Defense and National Security News

4-319th Artillery in Latvia conducting fire support training in winter of 2016 (photo Department of Defense)
4-319th Artillery in Latvia conducting fire support training in winter of 2016 (photo Department of Defense)

National Security and Defense News – JSTARS, Syria, Iran, Iraq, fixing the Navy, fighting terrorism, counterinsurgency, state-building, foreign policy, and more.

JSTARS Over the Middle East. One reporter, Eric Schmitt, recently spent some time with the Air Force visiting a flying unit with the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target attack Radar System (JSTARS). Read “Aboard a U.S. Eye in the Sky, Staring Down ISIS in Iraq and Syria“, The New York Times, December 25, 2016.

Trump and Syria – What to do?. One can only wonder where U.S. policy will lead us in the Syrian conflict. While we are currently working with some rebel Syrian groups and the Kurdish YPG – that level of support may grow or diminish. Some want us to walk away from Syria saying the resistance to the Assad regime is too fragmented. Others (Turkey included) would like us to abandon the Kurds. Many worry about an escalation of the conflict with the Russians. What should be done? Frederic C. Hof provides some advice to the President-Elect in “Advising Trump on Syria”The Atlantic Council, January 3, 2017.

Fighting Terrorism with the next President. Daniel Byman says that terrorism is here to stay and that it has evolved and “. . . counterterrorism must change to keep pace . . . ” requiring the U.S. to “reorient its counterrorism focus.” He goes on to say that “. . . the most effective counterterrorism effort could be fostering better governance in troubled parts of the Middle East.” In his extensive essay he describes the current and future terrorist threat and provides recommendations in “How to Fight Terrorism in the Donald Trump Era”The National Interest, December 25, 2016.

Incoming Presidents and U.S. Foreign Policy. The concept of ‘nation building’ is a negative topic for newly-elected presidents but many fall victim to “America’s civil religion” of overseas engagement. Read “A History of U.S. Foreign Affairs in Which Grandiose Ambitions Trump Realism”The New York Times, December 27, 2016.

Fixing the Navy. For one thing – getting rid of the ‘blueberries’ is a step forward. Beyond that the Navy needs to reverse some of the disastrous decisions of Secretary Mabus. Read more in “To Fix the Department of the Navy – Kill the Mabus Legacy”Small Wars Journal, January 2, 2017.

Iran Expansion of Naval Power. It appears that Iran is seeking to expand its reach by way of the oceans. It is planning on building naval bases in Yemen (a fierce fight going on between Saudi and Iranian proxy forces in that country) and Syria (yet another proxy fight). Read more in “Iran’s Growing Naval Ambitions”Foreign Affairs, January 1, 2017.

Too Much COIN? Not Enough? The U.S. military has spent the last decade and a half fighting counterinsurgencies – principally in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some senior military leaders worry that we became to “COIN Centric” and ignored conventional warfighting skills. Others say we need to keep COIN as a central function of the military because that is the most likely type of conflict we will face in the immediate future. Read a 98-page report on the topic in “The COIN Conundrum: The Future of Counterinsurgency and U.S. Land Power”Strategic Studies Institute, December 14, 2016.

Statebuilding – Lessons Learned. In February 2010 the U.S. announced with great fanfare that it would re-take (along with Afghan forces) the district of Marjah in Helmand province. Once the Taliban were cleared the Afghan’s would move a “Government-In-A-Box” into the district to re-establish governance, police, development, services, and security. It didn’t work out so well. Read more in “A Better Approach to Statebuilding”Foreign Affairs, January 2, 2017.

Females and Marine Boot Camp. The Marines will soon have females in combat arms military occupational specialties. Read more in “The First Female Infantry Marines Will Graduate Boot Camp This Month”Task & Purpose, January 2, 2017.

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