Nov. 13, 2018
PRISM Volume 7, no. 4 - Now Online!
The newest edition of PRISM is now online. With this edition, PRISM completes our seventh volume and prepares to move toward full peer review status next year. The edition is non-themed but offers several features that highlight the importance of innovation and non-kinetic warfare. Among the distinguished authors are a former Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, the Director of Strategic Operational Planning at the National Counterterrorism Center, and a senior executive with the U.S. Department of Treasury. The edition also features a senior executive with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, who is distinguished alumnus from NDU's Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, as well as several military alum from NDU's Joint and combined Warfighting School. Hard copies will be available early in the new year.
Nov. 8, 2018
The Fight So Far
Achieving significantly greater strategic success against terrorism remains within America’s grasp, but only if we are willing to be as adaptive and flexible—indeed more so—than our terrorist adversaries have proven to be. Achieving this will require us to make investments, adopt practices, and make choices we previously have not. Although the U.S. Government (USG) has frequently claimed to take a whole-of-government approach in utilizing all elements of national power to fight terrorism, our struggle against the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has demonstrated that we must strengthen our emphasis and resourcing of non-kinetic counterterrorism (CT) efforts to match the strengths that we and our allies have developed since 9/11 in kinetic efforts.
NATO's Adaptation in an Age of Complexity
Successful and lasting organizations must adapt quickly, and militaries are not exempt from that requirement—even less so than their civilian counterparts, because preparing for past wars generally has dire consequences for them, and for their countries. NATO, as the hub for transatlantic and European security it has strived to be for the past 70 years, is undergoing a significant structural upheaval, as it wishes to stay relevant to contemporary threats and challenges, while putting itself in a position to keep an edge on any potential opponent in the foreseeable future.
Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges
The Joint Force, and the national security community as a whole, must be ready and able to respond to numerous challenges across the full spectrum of conflict including complex operations during peacetime and war. However, this presupposes a general acceptance of a well understood taxonomy describing the elements that constitute the “continuum of conflict.” The U.S. security community lacks this taxonomy, despite its engagement in a spate of diverse conflicts around the globe from the South China Sea, to Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. Partially as a result of this conceptual challenge, we are falling behind in our readiness for the future. Understanding our future security challenges demands that we reflect and interpret the past, understand the present, and think rigorously about what lies over the horizon in order to adapt to the changing character of conflict. This requires keeping an open and informed mind about the breadth of the various modes of conflict that exist. The wars of the 21st century may take many forms. As conflict reflects a greater degree of convergence and complexity, so must our mental models and frameworks.
The Mandate to Innovate
Delivering decision advantage to a policymaker or situational awareness to a warfighter is becoming a more competitive challenge. As geospatial and AAA technologies increase in capability and availability—both within the United States and allied GEOINT enterprise as well as for our adversaries—the complexity of that mission increases. Empowering rapid experimentation and innovation, adapting new business models (particularly those that have proven successful to the business world), and applying the breadth of the means availability to us to acquire new capabilities are ways for us to continuously replenish the nation's GEOINT advantage.
Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy
The U.S. Government (USG) has increased the use of economic and financial sanctions against other states and non-state actors in the post–Cold War era, refining their design to improve precision. Achieving desired effects with sanctions, however, requires careful assessment of target vulnerabilities, available U.S. leverage, orchestration with other policy tools, and potential obstacles and risks.
Learning and Innovation: Jordan at the "Crossroads of Armageddon"
A recurring feature of the past few decades is the presence of the nation’s three principal national security institutions (the 3Ds)—Department of State (DOS), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Department of Defense (DOD)—operating in complex environments abroad marked by conflict, crisis, and state fragility. This paradigm, dubbed the “new normal” by many, begs a few questions. What are we learning from these critical missions undertaken in pursuit of national security? Are we adjusting our strategies to maximize the prospects for prevention of conflict based on that learning? Is innovation occurring that enables us to work better together to address challenges in these environments? Of keen interest is what the 3D did to address the unique challenges in Jordan, and how. Understanding both the “what” and the “how” might reveal if we are learning and innovating.
Post–Conflict Stabilization: What Can We Learn from Syria?
Trying to draw lessons, even initial ones, from the U.S. experience in Syria is daunting, but the bottom line is that any conflict setting—and any effort to design a program of stabilization—brings a unique set of peculiarities that may not resemble conflicts in which we have been involved in the past. The Syria experience, where there is no central government with which the United States and others in the international community can partner with and empower, is an excellent example, and suggests a need for careful analysis of the specific circumstances of settings in which the United States may find itself operating in order to develop stabilization doctrine and tools that are suited not only to the last conflict, but to the next one.
The Machine Beneath: Implications of Artifical Intelligence in Strategic Decisionmaking
Despite the risks posed by the adaptation of AI to military affairs, the United States must seek to be at the forefront of this technology. It is unthinkable that America will cede this new territory to our competitors, such as China and Russia, who are aggressively pursuing it. Even if the United States decided to opt out of this arms race, it would have little effect, as the technologies described in this paper are inherently dual use, and the private sector around the globe will pursue them with abandon. Ethicists, weapon engineers, and military leaders are already hard at work on the challenges associated with designing and deploying battlefield lethal autonomous weapons systems. With this article, the authors hope to begin a new conversation, highlighting and differentiating the risks posed by employing strategic AI in military decisionmaking, particularly as the pace of warfare accelerates.
Wildlife and Drug Trafficking, Terrorism, and Human Security
Analysis of the wildlife-trafficking-militancy-nexus are often shrouded in unproven assumptions and myths. Crucially, they divert attention from several uncomfortable truths with profound policy implications: First is that the nexus of militancy in wildlife trafficking constitutes only a sliver of the global wildlife trade and countering it will not resolve the global poaching crisis. Second, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency forces, even recipients of international assistance, also poach and smuggle wildlife and use anti-poaching and counterterrorism efforts as covers for displacement of local populations and land grabbing. Third, corruption among government officials, agencies, and rangers has far more profound effects on the extent of poaching and wildlife trafficking. And finally, local communities are often willing participants in the global illegal wildlife trade.