Sunday, October 28, 2018

Recon Strike Group 1792

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

Donald Trump Meets the End of the Empire

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Hard Question with BQ

IS THIS THE OCTOBER SURPRISE? | Colonel Douglas Macgregor, John Gizzi, and David Pietrusza

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Only Way Donald Trump can Truly Put America First

If the last two decades have taught the American people anything, conflict anywhere in the world is by no means a threat to peace everywhere. We must reorder our priorities if America’s national interests are going to be advanced.
by Douglas Macgregor
Intentionally or not, President Donald Trump filled many of his top national security and foreign-policy positions with Neo-Wilsonian, Bush-Obama era Liberal Interventionists; an action that became a source of endless frustration for the president. On issues ranging from preventing transgender people from serving in the armed forces to disengaging U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Syria, Trump’s own national-security team has actively obstructed the president’s defense- and foreign-policy agenda.
President Trump always wanted to disengage U.S. forces from overseas commitments that in his view had no direct relation to American national security. Trump also rejected the alleged permanence of the postwar liberal order; an order that was dissolving when Clinton was in office. Instead, Trump sought to enhance American influence with economic strength by focusing on trade, job creation; enforcing the rule of law, immigration and border security.
On the economic front, President Trump broke through the opposition, reinvigorated America’s stagnant economy and began changing the Cold War trade arrangements that favored foreign competitors and harmed American workers and businesses for decades. In Northeast Asia, he has defused the Korean Conflict and at this point it appears that the Korean Peninsula will no longer figure prominently in the U.S. national military strategy.
However, President Trump’s attempt to secure American borders, especially America’s southern border has met with failure. The failure is tragic because violence inside Mexico has reached horrific dimensions.
The rule of law has collapsed. Mexicans of all ages are being killed so frequently that the number of homicides in 2018 will likely exceed last year’s total of 29,168. According to Mexican authorities, drug-trafficking gangs pay around 1.27 billion pesos (some $100 million) a month in bribes to municipal police officers nationwide.
To this depressing picture must be added the growing connections between Mexican drug cartels like Los Zetas and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Al Qaeda making Mexico’s use of the United States as a relief valve for its poor and discontented masses extremely dangerous.
Criminal elements in Mexico are equipped with the latest surveillance and communications technology. They can easily maneuver to locations along the border where the U.S. police presence is minimal or non-existent. Adding more police to the thousands already on the border won’t help. Worst of all, in any future war the metastasizing nexus of criminality and terrorism south of the Rio Grande will create a second front for U.S. forces.
Given the sophisticated threat, the only way to effectively secure America’s border with Mexico is to commit the regular army to patrol and defend all but the legal crossing points with a mix of air and ground forces, at least until an effective barrier system is in place. In addition, Washington and Mexico City should consider combined military action inside Mexico against transnational criminal organizations for the benefit of both nations.
So why have neither the Secretary of Defense nor the Joint Chiefs urged such action? One reason may be the American military’s oppressive atmosphere of political correctness; a climate in which strategic discourse is constrained by fear of being called a bigot or racist for suggesting action to secure America’s borders.
There are other reasons. Defending America’s borders, a mission the regular Army performed for over one hundred years between 1846 and 1948, isn’t likely to justify more manpower or force structure. As a result, the border mission does not appeal to serving officers the way it appealed to Patton, Eisenhower, Truscott, Harmon and practically every Army general officer who fought in World War II.
Clinging to the Cold War past is far more attractive. In fact, active and retired Army four-star generals have registered their indignation at the president’s actions to alter the U.S. military’s overseas presence, an expensive legacy of the Cold War security system.
Gen. Robert Abrams, the Army four-star nominated to be the next U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander, recently criticized President Trump’s decision to suspend joint military exercises between the United States and the Republic of Korea. He has argued that President Trump’s decision is undermining combat readiness by creating an ostensibly unwanted atmosphere of d├ętente. In 2017, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey went even further by insisting that President Trump was a “serious threat to U.S. national security.”
Coming from the leader of the failed war on drugs McCaffrey’s statement is rich, but his comments and those of Abrams speak volumes. Thinking and behavior of this kind is harmful because it skews the way senior officers in the armed forces think about warfare. In the international system war is always possible, but managing the risk of war involves much more than reacting to events with escalating threats.
For instance, sailing a large surface fleet into the South China Sea with the goal of “warning China” is hardly good risk management. It’s particularly ill-advised in an area where the Navy’s warships are vulnerable to a broad range of Chinese surface-to-surface missiles, loitering munitions, and submarine-launched weapons linked to an array of space and terrestrial-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Accidents happen. An unwanted incident that results in American losses in the South China Sea would signal weakness, not strength, which is the true purpose of naval power. Sooner or later, U.S. naval losses in the South China Sea would invite military aggression against the United States in other regions. Put more bluntly, dragging the United States into a war with China involving territorial disputes on behalf of the Philippines, Communist Vietnam, or Taiwan is stupid.
Why is the Department of Defense on this path? Part of the reason is because the thirty-eight four-star generals on active duty in the armed forces tend to view contemporary conflict through the wrong lens, the distorting lens of World War II and the Cold War. After all, nuclear weapons may have eliminated total war, but war below the nuclear threshold persists.
Armed conflict for regional power and influence are inevitable in many parts of the world, not just in the South China Sea. Such conflicts inevitably overlap with the competition for energy, water, food, and mineral resources. But these conflicts do not necessarily demand American participation.
If the last twenty-seven years have taught the American people anything, conflict anywhere in the world is by no means a threat to peace everywhere, least of all to the United States. Peace is divisible; conflicts regardless of their causes are overwhelmingly local or regional, not global in significance. This is why it so important for American political and military leaders to first, formulate strategic aims that truly justify military action, before American blood and treasure are put at risk.
These points explain why the military inertia in strategic thinking that tries to intimidate China on China’s doorstep is worse than foolish. It’s downright dangerous when senior military leaders erroneously conclude that U.S. military control of the South China Sea, roughly eight thousand miles from U.S. shores, is a vital strategic interest of the United States, but securing America’s southern border is not.
The good news is the president can fix this problem because it’s a cultural and intellectual problem—not a fiscal one. Fixing it means reaching down and appointing new senior civilian and military leaders to the Defense Department who are not hostage to the policies of the past.
Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, U.S. Army, is a decorated combat veteran, a has a doctorate and he is the author of five books. His latest, Margin of Victory, is available from Naval Institute Press.
Image: Reuters