SUPER STORMS AND MEGACITIES: THE LESSONS OF HURRICANE HARVEY

The U.S. military has little experience with how extreme weather events interact with culturally-complex megacities and how their characteristics play into future security and public safety planning. The U.S. military has little experience with how extreme weather events interact with culturally-complex megacities, and how their characteristics play into future security and public safety planning. We […]

MILITARY CONTRACTING: HOW OTHER NATIONS DO IT

We may prefer not to rely on commercial services to support military operations, but we would be foolish not to think creatively and systematically about how the private sector can help bridge capability and capacity gaps in the future. From Xenophon’s 10,000 hoplites to the Flying Tigers, one of the most enduring solutions to the […]

THE ARMY’S MOBILIZATION PROBLEM

Mobilization – the process by which selected portions of the U.S. Armed Forces are brought to a state of readiness for war – no longer operates effectively to meet the volume and speed required in modern war. Today the United States Army is the finest and most capable fighting force the world has ever seen.  […]

FRANKEN-NATO: GIVING NEW LIFE TO AN OLD EUROPEAN DEFENSE AMBITION?

If European Union powers ditch the alliance in favor of mounting an EU defense force to supersede NATO, U.S. outlays for NATO that look expensive now will seem like a bargain. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is becoming a grotesque behemoth, a “Franken-NATO” of sorts, with a body mostly comprised of the European states it was created to […]

AT THE NEXUS OF DIPLOMACY, DEVELOPMENT, AND DEFENSE — AFRICOM AT 10 YEARS (PART 3)

To its critics, the 3Ds [of diplomacy, development, and defense] provide an illusion of depth and vitality that hides the blurry, overlapping reality of civil-military working relationships – just like the 3-D glasses worn at the movies. Last month, having donned specially filtered glasses, millions of Americans emerged from the Great American Eclipse utterly spellbound, […]

FORMING U.S. AFRICA COMMAND: A STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION SUCCESS — AFRICOM AT 10 YEARS (PART 1)

Success stories [IN STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION] do exist. The formation of the U.S. Army’s African Command (AFRICOM) was … a case of turning the communication environment from open hostility to general favorability in two short years. It is very easy to bash the U.S. government and the U.S. military for strategic communication failures. From bad messaging […]

HOW IGNORING SOCIAL COHESION WEAKENS THE FIGHT AGAINST EXTREMISTS

Combating communism required that the United States apply a comprehensive and sustainable approach . … The character of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) today requires an equally wide-ranging and patient response. The global fight against violent extremism is not going well. A broad arc of increasing instability stretches from Central Asia, through the Middle East, and […]

THE BEST BAD OPTION: NUCLEAR DETERRENCE & NORTH KOREA

While there are no easy choices for what to do about North Korea, a preventive attack is a very bad idea. Is a revival of the Korean War necessary? Senior U.S. leaders are considering military options for dealing with North Korea’s pursuit of an intercontinental nuclear capability. In response to North Korea’s most recent provocative […]

MILITARY OPTIONS FOR NORTH KOREA: A CASE FOR PREVENTATIVE WAR

The U.S. now finds itself in a position of accepting the North Korean nuclear threat or doing something dramatic to remove it. The U.S. has long held the position that a North Korean nuclear capability that threatens the U.S. homeland is unacceptable. Expert opinion is that North Korea either already has, or soon will have, […]

THE MANY TRAPS OF THUCYDIDES & THE VIRTUE OF COMPLEXITY

Imposing an artificial simplicity on Thucydides’s work makes it harder to understand the full range of warnings that his history gives. Great works of human pathos rarely distill to simplicity. Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War* (431 to 404 B.C.E.) defies simple summarizing in one cautionary lesson or trap. The account’s great virtue is the […]

TOXIC LEADERSHIP OR TOUGH LOVE: DOES THE U.S. MILITARY KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?

The military censures toxic leadership where it is found, but it can be difficult to recognize such misconduct, unlike more actionable offenses that are easier to identify. What constitutes good or bad leadership often lies open to interpretation. Is the U.S. military confusing toxic leadership with tough love? Does it know the difference between abusive […]

WRONG AND USEFUL: MODELS AND METAPHORS FOR STRATEGY

No strategic model is a perfect representation of war, but some … offer valuable insights that justify their costs. What good is a “model” of strategy when every model possible is so clearly and manifestly wrong? War is among the most complex of human endeavors. In such a context, what use are the necessary simplifications […]

WHAT TO DO ABOUT RECURRING SENIOR LEADER BEHAVIOR ISSUES?

any instance of senior officer misconduct is unacceptable. We should therefore err on the side of caution, and assume that the Army has a problem. So what should we do about it? On 22 June, the Washington Post reported the demotion of an Army Major General to Brigadier General, based on the results of an […]

CHINA’S CARRIER FLEET SAILS INTO ITS OWN

Chinese development of a homegrown aircraft carrier fleet points to the country’s organic ability to sustain itself, and to fund a modern military capacity that relatively few in the world can afford. It is a symbolic asset more than anything else. China’s recent announcement of its first domestically-built aircraft carrier fleet reflects the country’s newfound […]

COMFORTABLY CONVERSATIONAL: PUBLIC SPEAKING FOR PROS

If you doubt your command of the information that you are presenting, you are halfway defeated before you even start. Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me Is there anyone at home? – Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb,” The Wall (1979) When effective military leaders consider the reasons […]

THE MERITOCRACY MYTH: CHALLENGES TO ARMY OFFICER CORPS DIVERSITY

Increasing minority and female representation in combat arms branches is necessary—but it is not sufficient to improve diversity at higher ranks in the Army. In other words, the concept of the Army as a meritocracy is a myth. Despite substantial progress integrating minorities and women in the Army, any claim that the Army has reached […]

STRATEGIC ENDS, NOT TACTICAL MEANS: BETTER WAYS TO BUILD PARTNER CAPACITY

The U.S. lacks both the physical and intellectual means to build institutional capacity. Such neglect is a structural issue, inherent to the U.S. system. Doing the tactical well isn’t always an asset, especially when it comes to building a systemic capacity among U.S. regional cooperative security partners. As Dr. Michael C. Veneri notes in Synesis, […]

SEA LEVEL RISE: SINK OR SWIM

The question is no longer whether [the effects of sea level rise] will manifest, but rather how soon. The threats posed by rising sea levels can be hard to imagine, especially for people living in the U.S. interior. For them, sea level rise is a distant news story reported as millimeters of rise per year, […]

THE PROBLEM WITH RULES FOR U.S. MILITARY INTERVENTION

Rules are wonderful. … Yet rules have limitations, too, and we should be careful about specifying and applying rules where they do not work. Rules are wonderful. They simplify decision-making by providing us with clear guidelines for making choices within a particular context. Anyone who has driven a car in an environment in which the […]

LEADER OF THE FAR NORTH: PUTIN FORGING A NEW RUSSIAN COALITION IN EURASIA

Vladimir Putin is seizing the initiative to reassert Moscow’s influence in Europe and Asia in an increasingly belligerent and expansionist policy. You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you…a great horde, a mighty army. — Ezekiel 38:15 The ancient Hebrew prophet Ezekiel prophesied in 570 BC of massive […]