Security communities need thinkers who are comfortable in both complicated and complex environments, who can study the trees but still grasp the shape of the forest.
At a time when the U.S. maintains a significant military advantage over all other countries, it is seductive to think that simply applying those resources to any and all problems will cause success, but it will not. As a country, the U.S. can and must do better. One small step toward improving American strategic competence is to explicitly articulate our strategies as theories of success based on clear conceptualization of all variables and causal mechanisms.
Despite demonstrating excellence in their own fields, agencies and departments within the U.S. national security enterprise lack a cohesive structure to bind their efforts together. Today’s challenges require a single unified approach and by restructuring the national security enterprise, the U.S. can be more effective at addressing its national interests in today’s complex world.
The primary way to frame the strategic approach and environment of the new administration as it relates to national security should be through an economic lens. In doing so, one cannot on the one hand understate an atypical governance style, yet on the other ignore the inertia of a large nation and an intertwined global economic system.
A variety of media sources have reported a practice in Afghanistan called bacha bazi. Bacha bazi consists of taking young boys from their families and forcing them to entertain men, a process that often includes their molestation. Some...claim that the kidnapping and rape of Afghan boys by the United States’ Afghan allies is insignificant compared to the accomplishment of national security goals, implying that stopping bacha bazi will interfere with the accomplishment of our mission. But failing to prevent our allies from recreationally kidnapping and raping Afghan boys will hinder the United States’ efforts in Afghanistan.
The outgoing Secretary of the Army and the recently retired Chief of Staff of the Army published a new vision for the Army that calls for a wider focus to meet a broader range of demands. After previous wars, the Army has shrunk in size; but in today’s security environment the demand for forward American military presence has actually been higher than any other post war period. The Army Vision focuses on how the Army must innovate to meet today’s steady state demands and the challenges of conflict in the future.
While it can be said with some confidence that freedom and democracy practiced by an active and educated citizenry provides a solid foundation for the enduring success of any state, America should be wary of using these ideals as measures of an entity’s immediate threat to its security (depending, of course, on the actions of said entity at any given time) or as a mandate for certain types of action against any entity.