Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Quotable: Stavridis, Rokke, and Pierce on Sony, Huntington, and integrating hard and soft power


Sunday, June 26th 2016

image (not from entry) from

Soft power.  Non-kinetic effects.  Nonstate international actors.

Another example of the intellectual ferment among armed forces thinkers was recently provided by three leading retired officers – James Stavridis, Ervin Rokke, and Terry Pierce – writing in Joint Force Quarterly.  Their March 29, 2016, essay was titled “Crafting and Managing Effects: The Evolution of the Profession of Arms.

A recent event – the cyber attack by North Korea on Sony Pictures after it released a film mocking Kim Jong-Un – prompted much of their thinking.  Their article examined (1) the new influence of non-kinetic instruments of power, (2) the influence of non-state actors such as the ISIL, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, drug cartels and crime syndicates, and (3) the cyber domain.  (When the three refer to “cyber” in the article, they mean not only the electrons but the content.) 

It led them to re-examine the concepts in Samuel Huntington’s classic text, The Soldier and the State (1957) and to integrate Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” into military thinking, expanding “the battlefield beyond the traditional domains of land, sea, air, and space to accommodate more effectively than ever before the battles of wits.”  Some quotes:

  • Recent operations conducted against U.S. businesses and citizens have reemphasized a critical vulnerability in how the U.S. Government thinks about and defends itself against nonkinetic instruments of power.

  • . . . the assumptions underlying the definitions and responsibilities of our military profession, most of which emerged following World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, are badly in need of updating to accommodate new forms of warfare.

  • . . . the Huntington assertion of “management of violence” as the unique expertise of the profession of arms needs to be updated from his 1957 model.

  • We maintain that members of today’s profession of arms are “the managers of effects” while the primary responsibility for defining the desired effects, particularly in the strategic arena, lies with civilian leadership at the national level.

  • This assertion builds upon the concept of soft power introduced by Professor Joseph Nye in 1990, which argued that “winning the hearts and minds has always been important, but it is even more so in a global information age.”

  • Since 1990, soft power has grown in importance as information-age technologies advance. More importantly, the information revolution is changing the nature of power and increasing its diffusion, both vertically and horizontally, marking the decline of the sovereign state and the rise of a new feudal-type world.

  • . . . we maintain that these hard and soft effects could be generated not only in the natural domains of land, sea, air, and space, but also in the increasingly significant manmade domain of cyber.

  • A key assumption of Huntington’s model is that violence almost always originated with a nation-state and was directed toward another nation-state. In this environment, the threat or actual use of force embodied in national armies, navies, and air forces is the best way to keep the peace.

  • His model, however, falls short with the emergence of nonkinetic instruments of foreign policy to include those within the cyber domain. Particularly within that domain, nation-states and their militaries are no longer the sole managers for instruments of force. A new assortment of nonkinetic actors using soft power in the cyber as well as the natural domains can achieve hard-power kinetic effects.

  • With such additional dynamics as the incredible advances in technology and communications as well as the end of the Cold War, the global security system clearly has once again faced new . . . fundamental questions. As in 1789, 1815, 1870, and 1945, the global world of national security has been turned on its head.

  • . . . we are now witnessing a partial resurgence of the pre-Westphalia model as nonstate actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizballah, and others—including drug cartels and crime syndicates—have emerged as very real participants in the international security environment.

  • Many of the nonstate actors also are adept at using modern, nonkinetic instruments such as social media and other tools emerging from the cyber domain to achieve their desired effects.

  • They have expanded the battlefield beyond the traditional domains of land, sea, air, and space to accommodate more effectively than ever before the battles of wits.

  • The new lens we have offered might properly be called combined effects power (CEP). The CEP construct is a way to maximize and harmonize the effects of kinetic and nonkinetic power. The key issue it tackles is what effects we want to achieve using both hard and soft power.

  • War aims go wrong when they are based on faulty assessments of reality. Assessments of reality are wrong when the concepts or “lenses” we use to help us understand our security predicaments are unable to accommodate complex challenges.

  • Huntington’s 1957 framework was brilliant in its hard-power design and has served us well. The time has come, however, to flesh it out with new realities, including soft power, that square more accurately with the 21st century.

  • In place of the traditional focus on how we might best combine our military instruments to successfully fight wars of destruction, we must first have an answer to a foundational challenge: What is the effect that we wish to achieve?

  • In most situations, particularly at the strategic level, this is a question for our senior civilian policymakers. They must be the primary determiners of desired effects. Equally important, they must understand that without a coherent definition of desired effects, the military and other entities with foreign policy tools are not in a position to craft effective responses beyond the CAW model.

  • This new way of thinking requires us to adapt our simplifying lens to the more complicated world of the 21st century. It also requires us to ask a new question at the outset: What effects do we want to achieve using both hard and soft power? Fortunately, as cognitive psychologists tell us, we are “wired” to do this.

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