Multi-disciplinary panel presents War Council on Iran at West Point
October 9, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 8, 2013) -- The Department of Military Instruction's Defense and Strategic Studies Program hosted its second War Council Oct. 4 in what is developing to be a popular forum for cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
The topic of the War Council was on Iran and roughly 150 cadets and faculty were in attendance inside Washington Hall to hear a multi-disciplinary panel of speakers lead this intellectual discussion.
The timing of this event was no coincidence, as the eyes of the world turn upon Iran and anxiously wait for hints of a different stance from the state. Much of the international community is curious as to what direction the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will take the Islamic Republic of Iran and the scope of its nuclear weapons program.
While nuclear power as an energy source is beneficial for a state, weaponizing that power immediately sends red flags to states who feel threatened, inevitably creating a security dilemma. The extreme interest in Iran's nuclear program is due to the state's enrichment attempts. Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the international community must place a "red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program" at last year's United Nations General Assembly. This statement, along with the Obama administration's stated policy of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, are causes for concern to some who fear possibly military intervention to enact both the United States' and Israel's stances.
The uncertain situation warrants cause for speculation and discussion and the DSS War Council provided just that.
The panel, consisting of field grade officers and civilian scholars, provided a breadth of knowledge to inform cadets of the situation and possible courses of action. The forum, titled "Denying the Bomb: American Military and Foreign Policy Options towards Iran," offered a venue for cadets to gain knowledge and ask questions. The information presented aimed to pose the important questions facing the cadets in the future. The desired end state of the Iran War Council was not to teach cadets what to think about the subject. Rather, it narrowly focused on aspects of the situation that required scrutiny and consideration of a wide range of factors.
The presentations included discussion of the historical background, nuclear capability, social-cultural considerations, regional diplomacy, cyber warfare options and military strategic considerations with regard to Iran.
Each segment of the presentation offered objective information about a specific subject, so cadets could learn more about the situation while simultaneously questioning the best course of action to take. The historical background briefly covered Iran's history along with the events and factors that created its identity today. A scientific discussion of the requirements to accomplish nuclear armament informed cadets of the effort a state must put into nuclear weaponization and Iran's status in regards to accomplishing weaponization.
While often overlooked, the information presented on social-cultural consideration broadened the understanding on Iran's relations with other states, especially in the Middle East. The domain of cyber warfare is one many are unfamiliar with as well. The cyber presentation explained Iran's cyber activities and their effects on the United States as well as the options available to counter these threats. Lastly, the cadets learned some of the strategic considerations the nation's leaders are currently facing.
Strategy can be vastly complicated and difficult to comprehend. In its most simple sense, strategy is the ways and means employed to achieve a desired end. However, understanding the definition of strategy and its multiple facets is challenging and requires a broad, multi-disciplinary education.
To say cadets are required to understand military strategy as future officers is an understatement. Military strategy is the application of military power to achieve political objectives. However, that is only a part of the nation's grand strategy, which aims to achieve a nation's core objectives and interests. The DSS program teaches cadets how to understand and analyze what their nation requires of them from the highest level. These cadets are able to link the tactical decisions they will make one day on the battlefield to American national policy.
"The War Council allowed me to develop new perspectives about Iranian society and government that I would otherwise not have been able to develop," Class of 2014 Cadet Chelsea Dixon said. "I also developed a better understanding of Iran's nuclear capabilities and how a nuclear Iran will affect world politics."
Dixon found this event enlightening and informational and said she plans on attending future War Councils.
"A topic I would like to see discussed would be the current situations in Libya and in Egypt, and how the turmoil in these two countries will affect the global community," she said.
Class of 2013 Cadet Jonathan Stamp has studied similar topics in his nuclear engineering track but attending this War Council opened his mind to the role they play globally.
"All I knew about Iran was technical and that they didn't like the U.S.," he said. "Now I have a baseline for any further research or background when evaluating news stories."
Last month, DSS hosted its first War Council to a standing-room-only crowd inside a Thayer Hall classroom.
"The War Council on Syria was a test--but one that we conducted with the war drums beating-- and the massive attendance might have just been timing," Maj. Matthew Cavanaugh, Military Strategy course director, said. "So we felt we had to see if there was genuine interest, and our panel on Iran proved that, solidified the idea, that this is valuable to cadets."
With more than 500 cadets and faculty having participated in the two War Councils, Cavanaugh said the interest is there to fully develop this series.
"We'd like to gauge interest in a related venture for faculty and staff--a War Council Network--to share ideas about the use of force across academic disciplines. Imagine if our nuclear panelist got together with our cyber panelist, and, say, our Farsi instructor, maybe including myself as a strategist--to author a paper or develop a novel approach to deny the Iranians the bomb? This could be really great for the officers involved, but, more importantly, West Point and the Army."