News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Duncan Moore.

1. Acting SecDef, service secretaries exposed to COVID-19 after top civilian tests positive

2. Statement by chief pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman on Lithuanian defence minister visit and subsequent COVID diagnoses

3. As spotlight fades, what next for special operators?

4. What Acting SecDef Miller’s special ops shift means

5. China says Five Eyes alliance will be ‘poked and blinded’ over Hong Kong stance

6. The raid: the failed Son Tay prison rescue mission

7. Missile interceptor could be a game-changer for national defense

8. Commentary: the 3 nuclear threats facing President-elect Biden

9. New Pentagon chief racing to make changes before Trump’s exit

10. Put societal resilience at the center of defense planning

11. No, it’s not surprising that Abu Muhammad al-Masri was living in Iran

12. The Chinese Communist Party operates as a “foreign terrorist organization” per 8 U.S.C. § 1189

13. Why do Chinese liberals embrace American conservatives?

14. China’s missed opportunity: how Xi Jinping blew it

15. A better way to fight the forever war

16. What it’s like to live with the guilt of murdered civilians

17. SFAB fends off an invasion in exercise ahead of Indo-Pacific missions

18. Strengthening America’s competitive advantage: a security sector assistance case study

19. Long-Term behavioral change in a knife fight: the future of psychological operations

 

1. Acting SecDef, service secretaries exposed to COVID-19 after top civilian tests positive

Defense News · Aaron Mehta · November 19, 2020

Uh oh.

 

2. Statement by chief pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman on Lithuanian defence minister visit and subsequent COVID diagnoses

US Department of Defense · November 19, 2020

 

3. As spotlight fades, what next for special operators?

Defense One · Kevin Baron · November 19, 2020

Two points.

First, The action taken by A/SECDEF MIller is designed to accomplish three things. It is the first step to meet Congressional intent of the 2017 NDAA Section 922, which has languished under the past two SECDEFs.  Second, it is designed to improve civilian oversight of and advocacy for SOF with service-like and service-level authority.  Third, it puts the department on the path to solve the issues of manning, organizations, and reporting for civilian SOF oversight. 

The biggest point of friction in this may be who is the “billpayer” for the ASD SO/LIC to provide it with the proper manpower to execute the functions of Congressional Intent. Should the personnel come from DOD, from new authorizations, or should personnel billets be reallocated from USSOCOM? And then, what is the proper division of labor for service-like and service-level functions? USSOCOM, as a hybrid combat command with service like responsibilities (MFP-11 funding, R&D authorities, etc.), has served SOF and the nation well. But it is recognized by Congress that this is not the optimal situation.  Congress directed ASD SO/LIC be inserted into the ADCON chain of command (POTUS, SECDEF, ASD SO/LIC, and USSOCOM), but ASD SO/LIC requires direct reporting to the SECDEF (not through the USD(P)) and it needs the requisite personnel to perform service functions. These issues have not been resolved for the past three years as the bureaucracy has effectively stonewalled the necessary changes.  This action is intended to drive change and reach solutions to meet Congressional intent.

Here is an example of one of many issues. When the National Defense Strategy was written, USSOCOM asked for a seat at the table. It was denied, because it was considered a Combatant Command and if it SOCOM was allowed to participate, then all the Combatant Commands would demand a seat at the table. SOCOM was told the Services would look out for the equalities of “their” service’s SOF. We know how that worked out in the past.  This is one of the negative examples of the nature of the ‘hybrid” command. USSOCOM ASD SO/LIC also did not have an equal seat at the table with the services. Again, this action is intended to provide SOF with the requisite level of support and advocacy and allow it a seat at the table in DOD. Of course, ASD SO/LIC did have the subsequent lead role in drafting the IW annex to the NDS. But it is now 2020 and the IW annex was published some 2 and a half years after the NDS. Why was it not done simultaneously?

Second, having the spotlight fade for SOF is not a bad thing. But that does not mean SOF is in any way becoming irrelevant or not important. It is better able to embody the “SOF trinities”  in support of the National Defense and National Security Securities: irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, and support to political warfare and the comparative advantages of SOF (influence, governance, and support to indigenous forces and populations). These are critical missions and capabilities necessary for effective competition in the gray zone of great power competition. SOF does not need (or want) to be in the limelight to conduct special operations. So, let the spotlight fade and let SOF do its job to support the NDS and NSS in the best way it can.

 

4. What acting SecDef Miller’s special ops shift means

Breaking Defense · Paul McLeary · November 18, 2020

Again, it means meeting Congressional intent and improving civilian oversight of and advocacy for SOF.  This is the natural evolution from 1987 and the Nunn-Cohen amendment to Goldwater-Nichols to raise SOF to the correct level within the Department. The hybrid nature of USSOCOM has served well, but it is time to move to the next level.

 

5. China says Five Eyes alliance will be ‘poked and blinded’ over Hong Kong stance

Guardian · AP · November 19, 2020

China doth protest too much.

 

6. The raid: the failed Son Tay prison rescue mission

War History Online · Craig Bowman · January 31, 2016

The 50th Anniversary of the Son Tay Raid, Operation Ivory Coast is on November 21st (so it was the 20th in the US). The operation was a “success.”  What we failed to know was our POWs had been moved.  I recall the stories of the raiders believing they had failed. But in later years when the raiders and former prisoners met the prisoners said the mission was not a failure but it both gave them hope and improved their treatment. They were extremely grateful to the raiders for trying and for giving them hope that they would not be left behind.

 

7. Missile interceptor could be a game-changer for national defense

Daily Signal · Patty-Jane Geller · November 19, 2020

 

8. Commentary: the 3 nuclear threats facing President-elect Biden

Chicago Tribune · Ivo Daalder · November 19, 2020

 

9. New Pentagon chief racing to make changes before Trump’s exit

Politico · Laura Seligman · November 18, 2020

I hope Biden’s special operations expert advisors will advise him that the ASD SO/LIC action should be sustained. Perhaps the issue will not rise to Biden’s level. The question may be will Michelle Flournoy, the presumptive future SECDEF, support the action. I hope she gets good advice on this issue. Of course, she is a former USD(P) under which ASD SO/LIC fell, so I am sure she has the knowledge, expertise, and probably a position already developed on this issue. It will not be about simply sustaining this decision but continuing the progress necessary for effective employment of SOF.

Meet congressional intent, improve civilian oversight and advocacy of SOF, continue the evolution of SOF to best support the NDS and NSS.

 

10. Put societal resilience at the center of defense planning

Defense One · Elisabeth Braw · November 19, 2020

But who is responsible for societal resistance? Certainly not the military.

 

11. No, it’s not surprising that Abu Muhammad al-Masri was living in Iran

FDD · Thomas Joscelyn · November 19, 2020

 

12. The Chinese Communist Party operates as a “foreign terrorist organization” per 8 U.S.C. § 1189

Journal of Political Risk · Dr. Terri Marsh & Dr. Teng Biao · November 2020

Interesting argument with a lot of information to support it.

 

13. Why do Chinese liberals embrace American conservatives?

New York Times · Ian Johnson · November 18, 2020

Perhaps because of the perception that real conservatives actually support liberal democracy rather than progressive ideas?

 

14. China’s missed opportunity: how Xi Jinping blew it

Atlantic · Michael Schuman · November 19, 2020

 

15. A better way to fight the forever war

Defense One · Capt. Matt Fiorelli · November 18, 2020

 

16. What it’s like to live with the guilt of murdered civilians

War Horse · Mike McGuiness · November 18, 2020

The horrors of war. Made worse when there is not accountability and justice.

 

17. SFAB fends off an invasion in exercise ahead of Indo-Pacific missions

Army Times · Kyle Rempfer · November 19, 2020

 

18. Strengthening America’s competitive advantage: a security sector assistance case study

Modern War Institute · Matthew Kuhlman · November 20, 2020

 

19. Long-term behavioral change in a knife fight: the future of psychological operations

Small Wars Journal · by Wade Pommer · November 19, 2020

Some big ideas that should stimulate big discussion about a critical military capability that must achieve tactical and strategic effects. This is generating a lot of emotional discussion about controversial ideas.

 

“In most campaigns the dislocation of the enemy’s psychological   and physical balance has been the vital prelude to a successful attempt at his overthrow.”

– Captain Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart, 1944

“Without a doubt, psychological warfare has proven its right to a place of dignity in our military arsenal.”

– General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Psychological forces exert a decisive influence on the elements involved in war.”

– Carl von Clausewitz

“Psychological Warfare has always rested as an uneasy activity in democracies, even   in wartime. It is partly to do with the suspicion that using the mind to influence the   mind is somehow unacceptable. But is it more unacceptable to shoot someone’s brains out rather than to persuade that brain to drop down their weapon and live?”

– Dr. Phillip M. Taylor, Author of “Munitions of the Mind”, Manchester   University

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