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An Empirical Analysis of Claimant Tactics in the South China Sea August 1, 2015 — China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei all claim some or all of the land features and maritime territory in the South China Sea. One notable aspect of the South China Sea dispute is that its advocates argue past one another with little reference to a common set of facts. Another is the absence of comprehensive data on the actions claimants have taken to advance or protect their claims. The Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University (NDU) set out to create a comprehensive database documenting the various tactics pursued by South China Sea claimants over an 18-year timeframe (1995–2013). This paper draws upon that data to analyze what tactics South China Sea claimants are employing and to present some potential considerations for U.S. and allied policymakers. MORE

The Rising Terrorist Threat in Tanzania: Domestic Islamist Militancy and Regional Threats September 1, 2014 — Despite its reputation for peace and stability in a troubled region, the East African country of Tanzania is experiencing a rising number of militant Islamist attacks that have targeted local Christian leaders and foreign tourists, as well as popular bars and restaurants. These attacks, which began in 2012, rarely make the headlines of international media. However, they should serve as a wake-up call for U.S. policymakers to increase short-term engagement with Tanzanian officials and support for Tanzanian security agencies to preempt the emergence of a more significant threat to U.S. and international interests in East Africa. MORE

Strategy and Force Planning in a Time of Austerity May 1, 2014 — On February 13, 1989, General Colin Powell, who was in a transition between National Security Advisor and Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, addressed the reality of strategy: “All of the sophisticated talk about grand strategy is helpful, but show me your budgets and I will tell you what your strategy is.” What General Powell meant is that the definition of the U.S. role in the world and its strategic goals flow from budgets, not the other way around. This paper fleshes out General Powell’s observation by focusing on the means part of the ends, ways, and means of strategy in order to explain how austerity affects force planning and strategy. By first examining budget reductions as a general matter, the paper describes today’s austere U.S. budgetary environment. It concludes with the current strategic options that will likely characterize the contemporary discussion of strategy and force planning. MORE

Targeted Killing of Terrorists March 1, 2014 — The struggle against terrorism—more specifically, the effort to prevent terrorist attacks—has raised difficult legal and policy issues including so-called targeted killing, or the killing of specific individuals because of their involvement in terrorist organizations and operations. As we shall see, this form of targeted killing involves domestic and international legal authorities and policy and prudential issues. A substantial number of countries confronting what they consider to be terrorist attacks and threats engage in targeted killings. Each has to resolve questions about authorities and prudence because, while terrorists are always criminals, they also may be lawful military targets. The dual character of terrorists leads to the conclusion that, as a matter of policy, a state should weigh the totality of the circumstances and conclude that no other action is reasonable to prevent a terrorist attack before engaging in the targeted killing. Careful analysis in advance may preempt problems later. MORE

The Flawed Strategic Debate on Syria January 1, 2014 — Dating from Bashar al-Asad’s first suppression of mass demonstrations in April 2011, the war in Syria is now 3 years old, has killed more than 130,000 Syrians, and displaced nine million Syrians, two million as refugees into neighboring countries. Foreign intervention has increasingly shaped the course of the fighting and will continue to have substantial regional consequences. The complexity of this bitter, nominally internal struggle has dampened American enthusiasm for joining the fray or even paying much attention to Syria, notwithstanding the chemical weapon attacks on Gouta, east of Damascus, last August, which captured the attention of the American people, media, and policy community. With an international taboo broken and a Presidential redline crossed, public debate spiked in August–September 2013 over U.S. interests in Syria and the limits on what we will do to secure them. Debate did not result in a consensus for action. MORE

The Defense Acquisition Trilemma: The Case of Brazil January 1, 2014 — Brazil is a puzzling new player in the global system. Emerging as a complex international actor, it has come to be seen as a significant economic competitor and dynamic force in world politics. But transformational changes in the economic and political realms have not been accompanied by advances in military power. While Brazil has entered the world stage as an agile soft power exercising influence in setting global agendas and earning a seat at the economic table of policymakers, its military capacity lags. The national security strategy announced under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2008 intended to redress this power gap. President Dilma Rousseff ’s 2011 White Paper—so detailed that it is called a “White Book”—provides the conceptual roadmap to achieve a new military balance. But military modernization is still a work in progress. MORE

Next Steps in Syria December 1, 2013 — Nearly 3 years since the start of the Syrian civil war, no clear winner is in sight. Assassinations and defections of civilian and military loyalists close to President Bashar al-Asad, rebel success in parts of Aleppo and other key towns, and the spread of violence to Damascus itself suggest that the regime is losing ground to its opposition. The tenacity of government forces in retaking territory lost to rebel factions, such as the key town of Qusayr, and attacks on Turkish and Lebanese military targets indicate, however, that the regime can win because of superior military equipment, especially airpower and missiles, and help from Iran and Hizballah. MORE

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