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 & 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 effectively or efficiently compete with China while using inflexible and un-adaptive organizational structures that are ill-equipped to deliver relevant solutions[10]. Just as the U.S. military has been equipped to conduct modernization efforts, the Department of State requires the same focus of resourcing for their modernization efforts to successfully outcompete China. Without adequate funding, the State Department will not reform into a more agile institution that can deliver the strategic objectives in a manner reflective of the current period of great power competition[11]. The undervaluing of non-military strategic tools and agencies such as the State Department, over time, will make the military option the most preferred deterrence and engagement method for shaping foreign affairs. The United States’ costly global military presence as a result of the war on terror and extended campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have only reinforced this militaristic reality and are an impetus for assessing foreign policy approaches to foster more competitive practices below the threshold of armed conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Araya, D. (2019, October 20). China’s Grand Strategy. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielaraya/2019/01/14/chinas-grand-strategy/#27ce4ef61f18

[2] Swagel, P. (2020, April 24). CBO’s Current Projections of Output, Employment, and Interest Rates and a Preliminary Look at Federal Deficits for 2020 and 2021. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56335

[3] United States Department of State. (2019, May 13). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/about/about-the-u-s-department-of-state

[4] Department of Defense 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-9.pdf

[5] Department of State and Other International Programs 2021 Budget Request. 2020, Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2021-BUD/pdf/BUDGET-2021-BUD-18.pdf

[6] United States Government Accountability Office. (2019, March). Integrated Action Plan Could Enhance Efforts to Reduce Persistent Overseas Foreign Service Vacancies. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697281.pdf

[7] Ju, S. F. (2018, March 6). China’s diplomacy budget doubles under Xi Jinping. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.ft.com/content/2c750f94-2123-11e8-a895-1ba1f72c2c11

[8] United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China. (2020, May 20). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/U.S.-Strategic-Approach-to-The-Peoples-Republic-of-China-Report-5.20.20.pdf

[9] Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State Diplomatic Engagement. (2020, March). Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/FY21-CBJ-Appendix-1-FINAL-for-GPA-Mar-26-2020.pdf

[10] Daalder, I., & Lindsay, J. (2001, March 1). How to Revitalize a Dysfunctional State Department. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/gs_20170927_dos__usaid_listening_report_2017.pdf

[11] Office of Inspector General. (2019, November). Review of the Department of State’s Organizational Reform Effort. Retrieved June 12, 2020, from https://www.stateoig.gov/system/files/aud-mero-20-09.pdf

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Budgets and Resources China (People's Republic of China) Diplomacy Matthew F. Smith Option Papers United States

Assessing the Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian 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 Relationship Between the United States and Saudi Arabia –An Unethical Partnership with Multiple Purposes?

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  August 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. Following Charles de Gaulle’s quote that nations do not have friends, but interests, he believes in the dominance of political realism over ethical considerations when it comes to vital national interests. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how economic considerations dominate U.S. foreign policy.

Summary:  “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable.” Niccolò Machiavelli described in this way the discrepancy between ethics, politics, and policy. The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, illustrates the differences between its words that proclaim it as the lighthouse of liberty and democracy, and how it acts when torn between ethics, ambition, and necessity.

Text:  The Iranian attack on a Saudi Arabian oil production facility in September 2019 was, so far, the peak of continuously growing hostilities between these two regional powers. Besides official protests from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the U.S. condemned Iranian aggression. Although U.S. President Donald Trump finally refused to take retaliatory measures against Iran, this attack led to a remarkable deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. Why does the U.S., the self-proclaimed lighthouse of liberty and democracy, feels so affiliated with a Kingdom that is repeatedly condemned for human rights violations?

A nation’s purpose is to ensure a society’s existence. In this regard, nations develop strategies, consisting of ends, ways, and means, facilitating a desired end state. In the National Security Strategy (NSS), the U.S. defines the desired end state “America First,” facilitated by the four goals[1]. Although the NSS clearly outlines the U.S.’ unique national capacities, it emphasizes the importance of partnerships and alliances[2]. One of the U.S.’s critical partners is the KSA. The fact that the KSA’s Wahabi monarchy is a country restricting religious freedom, denying gender equality, and promoting the Sharia founding religious schools in that spirit around worldwide makes the partnership appear at least strange[3]. At first glance, the characteristic is not congruent with the idea of “the American Way of Life.” Might it be “Bismarck-ian strategic thinking[4],” the idea of maintaining an ally instead of destroying or even gaining an enemy[5], ties the U.S. to KSA?

The most problematic sphere of the U.S. – Saudi relationship is linked to the goal (1) “Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life.” The majority of the terrorists responsible for 9/11 came from KSA. Rumors about financial support to terror organizations never silenced. Osama Bin-Laden even lived in the Wahabi Kingdom[6]. All of that is contradictory to the idea of the NSS. What are the U.S.’ benefits from this partnership?

U.S. National Security Strategy Goals

(1) Protect the American People, the Homeland, and the American Way of Life:

The benefit of the U.S. – Saudi Arabian relationship is at least questionable. The possible infliction of the Wahabi Kingdom in terror attacks even had a severe impact on this relationship[7]. In consequence, Saudi Arabia promotes its efforts on counter-terrorism operations since 9/11[8].

Additionally, promoting the Sharia, political assassination[9], and beheadings as death-penalty hardly correlates with the American Way of Life. However, economic prosperity, facilitated by ties to the Middle East, is a precondition for protecting the American way of life.

(2) Promote American Prosperity:

The U.S. and KSA have close economic ties, based on oil, reciprocal investments, and weapon sales. Most of the Saudi Arabian economic key leaders studied in the U.S. and are, therefore, eager to maintain close connections[10]. Saudi Arabia possesses the second-largest oil reserves (the U.S. is the 10th largest[11]) worldwide after Venezuela. When it comes to dealing arms, the Wahabi leadership negotiated a 110 billion dollars treaty with follow-on investments within the next ten years, worth 350 billion dollars[12].

Saudi Arabia is mentioned once in the NSS. Although just in a regional context, it is mentioned – like Egypt – as an area of interest to modernize its economy. U.S. military presence is very often an expression of national interest. Within KSA, there are five U.S. Air Force bases[13], hosting military capability packages to survey the essential sea lines of communication from the Arab Gulf along the Yemeni coast, the Bab El Mandeb through the Suez channel, the lifeline for U.S. oil imports from the Arab world[14]. The U.S. military’s force posture is in line with the national interests, according to the NSS.

(3) Preserve Peace through Strength:

It is an inherent part of the U.S.’ strategic understanding to ensure its national security by a deterrent military force such as the one based in the KSA. Strategic partnerships and the U.S. Navy keep conflicts out of the continental U.S. Consequently, the U.S. military is focused on out-of-area and expeditionary warfare. During the Second World War, the U.S. has proven its unique capabilities to conduct amphibious operations, accomplishing the landings in Italy, the Pacific, and on the Normandy’s shores. Nevertheless, the price-tag in soldiers’ lives was extraordinarily high[15]. It is unlikely that a nation would be willing to suffer such losses again in the 21st century, a period of reluctance to bear heavy losses[16].

It appears logical to establish and maintain strategic partnerships – regardless of ideological distances/differences – to avoid the necessity to conduct amphibious operations again. In consequence, worldwide partnerships are a reasonable approach for permanent pre-positioning of forces and, in a follow-on phase, to be used as assembly as well as staging areas for large scale combat operations. It is an interesting detail that in the KSA the U.S.’ military areas of interest overlap with its economic ones. Partnerships and deterrent armed forces require, like the American way of life, economic prosperity to finance national interests.

(4) Advance American Influence:

Partnerships and alliances are crucial for the U.S.[17] They are the tools for advancing American influence. Besides the fact that these partnerships and alliances enable a strong force posture towards upcoming or recent adversaries, they immensely support end (2) American prosperity. The inclusion of eastern European states in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (reducing Russian influence, primarily economically[18]) is a remarkable example of forcefully advancing the U.S.’ influence, followed by pushing for a more significant military commitment of European NATO members (overtaking the [financial] burden of deterring Russia to free forces[19]), pre-deploying forces to South Korea, and maintaining the partnership with Japan (containing China’s expansionism[20]). In the vein, the KSA is an economical source of strength for the U.S. and a potential staging area to maintain an appropriate force flow for military operations in the Middle East.

Economic prosperity, goal (2), is the critical requirement within the U.S. NSS. Consequently, it dictates necessities for the political level, regardless of the ideological differences and ethical considerations. Niccolò Machiavelli described an eternal rule: “The end is the outcome or the effect, and if a prince wins and maintains a state, the means will always be judged honorable[21].”


Endnotes:

[1] National Security Strategy of the United States of America: NSS (2017), II-VI.

[2] Ibid., 1.

[3] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations: Relations Between the Two Countries, Long Bound by Common Interests in Oil and Security, Have Strained over What Some Analysts See as a More Assertive Saudi Foreign Policy”, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-saudi-arabia-relations (accessed October 1, 2019).

[4] Geoffrey Parker, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West/ Edited by Geoffrey Parker, Rev. and updated ed., Cambridge illustrated Histories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 236.

[5] Peter Paret, Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age/ Edited by Peter Paret with Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986), 293-295.

[6] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[7] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (2018), 18-19.

[8] Saudi Arabia and Counterterrorism (2019), passim.

[9] Ian Black, “Jamal Khashoggi Obituary: Saudi Arabian Journalist Who Fell Foul of His Country’s Ruling Dynasty After Moving Abroad so He Could Criticise It More Freely,” The Guardian, October 19, 2018, Saudi Arabian journalist who fell foul of his country’s ruling dynasty after moving abroad so he could criticize it more freely.

[10] Fatimah Alyas, “US-Saudi Arabia Relations”.

[11] Howard J. Shatz, US International Economic Strategy in a Turbulent World (2016), 35.

[12] Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, 21-22.

[13] MilitaryBases.com, “U.S. Military Bases in Saudi Arabia,”, https://militarybases.com/overseas/saudi-arabia/ (accessed October 1, 2019).

[14] Jean-Paul Rodrigue, “International Oil Transportation: Petroleum Remains a Strategic Resource in the Global Economy Underlining the Challenges of Producing and Transporting Oil,”, https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=6757 (accessed October 1, 2019).

[15] Klaus Roch, Viribus Unitis – Analyse Von Operationen: Ausgewählte Seminararbeiten Des 20. Generalstabslehrganges, Militärwissenschaftliches Journal der Landesverteidigingsakademie 2015, Band 16 (Wien: Republik Österreich, Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung und Sport, 2015), 108-110.

[16] Martin van Creveld, Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West and What Can Be Done About It, First edition (Mevasseret Zion, Israel: DLVC Enterprises, 2016), 224-229.

[17] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 26.

[18] Ibid., 38.

[19] Posture Statement US EUCOM (2019), 3-5.

[20] National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 47.

[21] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 2nd ed. (Chicago, Ill., London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), XVIII.

 

Allies & Partners Assessment Papers Diplomacy Matthias Wasinger Saudi Arabia (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) United States

Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

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, and France 24. He can be found on Twitter at @MDPurzycki and on Medium at https://medium.com/@mdpurzycki. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative History: An Assessment of the Long-Term Impact of U.S. Strikes on Syria in 2013 on the Viability of the Free Syrian Army

Date Originally Written:  June 9, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article presumes that the United States launched air and missile strikes on Syria in August 2013, in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. It is written from the perspective of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) for an audience of U.S. national security policymakers.

Summary:  One year after U.S. air and missile strikes in Syria, a stalemate exists  between the Assad regime and rebel groups. While Assad is far from defeated, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) held its own, thanks to U.S. assistance, and positions itself as a viable political alternative to both Assad and the Islamic State (IS). This stance is tenuous, however, and is threatened by both continued bombardment by regime forces and the international community’s focus on defeating IS.

Text:  On August 21, 2013, the Syrian military fired rockets containing sarin gas at civilian areas in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, as well as conventionally armed rockets at Western Ghouta. Estimates of the resulting death toll range from 281 (estimated by French intelligence[1]) to 1,729 (alleged by the FSA[2]). A preliminary U.S. Intelligence Community estimate, released nine days after the attacks, “determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children[3].”

After receiving the IC’s estimate, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered air and missile strikes against Assad regime command and control centers, and bases from which helicopters are deployed[4]. While the combined strikes did not curtail the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons, they impeded communication between units armed with chemical weapons and their commanders, and reduced the use of barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters. Assad concluded that the benefits of further use of chemical weapons did not outweigh the costs of possible further U.S. or French strikes.

Instead of using chemical weapons, Assad continued his use of conventional weapons against his opponents, including civilians. For example, in November and December 2013, as government forces attempted to break a stalemate with rebels in Aleppo, government air strikes killed up to 425 civilians, of whom 204 were killed in a four-day period[6]. While the FSA has fought capably on the ground against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), its fighters and the civilians they protect remain vulnerable to air strikes.

In January 2014, President Obama expanded Timber Sycamore, the supply of weapons and training to Syrian rebels by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)[7]. In addition to providing greater numbers of rifles, machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and anti-tank missiles, the CIA provided rebels with a limited number of man-portable air defense systems. While the rebels have repeatedly asked for more of these antiaircraft systems, the U.S. has declined to provide them, due to fears of them ending up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) or other extremists[8]. Thus, while the FSA has shot down several regime warplanes, fighter aircraft have largely continued to operate unimpeded over rebel-held territory.

The U.S. and France have launched strikes against SAA command and control locations on three additional occasions in the last year. While these strikes have not significantly curbed the regime’s use of conventional weapons, they have slowed the pace at which regime forces can plan and carry out their attacks. This slowing pace has enabled the FSA to better prepare for upcoming attacks, and thus reduce the number of deaths both among their ranks and among nearby civilians.

While fighting between the regime and the FSA has continued, IS has emerged over the past year as the primary extremist organization opposing Assad. In addition to its capture of large swaths of Iraq, including the city of Mosul in June 2014[9], it controls portions of northern, central and eastern Syria[10]. While IS’ former partner Jabhat al-Nusra remains focused on fighting the Assad regime, IS’ goal is the perpetuation of an Islamist proto-state, where it can govern in accordance with its extremely strict, puritanical interpretation of Islam.

The strength of IS has benefited Assad; he has cited IS’s extreme brutality as evidence that he must remain in power and crush his opponents, making no distinction between IS, the FSA, or any other force opposing the regime. The international community’s focus on defeating IS in Iraq gives Assad more opportunities to target his non-IS opponents. While it is in the U.S. interest to play a leading role in dislodging IS from its strongholds in Iraq, it risks losing influence over the Syrian opposition if it does not continue its actions in Syria. The FSA may look to other actors, such as Saudi Arabia, to help it fight Assad if it feels it is being ignored by the U.S.[11]

U.S. support, including air and missile strikes, has helped the FSA endure in the face of regime attacks. However, Syria’s non-extremist opposition faces considerable challenges. While IS’ extreme governance model of what a post-Assad Syria might look like is imposing, and is attracting thousands of foreign fighters[12], the FSA’s potential democratic and pluralist model has not inspired to the same extent. The vulnerability of the FSA and the areas it holds to regime air strikes is a significant weakness. If the U.S. insists that Assad must not be allowed to remain in power[13], he is likely to focus his attacks on the FSA, potentially overwhelming it, while leaving the U.S.-led coalition to fight IS.


Endnotes:

[1] “Syria/Syrian chemical programme – National executive summary of declassified intelligence.” Ministre de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères, September 3, 2013. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Syrian_Chemical_Programme.pdf

[2] “Bodies still being found after alleged Syria chemical attack: opposition.” Daily Star, August 22, 2013 http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Aug-22/228268-bodies-still-being-found-after-alleged-syria-chemical-attack-opposition.ashx

[3] “Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013.” White House, August 30, 2013 https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

[4] Shanker, Thom, C. J. Chivers and Michael R. Gordon. “Obama Weighs ‘Limited’ Strikes Against Syrian Forces.” New York Times, August 27, 2013. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/world/middleeast/obama-syria-strike.html

[5] Walt, Vivienne. “France’s Case for Military Action in Syria.” TIME, August 31, 2013. https://world.time.com/2013/08/31/frances-case-for-military-action-in-syria

[6] “Syria: Dozens of Government Attacks in Aleppo.” Human Rights Watch, December 21, 2013. https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/21/syria-dozens-government-attacks-aleppo

[7] Mazzetti, Mark, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt. “Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria.” New York Times, August 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/world/middleeast/cia-syria-rebel-arm-train-trump.html

[8] Seldin, Jeff and Jamie Dettmer. “Advanced Weapons May Reach Syrian Rebels Despite US Concerns.” Voice of America, October 26, 2015. https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/advanced-weapons-may-reach-syrian-rebels-despite-us-concerns

[9] Sly, Liz and Ahmed Ramadan. “Insurgents seize Iraqi city of Mosul as security forces flee.” Washington Post, June 10, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/insurgents-seize-iraqi-city-of-mosul-as-troops-flee/2014/06/10/21061e87-8fcd-4ed3-bc94-0e309af0a674_story.html

[10] Gilsinan, Kathy. “The Many Ways to Map the Islamic ‘State.’” Atlantic, August 27, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/08/the-many-ways-to-map-the-islamic-state/379196

[11] Chivers, C.J. and Eric Schmitt. “Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms.” New York Times, February 25, 2013.
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/world/middleeast/in-shift-saudis-are-said-to-arm-rebels-in-syria.html

[12] Karadsheh, Jomana, Jim Sciutto and Laura Smith-Spark. “How foreign fighters are swelling ISIS ranks in startling numbers.” CNN, September 14, 2014. https://www.cnn.com/2014/09/12/world/meast/isis-numbers/index.html

[13] Wroughton, Lesley and Missy Ryan. “U.S. insists Assad must go, but expects he will stay.” Reuters, June 1, 2014. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria/u-s-insists-assad-must-go-but-expects-he-will-stay-idINKBN0EC1FE20140601

Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Michael D. Purzycki Syria United States

Options for African Nations Regarding Economic Collaboration with the U.S. and China

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


Ekene Lionel is the Executive Director for Military Africa.  He can be found on Twitter @LionelfrancisNG.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States and the People’s Republic of China are competing below the threshold of war for influence in Africa.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 27, 2020.

Author and / or Point of View:  The author believes that the possibility of a U.S.-Chinese economic collaboration in Africa is the only way forward, and that this collaboration will be key to competition in Africa below the threshold of war. The article is written from the point of view of Africa’s relationship between both major powers.

Background:  China is an increasingly important player in the politics, economic development, and security of Africa. China has prioritized strong diplomatic relations and political ties with African states. Beijing’s ideological aspiration, anchored on solidarity amongst the Third World countries, is appealing to African states.

Significance:  With China’s focus on Africa’s rich resources is to fuel its own domestic economic growth, this has placed it in direct competition with the United States.

Option #1:  The U.S. increases bilateral trade and investment in Africa to compete with China below the threshold of war.

Although China and the United States employ different strategies and tactics in Africa, they share very similar interests, and that their competition has been largely confined to the economic domain. Even though there is a fundamental distrust between both nations, particularly as the U.S. is cautious of China’s military entry into Africa, there is still much room for their cooperation in promoting peace and economic development on the continent.

With that said, the U.S. currently lacks a comprehensive approach to multilateral issues such as regional trade, governance, and infrastructural development that will serve Africa better than what China offers. Since trade is vital to Africa’s economic future and to improving lives and livelihoods, the U.S. can recognize that much of China’s appeal is its willingness to respond to Africa’s developmental priorities, and to project Africa as a promising hub for foreign investment. For several decades, U.S. investment is still heavily concentrated in the natural resource sector. Instead, for a long-term, sustainable economic growth, and development in Africa, America can identify and promote other sectors where U.S. businesses might have competitive advantages.

The United States can also work with African countries to take full advantage of both African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and worldwide trading opportunities and send exports to emerging markets such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil (BRIC). The AGOA, which was signed between 2002 and 2008, lowers tariff barriers for entry into the United States of African-produced textiles and other commodities[1].

Besides trade and foreign direct investment, America can leverage its relationship with Africa to encourage improvements in human rights practices and the pursuance of Western-style liberal democracy. In contrast, China has a policy of no political strings attached to its aid. Beijing maintains close relations with African governments whether they are democracies, autocracies, military regimes, or Islamists.

Risk:  Increased U.S. trade and investment in Africa angers China, who then takes steps to roll back U.S. efforts in Africa or elsewhere.

Gain:  This option will appeal to African nations on the basis of a common U.S-African interest in trade negotiations. At present, Africa has just 2 percent of all world trade, this is still low considering a large number of resources present in Africa. The U.S. will have to convince companies to invest in the region, and also opening its markets further to African exports.

Option #2:  The U.S. and China collaborate economically in Africa.

Militarily, the United States has a robust presence in Africa, and is particularly active in anti-piracy and counter-terror efforts, operating up to 29 different bases in the continent[2]. China cannot hope to match or contest U.S. military dominance in Africa. Africa is no stranger to conflict as the continent has been subjected to constant warfare for the past several decades. Africa will fiercely resist any attempt of international armed struggle for clout within the continent.

The United States and China use essentially the same political, economic, military, and cultural tools for implementing their policies in Africa. For China, the country has placed itself as the infrastructural vanguard of the new frontier, since Africa is now considered the fastest urbanizing continent globally. According to a 2017 report by the International Monetary Fund, in 2017, Africa boasted seven of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world[3].

Thus, China has position itself to capitalize and exploit this growth. Since 2005, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) China Global Investment Tracker determined that the total value of Chinese investments and construction in Africa is nearing $2 trillion[4]. The Chinese investment is compared with the just $39 billion combined trade value for the United States according to a 2017 United States Agency for International Development report. The U.S. is it Africa’s third-largest trading partner behind China and the European Union.

To consolidate its robust economic influence, China recently launched a $1 billion Belt and Road infrastructure fund for Africa, and a $60 billion African aid package[5]. Even though China is presenting itself humbly in its interaction with Africa, it has been accused of saddling developing countries with substantial volumes of hidden debt through its Belt and Road Initiative. This humility is rapidly changing as China’s political and economic power increases. As China looks to diversify its trade and investment relationships amid the protracted trade war with the U.S, Beijing’s opaqueness in issuing loans means debt burdens for recipient countries, which can cause potential problems for the African economy.

For now, Chinese firms have been actively building ports, roads, and railways to enhance integration and trade between African nations, mainly under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). AfCFTA intends to bring together all 55 African Union member states into the world’s largest free trade area, covering over 1.2 billion people. Besides, China now has more diplomatic offices in Africa than the U.S., and in some countries, Chinese influence counts for more[6].

In contrast, being the leader of the Western world since the end of World War II, the United States is sometimes perceived in Africa as insensitive and arrogant. U.S.-Africa trade has dipped in recent years. Nearly all of the assistance provided to Africa by the United States is in the form of grants and aids to Africa has been running at about $8 billion annually.

If the U.S continues to pursue military dominance or competition with China even below the threshold of war, it risks being a step or even two behind China in Africa for a long time. U.S. interests in Africa remain shaped, to its own detriment, by a perceived competition with China. The U.S. may accomplish more by focusing on areas of current or potential collaboration and to pay less attention to the debilitating debate about U.S-China competition.

Washington can collaborate with China, smoothing the way to trade will help more entrepreneurial African states, especially those with the thriving private business sector, to grow where it would be welcomed by the new generation of dynamic African entrepreneurs.

While there are areas in Africa where China and the United States might compete as major powers, especially below the threshold of war, there are many more areas where they can cooperate. For example, both Countries have a successful agricultural sector, components of which could be combined and adapted to improve production in Africa.

At this point, America likely cannot sit idly while countries such as China become more engaged with the aspirations of Africa’s next generation of leaders. Frankly, China is not a strategic threat to the United States in Africa. However, Beijing could pose serious political and commercial challenges for influence. Nonetheless, by engaging China more on Africa-centric socio-economic, diplomatic, and infrastructural development can the U.S. meet this challenge effectively.

Risk:  Chinese and U.S. investments in Africa further entangle the two nations and cause both to hesitate to take more important actions to preserve national security.

Gain:  A coordinated and dedicated diplomatic, commercial, and security strategy can increase U.S. investment and challenge Chinese influence in Africa.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), https://agoa.info/about-agoa.html

[2] Nick Turse, Pentagon’s map of US bases in Africa, The Intercept, February 27, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/02/27/africa-us-military-bases-africom

[3] IMF Annual Report 2017, Promoting inclusive growth, 2017, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/ar/2017/eng/pdfs/IMF-AR17-English.pdf

[4] AEI, China Global Investment Tracker, 2005-2019, https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/China-Global-Investment-Tracker-2019-Fall-FINAL.xlsx

[5] Silk Road Briefing, US$ 1 Billion Belt & Road Africa Fund Launched, July 04, 2019, https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2019/07/04/us-1-billion-belt-road-africa-fund-launched

[6] Ben Doherty , The Guardian, China leads world in number of diplomatic posts, leaving US in its wake, Tuesday 26 Nov 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/27/china-leads-world-in-number-of-diplomatic-posts-leaving-us-in-its-wake

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Africa Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Ekene Lionel Option Papers United States

Alternative Future: An Assessment of U.S. Re-Engagement with Hungary in 2035

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


Rocco P. Santurri III is an independent Financial Representative and Security Consultant.  He also serves as a Civil Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves. He recently completed an assignment with the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary.  While there, he conducted polling throughout the country to capture populace sentiment on a host of national and international issues. He also conducted strategic communications initiatives through the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. He can be found on LinkedIn.com at www.linkedin.com/in/RoccoPSanturri3Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of U.S. Re-Engagement with Hungary in 2035

Date Originally Written:  May 2, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a current U.S. Army Reservist. He believes in a pragmatic U.S. approach to relations with Hungary that takes into consideration the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the Hungarian human domain and their corresponding political viewpoints.

Summary:  In 2020, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused to relinquish his COVID-19 emergency powers[1]. Following this, relations with the West soured and Hungary was expelled from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since Orban’s death, key figures in the Hungarian government have signaled their interest in resuming relations with NATO. This situation represents an opportunity for the U.S. to re-establish relations with Hungary.

Text:  As the U.S. prepares for strategic level talks with the Government of Hungary, Washington’s strategy of re-engagement is under intense scrutiny. Most political pundits assumed the U.S. would adopt a fresh approach in the chaotic post-Orban era, as the memories of well-documented policy failures are still fresh. However, a review of the U.S. platform reveals a strong similarity to previous policies, perhaps owing to institutional inertia within the Department of State. While the U.S. approach can rightfully retain some familiar core elements from the past, it can also consider the Hungarian human domain in its policy calculation. A critical error of U.S. policy toward Hungary in the 2010s was a failure to understand the cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of the populace.  The projection of American attributes on Hungary set the conditions for misguided U.S. strategy and messaging that ignored populace sentiment.  This projection was compounded on a regional scale in Romania and Bulgaria, which also resulted in disappointing returns on the American diplomatic and financial investment. Examining what led to the current situation is critical, as it reveals how these failures led to a break in relations for over 15 years. Perhaps more importantly, an objective examination of the past also leads to a path forward.

Engagement between Hungary and the U.S. began in earnest following the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and culminated in Hungary joining NATO in 1997[2].  NATO was eager to capitalize on their Cold War victory by bringing former Warsaw Pact countries into the fold. It is difficult to fault the aggressiveness of NATO in seeking to exploit a cataclysmic paradigm shift in East-West relations.  But without a solid understanding of the psyche of these new-to-NATO countries, it was inevitable that relations would be problematic in the long-run. Hungary’s history spawned belief systems within the human domain that run counter to core NATO principles.

The “Golden Age” for Hungary began in the mid-1800s and represented the height of Hungarian power and prestige. Though imperfect, this era saw the upward mobility of a large segment of the population[3]. This Golden Age came to a crashing halt with defeat in World War I. Hungary lost 70% of her territory and 13 million citizens as part of the Treaty of Trianon[4]. Graffiti demonizing this treaty exists throughout the country today and serves as a painful reminder of what most Hungarians see as a crime committed against their country.  The monarchy, a symbol of national pride for Hungarians, abruptly ended. World War II brought more pain and suffering to the Hungarian psyche.  Again, a poor choice in allies by Hungary, and another bitter Hungarian defeat. The post-war years of 1956-1988 consisted of a strong political figure (albeit a Kremlin puppet) dominating the political scene[5].  Free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and freedom of the press were brutally co-opted or suppressed by the state security apparatus.

Fast forward to the rapid fire events of the fall of the USSR.  Suddenly the order of the USSR-inspired political environment was replaced by the disorder and chaos of a forced democratic transformation. Societal adjustment preceded at a glacial pace.  The uncertainty of the new order made many Hungarians long for days past.  As the years passed, the oppression of life under the USSR grew dimmer in memory, while the recollection of the order and stability of those days grew more enticing. Against this backdrop Hungarian engagement with the West began in which neither side completely understood the other.  Western consideration of Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes was lost amid grandiose goals of democracy, free markets and open borders, concepts it assumed were wholeheartedly accepted by the Hungarian populace.  The West perceived Hungary’s desire to join NATO as a clear repudiation of all things Soviet. This fostered a zero sum game mentality, a competition that the West felt was won by being the diametrical opposite of the USSR. Overlooked were the more practical reasons for Hungarians to seek inclusion, as well as populace sentiment.

As the years progressed, the cracks in the inherently shaky foundation of the relationship grew larger.  Enter PM Orban, chisel in hand and a finger on the pulse of the Hungarian population, to deepen the fissures.  While NATO and Brussels reprimanded PM Orban over several issues, Hungarians perceived life as better under him as the economy grew, quality of life increased, and pride was restored, while negative views on immigration remained prevalent throughout society.   With a super majority in Parliament, PM Orban was perfectly positioned to take advantage of COVID-19 to give himself dictatorial powers. Few in Hungary protested.  Strong authoritarian leadership was comfortable and familiar to Hungarians throughout their history.  While the death of PM Orban opens the door to reintegration with the West, the sentiment of the populace remains.

With this knowledge, the U.S. efforts can employ a realistic platform of engagement. Hungary will not be a model example of thriving liberalism and Jeffersonian democracy — the edges will still be rough.  Hungarian cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes remain rooted in their history. Hungarian taste for capitalism greatly exceeds their tolerance of open borders.  “Hungary for Hungarians” remains a common refrain throughout the country. A strong leader who bends the rules by centralizing power and limiting some freedoms, but maintains order and promotes economic growth, is tolerable so long as the pendulum does not swing too far, as it did towards the end with PM Orban.

As Russia lurks nearby, a now much younger nation[6] has limited memory of the USSR. The U.S. has the opportunity to decide if an ally in the region with illiberal tendencies is better than no ally at all, for as Hungary goes, so might its like-minded neighbors Romania and Bulgaria. While this presents the U.S. with a difficult decision, the past again offers a path forward. Throughout its history the U.S. has overlooked questionable policies by an ally because they supported U.S. interests, especially during the Cold War[7]. Realpolitik amid great power competition demands it. So does the populace of a proud country of 10 million.


Endnotes:

[1] Tharoor, I. (2020, March 30). Coronavirus Kills Its First Democracy. Retrieved May 4, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/03/31/coronavirus-kills-its-first-democracy

[2] Associated Press (1997, November 17). Hungarians Vote to Join NATO. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1997-nov-17-mn-54753-story.html

[3] Gero, A. (2016, May 1). The Lost Golden Age of Hungary. Retrieved May 5, 2020, from http://geroandras.hu/en/blog/2016/05/01/the-lost-golden-age-of-hungary

[4] KafkaDesk (2018, December 5). Why Is The Treaty of Trainon So Controversial? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://kafkadesk.org/2018/12/05/hungary-why-is-the-trianon-treaty-so-controversial

[5] Balazs, S. (2013, February 21). Knock in the Night. Refugee Press, Hillsborough, North Carolina.

[6] Velkoff, V.A. (1992, October). Aging trends: Hungary. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 7, 429–437. Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01848702

[7] Boot, M. (2018, October 19). Yes, The US Sometimes Supports Warlords and Dictators So When Should We Stop? Retrieved May 5, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/10/19/yes-the-u-s-sometimes-supports-warlords-and-dictators-so-when-should-we-stop

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Alternative Futures / Alternative Histories / Counterfactuals Assessment Papers Civil Affairs Association Diplomacy Hungary Rocco P. Santurri III United States

A Wicked Cultural Problem: Options for Combating New Tribalism in 2035

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


Captain Matthew Hughes, U.S. Army, is a Western Hemisphere Foreign Area Officer. He is currently assigned to the Military Liaison Office of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil while he conducts in-region training. The opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  It is 2035 and a new form of tribalism has taken root throughout the world. This New Tribalism is a threat to U.S. interests.

Date Originally Written:  April 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the point of view of the United States in 2035 towards New Tribalism adherent groups imposing dangerous cultures on others.

Background:  Culture overrides ideological, political, or economic distinctions among peoples, driving global conflict in 2035[1]. While tremors of conventional conflict occur along fault lines between civilizations, localized conflicts erupt within civilizations as ethnicities and tribes seek to impose their ways of life upon others[2]. Governments struggle to meet societies’ demands for political and economic stability, leading them to turn inward and adopt protectionist policies, which erodes international coalitions that historically managed localized conflicts through small wars[3]. Cultural conflicts and weak multilateral cooperation accelerate the transition of predominant terrorism ideologies from a religious wave (1979 – late 2020s) to a wave known as New Tribalism, characterized by terrorist groups promulgating violent cultures based on ethnic, racial, or tribal mysticism[4]. Children are the vanguard of New Tribalism; child soldiers and child brides are cultural norms[5]. Rape and ethnic cleansing are integral in establishing a new human race[6]. New Tribalism thus “disrupts traditional cultures [by violating] even the most traditional elements of a society” by imposing its apocalyptic vision of how society should function[7]. In 2035, the U.S. faces the wicked problem of combating dangerous cultures of New Tribalism adherents before they topple governments, beget genocide, prompt mass migrations, and trigger regional instability.

Significance:  Although New Tribalism movements face inward as adherents seek to purify their homelands, their harmful cultures threaten regional political and economic stability. These groups seek to unify and consolidate adherents of their cultures, often across international boundaries. The scope of effects as these violent cultures spread includes genocide, massive volumes of displaced persons, ousting national-level political figures, and geographic impacts. The U.S. response will establish a precedent on how to combat New Tribalism’s dangerous cultures in a global dynamic where isolationism has become the norm.

Option #1:  The U.S. intervenes through armed conflict.

The U.S. deploys forces to countries where New Tribalism erupts in order to defeat adherent groups and mitigate the effects of their violent cultures. The U.S. threatens sanctions against countries providing external support to these groups to degrade their operations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) focuses on economic development projects and refugee relief efforts. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) engage in deradicalization efforts with former New Tribalism communities. Military information support operations emphasize legitimacy of friendly operations and incompatibility of New Tribalism with traditional norms.

Risk:  Numerous small wars with prolonged U.S. troop presence, significant casualties, and heavy financial costs, weaken the U.S. military’s ability to fight major regional contingencies. Weak international coalitions increase this likelihood and associated costs. U.S. Forces may receive domestic and international criticism for collateral deaths of children during kinetic military actions, given New Tribalism cultural norms of using child soldiers and holding child prisoners.

Gain:  Armed conflict with New Tribalism adherents delays the spread of their dangerous cultures; additional efforts by NGOs and soft power instruments will help to exterminate them. This option can degrade adherent groups’ capabilities, disrupt their operations, and ultimately defeat them. U.S. intervention may halt an insurgency and preserve national institutions, salvaging Defense Institution Building (DIB) efforts spanning decades. Intervention decreases the likelihood of genocide and can mitigate the extent and severity of mass migration. The protected government and populace develop greater trust in the U.S. as a partner, positively influencing future relations.

Option #2:  The U.S. assists groups battling the New Tribalists below the level of armed conflict.

U.S. regionally-aligned forces and / or special operations forces train, advise, and assist rivals of New Tribalism adherent groups (e.g., armed forces of conflict country and neighboring countries) to manage the effects of adherent groups and their dangerous cultures[8]. U.S. intelligence assets find and fix adherent group targets and share information with allies and partners to finish targets. The U.S. leverages soft power tools to enhance partner nation governance and its national security apparatus and delay the spread of New Tribalism cultures.

Risk:  This option relies on successful security assistance activities and multinational cooperation. Due to persistent political and security challenges in New Tribalism conflict areas, Leahy vetting will identify units and leaders among potential allies which committed human rights violations when quelling rebellions or amassing power for strongmen in recent decades, limiting possibilities for security assistance.

Gain:  This option enhances the capabilities of adherent groups’ rivals (i.e., tactical training; targeting efforts; equipment). Financial costs and U.S. troop loss are significantly lower than in armed conflict. This option affords the U.S. time to assess the developing situation and act prudently, escalating to armed conflict through decision points, if deemed necessary. The proximity of U.S. troops grants the U.S. flexibility to respond to dynamic security conditions and execute contingency operations.

Option #3:  The U.S. contains New Tribalism.

In this option the U.S. does not intervene directly via troops in combat. Instead, it prevents the territorial spread of dangerous cultural norms and practices by deploying forces to New Tribalism peripheries. The U.S. leads multilateral efforts to secure national borders surrounding conflict areas. USAID coordinates relief efforts for refugees and NGOs conduct deradicalization efforts with captured combatants and liberated slaves.

Risk:  This option puts the onus for intervention through armed conflict on the United Nations Security Council and neighboring countries, risking either a delayed response to genocide or no intervention if there is insufficient multinational cooperation. Hence, there is inherent risk for domestic and international criticism for U.S. inaction, catastrophic political ramifications (including sunk costs for DIB), and a regional refugee crisis. The victimized population feels abandoned by the U.S., negatively impacting relations for decades.

Gain:  By securing national borders and improving economic conditions, this option enhances the host country’s ability to defeat violent groups and exterminate their harmful cultures[9]. Containment offers a sustainable strategy with likely domestic and international support. The U.S. avoids financial costs and troop loss associated with military intervention and prolonged engagement. This option grants the U.S. flexibility to commit troops and resources to other conflicts.

Other Comments:  All options reflect the need for a whole-of-government approach to counter dangerous cultures.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Huntington, S. P. (2011). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[2] Huntington, S. P. (2011). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[3] National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global Trends: Paradox of Progress (p. v). Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/nic/GT-Full-Report.pdf.

[4] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[5] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[6] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[7] Kaplan, J. (2007). The Fifth Wave: The New Tribalism? Terrorism and Political Violence, 19, 545-570. doi: 10.1080/09546550701606564.

[8] I-VEO Knowledge Matrix. (2011, June). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://start.foxtrotdev.com/. See hypothesis for Literary Reviews 157 and 175.

[9] I-VEO Knowledge Matrix. (2011, June). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from http://start.foxtrotdev.com/. See hypothesis for Literary Review 136.

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Civil Affairs Association Matthew Hughes Option Papers Sub-State Groups United States

U.S. Options for a Consistent Response to Cyberattacks

Thomas G. Pledger is an U.S. Army Infantry Officer currently serving at the U.S. Army National Guard Directorate in Washington, DC. Tom has deployed to multiple combat zones supporting both the Conventional and Special Operations Forces. Tom holds a Master in Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Public Administration at Texas A&M University, a Master of Humanities in Organizational Dynamics, Group Think, and Communication from Tiffin University, and three Graduate Certificates in Advanced International Affairs from Texas A&M University in Intelligence, Counterterrorism, and Defense Policy and Military Affairs. Tom has been a guest lecturer at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. He currently serves on 1st NAEF’s External Advisory Board, providing insight on approaches for countering information operations. Tom’s current academic and professional research is focused on a holistic approach to counter-facilitation/network, stability operations, and unconventional warfare. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States Government (USG) does not have a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the private sector and population. Instead, it evaluates each attack on a case by case basis. This lack of a consistent response strategy has enabled hackers to act with greater freedom of maneuver, increasing the number and types of cyberattacks.

Date Originally Written:  April 24, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 29, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that a lack of a consistent response or strategy for cyberattacks against the United States private sector and population have emboldened foreign powers’ continued actions and prevented a coordinated response.

Background:  The United States private sector and population has become the target of an almost continuous barrage of cyberattacks coming from a long list of state-sponsored actors, including Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran[1]. These actors have used the low financial cost of execution and low cost of final attribution to utilize cyberattacks as a tool to stay below the threshold of armed conflict. In the United States, these attacks have primarily avoided negative impacts on critical infrastructure, as defined by the USG. Therefore, the USG has treated such attacks as a matter for the private sector and population to manage, conducting only limited response to such state-sponsored attacks.

Significance:  The number of known cyberattacks has increased at a near exponential rate since the 1990s. During this same period, these attacks have become more sophisticated and coordinated, causing increased damage to both real-world infrastructure, intellectual property, societal infrastructure, and digital communication platforms. This trend for cyberattacks will continue to rise as individuals, industry, and society’s reliance on and the number of connected devices increases.

Option #1:  The USG categorizes cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as an act of cyberterrorism.

Risk:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism could begin the process of turning every action conducted against the United States that falls below the threshold of armed conflict as terrorism. Patience in responding to these attacks, as attack attribution takes time, can be difficult. Overzealous domestic governments, both state and federal, could use Option #1 to suppress or persecute online social movements originating in the United States.

Gain:  Defining cyberattacks against the United States’ private sector and population as cyberterrorism will utilize an established framework that provides authorities, coordination, and tools while simultaneously pressuring the USG to respond. Including the term “digital social infrastructure” will enable a response to persistent efforts by state actors to create divisions and influence the United States population. Option #1 also creates a message to foreign actors that the continued targeting of the United States private sectors and population by cyberattacks will begin to have a real cost, both politically and financially. A stated definition creates standard precedence for the use of cyberattacks not to target the United States’ private sector and population outside of declared armed conflict, which has been applied to other weapon systems of war.

Option #2:  The USG maintains the current case by case response against cyberattacks.

Risk:  The private sector will begin to hire digital mercenaries to conduct counter-cyberattacks, subjecting these companies to possible legal actions in United States Courts, as “hack the hacker” is illegal in the United States[2]. Cyberattacks conducted by the United States private sector could drag the United States unknowingly into an armed conflict, as responses could rapidly escalate or have unknown second-order effects. Without providing a definition and known response methodology, the continued use of cyberattacks will escalate in both types and targets, combined with that U.S. adversaries not knowing what cyberattack is too far, which could lead to armed conflict.

Gain:  Option #2 allows a case by case flexible response to individual cyberattacks by the USG. Examining the target, outcome, and implication allows for a custom response towards each event. This option maintains a level of separation between the private sector operating in the United States and the USG, which may allow these organizations to operate more freely in foreign countries.

Other Comments:  Although there is no single USG definition for terrorism, all definitions broadly include the use of violence to create fear in order to affect the political process. Cyberterrorism does not include the typical act of violence against a person or property. This lack of physical violence has led some administrations to define cyberattacks as “cyber vandalism[3],” even as the cyberattack targeted the First Amendment. Cyberattacks are designed to spread doubt and fear in the systems that citizens use daily, sowing fear amongst the population, and creating doubt in the ability of the government to respond.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] “Significant Cyber Incidents.” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Apr. 2020, http://www.csis.org/programs/technology-policy-program/significant-cyber-incidents.

[2] “Hacking Laws and Punishments.” Findlaw, Thomson Reuters, 2 May 2019, criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/hacking-laws-and-punishments.html.

[3] Fung, Brian. “Obama Called the Sony Hack an Act of ‘Cyber Vandalism.’ He’s Right.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/12/22/obama-called-the-sony-hack-an-act-of-cyber-vandalism-hes-right/.

Cyberspace Option Papers Policy and Strategy Thomas G. Pledger United States

Options for the U.S. to Wage Conflict in the Cognitive Domain

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


Todd Schmidt currently serves as an active-duty military service member.  He can be found on Twitter @Dreamseed6 and hosts his scholarly work at www.toddandrewschmidt.com.  His views are his own.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization, or group.


National Security Situation:  U.S. challenges to waging conflict in the cognitive domain.

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 22, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author’s body of scholarly work focuses primarily on the influence of military elites on national security through the lens of epistemic community theory. This article is written from the point of view of an international relations/foreign policy scholar assessing challenges in future conflict through the lens of political psychology.

Background:  Humans live in bounded reality – a reality bounded by cognitive limitations[1]. Humans see the world they want, not as it is. The complexity of the world triggers information overload in the mind. Coping with complexity, humans use mental shortcuts to filter information that informs decision-making. Mental shortcuts, known as heuristics, are influenced by personal human factors.

In political psychology, human factors include emotions, belief systems, culture, education, psychological/behavioral attributes, and experiences that filter the overwhelming information to which humans are exposed[2]. Information filters reinforce perceptions of reality that conform to values and beliefs, or “operational code[3].” Filters act as cognitive limitations in the mind and the cognitive domain, which creates vulnerabilities and permits influence.

Current operational environments witness adversaries increasingly avoiding conventional conflict and achieving their objectives through other means of influence. The consequence is a future of persistent, unending great power competition that resides in a gray zone between war and peace. Adversaries will challenge U.S. power in this gray zone to erode strategic advantage and influence action. According to military doctrine, adversaries currently deploy capabilities “in all domains – Space, Cyber, Air, Sea, and Land” to challenge U.S. power[4]. This doctrine denies the cognitive domain.

Significance:  The cognitive domain will gain prominence in future strategic environments, conflict, and multi-domain operations. The cognitive domain of war has been explored and contested for centuries. Ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu refers to winning war through intelligence, information, and deception; attacking enemies where they are least prepared; and subduing adversaries indirectly without fighting. To win campaigns of influence in the cognitive domain requires achieving cognitive superiority.

Current Chinese military doctrine recognizes the importance of cognitive superiority, particularly in pre-kinetic stages of war. In pre-kinetic stages, unconventional “attacks” in the cognitive domain will shape how adversarial populations think. Human capital will be targeted. Targets will include societal weaknesses, social networks, and cyber and information systems. By weakening or defeating “systems” across all domains, below the threshold of kinetic conflict, an adversary’s strategic advantages, defenses, and deterrent capabilities are compromised[5].

Cognitive superiority is achieved through education and professional development, organizational learning and adaptability, technological advantage, and leadership. Taken together, these means translate into the ability to gather, decipher, process, and understand tremendous amounts of data and information faster than the enemy. Fusing and communicating knowledge faster than a competitor ensures the ability to disrupt enemy decision-cycles; influence their perceived reality; and impose U.S. will.

Option #1:  The U.S. improves public education, which includes a reevaluation of its investment in human capital, education systems, and professional development.

Risk:  Public education and pursuance of tertiary education will continue to fall behind U.S. allies and adversaries[6]. American society will be targeted by misinformation and influence campaigns; and bombardment by opinions masquerading as fact. The public will be challenged in discerning the origination of attacks, whether they originate domestically, outside sovereign borders, or through complicity. Finally, a trend of hyper-politicization of public policy related to education will result in low prioritization, under-funding, and a society dispossessed of the cognitive complexity to question and discern truth.

Gain:  Future generations, a population of which will serve in the armed forces, will have an educational foundation that better provides for the ability to detect and discern misinformation. Those that choose to serve will be better-equipped for achieving intellectual overmatch with adversaries that the joint force requires[7].

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in organizational learning and adaptation.

Risk:  Organizations that fail to learn and adapt in a manner that creates advantage and innovation, particularly in complex, competitive environments, are challenged to maintain relevance[8].

Gain:  Organizational learning and adaption is enabled by a professional, educated, trained workforce[9]. Investment in organizational learning and adaptation builds a healthy organizational culture reinforced by professionalism, common ethos and values, and competitiveness. Such characteristics are imperative to understanding complex challenges in uncertain environments[10].

Option #3:  The U.S. invests in technological innovation and advantage.

Risk:  Adversaries will forage and steal intellectual property. They have done so for decades, unhindered and unpunished[11]. American business, venture capital, and entrepreneurs, as well as the U.S. economy as a whole, will be unnecessarily impeded in the ability to compete in a world economy, threatening U.S. national interests.

Gain:  American entrepreneurial spirit is motivated and sustained by the advantages and rewards of a market-driven economy. The profit and gain achieved through investment in and maintenance of technological innovation and advantage fosters economic productivity. Taken together, these dynamics incentivize public policy that creates and fosters healthy, competitive, and profitable business environments and practices[12].

Option #4:  The U.S. Government incentivizes ‘unity of effort’ through public-private partnerships.

Risk:  Liberal democracies and free market economies may resist a perceived ‘militarization’ of the cognitive domain. Public officials may lack the intellectual curiosity or political will to recognize, understand, and engage in the cognitive domain to protect U.S. interests. Private-sector leaders and the public may be wary of partnering with the government. Leading a synchronized ‘unity of effort’ across governmental institutions and the private-sector is an incredibly challenging and complex task.

Gain:  With safeguards to civil liberties, the synergy between public- and private-sector efforts to achieve cognitive superiority would overcome adversarial incursion, influence, and competition in the cognitive domain.

Other Comments:  In a future epoch, the current era will be considered transitional and revolutionary. In this revolutionary era, the U.S. will be required to continually assess and ensure that adversaries and the strategic environment do not outpace the intellectual capacity of leaders, government, and society to understand and harness the age in which we live.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mintz, A. and K. DeRouen. (2010). Understanding foreign policy decision making. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Cottam, M., E. Mastors, T. Preston and B. Dietz. (2016). Introduction to Political Psychology, 3rd Ed. New York: Routledge.

[3] George, A. (1969). “The ‘operational code’: A neglected approach to the study of political leaders and decision-making.” International studies quarterly. 13:2. 190-222.

[4] U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2018). “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.” TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.tradoc.army.mil/Portals/14/Documents/MDO/TP525-3-1_30Nov2018.pdf

[5] Laird, B. (2017). “War Control: Chinese Writings on the Control of Escalation in Crisis and Conflict.” Center for a New American Security. March 20. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/war-control

[6] OECD. (2019). “United States.” Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2019_1e0746ed-en#page1.

[7] Joint Staff. (2019). “Developing Today’s Joint Officers for Tomorrow’s Ways of War.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff Vision and Guidance for Professional Military Education and Talent Management. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/MECC2019/jcs_vision_pme_tm_draft.pdf?ver=2019-10-17-143200-470

[8] Darwin, C. (1859). The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Reprinted in 1957. New York: Random House.

[9] Schmidt, T. (2013). “Design, Mission Command, and the Network: Enabling Organizational Adaptation.” The Land Warfare Papers. No 97. August. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://ausa.org/files/design-mission-command-and-networkpdf

[10] Pierce, J. (2010). “Is the Organizational Culture of the U.S. Army Congruent with the Professional Development of Its Senior Level Officer Corps?” The Letort Papers. September. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/2097.pdf

[11] Department of Justice. (2020). “Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases.” Press Release. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/harvard-university-professor-and-two-chinese-nationals-charged-three-separate-china-related

[12] Gill, I. (2020). “Whoever leads in artificial intelligence in 2030 will rule the world until 2100.” Brookings Institute. Retrieved April 20, 2020 from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2020/01/17/whoever-leads-in-artificial-intelligence-in-2030-will-rule-the-world-until-2100

2020 - Contest: Civil Affairs Association Writing Contest Civil Affairs Association Mindset Option Papers Todd Schmidt United States

Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

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


Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian 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 China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. He believes in the importance of employing all national instruments of power in warfare in a comprehensive approach, including non-state actors as well as allies, coalition forces, and partners. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how China plans to achieve its objectives.

Summary:  The Thucydides trap – it is a phenomenon destining a hegemon and an emerging power to war. The People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are currently following this schema. China aims at reaching a status above all others. To achieve that, it employs all instruments of national power in a concerted smart power approach, led by the constant political leadership. China fills emerging gaps in all domains and exploits U.S. isolationism.

Text:  The People’s Republic of China and the U.S. are competing actors. As an emerging power, China challenges the current hegemon[1]. Whereas the U.S. sees itself “first” amongst others[2], China aims at being “above” all[3]. To achieve this goal, China adheres to a whole of nation approach[4]. In the current stage of national resurrection, China will not challenge the U.S. in a direct approach with its military[5]. However, it balances hard and soft power, consequently employing smart power[6]. Within this concept, China follows examples of the U.S., further develops concepts, or introduces new ones. Foremost, China is willing to fill all emerging gaps the U.S. leaves in any domain. Its exclusive political system provides a decisive advantage towards other competitors. China’s political leadership has no pressure to succeed in democratic elections. Its 100-year plan for the great rejuvenation until 2049 is founded on this constancy[7].

China’s diplomacy is framed by several dogmata, executed by the Chinese People’s Party that stands for entire China, its well-being, and development. China’s view of the world is not pyramidic but concentric. That given, it might be easier to understand why China is ignoring concerns about internal human rights violations, adheres to a One-China policy regarding Taiwan, and assumes Tibet as Chinese soil. Maintaining North Korea as a buffer-zone to a U.S. vassal and developing the “string of pearls” in the South China Sea are more examples for the concentric world perception. These examples are the inner circle. They are indisputable[8].

Additionally, China’s diplomacy overcame the pattern of clustering the world by ideology. Necessity and opportunity are the criteria for China’s efforts[9]. Western nations’ disinterest in Africa led – like the European Union’s incapability in stabilizing states like Greece after the 2008 economic crisis – to close diplomatic, economic, and military ties with China. Whereever the so-called west leaves a gap, China will bridge it[10]. The growing diplomatic self-esteem goes, thereby, hand in hand with increasing China’s economic and military strength. China exploits the recent U.S. isolationism and the lacking European assertiveness. It aims at weak points.

In the fight for and with information, China showed an impressive evolution in information technology[11]. This field is of utmost importance since gathering data is not the issue anymore, but processing and disseminating. The infinite amount of information in the 21st century requires computer-assisted processes. Since China gained “Quantum Supremacy”, it made a step ahead of the United States of America[12]. Under this supremacy, China’s increasing capabilities in both Space and Cyberspace gain relevance. Information is collected almost equally fast by competitors, but more quickly fed into the political decision-making process in China[13]. The outcome is superiority in this field[14].

In the information domain, China follows a soft power approach, turning its reputation into a benevolent one. Lately, even the COVID-19 crisis was facilitated to make China appear as a supporter, delivering medical capacities worldwide. China makes use of the western community’s vast and open media landscape while restricting information for the domestic population. China will continue to show a domestically deterrent but supportive expeditionary appearance.

A strong economy and an assertive military are the Chinese political leadership’s source of strength[15]. Concerning the economy, China achieved remarkable improvements. From being a high-production rate, but low-quality mass-producer, it switches increasingly towards quality industries — their chosen path led via industrial espionage and plagiarism towards further developing imported goods[16]. Automobile and military industries are two illustrative examples. The former led to Chinese cars being banned, for example, from the U.S. market, not due to lacking quality but to protect U.S. automobile industries. The latter is based on Russian imports that were analyzed and improved. In doing so, China was able to raise its domestic weapons industry, literally rushing through development stages that took other nations decades.

China requires economic development. Only a strong economy ensures social improvements for its population, a precondition for internal stability. As long as this social enhancement is perceived, China’s domestic population bears restrictions. China will, therefore, maintain its economic growth with all given means. Modern technologies will be pursued in China, and resources will be either imported or, as seen in Africa, entire land strips or regions will be acquired. An essential capstone in this regard will be the “Belt and Road Project”, connecting the Chinese economy with other relevant markets such as Europe[17]. Concentrically, China will extend its influence along this trade route and grow its influence by creating dependence[18].

Establishing and maintaining contested economic routes requires capable security forces. China’s military keeps the pace. Founded as a revolutionary force, the military achieved the goal of combat readiness. Until 2049, China’s ambition is to build armed forces, able to fight and win wars. In a regional context, deterrence is the requirement. However, China seeks more. Superseding the U.S. means exceeding U.S. maritime capabilities. China’s strategic goal is to build the most capable blue-water navy[19]. The “string of pearls” is just an intermediate step until its naval fleet as assets of power-projecting will be established. China will maintain its land forces and increase its capabilities in all other domains. Regional conflicts will be facilitated to test doctrine, technology, and combat readiness.

China is aware of its geopolitical situation. It has to deter Russia militarily while marginalizing it economically. It will avoid a direct military confrontation that might hamper economic growth[20]. China has to shape the surrounding Asian nations’ attitude so they would not provide U.S. forces further staging areas. It will exploit U.S. isolationism, influence Europe economically, and diminish transatlantic influence using the information domain.

The U.S., being a maritime power, is eager to maintain its status as a hegemon by controlling opposite coast-lines such as Europe via Great Britain or Asia via Japan and South Korea. Reluctance to directly compete with China will enable the concentric power growth to reach the U.S. territory, finally overwhelming it. Interventionism will be exploited in the information domain, and isolationism is even a precondition for China’s success.


Endnotes:

[1] Allison, G. (2018, 24). Destined for War.

[2] The President of the United States. (2017, 1). National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

[3] Ward, J. (2019, 5). China’s Vision of Victory.

[4] Ward (2019, 92). Ibid.

[5] Ward (2019, 31-36). Ibid.

[6] Allison, G. (2018, 22). Destined for War.

[7] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[8] Ward (2019, 54-61). China’s Vision of Victory.

[9] Raik et al. (2018, 22-26). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[10] Allison (2018, 20-24). Destined for War.

[11] Ward (2019, 85-87). China’s Vision of Victory.

[12] Ward (2019, 86). Ibid.

[13] Preskill (2018, 7). Quantum Computing in the NISQ.

[14] Poisel (2013, 49-50). Information Warfare and Electronic Warfare.

[15] Raik et al. (2018, 36). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[16] Ward (2019, 92-95). China’s Vision of Victory.

[17] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[18] Ward (2019, 116-118). China’s Vision of Victory.

[19] Ward (2019, 61). Ibid.

[20] Raik et al. (2018, 34). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Matthias Wasinger United States

Assessing Iran in 2020 Regarding the United Nations Arms Embargo and the U.S. Elections

Khaled Al Khalifa is a Bahraini International Fellow at the U.S. Army War College (Academic Year 2020).  He has deployment and service experience in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf.  He has an interest in Middle Eastern security and defense studies.  He can be found on twitter @KhalidBinAli.  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 Iran in 2020 Regarding the United Nations Arms Embargo and the U.S. Elections

Date Originally Written:  May 18,2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 5, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes in the importance of efforts that lead to stability in the Arabian Gulf and the wider Middle East. However, these efforts must start with a true understanding of the environment.

Summary:  The United Nations (U.N.) arms embargo will end in October 2020[1]. U.S. President Donald Trump sees this as a failure of the Iran deal, which allows Iran to acquire sophisticated weapon systems[2]. Iran altered its behavior in response to recent actions undertaken by the Trump administration, but Iran also sees opportunity. Stemming from this position, Iran will attempt to undermine the Trump administration through grey zone actions in the near future.

Text:  The Islamic Republic of Iran is entrenched in a fierce and continuous grey zone competition, where it pushes an incremental grand strategy designed to achieve net gains to protect it from adversaries and assert itself on the world stage as a dominant regional power. Iran established itself in the regional and international arenas as an aggressive competitor by using an array of tools to further its position. This competitive nature can be traced to much older times when Iran’s policies were hegemonic and aspirational[3]. The current status of Iran’s outlook is not much different; in fact, it became more deliberate and ambitious after it developed the capable means to achieve slow but cumulative gains. Soon after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the institutionalization of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) provided the Islamic Republic with a hybrid tool to control the economy and pursue an eager foreign policy[4]. On the international stage, the Iranian nuclear program enabled Iran to increase its diplomatic signaling and allowed it to engage in negotiations with the West. Regionally, the IRGC oversaw the expansion of the Iranian geopolitical project by asserting itself directly and indirectly through links with state officials used as proxies or the sponsorship of militias and terrorist organizations. The sanctions imposed through the United Nations Security Council in 2006 were taking their toll; nonetheless, Iran remained defiant, signaling a high tolerance[5]. The nuclear deal relieved Tehran, bought its leadership some time, and freed up financial resources to continue funding their geopolitical project[6]. Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq, the Houthi militia in Yemen and the tremendous lethal and financial support for the Assad regime in Syria, coincided with the 18 months of diplomatic talks that resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)[7]. The P5+1 partitioned the deal by separating it from addressing Iran’s malign behavior and focusing on the nuclear program exclusively. The exclusion of Iran’s support to terrorist organizations and nonstate actors through IRGC handlers in the deal resulted in a signal of acquiescence where Iran’s geopolitical project continued in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond.

The JCPOA was a political and economic win for Iran; it received $1.7 billion from its frozen assets and had economic trade deals with Europe, while it maintained its malign geopolitical activities[8]. In 2015, some U.S. allies in the region voiced their concern privately and while others did so publicly by saying “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror in the region and the world”[9]. Iran was winning in the grey zone to the point it began to boast to the world and taunt its rivals[10]. Nonetheless, this euphoria didn’t last long. In May 2018, the United States government led by the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose the sanctions that were lifted under the deal. This move was explained in a White House briefing by the president citing a compelling list of reasons that the deal fails to protect America’s national security interests[11]. Iran’s response was more of the same, it used its nuclear program to signal defiance and maintained its hostilities to the region.

Recently, Iran probed its regional and international competitors in a series of actions which were designed to identify a threshold of tolerance below armed conflict and continue operating right below it. In June 2019, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone and attacked two oil tankers near the Straight of Hurmuz, disrupting one of the world’s most important oil and gas passageways. In September of the same year, Iran launched a drone attack on one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil processing facilities, which significantly impacted the oil market and crude prices. In December, a rocket attack killed an American contractor and injured several others in Iraq. Although no official claim of responsibility was made, the U.S. held Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iranian backed militia, responsible. As a result, the U.S. retaliated by targeting Hezbollah in Iraq and, not long after, Qassim Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC. These actions caused a short escalation from Iran, which resulted in more U.S. targeting of Iranian proxies in Iraq. Since then, Iran has halted its hostile activities and reverted to using its nuclear program diplomatically as a bargaining tool.

Iran is observing two events that are important for it to calculate its next moves—the arms embargo expiration date and the U.S. elections in November. The U.S. is leading an effort to extend the embargo in coordination with the U.N. Security Council and urge the other E3 countries of China and Russia to support this action. This effort is a continuation of the “maximum pressure” campaign, which started after the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA to coerce Iran into a new deal[12]. Iran’s President threatened a “crushing response” if the arms embargo was prolonged as reaching that date is a significant political goal. The rapprochement established under the Obama administration created diplomatic channels, which resulted in understanding and agreement between the leadership of both countries. Iran is keen on reestablishing those channels to work towards lifting the sanctions and sticking to the terms of the JCPOA. The political investment, past gains, and official Iranian statements all indicate their high interest in reverting to the JCPOA days. Therefore, the U.S. elections is an important date on Iran’s calendar. Concessions before those dates are not foreseeable as the Trump administration continues to signal an open door to negotiate a new deal that guarantees the curtailment of Iran’s nuclear path and addresses Iran’s behavior in the region and around the world. Any move that Iran makes before those dates will be designed to incur audience costs against the Trump administration. An election year amid a pandemic crisis offers enough obscurity for Iran to remain in the grey zone and continue its destabilizing activities and policies.


Endnotes:

[1] Iran nuclear deal: Key details. (2019, June 11). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655

[2] Pamuk, H. (2020, April 29). U.S. will not let Iran buy arms when U.N. embargo ends: Pompeo. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-sanctions-idUSKBN22B29T

[3] McGlinchey, S. (2013, August 2). How the Shah entangled America. Retrieved from https://nationalinterest.org/commentary/how-the-shah-entangled-america-8821
[4] Iran’s revolutionary guards.(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/irans-revolutionary-guards

[5] Resolution 1737 (2006) adopted by the security council at its 5612th meeting, on 23 December 2006. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/unsc_res1737-2006.pdf

[6] Silinsky, M. D. (Ed.). (n.d.). Iran’s Islamic revolutionary guard corps: Its foreign policy and foreign legion. Retrieved from https://www.usmcu.edu/Outreach/Marine-Corps-University-Press/Expeditions-with-MCUP-digital-journal/Irans-Islamic-Revolutionary-Guard-Corps

[7] Shannon, M. (2015, September 29). The United States and Iran: A great rapprochement? Retrieved from https://lobelog.com/the-united-states-and-iran-a-great-rapprochement

[8] Katzman, K. (2020, April). Iran’s sanctions. Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS20871.pdf

[9] Hafezi, P. (2015, July 14). Iran deal reached, Obama hails step towards ‘more hopeful world’. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/iran-deal-reached-obama-hails-step-towards-more-hopeful-world-idUSKCN0PM0CE20150714

[10]Heard, L. S. (2014, November 3). Another Iranian proxy in the making? Retrieved from https://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/654531

[11] President Donald J. Trump is ending United States participation in an unacceptable Iran deal. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-ending-united-states-participation-unacceptable-iran-deal

[12] Advancing the U.S. maximum pressure campaign on Iran: United States department of state. (2020, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/advancing-the-u-s-maximum-pressure-campaign-on-iran

Arms Control Assessment Papers Iran Khaled Al Khalifa United Nations United States

Assessing How India’s ‘Fourth Arm of Defence’ Decreased the United States’ Munitions

Michael Lima, D.B.A., is an Ammunition Warrant Officer and has served 21 years in the United States military.  He can be found on Twitter @Mike_k_Lima and provides pro bono consulting in munitions and explosives safety on MikeLimaConsulting.org.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing How India’s ‘Fourth Arm of Defence’ Decreased the United States’ Munitions

Date Originally Written:  April 16, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 1, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes in India’s growing military-industrial complex. The article’s point of view is from India towards the United States’ defense security cooperation programs.

Summary:  India has a growing military-industrial complex that includes state-owned enterprises, and has been less reliant on the United States and Russia for munitions production. This complex simultaneously builds political ties with other nations and builds partners and allies in the world. Surround by hostile nations and increasing its industrial base, India increased its internal strength and therefore its influence.

Text:  Mohandas Gandhi said that “Democracy necessarily means a conflict of will and ideas, involving sometimes a war of the knife between different ideas.” He is one of India’s most famous leaders who believed in non-violence, and successfully lead independence from the British without using a gun.

When the discussion of a nation’s industrial base for arms production comes around, three countries come to mind, the United States, China, and Russia. One country that is not associated with arms production in the world stage is the Republic of India. But in 2017, Indian companies ranked in the Top 100 categorized by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as an emerging producer nation[1]. The achievement in production was due to a combination of defense production facilities and state-owned enterprises. The ‘Make in India’ nation-building initiative has transformed India into a global manufacturing hub[2]. India has shown the ability to produce and export at an international level, but its efforts are concentrated towards internal ordnance production known as its ‘Fourth Arm of Defence.’

At the heart of the Indian ordnance production is the Ordnance Factory Board, under the direction of the Department of Defence Production. This government organization is responsible for vertical integration of munitions with 41 factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centers, and four regional Controllers of Safety[3]. The board is one of the oldest and dates to the 1775 colonial period, with the East India Company of England and British authorities’ establishment of Board of Ordnance[4]. Along with the defense facilitates, additional facilities are run by state-owned enterprises such as Hindusthan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, and Bharat Dynamics Limited. These enterprises make up most of India’s arms production. With this amount of production, it is difficult to understand why India needs the United States’ armament.

The United States is the second-largest arms supplier to India, and Russia being the first[5]. Through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the United States supports India with major aircraft programs such as AH-64E Apaches and C-17 Globemaster III[6], and sales of armament as the AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air-launched missiles[7]. The Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation of Russia assists India with larger weapon systems such as the T-90S tanks[8] and Russian S-400 surface to air missile systems[9]. The Indian government, with an impressive military-industrial complex, does not yet have the same capabilities as its two leading importers. The Republic of India does a balancing act of building relationships with both the United States and the Russian government while having contested borders with China. Also, of note politically is India’s near war with its main rival Pakistan over the Jammu and Kashmir region[10]. These circumstances have driven India to be independent and less reliant on external support.

The United States arms exports to India decreased by 51%, and Russian arms exports to India were reduced by 47% between the periods of 2010–14 and 2015–19. [11] The ability for India to have major ownership of the supply chain of the military-industrial complex, allows India to produce munitions systems comparable to the United States and Russia. This, in turn, brings about the success required to decrease import sales from both countries. Between 2010–14 and 2015–19, India’s overall arms imports decreased by 32%, which aligns with their stated objective to produce their own major arms, but still have plans for the imports of major systems[12].

Even with an overall decrease in imports, India continues to increase arms imports from other major powers like Israel and France by 175 and 71%, respectively, in the same time frame. Simultaneously reducing dependency on world superpowers and building political ties with other strategic and critical partners throughout the geopolitical spectrum. Additionally, India managed to have an increase of 426% of arms to smaller countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius[13]. Showing the capability of their industrial complex to produce and export.

The United States and India have a partnership based on shared values, including democratic principles, and the U.S. supports India’s emergence as a leading global power to ensure regional peace in the Indo-Pacific[14]. With the acknowledgment of India’s advancement as a superpower, the United States will eventually concede that its partner has a military-industrial complex that can rival its own. State-owned enterprises increased the capacity of India’s defense production and technical expertise. While the United States is a leading arms exporter to India, working with India to use both U.S. and Indian arms exporting as an instrument of influence within the Indo-Pacific, will likely be required to offset China’s rise.


Endnotes:

[1] The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-producing and Military Services Companies, 2017. (2018). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2018/sipri-fact-sheets/sipri-top-100-arms-producing-and-military-services-companies-2017

[2] Ordnance Factory Board. About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.makeinindia.com/about

[3] Ordnance Factory Board. OFB in Brief. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://ofbindia.gov.in/pages/ofb-in-brief

[4] Ordnance Factory Board. https://ofbindia.gov.in/pages/history

[5] Pubby, M. (2020, March 10). In a first, India figures on arms exporters list. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/in-a-first-india-figures-on-arms-exporters-list/articleshow/74557571.cms

[6] The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. India. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.dsca.mil/tags/india

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Moscow Times. (2019, April 09). India to Buy Over 450 Russian Tanks Worth $2Bln – Reports. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/04/09/india-to-buy-over-450-russian-tanks-worth-2bln-reports-a65146

[9] The Moscow Times. (2019, September 05). India’s Russian Arms Purchases Hit’ Breakthrough’ $14.5Bln, Official Says. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/09/05/indias-russian-arms-purchases-hit-breakthrough-145bln-official-says-a67153

[10] Kugelman, M. (2019, December 31). India and Pakistan Are Edging Closer to War in 2020. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/31/afghanistan-taliban-nuclear-india-pakistan-edging-closer-war-2020

[11] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[12] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[13] Wezeman, P. D., Fleurant, A., Kuimova, A., Lopes da Silva, D., Tian, N., & Wezeman, S. T. (2020, March). Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.sipri.org/publications/2020/sipri-fact-sheets/trends-international-arms-transfers-2019

[14] U.S. Relations With India – United States Department of State. (2019, June 21). Retrieved April 16, 2020, from https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-india

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement India Michael Lima United States

U.S. Aircraft Basing Options in Competition and Conflict with China

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


Captain Walker D. Mills is a Marine infantry officer. He is currently serving as an exchange officer with the Colombian Marine Corps. He is also pursuing an MA in international relations and contemporary war from King’s College London.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. and China are competing below the threshold of armed conflict and trying to best position themselves should conflict occur.  One area of competition focuses on Chinese rockets and missiles, and their potential use against U.S. aviation facilities.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 27, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active-duty military member with a stake in potential future competition and conflict with China in the Pacific. The options are presented from the point of view of the United States.

Background:  In recent decades, the People’s Liberation Army within the People’s Republic of China has invested heavily in conventional cruise and ballistic missiles of several types. Today the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has thousands of missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers[1]. Their rocket force is among the premier in the world – U.S. and Russian militaries have not kept pace with Chinese missile development and deployment because, until recently, they were constrained by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Chinese missiles are more than capable of targeting fixed U.S. bases and ships. A recent Center for New American Security report noted that “…a preemptive missile strike against the forward bases that underpin U.S. military power in the Western Pacific could be a real possibility” and named it “the greatest military threat” to U.S. interests in Asia[2]. Analysis of images from missile ranges in the Gobi Desert indicates that the primary targets for these missiles are U.S. aircraft carriers and fixed aviation facilities like airplane hangers and runways[3]. The missiles have repeatedly been highlighted in military parades and are the cornerstone of the PLA’s capability to defeat and deter U.S. military action in the South and East China Seas and their anti-access, area-denial network[4].

Significance:  The increasing threat from Chinese missiles will prevent U.S. forces from being able to credibly threaten the use of force in the seas around China and the First Island Chain because of the extreme risk to U.S. bases and large ships. Without the credible ability to employ force in support of foreign policy objectives in the region, the U.S. may be unable to fulfill treaty obligations to allies in the region and will cede one of its primary tools for competition and foreign policy. The capability to credibly threaten the use of force is the cornerstone of U.S. deterrence in the region.

Option #1:  The United States can embark on a multi-national, multi-agency effort to build dual-use aviation facilities across the First Island Chain. Because the most of the First Island Chain is comprised of U.S. treaty allies, the U.S. can work with allies and partners to rapidly construct a large number of runways and aviation facilities for civilian and military use by foreign partners, which would become available for U.S. military use in the event of a conflict. There are also dozens if not hundreds of derelict runways from the Second World War across the First Island Chain that could be renovated at lower cost than new construction.

Risk:  Such a building program would be expensive, and would have to significantly increase the number of available airfields to achieve the desired effect. This option is also contingent up U.S. partners and allies accepting the U.S. construction programs and the proliferation of airfields on their sovereign territory which may face local political resistance. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  A significant proliferation of dual-use runways in the First Island Chain would complicate Chinese targeting and force the PLA to spread out their missiles across many more targets, limiting their effectiveness. This building plan would also serve as a type of foreign aid – is it a non-confrontational approach to competition with China and would be a gift to our partners because the airfields and support facilities would be intended for partner use and civilian use in times short of armed conflict.

Option #2:  The U.S. can invest in amphibious aircraft that do not need to operate from runways. Legacy U.S. amphibious aircraft like the PBY-Catalina, also call the ‘Flying Boat’ and the Grumman Albatross were highly effective as utility transports, search and rescue, and maritime patrol craft during the Second World War into the 1980s in the case of the Albatross. These aircraft are capable of operating from conventional runways or directly from the sea – which makes strikes on runways and traditional aviation facilities ineffective towards preventing their operation. These planes are able to operate from any coastal area or inland waterway. Other militaries in the region including the Chinese, Russian and Japanese are already modernizing and upgrading their respective fleets of amphibious aircraft.

Risk:  The risk to this option is that reinvestment in amphibious aircraft could be expensive for the U.S. military or too much of a burden for a niche capability. The risk is also that amphibious aircraft are not capable of performing the necessary roles or do not posses the necessary capabilities for operations in against a peer-adversary like China. There is also a risk that this option could spur an arms race with China or spur increased missile development.

Gain:  The advantage of this option is that it mitigates the risk to U.S. aircraft in the First Island Chain by creating a reserve of aircraft not tied to easily targeted, fixed-bases. Also, amphibious aircraft can be deployed worldwide – and are relevant beyond East Asia. This option does not depend on allies or partners and the capability to operate from the water can be employed in any theater, against any threat, not just in the Pacific.

Other Comments:  Other types of unconventional aircraft may also be considered for development and acquisition. Wing-in-Ground-Effect vehicles can function like aircraft and operate completely from the water and aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capability can also be employed without traditional runways though struggle with logistics and maintenance in austere environments.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] RAND Corporation. (2017). The U.S. – China Military Scorecard. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR300/RR392/RAND_RR392.pdf.

[2] Shugart, Thomas. (2017). First Strike: China’s Missile Threat to US Bases in Asia. Retrieved from https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/first-strike-chinas-missile-threat-to-u-s-bases-to-asia.

[3] DeFraia, Daniel. (2013). China tests DF-21D missile on mock US aircraft carrier in Gobi Desert. Agence France-Presse. Retrived from https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-01-30/china-tests-df-21d-missile-mock-us-aircraft-carrier-gobi-desert.

[4] RT. (2015, September 3). China’s V-Day military parade in Beijing 2015 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoC0Xcjko0A&sns=em.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Air Forces Artillery / Rockets/ Missiles China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers United States Walker D. Mills

Assessing 9/11 Lessons and the Way Ahead for Homeland Defense Against Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Peter L. Hickman, Major, United States Air Force, holds a PhD from Arizona State University in International Relations and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science in Joint Warfare. He is currently a Defense Legislative Fellow for a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Prior to this position, he worked as a Requirements Manager on Air Combat Command HQ staff and the Chief of Weapons and Tactics at the 225th Air Defense SquadronThe 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 Air Force.  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 9/11 Lessons and the Way Ahead for Homeland Defense Against Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 13, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a field-grade, U.S. Air Force Weapons Officer who has worked in homeland air defense for the past 8 years at tactical and headquarters levels. He is currently a Defense Fellow assigned to the office of a member of the House Armed Services Committee. The article is written from the point of view of an American strategic analyst viewing the emerging threat of small unmanned systems in the context of the current state of North American air defense.

Summary:   For small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), the current state of North American air defense is analogous to its state prior to the 9/11 attacks, and therefore the risk posed by an sUAS attack is currently high. However, the lessons of 9/11 for adapting air defense to a new class of threat provides a model to prepare for the threat of sUAS before an attack occurs.

Text:  The beginning of the twenty first century has seen rapid development of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). Violent extremist organizations and others with malign intent have already demonstrated the threat posed by sUAS in attacks overseas. Though a successful attack has not yet occurred in North America, current limitations of the North American air defense system suggest that chances of defeating one when it does occur are very low. However, the hard lessons of the 9/11 attacks provide a model for proactive measures that will enable effective defense if an sUAS attack occurs in North America.

The first documented non-state use of an sUAS as an improvised explosive device (IED) in an attack was by Hezbollah in 2006[1]. More recently, Houthi fighters in Yemen have used sUAS to damage radar systems[2], and the Islamic State and other groups have used sUAS to drop small explosives on forces on the ground, at one point even resulting in the halt of a U.S. ground force advance on Mosul[3]. Rebels in Ukraine used an sUAS to destroy an arms depot resulting in damage that has been estimated as high as a billion dollars[4]. The first documented fatalities from sUAS attacks occurred in 2016 when two Kurdish fighters were killed, and two members of French special operations forces were wounded by an sUAS-based IED[5]. There are also reports from as far back as 2014 of fatal non-state sUAS attacks[6].

The proven lethal potential of sUAS attacks is not limited to far off battlefields. sUAS attacks on North America have already been foiled by intelligence and law enforcement organizations in 2011 and 2015, and gaps in security were demonstrated when an sUAS was inadvertently flow over the White House in January of 2015[7]. Even more alarming incidents have taken place in Europe and Japan, including a 2013 demonstration against German Chancellor Angela Merkel where an sUAS was flown onto the stage where she was speaking[8]. Another bizarre incident found an sUAS on the roof of the Prime Minister of Japan’s house that was “marked with radioactive symbols, carried a plastic bottle with unidentifiable contents, and registered trace levels of radiation[9].

Systems are currently available that can provide point defense against sUAS for a small area for a limited time. These systems are effective for some military applications overseas as well as providing limited point defense for specific events and facilities in North America. However, a point defense approach is not effective for extending the existing air defense system of North America to include wide area defense against sUAS. This lack of effectiveness is because the current North American air defense system was originally designed to defend against state actors and was updated in the aftermath of 9/11 to defend against manned aircraft attacks that originate from within the U.S.. Though the current system is not postured to provide effective wide area defense against sUAS, the changes that were made just after 9/11 provide a model for urgently needed changes.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, North American air defense was adapted in three main ways: increased domain awareness, interagency coordination, and additional defeat measures. Immediately post-9/11, NORAD & NORTHCOM gained access to interior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radars and radios which enabled the domain awareness capabilities that were lacking on 9/11. Interagency coordination tactics, techniques, and procedures were developed so that the FAA could notify air defense tactical units within seconds of detection of concerning flight behavior. Finally, a widespread constellation of alert aircraft and other defeat measures was established that would enable persistent timely response to any event in the national airspace. The net result of the post-9/11 changes to air defense was not to eliminate the risk entirely of a successful air attack, but to mitigate that risk to an acceptable level.

These post-9/11 measures are effective for mitigating the risk of the last attack, but they will not be for the next. The legacy radar systems providing surveillance for air defense were designed to detect manned aircraft at typical transit altitudes and are not well suited to targets that are small, slow, and low in altitude. The federal air traffic management procedures that form the basis of effective interagency coordination aren’t yet in place for sUAS. Though simple restrictions on operating areas exist, the lack of a comprehensive sUAS traffic management plan means that the FAA does not have the tools that would enable timely notification of suspicious sUAS activity. Finally, existing alert bases and response options assume that targets will be moving on manned aircraft scales, measured in hundreds of miles, which means that the existing constellation of alert bases and response postures are well situated to defend major population centers and critical assets from manned aircraft. sUAS operate on scales that render this existing approach ineffective, both in terms of the times and distances required to make an intercept, but also in terms of the size of the aircraft, which are very difficult for manned pilots to acquire with onboard systems, and almost impossible to visually acquire while traveling as much as ten times faster than the target.

Without effective domain awareness, interagency coordination, or defeat measures, relative to sUAS, North American air defense is in a state analogous to pre-9/11. Fortunately, the lessons learned on 9/11 provide a model of what is now required to anticipate the next attack, though the details will be different. The unique characteristics of sUAS suggest that sensor coverage volumes may not need to be as comprehensive as they are above 18,000 feet, and existing and emerging sensors can be augmented with sophisticated data analysis to better report sUAS detections that today are dismissed as radar noise. The framework for broad interagency coordination exists today, but lacks specific tactics, techniques, and procedures tailored to communicating an unfolding sUAS threat. The decreased ranges of sUAS potentially enable much better target envelope predictions which translates to much more tightly focused interagency coordination and rapid, targeted risk mitigation for any threat. Modest hardening and warning-based shelter-in-place or evacuation can provide a much larger measure of risk mitigation than they can against a hijacked airliner or cruise missile, which likely reduces the need for exquisite defeat mechanisms.

Though the existing North American air defense system is not well position to defeat an sUAS attack, the lessons of 9/11 suggest that adaptation of our current system to mitigate risk of sUAS attack may be closer we think. There are near term opportunities to weave a tailored blend of increased domain awareness, interagency coordination, and defeat measures to enable risk mitigation specific to the threat of a small sUAS. The only question now is whether this adaptation takes place before, or after, the first sUAS attack in the homeland.


Endnotes:

[1] Ash Rossiter, Drone Usage by Militant Groups: Exploring Variation in Adoption, Defense & Security Analysis 34, no. 2 (April 3, 2018): 116, https://doi.org/10.1080/14751798.2018.1478183.

[2] Ibid, 116.

[3] Ibid, 117.

[4] Ibid, 117.

[5] Ibid, 116.

[6] Ibid, 117.

[7] Ryan Wallace and Jon Loffi, Eamining Unmanned Aerial System Threats & Defenses: A Conceptual Analysis, International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, 2015, 1, https://doi.org/10.15394/ijaaa.2015.1084.

[8] Ibid, 1.

[9]Ibid, 2.

Assessment Papers Homeland Defense Peter L. Hickman United States Unmanned Systems

An Assessment of U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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.


Dr. Heather Marie Stur is professor of history at the University of Southern Mississippi and fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society. She is the author of several books, including Saigon at War: South Vietnam and the Global Sixties (Cambridge 2020 forthcoming), The U.S. Military and Civil Rights Since World War II (Praeger/ABC-CLIO 2019), and Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era (Cambridge 2011). Her articles have appeared in various publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, National Interest, War on the Rocks, Diplomatic History, and War & Society. Stur was a 2013-14 Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam, where she was a professor in the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. She can be found on Twitter @HeatherMStur. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of U.S. Leadership Potential in Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Date Originally Written:  April 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 11, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a diplomatic and military historian who is interested in U.S. history in a global context. The author is interested in the strengths and limitations of international alliances to address issues of global security.

Summary:  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) enables the U.S. to assert leadership in the Asia-Pacific region. Although U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP, he indicated in 2018 that he would consider returning to the alliance. Regional tensions make this a favorable time for the U.S. to enter the TPP as a way to challenge China’s dominance.

Text:  As 2019 drew to a close, leaders from China, Japan, and South Korea met to discuss strengthening trade and security ties. But the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the development of closer regional relations and has created a chance for the U.S. to assert economic leadership in Asia. The U.S. vehicle for doing this is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP’s origins go back to 2008, when talks between several Asia-Pacific countries eventually brought the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore together in a proposed sweeping trade agreement aimed at strengthening relations among the member countries and limiting China’s economic influence. Former U.S. President Barack Obama saw the TPP as the centerpiece of his foreign policy “pivot” to Asia[1]. Yet President Donald Trump rejected the agreement, asserting that the U.S. could make better trade deals working on its own[2].

Trump was not the TPP’s only opponent. Critics of the agreement have decried the secret negotiations that shaped it and have argued that the TPP favors corporations over labor[3]. After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, the remaining 11 members forged ahead, renaming the agreement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In March 2018, Trump attempted to put his “go-it-alone” strategy into practice, announcing that the U.S. would levy new tariffs on Chinese imports, but in December 2019, he back-pedaled, declaring that not only would the U.S. not impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, it would also lower existing ones[4]. With U.S.-China trade relations in flux and COVID-19 threatening the global economy the U.S. could reconsider its exit from the TPP.

The TPP offers a framework in which the U.S. can assert itself as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, a primary reason for Obama’s support of the deal. The agreement isn’t just about trade; it’s about international rules of engagement in areas including intellectual property, labor relations, the environment, and human rights. U.S. leaders have been particularly concerned about Chinese theft of American intellectual property (IP), which was one of the motivations behind Trump’s 2018 tariffs. Protecting US IP was also a priority for the Obama administration, and American negotiators pushed for strong IP protections in the original TPP contract[5]. With the U.S. at the helm of an alliance that would cover about 800 million people and 40 percent of the global economic output, the Trump administration could shape and even make the rules. Returning to the TPP now wouldn’t be a radical move for Trump. In April 2018, he suggested that he would consider returning the U.S. to the alliance.

Joining the TPP would also allow the U.S. to capitalize on regional discord. Despite a December 2019 meeting in Chengdu that brought together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss regional stability and shared concerns, Japan is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reduce its economic dependence on China. The Japanese government’s pandemic stimulus package includes more than $2 million USD for companies that move production out of China[6]. Vietnam and China have a contentious relationship that dates back nearly two millennia. One of Vietnam’s most famous legends is that of the Trung sisters, who led a successful rebellion against Chinese control of Vietnam in the year 40 and subsequently ruled their country for three years. Earlier this year, Vietnamese defense officials published a white paper that indicated Vietnam’s desire to build closer ties with the U.S. while drifting away from the Chinese orbit[7]. Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S. are among China’s largest trading partners, and all three were members of the talks that produced the original TPP. A restored alliance that includes the U.S. could modify its terms of agreement to respond to current regional and global phenomena.

Among those phenomena are wild game farming and pandemic preparedness. The wild game industry in China involves the farming of animals such as bats, pangolins, and peacocks, which are then sold for human consumption in wet markets throughout the country. The practice has been at the center of two global health crises, the SARS outbreak that began in 2002 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S.-led TPP could put economic pressure on the Chinese government to shut down the wild game industry and regulate wet markets more rigorously to uphold internationally-accepted hygiene and food safety standards.

If and when another pandemic occurs, the U.S. will need to be more prepared than it was for COVID-19. Some economists have indicated that Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products caused shortages in the U.S. of ventilators, masks, and other medical equipment that are made in China[8]. A renewed TPP contract could include provisions for the manufacture and sale of medical supplies by member nations.


Endnotes:

[1] McBride, James and Chatzky, Andrew. (2019, January 4). “What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?” Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp

[2] Dwyer, Colin. (2018, March 8). “The TPP is Dead. Long Live the Trans-Pacific Trade Deal,” National Public Radio. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/08/591549744/the-tpp-is-dead-long-live-the-trans-pacific-trade-deal

[3] BBC News. (2017, January 23). “TPP: What is it and why does it matter?” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-32498715

[4] Franck, Thomas. (2019, December 13). “Trump halts new China tariffs and rolls back some of the prior duties on $120 billion of imports,” CNBC. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/13/trump-says-25percent-tariffs-will-remain-but-new-china-duties-will-not-take-effect-sunday.html

[5] Baker McKenzie. (2018, April 22). “Reconsidering the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Impact on Intellectual Property.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en/insight/publications/2018/04/reconsidering-the-tpp-and-impact-on-ip

[6] Reynolds, Isabel and Urabe, Emi. (2020, April 8). “Japan to Fund Firms to Shift Production Out of China.” Retrieved April 14, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-08/japan-to-fund-firms-to-shift-production-out-of-china

[7] Kurlantzick, Joshua. (2020, January 30). “Vietnam, Under Increasing Pressure From China, Mulls a Shift Into America’s Orbit.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/28502/as-china-vietnam-relations-deteriorate-hanoi-mulls-closer-ties-with-the-u-s

[8] The World. (2020, March 23). “Trump’s China tariffs hampered U.S. coronavirus preparedness, expert says.” Retrieved on April 14, 2020, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2020-03-23/trumps-china-tariffs-hampered-us-coronavirus-preparedness-expert-says

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Dr. Heather Marie Stur Economic Factors United States

Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Hugh Harsono is currently serving as an Officer in the United States Army. He writes regularly for multiple publications about cyberspace, economics, foreign affairs, and technology. He can be found on LinkedIn @HughHarsono. 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 COVID-19’s Impact on the Philippines in the Context of Great Power Competition

Date Originally Written:  April 20, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the Philippines are important to U.S. national security efforts and is concerned that China will use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to further exacerbate U.S.-Philippine relations.

Summary:  The Philippines is currently at a pivotal crossroads, with the coronavirus hastening the Philippines’ decision to choose a strategic partner in light of actions by Philippine President Duterte. Choosing between a historic relationship with the United States or a newer one with either China or Russia, the Philippines’ actions in the immediate future will set the stage for world history.

Text:  The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has placed the Philippines at a critical point in history in terms of Great Power Competition. Through a variety of extraneous factors, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the Philippines’ decision to choose between its close historic relationships with America and a potentially prosperous economic future with its more regionally-aligned Chinese and Russian neighbors. Through careful analysis, readers will be able to understand how and why this sole event has forced the Philippines to this point in history, with this pivotal time potentially shaping the future of Asia for the next millennia.

The Philippines and the United States share a myriad of close ties, many of them deeply rooted in both nation’s histories. For example, the Philippines and America enjoy very close military bonds. In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s force structure closely mirrors that of America’s, to include similar civilian control mechanisms providing oversight over military actions, in addition to existing close relationships between the Philippine and United States’ Military Academies[1]. These relationships are further strengthened through events such as annual bilaterally-led Balikatan exercises, combined with a myriad of episodic engagements to include military Joint Combined Exchange Training, Balance Pistons[2], law-enforcement oriented Badge Pistons[3], counter-narcotics Baker Pistons[4], and regular civil-military events[5]. The Philippines and the United States’ close relationships have even extended into the cultural realm, with a mutual shared love of fast food, basketball, and American pop culture[6]. These factors, combined with the Filipino diaspora in the West and high rates of positive perceptions of America in the Philippines[7], showcase the close bonds between the Philippines and America.

However, since his election in May 2016, Filipino President Duterte has made it a point to form increasingly close relationships with China. Just several months after his election in October 2016, President Duterte announced a “separation” from the United States, with his trade secretary simultaneously announcing over $13 billion dollars of trade deals[8]. President Duterte has also regularly supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) development project, going so far as to court Chinese tourists to the point where mainland Chinese tourists account for the Philippines’ second-largest source of tourist arrivals, with a 41% increase from 2018 to 2019 and a projected 30% average growth by 2022[9]. Additionally, China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 has so far gone uncontested during President Duterte’s reign, to the point where China is developing military facilities on Scarborough Shoal, among other areas in the South China Sea[10]. This pursuance of Chinese military favor through inaction has also paid off for President Duterte, with China supplying the Philippines with aid ranging from rifles in October 2017 to boats and rocket launchers in July 2018[11][12], and even a state-of-the-art surveillance system in November 2019[13], culminating recently in the first-ever Philippines/Chinese joint maritime exercise in January 2020[14].

On a similar note, President Duterte has also sought closer ties between the Philippines and Russia. In October 2019, the Philippines and Russia signed several business agreements focused on infrastructure development, agriculture, and even nuclear power plant growth[15]. On the military front, Russia has so far made a landmark donation of weapons and equipment to the Philippines through two military deals in October 2017[16], with an additional promise of further equipment procurement in September 2019[17]. These landmark military procurement efforts have also been seen in military cooperation through the posting of respective defense attachés to both nations’ capitals, marking a new era of defense cooperation[18].

Despite being able to effectively balance between supporting historic partnerships with the United States and its new ones with China and Russia, the Philippines has now been forced to choose between the three due to implications stemming from the coronavirus. While President Duterte announced his decision to pursue “separation” from the United States in October 2016, the announcement of the revocation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between America and the Philippines was not made until February 2020, with an effective termination date of August 2020[19]. Under normal conditions, this revocation would allow the United States a total of six months to plan for full retrograde of personnel and equipment from the Philippines. However, the coronavirus has hastened this process, with an emphasis on force protection measures and a tightening of international and local travel restrictions throughout the Philippines[20]. As a result, this revocation opens immense opportunities for both China and Russia, particularly as these developing bi-lateral security pacts become an increasing reality.

The preceding is where the Philippines become a primary pivotal point in terms of Great Power Competition. The Philippines has enjoyed a long-standing and stable relationship with the West with America being a stabilizing regional guarantor, a fact highlighted in the chaotic aftermath of the American withdrawal from the Philippines in the 1990s[21]. At the same time, many other nations are looking at the Philippines as a test ground of China’s BRI, particularly amidst allegations of predatory lending and “debt-trap diplomacy[22] [23].” On the same note, others see the Philippines as being the key to forging a free trade agreement between the Russian-centric Eurasian Economic Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations community, further showcasing the critical importance of the Philippines at this pivotal time in history[24].

There is no question that multi-domain partnerships will a play important role for the Philippines to select a future strategic partner. America’s historic relationships and nuanced expertise in security programming create a strong choice for the United States as a strategic partner. However, economic and matériel promise by both China and Russia also make these two countries enticing strategic partners, particularly as Filipino financial markets struggle amidst the coronavirus[25]. The world will watch this evolving situation closely, particularly as the Philippines precariously approaches a crossroads in terms of selecting a strategic partner.


Endnotes:

[1] Steffen J. (2015). The Role of the U.S. Military in the Professionalization of the Armed Forces of Liberia (Master’s thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States of America). Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a623974.pdf

[2] Leuthner, S. & Cabahug, S. (2015). Joint Combined Exchange Training Evaluation Framework: A Crucial Tool in Security Cooperation Assessment (Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterrey, California, United States of America). Retrieved from https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=790460

[3] U.S. and Philippine Forces Conduct Joint Training in Negros Occidental. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-forces-conduct-joint-training-in-negros-occidental

[4] Taboada, J. (2019, August 30). Baker Piston 19-2 holds counter-narcotics simulated exercise. Retrieved March 19, 2020, from https://palawan-news.com/baker-piston-19-2-holds-counter-narcotics-simulated-exercise

[5] U.S. and Philippine Service Members Jointly Volunteer at Day Care. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://ph.usembassy.gov/us-and-philippine-service-members-jointly-volunteer-at-day-care

[6] Meyers, J. (2019, October 29). Ties between the U.S. and Philippines run deep. It won’t be easy for Rodrigo Duterte to unravel them. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-us-philippines-explainer-20161031-story.html

[7] Poushter, J. & Bishop, C. (2017, September 21). People in the Philippines Still Favor U.S. Over China, but Gap Is Narrowing. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2017/09/21/people-in-the-philippines-still-favor-u-s-over-china-but-gap-is-narrowing

[8] Reuters (2016). Duterte: Philippines is separating from US and realigning with China. Retrieved April 15, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/20/china-philippines-resume-dialogue-south-china-sea-dispute

[9] Xinhua. Philippines expects to attract 4 mln Chinese tourists annually by end of 2022. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-12/20/c_138646442.htm

[10] CIMSEC (2020). China’s Military Modernization Is Becoming A Real Problem For America. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/chinas-military-modernization-becoming-real-problem-america-138537

[11] Zheng, S. (2017, October 5). China arms Philippine police for counterterrorism mission. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2114152/china-arms-philippine-police-counterterrorism-mission

[12] Reuters. (2018, July 30). China donates small boats and RPG launders to Philippines. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2157406/china-donates-small-boats-and-rpg-launchers-philippines

[13] CNN. (2019, November 22). DILG launches Chinese CCTV surveillance system in Metro Manila. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/11/22/DILG-Chinese-CCTV-Manila-Safe-Philippines.html

[14] Maitem J. (2020, January 15). Philippine, Chinese Coast Guards Stage Joint Drill in South China Sea. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/philippine/coast-guards-joint-drill-01152020135718.html

[15] ABS-CBN News. 2019, October 04). Philippines, Russia ink 10 business agreements. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/04/19/philippines-russia-ink-10-business-agreements

[16] Mogato, M. (2017, October 25). Philippines, Russia sign two military deals. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-russia-defence/philippines-russia-sign-two-military-deals-idUSKBN1CU1K6

[17] Simes, D. (2019, November 4). Why Russia is arming a longtime US ally in Asia. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.ozy.com/around-the-world/why-is-russia-arming-a-long-time-u-s-ally-in-asia/220634

[18] Russia posts first defense attaché to Philippines. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-09/04/c_138365216.htm

[19] Esguerra, D. (2020, February 11). Philippines officially terminates VFA with US. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://globalnation.inquirer.net/185186/fwd-breaking-philippines-officially-terminates-vfa-with-us

[20] Santos, A. (2020, March 09). Crossing the Pacific to beat the Philippines’ coronavirus lockdown. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2020/03/crossing-pacific-beat-philippines-coronavirus-lockdown-200319022504907.html

[21] Winger, G. (2020, February 06). For want of a visa? Values and Institutions in U.S.-Philippine Relations. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://warontherocks.com/2020/02/for-want-of-a-visa-values-and-institutions-in-u-s-philippine-relations

[22] Green, M. (2019, April 25). China’s Debt Diplomacy. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/25/chinas-debt-diplomacy

[23] Pandey, A. (2019, September 05). China: A loan shark or the good Samaritan? Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/china-a-loan-shark-or-the-good-samaritan/a-48671742

[24] Ramani, S. (2017, January 07). The Growing Russia-Philippines Partnership. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://thediplomat.com/2017/01/the-growing-russia-philippines-partnership

[25] Tu, L. & Sayson, I. (2020, March 17). Philippines becomes first country to shut financial markets thanks to virus. Retrieved April 20, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-16/philippines-shuts-financial-markets-after-virus-spurs-stock-rout

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Competition COVID-19 Great Powers Hugh Harsono Philippines United States

Assessing the Kettlebell One Arm Long Cycle for the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test

J David Thompson is a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Major. He has a Juris Doctorate from Washington Lee University School of Law. He also holds a BS in Economics and MBA-Leadership from Liberty University. Outside the military, he’s worked at the UN Refugee Agency, Department of Defense, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. He holds a basic kettlebell certification and two national ranks in kettlebell sport. Look him up at www.jdavidthompson.com or follow him on Twitter @jdthompson910. 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 Kettlebell One Arm Long Cycle for the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test

Date Originally Written:  November 1, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  April 27, 2020.

Summary:  The U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) inaccurately measures fitness. The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is better, but transition to the ACFT has been slowed due to units not receiving equipment and the COVID-19 virus pandemic delaying soldiers’ ability to properly train. The kettlebell one arm long cycle (OALC) is a much better of measure of fitness than the APFT and less resource intensive than the ACFT.

Text:  The Army correctly determined that the APFT was an inaccurate measure of fitness. The APFT—consisting of two minutes of push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run—failed to test a soldier’s ability to perform the job in a combat environment. The ACFT does a good job at measuring a soldier’s fitness levels. The ACFT includes: three repetition maximum deadlift, standing power throw, hand release push-ups with arm extension, sprint drag carry, leg tucks, and a 2-mile run. Compared to the APFT, the ACFT is a much better measure of fitness.

The benefit of the APFT, though, was that it required no equipment. A soldier in an austere environment could work on push-ups and sit-ups. The ACFT requires a lot of equipment—hex bars, bumper plates, kettlebells, cones, sleds, and medicine balls. Many units still do not have the equipment to test, and soldiers cannot adequately train without access to a gym. The ACFT requires a lot of time to set-up, test, and tear down.

Somewhere between the validity and equipment extremes of the APFT and ACFT the Army could find a balance. The one arm long cycle (OALC) is simple, effective, and only requires a kettlebell. The OALC measures strength, endurance, and stamina. An OALC physical fitness test could easily take less than thirty minutes for an entire unit to administer.

The proposed test is ten minutes of OALC. To start the test, the participant stands behind the kettlebell. At the command “GO,” the participant cleans the kettlebell from the ground to the chest (the rack position). The participant then launches the kettlebell overhead as part of the “jerk” phase of the lift. The grader counts the repetition once the kettlebell is motionless, fixated overhead, and the participant has knees, hips, and elbow generally straight[1].

After the jerk, the participant returns the kettlebell to the rack position. Participants must re-clean the kettlebell between each jerk. Participants may change hands as many times as desired using a one-handed swing, but participants may not set the kettlebell down for the duration of the test. If the participant sets the kettlebell down, the grader must terminate the test.

The scoring system uses a power-to-weight ratio, enabling soldiers to accurately measure fitness despite bodyweight and size. A power-to-weight ratio incentivizes strength, endurance, and a healthy bodyweight. To calculate score, multiply the kettlebell weight in kilograms by the number of repetitions performed, then divide the product by the individual’s bodyweight in kilograms.

Score = (weight of kettlebell in kilograms x repetitions performed) / bodyweight in kilograms. Males use a 24 kilogram kettlebell. Women use a 16 kilogram kettlebell.

For example, a male Soldier that weighs 90 kilograms performs 100 repetitions in ten minutes scores 26.67. A male Soldier weighing 100 kilogram would have to perform 112 repetitions to match the score. A female Soldier weighing 65 kilograms would have to perform 109 repetitions to equal the 90 kilogram male Soldier’s score.

The minimum score for the test would be 20. The maximum score would be between 30 and 35. Final scoring standards come after a period of testing. The Army could even have different standards based on job requirements.

Not all kettlebells are created equal. To institutionalize this test the Army would need a standardized kettlebell to ensure a standardized test. Kettlebells generally come in two styles: cast iron or steel. Cast iron kettlebells are what most people probably know. They come in various sizes depending on weight and manufacturer. The grips of them vary depending on manufacturer. Steel kettlebells are used for kettlebell sport. These competition style kettlebells are the same size regardless of weight, and the handles are either 33mm or 35mm. One way to ensure the Army has a standardized test is to use a sole manufacturer. The other way is to purchase competition kettlebells.

To field the equipment to units and Soldiers, the Army would provide one kettlebell to soldiers as part of a basic issue. For those currently in the Army, the Army has several options to ensure units receive kettlebells. The quickest and most cost-efficient process may be to have units purchase kettlebells by providing a link (or links) of approved manufacturers (for example: Kettlebell Kings, Kettlebells USA, Rogue Fitness, etc.). Giving each soldier a kettlebell as part of his/her standard issue ensures the soldier has the resources to train for the fitness test. It also gives the soldiers a portable gym because the kettlebell can be used for a variety of exercises.

The Army correctly identified that the APFT did not adequately test a soldier’s physical fitness to meet current and future demands. The ACFT is a much better measure of fitness than the APFT, but it is very resource intensive. The proposed OALC fitness test gives the Army a measure of fitness that far surpasses the APFT and requires less equipment (and time) than the ACFT. The proposed scoring standard uses a power-to-weight ratio, incentivizing a well-rounded approach to health and fitness. As a personal observation, the author is currently deployed in a remote area. The author would not be able to take the ACFT in this deployed environment. The author did administer the proposed fitness test to other soldiers present. All participants found the test challenging and fun while recommending it as a standardized test with appropriate training.

Should the Army accept this proposed test, initial testing could take a period of a couple months. Using commercially available kettlebells enables the Army to implement the test Army-wide quickly and efficiently. Kettlebells provide a fun, dynamic way to exercise. They could also create a fitter military.


Endnotes:

[1] One Arm Long Cycle, Mike Stefano, July 5, 2020, retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5VdP0F-dtQ

 

Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement J David Thompson United States

Options to Penetrate Adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems

Major Jeffrey Day is a Royal Canadian Engineer officer currently attending the United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies. He can be found on Twitter @JeffDay27. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  U.S. military Multi Domain Operations (MDO) to Penetrate adversary Anti Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) Systems.

Date Originally Written:  February 27, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 20, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States military.

Background:  U.S. Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations warns of the potential for near-peer or great power conflict against adversaries who can compete and oppose the United States in all domains and achieve relative advantage either regionally or worldwide[1].  On the other hand, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 implies that if competition and deterrence fail, the Joint Force quickly penetrates and disintegrates (A2/AD) systems and exploits the resulting freedom in order to win[2]. The MDO concept at this time does not include a shaping phase. Field Manual 3-0 describes how “Global Operations to Shape” continue through the joint phases of conflict, but the tasks listed are passive[3].

Significance:  There is a contradiction between these two U.S. Army concepts. If an enemy can compete and oppose the United States across all domains, quickly penetrating and disintegrating the enemy’s A2/AD would be at best extremely costly in resources, effort, and lives, and at worst impossible. The U.S. military relies on having a position of relative advantage in an area which it can exploit to create the conditions to be able to penetrate and disintegrate enemy A2/AD. Achieving that position is essential to the successful application of the MDO concept, but the enemy A2/AD systems can post a threat to U.S. forces and maneuver hundreds of miles from their borders.

Option #1:  The U.S. military conducts shaping operations in the peripheries, exploiting the enemy’s vulnerabilities throughout the global maneuver space, to indirectly weaken A2/AD systems.

The Second World War has several examples of the belligerents exercising this option. Prior to D-Day, the Allies limited German access to weather information through the Greenland campaign. Weather intelligence from Greenland was extremely useful to accurately predict European weather[4]. Rear-Admiral E.H. Smith of the United States Coast Guard organized the Northeast Greenland Sledge Patrol in the fall of 1941. It consisted of Danish and Norwegian trappers and Inuit hired to regularly patrol the East coast of Greenland and report any signs of enemy activity[5]. Through their operations, and other missions, Germany access to quality weather information, and thus their ability to forecast European weather was greatly reduced. U.S. President Eisenhower highlighted the importance of the weather data secured by the Allies and denied to the Axis many years after the war. When President Kennedy asked President Eisenhower why the invasion of Normandy had been successful, Eisenhower’s response was, “Because we had better meteorologists than the Germans![6]” What Eisenhower really meant was that the Allies had better weather data than the Germans, a position of relative advantage which largely came from shaping operations prior to attempting to defeat the Atlantic Wall, which is an historic example of an early A2/AD system. Throughout the history of global war there are campaigns in the peripheries with similar objectives. Examples include Germany attempts to deny British access to middle eastern oil in the Second World War, and the British campaign to secure eastern Indian Ocean sea lines of communication by capturing Madagascar during the Second World War.

Risk:  It took the Allies until 1944 before they set the conditions to attack into northern mainland Europe. U.S. shaping efforts today will also take time, during which the enemy will be able to further prepare their defense or also exploit opportunities in the global maneuver space. Due to their lack of mass, the smaller U.S. forces committed to the peripheries will be vulnerable to an enemy set on retaining their position of advantage.

Gain:  Shaping operations in the peripheries can be useful by:

  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to critical resources
  • Securing, seizing, or denying access to intelligence
  • Defending access to or denying enemy access to strategic lines of communication

By retaining critical capabilities and degrading the enemy’s critical requirements, the United States may be able to force the enemy to rely solely on resources, information, and lines of communication within the enemy’s area of control. If this area of control is continually diminished through the continued execution of peripheral campaigns, the United States will be able to attack in the primary theaters at a time of their choosing and from a position of relative advantage or perhaps even absolute advantage. By weakening the enemy’s A2/AD systems peripherally over a longer period of time, there will be better assessments of their residual capabilities and duration of the weaknesses.

Option #2:  The U.S. military commits resources to ensure technological dominance within specific aspects of domains to permit the Joint Force to quickly penetrates and disintegrates A2/AD.

Through extensive scientific and technical research and development, as well as reliance on technical intelligence to understand the enemies’ capabilities, the United States can ensure that it maintains a position of relative advantage along critical segments of all domains. Option #2 will enable the exploitation of vulnerabilities in enemy A2/AD systems, permitting disruption at key times and locations. Secrecy and operational security will be essential to ensure the enemy is not aware of the U.S. overmatch until it is too late to react.

Risk:  If the enemy is able to counter and minimize the calculated U.S. overmatch through intelligence, superior science, or luck, joint force entry and MDO will fail. It also will be more difficult to assess the impact of actions made to degrade enemy A2/AD systems or the enemy may repair systems before the joint force is able to permanently disintegrate them.

Gain:  This option exploits and does not cede the current technological advantage the United States holds over its competitors. Additionally, it permits the United States to conduct short and decisive operations. Potential enemies will waste resources developing resilient A2/AD systems, with expensive defensive measures protecting all perceived vulnerabilities. To counter these measures, the United States military only has to develop specific specialized capabilities, to penetrate A2/AD at points of their choosing, therefore retaining the initiative.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Reference Publication (ADRP) 3-0, Operations. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2017), 13.

[2] TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 – The United States Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028, December 6, 2018.

[3] The tasks listed in Field Manual 3-0 are: Promoting and protecting U.S. national interests and influence, building partner capacity and partnerships, recognizing and countering adversary attempts to gain positions of relative advantage, and setting the conditions to win future conflicts

[4] C.L Godske and Bjerknes, V, Dynamic Meteorology and Weather Forecasting (Boston: American Meteorological Society, 1957), 536

[5] David Howarth, The Sledge Patrol (New York, NY: The MacMillan Company, 1960), 13.

[6] “Forecasting D-Day,” NASA Earth Observatory, last modified June 5, 2019, accessed October 27, 2019, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145143/forecasting-d-day.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Jeffrey Day Option Papers United States

Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy and theory. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

Date Originally Written:  March 7, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 23, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to U.S. relative decline vis-à-vis Russia and China.

Summary:  American policy since World War II imposed “world order,” which is fraught with the inability to enforce as well as aspirations exceeding capabilities. As a result, America is entangled in futile Middle Eastern conflicts, plagued with populism and President Trump, faced with the rise of Russia and China, debt, polarization, and public health issues. This situation prompts a paradigm shift from excess militarization to the elevation of national spirit.

Text:  In the early 20th century, a British historian named E.H. Carr made an odd proclamation: “Only the West is in decline.” The author sought to explore this idea by writing a book titled “Is The West in Decline? A Study of World Order and U.S. Relative Decline” published January 2018. This article seeks to summarize the findings of this book by making a few key points.

The United States, as the linchpin of Western civilization after Europe’s collapse in the 20th century, is not going through absolute decline. Rather, the United States is experiencing what Joseph Nye of Harvard University calls “relative decline,” which means other countries are rising as a result of America’s slowdown which can turn around. But the slowdown is yet to be a cause for severe concern. In a short book titled “Is the American Century Over?” Nye conducts an assessment and concludes that the United States is at least fifty years ahead of its nearest competitors in terms of military and economic capabilities.

But there are clear symptoms of American relative decline vis-à-vis other countries. In a number of public lectures, Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago argues that there are three evident symptoms of American decline: entanglement in Middle Eastern conflicts, the rise of Russia and China, and the emergence of President Donald Trump. In addition to this are three internal symptoms that result from Mearsheimer’s list of external symptoms: the growing national debt, polarization, and a downturn in public health. One can argue that the national debt is the biggest threat to national security. As a result of debt, the United States barely has the capacity to stem the rise of polarization as evinced by problems such as domestic terrorism and health problems such as the recent opioid crisis and the mental health epidemic. When combining these six symptoms, the resulting decline in American power is evident. For example, one of America’s key tasks during the post-World War II period was to keep Europe united within political institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. These institutions are presently fraying as a result of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and Britain’s faltering relationship with Germany.

From a big picture perspective, American foreign policy boils down to the fulfillment of one task after it emerged as the world’s foremost power subsequent to World War II, which was the maintenance of what is known as “world order.” During Sir Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” Speech in Fulton, Missouri, Britain passed the responsibility of managing world affairs to the United States after its empire had severely contracted during the 1940’s. Now, the United States no longer seeks to shoulder the entire burden of maintaining world order. President Donald Trump has made “America First” the main priority of his political agenda. World Order has always been fraught with two permanent conditions. For one, aspirations always exceed capabilities, as noted by Pankaj Mishra in a book titled “The Age of Anger.” Second is the issue of enforcement, as noted by Henry Kissinger in his last book titled “World Order.” It is simply impossible for one nation, despite their capabilities, to enforce law and order on the entire world.

These conditions have led to the failure of liberal democracy as a system that can be imposed on the world.  The result is the United States incurring ongoing costs by defaulting to a realpolitik approach towards Russia and China, and in turn the costs have led to polarization and populism domestically. America is now faced with the option of experimenting with a constructivist foreign policy and a paradigm shift from a militaristic and costly realpolitik approach to a diplomatic approach that brings multiple parties together in the way of a burden-sharing approach to world order. Combined, Europe and East Asia have a higher GDP than America; it would be remiss to not ask these two regions to increase their share of defense spending. America will eventually be forced to advance its security and economic interests to contribute its fair share to world order, while considering a shift from an offensive approach to a defensive approach to national security. Overreach and America’s unnecessary entanglement in Afghanistan, which is considered “The Graveyard of Empires”, has led to the neglect of America’s first ever foreign policy proclamation, namely, “The Monroe Doctrine.” Because of Afghanistan, which Andrew Bacevich has called “a flight of fancy,” Russia and China have found apparent holes in American defense and have penetrated Africa and Latin America to the detriment of America’s hemispheric security.

For a long time, America has traded off a truly free market system, education, and health care for militarization and the imposition of world order. International relations theorists call this “the security dilemma.” John Herz, an international relations theorist, has called it “the absolute predicament and irreducible dilemma,” which is the inability to allocate resources to social welfare due to security concerns. As a result, radical leaders like President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders who appeal to American pathos are gaining momentum. Europe, Arab Gulf Countries, and East Asia have long prospered from the U.S. security umbrella by enjoying U.S. defense subsidies that enable these regions to invest in human development instead of defense, to the detriment of American citizens. To resolve this “security dilemma,” one must evaluate the main threat, which is not a physical one; rather, the threat is a moral and spiritual one. Baudelaire wrote of the “baseness of men’s hearts” that will lead to what Kierkegaard called “the common plight of man.” From a realist perspective, this threat is relevant. Hans Morgenthau, in “The Politics of Nations,” identified six dimensions of power: military, economic, population, territory, natural resources, and spirit. As long as there is a disproportionate amount of focus on militarization at the expense of national spirit, the United States will not be able to reverse what is known as “relative decline” vis-à-vis Russia and China.


Endnotes:

[1] Azim, A. A. (2018). Is The West In Decline? A Study of World Order and U.S. Relative Decline. Brandylane Publishing. / https://www.amazon.com/Decline-Study-World-Order-Relative/dp/0692967168

Adam A. Azim Assessment Papers Budgets and Resources Competition United States

An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of the Concept of Competition as a Foundation to Military Planning

Date Originally Written:  February 23, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  March 26, 2020.

Author and / Article Point of View:  The author is a field-grade, maneuver officer with nearly 30 years of commissioned service. The article is written from the point of view of an American strategic analyst viewing the developments in the national security space since the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy.

Summary:  The U.S. Military is overextending its intellectual resources regarding great power competition and is losing its focus on core warfighting concepts. Recent national security documents have codified the great power security environment. The absence of any coherent foreign policy and subsequent strategy, coupled with over reliance on the military as the single foreign policy tool, puts U.S. military planning at a critical juncture.

Text:  Dutifully, the U.S. Armed Services (Services) seized upon the competition task following publication of the 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) and has-especially at the Joint Staff level-expended considerable effort framing[1] the military aspects of competition. At the same time, the Services are attempting to realize fundamental concepts which embrace the new challenges of a multi-domain environment with the vocabulary of competition seeping into its foundational documents. Without question, a nation’s military makes up part of its power and in the case of the U.S., holds the charge that they fight and persecute the nation’s wars securing victory through its unique capabilities. Logically, it follows then, the expansive idea of competition-at heart an international relations framework- should not be the sole conceptual focus of its military planning.

Seizing upon competition as a framework for structure and employment of the Services is understandable given recent history. The genesis of today’s U.S.’s strategic atrophy coincides with the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union left America with a sense of winning-if not hubris. The spectacular victory in Desert Shield/Desert Storm clinched this idea of a unipolar moment for the U.S. The promise of the “fog-lifting” Revolution in Military Affairs, the lack of an ideological or near peer competitor and selective military engagements (Bosnia, Somalia, Desert Fox in Iraq / Kuwait, et al) did not place demands for any type of comprehensive national strategy thinking let alone theory development. Operationally, the military was unsurpassed in its capability.

Then the 9/11 attacks occurred and the nation entered the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The opening phases of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, initially about regime change, were successful. However, lack of a meaningful goals for the successive phases of the GWOT, a lack of sustained, whole of nation effort to conduct the GWOT saw counterinsurgency and counter terrorism tactics elevate to take the place of actual strategy[2]. Simultaneously, debates about the utility of military force in such environments became more frequent in political and scholarship spheres. Frustration with quantifiable or sustainable goals in either campaign began to center on simple timelines and troop levels. Two decades of GWOT was exacerbating this period of strategic atrophy.

The military was not going to give up the initiative as it sought to make lasting impacts in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. The military design movement began to find leverage in the Services as formations struggled to achieve sustainable outcomes in their areas of operations. Design “how-to’s” began to fill the pages of military journals, institutional curricula and be integrated into exercises. Tactical formations were left to seek the best way to leverage their capabilities in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan[3].  Attempting to leverage design was further evidence of an absence of strategy. Design was an awkward and uncomfortable translation into formations which normally are assigned an objective set of mission essential tasks to master and execute.

Enter the 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy and the corresponding concept of great power competition (GPC). Correctly identifying today’s national security realities, strategic competition is-in the context of the current environment-a concept requiring more thought and analysis for it to be a useful national security construct[4]. “Competition,” as a government wide framework, is not encouraging. The U.S. Department of State strategic plan for 2018-2022 mentions the term “competition” three times; the Treasury Department’s equivalent, once. While not an exhaustive review of interdepartmental policy coordination, it stands witness to the lack of whole of nation integration, if not linkage of competition at the national level. In the absence of a definitive “competition” strategy at the national level, the Joint Staff and Services must resist the temptation to unnecessarily militarize GPC.

The NSS and NDS provide the Services a framework to begin their realignment within an environment of GPC. However, as documents such as the Joint Staff’s Competition Continuum[1] frame the role of the Services as a function of competition. This is a mistake. Strategic competition is an environment for the military and is best if it informs broad decisions in the Services’ role of man, train and equip, but not its warfighting approaches. The Continuum document reflects a tremendous amount of intellectual capacity devoted to and carefully considering the aspects of competition: it is thought provoking, but misplaced. The American military would do well to resist, once again, elevating its capabilities to fulfill a strategic gap at the national levels and instead focus on core warfighting abilities and tasks.

The Services are at a crucial stage in the planning and programming for the out years; all with fresh eyes towards their obligations in an era of GPC. The U.S. Army has initiated a well-intentioned intellectual renaissance on large scale combat operations. The U.S. Army and Air Force (and the others) are collaborating and struggling with realizing Multidomain Operations[5]. In reviving and focusing on these ideas, the Services can appropriately complement national power as an element of GPC vice being its foundation. Until workable GPC foreign policy goals are established, acceptable political risks are identified and corresponding national strategies are in place, best would be for the Services to carefully navigate the contours of GPC.

The Joint Doctrine notes mentioned earlier and related documents (ie. Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning) are not helping in this cognitive framework. Their prominent use of a continuum of conflict[6] as a foundational model conflates national strategy formulation with military campaigning. While these sample documents speak to the role of interagency contributions to competition, recent campaigns make such whole of government intentions suspect. Most notably, the continuum of completion-conflict-competition is fertile ground for obscuring definitive political objectives. A lack of political objectives upends strategy formulation. Combined, this is not the space to expand military planning efforts. Competition is without a doubt, part of the global security environment, but it is a condition of that environment, not a principle of warfighting planning.


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. Department of Defense. (2019). Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum. Washington, DC. From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233

[2] Stachan, H. (2013). The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

[3] Keller, J. (2018, January 22). The 1st SFAB’s Afghan Deployment Is A Moment Of Truth For The Global War On Terror. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://taskandpurpose.com/analysis/sfab-train-advise-assist-afghanistan

[4] Wyne, A. (2019, February 11). America’s Blind Ambition Could Make It a Victim of Global Competition. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://nationalinterest.org/feature/americas-blind-ambition-could-make-it-victim-global-competition-44227

[5] Air Force, Army Developing Multidomain Doctrine. (2018, January 25). Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://www.jcs.mil/Media/News/News-Display/Article/1425475/air-force-army-developing-multidomain-doctrine/

[6] U.S. Department of Defense. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Washington, DC. p. 8 From https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

Assessment Papers Competition Defense and Military Reform Great Powers United States

Options for a Consistent U.S. Approach to Humanitarian Intervention

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


National Security Situation:  Genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of mass violence lead to destabilizing refugee flows and constitute humanitarian catastrophes.

Date Originally Written:  February 15, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  February 24, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States government.

Background:  The United States’ responses to episodes of mass killing in recent decades have been inconsistent. The U.S. has intervened militarily in Bosnia, Kosovo and Libya. It has declined to intervene in Rwanda, Darfur and Syria (prior to the conflict against the Islamic State). This inconsistency calls into question American moral and geopolitical leadership, and creates an opening for rivals, especially China and Russia, to fill. America’s decision not to respond with military force when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people arguably emboldened Assad’s ally Russia.  Following this U.S. non-response Russia sent forces to Syria in 2015 that have committed multiple atrocities, including intentional bombing of hospitals[1]. Meanwhile, massive flows of refugees from Syria, as well as from other Middle Eastern and African countries, have destabilized Europe politically, empowering demagogues and weakening European cohesion. Climate change is likely to exacerbate existing conflicts, and make massacres and refugee flows more common[2].

Significance:  From a strategic perspective, sudden massive inflows of refugees destabilize allies and weaken host country populations’ confidence in international institutions. From a moral perspective, the refusal of the U.S. to stop mass killing when it is capable of doing so threatens American moral credibility, and afflicts the consciences of those who could have intervened but did not, as in Rwanda[3]. From a perspective that is both strategic and moral, non-intervention in cases where U.S. and allied force can plausibly halt massacres, as in Bosnia before August 1995, makes the U.S. and its allies look weak, undermining the credibility of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other security institutions[4].

Option #1:  The U.S. adopts a policy of humanitarian intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. government could adopt a de facto policy of intervening in humanitarian crises when it is capable of doing so, and when intervention can plausibly halt mass violence. The policy need not be formalized, stated or written down, but need only be inferred from the actions of the U.S. The U.S. could adopt the following criteria for intervention:

“1. The actual or anticipated loss of life substantially exceeds the lives lost to violence in the United States.
2. The military operation to stop the massive loss of life would not put at risk anything close to the number of lives it would save.
3. The United States is able to secure the participation of other countries in the military intervention[5].”

Risk:  Even with military units prepared for and devoted to humanitarian intervention, it is possible a successful intervention will require a larger force than the U.S. is able to commit, thus possibly weakening the credibility of U.S. power in humanitarian crises. Commitment of too many units to intervention could harm America’s ability to defend allies or project power elsewhere in the world. An unsuccessful intervention, especially one with a large number of American casualties, could easily sour the American public on intervention, and produce a backlash against foreign commitments in general.

Gain:  Intervention can halt or reduce destabilizing refugee flows by ending mass killing. It can also help guarantee American moral leadership on the world stage, as the great power that cares about humanity especially if contrasted with such atrocities as Chinese abuse of Uighurs or Russian bombing of Syrian hospitals. The saving of lives in a humanitarian intervention adds a moral benefit to the strategic benefits of action.

Option #2:  The U.S. adopts a policy of non-intervention during mass violence.

The U.S. could refuse to intervene to halt atrocities, even in cases where intervention is widely believed to be able to stop mass violence. Rather than intervening in some cases but not others, as has been the case in the last three decades, or intervening whenever possible, the U.S. could be consistent in its refusal to use force to halt genocide, ethnic cleansing, or other atrocities. Absent a formal declaration of atrocity prevention as a vital national security interest, it would not intervene in such conflicts.

Risk:  A policy of non-intervention risks bringing moral condemnation upon the United States, from the international community and from portions of the U.S. population. The U.S. risks surrendering its moral position as the world’s most powerful defender of liberal values and human rights. Furthermore, refugee flows from ongoing conflicts threaten to further destabilize societies and reduce populations’ trust in liberal democracy and international institutions.

Gain:  Non-intervention lowers the risk of U.S. military power being weakened before a potential conflict with China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. This option helps the U.S. avoid charges of inconsistency that result from intervention in some humanitarian crises but not others. The U.S. could choose to ignore the world’s condemnation, and concern itself purely with its own interests. Finally, non-intervention allows other countries to bear the burden of global stability in an increasingly multi-polar age, an age in which U.S. power is in relative decline.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Hill, Evan and Christiaan Triebert. “12 Hours. 4 Syrian Hospitals Bombed. One Culprit: Russia.” New York Times, October 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/world/middleeast/russia-bombing-syrian-hospitals.html

[2] “Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050: World Bank Report.” World Bank, March 19, 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/03/19/climate-change-could-force-over-140-million-to-migrate-within-countries-by-2050-world-bank-report

[3] Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” Atlantic, September 2001. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571

[4] Daalder, Ivo H. “Decision to Intervene: How the War in Bosnia Ended.” Brookings Institution, December 1, 1998. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/decision-to-intervene-how-the-war-in-bosnia-ended

[5] Solarz, Stephen J. “When to Go in.” Blueprint Magazine, January 1, 2000. https://web.archive.org/web/20070311054019/http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=1126&kaid=124&subid=158

Mass Killings Michael D. Purzycki Option Papers United States

U.S. Options to Combat Chinese Technological Hegemony

Ilyar Dulat, Kayla Ibrahim, Morgan Rose, Madison Sargeant, and Tyler Wilkins are Interns at the College of Information and Cyberspace at the National Defense UniversityDivergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  China’s technological rise threatens U.S. interests both on and off the battlefield.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 10, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the United States Government.

Background:  Xi Jinping, the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission. affirmed in 2012 that China is acting to redefine the international world order through revisionist policies[1]. These policies foster an environment open to authoritarianism thus undermining Western liberal values. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) utilizes emerging technologies to restrict individual freedoms of Chinese citizens, in and out of cyberspace. Subsequently, Chinese companies have exported this freedom-restricting technology to other countries, such as Ethiopia and Iran, for little cost. These technologies, which include Artificial Intelligence-based surveillance systems and nationalized Internet services, allow authoritarian governments to effectively suppress political dissent and discourse within their states. Essentially monopolizing the tech industry through low prices, China hopes to gain the loyalty of these states to obtain the political clout necessary to overcome the United States as the global hegemon.

Significance:  Among the technologies China is pursuing, 5G is of particular interest to the U.S.  If China becomes the leader of 5G network technologies and artificial intelligence, this will allow for opportunities to disrupt the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. China has been able to aid regimes and fragmented democracies in repressing freedom of speech and restricting human rights using “digital tools of surveillance and control[2].” Furthermore, China’s National Security Law of 2015 requires all Chinese tech companies’ compliance with the CCP. These Chinese tech companies are legally bound to share data and information housed on Chinese technology, both in-state and abroad. They are also required to remain silent about their disclosure of private data to the CCP. As such, information about private citizens and governments around the world is provided to the Chinese government without transparency. By deploying hardware and software for countries seeking to expand their networks, the CCP could use its authority over domestic tech companies to gain access to information transferred over Chinese built networks, posing a significant threat to the national security interests of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners. With China leading 5G, the military forces of the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would be restricted in their ability to rely on indigenous telecoms abroad, which could cripple operations critical to U.S. interests [3]. This risk becomes even greater with the threat of U.S. Allies and Partners adopting Chinese 5G infrastructure, despite the harm this move would do to information sharing with the United States.

If China continues its current trajectory, the U.S. and its advocacy for personal freedoms will grow increasingly marginal in the discussion of human rights in the digital age. In light of the increasing importance of the cyber domain, the United States cannot afford to assume that its global leadership will seamlessly transfer to, and maintain itself within, cyberspace. The United States’ position as a leader in cyber technology is under threat unless it vigilantly pursues leadership in advancing and regulating the exchange of digital information.

Option #1:  Domestic Investment.

The U.S. government could facilitate a favorable environment for the development of 5G infrastructure through domestic telecom providers. Thus far, Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have been able to outbid major European companies for 5G contracts. American companies that are developing 5G infrastructure are not large enough to compete at this time. By investing in 5G development domestically, the U.S. and its Allies and Partners would have 5G options other than Huawei and ZTE available to them. This option provides American companies with a playing field equal to their Chinese counterparts.

Risk:  Congressional approval to fund 5G infrastructure development will prove to be a major obstacle. Funding a development project can quickly become a bipartisan issue. Fiscal conservatives might argue that markets should drive development, while those who believe in strong government oversight might argue that the government should spearhead 5G development. Additionally, government subsidized projects have previously failed. As such, there is no guarantee 5G will be different.

Gain:  By investing in domestic telecommunication companies, the United States can remain independent from Chinese infrastructure by mitigating further Chinese expansion. With the U.S. investing domestically and giving subsidies to companies such as Qualcomm and Verizon, American companies can develop their technology faster in an attempt to compete with Huawei and ZTE.

Option #2:  Foreign Subsidization.

The U.S. supports European competitors Nokia and Ericsson, through loans and subsidies, against Huawei and ZTE. In doing so, the United States could offer a conduit for these companies to produce 5G technology at a more competitive price. By providing loans and subsidies to these European companies, the United States delivers a means for these companies to offer more competitive prices and possibly outbid Huawei and ZTE.

Risk:  The American people may be hostile towards a policy that provides U.S. tax dollars to foreign entities. While the U.S. can provide stipulations that come with the funding provided, the U.S. ultimately sacrifices much of the control over the development and implementation of 5G infrastructure.

Gain:  Supporting European tech companies such as Nokia and Ericsson would help deter allied nations from investing in Chinese 5G infrastructure. This option would reinforce the U.S.’s commitment to its European allies, and serve as a reminder that the United States maintains its position as the leader of the liberal international order. Most importantly, this option makes friendlier telecommunications companies more competitive in international markets.

Other Comments:  Both options above would also include the U.S. defining regulations and enforcement mechanisms to promote the fair usage of cyberspace. This fair use would be a significant deviation from a history of loosely defined principles. In pursuit of this fair use, the United States could join the Cyber Operations Resilience Alliance, and encourage legislation within the alliance that invests in democratic states’ cyber capabilities and administers clearly defined principles of digital freedom and the cyber domain.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Economy, Elizabeth C. “China’s New Revolution.” Foreign Affairs. June 10, 2019. Accessed July 31, 2019. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution.

[2] Chhabra, Tarun. “The China Challenge, Democracy, and U.S. Grand Strategy.” Democracy & Disorder, February 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-china-challenge-democracy-and-u-s-grand-strategy/.

[3] “The Overlooked Military Implications of the 5G Debate.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed August 01, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/overlooked-military-implications-5g-debate.

Artificial Intelligence & Human-Machine Teaming China (People's Republic of China) Cyberspace Emerging Technology Ilyar Dulat Kayla Ibrahim Madison Sargeant Morgan Rose Option Papers Tyler Wilkins United States

Options for a Joint Support Service

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hughes has served in roles from Platoon Leader to the Joint Staff with multiple combat deployments to Iraq and operational deployments to Africa and Haiti.  He is presently the Commander of 10th Field Hospital, a 148 bed deployable hospital.  He can be found on Twitter @medical_leader, manages the Medical Service Corps Leader Development Facebook page, and writes for The Medical Leader.  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 Department of Defense will reform its business practices to gain the full benefit of every dollar spent, and to gain and hold the trust of the American people. We must be good stewards of the tax dollars allocated to us. Results and accountability matter[1].” – Former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

Date Originally Written:  December 24, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  February 3, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that without dynamic modernization solutions the DoD will be unable to sharpen the American Military’s competitive edge and realize the National Defense Strategy’s vision of a more lethal, resilient, and rapidly innovating Joint Force. While DoD’s strategic guidance has evolved, its force structure has not.

Background:  Common support roles across the military create redundant overhead, separate doctrines, equipment and force designs, development and acquisition processes, and education and recruiting programs. Resources are scarce, yet organizations within DoD compete against each other developing three of everything when the DoD only requires one joint capability to support the operational requirement.

The Department’s sloth-like system and redundant capabilities across services create an opportunity for change. Reform and efficiencies realized in manpower, resources, and overhead cost directly support Lines of Effort One and Three of the National Defense Strategy[2]. Consolidation efforts could realize a 20-40% overhead[3], training, and equipment savings while providing the Joint Force access to low density, high demand capabilities.  Each Armed Service recruits, trains, and educates; develops policy, doctrine, and equipment; and manages careers separately for similar requirements. A review of similar capabilities across the services illustrates 16 commodities that could possibly be consolidated:

  • Human Resources
  • Logistics
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Intelligence
  • Medical
  • Cyber
  • Public Affairs
  • Religious
  • Finance
  • Contracting
  • Legal
  • Military Police / Criminal Investigation Forces
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
  • Operations Research/Systems Analysis
  • Modeling and Simulations

Significance:  Similar reform efforts – health care transition from the services to the Defense Health Agency – have or will produce significant savings and efficiencies. Dollars saved focus scarce resources on combat readiness and lethality at the tip of the spear.

Option #1:  The DoD establishes a separate Armed Service focused on Joint Support.

The commodities listed above are consolidated into a separate Joint Support Service with Title 10 authorities commensurate with line requirements. The line (other Services) provides the requirement and “buys” what they need. This system is similar to the United States Marine Corps (USMC) relationship with the U.S. Navy (USN) regarding medical support. In this relationship the USMC defines their requirement and “buys” the commodity from the USN.

Risk:  Armed Service requirements documents are esoteric and do not allow the Joint Support Service to plan for force structure and requirements to meet those concepts.

Gain:  Option #1 ensures commonality and interoperability for the Joint Force (e.g., one scalable Damage Control Surgery set versus 8-10 service sets; fuel distribution systems that can support all forces; management of low density, high demand assets (Trauma Surgeons, Chaplains etc)).

Option #2:  The DoD pursues “Pockets of Excellence.”

The commodities listed above are centralized into a single existing Armed Service. The Secretary of Defense would redesign or select an Armed Service to manage a commodity, removing it from the other Armed Services. The lead Armed Service for a specific commodity then produces capacity that meets other Armed Service’s operational demands while building capability, doctrine, equipment, education and recruiting center of excellence for that commodity.

Risk:  The Armed Services, with resident expertise in specific commodities may impose their doctrine on other services instead of building a true joint capability that supports line operations across multiple Armed Services.

Gain:  The Armed Services are more likely to support this effort if they receive the manpower and appropriations increasing their bottom line.

Option #3:  Hybrid.

Each Armed Service develops commodity talent at the junior officer / Non-Commissioned Officer level much like today. This talent transfers into the Joint Support Service, providing support at “Echelons above Brigade,” later in their career.

Risk:  This option increases overhead in the Department by building a Joint Support Force without eliminating existing Armed Service requirements.

Gain:  This option would create a Joint Support Force that brings understanding of Armed Service systems, culture, and requirements.

Other Comments:  Lethality requires a support force organized for innovation that delivers performance at the speed of relevance, commensurate with line operational requirements, using a global operating model. The Armed Services hurt themselves by competing within the DoD. This competing leaves the overall DoD unable to produce a streamlined force using rapid, iterative approaches from development to fielding, that directly supporting the defeat of U.S. enemies, while protecting the American people and their vital interests at a sustainable cost to the taxpayer.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Mattis, J. N. (2018, January 19). Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/

[2] LOE 1: Rebuilding Military Readiness as we build a more lethal Joint Force; LOE 2: Reform the Department’s business practices for greater performance and affordability.

[3] German military reform forecasted a reduced total force by 18% while tripling the readiness force availability to support crisis management deployments. Larger cost savings should be expected in a force that is much larger than the German military. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/opinion/30thu2.html

 

 

Budgets and Resources Capacity / Capability Enhancement Defense and Military Reform Jason Hughes Option Papers United States

An Assessment of the National Security Impact of Digital Sovereignty

Kathleen Cassedy is an independent contractor and open source specialist. She spent the last three years identifying, cataloging, and analyzing modern Russian and Chinese political and economic warfare efforts; the role of foreign influence operations in gray zone problem sets; global influence of multi-national entities, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals; and virtual sovereignty, digital agency, and decentralized finance/cryptocurrency. She tweets @Katnip95352013.

Ian Conway manages Helios Global, Inc., a risk analysis consultancy that specializes in applied research and analysis of asymmetric threats. Prior to conducting a multi-year study of political warfare operations and economic subversion, he supported DoD and homeland security programs focused on counterterrorism, counterproliferation, hard and deeply buried targets, and critical infrastructure protection.

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 National Security Impact of Digital Sovereignty

Date Originally Written:  December 6, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  January 6, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors believe that traditional notions of citizenship and sovereignty are rapidly changing and that the U.S. could gain competitive advantage by embracing a tiered citizenship model, including e-residency.

Summary:  Money, people, and companies drove globalization’s disruption of centuries of power domination by nation-states, while increasing the agency and autonomy of corporations and individuals. The balance of power has shifted, and if governments do not learn how to adapt, they will be relegated to the back seat in influence and decision making for this century. One opportunity for adaptation lies in embracing, not rejecting, digital sovereignty.

Text:  In the past 25 years, the globalization of the world’s economic systems and the introduction of Internet ubiquity have had profound effects on humankind and centuries-old governance structures. Electronic commerce has transformed international supply chain dynamics and business finance. Physical borders have become less meaningful in the face of digital connectedness and supranational economic zones. The largest multinational corporations have market caps which challenge or exceed the gross domestic product of most of the countries in the world. These changes have made international transactions – and investments – executable with the click of a button, transactions that once required weeks or months of travel to finalize.

Facilitating and empowering the citizens of the world to engage in the global marketplace has created a new dynamic. This dynamic involves the provision of safety and security of the people being increasingly transferred to the private sector thus forcing governments to outsource their most basic sovereign responsibility and reserving the most complete and effective solutions for those who can afford them. This outsourcing includes fiscal security (or social welfare), especially in free market economies where the responsibility for savings and investment is on the individual, not the government. As safety and security – personal and fiscal – becomes further privatized, individuals are taking steps to wrest control of themselves – their identities, their businesses, and their freedom of movement – from the state. Individuals want to exercise self-determination and attain individual sovereignty in the globalized world. This desire leaves the nation state, particularly in western democracies, in a challenging position. How does a government encourage self-sufficiency (often because states can no longer afford the associated costs) and democracy when globalized citizens are redefining what it means to be a citizen?

The first war of the 21st century, the Global War on Terrorism, was one of individuals disenfranchised from the state developing subnational, virtual organizations to employ terror and insurgent tactics to fight the nation states’ monopoly on power. The second war – already well underway but one that governments have been slow to recognize and engage – is great power competition short of kinetic action, to remake the geopolitical balance of power into multi-polar spheres of influence. The third war this century may likely be over amassing talent and capital, which in turn drives economic power. America’s near-peer adversaries, particularly China[1], are already moving aggressively to increase their global hegemony for this century, using all means of state power available. How can America counter its near-peers? The U.S. could position itself to exert superiority in the expanding competition for wealth by proactively embracing self-determination and individual autonomy as expressed by the digital sovereignty movement.

Digital sovereignty is the ultimate expression of free market capitalism. If global citizens have freedom of movement – and of capital, access to markets, encouragement to start businesses – they will choose the market and the society with the fewest barriers to entry. Digital sovereignty gives the advantage to countries who operate on free market capitalism and self-determination. Digital sovereignty is also an unexpected counter to China’s and Russia’s authoritarian models, thus disrupting the momentum that both those competitors have gained during the great power competition. In addition to acting as a disrupter in global geopolitics, proactive acceptance and adoption of digital sovereignty opens new potential tax and economic boosts to the U.S. Further, digital sovereignty could serve as an opportunity to break down barriers between Silicon Valley (particularly its techno-libertarians) and the U.S. government, by leveraging one of the tech elite’s most progressive socio-cultural concepts.

What might digital sovereignty look like in the U.S.? One approach is Estonia’s forward-looking experiments with e-residency[2] for business purposes but with the U.S. extending these ideas further to a tiered citizenship structure that includes U.S.-issued identity and travel benefits. One can be a citizen and contribute to the U.S. economy with or without living there. People can incorporate their business and conduct banking in the U.S., all using secure digital transactions. Stateless (by choice or by circumstance) entrepreneurs can receive travel documents in exchange for tax revenue. This is virtual citizenship.

The U.S. government could opt to act now to throw its weight behind digital sovereignty. This is a democratic ideal for the 21st century, and the U.S. has an opportunity to shape and influence the concept. This policy approach would pay homage to the Reagan-Bush model of free movement of labor. In this model, people don’t get full citizenship straight away, but they can legally work and pay taxes in the U.S. economy, while living where they like.

The U.S. government could create two tiers of citizenship. Full conventional citizenship – with voting privileges and other constitutionally guaranteed rights – could remain the domain of natural born and naturalized citizens. A second level of citizenship for the e-citizen could avoid the provision of entitlements but allow full access to the economy: free movement across borders, the ability to work, to start a business, to open a bank account. E-citizenship could be a path to earning full citizenship if that’s what the individual wants. If not, they can remain a virtual citizen, with some but not all privileges of full citizenship. Those who do wish to pursue full legal citizenship might begin contributing to the American economy and gain some benefits of association with the U.S., but they could do so from wherever they are currently located. This approach might also encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and hard work – the foundations of the American dream.

Both historically and at present – irrespective of what party is in office – the U.S. has always desired to attract immigrants that want the opportunity to pursue a better life for themselves and their children through hard work. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: the foundational concept of the United States. Accordingly, if the U.S. is the first great power to embrace and encourage digital sovereignty, acting in accordance with core American values, then the U.S. also shapes the future battlespace for the war for talent and capital by exerting first-mover advantage.


Endnotes:

[1] Shi, T. (2017, October 17). “Xi Plans to Turn China Into a Leading Global Power by 2050”. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-17/xi-to-put-his-stamp-on-chinese-history-at-congress-party-opening.

[2] Republic of Estonia. “The new digital nation: What is E-Residency?” Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://e-resident.gov.ee/.

Assessment Papers Cyberspace Economic Factors Estonia United States

Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia.  He holds a Master’s Degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC.  His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy.  He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the U.S. Presence in Afghanistan

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 30, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Summary:  Afghanistan is part of an American effort to create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles. This effort began in post-World War II reconstruction projects, the success of which rested on abstention from extending the project into countries like Russia and China and accommodating their security and military interests.

Text:  The rationale for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan can vary depending on whether one views the presence through a realist or liberal lens. On one hand, there is sufficient cause to suggest that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is based on realpolitik, where the U.S. is pursuing security and economic interests by thwarting the possibility of Afghanistan again becoming a transnational terrorist safe haven all while tapping into natural resources such as uranium, lithium, rare earth materials, and opium that are vital for the sustenance of modern high-tech industries and the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, an idealist would justify the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as part of an overall pursuit of what John Mearsheimer calls “liberal hegemony” where the U.S. is seeking to establish a world system based on the principles of liberal democracy, such as global peace and security, free-market economics, as well as rule of law and the adjudication of conflicts.

In reality, U.S. foreign policy is a balance of both approaches, where the pursuit of military and economic power is combined with principle to shape the nature of foreign policy. Unlike China, whose foreign policy is based purely on the concept of realpolitik and the pursuit of its own security and economic interests, the U.S. is one of the few superpowers in world history to have combined the realpolitik approach of foreign policy with one that is based on the promotion of liberal-democratic principles. Much of America’s efforts on the global stage since World War II have been focused on institution building on a global level in various areas of concern to all nations, such as security with the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and economics through the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and international law through the creation of the United Nations. The United States has applied both realpolitik and liberal hegemony as approaches to its involvement in Afghanistan. There is both a moral justification to America’s presence in Afghanistan and a military and economic justification.

The question remains whether the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will persist and possess the lifespan of the U.S. presence in other places such as Germany and the Korean Peninsula. The American public has put immense pressure on its politicians to withdraw American forces and personnel from the Middle East and Afghanistan. From a legal standpoint, the U.S. government has the legal justification for its involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan through laws that were passed in the post-9/11 era such as the Patriot Act as well as an “Authorization to Use Military Force.” The United Nations and the European Union have also pledged support for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. government may decide to announce a withdrawal of a significant number of troops and personnel from Afghanistan to placate its public, but it is highly unlikely that the United States will initiate a full withdrawal from Afghanistan after all the investments that it has made there over the past eighteen years.

As mentioned before, the mission in Afghanistan is part of an overall effort to organize the world and create a world system based on liberal-democratic principles while maintaining the pursuit of American military and economic power to sustain the liberal hegemonic effort. This liberal hegemonic effort has its roots in America’s post-World War II reconstruction of Europe and Asia, and this effort has now extended in scope by covering areas that are novel to the United States such as the Middle East and Afghanistan. However, it is a fact that the focus of the United States has been lopsided towards countries where America has vested security and economic interests. Furthermore, there has not been a significant push on the part of the United States to implement international law in places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan who are allied to the United States but are in violation of liberal-democratic principles. Nevertheless, the global strategy for the United States is in place with clear objectives, and the implementation of such a strategy will inevitably face challenges and roadblocks imposed by authoritarian powers such as Russia and China who like the United States have regional and possibly global ambitions.

One component of America’s global strategy will also include a “live and let die” component by using all the levers of power at its disposal to place pressure as well as sanctions on countries that will resist America’s liberal hegemonic project such as Iran and Russia. However, it is unlikely that Russia and China will seek to thwart America’s global strategy simply because the capabilities are not there to mount such an effort. Instead, the Russians and the Chinese will seek to find opportunities to negotiate and engage in dialogue with the United States to preserve their respective security and economic interests. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, the Russians and the Chinese initially had no objections to America’s involvement in Afghanistan, and the Russians even encouraged Uzbekistan to allow the United States to stage its Afghan-related operations there in 2001.

While America’s liberal hegemonic effort has staying power in Afghanistan and possibly the Middle East, it may run into a dead end if America seeks to extend the effort inside of Russia and China. It is highly unlikely that Russia and China will seek to dislodge the United States from Afghanistan via proxy as long as America engages in sustainable diplomacy with Russia and China and find ways to accommodate Russian and Chinese security and economic interests. Short of Russia joining the European Union and America engaging with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization for the purpose of economic and infrastructural development in Asia, American efforts in Afghanistan regarding Russia and China will continue to be one-offs and not be underpinned by a formal structure.


Endnotes:

None.

Adam A. Azim Afghanistan Assessment Papers Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) United States

Assessing the Deterrence Value of the F-35 in Syria

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


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

Date Originally Written:  October 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 16, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  September 11, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  November 22, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Civil Defense Cyberspace Lee Clark United States

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

Timothy Heck is a free-lance editor focusing on military history and national security topics.  An artillery officer by trade, he lived and worked in Southeast Asia for four years.  He can be found on Twitter @tgheck1.  Josh Taylor is a U.S. Navy Foreign Area Officer and a 2018 Federal Executive Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.  He is presently Head of International Plans & Policy at Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, HI.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  In 1973 North Vietnam violated the Paris Peace Accords.

Date Originally Written:  August 12, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  October 21, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

Risk: 

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

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

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

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

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

Gain: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk:

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

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

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

Gain: 

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

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

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

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

Recommendation:  None. 


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh Taylor Option Papers Timothy Heck United States Vietnam

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

Travis Prendergast has served in the United States Army for eight years as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Staff Officer, and Rifle Company Commander.  He currently serves as a Company Commander in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  He has just started tweeting as @strategy_boi, where he shares fiction and non-fiction content.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


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

Date Originally Written:  August 10th, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 17, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

T.S. Whitman is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Right-Wing Militia Extremism in the United States

Date Originally Written:  July 5, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  October 7, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers T.S. Whitman United States Violent Extremism

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

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


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

Date Originally Written:  June 21, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 30, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessment Papers Harrison Manlove Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Laos United States

Alternative Futures: Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

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


Title:  Assessment of the Afghanistan Bureau 2001-2021

Date Originally Written:  May 30, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 23, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFBU has succeeded because of:

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

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

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


Endnotes:

None.

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 9, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

[2] Ibid.

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

[4] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Afghanistan Assessment Papers Capacity / Capability Enhancement Riley Murray Training United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  September 5, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Mathew Daniels Policy and Strategy Somalia United States

Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

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


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


Title:  Assessment of the Inclusiveness of American Nationalism

Date Originally Written:  August 9, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 19, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019. 

Date Originally Published:  August 26, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Dr. Heather Venable Mindset Policy and Strategy United States

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

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


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


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

Date Originally Written:  May 31, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  August 8, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Endnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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