Archive for February, 2016


February 28, 2016

Fox News on February 26, 2016, published an AP report on the U.S. military launching a newly aggressive campaign of cyberattacks against Islamic State militants, targeting the group’s abilities to use social media and the Internet to recruit fighters and inspire followers, U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Excerpts below:

The surge of computer-based military operations by U.S. Cyber Command began shortly after Defense Secretary Ash Carter prodded commanders at Fort Meade, Maryland, last month to ramp up the fight against the Islamic State group on the cyber front.

U.S. officials confirmed that operations launched out of Fort Meade have focused on disrupting the group’s online activities. The officials said the effort is getting under way as operators try a range of attacks to see what works and what doesn’t.

Other attacks could include attempts to stop insurgents from conducting financial or logistical transactions online.

Several U.S. officials spoke about the cyber campaign on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. Much of the effort is classified.

…the military cyber fight is limited by concerns within the intelligence agencies that blocking the group’s Internet access could hurt intelligence gathering.

Officials said Carter told commanders that he wanted creative options that would allow the U.S. to impact Islamic State without diminishing the indications or warnings intelligence officers can glean about what the group is doing.

U.S. officials have long been stymied by militants’ ability to use the Internet as a vehicle for inspiring so-called lone wolf attackers in Western nations, radicalized after reading propaganda easily available online.

“Why should they be able to communicate? Why should they be using the Internet?” Carter said during Congressional testimony before the defense appropriations subcommittee. “The Internet shouldn’t be used for that purpose.”

He added that the U.S. can conduct cyber operations under the legal authorities associated with the ongoing war against the Islamic State group.

The U.S. has also struggled to defeat high-tech encryption techniques used by Islamic State and other groups to communicate. Experts have been working to find ways to defeat those programs.

The Pentagon is building 133 cyber teams by 2018, including 27 that are designed for combat and will work with regional commands to support warfighting operations. There will be 68 teams assigned to defend Defense Department networks and systems, 13 that would respond to major cyberattacks against the U.S., and 25 support teams.

Comment: This is important news in the battle against Islamic terrorism. It is surprising that DoD has waited so long to take this step. Hopefully more steps will come and cyberwarfare initiated against the largest terrorist groups around the world. Defensive cyberwarfare should be considered in other type of conflicts.


February 24, 2016

Washington Times on February 23, 2016, published a review by John R. Coyne Jr. of Daniel Oppenheimer’s new book Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century, Simon & Schuster, 28 US dollars, 403 pages. Excerpts below:

…James Burnham, is one of the six people treated by Daniel Oppenheimer in this compellingly written and highly readable narrative — Burnham, Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens.

At National Review, we knew Jim Burnham as friend and mentor, a trusted adviser to Bill Buckley, a scrupulous editor who worked closely with our superb managing editor Priscilla Buckley, proofing the copy for each issue of the magazine, and on alternate weeks the National Review Bulletin, crafting editorials and his columns with clarity, elegance and precision…

Mr. Burnham’s great strength, Mr. Oppenheimer writes, as a New York University professor of philosophy, a Marxist dialectician, and later as one of the most important conservative writers of our time, was his ability “to untangle thorny concepts into the kinds of discrete threads that [readers] could more easily grasp, and then to methodically weave the pieces back together into a clear narrative.”

Whittaker Chambers, also a National Review senior editor, the quintessential man of feeling, provided a striking contrast with Burnham, his fellow former Marxist. Burnham was the man of reason, of intellect, although his reasoned conclusions were held with an emotional intensity. As Mr. Chambers put it, in an implied comparison, “Jim is not essentially a poetic mind; he is a first-rate mind of another breed.”

For Mr. Chambers, the attraction of Marxism was essentially emotional — spying, clandestine meetings, black operations, all in the service of a dialectically defined utopian vision. As he once told Bill Buckley, he identified with the “narodniki” — young radicals, celebrated by Lenin, who conspired to assassinate the czar.

It was through Trotsky that Mr. Burnham was able to accept the validity of Marxism as a system. But later in the decade, when it proved intellectually inadequate to explain the period’s excesses, among them the murderous Moscow purges, the brutal carving up of nations under the Hitler-Stalin pact — …the logic crumbled.

Mr. Burnham left [communism], giving up “friends, power, a direct conduit to one of the titans of the twentieth century, and a sense of purpose, situated within a coherent worldview, that kept him centered during a decade when the whole world seemed in danger of spinning away.” It would be 15 years before “Burnham would be able to reassemble all those elements as an editor at the conservative National Review.”

In 1983, James Burnham was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 would bestow the same honor posthumously on Whittaker Chambers.

Through his extraordinary autobiography, “Witness,” Mr. Chambers had a profound effect on Ronald Reagan’s journey from Roosevelt liberalism to Goldwater conservatism.

Later, both Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, and David Horowitz would emerge from the New Left period as conservatives, Mr. Podhoretz because of the failure of liberal literati to acknowledge leftist excesses, Mr. Horowitz because of the murder of a friend by the Black Panthers, a group he’d championed.

Christopher Hitchens deserves a category of his own, although no one can define it. He shed many leftist friends when he argued in support of the invasion of Iraq, most eloquently when he’d taken on a full ration of whiskey.

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

Comment: This book is highly recommended.


February 22, 2016

Washington Times on February 21, 2016, published a review of a new important book on one of the first empires of a small European nation – Portugal (Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley, Random House, $30, 368 pages). Excerpts from the review below:

Most of us think of the Age of Discovery as a westward movement: Columbus seeking a new route to the Indies by crossing the Atlantic and — quite by accident — discovering the Americas. That discovery of offshore islands in the Caribbean was quickly followed by the subjugation of vast Native American empires like the Aztecs and the Incas on the mainland, accomplished by tiny bands of incredibly tough, confident and ruthless conquistadors.

But the pioneering Spanish conquest of the Americas was only half of the story — in some ways, the less remarkable half. Both began on the Iberian peninsula where the indigenous Christian populations of Castile, Aragon and other future components of a united Spanish monarchy, and the tough, impoverished little kingdom of Portugal, perched on the tip of the peninsula, drove out the Muslim Moorish invaders who had overrun their lands starting in the 8th century.

If the crusader spirit — coupled with the thirst for gold — drew the Spaniards westward to the Americas, the same twin motives drove the Portuguese eastward. Beginning in 1415 with the conquest of the rich Moroccan port of Cueta, as popular historian Roger Crowley explains in his splendid new account, “the Portuguese pushed faster and farther across the world than any people in history … [working] their way down the west coast of Africa, round the cape, and … [reaching] India in 1498; they touched Brazil in 1500, China in 1514, and Japan in 1543.”

This was an incredible feat; in the 15th century, “Portugal’s whole population was hardly more than that of the one Chinese city of Nanjing.” Yet this tiny, impoverished kingdom of fisherman and rural peasantry, led by a feudal warrior class, created a colonial empire based on a string of strategic coastal enclaves — fortified trading posts — that imposed Portuguese commercial dominance by land while Portuguese naval superiority controlled the maritime trade routes that brought the riches of Asia and Africa — spices, silks, slaves, gold and ivory — to a resurgent Europe.

In Affonso de Albuquerque,Portugal found such a man. Already middle-aged when he began his great eastward venture, Albuquerque had “fought the Ottoman Turks in Italy, the Arabs in North Africa, and the Castilians in Portugal … he had imbibed the honor code of the fidalgos [the Portuguese knightly, class], with its rooted hatred of Islam and its unbending ethic of retribution and punitive revenge … fiercely loyal to the crown, incorruptibly honest, and utterly sure of his abilities: to sail ships, command fleets and armies, build fortresses, and rule empires.”

Albuquerque’s legacy was a Portuguese Empire that predated British, Dutch and French colonial projects in Africa and Asia and, while quickly outpaced once such major powers entered the competition, still outlasted the British Raj in India and Africa.

In hindsight it is clear that, from the very beginning, Portugal’s reach had far exceeded its grasp. The reviewer is Aram Bakshian Jr., an aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan.

Comment by Bertil Haggman: Later other small nations created empires. The Netherlands created its own. Sweden built an empire around the Baltic Sea. For more on empires in world history see Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte – Epocheübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche – Teil 1: Imperien des altertums, Mittelalterliche und früneuzeitliche Imperien (Hrsg. Michael Geber und Robert Rollinger), Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden, 2014.

On the Dutch empire see Ulbe Bosma, Amsterdam, “Dutch Colonial Empire” and on the Swedish empire see Professor Jens E. Olesen, “Das schwedische Reich – ein frühneuzeitliches Ostimperium?” of the University of Greifswald in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Pomerania is a former Swedish territory in Germany.


February 21, 2016

Wall Street Journal on February 17, 2016, published a commentary by David Petraeus and John Herbst on the need for delivery of defensive armaments to Ukraine right now. Excerpts below:

In a clear response to continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO ministers…approved the deployment of troops on the alliance’s eastern flank for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Under NATO’s new “enhanced” forward presence, maritime forces will be increased in the Baltic Sea and land forces sent to reinforce defenses in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

While these changes are prudent, none directly addresses the situation on the ground today in Ukraine, which remains a non-NATO member. In recent weeks, Russian-backed separatists have sharply increased their attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk—a stark reminder that President Vladimir Putin hasn’t given up his designs on eastern Ukraine.

In addition to NATO’s recent announcement, the U.S. and its NATO allies would be wise to bolster Ukrainian deterrence against further Kremlin adventurism, and to make clear that the price of such adventurism for Russia will be high if deterrence fails. The first step is to provide more effective defensive weapons to Ukrainian forces.

The U.S. and its European partners have done an impressive job imposing economic costs on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. But they haven’t done enough militarily to support Ukraine, which in 1994 gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union in exchange for trans-Atlantic assurances about the safeguarding of its territorial integrity. These assurances have proven meaningless.

Mr. Putin has gone to great lengths to cover up the extent of Russian involvement in Ukraine. He has made it illegal to publish figures on casualties, knowing that such losses are a potential liability. He also knows that the more overt Russia’s intervention in Ukraine becomes, the harder it will be to secure sanctions relief from Europe, which the Russian economy badly needs, especially as falling oil and natural-gas prices reduce state revenues from exports.

Ukraine’s military has acquitted itself well against Russian-supported separatists—largely fighting them to a standstill. It has also built strong defensive lines from the port city of Mariupol running north. Thousands of heavily armored troops would be required to punch through these Ukrainian positions. And with the right infusion of defensive weaponry, the West can make such an operation prohibitively costly for the Kremlin.

In particular, Ukraine desperately needs shoulder-launched antitank systems to offset Moscow’s large advantage in armor, along with more counter-battery radars for identifying the locations of separatist artillery and rocket systems, thus helping to protect Ukrainian troops from long-range fire. The Obama administration has sent two such radar systems, but more are needed and their range should extend into the Russian border area, because Moscow has fired missiles from its own territory at Ukrainian forces. Finally, Ukraine would benefit from advanced drones and secure communications and control systems. None of these could be seen as offensive in nature.

The U.S. Congress understands the stakes in Ukraine. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama, authorizes $300 million in military assistance for Kiev, including $50 million for lethal defensive armaments. It is now time for the U.S. to deliver the equipment needed to help Ukraine ensure its security and, in so doing, safeguard U.S. and trans-Atlantic interests that are under assault there.

Ultimately, Russia’s bellicose actions in Ukraine are about more than Ukraine. By bolstering Kiev, we have the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the most elemental rules and principles of post-Cold War Europe, particularly that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states shall not be breached and conflicts shall be resolved through negotiation not force of arms. By contrast, failing to respond adequately would very likely be an invitation to further aggression by Russia—in eastern Ukraine, and beyond.

Mr. Petraeus, a retired U.S. Army general and former director of the CIA, is chairman of the KKR Global Institute. Mr. Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan, is director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.


February 19, 2016

Wall Street Journal on February 17, 2016, published a commentary by leading Conservative writer Fred Barnes. He warned that the split between the GOP base and the party’s leaders could result in a Democratic victory in November. Excerpts below:

…televised debates have turned into brawls. And it threatens to prevent Republicans from winning the presidency that otherwise might be theirs.

If the turbulence continues—and there’s no end in sight—the Republican nominee will lead a badly divided and weakened party in the general election in November. The Democratic candidate won’t be a powerhouse. That’s a certainty. But either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will have the benefit of a united Democratic Party, a significant advantage in a close election.

Anyone who watched the recent two debates…could see the difference. The Republican candidates—four of the six anyway—got caught up in personal attacks. They were testy and offended. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, while hardly chummy, spent considerable time echoing each other. “There is no question Secretary Clinton and I are friends,” Mr. Sanders said before noting a partial disagreement over Libya. No Republican uttered such words.

The split between party leaders and a substantial number of party voters emerged after Republicans won the House in the 2010 midterm election, and swelled when they added the Senate in 2014. Their legislative gains were minimal. The Republican base, egged on by conservative talk radio, accused congressional leaders of knuckling under to President Obama. Thus the notion of betrayal.

The discord and anger were practically an invitation to Mr. Trump to enter the race. A unified Republican Party would have provided him neither the political space in which to run nor issues to exploit. And Mr. Trump would most likely have decided not to run, as he had in earlier presidential years.

The moment he announced, Mr. Trump made opposition to immigration his calling card. It was a shrewd choice. More than any other issue, immigration alienates the conservative base from the Republican establishment in Washington. The real-estate tycoon turned reality TV star went on to create a constituency that includes working-class Republicans, renegade Democrats, and moderates.

Mr. Trump’s crude style has had a huge impact. He insults rivals, tosses out slurs, trashes Republican icons, and interrupts constantly during debates whenever he is mentioned, alluded to, or just feels like it. When he’s talking, he waves off anyone who dares to break in.

The more bruising the fights, the more difficult it will be to produce Republican unity. The New Hampshire exit poll was not encouraging. Republican voters were asked if they would be “satisfied if Cruz wins the nomination?” The result: 38% said yes, 59% no. Mr. Rubio did slightly better: 41% yes, 57% no. Mr. Trump beat both of them: 51% yes, 46% no.

Having capitalized on the GOP split, Mr. Trump shows no interest in bringing the party together. Unity is not his strong suit. His put-downs of every Republican except Ronald Reagan continue nonstop. Like Mr. Cruz, he’s antiestablishment. But he treats Mr. Cruz no better than the other candidates. Two days ago, he said Mr. Cruz is “the biggest liar” he’s ever met and “unstable.”

The Donald is not a team player, yet he has the best shot at the moment of winning the nomination. What happens then? The Republican rift will not be healed and disunity will reign. It’s highly likely that a sizable chunk of the Republican establishment will decline to back Mr. Trump in a repeat of 1964 when liberal and moderate Republicans refused to support Barry Goldwater.

In 2016 the prospect of a Republican triumph is fading. Republicans would rather quarrel angrily than win. Should this allow Mrs. Clinton to slip into the White House, we have a pretty good idea what will happen. President Obama’s legacy of ever-bigger government will be preserved, Mrs. Clinton will add to it, and America will suffer the consequences.

Comment: Mr. Barnes has a point but much could happen until November. Mrs. Clinton in handcuffs because of the e-mail scandal would not be helpful to Democrats. Mr. Sanders would probably lose the general election against any Republican candidate.


February 9, 2016

Wall Street Journal on February 8, 2016, reported on NATO’s new playbook that will lay out alliance’s help for members if they come under pressure from Russia or another country. Excerpts below:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is developing a new strategy to speed decision-making and improve its response to the kind of unconventional warfare the West says Russia has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

NATO is hoping to complete the strategy in time for a July summit of alliance leaders in Warsaw. In a new effort at cooperation, officials have been working with the European Union, which is putting together its own plans.

Alliance officials believe any sort of overt invasion of Poland or the Baltic states by Russia is highly unlikely, but using more subtle means to weaken an allied government is a real threat.

A new hybrid warfare playbook would attempt to lay out the kind of assistance the alliance would provide should a member state come under outside pressure from Russia or another country. Such support could include sending cyber experts to help respond to computer hacking attacks, communication specialists to counter propaganda or even the deployment of NATO’s rapid reaction spearhead force.

NATO was built to address the confrontations of the Cold War and the threat of overt military invasion by the Soviet Union. The more subtle techniques would be meant to try to avoid provoking the alliance to act under its collective defense provision, in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, NATO officials said.

As a result, the alliance must draft a new approach and improve its ability to make decisions quickly, officials said.

Officials said hybrid threats could take many forms including support for dissident political movements, propaganda broadcasts aimed at ethnic minorities, or moves to curtail energy supplies. In Crimea and Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, the hybrid threat also involved the buildup of a large conventional force conducting military exercises on the border.

As part of the effort to develop the strategy, when alliance defense ministers gather in Belgium on February 10, they will review possible hybrid scenarios the alliance could face. The discussion is designed to hone their ability to make decisions quickly.

NATO’s most powerful deterrent is likely to be the use of its new rapid reaction force. The force isn’t intended to engage in combat, but would show the alliance’s support for a threatened member and hopefully persuade Moscow to lower the pressure.

While the Eastern European allies most worried about hybrid warfare are focused on the threat from Moscow, NATO officials said the new strategy would be applicable both to aggressive nations and to groups like Islamic State, which have demonstrated the ability to combine propaganda, terror attacks and conventional military force to take territory and intimidate populations.

Adam Thomson, the U.K. ambassador to NATO, said since hybrid threats are designed to avoid provoking a response or slowing that response, showing the ability to make swift decisions is key.
“Part of deterrence could be decisions at the very early stage about putting forces on the notice to move. That sends a signal,” Mr. Thomson said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has met with defense ministers from EU members to discuss the continuing work between the two organizations on hybrid threats. Mr. Stoltenberg said he sees “increased interest for cooperation between the European Union and NATO.”

The EU is working on developing a hotline with NATO to exchange information in the wake of a threat, an EU official said.

Some degree of communication is critical because the EU has many diplomatic and economic tools, like providing assistance if energy supplies are cut or imposing sanctions, that NATO lacks, officials said.

“Drawing on the instruments available to the two organizations, the community’s ‘deterrence toolbox’ becomes wider, from sanctions to NATO’s hard military power,” the EU official said. “Deterrence is mainly NATO’s business, but deterrence is not solely putting force on display: it is also about denying the benefits of an attack.”