17 July 2018

When We Raised Taxes to Fund Wars


On Saturday, July 7, Army Corporal Joseph Maciel was killed in Afghanistan during an attack at the Tarin Kowt airfield in Uruzgan province. He was 20 years old, meaning that when the war began in October 2001, he was a toddler. You can be forgiven for not having noticed Maciel’s death, as media coverage of America’s presence in Afghanistan is fairly hard to come by. The Afghanistan war has held the moniker of “the forgotten war” for more than a decade now, having originally been presented with the honor as all eyes turned to Iraq during the mid-2000s. It received somewhat renewed attention last August when President Trump announced a new strategy for the war. But the spectacle that is the Trump presidency, combined with the sheer length of the conflict, has again relegated it to the back of America’s consciousness. A recent Pentagon press briefing on Afghanistan was attended by fewer than 10 journalists.

Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to take over Afghan war

by Justin Wise 
Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater, is making a new pitch for his proposal to turn U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan over to mercenaries. Price promoted the plan in a YouTube video released Tuesday that coincided with the recent NATO summit in Belgium. “The Pentagon does what it does and wanted to keep doing the same thing it has done for the last 17 years,” Prince said in the video. He said CIA officers and 6,000 mercenaries should take charge in the conflict. Prince also said that President Trump has “stayed the course” in Afghanistan so far and that continuing a conventional war in the region is “reckless and it’s irresponsible.”

What can we expect in China in 2018?

By Gordon Orr

The nation could be shaped by geopolitics, momentum from robust economic growth, and a host of new leaders eager to implement new policy. With so many new leaders put in position over the last six months by President Xi, an overall leader secure in his position and clear on his objectives, 2018 is likely to see much more activity to implement policies, economic and social, that move China in the direction that Xi wants. We may need to worry more about overenthusiastic implementation of policy than the inaction we have often seen in 2017.

China's Game Plan to Ease Out US- Suceeding?

By Dr Subhash Kapila

China for decades has chafed at the overwhelming geopolitical and military predominance that the United States had superimposed in the Western Pacific at China’s doorsteps. China for decades has employed various geopolitical and military stratagems to prompt the exit of the United States from the Western Pacific. In 2018, China seems to be succeeding in this aim. Post-World War II victories the United States crafted security architecture in the Western Pacific comprising bilateral military alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and supplemented by placing US Forward Military Presence the Cold War manifestations as in Europe, in terms of thousands of US Military Forces at major military bases in these countries. Even in 2018, with the exception of the Philippines, the security architecture so crafted has survived.

Reeducation Returns to China

By Adrian Zenz

In recent months, troubling details have emerged about a sprawling network of secretive political reeducation camps in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang. Both official and leaked evidence indicates that up to one million Muslims, chiefly from the Uighur minority, have been interned without legal proceedings. Ex-internees describe vast facilities that can hold nearly 6,000 persons and are heavily secured with barbed wire, surveillance systems, and armed police. Government tenders confirm these reports and provide detailed insights into the sizes and features of reeducation facilities throughout the region. Those interned are subject to intense indoctrination procedures that force them to proclaim “faith” in the Chinese Communist Party while denigrating large parts of their own religion and culture.

China, the U.S. and the Race for Space

the universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island. If we don’t go there now even though we’re capable of doing so, then we will be blamed by our descendants. If others go there, then they will take over, and you won’t be able to go even if you want to. This is reason enough. His reference to the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) and Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) suggests that China sees space in terms of astrostrategic terrain: the moon and Mars are places of astropolitical importance, rather than simply the focus of scientific exploration. Just as China sees control of the ‘first island chain’ in East Asia as vital to its maritime security, Ye’s comment suggests that these high grounds in space will bear directly on Chinese strategic interests in the coming decades.

Chinese Cyber-Spy Hackers Target Cambodia as Elections Loom

Chinese cyber spies have targeted Cambodian government institutions, opposition party members, diplomats and media, possibly to gather information ahead of elections later this month, according to cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc.  The hacks are suspected to come from a Chinese cyber espionage group known as TEMP.Periscope, according to a report by FireEye, which had previously linked the same group to attacks on targets including U.S. engineering and defense companies with interests in the South China Sea, a key transport waterway that China claims mostly for itself. The attacks come as Asia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen seeks re-election on July 29 in a campaign bereft of an effective opposition since the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha last year over accusations that he plotted with the U.S. to overthrow the government.

China Pursuing Dominance of Northern Sea Route

By: Paul Goble

In January 2018, Beijing issued a White Paper on its strategic approach to the Northern Sea Route (NSR). The document notes China wants to take advantage of this shortcut to Europe and the possibilities it opens for extracting natural resources from the Arctic seabed as a result of global climate change. At the same time, the White Paper stresses that China will pursue these objectives by cooperating closely with the Russian Federation and other Arctic powers (Xinhua, January 26). But China’s actions both before and especially since that date suggest that it is actually seeking not equality with others in the global frozen North, but rather a dominant position. And this prospect has already prompted some Russian commentators to suggest China wants to reduce Russia to the status of “a younger brother” in the Arctic (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 29; IA REX, July 12).

Huawei’s Smart Cities and CCP Influence, At Home and Abroad

By: Matt Schrader
What do international espionage concerns, a Chinese truckers’ strike, and the smart cities of the future all have in common? All are part of the story of how the commercial ambitions of Huawei—one of the PRC’s leading developers of high-tech electronics and telecommunications equipment—could be leveraged by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to protect its wealth and prerogatives at home, and extend its surveillance reach abroad.

21st-Century Strike Breaking

On June 8, truck drivers at locations across China began a loosely coordinated national strike (China Labour Bulletin, June 11). The CCP immediately banned any mention of the strike by social or traditional media (China Digital Times, June 12).

Hard Edges of China’s Soft Power Projection Meeting Increasing Resistance

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

CCP General Secretary speaks next to Tung Chee-Hwa, head of the China United States Exchange Foundation and current Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a key PRC political advisory body. The hard edges of China’s global soft power projection have been put under the microscope in a June 19 White House document entitled How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World. The 35-page statement, attributed to White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, accuses the Chinese party-and-state apparatus of using spies, hackers, state-owned enterprises, front companies, as well as ethnic Chinese scholars and students resident in the US to “threaten the technologies and intellectual property of the United States and the world.” The paper asserts that the People’s Liberation Army and state-security units have dispatched personnel (including scholars and students) numbering in the tens of thousands to the US and other countries so as to “access the crown jewels of American technology and intellectual property” 

Global Religion and the United Front: The Case of Mongolia

‘Sinified’ religion has a role to play in Xi’s elevation of the United Front (UF) into a foreign policy tool. Informed by Qing imperial policy, CCP voices highlight the potential of state-managed Buddhism to advance PRC policy in Mongolia, where it has become a salient component of UF activity. Attention has been paid to the ongoing Jebtsundamba Khutugtu succession process, a sensitive issue, as it is perceived as a challenge the CCP’s neo-imperial reincarnation management system, which will undergo a major test when it comes to the selection of the next Dalai Lama reincarnation.

Oil Geopolitics and Iran’s Response

by Amy Myers Jaffe

At first glance, last week’s Vienna Group meeting—that is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plus non-OPEC producers including Russia—seemed to have resolved some thorny issues. The producer group confidently announced it would increase oil production to stabilize the global oil market. Iran, which had previously threatened to boycott any agreement in protest, appeared to acquiesce to the joint OPEC production increase communique. That may have seemed like a win for the Trump administration, which had hoped to box Iran in to the negotiating table on a host of issues, including conflict resolution in Yemen and Syria, when it cancelled the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports. Iran had suggested OPEC take a more strident stance on the U.S. policy. Not unexpectedly, U.S. Gulf allies, under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets and back door diplomacy, offered a moderate approach, which will include significant production increases by Saudi Arabia, among others.

The Surprising Promise of the Trump-Putin Summit

By Michael Kimmage

Historic U.S.-Russian meetings tend to occur outside of Washington and Moscow. Franklin Delano Roosevelt first encountered Joseph Stalin in Tehran. At the end of World War II, they met again at Yalta, a name that would thereafter signify Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Harry Truman’s one and only meeting with Stalin was in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin. John F. Kennedy had a shaky meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Geneva, while Ronald Reagan had a memorable collision with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

Russia continues to sow discord, US warns

By: Justin Lynch 

Russia continues to conduct an information warfare campaign in the United States, a top Department of Homeland Security official told lawmakers, raising concerns about foreign influence just months before the 2018 midterm elections. Christopher Krebs, under secretary for national protection , testified before Congress July 11 that the Russian government has “focused on identifying divisive issues and sowing discord” in the United States through a campaign of information warfare. Krebs said the department was confident that a Russian campaign to target American critical infrastructure “is still ongoing” and that Russian agents “are actively pursuing their ultimate long-term campaign objectives.”

Putin: The one-man show the West doesn’t understand

By Fiona Hill

This assessment of Russian President Vadimir Putin was written by Fiona Hill, at the time a senior fellow and director of the Center for the United States and Europe at The Brookings Institution; it was originally published in April 2016. Approximately a year later, Hill joined the Trump administration as the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council staff. Her research on and views of the Russian president seem especially relevant now, in the run up to the Helsinki meeting between Putin and Trump scheduled for July 16. 

— John Mecklin, editor in chief 

What Putin wants in Helsinki

Alina Polyakova
Source Link

The highly anticipated meeting in Helsinki comes on the heels of the NATO summit in Brussels, where President Trump quickly struck a confrontational tone with allies. He has lambasted NATO allies for not paying enough for collective defense and for supposedly taking advantage of the United States, singling out Germany as the worst offender. While President Trump did reaffirm U.S. commitment to the alliance at the end and signed onto the joint communiqué, the mood in Brussels was tense. European allies are now nervously anticipating the Trump-Putin summit, which is likely to be a cordial or even glowing meeting, to see if the U.S. president reneges on his commitments to the Allies.

Trump’s NATO


Not this time around. After the international press and most leaders (probably excluding German Chancellor Angela Merkel) concluded that day one of the summit could have turned out much worse, they assumed that day two would be a shoo-in.

Forget it.

As soon as the meeting with Georgian and Ukrainian leaders began, Trump let rip. He singled out Germany, Spain, and the Benelux countries for falling way behind in meeting the NATO pledge to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. The Georgian and Ukrainian delegations were asked to leave the conference room. An emergency meeting of leaders was called by NATO’s secretary general. There, Trump didn’t mince his words, as he told a packed press conference at the end of the summit.

The Russians Living In Our Heads


Generally, though, I side with Michael Brendan Dougherty, re-upped this morning his March column declaring that we Americans, to our detriment, cannot seem to regard Russia as if it were a normal country. MBD writes about the bad things Russia has done recently, but adds this second narrative: Russia withdrew peacefully from 700,000 square miles of Europe and Eurasia at the end of the Cold War. Boris Yeltsin’s government, claiming to act on the advice of Western policymakers who counseled “shock therapy,” sold the assets of the Russian economy to a series of Communist apparatchiks and gangsters. This was deeply unpopular in Russia but his reelection was secured by direct American meddling, including “emergency infusions” of billions of dollars of Western money, a phalanx of American political consultants, and a play-scripted “confrontation” with Bill Clinton. Under Yeltsin’s rule, economic and social trends culminated in a major decrease in Russian life expectancy. George W. Bush empowered revolutions in the former Soviet sphere. His administration empowered men, such as Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia, who proceeded to make war on Russia. During just President Obama’s second term, the United States backed a putsch in Ukraine and a series of Islamist-tinged rebels in Syria, two countries that happen to host major Russian naval installations. In both these cases, Russia intervened militarily.

Russia, America and NATO: Where Are They Headed?

by Dave Majumdar

Already President Trump’s visit to Brussels for a NATO summit and the United Kingdom is engendering considerable controversy, with a further summit meeting on Monday with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to come in Helsinki. How successful is Trump’s course? Does NATO remain a vital component of American national security strategy? Or is it being downgraded by Trump? To examine such pressing questions, the Center for the National Interest convened a panel of foreign policy experts speaking at a lunchtime panel on July 12. While there was broad agreement that NATO is vital to America’s national security interests, not all of the panelists believe that it was wise for the United States to have extended the alliance into Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union itself in the aftermath of the Cold War.

NATO Summit: The Important Issues

by Paul R. Pillar

Most press coverage of the NATO summit meeting was about Donald Trump’s political theater, for which NATO itself was merely a backdrop. Journalists who said their heads were spinning after hearing Trump’s everything-is-fine press conference at the conclusion of the meeting, which sounded like a 180-degree reversal from his insults and threats of the day before, could have saved themselves a headache by realizing that there is no way to make diplomatic sense of any of this. It was just Trump doing one of his usual things. That thing is to bemoan how supposedly awful was the state of affairs before he came along, to use his own disruptive rhetoric—sprinkled with falsehoods —to create a crisis atmosphere, and then later to claim that he resolved problems that none of his predecessors had been able to resolve. The claim is made even if nothing material was achieved—as is true regarding military spending by NATO members, who do not appear to have made new commitments beyond what they had already made pre-Trump. In these respects, the Trumpian theater in Brussels is similar to the one surrounding the summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.

Why Is Israel Simulating Attacks on Its Own Nuclear Reactors?

Zachary Keck

Israel’s nuclear establishment has been conducting drills simulating attacks against the country’s two nuclear reactors. “The Israel Atomic Energy Commission has been taking numerous steps to protect the nuclear reactors in Dimona and Nahal Sorek in light of assessments that Iran and Hezbollah see the reactors as preferred targets for missile attacks,” the left-leaning Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported on June 28 The Nahal Sorek reactor is a small research reactor America supplied to Israel as part of the Atoms of Peace program. The Dimona reactor is a much larger reactor that Israel used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program. The Dimona reactor is still operating, although it’s unclear if it is making plutonium. It is widely believed that Israel uses Dimona to produce tritium for boosted atomic weapons.

‘Continuing War by Other Means’: The Case of Wagner, Russia’s Premier Private Military Company in the Middle East

By: Sergey Sukhankin

The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company that has been active in Ukraine and Syria. In early 2018, reports of the combat deaths of over 200 Wagner personnel in eastern Syria shed an important light on the gray zone of Russian military operations in which such paramilitary forces are deployed. Meanwhile, Wagner’s ongoing expansion across the globe is providing key lessons for understanding the evolution and likely transformation of this type of organization in the future. Given Moscow’s reliance on non-linear means of warfare and the frequent desire to maintain “plausible deniability” in its operations abroad, exploring and analyzing the Wagner Group offers a deeper insight into Russia’s role and modus operandi in conflicts across the world, especially when using Private Military Companies (PMC).

U.S. Needs a National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, Lawmakers and Experts Say

By Jack Corrigan,

Policymakers and technology experts said without a broad national strategy for driving artificial intelligence forward, the U.S. risks letting global competitors direct the growth of the budding industry. The Trump administration has taken a largely hands-off approach in regards to AI, arguing it’s still too early for the government to get involved in the technology and any attempts at oversight could stifle its growth. But in a panel hosted Wednesday by Politico, experts were quick to point out the difference between burdening industry with regulations and addressing the issues at hand today.

Details on an Air Force drone? $200 on the dark web

By: Justin Lynch 

The goods included sensitive U.S. Air Force documents of an unmanned aerial vehicle, tank platoon tactics and manuals to defeat roadside bombs. These are among the delicate American military details that have been put up for sale on the dark web, according to a research firm. For the Department of Defense, the report lays raises questions about basic cyber-hygiene in the U.S. military apparatus as the material came from hacks through known vulnerabilities. Recorded Future, a private research firm based in Massachusetts, said in a July 11 report that it found the swath of documents while monitoring criminal activities on the dark web. In a speech this morning, the top information officer at the Department of Defense, Dana Deasy, said that good digital security can minimize security risk. “Countless cyber-incident reports show that the overwhelming majority of cyber incidents are preventable with basic cyber hygiene and data safeguards,” he said.

Army to unveil details about new Futures Command in biggest reorganization in 45 years

By Dan Lamothe

The U.S. Army will unveil details about its largest reorganization in 45 years Friday, senior service officials said, as they create a new organization in an attempt to adapt more quickly to technology and address expensive failures in weapons acquisitions. Army Futures Command is being established in part to address concerns about the more than $32 billion the Army has spent since 1995 on programs that it canceled early with little to nothing to show for them. The new power center will be on par with other influential Army organizations, such as Training and Doctrine Command and Forces Command, and commanded by a four-star general. The move marks the largest reorganization at Army headquarters since 1973, when the Army sought to reorient itself after the Vietnam War and created both Training and Doctrine Command and Forces Command. Their commanders have often gone on to hold even more powerful jobs, including chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of staff of the Army.

The Long Awaited A-10 vs. F-35 Flyoff Is Off to a Sketchy Start

By Kyle Mizokami

The U.S. Air Force’s eagerly anticipated flyoff between the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has begun. The eagerly awaited competition, which pits the two planes against one another to determine which is the better close air support platform, began last week and wraps up tomorrow, July 12th. Critics charge that the Air Force is not only hiding the exercises from the public but is also heavily skewing the testing to ensure that the new F-35 is presented in the best possible light.

William Lind looks at our fake military in action

Larry Kummer

The mice of the Washington foreign policy establishment are trying to nibble around the edges of President Trump’s successful summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. One of their squeaks is that the President gave up too much when he ordered the suspension of major U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The June 16 New York Times reported that: “’You could probably cancel a single major exercise, like this one (Ulchi Freedom Guardian, planned for August) without doing major damage to the alliance and its readiness,’ said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center.

A Captain describes the mess of our military & how to fix it

Larry Kummer

The military readiness crisis has become a focal point of current policy debates. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in 2017 stated “it took us years to get into this situation. It will require years of stable budgets and increased funding to get out of it.”The Republican Congress obliged and convened in April 2018 to lay the groundwork for the FY19 defense budget. All policy proposals rhyme with more: more troops, more weapons, more ships, and more planes.

Comparing Russia’s Military Modernization by Region-Balanced Efforts Across All Fronts

By: Nicholas J. Myers

Despite the relatively slow pace of Russian military modernization (see EDM, November 8, 2016), the country’s Ministry of Defense announced in May that more than 50 percent of the equipment in service with the Armed Forces will be “modern” by the end of 2018 (Mil.ru, May 24). Last January, the Chairman of the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, cited these more routine changes as the key risk to European security (Defense.gov, January 15). Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, conversely, claimed recently that the actual destabilizing factors in European security have been the military buildups by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Baltic region (Izvestia, June 20) and in the “southwest strategic direction” or Black Sea region (RIA Novosti, June 20). Furthermore, Shoigu labeled Central Asia the main source of potential threat to Russia’s security at a meeting of the collegium of the Ministry of Defense, in Sochi (RIA Novosti, May 25), implying that military modernization efforts would be concentrated in the Central Military District (RIA Novosti, May 25).

The View From Olympus 3: Some 4GW Resources

For those wishing to learn more about the intellectual framework I call the Four Generations of Modern War, some useful resources are available. The first is “the canon,” a series of seven books which, if read in the given order, will take the reader from the First Generation into the Fourth (my colleague Major Greg Thiele, USMC, has an article on the canon in the June 2013 Marine Corps Gazette). The books are: 1) The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militaerische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 by Charles E. White, (Praeger, Westpower, CT, 1989) Scharnhorst was the key figure in the Prussian military reform movement that rebuilt the Prussian Army after the disastrous defeat of 1806. Without Scharnhorst’s reforms, the German Army would probably not have been able to develop Third Generation war in World War I, more than 100 years later. This is a history not only of adaptation and innovation in the First Generation, but of the importance of ideas in war as well. When I taught a course on the canon for Marine captains at Quantico, one of them said to me, “This book explains why we are reading all the other books.”