Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trumpian Globalism

Donald Trump gave his inaugural U.N. General Assembly speech this Tuesday, and like the campaign he came out swinging. In the speech, President Trump took aim at both North Korea and Iran. Between the threats of destroying North Korea, ripping up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and coining a new nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, President Trump introduced the General Assembly to his version of globalism. Trump began his speech, after his obligatory boasting of his own achievements, by discussing the promise and perils that humanity faces. Trump looked to the past in this speech, bringing up the reasons for the creation of the U.N. and highlighting the success of the Marshall plan in rebuilding Europe after the Second World War. Instead of the standard view that the Marshall plan helped to further integrate the world, Trump took the position that the plan created nations that were "strong, independent, and free." President Trump also stated that he was here in the best interest of his nation and he expected that other leaders should be there in the best interest of theirs. This siren call to defend sovereignty may seem like something out of the Russian or Chinese foreign policy playbook; however, like everything with Donald Trump, there are always conditions attached. While Trump stated the the protection of sovereignty and independence of each nation was one the core purposes of the U.N., it is clear that he expected all nations to have a rudimentary respect of human rights and that they all have an obligation to their people. Before launching into his attacks on Iran and North Korea, Trump stated that all nations had an obligation to "confront the wicked few." Trump's view on how the international order appears to be a hybrid of the traditional view of American foreign policymakers and that of China or Russia. Heralding American values of government of, by, and for the people and then stating that the United States will not directly promote these views in other nations. It appears that Trump is attempting to directly translate his domestic platform of "America First" to the world. It remains to be seen how these two seemingly contradictory positions will mesh. Trump clearly expects the world to act with the United States against Iran and North Korea and in return he promises not to intervene in their internal affairs. The long-term impact of this new foreign policy will affect the security of both the nation and the world as a whole.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Devaluation of National Interest


In his article “’National Security’ as an Ambiguous Symbol,’” Arnold Wolfers explains that national interest and national security should be based on the values of the country as a whole. One value that America upholds is that of freedom. The United States was built on immigrants and refugees seeking freedom from their oppressors. Within the first seven months of his presidency, Donald Trump has begun a battle against this value. During his campaign, Donald Trump promised to build a wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States. He attempted to enact a “Muslim” ban, keeping people from specific Islamic countries from entering the U.S. The President has also reduced America’s intake of refugees. He claims to be making America great again and using his power to protect and promote the ideals of the American people. Unfortunately, since he has become President, Donald Trump has removed quite a few of the American people, or those who hoped to one day become citizens of the United States.
Have immigrants and refugees compromised our nation’s security? To this question, our President would respond yes. He could say that they are taking our jobs and hurting our economy. He could say that they are radicals sneaking into the United States to attack us. We could choose to believe a number of things about these people and their effects on how “secure” we feel. Is it right to automatically assume that all refugees from Islamic countries are terrorists just because it makes us feel safer? Is it right to encourage ICE to come in the middle of the night to drag immigrants out of there homes? The security that we feel because of the injustices done to others has removed their right to security as well. Is our nation not one of equality, justice, and freedom?
I pose the question, how far is too far? At what point are we being more discriminatory than secure? How can we as Americans support the proposal to lift DACA? How can we agree to keep refugees out because of their religion? How far will this devaluation of national interest extend?

            

Monday, September 18, 2017

U.S. Cyber Command Gets High

Polish up your resumes!

U.S. Cyber Command may soon be searching for a new commander.


Why?

Just last month, President Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin initiating Cyber Command's elevation to a Unified Combatant Command. This is a huge progressive step forward for U.S. military infrastructure. Currently, Cyber Command is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command and it mainly provides assistance and other augmentative services to the military's various cyberspace missions. The elevation will also remove Cyber Command from the National Security Agency, truly making it an independent UCC with authority over the cyberspace operational domain. As such, Cyber Command would basically set the operational standards for U.S. cyber operations. It would also assume responsibility for resource allocation, training, and mission execution.

Cyber Command is headed by Admiral Michael Rogers. He is the head of the National Security Agency. This is where things get interesting. Because of the elevation and split from the NSA, Secretary of Defense James Mattis will likely recommend a nominee to head Cyber Command. Sources say the elevation process should take about a year to fully implement, but for this blog's sake, timing is not important. What is important, however, is the direction in which a new cyber commander could take the nascent cyber UCC. The new commander would have the power to change U.S. tactical and strategic cyberspace behaviors. This will be something to watch. Will the U.S. maintain its defensive posturing in cyberspace, or will it become an offensive/preemptive, deterrent actor? 

As you can imagine, Rogers is not thrilled with the idea of splitting his agencies apart. Even in the best case scenario, he will still lose power over one of his agencies. I would venture to say he will remain in charge of the NSA and likely will forfeit Cyber Command authority. Former SecDef Carter and DNI Clapper were not fans of Rogers' dual-hat arrangement. I am unsure of either Mattis' or Coats' opinion on the matter.

Regardless, as this elevation process develops, I think it would be worthwhile to follow. Whoever assumes the head position of Cyber Command will have an incredible opportunity to spearhead a new era of U.S. cyberspace policy. Will we see more Stuxnets aimed at North Korea? Or, perhaps, will see see more nuanced rhetoric aimed at creating impenetrable networks? Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Grand Strategy in the Cyberspace Terrain


Grand strategy, as far as I can tell, is the use of various tools (diplomatic, economic, militaristic) to best achieve a state’s national interest and desired role in the word. Conventional interpretations of grand strategy focus on land, sea, and air. Over the last few decades, the internet has formed a web of networks and created a new terrain: cyberspace. This realm is markedly different in that interactions are not purely physical, the terrain is not dominated by states but by individuals, the territory is virtually lawless, and it is often hard to ID the source/attacker.  

How a nation generally interacts with others in this new realm develops its reputation, from which we can attempt to interpret said nation’s grand cyber strategy.

First, it is important to note that there has never been an instance of cyber war, or even an attack that resulted in loss of life or extensive damage to critical infrastructure. Though some alarmists talk of a cyber Pearl Harbor or 9/11, most experts in the field do not view these as realistic. Instead, most interactions are categorized as either espionage, subversion, or sabotage. So grand cyber strategy, while still passive or aggressive, defensive or offensive, etc. is far milder than conventional militaristic grand strategy.

China’s grand cyber strategy is one of espionage. The instances of Chinese theft in American cyberspace are many: Shady Rat, Ghost Net, the Pentagon Raid, the Byzantine Series, and the F-35 jet plans. This is fairly predictable because China is a rising power that will threaten the US’s hegemony (cue Thucidydes). For a country that does not invest in innovation but rather in manufacturing, theft from an existing power makes sense. Additionally, China has something to prove. “Because cyber espionage is less risky and less costly than attempting to match the conventional US military machine, China uses this tactic to show the Americans that it is a force to be reckoned with in cyberspace” (Cyberwar versus Cyber Realities, p133).

Interestingly, we engage positively with China after they have launched a cyber attack against us, usually turning to diplomacy and transparency. Why? – to avoid escalation and to set global cyber norms. After all, it is partially the victim’s fault due to lack of successful defense. China is engaging in cyber espionage because America produces things worth stealing.

Russia’s grand cyber strategy, compared to China’s, is marked by subversion. This is evident in Russia’s relentless DDoS attacks on Georgia, Estonia, and Ukraine (neo-expansionism??), as well as recent disruption in European and American elections (dissemination of disinformation, propaganda).

Israel’s unique grand strategy is one of aggressive containment- particularly in the context of nuclear weapons. Israel has developed a reputation and international expectation that it will respond (using a fusion of intelligence, cyber, and military tools) to regional powers that develop a nuclear program. See Stuxnet, Operation Orchard.

The United States’ grand cyber strategy has been, to this point, largely one of non-engagement and restraint. In most cyber interactions, our tactics have been defensive rather than offensive. We have recently stressed the importance of hardening our security for the intended effect of deterrence through denial. There seems to be an understanding that cyberattacks fall greatly below the range of military operations and are largely inconsequential to relations between states. There is no incentive to escalate the situation, but rather to harden one’s own defensive capabilities.

Rules of thumb (from Cyberwar versus Cyber Realities, Maness):
When cyber tactics are used: (1) they tend to only be used by existing rivals or states involved in territorial disputes, (2) they are used with relative restraint, (3) they tend not to elicit a strong reaction anyways*, (4) it is possibly just a normalized ‘language’ for rival pairs to non-violently express discontent/displeasure, and (5) so far have proved ineffective in stopping the targets from continuing to pursue their goals [If you look at Stuxnet, Bronze Soldier, and Shamood, all three had no effect on targets’ goals : Estonia becomes even closer with Europe, Iran continued to enrich uranium, and Saudi Arabia continued the Iranian oil embargo].


*Attacks that are public and harder to conceal are more likely to provoke a foreign policy response (DDoS).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Origins of Strategic Thought - Playing Hand Dealt Well


How much of strategic thought can we shape and controlled?
How much of our strategic thought is secondary to what is thrust upon us?
Is the ratio of our ability to shape and control to what is thrust upon us, (i.e. more reactive) shifting?

It would be comforting to believe, and preferable, that the origins of a nation’s strategic thought and policy manifestations are predominantly driven by our own desires and a projection of the world we choose to live in  and fully shape as nations. The reality weighs heavier on the idea that national strategic thought originates from being confronted with forces beyond our full control and reflects, more often, a reactive development, particularly in the near term, i.e. a nation playing the hand dealt, rather than the one we desire or planned to have. National strategic thought must originate in simultaneously in efforts to deal with the immediate circumstances, while continuing to work towards shaping the future in a way that reshuffles the deck in our favor.
How did America go from avoiding entanglements and wariness of significant peacetime standing armies to inextricably entangle and a permanent preeminent military? It is definitely not how things would have evolved if we had full control of the changing dynamics, and therefore could rely on current strategy to dictate the future. The origins of strategic thought that dictated a polar shift in the US, from that of avoiding entanglements and wariness of standing armies to an America inextricably entangle and with a permanent preeminent military strategy, was inevitable and driven near fully extrinsically and generally beyond our power to control.

President George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address, Kennan’s “long telegraph”, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farwell Address each demonstrate the origins of American Strategy dictated by changing relative US strengths, vulnerabilities, and comparative advantages at that moment, pitted against the global dynamics and dangers forced upon us.

Benjamin Franklin suggested, “Vessels large may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore.”(1) While Mr. Franklin sought to advise would-be entrepreneurs on risk in business, the same can be said for fledgling young relatively weak nations such as the United States of the late 18th and early 19th century, particularly if that nation could safely seek relative isolation.
Our first US President under our new Federal Constitution foresaw the potential for the United States to grow in prosperity and strength and take its place among the great powers of the world: “the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.”(2) But that day had not yet arrived. The United States was only seven and a half years into the new Federal era (post Articles of Confederation) with its new republic formed under the US Constitution effectively born with the first session of the new US Congress on March 4, 1789. While the United States' finances improved in the 1790’s, and the diplomatically awkward debt incurred to France during the revolution had been assumed by an American banker (at a slightly higher interest rate, and the debt then resold on the domestic US markets for a profit) (1), federal revenue continued to fall short of expenditures many years of the 1790’s. Furthermore, the United States essentially had no Army, having disbanded the Continental
Army June 2nd 1784 in general consensus with Continental Congress Delegate, Elbridge Gerry’s belief that “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican governments dangerous to the liberties of a free people,” (3) 
America’s comparative strength lay in the breadth of the Atlantic and in avoiding compromising influences from the great powers of the day. “Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course”(2), rather than become entangled in alliances that, given America’s relative weakness, would entrap and make our young nation dependent. President Washington warned, “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.” (2)

Washington’s cautions and advise in his farewell address were consistent with his Presidential Proclamation of Neutrality three years prior, issued 22 April 1793, “Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other; and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent Powers” …….“And I do hereby also make known, that whatsoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the said Powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States, against such punishment or forfeiture” (4)

For America near the beginning of the 1800’s, our relative weakness and continued vulnerability to the whims of the great powers of Europe was the origins of pragmatic and risk adverse American strategic thought appropriate for the time – neutrality to the extent possible, while our “detached and distant situation” allowed us to continue building our national unity, Institutions, commerce, industry and agriculture. Successfully employed, this strategy altered US relative position and vulnerabilities. The adopted current strategy not only responded to the realities thrust upon us at that instant, but appropriately provided a medium to long-term path to secure future advantages for the US through deepening national cohesion and unity, stronger and more mature civil institutions, expanded commerce and industry, and steady economic growth that would expand legitimate US strategic courses in the future - i.e. would over time shift US position from one in which our options were narrow and more dictated, to one in which growing strength and advantage would facilitate our ability to have greater influence in shaping the world and developing broader strategic options in pursuit of furthering US national interests.

American strategic thought continued to gravitate generally towards the comfort of non-entanglement afforded by the relative security of distance from major world powers and potential foreign belligerents through the 19th Century, and again after WWI. Following the First World War, America again withdrew. Our natural inclination, particularly following the witnessed horror that was the Great War in Europe, undermined President Woodrow Wilson’s quest see America help to establish a new and enduring peace via the League of Nations and his “fourteen points”.  While aspects of his endeavor moved forward, it was primary influence the United States, without the nation that had emerged as the world’s strongest economic power. 

The pattern of War and then draw down forces, and dismantling the industries of war necessarily ended after World War II. The world had changed forever. The origins of what became US post war strategic thought and policy were thrust upon us; not of our direct making or desire. Naval capabilities and rapid reach, the growing range of strategic aircraft, and rapidly evolving missile technology had effectively made the world much smaller. The great oceans no longer afforded us the unique luxury of isolation or protracted time to assess and respond to growing threats. The lessons of WWII had taught us that the United States had continuous, direct and more immediate strategic interest in once distant world events. The immediate post war environment presented and immediate challenge and a reasonably perceived threat secondary to a Soviet Union capacity to dominate a war torn Europe and Asia - save for US influence, strength and deterrence. 

“We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away”.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt (5) 

This necessary great departure from America’s predilection towards withdraw, the realization that the United States “cannot live alone, at peace” led US participation and a permanent member on the US Security Council (established 9 months later)– vs – America’s rejection of the League of Nations and greater abstinence from international leadership and engagement following the first world war. The United States ushered in a new economic and international finance regime with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Word Bank, the US Dollar as the world currency benchmark, and through evolving mechanisms to move the world towards expanded trade and shared prosperity with the Global Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) agreements over time.

The new and radically different world post WWII led to the Truman Doctrine, first introduced in it’s nascent form in President Truman’s address before a joint session of congress March 12, 1947 in which he declared “I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes” (6) Leading then to the Marshall plan in 1948 (7)

And if there was any lingering thought that the United States still existed as an island and that once again withdrawing from the world was still an option, the USSR’s first nuclear detonation Aug 1949, first USSR's first thermonuclear detonation Aug 1953, and the launching of Sputnik 1 in October and then Sputnik 2 in November 1957, with implicit Soviet ICBM capability, ended such misconceptions.

At the center of this new post WWII direction in US strategic thinking– and a source of original strategic thought within the confines of the new world thrust upon us - was American Diplomat George Kennan.  Kennan helped form US understanding of the Soviet Union and shape what became known as “containment policy” aimed at the Soviet Union and what was then believed to be one communist hegemon under the USSR’s control. Kennan outlined the Soviet threat first in what become known as “the long telegram” (8) sent from Moscow, 22 February 1946, and later in the “Mr. X” attributed The Sources of Soviet Conduct, Foreign Affairs Magazine, July 1947.

And finally, I will discuss the realities thrust upon America that served as the origins of the obligatory new strategic thought and radical new strategy for the United States - a strategy of perpetually US military readiness, a permanent war footing, and an American commitment to permanent international engagement and to defending and stabilizing the post WWII world - as presented in President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Farwell address, 17 January 1961. A speech in which America was informed in no uncertain terms that United States was now engaged in a protracted struggle for which there may be no end. The cold war became a potentially permanent state in which the world would exist, with no clear path out.

For those American’s who have any knowledge of President Eisenhower’s parting words, most are probably familiar only with some vague version of “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”. (9)

President Eisenhower did urge his fellow Americans to guard against distortions in our economy, society and democracy, which could arise within this dramatic departure form America’s past norm of interwar demilitarization. But this guidance must be considered within the further context of the entire near 16 minute and greater than two thousand words speech in which he stated the absolute necessity, commensurate with the current threat facing the United States and the world, of this new perpetual military construct.

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States has had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, in time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create permanent armaments industry of vast proportions”(9)

“A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.” (9)

“We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration” (9)

While recognizing the “immense military establishment” to be “new in the American experience”, President Eisenhower goes on to say “We recognize the imperative need for this development.” (9)The Origins of American strategic thought, and implementation of a strategy previously unknown and unimagined in America, were not fully of our design or choosing, but rather thrust upon the United States and the world.

Just as the end of the first World War and WWII failed to bring the long sought peace and a world without war, the end of the Cold War certainly did not bring the anticipated “peace dividend”.  Any elation in our status as the heavy weight champion of the world and last standing superpower was fleeting.  Once again a chapter in conflict closed has only brought new uncertainty, upheaval and radically changing security dynamics that have produced new vulnerabilities and burdens most Americans had not imagined. Endless seemingly imminent threats, not only from some of the usual suspects (North Korea, Iran, a newly bellicose Russia, and other traditional state actors), but from shape shifting and borderless non-state actors with apocalyptic visions and with no distinction between legitimate military targets verses innocent civilian. Any American and western culture interest anywhere in the world is a potential target.  Within the battle against extremism, jihad, and/or nihilistic enemies willing and possibly eager to die in service of their cause,  force structures and strategies of the past are no longer optimal. Our retaliatory capability has no deterrent power. Our nuclear arsenal has no influence on their plans – Mutual Assured Destruction  (MAD) sounds like a good day to them, embraced as an opportunity to hasten fulfillment of an imagined gloriously ordained apocalyptic destiny.  And while we may easily topple any regime, and pummel almost any military in the world (and must maintain this capacity in response to more conventional threats), this enemy has seemingly single-minded determination and exhibits no apparent “acceptable loss” threshold that we can exploit. Indeed, a perverse and intractable foe like none America and the greater world has ever faced. The origins to new strategic thought seek to frame a coherent and sustainable strategy to once again prevail in a conflict with no predictable end.

The origins of strategic thoughts are the circumstances of any dramatic shift that renders previous strategic thought no longer satisfactory or fully capable of responding to current realities, or secondary to emerging options secondary to new advantages and technological capabilities. The origin of strategic thought is forced upon a nation as much as, or more so, than formulated from within based on our desires or strategic thinkers at the moment. As necessity is the mother of invention, emergence of new threats, spectacular unforeseen events, or a paradigm shift secondary to new capacities and capabilities is the origin of strategic thought. Strategy is a scheme of maneuver with boundaries dictated first and foremost by a nation’s current realities, its relative strengths, weakness, comparative advantages measured against the strengths, weaknesses and comparative advantage of belligerent or contrarily aligned  nations  and non-state actors who's perceived self interest is detrimental to ours. Ideally strategic thought, available courses of action, and policy are formed under the parameters of an objective and rigorous net-assessment analysis process - one that not only seeks to define our's and the enemy's freedom of maneuvers and available courses action, with the aim of recommending a means to increase our advantages and exploit our enemy's weaknesses over the course of time;  but also (when our adversary is perceived to be a rational actors) seeks to suss out the adversary's perception of relative strengths weaknesses, and what they believe to be our most likely courses of action, and why? But such rigorous and comprehensive process is either not pursued, suffers in soundness secondary to too few available objective knowns and to many uncertain assumptions, or is ultimately ignored by the key decision makers and attacked by parochial interests and the status quo.

America possesses great strategic advantages secondary to our current overall military dominance and several areas of world leading defense technology superiority - currently without peer in critical areas, and as the worlds largest economy with the capacity to maintain our many advantages and create others. America also has inherent limitations in the the scope and sustainability of strategic options available relative to the menu that might be created within a vacuum of an insulated and pure arena of strategic thought unaccountable to American and global opinion.  As a a nation conscious of global perceptions and with a desire to maintain a moral authority to lead, influence, and shape international institutions, global rules, and norms of international conduct; our strategy in response to any one challenge, and the available courses of action in pursuit of our perceived national interests, is necessarily constrained, relatively to our adversaries.  Likewise, as a representative democracy with core values deemed inviolable pillars of a moral and unifying American identity, our strategic courses of action are again appropriately constrained relative to enemies less accountable and therefore less dependent on sustaining requisite internal public support. 

If in relative stability, (i.e. a less reactive approach unencumbered and not locked in and overwhelmed by immediate responding to curtail others actors active pursuit of their perceived national or ideological interests adverse to us), if given relative freedom of maneuver to implement strategy consistent with well defined long-term national interests, and formed by a nation’s ability to leverage comparative advantages and invest in creating  further advantage over the long run and guided with reasonably accurate predictions of future realities, then strategic thought emanating from within can decisively shape long-term strategy and more readily shape more predictable outcomes over an extended period. And when possible, assuming the nation fully exploits the window of opportunity (i.e. we have appropriate leadership, agree upon objectives,  and enjoy enlightened strategic vision and foresight that can prevent a loss of focus or lapse into aimless complacency) then we can more fully master and shape broader strategic choices consistent with a future more compliant with our national objectives, ideally creating a growing and sustainable national strategic advantage that builds successively on existing strengths. This is the ideal situation, but one more challenging to achieve absent a more narrow unifying and focused existential threat such as that inherent during the combined half century of WWII and the Cold War, or with rapid changing threats, and further complicated by our current politically factious and severely polarized national angst.  The threats driving national strategic thought are now less focused in our multipolar world with regional sub-spheres of influence, power no longer defined by two superpowers, and with increasing freedom of maneuver and lethality of non-state entities. We now face national security challenges not only from the more conventional challenges of emerging nation state conflict, a strained international order and shifting balances of power and influence, but now steadily from non-state actors with increasing reach, lethality, and sophisticated methods for sustained asymmetric conflict.  This reality is further complicated by a more interconnected and vulnerable world, - (1) physically connected secondary to ease and speed of travel, (2) economically connected and interdependent by the new globalization of "the second unbundling" (Richard Baldwin defines in the Great Convergence - Information Technology and the New Globalization) with multi-national and multi regional global value chains, and (3) through cyber connectivity as a portal for intrusion into the "internet of things and systems" with inherent vulnerable to infrastructure, proprietary technology, security systems and methods, defense systems of systems, and as a platform for radicalization, coordination, and terrorism calls to action. Many of these same factors may be forming the foundations of a generally more stable and peaceful future, but the rapid shift and readjustment presents instability and volatility in the near term.

As has always been the case in war (or our best efforts to prepare for war), the enemy (and now many disparate enemies) gets a vote, and as such will always be a driver and indirect origin of strategic thought. Within the current threat environment -  with hostile entities not easily identified  and as irrational actors by conventional  standards - our ability for long term strategic thought and policy implementation is much inhibited. As such, a much less predictable and more reactive strategic thought on-the-fly with incomplete information and fewer valid predictive models is thrust upon us. Current reality implies that strategic thought will often lag behind, evolving necessarily after an adversary (previously known or newly emerged) has already sidestepped our current strategy. Therefore, to answer the opening questions, the ratio of our ability to shape and control vs. what is thrust upon us (i.e. more reactive) is shifted relative to that of the later half of the twentieth century. Our increasing challenge, and therefore the focus of strategic thought, is to predict and define dynamic changing or previously unknown threats, and to adapt our strategic thought for national level emerging contingencies and/or disseminate and implement new tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for the operational level within susceptible operational theaters or sectors as rapidly as possible in order to eliminate or at least mitigate newly identified vulnerabilities.  When successful, we shape the threat environment into one more focused and predictable, one more amenable to long-term strategic thought and policy coordination, and one in which we take the initiative and successfully shift the strategic choices more favorably toward US desire to shape and control, and away from that which is thrust upon us and leads to more reactive short term strategy. But for now, we are in the realm of reactive and rapidly shifting strategic thought. 

We wish to believe that we are always generally in control and that well reasoned strategic thought will drive policy with long-term efficacy, and that it should stretch out before us like a road into a more or less predictable future. We desire a world in which strategic thought is widely dictated by our motives and desires, guided more or less by past challenges and is framed by our vision of how the world should or will be. It seems clear that the world presents constantly evolving new marginally predicted realities that simply do not care that our predicted course of events, for which we prepared and invested so heavily to mitigate and possibly dominate, has shifted or evaporated as easily as our current terrorist foe manages to do. Growing unpredictability threatens to dictate US strategy within the narrow limits of our current strengths, weaknesses and comparative advantages in the near term, and limit our ability to more accurately predict and effectively prepare for evolving threats. But we must continue trying to predict and prepare. It is incumbent on US strategists to continue to seek to bring order and predictability, while planning and shaping the strategic advantages we hope to secure in the future. But we must know that the future never completely cooperates. We must always retain the capacity and resiliency for the potential and currently more prevalent reactive nature of ever changing challenges, no matter how well we think we are prepared or how sound we believe our strategy to be. Where we are now, is not where we want to be, and will require flexible strategic thought and national security institutions that empowers our ability not only to predict, but to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

No matter where the United States exists along the strategic spectrum  - from the preferred optimal position of strength and relative predictability affording the latitude of fully controlling and shaping strategic thought for ourselves as well as forcing potential adversaries' strategic thought to yield to the reality of our advantage -vs.- a position nearer the other end of the spectrum which forces immediate strategic thought dominated by reacting to what is newly thrust upon us -  the origins of strategic thought for the medium to long term must be grounded in seeking and exploiting advantage and shaping a future strategic reality in which the United States is either preserving a preferred optimal position or is concentrating on strategies to move the United States back into an optimal position. And to be successful and sustainable, strategic thought must be broad based, multi-disciplined and all-inclusive; must enhance our economic, technological, military, social, educational, and cultural strength and competitiveness at home and abroad, and strengthen international institutions and alliances as force multipliers and sources of greater stability and predictability. Strategic thought must leverage all opportunities to enhance the United State's position relative to all aspects of hard and soft power. In short the origins of strategic thought must be that which emanates from answering the question "how the United States can be prepared to take every opportunity available to appropriately and respectfully stack the deck in favor of the United States", which in turn promotes greater global stability and general prosperity made increasingly possible through coherent strong consistent credible and appropriate US leadership.



(1) Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth, 1758
(2) President Washington’s Farewell Address, Sep 19, 1796
(3) Willard M. Wallace Appeal To Arms A Military History Of The American Revolution, Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1951. 
(4) President Washington’s "Proclamation of Neutrality" 22 April 1793
(5) President Franklin Roosevelt’s 4th Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1945
(6) McCullough, David Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992 
(9) President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Farwell address, 17 January 1961.
(10)(10 Richard Baldwin defines in the Great Convergence - Information Technology and the New Globalization, the Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Death Star and Deterrence

            There’s a lot of crap going on right now, but frankly I don’t feel like talking about it. I need a fifth blog post, but I don’t want to get angry or depressed over Christmas break. So today, I’m going to be talking about Star Wars instead. *ahem*
            The Death Star was the most feared weapon in the Galaxy, yet the Empire ultimately failed in the proper application of its superweapon by ignoring its own counter-insurgency doctrine. This would have catastrophic results for the Empire, and eventually lead to the overthrow of the Palpatine regime. Although the Death Star would eventually be destroyed by a precision strike by Rebel X-Wings, the usefulness of the Death Star was essentially nullified weeks earlier by the destruction of Alderaan.

            The Death Star was the ultimate symbol of the Tarkin Doctrine, which stated that fear of the Empire’s overwhelming might would ultimately render violence unnecessary. The Death Star was meant as a tool of deterrence which would cow potentially rebellious star systems. Parking the Death Star in orbit around a planet would be enough to cow dissent, as citizens had everything to lose by fighting the Empire. However, by ignoring his own doctrine and destroying Alderaan, Tarkin nullified the effectiveness of the Death Star as a deterrent, as it then appeared to many citizens that they had nothing to lose by joining the Rebellion.

            While Senator Leia Organa was engaged in illegal pro-Rebellion activity with the knowledge and consent of high-ranking officials in the planet’s government, Alderaan was nonetheless a peaceful world with no standing military which nominally submitted to Imperial authority. By obliterating a planet of pacifists, Tarkin created a narrative opposite to that which he desired. So long as the Death Star was simply used as a deterrent, obedience to the Empire was seen as a strategy for survival by potentially rebellious worlds. However, with the destruction of a planet which posed no major threat to the Empire, joining the Rebellion seemed to many to be the only logical survival strategy, as the Empire had shown itself to be arbitrary and needlessly cruel.

            The effects of this were immediate and dramatic. Many worlds rallied to the Rebellion, and scores of highly trained military officers defected from the Empire, bolstering the Rebel ranks with much needed numbers and professional expertise. Within four years, the Rebellion was no longer a mere insurgency, but a peer competitor to the Empire. The Imperial Navy suffered a decisive defeat to the Rebel Fleet at the Battle of Endor, which would lead to the death of the Emperor and ultimately the fall of the regime. Had the Empire employed the Death Star with more restraint, it is entirely plausible that the Rebellion would not have won the Galactic Civil War.