April 14, 2022

The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed the War on Terror After 9/11

This declassified/unredacted version of Ali Soufan’s 2011 edition of Black Banners is a must-read for anyone interested in terrorism, the psychology of interrogation, bureaucratic politics, and the lessons of poor leadership. Soufan demonstrates how dysfunctional U.S. intelligence services were before and after 9/11. He also demolishes the argument for the enhanced interrogation—or torture techniques—authorized by the George W. Bush administration and championed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Black Banners ranks with Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower as key sources for understanding al Qaeda.

April 14, 2022

Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy

For a generation of national security professionals and military officers, reading about the run-up to the Iraq War can feel like watching a bureaucratic horror movie. After almost two decades, we know what is lurking behind the faulty assumptions, and reading ever more quickly, page after page, we wonder if this time the toxic brew of naivete and hubris will not lead us down the tortured path that we know in our rational minds it will. Closing our books about that war—and Michael Mazarr’s Leap of Faith is among the very best volumes—we almost want to scold ourselves: We fell for the same tricks, and we ended at the same frustrating place.

April 14, 2022

Improvised Partnerships: U.S. Joint Operations in the Mexican-American War

From 1846 to 1848, the United States and Mexico fought a controversial war to decide which of the great republics would be the dominant power in North America. Featuring a series of U.S invasions that spanned from San Diego to Veracruz, the 26-month contest included bloody set-piece battles between national armies, aggressive maritime blockades and amphibious assaults along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and prolonged occupations that invited a savage guerrilla resistance. As historian K. Jack Bauer stated in his foundational study, The Mexican War, the conflict was “fought with doggedness by the soldiers and sailors of both nations under the leadership of brilliant and inept commanders,” as political leaders struggled over differing ideas of a “reasonable political settlement.

April 14, 2022

All Quiet on the Eastern Front: NATO Civil-Military Deterrence of Russian Hybrid Warfare

Building on NATO’s work, thinking, and publications on countering hybrid/gray zone warfare, the analysis presented here provides a framework on the Soviet and contemporary Russian methods within the current operational environment. It then proposes specific actions that NATO must adopt to impose costs on or deny benefits to Russia for employing these tactics, while also encouraging Russian restraint against future hybrid warfare.

April 14, 2022

U.S. European Command Theater Infrastructure Plan: Aligning U.S. Requirements with European Capability and Resources

This article explores U.S. European Command's conceptual framework for the theater infrastructure plan (TIP), which will support national military strategy, improve convergence with European allies and partners, and reduce risk to military mission and force. The adoption of a deliberate infrastructure planning strategy at the theater level should provide resource efficiencies and flexibility to reach desired conditions of securing the Euro-Atlantic region, achieving a competitive edge, supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) credible deterrence and defense, and enabling U.S. global power projection.

April 14, 2022

Persistent Knowledge Gaps in the Chinese Defense Budget

To a large extent, defense budget transparency is an area in which the United States leads the world; the United States and other nations should publicly engage and push the PRC to meet a similar standard. The UN Military Spending database is a great place to start creating this pressure, especially because it is a mechanism that the PRC utilized until 2017. This push would have to be part of a broader effort to get the Chinese to become more transparent—a significant change in behavior for them.

April 14, 2022

What Is JSOU? Then, Now, and Next

The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) was formally organized in 2000 as a Department of Defense applied learning educational activity modeled after corporate universities. JSOU’s mission is to prepare special operations forces (SOF) professionals to address strategic and operational challenges, arming them with the ability to think through problems with knowledge, insight, and foresight. JSOU’s genesis came only 8 months before the tragic events and watershed moment of September 11, 2001.

April 14, 2022

Making the Case for a Joint Special Operations Profession

This article seeks to introduce for consideration and debate this question of whether there is now a need for a formal joint special operations forces (JSOF) profession. Claiming a jurisdiction within the context of international competition will place SOF in a better position to build trust and assure autonomy. Doing so will require clarity on what counts as expert knowledge (as opposed to skills and tasks) and the necessary institutional development to certify SOF professionals in the application of this knowledge.

April 14, 2022

Rediscovering the Value of Special Operations

Today, America’s special operations forces (SOF) face a moment of strategic inflection and identity reflection at the threshold crossing of two fundamental questions: How has the character of global geopolitical competition changed? What are the implications for the future roles, missions, and force structures (that is, future utility) of SOF for the 2020s through the 2050s? Even as the United States enters this age, this new era brings new demands of striking a rebalance from its focus for the past two decades on countering terrorism, violent extremist organizations (VEOs), and insurgencies to coping with threats of confrontations between so-called Great Powers. Tomorrow’s special operations and SOF must adjust accordingly.

April 14, 2022

An Interview with Richard D. Clarke

When I came into command, I had some thoughts about priorities and where to take the command, having just come from the Joint Staff. I was also given some great guidance from Secretary [James] Mattis who put me in the position. I sat down with all the commanders and the senior enlisted leaders, and we set the priorities. Those priorities have largely remained unchanged: compete and win for the Nation, preserve and grow readiness, innovate for future threats, advance partnerships, and strengthen our force and family. While I would argue that the operating environment has changed in those years—and it’s now clear that China is our pacing threat—these priorities are timeless for SOCOM going into the future.