Saturday, December 10, 2016

Future Guiding Principles for US Policy???

Have at it gentlemen.   Knock some holes in this strawman.  What has been left out?  What should have been left out?  What needs more explanation?  Is it unsound to not specifically mention Iran, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Israel, et al?    Non-proliferation?   Don't be shy, I have thick skin.

1] For any offensive military operations the president should explain clearly the threat to our national security, specific objectives, and the desired end result.

2] Preserve and exercise the right of self-defense.

3] Commit to strategic superiority in nukes, space, cyber, and technology.

4] Honor treaty commitments but not for the elective wars of our allies.

5] Clarify relationship with the many recent  members of NATO that are protectorates in reality rather than true allies.

6] Clarify commitments to non-treaty allies.

7] Act vigorously against terrorism, but only that terrorism which is international in nature and a direct threat to our national security.

8] Seek cordial but non-conciliatory relationships with China and Russia.

9] Improve cyber security.

10] Maintain border security.


  1. If that is your platform, I will vote for you and be glad to do it!

  2. 1) Unnecessarily gives away what should be secret if the context is a defensive war. Offensive war shouldn't be, period. You're trying to optimise bad actions.

    2) Sounds trivial, but is actually a bad idea. Not every provocation needs to be answered by "self-defense", particularly not by a country whose people have a terribly inflated idea of what the word "defense" means.

    3.1) Superiority in nukes is pointless. You achieve nuclear deterrence at a certain level, and anything beyond that is idiotic waste of resources.

    3.2) Superiority in space is not necessary for "defense". To be able to deny aggressors a superior exploitation of space might make sense, but this could be pulled off without having anything in space - simply kill, blind or jam those satellites from the ground.

    3.3) Cyber superiority is bullshit. The U.S. has ~340 million people. It's going to be inferior in 'cyber' to the rest of the world, period. To set high ambitions for "cyber" in a military context equals shoving more taxpayer money into a bureaucracy that's making most inefficient use of the same.

    3.4) Technology superiority is expensive, its pursuit leads to overly ambitious failure programs and in the end you can make do without having technological superiority in anything if you do doctrine and training well.

    4) There are no treaty commitments of that kind anyway. Besides, to honor the commitments of the North Atlantic Treaty/Washington Treaty means that not a single bit of cruise missile diplomacy is allowed to happen any more. Americans usually have no clue what their treaty obligations are.

    5) That would be Iceland. They have less than 400,000 people. You want them to raise a militia or what? If you talk about alliance members potentially coming to help the U.S. if it's under attack, that would be UK, Japan, Australia, France, Canada mostly - naval powers and countries with World War experience in sending troops to allies on different continents.

    6) There's no such thing as a "non-treaty ally", for that's a misnomer.

    7) I suppose you mean some distant tyrant shouting "terrorists" at his local Salafist opposition doesn't deserve American aid in GWOT any more?

    8) That's what you've got, why and how seek what you have?

    9) The government isn't going to do this. IT security companies do this. Try not to impose backdoors on all major American software products for exploitation by the NSA. THAT would enhance 'cyber security'.

    10) Pretty much what's being done now. Didn't you notice the extreme investment in border security and the inflation of border agent qty over the last 15 years?

    Overall I think your list didn't match the ambition with the same level of diligence regarding research or originality of thought. It sounds like a quick note by someone who's only mildly disaffected with ambition, failures and seeming generosity of U.S. foreign policy.

  3. Committing to "strategic superiority" in anything is a "strategic mistake" as it will likely lock you into a arms race.

    And for Sven: another term for "non-treaty ally" is Israel.

  4. Ael -

    Good point on getting locked into an arms race.

  5. Sven and Ael -

    Non-treaty allies of the US include many others besides Israel. These are not formal treaties blessed by the US Senate. There may or may not be mutual defense pacts. The term used for Israel and 15 others is 'Major non-NATO ally'. I believe there needs to be a great deal of clarification on what is expected by both sides. There have been attempts to add more countries to this group including the Ukraine, the Saudis, and the Gulfies. I do not think that will happen. But at least two of the Gulfies, Bahrein and Kuwait are already major non-NATO allies since 2002 and 2004 respectively.

    Plus there is the military help to Iraq by the US and many other countries done without formal alliances. Aren't we already supporting the Saudis militarily in Yemen - I know not? Then there are other agreements with non-state actors such as the Kurdish KRG and PYD that need better definition. And perhaps soon, after January 21st, an 'End-of-NATO-Twitter-Storm' would start. That might engender a scramble for a whole new round of informal treaties.

    1. Mike, the USA is a vassal to both Israel and the Gulfies, this negates the term alliance. As for the former, there is no reciprocity in a military sense, unless you suggest that reciprocity means we give (more and more), and they receive, this a country that did not suffer any downturns in their economy in the 2008-2009 recession/depression. The Izzies, however, give some of the given funds to bribe US decision that is a real alliance. As they used to say in the Ancient Regime of the green Frog Force ..... They got street signs named after them, ONE WAY.

    2. Hey Eddie! You are right on. They bribe us with our own money. Everybody knows that is going on, so why are we so stupid to let it happen? We need term limits for them congress critters. Orrrr, maybe bribe limits, once they reach the threshhold they are forced to retire to K street.

      PS - Did you ever tap into to a B-day Ball or get together. I scored some Jarhead Red wine at my gathering.

  6. Sven -

    Iceland? I think their role is critical to NATO due to their geographic location. They may not have a standing army but why would they need it. They do have a militarized Coast Guard. Denmark is critical also because of Greenland and the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-UK) gap which channelizes naval forces especially submarines. It is, after all, an 'Atlantic' alliance. I would not designate either of those countries as NATO 'protectorates'.

    I was thinking more of Luxembourg, Slovenia, Albania, perhaps Slovakia although I understand their Special Forces did good work in Afghanistan. Maybe the three Baltics? What is your opinion on them? Would they provide just as much of a buffer to Germany and the west as neutrals instead of NATO stalwarts?

  7. Sven -

    Regarding your point on #1. Offense I believe I stated, not for defensive actions. But no give-away of secret strategies in any case. As for optimizing bad actions: we are already doing that. The intent here was to put a halt to offensive actions unless specifically blessed by Congress, which is something we have not had for 70 years.

    1. War of aggression is illegal for the United States. Every offensive military action that's not part of defense against an ACTUAL aggression and not authorised by the UNSC is illegal. That's due to the North Atlantic Treaty, which by the constitution of the United States is supreme law of the land in the U.S.A.

      So essential you described what you think protocol should be for a illegal activity of your government. There should be no such protocol because the government should stick to legal actions.

  8. Sven -

    On your point #2. Defense from attack is a right embedded in the UN charter for every country. There is no intent (in my case anyway, I won;t speak for the Trumpster) to respond with massive and unending kinetic means against trivial provocations. If fired upon, you fire back. Anything further needs Congressional approval. Probably needs more legalese in my statement but was trying to avoid that to keep it simple and straightforward.

    1. It was a trivial point that was worded so poorly it could be misused greatly.

  9. Sven -

    3.1 There is more to nukes than just warheads.

    3.2 Not necessarily 'in space', although most modern military forces would be helpless without space assets. Your earthbound space offense has been part of doctrine for many years, but needs improvement. It is fairly easy in many cases. But if we can do it so can others, so defense is crucial. And in some orbits killing, blinding or jamming satellites from the ground is an order of magnitude more difficult.

    3.3 I think we disagree. Cyber war both offensive and defensive is critical now and will be even more critical in the future. Not sure I follow your reasoning on 340 mil population? I was not insinuating the government should provide cyber security for our bank accounts. China has that fourfold, Russia has about half that, and Europe twice that. So?

    3.4 Good point on doctrine and training.

    1. 3.1 Warheads or not, to strive for superiority in nuclear deterrence is idiotic. There's a threshold that should be reached as long as it seems necessary, anything beyond is waste of public funds.

      3.2 Still no reason to strive for superiority in space. It's irrelevant whether you have more comm bandwidth, more navigation satellites, more photo and radar satellites. There's a certain threshold of how much you can make good use of, and more is simply waste of public funds. The qty of Russian satellites is no input factor for the right amount of U.S. satellites.
      The whole "superiority" thinking is inappropriate here.
      3.3 So once again, superiority thinking is pointless, and overly ambitious. It will lead to waste of public funds.
      Governments suck at defense against 'cyber' attacks. Pretty much the only thing that works for them is to disconnect themselves.
      There's no need for superiority in offensive 'cyber' ops. The targeted government will simply disconnect if your offense is superior to their defense.

  10. Sven -

    re your point #4: Libya is a case in point. That was a Euro inspired war that America, like a trained dog, went along with. Never should have happened.

    1. The intervention over Libya was in no way related to treaty obligations. It was a great power game that the U.S. played voluntarily. You implied that the U.S. was drawn into wars of choice because of alliance commitments. No such thing happened, ever.

    2. Sven -

      The fact is that the Euros wanted Qaddafi out. We were fools to go along with it.

  11. Sven -

    re your point #8: We do have diplomatic relations with Russia and China, but I would not classify our relationship with them as cordial. The non-conciliatory part of my original was aimed towards our President-elect and the future.

    1. So what's the point? Shall State Dept. achieve through diplomacy magic that Russia never does anything that the U.S. doesn't want to happen? Even some NATO allies aren't like that.

      There's hardly any more achievable regarding diplomacy with Russia save for another nuke reduction treaty.

  12. Sven -

    re your #9: Again, I am speaking of and domains, and legislate (or loan) security tools for utilities, banks, critical industries.

    Good point on the backdoors.

    1. Governments really suck at providing such security.
      It makes more sense to manipulate the legislative environment to incentivise the business leaders to pay attention to such security. Like, make them personally liable for damage caused if security was weaker than affordable (and outlaw insurance coverage for this liability).

      It's a fashion to pretend that intelligence services and military bureaucracies should stand up large governmental defences against foreign 'cyber' threats. That's bollocks. Such agencies have been founded, and even in first draft they already had more employees planned than Kaspersky has. The inefficiency and incompetence of such agencies is incredible. Waste of money, thrown into the throat of self-serving bureaucrats.

    2. I like your incentivisation and liability themes. Not sure you could enforce 'personal laibility' and ban insurance coverage in the courts here. Why ban insurance? The Actuarials would have experts to assess risk and ensure the company pays through the nose appropriately. Stockholders would crucify any CEO that caused them financial loss.

    3. No, stockholders usually give up their right to sue the CEO every year on the main assembly. The CEOs get away if only they hide (for a while) what they did.
      Stockholders could at most fire the CEO, but by that time he or she is filthy rich and will stay so. Nothing like a lifetime liability.

      To allow insurances on management misbehaviour means to externalise the costs of it. An insurance in this field has terrible moral hazard issues, including moral hazard at selection of top management.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Regardless of any moral concern, banning insurance coverage would not pass the courts here. The only way to pin the tail on the donkey in this case is to make it a felony. But as FDChief has said so eloquently elsewhere in this comment thread, there no way the right wing is going to start jailing a CEO. But they would have no such compunction about jailing low level IT employees who carry out that CEO's cost-cutting policy.

  13. Sven -

    re your #10: Yes, it is pretty much what is done now. That is why I used the term 'maintain' and not 'improve'. Trump's mythical wall will not work IMHO.

    1. I read that about 30% or new illegal immigrants arrived with visa. Border security as a whole gets circumvented.

      Some right winger pages claimed that (re-?)introducing a mandatory check for employers when they hire someone coupled with same check for all forms of welfare would lead to self-deportation of millions.
      Maybe, maybe not - but border security is neither the answer to unwanted immigration nor to drug smuggling. It's counter-intuitive, but also quite evident.

    2. The wingnuts are stoolies for "employers"; they will not act - hell, they won't even THINK - against the interests of the "job creators". AND they like their lawns mowed and pools cleaned for less-than-a-living-wage and until they succeed in wrecking the New Deal they can't get that from non-undocumented-immigrants.

      So despite what they CLAIM...that won't happen. (Oh, and if by some bizarre magic they DO it would cost billions that they won't raise taxes to pay for.)

  14. I'd argue with you on your #7 "terrorism", mike.

    The bottom line is that "terrorism" is a semantic construct. "Terrorism" may be a guerrilla war, a rebellion, pure criminality, or any number of other things. "Terrorism" is simply violence outside the context of "war".

    The United States has NO national interest in committing blood or treasure to fighting "terrorism" in any sense, outside of larger geopolitical concerns. It has national interests, some of which may be threatened by a state, or a group, using terroristic methods. If so, then if it is in the interests of the U.S. to commit resources, military or otherwise, to defeat or deter that state or that group then the U.S. should do so.

    But IMO we REALLY need to get the fuck over this obsession with "terrorism". "Terrorism" is just a form of violence. If that violence is a genuine threat to US interests it may need to be countered as a threat, not as "terrorism".

    1. It would help to have a concise, narrow and nationwide binding definition of "terrorism" that excludes all ordinary acts of warfare, even excluding GC violations.

    2. Meh. Maybe. But I'd rather simply get over this bizarre obsession with a tactic and start thinking more like a Great Power; I'd settle for a concise, relatively narrow, and nationwide binding assessment on "what are the US' "national interests". I think, honestly, that would be harder to do but more valuable to this country's political health.

  15. And re #10...

    I would posit that the US and Latin America are in a historically unique position. I cannot think of a similar coupling of an extremely wealthy, developed nation with an immense land border with a relatively impoverished, underdeveloped group of nations, at least, not one that wasn't at war with them.

    While the US may be able to "control" immigration in some sense, I am unsure how much "control" it can exert.

    1. South Africa/Mozambique. South Korea/North Korea. PR China/North Korea.
      Spain/Morocco (though that land border is not "immense", but Mexico ain't a "group of nations" either).

    2. The only one of these that I'd buy is Spain and Morocco, and that's pretty weak because, as you say, the land border is relatively tiny.

      South Africa was effectively at war with Mozambique through much of the apartheid regime, and now is much less wealthy than the US compared to the US' southern neighbors. And the Nork borders? Seriously?

      Mexico's southern border security is such that it serves as little more than a sieve through which anyone with the gumption to head towards El Norte can pass. So you can't - unless you're a moron or Donald Trump but I repeat myself - simply conflate the US-Mexico border with Mexico. What happens in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua...all that has a strong possibility to pass through to the United States through the US' southern border...

    3. Actually, the PRC has quite an issue with illegal immigration from NK.

      GPD/capita in PPP
      USA 57,220
      Mexico 18,857
      South Africa 13,321
      Mozambique 1,327

      The contrast is x3 and x10. A tenth of U.S. GDP per capita in PPP - that's rather a West African level of economy than Latin American.
      Mexico is actually not THAT poor. Serbia is much poorer, for example.

    4. The problem with Mexico is that you're taking the "per capita" GDP and assuming that the distribution of that wealth is similar to a developed nation. But Mexico shares the problem of many developING nations in that its' wealth is extremely poorly distributed.

      The other problem with comparing Mexico and Serbia is that Mexico shares a border with the much-wealthier US that already has a significant Spanish-speaking population that makes integrating into the wealthier nation much, much simpler than a refugee Serb could - assuming that he or she could make it through Hungary into Austria or through Croatia and Slovenia into Italy - domicile in Italy or Austria. Not saying that the Serb couldn't do it, but unless the Serbian refugee minority in Milan or Vienna is fairly substantial already I don't see how it's as relatively possible as going from Chiapas to Los Angeles...

    5. Gini coefficients
      USA: 40.8
      Mozambique 45.7
      Mexico 48.2
      South Africa 63.1

      It's not so much that Mexico is extraordinarily unfair, but rather South Africa. Yet immigrants could expect little but being lower class in either pairing.

      Long story short; the U.S. isn't unique in its problem of facing unwanted immigration from poorer countries, and given that many of them arrive legally it's not even about borders.

    6. FDChief -

      Good luck with that weaning job. That tarbaby is going to be latched on to our national nipple for decades or more.

    7. Sigh. Yep, I hear ya. Frustrating as hell...

  16. I also wrote a whole big 'ol post about the issue of border control and immigration over at the other joint:

  17. I just noticed/remembered that I did something similar back in 2011, kinda rules for German security policy:

    Back then I still wrote "security policy", nowadays I prefer "defence policy" because "security policy" has been inflated to include great power games.

  18. FDChief -

    I just noticed your Santa Clara & Yaguajay post at GFT. I was hoping you would post that here also. Didn't mean to step on you. When I posted this Saturday you still had an old post up over there. Haven't had a chance to read it yet. Tonight maybe. Again, I hope you will cross-post it.

    re your remark on terrorism: True, but the word is now embedded in America's psyche. Any attempt to ignore the word itself invites the wrath of the Harpies. Perhaps my point #7 would be better stated as "Act vigorously to stop terrorist attacks on our country and Americans abroad."

    re border security: I have no beef against immigration from El Sur. I have a great grandson whose ancestors came from there. In my point #10 I deliberately used the word 'maintain' in the sense of 'continue with what we are doing now'. I am not advocating anything draconian. On the other hand, I do not believe we (or any other country) should have completely open borders.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I understand where you're coming from, but "We believe something idiotic" is not really a good reason to keep believing something idiotic. I don't know how, but the U.S. public has GOT to be weaned off the terrorism tit. "Terrorism" in places that are not vital to U.S. interests just isn't a U.S. problem nor should it be, anymore than things like dictatorships or genocide "have to be" U.S. problems. That's brutally cold-blooded, but that's geopolitics; nations don't have "friends" or "enemies", they have interests, and they need to clearly define those interests and then act in ways that support them.

      Getting our panties in a knot every time Pam Fucking Gellar shrieks "Islamic terrorism!!!!" is a fucking stupid way to make national policy.

      Largely because the bottom line on "terrorism" is that "acting vigorously" is often extremely counterproductive to actually doing valuable work to suppress the sort of political pressures that produce terrorist-type violence. If we haven't learned this over the past 15 years - that "more rubble" often equals MORE trouble - then we need to start, and fast. "Terrorism" is usually rooted in social, political, economic, or racial problems (and combined with good old fashioned rapacity and criminality). You can't smash those with drones, or tanks, or by funding crudely brutal local secret police. You need tremendously good local intelligence, often if not exclusively HUMINT (which our intelligence agencies typically have not been good at...), outstanding analyses, also informed by deep, thoughtful understanding of local conditions, and then a well-disciplined, tightly-controlled use of force biologically interconnected with social, economic, and political maneuvers to take down a offshore "terror" organization.

      The chances of the U.S. doing that are about the same as my being elected Dragon King of Bhutan. So the BEST option is to get over this goddamn terrorist obsession ASAP and get back to doing geopolitics like a sensible Great Power.

    3. If you go read the post I linked to you'll see what I advocate is a significant change in our policies to our southern-tier neighbors. One change that would be greatly in our national interest would be an increase in wealth and a decrease in inequality in those neighbors. Things like putting the kibosh on the damn Drug War would help. Reducing the number of goddamn weapons here (that will inevitably end up there) would help.

      Working with the peoples of Guatemala and Mexico and El Salvador to increase things like unionization and wages and reducing corruption would help.

      The bottom line is that so long as the U.S. is wealthy and stable and (relatively) safe and Latin America is poor and fractious and dangerous the U.S. and Latin America will have problems with mass migration.

    4. I don't think I'll cross-post. I will put up a link to it here, tho, in case anyone's interested.

  19. Sven -

    I hope to soon read that past post of yours you mentioned.