Venue: Modern War Institute
Coauthor: J Andrés Gannon
Abstract: Many analysts observe that advanced democratic militaries, the US a paragon, are techno-fetishist to a flaw, swept up in the revolution in military affairs that promises to clear the fog of war and insulate soldiers from harm. We argue instead that domestic constraints on political leaders can lead to the tacticization of strategy. When constraints are nominal, the military is granted the freedom of action to optimally contour its force structure. When hamstrung by low public opinion or high uncertainty, executives truncate the options available to high-tech approaches to avert risks and costs that could electorally reverberate. When these options are ill-suited for a given mission, the military will be challenged to attain success. In these cases, the US should either refrain from intervention, require multilateral engagement to share risks and costs, or outsource them to private military companies.
Venue: Arms Control Today
Abstract: The international community has watched with bated breath as Ukrainians resisted, even routed, Russian forces on many fronts since the latter’s invasion in February 2022. Based on its size, reputation, and bravado, many, including the Kremlin, expected the Russian military to trounce its target in short order. Instead, its stunted progress has induced plenty of double-takes and debates, suggesting flaws in Russian intelligence, motivation, morale, and logistics. There is likely some truth in each of those explanations, but one factor stands out for its differential use and power to explain the Ukrainian upset: drones. The Ukrainians have held the line because they harnessed a crucial human and technological resource at their disposal, commercial drones, which have been decisive in the unexpected outcome so far. The Russians faltered because they overlooked them, but they are resurging because they learned from it. These lessons have implications for the current and future wars, for preponderant militaries such as the United States all the way to under-resourced rebels.
Venue: War on the Rocks
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: In 1991, the USSR collapsed and billions of dollars of military equipment was black-marketed. In 2011, Libya crumbled and small arms and lights weapons (SALW) were sold as far as Syria. In both cases, illicit SALW trafficking generated and augmented violence in the surrounding regions. We describe this process, then speculate on the implications of Afghanistan’s collapse and the Russo-Ukrainian War before concluding with some prescriptions.
Venue: War Room
Coauthor: Ori Swed
Abstract: The surging commercial UAV industry has granted terrorists sudden and broad access to affordable, yet effective airpower. As a result, the offense-defense dialectic risks tilting in their tactical favor. Consumer UAVs are inexpensive, user-friendly, and sufficient for terrorists’ tasks. Furthermore, the commercial drone industry is delivering more functionality and autonomy as it hustles to meet consumer demand in multiple industries. Framing this dynamic in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, we urge greater attention to the breadth and depth of terrorist drone use for prudent response.