Small Wars Journal

06/17/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Thu, 06/17/2021 - 9:33am

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


1. CIA Names David Marlowe to Run Espionage Operations

2. Does Biden Have the Right Naval Strategy to Take on Russia and China? History Has An Answer.

3. Biden's cyber budget good, but still insufficient to meet the threats

4. In the Iran nuclear crisis, the IAEA stands alone

5. Russia, US Will Launch Arms Control Talks To Avoid ‘Accidental War’

6. A Better Way to Measure Returns on U.S. Security Cooperation Investments

7. Rank-and-file soldiers begin Special Forces-style security missions across Indo-Pacific

8. U.S. Needs ‘Combat-Credible’ Forces to Deter China, Nominee Says

9. SecDef OKs Joint Warfighting Concept; Joint Requirements Due Soon

10. Robust, credible and layered missile defense is the foundation of deterrence

11. FDD | Schemes and Subversion: How Bad Actors and Foreign Governments Undermine and Evade Sanctions Regimes

12. FDD | Tehran’s nuclear secrets have been exposed

13. NATO Targets the ‘3 C’s’: China, Cyberattacks and Climate Change

14. Growth of nuclear arsenals ‘a worrisome sign’

15. DroneGun Tactical the ultimate UAV killer

16. FDD | Biden Should Not Lift Sanctions Against Iranian Presidential Candidate Ebrahim Raisi

17. Suspend Syria and Russia from the WHO

18. Lost at Sea: How Two Iranian Warships Are Testing American Mettle

19. NSA cyber director discusses US response, approach to apparent espionage operation

20. Strengthening U.S. Engagement in International Standards Bodies


1. CIA Names David Marlowe to Run Espionage Operations

WSJ · by Warren P. Strobel

Excerpts: “Little more is known publicly about Mr. Marlowe’s career. The CIA normally does not publicly disclose its employees’ foreign assignments. CIA officials described him as an Arabic speaker who has spent 20 of his 30 years at the agency in field assignments overseas. His most recent job, they said, was assistant director of the CIA’s Near East Mission Center, which combines operations officers, intelligence analysts and other specialists to focus on the Middle East.


“One of the big challenges today [for] operational tradecraft is ubiquitous technical surveillance, the capacity of a number of our adversaries to make it much more complicated to conduct traditional tradecraft,” he said.


2. Does Biden Have the Right Naval Strategy to Take on Russia and China? History Has An Answer. · by James Holmes · June 16, 2021

Conclusion: “Take it from William Pitt: a well-armed peace is cheaper and less hazardous than war.

The British shipbuilding maxim of which Mahan writes implies that the United States must maintain sea forces able to contend with the combined sea power of China and Russia. These two opponents have formed an armed entente and thus constitute latter-day counterparts to France and Spain in the days of Pitt and George III. It’s prudent to set a two-power standard—much as Britain did in its imperial heyday—and measure the U.S. against Sino-Russian maritime might. If U.S. sea forces aren’t up to that standard, America and its allies are standing into danger.

Let’s not suffer a British fate.


3. Biden's cyber budget good, but still insufficient to meet the threats

The Hill · by Mark Montgomery· June 15, 2021

Excerpts:In past years, moderate cybersecurity budget increases left the United States treading water amid a rising tide of ransomware attackscyber espionage incidents, and critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. The Biden administration is headed in the right direction but is too narrowly focused on what it calls “investments tailored to respond to lessons learned from the SolarWinds incident.”

America needs proactive, forward-looking investment that both mitigates the past year’s problems and prevents next year’s.

In the world of policymaking, real priorities do not come from pronouncements; they come from budgets. Even as the White House’s budget moves in the right direction, Congress will need to make additions to firmly establish national cybersecurity as a strategic priority.


4. In the Iran nuclear crisis, the IAEA stands alone

The Hill · by Andrea Stricker and Behnam Ben Taleblu· June 14, 2021

Excerpts: “Director-General Grossi has declared that he views outstanding safeguards issues as a present, and not a past matter, but the IAEA board, the 35-member elected body assigned to hold states accountable to their NPT safeguards obligations, may not help.

The board, under pressure from the U.S. and Europe not to disrupt JCPOA negotiations, yet again withheld a resolution — formal admonishment against Iran’s non-cooperation — at the June IAEA board meeting. As principal leaders in shoring up the non-proliferation regime, the U.S. and E3 (France, Britain, and Germany) must lead on resolutions for them to have any chance of success.

In a greater twist of irony, should world powers re-establish the JCPOA, they will effectively block the IAEA board (and themselves) from holding Iran accountable to its non-proliferation obligations. The board’s main recourse is to refer a non-compliant state to the UN Security Council (UNSC) for sanctions. The JCPOA obstructs UNSC sanctions against Iran because under the terms of its implementing resolution, 2231, all UN sanctions against Iran are lifted. To penalize the Islamic Republic, the UNSC would first need to bring down 2231.

As a result, the current nuclear crisis is likely to repeat itself in a handful of years as JCPOA restrictions sunset, if a military conflict or regional proliferation cascade do not take place first. To prevent all three, the Biden administration should resist the siren song of JCPOA resurrection and first empower the IAEA to do its job. If no baseline for Iran’s past and present nuclear activities can be established, there is no foundation for a deal.


5. Russia, US Will Launch Arms Control Talks To Avoid ‘Accidental War’ · by Jacqueline Feldscher

And this:At the summit, Biden and Putin also discussed how to protect national assets from cyberattacks. Biden said he gave the Russian president a list of 16 critical infrastructure items, including the power grid and water system, that should be “off the table” for any cyberattack.

When Biden was asked about what consequences he threatened if Putin went after any of those protected areas, he said, “I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capabilities and he knows it….If in fact they violate these basic norms, we will respond.”


6. A Better Way to Measure Returns on U.S. Security Cooperation Investments · by Zack Gold, Ralph Espach, Douglas Jackson, and Nicholas Bradford

One way we might achieve better effects is if we were to align all security cooperation activities and related activities. We need to have a nested strategy for security cooperation orchestrating the actions and activities and campaign plans for supporting security assistance, foreign assistance, foreign military sales. international military education and training, foreign internal defense, security sector reform, defense institution building, etc.

Excerpts: We agree that monitoring the outputs and outcomes of security cooperation activities and reporting them clearly and concisely is necessary, but we find the return-on-investment approach to be the wrong tool for the job. A better solution is a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative and qualitative data. Because security cooperation outcomes are not financial gains, we view the “returns” on security cooperation investment as outcomes in alignment with strategic objectives. To measure the effects of these activities properly, we propose a framework that focuses on strategic objectives, alignment, and outcomes.

A framework focused on these elements allows military commands to compare findings from individual security cooperation engagements or to compare subsequent iterations of an annual engagement. Our framework includes a quantitative component and a qualitative one. First, we compute a quantitative alignment score, which is a combination of partner participation and strategic objectives addressed by a security cooperation activity. The objective alignment score is as simple as tallying the number of command strategic objectives addressed by the security cooperation activity. The combination of the partner participation score and the objective alignment score produces a numeric value of alignment with strategic objectives.

Our framework’s qualitative outcomes assessment ascertains the success of the security cooperation activity in increasing capacity or changing partner behaviors to meet objectives. This process includes defining the desired outcomes of strategic objectives, collecting periodic data on indicators of those outcomes, and concisely summarizing findings. Partner militaries, U.S. embassies, and military commands already collect much of the required data—though not systematically. Using this framework, the command could assign personnel to pull this information, or task an external organization to conduct the data collection.

By combining these quantitative and qualitative components into a single tool, our assessment framework generates a display of security cooperation activities’ strategic objectives alignment, progress toward achieving objectives, and overall assessment. Though not as simple as return on investment, it displays far more—and more relevant—data for security cooperation in an easily readable table that a command can share with key stakeholders at regular intervals.


7.  Rank-and-file soldiers begin Special Forces-style security missions across Indo-Pacific

Stars and Stripes · by Seth Robson · June 17, 2021

No one can tell me there is not a conspiracy to replace US Special Forces. I am going to go all QAnon on this (note sarcasm!)

But this is a real problem and a misunderstanding of the mission and value of US Special Forces:

It’s a task that has, in the past, been the preserve of the Green Berets, said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Sosnicki, a maintainer and member of the 5th SFAB who deployed to Papua New Guinea in May for a six-week mission.

“Green Berets work with [partner nations’] special forces,” he said by phone Wednesday from Port Moresby. “We partner with normal infantry, engineers, artillery and logistics elements.”

Special Forces’ elite nature means they can deploy for only a short time, limiting the number of foreign troops that can work with, he said.

US Special Forces do not just train "people that look like them" ( as one general officer once said in a briefing in DC - meaning SF only trains other elite units).  I spent a lot of time training, advising, and assisting units other than special operations and that is true for most SF soldiers.

I am not discounting the importance of the SFABs. There is an important role for them. But we need to use the right forces for the right missions and it is not simply a conventional force - SOF divide.  


8. U.S. Needs ‘Combat-Credible’ Forces to Deter China, Nominee Says

Bloomberg · by Peter Martin · June 16, 2021

Excerpts: “Until last week, Ratner led a China task force at the Pentagon aimed at reorienting America’s military to better compete with Beijing. Based on the task force’s recommendations, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive “designed to focus departmental processes and procedures and better help department leaders contribute to whole-of-government efforts to address the challenge from China.”

Ratner served as deputy national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden from 2015 to 2017. He also held positions at the State Department, the Senate and the Center for a New American Security.


9. SecDef OKs Joint Warfighting Concept; Joint Requirements Due Soon · by Theresa Hitchens · June 16, 2021

We are a platform centric military.


10. Robust, credible and layered missile defense is the foundation of deterrence

Defense News · by Punch Moulton and Francis Mahon · June 16, 2021

Excerpt: "Today, our defense rests on the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, and its 44 interceptors. But that alone is not going to be adequate to deal with the threats of 2027. Defending our homeland is vital. Looking to the next decade, we need to stay ahead of our threats. Our concerns are four-fold: technology, numbers, layers and sensors."


11. FDD | Schemes and Subversion: How Bad Actors and Foreign Governments Undermine and Evade Sanctions Regimes · by Eric B. Lorber · June 16, 2021

The 18 page statement can be downloaded here.

The video of the testimony can be viewed a this link


12. FDD | Tehran’s nuclear secrets have been exposed · by Clifford D. May · June 16, 2021

Excerpts: “At a minimum, Iran has a coordinated set of activities related to building a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Albright writes. “At worst, the weaponization team has already conducted a cold test, fulfilled its post-Amad goal of building an industrial prototype, and is regularly practicing and improving their nuclear weaponization craft under various covers or in clandestine locations.”

Which leads to this conclusion: “A reinstated JCPOA combined with less than vigorous IAEA verification of Iran’s military sites, of the type that existed from 2015 until 2018, appears particularly unstable and dangerous.”


13. NATO Targets the ‘3 C’s’: China, Cyberattacks and Climate Change

Bloomberg · by James Stavridis · June 16, 2021

Excerpts:Given that the nations collectively spend more than $1 trillion on their defense establishments; operate 28,000 military aircraft and 800 capital warships; and have seven million troops (active and reserve) under command, this will be significant.

The summit also hit some lingering issues as well, with plenty of discussion about Russian aggression, particularly against NATO non-member partners Ukraine and Georgia; Afghanistan, where the withdrawal from that 20-year mission will require more financial and diplomatic support; and effective missile defenses on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the real thrust of the 2021 summit could be summarized as the three C’s: China, cybersecurity and climate. The times are changing, and NATO is changing with them.


14. Growth of nuclear arsenals ‘a worrisome sign’ · by Dave Makichuk · June 16, 2021


15.  DroneGun Tactical the ultimate UAV killer · by Dave Makichuk · June 16, 2021


16.  FDD | Biden Should Not Lift Sanctions Against Iranian Presidential Candidate Ebrahim Raisi · by Matthew Zweig · June 16, 2021

Excerpt: "Since Executive Order 13876 targets malign Iranian actors and activities both abroad and at home, its application to Raisi and to other senior Iranian officials is a legitimate use of non-nuclear sanctions. To combat the continued misconduct of the regime – both externally and internally – the Biden administration should refrain from lifting any non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, especially on Raisi."


17. Suspend Syria and Russia from the WHO

The National Interest · by David Adesnik · June 15, 2021

We must get tough with these international organizations and root out the malign influence of these authoritarian countries that seek to undermine the international order.

Conclusion: “The bipartisan path forward should proceed from the premise that engagement is essential precisely because the WHO and other multilateral organizations are strategic grounds in the struggle against U.S. adversaries. Biden’s interim national security strategy hints as much but shies away from saying it openly. The document warns of an “authoritarian agenda” for manipulating the UN system, then adds, “In a world of deepening rivalry, we will not cede this vital terrain.”

A push to suspend Syria and Russia from the WHO will require substantial effort, but the administration should not see it as a burden. Rather, it is part and parcel of a necessary campaign to shape the multilateral playing field by targeting the real opponents of reform.


18. Lost at Sea: How Two Iranian Warships Are Testing American Mettle · by Emanuele Ottolenghi

Excerpts:Events following the Iran deal offer a clear insight into why Iran feels it can dispatch warships to America’s backyard with impunity. The ink was not even dry yet on the JCPOA when Iran began to use its national airline, Iran Air, to move thousands of militia fighters to Syria at the height of its civil war. This was the same airline that, as a major beneficiary of the JCPOA, was about to buy hundreds of Western-made aircraft. Why would Iran jeopardize the nuclear deal and its economic benefits? Because it could. Because it correctly gamed the scenario and anticipated President Obama would not jeopardize what he viewed as a historic diplomatic achievement by acting against the delinquent airline. Tehran knew the U.S. would not push back.

Which brings us back to the two warships. Iran sent them to signal its strength and defiance. It is a challenge to the Biden administration because Tehran, so far correctly, has calculated that the U.S. will do nothing if it thinks it can jeopardize nuclear talks.

Washington should not fall into this trap. The regime in Tehran is not going to walk away from talks that could restore its economic clout—an essential tool in its pursuit of broader global influence. Besides, what is Iran going to do? The U.S. killed Qassem Suleimani, their top general, in January 2020, yet Tehran did little in response.

Tehran needs to know Washington will exact a pound of flesh for its reckless behavior. So far, the Biden administration has given them no reason to think there are any risks involved in provoking Washington. Maybe the two ships will give President Biden an opportunity to reassess his erstwhile inclination to give Tehran a pass.


19.  NSA cyber director discusses US response, approach to apparent espionage operation · by Shannon Vavra · June 16, 2021


20. Strengthening U.S. Engagement in International Standards Bodies · June 15, 2021

The 28 page report can be download here.




"The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins."

- Soren Kierkegaard


“If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment ... all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. "

- Plato

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