Oct. 25, 2016

2 The Twin Insurgencies: Plutocrats and Criminals Challenge the Westphalian State

States within the modern global political economy face twin insurgencies, one from below, and another from above. On the one hand, there is a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies, in which the global disenfranchised resist, co-opt, and route around states as they seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadows of the global economy. Drug cartels, human traffickers, computer hackers, counterfeiters, arms dealers, and others exploit the failures of governance systems to build global commercial empires that, in turn, provide them the resources to corrupt, co-opt, or challenge incumbent political actors. On the other hand, there exists a plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities. From libertarian activists, to tax haven lawyers, to currency speculators, to mineral extraction magnates, the new global superrich and their hired help are waging a broad-based campaign that aims either to limit the reach and capacity of government tax collectors and regulators, or to manipulate these functions as a tool in their own cutthroat business competition. Unlike classic 20th-century insurgents, who sought control over the state apparatus in order to implement social reforms, criminal and plutocratic insurgents do not seek to take over the state. These modern insurgencies do not wish to destroy the state, since they rely, like parasites, on the state to provide the legacy goods of social welfare: health, education, infrastructure, and so on. Rather, their aim is simpler: to carve out de facto zones of autonomy for themselves by crippling the state’s ability to constrain their freedom of (primarily economic) action. The net result: these transnational insurgencies from above and below are challenging the state’s control over the domestic economy, and destabilizing many of the conventions and assumptions rooted in the Westphalian model of governance.

Oct. 25, 2016

3 The Islamic State Revolution

In response to yet more slaughters perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIL), security services deployed across Europe, Africa, and America.1 U.S. and Russian forces ratcheted up air attacks in Iraq and Syria, while politicians and pundits hammered their publics into existential dread. Perhaps never in history have so few, with such meager means, caused such fear in so many. But it is easy amid the bullets, bombs, and bluster, to lose sight of a central fact in the fight against the violent forces of radical Islam: not only are we not stopping its spread, but our efforts to contain the contagion appear to contribute to its strength, while further constraining our own freedoms.

Oct. 25, 2016

1. The Global Crisis of Governance

The world has entered a period of kaleidoscopic, irregular conflicts in which the reassertion of traditional geopolitical rivalries is inextricably linked with the activities of a bewildering assortment of violent nonstate actors (VNSAs). States in the Middle East, for example, increasingly define national interests in terms of sectarianism; however, the civil war in Islam is being played out not only in the direct, competitive dynamic of Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also through the proxies these two states use, including sectarian factions, tribes, warlords, insurgents, and transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). These VNSAs pursue their own agendas, yet interact and ally with states when it is convenient and advantageous to do so. They might, on occasion, act as state proxies; but, they are not pawns. On the contrary, they generate their own conflict dynamics and follow strategic imperatives that sometimes complement the actions of their state allies, but, on other occasions, can equally well confound them.

Oct. 25, 2016


In 2013, National Defense University Press published Convergence: Illicit Networks and National Security in the Age of Globalization. It was an effort to map the many issues arising from the accelerating interactions among international terrorist, transnational criminal, and networked insurgent organizations. To meet demand, over 10,000 copies were printed. It generated much discussion—including much criticism—and led the editors to conclude that the debate over how to understand the emerging threat environment was only beginning. Therefore, we would like to acknowledge and thank the many readers and critics of Convergence, for taking up the challenge and for laying out a gauntlet.

Aug. 3, 2016

Russia’s Contradictory Relationship with the West

On August 20, 1961, an American armored battle group of the 18th Infantry Regiment stationed in West Germany crossed the heavily militarized border at Helmstedt and rolled its way approximately 100 miles along the autobahn across Soviet-controlled East Germany into West Berlin. Too small to be an offensive threat, but formidable enough to be serious, Operation Long Thrust skirted the fine line between resolute deterrence and go-to-war provocation, and allowed the United States to avoid becoming militarily embroiled with strident adversaries in East Germany and the Soviet Union.

July 28, 2016

European Union and NATO Global Cybersecurity Challenges: A Way Forward

Over the past two decades, European countries have had to meet the same cybersecurity challenges that the United States has faced. However, while the U.S. has benefitted from its sovereign authority (a single foreign policy, a centralized military, and the legal and budgetary power of the federal government), European governments have had to take steps to develop cybersecurity policies at the national level while simultaneously pooling their sovereignty through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) to bolster their defenses.

July 25, 2016

Implementing the Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority in Europe and Africa

America’s security interests have always extended beyond its own shores—and the U.S. Navy has always defended that security at home and abroad. From the earliest days of the Republic, the waters of Europe and Africa have been critical to U.S. security. In 1775, John Paul Jones sailed into harm’s way with one of our first frigates—USS Bonhomme Richard—to defeat the British warship HMS Serapis. That pitched battle ended with the sinking of the Bonhomme Richard but also with the capture of the Serapis as an American prize. Later, in the early 1800s, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur fought numerous naval battles off North Africa against the Barbary pirates, most notably in Tripoli, Libya. Throughout the next century, the U.S. Navy played a key role in the defeat of Germany in World War I and World War II. During the Cold War, the Navy was on the front lines, meeting the challenges of the Soviet Union, and thus playing a key role in its ultimate defeat and dissolution.

July 18, 2016

NATO's Land Forces: Strength and Speed Matter

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is one of the most—if not the most—successful military alliances in history, having helped to ensure nearly 70 years of peace in Europe. It was central to ending the Cold War, an event which brought freedom to tens of millions of people in Eastern Europe. The Alliance contributed to preventing further conflict in the Balkans and led a 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan that helped stabilize the country for over a decade. NATO accomplished this by adapting its enormous strengths to the circumstances of each crisis.

July 18, 2016

NATO and the North Atlantic: Revitalizing Collective Defense and the Maritime Domain

The military-strategic environment in the North Atlantic is changing. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) safeguards a region of stability, cooperation, and respect for international law, but it needs to address Russia’s new strategic capabilities and increased military activity in the maritime domain. This article examines current defense and security challenges in the North Atlantic with emphasis on what NATO should do to secure the transatlantic sea lines of communication.

July 18, 2016

The Disintegration of European Security: Lessons from the Refugee Crisis

Even before the current crisis, migration management had always been among the most complex, politicized, and least integrated policies in Europe. Together with common foreign and defense policies—another item on the European agenda that is becoming increasingly enmeshed with the refugee crisis—migration is the epitome of a highly sensitive issue that is threaded carefully at the domestic level by each European Union (EU) member state before it gets negotiated in the EU, almost always resulting in watered-down compromises. The rather straightforward reason for this is that the assorted range of consequences that are associated, rightly or wrongly, with migration policy in the European public debate—from the dissolution of the welfare state to the rise of Islamic terrorism—are items that can decree victory or defeat in any European election. Because of this politicization, the ballooning migrant and refugee crisis has gradually moved the signposts and changed the standards of what is acceptable to say or do in Europe today to address it. Policies and words that were taboo only a few years ago (for example, border control) are now a constituent part of the lexicon and policy repertoire.