Small Wars Journal

03/04/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 9:05am

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

1. A Foreign Policy for the American People

2. Interim National Security Strategic Guidance

3. Why Biden’s new China czar requires comprehensive policy authorities

4. Lawmakers propose check on Biden’s war powers

5. Joe Biden's National Security Idealism Is a Problem

6. Biden Secretly Limits Counterterrorism Drone Strikes Away From War Zones

7. Boycott the Olympics? Cancel the Saudis? How Woke Can Biden Really Get?

8. China’s domestic-security agencies are undergoing a massive purge

9. China Is Not the Soviet Union: Applying Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’

10. US dropped to bottom half of 'free' nations in new rankings from Freedom House

11. TikTok Played a Key Role in MAGA Radicalization

12. British Navy Pushes into Pacific, Gives Royal Marines More Commando Missions

13. Senate Armed Services Stands By Afghanistan & Taiwan

14. China's Three Information Warfares

15. Rare Truths About China’s Rare Earths

16. 1619, 1776, and Us


1. A Foreign Policy for the American People · by Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

It is critical that the administration explains how our foreign policy positively affects the American people.


“We will balance humility with confidence. I have always believed they should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin. Humility because we aren’t perfect, we don’t have all the answers, and a lot of the world’s problems aren’t mainly about us, even as they affect us. But confidence because America at its best has a greater ability than any country on Earth to mobilize others for the common good and for the good of our people.

Above all, we’ll hold ourselves accountable to a single, overarching measure of success: Are we delivering results for you?”

As an aside, there are critics (namely NK News), among pundits that north Korea was omitted from or insufficiently emphasized in this major foreign policy speech. But this is a "how-to'' speech for broad diplomatic actions and not a description of approaches to every threat. Regional specialists should not be put off if their pet agenda issue is not sufficiently address. In the case of Korea we should wait for the completion of the policy review which probably will warrant a speech by. SECSTATE solely on that topic.

But Korea and the other major threats were mentioned and I think sufficiently so in this kind of a speech:

And eighth, we will manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: our relationship with China.

Several countries present us with serious challenges, including Russia, Iran, North Korea. And there are serious crises we have to deal with, including in Yemen, Ethiopia, and Burma.

But the challenge posed by China is different. China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system – all the rules, values, and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to, because it ultimately serves the interests and reflects the values of the American people.


2. Interim National Security Strategic Guidance

Today, the Administration released the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, attached.

This interim guidance has been issued to convey President Biden’s vision for how America will engage with the world, and to provide guidance for departments and agencies to align their actions as the Administration begins work on a National Security Strategy.

The 24 page document can be downloaded here.  

Note this key sentence that I have never seen in an NSS document: "We will maintain the proficiency of special operations forces to focus on crisis response and priority counterterrorism and unconventional warfare missions."

Korea is mentioned four brief times.


3. Why Biden’s new China czar requires comprehensive policy authorities

Defense News · by Matthew R. Crouch and Christopher P. Mulder · March 3, 2021

What kind of authorities can an NSC staffer who is not in a Senate confirmed position have?


“Since the pivot to the Pacific almost 10 years ago, the U.S. government’s response has been loosely coordinated and, while broadly focused on competition, has not been implemented holistically. The China czar will be most effective in achieving U.S. goals over the next four years if he sets out to accomplish the following.


The appointment of the China Czar is an important step in ensuring the U.S. response to the PRC is effective. Long-standing China experts being brought into the administration in key roles demonstrates an understanding of a need for a comprehensive and lasting strategy. The critical last step to managing competition with China effectively is to ensure close coordination between those within the U.S. government and external allies and partners. Early signs are positive this is occurring.

Allowing the China czar to play the role of key policy integrator can both drive policy toward clear goals and provide priorities for implementation.”


4. Lawmakers propose check on Biden’s war powers

Defense News · by Joe Gould · March 3, 2021

Doesn't the Constitution provide a sufficient check on this? Isn't the problem that Congress has abdicated its responsibilities (perhaps since WWII)?


5. Joe Biden's National Security Idealism Is a Problem · by ByRobert Moore · March 3, 2021

A strong critique:

“And like many of these idealistic theories about maintaining the world order and forever defeating all forms of evil, they have not proven to be attainable nor necessary for protecting our vital national interests. On the contrary, they have kept us mired in hostilities chasing elusive dreams about developing good governance and introduced us into conflicts in places like Libya and Syria, where our push to topple authoritarians created new opportunities for extremism and proliferated humanitarian disasters.

The Biden administration is still in its first weeks and has time to set a better course for American national security, based on a realistic assessment of our security needs and what U.S. citizens require of their government – not what we think the world requires from us.”


6. Biden Secretly Limits Counterterrorism Drone Strikes Away From War Zones

The New York Times · by Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt · March 3, 2021

Possibly a significant change to CT operations.


“Since Mr. Biden took office, the ensuing interagency review has been primarily overseen by Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall, his homeland security adviser, and Clare Linkins, the senior director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council.

The Biden team is also weighing whether to restore an Obama-era order that had required the government to annually disclose estimates of how many suspected terrorists and civilian bystanders it had killed in airstrikes outside war zones. Mr. Obama invoked that requirement in 2016, but Mr. Trump removed it in 2019. The military separately publishes some information about its strikes in places like Somalia, but the C.I.A. does not.

While The New York Times reported on Mr. Trump’s replacement rules in 2017, the Trump administration never released its drone policy or publicly discussed the parameters and principles that framed it, noted Luke Hartig, who worked as a top counterterrorism aide in Mr. Obama’s White House.

Asserting that there was good reason to believe the government did not publicly acknowledge the full range of strikes carried out under Mr. Trump, Mr. Hartig said it was appropriate for the Biden team to gather more information about that period before deciding whether and how to change the system that governed it.

“There is a lot the administration needs to do to reinstate higher standards after the Trump administration, but they shouldn’t just snap back to the Obama rules,” he said. “The world has changed. The counterterrorism fight has evolved.”


7. Boycott the Olympics? Cancel the Saudis? How Woke Can Biden Really Get? · by Kevin Baron · March 3, 2021

Yes, a clickbait title.


8. China’s domestic-security agencies are undergoing a massive purge

The Economist· March 1, 2021

Can Xi purge the corrupt ranks?


9. China Is Not the Soviet Union: Applying Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’

The National Interest · by Paul Heer · March 1, 2021

Conclusion (which we should heed):

“Like his first recommendation, Kennan’s second applies more today than it did in 1946: “Much depends on the health and vigor of our own society. . . . Every courageous and incisive measure to solve the internal problems of our own society, to improve the self-confidence, discipline, morale and community spirit of our own people, is a diplomatic victory over Moscow.” And so will they be against Beijing.”


10. US dropped to bottom half of 'free' nations in new rankings from Freedom House · by Ryan Morgan · March 3, 2021



“Out of 195 countries and 15 territories surveyed, 83 earned “free rankings” with 59 of those having higher freedom scores than the U.S. The U.S. tied four other countries with scores of 83 and 20 countries.”


11.  TikTok Played a Key Role in MAGA Radicalization

Wired · by Cameron Hickey

Hmmm.. I am surprised by this. I did not think TikTok was an effective platform for this kind of disinformation.


“We’ve also been monitoring TikTok for the past two years, as it grew from an entertaining novelty into a significant player capturing online attention share. Practical jokes and dance memes might be the dominant content, but just below the surface lurks a darker current infused with violence and hate that mirrors what we see on Parler, except here it has a much wider committed following. While Parler prided itself on having little to no moderation, TikTok has moved aggressively to enforce community guidelines and take down content. Still, a large and growing segment of the platform creates and shares problematic messages that risk radicalizing users. Many of these videos fall into a gray area that makes them difficult for moderation to address.

To understand this challenge, let me give you a brief tour of conservative memes on TikTok.”


12. British Navy Pushes into Pacific, Gives Royal Marines More Commando Missions · by Paul Crespo


13. Senate Armed Services Stands By Afghanistan & Taiwan · by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.


“Afghan troops have borne the brunt of the fighting and dying for years, McMaster said – “about 30 Afghan soldiers die every day” – but they will need US backup for a long time. The sustainable solution? “What it looks like is… a very small US force, a sustained commitment there with allies and partners,” he said. “If [instead] we withdraw our support prematurely and create opportunities for the Taliban, we have essentially partnered with the Taliban against the Afghan government,” creating the possibility of a “colossal” humanitarian disaster.

“Oh, I totally agree with that,” Shaheen said, adding that women and girls will suffer worst should the Taliban take power.

McMaster also got a receptive response when he urged the US to stand by Taiwan. Pressed by Republican Tom Cotton, McMaster said Washington doesn’t need to officially abandon its policy of “strategy ambiguity” on whether it would come to the island’s defense against China – not as long as it sticks by the longstanding Six Reassurances, supports Taiwan’s defense reforms & buildup, keeps “forward positioned, capable joint forces” in the Western Pacific ready to respond and creates at least a reasonable doubt in Beijing about whether the US would intervene.”


14. China's Three Information Warfares · by Morgan Martin · March 3, 2021

Conclusion: "The PRC is trying to claim what it perceives to be its rightful place in the world, and this is likely to bring it to blows with the United States, its main rival for global hegemony. It currently is trying to “win without fighting” by using its Three Warfares doctrine. Infiltration of the entertainment industry, attempts to legitimize its claims in the South China Sea, and continued harassment of U.S. partners and allies in the Pacific are part of a series of planned activities intended to weaken U.S. and allied resolve prior to a forced reunification with Taiwan. Abundant indicators suggest the PRC is attempting to levy costs on the United States to achieve strategic goals. It is incumbent on U.S. leaders to decide whether the PRC will impose its worldview unchecked, or if the United States will rise to counter it."


15. Rare Truths About China’s Rare Earths

WSJ · by The Editorial Board · March 3, 2021


16. 1619, 1776, and Us · by Cathy Young · March 3, 2021

A very interesting comparison of these two "projects."


“The ill-fated 1776 Commission and its report will likely be remembered, if they are remembered at all, for promoting the idea that Trumpian populist nationalism stands on one side and the 1619 Project on the other. But that’s a false dichotomy. There is a message that stands in opposition both to the basic premise of the 1619 Project and to Trumpism. That was the message delivered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his viral video a few days after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol to stop Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the election. Schwarzenegger spoke of serving “the ideals on which this country was founded.” If we are seeking to reclaim the nation’s soul after the last four years, “our founding ideals were a racist lie” is not a great place to start.”



"I firmly believe that democracy holds the key to freedom, prosperity, peace, and dignity. We must now demonstrate — with a clarity that dispels any doubt — that democracy can still deliver for our people and for people around the world. We must prove that our model isn’t a relic of history; it’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future. And, if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger."

- President Joseph R. Biden (Interim National security Strategic Guidance)


"Arguments cannot be answered by personal abuse; there is no logic in slander, and falsehood, in the long run, defeats itself." 

- Robert Green Ingersoll


“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” 

- Marcus Aurelius

Categories: News