News | May 4, 2023

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason Joint Force Quarterly 109

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General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks during National Memorial Day Concert on West Lawn of Capitol, Washington, DC, May 27, 2018 (DOD/James K. McCann)

One of the enduring topics of any military person’s—or anyone’s—life is encountering leadership, whether good, bad, or in between. I recently reread Colin Powell’s last book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. Just past the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, I was particularly drawn to the chapter covering his 2003 speech at the United Nations on Saddam Hussein’s alleged biowarfare capabilities. Powell was a very effective speaker who knew how the U.S. intelligence system worked and, despite its flaws, on that day trusted what he was told. As our nation’s leading diplomat, drawing on his military understanding of international affairs and national security strategy (he was a National War College graduate), he did what he saw as his duty. His words were powerful and persuasive. But as we all know now, they were based on flawed information.

What is remarkable now is his willingness, well before he died, to reflect on that time and openly admit his regret. Having studied military history my entire adult life, I know of few similar public admissions. It takes a certain amount of personal courage to accept responsibility for being wrong. Leaders are often confronted with their weaknesses, at times very publicly, and I submit that how they set the example in such situations is key to knowing whether one should follow them.

Revisiting Powell’s thinking led to my rediscovery of another leadership expert, Jim Collins of Good to Great fame. Collins also wrote (with Jerry I. Porras) a book called Built to Last, in which he describes five levels of visionary leadership. Collins believes that the very best visionary leaders have an “X factor”—humility. These are driven people, and their drive is focused on something other than themselves. Collins believes these leaders live and act in a spirit of service both to others and to the goals they seek to achieve, ultimately achieving success not as individuals but as part of groups, giving credit to everyone involved. Anyone who has been in the military knows what it feels like to follow such leaders.

From Harry Truman’s executive order to integrate the military racially and the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, both in 1948, to the removal of the combat exclusion of women just 10 years ago, the joint force has slowly adapted to a broader range of people serving and leading. Eighty years ago, the military’s segregated units and combat exclusion policies reflected the country as it was then. The nation has constantly evolved since. But the challenges of sustaining and building on its progress remain.

From this chair, I am tracking the integration arc of the joint force, and we have all seen the advances minorities and women have made. But issues that are likely systemic—and therefore requiring systemic changes—persist, especially in fully integrating women into the force and in recruiting and retention. In addition, rates of criminal activity such as sexual harassment and assault against women and men are rising. Another disturbing and persistent issue is military member and family member suicide.

I offer these thoughts to stimulate your thinking on where the joint force needs to be in the years ahead. Technology is important, but it is not the answer to issues of human nature or culture. Effective leadership must be achieved through training, education, enforcement of standards, effective and appropriate promotion policies, and focusing on respect for everyone who serves. As you experience success in your own lives, be sure to lead with enough humility to help those around you share in that success.

In this issue’s Forum, we connect our very human past with the increasingly technological present and future of the joint force. First up, we have two of JFQ’s alumni, the U.S. Army War College’s John Nagl and Charles Allen, who provide an important review of the rise of Black Soldiers in the Army. In investigating ways the military can best add capability without taking lives in the battlespace, Sara McGrath updates us on nonlethal weapons and similar military capabilities. Adding to the already significant and valuable discussions in these pages on cyber issues, Natalie Alen, Gregory Eaton, and Jaime Stieler provide some thoughtful insights on how the joint force can partner with industry in what they term the “new ‘cyber’ space race.”

Our JPME Today section returns to this issue of JFQ with two contributions from the faculty here at the National Defense University. David Arnold, of the National War College, presents his case for how George Washington provided the Nation with its first national security strategy. And, with the concept of integrated deterrence now front and center in our defense policy, James Van de Velde, of the Dwight D. Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy, argues that previous approaches to cyber deterrence are now “dead.”

Offering a wide-ranging set of Commentary articles, this issue takes you from today’s threat-based planning to looking back at a certain European warrior-king. Suggesting that our present institutional views have underappreciated the growing number of threats to the deployability of the joint force, Michael Borders, Jr., and Miller Carbaugh examine areas of concern and offer a framework for taking them into account. Seeing parallels in present-day Great Power competition to the world that gave rise to Europe’s most famous emperor, George DiMichele recommends that we investigate the roots of Napoleon’s successes.

In Features, you will find two very current pieces that tackle operational issues in multiple domains. The team of Christopher Chin, Nicholas Schaeffer, Christopher Parker, and Joseph Janke describes developments in information warfare with a focus on China and Russia and offers some very interesting recommendations. Looking to “near space,” Benjamin Staats sees a number of opportunities for operating at elevations above where jet fighters were during the recent engagements with Chinese balloon flights over North American airspace.

Our Recall section brings us a look back at the Burma campaign of World War II. Shane Williams, John Green, Richard Kovsky, and Edwin Sumantha suggest that lessons from this campaign include the counterbalancing of cutting-edge technology with an opponent’s mass and ability to persist. (One might glean a similar lesson from today’s Russian war on Ukraine.) In Doctrine, Nicholas Shaw presents an impressive method for developing mission analysis for outer space plans. And as usual, we include three very useful book reviews to guide your professional development reading, along with the latest in Joint Doctrine. Insiders tell me we are likely to see a very big development in that area this summer.

As always, we are looking forward to what you have to say on leadership, on the transformation of today’s world, and especially on where the joint force is headed and how to make sure it is ready to meet and succeed against the challenges ahead. JFQ

—William T. Eliason,
    Editor in Chief