Thursday, July 2, 2015

The 2015 Pew Global Attitudes Survey’s Findings on NATO Solidarity

Last month the Pew Research Center released the results of a public opinion poll conducted during April and May of this year in the larger NATO member countries, plus Ukraine and Russia, on perceptions of European security issues. The poll highlighted the unsurprising differences across NATO members’ publics regarding the desirability of supporting Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to fend off Russian aggression. It also underscored the Putin regime’s unsurprising depth of popular support at home, notwithstanding the domestic economic difficulties exacerbated by Western sanctions.[i]

The greatest amount of mainstream media attention, though, focused on Pew’s findings on the apparent unwillingness of large NATO member countries’ publics to support the use of military force by their governments to defend a fellow NATO ally from Russian aggression:
“Roughly half or fewer in six of the eight countries surveyed say their country should use military force if Russia attacks a neighboring country that is a NATO ally. And at least half in three of the eight NATO countries say that their government should not use military force in such circumstances. The strongest opposition to responding with armed force is in Germany (58%), followed by France (53%) and Italy (51%). Germans (65%) and French (59%) ages 50 and older are more opposed to the use of military force against Russia than are their younger counterparts ages 18 to 29 (Germans 50%, French 48%). German, British and Spanish women are particularly against a military response.”
This contrasts strongly with the poll’s findings on these publics’ views on Russia as a military threat to its neighbors:

Poland Most Worried about Russian Military Threat

And broad majorities of these publics believe the U.S. would rally to an embattled NATO ally’s aid:
“While some in NATO are reluctant to help aid others attacked by Russia, a median of 68% of the NATO member countries surveyed believe that the U.S. would use military force to defend an ally. The Canadians (72%), Spanish (70%), Germans (68%) and Italians (68%) are the most confident that the U.S. would send military aid. In many countries, young Europeans express the strongest faith in the U.S. to help defend allied countries. The Poles, citizens of the most front-line nation in the survey, have their doubts: 49% think Washington would fulfill its Article 5 obligation, 31% don’t think it would and 20% aren’t sure.”
The German numbers are the most disconcerting. It would be extraordinarily difficult for the U.S. to mount a ground and air defense anywhere in Eastern Europe or eastern Scandinavia if we couldn’t use German bases, air and sea ports, and transportation networks. Even so, the numbers Pew reported for responders in eastern Germany are not surprising given the longstanding and remarkably wide pervasiveness of Ostalgie across multiple demographic groups.
So what gives? And what can policymakers and analysts take away from the results?
For starters, a poll is only as illuminating as its questions are worded. Many of the Pew survey’s questions fall into the popularity contest category of ‘do you have confidence in (fill in the leader’s name) to do the right thing in foreign policy?’ or ‘do you approve of (fill in the leader’s name)’s handling of (fill in the international issue)?’ or ‘do you have a favorable opinion of (fill in name of country or international organization)?’ All this may indicate the probability that a “low-information” individual will follow some leader or embrace some organization based on “likability” alone, but it doesn’t tell us anything about what that individual’s actual policy preferences are (or would be if they had more information about the choices at hand).
And therein lies the weakness of most polls: they’re almost invariably too generally worded to truly help the policymaker and analyst understand what an informed public would or would not support. For example, consider Pew’s ‘rally to a NATO ally’s defense’ question:
“Q52. If Russia got into a serious military conflict with one of its neighboring countries that is our NATO ally, do you think (survey country) should or should not use military force to defend that country?”
People who don’t normally think about how geography or foundational principles of regional security relate to them in their daily lives don’t tend to take those intangibles into account in their gut responses to questions like this. And some might differentiate between an abstract case (e.g., “a neighboring country of Russia”) and an actual named country they can picture relative to themselves. So to further refine the data and better understand what people actually believe or want (as varied across a given country’s regions and demographic groups), a series of follow-on questions might be desirable:
1.      First, two questions to baseline whether responders support the core Helsinki principles at stake, and whether they believe their country’s relationship within NATO should be transactional and self-interested.
a.       “Do you believe your country, all NATO and EU members, and Russia should refrain from threatening or violating each others’ frontiers and territorial integrities?”
b.      “If Russia committed military acts of aggression or coercion against your country, would you want the U.S. and other NATO allies to militarily come to your country’s defense?”
2.      The next three questions would identify the degree to which responders believed NATO’s defensive burden should be shared in a conflict in the responders’ own neighborhoods.
a.       “If Russia committed military acts of aggression or coercion against (name of a fellow NATO ally that bordered responder’s country), would you want the U.S. to militarily come to that country’s defense?”
b.      “Would you support U.S. military use of your country’s territory to defend (name of a fellow NATO ally that bordered responder’s country)?”
c.       “If Russia committed military acts of aggression or coercion against (name of a fellow NATO ally that bordered responder’s country), would you want your country to militarily come to that country’s defense?”
3.      The final three would identify the degree to which responders believed the NATO defensive burden should be shared in a conflict beyond the responders’ own neighborhoods.
a.       “If Russia committed military acts of aggression or coercion against (name of a fellow NATO ally at a distance from responder’s country), would you want the U.S. to militarily come to that country’s defense?”
b.      “Would you support U.S. military use of your country’s territory to defend (name of a fellow NATO ally at a distance from responder’s country)?”
c.       “If Russia committed military acts of aggression or coercion against (name of a fellow NATO ally at a distance from responder’s country), would you want your country to militarily come to that country’s defense?”

We might not like the answers to these questions, but they would tell us a great deal more than what we found in the Pew survey.
Lastly, in digesting the Pew numbers, the slight rebounds in many polled countries regarding Russia’s and Putin’s “favorability” from 2014 to 2015 ought to be examined in terms of the possible effects of Russian propaganda. A good poll question to do this might have been to ask what principal media outlets in a responder's country, including social networks, the responder turned to for trusted news on Russia, NATO, or Ukraine. A pretty good picture of the information war would emerge from that data.
The EU is focusing its efforts to counter Russian propaganda on Russian-speaking populations in former Soviet states, including the Baltics. That’s all fine and good, but it would seem that the domestic information gaps regarding Russian political, informational, economic, and military threats to their own countries are in sore need of being addressed as well. NATO and EU member governments should be reaching out to the independent press within their own borders with hard and verifiable facts that counter the Putin regime’s narratives, highlight the Putin regime’s efforts to influence European politics and policy, and detail the Putin regime’s illiberality at home. National leaders on both sides of the Atlantic owe their citizens a frank and continuous dialogue on how the foundational values of European security enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act are being endangered by the Putin regime’s policies, and what that should mean to them in their daily lives. Those free electorates should then be left to decide whether those values are worth defending.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.

[i] Given the Putin regime’s authoritarian nature and the pervasiveness of its security apparatus, though, I don’t have much confidence that all the Russian citizens polled gave their true views without fear of repercussions. There is nevertheless more than enough qualitative evidence elsewhere that a majority of the Russian people support the Putin regime and its foreign policies. The resolute depth of that support is what's open to question. I find that Pew’s number highlights the extreme improbability that there will be any mass popular movements taking to the streets throughout Russia in opposition to the regime anytime soon. More importantly, Pew’s findings on the depth of Russian popular irredentism indicate the improbability of Western-leaning classically liberal politicians coming to power if the Putin regime were to fall.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Revisiting ADM Stansfield Turner’s Classic “Missions of the Navy”

Admiral Stansfield Turner, 1983 (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
“The fundamental element of a military service is its purpose or role in implementing national policy. The statement of this role may be called the strategic concept of the service. Basically, this concept is a description of how, when, and where the military service expects to protect the nation against some threat to its security. If a military service does not possess such a concept, it becomes purpose-less, it wallows about amid a variety of conflicting and confusing goals, and ultimately it suffers both physical and moral degeneration. A military service may at times, of course, perform functions unrelated to external security, such as internal policing, disaster relief, and citizenship training. These are, however, subordinate and collateral responsibilities. A military service does not exist to perform these functions; rather it performs these functions because it has already been called into existence to meet some threat to the national security. A service is many things; it is men, weapons, bases, equipment, traditions, organization. But none of these have meaning or usefulness unless there is a unifying purpose which shapes and directs their relations and activities towards the achievement of some goal of national policy.” –Samuel Huntington. “National Policy and the Trans-Oceanic Navy.” Naval Institute Proceedings Vol. 80, No. 5, May 1954.
An armed service must be able to provide solid justification for its requests to its political masters (and in a representative democracy, those who elect them to office) for a particular share of national resources. It cannot do this if it cannot clearly articulate its strategic purpose.
As Huntington alludes above, though, a service must also explain its strategic purpose to a second and equally important audience: its own rank and file. Its officers and enlisted, from the highest level staffs to the lowest level units, must understand and embrace their individual roles within the service’s corporate body. They must be informed as to which missions, tasks, and skillsets should receive the greatest share of their physical and intellectual energies, not to mention the service’s material and financial resources. A strategic purpose is essentially a form of mission command; it serves as executive guidance by which the service’s “little platoons” at all levels and in all of its organizational branches can self-organize in peace and in war for the betterment of the whole. Without this guidance, Huntington observes, the service will not be able to differentiate how the many things the nation asks it to do—or the many other things it sets forth to do by virtue of its own collective professional expertise—should be prioritized and balanced against each other. The end result of an absence of focused purpose: chaos, confusion, and “physical and moral degeneration” that percolates more-or-less out of view from outsiders until it reveals itself tragically in a moment of national need.
The U.S. Navy’s leadership of the early 1970s evidently feared exactly this kind of decay. A decade of power projection into North and South Vietnam from offshore sanctuaries had certainly educated the Navy as to the technical and tactical intricacies of conducting land-attack strikes in spite of opposition from modern air defense systems. But few of the Navy’s other missions during the Vietnam War paralleled the missions it would need to fulfill in a war against the Soviet Union. And on top of that, the Navy’s division into surface warfare, submarine, and aviation communities—and the subdivisions of each of those communities—made it difficult for the officer corps to view the service’s missions holistically.[1] The service needed a reassertion of its strategic purpose.
This was the role filled by then-VADM Stanfield Turner’s seminal article “Missions of the U.S. Navy” in the March-April 1974 Naval War College Review. His ideas and arguments regarding how the Navy should define its missions speak for themselves. I’m going to quote a few that I found particularly applicable to contemporary maritime strategic questions.
On the flowdown of operational and tactical objectives from a service’s strategic missions:
“Focusing on missions helps tactical commanders to keep objectives in mind. Anti-submarine warfare tacticians often overconcentrate on killing submarines when their ultimate objective is to ensure safe maritime operations. An example of a good sense of objectives was the Israeli achievement of air superiority in the 1967 war. Even though air superiority is traditionally thought of as a function of dogfight tactics, the Israelis recognized that shooting the enemy from the air was not the objective. Destroying Egyptian aircraft was. They employed deep surprise attacks on enemy airfields to successfully achieve this objective.”(Pg. 3)

On the necessary linkages between national strategy, a service’s definition of its missions and the allocation of resources to those missions:
“…an amorphous mass of men, ships, and weapons is difficult to manage because it is difficult for an individual to visualize. By subdividing these masses into their expected output, or missions, we are able to establish priorities for allocating resources—to know how much we are spending for different objectives and to judge their consonance with national strategy.” (Pg. 3)

On sea control as a principal mission of the Navy:
“The new term “Sea Control” is intended to connote more realistic control in limited areas and for limited periods of time. It is conceivable today to temporarily exert air, submarine, and surface control in an area while moving ships into position to project power ashore or to resupply overseas forces. It is no longer conceivable, except in the most limited sense, to totally control the seas for one’s own use or to totally deny them to an enemy.
…Four U.S. national objectives which call for asserting our use of the sea and, by the same token, denial of them to an opponent are:
·         To ensure industrial supplies
·         To reinforce/resupply military forces engaged overseas
·         To provide wartime economic/military supplies to allies
·         To provide safety for naval forces in the Projection of Power Ashore role” (Pg. 7-8)

On blockades as a method for achieving sea control objectives:
“As opposed to the 18th and 19th century tactic of forcing a major fleet engagement at sea, today’s blockade seeks destruction of individual units as they sortie. If we assume an opponent will be in control of the air near his ports, sortie control tactics must primarily depend upon submarines and mines.
If successful, sortie control is a most economical means of cutting off a nation’s use of the seas or ability to interfere. Nevertheless, such established techniques have their disadvantages. No blockade is 100 percent successful. Some units may be beyond the blockade when hostilities commence and will remain to haunt opposition forces. Against the enemy’s aircraft there is no static defense. Planes must be bombed at their bases. Thus we must conclude that blockades are weapons of attrition requiring time to be effective. But the lesson of history is perhaps the most instructive of all—ingenious man has usually found ways to circumvent blockades.” (Pg. 8)

On the use of deception to perform sea control tasks:
“Assertive Sea Control objectives do not necessarily demand destruction of the enemy’s force. If the enemy can be sufficiently deceived to frustrate his ability to press an attack, we will have achieved our Sea Control objective.” (Pg. 9)

On the relationship between sea control capabilities and deterrence:
The perceptions of other nations of our Sea Control capability relative to that of other major powers can influence political and military decisions. What any nation says about its capabilities influences the challenges that are offered or accepted.” (Pg. 9)

On the operational-strategic relationship between sea control and power projection (underlined text is my emphasis):
“…we would note that only a fine distinction separates some aspects of the Sea Control and Projection of Power Ashore missions. Many weapons and platforms are used in both missions. Amphibious assaults on chokepoints or tactical airstrikes on enemy airbases can be employed as part of the Sea Control mission. Sea-based tactical aircraft are used in Sea Control missions for antiair warfare and against enemy surface combatants. The distinction in these cases is not in the type of forces nor the tactics which are employed, but in the purposes of the operation. Is the objective to secure/deny the use of the seas or is it to directly support the land campaign? For instance, much of the layman’s confusion over aircraft carriers stems from the impression that they are employed exclusively in the Projection of Power Ashore role. Actually, from the Battle of Cape Matapan through World War II, aircraft carriers were used almost exclusively to establish control of the ocean’s surface. Today they clearly have a vital role to play in both the Sea Control and Projection of Power missions.” (Pg. 12-13)

On the linkages between naval presence and conventional deterrence:
“In a preventative deployment our force capabilities should be relevant to the kind of problems which might arise and clearly cannot be markedly inferior to some other naval force in the neighborhood, but can rely to some extent on the implication that reinforcements can be made available if necessary. On the other hand, in a reactive deployment any force deployed needs to possess an immediately credible threat and be prepared to have its bluff called. If another seapower, such as the Soviet Union, is in the area, a comparison of forces will be inevitable.
…the Naval Presence mission is simultaneously as sophisticated and sensitive as any, but also probably the least understood of all Navy missions. A well orchestrated Naval Presence can be enormously useful in complementing diplomatic actions to achieve political objectives. Applied deftly but firmly, in precisely the proper force, Naval Presence can be a persuasive deterrent to war. If used ineptly, it can be disastrous. Thus, in determining presence objectives, scaling forces, and appraising perceptions, there will never be a weapon system as important as the human intellect.” (Pg. 14-15)

When reading Turner’s full discussion of the sea control mission, it’s important to keep in mind that he incorrectly asserted that “full regulation of the seas in wartime” was something that was sought after—and possible—until the advent of the submarine and airplane. As I’ve noted before, Corbettian theory makes clear that such a broad degree of control was never possible in the ancient world let alone in the years leading up to the First World War. Turner was therefore partially mistaken when he wrote that “it is no longer conceivable…to totally control the seas for one’s own use or to totally deny them to an enemy” as that kind of control never was conceivable.
I’m ashamed to admit that although I had read elsewhere how Turner’s article had influenced the Navy’s path towards the Maritime Strategy of the 1980s, until now I had never taken the time to read it (despite its 16 page length). Don’t make my mistake: download it today and read it yourself. Despite being four decades old and its Cold War-era context, there are few points in it that are not still fully relevant to maritime warfare in the 21st Century.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.

[1] John B. Hattendorf. Newport Papers 30: U.S. Naval Strategy in the 1970s—Selected Documents. (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 2007), Pg. 31

Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekly HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Read Board

Upcoming Events

Scuttlebutt (News)

·       As Navy Missions Pile Up, So Does Jet Maintenance. Gaps emerge as readiness consumption exceeds readiness production, thereby forcing F/A-18 Super Hornets to fly longer than planned.

·       Pentagon Rushing to Open Space-War Center to Counter China, Russia. The Pentagon opened a center to develop space warfare tactics and combat adversaries in response to other countries’ development of offensive space capabilities.

·       China Aims to Challenge U.S. Air Dominance: Pentagon. Deputy Defense Secretary of Defense Robert Work says that China is “quickly closing the technological gaps” in order to compete with the U.S. in the air and space domain.

·       Marines Looking at Deploying Aboard Foreign Ships. Due to a shortage of U.S. Navy ships, the Marine Corps may deploy on foreign vessels for rapid response in Europe and North Africa.

·       Navy Wants to Work with Air Force on New Nukes: VADM Benedict. As both Air Force and the Navy seek to replace their aging nuclear arsenals, the Navy wants to coordinate programs in order to cut costs.

Now Hear This (Opinions)
·       Remarks at China Aerospace Studies Institute, by Bob Work. In last week’s speech, the Deputy Secretary of Defense discussed the reemergence of great power competitions and the DoD’s Long Range Research and Development Planning Program, often known as the “third offset.”    
·       America’s Pivot to Asia: Why Rhetoric Simply Isn’t Enough, by J. Randy Forbes and Jim Talent. Rep. Forbes and Fmr. Sen. Talent argue that the U.S. needs to rebuild its Navy to face Chinese expansionism.
·       5 Questions with Rep. Randy Forbes on Subs and Nukes, by Ryan Evans. In an interview, Rep. Forbes discusses the necessity of funding the National Sea-based Deterrence Fund to sustain America’s nuclear arsenal.
·       Let’s Be Real: The South China Sea Is a US-China Issue, by Jeff M. Smith. Smith argues that China’s actions in the South China threaten freedom of navigation and cause an increase in tensions between the U.S. and China. 

Deep Dives (Analysis)
·       Sustaining America’s Precision Strike Advantage, By Mark Gunzinger and Bryan Clark. Gunzinger and Clark argue that the U.S. is ill prepared to face fortified adversaries due to its reliance of direct-attack munitions.

Fact of the Week: 96% of the precision guided munitions procured by the DoD from 2001 through 2014 are direct attack while only 4% are stand-off.

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