Archive for the 'Soft Power' Category



Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?

Exum on Soft Power

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

I rarely interact with other bloggers, preferring to spend time in analysis.  But occasionally it’s best to spend a few minutes and join in the fray.  Andrew Exum of the blog Abu Muqawama gives us his raw feelings on soft power.  It’s is quoted in full.

Dear World:

We, the United States of America, a top quality supplier of the ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our 2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service outage has been located, and a decision was taken in early November to completely replace the software responsible. The new software became fully functional on January 20, 2009. Early tests of the newly installed program indicate that we are again operating correctly. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full service and hope to continue improvements in the years to come. We thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Well, the comments section gets pretty hard hitting, but it’s best to stick with the facts and analyze what Andrew says.

Given the billions upon billions of dollars spent by the U.S. on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (in aid to fight the Taliban), AIDS in Africa and other such programs, it isn’t clear what might be Andrew’s objection.  Perhaps along with Secretary Gates he doesn’t like the fact that the application of reconstruction and soft power has been the U.S. military.  I don’t think the U.S. military likes it either, but if Andrew believes that this has been the choice of the Bush administration he is of course mistaken.  Does he not recall the near riotous behavior at the State Department when Condi Rice threatened mandatory overseas deployments of State employees?  Does he really believe that it will be any different under the new administration?  At least the Army and Marines had training and weapons.  Does Andrew have a plan for force protection of State employees when their heads turn up decapitated while deployed?  Does anyone really know how this is going to work?

Perhaps Andrew is talking about the use of diplomatic and political pressure.  True enough, both I and Michael Ledeen have both been strong proponents of political pressure on Iran in order to prevent war.  We have both lamented the sure-to-be heavy cost of war with Iran and advocated democracy programs (I and Michael), fomenting of an insurgency (I and Michael) and even targeted assassinations of select high ranking individuals (only me to the best of my knowledge).  We have said that Iranian General Qassem Suleimani (the very same one to whom Petraeus appealed to stop the shelling inside the Green zone) should know that he is a marked man.

But notwithstanding the brutish and heavy-handed tactics tactics I recommend, the State Department cannot even find it in themselves to continue with pressure on Iran during the Bush administration.  They gave up the only remaining democracy program in favor of – you guessed it, or maybe you didn’t because you couldn’t conceive of a program like this – student exchange.  Does Andrew believe that talks by the State Department which cannot even continue a democracy program for Iran will pressure them to relinquish their enrichment program?  This new State Department will clearly align with the new administration which believes in the eternal power of talk.  Will student exchange programs change the radical Mullahs?  Will we ultimately convince ourselves that we can live with a nuclear Iran, or will the new administration save the day with talks?

Perhaps Andrew has a thing for largesse.  Perhaps he believes that the U.S. is obligated to make payments across the globe in order to further democracy.  But if the global insurgency in which we are currently engaged was a function of poverty, then Bangladesh, which is not only one of the poorest countries on the face of the earth but Muslim as well, would be a well-spring of Islamic extremism.  But it’s not, because the notion that poverty causes extremism is a myth.  So that argument for international socialism borne on the shoulders of the American taxpayer rather falls apart at the hands of cold, hard logic.

Perhaps Andrew believes that more money should have been forthcoming from the government for the conduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  Okay.  His gripe should have been with the Congress, but it doesn’t seem to be.  Besides, given the funding of construction, arms, training for the Army and police, reconstruction of infrastructure such as the electrical grid and other gigantic programs such as payment to the Sons of Iraq, surely Andrew is aware of the massive amount of money we have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps Andrew believes that the U.S. hasn’t worked for democracy throughout the world.  But I (and others) have strongly argued that it was precisely our irrational commitment to Maliki because of his having been democratically elected that caused such lethargy in the progress of pacification.

So then what is his gripe about soft power?  Who exactly has failed in this regard, and given his giddiness over the new administration, what does he know about their ability to exercise soft power that we don’t?  Does he know where the money is coming from, and how we would do this new and improved thing without bankrupting the country?

There are many unanswered questions from Andrew.  He has clearly told us all that he knows more than we do about soft power, to the point that he knows what this administration is going to do and how successful they are going to be.

More, Andrew?  Would you like to fill in the gaps of our knowledge with your deep, Gnostic learning?  Specifics please, rather than venom and invective!  We got the executive summary.  You forgot to give us the balance of the report.

UPDATE: TCJ thanks Abu for the link.

Will we continue to invest in military power?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

The Captain’s Journal respects only one individual on the national security team and featured in the photograph above – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He has earned every bit of respect he has throughout the defense community. The balance of the team must earn their respect but is off to a very bad start. Eric Holder with his pitiful judgment inspires absolutely no confidence, and Janet Napolitano may as well have turned Arizona over to MS 13. The President-elect stands opposed even to refurbishing the existing nuclear weapons stockpile (the greatest deterrence we have), much less do we believe that we’ll get support for new developments in nuclear weapons.

As for the incoming Secretary of State, that horrible, juvenile interrogation before the Senate where General David Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were mocked by both Biden and Clinton will go down as one of the worst and most dishonorable displays of any politicians in our history. As it turns out, Crocker and Petraeus were right, so our incoming Secretary of State and Vice President-elect are batting 0.000.

President-elect Obama has talked a good game at times, vowing to fund the U.S. military needs of the 21st century.

“We will also ensure that we have the strategy — and resources — to succeed against al Qaeda and the Taliban,” Obama told a news conference. “And going forward, we will continue to make the investments necessary to strengthen our military and increase our ground forces to defeat the threats of the 21st century.”

But these words ring hollow when he has all but given up on high powered deterrence such as nuclear weapons and put into place a national security team that has such a poor incoming record. Secretary of Defense Gates, who opposes Obama on nuclear weapons, is the one bright spot on the team. Thank God for Gates.

The Obama team will back the use of soft power in the coming months and years.

President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team, introduced Monday in Chicago, includes two veteran Cold Warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.

Yet all three of his choices – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as old rival turned secretary of state; General James Jones, the former NATO commander to be the national security adviser; and Robert Gates, the current and future defense secretary – were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.

The shift in resources, which would come partly out of the military’s huge budget, would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. Obama also said he was nominating Susan Rice, a former National Security Council official, as ambassador to the United Nations.

“Whether they can make the change one that Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best, will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently. But the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the three officials had all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the presidency of George W. Bush.

But is Gates really completely in line with this thinking? To be sure, he has advocated the use of soft power in counterinsurgency.

… my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power

Gates nowhere discusses the diminution of combat capabilities or the jettisoning of military power as a foundation for being able to afford this soft power. In fact, just before making the statement above, Gates said this.

One of my favorite lines is that experience is the ability to recognize a mistake when you make it again. Four times in the last century the United States has come to the end of a war, concluded that the nature of man and the world had changed for the better, and turned inward, unilaterally disarming and dismantling institutions important to our national security – in the process, giving ourselves a so-called “peace” dividend. Four times we chose to forget history.

The left has their pet views about what Obama has promised and what he should accomplish.

President-elect Barack Obama has affirmed his commitment to bring the war in Iraq to a close and to refocus our attention on Afghanistan. To do both, Obama must do more than fix ambitious timelines or offer hazy plans with muddy particulars. He must stick to his campaign pledge that would fundamentally shift the ideological orientation of America’s foreign policy establishment: ending the Iraq mission will require engaging Iran, solving Afghanistan will mean dialogue with terrorists.

Tacit in this demand is that Iran is participating in the violence and engaging them in dialogue will convince them to renounce that violence despite the fact that twenty five years of engagement has failed to do this. Tacit in the expectation that we dialogue with the Taliban is that they are interested in this dialogue. Hamid Karzai has literally begged Mullah Omar to negotiate and promised him complete safety, but both The Captain’s Journal and Ayman al-Zawahiri have pointed out that we would be currently negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength.

The full engagement of the State Department should involve things like democracy programs for Iran (which the State Department effectively killed), while the perspective is being nurtured by the incoming administration that full involvement of soft power involves thousands of negotiators, as if, hearkening back to their experience in American jurisprudence, we can lawyer our way to victory if we only deploy better talkers than they do.

So there seems to be a fundamental difference between Gates and the balance of the team. Gates apparently doesn’t believe in fairy tales and myths, while the demands on the left are for Obama not only to defund the military and engage enemies with dialogue, but to succeed, and that, remarkably so. This administration and the American public are being set up for huge disappointment, but all is not lost.  At least we have one adult on the national security team who can speak sense to the others.

See also W. Thomas Smith, America’s Naval Supremacy Slipping, and The Captain’s Journal, Is Obama Proposing Leviathan and Sysadmin?, and Civilian National Security Force.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Does COIN

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

The Daily Sentinel in Iowa has an outstanding article on the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducting counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.

Kingsley native Jeff Knowles looked down at the protective flak jacket, then turned to the soldier next to him.

“Am I supposed to put this on now?”

The soldier grinned, “If you don’t I will.”

Body armor is not in Knowles’ typical wardrobe as an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

But then again, working with farmers in Afghanistan to help rebuild their agricultural system isn’t his typical work either.

Knowles, who now lives in Hawaii, spent six months in the war-scarred nation talking with farmers about what they grow and what their needs are.

He was honored last week by USDA secretary Ed Schafer for his service in Afghanistan in 2005-06.

Hearts, minds and apricots

Knowles’ travels were part of a partnership between the USDA and the U.S. Department of Defense in their campaign to “win hearts and minds” of the Afghan people.

“I think it’s one of the best things we’re doing in the country,” Knowles said via a phone interview from his USDA office in Hawaii. “If we can help improve quality of life for farmers — and 95 percent of the Afghan people are farmers — we’re doing something real.”

Living conditions are rough. And most farmers are subsistence farmers, growing crops like wheat, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, apricots, apples and almonds.

But getting enough water for crops is a major issue …

It was in Hawaii that Knowles decided to volunteer for a six-month stint in Afghanistan.

“It was really intriguing to me — they were facing problems with erosion, heavy and widespread, and a lot of their irrigation system was destroyed,” he said. “It seemed that my entire career was pointing to this. The things I’d been working with for close to 30 years were the things they needed in Afghanistan.”

The USDA is still sending people to Afghanistan as well as Iraq to help people stabilize their farming economies.

“I’d still like to go back, maybe to an area where we haven’t been yet — like the unstable part along the Pakistan border,” Knowles said. “I feel like I have unfinished business.”

The entire article is worth the read.  The DoD and USDA are to be commended for this innovative use of soft power to win hearts and minds.  If kinetic operations have been languishing (and are helped by the presence of the Marines in Helmand), at least one element of soft power has been implemented.  The State Department should watch and learn, and then follow the lead of the USDA.  This has given us a good example of what soft power can accomplish in counterinsurgency.

Jeff Knowles, far right, a native of Kingsley, interviews a farmer in southern Ghazni province of Afghanistan. Knowles, an employee of the USDA, spent six months in Afghanistan working to help stabilize the farming economy. This month, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture honored Knowles for his service there.


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