Military & Security

No, the U.S. Doesn’t Need to Expand Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Steven Pifer: “Yes, there are diverse threats out there. But one should keep perspective… None of these threats mandates a numerical increase in U.S. nuclear weapons.”

“Nuclear policymaking should not be conducted by Twitter. A close and careful look at the data shows that the United States currently has sufficient nuclear forces for deterrent requirements plus plans to maintain those forces in the future. There is no need to increase their number.”

Trump is Now America’s Arms Deal Negotiator

Marcus Weisgerber: “Negotiations for the Pentagon’s next batch of 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters don’t technically resume until next month, but they’re clearly under way.”

“If the last few weeks serve as a precedent, a new, powerful player — the president of the United States — will replace Pentagon generals as the chief negotiator for multibillion arms deals.”

The Most Effective Weapon on the Modern Battlefield is Concrete

“Ask any Iraq War veteran about Jersey, Alaska, Texas, and Colorado and you will be surprised to get stories not about states, but about concrete barriers. Many soldiers deployed to Iraq became experts in concrete during their combat tours. Concrete is as symbolic to their deployments as the weapons they carried. No other weapon or technology has done more to contribute to achieving strategic goals of providing security, protecting populations, establishing stability, and eliminating terrorist threats,” Major John Spencer writes for the Modern War Institute.

Why It Could Be Good for Trump to Skip Some Intelligence Briefings

“The problem with intelligence briefings is not so much that they cause boredom in the recipient as that they routinely induce terror,” John Mueller writes in a CNN Op-Ed.

“Central to the briefing is the ‘threat matrix,’ a compendium assembled by the CIA and the FBI that includes all the ‘threats’ — or more accurately ‘leads’ — needing to be followed up. Garrett Graff reports that it is ‘filled to the brim with whispers, rumors, and vacuous, unconfirmed information’ and that it can come off as ‘a catalogue of horrors’ and as the ‘daily looming prognoses of Armageddon.’ Philip Mudd notes the ‘voluminous and dominating’ threat information, much of which he points out is raw and ‘below threshold’ for top leaders, and notes that it contributes ‘to a pervasive sense that every day might bring a new attack.'”

“Part of the problem emerges from what Marc Sageman, after years of experience in the intelligence community, calls ‘a bias for alarming interpretations.’ Often, he says, ‘the worst interpretation’ is given full attention while potentially disconfirming evidence ‘is neglected.’ Robert Jervis agrees: probing for ‘alternative explanations of what was happening’ is, he finds, ‘very rare.'”

A Bipartisan Foreign Policy for the Trump Presidency

“As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department’s operations and foreign assistance, I’m hopeful my congressional colleagues and I can work constructively with the President-elect to advance the United States as a force for good, a force for stability, and a leader in the world,” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) writes for Democracy Journal.

“First, we must restructure the tools of U.S. development finance in a way that makes us more competitive with our geopolitical rivals. Second, we must develop a strategy to prevent fragile states from descending into crisis. Third, we must redefine the legal underpinning for the war against ISIL, Al Qaeda, and other jihadist extremist groups by debating and passing a new Authorization for Use of Military Force. Fourth, we must better position the United States to address the root causes of terrorism by streamlining and empowering our government agencies and working with partners in the Muslim world to undermine extremist ideology. Finally, we should pursue ‘muscular multilateralism’ based on targeted engagement, strong cooperation with our allies, and coordination with our rivals to realize progress in areas of mutual interest. This includes working with our partners to prepare for pandemics, uphold international law, and support nuclear nonproliferation.”

The Seven Top Potential Threats of 2017

Center for Foreign Relations: “The Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) ninth annual Preventive Priorities Survey identified seven top potential flashpoints for the United States in the year ahead.”

“The survey, conducted by CFR’s Center for Preventive Action (CPA), asked foreign policy experts to rank conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating and their potential impact on U.S. national interests.”

Among those threats deemed moderately likely and highly impactful to U.S. interests are “a deliberate or unintended military confrontation between Russia and NATO members, stemming from assertive Russian behavior in Eastern Europe” and “a mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or a treaty ally by either a foreign or homegrown terrorist.”

On an optimistic note, “no scenario was deemed both highly likely and highly impactful to U.S. interests, a change from last year when an intensification of Syria’s civil war was considered the most urgent threat.”

Counter-Disinformation Bill Clears Senate

American Interest: “Amid all the media hysteria over Russian propaganda and its effect on the U.S. presidential election, few have noted the quiet advance of legislation designed to counter such threats. Last week, a counter-propaganda bill sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama before he leaves office.”

“Still, there is no reason to celebrate quite yet. For one, the effectiveness of the new legislation will depend on its implementation by the new administration. Given Trump’s outright dismissal of concerns about Russian hacking and propaganda, he is unlikely to make countering such efforts a priority. Moreover, some experts like Clint Watts have argued that the bill’s interagency approach to fighting propaganda will be inherently unfocused; throwing more money at a government bureaucracy is no guaranteed recipe for success.”

“Finally, there is the risk that empowering anti-propaganda efforts will only add to the unreasonable panic over Putin-planted ‘fake news’ that has engulfed public debate since the election. We have argued before that such hysteria is overwrought, and that overreacting will only play into Putin’s hands.”

The West Is Dead

Joschka Fischer: “Now that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States, the end of what was heretofore termed the ‘West’ has become all but certain. That term described a transatlantic world that emerged from the twentieth century’s two world wars, redefined the international order during the four-decade Cold War, and dominated the globe – until now.”

“Trump does not have the luxury of an imperial approach. On the contrary, during the campaign, he heaped criticism on America’s senseless wars in the Middle East; and his supporters want nothing more than for the US to abandon its global leadership role and retreat from the world. A US that moves toward isolationist nationalism will remain the world’s most powerful country by a wide margin; but it will no longer guarantee Western countries’ security or defend an international order based on free trade and globalization.”

“But we should not harbor any illusions: Europe is far too weak and divided to stand in for the US strategically; and, without US leadership, the West cannot survive. Thus, the Western world as virtually everyone alive today has known it will almost certainly perish before our eyes.”

Autistic People Can Solve Our Cybersecurity Crisis

Kevin Pelphrey: “Alan Turing was the mastermind whose role in cracking the Nazi Enigma code helped the Allies win World War II. He built a machine to do the calculations necessary to decipher enemy messages and today is hailed as the father of the computer and artificial intelligence. He’s also widely believed to have been autistic.”

“While Turing’s renown has arguably never been higher, today we are failing to recognize the potential in millions of other talented minds all around us. Like Turing, many of them are also capable of exceptional technological expertise that can help to safeguard our nation.”

“The common prejudice is that people with ASD have limited skills and are difficult to work with. To the extent that’s true, it’s a measure of our failure as a society. Almost half of those diagnosed with ASD are of average or above-average intellectual ability… more than three-quarters of cognitively able individuals with autism have aptitudes and interests that make them well suited to cybersecurity careers. These include being very analytical and detail-oriented as well as honest and respectful of rules.”

Growing Out of U.S. Leadership

Adair Turner: “Donald Trump’s election has been greeted around the world with justifiable bewilderment and fear. His victory – following a fact-free, vicious election campaign – has trashed the brand of American democracy. But, while Trump is impulsive and occasionally vindictive – a potentially fatal mix in an already fragile world – his election should be a spur to challenge failed ideas and to move beyond excessive reliance on the United States’ inevitably imperfect global leadership.”

“Few of Trump’s campaign comments can be described as insightful and fair, but he had a point when he suggested that Europe cannot rely on America to defend it if it remains unwilling to make a fair contribution to military capability. America spends close to 4% of its GDP on defense, and accounts for some 70% of total military spending by all NATO members. Most European countries fail to meet the Alliance’s 2%-of-GDP target for defense spending, but still expect America to provide security guarantees against, for example, Russian adventurism. A credible commitment by the United Kingdom, France, and Germany to increase defense spending not just to 2% but to 3% of GDP, would at least reduce the dangerous imbalance at NATO’s core.”

How Trump’s Victory Could Give Russia Another Win

Eric Edelman and David Kramer: “The Obama administration has worked closely with the European Union to ensure trans-Atlantic unity on sanctions, arguing that they are crucial to containing Russia. But Trump’s victory threatens this tenuous agreement by providing skeptical European nations with a credible argument against renewal: Trump will lift U.S. sanctions soon anyway. Thus, before even entering office, Trump may cause the sanctions regime to crumble, reducing pressure on Moscow and emboldening Putin.”

“Even before Trump’s victory, the sanctions already faced deep suspicion among certain European countries. Leaders in Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus have argued that not only are sanctions not working but, combined with the drop in oil prices, they are hurting EU members economically. Any single one of those countries could upend the current sanctions regime because renewal requires agreement among all 28 EU member states.”

“Thanks to diligent work by U.S. and EU officials, that consensus has held so far, but it is likely to dissolve in light of Trump’s expressed intentions toward Moscow. Even among the staunchest supporters of sanctions — Germany, Poland, the U.K. and the Baltic states — maintaining such measures will become untenable if it looks like the United States will break ranks.”