Author Topic: US Foreign Policy & Geopolitics  (Read 280452 times)


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Trump, Iran, and Iranian Expansionism in the Middle East
« Reply #800 on: October 07, 2017, 10:56:01 AM »
The author here is no fool, but IMHO she fails to note:

a) Trump ran on no more endless wars-- public support for going heavy back into the ME on the ground is near zero-- no to mention that American military bandwidth is mightily stretched already with various other BFD problems requiring attention (Norks, South China Sea, and more)

b) IMHO as he wisely did with DACA, there is wisdom is putting this on Congress.  Congress needs to man the fk up and do its job instead of what we now have-- pissing and moaning after the fact no matter what is done.  The country needs to make a unified decision on this.


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GPF: Thinking about the Arabs in History 12/09/2015
« Reply #801 on: October 09, 2017, 04:25:01 PM »

Dec. 9, 2015 As the strength of many Arab states deteriorates, it may not be possible to think of the Arab world as a whole anymore.

Turkey and Iraq are engaged in a diplomatic spat. The dispute is over Turkey placing troops and armor inside of Iraq’s borders ostensibly to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters, as well as Arab Sunnis and Turkmen, to fight Islamic State without Iraq’s permission. The number of troops at this point – Reuters reported it to be about a battalion, so between 400 and 1,000 troops – is not enough to change realities on the ground by itself. It may be that Turkey is in the very initial stages of either participating in or helping to plan an offensive on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. Even if it is, such a development is a long way off. The deeper issue is that Turkey, a non-Arab country, felt it could station troops in an Arab country without having to be concerned with that country’s reaction – in this case Iraq.

We speak often of Turkey’s strengths and advantages compared to other would-be regional powers: it has a strong military, a strong economy, it controls some of the most strategic real estate in the world as the gate keeper to the Bosporus. The flip side of this is the weakness of the region’s Arab states. Indeed, it may not be possible to think of the Arab world as a whole anymore. Like the terms “Syria” and “Iraq,” the term “Arab world” has become a hollow phrase.

Since the peoples of the Middle East encountered Western imperialism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the word “Arab” has referred to the notion that the Arabic-speaking people of the region constitute a nation to themselves. The various borders drawn by Great Britain and France were for imperial purposes; the states that began to emerge were all part of the Arab nation. The word “Arab” however has meant many things over the course of history. As Bernard Lewis notes in “The Arabs in History,” its first meaning was to describe the nomadic Bedouin tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. After Mohammed’s conquest and the birth of the caliphate in the 8th century, the term was used often to distinguish between the Arabian conquerors and the masses of the conquered. Over time the term lost its explicitly ethnic content, becoming a social term which described a class of people who tried to preserve the old nomadic ways, though the importance of Arabic language remained constant. It gradually became imbued with its now-familiar nationalist ideas towards the end of the 19th century.

At Geopolitical Futures, one of the core principles that informs our work is the importance of the love of one’s own. The international system is based on the existence of nation-states, and the foundation of the nation-state is the natural love of what one considers to be one’s own people. Nationalism uses the love of one’s own as the bedrock out of which to establish the nation-state – which is precisely what Arab nationalism tried to do in the second half of the 20th century after casting off the imperial yoke.

There is a rough equivalent to the love of one’s own in Arabic thought, a concept used prominently by the famous historian Ibn Khaldun, who wrote and lived in North Africa in the 14th century. Ibn Khaldun wrote of a concept called “asabiyya,” which roughly translates to “social solidarity.” Ibn Khaldun thought that the nomadic Bedouin – the original “Arab” – destroyed civilization but founded states. This was because the Bedouin had a natural asabiyya, one that Albert Hourani described as a “mutual affection and willingness to fight and die for each other.” With asabiyya came the strength and courage to defeat civilizations, and which allowed for the formation of states after conquest. Once the state was established, a new asabiyya had to develop, one that put the state before all else. But Ibn Khaldun recognized that in this region, the relationship of soldiers and citizens to a state could never be as strong as the primal asabiyya that exists between those related by blood and not by political convention.

With the exception of Saudi Arabia and a few other monarchies, like Jordan and Morocco, the political structure of the Arab-national world came to be dominated by two main ideologies imported from Europe: socialism and nationalism. From Algeria to Iraq, socialism and Arab nationalism were the asabiyya that held these brand-new states together. These ideologies however have failed to fulfill their promises. Socialism did not bring prosperity to the masses. The existence of independent nation-states did not usher in an age of freedom – in fact, it propped up authoritarian dictators.

IS is one response to the failure of these ideologies. IS lives in the world of the failure of socialism and Arab nationalism, and all of its targets in the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon – are states to varying degrees where the cohesion of the state has broken down as a result. It is easy to dismiss IS as a bunch of violent radicals, but the fact of the matter is the IS’ ideology appeals to Arabic-speaking Muslims in the Middle East as well as many non-Arab Muslims around the world. Islam is the only thing that has ever succeeded at uniting the various tribes and clans and ethnic groups scattered across the region into a whole. In a similar way to the European fascists, who used nationalism to establish legitimacy and communal bonds, the IS harkens back to an imagined-golden age where the only thing that was important was whether one was a true believer or not.

But another manifestation of the breakdown of Arab political power is in the fact that on Dec. 4, Turkey reportedly deployed 220 Turkish troops backed by approximately 8 tanks and other support elements to the towns of Zlekah and Bashink outside of the IS-held city of Mosul. Also, on the same day, the Turkish military released details of a training program for Kurdish peshmerga fighters that it has been engaged in for over two and a half years. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi characterized the news as a violation of Iraqi national sovereignty, and he wasn’t wrong. And yet all the broken state of Iraq can do is to threaten to take it up with the UN Security Council, or to make calls to NATO officials and Kurdish political leaders, as Abadi has done in response. Abadi does not have the national strength necessary to do anything besides take offense. Turkey can bomb northern Iraq to hit PKK positions when it likes, and it can station troops outside Mosul if it chooses. Whether Ankara’s motives are to train the peshmerga against IS, to send a signal to the Russians, to halt the successes of the Syrian Kurds matters little. Turkey, if it wishes, can do as it pleases in Iraq right now.

This is not just an Iraqi issue. Or a Syrian issue. The most capable “Arab” state left is Saudi Arabia – and the Saudis do not speak to any broad coalition of people within the region itself. The influence they have is a result of money and previous American support. Egypt has its own economic and security issues; the beating heart of pan-Arabism flat-lined decades ago and nothing has arisen in its place. Libya no longer exists. Yemen is a permanent war zone. There is no Arab unity. There is tribalism and factionalism and sectarianism. There is primal asabiyya – small groups battling to survive for the sake of surviving and protecting their own.

The age of the Arab caliphates ended when the Mongols besieged a Baghdad already weakened by centuries of Turkic and Persian attacks in the 13th century – from that point on, until after World War I, the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Middle East were ruled by foreign powers, and for the bulk of that time by the Turkic Ottoman Empire. The period from roughly 1918 to 2011 was a rare moment in history where Arab states controlled their own destinies far more than they had in previous centuries. That time however has come to an end. The Arab world in so far as it exists is completely fractured, so much so that the very notion of speaking about the “Arab world” in a way that transcends clan, tribe, or sect is quickly losing any real meaning.

And this is the usual state of affairs in this part of the world. The region has always been a magnet for competition between great powers – the Ottomans and the Safavids, the Americans and the Soviets. Today, military elements of the U.S., Russia, France, and the UK are all active in the region. Persian Shiite Iran wields a tremendous amount of influence in Baghdad via the Shiite militias it funds, and throughout the region with its various proxies. Turkey is being drawn into the vortex that Islamic State has created within the old Syria and Iraq borders. The Kurds are caught between it all, with the Turks using some clans and tribes for their own purposes, and fighting others as necessary. People look at the Middle East as if it is in chaos but really the region is reverting to a familiar state of affairs. The exception has been the last 100 years or so. The present is familiar to the student of history.

The Turks have little interest in making what’s left of Iraq angry. Ankara will do what it can to assuage Abadi’s hurt feelings. Even so, there is something remarkable happening here to take note of. It has become increasingly hard to speak of the Arab world as anything beyond a vague description of the Arabic-speaking people of the Middle East. There is the Islamic State and there is narrow asabiyya. For the time being, the region’s fate rests ultimately in the inevitable clash between the former and foreign powers.


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GPF: North Korea-- where China can beat US
« Reply #802 on: October 10, 2017, 06:10:08 AM »
North Korea: Where China Can Beat the US
Oct 10, 2017

By Jacob L. Shapiro
Of all the parties involved in the Korean missile crisis, the most difficult to read is China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s almost daily platitudes about the need for a peaceful resolution do little to reveal what China’s real interests and objectives are – and what they are is multiple and conflicting. At one level, China is concerned with the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula. China doesn’t want Pyongyang to have nuclear weapons, and it doesn’t want the peninsula to unify. But at the same time, what happens on the Korean Peninsula also affects China’s relationship with the U.S., and despite the deep economic ties between the two countries, from Beijing’s perspective that is a relationship defined ultimately by fear and mistrust.
(click to enlarge)
Roots of Mistrust

To understand where this mistrust comes from, we need to revisit some history. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, it did so without Chinese participation. What assistance China did offer before the invasion was rebuffed by Kim Il Sung’s young regime, confident as it was that it would not only succeed in its attack but that the invasion would provoke a popular uprising in South Korea as well. North Korea’s invasion caught the U.S. flat-footed. In its panicked analysis of what had happened, the U.S. feared that the invasion might be part of a much larger attack by the communist bloc against U.S. interests. That is why two days later, then-U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait.

At the time of Truman’s order, the People’s Republic of China was less than a year old. It was led by Mao Zedong, who was deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward his regime. Mao’s concerns were not unfounded. Mao remembered what happened after World War I, when, upon arrival at Versailles, Chinese delegates discovered that the U.S. had recognized a Japanese claim over Chinese territory that European powers had once held. Mao also lived through the United States’ breaking off support for the Chinese Communists – after the U.S. had supported them in their fight against Japan in World War II – because of the Cold War. The U.S. instead poured its resources into rebuilding Japan, which had invaded and brutally occupied China during the war. In addition, the U.S. threw its support behind Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalists in the hopes that they would defeat the upstart Communist forces. (The term “Chinese nationalists” has always been something of a misnomer – the Communists were just as nationalistic as Chiang’s forces, but that is what history has come to call them.)

Moving the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait was the last straw for Mao. To him, the U.S. was the only thing standing between his Communist Party of China and the creation of a unified Chinese nation-state beholden to no one but the Chinese people themselves. But China could do nothing to avenge the slight directly. It didn’t have the military force necessary to conquer Taiwan with the 7th Fleet standing guard. The only place China could hope to respond was in North Korea, where the rugged geography negated some of the advantages of the United States’ technological and military superiority. China entered the Korean War in October 1950, and because of China’s intervention, the Korean War ended in a stalemate that remains unresolved to this day.

Cycles of History

Fast forward to today, and it is plain to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Korea is still divided, and despite momentous growth in the economy and the military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan remains outside of its control. But it’s not just the strategic reality that is the same. It’s also true that for China, the North Korea and the Taiwan issue are inextricably linked.

On Dec. 2, soon after the U.S. presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump did something that no U.S. president had done for more than 37 years: He had direct contact with the president of Taiwan. It may seem a small thing, but for Beijing, this was not a trivial moment. It took Trump another two months to accept the “One China” policy – two months where Chinese strategic planners were left to wonder what the United States’ true intentions were with regard to Taiwan, and China’s territorial integrity in general.

 Chinese vendors sell North Korean and Chinese flags on the boardwalk next to the Yalu River in the border city of Dandong, northern China, across from the city of Sinuiju, North Korea, on May 24, 2017. KEVIN FRAYER/Getty Images

From the perspective of the Communist Party of China’s political legitimacy, Taiwan is the only part of China it has been unable to capture and integrate into its revolution. From the perspective of China’s defense strategy, Taiwan is an island 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from the mainland that a powerful navy could use as a base from which to blockade China or even to attack the mainland. If Taiwan were to gain U.S. recognition and perhaps even host U.S. forces, what is already a Chinese handicap would become an existential threat. It would also make a mockery of China’s faux-aggressiveness in the South China Sea, and would make previous American freedom of navigation operations look friendly in comparison.

China also faced another potential threat from the Trump administration: the potential that the U.S. might block Chinese exports from the U.S. market. A trade conflict between the two sides would hurt both parties, but China was always going to be hurt more, and President Xi Jinping could not afford an economic crisis in the lead-up to this month’s Party Congress, where he will solidify his dictatorship over the country.

What China needed, then, was a bargaining chip, a way of turning its position of weakness into one of strength. Enter North Korea. China had to proceed carefully. On the
one hand, China had to appear to have enough control over Pyongyang to divert the Trump administration from following through on some of its threats to redefine the U.S.-China economic relationship. On the other hand, China could not overstate its influence in North Korea such that the U.S. could hold China directly accountable for failure to help denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The July 2017 revelation by China’s Ministry of Defense that contact between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and North Korea’s military forces has completely ceased in recent years was meant to underline the limits of what Trump’s bargain with Xi at Mar-a-Lago in April had bought.
In reality, Xi has as little control over Kim Jong Un’s actions as Mao had over Kim Il Sung’s. But Xi does not need total control over Kim’s regime to use Kim to China’s advantage; all he needs is for China and North Korea to share an interest in limiting U.S. power in Asia, and there is little to suggest that interest is going away anytime soon. North Korea is pursuing a nuclear weapons programs to establish a nuclear deterrent against the United States. China doesn’t have to make such moves. It already has nuclear weapons and is far more powerful than Pyongyang. That allows China to be more pragmatic – that is, cooperative – in its dealings with the United States. But China’s pragmatism and willingness to work with the U.S. should not obscure the fact that, like North Korea, China is deeply suspicious of U.S. motives.

This, in turn, is one of the major limiting factors on the U.S. ability to attack North Korea. China has a mutual defense treaty with North Korea. And China, though it would prefer the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, does not necessarily lose if the U.S. were to try to solve the North Korea issue by force. This is because the attempt, absent some unknown technological devilry, wouldn’t work. The U.S. has tried and failed twice to win a war on the Asian mainland, and the situation in Korea hasn’t improved enough to think that the third time would be any different. China can’t beat the U.S. at sea, and it can’t take back Taiwan, but it can beat the U.S. in North Korea. That allows China to remind the U.S. that, though Beijing may not yet be able to achieve One China, its memory is long, its patience is vast, and classes in Confucian humility are readily available to those who seek them out.


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Stratfor sticks to its big picture Iran-US analysis
« Reply #803 on: October 10, 2017, 07:37:09 PM »

    Regions & Countries



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Deep ideological differences and mutual mistrust have marred the relationship between the United States and Iran since the Islamic Republic replaced the nation's monarchy nearly four decades ago. But time has done little to heal the wounds that each country has inflicted on the other. Their enduring enmity will be on full display this week as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to "decertify" the deal Iran has struck with global powers on its nuclear program by arguing that the agreement isn't in the best interest of U.S. national security. Though Washington will likely keep sanctions relief for Tehran in place for now, Trump's speech will trigger a 60-day review period during which Congress will have the power to reimpose them.

Despite this apparent setback for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the prospect that the longtime adversaries will eventually set aside their grievances hasn't entirely dimmed. Because while political narratives come and go, the geopolitical forces that led to the nuclear deal's inception are here to stay, pushing the United States and Iran closer and closer to rapprochement.
The President's Gamble

The current U.S. administration has placed far more emphasis on curbing Iran's activities throughout the Middle East than its predecessor did. Within the past year, the White House has tried to unite Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, into a coalition against Iran while stepping up its military aid and weapons sales to Sunni powers across the region. In all likelihood, Trump will steadfastly maintain this tough stance when he unveils his administration's policy on Iran later this week, announcing additional targeted sanctions against it. As long as the nuclear deal remains intact, though, the use of Washington's strongest tool against Tehran — wide-reaching sanctions — will be off the table.

By reopening the debate about the JCPOA with the threat of withdrawal, Trump hopes to either rein in Iran's regional meddling or persuade Tehran to broaden the deal to include restrictions on its ballistic missile program and on its support for militant groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The president's strategy, however, is not without risk. Any cracks that open within the JCPOA's framework could spread quickly, perhaps even leading to the deal's collapse. Trump's approach also relies on the assumption that Iran — a country with a precarious political balance to maintain within its borders — won't respond aggressively to provocation.

Still, the president's gamble may not be as risky as it seems. We need only look at the forces that shaped the JCPOA's signing in the first place to see why. Over the past decade, the United States has searched for a way to reduce its presence in the Middle East and shift its attention to other parts of the world, including a resurgent Russia and a rising China. The solution it has settled on is to balance Middle Eastern powers — including Iran — against one another, forming a built-in check to prevent any one country from becoming too influential. But Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons program was something that neither the United States nor its European allies could allow. The JCPOA thus offered a means of halting the program's progress without risking the outbreak of war.

The United States' pressing need to look beyond the Middle East persists to this day. In fact, if anything, it has become even more imperative: China's economy and military prowess are growing, the standoff between Russia and the West endures, and the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula has deepened. Reviving the nuclear ambitions of — and the threat of conflict with — Iran by abandoning the JCPOA would doubtless detract from the United States' ability to address these urgent needs in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific. It would also harden North Korea's belief (not to mention Iran's) that negotiation with the United States on nuclear issues is futile.

To make matters more complicated, Washington is alone in its newest strategy to contain Iran's influence. Unlike the United States, Europe considers Iran's regional ambitions to be separate from its nuclear activities, and the JCPOA to be pertinent only to the latter. The White House has blurred that distinction in a way the deal wasn't designed to handle. This discrepancy is the reason that the rationale behind Washington's decertification of the accord is key: The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agree that there is no evidence to suggest that Iran is not complying with the deal. And as long as Iran upholds its end of the bargain, the European Union will likely push back against any U.S. attempt to reinstate broad sanctions, which would damage several European companies. (The Continental bloc has already vowed to challenge the United States in the World Trade Organization if it tries to do so.)

All of these factors will make it difficult for Congress to put sanctions back in place against Iran. But perhaps that's exactly what the Trump administration is counting on. After all, the president derided the nuclear deal during his campaign for office. By punting the issue to Congress, where lawmakers will have a hard time resuming sanctions, Trump can wash his hands of the decision and gain the political cover needed to keep the agreement in place while adopting a tougher stance toward Iran.
Weighing the Cost of a Nuclear Weapon

Of course, the United States is only half of the JCPOA equation. And though Iran is often portrayed throughout the West as an erratic and unreliable partner, the country — like all nation-states in the global system — is a rational actor whose moves reflect its constraints and imperatives.

Chief among them, for the Islamic republic, is the simple need to survive. Throughout history, Iran has faced the threat of invasion from the west, first from powerful forces in Mesopotamia and then from the state of Iraq, particularly under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Seizing the chance that revolution afforded, Saddam invaded the Islamic republic not long after its establishment in 1979, prompting former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini to restart the deposed shah's nuclear weapons program in search of a credible deterrent against Iraq. Vital oil reserves along Iran's border with Iraq has only heightened its vulnerability in modern times.

With Saddam's removal from power, Iraq presented more opportunity than risk to Iran, and Tehran began to exert influence over its neighbor's Shiite leaders. But Iraq's fate also served as a stark warning: The weapons of mass destruction that were once an asset for Saddam became the liability that led to his downfall. The message was not lost on Iran, which halted most of its nuclear weapons development in 2003, even as it used the facade of the program's progress to drive a grand bargain with the United States.

This strategy, though quite rational, backfired by encouraging the creation of a powerful sanctions regime that crippled the Iranian economy. Prior to 1979, Iran's economy was roughly the size of Saudi Arabia's; today it is only three-fifths as large. As a result, the Islamic republic has struggled to make good on many of the promises that brought it to power. And in a country with a lengthy history of revolution and political upheaval, the popular backlash that sustained hardship tends to generate doesn't bode well for the government’s self-preservation.

Iran's leaders, who lack the immunity to widespread discontent that North Korea's dictatorship enjoys, believe that the greatest threat to the nation's stability today comes from within. Countering it requires a stronger economy and the careful management of social and political discord — both goals that have reinforced the growing sentiment among Iranians that the pursuit of a nuclear weapons program isn't worth the steep cost of sanctions. Consequently, Iran is keen to avoid making any rash decisions about its nuclear weapons development. Rather than uniting the United States and its allies by restarting its shuttered program, Tehran will likely keep using the issue to drive the wedge between them even deeper.
A Piece of a Bigger Puzzle

Iran will enter into any new negotiations over its nuclear program with an eye toward the rest of the international community as well. Iran has little incentive to remain a pariah state, given the extent to which that status has already devastated its economy, and a movement toward diplomatic moderation has blossomed among the country's leaders since the late 1980s. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is now the standard-bearer for that movement, though the volatile nature of the nation's politics has hampered his attempts to act on that ideology so far.

Nevertheless, he and his contemporaries have the heft of geopolitics on their side. Though Iran's rhetoric has traditionally targeted the United States, it is Turkey and Russia that may be more likely to threaten Tehran's security interests, especially as Washington withdraws from the region. Iran is deeply concerned about Turkey's resurgence in the lands it previously controlled during the Ottoman Empire, including Iraq and the Levant. And Russia — a country with which Iran has fought numerous wars — has similarly increased its involvement in Tehran's backyard over the past decade. Detente with an external powerhouse like the United States would certainly improve Iran's position against both threats.

Saudi Arabia is another regional rival that Iran is sure to watch, particularly given the Sunni kingdom's close relationship with the United States. Despite that partnership, however, Washington's strategy of balancing power in the Middle East requires just that: balance. Saudi Arabia's influence could therefore wane in the coming decades, especially since its prominence is based in oil reserves and the wealth that comes with them. As the Saudi oil industry becomes less lucrative over time, it will call into question the kingdom's economic vitality — and by extension, its utility as the United States' most powerful Middle Eastern ally.

Of course, Iran's economy relies on oil, too. But it is far more diversified, which suggests that it will fare better in a world where oil no longer reigns supreme. Moreover, Iran has the advantage of strategic location. As China works to build land routes through Asia to Europe, it will have to choose whether to pass through Iran or Russia — a decision that Beijing's natural rivalry with Moscow will make easy. With a quick glance at the map, it is clear how Iran's position on China's newest Silk Road would give Washington plenty of opportunities to counter both China and Russia if Tehran were its partner.
A Partnership Checked by Politics

The slow-moving undercurrents of geopolitics can take years to shape domestic policy. In the meantime, Iran and the United States will continue to display their mutual animosity at home. Iran's powerful hard-line groups, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have staunchly opposed negotiation with the United States. Trump's recent actions have only reinforced their belief that Washington cannot be trusted, and if Rouhani's administration offers to discuss scaling back its conventional weapons program, as some have suggested it might, their objections will only grow louder. Until Iran takes true strides toward a more moderate foreign policy, its conservative groups will continue to disrupt any agreement with the United States that stretches beyond its nuclear program.

Back in the United States, Iran's support for Middle Eastern militant groups and threats to the Persian Gulf have slowed Washington's attempts to pull back from the region. The reputation Iran has gained among the American public hasn't made things any easier: Many of Iran's current leaders were visible figures during the Islamic Revolution, the subsequent hostage incident at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the talks regarding Iran's nuclear program, all events that painted a picture of an untrustworthy nation. That paint will only start to chip away when the next generation of political leaders rises to power in both countries.

For now, Iran and the United States have reached a crossroads in their relationship. Many of their long-term imperatives have begun to align. But it remains to be seen how quickly they will override the more immediate national and regional problems that each state now faces. And should the nuclear deal collapse, it could push back the lasting relationship that Iran and the United States have begun to build by another decade.


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WSJ: Hazony: Inherent divisions in conservative foreign policy
« Reply #804 on: October 15, 2017, 12:12:13 PM »

Link copied…

    Opinion Commentary

Is ‘Classical Liberalism’ Conservative?
Trump didn’t divide the right. Centuries-old philosophical divisions have re-emerged.
By Yoram Hazony
Updated Oct. 13, 2017 6:38 p.m. ET

American conservatism is having something of an identity crisis. Most conservatives supported Donald Trump last November. But many prominent conservative intellectuals—journalists, academics and think-tank personalities—have entrenched themselves in bitter opposition. Some have left the Republican Party, while others are waging guerrilla warfare against a Republican administration. Longtime friendships have been ended and resignations tendered. Talk of establishing a new political party alternates with declarations that Mr. Trump will be denied the GOP nomination in 2020.

Those in the “Never Trump” camp say the cause of the split is the president—that he’s mentally unstable, morally unspeakable, a leftist populist, a rightist authoritarian, a danger to the republic. One prominent Republican told me he is praying for Mr. Trump to have a brain aneurysm so the nightmare can end.

But the conservative unity that Never Trumpers seek won’t be coming back, even if the president leaves office prematurely. An apparently unbridgeable ideological chasm is opening between two camps that were once closely allied. Mr. Trump’s rise is the effect, not the cause, of this rift.

There are two principal causes: first, the increasingly rigid ideology conservative intellectuals have promoted since the end of the Cold War; second, a series of events—from the failed attempt to bring democracy to Iraq to the implosion of Wall Street—that have made the prevailing conservative ideology seem naive and reckless to the broader conservative public.

A good place to start thinking about this is a 1989 essay in the National Interest by Charles Krauthammer. The Cold War was coming to an end, and Mr. Krauthammer proposed it should be supplanted by what he called “Universal Dominion” (the title of the essay): America was going to create a Western “super-sovereign” that would establish peace and prosperity throughout the world. The cost would be “the conscious depreciation not only of American sovereignty, but of the notion of sovereignty in general.”

William Kristol and Robert Kagan presented a similar view in their 1996 essay “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy” in Foreign Affairs, which proposed an American “benevolent global hegemony” that would have “preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain.”

Then, as now, conservative commentators insisted that the world should want such an arrangement because the U.S. knows best: The American way of politics, based on individual liberties and free markets, is the right way for human beings to live everywhere. Japan and Germany, after all, were once-hostile authoritarian nations that had flourished after being conquered and acquiescing in American political principles. With the collapse of communism, dozens of countries—from Eastern Europe to East Asia to Latin America—seemed to need, and in differing degrees to be open to, American tutelage of this kind. As the bearer of universal political truth, the U.S. was said to have an obligation to ensure that every nation was coaxed, maybe even coerced, into adopting its principles.

Any foreign policy aimed at establishing American universal dominion faces considerable practical challenges, not least because many nations don’t want to live under U.S. authority. But the conservative intellectuals who have set out to promote this Hegelian world revolution must also contend with a problem of different kind: Their aim cannot be squared with the political tradition for which they are ostensibly the spokesmen.

For centuries, Anglo-American conservatism has favored individual liberty and economic freedom. But as the Oxford historian of conservatism Anthony Quinton emphasized, this tradition is empiricist and regards successful political arrangements as developing through an unceasing process of trial and error. As such, it is deeply skeptical of claims about universal political truths. The most important conservative figures—including John Fortescue, John Selden, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton —believed that different political arrangements would be fitting for different nations, each in keeping with the specific conditions it faces and traditions it inherits. What works in one country can’t easily be transplanted.

On that view, the U.S. Constitution worked so well because it preserved principles the American colonists had brought with them from England. The framework—the balance between the executive and legislative branches, the bicameral legislature, the jury trial and due process, the bill of rights—was already familiar from the English constitution. Attempts to transplant Anglo-American political institutions in places such as Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Iraq have collapsed time and again, because the political traditions needed to maintain them did not exist. Even in France, Germany and Italy, representative government failed repeatedly into the mid-20th century (recall the collapse of France’s Fourth Republic in 1958), and has now been shunted aside by a European Union whose notorious “democracy deficit” reflects a continuing inability to adopt Anglo-American constitutional norms.

The “universal dominion” agenda is flatly contradicted by centuries of Anglo-American conservative political thought. This may be one reason that some post-Cold War conservative intellectuals have shifted to calling themselves “classical liberals.” Last year Paul Ryan insisted: “I really call myself a classical liberal more than a conservative.” Mr. Kristol tweeted in August: “Conservatives could ‘rebrand’ as liberals. Seriously. We’re for liberal democracy, liberal world order, liberal economy, liberal education.”

What is “classical liberalism,” and how does it differ from conservatism? As Quinton pointed out, the liberal tradition descends from Hobbes and Locke, who were not empiricists but rationalists: Their aim was to deduce universally valid political principles from self-evident axioms, as in mathematics.

In his “Second Treatise on Government” (1689), Locke asserts that universal reason teaches the same political truths to all human beings; that all individuals are by nature “perfectly free” and “perfectly equal”; and that obligation to political institutions arises only from the consent of the individual. From these assumptions, Locke deduces a political doctrine that he supposes must hold good in all times and places.

The term “classical liberal” came into use in 20th-century America to distinguish the supporters of old-school laissez-faire from the welfare-state liberalism of figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Modern classical liberals, inheriting the rationalism of Hobbes and Locke, believe they can speak authoritatively to the political needs of every human society, everywhere. In his seminal work, “Liberalism” (1927), the great classical-liberal economist Ludwig von Mises thus advocates a “world super-state really deserving of the name,” which will arise if we “succeed in creating throughout the world . . . nothing less than unqualified, unconditional acceptance of liberalism. Liberal thinking must permeate all nations, liberal principles must pervade all political institutions.”

Friedrich Hayek, the leading classical-liberal theorist of the 20th century, likewise argued, in a 1939 essay, for replacing independent nations with a world-wide federation: “The abrogation of national sovereignties and the creation of an effective international order of law is a necessary complement and the logical consummation of the liberal program.”

Classical liberalism thus offers ground for imposing a single doctrine on all nations for their own good. It provides an ideological basis for an American universal dominion.

By contrast, Anglo-American conservatism historically has had little interest in putatively self-evident political axioms. Conservatives want to learn from experience what actually holds societies together, benefits them and destroys them. That empiricism has persuaded most Anglo-American conservative thinkers of the importance of traditional Protestant institutions such as the independent national state, biblical religion and the family.

As an English Protestant, Locke could have endorsed these institutions as well. But his rationalist theory provides little basis for understanding their role in political life. Even today liberals are plagued by this failing: The rigidly Lockean assumptions of classical-liberal writers such as Hayek, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand place the nation, the family and religion outside the scope of what is essential to know about politics and government. Students who grow up reading these brilliant writers develop an excellent grasp of how an economy works. But they are often marvelously ignorant about much else, having no clue why a flourishing state requires a cohesive nation, or how such bonds are established through family and religious ties.

The differences between the classical-liberal and conservative traditions have immense consequences for policy. Establishing democracy in Egypt or Iraq looks doable to classical liberals because they assume that human reason is everywhere the same, and that a commitment to individual liberties and free markets will arise rapidly once the benefits have been demonstrated and the impediments removed. Conservatives, on the other hand, see foreign civilizations as powerfully motivated—for bad reasons as well as good ones—to fight the dissolution of their way of life and the imposition of American values.

Integrating millions of immigrants from the Middle East also looks easy to classical liberals, because they believe virtually everyone will quickly see the advantages of American (or European) ways and accept them upon arrival. Conservatives recognize that large-scale assimilation can happen only when both sides are highly motivated to see it through. When that motivation is weak or absent, conservatives see an unassimilated migration, resulting in chronic mutual hatred and violence, as a perfectly plausible outcome.

Since classical liberals assume reason is everywhere the same, they see no great danger in “depreciating” national independence and outsourcing power to foreign bodies. American and British conservatives see such schemes as destroying the unique political foundation upon which their traditional freedoms are built.

Liberalism and conservatism had been opposed political positions since the day liberal theorizing first appeared in England in the 17th century. During the 20th-century battles against totalitarianism, necessity brought their adherents into close alliance. Classical liberals and conservatives fought together, along with communists, against Nazism. After 1945 they remained allies against communism. Over many decades of joint struggle, their differences were relegated to a back burner, creating a “fusionist” movement (as William F. Buckley’s National Review called it) in which one and all saw themselves as “conservatives.”

But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, circumstances have changed. Margaret Thatcher’s ouster from power in 1990 marked the end of serious resistance in Britain to the coming European “super-sovereign.” Within a few years the classical liberals’ agenda of universal dominion was the only game in town—ascendant not only among American Republicans and British Tories but even among center-left politicians such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Only it didn’t work. China, Russia and large portions of the Muslim world resisted a “new world order” whose express purpose was to bring liberalism to their countries. The attempt to impose a classical-liberal regime in Iraq by force, followed by strong-arm tactics aimed at bringing democracy to Egypt and Libya, led to the meltdown of political order in these states as well as in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, the world banking crisis made a mockery of classical liberals’ claim to know how to govern a world-wide market and bring prosperity to all. The shockingly rapid disintegration of the American family once again raised the question of whether classical liberalism has the resources to answer any political question outside the economic sphere.

Brexit and Mr. Trump’s rise are the direct result of a quarter-century of classical-liberal hegemony over the parties of the right. Neither Mr. Trump nor the Brexiteers were necessarily seeking a conservative revival. But in placing a renewed nationalism at the center of their politics, they shattered classical liberalism’s grip, paving the way for a return to empiricist conservatism. Once you start trying to understand politics by learning from experience rather than by deducing your views from 17th-century rationalist dogma, you never know what you may end up discovering.

Mr. Hazony is president of the Jerusalem-based Herzl Institute. His book “The Virtue of Nationalism” will be published next year by Basic.

Appeared in the October 14, 2017, print edition.


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How the State Department is Undermining Trump’s Agenda
« Reply #805 on: October 21, 2017, 07:33:31 PM »

How the State Department is Undermining Trump’s Agenda
By The Editors| October 21, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has isolated himself from his own department and allowed subordinates to fill a handful of top positions with people who actively opposed Donald Trump’s election, according to current and former State Department officials and national security experts with specific knowledge of the situation.

News reports often depict a White House “in chaos.” But the real chaos, according to three State Department employees who spoke with American Greatness on the condition of anonymity, is at Foggy Bottom.

Rumors have circulated for months that Tillerson either plans to resign or is waiting for the president to fire him. The staffers describe an amateur secretary of state who has “checked out” and effectively removed himself from major decision making.

Hundreds of Empty Desks
About 200 State Department jobs require Senate confirmation. But the Senate cannot confirm nominees it does not have. More than nine months into the new administration, most of the senior State Department positions—assistant and deputy assistant secretary posts—remain unfilled.

What’s more, the United States currently has no ambassador to the European Union, or to key allies such as France, Germany, Australia, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Meantime, Obama Administration holdovers remain ensconced in the department and stationed at embassies in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East.

The leadership vacuum has been filled by a small group opposed to the president’s “America First” agenda.

At the heart of the problem, these officials say, are the two people closest to Tillerson: chief of staff Margaret Peterlin and senior policy advisor Brian Hook, who runs the State Department’s in-house think tank.

Peterlin and Hook are longtime personal friends who current staffers say are running the department like a private fiefdom for their benefit and in opposition to the president and his stated policies.

‘Boxing Out’ Trump Supporters
The lack of staffing gives the duo unprecedented power over State Department policy. Since joining Tillerson’s team, Peterlin and Hook have created a tight bottleneck, separating the 75,000 State Department staffers—true experts in international relations—from the secretary. As the New York Times reported in August, “all decisions, no matter how trivial, must be sent to Mr. Tillerson or his top aides: Margaret Peterlin, his chief of staff, and Brian Hook, the director of policy planning.” In practice, however, that has meant Peterlin and Hook make the decisions.

More important, sources who spoke with American Greatness say, Peterlin and Hook have stymied every effort by pro-Trump policy officials to get jobs at the State Department.

Margaret Peterlin
Margaret Peterlin

“Peterlin is literally sitting on stacks of résumés,” one national security expert told American Greatness. Together, Peterlin and Hook are “boxing out anyone who supports Trump’s foreign policy agenda,” he added.

Peterlin, an attorney and former Commerce Department official in the George W. Bush Administration, was hired to help guide political appointments through the vetting and confirmation process. She reportedly bonded with Tillerson during his confirmation hearings, and he hired her as his chief of staff.

Brian Hook
Brian Hook

Peterlin then brought in Hook, who co-founded the John Hay Initiative, a group of former Mitt Romney foreign-policy advisors who publicly refused to support Trump because he would “act in ways that make America less safe.” In a May 2016 profile of NeverTrump Republicans, Hook told Politico, “Even if you say you support him as the nominee, you go down the list of his positions and you see you disagree on every one.”

Hook now directs the department’s Office of Policy Planning, responsible for churning out policy briefs and helping to shape the nation’s long-term strategic agenda.

NeverTrumpers on Parade
In September, Peterlin and Hook hired David Feith, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer and the son of Douglas J. Feith, one of the architects of the Iraq War. Feith shares with Peterlin and Hook a deep dislike for President Trump. Feith, according to one State Department employee with knowledge of the hire, had been rejected by the White House precisely because of his opposition to the president and his policies. Peterlin and Hook forced him through anyway.

Incredibly, even the State Department’s spokesman, R.C. Hammond, was an outspoken NeverTrumper before the election, frequently tweeting jibes and barbs at the candidate. Hammond, a former aide to Newt Gingrich, is now the face and one of the leading voices of U.S. public diplomacy.

Many of these anti-Trump hires have occurred in the face of a hiring freeze Tillerson imposed earlier this year following an executive order to review agency and department staffing, along with the White House’s request to cut the State Department’s budget by 30 percent. But rather than put a check on untrustworthy career bureaucrats, the move had the opposite effect of empowering the president’s opponents.

State’s anti-Trump climate has shut out several top-notch foreign policy hands.

Kiron Skinner, founding director of the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University and a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, worked on Trump’s national security transition team and was hired as a senior policy advisor. She was considered for the job Hook now has in the Office of Policy Planning. But she was isolated from career staffers and quit after a few days.

At least Skinner managed to get into the building. Another former Reagan Administration staffer with decades of experience in U.S.-Russian affairs and international economics had spent months in 2016 campaigning for the president in critical battleground states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio. As soon as Trump won the election, this experienced analyst and several other pro-Trump associates were passed over for State Department jobs. It’s to the point that even internship candidates are being rejected if they volunteered for the Trump campaign.

Tillerson or No, Personnel is Policy
When he agreed to take the top diplomat’s job, Tillerson reportedly asked President Trump for autonomy‚ and got it. Unfortunately, his leadership style has changed from his days running ExxonMobil. In his definitive history of ExxonMobil, journalist Steve Coll described Tillerson’s approach as open and informal. By contrast, Tillerson’s modus operandi at state has been described as isolated, unapproachable, even “draconian.” 

In government today, the maxim that “personnel is policy” is truer than ever. As a result, the State Department mirrors the management style not of its leader, but of Tillerson’s chief aides who are at odds with the president’s stated foreign policy agenda.

Tillerson this week told the Wall Street Journal he would remain on the job “as long as the president thinks I’m useful.” But whether it’s Tillerson behind the secretary’s desk, or CIA Director Mike Pompeo, or any other foreign policy hand, a State Department staffed with opponents of the president is hardly useful to Americans who voted to reject the failed foreign policies of the past two administrations.

President Trump made “draining the swamp” a cornerstone of his campaign. How can he drain the swamp if the swamp dwellers control his administration and drown out voices of his most innovative supporters?


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WR Mead: President Trump's high-wire foreign policy
« Reply #806 on: November 14, 2017, 09:58:47 AM »
Donald Trump’s High-Wire Foreign Policy
It’s more conventional than expected, at a time when the world is more perilous.
Donald Trump’s High-Wire Foreign Policy
Photo: iStock/Getty Images
By Walter Russell Mead
Nov. 13, 2017 6:21 p.m. ET

President Trump inherited a world in crisis, with the Pax Americana challenged in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean. Today the White House has clear priorities—but questions about temperament and competence persist.

Think back 10 months to Inauguration Day. North Korea was regularly testing and improving its missiles and nuclear weapons, well on its way to threatening the American mainland. China was intensifying its multifaceted challenge to the Asian status quo. Iran’s expansionism threatened to plunge the Middle East into chaos, and the regime had outmaneuvered an Obama administration that was desperate for a nuclear deal. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for breakaway forces in eastern Ukraine presented legal and geopolitical challenges to the post-Cold War order. Venezuela’s progressive degradation threatened to destabilize Latin America, a region of direct interest to the U.S.

Remember, too, President Trump’s skepticism of global engagement. He came into office convinced that American interests were being undermined by the multilateral trading system, as established by the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He disdained the process enshrined in the 2016 Paris climate accord.


If all this weren’t enough, the incoming team knew that the American public was increasingly skeptical of large overseas commitments—whether to diplomacy, foreign aid or war. And the journalistic and foreign-policy establishments viscerally opposed Mr. Trump on personal and political grounds.

Talleyrand, Metternich, Bismarck and Kissinger, working together, would have had a difficult time managing a portfolio this large, urgent and unwieldy. The Trump administration has struggled visibly to develop a coherent approach. Yet as the president’s first year nears its conclusion, some order has begun to emerge, and at least the outlines of a Trump global policy now seem clear.

The first task was to set priorities, and it is obvious that the White House is putting Asia and the Middle East above other regions and issues. The crises in Ukraine and Venezuela are on the back burner. So are climate and trade policy, though the president’s tweets sometimes disguise this reality.

When addressing its priorities, the Trump administration has chosen an activist approach, tightening relations with traditional allies to restore regional orders under threat. This means checking Iran by working closely with the untested new Saudi leadership, as well as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

This anti-Iran phase is beginning in earnest now that the Trump administration’s original goal of destroying Islamic State’s so-called caliphate has been largely achieved. The White House also hopes the new constellation of forces will allow progress on another goal: containing and maybe even resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

In Asia the administration, working closely with Japan, is trying to assemble and strengthen a coalition to counterbalance China—while simultaneously seeking Chinese cooperation in tightening the screws on North Korea. The White House hopes that offering Beijing a smooth trade and political relationship will induce it to provide real help with the North Korea problem, even as the U.S. works to persuade the North Koreans that the risks of conflict are real.

Mr. Trump’s foreign policy has so far turned out to be more conventional than his rhetoric and style would suggest. Working with America’s traditional allies in Asia and the Middle East against those regions’ revisionist powers hardly amounts to a strategic revolution.

But if Mr. Trump’s current goals are conventional, the state of the world is not. He may well fail. The challenges are large, the learning curve is steep, and the terrain is unforgiving. Allies and adversaries are watching the Republican Party’s disarray on issues like health care, assessing the prospects of a Democratic wave in 2018, and paying close attention to the progress of the Mueller investigation. Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, like his presidency overall, is a gamble whose outcome the president cannot fully control.

For now Mr. Trump is performing a high-wire act, juggling his way across the Indo-Pak region even as his administration pursues ambitious goals in the Middle East. Some of the world’s most powerful countries hope that he fails, and they will do what they can to trip him up. Americans, regardless of party or their personal sentiments about Mr. Trump, should wish him success overseas. The consequences of failure could be extreme.

Mr. Mead is a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College.


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Re: WR Mead: President Trump's high-wire foreign policy
« Reply #807 on: November 15, 2017, 08:32:47 AM »
Walter Russell Mead writes with great wisdom in foreign policy.

"President Trump inherited a world in crisis, with the Pax Americana challenged in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean."

Pax Americana - a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world as a result of the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States beginning around the middle of the 20th century.

"... though the president’s tweets sometimes disguise this reality." - An analyst who recognizes this!

"working closely with Japan, is trying to assemble and strengthen a coalition to counterbalance China—while simultaneously seeking Chinese cooperation in tightening the screws on North Korea. The White House hopes that offering Beijing a smooth trade and political relationship will induce it to provide real help with the North Korea problem, even as the U.S. works to persuade the North Koreans that the risks of conflict are real."  - In 10 months, more than his predecessors did in a quarter century.

"Allies and adversaries are watching the Republican Party’s disarray on issues like health care, assessing the prospects of a Democratic wave in 2018..."  - Failure to come to agreement on all these issues at home hurts our standing abroad.  Kind of obvious but someone needs to point that out!

"Americans, regardless of party or their personal sentiments about Mr. Trump, should wish him success overseas."  - Mead is (was?) a Democrat.  Make him the next (Dem) nominee and we could have two parties that want what's best for our country.


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Stratfor: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD)
« Reply #808 on: November 15, 2017, 09:13:49 AM »
U.S. President Donald Trump's prominent tour of the Asia-Pacific ended with limited concrete success, but it has produced an important conceptual change to U.S. strategy in the region. On Nov. 12, leaders from the United States, India, Japan and Australia met in Manila to revive the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) and to urge cooperation for a free and open Indo-Pacific. The term Indo-Pacific, and the policy implications that come with it, is an important indicator of how the United States and its allies are working to shape geopolitics, or at least how it's conceived. And the fact that Trump repeatedly referred to the Asia-Pacific region as the Indo-Pacific points to just how central the idea is to his administration's foreign policy.

Geopolitics on the Asian continent is organized around the numerous seas, bays and lagoons that fringe its expansive oceans. The Indo-Pacific idea simply expands the conceptual region of Asia-Pacific to include India and the Indian Ocean. The QSD translates this geopolitical understanding into strategy, envisaging the two oceans as a single security space, which includes India and Japan, is bridged by Australia, and is undergirded by U.S. maritime dominance. The impetus for such a reconceptualization is simple: Japan and India, isolated as they are in their own oceans, want to balance against the Western Pacific's rising power, China, by uniting under a single geopolitical sphere.

The Indo-Pacific is not a new concept. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe first proposed the QSD in 2007 during his ill-fated first term, but it quickly fell apart after Australia's Labor Party-led government, which opposed the organization, assumed power. The idea of an Indo-Pacific region, however, endured. The notion has resurfaced time and again, brought up by numerous leaders in former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration during its Pivot to Asia. Most recently, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster began using the term instead of Asia-Pacific.

For a buzzword, Indo-Pacific has been remarkably durable. In the decade since Abe proposed the QSD, China's regional clout has only grown, making the QSD more relevant than ever. China has cemented its dominant position in the South China Sea, expanded in the disputed East China Sea, established footholds in the Indian Ocean, and pushed roads and military infrastructure to the Indian border. During the past year, China held a landmark summit of its 64-nation Belt and Road Initiative, made progress toward a South China Sea Code of Conduct, faced off with India on the Doklam Plateau, and opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. Meanwhile, a de facto alliance between China and Russia based on their shared interest in challenging the United States has begun to take shape.

As positive as all of these developments are for China, the country's rise and its attempts to gain more regional influence impinge on the imperatives of a growing number of other countries. This makes China uniquely vulnerable to the sort of alignment the QSD offers: Smaller nations in Asia feel less threatened by U.S. power because of the country's geographic distance from them. Separately, China's rivals have already been working to offset China's strength. In July, Japan participated in military exercises in India's Malabar region, which it also did in 2007, 2009 and 2014. Japan and India have also announced the launch of a program, the Freedom Corridor, to compete with China's Belt and Road program. The relaunch of the QSD builds on this cooperation and on the increasing military ties between all members of the QSD. Apart from countering China, the unique format addresses key interests from all of its members: Japan's need to protect energy flows from the Middle East, the United States' desire to devolve responsibilities to regional allies, as well as Australia's and India's bid to become maritime powers.

The success or failure of the QSD will be determined by not only cementing the initial grouping but by expanding the "Indo-Pacific" concept to include the numerous smaller powers bordering the two oceans. Countries occupying key geopolitical positions — namely Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Sri Lanka — could be enlisted as part of the effort to balance against China. But this is where the concept would run into serious trouble. Even at the height of the Cold War, when the competing Western and communist spheres of influence offered stark choices, the United States never succeeded in forging the same strategic unity in Asia it achieved on the other side of the Eurasian landmass through NATO. Without the imminent threat of the Cold War, the prospect of unity is even more limited today, particularly given increased interconnectedness of trade since the 1990s. Many small countries enjoy the economic benefits of strong relations with China and the security benefits of relations with the United States. They would be hard-pressed to align against either.

Even in its current form, the QSD's viability and effectiveness are questionable. India's military capacity is still limited, particularly in terms of its force projection capabilities, hindering its ability to advance its land-based goals, much less its maritime ones. India also has close connections to Russia, especially in the realm of defense procurement, and will be hosting the Russia-India-China trilateral meeting in December. In addition, the country has a long history of preserving autonomy, dating back to the Cold War, and is wary of subservience to any foreign power. Any balancing against China will have to factor in these three limitations. Even the stalwart U.S. allies Japan and Australia have their limits. Japan is engaged in the slow process of empowering its military for a role in foreign policy and will need to balance the expense of that shift against social spending. Australia, which nixed the original QSD, is torn between its strong economic relationship with China and its loyalty to its strategic allies. It's leaning toward its strategic allies now, but time and economic considerations could always change that.

Considering the shifting dynamics in the Asia-Pacific, the Indo-Pacific concept and its strategic implications have no guarantee of success. If the nascent alignment of the QSD does advance, its progress will be slow. But as China's regional ambitions grow, so will efforts to provide a coherent geopolitical response to that rise, including through the QSD.


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Has Stratfor been reading my posts here? haha
« Reply #809 on: November 16, 2017, 04:24:59 AM »
For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. But now that may be changing as a new, informal alliance takes shape between China and Russia. The two great powers have a mutual interest in overturning an international order that has long advantaged the West at their own expense. And as the Earth's sole superpower turns inward, they will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves. Will their marriage of convenience once more give rise to the bipolarity that characterized the Cold War, or will it unravel in the face of a natural rivalry rooted in geopolitics?
An Informal Alliance Emerges

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

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

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

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

Despite lacking an official alliance, Russia and China have acted virtually in lockstep on many major security issues.

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

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

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

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

A Durable Marriage of Convenience

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

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

Russia seems to have largely accepted the reality of China's rising power — an acceptance that is key to the formation of a compact between the two countries.

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

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

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

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

The Resurgence of the Middle

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

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

The country most likely to join the Sino-Russian compact is Iran.

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

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

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

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

Two Poles, Much Smaller Than Before

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

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

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

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

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


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Walter Russell Mead: The Eight Great Powers of 2017
« Reply #810 on: November 26, 2017, 04:36:44 AM »
The Eight Great Powers of 2017
In 2016, Russia surpassed Germany, and Israel joined the list for the first time.

1. The United States of America

No surprise here: as it has for the last century, the United States remains the most powerful country on earth. America’s dynamic economy, its constitutional stability (even as we watch the Age of Trump unfold), its deep bench of strong allies and partners (including 5 of the 7 top powers listed below), and its overwhelming military superiority all ensure that the United States sits secure in its status on top of the greasy pole of international power politics.

Not that American power increased over the past year. 2016 may have been the worst year yet for the Obama Administration, bringing a string of foreign policy failures that further undermined American credibility across the world. In Syria, Russia brutally assisted Assad in consolidating control over Aleppo and sidelined Washington in the subsequent peace talks. China continued to defy the American-led international order, building up its military presence in the South China Sea and reaching out to American allies like the Philippines. Iran and its proxies continued their steady rise in the Middle East, while the Sunnis and Israel increasingly questioned Washington’s usefulness as an ally. Meanwhile, the widespread foreign perception that Donald Trump was unqualified to serve as the President of the United States contributed to a growing chorus of doubt as to whether the American people posses the wit and the wisdom to retain their international position. Those concerns seemed to be growing in the early weeks of 2017.

In the domestic realm, too, America’s leaders did little to address the country’s pressing long-term economic problems, nor did they inspire much confidence in the potential for effective bipartisan cooperation. The populist surge that almost gave the Democratic nomination to the Socialist senator Bernie Sanders and brought Donald J. Trump to the White House was a sign of just how alienated from politics as usual many Americans have become. Foreigners will be watching the United States closely in 2017 to see whether and how badly our internal divisions are affecting the country’s will and ability to pursue a broad international agenda.

Still, for all this gloom, there was good news to be had. Fracking was the gift that kept on giving, as the United States surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the country with the world’s largest recoverable oil assets and American businesses discovered new innovations to boost their output. The economy continued its steady growth and unemployment fell to a pre-financial crisis low, with the Fed’s year-end interest rate hike serving as a vote of confidence in the economy’s resilience.

As the Trump administration gets under way, the United States is poised for what could be the most consequential shift in American policy in several generations. On some issues, such as the shale revolution, Trump will build on the progress already made; in other areas, such as China’s maritime expansionism or domestic infrastructure, his policies may bring a welcome change; in others still, Trump’s impulsiveness could well usher in the dangerous consequences that his liberal detractors so fear.

But regardless of what change the coming year brings, it is important to remember that America’s strength does not derive solely or primarily from the whims of its leaders. America’s constitutional system, its business-friendly economy, and the innovation of its people are more lasting sources of power, proving Trump critics right on at least one count: America has never stopped being great.

2.  China (tie)

In 2016, China cemented its status as the world’s second greatest power and the greatest long-term challenger to the United States. In the face of American passivity, Beijing projected power in the South and East China Seas, built up its artificial outposts and snatched a U.S. military drone at year’s end. Aside from its own forceful actions, China also enjoyed several strokes of good fortune in 2016, from the election of a China-friendly populist in the Philippines to the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will grant China a new opportunity to set the trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific.

China continued to alternate between intimidating and courting its neighbors, scoring some high-profile victories in the process. Most prominent was the turnaround from Manila, as the new Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte embraced China: in part because of his anti-Americanism, but also thanks to Chinese support for his anti-drug campaign and the promise of lucrative trade ties and a bilateral understanding on the South China Sea. Beijing also cannily exploited the Malaysian Prime Minister’s disillusionment with the United States to pull him closer into Beijing’s orbit, while pursuing cozier ties with Thailand and Cambodia.

Not all the news was good for Beijing last year. For every story pointing to Beijing’s growing clout on the world stage, there was another pointing to its inner weakness and economic instability. Over the course of the year, Chinese leaders found themselves coping with asset bubbles, massive capital flight, politically driven investment boondoggles, pension shortfalls, brain drain, and a turbulent bond market. The instinctual response of the Chinese leadership, more often than not, was for greater state intervention in the economy, while Xi sidelined reformers and consolidated his power. These signs do not suggest confidence in the soundness of China’s economic model.

And despite the gains made from flexing its military muscle, there have been real costs to China’s aggressive posture. In 2016, Vietnam militarized its own outposts in the South China Sea as it watched China do the same. Indonesia began to pick sides against China, staging a large-scale exercise in China-claimed waters. Japan and South Korea agreed to cooperate on intelligence sharing—largely in response to the threat from North Korea, but also, implicitly, as they both warily watch a rising Beijing. And India bolstered its military presence in the Indian Ocean in response to China’s ongoing “string of pearls” strategy to project power there. For all its power, then, China is also engendering some serious pushback in its neighborhood.

The new year finds China in an improved position but also a precarious one, as its economic model falters and it seeks to break out of its geopolitical straitjacket.

2. Japan (tie)

Here at TAI we have long argued that Japan is a perennially underrated global power whose influence has been steadily increasing over the past few years. 2016 saw that trend continue, thanks to smart diplomacy from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a widespread anxiety over China’s aggression that drove many of its neighbors toward greater cooperation with Tokyo.

In 2016, Japan continued to be at the forefront of opposition to China, pushing back against Chinese incursions and pursuing partnerships with other Asian states that are similarly troubled by China’s rise. In its own neighborhood, in the East China Sea, Japan upped its deterrence posture and announced plans to deploy a tactical ballistic missile shield. Tokyo also took a firmer stance on the South China Sea dispute (to which it is not a party) as it sought to rally claimants who are similarly fed up with China’s aggression. The threat from North Korea also strengthened Japan, allowing Tokyo and Seoul to find common ground on missile defense and an intelligence-sharing pact that infuriated Beijing. Farther abroad, Japan inked a landmark civil nuclear deal with India and continued to lay the groundwork for a promising partnership with New Delhi.

Not every Japanese initiative paid off: despite much hoopla about the Putin-Abe summit, Japan made little headway with Russia in their decades-old islands dispute. But on the whole, Abe can claim a remarkably successful year in foreign policy. Abe’s nationalist outlook and push for Japanese remilitarization remain controversial at home, but his record-high approval ratings and the ongoing reality of Chinese aggression have vindicated him for now.

America’s erratic course in the Pacific created both problems and opportunities for Japan. Obama’s dithering, Trump’s irascibility, and the collapse of American support for TPP meant that both friends and rivals became wary of an increasingly unpredictable United States. America’s unsteady course pushed Japan toward a more visible leadership role in the region, and Japan’s role in the construction of a maritime alliance to balance China took on a much higher profile than before. Japanese nationalists welcomed the country’s newly assertive regional stance, but they worried about the reliability of Japan’s most important ally.

On the economic front, Japan’s year was less successful. Economic growth continued to be sluggish for much of 2016, despite a better-than-expected third quarter. The demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was another setback, dealing a blow to Japan’s economic strategy and its efforts to contain China. Still, Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy, and it shrewdly wielded its financial clout in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka as it sought to counter China’s checkbook diplomacy. All in all, Japan in 2016 continued to prove its mettle, acting not only as a powerful balance against China but as a major power in its own right.

4. Russia

Russia rose in our power rankings this year as Vladimir Putin continued to punch above his weight, defying predictions of economic collapse and military quagmire. The country once dismissed by President Obama as a “regional power” acting out of weakness ran circles around the United States in Syria, held its ground in Ukraine, weathered an economic storm at home, watched cracks widen in the European Union, and inserted itself into the heart of the American presidential election.

Putin scored both tactical and symbolic victories in Syria, allowing Assad to retake Aleppo while repeatedly humiliating the United States in the process. Russia’s ability to sideline the U.S. in post-Aleppo peace talks only confirmed that Russia, not the U.S., has become the major power broker in the county. Meanwhile, Putin’s reconciliation with Erdogan, NATO’s most estranged ally, positions Russia well to drive a wedge between Turkey and the West while laying the groundwork for a favorable settlement in Syria.

Closer to home, Russian troops continued to forestall any lasting peace in Ukraine, rendering any talk of EU or NATO integration a moot point. Russia-friendly leaders were elected in Georgia, Estonia, and Moldova, while the EU was buffeted by the shocks of Brexit, Eurosceptic populist insurgencies across the continent, and an ongoing stream of refugees, created in large part by Russia’s actions in Syria.

Putin’s fortunes took another upturn in November, when the United States elected Donald Trump, who has consistently promised to pursue friendlier ties with Moscow. The post-election uproar over Russia’s hacking of the DNC, and the dubious assertion that Trump will be Putin’s Manchurian candidate also played right into Putin’s hands, creating an impression that the all-powerful Putin holds the American electoral process in his hands.

When faced with these victories, it is worth remembering Russia’s many underlying weaknesses. Russia remains a weakly institutionalized state, subject to the whims of its strongman leader, and torn by long-simmering ethnic divisions and vast inequality. Its economy is resource-dependent and highly vulnerable to price shocks. Its military capabilities are laughably out of sync with the superpower image it attempts to project around the world. None of these realities changed this year, and all of them undermine Russia’s long-term potential as a great power. But 2016 showed that in a world of weak opponents, Russia can punch well above its weight. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

5. Germany

Germany was ahead of Russia in last year’s power rankings. This year, their positions are reversed. Partly, this is because Putin had a good year; partly, it is because Germany, and Germany’s project in Europe, had a bad one.

As we wrote last year, Germany is locked in a long-term fight with Russia over the future direction of Europe. Germany wants a Europe in which European policies and laws are decided by EU institutions without outside interference. Germany’s dream is Russia’s nightmare; for hundreds of years Russia has had a say in almost every important question in Europe. Russia’s most important economic interests and, historically at any rate, its most important security concerns are European. The idea that a bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels can decide what rules Gazprom must obey, or how Russian minorities in the Baltic states are to be treated strikes many Russians (even many of Putin’s opponents) as unacceptable. Russia wants to be involved in European decision making about defense, about trade, about migration and about the Middle East. It wants a veto over NATO and EU expansion, and it wants a larger say in how these institutions work. It wants to bring power back into European politics, and to revive the old fashioned games of balance of power. Russia wants to tear down the edifice that Germany is trying to build.

In 2016, the wrecking ball gained on the construction crew. It wasn’t just the Brexit vote, though that vote was a profound shock to the European system and its rippling aftershocks continue to shake the foundations of the EU. There were also the continuing gains in public opinion polls of parties (both on the right and on the left) who oppose the current version of the European project in countries like France, Italy and the Netherlands—all among the six original founding members of the EU. It was the continuing rise to power of “illiberal democrats” in countries like Poland and Hungary. It was the continuing impasse over the euro and the corrosive fallout of the eurocrisis. It was the shock of Syrian and North African migrants, flocking into Europe and setting the EU countries against one another, even as Chancellor Merkel weakened her authority at home and abroad by a poorly thought out if warm hearted response to the crisis. It was the abrupt deterioration in EU-Turkish relations, and the painful realization in Brussels and Berlin that the EU will have to swallow its pride and concerns for human rights in order to prevent Turkey’s emerging strongman from blackmailing Europe with the threat of opening the floodgates for migration from Syria, Afghanistan and other troubled Islamic countries.

Europe was less united, less confident and less strong at the end of 2016 than it was at the beginning. With the election of Donald Trump, a man whose sympathies seem to lie more with the wrecking ball than with the construction crew, Europe’s prospects could darken still more. And with them, Germany’s clout could diminish further.

6. India

Like Japan, India is often overlooked in lists of the world’s great powers, but it occupies a rare and enviable position on the world stage. India is the world’s largest democracy, home to the second-largest English-speaking population in the world and boasting a diversified and rapidly growing economy. On the geopolitical front, India has many suitors: China, Japan and the United States are all seeking to incorporate India into their preferred Asian security architecture, while the EU and Russia court New Delhi for lucrative trade and defense agreements. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, India has deftly steered its way among these competing powers while seeking to unleash its potential with modernizing economic reforms.

Not that Modi’s economic reforms are going all that well; the public backlash resulting from Modi’s hasty demonetization policy this year showcases the perils of overzealous reform. And India’s rapid growth trajectory has brought other crises that the government has been ill-equipped to address, India’s accelerating air pollution being the most visible example. Meanwhile, the escalation of the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan threatened to edge two bitterly opposed nuclear powers to the brink of war.

Despite these internal problems and the Pakistan scare, India found its footing elsewhere in 2016. Long hesitant to pick sides, New Delhi took several clear steps this year to deter a rising and aggressive China, announcing that it would fast-track its defense infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean, amid fears that China was trying to encircle India with a “string of pearls.” Likewise, Modi explored new naval cooperation with both the United States and Japan, and signed a host of defense deals with Russia, France and Israel to modernize the Indian military. From the Middle East and East Africa to Southeast Asia, India is making its presence felt in both economics and security policy in ways that traditional great powers like Britain and France only wish they could match.

7. Iran

The proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran continued unabated throughout 2016, and as we enter the new year Iran has confidently taken the lead. Saudi Arabia remains a formidable power, but it was Iran that pulled ahead in the last 12 months.

Throughout 2016, Iranian proxies were on the march across the Middle East, and the Shi’a Crescent seemed closer to reality than ever before. In Lebanon, Tehran rejoiced at the growing clout of Hezbollah and the election of Shi’a-friendly Michel Aoun, while the Saudis bitterly cut off aid in a sign of their diminishing influence in Beirut. And in Syria, Shiite militias helped to retake Aleppo and turn the tide for Assad. Iran was also gaining ground in Iraq. More disquieting than all this, from the Saudi perspective, were developments in Yemen. Iran-backed Houthi rebels took the fight to the Saudi-backed government in a war that has already claimed 10,000 lives.

Meanwhile, the fruits of the nuclear deal continued to roll in: high-profile deals with Boeing and Airbus sent the message that Iran was open for business, while Tehran rapidly ramped up its oil output to pre-sanctions levels.

2017 may be a more difficult year for Tehran; one of the mullahs’ most important assets, President Obama, is no longer in office and, as far as anybody can tell, the Trump administration seems more concerned about rebuilding ties with traditional American allies in the region than in continuing Obama’s attempt to reach an understanding with Iran.

8. Israel

This year there’s a new name on our list of the Eight Greats: Israel. A small country in a chaotic part of the world, Israel is a rising power with a growing impact on world affairs. Although 2016 saw the passage of yet another condemnation of Israel at the United Nations, this time in the Security Council thanks to an American decision to abstain rather than veto, overall the Jewish state continues to develop diplomatic, economic and military power and to insert itself into the heart of regional politics.

Three factors are powering Israel’s rise: economic developments, the regional crisis, and diplomatic ingenuity. Looking closely at these tells us something about how power works in the contemporary world.

The economic developments behind Israel’s new stature are partly the result of luck and location, and partly the result of smart choices. As to the luck and location factor, large, off-shore discoveries of natural gas and oil are turning Israel into an energy exporter. Energy self-sufficiency is a boost to Israel’s economy; energy exports boost Israel’s foreign policy clout. In 2016 Erdogan’s Turkey turned on most of its NATO and Western allies; ties with Israel strengthened. Turkey’s Islamist ruler wants gas, and he wants to limit Turkey’s dependence on Russia. Israel is part of the answer.

But beyond luck, Israel’s newfound clout on the world stage comes from the rise of industrial sectors and technologies that good Israeli schools, smart Israeli policies and talented Israeli thinkers and entrepreneurs have built up over many years. In particular, Israel’s decision to support the rise of a domestic cybersecurity and infotech economy has put Israel at the center of the ongoing revolution in military power based on the importance of information control and management to 21st century states. It is not just that private investors all over the world look to invest in Israel’s tech startups; access to Israeli technology (like the technology behind the Iron Dome missile system) matters to more and more countries. It’s not just America; India, China and Russia all want a piece of Israeli tech wizardry.

Other, less glamorous Israeli industries, like the irrigation, desalinization and dry land farming tech that water poor Israel has developed over the decades play their part. Israel’s diplomatic outreach to Africa and its deepening (and increasingly public) relationship with India benefit from Israel’s ability to deliver what people in other countries and governments want.

The second factor in Israel’s appearing on our list is the change in the Middle Eastern balance of power that has transformed Israel from a pariah state to a kingmaker. On the one hand, Syria, one of Israel’s most vociferous enemies and biggest security threats in the old days, has now been broken on the wheel. What has happened in Syria is a terrible human tragedy; but in the cold light of realpolitik the break up of Syria further entrenches Israel’s military supremacy in its immediate neighborhood. Egypt hates Hamas, ISIS and Islamic Jihad as much as Israel does; never has Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation been as close as it is today. Even more consequentially, the rise of Iran and its aspirations to regional hegemony on the one hand and the apparent support for its dreams from the Obama administration made Israel critical to the survival of the Sunni Arabs, including the Gulf states, who loathe Iran and fear a Shia victory in the religious conflict now raging across the Middle East. The Arab Establishment today has two frightening enemies: radical jihadi groups like ISIS on one side, and Iran on the other. Israel has a mix of intelligence and military capabilities that can help keep the regional balance stable; privately and even not so privately many prominent Arab officials today will say that Israeli support is necessary for the survival of Arab independence.

Finally, Israel has managed, uncharacteristically, to advance its global political agenda through effective and even subtle diplomacy. Just as Israel was able to strengthen its relationship with Turkey even as Turkish-U.S. and Turkish EU relations grew distant, Israel has been able to build a realistic and fruitful relationship with Russia despite Russia’s standoff with the west over Ukraine, and Russia’s ties with Iran. The deepening Israel-India relationship has also required patience and skill. Israel’s diplomatic breakthroughs in relations with African countries who have been hostile to Israel since the 1967 war were also built through patient and subtle diplomacy, often working behind the scenes. That behind-the-scenes outreach diplomacy has also helped Israel achieve new levels of contact and collaboration with many Arab countries.

It is not, of course, all sweetness and light. Hezbollah has tens of thousands of missiles aimed at Israel and, thanks to Iran’s victories in Syria, it can now enjoy much more reliable supplies from its patron. The Palestinian Question is as far from a solution as possible, and even as they fragment and squabble among themselves, the Palestinians continue to fight for Israel’s delegitimation in the UN and elsewhere. Israeli politics are as volatile and bitter as ever. The kaleidoscopic nature of Middle East politics means that  today’s hero can be tomorrow’s goat. While the breakdown of regional order has so far been a net positive for Israel’s security and power, things could change fast. In ISIS coup in Saudi Arabia, the collapse of Jordan, the fall of the Sisi government in Egypt: it is not hard to come up with scenarios that would challenge Israel in new and dangerous ways.

Former President Obama and his outgoing Secretary of State, John Kerry (neither widely regarded these days as a master of geopolitics), frequently warned Israel that its policies were leaving it isolated and vulnerable. This is to some degree true: European diplomats, American liberals and many American Jews are much less sympathetic to Israel today than they have been in the past. Future Israeli leaders may have to think hard about rebuilding links with American Democrats and American Jews.

But for now at least, Israel can afford to ignore the dismal croaking of the previous American administration. One of a small handful of American allies to be assiduously courted by the Trump campaign, Israel begins 2017 as the keystone of a regional anti-Iran alliance, a most-favored-nation in the White House, and a country that enjoys good relations with all of the world’s major powers bar Iran. Teodor Herzl would be astonished to see what his dream has grown into; David Ben-Gurion would be astounded by the progress his poor and embattled nation has made.
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Re: US Foreign Policy
« Reply #811 on: November 26, 2017, 09:35:45 AM »
WRM consistently produces quality, thoughtful pieces.


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Re: US Foreign Policy
« Reply #812 on: November 26, 2017, 10:36:29 AM »
WRM consistently produces quality, thoughtful pieces.



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Re: US Foreign Policy, WRM 8 powers
« Reply #813 on: November 27, 2017, 08:20:56 AM »
WRM consistently produces quality, thoughtful pieces.

Agreed.  A great deal of wisdom in that and about as concise as you can accurately sum up the eight greatest powers in the world today.  When he writes something a disagree with on foreign policy, it moves me to reconsider my position.

Odd  that he has Japan in a tie with China.  I don't agree but it causes me to consider that we are underestimating the importance of Japan.  Japan aligned with the United States, India, South Korea and the other powers in the region perhaps approaches the power of China going against the region. (?)   Trump seems to understand the value of Japan (and India) to us in counterbalance to China.

Quite interesting that Israel is becoming somewhat of an ally to some powers in the Middle East.

Also kind of sad that the UK is no longer a major power.

You could have a complete understanding of all these current forces in the world and still have no idea which way it will turn from here.


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Re: Walter Russell Mead: Trump brings foreign policy back to earth
« Reply #815 on: November 28, 2017, 09:39:32 AM »
Another from WRM!

"Mr. Trump’s mix of ideas, instincts and impulses is not as ill-suited to the country’s needs as his most fervid detractors believe.

What gives Mr. Trump his opening is something many foreign-policy experts have yet to grasp... "[What his predecessors were doing wasn't working.]

Mead isn't predicting foreign policy success for Trump but he breaks from other 'experts' in that he isn't ruling it out.


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GPF: The Coming Conflict Between China & Japan
« Reply #816 on: December 06, 2017, 06:49:55 AM »
The Coming Conflict Between China and Japan

Dec. 6, 2017 As the U.S. nears the limits of its power, regional powers will be more unencumbered than ever before.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

It is easy to forget that as recently as the 19th century, China and Japan were provincial backwaters. So self-absorbed and technologically primitive were East Asia’s great powers that German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel said, “The extensive tract of eastern Asia is severed from the process of general historical development.” His description seems laughable today. China and Japan are now the second- and third-largest economies in the world. Japan’s failed quest for regional domination during World War II and its subsequent economic reconstruction profoundly affected the world. China’s unification under communism and its pursuit of regional power in the past decade have been no less significant.

And yet, for all the strength and wealth Beijing and Tokyo accumulated, since 1800 neither has been powerful enough to claim dominance of the region. Since European and American steamships discovered their technological superiority relative to the local ships in the first half of the 19th century, Chinese and Japanese development has proceeded at the mercy of outside powers. Japan tried to break out, and came close to breaking out during World War II, but was ultimately thwarted by the United States. China, already anointed by many as the world’s great superpower, remains a country divided. The lavish wealth found in its coastal regions is noticeably, if not entirely, absent from the interior.

This state of affairs is beginning to change – and the U.S.-North Korea stand-off over Pyongyang’s pursuit of deliverable nuclear weapons shows just how much. The United States does not want North Korea – a poor, totalitarian state of roughly 25 million malnourished and isolated people – to acquire nuclear weapons capable of striking the U.S. mainland. The U.S. has threatened North Korea with all manner of retribution if Pyongyang continues its pursuit of these weapons, and yet North Korea remains undaunted. It is doing this not because Kim Jong Un is crazy. It is doing this because it figures it will be left standing, come what may.

It may not be such a bad wager. From Kim’s point of view, there are only two ways to get North Korea to halt its development of nuclear missiles: The U.S. either destroys the regime or convinces it that continued tests would call into question its very survival. (For that to work, the regime would have to believe it could be destroyed.)

The U.S. can rail all it wants in the U.N.; it will fall on deaf ears. The U.S. can try to assassinate Kim Jong Un; someone else will take his place. The U.S. can forbid China from fueling North Korea; the North Koreans don’t use that much fuel anyway, and they have already demonstrated they will sacrifice much to defend their country.

One Step Closer

But can the U.S. take out the Kim regime, or at least make Pyongyang think it can? It’s hard to say. There are only two ways to take out the regime. The first – using the United States’ own vast nuclear arsenal – would set a precedent on the use of weapons of mass destruction that Washington would rather not. The second – a full-scale invasion and occupation of North Korea – would strain even U.S. capabilities and wouldn’t have the desired outcome. The U.S. might be able to defeat the North Koreans in the field, but as Vietnam and the Iraq War showed, defeating the enemy in battle is not the same thing as achieving victory. And there is, of course, the question of China, which came to Pyongyang’s aid in 1950, the last time the U.S. fought on the Korean Peninsula, and might well again if the U.S. struck North Korea pre-emptively with massive force.

(click to enlarge)

Limited military strikes are another possibility. Politically attractive though they may be, they can only delay, not destroy, North Korea’s nuclear program. And they would surely enhance Pyongyang’s credibility. Every U.S. attack that doesn’t succeed in knocking out the political leadership would be used as propaganda, spun in the North Korean countryside as a victory against the “gangster-like U.S. imperialists.”

Thus is the extent, and limit, of American power. Around the world, the U.S. has been struggling to execute a foreign policy that does not rely on direct U.S. intervention. This is easier said than done, especially when the issue at stake is nuclear war. Analysts like me can scream until we are blue in the face that North Korea would never use its nuclear weapons because doing so would invite its own demise. But we are not the ones making the decision. We don’t bear the burden of being wrong.

That is the brilliance behind North Korea’s strategy. The goal is to prod the U.S. to react to its behavior – and then to use its reactions to shore up support. And the strategy is working. The U.S. has said time and again that it will not allow North Korea to have a nuclear weapon. If North Korea gets a nuclear weapon, then what good is a U.S. security guarantee? If the U.S. attacks North Korea without destroying the Kim regime – and I believe it can’t – then North Korea can say it defeated the imperialists as it continues to pursue its current strategy. If the U.S. agrees to remove its forces from South Korea in exchange for North Korea’s halting its testing, then North Korea is one step closer to its ultimate goal: unifying the Korean Peninsula under Pyongyang’s rule.

Doing, Not Saying

In every scenario, the conclusion is the same: The United States alone cannot dictate terms in East Asia. It cannot bring North Korea to heel. It cannot make China do what China does not want to do. It cannot even persuade its ally, South Korea, to pretend that a pre-emptive military option is on the table. Japan looks at all the things the U.S. cannot do, and for the first time since 1945 it must ask itself a question that leads to a dark place: What does Japanese policy look like if Tokyo cannot rely on U.S. security guarantees?

The North Korea crisis may not have created Washington’s predicament, but it exposed it in ways previously unseen, to China’s benefit. The U.S. has shed blood and spent untold sums of money forging an alliance network in East Asia to prevent any country there from challenging its power. And so it is the region’s great power, China, not North Korea, that is putting U.S. strategy to the test. Already an economic behemoth, China is rapidly developing its military capabilities. Its newly declared dictator-president, Xi Jinping, intends to preside over a massive transformation of the Chinese economy that, if successful, would make China more self-reliant and politically stable than at any point in the past four centuries. China still has a long way to go – too long before it first loses its political stability, in our estimation – but in the short term, China’s power is growing. Chinese adventurism in the South and East China seas, its strategic investments around Asia, and the continued development of its navy all validate its growing power.


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Its ascendance will inevitably bring China into conflict with Japan. Such conflict is nothing new – these civilizations have fought their fair share of wars. The brutality of the Japanese invasion of China in the 20th century – an invasion for which Korea was a staging ground – still lingers fresh in the memories of the Chinese and Korean people. But the conditions for conflict are different this time. For one thing, China and Japan are both powerful. In the early 20th century, Japan discovered the difficulties that many of China’s would-be conquerors did when it attempted to take over the Middle Kingdom, but Japan was still by far the superior power. It’s hard to say which is stronger today. China has a greater population, but Japan is more stable and boasts better military and technical capabilities. This has the makings of a balanced rivalry.

China and Japan, moreover, are no longer worried about being subjugated. This may seem an obvious observation, but in fact it is the first time since the Industrial Revolution that both countries have been able to call their own shots. They came close a few times, of course. Japan nearly came to dominate the Pacific but was eventually subdued by the United States. China wanted to conquer Taiwan in a bid for complete unification, but the arrival of the U.S. 7th Fleet to the Taiwan Strait dashed the government’s hopes.

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Now, the first signs of the coming Sino-Japanese competition for Asia are reaching the surface. Ignore the things Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping have said to each other recently – their statements seek to obscure reality, not uncover it. Look instead at what they are doing. China is investing significant financial and political capital in the Philippines in an attempt to lure Manila away from the U.S. Japan is there with military aid and support, as well as economic incentives of its own. China sees strategic potential in cultivating a relationship with Myanmar, and Japan is there too, with promises of aid and investment without the kinds of strings China often attaches. Much has been made in the mainstream media about China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a testament to Beijing’s excellent PR skills. Less time has been spent examining Japan’s counters – resuscitating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pledging to invest more than $200 billion in African and Asian countries, and announcing various initiatives involving the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japan Infrastructure Initiative. China has bullied other powers out of the South China Sea, but Japan won’t be bullied out of the East China Sea. Meanwhile, Japan advocates the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – a grouping of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia – to keep China’s power confined to its traditional terrestrial domain.

The conflict will develop slowly. Its contours are just now taking shape. The United States won’t simply disappear from Asia entirely – Washington still has an important role to play, and how it manages the North Korea crisis will go a long way in defining the long-term regional balance of power. But over the next few years, the U.S. will begin to reach the limits of its powers, and as it does, it will pursue a new strategy that employs skillful manipulation of relationships instead of brute force. It will find that China and Japan are no longer severed from world history but shaping history on their own terms.


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WSJ: The World has taken Trump's Measure
« Reply #817 on: December 06, 2017, 09:54:14 AM »
Not how I would put it  :wink:

The World Has Taken Trump’s Measure
From Asia to Europe, he has squandered America’s influence and moral authority.
By William A. Galston
Dec. 5, 2017 7:19 p.m. ET

Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to make America great again. As president he is doing the opposite: He is making America smaller than at any time in the past 100 years.

By pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr. Trump has ceded economic leadership in Asia and beyond to China, whose president touts the Chinese model to other countries that want the blessings of prosperity without the inconveniences of liberty. To back up this offer, China is investing huge sums in its “One Belt, One Road” plan and in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

These moves are having the intended effect. Myanmar, which had long been dominated by anti-Chinese sentiment, is now accepting China’s blandishments. The country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, went to Beijing last week for a conference hosted by the Communist Party.

Vietnam, which has looked to the U.S. as a counterweight against its historical enemy to the north, now wonders whether it must accept Beijing’s economic leadership and yield to its claims in the South China Sea. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made noises about abandoning his country’s alliance with the U.S. in favor of China. Even Australia, one of our closest allies, is openly debating how to deal with American decline.

In the Middle East, the Trump administration is busy giving ground to Russia. Vladimir Putin is conducting Syrian peace talks while America languishes on the sidelines. Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, is endorsing the Kremlin’s leading role. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently met with Mr. Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani to support negotiations on the future structure of the Syrian government and state.

Egypt was another long-term linchpin of American diplomacy, and Mr. Trump has lavished praise on its autocratic leader. Yet Cairo has just struck a deal allowing the largest Russian military presence on its soil and in its airspace since 1973. The U.S. doesn’t even have an ambassador in Egypt, let alone a coherent policy to deal with this pivotal country.

Even in Europe, America has been diminished. Mr. Trump’s early ambivalence toward NATO, which gave way to a grudging expression of support, have left a residue of doubt about the credibility of American guarantees. He has driven a wedge between the U.S. and Germany, long our closest ally on the Continent. The “special relationship” with the United Kingdom may not survive his repeated gaffes, capped by his impulsive decision to retweet discredited anti-Muslim videos from a British fringe group.

Close to home, Mr. Trump’s brand of leadership is sorely trying Canadians’ patience: 93% view him as arrogant, 78% as intolerant, and 72% as dangerous. Mexico’s people have also been united against the U.S., by Mr. Trump’s ham-handed immigration policies and heedless negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement. This may well lead Mexicans to elect an anti-American left-wing populist as their president next year. That Mr. Trump has no discernible policy toward Central and South America is probably a good thing.

Squandering America’s economic and political influence is bad enough. Far worse has been the way Mr. Trump has dissipated our moral authority. Yes, the U.S. has struck deals with unsavory regimes, especially during the Cold War, and has sometimes failed to respect the outcomes of free and fair elections. In the main, however, America has pushed for free societies and democratic governments around the world, while speaking against repression in all its forms.

Until now. The Trump administration has all but abandoned democracy promotion. In practice, an “America First” foreign policy means being indifferent to the character of the regimes with which the U.S. does business.

I wish I could say that President Trump shares this indifference. In fact, he prefers autocrats to elected leaders. He admires their “strength.” He envies their ability to get their way without the pesky opposition of legislatures and courts. He probably wishes he had their power to shut down critical news organizations. In his ideal world, everyone would fall in line behind his goals, and his will would be law.

The world has taken President Trump’s measure. In a 2017 survey of 37 countries, 64% of people expressed confidence in Barack Obama’s ability to do the right thing in international affairs, compared with 22% for Mr. Trump. The current president’s figures were 11% in Germany, 14% in France, and 22% in the U.K. The principal exception was Russia, where Mr. Trump enjoyed 53% approval, compared with 11% for Mr. Obama.

In 1776, at the threshold of American independence, the Founding Fathers espoused a “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Today, citizens of countries around the world regard the U.S. as morally diminished under Mr. Trump’s leadership. He shows no signs of caring, and he probably doesn’t.

Appeared in the December 6, 2017, print edition.


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US Foreign Policy: 1) Grow the economy
« Reply #818 on: December 08, 2017, 11:17:17 AM »
Just saying aloud what is so obvious that no one ever says it.  The first and biggest thing (not the only thing!) we can do to strengthen our security and our foreign policy is to step out of stagnation and grow the economy. Let's make sure the table is set to do that.

We have had a good year of repealing over-regulation.  The tax bill, if it ever gets passed, does a lot to reverse the environment where 4700 US companies moved out of the US while we had a historic dearth of real, new startups.  The tax bill as it passed the Senate includes a provision for drilling in ANWR, about 20 years late, and repeals the Obamacare individual tax penalty.

If this tax reform bill succeeds in delivering growth, more bills can follow to accelerate that and lock it in.

Building a wall takes money, as does shipbuilding, modernization, keeping ahead of the Russians, Chinese, rogue states and sending military assets to the Middle East and Pacific Rim.  We need new technologies to keep up with new enemies in cyber-warfare, EMP and more.

In the coming years there will be great debates about allocating sufficient resources for defense.  That debate goes much better when incomes, wages, revenues and jobs are growing, as compared to the recent past environment where all the growth was in food stamps, SSI and public debt.  Bargain from a position of strength!


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WSJ: Sen. Tom Cotton and a Foreign Policy for Jacksonian America
« Reply #819 on: December 10, 2017, 05:49:55 AM »
A Foreign Policy for ‘Jacksonian America’
Sen. Tom Cotton has a worldview—even a doctrine—that is hawkish and realistic, though tinged with idealism.
By Jason Willick
Dec. 8, 2017 6:12 p.m. ET


At 40, Tom Cotton of Arkansas is the youngest member of the U.S. Senate. He was called a young man in a hurry four years ago when he announced, during his first and only term in the House, that he would challenge the incumbent senator, Mark Pryor. Now there is talk President Trump may nominate him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency as part of a national-security shake-up. Admirers have also suggested he is presidential timber.

I met Mr. Cotton this week in his Capitol Hill office to explore his foreign-policy thinking. What emerged was the outline of a coherent if contentious worldview—one might even call it a doctrine—that begins with a sense that U.S. foreign policy has been adrift for a quarter-century.

“The coalitions of the Cold War rapidly began to break down as soon as the Soviet Union dissolved,” Mr. Cotton says. That first became clear during the debate over the Balkan wars of the Clinton years. “You had some Cold War hawks that were all of a sudden sounding like doves,” Mr. Cotton says, referring to conservatives who’d been staunchly anti-Soviet but were wary of U.S. involvement in what was then Yugoslavia. “You had Cold War doves”—including the liberal humanitarians of the Clinton administration—“that were beginning to sound like Teddy Roosevelt, ready to charge up the hill. That pattern consistently repeated itself” in subsequent years.

When it comes to America’s present challenges—from Iran to North Korea, China to Russia, Syria to Ukraine—Mr. Cotton, a conservative Republican, is squarely on Team Roosevelt. “There is always a military option,” he says. “That is the case everywhere in the world.”

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But he believes that the lack of a clear organizing principle for how and when to use that power has knocked America’s global strategy off kilter. It also has created a divide between foreign-policy elites and what Mr. Cotton calls “Jacksonian America”—heartland voters who favor a strong national defense but are skeptical of foreign entanglements and humanitarian interventions.
A Foreign Policy for ‘Jacksonian America’
Illustration: Ken Fallin

“Foreign policy, to be durable and to be wise, must command popular support,” Mr. Cotton says. Statesmen and diplomats “might craft what they think is a wise foreign policy—something that Metternich or Bismarck might draw up in his study,” he continues. “But without the support of Jacksonian America, the people who are going to cash the checks that are written by elites in New York and Washington”—that is, to pay the price for intervention—“no foreign policy can ultimately be successful.”

On that score, he thinks the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations all fell short. “Some of the interventions over the last 25 years, I think, have been plainly unwise and had very limited popular support, and they’ve created foreign-policy disasters,” he says. As a prime example, he cites the desultory 2011 air campaign in Libya, whose aftermath is now “destabilizing Europe and creating new terrorist breeding grounds.” President Obama, Mr. Cotton argues, “probably did the wrong thing” in helping to oust Moammar Gadhafi while leaving Bashar Assad alone. If the U.S. had intervened in Syria and not Libya, “we might have had a happier end in both.”

What about Iraq, where Mr. Cotton served as a U.S. Army infantry captain? The senator does not say, as President Trump has, that the invasion was a mistake—although neither does he tell me, as he insisted as recently as 2016, that Iraq was a “necessary, just and noble war.”

Instead, he observes that the war’s mismanagement alienated voters and cost Republicans dearly. The Bush administration, he adds, erred in prioritizing democratic ambitions ahead of the basic task of securing the country: “There was a belief in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in 2003 that we could simply fly the flag of democracy, have an election with some purple fingers”—the symbol of proud Iraqi voters in 2005—“slap a uniform on some people, call it an army and declare victory.” On the other hand, he calls the 2007 surge George W. Bush’s “finest hour.”

For Mr. Cotton, the lesson from Iraq is not that the U.S. should be more circumspect about confronting hostile powers. Rather, it is that security must come first—before “political reconciliation, economic development, democracy promotion, human rights or anything else. Without security, there’s nothing else.” That’s one reason Mr. Cotton’s hawkish approach to Iran emphasizes strictly military objectives, not political or ideological ones. “Any military action against Iran,” he says, “would look more like Operation Desert Fox from Iraq in December of 1998 or Operation El Dorado Canyon in Libya in 1986.” Those were limited bombing campaigns designed to punish misbehaving regimes. Mr. Cotton insists—controversially—that such an attack on Iran would not require a sustained military commitment: “It would be primarily a naval and air attack against its nuclear infrastructure.”

Mr. Cotton sees Iran as a greater long-term challenge than North Korea. But Kim Jong Un’s nuclear brinkmanship is the more immediate threat. “If I were the leader of Japan or I were the leader of South Korea,” he says emphatically, “and I had any reason to doubt U.S. resolve to extend its nuclear deterrent to me, then I would absolutely pursue nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Trump has suggested he is relying on Beijing to help solve the North Korea problem. Mr. Cotton thinks that is unlikely: “China is a rival in every regard. China is not a partner.” He calls China’s 2001 admission to the World Trade Organization “one of the biggest failures of post-Cold War foreign policy.” He is fiercely critical of the view that integrating China into the global economy would cause it to liberalize internally. “Those who argue that position,” he tells me, “should have their judgment impeached in future, similar arguments.”

At the same time Beijing is becoming more repressive at home, it is challenging the U.S. “in every domain, not just militarily, but politically and economically and diplomatically.” Mr. Cotton worries that China, a rising power, can afford to play the long game, and that “in many ways, they’ve been beating us at that game.” The U.S. needs to “join the competition in every way,” including by conducting more freedom-of-navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea. Yet in the very long game, Mr. Cotton says, America’s market liberalism gives it a clear advantage: “Nothing in China’s state-driven economy has rewritten the basic rules of market-driven economics that have made the Anglo-Americans the dominant world power for 400 years.”

Has the Trump administration undercut this advantage by pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which had been designed to draw other Asian countries into America’s orbit? “I know that many of the countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership who thought they got a good deal from the Obama administration have pitched that line,” Mr. Cotton answers. “I know that Xi Jinping ”—China’s president—“has pitched that line as well. I’m skeptical.” Mr. Cotton’s view on TPP seems less an exercise in antitrade philosophy than a bow to political reality: “Ultimately, the American people simply did not want to ratify that agreement.” The voters who swung the 2016 election to Mr. Trump “believed that we needed to make fewer economic and political concessions to allies than might have been necessary in the Cold War to defeat the Soviet Union.”

If Mr. Cotton sounds comfortable accommodating the Trumpist mood on trade, he rejects the view that the U.S. might be able to “get along” with Russia, as Mr. Trump frequently suggests. “Russia is the great land power of the Old World,” he says. “The United States is the great maritime power of the New World. Those facts will never change; those facts will always create tension between our nations.”

Mr. Cotton points to a book on his coffee table, “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville. “I assume you’ve read that book over there,” he says. Tocqueville, Mr. Cotton paraphrases, predicted that Russia’s authoritarian spirit and America’s democratic spirit put the two countries on a collision course. As Tocqueville puts it, “each seems called by some secret desire of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.”

In discussing Vladimir Putin, Mr. Cotton makes clear his prime concern is U.S. interests, not the Russian president’s dictatorial practices at home. “I condemn Russia for their atrocious treatment of their own people,” he says. “But it’s of graver concern that they are bombing our allies in Syria, or that they are invading sovereign countries in the heart of Europe.” Russia’s various aggressions, he says, “spring from the common core of Vladimir Putin being a dictator.”

Mr. Cotton’s hawkish realism is tinged with idealism. “It simply is a fact,” he says, “that the American people have moral aspirations about America’s role in the world, and about the Founding principles of America being universal.” There’s no contradiction, however, if favoring democracy also serves U.S. interests.

“The easiest way to prevent attack is to secure the Western Hemisphere,” he says, and “the easiest way to secure the Western Hemisphere is to defend forward in the Old World”—by which he means the Middle East and Asia as well as Europe. “In doing so, we would need to have alliances and those alliances are easier to build with countries that share our principles. That doesn’t mean that we can only work with democratic governments or with capitalist societies, but those are longer-lasting, more durable alliances.”

Mr. Cotton does not share liberal internationalists’ alarm over developments in Poland and Hungary, both of which are consolidating power around populist parties of the right. “Many of those Central and Eastern European countries are moving towards nationalism. and I think that’s an understandable trend,” he says. “If your nation had spent 100 years being invaded and occupied and facing genocide you might be happy with the way you are as well—which is small and politically, culturally, ethnically, linguistically homogenous. Much of the turn in these countries . . . is against the Brussels-driven transnationalist movement in Europe.”

This points to the obvious establishmentarian critique of the Cotton Doctrine: that a shortsighted focus on security over values and national interest over multilateralism risks damaging American interests in the long run. But there’s another, more serious risk: that the impulse to send American troops to so many chaotic and disorderly places cannot hold the support of Jacksonian America. If military intervention leads to quagmire, it could widen the gap between elites and the public that Mr. Cotton says he is trying to bridge.

If he can navigate around these treacherous pitfalls, the Republican Party may one day be his. But even if he can’t, his ambition to ground America’s long-drifting foreign policy is serious and valuable. The Cotton Doctrine represents a first draft of the GOP’s effort to rebuild a coalition that began to fall apart not long after the Berlin Wall.

Mr. Willick is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.


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WSJ: Walter Russell Mead: Trump's Blue Water Policy
« Reply #820 on: December 26, 2017, 12:18:18 PM »

Trump’s ‘Blue Water’ Foreign Policy
The administration’s new security strategy is reminiscent of Pax Britannica.
President Donald Trump speaks on his administration’s National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, Dec. 18.
By Walter Russell Mead
Dec. 25, 2017 3:19 p.m. ET

Most National Security Strategy statements are appallingly platitudinous, numbingly conventional and quickly forgotten. In the history of the U.S. government, no ranking official in a moment of crisis has ended a bitter policy debate by turning to a dog-eared, well-thumbed copy of the current National Security Strategy and saying, “Wait, people! Just calm down! The answer is right here on page 37.”

Yet the Trump strategy represents a significant accomplishment. It reconciles the instincts of an unconventional president with the views of a more seasoned and conventional national-security team. The new approach breaks with the conventionally globalist assumptions of American foreign policy and instead embraces an older strategic approach.

As recently as the early 20th century, Britain ruled the waves and took the lead in the construction of a liberal, capitalist world system. During its long reign, two foreign-policy schools faced off over how to engage with Europe. On one side were advocates of a “continental” strategy, which prioritized alliances and close political cooperation with key European states. On the other were advocates of a “blue water” policy, who encouraged Britain to turn away from Europe and toward the open oceans, using its unique global position to maximize its power and wealth.

The bitter fight over Brexit shows that the blue-water-vs.-continentalist divide lives on in British politics. That division also matters in the U.S., Britain’s successor as the world’s leading naval and commercial power. In contemporary America, continentalists see the Atlantic world, and the thick institutional web that developed among the Cold War allies, as the template on which a peaceful global society can and should be built. From this perspective, the wisest American foreign policy would work through these international institutions and with Western partners to make the rest of the world look more like NATO and the European Union.

The Trump administration hews closer to the blue-water school. In the time of Pax Britannica, blue-water partisans believed Britain could accumulate great strength and wealth by advancing its interests in the wider world. This would do more to keep the country strong and respected than success in the intricate games of European diplomacy, they believed. A strong and rich Britain could always intervene in European politics if necessary to preserve the balance of power, and a globally dominant Britain would always be respected, even if it failed to make itself loved.

This is the view now driving many of America’s key foreign-policy decisions. The Trump administration sees the Paris climate accord as a potential obstacle to America’s recent exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon resources, which has upended global power politics to America’s advantage. It sees current trade agreements as unfairly privileging commercial and geopolitical rivals like China. Above all, it sees itself embroiled in a geopolitical competition with China that cannot be won by invoking principles of multilateral institution-building and maxims of international law.

Asia before Europe, realism before liberal internationalism, American prosperity before global solidarity: This is a vision that appears to blend the pragmatic approach of the professionals in President Trump’s national-security team with the less disciplined but still sometimes acute insights that helped him win the election.

A modern blue-water approach to foreign policy need not entail abandoning the West, turning away from the world, or discarding the democratic ideals that resonate so deeply in American history. To the contrary, blue-water strategists in the Trump national-security team believe that it is American power, not multilateral institutions, that keeps the West afloat. If challenges to American power from countries like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are successful, the wider West will weaken and crumble.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and his team deserve credit for finding ways to narrow the gap between President Trump’s strongly held personal views about foreign policy and the ideas embraced by mainstream Republicans. Whether they can make the strategy work in the real world remains an open question. But they appear to have done with this document all that an administration can hope to accomplish with a National Security Strategy—that is, to lay out the broad principles and elements of consensus on which the administration will base its work.

The world remains as unstable and crisis-prone as it did before the publication of the NSS. The Trump administration’s national security apparatus, on the other hand, seems to be finding its sea legs.

Mr. Mead is a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a professor of foreign affairs at Bard College.


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GPF: George Friedman: Russia and China's alliance of convenience
« Reply #821 on: December 26, 2017, 12:26:24 PM »

Russia and China’s Alliance of Convenience

Dec. 26, 2017 A common enemy isn’t the basis for a stable, enduring partnership.

By Jacob L. Shapiro

China and Russia conducted a six-day military exercise last week. The exercise simulated attacks on both countries from ballistic and cruise missiles. The Chinese Ministry of Defense declined to identify which country was the simulated aggressor in the exercise, but it’s not hard to figure out that it was the United States.

A few days into the exercise, the Trump administration published its National Security Strategy. The document is 68 pages long, but one line in particular from the second page has been quoted endlessly in the media: “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests.” These two developments raise the same question: Is a Sino-Russian alliance emerging?

Military cooperation between Russia and China has indeed increased in recent years. The two main vectors for this cooperation have been weapons purchases and military exercises. Since the end of the Cold War, China has been the Russian weapons industry’s largest and most consistent customer. One of China’s more recent and consequential acquisitions from Russia, S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems, are set to be delivered to Beijing in 2018. China’s current SAM force has a range of only about 185 miles (300 kilometers). The S-400s will have a range of 250 miles. This will put all of Taiwan within range of Chinese SAMs and will extend China’s range in the East and South China seas.
Soldiers in action during a drill on day three of the China-Russia counterterrorist Cooperation-2017 on Dec. 5, 2017, in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China. VCG/Getty Images

China and Russia have also stepped up the frequency, and complexity, of joint military exercises. They held their first joint exercise in 2003. Since then, the two countries have conducted nearly 30 military drills together. The most recent exercise, which tested readiness to combat an attack from a more advanced air power, was as much for show as it was to hone technical capabilities. The same can be said for Russian-Chinese naval drills held in the Sea of Japan back in September. Chinese state news agency Xinhua insisted that the exercises were not linked to North Korea, but considering the timing and location, that’s a dubious claim. That both drills coincided with U.S.-South Korean-Japanese drills is further evidence of their political nature.

Superficial Alliance

Many observers view these developments as signs of a nascent Russian-Chinese alliance. And both Russia and China want observers to think precisely that. Just take the recent anti-missile exercise. Russia’s ambassador to China made a point of telling Russian reporters last week that the exercise was an example of “vigorously developing military cooperation.” The subsequent article based on the ambassador’s remarks, published in Russian media, was picked up and posted verbatim on the only official English-language military news website of China’s People’s Liberation Army. It’s an article that, frankly, is difficult to take seriously. After the early headline-grabbing quotes, the story lists the areas where China and Russia are increasing cooperation: “military medicine, martial music, and military orchestras.”

Military cooperation, even over such weighty matters as military orchestral arrangements, does not guarantee, or even imply, an alliance between two countries. An alliance is a relationship of serious gravity. When two countries forge an alliance, it means their interests are aligned. In practical terms, that means they will put aside small-ticket items and points of contention because there is a larger shared interest that is of immense importance. The currency of an alliance is trust. The products of an alliance are duty and obligation. Alliances are not entered into lightly, nor are they broken easily. They are based on shared interests that are clear to both sides, interests important enough that they justify the sacrifice by the people of one country for the people of another should a threat arise.

This is not the basis of the Russia-China relationship, and it cannot be the basis of a Russia-China alliance. This is not to say that Russia and China don’t have some basis for cooperation. Both countries chafe at the extent and application of U.S. power. Russia and China are land-based powers of continental size whose access to the global economy can be significantly curtailed by the U.S. Navy in the event of conflict. U.S. power is uniquely suited to limit Russian and Chinese ambitions. For instance, Russia’s primary imperative is to extend its influence out to the Carpathians. The U.S. is blocking Russia from achieving this. China seeks to conquer Taiwan to make the South China Sea a Chinese lake. The U.S. stands in the way. China and Russia share an enemy, and that means a certain level of coordination is useful.

The Multipolarity Myth

When Russian and Chinese leaders get together, one of the buzzwords they use to discuss their policies is “multipolarity.” Multipolarity is part wishful thinking and part strategy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the world has been unipolar – that is to say, only one country has had the ability to project global power: the United States. Russia and China would see that changed. That is where Russia and China’s shared vision begins – but it’s also where it ends. Russia and China agree that the U.S. should not be a dominant superpower. But they have a vastly different sense of what the alternative reality should be. Russia sees the alternative as a rebirth of Russian power on the order of the Soviet Union’s. China sees the alternative as reclaiming the mandate of heaven, a position that was usurped by Western imperialist powers in the 19th century at a period of maximum Chinese vulnerability. Their issue is not with a unipolar world. Their issue is that they themselves are not the ones calling the shots.

The two sides use the word multipolar to paper over this difference. Better to focus on weakening the U.S. now and work out differences later. But there is only so much that can be papered over. After all, from Beijing’s perspective, Russia was one of the Western imperialist powers that took advantage of Chinese vulnerability. Vladivostok is the most important city in eastern Russia, the home base of Russia’s Pacific Fleet – and China views Vladivostok and the roughly 350,000 square miles of territory around it that it was forced to cede to Russia in previous centuries as Chinese land. Russia views Central Asia as part of its sphere of influence. China views Central Asia as crucial to its plans to develop its own interior and to find alternate routes to Europe until its military is capable of challenging the United States.

(click to enlarge)

From Russia’s perspective, China is a Pacific-facing power whose fundamental interests lie outside of Russia’s interests. Russia has also always seen China as lacking a basic sense of strategy as it is understood in the West, and Moscow believes that this lack of strategy, along with China’s internal inconsistencies, limits China’s effectiveness outside of its main wealth centers on the coast. From China’s perspective, Russia is part of a bygone world order that it seeks to rearrange to its own benefit. China’s patience is as long as its memory. China has not forgotten the various humiliations it was forced to endure, whether U.S. support of Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War or Russia playing all sides during the Second Opium War to solidify its position in Asia at China’s expense.

Russia and China don’t trust each other, and they don’t trust each other because they have divergent interests. They work hard to keep this mutual distrust out of public view: military cooperation, economic investments, a chummy relationship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, and promises of coordination on China’s grand plans to unify the world via belts and roads all serve to make it appear that the two sides are in lockstep. But these are surface-level political affairs of convenience. Russia and China challenge U.S. power, security and interests, but they do so for vastly different ends. It will be their undoing.


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Stratfor 2018 predictions
« Reply #822 on: December 27, 2017, 05:42:05 PM »

Reckoning With North Korea: Though the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula can't be ruled out, the United States will probably try to avoid a costly preventive strike against the North's nuclear weapons program that would plunge the global economy back into recession. Instead, Pyongyang's demonstration of a viable nuclear deterrent next year will spawn a new and more unstable era of containment.

Hedging All Around: Deepening collaboration between China and Russia will pose a strategic threat to the United States, spurring Washington to try to check the budding partnership by reinforcing its own allies in the Eurasian borderlands. The fluidity of alignments among great powers will increasingly define the international system as Moscow and Beijing balance against each other, just as many U.S. allies hedge their relationships with Washington.

Putting Trade Ties to the Test: The White House will forge ahead with an aggressive trade agenda that targets China, Mexico, South Korea and Japan. While the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea hangs by a thread, congressional and legal checks on U.S. executive power will have a better chance of keeping the North American Free Trade Agreement intact. The United States' increasing unilateralism in trade will expose the weaknesses of the World Trade Organization, but it won't shatter the bloc or trigger a trade war.

Revisiting Iran: North Korea's nuclear weapons achievements will fuel a hard-line U.S. policy toward Iran, jeopardizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel close ranks against Iran, proxy battles across the Middle East will intensify. But Iran won't walk away from its nuclear deal with the West. Russia will nevertheless exploit the tension mounting between Washington and Tehran, as well as its advantage on the Syrian battlefield, to expand its influence in the Middle East at the United States' expense.

Managing an Oil Exit Strategy: Major oil producers hope to stay on track to rebalance the global oil market in 2018. As the expiration of their pact to limit production and draw down inventories approaches, compliance will slip among OPEC and non-OPEC participants alike. Even so, Saudi Arabia and Russia may be able to work together to counteract an expected uptick in U.S. shale output.

The Next Phase of China's Reform: Chinese President Xi Jinping will take on entrenched local interests as the central government tackles the next phase of its reform agenda: wealth redistribution. A slowing property sector and corporate debt maturities will compound financial pressures on China's northeastern rust belt in 2018, but Beijing has the tools it needs to prevent a systemic debt crisis.

France Finds Its Voice: France will find itself on more equal footing with Germany next year as it defends Southern European interests and debates eurozone reform. The possibility of a more Euroskeptic government emerging in Italy will send jitters through financial markets, but the country won't leave the currency zone.

Populism Persists in Latin America: Popular frustration with the political establishment will make for a more competitive election season in three of Latin America's biggest economies: Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Should a populist president take office in Mexico, Congress will block him from enacting any sweeping policy changes. Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina will have a narrow window in which to implement domestic reforms and push ahead with trade talks in the Common Market of the South before political constraints start piling up against them.


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Kissinger and Schultz in front of the Armed Services Committee
« Reply #824 on: January 27, 2018, 12:55:38 PM »
second post

2.5 hours.  I listened entranced through out.


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National Defense Strategy Summary
« Reply #825 on: February 03, 2018, 09:16:37 AM »


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Walter Russell Mead on Kissinger
« Reply #826 on: February 06, 2018, 06:50:59 AM »

A Word From Henry Kissinger

What can a column on foreign affairs add to today’s cacophonous debate? ‘Context.’
By Walter Russell Mead
Feb. 5, 2018 7:22 p.m. ET

When The Wall Street Journal asked me to become its Global View columnist, I immediately went for advice to the dominant figure in American foreign policy of the past 50 years: Henry Kissinger.

Asking Mr. Kissinger a question is a little like inquiring at the Oracle of Delphi: You never quite know what you are going to get. Some queries elicit long, learned analyses. Mr. Kissinger often deftly weaves together the motives of the leaders involved, the interests of the U.S., and the effect of American domestic politics on the range of available choices.

Some questions elicit a more lapidary response. In the aftermath of the Cold War, I once heard someone ask Mr. Kissinger what he saw as the most important trends in the world. I braced myself for an hour of sage but complex geopolitical monologue. Instead he replied with a single sentence, albeit one with more substance than most books published in the field: “You must never forget that the unification of Germany is more important than the development of the European Union, that the fall of the Soviet Union is more important than the unification of Germany, and that the rise of India and China is more important than the fall of the Soviet Union.”

My request for advice as a new columnist did not even merit a sentence; Mr. Kissinger had only a word for me. What a column on international affairs should seek to provide, he said, is “context.”

That short answer points to the heart of Mr. Kissinger’s worldview—and to the vast intellectual gap between him and most of the academics who study foreign affairs and the bureaucrats who carry it out. It has often been said, sometimes by Mr. Kissinger himself, that he is a “realist” while many of his critics are “idealists.” There is some truth there, and Mr. Kissinger’s most trenchant opponents attack what they characterize as his cynical willingness to achieve policy objectives through morally dubious or even reprehensible means. But the gap between Mr. Kissinger and the rest cuts deeper. He isn’t suspicious merely of rosy idealism; he is suspicious of those who think ideologically about foreign policy, reasoning down from first principles and lofty assumptions rather than grounding their analysis in the messiness and contradictions of the real world.

Unlike so many professors, policy makers and pundits on both the left and right, Mr. Kissinger does not believe the arc of history makes house calls. American values may one day prevail around the world, but no leader should base strategic calculations on a hope that Russia, China and Iran will turn into friendly liberal democracies in a relevant time frame. Nor would a wise policy maker assume that other powers share America’s interest in, for example, an end to the North Korean nuclear program—or any initiative aimed at making the international order more stable and secure.

Oddly, the “conservative” Mr. Kissinger takes diversity much more seriously than many of his liberal critics. Historical study and a lifetime of experience have taught Mr. Kissinger the folly of assuming that Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Ayatollah Khamenei thinks like American leaders do or wants the same things. Each of these men and their supporters are grounded in cultural and historical imperatives that do not always mesh with ideas about Adam Smith, liberal order and win-win negotiating.

When Mr. Kissinger advises a columnist to focus on “context,” he is suggesting that there is value in helping readers to appreciate the kaleidoscopic variety and sometimes dizzying complexity of the forces at work on the international scene, and in explaining how those forces interact with American politics.

In 2018, this mission is more important than ever. After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States and its Cold War allies sought to spread Western institutions around the world, but that effort has ground to a halt. Support for free trade, free movement of capital, free speech and free government is in retreat in many places, the U.S. not excepted. Geopolitical rivals are trying to roll back American power, and longtime allies like Turkey are moving away from the West. The end of history has ended, and the world is suddenly looking more Kissingerian.

It has never been more important to understand world events, and it has rarely been harder to do so. I look forward to the challenge of engaging with the Journal’s readers on the momentous geopolitical trends of our time, and I hope that this column can help, if only in a small way, prepare our country for the tests that lie ahead.


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WSJ: Will China Impose a New World Order?
« Reply #827 on: February 10, 2018, 09:28:53 AM »
Will China Impose a New World Order?
When Pax Britannica gave way to Pax Americana, the transition was peaceful. A repeat is unlikely, says the author of ‘Safe Passage.’
By Tunku Varadarajan
Feb. 9, 2018 6:32 p.m. ET

When Kori Schake was a senior at Stanford in 1984, she enrolled in a seminar on Soviet politics taught by Condoleezza Rice, then 29. The two young women hit it off. “I was a dreamy, impractical kid, and didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do after I graduated,” says Ms. Schake (pronounced “shocky”). “Condi saw me at loose ends and offered me a job as her research assistant.” They worked together for a year on a book about “elite selection in the military that Condi never ended up writing. But I read everything about what makes the American military tick. Everything.”

Thirty-four years later, Ms. Schake has written a book—her fourth—whose jacket carries a glowing blurb from her illustrious former professor. The book, “Safe Passage,” traces the international order’s transition from British to American hegemony. With all of the talk of China’s rise and what it will mean for the U.S., Ms. Schake says, she “got curious about the history of transitions between a rising power and an established global hegemon. The only peaceful transition in all of history, I found, is the one between Britain and the United States.” (Ms. Schake has made that transition in reverse. She moved earlier this month from Stanford to London, where she is an executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a defense think tank.)

The U.S. did not fully supplant Britain until 1945. But the American challenge began in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, under which the U.S. declared the Western Hemisphere to be its own exclusive zone of influence. “It was the first opportunity the United States had to assert a different calculus for the rules of international order,” Ms. Schake says. “A hegemon isn’t just a country that’s powerful or wealthy, but one that aspires to set the rules and is willing to enforce them.”

Is China the next hegemon? President Xi Jinping appears to challenge the U.S. frequently and deliberately. Ms. Schake agrees that Mr. Xi is “clearly telegraphing that China wants different rules.” She points to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative—a plan to establish a China-centered global trading network that would extend to Western Europe, Northern Africa and Australia, under which Beijing would make loans to countries that need to expand their infrastructure. She also cites Beijing’s aggressive maritime claims, most prominently in the South China Sea, to which “Chinese scholars make comparisons with the Monroe Doctrine. It’s a legitimation device, by which they say, ‘You had your sphere of influence when you were a rising power. Now we have our sphere.’ ”
Will China Impose a New World Order?
Illustration: Terry Shoffner

Not that Ms. Schake thinks the U.S. should accede. “There’s no reason for us to accept that Chinese assertion,” she says, because China’s neighbors—over whom Beijing seeks to impose its will—are “friends and partners and allies of the United States. We aren’t a modern parallel of European states seeking to colonize Latin America.”

Most states in the Asia-Pacific region seem content with the existing order, and “by being so brazen and uncooperative during its rise, China has actually activated the antibodies that will help prevent its success.” The exception is the Philippines, which has cozied up to Mr. Xi, “but that has less to do with China and more to do with the leadership in Manila”—a reference to the maverick Filipino president, Rodrigo Duterte.

In her book, however, she warns that “America is making the same strategic choice with China that Great Britain did with a rising America,” in assuming that the rising power “can be induced to comply with extant rules.” Does that mean that the Pax Americana must someday give way to a Pax Sinica? After all, that British tactic of accommodation helped pave the way for the U.S. to take over world leadership.

Ms. Schake demurs. “What the U.S. is saying to China,” she says, “is that if you behave as a liberal political and economic power in the international order, we’ll help you succeed in the existing global order.” The U.S. expects China to understand that “our allies will be protected, even if China is the challenger. If the autonomy or security of South Korea and Japan, Australia or Taiwan, is challenged, we’ll defend them.”

The U.S. has also made clear that disputes over territories and waters need to be resolved by peaceful negotiation. China, says Ms. Schake, will not be allowed to “use force to impose its will on weaker states in the region.”

Ms. Schake worries about the Trump administration’s protectionist inclinations: “I do think that President Trump is calling into question some of the fundamental rules of the liberal international order that the hard men who won World War II created in its aftermath.” Free trade, she says, “undergirds political relationships. Prosperity gives states reasons to cooperate, and to broaden participation in a liberal order.”

She fears that Mr. Trump “does not seem persuaded by those fundamental American arguments,” and she laments his withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ms. Schake invokes the late Nobel economics laureate who supervised her doctoral dissertation: “ Tom Schelling would be shaking his head if he were here, saying that Trump gave that enormous strategic advantage to China without even getting anything in return.”

The good news is that the other 11 members of the trade deal “have determined to continue to try to bring the TPP into effect without the United States. So it’s an example of the liberal international order being sustained without American leadership.”

And Ms. Schake’s overall view of the administration’s foreign policy is favorable. Trade, she says, is “the only area in which Trump has, so far, been demonstrably damaging to the liberal international order.” In other areas, she thinks the administration “has actually made policy decisions consistent with the existing order,” even if Mr. Trump is an “outlier” regarding the philosophy on which it rests.

She points to Mr. Trump’s “continuing to assist Afghanistan until it has the ability to secure its own territory from threats to itself and to us.” She also cites U.S. assistance to the government of Iraq, “to secure it against malign external and internal influence,” as well as support for the security of “our stalwart Asian allies.” Besides, she says, Mr. Trump’s predecessor was hardly a champion of the Pax Americana: “I think you could make a strong case that President Obama’s foreign policy was one of retrenchment, shifting burdens onto allies and off America’s shoulders.”

As for China, Ms. Schake says she is “less convinced than many other people” that its rise will continue. But if Beijing does seriously challenge the U.S., she is “deeply skeptical that a hegemonic transition would happen peacefully.” A fundamental difference between the two countries is that even when the U.S. acts in ways that many would regard as globally unpopular, it does so while sincerely proclaiming universal values.

What values might a hegemonic China impart on the world? “Their leadership is groping to come up with something,” Ms. Schake says. “Xi has talked about the Chinese Dream, but it’s of a prosperous China where people don’t agitate for political control, where they trust the leadership to do the right thing for them.”

The unwillingness of major Western leaders to endorse One Belt, One Road illustrates for Ms. Schake “how much concern the established powers—the U.S., France, Britain—have about China attempting to change the rules.” She cites with evident pleasure Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s remark last year: that in a globalized world “there are many belts and many roads.” Mr. Mattis and Ms. Schake are close friends and longtime colleagues, and have edited a book together.

The Chinese initiative has also served, unintentionally, to highlight the attractions of the American-led international order: “The rules we established are advantageous not only to us, but also foster prosperity and peace for other countries.” The rest of the world sees its interests advanced by sustaining the current system, and the U.S. rarely has to enforce the rules. As Ms. Schake puts it, “we get the advantage of playing team sports because of the nature of the rules we’ve established.” That isn’t true for China. It claims One Belt, One Road is mutually advantageous, “but other countries’ concerns about sovereignty and what happens if loan terms aren’t met may yet stall China’s ambitions.”

In other words, unless China can come up with a more attractive narrative about itself and its ambitions, most countries will continue to favor the American-led order. “We have been a clumsy hegemon, certainly,” Ms. Schake says, “but we have also been a largely beneficent one.”

Mr. Varadarajan is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.


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Stratfor: An Arms Race Towards Global Instability
« Reply #828 on: February 22, 2018, 08:07:27 AM »
An Arms Race Toward Global Instability
By Omar Lamrani
Senior Military Analyst, Stratfor
Omar Lamrani
Omar Lamrani
Senior Military Analyst, Stratfor
U.S. and South Korean jets fly over the Korean Peninsula during a joint exercise in July 2017.
(South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)


    Regions & Countries




    The United States is shifting its focus to great power competition as it works to address the challenges of Russia's and China's growing confidence and capabilities.
    Combined with this rivalry, weakening arms control regimes and the emergence of disruptive weapons technologies will erode global geopolitical stability.
    Declining trust and increased competition will spark discord and conflict between the United States on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.

The United States is gearing up once more for a struggle between giants. On Jan. 19, the Pentagon released a new National Defense Strategy, the first in 10 years, in which it called strategic competition the "central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security" as Russian and Chinese military capabilities expand. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis echoed that concern Feb. 2 in the preface of the Nuclear Posture Review, arguing that the United States could no longer afford to pursue a policy of nuclear arms reduction given the steady growth of the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals. The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Review, due for publication soon, is expected to emphasize the same key points, namely that the United States should bolster its missile defenses to better repel threats as strategic competition builds.

Among these documents, the common thread is that great power competition, and not terrorism, will be the next focus of the U.S. security strategy. Washington has outlined how it will move to redirect its resources, capabilities and approach to overcome the challenges that the growing confidence and abilities of China and Russia pose. Beijing and Moscow, however, show no sign of backing down. And new, destabilizing weapons technology is entering more common use, while long-standing arms control agreements are deteriorating. These developments together promise to usher in a new era of international competition that could rival the Cold War.
A Shift in Focus

Even before the latest string of U.S. defense and policy reviews, the emerging power competition with China and Russia was on Washington's radar. The United States pursued a "pivot to the Pacific" during President Barack Obama's administration, mostly in an effort to counter China's growing dominance in the region. Similarly, since Russia's intervention in Ukraine, the United States has bolstered its military deployments in Europe, reversing its drawdown on the Continent. The Pentagon also touted the "Third Offset" strategy — an initiative to encourage the development of promising military technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence — during the previous administration in an effort to stay ahead of its mounting competition.

Yet counterterrorism was the true focus of the U.S. security strategy, not only under the last president but also under his predecessor. Enduring conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia continue to draw the lion's share of military deployments, resources and focus to this day. China and Russia, meanwhile, have taken advantage of the United States' diverted attention, making great strides in building arsenals and honing their military capabilities. In a few areas — such as anti-ship missiles, rocket artillery and ground-based air defense — the two Eurasian countries may even have surpassed the United States.

In light of these trends, Washington has every reason to be worried about a great power rivalry. But trying to stay ahead in the competition will only accelerate it. As the United States works to fortify its defenses, China and Russia will redouble their efforts to strengthen their own capabilities. The two countries — revisionist powers that want to alter the current geopolitical balance, whether in the South and East China seas or in the former Soviet Union — won't give up their geopolitical ambitions just because the United States tries to foil them.
Raising the Stakes

As the power competition between Russia, China and the United States intensifies, the emergence of disruptive weapons technologies will drive them deeper into a destabilizing arms race. Increasingly capable missile defense systems, for example, will play a central role in the struggle going forward, though the technology is still evolving to better address ballistic missiles. To appreciate the disruptive effect of ballistic missile defense, one must consider the limited inventory of ballistic missiles available to the United States, Russia and China. The fear among these countries is that as missile defense technology improves and becomes more prevalent, it will render their modest arsenals ineffective. A disarming nuclear strike from one power would further reduce the number of viable missiles in the target state's holdings, and the remaining weapons may not be powerful enough to overcome the aggressor country's missile defenses in a retaliatory strike. Consequently, while the United States' early lead on missile defense technology will spur Russia and China to keep working on their own missile defenses, it will also push them to beef up their offensive weapons.

Nuclear weapons will be another point of contention. According to the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the United States is preparing to shift its stance on the use of nuclear weapons and to introduce new ones, including a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Low-yield nuclear weapons aren't a new development for the United States, but putting them on a ballistic missile submarine is. The move is intended to address the growing concern that a potential enemy — be it a great power such as Russia or a rogue state like North Korea — would resort to an "escalate to de-escalate" strategy. Under that strategy, the inferior military power would use a low-yield or "tactical" nuclear weapon to discourage continued attacks from the United States on the assumption that Washington wouldn't strike back with its strategic nuclear arsenal for fear of starting a devastating war.

Positioning low-yield nuclear weapons on ballistic missile submarines will give the United States greater speed and flexibility in their use. The decision is not without its risks, however. For one thing, a single strike with a low-yield nuclear warhead may well escalate to a full-blown war with strategic weapons. For another, since the U.S. ballistic submarine fleet carries a large portion of the country's strategic nuclear weapons arsenal, adding low-yield nuclear weapons to the mix could create a discrimination problem for adversary states in the event of a launch. An enemy would detect an incoming ballistic missile fired from a submarine without being able to tell whether it carried a low-yield warhead or it was the opening salvo in a massive first strike with strategic nuclear weapons.

The advent of super-fuze warheads will compound the risk. Super-fuze technology dramatically enhances the effectiveness of weapons against hardened targets, such as nuclear missile silos, by optimizing a warhead's ability to home in on and detonate directly on top of its mark. Although it's currently in use only on U.S. W76 strategic nuclear warheads, the super-fuze could conceivably work for low-yield nuclear weapons as well. And because low-yield nuclear weapons are not subject to the same arms treaty restrictions that limit the number of strategic nuclear weapons a country may hold, improving their accuracy with super-fuze technology could upend the current nuclear balance. The more countries acquire low-yield nuclear weapons — much less super-fuzed warheads — the greater the potential for their use.

Further complicating matters are hypersonic missiles. The missiles' high speed — at least five times the speed of sound — facilitates their rapid use and boosts their rate of survival by making them difficult to intercept. In addition, some hypersonic weapons come equipped with a glide vehicle that extends their range, enabling forces to launch the weapons from beyond an enemy's reach. These factors offer militaries great incentive to incorporate hypersonic missiles into their arsenals. As more and more countries adopt hypersonic missiles, the weapons' offensive abilities may prove destablizing. States may opt to strike first — perhaps with nuclear weapons — to take out an adversary's hypersonic missile caches before the enemy has a chance to use them.
An artist's rendering shows a hypersonic missile glide vehicle, designed to enhance the weapon's range.

An artist's rendering shows a hypersonic missile glide vehicle, designed to enhance the weapon's range.
Losing Control

While weapons technology is developing at a rapid clip, arms control treaties are deteriorating just as quickly. Key agreements between the United States and Russia were foundering well before Washington shifted its focus back to great power competition. The United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and the critical Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is showing signs of considerable strain, which is bound to increase as Washington bolsters its defenses. Alarmed by the United States' growing investment in missile defense and super-fuze technology, Russia and China will try to enhance their offensive capabilities in kind. The resulting arms race would probably drive the last nail into the INF's coffin and perhaps even jeopardize the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Beijing, meanwhile, will strive to keep its competitive edge in hypersonic weapons development in an effort to get ahead of Washington's advancing missile defense capabilities. Though the countries will try to craft new arms control agreements to accommodate their changing world, the challenges of striking a deal among three great powers with disparate strengths will get in the way.

Coupled with the fall of critical arms control regimes and the rise of disruptive weapons technology, the next great power competition could erode global stability. Tightening arms races and moribund arms control agreements will undermine the trust between the great global powers and discourage cooperation. Instead, more discord and conflict will erupt between the United States on one side and Russia and China on the other.

Editor's Note: This column has been adjusted to reflect U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis' title.


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GPF: The World After McMaster
« Reply #829 on: February 23, 2018, 07:50:29 AM »
The World After McMaster
Feb 23, 2018
By George Friedman

U.S. National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is rumored to be on his way out. The reason appears to be McMaster’s endorsement of the view that the Russians engaged in a disinformation campaign designed to create instability in the United States during the 2016 presidential election. President Donald Trump is highly sensitive to this claim because of the implication that the disinformation campaign helped him get elected. Whether or not that is true is unimportant for our purposes. Trump, like any politician, is sensitive to anything that challenges his legitimacy in office, and he expects absolute loyalty from subordinates.

Senior government officials come and go, and it rarely matters. One suit replaces another, and life goes on. At this moment, however, the fate of McMaster is somewhat more important. The job of the national security adviser is to coordinate all of the elements involved in national security, including the State and Defense Departments, the intelligence agencies and any other part of the federal government that touches on such matters. He is the president’s chief adviser in foreign policy, the channel through which the views of the departments and agencies are filtered, and above all, the person who enforces the president’s foreign policy throughout all relevant entities.

The national security adviser has become a particularly sensitive role. It is always hard to control the agencies, but at a time when the CIA and the FBI appear to be in occasional confrontation with the president over the Russia issue, it has become even harder. The intelligence and security agencies have to continue to carry out their primary mission – gathering intelligence and conducting counterintelligence – while also communicating their activities to the president. Given the tension, the president lacks trust in the intelligence and it’s McMaster who has to keep the system functioning while a confrontation with the president is underway. The riptides of politics are enormous.

Even more important, the United States is facing old and new foreign policy issues that are inherently contentious. Perhaps the most striking thing about the Trump administration’s various policies is the continuity they share with the policies of previous administrations. Rhetoric aside, the U.S. relationship with NATO and Russia is not materially different than it was during Barack Obama’s administration. The same is true in the Middle East, with insufficient forces pursuing an unclear goal. The U.S. and China continue to bicker over trade relations. And nothing violent has happened in North Korea, with the Trump administration pursuing the same cautious attempts to shape Pyongyang’s policies that were pursued by previous administrations.

Much of this continuity can be attributed to bureaucratic inertia. An argument could be made that all of these issues require more aggressive handling. But it is very difficult to move anything as vast and diffuse as U.S. foreign policy. Another reason for the continuity is that Trump appointed three people to run U.S. foreign policy who are inherently cautious. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resisted more aggressive policies when he was a top military commander during Obama’s administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson comes from outside of the foreign policy establishment and has had to catch up to its subtleties. He heads the department that is least respected by the Trump administration, with attempts being made to slash its budget and its staff.

McMaster is also a cautious and meticulous man. He is the author of a book called “Dereliction of Duty,” which eviscerated the Johnson administration’s handling of the Vietnam War and, in particular, criticized the spread of dishonest information. It appears that, for McMaster, orderly and honest flow of information must be maintained at any cost. The paradox is that the more information you have, the more unwilling you become to make major changes. But at the moment, the flow of information is far more important than innovations in foreign policy.

McMaster has been critical in creating processes that maintain stability. That isn’t to say there haven’t been turf battles over foreign policy. It’s rumored that Mattis and McMaster see some things very differently. Mattis is said to be more cautious on Korea, McMaster more aggressive. Such differences are common and healthy. In fact, they create healthy, creative tension between important foreign policy figures – far better than consensus.

The problem is that it’s difficult to imagine how the continuity of U.S. policy could be maintained if someone very different than McMaster took over his position. One of the things causing tension between the president and some of his advisers has been that the president wants them to be political, and they won’t be. That’s the case here and it’s the ability and willingness of McMaster to resist the temptation to become political – as others hadn’t – that has been a stabilizing force.

In general, our view is that the people running the government come and go, but U.S. foreign policy is driven by geopolitical necessity, constraining decision-makers from making many changes they might otherwise want to make. I will not argue that McMaster is indispensable. But with the president confronting the Russian disinformation issue, and with a range of foreign policy issues likely to shift of their own weight, any degree of instability in U.S. foreign policy could have an impact. North Korea, Russia, China and the Middle East are all under pressure, and the U.S. has thus far been restrained. At a time when the foreign policy institutions of the U.S. are themselves in flux, increasing that flux could have consequences.

This is not a world-changing event, but every event need not be world-changing. It is simply noteworthy in the sense that institutional instability can have some impact on regions that don’t need any more impacts.

The post The World After McMaster appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.


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Focus on Middle East or Far East or both?
« Reply #830 on: February 24, 2018, 07:16:00 AM »
Some very important thoughts from the WSJ.  And very much worth noting is that at yesterday's joint press conference with Australian PM is that President Trump said we had no goals there beyond defeating ISIS.

We love President Trump and Sec Def Mattis, but it is time to decide whether to shit or get off the pot.  It IS a terrible problem.  If we leave, the Iranians will have land bridge to the Mediterranean (including direct connection with Hezbollah and all that implies)  backed by Russia's anti-aircraft systems i.e. Israel will no longer have dominance in the skies.  All out war (including nukes?) seems likely.

If we stay, we are permanently in the morass of the Middle East, and thus overloaded China takes the South China Sea and the Norks finish their ability to deliver nukes.

Is this why yesterday President Trump said is ONLY issue with China was trade even while the Australian PM spoke of holding China to the rule of law (i.e. respecting rights in the South China Sea?


Russia’s Attack on U.S. Troops
Putin’s mercenaries are bloodied in Syria, as he tries to drive Trump out.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin around his factory which produces school means, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 20, 2010.
Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin around his factory which produces school means, outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 20, 2010. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Associated Press
By The Editorial Board
Feb. 23, 2018 6:50 p.m. ET

The truth is starting to emerge about a recent Russian attack on U.S. forces in eastern Syria, and it deserves more public attention. The assault looks increasingly like a botched attempt to bloody the U.S. and intimidate President Trump into withdrawing from Syria once Islamic State is defeated. The U.S. military won this round, but Vladimir Putin’s forces will surely look for a chance at revenge.

Here’s what we know. Several hundred men and materiel advanced on a U.S. Special Forces base near Deir al-Zour on the night of Feb. 7-8. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed soon afterward that the “battalion-sized unit formation” was “supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” U.S. forces responded in self-defense “with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”

Ms. White wouldn’t confirm how many attackers were killed or who was fighting, though the U.S. had “observed” the military buildup for a week. Defense Secretary James Mattis called the confrontation “perplexing,” adding that “I have no idea why they would attack there, the forces were known to be there, obviously the Russians knew.” He’s referring to the U.S.-Russia “deconfliction” agreement in which the Russians agreed to stay west of the Euphrates River.

Now we’re learning that Russian fighters were killed in the attack, and Lebanese Hezbollah was also involved. The Kremlin has tried to cover up the deaths, but that’s getting harder as the body bags come home and Russian social media spread the word. The Foreign Ministry finally admitted Tuesday that “several dozen” Russians were killed or wounded but claimed that “Russian service members did not take part in any capacity and Russian military equipment was not used.”

That depends on how you define “Russian military.” Evidence is growing that the attack was orchestrated by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch who does much of Mr. Putin’s dirty work. His businesses include the Internet Research Agency, a media operation indicted by a federal grand jury last week for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Mr. Putin has a history of using mercenaries in Crimea and southern Ukraine, the better to preserve deniability if something goes wrong. The Obama Administration blacklisted Mr. Prigozhin in 2016 for supporting Russia’s Ukraine invasion, and in June the Trump Administration sanctioned Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian intelligence officer associated with Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner Group of mercenaries.

Wagner has been fighting in Syria since 2015, according to the Institute for the Study of War’s Bradley Hanlon, including campaigns to retake oil-rich areas. Mr. Putin has been doling out contracts tied to oil and mining to mercenaries in Syria, including to Mr. Prigozhin.

The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing intelligence sources, that Mr. Prigozhin had “secured permission from an unspecified Russian minister” for the attack and had also “discussed” it with Syrian officials. Mr. Prigozhin would never undertake such an operation unless he felt he had clearance from the highest levels of the Kremlin.

Why risk such an attack, especially given how badly it went for Russia? Mr. Putin is constantly probing for weaknesses in adversaries, and perhaps he wanted to embarrass Mr. Trump by capturing some Americans. Perhaps he hoped to push the U.S. troops back and seize the nearby oil fields. With Mr. Trump sending no clear signals about U.S. intentions after Islamic State, and given his 2016 campaign claims that Syria is someone else’s problem, Mr. Putin might have thought that some American casualties, prisoners or a retreat would increase calls inside the U.S. to leave Syria.

The U.S. military response was impressive and laudable, but American silence about the Russian attack is puzzling. The attack shows again that Mr. Putin is looking to damage U.S. interests wherever he sees an opportunity, even at the risk of a U.S.-Russia military engagement. Maybe Mr. Trump doesn’t want to humiliate Mr. Putin, but the Russian won’t forget this defeat merely because the U.S. is quiet about it.

The danger is that he’ll interpret U.S. silence to mean that he can risk an attempt at revenge. Mr. Putin is running for re-election this spring, and while he has rigged the vote to guarantee victory, the Russian public needs to know his mercenaries suffered a humiliating defeat. If the U.S. won’t tell the truth, Mr. Putin has an easier time telling lies.

The Russian engagement also shows that the U.S. is operating a de facto safe zone for allies in eastern Syria. The Pentagon is still pursuing dispersed Islamic State fighters, but another goal is to influence the shape of post-ISIS Syria. Mr. Putin wants to push the U.S. and its allies out so its axis with Iran can dominate Syria. Look for more such confrontations to come.


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MEF: A New Era at Foggy Bottom?
« Reply #831 on: March 01, 2018, 01:26:16 PM »
A New Era at the State Department?
by A.J. Caschetta
Modern Diplomacy
March 1, 2018

Loy Henderson,Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, who fostered the Arabist culture at the State Department.

Ever since the partition of UN Mandate Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, the US State Department has promoted a grievance-based approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its staffers' view Palestinian deprivation (of statehood, dreams, etc.) as the chief obstacle to peace. U.S. diplomatic efforts, therefore, have focused on appeasing those grievances. One year into the Trump administration, there are signs that this is changing.

After World War II, Loy Henderson, director of the Office of Near Eastern, African and South Asian Affairs, cultivated the culture that would define the State Department's entire Middle East outlook. Henderson filled his Office with specialists known as "Arabists" because of their love of the Arabic language and Arab culture. They suffered from what Robert D. Kaplan, in his seminal work on the topic, calls "localitis" and "clientitis," and their sympathies with Muslims were often accompanied by a rejection of the West and especially of Israel. In his Memoirs, Harry S. Truman wrote that State's "specialists on the Near East were almost without exception unfriendly to the idea of a Jewish state," adding, "some of them were also inclined to be anti-Semitic."

After the Six-Day War, when most Arab countries severed relations with the U.S. and closed American embassies, many Arabists found themselves without foreign posts. Their domination of the State Department subsided, and they were replaced by a new group – the "peace processors" – who were not immersed in Arab culture but rather in diplomatic culture. By the 1980s, they dominated the State Department, and they still do.

Though their motives may differ, the peace processors share the Arabists' trust that the Palestinians will negotiate rationally. In pursuit of the ultimate peace deal, they ignore or excuse Palestinian diplomats who insist that Israel has no right to exist, as though Palestinian irredentism was a negotiating ploy rather than a deeply-felt principle.
The cohesion of the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein in Desert Shield/Storm, heralded as a major diplomatic achievement, spurred a renewed faith that the diplomatic process itself can solve even the most intransigent of problems, of which the Israel-Palestinian conflict loomed large. The peace processors have always been driven by the theory that the right combination of Israeli concessions (land, water, money) will end Palestinian hostilities. They continue to downplay Palestinian rejectionism while emphasizing Palestinian cooperation.

Even the 2003 bombing of a State Department convoy in Gaza...elicited little more than a perfunctory telephone call from Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Palestinian Authority (PA), urging it to crack down on militants.

The peace processors thrived during the Obama years, especially during the tenure of Secretary of State John Kerry. In a 2016 Oxford Union speech Kerry waxed poetic about peace-making, or as he called it, "the art of diplomacy – [which] is to define the interests of all the parties and see where the sweet spot is that those interests can come together and hopefully be able to thread a very thin needle." The problem, to continue Kerry's mixed metaphor, is that under Kerry's leadership, the State Department expended most of its energies massaging the Palestinian sweet spot and trying to thread its very thin needle. Israeli interests, on the other hand, were largely ignored, and Israel was often blamed for Palestinian hostilities.

Donald Trump campaigned promising a different approach to Israel. He chose Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, a diplomat with no foreign policy record and few known political opinions. Tillerson began his tenure at the default State Department position – treating the PA and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as legitimate and trustworthy peace partners, and ignoring or downplaying evidence to the contrary...

There's no doubt that Donald Trump's election initiated a major disruption at the State Department.

Then, in November, Tillerson announced the closure of the PLO mission in Washington, D.C., in compliance with a U.S. law prohibiting any Palestinian attempts to bring a case against Israel at the International Criminal Court. But when the PLO responded by threatening to cut off all contact with the U.S., the State Department rather obsequiously caved, announcing that the mission could remain open for a 90-day probationary period...

Subsequent events suggest a change in U.S. Israel policy, especially the announced plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and the cutting of U.S. funding to UNRWA. Trump has also threatened to cut all aid to Palestinians. At Davos in January, he said that Palestinian disrespect for Vice President Mike Pence would cost them as well. Under normal circumstances, one might infer that these are coherent policy redirections. But it is not unreasonable to believe that they are impulsive reactions to perceived insults. They may also be bargaining chips in the president's famed deal-making art.

But these moves from the top down are not necessarily permanent. No one really believes Abbas will terminate all contact with the U.S. In fact, the PLO's man in Washington, Husam Zomlot, signalled in an interview just days ago that he's ready to talk: "It's not like I am not speaking to them. My phone is open."

Like Trump, Abbas is positioning for a better deal. When he comes back to his senses and apologizes, perhaps even personally thanks Donald Trump for reengaging, the State Department's peace processors will awaken from their drowse with a new Oslo, a new Road Map to Peace, and Israel will be squeezed again. As Daniel Pipes writes, "the American door is permanently open to Palestinians and when they wise up, some fabulous gift awaits them in the White House." Maybe next time there will be pressure for Israel to repeat Ariel Sharon's mistake and force all Israelis out of the West Bank, and after that out of East Jerusalem, and after that, who knows? Pressuring Israel to give up more land and money and make their nation less secure is the only strategy the peace processors know.

There's no doubt that Donald Trump's election initiated a major disruption at the State Department. Many long-serving senior officials resigned immediately before or after inauguration day. The hum of diplomats complaining that their expertise is being ignored has continued. When Elizabeth Shackelford (lauded by Foreign Policy a "rising star at the State Department") resigned very publicly in early December, she complained that State had "ceded to the Pentagon our authority to drive US foreign policy." The question is, will disruption lead to genuine change?

If outgoing senior diplomats are replaced with careerists and entrenched junior peace processors, the Trump shake-up will be just sound and fury. On the other hand, bringing in qualified experts from outside the State Department rank-and-file might lead to meaningful and important changes. If the rumor is true that David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy will be the new Deputy Assistant for Near East Affairs, it's a good start.

Genuine change at the State Department will require more than one year of the unpredictable Trump administration. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently began urging the State Department to stop using the term "occupation". When the State Department complies, we'll know something big has happened. Until then, celebrations are premature.

A.J. Caschetta is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a senior lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology.


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GPF: George Friedman: The Middle of an Era
« Reply #832 on: March 02, 2018, 10:49:32 PM »
The Middle of an Era
By George Friedman

I have written in several places about a paradox. On the one hand, if you take a snapshot of the world every 20 years or so, the reality of how the world works and what matters will have shifted dramatically compared with the previous snapshot. On the other hand, at any point in time there is a general belief that the world as it is at this moment will remain in place for a long time. It is not just the public but also experts and those who govern who tend to fail to see how transitory the present reality is. As a result – and this is what makes it important – as the geopolitical system shifts, there is a tendency to see the shifts as transitory, a temporary disruption caused by unfortunate events, until they are well entrenched, and so we tend to align ourselves with the shift far too late.

In 1900, Europe was peaceful and prosperous, and it dominated the world. It was assumed that this was a permanent reality. By 1920, Europe had torn itself apart, impoverished itself, in a bloody war. It was assumed that Germany, having been defeated, was finished. By 1940, Germany had re-emerged and was astride Europe. It was assumed that the German tide could not be resisted. By 1960, Germany was an occupied and divided country. It was assumed that war between the strongest of the occupiers, the United States and the Soviet Union, was inevitable. By 1980, there had been a war, but in Vietnam rather than Europe, and the United States had been defeated. The U.S. was now aligned with China against the Soviet Union. It was assumed that the Soviets were a permanent and dangerous enemy to both countries. By 2000, the Soviet Union no longer existed. It was assumed that the key interest of all countries was economic growth, and that traditional conflict among nations had become a marginal matter.

Twenty years is an arbitrary time period, but historically it’s about the length of a human generation. The world changes radically in each generation, but the dates can vary. The last era began in 1991 and ended in 2008. Yet even now there are many who are waiting for the world of 1991 to return. More important, only now is the full power of what started in 2008 being felt.

Life After the Cold War

Consider how the world changed in 1991. The Soviet Union collapsed, and it was assumed that the rump state, Russia, was no longer a significant factor in how the world worked. Europe signed the Maastricht Treaty, which was seriously and reasonably believed to be the preface for the creation of a United States of Europe. The United States led a vast coalition of nations against Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, defeating Iraq with few dissenting voices. China had adopted capitalism and begun its historic economic surge; it seemed an unstoppable train headed toward liberal democracy. Japan, the previous economic miracle that would never end, was in the midst of its transformative economic crisis. With the Cold War over, the U.S. was the only global power, and the world was reshaping itself in the American image.

The world was filled with the promise that the horrors and dangers of the 20th century were behind us. And for a time, that appeared to be the case. The first sign that the world was not quite as it seemed came in 2001, when operatives of al-Qaida attacked the United States, and the United States struck out at the Islamic world.
That era hung on for a few more years, until two events a few weeks apart finally broke it. On Aug. 8, 2008, Russia and Georgia went to war, putting to rest the idea that Russia had fallen into permanent, shabby irrelevance, or that conventional warfare was obsolete. Then on Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed, wrecking the illusion that the global economy could only go up. In the span of just over five weeks, the core assumptions of the era began to change.

Russia was no longer a superpower, but it was certainly still a regional power. It still had a sphere of influence beyond its borders, and it would protect its interests by force. The empire the czars had created would not go quietly into that good night.

The core weakness of the European Union was revealed: It was not a nation-state but merely a treaty joined into by sovereign states whose leaders were elected by their citizens and whose loyalty was to their voters, not to Brussels. The EU was a perfectly designed instrument for economic success, but it could not cope with economic dysfunction because economic pain did not distribute itself neatly over the bloc’s vast geography. Each member state increasingly pursued its own interests and frequently found the EU a hindrance rather than a help. 2008 was the high point of Europe.

China found in 2008 that an economy built on exports was not in its hands but in the hands of its customers. The economic stagnation that followed transformed China from a powerful engine pouring goods out to eager customers to a nation scrambling to put out financial fires, fantasizing about endless roads and artificial intelligence, all while turning into a dictatorship that would likely define it for the next era. Japan, rather than descend into disaster, used its social solidarity to weather its crisis by accepting the idea that a declining population and stable growth lead to higher per capita income.

And the United States discovered that being astride the world was a prescription for stumbling and falling. The war against jihadism would not end; the Russians would not accept their place in the world order; the Chinese would be less an economic problem than a potential military one; and the Europeans would be self-absorbed and provincial, as would be expected from their position. The United States realized that it was not ready, institutionally or psychologically, to manage the power it had acquired, and it could not delegate.

A New Era

The world in 2008, some 17 years after the last era had begun, did not resemble what most people expected. For a long time – for some even today – there was the expectation that the post-Cold War world (as good a name as there is for what began in 1991) was the norm, and but for someone’s bungling we would still be there and certainly would return to it. But eras come and go, and the world of 2008 will be in place well into the 2020s.

After 10 years, its outline is already clear. It is a time of economic dysfunction, defined by slow growth and unequal distribution of wealth, leading to domestic political tension and deep international friction. Countries will be focused on their own problems, and those problems will create trouble abroad. It is a world that is best described as parochial, tense and angry. There are worse things that it can be. But much depends on how rapidly the United States matures into its role as the single-most powerful country in the world. Likely the emergence of the U.S. from its internal rages will be the major feature of the next era.

Twenty years means nothing in history, but it means everything in our lives, so our tendency to convince ourselves of the permanence of the present era is understandable. But history didn’t end in 1991, and it didn’t end in 2008. For better or worse, this too shall pass.


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Re: US Foreign Policy
« Reply #836 on: April 02, 2018, 09:57:58 AM »
From media thread, Crafty:
"I remain of the point of view that we are BADLY overextended militarily and in great need of shortening the list of things to do:

a) Iran-- Bolton calls for ending the nuke deal and pre-emption, Iran's move for land bridge to the Mediterranean as a possible trigger for war with Israel
b) The Norks-- Bolton calls for pre-emption
c) China-- the South China Sea AND Trade War
d) Russian adventurism in Europe and the Middle East, cyber war
e) the Middle East in general
f) etc etc etc"

A number of building blocks now in place help with the above challenges.  The team of Matthis, Bolton, Pompeo, the bump up in military spending and the tough talk from Trump follow the proven principle of peace through strength, increasing the leverage of not needing to fire missiles.  Mostly it was the corollary of peace through strength, disaster through weakness, that got us to this point.  

As Crafty points out, the wide map of trouble weakens the specific US threat in each area to our adversary.  We should have dealt with Iran, NK, etc. as they came up.

We will know something very soon regarding North Korea, but I can't imagine what can come out of the talks that solves anything.  I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the Xi-Un talks.  Also the Moon-Un talks.  The NK leader is more rational and committed to his cause than any (previous) American or western leader has been.  Trump needs a bold move up his sleeve. I can't imagine Un can abandon his nuclear ambition without a US strike hitting him close to home first.  If Trump hits NK facilities, would Un really kill millions in Seoul as a result?  For what purpose?  'Deterrence' after the fact?? That makes no sense and he is no doubt interested in his own survival above whatever he sees as the good of his country.  What is his future if he attacks S.K. civilians in response to the US striking his military facilities and palaces?  The US doesn't have second, third strike capability?  Trump would be afraid to use it?  It is very expensive to have US Fleets circling just to wait out endless talks.  Analysts say NK is 9 months from combining the nuclear capability with the missile capability to hit the US mainland (if they can't already).  The end of world non-proliferation that comes with that is unthinkable, yet it is the current course if we don't change it.  If not now, when?  China accepts an outcome where the entire region goes nuclear?  That helps them??  Striking North Korean nuclear facilities and/or palaces DURING the talks as an alternative to runaway global nuclear proliferation is not unthinkable.  It likely costs less to wage a strike or two as threatening that and keeping all those assets in the region.  As we wonder what Xi told Un, what does Un think Bolton is telling Trump?  We need the N.K. threat ended.

The thought of an all out trade war should be unthinkable for China who just retaliated with increased tariffs on US goods.  Who de-escalates first?  All issues are interrelated.  If China sees Trump as failing, they will watch tariffs hurt the US and wait for the Democrat congress, Mueller, impeachment and more US weakness.  OTOH, Rasmussen reports Trump approval this morning at 50, and other polls have him close to 45 which means close to 50 and holding onto power in the near term.  If Trump holds strong, China will fold first and cut a deal, making Trump look even better.  Also, they are a big part of the NK situation and just coached them on it.  The South China Sea issues are more long term in approach.  Resolving the other US challenges will allow greater focus and leverage there.

Russia:  Shrink their importance down to size.  Trump expanded the already growing US oil and gas capability.  He sold anti tank missiles to Ukraine, re-authorized missile defense in Eastern Europe.  We need to aggressively market US natural gas to Russia's customers.  Squeeze them further.  Russia is also spread too thin across the globe.  Does anyone report that their GDP shrunk almost in half during the US fracking boom?  2.2 trillion 2013 to 1.2t 2016:  They just tested some new missile but isn't their arsenal aging too?  Putin was 'reelected' but he is not immortal.

Middle East and the Iran influence reaches to the Mediterranean.  Mentioned elsewhere, Trump believes the Arab Middle East states need to provide the forces if Iran is to be countered.  A big reform operation is going on in Saudi and Trump's right hand man Jared is involved.  Saudi and Israel have the most to lose if Iran goes nuclear and controls the region.  Shia in Iraq are not fully on board with being ruled by Mullahs from Iran.  Nor is the population in Iran.  The situation with Turkey is complicated.  The Kurds...  It isn't going that well for the Russians.  Maybe ISIS is defeated and Assad still in power but Iran in power isn't a perfect ally for Russia either.  Iran's economy, 96th per capita in the world and about to lose their Obama deal, is punching a bit above their weight class as well.  Israel has a leadership crisis?  The US has a (big) role to play but not as direct of a role as it was in the Iraq war.

And we have a border issue...

We aren't the only ones with challenges.  It looks worse to me for everyone else mentioned above.  The first strategy in American foreign policy is ... grow our economy - and the rest becomes more manageable.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 10:27:22 AM by DougMacG »


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WSJ: Hybrid Warfare
« Reply #837 on: April 04, 2018, 12:31:49 PM »
A U.S. Battlefield Victory Against Russia’s ‘Little Green Men’
Americans drove back an advance by mercenaries. The next one ended almost as soon as it began.
A U.S. Battlefield Victory Against Russia’s ‘Little Green Men’
Photo: istock/getty images
By Tod Lindberg
April 3, 2018 5:56 p.m. ET

The U.S. military has created a new precedent for how to counter Russian “hybrid war.” Set in a murky clash of arms in Syria in early February, and one averted in March, this precedent—you might even call it a “red line”—will reverberate from the Middle East to the Black and Baltic seas.

The problem is the appearance on your territory of what defense-policy wonks call “little green men.” They come heavily armed and dressed for combat. They operate at the direction of a government, Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Yet they wear no insignia, and their sponsors deny any control over them. Operating outside the laws of war, they pursue Russian political ends such as the illegal takeover of Crimea and the dismemberment of Ukraine. Via a Russian mercenary paramilitary company called Wagner Group, they have turned up to support Russian ends in Syria as well.

Hybrid war, in the popular conception, encompasses all sorts of irregular conflict, from little green men to cyberdisruption to information operations. Its point is the pursuit of political ends by means not readily traceable to their origin. It seeks conflict without accountability. It probes the question of how much gain is possible short of regular military means. As such, it poses particular challenges to deterrence and wartime accountability. These challenges are of especially great and increasing interest in Europe’s east, from Finland and Sweden through the Baltics, Poland and Ukraine, on to the Balkans. What to do?

In Syria on the night of Feb. 7, a group of pro-Assad-regime fighters crossed the Euphrates River and advanced on a headquarters in Deir Ezzour of the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF are the main regional ally of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. U.S. special forces were also present at the base in significant numbers on their “advise, assist, accompany” mission.

The Euphrates marks a “deconfliction” line between Russia-backed pro-Assad forces and the U.S.-backed SDF. U.S. and Russian forces are in regular communication with each other to avoid unintended military confrontation in the region.

Although the exact size and composition of the forces crossing the Euphrates that night is in dispute, the fact of the crossing and the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries is not. Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week, when U.S. military personnel contacted their Russian counterparts about the contingent bearing down on the SDF base, the Russians said they “weren’t their forces.”

Perhaps this was a mask on a deliberate Russian probe of U.S. and SDF commitments to the base and to securing oil facilities on that side of the river. Perhaps the Wagner Group paramilitary operatives were exceeding their instructions or freelancing. Perhaps the operation was not primarily a Wagner Group affair. Mr. Mattis, who always speaks carefully, said: “I have no evidence that they were being dishonest and that they knew, in fact, these forces were theirs.”

But if the Russian disavowal was intended to sow confusion, it failed. The U.S. attacked the advancing force by air, halting its advance and destroying much of it. Casualty estimates range from dozens to several hundred killed, including unknown numbers of Russians. Russia, in the months since, has lodged no significant public protest.

The message is this: If you are responding to little green men who—without acknowledgment of their state sponsorship—have turned up in your territory or are crossing into it, you should act at once to repel them, rather than scratching your head in puzzlement while they establish their presence. A “deconfliction line” is not an international border, but the principle is similar.

It’s unlikely that the U.S. military attacked the force advancing on the SDF base to make this broader point. But it seems to have been made anyway, even though the Russians and Iranian-backed pro-Assad forces seem intent on continuing to test U.S. resolve, in Syria and elsewhere.

Last month another military force, including Russian mercenaries, crossed the Euphrates deconfliction line toward the Deir Ezzour base. As if to emphasize the seriousness of the issue, the “deconfliction” conversation this time took place at the highest military level: U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford himself discussed the matter with his counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian military.

Details of that conversation, unsurprisingly, have not become public. But it’s hard to imagine it didn’t include a component from Gen. Dunford along the following lines: If the forces are under your control, pull them back; if not, well . . .

The advancing force pulled back.

Mr. Lindberg is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.


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Stratfro: Sino-Russki solidarity?
« Reply #838 on: April 07, 2018, 09:30:17 PM »
On Our Minds
Testing Sino-Russian Solidarity. Last week's high-profile visits by the Chinese foreign and defense ministers to Russia were designed to broadcast to the world the growing strategic alignment between Russia and China. What struck us most was how explicit China was in positioning itself as an ally of Russia in opposition to the United States. Rhetoric aside, will the Sino-Russian strategic cooperation actually translate into an allied military front against the United States in a potential conflict? Or will the growing definition of the Eurasian threat only serve to focus American attention on the weak, exploitable fissures of their partnership? We're also building a broader framework to understand how the U.S. military force structure will evolve from a counterterrorism focus to great power competition with Eurasia over the next couple of decades.


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GPF George Friedman: War and the Asymmetry of Interests
« Reply #839 on: April 18, 2018, 05:47:40 AM »
War and the Asymmetry of Interests
By George Friedman

This past weekend, I attended a re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington, the battle that started the American Revolutionary War, in Massachusetts. The pleasure of being with children and grandchildren was my primary motive. But as I watched the superb re-enactment, an obvious question came to mind: Why did the Americans defeat the British, not just at Lexington but in the war itself? The British forces were better armed and better trained, and there were potentially far more of them. On a purely military basis, the British should have won, yet they didn’t.

A phrase came to mind: asymmetry of interests. The concept of asymmetrical warfare has become commonplace in recent years. It refers to warfare in which different types of technology and tactics confront each other, like improvised explosive devices against armored brigades. Sometimes, the force with what appears to be inferior technology can compel the force with superior technology to withdraw. This is what we see in the American Revolution. We need to consider why.

For the Homeland

About 56,000 British troops were deployed at the height of the Revolutionary War, supplemented by 30,000 Hessian mercenaries in a kind of coalition. The Americans deployed about 80,000 regular and militia forces. The British forces were far better trained and, most important, had more and better artillery. The Hessians were professional soldiers. The Americans had a core of trained soldiers, but the militia troops were a mixed bag. During the war, 25,000 American troops died in battle or from disease compared to 24,000 British. The British losses were a fraction of the global British force, but for the Americans, this was 5 percent of the free white male population, according to the website Foxtrot Alpha‏.

The British forces were united. The American population was divided. A little less than half of all Americans were committed to the revolution. A fifth were loyal to the British. Thus, both sides were fighting on a terrain in which substantial parts of the population opposed them. The British drew their supplies from Britain, while the Americans had to draw their logistics from the population – with some help from the French.

When you look at the disparities, the losses and the disunity, the Americans should have lost. It is true that the final battle involved the French fleet, but the Americans stayed intact as a fighting force for eight years to reach that point. So even leaving the French out, the Americans were not defeated. And to keep fighting, the Americans had to absorb tremendous casualties without a decisive break in cohesion and morale.

They were able to do it because of the asymmetry of interests. The Americans were fighting for their homeland. Defeat would subordinate the United States to British power for a long time. They had no interests that could compete with the interest to defeat the British. The British, on the other hand, were simultaneously engaged in a struggle with France for domination of Europe and control of the oceans, a contest that would lead to global empire. For the British, the American Revolution was not a matter of indifference, but neither was its outcome decisive in determining Britain’s place in the world.

The British were prepared to deploy a substantial force in North America, but having done that, they went on with their nascent industrial revolution and their global concerns. The amount of time and casualties they could rationally devote to North America had to be seen in the context of broader interests. They could absorb casualties, but the war could not be an absolute imperative.

Absolute War

World War II is on the other end of the spectrum, a rare war in which all major powers had absolutes at stake. Britain, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union and the United States all faced, or could face, existential consequences from the war. Their interests were symmetrical. It was therefore a war in which no effort was spared by anyone to avoid defeat and attain victory. In a sense, the war, once commenced, ceased to be political. It became a purely military conflict in which anything less than total military and industrial commitment would be irrational. There was precious little political maneuvering once the war got fully underway in 1941.

For many Americans, the WWII model, which I will call “absolute war,” ought to be the model for fighting all wars. Instead, none of the U.S. wars since WWII have been absolute. As a result, since that time the U.S. has been unable to decisively defeat enemies that are militarily inferior. Korea resulted in stalemate. Vietnam resulted in stalemate, withdrawal and the defeat of America’s Vietnamese allies. The wars against jihadists have not resulted in a decisive, positive outcome for the United States. The only conflict since WWII in which the U.S. achieved its strategic goal was Desert Storm, where the Iraqi army was defeated in Kuwait. Many blame strategy or insufficient public support or a host of other reasons for this.

There might be truth to all these reasons, but I think the fundamental reason was an asymmetry of interest between opposing forces. Consider Vietnam. Vietnam was on the periphery of American strategic interest. The U.S. was less concerned with Vietnam than with the consequences in the region and elsewhere if North Vietnam were to unite the country under communism. Those consequences were hypothetical – even if they occurred, they might not undermine U.S. interests substantially. On the other side, the North Vietnamese were fighting for fundamental national imperatives, chief among them the unification of Vietnam under the ideological and political control of Hanoi. From this, they might control all of Indochina and emerge as a major regional power able to counterbalance China.

In other words, the outcome of the wars in Vietnam – French and American – went to the heart of the North Vietnamese national interest. The wars from the French and American points of view were not insignificant but were still on the margins of national imperatives. The unification of Vietnam under a communist regime was essential to North Vietnam. Blocking North Vietnam’s ambitions was of interest to the United States, but not an absolute imperative. It was part of a mosaic of interests.

The British were not prepared to devote all the resources they had to fighting American rebels. Doing so would have been irrational. Even defeat at the hands of the heavily committed Americans was more palatable than throwing their fleet into battle with the French at that time and place. For the British, there was nothing absolute in North America. It was a political war, not an absolute one. The same has been true of the United States in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, only one of these wars was won, while over time, the imperative that led to war dissipated.

When Great Powers ‘Lose’

In a democratic society, sacrificing lives without an absolute commitment to victory is unsavory. All of the wars since World War II have left a bad taste in the mouths of Americans. Sacrificing lives for tactical advantage, rather than for the direct defense of the homeland, is unpalatable. Sacrificing them for tactical advantage that is abandoned over time is worse. Absolute war is moral; political war designed to bring temporary advantage has the air of immorality.

In watching the re-enactment of Lexington, I could imagine British planners thinking, “We can’t abandon North America, but we can’t ignore the French, and the French are more important.” They must have spent many hours being briefed on the French and far less on the Americans. In due course, since the Americans were prepared to die far out of proportion to the interests of the British, their notional helicopters lifted off their notional embassies and left with their global power surging in spite of defeat.
Great powers have multiple interests, and not all interests are the same. That means a global power is prepared to initiate and withdraw from wars without victory, for tactical and political advantage. Over time, paying the cost of the war becomes irrational. Great powers can “lose” wars in this sense and still see their power surge. Fighting in a war in which your country’s interest is not absolute, and therefore the lives of soldiers are not absolute, is difficult for a democracy to do. In most of the world, the great power will encounter an asymmetry of interest. Those who live there care far more about the outcome of the war than the great power does. And so, the great power withdraws from Syria when the price becomes higher than the prize. Given the string of defeats, it is expected that the great power is in decline. Like Britain after its defeat in North America, it is not in decline. It has simply moved on to more pressing interests.


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Re: GPF George Friedman: War and the Asymmetry of Interests
« Reply #840 on: April 18, 2018, 06:34:26 AM »
Great wisdom in this, applies to many things.


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Trump's US Foreign Policy, W.R. Mead, Alliances and Tactical Flexibility
« Reply #841 on: April 18, 2018, 12:55:04 PM »
Recent reviews of this article:  "Superb piece!"  - Crafty Dog 

"Rather than seek to impose an order of its own design on the turbulent region, Washington would simply ensure that no other power or group of powers succeeds in dominating the Middle East."

"A coalition of front-line states, promoted and supported by the United States, may ultimately address the Iran problem in ways no outside power ever could."
Along with VDH, WRM is my favorite Democrat.
Trump’s Realist Syria Strategy
By Walter Russell Mead,  American Interest, WSJ
April 16, 2018
As the echoes from President Trump’s second Syrian missile strike died away, many observers criticized the administration for lacking a coherent strategy. There is more than a little truth to the charge. The drama and disarray of this often-dysfunctional White House does not suggest a Richelieu at work. The presidential Twitter feed has not always been consistent or levelheaded on the topic of the Syrian war, and it is hard to reconcile Mr. Trump’s denunciations of Bashar al-Assad and his warnings about Iranian aggression with his apparent determination to remove U.S. troops from Syria as quickly as possible.

The tangled politics of last week’s missile strikes illustrate the contradictions in Mr. Trump’s approach. The president is a realist who believes that international relations are both highly competitive and zero-sum. If Iran and Russia threaten the balance of power in the Middle East, it is necessary to work with any country in the region that will counter them, irrespective of its human-rights record. The question is not whether there are political prisoners in Egypt; the question is whether Egypt shares U.S. interests when it comes to opposing Iran.

Yet the rationale for the missile strikes was not realist but humanitarian and legalistic: Syria’s illegal use of chemical weapons against its own people demanded or at least justified the Western attacks. For any kind of activist Middle East policy, Mr. Trump needs allies—including neoconservatives and liberal internationalists at home and foreign allies like Britain and France abroad—and the realpolitik approach he wishes to pursue would alienate them.

Nevertheless, as is often the case with this unconventional administration, a pattern if not quite a strategy is beginning to emerge—one defined as much by what the president rejects as by what he seeks to accomplish. The administration’s approach looks and often is erratic, but beneath the rants and the posturing Mr. Trump seems to be working toward an approach to the Middle East that reflects the interplay of American politics and interests in a strangely coherent way.

Mr. Trump sounds inconsistent at least in part because his choices are so unappealing. Iran’s Russia-assisted march toward regional dominance leaves the U.S. caught between two courses. Letting Iran have its way in Syria opens the door to a much more dangerous confrontation between Israel and its Arab partners on one side and Tehran on the other. But denying Iran a victory in Syria almost certainly would mean major American military commitments, as well as another extended exercise in nation-building as the U.S. tries to cobble together some kind of viable, nonradical government in Damascus.

Mr. Trump recoils from both choices on both political and policy grounds. Standing back while Russia and Iran run the table in the Middle East would be bad policy and bad politics—but so, too, would rushing into another Iraq-style military and political effort to stabilize Syria. The goal is to avoid bailing out without getting sucked in.

Mr. Trump may be unintentionally arriving at a form of offshore balancing. Rather than seek to impose an order of its own design on the turbulent region, Washington would simply ensure that no other power or group of powers succeeds in dominating the Middle East. When the balance of power appeared secure, the U.S. would have a low profile in the region; but when, as now, the balance appeared to be threatened, the U.S. would be more forward-leaning, working with partners who share its concerns to contain the ambitions of revisionist powers. Mr. Trump also seeks compensation from the countries whose independence America supports; rich allies like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should help pay for their defense.

For Mr. Trump, this is a common-sense approach to a thorny problem, and while the pressures of events—and the united efforts of his advisers—may sometimes cause him to deviate, his inner compass always returns to this course.

Mr. Trump’s approach carries its share of risks, but its failure is by no means assured. Both Russia and Iran are overstretched. They suffer from weak economies and parasitical state structures. Their populations are not in love with their Syrian adventures. Despite recent increases, oil prices remain well below the level they require to fund their ambitious foreign policies while meeting domestic needs. Expanded sanctions against both Russia and Iran are gaining support in Europe. Simultaneously, Arab-Israeli cooperation against Iran continues to gel. A coalition of front-line states, promoted and supported by the United States, may ultimately address the Iran problem in ways no outside power ever could.

The Trump agenda has a real chance of success in the Middle East—but only if the Trump administration can master the dark arts of alliance management. That may seem unlikely, but if there is one thing we have learned about this president, it is that he can be tactically flexible in pursuit of his goals.


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GPF: Multipolar
« Reply #842 on: May 05, 2018, 09:31:20 AM »
GPF discusses a theme I have raised around here repeatedly:

by Jacob L. Shapiro

Everywhere you turn, people are sounding the alarm about the decline of American power. The alarms are loudest in the U.S. itself. Those who oppose President Donald Trump believe he is destroying America’s influence and credibility abroad. (The threat to tear up the Iran deal is just one example.) Those who support Trump believe U.S. power has already declined. (Implicit in the slogan “Make America Great Again” is the idea that America is not currently great.) Outside the United States, the U.S. has become punching bag, punchline and declining power all at once. The term “multipolar world,” once simply wishful thinking, is now being uttered by U.S. friends and foes alike.

Repeating History

We’ve seen this all before. After World War II, the U.S. became the undisputed global superpower. It was the only country that had nuclear weapons and was one of the few countries involved in the war that came away from it relatively unscathed at home. The U.S. lost about 400,000 soldiers and a small number of civilians in the war. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, lost around 11 million soldiers and some 7 million to 10 million civilians. While Soviet and European cities were being rebuilt, American cities prospered. It seemed clear to all that the future belonged to the United States.

But it didn’t take long for the luster of unrivaled power to tarnish. The U.S. military machine relaxed as quickly as it had mobilized, and wartime unity gave way to peacetime political debates over government spending and entitlement programs. Within five years, a bipolar world emerged: The Soviets attained an atomic bomb, and the U.S. was caught flat-footed in a war on the Korean Peninsula that ended in a stalemate. Soon thereafter, the U.S. was withdrawing from Vietnam and rioting at home. In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon predicted a world that he said would soon emerge in which the U.S. was “no longer in the position of complete pre-eminence.” Within 26 years of the end of World War II, the U.S. seemed resigned to its fate.

The 1970s were a turbulent decade in America. That turbulence brought to the White House the man who originally coined the slogan “Make America Great Again.” Ronald Reagan had the fortune of being in the right place at the right time. As a leader, his main function was to restore a sense of optimism and confidence to the American people. Whether he accomplished his goals is a topic for others to debate. What is important here is that by the end of Reagan’s term, the Soviet experiment had run its course. In 1987, Reagan demanded that the Soviet Union tear down the Berlin Wall, and within three years of his leaving office, the Soviet Union itself also crumbled. In the U.S., the end of history was declared, and the United States was king once more in the “giddy springtime of the bourgeoisie.”

The 1990s were an unabashedly optimistic time in the United States, but by 2001, doubt had crept back into the American psyche. The dot-com bubble burst, the World Trade Center towers fell, and the U.S. once again engaged in wars in faraway places to secure its interests and preserve its credibility in an increasingly hostile world. The 2008 financial crisis added insult to injury, as a new generation of Americans graduated college with dismal prospects for employment, let alone for pursuing the American dream and building lives more prosperous than those of their parents.

Leaving Out the Biases

Twenty-six years after the Soviet Union fell, the U.S. elected another man who promised to make America great again, and the concept of multipolarity from the Nixon days was resuscitated. Multipolarity is a fancy word with a simple definition. It is the idea that power is not dominated by one country but distributed among multiple countries. China is seen as the eventual challenger to U.S. supremacy, but in a multipolar system, there has to be more than one. Russia, India and Germany are a few of the other contenders.

The problem with discussions about multipolarity is that they are often laced with biases about how people want the world to evolve rather than how the world actually works. Proponents of a multipolar world see events as defined not by the actions or interests of a single global hegemon but rather by the competing interests of different nodes of power. They often argue that a multipolar world, where equal powers cooperate in a way that serves their interests, is more peaceful and desirable than an imperial Pax Americana, where all countries chafe against the overwhelming power of a single political entity.

When Russian and Chinese political figures speak about a multipolar world, they are speaking about the world they want to see, not the world that exists today. Unsurprisingly, the world they want is one in which they have a greater share of power than they have now. It is a particularly useful concept for countries like Russia and China, which have a history of mistrust and very real geopolitical imperatives driving them toward zero-sum competition. Proponents also tend to use the U.S. as both a scapegoat and a lightning rod: The root of the world’s problems is the level of power the U.S. holds globally. The inverse is also sometimes true. Proponents of a unipolar system often dismiss setbacks in American foreign policy because setbacks don’t comport with their unrealistic visions of U.S. hegemony.

Ultimately, whether we live in a multipolar or unipolar world is an objective, not a political, question, and it is an exceedingly important one. The answer affects how we understand the North Korea crisis, developments in Iran and the trade skirmish with China. If the world is unipolar, then the stories dominating the headlines today are all brushfires that the U.S. is struggling to put out and that won’t be of much consequence even five years from now. If the world is on the verge of multipolarity, then these issues are manifestations of the competition between the U.S. and its rising challengers, and the post-1991 way of viewing the world has become obsolete.

The Driving Force

Perhaps the simplest way to address this question is to ask what country is driving these events. On the Korean Peninsula, it was Kim Jong Un who accelerated Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, but it was the U.S. that deployed three aircraft carriers to the region and threatened fire and fury against the hermit kingdom unless it backed down. Now North and South Korea are negotiating, and even recalcitrant China is getting tough on the North. In Iran, the nuclear deal is under strain because of U.S. threats to withdraw. European countries, led by France and Germany, don’t want to lose access to what Europeans have always wanted out of Iran – cheap oil. If Trump refuses to renew the sanctions waiver on May 12, banks in countries that do not reduce Iranian oil imports will face sanctions. And for most, cheap Iranian oil is not worth the price of U.S. sanctions. As for China, the U.S. made the first move to revamp the bilateral trade relationship, because the U.S. has more leverage in this relationship – China needs to export to the U.S. more than the U.S. needs to import from China.

In other words, the actions of the United States are still driving global developments. And for all of its mistakes (e.g., the Iraq war) and internal problems (e.g., the decline of the middle class’s purchasing power), the U.S. in 2018 is far more powerful than it was when the last discussion of a multipolar world began during the Nixon administration. In 2018, there is no equivalent to the Vietnam War, nor is there anything close to the level of domestic social unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, despite what you might see in the press. (This week marks the 48th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. It is difficult to imagine what the reaction to Kent State would have been if there were a 24-hour news cycle back then.) The U.S. has a penchant for hysteria that the current media environment only magnifies, and the world is full of would-be competitors who want to use that crisis of confidence for their own agendas.

Even so, the U.S. is still the world’s pre-eminent power. This isn’t necessarily a permanent state of affairs. If, for example, GPF is wrong about China’s and Russia’s underlying weaknesses, a multipolar world might be closer than I’m suggesting. But that’s a pretty big if. In 2018, the world is still unipolar. The U.S. remains the global center of gravity, and the actions it takes are felt throughout the world. This should not necessarily come as a comfort. With great power comes great responsibility. But the job of an analyst is not to provide comfort; it is to point out where great power currently lies.


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WSJ: Walter Russell Mead: A Crisis on Each End of Asia
« Reply #843 on: May 08, 2018, 02:31:07 PM »
A Crisis on Each End of Asia
Modest success on North Korea is giving the U.S. breathing room to focus on Iran.
April 30, 2018 5:56 p.m. ET

One of the world’s oldest and ugliest frozen conflicts, dating back to 1950, appears to be thawing. North and South Korea are vowing to end their state of war. Kim Jong Un is offering one concession after another on his nuclear program, while progress continues toward a summit between Mr. Kim and President Trump.

At the same time, the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies are tightening the screws on Iran. America’s newly confirmed secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, made his first trip to the region in his new role this week. As he orchestrated a series of anti-Iranian statements with Arab and Israeli leaders, bunker-busting bombs (presumably Israel’s) hit Iranian bases in Syria.

These developments are closely related. Throughout Mr. Trump’s tenure, his foreign-policy team has juggled two crises: First, North Korea’s progress on missiles that could carry its nuclear weapons to the U.S. mainland threatened to upset the balance of power in Northeast Asia. If Mr. Kim destroyed Tokyo, would the U.S. really retaliate and put the American homeland at risk?

Second, the Obama administration’s bungled attempt to stabilize the Middle East by softening its approach to Iran had the opposite effect. Longtime American allies became jittery about Iran’s imperial ambitions, even as sectarian war and jihadist violence erupted across Syria and Iraq.

The dilemma for the White House was that neither challenge could be ignored, but managing two explosive crises, one at each end of Asia, would stretch America’s political and military capacities to the limit. Complicating matters further, North Korea is a client of China, while Iran is an ally of Russia. An aggressive approach risked pitting the U.S. against Beijing and Moscow at the same time.

The big question was whether one of the two crises could be put on hold. In his unconventional way, Mr. Trump has been probing to see whether China or Russia is willing to cooperate. With China, he linked trade negotiations to Beijing’s help on the Korea issue, even as he raised the temperature by signaling that U.S. military action against Mr. Kim was on the table. With Russia, Mr. Trump has consistently spoken of his desire for better relations and made clear that Moscow’s help with Iran could lead to sanctions relief.

Mr. Trump seems to have believed initially that Russia would be more likely to choose engagement, but Moscow has so far stuck by Iran. China, in contrast, has twisted Mr. Kim’s arm to de-escalate. This makes sense: Although a rising China may be a greater long-term threat to the U.S. than a declining Russia, China has more powerful motives for working with the U.S. than Russia does.

To start, China is deeply invested in its trade relationship with the U.S. A trade war would hurt both countries, but China has more at stake. It’s poorer, with a financial system under great stress, and it depends heavily on exports.

Further, China does not want North Korea to upset the nuclear balance in Northeast Asia. If Japan begins to doubt its protection under America’s nuclear umbrella, it will go nuclear itself. Taiwan and South Korea would soon follow. Yes, China would like to maintain North Korea as a buffer against the West, but it does not want nuclear adversaries along its coastline. Reining in Mr. Kim helps both China and the U.S.

China and the U.S. also have some interests in common in the Middle East. They both want low oil prices and a stable geopolitical environment. If disruption in the region jacks up energy prices, China loses, given that it is the world’s largest energy importer, and Russia wins, since high prices would prop up its shaky economy and make Vladimir Putin’s foreign ambitions more affordable. Whenever Chinese leaders reflect on these truths, it is a good day for Washington and a bad day for Moscow.

Mr. Kim’s concessions thus far do not mean that the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula is over. China may be interested in preventing North Korea’s missile program from destabilizing East Asia, but forcing Pyongyang to give up its existing arsenal would be much harder. Still, even a temporary freeze of the missile program gives the U.S. breathing room to focus its efforts on the Middle East.

The early signs are that the Trump administration intends to make the most of this North Korean opportunity. By responding positively to Mr. Kim’s overtures and continuing preparations for the promised summit, the White House is signaling its appreciation for China’s help and paving the way for intense negotiations with Beijing and Pyongyang over both security and trade. That will let the U.S. ratchet up the pressure even further in the Middle East. Moscow and Tehran would be well-advised to study their copies of “The Art of the Deal.”


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Re: WSJ: Walter Russell Mead: A Crisis on Each End of Asia
« Reply #844 on: May 09, 2018, 07:01:09 AM »
Thank you for posting this.  I strongly agree with Mead that "These developments are closely related".

Since the writing of that, Trump announced his bold decision on Iran and it definitely strengthens his hand with North Korea.  In a short time Trump looked in the world press like an idiot tweeting about "little rocket man" and now hne looks like the most serious world leader since Reagan and Thatcher.

During this process he changed his advisers to so-called hard-liners, he moved the embassy when everyone said he couldn't, he pulled out of the Paris accord and the TPP, showing strength and resolve,  and he stood up to allies like Macron in France, the former administration and the 'pragmatists' of the old Republican establishment to call out the truth on Iran, taking a bold risk very much like Reagan did with Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

Assuming Xi and Un are quite bright, aware and self-interested, and if they thought they could just finesse their way out of this crisis with Trump, the Iran pronouncement in context with the other moves mentioned will tend to change their thinking.

The other big breakthrough on this front was the breaking of the 'sequester' that limited US spending on defense.  None of us like what that does to spending overall, but on the defense side, in the short, medium and long term, peace through strength is cheaper than world chaos through US weakness, the policy Trump inherited.

Xi and Un (and the mullahs) see the US commitment to build a 350 ship navy as one benchmark, where just one of our vessels could fire and end his regime as he knows it.  The other half of military strength is the willingness to use it.  Trump works everyday on his public image as a loose cannon that could go off at any time.  For all Un knows, Trump could order a strike from the negotiating table if he doesn't see his enemy as serious about resolving the threat to the US and the region's security.  That perception strengthens his negotiating hand and makes the actual need to use force much less likely. 

Xi and China do not want the US to deploy force or look strong militarily on their border.  Xi has enormous leverage and is most certainly telling Un to make this (Trump) problem go away.


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GPF: US Credibility
« Reply #845 on: May 30, 2018, 12:53:08 PM »

A Conversation About U.S. Credibility
By Jacob L. Shapiro
In an era in which reality is so often defined by how well something can be quantified, politics is a stubborn outlier. Some aspects are quantifiable, especially as they relate to military strength or economic conditions: We can measure the number and range of Iran’s missiles, or the widening wealth gap in the United States. But data (especially economic data) is imperfect, and it’s often deceptive. For instance, that Iran has a certain number of missiles says nothing about the quality of the missiles, let alone whether Iran would use them. “Political science” emerged as an academic discipline in the 19th century out of a desire to treat politics like a science – to define its truths in terms of empirical data, not ancient Greek philosophical principles. But exclusive reliance on data is no better than exclusive reliance on theory. And unfortunately, especially in the United States, political science has become not just data-driven but data-obsessed.

The limitations of this approach can be observed clearly in a debate raging over the importance of U.S. “credibility” in the world. The U.S. made three major foreign policy moves this month: It pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, it has been inconsistent on trade disputes with China, and canceled, at least temporarily, a planned summit with Kim Jong Un next month. In both the U.S. and abroad, it is becoming a common refrain to hear that U.S. credibility has been damaged as a result of these moves, and that this has the effect of eroding U.S. power and creating more geopolitical instability.

Determining whether this is true is more difficult than it may seem. After all, how does one measure credibility? We could survey a large sample of people in a foreign country and ask whether it is commonly believed that the U.S. will follow through on its promises, but the results would be imprecise – and mostly irrelevant. Answers would vary based on the issue, and more important, it’s foreign governments, not their citizens, that must decide whether the U.S. is trustworthy after the foreign policy decisions of this month.

And Americans themselves are unreliable judges of U.S. credibility abroad because of the political history of the term in America. The credibility question was ubiquitous in the 1960s not because of the United States’ relationship with foreign governments but because a “credibility gap” opened up between the Lyndon B. Johnson government and the American electorate. The Johnson government relied on key statistics (like “body count”) to claim that the U.S. was winning the Vietnam War even as the situation was getting no better. Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal widened the trust gap still further. Ironically, when Americans refer to the credibility of the U.S. abroad, they are often projecting their own lack of confidence in their government onto others.

Yet despite the shapelessness of the term credibility, and despite the political landmines surrounding discussions of it, it is not a discussion that can be avoided. The reliability of U.S. promises is not an academic question. The U.S. became involved in the Vietnam War precisely because it feared the implications for its containment policy against the Soviet Union if it allowed Vietnam to fall into communist hands. What was at stake was not so much Vietnam but the value of a U.S. security guarantee. The same is true, albeit on a much smaller scale, of Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. Russia was not interested in conquering Georgia so much as it was interested in demonstrating that a U.S. security guarantee was worthless, and therefore that countries in the Caucasus would do well to make their peace with a resurgent Moscow.
Credibility, then, is as much perception as it is reality. The Iran nuclear deal is a useful example. The stated goal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (as it is officially known) was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the U.S. and Iran each conceived of the JCPOA in very different terms. The U.S. wanted a willing partner in the fight against the Islamic State. It got a partner that was too willing, because after IS was all but defeated, Iran aggressively pushed into the region and began testing missiles. Iran wanted to rejoin the global economy and secure legitimacy for its foreign policy moves in the region. The deal was concluded by two weak administrations, and in the U.S. it wasn’t even given the status of a treaty, meaning it was easy to cancel.

Those who advocate remaining in the JCPOA argue that leaving the deal is catastrophic for U.S. credibility. They find useful corroboration of this position from Iran’s president, for whom the U.S. withdrawal is disastrous, and from European leaders who are primarily interested in buying cheap Iranian oil. Those who advocated leaving the deal think that Iran is a menace with no credibility of its own and that it is better to take the hit to U.S. credibility than to remain in a political arrangement that empowers a U.S. adversary. It’s hard to argue that U.S. credibility has been damaged while Iran is trying to buy the Iraqi election and is building bases on the Israeli border.

The U.S.-North Korea issue is different, if less immediately weighty. The Trump administration appeared poised for a summit with Kim Jong Un, only to withdraw from the summit via a letter that boasted of the United States’ own nuclear arsenal and gave the primary reason for the cancelation to be the “tremendous anger and open hostility” of recent North Korean statements. The Trump letter came days after the U.S. insinuated that Libya was a good model for North Korean denuclearization, an eyebrow-raising suggestion considering the U.S. helped topple Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya in 2011. Now the U.S. and North Korea are talking again, and the summit may be back on – or it may not. The whole issue has become a farce.

But it is a farce that could be damaging to U.S. credibility. North Korea released U.S. prisoners, toned down its criticism of U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and appeared to dismantle a nuclear test site. Though Iran, strictly speaking, was not violating the terms of its deal with the U.S., Washington could at least point to violations of the spirit of the agreement. Not so with North Korea.

The U.S. has also been losing the larger credibility battle in East Asia. U.S. credibility in the region won’t rise and fall depending on whether Trump and Kim share a cheeseburger, but it matters whether countries in the region trust the United States. And on this issue, North Korea already achieved a major objective months ago when it exposed deep cracks in the U.S.-South Korea security relationship by pushing the U.S. to the brink of a military strike. North Korea also successfully demonstrated to U.S. allies like Japan that U.S. resolve in halting North Korea’s nuclear program is mainly rhetorical.

What this all really comes down to is that the United States is at the center of the world order, and when the United States acts in ways that other countries don’t like (or that political factions within the U.S. don’t like), it often manifests as the weakening of U.S. credibility. Sometimes the issue of reduced U.S. credibility is real, as it is in Asia, where the power of the U.S. is declining (compared to China and Japan), and where the United States’ inconsistent approach to the North Korea issue is producing unease, not a tactically useful level of unpredictability. Sometimes, however, credibility is simply a scapegoat for a policy disagreement or divergent strategic interests. Either way, the issue is not so much that the U.S. broke this or that agreement as it is a much broader lack of strategic clarity dating back to 1991 about how and to what end the U.S. wields its power in the world.

More than anything, the conversation about credibility is a veneer that hides the true nature of international politics. Ultimately, the best indicator of how a country is going to behave is not what its leaders have said or agreed to, but what its interests dictate. Consider that in 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. I can think of no two political regimes whose credibility in keeping the terms of such a pact could have been lower – and yet they signed the pact, even though both were planning on eventually breaking it. Those who worry about U.S. credibility have a notion that U.S. exceptionalism means the U.S. keeps its word when all other countries don’t, or more optimistically, that politicians can be trusted. That’s a pleasant fiction. The U.S. is a country like any other, and it can be trusted to act in its interests at all times. The problem isn’t so much that the U.S. cannot be trusted, but that the U.S. is often unclear about what those interests are, an unfortunate byproduct of thinking about politics as an algebra problem.

The post A Conversation About U.S. Credibility appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.


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STratfor: A Distracted US Foreign Policy
« Reply #846 on: May 31, 2018, 08:07:32 AM »
    The United States is restructuring its global military footprint, reallocating its resources and shifting its strategic focus to better compete against China and Russia.
    To achieve this, the United States will be compelled to prioritize its commitments in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
    However, enduring U.S. commitments elsewhere and emerging global flashpoints will sidetrack Washington's attention and resources.

Changing times call for changing measures. In the face of an intensifying great power competition with Russia and China, the United States is expanding its efforts to refocus its global strategy, force deployments and resources to better position itself in a new struggle. But recalibrate as it might, the United States' enduring commitments, along with global flashpoints, will continue to sap the country's attention and resources as it wages a new global battle for influence.

The Big Picture

At the outset of 2018, Stratfor noted that the deepening collaboration between China and Russia would pose a strategic threat to the United States, prompting the latter to consolidate its alliances in the Eurasian borderlands. Washington is doing that and more as it embarks on a period of great power competition with Moscow and Beijing, but ongoing commitments and regional issues appear set to dog its efforts.

See 2018 Annual Forecast

Finding a New Focus

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the advent of the so-called global "war on terrorism" in 2001 ushered in a change in the United States' strategic defense posture, which shifted from a primary focus on defeating a great Eurasian power toward a more diffuse, enduring and amorphous effort against violent non-state actors and "rogue" states. As part of this transformation, the United States significantly bolstered its force presence in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, altered its training structure and prioritized different sets of military capabilities. At the same time, the United States greatly reduced its presence in Europe, decreased its capabilities in the Pacific and shuttered a large number of headquarters primed for a potential war with Russia.

But after years of unceasing conflict in the Middle East and South Asia, the United States has come to recognize the profound shift in the global strategic balance. Observing China's growing strength and efforts to modernize its military, the Obama administration attempted to rebalance toward Asia with the "Pacific Pivot" in 2011. Russia's military intervention in Ukraine in 2014 also completely altered the United States' direction in Europe, as Washington rushed additional forces to the Continent as part of increased rotational deployments under the European Reassurance Initiative after it had begun to withdraw forces from the region.

But this year's National Defense Strategy, which identifies great power competition as the "central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security," leaves no room for doubt as to the strategic direction the United States wishes to pursue in its security outlook. Reinforcing the new defense strategy is a robust defense budget that seeks to repair some of the readiness shortfalls stemming from years of sequestration (automatic spending reductions).

In line with its strategic direction, the United States will make significant changes in terms of the regional deployment of strategic forces and, in the same vein, the geographic areas it wishes to prioritize. The North Atlantic has emerged as a central battleground in the competition with Russia, prompting U.S. military officials to announce plans to reactivate the U.S. 2nd Fleet in July after deactivating it in 2011. The 2nd Fleet's central mission will be to ensure U.S. naval dominance in the body of water amid increased forays by Russian submarines into that particular ocean. At the northern edge of the area, Iceland, which is strategically positioned as a base from which to detect and intercept such submarine activity, is accordingly receiving increased attention from the United States after its significance waned following the end of the Cold War.

At the other end of Europe, Ankara's balancing effort between the United States and Russia will gain added importance as Moscow seeks to break the containment role that Turkey, home of the strategic Bosporus, has played on its flank and the U.S. efforts to maintain it. Elsewhere on the Continent, the Baltic nations — Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia — have assumed an increasingly important role as battleground states between the United States and Russia. In the north, Scandinavia in general and Norway in particular are witnessing increased attention from the United States as well, mainly because of the area's strategic proximity to the Arctic theater. Furthermore, the U.S. Navy has raised the number of deployments made by the 6th Fleet to the European theater amid expectations of more patrols in the Baltic and Black seas.

In the Pacific, China's growing arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles and the United States' lack of air bases relative to other theaters complicates the latter's strategic military posture in the competition with Beijing. As a result, the United States must place special emphasis on its relationship with Japan and Singapore. At the same time, the Pentagon is simultaneously searching for alternative bases in places such as northern Australia, the Philippines and the Northern Mariana Islands. The United States already maintains a considerable military presence in South Korea, but these forces are largely oriented toward a potential conflict with North Korea and could even constitute a strategic liability to the United States because they would be within striking range of China's much larger land forces in the event of open hostilities.
A chart comparing the composition of the U.S. and Chinese navies by 2030.

The United States is the world's dominant naval power, but China has ambitions to closing the gap.

Beyond military issues, however, Washington also aims to strengthen its relationship with a number of non-allied Asia-Pacific countries as a hedge against China's ascendancy. India, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, are all likely to witness increased attention from the United States in the years ahead. Together, these countries form a solid anchor on the southern rim of the first island chain — an area that encircles the Yellow, East China and South China seas — from which the U.S. Navy could choke off China's sea lines of communication to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Naturally, China is unlikely to remain passive on this front, and will work hard to enhance its relationship with Southeast Asian countries in response.

A map showing China's first and second island chains (PLACEHOLDER - Source to change)

Unsurprisingly, Taiwan remains a serious bone of contention. The United States appears increasingly willing to provoke China's ire against the island through the sale of sensitive military equipment and enhanced diplomatic and military engagement with Taipei. Accordingly, Taiwan is the issue that is most likely to push the strategic competition between Washington and Beijing into an active conflict, especially as China's military options expand with its naval development.

Finally, the United States is considering major changes in how it deploys its main naval forces on a global basis. Over the last three decades, U.S. aircraft carrier task forces have maintained a virtually constant presence in the waters around the Middle East. Now, however, the country is working toward shifting its deployments to focus more on the European and Pacific theaters and to be less predictable and routine in its naval forays.

The Fly in the Ointment

Although Washington has recognized the emergence of this new great power competition and begun acting accordingly, several flashpoints could distract the United States and tie up its resources and focus. Of these, the most prominent is the global "war on terrorism," which continues to this day, even as its focus has shifted considerably since beginning 17 years ago. Globally, but especially in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the United States has devoted considerable attention and resources to this fight. In turn, this has placed significant strain on the United States' special operations forces and hurt the readiness of U.S. air forces, both from the Air Force and the Navy. Almost two decades of consistent deployments and rotations to frontlines and bases have left little time for recuperation. This fatigue, coupled with the recent effects of sequestration, has led to maintenance problems, the widespread cannibalization of airframes and a recent spike in accidents.

The United States preparations to confront China and Russia could be derailed by significant conflicts and engagements elsewhere.

Adding to this ongoing strain is the potential for significant conflicts that could distract the United States from its preparations to confront China and Russia. Immediately, this could emerge in the form of a possible war with either Iran or North Korea — or both. The U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and the adoption of an increasingly hard-line stance on Iran's activities in the Middle East could ignite a conflict between the two, especially if Tehran chooses to restart its nuclear program in response to Washington's actions. As for North Korea, the initial optimism regarding a summit between Washington and Pyongyang could rapidly give way to preparations for war in the absence of any breakthrough in negotiations.

A war with either Iran or North Korea would undoubtedly require the commitment of large numbers of forces and funds, but even a containment strategy against both could entail long and significant deployments in and around the Persian Gulf and the Korean peninsula. The United States could rapidly reverse its decision to curtail its permanent carrier presence around the Middle East, the theater of operations for the 5th Fleet, if tensions with Iran rise significantly as a result of Washington's increasingly confrontational approach toward the country. The return of more forces to the Middle East, however, would hamper the United States' struggle against Russia and China, since the region is far removed from the areas of activity central to the emerging great power competition. Force dispositions around North Korea, on the other hand, offer more flexibility because the U.S. military could redirect troops and materiel in northeast Asia, especially those in Japan — if not those in South Korea that are locked on North Korea and remain vulnerable to Chinese action — to face China more easily.

These costly distractions to U.S. power are unlikely to escape the attention of China or Russia. As the great powers engage in increasingly adversarial competition, the planet might witness a geopolitical climate unseen since the days of the Cold War. The hallmarks of such competition would include concerted support for insurgencies and proxy forces around the globe that could tie down an adversary in protracted and expensive campaigns. Russia, in fact, has already begun pursuing some facets of this new fight by reportedly supporting certain factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan, while the United States has previously backed certain anti-Russian factions in Syria. In this context, if the adversarial relationship between the United States and Iran reaches a more bellicose level, Moscow and Beijing could provide direct aid to Tehran to improve its capabilities.

The United States has moved to define the great power competition with Russia and China as its greatest priority, necessitating a restructuring of the country's global military footprint, reallocation of resources and shift in strategic focus. The Pentagon has already begun implementing measures in this regard, but it is by no means a straightforward process. Continued distractions abound, specifically the crises with Iran and North Korea, though more generally the enduring U.S. commitment to the global "war on terrorism." In the end, the United States will undoubtedly intensify its focus on great power competition, but overcoming these distractions will be no easy task — especially as China and Russia are unlikely to make the United States' attempts to disentangle itself any easier.

Omar Lamrani focuses on air power, naval strategy, technology, logistics and military doctrine for a number of regions, including the Middle East and Asia. He studied international relations at Clark University and holds a master's degree from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, where his thesis centered on Chinese military doctrine and the balance of power in the Western Pacific.


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Spengler: Trump could be oneof America's great foreign policy presidents
« Reply #847 on: June 13, 2018, 09:05:40 AM »
Trump Could Be One of America's Great Foreign Policy Presidents

Below I repost Uwe Parpart's Asia Times analysis of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. Liberal media is aghast at the president's rough handling of Canadian boy-band frontman Justin Trudeau, and his confrontational approach overall at the Group of Seven summit. When the dust settles, though, Trump may accomplish what eluded Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama: a stabler and safer world without the need for millions of American boots on the ground. He well may go down in history as one of our great foreign policy presidents. It's not in the bag, but it is within sight.

North Korea and Iran are decisive issues: Will America and its allies be subject to blackmail by rogue nuclear states? There is a grand compromise that might work in the case of North Korea, and the president reportedly has already put it on the table: Formal diplomatic recognition of the Pyongyang regime in return for full de-nuclearization. In the case of Iran,  the president's tough stance and close coordination with our ally Israel has already pushed Iran back in Syria and put the Islamist regime under extreme stress.

Of course, Trump can't please everybody. German Chancellor Angela Merkel complains that Trump is being too nice to Russia by suggesting that it rejoin the Group of Seven. Considering that Germany spends just 1.2% of GDP on defense and can't get more than four fighters in the air at any given moment, that's chutzpah. Merkel's policy is to talk tough about sanctions against Russia while rolling over for Putin when it comes to Germany's gas supplies, which will be supplied by the just-started Nord Stream II pipeline from Russia. Germany likes to wag a finger at Russia over its depredations in Ukraine, but only 18% of Germans say they will fight to defend their country. Trump's policy is to rebuild American strength and stand up to Russia, while looking for ways to strike agreements with Russia--on American terms. That's the difference between speak softly and carry a big stick, and declaim loudly while waving a bratwurst. If the Germans don't want to spend money on defense, let alone fight, that's their business, but they shouldn't lecture us about how to handle the competition.

Just what has the Group of Seven accomplished in the last dozen years? Who can remember a single line of a single communique? And what is the group worth without Russia? "We have a world to run," Trump said, and the effort requires having Russia at the table.

 I'm guardedly hopeful about the Singapore summit. The foreign policy elite despises America's president, who is an amateur in international relations. But the elite knows that it has failed miserably since the end of the Cold War -- for example Prof. Michael Mandelbaum, whose 2016 book Mission Failure catalogs the collective blunders of the establishment since the end of the Cold War (see my notice  at Claremont Review of Books).


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War on the Rocks: Russia's Great Power Strategy of Brigandry
« Reply #848 on: June 15, 2018, 06:50:47 AM »
Sent to me by someone of background for whom I have high regard:

PS:  Note the references to "uni-polar" and "multi-polar".
Raiding and International Brigandry: Russia’s Strategy for Great Power Competition
No one knows if the next six years of Vladimir Putin’s reign will be his last, but signs suggest they will be the most difficult for Washington to navigate in what is now widely acknowledged on both sides as a long-term confrontation between Russia and the West. Moscow has weathered an economic crisis brought on by low oil prices and Western sanctions, domestic political scandals, and international setbacks. More importantly, just as America’s own national security documents begin to frame great power competition as the defining challenge to U.S. power, Russia is yet again adapting its approach based on the experience of the past three years. Russian leaders may not have something that would satisfy the Western academic strategy community as a deliberate “grand strategy,” but they nonetheless possess a strategic outlook and a theory of victory for this competition. That theory is based less on direct competition and more on raiding, a stratagem that holds promise for revisionist ambitions and the weaker side in the conflict.

Raiding is the way by which Russia seeks to coerce the United States through a series of operations or campaigns that integrate indirect and direct approaches. Modern great power competition will thus return to forms of coercion and imposition reminiscent of the Middle Ages, but enacted with the technologies of today. Although raiding will be Moscow’s principal approach to competition, international brigandry may be the best term to describe elements of Russian behavior that the West considers to be “bad” or “malign.” These are acts of indirect warfare, both centrally planned and enacted on initiative by entities within the Russian state empowered to shape policy – often in competition with each other. Brigandry may come with negative legalistic connotations, a byword for outlaw, but here the term is meant to define a form of irregular or skirmish warfare in the international system conducted by a partisan.

Russia is, at times, miscast as a global spoiler or retrograde delinquent. Delinquents commit minor offenses and have no plan. Spoilers react to plans, but have little strategy of their own. Raiders, by contrast, launch operations with a strategic outlook and objectives in mind. And while often weaker than their opponents, raiders can be successful. The structure of the international system and the nature of the confrontation lends itself to the use of raiding, which increasingly appears to be the chosen Russian strategy. By focusing on deterring the high-end conventional fight and restoring nuclear coercive credibility, both important in and of themselves, the United States national security establishment may be fundamentally overlooking what will prove the defining Russian approach to competition.

Raiding as a tactic is not a new experience for the United States, but considered in a strategic context, the concept may lend itself more useful than the hodgepodge of gray zone, and other neologisms the community is often stuck referencing to explain the modern character of war. More importantly, raiding is a long established concept at the operational and strategic level of warfare, unlike “Russian hybrid warfare,” which has devolved into a kitchen sink discussion about Russian bad behavior. Indeed, raiding was once the principal form of warfare throughout Europe. Raiding is new in the sense that it is actually quite old as a strategy for competition between powers before the prominence of industrial scale warfare. Today, in our manuals, a raid is viewed as an operational tool rather than strategic concept, as can be seen in Joint Operations (JP 3-0), which describes a raid as “an operation to temporarily seize an area in order to secure information, confuse an adversary, capture personnel or equipment, or to destroy a capability culminating in a planned withdrawal.”

Raids are often conducted over phases, including infiltration, denying the enemy the opportunity to reinforce, followed by surprise attack and withdrawal. Raiding plays much more to Russian strengths, leveraging agility and a simplified chain of command ( i.e. deinstitutionalized decision making, and a strong desire to achieve political ends, but not to get stuck with the costs of holding terrain). This is a strategy of limited means and it is also lucrative. Thus, raiding is not about territorial expansion or global domination. We should consider this term when seeking to understand how classical great powers like Russia use their toolkits in strategic competition.

Great Power Spoiler or Great Power Raider?

Once the Cold War ended, Washington became accustomed to seeing Russia as a largely irrelevant power, unable to contest American foreign policy and too weak to effectively pursue its own interests. However, the 1990s and early 2000s were an anomalous period of time, with Russia missing as an actor in European politics, and taciturn on the international stage. In truth, it was not simply Russia’s absence from international politics, but the dearth of other powers in general that made this a period of unipolarity and the primacy of one state in international affairs well above and beyond the power of others. Denizens of Washington tended to forget or ignore the second word in the term Charles Krauthammer coined in 1990 to describe American primacy in the post-Cold War period: the “unipolar moment.”

He wrote:

The most striking feature of the post-Cold War world is its unipolarity. No doubt, multipolarity will come in time. In perhaps another generation or so there will be great powers coequal with the United States, and the world will, in structure, resemble the pre-World War I era. But we are not there yet, nor will we be for decades. Now is the unipolar moment.

That moment lasted longer than many had expected, but the decades did pass, and great power competition has reemerged.

The Russo-Georgian War in 2008 led to a turning point in bilateral relations. There was a sense in Washington that somewhere things had gone awry in Russia policy, and a desire emerged to reset relations with Moscow, in the hope that successful cooperation on areas of mutual interest would demonstrate the benefits of integration with the West, and into a U.S.-led international order. Suffice it to say that dream did not come to fruition.

Around 2015, after its intervention in Syria, Russia became increasingly seen as a global spoiler. Still the view prevailed that Moscow was resurgent, but brittle in terms of the foundations of power. This is a hubristic and overly optimistic interpretation. Such a vision is borne of the consistent mythos in America’s outlook that Russia is dangerous, but no more than a paper tiger that will eventually fade from the global stage. The endless trope that Russia doesn’t have a long game is a self-serving delusion. As Russia seeks to navigate through mounting international challenges posed by its confrontation with the United States it is increasingly forcing Washington and its allies to respond to a series of operations, campaigns, and calculated and not so calculated gambits.

Effective nuclear and conventional deterrence has long resulted in what Glenn Snyder described as a stability-instability paradox. This holds that the more stable the nuclear balance, the more likely powers will engage in conflicts below the threshold of war. If war is not an option and direct competition is foolish in light of U.S. advantages, raiding is a viable alternative that could succeed over time. Therefore, Russia has become the guerrilla in the international system, not seeking territorial dominion but raiding to achieve its political objectives. And these raids are having an effect. If Moscow can remain a strategic thorn in Washington’s side long enough for Beijing to become a global challenge to American leadership, Washington may have no choice but to negotiate a new great power condominium that ends the confrontation , or so Moscow hopes.

At the heart of a raid is the desire to achieve a coercive effect on the enemy. Even if unsuccessful, a raid can positively shape the environment for the raider by the damage and chaos it can inflict. At the tactical level, it is about military gains, but large raiding campaigns in the past sought political and economic impact on the adversary, typically ending with a withdrawal. The French word for this form of warfare was chevauchee, or mounted raid, describing an approach to conflict that eschewed siege warfare. The chevauchee was prominent in the 14th century, and the quintessential raider of that time was the English Black Prince, Edward III’s son. The Black Prince led two extensive raiding campaigns in 1355 and 1356 during the Hundred Years War, looting, burning and pillaging the French countryside. He was forced to adopt this form of warfare in part because the English lacked the means to siege French cities. Thus, the goal became to destabilize France to convince its feudal sovereigns that they were on their own. He did this with raids that targeted economic resources and thereby destroyed the political credibility of the French monarchy.

In Spain, the term for this form of warfare was cabalgadas, prolonged raiding operations conducted by infantry, a common feature of the War of the Two Pedros (1356 to 1379). In North Africa, raids were called razzia. America’s martial traditions are also rooted in raiding, from Roger’s Rangers during the French and Indian War, to the Revolutionary War, or the famous cavalry raids of the Civil War.

Russia has extensive experience in raiding as a form of warfare. The Russian term for raiding is nabeg. Long before the Mongol invasion in 1237 to 1240 and the formation of the Russian Empire, the first raids by the Rus began in 860 against the Byzantine Empire. These raids went on until 1043. Peter the Great was also no stranger to raiding operations in wartime. Hundreds of years later, during the latter years of the Great Northern War, Russian galley fleets with thousands of raiders successfully attacked Sweden, including Gotland, Uppland, and the Stockholm archipelago. The Red Army had its armored raids of World War II, like the 24th Tank Corps raid on Tatsinskaya during the last stages of the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942.

Raiding is an effective riposte to a strong but distracted opponent, and becomes popular when the technologies of the time create a rift between the political objectives sought and the means available to attain them. This makes traditional forms of warfare too costly, too risky, or unsuitable to the goals desired. Raiding proved prevalent before the modern nation-state system was formed in 1648 and subsequently exported by Europeans to the rest of the world. However, today the modern nation-state construct is weak. Do states truly have economic, information, or cyber borders? How do you demark these borders, defend them, and deter adversaries from crossing them? Much of the infrastructure for this digital age lives in exposed global domains, lies under the sea in international waters, in space, and cyberspace. All of it is vulnerable and ripe for exploitation.

The Modern Chevauchee

Russia will continue to use other instruments of national power to raid the West as part of a coercive campaign intended to at minimum weaken and distract Washington and, at maximum, coerce it into concessions on Russian interests. This is not a short-term strategy for victory, and it would be wrong to assume that these raids are centrally directed given the diverging security factions, clans, and personalities seeking to shape Russian foreign policy. Mark Galeotti cleverly coined “adhocracy” to describe this system. The image of Putin sitting in the Kremlin pulling knobs and levers, or the mythical Gerasimov Doctrine (a linguistic invention that its author has forsworn), have become tragic caricatures in the current zeitgeist. On the contrary, raiding has historically been conducted by detachments with a simplified chain of command, pre-delegated authority, and substantial leeway in how to prosecute their campaign. Raiding is not for deliberate strategists, but for those able to capitalize on leaner, fail fast, and fail cheap approaches.

Russia is not raiding to erode the liberal international order, at least not intentionally. That is the inevitable consequence of Russian behavior from a Western perspective, but not its objective. Such evaluations are frankly expressions of Anglo-Saxon political ideology more so than astute analysis of how Moscow actually tries to influence the international system. Russia does not believe there is any such thing as a liberal international order, nor does it see NATO as anything other than America’s Warsaw Pact, an organization structured around the projection of U.S. military power. As such, what the Kremlin understands the current international order to be is simply a system built around American unipolarity, and the best way to change this construct is to accelerate a transition from unipolarity to multipolarity (or what their policy establishment now calls a “polycentric” world).

Suffice it to say this transition will take a long time because, as William Wohlforth argued in 1999, unipolarity is more stable than it seems. Before 2014, many in Moscow thought they could just wait for this shift in power to happen. It’s important to understand that Russian elites too believe time is on their side. Many misread the 2007-2008 financial crisis as the beginning of rapid decline in the West. The confrontation has now forced Russian leadership to become active in pursuing the long-stated objectives of its own foreign policy, and they won’t stop until a settlement is made.

The center of gravity, in Russian military thought, is the adversary’s will to fight and a country’s ability to engage in  war or confrontation as a system. Therefore, the purpose of operations, particularly at a time of nominal peace, is to shape adversary decision-making by targeting their economic, information, and political infrastructure. Senior Russian officers see the modern character of war (correlation of forms and methods) as placing greater emphasis on non-kinetic means, particularly when compared to warfare in the 20th century. Russia’s chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, famously had this posited as a 4:1 non-military to military ratio in one article. Another important trend in Russian military thought identifies the decisive period of conflict as the confrontation or crisis preceding the outbreak of force-on-force violence and the initial period of war. Much of this Russian discourse focuses on non-contact warfare, the ability of long range precision weapons, paired with non-kinetic capabilities in global domains to inflict damage throughout the enemy’s system.

This vision seeks to reconcile the natural proclivities of a General Staff (i.e. planning for high-end warfare, buying expensive capabilities, and seeking larger conventional formations) with an understanding that modern conflicts will play out without set battle lines and meeting engagements. Russia seeks to shape the environment prior to the onset of conflict, and immediately thereafter, imposing costs and inflicting damage to coerce the adversary, in the hope that an inherent asymmetry of interests at stake will force the other side to yield. Russian officers are certainly not partisans, nor do they vocally advocate for raiding, but it is hard to escape the fact that the central tenets of current Russian military thought resemble more the coercive theory of victory of a chevauchee than they do of industrial scale warfare.

Raiding should not be confused with hybrid warfare. Raiding is an established historical approach to warfare, with discernible phasing, objectives, ways, and an overall strategy. The application of hybrid warfare to describe Russian operations has usually been confusing and disjointed in practice. Today, the term is increasingly relegated to European conversations about Russian information warfare and political chicanery.

The Strategic Terrain of Great Power Competition

Moscow is constrained by the structural realities of its competition with Washington. There is no way for Russia to fundamentally alter a balance of power that dramatically favors the United States. America’s GDP is more than five times that of Russia’s adjusted for purchasing power parity and ten times greater in raw terms. Washington sits at the head of the world’s most powerful network of allies in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific. And U.S. conventional military superiority is underwritten by a defense budget that is many times the size of Russia’s.

This is why Stephen Walt was right when he argued in March that the current competition is dissimilar to the Cold War (China, however, might prove a different story). It is not borne of a bipolar system, has no universalist ideological conflict behind it, and will not shape international politics as that period of confrontation did. Despite shrill cries by Max Boot, this is also no war, and the United States should do its best to keep it that way. We are still in what can broadly be described as a great power peace. Ever since the great powers built nuclear weapons, large-scale warfare has proven too risky and costly, thereby displacing competition into a host of proxy conflicts or actions short of warfare. Occasional conflicts do occur, such as the Sino-Soviet border conflict 1969, or Kargil War in 1999, but these have tended to be among young, and relatively minor nuclear powers, during the early stages of their nuclear arsenal development. Major nuclear powers, with established nuclear deterrents, eschew conventional wars because they understand that no one wins a nuclear war.

International orders historically have been created from the ashes of a great power war. As such, powers that want to create a multipolar world order have no quick or easy way of realizing such a vision. Therefore, Russia is stuck playing on a largely fixed strategic board, where the rules and institutions created by the West both favor the United States and constrain revisionism. That’s the end of the good news.

However, not all is well with the U.S.-led liberal international order. One need only to look to Russia’s war with Ukraine, successful projection of power in Syria, and sustained efforts at political subversion. Russia’s strategy is aimed at pursuing a great power condominium, seeking to secure former Soviet space as a de facto sphere of influence and its status as one of the principal players in the international system. The approach is rooted in convincing the United States that Russia is a great power with special rights, including the primacy of its security over the sovereignty of its neighbors and a prominent role in organizations governing world affairs. The Russian dream is to return to a status and recognition the Soviet Union held during a very particular time of its history, the détente of 1969 to 1979, when Washington saw Moscow, albeit reluctantly, as a co-equal superpower. In the face of structural constraints, Russia has found a viable path to getting what it wants from the United States via a strategy of coercion, leveraging raids and a wider campaign of international brigandry to impose outsized costs and retain Western attention.

In the early 2000s, when Russia was weak, Putin hoped to make a deal, trading Russian support for the U.S. so-called War on Terror in exchange for certain prerogatives: being treated as a great power, a free hand in its near abroad, and a U.S. ‘hands off’ approach in the former Soviet space. Back then, Moscow sought to explain why Russia deserves a seat at the table, but it was judged in Washington as too weak and irrelevant. When that approach didn’t work, Russia sought to demonstrate that its power and influence was grossly underestimated. Starting with the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, Moscow began using force to prevent NATO expansion. In Ukraine and Syria, Russia illustrated to what at times seems an overly post-modern Western political establishment that military power is still the trump card in international relations, despite what then-Secretary of State John Kerry had to say about 19th century behavior.

Russia’s successful use of force got the West to rethink Moscow’s capabilities and intentions, but it did not lead to a recognition of Russian interests, or a renegotiation of the post-Cold War order and Russia’s place in it, as the Kremlin had hoped. In place of a great power condominium, Russian leaders earned a lasting confrontation. Russia may have the power to filch Crimea from Ukraine, but it is still judged too weak to force a renegotiation of the security framework in Europe or attain major concessions from the United States. After Congress passed  sanctions in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act in July 2017 and the executive branch closed ranks to prevent any rapprochement, it became clear that no deal was in the offing between the Kremlin and the White House.

Russia still seeks recognition of its great power status in the international system, believing that with it will come privilege,  security, and a privileged sphere of influence over its neighbors. The Russian leadership’s strategic outlook has not changed, but demonstrating renewed military strength and resolve has proven insufficient for their country to get a deal with the United States. Washington is still full of policymakers who see Russian power as brittle, believing Moscow doesn’t have a long game. The Russian leadership has no alternative but to settle in for a prolonged geopolitical confrontation, banking on their own resilience, and the ability to impose costs on the basis of an old and familiar strategy of raiding.

Goodbye Nation-State, Hello Raiding

Ironically, as the driver of globalization and the growth of global interdependence, it is the West that has done the most to make raiding against itself so lucrative. Global connectivity, labor flows, migration both legal and illegal, proliferation of information technologies such as social media, together with the creation of supranational entities like the European Union are all enabling factors. Great powers like China and Russia often strive for autarky, seeking to fence off their kingdoms from influences that might create interdependence and allow uncontrolled outside influence. Beijing built the ”great firewall of China,” while Russia has also sought to wall itself off and impose statist control over the invisible ties that connect it to the rest of the international community.

Moscow’s latest battle that sparked protests was its attempt to censor Telegram, a popular messaging app, a contest which has escalated into millions of IPs blocked. These countries seek to create advantage in the great power competition by securing themselves from those technological trends which make modern states borderless. They are building forts. At the same time, they have come to recognize that liberal democracies are open plains ripe for raiding. The 21st century, with all its technological advancements and global interconnectedness, is naturally reviving forms of warfare that shaped Europe in 13th and 14th centuries.

Cyber operations are perhaps the most obvious instrument for modern day raiding. Both Russia and China have made good use of it to raid the U.S. politically and economically, pillaging and looting like in the days of yore. Those Russian attacks not intended to damage are perhaps even more worrisome intrusions designed to gain access and lay the groundwork for future strikes against critical infrastructure such as “energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing.” Russia’s recently closed San Francisco consulate was reportedly an intelligence hub for physically mapping fiber optic networks, and a host of activities described as “extraordinarily aggressive intelligence-collection efforts” considered to be “at the very forefront of innovation.”

However, military raiding is back as well. The Russian campaign in Ukraine’s Donbass region is only posing as a form of industrialized warfare. In reality, this was meant to be a raid. It began with infiltration, and its strategic centerpiece is a low-cost effort to coerce Ukraine into federalization in a bid to retain control over Kyiv’s strategic orientation. Moscow never wanted to hold on to the Donbass and still does not. If anything, it long sought to return it to Ukraine in exchange for federalization, though, at minimum, Russia is happy at the destabilizing effect that this conflict has on Ukraine’s policy and economy. Put aside cyber and political warfare campaigns, the four-year conflict in Ukraine is at face value a sustained raid that Moscow had hoped to close out with the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements. Russia empirically lacks the manpower to take over Ukraine, nor did it want to own and pay for parts of the country either. At its core the war in the Donbass is the modern equivalent of the Black Prince’s great chevauchee campaigns in France.

Raiding is not a direct imposition by conquest, nor is it a fait accompli. Behind a raid lies neither the desire for domination nor for limited territorial gains. From the outset, the adversary seeks to withdraw. This is why Crimea does not fit this model, although there is much evidence to suggest that Russia initially seized Crimea without the intent to annex it ( i.e. it was first meant as part of a game of coercive diplomacy). That said, Ukraine illustrates the fundamental problems with raiding: Raids are easier to launch than they are to manage. The fitful and messy escalation in Ukraine is a hallmark of raiding, when the character of war is not defined by two armies meeting in the field, or a militarily superior power seeking to simply impose its will on a weaker adversary via large-scale industrial warfare. If Russia wanted to crush the Ukrainian military, it could do it, but instead it wants to raid. Since 2015, the conflict has evolved to unconventional warfare throughout Ukraine’s territory, with state-sponsored assassinations, acts of terror, and industrial sabotage becoming the norm.

As Russia grows more confident, and the confrontation intensifies, raiding may become more military in nature. Moscow’s position in Syria is ideal for campaigns elsewhere in the Middle East where it can establish itself as a power broker on the cheap, with countries in the region already choosing to hedge and deleverage from their dependency on relations with the United States. This is ultimately an iterative experience: Some raids or acts of brigandage have clearly backfired. The best recent example of blowback was the failed Russian mercenary attack on February 7 east of Deir Ezzor. That night in the desert was the brainchild of one of Russia’s “mini-garchs” and infamous backers of the Wagner mercenary group, together with the internet troll factory, Yevgeny Prigozhin. While not exactly the brightest horseman, he has been closely linked to Russian efforts in information, political, and other forms of indirect warfare.

The Middle East is a flanking theater in the competition, one where the United States is visibly weak, and its allies are interested in any alternative external power to reduce their own dependency on Washington. Russia will look for ways to raid America’s influence there without taking ownership, security responsibilities, or otherwise over extending itself. The military campaign in Syria came cheaply, taught Russia that it can indeed project power outside its region, and challengeds America’s monopoly on use of force in the international system.

The Black Prince’s Strategy

Forget the decisive Mahanian battle. The typical conventional wars, which the United States frequently wargames, but probably will never get to fight (thanks to nuclear deterrence), are poorly aligned with how adversaries intend to pursue their objectives. Avoiding disadvantages in direct competition is undoubtedly important, as Russia and China have equally invested in conventional and nuclear capabilities, but it is precisely because of our investments in these realms that we have made raiding lucrative. The surest way to spot a raid is when the initiating power doesn’t actually want to possess the object in contest but is instead seeking to inflict economic and political pain to coerce a more important strategic concession out of their opponent. This is not to say that limited land grabs or conventional warfare will disappear from the international arena, but raiding poses a more probable challenge to the United States and its extended network of allies.

Great power raiding is not meant to represent a unified field theory of adversary behavior in the current competition. Not everything aligns neatly with this concept, nor can the actions of a country with numerous instruments of national power be reduced so simply. Nonetheless, raiding for cost imposition and outright pillage, together with other behaviors by intelligence services and elites that may be summed up as in international brigandry, do encapsulate much of the problem. The Russian long game is to raid and impose painful costs on the United States, and its allies, until such time as China becomes a stronger and more active contender in the international system. This theory of victory stems from the Russian assumption that the structural balance of power will eventually shift away from the United States towards China and other powers in the international system, resulting in a steady transition to multipolarity. This strategy is emergent, but the hope is that a successful campaign of raiding, together with the greater threat from China, will force Washington to compromise and renegotiate the post-Cold War settlement.

Can Russia win? If winning is defined as Moscow attaining influence and securing interests in the international system not commensurate with the relative balance of power, but rather based the amount of damage they have inflicted by raiding – quite possibly. If the raider has staying power, and makes a prolonged strategic burden of itself, it can get a favorable settlement even though it is weaker, especially if its opponent has bigger enemies to deal with. Throughout history, leading empires, the superpowers of their time, have had to deal and negotiate settlements with raiders.

Here, conventional military might and alliances count for a lot less than you might hope. Today, you don’t need mounted riders for a raiding campaign or for acts of international brigandry. Moscow successfully rode past NATO, all of America’s carrier strike groups, and struck Washington with a campaign of political subversion. The technology involved may be innovative or new, but this form of warfare is decidedly old. To deal with it, Washington will not require panel discussions, new acronyms, and the construction of a center of excellence, but instead to revisit the history of conflict, international politics, and strategy.

Michael Kofman is a Senior Research Scientist at CNA Corporation and a Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute. Previously he served as program manager at National Defense University. The views expressed here are his own.


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Re: US Foreign Policy
« Reply #849 on: June 15, 2018, 02:21:03 PM »
second post:

From the preceding:

"However, today the modern nation-state construct is weak. Do states truly have economic, information, or cyber borders? How do you demark these borders, defend them, and deter adversaries from crossing them? Much of the infrastructure for this digital age lives in exposed global domains, lies under the sea in international waters, in space, and cyberspace. All of it is vulnerable and ripe for exploitation."

I reflect upon this.