Threat Assessment: The Role of Vulnerabilities   [open pdf - 549KB]

From the thesis abstract: "Threat assessment is crucial in each step of thinking about military strategy. Identifying political and military objectives, deterring or fighting, taking the offensive or the defensive, pursuing annihilation or attrition, using the direct or the indirect approach -- each of these basic choices in military strategy depends primarily on the threat. Indeed, without an actual or potential threat, it would be impossible and pointless to construct a military strategy. A fundamental difficulty in threat assessment is that, paradoxically, it is not just the enemy situation that defines the threat. The 'friendly situation' also defines the threat. People naturally tend to focus on the adversary's capabilities and intentions in gauging the threat. But an adversary can be a threat only in relation to one's own situation. An accurate and complete threat assessment requires an accurate and complete assessment of both the enemy and friendly situation. To show the critical but elusive role of friendly vulnerabilities in threat assessment, the author first describes a framework for thinking about threats. He then applies this framework to the origins of the Korean War. The outbreak of the Korean War is relevant because it involved, and may even have resulted from, a threat assessment based on mistakes about friendly capabilities and intentions. Finally, the author use the Korean War example to say that self-awareness of vulnerabilities plays a dual role in threat assessment: people use vulnerabilities not only to calculate the threat level and prescribe a response to the threat, but also to describe the threat in the first place."

Report Number:
NWC Essay 91-14; National War College Essay No. 91-14
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Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC): http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/
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