Category Archives: Geopolitics

How the Vietnam Tet Offensive Undermined American Faith in Government

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TET Offensive

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Gen. William Westmoreland in Vietnam on December 25, 1967, a month before the Tet Offensive.

EDITOR’S NOTE: 

I had a recent conversation with an old acquaintance from the Tet Offensive 50 years ago.  We met on the 1968 Vietnam battlefield as enemies and later became friends by accident in civilian life when we met again at a U.S. airport in 1998.

 What’s It Like To Meet Someone You Fought Against In War 

We agree the following article in “The Atlantic” is an excellent footnote to history on how the Tet Offensive, that enormously effected the two of us, also dramatically impacted the faith of Americans in the U.S. government regarding truth in foreign interventions.  –Ken Larson


“THE ATLANTIC”

“Tet shaped the world within which we live today: In an era when Americans still don’t fully trust government officials to tell them the truth about situations overseas, and don’t have confidence that leaders, for all their bluster, will do the right thing.

Tet is an important reminder that for liberals and conservatives sometimes a little distrust is a good thing. Particularly at a time when we have a president who traffics heavily in falsehoods, Tet showed that blind confidence in leaders can easily lead down dangerous paths.”


“When Americans wince upon hearing presidents make proclamations about foreign policy, the legacy of the 1968 Tet Offensive looms large.

On January 30, at the start of the sacred Vietnamese holiday of Tet, which celebrated the start of the new lunar year, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong launched a massive military offensive that proved the battle raging in Southeast Asia was far from over, and that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration had grossly oversold American progress to the public. Although U.S. troops ultimately ended the offensive successfully, and the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong suffered brutal loses, these bloody weeks triggered a series of events that continue to undermine Americans’ confidence in their government.

The Tet offensive came after several months of the North Vietnamese modifying their strategy. Rather than a battle of attrition, the leadership planned to launch a massive assault that aimed to undermine the morale of the South Vietnamese as well as the American public. Since December, the North Vietnamese had been conducting a series of attacks meant to send U.S. forces in the wrong direction. Johnson and his military advisors fell for the trick. The president and General William Westmoreland had focused on potential attacks against a U.S. Marine base in Khe Sanh. Johnson kept asking military leaders if they were prepared to defend the base and he kept promising congressional Democrats and Republicans that he had received their assurances everything would be fine.

Meanwhile, Johnson had conducted a massive public relations blitz in the end of 1967 to convince the public that the war was nearing a conclusion and that the United States was winning. The Progress Campaign, as it was sometimes called, deployed large volumes of data to convince the media that the communists were losing on the battlefield and that their numbers were diminishing.

Westmoreland told Meet the Press on November 19, 1967 that the U.S could win the war within two years and then proclaimed at the National Press Club on November 21 that “the end begins to come into view.” In November 1967, according to the Harris poll, confidence in the president’s Vietnam policies rose by 11 points (from 23 to 34 percent). In his State of the Union Address on January 17, Johnson sounded downright optimistic, even though he acknowledged that the U.S. faced major challenges overseas and that victory in Vietnam would take some time. As he asked Congress to pass a tax surcharge to help pay for the escalating costs of the war, while continuing to fund the Great Society, the president declared that the enemy was testing the “will” of the nation to “meet the trials that these times impose.”

In resolute fashion, Johnson went on to promise that “America will persevere. Our patience and our perseverance will match our power. Aggression will never prevail.” Max Frankel of The New York Times reported, “Whereas a year ago he promised ‘more cost, more loss and more agony’ in the war, this year he emphasized the positive, what he called the ‘marks of progress,’ and dwelt less on the whole issue of the war than in the previous two speeches.”

Then the situation took a bad turn a few weeks later. The crisis of Tet began in the early morning of January 30, the start of the year of the Monkey. In Saigon, NLF fighters attacked the American embassy. A 20-year-old soldier, Chuck Searcy, recalled waking up after an evening of drinking and movies, that when the sirens went off he assumed it was a drill and they would be able to go back to sleep. “But then a captain came around the perimeter in a jeep with a loudspeaker announcing that this was not a practice alert … It was the moment when the war became a reality for us, because up to then, Saigon had been considered a very safe area and quite secure and basically an area that would never be attacked.” The fighting continued until 9:15 the next morning. Nineteen enemy soldiers would lose their lives in the battle for the embassy; five Americans were killed. This was just one of many onslaughts that took place as the communists conducted their offensive in five major cities, 36 provincial capitals and smaller hamlets across the country.

Desperate to stop the public fallout, on January 31, Johnson ordered Westmoreland to hold daily press briefings to “convey to the American public your confidence in our capability to blunt these enemy moves, and to reassure the public here that you have the situation under control.” Johnson warned legislators that the anti-war protests in the U.S. were being triggered by allies of the communists. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara privately told Johnson, “I think it shows two things, Mr. President. First, that they have more power than some credit them with … My guess is that we will inflict very heavy losses on them, both in terms of personnel and materiel and this will set them back some, but after they absorb the losses, they will remain a substantial force.”

After the initial shock and awe, U.S. troops mounted a fierce and effective counter-attack, one of the most successful military operations of the war. When it was all over in late February, the communists suffered over 40,000 deaths, including some of their most skilled troops. The fighting ended when the U.S. and South Vietnamese recaptured the city of Hue.

Yet the military victory turned into a political disaster for the administration. Johnson tried to stop the political bleeding from the realization that the Vietnam War was not ending any time soon.

The Tet Offensive showed that Johnson and Westmoreland were lying about having “reached an important point where the end begins to come into view,” as Westmoreland famously had said.

The media coverage of Tet provided reporters with unprecedented access to the images of the conflict as the battles moved into the cities, and they delivered. One of the most famous images from the period was that of a South Vietnamese brigadier general Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the chief of the national police, putting a bullet in the head of Nguyen Van Lem, a captain in the Vietcong. The photograph, taken by Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams on February 1, confirmed the brutality of this conflict to many Americans. Life magazine’s cover on February 16 featured a photograph of two North Vietnamese soldiers with Chinese AK-47 automatic rifles, guarding Hue, with an article by Catherine Leroy called, “The Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture.”

The images on television were just as bad. The coverage shifted from smoke and helicopters to soldiers fighting to recapture ground in a brutal war. “There, on color screens,” one observer noted, “dead bodies lay amidst the rubble and the rattle of automatic gunfire as dazed American soldiers and civilians ran back and forth trying to flush out the assailants.” Walter Cronkite famously signed off his broadcast challenging the president and joining journalists who had increasingly been saying that the government was not telling the full truth. “Who won and lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout but neither did we … For it seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience in Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past.” ABC anchor Frank McGee followed up a few days later telling viewers “The war is being lost” while his colleague Frank Reynolds said it put the president’s credibility “under fire.”

Inside the White House, the historian Robert Dallek found that Johnson’s advisors were shaken. Following one meeting of foreign policy advisors, Joseph Califano reported that they were “beyond pessimistic.” The new secretary of defense, Clark Clifford, recalled that “It is hard to imagine or recreate the atmosphere in the sixty days after Tet. The pressure grew so intense that at times I felt the government might come apart at its seams. Leadership was fraying at its very center—something very rare in a nation with so stable a government structure.” Clifford said that in early March he made his “overwhelming priority” as Secretary “to extricate our nation from an endless war.”

“The element of hope has been taken away by the Tet Offensive,” noted Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “People don’t think there is likely to be an end.” Newsweek ran a cover story on February 19, with Westmoreland on the cover, entitled “Man on the Spot.”

By the time that Tet ended, Johnson was left with a massive credibility gap that overshadowed everything he had done on domestic policy. By March, when anti-war Democrat Senator Eugene McCarthy performed unexpectedly well in the New Hampshire primary, the polls had really turned on the president and the war. An initial spike in public support from Tet in February, with a notable increase in hawkish sentiment about Vietnam, turned hard against the administration in March. 49 percent of Americans thought the war was a mistake; only 41 percent thought it was the right decision. Only 35 percent believed that it would end within the next two years. His overall approval ratings for handling the war fell to a meager 26 percent. On the last day of the month, with his support plummeting, Johnson shocked the nation by going on television to announce that he would not run for reelection.

When rumors circulated that Westmoreland had asked for 206,000 more troops in response to Tet, Americans were outraged and the apparent blindness of the people in power. The Democratic Convention in 1968 was a disaster, as liberal Democrats and the anti-war movement opened up a civil war. Ironically, the person to reap the most benefits from the war was Richard Nixon, the next president of the United States, who lied and deceived the public about Vietnam in ways that even Johnson could not have imagined.

Besides the damage that Tet imposed on Johnson, the surprise attack and the revelation that the administration had vastly oversold the prospects for success were a severe blow to public confidence in American government leaders to tell the truth and to do the right thing.

The right also took its own lessons from Tet and other parts of the increasingly critical wartime coverage, namely that the media could not be trusted. As reporters focused on Tet as evidence of failure, hawkish Democrats and Republicans were quick to note, rightly so, that the U.S. counter-offensive had been successful. Johnson felt this way and tried to hammer away on the point that the media was misrepresenting what happened. For decades, coverage of Tet would remain to conservatives a symbol of why the “liberal establishment” could not be trusted to give the public a realistic assessment of national security issues.

For much of the nation, however, the specifics of Tet were beside the point. The real story was the context of the disastrous policies in Vietnam that cost thousands of American lives every month, undermined the nation’s moral authority in the Cold War, and didn’t seem to be working. As the historian Fred Logevall has argued, Tet is not the sole culprit behind the shattered faith from Vietnam, as opposition to the war and the realization of government falsehood had been growing for several years. But Tet still packed an extraordinarily powerful punch on a nation primed to be disillusioned. Based on what they were seeing in the winter of 1968, the communists in North Vietnam remained strong and determined, and promises that the war was ending were simply not true.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/how-the-tet-offensive-undermined-american-faith-in-government/550010/

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Government Audit Finds Pentagon Squandered Millions On Economic Development Projects in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan Task Force Failures

Cashmere Goat Farm in Afghanistan Abandoned as of April 2017. (Photo: SIGAR)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials.”


“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) rendered what could be the final verdict on the Pentagon’s controversial Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (Task Force). On Tuesday, the watchdog released the results of a comprehensive performance audit of Task Force programs and activities in Afghanistan. It found “mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

Readers of our blog are probably familiar with the Task Force, a Department of Defense (DoD) office that carried out economic development projects in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014. The office achieved notoriety in 2015 for allegedly spending $43 million to build a gas station that should have cost less than $500,000. (The actual cost of the gas station remains a matter of dispute between SIGAR and DoD. The dispute took a bizarre turntwo years ago when a DoD official testifying at a Senate hearing quoted a cost figure, the source of which remains a mystery.) For the last two years, Special Inspector General John Sopko has been publicly bashing the Task Force for “ill-conceived,” “poorly planned,” and “unfinished” projects.

The audit, conducted at the request of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), found several systemic flaws that doomed the Task Force: poor record-keeping, absence of a clear statement of objectives and strategy, inconsistent coordination with other U.S. agencies, and poor contract planning and oversight.

Because the Task Force did a particularly bad job collecting data and retaining records, SIGAR was “unable to determine whether it achieved its goal of reducing violence, enhancing stability, and supporting economic normalcy in Afghanistan through strategic business and economic activities.” As a result, taxpayers may never know exactly what the Task Force did or did not accomplish. The records SIGAR could get its hands on tell a story of massive waste and unfulfilled promises.

The Task Force obligated more than $675 million in contracts, $316 million of which funded contracts directly supporting economic recovery projects. The remaining $360 million went toward various indirect and overhead costs, including the infamous luxury private villas the Task Force used to house staff, guests, and contractors, instead of using less expensive U.S. government accommodations.

SIGAR determined that only 22 percent of the $316 million in contracts fully met their objectives. But even this rather modest metric must be taken with a grain of salt, since completed projects often were abandoned or fell into disuse or disrepair because the Afghans were unable to independently sustain them.

The report quotes an unnamed Task Force employee who recounted some troubling initial impressions:

The first thing I noticed was that the organization was involved in far too many activities. The list of projects was extremely long and unfocused and seemed to be a hodge-podge of projects without a strategy. The organization was trying to do too many things, including work that overlapped with that of other organizations working in Afghanistan.

Task Force contracting personnel, according to the report, were “generally inexperienced and unfamiliar with government contracting regulations and timelines, and their plans tended not to account for routine delays in the U.S. contracting process.” Furthermore, ill-defined contract requirements often left contracting officials unable to hold poor performers accountable.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials. In the two examples described in the report, the results were disastrous. Hickory Ground Solutions, a consulting firm whose chief executive was a former Task Force employee, won a $3.9 million sole-source consulting contract. Hickory allegedly ran afoul of small business contracting rules and misled the contracting officer about its capability to fulfill the contract’s requirements. Transformation Advisors Group, another small consulting firm that employed a former Task Force official “in a senior capacity,” received full payment on a mining training program contract despite allegedly unsatisfactory performance.

Despite recounting numerous examples of waste, cronyism, and outright fraud, the report makes no mention of any criminal or other enforcement actions arising out of the Task Force’s operations. This is somewhat surprising, given Special Inspector General John Sopko’s assertion in January 2016 that “several criminal investigations” connected with the Task Force were underway.

To its credit, DoD took a conciliatory tone toward the audit. “We appreciate SIGAR’s efforts,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Jackson wrote in a response letter reprinted in the report’s appendix. He conceded that SIGAR’s findings are “consistent with other independent assessments that concluded that [the Task Force] had mixed results” and that the report “documents unacceptable weaknesses and shortcomings.”

“We can—and must—do better,” Jackson stated.

Credit must also go to John Sopko and his dogged team of auditors and investigators for keeping the heat on DoD. We hope the government has learned its lesson and takes to heart the several “observations” SIGAR makes in the report to guide the White House and Congress if they ever decide to authorize another entity like the Task Force.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/01/audit-finds-dod-task-force-squandered-millions-had-few-successes.html

 

 

 

Immigration Reform: An Army Recruitment Opportunity

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Military and Immigration

“THE HILL” By Eric Fanning, Former Secretary of the Army

“Our nation’s military is stronger when it reflects the diversity it aims to defend.

The Dream Act is an opportunity for Congress to advance this nation’s national security by expanding recruitment pools, maintaining a high-quality force, and creating opportunities for thousands of young people for whom the United States of America has always been home.”


“As secretary of the Army, my job was to recruit, train, equip, and look after the morale and welfare of over one million U.S. soldiers and their families. In each of these efforts, I sought to create a force that embraced inclusivity and diversity. I believed the more the Army looks like society, the stronger it becomes.

Right now, Congress is contemplating the passage of the Dream Act, which would establish protections and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers — young people brought to the country before they were 16 years old who have lived in the United States continuously for the past decade, and yet currently have no path to legal immigration.

If passed, this legislation would not only provide temporary work permits and protection from deportation for millions of young people, it would also be a tremendous opportunity for the U.S. Army to expand its pool of high-quality recruits — tapping into exactly the kind of people that make our military the greatest in the world.

Over the past two decades, the Army has maintained a high operational tempo. The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, and the current threat landscape has created an urgent demand for personnel in Europe, Asia, and Africa. As a result, Congress directed the Army to increase the number of active-duty soldiers from 476,000 to 550,000 by the end of fiscal 2018.

Quickly adding additional high-quality recruits is no easy task. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) is struggling to find candidates who meet the Army’s requirements. Last year, USAREC Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow acknowledged as much, stating that “the biggest challenge right now is the fact that only 3 in 10 can actually meet the requirements to actually join the military,” because they fail due to health, educational background, or other issues.

As a result, USAREC has been forced to lower its recruiting standards in hopes of reaching its goal of 80,000 new soldiers. In fiscal 2016, 1.6 percent of Army recruits were Category Four candidates, who scored in the bottom third of standard military exams. The following fiscal year, the Army increased the acceptance rate to 1.9 percent. While these percentages remain below the 4 percent cap, they are moving in the wrong direction.

The reduction in recruiting standards comes at the same time the Pentagon has decided to suspend the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, program, which offered an expedited pathway to citizenship for immigrants with highly sought after medical and language skills. The MAVNI program had been a success for the Army: Sergeant Saral Shreshta, the 2012 Soldier of the Year, and Specialist Paul Chelimo, an Olympic Silver Medalist at the 2016 Rio games, earned their citizenship through the program.

Given the wide breadth of challenges facing our nation, the U.S. needs a skilled, diverse military force with high levels of integrity that can adapt to today’s emerging threats. The MAVNI program was an important element of creating that force and the Army has reaped the benefit of hundreds of Dreamers currently serving in its ranks. The Dream Act is an opportunity for the Army to expand access to this recruiting pool.

According to a recent report, over the next few years, “the net growth in the U.S. population of 18- to 29-year-olds — the segment of the population most likely to enlist — will come entirely from immigrants and the children of immigrants.” If the U.S. Army is going to be successful in recruiting qualified 18- to 29-year-olds, it must tap into this pool of potential recruits. And on the retention front, the facts are even more compelling: another study found that non-citizen “recruits are far more likely to remain in the military through their first terms of enlistment than recruits who are U.S. citizens.”

Resourcing our Armed Forces takes many forms. Of course we need to make sure that our military is adequately funded and has a stable budget that supports all missions. Dreamers also represent an important resource to ensure our military has access to mission critical skills. Pitting these goals against each other is unnecessary and shortsighted.

Our nation’s military is stronger when it reflects the diversity it aims to defend. Our nation’s Armed Forces should not be forced to pass over those who are qualified and willing to serve. The Dream Act is an opportunity for Congress to advance this nation’s national security by expanding recruitment pools, maintaining a high-quality force, and creating opportunities for thousands of young people for whom the United States of America has always been home. It should be passed as soon as possible.”

Eric Fanning was the 22nd secretary of the Army serving during the Obama administration.

http://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/367839-immigration-reform-an-army-recruitment-opportunity


 

Hard Lessons from America’s Longest Wars

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lessons longest wars“BREAKING DEFENSE”  By James Kitfield

“American troops have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long that the public doesn’t even celebrate their victories or mourn their defeats any more.

When U.S.-backed forces this year recaptured the twin capitals of the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria hardly anyone in America noticed.

When reports noted earlier this year that a resurgent Taliban had regained control of roughly 40 percent of Afghanistan that warranted only passing mention in the American media.”

________________________________________________________________________________

“There’s an old axiom that democracies, with their fickle political winds and short attention spans, are just not well suited for long wars. With the post-9/11 fight against violent Islamist extremists already well into its second decade, with no end in sight, it’s little wonder that many Americans believe the longest wars in U.S. history have been costly mistakes.

James Kitfield, who’s won more Gerald Ford Defense Reporting awards than anyone else (3)

Despite their unpopularity in a war-weary America, the post-9/11 wars looks very different to the men and women who have been in the middle of the fight. Not necessarily better, but more complex and nuanced than the narrative of an endless and futile slog against an unfathomable foe. U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have learned and adapted constantly during a decade-and-a-half of fighting this “global war on terrorists,” as have our determined and adaptive enemies. After covering those wars, I spent recent years interviewing many of the top U.S. leaders in this long conflict in an effort to capture those lessons for my book, “Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War” (Basic Books, 2016). Among their many insights the following lessons stand out.

Know Thine Enemy

China’s legendary military strategist Sun Tzu cautioned: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” Yet from the beginning of these long wars U.S. officials have been slow to grasp the ideology, motivations and strategies of our enemies. The resulting miscalculations have cost the nation dearly.

President George W. Bush infamously saw a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which just didn’t exist. We invaded in 2003 and created a self-fulfilling prophecy. President Barack Obama wrongly believed the killing of Osama bin Laden and many of his top lieutenants spelled the end of Al Qaeda, leading him to prematurely withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and to underestimate ISIS as the Junior Varsity team of terror. For his part President Donald Trump routinely reacts to new terror attacks with calls to build a border wall and ban immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of jihadi attacks are conducted by Americans or legal immigrants.

Congress also seems dangerously disengaged from the nature of the war it authorized so long ago. Many lawmakers reacted with incredulous questions when four U.S. Special Forces soldiers died in Niger. What were U.S. troops even doing in that African nation, some of them wondered publicly? Of course, U.S. forces have been killing terrorists and helping to combat Islamist extremist groups and Al Qaeda affiliates in Africa for many years. It’s a familiar list: Al Shabab in Somalia; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen; Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel region; and Boca Haram in Nigeria. Perhaps too few lawmakers read newspapers or watch TV news.

Then there have been the seemingly inexplicable decisions by senior American policymakers. A cursory understanding of Iraq’s sectarian dynamic should have stopped Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer from his disastrous early decisions to disband the regular Iraqi Army and launch an aggressive “de-Baathification” campaign. That single act is believed by many to have driven Sunni officers and troops into the hands of Al Qaeda in Iraq, where they swam in a swamp of Sunni grievance. The resulting terrorist insurgency took the better part of a decade to subdue.

“The single biggest lesson we should have learned is that before you invade a country, you need to really understand in a very granular and nuanced way what is going on inside that country,” retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former leader of the Iraqi and Afghan counterinsurgency campaigns and former director of the CIA, told me in an interview. As the former commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq invasion, Petraeus remembers being given “Iraqi experts” who couldn’t tell him if the towns he was entering were majority Sunni or Shiite, or where the ethnic border lines were on a map: “Which means they didn’t know anything.”

Then we did it again. We withdrew in 2011 and ISIS simply repeated the cycle, forming its own alliance with former Baathist military officers and stoking Sunni grievances against Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“By 2009-2010 we had essentially crushed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and we had a competing narrative to what the extremists were offering ideologically, which was a more inclusive government in Baghdad and a region moving in a positive direction,” said retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in defeating AQI and killing its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and later commanded all U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. “Then the ‘Arab Spring’ started and you had all this instability spread throughout the region, and [leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and ISIS adapted to those conditions and filled that vacuum. As a consequence ISIS became something like Al Qaeda 3.0.”

Al Qaeda Is An Ideology First, Not A Group

Knowing your enemy means understanding his core motivations and goals. After U.S. counterterrorism forces killed Bin Laden and nearly all of his chief lieutenants in the 2010 – 2011 timeframe, President Obama plausibly argued that “core Al Qaeda” as it existed at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks had been decimated. But the bond that truly unites core Al Qaeda with its far-flung affiliates and other Sunni extremist groups is not like a regular army’s bonds of patriotism, discipline and training. They are bound by a transnational ideology, Salafi jihadism. Salafis are fundamentalists who interpret the Quran literally and believe the only true Islam is a mythic version they say was practiced in the days of the Prophet Mohammed and his acolytes in the 7th century. They believe it is their duty to impose this medieval version of Islam on “apostates” and “non-believers,” by extreme violence if necessary.

ISIS = Al Qaeda 3.0

In the Darwinian selection process of the terror strikes survivors get stronger as they learn and adapt. So it was with al-Baghdadi, the former chief of foreign fighter operations for Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the most lethal of the many affiliates that constitute “Al Qaeda 2.O.” After the 2011 Arab Spring protests and the Syrian regime’s iron-fisted response to a sectarian civil war, al-Baghdadi realized that the same ratlines that AQI had used to funnel foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq to fight the U.S. military could be reversed, sending AQI’s Sunni jihadists the other way to carve a sanctuary out of the rotting corpse of Syria.

Baghdadi had served prison time in a U.S. detention center, where he formed bonds and alliances with a network of former senior Baathist military officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. In 2013-2014, Baghdadi and his jihadists launched a series of daring prison breaks in Iraq to free them. Working together, they launched ISIS’ lightning offensive in the summer of 2014, stunning the world when they overran numerous Iraqi Army divisions and captured roughly a third of both Syria and Iraq, bringing ISIS’ terrorist army to the outskirts of Baghdad. What looked like a military offensive by a ragtag army of ISIS irregulars was actually the result of an unprecedented alliance between Salafi jihadists and former Sunni Baathist military officers whose networks reached deep into corrupted Iraqi Security Forces.

Under al-Baghdadi’s leadership ISIS is certainly an innovative organization. Understanding that it would resonate powerfully in Salafi ideology, Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic caliphate, and declared himself its caliph, or ruler, attracting an unprecedented 40,000 foreign fighters from across the globe to ISIS’ black banner. Adopting Bin Laden’s strategy of attacking the West as a path towards greater legitimacy in the terror pantheon, he formed an “external affairs unit” that was behind terrorist “spectaculars” in Paris and Brussels. Many former Al Qaeda affiliates switched their allegiance to ISIS.

“The Paris attack was a nightmare, and of particular concern because of the direct connectivity between ISIS and the perpetrators. It had all the hallmarks of a centrally planned, organized and directed attack involving top ISIS leadership,” Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), told me in a recent interview. The Paris and Belgium attacks were proof that as long as ISIS enjoyed sanctuary from which to recruit and plan attacks on the West, it would remain a mortal threat.

“Safe haven is always high on the list of a terrorist organization’s sources of strength, and ISIS exercising state-like dominion over much of the territory of Iraq and Syria, with all its economic and energy resources, was in many ways the ultimate safe haven. That was incredibly dangerous from a counterterrorism perspective,” he said. “Combine that with ISIS’ unique ability to attract fighters from outside Iraq and Syria, which was far beyond anything Al Qaeda ever aspired to, and suddenly we were dealing with a mass terrorist movement.”

It Takes a Network to Defeat a Network

At their pinnacles, Al Qaeda and ISIS acted not as discrete terrorist organizations but as central command for a globe-spanning terrorist insurgency, with both groups funneling fighters, resources and “lessons learned” among a far-flung network of affiliates that stretched across an arc of instability from Southwest Asia all the way to North Africa.

Under the pioneering leadership of Gen. McChrystal, JSOC (the secretive war-fighting subcomponent of U.S. Special Operations Command), adapted by incubating its own network-centric model of military operations. That model relied on an unprecedented synergy that developed in the war zones between Special Operations Forces, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and conventional military forces. The model of operations that McChrystal helped pioneer was most closely associated in the public mind with drone strikes and the relentless counterterrorism raids such as Operation Neptune Spear, which brought Osama bin Laden to justice. At its hot core, this new, network-centric style of warfare is predicated on hunting individual terrorists and other extremists who hid in the dark corners of the world, and in plain sight as well.

The intense battle rhythm behind that new style of warfare was unlike anything that had come before it. JSOC’s multiagency joint task forces and intelligence fusion centers combined the skills of disparate national and international players into a unified, mission-focused whole. The streamlined operations enabled by the network greatly condensed the traditional military-targeting cycle of “find, fix and finish” by constantly incorporating intelligence “exploitation and analysis,” creating what the counterterrorism community called an “F3EA” style of operations. Within that operational model the once bright lines between intelligence gathering and operational targeting disappeared.

The synergies required of that new style of operations explained major reorganizations of the Central Intelligence and Defense Intelligence agencies, the emergence of the National Counterterrorism Center as a major, multiagency coordinating node in the network, and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) storage of vast amounts of electronic metadata in search of “patterns of life” among terrorists and their networks. JSOC’s mantra “it takes a network to defeat a network” became the rallying cry of a man-hunting juggernaut that McChrystal described to me as “the Amazon.com of counterterrorism.”

“The epiphany for me came as we were studying Al Qaeda operations and realized that it didn’t act like a typical hierarchal terrorist organization, with ponderous, top-down execution. It moved so fast that we were constantly asking ourselves, ‘How did they do that?’” McChrystal recalled. After that it became all about building a globe-spanning U.S. counterterrorism network along with allies, he said, and connecting far-flung military, intelligence and law enforcement entities together focused on a common contextual understanding of the threat, and on winning this one fight.

“The biggest epiphany of all was that once we connected all these nodes and the network was working, I didn’t have to make a lot of big decisions,” he said. “The network learns and it knows what to do! Through the wisdom of the crowd, the network adapted organically and figured out the right strategy.”

Counterterrorism vs. Counterinsurgency

Four times in this long war U.S. military commanders have confronted a dangerous tipping point where a campaign of terrorism transforms into a much larger and more widely-supported insurgency powerful enough to compete with government forces for control of territory: Iraq in 2006-7; Afghanistan in 2009-10; and Iraq and Afghanistan again in 2014-2017. At that point a strictly counterterrorism campaign of targeted strikes on terrorist leaders becomes ineffective in countering a determined and dug-in insurgency. A more  manpower intensive counterinsurgency campaign is required to clear enemy-held ground, hold it to protect the local population, and build governance as a means to win the populace to the government’s side.

Disagreements about the efficacy of counterterrorism versus counterinsurgency strategies, both between military and civilian leaders and among the military fraternity itself, led to some of the costliest mistakes of the post-9/11 wars. U.S. commanders and their civilian masters in Iraq 2003-2005 were slow to even recognize the insurgency there until it was almost too late. Disagreements over a counterterrorism versus a counterinsurgency strategy between the White House and McChrystal’s team in Afghanistan in 2009 eroded critical trust between them, ultimately leading to McChrystal’s dismissal. If the Iraqi government does not rebuild and project governance into the recaptured Sunni majority city of Mosul, then its recent victory there against ISIS is also likely to prove temporary.

Petraeus, who replaced McChrystal in Afghanistan after leading the successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, understood the mission as keeping the country from once again becoming an Al Qaeda sanctuary, which required halting the momentum of the Taliban insurgency, and accelerating the training of Afghan security forces so they could defend their own country.

“And you can’t do that with a counterterrorism strategy of man-hunting alone! You can hunt men all day long, but if you don’t clear territory and hold it, then the enemy is just going to keep regenerating,” Petraeus told me in our interview for Twilight Warriors. “So anyone who believed we could win in Afghanistan with counterterrorism operations alone was mistaken. There is no foundation for that idea whatsoever.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/12/hard-lessons-from-americas-longest-wars/0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A Reference Library On Small Business Government Contracting And The Military Industrial Complex

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Quora Questions with Answers by Ken that have undergone 677,000 Views on Small Business Government Contracting and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex Ken Larson Reference Library on Quora

 

A Russia/China Marriage of Convenience – The Rise of a Not-So-New World Order

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China and Russia

“STRATFOR”   By Sarang Shidore  Senior Global Analyst

“For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. 

And as the Earth’s sole superpower turns inward, [Russia and China] will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves.”


“An Informal Alliance Emerges

First, a few observations about the Cold War. The multidecade conflict was much like the classical great-power contests that have taken place since the advent of the modern nation-state: Two blocs of roughly equal power (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) participated in a continuous arms race, waged proxy wars and engaged in the politics of securing spheres of influence.

But the Cold War also contained some striking new elements. Chief among them were the feud’s pervasive reach into most sovereign states, the presence of nuclear weapons, the two participants’ radically different economic and political systems, and the missionary zeal each superpower had for exporting its ideology worldwide. Moreover, membership within each alliance was sizable and stable, though developing countries occasionally shifted their loyalties after a revolution or military intervention by the United States or the Soviet Union.

On their face, any parallels between today and the Cold War of decades past seem overblown. The United States leads most formal alliance structures; Russia and China have no obvious ideology to export; and variations of capitalism have won out worldwide, leading to a deeply integrated global economy. Furthermore, Russia and China appear to have too many conflicts of interest to form an enduring partnership.

A closer look at recent events, however, suggests otherwise. Despite lacking an official alliance, Russia and China have acted virtually in lockstep on many major security issues. Both were first neutral, then opposed to, NATO’s intervention in Libya in 2011. Both have taken nearly identical positions on the Syrian conflict and cybergovernanceat the United Nations. Both have issued a joint proposal to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula by freezing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Both are firmly opposed to undermining the Iranian nuclear deal. And both have lobbied against U.S. missile defenses in Central Europe and Asia, as well as the Western doctrine of intervention known as “responsibility to protect.” Meanwhile China — a well-known defender of the principle of national sovereignty — has been noticeably silent on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

At the same time, Beijing and Moscow have symbolically demonstrated their compact in the realm of defense. They have conducted joint military exercises in unprecedented locales, including the Mediterranean Ocean and the Baltic Sea, as well as in disputed territories, such as the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. Weapons deals between them are likewise on the rise. Russian arm sales to China skyrocketed in 2002. After temporarily dropping off between 2006 and 2013 amid suspicion that China was reverse-engineering Russian platforms, Russia’s sales to China resumed. Moscow agreed to sell its most sophisticated systems, the Su-35 aircraft and the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, to its Asian neighbor.

The two great powers have signed several major energy deals of late, too. Russian oil has made up a steadily growing share of China’s energy portfolio for years, and in 2016 Russia became the country’s biggest oil supplier. China, for its part, has begun to substantially invest in Russia’s upstream industry while its state-run banks have heavily bankrolled pipelines connecting the two countries. Beijing, for instance, recently acquired a large stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft. Russian exports of natural gas, including liquefied natural gas, to China are climbing as well. These moves are rooted in grand strategy: Russia and China are privileging each other in energy trade and investment to reduce their dependence on locations where the United States is dominant.

With their robust indigenous defense industries and vast energy reserves alone, China and Russia satisfy the basic requirements of presenting an enduring challenge to the United States. But both have also begun pushing for greater financial and monetary autonomy by distancing themselves from the dollar-dominated order of international trade and finance. China has already partially seceded from the SWIFT system of global banking transactions by creating its own system, CIPS. Russia is following suit, and it too has started to build an alternative network. Moreover, the Chinese yuan recently entered the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights currency basket. Now most Asian currencies track far more closely with the yuan than the dollar in value. China plans to introduce an oil futures contract in yuan that can be fully converted to gold as well. This, along with Beijing and Moscow’s decision to boost their gold reserves, suggests that they may be preparing to switch to a gold standard someday. (The convertibility of gold is an important intermediate step toward boosting investor confidence in an up-and-coming currency like the yuan, which still suffers from many constraints such as illiquidity and significant risk in its country of origin.) The seriousness of their effort indicates their determination to move away from a system ruled by the U.S. currency.

Of course, China and Russia still suffer huge deficits with respect to the United States in technology, innovation and global force projection. But the gap may be closing as China makes substantial investments into sunrise technologies such as renewable energy, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Plus, the projection of power to every corner of the globe probably isn’t their immediate goal. Rather, the two powers seem to be aiming for maximum autonomy and a proximate sphere of influence that encompasses Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East and Asia. They also seek to overhaul international rule-making with the intention of gaining greater influence in multilateral institutions, securing vetoes over military interventions, increasing global governance of the internet (albeit for their own self-interest), ending U.S. pressure regarding democracy and human rights, dethroning the reigning dollar and accounting for their interests in the design of the global security order.

A Durable Marriage of Convenience

China and Russia are not natural allies. They have a long history of discord and at least three areas of conflicting interests: overlapping backyards in Central Asia, competition in arms sales and a growing asymmetry in power that favors Beijing.

Over the years, the two countries have taken on somewhat distinct roles in Central Asia. Russia has become the leading security guarantor in the region by founding the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a formal alliance with a mutual self-defense clause, and by building military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Russia has also integrated Kazakhstan into its air defense system. By comparison, China is rapidly emerging as the leading energy and infrastructure partner in the region. The country’s Belt and Road Initiative is well underway, and several oil and natural gas pipelines connecting China to its Central Asian neighbors are already functional. That said, both powers have a stake in the region’s security and economic integration, as evidenced by the presence of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union and the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization there.

Despite their dependence on China and Russia, Central Asian states still enjoy considerable autonomy and cannot be deemed satellites of either great power. The recent resistance of Kazakhstan, a CSTO member, to Russian pressure to deploy troops to Syria is a case in point. Of the five Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are most closely intertwined with China and Russia; Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have kept a greater distance.

The dynamic Chinese economy’s steady outpacing of its Russian counterpart would ordinarily cause deep consternation in Moscow. However, Russia seems to have largely accepted the reality of China’s rising power — an acceptance that is key to the formation of a compact between them. Beijing, for its part, has tactfully walked back from its historical claims to Outer Manchuria, paving the way for the settlement of its long-standing border dispute with Moscow. China has also worked to keep its economic competition with Russia from degenerating into political antagonism.

Russia is still wary of China, though. Against the wishes of Beijing, which has a long-standing competition with New Delhi, Moscow supported and facilitated India’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The Kremlin also keeps close ties to Vietnam and maintains an ongoing dialog with Japan. However, Russia has also compromised with China on some of these matters, including by agreeing to Pakistan’s simultaneous admission to the bloc. It has also limited its cooperation with Tokyo, dragging its feet in settling its Kuril Islands dispute with Japan.

These concessions indicate Moscow’s pursuit of a hedging strategy, not a balancing one. If Russia were truly trying to balance China, their rivalry in Central Asia would take on a security dimension, resulting in factionalization or, in the worst-case scenario, wars between their local proxies. So while some structural tension certainly exists between China and Russia and could lead to a security rivalry in the long run, their leaders have actively managed and largely contained it thus far. This marriage of convenience will likely prove lasting, given its goals for dramatically transforming the international system. And even if a formal Russia-China alliance never comes to pass, the durability of their partnership already makes it feel like one in many ways. That the two countries feel no need to formalize their alliance, moreover, indicates that informality will increasingly serve as a template for strategic partnerships in the future.

The Resurgence of the Middle

Could an alignment between Russia and China expand to new states? The country most likely to join their compact is Iran. A revolutionary state with deep enmity for the United States and its allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran has a strong desire to rewrite the rules of the current global order. As China’s Belt and Road Initiative has taken off, Chinese investment in Iran has started to rise. And though Iran and Russia have their differences, their security interests have recently aligned. In the Syrian civil war, for instance, they have closely coordinated their air and ground operations over the past two years. Iran, meanwhile, would add to the two great powers’ energy heft and welcome any attempt to shift global energy markets away from the dollar. Under the current circumstances, Iran has every reason to strengthen its strategic ties with Russia and China, even as it woos global investors.

Iran isn’t the only core state candidate that may join the Sino-Russian compact. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a formidable gambit, partly intended to draw several states into its orbit. Among them are Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Thailand. All of these nations, in theory, could join the Sino-Russian core. Still, it is doubtful whether most will. Turkey, a member of NATO, has worked more closely with Russia and Iran in the past few months to manage the Syrian conflict, and it is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies. But Turkey will find it difficult to abandon its commitments to NATO; instead it will most likely play a transactional game with all three powers.

On the Asian continent, it is in Sri Lanka’s and Bangladesh’s best interests not to antagonize their next-door neighbor, India, by tilting too far toward China. Moreover, Myanmar has a complex history with China, while Thailand is a U.S. treaty ally that lately has sought a middle ground between Washington and Beijing. Pakistan has been close to China for decades while maintaining an intense (if transactional) security relationship with the United States and complicated ties with Iran. If relations between Islamabad and Washington as well as New Delhi and Beijing deteriorate sharply, Pakistan may find that aligning with Russia and China brings more benefits than costs. But when all is said and done, any attempt to transform the Sino-Russian compact into an expansive, international alliance would encounter massive roadblocks.

Meanwhile, all is not going as planned within the United States’ own bloc. Washington’s treaty ally, South Korea, staunchly opposes any U.S. military action against North Korea. The United States’ ties with another major partner, Turkey, are deteriorating. The Philippines is trying to balance between the United States and China, as is Thailand. Australia is increasingly torn between its deep economic dependence on China and its commitments to the United States. Wide rifts have opened between the United States and Europe over trade, climate action and Iran. Hungary has moved closer to Russia as populist nationalism — in some cases laced with support for Russian President Vladimir Putin — rises across the Continent. Then there is Germany, which the United States has long worried is less than fully committed to balancing against Russia. On top of all this, a nationalist upswing in U.S. politics has made the superpower more hostile to trade agreements and foreign entanglements.

On the other hand, the United States is bolstering its security relationship with India and Vietnam, finding ready partners against China and Russia in Japan and Poland, respectively, and enjoying the prospect of a post-Brexit United Kingdom that is more beholden to Washington than ever before. With a population of more than a billion people, India’s future is particularly consequential to the global order — but only if it can transcend its many domestic challenges. And though India could become a core member of the U.S.-led bloc in the future, its historical autonomy and deep defense ties with Russia could limit just how close New Delhi can get to Washington and Tokyo.

Added to these factors are the non-state challenges to state power that have emerged since the 1990s and now show no sign of going away. Giant technology corporations, criminal networks, transnational terrorist groups, global civil society and growing environmental threats often weaken the system of sovereign nation-states, and they will continue to do so in the years to come.

Two Poles, Much Smaller Than Before

The upshot of these changes is that bipolarity, though not inevitable, is likely a foundational feature of the future. But it would be much diminished, compared with that of the Cold War — a “bipolarity-minus” of sorts. Each side in such a world would boast a much smaller set of core members: Russia, China, probably Iran and plausibly Pakistan, on one side, and the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, probably Japan and plausibly India and Australia on the other.

Though all other powers may lean in one direction or another, they would have more malleable relationships with each bloc and with each other. At the same time, there would be ample space for non-state actors and fluid minor coalitions to try to maximize their own freedom by, among other things, limiting the intensity of bipolarity among the great powers. Core states would have to work that much harder to win over the many swing states scattered across the globe, and alignment based on specific issues will become the norm. Existing institutions of global governance will either become moribund or will shrink as competing institutions with different approaches form and gain traction.

The Cold War years offered a faint preview of this world. The Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 influenced issues such as decolonization, foreign aid and disarmament, while OPEC briefly shook the world with an oil embargo. Core bloc members occasionally demonstrated radical autonomy — the Sino-Soviet split of 1959, “goulash communism” in Hungary and Ostpolitik in West Germany are only a few examples. Still, these deviations never seriously undermined the global system, dominated as it was by two superpowers.

Today a new constraint on the emergence of true bipolarity exists: the intertwining of the U.S. and Chinese economies. Interdependence determinists will argue that such ties are incompatible with bipolarity and will ultimately prevent it. However, the limited nature of a bipolarity-minus world may allow the phenomena to coexist, albeit uneasily, as they did in a highly interdependent Europe before World War I. Alternatively, the United States and China may reorder their supply chains to reduce this interdependence over time. Technological advances are already shrinking these supply chains, a trend that could accelerate if the United States becomes far more protectionist.

If the future does indeed hold a bipolar-minus world, the United States may not be ready for it. To be prepared, Washington would have to recalibrate its strategy. In a world in which many major powers are uncommitted and have large degrees of freedom, tools like open-ended military interventions, unilateral sanctions, extraterritoriality and hostility to trade will likely yield diminishing returns. By comparison, incentivization, integration, innovation and adroit agenda-setting can be smarter and more effective options. The United States historically has been a pioneer of these approaches, and it may prove able to wield them persuasively once again. But perhaps most important, the superpower will have to resolve its internal polarization if it hopes to position itself as a cohesive leader of the international community. Only then will it once again become, as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it, “a shining city upon a hill.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/rise-not-so-new-world-order?utm_campaign=B2C_LL_Push&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=58572026&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_XbbfHHCRcKVb8gnGQXQzik66opSVx-3Rj7irxs19xA1VWLSoNzI6X7QdVMRvvaSibJQPpGL_RrgvI5QxCChs5M0saUg&_hsmi=58588349

 

 

The Malignant Misuse Of America’s Military

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Stop Military Malignant Misuse

“BREAKING DEFENSE” By Daniel Davis

“Most of these missions have no relation to U.S. national security whatsoever; others have thread-bare associations at best. Congress alone has the power to declare war. Today, Congress has fully ceded its responsibilities to the Executive Branch.

The military [is] on active combat missions of one type or another in NigerSomaliaSyriaIraqAfghanistanYemenPakistanLibyaDjibouti, and Nigeria (there are also scores of classified combat missions for Special Operations Forces about which the public knows nothing).”


“Last month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned that if Congress doesn’t “remove the defense caps,” he said, “then we’re questioning whether or not America has the ability to survive.” This claim that insufficient increases in Pentagon spending threatens American security is flatly wrong. The real and present danger to our national security is the unecessary use of U.S. military power abroad.

There are two key ways the faulty use of combat power abroad continues to deteriorate our security. The first is the purpose for which the military is used. The preamble to the Constitution explains that the military is intended to “provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Further, it decrees that Congress alone has the power to declare war.

The second and more troubling misuse of the military are the missions they are given to execute. For decades, the armed forces have been routinely employed, not for the “common defense,” but for the benefit of other nations or for purposes with no apparent connection to the security of our country.

The armed forces should only be used to defend American vital national interests—our territorial integrity and prosperity—and only committed when genuine diplomatic efforts have been fully exhausted.

Congress and the American people should debate and decide whether there is a legitimate threat to our vital interests, if the crisis is solvable by military means with clear and attainable objectives, if the resources to succeed are affordable, and if we have a sound strategy to achieve the desired political end state to safely extricate ourselves within a reasonable period of time.

There is little wonder, then, that the use of the military has not enhanced American security or prosperity.

These operations consume tens of billions of dollars each year, cost the lives of U.S. service personnel, and divert resources and manpower away from preparation to defend against potential threats which could pose a legitimate threat to U.S. security.

Moreover, even in operations that were tactically successful, we sometimes have perversely inflicted strategic defeats on U.S. interests. For example, the famed Iraqi surge of 2007 did result in a dramatic decrease in U.S. casualties, but enabled then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to systematically purge his army of rival Sunni officers. That led in 2014 to his army disintegrating in the face of ISIS attacks.

In restoring Iraqi sovereignty over ISIS, Baghdad enlisted the use of U.S. air power, ground controllers, and Iranian-backed militias––including the actual use of Iranian troops in Iraq. Iranian military advisors and troops also helped Baghdad crush recent Kurdish attempts at independence ––after the U.S. military helped the Kurds defeat ISIS in Mosul. Iranian influence over Iraq is today pervasive. None of that would have been possible without U.S. military operations since 2003.

The time has come for a major overhaul of American foreign and defense policies. We must abandon nation-building and meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. Our national security objectives in the Middle East can be more effectively accomplished via active and robust intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts.

American affairs abroad should be redirected away from an obsessive attempt to solve problems using lethal combat power and instead focus on expanding U.S. economic opportunity and beneficial trade policies. Core functions of the U.S. government are to defend our population and facilitate a healthy economy. Misusing the military is counter to both objectives.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/11/stop-the-malignant-misuse-of-americas-military/

 

 

 

Of Guns At Home, And Guns Abroad

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Box cutters (top) were banned from aircraft after 9/11, and Reapers (bottom) were sent around the world to hunt down terrorists. But homegrown terrorists have easy access to AK-47s (middle). (Photo illustration by Mark Thompson, U.S. ATF, USAF)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)” By Mark Thompson

“The gun and terrorism issues show markedly different approaches to vexing problems.

Congress demands the Pentagon hunt down and kill every terrorist—and adds billions to its budget to do just that. But it refuses to lift a (trigger) finger to curb domestic terror like that which occurred Sept. 30 in Las Vegas. These mass firearm murders have become an itch that must be scratched.”


“My father hunted deer with his 30.06 deep in the woods of Maine, and taught me and my brothers how to shoot. I helped teach my two sons to shoot in the wilds of New Hampshire. But when you combine all-but-unrestricted access to near-automatic firearms with suicidal shooters, there needs to be a reckoning.

I embrace the Second Amendment, and I don’t want guns banned. I think I am like most Americans in this regard.

Congress has become increasingly pusillanimous during my nearly 40 years in Washington. Despite talk, they have refused to cut the deficit, reform entitlement programs, or fix the zany tax code. This week, we entered our 17th year of war in Afghanistan without lawmakers declaring war. So why should we expect them to do anything about their constituents slaughtering other constituents?

As a reporter for nearly 50 years, I’m pretty much of a First Amendment absolutist. OK: no shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, but that’s about it. That’s barred because—get this—it could lead to people getting hurt, or maybe even killed, in a stampede. But you can’t mow down innocent people by shouting vile epithets at them from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel.

Why are my staunch Second Amendment-backer friends so opposed to even the most common-sense measures to curb the gun violence in our midst? Do we really need semi-automatic weapons, huge magazines, suppressors—more commonly known as silencers—or “bump stocks,” a legal firearm option used in the Nevada massacre that all but turns semi-automatic weapons into machine guns?

Walmart and Cabela’s, two of the nation’s leading firearm retailers, apparently stopped selling bump stocks following the massacre. That’s sure to impress 58 families. And Congress hasn’t ruled out doing something about bump stocks. Such courage! Even the National Rifle Association broke its typical silence following such shootings to acknowledge such faux machine-gun devices might warrant restrictions. That’s a tentative, but tiny, step in the right direction.

Believing in the fundamental right to bear arms is a long way from the lust for personal firepower that has grown in this country since I was a kid. Why do so many gun advocates and their NRA allies have such a Pavlovian response to any suggestion that the nation needs to get a handle on this scourge? The notion that additional restrictions will inexorably lead to confiscations or bans is a black-and-white mindset in a gray world.

There are 89 guns in this country for every 100 people (No. 2 is Yemen, currently waging civil war, at 55). But 3 percent of American adults own half those guns (78 percent of Americans don’t own a firearm). Americans also possess an estimated 48 percent of the globe’s 650 million guns in civilian hands (that makes the Pentagon, which accounts for about 37% of global defense spending, look like a relative bargain).

One 2015 accounting noted that all of the nation’s wars killed 1,396,733 Americans…while 1,516,863—9 percent more—have been killed by guns, just since 1968. A Gallup survey earlier this year showed that 55 percent of Americans wanted tougher gun-control laws, with only 10 percent wanting them loosened. But that 10 percent, bolstered by more than $4 million in NRA campaign contributions to congressional candidates since 1998, has given the gun lobby unparalleled clout on Capitol Hill.

That’s led to some bizarre etymological debates. Joseph Lombardo, the Las Vegas sheriff, was asked if Stephen Paddock’s 58 murders were an act terrorism. “No, not at this point,” he said. “We believe it was a local individual.” That suggests the post-9/11 fear-mongering has worked, and that one must be an “other” to be a terrorist. A pathetic man can rake 22,000 people from high up in a nearby hotel, killing 58 and wounding nearly 500 more…and none (in charge) dare call it terrorism?

Some of my anti-gun friends say the Second Amendment was the Founding Fathers’ original sin. No, that’s not right either. A sound and fair Second Amendment makes sense for a nation spawned by those shrugging off the yoke of tyranny by force of arms.

But Second Amendment backers also have to acknowledge that the Founding Fathers had no inkling of modern firearms, and the NRA’s death grip on Congress. If the recent conservative embrace of “originalism” in interpreting the Constitution and its amendments means anything, it means that the Founders were familiar with Brown Bess muskets and Pennsylvania rifles, not AK-47s and the NRA.

The nation rightly goes to great lengths to prevent its men and woman in uniform from dying on the battlefield. U.S. taxpayers spent $50 billion on 25,000 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles that the Pentagon rushed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many by air, to shield U.S. troops from $100 roadside bombs. The flip side of that fact is just as critical: we will spend billions—no, make that trillions—to track down a relatively few terrorists no matter where on the globe they’re hiding. We hurl $2.4 billion B-2 bombers and grim MQ-9 Reapers around the world, along with the cream of our young, to find them and wipe them out.

But our federal government won’t do a damn thing to halt homegrown mass murder. Both terrorists and murderers are vile scum, but what accounts for our skewed priorities?

An annual “Survey of American Fears” (is this a great country, or what?) by California’s Chapman University helps put this into perspective. Government corruption ranked #1 (60.6 percent of those surveyed said they were “afraid or very afraid” of it) in 2016. Terrorism was #2, cited by 41 percent, slightly higher than the 38.5 percent who feared “government restrictions on firearms and ammunition.” Interestingly, in light of that concern, “people I love dying” ranked 6th, at 38.1 percent, edging out the 35.5 percent who feared “The Affordable Health Care Act/Obamacare.”

Experts say fears can be irrational because our brains have evolved to make speedy judgments, fueled by emotion, that may have made sense in the past but no longer do. “Our biases reflect the choices that kept our ancestors alive,” neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz has written. “But we have yet to evolve similarly effective responses to statistics, media coverage, and fear-mongering politicians.”

Box cutters were turned into blades of mass destruction on Sept. 11, 2001. They were used by 19 Islamic terrorists to hijack four airliners and kill 2,977 innocents. Forty-eight hours later, before post-9/11 flights resumed, the U.S. government barred them from U.S. commercial aircraft.

No one asked that the handy tool be banned elsewhere. In fact, I just bought a nifty ceramic-bladed model to help me slice up all the Amazon boxes that arrive at my house each week. But banning box cutters from commercial air travel was a necessary step in dealing with the violence they enabled.

The same logic needs to apply to guns. Of course tighter restrictions won’t end firearm violence. But few want to abolish the Second Amendment. They just want reasonable, responsible restrictions to curb the carnage. Such limitations, well beyond banning bump stocks, are coming. The only question is how many more will have to die first.”

Photo of Mark Thompson

By: Mark Thompson, National Security Analyst

Mark Thompson writes for the Center for Defense Information at POGO.

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/military-industrial-circus/2017/of-guns-at-home-and-guns.html

 

How to Manage Risk for Your Global Business

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Global Business Risk

Image:  STRATFOR

“STRATFOR” By Brett Boyd

“The global economy is a fascinating ecosystem to both study and participate in. 

There are entirely new challenges to be faced and business competencies required to compete and win in today’s economy, many of which have very little to do with the product or service that companies deliver to their customers.”


“The term ‘globalization,’ while important, has an academic connotation that tends to underplay the very real and tactical implications for what it means to operate a business in 2017.

Stratfor has enjoyed a unique vantage point for observing the internationalization of business interests over the past 20 years.  While there have always been international companies — Ford has been selling cars around the world since opening operations in Canada in 1904 and Europe shortly thereafter; ExxonMobil’s predecessor Standard Oil began international operations in China in the 1890s; and investment firms have traded globally for centuries — virtually all companies are now impacted by international events to some extent.  Even companies that only operate domestically in the United States, for example, are influenced by global dynamics to a far greater extent than they were 20 years ago.  Spikes or depressions in non-related commodities prices can cascade into shipping and transportation costs.  Political upheaval in far-away places can impact labor costs for essential subcomponents controlled by suppliers.  Default on large debt instruments by countries in “emerging” markets can impact domestic interest rates and investments.

However, more and more companies are taking the further step to actually operate in these international markets.  This can manifest as selling products in new markets, opening offices to develop international capacity in fields such as software development, or developing supplier, product or distribution relationships.  In some cases, companies’ international exposure is limited to individual travel; in other cases it requires management of buildings, physical infrastructure and supply chains around the world.  The risks associated with each type of operations are different, but all international operations incur some degree of risk. Even Europe, often considered a relatively risk-free region for new investments, has significant political, economic, and security risks that must be understood.

Not all risks associated with international operations are equal.  The degree of risk is determined both by location and activity. International expansion into Nigeria entails different risks than would a similar program in France.  Neither is inherently better or worse, but the political, economic and security risks are different and must be understood and mitigated accordingly. Thoughtful risk management entails a balance between the economic potential of an opportunity and the costs required to mitigate the risks associated with that opportunity.  Companies understand that they get paid for risk, to some extent, and that it is possible to conduct operations anywhere in the world. But there are places where the costs of risk management outweigh the economic potential of the opportunity.

Framework-Based Risk Assessment

Stratfor has helped investors and corporate executives evaluate and manage risks associated with international operations for decades.  We have developed a market-assessment framework to help our clients evaluate international opportunities – whether they are in moderate-risk locations such as Europe or in higher-risk locations around the world.  This framework includes four primary areas of evaluation: political, economic, infrastructure, and security.  In some cases, we will also look at demographics or other factors that impact the attractiveness of an international market for sales or hiring opportunities, but these four areas are at the center of the majority of our risk assessment efforts.

Political.  Political risks involve local political decisions that could affect the viability of an investment or business interest.  These risks can range from broad election-based shifts  in a country’s political direction, to more specific regulatory moves that could adversely affect an industry or type of company.  We have seen organizations who woke up one morning to find that the effective tax rate for their operations in a country doubled, changing the country business unit from an extremely profitable operation to one that was losing money and potentially needed to be divested.  The challenge with political risk is that it needs to be understood on a forward-looking basis, as these risks are better avoided than worked through.  If a company plans to buy a business in Eastern Europe it is helpful to understand the current political environment, but that is only the beginning of a responsible country assessment.  What that company really needs is to understand the most likely political trajectory for that country over the next 10 years. Though this is difficult, and never error-free, it is possible.

Economic.  Companies tend to excel at evaluating specific opportunity risks, but in our experience, are less proficient at evaluating the environmental or macroeconomic conditions that can also impact performance. A company looking to buy a company in Southeast Asia, for example, may completely understand the risks associated with that company – equipment replacement needs, product shortcomings and balance sheet issues, for example.  That same company may miss the fact that the regional food-based commodities economy is under extreme pressure from other actors in the South China Sea, which could lead to significant operational risk that will be outside of their ability to control.  In our experience, although investors are better at evaluating these types of risks, they remain challenging nonetheless.  Economic risks range from currency issues (which are often political), to workforce availability, to the overall economic trajectory of a country and the cascading impact that can have on all companies operating in that market.

Infrastructure.  First-world companies sometimes take for granted the availability of functional infrastructure, especially when considering opportunities in developing economies.  Ports, roads and airports constitute critical supply chain and transportation nodes required for the success of a multinational enterprise.  Healthcare and education systems can be considered important parts of national infrastructure, especially for companies that plan to operate, hire, and sell products in a region for decades. Telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most commonly under-appreciated infrastructure sectors, as gaps in telephone and internet connectivity are often not as obvious as shortcomings in ports and roads.

Security.  Security risks are one of the most obvious areas of concern that companies evaluate, especially when they put people in less-developed “emerging” or “frontier” markets.  Companies tend to inherently understand that there are security risks involved in sending employees to the Middle East, for example.  The complexity comes from the need to do something about it; aside from telling our people not to go, how do we manage risk when we need to send a team member to a high-risk country?  Stratfor evaluates security threats in terms of crime, terrorism, espionage, and business continuity, with the aim of helping our clients implement the right levels of protective measures to allow successful operations anywhere in the world.  Industrial espionage and information security risks are specific areas where we have found that most companies understand that there are risks, but few have appropriate mitigating strategies in place.  Travel to China, for example, is extremely important for many different types of businesses, and there are relatively simple measures companies can put in place to mitigate common information security risks.

Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.

While some of the use cases mentioned above may seem tied to large investments, these factors are important for all organizations to understand.  Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.  Information and physical security considerations are important for small companies with individual international travelers, just as they are for large companies with significant international business interests.  Financial reward is often correlated in part with risk, and company executives understand that there are times where they need to incur risk in order to realize success.  Risk must be managed in a balanced fashion. Excessive risk aversion can lead to missed opportunities while ignoring risks can lead to disaster.

Companies that can understand and manage risk in a thoughtful, cost-efficient fashion tend to have an advantage over their competitors.  The most successful companies are those that go beyond understanding the present risk environment, and instead assess what it will look like in the next three to five years. This type of thinking facilitates the first-mover advantage, developing business infrastructure and relationships in a country before it becomes obvious that the risk environment there has improved.  Companies that lead in this fashion can be extremely successful, benefiting from the rush of competitors and capital that follow once the market understands that the risk environment has changed.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bret Boyd leads Stratfor’s enterprise business, which includes products and advisory services to support executives and fund managers operating in international markets. Prior to Stratfor, Mr. Boyd served in leadership roles at several high-growth companies and as an officer in the U.S. Special Operations Command. Mr. Boyd is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he studied international relations and systems engineering.

https://marcom.stratfor.com/horizons/how-manage-risk-your-global-business?utm_campaign=B2C_LL_Push&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=57066641&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8ZojjZwwtkstMewsmWkP8Ka0Uae7SVA2n4-z5r3EzwIA6p8rT0ZAq2nXraawnflbWG-FqIFKoGgOUilBnJh-YqhSWDDw&_hsmi=57066390

Jimmy Carter: “What I’ve Learned From North Korea’s Leaders”

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Jimmy Carter...In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Age

Image – AP – Former president Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang

“WASHINGTON POST” By Jimmy Carter

“Over more than 20 years, I have spent many hours in discussions with top North Korean officials and private citizens during visits to Pyongyang and to the countryside. I found Kim Il  Sung and other leaders to be both completely rational and dedicated to the preservation of their regime.

The next step should be for the United States to offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.

The Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement last week that “we have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation” is a good first step to defusing tensions.


“As the world knows, we face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences to the Korean Peninsula, Japan, our outlying territories in the Pacific and perhaps the mainland of the United States. This is the most serious existing threat to world peace, and it is imperative that Pyongyang and Washington find some way to ease the escalating tension and reach a lasting, peaceful agreement.

What the officials have always demanded is direct talks with the United States, leading to a permanent peace treaty to replace the still-prevailing 1953 cease-fire that has failed to end the Korean conflict. They want an end to sanctions, a guarantee that there will be no military attack on a peaceful North Korea, and eventual normal relations between their country and the international community.

I have visited with people who were starving. Still today, millions suffer from famine and food insecurity and seem to be completely loyal to their top leader. They are probably the most isolated people on Earth and almost unanimously believe that their greatest threat is from a preemptory military attack by the United States.

The top priority of North Korea’s leaders is to preserve their regime and keep it as free as possible from outside control. They are largely immune from influence or pressure from outside. During the time of the current leader, Kim Jong Un, this immunity has also applied to China, whose leaders want to avoid a regime collapse in North Korea or having to contemplate a nuclear-armed Japan or South Korea.

Until now, severe economic sanctions have not prevented North Korea from developing a formidable and dedicated military force, including long-range nuclear missiles, utilizing a surprising level of scientific and technological capability. There is no remaining chance that it will agree to a total denuclearization, as it has seen what happened in a denuclearized Libya and assessed the doubtful status of U.S. adherence to the Iran nuclear agreement.

There have been a number of suggestions for resolving this crisis, including military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities, more severe economic punishment, the forging of a protective nuclear agreement between China and North Korea similar to those between the United States and South Korea and Japan, a real enforcement of the Non- Proliferation Treaty by all nuclear weapons states not to expand their arsenals, and ending annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

All of these options are intended to dissuade or deter the leadership of a nation with long-range nuclear weapons — and that believes its existence is threatened — from taking steps to defend itself. None of them offer an immediate way to end the present crisis, because the Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jimmy-carter-what-ive-learned-from-north-koreas-leaders/2017/10/04/a2851a9e-a7bb-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-c%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.126cb97e6a40