The Incalculable Element: Ancient Innovations for Modern Security Problems



Narrated by Patrick Kirchner

Many unanticipated dangers—military, political, technological, foreign, and domestic—shadow the U.S. national security landscape, creating a need for adaptive and inventive leadership. But what exactly does this leadership look like? This paper explores insights from what might seem an unusual source: Thucydides’ discussion of how the Sicilians, inspired by the unconventional guidance of the general Hermocrates, facilitate Sparta’s defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War. As Thucydides shows, Hermocrates spurs his listeners to reflect on their limitations and biases at a time when imminent peril would seem to call for nothing but confidence. Yet this reflection, by allowing the Sicilians to reconsider their moral and cultural norms, reform their military structures, and join with unlikely allies to resist Athens’s imperialist threat, fosters an innovative outlook that makes that resistance succeed. This ancient case study remains salient for modern audiences because it exemplifies a nontraditional leadership suited to today’s unforeseen security problems.

America’s Reactive Foreign Policy: How U.S. Organizational Culture and Behavior Advantages China


Narrated by Patrick Kirchner

This paper critiques the U.S. foreign policy community’s approach to strategic competition with China and raises a crucial question: Is the U.S. government basing strategic competition with China on U.S. interests, or is it reacting in ways that advance the strategic goals of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

This paper argues that, because of its organizational culture, the U.S. foreign policy community approaches strategic competition in ways that disadvantage the United States. Through an analysis of the political, military, economic, and psychological condition of U.S. foreign policy, this paper posits that the United States has formed a reactive strategy toward China that leaves it vulnerable to China’s own competitive strategies. Through exploring historical examples and contemporary issues such as Taiwan and integrated deterrence, an underlying pattern emerges. Because it has ill-defined objectives and definitions of success, brought about largely by organizational factors, the United States is developing a reactionary foreign policy that is susceptible to CCP strategies, interests, and advantages. While this paper does not provide a definitive answer, it diagnoses American susceptibility to Chinese strategic manipulation and highlights the need for the United States to develop a more proactive and well-defined strategy to counter China’s competitive strategies effectively.

CCP Weapons of Mass Persuasion


Narrated by Patrick Kirchner

This paper is part of the Andrew W. Marshall Foundation’s set of publications on Examining History to Explore the Future: France, the United States, and China. This project was made possible by a generous grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) approach to the United States today reflects the party’s formative competitive experiences a century ago. Starting in the 1920s, the CCP vied with the Nationalist Party (KMT) for control over China, but the CCP was also nominally allied with the KMT in the First United Front, 1924–27. In that context, the Communists waged political warfare against the KMT at the elite and the grassroots level. Initially, the CCP’s aim was to coopt the KMT. When cooption failed, the Communists turned to subversion before attacking the Nationalists kinetically. In recent decades, the CCP has used this united-front template against the United States, thanks partly to a foundation of U.S.-CCP cooperation laid during the Sino-Japanese War and reinforced in the late Cold War. This report accordingly traces the CCP’s repertoire for strategic competition to the Chinese Civil War (Part 1). It then analyzes the application of this toolkit to the United States across a series of interactions beginning in the late 1930s and continuing through the present (Part 2). The report concludes with two alternative visions of how the coming decades could unfold, hinging upon Washington’s ability to counter Beijing’s ongoing subversion campaign (Part 3).


The “AI RMA”: The Revolution Has Not Arrived (Yet)


Narrated by Patrick Kirchner

Winner of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on New Revolutions in Military Affairs

This paper examines the prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) applications initiating a new revolution in military affairs (RMA). It analyzes this issue by applying the lens of four RMA elements—technological change, military systems evolution, operational innovation, and organizational adaptation—to U.S. and Chinese military AI development. It finds that, in the near term, AI applications may be more likely to help fully realize the reconnaissance-strike RMA than to produce a new AI RMA altogether. However, understanding why AI has not yet sparked a new RMA can shape analysis of the potential trajectory of technological-military competition between the United States and China. The paper uses historical lessons from U.S.–Japanese interwar competition, which produced the carrier aviation RMA, to draw relevant insights for present day U.S.-China AI competition. It concludes by discussing potential frameworks for understanding a future AI RMA and areas for further study.

“A State in Disguise of a Merchant”: Multinational Tech Corporations and the Reconfiguration of the Balance of Power in Asia


Narrated by Patrick Kirchner

Winner of the Inaugural Andrew W. Marshall Paper Prize on Future Reconfigurations in Asia

When corporations were created four centuries ago, they fundamentally altered the relationship between the market and the state while also shifting geopolitical power. Technology corporations are creating a similar revolution in the contemporary age. As the world moves from industrial and postindustrial economies to digital ones, technology companies now touch practically every area of modern life. Politically and geopolitically, they are also changing how states interact with each other and achieve their strategic objectives. Technology corporations now play a central role in states’ relative power, and over the next two decades they will impact the balance of power in Asia. A country’s relative power may be intimately connected to native technology companies as they become essential to economic growth, defend infrastructure and businesses, participate in investigations and attributions of cyber events, and even engage in offensive cyber operations. This paper looks at those different areas, examines trends, and then posits a plausible future in which technology corporations may contribute to a reconfiguration of the balance of power in Asia by 2045.

Listen On:

Andrew Marshall: Net Assessment as a Tool of Strategy

March 14, 2023

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI)

“Foreign policy strategist Andrew Marshall had a career that spanned seven decades from the late 1940s. He was hailed by a former KGB officer as ‘the grey cardinal, the éminence grise’ of the U.S. revolution of military affairs, and as ‘the great hero’ of Chinese officers tracking developments in U.S. military technology, claiming they had translated every word he wrote. Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken joins ‘Talking Strategy’ to discuss his work and life.”

Jesse Ausubel on “Peak Human”

December 7, 2022

“Jesse Ausubel is the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University and the recent winner of the prestigious Nierenberg Prize. In his second appearance on the [Power Hungry] podcast (the first was on October 12, 2021), Ausubel talks about his new work on “peak human” and “peak humans,” why we appear to be reaching the limits of human potential, immunity to disease, “nature deficit disorder,” and why — after a lifetime of being a fan of the New York Yankees — he has quit watching sports.”

Ending Innovation Tourism

April 19, 2022

GovCon Different Podcast

“Dr. Melissa Flagg calls for an end to innovation tourism in order to regain thought leadership and systematically adopt new innovations as national security becomes fixated on technical superiority.”

Waging War on Efficiency

November 2020

GovCon Different Podcast

“The world has envied America’s R&D model but the world is catching up. Who are the patriot scientists and researches behind the scenes and what new models do they need? Former DASD for research, Dr. Melissa Flagg, has the answers.”

A Conversation with Melissa Flagg

October 16, 2020


“In this OODAcast we ask Dr. Flagg about her approach to decision-making, her views on technology trends, and discuss the potential impact of a wide range of critically important subjects including:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Quantum Computing
  • Biological Sciences

We also ask for her lessons learned on mental models relevant for decision making and explore her eclectic reading habits.”

Remembering Andy Marshall

March 29, 2019

This is a special edition of the Defense & Aerospace Report Podcast that remembers the life and legacy of Andy Marshall, former director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment.

Moderated by: Vago Muradian


  • Former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work
  • Gen. Paul Selva, USAF, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and one of Marshall’s former military fellows
  • Col. Tom Ehrhard, PhD, USAF Ret., vice president for defense strategy at the Long Term Strategy Group, and one of Marshall’s former military fellows
  • Jaymie Durnan, deputy assistant to the director of strategic initiatives at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Marshall’s executor and former military fellow