Editor’s Note – Barack Obama has demonstrated a disdain for calling anything terrorism, unless forced to, and most often he has re-labeled it as an ‘overseas contingency operation’ to appease the Muslim world. He uses words like war and victory only when there is no intention to act, and he only acts when politically expedient. He has basically ended America’s hostilities on terror, save for a drone strike or two.
Then only recently did he give a speech at West Point explaining his foreign policy, six years into his two terms, which he was forced to do for at least two reasons, the recent kidnappings and deaths at the hands of Boko Harem and the immediate release only a few days after the speech of the ‘Taliban 5’ from Guantanamo.
So where does that leave America for the next several years, especially since Barack Obama has forced the shrinking of the United States global footprint, reputation, and trustworthiness?
Barack Obama’s lack of a clear and concise foreign policy and dismal leadership has alienated our allies to such a point that there is a very real possibility of NATO crumbling, much like the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc.
This leaves China and a resurgent Russia, along with the entire Shiite and Sunni world in a race for the top slots of global power rankings. When only Greece has set aside the proper funds for its share of NATO expenses, there is not much hope for NATO’s future.
In context, the lack of will and the anti-colonialism slant that Barack Obama has demonstrated, simply removed the United States from the short list of the keepers of peace globally.
In just six short years, Obama has unraveled the United States’ dominance globally, a closely knit fabric that was carefully crafted over generations. Now, some experts predict it will take at least fifteen years even to begin to reverse this course. Others predict as many as forty years, and that is only if there is a collection of Reagan prodigies on the horizon. Not much hope so far.
One of the topic intelligence analysts, with a real and candid background for saying what must be said, Michael Vickers has addressed this issue. Here he is his assessment. Please give it deep consideration.
USDI Vickers’ Top Threats: Terrorists, Syria, Russian ‘Revanchism’
WASHINGTON: If you want to understand why President Obama spoke so much about terrorism in his widely panned West Point speech, the head of Pentagon intelligence explained it pretty well today.
Terrorism is and remains the top threat to the United States, Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Mike Vickers said this morning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The most interesting, and some would say anomalous, threat assessment he offered: China comes in at number seven after Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the Syrian civil war, Russian “revanchism,” Iran, North Korea and what he called the “persistent volatility” across South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.
It makes sense when you consider the long-range goals China appears to have set itself and the absence of a direct confrontation — so far — between the two powers.
Now folks in the Intelligence Community may well tut tut and profess that they examine each situation as it occurs, but budgeting requires prioritization and here it is.
What does all this mean in aggregate to the Intelligence Community and the Pentagon? Vickers said, “[as] senior intelligence officials, we haven’t seen this range of challenges on an administration’s plate in our careers.” Not only is the range of threats geographically enormous and conceptually varied, they are, as Vickers noted, “these are highly asymmetric challenges.”
In Pentagon parlance that means the United States military isn’t necessarily well prepared to cope with them. And there are a lot of them.
Is Mike Vickers arguing that the Intelligence Community needs to remain very well financed, even in this age of declining defense budgets? Sounds like!
Editor’s Note – It amazes us at SUA that people across the land still consider Hillary Rodham Clinton as a viable Presidential candidate anymore. The reasons must follow that too many people are still ill-informed, have willingly suspended disbelief, have a cognitive estrangement with the truth, and/or are so deeply ideological, even her failures do not count.
In fact, even she cannot cite any successes for which she is responsible in her years as Secretary of State or as a Senator from New York. When the New York Times points these issues out, it surely is time for America to take notice, peel the scales from their eyes, and come back to reality.
Today’s abysmal results of her foreign policy efforts on behalf of her boss, Barrack Obama, are telling to say the least. When we look at the current state of Ukraine, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, China, Myanmar, Venezuela, Cuba, and many more corners of the Earth; each display daily a cause of major concern. It is not a good time to be an ally of the United States – we are no longer to be trusted; we are less than a paper tiger.
Failure is the only consistent thing in her resume, going all the way back to the Whitewater scandal when her husband was Attorney General and then Governor of Arkansas and into his first campaign for the Presidency, then through the Travel Office Scandal when he took office, to Benghazi and beyond. Let’s not forget her allegiance and sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood through her assistant Huma Abedin and the Clinton Global Initiative that is supported by these types.
“At this point, what difference does it make?”
Remember, she was the one who chose Christopher Stevens as Ambassador to Libya and watched idly as he and three others died horribly, as well as leaving over 30 other people at risk that day. We must point out one nefarious fact, her only success there was the jailing of a man who made a silly video.
We can cite one major accomplishment, she ranks at the top of the most traveled Secretaries of State ever – all with no positive result. If numbers of countries visited, miles traveled, or fuel burned, were what counted, at least those she is compared against at those levels had a major impact in keeping America’s reputation and influence at a continued high level, most unlike our standing today.
Hillary Clinton Struggles to Define a Legacy in Progress
WASHINGTON — It was a simple question to someone accustomed to much tougher ones: What was her proudest achievement as secretary of state? But for a moment, Hillary Rodham Clinton, appearing recently before a friendly audience at a women’s forum in Manhattan, seemed flustered.
Mrs. Clinton played an energetic role in virtually every foreign policy issue of President Obama’s first term, advocating generally hawkish views internally while using her celebrity to try to restore America’s global standing after the hit it took during the George W. Bush administration.
But her halting answer suggests a problem that Mrs. Clinton could confront as she recounts her record in Mr. Obama’s cabinet before a possible run for president in 2016: Much of what she labored over so conscientiously is either unfinished business or has gone awry in his second term.
From Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the grinding civil war in Syria to the latest impasse in the Middle East peace process, the turbulent world has frustrated Mr. Obama, and is now defying Mrs. Clinton’s attempts to articulate a tangible diplomatic legacy.
“I really see my role as secretary, and, in fact, leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race,” Mrs. Clinton finally said at the Women in the World meeting, promising to offer specific examples in a memoir she is writing that is scheduled to be released in June. “I mean, you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton.”
The relay metaphor has become a recurring theme for Mrs. Clinton during this year of speculation about her future. She did her part, it suggests, but the outcome was out of her hands. And so Mrs. Clinton is striking a delicate balance when discussing a job that would be a critical credential in a presidential race.
On the one hand, she wants credit for the parts of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy that have worked, like the pressure campaign against Iran over its nuclear program, which she helped orchestrate and which has pulled Iran to the bargaining table.
On the other, she is subtly distancing herself from the things that have not worked out, like Mr. Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia. She recently likened President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea to actions by Hitler in the 1930s, and posted on Twitter a photograph of herself with members of Pussy Riot, the protest group that is Mr. Putin’s nemesis.
Mrs. Clinton’s Republican opponents, losing no time in trying to define her, note that she gave Russia’s foreign minister the infamous mistranslated red plastic button to reset relations. It said “overcharge,” not “reset.” They have been tireless in raising questions about the deadly attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
While Republicans are likely to make her part of a broad critique of the Obama administration’s approach to national security, Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish views could also be a problem in ensuring the support of liberals in her own party, who are weary of foreign entanglements.
In one sense, though, the cascade of foreign crises that now bedevil Mr. Obama could play to Mrs. Clinton’s advantage. By presenting herself in her book and in any possible campaign as the toughest voice in the room during the great debates over war and peace, she could set herself apart from a president who critics charge has forsworn America’s leadership role in the world.
Mrs. Clinton has scrupulously avoided publicly criticizing Mr. Obama; White House aides said he still called her for advice. And much of the administration’s foreign policy still bears her imprint, like the Iran sanctions and a more confrontational stance toward China, which she pioneered and Mr. Obama has embraced.
But in recent interviews, two dozen current and former administration officials, foreign diplomats, friends and outside analysts described Mrs. Clinton as almost always the advocate of the most aggressive actions considered by Mr. Obama’s national security team — and not just in well-documented cases, like the debate over how many additional American troops to send to Afghanistan or the NATO airstrikes in Libya.
Mrs. Clinton’s advocates — a swelling number in Washington, where people are already looking to the next administration — are quick to cite other cases in which she took more hawkish positions than the White House: arguing for funneling weapons to Syrian rebels and for leaving more troops behind in postwar Iraq, and criticizing the results of a 2011 parliamentary election in Russia.
The criticism of the Russian election led Mr. Putin to accuse her of fomenting unrest, and left some senior Obama aides unhappy. “Some at the White House thought she overstepped,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, who supported her view.
At the same time, Mrs. Clinton’s instincts were curbed by her innate caution, her determination to show loyalty to a rival-turned-boss and her growing pains in the job. Still, dissecting her record yields tantalizing clues about what kind of foreign policy she might pursue as president. “Hillary unbound,” people who worked with her say, would be instinctively less reluctant than Mr. Obama to commit the military to foreign conflicts.
“It’s not that she’s quick to use force, but her basic instincts are governed more by the uses of hard power,” said Dennis B. Ross, a former White House aide who played a behind-the-scenes role in opening secret direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program.
Leon E. Panetta, who forged close ties to Mrs. Clinton as defense secretary and C.I.A. director, said she was a stalwart supporter of the C.I.A.’s activities in Pakistan — read, drone strikes — and an influential voice in advising Mr. Obama to order the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“The president has made some tough decisions,” Mr. Panetta said. “But it’s been a mixed record, and the concern is, the president defining what America’s role in the world is in the 21st century hasn’t happened.”
“Hopefully, he’ll do it,” Mr. Panetta said, “and certainly, she would.”
The Mideast Peace Process
Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish inclinations were well established in her bitter 2008 Democratic primary campaign against Mr. Obama, when she famously criticized as naïve his willingness to talk to America’s adversaries without preconditions. But when he persuaded her to join his “team of rivals,” she submerged her views and worked hard to establish her loyalty — all of which has added to her problems in promoting her record.
A case in point is the Middle East peace process, in which secretaries of state from Henry A. Kissinger to John Kerry have tried to make their mark. “There’s core-course curriculum, and then there’s extra credit,” said Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff. “This is always seen as a core requirement for a secretary of state.”
Mrs. Clinton’s marching orders from the White House were to demand that Israel cease the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a way to lure the Palestinians into talks, and she did so with a fervor that surprised Mr. Obama’s advisers. But they had conceived the strategy, and Mrs. Clinton privately had qualms with it, which proved well founded.
“We did not make it sufficiently clear that this was not a precondition but part of an effort to create an overall atmosphere in which negotiations could succeed,” said George J. Mitchell, the former Middle East envoy who left in 2011 after failing to break the logjam.
Mr. Kerry has tried a different approach to peacemaking, with little to show for it so far. But he seems determined to keep trying, while some veterans of Middle East diplomacy say Mrs. Clinton gave up too easily. In a recent interview with Time magazine, former President Jimmy Carter said that “she took very little action to bring about peace.”
Today, when Mrs. Clinton’s aides talk about the Middle East, they barely mention the Israeli-Palestinian talks, preferring to discuss the cease-fire she brokered in November 2012 between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, where she twisted arms to avoid escalating violence.
Building Pressure on Iran
Mrs. Clinton was more successful in dealing with Iran. As with the Middle East, she was skeptical that Mr. Obama’s initial strategy — reaching out to Iran’s leaders — would work. So when he shifted to sanctions, she was eager to build pressure on what she called a “military dictatorship.”
It was a tough job against long odds, said Tom Donilon, the former national security adviser, because it meant pressing allies in Europe and Asia, huge trading partners of Iran, to agree to steps “that had a real cost.”
Mrs. Clinton delivered her stern message with a smile. In June 2010, the day before the United Nations voted on strict new sanctions against Iran, Mrs. Clinton invited China’s ambassador to Washington, Zhang Yesui, to a hotel bar in Lima, Peru, where both were at a conference.
Drinking pisco sours, the potent local cocktail, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Zhang went over an annex to the Security Council resolution line by line as she tried to clinch Beijing’s agreement to withdraw investments in Iran by Chinese banks and state-owned enterprises.
The sanctions, Mrs. Clinton likes to remind audiences, crippled Iran’s oil exports and currency, setting the stage for the election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as president and for Iran’s renewed interest in diplomacy.
Mr. Obama had first proposed direct talks in a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in 2009. Mrs. Clinton authorized Mr. Ross, then her special adviser, to explore a back channel to the Iranians through the Arab sultanate of Oman.
In January 2011, Mrs. Clinton stopped in Oman on a tour of the Persian Gulf that was notable because she gave a speech, on the eve of the Arab Spring, warning leaders that they risked “sinking in the sand” if they did not reform their societies. Less noticed was her meeting with the sultan, in which he offered to facilitate a meeting with the Iranians.
After some exploratory meetings with a delegation from Tehran, Mrs. Clinton sent two of her top lieutenants, William J. Burns and Jake Sullivan, to Oman for more intensive negotiations. That opened the door to the nuclear talks now underway in Vienna. But what her colleagues remember most is her steadfast conviction that Iran would deal only under duress.
“She was skeptical that it would produce anything, or at least anything quickly, and in a way she was right because it took several years to get to that point,” said Mr. Burns, a deputy secretary of state.
With China, too, Mrs. Clinton set the stage for a more confrontational approach, though that was not the policy she followed at the outset. When she made her first trip as secretary of state to Beijing, she stumbled by suggesting that the United States would not offer lectures on human rights as much as it had in the past.
By 2010, however, she sounded more like the woman who had cut her teeth on the global stage in 1995 with a defiant speech on women’s rights at a United Nations conference in Beijing. Attending a summit meeting in Vietnam, she thrust the United States into a tangled dispute between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea.
The Chinese government was enraged by her meddling, but her actions set a new context for the relationship. By insisting that China adhere to international norms and by shoring up American alliances with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, Mrs. Clinton moved Washington away from the China-centric model favored by previous presidents.
“Secretary Clinton strongly pushed for a 21st-century conversation with China and resisted occasional Chinese efforts to engage in a secretive, 19th-century diplomacy,” said Kurt M. Campbell, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs.
When the State Department proposed sending 2,500 Marines to Australia to underline America’s commitment to Southeast Asia, the Pentagon, Mr. Panetta said, latched on to the idea, because “it fit the new defense strategy we were developing.”
Mrs. Clinton became the most visible and energetic exponent of the president’s “Asia rebalance” — so much so, in fact, that her aides complained to Mr. Donilon at one point that she was not getting enough credit for it. In a lingering sign of Mrs. Clinton’s influence, Mr. Obama will visit the Philippines, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea next week.
Kim Beazley, Australia’s ambassador to Washington, credits her with reversing a laissez-faire approach to the Pacific Rim that dated from the Nixon administration. “She was metronome perfect,” he said.
A Different Standard
As Mrs. Clinton’s aides shape her legacy, one of their biggest frustrations has been explaining that the most publicized work of her tenure — her emphasis on the rights of women and girls — was not a safe or soft issue, but part of a broader strategy that strengthens national security. Mrs. Clinton may be the only diplomat, they say, who is criticized for being simultaneously too dovish and too hawkish.
“You can’t have it both ways,” said Thomas R. Nides, a former deputy secretary of state who is now a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley. “You can’t say that she’s about soft power, women and girls, and hospitals and ribbon cuttings, and simultaneously maintain that all she cares about is drones, missiles, going to war.”
Because of her celebrity and her potential political future, Mrs. Clinton’s advocates say, she is held to a different standard than other secretaries of state. More than ever, they say, the job is defined not by clear victories but by a dogged commitment to the process.
“We have sort of a heroic vision of diplomacy,” said James B. Steinberg, who served as deputy secretary of state. “But it’s really easy to overwrite the traditional role of leader-to-leader diplomacy.”
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, said, “I think of her as being extraordinarily resourceful within a set of constraints.” She noted, for example, that Mrs. Clinton had to spend three months apologizing for the undiplomatic remarks in the secret cables disclosed by WikiLeaks.
Mrs. Clinton’s memoir will allow her to give her view of WikiLeaks, Benghazi and smaller missteps like the Russia reset button — a stunt she nevertheless liked enough that she later gave one to Mr. McDonough to smooth over friction with the White House over personnel issues.
Mrs. Clinton’s vision of 21st-century diplomacy mirrors what her allies say is a vision of a more engaged America. The question is whether that vision will be appealing to a nation that, after 12 years of war, is weary of foreign adventures. Liberal critics may have no other choice for a candidate.
“Although there will be a good number of folks in the Democratic Party who are uncomfortable with her hawkishness, they will ask themselves, ‘Where else can we go?’ ” said Paul R. Pillar, a former C.I.A. analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University and supports Mr. Obama’s more cautious view of the American role abroad.
Mr. McDonough, one of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers, declares himself a great admirer of Mrs. Clinton. But he was on the other side of the internal debate over providing weapons to the Syrian rebels, and, like his boss, is cautious about the use of American force. However harrowing the conflict, he said, “you have to be disciplined about where you invest this country’s power.”
“We’re leaving an era where the country gave the president a lot of leeway, in terms of resources, in terms of time,” Mr. McDonough said. “It will be a long time before a president has the kind of leeway in this space that President Bush had.”
By Scott Winchell and Denise Simon, Editors at SUA
It is ‘March Madness’ here in the USA as the NCAA Tournament finalizes the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ on this Sunday, but the madness that really matters is what we see across the globe.
It is also the total ineptitude in the White House and the State Department when it comes to the Russian Bear flexing its muscles and baring its formidable claws in Eastern Europe and beyond. The ‘Final Four’ may well be determined soon, but Putin is not playing games, he knows what he is doing, and he knows his opponents well… no need for any ‘Bracketology‘ there.
It appears that for a very long time, for over five years, the State Department has been well aware of the many violations of a 1987 nuclear missile accord committed by Russia but failed to to disclose the transgressions to anyone, especially Congress.
In fact, upon the now famous Hillary Clinton “reset” button fiasco, Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov read the ‘tea leaves’ all too clearly. The Washington Free Beacon reported just how dangerous this is, yet, the Obama Administration still went ahead with that new ‘reset” at the time, knowing full well of the violations:
Two senior House leaders on Friday requested an investigation by Congress’ General Accountability Office (GAO) into the State Department’s failure to report Russian violations of a 1987 nuclear missile accord.
“It is clear from my subcommittee’s oversight that the administration did not fully disclose what it knew about Russian arms control violations when it was trying to get the New START treaty ratified,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.
“Its all-consuming drive to protect its Russia reset policy has gutted our missile defenses, alienated allies, and only encouraged Vladimir Putin’s lawlessness,” he said in a statement. (Read the rest here.)
Additionally, the Obama Administration, through Hillary Clinton, still went ahead with that new ‘reset,’ even using a poorly translated button they hastily found at their hotel, at the time, knew full well of these violations. Moreover, they also unilaterally capitulated to Putin and scraped the missile defense shield for countries including Poland and the Czech Republic.
It seems that the ‘reset’ button was translated into Russian as: ‘go ahead’ Russia. America, and especially this administration was, and is, too preoccupied to care. But now, many within the DC ‘Beltway’ have noticed the violations and are challenging John Kerry to come clean.
Now, as shots have been fired in the newly ‘annexed’ Crimea, one Ukrainian commander has been placed in detention. That understanding of ‘reset’ by Putin and his Comrades is showing the absolute ineptitude of Obama/Clinton, and now John Kerry. Reuter’s reported:
Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base’s commander for talks.
A Reuters reporter said armored vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades.
Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.
Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: “That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base’s storage.” (Read the rest here.)
Putin achieved his first occupation victory some years ago in Georgia, effectively absorbing the South Ossetia and Abkhazia areas in 2008, but now with Crimea under his control, its the eastern portion of the Ukraine under the gun. Ukraine, along with many of the other east European nations, including the former SSR Baltic States, are more than worried. Demonstrating this, Poland has escalated its desire and efforts to secure a missile defense system:
Poland has decided to speed up its tender for a missile defence system, a defence ministry spokesman said on Thursday, in a sign of Warsaw’s disquiet over the tension between neighbouring Ukraine and Russia.
“The issues related with Poland’s air defence will be accelerated,” spokesman Jacek Sonta said. “Poland plans to choose the best offer for its missile defence in the next few weeks.”
The NATO member had planned to reduce the number of bidders by June, but the crisis in Ukraine and concerns about Russia’s annexation of Crimea have prompted officials to speed up the timetable. (Read more here.)
Russian forces gathering on the border with eastern Ukraine may be poised to invade, the White House warned on Sunday, as the government in Kiev said that the prospect of war with Moscow was continuing to grow after the annexation of Crimea.
Speaking after Nato’s top commander in Europe voiced alarm about the size and preparedness of the Russian troop buildup, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said President Vladimir Putin may indeed be readying further action.
“It’s deeply concerning to see the Russian troop buildup on the border,” Blinken told CNN. “It creates the potential for incidents, for instability. It’s likely that what they’re trying to do is intimidate the Ukrainians. It’s possible that they’re preparing to move in.” (Read more here.)
With all this in mind, Obama, or as he has been referred to in China as “Winnie the Pooh, and Tigger” is pledged to assist and support Ukraine by signed agreement, but it has meant nothing more now than MRE’s, or rations if you will, instead of weapons heading to Ukraine.
So, now that Putin has performed unchallenged, what is next? Well there are at least 5 probably scenarios according to a top consultancy on such issues.
Wikistrat, a consultancy that analyzes geopolitical and economic forces using crowd-sourced expertise, has been calculating what could happen next in the region.
In January, Wikistrat analysts forecast the potential for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to resign (which he did a month later) and for Crimea to request annexation into Russia (which occurred this week).
Recently, 66 analysts spent five days exploring scenarios involving all types of interventions, from small-scale missions against criminals and terrorists to outright invasions and massive cyberattacks.
Galeotti then explains why Russia would potentially act in these ways, and the effects of that sort of behavior. These observations encapsulate why Russia discreetly intervenes aboard, how it’s done, and the effect of the Kremlin’s actions.
But what is worse, Putin is suing a handful of countries that are in fact, past due, in big numbers on their payment for gas usage.
A senior Russian defense official has announced that Moscow is looking to build military bases throughout different countries in Asia and the Western Hemisphere.
According to RIA Novosti, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia is looking to build military bases in Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries.
“The talks are under way, and we are close to signing the relevant documents,” Shoigu said, according to RIA Novosti. The newspaper noted that “Moscow currently has only one naval base outside the former Soviet Union – in Tartus, Syria, but the fate of this naval facility is uncertain because of the ongoing civil war in that country.”
The comments are probably intended in part to shore up domestic support for Vladimir Putin among Russian nationalists who are likely reassessing his leadership abilities in light of the events in the Ukraine in past weeks.
However, the timing and substance of the comments also suggest that Russia is trying to antagonize the United States because of the collapse of the Russian-backed Ukrainian government last week. (Read more here.)
Editor’s Note – Prior to World War II, despite FDR’s desires, the nation preferred to stay out of the war raging in Europe, for right or wrong. What we did not know was that Japan was about to make us enter, and FDR had already been supplying England through the Lend/Lease Act to avoid ceding so-called neutrality.
No matter what the tenor of the nation, the war was about to pull us in, and we were not prepared. The signs were there, in broad colors, and in large measure, the signs of World War are present today, some say in starker terms. Fortunately, when Japan unleashed the ‘sleeping giant’, we quickly turned the foremost industrial engine on the Earth into overdrive and we eventually overwhelmed our enemies and saved our allies.
Now, we are decreasing our military, at a time we should be modernizing it and insuring it fits the threat, not just a bottom line number, but we do not have the money allocated by threat priority in other budgets due to waste, fraud and abuse. At a time when our collective intelligence reports read that the threats are greater today than ever, supported by the Intelligence Community congressional testimony, what criteria did Hagel use?
It is also clear that our nation is considered weaker than ever, and now our enemies see us cut further. This emboldens the likes of Iran, Putin in Russia, China in the Pacific, and al Qaeda. Let us also not forget the Taliban threat once we leave Afghanistan.
Of course, past bad fiscal management by all parties has brought us to the brink of financial ruin, the Obama Administration has only deepened the abyss and now Secretary of Defense Hagel announced massive cuts; cuts that will place us right back in the pre-WWII levels. The question is, if World War comes again, we will be able to recover as quickly, and strike our enemies into total submission?
You be the judge, but you also need to ask why, that for at least three generations we have not reined in unreasonable spending in the Pentagon as well – a ‘perfect storm’ appears on the horizon, and we have a ‘paper tiger’ in the White House. Bad management has reduced our national security because of politics, not priorities.
Traditionally, military planners have operated under a worst-case scenario: i.e., what do we need to have in place to respond if nothing goes as planned? The Obama administration and Congress appear to be operating under a best-case scenario: i.e., what is the minimum force we can field on the assumption that nothing will go terribly wrong?
Thus the new defense budget, being unveiled today, which cuts the army’s active-duty force size to the smallest level since before World War II–just 440,000 to 450,000 soldiers. That’s down from a wartime high of 570,000, although even that figure was painfully inadequate to allow the U.S. to respond to two unforeseen wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As critics of the Bush administration–including Senator Barack Obama–were once fond of pointing out, Bush never sent enough troops to stabilize Iraq until 2007 and that commitment was only made possible by keeping a ludicrously small force in Afghanistan, once known as the “necessary” war.
The failure to send more troops early on allowed the Taliban to rebound from near-defeat in 2001 and allowed various insurgent groups to sprout all over Iraq.
So if 570,000 troops were not enough to handle such relatively weak foes as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban, how on earth would 440,000 troops be able to handle more robust contingencies–unlikely but not impossible–such as simultaneous wars with Iran and North Korea and a stabilization mission in, say, Yemen? The answer is that they couldn’t.
Actually the situation is even worse than the news would have you believe. Because the army’s plan to cut down to 440,000 to 450,000 is premised on the assumption that Congress will continue to provide relief from half a trillion dollars in sequestration cuts.
But the budget deal reached by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray only provides sequestration relief in 2014 and 2015; unless Congress is willing to turn off sequestration in future years, the army will have to go even lower in end-strength.
Moreover, the defense budget includes modest cuts in personnel spending–spending on pay, pensions, and health care–which are long overdue but which are likely to be blocked by Congress, as was the case with a recent attempt to cut cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees by a measly one percent.
Unless Congress goes along with cuts to personnel costs, which now constitute half of the defense budget, other parts of the budget–including, no doubt, the army’s end-strength–will have to endure further scaling back.
That is a responsible decline in military strength only if you assume that we will never fight another major land war, or engage in simultaneous stabilization and counterinsurgency operations. And that, in turn, is a tenable assumption only if you assume that the laws of history have been repealed and a new era is dawning in which the U.S. will be able to protect all of its vital interests through drone strikes and commando raids.
We all hope that’s the case but, as the saying has it, hope isn’t a strategy. Except, it seems, in Washington defense circles today.
If history teaches anything, it is that the era of land wars is not over and that we will pay a heavy price in the future for our unpreparedness–as we have paid in blood at the beginning of every major war in American history.
Our failure to learn from history is stunning and (from a historian’s standpoint) disheartening but not, alas, terribly surprising: Throughout history, supposedly enlightened elites have been able to convince themselves that the era of conflict is over and a new age is dawning.
The fact that they have always been wrong before does not, somehow, lead them to question those assumptions in the present day, because this is such a convenient belief to have.
Today, for both Republicans and Democrats, the president and Congress, these hope-based assumptions about defense spending allow them to put off the truly difficult decisions about cutting entitlement spending. But at what cost? If history is any guide, the cost of unpreparedness will be steep and will be borne by future generations of American troops.
UPDATE – February 20, 3:15 PM Eastern – Just released on another outlet is a very interesting video that explains how they hack our systems. The video is posted at the bottom of this page. It is entitled: “Fascinating video tracks a real Chinese hacker in action.”
Editor’s Note – We have been reporting on cyber attacks from all avenues; from ‘Anonymous’ to Iran to China and hundreds of other places and types. Now, security firm Mandiant appears to have proof about the vast effort the Chinese are waging upon us.
An elite military unit of Chinese hackers is likely behind a wave of attacks on U.S. government and business computer systems, according to a report released on Tuesday by the American security firm Mandiant.
Analysts traced a series of attacks to a 12-story building in the Pudong district of Shanghai. They concluded that the building, which likely holds hundreds or even thousands of employees, is almost certainly the headquarters of China’s secretive cyberwar division, the People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398.
A state-owned telecommunications company provided special fiber optic cable to the building in the name of national defense, according to the 74-page report. The analysts said that the hackers, who are required to be proficient in English, likely have a sizeable support staff of liguists, researchers and industry experts.
Mandiant concluded that since 2006, the Chinese unit has stolen data from at least 141 companies across 20 major industries. At least 115 of the companies were in the United States.
The analysts said the hackers periodically revisit the networks of victims over the course of several months or years to steal information such as blueprints, test results, business plans, pricing documents and emails.
“It is time to acknowledge the threat is originating from China, and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security professionals to combat the threat effectively,” Dan McWhorter, Mandiant’s managing director of threat intelligence, said in a statement explaining the firm’s decision to release the information.
The Chinese government denied the allegations.
“Cyberattacks are anonymous and transnational, and it is hard to trace the origin of attacks, so I don’t know how the findings of the report are credible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The report did not name any of the victims, but attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Coca-Cola and major media companies including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have been tied to hackers in China.
The attack on the Times likely came from a different group, according to the paper.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) has warned that the United States is losing a cyber war with China.
Rogers, along with committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), introduced legislation last week that would allow companies and the government to share more information about cyber threats.
“American businesses are under siege. We need to provide American companies the information they need to better protect their networks from these dangerous cyber threats,” Rogers said in a statement when he introduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).
But privacy advocates and many Democrats argue that CISPA would encourage companies to share their customers’ sensitive personal information with spy agencies, such as the National Security Agency (NSA). The House passed CISPA last year, but the Senate pursued its own legislation.
Democrats and the Obama administration are especially worried about the potential for hackers to disrupt critical infrastructure, such as an air traffic control system or a bank.
Ahead of the State of the Union address last week, President Obama signed an executive order that will create a voluntary set of cybersecurity best-practices for companies that operate critical infrastructure.
The order also requires federal agencies to share more information about cyber threats to U.S. companies and the public.
“The United States has substantial and growing concerns about the threats to U.S. economic and national security posed by cyber intrusions, including the theft of commercial information,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Tuesday.
Pointing to the executive order, Hayden said the U.S. government is taking an “active approach” to defending against cyber attacks.
“And we have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cyber theft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so,” she said. “The United States and China are among the world’s largest cyber actors and it is vital that we continue a sustained, meaningful dialogue and work together to develop an understanding of acceptable behavior in cyberspace.”
Fascinating video tracks a real Chinese hacker in action:
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