The Modern War Institute at West Point hosted a multidisciplinary panel to discuss the role of security assistance and working with partner militaries in large-scale combat operations. Over the last two decades Americans have primarily approached security assistance through the lens of building counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capacity in weak and developing states. As the ongoing war in Ukraine shows, security assistance remains a vital feature of modern conventional conflict, which requires us to think differently about the challenges and opportunities presenting themselves.
How security assistance supports deterrence and great power competition? What do partners bring to the table? From arms trade to training and advising to military exercises, panelists will address these questions and more before opening for audience discussion.
The council was chaired by Dr. Max Margulies and featured Dr. Frank Sobchak, MWI’s chair of irregular warfare studies, Maj. Maia Molina-Schaefer of the Department of Foreign Languages, Maj. Kyle Wolfley of US Army Cyber Command, and Maj. Sean Marquis of the Defense and Strategic Studies program. After their remarks, the panelists took questions from cadets, faculty, and staff.
Watch the War Council in full below.
Image credit: Spec. Marcus Floyd
First, let us consider Security Force Assistance currently — not from the perspective of large-scale and/or small-scale combat operations — but, rather, from the perspective of the New/Reverse Cold War of today; wherein:
a. The U.S./the West — in expansionist mode post-the Old Cold War — sought and still seeks to transform the outlying states and societies of the world; this, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as capitalism, globalization and the global economy.
“Since the 1990s the focus of American international security policy has been focused on creating conditions for extending zones of security and prosperity to other states under the theory that ‘political as well as economic globalization would make the world safer — and more profitable — for the United States.’ Consequently, the United States saw expansion, rather than retraction, of American military presence around the world.” (See the 2016 edition of the book “Exporting Security: International Engagement, Security Cooperation, and the Changing Face of the US Military” by U.S. Naval War College Professor Derek S. Reveron; therein, see the bottom of Page 2 of the Introduction chapter.)
b. Such diverse "conservative"/status quo-loving entities as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, the Islamists, etc. — and even "conservative"/status quo-loving entities here in the U.S./the West itself — thus threatened by the U.S./the West such post-Cold War "revolutionary change" political objective — (1) adopted and implemented containment and roll back strategies and (2) came to see themselves as natural allies of one another. Example re: Russian and American "conservatives:
"Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past."
(See "The American Interest" article "The Reality of Russian Soft Power" by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)
More on this tomorrow. In the meantime, consider (a) the quoted item provided below; this, (b) from the perspective that I offer above:
a. An IDAD (Internal Defense and Development) program integrates security force and civilian actions into a coherent, comprehensive effort. Security force actions provide a level of internal security that permits and supports growth through balanced development. This development requires change to meet the needs of vulnerable groups of people. This change may, in turn, promote unrest in the society. The strategy, therefore, includes measures to maintain conditions under which orderly development can take place.”
(See our own Joint Publication 3-22, "Foreign Internal Defense;" therein, see Chapter II, "Internal Defense and Development" and Paragraph 2, "Construct.")
If we look at "development" (see my final quoted item above) from the perspective of the New/Reverse Cold War "advancing market-democracy" (and the political, economic, social and/or value "changes" required by same) political objective of the U.S./the West post-the Old Cold War:
“These combine with the enduring ideal of spreading the benefits of market democracy and a corresponding assumption that other democracies will embrace the US global agenda of opening markets, promoting civil liberties, and confronting organizations and states that seek to challenge the existing American international order.” (See the book “Exporting Security: International Engagement, Security Cooperation, and the Changing Face of the US Military” by Professor Derek S. Reveron; therein, at Page 2 of the Introduction chapter, look to the end of the paragraph that begins “As the United States looks ahead … ”)
And if we see this such "achieve revolutionary change both at home and abroad" political objective/initiative as (a) threatening "conservative" elements both large and small and both here at home in the U.S./the West and there abroad elsewhere post- the Old Cold War and as (b) causing these such threatened folks, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, to adopt "containment" and "roll back" strategies and to see each other as each others "natural ally,"
Then — in circumstances such as these — must not the U.S./the West — re: its security force assistance activities — be prepared to:
a. Deal with such great nations as China and/or Russia who might
b. Employ all manner of approaches and capabilities — to include large-scale combat operations — in support of their such "containment" and "roll back" causes?
(Thus, to see U.S./Western security force assistance today — not from a "large-scale combat operations" perspective — but, rather, from a New/Reverse Cold War perspective; wherein, "large-scale combat operations" are but one — of many — different approaches that great nations [exs: Russia and China today] might use; this, in pursuit of their "containment" and "roll back" goals?)
To conclude — again from a New/Reverse Cold War perspective:
From the perspective of the political objective of the U.S./the West post-the Old Cold War, the purpose of ALL of the U.S./the West's "instruments of power and persuasion" — to include such things as security force assistance — this is to:
a. Achieve market-based "revolutionary" political, economic, social and/or value "change" — both here at home in the U.S./the West and there abroad elsewhere — this,
b. In spite of whatever means/measures/approaches/capabilities, etc. (exs: large-scale combat operations, small-scale combat operations, hybrid warfare operations, irregular warfare operations, cyber, propaganda, etc., etc., etc.) that the U.S./the West's opponents ("conservative" elements — both great and small — and both here at home in the U.S./the West and there abroad elsewhere) might use against us; this, as per these such diverse opponents' — common — "containment and roll back of "revolutionary change" goals, objectives and strategies.