American Media Lies (Thoughts on & Summary of)

Following you will find the links to articles the articles referenced & the articles listed in full. – ed


As recently explained in CSS Zurich’s Military’s Role in Countering Violent Extremism: Repurposing Stability Operations, the entire reason for a continued escalation of conflicts or more specifically, ‘terrorist attacks’ across the world are defined by the concept of ‘Mass reintegration of ex-combatants.’ It definitely explains most if not all of the covered faces worn and shown by current soldiers partaking in the conflicts which swept worldwide. It would explain that it is not just one battle or front they are partaking in, but multiple conflicts & battles through & over various regions of conflict. (e.g., If only 20 to 30 soldiers are appearing in each of the photographed evidence of VEs, then the fact may be & remain that it is a single group of special ops forces, more than likely U.S. special op forces) portraying a much wider and non existent force of terrorists. This is not to say that individual cells do not exist, however they would seem to be much smaller & not a publicly motivated to media attention. Such an idea can be proven by the fact that since US-Iraq War 1991, media has been greatly censured by any & all reports transmitted inside & outside the zones of conflict, as well as by evidence that the ‘official’ photo & tape of the taking down the Saddam statue in Iraq was proven to be false & only a group of supporters purporting the US agenda.

Such an indication of the above, spec. the escalation of VE worldwide for the spread of CT propaganda & efforts to keep an unnecessary war, or in this case, numerable violent & unnecessary wars alive for funding, terror provocations, the spread of fear & indoctrination to combat such. All for the purpose of a unified & widespread ‘strong partnership of civilian & security bodies.’

Such processes are the true nature of current american ‘illegal’ activities in their current attempt to spread the war. Further evidence of such mal-practical procedures & intents can be found in CSS Zurich’s Deterrence through Resilience: Nato & Challenges of Being Prepared which states that ‘…Nato’s objectives should be to deter, contain, respond, & remain resilient to the violent, disruptive, or military efforts of others. The document further defines the illegal actions of the weapons mandated and driven US by the following bullet points & footnotes-

Repurpose stability operations as the DOD’s role in CVE

Adopt the principals of VE-focused stability & operations

Redesign the conduct & implementation of stability operations

2. 88% of all terrorist attacks in 2015 occurred in countries that were experiencing or involved in armed conflicts.

4. Sustainable Capacity Building: Guidelines for Planning & Project Design Communities (DC Institute of Peace, March 2017)

“A U.S. Humanitarian, Development and Peacebuilding Statement on the U.S. Global Countering Violent Extremism Agenda,” Action for Community Development and other signatories, July 20, 2015, entExtremismAgenda.pdf.

USIP, Interaction, and DOD, Guidelines for Relations between U.S. Armed Forces and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations in Hostile or Potentially Hostile Environments (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2005).

Peter R. Neumann, Prisons and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in 15 Countries (London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence [ICSR], 2010),

Georgia Holmer and Adrian Shtuni, “Returning Foreign Fighters and the Reintegration Imperative,” Special Report no. 402 (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2017), 1.

14 Jun 2017

To Edward Powers, it’s obvious: Although the US military has developed effective counterterrorism capabilities, it lacks a comprehensive strategy to counter and eliminate the drivers behind violent extremism (VE). In response, the Department of Defense should adopt a comprehensive counter-VE strategy that complements existing approaches, particularly with proactive, prevention-centered stability operations. Here are the details.


  • Despite persistent counterterrorism (CT) operations, globally the threat of violent extremism (VE) is higher today than in August 2001.
  • Though it has effective CT capability, the U.S. military lacks a comprehensive strategy for countering and eliminating the drivers of VE.
  • Because unstable, fragile states provide gateways for violent extremist organizations to establish a territorial base and recruit, the Department of Defense should adopt a comprehensive counter-VE strategy that complements reactive CT operations with preventative, proactive stability operations.
  • Stability operations as part of CVE strategy should be grounded in an understanding of local context that identifies and addresses the grievances that lead to VE. Such operations require close partnering with civil society organizations.

A Gap in the U.S. Military Strategy

Another head of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan has been eliminated, and U.S.-backed militias tighten their chokehold on Raqqa, while Iraqi forces supported by the United States advance into the final bastion of IS territory in Mosul. Soon the IS will be homeless and leaderless, but the fall of Mosul and Raqqa and even the elimination of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are insufficient to stem the tide of violent extremism (VE). The U.S. military has an efficient counterterrorism (CT) capability, which effectively removes violent extremists from the battlefield and dismantles violent extremist organizations. Nonetheless, the U.S. military’s lack of a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE) that links reactive CT operations to preventative efforts to eliminate the drivers of VE stands in the way of an enduring reduction of the VE threat. CT efforts are necessary and vital to U.S. security, but without prevention, they are insufficient, and some tactics, such as the use of drone strikes and night raids, may even amplify VE by contributing to grievances. It is noteworthy that the threat of VE is higher today than it was in August 2001, which is a frustrating situation after sixteen years of persistent, well-funded CT operations.1 But, in the absence of effective prevention, the drivers of VE will continue to stoke a perpetual cycle of radicalization.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has an underutilized role to play through the stability operations mission. Unstable, fragile states, especially those caught up in armed conflict,2 serve as gateways for violent extremists to recruit followers and establish a base from which to carry out terrorist activities.

As the preventative complement to the DOD’s CT efforts, stability operations can help close these gateways, but the future of stability operations is the subject of debate. DOD leaders and policymakers question the validity of stability operations because of the mission’s association with fraught efforts in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and because they see the mission as representing the status quo and a way to avoid making necessary changes. This prevalent view, when coupled with a lack of consensus understanding that stability operations can help reduce the VE threat, has left stability operations underresourced. But the capacity for stability operations exists, and simply repurposing this capacity as the preventative complement to CT operations can alleviate these concerns. By adopting a more nuanced approach, the DOD could integrate its existing capacities into a comprehensive CVE strategy and achieve an enduring reduction in VE. Under such a scenario, the degradation of IS forces in Afghanistan and Iraq might not be followed by a resurgence of VE.

Reorienting Stability Operations toward CVE

A broad review of policy, doctrine, and research in the areas of CVE, state fragility, capacity building, and stability operations reveals three critical principles that can help military leadership reorient stability operations toward reducing VE. These principles serve to operationalize the design and execution of CVE operations.

Principle 1: Understand the Local Context, Then Act

Because the grievances that drive VE are unique to the local context, understanding the context, down to the community level, must be the first concern of stability operations planners and the first step toward eventually developing national-level plans.

A rubric drawn from the principles of sustainable capacity building developed by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) serves to frame actions in a local context: 3

  • Does the action promote local ownership of solutions?
  • Does the action do no harm to local actors or their perception of the stability operations effort?
  • Does the action result in locally sustainable solutions?

This local focus does not require that local tradition or local norms be considered the or most effective way of doing business, for the local way of doing business may be directly contributing to the VE problem. Rather, the point is to understand the local context, from the local viewpoint, so that solutions can be applied that are effective and sustainable within that context.

Principle 2: Address Grievances

When a population cannot address grievances nonviolently, it turns to violent means.4 VE-focused stability operations build legitimate remedies to grievances that drive VE. Understanding the local context exposes these grievances, presenting solutions that stability operations can facilitate. Efforts to rectify the most VE-significant grievances then become priorities, focusing effort on enabling capacity building that will most effectively reduce a population’s vulnerability to VE.

Principle 3: Engage in Next-Level Partnering

Enabling civilian organizations is vital to the success of VE-focused stability operations because these organizations possess essential CVE expertise and tools, including deep understanding of the local context, mediation and negotiation expertise, and peacebuilding experience. Civilian organizations and the military must become functional partners in this CVE effort, leveraging each other’s distinctive capabilities from the start of the operational design process and together creating space for civilian experts to do their work, enabled by the military. Both parties must work to reduce or eliminate barriers to partnering because a strong civil society is an excellent defense against VE.

This partnership is already under way: in 2005, InterAction, the DOD, and USIP codified military and nongovernmental organization hostile environment deconfliction methods, which greatly improved the ability of the military and humanitarian organizations to work in adjacent spaces.5 The next step is to move beyond deconfliction and toward cooperative partnership, integrating efforts where possible, because settling for deconfliction alone denies the possibility of synergy. Partners must design and plan activities together from inception, eliminating informational and operational barriers. Challenges with the military information classification system are one example of a barrier that must be overcome; another is the reluctance of some civil society organizations to work with any military group.

Next-level partnering, the tight integration and close cooperation between civilian and military partners working toward the same objective, will look different depending on the local context. Sometimes civilian organizations will fully integrate with military partners; at other times partners will deliberately deconflict civilian activities from military efforts to prevent misperception of intentions and ensure safe lanes of operation. The partnership itself is the key to maximum effectiveness.

Redesigning Traditional Approaches to Stability Operations

Getting the shooting to stop does not eliminate the grievances that drive individuals to VE. Perhaps most important from a military perspective, the way in which military forces achieve security can also create grievances that fuel VE. An aggrieved population will remember and resent abusive practices long after the violent conflict ends, but security forces can prevent a hardening of civilian disposition by discovering, acknowledging, and punishing members of security forces for negative practices such as torture, sexual violence, kidnapping, and executions. By redesigning traditional approaches to stability operations along the following lines, guided by the three critical principles discussed above, stability operations can effect change and realize a reduction in VE.

  • All security sector reform should partner military trainers with interorganizational human rights trainers because focusing simply on security tactics and techniques without human rights training results in units effective at stamping out violence but likely to incite grievances arising from abusive behaviors. Security sector reform should result in skilled security forces able to relate to the protected population, incentives for adhering to universal human rights, and legitimate punishment for abusive behavior by security forces.
  • Security forces must secure vulnerable populations in such a manner that there is no perception of special consideration or favoritism toward any group. Doing so requires developing a deep understanding of the local population dynamics, something civilian partners can assist with. Armed with contextual understanding, security forces can focus on protecting the population impartially, while demonstrating they are advocates for peace.
  • The separation of warring parties should involve security operations and locally led mediation efforts conducted in parallel. Partnership between security forces and mediators can help mitigate and reduce revenge killings and prevent perpetuation of a cycle of violence that fuels VE. Mediation efforts should begin before the first security forces deploy, bringing factional leadership together and building relationships to begin laying the foundation for a lasting peace after large-scale violence has ended.6
  • Humane detention and incarceration practices prevent grievances that drive VE because it is very difficult to recruit people into VE when conditions in prison are better than those outside. Upon detention, experts should immediately triage detainees according to potential threat, and then introduce them into appropriate adjudication channels. High-threat individuals should, after conviction, be isolated to prevent collateral radicalization while they are incarcerated. Those posing a moderate or low threat should be deradicalized, rehabilitated, and reintegrated into society, with support services to alleviate challenging circumstances. Nonjudicial adjudication may be offered. Prisons and detention facilities are often fertile breeding grounds for VE, so a tempered and precise approach to detention and incarceration is key to preventing its spread.7
  • Mass reintegration of ex-combatants entails navigating a complex tangle of civilian and military domains; demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration operations must be integrated with other plans, such as detention, deradicalization, and reconciliation. Many ex-combatants will have career skills that are beneficial to communities, such as knowledge of electricity and engineering; however, they must cease to be a threat, and communities have to accept them back. Also, reconciliation must not run counter to legal barriers such as foreign terrorist organization designations.8 A successful mass reintegration in particular requires the strong partnership of civilian and security bodies.
  • Access and nondiscrimination allow a population to voice grievances. The military must create secure spaces where civilian organizations can build the local capacity to participate in governmental processes and fight discrimination.


CT operations without CVE efforts are an incomplete approach to the VE threat, but a comprehensive CVE strategy is possible with the addition of repurposed stability operations, which requires more integrated partnership with civilian organizations with CVE expertise. The following recommendations maximize the military contribution to CVE and empower civilian partners through a redesign of stability operations:

  • Repurpose stability operations as the DOD’s role in CVE. Stability operations should become the proactive, preventative CVE complement to the DOD’s reactive CT mission.
  • Adopt the principles of VE-focused stability operations. These three critical principles reorient stability operations on VE by providing a rubric for the design, planning, and execution of such operations.
  • Redesign the conduct and implementation of stability operations. The redesigned applications of stability operations suggested here are examples of CVE reduction efforts possible through next-level partnering.


  1. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, Global Terrorism Database, 2016,
  2. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, “Eighty-eight percent of all terrorist attacks in 2015 occurred in countries that were experiencing or involved in armed conflicts.”
  3. “Global Terrorism Index 2015,” November 2015,
  4. Nadia Gerspacher, Sustainable Capacity Building: Guidelines for Planning and Project Design Communities (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, March 2017), 8.
  5. “A U.S. Humanitarian, Development and Peacebuilding Statement on the U.S. Global Countering Violent Extremism Agenda,” Action for Community Development and other signatories, July 20, 2015, entExtremismAgenda.pdf.
  6. USIP, Interaction, and DOD, Guidelines for Relations between U.S. Armed Forces and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations in Hostile or Potentially Hostile Environments (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2005).
  7. David R. Smock and Daniel Serwer, eds., Facilitating Dialogue: USIP’s Work in Conflict Zones (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2012).
  8. Peter R. Neumann, Prisons and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in 15 Countries (London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence [ICSR], 2010), 1.
  9. Georgia Holmer and Adrian Shtuni, “Returning Foreign Fighters and the Reintegration Imperative,” Special Report no. 402 (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2017), 1.

About the Author

Edward Powers is an active duty lieutenant colonel in the US Marine Corps currently assigned to USIP as a Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow.

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News Article

This article was originally published by the NATO Defense College (NDC) in May 2017

In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.1

Reading the founding document of NATO, i.e. the Washington Treaty, it becomes apparent that the founder members had already thought about the principle of resilience. By committing themselves to be prepared and able to sustain any shock they might suffer (at that time, clearly in the form of an armed attack), the Allies knew that being strong at home would be a source of strength for the Alliance as a whole. And because nations would not only be prepared individually but also benefit from the added protection of the collective defence principle, this would make deterrence a reality.

Surprisingly, it was not until the Warsaw Summit in July 2016 that Heads of State and Government issued an official statement in which they committed themselves to “continue to enhance […] resilience against the full spectrum of threats, including hybrid threats, from any direction. Resilience is an essential basis for credible deterrence and defence and effective fulfilment of the Alliance’s core tasks.”2 Yet, the idea had been in the air since at least 2014, with the rise of new threats and challenges that NATO had to respond to. A seminal paper published in the lead-up to the Warsaw Summit, meant to suggest new ideas to stakeholders and diplomats, suggested that “as part of an overall Western strategy, NATO’s objectives should be to deter, contain, respond, and remain resilient to the violent, disruptive, or military efforts of others.”3 Deterrence and resilience seem to be two sides of the same coin: while the first encompasses the broad military dimension (both conventional and nuclear), as well as the means and capacity to respond to an external threat, resilience deals with the mostly civilian preparedness that fundamentally allows the military to carry out its mission. In other words, reducing societies’ vulnerabilities limits the likelihood of an attack, thus reinforcing deterrence.

Whilst there are plenty of detailed publications on deterrence, resilience seems 2 to be the new kid in town. Interrelated with both military, governance and civilian society, it needs to be examined as a whole in order to pinpoint why it specifically matters today, in a shifting and much more uncertain security environment. Looked at in another way, resilience is the homework every nation has to carefully focus upon, in order to be efficient as a trustworthy Ally.

A brief definition of resilience

As is often the case with a very popular yet complex concept, there is no common definition of resilience. It originates from the material sciences and physics, where resilience is the ability of a material to “recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.”4 It was then appropriated by ecology, defining the “measure of the ability of an ecosystem to absorb changes and still persist,”5 and later used by Emmy Werner, an American developmental psychologist, who introduced the concept into the realm of human psychology in 1982.6 From there, the concept became so appealing that it spread into different disciplines, reaching the field of security-related studies in the general sense of being able to “bounce back” after a disturbance.

Even in the absence of a single agreed definition, resilience is widely understood as the “ability of the community, services, area or infrastructure to detect, prevent, and, if necessary to withstand, handle and recover from disruptive challenges.”7 Resilience concerns not only physical entities – services or infrastructure – but also society at large; it underscores the capability of an organization either to continue working under severe conditions, or to recover from a stoppage or setback as quickly as possible. Academics still debate over the forms of resilience: the simplest conceptualization is that resilience defines the ability to recover as if the disturbing event had never happened (the “bounce back” scenario). Others prioritize the system’s ability not only to recuperate, but also to learn from what has occurred in order to adapt and avoid the likelihood of future attacks (“adaptation”).8 In each case, resilience is a process and a strategy, as it aims at assessing, maintaining and injecting resources into a system so as to keep it functioning in the face of internal or external change. Of course, depending on whether the system is an infrastructure or a society, the resources and the tools needed for resilience are not the same, but they are all subsumed under “an organization’s culture, attitudes and values.”9

This explains why resilience has taken on so much importance among security experts: “The popularity of the resilience concept […] is closely linked to the emergence of a world of risks rather than threats: Facing a variety of different risks – from natural hazards and the failure of critical infrastructures to terrorist attacks – policymakers have recognized that not all disasters can be averted, and security can never be fully achieved. As a consequence, the focus has shifted from averting, deterring, and protecting from threats to mitigating the consequences should a disaster occur.”10 Resilience aims therefore at being prepared – that is, having thought, planned and exercised in order to “absorb, recover and then adapt to adverse events.”11

Responding to new threats in a traditional manner

Resilience can also be seen as a mandatory task for nations in preparing themselves to face a new category of threats. Since 2014 and the return of Russia as an aggressive actor on the international scene, much has been written and said about the “new character of war” being waged by Putin’s Russia. Using a mix of conventional and unconventional means of warfare, and playing on the full spectrum of operations, Russia has put into practice a hybrid strategy that challenges Western nations and societies – including governance and norms – despite their economic, technological, intelligence and military superiority. Leveraging every means to undermine the adversary’s credibility, this hybrid form of war ranges from the use of proxies, terrorists groups, cyber-criminals and “little green men” to energy blackmail, sabre-rattling and military manoeuvres that extend to out-and-out invasion of a sovereign state. The whole conjugation of kinetic and non-kinetic means is supported by smart, and very effective, information warfare. Ukraine has been a case study for these tactics since 2014. In the same vein, there are now many publications and other documents analysing nations’ critical vulnerabilities and means of protecting themselves against these threats.12

NATO’s first response to Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine was highly political and very conventional. At the Wales Summit in September 2014, the Heads of State and Government reprioritized collective defence as a way to cope with a revanchist Russia, while not willing to drop the other two core task carved into the 2010 Strategic Concept – i.e crisis management and cooperative security. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “NATO doesn’t seek confrontation, we don’t want a new Cold War. The Cold War is history, and it should remain history. But we have to be able also in a more challenging security environment to defend and protect all our Allies.”13 The Allies agreed on the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) as a way to “address both the continuing need for assurance of Allies and the adaptation of the Alliance’s military strategic posture [by] continuous air, land, and maritime presence and meaningful military activity in the eastern part of the Alliance, both on a rotational basis14.” The centrepiece of the RAP is the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), a brigade-size force – with air, special operations forces (SOF) and maritime support – that is supposed to be able to deploy anywhere (on Alliance territory or elsewhere) within a couple of days to conduct a wide array of missions and stabilize a nascent crisis. Its visibility grants the VJTF a true political dimension that also reinforces purely military reassurance measures. In actual practice, though, the far more significant outcome of the 2014 Summit was the 2%-of-GDP defence spending pledge (including 20% for replacing matériel), with a view to halt three decades of progressive erosion in defence spending by almost all the European members of NATO.

The 18-month period between the two Summits was very active, as the Allies tried to move from mere political statements to practical application. The objective was to demonstrate that the Allies are determined in their commitment, by military and other means, to defend and protect the Alliance’s territory and populations, and that collective defence is not just a mantra but a reality. The aim for the VJTF is to reach its full operational capability by 2017, beefing up the NATO Response Force to a complement of 40,000. Further, with the rotational deployment of multinational battalions in each of the three Baltic states and Poland (known as Enhanced Forward Presence), NATO is surely implementing the first set of measures to demonstrate commitment and thereby boost deterrence.

Facing domestic challenges

However, while the military has been trying to address the complexity of its tasks, some academics have strongly argued the need to go beyond immediate conventional responses, giving renewed impetus to the various components making up a real deterrence posture. They argue that, against hybrid threats and the new challenges of dealing with illegal immigrants, ISIS, cyberattacks, terrorism and other hazards, a purely conventional response is necessary but not in itself sufficient. This line of reasoning leads to the logical conclusion that threats targeting all the components of our Western societies can be meaningfully addressed only by a whole-of-society approach.

In a seminal article, appropriately entitled “Defending the arteries of society,” these authors identified the uncomfortable new reality that our open societies are now the target: “Practitioners of hybrid warfare are often less intent on seizing and holding territory than destroying or disrupting the ability of societies to function. Antagonists wishing to inflict harm upon a society look to key nodes where critical infrastructures connect. […] When war changes, so must defense. New approaches are urgently needed that extend traditional efforts at territorial protection and deterrence to encompass modern approaches to resilience. […] Militaries are still relevant, but many critical requirements are civil. Hybrid responses require arrangements that encompass both civil government organizations as well as key private sector entities.”15 In this analysis, Kramer, Binnendijk and Hamilton underline not only the new type of threats, but also the greater challenges in dealing with these threats, the bottom line being that we have let our guard down, and have weakened our societies by reducing investments in defence as a whole. The massive cuts in defence budgets since the end of the Cold War, and the civilianization of once military or state-owned assets, mean that our military relies upon civilian assets unable to sustain or deal with potentially severe disruption.

The truth is that, as NATO nations came to consider themselves at peace in Europe, they kept cutting their armed forces’ budgets and resources, thus increasing overall reliance on purely civilian assets. All too familiar examples can be readily found, such as the transportation or communications network in Europe. Today NATO’s military relies on civilian assets for movement and transport. Typically, in large operations, around 90% of military transport is accomplished using civilian assets chartered from the private sector. Over 50% of communications for military purposes are transmitted through civilian satellites. And roughly 75% of host nation support to NATO forces is sourced from local commercial infrastructure and services.16 With the privatization of formerly state-owned resources and infrastructure, nations have effectively excluded themselves from contributing to decisions that are now guided primarily by profit – especially when deciding to get rid of redundancies. This process has been accompanied by the rise of new technologies, where government and states have had little to no role to play, which further explains the rapid increase of Western vulnerabilities to external attack and internal disruption.

Resilience starts at home

Due to the combination of hybrid threats and the transformation of our societies and economies, what is at stake is national ownership and the possibility for a state or a government to get back in the saddle when a crisis occurs. In this context, NATO’s resilience focuses less on society itself than on the core elements maintaining the overall capabilities of a state or a nation to run smoothly – e.g., avoiding economic and societal disruption through resilient infrastructure and governance. NATO’s working definition considers resilience as the capability to safeguard government and government entities, together with essential services that help to protect the population and guarantee civilian support to military operations. The aim in this respect is to strengthen “civil preparedness,” in order to guard better against the risk of a government’s ability to control events being impaired. It is a question not only of retaining the confidence of one’s population, but also of sticking to the core values on which the Alliance is built – where the social contract demands that the government care for its people.

This is, again, nothing new for NATO and its member states, as indicated by Article 3 of the Washington Treaty. During the Cold War, and up to the late 1980s, NATO had policies and planning for what was called “Civil Preparedness and Civil Emergency Planning.” The Alliance had eight civil wartime agencies, covering shipping, inland surface transport, aviation, insurance, supplies, oil, and refugee movements.17 The bottom line was to ensure that NATO commanders could rely on civilian assets and commercial markets, to ensure that refugee movements could be coordinated and de-conflicted with military operations, and to ensure continuity of essential civilian operations; all to ensure that military operations could proceed without the risk of the “home front” falling apart.

Of course, after almost two decades of lost opportunities, where this invaluable expertise was either dismantled or gradually ceased to exist, it is time to rebuild resilience as a “strategic task.”18 Everybody has to acknowledge that this task starts at home, in each and every nation, with our societies and government being cognisant of their own vulnerabilities in the first place and then working to eliminate them.19 Because of the existing interdependences between the military, civil and private sectors, it calls for a redesigned framework and concept that fits the new era.20

NATO has already laid out the groundwork for the necessary improvements and, since the NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting in February 2016, there is a shared understanding of the domains that have to be made resilient.21 Seven areas (systems or capabilities) have been identified as critical:

  • Continuity of Government;
  • Resilient Energy Supplies;
  • Resilient Civil Communications Services;
  • Resilient Food and Water Supplies;
  • Ability to Deal with Large Scale Population Movements;
  • Ability to Deal with Mass Casualties;
  • Resilient Civilian Transportation Systems.

All of these found political support in the “Commitment to enhance resilience” adopted at Warsaw. This establishes resilience as the basis for effective deterrence by denial. It is not only about building a better integrated, overlapping, redundant, comprehensive and yet flexible form of defence. It is also about being able to convince a potential adversary or competitor that its attack will fail.

Resilience as a new topic in the PME syllabus?

Because resilience is seen first and foremost as a domestic task, NATO serves as a clearing house, while taking a close interest in integrating members’ and partners’ vision of resilience. In other words, NATO helps specify the requirements, but their concrete implementation is up to the nations. To summarize, a good resilience policy can be broken down into six main tasks, spanning from identification of critical vulnerabilities to implementation of the mandatory measures and planning for uncertainty:

  • Invest time and human resources in assessing national vulnerabilities – for instance, infrastructure and different types of networks. One of the best examples is the focus on energy infrastructure and cyber networks, but this is only the tip of the iceberg;
  • Develop a coherent policy across the board, with an overall focus on “shaping, planning and managing resilience in a coherent and coordinated way”22. This has to take into account two dimensions. First, the physical domain – the “hardware stuff” – will harness and improve redundancy and robustness of existing infrastructure and networks. The second dimension, which is by nature broader and far more complex to deal with, aims at developing resilience among our own population, taking as an example what the French call “esprit de défense”). This deals above all with education and information, at every level and in all possible dimensions;
  • Modify, change or make the legislation evolve in certain domains, especially in granting national governments and administrations greater flexibility to deal with the notion of crisis; and avoid the black-and-white separation between what can be done in peacetime and wartime;
  • Improve the ability to partner with the civilian and/or private sector. This means that every actor must be aware of what is critically needed, and that there must be channels of communication among those concerned, without putting any constraint on the freedom of entrepreneurship;
  • Review, modernize and update planning documents, in order to take stock of new threats and start exercising them accordingly with a view to showing our resilience;
  • Connect and link up with other organizations so as to leverage different capabilities, especially in the economic and social domain. Of course, for NATO, this means further developing its links and relations with the European Union, as has already been accepted in the signing of the Joint Declaration at Warsaw.

Each of these tasks would require an appropriate level of understanding that is already partially considered by a few nations in their domestic professional military education (PME) programmes, even if the inevitable tendency to “stove-pipe” leads us to forget that resilience is an “across-the-board” topic bridging all domains and functions. So is deterrence, which makes it clear that both have to be reconsidered and taken into account as two sides of the same coin.

Of course, one can readily appreciate the complexities and difficulties of adequately “teaching” resilience. This means that, if it is considered as a topical issue, it has to be seriously addressed, and that educational programmes must contextualize it by reintroducing the basics of deterrence policy – which have also disappeared in the last two decades. We need to raise our students’ awareness – at every level, and not just in the military but also among our diplomats and civil servants – to the fact that resilience and deterrence are fundamental aspects of a well-balanced defence policy. Political decisions could give appropriate impetus in this respect: for instance, NATO Allies could decide to renew their commitment to the defunct agencies NATO once possessed, maybe also extending this dimension to the EU.

Developing the concept further, in trying to better connect deterrence and resilience, there might be three different and distinct requirements. The first and most evident one is to achieve renewed understanding of our resilience when facing nuclear and WMD threats. The Cold War provides a lot of case studies, especially in being prepared for a “nuclear winter.” But some academics have, more recently, rejuvenated the field by thinking of what a possible limited nuclear conflict could look like.23 The second requirement is the ability to resist and overcome a conventional, state-on-state conflict – an option that was long gone with peace dividends and the end of the Cold War. This used to be NATO’s comfort zone, and ensured the continuity of services to NATO Forces deployed anywhere on Alliance territory, which inherently means continuity of government and services within host nations. The pledge made at Warsaw partially fulfils this requirement. Ultimately, and as a third requirement, when facing hybrid threats and measures short of war, the burden is once again on each and every nation’s shoulders to ensure they will be able to face attacks on their values and social and economic model. Again, history provides good case studies; during the Cold War, the Alliance and member states actually practised counter-propaganda, used information campaigns to sway opinion away from communist infiltration of Western states’ intellectual domain, and engaged in aggressive counter-espionage and similar activities. In our post-modernist era, this is much more problematic.

Again, solutions can be found in some practices that NATO countries struggled with in the past decade, and to which they offered a common response. The most blatant example is the so-called “Comprehensive Approach,” which was the alpha and omega of our operations abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the military was only one component of the overall security and defence environment. If one considers that resilience might also be seen – bluntly speaking – as a way to act comprehensively at home, it is surely important that we re-emphasize what was once at the centre of our thoughts and planning and operations.

Far from simply being a catchphrase or an additional buzzword, resilience has become a key notion not just among NATO members but also among certain NATO partner countries. Starting from the need to bounce back and recover swiftly after any shock, the concept now addresses the once forgotten issues of being able to continue operating even in difficult situations. While the NATO working definition emphasizes the continuity of service of the government and the basic services to the population in order to support their military when they are engaged in operations, resilience goes far beyond this narrow definition. This is especially striking when considering that most of the research done recently in the resilience domain limits itself to infrastructure and networks – mainly cyber, but not only. There is agreement on the financial impact for already severely depleted defence budgets, and on the interest of trying to fix things by having the private sector on board. However, few publications mention that these costs in terms of “hardware” might probably be very limited if compared to those dealing with the psychological aspect of resilience, i.e the change of mindset and the harnessing of a new defensive spirit. Better educating our elite is therefore not just one duty among many: it is mandatory, if we intend to cope with the current level of threats and challenges that need smart and well-informed people. In this community, the military, through its existing PME and its unique ability to change the syllabus on a regular basis to cope with an evolving security environment, not only provides a model but sets some standards and blueprints. It is therefore important that the efforts carried out in our military are spread further, and also serve to enlighten civil servants and all the actors who have at heart the safety and security of their nation.


1 NATO, Article 3 of the Washington Treaty, 1949.

2 NATO, “Commitment to enhance resilience,” issued by the Heads of State and Government, Warsaw, 8 July 2016, http://www.

3 Franklin D. Kramer, Hans Binnendijk, and Daniel S. Hamilton, NATO’s New Strategy: Stability Generation, Atlantic Council and Center for Transatlantic Relations, Washington D.C., September 2015,

4 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Resilience.” Bram Stoker uses the term in Dracula (1897): “It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.”

5 C.S. Holling, “Resilience and stability of ecological systems,” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4/1973, pp.1-23.

6 See the results in Emmy Werner & Ruth Smith, Overcoming the Odds. High Risk Children from Birth to Adulthood, Cornell University Press, Ithaca-London, 1992.

7 According to the definition found in the U.K. Civil Protection Lexicon, version 2.1.1, revised February 2013

8 Myriam Dunn Cavelty, Resilience in Security Policy: Present and Future, ETH Zürich, CSS Analysis, n°142, October 2013, p. 2.

9 Trusted Information Sharing Network for Critical Infrastructure Resilience (TISN). National Organisational Resilience Framework Workshop: The Outcomes. 5th – 7th December 2007, Mt. Macedon Victoria, Australia, p. 6.

10 Corinne Bara and Gabriel Brönnimann, Resilience. Trends in Policy and Research, ETH Zürich, Center for Security Studies (CSS), April 2011, p. 6.

11 National Research Council, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative, Washington, DC, The National Academies Press, 2012, p.1.

12 See for instance, Keir Giles, Handbook of Russian Information Warfare, Rome, NDC, 2016, or Guillaume Lasconjarias and Jeffrey A. Larsen (eds.), NATO’s Response to Hybrid Threats, Rome, NDC Forum Paper 24, 2015, Some nations have put a lot of effort into identifying national critical infrastructure, and then devising ways to protect it. This started with finding ways to protect the population against hazards and disasters, before extending the scope to include any other kind of risk. In the US, the main institutional actor in this field is now the Department of Homeland Security (see, for instance, National Research Council, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative. Washington, DC, The National Academies Press, 2012 or more importantly, the US Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-8, Subject: “National Preparedness,The White House, 2011.

13 Jens Stoltenberg, Doorstep statement at the Warsaw Summit, 8 July 2016,

14 NATO Newport Summit communiqué, 6 September 2014.

15 Franklin Kramer, Hans Binnendijk, and Dan Hamilton, “Defend the Arteries of Society,” US News and World Report, 9 June 2015,

16 NATO, Resilience and Article 3, 22 June 2016,

17 More precisely :

  • Defence Shipping Authority
  • Agency for Coordination of Inland Surface Transport in Europe
  • Southern Europe Transport Organization
  • Civil Aviation Agency
  • Inter-Allied Insurance Organization
  • Central Supply Agency
  • NATO Wartime Oil Organization
  • NATO Refugee Agency

18 Ralph D. Thiele, Building Resilience Readiness against Hybrid Threats – A Cooperative European Union / NATO Perspective, ISPSW Strategy Series, n°449, September 2016, p.2.

19 Piret Pernik and Tomas Jermalavičius, “Resilience as Part of NATO’s Strategy: Deterrence by Denial and Cyber Defense,” Forward Resilience: Protecting Society in an Interconnected World Working Paper Series, SAIS and Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2016, p.3,

20 HQ SACT, “Building Resilience Across the Alliance,” Food for Thought Paper, 14 January 2016.

21 For the following section, see Lorenz Meyer-Minnemann, “Resilience and Alliance Security: The Warsaw Commitment to Enhance Resilience,” Forward Resilience: Protecting Society in an Interconnected World Working Paper Series, SAIS and Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2016, p.2, See also Jeffrey Larsen, Responding to Catastrophic Threats: Consequence Management and Policies, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

22 HQ SACT, “Building Resilience Across the Alliance,” p. 6.

23 Jeffrey Larsen and Kerry Kartchner, On Limited Nuclear War in the 21st Century, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2014.

About the Author

Dr Guillaume Lasconjarias is a Researcher at NATO Defense College.

This work is published under the Creative Common Licence “Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs” (CC BY-NC-ND)

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