Strategic Insights: Proxy War Norms Authored by: Dr C. A. Pfaff. December 18, 2017

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.

Strategic Insights: Revolutionary Change Is Coming to Strategic Leadership Authored by: Dr Steven Metz. December 19, 2017

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.

Known Unknowns: Unconventional "Strategic Shocks" in Defense Strategy Development Authored by: Mr Nathan P Freier. November 01, 2008

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.

From Frozen Ties to Strategic Engagement: U.S.-Iranian Relationship in 2030 Authored by: Mr Roman Muzalevsky. May 01, 2015


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.

Protection of Civilians Military Reference Guide, Second Edition Authored by: PKSOI Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. January 03, 2018

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

Strategic Insights: Challenges in Using Scenario Planning for Defense Strategy Authored by: Dr Michael Fitzsimmons. January 30, 2018


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.

Strategic Insights: Making Good on the NSS and NDS: Competing with Russia in Europe and Beyond Authored by: Dr John R Deni. March 20, 2018

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.

Strategic Retrenchment and Renewal in the American Experience Authored by: Dr Peter Feaver. Edited by: Dr Peter Feaver. August 01, 2014



At a time of fiscal constraint and global uncertainty, should the United States retrench geopolitically or seek to reinvigorate its international leadership? This collection of essays puts this pressing question in historical and theoretical context. The authors examine past episodes in which U.S. policymakers confronted similar choices, and draw insights from the strategies that they fashioned in response. The essays also consider the major theoretical and policy debates pertaining to the issues of retrenchment and renewal today.

Strategic Insights: The Assad Regime and Chemical Weapons Authored by: Dr Robert J Bunker. May 18, 2018

On April 7, 2018, insurgents and civilians in a rebel enclave in Douma, east of Damascus, Syria, were subjected to a chemical weapons attack during an offensive conducted by Assad regime and allied Russian and Iranian-linked ground forces. At least 42 individuals were reported to have been killed in the attack due to suffocation—primarily in their homes—with more than 500 additional individuals seeking medical attention. Local reports from the encircled enclave suggest that during the late afternoon and evening hours, Assad regime helicopters dropped two barrel bombs containing a substance with signatures consistent with that of chlorine.

Robotics and Military Operations Edited by: Prof William G Braun III, Kim Richard Nossal, Stéfanie von Hlatky. May 22, 2018

In the wake of two extended wars, Western militaries find themselves looking to the future while confronting amorphous nonstate threats and shrinking defense budgets. The 2015 Kingston Conference on International Security (KCIS) examined how robotics and autonomous systems that enhance soldier effectiveness may offer attractive investment opportunities for developing a more efficient force capable of operating effectively in the future environment. This monograph offers 3 chapters derived from the KCIS and explores the drivers influencing strategic choices associated with these technologies and offers preliminary policy recommendations geared to advance a comprehensive technology investment strategy. In addition, the publication offers insight into the ethical challenges and potential positive moral implications of using robots on the modern battlefield.