Monday, November 27, 2017

Building the Mexican border wall

By Douglas Macgregor - - Sunday, November 26, 2017


In a Nov. 7 Middle East Forum essay, Michel Gurfinkiel states the obvious: Border walls work. Israel operates 342 miles of barriers to protect itself from the savage conflicts that engulf its Muslim neighbors. And China maintains a 1,000 mile fence along its North Korean border to keep millions of starving and terrorized Koreans from pouring into Manchuria.

Yet despite the loss of American life to illegal aliens and violence along the Mexican Border, nearly a year into the Trump presidency, there is still no effective and consistent barrier along the 1,989 miles of America’s border with Mexico. Why?

A big reason is that too many of President Trump’s appointees in the White House, the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense are men and women who rose through the ranks during the three last administrations that focused instead on interventions into Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and, more recently, sub-Saharan Africa. None of them was ever inclined to protect the United States from the nexus of criminality and terrorism in Mexico.
Since 2001, the U.S. government has invested far more resources to protect Afghan and Iraqi citizens from their own ethno-religious, tribal, and criminal conflicts than it has invested in securing its own borders. And, though few in the administration will admit it, no amount of courageous work by the Border Patrol will suffice to secure our southern border.

A different approach is always required; one that designates the Department of Defense (DoD) as the lead agency for security and surveillance of the border. This would more properly assign to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the task of apprehending and deporting aliens.

How would this work? The land border with Mexico (excepting selected mountainous areas) might be secured by a double concrete-and-steel barrier that is under persistent surveillance 24 hours, 7 days a week and overwatched by armed rapid response teams.

Our maritime frontiers might be secured with persistent surveillance backed by armed rapid response teams.

The obvious choice to man the border and supervise construction is the United States’ regular Army. From roughly 1846 to 1948, America’s border with Mexico was guarded by the regular Army of the United States. When 19 Americans were killed and Columbus, New Mexico was burned by Mexican insurgents under Pancho Villa in March 1916, 100,000 U.S. Army National Guardsmen were mobilized to relieve the regular Army and secure the border with Mexico.

Today’s regular Army is filled with soldiers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains that have secured Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and Iraq’s border with its Syrian and Iranian neighbors. Like their predecessors that secured the Cold War inter-German and Czechoslovak Borders, these Army veterans have both the technical expertise and the personal experience with difficult rules of engagement to rapidly secure the border with Mexico.

Naturally, the logic of this approach would collide with the contemporary use of Army forces to secure other peoples’ borders from the demilitarized zone on the Korean peninsula to Iraq and Syria.

Washington ignores the truth that a large U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army presence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East between 2001 and 20017 could not prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from taking power in Egypt, Iran from dominating Iraq, Syria from imploding, or anarchy from breaking out in Libya and Yemen. It didn’t work in the Middle East. But it would work in America.

Without a wall, Washington cannot halt the flow of violence and criminality into the United States from Mexico and Central America. The extreme character of criminal violence and corruption in all areas of Mexican society — much of it driven by a “War on Drugs” that ignores the role of consumer demand in the U.S — makes the wall imperative. A truly secure border will reduce cartel access to the American consumer and benefit Mexico.

A border wall would also address Mexico’s internal struggle with illegal trans-migration. Inside Mexico, Latinos (along with some Muslims from the Near East and North Africa) move routinely through Mexico to its porous border with the United States. Sealing off America’s southern border would eliminate the incentive of many aspiring illegal migrants in South and Central America to move north through Mexico.

In sum, as Michel Gurfinkiel notes, “individual freedom and achievement are the Western world’s most cherished values.” But these values will not survive if mass immigration from countries where the rule of law is non-existent destroys them.

 Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, is the author of “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Friday, November 17, 2017

Doug Macgregor recommends reading the statement from Rep. John Duncan

Congressman Duncan, Republican Representative from Tennessee, takes a brave stand against Washington’s bipartisan perpetual war party and its coveted imperial domain that stretches from Iraq to Korea. I urge everyone to read his statement. Doug Macgregor

Rep. John Duncan: There Is Nothing Patriotic or Conservative About Our Bloated Defense Budget


Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. Posted on
Several times over my 29 years in Congress I have wondered whether there are any fiscal conservatives at the Pentagon.

It seems that the Defense Department is just like every other gigantic bureaucracy. When it comes to money, the refrain is always "more, more, more."
On November 14, the House passed what one Capitol Hill paper described as a "$700 billion compromise defense bill." It was $80 billion over the budget caps and many billions more than even President Trump had requested.

I opposed almost all the major initiatives of the Obama administration. But it was false to say that the Defense Department was "depleted" or "eviscerated" during those years, or that now we must "rebuild the military." In fact, public relations experts in future years should conduct studies about how the Defense Department has been able to convince the public it has been cut when it is getting more money than ever. Defense Department appropriations have more than doubled since 2000. In addition, the Department has gotten extra billions in several supplemental or emergency appropriation bills.

The military construction bill is a separate bill that has added another $109.5 billion over the last 10 years. It would be hard to find any U.S. military base any place in the world that has not had several new buildings constructed over the last few years. In fiscal year 2016, we spent over $177 billion on new equipment, guns, tanks, etc. We have spent similar amounts for many years. Most of this equipment does not wear out or have to be replaced after just one year.

It is ironic that the only President in the last 60 or 70 years who has tried to rein in defense spending is the only President in that period that spent most of his career in the military. In Evan Thomas’ book, Ike’s Bluff, when told by his top staffer that he could not reduce defense spending, President Eisenhower said if he gave another star to every general who cut his budget, there would be "such a rush to cut costs you’ll have to get out of the way."

The book also quotes Eisenhower as saying "Heaven help us if we ever have a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do."

Therein lies an explanation for a big part of what has caused much excessive and/or wasteful defense spending and, the willingness, even at times eagerness, to go to war and support permanent, never-ending wars. Only 18% of the current Congress has ever served in any branch of our military. Members are afraid if they do not vote for an increase in defense spending, or if they question waste by the military, some demagogue will accuse them of "not supporting the troops." It would be a huge understatement to say that I usually do not agree with New York Times editorials.

But the Times Editorial Board on October 22 published an editorial entitled "America’s Forever Wars," pointing out that the US "has been at war continuously since the attacks of 9/11" and now has troops in "at least 172 countries." The Board wrote that so far the American people have "seemed to accept" all this militarism, but "it’s a very real question whether, in addition to endorsing these commitments, which have cost trillions of dollars and many lives over 16 years, they will embrace new entanglements…"

The Times added that the Congress "has spent little time considering such issues in a comprehensive way or debating why all these deployments are needed." Backing these words up was a cartoon in the October 25 issue of Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper. The cartoon showed six senators sitting at a hearing. The first senator, reading a newspaper, says "Who knew we had troops in Niger?!" The second says: "Heck, we don’t even know how the military budget gets spent."

Finally, the cartoon shows a senator who looks like Sen. Ted Cruz, saying "War is hell. I say we just give the Pentagon an extra $80 billion and call it a day." Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, himself a veteran, wrote on October 23: "But there is something else at work here: the slavish veneration now accorded the military. You can see it every time someone in uniform testifies before Congress." 

Since now less than one percent of the people serve in the military, it may be that many people who never served feel, perhaps even subconsciously, that they must bend over backwards to show their patriotism. However, it is not unpatriotic to oppose wasteful defense spending or very unnecessary permanent, forever wars. President Reagan once said "our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available."

We have far too many leaders today who seem to want to be new Winston Churchills and who are far too eager to send people to war. No true fiscal conservative could ever justify spending many billions more than even President Trump requested.

Our national debt recently went over the $20 trillion level. A few days ago, it was reported that the deficit for fiscal 2017 was $666 billion. This fiscal year, it may be even higher. 

Conservatives used to be against huge deficit spending. They also used to be against massive foreign aid.Much of what we have been doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan, training police and farmers, repairing electrical and water systems, even making small business loans, etc., is pure foreign aid.

Many of our foreign interventions have been done under the auspices or authority of the United Nations. Conservatives used to be the biggest critics of the U.N. and world government. Most of our so-called "coalitions" have been funded almost entirely by American taxpayers.

Most interventionists at some point resort to a slur referring to their opponents as isolationists. This is so false. Traditional conservatives support trade and tourism and cultural and educational exchanges with other countries and they agree with helping during humanitarian crises. They just don’t believe in dragging war out forever, primarily so defense contractors, think tanks, and military bureaucrats can get more money.

One last point: We have far too many officers. In Scott Berg’s biography on Woodrow Wilson, it says during World War I, we had one officer for every 30 enlisted men. Eisenhower once said we had too many officers when there were nine enlisted for every officer. Now we have one officer for only four and a half to five and a half enlisted (varies by branch).

This is very expensive, both for active duty and retirement, but it also makes it much more likely that we will get involved in every little conflict around the world and/or continue basing troops in almost every country.  We simply do not have enough money to pay for defense of so many countries other than our own nor the authority under our Constitution to try to run the whole world.

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) represents Tennessee’s 2nd District. Congressman Duncan served honorably in both the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, starting as an enlisted man and rising to the rank of captain.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Business as Usual at the Pentagon

The revolving door between major defense contractors and the Pentagon is spinning ever more rapidly, notes FP: Foreign Policy. Here’s a telling report from last week:

McCain says enough, but does he mean it? During a hearing Thursday to vet several Trump administration nominees for top Pentagon jobs, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was tired of seeing defense industry executives go to work in the Pentagon.

But he indicated he’ll support the Mark Esper, chief lobbyist for for Raytheon – the fourth largest defense contractor in the United States – for secretary of the Army, telling Esper his concerns “grew out of early consultations I had with the administration about potential nominations, including yours.” McCain added that “it was then that I decided I couldn’t support further nominees with that background, beyond those we had already discussed.”

Lots of defense industry execs already at work. But at least one more will soon pass through McCain’s Senate Armed Services Committee, however. At some point in the coming weeks, John C. Rood, senior vice president for Lockheed Martin International will testify for the under secretary of defense for policy job, the third highest position in the Defense Department.
The Senate has already approved former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to be deputy defense secretary – the second highest position in the Pentagon – and Ellen Lord, the former chief executive officer of Textron Systems, to be undersecretary of defense for acquisition.

In short, there are no fresh thinkers at the Pentagon: just men and women drawn mainly from the corporate world or from the ranks of military retirees (or both). They’re hired because they know the system – but also because they believe in it. They’re not going to rock the boat. They believe in “staying the course.”

The result is a system with no new ideas. Consider Afghanistan. Sixteen years after the initial invasion after 9/11, American forces are still bogged down there. As FP: Foreign Policy reports today, we finally have an official number for the latest mini-surge orchestrated by retired Generals John Kelly and James Mattis:

We have a surge number. After months of tapdancing around exactly how many more U.S. troops are are heading to Afghanistan, Monday’s request asks for $1.2 billion to support an additional 3,500 US troops in Afghanistan.

Somehow, a few thousand extra US troops are supposed to reverse the growth of the Taliban while improving Afghan security forces and reining in Afghan governmental corruption. In short, sixteen years’ experience has meant nothing to US decision makers.

It puts me to mind of a great description of military thinking from C.S. Forester’s “The General,” a remarkable novel about British generalship in World War I (and one of General John Kelly’s favorite books). Here’s what Forester had to say about the persistence of military folly among the generals planning major offensives in that war:

“In some ways it was like the debate of a group of savages as to how to extract a screw from a piece of wood. Accustomed only to nails, they had made one effort to pull out the screw by main force, and now that it had failed they were devising methods of applying more force still, of obtaining more efficient pincers, of using levers and fulcrums so that more men could bring their strength to bear. They could hardly be blamed for not guessing that by rotating the screw it would come out after the exertion of far less effort; it would be a notion so different from anything they had ever encountered that they would laugh at the man who suggested it.”

Forester goes on to write that:

“The Generals round the table were not men who were easily discouraged–men of that sort did not last long in command in France. Now that the first shock of disappointment had been faced they were prepared to make a fresh effort, and to go on making those efforts as long as their strength lasted.”

That’s the US military in Afghanistan in a nutshell: fresh efforts, but no fresh thinking. How could it not be so? The same generals are in charge, men like Mattis and Kelly, who led previous “surges,” backed by civilian leaders drawn from private military contractors, whose main priority it is to spend this year’s massive defense budget while ensuring next year’s budget will be even more massive.

There’s no incentive in the system for fresh thinking, and certainly none for saving money. Instead, it’s all about showing “resolve,” even if resolve in this case means hammering and pulling away at so many screws. And this even makes a weird sort of sense, for there’s a lot of profit to be made in the name of developing better pincers and levers and fulcrums to tackle “screws” like Afghanistan.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The U.S. Army's 'New' Command Is a Repackaging of Old Failures

 Daniel L. Davis

The U.S. Army recently announced the creation of a new modernization command run by a three-star general that would serve as a “realignment of modernization responsibilities under a new organization.” The goals of this organization sound impressive. It is when one looks beneath the surface, however, that it becomes apparent this “new” command represents little more than a repackaging of old structures. Without major changes, the Army will likely continue its two-decades long drought of modernization failures—and the risk to U.S. national security will rise.

A letter signed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley explained that the Army had to set up a new command because the service under his leadership “is not institutionally organized to deliver critical capabilities to Soldiers and combat formations quickly. Our current modernization system is . . . insufficient to ensure future overmatch.” What he does not explain, however, is how this new command will succeed where the Army’s existing structure failed over the past two decades.

The Army already has a dizzying array of modernization commands. At the top is the four-star Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) whose mission is to “change the Army to win in a complex world” and to “design, acquire, and build the future Army, and to constantly Improve it.” Under TRADOC, there is an organization run by a three-star general called the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), whose mission is to think “clearly about future armed conflict and develop a sound conceptual foundation for Army modernization” and “prioritize solutions to ensure that our Army has the capability and capacity to accomplish future missions.”

Under ARCIC is yet another organization, this one run by a one-star general, called the U.S. Joint Modernization Command (JMC), charged with conducting “operationally realistic and rigorous” field exercises to experiment with future concepts that will “improve the combat effectiveness of the Joint Force.” Yet all of these organizations have cumulatively failed to produce every attempt to upgrade the the 1970s equipment the Army continues to rely on or modernize warfighting organizations.

The Army last attempted a major modernization program that began with a 1999 speech by former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Erik Shinseki, later to become known as the Future Combat Systems. Despite repeated warnings of looming failure from the Government Accountability Office and analyses I wrote in 2005 and 2008 in the Armed Forces Journal, the Army tried to force Future Combat Systems to work. The results were disappointingly predictable: In 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates canceled the program. All attempts to modernize the armored fleet since 2009 have likewise failed.

What the U.S. Army modernization commands were unable to do, however, the Russians did. In 2008 Russia began a military modernization program that military expert Maksym Beznosiuk said was intended “to address the technological and organizational weaknesses of the Russian military,” which were exposed during the short conflict with Georgia. In terms of the “transformation of force structure, the cumbersome divisions usually involved in fighting on a long frontline were disbanded in 2009 to be replaced by smaller in size but more agile and better prepared brigades.”

Russians needed only six years to design, test and then start producing technologically advanced combat vehicles, highlighted by the Armata T-14 tank and T-15 personnel carrier. Both employ state-of-the-art armor, cannons and fire control systems. The T-14 in particular appears to be just as survivable and deadly as the U.S. Abrams tank.

Simply stated, the United States cannot afford to continue drifting inconclusively into a future in which other world powers are decisively improving. The U.S. military has enjoyed a dramatic conventional advantage over the rest of the world for decades. That gap is shrinking by the year, owing in part to our inability to deliver on modernization programs.

The reason the majority of the Army’s modernization efforts have failed is not because of weaknesses in how three successive echelons of Army commands have been organized. It has instead been caused by a failure of the service’s top leaders to select and then execute a realistic and effective modernization program. Simply rearranging how TRADOC, ARCIC and JMC are organized by forming a “new” command will not solve this decades-long systemic failure.
There is, however, fresh thinking from outside the Army that has a chance to solve the problem. Section 1091 of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act directs the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to evaluate a new fighting organization and doctrine, called the Reconnaissance Strike Group, which was designed by retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor (full disclosure: I fought with Macgregor in Desert Storm).

Instead of replacing systems inside the Army’s existing organization for combat brigades, divisions and corps used since World War II, the Reconnaissance Strike Group construct includes new combat formations expressly designed to account for modern weapons, technology and likely enemy capabilities. It employs cutting-edge technology that exists today and could be deployed right now—if only the leadership and political will existed to do what’s right to strengthen the Army.

If the Army stays on its current plan, then the new modernization command won’t even be established until next summer—and it is unknown how long after that before any functional modernization plans will be announced. Were the president to adopt the Reconnaissance Strike Group concept, however, within five to eight years, the U.S. Army could have four six-thousand-men strike groups equipped with the most modern and survivable combat vehicles. The strike groups would be fully fielded and ready for action. Such a force could provide enough combat power on its own to defeat a Russian advance into the Baltics. Unfortunately, as I observed throughout my twenty-one-year career in the Army, the service’s senior leaders typicaly reject any solution that is not of their own creation. It will likely take the president or secretary of defense to step in and insist the Army put into action this new construct.

The Russians succeeded where the Future Combat Systems failed, and their inventory of modern tanks that can challenge American power continues to grow, shrinking by the day the advantage that the United States once had over them. Let us not pass this opportunity to prove that American leadership and knowhow can produce a superior, modernized force—and rebuild the capability gap between United States and Russian forces in favor of America.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.
Image: U.S. Army