Paper #11. China’s All-Effects All-Domain Strategy in an All-Encompassing Information Environment. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

The essence of Chinese strategy consists of waging complex wars that exploit opponents’ expectations of warfare. The operational design creates preventative and causative effects that blend confrontation with cooperation, imposing dilemmas on opponents. Such asymmetric effects win wars via information that changes opponents’ behavior.

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Note #12. More than Kinetic Effects: Globally Integrated Operations in the Information Environment. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

We are well into complex, hybrid, grey zone warfare that dynamically blends confrontation with competition. Victory in the form of relative advantages tends to be temporary, requiring a systematic yet supple all-domains all-effects approach. We have to be able to produce all of types of effects and in superior combinations to compete against other relatively-great powers.

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Paper #10. Countering Russian Cyber and InfoWar. Will Miller, Major, US Army.

We must also seek solutions that limit the effects of disinformation. This effort starts with leaders recognizing and publishing Russian exploits as they are discovered. Overt exposure of Russian methodology goes a long way in limiting the effectiveness of false narratives. Investigations should identify who is targeted in hacks, why they were chosen as targets, what information has been stolen, and the extent of related penetration.

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Paper # 9. The Primacy of Information Intelligence. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

The question of what and whom to trust applies to all situations because uncertainty is pervasive. In the information environment (IE), the overriding context of trust is that it’s contested. Actors fight for the kind of information and people they need to compete and prevail. Four types of competition become apparent when we consider four contested purposes of strategic and anticipatory analysis:

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Paper #8. Designing Integrated National Defense & Security Strategies. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

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.

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Note # 11. Strategy Doesn’t End with a Limited Strike. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

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 #9. Understanding Iran on its Own Terms. Dr. Ron Machoian, Colonel, USAF (ret.).

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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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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Paper #3. Defeating Authoritarian Warfare: The Case of Russia. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

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. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

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 competitive security strategy rather than a political posture.

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Note #2. Strategy Leadership: Rearranging Ends, Ways and Means. Dr. Thomas A. Drohan, Brig Gen, USAF (ret.).

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 of strategy. 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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