Small Wars Journal

Landpower: Around the World

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 6:52pm

Landpower: Around the World

We have added three new articles and a podcast to Landpower that take you around the world from EUCOM, thru PACOM and home to SOUTHCOM. Fasten your seatbelts and away we go.


The POST "Post Cold War" Era in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reflects neither strategic wisdom nor military strength. In fact, Washington must devise a Western strategy that is both holistic and comprehensive. It must be realistically crafted so it can be sustained for an extended period of time. Consequently, this effort must include both bipartisan support within the United States and allied backing abroad. Four elements will be crucial:

  • dealing with the Russians;
  • deterring further aggression;
  • assuring/assisting Ukraine;
  • finally, reassuring friends and allies.

Leveraging Economic Power Against Russia. (Podcast 17 minutes): The Western response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine has included military, diplomatic, and economic instruments of power. But are there additional economic tools the West might employ in compelling or deterring Russia? Professor Jef Troxell joins Dr. John R. Deni in discussing the latest events in Ukraine and how the West might strengthen its response.


Assessing the People's Liberation Army in the Hu Jintao Era. The 2012 PLA (People’s Liberation Army) conference took place at a time when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was making its leadership transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping. The conference discussion focused on the developments in China’s national security and in the PLA during the Hu Jintao Administration from 2002 to 2012. Key observations are presented in this volume. The most significant ones are Hu Jintao’s promulgation of the new Historic Missions for the PLA, and Hu’s complete handover of power to his successor. The former has turned on the green light for the PLA to go global. The latter is a milestone is the CCP’s institution building.


The Evolution of Los Zetas in Mexico and Central America: Sadism as an Instrument of Cartel Warfare. The United States has diplomatic relations with 194 independent nations. Of these, none is more important to America than Mexico in terms of trade, investment, tourism, natural resources, migration, energy, and security. In recent years, narco-violence has afflicted Mexico with more than 50,000 drug-related murders since 2007 and some 26,000 men, women, and children missing. Members of the business community report continual extortion demands; the national oil company PEMEX suffers widespread theft of oil, gas, explosives, and solvents (with which to prepare methamphetamines); hundreds of Central American migrants have shown up in mass graves; and the public identifies the police with corruption and villainy. Washington policymakers, who overwhelmingly concentrate on Asia and the Mideast, would be well-advised to focus on the acute dangers that lie principally below the Rio Grande, but whose deadly avatars are spilling into our nation.

We hope you will enjoy these insightful works and we always look forward to your feedback either through Landpower or directly to me.



Robert C. Jones

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 10:49am

I read pieces like this and terms like "symptomatic," "reactionary," "unbalanced," and "victim mentality" come to mind.

The hard truth is that we will not get better at dealing with problematic situations like the three highlighted here, until we can get better at thinking about them in more holistic and unbiased terms. We will not get better at prevention or disruption until we gain a better understanding of provocation and motivation.

Russia's actions in the Ukraine are very strategic and highly predictable. What is equally frustrating for us to the fact that we ignored how our eager expansion of NATO would collide with what Russia quite reasonably sees as existential aspects of their geostrategic security; is that Russia played and continues to play their hand so well.

We out smarted ourselves, and now the Russians are out smarting us in turn. That hurts our pride. Get over that, and focus on how to be smarter next time, not how to better apply "land power" to punish some actor.

As to China, they continue to grow, evolve and challenge external interpretations and compressions of what they reasonably perceive as their sovereign rights as a major regional power in the Pacific. We do not have to either agree with their perspective, nor do we have to (yet...)accomodate their perspective - but we damn sure need to understand what it is and take it serious. This is not some new leader with a wild hair up his backside; this is China shifting to some new phase. We would be well-served to spend some hard thought on exactly what that phase is, why they are entering it, and what it means. Again, land power will likely play small role in the most major aspects that are likely to play out over the next 10-15 years.

As to Mexico; I can think of few things less appropriate to revising our approach to the growing negative impacts on Mexican society of the violent competition for control of the illict market created by US domestic law, or the corrosive effect of the growth of the vast illicit shadow economy that has also resulted, than the application of land power.

It is like attacking rivers because there is too much water in the ocean, but ignoring how the sun relentlessly drives a cycle of evaporation and precipitation. Worse, it ignores how our efforts to attack the rivers too often puts more energy into the sun and makes the problem worse.

The US must look hard at our domestic policy and law if we truly want to help Mexico and reduce the likelihood of spillover problems into the US. To simply apply more land power to attack the symptoms can only delay the inevitable, while at the same time making the scale of the inevitable worse.

We need to work smarter, not harder.