The wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were lost before they began, not on the battlefields, where the United States won every tactical engagement, but at the strategic level of war. In each case, the U.S. Government attempted to create a Western-style democracy in countries which were decades at least away from being nations with the sociopolitical capital necessary to sustain democracy and, most importantly, accept it as a legitimate source of governance. The expensive indigenous armies created in the image of the U.S. Army lacked both the motivation to fight for illegitimate governments in Saigon, Baghdad, and Kabul and a cause that they believed was worth dying for, while their enemies in the field clearly did not. This book examines the Afghan National Security Forces in historical and political contexts, explains why they will fail at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, why they cannot and will not succeed in holding the southern half of the country, and what will happen in Afghanistan year-by-year from 2015 to 2019. Finally, it examines what the critical lessons unlearned of these conflicts are for U.S. military leaders, why these fundamental political lessons seem to remain unlearned, and how the strategic mistakes of the past can be avoided in the future.
Since its occupation of Crimea, Russia has adopted an aggressive and often belligerent approach to the nations on its borders. The on-going war against Ukraine and its occupation of large portions of Georgian territory demonstrates this increasingly hostile foreign policy. However, far more dangerous to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is the Kremlin's use of a strategy of ambiguity. In this, Moscow keeps hostilities at a low boil, leveraging a Russian diaspora, a web of complex information-campaign-trolls, to stir ethnic unrest that has the potential to destroy NATO and end the unparalleled post-World War II peace experienced in Europe. Yet, there are actions that the United States and NATO can take to prevent Russian aggression from turning into a war and Project 1721 provides the answers to this complex and dangerous security dilemma.
This monograph examines the possibility of Egypt leading the Arab world again, and how that effort, if successful, will present opportunities and challenges for U.S. policy. At the present time, Egypt is not in a position to do so given its many domestic problems stemming from its turbulent politics since 2011 and the challenges facing its economy, which is currently experiencing high unemployment, weak tourism revenues because of terrorist incidents, and high rates of inflation as it implements an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic reform package. However, Egypt has faced similar problems in the past and has recovered from them, enabling it to pursue an Arab leadership role. Hence, the United States should be prepared to deal with Egypt’s longstanding leadership quest, which this monograph argues will generally be a positive development for the United States in the region, though there will be some issues where the United States and Egypt will not see eye-to-eye. Given the intense Sunni-Shia conflicts in the region that are fed in large part by the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, having Egypt (a moderate Sunni Muslim country not pushing a religious agenda) in a leadership role in the region will help to dampen this sectarian strife. Moreover, because of its large and competent military, Egypt can be a source of stability and reassurance when other Arab states, particularly the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, are feeling vulnerable because of outside threats. Furthermore, Egypt can play a moderating influence in the region by being a bulwark against the radical extremist ideologies of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and like-minded groups. The United States can help Egypt succeed by continuing military assistance, offering counterterrorism training of whole units, and resuming military exercises like Bright Star. This monograph also argues for a boost in U.S. economic assistance to past levels—given Egypt’s strategic importance—to help it cope with economic reform measures even under U.S. budgetary woes. Although the United States and Egypt will continue to differ on the nature of Egypt’s domestic politics, particularly with regard to human rights and dissent and recognizing that the United States has limited influence in this regard, Washington should use whatever leverage it has to persuade the Egyptian Government to be less repressive, because an easing of authoritarian policies and practices will help Egyptian stability in the long run.
The U.S.-Indian security relationship has markedly improved since the Cold War with increased cooperation in a range of areas. The two countries have established stronger military, economic, and political ties based on mutual interests in combating terrorism, promoting democracy, preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and addressing China’s rise. Their bilateral defense engagements now include a range of dialogues, exercises, educational exchanges, and joint training opportunities. The partnership benefits both countries, enabling them to realize their core security goals. Yet, U.S. and Indian national security leaders must take new steps to ensure that the relationship realizes its potential.
This monograph comparatively examines the content and country focus of high-level diplomacy for each of the two actors, as well as the volume and patterns of trade, the activities of Indian and Chinese companies in the region, and their relationship to their respective governments in eight sectors: (1) petroleum and mining; (2) agriculture; (3) construction; (4) manufacturing and retail; (5) banking and finance; (6) logistics and port operations; (7) technology such as telecommunications, space, and high technology; and, (8) military sales and activities. This monograph finds that Indian engagement with the region is significantly less than that of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and concentrated on a more limited subset of countries and sectors. In the commercial and military sector, it finds that the efforts by the Indian government to support their companies in the region are generally more modest and less coordinated than those of the PRC. Nonetheless, despite such limitations, the nature of Indian companies and their engagement with the region create opportunities for significant advances in the future, in a manner that is relatively well received by Latin American governments and societies.
The Paracel Islands and South China Sea disputes require better understanding by U.S. policymakers in order to address the region’s challenges. To attain that needed understanding, legal aspects of customary and modern laws are explored in this monograph to analyze the differences between competing maritime and territorial claims, and why and how China and Vietnam stake rival claims or maritime legal rights. Throughout, U.S. policies are examined through U.S. conflicted interests in the region. Recommendations for how the United States should engage these issues, a more appropriate task than trying to solve the disputes outright, are then offered.
Much has been written about the rise of China and the tensions that this has put on the international system. The potential for conflict between the United States and China can be compared to the Peloponnesian War, as told by the ancient historian Thucydides, and the inevitability of that war because of Sparta’s fear of a rising Athens. There is no doubt that the rise of China has generated, if not fear, at least significant consternation on the part of the United States and our Pacific allies.
After contextualizing North Korea’s capacity for belligerent rhetoric directed toward the United States and its northeast Asian allies, the author examines the contention that rhetoric from Pyongyang represents a conflict escalation risk or even a casus belli. The results of statistical tests indicate a negative correlation between Pyongyang’s rhetoric and international diplomatic initiatives, but no correlation between North Korea’s verbal hostility and its provocations.
This Letort Paper analyzes the drivers of assertive military action by Russia, as exemplified by interventions in Ukraine and Syria. It identifies key turning points in Russia’s perception of external threat, and the roots of Russian responses to this threat making use of a capacity for military, political, and diplomatic leverage that has been greatly enhanced in the current decade. Color revolutions, the Arab Spring, and Western intervention in Libya are all highlighted as key influencers leading to a Russian assessment that the developments in Ukraine and Syria presented direct security challenges to Russia, which needed to be addressed through direct action. This Letort Paper concludes with a range of policy recommendations intended to mitigate the risk of confrontation with Russia through an imperfect understanding of Russian security perspectives.
The thesis of this paper is that the current U.S. policy toward North Korea has created an imbalance between the objectives and concepts at the strategic level. As a result, the U.S. has not been able to achieve its stated policy objective of denuclearized North Korea. In an effort to secure effectively U.S. national interests, the Obama administration forthwith should reevaluate the policy of “strategic patience” and consider approaches that could ameliorate the imbalance. The strategic environment has changed significantly since Obama took office in 2009. Significant changes in the strategic environment require significant modifications to the current policy. President Nixon in 1972 proactively took steps to seek rapprochement with the communist China—then, and still, a nuclear weapons state—against the Cold War policy of containment. Recently, President Obama made a historic visit to Cuba, once a nuclear weapons proxy state, and made a historic deal with Iran, a member of the axis of evil and once an aspiring nuclear weapons state. The strategic environment is now conducive to a new engagement approach that is proactive, principled, pragmatic, and persistent with a hint of realism.