5 June 2014

New Documents Reveal the Chaos Inside the Chinese Army Before the Tiananmen Square Massacre

June 2, 2014
25 Years Later, Details Emerge of Army’s Chaos Before Tiananmen Square
Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley
New York Times

Residents and soldiers on the street in Beijing on June 6, 1989 after the crackdown on protesters. Credit LIU Heung Shing/Associated Press BEIJING — On a spring evening in 1989, with the student occupation of Tiananmen Square entering its second month and the Chinese leadership unnerved and divided, top army commanders were summoned to headquarters to pledge their support for the use of military force to quash the protests.

One refused.

In a stunning rebuke to his superiors, Maj. Gen. Xu Qinxian, leader of the mighty 38th Group Army, said the protests were a political problem, and should be settled through negotiations, not force, according to new accounts of his actions from researchers who interviewed him.

“I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history,” he told Yang Jisheng, a historian.

Although General Xu was soon arrested, his defiance sent shudders through the party establishment, fueling speculation of a military revolt and heightening the leadership’s belief that the student-led protests were nothing less than an existential threat to the Communist Party.

The new details of the general’s defiance and the tremors it set off are among a series of disclosures about the intrigue inside the Chinese military preceding the bloody crackdown in Beijing on June 3 and 4, 1989, some contained in army documents spirited out of China in recent years, and others revealed in interviews with party insiders, former soldiers and other people directly involved in the events 25 years ago.

Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party general secretary, spoke with student protesters in Tiananmen Square on May 19, 1989. Mr. Zhao’s aide, Wen Jiabao, second from right, is now China’s prime minister. Credit Xinhua, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Contrary to rumors at the time, the documents show that army units did not fight one another. But they show that General Xu’s stand against the threatened use of lethal force fanned leaders’ fears that the military could be dragged into the political schisms and prompted party elders to mobilize an enormous number of troops.

Even after a quarter century, the night of bloodshed remains one of the most delicate subjects in Chinese politics, subjected to unrelenting attempts by the authorities to essentially erase it from history. Yet even now, new information is emerging that modifies the accepted understanding of that divisive event.

At the time, Deng Xiaoping, the party patriarch who presided over the crackdown, praised the military for its unflinching loyalty, and the image of a ruthlessly obedient army lingers even in some foreign accounts. But the military speeches and reports composed before June 4 that year, and in the months after, show soldiers troubled by misgivings, confusion, rumors and regrets about the brutal task assigned to them.

Why Is China Interested in a Volatile Yemen?

China’s stake in the Middle East has prompted it to expand relations with the region’s most vulnerable country.
By Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
June 04, 2014

With much to gain from a growing presence in the Middle East, Beijing is making an all-out effort tostrengthen its foothold there, including the most volatile countries of the region. Although not widely reported, China-Yemen relations exemplify this trend.

China’s diplomatic ties with Yemen, a country that ousted its leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 during the Arab Spring, started in September 24, 1956. Despite an ongoing al Qaeda-linked insurgency, widespread poverty, and severe water shortages, the relationship between the two countries has grown rapidly over the past years.

The oil business has unquestionably been the primary axis around which Beijing-Sana’a relations revolve. Although Yemen has fewer petroleum resources than its neighbors, China’s growing energy needs are raising the profile and importance of all petroleum producers, including marginal producers such as Yemen. This is perhaps the main reason Chinese companies continue to expand their operations in Yemen, in spite of growing insecurity and other issues facing the country. Over the past few years, there have been several oil exploration and production agreements between the two countries. Since 2005, Chinese state owned enterprise Sinopec Corp has been operating in Yemen’s exploration and production sectors. Today, along with another Chinese company Sinochem Corp, Sinopec has a combined equity production of approximately 20,000 barrels per day, eight percent of Yemen’s total production.

For the Chinese, Yemen offers a way to access untapped consumer markets for its exports, as well as lucrative investments. The government in Beijing has been encouraging Chinese companies to start investing in Yemen. Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has been operating in Yemen since 1999. The two countries have also established several cooperative projects, such as the Chinese-Yemeni steel company Star.

Interestingly, China’s economic footprint in Yemen is most pronounced in the development and construction sectors. Historically, China was one of the earliest foreign countries to participate in Yemen’s development projects. As early as the 1950s, Beijing took part in the construction of a 266 km road between Sana’a and Hodeidah. This involvement has continued, and in 2012 China National Corporation for Overseas Economic Cooperation (CCOEC) agreed to develop three natural gas-fired power plants in the country. In addition, China recently agreed to help build four 5,000 megawatt power plants using coal and diesel in the cities of Belhaf and Ma’abar. According to the agreement, the Chinese were also responsible for the installation of power cables and Safeer-Ma’abar gas pipeline. Last year, Beijing was also selected in a $508 million project to expand two container ports in Aden and Mokha, in which China reportedly agreed to also provide a soft loan to finance the projects.

Arresting China's Slowdown: The Search for Sustainable Growth

OP-ED JUNE 3, 2014


Expanding the role of the private sector and encouraging efficient urbanization has the potential to sustain Chinese GDP growth of at least 7 percent for the remainder of the decade.

There are no signs that China’s slowdown has bottomed out. A turnround would require some combination of a pickup in investment, exports or consumption in the midst of current efforts to deleverage and this is unlikely to happen soon. More than a decade ago during the Asian financial crisis, China was able to revive growth despite a similarly severe debt problem by tapping buoyant global markets facilitated by its accession to the World Trade Organisation.

But circumstances this time are different. The recovery in the US and Europe continues to be tepid with both parties needing to generate stronger trade balances to support their recoveries. Thus any bounce in exports is likely to be modest and China will face continuing pressures to scale back its trade surpluses with negative consequences for industrial production.


The most significant growth dampener, however, will be a stagnant property market. It will take a year or more to reduce the excess stock of housing. Construction and real estate activities account for about 13 per cent of gross domestic product but linkages with other activities magnify the economic consequences.

Many see a crisis coming because of the fivefold increase in property prices over the past decade. China is different, however, because a national urban property market only emerged about a decade ago after housing was privatised and local authorities began to sell land for commercial development. Much of this seemingly outlandish price increase is not a “bubble” in the usual sense but the result of market forces trying to establish intrinsic values for an asset previously hidden in the socialist system.

But price increases over the past several years have gone too far. A hint of what might be sustainable is when property prices dipped in 2011/12 and then rebounded and continued to rise unlike a typical property bubble. Taking the early 2012 levels as a proxy for sustainable levels, property prices might decline by about 10-20 per cent as part of a forthcoming adjustment. Such a decline would not have an appreciable impact on household balance sheets given their low leverage and accumulated equity, although some developers will sink because of carrying costs.

Beijing's ‘China Threat’ Theory

China refuses to acknowledge that its neighbors might have legitimate reasons for concern. 
June 03, 2014

By now, even causal Asia watchers know that the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore got a little testy. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned about China’s provocations and lack of respect for international law. China’s representative, deputy chief of the PLA general staff Wang Guanzhong, fired back, accusing the U.S. and Japan of coordinating their remarks to smear China.

While the accusations and counter-accusations on display at Shangri-La were predictable, they can still be useful in understanding an underlying problem — namely, China’s “China threat” theory. This idea, which is alluded to by Chinese officials throughout the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Defense, suggests that nefarious forces in the U.S. and Japan are hyping the “China threat” to achieve their own political goals.

In the case of U.S. politicians, the motivation is assumed to be positioning candidates to win the next election, as one post-Shangri-La Xinhua commentary mentioned. Another theory goes that the “China threat” is an excuse to help defense industry insiders keep the power and prestige they gained during the Cold War by creating a new existential threat supposedly facing the U.S. Meanwhile, Chinese analysts assume that Shinzo Abe and his supporters have manufactured the “China threat” so that they can proceed with their long-held dream of remilitarizing Japan.

There may be some truth to these ideas, of course. But the problem with Beijing’s “China threat” theory is that is utterly discounts the possibility that other countries might actually feel threatened by China’s actions. Wang himself, speaking to Chinese reporters, dismissed the idea of a “China threat” as “completely baseless and completely without merit.” In other words, the “China threat” theory absolves the Chinese government of any and all blame for concerns stemming from the use of Chinese power, both economic and military.
Chinese, Vietnamese Coast Guard Boats Collide
A collision between coast guard vessels from the two countries indicates a minor escalation.
June 04, 2014

The stand-off between China and Vietnam over the former’s decision to place an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea escalated on Tuesday when a Chinese coast guard ship rammed a Vietnamese coast guard ship. The Vietnamese vessel allegedly suffered several “gashes” in its metal hull according to the Wall Street Journal. No Vietnamese sailors were injured and the boat did not sink. The incident reflects a sort of escalation in the dispute. While a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese civilian vessel (a fishing boat) last month, Tuesday’s incident is a case of two coast guard ships from the two countries becoming involved in a physical altercation. In another incident, a Chinese vessel fired a water cannon at a Vietnamese ocean inspection ship. No naval assets from either side were involved in either exchange.

So far, neither Vietnamese nor Chinese officials have commented on the incident. The initial report comes courtesy of a Vietnamese TV news station VTV1. According to the WSJ, “TV footage appeared to show a Chinese law-enforcement ship pursuing the Vietnamese vessel and dousing it with a water hose, before crashing into its right side.” The latest statement by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei on the issue places the blame on Hanoi. ”China has been asking Vietnam all along to stop its interference with the drilling activities,” he said. “Vietnam continues to conduct ramming activities. Vietnam is creating tension and violating international law.” China maintains that it is operating the oil rig in waters that fall under its sovereignty under its nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea; consistent with that claim, it alleges that Vietnam is the aggressor.

A statement from the Vietnamese government will likely be forthcoming on the ramming. When a Chinese ship sank a Vietnamese fishing boat on May 26, Vietnam condemned China for what it called an “inhuman action.” This latest incident suggests that China remains content to use moderate kinetic force against Vietnamese civilian and coast guard vessels. While this can be considered a sort of escalation, the conflict has not yet reached the point where either country feels comfortable using naval assets. China has several PLA Navy ships in the vicinity of the oil rig as it explores the waters in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Vietnam, for its part, has a relatively robust navy including Russian Kilo-class submarines.

US-China: The Problem with Congagement

3 June 2014
Amit Saksena
Research Intern, IPCS 
E-mail: amit.saksena@ymail.com

Over the past two decades, China has grown exponentially, both in military prowess and economic might. The US, one of the major contributing factors to China’s rise, now realises the importance of countering this advancement. But is its policy of ‘congagement’, apt for the issue at hand? 

Inconsistent Engagement

Over the past decade, the US maintained a policy of ‘engagement’ towards China. This has in fact been a tactic to hedge its own bets, without getting into the primary context. Militarily, Washington has been facilitating Beijing’s participation in multilateral defense exercises such as the Cobra Gold and RIMPAC, thus coming clean and allowing China to gauge US intentions in the region. Economically, the US has granted China the Most Favoured Nation status, thereby reducing export control policies and allowing Beijing to operate relatively freely in the US markets. 

Washington has tried to maximise bilateral ties while keeping existing disputes in control. Simultaneously, the US continuously tries to bring China into various arms control regimes dealing with WMDs, proliferation, arms trade, etc., and also into international regimes such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Bilaterally, Washington has tried to involve Beijing in the regional issues regarding North Korea, and may also invite it to assist with Iran. 

While there can be several intended results from this relationship, the most practical and favorable outcome is that of Beijing’s integration into the international system. If China gets as engaged in international relations as most other Western nations, the probability of a military intervention by Beijing decreases. This is because the leadership in Beijing understands the benefits the current ‘rules of the game’ have to offer, and also to avoid doing anything that would scuttle its own off-shore interests. 

However, engagement is a relatively flawed policy, as it does not offer advice on what needs to be done, in the event of Beijing not adhering to current international norms. The primary assumption – engaging China on the international stage as a primary actor, to change its outlook towards a positive direction – is an a priori concept. Should this prove to be incorrect, engagement would have only assisted China in becoming a more threatening adversary in the future. 

Containment: Boon or a Bane?

Containment is seen as a more realistic approach of dealing with a powerful China in the future. Under this policy, all elements of the US-China relationship would be subservient to the primary objective: preventing China’s growth. This would entail drastically reducing US-China trade agreements, particularly insuring non-proliferation of technology and military development. Furthermore, Washington will have to enhance its regional presence in the Asia-Pacific, engaging with other nation states in the region, into forming an ‘anti-China’ alliance. The US would also have to convince other potential political and security partners into limiting their diplomatic and trade relations with China.

A thaw in Saudi-Iran relations?

Kanchi Gupta
02 June 2014

Since President Rouhani's election, Iran has made considerable effort towards 'constructive engagement' with the Gulf Cooperation Council. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE soon after his appointment. President Rouhani also visited Oman and signed an agreement to build a gas pipeline across the Gulf. Despite Rouhani's calls for improvement in Riyadh-Tehran relations, Saudi Arabia - followed by Bahrain - has resisted Iran's diplomatic overtures until now. However, Riyadh recently extended an invitation to Tehran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, indicating towards a possible thaw in relations. In this scenario, let us examine the scope of Saudi-Iran relations and US attempts to balance the regional security architecture against a US-Iran nuclear detente. 

On May 13, 2014, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal announced Riyadh's readiness to negotiate with Iran and resolve differences between the two Gulf States. He said that "anytime (Zarif) sees fit to come, we are willing to receive him"1. Iran welcomed the development stating that while no written invitation had been received, "a plan for the two ministers to meet is on the agenda"2. 

This declaration came just short of another round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and P5 +1 in Vienna. Saudi Arabia's announcement coincided with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Riyadh for the US-GCC Strategic Defence Dialogue. Hagel stressed on US-GCC and intra-GCC military cooperation in order to counter Iran's "destabilising activities" and its efforts to undermine GCC stability3. At the Manama Dialogue in December last year, he had stated that the nuclear deal with Iran does not mean that "the threat from Iran is over"4.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry welcomed this development and said that the US had nothing to do with the invitation. He stated that the US was pleased to see Saudi Arabia engaged in diplomacy even though there is "longstanding difficulty in that relationship" (with Iran). "We hope that it might be able to produce something with respect to one of the several conflicts in which the Iranians could have an impact"5. 

The United States is making considerable efforts to reassure the Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, of its commitment to the security of the region. As they have pursued nuclear negotiations with Iran, the US has maintained that the "military option is on the table" if the diplomatic route is unsuccessful. At the Manama Dialogue, Hagel listed US military assets in the region and stated that the US has sought to "shift the military balance of the region away from Iran and in favour of our Gulf partners". Even now the emphasis will be on building their military capabilities, not just through bilateral relationships with the US but also through stronger integration within the GCC. 

The US attempted to mitigate the differences within the GCC through the US-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum (SCF) launched in March 2012. This framework aims to enhance "coordination of policies which advance shared political, military, security and economic objectives" and "deepen the close relations between the two sides". The third communiqué of SCF reiterates commitments towards US-GCC coordination on an integrated Ballistic Missile Defence system and improving GCC unity in defence planning and procurement of weapons and technology6.

Ten days after the Manama Dialogue, President Barack Obama issued a directive selling weapons to the GCC states -- mainly missile defence systems under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act. The US, therefore, dealt with the GCC States as a bloc for the first time, instead of selling weapons systems to individual nations within the council7. In March 2014, President Obama visited Riyadh to assuage fears of US retrenchment from the region. 

Space Power: A Personal Theory of Power

The Buttress of the Modern Military

This essay, provided by a space policy professional with a background in the field’s history and who wishes to remain anonymous, is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.


The United States possesses the world’s leading military. It has the most sophisticated air, land, sea, and, now, cyber forces and wields them in such a manner such that no single nation, barring the employment of total nuclear war, approaches its destructive capability.

America’s military power in these realms is identifiable. Fighter jets, bombs, tanks, submarines, ships, and more — these are all synonymous with the Nation’s warfighting portfolio. And in the modern world, even though we cannot see a cyber attack coming, we can certainly see its results — as with the alleged Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. To the public, these tools together are America’s “stick” on the global stage, for whatever purpose its leaders deem necessary.

Space is different. There are no bombs raining from orbit, and no crack special forces deploying from orbital platforms. The tide of battle is never turned by the sudden appearance of a satellite overhead. In fact, no one in the history of war has ever been killed by a weapon from space. There are actually no weapons in space nor will there be any in the foreseeable future.
Yet, America is the world’s space power. The Nation’s strength in the modern military era is dependent on its space capabilities.

Yet, America is the world’s space power. The Nation’s strength in the modern military era is dependent on its space capabilities. Space is fundamentally different than air, sea, land, and cyber power, and at the same time inextricably tied to them. It buttresses, binds, and enhances all of those visible modes of power. America cannot conduct war without space.

Simply, space is inherently a medium, as with air, land, sea, and cyber, and space power is the ability to use or deny the use by others of that medium. The United States Air Force (USAF) defines military space power as a “capability” to utilize [space-based] assets towards fulfilling national security needs.[1] In this, space is similar to other forms of military projection. But, its difference comes in how it is measured. When viewed in this context, space power is thus the aggregate of a nation’s abilities to establish, access, and leverage its orbital assets to further all other forms of national power.

Cyber Power: A Personal Theory of Power

Opportunity, Leverage, and Yet…Just Power

This essay is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

Cyberspace is enabling new forms of communication, influence, awareness, and power for people around the world. Families use cyberspace to communicate face-to-face over great distances. Financial institutions execute global business and commodity trades at the speed of light through the cyberspace domain. The world’s citizens are granted unprecedented access to information, facilitating more awareness and understanding than at any time in history. Yet the same cooperative domain that fosters so much good for mankind also offers a tremendous source of power. The antithesis of the mutually beneficial electronic environment is a cyberspace where competition and fear overshadow collaboration. This conundrum, however, is not new. Hobbes, in his fundamental law of nature, warns, “That every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps and advantages of Warre.”[i] Cyberspace will continue to civilize. As the domain matures, however, so too will the forces that aim to use the cyberspace domain to project power.
Hobbes’ Leviathan

Before diving into the concept of cyber power, one must first frame the term power itself. Power, in its most basic form equates to might: the ability to compel a person or group to acquiesce through force. Thucydides captured this concept in his artful depiction of the Melian Dialog, penning the famous phrase, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”[ii] Hobbes, too, warned that power possessed is power to be used, suggesting every man lives in a state of constant competition with every other man.[iii] In this way, power is the ultimate arbiter, framing both what a man can do and what he should do in the same breath.

The close cousin to might is coercion. Thomas Schelling suggests “Coercion requires finding a bargain, arranging for him to be better off doing what we want — worse off not doing what we want — when he takes the threatened penalty into account.”[iv] Unlike a strategy centered on might, coercion requires insight. Military strategists and theorists who emerged from the Cold War coalesced around a single basic tenet of coercion: one must attempt to thoroughly understand an adversary before coercion can succeed.[v] Hearkening Sun Tzu’s notion that one must “know the enemy,” this community of great minds suggests in-depth analysis helps determine the bargaining chips in the coercion chess match.[vi]

Air Power: A Personal Theory of Power

Annihilation, Attrition, and Temporal Paralysis

This essay is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

There is insight in exploring the unique advantages of each domain. And the speed, reach, height, ubiquity, agility, and concentration advantages of air power allow us to focus on how best it can be used.[1] This essay will contrast the usage of air warfare via annihilation and attrition to highlight a third way, paralysis. One of the principal advantages of air power is its ability to create the temporal effect of paralysis. While it is not wholly unique from other forms of power in this capacity, it is better at it than most due to the combination of its unique advantages. Admittedly, this is a narrow look at paralysis via air power, but one that demands a point of departure from previous conceptualizations of its factors and uses.

Defining Air Power

The definition of air power has eluded strategists since man first tasted flight. The most important aspect of defining is that we must avoid conflation with niche capabilities, missions, or even processes that are related to its practice. “To be adequate,” as Colin Gray suggests, “a characterization or definition of air power must accommodate, end to end, the total process that produces a stream of combat and combat support aircraft.”[2] My definition of air power is the act of achieving strategic effect via the air.[3] Air power contributes to compounded strategic effect via annihilation, attrition, and paralysis.

Categorization and Explanation

Hans Delbrück, in History of the Art of War, describes two Clausewitzian strategies of warfare. The first is focused upon the annihilation of one’s adversary. The second, exhaustion, is more circumspect in its limited aims. Both are clearly subordinate to the idea that “war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means.”[4] Delbrück extended these intoNiederwerfungsstrategie (the strategy of annihilation) and Ermattungsstrategie (the strategy of exhaustion, attrition). The former’s sole aim is the decisive battle, where the latter is understood to have more than one concern, which is a spectrum between both battle and maneuver with the aim of exhausting the adversary. Delbrück’s History suggests that neither annihilation nor exhaustion are inferior to one another, and that attrition is not the mere avoidance of battle. But he was emphatic that these strategies were subordinate and subject to the Clausewitzian general theory.[5]

Berliners watching a C-54 land at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, 1948.

(Wikimedia Commons)

While Clausewitz was, of course, focused on the land domain, air power has proven useful in both annihilation and attrition. The Desert Storm “Highways of Death” provides a useful example of the application of air power towards annihilation. And the best example of air power’s application of attrition is one where it denied exhaustion: the Berlin airlift, with over 277,000 flights in a period of 15 months lifted 2.3 million total tons of supplies. In either case, was the application of air power uniquely responsible for strategic effect? No. In both cases — and in most every case — other forms of power aided the outcome via force, or the threat of force. But outside the Delbrückian dichotomy, there is a third way for to create strategic effect — paralysis.
…the lasting effect of paralysis, like shock, is fleeting. A permanent state of paralysis is an unsustainable (and unacceptable) political objective…

Could Asymmetric Warfare “Sink” the U.S. Navy?

May 27, 2014

As the conflict in Ukraine continues to evolve, it’s time to reflect on what tactics were successful in the early Crimea campaign. One event in particular should serve as a wakeup call for US naval strategists. In March, pro-Russian forces sunk two ships in the narrow channel that connects Ukraine’s Southern Naval Base to the Black Sea. With the entrance blocked, several Ukrainian ships were trapped in Donuzlav Bay.

American ships are not adequately prepared for this tactic, and would have been hard-pressed to escape the bay. In the open sea, US Navy ships are powerful actors, protecting sea-lanes and projecting American power abroad. Near shore, however, their advantage is lost and they are vulnerable to asymmetric attacks. The US Navy must put more resources into preparing for and countering this sort of unconventional threat.

The tactic was startlingly simple. Early in the morning of March 6, pro-Russian forces intentionally sank the decommissioned Russian cruiser Ochakov in the navigation channel separating Donuzlav Bay from the Black Sea; one day later, they scuttled a second, smaller ship. The sunkenOchakov easily blocked the narrow, shallow waterway—lying on its side on the seabed, 50 percent of its hull was exposed above water.

With the channel blocked, the Ukrainian ships were trapped and all but defenseless: all six were eventually boarded and taken over. The minesweeper Cherkasy heroically struggled to the end and its final efforts to free itself provide additional insight.

The Cherkasy attempted to affix its stern towline to the bow of the smaller sunken vessel. Presumably, the captain sought to pull it out of the channel and open an escape route. His challenge was that the Cherkasy’s tow system, like those on the majority of US Navy vessels, is designed to tow afloat vessels – not the waterlogged ships blocking his escape. The Cherkasy was unable to move the sunken vessel and after a few hours of circling in the harbor, its captain negotiated his ship’s surrender.

Russian Special Forces are assumed to have carried out the Ukrainian operation, but there is nothing inherently difficult in scuttling a ship to block a channel. Most well trained irregular soldiers have the capacity to carry out such an operation: they could simply hijack a commercial ship and sink it to blockade US ships in port. Currently, there is no way to quickly extricate a sunken ship, leaving trapped warships bottled up and assailable.

A Reflection on the “Personal Theories of Power”

The Power of Motivation and Relationships

This is the final post in the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

When Rich Ganske first mentioned the idea of writing about personal theories of power, I wasn’t immediately on board. I viewed it as a lot of work for a few posts, mostly done by friends who would provide content out of loyalty. I could not have been more wrong. With Rich heading the concept, we quickly sketched out some possible topics people could cover. Air power and land power, of course…we could each cover those. We then started thinking about others that tended to inhabit the blogosphere and might be willing to produce some interesting ideas. We knew more than a few eloquent navalists, so sea power would be covered. They also provided us with a valuable link to another great blogging organization, the Center for International Maritime Security, which agreed to cross-post the articles, opening up another avenue to a well-informed audience. With the domains largely addressed, we then took a different tact; we came up with writers first, allowing them to develop their own topics…ending up with 16 possible posts. We expected to actually deliver 4-5 by the short deadline provided. Fourteen arrived for publication, including:

And for those that are counting, Rich Ganske did provide 3 posts for this series (including his opening)…he was that committed. While the quantity of the posts was truly unexpected, the quality was what impressed me. The authors truly took the time to think through their desired topics and addressed their views on them. It probably didn’t hurt that the authors were either in the midst of studying the topic or immersed in it from day to day.

What really made this project a success, at least in my mind, was the obvious enthusiasm and professionalism the participants displayed. How many people do you know would volunteer time out of their already busy schedules to study, write, edit, and format a piece on theory? How many people do you know would find not only value in such a pursuit, but be excited about it? Are these people you already know? Could you call them out of the blue and make such a request?

The End of IR Theory as we Know it, Again

June 4, 2014 
Randall Schweller, Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple: Global Discord in the New Millennium (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)

The study of international relations (IR) has produced a heavy body count. From formal rational choice theory to the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention,” nearly every theory that has been utilized to explain international outcomes has also been declared dead, fatally flawed, or otherwise in danger of impending demise. The life of an IR theory is truly nasty, brutish, and short. Scholars periodically check even well-established theories for a pulse. More recently, however, some political scientists have advanced a broader claim: traditional IR theory itself is dead.

The end of traditional IR theory does not mean that IR scholars will cease to theorize. On the contrary, new theories will be necessary to replace old ones that have been rendered irrelevant by a changing international system. According to proponents of this argument, traditional IR theories—often divided into three broad classes of realism, liberalism, and constructivism—have yielded much internecine fighting and little theoretical progress. The field made war, but war did not make the field much better. IR theory thus failed to keep up with a rapidly evolving international system. So say the heralds of traditional IR theory’s death.

In Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple: Global Disorder in the New Millennium, Randall Schweller makes his entry into this debate, arguing in support of the thesis that IR theory as we know it is finished. While acknowledging that previous declarations to this effect have proven premature, he warns that, “The sky may indeed be falling this time.” An extension of a 2010 article, the argument is couched in terms familiar to students of IR. Anarchy, polarity, and other such fixations of IR scholars are well represented here, and given Schweller’s contributions to the realist tradition, his sympathy for that school of thought will come as no surprise. More central to the argument than any particular concept from IR theory, however, is a novel scientific metaphor.

Schweller utilizes the second law of thermodynamics, which states that closed systems tend toward maximum entropy, to contend that the international system is now heading in that direction. Though entropy has been defined differently in various fields, Schweller delineates two principal conceptions of entropy. Thermodynamic entropy is defined as the tendency of energy to be “converted into irrecoverable forms” as work is performed; as information entropy increases, a system “can be composed of a greater number of specific configurations, and accordingly it reveals less information” about the units within that system. Schweller relates thermodynamic entropy to the structure of the international system and information entropy to international processes. Rising structural entropy thus lowers structural constraints, and rising process-level entropy makes unit interactions less predictable.

Does Bowe Bergdahl's release signal an end to the 'war on terror'?

The deal to swap a US soldier for five Taliban prisoners may be evidence of the pragmatism underlying Obama's foreign policy

2 June 2014

A US army handout of Bowe Bergdahl before his capture. ‘It is not that the US has refused to deal with dubious groups in the past. It may have done, but deniability was always enshrined in the terms.'

What strikes you first is the human predicament. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was detained for five years, the last US citizen to be held captive by the Afghan Taliban. His parents had still not seen him when they appeared before the cameras in the sort of flags-and-family scene American television and politics love. His father – with his huge bushy beard and ponytail, hardly a photofit of your standard US serviceman's dad – suggested that his son might have to learn to speak English again and would need time to "decompress"; "if he comes up too fast, it could kill him".

Difficult though Bergdahl's reintegration into the western world will doubtless be, though, the politics threaten to be many times more complicated. Sparks of controversy flew as soon as his liberation was announced – for the return of this American prodigal son (some reports suggest he deserted) was the product of a deal; a prisoner exchange, no less, which may make it unprecedented in recent American diplomacy. And to say that it was not universally welcomed is to put it mildly.

It is not that the US has refused to deal with dubious characters and groups in the recent past. It may have done, but deniability was always enshrined in the terms. Here we have a deal, sanctioned by President Obama, under which one US soldier has been officially released in exchange for the five most senior Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

This goes far beyond talking to the Taliban – itself hugely controversial in the US throughout the war in Afghanistan. For senior Republicans, including Senator John McCain – but not just for them – this amounts to treating with terrorists, even betraying the sacred memory of those killed on 9/11. It is something the United States did not, and would not, do.

Republicans also suspect that Obama – not an adroit congressional operator hitherto – of pulling a fast one by not giving Congress due notice.

The more farsighted may also discern the writing on the wall for Guantánamo itself. If five of its most "high value" occupants can be released with only the administration's say-so, Obama may yet be able to honour his recently repeated promise to close the place he regards as "unconstitutional" before he leaves office. There will simply be no one worth keeping there any longer.

In this way, the exchange may be seen as a sign – one of the most convincing yet – of the pragmatism that underlies the president's much-criticised foreign policy. It is about as far from the trigger-happy dogmatism of George Bush as it is possible to be; proof positive that the whole concept of the "war on terror" is no more. At the same time, it should be observed that this is something that probably only a second-term president could even contemplate, however pragmatic he wanted to be.

Obama might also cite in his support the periodic (and often numerically one-sided) exchanges negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, which say so much about the value Israelis place on the lives of their own.

Joint Action: A Personal Theory of Power

This essay is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint Bridge-CIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy.

Despite the historical success of joint action, many professional warriors and strategists continually debate which military function is most decisive in the termination of war. Even today, some question whether it is indeed worth the effort to work through the complications of combining competing strategies into effective joint action. My personal theory of joint action proposes an artful blend of both sequential and cumulative strategies to conduct unified operations that most effectively achieve our national objectives. Strategic effect is reduced when either cumulative or sequential strategies are parochially subordinated to the other, since there is no single, decisive function, service, or role in war.

Landing Craft Utility 1633, departs the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) with vehicles assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) after a stern gate marriage. Ashland is part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is conducting joint force amphibious operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Raymond D. Diaz)

The Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986drastically changed how the US military operates. Most importantly, it required the military services to interact jointly by force of law. This legal requirement for joint operations is necessary; but is by itself insufficient to build a compelling basis for joint collaboration, integration, and interdependence. While there has been much ink spilt over the normative force of Goldwater-Nichols, few have explored the theoretical basis for joint interdependence since Sir Julian Corbett.[1] This essay attempts to expand Corbett’s theoretical foundation that gives the law its conceptual footing.

What is Jointness?

Joint action, or jointness, is the creation of complementary strategic effect across all domains towards a shared political objective. Achieving a degree of physical or psychological control over an adversary creates strategic effect and requires an appreciation for the unique specializations and inherent difficulties of each domain-focused force. This appreciation acknowledges that institutional professionalism is hardly omnicompetent or transitory between varied forms of military power.[2]

Corridors of Power

More Force, Less Peacekeeping for UN Troops
30 May 2014

UN Peacekeeping Force Day, on May 29th, salutes those who serve—and have served—in the UN’s policy mechanism of choice for responding to violent local conflicts around the world.

Its story, since the first contingents of blue-helmeted troops from various member nations were deployed in 1948, is a checkered one, with some successes, a few shameful failures, and some recent significant—if risky—shifts in how it operates that could call the “peacekeeping” part into question.

It has also occasionally drawn criticism for prolonging the status quo: for example, in 1964 a UN peacekeeping force was deployed in Cyprus to separate Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. Fifty years later, the peacekeeping force is still there, allowing the so-called Cyprus question to become—as former UN Under Secretary General Brian Urquhart once said—“a sort of national industry and sport for both sides.”

Last year was something of a watershed for the world organization’s peacekeeping operations, with a radical departure from the longstanding policy of using force only in self-defense and the introduction of a Forward Intervention Brigade, the introduction of conduct and discipline teams to counter sexual abuse and sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers, and even a damages suit charging that the Nepalese peacekeeping contingent in Haiti was the source of a devastating cholera epidemic in that earthquake-stricken country.

Its defenders will say that’s a narrow perception of an operation involving nearly 112,000 peacekeepers from 122 member states serving in 16 operations around the globe (69 total since 1948), and at $7.06 billion (in 2012) the largest single expenditure in the UN’s annual budget. (In 1992, it was $1.7 billion.) Member states pay into the cost depending on their economic means, with the US as the highest contributor, with 26 percent of the total ($1.83 billion). The US provides money, but hardly any troops because of America’s refusal to allow its military to serve under foreign commanders. The current number of US military personnel serving as peacemakers is around 200.

Over the years the UN peacekeepers’ role has periodically been redefined, acquiring a diversity not foreseen in their original mandate of acting as monitors of a cease-fire between two warring sides. Today, peacekeepers supervise elections, provide police protection for civilian populations, and act as escort for humanitarian operations. A total of 3,215 peacekeepers have died in action, 103 of them last year alone. That unusually high number reflects a more confrontational approach as the UN, frustrated by its failure to make an impact on the brutal and chaotic civil war in Congo, one that has killed more than 5 million people since 1998, formed the Forward Intervention Brigade, a combat unit in support of the Congolese army against the collection of rebel groups that have kept the country in a state of violent upheaval. The massacres in Srebrenica (Bosnia) and Rwanda, in both of which a key factor was the failure to act by UN peacekeepers, also contributed to the realization that in some situations impartiality was neither possible nor desirable.

Every UN peacekeeping operation requires the authorization of the five, veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, which goes some way to explaining why calls for a UN peacekeeping force to separate the combatants in Syria, and more recent requests for UN peacekeepers in the Ukraine, went unmet. Russia would not sign off on either. 

The Drinker’s Dictionary

June 4, 2014 · in Molotov Cocktail

Editor’s Note: To launch our newest blog, Molotov Cocktail, we’ve reached back to an offering from a man who was both one of our upstart nation’s shrewdest diplomats and its best chronicler of Americans’ appreciation of booze. The following was published by Benjamin Franklin in The Pennsylvania Gazette on January 13, 1737 under the title, “The Drinker’s Dictionary.”

Molotov Cocktail is our drinks blog. It will feature reviews of spirits, beer, and wine; great cocktail recipes WOTR readers are sure to appreciate; and any other content we think fits. Check back often. And bottoms up!

Nothing more like a Fool than a drunken Man.

Poor Richard.

‘Tis an old Remark, that Vice always endeavours to assume the Appearance of Virtue: Thus Covetousness calls itself Prudence; Prodigality would be thought Generosity; and so of others. This perhaps arises hence, that Mankind naturally and universally approve Virtue in their Hearts, and detest Vice; and therefore, whenever thro’ Temptation they fall into a Practice of the latter, they would if possible conceal it from themselves as well as others, under some other Name than that which properly belongs to it.

But DRUNKENNESS is a very unfortunate Vice in this respect. It bears no kind of Similitude with any sort of Virtue, from which it might possibly borrow a Name; and is therefore reduc’d to the wretched Necessity of being express’d by distant round-about Phrases, and of perpetually varying those Phrases, as often as they come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK.

Tho’ every one may possibly recollect a Dozen at least of the Expressions us’d on this Occasion, yet I think no one who has not much frequented Taverns would imagine the number of them so great as it really is. It may therefore surprize as well as divert the sober Reader, to have the Sight of a new Piece, lately communicated to me, entitled