Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Internationalization of a Defense Industry Service gone Overboard?

       In our Defense Statecraft class, we have talked at length over the last couple of weeks about the nature of the Defense Industry and the Defense Budget.  Integrated deeply within the discourse of the American defense industry is the concern of how much input international firms are providing to the United States.   From our class reading, it was shown that the United States has indeed been utilizing international input in our defense products and services for quite some time.  However , the goal was to keep the inputs to subcomponent levels and only use foreign parts or services if they could provide a cost savings or quality advantage while allowing the final product or service to maintain its American or Allied control.

AP Photo of Chinese Satellite Launch

       In a recent Danger Room report by Noah Shachtman, there was a shocking example of exactly the opposite of this “defense technology” outsourcing restraint.   Shachtman reports that the Pentagon has selected a Chinese satellite firm to help it communicate and carry and share data.  This, of course, is not only a foreign service of a potentially very delicate nature, it is not even a non-Allied country who is providing the service, it is Chinese firm.  Apparently the Pentagon is in such dire needs for bandwidth that this appeared to them to be an acceptable option.   In fact, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense reported that the action was taken as a response to a need, not a strict adherence to policy since there is no policy in place to guide the decision.

       The decision to lease the data service raises serious concerns, not least of which is the fact that the United States has feared that Chinese telecommunication firms have acted as subcontractors for Chinese government spying.  Even if the data is encrypted, the Chinese know who is using which transponders, and they can then copy all of the data to send to Chinese cryptanalysts.  If that were not bad enough, the power to simply shut down service to the United States military in the area, is left in the hands of this Chinese firm.  It is certainly a bewildering and troubling choice by the Department of Defense.  It also illustrates just how important and space-capital intensive military networks are becoming.


After Very Close Cooperation in Mexico’s War on Drug Cartels, the United States is Unsure of What the Future Will Hold in that Cooperation

In a recent Washington Post article by Dana Priest, the deeply entwined nature of the United States support for the Mexican government and its military in combating the powerful Mexican drug cartels was examined.  The violence in Mexico had grown so large that former President Felipe Calderon had pleaded with President Bush for assistance.  This led to the beginning of The Mérida Initiative, a whopping $1.9 billion aid package for military training and equipment and judicial reform.  Beyond simple financial, equipment, and training aid, the cooperation between the two countries grew to include much more.  Priest writes that “the United States had been given near-complete entree to Mexico’s territory and the secrets of its citizens” in the counter-cartel operations.  The Calderon Administration had granted access to high-flying American spy planes as well as drones launched from U.S. bases.  The United States had further given tons of intelligence and spycraft technology to the Mexican authorities.
       Moreover, the DEA and the CIA and other United States agencies helped lead the hunt for the drug kingpins, utilizing some of the same methods that were ongoing in use against Al Qaeda in the Middle East.  The U.S. agencies established a physical infrastructure in various locations Mexico to aid in the planning of the raids, to vet the Mexican workers in the taskforce, and even hosted some Mexican authorities to train in Quantico.  The United States-led intelligence guided the overall operations.  During this disruption of drug-running routines, Mexican cities such as Ciudad Juarez became some of the most violent and dangerous cities on earth, with tens of thousands of murders occurring in very gruesome ways. 

       While the public has been unaware of just how intricately involved the United States has been in the Mexican operations, so too were officials from the new Enrique Peña Nieto Administration, who have been briefed over the last few months about the level of U.S. involvement.  There are clear indications that the new administration intends to take a different approach than the previous administration, seeking to reduce the violence on Mexican streets.  Some United States observers/participants fear this might mean leaning toward making deals with the remaining cartels, but this has been denied by the new administration officials.  Nevertheless, it is certain that some changes are coming.  The breadth and scope of those changes are yet to be seen.

Spring 2013 Final Exam

Diplomacy 750 Defense Statecraft
Spring 2013
Final Exam

Please answer one of the following three questions. Return your exam by e-mail by 5:45pm today.

  1.  With the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army is in search for mission and identity. How should the United States Army balance its responsibilities for conventional and unconventional warfare? 
  2. Some argue that AirSea Battle threatens to destabilize the Pacific, while others contend that it amounts to bureaucratic hot air. Discuss AirSea Battle in terms of U.S. grand strategy, the emerging politics of the Pacific Rim, and inter-organizational dynamics. 
  3. After a decade of growth, the U.S. defense budget has begun to retreat. Consider the domestic and international consequences of this retreat; how will a reduced U.S. defense profile affect the behavior of foreign countries (whether friend or foe)? What impact will defense cuts have in the U.S.?

Deterrence ambiguities in cyber-warfare

previously mentioned some of the challenges of deterrence as a tool of statecraft when applied to conflict in space, namely the fact that strategically defensive but tactically aggressive states with modest technological capacity can cause no end of trouble. Cyberspace offers a different set of issues, mostly relating to the much lower entry costs for low-intensity cyber-activity which allow for non-state actors to seriously "play" in the cyber realm.

In a contest between major states traditional deterrence may in fact hold reasonably well. Huge budgets for cyber-security, and the apparent vulnerability of cyber-warfare personnel and physical assets to more traditional forms of surveillance and espionage, will likely improve the prospects for attributing cyber-attacks mounted by major world powers. As cyber-warfare inevitably becomes bureaucratized it would be rather strange if increasingly mature agencies failed to adopt certain "best-practices" that may improve managerial or fiscal efficiency but also reduce innovation and lend great-power cyber-operations distinct "signatures". At the same time the huge resources available to these relatively slow-moving government organizations will also allow them do deliver devastating punishment on a wide variety of targets. In this cyber deterrence apes nuclear deterrence, with great powers able to attribute attacks reasonably accurately and then respond in kind and on a massive scale. Given the relatively level degree to which many major states rely on digital technologies this suggests restrain in terms of cyber-attacks; cyber-espionage, conversely, will likely remain marginally acceptable due to the fact that such techniques are only moderately distinct from physically stealing memos, blueprints or for that matter hard-drives.

When great powers deal with less prominent states (much less non-state entities) the lack of a pronounced cyber "taboo" as seen with many other high-destruction weapons (poison gas, nuclear devices, etc) will likely lead the major states to adopt cyber-warfare into integrated war-fighting doctrine as applied to weaker opponents. At the same time these weaker opponents will either lack the need to maintain a wide array of infrastructure networks reliant on digital technology (non-state actors) or rule over states that either lack such technologies or can accept considerable widespread damage in the event of an attack (many small developing countries). Given the fact that the primary competitive advantage that major states hold over everyone else remains access to large-scale "kinetic" means of destruction (i.e. bombs) cyber-war doctrine in this realm will likely remain modest given the marginal improvements it can make for governments possessing precision weapons, air superiority, orbital assets and special operations forces. Only when great powers see kinetic operations as unacceptable, as the US currently does with Iran, will attacks such as Stuxnet occur.

Small states or non-state groups, however, will increasingly find cyber-operations critical to their strategies for fighting against major powers, or deterring such conflict in the first place. The costs of developing cyber-weapons is unlikely to reach the level of precision-weapons, advanced air and sea vehicles, space-travel, or nuclear weaponry, all of which require enormous industrial infrastructure and in some cases can lead to serious diplomatic problems. Conversely software industries have relatively low capital requirements and raise no serious international questions about weaponization. As a result recruiting software and electrical engineers remains much simpler than getting nuclear physicists familiar with weapons development or aerospace engineers knowledgeable about stealth technologies. Coupled with the hypothetical capacity of cyber-weapons to wreak havoc on great-power military networks or even civilian infrastructure such tools become extremely useful to relatively weak states attempting to deal with powerful external threats. Against each other, however, weak states or non-state groups will likely use more conventional weapons due to mutual resistance to cyber-attack and vulnerability to more traditional weapons.

Cyber-deterrence will remain deeply problematic due to the difficulty of reliably tracing incoming cyber-attacks. Nonetheless the risks of retaliation in kind will likely keep major powers from attacking each other on a large scale in the absence of more general warfare, especially since standardization of cyber-operations will likely make such attacks easier to trace. Major powers moreover will see little reason to use cyber-weapons except when more overt warfare remains unacceptable. Small states or non-state actors, however, will find the low cost of entry and possibly very high rate of return from cyber-activity against more powerful foes to be very interesting indeed.

Deserters no longer welcome in Canada

Our friendly neighbors to the North have become decidedly less hospitable to American deserters.

A refuge for war resisters and draft dodgers during the Vietnam War, as many as 90,000 Americans crossed the border to seek refuge. Many were given permanent residence (which could lead to Canadian citizenship), though the majority returned Stateside after President Carter granted them amnesty in the late 1970s.

Since then, there have been an estimated 200 Iraq War resisters residing in Canada. In 2009 the House of Commons passed a motion that would allow for U.S. military deserters to stay on compassionate grounds, but the Conservative government did not agree. As a result, the Canadian government has deported several American war resisters this year.

One such deportee is Kimberly Rivera, the first female resister of the Iraq War.

Rivera, a 30-year-old Texas native, served three months in Iraq with the US Army before becoming disillusioned with what she saw there. As a result, she moved to Canada in 2007 during a two-month leave after being ordered to complete a second tour. In 2009 she was ordered to leave or face deportation, but she appealed the decision. However, this fall she was denied permanent citizenship on compassionate grounds. She turned herself in at the border crossing near Alexandria Bay in New York and was immediately taken into military custody.

On Monday she pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion and received a bad-conduct discharge. She will serve ten months in prison as a result. Two other deportees, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, also face jail time.

Several rallies were held in Canada protesting Rivera's deportation and she received support from around the globe, including from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Canadian government defends their decision, claiming that the circumstances have changed now that joining the U.S. armed forces is a voluntary decision. If the Canadians won't keep them, is anywhere safe for American deserters to stay?

Repatriating British Drones

Saturday marked the first nationwide protest of Britain's drone use. About 400 protesters took part in a march from Lincoln to the Royal Air Force Base at Waddington in Lincolnshire. This historic event was prompted by the British Ministry of Defense admitting that they had flown armed drones remotely from the UK.

Previously operated from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, the RAF has decided to bring their operations back to the UK in order to take advantage of the opportunity to have shifts in multiple time zones.

So far, Britain is the only other nation the U.S. has permitted to purchase armed MQ-9 Reaper drones.
Though primarily used for surveillance, these models can be armed with Hellfire missiles and 500 lb laser-guided bombs.

Despite protests from activist groups claiming that the use of UAVs makes it all too easy for policymakers to launch attacks without oversight or accountability to the public, the RAF stands firm in their statement that the Reapers "adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement."

The RAF says that another benefit of repatriating the British-owned and operated drones will allow for greater control over their use. Previously, British pilots had been embedded with the US Air Force (British pilots are still required to follow the UK rules of engagement even whilst embedded in the US armed forces). 

While good for allied relations, this collaboration muddles the issue of responsibility for specific strikes. For example, British pilots are given credit for firing missiles even when using borrowed US drones, however any casualties resulting from these strikes have counted towards the US figures. This has skewed the data and analysts are still in the process of sorting it all out. Hopefully the added separation of British forces operating from the UK will help to clarify the issue.

Week 9: Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Neurosis vs. Nuclear Laxity

            In his book, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda, John Mueller proposes that we live in a kind of irrational nuclear mania, ever fearing that terrorists will access nuclear weapons, or that the world will end in a nuclear induced holocaust that will leave only vermin to populate what little may be left of our planet. Mueller explains why he believes terrorists are unlikely to procure nuclear weapons, and that this nuclear phobia drives us to make policies and set budgetary priorities that do not mesh with reality. Instead of examining the facts regarding practical nuclear capabilities, we indulge in an almost frantic awe of the power of these magical, mystical scientific innovations. Playing up their capabilities may be beneficial for the purposed of deterrence, for those who are believers in deterrence theory, but for those who prefer to calmly examine reality in an effort to more reasonably plan according to a set of plausibly likely scenarios, it may be preferable to consider things less zealously. By no means is this meant to take the fun out of science, or even to undermine the considerable and formidable power of nuclear weapons; rather, it is meant to serve as smelling salts to the fainting damsel we've all become under the potent nuclear spell. We need to come fully to our senses and measure nuclear capabilities and our response to them as detached, objective observers.


            According to Mueller, from the time the United States loosed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, the world has lived in dread at the prospect of nuclear annihilation. He argues that this obsession has no basis in logic or scientific fact, going so far as to state that nuclear weapons have had relatively little impact on history. While this last claim makes a departure from hard logic and measurable reality, his point about our obsession with nuclear weapons being unfounded is reasonable, and more importantly, difficult to argue well against. It is true that nuclear weapons have proven to be more or less militarily useless in a literal sense, since there are few tactical application for them. But, if deterrence theory is admitted into the discussion, then there is a reasonable argument that these weapons are in constant use as a sort of invisible force field protecting the possessor from aggression. This discussion become dizzying once it moves into the implications for proliferation, but the proposal that nukes can be said to effectively deter nuclear aggression from other armed parties, when mutual destruction is assured, is at least logically reasonable. So, this is the key point where Mueller leaves himself most exposed to criticism, as it is difficult to defend the position that nukes have had little effect on recent history.


            Paul Bracken, on the other hand, cautions in his book The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics that we are too lax in our dealings with the nuclear phenomenon. He posits that the end of the Cold War ushered in a lackadaisical underestimation of the threat of nuclear weapons, and that the current situations with Iran and North Korea have introduced a second nuclear age. He further explains that the use of these weapons for political prestige has given them added value to countries that want to be recognized among the nuclear elite.


            Bracken argues that, with more countries developing nuclear capabilities, we need to more conscientiously track and evaluate how nuclear weapons are affecting international crises. He is quite concerned that we are in an acutely critical situation that will almost certainly lead to nuclear armed terrorists. While he makes excellent points about carefully calculating scenarios in order to prepare for them, he does convey a sort of hyper-vigilance regarding escalation of the nuclear situation. It would be a (perhaps fatal) mistake to grow too lax in our policies and preparations, but equally irrational and detrimental is the prospect of remaining on too high an alert, which could actually serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy by leading other nations to suspect that they had better start nuclear programs to protect themselves from the dangers we are so anxiously perceiving. In fact, Bracken laments that the current role of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia will make them impossible to eliminate. As a solution, he proposes that we must devise innovative methods for dealing with conflict in the Middle East (primarily due to Iran) and Asia (primarily due to North Korea), as he believes these conflicts are likely to result in nuclear escalation and further proliferation.

            While Mueller and Bracken clearly see things differently, they do seem to agree that we must explore more effective ways to manage the nuclear problem, and that the best way to go about this it to innovate a new global system of arms control that is more likely to inspire a consensus among states that agree on precious few aspects of the nuclear topic.

They just don't make 'em like they used to

"The 1911 was the design given by God to us through John Moses Browning that represents the epitome of what a killing tool needs to be. It was true in 1911 and is true now."
-Col. Robert J. Coates, USMC
John Moses Browning

The M1911 .45 Caliber Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) has had an impressive life of service to the American military.  Introduced in 1911, John Browning's design has withstood the test of time and continues to serve as the oldest weapon system in today's military.  The M1911 is renowned for its reliability, durability, and most importantly, its effectiveness.
M1911 .45 Caliber Automatic Colt Pistol

Despite a major initiative to replace the M1911 in the 1980's with Beretta's M9, stalwort supporters of the M1911 held out in many pockets despite the military wide issue of the M9.  The M1911 remains in service today, largely in special operations units where commands have increased flexibility with regard to top down mandates of equipment issues.

M9 Beretta 9x19mm Parabellum NATO
The predominant complaint in transitioning from the M1911 to the M9 centers around effectiveness.  The M9 utilizes the 9x19mm Parabellum NATO cartridge with a bullet mass of 115 grains as compared to the .45 caliber ACP cartridge which is most frequently loaded with bullets of 230 grains.  The disparity in bullet mass is the single most important factor in accounting for the substantially increased stopping power of the M1911 as compared to the M9.

This issue rose in precedence during the Iraq war where urban fighting increased service members reliance upon the pistol in combat due to the proximity of enemy combatants.  While the rifle remained the primary weapon system for offensive operations in an urban setting, transitioning to the secondary weapon system (pistol) became more critical due to tactical situations which did not afford the service member the time, distance, or cover necessary to reload a rifle or correct a malfunction. 

Contrary to intuition, a pistol serves more of a defensive role in parmilitary applications where the primary offensive capability is filled by an assault rifle.  The pistol is an emergency backup offensive capability to be utilized in the event that the primary weapon system is unavailable (a malfunction in the weapon's operating cycle or an empty source of ammunition).  Transitioning to the pistol is faster than correcting an issue with the primary weapon system and therefore offers an more expediant solution when engaging hostile forces, especially in urban environments where the limited range of a pistol is less of an employment constraint.

Servicemembers who engaged enemy forces with the M9 often complained of its limited effectiveness, often requiring multiple hits before the target was incapacitated.  While shot placement is a factor, the terminal ballistics of the 9mm as compared to the .45 cal round are such that shots that impact outside of vital zones often fail to do enough damage to the affected tissues to cause a negative spike in blood pressure.  This results in an enemy's ability to continue fighting despite experiencing gunshot wounds to non-vital areas of the body.

The .45 caliber round does significantly more damage to affected tissues creating a larger permanent channel along the trajectory of its terminal ballistic path.  This inflicts a negative spike in blood pressure capable of incapacitating a target with a single impact outside of vital zones.  Ultimately making the unarguable case for the M1911's continued service in the United States military.