News | Feb. 15, 2024

Executive Summary

By William T. Eliason Joint Force Quarterly 112

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President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

Many VIPs come to the National Defense University to share their views; recently, the students and faculty had the distinct honor to listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Washington in December. A packed house heard an impassioned speech by a man whom fate, and an aggressor, propelled to national leadership.

The next day I was lucky enough to be teaching some of the students who attended the speech, and I asked them for their impressions of the event. Even the most stoic of my students was impressed by the way in which Zelensky laid out his case for supporting his nation. In an Airman’s view, he was looking for a solid wingman in his nation’s fight to survive. Everyone in that room knew the United States, our allies, and partners have been on Ukraine’s wing for nearly 2 years.

Our lesson that day was on Carl von Clausewitz’s concepts, and, as you might expect, many of the students drew connections between the baron’s 19th-century writings and today’s conflicts. I should not be surprised that some things both in the human condition and in conflict do not change. The cases of the current global conflicts are different in scope from the Napoleonic period, but the impact on those involved and their neighboring states is equally strong.

What seems to be buried from the public discourse about support for Ukraine, which has now been tied to other pressing but manageable issues, such as support for Israel and Taiwan as well as addressing immigration issues related to U.S. border security, is what that European part of our national security we have contributed to gains us as a nation. First, every taxpayer dollar for support to Ukraine finds its way into the U.S. economy because we are paying for our older weapons to be provided to Ukraine for battlefield use. Additionally, those weapons in many cases were already in our stockpiles and paid for years ago and will be replaced by new weapons in the pipeline, in effect a modernization speed-up for our military, which in turn will make it more capable. A similar arrangement one would assume is behind U.S. support to Israel.

In turn, those new systems we would provide to our joint force are built in the United States by American workers, paid for by the taxpayers, and in nearly all districts represented in Congress. By helping Ukraine (and Israel and Taiwan), we get a jobs program for defense and related industry workers. Most importantly, providing aid to Ukraine to fight to defend its country means that at least for the past 2 years and likely longer, U.S. forces are not directly in harm’s way. How could any of that “deal” be something an American would be against?

People in Europe at the grassroots level in 1815, 1919, and 1945 knew all too well the result of territorial aggression, as Clausewitz did, having fought in more than 30 battles during that period, a witness to death and destruction on a massive scale. One hopes that the long-term reward for aggressors is defeat. We do live in difficult times that demand a reckoning of what we as a nation really stand for. If the United States wasn’t as we believe we are, a shining city on the hill, as President Ronald Reagan stated, why would an embattled Ukrainian president ask for our help? Seems simple from a classic Clausewitz reading as to what should be done.

Our Forum section brings three very interesting articles that range from the theoretical to the application of technology to conflict in the 21st century. Returning JFQ author and strategist Lukas Milevski takes us on a deep dive into how gray zone operations might or might not play out. Bringing us out to sea, Diane Zorri and Gary Kessler discuss the impact interference with key electronic precision guidance can have on naval and combined operations. Highlighting the intersection between energy and national defense, Steven Curtis and Peter Rocha offer us some interesting concepts for keeping our forces supported with small power grids.

JPME Today returns with two engaging pieces on hot topics within our colleges, one related to delivery of our education to the next generation of senior leaders and the other on how best to consider those graduates who lead in the cyber domain. From the U.S. Naval War College, Kristin Mulready-Stone helps us to better understand the path we will take to achieving the Chairman’s required Outcomes-Based Military Education. As cyber was recently recognized as a war­fighting domain, the joint force will need leaders who innately understand how to best leverage our capabilities. Setting out an agenda to do so, Alfredo Rodriguez III offers our war colleges several interesting cyber initiatives to consider beyond today’s limited offerings.

JFQ welcomes the opportunity in this edition’s Special Feature to present perspectives from another combatant command, the U.S. Strategic Command. In my interview with General Anthony Cotton, he provides us with his perspective on making sure our national strategic nuclear forces are always ready to provide forces as necessary to assure our nation’s joint warfighting is successful. Helping us understand the scope of the modern challenges, Thomas Hammerle helps us survey the battlespace in which all forms of deterrence will matter. In discussing how the command views its mission, Kayse Jansen describes the composition of new thinking about the frameworks of strategic deterrence. Reminding ourselves of the dual need for strategic readiness and nonproliferation, Jennifer Bradley helps us see a way both to deter the use of and to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons globally. Concepts are only as good as the capabilities a nation has to support them, and as Patrick McKenna and Dylan Land suggest, setting requirements and having an appropriate accounting for the right number of systems needed is critical to mission success.

In Features, we offer three different “think pieces” that span the spectrum of concerns for the joint force, from intellectual property rights to battlefield medical support to how to tie a political aim to a military objective, as Clausewitz long ago suggested. Describing one of the growing concerns for the joint force, Gerald Krieger walks us through how China views intellectual property rights. Addressing response speed, the critical issue in getting medical support on the battlefield, Jennifer Gurney, Jeremy Pamplin, Mason Remondelli, Stacy Shackelford, Jay Baker, Sean Conley, Benjamin Potter, Travis Polk, Eric Elster, and Kyle Remick lay out the survival chain they believe will best achieve a significant reduction of permanent injury and death from combat. One of the great pleasures I have had in this job is publishing Milan Vego, one of our nation’s leading strategic thinkers and professional military education professors, who returns in this issue with his views on how we assure the link between political and military objectives.

We close out this issue with an excellent Recall article and three informative book reviews. In our Recall article, Jacob Ivie and Bradley Podliska present three models of decisionmaking from the 19th-century western plains of the United States, using examples from the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Battle of the Rosebud.

And as you work through some of the pressing issues facing the joint force, we are here to help your ideas get a complete and full airing out. The only way we can change is to help each other to see the need to do so and then suggest a proper path to that new future. We need you to help be a good wingman and show us how to succeed. JFQ

—William T. Eliason,
Editor in Chief