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Category: Policy Briefs

Sept. 1, 2014

The Rising Terrorist Threat in Tanzania: Domestic Islamist Militancy and Regional Threats

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.

May 1, 2014

Strategy and Force Planning in a Time of Austerity

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.

March 1, 2014

Targeted Killing of Terrorists

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.

Jan. 1, 2014

The Flawed Strategic Debate on Syria

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.

Jan. 1, 2014

The Defense Acquisition Trilemma: The Case of Brazil

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.

Dec. 1, 2013

Next Steps in Syria

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.

July 1, 2013

Sharing to Succeed: Lessons from Open Information-sharing Projects in Afghanistan

The sharing of information in complex civil-military operations is important, yet actors rarely do it well. U.S. and allied military forces must be able to communicate, collaborate, and exchange information effectively with the local populations they seek to influence, or they cannot achieve the goals for which they have been committed. Nonetheless, experience from stability operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, numerous humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions, and efforts to build the capacity of foreign partners suggest that effective information-sharing is much harder than might be expected. This paper sheds light on the difficulties of setting up and sustaining projects to share information in such situations and suggests ways to do better in the future.

July 1, 2013

Valued Sustainable Services: Building Partnership Capacity Through Collaborating Approaches

The Valued Sustainable Services (ValSServ) concept is an approach to building the capacity of local populations. It emphasizes the interdependency among telecommunications, reliable power, and information-sharing support, and encourages projects to be developed in integrated packages rather than in stove-piped lines of effort. ValSServ focuses on bottom-up projects in complex civil-military operations that can be funded, planned, and executed at local levels, while being consistent with top-down national and theater strategies. It takes a system-of-systems approach, recognizing that successful projects can generate positive ripple effects in local environments and throughout extended networks. This paper focuses on ValSServ within the wide range of U.S. Department of Defense operating environments, such as capacity-building to help shape peacetime conditions in partner nations, post-disaster recovery, and helping to move from the “hold” to the “build” phases in counterinsurgency operations.