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Old 09-18-2017   #27
Bill Moore
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,008
Default Awaiting the National Security Strategy

The New Era of Non-State Actors: Warfare and Entropy by Jason Thomas

This article appears to be identical to the one that SWJ published on 12 SEP 17, and in sum it argues that the West must prepare for a significant increase in threats posed by non-state actors, to include states actors sponsoring non-state actors to threaten our national interests. Of course this isn't new, but perhaps the means and ways that state actors can leverage non-state actors has changed enough to warrant serious reflection.

The difference now is that instead of seeking to overthrow the established authority of Western governments, the modus operandi has shifted to penetrating deep within all layers of a Western country’s government, economic, cyber security, media and civil society in order to subvert and influence.
Unfortunately, the author didn't explain why these threats would expand and more importantly he didn't offer suggestions on how the West should prepare. Instead he provides a list of non-state actors and then various legacy theoretical frameworks for consideration that are largely based on COIN theories developed during the Cold War. However, his reference to how Clausewitz's writings may have limited the West's view of strategy. An assertion worth exploring as the Trump Administration works on its first National Security Strategy (NSS). However, with McMaster as his National Security Advisor, I see little hope that the strategy team will look far beyond the influence of Clausewitz. Furthermore, it isn't Clausewitz's writings that are limiting our imagination and strategic theory, it is our interpretation of them and what the West has chose to focus on. Principally the deeply flawed center of gravity construct.

One of the most modestly insightful military-academics, Dutch Air Commodore Dr Frans Osinga (2006), argues that “the current Western mode of thinking and waging war, which is founded on Clausewitzian principles, is giving rise to non-Clausewitzian styles of warfare, with obvious consequences for the state of strategic theory.” An attachment to Clausewitz has not benefitted Western strategic approaches to what William Lind (1989) described as “fourth generational warfare” against technologically weaker, non-state actors. This Clausewitzian mindset may have resulted in the slow recognition by governments of alternative conflict paradigms, whereby the predominant game has been the physical destruction of the enemy.
It seems the administration's national security team is focused largely on state-actors, and have limited their focus on non-state actors to ISIS. There are a lot of significant non-state actors that threaten our interests beyond ISIS, and strategy should not focus on the only on the current shinny object, but that is the nature of how we do strategy in the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks. The issue is identifying how the world is changing and what changes we want to promote, and what changes threaten our interests we need to defend ourselves from. It is a complex task, and based on the rate of change, one that is bound to produce a flawed product, yet a strategy is still needed to drive unity of effort across the whole of government and ideally unify the West (loosely defined) in a way that the West cooperates to defend common interests. This will require policy founded on empirical data and critical thinking, not simply stating China is a threat or ISIS needs to be defeated. Everything is increasingly connected (see next post), and these challenges cannot be viewed in isolation. How we approach them will impact other strategic factors that will impact our longer term security.
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