Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

26 March 2017

China and the US: an odd couple doomed to co-operation

by: Martin Wolf

It might take a communist leader to convince Donald Trump of the merits of free trade

The future of our world heavily depends on relations between the US, a young country and the incumbent superpower, and China, an ancient empire and a rising superpower. Making these relations particularly challenging have been the election in the US of Donald Trump, a populist xenophobe, and the ascendancy of Xi Jinping, a centralising autocrat, in China.

No less contrasting, however, are the perspectives of these two on the world economy. Forty years ago, Mao Zedong ruled China: his aim was autarky. Ever since 1978, however, the watchword of China’s economic policy has been the “reform and opening up” proposed by his successor, Deng Xiaoping. Meanwhile, the US, progenitor of post-second world war liberal internationalism, is consumed with self-doubt and so has elected as leader a man who considers this outstandingly successful policy inimical to his country’s interests. One of today’s ironies is this reversal of attitudes towards the open world economy. Nothing better illustrates this than the contrast between the strong support for globalisation offered by President Xi at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos in January and Mr Trump’s egregious assertion, just three days later, that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength”. The communiqué of the meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers in Germany last weekend duly dropped last year’s language vowing to “resist all forms of protectionism”. The implications of such US protectionism are still unknown. But they are highly disturbing. The very last thing our fragile world economy needs is a trade

25 March 2017

Strategy of "Constrainment"


"At a time when Russia is deliberately challenging US allies and interests around the world, it is more important than ever for the United States to renew its global leadership role and unite our allies behind a comprehensive strategy to defend our values and interests…The strategy laid out by the Atlantic Council presents a clear-eyed and comprehensive approach to relations with Russia that highlights the potential for cooperation on areas of mutual interest, while acknowledging the severity of the Russian threat and the need for sustained, US-led engagement to defend shared values and interests." - Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)

Russia represents one of the most vexing geopolitical challenges facing the West today. In the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its unprecedented meddling in the US presidential election, relations between Moscow and the West have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. 

As the Trump administration begins to shape its national security strategy, how to deal with Russia will be a high priority. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Russia during the campaign, and his stated desire to “get along” with Vladimir Putin, suggest a new Russian “reset” may be in the offing. At the same time, senior administration officials have reiterated the importance of holding Russia to account for its actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Assessing the Third Offset Strategy

On October 28, 2016, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a daylong conference, including senior defense and intelligence policymakers, military leaders, strategists, regional experts, international and industry partners, and others, to discuss the Defense Department’s Third Offset Strategy. In order to understand what the Third Offset Strategy is, it is first necessary to understand the challenges and trends it is addressing. Technological superiority has been a foundation of U.S. military dominance for decades. However, the assumption of U.S. technological superiority as the status quo has been challenged in recent years as near-peer competitors have sought a variety of asymmetric capabilities to counter the overwhelming conventional military advantages possessed by the United States. This report summarizes the discussions and analysis of the Third Offset that took place at CSIS.

24 March 2017

** The US and China Make Nice

By Jacob L. Shapiro

March 21, 2017 Officials are striking a calmer tone but will this affect relations?

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited China over the weekend, meeting with China’s foreign minister on Saturday and President Xi Jinping on Sunday. By all accounts, the trip went well. Media in both countries pointed out that a spirit of cooperation emanated from the meetings. For those who follow U.S.-China relations, this is a marked difference from just a few months ago, when everyone was focused on the potential for a trade war and World War III in the South China Sea.

Two things must be addressed because of this change in tone. First, a little cold water needs to be thrown on the budding spirit of cooperation that has emerged between the two countries. Second, points of contention remain and will define the U.S.-China relationship no matter the optics. The two countries aren’t going to war, but they aren’t going to be best friends, either.

The U.S.-China relationship has always been a dizzying array of diplomatic protocol. When then-President Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, it took months of diplomatic legwork and interpretation of Chinese moves to realize that China was open to changing the nature of the relationship, and to come up with a diplomatic framework whereby China could consent to forge stronger ties. The thaw in relations was jump-started when the U.S. table tennis team was invited to China in 1972. The solidification of the relationship involved a complex word game where the U.S. recognized that there was only one China but still maintained an alliance with Taiwan.

1914 Redux? Growing Asia-Pacific Tensions Demand New US Strategy


American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is paying his first visit to Asia this week. Just before he left, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton told reporters the Trump Administration “will have its own formulation” of the Pacific pivot, or the rebalance to Asia declared by the Obama Administration.

“Pivot, rebalance, etcetera — that was a word that was used to describe the Asia policy in the last administration. I think you can probably expect that this administration will have its own formulation. We haven’t really seen in detail, kind of, what that formulation will be or if there even will be a formulation,” she said.

In this timely op-ed, Maj. Paul Smith, who works in the J-9 of U.S. Pacific Command but is, of course, writing in a personal capacity, compares today’s international security situation to that preceding World War I and sees worrying parallels. He calls for a reassessment of our strategy toward China. Read on. The Editor.

The global environment today eerily resembles that of Europe in the early twentieth century, when a rising tide of nationalism swept through the continent. That nationalism led to increased trade competition, networks of intertwined and complicated alliances and social and political ferment that sparked a war that eventually spread to engulf much of the world in the flames of World War I.

21 March 2017

U.S. Security Hinges on Getting Foggy Bottom Back In the Game

James Stavridis

Admiral Stavridis was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

In military parlance, a "missing man" formation is a poignant aerial tribute to a fallen comrade. A group of jets come flying toward the crowd, and suddenly one of them shears off into the sunset, leaving a symbolic empty spot in the formation. It is a sad reminder of the value of those we lose. 

Today's State Department is in danger of becoming a missing man in the interagency formation. We need to move quickly to shore up this absolutely vital element of our national security. Storm clouds are gathering: a new Secretary with no diplomatic experience being obviously marginalized by the White House; massive budget-cut proposals; empty positions across the department, from top to bottom; little to no visible consultation on key diplomatic issues, from a one-China policy to a two-state solution in the Middle East; a growing tendency of global leaders to go to the White House instead of State; and a plethora of reports that Foggy Bottom is in the grips of low morale and true malaise. How dangerous is this state of affairs, and how can we correct it before it gets worse? 

15 March 2017



“The blob” — an unflattering nickname for the U.S. foreign policy establishment coined by a senior Obama official — gets a bad rap these days. From Obama to Trump, Washington’s foreign policy elite are blamed for being too hawkish, relying on tired conventional wisdom, and generally weakening America’s foreign policy position. In this episode, two members of the blob (along with a mystery guest) push back…over drinks, of course. Listen to Jim Steinberg, a former Deputy Secretary of the State Dept, and Frank Gavin, the director of the Kissinger Center at SAIS, defend the blob. Their argument? You don’t know how good you have it.

As a bonus, we also nerd out on George Kennan a bit.

America must defend itself against the real national security menace

By Fareed Zakaria

This week, we have watched the perfect example of a country fighting the last war. The Trump administration has devoted weeks of energy and political capital to rolling out its temporary travel ban against citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, none of whom, according to the libertarian Cato Institute, have committed a single deadly terrorist attack in the United States over the past four decades. Meanwhile, the White House’s response to a devastating barrage of WikiLeaks disclosures that will compromise U.S. security for years was a general vow to prosecute leakers. 

The WikiLeaks revelations are designed to uncover and cripple U.S. intelligence operations of any kind, against any foe — including Russia, China, the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. WikiLeaks claims to be devoted to exposing and undermining centralized power, yet it has never revealedanything about the intelligence — or domestic policing — operations of the Russian or Chinese governments, both highly centralized dictatorships with extensive and advanced cyber-intelligence units. Indeed, WikiLeaks has chosen as its obsessive target the United States, which probably has more democratic oversight of its intelligence agencies than any other major power does. 

12 March 2017

The Shocking Way China Would Try and Crush America in a War (or World War III)

What if Beijing simply degraded and destroyed the ability of U.S. forces to have those advanced eyes and ears and brought back an old foe of U.S. forces— the much hated “fog of war?” If that was the goal, a Chinese military campaign might just begin in cyberspace. Beijing might launch massive cyber strikes against U.S. command and control centers around the world— trying to blind America and disrupt the ability of U.S. warfighters from seeing the coming battlefield in real time. Such strikes, at least if I was in charge in Beijing, would come from third party countries (or at least look like it thanks to proxy servers). America would know its systems were under attack, but it might not be clear from who— at least not right away. China would have the advantage, at least for now.

The next blow would come before America could ascertain who was striking at the heart of its best military capabilities— and this one would have China’s fingerprints all over them. Beijing would begin to attack American satellites in orbit, attempting to destroy Washington’s massive intelligence gathering machine and communications systems. At this point, war has definitely started and there is no mistake who is behind it.



After an election season that called into question the very survival of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, the first month of the Trump administration instead saw the development of the strongest personal relationship between American and Japanese leaders in over a decade. Yet underneath the golf course high fives and limousine hugs between Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe lay unanswered questions about America’s Asia policy, the viability of America’s other alliances, and the future of China’s relations with both Japan and the United States.

Though Asia appears far more stable than the Middle East and possibly even Eastern Europe, the shifting geopolitical balance in Asia means that nothing can be taken for granted. In the face of China’s belligerence, North Korea’s continued threat, and regional populism, the alliance between the United States and Japan faces unique pressures. Whether those pressures forge a closer relationship or cause divisions between the two countries remains to be seen. Based on my extensive discussions with U.S. and Japanese policymakers and experts, it is clear that the alliance is strong, but is likely to be tested over the coming years.

Both countries will again reconsider the alliance’s role in their respective security policies as they attempt to defend particular and common interests and maintain global order. The alliance will remain primarily a tool for maintaining stability in Asia, but given the interests of both nations, Tokyo and Washington will likely feel pressure to push their cooperaton beyond regional issues to those with a more global character.

10 March 2017

Doubts about Gen. McMaster

By Jed Babbin

President Trump said a lot in his superb Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress. One of the most important returned to a distinguishing points of his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump said, “We are also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism.”

The president’s use of the term “radical Islamic terrorism” was a significant element his campaign. It distinguished him from former President Obama who refused to use the term. It demonstrated Mr. Trump’s clarity of thought and his rejection of the politically-correct way we’ve fought the war.

Why then did Mr. Trump hire as his national security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who refuses to use the term? Gen. McMaster has reportedly told the National Security Council staff that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.” That has been his position for years. For example, in a November 2016 address to the Center for Leadership Ethics, Gen. McMaster said that Daesh [ISIS] is an example of the terrorist “enemy who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”

Those words demonstrate Gen. McMaster’s belief that the terrorist ideology isn’t connected to Islam. That belief was held and often voiced by Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama repeatedly professed that belief to explain the rationale for his politically-correct way of warfare. As two non-Muslim experts on Koranic law told me, the Obama-McMaster interpretation of Islamic scripture is plainly wrong.

Ex-NATO commander: US falling behind on military modernization


A former NATO commander says the U.S. is falling behind countries such as Russia and China when it comes to modernization of its armed forces.

"We've taken it for granted. For 25 years we had the best ... armed forces in the world," retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark said in an interview with John Catsimatidis that aired Sunday on New York's AM 970.

"The United States has mostly put its military modernization on what's called a 'warm idle.' We've done some research, we’ve looked at what we need. But we have not bought the stuff that is cutting-edge," he said.

The retired general argued that the U.S. has been mostly focused on bombers, missiles and other combat-related expenses for ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

"But Russia ... they have produced a new generation of armored forces," Clark said. "They have a T-14 tank that’s got active protection on it ... It has got things we don't have and armor we don't have."

"It's the tank we would like to have in 2030. We are that far behind."

9 March 2017



In 1964, the Air Force officially entered the war in Vietnam. And they did so with the wrong mix of tactical airpower. The fighter force of the time bore little resemblance to an actual fighter force. It consisted largely of leftover Korean-era relics, interceptors designed to fight Soviet bombers, and “fighters” designed for a nuclear strike role. Blinded by the perceived need to engage in a massive nuclear exchange with the Soviets, the Air Force leadership of the time had built a combat aviation enterprise that was largely unsuited for anything short of nuclear war. Vietnam quickly proved this. The Air Force adapted, and did so at an impressive pace. Within five years, it added new fighters as well as attack and observation aircraft for service in Vietnam – all with new capabilities. This explosive growth increased the inventory by over 1200 aircraft, more than offsetting the 1000 tactical aircraft lost in that same time period. This was the eagle at its best, making a sharp turn to adjust to the reality of Vietnam, and incidentally laying the groundwork for the aircraft that would face the Soviets in the Cold War.

Half a century later, the Air Force encountered the same conundrum. Its high-end fighter force was designed for a climactic battle with the Soviets over Europe. By 2001, when the Air Force deployed aircraft to fight in Afghanistan, it was ending purchases of the F-15E and F-16, had no observation aircraft in the inventory, and wouldn’t produce another multi-role fighter for more than a decade. Its last attack aircraft purchase had ended in 1984. By 2001, the Air Force had been at war continuously for ten years, having sustained multi-theater, continuous combat operations since January 16, 1991. The Air Force was ripe for recapitalization, replacement, and reconstruction. But that didn’t happen.

8 March 2017

America Is Facing a Dangerous Enemy. We Just Can’t Agree Who It Is


Our ideological adversary is powerful, authoritarian, and spreading. And it is completely different depending on which government officials you’re talking to. 

America is currently engaged in an epic war of ideas in which the country’s very way of life is at stake. The struggle is reminiscent of earlier clashes against ideologies such as communism or fascism. The ideological adversary of the United States is powerful. It is authoritarian. It is spreading. And it is completely different depending on which government officials you’re talking to.

During the Cold War and World War II, American leaders largely agreed about what ideological battle they were waging, even as they disagreed about how to fight it. Not so today. Among those who believe the U.S. is engaged in an ideological struggle, there is division on the question of which ideology represents the greatest threat to America: ISIS-style radical Islam or Russian-style autocracy.

Donald Trump referenced the first enemy during his address to Congress on Tuesday. In pledging to prevent a “beachhead of terrorism” from forming inside the United States, Trump summarized the threat in three words—“Radical. Islamic. Terrorism.” Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism adviser to the president, wrote that in saying those words Trump had uttered the “key to Victory against Global Jihadism.” Gone were the days of Barack Obama refusing to associate terrorism with Islam and probing the “root causes” of violent extremism, Gorka rejoiced. Here were the days of recognizing ISIS for what it is—“evil incarnate”—and finally committing to eradicate the scourge of jihadism after 16 years of failed counterterrorism policies. 

7 March 2017

**** The strategic chain: Linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States


Considerable policy analysis has been devoted to bilateral strategic relationships between Pakistan and India, India and China, and China and the United States. But the strategic dynamics among these four nuclear powers cannot be understood or effectively addressed on a strictly bilateral basis. While Pakistan responds strategically to India, India responds both to Pakistan and China, which in turn responds both to India and the United States.

A 15-month Brookings project focused on the “strategic chain” linking Pakistan, India, China, and the United States—a series of relationships that are resulting in some of the most active nuclear weapons, missile, and missile defense programs anywhere in the world today. The project’s main goal was to identify policies and measures that could promote stability and reduce incentives for arms build-ups between key pairs of protagonists, regionally, and globally, while also contributing to a better understanding of the various strategic interconnections among these four nuclear-armed states.

The project brought together a distinguished group of former senior diplomats and military officers and prominent non-governmental security experts from the four countries. In the course of three workshops, they shared their national strategic perspectives, discussed the strategic connections among the four states, and explored various approaches to reducing tensions and the likelihood of armed conflict. They prepared a report in which scholars from each country addresses his country’s security environment, threat perceptions, and defense doctrine and in which areas of convergence and divergence in the four countries’ strategic perspectives are identified.

Aristocracy Deceives Public about the Deep State


The «deep state» is the aristocracy and its agents. Wikispooks defines it as follows:

The deep state (loosely synonymous with the shadow government or permanent government) is in contrast to the public structures which appear to be directing individual nation states. The deep state is an intensely secretive, informal, fluid network of deep politicians who conspire to amplify their influence over national governments through a variety of deep state milieux. The term «deep state» derives from the Turkish »derin devlet», which emerged after the 1996 Susurluk incident so dramatically unmasked the Turkish deep state.

Their article is so honest that it continues from there, directly to:

Official Narrative

The official narrative of deep states used to be that they simply do not exist. This position was modified in the last few years to the claim that they don't exist here. In 2013 the New York Times defined the deep state as «a hard-to-perceive level of government or super-control that exists regardless of elections and that may thwart popular movements or radical change. Some have said that Egypt is being manipulated by its deep state». [1] Since the Times (like the rest of the commercially-controlled media) is more or less a under the control of the deep state, such a mention is very interesting.

The (Not-So) Peaceful Transition of Power: Trump’s Drone Strikes Outpace Obama

by Micah Zenko

As a candidate, President Donald Trump was deeply misleading about the sorts of military operations that he would support. He claimed to have opposed the 2003 Iraq War when he actually backed it, and to have opposed the 2011 Libya intervention when he actually strongly endorsed it, including with U.S. ground troops. Yet, Trump and his loyalists consistently implied that he would be less supportive of costly and bloody foreign wars, especially when compared to President Obama, and by extension, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This might be true, but nonetheless the White House is considering deploying even more U.S. troops to Syria, loosening the rules of engagement for airstrikes, and increasing the amount of lethal assistance provided to Syrian rebel groups. 

By at least one measure at this point in his presidency, Trump has been more interventionist than Obama: in authorizing drone strikes and special operations raids in non-battlefield settings (namely, in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia). During President Obama’s two terms in office, he approved 542 such targeted strikes in 2,920 days—one every 5.4 days. From his inauguration through today, President Trump had approved 30 drone strikes or raids in 41 days—one every 1.4 days. These include three drone strikes in Yemen on January 20, 21, and 22; the January 28 Navy SEAL raid in Yemen; one reported strike in Pakistan on March 1; and twenty-five reported strikes in Yemen on March 2

6 March 2017

Would America Really Invade North Korea?

Harry J. Kazianis

Would the Trump administration actually consider invading North Korea?

Such an idea at least seems possible. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “an internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, people familiar with the process said.”

To be clear, there is lots of ways to initiate regime change in a nation-state, but when it comes to North Korea, military operations—meaning an invasion—seems like the only real option. Pyongyang isn’t exactly tied to the global economy, so sanctions seem unlikely to bring Kim Jong-un to his knees. Nor is various types of intensified societal pressures like mass propaganda organized to take the regime down. Soldiers, tanks and bombs, at least at this point, seem to be the only way to do it.

So what would military action against the DPRK look like? While there are no certainties in modern warfare, one thing is certain: an attack on North Korea to rid the world of what can only be described as the most vile regime on the planet could be an unmitigated disaster.

As I explained in a debate for the Week in 2014, there is four reasons a regime-change-style invasion of North Korea would be insane. First, Kim has likely read a history book in the last twenty years:

What Makes America's New Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier Truly Dangerous

Mike Fabey

Some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks.

Slated for springtime delivery, the aircraft carrier CVN 78 Gerald Ford has sparked much interest in its technological breakthroughs for launching and recovering aircraft – as well as new systems to cut down on the number of sailors that run the ship and run up the costs of operating the vessel.

But some of the most important mechanic advancements are deep inside the ship – part of the revamped elevator system used to carry bombs, missiles and other aircraft-loaded equipment from the Ford’s bowels to the vessel’s higher decks.

The 10 elevators have to carry up to about 200,000 pounds of weapons from the main deck magazine to the flight deck preparation area, according to Newport News shipbuilders at Hunting Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding unit.

That ship-climbing trek is comparable to going form the basement to the roof of an extremely large city skyscraper, carrying about 100 tons, all within a minute.

Shipbuilders wired the elevator up for more electricity using linear motors, replacing the rope-and-wheel systems that required a great deal more manpower to operate and maintain.

1 March 2017

** Delegating the Dirty Work to U.S. Allies Is Smart Counterterrorism

William Wechsler

ONE OF the few things that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have in common is that they reversed their long-standing approaches to counterterrorism during their very last years in office. They initially held diametrically opposed military policies, with Bush choosing invasion and occupation and Obama preferring disengagement and drone strikes. But by the end of their second terms they had both ended up in roughly the same place, with a central focus on indirect action—enabling local forces to achieve U.S. counterterrorism objectives.

Through long periods of trial and error, constrained by a common reluctance to change course, but in the end having their hands forced by growing terrorist threats and events spiraling out of control, both presidents finally came to adopt the only set of counterterrorism policies that have been shown to succeed over the long run. It is important that President Donald Trump avoid repeating this painful and time-consuming learning curve.

Doing so will require him to accept lessons from his predecessors’ experiences. President Bush’s central mistakes are relatively easy to avoid. Simply follow the advice offered repeatedly by strategists from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and, if at all possible, avoid having American forces fight large conventional land wars in Asia. Eventually, President Bush largely extricated the United States from his self-dug hole through the combination of shifting to counterinsurgency operations, cultivating the Sons of Iraq, building the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and supporting the revolution in U.S. special-operations targeting led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But the success of “the surge” came only after the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the explosion of Salafi jihadist terrorism. It is difficult to argue that Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State would have emerged in the absence of the initial U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

From the outset of his administration, President Obama clearly learned this lesson and was appropriately wary of any policy proposal that risked starting down the proverbial “slippery slope” to a large conventional land war. Even as the frequency of drone strikes against terrorists in multiple countries greatly expanded, he consistently stressed the need to marry these discrete direct actions to wider campaigns focused on indirect action. Obama seemed to understand that while U.S. direct actions can disrupt and even degrade foreign terrorist or insurgent groups, they rarely defeat and almost never destroy them. In military terms, direct action is a necessary line of operation, but indirect action is the decisive line of operation.