Tuesday, November 6, 2018
By retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, opinion contributor
November 06, 2018 - 05:00 PM EST
Throughout the 1930s, the nation’s senior military leaders recoiled at the thought of fighting another costly war in Europe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies toward Germany and Japan worried them. Senior military leaders, Army generals in particular, privately argued for hemispheric defense; the defense of America’s land borders and its coastal waters.
Today, President Trump confronts FDR’s strategic dilemma in reverse. Suppressing Arab and Afghan insurgents — opponents without armies, air forces, air defenses or navies — for 17 years has led the nation’s senior military leaders to order air strikes, patrols, raids and special action missions from the secure comfort of plush headquarters.
Virtually, no one in the senior ranks has the experience to prepare him or her for war with the Russian or Chinese armed forces, let alone defending Southern border with Mexico from the lawlessness and violence sweeping into America. Moreover, both tasks involve significant change. Change in any form is something senior military leader always dislike.
Retired Gen. Colin Powell — the former secretary of State who knew there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, but told the U.N. the WMD was there anyway — said, "I see no threat requiring this kind of deployment." And one of Powell’s successors, Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey — an architect of the Iraqi Army that melted away in front of ISIS — said the border security mission was a "wasteful deployment of over-stretched Soldiers and Marines."
Make no mistake, when retired Army four stars attack the president in the Washington Post, it’s no accident. They are speaking on behalf of their disgruntled four-star colleagues in the Pentagon.
Yet, where were these generals when the Bush administration’s deeply flawed and morally bankrupt policies produced strategic disaster in Afghanistan and Iraq? Clearly, the willingness of these and other senior military leaders to stand up to their political masters when fundamentally wrong courses of action were ordered was noticeably lacking. Whether one agreed with the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 or not, the truth is that that the blame for the subsequent cruelty, corruption and incompetence during the occupation of Iraq lies as much with the generals as it does with the policymakers in the Bush and Obama administrations.
Policies determine focus, but execution — effective implementation of policy — is what creates success or failure in action. Execution is the responsibility of senior military leaders.
In his landmark book, “A Bright Shining Lie” Neil Sheehan wrote, “20 years after the end of WW II, the dominant characteristics of the senior leadership of the American Armed Forces had become professional arrogance, lack of imagination and moral and intellectual insensitivity.” According to Sheehan, were the personality traits that more than any other single factor, led otherwise intelligent officers to behave stupidly in Vietnam.
How chief executives deal with the aforementioned traits in uniform is instructive. Many end up like big-league baseball teams trying to find the right manager. Some, like LBJ and “Dubya” just work with the generals they have. Others like Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt demanded better generals and found them.
In 1899, after Spain surrendered the Philippines, President McKinley decided Americans had a Christian duty to occupy the Philippines. By 1902, McKinley was dead and Philippine resistance to American occupation had resulted in the death of at least 200,000 Filipinos and 6,000 American Soldiers. Teddy Roosevelt, the new president, was desperate to end the war.
When secret information concerning the mistreatment of the Philippine civilian population appeared in the Washington Post and in the hands of senior Senators in the Democratic Party, Teddy Roosevelt was sure that Lt. Gen. Nelson Miles, Commander of the U.S. Army was the source. Miles was violently opposed to Teddy Roosevelt’s reform plans for the U.S. Army. When he testified on the Hill against his reform plans, Miles said he would rather resign than submit to the “despotism from the White House.”
Teddy Roosevelt also knew that Miles harbored presidential ambitions, but he was less concerned with Miles’ political aspirations than with Miles’ unprofessional conduct. In a public showdown that surprised everyone in Washington, Teddy Roosevelt told Miles, “I will have no criticism of my Administration from you, or any other officer in the Army. Your conduct is worthy of censure, sir.”
Miles retired and sought the Democratic nomination for president — he lost. Congress enacted Teddy Roosevelt’s Army reforms and in 1906, he appointed a brigadier general named James Franklin Bell as the U.S. Army’s first chief of staff. The Army changed. Bell was the first officer in 45 years to lead the Army who had not fought in the Civil War.
Mr. President, the lesson of history is clear. If the senior military leaders don’t believe in the assigned border mission, don’t force them to do it. Do what Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt did: replace them with new officers who will do the job. Like Gen. Miles, the departing senior military leaders can always run for office, or look for jobs with the next Democratic administration.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, Ph.D., was a combat veteran and the author of five books. His latest is Margin of Victory.
By: Tara Copp
Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kan., work alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Nov. 2, 2018, at the Hidalgo, Texas, port of entry, applying 300 meters of concertina wire along the Mexico border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot. (Senor Airman Alexandra Minor/Air Force)
The Pentagon faced questions Monday as to why it selected thousands of active-duty forces to deploy to the border instead of sending additional National Guard.
In responses to reporters, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said when the Department of Homeland Security made the request for military support, it specifically sought forces to assist with planning; engineering support to construct barriers; aviation support to transport Customs and Border Patrol personnel; medical teams; command and control capabilities and the ability to construct temporary housing for Customs and Border Patrol personnel.
Those are active-duty capabilities; but they are also the purview of the National Guard. Approximately 4,800 troops have been deployed with 5,200 expected to be in place by the end of the day.
Of those 4,800, 2,600 are in Texas and 1,100 each are in Arizona and California. Between 750 to 1,000 of those forces are Marines from Camp Pendleton. Several Pendleton units are being combined to form an engineering Marine Air Ground Task Force that will stay in California, a DoD official said on the condition of anonymity.
Manning initially said the administration specified the use of active-duty forces, but the press office quickly clarified that DHS had only requested the capabilities, and DoD made the decision to use Title 10 forces over the Guard.
“We determined that the units that were selected to fulfill this mission were the right units with the right capabilities that we could rapidly deploy in position in order to assist DHS,” Manning said.
If National Guard forces had been selected, state governors would have had to approve their deployment. Earlier this year when Trump requested military support at the border, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized that up to 4,000 personnel could fulfill the request. Governors sent only about 2,100 forces total, and several governors refused.
A U.S. airmen of 355 Civil Engineer Squadron secure the frame of a tent at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 4, 2018. Various military branches are deployed as support to local Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in support of Operation Faithful Patriot. (Spc. Keion Jackson/Army)
The Pentagon still could not provide any data on the costs of the deployment but said that DoD’s comptroller was working on those figures.
Manning also emphasized that U.S. forces will not be patrolling the border, will not be interacting with migrants crossing the border, and the only forces who are armed will be military police or other security forces — who are there to provide force protection for their fellow soldiers, not protect CBP as they patrol. Military police or security forces will also secure entry points of DoD facilities along the border.
“There is no plan for DOD personnel to interact with migrants or protesters,” Manning said. “We are absolutely in support of [Customs and Border Patrol].”
Despite the stand-off role, troops are deploying with body armor.
“They are in the uniform that the commander determined was appropriate for that mission,” Manning said.
Monday, November 5, 2018
President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed in 1987 by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, seems to have surprised Russia President Vladimir Putin. However, it should not have come as a shock.
Moscow began violating the INF Treaty at least 10 years ago. Much like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the INF was on life support during most of President Obama’s term in office. President Trump simply pulled the plug.
On the other hand, Mr. Putin’s response to Mr. Trump’s actions included a statement that deserves more attention than it has received: Russia would only employ its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. In other words, like China, Mr. Putin is declaring a “No First Use” Doctrine for Russian nuclear weapons.
To the casual Western observer, Mr. Putin’s posture is confusing. In one breath, Moscow threatens Washington’s European allies with grave consequences if they host a new class of U.S. nuclear weapons designed to counter Russia’s capabilities, and in the next breath Mr. Putin denies that Moscow will ever be the first to use a nuclear weapon. What’s going on?
The answer is complex. Unfortunately, Washington’s current relations with Moscow are weighed down by the burden of history.
During the 1930s and World War II, FDR believed that he and Stalin could solve any problem on a “man-to-man” basis. “Of one thing I am sure,” said FDR, “Stalin is not an imperialist.” Stalin “played” FDR. Fortunately, when the war ended with half of Europe and Asia under Stalin’s boot, George Kennan’s long-standing warnings about the Soviet threat finally found a receptive audience in President Truman.
Mr. Truman accepted Mr. Kennan’s argument that Moscow’s power depended on a siege mentality inside Russian society that necessitated an enemy perpetually “lowering beyond the walls.” But Stalin’s ostensible support for North Korea’s attack on South Korea set destructive forces in motion that would not expire until 1989.
With this point in mind, Steven Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton University, sought to dismantle the Cold War perception of contemporary Russia by “humanizing” Russia’s president. Mr. Cohen said, “Putin is not the ever-‘aggressive Kremlin autocrat’ so often portrayed in U.S. mainstream media. A moderate by nature (in the Russian context), he governs by balancing powerful conflicting groups and interests.”
Mr. Cohen has a point. Mr. Putin is not the mass murderer Joseph Stalin was and Russia is no longer a major superpower. In 2016, the size of the Russian economy was roughly 85 percent that of the South Korean economy. Put another way, 49 million Koreans in the Republic of Korea (ROK) dramatically out-performed 140 million Russians.
Thanks to this year’s modest rise in oil and gas prices, Russia’s single commodity economy looks a bit more robust, but in terms of per capita GDP, Russia still comes in at 68th in the world — whereas the ROK is roughly 22nd. However, today’s Japanese economy is actually more than three times the size of the ROK’s economy. Given Russia’s difficult history with Japan, Japan’s economic superpower status must raise new fears in Moscow.
Following a successful October meeting between President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it was announced that China’s bilateral relationship with Japan is back on the right track and showing positive momentum. In a joint press conference held after the talks, Mr. Abe said, “We confirmed the principle of being cooperative partners and not becoming threats to each other.” This must trouble Moscow.
The shared fear of mutually assured destruction induces Moscow to refrain from the use of nuclear weapons, but this limitation does not equate to fundamental change in Moscow’s view of itself and the surrounding world.
Though Washington dislikes and genuinely fears the concentration of Russian political, economic and military power, Washington has no choice but to deal with Moscow’s bipolar tendencies; to seek acceptance one day, then, engage in risky international behavior on the next. Keep in mind, Mr. Putin says he is ready for an improvement in U.S.-Russian ties “at any moment.”
Yet, relations with Russia now are no more about Mr. Trump’s personal rapport with Mr. Putin than were FDR’s relations with Stalin. International relations are about interests. To paraphrase George Kennan, when Mr. Trump meets with Mr. Putin in Paris on Nov. 11, his approach must be that of a long-term, patient — but firm — commitment to identify and build on the interests that Washington and Moscow share, but to scrupulously avoid the trap that ensnared FDR.
• Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel, is a decorated combat veteran and the author of five books. His latest is “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).
Sunday, October 28, 2018
The Little Army That Won Big
In 1792 President George Washington and Secretary of War Henry Knox invented a new kind of army to fight Indians in the west. They called it the Legion of the United States.
by Brandon Quintin
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Trump knows that the American Empire is crumbling. What is he going to do about it?
October 24, 2018
by Douglas Macgregor
Last week, President Donald Trump directed his cabinet secretaries to cut 5 percent from their budgets for the next fiscal year, signaling a potential a 2.2 percent cut in defense spending. Trump specifically mentioned the defense budget saying, “I made deals with the devil in order to get that done because we had to improve our military. Our military was depleted. It was in bad shape.”
Translation: Get ready. “America first” in foreign and defense policy is about to begin. Defense cuts are on the way.
The cuts aren’t coming as the result of a dispassionate Eisenhower-style strategic defense review or because current defense funds are being squandered on equipment and forces we don’t need. They are coming because the international system has changed and the U.S. government is sliding deeper into debt .
The British waited until 1946 when their debt to GDP ratio reached 256 percent to admit that the Empire was a liability , not an asset; an illusion of power mortgaged to national vanity. Trump is smarter. He knows the American Empire is over.
In Asia, the two Korean States are disarming the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In fact, Seoul announced on October 23 that the two Koreas will cooperate in rolling out “practical measures” for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, cease all exercises aimed at each other, and establish a no-fly zone on both sides of the border as of November 1. Meanwhile, Seoul has declined to accede to Washington’s demand that Seoul increase its contribution of 960 billion won (USD $846 million) to the cost of stationing U.S. forces on the peninsula by 50 percent.
Last week in Singapore, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus ASEAN’s eight Partners including Japan, Australia, India, New Zealand, Russia and the Republic of Korea held wide-ranging discussions. South Korean defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, agreed to set up additional hotlines between their respective air forces. Japanese defense minister Takeshi Iwaya and his Chinese counterpart also agreed to build closer relations between their countries’ defense ministries. During the talks, the Japanese defense chief reportedly urged China to refrain from changing the status quo in the South China Sea.
On the economic front, President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman says Seoul doesn’t require the United States’ approval before lifting its sanctions on North Korea. In Tokyo, concerns about Beijing’s maritime assertiveness persist, but China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. It’s no surprise that Japan is working to create a China-Japan-South Korea free-trade pact .
In Asia, the more deeply the constellation of Asian economic and security interests is studied, the more dated and superfluous the U.S. regional military presence turns out to be. Beijing wants to secure its position as a global power, but Beijing is scrupulously avoiding conflict with its Asian neighbors in favor of doing business with them instead.
The argument for a large and intrusive American military presence in Asia does not hold up to closer scrutiny. The pursuit of security and dollar savings in national defense dictates the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Frankly, President Trump knew this to be true from his first meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Of course, the pursuit of savings and security will not end with the inevitable withdrawals from Asia. Afghanistan and other commitments are on the list for liquidation.
The lines that separate the allegedly “legitimate” Afghan political leaders, the Taliban they claim to be fighting, and the drug lords are hopelessly blurred. Removing U.S. forces and the contractors that support them will not only save the United States roughly $60 billion a year , the regional powers—Iran, Russia, Pakistan and India—that surround Afghanistan will be compelled to take ownership of a region they’ve helped to destabilize. That, too, is in Washington’s interest.
In the Near East, Erdogan’s clandestine assistance to the Islamic State in the early stages of development combined with the massive arrests and imprisonment of any real or potential political rivals—Kemalist secularists, pro-Western Turks, Kurdish nationalists, or Christian missionaries—should have already precipitated the evacuation of all U.S. forces from Turkish soil. However, Erdogan’s readiness to work with Iran to counter Saudi Arabia and Israel, with Russia to obstruct the United States, and with Muslim criminal cartels in the Balkans to undermine European stability now makes the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Turkey imperative.
America’s senior military leaders will fight these developments and any decision that President Trump makes to eliminate gratuitous overseas military garrisons. When it comes to sharp turns in strategy or decisions about how to organize the American Military for a new warfighting paradigm, let alone a new world, senior military leaders always prefer to “wait and see.”
Still, President Trump’s instincts on national military strategy are correct. Whether the generals and admirals like it or not, the U.S. Armed Forces will be compelled to reorganize and “right-size” for the United States’ real security needs without the inefficiencies and massive overhead in the current force structure. Future withdrawals from overseas garrisons will facilitate this process.
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD, and the author of five books. His latest is Margin of Victory , Naval Institute Press, 2016.