Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel

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

“Be strong enough to know when you are weak,” Gen. Douglas MacArthur once advised. But what matters more is to know how and where you’re vulnerable.

During the Cold War, the director of the US Office of Net Assessment, Andrew Marshall, found America had a “distinct and meaningful advantage” in that the “bulk of the Soviet forces were composed of conscripts” who were “poorly trained and lacking technical know-how.” Marshall’s insight was to use the Soviet soldiers’ relative deprivation against them. In a military based on a thoroughly mechanized, road-mobile doctrine, the fact that the average Soviet recruit didn’t grow up with cars provided a weakness to be exploited.

Today, America’s military suffers the inverse vulnerability—abundance. The average American recruit, typically of the millennial generation, has always had access to an overflow of information and resources; ubiquitous smartphones, plentiful cars and computers. In the age of information warfare, when the enemy threatens to hit the kill switch, this is America’s Achilles’ heel. Continue reading “Abundant Vulnerability: Why Military Millennials Might Be America’s Achilles’ Heel”

A Netflix Assessment of China’s Rise and America’s Advantage

*Note: This essay was published at War on the Rocks on April 20, 2016. It can also be found online here (or PDF).

In a smartphone world it’s easy to see China rise, but have we forgotten our other senses? This exercise in think tank voyeurism has become a distracting mirage, from CSIS’s aerial photos of the Great Wall of Sand to the Lowy Institute’s Technicolor chart of China’s worldwide diplomatic reach. It’s all as eye-popping as Superman’s red cape: Look! China’s so high! It’s a carrier! It’s a plane! It’s Suuu-per Missile! And then RAND’s watchful eye scoops it all up, with a ringside boxing judge’s “scorecard” for all to view.

But maybe it’s our unblinking, screen-obsessed eyes that deceive us. Instead of focusing on the mano a mano with China, perhaps we should consider another Big Red Rise: Netflix. Because when we do, we’ll find the third offset is more than gadgets, and really about the intersection of our allies and technology, underpinned by deep defense diplomacy. That said, on with the show.

Read the rest at War on the Rocks.