In this––our final installment––we appeal to each element of the Clausewitzian Trinity to do its part. To remain silent as practitioners of policy and war, we believe, would perpetuate the betrayal of those troops and civilians––American and foreign––who have made the ultimate sacrifice for reasons this country still struggles to articulate.
When I look at our presence in the Middle East, the word that comes to mind is “persistent.” It is this persistent presence that has led to the development of the sprawling bases you see in Jason Koxvold’s photographs. These photographs will give a unique look into the locations and lives of Airmen who are the foundation beneath the operations of Airmen like me as we conduct missions in support of America’s national interest.
Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our first annual writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy. The response was amazing, with more submissions than our small team of volunteers could handle.
While certainly not a primer for domestic or international monetary policy, Gavin does a great job in connecting what seemingly could be disparate strategic policies –– security, military, economic, international relations, etc. –– and ensuring they are considered together. At a time when the U.S. is looking for innovative ways to exert power, any national security professional desiring a deeper understanding of how monetary policy could be both an opportunity and a vulnerability should read Gavin’s book.
For the past several decades the Army has promoted agile and adaptive leadership. This type of leadership is good when you are the strongest Army in the world and you’re focused on rapidly adapting to dynamic situations during operations. However, an entirely different type of leadership is necessary if you intend to transform the organization from the way it is today to the way you want it to be in the future. In the years ahead our Army needs transformational leaders who will shape our culture to one that demonstrates cunning, embraces asymmetry, generates unforeseen problems, and takes risks in order to win decisively.
Recent provocations concerning Iran and North Korea raise concerns about the U.S. fighting another war. The U.S. Navy’s history with challenging Iranian actions in the Strait of Hormuz and the perceived escalation of North Korean provocations via ballistic missile development conjure thoughts of a third world war. Yet history offers lessons on the U.S. responding to foreign aggression far away from America’s territorial borders.
Due to the overwhelming emphasis on extremist organizations claiming religious motivation, it is too easy for groups such as the Conspiracy to get lost in the background. Allowing this might prove to be a costly mistake. Last month’s G20 summit in Hamburg and the CCF prisoner solidarity riots in Athens serve as a reminder of what these anarchist collectives are capable. The United States would be remiss to place such a destructive force on the backburner.
To the casual student of history and foreign affairs, France’s war in Vietnam is typically a brief aside in a 50-minute lecture about America’s Vietnam War that goes something like, “You can’t truly understand America’s war in Vietnam without understanding the Franco-Indochina war,” stressing its importance, but not going much further. Indeed, this lack of coverage is reinforced by the countless books describing the American war in the 1960s. Fredrik Logevall's newest book, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam, analyzes the roots of America’s involvement, beginning with the French war.
The most complex challenges that will emerge in the future, and which will pose the greatest challenge to the U.S., are the very technologies which are being developed today, such as remotely-piloted, cyber, and energy weapons. As the world becomes smaller through technological advancements and the conduct of war becomes blurred by non-state actors and automation, Clausewitz’s instrumental view of war as the continuation of policy through other means is a salient reminder that success cannot be achieved without the proper alignment of strategy to policy.
More U.S. troops are likely headed back to Afghanistan soon, while the Trump Administration is also now considering withdrawal. Before either option—or anything in between—is considered, the U.S. needs to decide what version of victory it wants before it can decide on a strategy, but debates often consider strategies in isolation, and this is a mistake. Strategies must be judged relative to the realistic alternatives.
To be a professional member of the military means to be obedient; to be disobedient is, therefore, unprofessional. However, the Nuremberg trials and events of My Lai demonstrate the concept of obedience is not that simple. Military members are expected to disobey manifestly illegal or immoral orders, so obedience cannot be an unconditional virtue.
Crisis at Sea is an exhaustive study of the U.S. Navy in the European theater. William Still brings a remarkable attention to detail in his latest volume, providing a thorough account of America’s role at sea in the First World War. Eleven years after its publication, this is still the definitive resource for its subject, and likely will remain so for many years to come.
Over the last 30 years the international security environment has been characterized by several security deficits, which are defined as a government’s inability to meet its national security obligations without external support. Intra-state, transnational, and regional actors challenge a sovereign government’s ability to provide a secure environment for their citizens. While evident in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, it is also true in the cyber world.
China has risen. It is now a great power well on its way to becoming a superpower. China’s ambitions and quest for greater resources and expanding diplomatic, economic, and military capabilities will result in Beijing’s growing voice in all facets of international politics. While there are debates about how powerful China will become, and how soon, there is no ambiguity that it is expanding its power and influence. Despite its many other obligations, the major task for the Trump administration will be to respond effectively to China’s challenge to U.S. power.
McCain has usefully drawn our attention to a case that teaches by negative example. In the same way that the United States thought that anti-terrorism operations in Southwest Asia and Africa would contribute to strategic victory in the global war on terrorism, South African leaders believed that that the use of highly trained and mobile forces in operations against Cuban forces and insurgents would ensure the survival of white majority rule and domination over Namibia. The end result demonstrates the difficulty of devising a grand strategy in the face of great uncertainty and flux.
Weaponizing a narrative resembles weaponizing a disease in several ways. One similarity is that neither is kinetic, yet both can have immense effects. Both are dangerous and chaotic, but are less dangerous to the faction prepared for the risks—or with less to lose. Like viruses, narratives can combine to create overwhelming effects, and can appear and propagate with unnerving rapidity. Unlike viruses, though, the narrative is so inexpensive that almost anyone can weaponize and deploy it. Also unlike viruses, the weaponized narrative targets our minds.
We should encourage those not familiar with information operations to see it as a vital component of planning in an information environment that is much more important to military planning and operations with each passing day. Focus on capabilities does more to confuse than enlighten, and simple alternatives are available.
U.S. policymakers should recalibrate their standards for successful engagement in world affairs: lest they succumb to a defensive, even fatalistic, mindset, they must develop a greater tolerance for setbacks; focus more on managing problems than on solving them; pursue incremental gains rather than sweeping victories; appreciate more fully the limits to U.S. power, especially military; and accept that world order is neither a fixed state nor an attainable end, but a fluid condition and an ongoing process. To do so, however, they will have to give themselves the opportunity to pause and think
War Porn is an attempt to come to grips with the modern, and perhaps even the postmodern, experience of war—an experience that Achilles would still understand. Yet, what is most striking is the author's incessant meditation on what it means to be “a spectator of calamities taking place in another country.” This tension forms the brutal backbone and gritty strength of the novel, uniting all who watch war.