The Uncertain Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Use, by Michael Frankel, James Scouras, and George Ullrich
The considerable body of knowledge on the consequences of nuclear weapons use—accumulated through an extensive, sustained, and costly national investment in both testing and analysis over two-thirds of a century—underlies all operational and policy decisions related to US nuclear planning. We find that even when consideration is restricted to the physical consequences of nuclear weapons use, where our knowledge on effects of primary importance to military planners is substantial, there remain very large uncertainties. These uncertainties exist because important phenomena were uncovered late in the nuclear test program, have been inadequately studied, are inherently difficult to model, or are the result of new weapon developments. Nonphysical consequences, such as social, psychological, political, and full economic effects, are even more difficult to quantify and have never been adequately analyzed. As a result, the physical consequences of a nuclear conflict tend to have been underestimated, and a full-spectrum all-effects assessment is not within anyone’s grasp now or in the foreseeable future. The continuing brain drain of nuclear scientists and the general failure to recognize the post-Cold War importance of accurate and comprehensive nuclear consequence assessments do not bode well for improving this situation.
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The Cyber Dimensions of the Syrian Civil War, by Edwin Grohe
This Perspective describes cyber operations known to have been used during the Syrian civil war from January 2011 until December 2013. The cyber operations of pro-regime forces, anti-regime forces, and nations providing support, as well as US involvement and its effects on these cyber operations, are discussed as a basis for drawing observations and implications for future conflicts.
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Assessing the Risk of Catastrophic Cyber Attack, by Michael Frankel, James Scouras, and Antonio De Simone
Reflecting on the similarities between cyber and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks, the authors of this Research Note believe that the approach the EMP Commission used to assess the likelihood and consequences of EMP attacks could provide useful lessons for analysts grappling with the analogous assessment of cyber attacks. To draw such lessons, we need to describe the EMP Commission mandate, describe its approach to addressing that mandate, assess the achievements realized in employing that approach, and understand the extent to which the EMP and cyber attack problems are similar and different. While we draw lessons for cyber analysts, we do not provide recommendations, which should be based on a broader analysis than we have conducted.
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A Conventional Flexible Response Strategy for the Western Pacific, by Brendan Cooley and James Scouras
Because of profound uncertainties about the extent of China’s rise and the nature of its future relationship with the United States, the United States needs a grand strategy that simultaneously hedges against the spectrum of plausible alternative futures while making the more worrisome futures less probable. Moreover, the conflict over competing national interests in the Western Pacific is currently being waged in the prewar phases of conflict known in military parlance as shaping and deterrence. However, whereas China is focused on winning the conflict in these phases, the US military strategy is more singularly focused on deterring a shooting war and preparing to fight and win one should deterrence fail. As a consequence, the US military hedge may be overemphasized while a shaping strategy is lacking. A conventional flexible response strategy might provide comparable deterrent value at the high end of the spectrum of conflict and be better able to manage confrontations at the low end, while nudging China toward integration into the current global order rather than revisionism.
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Cross-Domain Deterrence in U.S.–China Strategy: A Workshop Report, by James Scouras, Edward Smyth, and Thomas Mahnken
This report documents the Cross-Domain Deterrence Workshop conducted at APL on June 26, 2013. The overarching objectives of the workshop were to identify (1) the challenges in deterring actions in one domain of warfare (e.g., cyber, space, nuclear, conventional, etc.) by posing retaliatory threats in another domain and (2) research needs and promising research approaches for advancing our understanding of these challenges and forging effective cross-domain policies and strategies. The workshop focused on China, which arguably poses the broadest array of cross-domain deterrence challenges to the United States.
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Escape from Nuclear Deterrence: Lessons for Global Zero from the Strategic Defense Initiative, by Dallas Boyd and James Scouras
Since the post-World War II genesis of nuclear deterrence, two presidential initiatives have been presented to deliver humanity from the threat of its failure. The first was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a constellation of space- and ground-based systems that President Ronald Reagan envisioned would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” The second is President Barack Obama's roadmap to “a world without nuclear weapons,” commonly referred to as “Global Zero.” While these proposals appear to have little in common, deeper investigation reveals a number of provocative similarities in motivation and presentation. Moreover, both generated fierce debate, often with ideological overtones, about their strategic desirability and technical feasibility. We use these parallels, as well as prominent dissimilarities, to draw lessons from the SDI experience that can be applied to the debate over Global Zero.
Published in The Nonproliferation Review, Volume 20, Issue 2
Twentieth-Century Arms Control Policy May Fail in the Twenty-First, by G. Peter Nanos Jr.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the central theme of U.S. diplomacy with the former Soviet Union and now Russia has been the mutual reduction of the overwhelming destructive capability of strategic arsenals as a means to reduce the primary threat to America. The record of accomplishment is impressive. Not only are the allowed force levels in the latest agreement dramatically lower than their Cold War peaks, the New START Treaty continues and builds on protocols that have created unprecedented transparency and confidence. It is time to ask: What is the next step that will have the highest payoff in reducing the nuclear threat to America? Between the United States and Russia, where the strategic calculus is very well understood, further bilateral stockpile reductions in the near term will lead to only limited improvements in national security. Priority and resources should be shifted to understanding how to deal with the emerging realities of a multipolar nuclear world, where risks can be just as grave and the techniques for managing them are not as well understood.
Published in Comparative Strategy, Volume 31, Issue 4
The Dark Matter of Terrorism, by Dallas Boyd and James Scouras
The consequences of states' reactions to terrorist attacks can far outweigh the effects of the attacks themselves. Yet risk analysis, widely accepted as the proper analytical basis for assessing terrorist threats, largely ignores the consequences from potential reactions to attacks. It also generally fails to consider how the anticipation of these reactions may influence terrorists' attack preferences. Policy makers should therefore be wary of the limitations of risk analysis as currently practiced. Further, states should strive to avoid reactions to attacks that unwittingly further their adversaries' agendas, a goal that may be aided by strengthening public resilience to terrorism.
Published in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Volume 33, Issue 12
THE NEW TRIAD: Diffusion, Illusion, and Confusion in the Nuclear Mission,
by Michael J. Frankel, James Scouras, and George W. Ullrich
The New Triad, the Department of Defense's conceptual structure for strategic capabilities, is an impediment to clear thinking, communication, and consensus regarding nuclear issues. Its fatal flaw is the commingling of nuclear and conventional weapons, which lowers the nuclear threshold and undermines deterrence and stability. The vertices of the New Triad appear to represent little more than institutional interests intent on staking out equity, with the primary purpose of promoting the acquisition of controversial capabilities—missile defenses, conventional global strike, new nuclear warheads—rather than comprising the well thought out complementary components of an integrated system. Thus it lacks the intellectual coherence necessary to communicate nuclear policy to the public and to Congress. We recommend that the new Administration scrap the New Triad, divorce nuclear and conventional deterrence, and reserve nuclear weapons for deterring extreme threats and responding to extreme attacks from nuclear states for which no lesser military capabilities suffice.
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Why Has the United States Not Been Attacked Again?, by Dallas Boyd, Lewis A. Dunn, and James Scouras
The non-occurrence of a large-scale terrorist attack on the United States since 9/11 has been the subject of various explanations, chief among them that this outcome is the result of successful U.S. national and homeland security policies. Yet, this hypothesis ignores the myriad other factors that influence terrorist motivations to conduct attacks, as well as their capability to do so. This paper evaluates the competing explanations for the relative security the nation has enjoyed since 9/11, which are categorized into four bins emphasizing U.S. counterterrorism initiatives, limited terrorist capabilities, terrorist motivations, and alternative terrorist priorities. We conclude with recommendations related to the need for a better understanding of terrorist motivations and the need for broad-spectrum strategies that acknowledge our limited current understanding.
Published in The Washington Quarterly, Volume 32, Issue 3
Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Studies
The Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) series consists of a set of case studies and research conducted for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The purpose of the ARIS series is to produce a collection of academically rigorous yet operationally relevant research materials to develop and illustrate a common understanding of insurgency and revolution. This research, intended to form a bedrock body of knowledge for members of the Special Forces, will allow users to distill vast amounts of material from a wide array of campaigns and extract relevant lessons, thereby enabling the development of future doctrine, professional education, and training.
The ARIS case studies are available on the United States Army Special Operations Command website.
Facing the Storms: Operationalizing Preparedness and Critical Infrastructure Resilience, by Dane Egli, Study Team Lead
Making the nation’s infrastructure more resilient is crucial to protecting America from disasters and attacks; it is also vital to preserving America’s economic strength and global influence. Towards that end, this study introduces a practical framework for implementing resilience at all levels of government and the private sector.
The Beyond the Storms study established the need to transition as a nation from Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) to a Critical Infrastructure Resilience (CIR) posture. It also emphasized the necessity of community resiliency informed by local and regional planners as well as public-private partnerships. In response to mayors, business owners, and national-level policymakers—urgently preparing for future disasters—this follow-up study provides an organizing framework to mitigate hazards and improve preparedness through resiliency.
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Nuclear Futures Project, by Duncan Brown and Thomas G. Mahnken
Over the past several years, there has been considerable debate over the future of the U.S. nuclear posture and of nuclear weapons more broadly. On the one side are arrayed those who argue that the United States should commit itself to eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide. Deployed opposite them are those who argue that nuclear weapons retain political and military utility for the US and others and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. To explore these arguments, the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) held a series of unclassified workshops to map the intellectual landscape regarding nuclear weapons by investigating their possible use, including as deterrents, in the context of specific crisis scenarios.
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The China Relief Expedition: Joint Coalition Warfare in China, Summer 1900, by LTC(R) Robert R. Leonhard
This publication examines the multinational force that marched to rescue the besieged diplomatic legations in Peking. Operating within a foreign society in which friend and foe looked identical and cultural sensitivities were at the boiling point, the allied forces also had to deal with each other. Conflicting plans sprang from equally conflicting agendas. Comparisons and contrasts with operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2008 are remarkable. We have progressed beyond the ideologies and social context that led to the pillaging of Peking in 1900, but we have not completed the transition by solving the operational implications of democratic liberalism in war.
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The Evolution of Strategy in the Global War on Terror,
prepared by LTC(R) Robert R. Leonhard
This publication illustrates from the history of our Civil War how American strategy evolves and then extrapolates and suggests ways in which strategy in the global war on terror will likely evolve. Part One introduces the subject, and Part Two is an after-action report on a conference sponsored by APL. The goal is to show which aspects of the American strategy in the war on terror will probably change and how they will change, as well as provide some specific policy recommendations primarily developed from conference results.
Visions of Apocalypse: What Jews, Christians, and Muslims Believe
about the End Times and How Those Beliefs Affect Our World,
by LTC(R) Robert R. Leonhard
This publication is an essay on comparative eschatology among the three Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and how beliefs about the end times express themselves through foreign policy and conflict. It explores the concept that our world is shaped, influenced, and in some cases governed by age-old prophecies recorded in the sacred literature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. By understanding the essential eschatological themes in those literatures we can better comprehend the world.
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The Collapse of North Korea: A Prospect to Celebrate or Fear?,
by Dr. Michael J. Deane
This short analysis seeks to identify the factors that led those studying North Korea in the late 1980s and early 1990s to forecast its collapse, the basic fallacies that led these predictions astray, and the ongoing prospects for a collapse in the future. From these perspectives, the work assesses whether a future collapse of North Korea is in the best interest of the United States.
Rethinking Seminar Series
Since 2004, APL has organized and sponsored the Rethinking Seminar Series, a recurring series of seminars on national security and foreign relations topics. These free events, held near the Pentagon, bring together distinguished speakers and those interested in exploring such important issues. The evening seminars are open to the public, and videos and related materials are posted to the Rethinking Seminar Series website after each event.