Feb. 10, 2020

The Revival of Al Qaeda

Al-Qaida has taken advantage of the attention focused on the Islamic State to develop safe havens and exercise control over large swaths of territory. In addition, Al-Qaida has taken security precautions such as diffusing its leadership to a variety of geographic locations, creating cohesion among its global affiliates, and gaining inroads with vulnerable populations in fragile states. It is imperative, therefore, to understand how Al-Qaeda and other such groups employ inconspicuous methods such as exploiting socio-political and ethnic grievances and, exercising strategic patience in order to prevent Al-Qaida from staging a comeback.

Feb. 10, 2020

Adapting to Disruption: Aerial Combat over North Vietnam

During aerial combat in the Vietnam War, both the US Navy and the US Air Force experienced unexpectedly high losses. A comparison of the Navy’s and the Air Force’s different approaches to aerial combat yields four insights regarding military adaptation. First, adaptation depends on senior leadership. Second, taking a broader approach results in more successful adaptation. Third, the not-invented-here syndrome results in less successful adaptation. And fourth, one key component of military effectiveness is the capacity to adapt to disruption. Realistic testing and training, and recent battlefield experience may enable military forces to adapt more quickly to future disruptions.

Feb. 7, 2020

Peacemakers: Chaplains as Vital Links in the Peace Chain

In regions where the US military operates, commanders should consider employing DOD chaplains to serve as the commander’s representative and coordinate humanitarian assistance. Military commanders must deal with a network of intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and international foreign humanitarian entities. This complex network requires ongoing coordination, which a DOD chaplain can accomplish in a way that is consistent with joint doctrine. Although critics may say this blurs the lines between the military and humanitarian actors, DOD chaplains bring expertise as potential liaisons to religious leaders and can facilitate civilian-military relations to achieve national objectives.

Feb. 7, 2020

The Bering Strait: An Arena for Great Power Competition

The rapidly changing environmental conditions in the Arctic Region have increased the potential for great power competition between Russia, China and the US. Because of Russia’s and China’s interest in the region, the Bering Strait more than ever is vital to US economic and national security interests. Since 2014, the US has mostly focused on deterring Russian aggression in Europe. As a result, the US is now in a position of weakness in the Arctic. If steps are not taken, the status of the Arctic as a place of peaceful cooperation and exploration will be jeopardized.

Feb. 7, 2020

A Blue-Collar Approach to Operational Analysis: A Special Operations Case Study

For many military commanders, the word assessment induces bouts of eye-rolling, daytime drowsiness and nausea. This condition results from years of overly complicated briefings which are unintelligible to everyone but the presenter. This manuscript offers a remedy: a set of guiding principles to help make better decisions built on better data. Breaking from traditional assessment approaches, the authors focus on building collaborative teams to pursue questions of primary concern to the commander. This article can help every commander and their staff learn to ask questions that matter, conduct useful, hard-nosed analysis, and enhance decision-making across the organization.

Feb. 7, 2020

Clausewitz’s Wondrous Yet Paradoxical Trinity: The Nature of War as a Complex Adaptive System

Clausewitz described war as a paradoxical trinity comprised of the tendencies of the people, the commander and his army, and the government. The three elements of the Clausewitz trinity interact within and among the other elements to create a pattern of behavior that is understandable yet unpredictable. Within this trinity, Clausewitz captured the social dynamics in war that characterize a complex adaptive system. This article provides an overview of Clausewitz’s paradoxical trinity, and illustrates how complexity theory can be applied as a framework to examine Clausewitz’s observations of the interactions between chance, politics and passion.

Feb. 7, 2020

Asking Strategic Questions: A Primer for National Security Professionals

Asking good strategic questions is not just a useful leadership habit. In the national security profession, it can save lives and change history. Because leaders have so much power over which questions organizations ask, it is essential that leaders understand the basic characteristics of good strategic questions. Leaders cannot be expected to be experts in all things, but guiding or assessing a strategic question is one area in which they must be active and involved. Strategic questions drive organizational attention, energy, and resources, say the authors, and can make the difference between success and failure.

Feb. 7, 2020

Beyond Auftragstaktik: The Case Against Hyper-Decentralized Command

The Prussian concept of mission command emphasizes hyper-decentralization, commander’s intent and low-level initiative. This article argues that such decentralization is no guarantee of command effectiveness. While there is a need to resolve the inherent tension between centralization and decentralization, the author recommends taking a balanced approach, which would empower subordinates to take the initiative while retaining the commander’s ability to coordinate mutual support and mass combat power. While the Prussian approach has some qualities worth emulating, it is less than ideal. An iterative approach based on a continual cycle of synchronization, dissemination and initiative offers the most promising way ahead.

Feb. 7, 2020

Adapting for Victory: DOD Laboratories for the 21st Century

The US’s technological advantage is now under threat. In the era of Great Power competition, the People’s Republic of China and Russian Federation are approaching parity in many areas. Their stated intent is to reach full parity and then technological dominance, a situation which would be unacceptable to the US and its allies. The authors call upon the DOD and other government agencies, as well as key partners in industry and academia, to join in a new venture which would reimagine how the US conducts research in fields such as directed energy, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and other emergent technologies.

Feb. 7, 2020

Reconceiving Modern Warfare: A Unified Model

Joint warfighting requires integrated thinking across many different capabilities, technologies and functions. This article proposes a new model of joint warfare, which brings together several existing paradigms and facilitates strategic discussion, tactical planning and operational design. First, the author presents and defines the new model, and then applies it to the Joint Planning Process. Tailored for modern technologies and emerging concepts, this unified model serves an example of enhanced thinking that goes into the development of warfighting plans and operations, and enables military strategists, planners, and operators to execute modern warfare.