Irregular Warfare: Back to Basics Training

Jason Sigger passes along a very timely post from Sven Ortmann questioning the emerging “hybrid warfare” groupthink meme. Ortmann provides historical examples that illustrate how warfare has always involved both regular and irregular aspects. I’d add that victory is always asymmetric, since it involves bypassing the strength of the enemy, and that military innovation has always been the result of finding responses to superior capacities or resources. Cavalry was initially an asymmetric response to the superiority of massed infantry; artillery evolved out of the need to reduce the advantage inherent to defending fortresses. If there’s a difference, it’s that today’s […]

Instability Operations

A few weeks back, I argued that the U.S. military’s emphasis on stability operations might not lead to increased counterinsurgency wars of choice, but speculated about ways in which it would almost certainly impact policymakers’ strategic vision. Here is the first item on that list: 1) An emphasis onstability as the strategic objective of American foreign policy. Thisis largely consistent with America’s historical emphasis, primarily dueto the benefits of stability to trade and commerce. But with failedstates now being perceived as a national security threat vector, thatwill probably increase. The downside is that promoting stability, ifpushed to an extreme, can […]

The Middle Path in Afghanistan

A smart, sensible essay from Ilan Goldenberg at Democracy Arsenal arguing for a Middle Path in Afghanistan, well worth a read. I think my biggest objection is that he’s proposing a Buddhist solution for an Islamic country. Other than that, it’s hard to argue with it. There are really no attractive options in Afghanistan. The maximalist approach assumes unlimited resources and political will, and the minimalist approach probably underestimates what a determined America can accomplish. As Goldenberg points out, the risk of a middle path is that it will be just enough to accomplish nothing. But it also might give […]

NEW DELHI — Two weeks ago, a ballistic missile blasted off from a warship sailing in the Bay of Bengal. Its target was Wheeler Island, a small enclave of land off the coast of India and home to one of India’s most important missile testing facilities. Within seconds of the launch, the Indian military’s radars and computer banks began tracking the supersonic rocket. Several computations later, an alarm triggered another “hot” missile on the island that, once launched, began pursuing the aggressor warhead. Some 70 kilometers above the earth’s surface, the two collided. The rocket’s debris fell through the sky, […]

When COIN Isn’t COIN

In many ways, Stephen Metz’s recent Small Wars Journal post is an echo of the ongoing debate over whether the ascendancy of counterinsurgency doctrine in the U.S. military will lead to a strategic shift towards more counterinsurgency wars of choice. COIN practitioners have argued that the enormous costs and complexities of counterinsurgency combined with the limited chances of success argue against widespread use. Their mantra is, Don’t confuse tactics with strategy. Metz, though, gives anecdotal evidence to the effect that the COIN focus on stabilizing states has already crept into the strategic assumptions of military futurists. He questions counterinsurgency not […]

France: Outside Edition

Art Goldhammer also flags French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s double dis at the London G-20 summit: Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have nixed sideline meetings. Here’s Goldhammer: With no promise of domestic improvement, Sarkozy may well covet asplashy international occasion to demonstrate his indispensability, butthe dice haven’t been rolling his way since he stepped down from the EUpresidency. In all fairness to Sarkozy, his prime minister, Fran├žois Fillon (who probably shouldn’t be left out of the 2012 “presidentiable” sweeptakes) just met with Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, yesterday in Washington, and the two presidents are scheduled […]

WPR on France 24

World Politics Review managing editor Judah Grunstein appeared on France 24’s short-form discussion program, Face Off, to discuss Pakistan and Afghanistan. The English-language segment can be found here. The French-language segment can be found here.

U.S.-China Naval Incident: A Chinese Perspective

Editor’s note: The following is an unsolicited response to the World Politics Review Briefing, “An Impeccable U.S.-China Incident at Sea.” As both a newsand analysis journal, WPR recognizes that some articles it publisheswill provoke differences of opinion and disagreements ofinterpretation. Our commitment is to airing all sides of acontested issue, so long as they are respectfully expressed.On March 10, 2009, the U.S. Navy surveillance ship Impeccable intruded into Chinese jurisdictional waters, inducing a confrontation with five Chinese ships. The incident raised tension in the South China Sea, which has been the site of international confrontations recently. According to the Chinese […]

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The Army contractor reached into a green lacquered box and pulled out a clump of wires. He was holding part of the IED that had disabled his Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, or MRAP, just a few months before. “Here’s the thing I don’t get,” he said. “These guys use really nice German wires, but then they plug them into crappy, old, rundown Chinese batteries.” The explosion hadn’t done much, apart from frightening everyone inside. All it had left behind was a big hole in the dirt and a flat tire on the MRAP. But it […]

Protectionism Watch

The NY Times takes a look around and doesn’t like what it sees. The reflexive reaction of protectionism is so obvious, and the globalized arguments against it so counterintuitive, that it’s hard to see where the kill switch is on this one. Part of this has to do with a failure to educate domestic opinion regarding globalization’s advantages during the boom times. But part of it has to do with a tendency among elites to minimize globalization’s very real downsides for a broad cross section of consitutencies. That had a lot to do with what I increasingly think of as […]

The F-22 Export Ban

Defense Industry Daily has a very informative discussion of the export issues surrounding the controversial F-22 Raptor, all in the context of Japan as a potential purchaser. Now that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has all but put the kibosh on future DOD purchases, it’s only natural that the U.S. Air Force try to find ways of working within the export ban to extend the production run of the stealth fighter. So far the debate over the Raptor has been formulated in terms of what kind of force structure will best respond to America’s threat horizon. But the export question […]

The U.S.-China naval confrontation in the South China Sea two weeks ago was only the latest in a series of military showdowns between the two countries in the past decade. And like the others before it, the skirmish — which according to initial reports had Chinese sailors stripping down to their skivvies before U.S. seamen — seemed harmless enough. But the quarrel came, if you will, amid tumultuous seas. Not long afterwards, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, troubled perhaps by Washington’s response to the financial crisis and its consequences on the broader U.S. economy, voiced concern about China’s massive economic investments […]

The Independent Military

Tom Barnett flags what he calls the U.S. military’s growing “independence,” citing in this case Gen. David Petraeus’ penchant for shaping opinion (once again, the COIN emphasis on narrative): What I find interesting: the trip to Afghanistan is arranged byPetraeus, meaning he generates his own public policy proponents fromoutside the government. That tells you something about how independent our military hasbecome as a result of the Long War: they field their own when it comesto op-ed conflicts. . . . . . [I]t really marks this era’s American military as beingdifferent from other militaries, as well as different from previousAmerican […]

The Garrison Mentality in Afghanistan

Joshua Foust follows up on my “Afghanistan as Gated Community” remarks with a detailed post worth reading. Essentially, this time my literary deconstruction — typos and all — got closer to the mark. I’d like to take this opportunity to note that I’m aware of the limitations of what I can actually “know” about Afghanistan from reading open-source news and analysis from a distance. So there’s a real value of having someone in Foust’s position, there on the ground, who’s willing to weigh in on how close my impressions come to describing his experiences. Keeping in mind, too, that Foust’s […]

Protectionism Watch: China-India

After a series of disputes over export subsidies and trade barriers, China and India agreed to form a working group (via 2point6billion) that will meet every few months to discuss trade issues. Score one for responsible management of trade disputes. Protectionism is not an inevitable response to the economic downturn. Send in anything you see, I’ll flag it.

Checking China’s Naval Ambitions from the Air

In his WPR column on Wednesday, David Axe discussed the budding American-Chinese naval rivalry in the South China Sea-Indian Ocean. He called particular attention to the role India plays in American plans to check China’s naval ambitions in the region. Interesting to note, then, that four days after the USNS Impeccable incident off of Hainan Island, the State Dept. informed Congress it would license the sale of eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft to . . . drumroll, please . . . India. The $2.1 billion contract, which I flagged two months ago, is the largest U.S. weapons transfer […]

Liberians Tune Into China

MONROVIA, Liberia — One of the most interesting developments in post-war Liberia over the past three years has been the emergence of the Chinese presence. In addition to building themselves a lavish new embassy, the Chinese have been making major investments in education and infrastructure. On the way in from the airport last night, I passed several road crews working under flood lights, each with a nattily dressed Chinese foreman guiding the effort. Another of their more visible projects is a $4 million investment in the rebuilding of the Liberian government’s radio broadcasting network. In exchange for all the new […]

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