Monthly Archives: June 2012

A More Political Alliance – Force of arms are not the only tools transforming NATO’s battlefield.

US Rep Mike Turner

By James Thomas Snyder and Brett Swaney

Headlines wouldn’t suggest it, but protestors and pundits were on common ground during the NATO Summit concluded last month in Chicago. Street demonstrators attacked the alliance for drone strikes while policy critics debated burden-sharing in an era of austerity, yet both agreed on one thing: NATO’s primary tool for dealing with threats and challenges today is primarily force of arms.

But hard power, to borrow a tired phrase, is not the totality of NATO’s character. NATO remains unique for its collective defense provision, but its political aspect is too-often overlooked.  And it is the political NATO that has done far more to spread peace, trust and security across Europe and beyond than through force.

The political NATO is defined not by the military operations and capacities of the Alliance, but rather by the ability to negotiate, consult, and reconcile with friends and, where possible and appropriate, also with adversaries.  This remarkable ability is recounted again and again by NATO member ambassadors to the United States in an interview project the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies at National Defense University produced for the NATO Summit, “A More Perfect Alliance”, which can be viewed online.

NATO’s ability to reconcile goes back surprisingly far, even to the time of the Cold War.  During the mid-1980s, the NATO states negotiated with the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe  and also concluded the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). The former helped to promote the end of the Cold War.  The latter landmark arms control framework still limits the means to make war on the European continent.

Peter Taksøe-Jensen, the Danish ambassador to the United States, participated in the CFE negotiations and saw how the two sides, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, came together to build the future.  “We saw the Warsaw pact falling apart during negotiations,” he told us, “but we managed to nail a negotiation and a result that… helped in shaping the Europe we know today.”

NATO similarly engaged in high-stakes trading during the waning days of the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union wrote the breakthrough treaty on intermediate nuclear forces in Europe. Member states negotiated among themselves in a little-known process to reduce tactical nuclear weapons in Europe by more than 90 percent.  Claudio Bisogniero, the Italian Ambassador to the United States and former NATO Deputy Secretary General, recalled his service at NATO in the late 1980s as an exciting time of remarkable change. “We signed a treaty or memorandum at NATO once a month … with the Russians or among us allies,” he told us.

Today NATO is often accused of aggravating tensions with its former adversary.  Less understood is how NATO has helped ease and reconcile relations between its member states and Russia.  The Latvian ambassador to the United States, Andrejs Pildegovics, remarked on how his country has improved relations with its great neighbor. “Since we have joined NATO, the climate in the region has improved dramatically,” he told us. “This is due to the fact that the borders are clear, the structures are there, and there are no temptations for any changes.”

NATO’s ability to reconcile former adversaries is not limited to the ties between former Soviet republics.  Croatia joined NATO in 2009, barely 15 years after the wars of succession in the former Yugoslavia.  Today with Slovenia, Croatia champions expanded NATO membership in the Balkans to include its former warring neighbors.  Joško Paro, the Croatian Ambassador to the United States, explained why.  “We believe if our neighbors join us in NATO,” he told us, “then our neighborhood is going to be better.”

NATO’s political power is significant now because it may be the final way out of Afghanistan, the Chicago Summit’s signature issue.  Special forces, drone strikes and the persistent effort of allied soldiers have greatly diminished the Taliban and affiliated groups.  But counterinsurgency doctrine suggests the lasting way to break the back of an insurgency is to co-opt reconcilable elements through a political process.  As the allies committed themselves to the future of Afghanistan for their own security, they assumed responsibility to end the insurgency by force or by politics.  Thankfully they have the experience and means to do it.

NATO has been critical to resolving long-standing disputes with old adversaries and new.  Whether ending the Cold War and expanding the area of peace and stability in Europe or dismantling the Taliban, NATO has more than just weapons in its toolkit.  Not only through force of arms but through the political power of democratic states acting in concert will NATO continue to resolve the threats that challenge us, in Afghanistan and beyond.


James Snyder served on NATO’s International Staff in Brussels from 2005 to 2011. Brett Swaney is a research assistant in the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies at the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Featured News, NATO, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies

NATO: Chicago Summit – A Vision of Success, or a Missed Opportunity?

Successes and failures are often in the eye of the beholder; the following two blogs offer contrasting views on the outcomes of the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.  We call it “Dueling Blogs”…….

Image of a fencing foil

NATO Summit: A Swing and a Miss
by Brett Swaney
Edited by Mr. Mark Ducasse

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that the Chicago Summit was an outright success, declaring: “We [NATO] have focused on the future of Afghanistan; we have decided to invest smartly in our defense, even in times of austerity; and we have engaged with our partners around the world to address the challenges we all face in the 21st century.”[i]  Yet on all counts, the Summit was a shadow of what could have been a critical moment in the history of the organization.  This was a failed opportunity to provide a desperately needed vision of the future for the world’s premier security alliance.

The headline grabbing issue for the Chicago Summit was Afghanistan.  While milestones in the Afghan conflict were announced and leaders “took stock” of their progress, they were little more than a rehash of financial and military commitments, as well as agreement on a timetable for withdrawal.

Critical issues were left unaddressed. Almost all of the closest U.S. allies failed to commit specific amounts of funds to help finance Afghanistan’s military forces through 2024.  The long term funding question is vital to the future of security in Afghanistan.

Further, allies agreed to a plan that would see Afghan security forces shrink by 120,000 men – but how do you demobilize those soldiers and remove their not insignificant spending power when the Afghan economy is already in shambles?

The details of future NATO engagement in Afghanistan also remained opaque.  Will it be only advising and training?  Will there be special operations units in place to aid Afghan forces in trouble?  And no one was willing to even broach the topic of Afghan political reform – the real threat to democracy in the war-torn country.

Yet, the greater question of NATO’s future after Afghanistan remained the unaddressed elephant in the room, and that the future of the Alliance will rely-in part- on expanding global partnerships.  Yet, according to Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, this summit “is the first in decades to make little or no progress on the enlargement of the organization.”[ii] For aspirants such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the path to membership has been significantly delayed.

The last round of NATO enlargement occurred in 2004 with the accession of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. The accession of the Baltic States was a success and the Alliance became stronger as a result, demonstrating that NATO can play a key role in reconciliation between former adversaries.  Estonia in particular is making significant contributions as the host of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, and is a strong advocate for cyber defense.

Will NATO wait for another Kosovo or Bosnia before pursuing a similar process in the Balkans?  In this light, the Summit was another missed opportunity to resolve unfinished business in Europe.

The Summit was also an important opportunity to mend ties, and shore up the often-cantankerous relationship with Pakistan.  Pakistan’s closure of NATO supply routes, and the exorbitant fees demanded to reopen them are in protest to drone attacks and a U.S. air strike that killed two-dozen Pakistani troops in November of last year.

Yet after being invited to the Summit at the last minute, President Obama refused to meet with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari face-to-face.[iii]  This very public snub will certainly fail to convince Pakistan to acquiesce and re-open its supply routes for NATO, and it is unlikely that this diplomatic sleight will further U.S., or NATO goals in the region.

The Summit also focused on capabilities.   The ongoing fiscal challenges in the United States, and the continuing Eurozone crisis catapulted the Secretary General’s personal initiative “Smart Defense” to the top of the list at the Summit.  Smart defense is a good idea in an economically challenging context, when a system for coordinating and pooling defense resources to mitigate duplication and cost is needed.  Leaders at the summit announced twenty-two projects under the Smart Defense initiative, including the extension of Baltic air policing, and improving the Alliance’s ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) capabilities by signing a contract to buy five Global Hawk Drones from Northrop Grumman.[iv]

While these are no doubt needed capabilities and important symbolic operations, none of the projects will significantly impact the course of the Alliance in the future.  In fact, a plurality of experts surveyed by the Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy magazine believed that smart defense would only “mask NATO’s inability to make major necessary reforms.”[v]

The Summit in Chicago was an unrealized opportunity to lay concrete foundations for the future of the Alliance and reaffirm U.S. leadership therein.  A set of rather modest successes at best does not mask the larger questions plaguing the Alliance.  Missed opportunities to answer critical questions about Afghanistan, Smart Defense, and Pakistan leave the impression of an alliance struggling with current crises, and unable to get its head above water.  With some continuing to debate the relevance of NATO, an uninspired, unambitious summit of missed opportunities does not portend a hopeful outlook for the future.

Brett Swaney is a research intern at the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies.


[i] Parrish, Karen.  “NATO Secretary General Terms Summit a Success.” U.S. Department of Defense.  21 May 2012.  Retrieved May 28, 2012.  http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116436

[ii] Rogin, Josh.  “The NATO non-enlargement Summit. ”Foreign Policy.  May 21st, 2012.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/21/the_nato_non_enlargement_summit

[iii] MacAskill, Ewen.  “US-Pakistan Tensions Deepen as Obama Snubs Zardari at NATO Summit.”  The Guardian.  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved on May 26, 2012.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/21/us-pakistan-tensions-deepen-nato

[iv] Daalder, Ivo, Gideon Rose, Rachel Bronson.  “Ivo Daalder Discusses the Chicago NATO Summit.” May 23, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2012.  http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/ivo-daalder-discusses-the-chicago-nato-summit?cid=rss-rss_xml-ivo_daalder_discusses_the_chic-000000

[v] “Atlantic Council/ Foreign Policy Survey: The Future of NATO.”  May 14, 2012.  Retrieved May 28, 2012.  http://www.acus.org/event/atlantic-councilforeign-policy-survey-future-nato

_________________________________________________________________________________________

reverse image of fencing foil

NATO Summit:  Mission Accomplished.
By StephanieChristel
Edited by Mr. Mark Ducasse

“We came to Chicago with three goals. And we have met them,”[i] were the words of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the two-day series of meetings focused on Afghanistan, Alliance capabilities, and global partnerships. Luckily, this summit avoided being one for the history books—in a negative sense.

Significant issues, such as newly elected French President Francois Hollande’s announcement of the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, sour relations between the Alliance and Pakistan, or security concerns in Chicago could have easily derailed the Summit.  But they did not and clear decisions were taken on each item of the agenda.

Afghanistan headlined the Summit agenda.  With all eyes on the Alliance and its partners, the Summit produced concrete decisions among leaders and assurances to both ISAF-contributing nations and the Afghani people.  To the citizens and soldiers of Allied and partner nations, leaders emphasized the “irreversible transition of full security responsibility”[ii] to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and signaled the official closure of what will be a thirteen-year combat mission.

The concerns of Afghan citizens were not ignored, and the pledge of some $4.1 billion per year in support of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), 87.5% of which will come in the form of foreign donations, codifies the Alliance’s commitment to the State and people of Afghanistan, long after our troops have left.[iii]

While some will be disappointed by the lack of public monetary promises made to the fund, it was never intended for this summit to be a donors’ conference.  From the outset, the discussion of this summit was focused on security issues related to Afghanistan.

In July, the Tokyo Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan will delve into the non-security, mainly financial and developmental aspects, of support during the “Transformation Decade.”[iv]  The United States is confident that the international community will be able to obtain full funding.[v] Tokyo will be an extension of the NATO Summit’s commitment to a sustainable Afghanistan and it’s fledgling security forces.

The continuance of the Eurozone crisis and reality of declining U.S. defense budgets brought credence to the decisions taken at the Summit on Alliance capabilities.  Leaders approved twenty-two projects under the “Smart Defense” banner.  These projects include extending the Baltic air policing mission and improving the Alliance’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities (an area in which the organization lacks an independent capability, as was highlighted in Libya – where the allies relied heavily on the U.S. to fill this role).[vi]  In addition, leaders declared interim missile defense capability, a major feat when considering the significant political and military capital needed to make this system a reality.  The Atlantic Council’s Barry Pavel describes this as “a good start” but noted, “more needs to be done.”[vii] It is essential to view this Summit as the first of many that bring new perspectives to Alliance capabilities.

The Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR), mandated at the previous NATO Summit in Lisbon, stated that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance,” reassuring concerned NATO allies and demonstrating to potential adversaries that nuclear weapons would remain a core component of the Alliance’s deterrent and defense capabilities.

After the wave of concern that the U.S. “pivot” to Asia set off, this strong stance quelled the concerns of some member States and, in part, reinforced the transatlantic relationship.

The least noted of agenda topics, partnerships, was an extremely successful component of the Summit.  This summit was the largest ever, with 63 nations in attendance plus representatives from the European Union and United Nations.

With the approval of the other 27 nations, President Obama asked Secretary General Rasmussen to begin a process that will allow highly involved partners, those with both the political will and military capability, to engage significantly, and to be integrated into the planning and training discussions of the Alliance.[viii]

Support of NATO aspirant nations by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her statement that Chicago should be “the last summit that is not an enlargement summit,”[ix] indicated the necessity of spreading the linkages of stability and security NATO provides for its members. This statement has already marked an important agenda item for the next summit, a date and location for which have yet to be determined.

Focusing on the “what could have been” is not enough to condemn efforts in Chicago as “unsuccessful.”  This summit emphasized NATO as a hub of global security—out-of-area operations, working with an expanding network of partners around the world, and efficient operator of pooled capacities—and reiterated the steps being taken to continually transform the Alliance.  This Summit made tangible contributions to global security, and highlighted the Alliance’s continuing relevance to its members, partners, and the rest of the world.

Stephanie Christel is a research intern for the Center for Transatlantic Security Studies.


[i] “NATO-News: NATO Chicago summit meets its goals.” May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_87603.htm

[ii] “Chicago Summit Declaration” May 20, 2012.  Retrieved May 22, 2012.  http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_87593.htm

[iii] “Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan.”  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-8E723D85-B8AC5902/natolive/official_texts_87595.htm

[iv] Ibid; “NATO Chicago Summit: Afghanistan.” UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Retrieved May 25, 2012.  http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/afghanistan/chicago-summit-2012/,

[v] Daalder, Ivo, Gideon Rose, Rachel Bronson.  “Ivo Daalder Discusses the Chicago NATO Summit.” May 23, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2012.  http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/ivo-daalder-discusses-the-chicago-nato-summit?cid=rss-rss_xml-ivo_daalder_discusses_the_chic-000000

[vi] “The NATO Chicago Summit: Outcomes and the Way Ahead” Conference. Atlantic Council. May 24, 2012.

[vii] Bennett, John T.  “Grading Obama’s NATO Summit Performance.” U.S. News.  May 22, 2012.  Retrieved May 24, 2012.  http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/dotmil/2012/05/22/grading-obamas-nato-summit-performance

[viii] “The NATO Chicago Summit: Outcomes and the Way Ahead” Conference. Atlantic Council. May 24, 2012.

[ix] Clinton, Hillary.  “Remarks at the North Atlantic Council Meeting.”  May 21, 2012.  Retrieved May 29, 2012.  http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2012/05/190466.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Featured News, NATO, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies

Strategic Operational Planning and Congressional Oversight of Intelligence

By Sally Scudder, Center for Strategic Research

US Capitol

When President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), he called it “the most dramatic reform of our nation’s intelligence capabilities since President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.   Under this law, our vast intelligence enterprise will be more unified, coordinated, and effective.”[i]  To this specific end, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) officially took over as the nation’s lead in the counterterrorism effort.  Yet IRTPA’s passage didn’t mean the national security structure in Washington was going to change instantaneously and NCTC would be given complete charge of interagency counterterrorism efforts.   While blame of ineffectualness could be laid on interagency turf battles, perhaps the most responsible party is Congress and, as the 9/11 Commission calls it, their “dysfunctional”[ii] oversight of intelligence, which is “always dependent on newspaper headlines.”[iii]

The release of the 9/11 Commission Report demanded action, and with the 2004 elections looming, congressional members across the aisle were quick to endorse it, including presidential candidate John Kerry, forcing President Bush to follow suit. [iv]  Though it had also publicly endorsed the Commission, the Bush Administration had been loath to call it into existence, citing “sensitive information” as a reason to withhold hearings from the public eye.[v]   After the Report was published and public pressure started to build, Bush attempted to go around the recommendations while showing his commitment to reforming the national security structure by issuing a multiple executive orders and memos on the subject.  In reality, many of his orders “did little more that reaffirm the system as it existed” or simply pandered to “established bureaucratic interests.”[vi]  Among the executive orders issued was EO 13354, which created the National Counterterrorism Center as an update of the Threat Integration and Intelligence Center.  Bush outlined the NCTC’s functions as a center for the analysis and integration of intelligence; coordination of strategic operational planning; assigning operational responsibilities to agencies; serving as a shared knowledge bank; and ensuring agencies have appropriate access to intelligence.

Congress was also mindful of public perception.  Shortly thereafter, they introduced and passed IRTPA in less than ninety days, an exceedingly rare occurrence for the notoriously slow-moving bill passage process.  For such a sweeping and purportedly “revolutionary”[vii]  new organization, Congress didn’t add, subtract, or clarify NCTC’s functions, keeping the language identical to EO 13354.[viii]  Specifically, Congress didn’t challenge or define the vague and contrary concept of “strategic operational planning,” which was the mandate of the newly created Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning (DSOP) within the NCTC, leaving it open to interagency interpretation and contention.  Reportedly, members “didn’t know [what strategic operational planning was], just wanted enough words for [someone else] to figure it out.”[ix]  Though the rhetoric surrounding NCTC’s creation promised a “unified, coordinated and effective” streamlining of stovepiped efforts, Congress did not consolidate a single intelligence agency; they simply added to the already intricate intelligence community’s roles and reporting structure.[x]  If Congress did not fully flesh out and institute intelligence reform when public demand was at its peak and funding for intelligence programs had exponentially increased, what would drive them to keep an eye on NCTC’s efforts now, especially the “less than glamorous”[xi] planning side?

The Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning is supposed to be the mechanism for government-wide strategic operational planning and is half of NCTC’s mission, yet oversight is negligible.  The seeming importance of DSOP has been highlighted in testimony by NCTC leadership, yet relatively unchallenged by Congress in hearings.  In his statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as nominee for the Director of the NCTC, Adm. John Scott Redd called strategic operational planning “substantial, daunting and, I believe, very necessary.”[xii]  Through the years, SOP has been called “truly revolutionary”[xiii] as the government has “come together in ways…never seen during…decades of government service.”[xiv]  Despite caveats of strategic operational planning as “new to the US government,” [xv]SOP was called “foundational”[xvi] to counterterrorism efforts.  Succeeding NCTC Director Michael Leiter said he was “more convinced than ever that success against terrorism will only come through such coordinated and synchronized efforts—to include the full weight of our diplomatic, financial, military, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement activities.” [xvii]  For such weighty importance, however, Congress hardly paid attention to DSOP.  The most questioning DSOP received was after the publication of the National Implementation Plan, which was supposed to discreetly task the interagency on counterterrorism efforts.  There were eight questions regarding NIP and all came from Representative Sanchez, who was frustrated at Congress’s lack of access to the document. [xviii]

It wasn’t until the attempted bombing of Flight 253 and the Fort Hood shootings in late 2009 that NCTC was put under Congress’s microscope as echoes of a ‘failure to connect the dots’ reverberated back into the public rhetoric. Though the sharpest scrutiny was directed at the intelligence side of NCTC, there were questions on DSOP’s roles and responsibilities, to which the answer seemed to be “I do not think the legislation gave clear authority— in fact, it did not give us clear authority to direct action, so we have become a negotiator and mediator of sorts rather than director of action.”[xix]  Suddenly the attitude was seemingly back to “we’re building the airplane at NCTC even as we are being asked to fly it.”[xx]  Though there were questions surrounding strategic operational planning and testimony from outside experts blasting DSOP’s failings,[xxi] there have still been no bills proposed or executive orders given to clarify DSOP’s operation.

NCTC is supposed to be the all-government approach to counterterrorism with the Directorate of Intelligence ‘connecting all of the intelligence dots’ and DSOP serving as the ‘connective tissue’ for the US government’s counterterrorism plans.  Unfortunately, without proper congressional oversight and a clear definition of strategic operational planning, DSOP’s mandate is difficult to enforce across the competing interagency.  Ordinarily, intelligence reform is characterized as moving an “aircraft carrier down a creek,” [xxii] and DSOP as a “less than glamorous”[xxiii] organization does not hold the attention of its overseers enough to ensure accountability or create a comprehensive government counterterrorism plan.

Sally Scudder is a research assistant with the Center for Strategic Research.  The views expressed are her own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. 


[i] George W. Bush, “President Signs Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act,” Washington, D.C., December 17, 2004, available at <http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2004/12/20041217-1.html&gt;.

[ii] The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (New York: Norton, 2004). 420.

[iii] Cynthia M. Nolan, “More Perfect Oversight: Intelligence Oversight and Reform.” Strategic Intelligence: Intelligence and Accountability: Safeguards Against the Abuse of Secret Power 5 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 115-140. 129.

[iv] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007). 100-25. 103.

[v] Pete Brush, “Bush Opposes 9/11 Query Panel,” CBS News, 11 February, 2009, available at <http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-509096.html&gt;.

[vi] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 100-25. 108.

[vii] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[viii]Todd Masse, “The National Counterterrorism Center: Implementation Challenges and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, (2005).

[ix] Interview, 26 April 12.

[x] Glenn Hastedt, “Washington Politics, Intelligence, and the Struggle Against Global Terrorism,” Strategic Intelligence: Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism: Defending the Nation Against Hostile Forces 4 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 100-125. 106.

[xi]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years After 9/11, September 10, 2007.

[xii] Hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate: Nomination of Vice Admiral John Scott Redd to Be Director, National Counterterrorism Center, July 21, 2005.

[xiii] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xiv] Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xv] Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Nine Years After 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland, September 10, 2007.

[xvi] Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Nine Years After 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland, September 10, 2007.

[xvii] Hearing Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, United States Senate: Nomination of Michael Leiter to Be Director, National Counterterrorism Center, May 6, 2008.

[xviii] Hearing of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism of the Committee on Homeland Security, House of Representatives: Homeland Security Beyond Our Borders: Examining the Status of Counterterrorism Coordination Overseas, October 4, 2007.

[xix] Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Intelligence Reform—2010, January, 2010.

[xx] Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Counterterrorism: The Changing Face of Terror, June 13, 2006.

[xxi]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Intelligence Reform—2010: The Lessons and Implications of the Christmas Day Attack: Intelligence Reform and Interagency Integration, March 17, 2010.

[xxii] Cynthia M. Nolan, “More Perfect Oversight: Intelligence Oversight and Reform.” Strategic Intelligence: Intelligence and Accountability: Safeguards Against the Abuse of Secret Power 5 (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2007), 115-40. 131.

[xxiii]Hearing of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland: Six Years After 9/11, September 10, 2007.

Leave a comment

Filed under 9/11, National Security Reform

Murky Waters: Implications of a Syrian No-Fly Zone

Syrian Flag

by Dylan Maguire, Research Intern
Edited by Dr. Denise Natali, Minerva Chair

As the events in Syria continue to unfold and new accounts of atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime against the Syrian people are reported, calls for the international community to take decisive action will grow stronger.

At a recent panel held at the Rethink Institute in Washington, DC, an affiliate of the Turkic American Alliance, senior staff from the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies as well as the Syrian Expatriates Organization called for the imposition of a no-fly zone to create and maintain a humanitarian corridor inside Syria proper. All of us who are following the events transpiring in Syria want to encourage policy options that will stop the killing and lead to a transfer of power from the dictatorial regime to one that reflects the true aspirations of the Syrian people. However, before the legitimate use of military power can be employed in a responsible manner it is important that all of the possible consequences of such a policy are explored. Recent history provides us with two interesting case studies, Iraq and Libya. When examining these cases it is important to remember that the stated goal in Libya was Qaddafi’s departure while in Iraq it was population protection and humanitarian relief.

After Operation Desert Storm and the surrender of the Iraqi Army, the Kurds in the North and the Shia’s in the South revolted against Saddam’s regime. The international coalition decided to impose a no-fly zone over portions of the north and south of Iraq to prevent Saddam from using his air force to put down these rebellions. In addition to preventing Iraqi over-flight in the north, coalition ground forces also began distributing humanitarian aid among the Kurds. While Saddam was unable to use fixed-wing aircraft to suppress those in revolt, he made effective use of helicopters, artillery, and ground troops. The coalition air assets could have expanded their target options to include these ground forces, but they did not. In fact, there were almost no Iraqi planes for coalition pilots to engage as Saddam largely respected the no-fly zone knowing that his ground forces were more than capable against the lightly armed resistance. There are three lessons to be learned from this episode. First, no-fly zones are only effective against other aircraft, when ground force is used as the means of oppression, then what is called for is a no-drive zone, or in effect a conventional air campaign. Second, lightly armed resistance movements will not be able to mount decisive counter-regime operations unless they are supported by conventional air power. Third, dictators like Saddam and Assad are well aware of the capabilities of all parties involved and will play their cards as effectively as possible. They will do so by limiting their exposure to overwhelming air-power while using their conventional ground forces to demolish the local opposition.

A good example of a no-fly zone expanding into a no-drive zone is the recent NATO air campaign in Libya. The limited operation to prevent Qaddafi from using his air force against the resistance quickly turned into a conventional air campaign as Qaddafi made use of his armor and artillery to pound revolutionary cities into submission. When allied airplanes began to attack these formations Qaddafi ordered his forces to shed their uniforms and heavier equipment. They changed their dress to appear like the opposition forces in order to confuse NATO pilots. This in turn led to the need for on-the-ground coordination between Libyan revolutionary forces and NATO command and control to prevent friendly fire casualties. What had begun as a limited no-fly zone quickly morphed into NATO acting as the air force for the Libyan revolutionary forces. Again there are three main lessons that can be taken away from this case. First, in these types of operations mission creep is not a possibility but a certainty. Second, dictators like Qaddafi and Assad will not hesitate to change their ground strategies to realize the full potential of their own forces, even if that means breaking all of the recognized laws of war, such as wearing uniforms and driving marked vehicles. Finally, by wedding allied airpower to local opposition forces, western nations will be taking ownership of the conflict and all that entails. When non-combatants are unintentionally killed by allied air strikes it could potentially help to further entrench the dictator’s base, or possibly turn locals against allied forces.

In addition to the lessons that can be learned from these two cases there are other questions that must be answered before the US military engages in any operations in Syria. In the Iraq case, only certain areas of the country were protected by the no-fly zone. In Syria how will the no-fly zone and the humanitarian corridor be defined? Will the no-fly zone only protect a few of the varied ethnic communities in Syria? If coalition forces choose only to protect certain communities, this would have an effect on the domestic balance of power once Assad was ousted. How long will the no-fly zone be established for and who will pay for its upkeep and enforcement? If the Assad regime falls, will the US become responsible for the creation of a new government in Syria? By taking on these responsibilities the US would be committing itself to a new round of nation building in the Middle East.

The killing taking place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime is unconscionable and must be recognized as such by the full international community. Yet, beginning an air campaign to limit Assad’s military capabilities could turn into a full-fledged conventional battle between allied power and the hardcore elements of the regime. Leaving aside issues concerning UN Security Council resolutions and Russian intransigence, the US must realize that in committing to a no-fly zone policy it will be in effect declaring war on Assad’s regime. If that is truly the desired policy, then a real war plan making use of the full capability of the US military must be employed. However, it appears that this is precisely what the Obama administration is seeking to avoid. Thus, it must refrain from taking actions, such as imposing a no-fly zone, which will inevitably lead it to the same place.


Leave a comment

Filed under Featured News, Middle East, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies