Small Wars Journal

07/09/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Fri, 07/09/2021 - 8:15am

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs


1. Regime Change Is Not an Option in China

2. Does “Deterrence” Work?

3. China’s Nuclear Silos and the Arms-Control Fantasy

4. Spy Agencies Turn to Scientists as They Wrestle With Mysteries

5. The world is a freer place thanks to Carl Gershman

6. Opinion | Could Ransomware Become a Geopolitical Weapon?

7. Pressure grows on Biden to curb ransomware attacks

8. How to Stop Political Division from Eroding Military-Academic Relations

9. Sandra Oudkirk Announced as Director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan

10. Hybrid war could replace ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan

11. How To Measure the Health of Civil-Military Relations

12. The 2021 War on the Rocks Summer Fiction Reading List

13. US gov’t extends medical aid to C-130 crash victims

14. An American Force Structure for the 21st Century

15. Cyberspace is an Analogy, Not a Domain: Rethinking Domains and Layers of Warfare for the Information Age

16. QAnon Pivots Its Exiled Online Movement to the Real World

17. Hal Brands - Afghanistan Was a Limited War With Limited Success

18. Opinion | Right-wing anti-vaccine hysteria is increasing. We’ll all pay the price.

19. Xinhua Commentary: Why Kissinger's secret China visit still matters 50 years later

20. Five years after South China Sea ruling, China's presence around Philippines growing

21. Afghan women carry guns in streets, protest Taliban as country struggles


1. Regime Change Is Not an Option in China

Foreign Affairs · by Evan S. Medeiros and Ashley J. Tellis · July 8, 2021

Conclusion: “Ultimately, what matters is not whether the United States can change China’s motivations but whether Washington can alter Beijing’s actions and conduct. Such an approach might make only tactical progress: neither the brutal character nor the revisionist impulses of the CCP are likely to change. But as long as Washington shifts how Beijing thinks about its interests and how it pursues them, the United States can protect the broader liberal international order—and that would be victory enough.


2. Does “Deterrence” Work?

Slate · by Fred Kaplan · July 7, 2021

Conclusion:The point is this: In wars, big or small, sometimes it’s not clear how to deter adversaries from doing or not doing what you want them to do or stop doing. Figure out that problem before you start dropping the bombs. In any case, stop talking loosely about sending “deterrent messages”—because if you keep talking that way, and the militias aren’t deterred, our messages on myriad matters will be taken less and less seriously everywhere.


3. China’s Nuclear Silos and the Arms-Control Fantasy

WSJ · by Matthew Kroenig

As an aside I attended a conference today (Chatham House rules) and the speaker (a former senior government official and Asia hand) mentioned that we have proposed establishing a hotline with China. He said their response is that hotlines are a vestige of the Cold War and they do not want to be mired in Cold War thinking and establishing a hotline is illustrative of Cold War thinking. They were not interested in having a mechanism to coordinate, de-conflict, or de-escalate.

Conclusion:Since the end of World War II, America’s nuclear forces have been the backbone of the U.S. alliance system and the rules-based international system. China is building new nuclear forces to tear those systems down. By strengthening its arsenal, the U.S. can fend off China’s challenge and provide the free world with continued peace and stability.


4. Spy Agencies Turn to Scientists as They Wrestle With Mysteries

The New York Times · by Julian E. Barnes · July 8, 2021

I would not think this is anything new. I would think the IC would always be tapping into outside expertise. That said, I have heard that Langley has the highest number of PhDs per capita than anywhere in the world.  


5. The world is a freer place thanks to Carl Gershman

The Hill · by Daniel F. Runde and William A. Schreyer · July 7, 2021

I am proud to serve on the board of directors of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea with Carl. His work and legacy is inspirational.


6. Opinion | Could Ransomware Become a Geopolitical Weapon?

Politico · by Jenny Jun · July 7, 2021

In a word, Yes.

Excerpts:It may be several years before we see the first coercive encryption used in a geopolitical context. Ransomware was first used in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became a pervasive threat as criminals learned and fine-tuned their operations over time. The skyrocketing ransom demands and emergence of new tactics, such as encrypting backups and exploiting supply chains, indicate that in many ways this learning is still ongoing. Likewise, the first documented case of cyber espionage was in 1986, but it took years before states adopted this new means of conducting espionage in earnest.

Given these lengthy timelines, the idea that encryption could be another chess piece in the greater geopolitical game is still probably relatively obscure to national security practitioners more used to traditional forms of warfare. However, increasingly high-profile ransomware incidents like Kaseya and Colonial will get policymakers — as well as adversaries — thinking in this direction more and more.

As the source of wealth moves elsewhere — that is, as countries’ most valued assets move from the physical to the virtual realm — the weapons will also adapt accordingly. Encryption is one excellent tool to hold such connected assets at risk, and soon actors will learn to use this tool to extract more than money.


7. Pressure grows on Biden to curb ransomware attacks

The Washington Post · by Ellen Nakashima · July 7, 2021

Excerpts:Some lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to use military cyber-capabilities more aggressively against criminal hackers overseas. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) is among them.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think the American people really make these legalistic distinctions” between criminal and state-sponsored attacks, said Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “An attack on our oil infrastructure or food supply is an attack, period, whether it’s from a saboteur planting a bomb, a plane dropping a bomb or a cyberattack.”

The federal government’s counter-ransomware efforts predate the Colonial Pipeline incident.

In January, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency launched a campaign to prod private-sector organizations to adopt measures to reduce their risk of being victimized by ransomware attacks. And in 2019, the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division launched a similar initiative to encourage state and local officials to secure election infrastructure against ransomware attacks.

The Justice Department in April created a ransomware and digital extortion task force with a mission to investigate, disrupt and prosecute ransomware and digital extortion activity.



8. How to Stop Political Division from Eroding Military-Academic Relations · by Rikki H. Sargent, Lucian Gideon Conway III, and Shannon Houck

Excerpts: “Social psychology research suggests four conditions can maximize collaboration between groups: common goals, institutional support, dedication to cooperation, and equality in status. The first two are fairly straightforward, but the latter pair deserves a bit of exploration.


Effective “dedication to collaboration” requires genuine buy-in from all stakeholders, not passive participation. Longer-term buy-in may be encouraged by training cross-institutional teams to develop practical skills to operate with a less biased, cooperative mindset.


Research also shows that teams work best when its members are treated with equal status. But as “status equality” in its literal sense would undermine the military’s important rank structure, we instead reframe this to emphasize equal value of team members’ unique contributions, skillsets, and expertise. While academics and military personnel might at first feel intimidated by one another’s expertise, appreciating and leaning on expertise diversity can lead to more successful collaboration. 


9.  Sandra Oudkirk Announced as Director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan



10. Hybrid war could replace ‘forever war’ in Afghanistan · by MK Bhadrakumar · July 8, 2021

I do not think we have a "hybrid warfare plan" in Syria and I do not think we are going to have one in Afghanistan. 

We have used hybrid conflict or warfare to describe ways our adversaries may fight. I have not seen any directive for the US military to design hybrid warfare campaigns.

This excerpt from Frank Hoffman's 2018 article on the spectrum of conflicts is useful. I do not think we are planning on fighting this way: “A hybrid threat transcends a blend of regular and irregular tactics. More than a decade ago, it was defined as an adversary that “simultaneously and adaptively employs a fused mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, catastrophic terrorism, and criminal behavior in the battlespace to obtain desired political objectives.”54 The criminal, or more broadly “socially disruptive behavior,” and mass terrorism aspects should not be overlooked, but the fusion of advanced military capabilities with irregular forces and tactics is key, and has appeared repeatedly during the past decade from Hezbollah to the Russian campaigns in Georgia and Ukraine.55 Hezbollah’s method of fighting Israel as is described by its leader Hassan Nasrallah, is an organic response to its security dilemma and “not a conventional army and not a guerrilla force, it is something in between.”56 As lethal as Hezbollah has been in the past decade, we should be concerned about the lessons it is learning in Syria from the Russians.57

Hybrid threats can also be created by a state actor using a proxy force. A proxy force sponsored by a major power can generate hybrid threats readily using advanced military capabilities provided by the sponsor. Proxy wars, appealing to some as “warfare on the cheap” are historically ubiquitous but chronically understudied.58

The hybrid threat concept captures the ongoing implications of globalization, the diffusion of military-related technologies, and the information revolution. Hybrid threats are qualitatively different from less complex irregular or militia forces. They, by and large, cannot be defeated simply by Western counterterrorism tactics or protracted counterinsurgency techniques. Hybrid threats are more lethal than irregular forces conducting simple ambushes using crude improvised explosive devices, but they are not unfamiliar to Western forces and can be defeated with sufficient combat power.59


11. How To Measure the Health of Civil-Military Relations · by R. Jordan Prescott · July 7, 2021

Excerpts: ”For all the debate among decision-makers, academics, and experts, all Americans should recall the judgment of a lieutenant colonel only six years after America went to war. Finding American generals deficient in “creative intelligence and moral courage,” the officer lamented that the lack of accountability was the most dispiriting — “as matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

In that statement is the crux of civil-military relations. Trust is paramount, but accountability is the foundation.

The civilian is the conscientious principal and the military is the dutiful agent. The civilian trusts, but verifies; the military trusts but it also substantiates its trustworthiness.

Did Trump disregard prevailing norms? Absolutely.

Did he grasp the imbalance in the relationship better than his more “sophisticated” contemporaries? Yes.

After American forces withdraw completely from Afghanistan in September, the civil-military relationship will be unencumbered by war and informed by the lessons of undue deference – a new test awaits.


12. The 2021 War on the Rocks Summer Fiction Reading List · by WOTR Staff · July 9, 2021


13. US gov’t extends medical aid to C-130 crash victims · by Frencie Carreon · July 6, 2021

The photo is not congruent with the tragic story of the PAF C-130 crash. Most 1st SFG personnel will recognize the team sergeant in the photo from many years ago.

The sentiments of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who served in JSOTF-P are expressed by Tyler Wilson here. And all will also recall the author of this article who is a longtime friend of the JSOTF, Frencie Carreon. I think she was responsible for giving the US forces the nickname in 2002 of the "Balikatan Forces" whne we first deployed.

“I have many fond memories while working in Jolo from 2007-2012 with the US military and working along-side the Philippine military. The security on the island was a concern from Abu Sayyaf, but there were still so many people who were working to make a better life for the Tausug people. I continue to see so much potential in Jolo and look forward to returning someday to vacation and enjoy the beauty of the land and the people again,” Lt. Col. Tyler Wilson, then a civil-military operations officer of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.


14. An American Force Structure for the 21st Century · by Bruce Held and Brad Martin · July 8, 2021

Excerpts: “Once America entered World War II, it took almost a year to enable offensive operations in combat theaters, a year that was used by the country’s enemies to make victory much costlier. A similar timeline may be in effect today, particularly if the nation’s adversaries decide to contest U.S. deployments into theater and American sustainment activities once there, as they are likely to do. This means potential peer and near-peer adversaries may not be deterred if they think they can score an easy win. And, absent a direct attack on the United States, the “easy win” may not be challenged for fear of escalation and lack of political will. Rebalancing America’s military capabilities is required if the U.S. military is to have the resources needed to be relevant to major operations against its primary potential adversaries.

Addressing the imbalance will be a major undertaking that needs to start at the very top of the Defense Department. Clearly, the first step is to recognize the issue, and that should be done by the department’s leadership, accepted by the president, and made subject to congressional oversight and budget deliberations. Getting to this point will require realistic assessments, wargames, and simulations that account for the military, political, and diplomatic consequences of various balances between combat and supporting capabilities. As these reveal the balances that will be required in future contingencies, roles and responsibilities for managing support requirements should be established and enforced. Likewise, capabilities for force projection and theater sustainment should be moved out of the reserve component, otherwise the U.S. military will face constraints on the speed at which theaters may be opened and made ready for operations.

Once the decision to rebalance is recognized, established, and resourced, all the myriad details required for success will take substantial and ongoing attention. Perhaps attending to those details will be the most challenging aspect of all, but America’s political and military leaders should get to work now to lower the risk that history rhymes and to ensure it does not repeat.


15.  Cyberspace is an Analogy, Not a Domain: Rethinking Domains and Layers of Warfare for the Information Age · by Michael P. Kreuzer · July 8, 2021

Conclusion:It is tempting to draw attention to new concepts by either attaching new terms to them or trying to categorize them with other important concepts. This has the short-term effect of drawing attention in a more familiar, established way, but in the long-term confuses implementers. When it comes to the terms themselves, the label is less important than the meaning. This article has identified domains of warfare as being the four physical domains of land, maritime, air, and space, and the dimensions of war as natural environmental factors of the battlespace that cross and affect all domains, the physical, electromagnetic, information, and cognitive layers. By standardizing this typology, the U.S. joint force and its partners will be better positioned to operationalize cyber power, to understand the need for and purpose of independent military services, and to better integrate multi-domain operations.


16.  QAnon Pivots Its Exiled Online Movement to the Real World

Wired · by Condé Nast

We need a public campaign (but not government run or led) to discredit QAnon. Local municipalities need to defeat these wackos at the polls. And one of the organizers for resistance to the QAnon cult should be Christian churches. We need to mobilize opposition to it and we need a non-governmental information and influence activities campaign to challenge, counter, and undermine the narrative and the legitimacy of the QAnon cult, This cult is a danger to America.


17.  Hal Brands - Afghanistan Was a Limited War With Limited Success · by Hal Brands

Excerpts: “Limited wars are typically kept limited for sensible purposes: To avoid catastrophic escalation, to prevent an out-of-the-way conflict from monopolizing America’s power and attention, to avoid using tactics that would shock the conscience of a democratic society. And simply abstaining from limited uses of force would leave the US unable to defend its interests against an array of violent challenges.

Admittedly, some of America’s limited wars (most notably, Vietnam) were strategic failures by any reckoning. But others, such as Korea, resulted in more success than failure, by stymying communist aggression that could have seriously destabilized a fragile postwar world. Still others, such as Afghanistan, sit somewhere between the two. All of which means that the careful exercise of strategic judgment, however imperfect, is a better prescription than some blanket prohibition.

For better and for worse, being a global superpower involves fighting conflicts that matter a great deal more to the enemy than they do to the US. The frustrations that America has encountered in Afghanistan aren’t a product of post-9/11 delusions: They are more normal than either critics or supporters of that mission might like to admit.


18. Opinion | Right-wing anti-vaccine hysteria is increasing. We’ll all pay the price.

The Washington Post · by Paul Waldman · July 8, 2021

The Biden administration failed" influence 101." They should have named the vaccine after the former president and they certainly should have given him great credit for pushing the vaccination process to get these vaccinations out to the American people and the world. How could his supporters then not want to take his vaccine?

Excerpts:Part of what’s so frustrating is that there is one person who could have averted this rolling disaster — and still could — but he won’t do it. That person is, of course, Donald Trump.

And he would even have been able to do it in a way that satisfied his boundless need for adulation. Amidst his catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic, one thing for which he deserves credit is that he essentially opened up a firehose of money to drug companies to develop vaccines.

So he could easily say, “I gave you these incredible vaccines. Me, all me. Call them the Trump Vaccines. Everybody get your Trump Vaccine, because I solved the pandemic.” Had he done that, his devoted followers would have stampeded to vaccination centers. But he didn’t.

Instead, he occasionally and grudgingly says something positive about vaccination, but refuses to put his considerable weight behind it. Instead of leading his followers, Trump is following them.

So is the rest of the Republican Party elite — except for those who are actively promoting anti-vaccine derangement. All of which means that the day we’re finally free of the pandemic recedes further and further into the future, while people are still dying.


19. Xinhua Commentary: Why Kissinger's secret China visit still matters 50 years later

From a CCP propaganda mouthpiece.

Excerpts:It is indeed a different age now. Ideological confrontation and you-win-I-lose geopolitical struggle belong to yesterday.

In an era of growing interdependence and rising global challenges, humanity has no future but a shared one. Countries worldwide, particularly major ones like China and the United States, have no other viable option than to work together for the common good.

If Washington's decision-makers continue to take China-U.S. relations as a zero-sum game in which they must win by taking China down, they will lead the United States further astray at the expense of both countries' interests as well as world peace and stability.

In late April, Kissinger warned at a forum that strains with China are "the biggest problem for America, the biggest problem for the world," as there is a potential for "a kind of Cold War" to develop between the two heavyweights.

Political leaders in Washington should recognize the trend of the times, pick up the extraordinary courage of their predecessors, and carry forward their political wisdom and foresight to work with their Chinese counterparts and navigate the two countries' relations through the current rough waters.


20. Five years after South China Sea ruling, China's presence around Philippines growing

Reuters · by Karen Lema

China believes in rule by law not the rule of law.


21. Afghan women carry guns in streets, protest Taliban as country struggles · by Peter Aitken




Something to keep in mind in today's zero defect culture:


#OTD in 1908, Ensign Chester Nimitz ran the destroyer USS Decatur (DD-5) aground in the Philippines. He was court-martialed, found guilty of neglect of duty and issued a letter of reprimand. It was a different era, so he was still able to make fleet admiral despite the incident.


Quotes of the Day:


"The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead." 

- Aristotle


"Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war."

-Ernest Miller Hemingway


"The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins."

- Soren Kierkegaard

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