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

10 August 2017

The Americans Are Back: F-16 for the IAF and F/A-18 for the Indian Navy


Summary: Because combat aviation is steadily moving towards the dominance of stealthy platforms, India should be seeking to leverage these purchases towards the development or the acquisition of fifth-generation fighters.

During the last year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN) confirmed what must have been the worst kept secret in New Delhi: that the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, for all its achievements, was unsuitable as a strike-fighter for their near-term modernisation requirements.

Where the IAF was concerned, the request for information (RFI) for a new single-engine fighter issued in the United States, Russia, and Sweden in October 2016 marked a further twist in its long-running saga to complete the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) acquisition that first began in 2001. After the aborted competition led to an off-the-shelf purchase of just 36 Rafales in 2015 — instead of the 126 aircraft originally intended — the question of how the IAF would overcome the deficit of the 90 remaining fighters was still unanswered. There were some in India who argued that the IAF should jettison the MMRCA requirement altogether and fill out the remainder of the force with more Su-30s at the high-end and additional Tejas fighters at the low-end.

Network Take: U.S. Must Commit to the “Long Haul” in Afghanistan

As President Donald Trump struggles to find a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke to two experts — retired Lieutenant General Guy Swan, and retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — to get their respective insights on the debates surrounding the long-delayed plan and what the president should be worrying about as he looks to approve a blueprint for the conflict the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has called a “stalemate.”

The Cipher Brief: How would you assess the current debate within the administration over what the Afghanistan strategy should be?

Admiral Sandy Winnefeld: Welcome to the NFL. Many similar debates were held within the Obama administration, so it is no surprise that there are strongly opposed factions in this administration. From what I understand, the president is starting by asking very important questions regarding the relevance of Afghanistan to U.S. national security interests. It is his job to do so, and it goes without saying that the greater the intersection of Afghanistan with those interests, the more we would be willing to commit — treasure, blood, opportunity cost — to protect them. 

On the one hand, I believe the president senses that the military is committed to Afghanistan because it hates unfinished business and doesn't want to walk away — and that the national security advisor and others are passionate counter-insurgency practitioners who are immersed in the problem.

How Russia Is Using LinkedIn As A Tool Of War Against Its U.S. Enemies

By Bryan MacDonald

One night in mid-March, Alan Malcher, a British military veteran, dropped into the Queen’s Arms, a working-class pub in north London. He took a seat at the bar and ordered his customary pint of Foster’s. Within a few minutes, a stranger sidled up, ordered a drink and started a conversation. He soon brought up Russian President Vladimir Putin and began saying positive things about the Moscow-backed separatist civil war in Ukraine.

“He was going on about Putin being a strong leader,” Malcher recalls. “Somebody to admire.” The stranger’s comments, delivered with a thick Slavic accent, made Malcher’s security antennae vibrate: He had recently joined a Washington, D.C.–based think tank involved in combatting Russia’s stealthy infiltration of American social media. So when the stranger made passing reference to Malcher’s army service, he felt a twinge of apprehension. “There’s no way he could have known that except via LinkedIn,” Malcher says, referencing the professional online networking site where he and other critics of Moscow had been active in international affairs discussion groups. An expert in information warfare, Malcher reasoned that the Kremlin had dispatched the stranger to the Queen’s Arms with a message: We know everything about you. Watch your step.

9 August 2017

Finding a Realistic Middle Way for the U.S. in Afghanistan

Steven Metz

While not as dangerous as Iran and North Korea, Afghanistan remains one of America’s thorniest and most frustrating security challenges. Since the George W. Bush administration intervened in that country after the attacks of 9/11, the United States has tried to create an Afghan government and train security forces that could stabilize the country and eradicate extremist organizations like al-Qaida that had been given sanctuary there under Taliban rule. The idea was that after some period of international help, the government and security forces of Afghanistan would be able to stand on their own. 

Unfortunately this has not worked. While many Afghans have fought extremism with extraordinary bravery and some of the country’s leaders have pursued visionary policies, the political class—riven by factionalism, corruption and ineffectiveness—has failed to create a politically and economically viable nation or defeat the Pakistan-based Taliban.

The American public began losing patience with Afghanistan several years ago. Despite this, when former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he opted for a temporary surge in U.S. military forces—to a peak of roughly 100,000—and continued support for the Afghan government in the hopes this would convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the conflict. This was probably worth a try, but given the Afghan government’s corruption and ineffectiveness, the Taliban’s deep roots and persistence, and Pakistan’s continued support for the extremists, the policy failed. Obama subsequently drew down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to their current levels of roughly 8,400, but success is no closer today than it was when he first set out to shape the conflict’s outcome.

America's Endless Search for a Strategy

Harvey M. Sapolsky

Mad Dog Mattis is at it again. The truth-teller to Marines, now secretary of defense, was asked: where is the long-promised revised strategy for Afghanistan? In response, he said it was slow in appearing because “strategy is hard.” Congress, too, is searching for strategic clarity as it just empaneled yet another bipartisan group to propose a framework for a new grand strategy. And nearly every pundit vying for your time agrees. We need a clear strategy and good measures for its achievement, so that we know what weapons to buy and where to pick fights, they often say.

Despite the promises, the panels and the pronouncements, a grand strategy for the United States, on par with the Cold War’s containment and Germany’s unconditional surrender during World War II, remains elusive. It is elusive because such a strategy requires a clear enemy—a nation or an alliance that threatens our survival. And there is no agreement on who is our enemy or if we really have one. Is radical Islam an existential threat to the United States? Do we really need to worry that much about a resurgent Russia? Is a China that grows richer a danger? Do we care that much about North Korea?

Absent a rival on the scale and power of the now dead Soviet Union, the United States is a very secure country. We are the richest country in the world, protected by two big oceans and a military that is second to none. Our population is big (we are the third most populous nation) and resourceful, claiming the leadership in nearly every line of science and technology. And we spend a fortune on our defense, and have done so for decades.

5 August 2017

How the United States and China Could Avoid a Trade War

The markets are undervaluing the growing risk of trade protectionism under the Trump administration. Since he considered running for U.S. president in 1988, Donald Trump has changed political parties at least five times and has switched positions on hot button issues including abortion and gun control. But he has been remarkably consistent in declaring that trade deficits matter and voicing support for managed trade.

For his supporters, there is no more keenly felt political touchstone. National polling shows that “bargaining with global companies to keep jobs in America” has received 75 percent approval in Trump counties—higher than “dealing” with North Korea (68 percent) or getting a conservative justice on the Supreme Court (38 percent).

Trump’s electoral interests reinforce his policy beliefs. Although he lost the popular vote by a margin of 2.1 percentage points, he gained the presidency by winning most of the toss-up states. He won 75 electoral votes in states where the winning margin was 1.2 percent or less. These included key steel-producing states—Michigan (which Trump won by 0.3 percent), Wisconsin (0.7 percent), and Pennsylvania (0.7 percent).

After the inaugural U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue closed on July 19 with no meaningful progress, Trump said: “They’re dumping steel and destroying our steel industry, they’ve been doing it for decades and I’m stopping it. There are two ways—quotas and tariffs. Maybe I’ll do both.”

Russia, the United States, and the Middle East

We don’t know much about what was said when U.S. President Donald Trump sat across from Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit on July 7, but we do know they talked a lot about the Middle East. By his own account, Trump told Putin,"There's so much killing in Syria. We got to solve Syria."

Russia has been playing a more active role in the Middle East in the last five years, and before committing to strategic cooperation with Russia, it is helpful to judge Russia’s objectives and strategies in the region.

It is easier to grasp Russian strategy by contrasting it with Chinese strategy. China has a large stake in the region’s trajectory, relying on the Middle East for more than 60 percent of its imported energy. China has an expanding economic footprint, as trade and investment increase and Chinese contractors grab a multi-billion dollar share of infrastructure projects. Despite its rising interests, China’s quite evident ambition is to expand its economic footprint without taking the expensive step of expanding its security footprint. China seeks to complement the U.S. security presence with its own economic presence, not diminish it. Widespread interest in Chinese goods and Chinese know-how mean China is often welcomed warmly by host governments.

2 August 2017

Baahubali to masala tea: India 101 for U.S. diplomats

Varghese K. George

The Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department trains the largest contingent of diplomats in the world. Varghese K. George spends a day with U.S. diplomats preparing to take up positions in India, and their trainers

Over the last three months, Phuong Nguyen has learned a lot of Tamil, a thing or two about Dravidian politics and has figured out why Kattappa killed Baahubali. She has watched the multi-language blockbuster Baahubali 2 thrice. This afternoon, she and three other U.S. Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) learning Tamil at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) before deployment to Chennai are discussing the weather there, aided by a video clip of a weather report from a Tamil news channel. “Enakku veppam pidikkum (I like the heat),” says Greg Bauer, an Iowan who had earlier worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cambodia. “In Chennai it is 105º (Fahrenheit) today,” the instructor told him, in a promising tone, last week.

The contingent is relishing their Tamil films and can’t wait to be in Chennai to test their language skills and smell the filter coffee. “He has even started teaching us lessons from the Thirukkural,” Nguyen says of Pandiyaraju Arumugan, the Tamil instructor. “I have really enjoyed learning about Dravidian language, culture, and history,” adds the fresh FSO recruit who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a five-year-old. It helps that Arumugan, from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, has shrunken his Dravidian identity to ‘Raju’, in a concession to the American tongue. “Raju is wonderful and very open in sharing his wisdom and culture,” says Nguyen.

1 August 2017

Will America Challenge China's Sweeping Sovereignty Claims?

Joseph A. Bosco

Experts are second-guessing the dangers associated with freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Over the last decade, China has used its Nine-Dash Line to claim sovereigntyover virtually the entire South China Sea. The country has backed up its sweeping sovereignty claims with a series of increasingly aggressive seizures of national features and by constructing artificial islands.

The Obama administration responded by authorizing three putative Freedom of Navigation Operations, known as FONOPs, which actually made matters worse. That is because during the three operations U.S. ships simply transited through the waters that China has claimed as its territorial seas as if quickly making “innocent passages” in and out of the area. There was no lingering, no maneuvering, no exercises and the fire-control radars on the ships were off—just as if they were steaming through the waters off Shanghai. That effectively conceded a slice of the South China Sea to Chinese sovereignty.

By contrast, in May, the USS Dewey entered within twelve nautical miles of the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Archipelago. The Arleigh Burke–class guided missile destroyer sailed through the area in a zigzag pattern, and conducted a “man overboard” rescue drill. In other words, it conducted an exercise in a routine high-seas operational mode.

29 July 2017

Is America Losing Civilian Control of the Military?

Daniel Gerstein

A number of factors have led to a blurring of boundaries between the Congress, the president and the military.

The U.S. civil-military relationship allows for a candid dialogue on national security matters, yet readily defers to the tenet of civilian control of the military. This relationship is built on a delicate balance whereby strategic decision making is the purview of the civilian political leadership, while the execution of that portion of the strategy dealing with the use of force remains a uniformed mission.

The framers of the Constitution were keen to ensure that civilian control of the military was a core tenet of the use of military force, dividing up the powers into three components. Congress had the power "to raise and support Armies" and "provide and maintain a Navy." The president was to serve as the "the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States." Implicitly, the uniformed military was charged with the application of military force and following the orders of the civilian leadership.

A number of contributing operational, cultural and technical factors have led to a blurring of boundaries between the Congress, the president and the military in questions surrounding use of military force. These trends cannot be blamed on any single administration, yet over time there has been a gradual loss of balance within the nation's national security institutions.

22 July 2017

The US Needs China To Act On North Korea. Now, That Is Harder Than Usual – Analysis

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein*
(FPRI) — Over the past couple of weeks since North Korea successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska (potentially with nuclear weapons), the United States and much of the world have lived under a heightened sense of urgency about North Korea’s missile capabilities. Policymakers from the Left to the Right are calling for action, but America is in a worse global position than usual to meet North Korea’s threats. Undoubtedly, policymakers want to do something, as policymakers always do. But it is less and less clear what that something can be, as long as China continues to be the key to pressuring North Korea.

China was always unlikely to work with the international community in pressuring North Korea, and has only reluctantly gone along with sanctions without putting much of an effort into enforcing them. This time, however, Chinese action and compliance in pressuring North Korea are even less likely due to other geopolitical tensions with the U.S. in the region.
A Game Changer, but No Revolution

The North Korean missile test may be a game changer, but the reality of the North Korean threat is far from new. In Seoul, the South Korean capitol, such fears have long been part of daily existence. North Korea’s threats of annihilating Seoul by turning it into a “sea of fire” (and other colorful expressions) are so frequent that most people meet them with a shrug of the shoulders. People here know full well that North Korea can destroy much of the country, and that it would not even need nuclear weapons to do so.

17 July 2017

Why we need India in order to remain a global superpower

A US-India alliance could be key for the US to remain a global superpower

The Republic of India is the world’s second most populous country and largest democracy. It will also prove to be the key to the U.S.’s survival as the world’s sole global hegemon and the preservation of the current global power structure. 

The U.S. projects more power across the globe, both conventional and nuclear, than any other nation. It spends more on its military than its next eight rivals combined. Its economy is the largest in terms of nominal GDP by more than $7 trillion and has been the largest for more than a century. It exercises so much control in international affairs and trade it is often characterized as the "world’s policeman." Its currency is exchanged globally and is the basis for numerous currencies abroad, and it is home to earth’s premiere financial market. These factors solidify the U.S.’s status as a true superpower and appear promising for the maintenance of the global status quo. But one rising power threatens this world order. 

16 July 2017

The Terrifying Truth Behind the U.S. Military

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, isn’t much of a state anymore.

The Iraqi military have retaken the city of Mosul. Kurdish forces are pushing into Raqqa, Syria… both with help and direction of the U.S. military.

Rather than cheering the possible defeat of this brutal and violent terrorist organization, I’m worried.

Not about ISIS, in particular, but about the state of the U.S. military. It’s taken us far too long to earn these victories.

I’ve been speaking with military experts and researching the U.S. defense industry for months. What I found was surprising…

U.S. Military Spending: The Cost of Wars

By Anthony Cordesman

One of the striking aspects of American military power is how little serious attention is spent on examining the key elements of its total cost by war and mission, and the linkage between the use of resources and the presence of an effective strategy. For the last several decades, there has been little real effort to examine the costs of key missions and strategic commitments and the longer term trends in force planning and cost. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress have failed to reform any key aspect of the defense and foreign policy budgets to look beyond input budgeting by line item and by military service, and doing so on an annual basis.

The program budgeting and integrated force planning efforts pioneered towards the end of the Eisenhower Administration—and put into practice in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations—have decayed into hollow shells. The effort to create meaningful Future Year Defense Programs seem to have been given a final death blow by the Budget Control Act (BCA)—legislation originally designed to be so stupid that the Congress could not possibly accept it. Efforts to integrate net assessment with budget submissions were effectively killed by the Joint Staff decades earlier, during the Reagan Administration.
Critical Failures by Both the Executive Branch and Congress

11 July 2017

The Thucydides Trap Will America and China go to war?

ON JULY 2nd an American guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of Triton, a tiny Chinese-occupied island in the South China Sea. It was on a “freedom of navigation” operation, sailing through disputed waters to show China that others do not accept its territorial claims. Such operations infuriate China. But they have not brought the two superpowers to blows. So far.

Graham Allison, a Harvard scholar, thinks the world underestimates the risk of a catastrophic clash between China and the United States. When a rising power challenges an incumbent, carnage often ensues. Thucydides, an ancient historian, wrote of the Peloponnesian war of 431-404 BC that “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Mr Allison has examined 16 similar cases since the 15th century. All but four ended in war. Mr Allison does not say that war between China and the United States is inevitable, but he thinks it “more likely than not”.

This alarming conclusion is shared by many in Washington, where Mr Allison’s book is causing a stir. So it is worth examining his reasoning. America has shaped a set of global rules to suit itself. China has different values and different interests which it would like others to accommodate. Disagreements are inevitable.

5 July 2017

Truth Beyond the Brotherhood

Brahma Chellaney

With the passage of time, the transactional elements in the U.S.-Indian partnership have become more conspicuous than the geostrategic dimensions, compounding India’s security dilemmas.

U.S. President Donald Trump made it known during his presidential election campaign that he likes India and Indians. Yet, in office, Trump has taken a series of steps in the immigration and trade realms that have adversely impacted India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a good first-ever meeting with Trump, although it yielded few deliverables. The two will have another opportunity to meet soon when Germany hosts the annual G-20 summit in Hamburg. Yet it is still not clear how salient India will be in the Trump foreign policy. This is largely because Trump’s larger geopolitical policy framework is still evolving.

The U.S.-India strategic partnership is essentially founded on two pillars — a U.S. commitment to assist, in America’s own interest, India’s rise; and a shared interest in building an inclusive, stable, rules-based Asian order to help manage China’s muscular rise. The hope in India has been that the U.S. would assist its rise in the way it aided China’s economic ascent since the 1970s. President Jimmy Carter, for example, sent a memo to various U.S government departments instructing them to help in China’s rise. Even China’s firing of missiles into the Taiwan Strait in 1996 did not change that policy. If anything, the U.S. has gradually loosened its close links with Taiwan, with no U.S. Cabinet member visiting that island since those missile manoeuvres.

4 July 2017

Is the U.S. Getting Outmaneuvered at Sea?

Retired Admiral James Stavridis believes the Trump Administration fails to recognize the importance of our oceans. In his new book Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans, Stavridis is troubled by the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and a proposed budget that boosts military spending, but does little to increase naval capabilities.

The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Stavridis, who previously served as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander-Europe and is now Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, about why the seas are important and what challenges the U.S. faces on the waters.

The Cipher Brief: Your new book Sea Power was recently released. Why did you write this book? Why now?

Admiral James Stavridis: One, in today’s world, there’s a huge economic component. Ninty-five percent of the world’s goods are moving on these oceans. Two, our alliances, in so many cases, are overseas and also interwoven with maritime, military, and security activities. Three, the challenges that are arising today on the oceans from Russia and China – who are building big, new, powerful navies – as well as the potential, in the long-term, of terrorist operations in the maritime space. Fourth and finally, the environment. I’m deeply concerned about acidification of the oceans and the potential to lose our source of oxygen. Seventy percent of the world’s oxygen comes from photosynthesis in the sea.



Editor’s Note: A recent article in Foreign Affairs by Ely Ratner has sparked a debate among Asia-watchers. Part of this debate has played out in The Interpreter, the online magazine of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an independent, nonpartisan think tank based in Sydney. War on the Rocks is proud to be publishing select articles from The Interpreter, where Hugh White responded to Ratner, who then chimed in with a retort. We hope you learn from this debate as much as we have. 

Hugh White: For America, the Struggle in Asia Starts at Home

Earlier this month, in his speech at the Shangri La Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis twice declared that China’s assertive conduct in Asia to be “unacceptable.” That is tough language – tougher then Washington has used before. This raises the question of what he plans to do about it.

He needs to do something much more effective than anything America has tried so far. Otherwise the gap between bold words and timid action will grow, U.S. credibility in Asia will shrink even further, and Mattis will have handed China another easy win in the contest for regional leadership.

2 July 2017

America’s War against ISIS Is Evolving into an Invasion of Syria

As ISIS crumbles, the chances for conflict with the Assad regime increase. There was always going to be a reckoning. When President Obama began the American war against ISIS in 2014 — a belated and necessary step to stop ISIS’s blitzkrieg across Iraq — there was a lingering question:

Then what? 

If and when we defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, what comes next?

Ideally, American allies would defeat the world’s most vicious terrorists, the warring parties in Syria would then have the space to reach a political settlement, and a genocidal civil war would finally end. Yet when ideals meet the hatred and confusion of the Middle East, ideals always lose. 

29 June 2017

How America Armed Terrorists in Syria


Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.