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YouTubes of 2015 Washington DC speech

Video segments of September 2015 briefing to an international military audience in the Washington DC area.



Part 1: Introductions and US grand strategy


 Part 2: America's looming energy self-sufficiency


Part 3: Climate Change and its impact on food & water


Part 4: The aging of great powers


Past 5: Millennials & Latinization of U.S.


Part 6: Evolution of US Military under Obama


Part 7: Dangers of a "splendid little war" with China


Part 8: Middle East without a Leviathan


Part 9: Answers to audience questions


The "Pentagon's new map" recast as USMC's "arc of instability"



Time's Battleland: MILITARY Pentagon Malady: “Next-War-Itis”


I was approached by Foreign Policy magazine back in January to pen one of their “Think Again” columns, this one focusing on the future of war.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.  


Foreign Policy: Think Again: The Pentagon (The military's Chicken Littles want you to think the sky is falling. Don't believe them: America has never been safer.)



"The Pentagon Is Always Fighting the Last War."

Just the opposite. The Pentagon, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates derisively pointed out, has a bad case of "next-war-itis." With Iraq now ancient history and Afghanistan winding down, all four of the major U.S. military services today prefer to imagine distant, future, high-tech shoot-'em-ups against China (er, well-equipped adversaries) over dealing with the world as we find it, which is still full of those nasty little wars. As Marine Corps general and outgoing Central Command boss James Mattis once told me, "I find it intellectually embarrassing that people want to hug the Chinese [and exclaim], 'Oh, thank God we have another peer competitor at last! Now we can go back to building the weapons that we always wanted to build.'"

Read the entire article at Foreign Policy.


Time's Battleland: National Security Putting China’s “Hacking Army” into Perspective

Great New York Times front-pager on Tuesday finally provides a substantive overview of the comprehensive hacking activities of the Chinese military against all manner of U.S. industries (with an obvious focus on defense).

Actually, the title was a bit of soft sell (China’s Army Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.). This unit’s activities have been much discussed within the U.S. national-security community for several years now, so we are far past the “tied to” allegation. It’s clear that Beijing has the People’s Liberation Army conduct widespread cyber- theft all over the world, targeting the U.S. in particular.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.

I blame Dave Emery for making me write something on the subject.


Interesting panel on Chinese navy (video)

Got this from Tom Wade, who attended the US Naval Institute's WEST 2013 in San Diego.  Been a while since I last spoke at one of those, but they are very good conferences on all things naval.

The guy to watch is the Naval War College prof Toshi Yoshihara.  Most interesting point:  Remember just how easy it could be to thwart the PLAN by placing one's own area-denial anti-access assets all along (or on) the so-called first island chain, which is owned by everybody EXCEPT China.  Per my usual point:  the balancing dynamic here is not all that hard and can be achieved through highly incentivized "others" like Japan (which grows more incentivized by the day).  America's need to turn this into the man a mano fight of the century is a bit much - for all the non-military reasons upon which I love to harp.


Scorching (but dead-on) Battleland piece on US strategic pivot

Winslow Wheeler, clearly a bit of a defense-waste firebrand, takes on AirSea Battle and the whole pivot logic.

I couldn't agree more.

The best bits:

It’s old, and likely thoroughly forgotten now, but last summer the Washington Post ran an excellent article on the U.S. military‘s “pivot” toward Asia, its origins, and its budget implications. It presented some meaningful background on where the pivot came from, and how it so quickly became dogma in Washington as the decade-long ground wars receded in the national rear-view mirror ...

I urge you to read the piece: the pivot is not just a redirection of attention toward Asia; it is a proclamation of a new form of warfare, Air-Sea Battle, to solve the problem of defeating China’s presumed military ambitions in the Pacific with an assemblage of existing and new long-range, precision-strike weapons.

It is the brainchild of Andrew Marshall, the long-sitting director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment ...

The Air Force and the Navy are particularly enthusiastic about Air-Sea Battle; after a decade of budget emphasis on the Army and Marine Corps in the mostly-land conflicts in the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, ASB is so much all about the Navy and Air Force that, according to Jaffe’s article, they have “come up with more than 200 initiatives they say they need to realize Air-Sea Battle” and it “provides a framework for preserving [and expanding] some of the Pentagon’s most sophisticated weapons programs.”

The heavy bill for the hardware Air-Sea Battle contemplates was noted, last August, by numerous skeptics. In Jaffe’s article, Barry Posen—the director at MIT’s Security Studies Program—pointed out Marshall’s history of rationales for what is now called Air-Sea Battle saying “it should be called the Office of Threat Inflation.” As well, Jaffe quotes the Marine Corps—likely to lose big chunks of budget share under ASB—saying in a contracted study it would be “preposterously expensive.”

It is America’s new strategic fixation—even if some would argue that it doesn’t even qualify as a strategy, and is simply a shift of bureaucratic spending priorities for hardware garbed in pseudo-strategic talk ...

The focus on historically under-performing hardware, especially the long range—“global”—variety, displaces the higher-level thinking now needed. We must contemplate how to leverage China’s geographical disadvantage of being literally surrounded by actively-antagonistic and potentially-hostile neighbors: Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam ...

Worst of all, ASB presumes a new Cold War with China to sustain the Pentagon’s own budget, thereby swapping strategic thought with material considerations.

Panetta proclaims that the “doomsday” of the sequester of the defense budget—in all, nearly a 10% cut in spending over the coming decade—would require him and the Administration to come up with a whole new strategy.

Indeed; what a tragedy that would be ...

Watch Hagel closely on these issues ... it will be interesting to see if he leaves even the tiniest amount of daylight between himself and these strategically bankrupt ideas.

Read the entire piece here.  


Lifting the ban on women in combat

I remember the 1994 debate well. I was in DC at time working for the Center for Naval Analyses, and it was heated.  Many stated this would NEVER happen.

But even then, you just knew it would.  Ditto for gays in the military.

It's a tough life, and when people choose it, you have to respect that along all lines.  You cannot deny people the right to move up in rank, and combat duty is a big deal in that regard.

Plus, even then you could see the "linear battlefield" going the way of the dinosaur, so if anybody's there - in theater - combat is possible and inevitable on a long-enough time scale. 

So this was just policy catching up with reality - just like how doctrine gets changed (That used to be our doctrine, but then too many troops got killed that way, so now, it's no longer our doctrine and this is.)

So good stuff.  You want democracy?  You live with equality.


Delivering a PPT in the PNT


Was approached by a group at the Joint Staff a while back to present to a working group focused on a particular operational theater.  The group regularly hosts speakers for an audience of about 75 flags, officers and senior civilians, with VTC to a large number of overseas commands.  Audience also had a number of foreign senior officers.  

The sponsor had asked to discuss near- and mid-term issues that could prove disruptive to security issues under their purview.  Because my current brief is more long term, I saw this as a chance to brief a number of Wikistrat sims.  So the bulk of the brief was on four sims we've done over the past couple of years now.

Little bit nervous going in, because it was a significant audience in terms of hierarchy, so a good test of the product line - as it were.  Unlike a pitch where you talk about the methodology and the company, this was a pure product presentation.  Not a demo, but actual product that had to stand on its own - as in, nowhere to hide behind hand-waving.

Joel Zamel was there as well to answer questions on the company and methodology.

I did 28 slides at a podium.  Couldn't move around due to the VTC cameras.  Also had to finger a screen to advance the slides (tap, tap, tap).  All in all, a terrible set-up for somebody like me, and I often feel like I underperform in those situations (I don't get complaints; it just doesn't feel as gloriously un-self-conscious as the perfect set-ups - for me - do).  But for whatever reason, it worked great and I got my head around the delivery and banged out about 30 mins of presentation, followed by another 30 or so of Q&A that felt even better.  Audience was really great.  Really interesting questions and super engaged.  What you expect from that level of crowd.  So you give what you get (e.g., my humor was above average), as the best audiences always get the best briefs.  It's just how it works.

Still, you just never know going in.  I tend to be pretty quiet right up to the point, because it takes a lot of energy. And yes, some nerves on the product. But the material was received very well, which was very gratifying. Big league audience in the bowels of the Pentagon and Wikistrat - at only three years old - comes off as top flight. We fielded a lot of powerfully positive comments and feedback. Extremely validating.

Follow-on lunch inside the Building with a crew of USA younger officers who are all elite something or other in some prestigious fellows program.  Most had seen me give my current standard globalization brief at Belvoir during my regular lectures there.  That was a really nice discussion.  Decent bisque, too.

Only really hard part was getting up at 0400 to fly there and back on same day, but nice to be back home for a movie with the kids at the end of their school week.

All in all, it felt like a genuine milestone.

You know, we run a lot of training simulations at Wikistrat.  Really pretty much nonstop.  And one of the things I'm always preaching throughout the community is that everything needs to be of high-enough caliber that, if I'm standing in front of a senior audience of serious operators and policy types at the Pentagon or some COCOM, I sound like the real deal from stem to stern. That's really the first threshold. Everybody knows we can do it fast and far less expensively, so the only remaining question is, Is the quality as good as anybody else's out there?

And that test was passed today (actually yesterday) - with flying colors.

And that is no small achievement. 

So the community should feel very proud of itself and what it is accomplishing.

Because the quality is only going to keep improving.  I'm seeing that elevate with each sim.  Less correcting work for me as Chief Analyst, and more time to really work the synergizing write-up, so elevation across the board, as well as product I can stand in front of - inside the Pentagon and with a senior audience - and deliver without a hitch.


The latest US missile defense announcement re: Asia

What to say?  WSJ says US is planning yet another "major expansion of missile defenses" in Asia.

The excuse continues to be North Korea, but that's a lot of money for just the DPRK.

"The focus of our rhetoric is North Korea," said Steven Hildreth, a missile-defense expert with the Congressional Research Service . . . "The reality is that we're also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China."

As usual, I ask you to consider the reverse scenario:  China placing missile defense systems around the perimeter of the United States so it could maintain "access" for its carriers and their air wings.  Imagine the Congressional hearings on that one.

But we are only being prudent while the Chinese are being aggressive.  After all, it's East Asia, where the U.S. military has long ruled as de facto Leviathan.  We did this so powers could rise peacefully - through economics, which China most certainly has (how many wars has China fought since 1980 versus the United States?), but China grows it's military quite a bit, even as observers might note just how much bigger the US defense budget has become over the same time period (let's say the US has increased its budget by $500m since 1990 and China has probably jacked its budget up by about $125).

From Wikipedia

Yes, no doubt that China is spending plenty to make it hard for the US to get in close, and that worries its neighbors.

But you really have to ask, is this an arms race we can expect to afford - much less win?  Their neighborhood: we can plant plenty of defense systems, they can stock up on plenty more missiles, but what is the end-point here?

We spent decades encouraging the peaceful rise of Asia writ large, and now we flood the place with weaponry? Triggering a race dynamic with China?

Makes you wonder where our mil-mil could be if not for the Taiwan situation holding it back all these years.



DoD embracing crowd-sourcing more and more

From a WSJ story of a few days back:

A branch of the Pentagon is looking into whether a bunch of volunteers could design a better amphibious vehicle for the Marines than a defense contractor.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Darpa, is preparing to assess whether crowdsourcing, a freewheeling collaborative method sometimes used to develop software, can be an effective means of designing military equipment.

The U.S. military hopes crowdsourcing could help counter the enormous costs and long delays that often dog the development of new weaponry and vehicles.

Darpa aims to use crowdsourcing to tap more brainpower than the traditional defense-contractor route . . .

That dovetails with the positive response that Wikistrat has recently received from the Defense Department. Facing an era of wanting to do as much or more with far fewer resources, DoD is proving to be very receptive to the Wikistrat pitch.  It's all about not relying on the same small crowd of contractors and working to get up to globalization speed, because that's the velocity at which all our enemies act and events unfold.


Some common sense on S. China Sea dispute, where US China hawks are losing all perspective

I've known Doug Paal for many years now (going back to my early Naval War College days), and he's an eminently sensible fellow with a huge background in Chinese affairs.

Some key bits from a Diplomat piece just published:

The South China Sea presents complicated issues of evolving international law, historic but ill-defined claims, a rush to grab declining fish stocks, and competition to tap oil and gas reserves. Beijing’s much discussed “nine-dashed line,” that purports to give China a claim on about 80 percent of the South China Sea and its territories, used to be an eleven-dashed line. Two dashes separating Chinese and Vietnamese claims were resolved through bilateral negotiations years ago. This suggests that the remaining nine dashes are equally negotiable. But China rigidly refuses to clarify the basis for its claims, whether they are based on the accepted international law of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) or the less widely accepted historical assertions. Beijing’s refusal to choose suggests it wants to maximize its legal and political leverage, even as the growth of its military and maritime assets gains physical leverage over its weaker neighbors.

Beijing is not alone. Hanoi has leased oil exploration blocks in contested waters, and Manila is trying the same. Their colonial occupations left a discontinuous record of historic claims, inclining them to rely more on UNCLOS to manage disputed resources. They eagerly encourage American weight thrown onto their side of the competition with China for free.

This is where the United States needs to move with caution and only after thinking many steps ahead . . . 

Point being, while China is clearly strong-arming and pushing its claims even more so than others, it is not the only country rattling sabers and pushing boundaries.  

Now, by singling Beijing out for criticism, but not the others, Chinese observers believe the United States has taken sides against China. This has undermined the U.S. assertions of a principled approach based on international law by appearing not to be impartial.

U.S. direct interests in the South China Sea are not unlimited . . .

The Obama Administration has clearly decided to champion this cause as a means of "standing up" to China, thus raising the "losing of face" dynamics, which means, instead of our usual approach of trying to cool things down, we've decided to purposefully heat things up.  Why?  A lot of Washington political and budgetary interests are served by this choice - just like in Beijing.

Today, the South China Sea is not at the “Sudetenland” moment of the twenty-first century, which calls for standing up to aggression and the rejection of appeasement. China has not militarized its foreign policy and does not appear equipped to do so for a long time. Its neighbors are not supine, and they show on occasion, when needed, that they are able to coalesce against Chinese actions that they judge as going too far. At the same time, China and those neighbors have more going constructively in trade, investment, and other relations with each other than is at risk in this dispute.

This suggests the makings of a manageable situation, even if it remains impossible to resolve for years to come. Different Asian societies are quite accustomed to living with unresolved disputes, often for centuries.

No kidding.  There are numerous missing peace treaties in Asia, which is part of this problem of ill-defined territorial boundaries, but leapfrogging from that reality to a rerun of WWII is hyperbole of the worst (meaning unthinking) sort. Frankly, you know your counterparty in any argument has run out of ammo whenever they pull out Hitler.

A very sensible piece worth reading.  Might just keep you off the budgetary gravy train that is AirSea Battle Concept.


First openly gay US flag officer - a big move for all involved

Obviously a calculated gesture that had to have been cleared with a lot of people beforehand, but a very nice move by the US Army, Defense Department and the Obama Administration.  My hat off to all of them - especially the flag officer (newly promoted to BGEN) and her spouse.

An Army officer being promoted to brigadier general openly acknowledged her homosexuality on Friday by having her wife pin her star to her uniform, thus becoming the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the United States military.

Everyone knows we've had gays and lesbians in the military forever.  The only question left hanging all these years was: would we allow them their identity - openly - in exchange for their service?  Too much to ask?  Hardly.

It's a tough job and a hard life, and everybody deserves to be able to acknowledge their fundamental sexual identity while serving their country.

I can tell you exactly when the whole subject jumped the shark for me:  There was this study done sometime (I believe) in the 1990s.  An inside job where some trusted Pentagon contractor went back over the personnel records of the entire force throughout the entire Cold War, looking for instances in which homosexuality led to somebody being successfully blackmailed by the enemy.  Their finding?  Not a single case.  

Despite all those Allen Drury novels saying otherwise, nobody gay (uniform or civilian) ever had their secret used successfully against them in a security-breach manner.

It was at that point that I knew it was just a matter of time - and the right administration.

So my thanks to Obama on that score.

I have to admit that when I saw the headline in the NYT, I thought it was a gag.  I mean, I don't think there are any publicly acknowledged enlisted personnel, so how did somebody get all the way up to being a general, I thought (rather stupidly, I realize).  But then it struck me: the DoD wanted somebody prominent as the first to step forward in this manner, and somebody going from officer to flag is the perfect tipping point in a career to hold up as an example.  

Very smart.


A complication that displays the interdependency between the Chinese and US economies

Great WAPO piece on how China's economic slowdown can complicate relations with the US.

Some bits:

Chinese leaders are under pressure to take steps to help the economy as a rare change in power looms. This fall, the Communist Party will choose a new general secretary and officials through the government.

“They cannot afford, during a period of political transition and political turmoil, to suggest any loss of economic control,” [Eswar] Prasad said.

China and the United States are the twin engines of global growth, and both need each other to take steps to keep economic activity going.

China has a number of tools at its disposal to stimulate economic growth — some harmful to the United States, others potentially neutral or helpful. China routinely subsidizes companies that locate there, reducing the competitiveness of U.S. businesses. More favorable programs include China’s effort to boost government spending and lower interest rates to increase lending . . .

It’s also possible the United States might take steps that could aggravate relations with China.

When the Federal Reserve embarked on another aggressive campaign to lower interest rates in late 2010, China howled, saying it would devalue the dollar and help U.S. exports. And indeed, the dollar did come down some, and exports boomed.

But the dollar has since rebounded, likely as investors have sought security in U.S. Treasury bonds.

China might signal similar concern this September, if the Fed launches a round of so-called quantitative easing to jolt growth.

Point being, we are locked in a symbiotic relationship with China.  There is no good global economy without us and there is no good global economy without them.

This is what gets me when Pentagon strategists casually consider war with China, to include direct attacks on the Chinese homeland.  What happens to the global economy when the two intertwinned biggest national economies decide to start blowing each other's citizens up?  The global economy would tank at a speed that would stun everybody.  There wouldn't be any days or weeks of bombing campaigns.  We'd have global economic turmoil of a stunning nature well before that, as the markets would freak out.

But I advise people to read the CSBA scenarios as they pertain to war with China, because they are downright hallucinatory.  From my China Security piece of a while back:

Reading through CSBA’s full-up exploration of ASBC, the resulting war between China and the United States strains credulity beyond all reason.[3] Three maps in particular depict what are logically lengthy strike campaigns against China’s radar/space facilities, ballistic missile facilities and submarine bases. In total, they suggest a China-wide bombing campaign by the United States of such tremendous volume that, as CSBA’s authors note, America would be required to dramatically ramp up short-term production of precision-guided munitions. Toward that end, one supposes, America should preemptively terminate all trade with China; trade that would financially underwrite the production lines of such weapon systems—again, to service a theoretical protection of “the free movement of goods around the world.”

Beyond that fantastic scenario extension lies CSBA’s plans to basically destroy the entire Chinese air force and submarine fleet, plus institute a “distant blockade” that would see us interdict and search—and here the irony balloons—China’s seaborne trade, which ought to be fairly simple since so much of it involves the US economy.  And because it’s not easy to stop committed large ships (don’t tell Somalia’s pirates), CSBA broaches the notion of using Air Force bombers to “provide ‘on-call’ maritime strike.” One can only imagine how many thousands of Wal-Mart containers the US military could send to the bottom of the Pacific before the White House would hear some complaints from the US business community. But why let that reality intrude?

Sounds crazy enough, right? 


Nice critique of the sheer - and reckless - overkill that is ASBC

Written by an Aussie strategist for The Diplomat.

Here is the best chunk.  I italicize the parts I found most compelling.

By denying China’s capacity for anti-access, the United States intends to preserve its options for sea-control and power projection, reinforcing its primacy and role as the region’s guarantor of free navigation. This decision, in turn, reflects a deeper, more quixotic judgement that such an objective is both vital to the United States and attainable at a level of cost and risk commensurate with US interests in the region.

On both counts, though, there are reasons to be sceptical. First, the cost of AirSea Battle is likely to be prohibitive. Though it remains a largely notional concept, AirSea Battle will depend on an expansive set of upgraded capabilities: a hardened and more dispersed network of bases and C4ISR systems; more and better submarine, anti-submarine and mine-warfare capabilities; and new, long range conventional strike systems, including bombers and anti-satellite weapons. Then, of course, there are the aircraft carriers and other major surface combatants, strike-fighter aircraft, and possibly even amphibious ships.

This strategy is no panacea for the region’s problems, of course. It wouldn’t be cheap or easy and it would involve Washington making some hard capability trade-offs as well as accepting greater limits on its capacity for intervention in the Western Pacific. But there are benefits as well. In particular, maritime denial would allow the US to continue to play a strong role in the region. It would enable Washington to fulfil its defensive commitments to regional allies, prevent Chinese dominance and, at the same time, by reducing its visible military footprint, give Beijing more political breathing room. To that end, a US maritime denial strategy would also help avoid the worst aspects of crisis instability that AirSea Battle would provoke. And all without breaking the bank.

Needless to say, these are expensive capabilities. Many are disproportionately costly (and vulnerable) relative to the platforms against which they’re being fielded. And in some cases, particularly anti-submarine warfare and ballistic missile defence, their prospective cost greatly exceeds the operational effect they can be expected to produce. All of this would be exacting for the United States in peak economic condition. In a new era of fiscal stringency, with US debt expanding and the Pentagon looking to save hundreds of billions over the next decade, expecting the US military to do more with less is at best unlikely, and at worst wholly untenable.

It also risks failing to learn from history. Strategic competition in the Western Pacific is beginning to echo the Cold War, only this time the United States is at risk of reprising the role of the Soviet Union. Washington has already repeated Moscow’s mistakes in Afghanistan. With AirSea Battle, Washington is trying to do too much with too little. It’s facing off against an opponent in better economic shape whose smarter, more asymmetric strategy will impose a disproportionate military burden. For Washington, adopting such a maximalist doctrine risks playing into China’s hands and, like the Soviet Union, spending itself into penury.

But cost factors are only part of the danger. An arms race is already underway in Asia. AirSea Battle will accelerate this process, with serious implications for regional stability and crisis management. First, by creating the need for a continued visible presence and more intrusive forms of surveillance in the Western Pacific, AirSea Battle will greatly increase the range of circumstances for maritime brinkmanship and dangerous naval incidents.

Second, AirSea Battle’s emphasis on pre-empting China by striking early against the PLA will continue to compress the time available to decision-makers in a crisis. As military plans become increasingly dependent on speed and escalation, and diplomacy fails to keep up, a dangerous ‘use it or lose it’ mentality is likely to take hold in the minds of military commanders. This risks building an automatic escalator to war into each crisis before diplomatic efforts at defusing the situation can get underway.

And finally, AirSea Battle calls for deep strikes on the Chinese mainland to blind and suppress PLA surveillance systems and degrade its long-range strike capabilities. Such an attack, even if it relied solely on conventional systems, could easily be misconstrued in Beijing as an attempt at pre-emptively destroying China’s retaliatory nuclear options. Under intense pressure, it would be hard to limit a dramatic escalation of such a conflict – including, in the worst case, up to and beyond the nuclear threshold.  

Taken together, the costs and risks associated with AirSea Battle spell trouble for US primacy in Asia, and for the sea control and power projection capabilities on which it relies. Yet while Washington’s comfortable hegemonic habits will be hard to kick – especially after so many peaceful, prosperous decades – it’s not all doom and gloom. Primacy, after all, is only a means to an end, a way of preventing China from attaining regional dominance. There are other, more cost effective ways of doing that, including by playing China at its own game. That would involve developing a maritime denial strategy, focused mainly on the use of submarines, designed to inhibit China’s use of the sea for its own power projection. Indeed, the same capabilities that imperil US power projection in the Western Pacific would have an equally profound effect on China’s own fledgling efforts.

A very smart analysis of the dangers and costs.  And the "out" provided by focusing more on subs would make even me a serious believer of increasing our capacity there versus CSBA's somewhat insane notion of bombing the breadth and length of China and somehow not triggering a nuclear escalation.

People are going to construe being against the CSBA's notion of AirSea Battle as capitulating to Chinese domination of East Asia.  That is, of course, complete nonsense.

Proponents of ASBC will also toss in the if-you-only-know-the-secret-stuff-I-know-you'd-buy-into-ASBC card. That secrecy argument is the equivalent of patriotism-as-the-last-refuge-of-scoundrels temptation - as in, when you can't win the argument on cost and feasibility and dangers and operational success, then simply hide behind the "ominous" signs that only you and yours are privy to.

There are, as this article points out, cheaper and more sensible alternatives.  To those provided here, I would simply add selling plenty of military capabilities to the rest of East Asia (which we're already doing).

As I said before, ASBC suffers greatly from aspiring to be an Air Force-Navy Full Deployment Act.  Like any force structure wish list, it must ramp up the storylines - hence the fantastic war-gaming of CSBA that is intellectually fradulent to the point of being laughable.

There is no strategic logic that says the US should get in an absurdly expensive spending war with China over a scenario that happens just outside China's front door.  There is also no logic in promising a hair-trigger standoff where we pre-emptively bomb the length and breadth of China just to get them to back off from some aggressive shenanigans in their neighborhood.  For America, already deeply intertwinned with China on trade and investment and debt, to adopt such a posture is simply ludicrous.  These notions remain the fantasy of strategists who live "inside baseball" lives and have little to no clue about how this larger world works.  "Strangelovian" is not too strong a term.  In fact, it's right on the mark, because it implies a closeted world of strategists with no sense of proportion or connection to the wider dynamics of power in this era.  This is dinosaur thinking at its worst, and it needs to be opposed whenever and wherever possible.

Keeping China from doing something truly stupid in East Asia is not hard.  We need to undermine their asymmetrical approach by - as this article argue - creating our own, and NOT by setting ourselves up for a rapidly escalating great-power war.  Bombing the length and breadth of China in the opening hours of some crisis is just plain stupid and reckless and painfully unimaginative.  This is a massive retaliation response that pretends China isn't a nuclear power capable of significant retaliation.  

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't taken the crazy pill on this one:  YOU DON'T CONDUCT WIDESPREAD BOMBING CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE HOMELANDS OF NUCLEAR POWERS!  

There is no clever way to spin ASBC's logic.  It promises a sheer - and therefore reckless - overkill that defies any sensible strategic logic.

This is not a "revolution in military affairs."  This is Cold War thinking at its most rigid - somehow surviving within our ranks.  It pretends, in the classic domino thinking approach, that if China pulls off anything in East Asia, we will have lost the entire competition!

Again, can you get any more narrow in your reading of the entirety of our world or our capacity to lead globally versus that of China's?  That's were ASBC truly sucks:  it reduces all our enduring strengths to one specific threat and then asks us to roll the dice on nuclear war over that one scenario.  Why?  BECAUSE IF WE DON'T ALL WILL BE LOST AND CHINA WILL RULE THE WORLD!

Honestly, doesn't that logic strike you as cartoonishly bad?  Remember when the Commies won everything by grabbing South Vietnam?  Or does it seem strange that we're now allying with Vietnam against China?

The "primacy" impulse dies hard within our ranks, especially among those who imagine that it resides solely with our military means to wage war.  The naive simplicity of this argument is almost beneath serious debate for anyone not trapped in the Pentagon's self-serving notions of "power!" (meaning 99.9% of the world as we know it).

But this is, sad to say, all part and parcel of the politics of protecting one's budget, so get used to hearing all sorts of bad strategic logic tossed in your faces.  In virtually every instance, the goal will be the same: to scare you into accepting the mis-allocation of resources within the US defense budget.

We live in a world of small wars.  That is the reality of the world America spent the last seven decades creating and defending.

But we are still far too dominated and influenced by an elite that sees the world only in big-war terms, because those capabilities are what that elite believes will continue to provide for American primacy.

Simply put, we created a world in which numerous great powers could rise, but some of us continue to freak out over that achievement.

I will readily confess: the more time I spend in international business, the less I find I have in common with the national security community in the United States. That whole mess strikes me today as being more divorced from reality than at any previous time in my career.

From the CSBA report on ASBC: the section entitled "Executing a Missile Suppression Campaign."

From the CSBA report on the ASBC: the section entitled "Blind PLA ISR Systems."

These two maps detail the places where CSBA advocates that the ASBC campaign should target in the opening salvos of any war with China. 

Again, imagine the Chinese bombing on similar terms across the length and breadth of the continental US and then consider what our strategic response might be.


Time's Battleland: NATIONAL SECURITY AirSea Battle: The Military-Industrial Complex’s Self-Serving Fantasy

China's Great Wall: an ancient AirLand Battle plan

NOTE: My post from Saturday, expanded a bit and reposted at Time's Battleland at that blog's request.

Nice Washington Post piece (by Greg Jaffe, of course) on the great COIN counterattack that is the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle.

As scenario work goes, what the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis has done in its war-games has to rank right up there with the most egregiously implausible efforts ever made to justify arms build-ups.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Syria: When US inaction accelerates a radicalizing dynamic

Nice op-ed by Joe Lieberman, John McCain and Lindsey Graham in WAPO.

The core argument:

We are hopeful the rebels will ultimately prevail, but it remains a deeply unfair and brutal fight, and the speed and manner by which it is won matter enormously. All evidence suggests that, rather than peacefully surrendering power, Assad and his allies will fight to the bitter end, tearing apart the country in the process.

America’s disengagement from this conflict carries growing costs — for the Syrian people and for U.S. interests.

Because we have refused to provide the rebels the assistance that would tip the military balance decisively against Assad, the United States is increasingly seen across the Middle East as acquiescing to the continued slaughter of Arab and Muslim civilians. This reluctance to lead will, we fear — like our failure to stop the slaughter of the Kurds and Shiites under Saddam Hussein in Iraq or of the Tutsis in Rwanda — haunt our nation for years to come.

Our lack of active involvement on the ground in Syria also means that, when the Assad regime finally does fall, the Syrian people are likely to feel little goodwill toward the United States — in contrast to Libya, where profound gratitude for America’s help in the war against Moammar Gaddafi has laid the foundation for a bright new chapter in relations between our two countries.

We are being left behind by events.  When Al-Qaida makes this a bigger cause celebre than America does, we lose by definition - by our abscence.

We keep trying to wind ourselves up over the chem weapons depots, but we should be more concerned with registering the anti-Iranian win in a way that benefits Israel - if we're serious about wanting to avoid war with Iran.  That's the bigger fish here, not the lowest common threat inflator of chemical arms.

There are plenty of ways to ramp up our involvement without boots on the ground.  WAPO ran an editorial recently calling for the always handy no-fly-zone.

We have entered the R2P space (right to protect), and what we need to protect most here is our credibility and the region from outcomes that make it less stable over the Arab Spring's continued unfolding.

I have, in the past, noted that the Arab Spring has been kind enough to us to offer the one-damn-thing-after-another dynamic.  Well, now's the time when we seriously deal with the one damn thing called Syria.

The Syrian PM just defected.  What are we waiting for?


The self-serving Military Industrial Complex fantasy that is AirSea Battle

This post was removed in deference to its reposting at Time's Battleland blog on 7 August 2012.


Iran gearing up for naval fight in PG versus US

We've seen the reports of the US bulking up its naval presence, and now we get Iran claiming (via WAPO) more capabilities to strike USN ships.

What to keep in mind: Iran can do damage to US ships, while US ships can do far more damage to Iran, but none of this says Iran can close Straits, which would be a monumentally more complex drill than is commonly portrayed.

But more immediate point:  war of nerves heating up.

US obviously expects iran to lash out at some point as the West's oil-sales-ban comes into effect over coming months, so we're gearing up for the flashpoint all right, which means shooting could easily come.

Does that qualify as war?  It can qualify itself very quickly. That's for damn sure.


(WPR Feature) Skipping Out on the Bill: Obama's Cost-Free Drone Wars

Thanks to the Obama administration’s aggressive use of classified leaks to the press, we are encouraged to believe that President Barack Obama has engineered a revolutionary shift in both America’s geopolitical priorities and our military means of pursuing those ends. As re-election sales jobs go, it presses lukewarm-button issues, but it does so ably. But since foreign policy has never been the president’s focus, we should in turn recognize these maneuvers for what they truly are: an accommodation with inescapable domestic realities, one that at best postpones and at worst sabotages America’s needed geostrategic adjustment to a world co-managed with China and India.

Read the entire article at World Politics Review.