MCU Journal 
vol. 9, no. 2
Fall 2018


From the Editors




What Do We Mean by Great Power or Superpower?

An Introduction to Concepts and Terms

Ed Erickson, PhD

MCUJ vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: This article serves as an introduction to what is generally meant by such terms as great power, superpower, hyperpower, middleweight power, power of world influence, regional hegemon, and new great power, as well as what is meant by the term balance of power in the context of national power relationships. This article also provides a brief chronological explanation of when these terms are used historically, the measurements by which nations are added or dropped from the category, and some observations about the utility of such a vocabulary. The article concludes with contemporary understandings that increasingly include such factors as attitudes, concepts, language, and modes of life as essential capabilities in assessing national power.

Keywords: great powers, new great powers, superpowers, balance of power, hyperpower, national power

Dr. Edward J. Erickson is a scholar-in-residence at the Clark Center for Global Engagement at the State University of New York at Cortland. He is a retired professor of military history from the Marine Corps University.


Great Power Competition in the Age of Islam

Contemporary Lessons from the Ottoman–Safavid Rivalry

Christian H. Heller
vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: Proponents of Thucydides’s Trap warn that conflict between a rising power and an established power may be impossible to avoid. The Ottoman-Safavid rivalry 500 years ago is evidence of this theory. Contentious economic interests, competing geographic concerns, dissimilar cultures, and differing political systems led to centuries marked by periods of both peace and conflict. The rivalry provides six lessons: war may be unavoidable but does not need to be catastrophic; domestic unity can lead to international disunity; economic interdependence does not abate economic conflict; alliances can and will shift rapidly; expect foreign interference in domestic affairs; and finally, rivalry can last for centuries.

Keywords: Thucydides’s Trap, Ottoman, Safavid, Ottoman-Safavid rivalry, great power

Christian H. Heller is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and holds a master’s of philosophy in modern Middle Eastern studies from the University of Oxford. He is currently serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as an intelligence officer and Middle East/North Africa regional affairs officer.

The British Superpower, Irregular Warfare, and Military Honor

T. J. Linzy, PhD
vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: Even the simplest of military operations can be made complex due to a superpower’s ubiquitous participation in geopolitical, legal, diplomatic, and commercial environments. With its layered and competing priorities, it can be difficult for the superpower’s armed forces to complete missions successfully with individual integrity and honor. Furthermore, irregular warfare demands special consideration due to its unique circumstances and occasionally unusual allies. This article will examine a historical episode from the War of 1812, seen from the British superpower and a small Royal Marine detachment’s perspective that illuminates some of these timeless challenges.

Keywords: Creeks, Seminoles, War of 1812, Battle of New Orleans, Major Edward Nicolls, Major General Andrew Jackson, Royal Marines

T. J. Linzy is an independent scholar who received his MA and PhD from the War Studies Department of King’s College London. Linzy’s work focuses on the Sixty Years’ War for control of the American Midwest, 1755–1815.


Lithuania under the Soviet Occupation, 1940–41

Observations and Operations by the United States

Mallory Needleman
vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: Throughout World War II, an independent Lithuania was occupied three times—twice by the Soviet Union and once by Nazi Germany. During the first Soviet occupation (1940–41), the international community granted the small country support in rhetoric but little in practicality. The United States, for example, refused to acknowledge the aggressive Soviet takeover, though it refrained from providing extensive support to Lithuanian-located refugees without American citizenship. In March 1941, the U.S. Department of State sought to analyze the daily life of Sovietized Lithuania and sent John F. Mazionis through the country’s closed borders. This article details power struggles within Lithuania imposed by Soviet Russia and by extension Nazi Germany.

Keywords: Soviet occupation, Second World War, U.S. foreign relations, Department of State, Lithuania, John F. Mazionis, USS American Legion (APA 17)


Mallory Needleman is a graduate student at the University of Haifa and is completing her thesis, “American Intelligence Ties to Holocaust Atrocities and Cold War Operations in Lithuania: How the U.S. Dismissed Nazi Collaboration in Attempt to Defeat the Soviets.” This article was made possible thanks to the author’s tenure as a graduate student research fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum. The author wishes to thank Dr. David Silberklang and Dr. Hagit Lavsky for their guidance as well as Amanda Walkins and GySgt Howard for their support.


Evaluating Russian Strategy in Its Near Abroad

A Comparison of the Conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine

First Lieutenant Michael Auten

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: Since the turn of the millennium, Ukraine and Georgia have experienced reform movements aimed at rooting out corruption and integrating with Western institutions. Unfortunately, both also suffered wars with Russia intended to stifle their democratic aspirations. Although both conflicts were precipitated under different conditions, there may be some useful conclusions to be drawn from a comparison of the two. If the United States is to continue to support security in Europe, we must understand Russia’s strategy, and both the Georgian and Ukrainian conflicts provide a critical window into the Russian approach.

Keywords: Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, hybrid war, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, European Union, Eastern Europe, EU, little green men, color revolutions, Maidan Revolution, Euromaidan, Orange Revolution, Rose Revolution, Mikheil Saakashvili, Petro Poroshenko, Viktor Yanukovych, separatism, Crimea, Donbass, Luhansk, Donetsk, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin


1stLt Michael Auten was commissioned into the Marine Corps in 2016 after graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he participated in foreign military academy exchange programs in Kazakhstan and the Republic of Georgia. Following graduation, he accepted a Fulbright Fellowship to study abroad in Ukraine for one year. There, he received an MA in economics and saw firsthand the application of security policy in Eastern Europe. After his return, Auten graduated from The Basic School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, and was designated a communications strategy and operations officer. Due to his experience in Ukraine, he was chosen as an experience-track foreign area officer for Eurasia in May 2018.


Superpower Hybrid Warfare in Syria

Anthony N. Celso, PhD

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: This article examines superpower hybrid warfare in four parts. First, it provides an overview of hybrid warfare and its tactical, if controversial, uses. Second, it analyzes Russia’s hybrid warfare in Ukraine. Third, it compares U.S. and Russian hybrid techniques in Syria. Finally, it assesses the conditions under which Syria could be a flashpoint for superpower conflict. The essay argues that American and Russian policy in Syria represents a unique case where military interventions attained objectives at a relatively low cost because determined local partners facilitated the realization of superpower goals.

Keywords: hybrid warfare, superpower competition, Syria civil war, gray zone conflicts, war on terrorism

Dr. Anthony N. Celso is a professor of security studies at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX. He is the author of Al-Qaeda’s Post-9/11 Devolution: The Failed Jihadist War against the Near and Far Enemy (2014) and the The Islamic State: A Comparative History of Jihadist Warfare (2018).

The Challenge of the Sole Superpower in the Postmodern World Order

Keith D. Dickson

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: To pursue and support its strategic goals and interests, the United States as the sole superpower will require a complete reordering of its assessment of the post–Cold War strategic environment, which is now characterized by the postmodern condition. Recognizing the basic structure of postmodern thought that dominates much of global society and affects concepts of sovereignty, power, war, and peace is essential. Some states and nonstates have already employed a strategic approach that exploits the postmodern condition. Strategists and strategic leaders must now identify the contours of the postmodernist strategic environment to develop a strategic design that allows the superpower to pursue its interests and fulfill its role of order and balance by employing the very skills and precepts that the postmodernists have rejected.

Keywords: superpower, strategy, postmodernism, strategic design, strategic environment, war

Keith D. Dickson is a professor of military studies, Joint Advanced Warfighting School, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University.


Cyberspace as a Domain of Operations

What Is NATO’s Vision and Strategy?

Jamie Shea, PhD

vol. 9, no. 2


Abstract: This article explores the ramifications of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) decision in 2014 to declare cyber as a domain of operations. It outlines the cyber threat landscape that has given rise to this initiative and the doctrinal and organizational steps NATO has taken to implement this concept within its military planning and structures. Finally, the article analyzes how NATO’s greater access to cybercapabilities can enhance its overall deterrence and defense.

Keywords: cyber threats, cybercapabilities, domain of operations, deterrence, defense

Dr. Jamie Shea is deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges at NATO. The views in this article are entirely those of the author alone. They should not be construed as representing an official position of NATO but are contributed in a purely personal capacity.


Toward a European Defense System

How the European Union Should Improve Its Planning and Conduct Capacity for the Prevention and Management of Crises

Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Falasca, ITA Army Marine

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: The European Union (EU) needs to improve its capability to plan and conduct comprehensive civil-military measures for the prevention and management of crises. The aim of this article is to propose one possible solution that sees the creation of an integrated structure consisting of two directorates. This new structure would optimize the planning and conduct of EU interventions at the strategic level and support the introduction of a new type of integrated mission, which is a mission where the civil, police, and military components are combined into a single structure. The proposed solutions will form the foundation of a European defense system and will improve the EU’s rapid reaction intervention capability.

Keywords: European Union defense, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, European strategy, integrated mission, European External Action Service, EEAS

LtCol Ivan Falasca worked as a staff officer at the Policy and Plans Division of the Italian Joint Staff. During this experience, he dealt with the Italian defense policy in the framework of the European Union, and he worked directly on the Italian defense contribution for the new European security strategy. He attended Command and Staff College and the School of Advanced Warfighting at Marine Corps University. He is currently the battalion commander in the Italian Army Marines Regiment.

Pushing the Limits of Range

Long-range Amphibious Operations

Steven Yeadon

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: The Marine Corps Operating Concept states that a Marine Air-Ground Task Force composited to defeat a near-peer competitor with antiaccess/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities may demand more emphasis on the air combat element. This analysis goes well beyond the current doctrine for amphibious operations by proposing a future military concept termed long-range amphibious operations, or operations that rely almost exclusively on an air combat element, and the possible long-range deployment of surface connectors for ship-to-shore movement. Such amphibious operations may hold promise for overcoming A2/AD capabilities while providing new capabilities along the range of military operations and support of American long-term strategic interests. This analysis provides a rare attempt to systematically examine the strengths, weaknesses, technological capabilities, and characteristics of such long-range operations to understand the current promise and perils of long-range amphibious operations, evaluating what acquisitions will best support such amphibious operations, and incentivizing constructive discussion concerning doctrinal innovation in relation to amphibious operations.

Keywords: amphibious operation, amphibious warfare, forcible entry, air combat element, amphibious equipment, air assault, near-peer competitor


Steven Yeadon is an independent scholar holding a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Central Florida. He is currently preparing for a graduate education in strategy.

Cities and the Sea

The Urban Role in Maritime Security

Joshua Tallis and Ian Klaus

vol. 9, no. 2

Abstract: In this article, the authors explore the role cities play in maritime security. Urban centers have a complicated relationship with the maritime space. On the one hand, cities are major contributors to insecurity along their maritime borders, exacerbating issues from human trafficking to illegal fishing. On the other hand, cities are increasingly at the center of international consensusbuilding and problem-solving forums that are producing results even as nations fail to come to agreement on similar challenges. As the world returns to an emphasis on great power competition, cities offer a complementary set of actors and venues in the global arena by which to pursue greater international stability and security.

Keywords: maritime security, cities, urbanization, megacity, piracy


Ian Klaus is a nonresident fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He was previously senior advisor for global cities at the U.S. Department of State and deputy U.S. negotiator for Habitat III. Joshua Tallis is an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, a nonprofit research and analysis organization. He is the author of the forthcoming book The War for Muddy Waters: Pirates, Terrorists, Traffickers, and Maritime Insecurity. The views in this article are the authors’ own and do not represent the positions of current or previous employers.







Marine Corps University