Washington Times: Right Thinking on Grand Strategy

This article was originally published in the Washington Times on Wednesday, August 22 2018

In the pages of World Affairs from 2015, I wrote an article that condemned the then-contemporary strategic thinking as being anything but strategic. The American national security establishment’s obsession with counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency is going to come back to haunt us since great power conflict never ceases.

In fact, many of the same international relations problems of 1914 were revisited in 2014, and the article’s intent was that the centennial of World War I provided a good marker for our own reassessment. As I also pointed out, Russia had adopted a “Putin Doctrine” designed to modernize its military, increase the use of covert operations and espionage, utilize energy and economic intimidation, promote fear on its borders and project power into the Mediterranean, Atlantic and the Arctic.

It is in this light that one can analyze the recent decision by the American government to resurrect two concepts from the Cold War and proactively push NATO into the 21st century with a new benchmark.

The first of these is the reactivation of the United States Navy’s Second Fleet. It was deactivated in 2011 as part of a string of Obama-era decisions that mirrored Bill Clinton’s attempts to take a “holiday from history” in the 1990s. It took years to recover after the Clinton years, and it will take even more effort to do so from the Obama era.

In May 2018, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson stated, “Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex That’s why today, we’re standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic.” This decision is designed to send a clear message to Russia that the United States recognizes the serious strategic threat that Russia poses and is taking aggressive and concrete measures to ensure that both the Atlantic and the Arctic are not endangered. This is a clear response to Russian actions in the Baltic, the Arctic Circle, and off the east coast of the United States.

More importantly is the creation of NATO Joint Force Command for the Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

Although this new Atlantic Command is portrayed as ensuring logistical and communication integrity among NATO, it is clear that it is designed to project power. Finally, a new American initiative titled the Four Thirties pushes NATO into the 21st century. The Four Thirties is a plan that by 2020 NATO should be able to get “30 battalions, 30 squadrons, and 30 ships ready for deployment in 30 days.”

From the 19th century onward, American strategic thinking has been dominated by navalism. This idea promoted by strategists like Alfred Thayer Mahan and adopted first by President Theodore Roosevelt understood that a great power’s ability to protect itself and project power could only be accomplished by the ability to project naval power. This attitude goes in and out of favor depending on whether or not a particular president understands this foundational argument such as Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush and Trump or whether they want to wish great power conflict away as Carter, Clinton and Obama.

The problem is that it often takes decades to repair the damage of the latter’s actions. It is important to note that two of the three NATO reforms are commands that should never have been deactivated. It was the short-sighted attitude of administration’s that failed to understand the very basics of international affairs and foreign policy.

Although we are now on the cusp of taking strategic naval thinking into space, a delayed move, it is heartening to know that sound decisions to counter potential great power aggression is going beyond rhetoric and into action.

• Lamont Colucci is associate professor of politics at Ripon College and author of “The National Security Doctrines of the American Presidency: How they Shape our Present and Future” (Praeger, 2012).

Sage Journals: American Doctrine – The Foundation of Grand Strategy

On 20 August, 2018, Dr. Colucci published an article with SAGE Journals in the World Affairs category. The article is titled, ‘American Doctrine: The Foundation of Grand Strategy’.

An account with SAGE must be created before accessing the full article, available here.

Abstract:

There is an organic American grand strategy, expressed over three centuries in multiple presidential doctrines. Through an examination of grand strategy and doctrines, a clear pattern of success and failure can be demonstrated. Doctrines and grand strategy continue to vanish from policy and public discourse. Often the concept of American Grand Strategy has nearly vanished from any discussion of national security and foreign policy. There is an assumption that expressions such as national security, foreign policy, national security doctrines, grand strategy, vital, national, and peripheral interests are the same concept; they are not. There are many definitions of Grand Strategy; they range along the spectrum from the simple to the complex. Grand Strategy is put into practice with the adoption of national security doctrines. These doctrines should be the highest form of statecraft, but they are often ignored or misunderstood. This article examines the definition of Grand Strategy, why Grand Strategy is often ignored, how Grand Strategy relates to national security doctrines, how national security doctrines are created and implemented, what have been the common themes in American Grand Strategy and doctrines, and what the future holds for American Grand Strategy. It postulates the return to an organic American doctrine that can engage the current national security threats.

INHomelandSecurity: The US Must Create a Space Corps to Remain Dominant over Its Enemies

National security experts recognize that there are pivotal points when a nation must choose between disaster and surrender or triumph and victory. Most military disasters that have led to the downfall of a nation — or even a civilization — have been caused by their strategists’ failures to spend the time and resources needed to adapt for the future.

Failure to Appreciate Technological and Strategic Advances Leads to Disaster throughout History

This lack of political foresight was evident in Athens in the Peloponnesian wars and in the Roman Empire in the fifth century. It was also in China in the 19th century and France and most of Europe in the 20th century.

In each case, the problem was that national leaders failed to appreciate the technological and strategic advances that made their political and military doctrines obsolete. Those leaders believed that:

  • Fixed fortifications could withstand gunpowder.
  • Heavily-armored knights could not be felled by longbow arrows.
  • Wooden ships could stand against armored battleships.
  • French troops stationed on the Maginot Line could defend France against a German invasion.

History is littered with the bodies of soldiers whose political leaders lacked foresight and imagination.

In 1897, the American naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan warned of the consequences of ignoring major advances in military tactics and armaments in his book, “The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future“:

“Those who hold that our political interests are confined to matters within our own borders, and are unwilling to admit that circumstances may compel us in the future to political action without them, look with dislike and suspicion upon the growth of a body [the navy] whose very existence indicates that nations have international duties as well as international rights, and that international complications will arise from which we can no more escape than the states which have preceded us in history, or those contemporary with us.”

Mahan predicted that a nation that invested in advances in sea power would dominate the globe. His prediction was ultimately demonstrated by the strength and power of the aircraft carrier during the Pacific campaign in World War II. However, those days are numbered, as were the days of the now obsolete wooden battleship.

The United States is at a similar crossroads now. This crossroads presents us with decisions on whether or not we will lead in space, advance medicine through space technology and have the capability to dominate the next battlefield.

The Militarization of Space Is Inevitable

Whether we like it or not, the militarization of space is inevitable; the question is not if, but when. The nation that is first out of the gate will remain first permanently. Nothing short of American superpower status is at stake.

The nation that dominates space and space exploration will also enjoy the most vibrant and dynamic economy, the most advanced and high-paying jobs, and a technological edge that is second to none. Taking the lead in space exploration and domination is a national security and economic imperative. Failure to act on this front will make ISIS, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea seem like a distraction, a sideshow for amateurs.

It is not enough to point out a problem; there must be a solution. The first step in this solution is to support and endorse the creation of a Space Corps as a separate military branch. The basic plan was created and endorsed by President Trump, Vice President Pence and Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN).

A Space Corps, independent of the other service branches, would begin by prioritizing the U.S. mission in space, create plans to clean up dangerous space debris and eliminate the natural threats that could emanate from space, such as errant asteroids. This new service would be responsible for creating a true spacefaring component of our national security. To do so, the Space Corps will need its own academy, training, uniforms, budget and hierarchy.

Foes of the Space Corps: Status Quo Military and Left-Wing Politicians

However, this proposal faces two unlikely foes. The first enemy is the “status quo” brass in the Pentagon, who understand that a new service would mean different priorities, budgets and officers. They fear that payment for these additions would come from their service budgets.

We saw this shadow play before in our nation’s history, when General Henry “Hap” Arnold pushed for the creation of an independent Air Force in the aftermath of World War II. This makes the Air Force’s opposition to the Space Corps the ultimate irony.

The Air Force and the Navy have the most to “lose” from a bureaucratic perspective and a potential loss of some of their missions. This is a good reason why grand strategy should never be left to generals and admirals of the status quo.

The other opposition comes from many on the left wing of American politics who instinctively dislike any increase in defense spending. They will automatically bemoan the “militarization of space” as if that is a choice we actually have. Meanwhile, Russia and China already made changes in their defense strategies in 2015 that put them squarely on this road to a more active role in space.

In an interview with the author, General Peter Worden, former Director of the NASA Ames Research Center, summed it up best:

“The first human settlements will be in place on the moon within a decade, and large-scale space manufacturing starts soon after. By the middle of the [21st] century, the global economy will likely be based on space resources. These developments are, and will increasingly be, driven by private commercial concerns. Now is the time for us to consider the security underpinnings of human expansion into outer space. The concept of a military force, a Space Corps, to protect and nurture this expansion is a key question for today. The history of human expansion into unknown regions shows that military capabilities are necessary. Why should outer space be any different?”

To keep the United States in its position of primacy, we must reinvigorate our space program because any future military conflicts will be won by the nation that achieves dominance in space. The 5,000-year evolution and history of military technology have proven the validity of this trajectory.

If we surrender to the status quo mindset of the mid-20th century, we will be surrendering more than our imagination and innovation. We will be surrendering our nation’s peace.

AMI NewsWire: Paul Revere and the roots of American Culture

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;”

There was a time that every schoolboy and girl knew that poem but, those days are sadly gone. American cultural myths are an important part of American nationhood especially at a time those values are under siege.

This year marked the 200th anniversary of American patriot Paul Revere’s death. Revere was called to a different light when he passed on May 10, 1818 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Modern historians, often motivated by left-wing political ideology, seem to celebrate “myth-busting” American iconography, especially that of the Founding Fathers. Like many pop-culture movements, this phenomena swings in cycles targeting specific individuals to serve contemporary political fashion. Thomas Jefferson was a target for a long time, Abraham Lincoln goes in and out of vogue, and the most unlikely of them becomes heroized, the ultra-Federalist Alexander Hamilton (who was an enemy of the neo-Marxists for decades).

There are two primary methods by which this “myth-busting” is conducted, though the results are similar. The first is to take prevailing and contemporary mores and apply them to American historical figures with little or no attempt at explaining the context. A second, more subtle method is to attack the authenticity of the myth itself. If the actual history is different than what was outlined in the myth, the heroic nature of the person can be put into question.

This is second route is the case with the story of Paul Revere. It used to be commonplace for school children to learn the poem: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1860. It was written to unite the country on the side of the Union by illustrating how one person’s contribution can change history.

The poem depicts Revere as the sole champion, the only rider, who saw the signal in the North Church steeple and warned the colonials at Concord. Additional mythology also includes Revere yelling through the roads the famous catchphrase, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” The actual history is much different, but if anything it should enhance our admiration rather than diminish it.

The real story is an example of an early American espionage victory. The signal in the North Church was not for Revere but set up by Revere two days before in order to warn the thirty patriot horse riders Revere had selected, to warn the colonials at Lexington, and Concord the method by which the British were traveling to arrest colonial leaders and seize arms and supplies. He never made it to Concord but succeeded in warning the men of Lexington allowing them the time to prepare the militia which delayed the British in getting to Concord and losing the first major engagement of the American Revolution. Revere rode with two others, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott. Revere ended the evening by being captured and interrogated by the British, though he was later released.

Thus, instead of a story of a nighttime ride of a single rider, we have an example of what planning and forethought can do to change history. Revere, a silversmith by trade, was an ardent member of the Sons of Liberty, the Freemasons (ultimately becoming Grand Master of Freemasons in Massachusetts), and was one of the “Indians” involved in the Boston Tea Party. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, Revere was part of a group with the nickname, the “Mechanics” who formed a rudimentary intelligence agency making it the first intelligence “service” in American history. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the Revolution and afterward became involved in politics as a Federalist.

It is important to reflect on what binds a society together. Americans must be exceptionally careful that “myth-busting” does not become deconstruction. Unlike any other nation on earth Americans cannot unify using ancestry, blood, race, religion, or ethnicity. Americans work with the double-edged sword of political creed. The sword has the one edge of positive universalism.

Anyone, regardless of ancestry, blood, race, religion, or ethnicity, can become an American. This is the one value that many on the left like to amplify. However, the sword has another sharper edge. It is the edge that defines Americans. In political philosophy, this is the belief in life, liberty, and property under the natural law emanating from God. It is expressed visually in the Greco-Roman architecture of Washington D.C. It is also grounded in American myths, based in truth, such as the steadfastness of Washington, the idealism of Jefferson, the honesty of Lincoln, and the courage and tenacity of Paul Revere.

AMI NewsWire: The Legacy of Karl Marx at 200

From the University of Michigan in the United States to Tokyo, symposiums and conferences are being held around the world this month to not just commemorate but celebrate Karl Marx’s 200th birthday.

As the last communist superpower, China has been particularly active. It hosted the World Congress on Marxism advocating for Marx’s “relevance” to the 21st century and donated a 14-bronze statue of the philosopher which was unveiled in his hometown of Trier, Germany on May 5.

One thing was missing from celebrations – a full appreciation that more than one hundred million human beings have been murdered in the name of Marxism and communism. This monstrous genocide is the real legacy of the man whose 200th birthday is being observed this month, Karl Marx.

The youngest generations in the west, lacking in basic historical and philosophic knowledge have, at best, vague, yet often positive views of Marx and Marxism.

There have been a number of pieces written on the occasion of his 200th birthday, but most fail to capture the enormity of his impact. If someone had been able to take a geo-political snapshot of the earth in the second half of the 20th century, it would have appeared that most of the globe was Marxist or going that way. The USSR, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Benin, Congo, Somalia, Benin, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Cuba, South Yemen,  and all of Eastern Europe. This does not even count those that were mixed Marxist states.

In addition, Marxism and neo-Marxism took over a large swath of western academia, media, and entertainment, and dominates 21st-century ideologies under the broad umbrella of neo-Marxism. All left-wing political ideologies, regardless of the label, must willingly or not bend the knee to Karl Marx’s basic ideas. In fact, one can argue that aside from Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed, few have come close to the impact of Marx.

How has such a murderous ideology and failed economic system persisted? One popular idea among western “elites,” especially American left of center “elites” is that all actual Marxist experiments went awry, and by deviating from pure Marxist theory, the outcome became polluted. It is the ultimate self-delusion, allowing the advocate to avoid the brutal realities caused by Marxism. In classrooms and dinner parties the declaration always starts out the same, “If only Marxism were allowed to work as Marx wanted…..” This chant is often followed by unholy oaths among the confederates about how they would desire to be in a classless, equalitarian society without the shackles of corporations, government, or God. And depending on the personality of the speaker, it is probably a universal truth that the very people stating this would either be the first victims of the death camps set up by the Marxists or, rise to become Marxist administrators.

The truth, as anti-Marxists understand, is that the “experiments that went awry” were the organic outcome of Marx and his philosophy, not aberrations, especially the fate of genocide. The natural outgrowth of Marxism was always violence, chaos, destruction, and death. That is inevitable whenever an ideology admits a single truth to which all must submit.

Marx attacked every foundation of western civilization that advanced humankind from barbarism. He unleashed forces for evil that are unparalleled.

Marx corrupted human outlook by not only arguing that all of history was a class struggle, but that the struggle was always violent and impossible to avoid. He raised the consciousness of countless generations to believe that the way you should understand class is not based on your behavior, manners, speech, and education, but on your economic condition. This would have been bad enough as this is now what most people on the planet believe how class is measured. But, Marx took these two steps farther. He argued that this economic disparity led to violence and that all human actions were designed to enhance one’s material condition. He reduced human beings from one made in the image of God to an economic unit, and a biological commodity.

Marx’s most insidious and devastating influence was in the area of morality and religion. Marx’s rabid atheism and his virulent attack against the Church ensured “total liberation.” Once humankind was “liberated” by any standard of God’s judgment or God’s laws, he was free to do anything to anyone at any time. According to The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Stéphane Courtois,Andrzej Paczkowski, and Karel Bartosek, Marxism led to the deaths of almost 100 million people to genocide in every place that tried it. There has never been a greater number of people killed because of political ideology, including Hitler’s National Socialists, which was heavily indebted to Marx.

This is what relativism reaps. Marx envisioned a communist utopia free from God, class, and need. And if in order to get utopia, people needed to die, it is a small price to pay.

Marxism dictated the struggle of the 20th century would not only be bloody, but ideological. The differences the United States has had with Russia and China were made manifold by the ideological expansion and militaristic drive that both nations embarked on to create Marx’s utopia. It was well that they spent almost as much time attacking each other’s Marxist purity, as they did the United States.

Marxism’s impact on Western Europe and America was more subtle.  It was and is the devastation of tradition and manners in pop culture, the faith in relativism, anti-Americanism, and victimization in higher education, and the creation of distrust over property and wealth. Marxism sowed discord among the American family by radicalizing the youth to rebel against parents and convention, though never as bad as awarding medals to children for informing on their parents who could be sent to the death camps as in the USSR.  Marx and his neo-Marxist contemporaries have attempted to subvert orco-opt almost every American institution.

Currently, Marxism itself is getting a new lease on life in the same country that donated the statue. China’s dictator, Xi Jinping told a Politburo session in April that they need to “grasp the power of the truth of Marxism.”

We must give the devil his due; Marx was a genius if by that we mean an original thinker whose ideas shook the world. It was a kind of genius from which we have never made a full recovery. Marxism also ensured that multiple generations of anti-communists would hone their skills and polish their swords knowing that the abyss could take real form. Civilized people owe it to the victims of this most sinister philosophy, a philosophy that has caused more pain and suffering than any other, to ensure that Marx’s birthday, does not go unnoticed or untold.

INTPolicyDigest: Russian Military Adventures

Grand Strategy is the harnessing of military, political, and economic power over a significant period of time to achieve goals that have been dictated by history or indicated by the future. American presidential administrations tend to pre-occupy themselves with fighting crisis after crisis rather than expending limited resources on strategic visions that may not pay dividends for generations. In contrast to this, Russia tends to be more organized in the long view and often appears challenged by the here and now. History has dictated harsh realities to Russia ranging from geographic deficiencies to powerful and aggressive neighbors on its borders. A country with a dark history, and a sinister political culture, often creates strategic success out of necessity.

Soviet grand strategy was governed by creating and exploiting the “constellation of forces,” which included overseas power projection. The Putin Doctrine, which has been as patient as it has been successful, is attempting to resurrect aspects of this. The Russian media announced the doctrine in 2007. It declared policies embraced by the United States and NATO as threats to Russian national interests.

Putin particularly called attention to NATO’s expansion and warned that the deployment of a US antiballistic missile system into Eastern Europe would be a precipitous step toward a new arms race. Russia has endorsed the use of energy as part of a coercive diplomacy strategy and the old Soviet method of using arms control and reduction agreements to achieve Russian national interest.

Throughout these declarations is the need by Russia to be treated with the respect granted the old USSR.

Sometimes this is demonstrated by single “celebrity” actions, such as the decision to launch the new RC-28 Sarmat (“Satan 2”) ICBM on Good Friday. In a deeper sense, the new Russian aggression can be demonstrated by an analysis of their defense budget and military acquisitions. This was demonstrated by their ZAPAD military exercises in 2017 which debut a reconstituted 1st Guard Tank Army and military hardware like the Iskander-M missile, the RS-24 YARS ICBM, and T-14 Amrata tank. More importantly, Russia was telegraphing its ability to drive a military wedge through NATO forces between Kaliningrad and the Baltic. This, combined with the modernization of its navy, and the development of hypersonic missiles, should all be of great concern.

Russia’s continuing threat against the Baltic is well documented. However, this is not the only geopolitical concern. In some areas, Russia seeks to fill perceived vacuums or areas of weakness in American grand strategy: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. It continues to use the crisis over North Korea to gain greater leverage there. In two places, in particular, one can see bolder moves.

Russia’s continued support of the Assad regime in Syria is one area that demonstrates Russian motivation abroad, and in concert with the Iranians, Russia has altered the entire tenor of the Syrian Civil War. The expansion of the base at Tartus to accommodate larger ships indicates a desire for a deeper Russian footprint in the Mediterranean as well as Russia’s lease renewal of the Syrian airbase in Khmeimim following Russia’s announcement that intended to draw down Russian forces.

Nowhere is this new projection as forceful as in the Arctic. The amplification of Russia’s military presence in the Franz Josef Land archipelago, the opening of three new Arctic bases, the creation of an Arctic Brigade (80th Motor Rifle Arctic Brigade), and the expansion of its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet demonstrates Russia’s goal to dominate the oil-rich strategic route.

Although far from being able to project power worldwide, the steps taken now are the building blocks to return Russian grand strategy to a global footing.

Praeger Security International: The necessity of a tactical, operational, and strategic response

The American response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons was a political and moral failure. Ethics and morality are fundamentally based on religious principles. This applies equally to individuals, nations and international systems. We use the term “civilized world” to denote those same human demarcations that use ethics and morality in their decision-making, and those who do not are by default “uncivilized.” Contemporary American culture is bombarded with messages promoting a hazy relativism that is embarrassed by such terms, let alone starker terms like “good” and “evil.” American foreign policy has been equally embarrassed by stark realism that emphasizes only calculated interests or weak liberalism overly obsessed with multilateralism. It is the most unique aspect of American foreign policy that it has always attempted to combine realistic goals with liberal values. This tension created here from the founding of the Republic until today continues to bedevil the nation as it struggles to create a new grand strategy. However, regardless of partisanship, one cannot ignore the dictates of history. The United States was founded on an anti-relativistic vision of absolute natural law where clear markers of good, evil, freedom, and tyranny are severely defined. It is in this broad context that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons must be viewed. There must be a base premise that is absolute: the use of weapons of mass destruction upon innocent civilians is an act of pure evil. The Barack Obama administration’s failure to act upon its own named “red line” was not only a failure of credible American foreign policy but also a violation of natural law that governs civilization. The failure to act signaled that there would be no punishment for the use of weapons of mass destruction and created the vacuum to prolong the Syrian civil war by inviting greater involvement from Russia. It was the darkest hour of American foreign policy during the Obama presidency.

This essay focuses on the American response to the Syrian regime of Bashir Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Chemical weapons are a separate horror and are part of the classification of weapons commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction. In this grouping are nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological, and now cyber weapons. The world focuses most of its attention on nuclear, especially the use of a nuclear bomb. Syria was pursuing the nuclear option until that option was decisively ended by the Israeli Air Force. Sometimes referred to as the poor man’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction), chemical weapons are the easiest alternative to nuclear weapons. They are also one of the oldest forms of WMD, chronicled in antiquity in the wars between Athens and Sparta. Chemical weapons had been banned by various western international agreements in 1675, 1874, 1899, 1907, and 1925. They received their greatest attention during and after World War I, responsible for 1.3 million casualties of the most horrific nature—the horror of which was so great that no western power used them against another western power during World War II. They would be used by Benito Mussolini against Ethiopia, by the Nazis in their concentration camps, by Japan against other Asian (especially Chinese) troops, and in the late 20th century by Iraq against Iran and the Kurds. It should be well noted that there is good evidence that the Soviet Union—keeping in mind that Russia is the major backer of the Assad regime—used chemical weapons against its own citizens in 1989 in Georgia and during its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. In 1993, many nations adopted the Chemical Weapons Convention, with Syria dubiously joining in 2013.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011, and to be clear, had the United States made a proactive decision to assertively engage with the anti-Assad forces, the enormous casualties and use of chemical weapons would not have happened. No nation has successfully challenged American use or threat of use of hard power. However, the Obama administration made the decision, as it had with the Green Revolution in Iran, and the Arab Spring, in general, to let the vacuum grow. Before the war, the United States intelligence community assessed that Syria had chemical weapons, specifically mustard gas, blister agents, and VX. In July 2012, Syria confirmed ownership of chemical weapons. Obama drew his famous “red line” on August 20 of that same year, declaring “that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Diplomatic “red lines” come from the story of the Roman who faced off the Seleucid Empire, which was threatening the Roman protectorate of Egypt in 168 BCE. The old consul’s mission was to force the king to return to Syria. After making the Roman demand and being mocked, the Roman responded by drawing a circle in the sand and saying that when the Seleucid king stepped across the line, he had better be marching toward Syria and not Egypt. The king retreated, and the red line was born; history comes full circle in the strangest ways.

By December 6, 2012, the red line was unilaterally shifted in favor of the Assad dictatorship by removing the injunction on the transportation of chemical weapons, as intelligence indicated had already occurred. This is where the red line stood until reports surfaced in January 2013 that the Syrians had already used chemical weapons (specifically Agent 15) against their own population in the city of Homs on December 23, 2012. On March 19, 2013, 26 people were killed in chemical attacks against two Syrian cities. Six days later President Obama stated that this attack was a “game changer.” In the summer it was estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed by chemical attacks. It was only until the end of August that President Obama announced his intention to ask the Congress for an Authorization of Military Force to respond to the attacks with military force, minus ground combat operations. At this moment, history was at the crossroads: it is clear that the Obama administration believed that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons and that this use required an American (unilateral if necessary) military response. On the other hand, rather than utilizing clear constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, the president handed responsibility over to Congress knowing that his Democratic base was opposed to any military action and Republicans would be unhappy with the limitations. Further, many in Congress openly questioned the need to go through Congress at all. It is beyond this article to speculate on the intentions of the administration, but it is clear that had the Obama administration ordered the American military into action, there would have been no hesitation and thousands of lives saved. No action was taken, and the red line, as Senator John McCain suggested, had been written in disappearing ink.

In September and October 2013, the UN and OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) ordered Syria to destroy its chemical weapons, and with the “help” of Russia, the international community declared victory in this disposal. It is noteworthy that the Assad regime would use chemical weapons on numerous occasions from 2015 through today, including the use of chlorine gas and sarin. The international deal not only gave the Assad regime breathing room internationally, but also served the twin evil purposes of laying out a red carpet for greater Russian intervention and protection from the condemnation for the tens of thousands killed by conventional weapons under the cynical observation that at least those people did not die at the hands of chemical WMD.

Ultimately, the Obama administration engaged in a policy of appeasement. This was not out of character, as it happened in all the major policy decisions regarding Iran, North Korea, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Libya, Russia, and China. It was more blatant over Syria and will provide future historians with a case study in practical and moral failure. The unwillingness to respond to the chemical attacks was coupled with the Obama administration’s choice to not seriously support the moderate resistance movement in Syria. This led to the rise of the Islamic State group and vacated America’s position in Iraq which allowed the Iranians in.

This context is necessary before anyone can assess the American response to the use of chemical weapons by Syria. However, there are three responses to play: tactical, operational, and strategic. The media and most in the political class focus on the tactical and operational. In line with this limited thinking, the options are manifold: the use of air strikes (manned, unmanned, cruise missiles) to take out the regime’s ability to store, transport, and use chemical weapons. Syrian air defense was less than it is now and a concerted air campaign on a unilateral American timetable would have crippled much of Assad’s ability to continue the use of WMD. A tactical decision such as this would have been far better than any of the responses by the Obama administration. At the operational level, the United States could have added to this the destruction of command and control actors, a psyop to not only undercut the obvious illegitimacy of the regime but to warn those ordered to use chemical weapons that they will be held personally accountable. Special Forces could be used to bolster all of these efforts to gain battlespace advantage. However, neither of these options matter unless the strategic picture is developed. The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime should have been the final scene, not the opening act. This action should have led the Obama administration to make the decision that the solution to the problem was the removal of the Assad regime from power. In effect, American strategic response was the exact opposite of history. The United States should have openly supported the anti-Assad Syrian and Kurdish forces to remove the Ba’athists from power while using its presence in Iraq to forestall any Iranian and Russian adventurism. The American military would have had to establish no-fly zones and safe zones within the region and proactively crushed any attempt by Islamic extremist like ISIS and Al-Nusra in exploiting the chaos. Many analysts and scholars engage on this topic in either a vacuum or by over-compartmentalization. The solution to chemical weapons use was and is never the chemicals themselves. It is the people who have used them and will continue to do so, through this means or any other to civilians. It has always been a problem of the regime and the type of fascist tyranny the Ba’athists represent, or the type of Bolshevik tyranny to which the Islamic extremists aspire. Any attempt to focus purely on the tactical or operational level is focusing on the symptom and not the disease.

The establishment of a “red line” to act as a clear marker for American foreign policy was done, once done, all American credibility hung in the balance. This “red line” response to the use of chemical weapons necessitated not only a tactical and operational hard power response but also a geostrategic imperative to remove the regime that used chemical weapons in the first place. The American response was muted and resulted in a gross act of appeasement towards a war-criminal regime.

AMINewswire.Org: North Korea a key factor in Syrian Chemical Weapons program

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A new U.N. report identifies 40 “previously unreported shipments” sent between 2012 and 2017 from North Korea to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre — the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons.

The report shows that the North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development.

This evidence contradicts Syria’s promise in 2013 to abandon its chemical weapons program by agreeing with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118. At the time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the resolution as a “strong, enforceable, precedent-setting” effort that showed how diplomacy “can peacefully defuse the worst weapons of war.”

The report issued, last month, is taking on new significance as President Trump works to gather international support and for action against Syria in response to it claims was the Assad regime’s recent use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. The U.S. is also in “detailed” talks to arrange a meeting between Trump and North Korea’s President, Kim Jong-un.

State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said, “Whether we like it or not, there are countries around the world that are cheaters [but that] doesn’t mean that we can’t deal with them.”

The U.N. report is not surprising. Substantial ties between Damascus and Pyongyang dated to the 1960’s when North Korean pilots assisted the Syrian Air Force and when then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president, imported North Korean experts and armaments. North Korean pilots and other military “advisers” fought with Syria against Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

North Korea has also played a role in Syria’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

In 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. According to news reports first from NHK, at least ten North Koreans were killed in that attack.

The U.N. report also identified other close ties between the two governments, including how the sale of weapons are facilitated by two North Korean front companies used to avoid sanctions, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) and Glocom. An official U.N. reports states, “KOMID representatives in the Syrian Arab Republic have also been importing military goods via commercial air cargo services and, in that regard, attempted in July 2016 to import military communications antennas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from Glocom” [another front com

North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold. The North Korean regime seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons and it also believes that focus on the Assad regime draws American attention from East Asia. Finally, the armaments trade provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell.

“The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy,” said Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh, according to a Syrian news agency. “The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

The UN report was released before the apparent chemical attack this past weekend on Douma, the final town in the Eastern Ghouta region still in the possession of anti-Assad rebels.

The attack and the UN report make clear that Syria rather than abandoning its chemical weapon and ballistic missile aspirations during its ongoing civil war has continued to develop its capacity regarding weapons of mass destruction.

The Washington Times: How North Korea flouts international sanctions

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The Syrian civil war has dropped off of most people’s radar. When it does intrude, reports primarily concern themselves with tactical advances of one side (currently victory favors the Assad regime) or the other. Some reports highlight the human rights atrocities and the effect of the war on the civilian population.

A U.N. report was delivered to the U.N. Security Council on March 1, 2018, which has not been publicly released, but obtained by the author, highlights the military cooperation between North Korea and the other rogue regimes. Further, the report also highlights cyberwarfare (including attacking the U.N. panel of the report) designed to steal military secrets and conventional weapons sales.

It highlights four methods that North Korea uses to flout international sanctions: “exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system.”

Although the relationship with the Assad regime in Syria over WMD (weapons of mass destruction) cooperation is the most critical, the report also illustrates the North Korean military relationship with Mozambique for conventional weapons and parts, as well as a murky military relationship between North Korea and Sudan, despite official Sudanese denials.

More disturbing is the relationship with the genocidal regime in Burma. This includes not only banned conventional weapons but ballistic missiles. The panel continues to be concerned about Angola, Uganda, Libya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. These military deals emanate from North Korea’s governmental unit that engages in this, the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

The U.N. report makes clear that North Korea does not need to rely on foreign engines for its ballistic missile program, indicating the upward advance of its domestic arms capabilities.

It is the relationship with Syria that is most concerning. There is history to this alliance dating back to the 1960s when North Korean pilots flew missions for the Syrian air force and when the elder Assad imported missiles and North Korean experts to assist in Syria’s weapons program. North Korean soldiers assisted Syria against Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Syria leaped into nuclear weapons in the 21st century. As a result, in 2007 Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor suspected of creating the means to produce nuclear weapons. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden stated that this Syrian reactor was an exact copy of one in North Korea. This North Korean/Syrian complicity is reinforced by the fact that at least 10 North Koreans were killed in that attack.

Currently, North Korea has shipped material for ballistic missile production and chemical weapons development. The report highlights 40 North Korean shipments from 2012 and 2017 to Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the Syrian governmental organ that handles chemical weapons. The report also demonstrates North Korean personnel operating chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria. Interdicted shipments by U.N. member states confirm this pattern of behavior.

The report does not explain the geo-strategic situation. North Korea’s interest in the Assad regime is manifold: It seeks a partner in the Middle East to test weapons; it understands that a strong Assad regime can frustrate American foreign policy goals; American attention drawn to conflict in the Middle East weakens it position in East Asia; it provides desperately needed funds to a regime that has little else to trade or sell, and bolstering the Assad dictatorship hurts America’s ally Israel.

Syrian parliamentary speaker Hammouda Sabbagh stated, “The DPRK and Syria are in one trench against a common enemy The more terrorists that fall under the blows of the Syrian Arab Army, the faster the Zionist enemy, the United States and their agents in the region rush desperately to strike Syria, So the response to these attempts were qualitative and will be harsher and more qualitative if the enemy once again considers an attack on Syrian sovereignty.”

It is clear from the report that the much-touted sanctions regime is failing, providing a thin veil for U.N. member states like Russia and China that continue to assist North Korea’s trade exports in iron, coal, steel, silver, copper, zinc, nickel and imports of oil. It outlines elaborate efforts by North Korea and complicit partners to use false flags and documentation, evasive travel routes, transshipment and ship-to-ship transfers.

The U.N. report should be publicly and widely disseminated, but more importantly, it is the final nail in the vampire’s coffin of the 2013 agreement that the Assad regime abandon chemical weapons. It provides proof positive that rogue regimes such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, and now Burma, bolstered by Russia and China are the prime actors of instability dooming the world to further chaos and violence — this is state terrorism at its worst.

USNews.com: Russia Is Cozying Up to Egypt

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on USNews.com


Due to the whirlwind of attention paid to the weather, North Korea, Iran and domestic American politics, an event erupted that received little attention. Last November, as a result of the Russian defense minister’s visit, the Egyptian government agreed to a five-year reciprocal arrangement to allow Russian military planes to use Egyptian facilities and airspace as long as either side provides a five-day notice. This was followed up by a warm meeting between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in December that resulted in a deal to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant. Of note to those with an appreciation for diplomatic history, Russian (or, then, Soviet) advisers were expelled from Egypt by President Anwar Sadat in 1972. Russia’s return to Egypt returns the old specters of the Cold War on to watchers’ radar screens.

Analysts point to a trajectory that began in 2015 when el-Sissi agreed to an expanded military relationship and the purchase of Russian war equipment. For the first time ever, Egyptian troops trained in Russia last September.

This is particularly concerning in light of Russia’s bid to prop up, so far successfully, the Assad regime in Syria and reports that Russia has deployed special operations forces near the Libyan/Egyptian border combined with their attempt to influence Libyan strongman, Gen. Khalifa Hifter. “Russia is attempting to increase their influence throughout the Middle East, as we have seen in Syria,” Gen. Joseph Votel, Centcom’s commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last March. “We have seen them do things certainly with our longstanding partner Egypt and others across the region. So it is my view that they are trying to increase their influence in this critical part of the globe.”

The military concern is that Russia could utilize these gains to project more power into the Mediterranean and create greater advantages in Syria. Naturally, both Egypt and Russia play up the counterterrorist aspect of their partnership. Economically Russia may be attempting to circumvent the negative effect of sanctions by ramping up arms sales to the region. Diplomatically this continues Russia’s bid to reassert its worldwide presence and prestige.

This strategic calculus was created by the Obama administration’s withdrawal (perceived and real) from the region. The Russians have utilized their success in Syria to regain certain foreign policy goals left over from Soviet strategic objectives. Some analysts have missed the point by stressing Russia’s more limited current strategic capabilities rather than looking at long-term (and historical) Russian goals and trends.