GAME OF TRIBES: GETTING COUNTERTERRORISM RIGHT

Islamic extremism is a palatable political label used by Western-thinking nations, [but] the misguided premise assumes the undercurrents of conflict are new. Weeks after U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush near Tongo Tongo, Niger, international media outlets continue to explain how an Islamic State affiliate was responsible. The culprit is the Islamic State in […]

DRONES AND THE DISRUPTION OF NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGIES

Drones are … muting proponents [of other elements of national power] through the perceived efficiency of a low risk military solution. Drones are disrupting America’s approach to establishing and maintaining national security. Drones have been used to conduct hundreds of officially acknowledged strikes outside of combat zones, creating a market for combat options where none […]

HARRY TRUMAN: THANKSGIVING 1945

In unity we found our first weapon, for without it, both here and abroad, we were doomed. On November 12, 1945, President Harry S. Truman issued the following proclamation to celebrate America’s first Thanksgiving since victory in World War II. We offer this as our Thanksgiving message to you, our readers and listeners, for a […]

THE UTILITY OF MILITARY FORCE

Democracies have the burden of legitimacy. They must prove that their actions are consistent with democratic values and international norms or be cast as pariahs. Louis XIV engraved on his cannons “ultima ratio regum,” the last argument of the king. War is a costly and violent instrument of policy, yet an effective one if properly […]

THE MULTI-DOMAIN BATTLE: WHAT’S IN IT FOR THE HOMELAND?

Multi-domain battle follows a familiar but fallacious assumption of U.S. forces’ playing an ‘away game’ The security we have historically enjoyed between two oceans and with well-meaning neighbors to our north and south can no longer be relied upon. The new reality is clear: our adversaries, realized and potential, have declared and demonstrated intentions and […]

WHAT THE U.S. MILITARY CAN LEARN FROM THE CHINESE DRONE STARTUP ECOSYSTEM

By relying on large platforms built by large contractors, the U.S. military lacks the small business integration that has given Chinese-based organizations an edge in UAV development. The U.S. military is at risk of missing a huge wave of innovation in unmanned aerial vehicles. The unmanned aerial system/vehicle (UAS/UAV) market has experienced intense growth in […]

THE NEW COLD WAR: HOW RUSSIA IS WINNING

President Putin is employing a strategy of exhaustion to undermine the will and resources of the United States and its allies… It is working. Despite the rumors of its demise, the Cold War is very much alive. And given the way it’s currently going, Russia could be well on its way to winning this time. […]

THE “DUSTY SHELVES SERIES”: BRINGING MILITARY HISTORY TO LIFE

Remembering the past is hard, not just because memories fade but because capturing the past in a meaningful, relevant, and intellectually honest way is difficult, complex, and too often unrewarded. LISTEN TO THE INAUGURAL EPISODE ON RIDGWAY’S 1951 MEMO HERE. The great philosopher and writer George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past […]

TRADE IN A ZERO SUM GRAND STRATEGY

The tenor of President Trump’s trade policy harkens back to mercantilism. While mercantilism has reasonable short-term economic benefits, it carries significant long term economic and security costs. Since 9/11, American presidents from Bush I to Obama embraced (to varying degrees) the idea that America’s central place in the international economic system was a key to […]

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 […]