Thursday, September 21, 2017

The real danger to U.S. national security

Why President Trump must not apply ‘prophylactic offense’ to North Korea
By Douglas Macgregor
President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was usually more interested in delivering tirades than seeking advice, but in February 1968 LBJ needed answers. According to Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, the unanticipated Tet Offensive had transformed the Vietnam War. If LBJ wanted to win the war in Vietnam, Westmoreland and the Joint Chiefs insisted they needed 200,000 more troops.
Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson was a key adviser to the president, a thoughtful man who saw himself as a public servant, not as a public figure. After listening for years to general officers who promised success in Vietnam was just around the corner, Acheson was disgusted, but not surprised. “With all due respect, Mr. President,” Acheson advised LBJ, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t know what they are talking about.”
President Trump would do well to heed Dean Acheson’s advice today. The assertions made by Mr. Trump’s generals that “time is running out” for North Korea sound a lot like a national military strategy of “prophylactic offense.” In other words, attack the opponent before the opponent has the chance to strike.
In theory prophylactic offense sounds macho and appealing, but in Northeast Asia it’s dangerous. North Korea is really a large concentration camp populated by millions of starving desperate people including its own soldiers, but its Stalinist leadership would welcome an attack by Washington.
The reason is simple: An attack out of the blue by Washington would drive Beijing into a pointless and self-defeating war (that Beijing wants to avoid) with Washington, thus rescuing North Korea from certain extinction. Russia, North Korea’s only remaining supporter would be the only power to benefit from such a conflict.
The point, Mr. President, is that North Korea is not the greatest danger to the United States. The greatest danger is that advisers in uniform who promise military success will instead blunder into a major war with an American military establishment that is poorly organized, exhausted and unready for action against the modern armed forces of regional powers in Northeast Asia, Eastern Europe or the Near East.
Worse, American military action would occur at a time when America’s economic recovery hangs by a thread and, thanks to two decades of uncontrolled immigration from the developing world, America’s national cohesion is weaker than at any time in its history since 1861. Recent events in Charlottesville are also symptomatic of the divisions that plague America.
It would behoove President Trump to follow the instincts of Candidate Trump. Recognize that for Americans the mystique of “righteous military action” in Afghanistan and Iraq, conceived in the aftermath of 911 has completely worn off. Keep in mind that despite every possible military advantage in more than a decade of desultory battles with weak Arab and Afghan insurgents — opponents without armies, air forces or air defenses — Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Obama’s generals, like LBJ’s generals, offered rosy predictions, but consistently failed to deliver success in the “global war on terror.”
Today American public support for a powerful national defense establishment is strong, but Americans will not support an open-ended war in Northeast Asia when its government has not identified attainable strategic aims worthy of sacrifice. To date, such a strategic formulation does not exist and there is little reason to expect generals whose only experience of war is against weak insurgent enemies to do so now.
Americans accept the burden of preserving the peace by maintaining the world’s most powerful military establishment. However, Americans want a military strategy that maintains the military power to win a war that Americans are compelled to fight, but otherwise constrains the use of American military power within constitutional parameters.
History teaches that political and military leaders who argue for military action are always convinced that the resulting war will be short and decisive.
Yet, the military and political leaders fail to conduct an accurate self-assessment of the nation’s strengths and weaknesses. In the end, the national capability to employ military power, rather than the valid strategic requirement to use force, tends to dominate national security decision-making.
Without leadership from you, Mr. President, the aforementioned strategy you advocated as candidate and the will to execute it will not emerge. The first step on the road to positive change is to heed Dean Acheson’s advice. LBJ waited too long to heed it. Don’t repeat his mistake.
• Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, is the author of “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Saturday, September 16, 2017

If Russia started World War III, here’s how it would go down

Douglas Macgregor states:

The current two U.S. Army armored brigade combat teams in Europe would race to the fight but be outgunned and likely destroyed quickly.

“A good example is the upgunned Stryker,” said retired Army Col. Doug Macgregor, referring to the new Strykers that are outfitted with a 30mm cannon. “That would be fine on the Mexican border. That formation will be gone in 10 minutes against the Russians.”

If Russia started World War III, here’s how it would go down

By: Todd South

A joint special exercise of logistic supply units of Belarus and Russia in August 2017. (Russian Ministry of Defense) 

If drawn into a war against Russia, U.S. and NATO forces would first begin combating Russian cyberattacks, misinformation and third-party surrogate forces, said retired Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, former head of Air Combat Command.

Carlisle said fighting likely will follow a period of steadily rising tensions and warnings. That would give the U.S. enough notice to start moving more airplanes, preparing logistics, and increasing combat capability in Europe, he said.

Nevertheless, the Russians could seize the initiative and move quickly, putting the U.S. at a big disadvantage.

Neutralizing Russia’s air defenses would be one of the most crucial — and dangerous — missions for the Air Force.

In the early hours of hostilities, as Russian tanks, fighters and bombers roll into the Baltics, Air Force jets from England, Italy and Germany would arrive to tease out Russia’s advanced surface-to-air defenses and then try to destroy them.

The Air Force’s fighter squadrons in the region would see the most ferocious air-to-air dogfighting in decades.

Simultaneously, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Italy and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany would join NATO forces to head to the fight.

They, alongside NATO forces, would face as many as 22 maneuver warfare battalions that Russia has in its Western Military District along NATO’s border.

Reports cite a window of 36 to 60 hours for Russian forces to reach and begin siege operations on Tallinn and Riga, the capitals of Estonia and Latvia.

“Quality light forces, like the U.S. airborne infantry that the NATO players typically deploy into Riga and Tallinn, can put up stout resistance when dug into urban terrain. But the cost of mounting such a defense to the city and its residents is typically very high,” said a 2016 RAND study on deterring Russia.

The Army’s 173rd recognized its own weaknesses if thrust into combat with Russia, according to internal review documents, as reported by Politico.

The report states GPS communications would be disabled easily and quickly, forcing troops to rely on rusty high frequency radio communication skills. The brigade also has limited air defense or electronic warfare units.

NATO forces, especially armor brigades in Poland, would have to cross the Kaliningrad corridor, wedged between where Poland’s border meets Lithuania and hedged on each side by Russian territory and Belarus.

Meanwhile, the Russians could carry out previous promises to attack Polish missile defense systems.

Incremental invasions of small areas of Baltic territory may or may not provoke a NATO response. But, experts agree, an attack on Poland would.

The current two U.S. Army armored brigade combat teams in Europe would race to the fight but be outgunned and likely destroyed quickly.

“A good example is the upgunned Stryker,” said retired Army Col. Doug Macgregor, referring to the new Strykers that are outfitted with a 30mm cannon. “That would be fine on the Mexican border. That formation will be gone in 10 minutes against the Russians.”

A Russian strike through Belarus into the Baltics would be so “quick and overwhelming” that, “like with Crimea,” NATO would have to accept that those states are now in the Russian orbit, said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales.

“I think it’s very easy to consider a scenario where small units of NATO forces, to include American forces, could in fact be overwhelmed in the event of an attack,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, a former commander in Bosnia.

During recent war games, NATO tried to use indigenous forces to assist — “the outcome was, bluntly, a disaster for NATO,” according the RAND study.

NATO infantry was unable to retreat and was destroyed in place.

U.S. land forces, accustomed to air and sea dominance, would face Russian interference with their support and could be on their own for hours, days, and even weeks at a time.

“What cannot get there in time are the kinds of armored forces required to engage their Russian counterparts on equal terms, delay their advance, expose them to more frequent and more effective attacks from air and land-based fires, and subject them to spoiling counterattacks,” according to the RAND study.

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division parachute from a C-17 Globemaster during a Joint Operational Access Exercise mission, Camp Mackall, N.C., June 26, 2013. (Airman 1st Class Cory D. Payne/Air Force)


While Atlantic-based Navy assets would be ready to engage, naval experts say Russian maritime maneuvering, along with their allies, will be able to delay and tie up the Navy elsewhere.

“We can hardly pull the entire Navy out of the Pacific to do battle in Europe, lest we sacrifice our Asian alliances along with stakes of immense value,” said James Holmes, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

China and Iran’s navies could keep major parts of the U.S. Navy bogged down away from Western Europe.

Russian submarines would slow down seaborne reinforcements to the Baltics, Holmes said. The port of Sevastopol, Crimea, gives Russia a staging area for “anti-access” weapons in the Black Sea, Holmes said.

“In short, it could make the Black Sea into a Russian lake — safeguarding that maritime flank,” he said.

A man watches Russian military jets performing on Aug. 12, 2017, in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia. The Russian military says major war games, the Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers, set for next month will not threaten anyone. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)


The Norwegian government has approved six-month rotations of roughly 300 Marines in Norway through 2018.

In the event of a war with Russia, pre-positioned stockpiles would supply a force of 15,000 for 30 days of fighting and would likely provide the footprint for a larger force of Marines, said Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the Chatham House policy institute in London.

“We shouldn’t see this small contingent ... in Norway as a deterrent: It is simply providing a capability for rapid expansion, should it be necessary,” Giles said.

While soldiers, Marines and some pre-positioned equipment could be flown in within days or weeks to reinforce fighting in the Baltics, armor and other heavy items must come aboard ship.

The conflict could stall there, depending on the reaction of NATO forces and its strategic willingness.

Or, fighting could expand. A delay gives Russia time to consolidate its gains, making NATO go on the offensive in one of the more difficult kinds of fighting — regaining lost territory.

“God knows whether you could manage the conflict to bring about a ceasefire and a withdrawal or whether it would go larger,” Nash said.