Naming Names 21st Century Style.

Disgraced former FBI Director recently tweeted:

…Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.

5:51 PM – Feb 1, 2018

 If naming schools and streets are his criteria, then perhaps Americans will actually have an opportunity to name some special places for the criminals that subverted our Constitution from within.

In this opening round of investigations leading to eventual convictions of those who engaged in an illegal conspiracy to personally destroy Donald Trump, his family and supporters, schools can actually be named, just not in the Comey sense of a school.

The “school campuses” that can be rebranded either as either the full name of the institution or individual Dorms and other facilities are all at a “Club Fed.”

After all it was pointed out in The Washington Post that minimum security prisons are a lot like junior colleges settings:

“It’s kind of like a junior college setting,” explained Larry Levine, director and founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, which advises clients before going into lock-up. “I don’t want to call it a stress-free environment, but it’s a lot of hanging out with the other inmates, you know, just bull—-ing.”

So as a starter, why not consider a plaque on a Peter Strozk and Lisa Page co-ed dormitory room or an honorary McCabe toilet/shower facility at a minimum security prison.

Soon America will not want for new names of prisons that are now in play.

Remember innocent until proven guilty, but names have been mentioned in a truly historic memo that has already entered into American History (bold added and deserved):

Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of the DOJ.

Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele.

Since there are many more bad actors in play in one the most ugly and significant violations of constitutional rights ever seen in America and there are several Club Feds so consideration of a theme for branding individual facilities could begin to be developed right now to follow up on Comey’s insight about places to be named.

This rapidly evolving American horror show of surveillance state abuse harnessed to a win at all costs drive for one party rule in our Constitutional Republic must be identified, pulled out by the roots and soon all criminals must be brought to justice.

Hard evidence of an Intel-op is already in the public domain regardless of the current best efforts by the Mainstream Media to put the entire surveillance effort in a memory hole even before it hits our memory.

This is flat out wrong on so many levels; legally, ethically and even practically, because in America we have elections and parties in power change. That is how our peaceful political revolutions work, not corrupt abuse of power using police state surveillance tactics.

The evidence presented to date in public makes the case that the Obama White House was using Intelligence/ Counterintelligence practices and procedures against innocent Americans, for political purposes.

In undertaking such an effort one of the most import aspects of any intelligence collection effort is to build out the “social network” of your targets and then send out that “work in progress’ of social network analysis to others  to continue to expand one’s knowledge base of “who is connected to who.”

Illegal surveillance of Carter Page was simply a counterintelligence way in to use 21st Century technology to attack a political rival–full stop, no spin. We have now entered a political electronic wave of terror and it must be stopped immediately.

The revelations about the growth of the Surveillance State should be of huge concern to all Americans, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Where are our 1st Amendment guardians, the MSM?

Now it is time to consider disgraced FBI Director Comey’s quip about who streets can be named after and I think my home town, of Staten Island, is really on to something on street names.

Being a proud student of St Patrick’s elementary school on the Island and also the same age as fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, I think the Borough of Richmond President is really on to something in naming street names, and a judge agreed:

Judge rules in favor of ‘greedy’ street names at controversial NYC development

Fancy a new townhouse on Cupidity Drive?

Welcome, new homeowners, to Cupidity Drive, Fourberie Lane and Avidity Place.

But seriously — don’t pull one over on fellow Staten Islanders unless you’re ready for serious comeuppance delivered by the borough president himself, James Oddo.

Cupidity Drive, cupidity being a nice way to say money-grubbing; Fourberie Lane, a poetic nod to a word of French extraction describing acts of deceit and deception; and Avidity Lane, a word which comes from the Latin avidita and can be roughly translated as overeager and greedy.

My original hometown of Staten Island has a wonderful opportunity to reserve street names for the never ending “Avidity” of all the crooks connected to Clinton Inc. crime family. This is because Staten Island has a huge refuse area AKA Garbage Dump. That dump truly ruined my boyhood hiking area but so be it, what is done is done.

With apologies to fellow Staten Islanders, if the road into a garbage dump was named Hillary Clinton Way and the road out named Bill Clinton By-Pass that would be ok by me. And if the aeration of any human waste area was named for Huma in honor of her husband Anthony that would also be fine.

I think Director Comey has postured one tweet too many with a hoary McCarthy cliché.

But he will soon see another cliché come real, this time from my USMC days, “Payback is a bitch” and it will serve him right.

Winning the Korean Peace

Militarily defeating a nuclear armed North Korea with minimal risks, low allied and DPRK casualties is possible.

But that leads to the question of what sort of a post war Korea would emerge and how the peace can be won.

Winning the peace is a distinctly different task from fighting and winning the war.

It requires different preparation, mindsets, training, expertise, and experience, much of which are not part of standard military repertoire.

Occupational armies more often than not, lose the peace after winning the war.

The Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe brought them a sullen and oppressed “allies” called the “Warsaw Pact” who deserted them and defected to their arch enemies the moment USSR’s grip weakened.

Soviets facilitating the communist victory in China created for them an apparent ideological brethren that turned out to be a nuclear armed peer competitor barely two decades later.   USSR diverted nuclear forces to deter PRC after 1969, and resources then had to be drained to support DPRK and Vietnam against the PRC up to USSR’s collapse in 1991.

Russia disappointed the G8 and ultimately was expelled after multiple incidents of rejecting the Liberal-democratic consensus that borders should not be changed by force. Russia in turn, is back as a non-communist, but great power peer competitor to Allies ruled by an autocrat.   Allies won the cold war, dismembered USSR for the most part, but lost the peace with Russia.

PRC’s intervention to prop up DPRK, more a Soviet than CCP client, resulted in a costly war that while producing a useful client, was far outstripped by ROK and Japan under US protection.

Moreover, DPRK, rather than a useful bulwark toward growing US power against the PRC, is likely to become the trigger for allies under UN Command renewing the conflict to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

The ideological and geopolitical divisions between CCP led PRC as a revolutionary state and great power rival of the US and allies, papered over for nearly 5 decades since President Nixon visited PRC, is now back in the open. The PRC is openly advocating and implementing a program for the CCP to dominate the world and replace the allied led liberal internationalist order.

The Trump Administration’s new National Security, Defense, and Nuclear strategies identified a world with two great power competitors: Russia and the far more capable and lethal communist China. CCP economic aggression, mercantilists strategies and subversion of US and allies, once derided and discounted, are now high priority agenda items for both Administration and Congress.

Allies no longer assume that either Russia or PRC is on the path toward liberalization and democracy.

In that respect, the temporary advantage gained between 1972 to 2000 detaching PRC from the Soviet orbit turned out to be at best, a wash, and potentially a costly mistake akin to allowing Germany to rearm after WWI.

The lessons from these cases suggest that the US and allies cannot accept anything less than either bona fide, permanent and irreversible denuclearization of the DPRK this time around, or alternatively, exercise a good military option to achieve the same goal.

The former leaves open the possibility of DPRK surviving.

The latter will by default, require termination of the DPRK regime.

Should allies exercise a military option this time, it is unlikely the Allies will tolerate PRC creating DPRV Version 2.0.

If the PRC and Russia were to attempt to block denuclearization of DPRK either militarily or by stealth, it would certainly invite a strong Allied response.

Limited war or stealth aid to DPRK will, for starters, likely result in the immediate cut-off of both Russia and / or China from access to world markets, freezing of their assets, locking them out of the allied financial system, and rounding up of enemy operatives everywhere.

Such a move will immediately cause an economic depression in Russia and China.

Full cooperation with Allies in resolving the DPRK problem will leave open the possibility that PRC and Russia can have a disarmed buffer state like DPRK (even after regime change). Intervention in any form will leave the Allies no choice but to dictate the peace terms which will almost inevitably result in the absorbsion of DPRK by ROK on the German unification model.

The ROK Ministry of Unification reveals few hints as to how it might proceed. It almost seem that ROK could not conceive of being victors in a war as West Germany did.

The lessons from German unification are invaluable and directly applicable for Korean unification.

Unification after a war with Allied forces as winners, still need to be cognizant of the need to minimize incentives and motives for the vanquished to go on fighting as irregulars and to provide continuity of governance and subsistence: stabilizing the system while gearing up for major change.

A disastrous mistake after the Iraq War of 2013 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) was the failure of invasion force to secure Iraq immediately after major combat operations ceased. The invasion force was sized to defeat the Iraqi forces (a shadow of its former self), but not for securing all major population centers to prevent looting and sabotage. Looting of government departments and their destaffing ended organized administration on the old model.

Public Administration had to be rebuilt from scratch.

The Coalition Provisional Authority then made some disastrous blunders like disbanding the Iraqi military, security, intelligence and the Ba’th Party (Order 1 & 2) and ordering the privatization of the Iraqi economy (Order 39).

Market forces, rather than snapping place magically to provide for the population as before (however wrenched), acted to provide a free for all: creating a Hobbsian world where life is “nasty, brutish and short”.

Out-of-work and unpaid soldiers and former Iraqi officials did what they knew best: looted military arms caches, formed into armed gangs, and used their newfound freedom and unemployment to rob, loot, and do whatever needed to survive. This in turn, grew into initially a small, and ultimately a large insurgency that continued to this day.

Contrast the disaster in Iraq with West Germany whom effectively bribed East German officials and military officers by offering to exchange East German Marks (nearly worthless) at inflated rates (varied from par for 1st 4,000 DDR Marks, 2:1 then 3:1).

This deal almost ensured no organized opposition to the vanquishing elite and officials of East Germany.

ROK is a sufficiently wealthy economy to afford this kind of largess that would encourage DPRK officials and military (whom had large stocks of DPRK Wons) to be bribed to surrender.

Making them big winners in reunification by offering a similarly inflated exchange rate is a small price to pay compared to the cost of an insurgency like the US faced in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What about giving DPRK officials and military officers the ability to keep their existing jobs and titles, suitably renamed, except at a ROK scale of pay and benefits including pensions?

That will be another costly, but highly effective means of pacification.

Giving every former DPRK national immediate access to ROK social safety net benefits is another costly, but critical move to stabilize the economy.

Private property rights is a central element of ROK vs DPRK.

How to bring it to a newly freed populace?

Suppose every person who had usage rights (should we say squatter’s rights) the day before the war were to be entitled to receiving title for residential property they occupied.

And for those who did not have property, they will be issued a voucher to acquire one as it is built?

ROK can afford a massive construction program to create jobs.

By granting title of residential property to the entire population, ROK will instantly make them all property owners.   A similar process can be implemented to transfer all industrial and commercial enterprises, farms, etc. to cooperatives whose members will eventually become shareholders.

Administratively it will be incredibly complex, but well within the skill set of ROK administrators.

Making everyone a property owner is great in theory, but in practice, most of the population need a period of time to be educated in how markets work, and how to safeguard their wealth and grow it.

The lesson from Russian privatization is that such a process must have “dampers” that prevent the sale of assets by an improvised people at fire sale prices that created the oligarch class, which in turn, set back the emergence of a stable middle class in Russia.

Transfers of property “gratis” to ex DPRK nationals will require on limitations on their sale, mortgaging, etc. (e.g. 10% annually) with only gradual liberalization of the restraints.

That way, fewer will make the mistake of “selling out” too soon only to discover explosive price growth later.

Creating a propertied class with an equitable income distribution is an educational process that takes time and cannot happen instantly. Market forces need to be introduced, but only gradually for a population that only known rationing by the state and party all their lives.

A decade goes by very quickly, and can result in the emergence of a propertied middle class — the foundation of a modern democracy.

Integration of DPRK nationals into ROK political system will be a major problem. At this moment, ROK grants citizenship to any DPRK nationals, and is believed to set no terms or limits on their political participation in ROK.

Unification would involve a flood of newly enfranchised voters, potentially greatly upsetting the ROK political system if they were skewed toward one party or another.

A well thought out plan, perhaps with “quotas” for each party during the transition period, and only gradually introducing the franchise to former DPRK nationals may be required to ensure the stability of the ROK political system from a sudden influx of new voters.

After waiting 70 years, what is wrong with waiting an additional 10 for a phased transition?  

The United State’s experience in admission of the State of Utah may be instructive here on how not to upset a political system.

Geopolitics will be a major problem. PRC and Russia have legitimate security concerns.   It may be necessary to implement a deal whereby ROK forces in its present form is restricted from being deployed beyond the DMZ.   Negotiated limits on lightly armed troops or border guards in the former DPRK borders with PRC and Russia is not an unreasonable limitation.

But for such an arrangement, it is also not unreasonable for US, Japan, Russia, and PRC to guarantee ROK’s borders.

If ROK can have outstanding Koreans like Ban Ki-Moon serve as the Secretary General of the UN, surely there is scope for a brilliant solution to be created by Koreans that satisfy all great powers in the area.

Finally, there will be loose ends like ensuring that DPRK’s former “rocket scientists” and nuclear / chemical / biological weapons experts are gainfully employed by ROK, and tightly controlled to be sure they do not become a Korean “Khan network” of proliferators.

Winning the peace is something that Allies need to discuss seriously with ROK now as military options are being contemplated.   America do not need another Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.

Allies need to leave nation building to Koreans!

The Korean war was a terrible tragedy.

Let’s end it by facilitating Koreans creating a success that the international community will be proud of a century from now.

Dealing with the North Korean Threat: More than Forging a Joint Korean Olympic Team is Needed

The United States and Canada just concluded a meeting of the United Nations Command Sending States and allies in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Sending states” refers to the belligerents acting under the authority of the United Nations that originally signed the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 with the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers.

Every sending state is jointly and severally responsible for upholding the Armistice, and should war resume, will by default join the war until such time as a formal peace treaty is concluded.

The goal of the Vancouver meeting is to improve and enhance the pressure campaign on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and to push for diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

The key to maximizing the chance of success for diplomacy is to convey unambiguously to the People’s Republic of China, Russia and the DPRK that the US has good military options and, if necessary, will use them.

To date, these parties have assumed that the US is bluffing, as many commentators have suggested that there are no good military options.

Bluster by US President Donald Trump is assumed to be just that.

But what if the Trump administration and US Congress are not kidding when they say they will not accept a nuclear North Korea?

The baseline for what constitutes a good military option starts with the worst case of a nuclear war between the DPRK and the USA.

Without a doubt, a successful nuclear attack on the US would result in nuclear retaliation that would cause mass casualties in both countries, not to mention damage to surrounding countries such as China, Japan, South Korea or Canada.

The dynamics driving DPRK require North Korea’s capacity to inflict damage on the US to exponentially increasing over time.

On the other hand, US capabilities to defend against such threats are diminishing in relative terms for the foreseeable future.

Defense or deterrent only posture for allies have poor math for those playing defense vs. offense.

It is far cheaper and easier to add missiles, penetration aids and decoys than it cost to shoot them down with existing or foreseeable ballistic missile defense technology.   North Korea can also resort to highly destabilizing and difficult to counter options like orbiting nuclear weapons on satellites.

They have flouted international conventions and treaties before, why not the ban on weaponizing space?

This calculus favoring offense may change in another generation, but for now, a credible defense against a major nuclear weapons power like Russia or China is out of the question.

Missile shields are only good for minor threats like DPRK.

DPRK will not be a minor threat within a few years at the rate their arsenal is improving qualitatively and quantitatively.

What about deterrence?

If nuclear armed parties can be deterred, there is the prospect of a stable mutually assured destruction relationship.

But what if North Korea does not accept the status quo and cannot be compelled to do so?

What if they are not deterred?

North Korea can by just threatening to use nuclear weapons be in a position to compel many states either to surrender or to pay tribute.  South Korea is the most vulnerable of these targets, followed by Japan.

The DPRK establishing a tributary relationship with American allies enforced by nuclear arms would deaden then cripple the liberal internationalist order. They can win, proverbially, without firing a shot.

Extended deterrence will be history when this happen.

The extant international political and economic system cannot survive the rise of a nuclear armed extortionist. Yet this is precisely North Korea’s stated intent – to expel the US from South Korea, unify the Koreas, and then extort “compensation”.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong stated these intentions at the UN last September 2017.

This perspective suggests North Korea cannot be deterred.

If they succeed, others will follow.

North Korea will almost certainly export the method and means to others.

The US and allies now recognize that North Korea is never going to become a “normal” nuclear power like the ones that came before.

Living with DPRK as a nuclear armed state at best, means a new cold war but without the security of it staying cold bar accidents and miscalculations.

Before North Korea, the primary or sole purpose of a nuclear arsenal was deterrence, guaranteeing regime survival, and defense.

Post DPRK, a new international dynamic – war for profit or tribute – suppressed since the early part of the 20th century, is about to be re-established alongside other motives for war.

If diplomatic efforts fail, the US and its allies have to make up their mind soon as to whether to defeat North Korea now, or face a far costlier war in the future, as allies did in World War II, become DPRK tributary states or to spend and risk even more to fight a new cold war.

The liberal internationalist political and economic order is at stake, not just the fortunes of a few countries.   Our existing order cannot survive the rise of DPRK, let alone many other copy cat extortionists all pursuing agendas that we have long though extinguished beside war for profit.

Imagine the return of wars over religion, ideology, race, creed, old scores, rather than just old fashioned garden variety territorial disputes, imperial conquest or peer competition. All of this will be enabled by North Korea selling WMDs as they have historically been more than willing to do, unless they are stopped now.

What makes for a good military option?  A good military option has to be, at least, on paper, feasible with low to moderate risks to allies compared with other alternatives such as all-out nuclear war. It has to achieve the goal of permanent denuclearization of Korea. Allied casualties including South Korea and Japan must be kept to a minimum. North Korean casualties, likewise, have to be necessary and proportionate and minimized.

Military options that fit these parameters have been identified and are in an advance stage of implementation by the US and allies.   As with any military campaign, there are grave risks and no one can forecast with certainty that the US and allies will not lose.   But it is a risk that may have to be taken compared to the alternatives.

Good military options exist for a period of time but the window will gradually close as the DPRK develops more sophisticated and dangerous nuclear weapons for their arsenal.

What might a good option look like?
Military options would not involve just a “limited” air campaign that would, at best, slow down the DPRK by a few years, or at worst, immediately trigger a North Korean nuclear attack, because not all DPRK weapons of mass destruction would be destroyed for certain.

Regardless, a major air and sea campaign will be required no matter what the options.

A good military option will necessarily require an allied ground and / or amphibious campaign that include occupation of North Korea and systematically cleaning out all WMD capabilities including facilities, materials, infrastructure, data, equipment, etc.

That is the only sure way to eliminate WMDs when the regime is hostile. Such a campaign imply the termination of the DPRK regime whereas a diplomatic solution now offer the prospect of regime survival.

While some argue that South Korea will not permit military options, by not supporting allied use of force South Korea will leave the US with worse and likely more harmful alternatives including countervalue nuclear strikes on DPRK population centers that will inflict significant fallout on nearby ROK cities.

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has demanded a veto on a military option like those of China and Russia.

It is hard to see how such a veto fits in with every state’s inherent right of self-defense.

Self-defense against a DPRK nuclear strike on the US or its allies means nuclear retaliation with or without Seoul’s input.

Or Russia’s and China’s.

That is the simple message behind American extended deterrence.

No US President / Administration or Congress will survive “turning the other cheek” after a successful nuclear attack on an American city. Considerations of “proportionate response” will be very different after hundreds of thousands of US casualties.

While it is understandable how war is an emotional issue for South Korean leaders that is a close US ally, it has to be kept in mind that an all-out nuclear war between the DPRK and the US will likely leave the South and surrounding countries severely damaged or destroyed by fallout.

A good military option today would avoid this, compared to the default outcome if deterrence failed and nuclear war broke out between the US and DPRK.

Things are coming to a head.

The longer North Korea’s WMD problem persists, the more likely it is for mass casualties somewhere to be unavoidable as the cost of ending the DPRK nuclear threat as it spreads around the world.

The window for good military options is 2018.  Thereafter, they may not exist for a generation.

Let’s hope North Korea, China and Russia take this opportunity to join with allies to achieve peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – a goal that Russia and China claim they support.

It may be their last chance.

The lights are dimming, but not out all over the world.

Let’s give peace a chance.


Ed Timperlake on Al Poteet for Congress: Why Poteet for the 21st Congressional District of Texas?

Al Poteet is running for Congress.

He is a candidate for the 21st Congressional District of Texas and as both Editor of Second Line of Defense Forum and former National Director of President Reagan’s Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program,

I believe in this time of testing for America in a very dangerous world, President Trump and all Americans need such a man as Al Poteet serving in the United States Congress.

From Al Poteet:

Hello Neighbors…I am Al Poteet and am running as a Republican to be your U. S. Representative for the 21st District of Texas.  

My unique blend of public sector service, private sector experience, and Texas values will enable me to faithfully serve you if elected to the U. S. Congress.  

I believe our country urgently needs real leadership, practical experience, common sense, and a passion to make government work for the people — not the other way around.

I am a Fifth Generation Texan, whose family originally settled in a community south of San Antonio, that became Poteet, Texas. 

The great State of Texas is very special for me and my family.

My first born child, a daughter, is a true Texan, she  was born when I was serving as a Marine flight student  at Naval Air Station Kingsville Texas, during the Vietnam War years.

Al is a fellow Vietnam Veteran serving as in combat as an Army Warrant Officer helicopter pilot. I was honored to join with Al Poteet on the very first team building out the Department of Veterans Affairs for our 41st United States President, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Once elected the individual so honored represents all of their constituents fairly and justly.

I can only hope that the good people of Texas will vote to send my very honorable friend of three decades Al Poteet to help clean out the swamp in Washington,

Al Poteet would never ever tolerate such awful treatment of those who served as being reported in today’s Department of Veterans Affairs.

And most important on a human level Al Poteet is a very nice person, fair, thoughtful and kind.

Please give him your most sacred treasure your vote which is empowered as “we the people” to represent all who live in the 21st Congressional District in the greatest nation in the world.

 Two critical platform planks that he is running on which are very important for me.

Military – As combat veterans know, peace comes through strength.

America must maintain a strong national defense posture, a cutting edge offensive capability, and a well-equipped and trained military as a deterrent to global threats and to deliver a decisive response when necessary.

It is critically important that a “new and improved” state-of- the-art missile defense system program be developed and deployed to protect America and our allies from international terrorist states and rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.

Without a strong national defense, the United States grid and our way of life are threatened in ways most citizens cannot imagine.

Veterans – Promises made for service to and sacrifices on behalf of our country must be honored.

No more “kicking the can” down the road.

Effective accountability must be implemented within the Department of Veteran Affairs to ensure that services and care are of the highest quality and delivered in a timely manner.  Incompetent managers at all levels of VA must be fired and good employees who provide high-quality service to our nation’s veterans must be respected.

Whistle-blowers must be protected from unscrupulous managers that seek to discriminate against them and terminate them from government service.

Contract community healthcare must be authorized to augment VA healthcare services when a veteran lives too far a VA medical center or there are delays for healthcare delivery for whatever reason.

“Cooking the books” and cheating on service delivery to veterans must not be tolerated and directors who cheat veterans must be “cut out of the herd” without retirement as an option.

From, the Honorable Edward Timperlake in support of Al Poteet’s candidacy.

National Director President Reagan’s Vietnam Veteran Leadership Program

First Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Public Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs, President Bush 41

Director Technology Assessment, International Technology Security, Department of Defense President Bush 43

National Radio Surrogate —Trump for President 2016 Presidential Race.

To read what additional true leadership means for all other issues, please go to Alonzo M. Poteet III Website and FaceBook Page to support his effort.

AND Facebook Page: “poteet for congress.”

The Shift from the Land Wars to a 21st Century Spectrum of Conflict: It is About Hard Power Used for Diplomatic and Political Purposes

The US military has been focused along with core allies in fighting counter-terrorism land wars for more than a decade, which represents a defining generation of combat experience for the joint, and coalition force.

There has been significant combat learning in shaping new approaches to counter-terrorism and land engagements.

But the strategic shift in the global situation, the rise of peer competitors in conventional forces and the return of the salience of nuclear weapons via second nuclear age powers, concepts of operations and technology developed for the land wars are challenged by the emergence of the next phase of warfare, one might characterize as a multi-domain spectrum of conflict.

There are several elements of the new situation which are recasting the spectrum of conflict within which high intensity warfare capabilities are being interwoven into political military realities facing the US and allies when dealing with peer competitors.

The Nuclear Dimension

Both Russia and China are nuclear powers, and certainly in the Russian case modernization of their nuclear arsenal is providing new capabilities within their operational force which could allow for earlier use.

And the North Korean nuclear efforts along with anticipated other second nuclear powers, perhaps Iran, have posed fundamental considerations about where exactly to find the nuclear threshold in potential global conflict.

Put in other terms, engagements with second nuclear age powers or with peer competitors will always have a nuclear dimension, either in terms of deterrence or engagement.

The return of Herman Kahn and thinking the unthinkable is upon us, whether we want it or not.

As Danny Lam has put it:

A nuclear device need not necessarily be a WMD with a more up to date definition used by the CCA that do not define nuclear as WMD by default.

Prevention of mass destruction & casualties may require the nuclear threshold to be crossed in a judicious and tightly controlled manner when there is no other feasible method.

It does not follow that crossing the nuclear threshold in such a manner will automatically lead to wholesale nuclear war.

There is no reason why an escalatory latter have to exist for a given adversary or for it to be operative.

On the contrary, nuclear explosives may be the only practical way to prevent war caused by indiscriminate use of nuclear weapons in dangerous hands like North Korea.

Technology and doctrine have evolved since nuclear weapons were used last in 1945 and WMD taboos became institutionalized in international law.

The laws are now obsolete.

The nuclear threshold as it was formulated in the 20th century may be no less an obsolete concept than the Pope Innocent III’s prohibition on the use of crossbows on Christians.  

Peer Competitors and High End Conventional Capabilities in the Service of Global Engagement

A second key element is the changing nature of the threat posed by peer competitors, which has been characterized by some as anti-access area denial capabilities.

What this entails is shaping missile enabled air, ground and naval forces which can leverage both defensive systems such as the S-400 and strike missiles, for now cruise but with perhaps hypersonic systems in the mid term future.

The US and the allies engaging peer competitors with evolving capabilities is requiring nothing less than changing our own template of operations and introducing new capabilities, fifth generation aircraft, new C2 systems, laying down the foundation for distributed operations, developing enhanced multi-domain operational capabilities.

There is a major shift in operational foci for both peer competitors and the US and its allies, which is being empowered by new systems, new training, new concepts of operations, and new areas of conflict, such as in the cyber domain.

And this in turn in resetting the spectrum of conflict within which engagements are occurring and will occur.

As Admiral Wang put it with regard to how he saw the challenge to Denmark and to Northern Europe posed by the Russians and their advanced systems:

Wang clearly argued that the Russian challenge has little to do with the Cold War Soviet-Warsaw Pact threat to the Nordics. The Soviet-Warsaw threat was one of invasion and occupation, and then using Nordic territory to fight U.S. and allied forces in the North Atlantic. In many ways, this would have been a repeat of how the Nazis seized Norway during a combined arms amphibious operation combined with a land force walk into Denmark.

In that scenario, the Danes and their allies were focused on sea denial through use of mines, with fast patrol boats providing protection for the minelayers.

Aircraft and submarines were part of a defense in depth strategy to deny the ability of the Soviets to occupy the region in time of a general war.

He contrasted this with the current situation in which the Russians are less focused on a general war, and more on building capabilities for a more limited objective, controlling the Baltic States. He highlighted the arms modernization of the Russian military focused on ground-based missile defense and land- and sea-based attack missiles, along with airpower, as the main means to shape a denial-in-depth strategy which would allow the Russians significant freedom of maneuver to achieve their objectives within their zone of strategic maneuver.

A core Russian asset is the Kalibr cruise missile, which can operate off of a variety of platforms. With a dense missile wolf pack, so to speak, the Russians provide a cover for their maneuver forces. They are focused on using land-based mobile missiles in the region as their key strike and defense asset. “The Russian defense plan in the Baltic is all about telling NATO, we can go into the Baltic countries if we decided to do so. And you will not be able to get in and get us out. That is basically the whole idea,” the admiral said.

Wang argued for a reverse engineering approach to the Russian threat. He saw this as combining several key elements: a combined anti-submarine (ASW), F-35 fleet, frigate- and land-based strike capabilities, including from Poland.

The Russian takeover of the Crimea was the first step in the reshaping of the spectrum. Here the Russians introduced a multi-domain approach to victory, backed by having a significant combat force, which could deter NATO from doing much about it.

And as Russia looks to the Baltics or the Chinese look to expand their control over the South China Sea, tactics and strategy are relying on their new power projection tools in support of a proactive engagement to reshape the strategic situation to their advantage.

Put in other words, military means associated with high intensity warfare capabilities, combat ships, combat aircraft and a strong missile force are being combined with a proactive strategy of engagement and expansion.

The nature of the threat facing the liberal democracies was well put by a senior Finnish official in a recent briefing:

  • Timeline for early warning is shorter;
  • The threshold for the use of force is lower.

What is unfolding is that capabilities traditionally associated with high end warfare are being drawn upon for lower threshold conflicts, designed to achieve political effect without firing a shot.

Higher end capabilities being developed by China are Russia are becoming tools to achieve political-military objectives throughout the diplomatic engagement spectrum.

This means that not only do the liberal democracies need to shape more effective higher end capabilities but they need to learn how to use force packages which are making up a higher end, higher tempo or higher intensity capability as part of a range of both military operations but proactive engagement to shape peer adversary behavior.

For example, one is buying fifth generation aircraft not simply to prepare for an all out war to defend the democracies, but to provide tools for governments to defend their interests throughout the spectrum of warfare and co-associated diplomatic activity as well.

For example, as the Russians were consolidating gains from the Crimean seizure, we noted ways moving forward one might deal with this kind of behavior, which although not at the high end was, informed an enabled by the presence of higher end warfare capabilities, both conventional and nuclear.

We wrote in 2014 about ways to leverage higher end capabilities into the spectrum of warfare introduced by the Russians into Ukraine in a way that would matter in perhaps both shaping more favorable political outcomes and laying a foundation for more robust ways ahead if needed.

Simply asking Putin to man up and take responsibility is not going to get the job done.  The United States needs to shape its own capabilities for 21st century warfare.

We could start by trying to actually engage in the information war which the Russians are conducting.  Clearly, leveraging intelligence assets and putting the story into the Western press in DETAIL is crucial to position oneself for an effective information war engagement.

This is not about feeling good; it is about defeating the Russian information war gambit, which is holding the West responsible to trying to take advantage of the crisis for political advantage.  We may feel privately that his position is less than credible; but it can be clearly believed worldwide.

But we need a hard power response to go with the diplomatic kabuki dance in which we are not engaged.  And one clearly is at hand.

We argued in our book with Richard Weitz on Pacific strategy, that U.S. military power needed to be rebuilt around a modular, scalable force that could be effectively inserted in crisis.  We also argued for the economy of force, that is one wants to design force packages appropriate the political objective.

If this was the pre-Osprey era, an insertion might be more difficult, but with the tiltrotar assault force called the USMC a force can be put in place rapidly to cordon off the area, and to be able to shape a credible global response to the disinformation campaign of Russia and its state-sponsored separatists.   Working with the Ukrainians, an air cap would be established over the area of interest, and airpower coupled with the Marines on the ground, and forces loyal to Kiev could stop Putin in his tracks.

In other words, countering Russian 21st century warfare creativity is crucial for the United States to do right now with some creativity of our own.

Again it is about using military force in ways appropriate to the political mission.

The approach described here only gets better with the coming of the F-35 to US and allied forces.  The multi-mission capabilities of the aircraft means that a small footprint can bring diversified lethality to the fight.  An F-35 squadron can carry inherent within it an electronic attack force, a missile defense tracking capability, a mapping capability for the ground forces, ISR and C2 capabilities for the deployed force and do so in a compact deployment package.

In addition, an F-35 fleet can empower Air Defense Artillery (ADA), whether Aegis afloat or Patriots and THAAD Batteries, the concept of establishing air dominance is moving in a synergistic direction.  An F-35 EW capability along with it’s AA and AG capability will introduce innovate tactics in the SEAD mission. Concurrently, the F-35 will empower U.S. and Allied ADA situational awareness.  The current engagement of the IDF employment of their Irion Dome in conjunction with aviation attacks is a demonstration of  this type of emerging partnership being forged in battle.

To get a similar capability today into the Area of Interest would require a diversified and complex aerial fleet, whose very size would create a political statement, which one might really not want to make.

With an F-35 enabled ground insertion force, a smaller force with significant lethality and flexibility could be deployed until it is no longer needed for it is about air-enabled ground forces.  A tiltrotar enabled assault force with top cover from a 360 degree operational F-35 fleet, whether USMC, USN, USAF or allied can allow for the kind of flexibility necessary for 21st century warfare and operational realities.

Reinforcing Ukrainian defense might be assisted by defensive weapons of the sort being considered but deployable allied offensive defensive force packages which could decisively stop Russian forces and lay down a foundation for expanded operations if the Russians did not desist.

F-35s, F-22s supported by integrated by a strong missile capability, both to defend and to attack, but integrated by a viable distributed C2 system is both part of high end warfare but what is needed to deal with lower ends of conflict as well as the power competitors shift the spectrum of conflict where mix and match of higher end, lower end and capabilities in between are conjoined into a force package to support political objectives.

The US and allied militaries face challenges to get to the point where they have operational multi-mission, multi-domain distributed C2 force packages fully available to decision makers.

But the acquisition of new systems, new training approaches, redesign of C2 systems, focusing upon abilities to the various services to operate more effectively in an integrated battlespace are underway.

What is more problematical is whether the strategic elites in the liberal democracies and notably their political masters are ready for the shift in the global game away from diplomacy as an hermetically sealed art craft.

The non-liberal powers are clearly leveraging new military capabilities to support their global diplomacy to try to get outcomes and advantages that enhance their position and interests.

The systems there are building and deploying are clearly recognized by the Western militaries as requiring a response; less recognized is how the spectrum of conflict is shifting in terms of using higher end capabilities for normal diplomatic gains.

The decade ahead is bound to be interesting. To be blunt, the distinction which Joe Nye suggested between hard and soft power is being change by the military revolution. It is about hard power redesigned to be more useful in supporting political objectives, which if one wants to call that soft power then I am not sure the distinction has meaning.



Making Accountability Real Again: The Trump Revolution Continues

In this year of our Lord, 2018, our Constitutional “Law and Order” process, may finally bring criminal charges against Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The Trump Nation chat of “lock her up” will no longer be just a campaign slogan.

Beyond continuing legislation designed to Make America Great Again, what will make 2018 a truly historic year is that justice will finally be brought to many individuals who exploited their public position for their illegal greed or they compromised their oath of office for political gain.

Many are in for a year of living dangerously especially those who enabled or covered up criminality and also those who proactively tried to use the power of the United States Government to destroy a Presidential Candidate.

The way to look at this very complicated and interconnected investigative process is to first understand the power and responsibilities between Executive Branch and Legislative Branch in criminal investigations.

Congress, truly representing “we the people” is empowered by Constitutional oversight responsibilities to examine all actions taken by the Executive Branch. Congress can bring the “sunlight of disinfectant” but cannot prosecute.

However, they can make Criminal Referrals to the Executive Department mostly focusing on potential crimes of perjury.

Now think about the excellent Law and Order TV Show.

The Executive Department Attorney General has the Director of FBI “Law” part of the process, then move the show to the “Order” segment where his DOJ Attorneys will be making criminal cases in court presided over by our third branch, the Judiciary.

This coming 2018, a real Law and Order Show will culminate in trials or perhaps some plea bargain deals supported by hard evidence presented in court collected by both Executive Department FBI and Legislative oversight Hearings.

It is actually a rather simple process on the march to final justice.

But currently it is all rather confusing for Americans because information trickles out through a Main Stream Media editorial filter of protecting the Democrat Party at all costs.

This will continue to no practical effect.

I also offer that Special Counsel Muller and his team ultimately will be by history as a side-show and minor distraction at best.

The Paul Manafort Civil Law Suit discovery process will take place and Special Counsel Muller’s team is mostly partisan Democrat donors and supporters on mission not for justice but trying to hobble and weaken the Trump Presidency.

In fact, it looks like very experienced lawyers who were also major Democrat donors all raced to join the action against Trump and former FBI Director did not have the professionalism to say just say no.

Finally in 2018, the American people will finally see the magnitude of corruption by Clinton Inc and her “deep state” enablers, the pressure on a competitive press will finally engage to make the hard facts in evidence known to all, because ultimately the truth is the truth.

There are three big “Law and Order” issues in play that are not totally independent because they will have some overlap by individuals and illegal money that is fungible.

However, to understand the ongoing investigative proces three general Law Enforcement vectors are currently in motion:

  • Bringing “all things Clinton Inc.” to Justice
  • Bringing USG persons who covered up “all things Clinton Inc.” to justice
  • Bringing USG persons who went active against Candidate Trump and his supporters to Justice.

The dynamic interplay between ongoing Congressional Oversight and the opening of FBI/DOJ focused efforts to address all three will occur in 2018.

  • Bringing “all things Clinton Inc.” to justice can include investigation of  ‘pay-to-play” financial crimes, and mishandling classified information. In that process the American People will read about evidence of bribes for certain actions and the damaging mishandling of state secrets, all felony level stuff.
  • The second bullet bringing USG Persons who covered up all things Clinton Inc. will decimate some individuals at the highest level of Obama Administration who were serving in DOJ and the FBI. The tragedy is these men and women betrayed their Constitutional oath of office:

“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

(Pub. L. 89–554, Sept. 6, 1966, 80 Stat. 424.)

  • The third point is bringing to justice US Government persons who may have gone active against Candidate Trump and his supporters. Being a very early supporter of Candidate Trump on a national level it is of some interest for me to see if I had been caught up in any political retribution scheme.

To add some confusion to the process, there is a powerful crossover point for the third with the first two; for example who paid for what is now known as the fabricated “Dirty Dossier” and then used it both politically in a media campaign and also used it to trigger Deep State Surveillance to spy on and “unmask” names of innocent American citizens?

Connecting the first two bullets into the third investigation may actually go very high up because in the Obama years some of the same people are involved.

Already  there is hard evidence that political appointees and very senior career individuals harnessed the power of emerging deep state technology by using National Security Administration (NSA) technology and counterintelligence procedures that were weaponized to try destroy the reputations of Donald Trump and even his family.

Citizen Trump has equal 4th Amendment protections just like every American.

For some to contrive and convolute using laws established to safeguard all in this age of terrorism in order to illegally target a candidate for the Presidency should symbolically consign those who did such a foul thing into Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell.

Perhaps the greatest point I can make in summation is that all I have described will play out in 2018, and the absolutely political brilliance in bring accountability for these horrible crimes is that President Trump had the strategic patience to wait a year.

By letting the facts come out over time he can never be accused of bring unfounded political retribution against his opponents after winning the Presidency.

Taking a page from American History, President Trump symbolically said-“do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes’.

By doing so he saved our constitutionally empowered democracy.

Revisiting the Nuclear Threshold in the Second Nuclear Age

Necessity and proportionality are central concepts behind legitimate use of force in international law from the Anglo-European tradition.

The simplicity of the concepts belie the moral quagmire when applied to actual cases such as the use of nuclear weapons on Japan in what became the final days of WWII.

The debate continues to this day.

Nuclear weapons was introduced in a form that enabled a single weapon, initially delivered by one bomber, to wreck havoc that formerly required hundreds, if not thousands of bombers and crew.

Because nuclear weapons “scale” – in the case of thermonuclear devices in theory indefinitely – the question of necessity and proportionality evolved into a consensus between the First Nuclear Age powers that such weapons of mass destruction should never be used.

Possession should only be for the purpose of deterrence.

Crossing the nuclear threshold is a dangerous act with dire consequences that between nuclear weapons powers, mean mutual destruction.

How was this “red line” established?

Early on in the nuclear age in 1948, the United Nations Commission for Conventional Armaments (CCA) created an authoritative definition of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) as:

“… atomic explosive weapons, radioactive material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive effect to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above”

(UN document S/C.3/32/Rev.1)

This definition was adopted in UN General Assembly Resolution 32/84 and have been incorporated by reference to mean all Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear weapons and is integral to international law and treaties governing WMDs. (12, W. Seth Carus, 2012)

The essence of this definition is the notion that WMDs have the characteristic of causing mass destruction and / or casualties, though there is no clear definition as to what constitutes “mass”.

Conventional weapons used in sufficient quantity accounted for far more casualties than WMDs.

World War II era fire bombings of cities in Germany and Japan, the Taiping uprising against Manchu rule, Stalin’s communist collectivization and purges, Chinese communism’s campaigns like Mao’s Great Leap Forward or Cultural Revolution, and the Pol Pot Communist regime, accounted for far more casualties than the totality of all casualties from WMDs since the 19th Century.

It is hard to rationalize that tens of millions of deaths from the Taiping uprising against Manchu imperial conquest and rule is somehow preferable to a nuclear attack on Hiroshima that killed under 200,000.  

Or mass deportation to Gulags or concentration camps or genocide by Manchus is preferable to nuclear war.

The revulsion against WMDs arise not in the scale or scope of mass destruction or casualties, but from the ease and rapidity from which it can happen: “at the push of a button” by a handful or as few as one person.

Mass destruction of the past required mass participation by a willing cohort of executioners are no longer required.

A small band of state or non-state actors can conceivably have the same impact. Hence, the focus on absolute prohibitions on the spread of WMDs to non-state actors, and limitations on state actors with “legal” nuclear arsenals to those who share a consensus about its danger and utility as deterrent only.

Consensus on international arms control, limitations and disarmament for WMDs was built around this view of nuclear weapons as instruments whose use will inevitably lead to mass destruction and or casualties.  

Between nuclear powers, that means “mutually assured destruction”.

Thinking on nuclear arms control evolved around the idea of reducing the likelihood that the nuclear threshold should ever be crossed, whether accidentally, or a “madman”, or the development of systems that destabilize “mutually assured destruction” such as ballistic missile defense.

Prevention of a surprise “knock out” blow by any nuclear power meant the creation of “triads” that are invulnerable to any conceivable surprise attack.

Tactical nuclear devices are regarded as dangerous as it crosses the threshold, which will increase the likelihood of strategic nuclear weapons from being used in an escalatory ladder understood by both sides.

The presumption is there is a slippery slope, much like the Rubicon that cannot be crossed without consequences.

Around this theory, an arms control community was formed with the expressed goal of preventing the use of nuclear weapons, limiting its proliferation, and ultimately, banning their use.

The UNSC “permanent 5” that emerged as victors in WWII are the only legitimate nuclear weapons powers under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Over time, a new group of “illegal” nuclear weapons powers emerged despite efforts aimed at curbing them.

The US aided UK and France in acquiring a nuclear arsenal before the NPT.

Post NPT, China aided their allies Pakistan and North Korea.

India, Israel chose to illicitly acquire the means, often with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink from others.

Other states, like Iraq, Syria, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, Libya, etc. had their programs terminated by force, disabled, or deliberately held back.

North Korea is the outlier in terms of their motives and intentions behind states that successfully acquired a nuclear arsenal.

Every nuclear weapons power to date, with the exception of North Korea, accepted the consensus that nuclear weapons are a deterrent or insurance policy of last resort to guarantee regime survival, preferably never used.

North Korea, on the other hand, view the nuclear weapons as a means to alter the status quo, forcing the withdrawal of US forces from South Korea, unifying Koreas on their terms, and to extract compensation (or indemnities) from belligerents.

This exception altered the dynamic of international nuclear proliferation since the 1990s.  

Rather than going away, other nuclear powers followed.

Established nuclear powers like Russia, a shadow of itself as USSR, have adopted doctrines like “escalate to de-escalate” that suggest the limited first use of nuclear weapon as a show of force. China, ostensible alleged to have about 300 warheads, expanded their launcher capacity by adding 4 SSBNs (+1 under construction), mobile missiles, and MIRV/MARVed missiles: far beyond the western estimate of size of their arsenal and no longer a “minimal means of reprisal”.

The CCP’s claimed “no first use” doctrine have been undermined by their campaign to prevent South Korea from deploying THAAD and participating in a regional missile defense system that suggest a tactical nuclear first strike strategy.

Pakistan, meanwhile, have moved to develop and deploy tactical nuclear weapons in response to India’s “cold start” doctrine.

Israel is contending with regional powers like Iran that can readily “breakout” and deploy nuclear weapons before considerations of aid from North Korea.

Technologically, nuclear weapons are no longer necessarily WMDs that produce indiscriminate, mass destruction or casualties.

Nuclear precision munitions have ushered in an era where a nuclear explosion may have very little persistent radiological effect (i.e. fallout, contamination, etc.) while achieving a narrowly targeted destructive effect with minimal collateral damage to civilians nearby.

Compared to late 20th century nuclear weapons, precision nuclear munitions may be the only viable solution to certain target sets where limiting civilian casualties and long term radiological effects is a key consideration.

Coming from another perspective, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons, once only feasible to be nuclear pumped, can now be conventionally pumped or otherwise generated to produce a range of effects made possible by the widespread use and deployment of microelectronic devices in both military and civilian applications.

A nuclear EMP attack can disable much of the civilian and military infrastructure in a wide area for upwards of a year, leading to societal collapse while leaving most physical infrastructure like buildings intact.

The nuclear threshold that existed as a clear line circa 1975 is now blurred by these developments.

It is a product of the first nuclear age, when the prospect of virtually unlimited destructive effect at the push of a button horrified a small group of European, Russian and then Chinese decision makers, all of whom are barely recovered from a horrifying series of wars in recent memory and have no wish to repeat the carnage.

The Second Nuclear Age ushered in a new, larger group of players driven by competition and conflicts driven by nationalism, ethnic rivalries, rage, religion, and old fashioned garden variety territorial and great power disputes.

A woman walks in front of a TV screen at Seoul Train Station showing a news program reporting on North Korea’s firing of four missiles March 2017. AP

Many of these new players, i.e. radical political Islamist, if they should secure a nuclear device, will not necessarily view it as a defensive weapon nor will they be necessarily deterred by greater powers.

Possession of a large, invulnerable nuclear arsenal for retaliation may have no utility against these adversaries.

Presently, the US and allied relies on dominance in conventional weapons against states without a proven nuclear arsenal.

But the utility of this approach, even if used in concert with the conventional capabilities of P5 powers, will not necessarily be sufficient to prevent insurgent powers like Iran from acquiring WMDs or be able to proactively eliminating their capabilities militarily by “surgical” strikes.

Then there are states like North Korea that have passed the point of no return, having successfully demonstrated thermonuclear weapons and is on the way to credible nuclear ICBM arsenal.

In this environment, the nuclear threshold as an absolute bar may be more a hindrance than a threat to peace and security when it is technically the only feasible way to militarily achieve effects that meet the test of necessity and proportionality for adversaries unlikely to be deterred.

Nuclear weapons can have destructive effects that are far below generally accepted conventional weapons used en mass.

It does not follow that nuclear will be by definition more destructive than conventional explosives though nuclear explosives will have considerable advantages in form factor and ease of delivery.

Nor is it for certain that the use of nuclear devices will necessarily result in large scale, persistent radiological effects particularly if the device is used in such a manner and optimized to minimize persistent contamination.

A nuclear device need not necessarily be a WMD with a more up to date definition used by the CCA that do not define nuclear as WMD by default.

Prevention of mass destruction & casualties may require the nuclear threshold to be crossed in a judicious and tightly controlled manner when there is no other feasible method.

It does not follow that crossing the nuclear threshold in such a manner will automatically lead to wholesale nuclear war.

There is no reason why an escalatory latter have to exist for a given adversary or for it to be operative.

On the contrary, nuclear explosives may be the only practical way to prevent war caused by indiscriminate use of nuclear weapons in dangerous hands like North Korea.

Technology and doctrine have evolved since nuclear weapons were used last in 1945 and WMD taboos became institutionalized in international law.

The laws are now obsolete.

The nuclear threshold as it was formulated in the 20th century may be no less an obsolete concept than the Pope Innocent III’s prohibition on the use of crossbows on Christians.  

It is time to reconsider and revisit the work of the CCA.

A Different Take on Trump’s National Security Strategy

The Trump Administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) received a flood of public scrutiny even before it was announced.

Not surprisingly this flood morphed into a tidal wave once it appeared.

But virtually all of this commentary focused on the tone and major themes observers claimed to find in it at the expense of some of the more original aspects of this document that were expressed in the NSS’ discussion of regional security in certain areas. 

Specifically, commentators either missed or omitted the sections on Latin America and Central Asia.  These areas may not be priorities like Europe, Northeast Asia, and the Middle East but they are increasingly important arenas  due to mounting challenges,  not only from terrorists, but also from Russia and China.

The NSS cited not only enhanced use of trade and financial tools to advance U.S. interests in Latin America, it also cited examples of glaring misrule like Venezuela and the expanding presence and interests of China and Russia there.

This, though commentators overlooked it, represents an original and positive development.

The Obama Administration was essentially uninterested in the Russian presence in Latin America, which is particularly sinister.  Whereas China’s presence is primarily expressed through huge trade relationships, Russia not only supports states like Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in their anti-Americanism it also seeks to expand its political,  intelligence, and military footprint in Latin America and to undermine American allies like Colombia.

Indeed, there are even concerns about a potential Russian effort to undermine  the integrity of Mexico’s forthcoming  2018 elections.

In 2008 Moscow actively solicited intelligence coordination among anti-American states in the region and  shipped weapons to Venezuela to undermine our ally Colombia.  Although those actions failed; they displayed Russia’s growing interest in striking at the U.S. through Latin America.

Today Moscow has not only enhanced security cooperation with Nicaragua, it is seeking air and naval bases in Latin America.  Venezuela proves to be a case in point.  The dictatorial Madero regime has not only brought Venezuela to the point of utter immiseration and destitution, Venezuela is on the verge of bankruptcy thanks to the regime’s corruption and misrule.  Moscow has capitalized on this to lend Venezuela several billion dollars in return for an enhanced stake in its oil and gas fields.

In this regard it is swapping debt for equity as it has done throughout Eurasia. But we should not be surprised if Moscow repeats the subsequent phases of its debt for equity swaps in Eurasia.

Namely when the time comes for Venezuela to declare itself unable to pay its debts that Moscow will use this equity or convert it into air and/or naval bases there in accordance with its longstanding designs.

This is on top of Russia’s well-established security cooperation with Nicaragua.  That cooperation takes the form of permanent bilateral consultations between each country’s security council, joint drills among troops, arms sales, Russia’s alleged training of Nicaraguan forces in anti-drug actions, and a Russian satellite station there to track U.S. aerial and naval movements among other things.

Since Moscow has also expressed its interest in access to Nicaraguan ports and airfields it too could become an object of Russian solicitations in the future for basing rights.

Therefore the NSS is right on target in singling out this penetration as something that we should both monitor and  oppose.

In Central Asia we are fighting in Afghanistan and allegedly making progress. But whereas the Obama Administration for the most part, i.e. till 2015, had no Central Asia policy other than the war in Afghanistan, that area was neglected.

Even Secretary of State Kerry’s initiative of a regular 5+1 format with his Central Asian opposite numbers is only a small part of what is needed.  Here too the NSS was much more forthright with its explicit message of opposition to Russian attempts to corner those states’ energy supplies and to undermine their sovereignty.

Not only do we oppose terrorism, the NSS also invoked upgraded trade and financial relationships with Central Asian governments and built upon its predecessors by championing India’s role as a facilitator for the more general process of South and Central Asian integration.

To show that these statements in the NSS are not merely words, President Trump also spoke to Uzbekistan’s President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in support of his efforts to reform Uzbekistan and to solicit grater U.S. foreign investment in his country.

These two examples show not only the global sweep of the Administration’s policy but also its increased sensitivity to challenges to America that do not receive a lot of publicity but which nonetheless materially affect our interests and security. 

Furthermore these indicators of a vigorous global policy using trade, economics, and all the other capabilities accruing to the government signify a growing resistance to challenges that might, in previous administrations, have escaped notice or presidential attention.

Therefore we would do well to watch the Administration for the balance of Trump’s term to see whether or not it can sustain the enhanced attention to these areas that often are laggards in the race for presidential attention.

These may not be the challenges we see in Europe, the Middle East, and Northeast Asia, but to ignore them only abets the  efforts of our regional adversaries like China and Russia to multiply the threats to us so that they can continue to promote their interests at our expense and create more problems than we can handle.

By recognizing this project of our adversaries the Administration actually marks an advance over its predecessors.

However, now it has to make good on its ambitions to act on a global scale.  And that will be a real test of its ability and capacity.

Dr. Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. He is the author of numerous foreign policy-related articles, white papers and monographs, specifically focused on the geopolitics and geostrategy of the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eurasia. He is a former MacArthur Fellow at the U.S. Army War College.

UN Command Sending States Meeting Agenda

Canada and the United States agreed on November 28, 2017 to co-host a meeting of the United Nations Command “sending states, ROK, Japan and other key affected countries.”

Initially, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister and her Global Affairs staff, took that to mean she can invite whomever she liked including PRC and maybe Cuba.

PM Trudeau have praised Castro’s Cuba for their close relationship with North Korea and viewed them as a valuable channel toward a peaceful settlement of the Korean problem for our time.

When Japan rejected Canada’s overtures and effectively declined to participate in a United Front Campaign advocated by Canada that almost certainly would have led to a dialog for the PRC and Russia’s proposal for “freeze for freeze”, the US had to step in.

US  Ambassador to China Terry Branstad unilaterally announced in Canton that Secretary Tillerson will travel to Canada and meet with PM Trudeau and Minister Freeland on the North Korea crisis on December 19th, delaying the “sending states” meeting from mid-December to mid-January.

Secretary Tillerson reset the direction and purpose of the meeting during the December bilateral meeting with Canada by stipulating that the meeting are between the “sending states” plus ROK, Japan, India, Sweden and others that Secretary of Tillerson think are important to engage.

Notably, this excluded PRC, Cuba, Russia and North Korea.   Communist China had to be disinvited by Canada.

The Hon. Mr. Tillerson described the purpose of the UN Command “Sending States” meeting as,

“[H]ow do we improve the effectiveness of the current pressure campaign? Are there other steps that could be taken to put additional pressure on the regime in North Korea, and how do we further take our diplomatic efforts forward? And then how do we prepare for the prospects of talk[s]?”

The purpose of the meeting is clearly about ratcheting up the pressure leading to DPRK entering negotiations for denuclearization in good faith.

It is a last ditch effort prior to military options.

An unspoken goal of the meeting is to cement and firm up a consensus that North Korea is an imminent existential threat that endanger the liberal international order, and not just a regional security problem for South Korea, Japan and the United States that must be resolved before it becomes too risky for a military option.

US officials must educate and inform the participants at the meeting on the extent of DPRK’s threat and how the US Government arrived at their consensus view that:

“North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has aggressive and offensive objectives. Pyongyang, they believe, will use its nuclear weapons to push U.S. forces out of South Korea and then force reunification of the Korean Peninsula on its terms.”

In other words, North Korea was, is, and will not be a status quo nuclear power that treat their nuclear arsenal as a defensive tool to guarantee regime survival.

DPRK’s nuclear arsenal is intended for offensive purposes to alter the status quo of not just the Korean peninsula, but the liberal world order.

This perspective would come as no surprise to anyone who fought the Korean war.

But very few (if any) officials attending the UNC Sending States meeting in Vancouver on Jan 16, 2018 have firsthand experience from that distant conflict.

Fading memories of the Korean war, together with a very active propaganda campaign by DPRK and PRC that portrays them as the “winners” of the Korean war, and the rise of the PRC as a successful communist peer competitor to the allies, have distorted the perception of the conflict since 1953.

Almost all the participants count the PRC as their top (or major) trading partner and is deeply concerned with upsetting the CCP.

PM Trudeau, in particular, failed to appease President Xi and Premier Li in December when he and his ministers was widely expected to be offered a Free Trade Deal.

Instead, he left virtually empty handed without securing the release of any Canadian prisoners or selling one Bombardier C-Series jet, not to mention having a joint press conference with Premier Li abruptly cancelled.

Managing the PRC’s relationship with the sending states and allies will be a key problem on the agenda.

A critical task before the meeting convenes is to refresh the participants and institutional memories of the UNC Sending States of what is really at stake when they collectively signed the 1953 Armistice Agreement.

This agreement is no less binding and enforceable than the Charter of the United Nations (1946) and other treaties that formally ended WWII.  It commits sending states to defend the RoK against aggression by the Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s “Volunteers”.

Few (if any) officials and politicians who are belligerent “sending states” except the USA recognize their legal obligations.

Or their liability for “compensation” currently demanded by DPRK.

Armistice do not formally end armed conflict.

Peace treaties need to be concluded between belligerents that include, in theory, all members of the UN against the (then) non-recognized regimes of PRC and DPRK.  Without a peace treaty, the armistice can be ended legally by a party denouncing it and / or by any party restarting hostilities.

DPRK have denounced the armistice in 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013 and most recently argued that the US has “effectively declared war” with UN sanctions.   North Korea’s position in turn, enable them to restart hostilities at any time without notice:   consistent with their past behavior.

North Korea’s actions have provided UN forces with ample justification to resume hostilities.

Resumption of hostilities by UNC will not, in this case, be regarded as pre-emptive war as such action presumes that a state of peace exist a priori.

The question is: under what circumstances might the UN Command resume hostilities legally beyond the use of force to uphold the Armistice?

All states have an inherent right of individual and collective self-defense providing that such actions meet the criteria for necessity and proportionality.

DPRK’s overt threats to the US and other states homeland, and the development of “push button” WMD capabilities during the past decade greatly strengthen the allied arguments in favor of military action for self-defense.

Specifically, DPRK’s development of solid fueled ballistic missiles that is capable of being launched with little warning, together with their intent to develop MIRV, MARV capabilities and announced goal of orbiting large satellites that can be fitted with nuclear warhead payloads, all point to highly destabilizing actions that enable surprise “knock out” attacks on allies with little warning.

North Korea will, in a few years, be able to hold most nations “at risk” from surprise attack with no or very little (i.e. 30 minutes) warning if their intentions and motivations as elucidated by top DPRK officials is taken seriously.

Many UNC sending states, like Canada, have not taken NK threats seriously and preferred to wish that they are neutral parties.

In the case of Canada, gullible and naïve officials and sycophants have taken assurances from DPRK officials at face value that Canada “is not a target” using fanciful “proof” like DPRK’s public “target maps” as “evidence”.

Like that Austrian corporal’s intentions and motives are interpreted in such a benign manner up to 1939.

Secretary Tillerson must marshal sufficient credible, disclosable intelligence at this meeting to persuade and align the allied consensus toward the actual present and future danger from DPRK.

At the same time, inform and educate the participants on US capabilities and viable, good, military options for eliminating the threat should diplomacy fail.

“Sending States” no longer just have their expeditionary forces at risk (if they send any this time), but their homelands are potentially all at risk from DPRK nuclear attack which can happen without warning.    It is no longer a simple matter to defend the Armistice but to defend all our homelands and to prevent extortion by a nuclear armed state backed by revisionist powers communist PRC and Russia.

The threat will only metalized over time as DPRK export WMDs worldwide.

Any discussion of enhancing pressure on North Korea with the goal to “bring them to the negotiating table” must be cognizant of the fact that such pressure can have the perverse effect of DPRK restarting the war with their nuclear arsenal — at any or all of the “sending states” and allies.

Recall this is how Japan responded to “pressure”, sanctions and the US oil embargo at Pearl Harbor. Japan was not deterred by the prospect of ultimately losing and thought they can negotiate a peace with a strong hand after their initial victories.

Could North Korea think similarly?

The question of increasing pressure will also expose the extent to which many allied nations have indifferently or not at all been serious about applying sanctions against DPRK.

For example, Canada, the co-host of this conference, have failed to implement any secondary sanctions on PRC and Russian entities and individuals (or those from other countries) that are well known NK agents or conduits to evade sanctions.

A self-study on this intentional Canadian “blind eye” is long overdue and essential before the conference.

Discussions need to be initiated for a consensus on mutual defense and mutual offense options should the pressure campaign fail to bring North Korea to the negotiating table expeditiously.

It is very hard to imagine a pressure campaign that is not backed by credible military force have any chance of success.

A sending states and allied consensus on the conditions and timeline for the use of force would be a welcome outcome and major achievement for this meeting.

Mutual defense require sending states that are very exposed and high value targets like Canada or New Zealand that are not presently participating in the Ballistic Missile Defense System to take the opportunity to expedite joining as quickly as possible.

Or be knowingly and willingly exposed to the risk and consequences as DPRK develop the capability to defeat or overwhelm defenses available to them.

All participating states need to be prepared for a discussion as to what they can and will contribute, including diplomatic, economic and military assets, for a lasting solution to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

A difficult and full agenda every bit or more important and critical as the Munich conference (1938).

Bursting the A2/AD Bubble

Last year, the Chief of Naval Operations had enough with the growing emphasis on what our adversary’s might be able to do as opposed to focusing on U.S. and allied modernizations to support the freedom of action of the liberal democracies.

Adm. John Richardson in October 2016 argued: “We’re going to scale down the mention of A2AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial).

“It’s a term bandied about pretty freely and lacks the precise definition it probably would benefit from, and that ambiguity sends a variety of signals. Specifics matter.”

“The concept is not anything new – the history of warfare is all about adversaries seeking to one-up each other.

“Use of the word “denial is too often taken as a fait accompli when I fact it really describes an aspiration.

“The reality is far more complex.”

Richardson said seeing potential conflict through just the proliferation of guided weapons or a fortress of “red arcs” around mainland China in which the U.S. could not operate was also less than helpful.

“It’s also true that these systems are proliferating, they’re spreading but the essential military problem that they represent is largely the same that we’ve appreciated and understood for sometime.”

“It doesn’t mean that they don’t present a challenge but we fixate on A2/AD we’re going to miss the boat on the next challenge. We’ll fail to consider that thing right around the corner that will entail a fundamental shift and takes the contest and competition to the next level.”

Earlier this year, Jyri Raitasalo, a lieutenant colonel, docent of strategy and security policy at the Finnish National Defence University and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, made a similar case as did the CNO.

His assessment was published on June 16, 2017 and posted on the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences website.

According to the mainstream western strategic narrative, Russia has since 2014 erected multiple Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) exclusion zones or “bubbles” around Europe and the Middle-East.

These bubbles supposedly hinder or even prevent western military action and troop deployments during a potential military crisis between the West (read: NATO) and Russia. Symbols of this new Russian A2AD policy can be found in modern long-range weapon-systems like the S-400 Triumf long-range surface to air missile system, SS-26 Stone (aka Iskander) short range ballistic missile system or the K-300P (aka Bastion-P) mobile coastal missile system.

It is true that Russia has been developing and fielding new long-range weapon systems lately. In addition it is true that these would pose a challenge to NATO forces in the case of a military conflict between Russia and the West.

However, I argue that the recent western A2AD discourse is as much a reflection of two decades of outright neglect concerning the development of real high-end military capability in Europe and within NATO against advanced state-based adversaries than it is about Russia’s new capabilities.

Russia has not developed a new brilliant policy or doctrine – either on the strategic or operational levels – that corresponds with the western notions of its A2AD capabilities.

Rather, in many cases Western states are projecting their own capability shortfalls onto Russia – shortfalls that are a product of over-focusing for almost two decades on multinational expeditionary military operations against weak third rate adversaries in the name of stability operations, military crisis management and counterinsurgency operations.

Bluntly put, for two decades many western states have focused on marginal military threats out-of-area to guide the maintenance and development of their militaries.

Now that Russia has brought back the traditional great-power perspective to international politics and military affairs in Europe and in the close proximity of Europe, many Western states have become surprised as they lack the capabilities – nationally and in many cases even in a multinational setting – to deter or fight conventional large-scale war. A2AD has become one western tool to manage the confusion and surprise that Russia’s actions have caused within the West.

Western A2AD narrative reveals how hollow many European military forces have become – when looked from the perspective of high-end warfighting. By deploying modern military systems to advance its interests Russia is allegedly doing something strategically brilliant and new. Within the West this deteriorating security situation has been called “the new normal”. Looking at the situation today it might be better described as the “old normal” – recognizing how great powers sooner or later drift to the opposing sides in international affairs.  The Cold War era great-power confrontation was a good example of that.

If anything, the two decades of the post-Cold War era (1990-2013) could in retrospect be called “the new abnormal”, at least according to the Western reading of this era. It was supposed to be a non-zero-sum world of managing common security threats in a globalizing and increasingly interdependent world. Former adversaries – Russia included – were engaged and cooperated with. This era coincided with the post-Cold War American unipolar moment – two decades of sheer western (read: American) dominance in international politics.

The events already in Georgia (2008) – but at the latest in Ukraine (2014) – brought a quick end to this western post-Cold war era strategic myth. Unfortunately during this 20+ years many western (read: European) states lost a good part of their military capabilities and the associated military ethos related to national and territorial defence by military forces.

The ongoing western A2AD discourse needs to be understood against this western predicament: having given up many of the high-end warfighting skills and capabilities, and faced with the resurgent (but very traditionally behaving) great-power Russia, western states need something that can explain away the conceptual surprise and the associated challenge that Russia’s actions have caused.

The western A2AD discourse has served precisely this function – it has facilitated the western states to come to terms with Russia’s confrontational actions, which have been contradictory to the post-Cold War era western outlook to international politics and strategic affairs.

At the heart of this western A2AD narrative are Russia’s new long-range military systems. They make easy headlines and their destructive potential can be easily represented by drawing circles on the map of Europe. As was reported in March 2015,

“The Iskander missiles deployment to Kaliningrad reflects Moscow’s readiness to raise the ante in response to NATO moves to deploy forces closer to Russia’s borders. The missiles, which are capable of hitting enemy targets up to 500 kilometers (310 miles away) with high precision, can be equipped with a nuclear or a conventional warhead. From Kaliningrad, they could reach several NATO member states.”

This kind of Iskander (or other) missile deployment news, focusing on the technical aspects of military systems, bring almost nothing new to the strategic equation in Europe. Russia (and the Soviet Union before its demise) has for decades had the possibility to target any city or military facility with conventional or nuclear warheads. Also, deploying mobile platforms has a sound military logic – mobile platforms are supposed to be moved and deployed where needed.

The down side of the western A2AD narrative is located in the fact that it has actually empowered Russia at the expense of the West. Today we face a situation where western media and even western statesmen react with frenzy whenever Russia deploys new military systems and by so doing creates new or reinforces its existing “A2AD bubbles”.

Iskander and S-400 Triumf launchers have become a way for Russia to communicate non-verbally its discontent about western actions. Moreover, Russia does not even have to actually deploy any “A2AD systems” in order to make a point. It is enough for Russia to declare its intent to deploy these systems. After such a declaration, Western media is guaranteed to deliver the message to a worldwide audience.

As an example, the Express published a story in November 2016 on an “ACT OF WAR: Putin deploys nuclear missiles IN EUROPE as he admits FURY at Nato expansion”. And the essence of the story was told upfront in the beginning of the piece: “AN ALARMING signal Vladimir Putin is preparing for war has come after his top military chiefs revealed the Kremlin is deploying much-feared Iskander and S-400 long-range missile defence systems deep inside Europe.”

The above-mentioned article relies on the mainstream way in the West to conceptualize one’s adversary’s military capability: focus only on the technical aspects of modern weapon-systems without any reflection about the dozens of ways to neutralize their “edge”.

For example, to thwart the combined threat posed by ballistic missiles and long-range air defence missiles – what in the western strategic parlance is called A2AD threat” – the following counter-measures can be used:

International cooperation, alliance-politics (expanding the area of operations, collective action/defence)

  • Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (analyze the threat, early warning),
  • Decentralization (multiply the number of targets, saturate the battlefield),
  • Deception (confuse the adversary),
  • Fortification (hardening targets to minimize losses),
  • Maneuver (difficulties for opponent to locate troops/systems),
  • Protecting the troops/systems (e.g. missile defence),
  • Taking out the threat directly (long-range fires, electronic warfare, special operations forces, cyber capabilities),
  • Minimizing the threat indirectly (degrading the opponents ability to control its systems, e.g. destroying C2-assets or degrading its electricity production),
  • Developing defensive systems (e.g. flares, chaff, HARMs, jammers, standoff capability, stealth, passive sensors), and
  • Developing TTPs (how to operate in a high-risk environment, e.g. tactical maneuver).

The list above is only indicative of the vast pool of strategic, operational, tactical and technical level means to counter the so-called A2AD systems or bubbles. But the bottom line is clear: focusing solely on the technical and/or tactical aspects of adversary’s military systems may make good headlines, but it does not by itself facilitate the formulation of sound strategy.

In addition, it should be noted that deploying military assets – any military assets – to the previously mentioned Kaliningrad is a real problem for Russian military planners or commanders, at least when the shooting war starts. Kaliningrad is a small exclave, surrounded by NATO member-states. Defending Kaliningrad without going nuclear is almost unimaginable.

The alternative for Russia would be a large-scale conventional military push west (and north from Belarus) in order to pre-empt any future military operation taking place from the area of the Baltic states. Even this would not be sufficient to secure the Kaliningrad area, as NATO would be able to stage forces using its strategic depth in Western Europe until sufficient reinforcements in terms of troop numbers and capabilities had arrived.

Much of the western A2AD narrative is located on the military-technical or tactical levels. It almost completely bypasses the operational, military strategic and grand strategic level thinking and logics. Being able to pinpoint A2AD bubbles on the map – containing some sophisticated long-range military systems – does not a good strategy make.

We would like to thank our partner, Hans Tino Hansen, for bringing this article to our attention.

And recently, one of the SLD team made a presentation highlighting the transition from slo mo to high intensity warfare and that can be read here:

The Shift from Slo Mo to High Intensity Warfare from ICSA, LLC