23 – 27 March 2015 Events of Interest

This is a roundup of events by that our readers and members might find interesting. Inclusion does not equal endorsement, all descriptions are the events’ own. Think of one we should inclcalendarude?  Email Emil at extrelations@cimsec.org.


Upcoming CIMSEC Events

Join our DC chapter for its March DC-area informal meet-up/happy hour. We’ll be chatting about the new U.S. Maritime Security Strategy revision and enjoying drinks in the company of interesting people.

Miss CIMSEC’s first annual Forum for Authors and Readers (#CFAR15)? Here is the opening keynote by BJ Armstrong on his new book 21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era” (videos of the presentations here)


23 – 27 March 2015 Events of Interest

23 March 2015 – Washington, DC – CSIS – “Agility, Acquisition, and American Security”

23 March 2015 – Washington, DC – Asan Institute for Policy Studies – “Asan Seminar, ​​“New Assessments of the North Korean Threat”

24 March 2015 – Washington, DC – Smithsonian – “Navies of the Civil War”

24 March 2015 – Washington, DC – FPI – “Identifying a Strategy: The US-China Military Relationship”

25 March 2015 – New York, NY – FPA – “America’s Role in a Changing International Landscape”

27 March 2015 – Washington, DC – CSIS - “Artful Balance: The Future of US Defense Strategy and Force Posture in the Gulf “


Long-range Events

30 March-01 April – Canberra, Australia – ASPI – “Australia’s Future Surface Fleet Conference

31 March 2015 – Ohio State University – AHS - “What is the Proper Size and Anatomy of the U.S. Armed Forces Heading Forward?”

7-9 April 2015 – Carlisle, PA –  Army War College – “Balancing the Joint Force to meet Future Security Challenges”

15-17 April 2015 – Jacksonville, FL –  – Maritime Patrol Association – “2015 MPA Symposium”

17-18 April 2015 – Portsmouth, UK – National Museum of the Royal Navy – “Statesmen & Seapower”

22 April 2015 – Arlington, VA – CNA – “U.S. Navy Future Strategy Forum”

21-23 April 2015 – Singapore – Seatrade Global and SMF – “Sea Asia”

28-29 April 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “Global Shipping Trends and Trade Patterns”

13-14 May 2015 – Washington, DC – AIE – “Additive Manufacturing for Defense and Government” ft CIMSECian Scott Cheney-Peters

13-16 May 2015 – Monterey, CA – North American Society for Oceanic History – “Pacific – The Peaceful Ocean?”

19-20 May 2015 – Larnaca, Cyprus – Republic of Cyprus Ministry of Defense – “CYP Naval 2015″

19-20 May 2015 -Newport, RI – USNWC China Maritime Studies Institute – China’s Naval Shipbuilding: Progress and Challenges ft CIMSECian Scott Cheney-Peters

20-21 May 2015 – London, May – ACI – “6th FPSO Vessel Conference”

29-30 May 2015 – Providence, RI – North American Society for Oceanic History – “50th Anniversary Gaspee Days Maritime History / Maritime Studies Symposium”

2-5 June 2015 – Oslo, Norway – Nor Shipping – Nor Shipping 2015 Exhibition

4-5 June 2015 – Berlin, Germany – Zentrum Moderner Orient – “Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present” 

24-25 June 2015 – Edinburgh, UK – ACI – “2nd World Ocean Power Summit” 

26 June 2015 – Washington, DC – CNAS – “CNAS Annual Conference” (Save the date)

11 July 2015 – Canberra, Australia – Australian National University – “SDSC Conference 2015: Pacific War”

2-3 Sept 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “6th Maritime Salvage & Casualty Response”

18-19 Sept 2015 – Annapolis, MD – USNA – “US Naval Academy 2015 McMullen Naval History Symposium (Registration forthcoming)

23-25 Sept 2015 – Mumbai, India – Informa Exhibitions and Hamburg Messe und Congress - “INMEX-SMM India”

23-26 Sept 2015 – Giardnini Naxos, Sicily – EISA – “Pan European Conference on Maritime Security”

10-11 Oct 2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Temple – “U.S. Bases and the Construction of Hegemony”

14-16 Oct 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal – Portuguese Naval Academy (Escola Naval)- “The Navy and the Great War-Politics and Naval Power” (Paper Proposals Due 28 Aug)

28-29 Oct 2015 – Joint Base Anderews – DHS/S&T – “9th Annual SMA Conference”

11-12 Nov 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “7th Artic Shipping Summit 2015″

The Coast Guard’s Role in 21st Century Seapower

By David Van Dyk

With standing room only and camera crews capturing their footage, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford and Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft took the stage during the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

John Hamre, CEO of CSIS since January 2000, introduced the military leadership on stage, remarking that the Navy and Marine Corps have “loved each other like brothers; Cain and Abel.”

While rivalries between the Sea Services were realized years back, a new cooperative strategy looking forward is not only smart but paramount to our nation’s defense and ability to project power on the high seas and around the coastline.

The meeting’s purpose was to establish and introduce a document signed by all three Sea Service chiefs.  “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready” (CS21R) was penned because of the changing environment, changing threats and changing resources.  While all three changes are major factors in the national stage of security and safety, it requires a unity of effort from not only the United States Sea Services, but of those around the world, working in unison to tackle problems ranging from military aggression to disaster relief.

Changing Environment

In a rapidly changing world, the sea services need to align their focus and adapt to the environment. This requires major changes, one of which is the Arctic. According to CS21R, the Arctic is becoming a major player in maritime trade.

“Rising ocean temperatures present new challenges and opportunities, most notably in the Arctic and Antarctic, where receding ice leads to greater maritime activity,” CS21R states. “In the coming decades, the Arctic Ocean will be increasingly accessible and more broadly used by those seeking access to the region’s abundant resources and trade routes.”

With research vessels and ice breakers blazing their own trails through the region, responsible practices must not only be encouraged but enforced. The Arctic Council, made up of eight partner nations, will be chaired by the United States from 2015 to 2017, allowing American leaders to map out a strategic and engaged plan for the changing northern environment. The Coast Guard, according to the document, will also be entering a design phase for a new icebreaker capable of handling the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

“Some of our biggest concerns in the Arctic (are that) someone’s going to fall in it or oil spills in it and it affects the way of life in the Arctic domain,” Admiral Zukunft said. “We have an Arctic Strategy in place that aligns with a national strategy for the Arctic region.”

Witnessing firsthand the increasing activity in the Polar Regions, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star rescued 26 crewmembers aboard an Australian fishing vessel, the Antarctic Chieftain, that was trapped in freezing temperatures Feb. 18. Since the Polar Star had just finished “Operation Deep Freeze” to replenish McMurdo Station, according to a Reuters report, they were able to sail 800 miles and cut through 150 miles of ice to reach the vessel and save all lives aboard by towing it to open waters.

Another changing environment mentioned in the document is the increasing amount of trade occurring on the oceans, meaning more traffic for important commercial waterways.

“Skyrocketing demand for energy and resources, as evidenced by a projected 56 percent increase of global energy consumption by 2040, underscores the criticality of the free flow of commerce through strategic maritime crossroads, including the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, as well as the Panama and Suez Canals,” the document reads. “Closer to home, dramatic changes in energy production and transportation, as well as the completion of the Panama Canal expansion project, will fundamentally alter shipping patterns within the United States and globally.”

The Panama Canal expansion project is nearing a conclusion with 85 percent completed, and it is expected to be fully operational early next year, according to the Christian Science Monitor. With post Panamax vessels taking on 14,000 containers, the new enlargement will bring seaborne giants of commerce to East Coast ports, bringing additional security challenges to Navy and Coast Guard assets.

While CS21R does not mention it, Nicaraguan lawmakers have been dealing with a Chinese billionaire named Wang Jing, Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Development (HKND) group, in building their own canal to handle, they claim, even larger ships. While details of the plan remain under intense scrutiny, the competition building in this changing region will only grow larger as maritime trade increases.

“Oceans are the lifeblood of the interconnected global community, where seaborne trade is expected to double over the next 15 years,” CS21R states. “Ninety percent of trade by volume travels across the oceans.”

Changing Threats

While operating in a changing environment, the Sea Services recognize the changing threats taking place in and around these areas.  These threats, whether from state or non-state actors, will need to be dealt with both effectively and efficiently.

According to Admiral Zukunft, transnational organized crime is worth $750 billion annually. These networks utilize their illicit activities to help fund terrorist activities as well as their own nefarious enterprises.

“Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) remain a threat to stability in Africa and the Western Hemisphere, especially in Central America and the southern approaches of the U.S. homeland,” CS21R states. “Their networks facilitate human trafficking and interrelated flows of weapons, narcotics and money, all of which could be exploited by terrorists to attack our homeland, allies and overseas interests.”

Transnational criminal organizations are operating not only along the coastlines and drug transit zones of the western hemisphere, but also throughout Africa, where terrorist and piracy networks often share intelligence and money to fund illicit activities along the African coast.

“Construction Battalions (Seabees), Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Operations Forces, as well as Coast Guardsmen and Marines, will continue working alongside partner security forces to combat terrorism, illicit trafficking, and illegal exploitation of natural resources through initiatives such as the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership and the Africa Partnership Station,” CS21R states. “West African nations rely heavily on maritime forces to combat illicit trafficking, which have links to terrorist enterprises.”

Members of a Naval Special Warfare team conduct a fast rope insertion training operation from an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter
Members of a Naval Special Warfare team conduct a fast rope insertion training operation from an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter

Another theatre of operations where there is a changing threat is the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, where China’s actions are being hotly contested by Indo-Asian allies, including Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.

“Consistent with developing strong partnerships and relationships, Filipinos have been strong partners for many years,” General Dunford said. “We had a little bit of a dip in the relationship, but that’s a compelling reason for us to cooperate more closely than we have over the past few years.”

According to Reuters, China’s actions have led Japan to recently sign a security agreement with Vietnam and the Philippines, forming an alliance that will counter China’s growing presence throughout the South and East China Sea.  This agreement includes the first ever joint naval exercises between Japan and the Philippines, as well as intelligence sharing between the geopolitical adversaries of China.

“With strategic attention shifting to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we will increase the number of ships, aircraft and Marine Corps forces postured there,” CS21R states. “By 2020, approximately 60 percent of Navy ships and aircraft will be based in the (Indo-Asian-Pacific) region. The Navy will maintain a Carrier Strike Group, Carrier Airwing and Amphibious Ready Group in Japan, add an attack submarine to those already in Guam and implement cost-effective approaches such as increasing to four the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) forward-stationed in Singapore.”

The Coast Guard’s strong ties with several other coast guards in the volatile region will aid in diplomatic discussions and information sharing.

“…The Coast Guard will work with regional partners and navies using joint and combined patrols, ship-rider exchanges and multinational exercises to build proficient maritime governance forces, enhance cooperation in maritime safety and security and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” CS21R states. “These multinational efforts are furthered through the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative and participation in the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.”

Boat crewmen with Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles - Long Beach conduct tactical boat maneuvers during an exercise, July 31, 2012. The exercise was designed to test the unit's ability to protect a ship docked at a pier as well as underway, using four Coast Guard small boats.
Boat crewmen with Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles – Long Beach conduct tactical boat maneuvers during an exercise, July 31, 2012. The exercise was designed to test the unit’s ability to protect a ship docked at a pier as well as underway, using four Coast Guard small boats.

Changing Resources

With budgets under scrutiny and the almighty dollar being hard-pressed, the Sea Services need to fight battles effectively and efficiently by realizing the changing resources available for widespread use.

“In this time of fiscal austerity, our force is sized to support defeating one regional adversary in a large, multi-phased campaign, while denying the objectives of, or imposing unacceptable costs on, another aggressor in a different region,” CS21R states. “This force-sizing construct also ensures our capability and capacity to support global presence requirements.”

In a question and answer period during the CSIS event, Megan Eckstein, a staff writer with USNI News, asked the three admirals how they would handle their services concerning the possible constraints of the FY16 budget, which received acknowledged chuckles from the largely Capitol Hill audience.

“We have to replace the current Ohio-class submarine,” Admiral Greenert said. “We don’t have the money associated to do that without ruining the shipbuilding account which permeates all that this strategy is about for the future. That is my number one conundrum right now.”

Dunford offered a different view into the budget issue, speaking of his recent meeting with Marine Corps leaders reviewing the service’s capabilities in unifying combatant commanders.

“This is really not just FY16 … this is about capability development over the next three to five, frankly seven to eight years,” Dunford said. “It’s not so much about buying more radios. It’s about us coming together and identifying the capability that we need to have and making sure that’s properly resourced.”

According to Zukunft, the Coast Guard needs to not only provide a defensive measure along the coast and in the ports, but also be able to stop dangerous and illegal shipments from even entering the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“If you have a shipment destined for the United States, you want a goal line defense inside the sea buoy, or do you want the ability to exert US sovereignty into the territorial seas of where that ship departed?” Zukunft said. “I’d much rather have the latter, but we’re not going to have that as a nation if we don’t make this investment to build affordable ships, but…also the ability to exert our sovereignty well beyond the sea buoy.”

In the revised document, the Sea Services realized the challenges a tighter budget would have on their day to day operations and the need to cooperate on a deeper and more streamlined level.

“A smaller force, driven by additional budget cuts or sequestration, would require us to make hard choices,” CS21R states. “Specifically, in the event of a return to sequestration levels of funding, the Navy’s ability to maintain appropriate forward presence would be placed at risk.”

Changing environments, threats and resources will force the Sea Services to adapt and recognize the fluctuations across world geopolitics. Unifying efforts with allies and partners will enhance America’s own Sea Services, offering opportunities for deeper associations with countries from Latin America to the South China Sea. Whatever the environment and threat may be, America’s Navy, Marines and Coast Guard will remain ready, willing and able to handle the coming century.

David Van Dyk is a senior at Liberty University currently completing his Bachelors of Science in Communications with a focus in journalism. He is a member of the Lambda Pi Eta honor society and the news editor of the university newspaper, the Liberty Champion.  His views are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the Liberty Champion nor that of Liberty University.

Raid Breaker: Robert Work’s Soft Kill on Hard Costs

Winston Churchill noted that, “it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war” – so too once the war-war has started, “it is better to buzz-buzz, then to bang-bang.” U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work’s desire for new electronic-warfare (EW) solutions AKA Raid Breaker, aimed at large missile salvos in particular, is necessary not only for the arena of physical war, but the internal war of budgets and force planning that enable such critical fights.

For the following argument I assume the effectiveness of soft-kill (EW) over hard-kill options. I also assume that ultimately shooting down a guided missile is more expensive than confusing it; as Secretary Work states,for relatively small investments, you get an extremely high potential payoff.

However, beyond the immediate cost/effectiveness argument, we are forced to spend more in other areas due to the increasing amount of space/weight/weapon systems we dedicate to missile defense on our surface ships. That dedication to defense pushes out offensive capabilities, which we must then buy in other areas. Some might argue that the “need” for the F-35 and its stealth capabilities were, in part, driven by destroyers whose long-range weapons weapons were almost wholly turned over to defense – requiring a carrier for offensive punch. That technological bias towards the defensive has become so extreme that it has required VADM Rowden’s new “Distributed Lethality” effort - a course change back into a realm that should be a natural instinct for the surface force: distributed operations and killing enemy ships.

Of course, the pricetag and weight of kinetic systems has also prevented the fleet from finding more cost-effective ways to increase the ship count – requiring DDG’s or, in the case of the original LCS plan, expanding smaller ships to take on additional responsibilities. With significant investments in defensive systems not requiring a vast VLS magazine, we could build smaller ships with bigger relative punches at a lesser cost. We could more aggressively pursue the Zumwaltian dream of the High-Low Mix: more ships for more effect for less money – every CNO and SECNAV’s dream.

Raid Breaker is a case of finding, and exploiting, competitive advantage. We have been using our best offensive capabilities – the kinetic weapons – for defense. We have let the best defensive options languish, and in so doing pushed expensive requirements into other areas where we must find our offensive edge. A firm dedication to electronic warfare for “soft-kill” options gives us our ships, and our procurement flexibility, back.

In the end, the excitement over Raid Breaker should not primarily involve its awesome war fighting impact if successful – but all the other ideas it will all the Navy to pursue. What makes Raid Breaker so beautiful is that the raid it breaks, in the long-term, is the one on our bottom line.

Matthew Hipple is a Naval Officer and Director of Online Content at CIMSEC. He also produces our Sea Control podcast, hosting the US edition.  

The South Pacific’s Cyclone Pam

A Story of Climate Change, Destruction and Global Solidarity

The little archipelago of Vanuatu in the South Pacific has been struck by a tropical cyclone of nearly unprecedented scale on the night from Friday the 13th (!) to 14th March 2015. With 165 MPH winds, the category 5 cyclone named ‘Pam’ is the most destructive tropical cyclone in Vanuatu’s history and the second most intense tropical cyclone in the South Pacific basin after Cyclone Zoe of 2002. Zoe hit several small islands in the Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands with a total population of 1700.

Pam was much stronger than Hurricane Katrina. Now, Vanuatu must begin the long process of recovering.

Casualties and damages

As of 16 March, the National Disaster Management Office confirmed 24 fatalities in total, including 11 from Tafea, 8 from Efate, and 5 from Tanna. However, there are still no reliable casualty figures from the rest of the country.

The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, told the Associated Press:

“More than 1,000 people have been evacuated to evacuation centers and will be returning to their homes some time later today, if their homes still stand. That’s in the capital Port Vila alone. Confirmed dead in Port Vila is 6 and more than 30 injuries. I do believe the number of casualties will not be high. More than 90% of the buildings and houses in Port Vila have been destroyed or damaged. The state of emergency that has been issued is only for Port Vila. Once we receive an update on the extent of the damage in the provinces then another state of emergency will be issued for the outer islands. Despite widespread damage, Shefa remains the only province declared an emergency at this stage.”

Climate change as suspect N°1

President Lonsdale declared that climate change was contributing to the severe weather his country is experiencing: “Climate change is contributing to the disasters in Vanuatu. We see the level of sea rise. Change in weather patterns. This year we have heavy rain more than every year.” He added that his country had been “wiped out” by the catastrophe and would have to build “a new paradise again”.

President Lonsdale received the support of Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, who declared:

“For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights and our survival into the future. There will be a time when the waters will not recede. It is now time to act on climate change.”

Kiribati is slowly disappearing under the seas and some of its population has been sent to Fiji as the first climate-change refugees of the world. Three islands of Kiribati have been struck by the cyclone Pam and Tuvalu is thought to have suffered extensive damage. 

International aid on its way



The first priority now is humanitarian needs. 90% of the buildings have been destroyed and people have nowhere to stay. President Lonsdale has been asking for help:

“Clothing, eating utensils, and bathing, most of the necessary items of the households, all this has been destroyed and damaged. I really request for humanitarian needs and assistance at this stage. Tarpaulins, water containers, medical needs, gathering tools, and construction tools, all these are very important right now.”

Currently, 3,300 people are sheltering in 37 evacuation centers in Torba and Penama Provinces, and on the main island of Efate. UNICEF officials warned that the entire population of Tanna island faces starvation within days. Indeed, the cyclone destroyed all crops on the island. Islanders have just a few days of fruit and root vegetables left. There are very serious concerns about food stocks going forward.

Somewhat more positive, communications have been almost fully restored in Port Vila but other islands remain cut off from the world. People remain without power and ADRA Australia reported that most evacuation centers lacked even basic hand washing facilities. Another source of concern is contamined water supplies and the risk of the spread of dengue and malaria.

Aerial assessments have been carried out by military aircraft from New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand. On Sunday, France sent a military plane, a Casa loaded with relief supplies, a vehicle to enable the recognition, a generator for a desalination plant, sheeting for shelters to protect a hundred families, the Route Opening equipment (chainsaws, and other tools),  satellite communications, along with a logistics unit to support the detachment for 10 days. The plane came from Tahiti and took off from Noumea (New Caledonia), which is only 500 km away from Vanuatu. The Casa carried three soldiers, a member of the Civil Security and a member of the Red Cross. A second plane was sent on Monday.

The Australian Defence Force sent two C-17A Globemaster IIIs loaded with food and basic equipment and a C-130J with an on-board evaluation team. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pledged long-term support for the recovery effort and sent two more military aircraft. AP-3C Orion maritime patrol was positioned in Honiara, Solomon Islands and started aerial reconnaissance of the archipelago. A second AP-3C Orion launched reconnaissance flights in northern Archipe.

In Polynesia, the Air Force is operating with a detachment consisting of a transport squadron of two tactical transport Casa 235s (ETOM 0082) while in New Caledonia, the Air Force maintains the transport squadron (ET52) with two Casa planes and three Puma helicopters. The frigate Vendémiaire, currently in Noumea, will be deployed to the remote island of Tanna on Friday. It will carry a Puma helicopter on board. Another humanitarian C-17 transport plane with emergency supplies took off from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, UK as part of a growing effort involving countries from around the world.

The 268,000 affected people are spread over 65 islands, with security experts likening it to dealing with 65 simultaneous emergencies. Furthermore, the difficulty of travel from one island to another makes it incredibly hard to compile an accurate picture of what the situation is.

I remember going to remote islands of Vanuatu with the French Navy: Ni-Vanuatu had nothing but gave us everything. 

To those affected, we have everything. Let’s at least give them something. It’s up to us to make sure that these wonderful people don’t die suffering from hunger, thirst, cold, fear alone on their ravaged island.

The French chapter co-presidents

Text: Alix Willemez

Map: Louis Martin-Vézian

CIMSEC DC March Meet-Up

roofers_union_750x500_fbcreditJoin our DC chapter for its March DC-area informal meet-up/happy hour. We’ll be chatting about the new U.S. Maritime Security Strategy revision and enjoying drinks in the company of interesting people.

Time: Thursday, 26 March 5:30-8:00pm
PlaceRoofer’s Union, 2nd Floor
2446 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(Woodley Park/Zoo Metro stop)

Read-aheads for those interested:
A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower – Revision (CS21R)
The New US Maritime Strategy
– Josh Tallis
The New Maritime Strategy: It’s Tricky to Balance Ends, Ways, and Means
– Bryan McGrath and Bryan Clark
My Take on the 2015 Maritime Strategy: Thumbs Up
– James Holmes

All are welcome – RSVPs not required, but appreciated: director@cimsec.org

Airpower-R-US: The Old, New Way of Doing Business?

“Kurdish Forces, Backed by Coalition Airstrikes, Move Toward Mosul” announced a recent headline from the front in the war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.  As I read this headline the slogan that popped into my mind was Toys-R-US, or more to the point, Airpower-R-US; and in a more joint context, Fires-R-US. The US stands for United States. The metaphor here involves going to the store (the US) and getting what one needs to handle one’s military and political problems. The toys, of course, are the array of capabilities that the US Department of Defense can provide, courtesy of the National Security Council and with the blessing of the President; especially combat aircraft and the best trained crews for them in the world.

With all the handwringing about the future of warfare and the 21st century “threat”  being bandied about in security policy circles, perhaps the new norm should be identified as the US’s propensity for “loaning out” its air power and fires capabilities. These tend to be assigned to causes US leaders perceive as “righteous” or at least worthwhile enough (to US interests) to apply the military component of national power. The Kurds for example might provide the ground troops and we provide the air/fire power to help them achieve their goals (and maybe even air defense and ballistic missile defense).  Or perhaps to simply prevent US enemies (like ISIS) from achieving their goals, or rather, more of their goals.

This approach to the use of military power seems to be something we previewed for everyone as early as World War II, and then practiced more deliberately in places like Vietnam, Iraq (1990- present), Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria (whose conflict now overlaps with Iraq). In order to provide value, a brief review of the history of the evolution of Airpower-R-US is in order. As a reminder, the pattern we are discussing is a tendency to eschew the commitment of ground forces in favor of commitment of air power (including things like sea-launched land attack cruise missiles and Predator drones with hardkill payloads).

World War II: The Pattern in Preview

The US first previewed a pattern of providing high tech additives, primarily air power, in its strategic planning and initial execution of operations in World War II.

Its leaders, especially President Franklin Roosevelt and the air power lobby, initiated this practice during World War II, providing first the equipment (Lend-Lease) and then the manned air forces to sustain the major ground fights, primarily in the Soviet Union but also as a strategy for the Pacific in China.  Claire Chennault, for example, was sent to Nationalist China to help build, train, and employ its (American-built) air force against the Japanese in 1937. As for Europe, the air power advocates produced the overall air plan designed to achieve victory shortly after the war in Europe began in 1939 and over the course of 1940 and early 1941. It was designated AWPD-1.   Here is a summary that leaves no doubt about what it intended to do:

The primary target systems were selected on the basis of an air offensive embracing the entire strategic air force, after it had reached full strength and lasting for six months. Moreover, the offensive was planned to be completed before the invasion, if an invasion should prove necessary. Target schedule for the beginning of the main air offensive was taken as one year and nine months after the outbreak of war. One year was for the production, training, and organization of the force. Nine months were reserved for deployment overseas, build up, and initial combat experience of the force. By that time, we anticipated there should be a total bomber force of nearly 4,000 bombers in place. [emphases original]

However, both of these we-provide-the air-(and navy) and you-provide-the-troops strategies did not completely pan out.   It may have in Europe had the US accepted the probable loss of Western Europe to the Soviets. In any case, large numbers of US ground troops ended up being committed in combat.  This was a preview of an emerging pattern.

This pattern, it might be assumed, had proven itself somewhat less than efficacious, at least in terms of avoiding the commitment of US ground forces, although what was committed was the result of a gamble, that air power would work and the US only needed 90 divisions at most to win the war.  In fact it came dangerously close to running out of ground power by the end of the war.  The World War II pattern in many ways repeated itself just five short years later in Korea, when deterrence with atomic weapons delivered by air power came up short and there was precious little conventional air power on hand to help not only the South Koreans but even US ground forces until the crisis at Pusan had passed.

Vietnam and Beyond

At this point the pattern seemed to take a holiday.  That holiday was known as Vietnam; or more correctly the years of primarily advisory support to the government of South Vietnam (1959-1965).   However, with the failure of the advisory effort by Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MAC-V), the pattern re-emerged as President Lyndon Johnson intervened with ground forces, initially as security forces for US and South Vietnamese air bases at places like Bien Hoa and Da Nang. However, ground forces soon got sucked into the fighting and the war assumed a two track character:  General William Westmoreland and the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) fought the ground war while five separate air forces (four of them US) fought the air war.  The crowning jewel of the air war was Operation ROLLING THUNDER, an air campaign intended to actually win the war by sending “signals” to the North Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi to cease and desist with their aggressions in the south.  It failed miserably and was cancelled by Johnson during the chaotic year of 1968.  In contrast, the ground war achieved a stalemate as a result of the defeat of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive.

                              B-52 bombers at Andersen AFB, Guam

Failure and stalemate in Vietnam in 1968 led to the first realization of what today’s pattern, on display in places like Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, might look like.  Johnson’s successor as commander in chief, Richard Nixon, decided to “Vietnamize” the war.   Critical to this approach was the withdrawal of ground combat forces (as in Iraq and Afghanistan, today).   However, Nixon gave the South Vietnamese leaders assurances that their military would be supported by US air power and in 1972 this was successfully tested as the ARVN bore the brunt of the so-called Easter Offensive by the NVA in its attempt to conquer the south in one fell swoop.  Massive application of US air power in the two LINEBACKER air campaigns, along with some hard fighting by the ARVN, saved the day, albeit only temporarily. The Pattern (it now deserves formal noun status), had worked.  US air power and indigenous ground forces had staved off disaster, against one of the best armies in the world.  Until they didn’t—after two years (50 years ago this year) and Nixon was no longer President.   The US refused to use Airpower-R-US in 1975 to help its “abandoned” client in Saigon and the NVA achieved its long sought goal of unifying Vietnam under communist rule.

There was something like the Pattern in the US support of the Afghan Mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviets during the last decade of the Cold War, but instead of US pilots, the hardware was of the smaller variety, most especially surface-to-air missiles, an Anti-Airpower-R-US variant.   Similarly, the small Gulf States accessed a sea power version of US power in the late 1980s with the reflagging of Kuwaiti ships in response to Iranian mining threats.  In that case the US provided all of the maritime firepower during Operations . But these operations reflect something of the Pattern.  One might advance the idea that it was also a partial component behind Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, especially the seven week air campaign that preceded the ground offensive.  During the planning for that component of the operations, the air force chief of staff was relieved for suggesting that air power might do it alone, without the commitment of substantial US and coalition ground forces to actual combat beyond their coercive value as a threat.  As it turned out the US had to make good on that threat to use ground forces after all to retake Kuwait.

However, the Pattern, now in its mature form, emerged after the end of the Cold War.   The author experienced it directly while flying missions for the Navy during operations DENY FLIGHT and DELIBERATE FORCE, wherein NATO conducted overlapping air campaigns to stabilize the situation in Bosnia from 1994 to 1995.  NATO air power finally conducted limited bombing attacks, measurably aided by an offensive of Bosnian-Croat ground forces that led to the signing of the Dayton Accords in the Fall of 1995 by all parties (including the Bosnia Serb factions).  This same dynamic occurred again four years later with Operation ALLIED FORCE, the air campaign against Serbia and in support of the Kosovar Albanians.  It has been characterized as “winning ugly,” but for those folks interested in limited war, Airpower-R-US provided more evidence to support the efficacy of this approach, no matter how messy.  The commander of US forces in Europe, General Wesley Clark, even cached the experience into a book proclaiming that this was the face of modern war.

As with all things, after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the US entered something of an interregnum, or interval, in which the Pattern was not the primary choice.  Both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, although relying heavily on air power, employed substantial ground forces. Of the two, the initial phases of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan most closely approximate the Pattern when US air power, special forces, and indigenous forces took the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001.  However, by Operation Anaconda in March of 2002, substantial US ground forces were back in the game and the utility of the Pattern presumably inadequate to achieving further national interests in that desolate place.

The sobering experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 led to a full-fledged return of the Pattern.   Its first widespread use has already occurred with the proliferation of armed drones, sometimes with the permission of governments, and, in the case of Pakistan, sometimes not .  The point at which use of the Pattern can definitely be characterized as the norm came with the so-called “Arab Spring,” most especially in the oddly named Operation ODYSSEY DAWN, although the bulk of NATO air power employed to help the Libyan insurgents against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi was US. Questions of its ultimate efficacy aside, it did get the job done of pairing up US/NATO air power (and sea power) in support of indigenous “boots on the ground” to accomplish regime change.  Whether this result was for better or worse is a different matter and beyond the scope of this discussion.

Which brings us back to today’s headlines and the current air campaign in Iraq and Syria—Operation .  The Pattern here supports a variety of different entities and their ground forces including: the government of Iraq, various rebel groups fighting ISIS, the aforementioned Kurds, and whether we like to admit it or not, Bashar Al Assad.   We might even throw in the enemy of our enemy, Iran.   The Obama administration’s embrace of this approach, similar to that of the earlier Clinton administration, has potentially far reaching implications in what it tells us about the evolving American Way of War.  Are these really “new” norms, or are they now established norms?  And based on this review of pertinent recent history, how new are they, really?

Today: Old-New Ways of War

In sum, The US has established a pattern of providing high tech capabilities, primarily air power, to the ground forces of others (nations as well as non-states like the Kurds and the Kosovo Liberation Army), as a means to achieve its national interests and objectives.  This US approach places air power alongside venerable mercenary icons such as the Swiss Landsknecht and the Italian Condottierri of the 15th and 16th Centuries.  Is Airpower-R US an updated version the infamous army of General Albrecht von Wallenstein that hired itself out to various bidders during the 30 Years War? Has it become a sort of paradigm mercenary force available for hire as a means to maintain and defend US (and sometimes Western) interests?  Instead of receiving money as payment, though, the US forgoes commitment of ground troops and gets stability in return (or maintains the stability of the existing system).

Is this approach worth preserving, or even improving?  Whatever the road ahead, it is here and it is in active use today in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.   It might be in use in the near future in Ukraine and it is incumbent on US policymakers to think a bit more intensely about what they design the military instrument of national power to do, and not do, for the future.   In a time of relatively low risk, it makes some sense.  But does it need to be so expensive, and can we get the same bang for the buck for a lot less?  These are the questions we should be asking ourselves about Airpower-R-US, and certainly a few other related issues, as we await the next crisis in which we might employ it.

About the author:

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College CGSC).  He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer flying both land-based and carrier-based aircraft.  He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000.  He authored Agents of Innovation (2008), A Military History of Japan:  From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century (2014), and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.  His latest book, due out from Praeger just in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns.

The views are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


The U.S. Realignment of the Persian Gulf Regional Security Complex

The Persian Gulf sits at the nexus of multiple regional security complexes overlaid one upon another, creating a delicately balanced yet dangerously volatile mosaic of cultural politics and armed forces. As a result, the calculated political positioning of states within the region have ramifications that produce a ripple effect across the entire globe: affecting energy markets, political stability, and military cooperation and procurement programs which define how several non-regional states engage.

RV-AC436_Cold_W_DV_20110415015203 At the core of this Gulf complex is a security rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran; a centuries old antagonism between Sunni and Shia’ Muslims manifest in global politics which now dictates defense alignment policies and military readiness. A second, and rising, security complex to examine is the establishment of the United States as a permanent military, economic, and diplomatic partner in the region – absent only in sovereign territory of its own. With the presence of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, American interests in the region are clearly communicated, as are the passive-aggressive cavitation of our naval vessels plying the Straits of Hormuz at the dismay of Iran’s Supreme leader. Third, Gulf security politics exist within the broader global context of a contentious Muslim and Jewish relationship, most clearly exhibited by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To this point, it is argued that much of the anti-Israeli rhetoric coming from Iran, for example, can be explained by recognizing Iran’s need to appear as the sole, legitimate voice of Muslims in the Gulf as opposed to Saudi Arabia. Last, this piece will address the strategic importance of an American presence in the Persian Gulf to fulfill President Obama’s pivot towards Asia. Tangled in an economic complex with the Middle East, major Pacific actors have made attempts to use their geographic back door in South Asia to secure natural resources, thus sustaining the growing trend of urbanization in Asia. Because of this, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review calls for a continued American presence in the Gulf as a key stratagem to check expanding Chinese power.

Conceptual Framework:

Proposed by Barry Buzan in his 2003 publication Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security, regional security complex theory tells us that a relationship between two countries is often dictated by contextual factors rather than a direct binary balance of power dynamic. 141023-N-PJ969-057This checkers to chess dynamic is found in Southeast Asia where ASEAN states coordinate diplomatic, economic, and security interests according to a broader context of Chinese encroachment into the South China Sea. Furthermore, Buzan suggests that a security complex applies not only to states that share a region, but also implicates states that have shared economic and security goals in absence of shared borders. An example of this would be the seemingly puzzlingly and provocative rhetoric of Israeli statesmen who are factually out numbered and surrounded by opposition in the Middle East. However, when considering the added influence of American military power that backs Israel, it becomes clear that one cannot simply understand Israeli foreign policy in the region without first considering its dependent relationship upon the raw capabilities of the United States in projecting power onto countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The application of this theory in the Persian Gulf helps to explain the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Evident in the coordinated relations of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, a security complex emerges that explains the alignment of foreign and defense policies in opposition to Iran. 640x-1Placating to the politics of identity and culture, the complex provokes an arms and ideological race between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is executed by proxy across the region. The concern regarding this ideological race is not that it is fought over religious differences, but rather that their cold war is fought within the context of suppressing unalienable freedoms according to ethnic fault lines. Quite possibly warming the conflict to a more traditional shooting engagement, ideological grievances often result in genocidal war crimes. As a pretext to the grim reality of a coming ideological conflict between the two nations, Iran’s limited offensive role against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seeks to avoid, in the interpretive eyes of Saudi Arabia, this very scenario—despite Saudi’s open disapproval of ISIL’s advancements. Ultimately, neither country wants to engage in combat with the other, but their regional posturing is motivated by both an effort to omnibalance and offset an internal threat to stability while professing a legitimate claim to the Muslim caliphate to external entities. Most interestingly, F. Gregory Gause III, author of The International Relations of the Persian Gulf, poses an important question in this discussion: Can we consider the United States as part of the Persian Gulf’s regional security complex even though the country is not physically part of the region?

In order to answer this question, and others regarding the Persian Gulf security complex, we must first explore how the Gulf security environment has changed since the end of the Iran-Iraq War. Second, we will explore how changes in U.S. foreign policy have affected the region, highlighting significant issues that exist today whose solutions are a requisite to ushering peace and security into the region.

A Changing Gulf Security Environment:

At the close of the Iran-Iraq War in 1989, the Gulf security environment changed drastically in three ways. First, the international community developed an altered understanding of Saddam Hussein, and his desire for regional control. Children_In_iraq-iran_war4After eight years of bloody stalemate, it was clear that Hussein was committed to making offensive gains along Iraq’s borders, particularly if it included a deep-water port or improved access to the Euphrates River south of Basra. Second, there was a paradigm shift in the Westphalian system marked by the fall of the Soviet Union. The unilateral dominance of the United States across the globe introduced the world’s sole super power—capable of projecting military might to the farthest reaches of the globe. Third, following the Iraq War from 2003-2011, the balance of power shifted from a tripolar political dynamic between Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, to a bipolar system where Saudi Arabia and Iran were left to their own devices.

Though the Iran-Iraq War ended with over 400,000 killed, along with an additional 700,000 injured, neither Iran nor Iraq was able to make substantive land gains on either side of the mine-infested fields along the Euphrates. What did change, however, were the attitudes of both Iraqi and Iranian citizens, which created a nationalist fervor in both countries thus, informing the nature of the regional security complex that was to follow. For Iran, the country had successfully defended itself at great personal sacrifice, which united the newly established government with its people. Iraq, on the other hand, experienced the feelings of embarrassment and loss despite the conflict best characterized as a draw. Paranoid of being overthrown by is own people and feeling the pressure to act, Saddam engaged the ebbing tide of Iraqi nationalism and internal reconciliation process to put his military back to work by invading Kuwait. In tandem with the incessant need to conquer something in the region proving his military prowess and invigorating the floundering sense of Iraqi nationalism, Saddam Hussein publically declared several justifications for invading Kuwait. The first of these justifications was that Kuwait was allegedly stealing Iraq’s petroleum reserves, in conjunction with manipulating the energy market with overproduction in order to damage the Iraqi economy. As a result, and through the use of violence, Iraq attacked Kuwait increasing their littoral access from 30-miles of marshland originally proctored by the British, to 300-miles of coastline, which included Kuwait’s Shuwaikh Port—providing deep-water access to Iraqi sea vessels. In addition, perhaps, Saddam may have wanted to highlight to the world the West’s hypocritical tolerance for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, but intolerance towards Iraq’s semi-legitimate legal claim to Kuwaiti soil. Saddam’s understanding of this legal right is grounded in an Ottoman land-use agreement demarcating parts of present day Kuwaiti under the control of Ottoman governors residing in the sub-regional capital of Basrah, Iraq.

Another significant shift occurring after the Iran-Iraq War was the world’s perception of Saddam, and a new international understanding that Iraq was an aggressor towards other Gulf States. This belief was perpetuated across the globe and reinforced by Saddam’s prompt invasion of a sovereign Kuwait. It was believed that Iraq’s move to invade Kuwait in the immediate shadow of their eight-year stalemate with Iran indicated that “Saddam’s quest to dominate the Gulf” would continue. As a result the United Nations passed a Security Council Resolution condemning Iraq’s invasion and in January of 1991, the U.S. Congress voted to authorize the use of force to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The results of this vote represented two momentous transformations in the region, the first being the introduction of what would become a permanent U.S. military force—the first such permanent foreign presence in the Gulf since the exit of the British after World War II, and second the United States massed forces in Saudi Arabia establishing an American interventionist precedent in the heart of Islam’s holiest location. The massing of forces in Saudi Arabia not only loaned the name of American military power and might to the Saudis, but it solidified a formal military alliance, which turned the tables against Iran. After the United States’ impressive 100-hour ground assault driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the door was open to the United States to establish a foothold in the region, giving the Americans a strategic upper hand in military and economic matters. It should be noted that though Iran was having its long-time Iraqi enemy destroyed by American forces, leadership in the Islamic Republic was concerned with the growing U.S. influence in the region. DF-ST-92-09166At the end of the ground campaign, President George H. W. Bush stopped short of marching to Baghdad and signed a bilateral agreement with Iraq, sparing the remaining Iraqi military units and leaving Saddam in power—Iran, among others, was disconcerted with this outcome, but had few bargaining chips to use with the U.S. embassy hostage fiasco fresh in the minds of American policymakers.

Coinciding with the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the collapse of the Soviet Union emphasized American military dominance and the new world order underwritten by its power. These international phenomena empowered America, and encouraged U.S. diplomats and military leaders to explore their newfound role as the world’s sole superpower. Because of their new position of leadership in the world followed by the resounding victory in Kuwait, the United States gained both soft and hard power for dealing with security issues in the Middle East. The growing influence of the United States in the region was epitomized by the 1995 reactivation of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, subsequently assigned a homeport in Khawr al Qulay’ah, Bahrain. The United States’ move to establish a permanent naval base in the Persian Gulf was a direct result of the conditions created in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War. Unfortunately this presence, along with U.S. naval vessels in Yemen, and combat troops in Saudi Arabia, served as the central grievance of Osama bin Laden subsequently leading to his denunciation of the West and eventually the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.

Until the Iraq War began in 2003, the Persian Gulf was ruled by a conflicting triad anchored by Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The creation and provocation of the Gulf Cooperation Council among the broader regional contest with Iran, was tempered by the often-roguish behavior of the third party, Iraq. After Iraq’s initial Gulf War defeat in 1991, President George H. W. Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, was determined to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disband the Iraqi Army at the insistance of key players from within his administration. Kuni-Takahashi-Baghdad-03-LightboxAfter the ground assault on Iraq, the United States was able to quickly take control of Basrah, Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Baghdad over the span of two weeks. With the capture of Saddam Hussein and the consequent announcement ending major combat operations in Iraq, the Gulf’s localized tripolar dynamic was effectively dismantled and the United States was forced to intervene more directly in the regional balance of power. Shortly after the destruction of Iraq and its army, the United States existed in Persian Gulf with naval dominance of the waterways and air superiority over Iraq marking an interesting turn in the nature of the Gulf regional security complex, an interesting development in light of Gause’s original question about whether the United States is truly a part of the power balance in the Gulf. 

In the wake of the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. backing of Saudi Arabia, the dismantling of Iraq and the presence of the Fifth Fleet’s 40 ships, 175 aircraft and 21,000 personnel in Bahrain, the United States has become a critical member of the Persian Gulf security complex. Gause sums it up best when he writes “Washington is a direct, day-to-day player in Gulf politics now. Iraq is no longer a player, but a playing field.”

The Influence of U.S. Policy on Security in the Region:

The most effective faucets of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf are manifest in military alliances with Saudi Arabia and other GCC monarchies.With a decreasing dependency on Middle Eastern oil, a continued U.S. military presence in the Gulf is required to maintain healthy relationships. In 1993 theKingdom Centre Clinton Administration developed a strategy known as “Dual Containment,” which, in shadow of Nixon’s failed “twin pillar” strategy, formally endorsed Saudi Arabia as the premier Gulf state by limiting regional influences stemming from both Iraq and Iran. In congruence with limiting Iraq and Iran’s regional capabilities, the United States sought to reinforce GCC coalition building by selling member states, particularly Saudi Arabia, “advanced weapons” ensuring interoperability and shared training doctrine. More interestingly, the United States has been comparatively quiet with regard to voicing concern over Saudi Arabia’s efforts to obtain nuclear energy to run desalination plants. In an effort to undercut Saudi Arabia’s claim to Gulf superiority after the fall of Iraq, Iran has reached out to the smaller littoral Gulf states in an effort to establish bilateral defense agreements with the intent of siphoning off support for Saudi’s assumed increased regional responsibilities. In addition to the full backing of Saudi Arabia by American foreign policy advisors, the U.S. military has also sought a strategic foothold in the region for their own diplomatic and military missions.

The American military plays an important role in the Persian Gulf beyond influencing regional politics. Actively patrolling the Indian Ocean and the Gulf Aden, the U.S. Fifth Fleet has undertaken the world’s responsibility of maintaining the open and free passage of the Strait of Hormuz, often under threat of blockade by Iran, and for battling Somali pirates preying on civilian tankers. In fact, the U.S. protects 17 million barrels of oil in total passing through the Strait of Hormuz everyday. Furthermore, American domestic energy policy affects the security environment in the Persian Gulf by decreasing sales, and therefore American dependency, on foreign oil. Until the end of the Bush Administration in 2009, it was forecasted that U.S. dependency on petroleum from Middle East states was on the rise. Accounting for 42% of all American oil imports, a significant portion of the 59% total from member-states of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2005, it was forecasted in 2009 that American dependency would rise to 65% by 2020.


Future diplomatic successes in the Persian Gulf will be built upon the shoulders of unofficial civilian diplomats engaged in Track II talks. Saudi, Iranian, and American non-governmental organizations can, and should, work together in tackling shared soft security challenges by capitalizing on proliferating technologies and ideas that seek to address climate change issues.

PAG 134
Two issues that must be resolved to increase peace and stability in the Persian Gulf are nuclear security and climate change. The weaponized use of nuclear power is a hard security issue, while climate change, and in particular water scarcity, is best characterized as a soft security issue. The word soft does not mean, however, that these issues are less important. In fact, some of the soft security issues may in fact have far greater effects on the residents of the Gulf, thus informing regional affairs in ways unaccounted for in Buzan’s regional security complex theory. Put best by Mary Luomi climate change exists as a ‘“threat multiplier” that can create or worsen intra- and interstate tensions.” Climate change’s affect on water is not limited to potable sources, but it is also driving sea levels higher, which for a country like Bahrain that depends on flood barriers, poses a serious threat. With successful collaboration in the private sector, it may just be possible to pave the road to success.

In the wake of the Iran-Iraq War and America’s Wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, it is clear that the Persian Gulf has faced a rapidly changing security dynamic that, to answer Gause’s original question, is underpinned by the introduction of the U.S. to the Persian Gulf regional security complex. Exhibited in the undeniable American influence in the region stemming from a full military presence, the United States has established itself as a permanent player in the Persian Gulf; a fact that will have an immense amount of influence in the foreseeable future with regard to the U.S. pivot to Asia.


Captain William Allen is a US Marine currently serving as company commander of A Co. 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division. Graduating from Columbia University’s Middle East Institute with a masters in Islamic Studies, Captain Allen is a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and is currently serving as the Joseph S. Nye National Security Intern at the Center for a New American Security with their Technology and National Security Program. Captain Allen’s writings can be found here at the Center for International Maritime Security, as well as, the Small Wars Journal, and the International Relations and Security Network at ETH Zurich. The views expressed in his writing are his alone.


Works Cited:

Barry Buzan. Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

F. Gregory Gause, III. The International Relations of the Persian Gulf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

J. E. Peterson. “Sovereignty and Boundaries in the Gulf States: Settling the Peripheries” International Politics of the Persian Gulf, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2011).

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen,. Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-Oil Era(London: Hurst, 2011).

Lawrence Potter. “Persian Gulf Security: Patterns and Prospects,” in Iran and the West: Regional Interests and Global Controversies, Special Report, ed. Rouzbeh Parsi and John Rydqvist (Stockholm: Swedish Defence Research Agency, March 2011).

Lawrence Potter. “The Persian Gulf: Tradition and Transformation,” Headline Series. (March 19, 2013).

Lawrence Potter. “Tripolarity” (class lecture, Security and International Politics of the Persian Gulf, Columbia University, New York, New York September 24, 2014).

Mari Luomi. “Gulf of Interest: Why Oil Still Dominates Middle Eastern Climate Politics,” Journal of Arabian Studies 1 no. 2 (2011).

Mehran Kamrava. “The Changing International Relations of the Persian Gulf,” in International Politics of the Persian Gulf, ed. Mehran Kamrava (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press) 

Quadrennial Defense Review 2014. (Published by the Secretary of Defense, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf, March 4, 2014).

Unofficial U.S. Navy Site. (Published by Thoralf Doehring, http://navysite.de/navy/fleet.htm 2013).

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas. Home of the NextWar Blog