Small Wars Journal

06/20/2020 News & Commentary - National Security

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 1:17pm

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Riley Murray.


1. Look at Great Power Competition Through a Special Operations Lens

2. The 'Wednesday Night Massacre' in U.S. International Media

3. US Agency for Global Media: It's Not Broke! And You're Not Fixing It!

4. Fauci: Americans ignoring science during pandemic is "frustrating"

5. Air Force makes history: 1st woman as top enlisted leader

6. Want Better Strategists? Teach Social Science

7. How to Prevent a War in Asia

8. An affordable defense of Asia

9. Can Middle Powers Lead the World Out of the Pandemic?

10. Canceling Aegis Ashore raises problems - and hopes 

11. Are veterans who join the 'Boogaloo Bois' a threat to America?

12. Stay Out of the Regime Change Business 

13. U.S. finds alternative partners to WHO, except for polio - U.S. official

14. U.S. Watched George Floyd Protests in 15 Cities Using Aerial Surveillance

15. Navy to Punish Fired Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt

16. What were they thinking? Professional Judgment in the Crozier/Modly Affair

17. The Rage Unifying Boomers and Gen Z

18. 68th Special Forces Anniversary


1. Look at Great Power Competition Through a Special Operations Lens – By Kevin Bilms and Christopher Costa

An interesting perspective and some useful advice for SOF and policy makers.

If I was going to recommend a SOF strategy in Great Power Competition I would start with the New Strategic Approach to China the White House released on May 26, 2020.  (HERE).  It is designed to begin the operationalizing of the NSS (HERE).  Since SOF likes to tout the 3D's of diplomacy, development, and defense (actually coined by the US Embassy in the Philippines in 2006 (HERE) we can support them with the two SOF trinities, the first, irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, and support to political warfare (and in this case support to political warfare will be the SOF main effort), and the second, governance, influence, and support to indigenous forces and populations. 

The New Strategic Approach to China has four "lines of effort:"  (1) protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life, (2) promote American prosperity, (3) advance American influence, and (4) preserve peace through strength.  SOF is well suited to support the latter three.

I would develop a SOF supporting plan that would be built on the national level political warfare plan that would incorporate the economic, development, and influence concepts called for in the New Strategic Approach to China.  I wonder do a geographic lay down of China's One Belt One Road concept (affecting some 70 countries with 23 countries under threat of the debt trap (HERE)and then use SOF capabilities to support State's Blue Dot Network (BDN) (HERE), the Economic Prosperity Network (EPN) (HERE) and the Global Engagement Center (HERE) in the key locations around the world.  Many of my Eight Points of Special Warfare  would be employed throughout these 70 or so countries (HERE)

The essential U.S. organization for advancing American influence is State's Global Engagement Center (GEC).  SOF influence capabilities play. critical supporting role.  This GEC is charged with orchestrating the messaging of the Federal Government to counter disinformation and propaganda from state and non-state actors.  However, the GEC must shift from the reactive "countering" to proactive messaging.  It must take the initiative to advance the concepts of BDN and EPN and base messaging on the fundamental American values.  The competition with China is ideological and the GEC must develop themes and messages around freedom and individual liberty, liberal democracy, free market economy, rule of law, and human rights.  This is the core of the NSS and the critical messaging necessary to advance U.S. influence.
Finally, State makes a critical contribution to the concept of peace through strength. One of the most important elements of national power that is crucial to military strength is the U.S. alliance structure. . State plays the lead role in sustaining individual alliances and advancing the alliance structure around the world. The military (and SOF) play a critical supporting role in sustaining alliances. With a strong and robust alliance system the U.S. military is able to improve the capabilities of friends, partners, and allies and project U.S. power to key locations to deter conflict.

This is one way I would use SOF to play its supporting role in Great Power Competition.  It will be in support of the broader national level political warfare strategy.


2. The 'Wednesday Night Massacre' in U.S. International Media · by Jeffrey Gedmin · June 19, 2020

I am worried about my beloved VOA and RFA.


3. US Agency for Global Media: It's Not Broke! And You're Not Fixing It!

The American Interest – Martha Bayles & Jeffrey Gedmin – 18 June 2020

This is one of the best overviews of the mission of the US Agency for Global Media, the parent organization for VOA, RFA, RFE/RL, MBN.


4. Fauci: Americans ignoring science during pandemic is "frustrating"

CBS News · by Grace Segers

This pains me to read.  I guess our education system has failed since we have so many who do not understand or accept the science.  Public health practices work and are the only defense we have against the coronavirus.

Regarding masks (masks work).  I hear people tout that we are Americans with the tradition of rugged individualism and freedom of choice. Mandating the wearing of masks goes against our traditions.  I would be okay with not wearing masks if our government would focus on educating the nation on the importance of masks and telling Americans it is our civic duty to wear masks to protect other citizens and ourselves and stem the spread of the virus.  No one should have to be made to wear masks but they should be work because 1) it works based on the science, 2) it is our civic duty to protect America by contributing to stopping the spread of the virus, and 3) it protects ourselves and others. We have a civic and moral responsibility not to spread the disease. 

The irony is we have one side of the political spectrum who wants to mandate wearing of masks and the other side of the political spectrum argues that is the slippery slope to loss of individual liberty. And we have those on the other side who want to make not wearing the masks as a political statement to say they love liberty at all costs.  We have no one in any political leadership position advocating for the wearing of masks based on the science and doing our civic duty.  

The other point is if we could implement effective public health practices, (testing , quarantining those positive, tracing contacts, and treating those infected) along with personal practices of wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands we can have an open economy and stem the spread of the virus.  This could all be done based on we as American's doing our civic duty and by being responsible citizens making our own decisions to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

I am personally fortunate that my family and I can go to a US Army base to get groceries, medical care, and services because all of the above are mandated and everyone on the installation practices proper public health procedures. We are continuing to avoid all public exposure where such procedures are not effectively and universally practiced.


5. Air Force makes history: 1st woman as top enlisted leader

The Washington Post · by Associated Press



6. Want Better Strategists? Teach Social Science · by Jim Golby · June 19, 2020

To be a good strategist I think you need a thorough grounding in Military History, Military Theory, Military Geography, Operational Art, and Strategy.

This is the author's fundamental critique: "Professional military education programs produce many officers who can develop plans, but few who can think strategically."

And he also advocates what professors at the National War College say - you have to be able to "do" strategy and not just design or write a strategic concept.


7. How to Prevent a War in Asia

Foreign Affairs · by Michèle A. Flournoy · June 18, 2020

If we have a Biden Presidency, I imagine Ms. Flournoy will be the SECDEF.  This might be the template or trial balloon for Biden's Asia strategy.

A lot of criticism in this piece that pre-dates the current administration (e.g., the Asian Pivot). I am loath to blame the past (after you are in the job for 30 days you assume all responsibility for what your organization does or fails to do and after 30 days you can no longer play the blame.  And I remember the words of one of my predecessors in command who said to me, "it was straight when I was there!").  But since she was part of the previous administration, she can make those criticisms. She does a good job going back to the First Gulf War to trace the development of the PLA's capabilities.


8. An affordable defense of Asia – by T.X. Hammes - June 18, 2020

Maybe T.X. Hammes will be the next SECDEF (though I am not sure in which administration!).  It could be an interesting showdown between Ms. Flournoy and T.X.

His report on "forward defense" can be downloaded here:

But given our fiscal constraints that are likely going to create a financial crisis, we are going to need an affordable defense (and not only in Asia).


9. Can Middle Powers Lead the World Out of the Pandemic?

Foreign Affairs · by Bruce Jones · June 18, 2020

It appears so.  One global power is responsible for starting the crisis.  One global power (authoritarian revisionist)  has been unable to stem the spread of the crisis and at best has achieved only a plateau which still in the first wave of the pandemic, and a third global power (also revisionist)  is trying to exploit the virus by undermining the other while also not doing a good job of fighting the virus within its own borders. So maybe the middle powers will lead us out of this (if we would pay attention to their lessons learned).

All hail the Middle Powers.


10. Canceling Aegis Ashore raises problems - and hopes · by Brad Glosserman · June 17, 2020

As Brad Glosserman writes the cancelling will force a rethink of Japanese and US defense plans.


11. Are veterans who join the 'Boogaloo Bois' a threat to America? · by Jack Murphy · June 18, 2020


12. Stay Out of the Regime Change Business · by Benjamin Denison · June 16, 2020

Yes, we have a poor record of externally imposed regime change.  But what about internal resistance and revolution that is not directed or controlled by the US?

I encourage everyone with an interest in this subject to bookmark and download there resources at USASOC; Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies project:


15. Navy to Punish Fired Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt – by Bradley Peniston

The operative words: further investigation revealed..."

As I have said this episode will be studied in PME leadership courses for years to come.


16.  What were they thinking? Professional Judgment in the Crozier/Modly Affair · by Pauline Shanks Kaurin · April 16, 2020

This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion.  Although this is from April this may be worth revisiting to assess  the recent decision was made in this case.


17. The Rage Unifying Boomers and Gen Z

The Atlantic · by Ronald Brownstein · June 18, 2020

For some weekend reading.  It really is some food for thought.  I found this quote especially thought provoking when describing the protestors of the boomers of the 60's: "They were "a great political defeat and a great cultural success. That's how we ended up with the left marching on the English Department while the right took Washington."


18. 68th Special Forces Anniversary

A 2:37 minute video from the Green Beret Foundation to commemorate the Birthday of Special Forces.


"Combat readiness doesn't have a constituency-except for the entire nation- when fighting needs to be accomplished."  

-Retired Lieutenant General David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies.


"If you would persuade, speak of interest, not reason." 

- Benjamin Franklin

"But the Viet-Minh had had about ten months in which to establish their administration, train their forces with Japanese and American weapons (and Japanese and Chinese instructors), and kill or terrorize into submission the genuine Vietnamese nationalists who wanted a Viet-Nam independent from France but equally free of Communist rule. The first round of the war for Indochina already had been lost for the West before it had even begun."

- Bernard B. Fall, Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina

Categories: News