Small Wars Journal

06/19/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 12:28pm

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

1. U.S. Military to Withdraw Hundreds of Troops, Aircraft, Antimissile Batteries From Middle East

2. “Cyber disruption,” ransomware, and critical infrastructure: A new US understanding of “attack”?

3. Chinese Nuke Modernization Prompts Shift In DoD Strategy

4. The Navy Needs Deep Readers, Not Reading Lists

5. Army Signals The Abrams Tank Is Here To Stay

6. Foreign Disinformation Feeds US Domestic Terrorism, Official Warns

7. Air Force Special Operations Job Transformation Takes Big Step Forward

8. The secret to NATO’s survival: Get political

9. U.S. Says 'Contingency' Aid Ready If Russia Attacks Ukraine

10.  White House freezes Ukraine military package that includes lethal weapons

11. Large Scale Combat Operations Book Set

12. Army investigating death of colonel found unresponsive at Fort Leavenworth

13.  The Fulbright Paradox

14. China Can't Invade Taiwan Just Yet Says U.S. General

15. A niche Chinese Gen Z meme is ringing alarm bells for Beijing

16. Putin's Performance At Geneva Summit Seen As A Master Class In 'Whataboutism'

17. How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory

18. 11 Things to Know: Afghanistan on the Eve of Withdrawal


1. U.S. Military to Withdraw Hundreds of Troops, Aircraft, Antimissile Batteries From Middle East

WSJ · by Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef and Michael R. Gordon

Excerpts: “The move marks the second time this year the U.S. has removed Patriot antimissile batteries from the Middle East. This spring, the U.S. military removed at least three Patriot missiles from the Saudi Arabia and had considered taking out a Thaad.

Officials said the withdrawal could be seen by Russia and China, who are expanding their military and economic influence in the Middle East, as an opportunity to increase their aims.

But defense officials point to a mosaic of U.S. involvement in the region, including foreign military sales, security cooperation, joint military exercises and maintaining U.S. ground troops.

“Yes, Russia and China are going to attempt to utilize adjustments in posture to message that the United States cannot be relied upon,” a defense official said. “The reality is that none of them are going to replace the United States and what we provide.”


2. “Cyber disruption,” ransomware, and critical infrastructure: A new US understanding of “attack”? · by Charlie Dunlap, J.D. · June 19, 2021

Excerpts: “To reiterate, it appears that the U.S. is now taking the position that a cyber-operation against US-defined “critical infrastructure” that causes a significant “disruption” amounts to an “attack.” Apparently, a ransomware incident – though lacking direct loss of life or physical destruction – is sufficient to constitute such an attack, at least when targeted against critical infrastructure.

In most ransomware incidents the data is not damaged or destroyed, but just encrypted and denied to its owner until a ransom is paid. It is somewhat akin to a distributed denial of service (DDOS) incidents where access is denied. Most nations do not consider DDOS incidents to be “armed attacks” that would trigger an Article 51 right to self-defense.

Importantly, the U.S. has long had a lower threshold than most nations for the kinds of incidents that would permit acts in self-defense under international law. Specifically, Article 2(4) UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of “force,” but, as noted above, Article 51 of the Charter permits individual and collective self-defense when a state has been a victim of an “armed attack.”

Here’s the tricky part: most nations consider the kind of “force” referenced in Article 2(4) as not necessarily being the same as that constituting an “armed attack” as used in Article 51. In other words, an activity amounting to “force” which violates Article 2(4) might not be of sufficient violence, intensity, and scope to constitute an “armed attack” to legitimately trigger self-defense authority within the meaning of Article 51.


3. Chinese Nuke Modernization Prompts Shift In DoD Strategy · by Colin Clark · June 18, 2021

Excerpt: “Dean Cheng, one of the West’s top experts on the Chinese military, goes further, saying that: “China is now pushing modernization of its nuclear forces, and this calls into question some basic assumptions, including how much fissile material they have. The broad expanse of Chinese nuclear modernization programs, including an air-breathing portion, is very different from what had been seen before.”


4. The Navy Needs Deep Readers, Not Reading Lists · by Guest Author · June 18, 2021

Not just the Navy but all services and all national security practitioners.

Some excellent advice in this essay.

Excerpt:In August of 1988, three months after I was commissioned, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost spoke at the Superintendent of the Naval Academy’s change-of-command and said this on the subject of technical education:

“To compete in the world, to serve as a naval officer, today you must have a technical background. If you become an inveterate reader, if an idle moment never finds you without a book in your hand, the broad knowledge will come to you. But without a background in deep technical knowledge, and without the resulting confidence that moves you to unravel technical complexities wherever you find them, you will always be a wallflower in the ballroom of progress, and your success in our profession will suffer accordingly.”1

I agree with much of this. But what always troubled me was Admiral Trost’s nod to inveterate readers that always have a book in their hands. It begs the most important question: which books? Do the type and genre matter? Just history and books on current events? Or was he relying on technically educated officers to cultivate a habit of reading the best literature and philosophy as well? I cannot tell, but in perusing the many CNO reading lists over the years I can speculate that he was not.

And the controversial conclusion (to some, perhaps, but with which I agree - anyone who wants to ban books, ideas, thought, and critical thinking is not upholding our Constitution or American values): "Admiral Gilday was right to defend the books on his list against ridiculous partisan political attacks. Military leaders should be open to reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist and other books that challenge conventional thinking. Military leaders are responsible for the lives of Americans of all backgrounds and viewpoints. They should read widely and never be afraid to read an author with whom they might disagree. That is how one nurtures a genuine curiosity—and learns. But don’t read Kendi’s book, or any book, just because it is on a reading list, as if completing a chore. Read good books to be a deep reader. And become a deep reader to become a better leader.


5. Army Signals The Abrams Tank Is Here To Stay

Forbes · by Loren Thompson · June 18, 2021

Greatest tank ever developed and will probably remain so for decades to come. If it ain't broke, don't fix it (though modernization updates are welcomed).


6. Foreign Disinformation Feeds US Domestic Terrorism, Official Warns ·  Jeff Seldin · June 17, 2021

Excerpts:Current and former officials, as well as analysts, have also warned Russia is actively cultivating a new generation of influence peddlers focused on building followers among the far right and far left.

As part of the new domestic terrorism strategy, officials have pledged to find ways to “counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation and dangerous conspiracy theories online, supporting an information environment that fosters healthy democratic discourse,” according to a White House handout.

Officials also note that Washington has joined the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online — an initiative named after the New Zealand city where a far-right gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in 2019.

But countering the threat from disinformation in particular will be difficult, according to Homeland Security officials, who point to the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, for which almost 500 people have been arrested.


7. Air Force Special Operations Job Transformation Takes Big Step Forward · by Stephen Losey · June 17, 2021

Air Forces Special reconnaissance. I recall going to Hurlburt Field in the late 1980's and seeing the AFSOC combat weatherman (the special operations weather team). The amount of high speed kit they had back then put the SF A team kit to shame. :-) We were jealous.

Excerpts: And in future conflicts, these special reconnaissance airmen could deploy alongside teams of Green Berets or other special operators, and fly small quadcopter drones or use other recon tactics to collect vital intelligence on air or other threats needed in the field.

"The core tenet of reconnaissance is gathering information," Reed said. "So let's make sure we're postured to gather the information that we want to be able to gather -- keeping in mind that future conflicts are going to look probably pretty different than the conflicts for the past 20 years in the Middle East."

The old special operations weather team, or SOWT, career field, which specialized in analyzing weather in the field, was "a pretty niche career field," Reed said.


8. The secret to NATO’s survival: Get political · June 17, 2021

Conclusion:  “Developing the Alliance as a political actor via these six action points will not be easy, but if there is an administration that could do it, it is Joe Biden’s. Biden is the first US president since George H.W. Bush with an inherent tendency toward Atlanticism. Since 2000, the transatlantic space has endured reproach, apathy, and most recently hostility and neglect from the White House, all of which have been highly detrimental to transatlantic relations and greatly contributed to the decline of NATO as a political actor. But Biden is a natural trans-Atlanticist and is the last president of a generation that looked instinctively to Europe. One of his chief legacies could be setting a foundation for younger Americans to see Europeans, in a world full of competition for attention, as the allies they turn to first.

1. A coherent political-military strategy toward China

2. A renewed focus on arms control, both nuclear and conventional

3. A more operational EU-NATO relationship

4. A more capable Europe

5. Stabilization without intervention

6. Tackling tech challenges

I guess irregular, unconventional, political​, and hybrid warfare are not important to NATO. It does not seem to me that although the authors are talking about political-military actions they are not addressing the real threats posed by Russia and China which are best described as political warfare.


9. U.S. Says 'Contingency' Aid Ready If Russia Attacks Ukraine 

I do have to say that the plan of providing contingency aid after an attack is not a recipe for success.


10. White House freezes Ukraine military package that includes lethal weapons


The White House has pushed back on this with this statement: “The idea that we have held back security assistance to Ukraine is nonsense. Just last week—in the run-up to the U.S.-Russia Summit—we provided a $150 million package of security assistance, including lethal assistance. We have now provided the entire amount appropriated by Congress through the Ukraine security assistance initiative. Two days before the Summit, President Biden stood on the stage before the entire world at NATO and said that we would keep putting Ukraine “in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression.” We have also prepared contingency funds in the event of a further Russian incursion into Ukraine. As President Biden told President Putin directly, we will stand unwavering in support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

I am reminded of a SOF Truth: You cannot create competent special operations forces after a crisis occurs. A variation might be you cannot provide adequate defense after an attack occurs.

And of course Sun Tzu said, never assume the enemy will not attack. Make yourself invincible. It seems to me we would want to try to make Ukraine invincible before a Russian attack.

However, a friend who is an expert in this area provides this explanation/clarification: “I will try to clear up what is being said and not being said. The Politico piece, which follows up on a WaPo piece from earlier in the week, alleges that an assistance package developed when the Russians were engaged in a coercive military show of force has been held up, for the time being . This assistance package is separate from and not related to the two military assistance packages provided through appropriated Title 10 funding known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The second USAI tranche at $150M was indeed announced earlier this week.

The WH statement mainly focuses on USAI and only briefly mentions the existence of this separate assistance package connected to the Russian show of force operation. By the way, a sizable number of those troops are still in Crimea and along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia according to open source reporting.”


11. Large Scale Combat Operations Book Set

An important and useful reference set.

Is there an irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, political warfare, and hybrid warfare book set?


12. Army investigating death of colonel found unresponsive at Fort Leavenworth

Stars and Stripes · by Scott Green

Another tragic loss. We are all vulnerable regardless of rank.


13. The Fulbright Paradox

Foreign Affairs · by Charles King · June 18, 2021

I will be following this up with an essay from Matt Armstrong who challenges and clarifies some of the history and analysis in this essay.

Excerpts:Fulbright’s life, like most people’s, was mottled. He acquiesced to awfulness yet led in areas that required political and moral courage. His failings were his country’s, and especially his region’s. His achievements were his alone. He was brave and weak, persuasive and exasperating, prescient and shortsighted, a futurist in thrall to the past. If the United States had followed the domestic path he supported in the 1950s and 1960s, it would have committed a massive act of injustice and self-betrayal. If it had followed the foreign policies he advocated in the 1960s and 1970s, the era would likely have claimed fewer lives.

In 1982, Fulbright’s alma mater (and my own), the University of Arkansas, held a ceremony renaming its College of Arts and Sciences after him, with an oration by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The former senator himself beamed from the dais. Nearly four decades later, in August 2020, the university established a special committee to make recommendations about the future of the college’s name and a prominent statue of Fulbright on campus. By that time, Woodrow Wilson’s name had been dropped from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. Monuments to old secessionists and segregationists had fallen across the country. Congress would soon pass legislation stripping the surnames of Confederate generals from U.S. military bases. This past April, the committee recommended that the Fulbright name and statue be removed.

The reexamination of Fulbright is part of the broader transformation in how Americans talk about themselves in the past tense. Monuments, like nations, are situated in history. As societies change, so do the things they erect to instruct children in the preferred way of recounting it. The meaning of tributes to the dead is no more than what the living do with them. As any visitor to Washington, D.C., can confirm, the Victims of Communism Memorial—unveiled by President George W. Bush in 2007 and now a gathering place for clients from a nearby homeless shelter—has ironically become a monument to the victims of capitalism. The usefulness of statues resides in whether they enable human achievement or inhibit it in the here and now. If the latter is the case, it is best to let them go. Ghosts do not care either way.


This legacy is a remarkable monument not to a man but to an idea, one lived out imperfectly in a single life and betrayed repeatedly by the country that professed it. Fulbright’s own biography is evidence that the best of what the United States produced in the last century was inseparable from the worst—a complicated, grownup fact that ought to inform how Americans approach everything from education in international affairs to foreign-policy making. And to generations of people in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, Fulbright’s most enduring contribution is something that the United States now has an opportunity to bring back home: the astonishing, liberating idea that governments have a duty to help people lose their fear of difference.


14.  China Can't Invade Taiwan Just Yet Says U.S. General · by Peter Suciu · June 18, 2021

Sun Tzu: never assume your enemy will not attack. (maybe he added "just yet.:)


15. A niche Chinese Gen Z meme is ringing alarm bells for Beijing

Quartz · by Jane Li

"Lying down" or "lying flat." I want to assess this in terms of Gene Sharp's concepts of non-violent resistance.

Excerpts: “The concept advocates an almost monastic outlook, including not getting married, not having children, not having a job, not owning property, and consuming as little as possible. For many, this is almost the only way in an authoritarian country to fight against the growing pressures from long work hours, skyrocketing housing prices, and the ever higher cost of raising children. Lifestyle philosophies based on rejecting ambition, and being a cog in China’s capitalist machine have been spreading in recent years, and “lying flat” is the latest culmination of such trends, explained Wu Qiang, an independent political analyst in Beijing.

“Chinese youngsters, or in general the working population, have experienced huge societal and political changes in the past nine years, [leading them to realize] that there is neither the possibility for initiating a revolution nor the freedom of expression. Under such a condition, lying down has become the only option,” Wu told Quartz.

In a sign of the Party’s concern over the idea’s popularity, Chinese social media platform Douban has censored a discussion group of nearly 10,000 members about lying flat, while some state-owned media have urged young people to ditch the idea. “The new generation is not a generation that chooses to lie flat, but one that chooses to work hard!” the Xinhua news agency said in an article in May, citing examples of young medical professionals fighting hard against the pandemic.


“You can’t stand up, but you don’t want to kneel down. Then you can only lie flat,” one Weibo user recently put it.


16. Putin's Performance At Geneva Summit Seen As A Master Class In 'Whataboutism' · by Matthew Luxmoore · June 17, 2021

Master class is right. It is hard to believe people can take him seriously. Although I could only listen to the translation it sounded like he was making his arguments so smoothly and matter of factl. He seemed so natural in his "whataboutism."


17. How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory

The New Yorker · by Benjamin Wallace-Wells · June 18, 2021

A fascinating read. I do not intend this as a political statement on this issue. However, I will say again that I think banning ideas, theories, thoughts, criticism, etc. goes against our Constitution and American values, no matter how distasteful we might find them. Anyone who argues for banning must be unable to present sufficiently sound competing ideas which is how we should address ideas we disagree with or do not like.


18. 11 Things to Know: Afghanistan on the Eve of Withdrawal · by  Andrew Wilder and Scott Worden · June 18, 2021




“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” 

– Fannie Lou Hamer


"Liberty is slow fruit. It is never cheap; it is made difficult because freedom is the accomplishment and perfectness of man."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


OTD 1952, U.S. Special Forces was created: "Only one organization was the predecessor to Special Forces and that was OSS."

-Col. Aaron Bank

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