Security Threats

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Last week, I re-introduced our National Security Strategy with the first half of the president’s transmittal letter. Here is the rest of the letter, detailing the threats to America’s security and prosperity

We are rallying the world against the rogue regime in North Korea and confronting the danger posed by the dictatorship in Iran, which those determined to pursue a f lawed nuclear deal had neglected. We have renewed our friendships in the Middle East and partnered with regional leaders to help drive out terrorists and extremists, cut off their financing, and discredit their wicked ideology. We crushed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and will continue pursuing them until they are destroyed. America’s allies are now contributing more to our common defense, strengthening even our strongest alliances. We have also continued to make clear that the United States will no longer tolerate economic aggression or unfair trading practices.

At home, we have restored confidence in America’s purpose. We have recommitted ourselves to our founding principles and to the values that have made our families, communities, and society so successful. Jobs are coming back and our economy is growing. We are making historic investments in the United States military. We are enforcing our borders, building trade relationships based on fairness and reciprocity, and defending America’s sovereignty without apology.

The whole world is lifted by America’s renewal and the reemergence of American leadership. After one year, the world knows that America is prosperous, America is secure, and America is strong. We will bring about the better future we seek for our people and the world, by confronting the challenges and dangers posed by those who seek to destabilize the world and threaten America’s people and interests.

My Administration’s National Security Strategy lays out a strategic vision for protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world. We will pursue this beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, each with its own cultures and dreams, thriving side-by-side in prosperity, freedom, and peace—throughout the upcoming year.

In pursuit of that future, we will look at the world with clear eyes and fresh thinking. We will promote a balance of power that favors the United States, our allies, and our partners. We will never lose sight of our values and their capacity to inspire, uplift, and renew.

Most of all, we will serve the American people and uphold their right to a government that prioritizes their security, their prosperity, and their interests. This National Security Strategy puts America First.

You can read the full National Security Strategy here

Threats to Our Security and Prosperity

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Over the past few weeks I’ve posted some of the high points of the National Security of The United States of America.

This is our highest national security document that addresses the threats to our security and prosperity, and what our nations is doing to confront these challenges.

It is useful to read the president’s introductory letter transmitting this strategy to understand this lengthy document. In many ways it serves as an executive summary:

“The American people elected me to make America great again. I promised that my Administration would put the safety, interests, and well-being of our citizens first. I pledged that we would revitalize the American economy, rebuild our military, defend our borders, protect our sovereignty, and advance our values.”

“During my first year in office, you have witnessed my America First foreign policy in action. We are prioritizing the interests of our citizens and protecting our sovereign rights as a nation. America is leading again on the world stage. We are not hiding from the challenges we face. We are confronting them head-on and pursuing opportunities to promote the security and prosperity of all Americans.”

“The United States faces an extraordinarily dangerous world, filled with a wide range of threats that have intensified in recent years. When I came into office, rogue regimes were developing nuclear weapons and missiles to threaten the entire planet. Radical Islamist terror groups were flourishing. Terrorists had taken control of vast swaths of the Middle East. Rival powers were aggressively undermining American interests around the globe. At home, porous borders and unenforced immigration laws had created a host of vulnerabilities. Criminal cartels were bringing drugs and danger into our communities. Unfair trade practices had weakened our economy and exported our jobs overseas. Unfair burden-sharing with our allies and inadequate investment in our own defense had invited danger from those who wish us harm. Too many Americans had lost trust in our government, faith in our future, and confidence in our values.”

“Nearly one year later, although serious challenges remain, we are charting a new and very different course.”

In the next National Security Blog I’ll outline some of those threats

You can read the full National Security Strategy here

National Security Strategy

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Last week, I reported on the new National Security Strategy. This week, highlighting just the essential elements of this new strategy, here are the four main themes listed on the White House website:

The 2017 National Security Strategy (Strategy) builds on the 11 months of Presidential action to restore respect for the United States abroad and renew American confidence at home.

Strategic confidence enables the United States to protect its vital national interests. The Strategy identifies four vital national interests, or “four pillars” as:

  1. Protect the homeland, the American people, and American way of life;
    II. Promote American prosperity;
    III. Preserve peace through strength;
    IV. Advance American influence.

The Strategy addresses key challenges and trends that affect our standing in the world, including:

    • Revisionist powers, such as China and Russia, that use technology, propaganda, and coercion to shape a world antithetical to our interests and values;
    • Regional dictators that spread terror, threaten their neighbors, and pursue weapons of mass destruction;
    • Jihadist terrorists that foment hatred to incite violence against innocents in the name of a wicked ideology, and transnational criminal organizations that spill drugs and violence into our communities.

The Strategy articulates and advances the President’s concept of principled realism.

    • It is realist because it acknowledges the central role of power in international politics, affirms that strong and sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests.
    • It is principled because it is grounded in advancing American principles, which spreads peace and prosperity around the globe.

Intrigued? You can read the full summary here.

 

Our National Security Strategy

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Congress has mandated that the president issue a National Security Strategy. At the beginning of each administration, and often periodically thereafter, the White House issues a new National Security Strategy.

It was with great anticipation that the nation – and the world – awaited the first National Security Strategy of the Trump Administration. That strategy was teed up in a speech by national security advisor, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster in a speech at the December 2017 at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

Here is how the White House introduced the strategy on their official website:

The publication of the National Security Strategy (NSS) is a milestone for any presidency. A statutorily mandated document, the NSS explains to the American people, U.S. allies and partners, and federal agencies how the President intends to put his national security vision into practice on behalf of fellow citizens.

First and foremost, President Donald J. Trump’s NSS is a reflection of his belief that putting America first is the duty of our government and the foundation for effective U.S. leadership in the world. It builds on the 11 months of Presidential action thus far to renew confidence in America both at home and abroad.

Four vital, national interests—organized as the strategy’s four pillars—form the backbone of this commitment:

  1. Protect the homeland, the American people, and the American way of life
  2. Promote American prosperity
  3. Preserve peace through strength
  4. Advance American influence

This National Security Strategy and its four themes are guided by a return to principled realism. The strategy is realist because it is clear-eyed about global competition: It acknowledges the central role of power in world affairs, affirms that sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests. It is principled because it is grounded in the knowledge that promoting American values is key to spreading peace and prosperity around the globe.

Future blog posts will take a deep-dive into this important national security document.

You can read the full National Security Strategy here.

Lost Wars

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The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 profoundly change America’s national security equation – perhaps forever.

Those attacks spawned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and these have all-but-consumed the U.S. military for more than a decade-and-a-half.

There have been several books – some good and some less so – that have tried to help us come to grips with not only why we embarked upon these wars, as well as why we can’t “win.”

Andrew Bacevich’s review of Daniel Bolger’s book, “Why We Lost,” offers some key insights. Here is how he begins:

The author of this book has a lot to answer for. “I am a United States Army general,” Daniel Bolger writes, “and I lost the Global War on Terrorism.” The fault is not his alone, of course. Bolger’s peers offered plenty of help. As he sees it, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, abysmal generalship pretty much doomed American efforts.

The judgment that those wars qualify as lost — loss defined as failing to achieve stated objectives — is surely correct. On that score, Bolger’s honesty is refreshing, even if his explanation for that failure falls short. In measured doses, self-flagellation cleanses and clarifies. But heaping all the blame on America’s generals lets too many others off the hook.

Why exactly did American military leaders get so much so wrong? Bolger floats several answers to that question but settles on this one: With American forces designed for short, decisive campaigns, the challenges posed by protracted irregular warfare caught senior officers completely by surprise.

Since there aren’t enough soldiers — having “outsourced defense to the willing,” the American people stay on the sidelines — the generals asked for more time and more money. This meant sending the same troops back again and again, perhaps a bit better equipped than the last time. With stubbornness supplanting purpose, the military persisted, “in the vain hope that something might somehow improve.

Want more? You can read the full article here

The Great War?

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For most Americans today, World War I is something that is consigned to history books. We learned that the United States entered the war reluctantly, but that we fought the good fight. We also get the notion that one of the results of the war was that America became a great power – and became greater during the 20th Century.

That’s why I found Michael Kazin’s New York Times piece, “The Great Mistake in the Great War,” so interesting. Here is how he began:

One hundred years ago, Congress voted to enter what was then the largest and bloodiest war in history. Four days earlier, President Woodrow Wilson had sought to unite a sharply divided populace with a stirring claim that the nation “is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.” The war lasted only another year and a half, but in that time, an astounding 117,000 American soldiers were killed and 202,000 wounded.

Still, most Americans know little about why the United States fought in World War I, or why it mattered. The “Great War” that tore apart Europe and the Middle East and took the lives of over 17 million people worldwide lacks the high drama and moral gravity of the Civil War and World War II, in which the very survival of the nation seemed at stake.

World War I is less easy to explain. America intervened nearly three years after it began, and the “doughboys,” as our troops were called, engaged in serious combat for only a few months. More Americans in uniform died away from the battlefield — thousands from the Spanish flu — than with weapons in hand. After victory was achieved, Wilson’s audacious hope of making a peace that would advance democracy and national self-determination blew up in his face when the Senate refused to ratify the treaty he had signed at the Palace of Versailles.

But attention should be paid. America’s decision to join the Allies was a turning point in world history. It altered the fortunes of the war and the course of the 20th century — and not necessarily for the better. Its entry most likely foreclosed the possibility of a negotiated peace among belligerent powers that were exhausted from years mired in trench warfare.

Intrigued? You can read the entire article here

Super Soldiers

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America has depended on the men and women of the Special Operations Command to deal with the threats of this century. Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, Air Force and Marine Corps special operators and others have been on the front lines, “on the wall” protecting us from enemies who would do us harm.

But few know the history of special operations, and fewer still know it began beyond our borders. That’s why I found Max Boot’s review of “Rouge Heroes,” Ben McIntyre’s history of Britain’s SAS so fascinating. Here is part of what he said:

Once upon a time, when the president wanted to use military force without becoming embroiled in a major conflict, the cry would go out: “Send in the Marines!” Today the role once played by the Marine Corps — as the troops of choice for low-profile missions without a formal declaration of war — has been largely supplanted by the United States Special Operations Command. With tens of thousands of “operators” and a multibillion-dollar budget, Socom has become virtually an independent military service.

Given the ubiquity and importance of Special Operations today, it is a little startling to realize just how novel they are. While there have long been specialized units, like Rogers’ Rangers of the French and Indian War, professional Special Operations forces date back only to World War II. All of the combatants employed them, but it was the British who were most assiduous in creating small units of swashbucklers.

The regular army establishment, of course, sniffed at the idea of a self-proclaimed military elite, and not without cause. Field Marshal William Slim, the liberator of Burma, wrote, “Armies do not win wars by means of a few bodies of supersoldiers but by the average quality of their standard units.” But Winston Churchill was enchanted by the supersoldiers and countenanced the creation of myriad units like the Commandos, the Long Range Desert Group, Popski’s Private Army, the Special Operations Executive, the Special Boat Service and the Chindits.

None were more storied than the Special Air Service (S.A.S.), which survives to this day and inspired the creation of foreign counterparts like the United States Delta Force and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal. The origins of the S.A.S. are recounted with verve by the veteran British historian and journalist Ben Macintyre, who has made a specialty of writing about clandestine operations in World War II and beyond. (His most recent book was about the British double agent Kim Philby.) This is hardly the first time the S.A.S. story has been told — a number of its veterans wrote entertaining memoirs, among them Fitzroy Maclean’s “Eastern Approaches” — but “Rogue Heroes” is the best and most complete version of the tale, because Macintyre was granted access to a hitherto-secret scrapbook known as the SAS War Diary.

 

Want more? You can read the full article here

The U.S. Navy

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In a recent book review, of a new book from Richard McGregor entitled Asia’s Reckoning, Robert Kaplan, one of the most respected writers on international affairs, commented on the brittle nature of political, economic and military security in Asia.

As part of his review, he noted the following:

“Over the span of the decades since World War II, the United States Navy has made Asia rich but not altogether stable. It was only the security guarantee provided by the U.S. Navy that allowed Asian countries not to fear one another and thus to concentrate on building their economies instead of their militaries…Thus the U.S. military, principally the Navy, remains the most important factor in keeping the peace. And the U.S. Navy, as we know from recent mishaps at sea, is being stretched to the limit.”

After thirty years in a U.S. Navy uniform and another fifteen working as a Navy civilian supporting the Fleet, I see the U.S. Navy’s decline, starkly, every day. The recent groundings and collisions, with their tragic loss of life, are the result of a long decline in the size and readiness of our Navy.

Rather than offering a detailed opinion on the “whys and wherefores” of this decline, I’ll refer you to a group of excellent articles on this subject. Together, they should provide a well-nuanced view of how the U.S. Navy got to where it is today, and what we as a nation can do to restore our Navy to prominence:

August 22, 2017: The Wall Street Journal, Editorial, “The Navy’s McCain Moment”

August 23, 2017: The Wall Street Journal, “Navy to Relieve Admiral of Command After Collision”

August 24, 2017: The Wall Street Journal, Seth Cropsey (Op-ed), “Has the Navy Reached a Breaking Point?”

August 28, 2017, The New York Times, “Strain on Resources Set Stage for Recent Crashes, Sailors Say”

Whither the United States

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A recent op-ed about North Korea, jointly authored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, put an exclamation point on fact that, for the United States, as well as for most nations, foreign policy success, is to have diplomats and military officers, work hand-in-hand to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States.

That’s why I was intrigued by two recent companion New York Times articles: “The Diplomats Can’t Save Us,” and “The Generals Can’t Either.” Together they paint a challenging picture for the future of United States foreign policy. Both articles deserve a full-read by all of us. A few highlights to whet your appetite:

From “The Diplomats Can’t Save Us:”

The president signaled early on that military might, not diplomatic deftness, was his thing. Soft power was for the birds. This worldview (in essence no more than Trump’s gut) has been expressed in a proposed cut of about 30 percent in the State Department budget as military spending soars; a push to eliminate some 2,300 jobs; the vacancy of many senior posts, including 20 of the 22 assistant secretary positions requiring Senate confirmation; unfilled ambassadorships — roughly 30 percent of the total — from Paris to New Delhi; and the brushoff of the department’s input in interagency debate and in pivotal decisions, like withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Days are now marked by resignations, unanswered messages and idled capacity.

From “The Generals Can’t Either:”

During a recent conference in Singapore, someone asked Secretary of Defense James Mattis whether, given President Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement, we were “present at the destruction” of the America-led postwar order. In a twist on a remark by Abba Eban (often attributed to Churchill), the former general answered: “Bear with us. Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing.”

Read more of these two revealing articles here, and here.

Directed Energy

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I was recently honored by the Surface Navy Association with their Literary Award for my U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings article, “A Potent One-Two Punch.” It’s always an honor to receive an award such as this one, but I believe what contributed to the award had less to do with fabulous writing than it did to do with the importance of the issue, that is, what kind of ships should the U.S. Navy build in the future. I argued that we will be most successful against our adversaries if we build more ships like the Zumwalt-class destroyer, that is, electric drive ships with directed-energy weapons. Here is part of what I said:

The promise of directed-energy weapons has captured the imagination for more than a century. By the eve of the last century, the understanding of physics had progressed to a point where directed-energy weapons had become a staple of popular fiction, perhaps most famously captured in the Martian “heat rays” of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in 1898.

For more than 50 years, the Department of Defense has pursued the goal of using directed-energy for military purposes. Today, these weapons represent some of the most innovative technologies under development by the U.S. military. Research and analysis suggest that the services in general, and the Navy in particular, can leverage these weapons to field transformational capabilities in the near-, mid-, and far-terms.

Directed energy–based systems are already contributing to the emerging capabilities that enable a new American way of war. Laser range finders and targeting systems are deployed on tanks, helicopters, and tactical fighters. These laser systems provide both swifter engagements and greatly enhanced precision. The role of directed-energy systems in support of military operations will continue to grow.

Directed-energy weapons are a natural next step in the transformation of the U.S. military. While the past decade was marked by the shortening of the sensor-to-shooter cycle, this decade is likely to demonstrate a marked reduction in the shooter-to-target cycle. Directed-energy weapons provide a means for instantaneous target engagement, with extremely high accuracy and, in many instances, at very long ranges.

Three primary types of devices are currently being weaponized for naval use: high-energy lasers; radio-frequency weapons, commonly referred to as high-power microwaves or ultra-wideband weapons; and electromagnetic railguns. Lasers excite atoms to release photons in powerful bursts of coherent light that can be focused and aimed by mirrors. With sufficient power, lasers can quickly pierce or overheat a wide range of targets, including aircraft and missiles. Radio-frequency weapons operate in the lower-frequency, longer-wavelength portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to generate bursts or beams capable of disabling electronic systems. Electromagnetic railguns––while not a directed-energy weapon per se––represent the third major weapon category.

A recent Congressional Research Service report on directed-energy weapons highlighted the potential of these technologies to revolutionize naval warfare, noting:

The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missiles—solid state lasers, the electromagnetic railgun, and the hypervelocity projectile. Any one of these new weapon technologies might be regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution.

 

You can read the entire article here.