Washington Times: China’s new blue water naval phase

Its projection of power in the third world shows ambitions beyond Earth

One of the significant metaphors among national security experts is the use of color to explain naval capability. Brown water describes nations that can only operate in their own river ways and estuaries; green water is those navies that can operate near and around their coastal waters and, finally, blue water, which projects power internationally, militarily, economically and within the political realm.

It is important to note that blue water capability is not just the ability for a warship to cross oceans but to knit together and stabilize a nation’s overseas economic and trade interests. It creates a synergy between economics, diplomacy and military needs and wants. 

The last time China was willing and able to do this was the 15th century during Admiral Zheng He’s “Ming treasure fleet voyages.” From 1405 to 1433, the fleet projected Chinese power into South Asia, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. It combined military combat, diplomacy and trade to establish dominance. China established military bases, trade routes and a tribute system. It ended by choice because of China’s internal political and diplomatic shift in priorities.

Blue water capability is not just the ability for a warship to cross oceans but to knit together and stabilize a nation’s overseas economic and trade interests.

Why is this important today? This 15th-century template that China uses to project power in the 21st century in the third world will be its template for its ambitions beyond earth.

The One Belt One Road initiative is well known. What is not as well known is how far afield Chinese ambitions are taking it. I have written about Chinese expansion into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in articles past. Unfortunately, an evolution of this policy is now with us. This is illustrated by Chinese actions in the West African country of Equatorial Guinea. 

The story here mirrors events already played out in South Asia where Chinese predatory loans, diplomatic pressure and the shadow of military coercion combine with corrupt regimes to make these nations semi-vassals of Chinese ambition. 

One of China’s more advanced expansion methods is diplomatic and economic institution building

For example, Equatorial Guinea is ranked the fourth most corrupt government by Transparency International, and her debt to China surpasses 49% of GDP. Thus, it is of great concern to American interests that the Chinese constructed Port of Bata will be used as a Chinese military base where her warships can repair, rearm and refit. 

In addition, Bata can be used as a staging ground for operations in and around Africa. American intelligence has reported to Congress that China is considering base-building with Kenya, Seychelles, Angola and Tanzania.

One of China’s more advanced expansion methods is diplomatic and economic institution building. An excellent example of this is the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, created in 2000. This is an attempt to create a pan-Africa system of economic and military dependence on Beijing under the guise of development and security. But, unfortunately, its use of predatory loans to create debt enslavement is already in place in many nations worldwide. We can see this alive and well in Africa in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo, Zambia and Cameroon.

China’s predatory acts, illustrating the naked ambition to gain world hegemony, are a precursor of further destabilizing behavior and an attack on American vital and national interests

China trains and equips the national police and is highly interested in its oil reserves. Thus, China is well on its way to a naval base in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, we see similar behavior in the Caribbean Basin on the other side of the Atlantic. As Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, stated, “Beijing had actively sought to undermine London’s historical status as a key partner with Caribbean nations.” China is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and establishing military-to-military relations.

China’s predatory acts, illustrating the naked ambition to gain world hegemony, are a precursor of further destabilizing behavior and an attack on American vital and national interest, Western civilization and democratic values. Its actions in the Caribbean blatantly violate the Monroe Doctrine, which the United States has effectively enforced when it has chosen to do so since 1823. This doctrine declared that the Western hemisphere was a forbidden zone to America’s enemies and a pivotal pillar of American foreign policy.

We have successfully protected American interests when we have chosen to enforce it and have suffered greatly, along with the Americas as a whole when we have not. We are now at that point again. We cannot allow 15th-century Chinese maritime strategy ghosts to reappear on a grander scale. We again are at a crossroads of decision-making. A choice of weakness will result in generational disaster.

This piece originally ran on The Washington Times digital edition on 17 January, 2022.

NewsMax: The Crisis Makes the Man

September 11, 2011 will be remembered and commemorated for many reasons. Most in the nation will focus on those killed and those who risked all during those first few hours and days.

America was blessed that it had the exact right president for this same period in time.

As anyone who studies this period knows, President Bush was offered the easy way out, following “on-the-shelf” plans to retaliate with cruise missiles, limited airpower and some possible special forces operations.

He chose to reshape American national security, and the current administration has squandered all that was achieved.

Presidents are judged great by their ability to handle national security crises. They are equally judged disastrous by the same yardstick. We do not assess any president great on any other topic.

Historically, a majority of presidents have faced national security crises, and all modern ones have. Presidents McKinley and T. Roosevelt successfully met the massive stress of America entering the stage as a great power.

Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, and Hoover all botched their turn at bat successively with the Philippines, World War I, Mexico and Japan. The next, Roosevelt (FDR) struggled with a domestic national security crisis at home and a growing threat abroad.

Johnson and Carter could never come to grips with using American power because they had little understanding of the ultimate goal.

Presidents Truman, Reagan and G.W. Bush illustrated how a great man could come into his own as a great president facing existential threats to the United States that went far beyond other national security crises, akin to a degree to what presidents Washington and Lincoln had done before.

We have seen our share of contemporary disasters with Clinton, Obama, and now President Biden. The common thread goes well beyond political party and plumbs the depths of the roots of American ideology.

If a president rejects his nation’s underlying anchor and rudder, how can he be expected to steer the ship of state? Politics runs downstream from culture, and culture runs downstream from faith.

Presidents who reject the absolute world of Judeo-Christian good and evil can hardly be expected to have a moral compass regarding national security decision-making.

This explains why many of our contemporary presidents have been unable to make the right decisions regarding any particular crisis. However, it also helps to explain why there is no consistent and credible direction.

All of the presidents who fail at national security had little interest in American grand strategy. They did not embrace an over-the-horizon picture of where America needs to be in five, 10, 25 or 50 years.

They had lost faith in America because it is doubtful they ever believed in America to begin with.

Let us dismiss the notion that America is defined by its diversity, cited by so many in academia and the media. This is the most self-destructive lie out there.

It is precisely the opposite; very specific values define America that anyone can ascribe to regardless of race or ethnicity. It is here that many American presidents lost faith.

They lost faith in America’s destiny, its exceptional nature that emanated from God, and therefore its mission. They ran scared from such talk for fear that they would be accused of suggesting that American civilization was superior, losing sight of the fact that American values are as universal as they are divinely inspired.

Some of these values would have avoided the worst of what we are witnessing in Afghanistan. Namely, America should never abandon the innocent, its own, or its allies. It never shrinks from a conflict; it imposes its will, not because it can, but because it is in the right.

9/11 reminds us of the role of the president. First and foremost, he is armed with faith in the greatness of America, enabling him to handle national security crises and ensure American success in the future.

This is the fundamental job of the president. There is nothing else that should interfere with that primary task.

If a president fails here, he fails always and forever.

This article first appeared on NewsMax on Friday, 10 September.

Newsmax: Sophomoric US Foreign Policy Lacks Strategic Vision

The shame of Afghanistan looms.

Twenty years of blood, sweat, and tears are lost not because of American involvement but lack thereof. Today is the day that a wholesale revaluation of American foreign policy is needed.

The following sentiment may anger more than it heartens, but the truth exists regardless of numbers or popularity.

The United States has not had a coherent and strategic foreign and national security since President George W. Bush.

Twelve years is a long time for a ship to be without an engine, a rudder, or an anchor.

Instead, it has been the strategy of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” (“Der Fliegende Holländer”)  going nowhere — shrouded in mystery.

I don’t want to confuse the reader.

There have been some good and specific national security policies and many more bad ones during this time.

A good individual policy, such as President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to the rightful capital of Israel, Jerusalem, is not the same as a strategic vision.

We can all look at those numerous policy decisions and make judgments about whether or not they advanced American interests or not.

However, a series of good or bad policies on individual, often disparate issues, is not a strategy that engages American interests with trajectory, velocity, or destination.

When they are demonstrated, these strategic visions are expressed in grand strategy prescriptions known as Presidential doctrines.

We have had 16 presidents out of 46 that have come close to having doctrines of any kind.

Seven of these doctrines can be called successful, and two were mixed.

Seven more had the moniker of doctrine, but little else.

These seven successful doctrines, these strategic visions that served American grand strategy, shared many variables.

They all had a full-throated defense of American exceptionalism at home and abroad, the desire for military primacy, the promotion of democratic values, and a style of warfare that promoted total victory without boundaries.

The apex of this success occurred under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In short, both Republican, conservative, Christian presidents melded the severe nature of hard power politics, advancing American vital and national interests, with her classical liberal values of democracy promotion, human rights, and the Christian view of the inherent value of the individual and their liberty.

The favorite mantra of President Bush during the war years of that time was when he expressed the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”

President Obama reveled in defeatism and declineism.

If one is to call it that, his doctrine was expressed in “leading from behind,” perhaps one of the top ten most torturous phrases created in the English language.

It was the singularly worst presidency in American history, with the possible exception of James Buchanan. President Trump fixed some of the problems of this administration and attempted an American First strategy.

Still, it was so focused on looking inward that it failed to understand that American security has always depended on the generosity of her footprint abroad.

Realists have always understood this, but they have been unable to realize that only when American power is melded with American ideals does an overall American strategy succeed.

The “lessons learned” (another sophomoric phrase) over Afghanistan will first be about creating a cover for individual decisions, blame assigning, and then hand-wringing about how we should never have been involved to begin with.

If we wish to avoid the post-Vietnam demon from being summoned, a serious offensive by conservative internationalists (not globalists) must not only be proclaimed publicly, but the conservative internationalists need to retake control of the Republican Party.

Afghanistan has played a strategic role for the great powers for centuries.

During the 19th to 20th centuries, this was primarily played out between the British and the Russians. In 1979, the Soviets invaded and took over for Soviet foreign policy goals.

This led to the rise of the Taliban and their eventual victory, creating a Theocratic dictatorship that granted a safe haven to the enemies of the United States, most infamously al-Qaida.

The Bush administration knew that unless you changed the regime in Afghanistan, it would continue to be a safe harbor for terrorism.

The Bush doctrine was centered on four pillars: preemption, prevention, primacy, and democracy promotion.

It melded realism and liberalism and offered a strategic vision for the future.

It was the only strategic vision that upheld American interests with American values.

The Obama vision did neither.

The failure of the United States in Afghanistan and almost in Iraq was not that America intervened. It was that America allowed too much independence too quickly. Germany and Japan were models of successful American intervention.

First, you win the war, then establish full security, next create foundations and institutions, and finally remain with a large enough force to ensure the ground gained.

If Germany and Japan were models that took about a decade to achieve, what did people think would be the case in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Certainly not twenty years, and indeed not if you failed to establish security with overwhelming force.

In the end, American foreign policy can’t be measured for years or even decades.

The currency of alliances is credibility.

Unfortunately, this coin has been significantly tarnished by the decisions made now.

This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 17 August, 2021.

Space Force Journal: Great Power Strategic Competition on Earth and in Space

By Lamont Colucci and Joshua Carlson


The United States Space Force was established due to rising threats in space, a domain that is vital to U.S. national security and economic interests. Strategic competition among great power on Earth and in space is likely in the coming decades. This paper analyzes strategic competition among great powers to make predictions about future conflict in space.

Great power conflict has for millennia been earth-based.[1] However, humanity is now at a pivot point where the great powers may take their conflicts into space. The United States must maintain its military primacy to deter adversaries from starting disputes resulting in catastrophic conflicts.[2] The recent Space Capstone Publication, “Spacepower,” summed up the U.S. Space Force’s main challenge: “The U.S. must adapt its national security space organizations, doctrine, and capabilities to deter and defeat aggression and protect national interests in space.”[3] The document cites the late U.S. Air Force General Bernard Schriever, who notably stated in 1957 that “our safety as a nation may depend upon our achieving space superiority.”[4]

Following the end of the Cold War, some international relations (IR) and foreign policy scholars, such as Francis Fukuyama, argued that great power conflict was a relic of the past and that liberal democracy would continue to flourish.[5] President Barack Obama similarly argued that great power conflict is passé and the United States should prioritize multilateral issues such as terrorism, climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, energy, and migration.[6] However, many of the global flashpoints today are great power motivated.[7] Space may intensify and amplify these flashpoints. Space itself may become the ultimate flashpoint.

The changes today are alarming. The first change is the United States’ slow disengagement from the dominating role after WWII, marked by a rollercoaster of lowering or increasing its defense spending and commitments.[8] During the Trump administration, America considered retreating from its leadership role in the rules-based liberal international order.[9] The fringes of the two major U.S. political parties, for different reasons, call on the United States to have either a light or a non-existent footprint across much of the globe.[10] This is not only a military footprint but also a cultural, economic, and diplomatic role.

The United States has begun a global recoil, as evident in the calls for a drawdown in Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea. There are calls in America’s body politic to withdraw further. This American withdrawal coincides with the second change. Four of the current great powers, such as Russia, China, India, and Japan, are re-evaluating, amplifying, or changing aspects of their grand strategy, especially as it applies to space. That last change is what this article discusses.

Russia Resurgent

The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks Russia second out of 140 countries ranked worldwide. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Russia ranks fourth globally in defense spending, with a defense budget of $61 billion in 2019.[11] Russia also spent nearly $4.2 billion on space programs in 2018.[12]

Creating and exploiting the “constellation of forces” to benefit “Mother Russia” governed Soviet grand strategy.[13] Russian strategic thinking today is dominated by several factors, all of which provide a window into their quest for space power. These factors include the border it shares with Eastern Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion, its border with China, a blessing and curse of natural resources, military modernization, nuclear weapons, and national pride. One of its greatest fears is an attack along its periphery. This requires the creation of buffers between itself and potential adversaries. Russia can do this by claiming to protect ethnic Russians in what it often calls the “near abroad,” where Russian minorities are large and loyal to Moscow.[14] One can postulate that the desire for strategic buffers will carry over into space.

Russian space strategy reflects its current and historical grand strategy. The U.S. and its allies and partners such as NATO, South Korea, Japan, and Anzus are preoccupied with the rise of China.[15] This preoccupation is a mistake for many reasons. China is the most severe threat to allied geopolitical interests, but that is different from dismissing Russia. Despite its relative weakness in comparison to China, Russia has a history of overcoming privation, setback, disaster, and incompetence. In the words of Edward Luttwak, “Drunk they defeated Napoleon, and drunk again they defeated Hitler’s armies and advanced all the way to Berlin.”[16] Drunk they could win against NATO.

President Vladimir Putin is attempting to reinvigorate the Russian space program that has been in decline following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Citing threats from U.S. missile defenses and programs like the X-37B experimental spaceship, Vladimir Putin restarted various counter space programs to prevent Russia from falling behind.[17] Russia will also likely continue to deploy new anti-satellite weapons within the next few years that will threaten U.S. space assets.[18] Some national security experts have contended that Russia is far more aggressive in threatening American satellites than China.[19]

According to Vladimir Putin, Russian’s intentions in space are “to drastically improve the quality and reliability of space and launch vehicles … to preserve Russia’s increasingly threatened leadership in space.[20] Russia’s space strategy includes essential modern warfare critical components such as space access and denial. Russia has begun the genesis of creating an organization that is similar to a space force.

The Russian Aerospace Forces is in many ways a three-branch service combining elements of the space forces, air forces, as well as air and missile defense forces under a single command.[21] The Russians are developing enhanced jamming and cyberspace capabilities and advanced weaponry such as directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based anti-satellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to nonreversible effects.[22] The service will monitor space objects and identify potential threats, attack prevention, and carry out spacecraft launches and placing into orbit controlling satellite systems.[23]

The United States has taken notice. Earlier this year, General John “Jay” Raymond, the service chief of the U.S. Space Force, detailed how Russian satellites were tailing American spy satellites.[24] However, a even more significant strategic concern is Russia’s plans to establish a moon colony between 2025 and 2040.[25] Russia recently signed a memorandum of understanding with China to construct a lunar research station on the moon’s surface or in lunar orbit.

The current Russian space doctrine can be titled the 3 Ds: disparate, desperate, and dynamic. Globalnaya Navigazionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS) is an excellent example of the establishment, fall, and rise of their independent global positioning system (GPS). Russian resilience and its willingness to endure deprivation and long-term sacrifice will likely spoil this myopic view. Russia may rise to turn out to be the more significant threat to international safety and stability, and one that the west may pay a high price for ignoring.

The Dragon Reborn-China

China’s strategic doctrine since the Deng Xiaoping era has been defined by the phrase “to preserve China’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”[26] In recent years, other slogans and statements have been added, such as desiring a “harmonious world” system and taking advantage of a period of “strategic opportunity.”[27] The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks China third in overall military strength internationally.[28] The IISS ranks China second in military spending with a defense budget totaling $181 billion, of which the space budget is estimated to be around $8 billion.[29]

The Mao Zedong era attempted to destroy the “olds” of Chinese Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and classical Confucianism. China is filled with bellicose nationalism and wounded pride.[30] The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its allies in the People’s Liberation Army use aggressive nationalism to unify them. There is no difference between the party, the government, and large Chinese business enterprises.[31]

Under President Xi Jinping, China has resurrected neo-Maoist evangelism and appealed to third-world Marxists. Xi’s ideology is anti-democratic, self-righteous, and revanchist. In many ways, China is restoring Ming and Qing dynasty ambitions by trying (with much difficulty) to create semi-vassal states in Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and North Korea. If the battle in Russia was between Slavophiles and Westernizers, the struggle in China is between the “Yangtze River” mentality and the “Pacific Ocean.” The former desires to sit behind the Great Wall like the late Ming and Mao periods. The latter desires domination through adoption and expansion exhibited by Zheng He’s treasure fleet and the current President Xi Jinping. Nothing could be more evident than this latter view concerning the space front.

Space provides critical capabilities for China: China wants “cislunar space supremacy.”[32] China is obsessed with “First Presence” and currently exhibits the world’s second-largest space budget.[33] In addition to reaching Mars in 2021, China’s goals include sending probes to asteroids, Jupiter, and Uranus, developing quantum satellites, building a scientific research station in the moon’s southern polar region, and establishing a sophisticated large-scale space station within ten years.[34] In 2019, China continued to develop its space launch capabilities, providing cost-savings through efficiency and reliability, extending its reach into multiple Earth orbits, and improving its capacity to reconstitute space capabilities in low Earth orbit rapidly.[35] In 2020, China reached total operating capacity with its BeiDou-3 constellation, providing worldwide positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities to its users and additional command and control for the PLA, reducing China’s dependence on U.S. GPS.[36]

China plans to place a permanently operating space station in orbit by 2022. By 2025, China plans to construct a lunar research station to develop into an established crewed lunar research and development base before 2050.[37] They are using a similar timeline to pursue space-based solar power.[38] Under the current schedule, China will be the following country after the United States to send an astronaut to the moon by 2030 and is pursuing a Mars base, which they are currently testing the prototype of on Earth.[39]

China’s privatized space industry is flourishing, as are the private-military partnerships. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation states that China plans to become the most developed space power by 2045.[40]

China’s development of a space force is beyond that of the other great powers. The Chinese equivalent of the U.S. Space Force has identified space as a vulnerability for the United States and is doing everything it can to capitalize on that vulnerability by advancing its space capabilities.[41] The creation of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) in 2015/2016 made one organization responsible for developing the PLA’s space and information warfare forces.[42] This will allow China to integrate its capabilities into a space force by enabling long-range precision strikes and denying other militaries the use of overhead command, control, communications, computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.[43]

The PRC continues to strengthen military space capabilities despite a propaganda public stance against the weaponization of space.[44] China claims to be building a “nuclear fleet” of carrier rockets.[45] Reusable hybrid-power carriers will be ready for “regular, large scale” interplanetary flights and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.[46] According to state media, they will have the ability to mine resources from asteroids and build solar power plants in space soon after.[47] “The nuclear vessels are built to colonize the solar system and beyond,” Wang Changhui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University in Beijing, stated.[48]

If Russia is the 3 Ds, China is the 3 A(s): adventurous, advanced, and aggressive. The Biden administration is considering its options about China to include an aggressive containment strategy.[49] Any discussion of China’s power politics will weigh space as a significant factor.

Japan- Rising or Setting Sun?

Japan is not usually considered a great power. However, it remains an economically powerful nation with space ambitions. Japan solidified its great power status in the late 19th century. Japan is at the cusp of recapturing aspects of that period as it faces rising rivals and the threats of the new frontier of space. Japan perceives the world as hostile due to Chinese imperial dreams in Asia, North Korean aggression, and Russian resurgence.

The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks Japan fifth in global military power.[50] The IISS ranks Japan eighth in military capability and international status with a defense budget of $48.6 billion.[51] Japan’s space budget is estimated to be $4 billion.[52] Unlike the other great powers, Japan’s constitution, written by the United States, hampers its military, and it depends on the United States for its national defense.[53] Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the most critical prime minister of the 21st century, continued the evolution away from this dependency by slowly returning Japan to its intrinsic geopolitical imperatives.[54] If America retreats, Japan will accelerate its strategic independence. Traditionally, Japan’s need to protect its sea lanes of communication to provide raw resources to fuel its economy at home dictated its grand strategy.[55]

Under Abe’s direction in 2013, the Japanese cabinet approved Japan’s first national security strategy, resulting in creating a Japanese National Security Council.[56] In response to China’s aggressive moves in the Pacific areas such as the Senkaku Islands, the strategy argues that Japan needs to make a more “proactive contribution to peace,” and thus it needs to contribute more to its military alliance with America despite its pacifist constitution.[57]

Japan’s national security space ambitions have been limited compared to Russia and China. The government exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has stated that it does not intend to militarize space. The Basic Space Law of 2008 emphasized that Japan will “guarantee international peace and security as well as ensuring the security of the country” within the framework “of the pacifist principles of the Constitution,” while the Space Act of 2016 encouraged and defined the role of the private sector and space. These offer other windows into Japanese space thinking.[58] The Japanese government is currently working on a ground-based space tracking system expected around 2023.[59] The unit’s main task will be to monitor space debris, threats of attacks, or interference by other countries’ satellites.[60] Cooperation between the United States and Japan is crucial for the new space race because their primary goal for space is democratic control.

Japan’s Space Force is currently limited. There is a space operations squadron as part of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces; however, it has less than 100 members.[61] Japan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has revealed that it will assign 100 military personnel to its space domain mission unit expected to be stood up by their fiscal year 2022 and probably merged with the space operations squadron.[62] This began when Japan announced its desire to launch a military space force by 2019 with the initial tasking of protecting satellites from dangerous debris orbiting the Earth.[63] The move to a Japanese space force aims to strengthen Japan-U.S. cooperation in space and comes after the countries pledged to boost joint work on monitoring space debris.[64] The number of personnel assigned to the space domain mission unit may increase over the coming years as Japan participates in a growing number of space-centric joint operations with allies such as the United States and some European countries. In August of 2020, Abe met with Raymond. They agreed to enhance bilateral defense cooperation in outer space between the U.S. Space Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Space Operation Squadron.[65]

Japan’s space posture mirrors its overall grand strategy, tied to the United States in almost all areas.[66] Its geopolitical imperative is based on its negative WWII legacy, its inherent natural resource problem, and its robust alliance with the United States. Both Tokyo and Washington, D.C. must enhance this alliance into space to counter adversarial power.

India- Expanding Power or Regional Hostage?

While not yet a global power, India is a regional power and a strategic competitor to China. India also has space ambitions. India spent much of its post-independence history as a nominal leader of the non-aligned movement, though it has recently dedicated minimal attention to articulating a grand strategy. The Global Firepower 2021 Military Strength Index ranks India fourth in military capability.[67] The IISS ranks India fifth in military spending with a defense budget of $60.5 billion.[68]

India’s strategic outlook is within the context of Hinduism and Hindu nationalism, using concepts like Niti (Difficult choices, unworthy means to achieve good ends), Artha (prosperity), Dharma (Moral obligations, duty), Mandala (geopolitical configuration), and Danda (force and punishment).[69] General V. K. Singh’s “Transformation Study” created a window into India’s new strategic thinking by envisioning an Indian military able to fight on “two-and-a-half fronts” – namely, against China, Pakistan, and an Islamic insurgency at home.[70] However, India has been unable to develop a consistent policy for its three major geopolitical issues: Pakistan, China, and the Indian Ocean.

India’s decision over the Indian Ocean will determine its pathway as a great power. A new generation of policymakers has indicated that they want to consider the Indian Ocean as an Indian lake.[71] India’s naval power projection buildup continues, despite the nation spending only $60.5 billion on defense. It has two aircraft carriers, and by 2022 intends to have a third.[72] This would give it the largest carrier fleet in the eastern hemisphere, aside from the United States. India’s challenge will be to build the technological and military capabilities of great power without a clear goal or strategy. In conceiving such a strategy, India may align itself with the United States and the West, which it has avoided since independence. That choice will dramatically affect the worldwide geopolitical situation and likely increase tensions with China.

India is on the cusp of becoming a space power but spends only $1.2 billion on space.[73] The Indian space force is rudimentary. India’s first military application of space was surveillance of Pakistan.[74] This is potentially one of India’s most serious handicaps, not only in space but in geostrategy. She is a prisoner of her adversarial relations with Pakistan. India is forming a space force equivalent to its tri-service Defense Space Agency (DSA) of the Indian Armed Forces.[75] In April 2019, India formed the DSA to command its military space assets, including its anti-satellite capability.[76] The DSA is also in charge of formulating a strategy to protect India’s interests in space, including addressing space-based threats. India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon in March 2019.[77]

The DSA’s integrated space cell uses the country’s space-based assets for military purposes and defends these assets from various threats.[78] India proclaims that it remains committed to the non-weaponization of space. Still, there is the emergence of offensive counter-space systems and anti-satellite weaponry seen as new threats to counter.[79]

India’s participation in the global space arena has primarily focused on making scientific advancements and discoveries, not on military development of space, as evident in the Chandrayaan project, which, so far, has sent two probes to the moon.[80] India strives to launch its astronauts into space by 2022, becoming just the fourth country behind the United States, China, and Russia.[81] It is also increasingly collaborating with the United States on lunar exploration.[82] India is also becoming more autonomous with its Indian Regional Navigation System and its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, launching satellites from India, the United States, and Brazil in 2021. Indian grand strategy needs cohesion and foundation and is attempting to straddle realism with Hindu nationalism.


Conflict is fully rooted in the international relations system because most great powers use realist theory. Religion, history, and cultural influences also shape some great powers’ realism.[83] Strategic culture is a product of grand historical strategy, and national security policies are both.

Space is an organic extension of great power conflict. All great powers are engaging in space force creation, and powers that have a thriving space strategy will, by definition, have a grand strategy for the future. Russian and Chinese grand strategies are on hostile trajectories with the United States and allied nations.

A multi-polar world and a less engaged United States will result in more chaos and instability on Earth and space. The creation of the U.S. Space Force in December 2019 signaled that the United States wants to retain strategic leadership in space. Whether the Space Force will be funded and manned to compete with the increasing ambitions of great power rivals is a critical concern with significant implications for the security, safety, and stability of space and the world.

This paper originally ran on The Space Force Journal on 20 July, 2021.


[1] A great power is defined as a nation, rather than a state, with global reach and scale. It influences the international relations system as a whole, can exert hard power and aspects of soft power, and go beyond DIME (Diplomatic/Informational/Military/Economic) instruments of power to include cultural and religious influence.

[2] General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., “Accelerate Change or Lose,” U.S. Air Force, August 2020, https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/2020SAF/ACOL_booklet_FINAL_13_Nov_1006_WEB.pdf.

[3] “Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower, Doctrine for Space Forces,” U.S. Space Force, June 2020, page vi, https://www.spaceforce.mil/Portals/1/Space%20Capstone%20Publication_10%20Aug%202020.pdf.

[4] “Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower, Doctrine for Space Forces,” U.S. Space Force, June 2020, page 27 https://www.spaceforce.mil/Portals/1/Space%20Capstone%20Publication_10%20Aug%202020.pdf.

[5] Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992)

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[7] The list includes the Euro-Russian frontier, the Baltics, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Sea of Japan, the Indian Ocean, the Sino-Indian Border, the Taiwan and Korea/Tsushima straits, and the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iraq.

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[10] Robin Niblett, “Liberalism in Retreat-The Demise of a Dream,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2017. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2016-12-12/liberalism-retreat.

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[12] Simon Seminari, “Op-Ed | Global Government Space Budgets Continues Multiyear Rebound,” SpaceNews, November 24, 2019, https://spacenews.com/op-ed-global-government-space-budgets-continues-multiyear-rebound/.

[13] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/OP%2005.pdf

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[39] Mike Wall, “China Just Landed On the Moon’s Far Side — and Will Probably Send Astronauts On Lunar Trips,” Space.com, January 5, 2019, https://www.space.com/42914-china-far-side-moon-landing-crewed-lunar-plans.html; “China’s Mars Simulation,” National Review, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.nationalreview.com/photos/c-space-project-mars-simulation-base-china/#slide-1.

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[41] Douglas Mackinnon, “The Looming Threat from China in Space,” April 11, 2020, https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/492260-the-looming-threat-from-china-in-space.

[42] Kevin Pollpeter, Michael Chase, Eric Heginbotham, “The Creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force and its Implications for Chinese Military Space Operations,” Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2017. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2058.html.

[43] “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020,” Department of Defense, September 1, 2020, https://media.defense.gov/2020/Sep/01/2002488689/-1/-1/1/2020-DOD-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT-FINAL.PDF.

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[45] Avery Thompson, “China Wants a Nuclear Space Shuttle by 2040,” Popular Mechanics, November 16, 2017, https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a13788331/chinas-future-space-plans/.

[46] Avery Thompson, “China Wants a Nuclear Space Shuttle by 2040,” Popular Mechanics, November 16, 2017, https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a13788331/chinas-future-space-plans/.

[47] “Hearing On China in Space: A Strategic Competition?,” United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, April 25, 2019, pages 88-89, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/April%2025%202019%20Hearing%20Transcript.pdf.

[48] Eric Rosenbaum and Donovan Russo, “China Plans a Solar Power Play in Space That Nasa Abandoned Decades Ago,” CNBC, March 17, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/15/china-plans-a-solar-power-play-in-space-that-nasa-abandoned-long-ago.html; “Statement of dr. Namrata Goswami Independent Senior Analyst and Author 2016-2017 Minerva Grantee Before the U.s.-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, April 25, 2019, https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Namrata%20Goswami%20USCC%2025%20April.pdf#:~:text=Wang%20Changhui%2C%20Associate%20Professor%20of%20aerospace%20propulsion%20at,top%20space%20policy-making%20body%2C%20the%20CNSA%20and%20CA.

[49] Alex Leary and Bob Davis, “Biden’s China Policy Is Emerging-and it Looks a lot like Trump’s,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/bidens-china-policy-is-emergingand-it-looks-a-lot-like-trumps-11623330000.

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[51] United States Widens the Gap,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 14, 2020, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/02/global-defence-spending.

[52] Peter B. de Selding, “Japanese Government Seeks to Reorient Space Spending,” SpaceNews, September 28, 2010, https://spacenews.com/japanese-government-seeks-reorient-space-spending/#:~:text=The%20Japanese%20space%20budget%20totals%20about%20%244%20billion,directed%20toward%20JAXA%2C%20and%20the%20remaining%20one-third%20.

[53]Emma Chanlett-Avery, Caitlin Campbell, and Joshua A. Williams, “The U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Congressional Research Service, June 13, 2019, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33740.pdf.

[54] He was the longest serving of the post war era. In a short time frame, he has pivoted Japanese strategic thinking back to some of its pre-contemporary underpinnings like no other before him.

[55] Christopher Hughes, “Japan’s Grand Strategic Shift From the Yoshida Doctrine to and Abe Doctrine?,” Power, Ideas, And Military Strategy in the Asia-Pacific, Strategic Asia, 2017-2018.

[56] “National Security Strategy,” Office of the Prime Minister of Japan, December 13, 2013, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2013/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2013/12/17/NSS.pdf

[57] “National Security Strategy,” Office of the Prime Minister of Japan, December 13, 2013, page 5 http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2013/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2013/12/17/NSS.pdf

[58] Matignon, Louis, “All About Japanese Space Law”, Space Legal Issues, June 5, 2020, https://www.spacelegalissues.com/all-about-the-japanese-space-law/.

[59] “Japan Launches New Squadron to Step up Defense in Outer Space,” Japan Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/sdf-launches-space-operations-unit/.

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[61] “Japan Launches New Squadron to Step up Defense in Outer Space,” Japan Times, May 18, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/05/18/national/sdf-launches-space-operations-unit/.

[62]“Japan to Assign 100 Personnel to New Satellite Monitoring Unit,” Japan Times, May 14, 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/14/national/science-health/japan-assign-100-personnel-new-satellite-monitoring-unit/.

[63] Miriam Kramer, “Japan’s Military to Track Space Junk by 2019: Report,” Space.com, August 5, 2014, https://www.space.com/26737-japan-military-space-force.html.

[64] Mari Yamaguchi, “Japan Launches New Unit to Boost Defense in Space,” DefenseNews, May 18, 2020, https://www.defensenews.com/global/asia-pacific/2020/05/18/japan-launches-new-unit-to-boost-defense-in-space/; Junnosuke Kobara, “US and Japan Join to Tidy up Space-junk-cluttered Orbit,” Nikkei, September 10, 2019, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/US-and-Japan-join-to-tidy-up-space-junk-cluttered-orbit.

[65] Elizabeth Shim, “Shinzo Abe Meets with u.s. Space Commander After Hospital Visit,” United Press International, August 27, 2020, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/08/27/Shinzo-Abe-meets-with-US-space-commander-after-hospital-visit/3271598545563/.

[66] John Wright, “Where No Alliance Has Gone Before: US-Japan Military Cooperation in Space,” The Diplomat, February 4, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/02/where-no-alliance-has-gone-before-us-japan-military-cooperation-in-space/.

[67] “2021 India Military Strength,” Global Firepower, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.php?country_id=india

[68] International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 14, 2020, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/02/global-defence-spending.

[69] Namrata Goswami and Peter A. Garretson, Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space (Lexington Books, 2020), 258.

[70] Nitin Gokhale, “India’s Doctrinal Shift?,” The Diplomat, January 25, 2011, https://thediplomat.com/2011/01/indias-doctrinal-shift/; Sushant Singh, “Can India Transcend Its Two-Front Challenge?,” War on the Rocks, September 14, 2020, https://warontherocks.com/2020/09/can-india-transcend-its-two-front-challenge/.

[71] Meia Nouwens, “India treats the Indian Ocean Region as its ‘own lake’, but China has different plans,” The Print, April 25, 2018, https://theprint.in/opinion/for-india-indian-ocean-region-is-its-own-lake-this-conflicts-with-chinas-belt-and-road-initiative/52676/.

[72] “Indian Navy Seeks Third Aircraft Carrier with 57 Fighter Planes Worth $25 Billion,” Defense World, January 16, 2018, https://www.defenseworld.net/news/21763#.YFouP4lKiCS.

[73] K.S. Jayaraman, “India Allocates $1.2 Billion for Space Activities,” SpaceNews, March 9, 2015, https://spacenews.com/india-allocates-1-2-billion-for-space-activities/.

[74] Dinshaw Mistry, “The Geostrategic Implications of India’s Space Program,” Asian Survey, November/December 2001, https://online.ucpress.edu/as/article-abstract/41/6/1023/91794/The-Geostrategic-Implications-of-India-s-Space?redirectedFrom=fulltext.

[75] Namrata Goswami and Peter A. Garretson, Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space (Lexington Books, 2020), 258.

[76] Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India to Launch a Defense-Based Space Research Agency,” DefenseNews, June 12, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2019/06/12/india-to-launch-a-defense-based-space-research-agency/.

[77] Doris Elin Urrutia, “India’s anti-satellite missile test is a big deal. Here’s why.,” Space.com, March 30, 2019, https://www.space.com/india-anti-satellite-test-significance.html.

[78]Amit Saksena, “India and Space Defense,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs, March 23, 2014, https://mea.gov.in/articles-in-foreign-media.htm?dtl/23139/India+and+Space+Defense.

[79] Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India to Launch a Defense-Based Space Research Agency,” DefenseNews, June 12, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2019/06/12/india-to-launch-a-defense-based-space-research-agency/.

[80] Manveena Suri and Swati Gupta, “India’s Polar Moon Mission Puts Chandrayaan-2 in the History Books,” CNN, September 5, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/04/world/india-moon-lunar-chandrayaan-2-explainer-scn/index.html.

[81] Meghan Bartels, “India Will Launch Its Own Astronauts to Space by 2022, Government Says,” Space.com, August 29, 2018, https://www.space.com/41657-india-will-launch-astronauts-in-2022.html.

[82] Elizabeth Howell, “Trump Hails India’s ‘impressive strides’ On Moon Exploration, Pledges Greater Cooperation On Space,” Space.com, February 27, 2020, https://www.space.com/trump-hails-india-moon-missions-us-space-cooperation.html.

[83] Such as Pan Slavism for Russia, neo-Maoism for China, and Hindu Nationalism for India.

Newsmax: Free Trade Is More Than Trade

Lost in the desert that is now called public discourse regarding trade are the nontrade benefits of free trade arrangements.

Like so much that is polarized about American politics, the extreme camps dominate the public discourse. We have taken the complex universe of trade and attempted to box all positions into either “Free traders” or “Protectionists.”

It is granted that extremists on both ends usually can be revealed easily since their positions on economics supersede the nation’s needs. Free trade extremists, acolytes of the religion of globalization, would sacrifice national security interests for profit. At the other end of the spectrum, extreme protectionists would ensure that failing industries, that would eventually hurt the nation, continue under government largesse.

Often lost in this swamp is one of the principal benefits of actual free trade, which increases security and diplomatic power. The common-sense approach realizes that free trade, which is based on mutual benefit, secured against government corruption, predatory pricing and lending, dumping and over-regulation, is a net positive.

Needless to say, China engages in all of those harmful practices, making it the most flawed example of free trade on the planet.

One free trade agreement that would knit together economic, security, diplomatic and cultural alliance is the one between the U.S. and the U.K.

One of the potential positive outcomes of Brexit is to reignite the need for this economic union. What comes to mind is Winston Churchill’s famous quote of 1940, “We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible. Our qualities and deeds must burn and glow through the gloom of Europe until they become the veritable beacon of its salvation.”

Many economists have focused on the failed attempt from 2013 to 2016 to create a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which failed primarily due to the EU overregulation and protectionist practices in areas such as agriculture and automobiles.

Prior to Brexit, any free trade arrangement with Great Britain would have had to be under an EU umbrella. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was vilified by many on the U.S./U.K. leftwing for supporting Brexit, though few would trade the U.K.’s response to the COVID pandemic with that of the E.U.

As a result of Brexit, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Johnson engaged in five negotiation sessions which started on May 5, 2020, to hammer out a U.S./U.K. FTA.

The Trump administration envisioned the benefits of such an agreement to expand economic opportunities in all sectors, create better-paying jobs for Americans and eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers between the two. In addition, the U.K. felt that such an agreement would enliven British GDP and consumer choice.

Although there are many more positives than negatives, there are hurdles to overcome. For example, British food standards that oppose particular GMOs, chemical, antibiotic and hormone use by U.S. producers are a clear issue on their side of the Atlantic, while Americans view the British National Health Service (NHS) effectively undercuts American pharmaceuticals through government support. There are also sticking points over digital service taxes.

This U.S./U.K. FTA would join the world’s first- and sixth-largest economies and promote military and defense sales and technology exchange when anti-Western adversaries are growing in strength. More importantly and beyond the scope of any economic calculation, such an FTA would strengthen the Anglo-American special relationship at a time when Churchill’s dream of the destiny of the “English-speaking peoples” is needed more than ever.

It would fulfill the fifth clause of the 1940 Atlantic Charter between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill: “Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;”.

This is not merely the concrete military and diplomatic link which is the strongest between two nations, perhaps in history, but a bond of history, law, culture, religion and society.

Such an agreement is the natural and organic outgrowth of the Anglosphere as the center of gravity of western democratic and Judeo-Christian values whose influence over democracy promotion, human rights, the rule of law, the free flow of goods, services and ideas are the very cornerstones needed for a bright 21st century.

This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 6 May, 2021.

Newsmax: It’s Time the Biden Administration Recognizes That Space Force Is No Farce

There seems to be a cottage industry developing around the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, and her gaffes and mischaracterizations.

For example, when asked about the Biden administration’s support for the new military branch, the United States Space Force, Psaki was caught off guard.

A reporter asked about the Biden administration’s commitment to keeping Space Force, and she responded, “Wow. Space Force. It’s the plane of today.”

The reporter pushed back, and Psaki continued by saying, “It is an interesting question. I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I’m not sure who that is. I will find out and see if we have any update on that.”

House Armed Services ranking member Mike Rogers was blunt when he remarked, “It’s concerning to see the Biden administration’s press secretary blatantly diminish an entire branch of our military as the punchline of a joke, which I’m sure China would find funny,” Psaki later walked the comment back.

The White House confirmed their “full support” for Space Force.

However, most analysts agree that space-national security is not a top priority of this administration.

As one of the presenters and authors of Space Command’s, The Future of Space 2060, it is incumbent on those enmeshed in space strategy to comment during this genesis period for the new U.S. Space Force.

Space Force is under siege by various factions with drastically different ideologies, ranging from left-wing secular progressives that believe Space Force will militarize an already militarized space to libertarians who believe that it is a colossal waste of money.

These two vastly different groups share two traits: firstly, they want to characterize Space Force as a “Trump vanity project.”

Secondly, they have zero understanding of the strategic precipice America is walking on. Thus, these groups focus on cosmetic attacks because they are entirely out of their depth on strategy.

They make fun of the uniforms, the name “guardians,” the use of the delta insignia (which pre-dates Star Trek), and the general absurdity via a Netflix series.

A review of the fundamental issues is in order. There were long-standing debates about the need for a military space branch. Ultimately, these debates distilled down to arguments over the concepts of “Guard,” “Corps,” and “Force.”

The third idea, a Space Force, would be an independent branch after transitioning from the U.S. Air Force.

These debates were held among space and military professionals in niche areas and did not include the broader national security elite or the electorate. This is one reason why the extremists have controlled the narrative and may offer cover to those in the new administration that want to stall Space Force rather than eliminate an already existing institution.

In an interview with the NYT on March 8th, General Raymond, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, summarized the new branch’s importance: “I think it’s really important for the average American to understand access to space and freedom to maneuver in space is a vital interest.”

The benefit to the American people protected by our Space Force Guardians is immeasurable. Any professional looking at the future of American national security realizes that this security will depend on which power exercises military primacy and space governance.

Thus, there will no longer be a separation between what we call national security and space strategy, to be precise. They will literally and figuratively be the same. Let that sink into any reader as one evaluates the need for the U.S. Space Force. The benefits and threats from space will dwarf those on Earth.

All of those benefits and threats on Earth will ultimately be decided by space strategy.

The mightiest Carrier Task Force, tank platoon, or bomb squadron will be utterly vulnerable to space-based threats just as the medieval fortress became almost useless versus mobile artillery and, later on, warplanes.

China and Russia are embarked on complimentary space policies to beat us in space. They already have their versions of a militarized space branch, and more importantly, space dominance doctrines that are specifically designed to dethrone the United States from its military and economic position.

Thus, a newsflash for opponents or those that mock Space Force is this: space was militarized long ago and continues to be militarized. Russia and China fully intend to amplify this regardless of American efforts, including diplomacy and or negotiations.

The coming economic revolution, the revolution of “New Space,” the revolution of the “triplanetary economy,” will unleash economic forces and powers that will extend economies and resources beyond anything in human history. This econosphere will either be protected by Space Force or left to be exploited by America’s adversaries.

The new space economy will need to be protected, communication will need to be managed, travel and spacecraft control maintained, and debris will need to be cleared. No economic system can exist without the protection of the law, private property, contracts, and protection from hostility, violence, chaos, and criminality.

The future of WMD defense, cyber defense, energy production, environmental protection, and democratic values will be entirely dependent on American space strategy.

The creation and success of Space Force now signal to America’s adversaries the seriousness in which we take American security beyond rhetoric.

The Space Force is the foundation to build this security for the future.

This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 29 March 2021.

Washington Times: Building America’s future in space will strengthen national security

‘Star Trek’ hit the airwaves 55 years ago, but the U.S. future in space will be equally as innovative

In September 2019, the then-U.S. Air Force Space Command (before the re-creation of U.S. Space Command and creation of the Space Force) sponsored a workshop titled “The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy.” As one of the many authors, presenters and participants, I can attest to this exercise’s value for the future of American national security. 

Therefore, it is not surprising that we titled the best outcome for the United States (out of eight future paths, two of which would spell catastrophe for the United States) “Star Trek.” This 2060 future was one where there will be a robust human presence in space. There will be an enormous economic opportunity and, most importantly, it will be led by the United States and our alliance partners.

Now, in 2021 we are observing the 55th anniversary of “Star Trek,” and one can expect a panoply of odes, eulogies, parodies and parallels. Space Force has already been accused of copying Star Fleet’s delta, whereas “Star Trek” copied the delta used before “Star Trek” by the Army Air Force and NASA.

This is a great example, albeit cosmetic, of the problem that critics have of Space Force. They believe that by linking the U.S. Space Force to “Star Trek,” they will somehow discredit the organization. Perhaps, they are trying to take a page from attacks on President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative when instead of debating its many merits, they thought they would castigate it with the moniker “Star Wars.” 

We can pause here and offer a lesson in strategy and tactics. If you want to discredit something associated with space in the American public’s eyes, especially potential recruits, don’t use the two most fantastic visions of space and space opera to do it. One would have loved to be in the meetings where someone voiced their proposal and said, “We don’t want Space Force, so what you need to do is convince all those children that if they join, they will be going warp speed and wielding lightsabers.” 

If your demographic is people with no vision and imagination, you have yourself a winner.

William Shatner’s article, “William Shatner wants to know: What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?” Military Times, Aug. 26, 2020, created a stir as he advocated naval instead of Army and Air Force rank by using science fiction standards. His more profound argument revolved around the need for heroes in the public mind, and this would best be done by linking Space Force with science fiction like “Star Trek.”

“Star Trek” offered a vision that was a victory for democratic values. It served and continues to serve as a foil to the anti-hero dystopia that passes for much futurism today. Star Trek exhibited the absolute nature of American values by recoiling at the horror of genocide (“The Conscience of the King”), harpooning futuristic tyrants (“The Apple”) and hippie culture (“The Way of Eden”).

More importantly for Americans is that “Star Trek” represented an American vision of the future. This is not merely a representation of American patriotism but the universal values America champions. This ranged from the cosmetic where Capt. James T. Kirk was from Riverside, Iowa, to “Star Trek” promoting the values of liberty, right reason, frontier spirit and the dignity of human rights.

Star Fleet played the role of a futuristic military and exploration mission. This was akin to the American Army and Navy’s 19th-century exploits and was the sword and shield of these values. Star Fleet promoted a neo-manifest destiny broadening Thomas Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” adversaries like the Klingons and Romulans are totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorships bent on destruction and conquest.

My favorite episode that expresses all of this is –- ”The Omega Glory,” where the USS Enterprise’s landing party finds itself thrust into a planetary war between the Yangs (Yankees) and the Kohms (Communists). The Yankees eventually defeat the Communists, and Kirk discovers that their worship words are the American Pledge of Allegiance and the U.S. Constitution. In the famous ending speech, Kirk states: “Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since … 

“‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!”

I have read countless reviews of this episode from pseudo-intellectual critics who decry the episode as “the worst.” They complain that it is overly patriotic, racist, and impossible for a planet to develop such a parallel conflict. 

Kirk, whose hero was Abraham Lincoln, is a good starting point for dismissing this episode’s critics and a “Star Trek” link to the American future. Lincoln, whose classical conservative roots stressed the Declaration of Independence’s universality, founded under the fatherhood of God and under God’s natural law. Lincoln understood that these values transcended time and space and were literally universal. One has to pity the uneducated rabble for their mistakes of ignorance. It is precisely the point that a space dominated by western powers will be a space dominated by the universal values based on the natural law of life, liberty and property.

The creator of “Star Trek,” Gene Roddenberry, a former bomber pilot and policeman, was incredibly proud of “The Omega Glory” when he stated, “It is deserving of a bit of promotion because of its unusual nature and an unusual patriotic theme toward the end of it, plus an unusual aspect involving East-West conflict.”

The Star Fleet of the 1960s upheld the classical liberal values of America’s founding, with statecraft’s classical conservative tools. We should embrace it as the template for the future, an unabashedly American-led one.

This piece originally ran on The Washington Times on 18 March 2021.

Washington Times: Only beneficiaries of the left-wing riots and Capitol attacks are America’s enemies

American’s tendency to combine an inward-looking obsession with a historical disdain for foreign affairs often produces a false sense of reality. Foreign threats to the United States were and are as great as ever. Russia’s resurgence, China’s rise, Iranian terrorism, and North Korea’s nuclear fantasies continue.

Part of any adversary’s quiver is the use of a false flag. A “false flag” plan is an operation conducted primarily by one nation-state, masquerading as another nation-state or group to bring about the desired result where they are not implicated.

These operations have ranged the gamut from targeting individuals to betray their nation by posing as an ally. China is notorious for having its espionage agents pose as Taiwanese to convince pro-Taiwan individuals to acts of espionage or when the Soviets used a pro-Czarist false flag to kill Sidney Reilly, a British officer whose life inspired James Bond.

The next level would be when individuals are used to create a political or diplomatic incident. Nero blamed Christians for the fires that destroyed Rome in 64 AD and then used those fires to justify the persecution of the Christians afterward. The most infamous modern false flag operation was concocted by the Nazis when they used communist dupes to burn down the Reichstag. This allowed the Nazis to enact emergency powers paving the way for the Nazi dictatorship.

The most significant false flag operations were used to justify World War II. The 1931 Mukden incident designed by the Japanese and the 1939 Nazi Operation Himmler created the conditions for a war of “self-defense.” A more sophisticated false flag operation is when it is used to manipulate public opinion. The Soviets did this through a web of assets and activity during the Reagan years by push/pulling anti-American, anti-nuclear “peace groups” in Europe and the United States.

The above operations will be debated, possibly forever. The line between evil state action and bizarre conspiracy theory is a fine one. Naturally, the very nature of a covert operation is to create two conditions. One gives the offending actor plausible deniability. The other is that the action is so “absurd” that rational people will not believe it.

We have even placed such operations into our popular culture with the infamous quote from Palpatine in Star Wars, who engineers the destabilization of the Republic and then states, “It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!”

Was the attack on the U.S. Capitol a false flag operation? My answer is as complicated as the event itself.

The only beneficiaries of the summer riots, the Capitol attacks and the current left-wing violence in the Pacific Northwest are America’s adversaries, both foreign and domestic. We already know about Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean cyber-attacks fomenting division in the United States among our citizens. Just as those on the right were willing to accept the links between Antifa and foreign adversaries, those on the left must be willing to take whatever links are found with the extremists who broke into the hallowed halls of Congress.

An effective false flag operation would entirely separate the actors from the intentions, which was how the Nazis used communist terrorists, and the Soviets used western peace activists.

The FBI is investigating a suspicious payment of half a million dollars made in bitcoin by a French national who died shortly after the attack to key figures in what the media has dubbed the “alt-right.” NBC News highlighted the long-standing link between extremist groups and Russia.

We know that the Russian and Chinese government and their proxy outlets have used the incident to denigrate the United States abroad and insult U.S. institutions. Some analysts have argued that some of the tactics used in the U.S. Capitol attack were similar to those used by Russia in the Ukraine and Crimea.

Another suspicious issue is the number of stolen devices and documents that may have classified information, particularly those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat. SOFREP reports that their sources in the Pentagon told them that several laptops with classified information were stolen. There have also been questions raised as to whether or not surveillance equipment may have been left behind.

The FBI indicates that the question of foreign involvement is severe enough to provoke an investigation.

It is too early at this juncture to confirm or dismiss the level of foreign involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is far too early for the popular media to ignore it. It has been 88 years since the Reichstag Fire, and we are still debating its origins. A profitable intelligence operation by nations that have been running covert operations for over a millennium would seek to cover their tracks and redirect blame.

A simple rule in both diplomacy and intelligence is asking the question of gain. Who has gained from the unrest and violence that has engulfed America from the spring until now? We know the answer is not the American people, and both political parties have suffered the stain of their extreme ends.

The answer points to the actions of extremist groups, which, as history indicates, benefits foreign adversaries whose low bar of risk with a considerable reward, even if propagandistic is great. The silver lining in all of this is that this issue can bring about true American concord as patriots unite against the republic’s foreign and domestic enemies.

This piece originally ran on the Washington Times on 1 Feburary, 2021.

Washington Times: U.S. lacking focus on partnership between Iran and North Korea regimes

Attention must be directed to root problems, not nuclear weapons data points

President Trump’s administration gave great attention to two toxic triangles that this author highlighted, though ignored by the mainstream media. They dubbed the first of these the “Axis of Resistance,” a self-declared malevolence of Iran, Syria and Hamas.

The second underscored by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton was the “Troika of Tyranny” calling out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

These were categories of evil that share duplicity, violence, atrocity, dictatorship and terrorism.

We are now witnessing the debate of U.S.-Iran relations reach another fever pitch about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This has always been a morass that deviates one’s attention from the actual story. As important as Iran’s weapons program’s issue is, it fundamentally misses the more significant point: the Iranian regime itself. The root problem is the Iranian regime. The symptom is their nuclear weapons program.

However, not addressing the root problem leaves in place Iran’s Shiite empire-building in the Middle East, their collaboration and alliance with Syria and Russia, their state sponsorship of terrorism, their atrocities against their own people and their missile program.

Related to the media’s misdirection over the Iranian situation is the relationship between Iran and North Korea. This relationship began with the fall of the shah’s government in 1979, when Iran joined North Korea as an enemy of the United States. In the 1980s, Iran purchased ballistic missiles from North Korea, often facilitated by China.

As North Korean missile technology and nuclear weapons research amplified, so did Iranian missile capability, which evolved from missiles with a range of 300km in the ‘80s to a breakthrough in 1995 when Iran received the Nodong missile with a range of 1,300km, allowing Iran to hit Israel. This relationship was a two-way street as Iran provided North Korea with oil and missile test data.

North Korean and Chinese teams frequently were in Iran to train and test, illustrating this toxic relationship. In 2010, Iran received 19 BM-25 missiles with a range of 2,000 miles (3,218 km), placing NATO countries under threat. North Korea’s ability to use Iran as a testing opportunity enhanced its own ability to develop long-range ballistic missiles.

Thus, Iran and North Korea created a synthesis of production, experimentation, testing, development and deployment that allows both to become a nuclear weapons power with ICBM capabilities ultimately. The vaunted and now resurrected JCPOA did nothing to stop this. This relationship is currently helping both parties develop submarine and cruise missile technology.

The relationship has fostered cooperation and exchange in the realms of intelligence, underground facility production and special operations warfare. Both nations seem incredibly interested in potential EMP strikes against the United States.

Further, this partnership extends to dangerous state and non-state actors such as Syria and Hezbollah. The dark possibilities range the gamut from Iranian and North Korean officers training Syrians arming ballistic missiles with their own chemical weapons to the scenarios where one day Hezbollah has a nuclear device are not as far fetched as wishful thinking would desire.

The nuclear threat looms large as another two-way street developed over centrifuge, enrichment, uranium and plutonium. It is clear that North Korea is facilitating Iran, becoming a nuclear weapons power while the United States and Europe debate an agreement dead before it was created.

One of the easiest paths of deception is to become obsessed with statistics rather than intent. Experts from all sides can have logical debates about when North Korea and Iran will have a deployable ICBM or when a “break-out” on a particular nuclear timeline will occur. These are not relevant for the serious policymaker. We have understood the strategic intent of the North Korean and Iranian regimes for decades.

There is long-standing proof of a toxic partnership directed at the heart of the American people. Future policies need to address the root of the problem, not become sucked into a vortex of never-ending debates about data points leading nowhere.

This piece originally ran on Washington Times on 28 November, 2020.

Newsmax: Biden’s Foreign Policy Without a Strategy

As a young Foreign Service officer without authority or status, one of my first experiences in Washington was attending a debate between the senior foreign policy advisers to Senator Jesse Helms and Joe Biden.

I sat in the small hearing room and listened as both men displayed their acumen as surrogates regarding missile defense and the legacy of President Reagan’s SDI. It astonished me that Biden’s man had so little understanding of realpolitik and, in particular, the goals of our adversaries.

The back and forth continued until the Biden representative retreated into the old canard that the SDI vision could not be accomplished regardless of the political issues because of the problem of technology. During the Q&A, I distinguished myself as a member of the minority in the audience by asking the following question. I still ask today: “In the end, your argument is about a lack of technology and innovation, but that is not your real problem, if we had the technology today, would you still be against it? Is your real problem a disdain for American primacy?”

This vignette, reported to you by less than a bit player, was a colossal change for me. The exchange ultimately led to my introduction and friendship to one of the most outstanding Americans of the age, Ambassador Jim Lilley. The contrast to the vision of Ambassador Lilley and that of the Biden campaign could not be greater. It also serves as a microcosm that haunts Vice President Biden’s record and trajectory on foreign policy and national security.

It is, at its core, a view with no vision and without a strategy. It fails to embrace the very roots of successful American national security strategy, based on Primacy, Democracy Promotion, Preemption, and Prevention, all within the greater sphere of American exceptionalism and superiority.

A review of Vice President Biden’s foreign policy failures has been done and redone. Some have less meaning to the youngest generation, but for those of us in Generation X and older, much will resonate.

As far back as 1975, he showed his true colors opposing support of our South Vietnamese ally following American withdrawal and withholding assistance for South Vietnamese refugees requested by President Ford. In the 1980s, he fought support for the anti-communist resistance in Nicaragua and the anti-communist government of El Salvador. In the 1990s, he voted against Operation Desert storm to expel Saddam from Kuwait and, of course, opposed the National Missile Defense Act.

In the 21st century, he opposed the surge in Iraq that saved Iraq from further civil war and national disintegration. He even openly advocated that Iraq should destroy its sovereignty by dividing the country into three parts, a plan that would have been the greatest gift to Iran that could be conceived. He was consistently critical of President Bush’s foreign policy to right the ship of state from the disastrous Clinton years.

Naturally, as vice president, he supported President Obama’s trio of appeasement, apology, and “leading from behind.” Many are aware of Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ quotation:

“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Gates was right. He opposed moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and advocated a “two-state” solution. The same mantras that the Democratic Party has supported for decades leading to inaction and negative inertia. He was integral to an administration that allowed the people of Syria to live in a forever nightmare, failed to prosecute the war on terror, opposed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and squandered the successes that President Bush bequeathed them.

He continues to advocate a tactical rather than strategic response to counter-terrorism, returning to a Clinton-Obama policy that created the weaknesses in our defenses. As one architect of the Iran deal, he offers no solution to the fundamental problem of the Iranian regime and its imperial dreams.

China was and is Biden’s mixed bag; until he decided to run for president, Biden advocated more significant trade relations with China, downplayed their human rights abuses, has been ambiguous about Taiwan, and ignored their military modernization, attempts at dominating space and strategic aggressiveness. His current rhetoric is more hawkish, but his record is the opposite.

Russia is perhaps the strangest odyssey for not just Joe Biden, but also the Democratic party. One would wish Truman or Kennedy’s spirit was pushing them to talk tough, but this would not be accurate. Clinton, Obama and Biden were all part of the group that downplayed the Soviet and then Russian threat. They consistently mocked conservatives and Republicans (Romney-Obama debate) who warned of both. Only when they thought they could use Russia as an election tool against President Trump did they suddenly wake up to a Russian threat.

The very people who exposed the United States to the machinations and aggression of Soviet and then Russian foreign policy now expect the American electorate to believe they have had a change of heart and have morphed into stone-cold realists.

The most worrying aspect regarding specific policy is Vice President Biden’s total lack of vision regarding space, space policy, the new Space Force and the recognition that all the above will determine the future of American national security. His vigorous opposition to the Strategic Defense Initiative and national missile defense grants us a window that his attitude here is one of feebleness.

Ultimately, we elect someone whose primary job is to manage American grand strategy, not a health adviser, curriculum planner, job officer or tax accountant. This, at a minimum, requires a president to understand the grand arc of American history and its trajectory toward the horizon and the stars. Biden’s lack of policy coherence and consistency, combined with his denial of American exceptionalism, will place the Republic on dangerous ground.

This piece originally ran on Newsmax on 8 October 2020.