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Category: Strategic Forums

Aug. 1, 2012

Trust, Engagement, and Technology Transfer: Underpinnings for U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation

On the eve of the January 1, 2011, inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the State Department noted that the United States “is committed to deepening our relationship on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues with Brazil’s government and people.” President Rousseff herself declared shortly thereafter, “We will preserve and deepen the relationship with the United States.” During President Barack Obama’s March 2011 visit to Brazil, both leaders cited “the progress achieved on defense issues in 2010” and stated their commitment to “follow up on the established dialogue in this area, primarily on new opportunities for cooperation.” While these rhetorical commitments are important, will they lead to greater cooperation on defense issues and improve U.S.-Brazil ties?

June 1, 2012

Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy for an Unlikely Conflict

As America ends its military commitment to Iraq and continues its drawdown in Afghanistan, a lively discussion has emerged on what future challenges the Nation faces. High on every list is the requirement to deal with a rising China. In his remarks to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011, President Barack Obama stated, “As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority.” As part of this rebalancing to Asia, the administration has stated that it seeks “to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving.” Clearly, the United States seeks prudent and coordinated political, economic, and military actions to further integrate China into the international system.

April 1, 2012

Grand Strategy and International Law

Grand strategy is, or should be, the “calculated relationship of means to large ends.” Interrelated strategic and legal dimensions provide a leitmotif to the modern history of relations among powerful states. States employ an array of means to achieve their large ends—military power, as well as diplomatic, informational, economic/financial, and legal tools and influence. They differ in effectiveness and precision. In the web of interactions that shape contemporary international relations, the legal dimension as a framework and guide to choices is more often overlooked than particular legal instruments that might be invoked in the belief, or more often the hope, that they will serve policy and strategic objectives.

Feb. 1, 2012

Post-Asad Syria: Opportunity or Quagmire?

The government of President Bashar al-Asad in Syria faces strong pressure from its neighbors and the Western powers. In the background is the fall in 2011 of longstanding governments in Tunisia and Egypt to popular protests and, of course, the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in a civil war backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military action. It is not clear if Asad will fall or if he will hold on to power. It is fair to say that because his hold on power is sufficiently in doubt, it is well worth examining what would be the strategic consequences if he fell and what would be the strategic implications if he is able to muddle through Syria’s current difficulties. Moreover, given the many sudden and unpredicted Middle East developments in 2011, such an examination should note which low-probability developments might have major impacts on the region and on U.S. interests.

Feb. 1, 2012

Space and the Joint Fight

The world first saw the power of space to transform warfare in the 1991 Gulf War. In the years since, the U.S. military has come to depend heavily on space throughout its peacetime and combat operations. Satellites acquired by the Department of Defense (DOD) principally provide protected communications; data for position and timing, terrestrial and space weather, missile launch warning and tracking, and space situational awareness; and experiments and other research and development activities. Satellites for reconnaissance and surveillance are the domain of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

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.