Social Media—The Vital Ground: Can We Hold It? Authored by: Dr Steve Tatham, Mr. Ian Tunnicliffe. April 21, 2017

The impact of social media on the media environment has been widely recognized; as has the ability of extremist and adversarial organizations to exploit social media to publicize their cause, spread their propaganda, and recruit vulnerable individuals. Supporting the growth of social media has been the phenomenal global increase in mobile telephone usage, and much of this increase is in areas where there are existing conflicts or conflicts are highly likely. These combined revolutions will increasingly have a direct impact on virtually all aspects of military operations in the 21st century. In doing so, social media will force significant changes to policy, doctrine, and force structures. This Letort Paper explores the implications of social media for the U.S. Army.

Antiquities Destruction and Illicit Sales as Sources of ISIS Funding and Propaganda Authored by: Dr W Andrew Terrill. April 03, 2017


The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has embarked on a campaign to destroy or sell priceless world heritage relics throughout the area under its control. While images of the outrageous destruction of priceless artifacts have been seen throughout the world, the strategic and military implications of comprehensive antiquities looting and ISIS propaganda about antiquities are of vital importance and correspondingly are considered throughout this Letort Paper. In particular, ISIS funding from the illicit sales of antiquities (and high quality fakes) is a serious problem and may help ISIS remain functional even after other sources of revenue are increasingly disrupted or eliminated. Should ISIS experience additional defeats and further loss of territory in Iraq and Syria, an ongoing stream of revenue could fund a nucleus of the organization while it searches for opportunities to rebuild itself and prove its continued relevance through spectacular acts of terrorism. Antiquities, if hidden and trafficked later, along with reproductions marketed as original masterpieces, could give the organization the financial lifeline it needs to stay operational and relevant, even if it is forced to transform itself from a “caliphate” controlling territory to a more simplified type of terrorist organization operating out of portions of the areas it once ruled.

China's Interests and Goals in the Arctic: Implications for the United States Authored by: Dr Elizabeth Wishnick. March 07, 2017


China has been elaborating its position on the Arctic at the same time as the United States has been refining its own Arctic strategy as Chairman of the Arctic Council through April 2017. This Letort Paper examines the geopolitical implications of China’s growing involvement in the Arctic for U.S. interests. First, the evolution of U.S. Arctic strategy is discussed, including its political and military components. Next, China’s interests and goals in the Arctic are addressed. A third section examines the Arctic in China’s relations with Canada, Russia, and the Nordic states. This Letort Paper then evaluates the consequences of China’s expanding Arctic presence for U.S. security interests and concludes with policy recommendations.

Prospects for the Rule of Law in Cyberspace Authored by: Mr Keir Giles. January 24, 2017


The application of international law and legal principles in cyberspace is a topic that has caused confusion, doubt, and interminable discussions between lawyers since the earliest days of the internationalization of the Internet. The still unresolved debate over whether cyberspace constitutes a fundamentally new domain that requires fundamentally new laws to govern it reveals basic ideological divides. On the one hand, the Euro-Atlantic community led by the United States believes, in broad terms, that activities in cyberspace require no new legislation, and existing legal obligations are sufficient. On the other, a large number of other states led by Russia and China believe that new international legal instruments are essential in order to govern information security overall, including those expressed through the evolving domain of cyberspace. Russia in particular argues that the challenges presented by cyberspace are too urgent to wait for customary law to develop as it has done in other domains; instead, urgent action is needed. This Letort Paper will provide an overview of moves toward establishing norms and the rule of law in cyberspace, and the potential for establishing further international norms of behavior.

Prospects for Iran's New Direction Authored by: Mr Keir Giles. February 01, 2015



This monograph, completed ahead of the November 2014 deadline, examines some of the underlying factors which will be constant in dealing with a nuclear capable Iran under President Hassan Rouhani, and which will help determine the success or failure of talks in 2015. It analyzes Rouhani's eventful first year in office in order to provide pointers to what may be possible—and to some key limiting factors—for Iran under his leadership. During that time, Rouhani has been forced to balance his own progressive instincts with the instinctual caution of more conservative elements of the Iranian ruling elite. As a result, foreign hopes for his influence on Iran’s place in the world have moved from initial optimism to a more sober assessment of the options available to him. This monograph provides an essential backdrop to the forthcoming renewed negotiations with Iran by providing an introduction to the complex interplay of issues and interests which constrain the Iranian leadership.

Operationalizing Counter Threat Finance Strategies Authored by: Dr Shima D Keene. December 01, 2014



This Letort Paper describes effective Counter Threat Finance strategies as a specific area where the capability of U.S. and allied militaries can be augmented for the purpose of targeted action against adversaries. With appropriate analysis and exploitation, financial data can be used to reveal patterns of enemy behavior, motivations, and possible intentions as well as lifestyles and networks, all of which will impact directly upon military operations within a counterinsurgency environment. The targeting of the financial, and perhaps more importantly, the economic base of an organization, will not only impact the operational capability of that organization, but can ultimately lead to its destruction. To date, these strategies have been used predominantly for the purpose of disruption. However, the potential application of such strategies goes far beyond—they have the potential to be a multifaceted weapon, capable not only of disruption of the enemy, but of detecting impending instability. Specific recommendations are proposed for making best use of the potential for financial intelligence as part of an integrated strategy for both forecasting and countering contemporary security threats.

Countering Radicalization and Recruitment to Al-Qaeda: Fighting the War of Deeds Authored by: Dr Paul Kamolnick. June 01, 2014



This Letort Paper proposes that actions, policies, and deeds—those of the U.S. Government and al-Qaeda—be leveraged as a means of delegitimizing al-Qaeda terrorist propaganda. Two chief fronts—changing deeds and challenging deeds—is proposed. Changing deeds requires that the United States carefully and systematically examine its own foreign and military policies and their specific consequences for the Arab and Muslim world. Challenging deeds comprises systematically countering with evidence and fact al-Qaeda’s two greatest propagandistic fabrications: that the United States is a crusader at war with Islam, and that al-Qaeda is the vanguard defender of a besieged and oppressed Muslim Umma. Provocative at times, and even controversial in its willingness to reconsider long-standing U.S. Government policies, this Letort Paper is adamant that it is not spin, empty platitudes, and “lipstick on pigs,” but actual deeds, that are our surest bet for defeating this ignoble adversary.

Cyber Defense: An International View Authored by: Mr Keir Giles, Ms Kim Hartmann. September 01, 2015


An overview of four different national approaches to cyber defense are discussed: those of Norway, Estonia, Germany and Sweden. While providing a useful guide for engagement with the relevant governmental and other organizations in each of these countries, the Paper also compares and contrasts the advantages and drawbacks of each national approach.

Corruption, Legitimacy, and Stability: Implications for the U.S. Army Authored by: Dr Shima D Keene. June 06, 2017

Corruption increases the level of instability and the risk of conflict by undermining the legitimacy and credibility of state institutions. It can be both a cause and effect of poor leadership and governance. States emerging from conflict are particularly vulnerable to corruption, due to the lack of good governance infrastructures; but Western interventions can exacerbate the problem through the unintended consequences of good intentions. For peacekeeping and state-building interventions to be effective, careful consideration must be given as to the reason the problem occurs, and to its broader impact, as well as ways to manage it. This Letort Paper suggests ways in which these unintended consequences may be mitigated in future peace and stability operations.

Ends, Means, Ideology, and Pride: Why the Axis Lost and What We Can Learn from Its Defeat Authored by: Dr Jeffrey Record. July 13, 2017

The author examines the Axis defeat in World War II and concludes that the two main causes were resource inferiority (after 1941) and strategic incompetence—i.e., pursuit of imperial ambitions beyond the reach of its actual power. Until 1941 Axis military fortunes thrived, but the addition in that year of the Soviet Union and the United States to the list of Axis enemies condemned the Axis to ultimate strategic defeat. Germany, Italy, and Japan all attempted to bite off more than they could chew and subsequently choked to death.