Former ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, much in the vein of Dubowitz and Shapiro, advises via email that the administration should “1) make clear that the whole world is watching and will judge the regime by how it responds to peaceful protesters and 2) harness via overt and perhaps covert means print, radio, TV, and social media to highlight the costs of Iran’s cronyism, corruption, economic misrule and foreign adventurism — all the subject of protest slogans raised by the demonstrators, and 3) as part of this effort targeted sanctions against regime figures, particularly IRGC who profit at the people’s expense.” As to the last item, he explains, “The U.S. was very good at this kind of political warfare in the Cold War but we have shown much less ability to wage this kind of struggle since it ended. If ever there were a time to repair that deficiency — this is it.”
The Navy’s new Strategic Readiness Review lays out a bold program to fix the fleet after a summer of deadly collisions. Commissioned and championed by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, the SSR (as it’s already initialized) will shape the debate in the Pentagon and in Congress for 2018. So we asked submariner-turned-thinktanker Bryan Clark to review the review. Clark, now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, found much to praise, but he had some misgivings. While the review does an excellent job explaining the stress on the Navy and proposing a new “learning organization” to prevent future fatal mishaps, he told us, it assumes away some serious strategic problems and is short on hard data. Clark’s five-point analysis follows. Read on! The Editor.
When the continuing resolution currently funding the government runs out at midnight on Dec. 22, the Pentagon will have spent 1,096 days under continuing resolutions since 2011— more than three full years. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said the Navy alone has “put $4 billion in a trash can, poured lighter fluid on it, and burned it,” since 2011 due to the routine use of continuing resolutions instead of real full-year spending bills — and this eye-popping figure is likely an underestimate. Legislative gridlock has left the Pentagon struggling under the latest of repeated short-term continuing resolutions, stuck planning and executing programs in inefficient short-term chunks.
The new National Security Strategy talks tough — but here are the options the United States actually has, and the pros and cons of each.
The Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy is remarkably critical of China, warning that its “efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability.” Yet even as U.S. leaders have championed a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” they have yet to explain how this approach will apply to and be implemented in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the situation there has reached a critical stage as Chinese advances accumulate, America’s room for maneuver diminishes, and observers throughout the region wonder whether the United States is up to the challenge.
Thomas Mahnken of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments warned:
[W]e find ourselves today once again in a period of great-power competition with an increasing possibility of great-power war. It is the most consequential threat that we face, and failure to deter and prepare adequately for it would have dire consequences for the United States, our allies, and the global order. Because of that, I believe that preparing for great-power competition and conflict should have the highest priority.
"For years we've had a strategy that says we'll do A, B and C, but only the funding available to do A. And we never made the strategy and the resources line up together," said Jacob Cohn of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.