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May 24, 2022

Gangs No Longer: Reassessing Transnational Armed Groups in the Western Hemisphere

Download PDFExecutive SummaryMS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) in the Northern Triangle of Central America

April 14, 2022

Toward Military Design: Six Ways the JP 5-0’s Operational Design Falls Short

The day after Kabul fell to the Taliban, a combatant commander reportedly went to his J5 and told him to come back within 48 hours with data on the effects that the loss of Afghanistan would have on the future of military planning. While the veracity of this account cannot be directly verified, the rumor—and the speed at which it spread—speaks to the coming scrutiny that joint planning is sure to undergo from multiple quarters. The refocus on strategic competition/crisis/conflict (among the United States, Russia, and China) and the rise of gray zone operations, along with the persistence of irregular warfare, all demand that our methodologies for conceiving and planning keep pace with the rapid evolution of our operation foci.

April 14, 2022

Joint Doctrine Update

Joint Doctrine Update.

April 14, 2022

Shields of the Republic: The Triumph and Peril of America’s Alliances

The timing of Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper’s book, Shields of the Republic, could not be better. In my many years as a civil servant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, I would spend the first year of most new administrations explaining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the incoming political appointees. Democrat or Republican, old Pentagon hand or neophyte, most knew something of NATO, but they arrived with some preconceived notions that were way off. That said, by the end of an administration, we usually had some real NATO pros among the appointees. Unfortunately, after a new administration took office, we would have to start all over again with the new batch.

April 14, 2022

The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed the War on Terror After 9/11

This declassified/unredacted version of Ali Soufan’s 2011 edition of Black Banners is a must-read for anyone interested in terrorism, the psychology of interrogation, bureaucratic politics, and the lessons of poor leadership. Soufan demonstrates how dysfunctional U.S. intelligence services were before and after 9/11. He also demolishes the argument for the enhanced interrogation—or torture techniques—authorized by the George W. Bush administration and championed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Black Banners ranks with Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower as key sources for understanding al Qaeda.

April 14, 2022

Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

For a generation of national security professionals and military officers, reading about the run-up to the Iraq War can feel like watching a bureaucratic horror movie. After almost two decades, we know what is lurking behind the faulty assumptions, and reading ever more quickly, page after page, we wonder if this time the toxic brew of naivete and hubris will not lead us down the tortured path that we know in our rational minds it will. Closing our books about that war—and Michael Mazarr’s Leap of Faith is among the very best volumes—we almost want to scold ourselves: We fell for the same tricks, and we ended at the same frustrating place.

April 14, 2022

Improvised Partnerships: U.S. Joint Operations in the Mexican-American War

From 1846 to 1848, the United States and Mexico fought a controversial war to decide which of the great republics would be the dominant power in North America. Featuring a series of U.S invasions that spanned from San Diego to Veracruz, the 26-month contest included bloody set-piece battles between national armies, aggressive maritime blockades and amphibious assaults along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and prolonged occupations that invited a savage guerrilla resistance. As historian K. Jack Bauer stated in his foundational study, The Mexican War, the conflict was “fought with doggedness by the soldiers and sailors of both nations under the leadership of brilliant and inept commanders,” as political leaders struggled over differing ideas of a “reasonable political settlement.

April 14, 2022

All Quiet on the Eastern Front: NATO Civil-Military Deterrence of Russian Hybrid Warfare

Building on NATO’s work, thinking, and publications on countering hybrid/gray zone warfare, the analysis presented here provides a framework on the Soviet and contemporary Russian methods within the current operational environment. It then proposes specific actions that NATO must adopt to impose costs on or deny benefits to Russia for employing these tactics, while also encouraging Russian restraint against future hybrid warfare.

April 14, 2022

U.S. European Command Theater Infrastructure Plan: Aligning U.S. Requirements with European Capability and Resources

This article explores U.S. European Command's conceptual framework for the theater infrastructure plan (TIP), which will support national military strategy, improve convergence with European allies and partners, and reduce risk to military mission and force. The adoption of a deliberate infrastructure planning strategy at the theater level should provide resource efficiencies and flexibility to reach desired conditions of securing the Euro-Atlantic region, achieving a competitive edge, supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) credible deterrence and defense, and enabling U.S. global power projection.

April 14, 2022

Persistent Knowledge Gaps in the Chinese Defense Budget

To a large extent, defense budget transparency is an area in which the United States leads the world; the United States and other nations should publicly engage and push the PRC to meet a similar standard. The UN Military Spending database is a great place to start creating this pressure, especially because it is a mechanism that the PRC utilized until 2017. This push would have to be part of a broader effort to get the Chinese to become more transparent—a significant change in behavior for them.