Can America Fight Wars that Matter Anymore?

*Note: This essay was originally published at Rally Point’s “Command Post” on March 2, 2017.

“I don’t want to go! It’s not for me!”

This past holiday season brought the annual war over religious service attendance. Our inter- and multi-faith loved ones squabbled over the need to go, together, to this annual social tradition. It was a typical scene—our family’s certainly not the only one in which congregational conflict has become common. Sociologists tell us that generational norms are shifting with the rise of the Millennials, and participation in religious community events has fallen, sharply. Martin Luther King Jr. once noted that Sunday’s church hour was America’s “most segregated”—today, for many struggling to cope with this social trend, Sunday has become the family’s most separate hour. Continue reading “Can America Fight Wars that Matter Anymore?”

What the Profession of Arms Can Take from Michael Flynn’s Example

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

I would never actively cheer an administrational death, but, paraphrasing Clarence Darrow, I did smile a bit while reading Michael Flynn’s resignation in the newspaper. It wasn’t for any personal ill will or partisan reason (my stance on political neutrality is well documented), but my grin formed because Flynn’s actions in retirement have directly contradicted two pillars of the Profession of Arms—its apolitical tradition and truth-telling character. And the end of his short tenure as national security advisor provides the Profession a ponderous moment to reflect on what Flynn hath wrought. Continue reading “What the Profession of Arms Can Take from Michael Flynn’s Example”

False Faith: The Third Offset Isn’t a Strategy and Won’t Win Our Next War

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

We’re past idea, beyond buzzword, and have shot right past cliché—overuse and overapplication has rendered the phrase “Third Offset” effectively meaningless. When I hear the term used, it’s akin to the dashboard warning light in my aging car, letting me know I’m approaching a serious deficiency. The fault is geographically diverse; in recent assignments from West Point to Korea to Space and Missile Defense, I’ve heard well-meaning military professionals automatically apply “Third Offset Strategy” as a solution for just about everything, from military education to Kim Jong Un to the Russians and Chinese. But a solution everywhere is a solution nowhere—the Third Offset faithful routinely misunderstand and misrepresent this otherwise valuable weapons and concept development program as a true strategy that will win the next war. That mistake is as dangerous as it is wrong. Continue reading “False Faith: The Third Offset Isn’t a Strategy and Won’t Win Our Next War”

A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea

*Note: This essay was originally published at The National Interest on February 8, 2017.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis spent the tail end of last week in Seoul and Tokyo conferring with allies about the extreme challenge posed by a belligerently nuclear North Korea. When he gets back, Secretary Mattis should provide President Donald Trump with an option to straitjacket the rogue regime with consistently stiff military restraints to enable diplomacy. Pin down their arms and North Korea’s only option will be to talk.

North Korea is a uniquely vexing challenge with a rapidly closing solution window. Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, calls them his “most volatile and dangerous threat” because their violent mood swings endanger a key ally in South Korea, 25 million people in Seoul, and periodically hold hostage the critical economies of Northeast Asia. The so-called Doomsday Clock recently edged closer to midnight than any time since the unstable dawn of the nuclear age, an acknowledgement of today’s near-term nuclear risk, thanks in part to North Korea’s reckless behavior. And a recent high-level defector says subversive information is “crumbling” North Korea and the regime’s days are “numbered”; oppositely, widely-reported intelligence tells us North Korea will be capable of striking the U.S. homeland with a long-range nuclear missile by 2020. Continue reading “A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea”

The 45 Paradoxical Qualities of the Strategist

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What qualities define the strategist? While some contemplate the best schools or best processes to “build” the best senior strategists—maybe the best way forward is to start with a simple set of characteristics that might best exemplify the strategist. Continue reading “The 45 Paradoxical Qualities of the Strategist”

After Action Review: Operation UNDERBELLY

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

There are lessons from wars of the past. There are lessons from wars of the present. And there are lessons from wars of the future.

MWI Fellow August Cole proves this third point in his exceptional work of short fiction, “UNDERBELLY,” which “explores what war in Europe against an increasingly aggressive Russia might look like with a dramatically reduced US commitment to NATO.” The tale envisions a new role for the American Sheriff in which it only provides “logistic, intelligence, and technical support” to NATO in a crisis. Operation UNDERBELLY then, is a British-led, multi-national European military effort to drive back the Russians in the Baltics. And strategists, planners, and tacticians can apply today’s tools to learn from this fictitious future-look. Continue reading “After Action Review: Operation UNDERBELLY”

On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 1: A Military Declaration of Political Neutrality

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After a heated, bitterly contested election season, now that the peaceful transfer of power is complete and temperatures have subsided a bit—it’s important for the Profession of Arms to reflect on its critical role in this democratic society.

In the spirit of this important reflection, recently, I made the case that, while they should always maintain the right to vote—military officers should choose not to vote—to fulfill their professional duty to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, as well as to uphold the long, star-studded tradition of uniformed non-voting (i.e. Grant, Marshall, Patton, Eisenhower, etc.).

In swift response, retired Gen. Carter Ham, announced in the Army Times he “could not disagree more strongly” with this position, and countered it was inadvisable “to suggest officers recuse themselves from one of the most fundamental rights and obligations of citizenry.” He concluded by reminding readers of then-Gen. George Washington’s words, “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.” Continue reading “On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 1: A Military Declaration of Political Neutrality”