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Be Afraid: Why America Will Never Defeat ISIS

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On the eve of the Iraq War in 2003, while commanding the 101st Airborne Division, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly asked Rick Atkinson the rhetorical question: “Tell me how this ends.” What began as a private joke between a military commander and an embedded journalist has become a warning for the need to define clear objectives and be cognizant of unexpected outcomes before going to war.  Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to provide clear strategic guidance for the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), declaring: “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.”

I published a column in Foreign Policy recently that highlights two troubling elements about Obama’s declared end state.

First, other Obama administration officials have offered their own end states that confuse or contradict what the president stated just eight days ago. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough stated recently: “Success looks like an ISIL that no longer threatens our friends in the region, no longer threatens the United States. An ISIL that can’t accumulate followers, or threaten Muslims in Syria, Iran, Iraq, or otherwise.” Also, Secretary of State John Kerry declared before the the Senate Foreign Relations Committee something else: “The military action ends when we have ended the capacity of ISIL to engage in broad-based terrorist activity that threatens the state of Iraq, threatens the United States, threatens the region. That’s our goal.”  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee that “success” included “stability in the Middle East.”

Second, the United States—and any combination of partners or allies—will never “destroy” ISIS. The evidence supporting this assertion is simple: Both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama declared that the Taliban and al-Qaeda and its affiliates would be “defeated” and “destroyed.” Meanwhile, the size and lethality of these groups has increased almost everywhere that they exist. The reason that presidents make such absolutist and totally unachievable pronouncements says more about American political culture than providing realist military campaign objectives. As I wrote in my column, a courageous president would tell the American people the truth, which is:

“The United States will attempt to diminish the threat that [ISIL] poses to U.S. personnel in the region to the greatest extent possible based upon the political will and resources that the United States and countries in the region are willing to commit.”

That is a strategy of mitigating ISIS’ threats and containing its influence within Iraq and the surrounding region. Yet, while mitigation and containment will drive the U.S. counterterrorism strategy regarding ISIS as a reality, the Obama administration (and Congress and the media) will pretend that the strategic end state is to defeat and destroy them. So when you hear the White House promise to destroy ISIS, don’t believe them, but consider why it is politically mandatory that they make such an outrageous and impossible claim.

This article first appeared on CFR's blog channel: Power, Politics, and Preventive Action here

Image:  U.S. Army Flickr. 

TopicsISISSecurityPolitics RegionsMiddle East

The Decline of the Bretton Woods Institutions

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When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Bretton Woods institutions—the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO)/GATT—appeared invincible. Orchestrated by the United States as the sole superpower, they seemed set to durably underpin a universal economic order. But they are now in rapid and unmistakable decline, which can only be reversed by a major shift in approach by their political masters.    

As the Cold War receded, all three institutions felt a strong wind in their sails. Hundreds of millions of Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese workers became part of the global market economy. The Eastern Europeans became enthusiastic joiners of the European Union. China, Russia, and dozens of other countries embarked on comprehensive negotiations to become members of the WTO, not only adopting the totality of the rules that govern trade, but accepting even tougher disciplines than applied to existing members. Previously planned economies became active members and users of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, eagerly adopting the tenets of the Washington Consensus. Meanwhile, economic growth in the developing world surged, democracy spread, and international conflicts declined in frequency and intensity.

But, as we now know, this trajectory was not to last. The outward appearance of a powerful apparatus remains, but the Bretton Woods institutions are now in trouble, hampered by profound disagreements among the large powers over ownership structure and/or their direction, and seemingly paralyzed by their incapacity to adapt to the rapidly changing world around them.

Dysfunction is evident for each of the Bretton Woods institutions.

Frustrated by the Doha deadlock, the United States and its allies have launched mega-regional negotiations that in effect promote alternatives to the WTO as rule-maker in addition to bypassing China, India and other large developing economies. India has just returned the favor by torpedoing the Bali trade-facilitation negotiations. China is stalling on a new Information Technology agreement and promoting its own version of Asian mega-regionals. The United States is, in turn, opposing China’s efforts to join the negotiations on International Services, which are being conducted outside the WTO.

The IMF still plays a role in acute crisis situations, but—despite its attempts to adopt a less rigid stance on issues ranging from fiscal adjustment, inflation targets, to capital controls—it remains profoundly distrusted by many developing countries. Still viewed as an instrument of the finance ministries and central banks of rich countries, the IMF suffers from near-pariah status in Asia where the memories of draconian austerity policies it imposed during the crisis of the late 1990s linger, prompting various initiatives to establish alternative crisis rescue facilities, and inviting increased self-reliance through large-scale, foreign-exchange reserve accumulation. Attempts to reform its ownership have failed, scotched by the U.S. Congress.

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s development lending has shriveled to insignificance in comparison not only to private financial flows, but also to national sources of aid and development finance. The so-called BRICS bank (founded by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is meant to compete with the World Bank and overcome some of its shortcomings.

Completing this unsettling picture, the G20, which has officially replaced the G7 as the premier economic forum, has achieved little since the financial panic of 2009 abated. Many observers now view it as little more than an oversized talking shop.

The change of fortune for the Bretton Woods institutions is not difficult to explain. It is in no small part a result of its own success in invigorating growth, trade and foreign investment across the developing world. Most important, however, is the fact that the group of the world’s largest economies—those that can call the shots—is no longer formed by a small group of rich countries with similar worldviews. It now includes several countries with large populations, diverse political systems and different economic structures, whose only common trait is that they are relatively poor.

As examples: China (a mass manufacturer) and Russia (a commodity exporter) are now part of the world market, but they remain state-led autocracies. India, South Africa and Brazil retain some of the world’s highest trade barriers. While these rising powers rightfully insist on a larger role in global institutions, they also understandably place a higher priority on fighting their own pervasive poverty than solving the world’s problems.

At the same time, industrial countries continue to be plagued by economic crisis. They are seeing internal divisions deepen and budgets tighten. The United States’ ill-fated and enormously costly foray into Afghanistan and Iraq has made the American public even more skeptical of foreign entanglements than it naturally might be. Large factions in the U.S. Congress favor a smaller role of government at home and see even less of a need for investing in international institutions.

So while in theory the need for the Bretton Woods institutions to support the globalization of markets is greater than it has ever been, in practice the deals needed to retain their vitality have been difficult to strike.

The United States (the richest economy in the world) and China (the second richest economy in the world) are now respectively the largest and second largest trading nations. They have the greatest interest in open and predictable international markets and the greatest influence among their peer groups. Yet, while they talk of partnership, the undercurrent of rivalry is evident in their actions, and even more so, in the dearth of any joint initiative to tackle the major issues they confront in common.         

It would be misleading and alarmist to suggest that the decline of Bretton Woods constitutes an immediate threat to open trade, globalization or the extraordinary development progress we have seen in recent years. These advances certainly depend in part on international institutions, but, at their core, they are driven by fundamental forces—most notably technology and countries’ desire to better the lot of their people by engaging in international trade and investment. After all, economic progress and globalization held sway long before the Bretton Woods institutions were established.

However, it would be equally wrong to underplay the long-term risks that lurk behind the widening shortfall in international economic governance. The global economy needs better rules to keep trade open and predictable, more effective regulation of large international banks, stronger rescue mechanisms at times of crisis, and development paradigms that do not devastate the environment or trample on workplace safety standards.

More ominously, as we have seen at the border of Ukraine and in the East China Sea, geopolitical and security concerns can feed into economic disputes (and vice versa) contributing to a dangerous escalation.

The Bretton Woods institutions are not dead—far from it. The major powers may still find a way to reform and allow them to adjust to the world’s new distribution of economic power. What we know for sure: until they do adjust, vital reforms will be delayed and international investors and exporters can expect to face a riskier environment than in the past; and they will never regain their vitality without the active support and sustained collaboration of China and the United States.

Uri Dadush is a senior associate in Carnegie’s International Economics Program.

TopicsGlobal GovernanceWorld BankIMFWTO RegionsUnited StatesEuropeChina

The Federal Reserve Will Never Be Dull Again

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Much is being made of the Federal Reserve beginning to normalize its policy. It sounds as though the Federal Reserve is getting back to its old, boring self. While labor market progress is debatable with too many part-timers and a low participation rate and inflation remains subdued, the Fed is set to cease its quantitative easing (QE) stimulus program. The federal funds rate or “fed funds”, the primary tool of monetary policy, is set to re-emerge as the favored instrument.  The Fed will wind down QE in October, and begin to raise interest rates sometime thereafter. The theory being that the US economy can support normalized policy without stumbling—at least too much. It seems the Fed will once again become the dull and subtle institution.

But this is simply not the case. Monetary policy is not going to be “normal”—and the Fed is not going to be boring, dull or subtle—anytime soon. At nearly 0 percent, the fed funds rate must move much higher to reach pre-recession levels. From January 1993 (the trough in fed funds after the 1990 recession) through the end of 2007 (before the Fed dropped it to nearly 0), the monthly average was about 4.4%. This would be no small move from current levels. The Fed itself sees rates of around 4 percent in the longer run, but does not agree on how quickly to move towards it. The Fed is also up against the downward trend in the fed funds rate since the late 70’s, early 80’s inflation was broken—each business cycle saw increasingly lower Fed Funds to combat an economic slowdown, and lower peak rates to cool an expansion.

Aside from the time it will take to move Fed Funds back to a more normal level, the side-effects of quantitative easing will take time to work out. The Fed’s balance sheet is currently sitting at about $4.4 trillion as QE led to the rapid accumulation of assets. The Fed should stop adding to its stockpile soon, but that does not imply that it will stop its purchases.

Much attention has been paid to how quickly the Fed purchased additional assets, but little given to the “rolling of maturities”. The Fed is currently maintaining the size of its balance sheet by purchasing new securities with the proceeds of those that mature. This keeps the balance sheet the same size, but does not increase it. A critical part of Fed guidance will be how quickly—if at all—they shrink the balance sheet. There are options. The Fed could stop rolling entirely, roll a portion, maintain the current policy and allow the balance sheet to stay large, and tweaking around the amount of mortgage-backed securities and treasuries among other options. The Fed has stated it intends to reduce the balance sheet to only what is necessary to operate, will hold mostly treasuries, and will let them roll-off, but has not provided guidance on when or how rapidly. The key here is that the Fed will be purchasing securities after it “ends” its QE program—just not growing the balance sheet.

It is worth asking whether Fed policy will ever approach something equivalent to a historical norm. For the moment, the answer appears to be no—at least for a very, very long time. Even if the Fed is able to raise fed funds moderately over the next couple years, it is unlikely it will be able to move them higher quickly enough to get them “off the ground” in any real way. There is also the question of how effective monetary policy can be in this type of environment. If there is a shock to the economy in 2016 and the Fed Funds rate is sitting at 1.5%, how will the Fed react? With little room to move rates lower, the Fed would likely resort to QE or halt shrinking the balance sheet (or both). Unconventional monetary policy is becoming much more conventional.

The Fed is nearing the conclusion of its latest round of QE, but this does not mark the end of an era. The balance sheet will remain inflated for a long time—even if an effort is made to reduce it. The balance sheet will become a more important  tool of monetary policy (shrinking the balance sheet is a form of relative tightening). QE will likely be used in the future to stimulate the economy as moving the fed funds rate has less of an effect. A once simple to understand institution—moving interest rates up or down—has become an increasingly difficult one to understand. Monetary policy may someday return to the simplicity of old, but normal will not return anytime soon.

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons. 

TopicsEconomics RegionsUnited States

A World of Scotlands

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Regardless of how the Scottish referendum on independence turns out, it’s worth putting the event into context by recalling some basic facts concerning the rate of state proliferation. That’s not a topic that gets a lot of attention in news media. But how many countries do you think there are in the world today? Actually, the answer depends on how you define “countries,” but “about 195” wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Given there were 68 in 1945, the number of countries in the international community has—roughly—tripled over the past seventy years. In short, state proliferation has been a powerful force, even during those Cold War years that we like to think of now as a veritable model of strategic stasis.

Moreover, there’s no reason to think the number of countries in the world has peaked. In his work on geopolitics, Saul Cohen, for example, argues that “the creation of up to fifty additional quasi- or fully independent states over the coming decades will change the territorial outlines and functions of many major and regional powers.” Indeed, political disaggregation will likely continue despite—indeed, partly because of?—the centripetal forces of globalization, as testament to the strength of what we might call “identity politics.”

These days, there’s a popular myth that state boundaries tend to be fixed and inviolable—witness the recent outcry over the de-facto annexation of Crimea by Russia. In reality, though, state boundaries are not nearly as fixed as many might imagine. Take a look at this brief three-minute video (see above) of how borders have changed in Europe over the last thousand years. It requires no great act of imagination to believe that an independent Scotland might arise—nor that it might, at some point in the future, be reabsorbed into the United Kingdom. Over long time frames, change seems normal.

The map’s not good at depicting the global growth in the number of states over the last seventy years—not least because decolonization was a strong driver of state proliferation and most of that happened away from European shores. Nor is the map a good indicator of strategic angst. Seen at a distance—on a computer screen or from the other side of the world—state proliferation is an interesting phenomenon to watch. Seen close up, it’s highly unsettling and strategically unnerving. Consider the attempts by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army to force Bougainville’s secession from Papua New Guinea. Or remember when East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia and the effects that had on the Indonesia-Australia relationship? Similar effects, perhaps more severe, would attend any move towards independence by West Papua.

And so far we’re only talking about relatively small cases of state proliferation. While some might think the prospect a Black Swan event, a broader break-up of the Indonesian archipelago, for example, would have major geopolitical consequences—indeed, it would fundamentally reshape Australia’s strategic environment.

Whether Scotland votes for independence or not, the big message is that state proliferation remains an important driver in international politics.

Rod Lyon is a fellow at ASPI and executive editor of The Strategist where this first appeared

TopicsDomestic Politics RegionsScotland

If Scotland Bolts: What Happens to the UK’s Security Council Seat?

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As Scotland approaches its independence referendum on Thursday, desperate unionists are groping to bolster the “No thanks” cause. There is no shortage of compelling reasons to stick together. But one claim being advanced is truly far-fetched: that Scottish secession endangers the United Kingdom’s permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Last week former British Prime Minister John Major alleged as much, warning, “We would lose our seat at the top table in the UN.” This ignores geopolitical realities and historical precedents.

The fear-mongers have concocted the following story: The UN Charter has no provisions for succession to UNSC permanent seats, and this legal void provides a potential opening for diplomatic chaos that spoilers and troublemakers may fill. The UK achieved its permanent seat in 1945 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Its dissolution will result in two successor states, the rump UK and Scotland, neither of which—or, alternatively, either of which—is eligible to claim that seat. The result will be political turmoil and jockeying, perhaps spurred by Russia or China, over which country should occupy the UNSC’s permanent fifth seat. The diplomatic crisis will also embolden major emerging powers like India and Brazil, and perhaps longtime aspirants such as Germany and Japan, to stake renewed claims.

This is not going to happen. The near-certain outcome, if the Scots unwisely choose to go it alone, is that the authorities in Edinburgh will immediately recognize the UK government’s UNSC claim. A newly independent but closely integrated Scotland has everything to lose and nothing to gain by disputing the UK’s permanent seat. (Nationalism may be “political romanticism,” in Isaiah Berlin’s words, but even the most starry-eyed Scots understand that a country of fewer than six million has no permanent slot on the UNSC). Perhaps more surprisingly, the attitude of the remaining permanent four UNSC members will be identical: they will quickly recognize the rump United Kingdom as the state entitled to permanent membership.

These decisions would be consistent both with historical precedent and the national interests of other Security Council members. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the Commonwealth of Independent States (comprising the states that broke away from the Soviet Union) endorsed the Russian Federation’s claim to the permanent UNSC seat. Russian President Boris Yeltsin transmitted a letter to this effect to the UN secretary-general, who shared it with the broader UN membership. He received no objections, as UN members sought to avoid a UN constitutional crisis. The other permanent members quickly recognized the Russian Federation as the successor state on the Security Council. All this occurred even though the Russian Federation’s population (149 million) was 48 percent smaller than the Soviet Union’s (285 million). Russia also became the only former Soviet Union nation to earn recognition as a nuclear weapon state. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all proceeded to eliminate their arsenals.

In proportional terms, Scotland’s departure from the UK would represent far less of a demographic and economic hit, reducing its population by 8 percent, from 64 to 58.7 million, and its GDP by approximately the same percentage. The two successor governments would have little difficulty negotiating new arrangements allowing the rump UK to retain control over its nuclear arsenals parked on Scottish soil, as well as military bases there.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union may be the most obvious historical precedent, but it is not the only one. Across the Channel, France provides another—albeit more violent—example, in the case of French Algeria. Unlike the majority of French imperial acquisitions, Algeria was no mere colony. After 1848, Algeria was constitutionally part of metropolitan France, administered as a French département. After a bloody civil war, the government of President Charles de Gaulle eventually agreed to independence in the Evian Accords, confirmed in an Algerian referendum of July 1962. Although this departure significantly reduced the territory of “France,” it had no impact on France’s status as one of the five permanent UNSC members.

So the past is the prologue. Unless, some argue, the other P5 members want to kick out the UK? Washington and Paris, obviously, will be solidly in London’s camp, anxious to (re)consolidate the Western triumvirate on the UNSC. But why wouldn’t Vladimir Putin, angered at Western “meddling” in Ukraine, seek to flex his muscles by opening up the question of UNSC membership? Might China, too, seize the moment to shift the balance of forces on the Council away from the West?

No. Neither Russia nor China will do anything of the sort. Russia is as much a declining as a rising power, given its dismal long-term demographic, economic, technological, and military prospects. A permanent seat on the UNSC, along with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, are its two central claims to great power status. Moscow has zero incentive to open up the Pandora’s box of permanent membership, and it has been most vocal among the P5 in opposing various recent proposals for UNSC enlargement. Beijing has been content to hide behind Russia’s position. At a rhetorical level, China claims to favor an expanded UNSC, but only in its “elected” (as opposed to permanent) membership. Beijing adamantly opposes the permanent membership candidacies of both Japan and India (its ostensible BRICS partner).

The upshot? The rump UK might face some diplomatic complications. But it is unlikely to find its permanent UNSC seat in jeopardy.

During its first term, the Obama administration declared itself open in principle to limited UNSC enlargement, including additional permanent members. But despite a flurry of diplomatic excitement in 2010 (including an oblique endorsement of India’s eventual membership), the White House has done zero to follow up on this diplomatic tease. And it is not about to do so now, at the expense of its closest ally. Indeed, a “yes” vote for Scotland’s independence would doom any prospects, however remote, of U.S. leadership on UNSC membership reform.

This is understandable. But in a larger sense, it is also unfortunate. With each passing year, the composition of the UNSC, particularly its permanent membership, diverges further from the global distribution of power. With no periodic reset to accommodate rising nationsprepared to contribute to international peace and security, and with some current members (notably Russia) devoting themselves to obstruction, the perceived legitimacy and practical efficacy of the UNSC will decline, and dissatisfied nations may increasingly ignore or bypass it in pursuing national security interests.

But this is a struggle for another day, when minds are not so focused on long-ago battles from Bannockburn to Culloden Moor.

This article first appeared in The Internationalist blog on the Council on Foreign Relations website here

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons

TopicsSecurity RegionsScotland

Australia and India: A Nuclear Alliance?

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Recently Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a nuclear safeguards agreement with India, allowing Australia for the first time to export uranium to India for civil nuclear purposes. The agreement is touted as a win for Australia’s small uranium sector and a needed step towards improving Australia–India relations. India’s refusal to sign the NPT constrained relations for decades. It’s widely understood that the uranium deal is more directly related to diplomacy than boosting Australia’s mining sector, so what’s next now that the safeguards agreement has been signed?

The uranium deal is first and foremost a diplomatic gesture meant to jumpstart Australia’s broader engagement with India. Both countries share an interest in Indian Ocean maritime security and bilateral military relations can be built around that common interest. We should expect to see strengthened dialogue between India and Australia on security issues. And we can expect that more joint military exercises and military-to-military exchanges will also be announced. A bilateral naval exercise is already scheduled for 2015.

There’s also potential for increased economic engagement between Australia and India. Trade Minister Andrew Robb plans to lead a business delegation of 300 to India early next year. Australia recognizes a need to diversify its trade partners, and bilateral trade with India trails far behind that with other major Asian partners. India could become a large-scale market for Australian goods and services. And its surging need for energy security coupled with Australia’s competitive advantage in energy-supply potentially makes for a strong partnership. In the short term, we can expect coal to continue to be a significant export and later LNG will emerge to fuel India’s economy.

Although this agreement will spark some optimism in the struggling uranium business, it won’t make anyone rich anytime soon. Uranium prices are extremely weak due to decreased global demand in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan and there’s a global excess of supply. Although Australia’s known resources are the world’s largest, uranium’s only a small part of Australia’s massive mining sector.

Moreover, it’ll take some time before uranium shipments to India begin. Australian mining company Toro Energy said shipments could start within five years. Things will likely change for Australia’s uranium sector as India and China deliver on their prospective nuclear power projects.

There’s been some concern that the uranium will be used not just for civil purposes. That’s a point of controversy given concerns about India’s nuclear arsenal. However, this June India signed the additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) placing its ten reactors under the agency’s safeguards. That agreement also allows inspectors into the country and requires India to report to the IAEA all uranium within its control that is redirected for export to a third-party country. Australia also has its own watchdog, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO). To ensure Australian uranium isn’t used for military purposes, ASNO accounts for it as it moves through the fuel cycle. India will be obliged to report to ASNO on the uses of uranium purchased from Australia.

While Australia can’t be completely certain uranium will never be diverted for military use, India knows there would be serious diplomatic consequences if it was discovered that such diversion had occurred.

The nuclear safeguards agreement is a diplomatic tool meant to build trust with India and move bilateral ties forward. As an economic tool, it’s a forward-looking measure to supplement India’s energy needs with Australian resources.

Kyle Springer is the program associate at the new Perth US Asia Centre at The University of Western Australia. This piece first appeared in ASPI’s The Strategist here

Image: Office of the PM, India. 

TopicsSecurity RegionsIndia

Ronald Reagan Declares War on ISIS

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Editor’s Note: How different would our response as a nation be if the Commander-in-Chief were Ronald Reagan? Sebastian Gorka has some ideas below:

My Fellow Americans,

Today we face a threat the likes of which we have not seen since the darkest days of World War II and the Cold War.

Our enemy is not ISIS, the Islamic State, or even Al Qaeda; it is the ideology that drives all such barbaric groups.

It is the ideology of Global Jihadism.

In the name of God, the adherents of this world view crucify Christians, behead Americans, and massacre or subjugate any and all who stand in their way—man, woman, or child.

These people are not driven in their ferocious violence by actual grievances, by a need to resist tangible oppression. They are not "freedom fighters."

Theirs is a totalitarian vision of the world just as binary and absolutist as that of the Third Reich or the political masters of the Soviet Union.

For Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and his followers in the Islamic State, there will be no negotiated settlement to this war. No cease-fire instrument signed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. For the global Jihadist Movement, there is either victory or death. And even in death, there is an individual victory with martyrdom in the name of killing the infidel, guaranteeing eternal salvation for the jihadist.

Whatever name they go by—Al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, or the Islamic State—these organizations are cut from the same cloth. They are born of the ideas that founded the Muslim Brotherhood. The conviction that "true Muslims" cannot live under un-Islamic systems; that democracies, those systems in which humans make the laws thus abrogating Allah's sovereignty, must be destroyed; and that the only choice for the infidel is between conversion or death.

Our Republic was born out of a resistance to tyranny. We all know that America was founded on the principle that each and every human being has unalienable rights.

Why do they have these rights? Because they are endowed with them by The Creator. And this is why every soul that walks the earth has innate dignity. A dignity that Global Jihadism wishes to negate and, through its actions, destroy.

Tonight, America is declaring war on the ideology of Jihadism and commits herself to destroying not only the Islamic State, but anyone who subscribes to the same beliefs, whatever name they give themselves.

Our nation is often criticized for its unique sense of self, for the idea that we have a special job to do in the World, a Manifest Destiny as some have called it. But let the facts speak for themselves. When totalitarianism based on racial purity threatened the whole world, and which in the course of six years would result in the deaths of 60 million people, it was America that saved Europe from herself, from the vision of a "thousand-year" Reich.

When a class-based absolutist ideology later threatened not just Europe, but Asia, Latin America, and even Africa, with its goal of all humankind yoked underneath the "dictatorship of the proletariat", again, it was America who answered the call, stood firm, supported those who would resist the inhumanity of the Marxist, and ultimately facilitated the collapse of Communism.

The threat is no smaller today. In fact, the religious totalitarianism of the Jihadist Movement has a narrative that in many ways is more powerful than either Mein Kampf or Das Kapital. We never faced members of the SS or the KGB prepared to be suicide bombers. Today we do. From the World Trade Center, to the London Underground, from Amman, Jordan to Bali, we face an enemy who will literally stop at nothing to subjugate or destroy us and our way of life.

But there is good news that I must share also.

Just as we destroyed Hitler's Third Reich and vanquished Communism, we will destroy the ideology of Global Jihadism.

This will be done not only on the battlefield, but in the court of world opinion. We will strike, and strike hard at its forces in Iraq and elsewhere, recognizing as we do so that this type of irregular war cannot be won from 20,000 feet by airpower alone. It will take brave men on the ground to take the fight to the terrorists and insurgents, men who will ideally be from the Muslim allies of the United States—Iraqis, Kurds, Jordanians, even Egyptians. But they will be accompanied by forward-deployed members of our Special Forces, those brave Americans who have proven time and again, from battlefields as far apart as Afghanistan and Colombia, that where they can be the backbone of the local resistance to the enemies of all that is good and fair, the fight is winnable.

Our Muslim and Arab allies must be the frontline in this conflict, but without America's fighting with them, this war will not be won. Not simply because our forces are so superior, but because if we are not prepared to send our people in harms way to fight the barbarians that wish to destroy our civilization, then we send a very simple message to the Enemy and to the world: our civilization is not worth saving.

Make no mistake, this will be a long and hard fight, but we have faced off and defeated the enemies of modernity and civilization before and with God's help, we will do so again.

But we must learn the lessons of the past. When fighting totalitarians, it is never enough to defeat them militarily. One must defeat their ideology. We must de-legitimize their claims to righteousness and justice. We much demonstrate to the world that our values are the true and universal ones and that we are prepared to fight for them.

God Bless our Troops, God Bless America.

Sebastian Gorka is the Matthew C Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University and National Security Affairs editor with Breitbart.com . Follow him at @SebGorka.

TopicsPolitics RegionsUnited States

It's Not Fear That's Clouding the Scotland Debate: It's Amnesia

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According to Scottish nationalists, it's "Team Scotland vs Team Westminster." A Braveheart view of the past predisposes them to see separateness. Essential is retrieving the "lost world" of Scottish Britishness. Even before the union, it was growing inter-dependence that defined the relationship between the various parts of Britain.

In 1695, the Scottish government granted a license for the so-called Darien Company to plant a colony in Panama. To tap Spanish trade in the Caribbean, Scots had sunk some £153,000 - a quarter of the country's liquid capital - into a distant plantation. By 1700, tropical disease and Spanish raids had killed most of the colonists off. Edinburgh blamed London for not coming to its rescue.

A Union of Crowns had existed since 1603 when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne of England as James I. But without a union of parliaments pooling risk and resources, London had no responsibility for Scottish commerce and no stake in a colonial enterprise that conflicted with England's need to keep Spain onboard against France.

Perhaps the biggest myth of all is that next week's referendum can return Scotland independence lost in 1707: the Darien scheme confronts us with two kingdoms legally separate but increasingly seen by their inhabitants as interdependent.

The referendum's thorniest issues - the pound, the economy, defense and a shared monarch - point us back to the problem 18th-century proponents of the union sought to fix: how to arrange the relationship of two nations, highly if unequally dependent on each other for trade and defense, that shared an island, a crown, a language and (we forget how important it was) the 1613 King James version of the Protestant Bible.

Unfashionable as it is to say, the union achieved what its designers meant it to - secure the diverse but inter-connected peoples of the island of Great Britain against foreign threats to their liberties, and promote their common prosperity.

For Scotland, the economic relationship with England, its Caribbean and North American colonies and the booming colonial trade in sugar and tobacco, was critical. For England, the imperative was strategic: fear of Louis XIV's France in Europe, on the high seas, in North America and India.

But an ideological conflict - the defense of Protestantism and parliamentary government (albeit with an excruciatingly limited franchise, especially in Scotland) - was crucial to the making of Britain. On both sides of the Tweed, Louis's France was the nightmare both feared most: absolutist and Catholic.

To fend it off, the two Protestant kingdoms of the island of Great Britain created a common market (then the world's largest), a common currency, common army and navy, with a common foreign policy directed through a common parliament at Westminster.

They pooled the national debt. By 1713, Louis was contained.

This Anglo-Scottish fiscal-military union out-strategized, out-spent and out-fought all its rivals. In the Seven Years' War (1756-63) and again in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), it defeated the French threat to Protestantism and parliament.

Victory at Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815) made possible the third element of Britain's high imperial credo: free trade - a Scots idea first expressed in Adam Smith's 1776 Wealth of Nations. Another Scots invention - James Watt's 1765 steam engine - made Britain's industrial lead unassailable for a century. By 1762, a Scot, Lord Bute, was prime minister.

The joint Anglo-Scottish Empire was to contemporaries as it is to us, British rather than English. By 1750, a quarter of the officers of the East India Company were Scots. A century later, William Mackinnon, from a middle-class Clyde family, founded a line of mail steamers (Mackinnon Mackenzie & Co.) that would become the British India Steam Navigation Company, official carrier of British troops as well as mail from the Persian Gulf to Burma.

The Scots presence all over the British Empire made Darien a distant memory. Its fruits reshaped Scottish cityscapes. Between 1745 and 1850, colonial wealth built Edinburgh's famous New Town. The Empire's second city until the 1950s, shipbuilding Glasgow, created a handsome center of its own. By 1880, as much as 40 percent of Australian borrowing was from middle-class savings in Scottish banks.

Union also promised an empire of Christ for Scots missionaries - unsurprising in a society so profoundly shaped by the Kirk. Born in 1813 in Lanarkshire and buried in 1873 in Westminster Abbey, David Livingstone took "Commerce and Christianity" to deepest Africa and became the patron saint of high Victorianism.

A British identity took longer to build than a British state. But by the mid-19th century, it had crystallized around what most Britons thought of as Britain's unique winning formula: Protestantism, parliamentary government and free trade. Among Scots, allegiance to this triune formula made the Conservative and Unionist Party the most successful political party north of the border until the 1960s.

Spurious is the argument of today's nationalists that Scotland got nothing more out of union than occupation. For generations of Scots, from Louis XIV until the defeat of Hitler, it meant the defense and expansion of British Protestantism, the protection of British freedoms symbolized in parliament and an arena for their talents, commercial and spiritual, as wide as could then be imagined: the free-trading British Empire.

Today, the empire is gone and Scots Protestantism is more cultural artifact than creed. But can nationalists' vision for Scotland outside the United Kingdom provide the security and prosperity previous generations identified in the union?

To trade a union that works for a separation that doesn't isn't a step forward; it's a step back to the unhappy days of 1700.

The SNP patriotically rejects the basing of Britain's nuclear force in Scotland but says an independent Scotland will shelter under NATO's nuclear umbrella - partly provided by Britain but dependent above all on Washington's goodwill.

The SNP trumpets "independence in Europe" and holds out Scots as more enthusiastic Europeans than the English. But why then the need for admission on Britain's terms - without the Euro and with London's passport controls? In the EU, too, bigger is better: in the depths of the euro crisis, Irish pleas for clemency fell on deaf ears in austerity-minded Berlin.

That crisis made clear that the European Union is manifestly not what the United Kingdom is: a fiscal-political union pooling risks at the same time as opportunities. British government bonds ("gilts") guarantee the pound; Eurobonds may never exist.

That's why the pound goes to the heart of the debate. Independence plus the Bank of England are probably the only terms on which the SNP can win. But why should the Bank of England (that is, British taxpayers south of the border) act as lender of last resort to Scottish banks or back Scottish government debt without control over how that debt is created?

To trade a union that works for a separation that doesn't isn't a step forward; it's a step back to the unhappy days of 1700. It's Darien without the Caribbean sun - the benefits of union without the risks. As Gordon Brown, Britain's most recent Scottish prime minister, has argued, a patriotism based on Scotland's real story of inter-dependence would look for allies south of the border for renegotiating the terms of the union rather than tearing it up (and inventing a separate past to justify it).

Lost in the fog-shrouded heather of nationalist romance is the truth that the peoples of Great Britain have always been as divided within their kingdoms as connected between. Scots nationalists remember the crushing of the clans at Culloden as English-imposed genocide. Eighteenth-century lowland Scots (Saxons, or "Sassenachs" to the Highlanders) saw in it deliverance from a Catholic tyranny with worrying links to France. None would have been caught dead in a kilt until Queen Victoria made it a fashion and the British Army made the Highlanders the loyal crack troops of Empire.

The "Yes" campaign shamelessly holds the union up as a failure. But if the modern parliamentary state was born in England's "Glorious Revolution" of 1689, it was the 1707 union with Scotland that secured it for posterity. And it was the successful Anglo-Scottish model of political and fiscal union rather than looser confederation that inspired the founding fathers in designing the United States and every successful union, including the Australian, since.

It's not fear that's clouding the referendum debate; it's amnesia about the scale of the union's achievements and the inter-dependence of the British peoples. After 1707, Scots and English (and Welsh) invented Britishness together. It's entirely within their creative capacity to reshape its content for the 21st century.

Matthew Dal Santo is a freelance writer and foreign affairs correspondent. He previously worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This piece first appeared at ABC's The Drum here

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons License. 

TopicsHistory RegionsScotland

Can America Still Win the Information War?

The Buzz

The U.S. Congress heard recently from the President that the world is a dangerous place and that we may need to defend our national security soon. That is as it should be. But before the first bullet is fired in most contests, there’s usually an information war that must be won, and there the Senate has dropped the ball by not taking up a House bill that reforms U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB).

Consider the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, a prime example of the importance of the communications war. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his southern neighbor marks the first time since World War II that a European country has officially annexed the territory of another.

But before Putin invaded Ukraine he occupied the Russian mind. Having taken complete control of his country’s media, Putin was able to paint Ukraine’s new leaders as “Nazis” and the country’s Russian minority as “oppressed.” Thus brainwashed, Russians clamored for intervention; Putin merely acceded to their demands. No Roman emperor ever did it better.

It is the same with the conflicts we face with Islamists from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Taliban in Pakistan, and of course with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The battle for hearts and minds takes place in every conflict we face. Very often, the first ammunition fired are sound bites and pixels of information.  For the West, when it sticks by its values, this means using the truth.

We used to be good at lobbing the truth over the parapets, beaming Voice of America broadcasts into the darkest of dungeon-nations, unstintingly showing the benefits of religious tolerance, freedom of speech and association and all the other rights that provide liberty.

Then we unilaterally disarmed. Just as the Obama Administration pulled all troops out of Iraq and did not leave a residual force, so it also dismantled our information armory.

Most damningly, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees most of the activities of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB), all but eliminated broadcasts in Russian and Ukrainian in the past few years.

Acting through the USIB, the Administration has also made deep cuts in the Office of Policy, which creates the editorials that explain U.S. policy to foreign audiences. Last September Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, complained that these cuts were in contravention of the VOA charter and public law.  Those complaints went completely unheeded by IBB Director Richard Lobo, an Administration appointee.

Often times, VOA staff have sought to define their mission not as purveyors of American values and explainers of policy overseas, but as straight up journalists who must criticize both.

Standing behind these issues is also the ideological baggage that the Obama Administration has brought in. President Ronald Reagan had no compunction about calling the Soviet Union “the evil empire”—drawing derision from Paris, Bonn and the Upper West Side, but giving comfort to prisoners in the Gulag, who heard from it after word had been beamed in by VOA. President Obama, by contrast, has reportedly banned the administration from using such terms as “jihad” and “Islamic terrorism.”

The United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014, or H.R. 4490, won’t fix the Obama Administration’s ideological biases, but it would do much good.

Among its many positive aspects, H.R. 4490 would provide adult supervision for the $700 million broadcast group, replacing the BBG with a “United States International Communications Agency,” and establishing within the agency a Board of Directors and a Chief Executive Officer.

The role of VOA in public diplomacy is moreover underlined: the bill expresses the sense of Congress that VOA “has been an indispensable element of U.S. foreign policy and public diplomacy efforts and should remain the flagship brand of the Agency.”

The other so-called “surrogate” institutions, such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network, would be consolidated into a “Freedom News Network” to facilitate better management.

H.R.4490 is, moreover, that rarest of things: a bipartisan bill, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., not exactly ideological birds of a feather.

The bill passed the House by a voice vote on July 28 and now awaits action from a Senate that has precious few days left in this session. Senators serious about facing up to the challenges posed by ISIS, Putin and others should understand that information wars well fought can avoid ones that involve real bullets.

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the author of the book “A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans.”

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons License. 

TopicsSecurity RegionsUnited States

A Conservative Defense Policy for 2014: Look to Eisenhower

The Buzz

Recent discussions amongst Republicans regarding U.S. Defense force structure have revealed an ongoing disagreement between two camps within the party. Military Hawks, citing the recent disturbances in Ukraine and Iraq, have begun to beat the drum for more resources to be allocated for the Department of Defense to address threats that never really subsided. Fiscal Hawks, focused on budget deficits that stretch as far as the eye can see, continue to argue for DoD to continue to be part of a basket of cuts in entitlements and discretionary programs. While all agree that the United States needs to maintain a military strong enough to deter the rise of competitors and preserve its ability to respond to crises around the world, the question that remains is: how large and how capable does our military have to be to accomplish these twin goals? 

The Military Hawks’ solution is to increase spending and buy more weapons already in production from our military industrial base. Fiscal Hawks, arguing that our Department of Defense is larger than the next ten militaries combined, believe there is room for continued cuts before the nation’s interests are placed at risk. Objective analysis suggests that a path exists that would allow cuts to the DoD budget and marginal growth in the force. Such a path is predicated on recognizing that our national fascination with high-tech weapons systems has led to a defense culture where the exquisite has become the enemy of the “good enough.”

It has not been so long since the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pronounced that our debt posed a grave threat to our national security at home and around the world. Projected annual trillion-dollar deficits have not lessened the American people's concern. The Budget Control Act (or Sequester) was passed with a false assumption that its provisions would be so painful that the Congress would have to agree on a thoughtful deficit-cutting solution. While we can all agree that it would be wise and desirable to escape the painful controls imposed by the Sequester, we should not give way to election-year desires to spend more, ignoring the long-term implications of our debt.

Some compromise can be found that lowers the cost of entitlements and defense, while also increasing revenues. The Democrats need to come to the table to address the looming crises in Social Security and healthcare. Defense spending should continue downward to levels somewhat higher than those last seen prior to 9/11, when the Department of Defense had an inflation-adjusted budget of $386B (we spend $560B today), the Army had 481,000 soldiers (522,000 today) and the Navy had 316 ships (291 currently). In 2001, we stated that we could fight two major regional conflicts; today, we admit that is no longer possible. Why has the cost of our military gone up 45 percent, while its ability to fight has gone down? Healthcare costs have risen, and there have been complications associated with fighting two wars, but even after factoring the current ISIS crisis into the equation, the wartime pressures are subsiding. In the end, a major inflationary pressure remains our addiction to exquisite platforms.

It is unwise to accept the false premise that we can only arrive at a larger force by spending more on the same types of platforms that we are already building. A conservative approach to the future must find the right balance between high-priced silver bullets that can only be purchased in small numbers and low technology assets that can be purchased in large quantities at low costs. Such an approach would be reminiscent of the Eisenhower presidency, when Ike addressed the debt that had been run up fighting World War II by pursuing a careful balance between a smaller conventional-fighting force and the newly emergent nuclear force, balancing the budget in the process. A Republican defense policy today should rest upon four legs: preservation of current high-tech capabilities, increased emphasis on the procurement of low-cost assets for day-to-day operations, modernization of our nuclear arsenal and investment in the research and development of new technologies to guarantee American leadership after our fiscal house is put in order.

In the meantime, in a world beset with constant turmoil, the phrase “quantity has a quality all its own” takes on new meaning. The United States simply cannot be everywhere that it needs to be with the high-cost, low-numbers military it currently plans, and Republicans cannot simply choose to deficit spend on defense or any other programs they admire. All government spending must be constrained. The turning point on defense will occur when we recognize that spending less money does not have to equate to a smaller force. Wise leaders have a credible alternative in defense-force structure and should pursue it.

Dr. Jerry Hendrix is a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and a retired Navy Captain.

Image: U.S. Department of Defense/Flickr. 

TopicsDefense RegionsUnited States

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