Friday, December 30, 2016

Sino Military In 2016

China's military advanced along several fronts in 2016 in its concerted program to develop new asymmetric and conventional warfare capabilities while continuing to challenge the United States for military control of key waterways in Asia.

Check it -

As 2016 drew to a close, China flexed her military muscle with the high-profile dispatch of its lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to an area of the western Pacific in a carrier battle group formation. Seven warships accompanied the carrier – three destroyers, three frigates and a supply ship.

Contrary to many western China analysts’ who said the Chinese carrier would take many years to deploy, Chinese state media trumpeted naval drills as a sign the the carrier will ready for combat operation sooner than expected.

The blue-water naval operations followed the disclosure earlier this month that weapons upgrades are not the only focus of the PLA. The new open ocean drills followed the adoption in December of a new force projection doctrine called “rapid force projection.” The doctrine will complete a transition from the previous focus fighting regional military conflicts to conducting larger-scale global operations involving what Beijing calls high-technology informationized forces.

A review of military developments in China and throughout the world over past year provides a clear picture of China’s military priorities, both conventional and strategic nuclear.
As the year ended, China conducted a flight test of a new missile known as the Dong Ning-3 that the Pentagon believes is a missile designed to hit US satellites in space in a crippling attack in the early phases of a conflict that would limit American military forces from navigating forces, pinpointing targets and gathering intelligence.

The DN-3 test took place in early December and was couched as a missile defense interceptor test in a bid by the Chinese military to mask its development of anti-satellite capabilities. The Chinese Defense Ministry dismissed published reports of the ASAT test as “groundless.” Pentagon officials confirmed the test took place and expressed concern about one of China’s most important asymmetric weapons.

The DN-3 is believed to be a missile capable of attacking satellites in high-earth orbit – the location of most strategic navigation and intelligence satellites.

In February, US intelligence had detected what was described in classified reports as the uploading of additional warheads on older, single-warhead DF-5 missiles.

Between the new DF-41, still under development, and the increased warheads on the DF-5, strategic war planners are now beginning to re-calculate the warhead size and mix for the US nuclear arsenal to be better prepared to deter the expanding Chinese nuclear force.

China would conduct a second DF-41 flight test on April 19 when two dummy warheads were monitored in flight over western China.

Also in April, China flight tested its new ultra-high speed strike vehicle known as the DF-ZF – a maneuvering missile stage that is designed to defense missile defenses. It was the seventh flight test of the missile-launched glider and a high priority weapon for the Peoples Liberation Army to deliver nuclear weapons or conduct precision conventional attacks, such as against ships at sea.

On maritime territorial disputes, China continued to fuel controversy with the militarization on some 3,200 acres of new islands it dredged in the South China Sea. In February, the Pentagon spotted the deployment of advanced Chinese HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, in the Paracel island chain in the northwestern part of the sea.

Further south, China began building hexagonal gun emplacements on several of the disputed Spratlys Islands. The guns were finally disclosed this month in new satellite images that revealed large-caliber naval guns and short range anti-ship missiles on several reefs.

China continued its covert information attacks on the US military throughout the year, using its state-run media to highlight provocative activities by the Chinese military. For example, the official Xinhua news agency reported in March how a Chinese submarine commander had boasted of conducting a mock attack on a US Navy formation during a submarine patrol in the East China Sea.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five North Korea Scenarios


It is entirely plausible that during 45’s four years in office, North Korea will demonstrate an ability to reach the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile

In the past year, the regime under Kim Jong-un has conducted 25 ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests, according to CSIS Beyond Parallel. Since 2009, it has completed 65 major provocations and ballistic missile tests including four nuclear tests. By comparison, in the 14 years prior, Pyongyang conducted only 16 missile tests and one nuclear test. The leader has stated unequivocally that he runs a nuclear weapons state and that he has no intention of disarming. Indeed, he has enshrined this nuclear weapons status in the constitution, which could be considered normal only by North Korean standards.

Our own data at CSIS indicate that North Korea will challenge the new administration almost immediately. This would be for the purposes of establishing a position of strength.

Eight years of “strategic patience” — the outgoing administration’s policy of sanctions designed to cause the North Koreans to cry “uncle” and come back to the table — has done little to curb the threat. In the past year, North Korea has crossed technical thresholds that were previously thought to be beyond their reach for years. They may have scores of nuclear weapons by the end of this decade.

And it is entirely plausible that during 45’s four years in office, North Korea will demonstrate an ability to reach the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile, making it the only country outside of China and Russia to have such a capability.

At the same time, North Korea under Kim Jong-un may try to engage the regime with proposals for peace treaty talks or other diplomatic proposals designed to entice the Trump administration into a deal. It is unlikely that Pyongyang will seek to engage the government in South Korea until after the political impeachment crisis subsides, however.

The paths forward are about as clear as a foggy day in London.

There are five:

•Positive: A positive path would entail a North Korean decision — whether of aggregation of sanctions — to return to the negotiating table over their nuclear weapons programs. This could be in a bilateral format with the Americans or through a return to the Six-Party talks, the multilateral forum chaired by China.

•Ambiguous: That is, North Korea shows a willingness to return to diplomacy, but without a commitment to denuclearize, instead focusing on negotiating a peace treaty with the U.S. as setting the stage potentially for tension-reduction.

•Negative: Kim Jong-un could accelerate his efforts to grow his nuclear capabilities accompanied by more nuclear detonations, missile tests, fiery threats, and potentially even proliferation horizontally to Iran, Pakistan or other non-state actors.

•Instability: Even though the leader celebrates a five-year anniversary this week, exceeding many people’s expectations of whether he could handle the job, the rate of high-level defections and purges in North Korea is unprecedented, which indicates a significant degree of churn inside the system. This internal instability can manifest itself in external spasms that generate outright conflict in the region.

•Status quo: North Korea in this scenario would not be characterized by an increased tempo of testing, nor an increased interest in diplomacy. Instead, it would work methodically as it has done over the past few years to build programs, remain cool to negotiation, and provoke occasionally but not at a level that would generate U.S. or South Korean reactions.

As Yogi Berra, the famous American baseball player and pundit once said, the predictions are hard, especially about the future. A policy review by the Trump team will need to work through the challenges and the key policy pivot points for the next administration.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Coming War Between America And The UN

Even before 45's inauguration as president, Congress is planning to escalate the clash over the U.N. Security Council’s anti-Israel resolution into a full-on conflict between the United States and the United Nations.

If 45 embraces the strategy — and all signals indicate he will — the battle could become the 45th administration’s first confrontation with a major international organization, with consequential but largely unpredictable results.

There are several options under consideration, two senior Senate aides working on the issue told me. Some are considered “micro” options, such as passing a resolution that would bar any funding that might go to implementing the anti-settlement resolution. Other options include withdrawing the United States from U.N. organizations such as UNESCO or passing legislation to protect settlers who are American citizens and might be vulnerable to consequences of the resolution.

Withholding U.S. contributions to the United Nations could be done in different ways. There are discretionary funds Congress can easily cut off, but the bulk of U.S. support is obligatory, mandated by treaties that Congress has ratified, making them de facto U.S. law.

Depending on how drastic the funding cuts are to be, Congress may have to pass new legislation to undo some of the obligations.

Senators are also looking at ways to withhold U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority or perhaps punish the Palestine Liberation Organization representative office in Washington. Republicans in the Senate don’t plan to wait until 45 is actually in office; aides said to expect action as soon as senators return to Washington next week.

Some Republicans in Congress are comparing the coming U.S. response to the anti-settlement resolution to the U.S. opposition in 1975 to a U.N. General Assembly resolution that equated Zionism with racism. U.S. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan led the U.S. opposition to that resolution and gave a famous speech defending the Jewish state from international persecution. That resolution was eventually repealed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dem Deutsche Volke

To paraphrase an ancient tune by one of the ex Eagle cats...

"Love those Germans! Sooo meticulous!"

Free speech has never truly been a Deutsche thing. Even back in Wilhemine Germany, by Freedom House standards, Germany never really embraced unbridled inquiry or considered freedom of speech all that important.

All the Faux news meme is the rage and Der Spiegel reported the Fatherland is going for a Ministry of Truth in the Bundes Republik

"Think of the truth as a great keyboard on which the government can play..."

Monday, December 26, 2016

Oh! Palestine!

44's decision not to block a UN Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements on the West Bank illegal can be read many ways. 
The vote is certainly a propaganda victory for the Palestinian cause, but it does nothing to help the Palestinians in practical terms. Indeed, a sober look at the situation suggests that the Palestinians have not been this weak, this divided or this helpless in many decades. Almost everywhere one looks around the world, the net effect of the policies of 44's presidency has been to undermine the movements and the values that the President hoped to support; the cause of the Palestinians and the quest for the two state solution are no exceptions to the rule.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic success of the very professional and dedicated cadre of Palestinian representatives and notables who represent Palestinian interests to the international community has created a strong base of support for Palestinian aspirations in much of the world. But the last few years have seen a catastrophic decline in the power of Palestinian allies to affect events on the ground. 
The Sunni Arabs, the most natural if always self-interested and undependable allies of the Palestinian cause, are so weak and divided that they look to Israel as a defender of the Sunni world against the Persians and the Shi’a.
The European Union has never been less able to exert influence beyond its frontiers. The incapacity of the United Nations to do anything concrete in the Middle East has never been more obvious; ask the people of Aleppo how much of a player the United Nations really is.
The end of the 44th administration would have been a setback for the Palestinians even if HRC had been the next President; with the succession of 45, the United States appears to be shifting toward a pro-Likud orientation in its Israel policy. Putin has broken from the Russian tradition of sympathy for the Palestinians; Erdogan at least for now is prioritizing his need for Israeli support over his instinctive sympathy for the Palestinians and in any case, his identification with Hamas threatens to perpetuate rather than to heal Palestinian weakness and division.
Not only have the Palestinian territories devolved into two micro-states (Gaza and the West Bank, so that instead of a two-state solution one would have to speak of a three state solution barring a Palestinian civil war), but both Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank have become increasingly corrupt, ineffective and exhausted.

Both of the major Palestinian political organizations depend on foreign paymasters to cover their expenses; neither has shown much ability to build a real state or to solve the problems of the Palestinian people.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Killing Our Enemies On Xmas Day Since 1776

"...You, the officers and men of this American Army must remember that you are free men fighting for the blessings of liberty. 

"...At this fateful hour the eyes of all our countrymen are now upon us. The eyes of the world are watching. Let us show them all that a freeman contending for Liberty is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.

"...And when the hour is upon us fight for all that you are worth and all that you cherish and love. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct that you show."

Pic - "It is a great stake we are playing for."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Battle Of The Indian Ocean

Dang the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

With an eye on China, India steams ahead in the battle for naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean

Since 2011, India’s naval voyages across the world’s third-largest ocean have grown in number by 300%, according to consultancy firm IHS Markit, bolstering the country’s presence in a key region where China has been making inroads.

China has increasingly deployed nuclear and conventional submarines in the Indian Ocean as it looks to assert its dominance as a regional superpower, and counter India’s growing influence, in South Asia.

The Indian Ocean is a prominent trade route as nearly 36 million barrels of oil are transported daily through its shipping lines. This is roughly about 40% of the world’s oil supply. The ocean also accounts for 40% of the global offshore oil production. For India, as much as 95% of its trade and 80% of crude oil imports take place through the Indian Ocean.

India and Japan have also been considering building a sea wall of “hydrophones” —microphones with sensors placed on the seabed—between southern India and the northern tip of Indonesia. The move was aimed at keeping a check on Chinese submarine movement.

The navies of India, Japan, and the US also held a joint drill in the Philippine sea in June this year, irking Beijing.

While China had cut back on the number of visits to the Indian Ocean last year, perhaps to focus on the muddled South China Sea waters, it firmed up patrolling this year. The Chinese navy’s redeployment reflects the country’s “commercial interests and possibly to build relations with states like Pakistan and Bangladesh,” IHS Markit reckoned.

In all, between 2011 and 2016, the various navies of the Indian Ocean region have also stepped up their procurement budgets from around $8.5 billion to $12 billion. During these years, the navies of India, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have also been investing in attack submarines, destroyers, frigates, and mine warfare vessels.

The Indian Navy currently has a fleet of 137 ships while the Chinese Navy boasts a fleet of 300 ships. But, India plans to add some 100 new warships, including two aircraft carriers and three nuclear-powered submarines, over the next 12 years, spending $61 billion.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chinese Stealth Fighters Are Operational

Dong Feng!

Has the world's largest Collectivist nation state just debut'd her first posse of operational stealth fighters?

China is officially the second nation in the world (U.S. was the first) to have an operational fifth-generation fighter unit. The country's first J-20 stealth fighter unit is now operational in the 176th Brigade, a unit in the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE). The public debut comes just under six years from its prototype flight, a speedy delivery by any measure.

The debut of the first operational J-20s will help the CTFE better understand the combat capabilities stealth fighters bring to the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Next steps will likely be training and exercises against other Chinese fighters, as well as testing for future design upgrades.

Judging from observed sightings of LRIP J-20s in the past year, there could be between eight to twelve J-20s now stationed at Dingxin airbase, enough to set up a squadron for combat operations.

A variety of internet reports have covered the J-20s joining the unit: At least two J-20s were observed in a late November 2016 satellite photo of the Dingxin air base, a CFTE establishment. December 2016 photos on the Chinese Internet forums show J-20s with operational serial numbers painted on the vertical tailfins.

Chinese aviation expert Dafeng Cao posted that the PLAAF received six J-20s on Dec. 12, which makes sense considering a photo surfaced earlier this month that showed three LRIP J-20s on the runway at the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation factory, possibly ready for that transfer.

Previously, several LRIP J-20s were already produced starting in late 2015, with four J-20s (production airframes 2101-2104) delivered by June 2016, and at least several more J-20s produced after that.

While intriguing to see J-20s operational, these will not be the final version of the J-20's design. While the plane currently uses advanced avionics including AESA radar and electro-optical distributed aperture system, it uses a high-performance variant of the Russian AL-31 turbofan engine. Once the supercruise-capable WS-15 engine enters service in 2019-2021, large-scale production of faster J-20s will commence.

One thing though -  those giant assetted dual engines sticking out the backside in a most unstealthy manner may mean J20 is only interested in getting to the target semi invisible....

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Total War

Now this is interesting. An expert on v. Clausewitz dissing the concept of Total War. 

In On War, as well as in his unfinished work Strategie, Clausewitz made it clear that wars are fought to overthrow the enemy regime or something less than this. Maritime theorist Sir Julian Corbett built upon Clausewitz’s work to construct a theory of warfare and gave us the terms unlimited war to describe a conflict waged to overthrow the enemy government (an unlimited political objective), and limited war for a war fought for something less (a limited political objective).   
Rational discussion and analysis of all wars—civil wars, guerrilla wars, limited wars, religious wars, and every other kind of war—fits within this framework by beginning with the starting point of both Clausewitz and Corbett: all wars are fought either for the political objective of regime change or something less than this.  
This is an ironclad foundation for analysis because we have defined what is of utmost importance: what the war is about. Critically, the combatants are often pursuing different objectives, but the opponent’s political objective is an element contributing to the war’s nature and simply part of the reality of war that one must consider when doing their assessment.  
There is no room here for so-called Total War.
 First and foremost, it fails one of the key requirements for good theory. Instead of helping clarify concepts—as Carl von Clausewitz insists good theory should do—the term Total War muddies the analytical waters. Theory and its key terms should produce firm, universally applicable foundations for analysis. The term Total War does not, thus it is useless as a tool for critical analysis.

Hold up a sec. While true enough Dr Goebbels "Totaler Krieg" speech or Dominic Tierney's definitions are not all that definitive, Hans Speier may come the closest with this infamous bit 

Total war has three distinct traits: (1) a particularly close interdependence between the armed forces and the productive forces of the nation, which necessitates large scale governmental planning; (2) the extension of siege warfare involving the nation as a whole in both offensive and defensive actions; and (3) a general vilification of the enemy nation.

Actually, Total War is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs. A war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded.

General Sherman is given almost zero credit, yet it would be helpful to remember Sherman believed that the Confederacy derived her strength not from her fighting forces but from the material and moral support of sympathetic Southern whites. Factories, farms and railroads provided Confederate troops with the things they needed, he reasoned; and if he could destroy those things, the Confederate war effort would collapse.

Meanwhile, his troops could undermine Southern morale by making life so unpleasant for Georgia’s civilians that they would demand an end to the war.

Confederacy's response was to flee in front of Sherman and execute a "Scorched Earth" policy.

Sherman’s “total war” in Georgia was brutal and destructive, but it did just what it was supposed to do: it hurt Southern morale, made it impossible for the Confederates to fight at full capacity and certainly sped up the end of the war.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2017 Conflict Hot Spots

In the first few months of 45’s presidency (indeed, perhaps even before his presidency begins) the United States will have to navigate several extremely dangerous flashpoints that could ignite, then escalate, conflict between the US, Russia, and China.

 Korean Peninsula
Reportedly, 44 suggested to 45 that North Korea policy would represent the first big test of his administration. North Korea continues to build more and more effective ballistic missiles, as well (most analysts suspect) to expand its nuclear arsenal.  While the economy and political system remain moribund, the state itself has shown no inclination to collapse.

Moreover, South Korea has mired itself in a serious political crisis of its own.  Conflict could erupt in any of several ways; if the United States decides to curtain North Korea’s ballistic missile programs with a preventative attack, if North Korea misreads US signals and decides to preempt, or if a governance collapse leads to chaos. As was the case in 1950, war on the peninsula could easily draw in China, Russia, or Japan.

Recent Russia victories in Syria appear to have paved the way for the Assad regime to shift the civil war to a new phase. The United States declined to intervene in defense of Aleppo, instead concentrating its forces on Iraq and the fight against ISIS. The 44th administration will not contest Russia’s support of Assad, and there is little to indicate that the Trump administration will seek confrontation.

But while the most dangerous moments may have passed, US and Russian forces continue to operate in close proximity of one another. The US airstrike near Deir al-Zour, which killed sixty-two Syrian troops, derailed the prospect for US-Russian cooperation in Syria.  A similar event, launched either by Russian or American forces, could produce retaliatory pressures in either country. Moreover, the presence of spoilers (terrorist groups and militias on either side, as well as a variety of interested states) serves to increase complexity, and the chances for a miscalculation or misunderstanding.

“War” in Cyberspace
The United States, Russia, and China are not at “war” in cyberspace, notwithstanding the success of Russian efforts to intervene in the US Presidential election, or the ongoing Chinese efforts to steal intellectual property and technology from US companies. However, the US security establishment may feel an increasing need to respond to what it views as Russian and Chinese provocations, if only to deter other attacks against critical US cyber-assets.

Specialists disagree over whether even a serious escalation over current activity would constitute a cyber-“war.” And the agencies delegated with responsibility over offensive cyber-capabilities have proven loathe to use them; attacks on critical vulnerabilities often only work once. Still, if China, Russia, or other actors come to believe that they can attack the US without fear of response, they may end up pushing the US government into costly responses that could create an unfortunate escalatory spiral.

South Asia
Initial reports suggested that 45 might continue the policy of the 43rd and 44th presidencies to push for an increasingly deeply US-India relationship. Indeed, Trump’s campaign scored an unlikely degree of support from Hindu nationalists in the United States, who tend to favor confrontation with Pakistan.

45’s phone call with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif threw these assumptions into chaos.  45 seemed to suggest a role for himself as mediator in the Kashmir dispute, a position that goes strongly against Indian preferences. Analysts in India and the United States worry that Pakistan might take this message as a green light for increasing militant operations in and around Kashmir, and for taking other escalatory steps.  On the other hand, India might feel the need to pre-empty perceived Pakistani preparations by conducting its own operations along the line of control. And if either side decides to escalate, then the US and China could easily find themselves drawn into a conflict.

Baltic Sea
Perhaps the greatest chance of danger lies in the Baltic region. Allegations about 45’s connections to Russian intelligence have flown fast and furious over the past weeks.  What is not in doubt is that Trump has put America’s commitment to the NATO security guarantee into doubt. Potentially, this could have several salutary effects; it could convince the Europeans to increase their own defense expenditures, it could de-escalate tensions with the Russians, and it could ameliorate the perceived over-extension of US defense commitments.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Battle Of The Bulge

On or about this date in 1944, Americans woke to read in alla papers that a war that was almost won looked like it might just get lost.   

Beleaf it or don't - few Americans are aware of the Battle of the Bulge in the last millennium. Nineteen thousand American soldiers were killed with more than 70,000 casualties. It was the largest combat action in the history of the American military.

Dec. 16. 1944. Out of the fog and snow with complete surprise and bitter cold, 3 Wehrmacht armies along with multi dreaded Waffen Ss contingents crashed through American lines on a 50-mile front. 2K pieces of heavy German artillery bombarded the Ardennes. 250K Deutsch soldaten and 1,000 panzers and associated guns attacked, defended by green American troops with zero combat experience.

Shells shrieked overhead, mortars and machine guns fired, search lights stabbed through the morning light. V1 buzz bombs dropped to the ground. It was a complete surprise, and the defending Americans were completely unprepp'd.

And it lives evermore with those This We'll Defend cats
After a day of hard fighting, the Germans broke through the American front, surrounding most of an infantry division, seizing key crossroads, and advancing their spearheads toward the Meuse River, creating the projection that gave the battle its name.

Stories spread of the massacre of soldiers and civilians at Malmedy and Stavelot, of fallschrimjager paratroopers dropping behind the lines, and of English-speaking German soldiers, disguised as Americans, capturing critical bridges, cutting communications lines, and spreading rumors. For those who had lived through 1940, the picture was all too familiar. Belgian townspeople put away their Allied flags and brought out their swastikas. 

Police in Paris enforced an all-night curfew. British veterans waited nervously to see how the Americans would react to a full-scale German offensive, and British generals quietly acted to safeguard the Meuse crossings. Even American civilians who had thought final victory was near were sobered by the Nazi onslaught.

But this was not 1940. The supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower rushed reinforcements to hold the shoulders of the German penetration. Within days, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. had turned his Third U.S. Army to the north and was counterattacking against the German flank. But the story of the battle of the Bulge is above all the story of American soldiers. 

Often isolated and unaware of the overall picture, they did their part to slow the Nazi advance, whether by delaying armored spearheads with obstinate defenses of vital crossroads, moving or burning critical gasoline stocks to keep them from the fuel-hungry German tanks, or coming up with questions on arcane Americana to stump possible Nazi infiltrators.

At the critical road junctions of St. Vith and Bastogne, American tankers and paratroopers fought off repeated attacks, and when the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Bastogne was summoned by his German adversary to surrender, he simply responded, "Nuts!"

Within days, Patton's Third Army had relieved Bastogne, and to the north, the 2d U.S. Armored Division stopped enemy tanks short of the Meuse on Christmas Day. Through January, American troops, often wading through deep snow drifts, attacked the sides of the shrinking bulge until they had restored the front and set the stage for the final drive to victory.

Never again would NSDAP Time Deutschland be able to launch an offensive in the West on such a scale. An admiring British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill stated, "This is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory." Indeed, in terms of participation and losses, the battle of the Bulge is arguably the greatest battle in American military history.

Pic - "If you don't know what 'Nuts' means, in plain English it is the same as 'Go to Hell'. And I'll tell you something else, if you continue to attack we will kill every goddam German that tries to break into this city."

Thursday, December 15, 2016


In the post-World War Two period, we've never had a Secretary of State whose entire career has been spent in the private sector without any prior government or public service.

Unlike his predecessors -- among them generals, a national security adviser, a secretary of the Treasury, a White House Chief of staff, a Senator -- Tillerson's lack of public service doesn't mean he can't do the job; indeed Exxon operates internationally on five continents and 50 countries.

While Tillerson is no Metternich or Kissinger, he knows his way around the world, many of its leaders, and certainly the political and economic oil world in Asia, the Middle East -- and of course, Russia.

Whether Tillerson has the skills and intuitive instinct to be a successful negotiator is an open question. Clearly he has very successfully closed oil leases, contracts and various negotiations in the energy sector all over the world. But dealing with international crises isn't quite the same thing as negotiating leasing arrangements or extraction rights in country A or B, or in the case of 45, real estate deals.

National identity, deep existential fears, historical trauma, and religion often interact in conflicts between nations and efforts to accommodate them in ways that just aren't present in business transactions.

First, success abroad for a Secretary of State and a President too depends on whether the world cooperates and offers up crises that can be defused and agreements that are possible to negotiate.

Second, no secretary of state can succeed unless he or she remains close to the president and the president watches his back in Washington and abroad; there are no successful lone rangers at Foggy Bottom.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

After Aleppo


Al-Qaeda-linked groups will grow stronger, and Putin will expand his reach. The Bashar al-Assad–Ayatollah Khamenei–Hassan Nasrallah–Vladimir Putin axis is smiling. The northern Syrian city of Aleppo, a spot with great strategic value for all sides, will soon fall. Sunni rebels there are outnumbered, outgunned, and encircled. When Aleppo collapses, it will spark five developments.

None will be good for America.

First off, Syria’s Sunni-dominated rebellion will no longer be a national campaign — it will become a collection of geographically limited ones. Apart from two sparsely populated central areas, the moderate rebels will hold only pockets of southeastern and northeastern Syria. At that point, unable to move between different battlefields, they’ll be highly vulnerable to axis operations. With supremacy in air power, armor, mobility, and supplies, the axis will reinforce its death grip.

Second, al-Qaeda-linked organizations, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other Salafi-Jihadist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham will grow stronger. The axis claim that capturing Aleppo will weaken extremist groups, but the opposite is true. JFS’s competent leaders, skilled fighters, and comparatively efficient supply lines make it credible and dangerous. On the other side, moderate groups will suffer a smack to their credibility after Aleppo falls. But whatever their organizational loyalties, Syrian Sunni rebel groups are united in their desire to vanquish Assad. They will not lay down arms until Assad is dead or deposed. As fighters lose confidence, groups such as JFS will reap the benefit.

Third, and as an extension, when Aleppo falls, we’ll see expanded external support for the extremists, notably from the Sunni monarchies. Led by the House of Saud, the Sunni kingdoms view Assad thru the lens of sectarian hatred. That view is formed partly by Assad’s slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Sunnis, but also by his alliance with Shia-revolutionary Iran. After Aleppo, expect the monarchies to increase funding, perhaps through proxies, for groups such as JFS and al-Qaeda. Fear will intensify the monarchies’ efforts. In the context of Iran’s rising power, whether in nuclear-deal cash or in Lebanese politics, the Sunni monarchies will act aggressively.

Fourth, the Assad axis will escalate operations in Syria’s western, rebel-held Idlib governate. Idlib is critical to the rebellion’s existence because the rebels control areas along a roughly 50-mile border with Turkey. That border is the rebels’ supply aorta. But after Aleppo falls, the axis will push hard against Idlib border settlements, such as Ad Dana in the east, and Jisr ash-Shugur in the west.

They know that as the border goes, so goes the rebellion. Seizing the border, the axis forces will starve the rebels and their families into submission. This action would once have sparked Turkish reprisals, but today Erdogan kneels in supplication to Putin. More Syria Why Russia Isn’t Waiting to Finish Aleppo President Trump Should Chart a Cautious Course in the Middle East Trump’s Ascent Is More Bad News for the Syrian Opposition

Finally, Putin will use Aleppo’s capture to damage U.S. foreign policy. His intentions are already clear. After all, in English-news propaganda outlets such as RT, the Russians are proudly rejecting American demands that Sunni rebels be given safe passage out of Aleppo. It’s 44 vs. Putin 101. Unwilling to pressure Russia, 44 is simply ignored by Putin. Through this public display of American impotence, Putin asserts his grand strategy in the Middle East. In the Middle East, where influence is defined by fear and by perceptions of power, Putin is seizing influence and control over American allies.

In early October 2015, 44 claimed that “an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.” Aleppo’s rubble has proved 44 wrong. His misjudgment has come at a heavy cost. In the lacerated lungs and starved stomachs of 200,000 Syrian civilians, American credibility has turned to ashes.

In its place, Putin’s KGB phoenix is rising.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Make Intelligence Services Great Again

Eliminate the director of national intelligence and put the CIA back in charge!

For example, U.S. intelligence agencies have increased their efforts to counter cyberwarfare over the last few years by creating large, separate organizations to address this issue.

These include: The ODNI Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, created in 2015. The U.S. Cyber Command, created in 2009, to defend Department of Defense networks, systems and information, to defend the homeland against cyberattacks, and to provide support to military and contingency operations.

The Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, created in 2009, to monitor cyber threats across government agencies and critical infrastructure.

The CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation, created in 2015.

There are many other examples of such duplication and redundancy, especially concerning counterterrorism. To the greatest extent possible, these types of offices should be streamlined into a single inter-agency entity with one agency having the lead. A reconstituted DCI should also take the lead in doing a better job of encouraging cooperation between intelligence agencies by pressing intelligence officers to take temporary assignments in other agencies.

 To deal with emerging security threats, we need more out-of-the-box and “competitive” analysis that provides policymakers with alternative assessments of global threats. There also is a great need for better strategic analysis of future threats.

Outside managers and experts could also help counter the politicization of intelligence by intelligence officers who don’t like 45. This was a serious problem for previous Republican presidents.

Recent leaks to the press by intelligence officers about 45’s daily briefings suggest this problem has already resurfaced. Implementing intelligence reforms to make U.S. intelligence agencies into the innovative and effective institution they once were will take strong leaders in top intelligence positions who will act independently and are not beholden to the intelligence community. These officials must have the full backing of the president.

45, by appointing Mike Pompeo as CIA director, General Mike Flynn as National Security advisor, and KT McFarland as deputy national security advisor, is off to an excellent start to implementing these kinds of intelligence reforms to make American intelligence great again

Monday, December 12, 2016

Russia's Military Lessons From Syria And Ukrainia

The fall of Aleppo will mark a major victory for both Assad and and his ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose 15-month intervention in the Syrian civil war was launched to prop up the faltering Assad regime under the guise of fighting the Islamic State.

But there was another reason for the campaign of Russian air strikes and special operations support: providing Moscow with a venue to show off its newly modernized military hardware.

After years of mouldering away under post Cold war budget crunches, Putin has spent billions to modernize the Russian arsenal, churning out new tanks, submarines, drones, cruise missiles, and fighter jets that have pounded both Syrian rebels as well as Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Speaking with senior military officers at the Kremlin on Wednesday, Putin said that the military should use those experiences to “equip the Army and the Navy with prospective weapons” for future fights.

While many are focused on the Russian armor and sorties, some in the U.S. defense establishment have noticed another sign of Russian progress: their ability to work through local forces in Ukraine and Syria, allowing Moscow to exert influence while keeping deployments small, costs down, and troops away from the front lines.

“The Russians have become quite adept at working with proxy forces,” a senior Defense official told FP. ”In Ukraine, it’s obviously the so-called separatist forces – Russian trained, Russian equipped, in some cases Russian commanded,” over which “they exercise an exquisite command and control.”

In Syria, U.S. officials have seen small groups of Russian special operations forces “work quite effectively” with Assad regime troops and the Iranian Qods Force and Hezbollah. “That’s been their M.O. in the Donbass and in Syria,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The ability of the Russians to work so effectively through partners — some of which are separated by language — has impressed some analysts, given how difficult it is to work with other nations, let alone foreign militia groups.

“This is something the U.S. has had trouble with, even people we’ve worked with for ages, like our NATO allies,” said Olga Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Russia has had long relationships with the Iranians and Syrians, which makes some interaction easier, particularly when it comes to coordinating Russian planes flying air support for ground offensives by Syrian and Iranian-backed forces.

“They rely a lot on the Syrians and Iranians for targeting information, and the country that provides that information has a lot of power,” added Oliker, resulting in a dynamic in which the Russians are likely unable to confirm who they’re bombing.

Russian forces realized early on that while they could change facts on the ground, their intervention came too late to save a Syrian army which had been ground down by constant combat and desertions. “The Russian military has been frustrated by both the Syrian army which exists in name only, and Iranian forces pursuing their own objectives,” said Michael Kofman, a research scientist at CNA Corporation.

But by deploying aircraft, helicopters, and launching cruise missiles at rebel targets, Moscow has “turned Syria into both a weapons testing ground and a large operational exercise,” from which their military and defense industry have been gaining invaluable insights, Kofman said. The combination of militia forces, Russian private military contractors and special forces provide a potent mix for the Russian way of war — a war being fought against American and Western backed forces in both Ukraine and Syria.  

But there have been other benefits for Moscow.

Russian weapons sales have been on the rise for the past several years, and Moscow’s interventions in Ukraine and Syria have offered a valuable marketing platform to sell foreign clients on its technologies that come cheaper than equipment made by NATO nations, and without western world’s political strings attached.

In July, Putin noted that exports of Russian-made weapons and military equipment reached $4.6 billion for the first half of 2016, and “we should continue to highlight the demonstration of our weapon manufacturers’ achievements.”

One unexpected demonstration that was subsequently touted by Russian officials came in February, when Syrian rebels fired an American-made TOW missile at an advanced Russian T-90 tank. The missile hit it squarely in the turret but failed to destroy the tank, and in a video posted by the rebels, a Syrian soldier could be seen climbing out of the turret after the smoke cleared.

But other aspects of the Russian intervention haven’t always gone as planned, exposing the limits of its military might. Over the past month, two fighter planes have crashed into the Mediterranean while trying to land on the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, which itself has become an Internet meme for the black smoke belching from its smokestack and the tugboat it is forced to deploy with due to frequent breakdowns.

Another Russian Su-24 fighter was shot down by a an American-made Turkish F-16 after it allegedly strayed into Turkish territory in November 2015, with one pilot managing to survive the crash. During the rescue mission, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter was damaged by ground fire, then blown up by Free Syrian Army rebels with a U.S.-made TOW missile. The incident was filmed by the rebels and promptly posted online.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Next Arab Spring

The causes of the Arab Awakenings that began in 2011 – or the currently less popular term Arab Spring – are alive and kicking in the Mohammedist heartland and North Africa.

“Current estimates indicate that the number of inhabitants living in countries vulnerable to conflict in the Arab region is expected to rise from around 250 million in 2010 to over 350 million in 2020. That number is expected to double by 2050,” write the authors of the 2016 Arab Human Development Report. “The number of Arab countries affected by conflict increased from five in 2002 to 11 in 2016.”

The factors are: “scant suitable job opportunities, weak political participation, poor-quality healthcare and education services, mismanagement of social diversity, the prevalence of inherited concepts and practices that promote gender inequality; and prolonged conflicts that undermine society of development gains.”

If Arab leaders – monarchs and authoritarian military leaders – cannot address the factors blocking progress for young Arabs, the reports predicts “they will become a potent source of protracted social instability threatening human security.”

To further stress the dangers ahead, The Economist wrote on Tuesday: “Arabs make up just 5% of the world’s population, but they account for about half the world’s terrorism and refugees.”

The report’s 274 pages tiptoes around the causes of genocide, gender apartheid, pervasive economic corruption, and radical Islam by not, for example, naming Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, or Algeria’s incapacitated ruler Abdelaziz Bouteflika. There are many other Arab leaders that could be added. Boilerplate United Nations diplomatic – and at times nebulous – language dominates in the report.

A former Israel diplomat with wide expertise in the Middle East told The Jerusalem Post: “The biggest problem is that the state is in charge of most of the national resources and suffocates any genuine free-market initiative of the young and talented. As long as the state can buy ‘peace’ by hefty subsidies, then it is okay.”

The veteran diplomat added that once the trade-off fails, “trouble starts. There is almost no free market, no hi-tech (though many study it) and most important, corruption rages. These are the ingredients which will continue fueling the situation for the foreseeable future. Any cure? “Only a total implosion. All the rest are only temporary pain relievers.

If "half the population” is going nowhere, there is no chance for progress.

This analysis helps to explain one of the report’s chief conclusions: “This widened social disparities, prompting people to rebel. Youth were at the forefront of the rebellions: Corruption and distorted development had driven them to despair of social mobilization.”

The age of a deceptive calm in the stagnating Arab world has passed. The forward-looking recommendations of the report clash – one could argue – with the fixation on Israel as the be-all and end-all source of conflict in the region. The report cites Israel 29 times and claims: “The cause of the Palestinians remains the largest and most serious existential threat in the region as long as the Israeli occupation persists and as long as the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and other international efforts to resolve the crisis stagnate.”

The UN study cites a 2015 Arab opinion index from the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies that states: “75% of respondents believe that the Palestinian cause is not only a Palestinian issue, but an Arab one as well, and 85% oppose diplomatic recognition of Israel by their countries.”

After the deaths of tens of thousands of youths during the nearly sixyear- old Syrian civil war, it is difficult to know how much credence to give to attitude surveys in the region. After all, 15 Syria youths painted a slogan on a wall in the city of Deraa in 2011 declaring: “The People Want the Fall of the Regime.” The regime carted them off to torture cells. Are they preoccupied with the Israel-Palestinian conflict? As the report notes, “Young people’s awareness of their capabilities and rights collides with a reality that marginalizes them and blocks their pathways to express their opinions, actively participate or earn a living.”

The report omits any reference to the ubiquitous anti-Americanism and antisemitism in the region. The reliance on fundamentalist theology is approached indirectly: “Young people remain vulnerable to victimization by groups that misuse religion to benefit from its pivotal role in shaping identities,” notes the document.

Political Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood are cited once. There are no warnings that mirror the comments of the distinguished Middle East historian Bernard Lewis who told the Post in 2011: “I don’t think it [the Muslim Brotherhood] is in any sense benign. I think it is a very dangerous, radical Islamic movement. If they obtain power, the consequences would be disastrous for Egypt.”

Writing in his book The Arabs: A History (2009), the Oxford University Middle East historian Eugene Rogan said, “If the Arab peoples are to enjoy human rights and accountable government, security and economic growth, they will have to seize the initiative themselves.”

On December 17, many Arabs will commemorate the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who on that day in 2010 set himself ablaze to protest corruption in the now-defunct police state of former president Ben Ali, and set off the Arab Spring.

The UN report largely shifts the onus to the ruling class in the Arab world to bring about change.

There will be more Arab revolts and more self-protests along the lines of Bouazizi.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


The newly-released "Foreign Policy Concept" of the Russian Federation contains some interesting changes and updates. Given that this document reflects the Kremlin's strategic mindset and how it views international relations, it is important to take what is says seriously.

The fact that the strategy was being prepared in parallel with the U.S. presidential election is perhaps not accidental given two of its most noticeable features. The first is a slight but significant shift in assessing the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons from "unthinkable" to "unlikely." While the concept does not anticipate a high probability of a nuclear exchange occurring, it does warn that the risk of crises escalating between nuclear-armed states is increasing. The second is a very loud and clear restatement of classic Westphalian principles of how states should interact with each other in the international order: on the basis of absolute "non-interference in one another's internal affairs." Should a country not wish to operate from that principle in its relations with Russia, Moscow reserves the right to utilize harsh retaliatory measures to any perceived unfriendly actions. 

The newly-released "Foreign Policy Concept" of the Russian Federation contains some interesting changes and updates. Given that this document reflects the Kremlin's strategic mindset and how it views international relations, it is important to take what is says seriously.

The fact that the strategy was being prepared in parallel with the U.S. presidential election is perhaps not accidental given two of its most noticeable features. The first is a slight but significant shift in assessing the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons from "unthinkable" to "unlikely." While the concept does not anticipate a high probability of a nuclear exchange occurring, it does warn that the risk of crises escalating between nuclear-armed states is increasing. The second is a very loud and clear restatement of classic Westphalian principles of how states should interact with each other in the international order: on the basis of absolute "non-interference in one another's internal affairs." Should a country not wish to operate from that principle in its relations with Russia, Moscow reserves the right to utilize harsh retaliatory measures to any perceived unfriendly actions.

Perhaps the expectation in the Russian Foreign Ministry was that Hillary Clinton was on track to win the White House. Those two elements, in particular, seemed designed to send a clear warning to Washington that Moscow would brook no interference in its domestic affairs on the basis of any U.S. adjudication of failures in democratic practices or human rights observances. Russia learned from its momentary lapse in 2011, when appeals to the humanitarian principle of the "responsibility to protect" caused Russia to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the creation of safe areas for rebellious Libyans.

Moscow is determined that this not be repeated in the future, especially if such authority is used not to send forces to patrol refugee camps but to engage in active military operations against the offending government. It also reflects a growing Russian unwillingness to accept Western claims that internal repression by a government seeking to retain its power automatically constitutes a threat to regional peace and stability and justifies international action. Russia thus signals to itself and to other regimes that it stands by the principle that a government has the right to take action to defend itself against threats to its rule — both internal and external — and that it wants to raise the cost of Western-sponsored regime change whenever possible.

The change to the assessment about nuclear war reflects a growing consensus among experts that indeed that risk is growing. But it also fits with a pattern displayed by Russian president Vladimir Putin to warn the United States to back off. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin used the metaphor of the spring to suggest that ongoing, consistent Western pressure on Russia's frontiers had finally produced a reaction. Even if a nuclear exchange is "unlikely," the Russians are noting that if relations between Russia and the West continue to spiral downward, it is no longer out of the realm of possibility.

But this document is now released in the context of a Donald Trump transition to the White House. During the campaign, the candidate and many of his surrogates suggested that Hillary Clinton would end up provoking World War III with Russia by miscalculating and pushing the Kremlin too far— perhaps by trying to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria that resulted in the destruction of Russian aircraft, or ending up in a clash over the Baltic States. He also, at times, suggested that U.S. foreign policy ought to move back in the direction of less interventionism and involvement in the affairs of others. Humanitarian intervention does not appear to be high on the foreign policy priorities of the new administration, while finding ways to decrease tensions with other major powers, or at least with Russia, has been proposed.

So it will be interesting to see whether the new U.S. administration picks up on these signals as part of its own review of the U.S.-Russia relationship. Compromising on or scaling back on a number of past bipartisan policy approaches—notably the continued enlargement of NATO—in order to decrease pressure on the “spring” might resonate with the new chief executive.

Focusing a relationship on "hard" security matters (starting with preventing nuclear conflict) rather than on Russia's progress with democratization would revert U.S. policy back to a pre-1991 standard and reverse the insistence that has guided U.S. policy since that time that how Russia is governed internally is of vital national security interest to the United States.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Infamy Day


The 7 December 1941 Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor was one of the great defining moments in history. A single carefully-planned and well-executed stroke removed the United States Navy's battleship force as a possible threat to the Japanese Empire's southward expansion. America, unprepared and now considerably weakened, was abruptly brought into the Second World War as a full combatant.

Eighteen months earlier, 32 had transferred the United States Fleet to Pearl Harbor as a presumed deterrent to Japanese aggression. The Japanese military, deeply engaged in the seemingly endless war it had started against China in mid-1937, badly needed oil and other raw materials. Commercial access to these was gradually curtailed as the conquests continued. 

In July 1941 the Western powers effectively halted trade with Japan. From then on, as the desperate Japanese schemed to seize the oil and mineral-rich East Indies and Southeast Asia, a Pacific war was virtually inevitable. 

By late November 1941, with peace negotiations clearly approaching an end, informed U.S. officials (and they were well-informed, they believed, through an ability to read Japan's diplomatic codes) fully expected a Japanese attack into the Indies, Malaya and probably the Philippines. Completely unanticipated was the prospect that Japan would attack east, as well. 

The U.S. Fleet's Pearl Harbor base was reachable by an aircraft carrier force, and the Japanese Navy secretly sent one across the Pacific with greater aerial striking power than had ever been seen on the World's oceans. Its planes hit just before 8AM on 7 December. Within a short time five of eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were sunk or sinking, with the rest damaged. Several other ships and most Hawaii-based combat planes were also knocked out and over 2400 Americans were dead.

Soon after, Japanese planes eliminated much of the American air force in the Philippines, and a Japanese Army was ashore in Malaya. 

These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan's far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition. 

American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered. 

However, the memory of the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on.

Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan's striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.

Source - US Navy Historical Center

Pic - "Pearl Harbor"

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All The President's Generals


45's announcement that he intends to nominate multiple retired Generals from those who fear that installing those cats would jepardize civilian control of the military. Those critics are mistaken. Previous service in uniform shouldn’t disqualify nominees, and, as the Iraq war demonstrated, civilians with no military experience are perfectly capable of making catastrophic mistakes themselves.

It is a mystery how a phrase that is both as ungrammatical and incorrect as “civilian control of the military” has become so widely accepted. First the grammar—“military” is an adjective, not a noun. The institution is the “armed forces.” When used correctly, the adjective raises real issues—“the military mind,” or “the military-industrial complex,” for example. Used in sloppy fashion as a noun, the word evokes a somewhat sinister blob of an institution, attitude, culture, and pressure group.

U.S. political leaders have traditionally trusted our military with a latitude rare in liberal democracies, because our military has rigorously disciplined itself to exercise that influence only to advance the president’s decisions. Once the civilian leadership has set policy, the military knows to salute and support the policy or resign their commissions. Those are the only two options.

And why shouldn’t the country’s most informed defense experts transition to civilian roles, provided they perform civilian functions and are rigorously vetted in congressional confirmation? Forty-five years into an all-volunteer force, and with small numbers relative to our population, few Americans are directly affected by decisions about our military forces. It is not particularly surprising they look to this widely admired institution for understanding, and have confidence the institution will act with integrity. Nor is it surprising that veterans feel a strong obligation to contribute to better defense policies because they care deeply about the United States and about the young men and women putting their lives on the line to defend it.

Civil-military relations in America remain an unequal relationship, though: political leaders have a responsibility to seek unvarnished military counsel, but they are under no obligation to take that advice. We elect national leaders to aggregate our societal preferences, including whether to go to war, and how much of blood, treasure, and effort to expend on these wars.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Taiwan Telephoning


Beijing lodged a formal protest with the U.S. because President-elect Donald Trump, bypassing established diplomatic channels, spoke to Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen by telephone.

45's remarkable display of courtesy and solidarity with a beleaguered democracy will no doubt be welcomed warmly on the island. The Taiwanese are acutely, painfully aware of the lack of respect they command on the global stage.

Far more important, it seemed, than the technical impact of the snubbing—Taiwan's airlines will have to rely on secondhand sources for the latest technical information, an annoyance but hardly a massive setback—was what it represented: a country unfairly maligned and ignored.45's phone call shows that they will be ignored no more.

Even more better -

Trump, by seemingly not caring about Beijing’s reaction, has cut China down to size, telling its autocrats he does not fear them.

Just about everyone assumed the Chinese would create a crisis for Trump in his first months in office, just as they created crises for both 43—in April 2001 with the detention of the crew of the U.S. Navy EP-3—and 44—the harassment of the Navy’s unarmed reconnaissance vessels, the Impeccable and Victorious, in March and May 2009.

Instead, 45 took the initiative and created a crisis for China’s leaders, and he did that more than a month before taking the oath of office.

Therefore, Beijing is bound to find the next months unfamiliar and unsettling.

There is, if you need a metaphor, a rather large bull in the china shop.

And, yes, that could be a good thing.

What 45 has done is not “reset” Washington’s relations with China but put them on an entirely new footing. Up to now, Beijing has kept the initiative, and American presidents, especially 43 and 44, have merely reacted, trying to build friendly relations in spite of increasingly bold Chinese moves. The concept was that Washington had to maintain cooperative ties, increasingly considered an end in itself.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fatah Fading

It is about one week before the Seventh General Congress of the Fatah party in Ramallah. 1,400 members will participate, but very few people outside Fatah care. As Avi Issacharoff writes in an excellent article in The Times of Israel,
How does the Palestinian public regard this congress? With a great deal of indifference, and in some cases outright hostility. Fatah has not managed to improve its status or image in the public’s eyes over the past several years….
The gathered apparatchiks will elect members of the movement’s two most powerful bodies, the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council–but just reflect for a moment over those names, “Central Committee” and “Revolutionary Council.” The terms are relics of the movement’s pro-Soviet past and of its birth during the Cold War. And Fatah has completely failed to make the change to becoming a modern political party. The old Arafat machine remains a corrupt system dominated by a few aging figures, with Mahmoud Abbas, now 82–Palestinian Authority president, PLO chairman, and Fatah chairman–at the top.
Moreover, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are completely at odds with the Arab world’s most important governments, in part over Abbas’s banning of his rival Mohammed Dahlan. As Issacharoff wrote,
A severe, unprecedented crisis has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and the moderate Arab world. Abbas is close to cutting off relations with the Sunni Arab states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia first among them. Cairo stands behind Dahlan and encourages his various activities. Saudi Arabia has suspended its financial aid to the PA. The United Arab Emirates is giving Dahlan official protection, and Jordan could not care less about what happens in Ramallah.
My own conversations during a recent trip to the Gulf suggested that the Issacharoff analysis is on the mark. Abbas, despite his age, has no plans to lay down the reins–ever. The party congress next week will lead to more bitterness as those pushed aside revolt against their new and diminished status. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the PA-PLO-Fatah system is increasingly repressive, destroying freedom of the press and using the PA security forces against perceived enemies. Popular support, which has been low for years, continues to decline. As ABC News reported,
With the long-ruling Palestinian Fatah faction torn by rivalries, fierce shootouts between Palestinian security forces and Fatah-aligned gunmen have erupted in recent months, plunging the Balata [refugee] camp into unrest and lawlessness. The violence, much of it directed at a Fatah leadership seen as corrupt and out of touch, comes as the movement prepares to hold an overdue leadership conference at the end of the month and reflects a combustible power struggle….
During a recent conference in the Gulf, I listened to Americans, Europeans, and Arabs discuss the major problems of the Arab world: Iran’s growing power, the Russian role, the diminution of American strength and involvement under the 44th administration, the crisis in Syria…and not a word about the Palestinians. Correction: one word, from a BBC journalist who called the Palestinian issue a “core” issue for the region. Like Fatah’s leaders, she is living in the past.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Minds And Motives

There will come a time when our nation can fairly evaluate 43's strategy and record in fighting terrorism. Perhaps that time can start now. A new book by James Mitchell, a man who questioned 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed contains an extraordinary revelation. 

It turns out that those who believe that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. in order to draw us into an Afghan quagmire are wrong. Terrorists attacked America expecting that we’d respond as we traditionally had, by treating terrorism primarily as a law-enforcement problem, with the military response limited to cruise-missile attacks like 42’s ineffective 1998 strikes in response to the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Instead, 43 chose a different course.

Writing in the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen quotes from Mitchell’s account: “Then he [KSM] looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy 43 would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law-enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of 43's response.” 
Americans often ascribe superhuman levels of endurance and perseverance to our terrorist enemies. We believe terrorists scoff at losses and feel no fear. We think they relish dying, and the more they die, the more they inspire new recruits. We are convinced that they want to fight us, and when we do, we’re playing into their hands. But those of us who’ve deployed overseas know a different story.
 Terrorists are people, too. They panic, they feel fear, and most of them try to preserve their lives. They want to kill us, but they don’t necessarily want to fight. In my deployment, we captured five or six terrorists for every one we killed. Indeed, some of the terrorists who fought to the death only did so while high on drugs.

As 45 takes office, regardless of his existing views of American “entanglements” overseas, he must understand that under no circumstances should America’s terrorist enemies be permitted to create safe havens. For more than two years, 44 and the West allowed ISIS to build and maintain its caliphate, and while it is under siege now, the jihadists have done enormous damage. It is up to the new commander in chief to help a war-weary public understand that our enemy hopes we tire before they do. 
 Indeed, as Thiessen notes, our enemy is counting on our exhaustion. “In the end, he told Mitchell, ‘We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.’” Our enemy is human, but its leaders have the resolve to fight the long fight. In the United States, we don’t lack for young men and women who share that same determination. 
Jihadists can’t outlast the American warrior. Can they outlast the American public?