Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • History • Post

The Lessons of the Versailles Treaty

The Treaty of Versailles was signed in Versailles, France, on June 28, 1919. Neither the winners nor the losers of World War I were happy with the formal conclusion to the bloodbath.

The traditional criticism of the treaty is that the victorious French and British democracies did not listen to the pleas of leniency from progressive American President Woodrow Wilson. Instead, they added insult to the German injury by blaming Germany for starting the war. The final treaty demanded German reparations for war losses. It also forced Germany to cede territory to its victorious neighbors.

The harsh terms of the treaty purportedly embittered and impoverished the Germans. The indignation over Versailles supposedly explained why Germany eventually voted into power the firebrand Nazi Adolf Hitler, sowing the seeds of World War II.

But a century later, how true is the traditional explanation of the Versailles Treaty?

In comparison to other treaties of the times, the Versailles accord was actually mild—especially by past German standards.

After the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war, a newly unified and victorious Germany occupied France, forced the French to pay reparations and annexed the rich Alsace-Lorraine borderlands.

Berlin’s harsh 1914 plans for Western Europe at the onset of World War I—the so-called Septemberprogramm—called for the annexation of the northern French coast. The Germans planned to absorb all of Belgium and demand payment of billions of marks to pay off the entire German war debt.

In 1918, just months before the end of the war, Germany imposed on a defeated Russia a draconian settlement. The Germans seized 50 times more Russian territory and 10 times greater the population than it would later lose at Versailles.

So, under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the winning democracies were far more lenient with Germany than Germany itself had been with most of its defeated enemies.

No one denied that Germany had started the war by invading Belgium and France. Germany never met the Versailles requirements of paying fully for its damage in France and Belgium. It either defaulted or inflated its currency to pay reparations in increasingly worthless currency.

Versailles certainly failed to keep the peace. Yet the problem was not because the treaty was too harsh, but because it was flawed from the start and never adequately enforced.

The Versailles Treaty was signed months after the armistice of November 1918, rather than after an utter collapse of the German Imperial Army. The exhausted Allies made the mistake of not demanding the unconditional surrender of the defeated German aggressor.

That error created the later German myth that its spent army was never really vanquished, but had merely given up the offensive in enemy territory. Exhausted German soldiers abroad were supposedly “stabbed in the back” by Jews, Communists, and traitors to the rear.

The Allied victors combined the worst of both worlds. They had humiliated a defeated enemy with mostly empty condemnations while failing to enforce measures that would have prevented the rise of another aggressive Germany.

England, France, and America had not been willing to occupy Germany and Austria to enforce the demands of Versailles. Worse, by the time the victors and the defeated met in Versailles, thousands of Allied troops had already demobilized and returned home.

The result was that Versailles did not ensure the end of “the war to end all wars.”

As the embittered Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, supreme commander of the Allied forces, presciently concluded of the Versailles settlement: “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”

Foch was right.

Twenty years after the 1919 settlement, the German army invaded Poland to start World War II, which would cost the world roughly four times as many lives as World War I.

After the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious Allies of 1945 did not repeat the mistakes of 1919. They demanded an unconditional surrender from the defeated Nazi regime.

The Western Allies then occupied, divided and imposed democracy upon Germany. Troops stayed, helped to rebuild the country and then made it an ally.

In terms of harshness, the Yalta and Potsdam accords of 1945 were far tougher on the Germans than Versailles—and far more successful in keeping the peace.

The failure of Versailles remains a tragic lesson about the eternal rules of war and human nature itself—100 years ago this summer.


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Administrative State • Congress • Deterrence • military • Post

Swampy Washington Should Not Compound the F-35’s Failure

Mae West famously said that too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Well, Washington lawmakers seem determined to turn that logic on its head. They want too much of a bad thing, one that bad thing is already too expensive. And it’s not wonderful.

Recently, the House Appropriations Committee added two-dozen F-35 fighters to the number of such jets that the Pentagon has requested. If the purchase goes forward, those 103 new warplanes would represent a colossal waste of money on top of the tens of billions the federal government has already squandered on the massive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. 

The F-35’s proponents have been over-promising and under-delivering for decades now. Don’t take my word for it. Just last year the military completed an internal assessment of the plane. The review shows ongoing reliability issues with the jet that have already greatly shortened its useful life. In other words, lawmakers are lining up to say they want to buy more of a plane that can’t even fulfill its stated mission.

It’s one thing for lawmakers to have believed the hype and invested in the F-35 decades ago when the concept was introduced. Many people inside and outside our military fell for the pie in the sky promise of a single jet that could do it all. Lawmakers should not, however, trip over themselves to repeat their past mistakes by adding a hundred more of these clunkers to the military’s fleet. 

It might have been different if Lockheed had finally solved the problems with the JSF. But it hasn’t, and the problems that have long dogged the plane aren’t getting better. The same internal review found “no improving trend” among the number of aircraft available for training and combat missions.

This failing jet is good at one thing and one thing only: ringing up costs. Bloomberg News reported the F-35 program, which is already the most expensive weapons system in the history of warfare, is adding another $22 billion in unexpected costs. Expect that price tag to increase, not decrease.

Why would the Pentagon want so much of this less-than-wonderful weapon? Perhaps it just feels stuck, thinking that at this point it is too far down the F-35 road to turn back.

After all, the JSF was conceived decades ago with the promise it would solve problems and replace other legacy systems. Starting in the 1990s, military decisionmakers decided to give Lockheed a contract to build a one-size-fits-all jet, a weapon that could be used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. 

Bottom line, It didn’t work. And, with the results we’re getting now, it would seem reasonable to conclude that it will never work as intended. This should be a warning that something is basically flawed that would accommodate a series of false assumptions in the face of all evidence. 

And here we are once again after investing billions of dollars and considering to keep spending more money because the project is too big to fail. This is the kind of government project management that drives Americans nuts. We’re told these project managers are brilliant. So why is their decision making so fundamentally flawed and costing us billions of dollars? 

A few years ago, a RAND Corp. study found the three F-35 variants had drifted so far apart during development that having a single base design may prove to be more expensive than if the armed services had built separate aircraft tailored to their own requirements from the get-go. That, unfortunately, was more than 20 years into the program, when most of the people who thought this was a good idea had retired or gone into consulting. 

It took these geniuses all this time and money to confirm that one size doesn’t fit all? That the F-35 is ineffective at many of the tasks the military needs, such as force projection? Flying an F-15 overhead lets the bad guys know we’re there in a way the F-35 cannot, for example.

The JSF may even be dangerous. Earlier this year, Japan grounded its F-35 jets after an accident. That would seem to negate another supposed advantage of the JSF: that we can sell it to our allies to help with joint defense.

There’s no reason to invest more money in a plane that’s ineffective, too expensive, and hazardous. The Pentagon needs more planes, but ones that can actually get the job done. Why not cut the F-35 order and invest in effective weapon systems instead?

Once again the treasury, resources, and lives of service members are needlessly at risk. Why? 

Why continue with a project that is not fulfilling it’s intended objective?

Why spend more money when the results continue to indicate failure?

Why invest time and resources on a “loser project” when that time and resources could be directed to a better idea?

Why is the House Appropriations Committee just going along with this increasingly costly program?

Why aren’t they asking more questions before committing to more money?

A robust military budget is in America’s interests, but the size and ambitions of the military-industrial complex demand oversight and accountability. The fact that in lieu of a complete accounting of military spending, we only get excuses is unacceptable because it leaves us vulnerable to misappropriations, the waste of our money and wasteful projects like this one.

It’s irresponsible to consider sending America’s best to war with a clearly flawed piece of machinery that has not delivered on its promises. Knowing what we know today after decades of investment, why pursue the F-35? “Close enough for government work” only misses the mark and promotes mediocrity over excellence. Excellence is what Americans deserve and what our military pilots deserve. 

Photo credit: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • Post

To Conquer Chaos, Court It

For all of the rhetoric about our supposed liberal international order, the world is more chaotic and unstable than it has been since World War II. Disorder reigns.

And for the technocratic, democratic globalist elites in the West, this disorder can only be repaired with the right combination of U.S. tax dollars, the blood of American servicemen and women, and a desire to remake entire societies in our image (or, at least, in the distorted image of postmodern, Western elites).

Yet, with each new U.S. intervention, we have detached the use of military force from serious national interests and, in so doing, done real damage to our interests. As the disorder caused by American intervention proliferates and becomes systemic, rival powers, such as China or Russia, step into that chaotic void, eventually benefiting from the chaos that the United States has sown, even as we squander our temporary gains.

Flipping Gaddafi: The One Upside of the Iraq War
For instance, the disorder caused by the United States in Iraq won us the initial benefit of newfound cooperation from a long-time adversary, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. We managed to get him to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons and to engage with the West.

Whatever may have been the other failings of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, we could always point to Gaddafi and his decision to give up his nuclear weapons as a win. For a time, Gaddafi even turned Libya into an essential partner in America’s ongoing global war on terrorism. Throughout North Africa thereafter, Libyan intelligence worked hand-in-hand with the United States and its allies to thwart jihadist threats there.

Thanks to the alliance with Gaddafi, the George W. Bush Administration was also made aware of the illicit nuclear weapons proliferation cabal led by Pakistan’s preeminent nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan. Washington was able to disrupt Khan’s highly successful nuclear proliferation scheme, which entailed moving nuclear materials and know-how from places like Russia, China, and Pakistan and into the hands of desperate, rogue regimes, like those of North Korea, Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and at one time, Libya.

Despite having benefited from its alliance with Libya’s insane strongman, though, Washington’s planners eventually led the successful international effort to topple Gaddafi in 2011.

How Washington Spreads the Contagion
What followed were years of instability in Libya, as no central government could assert enough control over the vast country to quell the disorder. The chaos quickly proliferated to neighboring countries, such as Mali, prompting greater Western military intervention. Soon, Islamists began taking over provinces of Libya (such as Benghazi), where they promptly imposed Sharia law, slavery, and other horrors upon the citizenry.

The more the chaos in Libya compounded, the less ability the United States (and the West) had to influence events there. Yet Russia experienced a concomitant increase of its own influence over powerful actors in the region. Ever since the end of the Cold War, Russia had been cut out of the region by U.S. foreign policy. As a result, nowadays people in the region view Russia in a more positive light than they do the Americans.

Thanks to this perception, Moscow has had a much easier time inserting itself into the region. Further, Moscow and Beijing have a firmer and more fundamental grasp on realpolitik: play all sides against each other, keep the locals distracted, and rarely take sides, while waiting to see how the pieces fall before fully asserting one’s own will.

This is precisely what Russia is doing in Libya today. As the U.S.-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli founders, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, led by the autocratic General Khalifa Haftar, steadily marches toward Tripoli. Things have gotten so bad that the State Department issued an order for all U.S. government personnel to leave Libya until the dust settles.

Many analysts are convinced that Moscow covertly is supporting Haftar’s military juggernaut. After all, Prime Minister Sarraj’s regime in Tripoli has proven itself incapable of asserting control over Libya. Plus, Haftar’s forces control most of the oil-rich parts of Libya, meaning his is the force with all of the money and resources behind it. The always-cash-strapped Moscow wants influence over Libya’s natural resources as well as access to Haftar’s wealth. By backing his claim to power, Moscow hopes to gain exclusive access to Libya.

Civil Wars as State-Building Exercises

The instability and chaos created by American intervention in Libya have, therefore, been a boon for the revanchist Russians. In fact, we’ve witnessed the resurgence of Russian might all across the Middle East and Africa (what Andrew J. Bacevich refers to as the “Greater Middle East”), where American forces have intervened. From Syria to Libya to the Central African Republic, Russia is yet again reasserting its power in ways that it has not been able to do since the heady days of the Cold War.

None of this would have been possible without the feckless policies of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party.

As Edward N. Luttwak once exhorted, “Give War a Chance.” Civil wars are brutal (just look at our own). But, if they are expected and allowed to play out naturally, the result is often longer-lasting and more stabilizing than any peace imposed by outsiders. Wars—particularly civil wars—are a harsh remedy. But just as wildfires sometimes help cull forests in order for them to thrive again, wars can be a necessary and natural part of state building. Intervening to stop them can have grave unintended consequences for the long-term development of a country, such as Libya or Syria.

Because Washington waded into countless civil conflicts with little understanding of the dynamics involved, in many cases even more bloodshed and instability resulted. As instability expanded, strategic rivals, like Russia, managed to court the chaos and use it to their geostrategic advantage. In Libya, Russia has not only courted Haftar’s forces but, until recently, it appeared to be courting Haftar’s rival, Prime Minister Sarraj as well. This pattern has repeated throughout the world in the post-Cold War era. As states breakdown internally and intrastate conflict—driven by ethno-religious tensions—takes hold, American forces repeatedly are drawn into the conflict by well-meaning but ignorant elites.

The U.S. military is good at killing people and breaking things, but it often cannot discern one tribal faction from another—especially when everyone fighting are bad guys (such as in Syria). For instance, the group of belligerents who captured a cowering Muammar Gaddafi and then gruesomely executed him on the side of a Libyan highway, the National Liberation Army, were not secular “freedom fighters” looking to create Western-style democracy in Libya. Instead, key elements of this American-backed hodgepodge force were unapologetic jihadists looking to spread Islamist governance to war-torn Libya (which, they eventually did until Haftar showed up and started killing them).

When America intervenes in civil wars to “protect universal human rights,” very often American forces end up having to take sides in a civil war with no clear good guy, thereby incurring the wrath of those who are fighting against our preferred side, while our supposed allies use us, and eventually turn on us.

Plus, we often end up removing the players in a civil war who might be able to lead their country to some semblance of stability. Once such forces are destroyed, we have then created a permanent vacuum for others, like Russia, to exploit.

We’ve Met the Enemy and He Is Us!
Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Iran are case studies in how the United States completely destroyed its own dominance in a vital part of the world and allowed for its weaker rivals—particularly Russia—to benefit from the ensuing chaos.

Given this, the United States should stop trying to bring order to chaos and instead start courting that chaos as the Russians and Chinese have so effectively done over the last 20 years.

Why doesn’t Washington ever wait to see what Beijing, Moscow, or Tehran intend to do in a given civil war? Why do we always have to go first?

It is time for Washington to realize that, in an age of durable disorder, there is simply no way to impose stability from the outside. Instead, the goal should be to do the least amount of harm both to ourselves and allies while enhancing our national strategic interests—and our understanding of those should be far more limited than it currently is. At times, the United States should not intervene in a civil war, regardless of the human suffering involved. Other times, we might benefit by replicating Chinese and Russian strategies and exacerbate the chaos; playing all sides against the middle. Rarely, though, should American forces deploy to engage in unwinnable humanitarian warfare as they have done on multiple occasions since the end of the Cold War.

The disease of humanitarian military interventionism has infected the minds of America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party; this disease has made those purported great minds dull and has gotten countless American servicemen and women needlessly killed while wasting trillions of hard-earned U.S. taxpayer dollars. More importantly, these unnecessary wars have quantitatively hurt U.S. strategic interests around the world.

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America • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • military • North Korea • Post • Russia • Technology

Washington Is Still Not Getting Space Force Right

At this year’s Space Symposium in Washington, D.C., Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan opened his remarks by indicating the United States government takes seriously the threat that China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose to our country’s space systems. We rely too much on satellites to provide the necessary bandwidth that our highly technological and interconnected society—as well as our advanced military—requires to function.

While these linkages in space are key for America’s survival (and our global dominance), they are surprisingly poorly defended. Our enemies know this and they’ve made preparations to hold these systems hostage, should tensions escalate between us.

Shanahan’s starkest comments revolved around his claim that China already had deployed advanced ground-based lasers intended to blind and dazzle sensitive American satellites in low-earth orbit. He cautioned that in time, Beijing undoubtedly would seek to deploy laser weapons not only on the ground but ultimately in space itself. Shanahan further stressed that Russia was mirroring China’s development of what’s known in the trade as “counterspace” capabilities.

But, suppose China (and Russia) is much further along in these projects than previously thought.

For those of us who have worked on national security space policy, the threat posed to America’s satellites is nothing new. That the Trump Administration is taking the threat seriously after his predecessors all but ignored it is refreshing. Even so, the fact that the elites in Washington are only now responding to the threat in space is terrifying. After all, China tested its first ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon in 2008. Chinese academics and foreign policy leaders have written an avalanche of papers advocating for the placement of laser weapons in space going back to 2005.

Our enemies now have significant capabilities in space and pose a direct threat to our systems there precisely because Washington ignored the threat for so long.

Is China Weaponizing the Moon?
It’s not just ground-based counterspace weapons, such as lasers and anti-satellite missiles, that threaten our satellites. There is some evidence suggesting that China is already placing rudimentary weapons systems in orbit—not just around Earth, but also near the moon. When China launched its historic Chang’e-4 mission to explore the dark side of the moon, they also deployed some micro-satellites around the moon.

Placed in what’s known as Lagrangian Point-2 (L2), which is an orbit between Earth and the moon, China told the world that the micro-satellites were meant to serve as communication relays between the Chang’e-4 and Beijing. But, some defense experts worry that the orbits of the Chinese microsatellites place them precariously close to America’s critical defense satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) around Earth.

The Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) constellation of satellites exists in geosynchronous orbit (GEO), which links together America’s military deployed around the world. There are other critical satellites in geosynchronous orbits, such as key spy satellites as well as early missile warning satellites. Due to their distance from Earth and their complexity, these American military satellites are extremely hard to replace in the event of an emergency. Should those systems be lost or degraded, the U.S. military could be left deaf, dumb, and blind.

As Jeff Gossel, the top intelligence engineer at the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center told Defense One in October:

You could fly some sort of a weapon around the moon and it comes back—it could literally come at [objects] in GEO . . . And we would never know because there is nothing watching in that direction . . . Why do you need a relay satellite flying around L2? So you can communicate with something that’s going to land on the other side of the moon—or so you can fly around the other side of the moon? And what would that mean for our assets at GEO?

How could a defense establishment that is spending $787 billion on itself have let the Chinese gain on America’s once-unquestioned dominance in space in such a short period of time? What’s more, why haven’t we done more to counter the threat posed in the strategic high ground of space?

People should not assume that just because President Trump has spoken (and tweeted) in favor of the creation of a space force that America’s bloated defense bureaucracy will allow it to happen. In fact, the Pentagon already has been resisting the creation of a fully independent, sixth branch of the United States military, by ensuring that any space force would be subordinate to the Department of the Air Force. As the bureaucratic battle intensifies, the Chinese continue developing and deploying systems with which to render our Armed Forces (and, potentially, even America’s civilian population) deaf, dumb, and blind through dazzling anti-satellite attacks.

The United States is still trying to fight and win World War II without realizing that the world has moved beyond those geopolitical realities because the battlefield has expanded. Our adversaries don’t want to engage in a fair fight and technology exists that will help them avoid a fair fight with the U.S. military while still achieving their strategic objectives. Space plays a significant part in these unconventional strategies for defeating the United States. But, don’t tell the Pentagon. They’re too busy purchasing another $13 billion aircraft carrier that will be useless, thanks to Chinese defenses, should we ever really need to fight Beijing.

We Needed a Space Force Yesterday
In 2000, when Donald Rumsfeld headed the Space Commission, he advised the Pentagon to go slow and start small when creating a space force. At the time, the threats posed to America’s space architecture were negligible.

That was then. Almost 20 years on, things have changed dramatically. The threats to American satellite constellations are immense and growing while America’s ability to defend itself in space is getting weaker. Because Washington delayed creating a true space force for the last 20 years, bigger, bolder, and more immediate action to counter the newer and larger threats today is vital.

But the Pentagon essentially disregards the president’s calls for an independent space force, with only half-hearted responses. The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, still “needs more convincing!” It will take a full-on Chinese or Russian Pearl Harbor-style attack on America’s satellite constellations to convince the Senate to fund a space force in the same way it took 9/11 to generate a serious response to what was then the growing scourge of terrorism.

A robust space force that is detached from the other branches is the only way effectively to defend our satellites. In order to achieve the mission goal of preserving America’s long-held dominance in space, such a force will also require unconventional leadership willing to experiment with new methods of warfare. But for that to happen, Washington’s bureaucrats must wake up to the real threats we face and undertake to defend America in spite of their patent dislike for the man who happens to be president.

Washington’s Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party will be our undoing. Either we act decisively today or we risk a Pearl Harbor in space tomorrow.

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Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • military • North Korea • Post

North Korea Has Probably Weaponized Space Already

Now that the rapprochement between the United States and North Korea appears to be on hold, the North Korean military threat will have to become a focus of the Trump Administration yet again. At the moment, the world fixates on North Korea’s nuclear threat. Few, however, talk about North Korea’s space program.

Keep in mind that a country which possesses a nuclear weapons capability also has the capacity to build a space program. Pyongyang has already conducted a series of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches that have stoked fears in the West about North Korea’s growing capability. Of course, North Korea claimed that these were launches of civilian weather satellites . Yet, the satellite followed an odd orbit and did not appear to display any of the regular behaviors that innocuous weather satellites are expected to exhibit.

The satellite, dubbed KMS 3-2, with a NORAD tracking identification number of 39026, was launched on 12 December 2012. Many Westerners believed the launch of KMS 3-2 was a “veiled ballistic missile test.” It likely was. Those same analysts also assumed the “satellite” was just junk. Although, the fact that KMS 3-2 has remained in orbit for as long as it has, following an odd north-south orbital trajectory, indicates to some that the system just might be an unconventional weapon known as an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) bomb. To buttress these concerns, it is important to note that KMS 3-2 sits at an altitude of 280 miles above Earth, an optimal position for an “E-bomb.”

More troubling, on February 7, 2017, North Korea placed another “weather” satellite, KMS-4 (NORAD tracking number 41332), in a north-south orbit. This occurred not long after Pyongyang successfully had tested a hydrogen bomb. The concern is that, like a Bond villain from the Roger Moore-era, Kim Jong-un is placing powerful electromagnetic pulse weapons in Earth’s orbit that he will one day use either to hold the West hostage or to attack us.

An EMP is a devastating blast of energy that destroys most electronics. First observed by scientists as far back 1859, it was not seen as a potential weapon until the infamous U.S. military Starfish Prime nuclear weapons test in 1962.

At that time, America detonated a massive nuclear warhead 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. The test damaged Hawaii’s electrical grid and telephones. That same year, the Soviet Union conducted a similar test in Kazakhstan, which started power plant fires in Karaganda. Since then, many more nuclear weapons states have arisen. And, as two Russian generals warned American leaders in 2004, Moscow sold Russia’s “super-EMP warhead design” to North Korea.

Lights Out, Mass Casualties
There’s also further reason for concern. By placing their satellites in a north-south orbit, as opposed to the usual east-west orbital path, North Korea has complicated the ability for American radar and ballistic missile defenses both to track and to destroy such weapons. After all, the American radar network was designed to detect incoming nuclear weapons launched from the former Soviet Union. Such launches would have followed an east-west direction. Washington possesses limited capabilities to track and shoot down an attack from a north-south orbit.

Speaking to a group of tech executives in Silicon Valley in 2017, I cautioned that Pyongyang might have placed a dormant electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon in orbit of Earth. Such a move would be in keeping with both North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. It would also coincide with Pyongyang’s commitment to developing asymmetrical forms of warfare meant to negate America’s overwhelming military supremacy.

In 2008, a special commission released a report on the threat of an EMP attack to the United States. The commission, formed shortly after 9/11, outlined a broad scope of vulnerabilities. Yet little has been done to better defend the United States. For example, the EMP Commission assessed that such a weapon detonated in orbit above the continental United States would knock out all power and advanced technology, effectively sending the United States back into the 19th century. The commission also determined that for a rogue state like North Korea, developing such a capability could be strategically useful to Pyongyang. Further, upwards of 90 percent of the American population could be killed off in the course of two years following a large-scale EMP attack due in part to massive disruptions in food production and distribution. Two years is the minimum amount of time it would take to restore America’s destroyed electrical grid and replace critical technology.

Of course, many national security analysts question whether North Korea has the capability to place such a system in orbit. In 2016, Peter W. Singer of New America said that these fears are “a joke” among “serious” national security practitioners. Physicist and State Department foreign affairs officer during the Obama Administration, Yousaf M. Butt, believed that the North Koreans lacked the sophistication to place a weapon large enough in orbit that could knock out the North American power grid.

But, many of these same “experts” would have laughed at anyone who, until September 12, 2001, claimed that al Qaeda would launch the most devastating surprise attack on the United States in its history—using only box cutters and fake explosives. Never doubt a desperate and dedicated foe, such as North Korea.

No Viable Defense
Meanwhile, in 2017, the North Koreans successfully tested a thermonuclear weapon—the kind of weapon that’d be needed to effectively send America back into the pre-electrical age. Plus, Pyongyang has possessed miniaturization technology for years, meaning that they could have conceivably created such a weapon and placed it in orbit.

Then again, the North Koreans would not even need to place a potent thermonuclear device in orbit to do damage to the United States. A smaller-yield nuclear device detonated in orbit could send an EMP burst that would destroy America’s critical satellite constellations, rendering American forces around the world deaf, dumb, and blind—and possibly sowing chaos here at home.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, the national security establishment has tried to anticipate the next unconventional attack. Should President Trump be unable to revive the diplomacy with Kim, any conflict with North Korea could begin with a North Korean surprise EMP attack from space. America currently has no viable defense against such an attack. The Trump Administration must not only ensure that a space force is created to better defend the United States from a space-borne attack, but that a real space-based missile defense program is undertaken before it is too late . . . if it’s not too late already.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • North Korea • Post • statesmanship • the Presidency • Trump White House

Trump Lost Nothing in Hanoi

When Donald J. Trump took office in January 2017, the outgoing Obama Administration national security team cautioned Trump’s transition team that North Korea was a significant nuclear threat. Obama White House officials explained how North Korea’s leaders had built up their nascent nuclear arsenal. Since at least 2013, the Obama Administration knew about the rising threat of a potentially nuclear-armed North Korea and did nothing.

It was not a matter of ignorance; it was a matter of indifference on the part of former President Barack Obama and his national security team. Obama—the man who the media claimed was the smartest of all of America’s presidents—likely had no idea how to mitigate the North Korean threat and therefore didn’t even try.

How’s that for leadership?

Tag, You’re It, Donald Trump!
Two years into Trump’s presidency, the world seemed poised for nuclear war in a way that it hadn’t since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Yes, the combined forces of the United States, South Korea, Japan, and any other ally inevitably would have overcome North Korea’s military in combat. But, the cost would have been great—particularly to South Korea and the Americans stationed there.

Such a war also would have forced the United States to lead yet another regime change mission, this time in Pyongyang. And it is likely that such a war ultimately would have placed the United States in direct contention both with China and Russia. The Chinese in particular view North Korea as a client state. .

As tensions escalated in 2017, the media argued that President Trump was too slow to engage in diplomacy; that his “my button is bigger than your button” rhetoric toward Kim Jong-un was outrageous. After months of mounting hostilities between the two leaders, Trump switched gears and met with Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

During that historic summit the two sides had a chance to look each other in the eyes to see if they could do business.

It was a Nixon-goes-to-China or a Reagan-meets-Gorbachev moment: no one in the American elite believed that it could have happened.

But President Trump made it happen.

The president got Kim to acquiesce to our continuing demands for a slowdown in his nuclear weapons tests and his ballistic missile tests. Since that time, the world has enjoyed nearly two years of peace and quiet from North Korea. Meanwhile, Kim returned the remains of multiple American servicemen who had died on the battlefield in North Korea more than 60 years ago. More historic reckonings happened over the course of 2018, this time between North Korea and their American-backed rivals in democratic South Korea.

Diplomacy Is Messy—War Is Worse
Trump’s summit in Hanoi this week was a more muted affair—mostly because the Western press opted instead to follow along with the fictitious melodrama playing out with Michael Cohen hearings on Capitol Hill.

Talk of greater opening and contact between North Korea and the United States continued but the Western media complained that Trump was moving too fast toward diplomacy with Kim. Some people will never be pleased.

Despite his rhetoric, Kim appears uninterested in abandoning his nuclear program. The entire point of the Trump-Kim summits was not to put a temporary hold on North Korea’s inexorable march toward nuclear weapons capability. Rather, the goal was to get North Korea to abandon those nukes completely. But they do not call North Korea the “Hermit Kingdom” for nothing. And, diplomacy is a piecemeal and oftentimes convoluted process.

Despite this, the Trump and Kim interactions before the press made clear that there still exists some level of understanding between the two leaders. During the first day of events, both President Trump and Kim Jong-un had a five-minute televised sit-down before the press. In the last five seconds of the video, one of the American reporters began shouting questions to Trump (who did not respond). At that moment, Kim started chuckling to himself and gave a sympathetic glance to the president who returned with a nod of understanding. That was one of the most honest—and human—interactions I’ve ever seen between Kim Jong-un and another leader. No level of personal understanding between leaders will overcome fundamental ideological disagreements or conflicts of national interest. But they are essential to the understanding that makes negotiation possible.

That the second summit between the American and North Korean leadership was not as successful as the meeting in Singapore is something that was probably to be expected. This is high-stakes diplomacy. That Kim Jong-un did not cry, “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of nuclear war when President Trump decided to cut his losses and leave the summit early is also telling. It means that Kim wants to make a deal, and still believes he can get one.

Does Kim Risk Peace or Court War? It’s Now Fully Up to Him
Whether Kim Jong-un will be able or willing to abandon his desire for nuclear arms in order to get this deal is another matter entirely.

Once it becomes clear to Kim that the president is not going to acquiesce to North Korean demands the way that former President Obama gave into Iranian demands in 2015, North Korea will have to reassess. If they refuse and persist in their ambition to acquire a nuclear arsenal, Pyongyang will precipitate a conflict the likes of which Kim and his regime will not survive—and regime survival, at this point, is essential for Kim. In fact, it is likely the desire for regime survival that belies North Korea’s continued quest for nuclear arms. He needs to be made to see that this is not the way to achieve that goal.

Peace may be dangerous for Kim, but war will destroy him. Because of Trump’s decision to terminate the Hanoi summit prematurely, he now leaves Kim in a bind, having to choose between risking peace or courting war.

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Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Donald Trump • military • Post

Space Force Takes One Step Forward, Two Back . . . Again

In the October 15, 2018 edition of Strategika I wrote: “Three cheers for President Trump’s decision to add a Space Force to the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.” I was enthusiastic because, “though the logic of war and technology has long counseled establishing a U.S Space Force, the logic of military bureaucracy has forestalled it. . . .For human beings to turn any technology’s potential to military effect, those who really want to do it must be in a position to make it happen . . .  that is why establishing the U.S Space Force is no mere rewiring of bureaucratic diagrams.”

But the directive that formally establishes that force, which Trump signed last Tuesday in response to bureaucratic and corporate resistance, is nothing more than a dysfunctional rewiring.

Specifically: though dominance of orbital space has become ever more vital to all other military functions, as well as for protection of our satellites and for defense against ballistic missiles, U.S. space policy has been in the hands of the Air Force, which has regarded what happens in space as subordinate to its traditional missions and—to say the least—has not made a priority of either satellite warfare or missile defense.

Establishing the U.S. Space Force was supposed to change all that. It won’t. Trump’s words notwithstanding, the directive he signed reaffirms the Air Force’s control over orbital space matters.

At the February 19 signing ceremony, Trump said, “With today’s action, we will ensure that our people are secure, our interests are protected, and our power continues to be unmatched.  There will be nobody that can come close to matching us.  It won’t be close.”

In reality, the directive simply places the Space Force under an undersecretary of the Air Force and elevates the chief of the Air Force’s space command to membership on the Joint Chief of Staff with a new title. There are no new goals or programs, as they would disrupt the Pentagon’s existing budget priorities and meddle with defense contractors’ investment in current programs. As Trump respected their priorities and walked back his original intention, he emptied his words of meaning.

The Battlefield Above
It is impossible to imagine any major war’s operations henceforth without competitive destruction of satellites. Russia and especially China have programs that aim not just at using orbital space, but at ensuring their own use of it and denying it to others. Their capacities for satellite destruction are greater than ours. For a variety of tactical reasons, their needs for satellite protection are not as great as ours.

Protecting our satellites is a challenge we have not begun to address. While hardening satellites may protect them against the necessarily weak flux from ground-based lasers, no satellite can be protected against a megawatt laser firing through unobstructed space, or against kinetic kill vehicles. Nor can satellites be safeguarded by escorts. Hence, protecting satellites requires preventing threats to them from reaching space in the first place. That is what space control means. Our lack of capacity for space control, the fact that we are not seeking it even as China and Russia reach for it, makes it impossible to design serious military operations against them.

Because orbital space is the highway for ballistic missiles and because controlling orbital space was supposed to have been the U.S. Space Force’s reason for being, it might have become the advocate for missile defense within the government. After all, efficient operation of our minimal surface-based missile defenses requires orbit-based fire control systems. Anything like preclusive defense against missiles requires satellites, whether kinetic or laser, that can control an enemy’s access to space. We don’t have such things, and are not about to get them.

Vulnerable As Ever
Trump’s introductory words last month notwithstanding, the latest missile defense boondoggle commits America to zero defense against “large and technically sophisticated Russian and Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile threats to the U.S. homeland.” The program simply sticks with programs that are making America vulnerable even to North Korea. The Space Force might have been expected to remove missile defense from the reach of the Air Force, which has long stood in its way.

But the document that Trump signed on February 19 places the Air Force more firmly in a bureaucratic blocking position than ever. Because the Air Force’s corporate interest opposes what conflicts with its traditional activities, our defense programs will continue on autopilot. Our satellites and America itself will be as vulnerable as they have ever been, words notwithstanding.

After meeting last year with Kim Jong-un, Trump exulted that he had secured an agreement to denuclearize North Korea. In his State of the Union this month, he changed the subject. Stopping an imminent war had been his achievement. Prior to his scheduled meeting with Kim for the second time in Vietnam this week, Trump switched goal posts again: ”We hope we’re going to be very much equally as successful . . . We just don’t want testing.”

Words are flexible. Reality, not so much.

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Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Deterrence • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Post

America Is Not the Hapsburg Empire

For too long, America’s democratic globalist elite has behaved as though the United States were surrounded on all sides by vicious enemies, who could invade and destroy our country at any given moment. Derek Leebaert refers to these American “leaders” as “emergency men.” These are people who have little, if any, skin in the game and yet are always quick to assert that the United States must deploy its forces in some “shithole” country in the middle-of-nowhere, far removed from America, both in terms of geography and national interest.

Given the way that many of America’s emergency men (and women) talk about the various interventions they support, one might think that a chaos state, someplace like Somalia or Afghanistan, shares a border with the United States. Such a narrative aims to convince voters that if American forces are not in constant conflict in these distant places, then the forces of darkness will creep across our borders and attack us here.

Such foreign policy “experts” love to mention the 9/11 attacks as proof that geography is irrelevant. They love to remind us that it was from dusty Afghanistan where the most heinous attack on American soil was plotted. Globalization and open borders, they suggest, have erased America’s natural geographical advantages. So we can no longer rely on the two major oceans to separate us from existential threats abroad. America has to maintain a massive military-industrial complex that must constantly be deployed abroad in order to make sure another 9/11 does not happen here.

There was some truth to these claims.

But, as always with the democratic globalists, there was also a great exaggeration. Fact is, 9/11 did not happen in a vacuum. According to the damning 9/11 Commission Report, there was a retinue of catastrophic intelligence failures that allowed the ragtag cadre of al Qaeda successfully to accomplish their horrific goals on 9/11—not least of which was the fact that America’s immigration services allowed several of the 9/11 terrorists to overstay their student visas. It’s very telling that, since 9/11, the country has not endured similar attacks. Yet democratic globalists, like Max Boot and Bill Kristol, truly believe that America’s 18 year-long war in Afghanistan and the quixotic invasion of Iraq have prevented another 9/11.

Not so.

There are a variety of reasons for why al-Qaeda or other terror groups have been ineffective in replicating their success on September 11, 2001. One of them is that the United States is a very hard place to reach. And, once here, it is a massive, difficult target to hit. The elites who argue that the United States cannot simply rely on its geography to protect it from existential threats are correct: we cannot be an isolationist country (and we never were). But the emergency men who proclaim the end of geography sound just as irrational as those (many of them are the same people, mind you) who asserted that history had ended when the United States won the Cold War.

For these elites, America’s geography is akin to that of the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, which existed in central Europe for several hundred years, and was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty. As former Trump Administration State Department official, A. Wess Mitchell, wrote in his recent book, The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire, aside from the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube River, the Habsburg Empire constantly was threatened by its neighbors precisely because so much of the Habsburg frontier lacked natural barriers. This explains why the Habsburgs always found themselves in the middle of whatever geopolitical crisis was afflicting Europe and with little reprieve.

Due to the geographical realities that the Habsburgs faced, they maintained a large standing military and possessed a professional intelligence and diplomatic bureaucracy. The freedom and liberty of their citizens were always subordinated to the constant need for national security. The Habsburgs expended much of their wealth on maintaining constant vigilance over what their many aggressive neighbors were up to. Even when there were no apparent threats to the Habsburg territorial integrity, the Habsburg state existed in constant fear that they could suffer a crippling invasion at any moment. Their political and economic policies were crafted around the concept of a state under constant siege.

In other words, theirs was neither a free nor an entirely prosperous society—unless, of course, you belonged to the elite.

America Has Beautiful, Defensible Borders
Blessedly, the United States has little in common with the Habsburg Empire. Yet, since the 20th century, the United States has behaved as though it, too, has indefensible borders and is surrounded on all sides by foreign rivals seeking to tear the country apart. It’s always been the case that new and frightening technologies conceivably could overcome the realities of America’s geography. Although, in most cases, geographical realities remained a dominant factor in whether such technologies truly could be an existential threat to the United States.

During the Cold War, the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) meant that the distant Soviet Union could threaten the continental United States with nuclear annihilation (and the United States, in turn, could do the same to them) without ever having to invade the country.

Yet, neither the United States nor Soviet Union ever crossed the threshold of firing nuclear weapons at one another for the express reason that both sides knew such a measure would mean their mutual obliteration. The one time that the Cold War nearly turned hot, was when the Reds moved nuclear weapons into America’s hemisphere, by placing them in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Once the situation was ameliorated, the threat remained, but it was reduced to a more manageable level. In other words, geographical proximity mattered.

After the Cold War, things like the advent of the Internet, the increasing reliance on satellites for society’s most basic functions, and an array of other new technologies have increased the threat the United States faces from distant enemies. Although, given enough time and resources, America’s defenses either have been upgraded or are being modernized to better defend against such attacks.

The sky has not yet fallen and foreign armies are not now marching down Main Street a lá “Red Dawn.” America’s fortuitous geography makes the country much easier to defend than the old Habsburg Empire was. But America’s permanent bipartisan fusion party still insists that the United States must be involved in as many foreign conflicts as it can be, in order to better protect the United States. Thus, a forward presence is required to disrupt, preempt, and defeat foreign threats. For this very reason, today, the United States military maintains a military presence in over 200 countries.

The Armed Forces of the United States have fought more conflicts in the supposedly peaceful post-Cold War era than it ever did when the Reds were marching across the world. Given the disastrous impact that most of America’s post-Cold War conflicts have had on American national security, a deeper reassessment of America’s military commitments is needed.

In 2014, the RAND Corporation conducted an analysis of American security alliances and found that there was a “sharp increase in 1992, after the end of the Cold War, in both bilateral and multilateral [security] agreements.” This, despite the fact that the United States faced no peer rival in the world; that it was the most peaceful period in the 20th century; and that there was little need for such increased commitments—particularly in light of the cost to the American taxpayer such new alliances would require and the strain such new agreements would place on America’s military.

The United States’ geographic separation from its rivals gives American policymakers the time they need to formulate and execute cost-effective strategies that will best protect the national interest without squandering our resources. This is the exact opposite of how American leaders have acted over the last few decades. And, the results have caused irreparable harm to our nation. Therefore, the United States does not need the sort of entangling foreign commitments that it has taken on since the heady days of the Cold War. It does not need to look like an Old World, European empire whose foreign policy is defined by constant security threats and stifling military alliances.

The United States is not the Habsburg Empire—and it thankfully never will be.

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Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Deterrence • Immigration • Post • Republicans

The Wall: A Stumble Not a Surrender

Zealous political supporters of all stripes and in every walk of life spend an ungodly amount of time vainly trying to convince the rest of us that their preferred politician is perfect. This delusion makes it easier for these supporters to vote for their preferred candidates and sing the praises of their favorite elected officials. As for the rest of us, we’ve long been disabused of such notions—not by cynicism, but by virtue of a mature understanding of our flawed, mortal humanity and our life experiences.

A practical philosophical understanding of human imperfection has long confounded the opponents of President Trump. To these critics, Trump is such a morally reprehensible charlatan (and, likely in their febrile minds, a foreign agent and/or traitor) whose heinous, racist, fascist, and elitist policies are killing working people every day. In sum, to the Left, Donald Trump is a—gasp!—Republican president; and, to his GOP establishment critics, the populist Trump is an uncouth party crasher (literally).

Yet, rank and file Republicans recognize Trump is not a paragon of virtue, choosing instead to measure him on how effectively he and his administration implement our party’s policies and articulate our principles.

True, Trump (like all politicians) has his share of supporters who think he can do no wrong. At the moment, however, that number is shrinking in the wake of his decision Friday to end the government shutdown for three weeks without securing the $5.7 billion he wants to construct part of the southern border wall. Such scrambling among his supporters to jump off the Trump train is as understandable as it is errant.

Nobody’s perfect; not even Trump. The biggest mistake in this messy chapter of legislative sausage-making was not his acceptance of this temporary truce in the government shutdown. The biggest mistake was in allowing this battle to be over the wall in the first place.

It’s a battle the president could not win through parleying with a new Democratic majority in the House—one that was largely elected by running against him. Nor could he rely upon the support of surviving congressional Republicans, who are well aware of how many of their caucus mates were defeated last year by anti-Trump Democrats.

Nonetheless, even this mistake could have been ameliorated with some messaging from the administration about the border crisis—which was being done; and, ultimately, a presidential declaration of the crisis swiftly followed by the emergency construction of the wall. And, of course, the president also simultaneously would have signaled his desire to end the government shutdown.

Naturally, this course of action would be imperfect. The wall’s construction immediately would be challenged by the Left in the federal courts. But even if this Congress somehow appropriated funds for the wall and the president signed it into law, the Left would challenge the wall’s construction regardless.

What this course of action would have prevented is the president’s base GOP support being damaged needlessly.

Worse, despite all his efforts to reach a deal, Trump’s approval ratings won’t receive a boost from independents—let alone Democrats—for his willingness to end the government shutdown without wall funding. The biased media and craven members of his own party have seen to that. Importantly, what remains to be seen is whether the erosion among his base is ephemeral or enduring.

As a recovering politician, I’m a bit rusty at figuring out how long one will be hated by foes and friends. Still, I’ll hazard a guess that the next three weeks the base will be tough on President Trump. But this isn’t a case of “read my lips, no new taxes.” In that instance, President George H.W. Bush went out on a limb and sawed off his credibility with his base and independents. Bluntly, once he had made that deal, there was no way for him to correct it. He was cooked. Despite the current contretemps, however, President Trump can still get the wall.

And he will.

Hey, guess who else thinks so? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Why do you think Pelosi refuses to confirm a date for the House to invite the president to deliver his State of the Union? In the next three weeks, Pelosi will not give President Trump the ultimate platform to advocate for the wall; or, as is highly likely, declare the border crisis and announce the emergency building of the wall.

OK, so maybe he’ll have to do it from the Oval Office. But he’s going to do it. Talk about the Left getting triggered—woo, doggies!

So, if need be, in the coming weeks, one can fret that we’ve elected an imperfect person as president who can and does make mistakes. But, being human, every president can and does make mistakes. At least this president makes his mistakes trying to keep America great.

And that’s the bandwagon no one should abandon.

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America • Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • Post • Russia • Terrorism • The ME Agenda

Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Hinges on Turkey

Whether pulling the remaining U.S. troops from Syria turns out to be a bold and beneficial move or a stupid, harmful one depends on what Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will do. That, in turn, depends in no small part on what constraints he senses from President Trump—as well as from Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Here, to the best of my understanding, are the circumstances and the possible consequences of the president’s decision to withdraw from Syria.

Erdoğan had been menacing a military attack on the Kurds in Northeast Syria who, working with U.S. troops, are finishing the dirty work of killing off ISIS. The U.S military has been warning the Turks not to do that, at ever higher levels. But when Trump called Erdoğan to talk him out of attacking our troops’ partners, it seems that Erdogan simply talked him into removing our troops.

Departing Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s anger is understandable. The boss undercut him after, following orders, Mattis had given orders down the line, as well as his word to fellow fighters. National security advisor John Bolton, too, would have been dismayed: he and Trump had agreed that we owe the Kurds a lot, and that the Kurds south of Turkey’s border provide a natural barrier to a variety of enemies of America, not least Erdoğan. Bolton might well have resigned along with Mattis if Trump had merely bowed to Erdoğan. Whether Trump bowed or not depends on whether or not there is more to the story.

Erdoğan is America’ s enemy. As far back as 2003, he forbade use of Turkish ground and airspace for U.S. operations in Iraq, including the U.S. Air Force base at Incirlik. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he has turned Turkey from a NATO ally into an Islamist dictatorship.

Neither wise nor competent, he aims to resurrect something like the Caliphate, with Ottoman Turkey its seat and himself as the Sultan in all but name. To this end, he supported the Brotherhood’s attempted takeover of Egypt, supports Hamas in Gaza, and a host of Sunni terrorist groups, in Syria as well. Only with Turkey’s active help was ISIS able to market the oil it got from Iraqi and Syrian fields, buy arms, receive recruits from abroad, etc. ISIS became more than a minor nuisance only because Erdogan provided it with a hinterland.

Erdoğan meant to use ISIS as the head of the Sunni spear to overthrow Syria’s Alawite  (a version of Shia) regime. However, Erdoğan also opposes Sunni Saudi Arabia, mainly because he is financed largely by Qatar, which is in a very bitter quarrel with Saudi Arabia. In part because of Qatar, he believes he has some kind of understanding with Iran, though it is on the opposite side of the great Sunni-Shia war. He welcomed Russia’s intervention in Syria, though it brought Iranian influence to his southern as well as to his eastern border. Passionately anti-American and in disregard of Turkey’s secular geopolitical adversary relationship with Russia, he seems to be satisfied with Vladimir Putin’s de facto overlordship of the Middle East.

Making war on the Kurds at home and abroad, however, seems to be Erdoğan’s consuming passion. He revived restrictions on the Kurdish language, and renewed military raids on majority Kurdish areas. This runs against demography: Kurds are some 20 percent of Turkey’s population, concentrated in the Southeast. While ethnic Turks are declining in number, the Kurds are prolific. Twenty years hence, the majority of Turkey’s military-age men will be Kurds. All around Turkey’s southern and Eastern borders, in Syria, Iraq, and Iran are some 15 million Kurds who feel kinship with their Turkish brethren. Erdoğan has bombed Iraqi Kurdistan, and his army has attacked Syrian Kurds under the pretext of attacking ISIS—which Turkey used to support openly and to which it continues to give clandestine support. What Erdoğan thinks his war on Kurds will accomplish only he knows.

Putin’s Russia does not share Erdoğan’s animus against the Kurds. One may safely suppose that Russia’s Putin would prefer to see Turkey’s borders continue to be occupied by forces that make Turkey uncomfortable. Moreover, Russia now being in charge of the Middle East’s zoo, Putin’s interest lies in opposing any party therein getting any bigger in its britches, and in the continuation of as much balance as possible. In short, no one would have to encourage Putin to warn Erdoğan not to strike the Syrian Kurds. But someone may well have urged him to deliver such a warning—John Bolton, for example, when he visited the Kremlin in October to discuss U.S.-Russia relations.

Donald Trump may well have delivered the same warning to Erdoğan even more directly during their pivotal conversation on December 14. After all, Trump had called precisely to deliver that warning. Erdoğan’s “Why don’t you remove your troops?” was a clever counter. But unless Trump is witless as well as vile, he would not have needed Bolton to tell him to answer with something like: “OK. We’ll pull our troops out. But you must agree to leave the Kurds alone. And you must know that, if you renege, our planes from the carriers, in the Gulf, and maybe even from Incirlik, will make you wish you had kept your word.” If that was the deal, keeping it quiet would have been part of it.

We know that, after Trump announced the withdrawal, Erdoğan announced the “suspension” of what had been his impending attack on the Kurds. We don’t know whether this was in consequence of such a deal, or whether Erdoğan intends the suspension to be permanent, or whether Trump intends to enforce it. And of course, we don’t know how Putin is counseling Erdoğan in this regard. Events will tell us soon enough.

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Congress • Democrats • Deterrence • Political Parties • Post • Progressivism • Republicans • The Left

Will the Thin Red Line Save America from the Blue Wave?

If they do their duty in the next Congress beginning at noon on the third day of January, the 53 Republican members of the 116th Senate will steadfastly repel all the attacks that the radical 116th House of Representatives is expected to make on the principles of free-market economics and our defining constitutional protections for speech, religion, and property.

At times the House has been controlled by leftists of various types, ranging from “extreme” to “not so much.” Indeed, liberal Democrats (as leftists once labeled themselves) dominated the House for most of the last half of the 20th century. Nancy Pelosi and many of the veteran members of the House who numerically comprise part of the Democrats’ incoming majority are representative of that group of old-line liberal-leftists.

They gained and retained power by a lethal combination of high taxes and spending to forcibly redistribute other people’s income and property to Democrat voters. They also excelled at economy-warping regulations and special-interest tax rules, exceptions and extenders that favored their friends on K Street to the detriment of those businesses’ competitors and the economy as a whole. Although they deliberately killed millions of jobs, created several generations of welfare recipients, and were highly culpable in a broad range of other depredations, they generally managed to stay—albeit barely—within the boundaries of the law and constitutional legitimacy as an American political party.

Now, however, deny it though they will, the old-line liberal-leftists will inevitably be forced to follow the most extreme dictates of the neotenous, chip on the shoulder, minority-heavy, female-dominated “progressives” who flipped the House. They will insist that all Democrats go way out of bounds in taking control of the Americans’ minds and souls as well as their money and property. In the hyper-hypocritical name of “bipartisanship,” they may be able to seduce the California side of K Street into helping them create a digital-age mind-control regime in exchange for new forms of subsidy that replace the “special rules/exceptions/extenders” used in the past by the liberals to milk and bilk.

Progressive operatives have already proven their skills in exploiting women, young people, and minorities. The Soviet-style show trial of Judge Kavanaugh also revealed how unscrupulous they can be when acting in concert with no-holds-barred affiliates in the media. Hillary Clinton’s progressive mentor, Saul Alinsky, had his bombs and a master plan. Earlier, Stokely Carmichael and Patty Hearst had their guns and violent hatreds.

But 2018 digital-age progressives need no such crude weapons. They use clean technology to bend the minds of women, children, minorities and the increasingly large population of preconditioned white males—thereby turning them into weapons for their own destruction. Neat trick and highly profitable to boot. The two most recent progressive cabals to occupy the White House (the Clintons and the Obamas) have become filthy rich.

To succeed in reengineering what millions of people think, say, and do, progressives turn logic upside down in countless ways, every day and in every place, until utter nonsense begins to seem normal and correct to people whose minds have been preconditioned since kindergarten.

Consider, for example, Travis County, Texas (home of the University of Texas) where a group studying “enterprises” counsels that hiring employees based on merit is unfair. Also, in this heart of Beto O’Rourke progressivism, college-age males not already emotionally neutered can take a course in how not to be masculine. Up until recently in Texas, manliness was second only to godliness—but in the brave new world of the progressives, both struggle even to make the team.

It used to be that young people learned about God and goodness at church and at home. In school, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and were taught American history and the “American Creed,” which Samuel Huntington described as secular Christianity. Yes, no doubt about it, we were from childhood on thoroughly “indoctrinated” in the founding principles of Western civilization: God, family, country, truth, merit, integrity, courage, loyalty, decency, morals and manners. Men were expected to be gentlemen and women to be ladies.

All that indoctrination was good in principle, although many of us failed to learn our lessons fully. But even as an aspiration, it was an imperfect lesson until Martin Luther King, Jr. added the final enjoinder that we not judge people by their skin color, but, instead, on the basis of their character and conduct.

The current crop of progressives, however, has not only turned the old creed (decency, honor, and manners) upside down, they have perverted Dr. King’s rule of color-blind racial fairness into a new and evil form of racial and gender discrimination called “identity politics” and, worse, used it as a weapon to the detriment of women and African Americans.

What the Senate Can Do
James Madison’s constitutional design imposes on the Senate the duty of standing fast when necessary to preserve and protect the nation’s founding principles from the destructive and ill-considered excesses of a rogue House of Representatives which—let’s face it—the 116th House already shows signs of becoming. Socialism was once beyond the pale in American politics and policy, but it is now de rigueur among the progressives—and when combined with their founding principles of “PC” thought and speech control, the result fits perfectly the definition of a totalitarian state.

Whether the thin red line of Republicans, especially in the Senate, will recognize the degree and nature of the danger in time to avoid disaster remains to be seen. They must avoid the trap of “bipartisanship” and such canards as “reaching across the aisle” and must recognize that just because Republicans were many times in the past able to “do business” with the old-line liberal-leftists does not mean that they can do so again. And they should recall that many times when they did so in the past, America suffered considerable damage in the process.

The 116th Senate may be the last chance for the Republicans to follow the example of Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and “man-up” for a last-ditch defense of the American Creed. Progressives for decades have been peddling their nostrums from kindergarten to graduate school, and many members of the Senate and the House and even the general population may in mild degrees be afflicted by progressivism.

Many fateful signals about the future likely will be given during the current “lame duck” session of Congress, in which Republicans still have a majority in both houses—subject to a filibuster in the Senate by the minority.

Based on past performance, year-end lame-duck sessions do not enjoy a good reputation. Many times in the past the Congress—Republicans and Democrats alike—have used these occasions to deliver Christmas presents to K Street that get rushed through at the last minute under the cover of political darkness.

But let’s be optimistic—we really have no other choice—so we must hope and demand that this time Congress, and the Republicans in the Senate in particular, will rise to the historic occasion and stand firm on important principles.

Senate Republicans can confirm some judges in the lame duck and it is hoped that they can also confirm a batch of qualified Trump appointees to important positions in the Executive Branch whose service to the nation has been wrongfully delayed by Senate Democrats for nearly a year. Senate Republicans can also stand firm on the continuing resolution needed to fund the government until March 2019—and, having done so, can in March 2019 also stand firm on the debt limit votes and the spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (signed by President Obama), which pit outlays for national defense against increases in domestic spending.

Avoiding Lame Duck Lameness
Wish lists for passage in the lame duck abound. There may be some bipartisan hope for passage of a farm bill and some Democrats talk airily about trading some amount of funding for a border wall in exchange for legalizing “Dreamers.”

Although President Trump during the campaign talked about additional tax cuts and reforms that would boost the economy for years to come, Democrats will be able to block by a filibuster in the Senate both broad-based rate cuts and making permanent first-year expensing for job-creating capital investments, which would have been the perfect thing for passage in the lame duck had proper preparation been made in the form of a budget resolution in April.

Having failed to do that, the only tax legislation potentially being set up for passage in the lame duck is H.R. 88, a largely housekeeping provision of little intrinsic merit of its own and which, on the negative side, unfortunately from a tax reform standpoint would perpetuate a list of 20-odd extenders for K Street that have been condemned by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation as well as the reliably conservative Heritage Foundation, and which are, in my opinion, an insult to the principles of the historic tax reform legislation which was the crown jewel of Republican accomplishment in the 115th Congress.

It defies imagination why Republicans would want to go out of their way to extend a tax credit for electric vehicles that is on its face a classic case of exactly the kind of “progressive” policymaking that Republicans must guard against in much larger and more dangerous forms over the next two years. The electric vehicle credit probably does less actual harm to the economy than some of the other extenders, but it is the “progressive” nature of the thing that matters.

Not a good sign that Republicans will stand firm against progressives in the new Congress. They may do so on the big philosophical issues, but K Street is the vulnerable point where business as usual horse-trading is most likely to go on—and the progressives know it.

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

America • Conservatives • Defense of the West • Democrats • Deterrence • Immigration • Law and Order • Post

When Laws Are Not Enforced, Anarchy Follows

What makes citizens obey the law is not always their sterling character. Instead, fear of punishment—the shame of arrest, fines or imprisonment—more often makes us comply with laws. Law enforcement is not just a way to deal with individual violators but also a way to remind society at large that there can be no civilization without legality.

Or, as 17th-century British statesman George Savile famously put it: “Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen.”

In the modern world, we call such prompt, uniform and guaranteed law enforcement “deterrence,” from the Latin verb meaning “to frighten away.” One protester who disrupts a speech is not the problem. But if unpunished, he green-lights hundreds more like him.

Worse still, when one law is left unenforced, then all sorts of other laws are weakened.

The result of hundreds of “sanctuary cities” is not just to forbid full immigration enforcement in particular jurisdictions. They also signal that U.S. immigration law, and other laws by extension, can be ignored.

The presence of an estimated 12 million or more foreign nationals unlawfully living in the United States without legal consequence sends a similar message. The logical result is the current caravan of thousands of Central Americans now inching its way northward to enter the United States illegally.

If the border was secure, immigration laws enforced and illegal residence phased out, deterrence would be re-established and there would likely be no caravan.

Campus protests often turn violent. Agitators shout down and sometimes try to physically intimidate speakers with whom they disagree.

Most of the disruptors are upper-middle-class students. Many have invested up to $200,000 in their higher education, often to ensure well-paying careers upon graduation.

Protesters assume that ignoring laws about peaceful assembly poses no consequences. Usually, student disruptors are right. College administrators will typically shrug at even violent protests rather than call the police to make arrests.

Yet if a few bold disruptors were actually charged with misdemeanors or felonies and had arrests tarnishing their otherwise sterling resumes, there would likely be far fewer illegal and violent protests.

In the last two years, a number of celebrities have openly fantasized about doing physical harm to the president of the United States. Madonna, Kathy Griffin, Johnny Depp, Robert De Niro, Snoop Dogg, and other stars have expressed their wishes that Donald Trump might be beaten up, blown up, cut up or shot up.

Their shared premise is that they are too famous, influential or wealthy to expect consequences that ordinary citizens might face for making threats to the safety of the president of the United States. If the next time a Hollywood icon tweeted or voiced a threat to the president he or she was subsequently put on a no-fly list, the current assassination chic would quickly stop.

Every person assumes the freedom to eat safely in a restaurant, to walk to work without disturbance and to relax without fear of violence. Now, that is now always the case, at least not if one is deemed politically influential and conservative.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, and Rep. Devin Nunes must worry that when they venture out in public, protesters will scream in their face, attempt to bar their passage or disrupt their meal—and do so without legal ramifications.

There are many causes of the current legal laxity.

Trump is a polarizing president, and his critics have decided that extraordinary and sometimes extralegal measures are morally justified to stop him. Supposedly high-minded ends are seen as justifying unlawful means. Helping undocumented immigrants evade the law, stopping the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh or otherwise thwarting Trump all warrant special immunity.

The problem with ignoring laws is that it is contagious—and can boomerang.

Sanctuary cities could in theory birth conservative sanctuary zones. Would today’s protesters wish for other jurisdictions to nullify federal laws and court rulings concerning abortion, gun registration, and gay marriage?

If thousands of Hondurans in a caravan are deemed above the law, then why not exempt future mass arrivals of Chinese or South African immigrants?

If Cruz and other Republican politicos can’t eat in peace, will Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi soon face the same disruptions—the illegality justified by higher moral concerns?

If students can block a right-wing speaker or storm a diner, will they also object when anti-abortion protesters bar the passage of a pro-choice campus guest?

German philosopher Immanuel Kant noted that “anarchy is law and freedom without force.”

Translated to our current context, Kant might say that all our high-minded talk about the Bill of Rights means absolutely nothing without the cop on the beat and the local district attorney.


Photo credit: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

America • California • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Immigration • Post

The Military’s Most Important Role Is Border Defense

Our country has been thrust into a scene out of The Camp of the Saints: a large caravan of migrants organized in Honduras is streaming towards our southern border proclaiming the right to enter and work in our country. They’re not invited, nor is this legal, but they are seizing their destiny (and ours) as pueblos sin fronteras, “workers without borders.”

The Fourth Generation Threat to National Sovereignty
Some have scoffed at the description of this “caravan” as an invasion, dismissing it as right-wing hyperbole. But what is the difference? Formal or informal, through modern armies or tribal warriors, invasions are objects of concern because they determine who controls a land and its resources.

Post-Westphalia, states and their professional armies became dominant; noncombatants were mostly off limits. Tribal warriors gave way to professional soldiers. Armies would cross borders, leaders would change, and the peasants would go about their affairs mostly with indifference. Then nationalism appeared on the scene. It tapped into a deep emotional well, the abiding quest for community. National leadership was perceived as more legitimate, more in line with the ethos of the governed, and thus naturally less burdensome. Various choices a state and its leaders face—what language to speak, which religions to respect, which heroes to honor—are less disruptive when there is an alignment of political borders and national culture. The natural justice of nationalism was one of the reasons it became a formula for peace between nations and happiness within them.

Before nation-states, the alternatives included: multinational empires, nations without states, and nations divided among dozens of indefensible statelets. In the past, as now, there were transnational allegiances—religion, language, ethnicity—and there were local allegiances, as well. But the nation-state proved, until recently, the most legitimate and powerful mode of political organization.

Much of the literature about “fourth-generation warfare” recognizes that nation-states and their authority are under threat, diminished by global and transnational forces—powerful multinational corporations, mass migration, and international religious movements—as well as competing, less hierarchical organizations, such as terrorist cells and criminal gangs.

This destruction of state authority is not completely apparent within our borders, but it appears dramatically so elsewhere.

Who runs Mexico, for example? Is it the government? And, if so, which part of it? Clearly the Mexican government is, at best, only nominally in charge, having given up on stopping the caravan after a pro forma attempt to assert sovereignty and placate its stronger neighbor.

The U.S. Military Can Be Legally Deployed on the Border
Threats to nation-states, including military threats, are not limited to other states and their militaries. The U.S. military spent the better part of the 19th century fighting pirates and hostile Indians, only briefly becoming a modern conscript force during the Civil War. The army reverted to its heritage as a frontier constabulary thereafter. More recently, the military has been fighting a plethora of nonstate enemies, especially Islamic Jihadist groups and drug cartels. Yet, unlike the earlier Indian Wars, nearly all of this activity takes place today overseas.

Before its growth and dominance in the two world wars, the U.S. military was focused inward, operating almost exclusively within U.S. territories and on the border. In addition to the Indian wars, it played a large role in occupying the defeated South. The latter proved controversial, however, ushering in strong limits against the employment of the military in domestic “law enforcement” through the Posse Comitatus Act.

But just because the military operates domestically does not mean it is engaged in law enforcement. Using the military on the border is as American as the Constitution, which provides: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

The divorce of the military from border defense—an artifact of World War II and the subsequent Cold War—should be considered more critically.

No one saw a conflict between Posse Comitatus and the deployment of troops in a string of forts along the border with Mexico to deter and punish incursions. This use of the army in border security culminated in Black Jack Pershing’s 1916 punitive expedition against Pancho Villa. Thereafter, the military focused almost exclusively on overseas threats from nation-states, particularly in Europe, mostly ceding its role at the border to a law enforcement agency in 1924 when the Border Patrol was created.

In the 1950s, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower addressed massive illegal immigration from Mexico, the military demurred. Historian Matt Matthews, in his excellent paper on the deployment of the army on the Mexican border, described the decision as follows:

In 1954, U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell launched Operation WETBACK, a major coordinated effort to round up and expel illegal aliens. Hoping to reinforce the Border Patrol, Brownell turned to the U.S. Army for help. To his dismay, the proposal was rejected. The Army claimed such an operation would “seriously disrupt training programs at a time when the administration’s economy slashes were forcing the service to drastically cut its strength. Army generals also opposed the idea because a division would be needed just to begin to control the influx, while sealing off the border would require even more troops.”

The Military Must Reorient Itself to National Defense
While renaming itself the Department of Defense in 1947, the old Department of War was far more concerned with immediate national defense. The post-war military prepared to refight World War II in many respects, devoting its training and equipment to countering a conventional threat, the Soviet Union. The wars we actually fought, particularly the one in Vietnam, deviated from this plan, as the fighting tended to be counterinsurgencies against mostly unconventional enemies.

As with border protection, counterinsurgency did not align with the large conventional military’s ethos and strengths. It had inherent ambiguity and required the skills of the soldier, as well as the teacher, policeman, engineer, and social worker. After Vietnam, the military refocused on confronting the Soviets, ditching much of its hard-won counterinsurgency wisdom. This culminated in a big victory in the first Gulf War, but thereafter—whether in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan—the U.S. military found itself facing unconventional threats for which its training, doctrine, and equipment have yielded mostly inconclusive results.

This institutional resistance from the Pentagon to countering unconventional, transnational threats has not dissipated, in spite of the loss in Vietnam and the inconclusive results of the long War on Terror. The military continues to buy expensive weaponry mostly useless against guerillas and criminals, while pivoting its doctrine and training towards conflicts with “near peer” competitors. This reboot is happening even though international gangs, illegal aliens, and insurgents have killed far more Americans than any Russian soldier ever did, and even though the majority of wars we have fought since World War II have been “low-intensity conflicts.”

The creation of a Department of Homeland Security in wake of the 9/11 attacks should have been far more controversial than it was. If we needed such a department, what the hell was the Department Defense doing?

The Pentagon was devoted to preparing for a conventional war. But such conventional conflict is mostly avoidable and highly unlikely—not least because of the possibility of escalation to nuclear war—even as unavoidable and extant fourth-generation conflict is already here, most dramatically in the immigration caravan.

Trump’s call for the military to stop the caravan and protect the border—along with his call for the wall—are controversial because they call into question the entire paradigm of our foreign policy experts and the related “defense” apparatus. His “America First” policies aim to provide a tangible benefit to America and its people, as opposed to pursuing purely global interests such as “stability” and “influence.”

Playing whack-a-mole with mobile terrorists, massive forward deployment of U.S. forces, and occasional brinkmanship with Russia and China have proven to be expensive dead ends. By contrast, the application of military power and a sophisticated wall along a defined frontier leverages the power of the state against non-state actors. It surely can work; it’s a question of will and resources. It worked for Israel, which effectively shut down the problem of far-more-motivated Palestinian terrorists through a sophisticated wall.

Non-state actors threaten our country, but they cannot take on our military power head on. Our poorly protected southern border and Byzantine protection for dubious “refugees” benefits big business, the Democratic Party, and illegal immigrants themselves, but this neglect of the border comes at a high price to American citizens. The flow of mere economic migrants provides a crowd in which dangerous groups can hide. Moreover, the steady flow of illegal aliens represents a cumulative threat to our national sovereignty, prosperity, and unity.

Our military and political leaders must adapt to the times. The reluctance to use the military on the border comes from the obsolete paradigm of a world where nation-states have a “monopoly on force.”

Yet many historically transformative invasions were not by uniformed militaries and may not have even been particularly violent. The first English colonists in North America came as religious farmers seeking peace. At first, they had peaceful relations with native tribes, which we celebrate on Thanksgiving. The barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire were as much an immigration phenomenon as they were a military invasion. Whether violent or not, the result in each of these cases was the same: displacement of the existing people and their way of life.

Before political correctness stifled common sense, it was common to say, “If we hadn’t won World War II we’d all be speaking German.” This metaphor spoke to something deep and powerful: the fear of feeling like a stranger in the land of your birth. Today, in many parts of the country, you need to know Spanish just to get by; Germans and Frenchmen are now finding their streets filled with the sounds of Arabic and Turkish. These shifts in linguistic unity signal a broader disunity, the fruits of massive, unrestrained, and unassimilable levels of immigration.

The caravan forces us to face a very important question: does the state and the military protect the nation and their way of life?

A nation without borders will not long exist. President Trump, with his uncommon common sense, knows this, but his subordinates are reluctant to change course. The military’s own history, however, and the history of every defeated army on earth, should provide a ready source of wisdom: militaries lose when they are preparing to fight the last war. A new type of invasion is manifest, and it calls for a new type of military, one at home on the border.

Photo Credit: Caitlin O’Hara/AFP/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Europe • Foreign Policy • military • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Post • Russia

Pesky Russian Agent Threatens Russia with Nukes

The long-running narrative of “collusion” between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russian intelligence peddled by hack journalists and entitled former U.S. “intelligence” officials has been dealt another significant blow. Never mind the fact that absolutely no evidence linking Trump to a Russian influence operation in 2016 has been uncovered (despite nearly two years of an out-of-control special counsel investigation), President Trump last week withdrew America’s participation in the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.

In his statement explaining why the administration would pull out of the treaty, the president argued:

Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to. We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement. But, Russia, has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out.

Mind you, this announcement was made on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that his country would deploy hypersonic missiles in the “coming months.” This is a type of weapon against which the United States has no defense.

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 between former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. It was not meant to end the threat of nuclear war. It was intended, however, to reduce the likelihood that nuclear weapons would be used in war. The treaty did not take aim at reducing the number of the big nuclear weapons either the United States and Russia possess (what are known as strategic nuclear weapons); instead, the agreement attempted to end the development of smaller, medium-sized nuclear devices. While the strategic nuclear weapons are the things that terrify most people, the intermediate range, nonstrategic nuclear arms are the ones most likely to be used in any conflict.

Funny thing, though: for all of the praise coming from the political class over the INF treaty, Trump is correct when he says the Russians aren’t respecting the terms of the agreement.

Since former President Barack Obama’s “New START” treaty with the Russian Federation in 2011, Moscow has been allowed the capacity to modernize and expand its intermediate-range nuclear forces while the United States is not. Medium-range nuclear missiles are the most threatening to the NATO forces charged with defending Europe from a Russian invasion since such weapons would be deployed in conflict by Russia to “soften up” American and NATO lines. Think of these weapons essentially as big artillery pieces (since that’s how the Russians traditionally have viewed them).

More dangerously, the Chinese were not signatories to the INF Treaty. For that reason alone, the United States Pacific Command has been pushing to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in the Asia-Pacific region. But that isn’t really possible under the INF. It doesn’t matter that the missiles would be used to deter the Chinese—the Russians view any American development of intermediate-range nukes as a threat to them. After all, the Russians recognized that they had an advantage over the United States when it came mid-range nuclear devices and they were happy to keep it.

Meanwhile, China has assiduously built up its own nuclear forces over the decades. They now have the capability to threaten American forces in the Asia-Pacific along with our allies with intermediate-range ballistic missiles (which could devastate American forces forward-deployed in the region). America is playing catch-up. Abrogating the treaty allows the United States to defend itself properly. This is especially true since, on top of their intermediate-range nuclear weapons, some analysts fear that China has quietly amassed a large nuclear weapons stockpile in a 3,000-mile tunnel known as the “underground great wall.”

Unfortunately, we live in a world where the United States must assume the worst and plan accordingly.

Moreover, the old INF treaty makes it nearly impossible for the United States to deploy even a rudimentary ballistic missile defense system on the ground in Europe (although a space-based defense would be better). Any treaty which not only hamstrings the ability of the United States to defend either itself or its allies is an unethical one to enforce today. This is doubly true, considering that the Russians have long ignored the treaty and America’s greatest rival today, China, never even signed it.

By pulling out of this treaty, Trump is putting America first—and complicating Russia’s (as well as China’s) ability to threaten the United States.

So, Robert Mueller, please explain to us exactly how Trump is a Russian agent.

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China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • military • Post • Russia

A New Era for the China-Russia-U.S. Triangle

Nearly a half-century ago, President Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, established a successful U.S. strategy for dealing with America’s two most dangerous rivals. He sought closer ties to both the Soviet Union, with its more than 7,000 nuclear weapons, and Communist China, with the world’s largest population.

Kissinger’s approach was sometimes called “triangulation.” But distilled down to its essence, the phrase meant ensuring that China and Russia were not friendlier to each other than each was to the United States

Given that the Soviet Union was much stronger than China at the time, Kissinger especially courted Beijing.

The idea was similar to British and French policy in the mid-1930s of discouraging Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich from becoming the partner of Josef Stalin’s equally powerful and dangerous Soviet Union. Unfortunately, that effort failed, and Nazi-Soviet cooperation led to their joint invasion of Poland in 1939 and the outbreak of World War II.

We forgot Kissinger’s wisdom during the Obama administration’s coddling of China and the schizophrenic Russian “reset.”

The reset was initially a disastrous appeasement of Russian conventional and cyber aggressions. Its failure soon led to an about-face demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin as an anti-democratic authoritarian—as if he had been, or would ever be, anything other than a tyrant.

Russia systematically reabsorbed Crimea, leveraged Eastern Europe, caused turmoil in Ukraine, terrified Western Europe, returned to the Middle East after a 40-year hiatus, and hacked into U.S. electoral and political institutions.

From 2009 to 2017, U.S. leadership rationalized that China would soon not just be an Asian and Pacific superpower, but eventually would eclipse America itself—as if its eventual supremacy was destiny rather than being due to U.S. indifference.

What followed was systematic and unchecked Chinese commercial and intellectual-property cheating. Beijing stole U.S. technology, ran up huge trade surpluses and warped the entire world trading system. Such one-sided Chinese mercantilism was excused as “free trade.”

China’s military aggression in the South China Sea was also winked at by Washington. So the Chinese built artificial bases in the Spratly Islands to bully their neighbors and to manipulate Pacific trade routes.

The Obama administration again offered little pushback. As a result, Chinese President Xi Jinping openly bragged that by 2025, China would dominate the global high-tech industry, 10 years later would dominate the Pacific, and by mid-century would run the world.

For years, Putin and Xi have shared a contempt for the U.S. They have sought to use Syria, Iran and North Korea to check U.S. influence while waging cyberwar against U.S. companies and institutions.

America may be the strongest economic and military power in the world, but it had violated every one of Kissinger’s principles. Russia and China both agreed that the willpower of the U.S. was weak, and despite their own existential differences, they found it mutually profitable to collude in reducing American stature.

Our allies noticed. From Scandinavia to the Middle East to Asia, they assumed that America either could not or would not regain its global prestige.

The Trump administration has sought to reverse that descent.

For all the specious charges of Russian “collusion,” Trump has boxed in Putin with economic sanctions and military aid to Ukraine. He has beefed up defense spending, demanded greater NATO readiness and accelerated U.S. oil production—but doing so while also reaching out rhetorically to Putin.

Being friendly with a big stick is far wiser than being obnoxious with a twig.

Now, the U.S is slapping China with tariffs to force it to reduce its nearly $400 billion trade surplus with the U.S., while also sending U.S. warships deeper into the South China Sea to let our allies know that China will no longer bully them.

Trump sought to negotiate directly with North Korea on denuclearization, and to forge new defense partnerships with Australia and Japan. He is also cutting bilateral trade deals with South Korea, Mexico and Canada that will exclude China.

China is worried. Trump’s domestic opponents may write him off as a crude buffoon, but Beijing fears that he is a crafty Machiavelli or Sun Tzu, already downsizing Chinese power.

China’s stock market is way down. Its economy is slowing and its currency declining. Average Chinese citizens wonder why, in tough times, their leaders are lavishing foreign aid on African countries and other Asian nations while China is mired in a trade war with the U.S.

Because Russia is far weaker than China, the U.S. should be reaching out to Moscow to find common interests in checking Chinese power. Russia could be useful in occasionally siding with an emerging common resistance to China that includes Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.

Russia certainly has no interest in seeing in its neighborhood a nuclear Iran or an unhinged nuclear North Korea—or having disputes with a Chinese colossus along its 2,600-mile shared border.

American appeasement, trade concessions and extraordinary Chinese wealth did not make China a better global citizen. Perhaps stronger U.S. pushback, supported by an array of Asian allies and a conniving Russia, might.


Photo Credit: Andrew Harnik/Pool/Sipa USA. FILENAME: 20181011msvdh-a.jpg. SLUG: KISSINGER.

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • China • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • NATO • Post

Holding Turkey Accountable

The increasingly autocratic government of Turkey has lost its mind. Or, at least, it has returned to its historical form.

Under Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country has slipped away from a nascent form of democracy into an autocracy informed increasingly by Islamism. Whereas Turkey was once a bulwark against Soviet Communism in southern Europe—a secular power run by pro-Western leaders increasingly seeking to become enmeshed in the Western socioeconomic system—since Erdogan’s rise, Turkey has sprinted as far away from Europe and the West as possible. Now, Turkey exists as just another dictatorship in the Islamic World.

Truth is, Turkey and the West were always allies of convenience. When push-came-to-shove in accepting Turkey into the EU, Brussels opted to push back against Turkey’s membership until Ankara met certain political conditions. By that time, though, Erdogan had already begun his rapid Islamization of the once-secular Turkey. No compromise could be brooked.

Turkey also rankled the West when it continued zealously to hold influence over northern Cyprus. The government of Turkey also clashed routinely with those in the West who (rightly) supported Kurdish independence (at least in northern Iraq). Turkey was so concerned that the United States ultimately would grant the Kurds of northern Iraq a state after they toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, that Turkey—a fellow NATO ally—refused to allow American military units to use Turkish territory to conduct offensive operations against Iraq.

Neo-Ottomans Unite!
Meanwhile, Turkey made overtly corrupt alliances with leading figures in Iran, in a bizarre oil-for-gold scandal. From there, elements of Erdogan’s government began funding disparate Salafist groups—even ISIS at one point—in an attempt to topple Arab strongmen. The reason? Erdogan fancied himself a new Ottoman sultan and was keen on reconstituting the old Ottoman Empire that once spanned the Islamic World (at least the Middle East and North Africa). This ideology became known as “neo-Ottomanism.” As ethnic Turks and Sunni Muslims, Erdogan and his fellow neo-Ottomans believed that only they had the ability to unite the Islamic World under their leadership.

The Obama Administration was wary of selling advanced American arms to Turkey—despite its position as the primary pillar of NATO’s southern defensive perimeter—because of Ankara’s quiet support for terrorist factions and its revisionist foreign policy. Thus, Turkey, which had already begun sending envoys to China and Russia to develop closer ties, redoubled its efforts to woo both autocratic states.

Part of this move away from the West came in the form of Turkey’s acceptance as a dialogue member to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2016. For years, Turkey had flirted with becoming a member of the SCO but was prevented from doing so because Turkey was also seeking admission to the European Union.

All of that changed in November 2016 when the European Union parliament decided to suspend negotiations with Turkey indefinitely. The moment that occurred, Turkey became a dialogue partner to the SCO along with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In 2017, Turkey was granted chairmanship of the SCO’s powerful energy club.

Turkey is now holding captive an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, while insisting the Trump Administration grant sanctions relief to one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks, Halkbank. The reason Halkbank was sanctioned in the first place was to punish the Turkish government’s aforementioned ties with Iran—despite the fact that Washington reintroduced sanctions on Iran for its continued development of an illicit nuclear weapons program last year.  

Bear in mind, Turkey is digging in despite the Trump Administration’s decision to abandon America’s long-time Kurdish allies (who did most of the fighting—and dying—in the war against ISIS) in order to placate the Turks. What Trump got in place of the Kurds was an ungrateful ally that continues terrorizing the Kurds; suborning Iran’s imperial aggrandizement; supporting terrorist groups; holding northern Cyprus hostage; all while empowering both Russia and China.

Turkey has made its intentions clear: it is not a Western ally. Ankara does not seek to be a Western partner. If the West continues treating Turkey as though it were simply a wayward child rather than a rival, the West will continue to be undermined and embarrassed from within.

Turkey is free to make alliances and conduct business with whichever country its leaders wish. However, the United States does not need to continue giving Turkey a pass for its poor behavior because American leaders still delude themselves into believing that Turkey can be wooed. Turkey is an autocratic, non-Western state. It always has been. It always will be. It’s time to recognize that and act accordingly.

America • Deterrence • History • military • Post • Russia • The Culture

The Bombs of August

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped a uranium-fueled atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, another U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 repeated the attack on Nagasaki, Japan, with an even more powerful plutonium bomb.

Less than a month after the second bombing, Imperial Japan agreed to formally surrender on Sept. 2. That date marked the official end of World War II—the bloodiest human or natural catastrophe in history, accounting for more than 65 million dead.

Each August, Americans in hindsight ponder the need for, the morality of, and the strategic rationale behind the dropping of the two bombs. Yet President Harry Truman’s decision 73 years ago to use the novel, terrifying weapons was not considered particularly controversial, either right before or right after the attacks. Both cities were simply military targets.

Hiroshima was the headquarters of a Japanese army unit, and a key manufacturing center and port. Nagasaki—a secondary target after clouds and smoke obscured the city of Kokura—was the site of a huge Mitsubishi munitions plant.

Yet the sheer destructive power of the two bombs—the 15-kiloton “Little Boy” Hiroshima bomb, and the 21-kiloton “Fat Man” Nagasaki bomb—ensured catastrophic civilian casualties well beyond soldiers and munitions-plant workers. During the blasts, and long afterward due to radiation showers, perhaps 150,000 Japanese were killed.

Truman wanted to use the bombs to avoid invading the Japanese mainland. The recent battle for Okinawa resulted in an estimated 50,000 American casualties—the bloodiest of all the American battles of the Pacific War. Truman’s military planners warned that invasions of the Japanese mainland to end the war might cost the equivalent of 20 more Okinawa campaigns.

Japan’s leaders swore that they would fight to the bitter end, bragging of their planned sacrifice as the “Glorious Death of One Hundred Million.” They planned to draw on 10,000 suicide planes and 10 million soldiers, militiamen, and irregulars.

Truman also had other worries.

The Soviet Union had done nothing during the war to harm Japan following its cynical 1941 non-aggression pact with the Japanese. But in August 1945, the Soviets were opportunistically preparing to invade a reeling Japanese empire in hopes of stripping Japan of its colonies in China, the Pacific, and Korea. After Josef Stalin’s recent Russian occupation of Eastern Europe, the idea of a Soviet Russia replacing Imperial Japan seemed not much better to Truman.

Thousands of Allied prisoners, as well as civilians in Japanese-occupied China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, were dying each day the war dragged on. More than 1 million Japanese soldiers abroad were still brutally killing the innocent.

There were still other less publicized considerations. The incendiary B-29 bombing campaign from the distant Mariana Islands had already killed far more Japanese than would the two atomic bombs.

With new airfields on Okinawa, Gen. Curtis LeMay envisioned a far greater force of four-engine bombers to be sent on daily missions against Japan. LeMay would have had at his disposal nearly 10,000 four-engine bombers, including B-29s, along with transfers of idle B-24s, B-17s, and British Lancaster bombers after the surrender of Germany three months earlier.

The ensuing napalm inferno might have precluded the invasion of Japan. But more nonstop firestorms also would have caused far more Japanese deaths than the two atomic bombs—at a time when Japan was already blockaded by the U.S. Navy and running out of food and supplies.

In other words, the novelty of the two horrific atomic bombs helped to shock the Japanese emperor into a sudden surrender. And the abrupt end of the Pacific War saved millions of lives—whether Asians under brutal Japanese occupation, Allied soldiers fighting against Japanese expeditionary armies, or Japanese civilians who likely would have been incinerated by an unimaginable second round of the firebombing campaign.

In the security and prosperity of peace, it is now common to fault Truman for his seemingly cruel decision. But in 1945, many Americans were blaming the U.S. government for thousands of American deaths from fighting in the Pacific. Right after the war, they complained that the atomic bombs should have been used even earlier to preclude nightmares such as Okinawa.

We also forget that Imperial Japan of 1945 was not the model democracy of Japan today, but a brutal, genocidal dictatorship. By August 1945, it already had butchered millions of Asians in occupied China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

Japan was still convinced that if the war could just continue, and it could kill thousands more American and British soldiers, then the exhausted Allies might finally negotiate a favorable armistice.

It is now hard to imagine any choices worse than dropping an atomic bomb. But in August 1945, there were some that most certainly were.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

America • Asia • Center for American Greatness • China • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • military • Post

Confronting China: America Needs Japan, India, and Australia

When President Donald J. Trump was elected, one of his first decisions was to fulfill an early campaign promise: he abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that the Obama Administration negotiated. The reason for withdrawing was simple: it disproportionately would have harmed American middle-class workers and their already-ailing communities.

Yet the decision to remove the United States from the TPP agreement came at a cost. It created some damaging downstream effects for America’s foreign policy.

One positive aspect of the TPP was that it empowered Asian states to stand against China’s growing threat in the region. Since the termination of the agreement, the Asian democracies have tried to go forward without the United States without success.

Despite its necessary decision to end American involvement in the TPP, the Trump Administration has also correctly acknowledged that Asia is the most important region of the world. Moreover, the Trump Administration believes that Asia cannot be left to the machinations of authoritarian China.

Japan, Australia, and Vietnam have all become concerned about Chinese military activities in the region over the last decade. More importantly, India—the world’s largest democracy, and the seventh-largest economy (an economy, moreover, that is set to grow even larger over the next decade)—is equally, if not more, threatened by the Chinese juggernaut.

Since the start of this year, the Trump Administration has sought to revitalize the Quadrilateral Security Dialog (or simply the “Quad Alliance”), a loose coalition from 2007 consisting of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. The Quad Alliance, which is currently informal and relatively powerless, should be formalized by the Trump Administration and given greater power. It should be the basis for a new trading and defensive military bloc aimed at tethering together the region’s most powerful economies into a competitive counterweight to China.

But the Quad Alliance is not without its problems.

Like it or not, Trump’s trade war with China has turned off potential allies in the Asia-Pacific. Most of the Quad Alliance members have all become fabulously wealthy from the “free trade” policies that President Trump opposes. The leaders of these states are therefore skeptical of Trump. This has translated into their unwillingness to further enmesh their countries in the budding Quad Alliance.

Don’t let that fool you, though. As time progresses, Japan and India will be unable to ignore China’s true threat. In the last decade alone, China’s extreme behavior in the South and East China Seas (with their unlawful island-building program) have already exhibited to the region the danger that a China—drunk on wealth and nationalism—poses.

In 2017, India and China fought a series of pitched battles in their long-standing feud over water rights (which China controls at present) for the Tibetan Plateau. The stronger and wealthier China becomes, the less inhibited Beijing will be in checking its revanchist impulses.

For its part, Australia has taken a schizophrenic approach to the issue of China’s rise. Australia has allowed for the United States to base some Marines in Darwin. It has also expanded its participation in joint-naval exercises with the United States. Australia also attempted to participate in major naval exercises with the Indian Navy recently (which New Delhi, in an attempt to appeal to Beijing, rejected). However, like Japan and India, Australia has become more committed to its free trade policy with China, thereby negating the potential potency of the proposed Quad Alliance network.

The Quad Alliance is not dead yet, however. All that is needed is a more visible sign of American engagement with the Asia-Pacific (beyond mere rhetoric) generally, and specifically, American commitment to the other Quad members. What’s needed, then, is Trump’s decisive leadership. A new trade deal and deeper military ties are required to sweeten the deal.

Beginning with Japan, a country with the most antipathy toward China, the Trump Administration must negotiate the creation of a new fair trade deal that would leave open the possibility of Australia and India joining. From there, the United States should court other Asian countries, like Vietnam and South Korea, into becoming observing members of the Quad Alliance.

Rather than advocating for an expansive trade deal that effectively weakens the United States at the expense of the other members, the Trump Administration would have to employ its thus far effective negotiation style to goad its potential Asian allies into fully committing to the Quad Alliance, and making it a mainstay of the region.

Also, a joint military command would have to be created to better coordinate members’ defensive efforts. China, the world’s second-largest economy, will not be contained by each country in the region acting alone. It will require concerted effort and dedication.

The Quad Alliance is the only way to compete with China.

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Center for American Greatness • Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Middle East • military • Post

War with Iran is Coming

In recent weeks, two seminal events have occurred that make war with Iran more likely. First, Iran (currently struggling with growing domestic unrest because of the horrific economic conditions in that country) has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. Second, Iranian-backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen have attacked two Saudi Arabian-flagged oil tankers operating in the Bab-el-Mandeb.

The U.S. government has ranked seven of the world’s most important “oil chokepoints”—strategic waterways through which a majority of the world’s oil is transported. If these waterways are blocked, the world economy would grind to a halt.

The Strait of Hormuz divides the coastlines of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Bab-el-Mandeb links the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. It is located between Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula and touches Djibouti and Eritrea.

The Strait of Hormuz, however, is more important. According to Bloomberg, the Bab-el-Mandeb is “significantly less crucial than the better-known Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran” for shipping crude oil. Combined, though, Iran’s recent actions are meant to be strong signals to the United States (and its allies in Israel and the Sunni Arab states).

Since taking office, President Trump has reversed course on his predecessor’s Iran policy. This is part of the Trump Administration’s overall pressure campaign designed to extract better deals from other countries, friend and foe alike. Trump is now stuck between either abandoning the region to Iran or standing firm with our imperfect allies—even at the risk of a wider war.

A greater conflict is exactly what is shaping up between the Sunni and Shiite spheres of the Islamic world in the Middle East.

Previously, the Islamic world was torn apart by another Sunni-Shiite conflict, the Iran-Iraq War. In that bloody war, which spanned eight years between 1980 and 1988, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein attempted to annex the Shatt al-Arab waterway. Even with financial support from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia—and with implicit backing from the United States—Saddam’s Arab army couldn’t achieve its goals.

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians began targeting all Sunni Arab oil tankers operating in the Strait of Hormuz—notably those belonging to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—in retaliation for Iraq having targeted Iranian oil-tankers beginning around 1981. This prompted a wider American intervention to protect the Saudi and Kuwaiti tankers (by re-flagging the tankers as American ships and having the U.S. Navy escort them through contested waters, such as those of the Strait of Hormuz).

Yet, even at the height of the so-called “Tanker War” Saudi Arabia never took the drastic step of altering their oil flows as they did this last week over their two tankers being attacked by Iranian-backed Houthi Rebels out of Yemen. Riyadh’s decision to suspend oil flows through the Bab-el-Mandeb undoubtedly will cause oil prices to spike globally. And, given the unrest occurring in Iran, as well as the fact that the Trump Administration appears only to be getting started with its pressure campaign against Iran, expect hostilities in the region to escalate.

Further, I would anticipate spikes in the global price of oil for the foreseeable future (by the way, this undoubtedly would make Moscow happy, since Russia depends on higher-than-average oil prices to sustain its economy and military modernization program). Should these increases continue for the foreseeable future—and if Iran continued both with its illicit nuclear weapons program and regional expansion—the United States will be forced to intervene military.

Also, eventually, Washington will have no choice but to either enforce its strict de-nuclearization policy for Iran or to step back, be humiliated by Iran, and watch the Iranians run roughshod over the region (since there is little hope that the Saudi-led Sunni Arab states will fare any better against Iran than Saddam’s armies ever did).

It is unlikely the Trump White House would favor this outcome.

Instead, the administration will more likely seek to escalate the situation with some form of direct American involvement (a combination of naval operations to keep the vital oil chokepoints open and potential air strikes to attack suspected Iranian nuclear sites as well as Iranian naval bases).

Meanwhile, the Sunni Arab states (and likely Israel) recognize that they alone cannot defeat Iran. They would prefer to escalate tensions as high as possible, prove unable to push Iran back, and prompt a direct American military engagement against Iran.

As for Iran’s besieged mullahs: they would prefer to distract their angry population by fighting the infidels of the West (and the apostates of the Sunni states) rather than be overthrown by popular unrest at home.

War—whether limited or unlimited—with Iran is coming.

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Defense of the West • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • NATO • Post

Reforming NATO Is the Only Way to Save It

Donald Trump recently ignited yet another firestorm by hedging when asked whether protecting the newest NATO member, tiny Montenegro, might be worth risking a war.

Of course, the keystone of NATO was always the idea that all members, strong and weak, are in theory equal. A military attack against one member, under Article V of the NATO charter, meant an attack on all members.

Such mutual defense is the essence of collective deterrence. An aggressor backs off when he realizes his intended target has lots of powerful friends willing to defend it.

But what happens when an alliance becomes so large and so diverse that not all of its members still share similar traditions, values, agendas or national security threats?

NATO’s original European members considered themselves kindred neighbors under the nuclear umbrella of the United States.

With the inclusion of West Germany in 1955, NATO’s original mission was altered somewhat. It was no longer tasked just with keeping the United States in and the Soviet Union out, but also with raising Germany up rather than keeping it down.

NATO collective defense was designed to offer breathing space against the superior forces of the Soviet Red Army—until the United States could bring in reinforcements or threaten to use its superior nuclear forces against would-be aggressors.

The alliance worked because the United States accepted that Europe needed American help to deter enemies in order to avoid repeats of the disasters of 1914 and 1939. With the exception of Turkey, the older members of NATO were generally seen as sharing the geographical space of Western Europe.

That is no longer quite true. Many of NATO’s newer members are not integrated into Western Europe. They are now spread all over the continent, and they include former Russian allies such as Albania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro. Many of the newer members are small, vulnerable and in crises would need far more help than they could provide others.

The idea of NATO has changed as well. Instead of deterring a Soviet invasion of Europe while rehabilitating Germany, NATO has become less a defensive military alliance and more a de facto cultural institution to homogenize Europe along Western lines.

For some in Europe, NATO is envisioned not so much as a collection of planes and tanks, but instead as an expanded version of the European Union.

The more diverse NATO has become, the less unified it has become, especially with the demise of the original threat of the Soviet Union. As post-Cold War Europe grew calmer and more affluent, NATO members became less likely to believe that they would ever need to sacrifice to invest in their mutual defense.

In the aftermath of the Cold War, NATO was eager to enlist eager Eastern European and Balkan nations that rightly had feared Russia even after the end of the Soviet Union.

But southeastern Europe and the Balkans were also home to age-old feuds and surrogate wars between rival empires—from World War I to the Bosnian War in the early ’90s.

What are the lessons of NATO expansion?

One, vastly increasing its membership can only make NATO weaker, not stronger. In some sense, when everyone is in an alliance, no one really is. Vladimir Putin may gamble to find out whether affluent Dutch or Belgian youth will really be willing to die fighting for the territorial integrity of distant Bulgaria. If not, then Article V will be exposed as a farce and NATO itself will be finished.

If Albania and Montenegro are in NATO, why not Austria, Finland, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, and Serbia? Will Mexico join Canada and the United States to round out the North American membership?

Two, the borders of the “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” are now ill-defined.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey is becoming an updated version of the old Islamic Ottoman caliphate. It is an enemy of the Kurds and Israel, both staunch U.S. allies. If Turkey gets into a “defensive” conflict with Israel, would young soldiers from Kansas want to risk death to “defend” an anti-American, authoritarian NATO theocracy from a pro-American liberal democracy?

Tough decisions, not more weary and sanctimonious rhetoric, are needed to revitalize NATO.

The alliance must insist that all members quickly meet their military obligations of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense. If a rich country in peace reneges on its promise of military readiness, why would anyone expect it to fulfill its pledge of assistance in wartime?

NATO should insist on common values and agendas, and its members should formally identify their likely collective enemies.

The alliance must ensure that any nation in NATO belongs in NATO—and thus is worth risking what could become a nuclear war on its behalf.