Steven Metz

Steven Metz is a research professor of national security affairs and director of research at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. He is the author of “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy,” and his work has appeared in many journals and magazines. You can follow him on Twitter @steven_metz.

Articles written by Steven Metz

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Must Rethink Unsustainable Counterterrorism Strategy

By Steven Metz
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While the world's attention this week was focused on Gaza and Ukraine, security remained precarious in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two lynchpins of America's conflict with transnational terrorism. Iraq and Afghanistan remain stark reminders that America's counterterrorism strategy, developed by the Bush administration and largely adopted by the Obama administration, is increasingly ineffective and unsustainable. more

The Realist Prism

Israel-Hamas Conflict Locked In by Both Sides’ Strategic Assumptions

By Steven Metz
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World attention is riveted by the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas. The desperate enemies continue to pummel each other, seemingly seeking revenge rather than discernible political objectives. Whatever happens during the next few weeks will not be the finale of the two sides’ long conflict or even the beginning of the end. The reason lies with the strategic assumptions that drive the two antagonists. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Planners Must Start Preparing for Strategic Disaster

By Steven Metz
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The collapse of the Iraqi army as it faced an extremist onslaught shocked many Americans. In Washington, policymakers and military leaders scrambled to find an effective response and to understand how the disaster happened. In the flurry of finger-pointing, many missed the bigger issue: The slow reaction to Iraq's failure is one more manifestation of a deep flaw in the way Americans think about security. more

Strategic Horizons

Drone Debate Highlights Obsolescence of U.S. Strategic Concepts

By Steven Metz
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Last week, the Stimson Center released a major report on U.S. drone policy. As could be expected from the group that produced it, the report was serious and thoughtful. But years from now what may stand out is less what the report explicitly says than what it implicitly reveals: The U.S. continues to grapple with the 21st-century security environment using concepts and ideas from an earlier and long-gone time. more

Strategic Horizons

What Lessons Will the U.S. Military Learn From Iraq’s Collapse?

By Steven Metz
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As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, American military veterans have been struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: The outcome of this debate could have far-reaching implications for the future U.S. military. more

Strategic Horizons

For U.S., a Window of Opportunity to Salvage Interests in Iraq

By Steven Metz
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Iraq's implosion has reignited the "blame game" in the U.S. But the argument that leaving some U.S. military forces in Iraq after 2011 could have prevented the current crisis was weak from the beginning. In any case, it is more important to consider what the U.S. should do next rather than what it should have been done years ago. For a fleeting moment, Washington once again has leverage if it chooses to use it. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Indecision Courts Disaster as Jihadist Insurgency Spreads

By Steven Metz
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The U.S. has yet to decide on a clear course of action when flawed governments face jihadist insurgency, instead vacillating between half-hearted counterinsurgency support and a forlorn hope that moderate democracy will emerge or the government will address the problems that inspired armed opposition. Washington seems resigned to simply ride out this storm and hope for the best. This courts disaster. more

Strategic Horizons

Defending Against Syrian Jihadists a Slippery Challenge for the West

By Steven Metz
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For years, security experts have warned of the threat from “homegrown terrorists” inspired by al-Qaida’s violent ideology. Homegrown jihadists were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, the Madrid train bombings of 2004 and the London Underground bombings of 2005. It could get worse as dozens or even hundreds of trained, experienced, radicalized fighters return home from Syria and other conflicts. more

Strategic Horizons

Is America Losing the Capability to Fight a Major War?

By Steven Metz
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Throughout history, Americans have expected and planned for short wars. Today is no exception: The U.S. military’s war games almost all plan for relatively short wars or operations. But while it would probably succeed against another third-rate military or transnational terrorist movement, it is not clear that America would or could undertake a length major war to reverse aggression by another great power. more

Strategic Horizons

‘Just Enough’ Military Could Limit Future Presidents’ Options

By Steven Metz
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Policymakers are making choices now that will determine the size and capability of the future U.S. military. Pentagon leaders normally prioritize capabilities by projecting what a future president might expect the military to do. But now they must also consider the policy options that could be taken off the table as a result of these choices. Thinking this way can lead to some different—and grim—conclusions. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Can Help With Nigeria’s Conflict, but Cannot Own It

By Steven Metz
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A year ago, as the violent jihadist group Boko Haram expanded its operations in Nigeria, I argued that the U.S. should avoid offering anything other than modest help, since the government has rejected the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. Is it time for the U.S. to reassess its approach and offer more help? more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Military Learns COIN Lessons, but They Might Not Be Enough

By Steven Metz
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Even while U.S. troops are still disengaging from combat in Afghanistan, the American military is hard at work distilling lessons from its long, costly counterinsurgency campaigns of the past decade. Two new counterinsurgency doctrine manuals provide a window into what lessons the military drew from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet both are also important for what they do not or cannot address. more

Strategic Horizons

How to Tell If America Will Remain a Global Superpower

By Steven Metz
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Following World War II, the United States reluctantly became a global superpower. By the end of the Cold War, Americans had so taken to the exercise of power that they found it unthinkable to be anything but a superpower. But now what was once unthinkable is back on the table. For the first time in decades, many Americans are questioning whether the United States wants to or even can remain a global superpower. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Military Must Prepare for China’s Rise—and Fall

By Steven Metz
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For now, Russia’s revived aggression is dominating the news in the United States. Once the furor subsides, al-Qaida will likely regain most of the attention. But in the long term, these issues pale in importance to the challenge of China’s rising power and the danger that may come with a Chinese slow-down. For the U.S., the priority is maintaining maximum flexibility in case a declining China lashes out. more

Strategic Horizons

In Ukraine, Russia Reveals Its Mastery of Unrestricted Warfare

By Steven Metz
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Russia is on the hunt again, determined to engulf another part of Ukraine. Moscow’s complex, multidimensional offensive uses intimidation, misinformation and any organization or group that can serve its interests. For a beleaguered Ukraine, pressure is coming in many ways and from many directions. And that is exactly what Vladimir Putin intends. Moscow has adopted, even mastered, a form of unrestricted warfare. more

Strategic Horizons: Amid Debate, U.S. Shares Drone Approach With Partners

By Steven Metz
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While Americans debate when and where the U.S. should use drones to strike at insurgents and terrorists who cannot be reached by other means, they may be overlooking an important trend: the move to supply a targeted killing capability to allied nations. The decision to provide technology and advice to Colombia and Yemen is only the beginning, as more states will field drones with or without American help. more

Strategic Horizons: Saving America’s Strategic Visionaries

By Steven Metz
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Everyone knows that the U.S. needs to shrink its defense budget; the challenge is doing so intelligently. Without attention to the long-term effects of the downsizing, the rush to cut could stifle creativity and fail to cultivate strategic visionaries. The net effect would be pawning America’s future security to make today’s budget. Yet there are many signs that such short-sighted cuts are already underway. more

Strategic Horizons: Planning the U.S. Military Response to Russian Revanchism

By Steven Metz
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When the Cold War ended, the days of imperial expansion seemed to go with it. No one expected the revanchism of bygone empires to shape the 21st-century global security system. But that is exactly what is happening. Now that Russia seized a large chunk of Ukraine, policymakers, military strategists and security specialists are dusting off old ideas about imperial revanchism and reconsidering how to stop it. more

Strategic Horizons: How the U.S. Military Might Get Involved in a Megacity

By Steven Metz
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Last week I wrote about the challenges that the future U.S. military might face if ordered to intervene in the type of sprawling, coastal megacities that are emerging around the world. Critics object that the resources to develop a force for megacities might be better spent elsewhere. But the important point is that the U.S. could find itself involved in these increasingly important places whether it wants to or not. more

Strategic Horizons: U.S. Military Is Not Ready for the Age of Megacities

By Steven Metz
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Many security analysts agree that in the coming decades most conflict will take place in the massive, highly connected megacities that are already growing rapidly. But stabilizing conflicts in megacities will require forces very different from what the United States has now and plans to keep. Using today’s military force in this new type of conflict could be disastrous. Iraq was a preview of the costs. more