Defense Statecraft

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Price for Lack of Inter-Agency Cooperation




          The idea of structure in the Intelligence Community is one that has been battled with for years. In the arena of terrorism and counterterrorism, it has been proven time and again that a good structure within the community makes all the difference. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is no exception. The benefits of the relationship formed between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and JSOC are numerous.

        Each uniform wearing sect of the United States, the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, etc., has their own culture, ideologies and methods of operation. This makes it difficult to work well together. The gaps left in structure by these various cultures begin to affect the outcomes of operations. In the book Spying Blind by Amy Zegart, she points out that 9/11 could possibly have been prevented if only Intel agencies cooperated, worked together and pulled resources. It is also not far-fetched to assume that a lack of inter-agency coordination and cooperation affected the very recent special ops in Yemen.

        In Ackerman's article, How Special Ops Copied Al-Qaeda to Kill It, he explains the level of structure within Al-Qaeda and how that serves as the basis for its 'success' thus far in implementing attacks. Ackerman points out that there is a strategic network system within the organization that allows for effective communication and execution of actions. Due to the different objectives of each military branch or agency, they are all able to focus better on certain components of a mission. Failure to research and share 100% of information found, could jeopardize any given mission. We need to move past suspicion.

        Special Ops Forces are some of the most highly trained individuals who put their lives on the line to collect intelligence, rescue American citizen and keep the United States at large safe from foreign threats. Special Ops Forces require high levels of commitment and seriousness and it only makes sense that they get that back in return. Agencies need to be fully committed when dealing with Special Ops. Lives are on the line and with each passing moment of ineffective organizational structure, the Special Operations Forces suffer more loss of live and more failed missions. With the amount of drudgery that goes into these missions, the best equipment, teams and organizations need to be backing these individuals. Not faulty choppers and subpar gadgets.

        This is not to say that Special Ops have not enjoyed successful operations. They have. It is also not to say that lack of inter-organizational cooperation is the cause of all the mishaps. It’s not.  In the war on terror, they have made their mark, displaying remarkable skills and success over the years. However, American Special Ops can be significantly improved, if uniformity is reached between all Intelligence Agencies and American Forces involved.







Friday, February 10, 2017

Poland's Warm Welcome: Operation Atlantic Resolve

Aside from the unprecedented inauguration in January, another monumental event took place but received far less attention. In an effort to reassure NATO allies in Eastern Europe, the United States officially began Operation Atlantic Resolve. An armored brigade from Ford Carson, Colorado, was warmly welcomed in Poland this past month, which marked the largest deployment of U.S. troops to Europe for defensive purposes. 3,500 troops will begin back-to-back rotations of U.S. soldiers and equipment within the region.

Operation Atlantic Resolve follows rising tensions and fear surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Russia's advancements in the region provoke instability and insecurity, and at the ushering of Eastern European NATO allies, the U.S. responded. Atlantic Resolve is a continuous commitment to Eastern European security and a reassurance of America's dedication to NATO through multinational military and training cooperation. Its intentions are not only to strengthen the capabilities of the region as a whole, but to increase trust among allies. 

The buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe has not sat well with Moscow. Russia deems the operation a 'direct threat' to Russian national security and intends to respond in suit. Frequent increases in Russian forces on the border, under arguably false pretenses of training purposes, strain the delicate relationship between Eastern European states and Russia.

Furthering aggression, the completion of a U.S. missile defense system base in Romania, called Aegis Ashore, was also not well-received by Russia. Aegis Ashore, as per U.S. description, is a necessary security measure to counter threats from rogue states, like Iran. Russia is accusing the U.S. of violating the Immediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; in effect, Russia has threatened to therefore withdrawing from the treaty, leaving the threat of a potential nuclear war looming in the minds of many Eastern Europeans. The possibility is unlikely, however, as Eastern European leaders are hoping to convince President Vladimir Putin to ease his advance in Ukraine and the region. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Modern States with Ancient Dilemmas: Porous Boundaries Between Civilian & Military Authority

The first session of DIP 750 we touched on the distinction modern states have from the ancient model of statecraft and military policy.  Modern states divide responsibility between civilian and military systems and organizations.  That is in stark contrast to the Ancient Romans, just as one example, where victorious generals often saw their political stock rise along with their military glory.  However, hard as we might try, there continue to be disputes about the parameters set on military power, and not just in developing democracies who have a history of military dictatorship.  One of the most consequential and contentious civilian/military standoffs of the 20th century happened within the United States government post WWII.

One of the most calamitous aspects of the Korean War was the repercussion it had on American foreign policy, illustrated rather perfectly by the policy disagreement and personal collision between President Harry Truman and General MacArthur.  Douglas MacArthur was first introduced to the American military scene in the Far East in 1941, when FDR appointed him Commander of American forces in the region after the Japanese invasion of Indochina.  Having already served as Supreme Commander for Allied Powers in Japan, MacArthur was no typical general.  As de facto ruler of over 80 million Japanese citizens, he was not used to answering to his civilian superiors, including the Commander-in-Chief.

Generally, the characteristics that distinguish politicians from officers are that officers think tactically, while politicians think politically.  MacArthur thought tactically and politically, and he fancied himself to be quite the politician as well as a brilliant General.  The beginning of the miscommunication and mutual distrust between Truman and MacArthur was that Truman initially saw him as a political foe, as someone aligned with the Republican Party.  He feared that MacArthur might run against him in 1952, after a groundswell of support had formed for him during the last several election cycles. The catalyst for their divergence would prove to be less about domestic politics, and more about the dichotomy between the civilian and military control of foreign policy decisions.

Our first session also touched on the fact that the military apparatus inevitably deals with problems of miscommunication between civilians and military personnel.  That very dichotomy began to manifest itself when the Joint Chiefs began reevaluating their initial analysis of Korea and the rest of Eastern Asia in mid-1950. There was a misunderstanding between Washington and the military personnel on the ground with regards to Korea from the beginning of the conflict, for nearly all the U.S. intelligence agencies were disastrously false in their predictions pertaining to North Korea’s attack on South Korea.  Additionally, General MacArthur’s insistence and eagerness to engage the Chinese militarily alarmed the Truman administration. 

Truman was dubious of MacArthur’s dismissive attitude towards him in the past when he reached out to the General, saying, “I have always regretted that General MacArthur declined the invitations that were extended to him to return to the United States, even if only for a short visit, during his years in Japan.” Truman suggest that part of the disconnect between himself and MacArthur was because the General had been in the Orient for 14 years, and all his thinking revolved around the Far East.  Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back was Gen. MacArthur’s meddling in domestic politics, as well as his seemingly open alliance with the President’s Republican opponents in Congress.  Truman explained that in his mind there was a right and wrong kind of victory.  It was MacArthur’s apparent zero sum theory of victory in Korea that led Truman to remove him from his post.


On April 11th, 1951, Truman formally fired MacArthur from all his official posts.  Truman did acknowledge the extraordinary accomplishments of Gen. MacArthur, saying he was “one of our greatest military commanders,” but since he openly disagreed with American foreign policy, he could not remain at his post. Truman writes in his memoirs his justification for MacArthur’s firing, “Our Constitution embodies the principle of civilian control of the military.  This was the principle that General MacArthur threatened.  I do not believe that he purposefully decided to challenge civilian control of the military, but the result of his behavior was that this fundamental principle of free government was in danger.”  The President must be the vanguard against such disregard for civilian authority, by assuring that we do not devolve into a military dictatorship through the oftentimes-subtle neglect of civilian oversight. Truman’s vigilance of this issue was even more indispensable during wartime, when the people are susceptible to such claims about the need for more military autonomy.  While it might have cost him a third term in the White House, his belief in the American system of non-military governance and respect for the Office of the Presidency transcended his ambitions for his political career.