Mackinder Forum Seminar #55: Isaiah Wilson III and Scott Smitson, “Understanding Compound Security and its Implications for the Western Hemisphere.”

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On April 24, 2022, 1:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Eastern US Time, President Isaiah Wilson III, PhD and Professor Scott Smitson (both of Joint Special Operations University) addressed the Mackinder Forum Seminar on “Understanding Compound Security and its Implications for the Western Hemisphere.” 

Abstract: The United States faces compound security threats today reflecting a paradigm shift in the character of global geopolitical competition. Arraying these threats against liabilities in strategic and policy frameworks poses a significant, unacknowledged challenge: a new compound security dilemma. This compound security dilemma demands compound solutions that recognize, adapt, and embrace the multipolar ecosystem and its global political, cultural, economic, health, and competitive dynamics. This phenomenon is global and trans-regional in nature and is especially acute in Latin America and the Caribbean, a region of great geostrategic and geoeconomic consequence for China, Russia, the US, and the West.


Dr. Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III (Colonel, U.S. Army, retired) has earned a reputation as a versatile and innovative soldier-scholar. A decorated combat veteran with multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and extensive operational experience across the greater middle east, Dr. Wilson is a nationally and internationally-recognized leading advocate for change in how America understands and deals with matters of security affairs and uses of force, in times of peace and war, at a time when disruptive change continues to outpace organizations and organizational leadership ability to think and act fast and effectively. 

Wilson’s military career has spanned troop-leading, staff-planning, strategic advisory and teaching and research assignments, and he has published extensively on organizational politics, civil-military relations, national security (defense) policy, and grand strategy. His 2007 book, Thinking beyond War: Civil-Military Relations and Why America Fails to Win the Peace, along with his service on the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group, helped to increase public attention to the problems and errors in U.S. post-war planning for the Iraq War and sparked governmental movement toward policy reforms. He has been at the center of innovative planning in the future of U.S. intervention policy. 

His most recent military assignment was serving as chief, commander’s initiatives group (CIG) for the Commanding General, United States Central Command (2013-2016). Working in one of the most challenging combatant commands, Colonel Wilson played a leading role in the Command’s overall efforts relating to three major named operational campaigns, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM/FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, INHERENT RESOLVE, and SPARTAN SHIELD and numerous related supporting operations, to include U.S. Central Command’s 2013 Operation NIMBLE WARNING, as well as United States Central Command’s support for the Operation RESTORATION OF HOPE Gulf Cooperative Council Coalition in Yemen, among others. 

Previously, Colonel (Ret.) Wilson served as a strategic planning advisor to GEN Stanley McChrystal, COMISAF, and the ISAF combined-joint planning staff in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) in 2009, and as chief of plans for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and resident strategist to the commanding general, David Petraeus, Mosul, Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM-1 (OIF, 2003-04). 

Dr. Wilson holds a B.S. in International Relations from the United States Military Academy at West Point, master’s degrees in Public Policy and Government from Cornell University, master’s degrees in Military Arts and Sciences from the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS), and the National War College, as well as a Ph.D. in political science (Government) from Cornell University. 

Prior to his arrival at JSOU and U.S. Special Operations Command, Dr. Wilson served as Director of the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and U.S. Army War College Press, as well as a senior lecturer with the Yale Jackson Institute of Global Affairs at Yale University. He served as professor of political science and the Director of the American Politics, Policy, and Strategy program at West Point from 2005 to 2013 and was the architect and founding director of the West Point Grand Strategy Program. He has taught at the National War College, Yale University, Columbia University, and The George Washington University. Dr. Wilson is a nonresident Fellow with the D.C. think tank, New America, and a nonresident scholar with The Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Dr. Wilson is also a life member with the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the Council’s International Affairs Fellowship program selection committee. 


Dr. Scott A. Smitson is a Strategist, Global Futures Forecaster, Political Scientist, and Educator. He is a retired US Army Officer, serving over twenty-one years on active duty in both combat arms and as an Army Strategist. He is the inaugural Professor of Geostrategy, Geoeconomics, and Trans-National Affairs at Joint Special Operations University. 

As a Strategist, he led multi-disciplinary groups and facilitated senior leader decision-making by assessing, developing, and articulating policy, strategy, and plans at the national and international levels, all while integrating U.S. instruments of power, most especially defense and diplomacy. His military career culminated in his assignment as the Strategy Branch Chief at USSOUTHCOM, where he served as the principal strategic advisor to the 4-Star Commander on matters directly impacting current operations and mid-to-long term national policy and strategy for U.S. military activity and operations across Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, encompassing 31 countries and 16 dependencies and areas of special sovereignty. His operational experiences include deployments in support of Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom, service as the UN Commander’s representative for Armistice issues in the Korean DMZ, and Company Command in 2nd Infantry Division. From 2013-2014, he was a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow (CFR IAF) where he served as a US-UK Strategic Planner in the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence.

Dr. Smitson served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy from 2010-2013, and helped establish the West Point Grand Strategy Program in 2013. He also was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program and has also held adjunct Professorships with Florida International University (FIU), University of Miami, Denison University, and the Ohio State University. Dr. Smitson earned a Joint PhD in Political Science and Public Policy from Indiana University’s School of Environmental and Public Affairs (SPEA) as well as a MA in Political Science. He was a Distinguished Military Graduate at the Ohio State University. 

His publications include The Road to Good Intentions: British Nation-Building in Aden (NDU Press), “The War on Terror Ten Years On” (Strategos: Journal of the US Army Strategist Association), “An American in Her Majesty’s Ministry of Defence” (War on the Rocks), “Solving America’s Gray-Zone Puzzle” (Parameters), “After Mosul: Enlarging the Context of the Syria-Iraq Conflict(s)” (New America), and “The Compound Security Dilemma: Threats at the Nexus of War and Peace” (Parameters).


On Latin America and The Caribbean:

On Compound Security Threats: