RealClearDefense Articles

Exit As Voice: The Silence of the Flags

Yvonne Chiu - November 23, 2020

In liberal democracies with strong norms of civilian supremacy, how should military leadership respond to a president’s repeated interventions into the military’s attempts to uphold justice and good order and discipline within its own ranks? While rare, this potentially dangerous dilemma presented itself recently and cuts to the core of military professionalism. In 2019, the U.S. president reached down to a level in the military justice system almost unheard of to pardon two Army lieutenants and an Army Special Forces officer who had murdered unarmed civilians or prisoners, as...

Options to Improve U.S. Army Ground Combat Platform Research and Development

Mel Daniels - November 23, 2020

Mel Daniels has served in the United States military for nearly twenty years. Mel is new to writing. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group or person. National Security Situation:  The modernization of U.S. Army ground combat platforms includes risks that are not presently mitigated. Date Originally Written:  August, 16, 2020. Date Originally Published:  November 23, 2020. Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author...

Pentagon Must Demand Competition in Missile Defense Procurement

David Williams - November 23, 2020

America is on track to have another multi-trillion-dollar deficit next year, and profligate waste in the Defense budget certainly won’t help matters. The House and Senate are busy reconciling a package of nearly $700 billion in military spending, even as the U.S. supposedly tries drawing down its troop presence abroad. As our debt-plagued country struggles to respond to saber rattling by belligerent regimes such as North Korea, Pentagon leaders are mulling the best way to safeguard the homeland without resorting to reckless invasions and occupations. Currently, the decision that needs...

International Business Needs Grand Strategy

Michael Hochberg & Leonard Hochberg - November 21, 2020

Read Full Report Abstract Today’s corporate leaders face an unprecedented challenge: the rules-based international order in which they operate is breaking down. The 70-year trend of globalization, where trade barriers were systematically dismantled and where businesses were allowed to compete internationally with ever-decreasing government interference, is no longer dominant. Where products are built, and by whom, suddenly matters. COVID has exacerbated this reversal, but this change has been brewing for decades. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) built its economic success on...


Why Is the U.S. Supplying Technology to China’s Military?

Robert Pittenger & Roslyn Layton - November 21, 2020

After all of the ballots are counted and certified, it will be time for America’s leaders to get back to work. One policy issue that broke through during this unprecedented election cycle is that Americans can continue to expect a hard-line position on China when it comes to economic and trade issues.   For years, the Chinese government has been hard at work to steal U.S. technologies, often in plain sight. Motivated by its ambitions of global dominance, the People’s Republic of China increasingly has skirted America’s export controls to pirate sensitive...

Simple Lethality: Assessing the Potential for Agricultural Unmanned Aerial and Ground Systems to Deploy Biological or Chemical Weapons

William H. Johnson - November 20, 2020

William H. Johnson, CAPT, USN/Ret, holds a Master of Aeronautical Science (MAS) from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a MA in Military History from Norwich University. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle in the College of Aeronautics, teaching unmanned system development, control, and interoperability. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. Title:  Simple Lethality: Assessing the Potential for...

Missile Defense: More Innovation, Not Less

George Landrith - November 19, 2020

In this highly divided era, it is worth noting that missile defense enjoys strong bipartisan support not only in the halls of Congress but also among the American people. The reason is clear — the world is a dangerous place, and our enemies are pursuing missiles with greater range, greater speed, and greater maneuverability. Iran, North Korea, China, and other nations are developing weapons designed to avoid interception, deploy better decoys, and jam defensive technologies. Missile defense is what stands between those efforts and devastating attacks and destruction, and America’s...

Beyond Disinformation: Seeing Russia Holistically

Giselle Donnelly & John G. Ferrari - November 19, 2020

This election, like the one before it, was being held under a cloud of suspicion. From every corner, shadowy, nefarious actors spread disinformation and outright lies not just to help or hurt individual candidates but to make us doubt the legitimacy of our democratic process. Americans are particularly anxious about Russia and Vladimir Putin. While the ex-KGB officer plays the part of a James Bond villain with panache, part of his dezinformatsia (which translates into disinformation and information warfare) campaign is to divert our eyes from his true intention. The reason that Russia and...


The Department of Defense Needs to Relearn the (Almost) Lost Art of Net Assessment

Bryan Clark & Dan Patt & Timothy A. Walton - November 19, 2020

Tough choices lie ahead for the U.S. Department of Defense. Government relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs to service the federal debt are expected to constrain discretionary spending, including spending on defense. At the same time its budgets are being squeezed, the U.S. military will need to address a peer competitor in China; creative Russian, Iranian, North Korean adversaries; and a potentially unaffordable approach to deterring and waging war. General David Berger, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, on Capitol Hill (Saul Loeb/Getty) Tough choices are...

Russian Strategic and Hypersonic Naval Nuclear Weapons

Mark B. Schneider - November 18, 2020

Strategic Nuclear Weapons and the Russian Navy Russia sets its highest value on its strategic nuclear forces. In November 2020, President Vladimir Putin stated, I want to emphasize that, despite the constantly changing nature of military threats, the nuclear triad remains the primary, key guarantee of Russia’s military security. From a broader perspective, this applies to global stability as well. Preserving this balance of power neutralizes the threat of a large-scale military conflict, making vain any attempts to intimidate or pressure our country.” Russian attitudes about...

On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for the Military, Citizenry, and Community

Jim Golby - November 18, 2020

On Obedience: Contrasting Philosophies for the Military Citizenry and Community. Pauline Shanks Kaurin. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2020. In the midst of a fraught and partisan political moment, Pauline Shanks Kaurin has achieved a remarkable feat: she has penned a timeless work that also speaks urgently to vital political and civil-military questions of our time. On Obedience effortlessly moves from examples of civil disobedience in the face of racial injustice to trials of parents lamenting their tween’s messy rooms to mission command orders and the ethical dilemmas...

How Will Joe Biden Shape the U.S. Navy?

James Holmes - November 17, 2020

Editor’s Note from Harry J. Kazianis: What will Joe Biden do when it comes to U.S. naval strategy come January 20? For such a question, I can only turn to one of the most brilliant naval minds I have ever met, my former mentor and good friend James Holmes,  the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. Below Dr. Holmes gave us his impressions on the future of the U.S. Navy, Chinese military modernization, and the future of the South China Sea. First, give us your overall sense of what priorities Joe Biden might move to the top of the list for the U.S....


America’s Winning Culture: A Road to Ruin in the 21st Century

Rich Milburn - November 17, 2020

The United States’ cultural obsession with winning precludes an effective grand strategy. Since 1945, and increasingly since the end of the Cold War, American military and economic dominance has been so great this fixation was unimportant. However, with China’s rise, America no longer has this luxury and needs a bona fide grand strategy. Americans’ distaste for the sporting tie has fostered a national culture whose tendrils have infested foreign policy decision making. Absent a dominant global military position, the U.S. must learn to prioritize and take risk, important...

Rare-Earth Elements: A National Security Crisis

Citizens for National Security - November 17, 2020

“The Middle East has the oil, but China has the rare earths,” spoken by Deng Xiaoping, Supreme Leader of China, in 1992. What did he mean and what did he know that we didn’t? The “rare earths” that Deng was referring to are known as “Rare-Earth Elements" (REEs). They are composed of 17 complex elements that are unpronounceable but are essential in four industries: high tech, pharmaceuticals, national defense, and energy. The list of products in which they are used is almost endless: computers, iPhones, TV screens, guided missiles, fighter jets, sonar...

Analysis: Al Qaeda’s Deputy Emir Killed in Iran

Thomas Joscelyn - November 17, 2020

Last month, an al Qaeda-linked social media account reported that Abu Muhammad al-Masri (a.k.a. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah) had been killed under mysterious circumstances inside Iran. The New York Times and other press outlets, citing anonymous intelligence officials, have now confirmed that the al Qaeda leader was in fact assassinated by Israeli operatives at the behest of American officials. The Times reports that al-Masri was “gunned down on the streets of Tehran by two assassins on a motorcycle on Aug. 7,” the anniversary of al Qaeda’s 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya...

The Air Force America Needs: Innovation, Spark Tank, and Ideas to Sustain Air Force Dominance

Evan Hanson & James Eimers - November 16, 2020

In a speech at the 2018 Air Warfare Symposium, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright described the long line of airmen who had ideas, but a “longer line of folks waiting to tell them no.” But the National Defense Strategy prioritizes innovation, and senior Air Force leaders champion it to improve the U.S. military’s competitive advantage. As potential near-peer adversaries steal intellectual property and increase investment in their own capabilities, the Air Force can leverage the creative capacity of American airmen to increase capability per dollar. Given...


China’s DF-21D and DF-26B ASBMs: Is the U.S. Military Ready?

Andrew Erickson - November 16, 2020

Editor’s Note from Harry Kazianis: Just about a decade ago, I made the tough decision to change careers, going from the telecommunications industry to national security studies. It was not an easy transition, to say the least. However, along the way, I met people who inspired me that I could make such a move and that the work could be truly meaningful considering the changing security environment the United States was facing around 2009 to 2o10.  Through a combination of hard work and luck, I would go on to Harvard and do graduate work on China’s military modernization and...

Assessing Morocco’s Below War Threshold Activities in Spanish Enclaves in North of Africa and the Canary Islands

Jesus Roman Garcia - November 16, 2020

Jesus Roman Garcia can be found on Twitter @jesusfroman. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature, nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. Title: Assessing Morocco’s Below War Threshold Activities in Spanish Enclaves in North of Africa and the Canary Islands Date Originally Written:  August 10, 2020. Date Originally Published:  November 16, 2020. Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that given the current economic and public health weakness...

Russia’s Interest in UAV Strike Capability Gathers Pace

Roger McDermott - November 16, 2020

Russia’s political-military leadership pays increasing attention to the combat potential of introducing and exploiting unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UACV). Experience gained during its operations in Ukraine and Syria, coupled with experimentation in military exercises, as well as specialist analyses of the use of UAVs in modern conflict has elevated the level of interest in producing these systems. This was in evidence during the strategic-level military exercise focused on the Southern Military District in September (Kavkaz 2020), which...

How Will Biden Approach the Problem of North Korea?

Malcolm Davis - November 14, 2020

The inauguration of Joe Biden as president on 20 January 2021 will usher in another chapter in the United States’ fraught relations with North Korea. The Trump administration tried summit diplomacy from 2018 through to 2019, after a year of high tensions in which threats of ‘fire and fury’ and nuclear brinkmanship rose to alarming levels. The summit diplomacy—as expected—failed to reverse Pyongyang’s determination to build up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. The reality is that North Korea...