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Nov. 19, 2020

Shadows on the Wall: Deterrence and Disarmament

Despite pretentions to the contrary, the academic mind rarely makes room for discussions of first principles—those basic assumptions taught in first-semester undergraduate classes that undergird any given discipline. Instead, the traditional path for the aspiring academic is to obtain a terminal degree, carve out an esoteric research niche, and demonstrate talent by identifying the nuances of the niche. This approach, which the academy has taken ever since there was such a thing as a “terminal degree,” is not without merit. The academy does aim to create new knowledge, some of which turns out to be useful. On the other hand, it also breeds cottage industries churning out new, nuanced knowledge for new, nuanced knowledge’s (and tenure’s) sake in a way that can obscure first principles. As a result, once in a while, someone needs to come in with a chain saw and lop off all the undergrowth that conceals the forest floor. It is that much-needed task that Keith Payne undertakes in Shadows on the Wall in the long-established cottage industries surrounding nuclear deterrence and disarmament.

Nov. 19, 2020

Winners of the 2020 Essay Competitions

NDU Press virtually hosted the final round of judging in May 2020, during which 26 faculty judges from 14 participating professional military education (PME) institutions selected the best entries in each category. There were 72 submissions in this year’s three categories. First Place winners in each of the three categories appear in this issue.

Nov. 19, 2020

Differentiating Kinetic and Cyber Weapons to Improve Integrated Combat

Warfare, with a history as old as humanity itself, has been predominantly conducted through the application of physical force to disrupt, degrade, or destroy physical assets. That long history has led to well-developed doctrine and principles for shows of force, deterrence, proportionality, and rules for warfare that rely on predictable and repeatable characteristics of the physical weapons employed. The advent of cyber warfare in the modern era, however, has illustrated that the assumptions used for the employment of kinetic weapons do not necessarily apply to the employment of cyber capabilities. For example, unlike a physical missile or bomb, it is difficult to predict the precise effects, measure the resulting proportionality, or estimate the collateral effects attendant to the use of a computer virus. As we discuss, the differences between kinetic weapons and cyber weapons are discernible, manageable, and have far-reaching implications for strategic military doctrine, planning, and operational employment in both power projection and defense.

Nov. 19, 2020

A Globally Integrated U.S. Coast Guard on a World Stage

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) domestic competencies can help achieve a globally integrated national security strategy, including counteracting Chinese aggression and influence in the South China Sea as well as Chinese and Russian expansionism into Africa. Global integration transcends the U.S. functional and geographic combatant command construct, allowing for lines of effort across all instruments of national power and domains without geographic constraints. The recent COVID-19 pandemic, for example, underscores our increasingly globalized threat posture—and the corresponding need for globally integrated response capabilities.

Nov. 19, 2020

Mobilization in the 21st Century: Asking the Right Question

A renewed focus on Great Power competition means major wars are getting attention again, and these kinds of wars consume a lot of resources. Historically, big wars required wartime industrial mobilization to produce all those resources. War mobilization conjures black and white images of tanks, planes, and ships pouring out of American factories during World War II. But does bringing these pictures to life reflect the realities of major war in the 21st century? Can we even make all those things? More important, is planning for this kind of industrial overhaul a high priority in preparing for a major war with a peer competitor? Is this even the right question?

Nov. 19, 2020

The Importance of Joint Concepts for the Planner

The 2018 National Defense Strategy explains the importance of developing new operational concepts to “sharpen our competitive advantages and enhance our lethality” across the entire spectrum of conflict.1 The strategy forces us to think beyond military modernization and order of battle to consider how the joint force could be used in new and more effective ways in a future security environment that is “always in flux” and fraught with relentless change.2 According to the Joint Staff, the purpose of joint concepts is to offer “alternative operational methods and related capabilities to maintain military advantage against current and emerging threats.”3 These concepts also propose necessary changes for the joint force to improve its ability to fight and win across all warfighting domains in these future conflicts.

Nov. 19, 2020

More Afraid of Your Friends Than the Enemy: Coalition Dynamics in the Korean War, 1950–1951

Collaboration with other countries is an integral part of the U.S. National Security Strategy. Its most recent version notes that “allies and partners are a great strength of the United States” that “add directly to U.S. political, economic, military, intelligence, and other capabilities.”1 Since the end of the Cold War, countries have preferred to collaborate through coalitions rather than formal alliances because the latter are more liable to impose political constraints. Coalitions, according to Patricia Weitsman, are “ad hoc multinational undertakings that are forged to undertake a specific mission and dissolve once that mission is complete.”

Nov. 19, 2020

Calling Forth the Military: A Brief History of the Insurrection Act

In the literal sense, the Insurrection Act does not exist. Rather than a singular piece of legislation, it is a broad, overarching concept for a series of acts dating to the 1790s that concern the use of American military forces within the United States.1 These statutes, later codified in current Title 10 U.S. Code 251–255, serve as the primary rationale for the delegation of authority to the President to use military forces domestically. In the past 50 years, only one President, George H.W. Bush, has used these emergency powers: in the Virgin Islands in 1989 and in Los Angeles in 1992. The 28 years since the Los Angeles riots mark the longest period in American history without a domestic deployment of troops under the act. In part, local authorities—many armed and equipped to military standards—have proved more capable of handling disturbances and other crises. Additionally, domestic military deployments have proved politically difficult for Presidents whose critics have attacked such actions as gross usurpations of local authority by an overreaching Federal executive.

Nov. 19, 2020

Joint Doctrine Updates

Joint Doctrine Updates.

Nov. 19, 2020

Success on Purpose: A Message for Leaders of Military Organizations

Why do leaders of successful military operations often struggle to recreate that success when placed in charge of standing military organizations? What do the leaders of highly effective military organizations have that is missing for organizational leaders struggling with cultures mired in bureaucracy and box-checking?