For some Americans, especially those of a certain generation, the image of Japanese military tradition is one of caricature. We see cartoon samurai and Godzilla when we close our eyes and imagine Japan. But Japan has a warrior tradition that is among the most rich and storied in the world. Warriors and military leaders ruled Japan for 800 years until unconditional surrender and a new constitution brought that rule to an end. The story of what came after is one that has been largely forgotten or ignored by the United States and the West.
Theodore Roosevelt, a man who held the unique distinction of being both an historian and a president, once wrote of American history, “Mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant.” Roosevelt’s words would come as a shock to most Americans today. Although Grant’s reputation has undergone a rehabilitation in the last two decades, he hardly ranks among great American leaders in the minds of all but a handful of historians, and the popular conception of Grant as an inept drunk still lingers.
Over the past two decades the use of the word domain has attained wide acceptance in the military lexicon. Vague when described in doctrine, it exerts a strong influence by establishing the most basic boundaries of military functional identities. Despite the unquestioned usage of domain-centric terminology, the exact meaning of domain remains largely undefined without consideration of etymological origins. However, the word contains some built-in assumptions regarding how we view warfare that can limit our thinking. An ambiguous categorization of separate operating domains in warfare could actually pose an intractable conceptual threat to an integrated joint force, which is ironically the stated purpose of multi-domain battle.
In the wake of nearly every scandal and moral lapse in the military, we hear the same response, “This is a leadership issue.” This view is problematic as it seems to assume all ethical matters are reducible to leadership issues or these scandals are a product of the personal morality of the leader in question. Responses like these ought to push us to ask, What is the connection and overlap between ethics and leadership in the military?
Everything was in place. While the US and allied forces were still struggling to fully defeat enemy denial of service attacks, they had been able to communicate in short bursts with subordinate units. The plan was set. Land-based long-range missiles would initiate the attack by destroying enemy sea based jammers. At the same time, a manned-unmanned teaming attack, combining stealthy Air Force UAVs for targeting and Army long range missiles, would pinpoint and destroy the enemy’s air defense nodes to begin to regain contested airspace.
The dramatic title of a 2015 magazine article in The Atlantic by Dominic Tierney, “Why has America Stopped Winning Wars?,” underscored a portrayal of the final military deaths in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq as both remarkable and poignant. A better question and the focus here is: Why do U.S. military outcomes after 1945 so often fail to achieve the policy objectives for which they are begun?
The United States faces a changing and more uncertain military future. The military dominance that the United States easily assumed following the end of the Cold War – and demonstrated in the Gulf War – is no longer so assured. Potential American adversaries are developing capabilities to challenge American strengths. The American military must develop new concepts and capabilities to continue to guarantee the military supremacy Americans expect. Multi-Domain Battle is an effort to develop these necessary concepts and capabilities. It will provide the means to counter adversaries who seek to break the current American military system. Multi-Domain Battle will deepen and expand current joint doctrine. It will allow the services to move beyond synchronization and converge their capabilities in their respective domains to open windows of relative advantage in a domain or several domains to gain the initiative. The concept also specifically challenges land forces to adapt and prepare for situations in which the complete American control of the air, sea, cyberspace and space, formerly a forgone conclusion, is no longer. This fictional depiction describes how the United States military might apply Multi-Domain Battle as a concept to defeat a near peer threat. The story does not describe any real potential adversary. The majority of geographic locations are fictional. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to any real individual is accidental.
Black’s work is strongest when he questions conventional wisdom regarding how we see war. His approach is an excellent counter to a linear view of warfare—one that sees the evolution of warfare through various stages, culminating at some point. By focusing on the unique circumstances (societal, technological, industrial) of the period ranging from 1860-1945, Black helps us understand how and why this period’s conflicts were fought in a particular way and why their consequences were important to the world we live in today.
Our main argument is that a smart, practical foreign policy on North Korea must include cooperation with China, a controlled Russia, strong assurances to South Korea, the equities of Japan, robust domestic support in the United States and no direct military confrontation to achieve the political objective of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
While the rapid advance of artificial intelligence and warbots has the potential to disrupt U.S. military force structures and employment methods, they offer great promise and are worth the risk. This is especially true as the conceptual mechanisms for providing variable autonomy and direct accountability are already in place. Commanders will retain their central role in determining the level of variable autonomy given to subordinates, whether human or warbot, and will continue to be held accountable when things inevitably go wrong for either.
The Selective Service System was first instituted when America’s capacity and capabilities to defend its vital interests were very different from what they are today. Almost 100 years later, however, the country’s interests and needs have changed. The Selective Service System is outdated. Congress should assess the relevance and practicality of the current system and look into an alternative form of service, one that gives individuals the opportunity to voluntarily join an inactive reserve, to be an effective solution.
A key element of the United States’ endgame during the Vietnam War entailed leaving the Republic of Vietnam in a position of self-reliance. Called Vietnamization, the process focused on shifting the responsibility for security squarely onto the shoulders of the South Vietnamese, permitting the return of American personnel to the U.S. What transpired in Phu Yen during 1970 proved Vietnamization impervious to indicators of an unready South Vietnamese state. Largely forgotten since the Vietnam War, the Advisory Crisis, as it became known, damaged the partnership between American and South Vietnamese forces.
Fundamentally, naval maneuver is based on the ability of the naval forces to generate overwhelming operational tempo and a series of dilemmas for the enemy that shatters his cohesion through a multiplicity of rapid, focused, and unexpected actions. Generating and sustaining this necessary tempo requires keeping more ships in the fight longer, sustaining their maximum warfighting capacity, and delaying the fleet’s culminating point as long as possible. The logistical functions of supply and maintenance (to include salvage and repair capabilities) are critical to achieving this advantage.
Overall, American Power is a policy framework that is easy to read and yet full of substance. It bridges the gap between intellectual and practical policy. And while there is nothing necessarily revolutionary about the framework, it hammers home the United States’ role in the world as a promoter of democracy and the liberal order. I am in agreement with Miller that democracy promotion and the liberal order will always be in the United States’ interests.
A recent article on The Strategy Bridge by James Dubik suggests U.S. policy on Islamic extremism suffers from Groundhog Day syndrome: endless policy repetition going nowhere. I wholeheartedly agree, but offer a different take on his argument. Islam is, at the most basic level, waging a war against itself, and we would do well to attend to this.
The good news about China’s anti-access/area denial actions in the South China Sea and beyond may be that in apparently selecting a hybrid strategy, China has chosen to operate in the Phase 0/Gray Zone/Shaping area, thus avoiding activity that generates an overt military response. That said, the strategy involves brinksmanship, so proper use of information operations is critical to communicate intentions and avoid miscommunications leading to miscalculations and overt military conflict. Information operations can also cloud Chinese calculations to make preemptive strikes less appealing and more fraught with risk.
Russia showed the world the effectiveness of social media as a weapon system in the cyber domain. By leveraging the population against one another, it successfully took ground from another sovereign nation without the employment of massed conventional forces. Future conflicts will involve civilian populations as connected, or more connected, as those in Crimea, and the employment of social media will be essential to shaping the narrative of U.S. Army operations. As the Russian government proved, through proper timing, messaging, and population targeting, social media has the potential to manipulate the outcome of a conflict and win a complex engagement.
While we do not expect to settle the debate over what information operations is, we do hope to contribute valuable insights to the discussion by building awareness and empathy in their partner’s roles and methods, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about information operations and how they might employ them for the benefit of their own organizations.