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Entries in US Military (151)


Sounds like China moving on DPRK diplomatic front

 Reuters reporting on Yahoo News, with my HT to World Politics Review's media roundup email.

To me, this is a very good sign:

North Korea has held secret talks with Japan in what is believed to be their first contact since the death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il, Japanese media said, as Pyongyang's closest allyChina and South Korea vowed to work closely on denuclearizing the North.

Amid a series of diplomatic contacts over North Korea in China, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing to discuss ways to preserve stability on the peninsula as the unpredictable North undergoes a delicate transition of power.

Hiroshi Nakai, a former Japanese state minister in charge of the abduction issue, met the North's delegation on Monday for talks on the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s, Japan's Kyodo news agency quoted sources as saying.

The two sides are also believed to have discussed terms for restarting intergovernmental negotiations, the Mainichi Daily News reported.

Nakai's office confirmed his trip to China. A government official declined to comment on the trip.

Two logical explanations:


  1. China didn't want to push anything until Kim Jong Il passed; and
  2. Beijing now wants to capture successor Kim Jong Eun on the diplomatic front before any internal purging process pushes Pyongyang toward displays of aggression toward the West.


How does Beijing do this?  It makes a big show of supporting KJE to put him in a good place, and says these efforts are part and parcel of achieving the same internationally.

If this is not China as a "responsible stakeholder," then I don't know what is.

So, again, a very good sign.

Would be nice if Obama Administration made it own overtures amidst this diplomatic flurry. Could prove decisive and keep us suitably in the mix.  Alas, I think the White House is already too invested in its "strategic pivot" to contain Chinese power in East Asia, which, to me, is a perfect 20th century answer to a 21st century phenomenon.

But I can always hope for common sense to re-emerge post-election . . ..



WPR's The New Rules: Welcome to Obama's Cold War With China

Faced with irreversible long-term fiscal pressures to reduce the U.S. defense budget, late last week the Obama administration began unveiling its supremely focused rationale behind future cuts. The result is an elegantly slim strategic statement (.pdf) that indirectly names its deepest fear in its title: “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” According to the document, over the past decade the U.S. military force structure has been “by necessity” dangerously skewed by “today’s wars.” Now America must start “preparing for future challenges” arising from a frightening and apparently imminent “inflection point” in East Asia’s military balance of power. As such, “we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.” In sum, not only are these choices being forced upon America, they are the only path we can take if we are to maintain our global leadership.

Read entire column at World Politics Review.


Time's Battleland: How America Painted Itself Into A Corner on North Korean Succession

Great Washington Post piece on China’s intense desire for stability on Korean peninsula, thus the clear backing of the “Great Successor” Kim Jong Eun. Wrap-up paragraph says it all:

The notion of a democratized Korean Peninsula with U.S. troops positioned directly along the Chinese border — one scenario in a North Korean collapse — is threatening to China because of Washington’s other moves in the region. The Obama administration, describing the United States as a new “Pacific power,” has in recent months strengthened economic ties with the Southeast Asian countries it once neglected; it has also built relationships with some of Beijing’s neighbors, particularly Vietnam and Burma, threatening Chinese influence.

My company, the massively multiplayer online consultancy Wikistrat, recently ran a simulation . . .

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: More Evidence of the Glorious Do-Loop That Is the East Asian Arms Race


WSJ lead story about Chinese developing a ballistic missile designed to fragment - like a cluster bomb - on the deck of a U.S. carrier and wipe out all aircraft and personnel.  Naturally, it's unbelievably provocative to us, because in our world view, U.S. carriers get to come right up to the coast of any nation whenever we please, bringing all that magnificent power projection to bear.

What the Chinese tell us with this development - and so many more - is that the days of the U.S. doing that off China's coast are coming to an end.

Unless we pick up the challenge, of course!

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: The "strategic pivot" to Asia now committed, Pentagon can float allegedly deep cuts

Nice piece in the NYT today previewing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's much-anticipated announcement of almost a half-trillion in defense cuts over the next decade.As Mark Thompson just noted, not a whole lot of details.  We are told that the US military will no longer plan to fight two wars simultaneously - long a preferred fantasy.  Now, it will be able to fight one big war (guess who that is), plus be able to spoil another's attempted dirty deeds (let's say Iran's counter to Israel's attack on its nuclear facilities).

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 9 - Final (Q&A on postwar stabilization operations and America's future allies)

Last segment of my "big brief" presentation to an international military audience in the Washington DC area in September 2011. Final questions involved postwar operations and who should be involved.


WPR's The New Rules: Debunking the Pentagon's Chinese Nationalism Hype

There exists within the Pentagon an unshakeable line of reasoning that says the Chinese military threat to the United States in Asia is profound and growing, that the most likely great-power war conflict will be over Taiwan or the South China Sea, and that the primary trigger will be China's burgeoning -- and uncontrollable -- nationalism. Objectively, China's military capabilities are certainly growing dramatically, but our conventional wisdom tends to break down in the structural plausibility of the scenarios. That's why the firm belief that rampant nationalism will trigger an eventual conflict becomes so crucial, especially when considered in combination with an additional line of speculation that emerged earlier this year, after the Chinese military trotted out a fifth-generation fighter jet the same day that former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Beijing for confidence-building talks: At the time, Gates suggested that maybe the People's Liberation Army was getting too big for its britches, and according to those who emphasize the Chinese threat, when the Chinese Communist Party eventually caves in the face of out-of-control popular nationalism, the PLA will step in and take matters into its own hands.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.


Time's Battleland: Global arms exports track global economy's double dip

Couldn't afford the upkeep, so it's yours now, kid!

It's interesting to think back to the start of the global economic crisis, when there were a lot of assumptions voiced about how a rising quotient of international tension would inevitably morph into more conflicts and thus more traditionally focused defense spending – i.e., great powers hedging against one another versus, say, non-state actors or state failure. If we were on the verge of the second Great Depression, then certainly we'd find ourselves in a 1930s-like march toward significant great-power struggles, yes? With the Arab Spring providing the tinder for a great-power free-for-all?

So what have we found so far?  

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: Cyberwar fears: disaggregating the threat

Is that China over there, stealing everything?

My man Mark Thompson puts up a cheeky post yesterday that I most heartily approved of. In it he speaks of cyberwar worrywarts and rightly fears that, as the terror war recedes in some priority, new little piggies approach the DoD trough. And as these cyberwar advocates find such a prime target in China, I would note that their efforts merge with those of the big-war crowd that also hopes to regain ascendancy - despite the overall budget crunch.

Now, Mark gets immediately taken to task by none other the great Bruce Sterling over at Wired (HT, Craig Nordin) . . .

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Esquire's Politics Blog: How We Talk War When We Talk With China Now

Admiral Mike Mullen, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sounded a worried note in his New York Times op-ed on Tuesday on the state of Chinese-American military relations. It was a typically one-sided presentation of the situation: those spying, secretive, bullying, and increasingly well-armed Chinese versus a U.S. that's only trying to keep the regional peace... while selling arms at a record pace to every neighboring state, conducting joint naval exercises right off China's coast, and, you know, openly planning to bomb the breadth and length of the Middle Kingdom.


Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.


Time's Battleland: As you approach #1, the catch-up tactics need to cease

NYT story on how the Defense Department suffered a massive loss of data during a hack last March.  Pentagon won't say which country is to blame, which makes it either China or Russia. Why tell us now?  The cleared version of the new US cyber strategy is being released, as Mark just noted.

Read more at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: As China rises militarily, eventually the golden rule should be applied


Wash Times piece on Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen's counterpart in China (Chen Bingde) saying that US naval ex's in regional waters with local friends (Vietnam, Philippines, etc.) are "inappropriate." Mullen replies that they're not directed at China, which, of course, is the whitest of lies. The US sells beaucoup arms to all the same players and exercises with them to give them confidence vis-a-vis "rising China."  Fair enough . . .

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: Think outside the defense budget: the real cost of keeping China our enemy

Mark Thompson picks up on Chins's cheeky advice to visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen regarding our coupling of world-class defense spending with our world-class national debt/faltering economy.  We can brush it aside, of course, seeing that it's coming from our #1 excuse for defense spending (Mustn't let those Chinese . . . ).

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.

The other two charts described in the post:


Time's Battleland: "Coming to a missile silo near you: the end of the strategic triad"

As the Pentagon's "efficiencies review" unfolds, one Cold War mainstay of the US military posture is inevitably going to be retired - namely, the land-based portion of the strategic missile triad. The Pentagon is tasked with coming up with $400 billion in savings over the next decade, and so this long-discussed option (and old Mark Thompson favorite from his Swampland days) is finally going to come to pass - according to my sources in the Building.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: "According to new Pentagon cyber strategy, state-of-war conditions now exist between the US and China"

China has been pre-approved for kinetic war strikes from the United States at any time.  Let me explain how.

First off, what the strategy says (according to the same WSJ front-page article Mark cited yesterday):

The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

In other words, if you, Country C, take down or just plain attack what we consider a crucial cyber network, we reserve the right to interpret that as an act of war justifying an immediately "equivalent" kinetic response (along with any cyber response, naturally).  If this new strategy frightens you, then you just might be a rational actor.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: Army not lucky, just desperate to avoid Leviathan supremacy over next decade

Picking up on Mark's thread this morning, Galrahn, the eminent blogger at Information Dissemination, likewise sees a fight that's getting nasty, arguing yesterday that the Army was "lucky" (in that, Will-no-one-rid-me-of-that-meddlesome-flag-officer! way) to see two of its great rivals for the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff falter in recent days. Those two are current Vice Chairman and Marine General James Cartwright (recently clearedof decidedly smear-like charges of sexual misconduct with a subordinate officer) and current EUCOM/NATO Admiral James Stavridis (who we're now being told didn't do so well in his interview - something Galrahn finds incredible, as do I).

Read more at Time's Battleland blog.


Time's Battleland: If issued, Libyan ICC arrest warrants would continue "perfect" Africa record for court

After many weeks of speculation and veiled threats-by-extension from Western government leaders, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced on Monday that he is seeking arrest warrants for Muammar Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam Qaddafi and his brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanousi for systematically targeting citizens in Libya's ongoing protests and civil strife. Libya isn't a signatory to the ICC treaty, and prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo declared that the Libyan people should take it upon themselves to make the arrests, if warrants are granted. Moreno-Ocampo said he had enough evidence to go to trial immediately, just another sign that the Qaddafi clan has crossed a line that disallows their staying in power - as far as the West is concerned.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: "Counter-terrorism beats nation-building? Are we going to bury COIN all over again?"

My old classmate Fareed Zakaria recently made the argument that counterterrorism beats nation-building when it comes to winning the war on terror. Taking Osama Bin Laden's killing as a point of American pride, he says that sort of military/intelligence operation is what we're good at, and so we should stick with it versus pursue the larger counterinsurgency (COIN) effort that General David Petraeus has now led in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a broad point to be making off the Bin Laden operation, especially as Petraeus heads to CIA. While I may agree with Fareed WRT Af-Pak, let me express a larger concern.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.


Time's Battleland: "A provocative vision of a post-supercarrier US Navy"

The notion of doing away with traditional big-deck carriers gets a high-profile boost this month in the latest (May) issue of Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute's official rabble-rouser. It's written by a friend and colleague, Capt. Henry (Jerry) Hendrix, along with a retired Marine Lt. Col., Noel Williams. Hendrix, a truly innovative thinker, currently works for the legendary Andy Marshall at the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment - a great match. The piece notes the rising capabilities of the Chinese navy and its efforts to keep us - and our carriers - as far from their shores as possible. 

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.

A reworking of my post yesterday about the carrier piece in Proceedings, meaning this was the pilot post I worked out with Thompson at Time.  After this shakedown cruise, I'll do the post up first for Battleland and then link from here, like I do with Esquire's The Politics Blog.


Brilliant piece on needing to move past traditionally defined carriers

Written by USN Capt. Henry (Jerry) Hendrix, a professional friend, along with a retired Marine LCOL in this month's US Naval Institute Proceedings. See reference below for link.

Hendrix currently works for Andy Marshall at Office of Net Assessment, which is a great match.

Much to quote:

We can’t know for sure in what ways future adversaries will challenge our Fleet, but we can assess with some certainty how technology is affecting their principal capabilities. Judging from the evidence at hand, future Fleet actions will place a premium on early sensing, precision targeting, and long-range ballistic- and cruise-missile munitions. Increasingly sophisticated over-the-horizon and space-based sensors, in particular, will focus on signature control and signature deception. Thus, we must ask ourselves how best to win this battle of signatures and long-range strike.

This is a sideways reference to the rising capabilities of the Chinese navy and their efforts to keep us - and our carriers - as far from their shores as possible.

Given very clear technology trends toward precision long-range strike and increasingly sophisticated anti-access and area-denial capabilities, high-signature, limited-range combatants like the current aircraft carrier will not meet the requirements of tomorrow’s Fleet. In short, the march of technology is bringing the supercarrier era to an end, just as the new long-range strike capabilities of carrier aviation brought on the demise of the battleship era in the 1940s.

The Chinese are targeting our carriers.  We can either see the future in defending them as is, or get new carriers.  You don't just ditch what you got because it's vulnerable.  But if it's becoming vulnerable and the agents of that vulnerability suggest a new era is dawning, then you pay attention.

Factors both internal and external are hastening the carrier’s curtain call. Competitors abroad have focused their attention on the United States’ ability to go anywhere on the global maritime commons and strike targets ashore with pinpoint accuracy. That focus has resulted in the development of a series of sensors and weapons that combine range and strike profiles to deny carrier strike groups the access necessary to launch squadrons of aircraft against shore installations . . .


Accompanying this range deficiency has been the dramatic increase in the cost of the carrier and her air wing. The price tag for the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) was $950 million, or 4.5 percent of the Navy’s $21 billion budget in 1976. The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), lead ship of a new class of supercarriers, is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $12.5 billion  . . . The Gerald R. Ford is just the first of her class. She should also be the last.

I couldn't agree more.  This is Norm Augustine's nightmare come true - the military that becomes so expensive you can only afford one of everything.

The Chinese are emphasizing sea control over power projection. Given this Chinese “vote” and the challenges we continue to face in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, we must rebalance our Fleet to meet new sea-control missions while maintaining reasonable power-projection capabilities for the range of global threats we will encounter. These new challenges mean that the Fleet architecture must evolve rapidly to meet the new mission requirements of our time. We need to recognize this now and avoid a 21st-century Pearl Harbor.

The old paradigm is untenable.  Time to move on.

In such a new strategic environment, unmanned systems diminish the utility of the supercarrier, because her sea-control and power-projection missions can be performed more efficiently and effectively by other means. When the carrier superseded the battleship, the latter still retained great utility for naval surface fire support. Similarly, today’s carrier will be replaced by a network of unmanned platforms, while still retaining utility as an as-needed strike platform. Ultimately, the decision to kill the battleships was not because they lacked utility, but because they were too expensive to man and operate. Future budgetary constraints could lead to a similar outcome for the carrier, recognizing that even if we purchased no new supercarriers, we would still have operational carriers in the Fleet for more than 50 years.

So we're not exactly abandoning our current capability.

In the meantime, the America-class big-deck amphibious ship has the potential to be a new generation of light aircraft carrier. At 45,000 tons’ displacement, she will slide into the water larger than her World War II predecessors, and larger even than the modern French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Designed without an amphibious well-deck, she will put to sea with a Marine Air Combat Element and key elements of a Marine Expeditionary Unit.

However, to view this purely as an amphibious-assault ship would be to miss her potential as a strike platform. Stripped of her rotorcraft, the America class could comfortably hold two squadrons of F-35B short take-off vertical-landing (STOVL) stealth fighter/attack aircraft. Such an arrangement would allow the naval services to dramatically increase presence and strike potential throughout the maritime domain. In addition, if the requirements were instituted in the near term, the new unmanned carrier-launched airborne-surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft could be designed to operate from America-class decks with greater potential utility and distribution than what could be expected when operating from super carriers.

I've liked this argument for many years now.  End the big decks and go with the "small" deck amphibs as a cheaper and more flexible package.

The new combatants would actually be “carriers,” but rather than carrying aircraft, they would carry an array of unmanned systems. A balanced Fleet would have a mix of small, medium, and large unmanned carrier combatants to cover the range of Fleet functions. One near-term option would be to truncate production of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and replace both the LCS and the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) with a common hull displacing around 10,000 tons.

Thus you start experimenting - relatively cheaply - with mother ships while running out the lengthy lifespan string of the big decks.  To me, this is THE obvious way to go.

Strong finish:

Continuing to invest in platforms such as the supercarrier—which are expensive to build, cost-prohibitive to operate, and increasingly vulnerable in anti-access/area denied environments—is to repeat the mistakes of the battleship admirals who failed to recognize air power’s potential in the 1930s.


No less authority than Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard has stated that China’s DF-21D antiship ballistic missile has reached initial operational capability. We must recognize the new environments in which we will be operating, as well as the profound impact unmanned systems will have on future operations, and adjust our Fleet accordingly if we are to avoid a Pearl Harbor of our own making. We must reallocate science-and-technology, research-and-development, and acquisition resources toward this new Fleet paradigm . . .

Moving away from highly expensive and vulnerable supercarriers toward smaller, light carriers would bring the additional benefit of increasing our nation’s engagement potential. This type of force structure would allow the United States to increase its forward presence, upholding its interests with a light engagement force while maintaining, at least for the next 50 years, a heavy surge force of supercarriers. Geopolitics and technology are rapidly evolving the future security environment, and we must make decisions today to adapt the Fleet away from its current course to a new design for a new era.

This is how a superpower, suffering relative economic decline, keeps up its global power projection at a reasonable cost.

Excellent piece.  Worth reading in entirety for details, if interested.