Homeland Insecurity: The Inevitability of “Unconventional Strategic Shocks”

By Sean Osborne, Associate Director

17 December 2008: The Evangelical Christian community are not the only ones discussing the inevitability and repercussions of an apocalyptic global crisis, or a crisis within the United States which removes the nation from its current status as a major world power. Just released for public consumption is a .pdf format U.S. Government publication written by Lt. Col. (USA Ret.) Nathan Freier. This document is a highly researched and thoroughly documented field of inquiry entitled
“Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development” which warns of catastrophic events. Referred to as “strategic shocks” in the paper, the author foresees events here at home which our federal government, defense and intelligence agencies are woefully ill-equipped to deal with much less reasonably predict based upon the lessons of history which guarantees future shocks on a scale greater than those of 9/11.

On pages 32 and 33 we read:

”An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home. Already predisposed to defer to the primacy of civilian authorities in instances of domestic security and divest all but the most extreme demands in areas like civil support and consequence management, DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States.”

What extreme, albeit illustrative, circumstances does the author foresee which would necessitate the deployment of American combat troops into battle against hostile domestic groups in the United States? And is this not a direct reference to civil war or insurrection in the homeland?

The “unconventional shocks” or events are both external and internal. One of several external events cited appears to be a direct reference to the current and developing situation in Pakistan, where a nuclear-armed (WMD) state suddenly collapses (Strategic State Collapse) due to uncontrollable instability or a “Black Swan” type of event. To my mind this invokes the entirely plausible overthrow of the Pakistani government by the Islamic terrorist movements which infest the country as well as the government and its institutions as clearly demonstrated by the very recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The inference here is that the collapse of Pakistan to jihadist control would deliver “unrestricted access” to dozens of nuclear weapons to the terrorists at war with the United States. Another “unconventional shock” is cited as “the most dangerous prospective contingencies in this regard might be collapse of a large capable state that results in a nuclear civil war.” Think Russia and the former-Soviet Union.

The internal “unconventional shock” cited is one that is clearly a “Black Swan” event which envisions a “violent, strategic dislocation in the United States” the result of which manifests itself in the “rapid dissolution of public order in all or significant parts of the United States.” Were state and local authorities to prove incapable of insuring the domestic tranquility, the United States armed forces would be “required to fill the gap.” In this most disturbing vignette the author also envisions the use of weapons of mass destruction , a total collapse of political and legal order, domestic insurgency, and all manner of the inevitably resultant human health emergencies.

Within the oft cited oath of office for commissioned military officers and the oath of enlistment for non-commissioned officers, every member of the defense establishment swears (or affirms) to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic. Some veterans, such as this analyst, see this oath as a lifelong obligation that transcends the actual period of active or inactive duty in the armed forces. The ironic rub here is that the “domestic enemies” have not been identified in this paper, much less addressed sufficiently in American law, with the particular exception of the limiting provisions on the Commander-In-Chief contained the Insurrection Act of 1807 and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (See 10 USC 331 and 10 USC 335). This does border upon the unthinkable. However, I strongly believe this type of outside-the-box argument is a large part of the author’s intent in writing this monograph. In my opinion, LTC Freier’s points are exceptionally well made, if not prophetic.

To sum up in plain language, I believe the author is saying that those charged with our defense and proper order of civil society are currently incapable of thinking outside of the proverbial box due to an insufficient imagination, a history of being inherently reactive and a failure to be predictive. The government, defense and intelligence establishments are, in the author’s opinion, naïve. However, to their credit they do have an embryonic effort focused upon “strategic trends and shocks” which is an essential element in strategic planning to mitigate future catastrophic events. Given the incoming administration’s predilection for aborting the un-born, we can only hope this pregnancy is overlooked during the imminent period governmental transition.

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