Options for Defining the Next U.S. Defense Challenge

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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  May 23, 2022. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Michael D. Purzycki is an analyst, writer, and editor based in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked for the United States NavyUnited States Marine Corps, and United States Army. In addition to Divergent Options, he has been published in the Center for International Maritime Security, the Washington MonthlyMerion West, Wisdom of Crowds, Charged AffairsBraver Angels, and more. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki, and on Medium at https://mdpurzycki.medium.com/.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Costs of Expecting Easy Victory

Date Originally Written:  April 10, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  April 25, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes American leaders’ expectation of quick victory in post-9/11 wars, and the concomitant refusal to ask for material sacrifice by the American public, undermined the ability to win those wars.

Summary:  Unlike World War II, America’s post-9/11 conflicts did not involve shared material sacrifice, such as tax increases or reducing oil use. Previous success during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and initial U.S. success in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks led then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to doubt the need for large troops deployments to Iraq. These factors left the U.S., as a whole, unprepared for the reality of post-conflict stabilization.

Text:  Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led to widespread popular support for war[1]. In both cases, the deaths of thousands of Americans catalyzed lengthy deployments of U.S. troops overseas. However, the two eras varied widely in the extent to which Americans outside the military were asked to sacrifice to win the wars.

While 16 million Americans served in the military during World War II[2], the entirety of American society was mobilized. At least 20 million Victory Gardens supplied 40% of the country’s produce by 1944[3]. Citizens were urged to carpool to save fuel and rubber[4]. The war saw the introduction of income tax withholding, turning a tax previously limited to wealthy Americans into a way ordinary citizens funded the war effort[5].

No such ethos of sacrifice emerged after 9/11. A month after the attacks, President George W. Bush argued, “We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop[6].” In 2003, President Bush signed a reduction in income tax rates[7]. Whatever the economic pros and cons of doing so, the decision to cut taxes during a war did not indicate the government intended to ask the public to sacrifice.

In the twelve years before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, major operations the U.S. led were brief and included relatively few American casualties. The 1991 Gulf War lasted six weeks, including only four days of ground combat, and fewer than 300[8] of the more than 500,000[9] Americans deployed were killed. The American-led interventions in Bosnia (lasting three weeks in 1995) and Kosovo (eleven weeks in 1999) consisted of air and missile strikes followed by deployments of NATO peacekeeping missions[10][11]. No Americans were killed in combat during the former conflict, and only two were killed in a training exercise during the latter[12]. After 9/11, the U.S. relied largely on air and missile strikes to oust the Taliban from control of Afghanistan in ten weeks; Afghan allies carried out most of the fighting on the ground[13].

Expecting a quick victory – and expecting Iraq to quickly stabilize after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was overthrown – Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Commander of U.S. Central Command General Tommy Franks underestimated the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq. Before the invasion, General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that stabilization would require “several hundred thousand soldiers[14].” Similarly, Middle East policy expert Kenneth Pollack argued for “two to three hundred thousand people altogether[15].” By contrast, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld expected the war to last a matter of months[16], while Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz dismissed Shinseki’s estimate, saying “It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in a post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself[17].”

When the invasion was launched, 145,000 U.S. troops were involved[18], along with 70,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters[19], 45,000 British troops[20], and others. A year later, the U.S.-led coalition troops in Iraq numbered 162,000[21]. This proved inadequate to stabilize Iraq, particularly after the disbanding of the Iraqi army in 2003[22]. Until the “surge” of 2007, in which more than 28,000 additional troops[23] were deployed, brutal fighting between Iraqi factions was rife – more than 96,000 Iraqi civilians were killed from 2003-2007[24]. More than 3,900 Americans were killed from 2003-2007[25], compared to fewer than 600 from 2008-2011[26]. Meanwhile, American popular support for the war declined, from 72% in 2003 to 43% in 2007[27].

The role of oil in the debates surrounding the Iraq war links to the lack of shared sacrifice[28][29]. From 2002 to 2006, 12% of crude oil imported[30] into the U.S. came from Saudi Arabia[31]. Analysts such as New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman argued for a large increase in the federal gasoline tax[32], which would have echoed the reduction of fuel use during World War II. However, U.S. officials did not make decreased reliance on Middle Eastern oil a Policy priority.

Fuel dependence was also a factor in American casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a 2009 report by the Army Environmental Policy Institute, from 2003 to 2007, one in every 24 fuel and water resupply convoys in Afghanistan, and one in every 38 in Iraq, resulted in an American casualty[33]. But while the military has sought to reduce fossil fuel use in recent years[34], Americans at home were not asked to sacrifice for it at the height of the Iraq war.

While many factors contributed to America’s post-9/11 military struggles, one factor was the expectation of quick victory. Between underestimating the difficulty of stabilization and refusing to ask for material sacrifice by the public, American leaders were unprepared for a long struggle. This lack of preparation can serve as a lesson for leaders debating whether to fight future conflicts and preparing for difficult fights if they do.


Endnotes:

[1] Washington Post. “Post-ABC Poll: Terrorist Attacks.” September 13, 2001. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data091401.htm

[2] National World War II Museum. “WWII Veteran Statistics.” https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/wwii-veteran-statistics

[3] Smithsonian Gardens. “Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History.” https://gardens.si.edu/gardens/victory-garden/#:~:text=Roughly%20one%20half%20of%20all,by%20victory%20gardens%20by%201944

[4] Yale University. “’When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler!’ U.S. Government Propaganda Poster, 1943. https://energyhistory.yale.edu/library-item/when-you-ride-alone-you-ride-hitler-us-government-propaganda-poster-1943

[5] Hill, Adriene. “How tax withholding became the norm for American workers.” Marketplace, July 31, 2017.  https://www.marketplace.org/2017/07/31/how-tax-withholding-became-norm-american-workers/

[6] C-SPAN. “Presidential News Conference.” October 11, 2001. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4552776/user-clip-bush-shopping-quote

[7] White House. “President Bush Helped Americans Through Tax Relief.” https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/bushrecord/factsheets/taxrelief.html

[8] Defense Casualty Analysis System. “U.S. Military Casualties – Persian Gulf War Casualty Summary Desert Storm.” https://dcas.dmdc.osd.mil/dcas/pages/report_gulf_storm.xhtml

[9] U.S. Department of Defense. “Desert Storm: A Look Back.” January 11, 2019. https://www.defense.gov/News/Feature-Stories/story/Article/1728715/desert-storm-a-look-back/

[10] North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “History of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR)

in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” https://www.nato.int/sfor/docu/d981116a.htm

[11] North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “NATO’s role in Kosovo.” https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_48818.htm

[12] BBC News. “Two die in Apache crash.” May 5, 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/335709.stm

[13] Council on Foreign Relations. “The U.S. War in Afghanistan: 1999 – 2021.” https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan

[14] Mills, Nicolaus. “Punished for telling truth about Iraq war.” CNN, March 20, 2013. https://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/opinion/mills-truth-teller-iraq/index.html

[15] Lemann, Nicholas. “The Next World Order.” New Yorker, March 24, 2002. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/04/01/the-next-world-order

[16] Esterbrook, John. “Rumsfeld: It Would Be A Short War.” CBS News, November 15, 2002. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rumsfeld-it-would-be-a-short-war/

[17] Mills, Nicolaus. “The General who Understood Iraq from the Start.” Dissent, April 25, 2008. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-general-who-understood-iraq-from-the-start

[18] Mills, March 20, 2013.

[19] Peltier, Major Isaac J. “Surrogate Warfare: The Role of U.S. Army Special

Forces.” School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2005. http://www.jezail.org/03_archive/manuals_monogrms/Surrogate_war_UW.pdf

[20] NBC News. “Britain says most troops out of Iraq by June.” December 10, 2008. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna28161917

[21] Carney, Stephen A. “Allied Participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Center for Military History, United States Army, 2011. https://history.army.mil/html/books/059/59-3-1/CMH_59-3-1.pdf

[22] Thompson, Mark. “How Disbanding the Iraqi Army Fueled ISIS.” TIME, May 28, 2015. https://time.com/3900753/isis-iraq-syria-army-united-states-military/

[23] BBC News. “US Iraq troop surge ‘starts now.’” June 15, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6757329.stm

[24] Statista. “Number of documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war from 2003 to February 2022.” https://www.statista.com/statistics/269729/documented-civilian-deaths-in-iraq-war-since-2003/

[25] Statista. “Number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war from 2003 to 2020.”  https://www.statista.com/statistics/263798/american-soldiers-killed-in-iraq/

[26] Ibid.

[27] Pew Research Center. “Public Attitudes Toward the War in Iraq: 2003-2008.” March 19, 2008. https://www.pewresearch.org/2008/03/19/public-attitudes-toward-the-war-in-iraq-20032008/

[28] Ahmed, Nafeez. “Iraq invasion was about oil.” Guardian, March 20, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/20/iraq-war-oil-resources-energy-peak-scarcity-economy

[29] Tyagi, Tal. “The Iraq War Was Not About Oil.” Quillette, May 6, 2019. https://quillette.com/2019/05/06/the-iraq-war-was-not-about-oil/

[30] U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Imports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products.” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUS1&f=M

[31] U.S. Energy Information Administration. “U.S. Imports from Saudi Arabia of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products.” https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUSSA1&f=M

[32] Friedman, Thomas L. “The Real Patriot Act.” New York Times, October 5, 2003. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/05/opinion/the-real-patriot-act.html

[33] Army Environmental Policy Institute. “Sustain the Mission Project: Casualty Factors

for Fuel and Water Resupply Convoys.” September 2009. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADB356341.pdf

[34] Gardner, Timothy. “U.S. military marches forward on green energy, despite Trump.” Reuters, March 1, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-military-green-energy-insight/u-s-military-marches-forward-on-green-energy-despite-trump-idUSKBN1683BL

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Michael D. Purzycki United States

Assessing the Cameroonian Anglophone Crisis and Potential Impacts of U.S. Inaction

Sam Gitlitz is Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy currently assigned in Washington D.C.  He previously was assigned in the Pentagon, where he supported OPNAV N2N6. 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 Cameroonian Anglophone Crisis and Potential Impacts of U.S. Inaction

Date Originally Written:  February 20, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  March 21, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author deployed to Cameroon in 2015-2016.  The instability caused by the Anglophone crisis threatens Cameroonian security and regional stabilization.  Based on his experience, the author believes that failure to recognize the strategic importance of the situation and plan accordingly will have negative, lasting second and third order effects.

Summary:  The Anglophone Conflict stems from 2016 when Anglophone teachers and lawyers mounted protests demanding better representation in Cameroon’s legal and educational systems.  The conflict is estimated to have killed thousands of people and displaced close to a million[1].  With the onset of the crisis, the U.S. reduced security assistance to the country with few other efforts to resolve the crisis.  Inaction by the U.S. could lead to further destabilization.

Text:  Cameroon is an amalgamation of former French and British territories combined into a single country in 1961. The North-West and South-West Regions (NWSW) of Cameroon are home to most of the country’s English-speaking population (Anglophones), roughly 20% of the total population.  The Anglophone Conflict stems from 2016 when Anglophone teachers and lawyers mounted protests demanding better representation in Cameroon’s legal and educational systems.  What started as peaceful protests quickly turned violent as demonstrators clashed with security personnel.  Cameroon President Paul Biya’s response included deploying U.S. trained special forces[2], curfews, and implementing regional communications blackouts. In 2017, Anglophone protestors switched tactics from wanting increased representation to demanding an independent state.  On October 1, 2017, Anglophone separationists unilaterally claimed independence from Cameroon creating the Federal Republic of Ambazonia which would be led by an interim government.

Ambazonia is now in quasi-civil war albeit with limited recognition from President Biya in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé.  He maintains that the conflict is a terrorist/criminal issue, which he promises to resolve through bureaucratic maneuvering and force[3].  The struggle continues to grow deadlier, with more improvised explosive device attacks taking place in the first five months of 2021 than all other years of the conflict combined[4]. The situation continues to deteriorate with separatists beginning kidnap for ransom operations and the Cameroonian state conducting cross border operations of questionable legality into Nigeria. The Cameroonian government’s harsh tactics against its citizenry prompted allegations of human rights abuses.

The magnitude of the crisis and numerous filmed events obtained by international aid organizations lends strong credence to the allegations.  As a result of the abuses, the U.S. cut military aid to Cameroon in 2019[5]. The U.S. is in a difficult position as Cameroon is a key ally against Islamist terrorism in the region, through their contribution to the Multi-national Joint Task Force and allowing U.S. forces to operate from bases in the country[6].  

Little is likely to be resolved in the immediate future.  The government is unable to claim victory, and the separatists have not gained and held ground, leading to in-fighting[7]. The separatists seek to change their fortunes through an alliance with Nigerian separatists and the purchase of weapons from foreign powers[8]. Another element to consider is President Biya.  At 89, Biya is the oldest elected official on the continent and the second longest serving.  Many, if not most, Cameroonians do not know life without Biya.  He has no intention of ceding power, and more importantly does not have any clear succession plans.  Disorganization from Biya’s hospitalization, death, or cessation of power may give Amabazonia the relief it needs to find better footing.

For a country battling Islamist terrorists in the north and separatists in the south, the death of an autocrat may be the final straw.  The U.S. would be well advised to consider response options to the Anglophone crisis beyond advocating for human rights. If the U.S. continues to ignore the Anglophone crisis and does not develop solid response options, it risks ceding regional leadership and allowing the problem to spiral. Considering the NWSW regions’ coastline and other natural resources, the area will draw international attention for cocoa, oil, or an Atlantic Port. In 2019, China wrote off a substantial portion of Cameroon’s debt[9], and is building the region’s largest deep-water port[10].  China is presumably ready to and willing to fill any partnership void caused by U.S. inaction.

There are several possible outcomes.  The first, already underway, is the continued stagnation of the crisis.  With neither side moving towards peace and conflict increasing, the growth of criminal activity, extremism, and continued human rights abuses is likely.  Combined with other regional instability and increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the equivalent of a West coast Somalia is an unattractive prospect.  

Second, should the crisis escalate, and Cameroon prove ineffective at containing the situation, say in the case of Biya’s death, would regional intervention be justified?  Is the U.S. prepared or able to, with Leahy Law requirements, support regional action to stabilize the area?  How would the U.S. react to Nigeria retaking the Bakassi peninsula under the premise of a responsibility to protect intervention?

Given the vast uncertainty facing Cameroon post-Biya, the U.S. and international community should not be shocked by  renewed claims of Ambazonian independence. Should Anglophone Cameroonians coalesce, they may prove more capable at maintaining security in the region than Yaoundé. The Anglophone Camerronians  would then have a solid footing for seeking recognition, which could prompt additional calls for succession from groups like the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta in neighboring Nigeria. As evidenced by recent events, a country seeking de jure recognition has the potential to disrupt the international order, in this case that could occur in an already unstable region which could prove disastrous for U.S. regional efforts.

The current situation is the culmination of bad international politics in the 1960’s which amalgamated peoples regardless of their language and culture.  The crisis will not be resolved as is and risks creating a generation of disenfranchised, displaced people nursing a grievance.


Endnotes:

[1] International Crisis Group, “Cameroon,” Crisis Group, accessed February 20, 2022, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon.

[2] Gareth Browne, “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International – Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2019, https://foreignpolicy-com.proxyau.wrlc.org/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

[3] Paul Biya, “Head of State’s New Year Message to the Nation – 31 December 2021,” accessed February 3, 2022, https://www.prc.cm/en/news/speeches-of-the-president/5611-head-of-state-s-new-year-message-to-the-nation-31-december-2021.

[4] Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, “Populations at Risk: Cameroon,” Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, December 1, 2021, https://www.globalr2p.org/countries/cameroon/.

[5] Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon Is a Good Counterterrorism Partner, but US Cannot Ignore Alleged Atrocities, Says AFRICOM Head,” Military Times, February 7, 2019, https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/02/07/cameroon-is-a-good-counterterrorism-partner-but-us-cannot-ignore-alleged-atrocities-says-africom-head/.

[6] Joshua Hammer, “Hunting Boko Haram: The U.S. Extends Its Drone War Deeper Into Africa With Secretive Base,” The Intercept (blog), February 25, 2016, https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/us-extends-drone-war-deeper-into-africa-with-secretive-base/.

[7] Moki Edwin Kindzeka, “Cameroon’s Rival Separatist Groups Clash, Kill Fighters,” VOA, February 16, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/cameroon-s-rival-separatist-groups-clash-kill-fighters-/6444121.html.

[8] Browne, “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.”

[9] Jenni Marsh, “China Just Quietly Wrote off a Chunk of Cameroon’s Debt. Why the Secrecy?,” CNN, February 4, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/04/china/cameroon-china-debt-relief-intl/index.html.

[10] Xinhua, “From Blueprint to Reality, China-Africa Cooperation Bearing Rich Fruit,” From blueprint to reality, China-Africa cooperation bearing rich fruit, September 5, 2019, http://www.news.cn/english/2021-09/05/c_1310169378.htm.

Assessment Papers Cameroon Civil War United States

Assessing the Foundation of Future U.S. Multi-Domain Operations

Marco J. Lyons is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army who has served in tactical and operational Army, Joint, and interagency organizations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and in the Western Pacific. He is currently a national security fellow at Harvard Kennedy School where he is researching strategy and force planning for war in the Indo-Pacific. He may be contacted at marco_lyons@hks.harvard.edu. The author thanks David E. Johnson for helpful comments on an earlier draft. 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 Foundation of Future U.S. Multi-Domain Operations 

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2022. 

Date Originally Published:  March 14, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   The author believes that U.S. adversaries pose a greater threat if they outpace the U.S. in both technological development and integration.

Summary:  Both U.S. Joint Forces and potential adversaries are trying to exploit technology to lock in advantage across all domains. Through extensive human-machine teaming and better ability to exploit both initiative (the human quality augmented by AI/ML) and non-linearity, Army/Joint forces will lose the fight unless they perform better, even if only marginally better, than adversaries – especially at the operational level. 

Text:  The 2018 U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) 2028 is a future operational concept – not doctrine – and not limited to fielded forces and capabilities[1]. A future operational concept consists of a “problem set,” a “solution set,” and an explanation for why the solution set successfully addresses the problem set[2]. Since 2018, there have been ongoing debates about what MDO are – whether they are revamped AirLand Battle or they are a next evolution of joint operations[3]. Before the Army finishes translating the concept into doctrine, a relook at MDO through historical, theoretical, and doctrinal lenses is necessary. 

The historical context is the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the Korean War, and the European and Pacific Theaters of World War Two. The theoretical basis includes Clausewitzian war, combined arms, attrition, and Maneuver Warfare. The doctrinal basis includes not just AirLand Battle, but also AirLand Battle – Future (ALB–F), Non-Linear Operations, and the 2012 Capstone Concept for Joint Operations. ALB–F was meant to replace AirLand Battle as the Army’s operational concept for the 1990s, before the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union interrupted its development. Never incorporated into Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, ALB–F emphasized the nonlinear battlefield and conceived of combat operations through information-based technologies[4]. 

This assessment presupposes the possibility of great power war, defines potential enemies as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Russian Armed Forces, assumes the centrality of major theater operations, and accepts that the Army/Joint force may still have to operate in smaller-scale contingencies and against enemy forces that represent subsets of the PLA and Russian Armed Forces. By assuming the PLA and Russian Armed Forces, this conceptual examination is grounded in the characteristics of opposing joint forces, mechanized maneuver, and primarily area fires. 

The Army/Joint force faces a core problem at each level of war. At the strategic level, the problem is preclusion, i.e., potential adversaries will use instruments of national power to achieve strategic objectives before the U.S./coalition leaders have the opportunity to respond[5]. At the operational level, the central problem is exclusion[6]. Anti-access/area denial is just one part of operational exclusion. Potential adversaries will use military power to split combined/joint forces and deny U.S./coalition ability to maneuver and mass. The tactical problem is dissolution. By exploiting advantages at the strategic and operational levels, potential adversaries will shape tactical engagements to be close-to-even fights (and potentially uneven fights in their favor), causing attrition and attempting to break U.S./coalition morale, both in fighting forces and among civilian populations. 

The best area to focus conceptual effort combines the determination of alliance/coalition security objectives of the strategic level of warfare with the design of campaigns and major operations of the operational level of warfare. The Army/Joint force will only indirectly influence the higher strategic-policy level. The problem of preclusion will be addressed by national-multinational policy level decisions. The tactical level of warfare and its attendant problems will remain largely the same as they have been since 1917[7]. If Army/Joint forces are not able to win campaigns at the operational level and support a viable military strategy that is in concert with higher level strategy and policy, the outcomes in great power war (and other major theater wars) will remain in doubt. 

The fundamentals of operational warfare have not changed substantially, but the means available have shrunk in capacity, become outdated, capabilities have atrophied, and understanding has become confused. Today’s Unified Land Operations (ULO) doctrine is, not surprisingly, a product of full-dimensional and full-spectrum operations, which were themselves primarily informed by a geopolitical landscape free of great power threats. Applying ULO or even earlier ALB solution sets to great power threats will prove frustrating, or possibly even disastrous in war. 

Given the primary operational problem of contesting exclusion by peer-adversary joint and mechanized forces, using various forms of multi-system operations, future Army/Joint forces will have to move under constant threat of attack, “shoot” at various ranges across multiple domain boundaries, and communicate faster and more accurately than the enemy. One way to look at the operational demands listed above is to see them as parts of command and control warfare (C2). C2 warfare, which has probably always been part of military operations, has emerged much more clearly since Napoleonic warfare[8]. Looking to the future, C2 warfare will probably evolve into something like “C4ISR warfare” with the advent of more automation, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep neural networks. 

With technological advances, every force – or “node,” i.e., any ship, plane, or battalion – is able to act as “sensor,” “shooter,” and “communicator.” Command and control is a blend of intuition, creativity, and machine-assisted intelligence. Maximum exploitation of computing at the edge, tactical intranets (communication/data networks that grow and shrink depending on their AI-/ML-driven sensing of the environment), on-board deep data analysis, and laser/quantum communications will provide the technological edge leaders need to win tactical fights through initiative and seizing the offense. Tactical intranets are also self-defending. Army/Joint forces prioritize advancement of an “internet of battle things” formed on self-sensing, self-organizing, and self-healing networks – the basic foundation of human-machine teaming[9]. All formations are built around cross-domain capabilities and human-machine teaming. To maximize cross-domain capabilities means that Army/Joint forces will accept the opportunities and vulnerabilities of non-linear operations. Linear warfare and cross-domain warfare are at odds. 

Future major operations are cross-domain. So campaigns are built out of airborne, air assault, air-ground and air-sea-ground attack, amphibious, and cyber-ground strike operations – all enabled by space warfare. This conception of MDO allows service forces to leverage unique historical competencies, such as Navy’s Composite Warfare Commander concept and the Air Force’s concept of multi-domain operations between air, cyberspace, and space. The MDO idea presented here may also be seen – loosely – as a way to scale up DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare concept[10]. To scale MDO to the operational level against the potential adversaries will also require combined forces for coalition warfare. 

MDO is an evolution of geopolitics, technology, and the character of war – and it will only grow out of a complete and clear-eyed assessment of the same. Army/Joint forces require a future operational concept to expeditiously address emerging DOTMLPF-P demands. This idea of MDO could create a formidable Army/Joint force but it cannot be based on superiority, let alone supremacy. Great power war holds out the prospects for massive devastation and Army/Joint forces for MDO are only meant to deter sufficiently (not perfectly). Great power war will still be extended in time and scale, and Army/Joint forces for MDO are principally meant to help ensure the final outcome is never substantially in doubt. 


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Training and Doctrine Command, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 (Fort Eustis, VA: Government Printing Office, 2018). 

[2] U.S. Department of the Army, TRADOC Pamphlet 71-20-3, The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Concept Development Guide (Fort Eustis, VA: Headquarters, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, December 6, 2011), 5–6. 

[3] See Dennis Wille, “The Army and Multi-Domain Operations: Moving Beyond AirLand Battle,” New America website, October 1, 2019, https://www.newamerica.org/international-security/reports/army-and-multi-domain-operations-moving-beyond-airland-battle/; and Scott King and Dennis B. Boykin IV, “Distinctly Different Doctrine: Why Multi-Domain Operations Isn’t AirLand Battle 2.0,” Association of the United States Army website, February 20, 2019, https://www.ausa.org/articles/distinctly-different-doctrine-why-multi-domain-operations-isn’t-airland-battle-20. 

[4] Stephen Silvasy Jr., “AirLand Battle Future: The Tactical Battlefield,” Military Review 71, no. 2 (1991): 2–12. Also see Jeff W. Karhohs, AirLand Battle–Future—A Hop, Skip, or Jump? (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, 1990). 

[5] This of course reverses what the Army identified as a U.S. advantage – strategic preclusion – in doctrinal debates from the late 1990s. See James Riggins and David E. Snodgrass, “Halt Phase Plus Strategic Preclusion: Joint Solution for a Joint Problem,” Parameters 29, no. 3 (1999): 70–85. 

[6] U.S. Joint Forces Command, Major Combat Operations Joint Operating Concept, Version 2.0 (Norfolk, VA: Department of Defense, December 2006), 49–50. The idea of operational exclusion was also used by David Fastabend when he was Deputy Director, TRADOC Futures Center in the early 2000s. 

[7] World War I was a genuine military revolution. The follow-on revolutionary developments, like blitzkrieg, strategic bombing, carrier warfare, amphibious assaults, and information warfare, seem to be essentially operational level changes. See Williamson Murray, “Thinking About Revolutions in Military Affairs,” Joint Force Quarterly 16 (Summer 1997): 69–76. 

[8] See Dan Struble, “What Is Command and Control Warfare?” Naval War College Review 48, no. 3 (1995): 89–98. C2 warfare is variously defined and explained, but perhaps most significantly, it is generally included within broader maneuver warfare theory. 

[9] Alexander Kott, Ananthram Swami, and Bruce J. West, “The Internet of Battle Things,” Computer: The IEEE Computer Society 49, no, 12 (2016): 70–75. 

[10] Theresa Hitchens, “DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare — Multi Domain Ops, But Faster,” Breaking Defense website, September 10, 2019, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/09/darpas-mosaic-warfare-multi-domain-ops-but-faster/. 

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Marco J. Lyons United States

Assessing China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

John Guerrero is currently serving in the Indo-Pacific region. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing China as a Case Study in Cognitive Threats

Date Originally Written:  February 1, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 28, 2022.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is currently serving in the Indo-Pacific region.  The author believes that China is more mature than the U.S. in projecting force in the cognitive space. This increased maturity is largely due to the China’s insistence on operating outside of the rules-based system. 

Summary:  China has largely been effective in pursuing their national interests through cognitive threats. In this cognitive space, China influences public opinion through propaganda, disinformation campaigns, censorship, and controlling critical nodes of information flow.  China’s understanding of U.S. politics, and its economic strength, will enable it to continue threatening U.S. national security. 

Text:  China is pursuing its national interests through its effective employment of cognitive threats- efforts undertaken to manipulate an adversary’s perceptions to achieve a national security objective. Cognitive threats generally include psychological warfare which target the enemy’s decision-making calculus causing him to doubt himself and make big blunders. Psychological warfare also includes strategic deception, diplomatic pressure, rumor, false narratives, and harassment[1].  Chinese actions illustrate their use of all of the above.  

The cognitive threat area illustrates the disparity between U.S. defensive efforts and China’s offensive actions below the threshold of war. The United States remains wedded to the state-versus-state construct that has kept strategists occupied since 1945. The stave-versus-state construct is antiquated and the commitment to it hamstrings the U.S. from pursuing more effective options.

China’s efforts in the cognitive space  exceed any other state. China understands the importance of influencing its competitors’ thinking. There are four lines of effort in China’s pursuit of favorable global public opinion. China aims to influence public opinion through propaganda, disinformation campaigns, censorship, and controlling critical nodes of information flow[2].

Globalization complicates problems in the cognitive space. Globalization creates opportunities, but it also creates multiple areas a nefarious actor can exploit. Corporations, as an example, are multi-national and have influence across borders. There are clear incentives for corporations to transact with the Chinese market. Chinese exposure for a corporation oftentimes translates into an uptick in revenue. However, there are consequences. Corporations are “expected to bend, and even violate, their interests and values when the Party demands[3].”

China’s reach into the United States is vast. One area of significant importance is the American pension plan. American pensioners are “underwriting their own demise” by contributing to their retirement accounts that may be tied to China[4]. Planning a financially stable future is noble, but it is not without unforeseen consequences. There are 248 corporations of Chinese origin listed on American stock exchanges[5]. The Chinese government enjoys significant influence over these corporations through their program called “Military-Civil Fusion[6].” Many index funds available to Americans include Chinese corporations. China’s economic strengths facilitate censorship over dissenters and any information aimed at painting the government in an unfavorable light. In another example of China’s expansive reach, they have recently placed an advertisement on digital billboards in Times Square attempting to sway onlookers into their favor[7].

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) understands that while global opinion is important, they cannot ignore domestic public opinion. Despite reports on their treatment of ethnic minorities[8], the Party continues to push the idea that they enjoy “political stability, ethnic unity and social stability[9].” China’s domestic news agencies critical to Party and Party leadership are few and far between. There are incentives to march to the Party’s tune- corporate survival.  

China’s efforts, and the U.S. response, in cognitive threats will progress along the four lines of effort discussed. China’s economic strength enables their strategic efforts to sway global public opinion in their favor. Few state, and non-state, actors can do this at this scale, but it does not preclude them from partaking. These smaller states, and non-states, will serve as proxies for China. 

China understands U.S. domestic politics. This understanding is critical to their national interests. The current state of U.S. domestic politics is divisive and presents opportunities for China. For example, China has exploited the U.S. media’s coverage of brutal treatment by law enforcement officers on Americans. China widens the division between Americans over these tragic events and accuses the United States of hypocrisy[10]. 

China is attempting to control, curate, and censor information for Americans and the world. Hollywood is the latest node of influence. “China has leveraged its market to exert growing influence over exported U.S. films, censoring content that could cast China in a negative light and demanding the addition of scenes that glorify the country[11].” Movies are not the full extent of Hollywood’s reach and influence. Celebrities active on social media could be advancing China’s interests and influence unknowingly. China’s adversaries, peer governments, aren’t the target of these cognitive threats. Rather, they target the ordinary citizen. In a democratic government, the ordinary citizen is the center of gravity- a fact the Chinese know very well. 

The cognitive threat arena is dynamic and evolves at a staggering pace. Technological advancements, while beneficial, presents opportunities for exploitation. The PRC continues to advance their footprint in this space. This is dangerous as it has far-reaching effects on the United States and its ability to pursue its national interests. Strategists should keep a watchful eye at how this pervasive and omnipresent threat progresses. These threats will continue to influence future conflicts.  


Endnotes:

[1] Sean McFate, The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder, First edition (New York, NY: William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2019).

[2] Sarah Cook, “China’s Global Media Footprint,” National Endowment for Democracy, February 2021, 24.

[3] Luke A. Patey, How China Loses: The Pushback against Chinese Global Ambitions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).

[4] Joe Rogan, “General H.R. McMaster,” accessed January 27, 2022, https://open.spotify.com/episode/2zVnXIoC5w9ZkkQAmWOIbJ?si=p1PD8RaZR7y1fA0S8FcyFw.

[5] “Chinese Companies Listed on Major U.S. Stock Exchanges” (Washington, DC: U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, May 13, 2021), https://www.uscc.gov/research/chinese-companies-listed-major-us-stock-exchanges.

[6] U.S. Department of State, “Military-Civil Fusion and the People’s Republic of China” (Department of State, 2021 2017), https://2017-2021.state.gov/military-civil-fusion/index.html.

[7] Eva Fu, “Chinese State Media Uses Times Square Screen to Play Xinjiang Propaganda,” http://www.theepochtimes.com, January 7, 2022, https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinese-state-media-uses-times-square-screen-to-play-xinjiang-propaganda_4200206.html.

[8] Adrian Zenz, “Uighurs in Xinjiang Targeted by Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans, Chinese Documents Show,” News Media, Foreign Policy, July 1, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/01/china-documents-uighur-genocidal-sterilization-xinjiang/.

[9] PRC Government, “China’s National Defense in the New Era” (The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, July 2019), https://armywarcollege.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-25289-dt-announcement-rid-963503_1/courses/19DE910001D2/China-White%20Paper%20on%20National%20Defense%20in%20a%20New%20Era.pdf.

[10] Paul D. Shinkman, “China Leverages George Floyd Protests Against Trump, U.S. | World Report | US News,” June 9, 2020, https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2020-06-09/china-leverages-george-floyd-protests-against-trump-us.

[11] Gabriela Sierra, “China’s Starring Role in Hollywood,” accessed January 28, 2022, https://www.cfr.org/podcasts/chinas-starring-role-hollywood.

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Governing Documents and Ideas Influence Operations John Guerrero United States

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

Joe Palank is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he leads a Psychological Operations Detachment. He has also previously served as an assistant to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. He can be found on Twitter at @JoePalank. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  Disinformation as a cognitive threat poses a risk to the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  January 17, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  February 14, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marshall McGurk serves in the United States Army and has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. He presently works at the Joint Readiness Training Center as a Special Operations Forces Observer-Coach/Trainer. He can be found on Twitter @MarshallMcGurk and writes for the Havok Journal website. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Elected Officials who concurrently serve in the National Guard or Reserves politicize the U.S. Armed Forces.

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2022.

Date Originally Published:  January 31, 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armed Forces Marshall McGurk Option Papers Politicization United States

Options to Counter Foreign Influence Operations Targeting Servicemember and Veterans

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 2, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 3, 2022.

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

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

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

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

Option #1:  Closing Legislative Loopholes 

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

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

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

Option #2:  Deplatforming on the Grounds of Trademark Infringement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

[2] Ibid, 6-7.

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

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

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

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

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

Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Michael Martinez is a consultant who specializes in data analysis, project management and community engagement. has a M.S. of Intelligence Management from University of Maryland University College. He can be found on Twitter @MichaelMartinez. Divergent Optionscontent does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Analyzing Social Media as a Means to Undermine the United States

Date Originally Written:  November 30, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 27, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that social media is not inherently good nor bad, but a tool to enhance discussion. Unless the national security apparatus understands how to best utilize Open Source Intelligence to achieve its stated goals, i.e. engaging the public on social media and public forums, it will lag behind its adversaries in this space.

Summary:  Stopping online radicalization of all varieties is complex and includes the individual, the government, social media companies, and Internet Service Providers. Artificial intelligence reviewing information online and flagging potential threats may not be adequate. Only through public-private partnerships can an effective system by created to support anti-radicalization endeavors.

Text:  The adage, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product[1],” cannot be further from the truth in the age of social media. Every user’s click and purchase are recorded by private entities such as Facebook and Twitter. These records can be utilized by other nations to gather information on the United States economy, intellectual property, as well as information on government personnel and agencies. This collation of data can be packaged together and be used to inform operations to prey on U.S. personnel.  Examples include extortion through ransomware, an adversary intelligence service probing an employee for specific national information by appealing to their subject matter expertise, and online influence / radicalization.

It is crucial to accept that the United States and its citizens are more heavily reliant on social media than ever before. Social media entities such as Meta (formerly Facebook) have new and yet to be released products for children (i.e., the “Instagram for Kids” product) enabling adversaries to prey upon any age a potential. Terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda utilize cartoons on outlets like YouTube and Instagram to entice vulnerable youth to carry out attacks or help radicalize potential suicide bombers[2]. 

While Facebook and YouTube are the most common among most age groups, Tik-Tok and Snapchat have undergone a meteoric arise among youth under thirty[3]. Intelligence services and terrorist organizations have vastly improved their online recruiting techniques including video and media as the platforms have become just as sophisticated. Unless federal, state, and local governments strengthen their public-private partnerships to stay ahead of growth in next generation social media platforms this adversary behavior will continue.  The national security community has tools at its disposal to help protect Americans from being turned into cybercriminals through coercion, or radicalizing individuals from overseas entities such as the Islamic State to potentially carry out domestic attacks.

To counter such trends within social media radicalization, the National Institutes of Justice (NIJ) worked with the National Academies to identify traits and agendas to facilitate disruption of these efforts. Some of the things identified include functional databases, considering links between terrorism and lesser crimes, and exploring the culture of terrorism, including structure and goals[4]. While a solid federal infrastructure and deterrence mechanism is vital, it is also important for the social media platform themselves to eliminate radical media that may influence at-risk individuals. 

According to the NIJ, there are several characteristics that contribute to social media radicalization: being unemployed, a loner, having a criminal history, a history of mental illness, and having prior military experience[5]. These are only potential factors that do not apply to all who are radicalized[6]. However, these factors do provide a base to begin investigation and mitigation strategies. 

As a long-term solution, the Bipartisan Policy Center recommends enacting and teaching media literacy to understand and spot internet radicalization[7]. Social media algorithms are not fool proof. These algorithms require the cyberspace equivalent of “see something, say something” and for users to report any suspicious activity to the platforms. The risks of these companies not acting is also vital as their main goal is to monetize. Acting in this manner does not help companies make more money. This inaction is when the government steps in to ensure that private enterprise is not impeding national security. 

Creating a system that works will balance the rights of the individual with the national security of the United States. It will also respect the rights of private enterprise and the pipelines that carry the information to homes, the Internet Service Providers. Until this system can be created, the radicalization of Americans will be a pitfall for the entire National Security apparatus. 


Endnotes:

[1] Oremus, W. (2018, April 27). Are You Really the Product? Retrieved on November 15, 2021, from https://slate.com/technology/2018/04/are-you-really-facebooks-product-the-history-of-a-dangerous-idea.html. 

[2] Thompson, R. (2011). Radicalization and the Use of Social Media. Journal of Strategic Security, 4(4), 167–190. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26463917 

[3] Pew Research Center. (2021, April 7). Social Media Use in 2021. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/ 

[4] Aisha Javed Qureshi, “Understanding Domestic Radicalization and Terrorism,” August 14, 2020, nij.ojp.gov: https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/understanding-domestic-radicalization-and-terrorism.

[5] The National Counterintelligence and Security Center. Intelligence Threats & Social Media Deception. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.dni.gov/index.php/ncsc-features/2780-ncsc-intelligence-threats-social-media-deception. 

[6] Schleffer, G., & Miller, B. (2021). The Political Effects of Social Media Platforms on Different Regime Types. Austin, TX. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from http://dx.doi.org/10.26153/tsw/13987. 

[7] Bipartisan Policy Center. (2012, December). Countering Online Radicalization in America. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://bipartisanpolicy.org/download/?file=/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BPC-_Online-Radicalization-Report.pdf 

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Michael Martinez Social Media United States

McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

Lieutenant Colonel John Bolton, U.S. Army, is a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies.  He previously commanded Bravo Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, served as the Executive Officer for 2-25 Assault Helicopter Battalion, and the Brigade Aviation Officer for 4/25 IBCT (Airborne). He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College’s Art of War Scholars Program and holds degrees in military history and mechanical engineering. An AH-64D/E Aviator, he has deployed multiple times with Engineer, Aviation, and Infantry units. 


Title:  McMaster, Afghanistan, and the Praetorian Mindset

Date Originally Written:  November 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 20, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes some national security professionals are taking the wrong lessons from Afghanistan, blaming a non-existent lack of public support for the failure of the American campaign.

Summary:  Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, USA(ret) recently blamed the U.S. public for a “lack of support” in Afghanistan.  McMaster’s claim evokes the legacy of dangerous “stabbed in the back” mentalities that emerged after Germany’s defeat in WWI and the U.S. Army’s withdrawal from Vietnam. Instead of blaming others, the U.S. military would benefit from a far-reaching study to discover the institutional lapses and shortcomings that precipitated failure. 

Text:  Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), has rightfully lambasted the U.S. withdrawl from Afghanistan as embarrassing. However, McMaster goes too far in calling the withdrawl a “defeat” with severe implications for American credibility[1]. More troubling, in a recent column, McMaster blamed the U.S. public and unnamed leaders who allegedly failed to back the American military[2]. According to McMaster, “There are a lot of people in senior positions in government who have never led anything… they’ve never done anything except maybe in academic environments or write policy papers[3].”

McMaster is wrong about Afghanistan and his narrative endorses a praetorian mindset – one dangerously close to the “stab in the back” dogmas that took hold in Weimar Germany after World War I and among the American Military Officer Corps after Vietnam[4]. Leaving Afghanistan will have few, if any, long-term effects on American security but the war’s impact on civil-military relations portends pernicious tensions, especially if military leaders adopt McMaster’s mentality. 

McMaster says America was fighting “one-year wars” in Afghanistan for two decades, obscuring the reality that the U.S. military chose this rotational model and often failed to adapt to local conditions[5]. But the 2017 Afghanistan “surge” engineered by McMaster while he was APNSA was more of the same. The McMaster Surge did not quell violence, deter the Taliban, nor generate effective (or loyal) Afghan Defense Forces[6]. From 2017-2020 Americans did more of the same: hunting the Taliban and training and foisting expensive equipment on poorly trained and often barely literate Afghan forces[7]. Americans were also dying. During the author’s 2017-18 tour, six Soldiers died during a time when Afghans were supposedly in the lead. “Bureaucratic capture” is the only way to explain how otherwise intelligent professionals can endorse logically inconsistent, sunk-cost arguments about a strategically unimportant place.

Rather than explain why Central Asia has relevancy at home, McMaster and others have made expansive credibility arguments – we must stay there because we are there. In doing so, McMaster bastardizes historian Zachary Shore’s “strategic empathy[8].” But instead of understanding the domestic and cultural sources of U.S. adversaries’ actions, McMaster’s “strategic empathy” justifies expansive American action by equating all challenges as likewise threatening. Better to employ a rational consideration of interests and achievable ends, especially amid a public justifiably skeptical of employing force[9]. Moreover, American credibility has shades – eschewing a non-vital commitment in Afghanistan is hardly relevant to the enduring North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, for example. Tellingly, according to McMaster, violating the 2019 U.S.-Taliban agreement and staying in Afghanistan would not have affected American credibility.

Despite the folly of throwing good Soldiers after bad policy, McMaster and the praetorians see no systemic failure in American national security institutions. Instead, McMaster blames the “defeatist” U.S. public for a lack of support – as if 20 years and trillions of dollars materialized without public consent and Congressional support[10]. If anything, the public and Congress were far too lenient with oversight of the Afghan efforts, largely bequeathing whatever national security leaders wanted. 

The irony of a former APNSA decrying “policy paper writers” is palpable but McMaster certainly knows better. An accomplished soldier-scholar, his doctoral thesis (later turned in the book Dereliction of Duty) savaged senior officers who allowed President Lyndon Johnson to lurch America toward tragedy in Vietnam. Once U.S. forces began fighting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff did little to question U.S. Army General William Westmoreland’s fundamentally flawed strategy. Consequently, Johnson felt boxed in by his own military advisors. Unfortunately, in an unnerving reprisal, American strategy in Afghanistan developed little beyond asking for “more time,” “more money,” “more troops,” while leaders proclaimed “great progress” or “being on the right azimuth[11].” To paraphrase the Afghanistan Special Investigator General John Sopko, “so many corners were turned, we were spinning[12].” When Americans did speak out, as in the case of a U.S. Army Special Forces officer who grew tired of his Afghan partner’s pederasty or an officer who described rampant false reporting in 2012, they were ignored[13].  

As documented by the Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers,” false hopes and false reporting were mainstays of Afghanistan strategy across multiple administrations[14]. A 2014 Army report demonstrated the war’s toll on the ethics of Army Officers, finding lying and false reporting had become “common place[15].” Officers, the report said, were often “lying to themselves.” Civil-military distrust arising from Afghanistan needs to be analyzed in this context. If the public shares blame, it is for being too credulous – treating soldiers like saints and senior leaders as anointed heroes, too pious to be questioned, let alone contradicted. Blaming the public is insipid at best and dangerous at worst. Here McMaster espouses a praetorian view of civil-military relations grossly out of step with the American tradition. 

Leaving Afghanistan is exactly the exactly the type of prioritization McMaster called for in his 2017 National Security Strategy. While the Afghanistan withdrawal was embarrassing[16], leaving demonstrates that United States can make unpleasant distinctions between what is long-standing and what is vital. A perpetual counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan would (and did) distract from other regions. Rather than abandon a failed project, McMaster continues to advocate for doubling down on efforts that were often corrupt and ineffective[17]. It is foolhardy to adopt a national security paradigm predicated on long-term occupations and defense posture anathema to the American public and much of Congress. 

McMaster is an American hero, not only on the battlefield but in the war for the intellectual soul of the U.S. Army. His views on warfare helped shape a generation of officers, including the author. But his correct view of war’s nature has not translated into feasible policy. By failing to distinguish concerns from vital interests this worldview lacks the wherewithal to make difficult strategic decisions. 

America is and will remain the world’s sole superpower. But even massive reserves of power are finite, requiring an adept strategy based on a healthy understanding of the world as it is. Good strategy also requires an engaged but not overly deferential public. U.S. policy will succeed when it prioritizes threats and interests and aligns them with the resources available, not assuming it can do as it wishes abroad with no consequences to the nation’s budget, civil-military relationship, or moral standing. 


Endnotes:

[1] McMaster quoted in Hal Boyd, “Gen. H.R. McMaster on America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Deseret News, October 27, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/2021/10/27/22747222/general-hr-mcmaster-on-americas-withdrawal-from-afghanistan-trump-national-security-adviser-biden.

[2] H.R. McMaster, “Honor Veterans by Having the Will to Win,” Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/honor-vets-the-will-to-win-war-military-service-veterans-day-afghanistan-taliban-mcmaster-11636576955

[3] McMaster quoted at the 4th Great Power Competition Conference, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvx1rmU-QAU&t=2093s

[4] See Summers, On Strategy and Evans, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich for discussion of the “stabbed in the back” narratives.

[5] McMaster interviewed by Chuck Todd, Meet the Press, August 29, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/mcmaster-afghanistan-a-one-year-war-fought-20-times-over-119712325910

[6] See Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Events of 2018,” https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/afghanistan; Craig Whitlock, “Afghan Security Forces’ Wholesale Collapse Was Years in the Making,” The Washington Post, August 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/afghan-security-forces-capabilities/2021/08/15/052a45e2-fdc7-11eb-a664-4f6de3e17ff0_story.html

[7] See Alexandra Kuimova and Siemon T. Wezeman, “Transfers of major arms to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2020,” SIPRI, September 3, 2021, https://www.sipri.org/commentary/topical-backgrounder/2021/transfers-major-arms-afghanistan-between-2001-and-2020.

[8] McMaster, lecture to George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, March 2021, https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/hr-mcmaster-stresses-strategic-empathy-effective-foreign-policy

[9] Anna Shortridge, “The U.S. War in Afghanistan Twenty Years On: Public Opinion Then and Now,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 7, 2021, https://www.cfr.org/blog/us-war-afghanistan-twenty-years-public-opinion-then-and-now

[10] Kyle Rempfer, “Trump’s former national security adviser says the public is fed ‘defeatist narrative’ that hurts the US in Afghanistan,” Military Times, May 9, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/hr-mcmaster-defeatist-narrative-hurting-us-afghanistan-strategy-2019-5

[11] See “Afghan ISAF commander John Allen sees ‘road to winning’,” BBC News, February 10, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-21399805; Sara Almukhtar, “What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?,” The New York Times, December 9, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/09/world/middleeast/afghanistan-war-cost.html; Chris Good, “Petraeus: Gains in Afghanistan ‘Fragile and Reversible’; Afghans Will Take Over in Select Province,” The Atlantic, March 15, 2011, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/03/petraeus-gains-in-afghanistan-fragile-and-reversible-afghans-will-take-over-in-select-provinces/72507.

[12] Dan Grazier, “Afghanistan Proved Eisenhower Correct,” Project on Government Oversight, November 1, 2021, https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2021/11/afghanistan-proved-eisenhower-correct/

[13] See Joseph Goldstein, “U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies,” The New York Times, September 20, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/21/world/asia/us-soldiers-told-to-ignore-afghan-allies-abuse-of-boys.html; Dan Davis, “Truth, Lies, and Afghanistan,” Armed Forces Journal, February 1, 2012, http://armedforcesjournal.com/truth-lies-and-afghanistan

[14]Craig Whitlock, “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War,” The Washington Post, December 9, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/

[15] Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, “Lying to Ourselves,” Strategic Studies Institute, February 2015, https://press.armywarcollege.edu/monographs/466

[16] The White House, “National Security Strategy,” https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf

[17] SIGAR, “Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” September 2016, https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/sigar-16-58-ll.pdf

Afghanistan Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas John Bolton Policy and Strategy United States

Assessing Russian Use of Social Media as a Means to Influence U.S. Policy

Alex Buck is a currently serving officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He has deployed twice to Afghanistan, once to Ukraine, and is now working towards an MA in National Security.  Alex can be found on Twitter @RCRbuck.  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 Russian Use of Social Media as a Means to Influence U.S. Policy

Date Originally Written:  August 29, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  December 13, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that without appropriate action, the United States’ political climate will continue to be exploited by Russian influence campaigns. These campaigns will have broad impacts across the Western world, and potentially generate an increased competitive advantage for Russia.

Summary:  To achieve a competitive advantage over the United States, Russia uses social media-based influence campaigns to influence American foreign policy. Political polarization makes the United States an optimal target for such campaigns. 

Text:  Russia aspires to regain influence over the international system that they once had as the Soviet Union. To achieve this aim, Russia’s interest lies in building a stronger economy and expanding their regional influence over Eastern Europe[1]. Following the Cold War, Russia recognized that these national interests were at risk of being completely destroyed by Western influence. The Russian economy was threatened by the United States’ unipolar hegemony over the global economy[2]. A strong North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has threatened Russia’s regional influence in Eastern Europe. NATO’s collective security agreement was originally conceived to counter the Soviet threat following World War II and has continued to do so to this day. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s, NATO expanded their membership to include former Soviet states in Eastern Europe. This expansion was done in an effort to reduce Russian regional influence [1]. Russia perceives these actions as a threat to their survival as a state, and needs a method to regain competitive advantage.

Following the Cold War, Russia began to identify opportunities they could exploit to increase their competitive advantage in the international system. One of those opportunities began to develop in the early-2000s as social media emerged. During this time, social media began to impact American culture in such a significant way that it could not be ignored. Social media has two significant impacts on society. First, it causes people to create very dense clusters of social connections. Second, these clusters are populated by very similar types of people[3]. These two factors caused follow-on effects to American society in that they created a divided social structure and an extremely polarized political system. Russia viewed these as opportunities ripe for their exploitation. Russia sees U.S. social media as a cost-effective medium to exert influence on the United States. 

In the late 2000s, Russia began experimenting with their concept of exploiting the cyber domain as a means of exerting influence on other nation-states. After the successful use of cyber operations against Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia and again in Ukraine in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2014 respectively, Russia was poised to attempt utilizing their concept against the United States and NATO[4]. In 2014, Russia slowly built a network of social media accounts that would eventually begin sowing disinformation amongst American social media users[3]. The significance of the Russian information campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election can not be underestimated. The Russian Internet Research Agency propagated ~10.4 million tweets on Twitter, 76.5 million engagements on Facebook, and 187 million engagements on Instagram[5]. Although within the context of 200 billion tweets sent annually this may seem like a small-scale effort, the targeted nature of the tweets contributed to their effectiveness. This Russian social media campaign was estimated to expose between 110 and 130 million American social media users to misinformation aimed at skewing the results of the presidential election[3]. The 2000 presidential election was decided by 537 votes in the state of Florida. To change the results of an American election like that of 2000, a Russian information campaign could potentially sway electoral results with a campaign that is 0.00049% effective.

The bifurcated nature of the current American political arena has created the perfect target for Russian attacks via the cyber domain. Due to the persistently slim margins of electoral results, Russia will continue to exploit this opportunity until it achieves its national aims and gains a competitive advantage over the United States. Social media’s influence offers Russia a cost effective and highly impactful tool that has the potential to sway American policies in its favor. Without coherent strategies to protect national networks and decrease Russian social influence the United States, and the broader Western world, will continue to be subject to Russian influence. 


Endnotes:

[1] Arakelyan, L. A. (2017). Russian Foreign Policy in Eurasia: National Interests and Regional Integration (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315468372

[2] Blank, S. (2008). Threats to and from Russia: An Assessment. The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 21(3), 491–526. https://doi.org/10.1080/13518040802313746

[3] Aral, S. (2020). The hype machine: How social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health–and how we must adapt (First edition). Currency.

[4] Geers, K. & NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. (2015). Cyber war in perspective: Russian aggression against Ukraine. https://www.ccdcoe.org/library/publications/cyber-war-in-perspective-russian-aggression-against-ukraine/

[5] DiResta, R., Shaffer, K., Ruppel, B., Sullivan, D., & Matney, R. (2019). The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency. US Senate Documents.

Alex Buck Assessment Papers Cyberspace Influence Operations Russia Social Media United States

Assessing the Threat from Social Media Enabled Domestic Extremism in an Era of Stagnant Political Imagination


David Nwaeze is a freelance journalist and former political organizer based out of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, who has spent over two decades among the U.S. left.  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 Threat from Social Media Enabled Domestic Extremism in an Era of Stagnant Political Imagination

Date Originally Written:  November 19, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  November 29, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author contends that despite efforts by legislators and social media platforms to reduce online mediated domestic extremism, America’s political stagnation is a chief contributor to the appeal of extremist movements to the domestic public at large.

Summary:  Social media is enabling domestic extremism. Where recruitment and incitement to action once took a great deal more effort for domestic extremists, they can now instantly attract much larger audiences through social media. While some may blame social media echo chambers for the growth of domestic extremism in recent years, equally culpable is stagnant political imagination within the U.S.

Text:  The threat of social media enabled domestic extremism in the U.S. is all too real today.  Below are some recent examples:

– An 18-year-old Army National Guardsman murders two of his housemates in Tampa, Florida[1]. A fourth is later arrested, tried, and convicted of possessing explosive material. All four are members of a Neo-Nazi organization that’s been built up in the preceding years through social media chatrooms.

– A drive-by shooting takes the life of a security guard on contract with the Federal Protective Service at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, California[2]. The following weekend, a suspect in the attack kills a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sergeant and injures a deputy seeking to arrest him in relation to the attack. This suspect – along with another man – is arrested. Both suspects were part of an online subculture organized mainly over social media, oriented around preparing for or inciting a second American Civil War, or “boogaloo.”

– A mob of rioters storms the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.[3]. In the conflagration, there were five deaths and an unknown number of injuries[4]. To date, 695 individuals have been charged with crimes associated with this event[5]. Inspired by a mix of social media-mediated conspiracy theories, the January 6th attack would go on to wake America up to the real-world threat imposed by online extremism.

As we enter 2022, Americans are witnessing an uneasy calm following a violent awakening to the threat of social media enabled domestic extremism. What got us here? It is easy to look at recent history as moments in the process of evolution for online radicalization and mobilization toward violence:

– Email list-servs are used in 1999 to organize the shutdown of the World Trade Organization’s conference in Seattle[6]

– Al Qa’ida uses early social media as a propaganda and recruitment tool[7]

– The Islamic State dramatically improves this technique[7]

To understand where we are, the fundamental character of the present American mediascape needs examination. Today’s mediascape is unlike anything in human history. The internet provides an immense capability for anyone with a connection to transmit ideas and information at nearly instantaneous speeds worldwide. With this opportunity, however, comes the deep risk of information bottlenecks. According to SEO marketing strategist Brian Dean[8], “93.33% of [the] 4.8 billion global internet users and 85% of [the] 5.27 billion mobile phone users are on social media.” This means that the most popular social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc) substantially impact how internet users connect to news, information, and ideas.

Additionally, in late October 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked documents now known as The Facebook Papers[9]. In her testimony since the leak, she has identified the moral hazard faced by social media companies as their “engagement-based metrics” create “echo chambers that create social norms” which exacerbate the “normalization of hate, a normalization of dehumanizing others.” In her words, “that’s what leads to violent incidents[10].” In a threat-free environment, this would be worrying enough on its own. However, the American people face many ideological opponents – both at home and abroad – who seek to leverage this media space to violent ends. To understand U.S. vulnerability to these threats, let’s examine the underlying character of our political environment since “the end of history.”

In “The End of History and the Last Man[11],” Francis Fukuyama presents a case for liberal democracy as the apotheosis and conclusion of historical ideological struggle as viewed through the Hegelian lens. In his words, the end of the Cold War brought us to “the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Stemming from this, Fukuyama holds that humanity, once having achieved this “end-point,” would reach a condition in which “here would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled.” In other words, he concludes that humanity is no longer capable of achieving far-reaching social change. This political theory – and the phenomenon it sought to characterize – found its expression during the 1990s in the rise of neoliberalism, and its attendant policy shifts, in the anglo-American political space away from the welfare state and toward finance capital mediated economic goals. Such subsequent ideas have come to define the limits of the American political space.

In “The Return of History and the End of Dreams[12],” Robert Kagan responded to Fukuyama by framing an international political struggle characterized by the rise of a new impulse toward autocracy, led by Russia and China. Kagan goes on to propose a “concert of world democracies” work together to challenge this new international autocratic threat. Kagan’s solution to “the end of dreams” is to awaken to the ideological struggle at hand and rise to its challenge of identifying and affirming our values and promoting the fulfillment of democratic political dreams abroad.

In the spirit of Kagan’s response to Fukuyama, America won’t rise to meet the dual challenges of social media’s capability to enable far-reaching social change and the inevitability of ideological struggle with domestic extremists until it accepts that history has not ended.  Unless America can assertively identify and affirm its underlying national values, the convergence of information echo chambers with stagnant political imagination will continue to motivate this threat to U.S. national security.  America has seen the warning signs in the headlines. History illustrates what this may portend if not abated. America’s enemies are many. Chief among them, however, is dreamless slumber.


Endnotes:

[1] Thompson, A.C., Winston, A. and Hanrahan, J., (2018, February 23). Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.propublica.org/article/atomwaffen-division-inside-white-hate-group

[2] Winston, A., (2020, September 25). The Boogaloo Cop Killers. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.popularfront.co/boogaloo-cop-killers

[3] Reeves, J., Mascaro, L., and Woodward, C., (2021, January 11). Capitol assault a more sinister attack than first appeared. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://apnews.com/article/us-capitol-attack-14c73ee280c256ab4ec193ac0f49ad54

[4] McEvoy, J., (2021, January 8). Woman Possibly ‘Crushed To Death’: These Are The Five People Who Died Amid Pro-Trump Riots. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/01/08/woman-possibly-crushed-to-death-these-are-the-five-people-who-died-amid-pro-trump-riots/

[5] Hall, M., Gould, S., Harrington, R., Shamisian, J., Haroun, A., Ardrey, T., and Snodgrass, E., (2021, November 16). 695 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection so far. This searchable table shows them all. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.insider.com/all-the-us-capitol-pro-trump-riot-arrests-charges-names-2021-1

[6] Arquilla, J., & Ronfeldt, D. (2001). Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. RAND Corporation.

[7] Byman, D. L. (2015, April 29). Comparing Al Qaeda and ISIS: Different goals, different targets. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/comparing-al-qaeda-and-isis-different-goals-different-targets

[8] Dean, B. (2021, October 10). Social Network Usage & Growth Statistics: How Many People Use Social Media in 2021?. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://backlinko.com/social-media-users

[9] Chappell, B. (2021, October 25). The Facebook Papers: What you need to know about the trove of insider documents. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/25/1049015366/the-facebook-papers-what-you-need-to-know

[10] Sky News. (2021, October 25). Facebook groups push people to “extreme interests”, says whistleblower Frances Haugen. Retrieved November 19, 2021 from: https://news.sky.com/story/facebook-groups-push-people-to-extreme-interests-says-whistleblower-frances-haugen-12444405

[11] Fukuyama, F. (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press.

[12] Kagan, R. (2009). The Return of History and the End of Dreams. Vintage.

Cyberspace David Nwaeze United States Violent Extremism

Assessing the Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

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


Title:  Assessing the Impact of U.S. Forces on Pearl Harbor Heeding Multiple Warnings on December 7, 1941

Date Originally Written:  October 27, 2021

Date Originally Published:  November 8, 2021

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the U.S. did receive significant warnings on the morning of December 7th, 1941 before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. If those warnings had been acted upon in a timely fashion, the author believes that it is likely that the U.S. could have mitigated some of the damage inflicted by the Japanese. However, this author contends that the limited warning time would not have been sufficient to completely defeat the Japanese raid, and thus, Pearl Harbor would still be the event that drew the U.S. into World War II. 

Summary:  A key “what if?” about the attack on Pearl Harbor centers on the lack of U.S. action on the two main warnings received that morning i.e. the USS Ward’s sinking of a Japanese submarine and the Opana Radar Station detection of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Those warnings could have saved lives, but the limited warning time makes it unlikely the U.S. could have defeated the Japanese attack.

Text:  While most associate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the ultimate in surprise attacks, U.S. Forces did receive warnings of pending action, especially that morning. Chief among the warnings was the USS Ward sinking a Japanese mini-submarine at 0640L, nearly a full hour before the arrival of the first wave of Japanese aircraft. Additionally, at 0701L, an Army radar installation at Opana on the western part of the island of Oahu detected a large mass of possible inbound flying objects, later determined to be the first wave of Japanese carrier-based aircraft. What if the command at Pearl Harbor, instead of ignoring the warnings, decided instead that the Ward and the radar station were the indications of an imminent attack? 

The Ward’s  radioing in that it sank a Japanese sub at the entrance of the harbor was not the first report/sighting of a Japanese submarine that day. At 0357L, the minesweeper USS Condor, reported a periscope near Pearl Harbor during patrol[1]. That information was passed to the Ward for action. Also, U.S. forces throughout the Pacific had been on a war alert status for over two weeks. For most, that meant a likely Japanese strike against locations far to the west of Hawaii[2]. The accounts of the Ward fell into the trap of more warnings/sightings that leadership did not feel warranted additional responses. 

The reporting of the Ward might have increased warning for possible sub-related intrusions, which U.S. Navy Admiral (ADM) Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, felt was a significant threat[3]. However, the sub sighting along might not warrant an increase in harbor air defense actions. The Opana Radar Station, powered on longer than its scheduled 0400-0700 shift, detected multiple inbound contacts to conduct additional training while they waited for transport to leave the station[4]. In the subsequent actions, the inexperienced radar operators, while able to determine several aircraft could be in route, could not positively identify the inbound tracks[5].  Another factor involves the Officer-in-Charge at the information center at Fort Shafter. Upon receiving the call from Opana, he did not seem unduly concerned, as he knew a flight of U.S.-based B-17 were due in that morning[6]. Thus, the first wave of Japanese carrier-based planes made their way towards the island unopposed. 

Where the impact of the Wards and any possible change in the assessment of the radar station reporting could have had on the events of that morning would start at approximately 0730L, when ADM Kimmel received the Wards report[7]. If ADM Kimmel had called for an increase in the alert status at that point, the fleet would have had nearly 15-20 minutes to prepare for any inbound aggressive actions. While that might not seem like a lot of time, especially on a Sunday morning, the Sailors on ship would have been able to ready their ship-mounted anti-aircraft guns. Of note is that the ships in harbor were preparing for a Monday morning inspection, meaning most of the hatches and doors were open, thus, some warning would see the crews batten down the hatches to secure the ships[8]. 

While the 15-20 minute warning does enable the readying of anti-aircraft guns and for hatches to be secured, it does not leave time for significant aircraft launching. While possible for some alert aircraft to take off, there would be little time for the ground crews to man or move most planes to more secure locations. The Japanese were also able to take advantage in the different threat perception between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army as U.S. Army Lieutenant General (LTG) Walter C. Short, Commander of the Hawaiian Department, deemed sabotage the greatest threat to the ground-based aircraft.  As such, the majority of the island’s fighters were parked wingtip to wingtip out in the open[9]. Additionally, most of the aircraft were on four-hour alert status, so minutes’ warning would make little impact[10].

A major factor in the confusion and lack of action on the reports from the Ward and the Opana radar station stemmed from the lack of poor communications between the Navy and Army commands. LTG Short did not receive notice of the Wards actions and ADM Kimmel did not receive word about the sighting from the radar station. While this disconnect speaks to larger communication issues, the shorter-term issue would be that if Kimmel and Short did speak on the issue of the submarine[11]. If Kimmel contacted Short following the submarine activity, and both men agreed to increase the alert, even with limited time before the Japanese planes entered Oahu airspace, more lives and materiel might have been saved. Given how quickly most Sailors and Soldiers scrambled to gun positions after the shock of the first wave and the response the second wave of Japanese aircraft, any pre-warning/alert before the first wave might have reduced American casualties/increased Japanese losses. 

While an earlier alert call from ADM Kimmel and LTG Short, from the time of the Wards actions and the reporting of many inbound aircraft would have further increased America’s defensive posture, it is still likely that the U.S. suffers losses at Pearl Harbor.  In this scenario the Japanese lose more aircraft and don’t inflict as much damage to the U.S. ships in harbor, while the damage to the aircraft parked on the ground remains. In this scenario Pearl Harbor remains a Japanese tactical victory, and the U.S. still enters World War II. However, people will recall the actions of the Ward and the Opana radar detection, and how much worse things might have been had the U.S. not acted on their reporting. 


Endnotes: 

[1] Slackman, M. (1990) Target: Pearl Harbor. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, p.74.

[2] Bar-Joseph, U. and McDermont, R.(2016) “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence of two men on the outcomes.” Intelligence and National Security, Vol 31 (No.7), p.952. Most analysts at the time thought that the Japanese would attack either the Philippines, the Malay peninsula or other American island holdings in the Pacific.

[3] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor. P. 55. Of note, ADM Kimmel, prior to his assignment as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, held the rank of RADM (Two Star). The position was a 4-star billet, thus, he was addressed as ADM vs. RADM. After his dimissing from his position in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, he reverted to his original 2-star rank (RADM). 

[4] Twoney, S. (2016). Countdown to Pearl Harbor. The Twelve Days to the Attack. Simon and Shuster, New York. P. XII.

[5] Ibid, P. 275. The radar operators, even as inexperienced as they were, would have been able to determine the presence of 50 airborne signatures, which, if reported to Fort Shafter, would have given the OIC pause, as the US was not sending near that many bombers to Hawaii that morning.

[6] Ibid

[7] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P. 76.

[8] Bar-Joseph and McDermont. “Pearl Harbor and Midway: the decisive influence for two men on the outcomes.” P. 954.

[9] Ibid

[10] Slackman, M. Target: Pearl Harbor, P.135.

[11] Prange, G. (1982) At Dawn We Slept. Penguin Books, New York, P. 497.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Japan Scott Martin United States World War 2

Options to Counter Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  October 4, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 20, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[16] Ibid

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  August 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  September 6, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cadet Third Class Sierra Hillard is a History and Biology major at the United States Air Force Academy. The views expressed are the author’s and do not represent the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Department of the Air Force, or the Department of Defense. PA#: USAFA-DF-2021-146 Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As China’s Belt and Road Initiative solidifies, the United States faces a rising threat from their near-peer adversary with several possible response options outlined below.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 24, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Trump, Donald J., National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Executive Office of the President Washington DC Washington United States, 2017. Page 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organizing for Large-Scale Maritime Combat Operations

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


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

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  May 3, 2021. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Maguire is a graduate student in at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Officer.  He can be found on LinkedIn or at kevinpatrickmaguirejr@gmail.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 26, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Greer is retired U.S. Army Officer and an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.  You can follow him on Twitter @jameskgreer77.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  March 20, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 19, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  March 25, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  April 12, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other comments:  None. 

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 29, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 22, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cold War Transferability, or Not: Assessing Industrial Constraints and Naval Power After Long Land Wars

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


Title:  Cold War Transferability or Not: Assessing Industrial Constraints and Naval Power After Long Land Wars

Date Originally Written:  February 10, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  March 21, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes the role of naval power to the United States in confronting China in the 2020s is similar to its role in confronting the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He also sees economic and geopolitical similarities between the two eras.

Summary:  U.S. policymakers can learn from the last decade of the Cold War as they consider how to respond to China’s military, geopolitical, and economic ambitions. There are significant similarities between America’s situation forty years ago and its situation today, especially regarding manufacturing, trade, the defense industrial base (DIB), the exhaustion of U.S. land forces, and the importance of naval strength.

Text:  The United States in the 2020s finds itself in a position in relation to China similar to its position in relation to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have soured most Americans on extended land conflicts, much as the Vietnam War had by its conclusion in 1975. Likewise, U.S. worries about an aggressive and revisionist Chinese foreign policy (territorial claims in the South China Sea, harassment of Japanese vessels, attacks on Indian troops) parallel worries about Soviet foreign policy four decades ago (invasion of Afghanistan, continued grip on Eastern Europe, support for militant leftist forces like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Farabundo Martí National Libération Front or FMLN in El Salvador). In both cases, there are reasons to worry armed conflict will break out between the U.S. and its rival power.

However, there are also differences. While China’s military threat to U.S. interests parallels the Soviet Union’s, China’s economic position differs greatly. The Soviet economy in the 1980s was stagnant[1]. China, on the other hand, while it faces long-term economic challenges, has enjoyed decades of rapid growth[2]. China’s wealth has allowed it not only to greatly expand its military, but also to engage in economic statecraft on a massive scale, most notably through the Belt and Road Initiative.

In some regards, the U.S. faces economic difficulties today similar to those of forty years ago, including ways that affect national security. The loss of millions of manufacturing jobs in the 21st century[3] has, among other effects, weakened the DIB[4][5]. Similarly, defense experts in the early 1980s expressed concern that America’s manufacturing sector would be unable to meet the military’s needs[6].

The reasons for America’s manufacturing struggles, however, are different now, as is the relationship between those struggles and America’s geopolitical concerns. Four decades ago, America’s main economic rivals were military allies, Japan and West Germany. While there were several reasons for the relative decline of U.S. manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s, one was the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to friendly countries (partly as a result of U.S. trade policy)[7]. While the U.S.-Chinese economic rivalry now is somewhat similar to U.S.-Japanese rivalry then, it is one thing for American jobs to go to an ally, and another for them to go to a potential foe.

China’s gains relative to the U.S., unlike Japan’s, have been both military and economic. And while Japan’s economic boom after World War II was possible because it enjoyed U.S. military protection[8], factors in China’s rise have included U.S. policy (the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations in 2000, paving the way for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization)[9], and hostile actions (forcing U.S. companies to share intellectual property with the Chinese government, or else simply stealing it)[10][11], as well as Beijing’s policies of national development.

The perceived shortfalls of the DIB forty years ago led some observers to emphasize U.S. naval power as the most efficient, effective way to check a possible Soviet attack[12]. With the U.S. Army dispirited after the Vietnam War, and the Red Army strengthening its presence and power in Eastern Europe[13], a greater reliance on naval power made sense. While this emphasis on U.S. naval power was coupled with a Western misperception of Soviet naval intentions – the U.S. expected the Soviet Navy to venture far from home during a war, which it did not plan to do[14] – America’s historic position as a maritime nation positioned it well for a reliance on maritime might.

Similarly, the stresses places on U.S. land forces by nearly two decades of war in the greater Middle East lend weight to the idea of emphasizing naval strength when confronting China. Also, the difference in the nature of America’s treaty allies (i.e., North Atlantic Treaty Organization members directly bordering the Warsaw Pact compared to Japan and the Philippines near China but offshore) makes naval preeminence sensible. The fact that the Pacific is wider and takes longer to cross from the continental United States than the Atlantic is also a driving force.

Then as now, there are different schools of thought as to what precise shape the U.S. Navy should take. Proposals for a 355-ship navy, and then a 500-ship navy, put forward in the past few years parallel U.S. President Reagan’s goal of a 600-ship navy. However, an attempt at a rapid buildup has downsides. The huge increases in the costs of the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship illustrate the perils of trying to buy too much, too quickly[15][16].

Convinced that the DIB’s weakness in the early 1980s would not allow the U.S. to overwhelm the Soviets with conventional forces in a war, some defense observers, such as U.S. Senator Gary Hart, sought to emphasize Maneuver Warfare, with the goal of outthinking the Soviets[17]. The Maneuver Warfare camp worried about a U.S. overreliance on large aircraft carriers, and suggested complementing them with smaller carriers[18]. This is strikingly similar to former Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer’s talk of using America-class amphibious assault ships as “lightning carriers[19].” A 2017 report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments also recommended construction of small carriers (CVLs) and continued building of larger ones[20]. The Navy’s decision to decommission the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard after its damage by a fire, combined with Marine Corps Commandant General David H. Berger’s expressed interest in deemphasizing the Marines’ reliance on large ships for amphibious operations, provide an opportunity to put the lightning carrier concept to the test[21].

As the Biden administration considers how to approach the challenge of China, it can learn from a past period of superpower rivalry, but must also bear differences between the two eras in mind. 


Endnotes:

[1] Trachtenberg, Marc. “Assessing Soviet Economic Performance During the Cold War: A Failure of Intelligence?” Texas National Security Review, February 2018. https://tnsr.org/2018/02/assessing-soviet-economic-performance-cold-war/

[2] Purdy, Mark. “China’s Economy, in Six Charts.” Harvard Business Review, November 29, 2013. https://hbr.org/2013/11/chinas-economy-in-six-charts#:~:text=China’s%20economy%20has%20entered%20a,China’s%20GDP%E2%80%9D%20chart%20below)

[3] Long, Heather. “U.S. has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000.” CNN Business, March 29, 2016. https://money.cnn.com/2016/03/29/news/economy/us-manufacturing-jobs/

[4] Herman, Arthur. “Bringing the Factories Home.” Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2020. https://www.hudson.org/research/16236-bringing-the-factories-home

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

[6] Rothenberg, Randall. The Neoliberals: Creating the New American Politics. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, pp. 114-120. https://www.amazon.com/neoliberals-Creating-new-American-politics/dp/0671458817

[7] Atkinson, Robert D. and Michael Lind. “National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus.” American Affairs, Summer 2019. https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/05/national-developmentalism-from-forgotten-tradition-to-new-consensus/

[8] Ibid

[9] Salam, Reihan. “Normalizing Trade Relations With China Was a Mistake.” Atlantic, June 8, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/06/normalizing-trade-relations-with-china-was-a-mistake/562403/

[10] Shane, Daniel. “How China gets what it wants from American companies.” CNN Business, April 5, 2018. https://money.cnn.com/2018/04/05/news/economy/china-foreign-companies-restrictions/index.html

[11] Rosenbaum, Eric. “1 in 5 corporations say China has stolen their IP within the last year: CNBC CFO survey.” CNBC, March 1, 2019. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/28/1-in-5-companies-say-china-stole-their-ip-within-the-last-year-cnbc.html

[12] Rothenberg, pp. 114-120

[13] Federation of American Scientists. “Soviet Military Power: Chapter III – Theater Forces.” 1984. https://fas.org/irp/dia/product/smp_84_ch3.htm

[14] Alman, David. “Convoy Escort: The Navy’s Forgotten (Purpose) Mission.” War on the Rocks, December 30, 2020. https://warontherocks.com/2020/12/convoy-escort-the-navys-forgotten-purpose-mission

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

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

[17] Rothenberg, pp. 114-120

[18] Ibid

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

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

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

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Cold War Economic Factors Maritime Michael D. Purzycki United States

Options to Improve Individual and Small Unit Readiness in Great Power Competition

Skye Viera currently serves as an 11B in the Texas Army National Guard and deployed to Djibouti with his current unit. Prior to this he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 Infantry Rifleman, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Skye recently returned from Kabul where he was employed as a Private Security Contractor supporting the Department of Defense. You can find Skye on Twitter @sjviera34. 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 Department of Defense (DoD) pivots from the Global War on Terrorism, which involved fighting irregular forces, to focusing on Great Power Competitors like China and Russia, two countries with regular militaries, more attention to detail and creativity regarding individual and small unit readiness is required. Small things that may have been overlooked with little consequence when fighting an irregular force, will have consequences when fighting a regular force.

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 1, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that readiness goes beyond the minimum mandatory requirements and that if small units are ready, the military as a whole is likely ready. Since the Service Members (SM), are the ones responsible for their own readiness, they have an obligation as professionals, to ensure their small unit’s readiness and develop ideas and solutions to move beyond the minimums.

Background:  With senior leadership more focused on minimum mandatory metrics, the small unit level i.e. the Fire Team (four person unit) and below, often gets overshadowed. As such, it is up to the service members at the Fire Team level and below to ensure their own readiness.

Significance:  Emerging threats such as remote weapons systems[1], social media[2], and unmanned aerial systems from state, irregular, and Private Military Companies (PMC)[3] add new concepts to readiness. Individuals and Fire Teams will have to evolve their traditional measures of readiness and turn into adaptable organisms, able to cope in a complex world, if they are to survive and accomplish their mission.

Option #1:  Self-Assessment.

The goal of this self-assessment is for the SM to ask themselves “Am I ready to deploy tomorrow and face the full-spectrum of missions?” This self-assessment can fall into three categories. The first, Technical Readiness, is the SM confident to operate the multiple weapons systems, communication equipment, and use other skills such as land-navigation, first aid, radio procedures, and mission planning? The second, Personal Readiness, is the SM physically fit to endure long missions with limited recovery time and imperfect nutrition, and free of minor injuries that could flare up and result in loss of capability? The third, Mental Readiness, is the most important aspect of individual readiness, and the one with the biggest stigma attached. The SM should have taken care of personal affairs and sought help long before deployment to resolve personal-anything that could distract from the mission.  The SM should be mentally prepared to face deployment hardships easily and adjust to life without internet, clean water, and endure daily instability. All of these issues are manageable for the SM if they are willing to both prepare and seek help. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help, it is a sign of strength to want to better oneself. 

With the DoD pivoting towards China and Russia, individual readiness will evolve. The use of personal electronic devices (PED) will have to be curtailed with the SM restraining the use of cell phones, smart watches, and off the shelf Global Positioning Systems. “Digital camouflage” will increase in importance, especially if the adversaries can identify the unit they are opposing as they can conduct psychological operations on the home front. With the ability to target SM family members through the use of social media, the SM will have to prepare themselves and their family to be resilient against online personal attacks.  The SM must be prepared to cut ties with social media, have DoD censors possibly monitor their online activities, and switch to more secure means to communicate with their families. 

Risk:  A risk with Option #1 comes from out of pocket expenses if the SM wants to use private sector resources in pursuit of individual readiness. Other risks stems from institutional bias, depending on the environment created by leadership, as the SM could be ostracized in seeking help for physical and mental injuries. Also, rather than abandon their digital device to protect their unit and family, the SM could try to enhance their digital security themselves in an incorrect manner, thus increasing vulnerability.

Gain:  SM improving their own readiness will ensure they are mission ready with or without a preplanned training cycle, thus increasing the speed of possible deployment. This option will also minimize the SM’s digital footprint and thus make the SM and their families harder to target both on and off the battlefield. Finally, Option #1 increases the strength of individual replacements, which can lead to a more professional environment that nullifies the toxic elements found in a unit. 

Option #2:  Fire Team Assessment.

Knowing the true mission readiness of a Fire Team at a glance is next to impossible unless you are a member. Pivoting to prepare to fight China and Russia requires the Fire Team to ponder what this type of combat will look like and develop procedures to rehearse. In addition to the China and Russia threats, the Fire Team will need to prepare to act against PMCs such as Russia’s Wagner Group, which may behave more unconventionally and not wear a military uniform. A new procedure will likely be developed that focuses on digital checks prior to conducting a mission i.e. turning off or discarding personal electronic devices. Following a mission or an incident the Fire Team will need to conduct rigorous examination of the actions taken and adapt as needed using their own creativity to create procedures to ensure mission accomplishment and battlefield survival. The members of the Fire Team will look to themselves to improve their teams readiness. Developing skills and procedures to shift on demand between a conventional military threat and an unconventional PMC threat will be challenging as, while the U.S. may differentiate between these threats, the enemy only sees them as capabilities contributing towards their end goal.

Risk:  The primary risk with Option #2 is a higher-level command element being uncomfortable with their smallest unit, the Fire Team, being highly individualistic and adaptable, and seeing this creativity as a threat, seeking to eliminate it.

Gain:  Option #2 enables the Fire team to truly take their survival into their own hands through scenario examination and procedure development. This option develops Fire Team planning, networking, and leadership skills. Option #2 allows higher leadership to trust their smallest units to operate in a dispersed manner without constant supervision.

Other Comments:  It is up to the individual, no matter the rank, to be mission ready on demand, regardless of their motivation to serve. Being mission ready, with or without a preplanned training cycle, is the ultimate sign of individual readiness. 


Endnotes:

[1]Hand, Gorge E. “GRAPHIC: What the Azerbaijani Drone Strike Footage Tells Us.” SOFREP, 3 Oct. 2020, www.sofrep.com/news/armenian-azerbaijani-drone-strike-footage-graphic.

[2]Doffman, Zak. “Cyber Warfare: Army Deploys Social Media Warfare Division To Fight Russia.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 Aug. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/08/01/social-media-warfare-new-military-cyber-unit-will-fight-russias-dark-arts.

[3]“Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State.” Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State | Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS Executive Education Program, 25 Sept. 2020, www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state.

China (People's Republic of China) Great Powers Readiness Russia Skye Viera United States

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  December 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 15, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

[3] Ibid. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options for the U.S. Towards Pakistan

Jason Criss Howk has spent his career as a soldier-diplomat, educator, and advisor focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. He writes a column for Clearance Jobs News and is an interfaith leader and Islamic studies professor. Find him on twitter @Jason_c_howk.  Sabir Ibrahimi is a Non-resident Fellow at NYUs Center on International Cooperation and hosts the Afghan Affairs Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @saberibrahimi. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  With the U.S. Global War on Terrorism and mission in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. requires new foreign policy towards Pakistan. 

Date Originally Written:  December, 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 8, 2020. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Kristofer Seibt is an active-duty United States Army Officer and a graduate student at Columbia University.  Divergent Options content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing United States Military Modernization Priorities

Date Originally Written:  December 13, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 25, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty U.S. Army officer.  The author is critical of the tendency to equate modernization with costly technology or equipment investments, and the related tendency to conflate operational and structural readiness.

Summary:  Modernizing the military by optimizing access to, and employment of, readily available digital capabilities such as cell phones and personal computers offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years.  Persistent ambivalence towards basic digital tools and processes across the Department of Defense presents vulnerabilities and opportunity costs for both operational and structural readiness.

Text:  The U.S. Armed Forces and the wider public have long appreciated cutting edge technology and powerful equipment as the cornerstone of a modern and ready military.  As the national security strategy and subordinate defense, military, and service strategies shift to address the still undefined Great Power Competition, and long wars in the Middle East ostensibly wind down, modernizing the military for future conflict is a widely discussed topic[1].  Despite an inevitable reduction in military spending at some point in the near future, alongside the already unparalleled levels of military appropriation, a strong narrative has re-emerged that portrays new or upgraded capabilities as a common and unquestionable pillar of operational and structural readiness[2].  

As a function of readiness, America’s military technology obsession ignores the more pressing need to modernize basic and often neglected components of daily military operations in garrison, on mission, and at war.  Outmoded systems, tools, and processes in military organizations and on military installations are one readiness issue that can be solved today with if they had a similar level of investment and top-level coordination traditionally afforded to more costly programs.  Investing in modernizing the military by overhauling daily operations today, at a wide scale, offers a surer prospect for a ready and modern military when called upon in future years, regardless of the unknowable capability requirements future warfare will demand and the uncertain results of technology or capability development[3].

The elephant in the room, so to speak, is the Department of Defense’s mixed feelings towards digital tools and processes[4]. Besides obvious and widely known inefficiencies encountered in all facets of daily military life, at all levels, these mixed feelings contribute to security vulnerabilities and operational constraints on a similar scale.  Consider daily communication, often via cell phone and email[5]. Today, most Military Members are asked to conduct official business on personally procured devices that are connected by personally funded data plans on domestic telecommunications networks.  

Official business conducted at the speed that daily operations in the military supposedly require, out of a perception of necessity and expedience, often occurs through a mixture of unsecure text message, unsecure messaging app, and personal teleconferencing software ungoverned by any DoD or Military Department policy or procedure.  Military workflows on digital devices rely on inefficient methods and limited collaboration through outdated tools on semi-closed government networks requiring a wired connection and a government-issued workstation.   The compounding constraints generated by limited access to networks, phones, computers, and the attendant inefficiencies of their supported workflows necessitate a parallel or “shadow” system of getting things done i.e. the use of personal electronic devices.  

While the DoD certainly issues computers and phones to select Military Members in many organizations, especially executive staffs and headquarters, government-procured devices on government-funded plans/infrastructure remain the privilege of a relative few, ostensibly due to security and cost.  Company Commanders in the U.S. Army (responsible for 100-150 Military Members), for example, are no longer authorized government cell phones in most organizations.  For those lucky enough to have a government-issued computer, before the COVID19 pandemic, obtaining permission to enable their personal hardware’s wireless capabilities or conduct official business remotely via Virtual Private Network had become increasingly difficult. 

In contrast to peacetime and garrison environments, in combat or combat-simulation training environments Military Members are asked to ignore their personally owned or even government-provided unclassified digital tools in favor of radios or classified, internally networked computers with proprietary software.  That leaders in tactical training environments with government cell phones may sneak away from the constraints of the exercise to coordinate with less friction than that offered by their assigned tactical equipment, as the author has routinely witnessed, underscores the artificiality of the mindset erected around (and the unrealized opportunity afforded by) digital technology.

Digital communication technologies such as cell phones, computers, and internet-enabled software were once at the cutting edge, just as unmanned systems are now, and artificial intelligence will be.  Much like a period of degraded operational readiness experienced when militaries field, train, and integrate new capabilities, military organizations have generally failed to adapt their own systems, processes, or cultures to optimize the capabilities offered by modern communication technologies[6].  

Talk of modernization need not entail investment into the development of groundbreaking new technologies or equipment.  An overabundance of concern for security and disproportionate concern for cost have likely prevented, to this point, the wide-scale distribution of government-procured devices to the lowest level of the military.  These concerns have also likely prevented the U.S. Armed Forces from enabling widespread access to official communication on personal devices.  While prioritizing military modernization is challenging, and costly systems often come out on top, there is goodness in investments that enable military organizations to optimize their efficiency, their effectiveness, and their agility through existing or easily procured digital technologies.  

Systems, processes, and culture are intangible, but modernization evokes an image of tangible or materiel outcomes.  The assessment above can link the intangible to the tangible when mapped back onto concepts of operational and structural readiness.  For example, imagine deploying a platoon on a disaster relief mission or a brigade to a Pacific island as part of a deterrence mission related to Great Power Competition.  In this scenario, the Military Members in these deployed units have everything they need to communicate, plan, and execute their mission on their personal government-issued phones which can be used securely on a host nation cell network.  Cameras, mapping software, and communications capabilities already on these government devices are widely embedded in the daily operations of each unit allowing the units to get on the first available plane and start operating.  

The tangible benefits of a digitally adept military therefore also bridge to structural readiness, whereby the force can absorb reductions in size and become systemically, procedurally, and culturally ready to employ new capabilities that demand organizations operate flexibly and at high speeds[7].  If modernization investments today imagine a future with networked artificial intelligence, ubiquitous unmanned systems, and convergent data — ostensibly secure and enmeshed deeply enough to be leveraged effectively — that same imagination can be applied to a future where this same security and optimization is applied to a suite of government-issued, personal digital hardware and internet-enabled software.


Endnotes:

[1] For one example of analysis touching on modernization within the context of the defense budget, see Blume, S., & Parrish, M. (2020, July 9). Investing in Great-Power Competition. Center for a New American Security. https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/investing-in-great-power-competition

[2] For definitions, their relationship, and their conflation with modernization, see Betts, R. K. (1995). Military Readiness: Concepts, Choices, Consequences (pp. 40-41, 134-136). Brookings Institution Press.

[3] Barno, D., & Bensahel, N. (2020, September 29). Falling into the Adaptation Gap. War on the Rocks. https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/falling-into-the-adaptation-gap

[4] Kroger, J. (2020, August 20). Office Life at the Pentagon Is Disconcertingly Retrograde. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-office-life-at-the-pentagon-is-disconcertingly-retrograde

[5] Ibid.; the author briefly recounts some of the cultural impediments to efficiency at the Pentagon, specifically, and their subsequent impact on leveraging technology.

[6] See Betts, Military Readiness, for an expanded discussion of the trade-off in near-term operational readiness alluded to here.

[7] For a broader advocation for bridging structural readiness, modernization imperatives, and current forces, see Brands, H., & Montgomery, E. B. (2020). One War is Not Enough: Strategy and Force Planning for Great-Power Competition. Texas National Security Review, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.26153/tsw/8865

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Kristofer Seibt United States

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  January 11, 2021.

Date Originally Published:  January 20, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  November, 24, 2020. 

Date Originally Published:  January 18, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options to Enhance Security in U.S. Networked Combat Systems

Jason Atwell has served in the U.S. Army for over 17 years and has worked in intelligence and cyber for most of that time. He has been a Federal employee, a consultant, and a contractor at a dozen agencies and spent time overseas in several of those roles. He is currently a senior intelligence expert for FireEye, Inc. and works with government clients at all levels on cyber security strategy and planning.  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 combat systems within DoD become more connected via networks, this increases their vulnerability to adversary action.

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  January 11, 2021.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a reservist in the U.S. Army and a cyber security and intelligence strategist for FireEye, Inc. in his day job. This article is intended to draw attention to the need for building resiliency into future combat systems by assessing vulnerabilities in networks, hardware, and software as it is better to discover a software vulnerability such as a zero day exploit in a platform like the F-35 during peacetime instead of crisis.

Background:  The United States is rushing to field a significant number of networked autonomous and semi-autonomous systems[1][2] while neglecting to secure those systems against cyber threats. This neglect is akin to the problem the developed world is having with industrial control systems and internet-of-things devices[3]. These systems are unique, they are everywhere, they are connected to the internet, but they are not secured like traditional desktop computers. These systems won’t provide cognitive edge or overmatch if they fail when it matters most due to poorly secured networks, compromised hardware, and untested or vulnerable software.

Significance:  Networked devices contain massive potential to increase the resiliency, effectiveness, and efficiency in the application of combat power[4]. Whether kinetic weapons systems, non-lethal information operations, or well-organized logistics and command and control, the advantages gained by applying high-speed networking and related developments in artificial intelligence and process automation will almost certainly be decisive in future armed conflict. However, reliance on these technologies to gain a competitive or cognitive edge also opens the user up to being incapacitated by the loss or degradation of the very thing they rely on for that edge[5]. As future combat systems become more dependent on networked autonomous and semi-autonomous platforms, success will only be realized via accompanying cybersecurity development and implementation. This formula for success is equally true for ground, sea, air, and space platforms and will take into account considerations for hardware, software, connectivity, and supply chain. The effective application of cyber threat intelligence to securing and enabling networked weapons systems and other defense technology will be just as important to winning in the new multi-domain battlefield as the effective application of other forms of intelligence has been in all previous conflicts.

Option #1:  The Department of Defense (DoD) requires cybersecurity efforts as part of procurement. The DoD has been at work on applying their “Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification” to vendors up and down the supply chain[6]. A model like this can assure a basic level of protection to hardware and software development and will make sure that controls and countermeasures are at the forefront of defense industrial base thinking.

Risk:  Option #1 has the potential to breed complacency by shifting the cybersecurity aspect too far to the early stages of the procurement process, ignoring the need for continued cyber vigilance further into the development and fielding lifecycle. This option also places all the emphasis on vendor infrastructure through certification and doesn’t address operational and strategic concerns around the resiliency of systems in the field. A compliance-only approach does not adapt to changing adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Gain:  Option #1 forces vendors to take the security of their products seriously lest they lose their ability to do business with the DoD. As the model grows and matures it can be used to also elevate the collective security of the defense industrial base[7].

Option #2:  DoD takes a more proactive approach to testing systems before and during fielding. Training scenarios such as those used at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center (NTC) could be modified to include significant cyber components, or a new Cyber-NTC could be created to test the ability of maneuver units to use networked systems in a hostile cyber environment. Commanders could be provided a risk profile for their unit to enable them to understand critical vulnerabilities and systems in their formations and be able to think through risk-based mitigations.

Risk:  This option could cause significant delay in operationalizing some systems if they are found to be lacking. It could also give U.S. adversaries insight into the weaknesses of some U.S. systems. Finally, if U.S. systems are not working well, especially early on in their maturity, this option could create significant trust and confidence issues in networked systems[8].

Gain:  Red teams from friendly cyber components could use this option to hone their own skills, and maneuver units will get better at dealing with adversity in their networked systems in difficult and challenging environments. This option also allows the U.S. to begin developing methods for degrading similar adversary capabilities, and on the flip side of the risk, builds confidence in systems which function well and prepares units for dealing with threat scenarios in the field[9].

Option #3:  The DoD requires the passing of a sort of “cybersecurity sea trial” where the procured system is put through a series of real-world challenges to see how well it holds up. The optimal way to do this could be having specialized red teams assigned to program management offices that test the products.

Risk:  As with Option #2, this option could create significant delays or hurt confidence in a system. There is also the need for this option to utilize a truly neutral test to avoid it becoming a check-box exercise or a mere capabilities demonstration.

Gain:  If applied properly, this option could give the best of all options, showing how well a system performs and forcing vendors to plan for this test in advance. This also helps guard against the complacency associated with Option #1. Option #3 also means systems will show up to the field already prepared to meet their operational requirements and function in the intended scenario and environment.

Other Comments:  Because of advances in technology, almost every function in the military is headed towards a mix of autonomous, semi-autonomous, and manned systems. Everything from weapons platforms to logistics supply chains are going to be dependent on robots, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence. Without secure resilient networks the U.S. will not achieve overmatch in speed, efficiency, and effectiveness nor will this technology build trust with human teammates and decision makers. It cannot be overstated the degree to which reaping the benefits of this technology advancement will depend upon the U.S. application of existing and new cybersecurity frameworks in an effective way while developing U.S. offensive capabilities to deny those advantages to U.S. adversaries.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Judson, Jen. (2020). US Army Prioritizes Open Architecture for Future Combat Vehicle. Retrieved from https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/ausa/2020/10/13/us-army-prioritizes-open-architecture-for-future-combat-vehicle-amid-competition-prep

[2] Larter, David B. The US Navy’s ‘Manhattan Project’ has its leader. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.c4isrnet.com/naval/2020/10/14/the-us-navys-manhattan-project-has-its-leader

[3] Palmer, Danny. IOT security is a mess. Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/iot-security-is-a-mess-these-guidelines-could-help-fix-that

[4] Shelbourne, Mallory. (2020). Navy’s ‘Project Overmatch’ Structure Aims to Accelerate Creating Naval Battle Network. Retrieved from https://news.usni.org/2020/10/29/navys-project-overmatch-structure-aims-to-accelerate-creating-naval-battle-network

[5] Gupta, Yogesh. (2020). Future war with China will be tech-intensive. Retrieved from https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/future-war-with-china-will-be-tech-intensive-161196

[6] Baksh, Mariam. (2020). DOD’s First Agreement with Accreditation Body on Contractor Cybersecurity Nears End. Retrieved from https://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2020/10/dods-first-agreement-accreditation-body-contractor-cybersecurity-nears-end/169602

[7] Coker, James. (2020). CREST and CMMC Center of Excellence Partner to Validate DoD Contractor Security. Retrieved from https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/crest-cmmc-validate-defense

[8] Vandepeer, Charles B. & Regens, James L. & Uttley, Matthew R.H. (2020). Surprise and Shock in Warfare: An Enduring Challenge. Retrieved from https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2020/10/27/surprise_and_shock_in_warfare_an_enduring_challenge_582118.html

[9] Schechter, Benjamin. (2020). Wargaming Cyber Security. Retrieved from https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/wargaming-cyber-security

Cyberspace Defense and Military Reform Emerging Technology Information Systems Jason Atwell United States

U.S. Military Force Deployment Options to Deter China

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


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

Date Originally Written:  October 28, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Assessment of Realism in American Foreign Policy

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


Title:  An Assessment of Realism in American Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  September 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  December 7, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that neither realism nor its traditional opponent, Wilsonianism, can stand on their own, and must be linked for a coherent concept of the national interest, fusing America’s strategic necessities, its power, and its values.

Summary:  The existence of realism as a school of thought is a product of America’s unique sense of security. Realism, emphasizing what in other countries is taken for granted, cannot stand as an independent school of thought; yet, as a component in a comprehensive policy taking into account both power and values, it is vital. Realism absent values tempts constant tests of strength; idealism unmoored from strategy is sterile. The two are likely best when blended.

Text:  The intellectual tradition in American foreign policy is without parallel. Whereas most of the world found itself navigating the international system with narrow margins of survival, the United States, driven by a belief in the universal applicability of its values, conceived the objective of American engagement abroad not as traditional foreign policy, but the vindication of the nation’s founding values to the betterment of mankind. Such high-minded ideals have time and again collided with the contradictions of the international system, creating a friction that tugged at the American psyche throughout the twentieth century and into the present.

Symptomatic of this intellectual blight is the existence of “realism” — a focus on power and the national interest — as an independent school of thought, fabricating a purely theological dialectic in which realism and idealism are presented as opposing perceptions rather than components of a shared existence, just as human agency and material factors merge to conceive history itself. In systems which have developed geopolitical traditions, realism requires no definition. Since Cardinal de Richelieu first filtered foreign policy through the prism of Raison D’état, the requirements of survival were axiomatic, spontaneous even[1]. By contrast, the notion of the national interest in American thought is defined by its self-consciousness. Only in the United States can there be a debate about what precisely the national interest is and only in a system with such an idealistic tradition can “realism” be employed as a label.

Realism poses a number of impediments to a thoughtful and creative foreign policy. For instance, realism as a school of thought is inherently vacuous. Accepting the overriding necessities of geopolitics does not constitute a philosophy any more than accepting the existence of the inherent laws of the natural world constitutes a science. What is more important in both cases is the implications of these realities as they affect human free will. In other words, realism treats factors which can be assumed as given as though it is a worldview subject to debate, which in fact blunts its objective rather than serving it. Hans Morgenthau was not wrong when he noted that the world is “the result of forces inherent in human nature[2].” In fact, Morgenthau was profoundly correct. But he and his ideological adherents capture only part of the reality of international affairs. Such facts are self-evident; their interpretation by statesmen are not.

Despite its hard edges, or perhaps because of them, realism often becomes a subterfuge for avoiding difficult action. For example, the men tasked with upholding the rickety Post-World War I Versailles Order — United Kingdom Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chief among them — fancied themselves as “realists” in their justification for presiding over the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, when in fact, a more sound geopolitical assessment would have urged rapid action against Germany as it reoccupied the Rhineland, when the threat remained ambiguous. Though Morgenthau and Walt Lippmann, the great thinkers of the American realist tradition, were correct in their critiques of American involvement in Vietnam[3], their advocacy for unilateral withdrawal rebelled against strategic analysis[4].

Realism, moreover, when unmoored from basic values, has a tendency to turn on itself[5]. Witness German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, perhaps the greatest statesmen of his day. Whatever the moderation of his policy or the dexterity of his maneuvers, because he had no moral foundation for his policies — in this case, what purpose a unified Germany would serve in Europe — every move he made became an act of sheer will[6]. No statesman, not even the master, could have sustained such an effort indefinitely. Power, however vital, cannot be conceived as its own justification. A philosophical basis for the outcomes one seeks is imperative.

Inevitably, realism produces a counterpoise in idealism, in this case drawn from the Wilsonian tradition of American foreign policy. Wilsonianism, with its overriding emphasis on self-determination, democracy, and international law, is equally dissolving when unleavened by geopolitics. Each camp emphasizes its own perception at the expense of the other. This perception emphasis is only possible in the academy, as upon entering government, the “idealists” are awakened to geopolitical realities; while “realists” are likely to find that perfect flexibility in policy is an illusion; the range of choice is limited not only by physical but cultural factors — the basic values of the American people.

For instance, during the Suez Crisis, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower refused to face down the strategic challenge posed by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser on the basis of opposition to colonialism[7]; while that same year, Eisenhower was forced to succumb to geopolitical realities as the pro-democracy upheaval in Hungary was brutally suppressed[8]. The supposed distinction between the ideal and the real is not as stark as the adherents of each pretend. Indeed, Chamberlain tolerated German excesses on the basis of self-determination; the absence of such a pretense is what finally brought London to oppose Nazi expansion, never mind the dictates of the balance of power[9]. Morgenthau’s opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, moreover, placed him in league with the highly ideological peace movement. Thus, even those most dedicated to one school find themselves grappling with the realities of the other.

The solution to this quandary then, is to realize that the choice between the ideal and the real is a chimera. The two are best when blended. The most coherent policy is one that manages the friction between what is physically achievable and what the society will view as legitimate in accordance with its fundamental values. Ideals are absolute; strategy is subject to condition. The factors relevant to making a decision require careful reflection; ideals require no reinterpretation calibrated to circumstance — indeed, they become inconsistent with it. Friction is therefore inherent. Policy makers, and academics can strike this balance, and accept that the relative emphasis of each strain will depend on the specific situation one confronts. The tragedy of American foreign policy is the struggle between a desire for moral perfection and the inherent imperfection which defines the world we inhabit. Tragedy, of course, is in the very nature of statesmanship.


Endnotes:

[1] Hill, H.B. (Translator) (1954). The political Testament of Cardinal de The Significant Chapters and Supporting Selections (1st ed). University of Wisconsin Press.

[2] Morgenthau, H (1948, 2006). Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Revised by Kenneth W. Thompson and W. David Clinton (p. 3). New York: McGraw Hill.

[3] Logevall, F. (1995). First Among Critics: Walter Lippmann and the Vietnam War. The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 4(4), 351-375. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23612509

[4] Quoted in Podhoretz, N. (1982) Why We Were in Vietnam (p. 100). New York: Simon and Schuster., Bew, J. (2015) Realpolitik: A History (pp.261-62 ). Oxford University Press

[5] Bew, Ibid (pp.259-60 ).

[6] Kennan, G.F. (1979). The Decline of Bismarck’s European Order: Franco-Russian Relations 1875-1890. Princeton University Press

[7] Kissinger, H. (1994). Diplomacy (pp. 540-542). New York: Simon and Schuster.

[8] Ibid (566-67).

[9] Ibid (p. 317).

Assessment Papers Brandon Patterson International Relations Theories United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 30, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 4, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 21, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  November 2, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Date Originally Written:  October 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 28, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  June 02, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 26, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Options for Subversion within China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 31, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

Below Threshold Options for China against the U.S.

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 19, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G 

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


Martina Victoria Abalo is an Argentinian undergrad student majoring in international affairs from The University of San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She can be found on Twitter as @Martilux. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the U.S. and China Competition for Brazilian 5G

Date Originally Written:  July 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  October 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an advanced undergrad student of International Affairs from Argentina.

Summary:  Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump see the world similarly. At the same time, China’s investment in Brazil is significantly more than the U.S. investment. With China trying to put 5G antennas into Brazil, and the U.S. trying to stop China from doing the same worldwide, President Bolsonaro finds himself in a quandary and thus far has not decided to side with the U.S. or China.

Text:  When thinking about China and the U.S., most tend to see the big picture. However, often unseen are the disputes that are going in the shadows for alignment. This article will assess how U.S. tries to counterbalance China in Brazil, as China pursues the alignment of the South American power for 5G.

The relationship between China and Brazil must be understood in context. Before the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, China was Brazil’s most important ally economically and one of the closest politically[1]. However, with the assumption of the Presidency by Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, Brazil’s foreign policy towards China turned 180 degrees[2]. Although Brazil has been famous for having a foreign policy autonomous from their domestic one[3], Bolsonaro’s office changed that and started a close linkage with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Having a similar political outlook, Bolsonaro and Trump have made Brazil and the U.S. closer than they have ever been. Nevertheless, this closeness comes with a price, especially for Brazil, which seems to be playing the role of the second state in a bandwagon for survival relationship[4] with the United States. This role can be seen in the first months of 2019 when Jair tried to follow the U.S. lead in the international community. Though alignment with the U.S. may be well or poorly appreciated, it remains to be seen what impacts Brazil will feel from China following this alignment.

Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. did not last long because no matter how uncomfortable Bolsonaro feels with the Chinese political model, China remains Brazil’s first economic partner. In 2018 the Brazilian Gross Domestic Product GDP was 12,79%[5] and during 2019 China bought assets in Brazil for U.S. $62.871 billion and had total trade of U.S. $98.142 billion[6] between these two countries. In parallel with this, Brazil’s second-best trade partner, the U.S., was far behind China, with a two – way trade of U.S. $59.646 billion. As we know, the United States can not offer to Brazil the economic benefits that China does and clearly, this is no secret in Brazil. With this trade disparity, the question is whether the U.S. can offer something as powerful as China, to persuade Brazil from signing more agreements with China, such as installation of 5G antennas?

Even though 5G antennas are faster than the 4G, there are two concerns around this new technology. The first one is the privacy of the users because it is easy to get the exact user location. The second is that the owner of the 5G network or a hacker could spy on the internet traffic passing through said network[8].

In 2020, the United States is attempting to thwart China from signing agreements to place 5G antennas in countries worldwide. While the United Kingdom and France[9] rejected any kind of deal with China, in Brazil the official decision keeps on being delayed, and as of this writing nobody knows whether Bolsonaro align with China or the U.S.

China is trying to persuade Brazil to sign an agreement with Huawei which aims to develop 5G technology by placing 5G antennas all along Brazil[10]. This quest to convince Brazil to sign with Huawei has been going on for months. Despite the lack of a signed agreement Huawei, who has been operating in Brazil for a long time now, is opening a lab of 5G technology in Brasilia[11].

The U.S. does not have a viable counteroffer to Brazil for the placement of Huawei 5G antennas across the country[12]. The Trump administration keeps trying to persuade their political allies to not sign with Huawei, although the United States has not developed this kind of alternative technology. However, there are some companies interested in placing 5G on Brazil alike the Mexican telecommunications company Claro[13].

President Bolsonaro, in an effort to balance the U.S. and China’s interest in Brazil, will likely have to find a middle way. Regarding the influence of China when it comes to Brazil’s economy, it is naïve to think that there will not be any consequence if Brazil says no to Huawei. Of course, this possible “no” does not mean that China will break any economical entanglement with Brazil, but clearly, China would not be pleased by this decision. A yes decision by Bolsonaro might be a deal-breaker for the Trump-Bolsonaro relationship. Additionally, Bolsonaro started his presidency seeking to be Trump’s southern ally to ensure survival. Bolsonaro remains as hopeful as Jair that Brazil would be a secondary state[14], and that following the U.S. will help Brazil to change their political and economic allies. Finally, the close relationship between the U.S. and Brazil is quite good, and the U.S. can support Bolsonaro politically and diplomatically speaking in ways that China is simply not able.

In conclusion, Brazil is placed between a rock and a hard place and the solution to this matter will not satisfy all participants. It might be rather expensive for the future of Brazil if the U.S. does not back Bolsonaro if he says yes to China, and China might turn back on the Brazilian administration if they say no to Huawei.


Endnotes:

[1] Ferreyra, J. E. (n.d.). Acciones de política exterior de Brasil hacia organismos multilaterales durante las presidencias de Lula Da Silva [Grado, Siglo 21]. https://repositorio.uesiglo21.edu.ar/bitstream/handle/ues21/12989/FERREYRA%20Jorge%20E..pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[2] Guilherme Casarões. (2019, December 20). Making Sense of Bolsonaro’s Foreign Policy at Year One. Americas Quarterly. https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/making-sense-of-bolsonaros-foreign-policy-at-year-one

[3] Jacaranda Guillén Ayala. (2019). La política exterior del gobierno de Bolsonaro. Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica. http://revistafal.com/la-politica-exterior-del-gobierno-de-bolsonaro

[4] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

[5] Brasil—Exportaciónes de Mercancías 2019. (2019). Datos Macro. https://datosmacro.expansion.com/comercio/exportaciones/brasil

[6] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[7] World Integrated Trade Solutions. (2020, July 12). Brasil | Resumen del comercio | 2018 | WITS | Texto. World Integrated Trade Solutions. https://wits.worldbank.org/CountryProfile/es/Country/BRA/Year/LTST/Summarytext

[8] Vandita Grover. (2019, October 16). In the Age of 5G Internet Is Data Privacy Just A Myth? | MarTech Advisor. Martech Advisor. https://www.martechadvisor.com/articles/mobile-marketing/5g-internet-and-data-privacy

[9] George Calhoun. (2020, July 24). Is The UK Ban On Huawei The “Endgame” For Free Trade? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgecalhoun/2020/07/24/is-the-uk-ban-on-huawei-the-endgame-for-free-trade/#6735924d46db

[10] Oliver Stunkel. (2020, June 30). Huawei or Not? Brazil Faces a Key Geopolitical Choice. Americas Quarterly. https://americasquarterly.org/article/huawei-or-not-brazil-faces-a-key-geopolitical-choice

[11] Huawei to open 5G lab in Brasília. (2020, July 23). BNamericas.Com. https://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/huawei-to-open-5g-lab-in-brasilia

[12] Gabriela Mello. (2020, July 7). Huawei says U.S. pressure on Brazil threatens long delays in 5G rollout. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-huawei-tech-brazil-5g-idUSKBN2482WS

[13] Forbes Staff. (2020, July 8). Claro, de Carlos Slim, iniciará la carrera del 5G en Brasil. Forbes México. https://www.forbes.com.mx/tecnologia-claro-slim-5g-brasil

[14] Matias Spektot, & Guilherme Fasolin. (2018). Bandwagoning for Survival: Political Leaders and International Alignments.

Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Brazil China (People's Republic of China) Competition Emerging Technology United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2020.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Below War Threshold Options Against China

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 21, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Options to Manage the 2020 Election Cyber Threat Landscape

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


National Security Situation:  The 2020 U.S. General Election (the election) faces a nuanced and critical cyber threat landscape that requires careful navigation.

Date Originally Written:  September 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a cyber intelligence professional and Election Officer in Virginia. This options paper will provide options for addressing cyber threats to election systems and infrastructure in the context of the 2020 election.

Background:  The cyber threat landscape of the November 2020 election in the U.S. is critical and complex. Election interference and propaganda efforts are not new on the global stage. However, the simultaneous merging of industrial-level disinformation operations, targeted cyber intrusions by state-funded organizations, and the woeful state of local cyber civil defenses in the U.S. combine to create a unique situation with challenging nuances and implications.

Cyber intrusions related to the 2016 General Election, mostly attributed to Russian-linked actors, are widely documented and analyzed in both the public and classified spheres of the national security community. The current threat landscape is more complex than in 2016, as evidenced by a public statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence indicating that cyber actors backed by China, Russia, and Iran are all actively attempting to influence the outcome of the election[1]. Defenses have also been bolstered in some areas, such as the Department of Defense taking an active role in the cybersecurity of the election, including deployments of cyber personnel abroad to hunt for threats to election systems[2].

The threat landscape is further complicated by public opinion, as demonstrated by the outrage connected to the publication of a false report that Russian threat actors stole and exposed voter databases from several U.S. states in August 2020. In reality, no cyber intrusion occurred and the data was publicly available. However, the public outcry over the incident indicates the potential for civic unrest in the event of a cyber attack that could be perceived to threaten the integrity of results[3].

Elections in the U.S. involve conflicting and competing stakeholders, intricate federal and local regulations, numerous technologies of varying complexity, as well as legal and ethical norms and expectations[4]. In a standard “Impact times Likelihood” threat matrix, the impact of a direct cyber attack compromising election results is high, but the likelihood is low. However, given the number of systems and interconnected networks used to coordinate elections, smaller attacks on peripheral or supporting systems are much more likely, though less impactful unless in a sufficient volume to cause widespread disruption[5].

Significance:  Election systems, including hardware and administrative organizations overseeing election operations, are classified by the Department of Homeland Security as critical national infrastructure[6]. The integrity of election results is critical to the validity and credibility of democratic governance in the U.S. A disputed election as a result of cyber aggression would be severely problematic for U.S. national security.

The geopolitical situation surrounding the election creates the potential for various adverse outcomes, including: deterioration of public faith in election processes; contested results in legislative and presidential races; civic unrest; and erosion of democratic processes. Elections are immensely complex and securing the cyber facets of elections involves national and local information and operational technology (IT and OT); registration databases; support software; and hardware used at polling places, including voting machines, ballot scanners, and devices like laptops and tablets. To manage the cyber threat landscape and mitigate potential harms resulting from threats, policymakers have three key options:

Option #1:  Launch a public education campaign focused on the logistics of managing election challenges to a) reduce the effectiveness of disinformation efforts seeking to undermine public trust in election processes and results and b) reduce public anxieties regarding the integrity of ballots.

Risk:  First, given the sociopolitical polarization among the U.S. electorate, it is likely that a significant portion of the voting public would view a public education campaign as factually incorrect or intentionally misleading. Second, this same polarization also indicates that a campaign would be unlikely to affect public opinion because the intended audience is unreceptive to information that would contradict preferred beliefs. Finally, this option is solely strategic and cultural in nature, and would not address the tangible, tactical level vulnerabilities that exist in election systems.

Gain:  If the press and social media (avenues for public information sharing) are considered supporting factors of election infrastructure, then a campaign to weaken disinformation networks could strengthen peripheral systems vulnerable to attack with a potentially high impact.

Option #2:  Provide a national fund to supplement the capabilities of national and local election administration organizations to implement best standards and practices including: current equipment, adequate staffing, standard written policy, and risk-limiting audits.

Risk:  First, efforts to provide funding to secure election systems have proven to be politically sensitive and difficult to move through Congress[7]. Second, this option would likely carry extreme financial cost to adequately address security needs The U.S. is currently experiencing a severe financial crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounding what would be a difficult option even in a financially sound period.

Gain:  Providing supplementary funding for organizations charged with safeguarding election systems would likely allow the organizations to directly address actionable technical and administrative vulnerabilities that expose systems to attacks. Properly resourcing these organizations could exponentially reduce the threat landscape for future elections.

Option #3:  Provide a large scale staffing support program for local cyber offices using Federal or contracted personnel with relevant expertise to augment high-risk election precincts and help harden defenses.

Risk:  First, the state of the cybersecurity and IT job markets make it unlikely that sufficient numbers of experienced and qualified staff could be retasked or hired and placed in needed areas. Second, the logistics of placing such a large workforce at nationwide locations would require a significant financial burden. Finally, travel challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic would further complicate the ability of support staff to be placed and to effectively integrate with localized teams.

Gain:  Supplementing cybersecurity staff at local and national offices leading up to the election could allow those organizations to better prepare for potential threats, and could offer a chance for knowledge transfer and training that would benefit future election operations.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Statement by NCSC Director William Evanina: Election Threat Update for the American Public. 2020. https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/item/2139-statement-by-ncsc-director-william-evanina-election-threat-update-for-the-american-public.

[2] Shannon Vavra. “Cyber Command Deploys Abroad to Fend Off Foreign Hacking Ahead of the 2020 Election.” CyberScoop. 2020. https://www.cyberscoop.com/2020-presidential-election-cyber-command-nakasone-deployed-protect-interference-hacking.

[3] Catalin Cimpanu. “Cisa and Fbi Say They Have Not Seen Cyber-Attacks This Year on Voter Registration Databases.” ZDNet. 2020. https://www.zdnet.com/article/cisa-and-fbi-say-they-have-not-seen-cyber-attacks-this-year-on-voter-registration-databases.

[4] Lee Clark. “An Assessment of the Current State of U.S. Cyber Civil Defense.” Divergent Options. 2019. https://divergentoptions.org/2019/11/11/an-assessment-of-the-current-state-of-u-s-cyber-civil-defense.

[5] Tara Seals. “Shoring Up the 2020 Election: Secure Vote Tallies Aren’t the Problem.” Threatpost. 2020. https://threatpost.com/2020-election-secure-vote-tallies-problem/158533.

[6] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy. 2018. https://doi.org/10.17226/25120.

[7] Scott R. Anderson, Eugenia Lostri, Quinta Jurecic, and Margaret Taylor. “Bipartisan Agreement on Election Security—And a Partisan Fight Anyway.” Lawfare. 2019. https://www.lawfareblog.com/bipartisan-agreement-election-security-and-partisan-fight-anyway.

Election Lee Clark Option Papers United States

Alternative Future: Options to Address China’s Reaction to COVID-19 and Growing Anti-Chinese Sentiment

Sarah Lucinsky is an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy and is a postgraduate at Charles Sturt University. She sometimes tweets from @LouSeaLu and has previously edited for JUR Press and presented at Asia-Pacific Week at Australian National University. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese activities in its disputed peripheries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing and anti-Chinese sentiment is growing. This increase and growth pose risk to nations on China’s periphery.

Date Originally Written:  July 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 16, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that analysing an array of counter-factual scenarios and alternative futures through collegiate debate is valuable when tackling security issues.

Background:  China’s stated desire for ‘One China’ involves a forcible reunification of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but since the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis[1] this goal has been approached gradually by focussing on methods below the threshold of war. This is largely due to China’s desire to retain a level of world power credibility and consequently avoid widespread international backlash that risks dividing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Recently, anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising[2] mostly due to COVID-19, but also due to growing awareness of China’s controversial territorial expansionism in the South and East China Seas (S/ECS). Simultaneously, Indo-Pacific militaries have progressively focussed on countering China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in these disputed areas. These two factors risk eroding China’s fear of international backlash that has historically prevented it from executing decisive military actions.

Significance: If China continues to face the current international backlash and counter-PLA military activity in proximity to its claimed territories, two concurrent issues will arise. Firstly, China will perceive that its sovereignty is being directly threatened by foreign militaries. Secondly, China will no longer believe there is value in exercising restraint in its disputed areas in order to protect its international image, as its image has been eroded anyway[3]. This could lead to a more expansionist and offensively postured China[4]. The introduction of China’s new national security laws in Hong Kong is quite possibly an example of how international perceptions now matter less to China under the current, evolving context[5].

Option #1:  Nations on China’s periphery form paramilitaries that conduct activities below the threshold of war, separate from conventional military forces. The paramilitaries operate with the express aim of countering the PLA’s coercive tactics in disputed areas of national interest.

Risk:  As China’s own paramilitary forces operate throughout the S/ECS, other nations introducing their own paramilitaries jeopardise their legal advantage achieved through the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling against China. China may then use the new paramilitary forces as a justification for bolstered militarisation of outposts and concentration of conventional forces. A greater concentration of forces in the vicinity of disputed areas increases the risk for paramilitary engagements such as freedom of manoeuvre and ramming incidents[6].

Gain:  S/ECS claimant states can more effectively address the threat of the PLA’s coercive tactics near their territories whilst also retaining a level of political deniability[7]. Asymmetric platforms and tactics can level the playing field, enabling smaller nations to more effectively defend their territory and increase their deterrence ability, similar to Iran’s success with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy[8]. Additional paramilitaries equal additional, stealthier threats for China to identify, track and respond to. China will not be able to démarche nations with emergent paramilitary forces without highlighting their own.

Option #2:  Indo-Pacific nations establish bilateral military exercises and political summits with China that are widely covered by local media to improve regional perceptions of China.

Risk:  China may perceive this proactive attempt to bolster relationships as appeasement or worse, agreement with their territorial claims and coercive activities in S/ECS. Moreover, there is little scope to control or influence how these bilateral exercises and summits will be framed in Chinese state media. Even if this approach succeeds from the Chinese side, pro-China publicity may not gain traction in the host country due to trending national issues such as COVID-19 and territorial disputes. In a worst-case scenario this option may be counter-productive and lead to public outrage, protests or boycott attempts of China/Chinese goods. In turn, media coverage of the public’s negative response would also be reported on in China and undermine any successes achieved there.

Gain:  Pro-China sentiment may draw China back into the soft-power game of international engagement. This could reignite China’s desire to protect their international image and thus refrain from conducting decisive military actions like forcibly reunifying Taiwan. Further, sustained bilateral engagement will improve political relationships and develop mutual understanding, reducing the likelihood of misjudgement or miscalculation at the strategic and tactical levels. A tertiary gain is Indo-Pacific nations would gain intimate exposure to PLA personnel, platforms and operational art that could provide advantages in a future conflict scenario. Sometimes one must put the rifle down to really pick the rifle up.

Option #3:  The United States deepens its ties with Russia, creating a new modus vivendi, working towards a future alliance that alienates China.

Risk:  A U.S.-Russia alliance would require the two nations to find common ground on Crimea, Iran and North Korea, all of which are incredibly unlikely without significant costs from either side[9]. A close relationship with Russia has higher risks for the U.S. as it would directly challenge much of U.S. recent history and ideology, alienate North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and breed distrust amongst the five eyes community. Further, closer ties with Russia may include additional Russian scrutiny that could result in political interference, cyber and information warfare operations as well as increased Russian avenues for intelligence collection.

Gain:  Whilst this option would carry a significant ideological cost for America, a U.S.-Russia alliance would combine the lethality of two military superpowers, a significant deterrent if both parties could agree on its use in a counter-China context[10]. Even without reaching alliance status, closer U.S.-Russia relations that incorporates military engagement would still create an effect that China would need to consider as a significant factor prior to any attempts at decisive military action.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Yves-Heng Lim, “Expanding the Dragon’s Reach: The Rise of China’s Anti-Access Naval Doctrine and Forces,” Journal of Strategic Studies 40, no. 1-2 (2017).

[2] Motoko Rich, “As Coronavirus Spreads, So Does Anti-Chinese Sentiment,” New York times 2020.

[3] Michael Swaine, “The Pla Navy’s Strategic Transformation to the “Far Seas”: How Far, How Threatening, and What’s to Be Done?,” in Going Global? The People’s Navy in a Time of Strategic Transformation (Rhode Island: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2019).

[4] People’s Republic of China, “China’s Military Strategy,” (Xinhua News Agency2015).

[5] Eleanor Albert, “Which Countries Support the New Hong Kong National Security Law?,” The Diplomat 2020.

[6] Dhara Shah, “China’s Maritime Security Strategy: An Assessment of the White Paper on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 13, no. 1 (2017).

[7] Tobias Böhmelt and Govinda Clayton, “Auxiliary Force Structure: Paramilitary Forces and Progovernment Militias,” Comparative political studies 51, no. 2 (2017).

[8] Abhijit Singh, “”Dark Chill in the Persian Gulf” – Iran’s Conventional and Unconventional Naval Forces,” Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 6, no. 2 (2010).

[9] Legvold Robert, “All the Way: Crafting a U.S.-Russian Alliance,” no. 70 (2002).

[10] Ibid.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Sarah Lucinsky United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 14, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[11] Ibid.

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 7, 2020.

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

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

Text:  The year is 2035 and over the last decade a landmark shift in the location of production and manufacturing facilities of the world occurred. China has suffered a self-inflicted population crisis. The One-Child Policy, established in 1980[1] and modified in 2016[2], created a Chinese population with a gender imbalance of 50 million excess males and a rapidly expanding older population bulge. By 2050 the median age in China is expected to be 50 years old[3]. Earlier this century, China recognized this demographic shift and began investing in Africa’s infrastructure to increase control and influence on global production means. China’s implementation of this policy through loan-debt traps to improve local infrastructure was complemented by the permanent movement of Han Chinese from China to Africa. Moving these populations served multiple purposes for China. First, it eased resource demands in China. Second, it increased the Chinese economic and political influence in African countries. Lastly, it allowed China to use Chinese workers instead of African workers, thus using the loans from the loan-debt traps to pay local African Chinese reinvesting these Chinese loans in Chinese workers and Chinese corporations, instead of the local African population or businesses. Once the Chinese populations had moved to the African countries, China rapidly implemented the Chinese Social Credit System in Africa. Chinese communities in Africa remained isolationist. These actions would disenfranchise most local African communities to direct Chinese influence in their countries.

Many international Western corporations, which depended on cheap labor in China, began to recognize this future shift in Chinese demographics around 2025. These corporations’ analysis of the world provided two likely locations for future labor markets, South America and Africa. In South America, those nations with low wages remained politically unstable and unlikely to support Western businesses. Africa was subject to impacts from local or regional Islamists, but governments were supportive of international business opportunities. Africa, in addition to low wages and a large working-age population, also provided many of the raw resources, to include rare earth metals[4]. The major hindrance to expansion in Africa was a lack of stable infrastructure.

Unlikely as it was, Chinese funded infrastructure in Africa would enable Western businesses. The proximity of Western economic interests and Chinese efforts to consolidate political influence and commercial control created a region in which no nation wanted a conventional conflict, but gray-zone and information warfare were dominant.

Complicating the efforts for Western influence operations were those advertising campaigns conducted by private industry occurring at the same time as Western government efforts, creating information fratricide for Western efforts. The Chinese Communist Party-controlled Chinese efforts were unified.

Chinese efforts targeted local infrastructure with cyberattacks to disrupt Western production facilities while simultaneously blaming the disruptions on Western companies’ energy demands. Chinese banking officials pressured local African governments to place undue taxes and administrative hardships on Western corporations, for the possibility of reduced interest rates and small portions of loan forgiveness against the Chinese loans. The use of the social credit system in Africa was challenging to implement. The Chinese built 6G communication systems were largely ignored by the local population, due to concerns for personal security, and access to space-based internet. U.S. Government messaging was one of the significant successes of the coordination between the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), and the forward-deployed Military Information Support Operation (MISO) Teams. Another major win for USCYBERCOM was the deployment of Cyber Operation Liaison Officers (LNO). These LNOs were established to coordinate security, protection, and, if necessary, responses to support U.S. businesses with operations in foreign countries from attacks by any nation. This authority had occurred with the passing of legislation after the 2020 Pandemic, recognizing that many of America’s business interests, supported National Security Interests.

The U.S. government’s efforts were specifically designed and implemented to keep a light military footprint while enabling local security and governance to support the population and allow the local governments to be supported by the local community. U.S. Military training missions increased the capabilities of regional militaries to conduct security operations to improve border security and counter Islamist influence. These light military efforts were coordinated with the Department of State’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The SPP increased the number of involved African countries during the late ’20s from 15 countries to 49 countries[5]. This increase in SPP participation also created a rise in the Sister Cities Program[6]. These two programs created a synergistic relationship creating regular exchanges between U.S. State and local governments and African governments and cities in a concerted effort to increase local government efficiency and effectiveness. The U.S. Agency for International Development worked with the Department of State SPP to bring professional health care organizations and U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Air National Guard capabilities to improve, build, and train locally sustainable healthcare facilities. Along the Chinese built roads and rails, microloans from Western sources began to flow in, creating local businesses, starting the foundation for local economies. The use of Foreign Military Sales was targeted not on tanks or U.S. weapons and aircraft, but rather engineering equipment. Engineering equipment was selected to enable the local African governments to repair the Chinese built and funded roads and rails.

The unsung hero for coordinating and supporting all these efforts was the Civil Affairs Officers and Bilateral Affairs Officers working diligently to synchronize and present a positive U.S. presence and counter Chinese dominance, enabled by the delegated approval authority. This field-based synchronization authority streamlined staffing times from over a year to months or weeks. These coordinations were with the Country Teams, the National Guard Bureau, the Department of State, non-governmental organizations, MISO Teams, and others.


Endnotes:

[1] Kenneth Pletcher, “One-Child Policy,” Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. , https://www.britannica.com/topic/one-child-policy.

[2] Feng Wang, Baochang Gu, and Yong Cai, “The End of China’s One-Child Policy,” Brookings Institution https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-end-of-chinas-one-child-policy.

[3] Karen Zraick, “China Will Feel One-Child Policy’s Effects for Decades, Experts Say,” The New York Times, October 30, 2015 2015.

[4] JP Casey, “Into Africa: The Us’ Drive for African Rare Earth Minerals,” Verdict Media Limited, https://www.mining-technology.com/features/into-africa-the-us-drive-for-african-rare-earth-minerals.

[5] “The State Partnership Program (Spp),” National Guard Bue, https://www.nationalguard.mil/Leadership/Joint-Staff/J-5/International-Affairs-Division/State-Partnership-Program.

[6] “Sister Cities International,” Sister Cities International, https://sistercities.org.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Civil Affairs Association Thomas G. Pledger United States

Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Jessa Hauck is a graduate of Suffolk University and an experienced analyst.  She has a passion for studying terrorism both at home and abroad.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Impact of Defining Lone Actor Terrorism in the U.S.

Date Originally Written:  July 8, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes a whole-of-society approach is needed to disrupt the rise of domestic terrorism.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Government (USG) has used substantial resources for overseas counterterrorism. With the rise of domestic terrorism, the USG has an opportunity to define Lone Actor Terrorism in law or policy. This definition would enable better recognition of behavior patterns related to the online radicalization process and enable the development of effective detection and prevention strategies.

Text:  Billions of dollars, material resources, and research have been dedicated to the overseas counterterrorism effort since 9/11. As a result, potential attacks were thwarted, terrorists were detained and tried, and Congress passed the Patriot Act of 2001 which provided law enforcement with tools to investigate terrorists, increased penalties for convicted terrorists, and addressed the lack of information sharing and coordination between government agencies. Yet, despite this success, domestic terrorism, in particular lone actor, has grown in significance. Some experts have suggested that prior mass killings committed by Jared Loughner, Dylann Roof and others should have, but were not labeled as Lone Actor Terrorism. As a consequence, standard detection and prevention strategies to combat future lone actor attacks have not received adequate attention from policymakers and law enforcement. However part of the problem is the lack of an established definition for the term.

Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 research study defined Lone Actor Terrorism as “political violence perpetrated by individuals who act alone; who do not belong to an organized terrorist group or network; who act without the direct influence of a leader or hierarchy; and whose tactics and methods are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or direction[1].” This definition is a good starting point but individuals with no terrorism tendencies could also fit this description.

Without a standard definition detection efforts are diffused. Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn and Edwin Bakker studied lone actors using character traits such as age, mental health disposition, employment status and education level to create a behavior profile. However their results showed no specific traits emerged significantly enough to establish a pattern[2]. Graduate students from the Georgetown National Security Critical Task Force also confirmed in their study that profiling potential actors was ineffective since most lone actors seem to fit a broad pattern of traits such as white, single male with a criminal record[3]. Georgetown did however, concur with Hamm and Spaaji’s 2015 study which focused more on lone actor behavior patterns. Hamm and Spaaji created a group of categories that accurately reflect a lone actor’s inability to fit into an already established network: lone soldiers, lone vanguard, loners and lone followers. Lone soldiers are supported by a terrorist network but act alone; lone vanguard acts alone to advance individual ideology and is not tied to a terrorist organization; a loner is an individual who acts alone to advance goals and is not accepted by network; and the lone followers who align with the ideology of a group, but aren’t socially competent enough for acceptance. These distinct categories provide a better methodology in which to bin behavior patterns. Alternatively, Bart Schuurman and colleagues advocated for a re-evaluation of the “lone wolf” terminology arguing its connotation was inaccurate. They concluded that individual actors were not socially alone but held some ties to networks and made their intent to attack publicly known early in the process[4]. Re-evaluation of the term is not widely discussed and perhaps it should be in order to develop a more complete picture.

Prevention of online radicalization and effective community outreach and engagement are key to disrupting the radicalization cycle. With the increased use of online resources, and isolated online social networks, lone actors have endless ways to be radicalized and discuss their intent to carry out an attack. Law enforcement, in coordination with social media companies have developed ways to identify these potential threats. However, not enough is being done with the resources available. Melanie Smith, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell argue that social media companies need to do a better job of reporting high risk behavior on their platforms to law enforcement and suggest they develop a coordinated approach to monitoring extremist groups and potential recruits[5]. Alternatively, Alison Smith suggests focusing on the radicalization process itself and cites work done by the New York City Police Department to do just that. She indicates there are four stages to radicalization including pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination and jihadization[6]. The key stage in this model is self-identification or the introduction and acceptance of extremist views, but if potential lone actors are not identified at this stage, looking out for intent declarations is a solid second avenue. Emmet Halm in his review of prevention procedures focused on breaking the radicalization cycle and explained that since 9/11 76% of lone actors clearly communicated their intent in letters, manifestos and proclamations[7]. Although posting statements of intent are helpful to identify potential individuals at risk, law enforcement must be vigilant in determining where an individual is in their development since posting intentions can simply be an exercise in practicing their right to free speech.

Prevention of online radicalization has the potential to be incredibly effective in identifying at risk individuals, but community outreach and engagement cannot be forgotten[8]. Jeffrey Simon suggests it’s imperative that law enforcement not only learn and educate themselves about lone actor behavior patterns, they must educate the community as well. Many lone actors make their views and intentions to attack known to family members, friends, and other members of their unique communities, however most indications are never reported or are brushed aside.

Hampered by the lack of a standard definition, no universally acknowledged profile or behavior pattern, and prevention tactics that are not effectively enforced or discussed, Lone Actor Terrorism has the potential to become a major threat within the U.S., particularly within the current political climate. Lone Actor Terrorism could be defined in law, or policy, and provide a roadmap for government agencies, law enforcement and social media platforms on effective detection and prevention strategies to combat future attacks. Recent reports from both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security acknowledge the rise of lone actor attacks and address their respective agency roles and abilities in detection and prevention efforts. These reports provide a glimmer of hope that further government efforts will soon follow.


Endnotes:

[1] Hamm, Mark S. and Ramón Spaaij. Lone Wolf Terrorism in America: Using Knowledge of Radicalization Pathways to Forge Prevention Strategies. Terre Haute, IN: Indiana State University, 2015. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248691.pdf

[2] Bakker, Edwin and Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn. Lone-Actor Terrorism: Policy Paper 1: Personal Characteristics of Lone-Actor Terrorists. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 5. Hague: International Centre for Counter Terrorism – The Hague, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/201602_CLAT_Policy-Paper-1_v2.pdf

[3] Alfaro-Gonzales, Lydia, et al. Report: Lone Wolf Terrorism. Washington, DC: Georgetown University (2015)
https://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/NCITF-Final-Paper.pdf

[4] Schuurman, Bart, et al. End of the Lone Wolf: The typology That Should Not Have Been: Journal Studies of Conflict and Terrorism Journal. Studies in Conflict &Terrorism. Volume 42, Issue 8, 2019. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1419554

[5] Smith, Melanie, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell. Lone Wolf Terrorism Policy Paper 3: Motivations, Political Engagement and Online Activity. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 7. London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2016. http://icct.nl/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/CLAT-Series-7-Policy-Paper-3-ISD.pdf

[6] Smith, Alison G., Ph.D. National Institute of Justice. How Radicalization to Terrorism Occurs in the United States: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us. June 2018. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250171.pdf

[7] Halm, Emmet. Wolf Hunting: Unique Challenges and Solutions to Lone-Wolf Terrorism. Harvard Political Review. October 21, 2019. https://harvardpolitics.com/united-states/wolf-hunting

[8] Hunt, Leigh. Beware the Lone Wolf. Police. Police Magazine. October 17, 2013. https://www.policemag.com/341043/beware-the-lone-wolf

[9] National Center for the Analyses of Violent Crime. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Behavioral Threat Assessment Center. Behavioral Analysis Unit. Lone Offender: A Study of Lone OffenderTerrorism in the U.S. (1972-2015). November, 2019. https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/lone-offender-terrorism-report-111319.pdf/view

[10] DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence. September, 2019. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/19_0920_plcy_strategic-framework-countering-terrorism-targeted-violence.pdf

Assessment Papers Governing Documents and Ideas Jessa Hauck United States Violent Extremism

Assessing the U.S. Shift to Great Power Competition and the Risk from North Korea

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Civil Affairs Association and Divergent Options Writing Contest which took place from April 7, 2020 to July 7, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Richard McManamon is an U.S. Army Officer and a graduate student at the National Defense University. The views expressed are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the U.S. Shift to Great Power Competition and the Risk from North Korea

Date Originally Written:  July 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 31, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Richard McManamon is an U.S. Army Officer and a graduate student at the National Defense University.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategic shift towards Russia and China has de-prioritized North Korea. Following multiple summits between the two nations, minimal lasting progress has been made. As the U.S. shifts focus to great power competition, a comprehensive approach towards North Korea to protect U.S. interests will be of value.

Text:  Individual human factors, both behavioral and psychological, have played a critical role in countless global conflicts and the contemporary security environment is equally impacted by these factors. Following President Trump’s election, a new National Security Strategy (NSS) was published in 2017 that emphasized a shift from a counter-terrorism focused strategy to one that challenges near-peer threats from China and Russia. The Department of Defense implemented the NSS in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), where the document specifically labeled China “a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors” and highlighted Russia’s attempt to reshape the world through their authoritarian mode[1]l.

The NSS and NDS emphasizing Russia and China reduces focus on North Korea. President Trump’s relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been highly volatile and the U.S. relationship with North Korea further destabilized as North Korea tested twenty-three rockets in 2017 alone[2]. Throughout 2017, President Trump expressed his feeling towards North Korea through multiple tweets, for example, labeling the North Korean ruler “Little Rocket Man[3].” Kim disregarded Trump’s emotionally driven responses and continued rocket testing, which escalated tensions even higher. As the situation escalated toward a breaking point, Trump and Kim met in 2018 and again in 2019. Furthermore, in June 2019 President Trump made a trip to the Korean peninsula for further nuclear negotiations, which marked the first time a U.S. sitting president entered North Korea[4].

Since 2017, both leaders applied various human factors that contributed to a bilateral relationship. Nevertheless, the promising start that followed multiple summits began to dramatically falter when North Korea conducted its first missile launch of 2020 on March 21st showcasing its desire to maintain its position in the global order[5]. The 2020 missile launch combined with new satellite imagery showing a possible expansion of a rocket launch facility signaled to the U.S. and other Western powers that North Korea is maintaining its hardened stance and attempting to portray an image of strength[6]. To Kim, the U.S. realignment of resources toward Russia and China may look like an opportunity. Moreover, this shift to China and Russia can provide enough space for North Korea to expand their rocket research and development. Further highlighting the North Korea challenge, a 2019 RAND report highlighted that North Korea is on a trajectory of nuclear development that has transformed it into a fundamentally different kind of strategic challenge[7].

While the U.S. transitions to China and Russia, it still maintains numerous sanctions on North Korea. For years the U.S. and United Nations Security Council have placed sanctions on the country ranging from export/import restrictions to economic restrictions[8]. The longer the sanctions are in place, the less effective they are. Furthermore, the continued U.S. use of sanctions can provide a false sense of security to the U.S. as it realigns its global strategy towards China and Russia. The U.S. prioritization of China and Russia allows North Korea to maintain its status within the global order without new pressure from western nations to promote change in governance.

President Trump has successfully communicated with Kim in the past by leveraging his attributes and finding common ground with the North Korean leader. While the complete dismantling of North Korea’s rocket and nuclear program may no longer be feasible, the U.S. can reestablish meaningful diplomatic relations with North Korea to influence Northern peninsula. This is not to suggest that if the U.S. were to extend an olive branch that North Korean missiles would be instantly dismantled. However, progress with North Korea can likely be increased through human interaction and an emotional connection versus harsher sanctions that may harm the population more than the senior leaders of the country. Lastly, the opportunity cost of the U.S. not meeting the challenge now is that inaction can embolden Kim Jong Un to develop a more capable missile program that threatens U.S. national interests and its allies globally.

As the U.S. continues a strategy shift to China and Russia, countries like North Korea are losing their much-needed prioritization within the U.S. government. While both China and Russia pose risks to U.S. interests, acknowledging such risk does not justify a neglect of other threats on the world stage. Small risks can quickly transition to substantial risks if not appropriately managed. The ramifications of not placing significant resources and attention on North Korea creates opportunities for Kim to exploit, with short and long-term costs for U.S. interests and regional security. President Trump has the tools to build a relationship with North Korea to achieve good governance and order. Moving forward, the U.S. can ensure a comprehensive strategy that effectively challenges China and Russia, but not at the cost of neglecting smaller countries. Such a strategy starts with increased diplomatic relations, revisits sanction negotiations with the input from key nations and lastly, works towards a manageable missile treaty with North Korea.


Endnotes:

[1] Department of Defense, National Defense Strategy (2018). Retrieved from https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/2018-National-Defense-Strategy-Summary.pdf.

[2] Berlinger, J. (2017). North Korea’s missile tests: What you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/29/asia/north-korea-missile-tests/index.html

[3] Hirsh, M. (2019). Trump just gave North Korea more than it ever dreamed of. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/06/30/trump-has-already-given-north-korea-more-than-it-dreamed-of

[4] Ripley, W. (2019). Trump and Kim make history, but a longer and more difficult march lies ahead. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/30/asia/trump-kim-history/index.html

[5] Masterson, J. (2020). North Korea tests first missiles of 2020 . Retrieved from https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-04/news/north-korea-tests-first-missiles-2020

[6] Brumfiel, G. (2020). North Korea seen expanding rocket launch facility it once promised to dismantle. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/03/27/822661018/north-korea-seen-expanding-rocket-launch-facility-it-once-promised-to-dismantle

[7] Gian Gentile, Yvonne K. Crane, Dan Madden, Timothy M. Bonds, Bruce W. Bennett, Michael J. Mazarr, Andrew Scobell. (2019). Four problems on the Korean peninsula. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL271.html

Schoff, J., & Lin, F. (2018). Making sense of UN sanctions on North Korea. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/publications/interactive/north-korea-sanctions

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Policy and Strategy Richard McManamon United States

Alternative History: The Newburgh Conspiracy Succeeds — An After-Action Review

Thomas Williams is a Part-Time member of the faculty at Quinnipiac University.  He is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a member of the Military Writer’s Guild, and tweets at @twilliams01301.  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 History:  The Newburgh Conspiracy Succeeds — An After-Action Review

Date Originally Written:  June 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired Army Reservist and former member of the Distance Education Program at the U.S. Army War College.  This article is presented as a vehicle to discuss the vagaries of planning in open systems.

Summary:  March, 1783. General Washington and his closest advisors discuss the General’s inability to prevent the coup fomenting among Continental Army Officers camped in Newburgh, New York[1]. This alternative history teaches readers to recognize the capricious nature of plans and how it’s essential to be humble as sometimes the smallest and most irrational inputs can have unpredictable and disproportionate effects.

Text:  General George Washington was disgusted beyond measure. The Army was now commanded by his former deputy Horatio Gates, and Washington was in hiding. Gates and a faction of disgruntled officers and men were moving toward Philadelphia with the expressed purpose of intimidating the people, and by extension, Congress, into supporting its cause: backpay, pensions, and respect.

Sitting now with his closest associates, Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox (whose own writings did not do much to help this current situation), and a few dozen other compatriots who comprised an after-action review team, Washington wanted to discuss how he lost control when the cabal met in Newburgh, NY.

What an irony, Washington bemoaned, as this move was likely to erase their eight-year struggle for freedom from the British. Although Yorktown was already two years past, the war wasn’t technically over, and no one present at this after-action review knew the status of negotiations in Paris. The British, who maintained an Army in New York, were showing signs of taking advantage of Gate’s burgeoning coup, including ending negotiations and resuming hostilities.

Hamilton wasn’t present in Newburgh, so he took the lead in asking questions. “How did it all unfold?” he needed to know.

Washington and Knox were the first to share. Knox said “The crowd was restless. Insolent, even.”

“The Continental Army officers at camped at Newburg, New York?” Hamilton asked.

“Yes,” Knox allowed, adding that many of the would-be conspirators were good, reliable men who had been with the Army for most of its eight years. “I suspect we could reason with any individual,” Knox continued, “but there was a madness to the crowd, whipped up, I suspect, by Horatio Gates himself.”

That Gates was a chief conspirator surprised no one, and as Knox told it, the man seethed with a personal resentment toward Washington. Every man in today’s discussion knew that this was not Gates’ first run at Washington. Back in 1777, and flush from his victory at Saratoga, Gates and a Brigadier General named Thomas Conway were secretly corresponding with members of Congress to have Gates named as the Army’s commander in chief. Ultimately, the “Conway Cabal” failed[2], but all the resentments lingered.

Hamilton now turned his attention to Washington who was not present at Newburgh for all that Knox described. By design, Washington entered the Newburgh meeting room in dramatic fashion, at the last possible minute. Hamilton asked Washington, “What happened when you entered the room?”

“The moment had the desired impact,” Washington replied. Washington wasn’t expected to attend the Newburgh conference, so his sudden entrance from a side door at the exact moment Gates rose to open the proceedings momentarily cooled the firebrands.

Washington knew the power of his position. He had been in command of the Army since 1775 and shared in all its deprivations. The General knew the majority of these conspiring officers and shared many of their frustrations.

Washington recollected that his remarks were logical, rational, and delivered solidly enough, but what he had to say also seemed insufficient.

Hamilton interjected, asking what the members of the after-action review team thought of this characterization. Many agreed with General Washington saying that they too thought there was an edgy, even sinister demeanor among the conspirators.

Washington continued with his story saying that at Newburgh he next intended to read a letter from a prominent Virginia congressman containing assurances that Congress was doing all in its power to redress the Army’s complaints.

Knox interrupted, noting to Hamilton that Washington seemed to struggle with the words of this letter and was reading haltingly.

“Let’s avoid any indictments, Henry,” Hamilton said. “That’s not what we’re here for.”

“Yes, that is correct,” Washington said. “I was reaching for my spectacles and fumbled as I did so. I decided to continue reading as I looked.”

“That wasn’t your plan,” Hamilton said. “It was less about the letter than the use of your spectacles as a deliberate prop.”

Washington’s faced flushed in anger. Hamilton was correct about the intended theatrics. “My hope,” Washington, intoned, “was to use my loss of sight as an appeal for sympathy.” Washington went on to say that he was going to beg the conspirators’ pardon, to forgive his hesitant reading with words about going gray and blind in his service.

“I never had the chance,” Washington said, recounting how the conspirators seized the initiative and leveled the most vile accusations toward him. “The invective tipped the balance in a room predisposed to anger,” he noted.

Hamilton spoke again, “What conclusions can we draw; what might have been done differently?”

Knox, an avid reader and bookshop owner before the war, started an impromptu lecture on Greek rhetoric. He opined about logos (logic), ethos (Washington’s character) and began talking about pathos (passion).

“General Washington needed to focus on his oratory. He was bland,” Knox said.

Hamilton thought about it for a moment and turned back at Knox saying, “Henry, you’re wrong—the answer is ‘nothing’.” “Nothing,” he repeated. “Humility and pathos were our aim. Our plan was right the first time. It simply went awry.”

Hamilton speculated out loud that this incalculably small moment may have made all the difference. Had Washington been able to produce his spectacles more quickly, he might have earned that planned sympathy.

“I got to my spectacles seconds later, but the moment was fleeting,” Washington said.
Knox banged the table, shouting, “No one can plan for this. And frankly from what you’re saying, even if General Washington succeeded with these theatrics, something else might have gone wrong.”

“Shakespeare,” whispered Washington. “Richard III.” How fickle our designs, how arrogant our plans when even a King cannot secure a needed horse,” he added[3].

“What’s to be done, then?” asked Hamilton. “Where do we go from here?”

No one had the chance to answer as the shouts of British officers began to echo across the courtyard just beyond their door. Washington, Knox, and Hamilton knew at once; they were found.

Knowledgeable readers will recognize the moment this story deviated from the historical record. In reality, Washington quickly found his glasses, and as he put them on, he said, “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind[4].”

In a way that’s hard for us to understand in our age of cynicism, this simple gesture brought men to tears and back into Washington’s camp, so to speak.

The conspirators dropped their demands and accepted their subordination to civilian authority, no matter how flawed. The revolution held fast, the Treaty of Paris was signed in September of that year, and the British evacuated their armies.


Endnotes:

[1] For a quick understanding of the Newburgh Conspiracy, see Martin, J. K. (2015, March 12). The Newburgh Conspiracy [Video]. George Washington’s Mount Vernon. https://www.mountvernon.org/video/playlist/36

[2] To know more, see Scythes, J (ND) The Conway Cabal. George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/conway-cabal

[3] From Shakespeare’s Richard III, published circa 1593, Act 5, Scene 4. Richard exclaims, “A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!” http://shakespeare.mit.edu/richardiii/full.html.

[4] Ferling, J. (2009). The ascent of George Washington: The hidden political genius of an American icon (p. 234). Bloomsbury Publishing.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Thomas Williams United States

Alternative History: Options Other than the Doolittle Raid to Strike Japan After Pearl Harbor

2d Lt David Alman is an officer in the U.S. Air National Guard. In his civilian career, he has worked as an aerospace engineer and management consultant. Previously, he earned a BS and MS in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech. He tweets @david_alman. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The Japanese bombed the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941. The U.S. is preparing options to strike back at Japan.

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Air National Guard officer with an interest in military effectiveness and military history / historiography. This article’s point of view is from the United States military in late 1941.

Background:  In response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the ensuing series of Allied losses in the Pacific, President Roosevelt tasked his War Cabinet to develop plans for striking back at Japan. The objective was to raise the morale of the American people[1]. The Doolittle Raid accomplished this mission using two aircraft carriers to launch 16 aircraft to bomb Japan. The total explosive weight delivered was 32,000 pounds.

Significance:  While a heroic effort, it appears little thought was given to alternate options that might have accomplished the same goal without risking a significant portion of American combat power. It is the duty of military officers to judiciously accept risk in the pursuit of objectives. The study of history demands more than veneration for those who went into harm’s way. Instead, students of history must ask whether it was necessary for so many to go into harm’s way in the first place as part of the Doolittle Raid. This options paper identifies other viable options to place the risk-reward tradeoff of the Doolittle Raid in context.

Option #1:  The U.S. launches Air Corps bombers from Navy aircraft carriers. Since one aircraft carrier will be loaded with bombers, another aircraft carrier will be required to escort the task force. The planes, B-25 Mitchells, will be modified for extended range. The planes will land in China after completing their mission.

Risk:  This operation will risk two of seven American aircraft carriers and their escorts[2]. If lost in action, the American Navy will lose a significant portion of its striking power and the American public will have lower morale than before. This operation will also risk the 16 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. This option will provide joint operations experience to the Navy-Air Corps team and could result in Japan pulling back forces to defend the home islands.

Option #2:  The U.S. constructs a forward air base in the Aleutian Islands and uses long-range B-24 bombers to strike Japan. The distance from Attu Island to Tokyo and on to Nanchang (the Doolittle Raiders’ landing point) is approximately 3,500 miles[3]. An un-modified B-24A had a ferry range of 4,000 miles[4]. A bombload equivalent to the B-25 would entail a 2,000 pound or 8% reduction in fuel, reducing range to approximately 3,700 miles[5]. With minor modifications, such as a smaller crew, this option would be sufficient for an Aleutians-launched B-24 force to reach the historical B-25 landing sites.

Risk:  Constructing an air base on Attu will be difficult. This operation will risk 16 B-24 bombers and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. The use of an air base instead of U.S. Navy ships lessens the risk to the U.S. fleet. The air base in the Aleutians could be reused for other military purposes.

Option #3:  The U.S. uses Navy “cruiser” submarines to shell Japanese targets. The US Navy possesses three “cruiser” submarines, USS Argonaut, USS Narwhal, and USS Nautilus. Each of these submarines carries two 6-inch deck guns, each delivering a 105-pound explosive out to 13 miles. The submarines could surface at night off the coast of Japan and deliver 304 shells to equal the explosive weight of the Doolittle Raid. Given six guns and a fire rate of 6 rounds per minute, this would take approximately 10 minutes[6]. After completing their fires, preferably just after dark for survivability, the submarines would escape at high speed.

Risk:  This operation would risk three submarines and their crews.

Gain:  The operation will accomplish the objective if successful. It could result in Japan pulling anti-submarine warfare forces back to home waters.

Option #4:  The U.S. uses seaplanes, such as PBY Catalinas, to strike Japan. PBYs could stage from Midway Island and refuel from submarines or destroyers in the open ocean. Carrying 2,000 pounds of bombs would reduce fuel capacity by approximately 13%, leaving the seaplanes with a 2,000 mile range[7]. The seaplanes would likely refuel once approximately 800 miles off the coast of Japan (1,700 miles from Midway), conduct a max radius strike to rendezvous with the refueler approximately 1,200 miles off the coast of Japan (800 miles in, 1,200 miles out, 2,000 mile round trip – farther offshore to protect the retreating refueler), and then fly back to Midway (approximately 1,300 miles away). Refueling sixteen seaplanes twice would require a maximum of 384,000 pounds of fuel which is well within the capacity of a modified cruiser submarine.

Risk:  This operation would risk 16 aircraft and a submarine along with their crews.

Gain:  This operation will accomplish the objective if successful, and not risk any U.S. aircraft carriers.

Other Comments:  The Doolittle Raid was ultimately successful. The options presented here are intended to provoke reflection on alternate options that were never considered due to the Doolittle Raid idea coming first. Practitioners gain by critically examining military history to postulate if objectives could have been accomplished more effectively or with less risk to force.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] December 21st, 1941. Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day. http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/daybyday/daylog/december-21st-1941/

[2] In reality, only 6 aircraft carriers were useful given USS Ranger’s small size.

[3] This and other distances calculated using Google Maps and use great circle distance.

[4] The B-24A Liberator. The 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. https://www.456fis.org/B-24-A.htm and author’s math.

[5] This is an estimate based on a linear fuel burn. Two variables are responsible for the true variation from this number. One is that fuel burn throughout flight is in fact not linear. Because the airplane weighs less towards the end of its flight, the last gallons of fuel provide more range than the first gallons. The second factor is that the bombs are not carried for the whole flight because they are dropped on their target.

[6] 6”/53 (15.2 cm) Marks 12, 14, 15, and 18. NavWeaps. http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_6-53_mk12.php

[7] Author’s math.

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals David Alman Japan Option Papers United States

Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Richard Tilley is a strategist within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Previously, Richard served as a U.S. Army Special Forces Officer and a National Security Advisor in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is on Twitter @RichardTilley6 and on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Surreptitious Artificial Intelligence Build-Up

Date Originally Written:  July 6, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 14, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an unconventional warfare scholar and strategist. He believes renewed American interest in great power competition and Chinese approaches to unrestricted warfare require the United States national security apparatus to better appreciate the disruptive role advanced technology will play on the future battlefield.

Summary:  China’s dreams of regional and global hegemony require a dominant People’s Liberation Army that faces the dilemma of accruing military power while not raising the ire of the United States. To meet this challenge, the Chinese Communist Party has bet heavily on artificial intelligence as a warfighting game-changer that it can acquire surreptitiously and remain below-the-threshold of armed conflict with the United States.

Text:  President Xi Jinping’s introduction of the “The China Dream” in 2013 offers the latest iteration of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) decades-long quest to establish China in its rightful place atop the global hierarchy. To achieve this goal, Xi calls for “unison” between China’s newfound soft power and the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) hard power[1]. But, by the CCP’s own admission, “The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries[2].” Cognizant of this capability deficit, Beijing adheres to the policy of former Chairman Deng Xiaoping, “Hide your strength, bide your time” until the influence of the Chinese military can match that of the Chinese economy.

For the PLA, Deng’s maxim presents a dilemma: how to build towards militarily eclipsing the United States while remaining below the threshold of eliciting armed response. Beijing’s solution is to bet heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to upend the warfighting balance of power.

In simple terms, AI is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. AI is not a piece of hardware but rather a technology integrated into nearly any system that enables computing more quickly, accurately, and intuitively. AI works by combining massive amounts of data with powerful, iterative algorithms to identify new associations and rules hidden therein. By applying these associations and rules to new scenarios, scientists hope to produce AI systems with reasoning and decision-making capabilities matching or surpassing that of humans.

China’s quest for regional and global military dominance has led to a search for a “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics[3].” An RMA is a game-changing evolution in warfighting that upends the balance of power. In his seminal work on the subject, former Under Secretary of Defense Michael Vickers found eighteen cases of such innovations in history such as massed infantry, artillery, railroad, telegraph, and atomic weapons[4]. In each case, a military power introduces a disruptive technology or tactic that rapidly and enduringly changes warfighting. The PLA believes that AI can be their game-changer in the next conflict.

Evidence of the PLA’s confidence in AI abounds. Official PRC documents from 2017 called for “The use of new generation AI technologies as a strong support to command decision-making, military deductions [strategy], and defense equipment, among other applications[5].” Beijing matched this rhetoric with considerable funding, which the U.S. Department of Defense estimated as $12 billion in 2017 and growing to as much as $70 billion in 2020[6].

AI’s potential impact in a Western Pacific military confrontation is significant. Using AI, PLA intelligence systems could detect, identify, and assess the possible intent of U.S. carrier strike groups more quickly and with greater accuracy than traditional human analysis. Then, PLA strike systems could launch swarming attacks coordinated by AI that overwhelm even the most advanced American aerial and naval defenses. Adding injury to insult, the PLA’s AI systems will learn from this engagement to strike the U.S. Military with even more efficacy in the future.

While pursuing AI the CCP must still address the dilemma of staying below the threshold of armed conflict – thus the CCP masterfully conceals moves designed to give it an AI advantage. In the AI arms race, there are two key components: technology and data. To surpass the United States, China must dominate both, but it must do so surreptitiously.

AI systems require several technical components to operate optimally, including the talent, algorithms, and hardware on which they rely. Though Beijing is pouring untold resources into developing first-rate domestic capacity, it still relies on offshore sources for AI tech. To acquire this foreign know-how surreptitiously, the CCP engages in insidious foreign direct investment, joint ventures, cyber espionage, and talent acquisition[7] as a shortcut while it builds domestic AI production.

Successful AI also requires access to mountains of data. Generally, the more data input the better the AI output. To build these data stockpiles, the CCP routinely exploits its own citizens. National security laws passed in 2014 and 2017 mandate that Chinese individuals and organizations assist the state security apparatus when requested[8]. The laws make it possible for the CCP to easily collect and exploit Chinese personal data that can then be used to strengthen the state’s internal security apparatus – powered by AI. The chilling efficacy seen in controlling populations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong can be transferred to the international battlefield.

Abroad, the CCP leverages robust soft power to gain access to foreign data. Through programs like the Belt and Road Initiative, China offers low-cost modernization to tech-thirsty customers. Once installed, the host’s upgraded security, communication, or economic infrastructure allows Beijing to capture overseas data that reinforces their AI data sets and increases their understanding of the foreign environment[9]. This data enables the PLA to better train AI warfighting systems to operate in anywhere in the world.

If the current trends hold, the United States is at risk of losing the AI arms race and hegemony in the Western Pacific along with it. Despite proclaiming that, “Continued American leadership in AI is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States[10],” Washington is only devoting $4.9 billion to unclassified AI research in fiscal year 2020[11], just seven percent of Beijing’s investment.

The keep pace, the United States can better comprehend and appreciate the consequences of allowing the PLA to dominate AI warfighting in the future. The stakes of the AI race are not dissimilar to the race for nuclear weapons during World War 2. Only by approaching AI with the same interest, investment, and intensity of the Manhattan Project can U.S. Military hegemony hope to be maintained.


Endnotes:

[1] Page, J. (2013, March 13). For Xi, a ‘China Dream’ of Military Power. Wall Street Journal Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324128504578348774040546346

[2] The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2019). China’s National Defense in the New Era. (p. 6)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vickers, M. G. (2010). The structure of military revolutions (Doctoral dissertation, Johns Hopkins University) (pp. 4-5). UMI Dissertation Publishing.

[5] PRC State Council, (2017, July 17). New Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan. (p. 1)

[6] Pawlyk, O. (2018, July 30). China Leaving the US behind on Artificial Intelligence: Air Force General. Military.com. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.military.com/defensetech/2018/07/30/china-leaving-us-behind-artificial-intelligence-air-force-general.html

[7] O’Conner, S. (2019). How Chinese Companies Facilitate Technology Transfer from the United States. U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission. (p. 3)

[8] Kharpal, A. (2019, March 5). Huawei Says It Would Never Hand Data to China’s Government. Experts Say It Wouldn’t Have a Choice. CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/05/huawei-would-have-to-give-data-to-china-government-if-asked-experts.html

[9] Chandran, N. (2018, July 12). Surveillance Fears Cloud China’s ‘Digital Silk Road.’ CNBC. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/11/risks-of-chinas-digital-silk-road-surveillance-coercion.html

[10] Trump, D. (2019, February 14). Executive Order 13859 “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence.” Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-maintaining-american-leadership-artificial-intelligence

[11] Cornillie, C. (2019, March 28). Finding Artificial Intelligence Research Money in the Fiscal 2020 Budget. Bloomberg Government. Retrieved June 20, 2020 from https://about.bgov.com/news/finding-artificial-intelligence-money-fiscal-2020-budget

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Human-Machine Teaming Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Richard Tilley United States

Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthew F. Smith is an active duty officer in the United States Army. He can be found on Twitter @Matt_F_Smith. The views expressed in this paper represent the personal views of the author and are not necessarily the views of the Department of Defense or of the Department of the Army.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing the Dependency of U.S. Below Threshold Competition on Department of State Modernization

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of resourcing the U.S. Executive Branch Departments and Agencies primarily responsible for executing foreign policy strategies below the threshold of armed conflict.

Summary:   U.S. policymakers are deciding how to compete with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and counteract their objectives. Given fiscal realities, the opportunity exists to rebalance current militaristic policy tendencies and force institutional reforms. The U.S. Department of State, due to its largely below-threshold mandate, is a good target for modernization so it can better lead foreign policy efforts through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance.

Text:  Over the last decade, American foreign policy has focused increasingly on competition with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Regardless of the various administrations’ policies, the central strategic aim has been how the United States can best compete with China while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. The PRC’s central strategic aim is to undermine current U.S. alliances and other historically U.S. lead global institutions[1]. Given the $2.5 trillion in federal spending in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and an economic recession, a fiscally conscience U.S. government is likely to exist moving forward[2]. As a result, future foreign policy decisions will focus on the smart application of strategic tools that are gauged not merely by measures of performance but also by the financial effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome. For the U.S. to maintain the fundamental ability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict, the State Department, whose mission is to “lead America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance”; requires equipping through bipartisan commitment of resources to compete in the current environment[3]. Understanding that near-term competition will likely remain below the threshold of large scale combat operations, and U.S. strategy aims to promote a range of acceptable options short of armed conflict, the resourcing of such efforts is a fundamental issue.

Just as the U.S. military is resourced to innovate and adapt in response to emerging military threats, undertaking the institutional reform necessary for the State Department to have the capability to lead an integrated approach to promote U.S. strategic interests is of vital importance. An environment that is competitive but not combative requires the State Department to be capable of frustrating Chinese interests in areas that cooperation is not possible while seizing fleeting moments of opportunity for mutually beneficial agreements. Without a properly resourced and organized State Department, opportunities to frustrate China will be lost altogether or be handled in such a manner that its potential benefit will be greatly diminished. The Indo-Pacific region is vital to U.S. objectives because of its continuing economic opportunities, and yet, to fully reap the benefits of those opportunities, the United States, China, and the other countries that are impacted by regional competition must work together to communally benefit whenever possible. Competing with China requires the U.S. to advance its position by smartly leveraging all instruments of national power that enable the current strategic approach.

Policymakers can ask themselves how the U.S. can be expected to compete below the threshold of armed conflict without adequately resourcing the primary agency responsible for executing the policies in that environment. The Department of Defense requested $705.4 billion for FY21; and while defense spending on military capability is an important component of a deterrence strategy, it only inadvertently promotes the U.S. capability to compete below the threshold of armed conflict[4]. The State Department requested $40.8 billion for FY21, which is an $11.7 billion, or 22-percent decrease from the 2020 enacted level[5]. In the face of reports calling for the State Department to modernize, the U.S., as is evident in the proposed budget, is prioritizing military capability for deterrence at the expense of investing in deterrence through greater diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts[6]. Ignoring the reality of State Department capability will lead to U.S. policy missteps and encourage China to expand their focus beyond military development and increase investing in other strategic sectors[7]. These sectors, which include the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are effective in increasing the political clout the PRC can wield in forming new alliances and dependencies while degrading the U.S. position in the region.

The current United States strategic approach to the PRC reaffirms many of the incorporative strategic approaches described in the 2017 National Security Strategy, 2018 National Defense Strategy, 2019 Department of State Strategy, and the 2019 Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report[8]. Specifically, the current U.S. strategic documents accept China as a major power in its own right and describe many unconstrained approaches that will foster cooperation and competition wherever possible while not allowing rivalry to degrade the entire relationship. While these documents allude to a networked approach for competing with China in some areas while cooperating in others, the fiscal allocation of resources and the demonstration that when under stress, the liberal virtues championed in these strategies are easily sacrificed, make clear that execution of the supporting policies is an issue. To compete with China, policymakers can consider sufficiently budgeting the resources required for the State Department to increase its capability to promote U.S. strategic interests across the many non-military domains[9].

The State Department, as the primary agency that coordinates diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance efforts, is critical in a competitive environment that falls below the threshold of armed conflict. The United States cannot eff