Wednesday, April 17, 2019

To Avoid an Iraq-Style Disaster Under Trump, Bolton Must Go

For Donald Trump to escape the molasses pit of failed wars, he must replace some key advisors with capable people who are aligned with his views and can implement his vision. The first of those ineffectual advisors who needs to go is John Bolton.

by Daniel L. Davis
April 17, 2019

President Donald Trump’s instincts on a number of key foreign-policy issues over the past two years has not only been right, but also represent sorely needed policy course-corrections. Yet since his inauguration, some of the president’s closest advisors have consistently steered him away from his better ideas, leaving us to languish in losing wars—and unnecessarily risking getting us into new ones.

For Trump to escape the molasses pit of failed wars, he must replace some key advisors with capable people who are aligned with his views and can implement his vision. The first of those ineffectual advisors who needs to go is John Bolton.

Bolton has long served in government and the Washington think-tank establishment, but his foreign-policy prescriptions have been outright disastrous for the United States.

Most famously Bolton was one of the leading advocates for invading Iraq in 2003. Yet even after the invasion was proven to be a disastrous move (remember, there were no Al Qaeda forces in Iraq, and ISIS didn’t exist, prior to the invasion Bolton promoted), he still defends this mistake to this day, calling it “fully justified.”

Evidence of his unrepentant views abound. He has called for the bombing of Iran and directly advocated “regime change” operations (as he has or does seek in North Korea, Libya, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela). As Trump routinely reiterated during the 2016 campaign, the invasion of Iraq is a sixteen-year-and-counting disaster—resulting in 4,568 American troops killed and more than 32,000 wounded—repeating the mistake in Iran would be orders of magnitude worse, as Iran is bigger than Iraq, much more populous, and has far more capacity to strike back.

Attacking Iran, however, is wholly unnecessary to preserve American security, as our conventional and nuclear deterrent are more than sufficient to deter them indefinitely. Military strikes against Iran would unequivocally weaken our security and unleash outcomes that could spiral out of anyone’s control.

Because he never learned the failed lessons of the Iraq invasion, Bolton continues to openly, routinely, and emphatically maintain his advocacy for regime change as the primary tool of statecraft. This policy stands in direct contravention for what Trump campaigned on, what got him elected, and says he still believes. If he is to get re-elected, then he’s going to have to make changes between now and November 2020.

What Trump has needed from the beginning are advisors who understand his thinking on foreign policy, are aligned with his views, and have the ability to turn the president’s vision into operational reality. Neither the previous nor the current national security advisor have had this ability. There is, however, a Washington, DC-based expert who does.

Douglas Macgregor isn’t a household name, but it’s not because he lacks a hefty resume. He has a Ph.D, has written several books on national security, and is a highly decorated combat soldier. Full disclosure: I’ve known Macgregor since 1990 when I served under him in an Army cavalry squadron. Over those nearly thirty years, I’ve watched as he has been right on one major national-security issue after another.

He was the director of the Kosovo Air Campaign for NATO in the late 1990s. Macgregor advised the Secretary of Defense on operational planning prior to the 2003 Iraq war (but his advice on using the Iraqi army to provide civil security after the war was tragically ignored). He advised against military intervention in Libya in 2011 and has devised a comprehensive new plan to reorganize and modernize the U.S. military.

For all his accomplishments and credentials, however, there are two things that would make Macgregor uniquely appealing as Trump’s next national security advisor.

The first is that he is aligned with Trump’s stated instincts on key foreign-policy subjects. Instead of trying to bend the president to his way of thinking—as both McMaster and Bolton appear to have attempted—Macgregor would be able to turn Trump’s vision into policy reality.

Second, unlike the vast majority of senior officials in Washington, he is not a shameless self-promoter and genuinely desires to see the nation prosper above all. I saw this play out firsthand in 1991 during and after Desert Storm.

The 2nd Squadron, 2nd U.S. Cavalry won the largest tank battle since World War II, known as the Battle of 73 Easting. In this fight, the Squadron defeated a much larger, dug-in tank force. Most of the notoriety for this fight went to former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who was the commander of 120-man armored unit (Eagle Troop) that was at the center of that fight.

I was a lieutenant serving under McMaster during that battle and can confirm he fought with great distinction. But he wasn’t the sole reason for the squadron’s battle success, nor possibly, the biggest reason for it. That title more appropriately belongs to Macgregor.

It was Macgregor—then an Army major and the operations officer of the seven-hundred-man squadron—that formulated the attack plan for the entire battle group, had trained the men prior to deployment, and was responsible for deciding how to employ the four company-sized units (Eagle Troop being one of them) at the key moments of the battle.

During the fight, he led from the front—at one point being in front of Eagle Troop’s forward-most scouts, making it hard for us to shoot the enemy—and made sure the entire enemy formation was utterly annihilated before passing the fight to U.S. armored divisions trailing behind.

Yet almost no one knows about Macgregor’s indispensable role in the Battle of 73 Easting. Why? Because he contented himself with allowing the Squadron commander and McMaster to have the public praise. Knowing he did his duty and the squadron had major success was enough for him.

He could provide the same caliber of quality, selfless service to the president.

With simmering foreign-policy challenges in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and South America, it’s important for U.S. national security that Trump’s better instincts get transformed into effective policy. Bolton and status-quo Washington got Iraq wrong. Trump and Macgregor got it right. Trump’s best chance to reap a number of major foreign-policy successes in his second two years may hinge on hiring an advisor like Macgregor.

Daniel L. Davis is a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. The views in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the views of any organization. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

Image: Reuters

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Make Donald Trump Great Again

If the president continues to waver on issues of vital importance to the country, then he will join the pantheon of failed presidents. 

April 9, 2019
by Douglas Macgregor

Candidate Donald Trump won the presidency because he talked tough in ways no presidential candidate has done in recent memory, maybe ever. Trump left no sacred cow unscathed with searing attacks on the Iraq War, bad trade deals, Sen. John McCain, and the most sacred cow of them all—illegal immigration. Trump’s words resonated, and millions of Americans delivered victory for Trump at the polls.

As president, Trump’s words remain tough, his actions less so. Trump often praises American military heroes like Gen. George Patton; a man who subscribed to the philosophy of relentless attack. But unlike Patton’s bold and decisive battlefield leadership, Trump's tough talk produces few tangible results. His meandering speeches inspire, but they do not translate into coherent, sustainable policy.

Trump came to office with an instinctive grasp of what mattered most to his countrymen—building the Mexican Border wall, reinvigorating the U.S. economy, securing better trade deals for U.S. industries and improving relations with Beijing and Moscow. To his enduring credit, Trump always understood that the nation’s twenty-plus trillion-dollar sovereign debt combined with the American electorate’s growing resistance to endless wars overseas made the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq imperative.

Trump’s focus on making life for the average American better worked. In March 2019, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose to 97.8 in early March from 93.8 in February. Though trade talks with China continue with an uncertain outcome, in the words of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, “The U.S. economy is in a good place.”

However, the president’s frequently stated intentions to secure the Mexican Border, to remove U.S. Forces from Afghanistan and Syria, and to reduce defense spending were followed by confounding reversals that raise serious questions about the president’s focus and his authority. Whenever a president declares big intentions only to contradict them with his actions, he looks impotent. Trump is no exception.

In the opening months of his presidency, Trump seemed to hit his stride with dramatic policy shifts. His threat of a preemptive strike on North Korea brought Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table. Trump, then, pragmatically opted for negotiation and forged the foundation for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In December 2017, President Trump ordered the complete withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Syria while also pressing his feckless generals to exit Afghanistan. He beefed up the number of border patrol agents and deployed small numbers of Soldiers to support the Border Patrol. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, events that began with a bang ended with a head scratching whimper. Trump’s talks in Hanoi broke down. John Bolton’s flawed “all or nothing” proposition torpedoed the deal in another win for the swamp. Just as soon as Trump announced the U.S. Troop withdrawal from Syria, within a few days, Trump backtracked. According to the New York Times, Trump’s advisors convinced him to make a U-turn and keep four hundred troops in Syria.

The number has since increased to one thousand but gallingly, future decisions on when and how U.S. forces in Syria will be reduced or removed is left in the hands of the Department of the Army, not the president! If President Trump wants to extricate U.S. Forces from Syria before a new conflict ignites involving the Turks and Kurds, then he must take command and get the troops out.

There is more. During an April 4 meeting in the White House with China’s Vice Premier Liu He, President Trump suggested that the United States, Russia and China should invest less in their militaries. The statement sounds good, but when the president proposed a $33 billion reduction in U.S. defense outlays he buckled within hours to the demands of former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Sen. Jim Inhofe that Trump abandon his proposal.

Then, there is the Southern border, or what remains of it. The crisis is metastasizing. The chaos, criminality and health issues are so bad that even the mainstream media are beginning to acknowledge it. Surely, Trump should have concluded by now that without an Executive Order that commits the U.S. Army to the defense of the southern border and limits cross-border traffic to legitimate commercial activity, mass illegal immigration will not stop.

The point is Trump’s bold vision is drowning in the Washington Swamp. Talk is cheap and so is leaving important decisions to White House political advisors and senior military leaders with agendas that bear no resemblance to the policy goals that catapulted Trump into the White House. If President Trump continues to waver on issues of vital importance to the country and his presidency; if, in a word, Trump refuses to take command and match rhetoric with action, then he will join the pantheon of failed presidents that promised the world only, this time, the American Republic’s existence hangs in the balance.

Retired Col. 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, 2016).

Image: Reuters

Tucker Carlson Tonight 4/9/2019

Protecting Our Borders
Washington Elites Want Troops Overseas But Not On Our Border

Edited to add new video link

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NATO Is Not Dying. It’s a Zombie.

NATO is simply a zombie periodically reanimated through various methods, usually voodoo magic.

March 31, 2019
by Douglas Macgregor

How do you know when a person is positively dead? Well, check for a pulse.

Walter Russell Mead checked the pulse of the Atlantic Alliance in a recent op-ed and concluded that NATO is dying. But Mead is wrong. NATO is simply a zombie periodically reanimated through various methods, usually voodoo magic.

Yet, reanimation has its limits. Even Zombies eventually die. With Georgia, a small state in the Caucasus Mountains that is wedged in between Russia, Turkey and Iran, lobbying hard to become NATO’s newest member, it’s useful to understand why.

When the life ran out of NATO with the demise of the Soviet threat, Sen. Richard Lugar was among the first to conclude in 1993 that NATO must go “out of area or out of business.” This proved to be a powerful infusion of voodoo magic that eventually took the form of  a U.S.-led NATO military intervention into the Balkans, which is where NATO sought to extend democracy at gunpoint to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo between 1994 and 1999.

Reanimation received a big boost with NATO’s 1994 “partnership for peace program.” Predictably, the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and virtually everyone in Eastern Europe compelled to live under Soviet occupation after World War II lined up to become NATO partners. Why not? What East European State would not want a direct line to Washington, DC that promised military assistance against the Russian menace that all believed would inevitably return?

Domestic American politics also played its part. President Bill Clinton came out for NATO expansion during his campaign for re-election in October 1996. There was nothing sinister in it. Clinton was just cultivating the Polish and East European vote in the Midwest, stealing the issue from Senator Bob Dole who also ran on a NATO expansion platform.

Mysteriously, the promises given to President Mikhail Gorbachev by President George H. W. Bush, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Francois Mitterand, Chancellor Helmuth Kohl and their foreign ministers in 1990—not to expand NATO eastward; not to extend membership in the NATO alliance to former member states of the Warsaw Pact—were ignored.  Why was this important strategic commitment made by NATO’s key leaders to President Gorbachev ignored?

Well, in the 1990s, the Russian threat was nonexistent and there was no reason to suppose it would return. In addition, President Clinton and the Senators who were nominally in charge of overseeing the conduct of U.S. Foreign and Security Policy were mesmerized by the prospects of being on the right side of history and campaign donations.

Given the voracious appetite for cash in Congress the defense industries were clearly interested in NATO expansion and found ways to advocate for it. Weapons sales to East European nations invited to join NATO promised huge profits. Bruce Jackson, a Lockheed vice president from 1993–2002, rushed to set up the Committee to Expand NATO and reportedly used contributions from defense companies to lobby Congress for NATO expansion.

After 2001, just about anything could be and was characterized as an existential threat to the American People: Islamist Terrorism or the Global Caliphate, China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and, by 2012, a resurgent Russia. Defense budgets rose and U.S. Forces were now in Africa, the Mideast, Asia and Eastern Europe. By the time President Obama completed his first term Moscow concluded that Washington’s expansion of the NATO Alliance combined with its open-ended presence in Afghanistan and the Near East was really a coordinated plan to make Russia's strategic situation untenable.

As George Kennan pointed out decades ago, the Russian sense of insecurity is profound. The Russian national temperament inclines to a siege mentality with a permanent enemy lowering beyond the walls. Right or wrong, President Vladimir Putin personifies this outlook.

President Putin tightened his grip on Russia’s 140 million citizens with laws and governance that offended Western sensibilities, but Putin’s policies arguably helped Russia to withstand the impact of damaging sanctions after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula—a region that was under Russian control longer than Texas has been in the Union. Despite an economy that lags behind the Republic of Korea, a nation of forty-nine million, President Putin restored Russia’s military power and its national self-image to a formidable position.

Putin’s paranoia has led some observers to suggest that Putin is preparing Russia for a military showdown with the West. That’s an exaggeration, but it would be a mistake to doubt Putin’s resolve to protect Russia’s rights in its own hemisphere.

Now, Georgia is stepping up to join NATO. Georgia like Montenegro (and most NATO members) is in line to become another military protectorate of the United States, not an ally. Unless President Trump wants Moscow to conclude that Georgia will be a future platform for attack against Russia, Iran or another regional power, President Trump should just say “No!”

It’s time for the NATO zombie to expire. Charles De Gaulle was right, “England is an island and the United States is not in Europe.”

Army Col. Douglas Macgregor (retired) is a decorated combat veteran, a PhD and the author of five books. His latest is: Margin of Victory, (Naval Institute Press, 2016).

Image: Reuters