Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

25 April 2017

U.S. Eavesdropping Program Goes Silent

By The Daily Beast,
 

It’s long been considered one of the most important ways American spies gather information overseas. But in 2016, it apparently went dark.

Something a little funny might be going on in America’s most secretive court. According to the annual report for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), released April 20, the court didn’t authorize any surveillance last year under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—a controversial provision of the 1978 spy law.

24 April 2017

Checking the Pulse of American Tech

By Rebecca Keller and Matthew Bey

Uncertainty is building in the hallowed halls of America's finest research institutions -- about funding, about immigration, and about the next four years of policy under the new U.S. administration. (DAVID MCNEW/Getty Images)

For most of its history, the United States' seat at the forefront of innovation has gone unrivaled. Thanks to its natural geographic strength, ample access to capital, top-tier education and expansive government-funded research, the nation has pushed the boundaries of science like no other. But as any bodybuilder will tell you, true strength requires upkeep. And the proposed budget cuts of the newest U.S. administration have many American scientists — and Washington's foreign rivals — questioning whether the United States is about to lose its competitive edge.

Of course, America's executive branch doesn't have the authority to dictate government spending; Congress does. So as was true of most of his predecessors, President Donald Trump presented what was more of a policy wish list than a detailed accounting document to U.S. lawmakers in his March budget outline. Even so, his proposed cuts to the nearly $70 billion in research funding that the government provides each year have sent ripples of concern throughout the scientific and technical communities.

U.S. Oil in the Global Economy: Markets, Policy, and Politics


This note provides highlights from a one-day CSIS workshop held March 22, 2017, with government, industry, financial, and policy experts exploring the role of U.S. tight oil production in the global energy landscape. The workshop addressed a limited set of key issues concerning the role of U.S. oil in the global markets and is being followed by two related CSIS workshops dealing with societal and environmental risks in U.S. onshore development and the global natural gas markets.

Background: The rapid rise in unconventional oil output in the early part of this decade returned the United States to a prominent position as a major oil supplier. Over the course of the past 10 years, U.S. liquid production has risen by over 150 percent as net import dependence has fallen by over 60 percent. The United States is now the world’s largest exporter of refined petroleum products and in 2016/2017 became a net exporter of natural gas. The resource endowment coupled with the success of quick cycle development of light tight oil (LTO) continues to affect global oil markets.
Current Trends and Issues in the Global Oil Markets

To help set the scene for U.S. onshore production, three questions were addressed: 

What is the state of play in global oil markets? 

What is the status of U.S. onshore production? 

What role does U.S. onshore production play in the market? 

After two years of a low-price environment, a potentially bumpy market rebalance is underway.

Palantir's Relationship With America's Spies Has Been Worse Than You'd Think

By BuzzFeed

Palantir Technologies, the Silicon Valley data company co-founded by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, has developed an almost mythical reputation for its work building tools for the U.S. intelligence community. But Palantir has had a far rockier relationship with the nation’s top spy agencies than its image would let on, BuzzFeed News has learned.

As of summer 2015, the Central Intelligence Agency, a signature client, was “recalcitrant” and didn’t “like us,” while Palantir’s relationship with the National Security Agency had ended, Palantir CEO Alex Karp told staff in an internal video that was obtained by BuzzFeed News. The private remarks, made during a staff meeting, are at odds with a carefully crafted public image that has helped Palantir secure a $20 billion valuation and win business from a long list of corporations, nonprofits, and governments around the world.

“As many of you know, the SSDA’s recalcitrant,” Karp, using a Palantir codename for the CIA, said in the August 2015 meeting. “And we’ve walked away, or they walked away from us, at the NSA. Either way, I’m happy about that.”

23 April 2017

*** What a War with North Korea Looks Like

By George Friedman

In the last week, the possibility of war between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States has increased. It is necessary therefore to consider what such a war might look like. I am using the term war rather than merely American attacks on North Korean nuclear and missile program facilities because we have to consider the possibility of North Korea’s response and a more extended conflict.

Such a war would be based on North Korea’s decision to move its nuclear program to a stage where the U.S. and other countries conclude it is possible that North Korea is close to having a deliverable nuclear weapon. Given that the North Koreans could not survive a nuclear exchange, it is hard to understand why they would have moved their program to this point. The obvious reason for having a nuclear program is to use it as a bargaining tool. The reason for having a nuclear weapon would be as a deterrent to a foreign power seeking regime change in North Korea. The most dangerous period for North Korea is when it is close to having a weapon but does not yet have it. That is the period when an attack by an external force is more likely. It is the period before North Korea could counterattack. Pyongyang’s decision to deliberately send signals that it has a nuclear weapon increases the urgency of an attack. Its decision is odd, even if it already has one or two nuclear weapons.

How the Pentagon Plans to Beat Russia and China's Air Defenses in a War

Sebastien Roblin

U.S. warplanes flying over Syria today find themselves operating within the range of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles. While the U.S. military is unlikely to intentionally attack Russian forces in Syria, the situation highlights the importance of suppressing enemy air defenses—one major tactic U.S. flyers have long relied upon is radar jamming, or saturating enemy radars with “noise” and false signals so that they can’t track and fire upon friendly airplanes. The U.S. Navy has relied on the ALQ-99 jamming system for nearly half a century, even as opposing radars grew in ability. However, by the beginning of the next decade it will begin fielding the superior Next Generation Jammer, boasting significant electronic-attack and signal-intelligence capabilities.

The powerful ALQ-99 tactical jamming pod first entered U.S. Navy service in 1971, carried by the EA-6 Prowler, an electronic-warfare variant of the A-6 Intruder carrier-based attack plane with a four-man crew. The U.S. Air Force eventually supplemented the Prowler with faster and larger EF-111 Ravens, informally known as Spark Varks because of the intense static buildup their jammers generated. Both planes proved effective in suppressing air defenses in Iraq and Libya. However, the Raven was withdrawn from service early in 1998, as the imminent retirement of the F-111 fleet made it prohibitively expensive to operate. Seventeen years later, the Navy retired its aging EA-6s in favor of new EA-18G Growlers—special electronic-warfare variants of the F-18 Super Hornet. The two-seat Growlers are much faster and better armed, but must rely on automation to make up for the reduction in crew size.

** Checking The Pulse Of American Tech

By Rebecca Keller and Matthew Bey

For most of its history, the United States' seat at the forefront of innovation has gone unrivaled. Thanks to its natural geographic strength, ample access to capital, top-tier education and expansive government-funded research, the nation has pushed the boundaries of science like no other. But as any bodybuilder will tell you, true strength requires upkeep. And the proposed budget cuts of the newest U.S. administration have many American scientists - and Washington's foreign rivals - questioning whether the United States is about to lose its competitive edge.

Above image: Uncertainty is building in the hallowed halls of America's finest research institutions -- about funding, about immigration, and about the next four years of policy under the new U.S. administration. (DAVID MCNEW/Getty Images)

Of course, America's executive branch doesn't have the authority to dictate government spending; Congress does. So as was true of most of his predecessors, President Donald Trump presented what was more of a policy wish list than a detailed accounting document to U.S. lawmakers in his March budget outline. Even so, his proposed cuts to the nearly $70 billion in research funding that the government provides each year have sent ripples of concern throughout the scientific and technical communities.

Investment in science and technology, along with supportive policies and a smart regulatory environment, is crucial to staying competitive in today's globalized world. Some factors determining a country's success, such as geography and infrastructure, are less malleable to the changes wrought by individual leaders. But others, such as the availability of funding, ebb and flow based on the party in power. And if Trump's suggested cuts are approved, they could disproportionately impact some sectors - climate science, alternative energy and biomedical research, to name a few - more than others.

The Losers

Though Trump's budget proposal isn't passable in its current form, it still provides a glimpse of the sectors most at risk under his tenure. The National Institutes of Health - the cornerstone of the United States' biomedical research endeavors - would see its funding cut by $1.2 billion this year, and again by nearly $6 billion in 2018 (a 20 percent reduction of its current budget). These cuts, along with others like them, would be particularly devastating to university researchers who rely on government financing to support their world-class programs. After all, basic research (which often doesn't have immediate applications but is vital to technological development nonetheless) routinely struggles to attract the interest of the private sector because it offers no obvious, rapid return on investment.

Despite having proposed cuts to other agencies that support U.S. research, including the National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Trump's suggested trims to the Department of Energy stand to have the greatest geopolitical impact. The budget on the table eliminates the loan guarantees for the innovative technology and vehicle manufacturing programs of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. These projects support the development of several different technologies, including automated vehicles, green energy, batteries, cold fusion and upgrades to the electrical grid, that stand to change the face of geopolitics as we know it. Scaling back the government's support for these initiatives will not immediately set the United States back among its peers, but it will make maintaining its lead all the more difficult. That said, the budget is also based on the intention of reducing regulation and eliminating excess spending - inefficiencies and waste that certainly exist in the organizations in question.

The Winners

Not everyone would lose out under Trump's belt-tightening measures. In fact, some, such as the Defense Department, even stand to gain. Military research and fields with direct military applications such as materials science will no doubt continue to receive generous funding during the new president's tenure. Though the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - the departmental branch responsible for conducting cutting-edge research - wasn't specifically mentioned in the White House's proposal, its prospects are much rosier than those of other government organizations. The same may be true of the country's space programs; a number of NASA's planetary science and climate programs are on the list of cutbacks, but those focused on space exploration have gone untouched, and Trump has publicly declared his support for certain space programs before.

The Realities

When all is said and done, many of the White House's deepest cuts are unlikely to come to pass - at least to their fullest extent - because they have already generated substantial pushback from the very lawmakers whose buy-in is needed for their approval. But in this case, outcome may be less important than intent. The motives of Trump's budget are clear: to trim government excess and address long-standing inefficiencies. These goals were key talking points on the president's campaign trail last year, and the "skinny" budget they have yielded signals the new administration's plan to drastically shrink the U.S. bureaucracy.

The executive branch has more power to do that in some areas than in others. Departmental restructuring and staffing, for instance, are under the president's purview, even if funding appropriations are not. These avenues could certainly enable the White House to curb or even remove specific government-funded initiatives that don't align with its policy goals. (Climate science has been pinpointed as a particularly vulnerable field under the current administration.) The same could be said of executive orders, which Trump has already proved willing to wield in order to reshape regulation and immigration policy, albeit with varying degrees of success.

The Workers

Funding can't guarantee innovation, nor does its absence ensure failure. Countries also have to factor human capital into the equation, including their ability to bring the best and brightest to their shores. But Trump ran for the presidency on the promise of creating jobs for American workers, a priority that could blunt the United States' competitive edge in certain sectors such as technology.

For instance, early on in his term, Trump issued an executive order that eliminated the option of expediting H-1B visas, the bulk of which go to foreign computer programmers and software developers. The United States' software and hardware sectors rely most heavily on this specialized class of documentation to attract exceptional and highly educated employees. Yet with little fanfare, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent a memo reiterating that entry-level computer programmers were ineligible for H-1B visas during its most recent round of applications. Trump then signed an executive order requiring the delivery of reports on changes meant to improve the H-1B visa program.

Ironically, though these measures were meant to protect the domestic workforce, they may end up doing more harm than good by pushing the affected jobs offshore. India's citizens and companies receive the most H-1B visas in the world; firms may relocate more of their programming and software jobs there as they adjust to stricter policies in Washington. Mexico and Canada have similarly positioned themselves to serve as alternative employment locations within the NAFTA market. It may not be long before the United Kingdom and Ireland follow suit, leaning more heavily on their status as English-speaking labor locales. (After all, most of the basic coding languages in computer science are in English.)

The Response

Uncertainty is building in the hallowed halls of the United States' finest research institutions - about funding, about immigration and about the next four years in general. At an individual level, researchers' jobs and programs are in jeopardy, as are the careers of many young graduate students as funding and teaching positions risk getting cut.

But this trepidation reaches well beyond the ivory towers and into national tech hubs such as Silicon Valley. Despite PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel's initial role in the Trump administration, there is a notable lack of tech representatives on the president's team of advisers. And at this crucial stage in the U.S. tech sector's development, delays and setbacks could leave the United States at a disadvantage down the line. The high barriers to entry that ensured exclusivity in the world of software 15 years ago no longer exist, and as costs of innovation have plummeted, the field of competitors has become much more crowded.

Easier access to the market, coupled with tighter U.S. restrictions on attracting talent from abroad, has increased the risk that innovation in tech will begin to center on other countries. As the political tides shift in the United States, other nations may take the opportunity to bolster research efforts of their own - though most will remain confined to certain sectors. As it stands, no other country has been able to replicate the massive, broad-based university system that draws students from around the globe to America. (According to The Best Schools' ranking, 85 of the world's top 100 universities are in the United States.) So while figures such as French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron have pointed to their countries as alternative research hubs, they cannot even begin to compete with the vast educational and scientific foundation the United States has already built.

In fact, the only country that could feasibly hope to someday match the United States' pervasive success in technological development is China. In some areas, it has already begun to mount that challenge. But China's universities, state funding programs and labor pool still have a long way to go before they can be considered to be on par with the United States' - a process that will easily take more than four to eight years to complete.

And so, the United States will keep its wide lead over its rivals abroad, even if the lead narrows somewhat in specific fields. Because in the years ahead, changes to funding will mean changes to the priorities of the U.S. tech sector. Faced with less government financing, private U.S. companies will have to shoulder more of the costs of progress on their own. This will not bring innovation to a standstill, but it will bring the ability to turn a profit and recoup costs front and center in developmental decision-making. As a result, the United States may have little choice but to join its peers in focusing its attention on fewer scientific sectors - opening the door to other nations eager to close the gap.

"Checking the Pulse of American Tech" is republished with permission of Stratfor.

What Really Is The ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Order And Will It Impact Indian Professionals?

Srikanth Ramakrishnan

The ‘Buy American, Hire American’ order would not have any direct effect on H-1B visas in the short term, but is rather being enforced to encourage government agencies to give priority to American companies when awarding contracts.

A lot has been said about United States President Donald Trump’s new executive order titled ‘Buy American and Hire American’ (BAHA) order. There is a lot of apprehension about its impact on H-1B visas and employment of foreign nationals in the United States (US). So what exactly is happening?

Here is a short guide to the entire issue.

What is an H-1B visa and how is it issued?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows an employer in the US to employ foreigners in speciality professions for a period of up to three years. In case the employee is no longer employed with the employer who sponsored the visa, he/she must either change the visa type or find another employer or leave the country.

PLOWED UNDER U.S. Farmers, Who Once Fed the World, Are Overtaken by New Powers

By Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge

GREENVILLE, Ill.—On a pancake-flat stretch of land not far from the Mississippi River, Illinois farmer Jerry Gaffner thumbs through weather forecasts and crop reports on his tablet computer, searching for clues about when to market his soybean crop.

The data streaming in isn’t from Illinois or even the American Midwest. It is from half a world away in Brazil, where farmers are harvesting what’s expected to be a record soybean crop. With 43% of the export market—up from just 12% 30 years ago—Brazil can sway global prices with a weather hiccup or transportation snarl, spurring U.S. farmers to sell crops and capture profits, or to bunker grain and hold off until prices improve.

Mr. Gaffner pays close attention to South American conditions because of the new reality facing U.S. farmers: America’s agricultural dominance has eroded.

Brazil overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest soybean exporter in 2012-13, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s projected to be the second-largest corn exporter, on the heels of the U.S., this season. As of the last crop year, Russia now beats America in shipments of wheat.

It’s a reversal for a country that has long identified as the world’s bread basket. America’s share of global corn, soybean and wheat exports has shrunk by more than half since the mid-1970s, the USDA says. In soybeans, the most exported U.S. crop, U.S. supplies make up about 40% of world exports, down from more than 70% three decades ago.

21 April 2017

U.S. Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress America and its Alternatives

By Hal Brands

American grand strategy will clearly have a more nationalistic flavor in years to come, but what might that entail? One model is "Fortress America," which represents a path to superpower suicide and a disordered world, but there is a more benign and constructive version, asserting U.S. interests without dismantling the post-war order. It looks like this...

Thoughts on Syrian Strike


If you haven't seen that video yet, the stare she gives the Russian ambassador makes it must see viewing. I was impressed.

When President Obama gave Syria a red line on chemical weapons back in 2013, and Assad crossed that red line, you may remember I was quite uncomfortable with how everything had gone down. I was uncomfortable with the President giving the red line, and I was uncomfortable with the idea the US would have to attack Syria. President Obama took a lot of criticism for addressing that incident in 2013 with diplomacy, but the United States ultimately removed a considerable amount of chemical weapons from Syria via MV Cape Ray and over time I came to appreciate the decision by President Obama. Until this past week, there had been no clear evidence of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime in Syria against civilians, including for the entire remainder of the Obama administration. In my mind, what President Obama did at the time was the right thing.

But when news broke about chemical weapons use in Syria this week, particularly in the context of what is happening on the Korean peninsula, in my mind President Trump had a very serious choice to make. He either attacked Syria for breaking their agreement with President Obama, or the United States retreated from the role as the leader of the global security construct the world has enjoyed since the end of the cold war.

20 April 2017

*** The American Government’s Secret Plan for Surviving the End of the World

BY MARC AMBINDER

Among the greatest foreign-policy dilemmas faced by former President Jimmy Carter is one that has never been publicly aired but is gaining new relevance. It concerns nuclear war, and how the U.S. government would survive it. Carter’s decisions remain classified, but documents newly declassified by the CIA, along with the archives at several presidential libraries, provide a new window into the White House’s preparations for an imminent apocalypse.

Today, such an apocalypse could be triggered by any number of nuclear-armed states, including North Korea and Pakistan. During Carter’s presidency, such anxieties were focused squarely on the Soviet Union. It was during that period that military planners in both the Soviet Union and United States began to grapple with what until then had been an unthinkable heresy: abandoning the Mutually Assured Destruction catechism that had governed global order since the 1950s and preparing for surviving an all-out nuclear war.

Carter and his White House were interested in more specific questions. If the presidency could survive after a nuclear war, what exactly would it do afterward? How could the surviving commander in chief be identified? Who would identify him? How would he fulfill the three main functions of the presidency: to be the chief executive of the government, the head of state, and the commander in chief of its armed forces?

US Wary of Russian Role in Afghanistan as Moscow Holds Talks

Ayaz Gul 

FILE - Afghan security forces take a position during a gunbattle with Taliban forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017.

STATE DEPARTMENT / ISLAMABAD — 

As the United States and Russia clash on Syria, another war-torn nation could play out as a renewed theater for the U.S.-Russia rivalry: Afghanistan.

Thursday, U.S. forces dropped what was being called the largest non-nuclear bomb on a reported Islamic State militant complex in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

The U.S. strike came a day before Russia is to host multi-nation talks on prospects for Afghan security and national reconciliation, the third such round since December.

Eleven countries are set to take part in Friday's discussions in Moscow, including Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. Former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to attend for the first time.

The Afghan Taliban said Thursday that they would not take part.

"We cannot call these negotiations [in Moscow] as a dialogue for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA. "This meeting stems from political agendas of the countries who are organizing it. This has really nothing to do with us, nor do we support it."

The spokesman reiterated insurgents' traditional stance that U.S.-led foreign troops would have to leave Afghanistan before any conflict resolution talks could be initiated.

The United States was also invited to the Moscow talks, but Washington declined, saying it had not been informed of the agenda beforehand and was unclear about the meeting's motives.

FILE - Afghan security forces and NATO troops investigate at the site of an explosion near the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, Nov. 11, 2016.

Undermining NATO

American military officials suspect Russia's so-called Afghan peace diplomacy is aimed at undermining NATO and have accused Moscow of arming the Taliban.

"I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to [the Taliban], in terms of weapons or other things that may be there," U.S. Central Command Chief General Joseph Votel told members of the House Armed Services Committee in March. He said he thought Russia was "attempting to be an influential party in this part of the world."

For its part, Moscow has denied that it is supporting the Afghan Taliban.

"These fabrications are designed, as we have repeatedly underlined, to justify the failure of the U.S. military and politicians in the Afghan campaign.There is no other explanation," said Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin's special envoy to Afghanistan.

In a separate statement Thursday, the Taliban also denied receiving military aid from Russia, though the group defended "political understanding" with Afghanistan's neighbors and regional countries.

Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said reports of Moscow supporting the Taliban were not new.

"The official Russian position on the Taliban is that they see it as a group that could help fight ISIS, but this is something that even some Taliban spokesmen have denied, since ISIS and the Taliban reached an understanding about a year ago," Borshchevskaya said.

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 23, 2016.

Putin's motive

She said that if the allegations of Russian support for the Taliban were true, Russian President Vladimir Putin was most likely motivated by his desire to undermine the West.

"Certainly one motivation could be taking advantage of regional chaos, and to assert Russia's influence at the expense of the U.S., taking advantage of a U.S. retreat from the Middle East and elsewhere and [to] undermine NATO and the U.S." Borshchevskaya said, "This has been Putin's pattern."

U.S. President Donald Trump has made few public statements on Afghanistan, and his administration is still weighing whether to deploy more American troops to try to reverse the course of the war.

Thursday's strike in Nangarhar marked a major step by the Trump administration in Afghanistan, in which there has been a U.S. military presence since 2001.

During a March 31 NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed U.S. support for the alliance's mission in Afghanistan.

"NATO's work in Afghanistan remains critical. The United States is committed to the Resolute Support Mission and to our support for Afghan forces," Tillerson said.

Some 13,000 NATO troops, including 8,400 Americans, are part of the support mission, tasked with training Afghanistan's 300,000-member national security and defense forces.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center, said he expected continuity in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan between the Obama and Trump administrations.

"The statement made by Tillerson at a recent NATO meeting could well have been uttered by an Obama official," Kugelman said. "The focus on training, advising and assisting and the call for reconciliation mirror exactly the Obama administration's priorities."

FILE - U.S. Army General John Nicholson Campbell, commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, takes the reins in a change-of-command ceremony in Kabul, March 2, 2016.
More troops

But the South Asia analyst noted one important policy difference: U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

"Obama was an anti-war president who was never comfortable keeping large numbers of troops in Afghanistan. Trump is unlikely to be as constrained," Kugelman said.

"Look for Trump to send in several thousand more troops," he said. "This is a request that the generals in Afghanistan have made for years, and Trump is more likely to defer to the U.S. military's wishes on this than Obama was."

As for Russian involvement in Afghanistan following the former Soviet Union's occupation of the South Asian country from 1979 to 1989, Kugelman said that even if Russia were engaging the Taliban to undercut U.S. influence, the two nations ultimately hope for the same outcome in Afghanistan.

"The ironic thing is that Washington and Moscow both want the same endgame in Afghanistan — an end to the war, preferably through a reconciliation process — but they simply can't get on the same page about how to proceed," Kugelman said.

18 April 2017

** How America and China Could Stumble to War

Graham Allison

WOULD A Chinese leader barely in control of his own country after a long civil war dare attack a superpower that had crushed Japan to end World War II five years earlier by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? As American troops pushed North Korean forces toward the Chinese border in 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur could not imagine so. But Mao Zedong did. MacArthur was dumbstruck. Chinese forces rapidly beat American troops back to the line that had divided North and South Korea when the war began. That thirty-eighth parallel continues to mark the border between the two Koreas today. By the time the war ended, nearly three million had perished, including thirty-six thousand American troops.

Similarly, in 1969, Soviet leaders could not imagine that China would react to a minor border dispute by launching a preemptive strike against a power with overwhelming nuclear superiority. But that is precisely what Mao did when he started the Sino-Soviet border war. The gambit showed the world China’s doctrine of “active defense.” Mao sent an unmistakable message: China would never be intimidated, not even by adversaries that could wipe it off the map.

In the years ahead, could a collision between American and Chinese warships in the South China Sea, a drive toward national independence in Taiwan or jockeying between China and Japan over islands on which no one wants to live spark a war between China and the United States that neither wants? It may seem hard to imagine—the consequences would be so obviously disproportionate to any gains either side could hope to achieve. Even a non-nuclear war conducted mostly at sea and in the air could kill thousands of combatants on both sides. Moreover, the economic impact of such a war would be massive. A 2016 RAND study found that, after just one year, American GDP could decline by up to 10 percent and Chinese GDP by as much as 35 percent—setbacks on par with the Great Depression. And if a war did go nuclear, both nations would be utterly destroyed. Chinese and American leaders know they cannot let that happen.

A Discussion on National Security with CIA Director Mike Pompeo


JOHN J. HAMRE: Thank you. I rarely get applause when I come out. I’m sorry, no, I – (laughter). Welcome. Thank you. We’re delighted to have all of you here. 

My name is John Hamre. I’m the president at CSIS. I told the director that we’ve got standing room only, and I said let’s not wait another 15 minutes to watch the clock come; let’s get going. And he said of course, let’s do that. And typical of his character, he’s always getting at it. And I want to say thank you for coming, sir. 

When we have events like this, we always start with a little safety announcement. I am responsible for your safety, so follow my instructions if I ask you to do anything. I’m not worried about the director. He’s got guys with guns here, so we’re going to take it that’s going to be OK. (Laughter.) But I am worried about you. And if I have to ask you to leave the room, the exits are right behind us. These three are exits. The stairs closest to the – or to the stairs going down is right through here. We take two left-hand turns. We’re going to go over to the courtyard of National Geographic, I will order ice cream, and we’ll sing a song of praise for our salvation, OK? (Laughter, applause.) 

Anyway, everything’s going to be fine. Just follow me if I have to ask you to do something. 

We’re very honored that Director Pompeo has chosen to come. When his people called and said he wants to come on Thursday afternoon before Easter weekend, I said, what the hell? Who is going to come to this, you know? (Laughter.) And lots of people are here, obviously, because this is an enormous opportunity to hear the director. We’re very privileged to have him here. 

I would say that we’re very fortunate as a country that Director Pompeo is willing to serve at this time. His life has been about service. He was the highest-ranking cadet at West Point when he graduated from West Point, and his entire life, career has been about service. He’s been in and out of government and private sector. Fortunately, at this hour he’s willing to serve all of us as the director of the CIA. 

16 April 2017

*** Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the U.S. Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid



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Executive Summary

In pledging to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS), U.S. President Donald J. Trump looks set to make counter-terrorism a centrepiece of his foreign policy. His administration’s determination against groups that plot to kill Americans is understandable, but it should be careful when fighting jihadists not to play into their hands. The risks include angering local populations whose support is critical, picking untimely or counter-productive fights and neglecting the vital role diplomacy and foreign aid must play in national security policy. Most importantly, aggressive counter-terrorism operations should not inadvertently fuel other conflicts and deepen the disorder that both ISIS and al-Qaeda exploit.

MIRAGES OF WAR: SIX ILLUSIONS FROM OUR RECENT CONFLICTS

DAVID BARNO AND NORA BENSAHEL

More than 15 years of continuous combat has profoundly shaped the ways in which the U.S. military thinks about war. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have deeply colored the ways in which those who have served there now think about the very character of war — especially among the Army, Marine, and special operations forces that have borne the brunt of the fighting. Combat experience is invaluable for leaders who are responsible for fighting wars and advising policymakers on the use of force. But it also produces subconscious biases and blind spots, which may prevent them from thinking clearly and creatively about the types of wars they will fight in the future.

Predicting the future — including the character of future wars — is an incredibly difficult and often unsuccessful endeavor because there is always too much uncertainty and too little information. As Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have extensively documented, systemic and unconscious biases affect how people process information, especially when trying to make sense of complexity. One of the most important biases is called (jargon alert!) the availability heuristic: The more easily an example comes to mind, the more likely we are to think it will represent the future. Since we typically remember recent experiences more clearly than past ones — especially very intense experiences like combat — we often subconsciously assume that the future will resemble a linear extension of those past.

As this wartime generation continues to ascend to the most senior ranks of the U.S. military, they will have two major responsibilities: to provide military advice to policymakers and to make strategic choices about weapons and force structure that will determine how the United States will fight its future wars. However, their view of the future may be deeply affected by their past experiences in ways that they may not even be aware of. We believe that there are at least six illusions drawn from the recent wars that may seriously distort how these combat-experienced leaders think about and plan for future conflicts.

U.S. military orders two more surveillance satellites to roam geosynchronous orbit

Stephen Clark

Orbital ATK started work on two more surveillance satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s geosynchronous neighborhood watch program late last year as the military aims to expand its ability to track and investigate other objects in the heavily-trafficked belt more than 22,000 miles over the equator.

Orbital ATK disclosed it started working on the GSSAP 5 and 6 satellites in a quarterly earnings call with investment analysts March 8.
The target launch date for the fifth and sixth spacecraft in the Air Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, has not been released. The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center said April 5 that the value of the satellite contract with Orbital ATK was classified.

New satellites based on existing designs typically take two or three years to build and ready for launch.

Two United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rockets deployed the first four GSSAP spacecraft in July 2014 and August 2016, hurling the satellites directly into a circular geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator on missions lasting more than six hours and requiring three burns of the Delta 4’s upper stage RL10 engine.

Claire Leon, head of the Air Force’s launch enterprise directorate, said last month that the rights to launch the next set of GSSAP satellites will be competed between ULA and SpaceX, but she did not offer a timetable for the flight.

The GSSAP satellites lurk near the ring of geosynchronous satellites that fly around Earth at the same speed of the planet’s rotation, allowing craft to remain over a fixed geographic location. Commercial companies and defense agencies use the orbit for communications, missile warning and signals intelligence missions.

SYRIA STRIKE OPENS DOORS FOR U.S. STRATEGY

Genevieve Casagrande

The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.

Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike, indicating that the U.S. can still shape European policies toward Syria. President Trump may have an opportunity to leverage European support for counter-Assad measures to reengage Europe on the need to confront Russia in Syria. Actors deeper within the Russo-Iranian orbit, including Egypt and Iraq’s Shi’a political parties, expressed caution.

MARITIME POWER AND U.S. STRATEGIC INFLUENCE IN ASIA

PATRICK CRONIN

Three decades ago, Gen. Liu Huaqing, the military commander who modernized China’s navy declared, “Without an aircraft carrier, I will die with my eyelids open.” When he passed away in 2011, China had finally started building an aircraft carrier and it took to the seas the next year. If recent trends were to hold, it is doubtful whether the U.S. Navy could preserve its longstanding supremacy for sea control — especially within Asia’s first island chain — even a decade or two into the future.

The loss of U.S. global maritime dominance would put at risk fundamental national interests, effectively most of what we as Americans take for granted. Certainly, it would call into question the ability of the United States to command offshore lines of communication. That perceived or actual loss of sea control would undermine the movement of the U.S. armed forces in support of operational plans to counter provocation and proliferation, preserve the independence of democratic allies and partners, ensure the free flow of commerce, and keep potential adversaries on their back foot and far from our shores.

Yet by all appearances American maritime power is steadily eroding. Partly this is a natural consequence of structure: new rising centers of power resulting from a worldwide redistribution of wealth and technology. But we cannot ignore agency. China — historically a land power — has clearly and deliberately sought to challenge U.S. maritime power. The rise of China’s blue water navy is backed by a formidable precision long-range strike capability and key enablers in cyber and outer space, all in turn supported by comprehensive instruments of power. This trend, which can be likened to America overtaking British seapower, should capture the attention of U.S. officials and, to the extent they still exist, strategic planners. The United States is being outmaneuvered in China’s near seas. The resulting pressure to fall back could result in severe limits on future U.S. power projection in the world’s most consequential region — what Nicholas Spykman called the “Asiatic Mediterranean.”