THE RESIGNATION of David Petraeus as CIA director is a serious blow to the nation’s national security leadership, and it comes at an unfortunate moment. With the expected departure of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a possible reshuffling of senior officials at the National Security Council, President Obama could have benefited particularly from Mr. Petraeus’s knowledge and seasoning as he begins to grapple with second-term challenges in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. Mr. Petraeus understands those issues as well as any American, and his record of service as a military commander is without equal in his generation.
Given those facts, some have questioned whether Mr. Obama should have accepted Mr. Petraeus’s resignation. The CIA director was found to have committed no crime. Adultery, which he confessed to, is not uncommon, including presumably among his agency’s staff. However, in our view the president made the right call. Mr. Petraeus’s failing was not merely an illicit relationship; he recklessly used a Gmail account to send explicit messages and, as a result, was swept up in an FBI investigation of alleged cyberstalking. Such behavior would not be acceptable in the private sector, or in the military, as Mr. Petraeus recognized.
The suddenness of Mr. Petraeus’s downfall came as a shock to many in Washington, prompting unreasonable questions, as well as reasonable ones. After first doubting whether Mr. Petraeus should have resigned, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined with her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), in complaining that Congress had not been informed earlier about the FBI investigation. Others asked why it was not made public before last week’s election.
So far, the answers seem pretty straightforward: The FBI did not find a breach of security or evidence of criminality and so did not have a compelling reason to report the matter to Congress. Having concluded interviews with Mr. Petraeus and biographer Paula Broadwell days before the election, the agency briefed Mr. Petraeus’s immediate superior, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, on Nov. 6 — an appropriate action, given the nature of the case. Republicans who suggest that FBI Director Robert Mueller or senior Justice Department officials should have reported what they knew before the election seem to be faulting them for not politicizing a criminal investigation.
That said, aspects of the probe should still be clarified. One concerns the role of an FBI agent who, according to an account by the New York Times, is an acquaintance of the woman who reported receiving threatening e-mails from Ms. Broadwell. After helping to initiate the investigation, the Times reported, the agent later contacted congressional Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.); describing himself as a whistle-blower, he expressed concern — erroneously, it turned out — that a breach of national security had taken place. Whether those actions were appropriate may be a matter worthy of review. Mr. Mueller could also ease some legitimate congressional concerns by providing a more detailed account of the investigation, if necessary in a closed setting.
None of that will remedy the damage done by the loss of Mr. Petraeus’s service. It is a harm brought about by his own actions, for which he has taken responsibility. But it will hurt the country no less.
Five years ago, when I covered David Petraeus’s triumphant visit to Capitol Hill after he salvaged the war effort in Iraq, I likened the reception he received to that of conquering generals of Rome, who were feted with laurels, purple robes, trumpets and animal sacrifice.
If anything, Petraeus’s reception may have been superior to the ancients’, I wrote, because he “didn’t even have to endure, as Roman generals did, the slave holding the crown over his head and whispering in his ear: Sic transit gloria mundi. All glory is fleeting.”
In retrospect, that might have been good preparation for Petraeus, who has now seen both irrational extremes in the Washington continuum — hero and goat. Just as he was worshiped blindly then, he has fallen from grace because of an equally disproportionate reaction to a personal failing.
Petraeus resigned as CIA director because an FBI probe uncovered an extramarital affair with his biographer. Lawmakers are demanding to know why the FBI didn’t tell them sooner.
Yet the investigation has found no smoking gun — just a few steamy e-mails. President Obama said he sees “no evidence” that national security was compromised, and there’s no serious allegation that the affair harmed Petraeus’s spy work, so it’s baffling that the director of national intelligence suggested, and the president accepted, Petraeus’s resignation.
In truth, Petraeus’s behavior doesn’t even merit the label “scandal.” L’affaire Petraeus lacks every element of the definition.
For those too easily scandalized, let’s review what makes a Washington sex scandal:
It’s illegal, or of dubious legality. Eliot Spitzer, a.k.a. Client 9, had to resign as governor of New York because he and the woman he met at the Mayflower Hotel got swept up in a prostitution sting. Idaho Republican Larry Craig had to resign from the Senate because the man he interacted with in the neighboring stall was a police officer. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) probably would have resigned if the evidence tying him to the D.C. Madam had been more specific than the presence of his phone number in her little black book.
Petraeus? Nothing illegal.
It’s non-consensual, or underage. Florida congressman Mark Foley resigned from the House after it was learned that he was engaging in Internet sex with congressional pages. Gary Condit and Bill Clinton rated higher on the scandal meter because the women involved were interns. Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) lost his reelection bid because of allegations (later settled) that he had assaulted his mistress.
Petraeus? Consenting adults.
Fetishes or photos. Dick Morris’s tryst at the Jefferson Hotel was made memorable because it brought “toe-sucking” into the political discourse. Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) was doomed by his description of “tickle fights” with staffers. Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) resigned only hours after he sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman on Craigslist. It took Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) somewhat longer to realize he had to resign after sending out photos of other parts of his anatomy.
Petraeus? He’s wearing fatigues or a chest full of ribbons in photos with his mistress.
Caught in flagrante delicto. Gary Hart’s presidential prospects were undone after he was photographed aboard the Monkey Business with Donna Rice in his lap. Arkansas Democrat Wilbur Mills’s reign as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee ended after his car was pulled over and stripper Fanne Foxe got out and jumped into the Tidal Basin.
Petraeus? He was so discreet he and his paramour communicated via a Gmail draft folder.
Hypocrisy or lies. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) was doomed when it emerged that the family-values politician filmed an abstinence-only video with his lover, who had worked for him. Clinton’s lies made Ken Starr possible — and then-House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston resigned during the impeachment proceedings against the president because Hustler magazine was about to expose his own infidelities.
Petraeus? None alleged.
Money. Nevada Sen. John Ensign might have survived revelations of his affair had it not become known that his parents gave $96,000 to the family of the staffer who was his mistress. And former presidential candidate John Edwards might not be quite so reviled if not for the hush money collected from wealthy donors to keep his affair quiet.
Petraeus? His birthday present was to have been a bike ride with Lance Armstrong.
If Petraeus is guilty of anything, it’s the hubristic belief, endemic in this town, that he was too powerful to get caught. But in this case, what he got “caught” doing is his business and his wife’s — not the nation’s.
Washington superlawyer Joseph Califano once passed a message to a client being grilled by a congressional committee that read: “Keep cool in Kabul.” That phrase has a certain piquancy now, but Califano simply wanted to calm the witness, slow the process a bit and get everyone to chill out.
The “keep cool” advice seems especially useful now that Washington’s latest set of scandals is entering the phase of congressional investigation, righteous political indignation and public penance. At times like this, people tend to repeat the old bromide “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” But it can also be toxic under the wrong circumstances.
When you look at the various scandals entwined around leading national-security figures, they have a common feature, which is that they were all driven to the surface by the fear of political exposure. It’s worth considering for a moment the way in which politics — and the rush to get out ahead of anticipated disclosure — has driven this process and made it more damaging than it needed to be.
This political nexus was spotted by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker in a recent blog post. She noted that the dominoes began to fall when a self-appointed FBI whistleblower went to Republican members of Congress, first Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state and then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, to warn them of a possible coverup of an investigation of CIA Director David Petraeus. Cantor’s staff called the office of FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and the fat was in the fire.
Knowing that the supersensitive investigation (which apparently was then winding down) had become a political football, Mueller’s deputy Sean Joyce called Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Nov. 6. Clapper summoned Petraeus, counseled him to resign and informed the White House. Three days later, Petraeus was gone.
Fear of political blowback also triggered the revelation that Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander in Kabul, had been exchanging possibly inappropriate e-mails with Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite, military liaison and, judging from what we’ve read, all-around busybody. The FBI had already reviewed Allen’s e-mails as part of the Petraeus investigation, but last Sunday the FBI decided to inform the Pentagon and turn over 20,000 to 30,000 pages exchanged between Allen and Kelley. On Monday afternoon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decided to go public, open a Pentagon investigation of Allen and suspend his confirmation as the next U.S. commander in Europe.
Why did the Pentagon suddenly and publicly drop Allen into limbo? We still don’t know what is in the e-mails, beyond some “sweetheart” language. But Panetta clearly was worried about political fallout. Allen was due to testify before Congress on Thursday and, as a senior Pentagon official explained: “If you don’t inform Congress of the FBI referral, that becomes a problem.”
In the aftermath of the McCarthy investigations in the 1950s, when Americans wondered how responsible officials could have allowed such a reckless “witch hunt” that ruined reputations on the flimsiest evidence, Arthur Miller wrote a play called “The Crucible” about the Salem witch trials of 1692. The genius of the play was that it explained how sensible early Americans could have been swept up in a process of public shaming and destruction of character.
Amazingly, many members of Congress talk as if the real outrage here was that they weren’t informed earlier about the investigations of Petraeus and Allen. “We should have been told,” said Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, last Sunday. To which an observer might respond vernacularly: Give me a break.
The idea seems to have developed that the CIA and the military work equally for Congress and for the executive branch. They don’t. They work for the president, who is commander in chief. Congress appropriates the money and has a legitimate role in overseeing how it’s spent. But the idea that these scandals demonstrate the need for greater congressional involvement in sensitive investigations is preposterous.
The day Petraeus resigned, I received an e-mail from an Arab intelligence contact who expressed what surely has been going through the minds of many people around the world. I will quote it precisely, punctuation and all: “He needs to resign cause he has an affair? What da hell??? He is brilliant!!!! Why like this????”
Petraeus is gone, but the hunt for miscreants is still gathering force. For a reminder of why it’s dangerous, take a look at “The Crucible” and the lessons of history.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2012 - 12:00am
ERAP PUEDE PA!: It is too late for sympathizers of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim to question before the Sandiganbayan former President Erap Estrada’s running for city mayor in 2013 against the incumbent.
Two lawyers have asked the Sandiganbayan to rule if the presidential pardon given to Estrada after his conviction for plunder in 2007 allowed him to run again for elective office. When he ran (and lost) for president in 2010, nobody stopped him.
They said that in running, Estrada may have violated the conditions of the pardon granted by then President Gloria Arroyo after he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder in 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The conditional pardon read in part: “I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political right.”
There. His civil and political rights have been restored. Estrada can vote and run for public office. Challenge him at the polls, not before the Sandiganbayan.
* * *
AT THE SUMMIT: To whom does President Noynoy Aquino listen: to Palace advisers dabbling in foreign relations or to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and his seasoned diplomats at the foreign office?
Many observers are not comfortable seeing their President addressing his fellow summiteers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations like he was talking to his Cabinet.
Tough talk, bordering on arrogance, has no place in such a multilateral conference where he cannot be sure the majority of fellow Asean leaders are with him on bilateral issues with China, the object of his indignation.
Just one dissenting vote can prevent the adoption of a crucial decision since the 10-member organization decides by consensus. It is risky antagonizing one or more fellow national leaders.
* * *
BIG BROTHER: Even with the United States behind him, President Aquino should be careful sounding like he can or must have his way always.
Foisting the US as a Big Brother ready to take on the Chinese neighborhood bully will not stampede other Asean members — co-equals of the Philippines — into adopting the US-Philippine position that China must face the group instead of talking with individual members separately.
Assuming the Philippines can convince in their coming meeting the minsters of Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — other Asean members with territorial claims — it does not follow that the six remaining members will openly take a position antagonistic to China.
* * *
OBAMA WORD: Speaking at the 21st Asean summit in Phnom Penh last Tuesday, President Barack Obama himself pleaded for a reduction of the tension arising from conflicting territorial claims.
Obama did not openly follow the aggressive tenor of President Aquino, who at one point rebuked host Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, a known China sympathizer, for saying a consensus had been reached not to “internationalize” the territorial disputes.
The US, which has to cross the Pacific Ocean to validate its self-assumed role as sheriff of the South China Sea, is not likely to confront China and ruin this expansive market for American business.
Will Asean remain united and be able to withstand pressures being exerted by non-member powers with strategic interests in the region?
* * *
NOT INSTANT: Even with the Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty, the US cannot be expected to spring into action in the event a Chinese vessel grazes a Philippine ship or a Chinese gunner fires a shot across the bow.
In that 61-year-old treaty, the US inserted its understanding that “mutual defense” action is not instant, but subject to the usual congressional processes. Unless US forces themselves are attacked, the US Commander-in-Chief will have to ask the Congress for permission to pull the trigger.
President Aquino must be dreaming if he thinks the US will take, almost by reflex, a shooting stance for the Philippines against China, especially at this time when Beijing is in a leadership transition.
* * *
HIGH STAKES: It is too early to assess the cumulative effect on other Asean leaders of President Aquino’s donning the US jersey and carrying the US ball in the Asean-US leaders meeting in the Cambodian capital.
In the context of China’s growing military assertiveness, Aquino told the gathering: “The United States understands this and, for this reason, has chosen to work with us to ensure the peace and continuous advancement of our region.”
How did it feel, we wonder, for Noynoy Aquino to have assumed the job of US spokesman? The stakes are high and our President, we hope, knows where his and his country’s interests lie.
* * *
SEC ON THE JOB: The Securities and Exchange Commission has earned points in its handling of the investigation of the alleged price manipulation involving shares of leading agriculture development firm Calata Corp.
There are at least two reasons: One, it completed the inquiry fast. Second, it was done without controversy.
As we mentioned last Sunday, the SEC has closed this chapter and will now endorse its findings to the Department of Justice. The commission’s Enforcement and Prosecution Department has tagged several traders as suspects in the alleged share price manipulation.
Another body, the Capital Market Integrity Corp., has concluded its own investigation much earlier and tagged several stockbrokers as being involved. It said fines and penalties have been imposed on the brokers.
Calata Corp. chair and CEO Joseph Calata, who asked for the SEC probe, also praised the quiet and speedy investigation.
The SEC can now focus on investigating the Aman Futures Group Inc. which allegedly ran away with P12 billion invested in it by ordinary Filipinos from the Visayas and Mindanao.
As we debate whether the two parties can ever come together and get things done, here’s something President Obama could probably do by himself that would be a signal accomplishment of his presidency: End the war on terror. Or, more realistically, start planning and preparing the country for phasing it out.
For 11 years, the United States has been operating under emergency wartime powers granted under the 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force.” That is a longer period than the country spent fighting the Civil War, World War I and World War II combined. It grants the president and the federal government extraordinary authorities at home and abroad, effectively suspends civil liberties for anyone the government deems an enemy and keeps us on a permanent war footing in all kinds of ways.
Now, for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, an administration official has sketched a possible endpoint.
In a thoughtful speech at the Oxford Union last week, Jeh Johnson, the outgoing general counsel for the Pentagon, recognized that “we cannot and should not expect al-Qaeda and its associated forces to all surrender, all lay down their weapons in an open field, or to sign a peace treaty with us. They are terrorist organizations. Nor can we capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with al-Qaeda.”
But, he argued, “There will come a tipping point . . . at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, such that al-Qaeda as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.” At that point, “our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.”
Phasing out or modifying these emergency powers should be something that would appeal to both left and right. James Madison, father of the Constitution, was clear on the topic. “Of all the enemies to public liberty,” he wrote, “war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
If you want to know why we’re in such a deep budgetary hole, one large piece of it is that we have spent around $2 trillion on foreign wars in the past decade. Not coincidentally, we have had the largest expansion of the federal government since World War II. The Post’s Dana Priest and William Arkin have described how the U.S. government has built 33 new complexes for the intelligence bureaucracies alone. The Department of Homeland Security employs 230,000 people.
A new Global Terrorism Index this week showed that terrorism went up from 2002 to 2007 – largely because of the conflicts in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq — but has declined ever since. And the part of the world with the fewest incidents is North America. It could be our vigilance that is keeping terror attacks at bay. But it is also worth noting, as we observe the vast apparatus of searches and screening, that the Transportation Security Administration’s assistant administrator for global strategies has admitted that those expensive and cumbersome whole-body scanners have not resulted in the arrest of a single suspected terrorist. Not one.
Of course there are real threats out there, from sources including new branches of al-Qaeda and other such groups. And of course they will have to be battled, and those terrorists should be captured or killed. But we have done this before, and we can do so in the future under more normal circumstances. It will mean that the administration will have to be more careful — and perhaps have more congressional involvement — for certain actions, such as drone strikes. It might mean it will have to charge some of the people held at Guantanamo and try them in military or civilian courts.
In any event, it is a good idea that the United States find a way to conduct its anti-terrorism campaigns within a more normal legal framework, rather than rely on blanket wartime authority granted in a panic after Sept. 11.
No president wants to give up power. But this one is uniquely positioned to begin a serious conversation about a path out of permanent war.
Imperial Argument: Washington debates ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy
By Walden Bello
9:27 am | Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Over the last two years, the Obama administration has executed what the president has termed the “Pivot to Asia” strategy, whereby the US’ global military force posture is being reconfigured to focus on the Asia Pacific region as Washington’s central front.
Movement has been rapid, with Washington expanding its naval exercises with Japan, sending marines to Australia, conducting military exercises in the Philippines with its allies, and supporting the negotiating positions of the Philippines and Vietnam against China’s on the dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, or what Filipinos now call the West Philippine Sea. 60 per cent of the US Navy’s strength has been deployed to the Western Pacific.
Containment of China is the aim of the Pivot strategy, and this has drawn criticism from liberal critics of the policy like Robert Ross, a professor of Political Science at Boston University and a China hand. Writing in November-December issue of Foreign Affairs, Ross acknowledges that China’s actions in the South China Sea, including claiming the whole area as Chinese domestic territorial waters, come across as aggressive. However, the Pivot, he claims, is based on “a fundamental misreading of China’s leadership, who are now given to “appeasing an increasingly nationalist public with symbolic gestures of force.”
For Ross, China’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric stems less from expansionist intent than from the insecurities brought about by high-speed growth, followed by economic crisis. Long dependent for its legitimacy on delivering economic growth, domestic troubles related to the global financial crisis have left the Communist Party leadership groping for a new ideological justification, and it has found this in nationalism. Countering its rhetoric with a military cordon sanitaire, says Ross, would deepen the “insecurities” of Beijing, leading to a truly belligerent posture on its part, heightening the possibility of an outbreak of conflict while losing China’s cooperation in managing conflicts such as the crisis in Syria.
The riposte to Ross came in the form of an article in the succeeding issue of Foreign Affairs authored by Shawn Brimley and Ely Ratner of the Center for New American Security. While not an official response of the Obama administration, the Brimley and Ratner article brings together in once piece what Obama’s lieutenants, like Secretary of Foreign Affairs Hillary Clinton, have said in defense of the Pivot to Asia strategy in different contexts. The aim of the strategy, say Brimley and Ratner is not to contain China but to promote adherence to international norms and rules of conduct. They write:
“…Washington is trying to construct a regional order undergirded by rules and institutions. US diplomacy regarding disputes in the South China Sea, for instance, is based on principles and has sought to prevent a conflict form breaking out by encouraging all countries concerned to adhere to international law. This effort mirrors the US strategy elsewhere in the world of protecting the global commons through a combination of US power and international initiatives. That this approach appears to favor certain countries—and that Beijing objects to multilateral cooperation that might constrain its ability to coerce its neighbors—says more about its bias than it does about any American bias.”
The credibility of Brimley and Shatner’s defense is, however, undercut by the reality that, to borrow Mao’s famous way of distilling policies, the Pivot is 70 per cent military and 30 per cent diplomacy. They themselves find it hard to conceal the aggressively militaristic thrust of the Pivot, noting that “the ending of the war in Iraq and the ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan are freeing additional military resources to be directed toward the Asia Pacific region in the form of new deployments, the prepositioning of military assets, and additional locations for the US military to train and exercise with long-standing allies and emerging partners.” They continue: “In the years ahead, the continued evolution of the US force posture in the region should be complemented by efforts to strengthen partners’ armed forces, carry out joint exercises, and pursue more ambitious military diplomacy.”
The truth of the matter is that, as in the Middle East and Latin America, there is more continuity than a break in the Obama administration’s approach toward Asia in relation to the policy of the administration of George W. Bush. Prior to Sept 11, the neoconservatives in power had redefined China as a “strategic competitor” from the “strategic partner” it was during the Clinton years. One might say that Obama’s Pivot is the resumption of Bush’s preferred Asia Pacific strategy that was put on hold by the necessity of enlisting China as a US ally in the War against Terror in the years after 9/11.
Yet the Pivot is not simply a question of taking up where Bush left off in 2001. It represents a retreat from the comprehensive global military dominance that the neoconservative faction of the US ruling class attempted under Bush. It really is a feint, a maneuver, to cover up a strategic retreat from the disastrous two-decades-long engagement in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The Pivot is an attempt by Washington to retreat to an area for imperial power projection that it sees as more manageable than a Middle East that is running out of control.
Yet this maneuver faces two problems. First, the Middle East, with its explosive mix of oil, the Arab Spring, Israel, and Iran, will not allow Washington to disengage. Owing to its own past policies, the US is condemned to a condition of imperial overreach. Second, the US redeployment of military force to the Asia Pacific will, as Ross says, trigger a military competition with China that has the potential of running out of control as the Chinese leadership responds to what it sees as Washington’s effort to contain its rise to regional and global prominence as it races to become the world’s biggest economy.
Ross, thus, is largely right. However, his analysis of the sources of China’s flag-waving is a bit naïve. For him, the Chinese leadership’s bellicose rhetoric and moves in the Western Pacific reflect insecurity and are mainly an attempt to harness nationalism as a source to legitimacy to replace the ability to deliver economic growth and higher living standards as the Chinese economy enters into crisis. On the contrary, China’s push to claim the Senkaku Islands now controlled by Japan as well as the whole South China Sea reflects the cold calculation of a power seeking to stake a claim to an area rich in natural resources, including oil, that would support its drive to become a regional hegemon. While China faces many economic and political challenges, one cannot say that its foreign policy moves are feints to cover up economic and political weakness. Also writing in the January-February issue of Foreign Affairs, Eric Li, a Shanghai-based Chinese political scientist, has characterized the turnover of leadership in the Chinese Communist Party last November as a “smooth and well-orchestrated demonstration by a confidently rising superpower.” One can say the same of China’s demonstrations of power in the Asia Pacific region.
Does this mean then that there is all the more reason for the US to come in as a “balancer”? More likely, this is a prescription for the outbreak of destabilizing regional conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War during the Cold War. In Asia as in Europe, balance of power regimes have often ended up in conflicts, as political one-upmanship and arms races ran out of control. China and its neighbors have legitimate territorial disputes. The US’s entering the equation, ostensibly to help the latter, will simply result in superpower dynamics marginalizing resolution of the territorial issues. For governments seeking to legitimize and legalize their territorial claims, this is no solution at all.
Washington’s military withdrawal from Asia is overdue. Instead of normalizing relations between China and its neighbors, the US presence has long prevented the emergence of mature post-Cold War relations among them. Left to themselves, China’s neighbors will be forced cooperate to come up with ways of dealing with the challenge posed by China. Though the search for a common stand vis a vis China will not be easy, it will eventually emerge out of regional and international diplomacy, the activation of existing regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and even the negotiation of new multilateral security alliances. A firm position against Beijing’s outrageous claims on the part countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, coupled with their employment of aggressive diplomacy at both a regional and international level, is the only route to stability and peace in the region, not balancing Beijing by calling in Washington.
Also, one must not forget that China’s foreign policy is the product of the experience of over two centuries of Western intervention, a history that is shared by other countries in the region. With the drawdown of the US military presence, one must not underestimate the capacity of China and its neighbors to work out a new regional order that does a better job of promoting peace, harmony, and respect for sovereignty than the current regime of US military hegemony.
5 Things the Pentagon Isn't Telling Us about the Chinese Military
From Foreign Policy online - - -
Think of it like an iceberg: The top lies in plain sight, but a lot more hides beneath the surface.
In its annual appraisal of the Chinese military published last week, the U.S. Department of Defense seems to be describing an object it finds both familiar and mysterious. The report certainly answers many of the important issues concerning China's military, including its attempts to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile and its continuing fixation on Taiwan.
Yet for many crucial aspects of China's strategy, the Pentagon seems like it's just guessing. Here are the five most important questions about Beijing's defense strategy that remain stubbornly unanswered.
1. What are China's long-term defense spending plans?
Although China's official 2012 defense budget is $106 billion, an 11 percent increase over last year and a fourfold increase from a decade ago, the Pentagon places China's total military spending at somewhere between $120 and $180 billion. "Estimating actual PLA military expenditures is difficult because of poor accounting transparency and China's still incomplete transition from a command economy," the report notes, referring to the People's Liberation Army.
There have been no credible estimates of Beijing's long-term defense spending plans. On its current trajectory, China could overtake the United States as the world's biggest military spender in the 2020s or 2030s -- but there are too many unknown variables to accurately predict if this will happen. Is the PLA budget pegged to the growth of the wider economy, or have China's generals been promised double-digit growth even if the country suffers an economic downturn? Will growth slow once certain modernization milestones have been achieved, or are there no plans to close the PLA checkbook? What's clear is that the more funding the PLA receives, the closer it will come to achieving parity with the U.S. military.
2. What is China's nuclear strategy?
The Pentagon concludes that "China's nuclear arsenal currently consists of about 50-75 silo-based, liquid-fueled and road-mobile, solid-fueled ICBMs." The Pentagon doesn't attempt to estimate the total number of nuclear weapons that China possesses, although it's generally assumed to have a much smaller nuclear arsenal than the U.S. cache of over 5,000 nukes. Nonetheless, theories that Beijing possesses or plans to develop a much bigger nuclear weapons stockpile just won't die down. Speculation last year that China may have as many as 3,500 nuclear warheads -- predicated on rumors of a sprawling network of underground tunnels -- has been reliably trashed, but some still argue that Beijing sees a strategic opportunity in building a nuclear arsenal that could match or even exceed that of the United States in the coming decades.
China currently has only two Jin-class Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in service, the Pentagon tells us, and the missiles designed to arm the subs are not yet operational (though when they are, they will be nuclear-capable). Two submarines aren't much of a strategic deterrent for an aspiring superpower, but the true scope of the SSBN fleet that China plans to build remains unknown.
3. What is the Chinese navy up to?
American analysts often use the term "string of pearls" to describe Beijing's supposed strategy of establishing a network of foreign naval bases, especially in the Indian Ocean, but the Chinese don't. The latest Pentagon report does not discuss whether China plans to create a U.S.-style network of permanent forward bases for the PLA Navy.
Nonetheless, there is no shortage of speculation that China will eventually deploy military forces to port facilities it has constructed in places like Burma, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Seychelles has invited China to use its ports as resupply points for Chinese ships, but Beijing has insisted that this is not the establishment of a first foreign base, unconvincingly calling it a "re-supply port." The "places or bases" debate has already been running for some years, and it will continue to rumble on while Beijing remains tight-lipped about its long-range ambitions.
The Pentagon report also struggles to shed light on China's future aircraft carrier program, beyond the existence of the single ex-Soviet carrier that is currently undergoing sea trials. "Some components of China's first indigenously produced carrier may already be under construction," it suggests, adding that "China likely will build multiple aircraft carriers and associated support ships over the next decade." That's guesswork. It's unknown whether China envisages merely a couple of working aircraft carriers as floating trophies designed to symbolize the country's arrival as a world power, a handful of combat-capable carriers to drive home its territorial claims in the South China Sea, or a larger number of U.S.-style carrier battle groups with a mission to project force globally.
4. What kind of space capabilities is China developing?
China is becoming increasingly proficient in space. The report mentions that China is assembling its own GPS-style satellite network, blasted the Tiangong-1 spacelab into orbit in 2011, and has developed a ground-launched anti-satellite missile to improve its counter-space capabilities. But the Pentagon neglects to mention one of China's most ambitious space programs: the development of the Shenlong spaceplane and the possible associated development of advanced propulsion systems, whose existence increases the risk of a military space race with the United States.
It is not yet known whether Shenlong is anything more than a hi-tech experiment. But because of Shenlong's military potential, any information about it could allay or exacerbate growing fears within the U.S. military that the PLA Air Force has more than a passing interest in space operations.
5. Paper tiger or fire-breathing dragon?
There are many other imponderables in China's military. Chinese cyber-espionage has been effective in obtaining foreign military secrets, but it's unclear how much of this know-how has been successfully and usefully absorbed into China's own military programs and doctrines. The overhaul of the Chinese defense industry has revolutionized the country's indigenous capabilities, but how close has China really got to ironing out the kinks in its military-industrial structures and processes?
All of the unknowns feed into one larger question: Is the PLA worth the hype? China's military is untested; it hasn't fought a major campaign since a disastrous war with Vietnam in 1979. In the event of conflict, would its performance live up to the nation's expectations, or would disadvantages like corruption and inexperience critically undermine its war-fighting capability? Is the 21st-century PLA even designed to be used, or does it exist to prop up and counterbalance the Communist Party domestically in a world where Beijing calculates that large-scale warfare is increasingly unlikely? Maybe the answers to these questions are buried in some secure vault at the Pentagon, but they're not in its latest report.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 3, 2013 - 12:00am
For a while it was easy to dismiss the histrionics of the young North Korean leader as a temper tantrum to catch attention. Lately, however, it is easy to worry that his increasingly bellicose statements may force the 29-year-old leader to save face and indeed bring the 60-year-old truce in the peninsula back into a shooting war.
And what a horrifying shooting war that will be, given the nuclear capability of the hermit state. In a sense, the North Koreans have nothing much to lose. Their people are starving and the world community has isolated them with debilitating economic sanctions. Inflicting a first strike blow on a super power may just give their warped minds an endorphin rush… the political equivalent of an orgasm after a rape.
The North Koreans have threatened to strike Okinawa, Guam and Hawaii where US military forces are based. With well publicized visits of an armada of US warships here supposedly for Balikatan exercises, that may just be enough provocation for the North Koreans to target Subic as well.
And we are well within the reach of North Korean rockets as proven by recent “no fly zone” alerts our civil defense officials instituted during past rocket tests. All of a sudden, the idea of heavy US military presence here as a counterfoil to China’s predatory policies in the West Philippine Sea doesn’t seem like a very good idea.
Our only real hope now lies in the effectiveness of the US shield that we hope and presume covers us from any rockets coming from the hermit kingdom up North. One can never be too sure with the Americans if how they are treating us on trade matters is a gauge. We really ought to be more realistic about these so called friends.
Because of our location along key Pacific trading routes, relations with Manila should be important to any American president, American journalist Greg Rushford wrote from Washington DC in his blog The Rushford Report. The other good reason why the US must treat us better, according to Rushford is because “under Aquino’s leadership, the Philippines has come out of intensive care.”
Rushford noted how our economy is booming…
“Construction cranes dot Manila’s skyline. The areas just north of Manila that once housed major US military bases at Clark Field and Subic Bay are booming. Clark International Airport — where more birds used to land than airplanes just a few years ago— has taken off, with passenger arrivals skyrocketing from 50,000 in 2004 to 1.3 million last year. For anyone looking at the beneficial advantages that happen when foreign investments that foster Philippine economic growth are welcomed, this is it.”
Rushford recounts how the former US military bases have blossomed after the Americans left.
“Indeed, the former American bases have become models of the benefits of attracting foreign investment. Yokohama Tires and Texas Instruments have billion-plus dollar investments at Clark; Samsung also has an important semiconductor operation there. Korea’s Hanjin has the world’s fourth-largest shipyard at Subic Bay.
“In their Cold-War heyday, the former US bases employed perhaps 40,000 Filipinos. Now, under Philippine management, the number of jobs in the Clark-Subic corridor has shot up more than fourfold — more than 160,000. ‘I don’t think there has been a better time for the Philippines than today,” says Dennis Wright, a dynamic former US Navy captain who is now developing a $3-billion industrial park at the former Clark Field for a group of Kuwaiti investors.”
But the US, Rushford complains, isn’t even supportive in the economic and trade areas. “While the White House has supported enhanced US-Philippine security ties, Washington has not put serious energy into deepening trade ties.
“The Obama administration has not welcomed the Philippines into the TPP negotiations. The European Union is interested in negotiating a preferential trade agreement with the Philippines; the White House is not. Washington has no present plans to engage Manila seriously to promote trade liberalization anytime before 2016, when neither Obama nor Aquino will be in office.”
Rushford continued his report:
“The Filipinos have noticed. Last September, speaking to an influential audience in Washington that was convened by the US-Philippines Society and the respected Center for Strategic and International Studies, Finance secretary Cesar Purisima lamented that his country was not wanted in the TPP. That trade deal as presently constituted, including some Asian countries and ignoring others, the secretary explained, would distort regional trade flows and thus ‘hinder’ the laudable goal of promoting genuine trade expansion.
“Meanwhile, where the Philippines is concerned, the USTR is in full ‘enforcement’ mode.
“On March 28, the USTR’s trade police will preside over a hearing into complaints of labor-rights abuses from 2001– 2007 that were perpetrated during former President Gloria Arroyo’s watch — murders of union organizers, and such. The implied threat is that if President Obama personally determines that Aquino has not been diligent enough by way of cleaning up the mess he inherited, Obama could yank the Philippines’ duty-free privileges pursuant to the Generalized System of Preferences program.
“That would, of course, be ridiculous. After all, Aquino has put Arroyo — who never lost her GSP privileges when she ran the Philippines — under house arrest while she faces graft charges. Aquino’s labor secretary, Rosalinda Baldoz, is widely respected for her integrity and dedication in addressing the Arroyo-era abuses…
“Why would the USTR be holding such a hearing that by its nature is demeaning to an important American ally? While it’s tempting to blame the bureaucrats, the trade cops are essentially playing out their intended roles of ‘enforcement’ oversight that Congress mandated in the GSP legislation.
“Countries like the Philippines that sign up for the GSP program must agree to submit themselves to such oversight from Washington, notwithstanding the indignities. That’s one of the main reasons why the US Congress likes the GSP program — there is always an implicit understanding that economic privileges granted, can also be taken away. And no American president has ever complained that the generous GSP program is also a diplomatic lever that can always be pulled, if necessary to keep allies in line.
“The GSP program isn’t particularly generous to the Philippines anyway. To cite just one example: Philippine canned tuna exports are not eligible for the duty-free treatment, as they are politically ‘sensitive.’ The sensitivity involves American Samoa, which is an American territory.
“Official US policy has long discriminated against Asian tuna exporters like the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. The Asian tuna exporting countries face protective US tariffs of up to 12 percent. But American Samoa, because it is officially US territory, can export its canned tuna to the US mainland duty free. Without the protective tariffs, the Samoans could not compete.
“Obama inherited the economically indefensible US tuna tariffs from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who inherited them from his predecessors. Bush rebuffed Gloria Arroyo when she sought their removal. It’s safe to say that Obama will also kick the tuna-tariff can down the road.”
Last year, Rushford also reported about how Obama repudiated a request of P-Noy for some trade preferential treatment for our garments industry. As I reported it in this column June 15 last year, Greg Rushford’s op/ed piece for the Wall Street Journal explained what happened:
“On Mr. Aquino’s other goal—dropping US tariffs on his country’s clothing exports—the Obama administration sent the President home empty-handed. The Philippine leader urged Barack Obama to support a bill introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives to boost Philippine clothing exports to the US, which amounted to $1.7 billion last year. The SAVE Act—for Save Our Industries—would give Philippine garment manufacturers duty-free access to US clothing markets as long as they buy US fabrics to make their jeans, shirts and dresses.
“Instead, Mr. Aquino got the brush off… Chris Panlilio, the Philippine undersecretary of trade who came to Washington with Mr. Aquino, says it is unfair ‘given our historical relationship with America’ for the Philippines not to enjoy preferential trade.’”
What’s strange is what follows next as Rushford reports:
“Mr. Obama has been fighting tooth and nail to make Vietnam buy American fabrics in return for tariff reductions. The Vietnamese, sensibly, have pointed out the economic absurdities of this policy.
“Undeterred, the Obama White House vows to keep up the pressure until Vietnamese negotiators give in. The hypocrisy is too hard to ignore: Washington wants from Hanoi what it won’t give to Manila.”
Friend and ally? We should wonder.
As for the Asian pivot, I doubt if the guys in Washington know what that means beyond being a good PR line for over-trusting allies.
Teach a child to be polite and courteous, and when he grows up, he’ll never be able to drive in Manila.
Strategic Horizons: To Build Future Military, U.S. First Needs Strategic Vision
By Steven Metz, on 24 Jul 2013, Column
The community of national security experts is consumed with debate on the appropriate size and configuration of the American military. Seldom does a week pass without some new report, commission or conference offering solemn advice on this complex issue. Policy journals and op-ed pages are awash with articles on it. Such vigorous discussion is a good thing, but it may be focused on the wrong issue—ultimately the size of the armed forces matters less than what they are asked to do.
There are analysts, though, who are grappling with the type of conflicts the U.S. military may be ordered to fight in the next few decades. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster recently penned a powerful essay reminding Americans of what he calls the "pipe dream of easy war," in which easy victories are "achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances."
McMaster always deserves serious consideration: He is one of the U.S. military's most important strategic thinkers with a profound grasp of both the technicalities of warfighting and the politics of war. His reminder that armed conflict will remain complex, dirty and protracted is important. But that alone it is not enough to drive military force and concept development. Military leaders know that the defense budget and the size of the armed forces will decline. They know that sustaining existing military capabilities will be challenging and developing new ones will be difficult and time consuming. But the challenge is identifying which capabilities to develop and which to abandon.
The problem is politics. The American political system is based on civilian control of the military. Military leaders cannot and should not develop a national strategic vision—that is the responsibility of civilian political leaders in consultation with the public. But in the current political climate, civilian leaders are unable or unwilling to articulate a long-term strategic vision. Without one, the architects of the future military must speculate about what the armed forces will be ordered to do.
The roots of this problem lie deep in history. The American political system was not designed to develop, implement and adjust a coherent national security strategy. For much of its history, the United States was an insular, inward-looking nation. The Founding Fathers and most of the political leaders who followed them did not want the United States to be a great power in the European mode. Hence they did not build the institutions or mindset to do so, settling instead for reluctant and episodic involvement outside the Western Hemisphere.
When World War II and the Cold War compelled the United States to become a great power, Americans cobbled together institutions and, importantly, the mindset needed for far-flung security commitments. This was made possible by the clear threat posed first by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and then by the Soviet Union manipulating global communism, anti-colonialism and the political awakening of repressed peoples. Americans argued over much of their security strategy but generally agreed that the long-term objectives and top priorities were the containment of Soviet power and the downfall of communism. When this finally happened, American strategy carried on as if by inertia, sticking with the goal of sustaining U.S. military dominance and maintaining the security system that had emerged during the Cold War.
This clarity of strategic vision shaped military force development. During the Cold War, the armed forces bought weapons systems and crafted operational methods specifically designed to counter the Soviet military and the Soviet-style militaries of "rogue states" like North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. This continued during the 1990s simply because there was no compelling reason to change. Then the Sept. 11 attacks forced a major shift in the evolutionary trajectory of the U.S. military. Defeating al-Qaida and countering terrorism and insurgency became the priorities. This was different than the earlier strategic visions but at least it was a strategic vision. So even while embroiled in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the U.S. military had a sense of the type of future capabilities it needed.
Now the post-Sept. 11 consensus on objectives and priorities has crumbled with little sign of a new strategic vision. Neither of the major political parties has a consistent worldview that structures their positions on America's world role. Up-and-coming political leaders pay little attention to foreign and national security policy. There are few foreign and national security policy lions in Congress, and those who do exist have little interest in bipartisan consensus. As always, the White House is focused on the short-term span of electoral cycles rather than the long-term future. And it is difficult to discern coherent schools of thought within the community of foreign and national security policy experts. The result is an obsession with the crisis of the day without the working consensus needed for an effective strategic vision.
All of this leaves the military hanging. Its leaders know that they must begin now to develop the forces, systems and concepts that the armed forces will need a decade or more down the road. But without a clear idea of what Americans may want their future armed forces to do, military leaders must speculate—even guess—about the capabilities they should be building. Will the priority be containing China or undertaking force projection against Iran using high-tech weaponry? Will it be internal wars, insurgencies and humanitarian disasters? The rebuilding of shattered societies after a nuclear exchange? Cyberwar? A clash of robots? All depends on how and why the United States intends to exercise power.
Thinkers like McMaster are harvesting insights about the future of war from its past. Unfortunately, the history of U.S. national security policy does not provide a road map to its future. With luck, military leaders may guess right about armed conflict in the coming decades. But they may not. Reinvigorating a national consensus and strategic vision would help them immeasurably. They deserve it. But until some new threat emerges to focus national attention, the best military leaders can do is prepare to respond as quickly and effectively as possible once Americans decide what they want their role in the world to be.
Steven Metz is a defense analyst and the author of "Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy." His weekly WPR column, Strategic Horizons, appears every Wednesday.