2017 CIOR Seminar: Sudden knock-out or eventual points Loss
How our security state will lose the fight
CIOR Seminar Committee | Edited by Ambassador (Ret) P. Welti, CHE
The 2017 CIOR Seminar, assembling Reserve Officers from some 15 countries, most of them NATO members, took its participants from an opening shock statement through an intellectual exercise to a conceptual training and released them on the last day with the well-deserved satisfaction of having done something useful for the security and future well-being not only of the seminar participants but of the societies represented by Reserve Officers.
“Sudden knock-out or eventual points loss – How our security state will lose the fight” is the shock statement with which the Seminar’s theme was introduced.
Two opening presentations brought back memories, when we, in our respective armed forces, had to find our ways through the challenges of military or disaster relief exercises.
Joel Winton confronted us with the reality that successful responses to crises depend more and more on the capacity to bring together stakeholders, who were inexistent in the minds of leaders, particularly military leaders, one generation ago. Those who were inexistent in the minds of leaders, were absent from the hierarchies in charge of responding to crises. But they were never absent from the battlefield or the disaster area. They were simply not asked to contribute to solutions with shared responsibility. The ultimate goal in disaster relief must be that all bodies work together. This was exemplary highlighted by footage of a flock of birds flying like a controlled body. (Cf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOGCSBh3kmM&app=desktop)
Fred Turner, then, added to the opening topic the dimension which definitely symbolises and represents modern times, current reality for today’s young generation: the Cyber Space, driven by information technology, invisible on the conventional battlefield, but of decisive relevance for victory or defeat in conflict or disaster. However, there are distinctive current operations and strategic issues for operations in cyber space. Nations are unclear of red lines. National decision makers are reluctant to grant authorities due to their uncertainty about the effects of offensive capabilities and their own national cyber vulnerabilities. Adding to the complexity of cyber space operations, domestic laws create a tangle of interested and responsible parties, and international law is far from settled. All these considerations not only make national cyber operations more complex, but they also add significant friction to cooperation among partners and allies. Yet, due to the global nature of cyber space, cooperation among national organizations and between allies is crucial.
Day Two of the Seminar, provided by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and its team of speakers and moderator, focussed on the inter-dependence of Development and Security, the challenges to force-projection for the security of NATO-Members and their partners and the effects of on-going climate change on societies causing man-made conflicts and natural disasters and triggering, thus, mass migrations. We have already summarised the presentations and discussions and the seminar’s acknowledgment that governance is at the heart of most of the problems with this regard. Endeavours for good governance and accountability of authorities are the key for the improvement of the state of the world and of mankind. The thoughtful exchange on NATO on Day Two, finally, should serve as a warning that the balance in defence and security matters has already started to shift. The phase, in Europe, of collecting a peace dividend after the demise of the Soviet Union has ended. All political and strategic signs indicate the need to reverse the trend of the last twenty years and to think of how to focus again on strengthening collective defence in Europe.
The two topics which had opened the seminar became, on Day Three, the subjects which speakers and participants elaborated on in workshops. Two more topics were introduced,
- a) a case study of a successful turn-around in the corporate world, the case of DHL Express, by Jörg Andriof,
- b) a case study of a failed response to a terrorist attack on civil society, the Norwegian Utöya tragedy, whose perpetrator I do not name, by Hans Brun.
Two conceptual studies and two case studies were the object for interactive workshops in the hands of groups and speakers. These are assertions submitted by groups to the plenary.
In a concept of a successful Emergent Response it is of critical importance to assemble early on all possible stakeholders, symbolically speaking, “welcoming them in one room by a handshake” and, thus, establishing a relationship between actors who have possibly never worked together and were certainly never hierarchically integrated. Relationship is the first basis on which mutual trust has to be built and can be built. Trust only allows to agree on a common purpose for the framework of common action. Trust only is the guarantee for a successful decentralised execution. And decentralised execution is a fundamental requirement, because it is the most efficient and most effective concept for tackling threats to society of an existential nature. Resorting to decentralised execution is a paradigmatic shift from exclusive hierarchy to inclusive thinking and cooperation. It opens the mind to the acknowledgment that one should never underestimate the power of the local people. Reaching out to them would constitute the primary goal in emergent response.
The group in charge of Cyber Risk focused on a) the role of Reservists in building up and bringing to bear Cyber capabilities and b) the new dimension given to Article 5 by Cyber capabilities. Since it is still too early to recognise where the systematic build-up of Cyber capabilities by Defense Ministries and Armed Forces of NATO Members stands, the workshop studied broadly the interest of involving Reservists in this completely new field of military capacity-building. There are benefits, as there are difficulties and impediments, but the provisional assessment indicates that Reservists and in particular Reserve Officers should play a role.
The technological evolution makes also visible how far legal frameworks and legal language can be challenged by new phenomena. While Article 5 and at its core the notion of “attack” seemed to have been, over decades of NATO’s existence, non-controversial, the appearance of a new technology with its specialists and their own minds and language, is creating a formidable potential of confusion and misunderstanding. Information technologists consider themselves as being permanently under Cyber attack. Does this call for Article-5 action? And regardless of “yes” or “no”: what sort of counter-attack would be permissible, what would be beyond levels of competition for intelligence gathering and for strategic influence on others? These questions open completely new aspects of conceptual debates from which we cannot conceive Reserve Officers to abstain in the long run. We believe the participants have identified a field of responsibility for Reserve Officers which goes far beyond technology and deep into political and strategic debates.
The first one, the DHL Express story, came as an instructive and heart-warming encouragement to take the DHL example of a successful turn-around and a most promising further development of profitable and successful business as inspiration. Warfare is never profitable, but Defense has to be successful in order to fulfil the people’s expectations and legitimate demands. DHL is a most welcome encouragement.
The other case study, on Utöya, sadly was of a different nature. It is a warning how easily professional services in charge of security and protection of the people can fail. Of everything that failed, nothing was allowed to fail. Here again, practical conclusions and advice, such as “train the use of equipment, train the deployment of protection forces, train the leadership of those in charge and in command” can remain without consequences, when authorities and the people at large prove to be unable to act accordingly. Perhaps, this is one more field where the Reserve Officer has a role to play in society. Their legitimacy lies in their profile of “a military with a civilian identity and commitment”, or: “a civilian with a military identity and commitment”.
This takes us back to the initial remark about the shock statement “Sudden knock-out – How our security state will lose the fight”. On purpose, the second part of the Seminar’s theme has been omitted. We would like to recall it here and give it an interpretation:
How we lose the fight … “Unless we increase redundancy and improve surge management!”