Archive for October, 2011


October 31, 2011

On October 29, 2011, WSJ published a review of the new book by Niall Ferguson, Civilization: The West and the Rest (Penguin Press, 2011, 402 pages). Below a few excerpts:

The first thing Ferguson notes is that Western dominance was by no means so clear-cut at the start of his story in the early 15th century. At that time, he says, Europe would have struck observers as a “miserable backwater,” recovering from the plague and divided into petty kingdoms. By contrast, imperial China was in full bloom, sending expeditions as far afield as eastern Africa, while the Ottomans were relentlessly advancing on central Europe through the Balkans.

Three hundred years later…the situation was reversed. China had succumbed to the Mongols and then to stagnation, while the Ottomans had been repulsed before the walls of Vienna and were well on their way to becoming the “sick man” of Europe. The western European states, by contrast, had shown themselves capable of projecting power thousands of miles beyond their borders, seizing colonies in the east and settling vast tracts of North and South America.

They had shown themselves, as well, superior in the crucial fields of resource extraction and war fighting. The gap between the West and “the rest” was to widen still more over the following 300 years.

[Ferguson notes that there are six main reasons for the rise of the West].

The first was competition. On Mr. Ferguson’s reading, political and economic decentralization made nation-states and capitalism possible. It was the intense rivalries between Western powers that gave them the edge over non-Europeans, whose realms were vast and stagnant.

The second, Mr. Ferguson argues, was the growth of science, which gave the West a way of understanding and conquering nature. The result was a leap in military technology, among much else.

The third was property rights defined by law, which, he says, led to stable representative government.

The fourth was the triumph of Western medicine, which not only improved productivity and life expectancy but also enabled Europeans to cope with colonial climes.

The fifth was the development of consumer society, creating a demand that fueled economic growth.

The sixth and final [reason] was the West’s work ethic, which held together the potentially fissiparous society produced by the first five.

One of his most forceful chapters contrasts the rise of the enlightened Frederick the Great, who turned the sandbox of Brandenburg into a major power, with the simultaneous decline of the Ottomans under Osman III. To those who decry any resulting “Eurocentrism” in the book, Mr. Ferguson has a simple and effective response. His key moments in the rise of civilization undoubtedly took place in Europe and were inconceivable anywhere else: the scientific revolution in a “hexagon bounded by Glasgow, Copenhagen, Krakow, Naples, Marseille and Plymouth”; the invention of the printing press in western Germany; the Industrial Revolution—Mr. Ferguson prefers the term “evolution”—in England.

Moreover, “the rest” have paid the West the ultimate compliment of imitation. Mr. Ferguson shows that the most successful non-Western polities are those that have used Western ideas. At the top of the class is Japan, whose Western-style armies prevailed over Russia in 1905 and whose politics and economics were rebuilt so effectively after the catastrophe of 1945. A smaller, but no less spectacular, example is Israel, whose Western political, military and economic structures have allowed it to prevail against much larger Arab enemies. In an inspired passage, Mr. Ferguson, following Siegmund Warburg, compares the Jewish state to a 20th-century “Prussia,” for finding the internal strength to deal with an encircling coalition. Both Japan and Israel must now be reckoned part of the West.

Remarkably, Mr. Ferguson notes, the most serious challenges to the West have come not from the outside but from within: for example, Hitler’s Germany and Soviet Russia. Communism was a Eurocentric critique of capitalism, designed to deal with Western problems of industrialization, not those of largely agrarian 20th-century Russia and China. Mr. Ferguson reminds us that, despite the rhetoric, the Cold War was not a struggle between East and West but “between two rival Wests, a capitalist one and a communist one.”

Though an eloquent champion, Mr. Ferguson actually undersells the strength of Western civilization. The slavery he laments was indeed a terrible sin, but slavery has been a characteristic of almost every society since time immemorial; it is Western abolitionism, beginning in the late 18th century, that was distinctive. Slavery was endemic in Africa before the arrival of the Europeans, who had stamped it out by the early 20th century. After the Europeans left, slavery returned, as many Sudanese are finding to their cost today.

We can go a step further, too, and celebrate the fact that the West is unique among civilizations in its self-critique: Where it finds or brings disease, of whatever kind, it also, in time, provides a cure.


October 29, 2011

Washington Times on October 26, 2011, commented on Chinese threats against ‘little countries’:

China’s official communist newspaper, the Global Times, published a chilling editorial warning several “little countries” that are disputing China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, notably the Philippines and Vietnam, to “get ready to hear the sound of gunfire.”

Headlined “China Cannot Resort Only to Negotiations Over Maritime Conflicts, We Must Kill One to Deter One Hundred If Necessary,” the editorial published Tuesday asked, in a tone of condescension, where these “little neighboring countries” got the nerve to challenge China. It called such challenges an “opportunistic strategic offensive launched by little countries against a big country.”

The newspaper further threatened that the game these countries play against China would not be easy to win because “China possesses the force to end such game anytime.”

The report said any fear of a naval war is unnecessary because the Chinese public had been psychologically getting used to such a naval conflagration in recent years.

According to the newspaper, the root cause of China’s trouble with these “little countries” is the United States. “At present various disputants behave with imperial swagger [against China],” the commentary said, “as if with the support from the United States, they all had the force and capabilities to subjugate China.”

The newspaper used the phrase “bodies of waters in East Asia” to include areas other than the South China Sea where China has territorial disputes – a clear reference to South Korea and Japan.

Since April 2010, China began deliberately sending regular fishing fleets accompanied by official government escort ships to disputed areas of the Spratly’s Island, Senkaku islands, the Korean littoral area and other murky waters.

These China fishing and escort ships routinely clash with other nations’ naval patrol ships, including incidents with the Philippine navy, the South Korean navy and the Japanese coastal patrol vessels just within the past week, dramatically escalating tensions with several “little countries.”


October 28, 2011

CNN on October 28, 2011, reported that according to the opposition Syrians marching on Friday against the regime called for an internationally enforced no-fly zone. Despite gunfire and security checkpoints, Syrian protesters marched against the government.

In a massive demonstration in Hama, Syrians demanded the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as well as his prosecution, according to the Local Coordinating Committees, which organizes protests in Syria.

Security forces responded harshly, opposition groups claimed, putting neighborhoods and mosques in the Salhyeh neighborhood of Damascus under seige, as well as conducting extensive security sweeps and firing on crowds elsewhere throughout the country.

At least 24 civilians died during clashes in Hama and Homs, according to the Local Coordinating Committees. In Homs, snipers fired directly into crowds in the Jawret Sheyah and Inshaat neighborhoods, according to opposition groups.

In the Barzah neighborhood of Damascus, heavy gunfire accompanied a security operation that resulted in the arrests of more than 40 people, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The Local Coordinating Committees reported that communications and electricity had been shut off and new security checkpoints erected in the Damascus suburb of Zabadany.

CNN could not independently confirm the accounts because Syria has not granted international media access to the country.

Syrian opposition groups have been calling on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone, naval blockade and other measures to protect Syrian protesters since at least early October.

Leaders of the Free Syria Army, a group of armed forces defectors, have been particularly vocal in the call, saying such policies could allow them to establish a base of operations from which they could launch a campaign to bring down the regime of President al-Assad.

On Oct. 4, China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate halt to the crackdown, which United Nation officials have said has resulted in an estimated 3,000 deaths since protests began.

The calls cite a successful NATO effort to end Libyan government assaults on civilians that eventually resulted in the overthrow of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. In that case, NATO aircraft attacked government facilities and forces, giving a boost to rebels who eventually overtook government forces and seized power.


October 28, 2011

Washington Times on October 26, 2011, commented on U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s trip to Asia this week:

His message to allies and adversaries – mainly China and North Korea – was clear: The United States is shifting its focus to the region and bolstering forces and alliances there.

“We are a Pacific nation. We will not only remain a Pacific power, but we will strengthen our presence in this area,” he told sailors aboard the USS Blue Ridge, command ship of the Navy’s storied 7th Fleet.

“We are here to stay, and that’s an important message to send to the region and to send to all of our allies.”

Mr. Panetta, however, made no mention during the trip so far that included stops in Indonesia, Japan and South Korea of the Pentagon’s new Air Sea Battle concept, an emerging strategy aimed at bolstering air forces for a future conflict with China.

The concept was approved by top generals and admirals last summer, but is being held up by the Pentagon and other Obama administration officials over concerns it will upset China, which aggressively lobbied Washington not to implement the new battle plan, according to defense officials.

In Tokyo, Mr. Panetta said during a news conference with Japan’s defense minister, Yasuo Ichikawa, that the U.S. military will strengthen its presence in the Pacific by realigning forces, boosting military exercises and training, and providing assistance to U.S. regional partners.

The military also is developing “enhanced capabilities” in the region,” he said. He did not provide specifics.

However, the U.S. government has been moving forces toward Asia for the past six years, including attack submarines, and plans to move a carrier strike force to either Hawaii or Guam. It is also bolstering alliances with Japan, Australia, India and others.

Mr. Panetta wrote an opinion article that appeared Monday in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper that singled out China and North Korea as key regional challenges.

“China is rapidly modernizing its military, but with a troubling lack of transparency, coupled with increasingly assertive activity in the East and South China seas,” Mr. Panetta wrote.

Tensions have increased in the South China Sea in particular, where Beijing has claimed most of the resource-rich waters as its territory, despite conflicting claims by Vietnam, Philippines and others.

Chinese military officials have told their U.S. counterparts that the sea is “our driveway.”

On Japan, the United States’ closest Asian ally, Mr. Panetta said U.S. and Japanese forces are working to increase interoperability and building high-technology capabilities, such as advanced anti-missile interceptors. The Pentagon is also exploring joint space and cyberspace defenses with the Japanese, he said.

Mr. Panetta said in South Korea that the United States will continue to keep its nuclear “umbrella” over the nation to counter North Korea. He is scheduled to return to the United States on Friday.

John Tkacik, a former State Department official who specialized in Asia security issues, said the defense secretary’s comments were encouraging.


October 26, 2011

On February 24, 2011, The Weekly Standard reminded the readers of Qaddafi’s terrorist background:

There was a time when Qaddafi’s Libya was one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism. Throughout the 1980s, Libya had its hands in terrorism all over the world. Qaddafi made common cause with just about any terrorist organization that asked for his assistance. The most notorious Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack during Qaddafi’s terror-sponsoring heyday was, of course, the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Qaddafi tried to rehabilitate his image a bit, offering some assistance against al Qaeda’s North African franchises. Long before 9/11, in fact, Qaddafi brutally suppressed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al Qaeda affiliate that sought his ouster. And with chaos engulfing Libya today, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has called for Qaddafi’s head.

Al Qaeda would gladly off Qaddafi if given the opportunity. But even with this reality staring Qaddafi in the face, he was not a true partner against global terrorism in the post-9/11 world. The problem with a man such as Qaddafi is that terrorism is in his blood. It is a tool he uses quite naturally in the pursuit of his political and personal agenda, as capricious as that may be.

Terrorism comes so easily to Qaddafi, in fact, that he has even sought to use al Qaeda-affiliated operatives to avenge verbal insults hurled in his direction.

During a televised Arab League Conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt on March 1, 2003, Qaddafi and Saudi crown prince Abdullah feuded over the impending war in Iraq.

“King Fahd told me that his country was threatened and he would co-operate with the devil to protect it,” Qaddafi said, condemning the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah fired back: “Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and not an agent of colonialism like you and others.” Wagging his finger in Qaddafi’s direction, Abdullah continued: “You, who brought you to power? Don’t talk about matters that you fail to prove. Your lies precede you, while the grave is ahead of you.”

Qaddafi did not take kindly to the prince’s words. The Libyan terror master quickly set about finding a way to kill Abdullah.

Enter Abdurahman Alamoudi, an Eritrean-born naturalized U.S. citizen. Judging by outward appearances alone, many considered Alamoudi a perfectly respectable American Muslim leader. He founded two Muslim organizations in his adopted homeland and had ties to the upper echelons of both political parties. Democrats and Republicans alike befriended Alamoudi, who the Department of Defense asked to help pick chaplains for its Muslim servicemen. The State Department was fond of Alamoudi, too, paying him to help foster interfaith dialogue.

Alamoudi was not all that he seemed, however. If he was not a member of the international Muslim Brotherhood, then he was closely affiliated with it and endorsed its radical way of viewing the world. Alamoudi also endorsed Hamas and Hezbollah. And his terrorist ties were not confined to rhetorical support. Alamoudi assisted a number of bad actors, including a group of Saudi dissidents in the UK who were really al Qaeda-linked operatives.

Qaddafi’s goons knew about Alamoudi’s ties to the al Qaeda agents in the UK. So, they summoned Alamoudi to Tripoli.

On March 13, 2003, less than two weeks after the public altercation between Abdullah and Qaddafi, Libyan officials asked Alamoudi to help them create “headaches” for the crown prince. In particular, they wanted Alamoudi to use his contacts in al Qaeda to find personnel inside the Saudi Kingdom who could help them stir up trouble.

Alamoudi agreed to broker the deal and flew to London to meet with the al Qaeda-linked men. According to court documents, including the plea agreement Alamoudi signed in 2004, al Qaeda said they’d help the Libyans – for a price.

A series of meetings between Alamoudi, the Libyans, and al Qaeda’s UK presence transpired. Over the next several months, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, Alamoudi transferred “approximately $1 million” to the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), “a U.K.-based Saudi oppositionist organization,” and Saad al Fagih, the “al Qaeda-affiliated” head of MIRA.

The plot was progressing until Alamoudi was found to be carrying $340,000 in cash during preflight security screening at Heathrow Airport. The Libyans and the MIRA men worried that they may be found out, since Alamoudi carried some of their contact information in his Palm Pilot. When they thought they were safe from Western scrutiny, they resumed plotting.

It turned out that when the Libyans used the word “headaches” in their conversations with Alamoudi they were really referring to an assassination. Qaddafi wanted Alamoudi to get al Qaeda to kill Crown Prince Abdullah.

The assassination plot was foiled, however, after Alamoudi was arrested again and one of his Libyan co-conspirators was arrested too. The Libyan, Colonel Ismael, was an intelligence officer dispatched to Saudi Arabia to coordinate the plot. Ismael reported directly to two Libyan intelligence chiefs who, in turn, reported to Qaddafi.

The New York Times reported that Colonel Ismael fled Saudi Arabia for Egypt, where he was arrested, after an “aborted ‘drop’ of $1 million to a team of four Saudi militants who were prepared to attack Prince Abdullah’s motorcade with shoulder-fired missiles or grenade launchers.”

Colonel Ismael quickly confessed to the plot, as did Alamoudi.

In his interviews with American authorities, Alamoudi pointed the finger directly at Qaddafi.

“I want the Crown Prince killed either through assassination or through a coup,” Qaddafi reportedly said to Alamoudi.
Neither came about. Alamoudi received twenty-three years in prison for his terrorist efforts. The U.S. Treasury Department would later explain that “the September 2003 arrest of Alamoudi was a severe blow to al Qaeda, as Alamoudi had a close relationship with al Qaeda and had raised money for al Qaeda in the United States.”


October 26, 2011

Of sea-captains young or old, and the mates, and of all intrepid sailors,
Of the few, very choice, taciturn, whom fate can never surprise nor death dismay.
Pick’d sparingly without noise by thee old ocean, chosen by thee,
Thou sea that pickest and cullest the race in time, and unitest nations,
Suckled by thee, old husky nurse, embodying thee,
Indomitable, untamed as thee.

–Walt Whitman, “A Song for all Seas, all Ships”

Walter A. McDougal prepared the paper “History and Strategies: Grand, Maritime, And American” for the August 2011 conference on “American Grand Strategy and Seapower” sponsored by the CNA. The paper was published on the net in October 2011. McDougal is the Alloy-Ansin Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. Below a few excerpts from his paper (the footnotes have been excluded):

A classic treatise on grand strategy specifically addressed the geopolitics of the Pacific Rim in the aftermath of the First World War. Its cautionary conclusion warned that great powers drawn to compete for commerce and empire in the vast vacuum of the North Pacific invariably over-reached. Bids for hegemony by Spain and Portugal, then Britain and Russia, had already been thwarted and the likelihood in the 20th century was that Japan would be tempted to overreach followed, perhaps, by the United States.

American Naval War College Professor A. T. Mahan [with] his The Influence of Sea Power Upon History “ went viral” after 1890 and helped to persuade the leaders of almost all the great powers to join the global race for blue water navies, global markets, and colonies.

In retrospect, it has been argued that Mahan’s theories were oversimplified and accepted all too uncritically. His analysis of 18th century British economics and strategy was essentially correct, but analogizing them to late 19th century America was not. His fixation on command of the seas through decisive fleet engagements ignored many other important maritime roles. In retrospect, the best theorist of the era (and one even the Naval War College would teach in the 1920s) was Sir Julian Corbett, precisely because he stressed maritime, not just naval power, by de-emphasizing big battleship determinism and stressing the roles of blockades, amphibious operations, logistics, and army-navy combined arms.

The era of nearly universal naval and colonial competition spelled crisis for the world’s long-standing naval, colonial, financial, and commercial leader. Throughout the many decades when Britannia ruled the waves, her Admiralty boasted of a Two-Power Standard (the Royal Navy should exceed the next two largest navies combined) and her Foreign Office boasted of Splendid Isolation.

Second only to the ideal of independence, nations have always cherished the right of free intercourse and trade, in the world’s markets, and in proportion as England champions the principle of the largest measure of general freedom of commerce, she undoubtedly strengthens her hold on the interested friendship of other nations, at least to the extent of making them feel less apprehensive of naval supremacy in the hands of a free trade England than they would in the face of a predominant protectionist Power. This is an aspect of the free trade question which is apt to be overlooked. It has been well said that every country, if it had the option, would, of course, prefer itself to hold the power of supremacy at sea, but that, this choice being excluded, it would rather see England hold that power than any other State (italics added).

That passage is justly famous and felicitous, at least to Anglo-Americans. We believe in a liberal, open world order, hence other nations can trust us to exercise a benevolent hegemony.

One need not be a geographical determinist to conclude from the historical narrative of the modern era, at least, that every bid for hegemony by a terrestrial empire was doomed. From the Holy Roman Empire of Ferdinand II and to the France of Louis XIV and Napoleon to the Germany of the Kaiser and Hitler to the Russia of the tsars and commissars, all such bids were defeated by rival coalitions orchestrated and supported by one or more maritime powers. Indeed, the Duke of Wellington himself confessed, “If anyone wishes to know the history of this war, I will tell them it is our maritime superiority gives me the power of maintaining my army while the enemy are unable to do so.”

By contrast, those nations that pursued the most successful grand strategies, that garnered global power and pelf, and pari passu advanced human rights, international law, commerce, science, and culture, have been self-contained, self-governing, mostly Protestant federations including the Netherlands’ United Provinces, which served as a model for the British Isles’ United Kingdom, whose union of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland for the pursuit of power abroad served as a model for the 13 American colonies’ United States. Indeed, the integral story of modern history is not so much the struggle between hegemony and balance of power, or between land power and sea power, but between the reigning maritime supremacy and its successor. Mahan’s history made that explicit for the 17th century by pushing the wars of religion and Bourbon France into the background while concentrating on the Anglo-Dutch wars for control of the seas. A similar focus on the 20th century might stress America’s swift supplanting of British power for which the hot and cold wars against the dictatorships were the occasions.

The purpose of this long preface is to sketch in the elaborate backdrop to our contemporary tensions over the rise of Chinese offshore military ambitions and so render more plausible short assertions regarding some of the questions addressed in this CNA conference. First, all truly grand and successful strategies have been essentially (if not exclusively) maritime. Second, no nation’s rise to world power has been more swift and complete than that of the United States. Third, therefore, America’s rise must have reflected one or more maritime strategies, hence the United States must ipso facto be able to do grand strategy. Of course, we can introduce lots of complications regarding definitions, parameters, and operational features of grand strategy, not to mention how consistent, codified, or even how conscious a grand strategy must be. For a lengthy discussion of the question “Can America Do Grand Strategy?” see my essay published in Orbis (Spring 2010).

Americans’ bias toward maritime strategy is in fact over-determined. The geographical location, expanse, topography, and resources of North America make it the real World Island and thus by far the best suited to nurture a maritime supremacy. Indeed, the United States ranks first or close to it in all six of Mahan’s fundamentals for sea power. But the fact that the United States is history’s largest and most successful thallasocracy (Greek for “rule by the sea”) is attributable to cultural traits inherited from Great Britain as well as innate material and spatial endowments. Thus did the classic naval historian Clark Reynolds define the purpose of thallasocracy as “control of the sea lanes and islands by one state to insure its economic prosperity and thus its political integrity.” But the manner of control, commerce, and polity most conducive to maritime supremacy just happens to foster more independent (he calls it “national privacy”), liberal, entrepreneurial, individualistic, representative, curious, diverse, cosmopolitan, and creative people and institutions than do rigidly hierarchical extractive land empires. (“Isn’t it funny,” he cites John Marin, “that Dictators never never never live by the sea?”) Moreover, navies cannot occupy or plunder provinces in the manner of armies and so pose little threat to civil liberties. Navies are expensive and take a long time to build, but can quickly decay or be lost, hence they tend to be conservative. Yet they venture forth on a chessboard claiming 71 percent of the earth’s surface and serving as highways to all civilizations of mankind, hence navies tend to be cosmopolitan. Thus, whereas armies and their historians tend toward a narrow, national perspective, naval historians tend to be universal in their perspective, stressing and generally (if guardedly) optimistic about the progress that seafaring peoples have bestowed upon civilization.

The third American grand strategy emerged during World War II and mutated into its final form during the early Cold War. It was a strategy aimed at global—truly global—power projection but not, repeat not, territorial occupations in Europe or Asia. It was conceived by that “former naval person” Franklin Roosevelt and his Congressional paladin Carl Vinson. FDR imagined a postwar United Nations keeping the peace, but really run by his Four Policemen each with its own “beat” or implicit sphere of influence. He also imagined a truly global and open economic system bankrolled and managed by the United States. America’s modes of enforcement in this New World Order were to be sea, air, and financial power, which is why Roosevelt spoke at Yalta of pulling American troops home from Europe within eighteen months of a German surrender. Instead, the Truman administration sharply reinforced U.S. ground forces in Europe and Asia in response to the Berlin Blockade and Korean War. But President Eisenhower devised a Cold War Containment strategy “for the long haul” by stressing nuclear deterrence plus air and naval supremacy. And, just as FDR had envisioned, that maritime supremacy based on sea and air power also patrolled the global commons in the interest of an open and prosperous economy.

The fourth American maritime strategy (but still within the grand strategy of Containment) was the 1980s response to the rapid Soviet naval buildup dramatized in the early Tom Clancy novels. But it really ought to be dated to 1969 when the Nixon Administration began the long withdrawal of American ground forces from South Vietnam. In a speech at the very apt location of the island of Guam (following the splashdown of the Apollo 11 astronauts), the president proclaimed the Nixon Doctrine to the effect that henceforth the United States would assist peoples threatened by aggression with all manner of military and economic support except ground combat units. “Asian boys must fight Asian wars,” he said. The doctrine was made explicit and operational in the post-Vietnam era by the ancillary doctrine promulgated by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and elaborated by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, which specified stringent conditions under which U.S. ground forces should or should not be deployed in combat. Taken together these doctrines signaled a very strong bias toward an offshore balancing strategy that came to define America’s posture during the third and last stage of the Cold War. Its most perfect expression was the New Maritime Strategy launched in 1981 by Ronald Reagan’s Navy Secretary John Lehman. In it, [Finally] the rise of China, a potential peer competitor in the western Pacific, has inspired an elaborate and sophisticated operational concept called “Air-Sea Battle: A Point of Departure,” itself echoing NATO’s “Air-Land Battle” plan of the 1980s. Drafted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, the document’s scenarios assume that China seeks the capability and may someday reveal the intention to deny the U.S. Navy access to air and sea out to the first island chain off the Chinese coast and perhaps even the second chain. The document urges the Navy and Air Force to collaborate on the planning and execution needed to ensure that U.S. and allied forces can deny China the ability to deny access to its seas (what James Kurth coded as D and D2 and the document codes as A2/AD). But the authors insist repeatedly that the purpose of the “Air-Sea Battle Point of Departure” is not to coerce or provoke or win a war against China, but simply to deter aggressive behavior and “sustain a stable, favorable, conventional military balance throughout the Western Pacific region.”

Can the United States devise and execute wise grand strategy in the present era of geopolitical flux and financial constraint? The answer is a highly conditional Yes … if the factions within each armed service can make common cause; if the services as a whole can rally behind a grand strategy, if the Joint Chiefs can market the strategy to the Administration and Congress that will take office in 2013, and if the economy and public opinion can support any new strategic initiatives during an era of penury.

From my perspective on world history and American political culture, the New Maritime Cooperative Strategy and the Air-Sea Battle operational concept meet the nation’s needs perfectly and should be especially appealing in the wake of the Iraqi and Afghan ordeals. But even a vigorous and intelligent maritime strategy cannot be assured of success. In past conflicts the United States prevailed thanks to its strategic depth, productive power, and capacity to adapt in the fog of war, not because its prewar strategy proved right. War Plan Orange never was executed. World War I at sea had no use for the Great White Fleet. Likewise, World War II turned on carriers, submarines, and strategic bombing rather than fleet actions, while the enemy targeted by the 1980s maritime strategy just imploded. All one can do today is make educated guesses about the threat matrix of the next twenty years, the future intentions of the Chinese regime or for that matter its very survival, while the complex alliance diplomacy on which the Cooperative Strategy would depend, injects an additional range of (if you’ll pardon the expression) Unknown Unknowns into the equation.

In conclusion I would just add that knowledge of—and respect for—the history of maritime rivalries and geopolitical realities should put us on guard against the natural impulse to over-promise or obfuscate in our efforts to “sell” strategies and weapons systems. A seemingly innocent case in point is the stated purpose of Air-Sea Battle Point of Departure, which is not roll-back or containment or a war-winning strategy or even the defense of Taiwan or other specific asset, but simply to minimize Beijing’s incentives to achieve its goals through aggression and thus “to sustain a favorable, conventional military balance throughout the Western Pacific.” As a sales pitch I like it. As a diplomatic demarche I like it. But as a grand strategic plan it begs every important question. To spend the next twenty years racing to devise countermeasures sufficient to deny the Chinese ambition to deny us access to seas out to some unspecified limit (first island chain, second island chain?) is not a formula of stability, but for the sort of perpetual competition for technical and diplomatic advantage that increases the chance of miscalculations and the incentive for preventive strikes. We must not forget the wisdom of Basil Liddell-Hart that the object of military strategy “is a better state of peace, even if only from your own point of view.”

Thus, while the Cooperative Maritime Strategy and its Air-Sea Battle corollary may prove to be of critical value in some future operational contingency, its grand strategic value must not be to punish or even deter bad Chinese behavior, but to encourage good Chinese behavior within some portion of its coastal seas which they are or soon will be certain to deny others access. What is more, to tell the Chinese in words or deeds that external powers either will not or cannot permit them to have any power projection beyond their coast is to reprise Opium War-style imperialism of the sort they have been patiently frantic to end! In sum, the ultimate goal of the Cooperative Strategy and Air-Sea Battle should be stand-off enforcement of a diplomatic accord under which China agrees to police the seas and protect legitimate shipping within some designated “zone of control” in return for which the Cooperative Strategy partners agree to police the seas and protect Chinese shipping beyond the zone.

Accommodate China’s blue water aspirations? Accept a Chinese “zone of control” that U.S. and allied forces dare not contest except in extremis? Abandon long-standing friends in Northeast Asia to some sort of tributary status vis-a-vis Beijing? Hints that a positive answer to those questions may even be up for discussion elicit accusations of “appeasement” and invocations of Munich. The implication is that to imagine a Chinese sphere of influence out to the first island chain (and therefore inevitably half way to the second island chain) is to consign South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines (with the Spratly Islands), perhaps even Okinawa to some kind of Finlandization. But the question of just how much American maritime dominance is enough and therefore just where to draw a new “Dean Acheson defense perimeter” line through the seas of China’s oceanic “near abroad” will be addressed, like it or not, sooner or later. The challenge for Sino-American diplomacy is to figure out how to raise those questions voluntarily, in an atmosphere of conciliation rather than crisis, and in a regional rather than bilateral forum. Would accommodation of any sort feed the appetite of the authoritarian, nationalistic Beijing regime such that it grabs for control over more blue water in East and South China seas? The historical record strongly suggests that Chinese dynasties, even when strong, tend not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. But we need not trust in history, culture, or economic ties to keep the peace in the Pacific so long as the (still far superior) U.S. Navy and its friends beyond the first island chain, plus the Indian navy and its friends beyond the Straits of Malacca, are on station to keep China honest.

In short: speak softly and carry a big stick. That way the Chinese are the ones obliged to prove they can be responsible stakeholders. That way the Chinese are obliged to make the strategic choice of what kind of neighborhood they wish to inhabit.

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea: there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination. The enterprise is to stay afloat on an even keel; the sea is both friend and enemy; and the seamanship consists of using the resources of a traditional manner of behaviour in order to make a friend of every hostile occasion.”

–Michael Oakeshott, The Voice of Liberal Learning


October 23, 2011

BBC News on October 23, 2011, reported that Libya’s transitional government has declared national liberation before a jubilant crowd in Benghazi, where the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi began:

Tens of thousands of people packed into Freedom Square to hear National Transitional Council (NTC) leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil speak.

Gaddafi’s capture and death on October 20 came as Nato-backed NTC forces pursued loyalists in his stronghold, Sirte.

Thousands of people were killed or injured after the violent repression of protests against Gaddafi’s rule in February developed into a full-scale civil war.

NTC deputy head Abdel Hafiz Ghoga announced from the stage that Libya had been freed, declaring: “Declaration of Liberation. Raise your head high. You are a free Libyan.”

Thousands of voices echoed him chanting, “You are a free Libyan.”

Mr Abdul Jalil bowed down to thank God for victory before making his speech.

He thanked all those who had taken part in the revolution – from rebel fighters to businessmen and journalists – and said the new Libya would take Islamic law as its foundation.

“Today we are one flesh, one national flesh. We have become united brothers as we have not been in the past,” he said.

“I call on everyone for forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation,” he said. “We must get rid of hatred and envy from our souls. This is a necessary matter for the success of the revolution and the success of the future Libya.”

The NTC leader also wished anti-government protesters in Syria and Yemen “victory”.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the declaration of liberation, urging a “new inclusive Libya, based on reconciliation, and full respect for human rights and the rule of law”.

Nato, he added, would retain its “capacity to respond to threats to civilians, if needed”.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague greeted Libya’s “historic victory”, and also urged the country to avoid “retribution and reprisals”.

Elections are due to be held by June of next year, Libya’s acting Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said earlier.

The new elected body, he added, would draft a constitution to be put to a referendum and form an interim government pending a presidential election.


• Elections for a Public National Conference to be held within eight months
• The new body is to appoint a prime minister, an interim government and a constituent authority which will draft a new constitution within 60 days
• Constitution to be put to a referendum
• If the constitution is approved, general elections will be held within six months


October 23, 2011

Max Singer’s new book History of the Future: The Shape of the World to Come is Visible Today (Lexington Books, 198 pages, 2011) is a book of optimism. Singer’s thesis is that over the past 200 years a sizable number of countries have moved from traditional ways and customs to an embrace of modernity. Below a few excerpts from a Washington Times review:

These modernizing regions and countries – Western Europe, North America and Japan are the most obvious – have “completed their passage to modernity,” Mr. Singer writes. They haven’t stopped changing, but they have passed from one plateau to another, and they won’t change fundamentally. Mr. Singer gives various indexes of modernity. Compared with the traditional world, most people in modern societies can expect to live longer, enjoy a high school education and live mainly in cities, where we are protected from the environment. Mostly we work with our minds, contributing to information-dominated economies. We enjoy freedom of choice in many matters and are self-governed (by majority rule). Families are much smaller than formerly.

Modern societies are far richer than traditional ones, and Mr. Singer’s vision of the future is simply stated. Traditional societies will go down the already beaten path to modernity and prosperity. The inequality of wealth between the two sets of countries will diminish because poor societies can catch up more quickly than modern ones can keep up the pace. The future, then, is broadly egalitarian.

Mr. Singer’s future in bare outline strikes me as plausible. Changes already happening in traditional societies are approaching modernity as defined by Mr. Singer – conspicuously so in Brazil and India. Were it not for its ruinous 30-year diversion into the dead end of communism, China would be fully modernized by now. It soon will be. Over the past decade, developing countries have grown nearly four times faster than developed ones. Fertility rates, collapsing everywhere, are the most striking confirmation of Mr. Singer’s prediction.

His optimism is conspicuous in his chapter on the “Jihadi challenge.” Although much of Islam is in conflict with modernity, that will change. Arabs, and Islam generally, will “insist” that “groups and rules that impede modernization” will have to give way. A “new synthesis” will then prevail. Islam will endure, but its reformation cannot be long delayed. Societies in which Islamists attempt to dominate by violence will immediately become poorer and therefore will self-correct. In short, economics will trump ideology. He may be right. In recent decades, oil money prevented much of the Arab world from seeing how its practices obstructed the creation of wealth. Traditional Arab rulers misconstrued their geological good fortune as theological virtue.

“The Decline and Fall of the War System” is perhaps the book’s most interesting chapter, and the one that owes least to Herman Kahn. Land is unimportant as the source of wealth in the modern world, Mr. Singer argues, and wealth today cannot be achieved by conquest. Western Europe has confirmed these new realities, and that is not thanks to the European Union’s suppression of nationalism. On the contrary, the new “zone of peace” in Europe made the European Union possible. Nations increasingly “act as if they believe that international law governs the conduct of all countries.” Conflicts are settled by negotiation. Armies will dwindle. They don’t cause wars but are a response to them.

Comment: This chapter might be interesting but overoptimistic. It only considers conventional conflicts. Much of ongoing and future wars do not and will not involve states but rather insurgent and terrorist movements. Singer optimistically believes that conflicts will be settled by negotiations.

Following Kahn, Mr. Singer wisely ignores the Malthusian warnings of resource exhaustion and environmental doom-saying that are now so fashionable. Societies that take them too seriously will only harm themselves. But in his chapter on demography, Mr. Singer uncharacteristically hedges his bets. He argues, convincingly enough, that the present decline in fertility might turn around quickly. Six hundred years from now, he says, the world population could be anywhere from 100 million to 100 billion people. So all bets are off.

But short-term predictions can still be made confidently. If Western Europe’s low fertility rate endures for just another 20 years, for example, the welfare states of those countries (consisting mostly of transfers from dwindling workers to ever-growing elderly cohorts) will be unsustainable. So huge changes are coming and can be foreseen just as next spring’s water flows can be measured in today’s mountain reservoirs.


October 22, 2011

Wall Street Journal on October 22, 2011, commented on reactions in the Arab world on the death of Gadhafi. Bolstered by scenes of jubilation in Libya, protesters in Syria and Yemen streamed out to rally against their longtime leaders on October 22, warning their presidents to take a cue from Moammar Gadhafi’s violent death:

“He will be remembered in history as the chancellor of all tyrants,” an editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said. Lebanese daily An-Nahar said the event “takes the Arab Spring revolutions to a new turn, folding a painful page.”

In Syria, ralliers congratulated Libyans in large protests across the country after the Friday noontime prayers.
Residents said the government moved military and security reinforcements to the central city of Homs, where defected soldiers have been fighting against regime forces. At least 24 people were killed in protests across the country—19 of them in Homs—according to the Local Coordination Committees, a network of Syrian activists coordinating and documenting protests. While Friday’s toll was in line with those of days earlier this week, activists said they worried Gadhafi’s killing would harden the regime’s crackdown.

Syria’s uprising has emerged as one of the most complicated among this year’s Arab protests. Demonstrations—spread across the country but only sporadically touching Syria’s two largest cities—have remained largely peaceful for seven months. But violence against government forces has surged in recent months, both as a military crackdown on protests has escalated, spurring civilians to try to protect themselves, and as an international deadlock over the crisis has frustrated protesters.

“This third great victory for the Arab Revolutions sends a critical message to the region, the people suffering under other tyrants and the world at large,” the Local Coordination Committees said in a congratulatory statement to Libyans on Friday. “There is no turning back from the demands for freedom.”

Thousands of people also marched in Yemen, hours before the United Nations Security Council condemned the human-rights abuses and killings by authorities there and approved a resolution supporting a plan for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power. Mr. Saleh, who has ruled for 33 years, has refused to step down despite months of protests and several attempts drawn up by Gulf states to broker a peaceful transfer of power.

“What we have seen across the Arab world with Tunis, Egypt and Libya has been soft, medium and then hard,” said Mohammed Abulahoum, a Yemeni opposition leader and president of the Justice and Building party. “It is a chance for the remaining leaders to have some sort of managed exit and not lead the country to more violence.”

Some protesters in Syria, in their eight month of protests, were less compromising.

“We were very happy with the killing of Gadhafi,” said Raman Kanjo, an activist who said he recently snuck back into the country, having fled months ago to Turkey and then Lebanon after security forces raided his family home. “He should also be dragged through the streets,” he said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

Mr. Kanjo, interviewed by telephone as he marched in the city of Qusair in the Homs province , spoke over the sound of a chanting crowd. He said Gadhafi’s death should be serve as a warning to all Arab leaders. “It’s a message the Syrian president in specific should heed soon, because he’ s digging his own grave,” he said.

Rising calls among protesters for international intervention to protect civilians, along the lines of the U.N.-mandated North Atlantic Treaty Organization campaign in Libya, have sharpened divisions in Syria both between government loyalists and opponents, and within the opposition. Syrians, with Iraq to their east, have long been wary of Western powers.

Comment: What happened on October 21, 2011, in Libya may have wider implications than for Syria. The TV pictures from Libya of the death of Ghadafi may increase the fear of death in Pyongyang, Havana, Harare, Mogadishu and Minsk, to mention a few capitals of tyrants worldwide.


October 21, 2011

Wall Street Journal on October 21, 2011, commented on NATO and the Libyan War. Below a few excerpts:

After the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the ultimate liberation of Libya the alliance is looking much better. The squadrons of alliance fighter jets that helped rebels depose and finally defeat Gadhafi point to what defense experts see as a new template for future military intervention.

The approach emphasizes quick planning, a small footprint and limited duration engagements, according to U.S. officials assessing the outcome. NATO showed it could provide a ready-made coalition capable of conducting a far-reaching, expeditionary operation.

President Barack Obama, an early champion of the approach, said Thursday that it “demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.”

In contrast to other recent conflicts, in Libya the Americans took the initial lead opening days of the conflict but, at Mr. Obama’s insistence, quickly handed over responsibility for most airstrikes to European allies and leaving the U.S. to take a support role.

For the Obama administration, the death of Gadhafi reinforced the view that success is possible without large ground forces and lengthy occupations.

“NATO got it right,” Vice President Joe Biden said. “This is more the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward.”

But the NATO model also was beset by shortcomings, including uneven participation and inadequate supplies, fuel and targeting intelligence. World leaders have yet to decide what role they will play in the next days of Libya’s struggle, as the country tries to unite disparate militias and form a government.

Future interventions may not look the same and may not involve NATO. Some could involve little air power and more special operations troops on the ground. Others could involve U.S. forces training indigenous forces.

But the common elements will be a small footprint and little time to plan the mission, administration and military officials said.

“When we came to office you had a situation where there were very large U.S. military footprints in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Deputy White House National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes told The Wall Street Journal. “And what we’re moving towards is a far more targeted use of force in which we apply direct power against al Qaeda and those who pose a direct threat to the United States and then galvanize collective action against global security challenges.”

Mr. Rhodes said the eight-month-long Libya conflict was relatively cheap for U.S. taxpayers, costing just over $1 billion. No Americans or other NATO personnel were killed. The price tag of the eight-year war in Iraq, in contrast, so far totals nearly $1 trillion and has had an “enormous cost in terms of loss of life.”

A senior defense official said that a key lesson in the Libya war is that “NATO matters.”

“The days of strategic warning, watching forces mobilize, stage and move are gone,” the senior official said. “We will need the capability to respond on very short notice in geographic areas where we have little or no infrastructure.”

Advocates of air power said Thursday that the success in Libya showed that, when combined with indigenous forces on the ground, an air campaign could be decisive.

“Whether one agrees or not with the intervention, one thing is clear—and no surprise to objective observers—modern air power is the key force that led to the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime,” said David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general.

The fate of Libya is also yet to be determined. A spate of problems faces the interim government. Some of the heavily armed militias that helped topple Col. Gadhafi have not yet come under the new government’s control. The proliferation of armed groups could lay the groundwork for a longer-term, low-level insurgency centered around factions vying for power in post-Gadhafi Libya, some analysts say, drawing lessons from the early years of the Iraq war. Others are more optimistic.

“We’re under no illusions,” Mr. Obama said. “Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead