After nearly 2 years of loss in the pandemic, it seems hard to see where we are, where we have been, and certainly where we are going. For the team that publishes this journal, the loss of General Colin Powell to complications from COVID-19 in October was personal. Without his simple tasking in 1993 to develop and implement a journal, Joint Force Quarterly would not exist. Having been the editor in chief now for 11 years, General Powell was on my shoulder every day in spirit, and his vision for what he saw as an important component of jointness has been our team’s guiding force. His loss has been recounted globally in every imaginable form of media, but I do have a short story about when our team met him, and about the wisdom he had that I turned to 22 years ago when searching for words when one of my squadron’s Airmen died in a car crash.
A few years ago, General Powell was scheduled to visit the National Defense University to speak to the students at the colleges here. It had been a few years since his second autobiography had appeared, but his visit had a bit of a book tour feel to it. I reached out to my friend in the NDU Protocol Office to see if my team might meet him. Feeling like we had scored backstage passes at a rock concert, we waited in the room next to the auditorium in Lincoln Hall for the “after speech” meeting. Applause announced the end of the speech and moments later in walked a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former Secretary of State, and the founder of JFQ. I greeted him and then introduced him to the team, and he spent time with each of us, shaking hands, telling stories, and treating us like old friends. The engagement was probably much shorter than I remember, but by the end we each knew we had a new friend who understood what we did and was proud of our work. Our Internet Editor, Joey Seich, had brought a GI Joe figure of General Powell, which he signed and with a wink of his eye said, “You need to sell that on eBay!” Then he turned and moved on to the others in the room, but we all felt blessed to have him as the leader of our JFQ extended family.
In a different setting some 22 years earlier, long before I met General Powell, as a squadron commander I turned to his first autobiography My American Journey as I sought to find the right words to say at a memorial service for one of my Airmen who had died in a car crash. I barely knew Airman Shaun Anderson, having met him only once as he joined the squadron just a few weeks before his death. But I knew he was from New York City, had joined the military to serve his country, and had come from modest means.
It had been a few years since I first read General Powell’s book, but I thought there might be something there. And indeed, there was. Speaking about the United States in the months after President George H.W. Bush lost his bid to be reelected President of the United States, General Powell wrote:
How do we find our way again? How do we reestablish moral standards? How do we end the ethnic fragmentation that is making us an increasingly hyphenated people? How do we restore a sense of family to our national life? On the speech circuit, I tell a story that goes to the heart of America’s longing. The ABC Correspondent Sam Donaldson was interviewing a young African-American soldier in a tank platoon on the eve of battle in Desert Storm. Donaldson asked, “How do you think the battle will go? Are you afraid?” “We’ll do okay. We’re well trained. And I’m not afraid,” the GI answered, gesturing toward his buddies around him. “I’m not afraid because I’m with my family.” The other soldiers shouted, “Tell him again. He didn’t hear you.” The soldier repeated: “This is my family and we’ll take care of each other.”
General Powell’s book was seen by many as his way of preparing for a potential Presidential run of his own, which was not to be. But he felt this story was what we as a nation should be seeking, to achieve what he felt as a Soldier, what all of us who have served may have felt at some time, that we were a part of a family, part of something bigger than ourselves. He wrote, “We have to start thinking of America as a family. We have to stop screeching at each other, stop hurting each other, and instead start caring for, sacrificing for, and sharing with each other . . . and get back to the can-do attitude that made America.” General Powell saw a better future for Americans more than a quarter-century ago. It remains a worthy goal for all of us.
Turning toward our current issue, concerns about China’s military rise have been a consistent theme in JFQ, along with how we might gain insights on this activity by improving intelligence methods. Hypersonic missiles present an important addition of both defenses and threats to the world’s military capabilities, and Bruce Sugden, who wrote an excellent article recently on nuclear challenges in the Texas National Security Review, gives us his views on where these weapons fit in warfighting. James Kwoun next suggests design thinking across the Intelligence Community could increase the value of analysis. Tracking another area of concern about China, we also offer a thoughtful article by JohnRoss Wendler on the impact of China’s propaganda during the early days of the pandemic.
Like the general education environment of the United States, our joint professional military education colleges have continued their missions by adapting to the reality of virtual, high-flex, and mask-to-mask methods of teaching. As we use our creative thinking skills to cope, Jeffrey Berejikian, Zachary Zwald, Samantha Jane Daly, and Jeffrey Hannon have done some interesting research into how military officers’ beliefs drive decisionmaking when information available to them is limited. Derek Reveron, along with his Naval War College partners James Cook and Ross Coffey, offer some interesting new thoughts on how regional strategy should be developed to address globalized threats.
In Commentary, Kyleigh Cullen suggests several ways the Department of Defense could more fully comply with the Women, Peace, and Security Act, which seems far overdue. As Russia ramps up pressure on Ukraine, the United States has provided support to this partner nation, and a team of experts from U.S. European Command—Gary Espinas, Tigran Mikaelian, and Michael McCarthy—describes how our government can sustain that support through increased institutional capacity-building.
In Features, we present three articles on markedly different subjects. Graham Jenkins offers a valuable primer for planners and those who lead joint operations on the need for securing overflight permissions. As the joint force struggles to attract and retain women in the ranks, Benjamin Ramsey sees retention of these valuable teammates as essential to readiness. Joel Wuthnow, a close colleague of ours here at NDU, discusses options for Taiwan’s defense through a competitive strategy lens. Finally, the team of Samir Deshpande, Amy Adler, Susan Proctor, Vincent Capaldi, James McClung, Toby Elliman, and Deydre Teyhen offers us a look at how the health of the joint force, our preparation for pandemics of the future, and multidomain operations are interconnected.
Our Recall article brings us another excellent contribution to the modern interpretation of one of the least famous of the campaigns of World War II. Jessica Pisano presents a fresh take on the American operations in the Aleutian Islands through the lens of jointness to see how it might have gone better—and in turn leaving today’s joint force with a reminder of how difficult fighting in the Arctic region can be, especially without proper planning and execution. With improving jointness in mind, keeping up with developments in joint doctrine is easier with our Joint Doctrine Update. And as we do every issue, we present another excellent set of book reviews. Thank you for being a part of General Powell’s JFQ family.
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NDU Press produces Joint Force Quarterly in concert with ongoing education and research at National Defense University in support of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. JFQ is the Chairman's joint military and security studies journal designed to inform and educate national security professionals on joint and integrated operations; whole of government contributions to national security policy and strategy; homeland security; and developments in training and joint military education to better equip America's military and security apparatus to meet tomorrow's challenges while protecting freedom today.