PRISM Vol. 8, No. 2

PRISM Vol. 8, No. 2

(October 2019)

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“Taking Responsibility in a Dangerous World”—the aptly titled feature by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy—sets the tone for our latest edition of PRISM.  A non-themed edition, PRISM Vol. 8, No. 2 explores the business of terrorism; lessons learned from 18 years of war; the emergence of hybrid warfare; the potential militarization of robotic automated systems and artificial intelligence; Russia’s resurgence, and Sweden’s strategy of Total Defense in response to Russia’s resurgent assertiveness; as well as the rapid growth of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, and a comparative analysis of international approaches to diplomatic security. The edition features the perspectives of warfighters, scholars, practitioners, and diplomats from Israel, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. Distinguished perspectives include those of a Defense Minister, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, former Commander Joint Special Operations Command, and former UN Under Secretary General for Safety and Security. Irrespective of the rank or specialty, each of our newest authors are thought leaders. PRISM


In November 2012, EU Naval Force flagship ITS SanGiusto captures suspected pirates as part of Operation Atalanta—also known as European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU-NAVFOR-ATALANTA)—part of a larger global action by the EU to prevent and combat acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia. (EU-NAVFOR-ATALANTA)

Taking Responsibility in a Dangerous World

By Federica Mogherini

The NATO partnership is indeed evolving, and some analysts describe a growing rift across the ocean. Yet transatlantic cooperation today is more important than ever. Beyond any disagreement we might have, European and American interests very often coincide. On most foreign policy issues—from Ukraine to Syria, from Africa’s security to North Korea—transatlantic cooperation is in great shape. During the five-year term of the current EU leadership, the European Union and NATO have signed two historic Joint Declarations, which have opened a whole new phase in our partnership. Our two organizations share 22 Members and the same set of values: our mandates are different but—most importantly—they are complementary. While NATO remains the pillar of Europe’s collective defense, there are tasks that can only be performed by an organization of a different nature, such as the European Union (EU). The EU contribution to our common security is unique and increasingly relevant in our dangerous world.

In February 2019, foreign ministers listen to U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo deliver opening remarks at the Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. (U.S. State Department/ Ron Pryzyucha)

The Business Case for Terrorism

By Stanley McChrystal and Ellen Chapin

Two of the deadliest and most notorious terrorist organizations, al-Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State (IS), have boasted many of the same structures and utilized tactics common to organizations in the business world. While AQ (having existed and thrived longer) has gradually built a global network of operatives, IS has focused on rapid expansion. Circumstances have forced the two organizations to compete for influence, resources, and success. In this, article we will reconceptualize terrorist groups as business organizations and explore how such organizations can best be countered, based on insights from the business world.

In 2012, U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, travels aboard a helicopter from Bagram to Kabul, Afghanistan for a meeting with the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force, U.S. Central Command, the U.S. State Department, and Afghan military. (DOD/ D. Myles Cullen)

Afghanistan Reconstruction: Lessons from the Long War

By John F. Sopko

Considering that more than 2,200 Americans have died in Afghanistan, it would be a dereliction of duty not to extract lessons from nearly 18 years of engagement there. It not only makes sense but also is a statutory obligation for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Our legislative mandate requires us to provide recommendations to promote economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and leadership on preventing and detecting waste, fraud, and abuse. As an independent inspector general, my job is to evaluate the effectiveness of reconstruction activities in Afghanistan, not to make policy. Nonetheless, I have been asked many times whether the United States and its coalition partners will be in Afghanistan in another 18 years. Although I cannot answer that question directly, I know that we may well be if we fail to learn the lessons from the first 18 years of our nation’s experience in Afghanistan.

In 2013, A U.S. Air Force loadmaster scans for threats using night vision goggle aboard a C-130 aircraft after completing a cargo drop over Ghazni, province in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force/ Ben Bloker)

The Meaning of Setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Carter Malkasian

From 2011 to 2017, similar processes played out in Iraq and Afghanistan that are deeply significant yet understudied. Between 2011 and 2014, after much effort and some success, the United States drew down its military forces in both countries. Hopes were high that the Iraqi and the Afghan government could take over. Their armies and police were vastly superior in numbers, equipment, and training to those of their adversaries. Nevertheless, the Iraqi and Afghan states both came to the brink of collapse. Gains that had come at high cost and sacrifice for the United States unraveled. Terrorist threats re-emerged. The United States re-entered the conflicts. So far, it has not fully withdrawn. Why these events came to pass has not yet been fully studied. This article explores what happened and the implications for U.S. strategy.

In 2011, Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force officials take part in a shura with elders in Zabul province, Afghanistan. The Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team visited the village to talk with elders and help Afghan National Security Forces distribute winter supplies. (U.S. Air Force/Brian Ferguson)

Pathologies of Centralized State-Building

By Jennifer Murtazashvili

The international community, led by the United States, has invested trillions of dollars in state-building efforts during the past two decades. Yet despite this commitment of substantial resources, conflict and violence remain a challenge in fragile states. It therefore seems especially important to consider the reasons why state-building has not lived up to its expectations. One plausible explanation for the failure of state-building in Afghanistan is that the government remains extremely centralized in all critical dimensions, including the power of the executive, subnational governance, judicial institutions, public budgeting and finance, and the national security forces. Of these, only the Afghan National Army has implemented meaningful reforms. In the other areas, almost no reform has occurred compared to the institutional status quo before 2001. A consequence is that most Afghans continue to experience the same type of centralized, predatory state that they endured prior to 2001. Paradoxically, by resurrecting the centralized, predatory state, the stabilization effort continues to give rise to an antigovernment insurgency across the country.

An airman assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo—Joint Security Forces in Honduras explains crime scene processing to Honduran police. The instruction is part of a series of classes that teach handcuff procedures, high-risk traffic stops, and riot control. (U.S. Air Force/ Sonny Cohrs).

Saving Democracy Abroad

By Robert M. Perito and Donald J. Planty

Democratic governments are under siege around the world from forces that threaten the basic principles of representative government—freely elected leaders, democratic institutions, and the rule of law. In countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Cambodia, and Egypt, authoritarian leaders have “snuffed out civil society, suborned or faked elections, asphyxiated free expression, and repressed human rights.” Populist regimes are consolidating power in Europe and Latin America where citizens have lost faith in political institutions and rejected conventional leaders. Centralized authoritarian governments in Russia and China have put forward an alternative autocratic governance model and are striving for world leadership. Meanwhile, democracy in the United States has taken a dangerous turn.

Countering Hybrid Warfare: So What for the Joint Force?

By Sean Monaghan

Hybrid threats and hybrid warfare may occur at the same time, prosecuted by the same adversary, as part of an intense revisionist campaign or during war. For example, the current conflict in eastern Ukraine might be viewed as an example of hybrid warfare that is taking place within a wider Russian campaign of regional revisionism and global influence. Likewise, Iranian proxy militia fighting hybrid wars in Syria and Iraq, and against Israel, are part of a wider regional revisionist challenge. Alternatively, any future large-scale war is likely to involve hybrid warfare operations, in parallel with hybrid threats to the homeland. The challenge will be to fight both in parallel.

In August 2018, service members from many nations were represented in the Ukrainian Independence Day parade. Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine has been ongoing since 2015 and seeks to contribute to Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and training capacity. (Tennessee Army National Guard)

On the "Gerasimov Doctrine": Why the West Fails to Beat Russia to the Punch

By Ofer Fridman

Punching above its weight is a sign of strong leadership in the Russian cultural-political-military context. As the past two decades show, the Kremlin has been quite consistent in delivering its promises, especially in the political-military sphere. The West has also been very consistent in dismissing Moscow’s promises, finding itself surprised time after time. Unfortunately, in analyzing how Gerasimov’s latest promise was discussed in the West, it is likely to follow the same path, and we all will be “surprised” in a few years when Russia will deploy an intervention force to “protect” its interests abroad.

In August 2018, service members from many nations were represented in the Ukrainian Independence Day parade. Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine has been ongoing since 2015 and seeks to contribute to Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and training capacity. (Tennessee Army National Guard)

Artificial Intelligence on the Battlefield: Implications for Deterrence and Surprise

By Zachary Davis

Predicting the future of technology is a risky business. We know with certainty that AI is being incorporated into an array of military missions with the intent of improving our knowledge of the operational environment, adversary capabilities, and the speed and precision of offensive and defensive weapons. We can usefully speculate about how these developments are poised to change the face of modern warfare and how those changes might affect regional and strategic deterrence stability, based on our understanding of established political and military realities. More elusive, however, is a clear picture of how AI might converge with other technologies to produce unexpected outcomes, or “unknown unknowns.” Nevertheless, there are a few possibilities that could have major strategic consequences and alter the underlying realities on which regional and strategic stability are founded.

Miles of tunnels make up the underground structure of the Maginot Line, an underground structure built by the French to protect them during World War II, and shown here in 2010. The Germans broke through the Line—then arguably the most advanced fortification—in 1940. (Herald Post/David Walker)

The Digital Maginot Line: Autonomous Warfare and Strategic Incoherence

By Michael P. Ferguson

Just as the Maginot Line created an illusion of security, guaranteed standoff, and physical protection that made its shattering during the blitzkrieg of 1940 all the more shocking to the French polity, the pursuit of militarized robotics and autonomous systems (RAS) and artificial intelligence (AI) has led many to believe that the key to a more efficient and secure future lay within these technologies. The United States Armed Forces owe themselves and their civilian leaders honesty regarding a prudent approach to integrating AI and a pragmatic vision of the threats and risks associated with relying on these systems to achieve future policy goals.


Swedish Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist

"Total Defense"—an Interview with Swedish Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist

By Michael Miklaucic

"Total Defense" is the total mobilization of a society in a war situation—what you can mobilize on the civilian side and on the military side together, and what you can do on the civilian side to support the military effort. It includes what you can do in private companies, as well as in the public sector and authorities. Sweden had a huge civil defense organization during the Cold War, but since then it has atrophied, and now we are starting the complicated process of rebuilding that capacity. If the military organization is to work in reality, you need this support from the civilian side, such as infrastructure, healthcare, and all these things that are required for effective military operations.

Book Reviews

Temperature Rising: Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Wars in the Middle East

By Gawdat Bahgat

The academic literature on the IRGC, Iran’s elite force, has been rapidly growing. Nader Uskowi’s book differs from other offerings in the sense that the author does not claim objectivity. On the first page, the author dedicates the book to his father, a former major general in the Iranian Imperial Army—the military arm of the Pahlavi regime, toppled by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. There is nothing wrong or unusual about taking one side in a political debate. The Islamic Revolution created a large number of both loyalists and opponents. Certainly, both sides have the right to make their case.

Diplomatic Security: A Comparative Analysis

By Gregory Starr, Edited by Eugenio Cusumano and Christopher Kinsey

In In this new book, two adept editors, Eugenio Cusumano and Christopher Kinsey, combine and edit the work of eleven authors’ different looks at diplomatic security as practiced in nine countries—China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as well as some overall themes on the subject. The result is perhaps the most comprehensive public study of the topic released to date, and the work stands as a reminder of the high price nations have paid in pursuit of diplomacy, as well as the difficulties and tradeoffs of balancing diplomatic efforts and the security operations meant to protect them.