Sunday, March 27, 2016

This Is Why America’s Military Is in Bad Shape

Problem: For the last 15 years, the U.S. military has not prepared for conflict with a near peer competitor like Russia or China.


By John Sullivan and Justin T. Johnson
The National Interest
March 27, 2016


America’s military is dangerously weak and unprepared today, and it’s not getting better. At least that’s what top military leaders told Congress recently. Unfortunately, the testimony of these top generals and admirals did not get the attention it deserved.

For the last 15 years, the United States military has not prepared for conflict with a near peer competitor like Russia or China. General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, shared his worries with Congress [5], explaining that the Army would be able to handle a serious conflict but “not at a level that is appropriate for what the American people would expect to defend them.”

In other words, because soldiers are not adequately prepared, the U.S. Army would either be late to arrive to a conflict (due to more time for training) or they would send soldiers into harm’s way unprepared.

These are not issues isolated to the Army. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, when commenting on the ability to meet requirements in a major conflict, said [5] the Marine Corps “would be able to do that but probably not within a timeframe that current plans call for [them] to arrive to participate in that conflict.”

The chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, also admitted [5] that there is “a readiness debt that we have had difficulty pulling out of or even making progress on as the funding levels are what they are and the security environment continues to put demands on the force.”

Almost two decades of conflict and years of budget constraints have taken their toll on the military, both in terms of deferred modernization and insufficient readiness.

In the 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength [6], the American military received a grade of “marginal”. We can see why in one news story after another. Only one third of Army Brigade Combat Teams are battle ready [7].

Half of the Air Force’s combat forces are insufficiently prepared for a high-end conflict [8]. The Navy is forced to put more strain on its sailors and ships by doing eight to ten month deployments [9], instead of the more manageable 6 months.

All Marine Corps aircraft either need to be replaced or recapitalized [10]. Not to mention, the Marines’ current level of Class A mishaps is nearly double the ten year average [11]. Neller confessed that “the simple fact is that we don’t have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force.”

Last year, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs said [12] the planned defense budget was “the lower ragged edge of manageable risk need to execute our nation’s defense strategy.” The suggested base defense budget at the time was$573 billion [13]. This year’s defense budget request is more than $20 billion lower.

If last year’s estimate was the lower ragged edge, this year’s budget request surely is below that edge of manageable risk.

As Sen.John McCain, R-Ariz., commented [14] recently:


“I fear it means that our military is becoming less and less able to deter conflict and if, God forbid, deterrence does fail somewhere and we end up in conflict, our nation will deploy young Americans into battle without sufficient training or equipment to fight a war that will take longer, be larger, cost more and ultimately claim more American lives than it otherwise would have.”


This fear is echoed by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James who stated [5] that, “history teaches us that the consequences of insufficient preparation are the prolonging of conflict and the increased loss of life.”

Congress needs to take action to relieve the stress being placed on the defense budget. While men and women in uniform accept a level of risk when they join, Congress and the American people need to provide the funds necessary to minimize this risk.

Gen. Welsh, chief of staff of the Air Force, put it best [5] when saying the men and women of our armed forces “are willing to pay the price if they think it’s important, if they think the nation supports them, if they think they’ll have the resources and the equipment and the training to be the best in the world at what they do. That’s all they ask.”

A fully adequate defense budget needs to be responsibly funded by Congress [15]. National defense is an explicit Constitutional priority. Congress should recognize their constitutional duty and fully support our war fighters.



Article Link to the National Interest:

Back Into Afghanistan?

It's time to stop throwing good money after bad.


By Gerald F. Hyman
The National Interest
March 28, 2016


The eroding political and security dominion of the government of Afghanistan has once again raised the potential of increased U.S. military and civilian assistance. President Obama made the complete withdrawal of U.S. military forces by the end of 2016 a central premise of his policy toward Afghanistan, but on the advice of his military and civilian staffs, he has modified that target. The new one is 9,800 troops through most of 2016, and 5,500 by the effective conclusion of his term. Moreover, he curbed the mission of these remaining troops to training and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and to counterterrorism.

However, the Pentagon’s fourth-quarter assessment of security in Afghanistan noted that “[through] the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher [ANDSF] and Taliban casualties.” Indeed, the September collapse of the ANDSF and the civilian government in Kunduz, previously safely in government hands, and its stunning (if only temporary) capture by the Taliban, shocked Kabul to the core. Retaking it became the government’s highest priority, and the city proper was recaptured in a concerted military effort days later, although the surrounding provincial countryside remains contested.

Similarly, Badakhshan province, also securely in government hands a few years ago, is now also contested. So, too, are Faryab and Uruzgan. Helmand Province, the traditional home of the Taliban, has been almost entirely lost; only three of its fourteen districts remain under government control, at best, and its provincial capital is surrounded. Likewise Kandahar, the Taliban’s “capital,” remains (optimistically) disputed.

Meanwhile, over 1,800 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in the first third of 2015 and another 3,400 were wounded, almost 66 percent more than the previous year. Most troublingly, out of near desperation, the government is turning for security to the same marauding warlords and private militias it pledged previously to crush.

The insurgency is now also divided between the Taliban and Daesh, that is, Islamic State. The Taliban are now, unexpectedly, the relative moderates, but they have had their own internal splits since the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar. Although Daesh has enjoyed only limited inroads so far, it has considerable momentum, much of it at the Taliban’s expense. More importantly, perhaps, Daesh redefines an insurgency pole pulling the Taliban in more fundamentalist and rejectionist directions, and probably narrowing the limits for any negotiated settlement to which the Taliban can agree and commit.

So the government, and indirectly the coalition, is now confronted by a decaying security context; a degenerating and corrupt military and police force; a resurgent and growing, rather than waning, insurgency; two rebellious adversaries, one more virulent than the other; an inimical regional neighborhood, especially in Pakistan; and a foreign coalition that resembles the (disappearing) Cheshire cat.

Back In?


In that context, it cannot be surprising that outgoing Resolute Support commander, U.S. General John Campbell, wants either to enhance not reduce his force structure if the deterioration is to be stanched, never mind reversed. “Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies a reduction of our support in 2016," he recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. President Obama’s advisors are wary of asking him again to abandon his troop targets and at least retain, if not increase, the current military and civilian assistance levels, which would mean handing his successor a U.S. military engagement in another unresolved conflict (beyond Iraq and, now, Syria), one which he promised to liquidate.

The “reduction alternative,” they understand, would court the likelihood of Afghanistan’s continued deterioration. Ultimately, it could once again become a Taliban state, complete with human rights abuses, and the loss of everything that has been gained at such expense in Afghan and coalition lives and funds, particularly health and education. That alternative also threatens Obama’s legacy. But personal legacy is no reason to go to war—or extend one. Neither, unfortunately, is the yearning to preserve the past investment of lives and treasure by doubling down on them.

But is that the right result? If so, under what conditions?

The U.S. response in 2001 was visceral. It reflected and constituted an emotional retort to the terrorism that took thousands of lives in New York, Washington and Shanksville: “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,” said President George W. Bush at the destroyed World Trade Center. “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly attack,” he vowed. And “we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts [Al Qaeda] and those who harbor them [the Taliban],” he said in his TV address the night of the attacks. Hand over Al Qaeda’s leadership, or you go too: understandable without a doubt, but a response of passion, not one of geopolitics or strategy.

Instead of a surgical strike against the Al Qaeda leadership, the result was an all-out assault to remove the Taliban hosts and replace their government with one essentially chosen by the coalition countries, albeit through a tradition-based (but modified) Loya Jirga. After that, General Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn slogan” prevailed: you break it, you own it. So the United States and its coalition partners came to “own” up to one hundred thousand troops and billions of assistance dollars, leading to the government and military disappointments and failures we see today.

Unlike the visceral response in 2001, there should now be a clear, well-considered purpose and strategy, with a well-defined relation between the ends and the means to achieve them. Goals and plans should reflect a limited allocation of resources. That limitation should be commensurate to our own national interests; to what we can actually, not hyper-optimistically or theoretically, expect the Afghans to achieve; and to other global U.S. commitments and purposes. Those expectations should also reflect a realistic time-table and realistic measures. What is the plan? Over what time frame? With what mileposts? With what costs? Who will bear them?

Were Afghanistan a vital national interest of the United States or any of the coalition partners, let alone an existential one like, say, World War II or the Cold War, these particulars might not matter as much. We would, appropriately, expect an “all-in” strategy. And Afghanistan represents the opposite of Japan, South Korea and Germany, all of which are vital U.S. national interests and in none of which the remaining U.S. forces are at constant risk. Moreover, while the coalition can help create security, the main security role has passed to the ANDSF. Although the ANDSF has exceeded expectations in some arenas, overall its performance and prospects remain woefully inadequate and are not improving sufficiently, if at all. Notwithstanding the many Afghan heroics and casualties, the constant desertions from and corruption within the ANDSF are hardly reassuring, least of all to Afghans. Security is a necessary but woefully insufficient condition to achieving the political, economic and governance success that would confirm a peaceful, and even modestly satisfactory future for the country.

Some argue that “we cannot let the Afghans down,” that “we” have achieved some important successes and raised expectations. All would likely be dashed by a Taliban victory. Afghanistan would be plunged again into some version of a seventh-century polity. We broke it; we own it. But we did not break it, at least not alone. The decades between the turn of the century and the Soviet incursion in 1979 saw internal conflicts, along with coups against and assassinations of four kings and two presidents. That constant turbulence followed by the Soviet invasion; seventeen years of civil war (in which the United States supported the anti-Soviet mujahedeen); the Taliban sweep to reestablish safety and order; the coalition invasion to capture or kill Al Qaeda’s leadership and remove the Taliban; and the spectacular failure of President Hamid Karzai’s government—all these created the broken Afghanistan we now confront.

More pointedly, whoever “broke Afghanistan,” for the last fifteen years the United States and its allies have paid a huge human and financial price with no fix in sight. Where is the limit? Based on what? Unfortunately, the price for exceeding that limit will be paid by Afghans, especially the young and especially women. The alternative, however, is a prodigiously large and indefinite mortgage on the human and financial resources of the coalition countries without a reasonable prospect of satisfactory success, and without even a credible, reliable Afghan partner of integrity. What will endure is the continued rape of the available Afghan and international lives and assets by a venal, kleptocratic elite, purchasing extremely comfortable futures in the Gulf or elsewhere through coalition lives and largesse.

In short, the United States and coalition need a very clear, realistic strategy, including a distinct articulation of specific purposes, goals and mission; a plan for actually achieving them; and an explicit articulation of risks. A strategy must also include an unequivocal list of conditions for the Government of Afghanistan (together with metrics for assessing performance); an upper limit on the projected military, civilian and financial assets; a realistic termination date; anticipated mileposts along with costs and who will bear them; and an endgame other than the improbability of total victory. Absent all of that, the current plans, resources and temporary extensions should be, at best, the upper limit of coalition commitments. Similarly, civilian assistance should come in tranches that should be released only if these various conditions and metrics are achieved.

Moreover, the next administration should carefully review the military and financial obligations provisionally pledged by the respective coalition partners. The time for vague hopes, aspirations and promises from the Afghans, coupled with concrete resources delivered by the coalition, should end. Continuing to throw good money after bad is more than a waste of taxpayer resources; it enables corruption and abuse in Afghanistan. In short, it is time to be very specific about the entire “Afghanistan project” and for a rigorous, clear-eyed, “zero-based” assessment of ends, mean, resources, strategies, tactics, timetables and exits.


Article Link to the National Interest:

Islamic State Driven Out of Syria's Ancient Palmyra City, Putin 'Congratulates' Assad


By Dominic Evans
Reuters
March 27, 2016


Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove Islamic State out of Palmyra on Sunday, inflicting what the army called a mortal blow to militants who seized the city last year and dynamited its ancient temples.

The loss of Palmyra represents one of the biggest setbacks for the ultra-hardline Islamist group since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The army general command said that its forces took over the city with support from Russian and Syrian air strikes, opening up the huge expanse of desert leading east to the Islamic State strongholds of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor.

Palmyra would become "a launchpad to expand military operations" against the group in those two provinces, it said, promising to "tighten the noose on the terrorist group and cut supply routes ... ahead of their complete recapture".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes continued on the eastern edge of Palmyra, around the prison and airport, but the bulk of the Islamic State force had withdrawn and retreated east, leaving the city under President Bashar al-Assad's control.

Later the Observatory said six powerful explosions were heard in the city triggered by triple car bombings inside the city and its edges by the militant group. Three militants with suicide belts also blew themselves up inside the captured city, inflicting unspecified casualties among army forces and allied troops.

Syrian state-run television broadcast from inside the city, showing empty streets and badly damaged buildings.

It quoted a military source saying Syrian and Russian jets were targeting Islamic State fighters as they fled, hitting dozens of vehicles on the roads leading east from the city.

Russia's intervention in September turned the tide of Syria's five-year conflict in Assad's favour. Despite its declared withdrawal of most military forces two weeks ago, Russian jets and helicopters carried out dozens of strikes daily over Palmyra as the army pushed into the city.

"This achievement represents a mortal blow to the terrorist organisation and lays the foundation for a great collapse in the morale of its mercenaries and the beginning of its defeat," the army command statement said.

In a pointed message to the United States, which has led a separate Western and Arab coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq since 2014, the military command said its gains showed that the army "and its friends" were the only force able to uproot terrorism.

Biggest Defeat

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad said Russia's air support had been essential in taking back Palmyra, and said the city would be rebuilt.

"Palmyra was demolished more than once through the centuries ... and we will restore it anew so it will be a treasure of cultural heritage for the world," Syrian television quoted Assad as saying.

Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said 400 Islamic State fighters died in the battle for Palmyra, which he described as the biggest single defeat for the group since it announced its cross-border caliphate nearly two years ago.

The loss of Palmyra comes three months after Islamic State fighters were driven out of the city of Ramadi in neighbouring Iraq, the first major victory for Iraq's army since it collapsed in the face of an assault by the militants in June 2014.

Islamic State has lost ground elsewhere, including the Iraqi city of Tikrit and the Syrian town of al-Shadadi in February, as its enemies push it back and try to cut links between its two main power centres of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

On Friday the United States said it believed it had killed several senior Islamic State militants, including Abd ar-Rahman al-Qaduli, described as the group's top finance official and aide to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Islamic State and al Qaeda's Syrian branch the Nusra Front are excluded from a month-long cessation of hostilities in Syria that has brought a relative lull in fighting between the government and rebels battling Assad in the west of the country.

The limited truce has allowed indirect peace talks to resume at the United Nations in Geneva, sponsored by Washington and Moscow. But progress has been slow, with the government and its opponents deeply divided over any political transition, particularly whether Assad must leave power.

The government delegation, which portrays the fight against terrorism as Syria's overriding priority, will return to the talks next month bolstered by its battlefield gains.

"The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism," Syrian television quoted Assad as telling visiting French parliamentarians.

The Observatory said around 180 government soldiers and allied fighters were killed in the campaign to retake Palmyra, which is home to some of the most extensive ruins of the Roman empire.

Islamic State militants dynamited several monuments last year, and Syrian television broadcast footage from inside Palmyra museum on Sunday showing toppled and damaged statues, as well as several smashed display cases.

Syria's antiquities chief said other ancient landmarks were still standing and pledged to restore the damaged monuments.

"Palmyra has been liberated. This is the end of the destruction in Palmyra," Mamoun Abdelkarim told Reuters on Sunday. "How many times did we cry for Palmyra? How many times did we feel despair? But we did not lose hope."


Article Link to Reuters:


This Man Can Save Us From Trump—and Clinton

He’s retired Marine General James Mattis. He’s an extraordinary American. Yes, it’s a longshot. But he is exactly what we need.


By John Noonan
The Daily Beast
March 26, 2016


As the inevitability of a Donald Trump nomination grows, many Republicans are moving to the acceptance stage of grief. Trump’s unfavorability ratings are historic for a presumptive nominee. Some reputable polls have him as high as 60 percent negative, many others have him losing by double digits to Hillary Clinton. Retention of the Senate, already an uphill climb in an election year swelling with vulnerable Republican incumbents, is an equally dim prospect.

Not all conservatives have given up the ship. The presumptive Democratic nominee is a hair away from federal indictment. The presumptive Republican nominee is a reality-TV lunatic who has run multiple business ventures into the ground. Never before has a third-party candidate looked so viable, even the odd duck 1992 election that saw Ross Perot earn a generous share of the popular vote.

This third-party option would need to thread a needle. The candidate would have to be conservative, enough so that non-Trump conservatives —keep in mind this is a strong majority of traditional Republican voters—have reason to show up and pull a lever for him and the party’s Senate candidates. The candidate would also need to be sensible, experienced, and respected—not a demagogue like those who have so excited Republican voters this cycle. The name would need to be recognizable, but not in the garish celebrity sense like Mr. Trump. The candidate would need to convey strength in a year teeming with voter concerns about ISIS, cybersecurity, a rising Russia, and Chinese shield-thumping in the Far East.

So who better than retired Marine General James Mattis?

Mattis is a battle hardened warrior, renowned for his humble leadership style and aggressive pursuit of America’s enemies. Nicknamed the “Warrior Monk,” Mattis is something of a cult figure in the Marines. One such tale had the general relieving a young Marine captain of sentry duty on Christmas Day, taking up the post himself so the young officer could be with his family. He’s known for his excellence in both the arts of combat and diplomacy alike. Mattis led the First Marine Division in an aggressive thrust into the Euphrates River Valley in 2003, but also skillfully managed the kaleidoscope of conflicting diplomatic relationships as Commander of U.S. Central Command.

Mattis is a student of both history and economics, known for quoting Greek sophists but unafraid to dabble in some occasional profanity—though his famous blunt talk, famously known as Mattisisms, would seem mild in a year laced with Trump’s vulgarities.

He neuters both party frontrunners’ perceived strengths. Trump’s faux-tough guy act would crumble when met with an actual warrior, and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy chops would seem like an 100-level International Relations course next to Mattis’s experience and expertise.

Mattis is vehemently apolitical and would likely be repulsed by the mere suggestion that he run. But so was another former general turned president, Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower, history buffs will recall, was a late draft in the 1952 election. He was initially mortified by his name being mixed up in politics. After thousands showed up to a “Draft Eisenhower” rally in New York City, Ike reportedly wrote a friend saying, “I’ve never been so upset in years.”

Eisenhower was in Paris during the early primaries, commanding NATO forces and helping oversee implementation of the Marshall Plan. He did not campaign or make political media appearances. Yet Ike comfortably won the New Hampshire primary on March 3. It wasn’t until June 4 that Eisenhower made his first political speech, only after retiring as Commander of NATO forces in Europe two days prior.

Why the swell of support? The Draft Eisenhower movement exploded during the 1951 “Winter of Discontent,” when Americans were frustrated by an unpopular president, a stalemated war, and a sluggish economy. All this may sound familiar.

Americans were hungry for an outsider then, and are hungry for an outsider now. In an election year with voters on both sides of the aisle thirsty for a non-politician, who better than the reluctant General Mattis, whose first and foremost love is duty to his country?

Like Ike, Mattis would need to be pressed into service. It’s a tough proposition given Mattis’s long and selfless commitment to his republic. But tough times call for tough measures. He’s a man who has always answered the trumpet’s blast of flag and freedom. He knows, as do many voters, the ugly prospect of a Trump presidency and what it would mean for the rule of law, the sacredness of the office, and the integrity of the Constitution. He also knows how tough things have grown oversees, with America’s special role in the world slipping away each day.

So, if General Mattis does decide to help save America, does he have a shot? Absolutely. Donald Trump’s ceiling of Republican voters hovers around 40 percent. Many state polls, particularly those west of the Mississippi, have suggested that over 40 percent of GOP voters would pull a lever for a third-party candidate. In a year when Democratic primary turnout is low —a reliable forecast for low enthusiasm common of an incumbent party— and vice versa on the Republican side, there is plenty of room for a no-kidding American hero and political outsider to hit 35 percent of the vote in key states. If Trump, Clinton, and Mattis are all denied an outright majority in the Electoral College, the decision goes to the House of Representatives. There, Mattis has a real shot of cobbling together enough state delegations to crowd out Clinton and Trump alike.

Americans are craving a strong leader, one who is upright, honest, and unstained by political blood sport. General Eisenhower was one of America’s finest presidents. General Mattis would undoubtedly continue in that great tradition. Even in this screwed up political era, service and integrity still count for something. They’ve always been the backbone of this republic, and we could use a little of both right now.So help us General Mattis, you’re our only hope.



Article Link to the Daily Beast:

Sanders's Super Saturday Sweep

The Vermont senator swept the Democratic contests in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, where voters handed Clinton a stunning rebuke.


By Yoni Appelbaum
The Atlantic
March 27, 2016


Democratic voters had a message for Hillary Clinton on Saturday: It’s not over yet.

The front-runner may possess a substantial lead, support from elected officials, and the backing of the party establishment. But in the three states where voters caucused on Saturday, they cast their ballots for Bernie Sanders by huge margins. In Hawaii, with most votes tallied, he chalked up 71 percent; in Washington, he held 73 percent; and in Alaska, he claimed 82 percent support.

Clinton has, in recent months, embraced many elements of Sanders’s platform. She’s adopted the language of intersectional politics. She’s echoed his skepticismof trade deals. She’s insisted she’ll be tougher on Wall Street than he’d be. But so far, at least, she’s had little success in winning over his supporters, and she’s struggled to inspire a similar degree of enthusiasm among her own backers.

Sanders’s voters seem undeterred by Clinton’s advantages. “I feel like probably for the first time since I’ve been voting I connect with somebody I really believe in and that I trust,” one supporter told the Seattle Times. Saturday’s vote suggests she’s not alone. Party officials in Washington said that at least 225,000 voters showed up, rivaling the record turnout of 2008; the 10,600 who voted in Alaska exceeded that state’s 2008 tally; and the 33,716 in Hawaii, while below the 2008 level, included 7,000 new Democrats registered since late last year.

Sanders won from wall to wall. He took every county in Washington, and in Alaska, he posted double-digit margins in all 40 districts.

Primary day found an ebullient Sanders addressing an enormous crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, where the next contest on the Democratic calendar takes place on April 5th. “Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t win the nomination or win the general election,” Sanders roared. “We’re going to do both of those things.”

Most insurgent candidates garner more enthusiasm than dollars, and struggle to find enough resources to compete across the map. That’s not a problem for Sanders. In January, he stunned political observers by outraising Clinton, pulling in $20 million to her $15 million. She did twice as well the next month, raising $30 million, only to find that Sanders had brought in an astonishing $43.5 million. More impressively still, Sanders has raised those astronomical sums mostly by relying on small-dollar donations.

There’s every reason to believe that Saturday’s triumphs will produce a fresh infusion of cash. Candidates tend to find principled reasons to keep running so long as they have the resources to do so; they tend to find equally principled reasons to withdraw once their checks start bouncing. By that measure, the Sanders campaign is far from finished.

Clinton entered the night some 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sanders, a margin built mostly by winning big in southern states. Before tonight, Sanders’s wins had mostly come in smaller states, or in contests like Michigan, where Clinton stayed close. That’s what made his victory in Washington not just impressive, but important. Sanders won across the state, and seems likely to take the lion’s share of its 101 pledged delegates, narrowing Clinton’s lead significantly.

Her supporters point to her commanding lead among the party’s superdelegates—the party insiders and elected officials who will make the trip to Philadelphia without being bound by the results of primaries. But that’s not how Clinton wants to win the nomination, and if it came down to it, many of them might hesitate to overturn the decision of the pledged delegates.

Although he narrowed Clinton’s lead, though, Sanders has yet to alter the underlying dynamics of the race—something he must do if he still hopes to secure the party’s nomination. He performs best in states like those that voted today—those which hold caucuses and not primaries, and in which black and Hispanic voters comprise only a small portion of the Democratic electorate. But that won’t be enough to close the gap with Clinton, unless he can broaden his appeal.

Polls show Clinton and Sanders in a tight battle in Wisconsin, which holds its primary a week from Tuesday. It’s the sort of state that Sanders must not merely win, but win by a large enough margin to continue to erode Clinton’s lead. “With your support coming here in Wisconsin, we have a path toward victory,” he told the crowd in Madison. And on Saturday night, at least, that sounded plausible.


Article Link to the Atlantic:

Noonan: Unite to Defeat Radical Jihadism

It will require Western elites to form an alliance with the citizens they’ve long disrespected.


By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
March 25, 2016


These things are obvious after the Brussels bombings:

In striking at the political heart of Europe, home of the European Union, the ISIS jihadists were delivering a message: They will not be stopped.

What we are seeing now is not radical jihadist Islam versus the West but, increasingly, radical jihadist Islam versus the world. They are on the move in Africa, parts of Asia and of course throughout the Mideast.

Radical jihadism is not going to go away, not for a long time, probably decades. For 15 years it has in significant ways shaped our lives, and it will shape our children’s too. They will have to win the war.

It will not be effectively fought with guilt, ambivalence or double-mindedness. That, in the West, will have to change.

The jihadists’ weapons and means will get worse. Right now it’s guns and suicide vests. In the nature of things their future weapons will be more sophisticated and deadly.

The usual glib talk of politicians—calls for unity, vows that we will not give in to fear—will produce in the future what they’ve produced in the past: nothing. “The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium,” said the president, vigorously refusing to dodge clichés. “We must unite and be together, regardless of nationality, race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.” It is not an “existential threat,” he noted, as he does. But if you were at San Bernardino or Fort Hood, the Paris concert hall or the Brussels subway, it would feel pretty existential to you.

There are many books, magazine long-reads and online symposia on the subject of violent Islam. I have written of my admiration for “What ISIS Really Wants” by Graeme Wood, published a year ago in the Atlantic. ISIS supporters have tried hard to make their project knowable and understood, Mr. Wood reported: “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change . . . and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.” ISIS is essentially “medieval” in its religious nature, and “committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.” They intend to eliminate the infidel and raise up the caliphate—one like the Ottoman empire, which peaked in the 16th century and then began its decline.

When I think of the future I find myself going back to what I freely admit is a child’s math, a simple 10% rule.

There are said to be 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Most are and have been peaceful and peaceable, living their lives and, especially in America, taking an admirable role in the life of the nation.

But this is a tense, fraught moment within the world of Islam, marked by disagreements on what Islam is and what its texts mean. With that context, the child’s math: Let’s say only 10% of the 1.6 billion harbor feelings of grievance toward “the West,” or desire to expunge the infidel, or hope to re-establish the caliphate. That 10% is 160 million people. Let’s say of that group only 10% would be inclined toward jihad. That’s 16 million. Assume that of that group only 10% really means it—would really become jihadis or give them aid and sustenance. That’s 1.6 million. That is a lot of ferociousness in an age of increasingly available weapons, including the chemical, biological and nuclear sort.

My math tells me it will be a long, hard fight. We will not be able to contain them, we will have to beat them.

We must absorb that central fact, as Ronald Reagan once did with a different threat. Asked by his new national security adviser to state his exact strategic goals vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, Reagan: “We win, they lose.”

That’s where we are now. The “they” is radical Islamic jihadism.

Normal people have seen that a long time, but the leaders of the West—its political class, media powers and opinion shapers—have had a hard time coming to terms. I continue to believe part of the reason is that religion isn’t very important to many of them, so they have trouble taking it seriously as a motivation of others. An ardent Catholic, evangelical Christian or devout Jew would be able to take the religious aspect seriously when discussing ISIS. An essentially agnostic U.S. or European political class is less able. Thus they cast about—if only we give young Islamist men jobs programs or social integration schemes, we can stop this trouble. But jihadists don’t want to be integrated. They want trouble.

Our own president still won’t call radical Islam what it is, thinking apparently that if we name them clearly they’ll only hate us more, and Americans on the ground, being racist ignoramuses, will be incited by candor to attack their peaceful Muslim neighbors.

All this for days has had me thinking of Gordon Brown, which is something I bet you can’t say. On April 28, 2010, in Rochdale, England, Britain’s then prime minister accidentally performed a great public service by revealing what liberal Western leaders think of their people.

At a campaign stop a 65-year-old woman named Gillian Duffy approached him and shared her concerns regarding crime, taxes and immigration. Mr. Brown made a great show of friendliness and appreciation. Then, still wearing a live mic, he got into his Jaguar, complained to his aides about “that woman” and said, “She’s just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour.”

That was the authentic sound of the Western elite. Labour lost the election. But the elites have for a long time enjoyed nothing more than sneering at the anger and “racism” of their own people. They do not have the wisdom to understand that if they convincingly attempted to protect the people and respected their anxieties, the people would feel far less rage.

I end with a point about the sheer power of pride right now in Western public life. Republican operatives and elected officials in the U.S. don’t want to change their stand on illegal immigration, and a key reason is pride. They’re stiff-necked, convinced of their own higher moral thinking, and they will have open borders—which they do not call “open borders” but “comprehensive immigration reform,” which includes border-control mechanisms. But they’ll never get to the mechanisms. They see the rise of Donald Trump and know it has something to do with immigration, but—they can’t bow. Some months ago I spoke to an admirable conservative group and said the leaders of the GOP should change their stand. I saw one of their leaders wince, as if I had made a faux pas. Which, I understood, I had. I understood too that terrorism is only making the border issue worse, and something’s got to give.

But I doubt they can change. It would be like . . . respecting Gillian Duffy.

Though maybe European leaders can grow to respect her, after Brussels. Maybe the blasts there have shaken their pride.


Article Link to the Wall Street Journal:

Unite to Defeat Radical Jihadism

Can North Korea Really Nuke Washington, D.C.?

Pyongyang put out a video suggesting the strike would come from a submarine. More likely: in a suitcase.


By Gordon G. Chang
The Daily Beast
March 27, 2016


On Friday, a North Korean propaganda outlet released a four-minute video showing an American flag in flames—and a submarine-launched warhead detonating near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” the video’s Korean-language subtitles said. “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”

This may sound like bluster, but only part of it is. In fact, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea can incinerate the American city of its choice. But Pyongyang can’t do that with a warhead fired from a sub, yet. It will not have that ability for about a half decade, South Korea estimates. Other nations think longer.

The North Koreans in May released images of a missile breaking the surface of the water and claimed it was launched from a sub. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was photographed watching the test.

In all probability, the missile, which in fact did not travel far, was fired from a submerged platform. Yet the “pop-up” test was significant as it showed North Korea’s expanding ambitions.

After the release of Friday’s video, titled “Last Chance” and appearing on the YouTube channel of DPRK Today, Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times issued a comforting assessment of the North’s capabilities. “North Korea has been developing its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, but is not believed to have perfected either enough to pose a credible threat to major U.S. cities,” the veteran journalist noted.

The 10,000-kilometer range of the Taepodong-3, the military version of the Unha-3 rocket tested on February 7, means the missile can reach at least Alaska and the West Coast. Analysts, however, are not worried. They make the point that it takes time to transport, assemble, fuel, and test the big launcher and the time involved gives the U.S. ample opportunity to destroy it on the pad. 

Although the February launch showed that the North Koreans have drastically reduced preparation time—and hence the period of vulnerability—observers are correct that the big missile is not really a usable weapon.

The KN-08, however, appears to be. The road-mobile missile is carried on a 16-wheel transporter-erector-launcher, which means in wartime it can run, hide, and shoot. It is, therefore, hard to destroy on the ground.

Analysts say the KN-08, first revealed in April 2012 in a parade in Pyongyang, has never been flight-tested, but Adm. William Gortney, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, believes it is operational, as does Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the outgoing commander of U.S. Forces Korea, seems to concur.

Without a usable warhead, however, the most these launchers can do is put a dent in real estate. Currently, the U.S. assesses North Korea has not miniaturized a nuke and developed the shielding necessary to protect it on re-entry into the atmosphere.

That assessment may no longer be correct. North Korean media on the 9th of this month showed Kim Jong Un standing next to what observers laughingly called a 1970s-style “disco ball.” The device, undoubtedly not an actual nuclear weapon, nonetheless suggests his technicians had made surprising progress in developing a small warhead.

On the 15th of this month, the official Korean Central News Agency reported that the North had successfully lab-tested a warhead re-entry. Analysts think the test was in fact successful.

Because of these and other developments, there is a view emerging in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea has “probably” miniaturized a nuclear warhead, as officials told CNN in recent days. The view has not yet been formalized, but it nonetheless looks correct.

“It’s the prudent decision on my part to assume that he has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM,” Adm. Gortney told Congress, referring to Chairman Kim.

There is some open-source information corroborating Gortney’s view. After all, the North Koreans have had a nuclear warhead for their 620-mile range Nodong missile “since at least 2010,” as Bruce Bechtol of Angelo State University told The Nelson Report, the Washington-insider newsletter, in the middle of this month. Moreover, Bechtol, the author of various books on Kim’s military, makes the point that the Norks may already have detonated a warhead for a long-range missile on January 6.

Having a nuke is one thing. Using it is another. Kim, unless in dire straits, would never launch because a missile has a “return address,” meaning it’s easy to determine which country fired off the weapon. Therefore, retaliation can be swift. If the target is the United States or one of its allies, the punishment will also be utterly devastating.

In these circumstances, virtually everyone assumes that the assured destruction of Kim’s state will prevent him from pushing the button first. That, in a nutshell, is the theory of deterrence.

Yet Kim does not need to launch a missile to deliver a nuke. He could, for instance, have his agents or diplomats smuggle the parts for a bomb across the open borders of the United States as well as bring in two half-grapefruit-size pieces of uranium. The device could then be assembled on site and set off.

The U.S. surely does not know all the locations of the North’s centrifuges, the devices that whirl at supersonic-speed as they enrich uranium to weapons-grade purity, and so it cannot track some uranium isotopes back to the regime. Washington knows of one location—at Yongbyon—but only because the regime voluntarily revealed it to visiting American scientists in November 2010, presumably to show U.S. officials how little ability they had to keep track of nuclear facilities.

America’s ignorance means there may be no way for anyone to do the nuclear forensics—in other words, track back fissile material to its country of origin—after a detonation on U.S. soil.

No forensics means no attribution of responsibility. No attribution of responsibility means no retaliation. No retaliation means no deterrence. No deterrence means the only reason Washington, D.C.—or any other U.S. city for that matter—still exists is because Kim Jong Un does not think it is in his interest to destroy it.

Yet after Friday’s video—plus all the other threats in the last few months to kill Americans—it really does appear he would like to try.


Article Link to the Daily Beast: