Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The text below is a full version of the anlysis entitled “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict“, which was originally released by SouthFront on October 10, 2018:

Introduction

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower”, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia.  Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 NyalaMRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

 DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure.  Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwaltclass vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Fordinclude an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control.  Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision?  The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new VirginiaClass SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units.  The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions.  In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

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Great Recession at 10: $500k wine & jailing Black footballers for insider trading

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker BlogGreat Recession at 10: $500k wine & jailing Black footballers for insider trading

November 02, 2018

Ten years ago my life was all screwed up by the economic crisis I had nothing to do with.

In August 2008 AFP (Agence France Presse) said that if I learned French they’d give me a job. I moved in with my parents and studied five hours a day seven days a week for five months. By the time I arrived in France in February AFP, along with everyone else, was no longer hiring. The crisis had started in September with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

So I had wasted all that time and effort. I was in France but sans job – a big problem on multiple levels. I could translate French copy into English adequately but I immediately realised I could not understand anything the French were saying to me, nor could I say hardly anything to them. I was a jobless, isolated, unneeded immigrant with no income and questionable prospects in an overcrowded field now undergoing a second recession (the internet provided the first recession in journalism jobs).

Ten years later, I consider myself lucky: that is hardly the worst story you’ve heard caused by capitalism’s ever-guaranteed, always-exacerbated failures.

What have we learned?

Why are you asking me? Well, I better have something to say because, very fortunately (and rather undeservedly, given the many better journalists here in Paris), for most of the last decade I seem to have been one of the busiest on-the-ground English-language TV reporters in Paris.

Covering the Great Recession from Europe is, I think, far different than covering it from the United States because Europeans often insist that their democracy, economy and mindset is qualitatively different from those in America.

The Great Recession in America was just a case of bad getting worse – dilapidated infrastructure from the Depression or Eisenhower eras remaining dilapidated, widespread drug and alcohol addiction falling deeper into the rabbit hole, near-zero government assistance remaining near-zero, tons of crime devolving into tons of crime now committed by people with tattoos on their faces – i.e., no real change and no real hope for change.

But Europe – ooh la la, they have too much class for tattoos on their faces. They have long-represented the alleged “Third Way”, which gracefully sidestepped American yahoo-ism and (alleged) Soviet totalitarianism, and were recently united in the (alleged) ever-greater fraternity which was the European Union and the Euro.

So what have we learned in 10 years? Last month a former employer of mine reported on the correct price for the best bottle of wine – $558,000.

What on earth is that, besides grounds for a public near-lynching? That is asset inflation of the worst, most socially-useless type. In 2008, that same price got you 27 bottles of wine, which was then the highest price ever paid for a single lot.

This two reports perfectly describe what has been the West’s fiscal policy since the Great Recession began: using taxpayer money to inflate the assets only owned by the rich and the propertied class in order to increase only their wealth. They have spent 10 years re-creating a bubble for upper-class assets – wine is never worth $93,000 a glass any more than a bottle was worth $19,000.

In the same vein, a Leonardo da Vinci painting is not worth the $450 million Mohammad Bin Salman paid for it last year. These massive, heinous, sinful sums are not being forked over because “that is what the market will bear” – they are being paid because the ultra-rich have become ultra-richer in the last 10 years and…you gotta spend your money somewhere.

No, the rich have not let taxpayer trillions burn holes in their pocket: Our money has only re-pumped new bubbles in the primary asset classes of the 1% – luxury goods, real estate, stocks (overvalued companies) and investment funds.

I will get straight to the point: Because our trillions have gone into these wasteful investments, instead of investments which improve overall societal well-being, we are certainly WORSE OFF than ten years ago.

Not all bubbles or debt is the same, despite what German-minded minds will insist. Instead of creating bubbles or debt to do any of a million positive things – improving business efficiency through better infrastructure, inventing cheaper solutions via increased education and research & development, injecting money to circulate into the “real economy” just by giving Joe Schmoe a job to uselessly move a bag of dirt from point A to point B and back again – the lack of socialist central planning has allowed the real economy to be gutted in favor of the economy of the 1%….again.

Of course, there are other bubbles which affect more than just the 1%: Western inflation over the past 10 years has been much more impactful in sapping (my) wages than the upper class realizes, but the US housing market had no reason to have reached 11% above the July 2006 Housing Bubble peak in August 2018.

For those of us who hold no property in real estate or property in corporations (stocks), we are left out in the cold. We still are yoked to debt and can be bankrupted by bubbles, though.

But the bubbles and debt of the 99% are good and even necessary: we need houses to live in, we need our sub-prime auto loans not to lead to repossession, we need our medical bills paid for, we need our elderly care bills paid for because we simply cannot stand how loud Grandpa has the TV any longer. All of this is “good debt” which sends money into the real economy (even if you can’t hold on to it for more than one payday).

The effects of the FIRE economy – Finance, Investment & Real Estate – in the recent history of capitalism has been studied and popularized by American economist Michael Hudson, but we are about to find out AGAIN just how pernicious its influence has been.

The Lost Score: not the stash of swapped prescription medication you have misplaced

Don’t think the Eurozone is lost? The Eurozone’s GDP is 12% lower than in 2008Chinas is up 266% over the same timeframe.

Your problem must be that you believe what you read in the Western Mainstream media: China’s 6.5% growth in the 3rd quarter was “weak” to Reuters, while France’s 3rd quarter growth of just 0.4% was (per my would-be AFP colleagues) a “boost as economy rebounds”. Sure, Frenchy, sure, you’re a real star. Both those articles are from the past fortnight, but it’s the same absurd spin I’ve reported on for nearly 40 economic quarters.

Europe’s Quantitative Easing was scheduled to end September 2017, so back then I wrote a 7-part series which showed how the world’s biggest macro-economy – the Eurozone (but China is about to surpass it – remains the weak link the global economy despite the “whatever it takes” (alleged) solution of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi in 2012. What I did was combine a decade of on-the-street reporting with some basic (leftist) economic sense (FYI, all economic sense is leftist) to write about what will happen when this bubble – the “bailed out by taxpayers” bubble – finally re-bursts.

That is the biggest bubble, and it is about to pop.

Because they no doubt read and agreed with my analysis, the Eurozone’s leaders postponed the end of QE for 1 year. However, come January 1st, no more 30 billion euros in free money to high finance every month – they have been given 2.5 trillion euros in total. Again, we in the Eurozone have gotten zero from all that because the center- and right-wing forms of capitalism do not allow strings to be attached (such as delivering jobs, community betterment, etc.) in return for these fiscal gifts. CEOs, not workers, rule – the Eurozone has never been a socialist republic.

The problem is us:

This policy was not at all wanted by the Eurozone’s population…but this is a liberal democracy: that means public opinion is aggregated once every four or five years, and then the sheep must shut up and take it. That’s why it made no difference when Francois Hollande was elected on an anti-austerity platform: in classic modern liberal democracy form, he simply introduced a divisive, deflecting plan to approve gay marriage on the very same day – November 7, 2012 – that he announced his backtracking acceptance of austerity.

It is only in socialist countries where pubic opinion is actually reflected in policy making – empowering the average citizen is one of the two pillars of socialism (redistribution of wealth being the other) and what do you think “empowering” means? Hint: it is not synonymous with “ignoring”.

The Chinese Communist Party, it has been accurately written, is the world’s biggest public polling firm. There is no doubt that Cuban socialists are reflecting the People’s will when they are counting up their few unblockaded pesos and prioritising education, housing, medicine and food. North Korea is not funding nuclear research because they want to, but because all North Koreans are in agreement that they were the most-attacked, most-threatened, most-surrounded nation in the 2nd-half of the 20th century. You are totally unaware if you think the Iranian Revolution has endured similar violence and menacing by wasting their oil money on policies which the Iranian People cannot immediately and tangibly see have improved their quality of life since 1979: Iran’s economy, essentially 100% state-controlled, reflects the People’s will to a great degree (it is structurally impossible for it to reflect the will of private Iranian CEOs).

However, the West’s beloved liberal democracies do not at all care or reflect popular opinion – liberal democracies are designed to please the bourgeois/aristocratic/top 10%/technocrat/brahmin/genetically-superior/culturally-superior class. We hold these truths to be more self-evident in 2018 than 2008.

But what will happen when QE ends in the Eurozone? My prediction last year was based on capitalist logic: high finance, no longer bought off by free money (and thus less able to pay for $500k wine), will go back to doing what they did at the height of the crisis in Europe – the 2012 Sovereign Debt Crisis – and start squeezing the poorer countries of the Eurozone in the bond market. This time, Italy and Spain will be in their sights. This will soon spark the same chaos and instability as back then.

But worse: as illustrated, the Eurozone is far, far weaker than in 2012. They have spent trillions but bought $500k wine instead of productive, economy-safeguarding, preparing-for-capitalism’s-next-inevitable-rainy-day investments for the 99%. How could anybody possibly see it differently? I guess it’s the same answer to how AFP can see France’s 0.4% Q3 growth as a “boost as economy rebounds”. Keep the faith – success is right around the trickle-down corner, LOL!

You cannot tell me that the bankers have been totally bought off and will be content to roll around in their filth for the next 50 years, because they never are: there is always some young, Martin Shkreli-like, hedge fund-managing punk who wants to make his billions, and he will gladly hold Spain and Italy hostage to do so. Shkreli was not jailed for changing a pill’s price from $13.50 to $750 – that’s totally legal in capitalism – he was jailed because of his big mouth. But his usury and his rapper-like ego is simply how he was raised (in a non-socialist, non-religious Western culture). Nobody can stop him in the capitalist system – there is no central planning, there is total opposition to the idea of a “collective”, and they have even lost that longtime feeling of “positive racism” which formerly lent a sliver of unity to Western imperialist societies (“I can’t ruin my Color tribe and will do some things in their general interest because I hate your Ethnic tribe and fear that Religious tribe could be right.”).

And you can’t say that we are safer now because the criminals of 2008 have been brought to justice: look at the case of Mychal Kendricks, a 27-year old professional American football player convicted of insider trading.

Kendricks is the Black son of a crack addict, so from a socialist perspective his “class label” could not be more perfect – he succeeded despite tremendous obstacles, and he would be listened to with sympathy, targeted for public assistance and given affirmative action policies. He has admitted to insider trading and should be punished, but was the 2008 crisis orchestrated by football players, perhaps in between their concussion protocols and MRIs?

The case illustrates the priority of liberal democratic/bourgeois justice systems: Mychal Kendricks, from the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, faces prison while the 1%ers who gamed the system did much more than escape justice – they were hailed as our only saviours to financial ruin, as too important (big) to fail, and subsequently entrusted with many no-strings-attached trillions.

Corruption must be punished, but Kendricks is not the problem…..

The problem is the lack of socialist central planning, the lack of democratic input (worker empowerment) on public policy, and the lack of prioritising the bottom 90% – the top 10% is prioritised, lauded and excused, instead.

The lack of all those three things created Europe’s Lost Decade of economic growth; created a situation where little-old-me was one of the few journalists to do some basic economic math and to openly say it was a Lost Decade (but which was noticed only by a small group of powerless intelligentsia on the fringe); this lack created today’s reality where things have only gotten worse since 2008, that more crisis is coming, and that the next crisis will necessarily be even worse.

The age of European austerity can be summed up quite simply: creating such a desperate labor market that the 1% was able to roll back Europe’s better-than-average social safety net, regulations, wages and working conditions.

That’s all it was – a wilful economic depression in order to turn the the EU’s work culture (and financial culture) into that of the US. The same process happened during Japan’s Lost Score – the Eurozone is now entering part two of their Lost Score.

These truths are more self-evident in 2018 than 2008. If you haven’t learned that, you obviously remain resolutely pro-capitalism and pro-liberal democracy/West European bourgeois democracy despite ten years of proof in your face.

Socialism has changed much in 10 years – a new generation of leaders in Cuba, the possible reintegration of North Korea into global affairs, a possible rapprochement between Iran and Europe (but not the US), the increasing acceptance of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” as a reproducible and admirable model – but if capitalism has changed at all it is only for the worse.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

October 26, 2018

Who profits from the end of the mid-range nuclear treaty?

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia Times by special agreement with the author)

The US move to shelve the Intermediate-range Nuclear-Forces treaty could accelerate the demise of the whole post-WWII Western alliance, and herald a bad remix of the 1930s

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved its Doomsday Clock to only 2 minutes to midnight. It might be tempting to turn this into a mere squabble about arrows and olives if this wasn’t such a terrifying scenario.

US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, secretary-general of the USSR, signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 1987.

The Arms Control Association was extremely pleased. “The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification.”

Three decades later, the Trump administration wants to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty.

Earlier this week President Trump sent his national security adviser John Bolton to officially break the news to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

As they were discussing extremely serious issues such as implications of a dissolving INF Treaty, the perpetuation of anti-Russia sanctions, the risk of not extending a new START Treaty and the deployment, in Putin’s words, of “some elements of the missile shield in outer space”, the Russian President got into, well, arrows and olives:

“As I recall, there is a bald eagle pictured on the US coat of arms: it holds 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other as a symbol of peaceful policy: a branch with 13 olives. My question: has your eagle already eaten all the olives leaving only the arrows?”

Bolton’s response: “I didn’t bring any olives.”

A ‘new strategic reality’?

By now it’s clear the Trump administration’s rationale for pulling out of the INF Treaty is due, in Bolton’s words, to “a new strategic reality”. The INF is being dismissed as a “bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world”, which does not take into consideration the missile capabilities of China, Iran and North Korea.

But there is a slight problem. The INF Treaty limits missiles with a range from 500 km to 5,000 km. China, Iran and North Korea simply cannot pose a “threat” to the United States by deploying such missiles. The INF is all about the European theater of war.

So, it’s no wonder the reaction in Brussels and major European capitals has been of barely disguised horror.

EU diplomats have told Asia Times the US decision was a “shock”, and “the last straw for the EU as it jeopardizes our very existence, subjecting us to nuclear destruction by short-range missiles”, which would never be able to reach the US heartland.

The “China” reason – that Russia is selling Beijing advanced missile technology – simply does not cut it in Europe, as the absolute priority is European security. EU diplomats are establishing a parallel to the possibility – which was more than real last year – that Washington could nuclear-bomb North Korea unilaterally. South Korea and Japan, in that case, would be nuclear “collateral damage”. The same might happen to Europe in the event of a US-Russia nuclear shoot-out.

It goes without saying that shelving the INF could even accelerate the demise of the whole post-WWII Western alliance, heralding a remix of the 1930s with a vengeance.

And the clock keeps ticking

Reports that should be critically examined in detail assert that US superiority over China’s military power is rapidly shrinking. Yet China is not much of a military technology powerhouse compared to Russia and its state of the art hypersonic missiles.

NATO may be relatively strong on the missile front – but it still wouldn’t be able to compete with Russia in a potential battle in Europe.

The supreme danger, in Doomsday Clock terms, is the obsession by certain US neocon factions that Washington could prevail in a “limited”, localized, tactical nuclear war against Russia.

That’s the whole rationale behind extending US first-strike capability as close as possible to the Russian western borderlands.

Russian analysts stress that Moscow is already – “unofficially” – perfecting what would be their own first-strike capability in these borderlands. The mere hint of NATO attempting to start a countdown in Poland, the Baltics or the Black Sea may be enough to encourage Russia to strike.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov starkly refuted Trump and Bolton’s claims that Russia was violating the INF Treaty: “As far as we understood, the US side has made a decision, and it will launch formal procedures for withdrawing from this treaty in the near future.”

As for Russia’s resolve, everything one needs to know is part of Putin’s detailed intervention at the Valdai Economic Forum. Essentially, Putin did not offer any breaking news – but a stark reminder that Moscow will strike back at any provocation configured as a threat to the future of Russia.

Russians, in this case, would “die like martyrs” and the response to an attack would be so swift and brutal that the attackers would “die like dogs”.

The harsh language may not be exactly diplomatic. What it does is reflect plenty of exasperation towards the US conservatives who peddle the absurd notion of a “limited” nuclear war.

The harsh language also reflects a certainty that whatever the degree of escalation envisaged by the Trump administration and the Pentagon, that won’t be enough to neutralize Russian hypersonic missiles.

So, it’s no wonder that EU diplomats, trying to ease their discomfort, recognize that this, in the end, is all about the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine and the necessity of keeping the massive US military-industrial-surveillance complex running.

Even as the clock keeps ticking closer to midnight.

The reinstatement of North Korea: What effects on the ‘story’ of socialism?

 

October 25, 2018

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker BlogThe reinstatement of North Korea: What effects on the ‘story’ of socialism?

It seems unlikely – as it defies 73 years of ongoing aggression, warfare, the near-warfare of constant tap dancing on the border, starvation-creating sanctions, false promises, broken promises, racist caricaturing, hysterical knee-jerk anti-socialism, and more besides – but what if Washington finally allows North Korea to reintegrate into the multinational world?

North Korea has been so politically oppressed from without that they are less integrated into global affairs, regional affairs, and even local & national affairs (their country was forcibly divided, after all) than any nation. They are even less integrated than the other few nations which have sustained modern (and thus socialist-inspired) popular revolutions, such as Cuba, Iran, Eritrea, mighty China and their fighting Vietnamese comrades.

We are told that we don’t really know anything about North Korea! We are also told to believe nothing from Pyongyang, and that the “Hermit Kingdom” is the most inscrutable of all those very-inscrutable East Asians. But I reported from Seoul and the DMZ border in 2013 and learned some interesting things (5 of them are here).

If I had to give the two most important ideas, they would be: no People have lived with more meddling exterior menaces since the year 1945 -North Koreans are bordered by and/or threatened by the US, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan); and the second point would be that the reunification of an $8 trillion mineral-richwell-educated(darn those socialist countries with their not-for-profit education programs) North Korea with South Korea would almost IMMEDIATELY create the world’s 5th-largest economy, trailing only the US, China, Japan and Germany. I hold these truths to be self-evident, and move on to the point of this article….

Let’s conjecture that Korea is still not allowed to reunite but that North Korea is allowed a global reinstatement on the level of China and Vietnam, leapfrogging poor Cuba and lonely Iran (but who is lonely when they have God?): How would that affect socialism on a global-historical scale?

What do I mean by that? I mean: socialism is a historical-political movement which covers 200 years, which is nearly as faith-based as Islam or Christendom, and which is nearly as economically influential as the era of industrialisation (an era which has lasted 250 years because many colonized countries have never even finished the First Industrial Revolution) and reinstatement for North Korea means a North Korean victory…and a victory for North Korea HAS TO impact the “narrative of socialism”, no?

Right now the narrative since 1992 is that “History is over”, per Francis Fukuyama, and capitalism has defeated socialism until the end of time…except that Fukuyama himself just backtracked on that with a recent interview“At this juncture, it seems to me that certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true.” Ah, really Frank? By “juncture” you mean roughly 1848, right?

It’s 2018 and we’re talking North Korean reintegration, old F.F. is having doubts and Donald Trump is in the White House – what is the world coming to?!

Trump, God bless his Nobel Peace Prize-deserving soul (hey, Obama re-set the bar, right?) seems willing to do what the smartphone-loving world demands: end the Cold War on North Korea…in order to start exploiting the Jongju superdeposit, the world’s largest rare earth metals cache, and which may contain double the world’s known rare earth element resources. Money talks with capitalists, not ideology/morality/history….

So what does it mean for socialism if North Korea is allowed to allow people in?

Here’s what I’m picturing: Much like Iran, foreigners come visit and realize: this place is far more modern and put together than often ignorantly assumed. After all, North Korea seems to have the ideological cohesion of Cuba combined with a high-tech skillset & wealth volume closer to Iran (Cuba’s “wealth volume” is limited by population size, containing only sugar and nickel, and by being an island (blockade-busting is thus harder)). With reinstatement the world will slowly realize and accept that North Korea is indeed a socialist success – just like China and Vietnam. Unlike Iran, there is no Islamophobia for the Christian-Atheist West to use as a deflection.

Reinstatement means Asians run socialism like Westerners run capitalism

A North Korean victory means we are talking about the four biggest socialist success stories, certainly from an economic standpoint, being from Asia.

Concurrently, European socialism is not even close to being revived: it’s hard to shock back into life someone who has drunk hemlock (events of 1989-1991) and also asked to be shot (the Eurozone & European Union). Asia turns to its left, sees Iran, mumbles (but not disapprovingly), stands on its tiptoes and shakes its head while discussing “revisionism” and “the lack of a Cultural Revolution”.

Here is the fundamental question at the heart of this article: The West writes the history of socialism because they are the “victors” and history is written by the victors.

The West is the “victor” in every way possible, of course – one can never question that. They are the “victors” in what “socialism” is, means and should be…which is paradoxical, because they have undoubtedly always been the “victors” in capitalism-imperialism and are the current victors in neo-imperialism.

Western paradoxes are there only to be ignored, so I’ll continue: They are also the “victors” in which rights are “human” and which are not; they are the “victors” in what is “freedom” and what is not; they are the “victors” in which economics are successful and which are not. All of these are absolutely without a defensible factual foundation – especially the more-mathematical last one – but I contend that the West believes, and much of the rest of the world is also persuaded, that the West are the “victors” in achieving the greatest amount of “socialist victory”. (For the record, I do not believe nor am persuaded by any of these claims.)

Again, socialism is a movement which is so long and so enduring that it forces us to extend our viewpoint: If North Korea is added to the list of socialist victories…what does and what should the world do?

Save a few Latin American countries, only one of which is stable (Cuba); save a few African countries, only two of which are stable (Algeria, Eritrea); it must be admitted that Asian socialism is currently victorious in the “global-regional competition”.

Therefore, I insist an integration of North Korea allows me to declare the “end of history”: Asian socialism is the only acceptable model, and all must follow Asia henceforth.

LOL, but such a declaration is not “socialism” at all because socialism (like Islam) cannot be forced: it would then cease to be democratic, and socialism is the most class- and citizen-inclusive sociopolitical model ever created in human history. This type of a declaration can only be made by capitalists, who impose by force the ideas of one person (or of an oligarchical few).

Obviously, the actual ramifications of a North Korean success on the “narrative of socialism” is multi-faceted, complicated and boring to many, but the ramifications are real, impactful, undeniable and unavoidable.

What do Western socialists ‘learn’ from a North Korean success?

Is the West capable of learning from a North Korean success?

Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour, so my answer is “no”: The West will make it a point to remain the “victors” (in their view) and thus learn nothing from North Korea’s success, just as they have learned nothing from the successes of China, Iran, Cuba, etc.

The West will try to co-opt North Korean success by the same lie – that North Korea is an anti-democratic mullah-ocracy…no wait, a one-family dictatorship like Cuba – that works better.

They will deny the existence of North Korea’s undeniably socialist rules, laws, history and martyrs. They will also deny the words and experiences of actual North Koreans because the Western “victors” can and should speak for everyone: The Western tongue is the “one, true” tongue.

Above all they will assert – on the Western left and the Western right – that North Korea never was socialist at all, or that it could possibly be “socialist” now. Sadly, Western socialists often do the work of the imperialist-capitalists for them; they, paradoxically are “socialists” despite espousing the exact same (nonsensical, uninformed, self-referencing, self-centered, self-interested) views on North Korea in 2018 as right-wingers.

But for the true socialists living in the Western countries – and I am talking about perhaps as many as 14 people – a North Korean success should be applauded loudly. After all – no other socialist nation has endured more to win sovereignty, freedom and their own form of socialism. Of course, this public applauding will make us even more socially-isolated in Western society to the point where we will have even greater trouble finding that elusive 15th comrade….

It’s undeniable, at least to me, that socialism can be divided into 3 distinct eras: West European dominance (Marx, Paris Commune), East European/Slavic dominance (USSR, Eastern Bloc) and Asian dominance (China, Vietnam, Iran…North Korea?). A North Korean integration means that we are STILL living in this mostly-unappreciated 3rd historical era of Asian dominance in socialist thought and practice. Reinstatement also implies that the long-awaited “Latin American dominance era”, to be led by Cuba, remains unmaterialized (due to the continued domination of the “Monroe Doctrine era”).

Of course, most Western leftists don’t want to hear any analysis which relegates the West to 2nd fiddle, as they are still the “victors”…and they are: in living in a tired, nostalgic, decidedly un-revolutionary fashion.

Trump has certainly said and done crazy things but the re-integration of North Korea follows as much capitalist logic as the re-integration of China (consumer demand, loans/bond buying, formerly low- but now mid-cost labor (providing mid-cost labor is the function Eastern Europe currently serves for the German neo-imperialism of the Eurozone)) and Vietnam (low-cost labor):

Without access to North Korea’s rare earth metals China will have perhaps as great a chokepoint on the modern global economy as any OPEC nation save Arabia (which I refuse to call “Saudi”, as only Western governments believe/want the house of Saud to be synonymous with the People of Arabia). Furthermore, due to their educational advancements, North Korea can obviously serve the same function for South Korea as East Germany did for West Germany upon their reunification: cheap but smart labor.

(Iran might have oil instead of rare earth metals, but how can they serve this capitalist labor function when they are (due to imperialist throttling) the most populous, most advanced economy in the Middle East? Even if a counter-revolution happened in Iran, who would make them their mid-cost labor hub – Russia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt? None of those will work. This is why toppling Iran (combined with their anti-imperialist & anti-Zionist stances) is Washington’s continued project, in contrast to this floated reinstatement of North Korea. The US, being capitalist, runs on lobbies and money – somebody is obviously greasing the policy wheels (exercising their “free speech”) in favor of Pyongyang, and to hell with Korean War veterans groups or anyone else.

But that last is a bold statement – North Korean reinstatement…seriously? Sounds great – Koreans are certainly all for that, and they deserve Korean socialism…or at least to be #5 instead of pawns in a four-way game.

What does “socialism do” if North Korea becomes a success story – acknowledge it or ignore it? It seems like the answer depends on what part of the world you live in, but that is certainly a response which is “bad socialism”.

Socialism’s recent past and its present remains centered in the East, but socialism’s future remains open to anyone with common sense, a disposition for equality, and the courage to speak out.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

Striking a Strategic Balance – Putin’s Preventive Response

Striking a Strategic Balance – Putin’s Preventive Response

Striking a Strategic Balance – Putin’s Preventive Response

October 23, 2018

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-striking-a-strategic-balance-putins-preventive-response/
source: https://ukraina.ru/opinion/20181022/1021492985.html

 

I think that Vladimir Putin at Valdai not at all incidentally started talking about the increased danger of nuclear war, repeated the axiom about the readiness of Russia to take away the whole world with itself, and discussed the existence of the right to make a preventive strike.

Concerning the latter issue experts immediately started a discussion about whether or not the president of Russia meant a nuclear preventive strike, and if yes, then how does it correlate with his statement about not being the first to strike a nuclear blow.

We will answer briefly.

Firstly, it does match, since a preventive strike is considered by international law as a response to aggression that became already inevitable. You, however, need to prove that the aggression was inevitable. But it is unlikely that someone will be interested in proof after nuclear war. The one who wins will be the one who survives, and not many will survive (if any survive at all). And it will be individuals and/or communities, and not states or international organisations. So if the Russian leadership receives information about the inevitability in the next few hours of a massive nuclear attack on Russia, it has the right (and is even obliged) to strike a preventive nuclear blow, and this doesn’t mean being the first to use a nuclear weapon.

Secondly, this isn’t important at all, since even if a preventive blow will be struck with conventional precision weapons, it will be aimed against regions of basing where the nuclear weapon carriers and anti-missile defense systems threatening Russia are deployed. From the point of view of the military doctrines of both the USSR and Russia, a massive attack of strategic nuclear objects by non-nuclear forces is equated to the beginning of nuclear war and grants the right for a nuclear response. The Americans approach this matter in exactly the same way.

So in principle it doesn’t make any sense to discuss whether or not Vladimir Putin meant a preventive or exclusively reciprocal nuclear or non-nuclear strike by Russia. He absolutely clearly highlighted the sharp increase in the level of danger of a nuclear confrontation. And this is the most important thing, because “who started it first” won’t be important, and nobody will learn or know about it.

So the question that interests us most sound as follows: “Why did the president of Russia start talking about the threat of a nuclear catastrophe right now, when we are passing through not the deepest aggravations of the Syrian and Ukrainian crises, and on the Korean peninsula Seoul and Pyongyang show an unprecedented level of friendliness, seriously discussing the denuclearisation of the peninsula within the framework of the development of inter-Korean dialogue and economic cooperation between the North and the South?”

I am sure that it was a preventive response to the decision of the US to withdraw from the INF Treaty that was announced one day later.

Why did this decision cause such a sharp reaction? After all, the INF Treaty signed in Washington by Gorbachev and Reagan on December 8th, 1987 came into force in June, 1988, and by June, 1991 it had already been implemented. I.e., all complexes falling under the ban were destroyed by both Russia and the US. Moreover, the development of military equipment over the last 30 years allows to assign tasks that were previously being solved by complexes that were destroyed under the Treaty to other systems that, without formally violating the Treaty, are even more effective.

The Treaty forbids the production and deployment of land-based rockets with a range of 500 to 5000 kilometers. But today Russia has in its arsenal the “Iskander” complexes (up to 500 km) and the air/sea-based “Kalibr” cruise missiles have been deployed (they don’t fall under the restrictions of the Treaty, which the Americans insisted on in the past). The declared range of these rockets can reach 1500 kilometers. At the same time certain sources speak about 2000-2500 kilometers. The range of the “Kinzhal” complex (including the range of the carrier) placed on a Tu-22М3 reaches 3000 kilometers. But this is if we bear in mind the combat radius of the aircraft at supersonic. In a mixed regime [using both subsonic and supersonic – ed] the combat radius of the aircraft increases from 1500 to 2500 kilometers, respectively, thus the range of the complex together with the rocket can reach 4000 kilometers.

I.e., without formally violating the Treaty, with the help of the latest developments Russia is capable of solving tasks that last century were completable only by average-range missiles. Moreover, the latest developments that must come to troops in the next 10-12 years in general possess an arbitrary range, i.e., in principle there are no inaccessible targets on planet Earth for them.

I will also remind that Russia in the past declared the possibility of it withdrawing from the INF Treaty should the Americans withdraw from the ABM Treaty. I think that a withdrawal indeed didn’t happen because it was more effective to develop and adopt new high-precision weapons that allowed to not violate the Treaty and at the same time to not be especially tied down from a strategic point of view.

In 30 years Russia simply turned the situation on its head. At the time that the INF Treaty was concluded, the US had an overwhelming advantage in non-nuclear precision weapons that still back then were capable of striking Soviet (and later Russian) strategic missiles within the first disarming massive non-nuclear strike. The USSR countered these classes of American missiles (including air/sea-based “Tomahawks”) with its own average-range missiles, in the production of which it had a technological advantage. The US withdrew sea/aviation-based cruise missiles from the Treaty (having promised that they would only be a part of the armaments of non-nuclear equipment), but at the same time they completely deprived the USSR/Russia of a whole class of strategic armaments in exchange for the elimination of their analogous intermediate-range nuclear forces, which weren’t important for them.

I.e., at that moment the US could resolve strategic issues without using average-range missiles, but Russia couldn’t, therefore it was favorable to Washington to destroy these missiles. Now, to the big chagrin of the Americans, it became clear that concerning high-precision weapons (including cruise and ballistic missiles) Russia seriously surpassed them and will increase this superiority in the near future. Moreover, Moscow can do it without formally violating the INF Treaty.

Thus, Washington needed the restoration of armaments in the class of average-range missiles only so that its technological lag behind Moscow didn’t turn into a factor of its strategic helplessness. After all, you and I understand that the T-90 tank can destroy the T-34 tank, even without coming within range of its aimed turret fire (not to mention effective blows). And this applies to missiles too. It’s not just the missile that is important, its tactical-technical data is also important.

But just like how an outdated tank can destroy its super modern counterpart if it appears to be in rather close proximity for an effective strike, the shortcomings of the missile weapon can be compensated for by the proximity of its placement.

And it is indeed here that the danger lies. If the US hasn’t yet lost the production technology of those average-range missiles that served in their arsenal during the 1980’s, then they can rather quickly mass-produce hundreds of this same “Pershing II”. The next question: where will they be deployed? They won’t reach the territory of Russia from the territory of the US. There are three options: Europe, Japan, and South Korea. It’s not a fact that Seoul will agree to participate in a new round of the arms race, taking into account its honeymoon with Pyongyang and the frank fears of being thrown by the US into the line of fire of North Korean or Chinese retaliatory missile strikes. And from the Korean peninsula and Japanese islands it is only possible to shoot at the Far East, where targets for these missiles are, frankly speaking, few and far between but very well covered.

Last time, the main regions of basing of average-range missiles were deployed by the US in Western Europe (Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Denmark). Back then the flight time of “Pershing” to Smolensk was 6 minutes, and to Moscow — up to 10 minutes. This sharply reduced the time for decision-making in a crisis situation and increased the probability of a conflict incidentally appearing. It is precisely for this reason that back then the Soviet leadership, like today’s Russian one, warned that the US had started a dangerous game fraught with slipping into an uncontrollable conflict that can instantly develop into a full-scale nuclear war.

Now it’s far from being a fact that the Americans will succeed to base missiles in the same countries that they were based in during the last century. So far it is only Great Britain that has unambiguously supported the US, having stated that it doesn’t consider itself as being tied down by the INF Treaty any more. Germany and Italy won’t be thrilled if they will receive such a proposal. Besides this, Trump started an economic war against the EU, the spearhead of which is aimed precisely at Old Europe.

But there is a New Europe. Who can guarantee that Poland, the Baltics, and the Ukraine that joined them will longly deliberate after receiving from the US the proposal to base “Pershing” (or something similar) on their territory? But after all, then the flight time of missiles to Moscow will total no more than 3-4 minutes, and even less to St. Petersburg – 1.5 minutes.

It is indeed a situation where any fortuity can provoke a preventive strike. Moreover, in a situation when a strike is applied to the launching sites of American nuclear missiles, it is possible without philosophising to immediately launch intercontinental missiles at Washington too. Anyway, the sliding of the conflict into a full-scale nuclear exchange will be a matter of a few minutes, or in the best-case scenario – several hours.

And it is this that Putin spoke about at Valdai, when he promised aggressors that we will enter paradise, and they will simply die.

The system of international treaties designed to ensure nuclear stability relied on the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile TreatySALT I and SALT IISTART ISTART II, the Strategic Offensive Reductions TreatySTART III, and the INF Treaty.

The Missile Technology Control Regime and the Non-Proliferation Treaty practically turned into meaningless pieces of paper. Having spat on them, India and Pakistan obtained nuclear weapons. Israel, the possibilities of which are estimated at 100-200 tactical nuclear warheads, informally is also a nuclear power, but the “civilised world” pretends that it isn’t aware that permanently warring country is violating this Treaty. Well, and after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not only able to realise its nuclear program, but also with the help of the technologies that it received from Ukraine it was able to create all classes of missiles, including intercontinental ones, it’s senseless to speak about the efficiency of the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Everyone whose international weight is somewhat larger than Swaziland’s or Lesotho’s will be able to do what Kim Jong-un managed to do. As is known, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

SALT I limited strategic arsenals at the levels reached by the end of 1972 (and this is tens of thousands of carriers). SALT II didn’t come into force, because the US Senate blocked its ratification in connection with the entrance of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. START I and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty aren’t actual, because they were replaced by START III, which slightly reduced the total number of deployed carriers in comparison with the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. START II (which forbade the equipping of missiles with separable individually guided warheads) was signed in 1993, ratified by the State Duma in 2000, and in 2002 Russia withdrew from it in connection with the US’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Thus, today after the US declared its withdrawal from INF Treaty, from the entire system of international treaties that regulate the system of strategic potentials, only START III actually works, but it means little in the context of the developing arms race.

Perhaps the US wants to repeat its successful blackmail attempt that took place in the 1980’s, which forced the USSR to make concessions and finally assisted in its final collapse. But the situation now differs radically. Firstly, Russia has the corresponding experience and knows that it must take a gentlemen’s word and the contracts that they sign at face value. Secondly, if Russia so far has moved along the line of ascent both in politics and in the economy, then concerning the US it is possible at best to speak about stagnation. However, Trump prefers to speak about a crisis that he wants to overcome and to “make America great again”. Thirdly, in respect of military technologies, during the last century the USSR was catching up with the US, but now it is the US that plays catch up. Fourthly, stories about 5th generation fighter jets, as well as the latest destroyers and littoral ships, demonstrate the blatant inefficiency of the US’ military-industrial complex, when huge money is being spent but results are absent. Fifthly, over the past century all the world’s centers of force (the US, the EU, China, and Japan) were against the USSR, which was forced to stretch its meagre military, political, financial, economic, and diplomatic resources to cover its standoff with all. Now even Japan doesn’t absolutely unconditionally support the US. In Europe the US only has Great Britain – which is torn apart by internal contradictions – and some of the destitute limitrophes. The US’ confrontation with China is tougher than the one it has with Russia, and now America starts to also speak about imposing sanctions on India.

In general, if to proceed from the US’ actions being a blackmail attempt, then this attempt is doomed to fail. But this doesn’t cancel the military danger of such games. If to fry shish kebabs on a barrel of gunpowder, it will sooner or later explode. So there will be an obligation to develop a new system of international treaties for the purpose of restricting, reducing, and, ideally, disposing of nuclear arsenals. But to start with the US needs to realise its place in the new world and to accept it.

A Reading in Trump’s Isolationist Speech: Bold and Outright Lies

Nour Rida

The world and media are still busy with the Trump speech at the UN Security Council, which got a ripple of murmurs and giggles before it exploded into a wave of laughter when he made his claims on achieving what no other administration has achieved throughout US history.

About a minute to his speech, Trump said

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

He did not expect the chuckles, as he clearly stated

“didn’t expect the reaction, but that’s okay”.

Then he tried to improvise and turn it into “they laughed with me rather than at me” while speaking to the media afterwards. The reaction in the echoing General Assembly hall came in presence of more than a hundred and thirty heads of state and dozens of other delegations.

During the presidential campaign, Trump often repeated the phrase “The world is laughing at us.” However, during the UN around 35-minute speech, the world was laughing at Trump.

Of course, on the sidelines of the Assembly, the president used his favorite term of “fake news” that has been popularized, to justify the laughter of the audience by saying the speech was supposed to be received in a cheerful manner and was taken out of context, calling the media’s coverage “fake news.”

Trump’s speech requires long pages of critique however a few highlights does the work. The US President was audacious enough to say the following

“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.”

The Trump administration not only dictates everyone on this planet on how to live and what to do, it also disrespects its neighbors such as Latin America, and extends its disrespect and supremacy overseas and interferes in the affairs of others. It also disrespects American people living inside the borders of the US because of their descent or origin.

The US president is at odds with Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans and anyone but white supremacist inside and outside America. Around April, US relations with Latin America plummeted as President Trump traded spurs with his Mexican counterpart and canceled attendance at a regional summit.

According to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

“Throughout Latin America, we were at a high water mark in every public opinion poll, [but] perception of America has dramatically dropped. And that is uniquely due to President Trump.”

Washington has been involved in the war in Syria alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries in support of Wahhabi terrorist groups such as ISIS or Daesh. It has been rocketing all sorts of attacks against Iran, claiming to support the Iranian people while crippling them economically in first place. Iran has been a target for Trump before he even made it to office, and no reason seems to be present except for Iran being different and independent. He ruined an internationally accepted deal and showered Iran with avalanches of accusations and criticism at the time Iran had been abiding by its side of the nuclear deal and has never started any aggressive act towards another state actor. Also, before arriving to the love letters part, Trump had threatened North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and calling him a monster over nuclear tensions.

Cynically, if Trump justifies his actions towards North Korea as out of national security concern, he should have destroyed his own nuclear warheads and “bigger button”.

In a tweet back in January, Trump wrote

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Trump also falsely claimed in his speech

“Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.”

But then he called on the more than a hundred and ninety UN nations

“to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela”

and to what he allegedly described as

“support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

Trump’s moments at the speech reinforced his administration’s isolation among allies and foes equally, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with partners and cast doubt about the credibility of America and the reliability of its commitments around the world.

Of course among all this, Trump focused on his “America first” and “no globalism” ideas, which was reflected in the words of US officials a couple of days before Trump’s speech at the UN. Now it remains a question on whether this “America first” policy will isolate the US especially after the European Union and China statements on Iran one day earlier to his speech.

Some observers have pointed out that Trump’s words are only meant to appease his domestic support base and that essentially, US foreign policy under Trump hasn’t changed much.

“There have been studies that show that substantially when it comes to Asia, not much has really actually changed. In terms of the number of US forces in Asia, its foreign policy makers coming for visits, a lot of the messages have not changed,” said Dr. Hoo Tiang Boon, an expert on US-China relations from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

“Even though they are pushing the America First policy, they still maintain their alliance and relationship. But in terms of the way of communicating, that is certainly very different. And I think a lot of it is about domestic politics.”

One day before Trump delivered his speech, Europe sounded its willingness to cooperate with Iran and was devising ways around US, Chinese state media was whipping up popular sentiment to fight the trade war Trump started, and the US administration was about to miss the deadline for a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Trump’s game at the UN Assembly hall was not very different from his game during the electoral campaign; it is all about humiliation and name-calling and ongoing lies (according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker list,  since assuming office and before the start of summer, President Donald Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims).

Source: Al-Ahed News

America Hits China in Order to Frighten Russia

America Hits China in Order to Frighten Russia

September 26, 2018

By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
cross posted with http://www.stalkerzone.org/rostislav-ishchenko-america-hits-china-in-order-to-frighten-russia/
source: https://ukraina.ru/exclusive/20180925/1021237227.html

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The Americans introduced a new package of anti-Chinese sanctions. It is interesting that this time the actions of Washington aren’t connected to the economy in any way, but bear an exclusively military-political charge…

The Central Military Commission of China was hit because of its purchase of 10 Russian Su-35 and equipment for surface-to-air S-400 missiles. Or more precisely, China was allegedly hit — a number of its average importance employees are now forbidden from granting American export licenses, performing currency transactions in American jurisdiction, and the US can also arrest their property and freeze their accounts in its territory.

It’s possible to call these sanctions ridiculous. It is clear that all of this is already forbidden for the corresponding officials within the framework of Chinese legislation. In comparison with the introduction of prohibitive duties on Chinese goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars exported to the US, this isn’t even a mosquito bite. It’s simply nothing. But there is a nuance. Washington stressed that the final addressee of the sanctions is Russia, which allegedly interferes with the American elections, behaves badly in the East of Ukraine, and in general prevents America from living worldwide.

I think that the US thus reacted not to the specific purchase by China of Russian military equipment, but to the general strengthening of military-political cooperation between Russia and China.

Two years ago, when Xi Jinping suggested to Russia to seal a military-political union between the countries in the form of a binding contract, I already happened to write that in the present conditions it is unprofitable to Russia to sign documents of this sort. This would not just make Russian foreign policy dependent on the decisions made in Beijing, but would also allow China to behave much more rigidly towards the US thanks to the coercive reorientation of Russian activity in the Far East. But in the European theater the level of China’s support for Russia wouldn’t grow. Unlike Russia, China isn’t present there territorially, i.e., a direct threat doesn’t come to it from Europe, but in the Pacific theater of military operations Beijing needs to concentrate practically all its resources against the US, and preferably also the maximum amount of Russian resources too.

But I wrote that the non-formalisation of relations in the form of a binding contract doesn’t mean the absence of a Russian-Chinese military-political union in practice. It exists. It acts. It is directed against the US, like against a general threat. But at the same time, at every separate moment Moscow and Beijing make a decision about the level of support for each other in a specific region, proceeding from the general geopolitical situation.

Obviously, for some time Washington amused itself with the same illusions found among Russian SOS-patriots [members of Russian society who have a habit of reacting over-emotionally to news concerning foreign policy matters – ed], who for some reason consider that if a specific paper isn’t signed, then it is impossible to establish cooperation in any way. The statements and actions of both the administration of Obama (in the latter years of his reign) and Trump testifies that the US hopes to divide Russia and China and fight against them separately — against Russia on the European battlefield, and against China in the Pacific battlefield. It would give America the chance to manoeuvre with resources, throwing them against the main, at the current moment, opponent.

These hopes were surprising even earlier. Perhaps the Americans overestimated the efficiency of the anti-Chinese propaganda organised by them in the Russian media and expert community, intimidating Russians by talking about the “Chinese occupation” of Siberia and the Far East. By the way, the Americans tried to unleash similar anti-Russian propaganda in China with the help of local expert circles. But, anyway, they definitively vanished when Russia once again asymmetrically responded to the American intrigues that lead towards an increase in tensions in Syria and in Ukraine, and also to attempts to block Russian-German (and more widely – Russian-European) energy cooperation.

Moscow staged large-scale drills in the Far East (“Vostok-2018”), having involved in total over 300,000 people (a third of the combat structure of the army). Russia earlier showed its possibilities for operative manoeuvres via forces and means and for the creation, in the shortest possible time, of shock groups in any strategic directions. But such a number of troops have never been involved in exercises of this sort before. Russia extremely transparently showed to Washington that it is capable in only a few days of gathering in the Far East a group of troops of any number and structure, and also to provide military operations during an unlimited period of time.

The participation of a Chinese contingent in the exercises unambiguously showed who this military activity was aimed at. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that for the creation and provision of a two-three times smaller group (on the territories of ally states, with developed in advance infrastructure) Washington usually needs from two months to half a year. I.e., in the event of a joint Russian-Chinese military action in the region, the US will be able to react (without the use of the strategic nuclear weapons) only when it will have already ended.

https://i1.wp.com/www.stalkerzone.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/1021237633.jpg?resize=600%2C340

Meanwhile, in the 90’s and in the beginning of the 2000’s the US ensured their military-political domination in the world precisely thanks to the ability to quickly create in any region of the planet a grouping capable, by means of conventional arms, of suppressing any opponent in the zone of responsibility. Back then Russia was able to defend its territory only because an attack on Russia meant the beginning of nuclear war, but it couldn’t effectively resist the US outside its own borders, which the Americans actively exploited.

During the “Vostok-2018” exercises it was convincingly shown to America that in this region its former advantage had disappeared. It can’t effectively resist joint Russian-Chinese military activity. At the same time, the US has no reason to opt for a nuclear confrontation, because their territory is reliably protected from non-nuclear military action by the ocean, where (for now) the American fleet dominates.

In fact, the military-political squeezing of the US out of Southeast Asia has started, like how earlier Russia started to squeeze Washington out of the Middle East during the Syrian campaign. The concept “Big Eurasia”, besides the earlier inherent in it economic outlines, obtained a concrete military-political form. The sharp breakthrough in inter-Korean dialogue, which took place practically on the terms of Pyongyang, is the best confirmation of this.

Already in the spring of this year the US, relying on its South Korean ally, threatened the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with military aggression. Back then China took a hard line, having notified Washington that if the Americans will strike the first blow, then Beijing will give Northern Korea military support. Russia expressed itself more flexibly, having called for the parties to hold dialogue and having put its troops in the region on full combat readiness. Nobody doubted whose side Moscow would be on in the event of a military conflict. By the way, the dialogue that took place soon after between Trump and Kim Jong-un was regarded in the world as a victory for Pyongyang, and thus its allies too.

And after less than half a year had passed since those events, the Republic of Korea, looking at its northern neighbor through the crosshairs and preparing for war, reaches unprecedented agreements on political and economic interaction with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; the exchange of visits starts, during which sincere friendliness and full mutual understanding is shown. But inter-Korean dialogue and peace between two Koreas means for the US the loss of the South Korean bridgehead. And after having lost military-political influence over Seoul, Washington will also lose economic influence. And this is seen in all Southeast Asia. This is a catastrophe.

For the Russians who got used to a Euro-centric policy, events in the Far East aren’t so obvious, but their geopolitical meaning is huge. The loss of control over Southeast Asia makes for the US any attempts to remain in Europe and in the Middle East senseless. They simply can’t be insured with resources (neither military-politically, nor economically).

That’s why Washington is nervous and sends signals of its discontent with the developing Russian-Chinese military cooperation, which unexpectedly for the US, without any written contracts, came to the level of close interaction that has destroyed the American military-political control over Southeast Asia that took decades to build.

Yes, these signals aren’t convincing. But the US already used everything serious that they could use in the sphere of the economy against Russia in 2014-2015, when Obama was sure that he had torn the Russian economy to pieces. And the Trump administration already involved all available sanctions mechanisms against China. Anyway, it is impossible to introduce duties that are greater than the volume of Chinese export, but the US has already come close to this threshold.

Of course, the Chinese economy is more vulnerable to American attacks than the Russian one. Beijing, unlike Moscow, wasn’t engaged during 15 years in the concealed reorganisation of its economy and the creation even not of import-substituting enterprises, but of whole spheres. Those several years that were lacking for full strategic self-sufficiency, due to the ahead of schedule eruption of the Ukrainian crisis, were made up in 2014-2016. Now Russia is capable not only of standing on its feet, but also of supporting China.

Without the severance of the Russian-Chinese union – unwritten, but no less strong and effective as a result – Washington isn’t able to reach any of its strategic objectives, neither in Trump’s concept, nor in Clinton/Obama’s concept. The only thing that the US is capable of doing, which they obviously lead affairs towards, is to set fire to some more regions and to try to additionally foment already existing conflicts in order to leave behind only ruins for the winners, like the retreating Germans did in 1943-1945.

But the concept of scorched earth didn’t save the Reich, and it won’t save the US either. It will simply cause additional damage to America’s allies, who are being scorched just to spite Russia. And this means that those from them who still can break free from the leash will flee from Washington en masse. After all, they have no place to hide except under the Russian-Chinese umbrella. There is no force in the world anymore that would throw down to the US a military-political and economic challenge and would force Washington to retreat on all fronts, including the internal one – where, as the Americans try to assure, Russia elects presidents for them.

 

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