UNDERSTANDING CLASSICAL GEOPOLITICS: GEOGRAPHY; HISTORY AND STRATEGY

June 11, 2017

Professor Geoffrey Sloan of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Reading, UK, is a leading British geopolitical theorist. In 1988 he published one of the best books available on United States strategic policy: “Geopolitics in United States Strategic Policy 1890-1987”.

Using the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan and the less known American General Homer Lea Sloan in this path-breaking book offered important insights into US strategic policy since 1890. Mahan had examined the relation between the action of a navy concerning political control of the sea and the effect a powerful navy had on foreign policy. From this he predicted the role that a powerful navy could have on the foreign policy of the United States. Homer Lea formulated laws from which political aims and objectives to a certain degree could be deduced.

In the first law Lea maintained that the security of an insular power was not measured in number of warships. Instead it was the ability to control the coasts around which it is situated. Preventing the superiority of any state on the external shores of the sea in which it is located was an important part of the second law. That a continental state with access to the sea would eventually become a more powerful maritime power than the insular sea-power was the third law. Importantly Lea drew attention to the problems American policymakers would face if attempting political expansion in the Pacific Ocean.

30 years later Professor Sloan is now back with an excellent new book which will likely remain central to all future analysis of classical geopolitics, “Geopolitics, Geography and Strategic History” (Routledge, 2017). It is published in the Geopolitical Theory Series which revisits the classical geopolitical theories of the twentieth century. In the most important section of the book the author presents a Trinitarian perspective on geopolitics. It is a science that draws from three different academic disciplines: geography, strategic studies and history.

Most important of these, as seen by this reviewer, is geography. Other modern geopolitical theorists have claimed that geography has shaped the world of today. It will in the future continue to shape the world in the midst of enormous changes. To illustrate the importance of geography and maps Sloan quotes John Hillen, former US assistant Secretary of State (2005-2007), who offers a corrective to the existing cacophony of sentiments, assumptions and utopian fixes of all worldviews in present strategic commentary:

“The answer should be the map – literally, the physical map, and more broadly, geopolitics classically defined, which of course has political geography at its root…Of course, the map doesn’t spit out easy answers…but geopolitical realities – can point one in a very sound direction.”

Sloan describes strategic studies as an examination of interaction between or among adversaries, engaging in conflict, potential or realized. It very often is focusing on stratagems for attaining victory. Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” (around 400 BC) is mentioned and it is noted that surprise, deception and propaganda are most essential processes.

On history Sloan is less clear when it comes to the relation to geopolitics. He believes history could be a guide enabling an observer to describe and analyse conflicts in the past or break out in the present. It could also possibly predict future conflicts and how to find resolutions to end them. Unfortunately he is not delving in detail on the use of history in geopolitics. It had been interesting to learn more about his views on macro-history and its leading scholars such as Arnold Toynbee and Oswald Spengler.

Robert D. Kaplan in one of his latest books on geopolitics claims that he is on “dangerous ground in raising geography on a pedestal”. He quotes Isaiah Berlin’s admonition in “Historical Inevitability” (1953) who condemned it as “immoral and cowardly” to claim that vast impersonal forces like geography determined the direction of world politics. Kaplan, however, goes on to present Herodotus as a geopolitician before classical geopolitics of the twentieth century.

Sloan’s new book continues with an excellent presentation of the classical geopolitical theories of Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman and concludes that their message is vital to strategic policy. Political predominance is not only about having power in a material sense but also how the geographical structure is exercised within that power.

Adding to the weight of the book are five highly interesting case studies in geopolitics of which four are historical and one contemporary. Rightly Sloan in his review of geopolitics in the United States during the Second World War points to the fact that geopolitics, geography and geostrategy permeated wartime United States in a remarkable way. Contributing to this was the republication of Mackinder’s book “Democratic Ideals and Reality” in 1942. In 1944 Penguin books published a paperback edition of the same book. Mackinder now also published a new book, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace”. Here the British geopolitical theorist concluded that the Soviet Union was emerging from the Second World War to become a conqueror of Germany. As a result she would have to be ranked as the greatest land power on the globe. The Heartland is the greatest natural fortress on earth, so Mackinder. For the first time in history it is manned by a garrison sufficient both in number and quality. In this way Mackinder imagined the geopolitical structure of NATO.

Just three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Spykman at a joint session of the Association of American geographers and the American Political Science Association called for a complete change of policy. After the end of the war the rimland powers of Germany and Japan would have to become allies of the United States to counter Russian expansionism. Spykman’s wartime contribution was the book “America’s Strategy in World Politics”. In this work he drew attention to the impact of the Eurasian power balance on American security.

In the American military it was deemed necessary to educate soldiers in geography, geopolitics, world trade and the enemy’s social and political philosophy. General Ben Lear commanding the US 2nd Army was in the forefront organizing lectures and courses. There was a similar upsurge at American universities. In 1942 around 1,500 courses were given at the academic level. The concentration of geographers in Washington DC during the Second World War was unprecedented especially in the Office of Strategic Services, the War Department, the Foreign Economic Administration and the Department of State to mention a few.

Sloan’s case study of the geopolitics of China at the end of this new book is of great value. Too little has been written about China changing the geopolitical reality. Sloan mentions Andrew Small’s “The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics” of 2015 and Robert Kaplan’s “Monsoon” of 2010 as exceptions.

The Asian superpower has been busy settling border disputes with northern neighbours signing agreements with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It can now concentrate on the south and the east.

China is presently according to Sloan presenting a new geopolitical reality of the Eurasian continent as it is in the process of becoming “a continental oceanic country” It is in Mackinder’s words fusing “oceanic frontage to the resources of the great continent”. He also argued that China could build a new civilization that would be neither Eastern nor Western.

China is in the process of making the twenty-first century very different from the previous one. This view of China is of great geopolitical significance but there are other possible scenarios concerning this superpower. Internal pressures and inequalities can cause it to fragment and the central government losing much power. A process of fragmentation may cause the central government to choose an aggressive policy of expansion. A result of fragmentation could also be that China splits into regional states thereby losing geopolitical influence.

Sloan’s book is a major contribution to geopolitical literature in this century and should be in all major academic and public libraries.

DEFENDING THE WEST: SOFT POWER IS NOT ENOUGH

June 9, 2017

Washington Times on June 6, 2017, published a review of an important new book by Professor Eliot A. Cohen on the necessity of military force in strategic policy. ”The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force” (Basic Books, 2017) should be required reading for policy makers. Excerpts from Dan Negrea’s review below:

Professor Eliot A. Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University historian who served as an adviser in both the Defense and State Departments,…argues forcefully that strong American leadership is indispensable for peace and prosperity in the world, and relying on soft power alone to provide it is unrealistic.

Facts are stubborn, the reality of world conflicts is not pretty, and…leaders better be prepared to deal competently and unsentimentally with the tough decisions they must make.

The author’s overview of America’s adversaries starts with increasingly aggressive China, whose rapid economic and military rise he views as the most important international phenomenon of the 21st century. Still, China has many obstacles on the road to becoming a superpower and a weak strategic position because of its border disputes with every single one of its neighbors.

As for confronting al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorist organizations, Mr. Cohen asks for clarity of purpose: We need to state plainly that their ideology is rooted in Islam and that we are engaged in a generational war to eradicate them. But he also believes that their barbarism limits their appeal and will eventually halt their momentum.

A chapter titled “Dangerous States” Cohen treats…adversaries [like Russia] and Iran They are…authoritarian, willing to use force, and economically fragile. And their nuclear weapons or nuclear aspirations are central to their national defense…[They] have a “paranoid style” in politics, with their media filled with presumed plots by enemies both foreign and domestic.

…America’s military spending dwarfs that of its opponents. Since it represents today just 3 percent of our GDP (compared to 8 percent in the Reagan years), America’s strategic solvency is high. Its many alliances are a critical asset that give it “an extraordinary global logistical infrastructure.” And considering its powerful economy, positive demographics and robust political system, the odds are that America will prevail: “No other country, or collection of countries, has a better hand to play in international politics.”

…this is a book about difficult decisions imposed by unforgiving facts. Diplomacy has an important place in the tool kit of statecraft, even when it requires political compromises with “odious regimes.” So does soft power, which, Mr. Cohen argues, is not always gentle: Sanctions, for example, can deprive a country’s poor of food and medicine.

But when all else fails, our leaders must make politically difficult decisions involving hard power. Like increasing military spending to at least 4 percent. Or like stationing troops for many years in areas of potential conflict, which worked well in the past: Leaving American troops for decades in Germany and South Korea helped those two war-torn nations find their way to democracy and prosperity. In the interest of global stability, today’s American politicians must find the courage to station American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Poland and the Baltic states.

The ultimate hard power decisions, though, deal with going to war and even doing so preemptively. The most sobering passages of the book regard pre-emptive strikes, especially necessary if weapons of mass destruction fall into “utterly irresponsible hands.”

This is a lucid book about war by a man who loves peace…But he also knows that appeasing evil is not an option. Tragically, the world continues to add to what Churchill called the “dark and lamentable catalog of human crime.”

“The Big Stick” is a valuable resource for those trying to keep America’s flame of liberty burning bright in this stormy world.

Dan Negrea is a New York private equity investor.

KEEPING AMERICA SAFE AND STRONG

June 2, 2017

Washington Times on June 1, 2017 published a commentary by Wesley Pruden on President Trump’s abandoning of the Paris climate agreement. Excerpts below:

“As of today,” he said, “the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. We’re getting out but we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

This was exactly what the 196 signers needed to hear, and the president told them without heat, bombast or blather.

The president thus makes good on one of his most important campaign promises, mocking the holy writ of global warming, or “climate change” as it’s called now because the globe refuses to warm as promised and all the dead polar bears are still not dead and the ocean that was supposed to have inundated the financial district of lower Manhattan by now, [is still above water].

The president sounds like the reasonable one now. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris accord for an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.” He identified several sectors of the American economy that would lose jobs and paychecks if the United States stays in the accord — 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

This puts a large dent in Barack Obama’s legacy, about which he can’t stop talking.

“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” he said, trying to remember how to affect a presidential tone. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership, even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.” This was a stunning exercise in disrespect for the one president we currently have, and for the office as well. Pittsburgh and Peoria with a foreign policy.

Mr. Trump’s critics are eager now to play holier than thou — even the pope, who had said earlier that if Mr. Trump withdrew from Paris the Vatican would take it as “a slap in the face.” Leonardo DiCaprio was disappointed, too, because he had earlier urged Mr. Trump to “make the moral position.” Moral tutelage from the Vatican and Hollywood on the very same day. Religiosity reigns, if only for the day.

But back where it counts, the president’s decision won praise from Republicans in Congress. “I applaud President Trump and his administration for dealing with yet another blow to the Obama administration’s assault on domestic energy production and jobs.” Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment, observed that “the Paris climate agreement set unworkable targets that put America at a competitive disadvantage.”

Whatever new agreement President Trump can make will be a treaty, and must, as the Constitution makes clear, be ratified by the Senate. Barack Obama, the famous professor of constitutional law, wouldn’t do that because he knew that the Paris agreement would never have made it through the Senate..

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.

Comment:  The Paris climate agreement is an unequal treaty forcing the United States and other Western nations to pay for China’s heavy use of fossil fuels.  Conservatives in the United States have praised the president for his move.

Mike Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America: [Trump is “not succumbing to pressure from special interests and cosmopolitan elites.”

“Withdrawal from the agreement marks a critical step in unraveling former President Obama’s destructive legacy,” President Trump’s decision is a win for both his administration and the American people.”

 

The Club for Growth:  [Trump’s decision put] “American taxpayers and businesses back in the driver’s seat.”

“For far too long the Obama Administration allowed foreign governments and alarmist environmentalists to dictate, not only climate change policy, but worse our nation’s economic policy,” President Trump’s decision sends a strong message to the environmentalist movement: no longer will the United States be strongarmed by their scare tactics intended to harm our economy and inhibit economic growth.”

 

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute: [Trump is] “leading the world toward a brighter future.”

“The Paris Climate Agreement promises no measurable climate benefits at an incredible economic and political cost to Americans,” By getting out of the agreement, President Trump is leading the world toward a brighter future as low energy prices over the long-term will benefit consumers and energy-intensive industries.”

ISRAEL IS A MILITARY HIGH-TECH SUPERPOWER

May 24, 2017

Washington Times on May 9, 2017, published a review of a new book on Israel’s weapons industry, THE WEAPON WIZARDS: HOW ISRAEL BECAME A HIGH-TECH MILITARY SUPERPOWER by Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot, St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 304 pages. Excerpts below:

[The reviewer, Joshua Sinai, explains that] such advanced military technological capability is required because Israel is in a region undergoing an unprecedented and historic upheaval.” The authors of the book note that “this regional earthquake” has given birth to fierce enemies such as ISIS, a nuclear weapons-seeking Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah — its sophisticated ballistic rockets-capable proxy along the northern border. Along the southern border, there is the Palestinian Hamas, also armed with sophisticated rockets.

The authors begin their riveting account in the 1960s and 1970s — crucial periods in Israeli military technological innovation in response to its enemies’ threats — and then bring it forward to the current period.

What are the major weapons systems that have made Israel such a “world class” technological innovator? These include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs — also known as drones), which have innovated the way warfare is conducted. They are used in remote-control military missions as lethal weapons and surveillance aircraft (with Israel, according to the authors, becoming the “largest exporter of drones in the world, responsible for 60 percent of the global market”).

Another major weapons system is the advanced Tzayad (“hunter”) battle management screen system, which enables a tank’s unit “to see the locations of friendly and hostile forces.” This is complemented by the “Trophy” defense system on a tank that uses a miniature radar system to detect, intercept and explode incoming missiles against it, and then provide the tank crew with coordinates to immediately direct an attack against its enemy squad.

There is also the Iron Dome battery system, which uses advanced algorithms to predict an adversary rocket’s trajectory and intercept and explode it in mid-air. The Arrow, another significant anti-missile intercept system, which was jointly developed with the United States, can intercept an incoming missile at high altitudes and at supersonic speeds, such as the type of missile that Iran could potentially launch against Israel. David’s Sling, a third system, is currently being developed, the authors explain, “to intercept rockets that are too big for the Iron Dome but not big enough to be intercepted by the Arrow.”

Cyberwarfare is another area where Israeli military technology excels. With Iran attempting to develop a threatening nuclear capability, the authors describe how Israel’s Unit 8200 — the IDF equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) — led a project to develop an offensive cyberwarfare weapon, together with the Mossad, the country’s intelligence agency, and the American National Security Agency, which produced the Stuxnet virus.

… Israel has become “a global leader in cyber security, exporting more than $6 billion a year in cyber products, rivaling Israel’s annual defense exports.”

Israel has come up with a “new knowledge base” to identify where some of the [Hamas underground tunnel network] might be built, it is still likely working on a technological solution to identify and destroy them.

A final area of Israeli military technological innovation is in improving interoperability in warfare. This enables military units from different disciplines to work together by having pilots in the air and infantry soldiers on the ground coordinating their targeting in battle.

New technological equipment in warfare being developed by Israel identified by the authors include sending unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) into enemy territory before the advancing troops to prevent loss of life, and unmanned patrol ships, based on the design of speedboats, to surveil the maritime activities of adversaries.

“As a country that has fought one [war] every decade since its establishment and still has enemies along its borders who call for its destruction, Israel will always be prepared.

…many of Israel’s military technological innovations [are] employed by its American military counterparts (and with the U.S. military industry also involved in joint development programs)…this book [is] a welcome [information tool on Israel’s world class weapons industry].

Joshua Sinai is a senior analyst at Kiernan Group Holdings (KGH) in Alexandria, Va.

US POLICY CHANGE: IRAN BLOCKING PEACE IN THE MIDEAST

May 23, 2017

Washington Times on May 22, 2017, reported that President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Jerusalem that they see new opportunities for peace in the Middle East, based on a strategy of isolating Iran from other Muslim and Arab states in the region. Excerpts below:

At the end of Mr. Trump’s historic first day of meetings in Israel and visits to holy sites, the president said he’s optimistic about “a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace” to the region. But he told Israelis that the price of gaining Arab cooperation in defeating the broader threat of Islamist terrorism must be to reach a long-elusive peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“We must take advantage of the situation,” Mr. Trump said. “There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran.”

“I want you to know how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East,” Netanyahu told Mr. Trump. “Common dangers are turning former enemies into partners. That’s where we see something new and potentially something very promising.”

Mr. Trump also became the first sitting U.S. president to pray at the Western Wall…one of the holiest sites in Judaism. Wearing a yarmulke, he placed his right hand on the ancient stone wall, prayed and placed a small paper prayer note in a crevice, as is tradition.

He said later that he was “deeply moved” by the experience.

Mr. Trump arrived in Tel Aviv aboard Air Force One on what is believed to be the first direct flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to Israel, which do not have diplomatic relations.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said Mr. Trump has an opportunity to succeed where other presidents have failed.

“We have the opportunity to advance the peace discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters. “I think the president has indicated he’s willing to put his own personal efforts into this if the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership are ready to be serious about engaging, as well.”

He allegedly identified the Middle Eastern city where the report originated, which pointed to Israel as the source of the intelligence.

The bonding between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump, who held their initial meeting at the White House in February, seemed to deepen…around their mutual contempt for Iran and for the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Tehran in 2015. The Israeli leader praised Mr. Trump for expressing deep skepticism about the deal and for encouraging Arab states in the region to confront Tehran’s support of Islamist terrorism.

“I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran,” Mr. Netanyahu told the president. “I believe that together we can roll back Iran’s march of aggression and terror in this region and we can thwart Iran’s unbridled ambition to become a nuclear-weapons state.”

[The American president} said the goal of the U.S., Israel and Arab allies is to face “the threat of an Iranian regime that is causing so much violence and suffering.

Mr. Trump said Iran should be “grateful” to the U.S. for a nuclear deal that gave it a “lifeline.”

“We not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity. We also gave them an ability to continue with terror,” Mr. Trump said. “Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened. … it was a terrible, terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal. and believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon that I can tell you.”

He said he is “encouraged” that the Arab leaders he met with last weekend pledged cooperation to confront terrorism “and the hateful ideology that drives it so hard.”

“I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen — one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States, and greater prosperity to the world,” he told Mr. Netanyahu, thanking him for “working very hard at it.”

“It’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually, I hope,” Mr. Trump said.

Comment: From 2008 to 2016 allies and partners of the United States have lost confidence in the United States because Obama was unwilling to take firm action against Islamist terrorism. The new administration in Washington DC, by showing American leadership, has now opened a window of opportunity for defeating Middle East terrorism and extremism and possibly laying the groundwork for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The decision to work toward isolating Teheran is also a sound geopolitical move to oppose one of the main Rimland challengers of the West. Much remains to be done but the days of May 2017 is a hopeful beginning.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S SPEECH IN SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN’S GEOPOLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE IN THE RIMLAND

May 22, 2017

Iran is a grave threat not only to Western civilization but also to world peace. The country is a great power in the Middle East and the Rimland of Asia.

A significant part of the speech of President Trump in Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017, was devoted to Iran and its responsibility for much of the instability in the Middle East:

”From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations [present here today].

Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad Regime—launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.

Responsible nations must work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria, eradicate ISIS, and restore stability to the region. The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

To contain Iran is of geostrategic importance as it is a main power in the Asian Rimland threatening peace and regional stability in the Middle East. It is situated in the zone between the heartland of Eurasia and Western seapowers.

Dutch American Professor Nicholas Spykman was a leading classical geopolitician in the 1930s and the 1940s, perhaps even more important than Sir Halford Mackinder. They both regarded the world as a whole. All land and sea was included. Today geopolitical theorists still refer to unity of air and unity of inner space (astropolitics). America should, according to classical geopoliticians, be regarded as an island outside Mackinder’s World Island : Eurasia and Africa. This afforded the United States a strategic advantage.

It was Spykman’s view that Russia (then the Soviet Union) was too weak to exert in depth influence in Central Asia. One reason was demographics in Siberia.

Post-communist Russia has the same demographic problem. Thus Spykman regarded the Rimland of Asia as more crucial for the United States than the Heartland of Mackinder.

The Rimland’s defining characteristic is that it is an intermediate region, lying between the heartland and the marginal sea powers. It is a zone between the land powers and sea powers. Iran is an influental power in this zone and in the Middle East. In this region it is competing with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Iran was also as Persia an ancient challenger to the West.

Iran has major resources and a strategic location between spheres of influence. It has since 1979 been involved in global geopolitical events. It is geographically close to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, all important to the West. Iran is also close to the Strait of Hormuz, which is vital to Middle East oil exports. Iranian aggression in this part of the Arabian Gulf would be catastrophic.

As long as the present administration in Iran exists, with or without the existing nuclear agreement, it remains the central threat to Israel, the most important among American allies and partners in the Middle East.

It may be necessary for the United States, in order to be effective in the fight against international terrorism, to create treaties and identify mutual interests with partners. More cooperation between the West and Arab allies and partners could be useful.

Containment of Iran is a guarantee for a more effective fight against international terrorism. It seems unlikely that the Iranian regime will be a partner for peace any time soon. Until Iran stops funding, arming and training terrorists, militias and other extremist groups it has to be isolated until it eventually seeks peace and stops aggression.

TRUMP VISITS SAUDI COUNTER-TERRORISM CENTER

May 22, 2017

Washington Examiner on May 21, 2017 reported that President Trump on that day visited Saudi Arabia’s headquarters for countering extremist ideologies in the Middle East. Excerpts below:

The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology is primarily focused on combating militant ideology and messaging. Saudi officials said the center will be used to counter the messaging used by groups like the Islamic State.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed a joint declaration on May 20 that called for the creation of a special commission to coordinate both country’s efforts on combating extremism by cutting off groups’ financing, countering their messaging and applying military force.

The commission will meet both in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. at least once annually to analyze the counter-terror strategy’s success and better coordinate both countries’ efforts.

Comment: The new center is an important indication that King Salman is willing to let Saudi Arabia take a more active part in the struggle against terrorism and violent extremism.

At the center various details were presented about the main room to both the president and Saudi King Salman. The center was described as a dashboard utilizing artificial intelligence data to track and monitor sentiments posted online.

There is a media monitoring system that can process up to 100 television channels in 11 different languages.

It has been reported that 350 technicians are to work in the main rooms rows of computers and workstations.

DEFENSE SCRETARY JIM MATTIS: NO ESCAPE FOR ISIS

May 20, 2017

Washington Examiner on May 19, 2017 reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is crediting changes in tactics ordered by President Trump for increasing the pressure on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and leaving the beleaguered fighters with no avenue of escape. Excerpts below:

“He directed a tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS,” Mattis said on during a Pentagon briefing on the counter-ISIS campaign.

Mattis said that by making sure foreign fighters can’t get away, or return to their home countries, “We don’t simply transplant this problem from one place to another.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford pointed to two other changes that came as result of the president’s direction to accelerate the defeat of ISIS, including allowing U.S. advisers to accompany partner forces closer to the front lines, and the decision to arm Syrian Kurds to facilitate the liberation of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria.

The Pentagon says since the campaign against ISIS began in 2014, the terror group has lost more than 20,000 square miles of territory and 4.1 million people have been freed from the brutal grip of ISIS rule.

Mattis said the defeat of ISIS is a foregone conclusion.

Comment: Increasing the pressure on ISIS in the Middle East is an important part of the new US policy to seriously degrade and defeat the international terrorist organization. The rise of ISIS is to a great extent the result of Obama policy since 2008. A crucial part of the new tactics is to prevent foreign fighters from getting away. Had they been allowed to escape they might have returned to Europe to create havoc.

Central to the new vigorous foreign policy of the United States is the visit at the end of May in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, of President Trump. There will be bilateral meetings in the Saudi capital and President Trump will attend a signing ceremony of several agreements to solidify American-Saudi security and economic cooperation.

Also on the agenda is a meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and later Trump will deliver an important speech calling for the need to confront radical ideology. The President will also participate in the inauguration of a new center intended to fight radicalism and promote moderation as well as in a Twitter forum.

It has for eight years been the policy of the politically correct leadership in the United States and Europe to hold back in the fight against radical ideology and terrorists in Syria and Iraq supported by the Shia regime in Iran. Greater Western support of the GCC will hopefully change the failing US strategy into a stronger and more effective military but also ideological campaign against ISIS. One can only hope that the new strategy of the United States will later be met by support in Brussels by the other NATO members.

US ENVOY NIKKI HALEY: NORTH KOREA INTIMIDATING THE WORLD

May 19, 2017

Washington Times on May 16, 2017 reported on the sharp criticism of North Korea by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who accused North Korea on intimidating the world with its nuclear program, military ability and cyberattacks. Any country that did not implement U.N. sanctions was supporting Pyongyang’s actions. Excerpts below:

“No one is immune to the threat of North Korea,” she told reporters on May 16…

“We’re not going to continue to just say go ahead and test as often as you want,” Haley said, flanked by the South Korean and Japanese ambassadors. “This is a true threat to every country in the world. … We’re going to make sure we put the pressure on them economically, diplomatically, politically and internationally.”

Haley said the U.S. and China have been working on “a unified plan” on how to approach North Korea that would include stronger implementation of existing sanctions and tougher new sanctions.

She indicated Washington and Beijing had agreed they would take action if a new test looked to be long range and leaning toward an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States. The latest launch appeared to fulfill both criteria, Haley said, “so I believe that China will stay true to that…

The Security Council, which has imposed six rounds of sanctions on the North, discussed possible further action at the meeting. Haley previously indicated that new sanctions could target oil, a critical import for North Korea mainly from China, and she said the U.S. also wanted sanctions on organizations and businesses in third countries that are helping Pyongyang.

Haley: “What about North Korea intimidating us? They’re intimidating the entire international community. They’re trying to strengthen their muscle with no cause. There is no reason for North Korea to be having these actions outside of the fact they just choose to do so.”

Haley also said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “paranoid” and thinks that the United States is trying to promote regime change and that there are people trying to assassinate him.

“We’re not trying to do any of those things,” she said. “What we are saying is that for peace on the Korean peninsula, he has to stop his testing. He has to stop any nuclear programs that he has. The U.S., we are willing to talk – but not until we see a total stop of the nuclear process and any tests there.”

Comment: Ambassador Haley is of course correct when she said that the United States is not involved in regime change. It is however important that the United States, South Korea and Japan inform more about the human rights violations in North Korea. Kim Jong Un must also be put under more pressure. Further sanctions need to target oil deliveries to the Pyongyang regime. More information must be released on the cooperation between North Korea and Iran in the development of ballistic missiles.

Public identification of all North Korean and foreign banks, businesses, and government agencies suspected of violating U.N. resolutions is another important step. Also freezing and seizing the financial assets of any North Korean and foreign person, company, or government entity violating U.N. resolutions and U.S. or international law.

All banks, businesses, and governments should reciprocate U.S. actions against North Korean and foreign violators.

North Korea has for many years been involved in illegal activities, including currency counterfeiting and drug smuggling. U.S. law enforcement carried out actions in 2005 against Pyongyang’s accounts in Banco Delta Asia. These actions were highly effective and should now be used again.

The actions mentioned above have been suggested by the American Heritage Foundation. Other actions (also on the foundation list) could be designating North Korea as a primary money-laundering concern such as the U.S. Treasury previously designated Iran.

A move on North Korean financial institutions’ correspondent accounts in the U.S is a further recommendation by the foundation in Washington DC. A U.N. Panel of Experts has concluded that North Korean transactions continue to be mostly in “United States dollars from foreign-based banks and transferred through corresponding bank accounts in the United States.”

All foreign companies, financial institutions, and governments assisting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs should be sanctioned and identified. North Korea should be charged as a currency counterfeiter.

HOW TO COUNTER THE NORTH KOREA THREAT

May 17, 2017

Fox News on May 15, 2017, published a commentary by Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the US Center for the National Interest on the worsening North Korea situation. Mr. Kazianis presents three recommendations for containing Kim Jong Un’s atomic aspirations. Excerpts below:

The First Korean War—largely forgotten by the American public and the planet—tragically took the lives of 2.5 million people. A potential Second Korean War, with both sides armed with nuclear weapons, could turn cities like Seoul, Tokyo and soon Los Angeles into atomic ash heaps…

…let there be no doubt, Saturday’s missile test won’t be the last. To build a viable nuclear weapons arsenal and missiles to carry them to a target Kim must test them repeatedly.

And despite decades of dramatic ups and downs, patience has paid off for Pyongyang. Even with an economy smaller than Ethiopia, the Kim regime possesses around 12-20 nuclear weapons and can add to that stockpile every six or seven weeks.

Pyongyang has [also] amassed as much as 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and the means to sling them all over Asia. Combined with an army of over 1 million men, 4,300 tanks and thousands of pieces of artillery and rocket launchers that could lob shells into Seoul—a metro area of 25 million people, the most densely populated on the planet—North Korea has all the awful ingredients to start a conflict not seen since the end of World War II.

[The dictator] already murders his own people daily with 200,000 of them in what can only be described as Nazi-style death camps. He has killed any rival that stands in his way, doing whatever it takes to survive.

There are three immediate steps the Trump administration can take to contain North Korea’s atomic aspirations.

First, the U.S. must do all it can to ensure that Pyongyang receives no outside help for its missile or nuclear weapons programs. Tough secondary sanctions should be applied to any country, corporation, bank or person that considers it acceptable to help North Korea build such worrisome weapons. A precedent must be set: if you wish to help the roguest of rogue states build weapons of mass destruction you will pay the highest of prices.

Second, America, along with its allies, must do everything they can to setback the North Korean nuclear and missile programs as much possible while also increasing the costs to develop more advanced technologies. The Trump administration must use cyber technology—malware, viruses etc. …to frustrate North Korea’s scientists at every turn. With various outlets reporting such efforts are likely underway, a top-down review should be conducted to ensure we are fully utilizing cyber against North Korea as much as possible.

Third, and most important, the Trump administration must build up regional and homeland missile defenses to nullify Pyongyang’s growing arsenal. THAAD not only must remain in South Korea but also be deployed to Japan. U.S. missile defense systems in Alaska must also be expanded dramatically—a recent plan by Senator Dan Sullivan calling for a 30 percent increase in interceptors there should be implemented.

Comment: The three steps recommended by Mr. Kazianis would be helpful for curtailing the development of North Korean missiles that can carry nuclear weapons. The main question is however how it is possible for a poor country like North Korea to carry out an extensive nuclear arms program. The only explanation is that it is receiving funds from China. More pressure on the communist regime in Beijing is needed to stop the transfer of funds to North Korea. The United States also has to provide more information on how missile technique is transferred from Iran to North Korea and on the growing North Korean chemical weapons stockpiles.