Winning Without Victories? Navigating Indecisiveness in Endless Wars

RUSI and École de Guerre explore ways by which armed forces can overcome indecisiveness, and better prepare for the challenge of victory

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The challenge of how to achieve a decisive victory has never been more complicated for today’s armed forces. With a shortage of resources, sub-threshold conflicts, constantly changing defence policies and multiple threats all parts of current trends, the current strategic environment is a constant challenge.

At this event, we discuss and explore ways by which armed forces can overcome indecisiveness, and better prepare for the challenge of victory.

RUSI and École de Guerre have collaborated for three years, aiming to answer the most critical questions facing militaries today. The partners work together to cultivate intellectual rigour when thinking about these issues. RUSI’s Military Sciences research group supports students around the world during their professional military education.

Watch the recording


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    Welcome Address

    Given by General Vigilant (Director of Ecole de Guerre)

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    Introduction: Indecisiveness as the New Normal?

    Dr. Beatrice Heuser (University of Glasgow) and Mr. Rob Johnson (Oxford University)

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    Panel 1: 2035 challenges will bring crisis not decisively coped with

    Moderator: Captain Michael Kanaan (US Air Force/MIT)

    'More actors in a larger and unpredictable battlefield' – Ms. Alexandra Stickings (RUSI)

    'AI as a game changer or a fog generator?' – Dr. Peter Warren Singer (Brookings Institution)

    'Climate as a weapon' – Dr. Olaf Corry (Copenhagen University)

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    Panel 2: How to Live with Indecisiveness?

    Moderator: Prof. Peter Roberts (RUSI)

    'Coping with Indecisiveness in the Medical Field' – Mrs. Nita Chaudhuri (American University of Paris)

    'Keeping Threats Under the Threshold in Homeland Security' – General Hubert Bonneau (French gendarmerie)

    'Thriving in Indecisive Environments in the Business World' – Dr. Sara Ulrich (PA Consulting)

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    Panel 3: How to Be Better Prepared to Face Endless Wars?

    Moderator: Paul O’Neill (RUSI)

    'Leading and winning in the fog' – Admiral (Ret) William McRaven (US Navy)

    'The Universal Soldier' – Dr. Isaiah Wilson (JSOU)

    'Building resilience in our societies and among citizens' – Dr. Eugene G. Kogan (Harvard Business School)

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    Conclusion: Winning the Indecisive Wars?

    Prof. Peter Roberts (RUSI)

Moderators and Speakers

  • Beatrice Heuser is a graduate of the universities of London (BA from Bedford College; MA from the LSE) and Oxford (St Antony’s College; St John’s College, graduated with DPhil). She hold a higher doctorate (Habilitation) from the University of Marburg. She has taught at King’s College London at the Department of War Studies, and at the University of Reading, and has taught at or held visiting professorships at several Parisian universities, the universities of Reims and Potsdam, at Sciences Po’ Paris and Reims, at the University of Rome III, at the Bundeswehr University near Munich and at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s university MGIMO.


    She spent a year at NATO Headquarters as a Consultant/Intern, and has worked as Director of Studies of the German Bundeswehr’s military history research office. She has been affiliated to/currently serving on academic advisory boards of several research institutes, including the French Institute of International Affairs (IFRI), the Royal United Services Institute, Chatham House (RIIA), the German Institute for Contemporary History, and the French government’s strategic studies think tank IRSEM. Since 2017, she is been holding the chair of International Relations at the University of Glasgow.


    Beatrice Heuser is a specialist in strategic studies, especially nuclear strategy, strategic theory and strategic culture, the transatlantic relations as well as the foreign and defence policies of Germany, France and Great Britain.

  • Dr Rob Johnson is the Director of the Changing Character of War (CCW) research centre at Oxford University . CCW brings together academics, policy makers and armed forces professionals in the study of armed conflict, pursuing a variety of research themes including war and the state in a connected world, violent non-state actors, strategy and war, and the moral-legal dimensions of war. Rob’s primary research interests are in the history of war and strategy, but he is also concerned with how we conceive of future conflict environments and strategic thinking across the globe.


    His current research is on strategic decision making. He is the academic lead on UK Strategic Net Assessment. He acts as an academic support to the Royal College of Defence Studies, the Higher Command and Staff College, as well as other branches of professional military education in the UK and overseas.


    Rob is currently assisting NATO and United States armed forces in planning for reconfigured structures and missions, including information warfare, CEMA (Cyber and Electro-Magnetic Activities), intelligence, urban operations and unconventional environments. He is part of the US Army Unified Quest project, visiting lecturer to the NATO Defence College in Rome, NATO Centres of Excellence, the Netherlands Defence Academy, and Adjunct Professor of the Norwegian Defence University and Staff College, and the US War Colleges. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Rennes School of Business in France where he lectures on Strategic Studies.

  • Michael Kanaan directs all AI and machine learning activities on behalf of the Deputy Director of Air Force Intelligence, who oversees a staff of 30,000 with an annual budget of $55 billion. In 2019, he was listed as one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 for his work in Enterprise Technology. Following his graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy he was the Officer in Charge of a $75 million hyperspectral mission at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, and then the Assistant Director of Operations for the 417-member Geospatial Intelligence Squadron.

    Just prior to his current role, Kanaan was the National Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise Lead for an 1,800-member enterprise responsible for data discovery, intelligence analysis, and targeting development against ISIS.

  • Alexandra Stickings is Research Fellow for Space Policy and Security in the Military Sciences team at RUSI. Her research covers military space programmes, space warfare, counterspace capabilities, space situational awareness, arms control and the intersection of space and missile defence.


    She has written articles and research papers for a variety of publications, is a frequent speaker at international conferences and regularly provides expert commentary to the media. Alexandra holds an MSc in International Security and Global Governance from Birkbeck College, University of London, a BA(Hons) in International Studies form the Open University and a BSc (Hons) in Physics with Astronomy from the University of Nottingham.

  • Peter Warren Singer is Strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and Principal at Useful Fiction LLC. Described in the Wall Street Journal as “the premier futurist in the national- security environment,” he has been named by the Smithsonian as one of the nation’s 100 leading innovators, by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues, by Foreign Policy to their Top 100 Global Thinkers List, and as an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. It was named an Amazon and Foreign Affairs book of the year and reviewed by Booklist as “LikeWar should be required reading for everyone living in a democracy and all who aspire to.”


    He is also the co-author of a new type of novel, using the format of a technothriller to communicate nonfiction research. Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War was both a top summer read and led to briefings everywhere from the White House to the Pentagon. His latest is Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution.

  • Olaf Corry is associate professor of International Relations on Copenhagen University. Right after his Phd dealing with global polity, he worked at the Danish parliament as speechwriter and adviser for on one of the main party. He has been working on many topics such as international environmental politics, the politics of geoengineering, global governance. Now, his researches focus on how international politics and environmental politics intersect, in particular the international politics of climate change and the security implications of climate engineering technologies.

  • Peter Roberts is Director of Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, having been the Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and C4ISR since 2014. He researches and publishes on a range of subjects from strategy and philosophy, contemporary war, military doctrine and thinking, command and control, naval warfare, ISR, professional military education and disruptive warfare techniques. He lectures, speaks and writes on these topics as well as regularly providing advice for both UK and foreign governments. Previously, Peter was a career Warfare Officer in the Royal Navy, serving as both a Commanding Officer, National Military Representative and in a variety of roles with all three branches of the British Armed forces, the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Marine Corps and intelligence services from a variety of other nations. He served as chairman for several NATO working groups and 5 Eyes Maritime tactics symposia.


    His military career included service in Hong Kong, the Baltic, Kenya, the Former Republic of Yugoslavia, Iraq, South Africa, Pakistan and Oman, interspersed with deployments in the GIUK gap and the Persian Gulf. Peter has a Masters degree in Defence Studies and a doctorate in politics and modern history. He is a Visiting Professor of Modern War at the French Military Academy.

  • Dr. Nita Chaudhuri developed the first environmental health promoter position in Canada. Participatory and interactive methods guide her facilitation, research, policy and programme development. She has worked both locally and internationally in Canada, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Mexico, India, South Africa, Egypt, Bangladesh and France for organisations such as the WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF and IDRC as well as the private sector.Dr. Chaudhuri works in English, French and Bengali.


    Her interests include gender, poverty, environmental health, children’s health and the environment, housing and health, pesticides, wastewater, food security, biodiversity, reproductive health and climate change. Her doctoral research took her to Senegal where she worked with urban farmers on pesticide and wastewater risk reduction strategies. She has training in biology, nutrition, education, planning and public health. She recently developed a Master's level course on Global Health Challenges and Conflict Resolution at the American University of Paris where she is adjunct professor and works on health and equity issues with marginalized Roma communities in France.

  • General Bonneau graduated from the officer school of Saint Cyr in 1989 and from the Ecole de Guerrre in 2004. He has been spending his entire career in the French gendarmerie. He served in general public security as company commander and groupement commander, but also in judiciary unit and in the GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale).


    He was the commander of the GIGN during the terrorist attack of 2015 and the assault at Damartin en Goele against the Kouachi brothers. Since March 2020, he is the director of the operations for the French gendarmerie.

  • Sara Ulrich is a Director in Deloitte’s UK Crisis Management & Resilience practice leading Contingency Planning for Strategic Risks (Brexit currently) and also Scenario Planning, Simulations and Wargaming. Sara has over 15 year’ experience in the fields of strategic risks and crisis as well as scenario planning, business strategy simulations and wargaming in the public and private sector worldwide.


    She is an accomplished Academic (Post-docs at Harvard and Texas, PhD and MPhil in Diplomacy at Paris XI) and Business consultant (Deloitte and King’s College business wargaming spin-out company Simulstrat- acquired by Deloitte UK). She is trilingual (English, French and German).

  • Paul O’Neill is a Senior Research Fellow in Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute. His research interests cover national security strategy, NATO, and organisational aspects of Defence and security, including organisational design, human resources, professional military education and decision-making. Previously, Paul was a Royal Air Force officer working in strategy and human resources roles across Defence including in the Ministry of Defence Head Office.


    His career included commanding the Defence School of Personnel Administration, leading the military team working on the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and latterly as the Head of Defence People Strategy. He has undertaken operational tours in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Oman, Turkey and Afghanistan where he was the Senior Advisor on Strategy and Policy to the Afghan Ministry of Interior.Paul has a Bachelors in Laws, a post-graduate diploma in Personnel Management and Masters degrees in Laws, Defence Studies and International Relations. He has been a Chief of the Air Staff Fellow at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and is a visiting professor at the University of Winchester. He is a Companion of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.He was appointed a CBE in the Queen's New Year's Honour List 2021.

  • William H. McRaven is professor of national security at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a retired four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, where he commanded special operations forces at every level and was in charge of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Admiral McRaven’s career included combat during Desert Storm and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a recognized national authority on U.S. foreign policy and has advised Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders on defense issues.


    As the chancellor of the UT system, a position he held after retiring from the Navy, Admiral McRaven led one of the nation’s largest and most respected systems of higher education. He oversaw fourteen institutions that educated 220,000 students and employed 20,000 faculty members and more than 80,000 health-care professionals, researchers, and staff. Admiral McRaven has been recognized for his leadership numerous times. In 2011, he was the runner-up for Time magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine included him on its Top 100 Global Thinkers list, and in 2014, Politico magazine listed him on the Politico 50.

  • 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.


    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.

  • Eugene B. Kogan, Ph.D., elevates leaders by coaching them to think like negotiators. He teaches about power dynamics in negotiation and leadership at Harvard’s Professional Development Programs and conducts research at Harvard Business School. A former Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Program, he recently concluded his five-year term as the inaugural Research and Executive Director of Harvard University’s American Secretaries of State Project, which aimed to crystallize diplomatic leadership lessons from 50 years of diplomacy by U.S. Secretaries of State, from William Rogers (1968) to Rex Tillerson (2018).


    An expert in coercive negotiations, Dr. Kogan previously served as a Stanton Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He now teaches “Using Power Effectively: A Toolkit for Leaders,” a Professional Development Program at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education. Dr. Kogan's Brandeis University Ph.D. thesis on nuclear negotiations won the Howard Raiffa Award for the best doctoral paper on negotiation from Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation.


    He regularly trains business, public policy and military leaders at Harvard’s Professional Development Programs, Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Professional Education, Brandeis, Sciences Po, Vienna’s Executive Academy, and Salzburg Business School.

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