Saturday, May 5, 2018

Trump Turns Tragedy into Triumph in Korea 
May 4, 2018
Trump must act to curb Washington should appetite for involvement everywhere—regardless of its connection to U.S. security—and focus American military power with greater precision. 

Douglas Macgregor 

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the media as he heads to the Marine One helicopter as he departs the White House to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, U.S. December 21, 2017. 
REUTERS/Jim Bourg​
In any conflict, political, military or economic, the greatest challenge of presidential leadership is to recognize when the moment has arrived to force a decision. Knowing when to act is a matter of instinctive intelligence. Yet, for instinct to be meaningful, it must also be buttressed by an unshakeable will.
In his handling of the Korean crisis, President Trump has given a brilliant demonstration of these attributes. Premature euphoria is hazardous, but the conflict on the Korean Peninsula is likely to end; not with a bang, but a whimper.
America’s mission on the Korean Peninsula, and, indeed, in Northeast Asia is fulfilled. After World War II and the Korean conflict, American military power provided the shield behind which the Korean and Japanese peoples prospered. The shield worked.
The Republic of Korea’s (ROK) economy is larger than Russia’s and forty times the size of North Korea’s economy. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, created its own version of the industrial revolution by cultivating Japan’s competitive edge in business more effectively than any other modern nation-state. China has also evolved.
China continues to perfect its anti-access/area denial strategy, but China clearly does not present the military threat to the United States that the Soviet Union posed during the Cold War. In fact, China’s leaders are far more concerned with maintaining internal stability and control of 1.2 billion people than with launching wars to enact Chinese military dominion in Asia or anywhere else. China leverages its economic strength to pressure its neighbors on matters that it cares about in the seas that surround it, but China prefers to resolve its differences with Vietnam, the Philippines, the ROK​ and Japan through nonmilitary means.
In Washington—where no grand strategy exists beyond the unstated belief system known as liberal military hegemony—none of this is welcome news. In 2011 James Clapper insisted that China was the top strategic military threat to the United States. Seven years later and the military threat from China is still a foundational pillar in the Trump administration’s new national military strategy.
Still​,​ the weight of evidence confirms that President Trump’s initial impressions from his March 2017 meeting with President Xi were accurate: Beijing and Washington have more reason to cooperate than fight. Now, President Trump must act to curb Washington’s appetite for involvement everywhere—regardless of its connection to U.S. security or prosperity​—and focus American military power with greater precision.
First, it’s time to allow powerful allies in key regions to take the lead where U.S. and allied interests overlap. In Asia, Washington should view Tokyo, not itself, as the natural counterweight to Chinese influence. The combination of Japanese economic strength, regional diplomacy (particularly in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific),​ and formidable naval power means that Tokyo can take the lead in ensuring freedom of navigation in the waters that surround China.
U.S. aerospace and naval forces can reinforce Japan as needed without raising fears in Beijing (or anywhere else in Asia) of an American attempt to alter the regional geopolitical status quo through intervention on the ground. In other words, the United States can withdraw its Army ground forces from the Korean Peninsula and the Marines from Okinawa; actions that will be warmly supported by the Japanese and Korean populations.
Second, Washington has pressing security concerns in the Western Hemisphere, Eastern Europe,​and the Near East. Washington pays too little attention to threats from criminality, corruption,​ and terrorism emanating from Central America and the Caribbean Basin. In Eastern Europe, Moscow’s unrelenting war on Ukraine creates a permanent catalyst for conflict with Moscow’s Western neighbors. In the Near East, Iran’s reaction to an American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is unknown, but the potential for a military confrontation should not be excluded. Turkey, an ally on paper, has been drifting away from the United States and NATO for decades. It no longer has many geopolitical, security,​ or economic interests in common with the United States.
Third, U.S. Army ground forces must be reoriented to high-end conventional warfare, but this reorientation cannot be executed in isolation from the Air Force and the Navy. Survival in a battlespace dominated by precision-strike weapons with weapons-of-mass-destruction effects demand a fundamental shift in Army thinking and modernization away from ground-holding, light infantry-centric tactics to a force-oriented strategy within a joint, integrated maneuver framework. Upgraded versions of the Cold War army are not the answer.
With fewer than 475,000 Soldiers on active duty, today’s smaller Army cannot field modern warfighting forces and still maintain large light infantry forces for counter-terrorism. The latter are missions that should be assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations Command that together number 250,000 Marines, Soldiers, Sailors​ and Airmen.
Imposing change on the four-star generals who made their careers through twenty-five years of counterinsurgency and nation-building will not be easy. The chiefs of service continue to set the requirements for multi-billion dollar programs, not the Office of Secretary of Defense, which rarely challenges Service budgets or priorities.
Yet,​ President Trump’s stature as commander-in-chief has never been greater. He can make these changes, extract large savings for reinvestment in America,​and stabilize our relations with Asia on terms that favor prosperity and peace.
Col. (ret) Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD and the author of five books. His latest is, Margin of Victory (Naval Institute Press).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Could the MV-22B be the Marines' Secret Weapon?

“…given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.” In view of the advances in air defense technology, reliance on supporting fire from a rotor-driven platform to support amphibious assault, (itself a questionable concept in the age of PGMS), consigns the 180,000 man Marine Corps to use in exclusively “permissive” environments. In other words, against any capable opponent possessing modern air defense weapons, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft is doomed. The bottom line: If the American taxpayer wants to maintain a light-infantry-centric Marine Corps with little to no survivability or utility in a confrontation with a modern, nation-state opponent, then, the 475,000 man U.S. Army must be configured, organized and equipped primarily for warfare in non-permissive or contested environments. The implications for the equally anachronistic airborne and airmobile forces in the Regular Army should be obvious. They cannot fight and survive in contested environments. Thus, they must be re-purposed leaving low intensity conflict missions to the “permissive environment only” Marine Corps. Failure to take this action ignores the essential point of the new National Defense Strategy: to develop and maintain ground maneuver forces capable of joint operations in high intensity conventional conflict.

Cheers, Doug 
April 25, 2018

Could This Be the Marines’ Secret Weapon?

Kris Osborn

 All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely "forward firing" weapons.

“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement—we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement

Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.

“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.

All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.

“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.

The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.

Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as "Mounted Vertical Maneuver" wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions -- to include surprise attacks.

Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.

For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.

Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.

This article by Kris Osborn originally appeared on Warrior Maven.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Trump Can't Alter Syria's Future

Douglas Macgregor
April 13, 2018

The last few days in Washington have read like the script from 1972’s blockbuster movie The Godfather. Only this time, President Trump is doing his best imitation of Sonny Corleone.

Sonny: I’m going to decide what’s going to be done.

Tom Hagen: All right, but your war is costing us a lot of money, nothing’s coming in. We can’t do business.

Sonny: Well, neither can they! Don’t worry about it.

Tom Hagen: They don’t have our overhead. . . . We can’t afford a stalemate.

Sonny: Well, then, there ain’t no more stalemate—I’m gonna end it by killin’ that ol’ bastard! I’m gonna . . . kill . . .

Tom Hagen: Yeah, well, you’re getting a great reputation! I hope you’re enjoying it.

Sonny: Well, you just do what I tell you to do! Goddamn it. If I had a wartime consigliere—a Sicilian—I wouldn’t be in this shape!

Like Sonny, President Trump is in the grip of a fanatical urge to act. He’s determined to punish evildoers in Syria for the alleged chlorine gas attack, telling his cabinet that if involved, Assad—and even Putin—will be held accountable: “Everybody is going to pay a price. He will. Everybody will.”

The advocates for military action include the usual suspects. Most are President Trump’s most severe critics, wrongly placing blame for events in Syria on Washington’s chronic failure to intervene in the Syrian Civil War. They reflect the prevailing bipartisan “globalist,” interventionist “wisdom” inside the Beltway: that bombing Syria will induce the warring parties to comply with American demands for polite restraint in a bloody civil war where all sides practice scorched-earth tactics.

No doubt, the interventionists are confident that President Trump’s use of American military power will result in a tolerable political compromise, enabling Syria’s diverse peoples—Arabs, Kurds, Shia, Druze, Christian and Sunni—to live peacefully in a harmonious, secular democratic state. Is that not what happened after the U.S. military intervened in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan?

President Trump knows better. Bombing Syria is exactly the kind of military action that has made America’s regional opponents stronger and its allies weaker since 2001.

Washington’s 2003 decision to attack Iraq—to occupy the country, disband its army and govern it with American military power—precipitated the breakdown in regional order. The resulting war of U.S. military occupation installed a Shia Arab dictatorship in Baghdad and made Iran the master of Iraq. The outcome produced a cloud of violence that spread across the Middle East and North Africa—a region characterized by underdeveloped economies, stagnant social structures and peoples who define themselves by religious sect and ethnic and tribal identity, not by the artificial dictatorships created in the aftershock of decolonization.

Whether the United States’ small, vulnerable light-infantry force of two thousand troops stays in Syria another six months or another six years, the country’s fate will not be decided by Washington. Moscow, Ankara, Tehran and Damascus will divide it, or Syria will descend into a permanent state of ethnic and religious warfare. Either way, the developing struggle for control of northeastern Syria between Turks and Iranians suggests a low probability that an American bombing offensive will do anything more than force cohesion on the unnatural alliance of Russians, Turks and Iranians.

As a successful businessman, the president knows that without a comprehensive business strategy tied to a realistic understanding of the marketplace, corporations hemorrhage cash, wither and die. Syria is a marketplace where outsiders invest at their own peril.

President Trump’s instinct to leave Syria as soon as possible is sound. The Islamic State’s influence always depended on its ability to seize and hold territory. That territory is now gone.

Yet there is another reason for President Trump to avoid entanglement in Syria. The America First agenda must succeed—and for the agenda to succeed, the Trump presidency must succeed.

Right now, the greatest danger to the Trump presidency is a renewal of Washington’s refusal since 1991 to accept any regional solution in the Middle East other than one imposed by American military power. The danger is a destructive collision with the triumvirate of powers that have tangible, concrete strategic interests in Syria: Russia, Iran and Turkey. Unlike the weak insurgents Americans have faced since 2001, these nations possess powerful air forces, air defenses, armies and navies.

It is never easy for an aggressive commander in chief to resist offensive action, but any significant military action in Syria risks confrontation with these powers on strategic terms that do not favor the United States. Moreover, American military action is simply out of line with Syria’s actual importance to the United States. President Trump would be wise to heed Tom Hagen’s advice to Sonny Corleone—or risk having his legacy shattered on the causeway, like Sonny.

Col. (ret) Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army, is a decorated combat veteran, PhD and author of five books; his latest is Margin of Victory (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Image: A Syrian soldier stands guard near destroyed buildings in Jobar, eastern Ghouta, April 2, 2018. Reuters/Omar Sanadiki.