Nov. 8, 2018

High North and High Stakes: The Svalbard Archipelago Could be the Epicenter of Rising Tension in the Arctic

500 nautical miles north of the city of Tromsø, off of the northern cape of Norway, lies the Svalbard Archipelago; a collection of islands nearly one fourth the size of continental Norway with a unique history and an even more unique status under international law. Since its official discovery in the mid-1500s Svalbard has generally been an area of peace and cooperation due in large part to its location on the fringes of civilization. However, Svalbard’s tranquility has been punctuated by periods of competition and conflict when profitable resources are at stake. From whaling in the 1700s, coal in the late 1800s, and fishing in the present, profit from natural resources has been a consistent driver of instability in the area. Outside of resource-driven tension, the island chain spent most of its pre–20th century existence as a de facto “no man’s land” or global commons, ungoverned by any one nation.

Nov. 8, 2018

Interview with General John R. Allen, USMC (ret.)

The mission was not just about al-Qaeda. We had two objectives; to destroy al-Qaeda, and to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban, which would have created the cycle all over again. The day I took command in Afghanistan (on July 18, 2011) I initiated an immediate campaign review which started with my review of the political objectives, which were the elimination and control of the potential for the resurgence of al-Qaeda, and to prevent the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghanistan government.

May 18, 2018

Improving Our CWMD Capabilities: Who Will Lead?

The current DOD CWMD strategy positions the Department to meet national policy objectives for which it is not resourced, reflecting a failure at the national level to scope the challenge as something other than a technical issue and to oversee the execution of WMD-related tasks throughout the whole-of-government. In part, this is because the term “WMD,” which once had specificity in the arms control community, has been reduced to a political buzzword. This further reflects the need to define what DOD sees as important CWMD activities.

May 15, 2018

An Interview with Congressman James R. Langevin

When I first came into Congress, we were still in that transition phase of going from a relatively calm and stable, bipolar world with the United States and the Soviet Union as chief adversaries. We were just entering the multi-polar world in which we live and the world became much more paradoxically unstable and the threats became more involved and grew. I came in around 2000—before 9/11—and none of us could have anticipated how the world would change so dramatically, on that date in particular, and later morph into other threats and challenges.

May 15, 2018

The Darkest Sides of Politics, II: State Terrorism, "Weapons of Mass Destruction," Religious Extremism, and Organized Crime (Book Review)

In this companion to his first volume on Postwar Facism, Covert Operations, and Terrorism, Jeffrey Bale explores the influence of some of the world’s most pressing security concerns through a review of global case studies on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), violent extremism, and organized crime. Bale is thorough in his selection and treatment of the cases, using primary sources whenever available and delivering an “intentionally robust” text to provide an alternative to what he describes in the volume’s preface as often unqualified opinions taking the guise of academic works. Based on decades of research in violent extremism, Bale reviews select works and either updates their findings, or acknowledges their currency. State Terrorism, "Weapons of Mass Destruction," Religious Extremism, and Organized Crime is dense with explanations and structured expositions, but the volume offers a good model for how to convey conclusions that are framed by evidence.

May 15, 2018

The Politics of Weapons Inspections: Assessing WMD Monitoring and Verification Regimes (Book Review)

Nathan E. Busch and Joseph F. Pilat in their book The Politics of Weapons Inspections: Assessing WMD Monitoring and Verification Regimes draw attention to the important role that politics can play within weapons of mass destruction (WMD) verification, but the title promises more than the authors deliver. The authors analyze three cases of disarmament using inspections (South Africa, Iraq, and Libya); examine how the verification of global nuclear disarmament might or might not work; and apply the book’s lessons to what they term difficult cases, which may be subject to future inspections (North Korea, Iran, and Syria). The studies provide a useful survey and side-by-side comparison of the successes, pitfalls, and likely future challenges of efforts to verify individual state compliance with WMD agreements. The authors on occasion fail to place the case studies within a broader geopolitical context, leaving important gaps in their analysis, which makes for an uneven read. As an example, the authors point to shortfalls in multilateral verification regimes without fully assessing how these regimes are limited and sometimes hamstrung by the external and internal politics of sovereign states.

May 15, 2018

The CWMD Strategy Gap

During the past 15 years, countering–WMD (CWMD) has been a top priority as expressed throughout multiple national and department-level strategy and policy documents, to include the National Security Strategy (NSS); the National Military Strategy (NMS); the National Defense Strategy (NDS); the Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG); and Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). While a prevention strategy is laudable and important, the disparity between strategy and the required operational capabilities and capacities needed for securing, interdicting, and eliminating WMD reveals potential gaps that must be recognized and accounted for to ensure a credible deterrent posture. Future threats, especially biological, are likely to be more complicated than current or past conceptions.

May 15, 2018

"The Irreducible Minimum" An Evaluation of Counterterrorism Operations in Iraq

Surprise is a constant in war. But the surprise experienced by TF–714 in Iraq proved to be a major challenge even for an organization comprised of units that excelled at tactical adaptation. Consequently, TF–714’s initial response was to do more of what it already did extremely well. “The initial response,” explained General McChrystal in a 2014 interview, was that “we will just do more of what we are already very good at and then we would have done our part.” What became evident to the task force leadership, however, was that a “more of the same” response was not going to have a meaningful impact on AQI. To be sure, those operations that TF–714 executed were highly successful. The problem was there were not enough of them. They had, at best, only a limited impact on AQI’s operational tempo. The Task Force was facing an enemy it had never envisaged and could not degrade through its existing ways of operating.

May 15, 2018

North Korea's CBW Program: How to Contend with Imperfectly Understood Capabilities

Biological weapons programs tend to be among the most closely guarded weapons programs in a country’s arsenal. By contrast, extensive documentation and histories of nuclear weapons programs exist for virtually all the known weapons states as well as those that abandoned such programs. In recent years, while North Korea (formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) has gone to great lengths to demonstrate to the world its nuclear and missile programs, the country has hidden whatever CBW it may possess. As the international community grapples with how to reduce tension on the Peninsula, re-assessing what is known about North Korea’s CBW program and considering options to minimize their role in the regime’s security calculous is an important addition to the complex set of issues that U.S. civilian and military leaders must consider. This article attempts to put in context what little is known about North Korea’s capabilities and offer some measures that might be taken to help curtail those capabilities.

May 15, 2018

The Forensic Challenge

The suspected use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons or materials adds complexity to any international or internal conflict. It is critical that responses to such use are based on good information. The relatively new field of CBRN forensics, which is emerging out of domestic terrorism investigations, seeks to establish scientific facts through analysis of rigorously collected evidence. CBRN forensics are important to establishing actual facts, but are inherently difficult for a variety of reasons. The question of whether military forces, particularly Special Operations Forces (SOF), can conduct CBRN forensics in an adequate fashion is debatable; however, there are numerous pathways to improve the status quo.