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July 27, 2022

Deterrence Without Escalation: Fresh Insights into U.S. Decisionmaking During Operation Earnest Will

The events of the so-called Tanker War in the Persian Gulf remain benchmarks in Iranian and U.S. military thinking and offer issues for U.S. senior leaders to reconsider should they again be faced with having to deter Iran in a fast-breaking crisis. Recently declassified material affords additional insights into the challenges of engaging Tehran during Operation Earnest Will, the U.S. Navy effort to escort and protect reflagged Kuwaiti tankers against potential Iranian attack, particularly during the war’s last years in 1987 and 1988. Earnest Will presented challenges in understanding Iranian decisionmaking, producing persuasive intelligence, messaging Iran, achieving deterrence without unintentional escalation, and discovering diplomatic offramps. Although decades have since elapsed, U.S. leadership might have reason to recall the following lessons from that operation should the United States face a bounded, but prolonged, conflict with the Islamic Republic.

July 27, 2022

U.S. Forces Korea’s Operation Kill the Virus: Combating COVID-19 Together and Sustaining Readiness

As we face one of the greatest public health threats in recent generations, joint military commands all over the world have been forced to develop operational strategies that maximize force health while sustaining combat readiness. Within the concept of a joint force, however, there remain ongoing struggles on how best to prepare for health crises and how well military commands can work together to handle new stresses of sustaining combat preparedness amid the ongoing pandemic. Among a continuum of uncertainties, how well a joint force works together, learns from each other, trusts each other, and leverages efficiencies will determine the outcome of its cooperative efforts against enemy threats, whether transnational or biological in nature.

July 27, 2022

Moving Past the Name: Focusing on Practical Implementation of the India-U.S. Strategic Relationship

Indispensable allies,” “natural allies,” “comprehensive global strategic partners,” “defining relationship of the 21st century.” These are a selection of ways American Presidents and Indian prime ministers have described the strategic bilateral relationship over the past dozen years. From the American side, there is concern about India’s “strategic promiscuity” as it retains strong relations with nations in its neighborhood and beyond (such as Russia) that are at odds with U.S. policy positions. At every instance of friction in bilateral relations, Indian analysts express suspicion about U.S. intentions and question the relationship’s reliability. Even the proper label for the relationship itself is a hotly contested topic, so we must ask whether the United States and India are transactional partners, strategic partners, or informal allies.

July 27, 2022

Insights on Theater Command and Control from the Creation of Allied Force Headquarters

This article explores the creation of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) over the summer and fall of 1942 and seeks insights into the difficulties faced by any joint, combined, theater-level headquarters during the early stages of a large-scale war. While 80-years hence technology and practice have improved our ability to stand up a theater headquarters rapidly, the critical challenges faced by AFHQ remain relevant. In general, new joint task forces (JTFs) will face the same five general challenges that AFHQ had to overcome.

July 27, 2022

Ghosts of Tsushima or Kobayashi Maru? Japan’s Problematic Preoccupation with Decisive Naval Battles in World War II

Tsushima, the great naval victory for Japan, brought Russia to the peace table. However, the consequences of such overwhelming naval victories in the Russo-Japanese War ultimately led Japan’s military leaders to a debilitating preoccupation nearly 40 years later during World War II. As it relentlessly tried to replicate that victorious performance against the United States, Japan’s pursuit of another Tsushima resulted in strategic failures that contributed to its defeat in the Pacific, providing an excellent historical example of cognitive dissonance theory and demonstrating why it is important not to fight a current war with a previous war’s strategy.

July 27, 2022

The Rules of the Game: Great Power Competition and International Law

The National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and operational concepts in joint military doctrine painting a bleak picture of global threats and persistent competition. In fact, these documents portray the United States as being at another inflection point in modern conflict with a return to Great Power competition. For the Department of Defense (DOD), a renewed focus on state-on-state strategic competition is premised on revisionist powers, such as Russia and China, and rogue regimes, such as Iran and North Korea, exploiting U.S. vulnerabilities by taking deliberately malicious actions carefully crafted to avoid armed conflict and a powerful military response. This is a problem.

July 27, 2022

Overcoming Barriers to Institutional Learning: Insights from Insurgent Groups

This article examines a case study of Islamic extremist groups in Somalia and their ability to overcome barriers. Evidence from these groups indicates that the personalization of power by leaders can inhibit a group’s strategic flexibility, as leaders fear that implementing a strategic shift will be seen as a sign that their leadership is “wrong,” which can undermine their position. By contrast, the case study found that groups with multiple leaders can develop alternate strategies, allowing the group to select from a strategic menu, quickly adapt to crises of practice in which the existing strategic approach is ineffective, overcome the barriers, and thus function as a learning organization.

July 27, 2022

Cyber in the Shadows: Why the Future of Cyber Operations Will Be Covert

Current cyber conflict looks very similar to traditional conflict models. The difference from traditional power dynamics offered by the cyber domain, however, is the asymmetrical advantage of technology for would-be actors. This new element of national power allows weaker actors to “punch above their weight” in competition or conflict with Great Powers in a unipolar or multipolar world.

July 27, 2022

Executive Summary

Joint education is designed to show each student the value that he or she brings to the discussion. Even the most ardent supporter of one’s military Service cannot honestly assess warfighting today and show how that Service, or nation for that matter, can win a war by itself. Joint and combined operations lie at the heart of successful accomplishment of strategy that involves the military instrument of power. Services may be proponents of their operational concepts and budgets to bring capabilities to achieve those visions, but in the end, the way of war, as the United States has learned to fight it, rests clearly on our ability to work together for a common end. We hope you gain from what our authors have offered here, especially if it achieves our mission of helping the cause of jointness.

May 24, 2022

Gangs No Longer: Reassessing Transnational Armed Groups in the Western Hemisphere

This paper compares MS-13 and PCC as particularly enduring variations of nonstate armed groups and assesses each group’s evolution and impact on U.S. core interests in the region. It focuses on five aspects of MS-13 and PCC composition and behavior: objectives, constituencies and alliances, capabilities, markets, and impact.