Tag: National Defense

H.R. McMaster’s ‘Battlegrounds’ a Very Good Second Book

 

Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s second book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, while mostly well researched and clearly argued, will not have the institutional significance of his first book Dereliction of Duty, written as a young Army major. If you heard little of Battlegrounds after its publication, that is to McMaster’s credit and our media’s continuing shame. General McMaster kept his honor clean, refusing to put himself out on the same corner Bill Kristol and John Bolton have been working. This is a work well worth your consideration. At the very least, take a look at the brief video summary of his central claim: American long-term failure in foreign policy comes from “strategic narcissism” and a lack of “strategic empathy.”*

“Strategic empathy” refers to the conscious effort to understand the viewpoint, the motivations, of others, rather than projecting assumptions and motives the observer prefers, for whatever reason. “Strategic empathy” is presented as the alternative to wishful thinking across administrations. McMaster is using “strategic empathy” as a term of art, limited to understanding/ taking the other’s position and claimed motivations seriously, not sympathizing. McMaster advances his vision for a more successful foreign policy through country case studies, most importantly addressing Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. In each case, he names names and cites failures across multiple administrations of both parties.

McMaster points to foreign policy scholars on the left and right arguing for a deterrence policy with a nuclear Iran. He says it is foolish to suggest that deterrence might work with a set of leaders and at least a significant population that deeply believes in the Shia emphasis on supernatural victory through their own blood. Iran’s religious-political leaders believe in “victory of blood over the sword.” This linked text points to official propaganda seriously asserting that America was defeated by killing the Iranian top terror master. His blood, being spilled, supernaturally created victory for the Iranian revolution. Take them seriously, rather than dismissing it as spin, and you see that under no condition can they possibly be allowed a nuclear weapon.

Conservative Is As Conservative Does

 

Trump thumbs upPresident Trump is the most conservative president of my lifetime, including President Reagan. This is true, as a matter of fact, across all three of the legs of the old conservative coalition stool: economy, national defense, and social conservatism. With an impressive record of promises kept, despite the worst efforts of Democrats and Conservatism Inc., American voters have a real choice in 2020.

President Trump has done more to strengthen NATO, as opposed to papering over other nations’ hiding under our nuclear umbrella and so shifting the burden onto our taxpayers and our cities under ICBM target designations. He has, without a massive military build-up (despite his hyping of our latest purchases), imposed more economic pain on bad actors (Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran) than any president since at least Reagan, and done so to the advantage of American working families. President Trump’s policies have paid off in growing NATO member states spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on their own defense, from two to eight members, outside the United States. This satisfies Americans’ basic sense of fairness, building a reasonable basis for continued commitment to an alliance that is finally showing signs of taking itself seriously. Such a substantial demonstration of commitment also serves notice to Russia and China that NATO is not a paper tiger.

President Trump has similarly pushed the United Nations to really live up to its fine phrases, its written aspirations. Far from abandoning the world or merely patronizing other nations, he has treated them as adults, as sovereign states who are entitled to pursue their interests while we pursue ours. He made that point again in hosting an on-camera meeting of the U.N. Security Council members. Read or watch the remarks and you will see even China engaging in a mutually respectful manner.

Rebalancing Forces

 

BrownLandSalesTwo news items caught my eye this weekend, both of them in Stars and Stripes. One story was from Korea, and the other from Germany. Together, they told a story of rebalancing our forces in the world.

The first story is about the activation of a group of new Army Reserve units in Europe. This was a growth in the total number of units or end strength in the Army Reserve. Instead, this was a relatively typical rebalancing of types of units in different parts of the world.

It may seem odd to you to hear of Army Reserve units based in Germany, but this has long been so. There is a very small full-time staff, then unit members either fly in from the States or fly/rail/drive from their American expat civilian jobs in Europe. I had a War College classmate, a native-born American citizen, who lived with his Finnish wife and kids in Finland, working for a tech company. He drilled in Germany.

Winning by Killing Ten Million Afghans?

 

President Trump with Pakistan PMPresident Trump declines. In a sit-down informal press conference, with the Prime Minister of Pakistan mostly off camera, President Trump answered a series of questions, mostly by foreign journalists, on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Consider his comments as part of a larger information campaign, or public diplomacy, with both leaders and citizens of countries in the region, especially Iran.

President Trump repeatedly referred to military plans that would result in total military victory through total destruction in a week to ten days. The Afghan civilian casualties would be around ten million. President Trump said that was completely morally unacceptable. These comments can be understood to work with his earlier comments about Iranian civilian lives, again sending the message that he cares more for the man and woman on the street than their unaccountable, unelected leaders.

President Trump Rocks Out with Real Heavy Metal Band

 

The afternoon of 20 March 2019, President Trump rocked out with a group that makes real heavy metal. The event was different from other presidential appearances, but featured many of the same themes. Two themes, American defense revival and energy dominance, stood in stark contrast to news from Germany. In the midst of the prepared remarks, with the usual riffs, President Trump elaborated on his criticism of the politician John McCain, who the appointed Senator from Arizona, Martha McSally, is unconditionally defending, raising questions about her viability or suitability in 2020. President Trump’s visit to the Lima Army Tank Plant was a great political messaging success on several levels.

The setting:

The Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio, is where the components of the M1 tank, in all its variations, are assembled into a heavy metal instrument that can rock your world. The plant has a uniformed Army oversight contingent, partnered with a skilled civilian workforce centered around proud UAW workers. President Trump spoke to the assembled plant crew, to repeated cheers from these skilled tradesmen, proud UAW members.

Will Eagles Soar Again?

 

Two articles tease a new F-15 fighter variant to bridge the huge gap between aging fourth-generation fighters and the too expensive, too few in number, stealthy F-22 and F-35. The first is cautious and notes the plane has not been pitched, as it might be, like the new run of F/A-18 Super Hornets. The second is a full-length sales pitch. This, in turn, was picked up and summarized on Popular Mechanics’ website. It makes sense, including dollars and cents, at first glance.

The basic problem the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps face is arithmetic. The stealthy aircraft, on which they bet, ended up too expensive to field in the numbers needed. The F-15 and F/A-18 fleets are aging. So how can the gap be filled? The Navy, after the none-too-subtle shove from the Commander-in-Chief, is buying a new set of updated Super Hornets. The Marines, apparently, will get low mileage Navy jets, to replace worn-out equipment. These will meet most missions, at a fraction of F-35 operating costs. But, what of the Air Force?

The Air Force brass has fought desperately to prevent consideration of updated F-15s with supercruise engines or semi-stealthy modifications. These would clutter the simple procurement picture being painted to Congress. But Congress and the last administration balked at the unit prices, development issues, and simple picture of all fighter requirements being met by two super-duper planes. This has put the Air Force, including the politically potent Air National Guard, at risk.

This week on Banter, AEI Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies Mackenzie Eaglen joined the show to discuss her latest white paper “Defense Budget Peaks in 2019, Underfunding the National Defense Strategy,” which analyzes President Trump’s second defense budget. She argues that this budget misses the mark on suggestions made in her report from earlier this year, “Repair and Rebuild: Balancing New Military Spending for a Three-Theater Strategy.” Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. You can read both reports at the links below.

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We are relearning the danger of law enforcement and spy agencies using “secret” labels and special courts to shield their domestic political collusion and attempted manipulation of both elections and policy-making. At the same time, we would do well to relearn healthy skepticism about secrecy-shrouded military procurement, especially as the pork barrel is rolling again […]

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When it is suggested that perhaps there’s something peculiar about Islam in comparison with other religions/worldviews/philosophies that leads to so much violence and oppression around the world, we are often advised to consider Indonesia. That nation hosts the largest Muslim population… and its Muslims are so much more relaxed! Okay, let’s consider Indonesia.  Y’all know […]

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My view of what Islam is, or perhaps what it is not, doesn’t generally conform to mainstream media presentations or the Ricochet majority. A year ago this month I was Blessed with the opportunity to spend hours with the Center for Security Policy including small group briefings with Frank Gafney, Jr. and Clare Lopez two leaders […]

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The Case For Libertarian Nationalism, Part II: Defense

 

armed-porcupineEarlier this week, I argued that libertarianism is wholly compatible with a nationalist policy on immigration, despite many (if not most) libertarians believing that national borders are arbitrary abridgments of the inherent right to travel, work, and settle freely. Today, I argue for why a certain kind of hawkish foreign policy is, similarly, utterly congruent with libertarianism.

It’s worth remembering that libertarianism is a political philosophy regarding the nature of the relationship between citizens and states with whom they are in political compact; a philosophy that places a high premium on individual autonomy and the enforcement of negative rights. As such the government of the United States exists for the benefit of its citizens, not those of other countries. While foreigners have the same inherent, inalienable rights as Americans, their protection is simply outside of the responsibility of the United States government.

With regard to other civilized nations — i.e., those nations who have at least a semblance of the rule of law and whose values are sufficiently in concert with our own — our federal government should seek to maintain peaceable, honorable, and open relations. Our citizens should be allowed to trade freely with theirs, and are obliged to follow their laws when visiting abroad, just as their citizens are obliged to follow our laws when here. We should seek non-aggression pacts with all who will treat us honorably, and alliances with those of good reputation whose interests align closely with our own and who can carry more than their own weight militarily.

Power Without Production

 

shutterstock_217626877About 33 minutes into the last Ricochet Podcast, Bret Stephens added his voice to the chorus suggesting we shouldn’t overly fret about China because their economic numbers are rigged and their production levels are nowhere close to our own, however quickly they are improving. Alright, let’s suppose that China’s economy is truly lackluster. Does that make it less of a diplomatic and military threat?

The Soviet Union was doomed from the start for the simple reason that communism doesn’t work. The USSR survived by claiming territories and sucking the life out of its members, which it could only do for so long. It’s economy never had a chance in the long run.

But that inevitability didn’t matter for half a century.

Hack Away

 

shutterstock_232080763To the Washington Post’s report on the North Korean hack job (no, the other one), Drudge offers the following headline: “Cancellation sets worrying new precedent for cyber terror.”

Well, sure, it’s “new” in the sense that it just happened. And the attack did take a novel form, combining the data diarrhea of WikiLeaks with jihad’s pointedly obscure threats to silence opposition.

But we are already chock full of precedents, thank you. Cyber attacks from Russia and China over a course of decades have shown the world our response policy: “Pretty please?”