Center for Strategic Communication

Top Billing! USNI Blog  Stanton Coerr – How James Schlesinger changed the Pentagon for the better 

….From 1973 to 1975, Schlesinger guided the Pentagon establishment from its wars in Southeast Asia to an aggressive posture of toe-to-toe superpower confrontation. As Washington imploded around him, he viewed the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine as throwbacks to the days in which America was the stalwart force for good and defender of right—what he termed the “pillar of stability” in a chaotic world.

Following brief service as director of Central Intelligence, James Schlesinger took office as the secretary of Defense in July 1973, at the age of only 44, young enough to be the son of some of the men whom he would lead.

He stepped into a maelstrom.

The Defense Department, enervated by ten years of grinding, bloody jungle warfare and just beginning to recover from the body-count era of Robert McNamara, was leery of reformist civilians. Nixon had just announced the end of America’s war in Vietnam, halting conscription and ushering in today’s all-volunteer force. Admirals and generals now had to convince young men to join and stay, while confronting racial unrest and drug dealing on military bases, reaping in the States the whirlwind of mutiny carried over from the disaster in Vietnam.

The military establishment responded to discipline problems by easing the rules, allowing young men in the military to grow their hair longer and even sport beards, further horrifying a World War II generation already disgusted with rebellious youth.

That same generation gaped in horror that summer at the unfolding constitutional—perhaps, some thought, existential—crisis unfolding across the river from the Pentagon.

SWJ  Octavian Manea –Reflections on the Continuities in War and Warfare 

SWJ: Are we at risk of pivoting too sharply towards an RMA-like, force-on-force construct?

MG H.R. McMaster: There is a danger that we will return to the orthodoxy of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) that dominated defense thinking in the 1990s. The RMA neglected continuities in warfare and focused on only one factor that affects the character of war, which is technological change. If we regard the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as aberrational, we risk failing to consider recent historical experience. In fact, these wars possess many continuities with past wars. We have to be careful that budget pressures do not push us toward simple solutions to the complex problems of future war. We should recognize that the orthodoxy of RMA. grew out of a fundamentally narcissistic approach to war and the associated belief that we could determine the future character of conflict mainly by developing technologies (advances in communications, in information collection capabilities, precision munitions, robotics) that would allow us to achieve military dominance mainly through the application of firepower onto land from the aerospace and maritime domains. We must be careful not to neglect the fundamental nature of war, as a profoundly human and political endeavor that is inherently uncertain.  In the end, people fight for many of the same reasons today as they did 2,500 years ago when Thucydides said people fight for three reasons: fear, honor and interest. I recommend Donald Kagan’s On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace, which is quite good on this particular point of why nations fight and the impact that has on the prospects for sustainable peace and how to understand the causes of wars.

SWJ: People’s wars tend to be driven by political, social and economic grievances. Fixing the starting causes does not require a technology-oriented solution. Does this mean that “winning” such wars ultimately requires some form of state-building or even nation-building?

MG H.R. McMaster: Most often, winning in armed conflict requires the achievement of a sustainable outcome consistent with a nation’s vital interests, those that were threatened and caused the initiation of the war. In both Iraq and Afghanistan we tried to allay fears of minorities, preserve each group’s sense of honor, and convince communities that they could best protect and advance their interests through politics rather than through violence.

War on the Rocks   David Maxwell – Taking a Spoon to a Gunfight 

While the United States has spent the last decade-plus trying to learn to “eat soup with a knife,” the Russians have been reaching back to some tried and true methods from the Cold War.  Some in the U.S. national security community want to continue to focus on expeditionary counterinsurgency warfare and armed nation building while others long for large-scale maneuver warfare along the lines of the Fulda Gap.  However, while we debate these two forms of warfare and the proper balance between them, the Russians are practicing something different: unconventional warfare in support of political warfare to achieve its strategic objectives.

A friend asked me recently if the Russians were conducting unconventional warfare in Ukraine and in particular in Crimea.  Even a superficial analysis shows that they are using much of the standard definition of unconventional warfare:

activities to enable a resistance or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla forces in a denied area.

With the backing of Russian special operations forces, the Russians aided and exploited Russian-speaking Ukrainians who appeared to form some kind of resistance – as feigned as it might have been – against the Ukrainian government.  Certainly in Crimea the objective was to coerce the population into voting for cessation from Ukraine, which the Russians have achieved. Broader Russian objectives in Ukraine are to coerce and disrupt the current government and, in the long term, possibly overthrow it as well.  There is some evidence that Russian advisors have been assisting pro-Russian factions to form variations of an underground and an auxiliary in Eastern Ukraine. They also seem to have been developing some elements into overt action arms to politically mobilize the population against the Ukrainian government and conduct psychological warfare. 

Scholar’s Stage –“The Russian Strategy for Empire” and 5 Thinkers I Wish Had Their Own Blogs 

The Glittering Eye –Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

Blackfive –RADM Jeremiah Denton, RIP 

Metamodern – The five kinds of nanotechnology 

 Georgetown Journal  Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Henry Appel  Al-Shabaab’s Insurgency in Somalia: a Data-Based Snapshot 

Jamestown Foundation Blog – Vladimir Putin’s Allies in the European Far Right 

That’s it