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

Can U.S. Build a Better Iraqi Army the Second Time Around?

By Steven Metz
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For the U.S., getting out of Iraq required rebuilding the Iraqi army. But the raw material that U.S. military advisers and trainers had to work with was not optimal. To defeat the Islamic State group, the Iraqi army will have to be organized on professional and not sectarian grounds. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Strategy for Defeating the Islamic State Group Won't Work

By Steven Metz
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President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with the Islamic State group appeals to a weary nation, but it is unlikely to work because it violates two cardinal rules of strategy: The resources are not commensurate with the objectives, and the coalition’s objectives are not in sync. more

Strategic Horizons

Assessing Obama’s Legacy in National Security Policy

By Steven Metz
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Obama’s national security legacy will be an important benchmark for future American national security strategy. If seen as a success, it will serve as a model. If seen as a general failure, it will offer a warning. Therefore it is important to begin thinking about it now. more

Strategic Horizons

The Price of Defeating the Islamic State

By Steven Metz
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Destroying the Islamic State would be a very good thing. The danger is that American political leaders and strategic thinkers will reprise their tradition of overestimating U.S. power and underestimating the costs of destroying a fanatical transnational terrorist organization. more

Strategic Horizons

2016 Election Will Redraw Road Map for U.S. National Security

By Steven Metz
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The United States is at a transitional point in its national security strategy perhaps as crucial as the opening years of the Cold War. During the 2016 presidential campaign, debate about America’s role in the world will move into the limelight as differing visions within and between the Democratic and Republican parties clarify policy options and choices. For U.S. and global security, much will be at stake. more

Strategic Horizons

The Rise of the Islamic State and the Evolution of Violent Extremism

By Steven Metz
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From Yemen to Africa, violent extremists are leaving al-Qaida-affiliated groups and joining the ultra-radical and violent movement now known as the Islamic State. This gives some worrisome hints about the future of extremism in the Islamic world. That the U.S. is attacking the Islamic State rather than al-Qaida shows militants exactly who Washington considers to be the largest threat. more

Strategic Horizons

The Nonlethal Weapons Revolution That Wasn’t

By Steven Metz
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War among the people pitting state security forces against militias or insurgents has become a pervasive aspect of the contemporary security environment. In such wars, anything that can help a military limit civilian casualties is valuable. Not so long ago it looked like the technology to do this might be on the way. The obstacles to a revolution in nonlethality, though, are political, ethical and legal. more

Strategic Horizons

Rethinking War Colleges and the Education of U.S. Military Leaders

By Steven Metz
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Recent reports that Sen. David Walsh may have committed plagiarism while a student at the U.S. Army War College brought unaccustomed attention to the military's senior schools. Discussion of the issue showed that despite the long history of America's war colleges, they are not widely understood. It also suggested that there is a need for wider debate on how the United States educates its senior military leaders. more

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