Military & Security

Trump’s Immigration Order Lays Out a Way to Turn the Temporary Ban into a Permanent One

Vox: “The current blacklist is temporary — it’s supposed to last 90 days. But the executive order lays out a process — which, coincidentally, is also supposed to take about 90 days — for replacing the temporary blacklist with a permanent one.”

  • In the next 30 days: The State Department and Department of Homeland Security conduct a review of all procedures for letting people into the US, and determine what information they will need to collect from everyone entering the US to prove an applicant ‘is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public safety threat.’ The departments then submit a report to the White House listing all the information it will need from applicants, as well as the countries that don’t yet provide that information.
  • When the report is submitted: The secretary of state puts all countries that don’t yet provide all needed information about applicants on notice: They have 60 days to start complying, or they’ll get added to the ban list. (Some reports have indicated that new countries will be added within 60 days of the order; this step in the process appears to be what they’re talking about.)
  • 60 days after the report is submitted: Any countries that haven’t yet given the US all the information it wants will be added to the ban list.”

NATO in the Crosshairs: Who’s Not Paying Their Bills

CNN: “Getting more NATO members to pay their way will be something Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May can agree on when they meet Friday at the White House.”

“According to NATO statistics, the U.S. spent an estimated $664 billion on defense in 2016. That’s more than double the amount all the other 27 NATO countries spent between them, even though their combined GDP tops that of the U.S. NATO is now pushing hard for the 2% guideline to be taken more seriously.”

Ethics Rules Are National Security Rules

Susan Hennessey: “Readers may be wondering what federal ethics law and policy has to do with national security. The answer is a whole lot. Fundamentally, ethics policies governing the Executive and his cabinet are national security protections. As such, it is important that we recognize the national security implications of the incoming Administration’s positions on ethics.”

“The demand for adequate ethics disclosure and vetting reflects the national security strategy of—as Reagan put it—’Trust, but verify.’ We ask for verification that our government officials are free from undue influence because it goes to the core of basic democratic legitimacy. There should be no questions regarding the purity of the motives of individuals we authorize to place our soldiers, foreign service officers, or intelligence agents in harm’s way. Because of the necessary secrecy that surrounds a great many of these decisions, full vetting and transparency at the outset are critical to ensuring the Executive branch is, in fact, placing country first and also to maintaining basic integrity and legitimacy in the eyes of the people.”

“America First” and Global Conflict Next

Nouriel Roubini: “Trump… may pursue populist, anti-globalization, and protectionist policies that hinder trade and restrict the movement of labor and capital. And he has cast doubt on existing US security guarantees by suggesting that he will force America’s allies to pay for more of their own defense. If Trump is serious about putting ‘America first,’ his administration will shift US geopolitical strategy toward isolationism and unilateralism, pursuing only the national interests of the homeland.”

“When the US pursued similar policies in the 1920s and 1930s, it helped sow the seeds of World War II. Protectionism – starting with the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which affected thousands of imported goods – triggered retaliatory trade and currency wars that worsened the Great Depression. More important, American isolationism – based on a false belief that the US was safely protected by two oceans – allowed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to wage aggressive war and threaten the entire world. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US was finally forced to take its head out of the sand.”

“Today, too, a US turn to isolationism and the pursuit of strictly US national interests may eventually lead to a global conflict.”

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.”