4 July 2022

Putin wants to terrorize Ukraine into submission. It’s not working.

Max Boot

Western leaders have been gathering in Europe this week for the Group of Seven meeting and the NATO summit, with Ukraine at the top of the agenda. The G-7 leaders reemphasized their “condemnation of Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable war of aggression against Ukraine” and promised to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The Kremlin sent its rejoinder in the form of missile strikes on civilian targets in Kyiv and Kremenchuk. The Kremenchuk strike was particularly deadly: A Russian bomber apparently fired at least one Kh-22 cruise missile at a crowded shopping mall, killing at least 18 civilians and injuring many more. This is a war crime designed to send a message: Russian dictator Vladimir Putin wants to make clear that neither the government in Kyiv nor its allies in the West can protect Ukrainians from his military machine. Putin is trying to break the will of his enemies. It’s not working (in a new poll, 89 percent of Ukrainians rejected sacrificing land for peace), but he has not yet lost hope he can still prevail.

Most likely the Butcher of Bucha calculates that he can eventually take all of the eastern Donbas region, where his forces have been making incremental progress. His military could then shift its focus toward Odessa, Ukraine’s last remaining Black Sea port. If Putin were able to conquer all of eastern and southern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky would be left to govern what would effectively be little more than the medieval principality of Kyiv. Russia is pursuing a crueler version of the Union’s Anaconda Plan designed to batter the Confederacy during the Civil War into starvation and submission.

China’s Disinformation Warriors May Be Coming for Your Company


A Chinese disinformation effort against a Pentagon contractor building a rare-earths plant in Texas may herald a new era of such tactics against Western companies.

On Tuesday, U.S. defense officials said they and “partner nations” were looking into the campaign against Lynas Rare Earths, an Australian company with a $120 million contract to build a separation facility in Texas.

They credited cybersecurity firm Mandiant with discovering the campaign by the DRAGONBRIDGE group, which works to advance the interests of the government of China, or PRC. Mandiant’s report said the group designed social media posts to make it appear that Texas residents were objecting to the new site on environmental grounds. They also took aim at the Biden administration’s recent effort to increase the domestic supply of rare earths minerals.

Can IPEF Outweigh India’s Over Dependency On China For Supply Chain? – Analysis

Subrata Majumder

The recent disruptions in global supply chain, leading to China losing prominence, are prompting serious discussions on India’s dependency on China. Hitherto, notwithstanding political face-off, India’s fast growth in electronic and electrical and pharmaceutical industries were largely dependent on supply chain from China. Given the China’s prominence in global supply chain in distress due to COVID 19 and Russian invasion of Ukraine, which invited more than 5000 sanctions against Russia unleashing collateral impact on China, new synergies have emerged for global supply chain.

Against these backdrops, questions are mooted should India continue to depend on China for its supply chain or divert to other nations. China was the second largest trading partner of India in 2021-22 and 2019-20 and largest trading partner in 2020-21. China’s larger stake in Indian trade was driven by India’s imports, which led to unabated dependence on China.

Pressure grows for Taiwan to boost its defense force

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

The Taiwanese military is still organized around the strategies once required for its decades-long goal of retaking mainland China, rather than repelling a possible Chinese military invasion.

Why it matters: Focusing on power projection instead of defense means Taiwan's armed forces may not have the weapons and plans in place to deter an attack, analysts say.Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shaken many in Taiwan, where both civilians and the Ministry of Defense are seriously considering how they would fight back if Beijing attacked.
But experts say Taiwan has invested relatively few resources into waging the type of asymmetric warfare Ukraine has used to effectively repel Russia's larger military.

Where it stands: Taiwan's generals have been slow to update their mindset, according to analysts."Taiwanese senior military leaders are resistant to transforming into a defense-focused force instead of a power projection force," said Ivan Kanapathy, former National Security Council director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Sri Lanka Overestimates its Importance to China

Rathindra Kuruwita

Forty-four containers carrying 1,000 metric tons of rice donated by Chinese people to Sri Lankan students were handed over to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education on June 28, 2022.Credit: Twitter/ Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka

In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that China appears to have shifted its strategic focus toward Southeast Asia and Africa. China is no longer attentive to South Asian countries in financial trouble as before, he added.

Sri Lanka couldn’t secure a $1.5 billion credit line from Beijing, Rajapaksa said. Besides, China has not got back to him on a request to President Xi Jinping for a $1 billion loan to buy essential products.

Attack Beijing Or An Invasion Fleet? How Taiwan Should Use Its Cruise Missiles

James Holmes

To what end? That’s a timeless question military folk and their political masters should ask themselves before crowing about their ability to wield this or that weapon to do this or that in wartime. A refresher on the political uses of arms may be in order in the case of Taiwan.

Over at The War Zone, Emma Helfrich reports that You Si Kun, the president of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, or elected assembly, gave a speech earlier this month touting the indigenously manufactured Yun Feng supersonic cruise missile. According to Helfrich, You proclaimed that an extended-range variant of the missile “can already hit Beijing, and Taiwan has the ability to attack Beijing.”

Little Red PRCs: Could China Conquer Taiwan Without Fighting?

Jahara Matisek, Ben Lowsen, John Amble

It is 2028 and Xi Jinping has begun his fourth term as president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). After a month of threats, he sends wave after wave of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to invade Taiwan. Scholar Lyle Goldstein writes, “Between parachute and heliborne forces, China could quite reasonably hope to put 50,000 soldiers on the island in the first wave and well over 100,000 in the first 24 hours.” This is the common conception: China launching a massive conventional assault on Taiwan. But what if China did not attack with conventional troops? What if it used covert forces trained to win without fighting? Such a scenario presents vexing challenges for a conventional mindset. Already, U.S. intelligence officials are warning that the PRC wants to peacefully take Taiwan and is “working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our [U.S.] intervention.” Thus, as America considers how to defend Taiwan against conventional forms of invasion, it must also pay significant attention to attack along non-traditional vectors.

The new era of American darkness

Jeremy Cliffe

The hills were alive with proclamations of Western cohesion when the G7 gathered in the Bavarian Alps for its annual summit between 26 and 28 June. “We stand united, we stand together,” proclaimed the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the host of this year’s event. President Joe Biden agreed, saying that Vladimir Putin had “been counting on, from the beginning, that Nato and the G7 would splinter, but we haven’t and we’re not going to”. Boris Johnson hailed “the amazing consistency of our resolve”. The leaders then headed on to Madrid for the most consequential Nato summit in decades. As the New Statesman went to press, the meeting promised firm new commitments to back Ukraine, increases to Nato’s own defences and a new “strategic concept” document outlining an ambitious future for the alliance.

The Hollow Order

Philip Zelikow

There they were, meeting in Beijing on February 4: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Shortly before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the two leaders released a remarkable 5,300-word joint statement about how the partnership between China and Russia would have “no limits.” The document went on at length about the two nations’ commitment to democracy. It called for a universalist and open world order, with the United Nations at the center. It stressed a commitment to international law, inclusiveness, and common values. It did all this even though Russia, as Xi and Putin both knew, was sending tanks and missile launchers to the Ukrainian border.

By comparison, the September 1940 joint statement issued by Germany, Italy, and Japan was a model of candor. The Axis powers were at least truthful when they announced that it was “their prime purpose to establish and maintain a new order of things.” Russia, meanwhile, has described its war against Ukraine as one of liberation. It decided that the country’s Jewish president was a Nazi. It declared that there was really no such thing as “Ukraine.” And it argued that a NATO alliance with a U.S. force commitment in Europe that was only one-seventh as large as it had been at the height of the Cold War was now an existential threat.

US-China Economic Competition Rests On Intellectual Property – Analysis

Hannah Elyse Sworn and Manoj Harjani

Intellectual property (IP) has long been a sore point in relations between Washington and Beijing. US officials have repeatedly targeted China for widespread counterfeiting since its economic ‘opening up’ in the late 1970s. But after enduring a punishing series of legal reforms to join the World Trade Organization in 2001, the Chinese government is still under fire for weak enforcement, forced technology transfers and state-sponsored IP theft. Now China’s growing ability to produce IP indigenously is driving the evolution of US–China economic relations.

In 2021, China was the world’s top patent filer for the third year in a row. Chinese firms have filed approximately 75 per cent of global artificial intelligence patents in the past decade and 40 per cent of all 6G patents, while the United States accounted for only 35 per cent of the latter. The country’s ability to produce IP across a number of critical and emerging technologies has been framed as evidence that China is surpassing the United States in knowledge production.

A Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget May Be A Bad Investment – Analysis

James Durso

The American people are getting a bad return on their defense budget, and it may get worse in the future.

After appropriating about $2.26 trillion for the Afghanistan misadventure, and another $2.21 trillion to destabilize Iraq and deliver it into the hands of Iran, some in the U.S. Congress think the Pentagon’s request for $813 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 should be increased to $840 billion.

H.R. McMaster, the former White House national security adviser, and other defense hawks, advocate the defense budget be increased to 4.5% of GDP or $1.2 trillion. McMaster justifies the budget increase because American “restraint” is to blame for aggressive moves by Russia and China, which will be news to citizens of the Middle East and Afghanistan who were on the sharp end of U.S. restraint.

Leading From Behind in Ukraine

Freddy Gray

IF VLADIMIR Putin fails in Ukraine—and the experts almost all suggest that he already has—it will be because he attempted to impose an old imperial strategy on a twenty-first-century nation-state. Russia got so hung up on post-Soviet grandiosity—its contempt for decadent liberal democracies, its sense of Orthodox moral mission, its bitterness about Western encroachments east—that it dramatically underestimated the resilience of Ukrainian nationalism. Some analysts argue that Putin knew his “window of opportunity” in Ukraine was closing. Well, it seems to have been slammed further shut. I spoke to a Ukrainian businessman who said he wanted to build a statue to Putin in Kyiv. “He has done what nobody before him could do,” he said. “He has united Ukraine.”

The key for America is to learn from Russia’s mistakes. Every Atlanticist think tank bore across the world has made the point that NATO has been re-energized, and it’s partly true. Sweden and Finland are joining. Brexit Britain has led the weapons-sending charge. Let’s give Vlad the Invader a ever bloodier nose!

U.S. Popular Support for Ukraine Aid Declines Amid Ongoing Economic Woes


Top national security experts now predict that the war in Ukraine will go on longer than first anticipated.

"A war Vladimir Putin thought would be over in a matter of days has now stretched on for months," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference in Berlin on Sunday.

The Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, shared a similar assessment earlier this month, when he told the Washington Post that the fighting could easily drag into an "unresolved conflict," with neither side willing to make the concessions necessary for any deal.

"We need to be prepared that this may actually drag on for a long time," he said.

Pentagon watchdog to evaluate US intelligence sharing in support of Ukraine


The Pentagon’s watchdog arm has announced it will look into the extent to which the Defense Department shares intelligence with European partners in support of Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The goal of the evaluation is to determine the degree to which the U.S. military “developed, planned, and executed cross-domain intelligence sharing” with its European partners, according to a Monday memo from the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The Biden administration has been open about sharing battlefield intelligence with the Ukrainians in its now four-month war with Russia, but U.S. officials have stressed that Kyiv is responsible for deciding what it targets and when.

To share such information, the White House in early March modified existing guidance for the Pentagon and U.S. spy agencies on sending data to the Ukrainian government, pushing aside bureaucratic roadblocks to intelligence sharing, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. Pentagon: Ukraines using rocket system to hit Russian command postsDefense & National Security — More rocket systems for Ukraine

Biden’s Endgame Shouldn’t Be Victory for Ukraine

Tulsi Gabbard and Daniel L. Davis

After returning from a visit to the front near Kherson, Ukraine, on June 19, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his military would continue to fight Russia and “return everything that’s ours,” after having earlier made clear his intent to “liberate our Crimea as well.” While those goals are understandable, the harsh realities emerging on the bloody battlefields of eastern Ukraine make it increasingly likely that the longer Kyiv seeks to achieve military victory, the more likely it is ultimately to be defeated. U.S. policy, guided by U.S. interests, should change to reflect this reality.

Early in the war, many in Ukraine and the West were buoyed by the clear failure of the Kremlin’s army to conquer Kyiv and force the government to surrender, as evidenced by Russia’s shocking loss of thousands of tanks and other armored vehicles—and tens of thousands of its troops—especially on the Kyiv and Kharkiv fronts. The Ukrainian Armed Forces, in contrast, fought heroically and effectively, performing well above expectations. In response, the United States and dozens of other Western countries accelerated the delivery of weapons and ammunition to Kyiv.

Lawmakers want DoD to parse cyber roles, explore partnerships with CISA and colleges

Derek B. Johnson

Both Democratic and Republican-controlled Congresses have spent years pushing federal departments to draw clearer lines around their respective cyber lanes, outlining their distinct roles and responsibilities in the executive branch’s cybersecurity ecosystem. Now, lawmakers are increasingly looking to push those departments to turn those same exercises inward.

On Friday, the House Appropriations Committee released its spending bill for the Department of Defense. In a companion report, members direct the secretary of defense to provide them with a report within 90 days of the bill’s passage detailing how Pentagon leadership delineates roles and responsibilities within cyberspace among its different component agencies. Reciting a long list of high-level DoD positions and offices, they write that it “remains unclear … which offices and positions at the Department of Defense are responsible for cyber, cybersecurity, and cyberspace policy and activities.”

NATO — Back in the Black (Sea)?

NATO should finally assign strategic priority to the Black Sea region, and match its words with action.

NATO’s Madrid Summit (29-30 June) which opens under the shadow of conventional war in Europe, will debut a new Strategic Concept and discuss increasing NATO force posture on the alliance’s eastern border. These are key issues, but so too is the continuing absence of a strategy for the Black Sea region amidst Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Alliance thinking on this issue has been disappointing. Prior to Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, NATO's strategic focus on the region from 2008 to 2012 was limited to brief mentions of the region almost in passing in summit declarations and communique. References were mainly limited to a brief acknowledgment of support for regional efforts by Black Sea littoral states at ensuring security and stability, and the alliance’s openness to progress in consolidating regional cooperation.

Has the Russia-Ukraine war blown up the global nuclear order?

Lauren Sukin

The Russian nuclear saber-rattling that has accompanied the invasion of Ukraine represents a level of nuclear risk unprecedented since the end of the Cold War. One wonders how global nuclear politics will adapt to these changing circumstances. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war poses major challenges for several core international institutions and issues, from the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference to President Biden’s proposed arms control efforts with Russia and China.

Perhaps the most pressing nuclear security question coming out of the war is whether Russia will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin and various spokesmen for the Kremlin have repeatedly made statements threatening the use of nuclear weapons and defining conditions for their use that could allow the Russian military to attack Ukrainian forces with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Russia has used the same language in the context of the invasion as can be found in its nuclear doctrine. Russian nuclear doctrine specifically reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to any “existential threats,” including any non-nuclear threats that meet a nebulous ‘existential’ threshold.

Does a protracted conflict favour Russia or Ukraine?

The typical war is short. Since 1815, the median duration of wars between states has been just over three months, calculates Paul Poast of the University of Chicago. In 2003 America toppled the government of Iraq in just 20 days. The conflict that Armenia and Azerbaijan fought over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 was over in 44. Yet Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its fifth month, and shows no sign of drawing to a close. “I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war,” wrote Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, in mid-June. Jens Stoltenberg, nato’s secretary-general, echoed his warning: “We must prepare for the fact that it could take years.”

In the early days of the invasion the West worried that Ukrainian forces would be swiftly overwhelmed by Russia’s superior firepower and resistance would collapse. Now the fears are different: that Ukraine has not adjusted its strategy enough to fight a sustained war of attrition; that it will run out of soldiers and munitions; that months of pummelling will cause its economy to collapse; that the will to fight may ebb as the going gets even tougher. Russia, too, is subject to many of the same pressures, with the conflict chewing up its young men, sapping its economy and accelerating its descent into dictatorship. A protracted conflict will also test the resolve of Ukraine’s Western allies, as the price of food and energy soars, inflation riles voters and Ukraine’s requests for weapons and cash escalate. A long war, in short, will test both sides in new ways. Whether it favours Russia or Ukraine depends in large part on how the West responds.

Here’s How The World’s Rivers Are Changing

The way rivers function is significantly affected by how much sediment they transport and where it gets deposited. River sediment — mostly sand, silt, and clay — plays a critical ecological role, as it provides habitat for organisms downstream and in estuaries. It is also important for human life, resupplying nutrients to floodplain agricultural soils, and buffering sea level rise caused by climate change by delivering sand to deltas and coastlines. However, these functions are under threat: in the past 40 years, humans have caused unprecedented, consequential changes to river sediment transport, according to a new Dartmouth study published in Science.

Using satellite images from NASA Landsat and digital archives of hydrologic data, Dartmouth researchers examined changes in how much sediment is carried to the oceans by 414 of the world’s largest rivers from 1984 to 2020.

State-Owned Enterprises And Asia’s Energy Transition – Analysis

Christoph Nedopil Wang

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Asia are in a unique position to take a leading role to shift economic activity from polluting to green. Yet so far, most SOEs have underutilised green financial instruments, such as green bonds, to support this transition. This leaves ample room for growth which could spur further investments in innovative and green technologies, support development of green capital markets and reduce the risks of climate change.

Given Asian countries’ commitment to accelerate their energy transition to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets, SOEs — including their regulators and owners — urgently need to transform their business operations. SOEs have a monopoly in energy generation and transmission in many Asian countries, and account for about 60 per cent of infrastructure investments and up to 70 per cent of fossil fuel-related and energy transition investments.

The Future of the West Is in Question


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surely heralded the end of an era of illusions. The subsequent criminal actions of the Russian army — the massacre of civilians in Bucha, Borodyanka, Mariupol and Irpin — have proven that post-Soviet Russia is not the country the West had imagined. A confluence of old-fashioned nationalism, imperialism and colonialism supercharged by hyper-modern propaganda tools: This is the image of a 21st-century totalitarian state. It is the true face of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and one must be a cynic not to recognize it. And yet, just diagnosing the disease is not a cure. It is not enough for us to discard our illusions regarding Russia, we must also cast off the illusions toward ourselves.

More than 120 days have passed since the beginning of the war. Ukraine and its military can be proud of the steadfast resistance they have put up against one of the supposedly most powerful armies in the world. On Feb. 24, no one gave the Ukrainians a chance of more than several days of survival. Meanwhile, they not only defended Kyiv, but pushed back the enemy far to the east.

China is steadily wiping out German industry

Diana Choyleva

Diana Choyleva is chief economist of Enodo Economics, a macroeconomic and political forecasting company in London.

If there was ever a symbiosis between Germany and China, that time has passed. Germany is slowly but surely realizing that a national industrial strategy based on synergy with China is headed toward a dead-end.

The partnership that defined Angela Merkel's years as chancellor will not outlive her administration by long. In fact, the partnership is already in its death throes. What remains now is for German business leaders and politicians to define what will replace it.

For almost two decades, the synergy between China and Germany worked. China contributed low wages and input costs. Germans contributed technical know-how and the fruits of decades of engineering breakthroughs and research. Young Chinese workers got jobs. Aging German investors got profits.

The Pentagon's plan for 'responsible AI'

Lauren C. Williams,

The Defense Department is rolling out the long-awaited implementation strategy for its responsible artificial intelligence principles.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks signed out the Responsible Artificial Intelligence Strategy and Implementation Pathway, which was released June 22.

"It is imperative that we establish a trusted ecosystem that not only enhances our military capabilities but also builds confidence with end-users, warfighters, the American public, and international partners. The Pathway affirms the Department's commitment to acting as a responsible AI-enabled organization," Hicks said in a news release announcing the new pathway.

The 47-page document outlines the Pentagon's plan to incorporate its two-year old ethical AI principles throughout a system's design, development, and use. Each of the six tenets – governance, warfighter trust, product and acquisition, requirements validation, the responsible AI ecosystem, and workforce – includes lines of effort, goals, and estimated timelines.

Can the Army Harden Its Software Systems Before the Next War?

Kris Osborn

Missiles destroying targets with advanced precision-guidance systems, tanks adjusting navigation in response to uneven terrain or enemy obstacles, and real-time drone video arriving in vehicles and command centers are all operations heavily reliant upon effective and secure computing. Cybersecurity, therefore, is no longer limited to the realm of information technology but expanded to encompass operations such as networked weapons systems, platform sensor information processing, and even precision-weapons delivery.

Naturally, this dynamic further underscores the importance of “securing,” “hardening,” and “protecting” a network from unwanted intrusions, hacking, or jamming.

“You're gaining capability by having a network of communications, you're also creating a vulnerability that if exploited by an enemy could degrade your forces. So not a new problem. But I think the cyber world opens it up to kind of a scale we're not we haven't seen before. So it is critical,” Douglas Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics & Technology, told The National Interest in an interview.

Reports of Disinformation Campaign Against Rare Earth Processing Facilities

The Department of Defense is aware of the recent disinformation campaign, first reported by Mandiant, against Lynas Rare Earth Ltd., a rare earth element firm seeking to establish production capacity in the United States and partner nations, as well as other rare earth mining companies. The department has engaged the relevant interagency stakeholders and partner nations to assist in reviewing the matter.

The exposure of the disinformation campaign comes roughly one year after the Biden Administration and Department published a Review of Critical Minerals and Materials under Executive Order 14017 “America’s Supply Chains.” That review highlighted ongoing concerns regarding a lack of transparency and overreliance on concentrated foreign sources of critical minerals in key U.S. supply chains for essential global civilian and national security applications.

How Cyber and Tech Will Shape Great Power Competition

Jacob Heilbrunn

Both cyber and tech are playing an increasingly prominent role in debates about American national security. To what extent will they influence a new era of great power competition with China and Russia? What course should Washington follow in emphasizing the centrality of cyber?

The Center for the National Interest invited three distinguished experts and former government officials to discuss this issue on Wednesday, June 29.

John Negroponte is Vice Chairman of McLarty Associates. He served as the first Director of National Intelligence, a cabinet-level position, under President George W. Bush. He is also a former ambassador to the United Nations, as well as Honduras, Mexico, the Philippines, and Iraq.

National Security Challenges of Yesterday and Tomorrow: Reflecting on the Last 75 Years to Prepare for the Next 75

Matthew R. Crouch & Christopher P. Mulder , Raphael J. Piliero


For the past 75 years, the United States has been the world’s dominant military and economic superpower. The collapse of the Soviet Union and success of the U.S.-led Liberal International Order (LIO) led some to celebrate its permanence, proclaiming an “American Century,” a “Pax Americana,” or even the “End of History.”[i] Thirty years on, this seems premature, if not naïve.

To be clear, the United States had—and retains—several advantages: the most potent conventional military on the planet, a vibrant defense industrial base, world-renowned service academies and military operational concepts, a robust nuclear arsenal, and the world’s strongest economy.[ii] On paper, these advantages seem unmatched, but a deeper look reveals serious challenges on many fronts. The current war in Ukraine, breakdown of U.S. policy in the Middle East and the rise of China as a true peer-competitor have shattered any illusion that great-power competition has ended and instead highlight the stark dangers of a changing strategic environment.

Want ‘strategic thinkers’? You’ll have to transform the military culture

Gregory Foster

For some years now, observers of military and security affairs have levied rightful criticism at America’s growing string of military failures abroad. We don’t win wars anymore. We don’t prevent wars. We can’t end wars.

At the heart of these repeated operational failures, many think, are deeply embedded intellectual failings that reflect inexcusably underdeveloped strategic understanding on the part of America’s current generation of generals and admirals.

At least since the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) document appeared, such criticism has led to accusations that the U.S. military’s Professional Military Education (PME) system, especially the senior, “war college” level of that system, is to blame. The 2018 NDS, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s homage to his own thinking, made this unsubstantiated assertion:

Irregular Competition

Lt. Col. Jeremiah C. Lumbaca

Despite increased global interest in “gray-zone” activities, the United States does not have a whole-of-government policy to deter or indirectly confront state and nonstate adversaries in this expanding security domain. With the release of the December 2017 National Security Strategy, a policy shift occurred overnight that fundamentally changed the direction that the U.S. security enterprise had been heading for two decades.1 After sixteen years, trillions of dollars spent, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost during the War on Terrorism, the United States redirected its primary focus away from asymmetric threats and looked instead toward strategic competition, sometimes referred to as “great-power competition” or “near-peer competition.” The 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, released by the White House, continues and reinforces the strategic competition policy direction.2

Notwithstanding a redirect toward conventional security concerns, America’s state and nonstate adversaries continue to operate globally with malign intent through unconventional security efforts. Consequently, there is a need for the United States and like-minded nations to indirectly implement a discreet set of activities—during times of peace, competition, and war—to maintain international order.