PRISM  Volume 7, no 1

PRISM Vol. 7, No. 1

(September 2017)

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In October 2009, provincial governors gather to lay out their homegrown plan to improve the security and development of the four easternmost Afghanistan provinces.

How to Prepare for State-Building

By Roger Myerson

The question of how stable democratic states are established is one of the fundamental questions of social science. But it is also a question of practical importance for great nations whose power to deter international threats may depend, not only on an ability to defeat adversaries in battle, but also on an ability to make tactical victories serve larger goals of political development. This article considers questions about what America could do to be better prepared for future challenges of post–conflict political reconstruction or state-building, with hope of stimulating further discussion of these questions. Even if state-building preparedness is not a salient issue in current political debates, these fundamental problems of political development and international relations deserve careful consideration by experts in government and academia.

Protests in Sanaa, Yemen in April 2011

Is There a Path Out of the Yemen Conflict? Why it Matters

By Gerald Feierstein

Among the countries affected by the Arab Spring, only Yemen was able to negotiate a peaceful political transition. In November 2011 Yemen’s major political parties, with the support of the United States and the international community, signed the Gulf initiative that included provisions for the: replacement of the government of former President Ali Abdallah Salih; election of a new interim president; and establishment of a two-year roadmap for new presidential and parliamentary elections to include the creation of a National Dialogue as a forum to address Yemen’s problems.


ABOARD USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7), New Orleans -- U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, principle federal official (PFO) for federal response to Hurricane Katrina, addresses the crew of USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) September 15 during an all hands call in the shipís hangar bay. Iwo departed Norfolk August 31 to join relief and recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico following devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate Airman (AW) Amanda Williams

Leading the National Security Enterprise

By Ronald Sanders

Today’s complex, chaotic, and interconnected world has forced us to rethink some of our fundamental assumptions about the nature of leadership, especially when it comes to leading whole-of-government or even whole-of-nation efforts. This is especially the case in the U.S. national security enterprise (hereafter referred to as the NSE or enterprise) where a complex, diverse constellation of military and civilian agencies must wield both hard and soft power on behalf of the United States. For various reasons, that enterprise has become our nation’s “first responder” when it comes to almost any challenge, from traditional military operations to a myriad of nonmilitary ones, to include disaster and pandemic relief and humanitarian assistance (the Ebola crisis comes to mind), post–conflict reconstruction, and even nation-building. Irrespective of the challenge, our nation’s political leaders look to senior officers—particularly but not exclusively those in uniform—who are in, and/or who have been developed by our NSE to lead the way.

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s intelligence mission and needs were recognized by the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004, which established the Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

21st Century Intelligence - The Need for a One-Team-One-Fight Approach

By Leslie Ireland

We’ve been through this before. Now we’re just waiting to see how soon it fails.” As I put down the phone, the dismissive words about integration from one of the Iran watchers within the Intelligence Community (IC) resonated in my ears. In November 2005, less than two months into my role as the first Iran Mission Manager for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), I was face-to-face with the unfolding skepticism the IC felt about the implementation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevent Act (IRTPA) of 2004 that reorganized the Community and created the DNI position.1 In retrospect, I am thankful for those words. They braced me for the challenges that lay ahead and helped shape my approach to integrating IC efforts on Iran. They were not far from the truth. I had been part of a number of “tiger” or “hard target” teams assembled to tackle particular intelligence challenges. They saw success in discreet areas that tapered off after the team was disbanded or new concerns siphoned off resources. The challenge for integration now was how to make it sustainable and enduring beyond changes in leadership. I am also thankful for the person who spoke those words. By the end of my three-year tenure, they were a champion for integration and a big supporter of the mission management concept.

Honduran police in May 2017 arrest a MS 13 member accused of leading groups in the rural areas outside of San Pedro Sula, where the gang presence has been expanding to control drug trafficking routes.

The Evolution of MS 13 in El Salvador and Honduras

By Douglas Farah and Kathryn Babineau

Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) is rapidly evolving into a criminal-economic-military-political power that poses an existential threat to the states of El Salvador and Honduras.1 In Guatemala, the gang remains a tier two threat—dangerous, but with far less influence and fewer capabilities than in the other two nations of the Northern Triangle. With growing ties to Mexican drug cartels, while assuming an ever-greater role in the transportation of cocaine transportista networks across the Isthmus, the gang is acquiring financial resources, advanced weaponry, and the ability and sophistication to wield increasing political power. Factions that once relied exclusively on violence and threats for control are now trying to win the hearts and minds of the communities in which they operate; taking concrete steps to consolidate themselves in the cocaine trade; and becoming credible alternatives to the state. MS 13 in many ways now better resembles a criminal business enterprise rooted in brutal violence than a traditional gang.

A poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released)

The Curse of the Shiny Object

By Gretchen S. Peters

Human beings have a strong tendency to fight problems where they are visible. This intuitive and usually well-intended response to visible cues often produces inefficiencies and can result in spreading greater harm. This is the curse of the “shiny object”—when the attention-grabbing aspect of a problem distracts from identifying and countering the core drivers. The curse impacts many aspects of life. It can cause the U.S. Government (USG) and other organizations to overcommit resources to fight visible symptoms of security problems, while initiatives to counter the structural or systemic drivers of those problems are under-resourced if not entirely ignored. In the worst cases, initiatives to restore order have ended up spreading greater harm by targeting people or entire communities that are victims, not drivers, of the original security problem.

In June 2017, the Philippine Air Force conducted airstrikes against militant groups in Marawi City.

ISIL Radicalization, Recruitment, and Social Media Operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines

By Nathaniel Moir

In a 2014 video posted to YouTube, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) announced the end of Sykes-Picot.1 While Sykes-Picot may be unfamiliar among many in the West, ISIL’s appeal in 2014 centered on promoting its ability and vision, as a caliphate, to invalidate the boundary between Iraq and Syria. That border, a result of World War I neocolonial competition, stemmed from the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that divided the region into mandates governed by and reflecting the interests of France and Britain. Where was the Wahhabbi doctrine in this YouTube message? Nowhere. Rather, the message suggested that administrative control of territory, an opportunity provided by the Syrian Civil War, distinguished ISIL from other terrorist organizations and that expansion of a caliphate did not rely on the legitimacy of radical Wahhabism ideology alone. While ideology remains central to this process, ISIL radicalization depends on exploitation of networks including familial ties, friendship, religious institutions and especially expansion of these connections. With the potential end of its attempted caliphate in Iraq and Syria, what other regional networks will ISIL target for exploitation?

From the Field

Widespread corruption has permeated the highest levels of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  Money changer displaying his wares.

Fighting for Legitimacy in Afghanistan: the Creation of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center

By Chad Brooks and Craig Trebilcock

This article recounts the efforts of international stakeholders who, working with a small number of Afghan officials, threw the equivalent of a geopolitical “hail Mary” in 2015 to reverse the culture of corruption and impunity that permeated the highest levels of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) Mission’s efforts in Afghanistan to rejuvenate counter- and anti- corruption lines of operations with the creation of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) is worth examining.1 The ACJC is not a magic talisman that will eliminate all corruption but, if properly resourced, the Center can help the GIRoA regain political legitimacy in the eyes of its people, its soldiers, and the world.

In Kazakhstan’s expansive and austere terrain, logistics play a critical role.

Developing a Western Logistics Course for Kazakhstan

By George Topic and Robert Brewer

Operational logisticians are in high-demand across the globe, irrespective of country, since their specialty is a critical enabler of military capability. It is difficult, however, to design relevant training and to develop the next generation of logisticians who are skilled in the art of planning and managing logistics at the operational level. Within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) the questions of what to teach, how to optimize student learning, and even who to teach are all difficult to answer—across the armed services and joint organizations there is very little agreement. Coursework design for other nations must accommodate differences in culture, language, and teaching methodology from that of the United States, and relate instruction to the host country’s national security strategy and defense priorities.

In 2010, a soldier provides security outside an Afghan Police checkpoint in Taktehpol, Afghanistan.

Learning from the Struggle to Assess Counterinsurgency and Stabilization Operations in Afghanistan

By Nathan White

American assessment practices proved to be inadequate for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan. The type of conflict in which America and its allies would eventually find themselves engaged did not necessarily fit neatly within any of the primary civilian and military mission sets. U.S. military assessment practices are largely meant to support a traditional conventional war paradigm in which Joint Force combat overmatch and the defeat of a state adversary’s military forces has been increasingly treated as the definitive factor in achieving victory. The assessment practices at U.S. civilian agencies, in particular the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), generally are designed to measure success in activities, projects, and programming associated with their traditional missions such as development, diplomacy, democracy promotion, human rights, and disaster relief.

In 2010, the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team participates in a tug-a-war challenge between teams from the various villages around Bamyan Province in Afghanistan.

Reinventing Social Science in the Military: Lessons Learned from the United States and New Zealand

By P.S. Lieber and W.S. Hoverd

At first glance, the relationship between social science and the military may not be clear. A closer analysis of the opportunities that social science offers the military shows, however, that it provides a variety of research and educational capabilities to address the human dimensions of military organizations and their operational contexts. For instance, psychological and human performance criteria are firmly rooted in social science constructs within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).


Marines assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, depart a vehicle checkpoint and patrol back to Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Afghanistan, May 30. The Marines are a part of the H&S guard force, a group of mostly non-infantrymen who perform infantry duties in the H&S battle space. The patrol was the first the Marines had completed on their own without being accompanied by a platoon sergeant or commander.

Reflections on Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Reviewed by David Petraeus

Can you tell us how your view of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolved during your various leadership assignments? GEN Petraeus: When we were getting ready for what became the invasion of Iraq, the prevailing wisdom was that we were going to have a long, hard fight to Baghdad, and it was really going to be hard to take Baghdad. The road to deployment, which was a very compressed road for the 101st Airborne Division, started with a seminar on military operations in urban terrain, because that was viewed as the decisive event in the takedown of the regime in Iraq—that and finding and destroying the weapons of mass destruction.

Book Reviews

The Big Stick: the Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force

Reviewed by Joseph Collins; Authored by Eliot A. Cohen

The Big Stick is an excellent book that does what its title advertises. Eliot Cohen, a dean of American strategic thought and a former counselor to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dissects American military power, analyzes the threats that power faces, and the rudimentary rules for its usage. This is a rare book that appeals to both the expert and the dedicated citizen looking for a guide to future strategy. It reminds us that “to go far” in this world, we must “speak softly and carry a big stick,” a saying popularized by Theodore Roosevelt before he became President. Cohen analyzes the stick and tells the reader how and when to swing it with a tenor and vigor that President Roosevelt would appreciate.

War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory

Reviewed by Ronald E. Neumann; Authored by Nadia Schadlow

War and the Art of Governance is an important book for looking beyond the frequently cited mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq to put the very serious problems of stabilization and governance into a larger historical framework. The book is somewhat weakened by an almost total focus on the military and organizational aspects of the problems without adequately exploring the political dimensions of the many case studies it focuses on. Nevertheless, its concentration on the need to radically alter certain deeply ingrained habits of both the Army and of policymakers is an important contribution to policy and doctrine.

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?

Reviewed by Lawrence Freedman; Authored by Graham Allison

It is conceivable that one day the United States and the People’s Republic of China will go to war. There are a number of possible scenarios involving a disturbing range of countries—Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Japan, and the Koreas—that could draw the two countries into a fight. None of this is news, as tension has been evident for some time. Whether or not there is a conflict will depend on how far China pushes to assert its interests, for example in the South China Sea. In other cases, the risks revolve more around actions that might be taken by others, for example a formal secession by the Republic of China (Taiwan) from China.

A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order

Reviewed by Mark Meirowitz; Authored by Richard Haass

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an innovative thinker in the field of American foreign policy and international relations. In his recent work, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, Haass proposes updating the current world order—that has been with us seemingly since time immemorial, having originated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648—to help alleviate world disorder.