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Reflections on U.S.-Cuba Military-to-Military Contacts
July 1, 2016
— The strategic import of U.S.-Cuba relations was underscored by President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba from March 20–22, 2016, and his comment that he had come to Cuba “to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” Geography also reinforces the strategic importance of both countries to one another. Cuba sits astride the intersection of the three large bodies of water dominating the approaches to the southern United States. The large island nation is in a position to block, complicate, or facilitate U.S. border control efforts in many ways. Partnering with Cuba also might allow the United States to benefit from Cuba’s notable record of using soft power effectively in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.
The NATO Warsaw Summit: How to Strengthen Alliance Cohesion
June 1, 2016
— It is often stated that cohesion constitutes the center of gravity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet divergent domestic pressures and external threat perceptions are threatening to pull Allies apart and leave the Euro-Atlantic security architecture in shatters. When NATO Heads of State and Government meet in Warsaw on July 8–9, 2016, the stakes will be high. Not since the end of the Cold War has the security outlook been as bleak or the collective resources for meeting multiple threats as meager.
Supporting Democracy in Erdoǧan’s Turkey: The Role of Think Tanks
May 10, 2016
— This paper examines the Turkish think tank sector as part of a strategy to invest in Turkish democratization in a manner that does not prejudice security cooperation or the broader bilateral relationship. The United States for over 60 years has promoted a Turkey that is politically stable, economically prosperous, militarily capable, and democratically mature. As we head into 2016, the good news is that Turkey has had a party capable of ruling and winning elections for 14 years, is a G20 economy, retains one of the strongest military and security establishments in the world, and has established civilian authority over the military in a durable manner. The bad news is that this substantial progress has not resulted in a more transparent government fully committed to Western democratic norms. Instead the result has been a frequently unpredictable ally led by an increasingly authoritarian, albeit popular President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who flouts Western norms with relish and deviates from Western strategic consensus with ease. The sustained dialogue, mutual understanding, consultation, and compromise that mark good partnerships are noticeably absent—and the formerly substantial American influence over Turkish policymaking is greatly diminished. At the same time, the United States has an image problem to accompany its influence deficit, having experienced a sustained loss of trust among the Turkish public.
China's Goldwater-Nichols? Assessing PLA Organizational Reforms
April 5, 2016
— In the past few months, China has announced a series of major reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): the Central Military Commission (CMC) has been revamped, the four general departments dissolved, new service headquarters created, and five new theater commands established in place of the seven military regions (MRs). These changes are part of a sweeping transformation of PLA institutions, force structure, and policy that will be ongoing through 2020. In pursuing these reforms, China’s leaders hope both to tighten central political control over a force that was seen as increasingly corrupt and to build the PLA into a credible joint warfighting entity. Yet important obstacles remain, and it may be years before the implications of these reforms come into full view.
National Security Reform and the 2016 Election
March 29, 2016
— There are few issues of greater intrinsic importance to the United States than national security reform—or one riper for resolution. Twenty years ago most senior leaders were skeptical of allegations that the national security system was “broken”; they believed the system functioned well enough to manage the Nation’s most pressing problems. Since then numerous prominent experts have been sounding the alarm from inside the system and from without. No fewer than nine blue-ribbon groups have argued in favor of system reforms (see tables 1 and 2). The overwhelming majority of scholars publishing independently on the issue favor reform. During the 2008 Presidential election, the momentum in favor of national security reform was so strong that many thought it was inevitable. This presumption was reinforced when President Barack Obama appointed well-known proponents of reform to senior positions in the National Security Council staff, Department of State, Department of Defense (DOD), and Intelligence Community. Yet reform did not take place during the Obama administration, and so far it has not been an issue in the 2016 Presidential race, either. This paper examines why reform was sidetracked, whether it could emerge as a campaign issue during the 2016 Presidential election, and why it is in candidates’ and the Nation’s interest that it does.
Violating Reality: The Lavelle Affair, Nixon, and the Parsing of the Truth
March 15, 2016
— On December 20, 2010, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) denied the Pentagon’s request, endorsed by President Barack Obama, to advance posthumously Air Force Maj Gen John D. Lavelle to the retired list in the rank of general.1 Thirty-eight years earlier, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen John D. Ryan had fired the four-star Lavelle as the Seventh Air Force commander in Saigon for allegedly conducting unauthorized airstrikes against North Vietnam and ordering the falsification of mission reports. Senate hearings in September 1972 deemed Lavelle guilty of both offenses, resulting in his demotion to major general following retirement. Yet a careful reading of documentary and taped evidence, much of it recently discovered and not available at the time of the original Senate hearings, reveals that General Lavelle neither violated the rules of engagement (ROE) that prescribed America’s air war at the time of his dismissal nor falsified mission reports. Accordingly, Lavelle should have his rank restored, and the so-called Lavelle affair should serve as a cautionary tale for political and military leaders alike who question the proper conduct of “civil-military relations” in the complex and often confounding era of modern limited war.
North Korea 2025: Alternate Futures and Policy Challenges
February 2, 2016
— National Defense University (NDU), the National Intelligence Council (NIC), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) held a symposium in November 2015 that brought leading experts together to explore four alternative futures for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, also known as North Korea). The futures were: 1) A Status Quo Peninsula in a Changing Northeast Asia; 2) Korea Reunified; 3) A Reforming DPRK; and 4) The DPRK Must Be Stopped! This report summarizes key findings from this non-attribution symposium, which focused on the interests and potential actions of external powers rather than DPRK internal dynamics.
Korean Unification and the Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance
February 1, 2016
— Security alliances can take many forms. They can be bilateral or multilateral, symmetric or asymmetric, highly institutionalized or largely unstructured. Regardless of form, security alliances as instruments of statecraft, at their most fundamental level, reflect a deliberate commitment among states to aggregate resources in the pursuit of common interests. For over 60 years, the U.S.–Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has defended South Korea from external attack and, through the combined efforts of both countries, contributed to peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in Northeast Asia, across the Asia-Pacific, and beyond.
Posing Problems without an Alliance: China-Iran Relations after the Nuclear Deal
February 1, 2016
— Key Points China is poised to increase economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran as a result of sanctions relief under the recent Iran nuclear deal, though a close geopolitical alignment between the two states is unlikely. Sino-Iranian relations will remain limited by several enduring constraints, including
Japan’s Initiatives for Deepening Cooperation with Other Countries in the Areas of Defense Equipment and Technology
December 1, 2015
— Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to power in the December 16, 2012 general election and formed his second administration together with the Komeito Party, has promoted a substantial change in Japan’s national security policy. Key policy initiatives of the Abe government include the establishment of the National Security Council, formulation of the National Security Strategy, formulation of new National Defense Program Guidelines, and modification of the legal basis for national security.