The Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman has written an excellent new book, Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline from Obama to Trump. “The central issue,” Rachman argues, “is how the rise in Asian economic power is changing world politics” and we need to “understand how the governing elites of the big global powers see their roles in the world and the challenges facing them.”
Rachman’s analysis is fair, objective, and cogent. The implications of Rachman’s work for the United States are dangerous—especially since most policymakers are indifferent to Asia’s rise outside of a purely economic “everybody wins” point of view.
No, not everyone wins. They can’t.
Western Hegemony on the Wane
The process of Easternization began when economic power started shifting from the West toward the East in the postwar period. With the opening of China to world trade, this process accelerated. As the Cold War came to a close in the early 1990s, the push for more globalization (what President George H. W. Bush called “the new world order”) began in earnest. What began as a massive increase in wealth in Asia has now become a seismic shift of geopolitical power.
Before the economic explosion in Asia, as Rachman documents, the West tended to shape world events. Western countries, first in Europe and then the United States, were able to lead the world because of their monopoly on economic and military power, as well as technological innovation. Yet, thanks to the massive transfer of wealth eastward, “the West’s centuries-long domination of world affairs is now coming to a close,” and the great advantages that the West has enjoyed over the East “are fast eroding.”
Throughout his tenure in office, President Barack Obama and his defenders intimated that America’s decline was natural and inevitable and, in any case. well underway. Rather than waste time and resources fighting it, the Obamians believed that they needed merely to manage America’s decline. We on the Right understandably were annoyed and concerned by such unwarranted defeatism. Those of us who voted for Donald Trump understood that innovative change was needed in our political system, to reverse the decline. Yet, the mere election of Donald Trump, in my view, has not been enough to stem the patterns of Easternization.
Reality repeatedly has sent America’s post-Cold War presidents (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump) wake-up calls to begin focusing more intensely on Asia. Each time, those post-Cold War presidents have hit the proverbial snooze button. Instead, they opted mindlessly to continue the free trade policies that allowed China to sap America’s economic might and build up their own.
During former President George H.W. Bush’s presidency, we had to respond to the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Beijing faced some sanctions, but in the end the Bush Administration squandered a key opportunity to press for real change in China. Bill Clinton faced both a North Korean nuclear weapons scare in 1994 and the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996, when China looked poised to invade long-time American ally, Taiwan. In 2001, George W. Bush had to face China after they forced down a United States Navy E-3 spy plane flying near Hainan Island.. As these events continued and, even escalated, we ought to have seen a shift in policy. Yet, the greedy free traders in America used their influence and access to get presidents to back down.
30 Years of Economic Warfare
In the first nine months of the Trump Administration, Asia has become a topic of concern again. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump spoke forcefully about holding China (and other Asian states) accountable for unfair trade practices that damaged America’s economy and harmed American workers. During the transition, Trump ruffled feathers when he accepted a congratulatory phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan—disturbing the Chinese leadership, which views Taiwan as nothing more than a breakaway province. Of course, we’ve had to contend with the ticking time bomb that is the North Korean nuclear situation. And, there remains the irksome unfair Chinese trade practices that have persisted for more than 30 years.
During that time, China has practiced a form of economic warfare against the United States; it has used our free trade practices as a weapon against us. Thanks to these practices, America’s trade imbalance with China runs at around $347 billion. Although the U.S. economy remains the largest in the world (in GDP terms), China’s is now the second-largest and closing in fast. In terms of purchasing power parity, China became the largest economy in the world in 2014—the same year that America distracted itself with reigniting its age-old obsession with the Russian bear. We should be focusing on China’s rise, not Russia’s inexorable decline.
China’s economic growth has fueled an astonishing military modernization. The Chinese military is now a truly potent force that is rising to challenge the Western-led international order in Asia. While China’s technological capabilities remain subordinated to the West (theirs is a highly imitative rather than innovative technological capability), the Chinese are gaining on the West, thanks in large part to their cyber theft and industrial espionage capabilities directed against Western businesses, academic institutions, and governments.
It is only a matter of time, however, before China’s supreme economic prowess coalesces into dominant technological innovation. In fact, the accounting firm KPMG has long speculated that the next great innovation hub would be in China rather than the United States, given how far China has developed its technological capabilities.
Who Lost (to) China?
You can thank the free traders for this. The one group of influential people who were totally opposed to the kind of free trade that has empowered China were led by Steve Bannon, the chief economic nationalist in the United States today. Unfortunately, the economic nationalists have mostly been removed from the Trump Administration. Meanwhile, the faction that benefits most from maintaining the status quo with China, the billionaires who comprise Trump’s economic policy team, now have the ear of the president. And, the military leadership in the Trump Administration is more concerned with the War in Afghanistan and Russian irredentism in Europe than with China’s economic warfare.
Bannon still maintains a firm grasp on the reality of the world we’re facing: unless drastic action is taken to reverse the trend of Easternization through trade protectionism and an increased military focus on Asia, the United States will become a middle-rate power in a Chinese-dominated world.
“The strength of regional support for a continued strong U.S. role makes America’s determination to push back against Chinese hegemony both morally defensible and strategically feasible,” Rachman writes.
Yet, the pull of Easternization is great. The inability to push back against unfair trading practices will only ensure that any American resistance to Chinese hegemony will miss the mark, as the four post-Cold War presidents all have. Although Rachman believes that continued trade with China will mitigate the potential for future war, it’s more likely that Bannon’s view of restricted trade with China will provide the means for the United States to slow China’s rise and deter a future war.
Each day that the United States fails to reform its trade policies is another day that Americans (other than the upper 20 percent of wage earners) are left in the lurch. And the stronger China becomes, the more interested it will be in toppling America’s position as the global hegemon. So barring a serious course correction, it really is only a matter of time before Easternization permanently diminishes America’s power and standing in the world. Once that happens, there will be no going back.
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2016 Election • Americanism • Asia • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • September 11 • Terrorism
Like many long-time Trump supporters, I, too, was disappointed with the president’s announcement of a “new strategy” for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. I was hoping to hear Trump had found a responsible way to end our nation’s longest war. But with all of the armchair quarterbacking going on in the wake of the speech, it might be useful to take a moment to place the war in Afghanistan in the larger political context of our day, and to remember the complexities involved for the president in making this decision.
The question of what to do in Afghanistan is not answered in a vacuum, after all. In the grand scheme of things, it is possible that this was the prudent choice.
While I am a critic of the “strategy” (though not as fierce a critic as some others), I am not sure the quality of the plan matters all that much. In the final analysis, the plan’s prudence may have less to do with whether it will actually work than many people presume.
Let’s consider how the president arrived at this decision and think about it in the larger context of American politics today.
Priorities, Priorities . . .
First, the war in Afghanistan is nowhere near the top of the list of problems facing the United States. Second, we must not ignore the politics of culpability. Third,if it is true that everyone but Attorney General Jeff Sessions supported the strategy, then Trump was in a tough spot (maybe an impossible one).
The war in Afghanistan, while a tragic waste of lives and an embarrassing display of our government’s incompetence, is simply not our most pressing matter today. It pains me to say it, but we have been at war there for 17 years and, for the most part, no one at home really cares. Most of the Republican candidates for president, you might remember, had no problem supporting the war. One reason is American voters have little sense the war is still underway; the media does not cover it, and politicians tend not to talk about it. It’s the easiest thing in the world to ignore it. This lack of interest is unfortunate, tragic even, but it does say something about how important the war effort is to the vitality of the nation.
The bitter truth is that the billions of dollars wasted and the precious lives lost in Afghanistan do not make the problem of Afghanistan vital to our national survival in the near term. Americans may not want to admit it, but it is important that our statesmen do. Fighting the administrative state, securing the border, gaining energy independence, fixing trade deals, and generally promoting prosperity at home are far more vital. There are only so many battles Trump can wage at any given moment.
Next, we must remember the politics of culpability and the fickle nature of Americans today. Any negative outcome that could be attached, rightly or wrongly, to withdrawing from Afghanistan will have serious consequences for Trump and the viability of his agenda. This is not an attempt to cast aspersions on the American people as corrupt and incapable of self-government. But it is another bitter pill that in this politically charged atmosphere, Americans would probably abandon Trump and his program if terrorist attacks at home happened to follow a drawdown of our troops abroad. Never mind that the courts have made it nearly impossible for the president to do his lawful duty and control immigration based on his assessment of threats. Never mind that Congress has provided him no assistance or support in his attempt to enforce the laws they passed. Pulling out of Afghanistan at the wrong time would expose Trump to serious political risk.
Trump vs. His Advisors
Finally, consider the position in which President Trump’s advisors put him. Most Americans, it’s fair to say, would want the president to hear unfettered advice from his counselors. And there would be real consequences if Trump rejected their near unanimous advice. While I do not know that anyone threatened to quit over the question, it is not unreasonable to think that key advisors might resign if their advice on a major decision were to be rejected or ignored—not out of pride, mind you, but rather because the president should have advisors whose advice he’s inclined to hear and heed. In those rare cases when nearly every advisor holds to a position in opposition to the president’s inclinations, a careful statesman must consider the ramifications of rejecting their advice.
What’s more, if the president goes against the advice of his counselors, it is all on him. Obviously, “the buck stops” with the president. He’s responsible for decisions of grave national importance. But in this instance, it would have meant Trump had no cover from his advisors. In effect, they told him he was a man alone—with the exception of Steve Bannon (who has since resigned) and Sessions—in his assessment. While I hate our modern addiction to “expertise” as much as the next Trumpist, this is one those instances when expert advice matters (even if the experts in this case have a long track record of failure).
Yes, President Trump might have taken a bold stand for what he believed, but that is an awfully big risk to take. Is it worth it?
Just because most Americans seem to have forgotten the war, that doesn’t mean it’s an abstraction. People are rightly furious over the loss of American lives in what they perceive to be a useless and unwinnable conflict. But there is no easy way to say this: Leaning too heavily on previous sacrifices as a justification to withdraw now, if doing so comes at the expense of a domestic agenda that supports and defends the Constitution, would be a mistake. Remember, Trump walked into a mess of a situation at home and abroad when he took the oath of office. Resolving both sets of problems simultaneously may be impossible. And it may very well be that we cannot fix the latter without first correcting the former.
With the new strategy, President Trump may have the best way out of an unfortunate and challenging problem. He can give “his generals” a chance (say, two years) to pound the Taliban and other nefarious forces in Afghanistan. A few MOABs might set the right tone. The diplomats would have time to work the new strategy as well as they say they can. Together, they might be able to gain enough leverage over our opponents to broker a happy conclusion (leverage we certainly don’t have now).
Notice the caveats? If the generals and diplomats cannot make the plan work, as seems likely, then Trump’s original instincts will have been proven correct and his advisors wrong. Trump and his agenda would be safe and he could still end the war. In a way, this matches Trump’s own advice to “protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself.”
No Expedient Choices, Only Prudent Ones
Trump’s opponents on the Right and Left would likely respond that this is cheap politics. That’s too simplistic an understanding of what I am suggesting. I imagine President Trump would have liked nothing more than to get expert advice confirming his view that it was time to end the war and bring our men and women home. But he didn’t, and Trump was faced with a decision in what, as he points out, are very tough circumstances that he inherited. Under the circumstances, no politically expedient choice was available. The announcement was a bitter pill for his supporters to swallow, and if the president’s tone was any indicator, it wasn’t easy for him, either.
So for those who otherwise like Trump, or who value his agenda, they would do well to consider he may have made the right choice. In the best sense of the phrase, politics may have trumped policy. Going contrary to his initial instincts in this instance may have been an exercise in statesmanship and the humility his critics are so eager to deny is within his capacity. Trump may have weighed in the balance the various parts of his agenda. He may have considered the circumstances and examined what is urgent and what is necessary. We will not know for some time, but the new strategy in Afghanistan may be the most prudent course after all.
The trouble with the new (or, rather, not-so-new) Trump Administration war plan for Afghanistan is that it’s a loser. Sure, the president gets high marks for finally talking about “victory” in Afghanistan—after 17 years of seemingly endless warfare, it’s nice to hear the word mentioned. Yet, for all of the talk of victory, the president offered nothing new, at least strategically, that would achieve that goal.
Angelo Codevilla has also argued that we got nothing new from Trump on Afghanistan. At a tactical level, the president made much sense: we would no longer have the onerous rules of engagement that have prevented our gallant troops from fully bringing the hurt to our enemies. Battlefield commanders, not politicians in Washington, would have near-complete autonomy over the day-to-day course of the war. This is a refreshing change from the previous administration, which squandered Americans’ time, money, and lives in Afghanistan fighting simply to hold on, rather than win or withdraw. The restraining tactics of the Obama years were perfectly suited to a strategy of stalemate.
But do improved and sensible tactics automatically suggest a more sensible strategy? What is our strategy?
The best President Trump gave us was that “conditions on the ground,” rather than arbitrary time tables, would dictate the course of the war. Although sound policy, that remains a tactical rather than strategic consideration. And, really, this rhetoric sounds eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush and his “low energy” brother, Jeb!
To be clear, I am not an outright opponent of the plan, but I am a skeptic. For instance, supporters of the president’s plan argue that this rehash of the old plan is exactly what the president promised during the campaign. “Right now,” F. H. Buckley argues, “the principal breeding ground of Islamic jihadism is Afghanistan, not Syria, and Trump correctly concluded that the very best way to prevent another 9/11 is to continue the fight in that country. It’s just what he promised on the campaign trail.”
First, people like myself supported what was once referred to as the “Counterterrorism-Plus” strategy advanced by that broken clock and former Vice President Joe Biden. This plan called for focusing on the counterterrorism, rather than on the counterinsurgency aspects of the war. Right now, President Trump’s plan sounds dreadfully similar to our current counterinsurgency effort—sending more forces (around 4,000 troops) to win the fickle hearts and minds of the Afghan people, thereby denying insurgents, such as the Taliban or al-Qaeda, recruits. This plan has never worked in Afghanistan. So, whether it’s 4,000 or 40,000 more troops, it’s still a bad plan. Some hearts can’t be won.
Second, although it’s true Afghanistan is a front in the “Global War on Terror,” the geography, political system, and historical realities of the country make a massive invasion with conventional forces primed for “bolstering” the unpopular local government a waste of time. As Peter Tomsen has shown, the true path to political stability in Afghanistan lies not in Kabul, but with the local tribes—and they generally want foreigners to leave them alone. The larger our presence is, the more the locals will turn against us. It’s just that simple.
The military keeps arguing that larger troop numbers will “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghans. Yet, when America had nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, it did little to persuade the bulk of the population to support our cause. What makes the president think that 15,000 troops total would make a difference now?
Fact is, the real fight is not Afghanistan, which remains only partially controlled by the Islamist Taliban (and where both the foreign al-Qaeda and ISIS elements are not as popular as their propaganda would have you believe), butin the Levant. What’s more, the war is actually shifting away from the Mideast, and toward Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. What are we doing to counter the rise of jihadists in Asia? We’re sending special forces, which is the proper way to fight terrorism.
Third, there is no upper limit to the troop surge. This is potentially Vietnam redux. In Vietnam, America’s leaders didn’t fight to win. They fought merely to preserve the government of South Vietnam. That was not a sound strategy. The United States spent a decade, and deployed hundreds of thousands of its brave young men—while dropping more ordnance on Vietnam than we dropped on Europe during World War II—to no effect. The Communists still enjoyed a political victory. Under current plans for Afghanistan, we’ll likely keep sending more troops, and the insurgents will keep resisting. Just like Vietnam. Get the picture?
Fourth, the president has laughably demanded that NATO forces “step up to the plate” in Afghanistan. Sure, after 17 years of not stepping up to the plate (in some cases, not even taking the field), presidential shaming will draw the hapless Germans and the recalcitrant French into the fight. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump rightly pointed out the systemic flaws of NATO. Now, he seems to have thrown those views out with his erstwhile strategic adviser, Steve Bannon.
One of the many reasons many of us supported Trump over his more conventional political opponents was precisely because he spent the entire campaign attacking ignorant bromides (such as “the ultimate weapon in war is no weapon”) perpetuated by a self-indulgent political elite. Trump supporters, like myself, refused to support a political elite that seeks to convert our military into little more than armed humanitarians any longer. We wanted a turnaround.
I thought the president, being an astute businessman, would not write blank checks. Yet, like it or not, that’s what he just did in Afghanistan. Trump supporters wanted the president to call in America’s chips, cash us out, and move on from that notorious “graveyard of empires.” Although, it’s fair to say that President Trump has an uncanny ability to shock his detractors with success by going big, this is Afghanistan, not Atlantic City. To the Afghans, America looks more like that foolish gambling addict so desperate to win against a stacked deck that he’s willing to bet his kid’s college funds to “get lucky” on the next hand. In Afghanistan, as in any casino, we should remember that the odds are always with the house. Nation-building and counterinsurgency do not work over there.
Is it really possible that Trump (or any modern Western leader) could succeed where Alexander the Great failed? Records may be meant to be broken, but there is such a thing as the “sunk cost fallacy.” Let’s break this cycle and not make the mistakes of previous great powers in Afghanistan. Let’s come home.
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https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-08-24 13:04:232017-08-27 07:46:10A Blank Check for Afghanistan
Americanism • Asia • China • Conservatives • Defense of the West • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • History • Immigration • Religion of Peace • September 11 • Terrorism
Editor’s Note:This essay was originally published in the Fall 2001 edition of the Claremont Review of Books. The editors are grateful for permission from the Claremont Institute to republish the article here. Read Angelo Codevilla’s response to President Trump’s August 21 speech on Afghanistan.
“It is not that they love peace less, but that they love their kind of peace more.”
—St. Augustine, City of God
” In the end, there was no one so small or weak that they could not do them harm.”
—Montesquieu, The Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline
“…by their fruits shall ye know them.”
—Jesus, Sermon on the Mount
As Americans mourned on the night of September 11, many in the Middle East celebrated. Their enemies, 280 million people disposing of one third the wealth of the earth, had been bloodied. Better yet, Americans were sadly telling each other that life would never be the same as before — and certainly not better.
The revelers’ joy was troubled only by the fear that an angry America might crush them. For a few hours, Palestinian warlords referred to the events as Al Nachba—”the disaster”—and from Gaza to Baghdad the order spread that victory parties must be out of sight of cameras and that any inflammatory footage must be seized. But soon, to their relief, the revelers heard the American government announce that it would not hold them responsible. President George W. Bush gratuitously held out the cachet of “allies” in the war on terrorism to nations that the U.S. government had officially designated as the world’s chief sponsors of terrorism. Thus Yasser Arafat’s, Saddam Hussein’s, and Bashar al Assad’s regimes could enjoy, undisturbed, the success of the anti-Western cause that alone legitimizes their rule. That peace is their victory, and our lack of peace is our defeat.
Common sense does not mistake the difference between victory and defeat: the losers weep and cower, while the winners strut and rejoice. The losers have to change their ways, the winners feel more secure than ever in theirs. On September 12, retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm encapsulated this common sense: “I don’t want to change the way I live. I want to change the way they live.” Common sense says that victory means living without worry that some foreigners might kill us on behalf of their causes, but also without having to bow to domestic bureaucrats and cops, especially useless ones. It means not changing the tradition by which the government of the United States treats citizens as its masters rather than as potential enemies. Victory requires killing our enemies, or making them live in debilitating fear.
The flood of authoritative commentary flowing from the U.S. government and the media soon washed common sense out of America’s discourse. The conventional wisdom is foursquare in favor of the “War on Terrorism.” But it defines that war in terms of an endless series of ever more sophisticated security measures at home; better intelligence for identifying terrorists; and military as well as economic measures to “bring to justice” the shadowy al-Qaeda network. Notably, this flood averts attention from the fact that sowing terror in order to get America to tie itself in rancorous knots is the principal element of several governments’ foreign policy. It also discourages questioning the competence of the U.S. officials under whose guidance, in a single decade, America became the object in much of the world of a fateful combination of hatred and contempt. In short, the conventional wisdom envisages no effort to make mourners out of revelers and vice versa.
There will surely be more attacks, and of increasing seriousness. That is because the success of the September 11 attacks and of their aftermath has mightily encouraged America’s enemies, and as we shall see, no security or intelligence measures imaginable stand any chance of diminishing the opportunities for successful terrorist attacks. Why should America’s enemies stop doing what has proved safe, successful, and fun?
Let us first examine the attitudes and policies of the U.S. government that guarantee defeat—in fact, are defeat itself. Then we will be able to see more clearly what victory would look like, and how it could be achieved.
Part I: Anatomy of Defeat
The U.S. government’s “War on Terrorism” has three parts: “Homeland Security,” more intelligence, and bringing al-Qaeda “to justice.” The first is impotent, counterproductive, and silly. The second is impossible. The third is misconceived and is a diversion from reality.
Security is Illusory The nationally televised statement on October 31 of Tom Ridge, President Bush’s head of Homeland Security, that the national “alert” and the new security measures would last “indefinitely,” is a conclusive self-indictment. The Homeland Security office’s vision of the future for ourselves and our children and our children’s children involves identification cards for all, with biometric data and up-to-the-minute records of travel, employment, finances, etc., to be used to authorize access to places that are vulnerable to terrorist attack. This means that never again will the government simply trust citizens to go into a government office, a large building, a stadium, an airplane, or for that matter merely to walk around without what the Germans call Ausweis—papers. Checking everyone, however, makes sense only if officials will never be able to tell the difference between the average citizen and the enemy—and if the enemy will never be defeated.
But to assume such things is deadly. Unable to stop terrorists, Homeland Security will spend its time cracking down on those who run afoul of its regulations. In Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, for example, a man was taken off an aircraft in handcuffs for having boarded before his row number had been called. Tom Ridge, with the demeanor of every state trooper who has ever pulled you over for exceeding 55 miles per hour, reassured Americans that he has the authority to order the shoot-down of civilian airliners. As Machiavelli points out in his Discourses, security measures that hurt, threaten, or humiliate citizens engender hatred on top of contempt. No civil libertarian, Machiavelli teaches that true security comes from armed citizens to whom the government is bound by mutual trust. America fought Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union without treating the public as potential enemies, and without making officials into a protected class. By governing from behind security screens, America’s leaders today make our land less free and prove themselves less than brave.
Impotence worsens contempt. In The Prince, Machiavelli points out that no defense is possible against someone who is willing to give up his life to kill another. In our time we have seen suicide gunners and bombers shred Israel’s security system, surely the world’s most extensive. Studies carried out by the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center generalize the lesson: Whereas terrorist attacks against undefended targets have a rate of success limited only by the terrorists’ incompetence, the rate of success against the most heavily defended targets hovers around 85%. In short, the cleverest, most oppressive defensive measures buy very little safety. In America, the possibilities for terrorist attack are endless, and effective security measures are inconceivable. How many school buses roll every morning? What would it take to toss a Molotov cocktail into 10 of them at precisely the same time? How easy would it be to sneak into a Safeway warehouse and contaminate a case of breakfast cereal? What would it take to set afire a gasoline tanker in a U.S. port?
Security measures actually magnify the effects of terrorism. The hijackings of September 11 have set in motion security measures that shut down airports on receipt of threats or merely on the basis of technical glitches in the security system itself. Similarly, attacks on the food distribution system, the schools, ports, etc., would cripple them by setting in motion attempts to make them secure. Indeed, manipulating the security system in order to cause disruption must rank high on the agenda of any competent terrorist. What’s more, any successful attack through, or around, the security systems (remember, such attacks are very likely to succeed) proves that the government cannot protect us.
On top of this, most security measures are ridiculous on their face. Airport security is prototypical. Everyone who flies knows that September 11 ended forever the era of hijacking, and not because of the ensuing security. In fact, hijacking had become possible only because of U.S. policy. Bowing to pressure from the Left in the 1960s, the U.S. government failed to exercise its right to force Castro’s Cuba to return hijackers, and instead defined security as disarming passengers. This succeeded in disarming everyone but hijackers. By 1969, Cuba’s immunity had encouraged Arab governments to get into the hijacking business. The U.S. government’s response to failed policy, however, was not to reverse it, i.e., to attack foreign governments involved with hijacking and to empower passengers to defend themselves. Rather, the government reemphasized its approach. The official instructions to passengers (in force on September 11) read like an invitation to hijackers: “Comply with your captors’ directions”; “Relax, breathe deeply”; “If told to maintain a particular body position, talk yourself into relaxing into that position, you may have to stay that way for a long time.” Indeed. U.S. security policy guaranteed the success of the September 11 hijackings.
But the first plane that hit the World Trade Center forever ended the free ride for hijackers by showing that the federal regulations exposed passengers to death. The passengers on United Airlines flight 93 violated the regulations (for which they technically could have been prosecuted—Remember: “you must comply with all federal regulations, posted signs and placards, and crew member instructions”) and attacked the hijackers, who unfortunately were already at the controls of the plane. Had they disobeyed minutes before, they would have saved themselves. Since then, a few incidents aboard aircraft have shown that the only function that henceforth a sky marshal might be able to perform would be to save a would-be hijacker from being torn apart by the passengers.
Despite the fact that anti-hijacking measures are now superfluous, the U.S. government now requires three checks of the same identity documents before boarding an airplane, and has banned more items that might be used as weapons. These now superfluous measures would have been futile on September 11. The hijackers would have satisfied any number of document checks, and could have carried out their operation using as weapons things that cannot be excluded from aircraft, such as nylon stockings; or even barehanded, using martial arts. Nor could the gun-toting, camouflage-clad soldiers who nowadays stand out like sore thumbs in America’s airports have done anything to prevent September 11.
For passive security to offer any protection against enemies while reducing aggravation of innocents, it must focus very tightly on the smallest possible groups who fit terrorist profiles. In America’s current war, terrorists are overwhelmingly likely to be a tiny, mostly visible minority—Arabs. But note that even Israeli security, which carries this sort of profiling to the point of outright racial discrimination, reduces the success of terrorist attempts only marginally.
Intelligence is Impossible
Are America’s intelligence agencies culpable for failing to stop September 11? No. But for the same reasons that they could not have prevented that atrocity, it is futile to suggest that they might help punish those responsible for it and be able to prevent future terrorism. It is impossible to imagine an intelligence system that would deal successfully with any of the three problems of passive anti- terrorism: security clearances for most of the population; the multiplicity of targets that must be defended as well as the multiple ways in which they can be attacked; and an unlimited stream of possible attackers.
Imagine a security investigation in which neither the investigators nor the evaluators can ask or even listen to anything about the subject’s ethnic identity or political or philosophical beliefs, never mind sexual proclivities. This is the system in force today for clearing a few people for “Top Secret—Codeword” information, which concerns nuclear weapons, among other things. How could the U.S. government deny access to a job in Homeland Security, or as an airline pilot, to an Arab Muslim opposed to U.S. policy in the Middle East, for example? Consequently, although The Card (the American equivalent of the Soviet Internal Passport) would contain all sorts of data on your personal life, it would do nothing to impede terrorism. The first act of terrorism committed by a properly credentialed person would dispel any illusion. Alas, the routine occurrence of such events in Israel has not shaken official faith in documentation.
To protect against future terror, U.S. intelligence would have to gain foreknowledge of who, precisely, intended to do what, where, when, and how. It cannot do this both because of fundamental shortcomings and because the task is beyond even the best imaginable system.
Roughly, U.S. intelligence brings to bear against terrorism its network of communications intelligence (COMINT) and its network of human collectors. The value of COMINT with regard to terrorism has never been high and has been diminished by the technical trends of recent decades. The exponential growth in the number of sources of electronic communication—cell phones, computers, etc. —as well as of the volume of such communications has made nonsense of the standard U.S. practice of electronic sorting of grains of wheat in mountains of chaff. Moreover, the advent of near-perfect, cheap encryption has ensured that when the nuggets are found, they will be unreadable. It would have been a fluke had U.S. intelligence had any COMINT data on September 11 prior to the event. It has had none since. If any of the thousands of CIA human intelligence collectors had acquired prior knowledge, the surprise would have been even greater. These collectors simply are not in contact with any of the people who are involved with such things. CIA people work in embassies, pretend to be diplomats, and have contact only with people who normally see diplomats. Human intelligence means human contact. To make contact with terrorists, the CIA would have to operate the way the Drug Enforcement Agency does—becoming part of the drug business. But nobody at CIA knows how to do that, is capable of doing that, or wants to learn. As for the FBI, alas, they are cops who get pay raises not so much for accurate intelligence as for the number of people they put behind bars.
Imagine, however, that U.S. intelligence were excellent in every respect. What could it contribute to passive anti-terrorism? The (new, much improved) official doctrine of the new CIA-FBI Joint Counterintelligence Office states that the intellectual point of departure for counterintelligence and counterterrorism must be identification of the U.S. assets and secrets that enemies are most likely to attack. Then analysts should identify the ways in which enemies might best wage the attacks. Once this is done, they can investigate whether in fact these attacks are being planned, how, and by whom. When analysis of “what” leads to knowledge of “who,” the attacks can be frustrated. This approach makes sense as regards counterintelligence, because the targets of the attacks are few and the attacks themselves have to be in the form of slow-developing human contacts or technical deceptions. But it makes no sense with regard to terrorism because the assets that are vulnerable to attack are practically infinite in number and variety, and the modes in which they are liable to be attacked are legion. There cannot be nearly enough investigative resources to explore every possibility.
Hence counterterrorist intelligence has no choice but to begin with the question “who?” Answering this question as regards those who are preparing attacks is difficult in the retail sense, and irrelevant on the wholesale level. Both the difficulty and the irrelevance stem from the fact that those who perpetrate terrorist acts are the equivalent of soldiers in war—there are lots of them, none is remarkable before he shoots, and there are lots where they came from. How would the Drug Enforcement Agency’s intelligence operate if it tried to target mere drug couriers or petty salesmen? Its agents would haunt the drug dens, cultivating petty contacts a few of which might be recruited into trafficking. By the same token, today’s CIA and FBI (in the unlikely event they could manage the cover) would haunt mosques, Islamic schools, and so forth, in the hope that some of their contacts might be among those recruited for terrorism. Very occasionally all this hard work would be rewarded by a success. But all this would amount to picking off a few drops from a fire hose.
That is why intelligence is useful only in the service of intelligent policy, that is, policy that aims at eliminating the people whose elimination would turn off the hose. But as we shall see, the identity of such people is discoverable not by espionage but by intelligence in the ordinary meaning of the word. It is in this regard that U.S. intelligence is most defective. For example, since September 11, for want of sources of its own, the CIA has been accepting information on terrorism from the intelligence services of Syria and of Yasser Arafat’s PLO—outfits whose agendas could not be more opposed to America’s.
The gullibility of U.S. intelligence is not merely an intellectual fault. The CIA’s judgment is corrupted by its longstanding commitment to certain policies. It is only a small exaggeration to say that radical Arab nationalism was invented at the CIA. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, when speaking to his brother, CIA director Allen Dulles, about the granddaddy of Arab radicalism Gamal Abdul Nasser, used to call him “your colonel” because his takeover of Egypt had been financed by the CIA. Franz Fanon, the father of the anti-American Left in the Third World, was so close to the CIA that he chose to die under the Agency’s medical care. Within the government, the CIA long has championed Arafat’s PLO, even as the PLO was killing U.S. ambassadors. Under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, CIA director George Tenet has openly championed the fiction that Arafat’s “Security Forces” are something other than an army for the destruction of Israel. Before Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate described Saddam Hussein as no threat to the region and as ready to cooperate with the United States. These are not mere errors.
Intelligence officers are most corrupted by the temptation to tell their superiors what they want to hear. Thus in September, CIA prevailed upon the intelligence service of the Czech Republic to cast doubts on reports that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 attacks, had twice met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence as he was preparing for the attacks. The Czech government later formally disavowed its service’s denial and affirmed the contacts between Atta and Iraq. But the CIA insists that there is no evidence that these two professional terrorists met to discuss terrorism. Gardening, perhaps?
When weapons-grade anthrax began to appear on Capitol Hill and in U.S. post offices in October, attention naturally turned to Iraq, whose regime had run the world’s largest or second-largest program for producing it. But the FBI in November, after failing to discover anything whatever concerning the provenance of the anthrax, officially gave the press a gratuitous profile of the mailer as a domestic lunatic. The domestic focus of the investigation was doubly foolish. Even if Saddam Hussein had not thought of anthrax attacks on America before October 2001, the success of the attacks that did occur, as well as the U.S. government’s exoneration of foreigners well-nigh ensured that Saddam would quickly get into the business of spreading the disease among us. Why shouldn’t he? Moreover, the further “identification” of the source of the anthrax by an unidentified “intelligence source” as “some right-wing fanatic” aggravated the naturally worst effect of foreign wars: to compound domestic rivalries.
The use of intelligence not to fight the enemy but to erect a bodyguard of misimpressions around incompetent policy is not a sign of brilliance.
The third pillar of the Bush strategy, the hunt for Osama bin Laden and military action first and foremost against the Taliban, is equally problematic.
Al-Qaeda is Not the Problem
In life as in math, we judge the importance of any part of any problem or structure by factoring it out. Does the equation still work? Does the building or the argument still stand? Imagine if a magic wand were to eliminate from the earth al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. With them gone, would Americans be safe from Arab terrorists? No way. Then what good does it do for the U.S. government to make war on them and no one else? Why not make war on those whose elimination would eliminate terrorism?
Talk of bringing bin Laden “to justice” would sound less confident were ordinary rules of evidence to apply. The trial of bin Laden would be a nightmare of embarrassment for U.S. intelligence. Any number of uncorroborated reports from sources both unreliable and with an interest in deflecting U.S. anger away from Arab governments have painted bin Laden and his friends as devils responsible for all evils. This picture is attractive because it tends to validate decades of judgments by U.S. policy makers. The only independent test of these reports’ validity came in 1998, when President Clinton launched a cruise missile strike against what “sources” had reported to be al-Qaeda’s germ warfare plant in Khartoum. It turned out to be an innocent medicine factory. None of this is to deny that bin Laden and his friends are America’s enemies and that their deaths would be good for us. But people like bin Laden are far from the sole practitioners of violence against Americans and the people and conditions that brought forth all these violent anti-Americans would soon spawn others like them.
Moreover, even if bin Laden had ordered September 11, as he boasts in a recruitment video, the fire that it started in America’s house has been so attractive to potential arsonists that America will not be able to rest until they are discouraged. Getting bin Laden won’t help much.
The Taliban are mostly irrelevant to America. Typically Afghan and unlike the regimes of Syria, Iraq, and the PLO, the Taliban have little role in or concern with affairs beyond their land. They provide shelter to various Arabs who have brought them money and armed help against their internal rivals. But Afghans have not bloodied the world. Arabs have.
The loyalty of the Taliban to their Arab guests is of the tribal kind. The moment that the Taliban are under serious threat, they probably will give the foreigners up. But absent the complicity of someone where bin Laden may be hiding, it is inconceivable that U.S. intelligence would find bin Laden’s location and dispatch Special Forces that could swoop in, defeat his entourage, and take him out. It is surprising that no one has yet lured the U.S. into such an operation—and into an ambush. Destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was always the only way of getting bin Laden, for what little that is worth.
From the beginning of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan on October 7, the lack of strategy for ousting the Taliban was evidence of incompetence. Since then, obvious changes in the character of operations belied U.S. spokesmen’s claims that the war is “on schedule,” and confirmed that those who planned the operation made no intellectual connection between the military moves they were making and the political results they expected. During the first weeks, U.S. actions were limited to bombing “fixed targets,” mostly primitive air defenses and mud huts, unrelated to the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan. Only after it became undeniable that the only force that could make a dent in the regime was the Northern Alliance did U.S. bombers begin to support the Alliance’s troops—but tentatively and incompetently. All war colleges teach that bombs from aircraft or artillery are useful in ground combat only insofar as they fall on enemy troops so close in time to the arrival of one’s own infantry and armor that they render the enemy physically unable to resist. Whether in the two World Wars, in Vietnam, or in Kosovo, whenever significant amounts of time have passed between bombs falling on defenders and the arrival of attackers, the defenders have held. The Afghan civil war is very much a conventional war. Nevertheless, U.S. officials began to take seriously the task of coordinating bombing and preparing the Northern Alliance for serious military operations only after more than a month of embarrassment. In the initial days and weeks, the operation was a show of weakness, not strength.
The U.S. government’s misuse of force was due to its desire to see the Taliban regime lose and the Northern Alliance not win—impossible. When the Alliance did win, the tribal nature of Afghanistan guaranteed that the tribes that stood with the losers would switch sides, and that they would sell to the winners whatever strangers were in their midst. This, however, underlined the operation’s fundamental flaw: just as in the Persian Gulf War, the objective was so ill-chosen that it could be attained without fixing the problem for which we had gone to war. We could win the battle and lose the war.
Hence the worst thing about the campaign against Afghanistan was its opportunity cost. Paraphrasing Livy, Machiavelli tells us “the Romans made their wars short and big.” This is the wisdom of the ages: where war is concerned, the shorter and more decisive, the better, provided of course that the military objective chosen is such that its accomplishment will fix the problem. By contrast, the central message of the Bush Administration concerning the “War on Terrorism” is hardly distinguishable from that of the Johnson Administration during the Vietnam War: This war will last indefinitely, and the public must not expect decisive actions. In sum, the Bush Administration concedes that the objectives of its military operations will not solve the problem, will not bring victory. Whatever its incidental benefits, the operation is diverting U.S. efforts from inconveniencing any of America’s major enemies, and it is wasting the American people’s anger and commitment.
You Can’t “Spin” Defeat Sensing mounting criticism at home and abroad for ineffectiveness, President Bush addressed the world and the nation on November 8. But he did not address the question that troubled his audiences: Do you have a reasonable plan for victory, for returning the country to the tranquility of September 10? Conscious that economic activity and confidence in America were sinking, he tried to rally the public by invoking the cry of the passenger on Flight 93 who attacked the hijackers: “Let’s roll!” But the substance of what he said undercut the spirit. Rather than asking Americans to take security into their own hands, he asked Americans for indefinite tolerance of restrictions on their freedom. Typical of the result was a New York Times interview with a young laid-off professional. When he watches the news, he said, “it feels like the world is going to hell, like nothing is going to get better.” That is defeat.
What would victory look like?
Part II: Victory
For Americans, victory would mean living a quiet and peaceable life, if possible even less troubled by the troubles of other parts of the world, even freer from searches and sirens and friction and fear, than on September 10. Hence all of the U.S. government’s actions subsequent to September 11 must be judged by how they relate to that end. So what should be the U.S. government’s practical objectives? Who is the enemy that stands in the way? How is this obstacle to be removed? In sum, as Thucydides’ Archidamus asked the Spartans, “What is to be our war?”
The Tranquility of Order
Our peace, our victory, requires bloody vengeance for the murder of some 5,000 innocent family members and friends—we seek at least as many deaths, at least as gory, not to appease our Furies, nor even because justice requires it. Vengeance is necessary to eliminate actual enemies, and to leave no hope for any person or cause inimical to America. Killing those people, those hopes, and those causes is the sine qua non of our peace—and very much within our power.
Fortunately, our peace, our victory, does not require that the peoples of Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula, Palestine, or indeed any other part of the world become democratic, free, or decent. They do not require any change in anybody’s religion. We have neither the power nor the right to make such changes. Nor, fortunately, does our peace depend on making sure that others will like us. We have no power to make that happen. Neither our nor anyone else’s peace has ever depended on creating “New World Orders,” “collective security,” or “communities of power.” International relations are not magic. Our own peace does not depend on any two foreign governments being at peace with each other. It is not in our power or in the power of any third party to force such a peace except by making war on both governments. Much less does our peace depend on a “comprehensive peace” in the Middle East or anywhere else. It is not in our power to make such a peace except by conquering whole regions of the world. Our peace and prosperity do not depend on the existence of friendly regimes in any country whatever, including Saudi Arabia. That is fortunate, because we have no power to determine “who rules” in any other country.
Virtually all America’s statesmen until Woodrow Wilson warned that the rest of mankind would not develop ideas and habits like ours or live by our standards. Hence we should not expect any relief from the permanent burdens of international affairs, and of war. Indeed, statesmen from Washington to Lincoln made clear that any attempt to dictate another people’s regime or religion would likelier result in resentment abroad and faction at home than in any relief from foreign troubles. We can and must live permanently in a world of alien regimes and religions. The mere difference in religion or mode of government does not mean that others will trouble our peace. Whether or not any foreign rulers make or allow war on America is a matter of their choice alone. We can talk, negotiate, and exercise economic pressure on rulers who trouble our peace. But if they make war on us we have no choice but to make war on them and kill them. Though we cannot determine who will rule, we surely can determine who will neither rule nor live.
What do we want from the Middle East to secure our peace? Neither democracy nor a moderate form of Islam—only that the region’s leaders neither make nor allow war on us, lest they die. We have both the right and the capacity to make sure of that. But is it not necessary for our peace that the countries of the region be ruled by regimes friendly to us? No. By all accounts, the Saudi royal family’s personal friendship with Americans has not affected their aiding and abetting terror against us. It is necessary only that any rulers, whatever their inclinations might be, know that they and their entourages will be killed, surely and brutally, if any harm to Americans originates from within their borders. Respect beats friendship. Do we not have to make sure that the oil of the Middle East continues to fuel the world economy? Is this not necessary to our peace? Indeed. But this does not burden us with the impossible task of ensuring that Saudi Arabia and the Oil States are ruled by friendly regimes. We need only ensure that whoever rules those hot sands does not interfere with the production of the oil that lies beneath them. That we can do, if we will.
In sum, ending the war that broke out on September 11 with our peace will require a lot of killing—to eliminate those in any way responsible for attacking us, and those who might cause further violence to us or choke the world’s economy by troubling the supply of oil. It turns out that these mostly are the same persons. Who then are the enemies whose deaths will bring us peace?
It’s The Regime, Stupid
When the suicide pilots of September 11 died, they made nonsense of the notion that terrorism was perpetrated by and on behalf of “senseless” individuals, and that the solution to terrorism lay in “bringing to justice” the bombers and trigger pullers. If this notion were adhered to, the fact that the terrorists had already gone to justice should have ended the matter, except for some ritual exhortation to states to be a bit more careful about madmen in their populations.
But these terrorists were neither madmen nor on the edges of society. They came from well-established families. They had more than casual contacts with the political movements and intelligence services of their own regime and of neighboring countries. They acted on behalf of international causes that are the main sources of legitimacy for some regimes of the Middle East, and are tolerated by all. These causes include a version of Islam; a version of Arab nationalism; driving Westerners and Western influence form Islamic lands; and ridding the Arab world of more or less pro-Western regimes like that of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates. Moreover, peoples and regimes alike cheered their acts. In short, these acts were not private. Rather, they were much like the old Western practice of “privateering” (enshrined in Article I of our own Constitution, vide “letters of Marque and Reprisal”), in which individuals not under formal discipline of governments nevertheless were chartered by governments to make war on their behalf.
Since the terrorists of September 11 are dead and we sense that their acts were not merely on their own behalf but rather that they acted as soldiers, the question imposes itself: Whose soldiers? Who is responsible? Whose death will bring us peace?
Islam is not responsible. It has been around longer than the United States, and coexisted with it peacefully for two hundred years. No doubt a version of Islam —Islamism—a cross between the Wahabi sect and secular anti-Westernism, is central to those who want to kill Americans. But it is neither necessary nor sufficient nor possible for Americans to enter into intra-Muslim theological debates. Besides, these debates are not terribly relevant. The relevant fact is that the re-definition of Islam into something harmful to us is the work of certain regimes and could not survive without them.
Regimes are forms of government, systems of incentives and disincentives, of honors and taboos and habits. Each kind of regime gives prominence to some kinds of people and practices, while pushing others to the margins of society. Different regimes bring out different possibilities inherent in the same people. Thus the Japanese regime prior to World War II changed the meaning of the national religion of Shinto from quaint rituals to militant emperor-worship. Germany meant vastly different things to the German people and to the world when it was under the regime established by Konrad Adenauer, as opposed to the one established by Adolf Hitler. In short, regimes get to define themselves and the people who live under them.
Note that Palestine’s Yasser Arafat, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and Syria’s Assad family have made themselves the icons of Islamism despite the fact that they are well known atheists who live un-Muslim lives and have persecuted unto death the Muslim movements in their countries. Nevertheless, they represent the hopes of millions for standing up to Westerners, driving Israel (hated more for its Westernness than its Judaism) out of the Holy Land, and undoing the regimes that stand with the West. These tyrants represent those hopes because they in fact have managed to do impressive anti-Western deeds and have gotten away with it. The Middle East’s memory of the Gulf War is that Saddam tried to drive a Western lackey out of Kuwait and then withstood the full might of America, later to spit in its face. The Middle East’s view of Palestine is that Arafat and the Assads champion the rights of Islam against the Infidels.
Nor are the Arab peoples or Arab nationalism necessarily our enemies. America co-existed peacefully with Arabs for two centuries. Indeed, the United States is largely responsible for pushing Britain and France to abandon colonial and neo-colonial rule over Arab peoples in the 1950s. U.S. policy has been unfailingly—perhaps blindly—in favor of Arab nationalism. It is true that Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser founded Arab nationalism on an anti-American basis in the 1950s. It is true that in 1958 the Arab Socialist Party’s (Ba’ath) coup in Iraq and Syria gave Arab nationalism a mighty push in the anti-American direction. It is true that the Soviet Union and radical Arabs created the Palestine Liberation Organization as an anti-Western movement. But it is also true that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and, since 1973, Egypt have been just as Arab and just as nationalistic, though generally more pro-Western.
How did the PLO and the Ba’ath regimes of Syria and Iraq gather to themselves the mantle of Arab nationalism? First, the Saudis and the Emirates gave them money, while Americans and Europeans gave them respect and money. Saudis, Americans and Europeans gave these things in no small part because the radical Arabs employed terrorism from the very first, and Saudi, American, and European politicians, and Israelis as well, hoped to domesticate the radicals, buy them off, or divert them to other targets—including each other. Second and above all, we have given them victories, which they have used as warrants for strengthening their hold on their peoples and for recruiting more terrorists against us.
Today Iraq, Syria, and the PLO are the effective cause of global terrorism. More than half of the world’s terrorism since 1969, and nearly all of it since the fall of the Soviet Union, has been conducted on behalf of the policies and against the enemies of those three regimes. By comparison, Libya, Iran, and Sudan have been minor players. Afghanistan is just a place on the map. Factor these three malefactors out of the world’s political equation and what reason would any Arab inclined to Islamism or radical nationalism have to believe that such causes would stand a chance of success? Which intelligence service would provide would-be terrorists with the contacts, the money, the training to enter and fight the West or Israel? For whom, in short, would they soldier?
The Iraqi, Syrian, and the PLO regimes are no more true nationalists than they are true Muslims. They are regimes of a party, in the mold of the old Soviet Union. Each is based on a narrow segment of society and rules by physically eliminating its enemies. Iraq is actually not a nation state but an empire. The ruling Ba’ath party comes from the Mesopotamian Sunni Arabs, the smallest of the empire’s three ethnic groups. The ruling faction of the party, Saddam’sTikriti, are a tiny fraction of the ruling party. The Assad family that rules Syria is even more isolated. The faction of the local Ba’ath party that is their instrument of power is made up almost exclusively of Alewites, a neo-Islamic sect widely despised in the region. It must rely exclusively on corrupt, hated security forces. Yasser Arafat rules the PLO through theFatah faction, which lives by a combination of buying off competitors with money acquired from the West and Israel, and killing them. Each of the regimes consists of some 2,000 people. These include officials of the ruling party, officers in the security forces down to the level of colonel, plus all the general officers of the armed forces. These also include top government officials, officials of the major economic units, the media, and of course the leaders of the party’s “social organizations” (labor, youth, women’s professional, etc.).
All these regimes are weak. They have radically impoverished and brutalized their peoples. A few members of the ruling party may be prepared to give their lives for the anti-Western causes they represent, but many serve out of fear or greed. The Gulf War and the Arab-Israeli wars proved that their armies and security forces are brittle: tough so long as the inner apparatus of coercion is unchallenged, likely to disintegrate once it is challenged.
Killing these regimes would be relatively easy, would be a favor to the peoples living under them, and is the only way to stop terrorism among us.
On Killing Regimes
It follows that killing regimes means killing their members in ways that discredit the kinds of persons they were, the ways they lived, the things and ideas to which they gave prominence, the causes they espoused, and the results of their rule. Thus the Western Allies de-Nazified Germany not by carpet-bombing German cities, which in fact was the only thing that persuaded ordinary Germans that they and the Nazis were in the same boat. The Allies killed the Nazi regime by killing countless Nazis in battle, hanging dozens of survivors, imprisoning hundreds, and disqualifying thousands from social and economic prominence. The Allies promised to do worse to anyone who tried Nazism again, left no doubt in the minds of Germans that their many sorrows had been visited on them by the Nazis, and made Nazism into a dirty word.
Clearly, it is impossible to kill any regime by killing its people indiscriminately. In the Gulf War, U.S. forces killed uncounted tens of thousands of Iraqis whose deaths made no difference to the outcome of the war and the future of the region, while consciously sparing the much smaller number who made up the regime. Hence those who want to “bomb the hell out of the Arabs” or “nuke Baghdad” in response to September 11 are making the same mistake. Killing must be tailored to political effect. This certainly means invading Iraq, and perhaps Syria, with ground troops. It means openly sponsoring Israel’s invasion of the PLO territories. But it does not mean close supervision or the kind of political reconstruction we performed in Germany and Japan after World War II.
It is important that U.S. forces invade Iraq with the stated objective of hanging Saddam and whoever we judge to have been too close to him. Once those close to him realize that this is going to happen and cannot be stopped, they will kill one another, each trying to demonstrate that he was farther from the tyrant than anyone else. But America’s reputation for bluff and for half measures is so entrenched that the invasion will have to make progress greater than in the Gulf War in order for this to happen. At this point, whether or not Saddam himself falls into U.S. hands alive along with his subordinates, it is essential that all be denounced, tried, and hanged on one charge only: having made war on America, on their own people, and on their neighbors. The list of people executed should follow the party-government’s organization chart as much as possible. It is equally essential that everyone who hears of the event be certain that something even more drastic would follow the recrudescence of such a regime. All this should happen as quickly as possible.
After settling America’s quarrel, America should leave Iraq to the peoples who live there. These would certainly break the empire into its three ethnic constituents: Kurds in the North, Mesopotamian Sunnis in the center, and Marsh Shiites in the South. How they may govern themselves, deal with one another and with their neighbors, is no business of ours. What happens in Iraq is simply not as important to us as the internal developments of Germany and Japan were. It is enough that the Iraqis know that we would be ready to defend whatever interest of ours they might threaten. Prestige is a reputation for effective action in one’s own interest. We would have re-earned our prestige, and hence our right to our peace.
In the meantime, we should apologize to Israel for having pressured her to continue absorbing terrorist attacks. We should urge Israel to act decisively to earn her own peace, which would involve destroying the regime of the PLO in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel could do this more easily than we could destroy Saddam’s regime in Iraq. The reason is that the regime of the PLO, the so-called Palestine Liberation Authority, is wholly dependent on Israel itself for most basic services, from money and electricity to telecommunications, water, food, and fuel. Moreover, the PLO’s key people are a few minutes’ driving distance from Israeli forces. A cutoff of essentials, followed by a military cordon and an invasion, would net all but a few of these terrorists. The U.S. could not dictate how they should be disposed of. But it would make sense for Israel to follow the formula that they deserve death for the harm these criminal gangs have done to everyone with whom they have come in contact, even one another. With the death of the PLO’s gangsters, Palestinian politics would be liberated from the culture of assassination that has stunted its healthy growth since the days of Mufti Hussein in the 1920s.
After Iraq and Palestine, it would be Syria’s turn. By this time, the seriousness of America and its allies would speak for itself. A declaration of war against the Assad regime by the U.S., Israel, and Turkey would most likely produce a palace coup in Damascus—by one part of the regime eager to save itself by selling out the others—followed by a revolution in the country. At that point, the Allies might produce a list of persons who would have to be handed over to avert an invasion. And of course Syrian troops would have to leave Lebanon. Americans have no interest in Syria strong enough to require close supervision of successors to Assad. But Turkey’s interest might require such supervision. The U.S. should make no objection to Turkey’s reestablishment of a sphere of influence over parts of its former empire.
Destroying the major anti-Western regimes in the Middle East might come too late to save the moribund government of Saudi Arabia from the anti-Western sentiments that it has shortsightedly fostered within itself. Or the regime might succumb anyway to long-festering quarrels within the royal family. In any case, it is possible that as a consequence of the Saudi regime’s natural death, the foreigners who actually extract and ship the oil might be endangered. In that case, we would have to choose among three options: 1) letting the oil become the tool of whoever might win the struggle (and taking the chance that the fields might be sabotaged in the war); 2) trying to build a new Saudi regime to our liking; or 3) taking over protection of the fields. The first amounts to entrusting the world’s economy to the vagaries of irresponsible persons. The second option should be rejected because Americans cannot govern Arabs, or indeed any foreigners. Taking over the oil fields alone would amount to colonial conquest—alien to the American tradition. It would not be alien, however, to place them under joint international supervision—something that Russia might well be eager to join.
Our Own Worst Enemies? What stands in the way of our achieving the peace we so desire? Primarily, the ideas of Western elites. Here are a few.
Violence and killing do not settle anything. In fact they are the ultima ratio, the decisive argument, on earth. Mankind’s great questions are decided by war. The battle of Salamis decided whether or not there would be Greek civilization. Whether Western Europe would be Christian or Muslim was decided by the battle of Tours. Even as the U.S. Civil War decided the future of slavery and World War II ended Nazism, so this war will decide not just who rules in the Middle East, but the character of life in America as well.
Our primary objective in war as in peace must be to act in accordance with the wishes and standards of the broadest slice of mankind. In fact, the standards of most of mankind are far less worthy than those prevalent in America. America’s Founders taught this, and forgetting it has caused harm. Alliances must always be means, never ends in themselves, and as such must be made or unmade according to whether or not they help secure our interest. Our interest in war is our kind of peace. That is why it is mistaken to consider an ally anyone who impedes the killing of those who stand in the way of our peace. With allies like Saudi Arabia, America does not need enemies.
When involved in any conflict, we should moderate the pursuit of our objectives so as propitiate those moderates who stand on the sidelines. Individuals and governments stand on the sidelines of conflict, or lend support to one side, according to their judgment of who will win and with whom they will have to deal. “Extremist” is one of many pejorative synonyms for “loser.” The surest way to lose the support of “moderates” is to be ineffective. Might is mistaken for right everywhere, but especially in the Middle East. Hence the easiest way to encourage terrorism is to attempt to deal with “the root causes of resentment against us” by granting some of the demands of our enemies.
Learning to put up with security measures will make us safer, and is a contribution we can all make to victory. On the contrary, security measures will not make us safe, and accustoming ourselves to them is our contribution to defeat. The sign of victory over terrorism will be the removal of security measures.
The Arab regimes that are the matrices of terrorism have nothing going for them except such Western shibboleths. Their peoples hate them. Their armies would melt before ours as they have melted before Western armies since the days of Xenophon’s Upcountry March. They produce nothing. Terror is their domestic policy and their foreign policy. The oil from which they get the money that they lavish on themselves and on terrorism comes from revenues that Westerners give them to satisfy Western ideas of what is right. The regimes that are killing us and defeating us are the product of Western judgments in the mid-20th century that colonialism is wrong and that these peoples could govern themselves as good stewards of the world’s oil markets. They continue to exist only because Western elites have judged that war is passé. It is these ideas and judgments, above all, that stand in the way of our peace, our victory.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Angelo Codevillahttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngAngelo Codevilla2017-08-23 10:39:382017-08-25 16:01:05Victory: What It Will Take to Win
Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Terrorism • The Media
Strategy is neither more nor less than a map for getting from here to there—a reasonable plan for using what you have to accomplish what you want. President Trump’s August 21 speech, touted as “a new strategy” for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is not a strategy, because it did not even try to show that what it proposes—in fact it proposed nothing concrete—should be expected to achieve anything at all.
The president made zero attempt to connect ends and means. Nor was anything new about his proposal, other than the application of new adjectives to what the U.S. government has been doing in Afghanistan and elsewhere for two generations. The one new element, announcing that henceforth the United States would take India’s side in its multifaceted, existential quarrel with Pakistan, is pregnant with far more trouble than today’s U.S. foreign policy establishment is capable of imagining.
The speech’s substance was Trump’s surrender of his—and of the 2016 electorate’s—point of view on foreign affairs. Trump said that, having been schooled by the foreign policy establishment’s expertise, he now concludes that he and those who voted for him had been wrong. U.S troops would stay in Afghanistan. More would go. But now they would “fight to win.” Win what? How? No attempt to answer. Just empty, swaggering words. They wouldn’t “nation build” but establish the security environment in which the government could do that. These are the very words used to describe the U.S. “strategy” in the Vietnam War, and in the Iraq. It is also what Americans have been saying since they set up Afghanistan’s government in 2002.
Unlike Obama in Iraq, and unlike what Trump had promised the voters, he pledged to stay in Afghanistan practically forever. But he threatened the Afghan government with leaving unless it played its part. Bush had done the same in Iraq. In the end, it was the Iraqi government that had asked the Americans to leave.
So, just what can we expect the “Trump Strategy” to do, for how long, and with what results? Because our establishment does not know how to do anything other than what it has been doing, more of the same is the best that any reasonable person, of any political persuasion may expect.
The U.S. formula is inflexible: set up a centralized government comprising as much of the political opposition as possible, and “secure” the country on its behalf by promoting “social programs.” The government’s opponents are America’s enemies.
This formula is especially surreal in Afghanistan. The Taliban are ethnic Pashtun, tied politically as well as ethnically to Pakistan. Their dalliance with Afghan Arabs such as Osama bin Laden ended when Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, pulled the string on them in 2001, and the United States helped the Northern Alliance of Tajiks and Uzbeks to defeat them. But then we set up a centralized government that was mostly Pashtun but excluded the remnant Taliban, while disarming the Tajiks and Uzbeks. This application of the standard U.S formula started a civil war among the Pashtun, with the other groups trying to take care of themselves as best they could by providing mercenaries to either side, but certainly not helping the Americans. Add to this the massive corruption engendered by billions of U.S. dollars, and we get a political disaster for America.
It is disheartening to read how few on the Right or Left address the strategic question: what, precisely are we doing that will reasonably achieve what?
By far the most worrisome aspect of the speech that came forth from Mr. McMaster’s McMansion is the promise of alignment with India against Pakistan. The U.S. government has countless good reasons to put pressure on Pakistan regarding matters of interest to America. But the India-Pakistan quarrel touches a thousand items, 999 of which are irrelevant to America. Not only does preemptive engagement in them misdirect us, it also pushes Pakistan—by far the weaker of the contenders—to find another source of great-power support. Alas for all of us, one is readily available: China.
We may well find that the Trump generals’ lasting legacy will have been to bring China to the Indian Ocean’s shores. In sum, these tough-looking, tough-talking professionals give us reason to regard them as sorcerers’ apprentices.
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President Donald J. Trump has marched headlong into another escalating crisis—this time with the imploding Venezuela. And this one is altogether avoidable. Although the growing unrest in Venezuela threatens to destabilize Latin America, it appears the president believes he can link the troubles there with the showdown with North Korea. This is a mistake.
Yes, Venezuela is a problem for the United States. A once-vibrant and resource-rich ally, Venezuela has over the past 20 years supplanted Cuba as the main anti-American malefactor in the Western hemisphere. Hugo Chávez, a militant socialist and friend of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, made a career of consolidating power by demonizing the United States. In 2002, a few years after his contested first election as president, Chávez blamed a popular uprising on CIA meddling. (In truth, the CIA probably was meddling—or at least assisting the pro-democracy movement in the most ham-handed ways possible.)
After that debacle, Chávez became an avowed opponent of the United States and a thorn in the side of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Chávez’s death in 2013 changed little. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, is no less socialist—or corrupt. Earlier this month, scores of opposition leaders were rounded up in the middle of the night and “disappeared.” Maduro is desperate to hold onto power, having brought his nation to the brink of total collapse. Venezuela’s tanking economy, abetted by a plunge in the global price of oil, has led to massive unrest and a surge of refugees fleeing to neighboring Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. Yet despite worsening relations, the United States continues to import 7 percent of its oil from Venezuela.
So Venezuela is a diplomatic and humanitarian problem for its neighbors and for us. President Trump on Friday pointedly refused to take a call from Maduro—and won’t unless and until Maduro acts like less of a dictator and clears the way for some proper democratic reforms. Which is a perfectly legitimate demand to make, and one that’s been echoed by a Peruvian-led 17-nation regional bloc. But the president didn’t leave it at that. He told reporters on Friday, “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.”
In case anyone missed the point, the president elaborated moments later: “You know, we are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”
Now, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and others in Congress quickly spoke up and said they would not support military intervention in Venezuela, especially with the crisis in North Korea unsettled. And that’s a sensible view. However, it’s likely that the administration is looking to hit the less-threatening Maduro regime precisely because the situation with North Korea is so tense. It makes Trump look tough for audiences in North Korea and China, without actually risking a nuclear exchange with Pyongyang. Unlike Kim Jong-un threatening U.S. bases on Guam, there is no danger of Maduro launching preemptive or retaliatory missile strikes on, say, West Palm Beach.
A Repeat of Syria
Getting tough with Venezuela now would appear similar to Trump’s bombardment of the Syrian air base where a suspected chemical weapons attack against civilians was launched in April. Although that particular airstrike came in retaliation for Bashar al Assad’s flagrant defiance of Trump’s “red line” against the use of weapons of mass destruction, it was also meant to send a clear signal to North Korea that the new American president was not fooling around. If Trump could harm a tyrant wielding WMD in the Middle East, he could harm a tyrant brandishing nukes on the Korean Peninsula.
Apparently, Kim—or his Chinese benefactors—didn’t get the message.
Fact is, the United States is a superpower with resources spanning the globe. America doubtless has a role to play assisting Peru, Colombia, and Brazil with the humanitarian, diplomatic, and military challenges they face from the deteriorating conditions in Venezuela. Ultimately, however, Venezuela is a problem best solved by her Latin American neighbors. Maduro may fall. But pushing him over would be folly. And it’s hard to see how (yet another) U.S. military intervention in South America would help with the North Korea crisis. Besides, for all of our power, we do have limitations on our ability to use force.
I suspect that President Trump is bluffing on his threats against Venezuela and that this is all part of a giant feint to get North Korea to the negotiating table. However, this is a very dangerous game. At the end of the day, the Maduro regime is on the brink of collapse. If we push too hard—either rhetorically or, ultimately, with limited force to prove our resolve—we will have to own a post-Maduro Venezuela, just as we’re responsible for post-war Iraq. This is not acceptable, given the limitations on American military and economic power today. Trump’s diplomatic feint, I believe, is ill-conceived and should be abandoned.
From Rogue to Real Power
That’s why Trump’s pivot to Venezuela is a waste of time—a sideshow from the main event at precisely the time North Korea demands maximum attention and pressure. Turning to Venezuela would divert critical American military resources and buy China and North Korea more precious time to rebuff U.S. efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
For Kim Jong-un, acquiring nuclear weapons comes down to basic survival. Yes, North Korea has a vast military apparatus, including missiles and tens of thousands of pieces of artillery pointed southward. But a viable nuclear weapon—one capable of striking the U.S. mainland—is the insurance Kim believes he needs to remain safely in power.
Think about it: within 18 months, it is likely that the North Korean military will have at its disposal ICBMs capable of hitting far-off American targets. At that point, North Korea goes from being a rogue state easily contained, to a nuclear power whose demands, no matter how insane, must be heeded.
Every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has tried to delay the day of reckoning with Pyongyang. Time is up. We can longer afford anymore distractions. No amount of trickery will deter the North Koreans from achieving their objective. The United States and its allies need decisiveness and focus from America’s leadership. The longer we delay; the more indecisive America is in dealing with North Korea, the more powerful Kim Jong-un becomes—and the more likely that Kim saves his regime. That would be a disaster for the United States.
Venezuela can wait. North Korea cannot. The road to peace does not run through Caracas. It runs through Beijing.
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https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-08-12 14:21:042017-08-15 18:51:17Don't Let Venezuela Distract from the North Korea Crisis
Americanism • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Russia
A shocking event has occurred in the meandering psychodrama of America’s relationship with North Korea: the world’s great powers have unanimously voted to intensify sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom, as Kim Jong-un continues to push his nuclear weapons program. The United Nations Security Council—which includes North Korea’s two biggest benefactors, China and Russia—seems to finally agree that Pyongyang’s behavior is unacceptable.
This is a major diplomatic victory for the Trump Administration. The president should not squander this moment.
First, let’s take a quick moment to see how we got here. Fact is, we’ve been here before. In 1994, the Clinton Administration concluded that the Kim regime had a working nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and had begun extracting nuclear material from it.
Understand, the Korean War never really ended. The war—which was never formally declared and was always technically a “police action”—had been fought to a stalemate in the mid-1950s and hostilities suspended with an armistice. Tens of thousands of troops remain stationed along the Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel between the North and South.
As time progressed, the United States and South Koreans moved on from paying much attention to the North, and the North grew increasingly isolated from the world. Pyongyang’s eccentric, violent leadership only grew harsher in its antipathy toward its neighbors. When it became clear that North Korea was on the cusp of building a viable nuke, the United States and its partners in the Pacific Rim understood it had to act to mitigate the danger—but their choices were all terrible.
Given the size and disposition of the North Korean military—and the fact that Bill Clinton had campaigned on rebuilding the U.S. domestic economy—the United States went out of its way to avoid escalating any conflict. Instead, Clinton pressed the international community to negotiate a deal: the West would provide North Korea with economic and food aid in exchange for Pyongyang giving up its nuclear program. It was a stupid, one-sided bargain. In practice, the North Koreans rebuffed UN inspectors and lied through their teeth about compliance (with a wink and a nod from China) while United States and its allies handed over large sums of money, food, and fuel. The North Koreans were more than happy to take the money to enrich the regime’s leadership and—unsurprisingly—continue surreptitiously developing nuclear weapons.
China’s Goals: Stability, Strategic Superiority
During the George W. Bush Administration, as America’s strategic focus shifted from Asia toward the Middle East, the United States relied on the Six-Party Talks (comprising mostly of regional actors) to bring an end to the continued nuclear brinksmanship of North Korea. They were unsuccessful. In 2006, North Korea tested its first nuclear bomb.
Shouldn’t China, which borders North Korea, be more worried than anyone about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program? No. The Chinese would rather placate the North Koreans. After all,the Chinese value stability on their border; they fear a unified Korean peninsula under Seoul’s control; they do not want American military bases popping up directly across from China’s border; and the Chinese fear the instability that would occur when millions of North Korean refugees would understandably flee their homes and attempt to gain entry into China. Plus, North Korea is a perpetual thorn in America’s side in the region. Each time North Korea precipitates a crisis in the region, it takes pressure off China diplomatically, and it allows Beijing to pretend to be America’s vital partner in Asia. From the Clinton to Trump Administrations, a growing consensus has formed among American policymakers that China holds the key to a peaceful resolution to the North Korea problem. Yet, until now, the Chinese have merely pretended to be interested in resolving the Korean dilemma.
With recent reports that North Korea is but 18 months away from having nuclear weapons capable of hitting the continental United States, the Trump Administration’s response has been put into overdrive—especially as Kim Jong-un continues to make threatening gestures in a clear attempt to bring the United States back to the negotiating table. This isn’t surprising: North Korea’s periodic blackmail and extortion has worked well for the better part of two decades. Of course, President Trump is unlike his predecessors. And the clearly defined timetable leaves little wiggle room for the Trump Administration, the way that previous North Korean nuclear developments left room for Trump’s predecessors.
Predicting What Trump Will Do
Is war the answer? As virtually every military expert has testified, any conflict on the Korean peninsula would be devastating on a scale not seen since at least the Vietnam War. America’s military leaders are understandably wary of such a prospect. But, as one general put it, just because we are only left with bad options on the Korean peninsula, doesn’t mean we don’t have to make a choice. I suspect that the otherwise intransigent China understands its stability is now more threatened by remaining intransigent on resolving the North Korean issue, than it is by working with the United States to craft a peaceful settlement over North Korea.
For all of my concerns over the recent onerous sanctions regime the United States Congress crafted which targeted Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, the sanctions have had one salutary effect: it has sent a clear signal to both Russia and China that the United States is not playing business-as-usual. Donald Trump’s presence in the Oval Office changes all metrics for America’s enemies. For example, President Trump’s recent off-the-cuff remarks regarding the North Korean situation in which he nonchalantly stated that his administration was “handling it,” likely caused a severe amount of dyspepsia in both China’s Politburo and in the Kremlin. This ominous statement was purposely ambiguous and, given Trump’s ability to follow through on other ambiguous, ominous statements, neither the Chinese nor Russians could risk the Trump Administration following through on its belligerent threats against North Korea. After a litany of aggressive actions in recent months—Trump’s good progress in the war against the Islamic State; his recent attacks against provocative Syrian military units, and his use of the MOAB against ISIS allies in Afghanistan—these actions have likely forced Beijing and Moscow to reassess their own strategies toward North Korea.
Recently, the Chinese have told the North Koreans to stop their missile tests. While the North Korean response to China’s demands are unknown, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said the discussions with his North Korean counterpart were “thorough.” In other words, China is getting serious. Also, China likely fears the deployment of America’s anti-ballistic missile defense system, THAAD, to the Korean peninsula. Missile defense doesn’t just deter North Korea, after all; China’s burgeoning nuclear arsenal is its greatest strategic asset and the real muscle behind its ambitions in East Asia and the Pacific.
The Russia Factor
Meantime, Western and U.S.-imposed sanctions have left Russia reeling. Siding with the United States against North Korea could buy Moscow a bit of goodwill in Washington and on the international stage. The Chinese must navigate the dangerous diplomatic course of preventing Kim Jong-un from acquiring weapons to threaten the continental United States while preventing a U.S.-led war against Pyongyang. keeping the United States from warring against North Korea. Thus, Beijing is likely forming an alliance with Moscow, buying both countries vital time to ride out the diplomatic storm in the region by slowing America’s military response.
China’s leadership, which is not governed by the same short domestic political calendar that often drives our government’s decisionmaking, likely believes the U.S. fixation on North Korea is a passing phase to be managed with strategic patience. The longer the Chinese delay U.S. action, the more they can bog down the West in negotiations and possibly get America to abandon its current course without losing North Korea as a buffer. Or so they think.
Neither the Chinese nor the Russians should be fooling themselves: the Trump Administration will not accept a diplomatic solution unless it explicitly involves the de-nuclearization of North Korea (and, if it is not completed before a 18 month timeline, then all bets are off). For now, the United States pursue diplomacy as far as it can go—backed by force, and preparing for any and all contingencies.
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https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-08-07 06:24:432017-08-10 10:58:00China and Russia Buy Time on North Korea
America • Americanism • Asia • Big Media • China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • EU • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • Obama • Russia • Trump White House
Likemany, I was pleased by Donald Trump’s recent speech to the Polish people. Many commentators have lauded (or lamented) the fact that it was interspersed with references to the defense of Western Civilization and called for a rekindling of Christian culture across both Europe and America.
However, few have noted the geopolitical significance of the speech, which, by itself, should be enough to dispel the Left’s narrative of presidential collusion with Russia. Contained within the speech are little gems that, when understood within a broader geopolitical context, illuminate the president’s intention to curb Russian influence in Europe.
Russia, as every passing student of European history knows, has a geography problem. A mostly landlocked country with few warm-water seaports, it suffers from a peculiar geopolitical liability. As a result, Russia has always sought to influence other countries throughout Europe to expand its political power and acquire access to a port city that would improve its defenses on the high seas. In the past this took the form of Pan-Slavism and the Iron Curtain.
Today, Russia uses outright military and economic coercion, as we’ve seen with the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, as well as use of natural gas to render Europe economically dependent on Moscow. Russia’s support of Syria in the fight against ISIS also plays a part; as long as the Assad regime remains in power, Russia has a Mediterranean naval base in the port Syrian city of Tartus.
Russia has gotten away with its bad behavior thanks in large part to the ineptitude of the previous administration, from the unenforced “Red Line” in Syria and the feckless retreat from ballistic missile defense to the tepid condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
Recently, National Review reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to meddle more in the Balkans by bolstering Russian support for a proposed independence referendum for the autonomous Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, following that country’s formal application last year to enter the European Union.
While Russia’s actions under the previous administration cannot be undone, President Trump could stem the tide of Russian influence in Europe—and in his Warsaw speech points to how.
“America loves Poland”: This Trumpian turn of phrase may be reminiscent of campaign trail rhetoric, but the sentiment behind it has never been more necessary in Eastern Europe. During the Obama Administration, Poland’s relations with the United States—like those of many other countries—became strained. President Obama in 2010 decided to end a long-standing commitment to build a missile defense shield, significantly weakening Poland in relation to an increasingly ambitious Russia. Not only has President Trump reversed that decision, which allows Poland to purchase the Patriot Missile Defense System, he has now visited the country and delivered a speech there to signal the renewed bond between our two peoples. The president is also sending the message that Poland is the first line of defense against Russian aggression in Europe, and will be bolstered by the United States if it is ever under threat.
“The Three Seas Initiative”: President Trump briefly mentioned this forum comprised mostly of former-Eastern Bloc countries. The group first convened in 2016 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to discuss security and economic growth, among other issues. While most commentators glossed over the president’s reference, the Initiative’s very existence and Trump’s participation in it has serious geopolitical implications.
The idea of a Central-Eastern European federation has been fundamental to Poland’s foreign policy since the end of World War I, when Józef Piłsudski began to pursue a strategy of “Prometheism.” The idea was to weaken the Russian Empire’s influence by supporting nationalist movements among the non-Russian peoples of Eastern Europe, all while pursuing an “Intermarium” federation that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Sound familiar?
Though Piłsudski’s goal never bore fruit, his ideas weren’t forgotten. The Three Seas Initiative is beginning to resemble Piłsudski’s longed for federation in concrete ways. Most notably, the members are planning to build their own natural gas infrastructure, starting with liquefied natural gas terminals at ports in Poland and Croatia. What’s more, four of the initiative’s members—Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—have all joined together in a separate political union called the Visegrad Group, which responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a “battlegroup” project meant to encourage joint military operations and coordinate defensive procurement and development.
What these peoples understand is that Russia will think little of them if their influence is in jeopardy, for all of them are one generation removed from Communist tyranny. President Trump, in supporting such initiatives is signaling to the international community that America will make good on its promises to protect Eastern Europe from Russian incursion.
“Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival”: We have seen the litany of articles published in the last few weeks about Trump’s defense of Western Civilization, yet when understood within the context as presented here, Western Civilization seems to take on a different meaning. Its invocation, along with frequent mentions of Christianity, mean the struggle against ISIS and radical Islam as a whole. But the president was also talking about the ever present struggle to keep an ambitious Russia at bay.
Vladimir Putin famously said that dissolution of the Soviet Union was the “major geopolitical disaster of the 20th Century.” His goal has always been to resurrect the old Soviet empire, minus the Communism. He seems to fancy himself a quasi-czar.
Yet Putin is running out of time with this new administration. Although President Trump has said that he would like to mend the relationship with Russia, this will occur only under his America First policy of ensuring the United States (and the rest of the West for that matter) protects its interests. Understood in that light, all of the media chatter about “collusion” begins to sound downright silly.
The Financial Times accuses President Trump of suffering from an odious, if tongue-in-cheek malady called trade deficit disorder (TDD). The symptoms? A bizarre and unjustified desire to impose tariffs, thereby ensuring America sells as much as it buys on the international markets.
Of course, Trump is not suffering alone with this malady: many prominent billionaires from Carl Icahn to Warren Buffet have it, too—along with a majority of the American public. This raises the question: why the disconnect over tariffs between academics and businessmen, the media and the public?
In a word: myopia.
Economists and media pundits think inside the box, looking at the potential impact of tariffs on America’s economy. However, they neglect the bigger picture: raw economic growth is not the exclusive, or even primary objective of statecraft. Preserving America’s national security, and freedom are far more important, and worthy goals. And therein lies the justification for tariffs—they are an economic means to a political end, and this is why economists fail to understand their value. They are naïve.
Have you ever heard of import dependency? The concept is simple but important. Basically, it is when a country depends upon imports of a critical product, without which it would collapse. A good example is the United States and oil. Before the advent of fracking, offshore drilling, and the exploitation of unconventional reserves in Canada, America depended heavily upon Saudi Arabia’s oil. This gave the Saudis not only wealth, but leverage and power. It is why Saudi Arabia sits on the UN Human Rights Council, despite punishing homosexuals with death, and why they are considered a strong American ally despite funding radical Islamic terror groups.
Of course, import dependency not only applies to natural resources, it also applies to manufactured goods. For example, China supplies America with the vast majority of its semiconductors, laptops, and a multitude of other random products—many of which are technologically advanced. Because of this, we depend upon them more than we like to admit. This gives China leverage, and it is why Beijing can act with virtual impunity in Tibet (light scoldings do not count), Africa, and the South China Sea—to say nothing of the situation in North Korea. We need the Chinese and they know it. The bottom line: import dependency hamstrings our foreign policy.
It was not always like this. America used to understand the link between economic and political independence. America used to be free.
The lesson was first learned during American Revolution, which was almost stillborn because of insufficient colonial industry: we were unable to manufacture enough cannons, muskets, and gunpowder to resist the British (our former supplier). It was only when other European powers, particularly the French and Dutch, began supplying the Continental Army that the tide began to turn. For example, the French provided the Continental Army with more than 80,000 muskets, swords, and even uniforms.
America’s first president, George Washington got the message. He recognized that the fledgling republic was vulnerable. How could America defend herself if she could not supply herself with gunpowder? In Washington’s own words:
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies . . .
Washington observed that political independence depended upon economic independence. To this end, his first major piece of legislation was the Tariff Act of 1789, which raised taxes on imported manufactured goods, thereby encouraging American industry. Maybe these tariffs made America’s economy less efficient, but they were invaluable in political terms.
Washington’s tariff policy paid off during the War of 1812, when the United States and Britain again found themselves at loggerheads. But this time, America made its own muskets and cannons, despite Britain’s naval blockade. America was self-sufficient. America was safer. At this point even the famous free-trader President Thomas Jefferson recognized the wisdom of Washington’s tariffs. In a letter from 1816, Jefferson admitted:
. . . experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort: and if those who quote me as of a different opinion will keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price it will not be our fault if we do not soon have a supply at home equal to our demand, and wrest that weapon of distress from the hand which has wielded it. . . .
Jefferson recognized the difference between the ideal and the practical, between theory and reality. While free trade, and trade deficits, with the developing world may make sense in a vacuum, the real world is more complicated. Today, the United States faces a problem with so much of its military equipment made overseas or reliant upon foreign sources. What happens when our guns come from foreign suppliers?
When we manufacture our semiconductors in China we are not simply getting a “good deal” as economists would have us believe, we are also gifting China our latest technology, building up the Chinese computer industry (which is our future competition), and giving them political leverage over us. And do not be naïve: China plays hardball. If they have leverage, they will use it.
Without economic independence, there is no political independence. President Trump, like Washington and Jefferson before him, understands this fact, and it is why he is right on trade and domestic manufacturing. America should always come before blind ideology. It is time to reconsider tariffs.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Spencer P. Morrisonhttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngSpencer P. Morrison2017-07-11 09:22:382017-07-14 14:25:32Raise Tariffs, Secure the Nation
America • Asia • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Obama
Before leaving for the G20 Summit in Germany, President Trump said the era of strategic patience is over. This comes after the return of the imprisoned American, Otto Warmbier, who died in the arms of his family after being tortured by the North Koreans, followed by yet another ballistic missile test over the Sea of Japan. We may not be on the brink of war, but China and North Korea are playing a dangerous game. Understanding this relationship is therefore central.
It begins with the recognition that North Korea and China are joined geographically, economically, and ideologically. On a strategic level, they are as much eastern China as North Korea. North Korea depends on China for food and energy, and 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is with the Chinese. It is inconceivable that President Xi Jinping could not stop Kim Jong-Un’s missile testing and nuclear program if he so desired. It is then a matter of high government policy that he does not.
Consider the latest belligerence. What is different about the North Korean nuclear program in these first six months of the Trump Administration and last fall when Barack Obama was still president? Has their nuclear or missile technology advanced to new levels of sophistication? Has the strategic landscape in Asia changed? Has the North Korean economic situation deteriorated beyond the third world basket case it already was? The answer to all these is no. This would mean Kim’s show of force—from missile tests, nuclear tests, or a military parade in Pyongyang—is political theatre meant to shape American political judgments. Make no mistake, such weapons are deadly but they can also be used for different ends.
The recent launch of the North Korean missile into space and then into the Sea of Japan serves two purposes: first, to give leverage to North Korea’s Communist Chinese masters in economic and financial negotiations with the United States; and second, to remind anyone in America who cares, that the United States remains vulnerable to North Korean, Chinese, Russian, and Iranian ballistic missiles.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the Chinese have helped the North Koreans with their ballistic missile program and have had every interest in doing so. This affords them tremendous political leverage with the United States, as China—the neighboring superpower—plays the role of reasonable intermediary, interceding on behalf of the United States and the world to check the nuclear ambitions of their North Korean brothers. But this intercession comes at a cost. China would be happy to help the United States, but Beijing couldn’t possibly do that and be pressured over its own failure to abide by international standards when it comes to trade and finance, including currency manipulation. This is a game the Chinese have played successfully for decades. Consider it the Chinese Art of the Deal.
Respecting our vulnerability to ballistic missiles, it should be a national scandal that North Korea’s belligerence is in the news at all. It is made possible only because of the fecklessness of successive U.S. administrations to build a national missile defense capable of stopping a nuclear attack. Although we possess the technology and technical know-how—from missile interceptors based on land, sea, or in space—to make North Korea’s arsenal completely irrelevant, we choose instead to leave the American people vulnerable to such an attack. This is a relic of the absurd Cold War mentality that missile defense was “destabilizing” and that we were somehow safer if we let the U.S. population remain held hostage to nuclear attack.
Everyday Americans support the building of missile defenses and indeed are outraged and confused that we do not have one sufficient to defend the United States. Thankfully, no U.S. president can make the argument in public that, as a matter of principle, we should be vulnerable to such awful weapons. Recall President Obama telling Russian President Medvedev in 2012 that he would have more “flexibility” on missile defense after the election. Medvedev assured Obama he would relay the message to then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This would be conveyed because Russia, like China, likes living in a world where the United States remains vulnerable to their nuclear weapons and the political leverage such nuclear blackmail affords them.
To understand what Obama meant by “flexibility,” one need only examine the state of our missile defenses that President Trump inherited. We have purposely built a “limited” missile defense—meaning one that was openly designed not to stop Russian and Chinese missiles—to deal instead with the rogue states of Iran and North Korea. Failed missile interceptor tests, like the one on June 22 in Hawaii, are a remnant of the Obama Administration’s intentional underinvestment in research, development and operational testing. In reality, even this limited missile defense system is inadequate to stop the North Korean or Iranian threat. The sole purpose of our current missile defense system is to give the illusion that we are defended.
Obama, long an opponent of missile defense, nuclear weapons, and a robust American military, was a master at such deception. To the American people he seemed interested in keeping the country safe from nuclear attack. To the Russians and Chinese, however, he made clear that we would not build defenses to stop their nuclear arsenals. They saw what was being built and saw that the U.S. defenses were meaningless. This while the Russians and Chinese develop and perfect their own missile defense systems against the United States.
Vulnerabilities Then and Now
In today’s political rhetoric, Obama colluded with the Russians and the Chinese to undermine the U.S. strategic position in the world. The only thing that excuses Obama is that he was continuing the policy of strategic vulnerability to missile attack, no different than Bush and Clinton before him. Unlike his predecessors, President Trump is not willing to leave the citizens of the United States to the tender mercies of dictators. He has committed to building a national missile defense and checking the military ambitions of the Chinese and the Russians.
The stakes could not be higher. Although the U.S. intelligence community acts as if the North Koreans do not yet possess adequate nuclear technology, there can be no absolute certainty that they do not already possess ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads capable of being launched from North Korean territory or from a ship or submarine off the coast of the United States. To believe so is to continue the self-deception that the Chinese and the North Koreans are working independent of one another. There is nothing stopping the Chinese from providing the North Koreans with lighter, smaller, and just as lethal nuclear warheads. Indeed, why would they not?
If the purpose of North Korea is to play the role of angry aggressor against the United States, they might as well be capable of carrying through. But if nuclear attack does come it will not be an angry strike by the seemingly volatile Kim Jung-Un, though it may appear that way. It will have been from a cold calculation by China’s Xi Jinping and the Communist politburo that they no longer wished to live with the perceived hyper power of the United States. The destruction of the United States would afford China—with its population, industrial capacity, and massive economy—global military dominance. It may not make short-term economic sense but history is replete with actions that do not make immediate sense. It is incumbent upon President Trump to make clear to President Xi that a North Korean strike on the United States will be seen as a strike by the People’s Republic. President Xi and his successors may not make such a gross strategic error but, absent a national missile defense, such mistakes are possible.
To remedy our strategic vulnerability President Trump should do the following three things:
First, the United States must engage in a missile defense program with the seriousness with which we fought World War II and fostered the Manhattan Project and the space program of the 1960s. Teams of engineers should be working around the clock, seven days a week, to build a missile defense that is space-based, land-based and sea-based that defends the United States from any possible nuclear ballistic missile attack. We have treated missile defense as if our civilization was not worth defending. That must end.
Second, as a practical matter, the North Koreans and Iranians should be told that any satellite launch or missile test where we do not inspect the payload will not be allowed into orbit. Any unauthorized launch will be intercepted, if we are able, or will be destroyed in space. Theoretically, the present North Korean satellites could possess nuclear warheads. Since at least two traverse the orbit of the United States they should be destroyed, too. A state cannot be permitted to launch missiles while at the same time declaring they wish to destroy the United States. That we have allowed this condition to persist as long as we have is unconscionable.
Third, because the payload of a missile or satellite may carry a nuclear warhead capable of producing an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that could destroy the electric infrastructure of the country, there should be a crash program to harden the electric grid of the United States. The cost of this critical fix is in the tens of billions but it is an embarrassingly small amount to ensure the viability of a 19 trillion dollar economy and the lives of 320 million Americans, the vast majority of whom would die for lack of food, water, and medicine made possible by our electrical grid.
Hardening the grid would have the added benefit of protecting the country’s power infrastructure from a little known atmospheric phenomenon: a Carrington-level solar storm. Although we are told regularly of the dangers of global warming, a massive solar storm, where a large plasma discharge from the sun sends an extraordinarily large magnetic pulse at the atmosphere of the earth, is the most serious natural disaster we face. The last Carrington-level event occurred in 1859 before electricity was used in homes and businesses, and they appear according to scientists to occur about every 150 to 300 years. If one were to occur today the massive solar flare would, like a nuclear weapon, destroy the large transformers that distribute power through the United States. With little notice, a natural event could destroy the power grid of the United States and our civilization could be lost. Even if someone doubts the likelihood of nuclear war and an EMP attack, we know with certainty that a massive solar flare could destroy the electric grid. Hardening against that is an immediate obligation of our government.
An America-First Response After the return and death of Otto Warmbier there was much talk of retaliation against the North Koreans. Other than economic sanctions, the United States has few good military options. North Korea’s conventional weapons could devastate South Korea and precipitate much greater hostilities. If the PRC does indeed see North Korea as eastern China they will not let such an attack occur with impunity.
In any case, the American response should not be, given the makeup of our strategic offenses and defenses, an attack on the people of North Korea. That does not make us better off, however satisfying it may seem. The goal should be to improve our strategic position in the world. President Trump should carry through on his campaign pledge and accelerate the building of a national missile defense to negate the North Korean, Chinese, Russian and Iranian nuclear arsenals.
This would be putting America first and doing what no U.S. president has yet to do: ensure that no enemy could threaten the U.S. homeland with nuclear destruction. If there is a single policy that will help make America great again it is this.
(Editor’s note:We’ve updated the piece to more accurately reflect the geographic location of North Korea in relation to China.)
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brian T. Kennedyhttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrian T. Kennedy2017-07-08 16:50:472017-07-12 18:37:22Trump, China, and the Politics of Nuclear Weapons
America • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Terrorism
The North Koreans put on their own pyrotechnic display over the July 4th weekend with a successful launch of an ICBM into the Sea of Japan. With a working ICBM, Kim Jong-Un’s regime is now capable of reaching Alaska. If they continue testing and learning from their previous launch, it is only a matter of time before the North Koreans could strike any major American city.
Time is all that stands in the way between Kim and the ability to incinerate Los Angeles or Chicago or New York. It wasn’t that long ago the North didn’t have nukes at all.
In 1994, the Clinton Administration wanted to strike a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon to prevent the North Koreans from recovering the raw materials necessary for making nuclear bombs. However, after looking at his options—the costs, both in terms of lives and treasure, that another Korean war would incur—former President Clinton chose to create a multilateral framework that would encourage the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for Western concessions.
The North’s demand was simple: if the United States did not want to see a nuclear-armed North Korea, they had to pay the Kim regime not to develop nukes.
The international community happily agreed. As it is with most blackmailers, however, paying the ransom only encouraged them to double down on bad behavior. The only difference in this instance was that the international community became complacent about the threat that North Korea posed because an “agreement” had been reached.
Meanwhile, the North Koreans took the blackmail money and invested it in their military—including their nuclear program—and in a program of enriching the corrupt members of the regime. They then systematically raised the stakes on the international community.
From George W. Bush to Barack Obama, different combinations of carrots-and-sticks were paraded in front of the North Koreans in an attempt to stabilize relations and bring security and stability to the Korean Peninsula. Each time, the Kim Regime was unfazed. Indeed, in spite of sanctions, the North Koreans successfully tested a nuclear weapon in 2006. So, whether you’re Hillary Clinton demanding that Trump replicate her husband’s schemes from 1994, or if you’re Elliot Abrams insisting that Trump reinstitute the George W. Bush-era sanctions regime, you’re making an argument that—however different in particulars—is the same in its level of utter ineffectiveness. .
Over the last two decades, the North has become the hub of international criminal schemes, a critical point in the global human trafficking system; it has suborned international terrorism; and more importantly, it has become a major player in a global, illicit network of nuclear proliferation. On the international stage, North Korea’s nuclear shenanigans are protected by the Chinese and the Russians. The primary beneficiaries of all this are other rogue states, such as Iran. Clearly, this is not the kind of regime with which Americans should feel comfortable in the knowledge that it possesses nuclear weapons.
Many (until recently, myself included) had hoped China would apply pressure to goad Pyongyang into being more cooperative. It’s clear now that China won’t lift a finger to help (though Beijing will happily string the United States along, so the Chinese can extract more concessions from us). China fears what would happen if the Kim regime collapsed: their worst nightmare is for a human tidal wave of North Korean refugees to swamp their borders and destabilize their country. Plus, the Chinese historically favor “stability” above all else. They cannot be relied upon. And, now with Russia getting involved on behalf of North Korea, there is little hope for an international settlement on this issue. The autocrats will have each other’s backs.
Pyongyang has paid close attention to what has happened to similar autocratic dictatorships around the world that did not possess nuclear arms: America toppled them. Whether speaking about Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, a lack of nuclear arms makes such regimes susceptible to being overthrown by the United States. Meanwhile, similar regimes that may have nuclear arms—such as Iran—are given a wide berth by the United States.
Many opponents of military action understandably (if erroneously) reason that the North’s quest for nuclear arms is about self-preservation rather than territorial aggrandizement. Attempting to understand North Korea’s actions through the application of reason—we are talking about a regime where it is illegal for citizens to urinate alone because the Kim regime believes bathrooms are great places to start rebellions—is not an effective way to craft a reliable foreign policy. Kim Jong-Un simply does not exist in the same reality where you and I do. Expecting him to comport with international norms is absurd.
While the Kim regime is technically a Communist government, the ideology that governs North Korea is known as “Juche” (or, more technically, “neojuche revivalism”). The official state ideology is a mixture of Marxism and ultra-nationalism. Juche is dangerous because it is infused with the historical Korean concept of “songun,” or “military-first,” and it channels all state resources into the North Korean military—specifically its nuclear program. The ideology is also backward-looking: it promises to return the economic and military power that the North enjoyed in the 1950s and ’60s, while reuniting the Korean Peninsula, and returning that newly united Korean Peninsula to the extreme isolation it enjoyed before the West opened up trade with Korea.
The only way that the Kim Regime could ever hope to achieve the goals outlined in its Juche ideology is by removing the threat that America and its allies pose to the North. The Japanese are not backing down. The South, despite its ambivalent response to the North’s repeated provocations, does not want to see a nuclear-armed North Korea. And, the United States has simply invested far too much wealth, resources, and diplomatic capital on building up the South Korean defense to just abandon the South in its crucible—not without extracting considerable concessions from the North Koreans.
Kim Jong-Un knows this. Juche is not a self-defensive ideology. Rather, it is a militaristic and offensive belief system. If the North gets a fully functional nuclear arsenal, they will use those weapons to strike at their American, South Korean, and Japanese enemies. To those who say that we should negotiate away our position on the peninsula in exchange for peace: one can never negotiate from a position of weakness. Should the North Koreans use their nuclear arsenal to intimidate the United States into withdrawing from South Korea, then it will be open season on America throughout the world. Overnight, our foreign policy would be thrown into disarray, with no hope of correction. Allies would distance themselves while enemies would become emboldened. This is simply not a viable strategy. Like it or not, we are committed to defending South Korea (and ourselves) from the mad dictator in Pyongyang.
Given these facts, why should we waste precious time on negotiations that will only empower the North and weaken the rest of us? We should be preparing for conflict on the peninsula, not begging the North to take more handouts from us as they build better nuclear weapons. We should build up the anti-ballistic missile defense system, THAAD, in South Korea to better defend against potential North Korean nukes. We should moving more U.S. forces into the region. We must be preparing strikes against suspected WMD sites in North Korea. Also, we might want to consider either giving South Korea nuclear arms to defend themselves or introducing our own nuclear forces to better defend South Korea from a potential North Korean attack.
The days of negotiation and delay are over. We’ve tried everything else. In order to secure the peace, unfortunately, we will have to prepare for war.
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https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-07-06 14:23:442017-07-24 21:50:25Madmen and Nukes: North Korean Edition
Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Russia
For 67 years the United States and the world have paid the price of Harry Truman’s decision to renounce the possibility of victory in Korea. Global communism has come and gone, South Korea has become a wealthy and democratic society, and North Korea’s past and present protector, the People’s Republic of China, has unshackled its economy and thus its military potential from the learned idiocies of scientific socialism.
And yet China’s client state, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, still looms beyond the DMZ, persisting in all its menace and belligerence. The Kim dynasty enslaves its own people and exports threats around the globe, its goals not the welfare of its people but the survival, power, and pleasures of a ruler more absolute than Pharoah.
Kim Jong-Un has been paying closer attention than we have done to the harshest foreign policy lessons of the last eight years. Libya’s Gaddafi and the rulers of Ukraine had renounced the pursuit or possession of nuclear weapons: both were attacked and defeated by states that applauded their disarmament. Americans were unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s flippant boast about Gaddafi: “We came; we saw; he died.” Kim Jong-Un would have to the greatest fool imaginable to ignore her boast.
Kim will never, ever, give up his nukes or his missiles. For a sufficient inducement, however, he might sign a paper where he promised disarmament. Indeed, his father and his grandfathermade similar promises. Of course, they did not keep these promises, and in the world of 2017, there is no inducement imaginable that would convince Kim Jong-Un to keep such a promise.
For the Trump Administration and the United States there is, therefore, nothing of importance to be gained from diplomatic concessions to Kim Jong-Un, not even Nobel Prizes. The Norwegian Parliament would sooner honor Benjamin Netanyahu for building settlements in Samaria than reward President Trump or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for achieving a “paper” world peace.
Confrontation, however, offers no reward commensurate with the risks. Of course, the time is long past when the North could plausibly threaten to conquer the South with conventional arms. As Canadian Lt. Colonel Raymond Farrellhas written, “the combined ROK/U.S. forces would quickly win the military conflict, though it would be hard-fought and civilian casualties would be high.” The North Koreans have,it is said,have 15,000 or even 45,000 cannons and rocket launchers pointed at metropolitan Seoul’s 25 million civilians. And who knows what nuclear, biological, and chemical horrors they are poised to unleash, in Pusan or Portland or Pensacola?
There is thus nothing to be gained by diplomacy, and nothing worth the price to be gained by military pre-emption. If the United States or the Republic of Korea make concessions, the North Koreans will just pocket whatever concessions they make and continue to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs. If the United States and the Republic of Korea do not make concessions, the North Koreans will continue to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs. Inspections cannot assure the disarmament of a regime that does not wish to be disarmed. Every sensible ruler has learned from what the United States did to Gaddafi, andwhat Putin did to Ukraine, never to allow himself to be disarmed.
Nor is the secret to be found in dealing with China, Pyongyang’s patron: until that day, much to be longed for, when Kim Jong-Un decides to retire to a villa in Hangzhou, there is nothing the Chinese can offer or threaten that would make him renounce the nuclear weapons that are his best means of personal protection. And while the Chinese, like the United States or the Republic of Korea, could obliterate the North Korean regime in days, this might simply ensure that they get to share directly in horrors that regime would impose in its death struggle.
To repeat, military action isn’t worth the costs. And yet there is literally nothing to be gained by diplomatic engagement with a regime that never reciprocates.
This is not to deny that there are actions the world can undertake to degrade or retard the North Korean threat. While North Korean scientists or technicians may be hard to stop, foreigners who aid and abet their evil can be brought to the fate of Saddam Hussein’s cannon-maker,Gerald Bull. The North Korean regime uses starvation and famine to control its people, so sanctions won’t weaken the regime internally, but they will do something to slow down its purchases of weapons and technology. The United States and its allies need to go full speed ahead on developing and deploying anti-missile and anti-artillery systems to protect their civilians. Israel’s Iron Dome has already proven its worth. China and Russia won’t like it, but they will understand it.
When threatened by blackmail, England’s greatest modern warrior, the Duke of Wellington, responded “Publish and be damned!” Kim and his people are already damned: North Korea is hell on earth, and Kim Jong-Un is its satanic master. We should not ignore the threat that North Korea poses to the peace and safety of the world, nor should the United States pay or encourage the South Koreans or Japan to pay Kim Jong-Un for “protection.” But we also need to resist the impulse to “do something,” until we actually come up with something that is worth doing.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Michael S. Kochinhttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngMichael S. Kochin2017-07-06 10:26:102017-07-08 16:49:00Of Paper and Paper Tigers
America • Asia • Donald Trump • Economy • Environment • Foreign Policy • Trade
Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the much-reviled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on hisfirst day in office.
This was a big win for his supporters, his detractors—America as a whole.
The problem is that leaving TPP is meaningless as long as America remains in theTrade in Services Agreement (TiSA). What is TiSA? It’s a proposed international agreement among the United States, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Chile, Columbia, Peru, Norway, Switzerland, Pakistan, and Turkey. Although is has been through 21 rounds of negotiations since 2013, very few people know it exists—fewer still know what it does. Put simply, TiSA deregulates international banks and financial firms, voids internet privacy laws, and broadens the definition of “services” to include manufactured goods, thereby reviving TPP.
Basically, TiSA was designed as a backdoor to ensure unfettered economic globalization could continue if TPP died—it was a failsafe. This becomes increasingly clear when looking at documents released byWikiLeaks.
To the extent the Obama Administration discussed TiSA at all, U.S. trade officials contended the agreement would “create economic opportunity for U.S. workers and businesses by expanding trade opportunities.” Cutting through the boilerplate, TiSA would be much larger than TPP, and would have a similar effect. That is TiSA broadly, but the Devil’s in the details.
According Wikileaks, article nine of TiSA’s draft language would eliminate additional regulations for foreign financial institutions, ensuring that countries cannot make separate rules for foreign-owned banks. Ideally, this levels the playing field; in reality it would confer major advantages to foreign institutions over their American competition. Why? Because sub-national governments, such as U.S. states or Canadian provinces, often draw artificial boundaries to protect their local financial firms from competitors in New York or Toronto.
The utility of such regulations is hotly debated, but both sides should agree that TiSA would make things worse. Under TiSA, regulations would remain in effect domestically, but would not apply to foreign firms. Thus, big British banks, like HSBC or Barclay’s, would have a field day out-competing local American banks. It would be open season.
Another problem: according to an analysis by Public Citizen, companies would have the right to sell financial derivatives, including those not yet invented, in all participating countries. Essentially, individual countries would lose the right to restrict the type of financial products sold. This is a recipe for spreading financial contagion globally.
Next, article 10 of TiSA undermines Internet privacy bybanning restrictions on the transfer of information in “electronic or other form” from any “financial service supplier.” This is a problem because “financial service suppliers” are not limited to corporations such as banks, but also include Internet service providers and data aggregators, including Facebook and Google. In essenceessense, TiSA would stop countries from making regulations that prohibit the movement of data beyond its borders, giving foreign firms free reign. TiSA would make “borderless data” international law.
The personal privacy ramifications of TiSA are obvious, but TiSA could also impact U.S. national security, as well as that of our allies. For example, German privacy laws preventing the transfer of data to Turkey would be voided—this could be a major problem, especially with the rise and radicalization the Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The same is true here: TiSA would make it much easier for foreign firms to act as moles. It makes us more vulnerable to blackmail, fraud, or other forms of cyberattack.
Finally, although TiSA was supposed to facilitate the free flow of services—for example, making it easier to hire a foreign accounting or engineering firm—the agreement goes well beyond that narrow scope. In fact, TiSA resurrects TPP by redefining “services” so broadly that many manufactured goods are covered. In effect, TiSA operates as a shadowy version of TPP.
As Deborah James of the Center for Economic Policy Researchexplains:
Corporations no longer consider setting up a plant and producing goods to be simply ‘manufactured goods.’ This activity is now broken down into research and development services, design services, construction services, energy services, employment contracting services, consulting services, manufacturing services, adult education services, payroll services, maintenance services, refuse disposal services, warehousing services, data management services, telecommunications services, audiovisual services, banking services, marketing services, retail services, postal and expedited delivery services, and after-sales servicing, to name a few.
Going further, a shoe or watch that measures steps or sleep could be a fitness monitoring service, not a good. A driver-less (sic) car could be a transport service, not an automobile. Google and Facebook could be information services and communication services, respectively.
Almost any modern good could technically be interpreted as a service under TiSA, and therefore TiSA revives the bulk of TPP. This will help facilitate increasedoffshore outsourcing, and will do tremendous damage to America’s economy.
But beyond that: Americans were against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and they would be against Trade in Services Agreement if they knew about it. In order for President Trump to fulfil his promise to Americans, he needs to scrap TiSA, just as he jettisoned the TPP. Thankfully, TiSA negotiations are currently on hold. That means Americans still have time to learn about TiSA, and resist it. It is not too late.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Spencer P. Morrisonhttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngSpencer P. Morrison2017-06-27 14:59:342017-06-29 17:37:29If You Thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership Was Bad, Get a Load of This
Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • History • Intelligence Community • Middle East • Terrorism • The ME Agenda
On May 11, 2011, the Obama Administration authorized the U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six to conduct a daring raid into the heart of Pakistan. Abbottabad, Pakistan is the home of the Pakistan military’s most prestigious academy. It also has a very posh VIP section of town where there are very large, private compounds. In one such compound resided al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden. When U.S. intelligence analysts figured out that Bin Laden was living in this isolated compound, they put together a daring plan of attack.
Operation Neptune Spear, the codename for the raid that ultimately killed Bin Laden, was daring on two counts: it sent highly trained U.S. military commandos into the heart of Pakistan and it utilized highly advanced and covert stealth helicopters to transport those SEALs into battle. The raid was an unmitigated tactical success: no American lives were lost, some valuable intelligence was gleaned, and Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice. Everyone in America rightly celebrated this instance of delayed justice.
However, six years later, it is time to take a more critical assessment of the historic raid. We must ask ourselves: was the raid, as it was conducted, worth it? As you will see, on a long-term, strategic level, Neptune Spear was a borderline failure.
Indeed, Neptune Spear was hotly debated within the Obama foreign policy team. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates preferred a simple drone strike against the compound, for maximum plausible deniability. This would have been the most efficient use of U.S. military power. It also would have allowed the Pakistani government the ability to downplay the attack, as they do routinely with U.S. drone strikes in their territory. However, the raid was decided upon for what I believe to have been domestic political reasons. After all, there was a contentious presidential election looming in 2012. President Obama needed every advantage he could get. By conducting the daring raid instead of simply bombing the compound, Obama’s reelection campaign could declare, “Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive” with certainty.
The U.S. strike force utilized experimental stealth helicopters to avoid detection from Pakistan’s air defenses. Unfortunately, one of the two experimental helicopters crashed as it hovered over the compound. The SEALs had to act quickly to destroy the helicopter’s remains as best they could. As with all of their endeavors, the SEALs acted with brilliant professionalism. Through no fault of theirs, the helicopter was not fully destroyed. In fact, the helicopter’s tail section was mostly preserved. That section was left at the compound for the Pakistani authorities to find.
The Pakistanis were deeply humiliated by the raid. Whether they knew Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad or not is irrelevant. Fact is, the flagrant violation of Pakistani sovereignty placed the Pakistani government in an impossible position: ignore the U.S. attack, or cave into anti-American pressure from their radicalized population. They had to straddle a middle ground in order to avoid encouraging their radicalized population (and to keep their military from launching a coup against the civilian authorities). Ergo, in their humiliation; in their desire to placate their virulently anti-American, Islamist-sympathizing population, the Pakistani government collected whatever they could from Bin Laden’s compound—including the wreckage of the stealth helicopter. Pakistan opted to retaliate against America in the geopolitical realm.
Through no fault of theirs, the helicopter was not fully destroyed. In fact, the helicopter’s tail section was mostly preserved. That section was left at the compound for the Pakistani authorities to find.
Pakistan has been growing close with the People’s Republic of China for years. Both Pakistan and China are threatened by India’s rise. The U.S. and India have been growing closer together, as both India and the U.S. share common political systems and are both threatened by Islamic fundamentalism (as well as China’s rise). Meanwhile, Pakistan’s schizophrenic stance on the Global War on Terror has angered their U.S. partners over the years. Pakistan needs China to prevent it from being isolated by America and India on the world stage.
The Bin Laden Raid was the straw that broke the camel’s back for U.S.-Pakistani relations. Knowing that China constantly sought out access to advanced American technology—particularly military technology—Pakistan invited a team of Chinese military leaders to study the captured section of the American stealth helicopter. Due to this act, the Chinese have likely been given critical insight into a new and important U.S. helicopter that many considered to be the future of Special Operations warfare. Think about it: the ability to covertly transport Special Forces teams into hotly contested combat zones confers great power onto the already-powerful United States. China wants not only to neuter that ability, but also to possess a similar capability. By showing the Chinese the wreckage of the American helicopter, then, the Pakistanis have helped China greatly in this regard.
Pakistan invited a team of Chinese military leaders to study the captured section of the American stealth helicopter. Due to this act, the Chinese have likely been given critical insight into a new and important U.S. helicopter that many considered to be the future of Special Operations warfare.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic fallout was temporary, but critical. Despite the painful duplicity of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, and the schizophrenic nature in which the Pakistanis conducted the Global War on Terror, Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts are essential in the fight against al Qaeda. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is a troublesome partner. Vast swathes of the Pakistanis are, at the very least, sympathetic to the jihadists that the U.S. are fighting.
However, in order to stabilize Afghanistan, the United States must conduct operations against Taliban and al Qaeda elements who have taken refuge across the border in the untamed regions of the Pakistani frontier. Pakistan has allowed U.S. forces to conduct limited drone strikes there for years. After the raid, critical drone operations were halted, creating a strategic gap in the Obama Administration’s War on Terror. It should be noted that Pakistan ultimately allowed for the drone missions to resume, but they exacted heavy diplomatic costs from America.
Following the raid, the Obama Administration was desperate to tout its foreign policy success in the run up to the 2012 Presidential election. In the process of this incessant backslapping, critical sources and methods were revealed to the press. Due to this, heroic Pakistanis who risked everything to ensure Bin Laden’s location was forwarded to the United States were inadvertently revealed to the vengeful Pakistani authorities. These brave souls now languish hopelessly in a horrific Pakistani prison.
The Obama Administration’s loose lips sent a signal to anyone seeking to help the United States: you will be exposed and possibly arrested or killed for your trouble. Further, it added to the animosity felt by Pakistanis for the United States, as we sought the release of those Pakistanis who facilitated the U.S. raid in Abbottabad.
Following the raid, the Obama Administration was desperate to tout its foreign policy success in the run up to the 2012 Presidential election. In the process of this incessant backslapping, critical sources and methods were revealed to the press. Due to this, heroic Pakistanis who risked everything to ensure Bin Laden’s location was forwarded to the United States were inadvertently revealed to the vengeful Pakistani authorities.
Due to this, U.S.-Pakistani relations have been incredibly strained. While the Pakistani government continues to do business with the United States (they need U.S. military support desperately), the Pakistani people (and elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service) are increasingly hostile toward the United States. It is likely that U.S.-Pakistani relations will never be rehabilitated. This is unfortunate, especially considering that U.S.-Pakistani relations were on the mend up until the Abbottabad Raid.
As the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, rightlypointed out: the Bin Laden Raid did little in the way of ending the Global War on Terror. In fact, it effectively cleared the decks in the jihadist community. It allowed the Taliban to distance itself from al Qaeda politically. The move also allowed for other jihadist groups, such as ISIS, to rise to prominence, spreading their particularly pernicious brand of terror across the globe.
We should honor our brave SEALs, who entered into the fray to bring to justice the murderer of thousands of innocents. At the same time, however, we should place the raid in its proper historical context. The raid was a stroke of genius at the tactical level. Yet, unfortunately, it made little strategic sense, in the long-run. America’s long-term strategic interests rest in keeping its military secrets away from China, maintaining cordial relations with unstable Pakistan, and ensuring that those who stick their necks out for the United States are protected. For, if America will not protect those who risk life and limb to help us, then others around the world will be less inclined to assist us in the future.
The Bin Laden Raid worsened America’s strategic position on all three counts. That is the true legacy of the Obama Administration’s Raid in Abbottabad. We must never forget this sad fact. And we must never lose sight of American strategic interests again. The costs are too high.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-05-10 20:40:432017-07-25 00:17:42The Bin Laden Raid: Tactical Brilliance, Strategic Dissonance
America • Asia • China • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • The Media • Trump White House
Well known film reviewer, Mike D’Angelo, writes,“Magic tricks frequently involve misdirection. In order to create an illusion, the magician needs to perform an action the audience shouldn’t see; this requires providing them [the audience] with something else on which they can focus.”Looking at the recent summit between President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, who can seriously challenge the notion that Trump performed the greatest trick in recent geopolitical history?
Going into the Sino-American summit, the two leaders were at odds. Trump had campaigned vociferously against bad trade deals with China and advocated for standing up to Chinese military aggression. During the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration, Trump fielded a congratulatory phone call from the pro-independence Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. This move challenged American foreign policy orthodoxy.
Since President Jimmy Carter, the United States refused to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. We chose instead to accept the “One-China” policy that said that the only legitimate government of China was the Chinese Communist Party. While we would not allow for China to forcefully reunite Taiwan with the mainland, we would no longer treat Taiwan as a sovereign state. When Trump accepted the call from President Tsai Ing-wen, he sent a message to China: Don’t take anything for granted.
Later on, Trump began talking about creating a border tax for products coming into the country from places like Mexico and China. Since the United States is a leading importer of Chinese goods, this was a direct threat to the Chinese economy. After all, China’s economy—while still performing better than America’s—has been flagging, in no small part due to decreased demand from the Emerging Markets for Chinese exports.
Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping of China, an ardent nationalist, doubled-down on his country’s unlawful claims to islands in the South China Sea and openly advocated for greater globalization at the Davos conference. Xi also enhanced his country’s support for rogue states like North Korea, increased ties with Russia, and continued undermining of American power wherever it can be so undermined.
It seemed as though no headway would be made going into the Mar-a-Lago Summit. And, had Trump been a conventional politician, it is likely that he would have given the proverbial store away for a token photo op with Xi. But, geopolitics is akin to magic, and the best practitioners of geopolitics often use the same tools of theatricality and deception to aid them in their quest for greatness.
The thrust of the Mar-a-Lago Summit was about how Trump could get Xi Jinping to embrace regime change in North Korea.
Remember, North Korea has been a client state of China’s going back to the Korean War in the 1950’s. Chinese protection on the international stage ensures that the North can defy Western sanctions imposed upon it. Indeed, China is the main reason why Kim Jong-un is in power in North Korea.
We’ve heard over the decades that the only way to ensure that North Korea does not go nuclear is to topple the Kim regime. However, we won’t do that because of the costs involved, the risk to South Korea (and the wider region), and the fact that China would likely feel compelled to send military forces to their stricken client state’s aid. That, of course, would risk igniting another world war.
Instead, we were encouraged to effectively bribe the North Koreans. We gave the Kim regime billions of dollars in foreign aid per year in exchange for the Kim regime promising not to develop nuclear arms. Of course, the Kim regime took the money and continued building bombs. They felt safe doing this because they knew that China ultimately had their back. But why would China protect such an unstable actor like North Korea?
The answer is largely economic. China gets much of its coal from the North. For China to continue its meteoric economic growth (which is, in fact, naturally slowing), China must have easy access to large quantities of cheap energy. Coal is a prime commodity in China. Since China uses its muscle to defend the North abroad, the North gives China its coal at cost. This has the effect of protecting the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly of power at home. If the CCP continues delivering the economic goods to the Chinese people, then the people will feel less inclined to revolt against the CCP. Plus, China does not want to contend with a North Korean refugee crisis. So, if they buttress the Kim regime, they at least get some semblance of stability.
Trump understood this. Since President Trump is the master of the art of the deal, he likely spent the last several months bashing China as an opening bid in his effort to topple Kim Jong-un at cost. So, Trump and his team assembled a catchy deal with China: America will sell China its coal and grant Chinese firms access to America’s lucrative market, if China promises to stabilize North Korea after the United States topples Kim Jong-un. For all of their rhetoric about the evils of America, Xi and his fellow CCP apparatchiks yearn for greater access to American markets.
Besides, Xi was growing weary of Kim Jong-un. He was likely already looking for a way of ridding China of its troublesome neighbor. Trump’s proposal would have given Xi his opening. Of course, Xi couldn’t have simply accepted such a deal at face value. What’s more, Trump couldn’t allow for the preening press to misrepresent what he was trying to do. He needed a distraction; a grand illusion.
Here’s the trick: get everyone to pay attention to the Syrian Civil War by striking at Assad while Trump made a secret backroom deal with Xi. As an added benefit, America gets to put the fear of its military might back into China’s mind. Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happened since the meeting between Trump and Xi.
No sooner had the Trump Administration launched its volley of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Assad’s air base, than China refused to accept a major shipment of vital coal from North Korea. The United States has deployed a flotilla to the western Pacific Ocean. Also, the renowned U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 has been deployed to South Korea on a “training mission.” Just what are they training for? Only the SEALs know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involves ensuring that Kim Jong-un is soon to have a very bad day. Oh, yeah, and China just moved 150,000 of its troops to the North Korean border.
Just as D’Angelo described, Trump’s magic trick was a misdirection for both the press and the Chinese. He created an illusion—the attack on Assad—to distract his audience, while he deftly performed an action only he and Xi could see. In one fell swoop, then, Trump managed to set the stage for regime change in North Korea without repeating the missteps of Iraq. He’s reinvigorated America’s military prestige. Also, by opening up American coal to Chinese interests, President Trump has upheld his campaign pledge to coal miners. President Trump has also rehabilitated the ailing Sino-American relationship (what was once dubbed “Chimerica”).
The only question we should be asking ourselves is whether or not coal-for-regime-change was the end of the deal? Since the press is incapable of doing its job, I will leave you with the open-ended question of what could have possibly prompted China to abandon its decades-long support of North Korea? After all, I still believe that China plans on pushing America out of the Asia-Pacific, if given the opportunity. Still, I would be happy to be proven wrong on that notion. My hope is that the mere promise of a better deal from America (coupled with America’s renewed military vigor following the Assad strikes) was enough. But, I suppose, we may not know for sure for some time.
Until then, we must concede that President Trump has not only made American foreign policy great again, but he’s also made great power politics fun again (and at cost)!
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-04-13 15:26:182017-07-26 15:40:49The Grand Illusion: How Trump Tricked China and The Press
America • Asia • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • Republicans • Terrorism • Trade • Trump White House
Americans didn’t fight and die in Afghanistan so China could extract its copper.
The Chinese military is conducting joint operations with the Pakistanis and Afghan security forces along the Chinese border, according to recent reports. The targets are jihadist elements, particularly a budding presence of Islamic State and other like-minded groups operating in Afghanistan. China’s goal is to curb terrorist threats that may emanate from Afghanistan and be directed against China’s Xinjiang Province.
The Pentagon is fully aware of China’s presence in Afghanistan. But this isn’t good news. Fact is, the 15-year war in Central Asia isn’t going well the United States. China’s ascent in Afghanistan simply underscores the extent of America’s troubles there. Our loss is China’s gain.
China’s western border is threatened by jihadist terrorism, just as America is threatened. So it makes sense that Americans and the Chinese would align to fight terrorists in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Chinese are conducting these limited counterterrorism missions with the Pakistanis, against American interests. Improving cooperation between China and Pakistan means increasing tensions with India, which has been in unceasing conflict with Pakistan for much of the past 50 years.
By operating in tandem with Afghan security forces, the Chinese further pull Afghanistan away from Washington’s wobbling political orbit and closer to Beijing. This will allow the Chinese to secure their economic interests in Afghanistan, at America’s expense.
In the early days of the war in Afghanistan, the United States sought allies to assist in defeating the terrorist scourge—not only al Qaeda, but also the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, to name only a few. China, despite an increasingly restive Uighur Muslim population concentrated in far-off Xinjiang, consistently refused to provide any kind of support to the U.S. war effort in Central Asia. The Chinese, perhaps not unreasonably, had no interest in contributing large sums of money and resources on the Bush Administration’s quixotic attempt to turn Kabul into the Paris of the Hindu-Kush.
Instead, China sat back and watched the carnage unfold. They let the Americans over-commit to its hubristic mission in Afghanistan. Even though the United States was able to push al Qaeda and the Taliban out of key strategic areas of Afghanistan, it failed to destroy either. Instead, both groups fled to neighboring Pakistan, where they relied on ethno-religious ties with local tribes (mostly the Pashtun) to protect them.
Around 2010, China made its first deal . . . with the Taliban! Chinese foreign policy is a bit more utilitarian and mercantilistic than America’s tends to be. The Chinese do things based on hard-headed calculations of ends-and-means. For Chinese policymakers, the first goal is to sustain their country’s meteoric rise. If they cannot, people will protest and the Chinese Communist Party will lose its grip on power. Thus, acquiring scores of natural resources is essential.
Turns out, Afghanistan—despite being a rocky, mountainous country split by tribalism and ruled in the hinterlands by warlords—is chock full of valuable natural resources. It may not possess oil, but, it does possess copper and other rare minerals that a country like China desperately needs.
China recently gained approval from the Taliban to begin extracting from the country’s largest copper mine, Mes Aynak. This is the start of major Chinese investment in Afghanistan’s natural resources. The fact that the Chinese went to the Taliban (who control the mine) is telling, too. Make no mistake: it is widely assumed that the Taliban will retake Afghanistan—if not entirely, then at least partially—once U.S. and NATO forces leave. The Chinese, Russians, and Pakistanis have been preparing accordingly: making deals, operating alongside of, and buttressing the growing Taliban power in the periphery of Afghanistan.
But the Chinese have also taken it upon themselves to begin training Afghan security forces and working more closely with the Afghan national government in Kabul. While regional experts, such as Franz Stefan-Grady, say greater Chinese involvement in Afghanistan is a good thing for the country’s stabilization, I suspect that this is less about the greater good and more about pragmatism.
China wants to gain a monopoly over any natural resources in Afghanistan. Beijing also wants to ensure the chaos in Afghanistan does not spill over into China. So the Chinese will support any group that will assist them in their efforts for greater commerce and greater security.
The fact that the Chinese are working with Afghan security forces along their border does not negate their willingness to work with the Taliban at the Mes Aynak copper mine (and elsewhere). If the experts are thinking that China will do anything truly substantive to combat the Taliban, they are dead wrong.
Truth is, China has been a consistent free rider in Afghanistan. It has benefited commercially from the country while investing little in actually stabilizing it. Instead China has left that expensive and seemingly impossible task to the United States.
During last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump excoriated the George W. Bush Administration for not having taken Iraq’s oil to pay for the Iraq War. He similarly lambasted the Obama Administration for allowing ISIS to exploit Iraqi oil for its war effort. He believed that if America was to go to war in the Mideast or Central Asia (in Afghanistan’s case)—sacrificing so much toil and treasure—it should have been understood that America would take the oil until the war debt was repaid. He vowed to do something similar should he have to involve the United States in another costly war in the Muslim world during his presidency.
Well, there is already a costly war going on—in Afghanistan. The Trump Administration should consider seizing the copper mines (and other resource rich areas) in the name of the United States. The goal should be to develop those resources until the nearly $1 trillion war debt from the war in Afghanistan is paid down. Or, the United States should simply sell access to those assets and recoup its financial losses that way. Why should the Chinese benefit from our sacrifice in the mountains of Afghanistan?
If the Chinese wanted their share, they should have committed to the war effort. We have spent 15 years attempting to “stabilize” Afghanistan—yet the threat remains. In fact, it has intensified over the past eight years. With Pakistan, Russia, and now China all piling on (not to mention ISIS inserting itself in Afghanistan recently), America needs to recoup some of its losses.
The Trump Administration shouldn’t allow China, of all places, to profit from our war in Afghanistan. If any foreign power is going to profit from those resources, it should be America.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-03-11 22:17:552017-07-26 16:00:21China is Taking Afghanistan—at U.S. Expense
2016 Election • Asia • Conservatives • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • History • Intelligence Community • Obama • Religion of Peace • Terrorism • Trump White House
For 16 years, the war in Afghanistan has raged with no end in sight. Indeed, it has become America’s longest war. Now that Donald Trump is president, the United States has a pristine opportunity to conclude this costly war. President Trump has expressed a willingness to deploy more U.S. troops in order to win in Afghanistan.
The president also believes that victory can only be achieved if neighboring Pakistan assists the United States in defeating the Taliban and other jihadist groups there. Unfortunately, these are the same failed policy pillars that have failed the previous two administrations.
But there is a better way in Afghanistan. The solution to Afghanistan lies in India.
Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama believed that the best way to exit Afghanistan was through Pakistan. Yet neither Bush nor Obama were ever able fully to realize Pakistani assistance in defeating the Taliban. While the Pakistanis did assist America in certain tactical situations, Pakistani and American interests in defeating groups like the Taliban were (and are) at cross-purposes on the strategic level.
Since the 1980s, the Pakistani government has lent considerable support to the jihadists in Afghanistan. This is because the Pakistani government wants to use Afghanistan for strategic depth in their ongoing conflict with India. After having gained independence in 1947, the mostly Muslim Pakistan has been in an endless conflict with their predominantly Hindu neighbor of India. This division between Pakistan and India dominates the politics of southwestern Asia.
Consequently, like his two predecessors, Trump believes that Pakistan is vital to America’s success. Remember Carl von Clausewitz’s dictum, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” While the United States has all of the military advantages it could want in Afghanistan, ultimately, the war will end when there is a viable political solution there. The political solution will not be found in Afghanistan. It will, however, be found in neighboring Pakistan.
After all, the Pakistanis have considerable sway over the Islamic extremists fighting in Afghanistan. The underlying wisdom goes something like this: if only the United States could force Pakistan to fight the Taliban (and other jihadist networks in the region), then America could declare victory in Afghanistan, and bring the troops home. For 16 years, the Bush and Obama Administrations have tried the combination of carrots and sticks (read: cash and direct threats) to induce the Pakistanis’ assistance.
While two separate and, in many ways, wildly divergent American presidential administrations have come and gone, Pakistani support for the Taliban (and elements of al Qaeda) in Afghanistan remains. Of course, Pakistan is not a monolithic entity. It is, however, imperative that American policymakers stop accepting Pakistani intransigence merely as the “cost of doing business” in southwest Asia.
Truth is, the United States could do no amount of cajoling to end Pakistani support for the Taliban. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is a vital strategic lever to use against their eternal Indian foe. Whereas America is viewed as just another temporary visitor to that part of the world, the Pakistanis have to live with India. Forever.
As a result of this geopolitical fact, Pakistan’s strategic calculations about Afghanistan are wildly different from our own. The United States will have to take an unorthodox approach, therefore, if it means to resolve its differences with Pakistan or to win the War in Afghanistan. Repeating the same efforts as the preceding Bush and Obama Administration’s—even if we really “mean it” this time—will not fundamentally change the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan.
Thus, I propose that the United States bypass Pakistan altogether. Right now, the Pakistanis hold all of the cards in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The Pakistani government knows that American policymakers view Pakistan as an essential partner in the Global War on Terror.
Plus, the Pakistani government grasps that America is hesitant to apply too much pressure on them for fear that such pressure could prompt a populist backlash in Pakistan. Given the high degree of Islamism among the Pakistani population, such a popular backlash would likely result in an anti-American Islamist government taking charge in Pakistan. This would place the country’s nuclear arsenal in the hands of groups sympathetic to al Qaeda.
The Pakistani government knows that America fears this. Hence, the Pakistani government does not need to do much to get what it wants from the U.S. The one thing that could change the Pakistani view, however, would be a full-blown U.S.-Indian bilateral relationship.
Right now, India is a budding democracy with a growing military. It also has one of the most vibrant economies in the world. The Indians are, therefore, natural allies for the United States. In fact, throughout the presidential campaign in 2016, President Trump appealed extensively to the Indian-American population. He has long claimed to be a friend of India and has advocated closer ties with India.
The Trump Administration should announce a series of new, special diplomatic, economic, and military agreements with India over the next year. This would shore up the U.S.-India relationship. It would also signal to the Pakistanis that America is pulling away from them. Such a move would prompt a major reassessment of the Pakistani grand strategy.
Right now, America’s endless commitment to fighting in Afghanistan forces us to make nice with neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani government reaps great economic and military advantages from this situation. If America were to leave Afghanistan now, then Pakistan would lose their sweetheart economic and military aid deals with the United States.
If the Trump Administration indicated that it wanted to build a new “special relationship” with democratic India (much like the ones that America currently enjoys with Britain and Israel), the Pakistanis might change their tune. What’s more, in spite of calls to the contrary, if the Trump Administration committed to a surge of forces in Afghanistan along with the crafting of closer diplomatic ties with India, Pakistan would recognize that America is no longer looking for the exits.
Indeed, Pakistan would likely turn on their jihadist friends in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis would do this in order to hasten an American withdrawal from the region. The Pakistanis would want America gone since the increased diplomatic costs of America’s continued presence in Afghanistan would outweigh the military and financial benefits.
The United States needs to spend the next year signaling to the Pakistanis that if they do not fully assist us, then we will unleash India in the region. The only sure-fire way for Pakistan to prevent a U.S.-India special relationship would be to turn on the Taliban. After all, a special economic and military alliance between the United States and India would only make India stronger than it already is. This would directly threaten Pakistan and isolate them on the world stage.
Once Pakistan fully commits to defeating jihadist networks in Afghanistan (notably the Taliban, but also al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network), U.S. forces in Afghanistan will be able to declare victory in Afghanistan. Only then, after true victory is achieved, could American forces (save for small counterterrorism units) return home.
Two different American leaders have tried to end the war in Afghanistan by using the Pakistanis. Both Presidents Bush and Obama failed to accomplish their goals. The Pakistanis simply have no interest in destroying jihadist networks in Afghanistan. President Trump has indicated his desire to end the war, but he has also expressed his belief that the war will only end if Pakistan takes a more proactive role. The only way to prompt Pakistan to take such a role, in my estimation, is by complicating its grand strategy vis-à-vis India.
America must exit Afghanistan through India.
https://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.png00Brandon J. Weicherthttps://kittyhawk.amgreatness.com/app/uploads/2020/01/american-greatness-logo_201x37.pngBrandon J. Weichert2017-02-07 09:51:102017-07-26 21:26:58Exiting Afghanistan Through India