Security & Strategy Blog

The Security & Strategy Blog features multi-purpose approaches to security and leadership in diverse contexts of the information and operational environment.

A venue for business, government and academe to discuss topics of interest such as contemporary challenges, combined effects strategies, security studies, leadership development, and teaching and learning methods.

Papers (1000-5000 words) and Notes (less than 1000 words) provide perspectives and offer solutions to problems.

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Recent Posts

Paper #8. Designing Integrated National Defense & Security Strategies

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

As a follow on to The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects, this paper recommends combined-effects thinking applied to the US National Defense Strategy (NDS) as well. The reason for considering combined effects in the US National Security Strategy (NSS) is to enable consideration of more ends, ways and means than the default method of separately constructed effects. Or no effects at all, which tends to be the case for national-level strategies. Yet we know that proposed activities create effects, and that those effects interact among one another. So let’s design how they can combine.  

Strategy Doesn’t End with a Limited Strike

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

The Trump administration’s apparently contradictory actions this week toward Iran are not contradictory if we look at cooperation and confrontation as a strategy of combined effects. That is, we need to consider the full range of effects created by our activities, not just those bought or wrought by a simplistic “on-off” switch of cooperation or confrontation. So what’s happening?

Paper #6. Advanced Analysis is a Mindset.

Jeffrey S. Johnson, Colonel, USAF (ret.)

Since 9/11 intelligence analysis and its shortcomings have been widely discussed.  Military Services increased the amount of training in critical thinking and structured analytic techniques. The Army and Air Force created Advanced Analysis courses and OUSD(I) created the Information Environment Advanced Analysis course. All of this is good for moving toward the goal of improving the skill sets and capabilities of military intelligence analysts. But, more fundamental to an increase in courses and techniques, what is required to achieve a breakthrough in advanced analysis is a new or renewed mindset and an environment created to execute advanced analysis.

Note #9. Understanding Iran on its Own Terms.

Ron Machoian, Ph.D.

Note #8, “Mirror Imaging Iran and the World,” (3 July 2019) brings the sub-field of strategic culture to the forefront of today’s anxious discussion of how best to coerce the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) into cooperation with international norms of state behavior. Drohan points out that in seeking “balance” in Iran’s internal spheres of power, we may be projecting onto Iran the characteristics of our own self-image, where our political world, at least by design, remains balanced in a number of manners.  

Paper #5. The Power of Last Resort: An Iran Strategy

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

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.   

Paper # 4. Re-imagining Situational Awareness in the Strategic Environment.

Ron Machoian, Ph.D.

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 process. 

Paper #3. Defeating Authoritarian Warfare: The Case of Russia

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

While teaching proactive sense-making in the information environment, I developed previous work on complex warfare to apply combined-effects analysis in regions beyond my comfort zone of East Asia. Russia is a critical and interesting case — a declining nuclear power using bold strategy to regain a perceived loss of prestige. It may come as a shock to some that superior political-economic systems do not automatically produce better security strategies. Perhaps all political systems self-regard themselves as superior anyway, depending on who gets to control that narrative.

Paper #2. The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

Strategic leaders blend theoretical and applied thinking to realize goals. Competitive strategy is a creative process, one that rearranges ways and means to achieve desired ends. Superior strategy combines interactive effects.

The National Security Strategy of 2017 (NSS) calls for such innovation. This Paper proposes a combined effects approach to complex competition and warfare. I begin constructively by interpreting the NSS primarily as a security strategy rather than a political posture.

Note #2. Strategy Leadership: Rearranging Ends, Ways and Means.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

Too easy? It’s too easy to get distracted from thinking about how to lead the development of strategy, so let’s focus on two fundamentals.

First, two definitional assumptions about strategy and leadership: (1) strategy is a process that links ends, ways and means at multiple levels of activity; (2) leadership is getting others to do what they otherwise would not do.

Note #1. Theoretical Thinking and Applied Thinking: We Need Both.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

Winning complex competition and warfare requires both theoretical and applied thinking. Thinking critically about assumptions, logic and evidence helps frame and anticipate threats to security. Particularly for adaptive threats that target vulnerabilities of thought such as entrenched assumptions, flawed cause-and-effect logic, and “not in my lane” job execution. 

Paper #1. Tactics of Strategy and Strategy of Tactics: Winning and Losing in Complex Competition and Warfare.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D.

Smart competitors are using tactics of strategy to achieve broader-than-military objectives, while US policies produce strategies of tactics that deploy military forces for ambiguous purposes. To wage and win today’s complex competition and warfare, we need to broaden our conceptions of tactics and strategy.