National Security Experts


Steven Metz

Biography provided by participant

Dr. Steven Metz is Chairman of the Regional Strategy and Planning Department and Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. He has been with SSI since 1993, previously serving as Henry L. Stimson Professor of Military Studies and SSI's Director of Research. Metz has also been on the faculty of the Air War College, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and several universities. He has been an adviser to political campaigns and elements of the intelligence community; served on national security policy task forces; testified in both houses of Congress; and spoken on military and security issues around the world. He is the author of more than 100 publications including articles in journals such as Washington Quarterly, Joint Force Quarterly, The National Interest, Defence Studies, and Current History. Metz's research has taken him to 30 countries, including Iraq immediately after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime. He currently serves on the RAND Corporation Insurgency Board. He is the author of Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy and is working on a book entitled "Strategic Shock: Eight Events That Changed American Security." Metz holds a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University.

Recent Responses

April 30, 2012 07:47 AM

The war on terror is over in the sense that Americans have realized that "war" was not the best or most appropriate policy in the first place. War is rational when military victory over an opponent can lead to strategic or political victory. As many commentators noted from the beginning, this was never true of terrorism. Military victory over an operational method made no sense.

That said, the conflict with al Qaeda and, with increasing importance, its emulators is far from over. But the model henceforth should not be war--which has a discrete beginning and end, and which prioritizes military victory--but the process of "managing the barbarians" which nearly every civilization in history has been compelled to undertake. In this process military action will sometimes be necessary but, at other times, covert actions and things as simple as turning the barbarians against each other or supporting proxies will be most important. The objective will not be a clear and decisive victory as it would be for war, but minimizing the extent to which the barbaria

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April 16, 2012 09:16 AM

The DPRK's strategic objectives are to prevent opposition to the Kim regime from the domestic elite and to extract the maximum amount of resources from external sources. Given this, there is no reason to expect any change in its combination of threat, bluster, and meaningless glimmerings of concession or opening. The game has worked so far, and there is little motivation for Kim to change it. The chances of any sort of diplomacy leading to the DPRK surrendering its nuclear weapons are nil.

Two other points merit comment though. First, the admission by Kim that the recent rocket launch failed could be very important. History shows clearly that totalitarian systems can collapse quickly once they allow even modest reform or admission of mistake. It would not surprise me if this happened to the DPRK. Certainly its demise has long been predicted given its abject economic failure, but the first two potentates in the Kim dynasty knew better than to allow any reform or admission of fallibility. It is not clear that Kim Jong Un can or will do this.

Second, it is a mi

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February 6, 2012 10:16 AM

There are three related reasons for a diminished U.S. combat role in Afghanistan: 1) it reflects the will of the American people (critics sometimes sneeringly call this "political" concerns, seeming to forget that policy in a democracy is supposed to reflect the will of the people); 2) it will compel the Afghan government to take control of its country with more seriousness: and 3) it reflects a growing recognition that the security benefit of the current U.S. policy in Afghanistan do not match the strategic costs in money, blood, and lost opportunities elsewhere.

There is a possibility that the Afghan security forces may not be up to the task by 2013. The Taliban will certainly launch on offensive and may make gains, possibly even major ones. But from what we know now, that will happen whether the U.S. diminishes its military role in 2013, 2020, 2030, or 2040.

Ultimately, shifting the burden for local security to the Afghans while remaining engaged in direct strikes on key Taliban nodes is probably the least bad of the array of bad options the United St

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March 21, 2011 10:33 AM

As I've discussed this question on Twitter and in person over the past few days, I've been struck by the degree to which people believe that the lack of a recent precedent for the United States playing a supporting or secondary role in a humanitarian intervention means that the United States must invariably play such a role. No, there is no recent precedent but that does not mean that one cannot take shape.

I believe, though, that a humanitarian intervention and stabilization in Libya can only work in the long term if it is designed and led by other Arab states. I believe President Obama's decision to follow the lead of European states in short order is the right move, but within a few weeks or at most months, the Europeans should turn the helm over to Arab states which have the greatest direct stake in the outcome.

If this does not happen, the intervention and stabilization is unlikely to end well.

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March 21, 2011 10:26 AM

I'm terribly afraid that Libya itself is going to be mired in conflict for a long time. (See my New Republic essay "Libya's Coming Insurgency"). But I believe this will generally have a positive effect on the region rather than a negative one. There are two reasons for this.

First, I think Libya will remind the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab states what happens when democratization fails, thus making them more amenable to the sort of compromise that democracy build requires.

Second, I think that a protracted conflict in Libya will force the Arab League and other regional states to assume greater responsibility for the security of their region rather than relying on Europe or the United States.

While both of these would be good things, it is tragic and heartbreaking that it may require the suffering of the Libyan people to inspire them.

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March 7, 2011 02:13 PM

On the issue of who might extend a request to the United States for some form of intervention, Sydney and I are at odds, so let me spell out my position a bit better.

If there was some unified Libyan opposition or authoritative spokesman, an invitation from them would be paramount. From what we're hearing now, some want U.S. help, others do not. That means that if we intervene directly, we will be involving ourselves in to politics within the opposition. I'm not sure it is in our interest to play that role.

Such an intervention would also create a long term commitment for the United States. And this is a bad time for that.

To intervene over the protests of the Arab League would also cause further resentment, reinforcing the notion that Arabs cannot manage their own affairs. The whole ethos of the North African revolutions is of the people there assuming responsibility for themselves rather than having imposed solutions.

Arab states have long indicated their disfavor of America's intrusive role in their part of the world. This is a perfect opportu

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March 7, 2011 06:47 AM

It's now clear that Libya is not going to be another Tunisia or Egypt where the dictator can be pushed away in short order. One of two possible outcomes seem likely at this point.

Gaddafi may regain control of Libya. After blaming outsiders for the revolution and facing global isolation, he undoubtedly would return to his old policy of funding extremists, radicals, and terrorists of all sorts. So even if the U.S. does not use military force against him now, it may have to in the coming years.

Alternatively, the conflict may continue. Potentially this could be a protracted civil war with the revolutionaries holding on to what they now control. It could also devolve into an insurgency with insurgents not in outright control of any part of Libya.

The worst possible outcome for the United States would be a Gaddafi victory. The best, of course, would be quick removal of the dictator and emergence of a stable democracy. U.S. interests, clearly, are preventing Libya from returning to its sponsorship of radicalism and indicating that it is on the side of democ

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October 8, 2010 10:23 AM

I wanted to amplify my earlier comments.

I've long thought of insurgency as a strategy rather than a type of conflict or type of organization. It is a strategy used by the weak to defend and strengthen itself by shifting a conflict from "battlespaces" where it is weak (often the conventional military) to ones where there is a more level playing field (the political and psychological).

The strategy of insurgency is often used by sub-national groups and that's the way we conceptualize it. But it can also be used as a nation's security strategy. Iran today is a perfect example.

Why does this matter? It suggests that the best response is an international version of counterinsurgency. History has shown that the use of force against insurgents is necessary but not sufficient for success. Simply whacking them and hoping they grow tired seldom works. Undertaking insurgency in the first place requires a very high level of commitment. Individual who do it see the stakes as high.

This applies to Iran today. So any recommendation for the use of armed

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October 4, 2010 08:32 AM

Will sanctions and political pressure prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? No, of course not. Iran's leaders are convinced--as well they should be--that the only sure guarantee against American intervention is possession of nuclear weapons. Any policy which seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons without addressing its insecurity is doomed to failure.

Does this mean that the United States should launch military strikes when sanctions and political pressure fail? Absolutely not. It is hard to imagine a greater strategic folly.

There is no reason to believe that a nuclear armed Iran cannot be deterred in the same way the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China were. Iran's despots are certainly no more paranoid and psychotic than Stalin or Mao. There is absolutely no evidence that a nuclear armed Iran would undertake conventional aggression. No state which has acquired nuclear weapons has then done so. The notion that a nuclear armed Iran would launch a "bolt out of the blue" strike against another state also defies reason. However

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September 20, 2010 08:33 AM

We live in ironic times. The Obama national security strategy is basically a kinder, gentler version of the Bush strategy, while the Republicans are torn between those often mislabeled "neoconservatives" who favor global activism with a strong military emphasis and a nascent group represented by people like Andrew Bacevich and Christopher Preble who advocate a more narrow focus on tangible American national interests and security.

Other than this still-minor rumbling, though, neither Republicans nor Democrats have yet asked fundamental questions about the Obama version of the Bush strategy: Can or should the United States manage the global security system? Even if the current strategy in Afghanistan is successful, is it worth the strategic cost in terms of making America safer? Can the United States afford the massive defense establishment required to manage the global security system in a time of huge budge deficits, an aging population, and a decaying national infrastructure? Can the United States sustain a global strategy based on building partnerships with I

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August 9, 2010 09:00 AM

Like many people, I read many books at the same time. My recent focus has been on works on national security which provide a conservative critique to the sort of global activism and interventionism that has dominated American strategy for many decades. A couple of weeks ago I read Christopher Preble's outstanding book The Power Problem which, I think, provides the most realistic alternative, affordable strategy. I'm now working on Andrew Bacevich's recently released Washington Rules which is a searing and beautifully-written critique of the liberal-imperial element of American strategy.

At the same time, I've become a Twitter addict, wrestling with the challenge of making cogent points in 140 characters. (@drstevemetz).

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June 28, 2010 08:38 AM

Media-military relations have vastly improved in recent years, in part because of the imbed program and in part because the media always reflects its audience and the audience has become passionately pro-military since September 11. But now this is seriously challenged.

The danger is that the military will recoil from the McChrystal fiasco and, as much as possible, isolate itself from the media. It's important to remember that one bad incident does not demonstrate that the system is flawed. For every Michael Hastings practicing "gotcha" journalism, there are dozens of writers producing balanced, accurate and usefully critical stories.

Put differently, the problem is not with military-media relations writ large, but with the failure of General McChrystal's staff to understand Hastings' intention, and with the command climate he fostered which was inappropriate for a highly politicized undertaking like counterinsurgency in an era of transparency.

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June 14, 2010 07:41 AM

President Obama's National Security Strategy, which was released only a few weeks ago, states, "...we will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well, while modernizing them to meet the challenges of a new century. As influence extends to more countries and capitals, we will build new and deeper partnerships in every region..." This is a stark reminder that the United States has not come to grips with one of the most important realities of the 21st century: much of the world considers America threatening, intimidating, or, at least overbearing. This is an inevitable result of possessing great power.

Because the United States has interests in far flung parts of the world, American strategy has always been indirect, relying on partners, allies, or proxies. And because the United States in the most unconfident great power in history, it needed the approval and validation that partnerships offered.

During the Cold War, Americans accepted the myth that others saw our power as benign. In reality, they saw it as the lesser e

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June 7, 2010 08:39 AM

The flotilla attack demonstrated what everyone already knew: Israel sticks doggedly to a national security strategy which has deep support among the Israeli public, but which does not make it more secure.

Let's be frank about the attack: Israel was set up. Its opponents use the strategy often known as "insurgency." One of the oldest insurgent tricks in the book is to provoke the government into a reaction which is--or at least can be portrayed as--disproportional, thus undercutting its support and legitimacy. Insurgency is a quintessentially psychological mode of conflict were perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs matter more than physical actions.

The Israeli government had to know that there was a good chance, perhaps even a certainty, of something like this happening. Yet it acted any way. And it added fuel to the fire by its post attack strategic communications which indicated that it did absolutely nothing wrong or misguided. Why? Why did the Israeli government, which certainly understands the psychological complexity and traps of insurgency, and

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May 10, 2010 08:40 AM

I'm surprised this has been so long in coming. I've felt for a number of years that through terrorism, insurgents around the world have developed what might be call a strategic power projection capability.

Shahzad's incompetence provides the United States an opportunity to send a signal. Very bad things should happen to the Pakistani Taliban in the coming weeks, thus sending the message that the risks of striking the United States directly are greater than the benefits. When members of the El Savador insurgency assassinated six Americans in 1985, the United States sent that message through prompt and effective counterstrikes. Here's hoping we can again.

But from a broader strategic perspective, if insurgents launch successful terrorist attacks in the United States--and eventually they will--it will alter America's strategic calculus. Will the United States elect to become involved in far-away counterinsurgency campaigns if the inevitable result are bombs in American cities? That question, while hypothetical now, will soon become all too real.

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April 26, 2010 07:17 AM

AQ as an organization is seriously weakened, perhaps shattered. But AQ as an idea remains robust and, in a way, powerful. The United States has done nothing to discredit the organization's mobilizing narrative of American intervention in the Islamic world and support for Israel. States in the Islamic world have done little to address the causes of anger among their people and have not stopped blaming external scapegoats rather than the real causes of their problems. Hence new members will answer AQ's call.

The good news is that while this group may be as angry as its forebears, it will be less skilled, at least for a while. Keeping the pressure on will hinder their acquisition of the skills and resources needed for violence.

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April 19, 2010 09:41 AM

A hundred and twelve years ago the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor may have been an accident rather than an act of sabotage but still ignited the incendiary tensions between the United States and Spain. The result was war. The sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan a few weeks ago has the potential to do the same. The situations, though, are dramatically different. America's military could not match those of the great European powers in 1898 but easily overmatched Spain's weak armed forces. More importantly, the strategic risks of war with Spain were limited. At worst the United States might be embarrassed.

In some ways, the Korean scenario is more like the 1914 assassination of Austrian archduke Ferdinand as a relatively minor incident sparked a great conflagration. A war with North Korea, which would certainly involve South Korea and the United States and many other nations as well, would probably rid the world of its most repulsive and incompetent regime. But the costs would be immense, particularly for South Korea.

The costs would reve

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April 5, 2010 09:23 AM

Karzai's recent rants are a perfect example of the dilemma I described in my recent World Affairs article on the trouble with allies. American grand strategy is predicated on strengthening allies who, we assume, share our priorties and objectives. Reality is different.

Karzai clearly recognizes that America is losing patience with him and, like all of our most important allies in the conflict with al Qaeda, he realizes that anti-Americanism increases his standing. I simply do not believe this is something that can be worked out with a bit of diplomacy and kind words. It is deep and systematic. We must not only begin our disengagement from Karzai, but we must also re-think the strategy that forces us to seek such partners.

"The Trouble With Allies"

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