Tuesday, October 31, 2006

National Security Policy: September 2006

National Security Policy: September 2006

In reply to a post made on 9/01, this is a re-post of an earlier comment.

If by the question, “is China planning an Indian invasion?” you mean that they are planning to retake the disputed border territories, then I think the question wrongly assumes that the territory in question, Aksai Chin (阿克赛钦) meaning “desert of white stones”, is Indian in the first place. While the territory is currently controlled by the PRC, it is also claimed by India. It was this border dispute that began the Sino-Indian War of 1962. There are two major border disputes now between India and China, the roots of which can both be directly traced to British Colonization of the Indian Subcontinent. The British were pushing as far as they could to claim territory. Upon gaining its independence, the Indian government placed its borders at the furthest extent of British Colonial expansion. These borders have been disputed between the British Empire and Qing Dynasty for over a century. The line that is respected for practical purposes since the end of the Sino-Indian War is called the “Line of Actual Control”. Currently, the Aksai Chin dispute is not a border dispute that either the Indian or Chinese governments are considering fighting over.

If you mean however, do they plan to invade India proper, then I will respond first by saying that the Chinese have never in their history pushed expansion beyond the realm of what territory they consider to be innately and historically Chinese. Does the PLA have plans, installations, and personnel in place for the defense of its borders with India? Of course they do. Even a government with the best of peaceful intentions should be prepared for a conflict with any of its neighbors to ensure its own territorial sovereignty. However, thanks to the common sense of atomic peace, these two nuclear neighbors will in all probability never come to armed conflict again over this almost uninhabited “desert of white stones”.

If googlers want to be looking for Chinese military build up, they need to scroll down to the Fujian province. Since the end of the Cold War, the People’s Republic of China has been focusing the majority of its military build-up and modernization on a possible conflict with the United States in the South China Sea in a dispute over Taiwan. The only seriously considered plan for expansion on the desks of military strategists in Beijing is a move of the significant forces built up in the Fujian (福建) Province across the straights into Taiwan. Such a Chinese invasion, Beijing claims, would only happen if provoked by Washington or Taipei making any move towards Taiwanese Independence that would alter the regional status quo. It is no secret that the People’s Liberation Army conducts regular drills of marine invasions along in the South China Sea that often even include the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps (The PRC’s Strategic Conventional and Nuclear Missile Division).

9:06 PM

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Slow Sunday

While we're all recovering from our Fall Conference hangover (and possibly a Halloween party or two), I would recommend reading an article from the current New York Times Magazine. It does a great job talking about counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. It's a bit long, but hey, we gained an hour today so you have no excuse.

Also, Fareed Zakaria attempts to solve our problems in Iraq. He does make a good point about American strategic victories (Tal Afar) being overturned by Iraqi politics.

Trial and Terror

How long is it going to take to hang this sonovabitch? The Nuremburg Trials lasted from November 1945 to October 1946 and resulted in the conviction of almost 200 Nazi war criminals. Saddam and his seven codefendents have been on trial since October 2005, and if we get a verdict by early November as promised , we'll be right on schedule. This guy is absolutely no use to anyone alive. Even if we convince him to publicly call for a ceasefire and apologize for his crimes, no one will believe him. The US needs to ensure that the trial stays on schedule, before we can really begin to set a timetable for US troop withdrawals.

A conviction for Saddam would be good for the United States, at this point, to remind the Iraqi people why they are sitting in their country in the first place: to get Saddam and his co-bastards. It would add legitmacy to the US occupation. It would reestablish our role as "the good guys". It would help establish the US forces in Iraq as peacekeepers and not just occupiers. It would help legitimize the current Iraqi government by effectively removing all possibility of Saddam's return to power. It would make a great made-for-TV movie. Let Iraqis give Saddam a taste of Iraqi justice. And once that's done, do the same thing for Iraqi police officers accused of aiding or acting in the death squads. It wouldn't hurt troop morale or domestic support either.

What's more, Iran would be happy if we were to hasten Saddam's reunion with Allah. There's little love in those Persian hearts for the man behind the Iran-Iraq war. If we have to use Saddam's blood to oil the wheels of diplomacy, so be it. Heck if it was possible I would say we should auction off his head to raise money for the war effort.

Right now, the trial serves only as an incentive for the insurgency and ressistance, as well as a huge discredit to American power. Regardless of what model you want to use for Iraq - reconstruction in Germany or peacekeeping in the Balkans - you have to see the importance of neutralizing Saddam. Removing the Nazis or Slobodan Milosovic was not enough, and there is no denying that their trials were 100% legitimate.

Best of all, this is a battle we can actually win. Stick to the schedule, keep the lawyers alive, make sure the verdict he gets is life or capital punishment, and get the whole thing on TV for the Arab world to see. A victory for Iraqis, carried out by Iraqis: with a little encouragement from the US, of course.

Yeah, that's about right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

And the Walls come tumbling down...wait, stop!

Check this out....The French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, declared last week he has changed his opinion on Israel’s controversial separation barrier in light of its drastic effect on terror, forcing French authorities to clarify their position on the issue.

The barrier, which separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel, has garnered much criticism for creating a ghetto-style situation for the Palestinians and for allegedly appropriating Palestinian land on the Israeli side.

But although the French government has been critical of it since the start of its construction four years ago, Douste-Blazy has now reversed the feeling.

“I have significantly evolved on the matter of the separation fence” said Douste-Blazy on French Jewish television TFJ on Thursday. “Although the wall was a moral and ethical problem for me, when I realised terror attacks were reduced by 80 percent in the areas where the wall was erected, I understood I didn’t have the right to think that way.”

Mon Dieu. Color me Chirac! Maybe they'll erect a wall around the Parisian ghetto's to keep the ethnic arsonists away from the rest of the peaceful populace. They should take steps to integrate them more, but that's another topic. Hey France...check out what China's doing over yonder along the N. Korean border....no surprise, it's a fence.

fight for your right to par-tition

The partitioning of Iraq would be a terrible idea - and that's what makes it so great if the US is looking for an effective strategy to force the international community to become more active in managing Iraq, and to lessen their own burden of occupation. That the Bush administration has publicly ruled it out has nothing to do with whether or not it's still seriously on the table. In the worst case scenario, partitioning Iraq would force Iran to lay their cards on the table - a partitioned Iraq would be the best and only serious chance to grab Shiite-held territory. The same would go for Turkey and the Kurdish factions. To top it all off, it would be the EU and the UN who would be compelled to step in and try to manage the various sections - it could be like the World War II Occupation Class of 1945 reunion with the US, Britain, France and Russia. Nothing whets the international diplomatic community's appetite like the possibility of drawing borders, mandating behavior and ceasefires violating a nation's sovereignty to bring about peace. Let other people go in and draw the ire of Jihadis and the other friendly neighborhood militants. We will hold and secure American section - and we'll pick the best and friendliest one of course - and then we'll see who can best keep the peace. Relieve US forces of the burden of trying to manage the whole country. Let's take one section, put everything we have in it, and let the other parts of Iraq compare life under the Islamists and other incompetent fanatics. Heck we could even make it some form of "Big Brother". Every 6 months, the occupying nations take votes to see who has to pack up and leave Iraq.

This would also be an interesting way to stimulate the creation of an active, Iraqi identity. After all, nothing makes you think more about who you are, as a people, until someone tries to take that identity away from you.

If nothing else, keep in mind that there is now a new UN Secretary General - Ban Ki-moon - and there will soon be a new US president. Even Putin will eventually step down from power, in theory. Who's to say they won't reconsider partitioning? And who's to say it really won't work out?

Well, besides common sense. But whose common sense?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Riding the Straight Talk Express Directly to BullSh*t Town

I like MSNBC's Hardball alright. I like how its host, Chris Matthews, tries to be nonpartisan most of the time, which makes up for his really dumb moments. For me, its a welcome change from the bombastic, fiercly partisan talking heads that are on all the other shows. So anyway, I tuned in last week and caught John McCain's interview.

A question was asked by a Iowa State student about having gays in the military. McCain said, "When generals come to me and say its time, then it'll be time (to have gays in the military)." He was worried about what having gays in the military would do to the military's effectiveness. Forget the political traingulation that McCain has overused as of late and just know that I think this view is malarkey.

Does McCain think that the Israeli and British militaries are inefficient? Because they both allow gays to serve openly in their ranks. How many gays have been kicked out of the military since 9/11 who were fluent in Arabic, Urdu, Pastun, and Dari because of their sexual preference? I'd say a quick Google search that I'm too lazy for would reveal close to one hundred. Also, as one of my favorite West Wing characters once said, "Will gays disrupt the military? Probably, but they would have said the same thing about me 50 years ago." How can this party be for a stout national defense and at the same time fire people who want to serve in a military that's seen its enrollment numbers down and who are fluent in strategically important languages?

In other unrelated news, it would appear that Karl Rove's "October Suprise" is to admit that the Iraq policy is a complete failure. I guess, one, Bin Laden wasn't available; and two, setting a time table is no longer a bad thing. It's almost comical in a really, really tragic way.

Monday, October 23, 2006

And what does that make us?

Last week, we read the following from Drozdiak:

"Over the past eight years, Americans invested twice as much in the Netherlands as in Mexico and ten times as much as in China. During that time, Europeans invested more in Texas than Americans did in Japan."

It reminded me of a classic bit of non sequitur from Mel Brooks' Spaceballs. So, for purely academic reasons, examine the cool, analytical reasoning of Dark Helmet.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Divided We Stand II

For more on the topic of partitioning Iraq including James Baker's views, check out this BBC story.

Divided We Stand

The options presented in this week’s reading regarding the options for continued U.S action in Iraq all have valid points. However, even the panelists seem to agree that none of their solutions are perfect. There are no options without downsides. A combination of some of the panelists’ ideas may be useful.
First, the idea of dividing Iraq into federalist states, as suggested by Gelb and enhanced by Diamond, is intriguing. One of the most significant benefits of such an action would be the possibility that each ethnic group would have (eventually) clearly defined and democratically elected government representatives. This would greatly enhance the ability to negotiate diplomatically among the groups rather than militarily.
Second, Christopher Hitchens proposes briefly the idea of having the Iraqis utilize their newfound democracy to determine what should be done. It seems only logical that before the U.S. decides to take any nationally defining actions, the decision should be put to the people, especially in light of the long term goal of promoting democracy. To combine this with the idea in the previous paragraph, my suggestion is to first provide Iraqis with the opportunity to decide whether to divide the nation into federalist states based on ethnic background. I’m not sure the Iraqis would choose to be divided. It would require a clear and reliable description of the benefits to each group. Assuming the Iraqis agreed, diplomatic negotiations would be much more readily available to work out the necessary compromises on oil revenues, etc.
There is one other point I’d like to make about the forums. There seems to be somewhat of a consensus that some form of withdrawal may be the “least-bad” of all the options. This may not be so. One historical reference the participants do not bring up is another “regime change” the U.S. initiated in the Middle East – the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. Leaving Iraq in a state of disaster with very little hope of becoming a viable nation would be what the Iraqis and many other Muslims would remember as their generation’s impression of the U.S., just as the Iranians saw their plight as the result of U.S. meddling. Would it not be better to at least attempt a resolution? The weakness in this argument is that, perhaps, no matter what the U.S. does at this point, it will be interpreted negatively by the Iraqis. I’m interested in the rest of the bloggers’ thoughts on this analogy.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Our Eastern European Amigos - Jak się masz?

In class this past week we discussed the relationships that various European states have with the United States. Of course, Poland and the United Kingdom are our close and trusted friends while there had been somewhat of a falling-out with most other European states. That is, except for the former Soviet states. This raised questions in my mind and I will try to flesh out these ideas here and hopefully input from others will help my understanding.

Now, according to our discussion, the former Soviet states are friendly to the United States, despite the fact that they are both geographically and culturally more predisposed to side with the traditional European powers. Could it be that they are seeking something from us? Just maybe?

Perhaps our soft power is attracting them? For this to be true, our cultural attractiveness would have to have complete primacy in their eyes. That is to say, it would have to be much more predominant than that of Western Europe, which is arguably more accessible to them. In his recent book about soft power as means to success in international politics, Joseph Nye Gives many indications that while American fast food and blue jeans are quite popular globally, Europe has many other sources of soft power that are equally as attractive as those of the United States. So, I think that we can rule out the attractiveness of the United States as a reason for their interest.

Instead, I think that the reason why they want to ingratiate themselves with us is that we have something to offer them militarily. This, of course, is the explanation that most people would point to right away anyway. However, with my inquisitive mind I couldn’t rule out soft power without a discussion (albeit brief) of this possibility. I like that idea, being the peace loving person that I am, but the military reasons are much more realistic. My inquiry, then, is what makes them interested. Do they want us to admit them to NATO? Do they seek advancement and credibility through association with us? Or are they simply motivated by their moral instincts?

Afghan Rednecks
Attack with a AT-3 Sagger

This is also pretty sweet.
IDF Special Ops Raid

Instead of weapons, I think they were looking for Ryan Burnette. He seems like a terrorist...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've Got a Fever ... And the Only Prescription is More Kagan

Appropriately enough after class today, this week's New Republic Cover Story is a fascinating article entitled "Cowboy Diplomacy: Against the Myth of American Innocence" by, you got it, Robert Kagan.

Kagan's central observation is that while today's debate over the posture and reach of American foreign policy (essentially, how idealistic and interventionist should we be abroad), it is rather off on its history. That is amidst the talk of about America's need to take a step back from current empirical tendency, we conveniently ignore the fact there's not much to step back from, as the reality is (at least more than we might like to think):

"American's expansionist, intrusiveness, and tendency towards political, economic, and strategic dominance are not some aberration from our true nature. That is our nature."

Kagan presents a fascinating, albeit carefully crafted, picture of American history in which Presidents have long sounded quite a bit like George W. Bush and current concerns about American power around the world are just building upon worries developed centuries ago:

Concerns of European Diplomatics in the Early 19th Century:

"Since the Americans have acquired Louisiana, they appear unable to bear any barriers round them."

Americans are "numerous," "warlike," and an "enemy to be feared."

"The universal feeling of Europe in witnessing the gigantic growth of [America's] population and power is that we shall, if united, become a very dangerous member of the society of all nations."

Kagan goes on to tie this historical tendancy towards American power (both in how we view ourselves and how we are viewed by the rest of the world) as sort of a dual product of the unique liberal roots of the American product (the Declaration of Independence as the greatest treatise of American power, more than either Washington's farewell address or the Monroe Doctrine) and the unique manner in which Americans came to become so quickly to enormous global influence and power. That is, American ideals started out bigger than any nation in the history in the world, and those ideals only grew with our power, which gave us unparalleled ability to act upon those ideas.

Anyway, a very interesting article I would commend to any of you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Diplomacy and Sheer Brutality

In response to Gus Van Rant's "Vive la difference", can one simply come to the conclusion the Axis of Evil report card has failed simply because it is not looking too good at the moment? And as for his offer of a new approach - the use of non-aggresion pacts - don't he really think this is something new? What does he say of the EU's exhaustive attempt to persuade Iran which, by the way, failed?

Now, since he used the case of Libya to make his point, let us take a closer look at what happened to Muammar al-Gaddafi shortly after the invasion of Iraq. Many are unwilling to remember this important detail but shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, al-Gaddafi came out of hiding to announce that his nation did indeed have an active weapons of mass destruction program, and that he was willing to allow international inspectors into his country. We can all speculate on why he choose to make that declaration at that specific time, but some credit must be given to Axis of Evil report card.

One last thing; unlike many who not even dare mention the idea of military force, I would like to suggest that diplomacy coupled with sheer brutality isn't a bad idea at all. In the words of William Drodziak: "U.S and European assets are complementary. Europe penchant for offering diplomatic incentives should be combined with America's tendency to threaten with military force."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vive la Difference

The Axis of Evil report card isn't looking too good nowadays. Maybe, just maybe, we need a new approach. Instead of threatning regime change at nefarious governments, we should offer non-aggression pacts, and in return they would give up seeking nuclear arsenals.

Libya is very instructional in this matter. In exchange of acknowledging the terrorism it sponsored in the 80s, compensating the families of Libya's violence, and giving up aspirations for WMDs, Libyan leadership was guaranteed that regime change would not happen. Also, normalization of relations were guaranteed in the long term.

The US should stop seeing its messaniac mission in the 21st century as one of regime busters.

Kaplan writes about the current North Korea dilemma in this month's Atlantic Monthly. The most interesting part:

"One of Kim’s main goals in so aggressively displaying North Korea’s missile capacity is to compel the United States to deal directly with him, thereby making his otherwise weakening state seem stronger. And the stronger Pyongyang appears to be, the better off it is in its crucial dealings with Beijing, which are what really matter to Kim. "

Kim is more worried about China's historical claims to the Korean Pennisula than from an American attack. Interesting thought...


Sunday, October 15, 2006

What Now?

Having now found radioactive nuclear material in air samples taken from above the region where the supposed nuclear test took place, there is no question that North Korea did indeed detonate a nuclear bomb. At this point action must be taken to not only ensure U.S. legitimacy but to also secure a safer world. As would be hoped, diplomacy has taken a front seat in the United States plan for dealing with the problem.
In the current version of the Security Council resolution denouncing North Korea several different measures have been proposed. First, the document said that the “DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching.” The country also must “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” Also, “Pyongyang must further abide by the NPT and IAEA Safeguards Agreements and provide the Agency “transparency measures extending beyond these requirements, including such access to individuals, documentation, equipments and facilities.” Furthermore the DPRK must “abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”
Although this document appears to be headed down the right track several problems involving China and Russia have arisen. The terms of the resolution have already been softened three times this week to meet objections from China and Russia. As can be seen by the recent test current sanctions by the United States and the world community are obviously not achieving the desired effect. So what is to be done if China and Russia do not join the process soon? Is it time to turn away from sections and other coercive diplomatic measures and instead turn to a military option? I personally do not believe that we have reached this point of no return, but without help from China and Russia this time is soon approaching. The question to leave with I guess would be how long should the United States wait?

What's the use of having such a superb military...

DPRK propaganda video

The latest sanctions imposed upon the DPRK are merely another indicator that the UN is a feckless, antiquated, vestigial, gathering of tricotteuses. Are you people kidding me? Sanctions? Since it worked wonders in halting him from developing the first batch, let’s keep trying! I honestly ask you, my good readers: what’s left for the DPRK to import? Further, what does this situation say about American credibility?

We invaded Iraq under the assumption that Saddam had (or was developing) nukes, we continue to avoid Iran like a public toilet on a Peter Pan bus, and then we ask the world to stop giving Kim Jong Il spare parts for his new nukes. Anyone see a logical disjoint here? The lesson, time and again, is that rogue states should develop nukes as quickly as possible because they ARE an effective deterrent to the US. We see a state with nukes and suddenly we act like a high-school freshman asking a cheerleader to the dance. How dare we.

Not that it's going to accomplish anything, but we should keep pushing the UN to fight. So long as they do what we want, I can tolerate them; otherwise, we can put them out to pasture at the same farm where the League of Nations stays. Maybe they’ll surprise us.

I don’t care if it’s a cry for help and I don’t care if it would destabilize his regime: the cool part of being a hegemony is that you don’t have to tolerate something that annoys you-- not so long as you have an aircraft carrier group within 1000 miles. The DPRK possessing nukes is simply unacceptable to America. Yeah, I know we can’t make Iraq a democracy, and I know that the world doesn’t like us, and I know that gas costs too much, but I can assure that we can beat the crap out of Kim and take his nukes away.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bridging the Atlantic...

I got a jumpstart on the reading this week and want to point out a few things from Gordon's Bridging the Atlantic Divide article. While I personally feel that we need strong transatlantic relations and agree with him, I think he could have a more convincing argument.

Gordon gives strong examples showing our (US, EU) different attitudes toward sovereignty, military force and power. You begin to see where the differences may well be irreconcilable.

So where do the two agree? Well, 71% of Americans consider global warming a serious problem. And a clear majority believe we should join the EU in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol." Um, ok. How could we NOT agree that global warming is a serious problem? The North Koreans probably agree that global warming is a problem. So maybe I'm being harsh. I do understand that he is trying to illustrate that the general American and European public share similar public attitudes. But I believe most of the globe shares the same public attitudes on global warming and government required labeling.

In the following paragraph, he discusses European support for US military action in Afghanistan. In October 2001. Most of the world understood our emotions and actions less than one month after 9/11. And while maybe not all openly supported us like the EU (several, however, did) few were condemning our actions.

It seems to me we agree on the small things but disagree on a larger scale. That could be a problem.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Commander Van Rant-

Well spoken and well argued. I freely yield that the US military comprises a wildly badass team in the classic spirit of the spread-gun from Contra on NES. I celebrate both. I’m not entirely certain how you differ from me other than degree of change we would prefer. I assert that the US should maintain massive dominance in conventional forces while placing much less onus on counter-insurgency. I should have spelled out my rationale further, but it didn’t seem pertinent. In order to understand why we should remain on-track, I think it may be instructive to consider US grand strategy from slightly higher altitude.

What is the mission of the US military? The easy answer is, of course, to defend America from all enemies foreign and domestic. Fair enough, but how does that play out in our present world? Aside from fighting, one of the primary taskings of the military is to project force and deter potential enemies. Our competitor’s strategies should be countered with our own strategies achieved through mutual use of military tactics. It is vital to note that counter-insurgency is a tactic, not a strategy.

Can a counter-insurgency (CI) force deter foes from using insurgent tactics? CI’s theoretical cousin, special operations (SpecOps) forces, have become ‘scary’ in recent years, but how much they deter is a question of great debate. Traditionally, deterrence comes from both conventional forces as well as nuclear arms. Nukes and tanks deter states and their goals while CI and SpecOps are designed to deal with extremely precise, very limited objectives. The more limited the objective, the less deterrence yielded.

The US has only fought three sustained insurgencies: the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Iraq. Compare this to the number of uses of traditional military forces, which I believe numbers over 200 (though most of the instances were very brief, they were, nevertheless, uses of conventional military forces). Is this worth retooling? How many insurgencies do we need to prepare for? If the US, as I think you rightly suggest, has too many conventional forces, why not simply cut spending instead of creating a new branch?

Because creating a CI force is both minimally-effective in theory and because America has such a rare need for them, CI should be viewed as a temporary tasking for the regular military rather than a complete mission for a new fighting force, If the soul of your argument is that the US is misallocating funds that could be better spent on CI, then I would argue that CI is a highly limited and ultimately unfruitful endeavor. Do we really want all the consequences that come from creating an American Foreign Legion?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rebuttal (Sorry To Do This To Everyone)

My argument (which in retrospect isn’t as comprehensive as it should be) is that any foe we fight no matter the size, skill, etc. will fight us asymmetrically because of our vast military superiority in conventional terms.

I do presuppose that the US will continue to fight Iraq-style conflicts, because of our superior power, hence, there is a long term reason to retool. The feelings of the American public is irrelevant since they won’t be the ones who decide how to fight off an American attack, our foes will; and my post was not about the likelihood of a Sino-American war, just what it would look like.

Also, you say:

“Because most of us agree that maintaining a strong degree of superiority is a good thing, this retooling is wholly undesirable.”

I don’t believe that the US superiority will be threatened at all if the military decides to change its procurement policies for asymmetric warfare. We are actually that superior. Examples: In 2003, U.S. defense spending was greater than the next 15 countries combined. The U.S. also spends more on R&D than Germany and the United Kingdom spend on defense in total (Brooks and Wohlforth reading). China’s own intelligence agency has estimated that by 2020 the country will possess between slightly more than a third and slightly more than half of U.S. capabilities (technology, military, and geographic). Fifty percent of China's labor force is employed in agriculture, and relatively little of its economy is geared toward high technology (again, Brooks and Wohlforth reading).

More examples of conventional superiority: the fiscal year 2007 military budget imposes no cuts on the Air Force and Navy's Joint Strike Fighter program (a total of 2,443 planes over the next several years). It slightly boosts the number of F-22 stealth fighter planes to be built by 2010 from 178 to 183 (at the combined cost of $9 billion) when we already have over 100 stealth fighters that no one seems capable of shooting down . The Navy wants the SSN-774 Virginia-class nuclear submarine, which costs $2.6 billion per submarine, even though we currently have 60 nuclear subs patrolling the oceans. The QDR also states that the Navy plans to produce two new submarines every year, a rate of production not seen since the Cold War. The Navy is also lobbying for the CVN-21 aircraft carrier ($1.1 billion) and the DD(X) destroyer ($3.4 billion), even though we have 12 aircraft-carrier strike groups, and more deck space than any of the other world’s navies combined. So how many aircraft-carrier groups is enough? The Navy often cites China as a reason for their new weapon systems, but China only has two old Soviet aircraft carriers, and they are both currently used as floating museums.

In short, we kick ass; but do we still want to procure as if we're planning to fight the Soviets on the central plains of Europe?

If after 20-30 years the US has pursued solely asymmetric warfare procurement, at that point other countries may have started to catch up, and conventional warfare will be realistic again, but this is hardly, “Retooling to fight the exceptions to the rules.” For at least the next few decades, if you fight the US, asymmetric warfare will BE the norm. After several decades if the military does need to start waging conventional warfare I don't think a transition back will be a problem. Conventional warfare is too much a part of the military's institutional memory. Lastly, we have a robust nuclear deterrent, so I don’t think American territory will ever be threatened if we were to pursue asymmetric procurement policies.

In Contra "You Say You Want A Revolution. Well..."

Commander Van Rant-

I do agree with you to the extent that we could feasibly retask our militaries to meet the threat of Islamism and China, but that would involve a few implicit assumptions on our part.

To wit: retooling to fight insurgency presupposes that the US will continue to become embroiled in Iraq-style conflicts, retooling also assumes that China would not fight conventionally in a war with the US (it sounds like that’s built into your supposition, unless I’m mistaken), retooling presumes that the US would still be reasonably unassailable even with its leaner & meaner anti-Islamism/China forces, that the US can/should prepare for any of these scenarios, and most importantly that the US’s maintenance of a vastly superior military force to the rest of the world is desirable.

The willingness of the American people to participate in more insurgencies, especially in majority-Muslim states, is highly questionable as is conflict with China. More important is the numeric superiority held by the US. Our forces seem to be the strongest in the world precisely because other countries see the entrance cost of an arms race with the US as undesirable. Our superiority is owed as much to keeping the cost of serious competition high as it does military doctrine and so forth. This arms race, in no small way, helped bring down the Soviets; they simply couldn’t keep up with our pocketbooks. As for the status of our forces with an anti-Islamism/China specialization, what happens to the rest of the world? If they don’t switch over with us, they find themselves in a better position to compete with us. Because most of us agree that maintaining a strong degree of superiority is a good thing, this retooling is wholly undesirable.

One of my past military history professors explained military tasking this way: the president will ask the military for a screwdriver; the military decides whether he’s handed a Phillips or a flathead. To retool for Islamism and China means handing the president a Torx-head screwdriver; those are worthless in 95% of all wars. Retooling to fight the exceptions to the rules is unwise; long-term security still rests with conventional arms. If the US cannot fight insurgency with the degree of ease it desires, perhaps it is time to consider leaving the insurgency business altogether.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You Say You Want A Revolution. Well...

There is an article in NY Times today that says that the Army is going to focus more on guerilla warfare, state-building, and peacekeeping for future conflicts. To make a long story short, the Army recognizes that it needs to address how to combat asymmetric warfare:

"The new doctrine is part of a broader effort to change the culture of a military that has long promoted the virtues of using firepower and battlefield maneuvers in swift, decisive operations against a conventional enemy. "

However, this is not enough. The culture of all three branches of the military has to change. Let me explain.

The US military is the finest war machine this planet has ever known. There is not a single foreign military that could defeat us in a conventional military throw down. While there may be some instances when the enemy has greater preponderance (number of fighters), they will rarely-if ever-have greater technology or force employment (fighting efficiency). Because the US military is proficient in all these areas, I don't see any instance in which the US would not triumph in a prolonged conventional war.

Other militaries are aware of this, so none of them will ever fight us in conventional terms. Imagine countries with sizeable militaries like China, Russia, or North Korea. At the beginning of the war, they might try to take us on, but they would soon realize that asymmetric warfare will be the only way to beat us. China even has a name for this "Shashoujian". China has an official doctrine that trys to "neutralize the advantages of a superior, more modern, military force so that the battle can occur on a lower technology battlefield."

My point to all of this is that the US's defense spending must start to mirror our reality. We don't need to be spending money on the F-22 stealth figher jets, the Future Combat System, the V-22, the DDx, or littoral combat ships. These weapon systems aren't going to help us wage asymmetric warfare. The Defense Department's QDR even states that the biggest future threats to the US are Islamic extremism and China. Neither of those potential conflicts will be conventional.

If nothing else, our military leaders can at least start watching Battlestar Galatica and study how the Cylons combat a peer competitor to prepare for future combat.

The Way to Win in 2008... Then What?

An article in today's online Washington Post discusses the book The Way to Win in 2008 which outlines the "Trade Secrets" of modern politics. The book states that the long reigns of the Bush and Clinton families are no accident and that these groups knew the tried and true principles. The first is to rigorously study the successes and failures of your party before running and those of the adminsitration that preceded you. Wow. That's really insightful. And I thought you just woke up one morning and decided to be president. I am curious as to what other advice this novel gives. Anyways- off the topic.

In extension of class today a couple of thoughts:

North Korea: We know they have nukes. Unlike some past precedents we have set against unallied states, we have not invaded. At what point do we invade? And, what happens if they launch a nuclear missile at one of their neighboring nations. Do we step in or do we let them work it out on their own? Do we send an army or nuke back?

As for Podhoretz: He claims that we need to go big or go home. Well, just go big. I understand he believes that a more forceful policy would have deterred some previous attacks. But the US engaged in a pretty specific and determined foreign policy post 9/11 which did not deter the group of terrorists our intelligence just caught a few months ago. These hijackers were not deterred by our foreign policy, admittedly more forceful than in the past. What does he say about this?

Back to my initial comment on the book. What happens in 2008 when the administration changes? Republican or Democrat? Both are likely to do some restructuring, albeit one more than the other. When this happens what are we saying to terrorist organizations? Dr. Farley's analysis on weakness was really interesting, but it kind of sucks for us. If we can't change opinions of our actions why bother changing the actions? Let's just get something and stick with it. It's a bold statement, sure. But, while still perceived as weak we would at least be consistent. We would have an unwavering grand strategy and the world would always know where we stand. If you invade Iraq under suspicion it makes no sense to let N. Korea gloat in your face. Let's start today. Or possibly 2008 depending on your political affiliation.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Slight Modifications


The syllabus has been altered slightly (the changes may not have been uploaded yet, but will be soon) to solve the problem of some broken links and also to remove the Cerny reading from this week's list. The reason for the latter, of course, is that we read the Cerny in week three.