2011

12/30/11
10:00am

How to get more Ivy Leaguers into ROTC

by Cheryl Miller and Jon Hillman

One year after Congress voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” elite universities such as Harvard, Yale and Columbia have ended Vietnam-era bans on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) with highly publicized signing ceremonies among senior military officers and university leaders.

Yet for all the fanfare, Yale is the only university that will have cadets training on campus next fall. Columbia and Harvard have restored ties with the Navy, but the new partnerships are limited to a campus office. Stanford has requested its own naval unit (to save their students a 45-minute commute to UC-Berkeley), but the Navy appears unlikely to approve the request.

Stanford’s is a telling episode: The chief obstacle to ROTC’s expansion today is not antimilitary sentiment but a Pentagon that prefers to allocate its resources to surer recruiting prospects, primarily in the South and the Midwest. Last year the Ivy League had 54 students commissioned through ROTC, or 1% of total commissions, and the Defense Department is reluctant to launch new programs where student interest appears low.

Read the rest of the article on the Wall Street Journal website.

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12/29/11
4:00pm

Cameron the Neo-Con?

by Gary Schmitt

A little more than five years ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then-Conservative Party leader David Cameron gave a speech designed to distinguish his own foreign policy vision from that of both the sitting prime minister, Tony Blair, and American neo-conservatives. Although the timing of the speech revealed an unflattering shade of political opportunism on Cameron’s part, it spelled out an approach to foreign policy and the post-9/11 world that was actually far closer to Blair’s and American neo-conservatives’ than was understood by most commentators at the time. With hindsight, perhaps Cameron’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya to prevent a humanitarian disaster and remove Muammar Gaddafi’s regime should not have been a surprise to anyone.

For one, Cameron recognizes in his 2006 speech that there might be times when the British government will act militarily for reasons not traditionally put forward by states. While not as effusive as Blair’s 1999 speech in Chicago defending the right of NATO to intervene in the Balkans to stop the slaughter there, Cameron did state that he believes “we should be prepared to intervene for humanitarian purposes to rescue people from genocide.”

And while Cameron, in his address, suggests that Blair has been too much the junior partner in the “special relationship,” he also notes that “Britain just cannot achieve the things we want to achieve in the world unless we work with the world’s superpower.” Surely this is a point 10 Downing Street appreciates now more than ever, given the key military capabilities—such as intelligence, precision-guided weapons, and air-refueling support—that the United States needed to provide for the NATO operation to succeed in Libya.

Nor does Cameron distance himself from neo-conservatism in matters of foreign policy; to the contrary, he stipulates that he in fact agrees with its core precepts as he understands them: first, Islamist terrorism is a unique and deadly threat; second, military preemption is sometimes called for; and third, the promotion of political and economic freedom “is an essential objective of Western foreign policy.” And while one could argue whether any of these is a uniquely neo-conservative principle, it is certainly true that critics of America’s post-9/11 policies often point to each as somehow representative of the so-called neo-con turn in American statecraft.

In fact, the real distinction Cameron appears to draw between his own foreign policy vision and that of neo-conservatives is less about those general propositions than, by his estimation, their hubristic application. What had been lost was a sense of “humility”  and “patience” when it comes to the conduct of policy. In short, the difference to be drawn between Cameron’s self-avowed “liberal conservatism” and “neo-conservatism” is mostly a matter of prudence in how a policy should be implemented and expectations of its timely success. Or, as he succinctly put it, “we must be wise as well as good.”

For the future prime minister, this was especially the case when it came to pushing the freedom agenda. Echoing a long-standing Tory view that true democratic rule is a product of long habituation, Cameron argues that it was wrong to believe that it could “quickly be imposed from outside. Liberty grows from the ground—it cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone.”

No serious student of international affairs, including neo-cons, thinks otherwise. Indeed, if anything, just as prevalent and problematic is the traditional Tory and conservative view that building a democratic state is not only difficult and time-consuming but virtually impossible in countries of the world’s backwaters.

Perhaps it is understandable that Cameron would want to avoid the cloud hanging over the American and allied efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan; certainly the political cost to both Blair and Bush was enormous. But the Bush administration did not go into either Afghanistan or Iraq with the primary intention of establishing democracies there. The primary goal was to remove from power regimes that either were protecting terrorists that had attacked the United States or were thought to be a security threat that could no longer be tolerated in a post-9/11 world. Yet if the goal was removing despots from power, it necessarily followed that they had to be replaced with something. And, putting aside for the moment the strategic merits of possibly establishing a stable democratic order in one or both of those nations, what democratic leader today is going to suggest that it’s perfectly okay for the new regime to be despotic as well—just as long as he’s our despot. In short, at times, democratic nation building is not nearly the option some think it is.

It’s possible, of course, that Prime Minister Cameron will escape Colin Powell’s maxim that “you break it, you own it” when it comes to Libya. However, if reports of roaming militias, factionalism, and outside players like the Qataris having an outsized influence within post-Gaddafi Libya are accurate, then there may well be considerable cost to taking the current, largely “hands off” approach. Sometimes being an effective “liberal conservative” just might mean being a “neo-conservative” in practice.

Cross-posted from the American.

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12/21/11
2:22pm

Did Obama Bungle Iraq?

by CDS Editors

In an entry today in the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blog, Jen Rubin considers whether the recent political unrest in Iraq, including most notably the call for arrest of the Sunni Vice President by Shi’ite President Nouri al-Maliki.  AEI experts Tom Donnelly, Gary Schmitt and Fred Kagan are quoted in Rubin’s article. Here is one excerpt:

Is Iraq unraveling just weeks after President Obama pulled all troops out of the country, against the advice of his military and in defiance of critics? Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute tells me this morning: “Indicting a vice president and killing his bodyguards is out there, even by Iraqi standards. Maliki must have had these moves in mind even while meeting with Obama last week and before. And the Kurds are protecting Hashemi, so there’s obviously broad-based Kurd-Sunni opposition to Maliki’s power-grab. Not yet a civil war, but a pretty brutal punctuation to the ‘end’ of the war.”

For the post in full, click here.

12/19/11
5:35pm

What’s Next for North Korea?

by Michael Auslin

Kim Jong-il’s death came like the line from Fletch: He’d been dying for years, but when it came it was very sudden. Now the world waits to see what will happen to the most repressive and secretive regime on earth. For the past two years, Kim’s putative successor has been his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, whom the world did not even know about until he was abruptly thrust into the North Korean “limelight.” The under-30 Jong-un will likely be mentored (read: controlled) by his powerful uncle, Chang Song-taek, who is Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and has likely been running the government while the elder Kim slowly faded away. Of course, there are also two older sons of Kim Jong-il who at one time were considered heirs apparent but have been thrust into the shadows. They may have designs on the throne and allies in the military or government that we don’t know about.

For now, however, the North Koreans are following the old Soviet script for succession. Kim Jong-un has been named head of the official state funeral committee, thereby confirming his ascendancy for the moment. His work will begin after the funeral on December 28, when he will have to start consolidating his power; alternatively, we may begin to see hints that he is merely a figurehead, such as increased prominence of other leaders. Only if the regime itself is in danger of fissioning or being attacked by the oppressed people of North Korea will the situation on the peninsula change to any appreciable degree.

What Asian and Western governments need to prepare for is some kind of military demonstration, such as a new nuclear test, a ballistic-missile test, or even a limited attack on South Korean territory or property, all of which have been the stock in trade of the Kim regime. As a means to prove that the new leadership is fully in control, as a warning to South Korea and the United States not to take advantage of the death of Kim Jong-il to push for regime change, or because of factional in-fighting among the North Korean leadership to jockey for position, an act of aggression is very likely after Kim Jong-Il’s funeral. The Obama administration, along with its South Korean ally, needs to make clear now that any such destabilizing actions will be met with a response.

Sadly, there is little chance that Kim Jong-il’s death means the dawn of a new spring in North Korea. Its terrorized and brutalized populace will have to endure more horrors at the hands of the third Kim to rule since the end of World War II, and Asia and the rest of the world will continue to wait nervously for another threat to their safety and security. Now may not be the time to try and weaken the new government, but neither is it time to relax our guard. Our wait-and-see attitude is justified only if we are prepared to strike back against unprovoked aggression and retain the moral compass to condemn the regime for the barbarity that it is.

Cross-posted from National Review Online.

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12/19/11
12:09pm

Vicious Kim Regime Lives

by Daniel Blumenthal

There are three things to keep in mind about Kim Jong Il’s death.

First, he was a vicious and cruel man. He enriched himself and his cronies as the North Korean people suffered through famine, forced labor, and other cruelties. Kim ran a mafia-state that profited off of a variety of criminal enterprises. He took advantage of his democratic adversaries’ unwillingness to take him on, and made money by selling illegal narcotics, weapons, and counterfeit goods and dollars on the international black market. He made the world a more dangerous place through his ruthless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic weapons. He killed South Koreans in cold blood and kidnapped Japanese citizens. Meanwhile, we and our friends bailed him out time and again. Every time the regime was on the brink of collapse we offered Kim new packages of money and aid, with which he lined his pockets and paid for his nuclear ambitions. The worst offender in this regard was China, but for more than 17 years we played our part in enabling his continued rule.

Second, we should take no comfort in his succession, probably by his son. It was during Kim Jong Un’s apprenticeship that North Koreans sank the South Korean ship the Cheonan and shelled South Koreans on Yeonpyeong island. The younger Kim will need to show his toughness to the military and will likely engage in more atrocious acts in the years to come. Things will not get better either for North Koreans or for us as long as this regime is in place. Their survival now depends upon their nuclear program. We have taught them that as much as they provoke we are seemingly unable to be provoked — they can test a weapon, kill our allies, and disregard agreements without paying a price. Their nuclear-weapons program has given them what they want: insurance against American or allied pressure to change. The Kim family is invested in the current criminal, repressive state. And why not? They have become rich and stamped out any opposition. And they are a de facto nuclear state. They simply want official recognition of that status.

Third, given the regime’s internal logic — nuclear weapons are the state’s highest priority — there is no hope of persuading the Kim family to give up its programs, stop its illicit activity, or end its cruelty. We must avoid all temptations to “probe” the new leader’s intentions or “discover” whether he can be dealt with. We have tried and failed at “probing intentions” for a couple of decades. We are not in a period of uncertainty — we know what the Kim family wants. The only “uncertainty” is what it always was: When and how will the next dangerous act occur? Our policy should be regime change, gradual and patient if necessary, but unrelenting pressure until the Kim family collapses and members of the Party or the military are ready to negotiate radical reform and then unification under the rule of the Republic of Korea.

Cross-posted from National Review Online.

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12/15/11
12:55pm

Tokyo Takes Security to a Higher Plane

by Michael Auslin

Tokyo is expected to announce Friday that it will buy America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the clearest statement yet that Japan will not be left behind in Asia’s arms race. If reports ahead of the announcement are true, it also may help spur the creation of a bloc of liberal Asian states with the most advanced airpower capabilities that can serve to maintain stability in an increasingly strained Indo-Pacific region.”An F-35 purchase would help lay the groundwork for a cooperative airpower alliance of liberal states flying the same plane, training together and operating jointly.” –Michael Auslin

An F-35 purchase would help lay the groundwork for a cooperative airpower alliance of liberal states flying the same plane, training together and operating jointly. In addition to Japan, Australia has committed to buying up to 100 F-35s, and Canada another 65. Singapore is a Security Cooperative Participant in the F-35 program and South Korea is another likely customer. Some industry observers say India may sign up for F-35s later on. With only 186 U.S. F-22s available—currently the most advanced fighter in the world—the need for a large and credible force of F-35s flown by allies is all the more important.

Most Asian nations admit keeping stability in their region is far more difficult without Japan’s help. But for Tokyo to lead it will have to be prepared and committed. By some measures, Japan is still making up ground from its strategic withdrawal from many Asian security matters after former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. A string of five failed premiers after him led to stagnation in defense reform and political silence on the country’s key security interests. That began to change a year ago with the release of a new national security strategy that identifies China as a destabilizing element and a potential security threat to Japan’s southwestern island territories.

The rest of this article is accessible to subscribers on the Wall Street Journal site.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper is reporting that the Japanese government is close to settling on the F-35 Lightning as the much-needed replacement for its F-15 fighter.  That’s exceptionally good news for a program that’s both key to preserving American military preeminence and at a lot of risk due to prospective deep defense budget cuts.  Indeed, Japan’s decision may actually complicate the Pentagon’s challenges in meeting the targets laid out by the Budget Control Act, Obama administration policy, and the uncertainties of the sequestration stemming from the failure of the congressional supercommittee to cut a deficit reduction deal.

The Japan deal has been a long time in the making. The Japanese air force has been shopping for a next generation “F-X” fighter to supplant the approximately 140 F-15s that have been Tokyo’s frontline air defense aircraft since the early 1980s. Japan was originally interested in the F-22 Raptor, and was willing to pay a premium price to get it – Japan also paid a premium to be able to build its own version of the F-15 – but the termination of America’s F-22 program in 2009 dashed that hope. The final F-22 is on the production line now.

Even though the F-35 program has been an international effort from its inception, including partners like the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey, as well as larger allies like Britain, and with a sale to Israel in the works, the Obama administration did not make it easy for Japan to acquire the Lightning. Working out the details of a technology sharing agreement was not easy, and the administration was also hesitant to anger the Chinese.  And make no mistake, Japan’s desire to acquire a stealthy, so-called “fifth-generation” aircraft is driven by fear of China and a strong desire to deepen military ties with the United States as much as any need to replace the aging F-15s. This deal is what the U.S. policy of “building partner capacity” is all about: upgrading the capability to a frontline ally to defend itself and to operate more seamlessly with U.S. forces. Selling F-35s to Japan may not provoke the kind of furious response from Beijing as selling new F-16s to Taiwan would, but it is arguably more strategically and operationally important.

The sale of the F-35 to Japan comes at a critical time for the program, as well. The development of the plane has been plagued by the difficulties of settling on final designs and constant restructuring because of shifting Pentagon budgets. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, the chairman and ranking members, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have made the F-35 the most recent target of their jihad against the defense industry and have rammed through a provision in this year’s defense authorization act – shortly to be on the floor of both houses of Congress – to force the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin into a fixed-price contract. Considering that the F-35 is still in flight test and that defense budgets are in free fall, such a contract is even more foolish than usual. And then there are the F-35 partner nations to consider, not just the current partners, Japan and Israel, but likely future F-35 nations like Australia and South Korea, both soon to make similar fighter buys.

Indeed, there is nothing more critical to reinvigorating U.S. military posture and coalitions in the Indo-Pacific than the F-35 and a few other critical systems (such as the P-8 maritime patrol plane, the C-17 airlifter, the new tanker, the Littoral Combat Ship) that could form the skeletal structure of a de facto future alliance. It’s no surprise that Singapore is seriously considering the F-35 – particularly the “B” model jump jet.  Japan’s initial buy is for about 40 F-35s, but there are likely to be subsequent procurements. Tokyo might also go for the “B” model, which would very much complicate China’s ability to target Japanese airfields with ballistic and cruise missiles. And, once India realizes its recent mistake in purchasing the “fourth-generation” eurofighter, it’s likely that there will be other opportunities.

Defense industrial and technology-transfer policy can and should be critical parts of American military strategy, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. During the Cold War and since, the Pentagon and especially the U.S. Navy and Air Force have designed and built systems for themselves and cared little about equipping allies and partners. Such as the problem of the F-22. Likewise, there were and are sales to be made in the Middle East, but with the rising threat of Iran, these, too, are more about strategy than profit.

The F-35 stakes could hardly be higher for the United States. Despite the Pentagon’s budget woes, it cannot walk away from the Lightning.  There is no substitute for American forces. High-end unmanned systems or a new bomber – indeed, any of the muted substitutes for F-35 – are years if not decades away from being fielded. Nor is there any substitute for America’s allies.  It’s not extreme to say that the commitment to the F-35 is as serious as any other test of American strategic leadership and will to preserve a measure of military technological advantage.

Or put it this way: Tearing apart the F-35 program – which may already be a result of the Budget Control Act and Obama policy – would be as corrosive a signal of weakness and decline as the withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Cross-posted from The Weekly Standard.

(flickr/U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)

Japanese and American news outlets are reporting that Japan’s Ministry of Defense has decided to purchase Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the next generation replacement fighter for the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces. If true, it will further solidify Japan’s position as one of Asia’s most advanced military forces. Along with Aegis-equipped destroyers and excellent submarines, adoption of the stealth fighter will give Japan a leading edge, at least for a while, in the aerospace competition heating up in the Indo-Pacific region. The deal might be for only around 40 airplanes, worth around $6 billion, but it marks Tokyo’s determination not to be left behind as both China and Russia field possibly hundreds of advanced fourth-generation fighters and continue development separately on fifth-generation stealth fighters of their own.

With both Chinese and especially Russian planes probing Japan’s airspace in recent months, and with North Korean nuclear and missile programs continuing apace, Japan needs to be assured of protecting its interests and having the nascent capability of projecting power. The country is getting new tankers to allow for airborne refueling, and the F-35 is designed for ground attack roles. While there is still a way to go in Japan’s own thinking on future defense needs, the pieces are in place for a defense posture that will qualitatively equal or surpass any other country in the region. That Tokyo recognizes this in choosing the F-35 is the most important piece of information of all.

Cross-posted from the Enterprise Blog.

(flickr/U.S. Air Force/Samuel King, Jr)
12/12/11
4:15pm

Afghanistan: A race to the exits?

by Gary Schmitt and Richard Cleary

Over the past few days, a number of news reports have suggested that core American allies have either decided upon (Germany) or are considering (United Kingdom, Australia) troop drawdowns in Afghanistan. This news comes on the tail of reports that the Obama administration is considering an accelerated withdrawal of its own, even beyond the planned removal of all U.S. “surge” troops from Afghanistan by October 2012. And while the prospect of the hurried departure of some of our closest allies should perhaps not come as a surprise given the White House’s own decision to withdraw, it does raise serious questions about whether enough troops will remain to consolidate hard-won gains in the south and north of the country, and improve security in the restive east.

In last week’s Weekly Standard, Gary Schmitt and Jamie Fly observed that the Obama administration’s drawdown of surge forces, leaving only 68,000 American forces in Afghanistan by October of next year, “will be difficult to manage.” This challenge will be only greater if allies decide to follow America’s example. In particular, one of three options under deliberation by 10 Downing Street would remove 4,000 of the 9,000-strong British contingent from Helmand province over the course of 2013. With only 6,000 U.S. Marines expected to remain in Helmand after October of next year, the security situation would be highly tenuous, putting at risk the very gains “the surge” was designed to accomplish.  Instead of “clearing, holding and building,” there is a chance that, with a greatly reduced footprint, we’ll be struggling to hold and back to clearing new pockets of insurgent activity.

Obama’s decision to end the surge of forces in Afghanistan early in an obvious play to the anti-war base of the Democratic Party (see, e.g., the president’s reelection campaign website which specifically ignores the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan) is probably no surprise given where his poll numbers are.  However, this and rumored decisions about cutting back on the deployment of even more troops in 2013 have had and will have a multiplier effect on allied decisions on whether to sustain forces in theater as well.  In short, the race to the exits has begun, with the Taliban and the Pakistan military no doubt thinking “don’t let the door hit you on the behind on the way out!”

Cross-posted from the Enterprise Blog.

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