Old School

Old School

by Adam Elkus

Rethinking Security

 

It is without reservations that I state that The Sovereignty Solution was the most important book of 2011 that most of you never read.

Anna Simons and her co-authors at the Naval Postgraduate School have crafted the national security equivalent of a religious revival. Like the Great Awakening, it contains a heavy undertone of conservatism (although thankfully no fire-and-brimstone moments akin to “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”) but also a call for reinvention. It is both a trip back to as we once were and a journey to a place we never were—but might go.

The Sovereignty Solution begins by laying out a set of unfortunate realizations: Americans don’t like protracted wars, are easily politically divided over national security, and our enemies understand us in many ways better than we understand ourselves. To make matters worse, those enemies, through use of human shields, lawfare, and the assistance of”useful idiots” both home and abroad, force us to play by their rules and agonize over how to deal with their asymmetric tactics. Our campaigns have attempted to use state-building and democracy promotion to overcome these difficulties, but met with mixed results. So far, the book is hardly different from many post-9/11 critiques.

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Our concern regarding the internal ordering of states has less to do with threats relating to "terrorists" and more to do with threats relating to lack of state and societal access and utilization.

Our principal desire -- and drive -- is to have all states and societies -- sooner rather than later -- become internally organized, ordered, oriented and designed (their political, economic and social structures) so that they might better provide for the wants, needs and desires of their own populations and those of the rapidly expanding global economy.

Herein, we want outlier states and societies to become more-"open," more-accessable and more useable re: global commerce and global trade.

THIS, I would suggest, is:

a. Why our campaigns are focused on state-building and democracy promotion, and why

b. A "sovereignty solution" is unlikely to be adopted.

Bottom Line: We will not allow a process which might provide that states and societies could become less-open, less-accessable and less-useful. This, we believe, would present a greater threat to the United States than that posed by those (terrorists, insurgents, etc.) who would actively resist such state and societal transformations as we require.

Bill C.:

I'm unsure who the "we" in your Post connotes. I for one do not agree with this:

"Our principal desire ... is to have all states and societies ... become internally organized, ordered, oriented and designed (their political, economic and social structures) so that they might better provide for the wants, needs and desires of their own populations and those of the rapidly expanding global economy."

While I acknowledge there are those in this country who do want that result -- and that many are in the foreign policy establishment -- I do not believe that to be true with respect to most Americans. They are the ones who must pay for the flawed and foolish desire to meddle in the affairs of other nations and I sense they are tiring of that...

As for your suggestions, "a." is partly correct. It is also very much due to habit and lack of viable alternatives and it can be easily changed and such change should occur. As for "b." we'll have to see how that ends. My suspicion is that too many Americans are becoming attuned to the fact that this meddling in other nations has done us as much or more harm than good. My belief is that your last sentence was once correct but is now reflective of only a minority of persons in the US. I certainly hope our egos, ignorance and arrogance are no longer that great.

One might also consider that we will quite likely not be able to afford your apparent favorite solution of more rather than less interference in other nations. ;)

The description reminds me of India's sovereignty doctrine:

Although consistent with India's historical insistence to respect sovereignty and integrity of nations, the blunt remark warning about the perils of the West succumbing to the temptation to impose democracy underlined a growing disconnect between India and the US. After the close relationship fostered by Singh, the criticism is jarring.

While acknowledging that the international community has a role to play to help with the process of transition and institution building, Singh said, "The idea that prescriptions have to be imposed from outside is fraught with danger."

He continued, "Actions taken under the authority of the United Nations must respect the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of individual states": a remark which echoed the feeling in India that Western powers went beyond the mandate they secured from the Security Council to use force in Libya.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-25/india/30200524_1_...

I've ordered the book but it has not yet arrived. With respect to Adam Elkus' comments, I offer two thoughts for consideration. Elkus states

"To make matters worse, those enemies, through use of human shields, lawfare, and the assistance of ”useful idiots” both home and abroad, force us to play by their rules and agonize over how to deal with their asymmetric tactics. Our campaigns have attempted to use state-building and democracy promotion to overcome these difficulties, but met with mixed results. So far, the book is hardly different from many post-9/11 critiques."

Our opponents do NOT force us to play by their rules; due to a lack of imagination, skill and alternatives we continue to choose to do so. Quite foolish of us...

Our larger campaigns in this vein have not met with mixed results, they have failed universally to achieve most initially stated aims. Such campaigns must be avoided in the future for several reasons.

"But the United States, through inconsistent protection of its own sovereignty, is unable to deter non-state (or, perhaps, a better term would be extra-state) actors period. Should another 9/11 attack occur, and the threat issues from a more complicated target than Afghanistan, how should the US exact retribution?"

That really sums up the problem, does it not? We are inconsistent in the protection of our sovreignty due to the mentioned fragmented polity and a governmental system that is itself inconsistent. That is unlikely to change (and I for one would not want it to do so) we therefor have to opt for processes or strategies that indicate to all concerned that attacks on US interests are unwise. People are really reluctant to fight or even verbally challenge apparently insane persons who overreact to even minor slights...

The word 'retribution' is indicative of a mindset in the policy and military establishments that should be banished. Prevention beats retribution handily. The best way to find and kill enemy submarines is to get them in their port; once they go to sea, the task is immensely more difficult. Visiting 'retribution' -- if one can find it -- on a submarine that has just sunk one of your merchant ships may be mildly satisfying but it is certainly no solution to the problem.