Relearning War

A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission o...

A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 3, 2012 | Dr. Stephen J. Blank

Today, the United States stands at a strategic crossroads. As troops leave Afghanistan and U.S. policy reorients itself toward emphasizing the Asia-Pacific region, the visible signs of being at an inflection point multiply. Yet, there are some glaring absences in U.S. strategic thinking that could again lead us awry, as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, if they are not attended to soon. In pivoting or rebalancing to Asia, the United States has announced a new concept of operations called air-sea battle. Whatever its merits or demerits might be, it cannot fairly be called a strategy, given its absence of a real political dimension that governs the conduct of operations. Moreover, it appears to be premised on the belief that future conflict will be more or less conventional, featuring high-tech, long-range aerial and maritime strike platforms directed against the enemy. Second, despite the turn toward jointness in the last two decades, this operational concept appears to exclude consideration of the necessity of the ground forces to accomplish strategic objectives. This is another reason why the concept cannot be called a strategy; it leaves out the one force that can effectively enforce a strategic conclusion to any future war.

Can we expect our enemies to be so obliging as to allow us to fight the kind of war that we prefer? Such thinking fails to account for the dramatic expansion, over the last generation, of the tools of war and their easy acquisition by any manner of adversary. These new “tools of war” include: asymmetric war, up to and including the threat of nuclear use as, for example, stipulated in Russian doctrine; the massive development of information war, not just cyber-strikes, but the whole issue of exploiting communications media to frame the narrative of contemporary war; “lawfare,” where international law is exploited on behalf of one or more belligerents in any conflict, etc. While war remains a contest of wills as described by Clausewitz, it also remains a chameleon able to assume many forms and manifestations where, as we have seen, the U.S., for all its advantages, still finds strategic success elusive.

If we are to grasp the challenge of the moment, we

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Iran FM says US buildup near Iraq lacks ‘prudence’


AP – Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, left, and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari during a joint …

By LARA JAKES, Associated Press – Mon Oct 31, 9:47 am ET

BAGHDAD – Iran‘s top diplomat on Monday bitingly questioned reported U.S. plans to build up American military forces across Mideast countries after withdrawing from Iraq, calling on Washington to be “more prudent and wise” or risk more unrest in the region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also dismissed American concerns about Iranian meddling in Iraq after U.S. troops pull out at the end of December.

Those worries were a main motivation of failed U.S. efforts to leave at least several thousand American troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.

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APPG Event: Bonnie Jenkins, US Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programmes

Number of terrorist incidents for 2009 (Januar...
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By Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, 4th February 2010

1:00-2:00pm, 4th February 2010,

Committee Room 8, House of Commons

To attend, please RSVP to:

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Transatlantic & International Security is pleased to invite you to a discussion with Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, US Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programmes.

Nuclear proliferation is one of the most pressing challenges confronting the international community at present. Armed with a nuclear bomb, rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran can wield strategic and military influence wholly disproportionate to their size and diplomatic and military clout, altering the balance of power in a manner inconceivable when outcomes were decided by the wealth of nations and the size of their armies. Likewise terrorist organisations, if given possession of a nuclear weapon, have the potential to wreak destruction on a devastating scale. Moreover, where such non-state actors are concerned, the prospect of nuclear retaliation – hitherto the principle deterrent – becomes almost meaningless.  Other more conventional threats to security also weigh on the mind of policy makers in this regard.  The unregulated flow of small arms and light weapons are arming insurgencies around the world, sustaining civil conflict and perpetuating regional instability.  Failed states provide opportunities to terrorists, and in this sense now affect our security more directly than ever before.  In addition, new threats, such as cyber or space related methods of potential attack have emerged and will need to factor into strategies for threat reduction. Continue reading

Japan-U.S. security ties being tested

US Military bases in Okinawa, see also :Image:...
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Japan faces an uphill struggle to convince the United States that the indecisive Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is in step with U.S. President Barack Obama in working to ensure the security of Japan as well as East Asia under the two countries’ 50-year-old treaty.

With uncertainties remaining near Japan such as China’s military buildup and North Korea’s nuclear programs, Hatoyama is being tested as to whether he can take advantage of the pact’s half-century mark to secure regional stability through working closely with Obama. Continue reading

Afraid of the Dark in Afghanistan

Anand Gopal: An Inside Look at the Counter-Terror War

U.S. soldiers at an outpost in Afghanistan (CBS)

One quiet, wintry night last year in the eastern Afghan town of Khost, a young government employee named Ismatullah simply vanished.  He had last been seen in the town’s bazaar with a group of friends. Family members scoured Khost’s dust-doused streets for days. Village elders contacted Taliban commanders in the area who were wont to kidnap government workers, but they had never heard of the young man. Even the governor got involved, ordering his police to round up nettlesome criminal gangs that sometimes preyed on young bazaar-goers for ransom.

But the hunt turned up nothing. Spring and summer came and went with no sign of Ismatullah. Then one day, long after the police and village elders had abandoned their search, a courier delivered a neat, handwritten note on Red Cross stationary to the family.  In it, Ismatullah informed them that he was in Bagram, an American prison more than 200 miles away. U.S. forces had picked him up while he was on his way home from the bazaar, the terse letter stated, and he didn’t know when he would be freed. Continue reading

Canada: Demand Return of Ex-Child Soldier from Guantanamo

Government Should Bring Khadr Home Despite Court Ruling

January 29, 2010

(New York) – The Canadian government should immediately request the repatriation of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr from Guantanamo even though Canada’s Supreme Court did not order it to do so, Human Rights Watch said today.  Khadr, who was 15 years old when the US military took him into custody in Afghanistan, has been held at Guantanamo since 2002

The Canadian Supreme Court today unequivocally condemned Canada’s participation in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo as violations of Khadr’s human rights, Canada’s constitution, and “basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth.” The court declined to order the Canadian government to seek Khadr’s repatriation because doing so would intrude upon the executive’s discretion in foreign affairs. However, the court held that the effects of US and Canadian violations continue into the present and that the Canadian government must, in exercising its foreign affairs powers, take this into account. Continue reading

Smaller terror plots posing new threats

Two recent terrorism cases in the United States have officials worried that Al-Qaida is changing tactics.


Last update: October 31, 2009 – 7:16 PM

WASHINGTON – After disrupting two recent terrorism plots, U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that extremist groups in Pakistan linked to Al-Qaida are planning smaller operations in the United States that are harder to detect but more likely to succeed than the spectacular attacks they once emphasized, senior counterterrorism officials say. Continue reading