All posts by Julian Nettlefold

The New Zealand Attack and the Global Challenge of Far-Right Extremism By Seth G. Jones

 

 

 

 

The March 15 terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, is symptomatic of a rising trend in right-wing extremism. Far-right attacks across the globe have increased because of immigration fears, far-right utilization of social media, and the inter-connectedness of extremist networks around the globe.

The March 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was appalling. The perpetrator, believed to be a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant, gunned down at least 49 people at two mosques in central Christchurch. In a manifesto released prior to the attack, the gunman raged about the low birthrates of whites, the mass immigration of foreigners, and the higher fertility rates of immigrants. The rambling 74-page manifesto concluded that “this crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”i

Sadly, Christchurch is not an isolated attack. Terrorist attacks by far-right adherents have risen significantly over the past decade. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of far-right attacks in the United States was five or fewer per year. The number of attacks then rose to 14 in 2012, and eventually jumped to 31 in 2017.ii

In 2018, the United States suffered several additional attacks. On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He espoused anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish views on Gab, a social media network that has been embraced by white nationalists.iii A day earlier, Cesar Sayoc, who was motivated by racist and anti-Semitic views, sent 16 crude bombs to prominent American leaders last fall.

Meanwhile, right-wing attacks have also increased: from 0 attacks in 2012 to 9 in 2013; 21 in 2016, and 30 in 2017.iv As European Union Security Commissioner Sir Julian King acknowledged, “I’m not aware of a single EU member state that is not affected in some way by right-wing violent extremism.”v

In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right extremist, killed nearly 80 people in July 2011. In the United Kingdom, right-wing extremist Thomas Mair assassinated Labour member Jo Cox on June 16, 2016. On June 19, 2017, Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old British man, drove a van into Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park mosque in London, killing one person. Much like the Christchurch attack, Osborne targeted a mosque.

To be clear, right-wing terrorism refers to the use or threat of violence by sub-national or non-state entities whose goals may include racial, ethnic, or religious supremacy; opposition to government authority; and putting an end to practices like abortion.vi It is different from religious terrorism (in which terrorists are motivated by their religious views), ethno-nationalist terrorism (in which terrorists are motivated by ethnic or nationalist views), and left-wing terrorism (in which individuals are motivated by a hatred of capitalism, environmental or animal rights issues, pro-communist or pro-socialist beliefs, or support for a decentralized sociopolitical system like anarchism).vii

At least two factors have contributed to the growth in right-wing extremism.

First, right-wing networks and individuals—including Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant—appear to be increasingly using the internet and social media to issue propaganda statements, coordinate training, organize travel to attend protests and other events, raise funds, recruit members, and communicate with other extremists. Right-wing networks have used Facebook, Twitter (with hashtags like #nationalist and #ultraright in Twitter posts), YouTube, and Instagram, as well as sites like Gab and Voice over Internet Protocol applications such as Discord, to communicate across countries and continents. In addition, websites like the Daily Stormer remain influential among many neo-Nazi and white supremacy activists.

Second, right-wing extremists are increasingly traveling overseas to meet and exchange views with like-minded individuals. These foreign connections have provided far-right groups with an opportunity to improve their tactics, develop better counter-intelligence techniques, harden their extremist views, and broaden their global networks. An important part of Tarrant’s radicalization took place in European countries like France where, as he argued in his manifesto, “the final push was witnessing the state of French cities and towns.” Tarrant noted that while he had heard about “the invasion of France by non-whites,” his visit to France changed his view: “[O]nce I arrived in France, I found the stories to not only be true, but profoundly understated.”

Based on the globalization of far-right extremism, the Christchurch attack—and the attacker—needs to be understood as part of a growing international trend that requires more attention and greater investment from governments and the private sector.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to shift some counterterrorism resources to right-wing extremism. But identifying individuals like Brenton Tarrant—the Christchurch perpetrator—won’t be easy. Many right-wing extremists operate alone or in small networks. They often don’t talk about their plots by phone or e-mail, which can be intercepted by law enforcement agencies. However, they may be active on social media forums, which can be monitored.

In addition, government agencies need to work closely with the private sector—including social media companies—to combat right-wing extremism, much like they have done to combat Islamic extremism and Russian disinformation. Some European governments, including France and the United Kingdom, have put significant pressure on social media companies to take down content that advocates for, or otherwise supports terrorism, including if it violates company terms of services. Restricting extremist access to social media requires companies to continue to devote staff time and engineering resources to detect such content and close it down.

Western countries have made significant strides since 9/11 in countering the threat from Islamic extremists, including those affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The threat posed by right-wing terrorists will require an equally sober and thoughtful assessment by leaders across the globe in order to prevent it from metastasizing further.

Seth G. Jones holds the Harold Brown Chair, is director of the Transnational Threats Project, and is a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

The author would like to thank Danika Newlee and Nicholas Harrington, both with the CSIS Transnational Threats Project, for their helpful comments and research.

Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved. 

“The Great Replacement: Toward a New Society,” undated.
ii The numbers include CSIS coding of terrorism attacks from the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/).
iii United States of America vs. Robert Bowers, Criminal Complaint, United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, October 27, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/press-release/file/1105371/download.
iv Data from the University of Maryland, Global Terrorism Database (https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/).
Matthew Tempest, “Commissioner Warns of ‘Growing Menace’ of Right-Wing Terrorism in EU,” Euractiv, March 23, 2017, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/commissioner-warns-of-growing-menace-of-right-wing-terrorism-in-eu/.
vi See, for example, the definition of right-wing extremism in National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), Ideological Motivations of Terrorism in the United States, 1970-2016 (College Park, MD: START, November 2017), 6, https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_IdeologicalMotivationsOfTerrorismInUS_Nov2017.pdf.
vii See, for example, Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, Third Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 242-268.)

###

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers.

Continue reading The New Zealand Attack and the Global Challenge of Far-Right Extremism By Seth G. Jones

DOD and Border Security—At What Price? By Mark F. Cancian

 

The Trump administration recently released its FY 2020 budget. In it, the administration proposes to continue DOD’s role in border security, a role that includes both construction and troop deployments. Because this is nontraditional and controversial, the funding mechanisms in both FY 2020 and FY 2019 (the current fiscal year) are complicated. This set of critical questions explains the different mechanisms the administration proposes to use.
 
Q1: What is in the FY 2020 DOD budget for border security?

A1:
The budget contains $9.2 billion for “emergency” construction funds in the Army military construction account. There are three budget lines: $2 billion for remediation of hurricane damage to facilities (primarily at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, but also at other bases such as Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida), $3.6 billion for further construction of the wall on the Southwest border, and $3.6 billion to backfill FY 2019 construction projects that were canceled to fund the wall.

These are structured as “transfer funds”. Transfer funds do not identify specific projects but rather are appropriated as lump sums that DOD would transfer to other budget lines when the specific needs become clearer. They are structured this way in FY 2020 because the department does not yet know exactly which projects are needed.

Congress does not like transfer funds and often criticizes them as “slush funds” because it does not know where the money will ultimately go. It is, therefore, unlikely that Congress will approve them in their current form. Instead DOD will likely identify the specifics by the time the committees go into markup, so funding can be approved for individual projects.
 
Q2: Hurricane remediation and wall construction are clear. What is the backfill about?

A2:
The backfill in FY 2020 would pay for the $3.6 billion of construction projects that are projected to be canceled in FY 2019.

Building a border wall has been one of President Trump’s signature issues, linked to a broader set of policies and attitudes on immigration. When Congress refused to give the president the full amount he requested in FY 2019, he declared a national emergency. One of the powers that a national emergency gives the president, 10 USC 2808, is the authority to use unobligated military construction funds for emergency construction. “Unobligated” means funds have been authorized and appropriated in previous years for specific projects, but DOD has not yet signed a binding contract.

In his February announcement, President Trump stated that he would get $8 billion for the wall: $1.375 billion in the FY 2019 budget bill, $3.6 billion from military construction, $2.4 billion from DOD counterdrug funds, and $600 million from a Treasury forfeiture fund.

Ironically, DOD has not yet identified which FY 2019 construction projects will be canceled. In other words, the president took the step of declaring a national emergency and has endured significant political criticism as a result, but he has not yet taken advantage of the authorities the declaration gave him.
 
Q3: Why three separate accounts?

A3:
In theory, there could have been just one transfer fund, but instead there are three. There is no detail in the budget documents released to date explaining why this is the case. Briefers at DOD’s budget press conference sidestepped questions. The Army deferred to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The Office of the Secretary of Defense deferred to the briefer for the Office of Management and Budget, who was not present.

One can surmise that there are three separate budget lines because the purposes are different, and congressional reactions are likely to be different. Hurricane remediation will probably gather broad support since the need is real and nonpolitical. The backfill account would fund construction projects that the Congress previously approved and that are, presumedly, still service priorities. Although many members will likely complain about funding these projects “twice,” DOD will argue that it needs the projects and that failure to backfill will only hurt military operations while having no effect on wall construction. The backfill proposal therefore has a fair chance of being approved.

The $3.6B for wall construction will face stiff congressional opposition because that activity is so controversial. What is unclear is why this money is in the Department of Defense at all, since the FY 2020 budget also requests $5 billion in the Department of Homeland Security budget for wall construction.
 
Q4: Why is the money in an Army account if it is going to fund projects in all the services?

A4:
Because the administration proposes a transfer fund, the money could be sent anywhere in DOD, including to other services. Putting it in one place now simplifies budgeting but also indicates the uncertainty about future use.
 

Q5: What does the “emergency” designation mean?

A5:
The emergency designation means that the funds will not be restricted by the Budget Control Act caps, just like the war funding, called Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Thus, DOD does not need to displace core warfighting activities to fund these activities. The account is likely separate from the OCO because it is for a different purpose.

The caps play an important role in the administration’s FY 2020 budget because both defense and domestic spending are requested at the budget caps (sometimes known as “sequestration levels”). DOD’s total resources are protected because there is a large increase in OCO (from $69 billion in FY 2019 to $163 billion in FY 2020), but domestic agencies are not protected and thus would be cut deeply. Cutting domestic funding deeply while increasing defense sets up a confrontation with the Congress that the administration has lost the last two years but apparently intends to attempt again.
 
Q6: What is the role of Congress?

A6:
These accounts are budgeted and approved in the same way as accounts in the base budget, so Congress will have an opportunity to debate and vote on them.
 
Q7: What about the counterdrug funds being diverted to fund the wall?

A7:
The Trump announcement included $2.4 billion in FY 2019 to come from counterdrug funds. DOD has an appropriation “Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities, Defense,” which it uses for two types of activities. The first is detecting and interdicting drug trafficking into the United States, and the second is sharing information on illegal drugs with U.S. and foreign government agencies. The administration proposes to use this authority (10 USC 284) for construction of a border wall and, indeed, section 284(b)7 does provide for the construction of “roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries of the United States”.

The counterdrug appropriation was established in 1989, so it has been around for a long time. Every year, the Congress typically appropriates about $900 million, usually having added some funds to the DOD request because of the state connection.

This fund supports many long-standing programs. About one-third of the counterdrug funds go to the politically powerful National Guard for state programs, for example, school education. Unlike military construction projects whose impact would be felt long-term, the impact of these cuts would be felt almost immediately.

This account does not contain $2.4 billion of unspent funds but probably something closer to half of the annual appropriation, or about $450 million. The administration plans to move other funds into this account to use the account’s authority for building barriers. Such large movements of funds from one account to another are conducted through “reprogramming actions”, which have customarily sought approval from the authorization and appropriation committees. However, this approval is not required by law, and the administration will apparently do the reprogrammings without congressional approval. This would be a venue for additional conflicts between the administration and the Congress, and likely provoke legislation that restricts the president’s ability to do this in the future.

So far, the administration has not taken any steps to use counterdrug funds for border construction, and there is no money in the FY 2020 budget to backfill FY 2019 funds that are diverted.
 
Q8: Are there other DOD costs for the administration’s border security program?

A8:
Yes, there are costs in FY 2019 for troop deployments to the border. DOD has deployed 2,300 National Guard troops and is building up to about 4,350 active-duty troops as a result of earlier administration actions to enhance border security.

The cost of this deployment was about $230 million through the end of January, according to figures provided by DOD. CSIS calculates that future costs will be about $52 million a month for the active duty troops and $26 million a month for the National Guard. Thus, total costs for FY 2019 will approach $850 million, which must be paid out of existing DOD funds. There were no funds in FY 2019 specifically designated for this purpose.

An Army spokesman stated that there was no money in the FY 2020 budget to continue these deployments into FY 2020. However, there has been no announcements from the White House or the Pentagon stating when deployments will end.
 
Q9: Do these deployments have a readiness cost?

A9:
There is a debate about whether the deployments have a readiness cost. In the short-term, the answer is probably not. The Posse Comitatus Act prevents active-duty troops from conducting law enforcement activities, so they are limited to providing support functions like transportation, communications, intelligence, and minor construction like building barbed wire barriers. National Guard troops acting in a state role are not subject to Posse Comitatus, but, by policy, their role is also limited. DOD mostly sent units designed to perform these functions. This means that many units on the border are doing functions similar to their wartime mission. There is training value when these support units deploy from home base and perform these functions in an operational environment. At some point, however, these units need to do other training that can only be done on a military base, for example, weapons firing.
 
Q10: Are border security and wall construction legitimate military missions?

A10:
There are two separate questions here: are the missions legal and are they wise?

The answer to the first is almost certainly yes, military missions like these are legal. DOD has provided humanitarian relief in foreign countries, medical support to fight Ebola, and rescued American citizens trapped in hurricanes, among many other non-warfighting missions. If these are legitimate, it is hard to argue the protection of the border is illegitimate. Further, troops have been sent to the southwest border for over 20 years, mostly for counterdrug missions but also to stop migrants, so there is a long precedent.

Wall construction using DOD funds appears to be allowed under various authorities (10 USC 2808 and 10 USC 284), although these are being contested in the courts.

Whether these are wise uses of DOD resources is a different question. Regardless of opinions on the short-term—opinions are sharply divided and go beyond the scope of this paper— in the long-term these border security missions properly belong in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS has statutory responsibility for the wider mission and agencies specifically designed for executing it. In the future, border security should be fully funded there. In the FY 2020 budget, the administration has, indeed, requested more resources for DHS in this area, including wall construction, additional law enforcement officers, more personnel for judicial processing, and more detention facilities.

Mark Cancian (Colonel, USMCR, ret.) is a senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Critical Questions
are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

### The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers.

Continue reading DOD and Border Security—At What Price? By Mark F. Cancian

Assessment of the Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit By Sue Mi Terry and Lisa Collins

 

 

 

 

 

On February 27 and 28, U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a second bilateral summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. The summit was cut short abruptly in the middle of the second day, and a widely anticipated joint statement was not signed by the two leaders.

This Hanoi summit had been preceded by a historic, first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June 2018. At their first meeting, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement that called for: transformed bilateral relations, building of an eventual peace regime, complete denuclearization of the Koreans peninsula, and recovery of U.S. soldier remains from the North. In addition to the statement, President Trump also announced at that time that annually held U.S.-South Korean military exercises would be suspended for fall 2018. North Korea subsequently returned 55 sets of U.S. soldier remains as a deliverable after the summit.

Both sides failed, however, in the eight months following Singapore to make progress on the summit declaration due to disagreements over the definition of denuclearization and the sequencing of the steps that would be taken to fulfill the promises made in the joint statement. After a new date was set for the Hanoi summit in January, there were some hopes that these differences could be bridged in another high-level meeting between Trump and Kim. But the same issues ultimately appeared to play a role in the breakdown of the presidential-level talks in Hanoi.

It appears the two leaders fundamentally misjudged each other. Kim may have calculated that Trump, eager for a foreign policy victory, would reward him with maximal sanctions relief in exchange for a continued moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, limits on existing nuclear stockpiles and a possible Yongbyon shutdown. Trump, thinking Kim was brought to the negotiating table because of his maximum pressure policy and “fire and fury” rhetoric—rather than the North’s own advances in its nuclear and missile program—thought he could entice Kim with Vietnam-style economic development. Neither expectation was borne out in Hanoi.

Q1: Was this summit a failure?

A1: Yes, likely on several different levels. With prior high expectations for a joint deal in Hanoi, the abrupt end to the summit could understandably be considered a waste of time, energy, and resources. It could also make it very difficult to move negotiations forward at the working level since the discussions on even basic principles have failed at the highest leadership level. Additionally, President Trump, facing more pressing domestic difficulties at home, could have his attention drawn away from North Korea, making it harder to make future progress.

But, then again, deciding against a deal at this time is better than accepting a bad deal. A bad deal is one that would have substantially weakened U.S. national security interests and our alliance relationships in the region. If, as Trump suggested, the North Koreans wanted full sanctions relief before giving more on the Yongbyon nuclear facility and other nuclear sites, then that would have been a bad deal. (The North Koreans have since responded with their own version of events.)

The question now is whether working-level negotiations can produce an agreement between the two sides on what denuclearization means in concrete terms. If there is greater institutionalization of working-level talks on denuclearization and the development of a peace track between the two countries, this could be an unintended positive outcome from the summit, despite the decision to walk away now. But, coming up with a timeline and roadmap to advance the Singapore summit declaration in the face of this decisionmaking impasse at the highest level will be a substantial challenge.

Q2: Are we safer as a result of the Hanoi summit?

A2: No, the threat from North Korea remains the same. While we are certainly in a much better place than in 2017—political and military tensions on the peninsula have been reduced while diplomatic engagement has continued between the United States and North Korea—we should expect that North Korea will continue to maintain and develop its nuclear weapons programs. CSIS Beyond Parallel reports show, in fact, that North Korea still maintains operational ballistic missile bases across the country and other nuclear weapons-related sites have been kept in good condition in a wait-and-see mode during negotiations.

Until the United States succeeds in getting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors into North Korea to oversee the suspension of nuclear operations, the sealing of buildings, and the installation of monitoring cameras, the threats posed by North Korean weapons of mass destruction programs will continue to exist. The negotiations process has taken us further off the crisis path but has not yet necessarily made us safer.

One area that could potentially also make us less safe is the erosion of deterrence and readiness of U.S. and South Korean military forces if the suspension of military exercises continues beyond this spring. This is an important question that will need to be addressed after Hanoi. The South Koreans and Chinese may object to the resumption of military exercises because they may see that as raising tensions at a sensitive time. (The North Koreans, of course, argue that the exercises are a rehearsal for a U.S. invasion of their territory.)

We should not allow alliance equities (such as the U.S.-South Korean military exercises) to be held hostage by the negotiations. And we should not accept a de facto freeze-for-freeze situation, where North Korea freezes its nuclear and ballistic missile testing in exchange for our suspension of legitimate and necessary military exercises. To do so would set a dangerous precedent that would put us in a more untenable negotiating position later. This could also result in a diminished U.S. security posture in Asia and potential problems with alliance relationships in the future.

Q3: Where do we go from here?

A3:
It’s not clear. Unfortunately, the failure of negotiations at the top does not leave much room for diplomatic maneuvering going forward. The South Koreans will be anxious to pick up the pieces after this summit and play a moderator role in resuming productive negotiations. South Korean president Moon Jae-in could try another summit between the two Koreas to attempt to bridge differences between all involved parties. In South Korea, President Moon will be in a very difficult spot politically if this entire process breaks down, so he will be anxious to find ways to break the impasse.

The North Koreans will huddle with the Chinese and Russians to try to make sense of what happened at Hanoi, and they may regroup to come up with another negotiating strategy. The most important thing to watch will be how the summit is portrayed in North Korean state media and whether or not the North Koreans will blame the United States for the failure in diplomacy and return to brinkmanship tactics. From the U.S. perspective, we will need to decide how to respond to a continuing stalemate. This summer, for example, the United States will need to decide whether to allow a major military exercise with South Korea to go forward. If the military exercises get the green light, Kim could decide to respond in some fashion, such as a missile test. In this case, China would not respond harshly because Kim’s provocation would be seen as a response to U.S. action.

North Korea is the land of lousy options. So far President Trump has been no more successful than his predecessors in solving this strategic riddle—but at least we are in a better position now than in 2017 when talk of preemptive war was in the air.

Sue Mi Terry is a senior fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Lisa Collins is a fellow with the CSIS Korea Chair.

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.
### The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers.

               Forward this email to a friend Copyright © 2019 Center for Strategic & International Studies, All rights reserved. 202-887-0200 | www.CSIS.org

Center for Strategic & International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036 Click here to edit your subscription preferences or Click here to stop receiving all emails from CSIS.

Continue reading Assessment of the Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit By Sue Mi Terry and Lisa Collins

Looking Beyond Syria and ISIS: America’s Real Strategic Needs in the Middle East By Anthony H. Cordesman

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Secretary of Defense James Mattis left the Pentagon, he was quoted as describing Washington as a “strategy free zone.” Secretary Mattis was all too accurate in noting the lack of effective United States strategies and strategic planning. However, he misstated the core problem that has affected virtually every key aspect of U.S. strategy since the end of the Cold War.

Washington has always had something that at least masqueraded as a strategy, even if it has almost always been little more than a broad concept or goal tied to short-term efforts that only addresses a fraction of the key issues involved. Washington’s real problem is not that it is a “strategy free zone.” It is rather that is has become a “wrong strategy zone.”

Washington as a “Wrong Strategy Zone.”

Since at least the early 1990s, Washington has been a city incapable of pursuing a coherent strategy. What passes for strategy is made by a divided NSC and Presidential staff, and by competing elements of different Executive Departments, Congressional staffs, think tanks, and political lobbies. There is no coherent civil-military strategy or planning effort. Each Department still budgets on an input and line item basis, rather than programs by mission or strategic goal. And no serious effort is made to plan, program, and budget beyond a given year.

When the U.S. does issue an official strategy document, the “strategies” involved almost never are defined in terms of specific objectives, plans, timelines for action, resource requirements, and net assessments of risks. Moreover, the vague conceptual outlines of U.S. strategy that are made official tend to be re-worded on at least an annual basis and have increasingly been shaped in partisan and ideological terms.

This is the current case in every critical area of U.S. strategy. The U.S. never attempted to define practical plans, goals, and resources requirements in 2017 and 2018 when it issued a new National Security Strategy. It did not explain how it could deal with critical issues like Russia’s growing asymmetric threats to NATO and the changes in Russian nuclear forces. It did not describe real world strategies for dealing with the emergence of a serious strategic threat from China. It focused on a pointless 2% of GDP goal for NATO rather than the Russian threat and extremism, and never provided a clear plan for either “rebalancing to Asia or “global rebalancing”.

Even U.S. involvement in long wars has done little to keep Washington from being a “wrong strategy zone.” U.S. strategy towards the Afghan War has not been tied to a credible regional strategy or global strategy to deal with terrorism and extremism. The civil and military aspects of the war have never been properly integrated into a given strategy, and the level and nature of the U.S. commitment to the war has become steadily more uncertain. From 2014 onwards, the U.S. approach to the war has flip-flopped on a near annual basis in ways better suited to the acrobatics of Circus Soleil than to successful warfighting.

The U.S. Strategic Morass in the Middle East and North Africa

U.S. strategy towards the Middle East and North Africa is another case in point, and one where U.S. failures have been most apparent. Since at least 2003, U.S. strategy in the MENA has all too visibly changed from year to year. It has been divided, inconsistent, and lacking in effective real-world planning and implementation.

In fairness, most of the key problems in the MENA region – that have not been caused by the impact U.S. invasion of Iraq – have been driven by a wide range of basic failures of governance in the Arab world and by Iran. Key security problems in the Gulf have been driven by serious mistakes and divisions among America’s Arab strategic partners.

The growing tension between Israel and the Palestinians has been driven by a slow Israeli drift towards confrontation with a steadily more dysfunctional set of competing Palestinian movements. As the UN Arab Development Reports first began to point out in 2002, the uprisings and civil conflicts that began in 2001 have been driven by the massive population growth in the region, failed and corruption governance, and by growing employment and income problems that result from failed economic growth and development.

Ever since Camp David, however, the U.S. has not been able to pursue a consistent approach to supporting Israel while moving towards a stable Arab-Israeli peace. The U.S. has addressed the security aspects of extremism and terrorism on a largely national basis without addressing the deep underlying causes that help trigger the rise of Al Qaida, ISIS, and the political major upheavals that began in 2011, and focused on fighting today’s enemies as all of these causes have grown far worse.

The U.S. blundered into invading Iraq in a Neocon triumph of hope over experience, driven by massive politically-motivated false estimates regarding Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorism. It then blundered far more in trying to stabilize Iraq at a political and economic level as it focused on fighting extremism.

The United States. destroyed Iraq’s ability to use its conventional forces to counter Iran and deter and contain it in 2003-2004 and helped open up Iraq to Iranian influence and create potential corridor that extends from the Levant to Western Afghanistan. The United States has since fought a series of wars against extremism and terrorism in Iraq and Syria without defining a credible set of strategic goals that could end in bringing lasting stability to either state or prevent the reemergence of terrorism and an extremism.

Elsewhere in the region, the U.S. helped trigger the current low-level civil war in Libya by helping to oust Qaddafi but had no follow-up strategy. It temporized and flip-flopped in dealing with the anti-Assad movements in Syria in ways that not only preserved Assad, but allowed Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah to become major actors in Syria and far stronger hostile actors in the region. The U.S. also joined the Arab Gulf states in a steadily accelerating arms race and confrontation with Iran without setting any clear goals for developing an effective military posture to deter Iran.

The U.S. did briefly attempt to work out a modus vivendi with Iran through the JCPOA, but then withdrew in ways that pushed Iran towards a hardline position, and alienated America’s European allies. It also failed to seriously address the civil and stability problems in its Arab Gulf strategic partners, focused on burdensharing rather than an effective military alliance, failed to act decisively in dealing with the Saudi-UAE led boycott of Qatar, and blundered into quasi-involvement in the Saudi-UAE war against the Houthi in Yemen.

An Absurdly Narrow Focus on Syria and ISIS

The current U.S. focus on Syria and ISIS is yet another example of Washington as a “wrong strategy zone.” One can fault President Trump and the Administration for announcing a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, and one it has since had to modify in ways that focus almost exclusively on the number of U.S. military personnel in Syria, rather than what the U.S. actually plans to do in Syria. In fairness, however, there has been an amazing amount of media reporting, think tank analysis, and Congressional posturing that has had an equally narrow short-term focus on breaking up the ISIS Caliphate and U.S. military manpower in Western Syria

The total U.S. military personnel levels in Syria that are the sole focus of much of the current debate over U.S. strategy are a terrible measure of both U.S. strategy capability and actual military activity. If one looks at the AFCENT airpower data, the U.S. had to deliver 39,577 munitions during its peak fighting against the Caliphate in Iraq in 2017, and quietly had to make a massive increase in the direct train and assist support provided to Iraqi and Syrian ground combat units. The U.S. then had to make a massive eightfold increase in air strikes necessary to support the fighting that was largely in Syria between July 2018 (241 weapons released) and December 2018 (2,214 weapons released) to help finish the fight against the “caliphate.” It also had to fly some 14,015 IS&R sorties in 2017, and 7,800 IS&R sorties in 2018, to support the ground fighting.

It is equally absurd to focus on the defeat of the ISIS “Caliphate” in ways that fail to define the remaining threat posed by ISIS and other extremist and terrorist groups in Syria. As bad as ISIS was, it never dominated even the numbers of terrorist attacks and killings in Syrian conflicts that many experts now feel led to far more than 500,000 dead. If anything, it was state terrorism by Assad that dominated such killing.

And, it is actively dangerous to ignore all of the political, governance, economic, ethnic, and sectarian causes that led to the revolt against Assad in 2011 – and the rise of resulting extremism and terrorism. All these causes – including population pressure, youth unemployment, corruption, bad governance, weak rule of law and or security, grossly distorted economies, and a lack of real-world economic planning – are now far worse than they were in 2011. There also now is no practical way of significantly reducing the damage they have done for at least several years. The lack of any clear US effort to address these issues means that Syria may well become a real-world case where U.S. strategy consists of declaring victory and leaving – regardless of the consequences.

This is also a case where many of President Trump’s critics need to look in the mirror. The President has focused far too much on a few narrow short-term aspects of a far broader and enduring set of strategic problems. However, all too many of President Trump’s political, media, and think tank critics – as well as many of his Arab and European critics – have been all too willing to adopt the same near-term focus on U.S. posture in Syria as if it made sense to develop a strategy that only dealt with ISIS, and in-country U.S. support of the Kurdish-Arab enclave in Eastern Syria.

No meaningful U.S. strategy for Syria can ignore the impact of Syria on the stability and security of Iraq – as well as on Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the rise of Iranian, Russia and Hezbollah in the region. The fate of the Kurdish-Arab enclave in Eastern Syria cannot be separated from the fact that Iraq has so far done remarkably little to help its Sunnis recover from the fighting with ISIS in Western Iraq, from Turkey’s exploitation of the Kurdish issue to justify Erdogan’s authoritarianism, and from the complex mix of Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian Kurdish factions that interact – often with armed elements – in all four countries.

No meaningful U.S. strategy can ignore the near-certain reality that ISIS will survive in some form in both Syria and Iraq, that other Sunni terrorist and extremist groups like Al Qaida and its spinoffs will continue to exist, and that Assad’s rule through repression and state terrorism will inevitably encourage other Sunni groups to create some kind of organized resistance, and that Syria’s massive refugee, IDP, and economic problems will also encourage violent elements.

A U.S. strategy focused on the current and potential threat posed by the Caliphate also ignores the long-term instability that will exist in Syria even under best case assumptions about rebuilding and expanding its crippled economy. It ignores the need to deal with the return or permanent resettlement of Syrian refugees and IDPs, and find some way to re-integrate Syria successfully back into the region.

This narrow U.S. focus on Syria is also critical because so little progress has been made in developing a U.S. strategy for Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf. The U.S. clearly needs a strategy that will allow CENTCOM to build the best mix of U.S. and Arab forces to deter and defend the Gulf, heal the breaches between the GCC states, and end the strains imposed by the war in Yemen.

The President and many of his critics seem equally wrong in dealing with other aspects of what passes for U.S. strategy. On the one hand, the Administration’s focus on burden sharing and arms also makes little sense when the level of Arab interoperability and integration is so poor, key Arab Gulf strategic partners have real internal stability problems, and four out of six of these partner nations are already spending some 10% of their GDP on military and security forces. On the other hand, focusing on Khashoggi and the Yemen war without considering America’s broader strategic interests is just as bad.

The Need for A Real U.S. Strategy

The MENA region has become the worst case example of the problems that arise when the U.S does not develop, openly debate, and actually implement effective U.S. strategies. It has reached the point where a “strategy free zone” may actually seem to be better than a “wrong strategy zone.” The fact remains, however, that the U.S. has now seen a steady deterioration in both regional stability and its influence in the region for three Administrations during the decade and a half between 2003 and 2019.

The current focus of America’s short attention span – on withdrawing from Syria and making exaggerated claims about the defeat of ISIS – will only make things worse. The same is true of the U.S. failures to try to shape some coherent approach to a wide range of other issues in the region.

These failures include key challenges like focusing on burdensharing and arms sales rather than security and stability, failing to reduce the critical divisions between its strategic partners in the Gulf, focusing on the military and civil steps necessary unite Iran and make it an effective check on Iraq, the Gulf, finding better options to dealing with Iran’s growing asymmetric threats, failing to cooperate with its European allies in areas like the JCPOA and Syria, find ways to help heal Yemen, reducing Israeli and Palestinian tensions, and helping its Arab partners address both the civil and security causes of extremism and terrorism.

The U.S. does not have good or easy options, and it needs the kind of planning, programming, and budgeting exercise that will actually make the hard choices necessary to agree on, and act on, the least bad options. In the process, it will have to come to grips with the fact it does face serious regional threats from Iran and extremism, and must rely on uncertain and deeply divided security partners. It also will have face the fact that it will almost certainly take a decade or more for even the best U.S. strategy to address some of key issues that are the result of the region’s worst conflicts and civil failures in development, governance and security.

What the U.S. cannot afford to do, however, is to keep on focusing on short-term issues, lurching from one set of poorly defined goals to another, and spending more on defense without far better-defined plans and strategic objectives.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He has served as a consultant on Afghanistan to the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of State.

### The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers.

Continue reading Looking Beyond Syria and ISIS: America’s Real Strategic Needs in the Middle East By Anthony H. Cordesman

Give Peace a Chance, Just Not This Way By John Schaus

 

 

 

 

Next week, President Trump and Kim Jong-un will hold their second meeting in the past year. Speculation is building that the two leaders will announce a peace declaration at their meeting, supposedly ending the state of war that has existed on the Korean peninsula since Kim Jong-un’s grandfather invaded South Korea in 1951. For the millions of South Koreans in Seoul who live in the shadow of North Korea’s artillery—much less the millions more in Korea, Japan, and the United States who live within range of Kim Jong-un’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles—such a declaration should be a great accomplishment and a relief.

Should be. Unfortunately, it is not likely to be.

The dilemma in the current rush to talks is not whether peace on the Korean peninsula should be pursued: it should. The dilemma is that little work has been done in either South Korea or the United States to consider what benefits would result from a peace declaration—rather than a peace treaty—and what risks such a declaration would introduce. A peace declaration—however positively it might be viewed—is not a guarantee of peace. Peace is when the parties to a conflict agree to end hostilities, pull back their militaries, and forgo their efforts to subdue the other by force. If there is a peace declaration in Hanoi, it is far more likely to embolden Kim and others like him. He will assess—probably rightly—that his pursuit of nuclear weapons and intercontinental missile delivery systems won him the respect or fear of his primary adversary. Sufficiently so that he was able to achieve what neither his father or grandfather could: not one, but two meetings with the U.S. president and, possibly, a peace declaration.

For 70 years, the United States and South Korea have worked together to ensure that South Koreans are free, prosperous, and safe. This has not always gone smoothly, and the United States has made its share of mistakes. The trajectory of the relationship, and certainly the trajectory of South Korea, has been upward for the past three generations. South Koreans persevered to build a wealthy, highly educated country that is a marvel of the world. The United States can be proud of having partnered with South Korea on that journey so far.

A peace declaration could create the appearance of safety within South Korea while increasing the risk of long-term problems. There are three primary elements to this.

First, a peace declaration would give Kim Jong-un leverage to push President Trump in a direction he is already inclined to move: to withdraw U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula. Despite South Korea’s recent agreement to increase its financial support for U.S. military forces in Korea, President Trump may still view (wrongly) that withdrawing U.S. troops as a way to save money.

Second, in seeking a peace declaration, Kim will most likely focus on reducing the combined U.S.-South Korea conventional military presence at the de-militarized zone (DMZ). He may even be willing to withdraw some North Korean conventional forces from the DMZ. The catch is that in pulling back conventional military units from the DMZ that has divided the Korean peninsula since 1953, Kim will surrender depreciating military assets. The potency of his conventional forces has likely long since eroded. Instead, Kim will push for seemingly even-handed reductions in conventional forces between the South and the North. The result of such agreements would be the North gaining advantage through the U.S.-South Korea alliance making additional concessions beyond last year’s suspension of exercises, possibly ceding positions that provide it advantages relative to North Korea’s declining conventional forces.

Third, a pullback from the DMZ by conventional forces would likely be the first step in a multi-pronged effort by North Korea to demonstrate warming relations with the South—with the goal of creating or expanding a wedge between South Korea and the United States over the stationing of U.S. forces on the peninsula. (To be clear, there is a legitimate political debate to be had over the role of foreign troops in South Korea; the issue at hand is that North Korea will seek to leverage this debate to create opportunities for itself at the expense of both South Korea and the United States.)

Despite President Trump’s misgivings about alliances and overseas basing of U.S. troops, public polling shows strong support for the U.S.-South Korea alliance in both countries. Congress reaffirmed this position in law last year, ensuring continued U.S. commitment of troops to Korea in support of the alliance.

Until North Korea relinquishes its weapons of mass destructions, and until China determines it will be more successful with partners rather than clients, the United States will be best served by maintaining its commitment to South Korea. Through 70 years, the United States concept of partnership has evolved, but it has had a consistent core: the United States is more prosperous when our trading partners are more prosperous; the United States is more secure when our allies are more secure. A peace declaration without a real path to peace makes neither South Korea or the United States more prosperous or more secure. Until it does, it is a bad deal.

John Schaus is a fellow with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C.

Commentary
is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.
### The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers.

               Forward this email to a friend Copyright © 2019 Center for Strategic & International Studies, All rights reserved. 202-887-0200 | www.CSIS.org Center for Strategic & International Studies 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036
Add us to your address book Click here to edit your subscription preferences or Click here to stop receiving all emails from CSIS.

Continue reading Give Peace a Chance, Just Not This Way By John Schaus