Category: Policy Briefs

Jan. 1, 2012

Raising Our Sights: Russian- American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability

The United States and Russia have sought to reduce the danger of nuclear war by limiting offensive strategic capabilities through negotiated agreements, relying on mutual deterrence based on reciprocal threats and the corresponding fear of retaliation. Although nuclear arsenals have been pared, this is fundamentally the same way the United States and Soviet Union sought to reduce the danger of nuclear war during the Cold War, when both were impelled to do so because they were adversaries and able to do so despite being adversaries. It is ironic—not to say unimaginative—that although the two are no longer adversaries, they stick to a path chosen when they were. This current approach is inadequate given new strategic vulnerabilities brought on by technological change. Both the opportunity and the need now exist for a different, more ambitious approach to avoiding strategic conflict—one designed for new possibilities as well as new vulnerabilities. The United States and Russia can and should raise their sights from linear numerical progress to qualitative transformation of their strategic relationship.

Jan. 1, 2012

Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Age of Vulnerability

For all their power, both the United States and China are increasingly vulnerable. Each faces a range of strategic dangers, from nuclear weapons to disruption of critical computer networks and space links.1 Because their relationship is at once interdependent and potentially adversarial, the United States and China are especially vulnerable to each other: interdependence exposes each to the other, while the potential for conflict impels each to improve strategic capabilities against which defenses can be futile. Strategic vulnerability cannot be eliminated, only mitigated.

Dec. 1, 2011

Deterrence and Escalation in Cross-domain Operations: Where Do Space and Cyberspace Fit?

Warfare has become even more complicated since Richard Smoke wrote this description of escalation in 1977. The National Security Space Strategy describes space as “congested, contested, and competitive,” yet satellites underpin U.S. military and economic power. Activity in cyberspace has permeated every facet of human activity, including U.S. military operations, yet the prospects for effective cyber defenses are bleak. Many other actors depend on continued access to these domains, but not nearly as much as the United States.

Dec. 1, 2011

The Emergence of China in the Middle East

During the 9th century, Arab traders regularly plied lucrative maritime routes that connected the Persian Gulf to southern China by way of the Indian Ocean. This commercial activity, which mostly involved jade, silk, and other luxury goods, went on for centuries and became part of what is now known as the Silk Road. In some ways, the world is now witnessing a restoration of that ancient trading relationship between two civilizations—except that oil and consumer goods have replaced jade and silk.

July 1, 2011

Countering the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is one of Africa’s most brutal militia forces. It has plagued Central Africa, particularly northern Uganda, for over two decades. The group’s tactics provide textbook examples of war crimes and crimes against humanity. When attacking civilians, the LRA instills fear by selecting random individuals for brutal executions. Children are abducted to serve as porters, sex slaves, and new militia. In order to indoctrinate child soldiers, young abductees are routinely forced to kill their own family members and other children, or be murdered themselves. Anyone caught trying to escape from the LRA is summarily executed. By contrast with other African rebel groups, which occasionally adopt such brutal tactics, the LRA has conducted such atrocities on a systematic and prolonged basis.

July 1, 2011

Chinese Military Transparency: Evaluating the 2010 Defense White Paper

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Council Information Office released the seventh edition of its biennial defense white paper, “China’s National Defense in 2010,” on March 31, 2011. This document aims to communicate the latest information on China’s military development, strategy, capabilities, and intentions. China began publishing defense white papers in 1998, partly as a means of increasing transparency in response to regional concerns about the growing capabilities and actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Despite the systematic release of these documents, many of China’s neighbors and other regional powers continue to express concerns about China’s lack of military transparency. The Chinese maintain that they are becoming more open over time and highlight the importance of transparency about strategic intentions rather than capabilities.

July 1, 2011

The Evolving Threat of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

The United States faces an important strategic question in northwest Africa: what level of activity by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) would constitute a sufficient threat to U.S. national security interests to warrant a more aggressive political, intelligence, military, and law enforcement response? AQIM already poses the greatest immediate threat of transnational terrorism in the region, and its operational range and sophistication continue to expand. Since 2007, the group has professed its loyalty to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s senior leadership and claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks in the subregion. These attacks have included the use of suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, kidnapping operations, and assassinations.

April 1, 2011

Iran’s Islamic Revolution: Lessons for the Arab Spring of 2011?

The Islamic Revolution surprised senior U.S. policymakers as well as the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. On the eve of revolution, Iran—a key U.S. ally—seemed relatively stable despite bouts of urban terrorism in the early and mid-1970s. At the first signs of escalating unrest in early 1978, neither Iranian nor U.S. officials considered the possibility that Iran’s armed forces, the largest and most modern in the region (next to those of Israel), would prove unable to deal with whatever trouble lay ahead. The fall of the Shah a year later, therefore, raised searching questions regarding the role of the armed forces during the crisis and its failure to quash the revolution. The recent emergence of popular protest movements that have overthrown authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt—and that are challenging similar regimes in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria—has revived memories of the Shah and his fall. These developments have again raised questions regarding the role of armed forces during revolutions and whether Iran’s experience during the Islamic Revolution and after holds relevant lessons for current developments in the Middle East.

March 1, 2011

Brazil and the United States: The Need for Strategic Engagement

Washington’s identification of Brazil with Latin America and the Third World hampers its appreciation of Brazil’s power and importance to the United States. It is true that Brazil is geographically part of Latin America, and it is also true that Brazil, a founder of the Group of 77, was, with India, among the original leaders of the “Third World.”

Feb. 1, 2011

Finland, Sweden, and NATO: From “Virtual” to Formal Allies?

The “Open Door” policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been an article of faith for Allies and aspirants alike for more than a decade. Its most recent formulation, approved at the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, states: “The door to NATO membership remains fully open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and whose inclusion can contribute to common security and stability.”