Current trends in international relations suggest the United States will place a greater reliance on international partners in securing vital national interests. Growing assertiveness by regional state actors, increasingly capable nonstate actors, and a “war-weary” American public suggest the emergence of a “polyarchic” world order that will strain the United States’ ability to maintain sufficient forces overseas, where it currently exchanges defense commitments for access and basing. Rather, the United States may have to commit to a strategy broadly described as “off-shore balancing” that would rely on regional partners to uphold the balance of power in their own neighborhood, exchanging indirect U.S. support for the partner’s willingness to act in the interests of the United States. Even if it does not commit to such a strategy, current events suggest working through others to achieve strategic ends will be a feature in any future approach to international relations.
Clausewitz famously observed that war has an enduring nature and a changing character that evolves over time as technology, society, economics, and politics shift. This observation also applies to strategic leadership: it too has an enduring nature and a changing character.
The author provides the defense policy team a clear warning against excessive adherence to past defense and national security convention. Including the insights of a number of noted scholars on the subjects of “wild cards” and “strategic surprise,” he argues that future disruptive, unconventional shocks are inevitable. Through strategic impact and potential for disruption and violence, such shocks, in spite of their nonmilitary character, will demand the focused attention of defense leadership, as well as the decisive employment of defense capabilities in response. As a consequence, the author makes a solid case for continued commitment by the Department of Defense to prudent strategic hedging against their potential occurrence.
The nuclear talks between Iran and P5+1 following the most stringent sanctions against Iran to date have opened new prospects for relaxation of tensions between Tehran and the West and for a U.S.-Iranian détente in the long run. The coming to power of new presidential administrations in both the United States and Iran, the additional sanctions, major geo-economic and geopolitical trends, and U.S.-Iranian economic and security cooperation imperatives all contributed to these dynamics. Some view the talks as a new beginning in U.S.-Iranian ties, which could herald the emergence of a U.S.-Iranian strategic relationship in the next 15 years. This work has developed three such possible strategic relationships:
1) strategic engagement involving a nuclear weapons-capable Iran;
2) comprehensive cooperation following a “Grand Bargain”; and,
3) incremental strategic engagement after a nuclear deal.
These relationships deliberately focus on constructive engagement, skipping the status quo and a strike on Iran as two other possible outcomes. If they pull it off by 2030, a U.S.-Iranian détente would advance external integration of the region, aiding the U.S. strategy of fostering global connectivity. It would promote resolution of conflicts and development and reconstruction of countries ravaged by wars and sectarian violence. It would also enable Washington to deploy select military assets to other locales to address other challenges while repurposing remaining forces to face new threats in the Greater Middle East.
The Protection of Civilians (PoC) Military Reference Guide is primarily intended for military commanders and staffs who must consider PoC during armed conflict, multidimensional peace operations, or other military operations, particularly when PoC is an operational or strategic objective. It is designed as a supplement to existing doctrine and other relevant guidance so that military forces can meet their obligations to protect civilians. The reference guide may also be used as a textbook for PoC training
Lawrence Freedman and Colin Gray are two of the most famous contemporary scholars of military strategy. Within the past few years, each published a book addressing different aspects of the same practical problem of strategy: defense planning. Considered to be strategy’s mundane cousin, defense planning revolves around how a nation designs its military according to its views of the future. Freedman’s and Gray’s verdicts on the subject are very similar and simply put: we are usually wrong when we predict the future of war.
In January, the Trump administration released its first National Defense Strategy (NDS), which closely followed the December 2017 release of the new National Security Strategy (NSS). Both of these documents call for a fundamental shift in the U.S. approach to security, emphasizing competition against Russia and China at the expense of what some may argue has been a myopic focus on eradicating transnational terrorism. What the NSS and NDS are less clear about is how the United States will compete against Russia. Instead, an array of arguably vague policy objectives are all these documents seem to muster. There may be good reasons why these documents provide us little in the way of substantive ways and means, but that shouldn’t prevent a public debate about the many tools Washington can and should employ in competition with Russia in order to generate potentially novel policy options for decision-makers, clearly signal Washington’s intent and reassurance to allies, and convey a stronger deterrent message to Moscow.
In 2011, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, which officially recognized cyberspace as an operational domain akin to the traditional military domains of land, sea, air, and space. This monograph examines the 2015 DoD Cyber Strategy to evaluate how well its five strategic goals and associated implementation objectives define an actionable strategy to achieve three primary missions in cyberspace: defend the DoD network, defend the United States and its interests, and develop cyber capabilities to support military operations. This monograph focuses on events and documents from the period of about 1 year before and 1 year after the 2015 strategy was released. This allows sufficient time to examine the key policies and guidance that influenced the development of the strategy as well as follow-on activities for the impacts from the strategy. This inquiry has five major sections that utilize different frameworks of analysis to assess the strategy:
1. Prima Facie Analysis: What is its stated purpose and key messages?
2. Historical Context Analysis: What unique contributions does it introduce into the evolution of national security cyberspace activities?
3. Traditional Strategy Analysis: Does it properly address specific DoD needs as well as broader U.S. ends in a way that is appropriate and actionable?
4. Analysis of Subsequent DoD Action: How are major military cyberspace components—joint and Service—planning to implement these goals and objectives?
5. Whole of U.S. Government Analysis: Does it integrate with the cyberspace-related activities of other U.S. Government departments and agencies?
The monograph concludes with a section that integrates the individual section findings and offers recommendations to improve future cyberspace strategic planning documents.
The Defense Innovation Initiative (DII), begun in November 2014 by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, is intended to ensure U.S. military superiority throughout the 21st century. The DII seeks broad-based innovation across the spectrum of concepts, research and development, capabilities, leader development, wargaming, and business practices. An essential component of the DII is the Third Offset Strategy—a plan for overcoming (offsetting) adversary parity or advantage, reduced military force structure, and declining technological superiority in an era of great power competition.
This study explored the implications for the Army of Third Offset innovations and breakthrough capabilities for the operating environment of 2035-2050. It focused less on debating the merits or feasibility of individual technologies and more on understanding the implications—the second and third order effects on the Army that must be anticipated ahead of the breakthrough.
A series of megatrends will present a major challenge to the United States in the coming decades, exposing it to crises and opportunities on the battlefield and in the market. The U.S. military should stand ready to harness these dynamics to retain its edge in an operational environment marked by increased complexity, speed, and intensity of global developments.