Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Realities of Modern Day Warfare

Image result for image of talon robot
Image of Talon

According to P.W. Singer, a "robots revolution is upon us". A revolution in the fundamentals of the way wars are being fought is changing the entire experience of life on the front lines.

Robots are generally associated with the future and with technological advancements. However, many fail to realize that we are already in the era of robotics. According to Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in 2016 alone, the United States Government authorized approximately 1072 drone strikes.

Drone Operations have changed drastically over the last decade. The U.S. military has gone from having a few drones in the air and none on ground going into Iraq, to having thousands today. The benefits of robots and drones compared to human soldiers seem endless. The cost is lower than that of a deployed soldier, the emotional attachment isn't present, there is a Casualty Aversion, robots seem to be more politically acceptable than manned aircrafts, etc.

However, along with these pros, there are also cons to this technology. This great tech, knowledge and revolution has peaked worry for many. What if this technology gets into the wrong hands? what if the robots go rogue? Will this escalate the war against terror? Many of these issues are tied to the problem of connecting autonomy with killing power.

Image result for image of ripsaw
Image of Ripsaw Robot
Many of these concerns are being addressed by scientists and engineers who are conducting research on these issues. It should be duly noted that the future of robotics is bright. Where we are right now cannot be compared to where we are going. The rate at which technology is advancing is  unprecedented. The United States Government is developing tanks that are unmanned. Just a few decades ago, this was sci-fi. According to Singer,  the vehicles of today are  "Model T Fords, the Wright Flyers, compared to whats coming soon."

The continued widespread use of these robots will only result in more and more robots in combat as time goes on. these number will increase from 5,000 to 10,000 and they will continue to rise. However, we aren't talking about 10,000 robots representing the robots we see on the battlefield today, we are talking about the robots still being developed. The future robots that will have a significantly higher capacity to perform their various tasks. In about 25 years, these robots will be a billion times more powerful than they are today.

However, 25 years is more than enough time for other countries to reach or surpass the U.S. in its robotics technology. Countries like Russia and China are working tirelessly to compete and superceed the United States in military technology. "The U.S. is currently ahead in military robotics right now, but we know that in technology, there's no such thing as a permanent first move or advantage."

Below is a link to a TED talk given by expert and military analyst Peter W Singer. In this TED talk, Singer explains how the extensive use of robots in warfare is changing the realities of war.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Grounded: The Air Force, Efficiency, and Military's "sacred cows"

The premise of Dr. Farley's book, Grounded, sounds rather provocative if you only read the glib descriptions given by websites who have reviewed the book.  The premise is that the Air Force should be abolished, and that the branch is an example of institutional redundancy.  It would be much more cost effective to delegate the responsibilities of air power between the Army and Navy.  If one takes the time to listen to the author in interviews and reads the actual contents, such a suggestion might not be as provocative as it sounds.  The interest in the topic stemmed from a repeated pattern of behavior observed between the different branches of the military after nearly all major conflicts, where they (Army, Navy, Air Force) would either insist that their particular branch take all the credit, or they would brush off the failure onto each other.  This rivalrous trichotomy has led to such ego fragility as the Air Force trying to control the use of drones.  The Air Force was never fond of the idea of drones, as former Defense Secretary Bob Gates writes in his memoir, but out of doctrinal devotion to their branch as the sole arbiter of air power, they fought to have charge over drone deployment.

Dr. Farley very effectively answers such questions such as why he is singling out the Air Force, and is he really suggesting a unibranch service?  The answer is that the Army and Navy complete their own distinct tasks, and some competition is healthy, as long as it is over substantive policy.  Often, is is during peacetime we see these multiple branches begin to stake their claims of unique capabilities  and indispensability to the Defense apparatus, and air power theory is particularly enthusiastic about the independence of the Air Force.

The genesis of the Air Force in 1947 was partially encouraged and lobbied by aviation enthusiasts and others who were besotted with the Amelia Earhart romanticism of air travel.  Dr. Farley suggests that the USAF isn't simply anachronistic, it was not necessary in the first place.  The superiority complex found consistently throughout intellectual discourse from the Air Force has long been the impetus behind the perceived sanctity and invincibility of Air Power, a notion that Farley says has been proven false myriad of times in the post-WWII era.  Air power is integral to the success of almost any modern military operation, but it has been almost 70 years since the USAF founders said we wouldn't need naval warfare because of the strength of the Air Force.  A 70 year transition suggests that the original assumption might have been flawed, and based on Dr. Farley's description of the reaction he has received, many military personnel consider an institutional consolidation such as this to be a worthy idea.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wesley Clark: Why NATO Commander was not the 2nd Coming of Ike

One of our colleagues in class covered the NATO Operation Allied Force in Kosovo for their presentation, and did a fine job incorporating the dynamic that Supreme Allied Commander-Europe of NATO Wesley Clark played in the conflict.  While his qualifications were outstanding, having graduated Valedictorian from West Point and a Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford, Clark's legacy has not played out like that of former President Eisenhower.

Clark's star has largely fallen since the turn of the century, from his bright days during the Democratic primary with mega-stars like Madonna holding fundraisers for his campaign. There was a brief time during the 2004 Democratic primaries that traditional/conservative democrats were fawning over the prospects of Clark for President, seeing him as a plausible choice to the fiercely anti-war Howard Dean.  The Atlantic's Jack Beatty wrote “I can’t think of a man and moment better matched than retired General Wesley Clark and the 2004 presidential election.  Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 is the only possible comparison. Clark, like Ike, was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO."  The love affair was rather fleeting, for as we discussed in class, Clark made some questionable decisions while he was in command.  The historical judgment has been that involvement in Kosovo was justified, but at the time Prime Minister Tony Blair was the only NATO politician who seemed fully invested in such a collaborative Atlantic effort.  The ambivalence over involvement in the Balkans from Bill Clinton and others is not Clark's fault, but maybe he shouldn't be exalted for Eisenhower level brilliance either.  

It has come to light that Clark seemed to consider his post as NATO Commander as a separate entity from the American defense apparatus.  Former Chairman of the JCS Henry Hugh Shelton and Defense Sec. William Cohen have both hinted that Clark had problems with the Pentagon’s chain of command. Clark took their orders more as suggestions to be duly noted.  National Review's Jim Geraghty writes, "He (Clark) argues that his job as NATO commander was a “two-hatted” position, partly a U.S. military role and partly a diplomatic post, leading the 19-nation coalition."  Clark's judgement was also seen as dubious when he advocated for a ground invasion of Serbia, a strategy that was soundly rejected by President Clinton and the War Council. 

Another distinction between Ike and General Clark is the reverence their subordinates have for them.  Clark might have fancied himself a political talent, but his eventual banishment from the Joint Chiefs after they tired of his constant campaigning for a Serbian ground war suggests otherwise.  His tattling to Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger when he was told no on issues regarding Kosovo was resented by his military superiors, peers, and subordinates.  The RAND research institute report, “NATO’s Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment" presents a very effective critique of Clark's managerial flaws, such as a combative nature with nearly all his colleagues.  Additionally, the fact that he was an army general who also fancied himself an expert on air campaigns showed his penchant for micromanagement.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the Pristina Airport scenario, when the Russians pulled their proxy soldiers back from Kosovo.  The airport was right in the center of the province.  Wired's Spencer Ackerman says, "It was a provocative move — the Russian military line might demarcate a partition of Kosovo — one that risked the conflict between NATO and Russia that the Cold War successfully escaped."  Clark ordered British Lt. Gen. Sir Mike Jackson, to block Russian access to the airport runways.  Jackson reciprocated with, “I’m not starting World War III for you.” Exemplifying the little regard the chain of command had for Clark, they sided with the British Lt. General, and Clark was gently fired several weeks later. 

Its ironic that a victorious general can have such a dizzying fall from grace, absent some scandalous personal revelation.  That fact proves what a shallow impact the Kosovo conflict had on the American public, as it supports the assertion that Clark's actions alienated military personnel. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

War Hawks in the Trump Era: John McCain vs. Donald Trump

Senator John McCain is the godfather of interventionism in American politics, and his zeal for neo-conservative military solutions has not slowed down even after his arch nemesis Trump came out victorious on election day 2016.   This ideological proxy war between McCain and Trump over America's role in world security has illustrated a ferocious battle within the Republican Party, and by extension the entire political/governmental system. 

McCain has been called a war monger by myriad of political figures, including President Trump, former President Jimmy Carter, and Sen. Rand Paul.  Mother Jones magazine wrote a piece documenting all the states that McCain has mentioned sending troops into at one point in time or another, with the grand total coming to 14 different countries.  Throughout his near 40 year career in Congress, he has mentioned Iraq, Iran, Syria, Georgia, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, Nigeria, Bosnia, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Mali, and China as countries where the conflicts could be solved by some type of U.S. involvement. 

Since the Iraq War, it seems clear that the American public has no wish to stomach any more military intervention, that includes conservatives.  McCain is steadfast in his belief that strength will lead to peace and security, and refers to any dissent as "dangerous isolationism."  George Will refers to McCain's frequent labeling of disagreement as isolationist as a "flight from thinking."  Will also characterizes McCain worldview as such; "Under the McCain Doctrine, America’s military would have just begun to fight, and would never stop." It is not simply the conservative intelligentsia who are concerned with McCain's military strategy, liberal writer Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast wrote in 2014 that McCain's approach to Ukraine was not only foolish, but that is could lead to a new Cold War.


This brings us to the issues germane to the present administration.  Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Robin to McCain's war mongering Batman, has joined McCain in calling for an investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election.  Even Trump's detractors notice that this might be used as an excuse by these two senators to justify an armed conflict with Russia.  McCain's proposal to incorporate Georgia into NATO, an action that would undoubtedly poke the Russian bear, is a pattern of antagonism that makes some wonder if McCain is salivating for war with Putin.  NATO's Article 5: an attack on any NATO country will be taken as an attack on all.  Tomasky poses the question, could that be exactly what the "bombs away caucus" wants?

The current disagreement between McCain and Trump took shape in June 2015,  when Trump said that McCain was not a true war hero.  Doing damage control later, Trump spoke of how McCain's status as a veteran is sometimes used to shield him from debate and criticism on the topics of military and foreign policy.  Trump tweeted several weeks ago that the Senate duo are "always looking to start WWIII."   At the moment, it seems like Trump's more Pat Buchanan-like approach to the military is winning out, at least politically.  With McCain's war hawk protege, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, losing reelection in New Hampshire last November, the evidence suggests that interventionism is ballot box poison.  A six-term incumbent like McCain might be grandfathered in from the political winds of change, but others will have to answer for their advocacy of endless war. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Intensification of Submarine Arms Race in Asia

The formulation of a state’s maritime strategy should take into account what pundits call the “maritimization” of the globe. In the eyes of Thayer Mahan, the navy is an important instrument that guarantees states’ interests at sea. To this end, a clear vision is needed to carry out a naval strategy. Many states in Asia have well understood this trend.
 Many reports argue that by 2030, at least half of the submarines of the world will belong to the navies of the powerful Asian countries including China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and ,and Pakistan. In fact, they have all embarked on an accelerated modernization of their military forces and especially their fleets. The strategic control of sea lanes has become the subject of a greater rivalry. Click here.
China's ambitions in the South China Sea , the enduring tensions between China and Japan, the historic conflict between China and Taiwan, the war between Pakistan and India ,and the territorial disputes between India and China explain this arms race and,  particularly, towards the military capabilities  that allow to predict  military forces. The acquisition of 36 gusts by India is directly in line with this logic. 
 Submarines programs have become massive and widespread, especially in the face of the Chinese navy power. Chinese military budget has increased by more than 10 percent per year over the past 27 years. The Chinese military budget surpasses Japanese one for at least 3.6 times. China now has the largest fleet of attack submarines in the world with 71 ships and builds an average of 10 annually. The newest models are made in China but purchased under license from Russia and equipped with the latest Russian technology. China has also acquired three nuclear -powered submarines (093-G) and 093-B capable of launching supersonic anti-ship missiles. China finally announced the construction of a second aircraft carrier.

In response, Japan has accelerated the upgrade and development of its submarine fleet with the plan to purchase ten modern submarines. In total, the Japanese submarine fleet is expected to reach 22 vessels. Vietnam, another actor that has adversarial relationships with China, has also acquired six Russian submarines and they are operational today. Australia intends to deploy between 8 and 12 submarines and has decided to spend $ 50 billion more to make them operational.
Fearing retaliation from China, Taiwan has not been able to purchase submarines from its partners such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia. However, it is considering building its own ships.  
Pakistan has five submarines purchased from France. It has ordered eight vessels from China and it is seeking to acquire more from the western fleets. The Pakistani navy has a strong desire to equip 12 additional submarines. In response, the Indian Navy has issued tenders to buy several submarines and is particularly interested in purchasing the Japanese Soryu type which it would like to purchase six. The Indian submarine fleet now has 15 ships.

The fact of acquiring submarines shows that the rise of military tensions in Asia is indeed a reality although we have not yet witnessed a direct military confrontation between these countries.

H.R. McMaster: Trump's Chance For A Mulligan

We talked extensively in class after the firing of brief former NSA Mike Flynn, at the time Trump had not named his replacement.  His second choice, H.R. McMaster, has been met with a much different tone and reaction by Trump's detractors.  Many have said, to paraphrase, that this is the first decision they agree with President Trump on.  So the questions for this post include, what will McMaster bring to the Defense apparatus?, what does his personal background tell us about his worldview and approach to defense/intelligence?, and what should the appropriate role be for the National Security Advisor as a member of the NSC?  

The 54 year old, three star General graduated from West Point in 1984, and went on to gain his PhD from UNC Chapel Hill in military history.  His doctoral thesis was on political and military leadership during the Vietnam war, which became a rather famous book titled "Dereliction of Duty".  This could be useful in predicting his interactions with Trump, because in his book he says that military officials were too afraid of LBJ to tell him what he really needed to hear when it came to the dire situation in Vietnam.  Will he be as forthright with Trump?  He has said that he does not find the term, radical Islam, very useful, and that all it does is incite Muslims against the U.S.  That is in stark contrast to Mike Flynn, who emphasized that we were at a war with "radical Islam".

The position he is in has an enormous amount of fluidity, its role and duties vary greatly between the different NSA appointees, who include such notable alumni as Susan Rice, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Sandy Berger.  Therefore the definition of the job is hard to come by, for some advisors have limited themselves to just parroting what the joint chiefs or the NSC have already said.  On the other hand, while Henry Kissinger held the position, he made an indelible impression on Nixon and the future of American foreign policy for the next 40 years.  We talked in class about the debate among academia and military historians about the appropriate role the NSA should have with regards to the entire Pentagon.  Some think that it has too much authority in having direct access to the President's ear, while others think the position can be useful in communicating Defense policy articulately and immeadiatly to the White House.

As for what he will bring to the NSC and the Defense apparatus at large, National Review writer David French says that, " McMaster is the Neil Gorsuch of Generals".  He means that favorably, due to the fact that both men are concerned with the non-stop growth of Executive power, and can act as good buffers or critiques if Trump tries to centralize power in the White House too much.  It was McMaster who became famous for among other things, banning the use of power points in his ranks, calling out the their banality and the"illusion of understanding" they created.  Such concern for learning are why he has been called a " warrior-scholar".