Category Archives: National Defence

Will the Trump Doctrine Bring Peace or WWIII With Regards to North Korea?

ICBM

With the North Korean launch of an ICBM with the capability to reach the US, the specter of war has crept into the news media. Of course, much discussion revolves around President Trump and the fear that he invokes in a large segment of the left. What history teaches us however is that the direction Trump is taking us is one in which the potential for war should be reduced. I will add one caveat, what history has taught was based on interactions between rational actors, Kim Jong-Un may not fit that profile.
Much has been written about the ideals of continuing diplomatic avenues or increasing sanctions against North Korea, these have been the responses since the Clinton administration, and have resulted in various degrees of failure. I have read that there are no real options other than containment and sanctions. Many analysts insist that there is no viable military option because that will lead to a war where millions are killed. Kim Jong-Un, they say, is only developing nuclear weapons to protect his regime and will not use them since he must know it is suicide.
I must respectfully disagree with many of these analyst, the North Korean military exist, in the mind of the leadership, for one reason and one reason only, to reunite the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang. This has been true since the beginning under Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. In the third generation of the Kim dynasty the desire is strong to fulfill that pledge. North Korea does not however have a leader with a world view and whose only true military experience has come from an obsession with playing video games. In other words, he does not see using his military or nuclear weapons as a problem. It is a means to an end and will bring him glory and victory.
Ending the existence of nuclear weapons, or at least restricting the number of countries that possess them has been the desire of most of the world since 1945. This desire has failed and resulted in several countries joining the nuclear club. In no case has any country that desired a nuclear weapon been stopped from achieving that aim through diplomacy. What has been effective was stopping the use of these weapons through a concept known as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. Once a nuclear exchange was initiated the response would be immediate and total. What made this effective was not the possibility of a destructive response but its assurance.
In recent history, especially in the last eight years, this assurance has been missing and it is causing the Trump administration to face the facts that not just the threat of war but military action is likely to be needed with North Korea. The world is facing the return of a peace through strength doctrine. When President Obama took the military option off the table or severely limited its use it sent a message to the world that anti-American actions would not always be followed by military actions and that diplomatic punishment was of little consequence.
In the last 5 months Trump has responded to a Syrian Chemical attack with a missile attack on the airfield that launched it, shot down a Syrian plan that had attacked our allies, run freedom of navigation drills through the south china sea and moved more military equipment to South Korea. The question remains if these and other activity are sufficient to convince the other side that US doctrine has changed. North Korea will never be convinced since their leadership lives in a bubble, assured of their invincibility. The countries that must be convinced are South Korea and Japan who will face the most devastation in the event of war, and China and Russia who have the most to lose in the event of North Korea being defeated and absorbed into a single Korea under Seoul.
This can be done given enough time and support from the American people and the international community. The center of this new doctrine comes not from old political thinking but from the infusion of business and nontraditional thinkers. This is not the first-time new ways of addressing old problems has come from nontraditional sources. Returning to the concept of MAD it was best explained in mid 1960s works by Dr. Thomas Schelling, an economics professor from Harvard and Yale. In his book Arms and Influence Dr. Schelling showed that in the realm of international diplomacy there is always a military component, unlike traditional belief that the use of military was diplomacy by other means we now learned that there is a coercive part. This last was referred to as the diplomacy if violence. The existence of a strong military by itself was sufficient to bring a just resolution to a problem. The only drawback to this is that the other side must have no doubt you will in fact use your military if needed. This is the part that has been a blockage to effective diplomacy for the US in recent years, there was a lot of doubt and in some cases absolute belief that no military action would take place.
President Trump is now caught in a period of changing doctrine and getting the world to accept and understand there is a change. In the case of North Korea, we don’t know how much time we have where the threat of military force to coerce a decision will be effective, or will we get to a point that we must compel an end. If forced to use the military many will die, Seoul will be devastated as will Tokyo, and China will be forced to move to stop a unified Korea to avoid a democratic western nation on its border.
The world is a dangerous place, made more dangerous when indecisive ideologs are running foreign policy. With a President who is less experienced in diplomacy and more in standing up for principles we have a chance of making the world safer by making war a probable outcome of the bullying tactics that have unfortunately been successful in the recent past.

The New Cold War

Cold War

Recent international activities are beginning to remind me of the cold war, and its heating up. Over the weekend the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 ground attack aircraft, after it had attack US supported Syrian and Kurdish forces who were in combat with ISIS. This action in and of itself is significant and indicates a sea change in US policy. But it is not an isolated incident and is a continuing march toward a new cold war that has been in development since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those who do not remember, the cold war lasted from the end of the second world war in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union on 1991. During this time, there were both political and military confrontations between the West and the East. To correct the wrong impression while the term is “Cold War” there were some very hot spots during this time. From the Korean War through Vietnam and smaller conflicts in Africa and South and Central America, the west faced off against the agents of the Soviet Union in many ways. The main difference is that while the West (US) would engage directly with military force the East (Soviet Union) used proxy fighters.

Today we are seeing a rise in tension and a return to many of the same patterns we saw in the past. Both Russia and China have begun to once again challenge our military by close encounters at sea and in the air and by testing our ability to detect and react to air and submarine incursions.  The subs have mostly been in Scandinavian seas, we have not heard of others. Like the last time however this could lead to unforeseen problems. From the proxy side, we see Russia fermenting a civil war in Ukraine and a direct annexation of Chimera. They have also returned to the Middle East by propping up the regime of Assad in Syrian and this time they have committed their own forces.  China is challenging us in the south china sea by the expansion of territorial claims and an increase in military presence.

It may be assumed we won the last time and we will win this time. This time however there is a major change. The United States is seen by many as a paper tiger. Regardless of what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan it is greatly assumed we will not commit to a major defense of the west. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration for its talk about NATO and the need for Europe to be more proactive in its own defense. But for the most part, on a macro level, we have over the past few years reduced our own military and shown a reluctance to engage in any meaningful way with the growing threat from Russia or China.

During the last cold war, we stayed out of direct confrontation with Russia through something called Mutual Assured Destruction, (MAD).  The concept of MAD was that in the event of a major war both sides had the capability to destroy the other. In a true sense, it was not the fear of mutual destruction that held back the missiles it was the fact that retaliation was assured. Neither side doubted the other would retaliate. In diplomacy, much the same concept is valid. Why would one side bother to negotiate with another if there is no fear of a military response that could be devastating.

Why has Russia run roughshod over the west, in the last few years presidents from both parties did little to react to Russian military adventures other than wag a finger and level ineffective sanctions. The danger today with the sea change I discussed is that it may take a lot more convincing to reign in Russia and China. This will mean there will be violence and death. Should this however work, as history has taught, then if we are still in time it will be less violent that if nothing is done. If we are not in time then nothing will reduce the carnage.

I hope I am right and we are in time. We must however present a more united front to the world then the fighting and inexcusable rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. It is a dangerous time and it will take a strong front to deflect the carnage and save civilization. PLEASE THINK before you get all bent out of shape over some mundane action of a politician, your child could have been Otto Warnbier. I am not sure if we had a better reputation for protecting our citizens there would have been a different outcome, or if he would have been arrested at all. But we need to try. We need to be that country that other would rather talk to then fight.

 

 

 

The Reality of Keeping Secrets

TS

 

The Reality of protecting the nations secrets is becoming more difficult by the day. The recent release of an NSA report by a government contractor, Reality Winner, has brought to light, once again, the difficulty in maintaining security. There is a lot of coverage of her being a contractor, now the discloser I was once employed by the same contractor, Pluribus International, and mention of her past six years as a linguist with the Air Force, but little about her apparent extreme political views. This is where we need to begin the discussion.

A review of the social media sites of Reality Winner shows a very activist person who bought into every anti-Trump campaign, as well as other progressive programs. After the fact, many have asked why a deeper background check was not done considering her apparent hatred of Trump and support for the Iranian government. If her Facebook page had been viewed what could have been done. Can a person be denied employment for political views? The answer of course is a resounding maybe. The problem of course is not opposing political views but lack of self-control and any sense of individual responsibility. Many have said that the release of classified material is an act of courage and proved individual integrity. I have read both the article by “The Intercept” and the redacted NSA report. What we have is a young lady who has ruined her life and the reputation of a company that did nothing more than give her a job after her service to her county, for nothing. The information provided was nothing that was not suspected, but confirmed the details. The details by the way would not indicate any influence on the election, it looked like a test run. The hacking was aimed at voter registration rolls and not at the actual election machines. While it may have affected individual voters by raising questions as to their legitimate registration it is doubtful it had any impact on the results.

Regardless of the impact, it is an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be handled as such and with caution. The leak and leakers are also an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be dealt with. Reality Winners is a product of her time and one of many leakers who probably feel that they are doing a service to their country. They are wrong. Releasing intelligence, even finished product without the raw data, can cause great national harm even death. There are reasons some information is classified and they are good reasons. Many people with many years of experience work to insure the security of this information and a 25-year-old with 6 years of experience in the Air Force is not experienced enough to override this process. By releasing this information Winner has let the Russians know what we discovered and reduced the effectiveness of any countermeasures.

The extremism and virulence of the attacks on the current administration have opened a process of uncontrolled anger and given people like Winner the excuse to put the country in danger in the name of resistance to a President they did not vote for. This is just a furthering of what has been happening across society to include colleges shutting down free expression and segments of society segregating themselves from the rest. It needs to stop.

It must stop. I feel for both Reality Winner and her family. Her uncontrolled anger, feed by an out of control media (I hesitate to call it News Media) resulted in a very unwise choice. She is the first to be caught and will likely suffer greatly for her transgression. Unlike Edward Snowden, protected by Russia, or Bradly Manning, pardoned by President Obama, she is in a time and administration that will not be kind to her.

 A recent article in the Wall Street Journal spoke to the fact that colleges are not teaching our children how to make a cohesive argument and they leave school with no greater critical thinking skills then when they entered. Add this to politicians and pundits on television constantly yelling and refusing to listen to any opposition arguments and you have an up and coming community that feels no remorse in deciding on their own what should go public.  

There are many ways that a person can get information to the right hands if they truly feel it is necessary. They are long and cumbersome by design. There are even shortcuts that can be taken that do not require public disclosure. Today however we seem to need instant gratification of our passions. We have raised a generation, or two, that glory’s in its independence but in fact has fallen into the trap of groupthink.

I am sorry Reality, but you need to be strongly and publicly punished to stop those who follow from making the same mistake, or at least give them pause before they make a move.  To all who would defend Reality PLEASE THINK of the consequences of your actions.   

Should the US Arm the Iraqi Kurds?

NTR

By Paul Davis

I wanted to republish this since the Kurdish leader Masud Barzani is coming to talk to the president

During my recent interview on Kurdish television station NTR. One of the recurring questions was “Why will the US government not supply the Kurdish Peshmerga with weapons?” The short answer of course is that we have supplied small and medium size arms to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) while they were in direct contact with ISIS and receiving no help from Baghdad. The hard answer is that US policy limits what it can provide to a regional security force without the consent of the central government. Limited to the point of supplying nothing of consequence, noting that would matter. However, should this policy exist in the world today? Reportedly, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) is circulating a letter to Members of Congress urging a bi-partisan bill authorizing the President to provide the KRG with the arms it needs and bypassing Baghdad.

The impact of arming the KRG with heavy weapons, in the short term, will bring them on par with the enemy in front of them, who has superior weapons they have captured from the Iraqi army, US weapons, including advanced M1 tanks. We have seen the Peshmerga fight and defeat ISIS with the help of US airstrikes and the assistance of other Kurdish fighters such as the YPG and PKK. These victories however have been limited in scope but not in impact. Saving the Yazidi minority and pushing ISIS off the Mosul dam are significant achievements, but ISIS still controls a swath of Iraq and portions of Syria as well as now influencing Islamic extremist throughout the region.

The introduction of heavy weapons to the Peshmerga would not allow them to defeat ISIS by themselves but would allow them to secure the Kurdish region and return to building the only success story in Iraq. So why not do it.

We must address the political ramifications first. Baghdad does not want the Kurds stronger than they are currently. Turkey to the north fears any Kurd, having been at war with the Kurdish PKK organization for years. Turkey views weapons to the KRG as weapons to the PKK. The PKK began as an organization dedicated to an independent Kurdish state in what is now SW Turkey. These are our friends.

Failure to provide weapons to the Kurds leaves only the central governments in the region to fend off the terrorist threat. Currently the Iraqi forces have failed in all attempts to dislodge ISIS and most recently have turned to Iran for assistance. Over 3000 Iraqi forces backed up by 20000 Iranian lead Shia militia have so far failed to dislodge ISIS from the town of Tikrit. While fighting ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobane, on the Syrian Turkish border, Syrian Kurdish fighters supported by Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and US airstrikes did ultimately drive ISIS from the region. This even through Turkey initially denied the Peshmerga safe passage but allowed free crossing for ISIS. These are our friends.

How to support Mr. Royce’s attempt to authorize the transfer of arms over the objection of Baghdad is no small undertaking. There are three options left; first, we don’t and hope that Iraq and the Peshmerga can establish a secure Iraq, second we ignore Baghdad’s protests and just arm the Peshmerga or lastly we accept the inevitable, that Iraq is a failed state and understand we are arming the future army of an independent Kurdistan. This last is the easiest and the hardest.

The US has a lot of capital invested in Iraq, both financial and political. It would be difficult to walk away, but it would be the easiest path. Should we accept the failed state model, then what becomes of Iraq? It splits into three distinct parts. The first is a Shia part that falls under the control of Iran, Then a Sunni part that depends on the assistance of the Sunni world and Kurdistan, which has never had an Iraqi identity and surrounded on all sides by enemies. Non-Arab nation in the Middle East surrounded by enemies is not something we have not seen before.

Congress should authorize the transfer of arms to Kurdistan, or for the President to direct the transfer. The State department should direct its efforts on working with Turkey to step up and become the local peacekeeper. The above snarky comments aside, Turkey is at least, for the time being, a democratic secular nation which does not want to see Iran controlling the region and can use Kurdistan to buffer itself from the worst of sectarian violence in the Arab world. The weapons will come with a price, that is the KRG will need to do a little cleaning up. More open elections and less corruption.

Kurdistan, like Israel, is an oasis in the middle of turmoil and pains in the backside of the US. Both need protection, nurturing and support until their neighbors can join them in peace.

This is not the answer given my interviewer; all I could say was that since they were not a nation we had to work with Baghdad.

The New Cold War

The New Cold War

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall, we seem to have come full circle. On that day which began the true end of the Second World War, returning pre-war countries to the control of its citizens, the future looked bright. Country after country reclaimed its heritage, not without problems and adventures. Even the Soviet Union fell and gave back control of many of its vassal states to the people. The down side of all this was the closing of minds in the West to any potential reversal of these activities. In the intervening years, all eyes have moved toward the Middle East, with all the problems, wars, and barbarity that has become the Middle East.

To play down the dangers of groups such as ISIL or countries like Iran that can and have plunged the region into war and fear would be foolish. The darkness that has enveloped that part of the world has the potential of spreading outward to engulf the rest of the world. However, the immediate threat to the Western world is once again coming from Russia. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not remove the danger of men such as Putin; it only drove them underground for a little while. While the West went forward into a new age of freedom and prosperity, Russia remained, well Russian.

The West has forgotten the Cold War and what it pertained. The barbarity of ISIL notwithstanding, the current rash of Russian aircraft and ships testing NATO defenses in conjunction with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea must be understood in an older context then the current batch of leaders appear willing or able to do. I suggest a rereading of the book “Arms and Influence” by Thomas Schelling for all decision makers. Understand what Russia is doing and what responses are required.

First off, and this is important, we must understand that Russia will continue limited wars until its objectives are meet. That is until the price is too high. Lines must be drawn and aggression contained. If NATO and the West continue to fail to respond to Russian provocations, they will become more belligerent. Who is to blame? Schelling would likely say the West. By failure to up the ante, we are giving Russia permission to continue its actions. Economic sanctions are not going to contain military action. Russia, as Putin envisions it, is capable of self-preservation. The West, as Putin envisions it, is incapable of sustaining an economic embargo against Europe’s energy supplier. So then, the answer is to nuke Moscow, not really.

The answer is to show resolve in the face of this naked aggression. Movement of NATO forces into western Ukraine close enough to be a threat but far enough back not to be an immediate danger. Then it becomes quid pro quo. Russian forces advance deeper into Ukraine so does NATO. Is this brinksmanship or a game of chicken? Yes it is. Could it lead to a larger war? Yes, it could. But the alternative is to allow the Russians to continue to move west until??? At what point do we call a halt and at that time what would it take to stop the advance? The longer it takes the less likely Russia will feel anything is going to happen. The longer it takes the larger and more dangerous will be the response.

The new cold war can only remain cold while there is a credible threat of actual war. Currently Russia does not see that threat. I do not advocate war, just the opposite. We need to set the boundaries, to let Russia know what the limits are. A new cold war is a terrible thing and should never have been allowed to happen. However, it did happen and now we must respond. If we learn from the past, we can contain war and avoid conflict. If we ignore what was learned the world may pay a terrible price.

The US still has no strategy in its fight against ISIS

With the administration pressed on all sides because of its lack of an effective foreign policy, a group that had been building up in Syria struck with speed and violence that caused a major breakdown in the regional status quo. Military planning requires time and information to produce a strategy that will result in a desired end state. The current US operation against the Islamic terror group ISIS (ISIL, IS, Da’esh) has shown none of the earmarks of a strategy.

What is strategy; it is the ways and means to an end. The end state given is the total destruction of ISIS. So what then are the ways and means, the strategy to accomplish this? The United States announced it would begin forming a coalition that would engage ISIS from the Air and then from the ground. The ground portion would consist of regional forces with the US leading with Air strikes supported by regional and international air forces. The problem is this is not a strategy; it is at best the start of a plan.

The immediate military requirement was to stop the forward momentum in Iraq. This should have been easy. We had air power in the region and we had regional ground forces engaged with the enemy, The Kurdish regional guard, the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga had eyes on the enemy and had up to date intelligence on ISIS locations and movements. What they did not have was sufficient firepower to engage effectively. Therefore, the answer is simply, coordinate targets with the Peshmerga and at the same time resupply them with needed weapons.

With everything so clear and easy why are thousands of Kurds, Yazidi, Arabs and Christians still dying at the hands of ISIS.

The United States and its allies are so tied up in the theoretical world of politics that dogma has replaced critical thinking and while waiting for an epiphany thousands more will die. The US wants to run all weapons through Baghdad, which has refused to support the Peshmerga or share in oil revenues as required by their own constitution. It is not as if the option is the Iraqi army, they are worthless. While being the recipients of US weapons and training they ran at the first sign of a fight and left the weapons and weapon systems behind. So then, give the weapons to the Kurds directly. Baghdad says no and our NATO ally Turkey is against arming Kurds at any time for any reason. Turkey has a legitimate concern since one of the Non-Iraqi Kurdish groups, the PKK, has been at war with Turkey for decades. Turkey has a less then legitimate excuse; they have been supporting ISIS in an attempt to overthrow the Assad regime.

Inside of Syria, we have disparate groups that are fighting not only ISIS, but also the Assad government and each other. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the group that receives all the press, is an amalgam of rebel groups that began the attempted overthrow of Assad in 2011, during the Arab Spring. The FSA is undisciplined, self-serving and untrained. This may have been different had the west responded to request for assistance from the beginning but it did not and the FSA is so broken and dysfunctional and infiltrated by ISIS and Assad and a number of others that it is not the boots on the ground the US needs. Therefore, whom do we turn to inside of Syria?

Stop me if you have heard this one, the Kurds. The Kurdish militia in Syria known as the YPG has been successfully fighting ISIS for two years. A highly disciplined and committed force they defended Kurds, Arabs and Christians from Assad and ISIL. They sent fighters to Iraq and helped rescue the Yazidi from Mt Sinjar while the west was considering action. The YPG while being Kurdish has also raised units of Arabs, Christians and Yazidi. So what is wrong with the YPG? They have been tied to the PKK.

Now back to the lack of strategy part. As said, a strategy is the ways and means to an end. If the desired end is the destruction of ISIS then there must be boots on the ground. If they are not to be US boots then they will need to be someone’s. The Iraqi army is out they are broken. The FSA is out they are incapable, Regional armies would be good but Turkey Jordan, UAE etc. will not likely commit to invade a neighbor regardless of the security situation. The Kurds are engaged. The strategy then would be to arm and support the Kurds, cooperate and coordinate air attacks. Train them to go beyond guerrilla tactics and stand and protect themselves while destroying the bad guys.

The current action of the US and allied air forces have been to seek out and destroy convoys and attack stationary targets identified as command centers. This is good, this helps. This is not a strategy to achieve the end result of the destruction of ISIS. These are actions that individually cause temporary harm, it is not a strategy designed to achieve the ultimate declared end.

I call on the US and the individual countries involved to engage with the Kurds to fight a common evil. We may not agree with their politics but they are not now, have never been nor will they ever be a threat to the west. In fact, if treated fairly we may find a good true and loyal friend in a region that is not likely to give the west many opportunities at friendship.