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. […]

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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?

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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.

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Note #10. Information – Related Capabilities and Effects.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. Information-Related Capabilities abound in doctrine-approved professional communities of practice. Unfortunately, doctrine always lags reality. Especially reality that takes the form of a proactive competitor. We tend to label such intellectually self-imposed surprises as black swans. 

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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.  

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Note # 8. Mirror Imaging Iran and the World.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. We tend to mirror image our competitors by using clock-world analogies that apply less and less to today’s cloud-world. Especially in the information environment, where the clock-like physical determinism critiqued by Karl Popper is notso relevant.

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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.   

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Note # 7. Iran’s Shoot-down and a Strategic US Response.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. 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 seem to have in trying to think and act strategically is that we regard ourselves as at peace or at war. Legal authorities and bureaucratic permissions reflect this perception. The reality is that we live in a world that is a blend of those 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 […]

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Note #6. A Response to Paper #4: Situational Awareness, Leadership and Strategy.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. 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. 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 […]

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Note #5. What Can Combined Effects Do?

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. Previous notes introduced the idea of combined effects strategy for complex competition and warfare. As presented here, 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? In answering this question, let’s take cooperation and confrontation as dialectical opposites. We can imagine confrontation as the thesis, and cooperation as an antithesis […]

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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 […]

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Note #4. Planning to Win.

Thomas A. Drohan, Ph.D. 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 us to see 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 […]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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