Oct. 4, 2019

Countering Hybrid Warfare: So What for the Joint Force?

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

Saving Democracy Abroad

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

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

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

Pathologies of Centralized State-Building

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

The Meaning of Setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

Afghanistan Reconstruction: Lessons from the Long War

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

Taking Responsibility in a Dangerous World

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

The Business Case for Terrorism

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.

Oct. 4, 2019

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

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.

July 31, 2019

Five Conundrums: The United States and the Conflict in Syria

For the past 8 years, two U.S. administrations, the United Nations (UN), and numerous foreign governments have sought to end the catastrophic war in Syria and reach a negotiated political settlement to the conflict. Their efforts have repeatedly been complicated, even thwarted, by the highly contested and violent politics underlying the conflict, the sheer number of conflict actors inside and outside of Syria, and those actors’ diverse and often irreconcilable objectives.