense efforts.  If one cannot be a great power, joining a great power organization, such as NATO, is the next best thing.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kirby, David. (1998). Northern Europe In The Early Modern Period: The Baltic World 1492-1772. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[2]  Kirby, David. (1998). The Baltic World 1772-1993: Europe’s Northern Periphery in an Age of Change. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman.

[3]  Kasekamp, Andres. (2010). A History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

[4]  Plakans, Andrejs. (2011). A Concise History of the Baltic States. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Aggression Assessment Papers Baltics Estonia European Union Finland Jeremiah Cushman Latvia Lithuania North Atlantic Treaty Organization Russia Trump (U.S. President) United States

Great Power Interaction: United States Options Towards Iran

Phillip J. Giampapa is a personnel security assistant contracted with United States Customs and Border Protection.  Prior to that, Phillip was a civil affairs specialist with the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and is currently an Officer Candidate in the Washington, D.C. Army National Guard.  Phillip has operational experience in Afghanistan and Qatar, as well as familiarity with the Levant and Gulf Countries.  He can be found on Twitter at @phillipgiampapa.  The views expressed in this article do not represent the views or policies of his employer, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  United States’ interactions with Iran under the Trump Administration.

Date Originally Written:  June 6th, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  August 7, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a United States policymaker advising the Trump Administrations on possible options towards Iran.

Background:  In the Middle East, the Trump Administration has signaled its preference to strengthen relationships with the Sunni Gulf states by way of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  By strengthening relationships with the Sunni Gulf states, as well as announcing an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United States appears willing to continue isolating Iran.  This has the potential to exacerbate tensions with Iran, which if one views it through an international relations theory lens, Iran will attempt to counteract actual or perceived Saudi (read: Sunni) influence gains to maintain balance in the region, as well as prevent loss of Iranian influence.

Iran has a variety of proxies, as well branches of its armed services serving in countries throughout the Middle East.  This is illustrated through the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, as well as deployment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria and Yemen.  This does not include the activities of the IRGC in other countries that include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan[1].  Iran’s military adventurism throughout the Middle East serves to advance the foreign policy agenda of its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei[1].  Put succinctly, the foreign policy agenda of the Supreme Leader is the expansion of Iranian (read: Shia) influence throughout the Middle East to serve as an ideological counterweight against the expansion of Saudi/Wahhabi ideology.

Recently, on May 20, 2017, Iran held a presidential election.  The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, won re-election by receiving 57% of the vote[2].  Mr. Rouhani is seen as a reformer in Iran, and he is expected to attempt most of his proposed reforms now that he is in his second term.  How many reforms will actually take place is anyone’s guess, as is the influence Mr. Rouhani will have on IGRC policy, but it will be a factor that should be considered when considering the United States’ approach to great power interactions.

Significance:  The Middle East will continue to be a region that perplexes United States policymakers.  United States’ Allies will continue to be confused as to policy direction in the Middle East until more fidelity is provided from Washington.  Iranian meddling will continue in sovereign nations until it is addressed, whether diplomatically or militarily.  Furthermore, Iranian meddling in the region, and interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, will continue to destabilize the Middle East and exacerbate tensions in areas where conflict is occurring, such as Syria and Yemen.  A complete withdrawal of the United States’ presence in the region would likely create a stronger vacuum potentially filled by an adversary.  As such, the United States must choose the option that will provide the strongest amount of leverage and be amicable to all parties involved in the decision.

Option #1:  Maintain the status quo – the United States continues to strengthen Sunni states and isolate Iran.  Through maintaining the status quo, the United States will signal to its allies and partners in the Middle East that they will continue to enjoy their relationship with the United States as it exists in current form.  President Trump’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia signals this intent through proposed arms sales, announcing the establishment of a center to combat extremism, and the use of negative language towards Iran.

Risk:  The risk inherent in pursuing Option #1 is that the window of opportunity on having a moderate, reform-minded person as President of Iran will eventually close.  Through isolating Iran, it is likely they will not be keen on attempting to make overtures to the United States to reconsider the relationship between the two countries.  Since the United States is not going to pursue a relationship with Iran, other countries will seek to do so.  The risk of missed economic opportunities with an Iran that is an emerging market also has the possibility of closing the window for the United States to be involved in another area where it can exert its influence to change Iranian behavior.

Gain:  Through maintaining the status quo that exists in the Middle East, the United States can be sure that pending any diplomatic, political, or international incidents, it can maintain its presence there.  The United States can continue to nurture the preexisting relationships and attempt to maintain the upper hand in its interactions with Iran.  The United States will also remain the dominant player in the great power interactions with other countries in the Middle East.

Option #2:  The United States strengthens its relationship with Iran through moderate reformers and building relationships with moderates in Sunni states to provide shared interests and commonalities.  Given the propensity of nation-states to expand their power and influence, whether through political or military means, it is likely inevitable that conflict between Iran and the Sunni states will take place in the near future.  If a relationship can be built with moderates in the Iranian government as well as Sunni states, it is possible that commonalities will overlap and reduce tensions between the different powers.

Risk:  The risk exists that neither rival will want to have the United States attempting to influence matters that may be viewed as neighborly business.  The possibility also exists that neither nation would want to build a relationship with the other, likely originating from the religious leaders of Iran or Saudi Arabia.  Finally, the worst-case scenario would be that any type of relationship-building would be undercut through actions from independent and/or non-state actors (i.e. terrorist groups, minority religious leaders, familial rivals from ruling families).  These undercutting actions would destroy trust in the process and likely devolve into reprisals from both sides towards the other.

Gain:  Through interacting with Iran, the United States and other powers can establish relationships which could eventually allow the opportunity to address grievances towards existing policies that serve to inflame tensions.  It is also likely that by having a partner in Iran, instability in the Middle East can be addressed in a more effective manner than is currently being done right now.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] REPORT: Destructive role of Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Middle East. (2017, March). Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.eu-iraq.org/index.php/press-releases/item/851-report-destructive-role-of-iran’s-islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps-irgc-in-the-middle-east

[2] Erdbrink, T. (2017, May 20). Rouhani Wins Re-election in Iran by a Wide Margin. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/20/world/middleeast/iran-election-hassan-rouhani.html?_r=0

Great Powers Iran Option Papers Phillip J. Giampapa United States

People’s Republic of China Options Toward North Korea

Paul Butchard is a graduate student in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.  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:  Options for the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) toward North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK).

Date Originally Written:  July, 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 24, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of foreign policy advisor to the PRC government.

Background:  Since January 2016, the DPRK has conducted two nuclear weapons tests and ten missile tests.  Such actions, coupled with increasingly bombastic rhetoric, displays a more aggressive posture for the DPRK than previous years[1].

Significance:  For the PRC, their relationship with the DPRK is a regional policy issue and a central element of PRC-United States relations.  President Xi Jinping is forging an outgoing, “Striving for Achievement” foreign policy for the PRC[2].  Simultaneously, the PRC has displayed more public disapproval of Pyongyang’s destabilising behaviour than previous years[3].  The course of action the PRC adopts towards the DPRK will play a major role in the relationship between Beijing and Washington in years to come, influencing events globally.

Option #1:  The PRC maintains/increases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC continuing or building upon its current course of action, providing vast military and economic aid and diplomatic protection to bring the DPRK’s behaviour in line with the PRC’s wishes.

Risk:  The PRC risks appeasing the DPRK, encouraging it to continue along its current path, one that is increasingly casting the PRC as a suzerain unable to rein in a vassal state, to the casual observer.  The DPRK would view such action as capitulation and an acknowledgment by Beijing that Pyongyang cannot be penalised for actions and policies even when they harm the PRC’s interests[4].  The DPRK is conscious of its strategic importance to Beijing and able to take PRC aid without granting concessions.  The PRC risks escalating confrontation with the United States if the latter perceives the PRC as unwilling to act or enabling the DPRK’s current destabilising behaviour, a possibility given recent remarks by President Trump[5].

Gain:  This option enables the PRC to sustain the DPRK regime, avoiding a humanitarian crisis on its border because of regime collapse, maintaining the tense but peaceful status quo.  The PRC avoids being labelled a United States puppet as the DPRK has previously implied[6].  United States’ sanctions related to the DPRK have so far been limited to private companies and individuals, not the PRC government[7].  This option thus avoids igniting military, diplomatic or economic confrontations with the United States.

Option #2:  The PRC decreases/ceases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC ‘sanction’ the DPRK by reducing or halting military, economic or diplomatic aid to alter its behaviour to suit PRC preferences.

Risk:  This option risks the collapse of the DPRK regime due to the PRC being its main economic trading partner.  The PRC also risks economic self-harm due to the vast natural resources it imports from the DPRK[8].  The collapse of the DPRK brings unparalleled security concerns for the PRC from uncontrolled nuclear materials and mass immigration to the potential of a United States ally on its border.

Gain:  By reducing aid the PRC would be acting against the DPRK’s unpredictable actions, potentially slowing its development of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), increasing its international standing, a cornerstone of President Xi’s foreign policy.  Such action would be seen favourably by the Trump administration increasing the likelihood of favourable trade deals or relative acquiescence to PRC actions in the South China Sea.

Option #3:  Regime change.  This option would see the PRC pursue regime change within the DPRK by means of supporting a coup d’état or palace coup of some description rather than overt military action of its own.

Risk:  The DPRK government and society revolves fully around the Kim dynasty, the removal of the deity that is Kim Jong Un and the Kim lineage risks the total collapse of the state.  There is no clear successor to Kim due to the autocratic nature of the DPRK and any successor would likely be considered a PRC puppet and usurper.  Subsequent destabilisation would result in the aforementioned humanitarian and security crisis’ posing a grave national security threat to the PRC.  Such action would be logistically and strategically difficult to accomplish, requiring multiple sections of the DPRK military and governmental apparatus being coordinated by a vast human intelligence network operated by the PRC.  As such, and due to pervasive North Korean surveillance even of its elites, a coup risks discovery long before execution.  United States and South Korean forces may see any attempt at regime change as an opportunity to launch their own military offensive or as evidence of PRC expansionism and a threat to the South.

Gain:  Replacing Kim Jong Un could lead to increased stability for the PRC’s regional development objectives.  The PRC could avoid total DPRK state collapse due to external pressure and avert the potential national security threats to the PRC mainland.  This option also raises the possibility of enhancing United States-PRC relations, buying the PRC the aforementioned political capital.  A new DPRK regime, allied with the PRC, that tempers its actions toward the United States, also raises the possibility of the removal of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system from South Korea, which the PRC views as a national security threat.  This option also presents the potential for the reduction of United States troop numbers in South Korea due to increased stability and a reduced threat from the DPRK.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, (2017) North Korea Crisis. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from https://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/north-korea-crisis

[2] Yan, X. (2014). From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement. The Chinese Journal of International Politics,7(2), 153-184.

[3] Perlez, J. (2017, February 24). China and North Korea Reveal Sudden, and Deep, Cracks in Their Friendship. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/world/asia/china-north-korea-relations-kim-jong-un.html

[4] Pei, M. (2017, March 14). North Korea: What Is China Thinking? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/china-north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuclear-beijing-pyongyang-thaad/519348/

[5] Weaver, M., Haas, B., & McCurry, J. (2017, April 03). Trump says US will act alone on North Korea if China fails to help. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/02/donald-trump-north-korea-china

[6] Sang-hun, C. (2017, February 23). North Korea Accuses China of ‘Mean Behavior’ After It Tightens Sanctions. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/north-korea-china.html

[7] Aleem, Z. (2017, June 29). Why Trump just slapped new sanctions on Chinese banks. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/world/2017/6/29/15894844/trump-sanctions-china-north-korea-bank

[8] Perlez, J., & Huang, Y. (2017, April 13). China Says Its Trade With North Korea Has Increased. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/china-north-korea-trade-coal-nuclear.html 

[9] Reuters. (2017, February 28). China reacts with anger, threats after South Korean missile defense decision. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-usa-thaad-china-idUSKBN16709W

China (People's Republic of China) Leadership Change North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers Paul Butchard South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Options for United States Military Assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq

Brandon Wallace is a policy wonk who spends his time watching Iraq, Kurdish borders, data, and conflict in the Middle East of all varieties.  Brandon can be found on Twitter at @brandonwallacex and at his website www.brandonlouiswallace.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 defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looms closer and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) ponders its future relationship with greater Iraq, the United States must decide what, if any, military assistance it will provide to the Kurds.

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 10, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the hypothetical perspective of a senior policy advisor for a policy maker in the United States government.

Background:  The KRG, a semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq with intentions of secession, requires both intrastate and external sponsors to sustain functionality.  The KRG depends on resource allocations from the central Government of Iraq (GOI) in Baghdad, as well as assistance from the United States and other international partners.  The campaign to defeat ISIS requires a functioning KRG partnership, resulting in several partners providing additional capital and arms to the region.  Without such assistance, the KRG faces serious economic turmoil.  The GOI allocates 17 percent of the federal budget for the KRG, yet the budget does not balance KRG spending.  The KRG carries an inflated public sector wherein 70 percent of KRG public spending is devoted to payroll[1]. The KRG must also support internally displaced people (IDP).  This year, KRG debts exceeded US$22 billion[2].

Moreover, the KRG cannot sustain itself through oil sales.  It is estimated that the maximum output of KRG oil production is nearly 800 kbd (Thousand Barrels Per Day)[3].  To balance the budget, the KRG would need oil to sell at nearly US$105[4].  Today oil trades at roughly US$50.

Significance:  The KRG’s ability to receive independent assistance from the United States has profound implications for the United States’ relationship with the GOI, Kurdish commutes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and relations between neighboring states.  Yet, the KRG has been a valuable non-state partner in the fight against ISIS.  The United States paid the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (the military forces of the KRG) US$415 million for their role in the Mosul Operation to topple ISIS- this does not include military equipment and other forms of aid from the United States and international partners[5].

Option #1:  The United States sustains its current level of military assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  This option risks dissatisfaction with bordering countries of the KRG.  Sustained support implies United States complicit backing of the KRG to the GOI, Iran, Turkey, and a significantly crippled Syria.  Further, military assistance, specifically cash payments from the United States, contributes to the bloating KRG payroll.

Gain:  The KRG will continue to be an important partner in the campaign against ISIS.  As ISIS is driven out of its controlled territories, a well-supported Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces will be necessary for security operations post-Mosul.  No allied actor is so upset by United States support of the KRG as to dramatically obstruct the campaign against ISIS.  Option #1 carefully mitigates the reservations of other actors while accelerating counter-ISIS operations.

Option #2:  The United States diversifies and increases its assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  Significantly increasing independent assistance to the KRG, without involving the GOI, will likely be met with open hostility.  If the United States increases its support to Kurdish groups, anxious governments with Kurdish minorities may attempt to undermine United States’ interests in retaliation.

Conversely, the United States may choose to diversify its assistance to the KRG by changing its lending model.  Last July, an International Monetary Fund loan of US$5.25 billion conditionally reserved US$225 million for KRG road infrastructure and small projects[4].  However, adopting this model, setting conditions for KRG sharing with the GOI, opens the United States to risks.  The KRG may not have the stability to repay a loan, and it is likely the GOI, who may be better positioned to pay off the loan quickly, will insist on the KRG meeting a 17 percent repayment share.  The symbolism of any conditional loan or military transfer to the KRG will certainly strain relations with the GOI.

Gain:  United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) programs in Iraq require the approval of the GOI, even when agreements are specifically directed at the KRG.  Per United States law, the FMS and FMA are limited only to interaction with central governments.  To secure large-scale military sales directly to the KRG would require a congressional change to existing United States’ laws.  Option #2 would surely win the favor of the KRG, and it may expedite counter-ISIS operations across northern territories.  Expanding the scope of assistance to the KRG by lending conditionally or giving conditionally to the GOI, could force Erbil, capital of the KRG, and Baghdad to broaden collaboration in developing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  Option #2 ensures the KRG does not return to relative isolation from the international community in a post-ISIS future.

Option #3:  The United States ceases all military assistance to the KRG and relies on the GOI to allocate resources.

Risk:  This option to cease assistance to the KRG may hinder security operations in Northern Iraq, and it diminishes the United States’ presence in the region- a vacuum other countries may fill.  For example, this option will certainly please Iran.  Conversely, the KRG will likely interpret this move as aggressive.

Gain:  Providing the GOI full authority in distributing assistance communicates a strong faith in the central government and the Iraqi state.  Further, this consolidation of assistance to a single power center in Baghdad may simplify bureaucratic procedure and empower the ISF.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Coles, I (2016, February 16) Iraqi Kurdish deputy PM says deal with Baghdad ‘easy’ if salaries paid. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-idUSKCN0VP22Z

[2]  Natali, D (2017, January 3) Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war? Retrieved June 7, 2017, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/kurdistan-civil-war-iraq-krg-sulaimaniya-pkk-mosul-kurds.html

[3]  Jiyad, A. M (2015, July 7) Midyear Review of the State Budget and Oil Export Revenues. Retrieved June 5, 2017, from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ahmed-Mousa-Jiyad-Mid-Year-Review-of-the-State-Budget-and-Oil-Export-Revenues.pdf

[4]  Grattan, M (2017, June 25) David Petraeus on US policy under Donald Trump, the generational war against Islamist terrorism, and dealing with China. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://theconversation.com/david-petraeus-on-us-policy-under-donald-trump-the-generational-war-against-islamist-terrorism-and-dealing-with-china-80045

[5]  Knights, M (2016, July 28) The U.S., the Peshmerga, and Mosul. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-u.s.-the-peshmerga-and-mosul