Small Wars Journal

02/26/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Fri, 02/26/2021 - 10:36am

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. Intel Panel Chair: Retool Spec Ops for China Conflict

2.  Uniting against authoritarianism: a blueprint for the Quad

3. A House Divided: A Look at SOF Values

4.  A Reporter Looks Back: Remembering George Schultz

5. China’s Campaign to Crush Democracy in Hong Kong Is Working

6. China Gave US Diplomats Anal COVID Tests ‘In Error,’ American Officials Say

7. Ex-CIA Chief Gives JFK Assassination Some QAnon-Style Spin

8. How Starlink Is About To Disrupt The Telecommunications Sector

9. Founder Of Chinese Front Group Spoke At CIA Nominee’s Think Tank Amid Beijing Propaganda Push

10. In no region is China’s influence felt more strongly than in South-East Asia

11. Esper’s end-around on Trump harmed civil-military relations

12. Pentagon brands Russia "existential" threat as Joe Biden condemns nation's "recklessness"

13. Exclusive: US counterterrorism operations touched 85 countries in the last 3 years alone

14. Global defense spending, led by US and China, hits new high

15. China’s Waning Rare Earths Advantage


1. Intel Panel Chair: Retool Spec Ops for China Conflict · by Jeff Stein

Well this new committee is off to an interesting start. I think the chairman needs a thorough briefing on the roles and missions of SOF. The SOF community may be in for tough times ahead with this Congressman as the chairman of the intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee of the HASC.


“He also thinks U.S. Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other spec ops units need to be withdrawn from some regions and assignments and get ready for “some kind of conflict with China should the balloon go up.”


Meanwhile, Gallego says, U.S. special operations troops need a break from foreign deployments and training missions.

“They're stretched too thin,” he said. “It causes a lot of family problems. These guys are special forces, but they're not super human.”

“We are basically overusing them to the point where I think a lot of our special forces are really just, absolutely just tired,” he added. “Not only that, but because they're already being used on CT missions in, for example, CENTCOM (the U.S. Central Command, responsible for the Middle East), their skill set is only really focused on that.” They need to be retooled, he says, as an adjunct to main force units in a bigger, head-on conflict.


Nevertheless, he says, the Pentagon should start drawing down special ops troops from joint training operations in places like Africa and the Arctic and retooling them for a future conflict in Asia. They could be replaced in most cases , he says, by regular active duty and National Guard units. NATO members’ special ops troops could pick up the slack for foreign counterterror and training missions.

Rather than thinking about preparing for SOF for a war with China (and I assume he means a war in China where he would advocate deploying SOF) perhaps we ought to think about a more effective use of SOF in the political warfare domain of Great Power Competition where we can employ the comparative advantages of SOF to meet US strategic objectives short of war. The Chairman should be asking how to employ SOF in irregular warfare in support of a US national level effort of political warfare in great power competition.

What is an example of how SOF contributes to IW ? - through "unconventional deterrence" (H/T to Bob Jones)- helping to harden populations and militaries of friends, partners, and allies to resist the malign influence of revisionist, rogue, and revolutionary powers and violent extremist organizations. This is exemplified by the Resistance Operating Concept pioneered by SOCEUR to counter Russian malign influence in Europe. This model has application around the world especially if adapted for countries targeted by China's One Belt One Road initiative or in countries such as Taiwan.

•What is the "resistance potential" against OBOR?

•Is it supportable and exploitable?

•How to develop a supporting campaign plan to support the new US Strategic Approach to China;

•Promoting American Prosperity

•Advancing American Influence

•Preserving Peace Through Strength.

US Strategic Approach to China

State Department Plays a Key Role in New US China Strategy

•How to Support the GEC?

•Information and Influence Activities

•How to Support State?

•Blue Dot Network

•Economic Prosperity Network

•Is there a role for the 2 SOF “trinities?”

•Irregular Warfare, Unconventional Warfare, Support to Political Warfare

•The Comparative advantage of SOF: Governance, Influence, Support to indigenous forces and populations

(while maintaining exquisite capabilities for the no fail CT and CP national missions)

Lastly, if you withdraw SOF from around the world and replace them with conventional forces and National Guard troops so they can sit at home station to prepare for the balloon going up with China, you will break the entire special operations community doing greater damage than through the perceived "overuse" of SOF. SOF retention and recruiting will drop to zero.

I hope the Chairman gets a briefing from ASD SO/LIC and USSOCOM and gets brought up to speed about the nature and capabilities of SOF.


2. Uniting against authoritarianism: a blueprint for the Quad · by John Garrick · February 26, 2021

We need more than the Quad.


“The Quad will need to be involved in developing a cybersecurity strategy that recognises the varied nature of evolving threats and the importance of ensuring the security and resilience of alliance members’ networks. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is seeking to secure the technological future by fostering the ‘Quad Tech Network’.


Some argue that the Quad won’t work because the histories and agendas of the four partners are too different. However, this views the Quad narrowly as a military alliance. It can be and is much more. In an encouraging sign, the Quad has already engaged with South Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand (the ‘Quad-plus’) on collective responses to the pandemic.

As Quad members, the US and Australia may encourage the inclusion of Japan in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network along with Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The British government has also floated the idea of a ‘Democracy 10’ (including the Quad countries) to tackle issues, such as the development of standards for 5G and emerging technologies, that affect the collective interests of the democratic nations.”


3. A House Divided: A Look at SOF Values

A House Divided: A Look at SOF Values· by Dan Pace


“Over time, the development and integration of this code into the regiment could significantly improve operators’ ability to make ethical, operationally effective decisions. In addition to the obvious benefits of increased decision making quality, the regiment could enjoy numerous other benefits. Deeper understanding of the specifics of an operator’s actions improves leadership’s ability to capitalize on them through information operations and enables them to be more easily synchronized with other efforts. This understanding also ensures any operational missteps are recognized early and can be mitigated more effectively. From a force preservation perspective, this ethical code could result in a reduction in the number and severity of moral injuries to the force. Operators that understand why they are doing what they do, and that their actions are condoned by higher will be better equipped to deal with the mental fallout such actions can cause. Finally, implementation of this code improves the discipline and reputation of the regiment by helping avoid the disreputable publicity that comes from scandal.  The changes will not be felt immediately, but over time, they could have significant impact on the well-being and effectiveness of the force.            

As the regiment looks at solutions to the problem of SOF misconduct, it needs to ensure it isn’t making any false assumptions. Improving leadership assessment and selection, reducing strain on the force, and strengthening SOF’s identity are necessary, but if they rest on a weak moral foundation, they will not be sufficient.”


4. A Reporter Looks Back: Remembering George Schultz· by Dan Southerland

I do hope we can continue to learn from Secretary Schultz and that his passing will cause us to reflect and learn.


5. China’s Campaign to Crush Democracy in Hong Kong Is Working

WSJ · by Wenxin Fan


“Hong Kong can be governed only by “patriots” who aren’t opposed to the Communist Party’s leadership, Xia Baolong, the chief of Beijing’s office on Hong Kong affairs, said in a policy speech this week in Beijing. “Those who violate Hong Kong’s national security law aren’t patriots.”

Chinese government officials have foreshadowed further steps they believe are necessary in a city where resistance to Communist Party rule remains widespread and people still enjoy many more freedoms than those on the mainland.

Officials see a need to use the law’s broad provisions more firmly to tame critical media, revamp education and tighten internet controls, fashioning the liberal financial center in the authoritarian mold of China’s other cities. Pressure is mounting to change Hong Kong’s vaunted judicial system—for instance, Chinese officials are annoyed that judges often let activists go free on bail after they’re charged—even though any erosion of international legal standards may alarm foreign businesses in the city.“


6. China Gave US Diplomats Anal COVID Tests ‘In Error,’ American Officials Say

Vice · by Viola Zhou

I just cannot see US personnel submitting to this (if this is a real report). I thought this was from the Opinion or Duffel Blog or Babylon Bee but it is from VICE, ...sigh

China Gave US Diplomats Anal COVID Tests ‘In Error,’ American Officials Say


7. Ex-CIA Chief Gives JFK Assassination Some QAnon-Style Spin

The Daily Beast · by Guy Russo · February 26, 2021

Well it is Friday and I guess time for unusual reports.


8. How Starlink Is About To Disrupt The Telecommunications Sector

Forbes · by Enrique Dans · February 23, 2021


“Starlink also raises many other issues in a market that has traditionally tended to be highly regulated: what happens to the amortization of frequency operating licenses or the amortization of infrastructure, in many cases resold to other companies, if competitors using satellite technologies appear that are able to offer a competitive service in any market? And what happens in markets where governments seek to maintain oversight of operators’ connectivity offers, taking advantage of them to exercise some form of censorship? Are governments such as Russia really going to start harassing those who connect in this way?

Will we soon see competitive Starlink offerings in rural areas in your country? That was a science fiction scenario until recently, but now seems to be, contrary to what usually happens with Elon Musk’s announcements, about to meet its deadline. The announced disruption seems to be arriving according to plan. Will this year see the arrival of vastly more competitive telecommunications?”


9. Founder Of Chinese Front Group Spoke At CIA Nominee’s Think Tank Amid Beijing Propaganda Push

The Daily Caller



10. In no region is China’s influence felt more strongly than in South-East Asia

The Economist· February 25, 2021

Yes it is a complex relationship when you have the 600 pound gorilla breathing down your neck.

The "Milk Tea Alliance" is an interesting phenomena.


11. Esper’s end-around on Trump harmed civil-military relations

Defense News · by Jud Crane · February 25, 2021


“My concern is what comes next. Further politicization of appointments could lead to a Pentagon that games appointments in the fourth year of an administration or selects separate slates of general officers according to the anticipated preferences of the winning candidate. To that end, general officers may begin aligning themselves with anticipated preferences of the incoming party. As civil-military relations scholar Risa Brooks wrote that “when political criteria become paramount in appointments and promotions, it can undermine the quality of the officer corps.”

We are fortunate that the United States has a trusted, professional, apolitical military. An apolitical military, if you can keep it.”


12.  Pentagon brands Russia "existential" threat as Joe Biden condemns nation's "recklessness"

Newsweek · by David Brennan · February 25, 2021

Are we making Russia 10 feet tall? As a brilliant national security expert I know once said: "Amazing that this declining power with a GDP the size of Texas can create all this mischief and the rest of the world seems helpless in either stopping it or preventing these acts of mischief from taking place."


13.  Exclusive: US counterterrorism operations touched 85 countries in the last 3 years alone

USA Today · by George Petras, Karina Zaiets and Veronica Bravo

800 overseas bases? This is mentioned at the end of the article.

There is a link to an excel spreadsheet with a description of "bases" and a list all the bases.

The excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here.

To cite the data here is a link to the author's information.


14.  Global defense spending, led by US and China, hits new high

Stars and Stripes· by John Vandiver · February 25, 2021

Excerpt: After the U.S. and China, the top spenders were India, Britain and Russia.

Global defense spending, led by US and China, hits new high


15.  China’s Waning Rare Earths Advantage · by Phillip Orchard


“Over the longer term, it also portends a decline in Chinese exports that has nothing to do with Beijing weaponizing its industry dominance. Chinese domestic demand for rare earths is already exploding. If Beijing is going to deliver on any of its many technological moonshots – such as making the vast majority of its vehicle fleet electric by 2035, reaching 1,000 gigawatts of wind power generation by 2050, and building out the missile, submarine and air power capabilities needed to reach military parity with the U.S. – it will need to hoard most of its rare earths for itself. Chinese exports have already declined as a result, including a 24 percent drop in 2020 from the previous year. Indeed, Chinese demand has outpaced Chinese mining production for the past five years, forcing China to import increasing amounts of raw material from Myanmar, Vietnam and even the U.S. This, more than any desire to ease global concern about a potential embargo, is the main reason behind Friday’s expansion of production quotas.

Deng Xiaoping may have been correct that rare earths, like data and semiconductors, are the “new oil.” The thing about oil is that the strategic value of having a lot of it has often been overstated, especially once it became cheap and easy to move around the globe. Supply disruptions from major producers, of course, can still cause enough short-term pain to make importers leery of doing anything that might provoke them. And, if backed into a corner, China may very well think it has little to lose by rocking the global rare earths market with an export ban. But any benefits of such a move would be short-lived and expensive, and it would quickly bring about a future where production of the elements outside of China is anything but rare.”




"Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice."

- Alexander Solzhenitsyn


"I think the SOF community (SOCCOM?) needs to present a convincing briefing to Congress and JCS for that matter, that someone is in control of the SOF community (all aspects and all services), because rightly or wrongly, the impression to the public, and I suspect within the military, is that too many SOF elements are cowboys without adult supervision…." - a National Security Expert


“We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace.” 

- Jeane Kirkpatrick

Categories: News