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 […]

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 […]