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Chinese Military Reforms: A Pessimistic Take October 1, 2016 — On the evening of May 21, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck, escorted by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, departed the Norwegian port of Bergen, intending to conduct commerce raiding against Allied merchant shipping in the Atlantic Ocean. The Bismarck was the world’s largest warship in operation at the time and proved to be virtually unsinkable by naval gunfire; it ultimately absorbed more than 400 direct hits from naval guns, roughly a quarter of which were main battery rounds from other battleships, without sinking. And yet less than 6 days into its first combat mission, the Bismarck had nonetheless been sunk. Better armor or a more powerful armament might have made the Bismarck even more dangerous and difficult to sink, but would not have prevented it from being sunk. Similarly, recent changes to the organizational structure of China’s military have made clear improvements, but do nothing to address its most important weaknesses. MORE

PLA Reforms and China’s Nuclear Forces October 1, 2016 — China is in the midst of sweeping military reforms that will affect the force structure, administration, and command and control mechanisms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The reforms have the dual goals of tightening political control and improving the military’s ability to conduct joint operations. Among the major steps is the creation of the new PLA Rocket Force, which replaced the former Second Artillery in controlling China’s nuclear forces and land-based ballistic and cruise missiles. Despite much attention paid to its new name and higher organizational status, the Rocket Force appears to be the service least affected by the reforms. MORE

What Do China’s Military Reforms Mean for Taiwan? October 1, 2016 — In late 2015 and early 2016, China announced a sweeping set of reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The reforms not only significantly altered the PLA’s organizational structure but also redefined authority relationships among major components. The PLA Air Force and Navy headquarters, which previously commanded operations during peacetime, were reassigned to administrative roles focused on training and equipping troops. Operational authority moved to a two-tiered system in which decisions will be made by the CMC and carried out by theater commanders. MORE

Global Mental Health: Optimizing Uniformed Services Roles October 1, 2016 — Mental health considerations in the context of global health include an extensive variety of elements and constitute complex and wide-ranging topics. Three perspectives are important to consider. First, direct patient care is not the only role that should be considered important. Second, this article is inclusive of not only military services, but uniformed services. A true uniformed services approach is essential to tackle global health challenges. Third, global health activities in the mental health field have been taking place for decades. These examples demonstrate important lessons as well as the diversity of mental health contributions to global health. MORE

Applying Smart Power via Global Health Engagement October 1, 2016 — The U.S. military is entering a period of dramatic redirection and restructuring at a time of broader international upheaval, from Ukraine to Syria. The past decade of global conflict has emphasized the predominant hard power focus of the Armed Forces, often with limited success. The emergence of a new mission—smart power—offers opportunities to shift toward innovative forms of international intervention and conflict resolution by the U.S. military through coordination with national security strategies such as global health diplomacy (GHD). MORE

NATO Nouvelle: Everything Old Is New Again October 1, 2016 — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is heralded as the world’s most successful military alliance. However, it finds itself under pressure from within and without. Some people in NATO countries do not understand the importance of its goal: to safeguard its members’ freedom and security by political and military means. Other people outside NATO countries understand those missions well—and seek to destroy the Alliance. MORE

Fighting with Friends: Coalition Warfare in Korean Waters, 1950–1953 October 1, 2016 — In late June 1950, President Harry Truman ordered U.S. forces into combat against the North Korean invasion of South Korea. One of the first units to respond was a combined U.S. Navy–Royal Navy task force with one aircraft carrier from each navy. Throughout the Korean War, British and American naval forces operated together to support the decisive actions on land. Although Anglo-American naval relations were close throughout the Korean War, these ties could be strained and frayed when U.S. Navy commanders operated as though the Royal Navy was a mirror image of their own fleet. This case study in managing multinational operations serves as a timely reminder for commanders and operators of the importance of understanding the history and organizational structure of their coalition partners and of being prepared to adjust practices and procedures based on this knowledge. The experience of Rear Admiral George Dyer illustrates the dangers of mirror-imaging coalition allies, even those as close as the Royal Navy. MORE

A Passion for Leadership October 1, 2016 — Robert Gates’s previous memoirs on his time at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and on the National Security Council staff as well as his tenure as Secretary of Defense were well received as “ultimate insider” accounts. Gates’s latest book, A Passion for Leadership, is different but should prove just as popular for different reasons. Gates distills his government experience, along with his service as president of Texas A&M (the Nation’s fifth largest university), into a treatise on leadership. It is a fitting capstone to an illustrious career, during which he “worked for eight U.S. presidents . . . and observed or worked with fourteen secretaries of state, thirteen secretaries of defense, nine chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fourteen national security advisers, ten directors of the CIA,” and innumerable senior military officers and diplomats. He has observed and exercised a lot of leadership and believes he has something important to say about the topic. He is right. MORE

Carnage and Connectivity October 1, 2016 — One approaches the first few pages of Carnage and Connectivity with a sense of trepidation. Do we need another book invoking Carl von Clausewitz’s “remarkable trinity” to explain the changing character (but not nature!) of war? Do we need another book critiquing revolutions in military affairs (RMAs) as unrealistic technophilia? Do we need another book parsing the meaning of cyber power? With a deep sense of foreboding I plowed on, expecting my pessimism to be confirmed. But then I encountered pithy writing, unique insights, and even detected a sense of humor. While Carnage and Connectivity covers well-trodden ground, it does so with exceptional clarity, biting critiques, and the self-confident voice of a seasoned (if not cynical) scholar. MORE

Fifty Shades of Friction Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War September 8, 2016 — “Four elements make up the climate of war: danger, exertion, uncertainty, and chance,” wrote Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz in his seminal On War. He observed that collectively, those four elements comprised the notion of friction, which he defined as “the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.” Friction has disrupted the implementation of war plans since the dawn of civilization, and despite efforts to minimize its effects, it will continue to do so. MORE

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