The Daily Caller: Pronouncing the Death of the Pax Americana

“Thank goodness, this situation of unipolarity and monopoly is already coming to an end, and it has practically disappeared.”

Though this may be a quote spoken by the American new-Left (or the old-Left for that matter), it actually was a statement made by the President of Russia on October 18, 2018, at the Pro-Putin, Russian Think Tank Valdai Discussion Club.

Hardly mentioned by the mainstream press, Putin’s grand declaration was part of an anti-American rant that should remind Americans that Russia and the United States are always on a collision course, which is always more stalled than ever derailed.

The trains are always headed at each other, but either the engineer dies of a heart attack, as in 1991 (until a new one finally takes his place), or they both engage in multiple near-misses.

The speech centered on three spokes (military technology, China and the Middle East) and Putin’s central core argument; the United States is a dying empire that has made such serious mistakes that it cannot recover.

“Empires often think they can make some little mistakes … because they’re so powerful. But when the number of these mistakes keeps growing, it reaches a level they cannot sustain.”

The few commentators that have highlighted this assertion have focused on the military disparity between the United States and the Russian Federation, which is true, but of course, it misses the point.

Disparity needs to be maintained; it just does not occur. Hence, the correct analysis is not to lull oneself into a false sense of security and inevitability, but to focus on motive and intention.

Putin’s desire to change the world order away from American hegemony is a grand strategy that is based on multi-decades into the future, typical of Russia’s dark and patient willingness to endure hardship over long periods of time.

In specific terms, Putin focused on military technology, boasting again that Russia is developing a hypersonic missile named Avangard. This missile program is designed for the purposes of defeating United States potential missile defenses. Feasible or not at this moment, the real issue again is motivation and intent.

One of the strangest parts of his comments was in regards to his high esteem for China, specifically China’s neo-Silk Road project. China’s “One Belt-One Road” project poses the greatest economic danger to the United States since the attempt by the axis powers to engage in Autarky, which had they won would have cut off the United States from its markets.

If Russia joins China in developing the northern or “Polar Silk Road” America will need to take proactive steps to thwart this geo-political merger.

Regarding the Middle East, Putin boasted of Russia’s influence in the region with Syria and Iran and even Egypt. This should serve as proof positive that relying on the inertia of American power will lead to catastrophe for us.

The Syrian civil war was not a foregone conclusion until the joint intervention of Russia and Iran. Russia’s modest military was very targeted in nature, not only gave Assad a diplomatic shield but allowed him to engage in human rights atrocities with impunity.

Before his death, Senator John McCain summed it up best: “Putin’s Russia is our adversary and moral opposite. It is committed to the destruction of the post-war, rule-based world order built on American leadership and the primacy of our political and economic values.”

Imperial Russia, Soviet and now simply Russian grand strategy has always been based on creating vast spaces in order to lure enemies and absorb losses so that they could overcome enemies with time. Putin’s speech may be 95-percent bravado, but the 5-percent that is not is the warning shot over America’s bow.

This piece originally ran on The Daily Caller on 24 October, 2018.

The Washington Times: The conservative fallacy

The past few weeks have highlighted one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative movement, namely that it has endorsed modernity. There is nothing modern about conservatism. Conservatism is based on a belief in the organic and unchanging nature of man. At its core are traditions, obligations, responsibilities, faith, reason and duty. These virtues are immutable, unchanging and eternal.

It is summed up in the simple phrase, “God, Family, Country.” Conservatives owe many obediences; the highest is to God and that which is closely related: Obedience to the truth. This takes a variety of forms, but one of the most important is obedience to history as it was, not revisionism.

There are five illustrations where conservatives, in a futile attempt to appear modern, have brought about strategic failure.

The first is over the Electoral College. The rising star of the Democratic Party, a self-declared socialist, recently summed up the new left’s attack on the Electoral College by arguing that it is a vestige of slavery. Conservatives were immediately indignant. Few conservatives attacked this nonsense with the actual foundation of the Electoral College. They talked about big states and small states and also political tradition; some even suggested that it was good that it has transitioned.

The Electoral College is one of the last vestiges of republicanism (as in a Republic) remaining in America. It was designed to put a stop to mob rule, a currently popular term. The House is the chamber of sentiment, the Senate is the chamber of reason, and the presidency is the guardian of the Constitution. Due to this, the president was never intended, nor should he be, elected by a popular majority.

The second is over Iraq. It appears that the left wishes to bring this up at any point where foreign affairs are discussed. The mistake made early on by conservatives was to only focus on the weapons of mass destruction which the American intelligence community assured President Bush were active. However, Iraq was more than that. It was one of the worst state sponsors of terrorism; it had engaged in chemical weapons attacks against its own people, and it was preparing for expansion once the UN sanctions were lifted.

However, it also provided the best option for democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration knew this before the invasion but did not communicate this until later. It, therefore, appeared as an add-on, instead of the core that it was. Now, many conservatives who endorsed the war backtrack and backslide. This emboldens the left and only makes their radical agenda in foreign policy easier to attain. Conservatives need to support the actions of President Bush boldly, and assertively.

The third is over the Second Amendment. The NRA is on a roller coaster about whether to rely on the actual foundation of the Second Amendment or what they think will appeal to the masses. They and their allies have made a colossal blunder by focusing on hunting, personal defense, and target shooting instead of the foundation illustrated by John Locke and the Founding Fathers. Namely, that a government that owns a monopoly of arms is a government that can impose tyranny.

A free people armed is the last best check on an illegitimate government. Whether some think this is too far-fetched for the American people to understand or not is difficult to say. However, it frames the debate with the truth and defeats all naysayers Only a fool would argue that a future American government could never be a tyranny.

The fourth one is over the moaning over gridlock. There are many platitudes about bipartisanship and the failure to accomplish this legislative item or that. However, what the electorate needs to be reminded of is that the alternative to a system that could radically change — was tyranny. This is not to argue that gridlock is inherently good, but it is to illustrate that this is the cost to avoid the excesses and extremes of almost every other civilization. By not characterizing it in these terms grants the extremists the ammunition to engage in radicalism.

The final fallacy is over great men. The “out-of-fashion” historian Carlyle argued, “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He correctly argued that it is to the heroic figure that we owe so much. Conservatives should stop apologizing for the great men of civilization. The recent Winston Churchill controversy, the yearly wringing of hands over Christopher Columbus, and the continued, methodical and strategic attempt to destroy the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln should not be met by apologies, but by righteous anger.

The critics do not understand, nor are they able to match the trials and tribulations of these men. They know nothing of the perils of the Battle of Britain, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, or the crossing of the Atlantic. The left well-full knows that if they can knock these men off their pedestals, the rest of Western civilization will follow. In the end, out of fear, they are the biggest believers in the great man theory of history. If not, they would not try so desperately hard to destroy their reputations.

Conservatives have always warned of the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. This is one of the fundamental values, and it does no good to anyone, especially the American electorate, when those that pride themselves on guarding the truth of the past do not themselves hold it as sacred.

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).

This piece originally ran in the Washington Times on 23 October, 2018.

 

Praeger Security: Cyber Attacks Should Be Treated as an Act of War

Lamont Colucci
Ripon College

It is surprising that it has taken about 20 years to openly discuss cyber attacks against the United States committed by other nations. The first major attack is often cited as the “Moonlight Maze” attack of 1998, which is believed to have emanated from Russia. It is even stranger that we are debating whether or not these types of attacks are acts of war and aggression. This lackadaisical attitude is perhaps a function not so much of policy attitudes but culture and generational trends. Generation X and Millennials grew up with the Internet primarily as a positive force in their lives. Further, the Internet is seen as amorphous, surreal and lacking in a concrete manifestation. Negative news about the Internet focuses on such issues as identity theft, cyber stalking, and poor social judgment, as countless people engage in negative behavior that may haunt them in later life. This is unfortunate since the Internet dominates most areas of national security and American corporate activity. These foreign nation cyber attacks have become more sensationalized with the North Korean attack against Sony and allegations of Russian intervention in the 2016 election cycle.

The United States must have a clear policy that cyber attacks will be treated as an act of aggression and war viewed no differently than a kinetic attack, or an attack that results in tangible physical damage and or human casualties. In 2011, the Pentagon opened the official door by declaring that “any computer attack that threatens widespread civilian casualties”[1] could be considered an act of war garnering a military response. In an increasing tense atmosphere over the issue, Sen. Mike Rounds in 2016 introduced a bill called the Cyber Act of War Act, which would: “(1) develop a policy for determining when an action carried out in cyberspace constitutes an act of war against the United States, and (2) revise the Department of Defense Law of War Manual accordingly.” In developing this policy, the President shall consider: “(1) the ways in which a cyber attack’s effects may be equivalent to a conventional attack’s effects, including physical destruction or casualties; and (2) intangible effects of significant scope or duration.”[2] However, as critics have noted, this is less of a guideline for the use of force than a demand that any administration makes clear what American policy is toward such an attack.

It is not the purview of this article to discuss non-state actors, but even with state actors, there is a question of attribution: how sure is the United States that a particular state engaged in a cyber attack?[3] For any response policy to exist, the president must force the intelligence community (IC) to possess and maintain the tools to credibly give him positive attribution. The IC will likely resist such pressure but should be reminded that this is the reason the IC exists in the first place. It is highly likely that the IC will claim that they cannot be definite in all cases who the aggressor is; further, they may try to stall by arguing that more time is needed to assess the situation. Like many areas that demand firm answers from the American intelligence services, the IC should be forced to give an assessment and not be allowed to be ambiguous. Its entire reason for existence is to make such judgment calls and analysis. As much as it is important to be sure and prudent, it is equally important to act decisively to prevent major harm to the United States and the American people. This fully recognizes the possibility that a bad actor could attempt to a covert operation designed to make the United States think a national actor engaged in an attack when they did not. This could even be an action by a national actor itself. Perhaps Iran will attempt an attack that appears like the Chinese or the Russians. This is another reason that a declared policy that cyber attacks by national actors will be considered an act of war will inject a needed seriousness on all sides of the equation. It sends a powerful message not only to our own intelligence community but toward potential adversaries that this issue has left the ethereal feelings surrounding the internet and has entered the domain of hard power national security.

Another area directly related to cyber attacks by national actors is the area of cyber espionage. Again, culture has clouded the issue as espionage is still thought of along the old lines of human intelligence and signals intelligence. However, what could once not be achieved by an army of covert operators can now be achieved by an individual or small group of cyber operators. Cyber espionage is one of the most common threats the United States faces at the hands of state actors. This has often been an overlooked area of espionage by the media, and even politicians, as it often focuses on economic and industrial espionage. It is not considered by many of these same politicians or media actors as serious as attacks against the Pentagon’s communication systems, or even for some, as media manipulation. However, this is more of an ongoing threat than any other, and it harms the United States on a daily basis. In light of this, on April 1, 2015, President Barack Obama signed an executive order, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.”[4] This policy would allow the United States government, through the secretary of the treasury (in consultation with the attorney general and secretary of state) to apply sanctions to individuals or groups that engage in economic espionage. The administration’s test was if the attack created “a significant threat to U.S. national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States.” Although this was a long overdue step in the right direction, it may again reflect the Obama administration’s instinct to take the minimalist path of least resistance. Economic espionage encompasses everything from stealing to altering to destroying intellectual property or other trade secrets. This can be anything from machine blueprints to software applications to private employee information to chemical formulas. And while defense contractors and military technology top the looting list, everything is fair game: civilian aviation, gaming software, agricultural seeds, pharmaceuticals or car brakes. Naturally, Silicon Valley and corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, HP, and Oracle are top targets. And while the good, old-fashioned spy work of using human intelligence assets and dealing with physical documents is still a reality, foreign agents can now also work remotely, through cyber attacks, malware, viruses and other forms of hacking.

The cost to the American economy and American jobs is staggering. One 2009 estimate pegged losses at $50 billion but BlackOps Partners Corporation, a firm that handles cyber counterintelligence for Fortune 500 companies, estimated in 2013 that the cost was $500 billion from U.S. companies annually.[5][6] Many of the code names of these attacks seem to come out of a Tom Clancy novel: Red October, Flame, Operation Aurora and the Elderwood Project. The aggressors have similarly colorful names: Unit 61398, for example, and Energetic Bear.

These last two were not independent hackers. Unit 61398 is part of China’s People’s Liberation Army while Energetic Bear was widely believed to be supported by Russia. Notice that these are not Russian and Chinese corporations but the governments themselves (indeed, they are the two biggest cyber adversaries of the United States). A 2013 report by the cyber security firm Mandiant estimated that Unit 61398 had hacked into 141 companies.[7] Similarly, a 2014 report by the firm CrowdStrike said that the Russian government had penetrated hundreds of American, European and Asian companies, stealing valuable intellectual property.[8]

One needs to be reminded that these are state actors of the two greatest power threats to United States interests using their intelligence arms to attack U.S. corporations. This is not about sanctions, this is warfare, and it should be treated as such. The Russian cyber attacks against the Estonian Parliament in 2007, the attacks against Georgia in 2008 (which were a prelude to the Russian invasion), and Ukraine continuously, should have served as a clear warning that the future for the United States looks dark if no decisive policy is enacted. Russia and China are the most common sources of national actor attacks against the United States. If these two nations perceive weakness on the America’s part, they will amplify and exploit their attacks progressively.

Although economic cyber espionage is the most common form of state-actor attacks, the question remains as to how the United States should respond to a cyber-attack that seeks to seriously harm our national security infrastructure or population. In May 2017, National Security Agency director Mike Rogers stated, “Advanced states continue to demonstrate the ability to combine cyber effects, intelligence, and asymmetric warfare to maintain the initiative just short of war, challenging our ability to react and respond.”[9] The scenarios of nation-state cyber attacks against the United States are endless: cut down the power grid, hack the major financial institutions, bring down military communications, confuse major transportation and supply chain networks. Many of these attacks may lead to the deaths of tens of thousands, especially those targeting health care and the water and food supply, and can cause mass casualties to the American military. Many national security experts have focused on the catastrophic result should a terrorist group or a rogue nation like Iran or North Korea deliver an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike against the United States. An EMP attack by even a single nuclear detonation at high altitude above the surface could destroy electrical power to over 70% of the United States, resulting in casualties on a scale never been seen in warfare.[10] Hypothetical accounts of the days without electric power are terrifying. Lloyds of London and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Risk Studies analyzed a scenario where an attack on the power grid resulted in a 15-state blackout plunging 93 million people into darkness: “Experts predict it would result in a rise in mortality rates as health and safety systems fail; a decline in trade as ports shut down; disruption to water supplies as electric pumps fail and chaos to transport networks as infrastructure collapses. The total impact to the US economy is estimated at $243 billion, rising to more than $1 trillion in the most extreme version of the scenario.”[11]

However, the same could be achieved via a cyber attack. There needs to be an unambiguous policy whose declaration would include the following: Any major cyber attack against United States’ interests or people will be treated as an attack by any other weapon of mass destruction in the same category as nuclear, chemical, biological, and radiological. It is clear that short of the use of a hydrogen bomb, a major cyber attack will be more severe than any other weapon of mass destruction. The scale of such a cyber attack could be vast and comprehensive.[12] Second, any cyber attack by a state actor will not be governed by the same type response. The United States will use kinetic force to counter or retaliate against a serious cyber attack. In plain language, a state actor that engages in a serious cyber attack against the American power grid will find its own power grid destroyed by cruise missiles. Third, the United States will not be forced into a proportional response if the severity of the attack causes major damage or loss of life.

A serious cyber attack against the United States should be treated in the same way as we treated the potential for a nuclear attack in the 20th century. The United States must respond with the full force of American power and ensure that no nation contemplates this type of aggression.


Notes:

[1] David Sanger and Elisabeth Bumiller, “Pentagon to Consider Cyberattacks Acts of War,” The New York Times, May 31, 2011.

[2] U.S. Senate Bill 2905, 114th Congress, May 9, 2016.

[3] Dan Gallington, “U.S. Response to Cyber Attacks,” C-Span interview, June 11, 2011.

[4] President Barack Obama, “Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities,” The White House, Executive Order, April 1, 2015.

[5] Joshua Philipp, “The Staggering Cost of Economic Espionage Against the US,” The Epoch Times, October 22, 2013.

[6] James Scott and Drew Spaniel, “China’s Espionage Dynasty: Economic Death by a Thousand Cuts,” Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, July 17, 2016, https://icitech.org/icit-brief-chinas-espionage-dynasty-economic-death-by-a-thousand-cuts/.

[7] FireEye, Inc., “What About the Plant Floor? Six Subversive Security Concerns for Industrial Environments,” 2017.

[8] Jim Finkle, “Russia hacked hundreds of Western, Asian companies,” Reuters, January 21, 2014.

[9] Dan Boylan, “Mike Rogers, NSA chief, to Senate: Cyberattack on infrastructure ‘worst-case scenario,” The Washington Times, May 9, 2017.

[10] Henry F. Cooper and Peter Vincent Pry, “The Threat to Melt the Electric Grid,” The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2015, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-threat-to-melt-the-electric-grid-1430436815.

[11] Lloyds of London and the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, “Business Blackout,” July 8, 2015.

[12] Quan Hai T. Lu, “Cyber Attacks The New WMD Challenge to the Interagency,” InterAgency Journal 6, 2 (Special Edition, Spring 2015).

Lamont Colucci

Copyright 2018 ABC-CLIO, LLC

This post originally appeared on ABC-CLIO’s Praeger Security International website

This content may be used for non-commercial, course and research purposes only.

MLA Citation:
Colucci, Lamont. “Cyber Attacks Should be Treated As an Act of War.” Praeger Security International, ABC-CLIO, 2018, psi.praeger.com/Search/Display/2174723. Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.

https://psi.praeger.com/Search/Display/2174723

Entry ID: 2174723

AMI NewsWire: The Cost of Appeasement

Eighty years ago today the camera’s flashed as the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain stepped out of 10 Downing Street and uttered these infamous words, “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time…Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” It was on September 30, 1938, and those words would hang in the air, forever; they would linger like an unwanted ghost in the halls of statecraft, decade after decade. (Within eight months Chamberlain would resign and be replaced by the great man who served God, Winston Churchill.)

History depends on the actions of great men. There is no sentence in the English language more out of favor among historians than this one. Actually, there is only one worse – history depends on the actions of great men who serve God. This idea is also amplified in reverse: history’s tragedies are amplified by small men, and such a man was Neville Chamberlain.

“It is a price which enables a dictator who would willingly destroy the last vestige of democracy in Europe to claim with justice that he scored over the democracies of Europe the greatest diplomatic triumph of modern times,” The New York Times wrote disapprovingly of the policy known as appeasement. Some in the British press and public approved appeasing Hitler. Many thought the horrors of the First World War would be avoided and the only sacrifice had been the liberty and freedom of the people of Czechoslovakia. Others protested the agreement in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Many who write about the Chamberlain policy of appeasement focus on the statement and discuss its folly in light of the Second World War. In March 1939, Hitler had annexed all of Czechoslovakia, and the war the West so desperately did not want was given to them under Hitler’s terms on September 1. Chamberlain, (and to a lesser degree the then French President Daladier), became the poster-boy for foreign policy appeasement: the policy that is willing to grant concessions in order to forestall conflict. The term appeasement became a slander used by realist and conservative statesmen, academics, and journalists who understood that dictators are fed by such victories.

By 1938 Hitler had scored a pile of bloodless victories starting with the withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933 (akin to withdrawal or ignoring of U.N. or other international agreements today), the unilateral rejection of the disarmament in 1935 (similar to the research, development or sale of WMD today), the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 (likened to spending on military modernization when other aspects of your country are in poverty), and the annexation of Austria in 1938.

We have seen this in the contemporary era with variations on appeasement with the USSR during parts of the Cold War, Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda in the 1990s, and North Korea and Iran during the last administration.

“Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” then President George W Bush said in a speech in Jerusalem in 2008, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Bush was alluding to Senator William E. Borah, an Idaho Republican in the 1930s who was many proponents of appeasement.

Even in Germany there were opponents of Hitler. In 1938, a small group of anti-Nazi activists had begged the West to pursue a different policy. This German anti-Nazi opposition made numerous attempts to inform the British and French governments of their plans, asking only that they stand-up to Hitler over Czechoslovakia.

By May 1938 a group of Germans within the Army, Foreign Office, and intelligence services had come to the decision that Hitler and the Nazi regime must be overthrown. This part of the German resistance was not the dissenters, protestors, student activists, or religious figures that often had great qualms against violence. This group was primarily made up of conservative Christian nationalists who differentiated between treason against the government, which they knew they were committing, versus treason against Germany and the German people. In other words, the loyalty they had to Germany justified treason against the Nazis. In an amazing memorandum, Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, wrote in 1938, “Your military duty to obey [orders] ends where your knowledge, your conscience, and your responsibility forbids the execution of an order.” We might remember that the American revolutionaries made parallel arguments in the Declaration of Independence. There is a higher duty to God and righteousness than any manmade construct. These men, motivated by honor, duty, and obligation, created a plan to dismantle the Nazi regime by using the German army to take over the country and neutralize the SS.

We know of course the coup plot was a failure but, proud Germans continued to resist Hitler (two others by German military officers in 1943) with the more famous July 1944 Valkyrie plot.

Hitler, like modern-day tyrants, played both the belligerent and the peacemaker when it served his interests. Similar to the 1930s, today’s leaders in the West question their own systems, values, and civilization. The prospect of war was a greater horror than the prospect of evil or the protection of innocent lives. The arguments about saving lives in the short run ended up costing the lives of millions in the long run – the most colossal failures in all of human history.

The Western acceptance of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia ensured the abject failure of the one attempt that had the greatest amount of success to rid the world of Hitler and Nazism. Had the allies stood up to Hitler, the resistance would have removed him from power. The result of this is beyond calculation, but it is not without credibility to suggest that there would have been no Second World War, no Holocaust and no Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe.

The eightieth anniversary of appeasement writ large should cause us to reflect. There can never be accommodation with evil for it always ends in more innocent lives destroyed.

Lamont Colucci is a former diplomat with the U.S. State Department and a professor of international relations.

This piece originally ran on AMI Newswire on 30 September, 2018.

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).

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.