Saturday, June 30, 2012

General Odierno Speaks on US Army Strategy at Chatham House

In a rapidly changing global security environment, it is a prerequisite for policymakers around the world to understand the transition of the US Army after Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the underlying idea of American strategy? The lecture by General Raymond Odierno at Chatham House on June 6 will present a clue to this question. As widely known, General Odierno succeeded the commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq from General David Petraeus. Currently, he serves as the Chief of Staff of the US Army. Therefore, Odierno is in a good position to talk of American defense strategy, beyond the Obama-Romney difference. Some people in Asia are so naïve as to be pleased with the shift of regional focus of US forces simply for fear of China. They must understand an overview of American strategy and take considerations to Europe and the Middle East.

The following points are keys to US Army transition: budget shrinkage on defense, diversification of missions, and the pivot to Asia. At Chatham House, General Odierno discussed the strategic concepts of prevent, shape, and win in an era of vital transition of US Army. While the United States is shifting regional focus, some NATO members, particularly eastern frontier nations such as Poland, Czech, Romania, and Bulgaria, want US military presence against Russia. Even Western Europeans worry benign neglect by America, as the Obama administration has decided to pull two army brigades out of Germany in view of post Cold War security environment. How did he explain American position to Europeans? The shift to Asia should not sacrifice security in Europe and the Middle East. Ultimately, Asian economies need the market and energy resource of both regions. Furthermore, how will the United States satisfy the requirements for the superpower to maintain a liberal world order with smaller defense budget?

At the beginning of the lecture, General Odierno told that the US Army must resolve two problems. On one hand, the United States has to continue engagement in current frontlines like Afghanistan, the Middle East overall, and the Korean Peninsula. On the other hand, US armed forces need to adjust to rapidly changing security environment for the future. See the video below.

The most critical constraint to pursue both objectives is budget pressure. The United States must cut defense expenditure a little below $500 billion in ten years under current budget act. That requires a drastic reduction of manpower of the Army, since it spends 49% on personnel. Therefore, the Army must fire 80,000 soldiers and non combatants in the end. Currently it has already cut 15,000 people, and additional cut will be done in next 5 years. The number Odierno showed at the event is tremendous. How will the United States overcome such hurdles?

Odierno narrated security environment and told strategic objectives of the US Army. As to the Middle East where security uncertainties are rampant, the Arab Spring has just removed autocrats, but not formed new governments yet. Its influence on a nuclear ambitious Iran is unpredictable. Regarding the Asia-Pacific area, Odierno mentioned Indo-Pakistani rivalries and the rise of China as key challenges to the US Army. Quite importantly, he included the Af-Pak issue into the Asia-Pacific security matters. This implies that the Army will continue to get involved in Afghanistan after 2014. Actually, Odierno articulated that the shift to Asia would not mean abandoning other areas, but priority would be given to Asia. He said “Our role and our vision is to be regionally responsive and globally engaged.” In addition to regional scope, current warfare makes it more difficult to define enemies. He says that they can be states, insurgents, terrorists, non-state actors, or combinations of those actors.

In order to manage such complexity, Odierno showed three steps, which are prevent, shape, and win. To prevent, Odierno insisted that the US Army should not make adversaries miscalculate its intention. This overlaps what Senator John McCain emphasized in his April lecture on Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He said that terrorists and insurgents would interpret premature withdrawal as American reluctance to support Afghan security. To shape involves much more diversified aspects. Above all, partnership with nations in each region of the world is the key. Though strategic priority will be given to Asia, the Middle East still needs robust US presence. Also, Odierno says US Army explores to develop partnership with Europe, Africa, and South America through joint exercise. For this objective, he said “We will rotate forces into different regions in order to work through and build strong relationships with our allies and partners in all these different regions.”

The word of focus is “rotate forces”, because this idea has never done before. As a precursor, General Odierno mentions NATO rapid reaction force which rotates in and out of Europe for joint training, exercise, and work. The same idea will be applied in the Asia-Pacific region among Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and so forth. In East Asia, some people expect the rotation will be helpful to lessen “Okinawa’s burden” of “accommodating too many US bases”. However, their expectation is premature. Innovative strategies often need adjustment to the reality when they are carried out. Remember the RMA strategy of small and agile troops by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld failed in Iraq, and the surge helped the problem. Japanese left wingers should keep this in mind. As the rotation is planned both in Europe and Asia, this new strategic concept is worthy of worldwide attention.

Odierno gave consideration to European concerns with the pivot to Asia as he mentioned NATO rapid reaction force and joint training. The Financial Times argues that a solid trans-Atlantic alliance enables the United States to focus on Asia (“US set to stand by NATO despite warnings”; Financial Times; May 21, 2012). Also, when multinational actions are required, NATO allies are reliable partners for the United States to conduct global operations. Regretfully, Obama did not explain America’s strategic objectives sufficiently to Europeans, at the last trans-Atlantic summit in Chicago. It is an irony for those who blamed Bush’s “unilateralism” in the Iraq War. European leftists are betrayed with the hope of the change.

In addition to state-to-state relations, the Army needs partnership with other organizations as well. This interagency partnership is called JIIM which stands for “joint, intergovernmental, interagency, multinational environment”. The fundamental idea is that military power has its own limits, and therefore, the Army needs partnership with civilian agencies such as the Department of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice, in order to shape the strategy in an increasingly complicated security environment. Also, resource distribution needs consideration. As the size of the Army shall be cut, it has become critical to upgrade Special Forces to defeat terrorists and insurgents. For this objective, Odierno stressed that adequate composition of force mix must be explored, for example, the balance of heavily-medium-lightly armed troops, conventional-special forces, and so forth.

Military art evolution is another issue discussed at the event, as it creates new challenges to global security. Technological progress has incorporated space and cyberspace to new global commons along with land, sea, and air. Odierno raises critical concerns, because “every nation-state or non-nation-state has access and wants uncontrolled access to space and to cyberspace.” Unlike traditional commons, some countries exploit current normlessness on new global commons as shown in China’s notorious cyber attack against foreign governmental agencies. On the other hand, IT development brings positive changes that can contribute to improving US Army competence. An integrated training environment through computer network enables US forces to train and act together with allied troops across the world for a specific mission on cyberspace. General Odierno told that this would reduce travel costs for US and allied troops to meet in one place. In the battlefield, computer network makes leadership structure more decentralized, which will help the third phase of winning achieved. In an interview with CBS News on June 15, General Odierno commented “We give a lot of responsibility to a 22 or 23-year-old first lieutenant who has a platoon out in the middle of Afghanistan somewhere, who has to make some really tough decisions. So from the time you come in, you learn leadership. We have to develop them quickly, and we have to continue to refine and help them as they get older." See the following video.

Throughout the event, Odireno explained new strategy under tight budget lucidly. Also, he gave considerations to European concerns of benign neglect by America when talking of the pivoting to Asia. Structural change of the US Army will have more impacts on allies than the shift of regional focus, because they need to adjust to new defense partnership with the United States. Anyway, what Odierno told in the lecture is within the limit of serviceman who is politically neutral and abides by civilian control. How about government leadership? The Obama administration does not show clear stances to update relationship with Europe and Middle East in a world in transition. President Barack Obama failed to ease European concerns at NATO Chicago summit. He is too reluctant to impress American leadership to manage Middle East turmoil like Syria. Even in Asia where he places primary strategic emphasis, Obama does not show clear stances to China. His archrival in the presidential election Mitt Romney needs to argue against Obama’s vague attitude in foreign policy, but current election debates focus too much on domestic economy. The Army is doing their job systematically. However, lack of political leadership can ruin every effort by servicemen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Western Alliance beyond NATO Chicago Summit

NATO summit in Chicago discussed critical agendas of global security in an era of fiscal austerity and new global challenges. While the anchor of Western democracies is exploring to deepen partnership with nations outside Euro Atlantic area; such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea; some splits within the alliance were seen at the summit. Let me talk about key issues at the summit and their global implications.

Prior to the Chicago summit, Jorge Benitez, Director of NATO Source, and Tomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, raise concern that both the United States and Europe will lower defense capabilities in the Euro-Atlantic area, because of US pivot to Asia and financial crisis in the Eurozone (“NATO: Chicago and Beyond”; NATO Source; May 13, 2012 and “NATO ponders austerity and US 'pivot'”; Centre for European Reform Blog; May 18, 2012). Andrew Dorman, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, mentioned key points before the Chicago Summit. Currently, the most important agenda is Afghanistan after 2014 ISAF withdrawal, as it is the first joint operation outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere for NATO. In addition, Iran and Syria are crucial. While Middle East turmoil draws attention, relations with Russia casts complicated shadows on the trans-Atlantic alliance. In addition to missile defense and further NATO expansion, the West finds Russian influence hard to dismiss on Libya, Syria and Iran. On the other hand, each member state has a different view on Russia. While eastern frontier nations want staunch US presence with anti-ballistic missile defense system, Britain is more interested in using Russia a transit route to withdraw troops from Afghanistan via Central Asia. As NATO has to manage numerous challenges with limited defense budget, burden sharing and role division must be considered (“NATO’s 2012 Chicago summit”; International Affairs; March 2012).

Undoubtedly, the agenda of highest attention at the summit is Afghanistan, as this mission is NATO’s first joint military operation out of the Euro-Atlantic area, and it will end 2014 when ISAF withdraws from there. However, without Afghanistan still needs Western help after 2014. Leading coalition members like the United States and Britain strike security agreements for post 2014 involvement, while newly elected Hollande administration of France has decided earlier retreat from Afghanistan. In April, Senator John McCain gave a lecture at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to discuss Afghan security after 2014. First, McCain urged the audience to reconfirm the initial objective of the war in Afghanistan that resulted from America’s irresponsible mistake to leave this country confused after Soviet retreat, and awakened awareness of 9-11 terrorism threats. For basic understanding, he stressed that important progress in four years that Taliban was substantially weakened in the south and Afghan security forces were dramatically strengthened. However, McCain objects to premature reconciliation with Taliban as their terrorism still continues. He warns that perception of US withdrawal when security is still fragile can encourage Taliban terrorism, and counter terrorism achievements will be ruined. See the following video.

In line with warnings by Senator McCain, Britain is also considering keeping 200 special force soldiers for counterterrorism after 2014. Prime Minister David Cameron has not made the final decision about this plan yet (“Al-Qaeda could 're-emerge in Afghanistan after Nato withdrawal'”; Daily Telegraph; 21 May 2012). Even Pakistani media agree that such self defeatism would make NATO to lose gains in 11 years (“COMMENT: NATO summit in Chicago: old wine in old bottles — I”; Daily Times; June 5, 2012).

In addition to Afghanistan, there are numerous challenges that NATO faces in an era of fiscal austerity. Applying a new concept of “smart defense”, NATO must share equipment and facilities between allies and have countries specialize in different areas of defense, in order to meet global security requirements and upgrade defense capability including cyber warfare. Smart defense is beyond division of roles among allies. In order to realize cost efficient defense, the Chicago summit adopted the Deterrence and Defense Posture Review that declares nuclear weapons are key to deterrence for NATO. This is a deviation from 2010 Lisbon Summit that declared the world without nuclear weapon. The Chicago Review states that upgrade missile defense is one of smart defense against Russian missile (“NATO Maintains Nuclear Weapons’ Role in Deterrence”; Global Security Newswire; May 21, 2012).

Defense capability is not the only issue. Euro-American defense cooperation needs to be upgraded for new era. Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO, insists that the Libya model will be the paradigm for the alliance to explore efficient division of roles. While willing nations fight, others provide logistics, specialist support, and common funding. He proposes furthermore to keep NATO relevant while slimming down the military. In addition to hardware R&D and role division, the alliance must develop policy consultation and information sharing network. For this objective, cyber defense capability needs to be strengthened. In parallel with them, Europe has to reduce dependence on the United States, as two American brigades will withdraw from Germany. Shea mentions some European-led defense initiatives to fill huge gap in defense capability, such as joint European satellite Galileo and Anglo-French joint drone project (“Keeping NATO Relevant”; Carnegie Policy Outlook; April 2012). In missile defense, Europe may depend on US interceptors, but radars can be made by themselves (“U.S. to Declare Interim European Missile Defense Capability at NATO Summit”; Global Security Newswire; May 18, 2012).

Actually, most European allies “free ride” American security umbrella. Only 5 of them satisfy the guideline to spend 2% of GDP for defense. In a defense reluctant in Europe, Britain’s defense effort is well evaluated. Britain is one of few European allies that spend over 2% of GDP for military build up, and invests in key arsenals such as, helicopter, fighter, aircraft carrier, and submarine. Also, it is the second largest troop sender in Afghanistan, after the United States. Moreover Britain plays a vital global police force role in Africa (“The UK Will Continue to Be a Strong Ally to US and NATO”; NATO Source; May 19, 2012). However, Reuters reports to the contrary, and military shrink in the United Kingdom and Germany is a serious blow to the Western alliance, since they are large economies. In the Libya War, European forces led by Britain and France depended virtually all targeting and 85% of fuel for strike operation on the United States (“Europe's lack of key defense capabilities raises doubts about NATO's future”; NATO Source; Match 22, 2012). This implies inconsiderable gaps in defense capabilities between the United States and European allies.

New Obama strategy may have some impacts on NATO, but a staunch trans-Atlantic alliance is a precondition that enables the United States to focus on Asia (“US set to stand by NATO despite warnings”; Financial Times; May 21, 2012). NATO itself needs security partnership with Asia-Pacific nations like Australia and New Zealand to manage increasingly globalized challenges. Also, Smart defense should not be an excuse for poor defense (“What NATO Should and Shouldn't Do in Chicago”; NATO Source; May 18, 2012). Emerging security challengers are technologically catching up. China is enhancing A2/AD capabilities, and Iran is developing nuclear bombs. NATO and its partners outside the Euro-Atlantic region must make their own efforts to curtail those threats, instead of just free riding overwhelming technological advantages of the United States (“American Decline and the Future of Interventionism”; NATO Source; April 13, 2012). In such a security environment, Western democracies need to upgrade the alliance.

Currently, NATO faces dilemma whether to expand members and responsibility furthermore. While Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain envisions an outward looking NATO to tackle threats outside the region, Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra of Czech argues common defense within the alliance, instead of expanding membership and regional scope (“Analysis: Looming end of Afghan mission leaves NATO with identity crisis”; Reuters; May 22, 2012). At the Chicago summit, the United States urged Europe to be a producer of security, rather than a consumer. NATO’s role as the anchor of Western democracies can be undermined through benign neglect by America and declining military ambition in Europe. Something has to be done to reinvigorate the alliance (“The future of the transatlantic alliance: NATO’s sea of troubles”; Economist; May 31, 2012). NATO after Chicago needs more attention by students of global security.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Stop Iran, the Shiite Hitler!

A New York based NGO, called the United with Israel has launched an urgent call to for a steadfast action against Iran’s nuclear ambition. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran announces that his country will wipe out Israel, just as the holocaust Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

A keystone of the Axis of Evil, Iran will exterminate free nations through the network with terrorism, once mullahs acquire nuclear bombs. Remember they launched a satellite to demonstrate their capability to develop ballistic missile. To stop their dangerous ambition, sign the petition through this link!

Thank you very much in advance for your kind cooperation.