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How to Prepare for State-Building September 14, 2017 — The question of how stable democratic states are established is one of the fundamental questions of social science. But it is also a question of practical importance for great nations whose power to deter international threats may depend, not only on an ability to defeat adversaries in battle, but also on an ability to make tactical victories serve larger goals of political development. This article considers questions about what America could do to be better prepared for future challenges of post–conflict political reconstruction or state-building, with hope of stimulating further discussion of these questions. Even if state-building preparedness is not a salient issue in current political debates, these fundamental problems of political development and international relations deserve careful consideration by experts in government and academia. MORE

ISIL Radicalization, Recruitment, and Social Media Operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines September 14, 2017 — In a 2014 video posted to YouTube, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) announced the end of Sykes-Picot.1 While Sykes-Picot may be unfamiliar among many in the West, ISIL’s appeal in 2014 centered on promoting its ability and vision, as a caliphate, to invalidate the boundary between Iraq and Syria. That border, a result of World War I neocolonial competition, stemmed from the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement that divided the region into mandates governed by and reflecting the interests of France and Britain. Where was the Wahhabbi doctrine in this YouTube message? Nowhere. Rather, the message suggested that administrative control of territory, an opportunity provided by the Syrian Civil War, distinguished ISIL from other terrorist organizations and that expansion of a caliphate did not rely on the legitimacy of radical Wahhabism ideology alone. While ideology remains central to this process, ISIL radicalization depends on exploitation of networks including familial ties, friendship, religious institutions and especially expansion of these connections. With the potential end of its attempted caliphate in Iraq and Syria, what other regional networks will ISIL target for exploitation? MORE

The Evolution of MS 13 in El Salvador and Honduras September 14, 2017 — Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) is rapidly evolving into a criminal-economic-military-political power that poses an existential threat to the states of El Salvador and Honduras.1 In Guatemala, the gang remains a tier two threat—dangerous, but with far less influence and fewer capabilities than in the other two nations of the Northern Triangle. With growing ties to Mexican drug cartels, while assuming an ever-greater role in the transportation of cocaine transportista networks across the Isthmus, the gang is acquiring financial resources, advanced weaponry, and the ability and sophistication to wield increasing political power. Factions that once relied exclusively on violence and threats for control are now trying to win the hearts and minds of the communities in which they operate; taking concrete steps to consolidate themselves in the cocaine trade; and becoming credible alternatives to the state. MS 13 in many ways now better resembles a criminal business enterprise rooted in brutal violence than a traditional gang. MORE

Learning from the Struggle to Assess Counterinsurgency and Stabilization Operations in Afghanistan September 14, 2017 — American assessment practices proved to be inadequate for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan. The type of conflict in which America and its allies would eventually find themselves engaged did not necessarily fit neatly within any of the primary civilian and military mission sets. U.S. military assessment practices are largely meant to support a traditional conventional war paradigm in which Joint Force combat overmatch and the defeat of a state adversary’s military forces has been increasingly treated as the definitive factor in achieving victory. The assessment practices at U.S. civilian agencies, in particular the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), generally are designed to measure success in activities, projects, and programming associated with their traditional missions such as development, diplomacy, democracy promotion, human rights, and disaster relief. MORE

Developing a Western Logistics Course for Kazakhstan September 14, 2017 — Operational logisticians are in high-demand across the globe, irrespective of country, since their specialty is a critical enabler of military capability. It is difficult, however, to design relevant training and to develop the next generation of logisticians who are skilled in the art of planning and managing logistics at the operational level. Within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) the questions of what to teach, how to optimize student learning, and even who to teach are all difficult to answer—across the armed services and joint organizations there is very little agreement. Coursework design for other nations must accommodate differences in culture, language, and teaching methodology from that of the United States, and relate instruction to the host country’s national security strategy and defense priorities. MORE

Fighting for Legitimacy in Afghanistan: the Creation of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center September 14, 2017 — This article recounts the efforts of international stakeholders who, working with a small number of Afghan officials, threw the equivalent of a geopolitical “hail Mary” in 2015 to reverse the culture of corruption and impunity that permeated the highest levels of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) Mission’s efforts in Afghanistan to rejuvenate counter- and anti- corruption lines of operations with the creation of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) is worth examining.1 The ACJC is not a magic talisman that will eliminate all corruption but, if properly resourced, the Center can help the GIRoA regain political legitimacy in the eyes of its people, its soldiers, and the world. MORE

The Big Stick: the Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force September 14, 2017 — The Big Stick is an excellent book that does what its title advertises. Eliot Cohen, a dean of American strategic thought and a former counselor to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dissects American military power, analyzes the threats that power faces, and the rudimentary rules for its usage. This is a rare book that appeals to both the expert and the dedicated citizen looking for a guide to future strategy. It reminds us that “to go far” in this world, we must “speak softly and carry a big stick,” a saying popularized by Theodore Roosevelt before he became President. Cohen analyzes the stick and tells the reader how and when to swing it with a tenor and vigor that President Roosevelt would appreciate. MORE

Reflections on Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan September 14, 2017 — Can you tell us how your view of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolved during your various leadership assignments? GEN Petraeus: When we were getting ready for what became the invasion of Iraq, the prevailing wisdom was that we were going to have a long, hard fight to Baghdad, and it was really going to be hard to take Baghdad. The road to deployment, which was a very compressed road for the 101st Airborne Division, started with a seminar on military operations in urban terrain, because that was viewed as the decisive event in the takedown of the regime in Iraq—that and finding and destroying the weapons of mass destruction. MORE

Reinventing Social Science in the Military: Lessons Learned from the United States and New Zealand September 14, 2017 — At first glance, the relationship between social science and the military may not be clear. A closer analysis of the opportunities that social science offers the military shows, however, that it provides a variety of research and educational capabilities to address the human dimensions of military organizations and their operational contexts. For instance, psychological and human performance criteria are firmly rooted in social science constructs within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). MORE

A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order September 14, 2017 — Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an innovative thinker in the field of American foreign policy and international relations. In his recent work, A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, Haass proposes updating the current world order—that has been with us seemingly since time immemorial, having originated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648—to help alleviate world disorder. MORE

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