Diplomats to Biden: Don’t give the plum Europe posts to donors and allies

“Most presidents in recent decades have given 30 percent of ambassadorships to political appointees, including major campaign donors. Trump increased that number to roughly 44 percent, which included posts in some countries that usually went to career diplomats, such as Thailand and Kenya. That’s why the pressure is on Biden to revert to a smaller number.
A White House official said Thursday the administration expects the percentage of political ambassadors to be lower than that of the previous administration and closer to the traditional amount.”

The Real Reasons the U.S. Can’t Win Wars Anymore

“I saw this firsthand when I worked in the Obama campaign and in the summer of 2008 met with Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister. When I asked him about the agreement to withdraw, he told me it was a non-negotiable demand. When I relayed this to Denis McDonough, who was on the campaign trail with Obama and eventually became his chief of staff, he was surprised and asked me if I was certain about what I heard. In 2009, while on a visit to Iraq, I brought this up with several Iraqi government officials in the parliament and the executive branch and received the same answer. Finally, in December 2011, when Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki came to Washington to finalize the deal, I and several others, including Obama’s first national-security adviser General David Jones and future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, met with him. I asked him directly if there was anything President Obama could have done to keep the troops in Iraq. He essentially said that Bush made an agreement and the U.S. must stick to it. At the meeting, Jones said Obama was willing to leave 10,000 troops.”

‘We’re going to lose fast’: U.S. Air Force held a war game that started with a Chinese biological attack

“in September in the midst of the war game, actual Chinese combat aircraft intentionally flew over the rarely crossed median line in the Taiwan Strait in the direction of Taipei an unprecedented 40 times and conducted simulated attacks on the island that Taiwan’s premier called “disturbing.” Amid those provocations, China’s air force released a video showing a bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons carrying out a simulated attack on Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam. The title of the Hollywood-like propaganda video was “The god of war H-6K [bomber] goes on the attack!”

In case the new U.S. administration failed to get the intended message behind all that provocative military activity, four days after President Biden took office, a large force of Chinese bombers and fighters flew past Taiwan and launched simulated missile attacks on the USS Roosevelt carrier strike group as it was sailing in international waters in the South China Sea.

Little wonder that many foreign affairs and national security experts believe the global pandemic has accelerated trends that were already pushing the United States and China toward a potential confrontation as the world’s leading status quo and rising power, respectively. This month the Council on Foreign Relations released a special report, “The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War,” which concluded that Taiwan “is becoming the most dangerous flash point in the world for a possible war” between the United States and China. In Senate testimony on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Phil Davidson, warned that he believes China might try and annex Taiwan “in this decade, in fact within the next six years.”

Meanwhile, a leading Chinese think tank recently described tensions in U.S.-China relations as the worst since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and it advised Communist Party leaders to prepare for war with the United States.

What many Americans don’t realize is that years of classified Pentagon war games strongly suggest that the U.S. military would lose that war.

“More than a decade ago, our war games indicated that the Chinese were doing a good job of investing in military capabilities that would make our preferred model of expeditionary warfare, where we push forces forward and operate out of relatively safe bases and sanctuaries, increasingly difficult,” Air Force Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview. By 2018, the People’s Liberation Army had fielded many of those forces in large numbers, to include massive arsenals of precision-guided surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, a space-based constellation of navigation and targeting satellites and the largest navy in the world.

“At that point the trend in our war games was not just that we were losing, but we were losing faster,” Hinote said. “After the 2018 war game I distinctly remember one of our gurus of war gaming standing in front of the Air Force secretary and chief of staff, and telling them that we should never play this war game scenario [of a Chinese attack on Taiwan] again, because we know what is going to happen. The definitive answer if the U.S. military doesn’t change course is that we’re going to lose fast. In that case, an American president would likely be presented with almost a fait accompli.””

“Part of the problem is that China advanced its A2/AD strategy while the Pentagon was largely distracted fighting counterterrorism and counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two decades. Beijing is also laser-focused on Taiwan and regional hegemony, while the U.S. military must project power and prepare for potential conflict scenarios all around the globe, giving the Pentagon what Ochmanek calls an “attention deficit disorder.” Finally, there is the complacency of the perennial winner that makes it hard for senior U.S. military officers to believe that another nation would dare to take them on.”

Let the Afghan People Come

“The fundamentals of the war have remained unchanged since nearly the beginning. The Taliban insurgency can and will outlast the U.S. occupation and the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul is too corrupt and weak to establish itself as a sovereign.

“The fact that we have failed to defeat the Taliban or to effectively establish a new government after almost 20 years of trying strongly suggests it is an unachievable mission and, far from a reason to stay longer, is in fact a compelling reason to leave as soon as possible.”

“policymakers have to come to grips with the fact they don’t have many policy tools to effectively manipulate the treatment of Afghans in Afghanistan. Human rights protections have improved for many Afghans during the U.S. occupation, including respect for women’s rights. But even after nearly two decades of efforts on the ground, the United Nations still ranks Afghanistan 153rd out of 160 countries for gender equality. In a 2017 index, Afghanistan tied with Syria for the worst place in the world to be a woman.
If U.S. policymakers are serious about adopting policies that can protect Afghans under threat, they should welcome Afghans to American shores. The first step is to restart the refugee program that was effectively cancelled by President Donald Trump. Biden said he wants to welcome 125,000 refugees, but he hasn’t taken the first step—authorizing an additional 62,500 this year—even though the presidential determination is sitting on his desk waiting for his signature. Biden could permit entry to 40,000 Afghans a year if he wanted to.

A second step would be to allow Americans to privately sponsor refugees at their own expense. Such a program could be modeled on America’s experience with private sponsorship for Jews fleeing the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and on how Canada runs its very successful system today. The Biden administration could start the pilot program and enlist veteran groups who have been at the forefront of arguing for their Afghan comrades to find refuge in America.

That leads us to the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who were employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government. These folks risked their lives to help American forces and the Taliban will show them no mercy if it takes over. But the SIV is mired in bureaucracy, preventing many deserving applicants from coming here. Biden should give the SIV program a kick in the pants to immediately welcome the roughly 17,000 Afghan employees of the U.S. and their roughly 50,000 family members.

The U.S. could also help European and Asian countries settle Afghan refugees within their borders. Many Afghan refugees want to go to Europe where their family members are living and nothing is stopping the Biden administration from working with the Europeans to facilitate such a humanitarian migration.

Unfortunately, the government probably won’t organize itself in time to help Afghans in these ways. The last, desperate option that the Biden administration will have to consider is paroling Afghan refugees into the United States. Under presidential authority, Biden could fly refugees directly from Afghanistan or surrounding countries to the island of Guam and process them there for entry to the U.S. They could immediately start working and building new lives for themselves.

This is what the United States did for many Kurds during the 1990s after the U.S. government asked them to rebel against Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq and then abandoned them to be slaughtered by the Iraqi government.

Biden’s parole authority is the same that President Gerald Ford had when he decided to process about 111,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975. At the time, a young senator named Joe Biden said, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese.” The success of the Vietnamese in the United States should have changed Biden’s mind in the intervening decades.

Simply put, the United States has lost the war in Afghanistan. By pushing past the May 1 withdrawal date, Biden is merely delaying the inevitable. Afghanistan and its people are unlikely to be much better off by maintaining a small military presence there for a few months longer. Offering refuge to Afghans fleeing abuse would be a constructive human rights policy. Extending a lost war won’t be.”

Biden Cuts Support for Saudi War in Yemen, But It Should Only Be the First Step

“The Biden administration’s decision to pull the United States out of Yemen’s six-year-long civil war was a highly prudent act. But it’s merely a first step. Washington’s Middle East policy must be anchored in restraint and humbleness. This simply won’t happen until U.S. policy makers realign the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship with the realities of the world today—not on how the world looked during the Cold War.”