Eric Edelman, who was the Pentagon’s top policy official during the George W. Bush administration, said one way would be to continue using U.S. special operations forces and air power to advise and back up the same Kurdish and Arab militias alongside which they’re already fighting — only now with an aim toward empowering them against attacks from Iranian-backed forces. “You have to have your own forces there behind them so they have leverage in any political negotiation,” he said.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimated that total costs for the two payloads and four geo satellites, plus ground support, come to approximately $13.6 billion. Each satellite with spares and accessories is estimated to cost $1.7 billion. The Pentagon requested $1.3 billion in 2018 for SBIRS — $862 million more than was appropriated in 2017.
When we talk about gray zone coercion, or gray zone aggression, we are talking about coercion that is more intense than run-of-the-mill diplomacy but less explicit and overt than a full-on military conflict. Gray zone aggressors tend to be revisionist powers; they are actors with some grievance about the current international system. But they don't wish to pay the costs of overt aggression and full-on war, whether those costs are economic sanctions, confrontation with the U.S. alliance system, or others. And so they pursue coercion in a low-key, calibrated way. A good example is Chinese island building and expansionism in the South China Sea. China is using its power in an assertive fashion to bend the regional order to its liking, by using tools ranging from fishing boats to its maritime militia to economic coercion of its neighbors. But it is remaining well below the threshold of open war.
A Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study released last year (and summarized in War on the Rocks) entitled Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy showed conclusively, that a navy the size of that advocated by the president in his campaign (350 ships) is warranted only if the Navy returns to Europe in force, with routine presence in both the Mediterranean and the approaches to Northern Europe. This document would have been a useful place to lay the groundwork for that return.
As Hal Brands has outlined, “America’s traditional allies are in decline” and “new connections, relationships, and partnerships to reflect the changing distribution of global power” are needed to meet evolving challenges.
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.”