Paper #5. The Power of Last Resort: An Iran Strategy. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

How should the US compete under the restraint of using armed force as a last resort against Iran, an authoritarian pseudo-democratic theocracy that routinely wages complex warfare in ways the US eschews? This Paper answers the question from a perspective of complex competition and complex warfare (see Paper #1), but restrained by a widely accepted definition of armed conflict: states using armed forces against one other; or states and non-states using violence against one another.   

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Note # 7. Iran’s Shoot-down and a Strategic US Response. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

The Iranian regime’s shoot-down of an unmanned, non-stealth, hyper-expensive US reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace today was a highly anticipate-able event. One of the challenges we have in trying to think and act strategically is that we regard ourselves as either at peace or at war. Legal authorities and bureaucratic permissions reflect this perception. The reality is that we live in a competitive world of combined effects that blends these two ideal types. Authoritarian states tend to confront and cooperate at the same time. There is no on-off switch of peace or war, or use of force as a last […]

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Note #6. A Response to Paper #4: Situational Awareness, Leadership and Strategy. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

The first plenary of the US National Defense University’s Asia Policy Assembly today noted the tendency of US grand strategy to react to threats. We can’t seem to mobilize sufficient political will until after big shocks. Reacting too late or with a short-sighted view (even if long-term) is particularly dangerous given the accelerating pace and broadening space of our strategic environment. Complex threats abound. Plenary discussants pointed out US vulnerabilities such as extended supply chains and undefended intellectual property. They called for policy makers to support market innovations, diplomatic adroitness, investments in education and defense-related technologies and competencies. Recognizing the […]

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Note #5. Mastering Diverse Spectra of Conflict. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

Previous notes introduced the idea of combined effects strategy for complex competition and warfare. Let’s consider this type of competition and warfare as sophisticated forms of conflict. Combined effects arise from four distinctions, degrees to which an actor decides to: (1) cooperate or confront(2) prevent or cause behavior(3) influence will or capability(4) do the above psychologically or physically OK, but how are combined effects better than singular effects? In other words, what can these distinctions or choices enable combined effects to do that simpler approaches to conflict cannot? In answering this question about complex competition and warfare, let’s take cooperation […]

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Paper # 4. Re-imagining Situational Awareness in the Strategic Environment. Dr. Ron Machoian, Colonel, USAF (ret.).

Recently, while preparing a conference talk on the subject of situational awareness (SA) in the international environment, I was struck by the higher-order outcomes that the term implies for those who study its application.  Even as a career military pilot, where SA is part of the professional vocabulary, the same rich depth was often diluted in common use.  This realization prompted my consideration of what SA might mean in the context of modern strategy.  In this paper, I contend that the concept of SA, in its more complex meaning, should assume a salient role in the philosophy of the strategic […]

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Note #4. Planning to Win. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

Winning is not a static end-state. It’s a continuous process of gaining and maintaining advantage through combinations of effects. The competition to produce superior effects involves relationships that are both cooperative and confrontational. Applying such a “coop-frontation” lens to Russia, North Korea, China and Iran enables reveals strategies that seek to persuade, compel, induce, deter, defend, and coerce. In authoritarian states, confrontation tends to not be a last resort, but rather an integral part of cooperation.   We can understand this aspect of complex warfare and complex competition in terms of different types of effects. In planning to win with superior […]

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