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The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Negotiations: A Case Study
February 24, 2017
— On July 16, 1945, the United States conducted the world’s first nuclear explosive test in Alamagordo, New Mexico. The test went off as planned; a nuclear chain reaction, in the form of an explosion, could be created. Less than a month later, nuclear weapons were used to support Allied efforts to end World War II.
Fifty Shades of Friction Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War
September 8, 2016
— “Four elements make up the climate of war: danger, exertion, uncertainty, and chance,” wrote Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz in his seminal On War. He observed that collectively, those four elements comprised the notion of friction, which he defined as “the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.” Friction has disrupted the implementation of war plans since the dawn of civilization, and despite efforts to minimize its effects, it will continue to do so.
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.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's Decision to Find Iran in Non-Compliance, 2002-2006
December 1, 2012
— On August 14, 2002, at a press conference in Washington, DC, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled Iranian opposition group, drew worldwide attention when it publicly accused Iran of clandestinely developing nuclear weapons. Alireza Jafarzadeh, then-U.S. media spokesperson for the NCRI, described two “top secret” nuclear facilities being constructed in Iran at Natanz and Arak under the guise of front companies involved in the procurement of nuclear material and equipment. Noting that media attention had focused on Iran’s publicly declared civilian facilities, Jafarzadeh claimed that “in reality, there are many secret nuclear programs at work in Iran without knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” the international body responsible for verifying and assuring compliance with safeguards obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives of 1991-1992
September 1, 2012
— On the morning of September 28, 1991, then-Colonel Frank Klotz witnessed an historic moment at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. As he and other senior officers from the base bomber and missile units watched, the crews for the B-1 strategic bombers that had been on alert that day climbed into their cockpits, started the planes, and taxied one after another away from the alert aircraft parking area. That scene was repeated at all 11 Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases in the United States. By the end of the day, there were no U.S. bombers on alert for the first time in over 30 years.
The Iron Triangle Manifested: U.S. Air Force Tanker Lease 2001–2005 Case Study
January 1, 2012
— The proposed lease of the KC–767 tanker aircraft was one of the most infamous procurement scandals of the post–Cold War era. Interactions within the military-industrial-congressional complex led to legislation permitting the Air Force to lease tankers from Boeing using an operating lease rather than standard procurement. Following the outcry from Congress, industry, the media, and numerous watchdog groups, Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) launched a wave of investigations and hearings. During the lease debate, participants reached a number of compromises documented in congressional legislation. However, this was not sufficient to continue the lease process. After nearly 4 years, Congress cancelled the tanker lease and directed the Air Force to pursue a traditional procurement approach.
U.S. Ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention
December 1, 2011
— On October 1, 1990, two months after Iraq’s surprise invasion and annexation of Kuwait had put the United States and other members of the international community on a collision course with the Saddam Hussein regime, President George H.W. Bush spoke to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York. He described Iraq’s brutal aggression against its neighbor as “a throwback to another era, a dark relic from a dark time.” Noting that Saddam Hussein had waged a “genocidal poison gas war” against Iraq’s restive Kurdish minority during the 1980s, President Bush hinted that if it ultimately proved necessary to liberate Kuwait by force, the United States and its allies could face Iraqi attacks with chemical weapons—highly toxic chemicals designed to incapacitate or kill.
The Surge: General Petraeus and the Turnaround in Iraq
December 1, 2010
— When General David H. Petraeus, USA, took command of Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF–I) on February 10, 2007, beginning his 3d tour and 28th month in Iraq, the situation was grim. Increasing sectarian violence had led to an escalation of killings of civilians in Iraq, with up to 150 corpses being found daily in Baghdad.1 The government of Prime Minister Nouri alMaliki was viewed by almost everyone as ineffective at best, and the U.S. military strategy was not well defined and clearly not working. Iraq appeared to be sliding out of control toward civil war or disintegration, and the United States appeared to be headed inexorably toward defeat— another Vietnam. Popular sentiment held that the best course of action was to cut our losses and disengage from a fight we were losing. General George Casey, USA, the outgoing commander of MNF–I, had supported a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces and a handoff of security tasks to Iraqi forces even as the situation got worse
The Origins of Nunn-Lugar and Cooperative Threat Reduction
April 1, 2010
— In a 1999 interview, Ashton Carter, a key figure in helping to create and implement the threat reduction program initiated by Senators Sam Nunn (D–GA) and Richard Lugar (R–IN), recalled four visits between 1994 and 1996 to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) base in Pervomaysk, Ukraine. Planted in the soil of this base were the most powerful rockets mankind has ever made, armed with hundreds of hydrogen bombs and aimed at the United States. In turn, Pervomaysk was itself the target of similar American missiles and weapons. Under the Nunn-Lugar program, the missiles deployed at Pervomaysk by the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces and the silos that housed them were destroyed.
U.S. Withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty
January 1, 2010
— As President George W. Bush made these remarks in a speech at the National Defense University (NDU) on May 1, 2001, National Security Council (NSC) Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation, and Homeland Defense Robert Joseph listened attentively. Within just 4 months of taking office, President Bush was articulating one of his key national security priorities: setting the conditions for the United States to move full steam ahead on developing, testing, and eventually deploying a wide range of missile defense technologies and systems—a priority that in all likelihood would mean U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.