Small Wars Journal

03/05/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Fri, 03/05/2021 - 10:06am

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

1. Biden must expose China's COVID-19 cover-up | Opinion

2. Biden Nominee For Top Policy Post Grilled On Iran, Tweets

3.  China Is Losing Influence—and That Makes It Dangerous

4. Is The Pentagon Preparing To Fight The Wrong War?

5. Oh God, Not Another Long Telegram About China

6. Building a China Strategy Starts by Answering These Questions

7. China First to The Microphone on Info Ops

8. FicInt: Anticipating Tomorrow’s Conflict

9. US Special Forces train in Serbia, where China and Russia have strengthened military ties

10. FDD | The Problem With the Declassified Report on Khashoggi’s Death

11. FDD | What Red Line Tells Us About Syria’s Chemical Weapons (Book Review)

12. Afghan security forces withdrawing from checkpoints, bases

13. COVID-19 and Terrorism in the West: Has Radicalization Really Gone Viral?

14. N.J. man allegedly carved a QAnon hashtag into a centuries-old stone at ‘America’s Stonehenge’

15. Tie US Arms Exports to Values, Pentagon Policy Chief Nominee Says

16. Alphabet explosion: Pentagon commission for removing Confederate names sports unwieldy acronym

17. Five Reasons Not to Split Cyber Command from the NSA Any Time Soon – If Ever

18. What's worse, violence on the left or the right? It's a dangerous question

19. QAnon theorists switch date to March 20 after no Trump inauguration, call the 4th "false flag"


1. Biden must expose China's COVID-19 cover-up | Opinion

Newsweek · by Anthony Ruggiero · March 4, 2021


“To begin, the Biden administration should insist the WHO immediately remove Beijing from what is now a joint investigation into the pandemic's origins. The administration should also lead a public-private review of the WHO report to ensure its objectivity.


NSM-1 mandates a report within 30 days on how the U.S. can strengthen and reform the WHO. The first requirement is new leadership. Tedros is clearly not up to the task of freeing the WHO from China's grip, although his five-year term will end in 2022. The Biden administration should work with fellow G7 members to put forward a joint candidate for next year's election, one who is capable of defending WHO's integrity.

The United States' ability to prevent the next pandemic is riding on the outcome of the investigation into COVID-19's origins. The pandemic's impact on the American economy and society shows the consequences of getting it wrong.

The Biden administration has trumpeted its reversal of Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the WHO. Now the administration needs to show that it is rejoining on America's terms and defending America's interests, not engaging for the sake of engagement itself.”


2. Biden Nominee For Top Policy Post Grilled On Iran, Tweets · by Katie Bo Williams


3. China Is Losing Influence—and That Makes It Dangerous

Foreign Policy · by Salvatore Babones · March 3, 2021

Or the author is counseling Napoleon's dictum, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

And there is the pre-WWII Japanese pressure analogy:

“The worst thing Biden could do is put so much pressure on China that its leaders lash out because they feel they have nothing to lose. That was arguably what happened in 1941, when the United States successfully countered Japanese expansionism with military aid to China, a trade embargo, and the freezing of Japanese assets in the U.S. banking system. Japan wasn’t on the rise in 1941; it was on the wane. Bogged down in China, checked by the Soviet Union in a little-remembered conflict in Mongolia, and increasingly squeezed by U.S. economic sanctions, Japan’s leaders recklessly sought a kantai kessen (“decisive battle”) with a naval strike at Pearl Harbor. They saw no other way to forestall a long, smothering defeat.


Politically and temperamentally, the hardest thing for any U.S. president to do is nothing. The extraordinary power concentrated in the president’s hands generates extraordinary temptation to use it, and there are many stirring arguments for decisive leadership. But in the current situation, decisive leadership can only disrupt an already benign policy environment. China’s only hope for victory in the current situation is to provoke a crisis—and then benefit from the ensuing disorder. Biden’s number one job is to make sure the crisis doesn’t occur.”

Of course the author's thesis is based on the assumption China is making a catastrophic mistake or that "gravity will take its toll."  Is that a sound assumption?


4. Is The Pentagon Preparing To Fight The Wrong War?

Forbes · by Michael Krepon · March 4, 2021


“Yes, we live at a time of competition between major powers, but when hasn’t there been? And yes, there are now two major powers competing with the United States, but their leaders, like the U.S. president, have societies to lose by crossing the nuclear threshold.

Part of the answer is that we must plan for nuclear nightmares. We also need to think sensibly and creatively about how to avoid them. Admiral Charles Richard, the head of the Strategic Command, warns us that a regional crisis involving Beijing or Moscow “could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state.” This is surely true for North Korea, as well. But this analysis begs the question of why U.S. forces would execute conventional military campaigns that would invite Armageddon.

Crises do, indeed, lie in our future and plans are needed—even those that President Biden will try mightily to keep in locked safes. The plans that Biden will find most useful are ones that strengthen his hand while keeping a prudent distance from the nuclear threshold. Conventional and cyber capabilities can affect the outcome of crises. Scrimping on these capabilities to pay for nuclear weapons and their means of delivery is an unwise idea.”


5. Oh God, Not Another Long Telegram About China

Foreign Policy · by Tanner Greer · March 4, 2021

Is it hubris?

This is quite a critique: 

“Longer” is an apt adjective: the full report is 85 pages long. Unfortunately, the so-called telegram’s contents are not as clever as its title. It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of both the enemy it seeks to deflect and the democratic institutions it is purportedly designed to protect.


The problems posed by Taiwan’s defense point to the second great flaw in “The Longer Telegram”: a failure to come to terms with the limitations facing American political leaders.

But this conclusion is something we should all consider (whether you subscribe to the idea of the blob or not):

This is as good of evidence as any that professionals in “the Blob” have grown estranged from the nation they serve. The American people do not flourish for the sake of “maintaining US global conventional military dominance over any other adversary.” The United States should seek military dominance only in as much as it helps the American people flourish. Any national security professional who forgets this—regardless of their previous rank or experience—does not deserve to be given a serious place in the national debate.

The truth is that Americans live in an intensely partisan country. The demands of national security will not make these partisan divides go away. In this political environment, a consensus on issues like immigration and technology policy will not be forthcoming. We live in a time when the American people are more concerned with domestic than foreign affairs. In such an environment, U.S. military budgets will be placed under extreme pressure. American political leaders, the people who will be responsible for implementing any counter-China strategy, will not be China experts. They will almost always have some issue on their plate that seems more important than China diplomacy. These facts cannot be wished away.

American theorists often describe strategy as the coordination of ways, ends, and means. A useful counter-China strategy would begin with a realistic assessment of the means actually at U.S. strategists’ disposal. It would admit to the restraints strategists in Washington face. Its recommendations would not be for some parallel United States whose people have put aside every divide in their devotion to the cause of hegemony, but for the messy and limited country that actually exists. A strategy that cannot be implemented by America’s vehemently partisan, easily distracted political system is no real strategy at all. Kennan’s early Cold War warnings were distinctive in their cold, analytical realism. Anybody aspiring to be his successor needs to be as willing to apply that same gimlet-eyed vision to Washington as they are to Beijing.”


6. Building a China Strategy Starts by Answering These Questions · by Mike Dana and Matthew R. Crouch,

Spoiler alert. The three:

“First, what problem are we trying to solve regarding China? 

Second, what would success look like with China in terms of cooperation and/or deterrence? Do we seek co-existence or containment?

Third, if we were to enter into armed conflict with China, what would victory look like? How would war with China unfold? Would the cost of this conflict be worth the investment in human treasure? What kind of war would we envision and to what end?”


7. China First to The Microphone on Info Ops · by George I. Seffers · March 4, 2021

Hmmmm.....   The USIA has grown to mythical proportions and has become the "easy button" for information operations.  Just bring back USIA is the mantra.


“He described his own experience as a military dependent in West Germany in 1978, during the Cold War. “We had the U.S. Information Agency that had tens of thousands of people across the globe, primarily in Europe, and we were doing operations across the Soviet Union and in Western Europe to deny, disable and discredit Soviet propaganda.”

Gen. Vowell noted that the Information Agency no longer exists. “We have some mechanisms through media, and we have some influence through other governments, but we’re not organized to be able to be ‘firstest with the mostest’ and with the right information.”

And unfortunately, he added, being first often is what matters most. “Truth doesn’t matter. The message first matters, and then trying to get people to the truth is the hard part.”


8. FicInt: Anticipating Tomorrow’s Conflict · March 4, 2021

FicInt: fictional intelligence.

Please do not overlook reading this author's impressive bio.  She must be the pride of the USNA, the USMC, the cyber corps, and probably in the future, the foreign area officer corps.  Not many boxers and Gospel singers.

I am surprised she did not reference the film Three Days of the Condor which was built on the foundation of FicInt.  


9. US Special Forces train in Serbia, where China and Russia have strengthened military ties

Stars and Stripes· by John Vandiver · March 5, 2021



10. FDD | The Problem With the Declassified Report on Khashoggi’s Death · by Thomas Joscelyn · March 4, 2021


“None of this justifies Khashoggi’s murder or is a defense of MBS—not in the least. And the U.S. government should regularly reexamine its partnerships and alliances, including ties to Saudi Arabia. The Biden administration is doing that, but MBS’s critics are unlikely to be satisfied.

In addition to releasing the ODNI’s assessment, the Biden administration announced a new “Khashoggi ban,” which restricts the travel of individuals suspected of targeting dissidents abroad and prohibits them from entering the U.S.


11. FDD | What Red Line Tells Us About Syria’s Chemical Weapons (Book Review) · by David Adesnik Senior Fellow and Director of Research · March 4, 2021


“While the red line debate is anchored in Syria, it is also inseparable from broader arguments regarding whether overextension or resignation is the greater threat to U.S. national security. As Obama prepared to leave office, he sought to recast his red line decision as a model of heroic restraint. “I’m very proud of [that] moment,” Obama said. “The overwhelming weight of conventional wisdom and the machinery of our national-security apparatus had gone fairly far,” he added, “the fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest” avoided a debacle.

Red Line, despite its name, barely touches on the afterlife of Obama’s decision; however, Warrick’s account of how it was made emphasizes the influence of public opinion rather than principled restraint. Obama’s national security team “overwhelmingly favored a military strike” and the president intended “to launch the attack within days.” (p.73) Then the British Parliament voted against intervention, leading Obama to hesitate and seek congressional approval for military action, mistakenly presuming lawmakers would support him. Instead, opinion polls and constituent opposition turned Congress against intervention. Yet “we didn’t have a Plan B,” Samantha Power, then-U.S. ambassador to the UN, tells Warrick. (p.109) All that saved the policy from unraveling was the Russian president’s unexpected offer to have Assad turn over his arsenal.

A pleasure to read, Red Line also comprises a valuable addition to the growing literature on the war in Syria. In addition to recounting the unlikely stories of Ayman the chemist as well as Tim Blades and the Margarita Machine, the book includes equally compelling accounts with characters ranging from UN weapons inspectors and Syrian doctors to Islamic State operatives planning their own chemical attacks. In Warrick’s hands, their experiences come alive.


12. Afghan security forces withdrawing from checkpoints, bases · by Bill Roggio · March 3, 2021


13. COVID-19 and Terrorism in the West: Has Radicalization Really Gone Viral? · by Michael King and Sam Mullins · March 4, 2021


“Trends in terrorism are notoriously difficult to predict. Depicting the pandemic as a perfect storm is reminiscent of previous attempts to forecast how exceptional events will impact terrorism, such as when the Arab Spring was heralded as the demise of al Qaeda, or when the collapse of the ISIS “caliphate” was expected to cause a wave of terrorism by returning foreign fighters. These predictions were logically sound, but people do not always act logically.

The “perfect storm” theory of the pandemic’s impact on terrorism is also logical, yet its assumptions have not been carefully considered. Lockdown conditions have unquestionably been challenging, but it is not yet clear whether and to what extent our collective vulnerability to violent extremism has increased. People are spending more time on the internet, but this does not necessarily increase their chances of engaging with extremist content, even if they are bored and lonely. Among those who have encountered such content online, the risk of radicalization is generally low and as our data show, there has so far been no spike in terrorism.

We would be remiss not to point out the various other manifestations of violence such as the possession of weapons and home-made explosives, online threats, physical assaultsviolent protests, and destruction of public property, all of which were clearly linked to circumstances arising from the pandemic. Sadly, anti-Asian hate crimes have also proliferated during the past year. However, these incidents do not meet the threshold of terrorism. Indeed, the vast majority of people driven to hatred and violence during the pandemic, including members of the Boogaloo and QAnon movements, have engaged in various forms of criminality that occasionally get dangerously close to, but ultimately fall short of, qualifying as acts of terrorism. Where precisely the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 sits within this context is presently unclear, but it does not change the fact that the vast majority of people driven to violence amidst the pandemic have done so through relatively low-level forms of crime.

Some will maintain that it is too early to pass judgement, that the incendiary effect of the pandemic has been tempered by the associated restrictions of movement and that the “perfect storm” is still brewing. While we cannot rule out that possibility, it is insufficient to simply argue about when if the underlying why is flawed. As we have seen, the premise that the pandemic will result in more terrorism is based upon a series of assumptions that—although not entirely disproven—are far from foregone conclusions. In writing this article, our goal is to offer a contrarian view to the conventional wisdom about the impact of the pandemic on terrorism in the West. Above all, we wish to stimulate a more thoughtful debate and thorough analysis.


14. N.J. man allegedly carved a QAnon hashtag into a centuries-old stone at ‘America’s Stonehenge’

The Washington Post · March 4, 2021

These QAnon cultists are some real whackjobs.


15. Tie US Arms Exports to Values, Pentagon Policy Chief Nominee Says · by Marcus Weisgerber


16. Alphabet explosion: Pentagon commission for removing Confederate names sports unwieldy acronym · by Mike Glenn

This was not approved by the Pentagon's Acronym Control Officer (PACO). Of wait, there is no such officer.  That was actually my dream job.  I wanted to be a GS-15 with an E4 from each of the services who would sit around all day checking and double checking acronyms to determine how they would be butchered by the troops ( prevent the requirement for the CJCS to send a message to the force spelling out the pronunciation for the US Joint Force Command and prohibiting the use of "Jiffycom" for the acronym JFCOM).. 

Of course this acronym CNIDODCCSAAPWSVCSA may not be able to be butchered and turned into something irreverent. It should just not have been approved for use!! (though I doubt anyone actually officially put that acronym together.  But it sure is an unwieldy title for the commission.)


17. Five Reasons Not to Split Cyber Command from the NSA Any Time Soon – If Ever · by Chris C. Demchak · March 5, 2021

The five:

Reason 1: Scale of Adversaries

Reason 2: Speed in Trade-Off Decisions

Reason 3: Synergy in Innovative Shared Operations

Reason 4: Immutable Interdependence

Reason 5: No Automatic Advantage


18. What's worse, violence on the left or the right? It's a dangerous question

The Hill · by Andrew C. McCarthy, opinion contributor · March 4, 2021


The country should be uniting against political violence. It should be that rare thing these days that Americans of good will can agree about, regardless of their partisan affiliations, their political views, or the twisted ideologies of the terrorists. Democrats, instead, are choosing to further divide the country through a libelous narrative. Whatever political advantage they see in this will be fleeting. The damage they are doing will endure.”


19. QAnon theorists switch date to March 20 after no Trump inauguration, call the 4th "false flag"

Newsweek · by Emily Czachor · March 4, 2021

Again, these QAnon cultists are real whackjobs.





“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory.” 

- Betty Smith


“Above all, do not lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.”
- Fyodor Dostoevsky


“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”

- Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Categories: News