Archive for the 'Soft Power' Category

Please join us at 5pm EST at 11 Dec 2016 for Midrats Episode 362: Towards a 350 Ship Navy, with Jerry Hendrix:

Even before the election, President-elect Trump mentioned he wanted to get to a 350 ship Navy. The outgoing Secretary of the Navy has put us on a path to 308, and in his waning months is fighting a holding action on the shipbuilding budget giving as good of a turnover in this area to his relief.

What are the viable paths to 350 we could see in the opening years of a Trump Presidency? How long could it realistically take? What would a fleet look like 5, 10 or 20 years down the road?

What will this fleet be built to do? Will we need new designs to meet the evolving maritime requirements of an eventual national strategy?

To discuss this and more Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be one of our favorite guests,

Dr. Jerry Hendrix, CAPT USN (Ret.), Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security.

His staff assignments include tours with the CNO’s Executive Panel, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the OSD Office of Net Assessment.

His final active duty tour was the Director of Naval History.

He has a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies). He has twice been named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy Historical Center in Washington, DC, and was also the Center’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. He also held the Marine Corps’ General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Fellowship. He authored the book Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy and received a number of awards, including the United States Naval Institute’s Author of the Year and the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.

Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. You can also get the show later by visiting our iTunes page or from our Stitcher page.



Please join us at 5pm EST on 4 December 2016 for Midrats Episode 361: Where Youth and Laughter Go; With “The Cutting Edge” in Afghanistan

For the full hour this Sunday our guest will be Lieutenant Colonel Seth W. B. Folsom, USMC the author of Where Youth and Laughter Go. Described by USNI Books:

Where Youth and Laughter Go completes LtCol Seth Folsom’s recounting of his personal experiences in command over a decade of war. It is the culminating chapter of a trilogy that began with The Highway War: A Marine Company Commander in Iraq in 2006 and continued with In the Gray Area: A Marine Advisor Team at War in 2010.
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The chronicle of Folsom’s command of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, “The Cutting Edge,” and his harrowing deployment to Afghanistan’s volatile Sangin District presents a deeper look into the complexities and perils of modern counterinsurgency operations in America’s longest war.

We will discuss not just his latest book, but also larger issues related to command, the nature of the war in Afghanistan, and the Long War.

Please join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.

You can also find the show later at our iTunes page here or on our Stitcher page here.



Please join us at 5pm EST on 20 Nov 2016 for Midrats Episode 359: A Foreign Policy Short List for the New CINC, with Mackenzie Eaglen:

Old foreign and defense challenges return, new ones emerge, and existing ones morph in

to something slightly different. The only thing that is constant is that there is no opportunity for a learning curve for the Commander in Chief of the United States of America. From the first day in office to the last, a needy, grasping, and unstable world will look to or at our nation.

What are those challenges that will test President-Elect Trump in his first few years in office, and what in the background is waiting for the opportunity to spring to the front?

Our guest for the full hour will be Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness.

Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. In 2014, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated National Defense Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess US defense interests and strategic objectives. This followed Eaglen’s previous work as a staff member for the 2010 congressionally mandated bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, also established to assess the Pentagon’s major defense strategy. Eaglen is included in Defense News “100 most influential people in US Defense” both years the publication compiled a list. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.

Eaglen has an M.A. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from Mercer University.mac

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes or from Stitcher pages.



Please join us on at 5pm EST on 13 Nov 2016 for Midrats Episode 568: Seapower as a National Imperative, with Bryan McGrath:

Why a Navy? Why a strong Navy? Why is a strong Navy an essential

requirement for the United States Navy?

From its ability to project national will, to it hidden hand in the economics of every citizen’s life, why is it so critical that we have a Navy second to none.

To discuss this and more – especially in light of the election – will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath, Commander, US Navy (Retired).

Bryan McGrath grew up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987. He was commissioned upon graduation in the United States Navy, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until his retirement in 2008. At sea, he served primarily in cruisers and destroyers, rising to command of the Destroyer USS BULKELEY (DDG 84). During his command tour, he won the Surface Navy Association’s Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the BULKELEY was awarded the USS ARIZONA Memorial Trophy signifying the fleet’s most combat ready unit. Ashore, Bryan enjoyed four tours in Washington DC, including his final tour in which he acted as Team Leader and primary author of our nation’s 2007 maritime strategy entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Since retirement, Bryan has become active in presidential politics, serving first as the Navy Policy Team lead for the Romney Campaign in 2012, and then as the Navy and Marine Corps Policy lead for the Rubio Campaign in 2016.

He is the Assistant Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, and he is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a small defense consulting firm.

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here or pick the show up later from our iTunes or Stitcher pages.



11th

Why Are We Here?

November 2016

By

“Why are we here?” As leaders, this is one of the most difficult questions to wrestle with. Every person wants to know the why behind the orders they both give and receive. Every person wants to have a purpose. We all want to know that our actions matter. It is a challenging question to answer, though, because we are in a complicated business in a complicated world and because our country, our leadership and our culture – focused on trade over profession – have allowed us to wander astray.

Why are we here? In the simplest terms, members of the military exist to defend our country. In the words of so many commanding officers, we exist to bring immediate, sustained, and overwhelming combat power in pursuit of national objectives. On a Navy deployment, more often than not, we exist for the sake of deterrence. Ask one of our junior Sailors, and you are likely to hear an earnest “I’m here to fix the engines” or “I’m here to work on the radar”: in other words, “I’m here to conduct maintenance.”

After September 11th, the country – including the military – got caught up in a patriotic fervor. The answer to “why are we here?” became “to kill terrorists.” In the wake of such a horrific event, that answer made sense. But, after 15 years – 11 for me – it has started to ring hollow.

Why are we here? To kill terrorists? To what end?

Why are we here? To deter Syria, Russia, Iran, ISIS, al-Qaeda, China, and North Korea? To what end?

Why are we here? To train the Iraqi Navy? To what end?

Why are we here? To conduct sparse and hugely restrained counter-piracy operations? To what end?

Why are we here? To win hearts and minds? To what end?

Why are we here? What is the role of today’s U.S. Military? Is it to defend our shores? Is it to defend our allies? Is it to pick fights or exercise hard diplomacy? This is not a new question for most. I do not discount the answer many troops give – that we are here for each other. I feel that too. It is the deepest and most meaningful answer to the question. Far too often though, the nature of our jobs causes us to focus inwardly – we lose sight of our greater obligation to our fellow citizens. Recently, three events made me think more acutely about how we define what it is we do, why what we do matters, and how, or if, our actions connect us to the American people we theoretically serve.

Why are we here? My ship just returned from a Theater Security Cooperation and deterrence-driven deployment. I came aboard during the last two months. It is not common to get into deep discussions with your Sailors about our greater purpose, but it should be. As leaders, we could be better about this. I could be better. No doubt that our Sailors would be more motivated if they were consistently briefed about the impact of their daily actions. But more often than not, the answer is a challenging one to translate, if apparent at all. “We are here to keep the Chinese at bay – to challenge their excessive claims and to defend our allies – so let’s grind down that rust!” One way or another, I think that they felt their purpose was to be on deployment. While this bland answer works in the short term, it lacks clarity. It is void of emotion. It leaves most Sailors feeling empty and less invested in the effort. A few weeks ago, the chain of command was discussing yet another non-judicial punishment case, and the theory was floated that our high post-deployment operational tempo – a tempo with dubious greater purpose marked by aggravating weeks at sea supporting the training of other units – was the root cause for many of the disciplinary cases we were witnessing. It was not an earth-shattering observation. The cycle our Sailors and troops in every service know is: train for deployment, be on deployment, and be not on deployment, with very little time – or active leadership – spent on why. I struggle with this challenge no matter where I find myself in the cycle. When addressing my Sailors, I revert to the “we are here for each other” purpose. It is not cliché, but I crave more substance in the answer. I know they do, as well.

Why are we here? In early October, an organization, likely Houthi rebels, shot several cruise missiles into the Red Sea at a good friend of mine. At his shipmates. At their ship. At America. The ship performed brilliantly, defending themselves and their fellow ships from imminent harm. This was notable for a variety of reasons. To the media, it was the first time a U.S. Navy ship had been shot at by cruise missiles since the Stark. To the Surface Fleet, it showed that the long-deployed but previously combat un-tested Aegis Combat System worked. To Surface Warfare Officers, who train their entire careers for this exact – but previously somewhat far-fetched – scenario, it proved that the training paid off. To me, it meant that my friend was still alive. In this instance, they were there for each other. But before they were shot at, why were they there? For deterrence and to keep sea lines of communication open? Maybe. But to what end? While both are important missions, some call this “being the world’s policeman.” Is that why we are here, and if so, why are we so reluctant to say so?

Why are we here? Our ship was recently at one of this nation’s Fleet Weeks; a rare opportunity to interact with the public we are so often distanced from and a chance to show tax payers and visitors alike what our ships – and our Sailors – have to offer. As the first day’s duty officer, I was impressed to see thousands of people queue up for a two-plus hour wait to spend ten minutes touring the ship. During one of my trips to visit the people waiting in line, I found myself sharing stories with strangers, having my picture taken with them, and smiling pleasantly. Suddenly, a loud voice boomed behind all of us. A young man stood 15 feet away on top of a retaining wall with a small microphone and began to preach. Loudly. Passionately. And, depending on your personal views, a bit controversially. He was smartly dressed, was non-threatening and had no semblance of mental or social issues. People began to stare. They watched intently as security showed up and crowded the man who now preached in bursts interrupted by their polite requests for him to leave and his polite requests to be left alone. Visitors and Sailors alike watched this unfold. The police were mentioned several times. Neither the man nor the security guards were acting inappropriately. Adjacent to a Navy event with dozens of Sailors in uniform interacting with the public, though, the situation quickly became awkward and it seemed that the property owners were intervening on the Navy’s behalf. While I was personally concerned about the man’s rights, I was even more worried about the CNN Factor – the negative image of on-looking service members watching a man’s rights being infringed upon while surrounded by the public we serve.

I went over for a discreet chat. I asked the owners and the guards to let the man speak. Hoping that I was right, I informed them that the Navy did not have a problem with his presence. And finally, I reminded the owners and the guards that, ultimately, this is why we are here. They kindly agreed and went about doing their jobs. Afterwards, I shook the man’s hand, asked that he not threaten anyone and mentioned that the Navy and the city were glad to have him. He was genuinely thankful… and then promptly went back to his fire and brimstone. Nobody was in the wrong. Everyone acted professionally and in good faith. As I walked away to deal with the next challenge, I wondered, is this why we are here? So that people can say objectionable things or vote for objectionable people without fear of civil or military uniforms hauling them away? While it might seem obvious, it was the first and only such experience of my career and the closest I had ever felt to finding the answer.

Why are we here? We are indeed here to defend the country, to kill bad guys, for deterrence, and for cooperation with our allies. Hopefully, though, we are ultimately here to ensure the American Way remains intact. But it remains a tough question to answer. An even tougher answer to quantify. And ultimately, it leads to an often perplexing existence for the nation’s service members. Our military is incredibly important. I know this to be true. I am fully on-board. As leaders, though, I think we can do a better job of laying a foundation – of answering the question: Why are we here?

It starts at the top – with our national leaders who dictate where we go and what we do. Sending us to fight un-ending battles – wars without defined objectives – causes us to wonder. It trickles down to our service and community leaders. Ordering us to focus on everything but war fighting – when re-learning basic social skills is more important than how to shoot straight – causes us to wonder. Finally, it ends with us. Focusing on showing up to your job – one with an often unpleasant life attached – vice investing in a profession, inevitably causes us to wonder. We need clear actions and regular discussions. Our national leaders must use us judiciously and vocalize their intent. Our service and community leaders must ensure our laser-like focus on the mission, vice the minutiae. We must serve with purpose and communicate effectively with each other and our troops – we are here for each other, but more importantly, we are here for the American People! Why are we here? It is an important question in critical need of a well-defined answer. As professional war fighters of varying services, specialties, and experiences, we should never lose sight of this question, nor its dynamic answer, lest we become lost in our own existence, deploying simply because it is time to deploy or fighting because… what else are we supposed to do?



Please join us at 5pm EDT on 30 Oct 16 for Midrats Episode 356: Fall Free For All Spooktacular!

Midrats is back live! With a week left to go till the election, I am sure you are about done with all the political talk, so join us at 5pm Eastern this Sunday, October 30th as we cover the the globe on the breaking national security and maritime issues that have come up over the last month.

From FORD to KUZNETSOV; from The Baltic to Yemen we’ll have it covered.

As always with our Free For Alls; it is open mic an open mind. Call in with your issues and questions, or join us in the chat room.

Join us live if you can, or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also get the show later by visiting our iTunes page or at Stitcher



When I say “The Navy conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa,” I truly mean the full spectrum of operations. That includes both the treble and bass clefs.

Sailors assigned to The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform at a cultural celebration in Panza, Ischia Sept. 27, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Musician 3rd Class by Marco Di Rienzo)

Sailors assigned to The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform at a cultural celebration in Panza, Ischia Sept. 27, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Musician 3rd Class by Marco Di Rienzo)

Within the DoD the Navy takes on a diplomatic role, showing the flag and defending American interest abroad. The Navy is in the vanguard, representing American foreign policy and values as her ships steam across the world’s oceans. The disadvantage of our inherently maritime presence is that a ship underway is often “out of sight and out of mind.” If we are not careful, this lack of awareness can be true for both the American public and our international Partners and Allies. While a warship in the Mediterranean or Black Sea may be a powerful deterrent to potential adversaries and reassurance to policymakers within the Alliance, it is more difficult to get these messages across to the public. Cue the Band. Nothing in the world is able to bridge two distinct cultures while expressing the uniqueness of each quite like music. In their distinctive role, Navy musicians build upon a critical capability of the U.S. Navy presence.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band is a force multiplier. From the headquarters in Naples, Italy, it represents U.S. interests to 105 countries in Europe and Africa, just over 25% of the world’s population.[1] American Sailors are among our most capable ambassadors, and in our area of operation we average 10,000 Sailors at any given time. Most of these Sailors, though, are either underway or concentrated near a few Navy bases. The Band’s 50 musicians—including five Italian members—are extremely adaptive and play as one large unit or within smaller, specialized groups. Like all Navy bands, they support our mission, enhance international diplomacy, improve community outreach, and help forge enduring relationships. Each component of the Navy is concentrated on support of the warfighters and their mission. The Band is no exception.

The U. S. Naval Forces Europe Band plays to a full house Sept. 9, 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Salerno, Italy (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist (select) Brian P. Biller)

The U. S. Naval Forces Europe Band plays to a full house Sept. 9, 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Salerno, Italy (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist (select) Brian P. Biller)

In Europe, commemorative events surrounding the World Wars are deeply personal. The scars of those cataclysms are still visible. Locals remember the exact moment U.S. Servicemembers arrived in their town, city, and country. Americans fought beside them, and many died and are buried in the very soil they helped liberate. Annually, the Band plays at Memorial Day services for the Battle of Anzio in Nettuno, Italy, and for Operation Dragoon in Théoule-sur-Mer, France, as well as at the commemoration of Operation Avalanche in Salerno, Italy. With each performance they are reiterating to a different audience and with different music the same consistent message, that America is committed to the values and interests that have made the transatlantic Alliance the most successful in history. This year the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band also supported the 72nd Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, France. As the number of World War II veterans is dwindling, so too are the number of Europeans with the first hand memories of their arrival. By participating in commemoration events, Navy bands reinforce the shared values and common goals we have with other nations.

The band does not limit itself to the European theater. The tyranny of distance makes port calls in Africa even more challenging than they are farther north, but the Band travels throughout the continent. Through music, the Band continues to build mutual understanding and trust, a subtle but memorable reminder of America’s commitment to our friends in the region.

Members of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band pose with students at the Abraham Lincoln Leaders School as part of Africa Partnership Station in Libreville, Gabon April 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler)

Members of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band pose with students at the Abraham Lincoln Leaders School as part of Africa Partnership Station in Libreville, Gabon April 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler)

That was exactly the effect we got when we sent a twelve-member Band contingent performing throughout the Gulf of Guinea region in 2010. I was N3 back then, coordinating operations for Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF). The Gulf of Guinea was known for piracy and the local governments had difficulty coordinating efforts to secure the maritime domain. Our goal was to help our partners emerge from “sea blindness” to “sea vision” in a region of increasing strategic importance due to its natural resources. Initiatives included flag officer visits, training, and mil-to-mil engagement, but the star was MU2 Kori Gillis and the eleven other Band members stole the show during a live performance on Gabon television viewed by millions over the course of several days. Regardless of whether or not you like the cliché “winning the hearts and minds,” the fact remains that working effectively with partners requires buy-in from the population. The Band is, plain and simple, a force multiplier for us.

When I returned as the Deputy Commander to Naval Forces Europe and Africa and the Sixth Fleet Commander in 2014, I again saw the Band’s effect firsthand during the opening ceremony of Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal. The history of the region is tumultuous. The westernmost point on the continent, Senegal was the last stop for slaves traveling from Africa to North and South America. Today, though, Senegal has overcome this history and is a bright spot of stability on the West Coast of sub-Saharan Africa. The moderate Muslim country has a tradition of civilian control of an apolitical military much like the United States.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises play together during the opening ceremony for exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, March 16, 2016. . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises play together during the opening ceremony for exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, March 16, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

Within that context imagine how poignant it was for the Americans, Senegalese, and African and European partners to hear the Navy Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises belt out in unison New Orleans jazz tunes and the two national anthems. No one remembered the speeches that day. What they and I will always remember was that outstanding joint performance—a clear symbol of how the United States stands beside our partners in the region.

When the Band plays the national anthem of an Ally or Partner, it has achieved its objective within the first few notes. It is up to Navy leaders to ensure these notes are played to the right audience. That could be an MWR Fourth of July celebration showing appreciation for sailors and their families; in a public venue like the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo where military bands from across the world play to sold out crowds each year; or to representatives of foreign militaries. Our Band has participated in ceremonies from BALTOPs in the Baltic Sea—almost within earshot of the Russian border—to Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea where Partners aided by U.S. naval expertise are resting control of ungoverned spaces from pirates, illegal fishermen, and smugglers.

The Band’s “inland ports of call” in nation’s capitals are cities where no Navy ship will ever weigh anchor but where our message must be heard. We deploy the Band to these places to show our commitment to a specific relationship because relationships matter. In the DoD we call them Alliances and Partnerships but they must be fostered just the same. An Alliance is built on much more than goodwill. It is shared interested and shared values. The Band exists at the tactical level of relationship building. At the boundary between cultures, the Band is the bridge.

References

[1] http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#region



Failed-states-index-2011A republic of ideas like the United States makes a poor imperial power. By birth, design, and national character – it just isn’t us.

Look at all the nations we invaded (often like Haiti multiple times) and then left as soon as we could with the hope the “natives” would make the best of the opportunity and we wouldn’t have to come back. The closest we came to empire was with the former Spanish colonies we took after the Spanish-American War. We never really wanted Cuba and let them go. We didn’t quite know what to do with The Philippines and tried to help them go their own way. We still don’t know what to do with Puerto Rico – but then again, neither do the Puerto Ricans. In any event, most of Puerto Rico is moving to Florida – which is probably best for everyone except for those who have to drive to work on I-4.

We were forced in to WWI and for that matter WWII. The hot spots of the Cold War were a mixed bag for us, but one thing is clear – the American people do not have the patience for colonial wars – which would be the archaic term for most of the hot spots we fought in during the roughly four decades of the Cold War.

With our allies we won the Cold War, but we have yet to break our habits. Not just our habits, but the habits of the international security infrastructure that have come to rely on the USA being the indispensable nation, if we like it or not. We are 5% of the world’s population, 20% of its economic power, primary cultural power, and the unchallenged global military power. Other nations are increasing their wealth and power – Russia, China, & India with the greatest impact – but for the foreseeable future, we are it.

Even at the height of our supposed “neutrality” in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, we were not isolationist. Especially our Navy and Marine Corps, from the Revolutionary War on, we have been forward deployed and engaged in order to promote what has always been in our interest – the global flow of goods at market prices. That has never changed.

So, in the middle part of the second decade of the 21st Century – what should we do? As a nation, how do we match what the American people will support with what the international community needs from us?

So far this decade we have tried and failed on two faculty lounge concepts made flesh; nation building and Responsibility to Protect (R2). Good people can argue either side of the argument, but if they failed because they were not executed properly, we lacked strategic patience, or the concepts themselves are just not compatible with the human condition – it really does not matter. From Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo, Libya and Syria – the record is clear.

With this understanding, it was with a slight cringe that I read the Op-Ed by William Burns, Michele Floumoy, and Nancy Lindborg, “Fragile States and the Next President: What Washington Should Do.”

What I thought at first glance might be another integration of the neo-imperial nation-building or R2P repackaged with the help of a thesaurus was actually a framework that could provide a basis for a desperately needed bi-partisan consensus on what type of national security policy we should have towards those nations that have a tendency to produce more problems than can be consumed locally.

The opening paragraph sets out an idea that is not really new, but would be a new area of emphasis and dedication of effort;

Fragile states lie at the root of much of today’s global disorder, from turmoil in the Arab world to the refugee crisis, and from pandemic diseases to economic malaise. When governments exclude citizens from political and economic life, they lose legitimacy, become brittle, and break.

”Fragile States.” A useful term for the “about to be a Failed State.” Not quite full blown nation building – not the humanitarian driven R2P – but a national enlightened self-interest of nudging? Close.

First, the United States must be strategic—concentrating its efforts where its interests are greatest, where the stakes for regional order are most profound, and where, together with its partners, it can invest in prevention and resilience so that festering tensions don’t bubble over into conflict and instability.

Nigeria, Tunisia, and Ukraine all fit the bill, and all deserve priority attention.

The 2nd and 3rd parts require planning. This is where you need to have the right intellectual capital on the project.

Second, the United States must be systemic—tackling security, political, and development challenges in relationship with one another and not in isolation. It is one thing to bring the full toolkit of statecraft to bear. It is another entirely to make sure that the tools in the toolkit work in concert.

Third, the United States must be selective; it must focus on a few countries where it has leverage and set realistic goals that align with key actors within fragile states.

The 4th? Here is where your whole-of-government approach needs its buy-in. Money to feed it and strong bi-partisan leadership to keep the national support. Not our strong suit.

Fourth, U.S. engagement must be sustained; it often takes years or even decades for a state to transcend fragility. Without strong domestic political support, the United States will never be able to make the kind of patient and flexible investments required for success.

That last clause above is a big bucket of cold water. Look at the blood and treasure that we threw away with our premature zero-option in Iraq that midwifed the Islamic State. Look at the cresting wave of 2nd and 3rd order undesired effects of the December 2009 West Point speech where President Obama moved from a conditions based to a calendar based plan in Afghanistan. Not just patience, but strategic patience that is decoupled from Party politics and personal pique is what we need more than anything.

As for the levers of power to make it happen, the sisters of D.I.M.E., we can do this and probably do it well with the right intellectual capital running it. We have a long history of helping “fragile states” so there is a lot to draw on – but as with all things, there is a chance to do it better. Where it may have been a supporting effort to a larger operation, how can we make it the supported effort? Where has it been done well in the past, and where has it failed? Why?

That is the follow on I’d like to see. Fragile States case studies. If you see some, let us know in comments.



Please join us at 5pm (US EDT) on 18 September 2016 for Midrats Episode 350: 21st Century Patton, With J. Furman Daniel III:

Put the popular, and mostly accurate, image of the flamboyant General Patton, USA
given to us by popular culture to the side for a moment.

Consider the other side of the man; the strategic thinker, student of military history, and innovator for decades. This week’s episode will focus on that side of the man.


For the full hour we will have as our guest J. Furman Daniel, III, the editor of the next book in the 21st Century Foundations series: 21st Century Patton.

Furman is an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona. He holds a BA (with honors) from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also download the show later from our iTunes page here or from our Stitcher page here.



Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 347: Baltic Security with Bruce Acker and Dan Lynch

With a resurgent Russia, the security environment from former Soviet Republics to the traditionally neutral nations of Finland and Sweden has changed dramatically.

What are those changes and how are they changing how these nations see their place in the larger Western security infrastructure? We’re going to look at how thing are changing in how they work and see each other, NATO, and what they need to do to provide for both their and collective defense.

Our guests for the full hour will be Colonel Bruce Acker, USAF (ret) and Captain Dan Lynch, USN (Ret).

Bruce is currently a Defense Strategy Consultant in Stockholm Sweden. He spent 30 years on active duty starting as a Air Defense Weapons flight test engineer upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, and subsequently served in Space, Missile Warning, and Missile Launch operations culminating as a Minuteman ICBM squadron Commander. Following staff tours managing future Air Force and Defense Space systems programs, he broadened to political military assignments as the US Air Attaché to Malaysia and as the US Defense Attaché and Senior Defense Official in Stockholm. Col Acker has published articles on regional security issues in the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences journal as well as leading National daily newspapers.

Dan is currently beginning his fifth year on the maritime faculty of the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm. He spent over 35 years on active duty starting as an enlisted Marine and upon graduation from the Naval Academy selected Naval Aviation where he commanded a VP squadron and a patrol and reconnaissance wing. Following major command, he served on the staff of the US ambassador to NATO in Brussels and retired after his last tour as the Naval Attache to Stockholm.

Due to the location of our guests, the show was recorded earlier today. Listen to the show to at 5pm or pick it up later by clicking here. You can also get the show later from our iTunes page or from our Stitcher page.



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