Archive for the ‘National and international security’ Category

Even the most market-oriented capitalist would hesitate to encourage Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, or Boeing to produce more sophisticated weapons systems for other nations than we produce for ourselves, even if it meant huge profits for those companies and their shareholders.  It would simply not be in our national security interest.

Yet few voices are raised when America’s leading investment banks secretly encourage foreign governments, such as those in Greece and Spain, to manipulate their national budgets to conceal real deficits; and then those banks receive huge profits for doing so.  The net result is to destabilize international financial systems and cause markets to fall, including in the United States.

Something is wrong here.  Are investment banks chartered in the U.S. free to make profits that are distinctly not in the interest of the U.S. and dismiss their counter-productive manipulations in the name of “free markets”?  Apparently the answer is yes.  If the guardians of our country’s economic interests, such as Mr. Geithner or Mr. Summers, have spoken out to condemn this activity, then they have done so quietly.   These are the same banks that became “too big to fail” and thus demanded, and received, bailouts from the U.S. taxpayers even while piling up continuing huge bonuses.

Something is definitely wrong here.  In an increasingly integrated, globalized financial world, it is wrong for private American financial institutions to go abroad selling financial snake oil to foreign governments knowing their practices to be shady at best and crooked at worst, take their gigantic fees, flee back to New York, and count their ill-gotten gains in the Hamptons while workers in Greece, and in the United States, suffer the consequences.

This is not only wrong.  In a just world it would also be criminal.

Markets are wonderful mechanisms, but only up to a point.  Greed is not self-correcting.  The lessons of corruption never seem to be learned beyond a generation or two.  After a cycle of manipulation and corruption, reforms and regulations are enacted.  But then everyday Americans forget the lessons, vote for politicians preaching “free markets” and “deregulation” and the cycle repeats itself.  Deregulation was the watchword during the Clinton and Bush years.  And see what it gave us.  Bernie Madoff.  Who stole billions while the Securities and Exchange Commission turned a blind, deregulated eye?  

Even if you believe private investment banks should be free to loot and plunder here in the United States, do you also really believe they should be free to do so around the world?  And do you also truly believe this is in the national security interest of the United States?  If so, there are some clever people who have some credit default swaps they wish to sell you.

Orwell and Language

Author: Gary Hart

1984There is a lack of seriousness, especially where national security is concerned, among those who focus all their attention on a particular language or set of words they favor while more important issues are neglected.  Take, for example, the recent inside-the-Beltway taffy-pull over whether President Obama does, or does not, use the phrase “war on terrorism.”
Serious people care more about the policy and its effectiveness than the rhetoric surrounding it.  It is important to note that those most concerned with the current president adopting the language of his predecessor are following the line of oppressive political figures of the extreme right and left who have understood over the years that he who controls the meaning of words, and who dictates the language to be used, also controls the outcome of the debate.
George Orwell, among others, has most effectively, and frighteningly, pointed this out.
Since Vietnam there has been a concerted effort on the part of some to suggest that one party cares more about national security than the other.  They do so despite the fact that the party presumably weak on defense led us through World War I, World War II, the Korean war, and much of Vietnam.  Nevertheless, if you start from that notion and convince enough people that terrorism is a function of war, then people must conclude that the party supported by the language hawks alone is equipped to respond to it.
The real issue behind this linguistic taffy-pull is what methods are to be used.  If counter-terrorism is a “war”, then traditional military measures, including big armies in the field (Iraq and Afghanistan) and invasions, are required.  If terrorism is a somewhat sophisticated form of criminal activity, it will require special forces trained in irregular, unconventional warfare to combat it.
So, as inconsequential as the language tussle seems, it does have political and military consequences.  How you characterize or describe a problem will usually determine what methods you use to address it.  The more the language hawks prevail in demanding their special vocabulary, the more they will dictate our policies.  For some of us the proof is in the policy not the words.


Author: Gary Hart

The most innovative strategy for homeland security has been proposed, a few years back, by Stephen Flynn.  He is an extraordinary citizen: former Coast Guard commander; Ph.D; advisor to the U.S. Commission on National Security; former senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations; now the new president of the Center for National Policy.

Steve’s strategy is simply called resilience.  In a word, he argues that our critical infrastructure–communications, finance, transportation, and energy–be reconstructed in such a way that any of its major systems, if attacked, could resume operations virtually instantaneously by constructing on-line, back-up systems.

Having this resilient capability itself is a deterrent to attack.  Why attack the U.S. communications system, if you are al Qaeda, when you know it will be up and running almost immediately?  Resilience is a national insurance policy.

Though Dr. Flynn has been arguing this case, including in books, articles, and speeches, for years, I doubt that you’ve heard of it.  The media have given it little consideration.  A good deal of the resistance to resilience is from the private sector ownership of these major critical industries.  Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make your systems resilient when it comes off the corporate bottom line and creates no immediate profits, revenues, or bonuses?  The U.S. government, for its part, is reluctant to create legislative mandates to require the private sector to do what is necessary, even though it is in our national security interest.

Our system of capitalism is all in favor of national security, that is except when it requires private investments to be made.  Thus, we are not resilient.  We are still vulnerable to attack.  And, unless leadership courage is demonstrated in Washington and in private board rooms across the nation, we will continue to be.

The Shrinking State

Author: Gary Hart

KnowledgeFor 350 years the basic political building-block has been the nation-state.  The nation-state evolved in the mid-17th century from a bargain between the people (the nation) and governments (the state) that, in return for their loyalty, the state would protect the nation.  To ensure its side of the bargain, the state or the government had to possess a monopoly on violence.  No other individual or group could make war or conduct violent actions.  Otherwise, the state could not keep its side of the bargain.

In the late 20th century this historic bargain began to break down and governments could no longer guarantee the safety of their citizens.  As symbolized by the 9.11 terrorist attacks, even the most militarily powerful government in history could not protect its citizens.  Though there are many reasons for this, the most basic is that the nature of warfare and conflict is changing.  Nation-states rarely go to war against each other anymore, for territory or power, but non-uniformed, often suicidal stateless nations (“non-state actors”) are now the new warrior/criminals.  Significant parts of the world, including in places such as Mexico, are now “governed” by tribes, clans, and gangs.  That also includes major urban areas.

All this leads to profound implications.  If governments cannot guarantee the security of their people, the people will stockpile their own weapons and possibly create their own militias or private security forces.  All the while, they are losing confidence in, and often mistrusting, their own government.  This also means that, in fragile nation-states like Pakistan and many others, the army increasingly withdraws to protection of the nation’s capital, its government, and its elites.  Thus the government loses further credibility in the countryside and whole segments of countries begin to seek their own sub-governments.  This, of course, produces failed and failing states.

Those of us seriously concerned with ominous trends and tides in recent years will find this trend one of most ominous.  Too many of the so-called foreign policy experts still pontificate as if the traditional political building-blocks, the nation-states, will last forever.  They better begin to think again.

Questions for nation-builders

Author: Gary Hart

Questions and AnswersAs three new combat brigades embark, there are some questions to contemplate:

1.  After eight years of U.S. military protection, why have Afghan men not stepped up to protect their wives and children, their communities, and their nation?

2.  Will they decide to do so in the next eighteen months and, if so, why now?

3.  What exactly is the mission and where is it clearly spelled out?  What exactly are General McCrystal’s orders?

4.  What standards of democracy do we expect the Afghan government to meet, Jefferson’s or the Saudi royal family’s?

5.  What ethical standards do we expect the Afghanistan government to meet and how do they differ from the lobbying system in Washington?

6.  How is “victory” in Afghanistan defined now and will it be achieved by the summer of 2011?

7.  Why would an indigenous insurgency suddenly decide to engage in decisive battles instead of merely waiting until the occupying force leaves?

8.  Will the Pakistan government now decide to permit our combat forces to engage Afghan insurgents on a large scale on Pakistan territory?

9.  Will our NATO allies increase their troop levels and for what period of time?

10.  Are our Special Forces trained, equipped, and on stand-by to neutralize (destroy or remove) Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal?

America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” (John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State, July 4, 1821.)  Except when those monsters attack our country and our fellow citizens.  They are the ones we should not have lost sight of.

Resume the Mission

Author: Gary Hart

Afghan CompassIn his speech to Congress on September 20, 2001, President George W. Bush made a series of demands on the Taliban government in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He insisted that: al Qaeda leaders be turned over to the U.S.; all imprisoned foreign nationals, including Americans, were to be released; diplomats, aid workers, and foreign journalists were to be protected; terrorist training camps in Afghanistan were to be closed and everyone involved turned over to “appropriate authorities”; and the U.S. was to be given access to these sites to verify compliance.

The penalty for non-compliance was dire: “They [the Taliban government] will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.”

The rest is history.  The next month we invaded Afghanistan to achieve the purposes the President outlined.  And, more than eight years later we are still there.

But, the mission has grown.  When our attention was drawn back to Afghanistan—after the continuing detour into Iraq—by the growing insurgency, the Bush administration permitted, even encouraged “mission creep.”  Mission creep occurs when what you originally started out to do gradually becomes much grander.  In this case we committed ourselves to “winning” or “victory” and that was tacitly assumed to include a stable democratic Afghan government at peace with all its domestic tribal components and its neighbor countries and founded on the rule of law, gender equality, a market economic system, and totally devoid of radical Islamic influence.

Now, the new commander, General McChrystal, says he needs 40,000 more troops to achieve that mission.  And President Obama is weighing his alternatives.

The most plausible alternative is to return to the original mission: capture al Qaeda; protect the foreign community; bring remaining terrorists to justice; and eliminate all terrorist training camps.  This can be achieved without a significant increase in troop strength.  Indeed, it can be achieved by replacing counter-insurgency trained combat forces with counter-terrorism trained special forces.  President Obama’s advisors, seemingly having accepted the mission creep, debate what troop strength is required to carry out the much grander mission.

The more plausible alternative, one that should have been made official policy many months ago, is to resume the original limited mission, the one that took us there eight long years ago.

Gary Hart

WarshipsA large number of options are now available to the United States in developing a 21st century security strategy.  No single strategy will suffice so long as global conditions continue to evolve rapidly and conditions are subject to virtual overnight change.  There follow three, of a number of, strategic options.  Even so, a fourth option is a mix of all three.

            1.  Maritime Strategy: The United States is an island nation not a continental power.  Since the end of the Cold War and the sharply reduced threat of strategic attack, America returns to a condition in which its northern and southern borders are occupied by friendly nations and its defenses once again rely heavily on naval superiority.

These conditions require the United States to rely heavily on sea power and maintain naval superiority both to protect its long east and west sea coasts and ports and to establish mobile and flexible presence in a variety of oceans and venues worldwide.

As it is often pointed out, the advantages of a maritime strategy include: the ability to shift fleets from ocean to ocean; the flexibility to establish presence in littoral waters and to withdraw over the horizon as circumstances require; the strength to use carrier-based aircraft in long-range attack mode and shorter-range close air support of on-shore operations; the competitive domination the U.S. has in submarine capability; and the increasing capability of mounting swift insertion operations for rapid response.

             2.  Regional Alliances: As NATO represents the triumph of collective security in a Cold War 20th century, so new realities require new alliances beyond the capabilities that NATO represents.

Forming new alliances with new regional power centers offers several advantages.  Emerging regional powers can be made partners rather than antagonists or rivals.  Identifying mutual and collective security interests with the United States and formalizing a collective approach to securing those interests empowers regional powers further and signals that the U.S. respects their legitimate concerns.  Formal regional security alliances create diplomatic and administrative structures that anticipate, rather than react to, new realities and new threats in the region.

Several regional powers are candidates for new alliances.  Russia and the U.S. have mutual interests in stability of the Moslem republics on Russia’s southern border, in the Caucuses, and in the Middle East.  Russia’s interests are not necessarily antagonistic to those of the U.S., as some insist.  The same is true for China.  We have mutual interests in limiting the North Korean threat and helping a transition from dictatorship to a more congenial form of government.  A nuclear North Korea or a disintegrating North Korea are more threats to Chinese security than to the U.S.  The same is true of Japan which should also be part of a new 21st century East Asian security regime.

India has an immediate interest in a stable Pakistan and could be part of a new South Asian security alliance.  A 21st century national security strategy should at least in part be based on the exploration of new regional security alliances.

            3.  Global Security Arrangements: Rather than the United States bearing the burden for the security of global oil supplies, the management of failed and failing states, the response (or non-response) to genocide in Rwanda, Darfur, and elsewhere, and isolation of terrorism, these can and should become more formal international concerns.

There is every reason to create a Zone of International Interest in the Persian Gulf whereby a collection of all oil importing nations guarantee continue distribution of petroleum resources from the region regardless of almost guaranteed instability within and among oil producing states.

There are many reasons for having an international rapid deployment force to intervene in failing states both to prevent civil wars and, if necessary, create a security environment in which diplomats can manage the peaceful restructuring of nations.

Likewise, if climate damage creates massive dislocations due to decreased water supplies, crop dislocations, and rising sea levels, as predicted  by the Center for Naval Affairs study, the United States should now take leadership to create international institutions and capabilities to limit the disruptions and instability these conditions will create.

A strategy of new internationalism is anticipatory rather than reactive, appreciating that major disruptions will occur globally so rapidly that reliance on time to react is unrealistic.

Unexpected EnemyThe United States needs a new statutory basis for its national security strategy in this new century.  The Cold War national security state was established by the National Security Act of 1947.  It unified the Army and Navy, and the Marine Corps, under a new Department of Defense and added a new service, the Air Force.  It established the Central Intelligence Agency and created the National Security Council.  For 62 years, with some notable exceptions, that legislation has served us well.

But, as Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, to expect each generation to govern itself with the laws and policies of previous generations is to expect a man to wear the coat he wore as a lad.  Times change and laws and policies, as well as institutions, must keep pace.

The Cold War ended 18 years ago.  NATO has yet to define a 21st century mission.  New allies and new rivals are emerging.  There are new security threats that do not lend themselves to military response and that cannot be addressed either by old alliances or by the United States alone.  The very nature of warfare and the character of conflict are changing.

A new national security statute must apply the 20th century security structures and the six decades of experience derived from them to the new realities of the 21st century.  The very process of updating the legal infrastructure of our security will require us to reflect on what security means today and how our strategies should be adapted to achieve it.

No one argues that our military services are obsolete.  We will continue to require land, sea, and air defensive capabilities as long as the Republic lives.  Among the early lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, however, is that 21st century conflict demands Special Forces and small unit capabilities even more than traditional big divisions, large carrier task groups, and long range strategic bombers.  Historic nation-state wars, though always plausible, are declining.  Irregular, unconventional warfare involving dispersed terrorist cells, stateless nations, insurgencies, and tribes, clans, and gangs are increasing dramatically.

Pakistan, whose instability imperils regional and possibly global security, is threatened by religious fundamentalists.  Mexico is endangered by indigenous drug cartels that are de facto private armies.  Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s ancient tribal and sectarian conflicts will continue for decades.  Our massive military superiority cannot resolve these, and a number of other conflicts, by its sheer size and power.

Extended discussion on future security within the broader security community and public at large should encompass at least these questions: what is the nature of the threats we face; which of these require military response and which do not; are our present and planned force structures configured for new military threats; are weapons procurement programs continuation of traditional acquisitions or focused on future requirements; is the intelligence community properly coordinated and focused on emerging realities; for non-military concerns–such as failed states, radical fundamentalism, pandemics, climate degradation, energy dependence, and resource competition–are new international coalitions needed; are existing alliances adequate to anticipate and respond to these crises or are new ones required; most of all, does our government require new legislative authority to achieve national security under dramatically changing conditions?

The precedents for this kind of thorough-going review are found in the several commissions and studies carried about between the end of World War II (and even before) and the passage of the National Security Act in 1947.  These include the Eberstadt report, various strategic plans by George Marshall, hearings in the Senate Military Affairs committee, and a blizzard of behind the scenes maneuvering and power struggles.  Traditional institutional interests, almost always more comfortable with established arrangements and known devils than new arrangements and unknown devils, will predictably resist any review of the 62 year old law that underpins the national security state.  Machiavelli was not the first to observe that the status quo has many friends and the ranks of reformers are thin.

The creation of the national security state in 1947 was not smooth.  Army and Navy traditionalists resisted unification.  The structure of the new Defense Department and the powers of its Secretary were repeatedly contested.  The makeup and authority of the National Security Council shifted and changed.  Opponents of a Central Intelligence Agency foresaw a threat to Constitutional freedom.  Today, even to suggest a modernization of our core national security framework is to invite bitter opposition from those who never saw a boat they wanted to rock.

The only issue that matters is whether Cold War strategies and structures adequately address present and future realities or whether the realities of a new century demand a fresh look at the institutions and policies, military and non-military, that will be needed to make the nation secure.  Jefferson’s 21st century man cannot forever wear the clothes of his younger, 20th century self.

KnowledgeWe do not have to wait for the final resolution of the American military presence in Afghanistan to begin to see what, if anything, we have learned from our checkered experience there.

Very soon President Obama will announce a new strategy.  Very likely it will include the following features: a troop increase of some 15-20,000; troop presence focused on population centers; an increased training mission for new Afghan military and police forces; and intensified cooperation with Pakistan to root out radical Taliban and al Qaeda elements on that frontier.

This will represent an altered, but not a fundamentally changed, mission.  Presumably we will still have as our ultimate goal a stable, democratic, and increasingly Westernized Afghanistan.  If so, unless we strike some grand bargain with less radical Taliban elements (as we did with some Sunnis in Iraq) this is still the work of decades, not to say also tens of billions of dollars.

However this turns out, there are lessons to be learned in the meantime for future Afghanistans.  The first is: Do not interrupt a surgical counter-terrorism operation until it is completed.  With the possible exception of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, virtually everyone agrees that the 2002 pull-out of Tora Bora, where bin Laden & Co. had their backs to the wall, was a mistake of epic proportions.  Don’t suspend a fixed military objective midway.

The second lesson is: Know the history of the country you are invading.  As we did not study the French experience in Vietnam, we did not study the British or Russian experiences in Afghanistan.  It is one thing to invade a country to find and exterminate a villain.  It is quite another to launch a long-term occupation.  Almost nine years later we are still trying to figure out who our friends and enemies are there.  And the Afghans, given our flighty on-again, off-again operations there, are justly skeptical about our long-term reliability.

The third lesson is: Do not expect to defeat an enemy militarily which has the advantage of cross-border sanctuary.  This lesson is as old as Sun Tzu.  Anyone who can hide across a nearby border cannot be defeated in any literal sense of the word.  Drones are no substitute for combat forces.  Pakistan is a sovereign nation that will not forever tolerate the death of its citizens at our hands.

The fourth lesson is: Do not try to occupy or pacify a nation whose men are not ready and willing to fight and die to protect their wives and families.  Too many Afghan men are willing to let U.S. troops try to provide their security and, if we don’t achieve it quickly and permanently, strike their bargains with Taliban thugs.  To create the Afghan army and police force of 400-425,000 that experts believe necessary to achieve internal security is the work of another decade or two and, even then, not financially sustainable by the Afghan government.

There are many other lessons as well.  Nation building in an economy dependent on narcotics is virtually impossible.  Democratization of a corrupt political culture is almost equally impossible.  And so forth and so on.

President Obama is going to deliver a policy for his administration’s near term.  Whether it will have time limits remains to be seen.  Still, years from now, however this adventure turns out, the question will be: What did we learn.  Because history does repeat itself.

Zone of International Interest

Author: Gary Hart

Helicopeters hovering over navy shipFor many years the United States has been the de facto guarantor of world oil supplies.  We maintain one and more recently two aircraft carrier task groups in the Indian Ocean and near the Persian Gulf.  They are there not only to support our forces in Iraq and throughout the region.  They are there, and will remain there, so long as the region produces a substantial portion of the consuming world’s oil supplies.

Someone has to do it, you might say, and that is true.  But does that “someone” always have to be the United States? 

First of all, it is possible for us to reduce our dependence on Persian Gulf oil, roughly 20 to 25 percent of our imports which themselves represent almost 70 percent of our total consumption.  Suppliers such as Canada and Mexico, among others, are reliable.  The Persian Gulf is not.  We can choose to continue to depend on unreliable Persian Gulf oil, but we will do so at the cost of thousands if not tens of thousands of American lives in future Persian Gulf wars and tens if not hundreds of billions of tax dollars in maintaining a third to a half of all our military forces in the greater region permanently.

Instead, a new sense of international responsibility would organize a consortium of oil consuming nations, including much of Europe, that would assume collective responsibility for policing the Persian Gulf oil export routes and sea lanes.  Other nations have navies and they can increase them if we convince them that, free of our dependence, we will no longer underwrite theirs.

To make matters even clearer, a zone comprising much of the Persian Gulf oil production region could be designated something like a Zone of International Interest by the United Nations which would empower the international community to guarantee the continued production and exportation of oil supplies regardless of regional political upheavals.  Even if we are free of our dependence on that region, much of the world’s economy will continue to require its oil.  All the more reason to make the greater Persian Gulf a specially-designated area of international responsibility.

All that is lacking is imagination and leadership.