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July 27, 2022

Ghosts of Tsushima or Kobayashi Maru? Japan’s Problematic Preoccupation with Decisive Naval Battles in World War II

Tsushima, the great naval victory for Japan, brought Russia to the peace table. However, the consequences of such overwhelming naval victories in the Russo-Japanese War ultimately led Japan’s military leaders to a debilitating preoccupation nearly 40 years later during World War II. As it relentlessly tried to replicate that victorious performance against the United States, Japan’s pursuit of another Tsushima resulted in strategic failures that contributed to its defeat in the Pacific, providing an excellent historical example of cognitive dissonance theory and demonstrating why it is important not to fight a current war with a previous war’s strategy.

July 27, 2022

The Rules of the Game: Great Power Competition and International Law

The National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and operational concepts in joint military doctrine painting a bleak picture of global threats and persistent competition. In fact, these documents portray the United States as being at another inflection point in modern conflict with a return to Great Power competition. For the Department of Defense (DOD), a renewed focus on state-on-state strategic competition is premised on revisionist powers, such as Russia and China, and rogue regimes, such as Iran and North Korea, exploiting U.S. vulnerabilities by taking deliberately malicious actions carefully crafted to avoid armed conflict and a powerful military response. This is a problem.

July 27, 2022

Overcoming Barriers to Institutional Learning: Insights from Insurgent Groups

This article examines a case study of Islamic extremist groups in Somalia and their ability to overcome barriers. Evidence from these groups indicates that the personalization of power by leaders can inhibit a group’s strategic flexibility, as leaders fear that implementing a strategic shift will be seen as a sign that their leadership is “wrong,” which can undermine their position. By contrast, the case study found that groups with multiple leaders can develop alternate strategies, allowing the group to select from a strategic menu, quickly adapt to crises of practice in which the existing strategic approach is ineffective, overcome the barriers, and thus function as a learning organization.

July 27, 2022

Cyber in the Shadows: Why the Future of Cyber Operations Will Be Covert

Current cyber conflict looks very similar to traditional conflict models. The difference from traditional power dynamics offered by the cyber domain, however, is the asymmetrical advantage of technology for would-be actors. This new element of national power allows weaker actors to “punch above their weight” in competition or conflict with Great Powers in a unipolar or multipolar world.

July 27, 2022

Executive Summary

Joint education is designed to show each student the value that he or she brings to the discussion. Even the most ardent supporter of one’s military Service cannot honestly assess warfighting today and show how that Service, or nation for that matter, can win a war by itself. Joint and combined operations lie at the heart of successful accomplishment of strategy that involves the military instrument of power. Services may be proponents of their operational concepts and budgets to bring capabilities to achieve those visions, but in the end, the way of war, as the United States has learned to fight it, rests clearly on our ability to work together for a common end. We hope you gain from what our authors have offered here, especially if it achieves our mission of helping the cause of jointness.

May 24, 2022

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

This paper compares MS-13 and PCC as particularly enduring variations of nonstate armed groups and assesses each group’s evolution and impact on U.S. core interests in the region. It focuses on five aspects of MS-13 and PCC composition and behavior: objectives, constituencies and alliances, capabilities, markets, and impact.

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.