PROMISE AND PERIL: THE BIOTECH SECURITY DILEMMA

In managing biotechnology, it is tempting to respond to its dangers by simply banning all research and development that involves the direct manipulation of the genes of organisms, relying instead on traditional approaches. This would be a terrible mistake. Genetic engineering and its products both threaten and benefit United States national security in core areas […]

A MIDNIGHT HEIST: THE CONVERGENCE OF WAR & CRIME

Criminal groups turn to warlike tactics to keep themselves in business and to expand their power.  Low-intensity conflict may be high-intensity crime; meaning that one person’s gangster may be another person’s terrorist or insurgent. The explosions that rocked the city of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay just after midnight on April 25th of this year […]

HOW TO WIN AN ARGUMENT IN THE PENTAGON

How do action officers (or anyone below the executive level) get their principal’s priorities on a final list of recommendations for the Secretary of Defense’s approval? Faithfully, even forcefully, presenting the message is not enough. You can learn a lot about an institution by listening to its arguments. Not so long ago, a disagreement in […]

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF ARMY MENTORING

Participants in workplace mentoring relationships must be wary of bad practices, and should be aware of how such practices can harm both mentors and protégés. I’m going to mentor the <bleep> out of you. You’ve probably never heard those exact words come out of a mentor’s mouth, but you’ve probably had professional relationships that felt […]

BLACK SWAN, RED BEARD: RECOGNIZING THE UNEXPECTED

The real challenge with black swan events is not accurate anticipation, but timely recognition. It is useful to remind ourselves regularly of the capacity of human beings to persist in stupid beliefs in the face of significant, contradictory evidence. On 22 June, 1941*, the Third Reich launched Operation Barbarossa, a massive invasion of the Soviet […]

REFRAMING AMERICA’S COUNTER-ISIL STRATEGY

The current U.S. strategy … offers no long-term, viable alternative to ISIL or its potential successors. The U.S.’s strategy for Iraq is therefore no more than a return to the political conditions that got us here in the first place. In the spring of 2017, the Iraqi military pressed into the outskirts of Mosul to […]

WATER AND U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY

The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S. Around 2500 BC, Urlama, the King of the city-state of Lagash, diverted water from boundary irrigation canals between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to deprive a neighboring region, Umma, of water. This act, in a […]

THE DRONE ELEGY

The Air Force’s approach to developing unmanned aviation falls well short of the potential of autonomous systems. Its programs still struggle for resources amidst massive investment in modernization of manned tactical fighters and strategic bombers. The Air Force has an unfortunate tendency to confuse the ends and means of war. For more than a decade, […]

SEX, GENDER, & THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MILITARY’S CULTURAL CONVERSATION

There remain deep and lingering anxieties about diversity… Military and civilian leaders should confront this cultural pathology head on. In April 2017, U.S. Army War College faculty and students attended a mandatory training session on the recent Department of Defense policy regarding open service by transgender people. I watched an auditorium full of students and […]

“TUNES OF GLORY” – MODERN TAKE ON A CLASSIC FILM ABOUT LEADERSHIP

Review: Motion picture, “Tunes of Glory” (Theatrical Release: Criterion, 1960; DVD Release: Criterion Collection, 2004). The film’s battalion is beset by a multitude of timeless and familiar challenges: unexpected key leader transitions; the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on individuals and organizations; [and] difficult post-war reintegration within a unit, family, and community The father of […]

INDIA’S JOINT DOCTRINE: HOPELESS MUDDLE, OR THE START OF STRATEGIC ARTICULATION?

Indian civil-military relations enjoy the paradox of being applauded for robust civilian control in a region where that is not common, while being condemned for an absence of a constructive dialogue on strategic issues between civilian and military leaders In April 2017, the Headquarters of the Indian Integrated Staff – the equivalent to the U.S. […]

KILLING THE ‘CULMINATING TRAINING EVENT’ CULTURE

General Milley has repeatedly declared that ‘Readiness is #1, and there is no other #1.’ And yet, a self-imposed cultural problem is inhibiting the sustainment of unit readiness over time. The Culminating Training Event Culture is a problem in the US Army that prevents units from sustaining higher states of readiness. It also hampers units […]

GOOD LUCK WITH THE STRATEGY, MR. SECRETARY… IT’S A ‘RISKY’ UNDERTAKING

DoD strategy development and risk assessment cannot afford to rest exclusively on war plans that are never executed, scenarios that reinforce service biases, or nostalgia for competition as it once was, not as it actually is. It is time for the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a fresh risk perspective. Without it, 21st century threats […]

IRAN IN THE LANDS OF THE INCAS

Latin America is an important and appealing strategic partner for Iran – with its 626 million people and 33 sovereign nations, many with a strong anti-American foreign policy orientation. Iran’s foreign policy incursion into Latin America cannot be ignored by political leaders in Washington, D.C., given its serious national security implications for the U.S. Government […]

MAY THE FORCE RESOURCE YOU: A NEW WAY TO BUDGET

As daunting as the future threat is, it’s the current (and projected) fiscal environment, the partisanship, and the seeming inability of national leaders to address these concerns, that are the biggest issues the military faces. In a complex and dangerous world, the U.S. Army struggles with a persistent, strategic challenge: how to allocate limited financial […]

DIVERSITY AS POWER

The diversity of America’s Army is a source of power and influence, especially in the political aspects of war and competition. During the winter of 2007-2008 in Baghdad, I worked with an Iraqi armor battalion to try to improve its performance securing a major thoroughfare. While the tactical results were not memorable, I found the […]

THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD…DEFENSE? ON THE INADEQUACY OF CYBER-DETERRENCE

cyber deterrence is bad strategy and merely provides a false sense of security. The U.S. needs to focus on cyber defense, not deterrence. Recent events have led U.S. leaders to posit that we have entered a period of cyber war. The May 2017 “WannaCry” ransomware attacks certainly support the notion that cyber security is a […]

VALUING COST-CONSCIOUSNESS IN TODAY’S MILITARY CULTURE

cost-consciousness is not simply about cutting spending. Rather, it is about reducing excess and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is not cost-conscious. Four years after the sequestration cuts of 2013, the Department of Defense must relearn a lesson which all frustrated dieters know well: unless desired values and […]

THE PRACTICE (AND PROBLEMS) OF MILITARY GHOSTWRITING

We need to encourage all officers to engage more directly in the generation of expert knowledge, and remove barriers to doing so based on rank or position. I have never forgotten this incident. I was a junior field-grade officer, and my boss — a senior flag officer — wanted to write an article but did […]