Thursday, May 05, 2011

Final Exam

Defense Statecraft Final Exam

May 5, 2011

Please answer one of three questions, and return to Dr. Farley by 4:30pm today.

  1. Under the aegis of NATO, military operations to protect civilians continue in Libya. Please evaluate the costs and benefits of conducting a war under the control of a major international organization relative to a unilateral intervention.
  2. Four days ago, President Obama authorized a Special Operations Force mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. In terms of their utility as tools of military statecraft, compare and contrast SOF with strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft. In what context should a policymaker choose one over the other?
  3. The time frame for developing new advanced weapon systems can now be measured in decades. Many defense analysts, however, have argued that we now live in an age of uncertain and unpredictable threats. What are the implications of this apparent contradiction for military procurement, doctrine, and grand strategy?

Jail Break and Raid Show Region Not Ready For US Withdrawal

On April 25, 500 prisoners, many of them Taliban, escaped from an Afghan jail via tunnel. The tunnel was dug using tools stolen from a maintenance shed, was reinforced with metal bars from the same place and was strong and deep enough to run under the prison wall and a highway.

On Sunday, Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals in Pakistan. He was living in a larger, well supplied compound with his family and some supporters located not too far from the capital and only a mile or so from the Pakistan Military Academy. It is possible that he had been living there since 2006. Yet, the Pakistani’s apparently had no idea he was there.

With the US planning to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, these two cases illustrate the continued security threat in the region and how the region is not yet safe. While the media has begun to question whether the death of bin Laden has signaled the end of the operations in Afghanistan, since the goal was to fight Al Qaeda. Now that most Al Qaeda fighters have been expelled from the country and its leader killed shouldn’t the US begin withdrawing troops now? I believe that this shows a lack of critical thinking. Under the Taliban, Al Qaeda was able to use Afghanistan as a safe haven. The invasion was not only meant to remove Al Qaeda and get bin Laden, but to secure the area so that it does not remain a safe haven for terrorist networks.

While Afghans claim that the bin Laden raid has proved that Al Qaeda is now operating from Pakistan, the recent jail break brings great doubt on the Afghan government’s ability to keep them there and to keep a Taliban insurgency at bay. It is not clear whether the Taliban had inside help or whether the Taliban prisoners should be believed and the guards were incompetent (they claim that the guards got high and went to sleep every night). Either way, Afghan forces still need more training in order to prevent another civil war after the Americans withdraw. A civil war would bring complete instability, again, to the region. Al Qaeda, whether it works with the Taliban or not, would be able to freely move weapons and supplies through Afghanistan.

It seems hard to believe that Pakistani ISI had no idea bin Laden was living in Abbhotobad. The question now is how high up did the Pakistani/Al Qaeda collusion go. The US, using the presence of bin Laden as leverage, should bring more pressure on Pakistan to reform, and to publicly allow more drone attacks. US troops cannot leave the region when we know that Al Qaeda is using it as base, and with help from the Pakistani government, at whatever level. Pressure should be put on Pakistan to not only conduct operations in Waziristan and other parts of the countries, but to start producing the capture of high level figures. It is now up to the Pakistani government to prove that they are not working with Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

Military Spouses Appreciation Day

Though it is after the final, I wanted to take the opportunity to recognize our military spouses on "Military Spouse Appreciation Day!"  Though each of the different branches of service have varying tempos of PCSing (Permanent Change of Station - AKA "Moving"), and varying degrees of danger in each MOS, military spouses endure much when the motto is "Quarters Sweet Quarters" or "Home is Where the Army/Marine Corps/Navy/Air Force Sends Me."  Moreover, they endure extended times away from their significant others, including week and month long training exercises before year-long deployments.  Meanwhile, they stay strong for the children, each other, and their serving member in order to allow him/her to stay committed to the mission.  Anyone who has seen "We Were Soldiers" can scoff at some of the melodrama, but when they understand the role that then LTC Moore's wife endured for her husband, her unit, and her country, her strength and that of her fellow spouses is truly remarkable!

The role of the military spouse is critical in our Defense Statecraft.  Our willingness to support our military families has a direct impact on the espirit de corps of our troops, and influences significantly what they are cabaple of producing.  In an environment where we ask units to immediately get in the rotation for a deployment after they have just returned, the strain on the trooper and his/her family can break the back of our military projection capability.  We ask a lot of our spouses while the troops are gone and they have continually delivered!

God Bless all of our Military Spouses on a day that they truly deserve! 

What’s in a Deal?: India and the Connection Between Procurement and Strategy

Before OBL mania descended on the United States a little story out of India caught my attention. India, which had been entertaining the notion purchasing a combination of 126 F-16s and F/A-18s for roughly 10 billion dollars, has decided to nix that option and focus on either French Rafales or European Typhoons. This has rankled the nerves of some, apparently wondering “with friends like this who needs enemies.” The folks over at Shadow Government kind of throw cold water on this sentiment. In doing so they touch on some good points about the connection between what you buy (and from whom you purchase it) and the pursuit of a national strategy.

The blog post in question simply states what should be an obvious point, that a strategically independent India is a good thing, providing some balance in Asia and the Indian Ocean. Also, it’s not as if this snub is part of a noticeable trend. India participates in military-to-military cooperation and exercises with the US more often than it does any other country, and it buys a LOT of our hardware.

The article provides some other reasonable explanations for India shifting its procurement elsewhere: its more experienced with European and Russian aircraft and, with millions of impoverished citizens (400 million don’t have electricity), buying more expensive American aircraft could have a negative domestic political effect. But I think there are other, more strategic concerns that can be derived from this behavior and it is consistent with a number of large developing nations.

The Indian’s likely wanted to spread their purchases around, much like the Brazilians have been attempting to do for the better part of 2009 and 2010. They also likely wanted a robust agreement to transfer technology, and while Ares is reporting that the U.S. offered just such a thing, the Indian’s likely had reason to move their purchase elsewhere. The combination of spreading procurement around and seeking out tech transfers makes a foreign military beholden to no one provider and facilitates the birth of an indigenous defense industry. This aligns with Shadow Government’s notion of a “strategically autonomous” India. While this might be a short run problem for the U.S. government and its defense industry, I think the Indian desire to stand on its own two feet is a good thing. In some ways, this conclusion differs with FP blog post.

As a side note, a commentator on the blog post quoted a Bloomberg story on this issue, where the outdated nature of the U.S. tech offer was outlined, and then says, “If the US was ready to sell advanced jets, it would have won the contract. Expecting to win a $10 billion contract which will create 30,000 jobs while selling 40 year old jets is delusional.” This sentiment might be prevalent amongst the U.S.'s foreign defense clients, as we continue to offer up much older technology than do rivals, while holding in reserve other flashier planes like the F-22 and F-35. Which are apparently too high tech for even our own pilots to use in Libya.

Come Together Right Now…

Though until this weekend the Arab Spring, especially Libya, Egypt and Syria have made headlines and have dominated the news cycle. However, while the Palestinian territories have been absent from the headlines, major developments have been occurring there. In early April, the IMF announced that the Palestinian Authority was “fully capable of running the economy of an independent state” (Frome Bid for State of Palestine Gets Support of IMF NYT) Today, Hamas and Fatah have signed an agreement, ending the rift that left Hamas ruling Gaza while Fatah took over the West Bank. This re-united Palestinian Authority, with the support they received from the IMF, plans on asking Israel and the UN for an independent Palestinian state.

This would place Palestine as the newest (and at the same time oldest) movement of the Arab Spring. With international pressure, will the US and Obama support Israel, or peace through a two state solution? While the US has claimed support for Israel, and for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, if the PA makes a serious bid for statehood, will the US support it. If the Palestinians declare independence within the next year, this will have major security implications for the US. Personally, I feel the US should work with both parties to reach two state solution. The major sticking point will be the status of East Jerusalem. However, the time has come for a Palestinian state, and even if East Jerusalem is not included, it seems likely that the Palestinians would try to seize and occupy it by force. Israel should begin dealing with the ultra orthodox who are the most against a Palestinian state for the reality. The US should also begin putting pressure on Israel to start working out plans to deal with a Palestinian state. An all out war between Israel and Palestine would possibly bring major instability to the region. a Israeli/Palestinian war could draw attention away from democracy movements in the Middle East as groups rally to support Palestine. If Syria and Lebanon were to unite with Palestine to fight Israel, would the US need to get involved? Israel would certainly think so. This would also be a chance for Iranian backed Hezbollah to directly attack Israel in way it has not been able to before.

The possible creation of a Palestinian state requires the US to begin its diplomacy working with both parties now to come to a peaceful two state solution so as not to be caught off guard or find itself dealing with a situation for which it has no real strategy 9 as Libya seems to be)

Intel Source Admits He Through US a Curveball

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi is a name not known to many, yet he is arguably one of the most important figures in the Iraq war. He is instead better known by his CIA code name, Curveball. Curveball was the source that claimed that Saddam had a chemical weapons program and was producing weapons of mass destruction. He even claimed that he had worked on germ warfare trucks in the country. His information formed the basis of the investigation that lead the Bush Whitehouse to declare Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and the decision to invade. Now, al-Janabi has admitted publicly that it was all made up. Not a word of it was true. Though he is part of the cause for the Iraq war, he expresses no regret. He says that he hated Saddam Hussein and his regime and is proud that his lies brought down Saddam. Now, the German government, which ironically has anti-warmongering laws, is considering prosecuting. Some have asked whether the US should consider punishing him as well.

While knowingly delivering false intelligence feels like something that should be a crime, I believe that to lay the blame for the Iraq war on Curveball is too give him too much credit. Though they initially believed him, even before the invasion the Germans warned the US that Curveball’s info could not be trusted. As well, there were more causes to the war and Bush had more motivations to invade Iraq than the testimony of one man. As well, since the information was false, there was never any real evidence to back it up and it was believed only because the administration wanted to believe it. To say al-Janabi was the cause of the Iraq invasion is akin to saying the First World War was cause by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, a gross oversimplication. Al-Janabi was an excuse, not the cause. While he should be prosecuted, if possible, purely because knowingly giving false intelligence should be discouraged, he should not be granted too much importance.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Russia, UBL, and the Crusades??

The cover of Moscow News reported the day after the death of Usama Bin Laden how proud they were that President Obama informed The Russian leadership (I would say President Medvedev, but let's get real...he probably called Putin) of the death of the terrorist before his speech to the American People.  The article referenced the famous called made by the then-President Putin to President Bush to express condolonces on 9/11.  While these chat lines between world leaders make for feel-good stories, and good line-fillers for poor graduate students writing about international relations and diplomacy, some associated themes including the Eagle and the Bear.
Included in the Moscow Times article and further discussed here was some comparison between UBL's death and the deaths of key terrorist leaders associated with the Caucasus situation.  One was Shamil Basaev.  Basaev made a name for himself after the First Chechen War seemed to be calming down.  After the Chechen rebels lost the region's capital, Grozny, the resistence faded into the mountains with the Russian forces believing that the war was coming to an end.  In 1996, however, Basaev led a band of rebels back into the city after collected signifant intelligence on Russian psitions and overwhelmed the Interior Ministry forces.  This resulted in a stalemate, with Chechnya maintaining an autonomous status within the Russian borders.  He also took credit for the deadly and heartbreaking Beslan School massacre.  The Russians hunted Basaev with similar zeal as the US did UBL, finally killing him in Ingushetia.  The Russian's similarly targeted de facto President of Chechnya Dzhokar Dudayev using SIGINT and capitalizing with a guided missile.
The Russians have made clear that they believe that, like these Chechen characters, that retribution and justice against UBL was well deserved and well served.  They further caution that their problems in the Caucasus did not disspate after these individuals were killed.  Though our EComCon colleague points out, expertly, that this may provide an opportunity to use this as an excuse to get out of Afghanistan, our rhetoric should not affect how we focus on the strategic threat posed by Al Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations.
In stark contract to the support quietly put forward by the Russians regarding this fantastic execution of a special raid, former President Putin has been very vocal on his distaste for the ongoing NATO operation in Libya.  This is not a surprising siezure by the "future President" as he will take any opportunity he can to stick it to NATO.  Some of these tensions come from the ongoing process to induct Georgia into the alliance and the previous efforts to do the same with Ukraine.  Early in the implementation of the NATO operation in Libya, Putin controversially likened the military efforts against Qadaffi to another Western Crusade.
If the Obama administration delays for too long before finally releasing the photos of UBL's corpse, I would not be surprised if Putin is the first to make snide remarks about a possible conspiracy by the US.  Not to say that their handling of the Basayev operation was all that great.  "Basayev's body has been identified through some of the fragments, including his head."
As the Russians have alluded, the US should continue to focus on the Al Qaeda threat, but can consider options that this victory has affored.  As for Russia...hopefully we will stop enabling their fantasy that they are a strong state and adjust our policies accordingly.  See my previously posting colleague.

Missile defense shield is back on the table

Well, the U.S. missile defense shield is back on the table after the Obama administration scrapped it in 2009 following Russian opposition. Since then, the administration has reworked its scheme. In addressing Russian concerns, the U.S. appears to have “bought” time and “masked” its intentions by distracting Russia with the signing of the nuclear arms treaty in April 2010 to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by about one-third. Romania and the U.S. have been in negotiations for the past year and as of yesterday, reports indicate that the U.S. and Romania have decided that U.S. ballistic missile interceptors will be deployed at a former Soviet-built airbase in southern Romania and operational by 2015.

And of course, Russia is again expressing its concerns that the shield could be used against them and is asking the U.S. legal guarantees on their intention not to deploy a missile defense system aimed at the strategic nuclear forces in Russia. The U.S. insists that the new smaller system is part of its new missile defense plan intended to protect U.S. forward-deployed troops and NATO allies against emerging Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

Phase I was initiated in March with the deployment of the U.S. European-based, guided missile cruiser equipped with Aegis radar (the USS Monterey), allowing for an Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense (EPAA) system’s presence in the Mediterranean. Phase II is to include the deployment of 24 SM3-type interceptors in Romania, followed in 2018 by a similar deployment in Poland.

As can be expected, Russia made the statement saying it reserves the right to withdraw from the treaty if Washington presses ahead with missile defense systems in Eastern Europe in a way that Moscow opposes.

It will be interesting to watch how this development unfolds, given the outcome of the U.S.’s last attempt to build a defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, where Russia threatened to train their nuclear warheads on Poland and Czech Republic.

So, can the exact same playbook be expected this time around? You would hope that the U.S. came prepared with a new strategy in-hand before it decided to go “all in”. Or, have these defense shield negotiations merely been an attempt to deter Iranian ill-willed intentions, while simultaneously assessing Russian engagements with Iran without an actual intent to follow through on building a defense shield?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Responses to bin-Laden's Death

Unless you've been sleeping under a rock for the last couple days, you'll know that U.S. Navy SEALs staged a raid on a heavily fortified Pakistan compound and killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda. His death is definitely a good thing, but the way the media is talking about his death may be sending the wrong message. When President Obama gave his speech announcing bin Laden's assassination, he was careful to avoid putting the focus on the terrorist leader himself, instead focusing on how this brings closure to 9/11 victims, yet is only a small drop in the bucket compared to what has to be done to stabilize Afghanistan and deal with fundamentalist muslim terror groups, including al-Qaeda.

Depending on the news source you watch, however, you don't necessarily get that same message. Some news sources, such as CNN, are trying to play up the moment of bin-Laden's death as a huge victory for the United States. While it is certainly something to be happy about, it should not be treated the same way as a war victory. There was no "mission accomplished" in the same sense that occured when Bush declared combat operations over in Iraq (though most liberals would say otherwise on Bush's declaration). Bragging about this kind of thing just gives bin-Laden more exposure to the world, which means that more terrorist groups can use him as a martyr, and possibly launch retaliatory attacks against Americans globally . Likewise, if we keep stressing how great it was that we raided the compound, other Middle-Eastern countries may start thinking that we're going to carry out such unilateral interventions on other people we don't like. Killing bin-Laden is a major intelligence success, but in this case, attention is not necessarily a good thing.

That's not to say that we shouldn't have taken out bin-Laden. We acquired useful intelligence on bin-Laden's location and acted when we had the opportunity to get the job done. Personally, I'm glad that bastard's dead. However, people shouldn't treat this like it's a game-changing, turning point in American history. We assassinated the central leader and founder of al-Qaeda, but the organization still remains at large around the world. The various al-Qaeda groups around the world can still act independently. Save the "America, f*** yeah!!!!" for when we've really accomplished something of that magnitude, like fully stabilizing Afghanistan and leaving it in the hands of a capable, democratic government.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Flying Sharks Threaten to Take a Bite out of US East-Asian Security…Or do They?

A recent report indicated that China’s first Aircraft Carrier, reportedly to be named the Shi Lang is set to make its maiden voyage later this year. This new news, coupled with information coming out China’s first carrier-based aircraft, the J-15 Flying Shark is set to enter operation in 2015 has brought into question the sustainability of the US defense posture in the straights of Taiwan. Manner of these concerns are overly alarmist, as the Chinese PLAN as of now is far from a worthy adversary of the US Navy.

The Shi Lang, formerly known as the Varyag, was purchased from Ukraine in 1998. Effectively, the Chinese purchased nothing more than the hull of a future carrier, as international political pressure had pushed the Ukrainians to remove the engine components. Over a decade later, the new vessel is new completion, and is set to be launched in the near future. Despite the introduction of a new vessel to the growing East-Asian arms race, it will take years for the PLAN to learn how to operate the carrier efficiently, and even longer perhaps to develop the doctrine necessary to use the vessel effectively.

An Aircraft carrier is of little effectiveness without its aircraft, and the model designated to line the flight deck of the Shi Lang, the J-15 Flying Shark is a long way off from being ready for operations. Questions regarding its engine’s serviceability aside, crews of the J-25, like the future crew of the Shi Lang will take time to learn how to use their new weapons of war. China has no tradition or knowledge of landing and operating aircraft aboard an aircraft carrier, and will take additional years in order to learn how to. Even after PLAN sailors know how to operate the Shi Lang, and even after the J-15 pilots learn how to land their planes aboard said vessel, it will take even longer for the Chinese Navy as a whole to learn how to operate in unison, and to decide on which ship designs best work for their operational goals.

Given the long-term nature of this development, it is entirely likely that the Shi Lang will end up being used soley for training purchases. Current estimates place China’s development of its own nuclear-powered Aircraft carriers as beginning production as early as 2020. Rising economic trouble within China is likely to delay this progress. Even then, it will take several more years to complete contruction, buying additional time for the United States and Taiwan.

What should US policy be regarding the PLAN build up? As of now, a wait and see approach is the most viable. It will take years for the PLAN to construct a force capable of projecting sustained power in the straight of Taiwan. Even with its global commitments, the US Navy, in a time of crisis, would be able to outmatch any force the Chinese could muster in the foreseeable future. Instead of focusing on the military hardware of the growing Chinese threat, it would be better for US policy makers to work on building its regional alliances with the ASEAN nations. Just as a geographical ring was drawn around the Soviet Union during the Cold War, so too can a ring of friendly nations circling China play in favor of US policy objectives. Let us continue to keep our own military and political situation strong in the Western Pacific, and the outcome of the PLAN’s contruction program will be of little import.