July 5, 2018
Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Demosthenes, Churchill, and the Consensus Delusion
In this feature article, the author compares the experiences of ancient Greek philosopher Demosthenes and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Though separated by two thousand years, both advocated for rearmament, both were called warmongers, and both were sidelined as a result. Far from provoking conflict, Demosthenes and Churchill sought to avoid war by strengthening military readiness and reinforcing support for their allies to make war less appealing to their adversaries. The lessons of Demosthenes and Churchill are still relevant as the Joint Force struggles with its own challenges in the midst of growing threats from actors across multiple domains.
Reverse Engineering Goldwater-Nichols: China’s Joint Force Reforms
This feature article examines the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, particularly its operational capability within the People’s Republic of China and recent efforts to develop its capability as an expeditionary force. While the U.S. military has been reorganizing since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, China has paid close attention and taken significant steps, for example, in the creation of new joint warfighting commands, reorganization of its department system, and creation of new military services. These reform efforts have not been entirely successful, however, due to entrenched bureaucratic interests and the lack of recent combat operations.
Bombs, Not Broadcasts: U.S. Preference for Kinetic Strategy in Asymmetric Conflict
In this feature article, the author explores reasons why U.S. strategy in asymmetric conflict has focused so heavily on kinetic operations while conceding the information domain to weaker adversaries. This scenario is a consistent feature of every asymmetric conflict the U.S. has been involved in over the past several decades. In order for the U.S. military to be more successful in asymmetric wars, it needs to give company and battalion commanders authority to conduct information operations, move away from the mentality of treating messages like munitions, and create an organizational culture that fully appreciates the importance of information operations.
Defense of the West (Book Review)
In this timely book, one of the most seasoned observers of Atlantic security affairs, Stanley Sloan, offers insights about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These insights are linked to a detailed examination of the Alliance’s origins and development. Sloan pinpoints three key alliance drivers—national interests, common values, and political leadership—and offers a carefully circumscribed optimistic conclusion: common national interests and values are strong, but political leadership is volatile and in need of constructive and effective management.
The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy (Book Review)
Famously, Henry Kissinger once wondered out loud, “What in the name of God is strategic superiority? . . . What do you do with it?” Over 40 years later, the questions still resonate, and Georgetown University professor Matthew Kroenig aims to tackle Kissinger’s quandary. The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy begins with a puzzle: if the basic premise of U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy is supposed to be that the United States can survive a massive nuclear attack and retaliate with great force (so-called assured destruction), why have successive Presidents maintained nuclear capabilities that go well beyond what is required for this goal?
The Forgotten Front (Book Review)
This is an important book for theorists and practitioners of counterinsurgency alike. Ladwig, who teaches at King’s College London, begins by pointing out that most U.S. counterinsurgency thinking errs in assuming that the United States will share common goals, interests, and priorities with the local government that it is supporting. As recent experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan indicate, that assumption should not be taken for granted. In fact, many U.S. elements of strategy applied in counterinsurgency—ending political and military corruption, bolstering political legitimacy by addressing the public’s concerns, engaging in economic reform—may appear just as threatening to the local government’s interests as the insurgency itself. Some local governments’ political and other interests simply do not coincide with those of the United States, and that can lead to tremendous difficulty in convincing them to adopt U.S.-backed reforms. Indeed, Ladwig’s central argument is that the “forgotten front” in these conflicts—the relationship between the United States and local government it is trying to aid—is just as important.
Defending the AEF: Combat Adaptation and Jointness in the Skies over France
This article recalls how an untrained cadre of men modified existing French equipment and doctrine to build a small but effective anti-aircraft force during WWI. This history of the A.E.F. Antiaircraft Service highlights how the U.S. military responded to a threat that did not exist a mere decade earlier. In many respects, this type of challenge is familiar to contemporary observers who have watched the Joint Force struggle with intra-service parochialism and the unwillingness to learn from others. Nevertheless, this case history shows what can happen when leaders encourage innovation and adaptation at all levels, top-down, middle-out and bottom-up.
July 3, 2018
Cooking Shows, Corollas, and Innovation on a Budget
This commentary explains how the effects of globalization and rapid advancements in technology have changed the geopolitical power balance. Advances in military technology and the introduction of hybrid threat capabilities have obscured traditional categories of warfare and increased the difficulty of matching capabilities to meet contemporary challenges. For the U.S. to maintain preeminence, says the author, it must develop innovative technological solutions without neglecting other aspects of innovation. For example, the U.S. should invest widely in technology and science, but also create more flexible and adaptive organizations and cultivate leaders prepared to innovate and accept the inherent risk.
U.S. Special Operations Command’s Future, by Design
This commentary introduces a new approach to problem-solving developed by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The USSOCOM Design Way is a fusion of design thinking and military planning, which promotes creativity, critical thinking and innovation, and emphasizes divergent perspectives across the Joint Force. The USSOCOM Design Way goes beyond operations planning and has proven successful dealing with the complexities of resourcing, policy, acquisitions, as well as joint planning and programming. As the authors suggest, this approach has demonstrated appeal across the Joint Force, from the commander to the action officer, in response to a wide range of complex challenges.
The Case for Joint Force Acquisition Reform
This article calls attention to the flaws in the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) which promote competition rather than cooperation. The authors argue that the Services are motivated by parochial incentives which do not align with the combatant command structure despite the jointness imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. In order to empower Combatant Commanders and the Joint Staff with early and direct influence over materiel development, the DAS must be reformed. The Services must act as agents working in alignment with the combatant command structure, and Service procurement budgets must allow for greater flexibility to promote Joint Force development.