US moots ‘guerrilla’ defense strategy



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‘This strategy is working,’ Senator says of US mission in Iraq after visit


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The Islamic State, Iran And The US Strategy Deficit


Global Puzzle Pieces

Image credit: 

BrianAJackson, iStock

Other Media
mentioning Kori Schake
via Eurasia Review

The emergence of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq has threatened to destabilize the Levant and Iraq, in many respects obscuring the challenges still posed by Iran. The Obama Administration originally dismissed the IS as a “JV” offshoot of al Qaeda, but its seizure of large swaths of territory belies that characterization.


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China's Grand-Strategy Challenge: Creating Its Own Islands in the South China Sea


Alexander Vuving

South China Sea, Military Strategy, China

China’s grand strategy in the South China Sea seems pretty clear—change facts in the water. 

Satellite images analyzed by defense intelligence magazine IHS Jane’s show that China is reclaiming on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands a piece of land that bears the shape of a 3000-meter airfield and a harbor large enough to receive tankers and major warships. This is not the first, but the latest in a series of land reclamations that China is conducting both in the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

What does China want with this island building? What is the ultimate objective of these projects? The usual lens we use to decipher strategic moves on the international arena is ill suited to answer these questions. It views the game nations play in term of chess, but China is playing weiqi in the South China Sea.

Weiqi, better known in the West by its Japanese name, go, is the oldest Chinese board game that bears much parallel to an influential branch of traditional Chinese strategic thinking. While chess is a game of checkmate, weiqi, as its very name tells us, is a game of encirclement. In weiqi, there are no kings, queens or pawns as there are in chess, only identical stones whose power depends on where they are in the larger arrangement of the pieces. If chess is a contest of armies, weiqi is a struggle between configurations. Whereas the competent chess player aims at the destruction of the enemy’s physical power, a proficient weiqi player strives for the control of strategic positions, from which position-based power emanates.

If the South China Sea is seen as a chessboard, China’s moves in it appear largely trivial. Advanced forward are mostly pawns, while there is little movement of the more powerful figures. Perhaps the most formidable piece on the board is an underground base for nuclear missile submarines at Yulin on the southern coast of Hainan Island. However, this base is not located in the disputed areas. The main forces involved in the South China Sea dispute are rarely the military, but predominantly fishing boats and lightly armed government vessels. And the central objects of the contest are tiny, barren, often-submerged rocks.

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The Role of Maritime and Air Power in DoD’s Third Offset Strategy


“The U.S. military needs a new offset strategy for projecting power effectively and affordably across the threat spectrum. While it must take account of America’s fiscal circumstances, the central purpose…


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American Nuclear Strategy: The Case for a Minimal-Deterrence Policy


Robert Gard, Greg Terryn

Military Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, United States

“The United States’ overstocked nuclear arsenal addresses a threat that no longer exists, and instead results in elevated risks with no added value.”

Critics of minimal deterrence, such as Keith Payne in a recent article in the Washington Times, accuse advocates of reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile of viewing the world through rose-colored glasses, irresponsibly following ideological perceptions at the expense of American security. These charges represent true irony; few policies are more tainted with ideology than the advocacy of an outdated nuclear strategy with an excessive, ill-maintained arsenal of weapons.

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review states: “[t]he fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, [its] allies, and partners.” Because of the vast and indiscriminate destructive power of nuclear weapons, there is a general consensus that their sole legitimate purpose is to deter the use of weapons of mass destruction by potential enemies; and that their use in war should be initiated only as a last resort to prevent the military defeat of the nation or an ally. These weapons clearly are irrelevant to current international security challenges such as nonstate terrorist expansion in Iraq and Syria, the Ebola virus in Africa or even Russian aggression in Ukraine.

But how many nuclear weapons are necessary for an effective, reliable deterrent?

The United States currently has an arsenal of about 4,800 nuclear warheads, enough for an estimated 1,400-megaton cumulative yield of destructive power. That is 87,500 times the blast power of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima and equal to the blast yield of 1,400,000,000 tons of TNT. Put another way, it would only take one tenth of the 1,400 megatons we possess to decimate the fifty most-populated cities in the United States.[1] How much deliverable nuclear explosive power and destruction does it take to deter potential enemies? Obviously, under any conceivable scenario, the United States does not need a nuclear arsenal nearly this large.

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Let the 'grand strategy' debate begin


Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, the term du jour was “post-Cold War world.” But this spoke more to what the world wasn’t than what it was. Sept. 11 did its own redefinition with terrorism central, but crowded out so much…


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A Strategy to Save U.S. Military Superiority


Facing an uncertain period of fiscal austerity, the U.S. military nevertheless confronts a range of worsening security threats around the globe. Dealing with emerging threats is increasingly difficult as traditional…


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Are Some Members of the Obama Admin. Starting to Question the White House Strategy on Syria?


Daniel R. DePetris

Security, Syria

If the leakage coming out of the press over the last several weeks is accurate, the answer is a resounding yes.

Are some members of the Obama administration starting to question the White House strategy on Syria?  If the leakage coming out of the press over the last several weeks is accurate, the answer is a resounding yes.

In an article about President Obama’s Syria dilemma in The Los Angeles Times, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is reported to believe that the plan to combat both the Islamic State and the Assad regime is suffering from a severe lack of clarity and focus.  “Pentagon concerns have grown so sharp,” the Times reported on October 30, “that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a two-page memo to the White House last week warning that the overall plan could collapse because U.S. intentions toward Syrian President Bashar Assad are unclear.”

CNN posted a similar story on the same day, with a little more detail as to what Hagel’s memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice consisted of.  “The focus of the memo,” according to an administration official, “was “we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime.”  The official refused to provide additional details, but did not disagree with the notion that Hagel feels the U.S. is risking its gains in the war against ISIS if adjustments are not made.”

For an administration that suffered a huge electoral setback during the midterms, the existence of a critical memo by the Pentagon’s top civilian official—and the reporting of that memo in the news media—is the last thing that the White House wanted.  Fortunately for the president and his national security team, the contents of that memo have not been disclosed, and are unlikely to be absent a massive breach of administration protocol.  Yet just because Hagel’s memo hasn’t been released doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate about what the Defense Secretary was trying to drill home to the White House.

Here’s my guess at what it says:

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The Master Plan: Could This Be China's Overseas Basing Strategy?


Brendan Thomas-Noone

Security, China

There is little evidence that it will pursue a “String of Pearls” strategy.

“Will China’s growing global economic interests lead it to expand its overseas military presence and capabilities?” This is a question that has been asked by policymakers, academics and strategists since China’s economic growth became dependent on its ability to access energy through maritime sea-lanes and overseas markets.

The common argument is that, as China continues to invest in developing markets and resource exporters such as South Sudan, and becomes more reliant on foreign oil and energy, primarily from producers in the Middle East, it will gradually seek to protect those interests with military forces. This would follow the pattern of other great powers throughout history, which have tended to extend a security presence to where their economic interests lie. The often heard “String of Pearls” theory which emerged out of a Booz Allen Hamilton report in 2004 follows this logic when it predicts that China, seeking to secure the flow of energy through the Indian Ocean, will use its “commercial and security relationships to establish a string of military facilities in South Asia.”

But some are asking if China is different.

A recent report from the Institute for National Strategic Studies, “Not an Idea We Have to Shun”: Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements in the 21st Centuryargues that, based on an understanding of China’s “long-standing” foreign policy principles and goals, there is little evidence that it will pursue a “String of Pearls” strategy.

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