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.”

Tom Cotton’s big plan to “beat China,” explained

“What Vekasi did agree with, though, was another element of Cotton’s plan: ending America’s reliance on China’s extraction and processing of rare-earth elements. These elements are used in high-technology items like smartphones and flat-screen TVs, as well as military weapons systems like warplanes — and that makes them extremely valuable.

The problem is that China is simply dominant in this space. In the making of specialized magnets for electronics, for example, “the Pentagon has had to repeatedly waive a ban on using Chinese-built components in US weapons so that it could install rare-earth magnets in F-35 fighters,” Cotton wrote in his report.

It doesn’t help that when the US extracts rare-earth elements from mines in California and Colorado, more often than not they’re shipped to China to be made into American products, Vekasi told me.

The US simply doesn’t have the labor force to compete with Beijing’s industries, and it won’t unless and until Washington decides to subsidize workers to get trained in that field and companies to hire them, Cotton argues. Until the government does that, the US will remain beholden to China’s firm grip on the rare-earths sector.”

48 hours of border chaos: Inside a CBP crackdown on Iranian Americans

“Hours after a U.S. military drone killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one of the most powerful men in Iran, the head of field operations for the border in Washington state gathered her senior staff on an emergency conference call.

It was the first Friday in 2020 — still a holiday for many — and director Adele Fasano spoke from home about the email she’d just received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters advising “heightened vigilance” following the airstrike.

She instructed assistant directors of field operations and area port directors to institute “heightened security measures.” When the call ended, the Seattle CBP office circulated a “high threat alert” memo among management outlining new criteria for enhanced vetting of cross-border travelers.

The message to rank-and-file agents was clear: Target travelers with ties to Iran, Lebanon and Palestine.

During the next 48 hours, 277 people — dozens of them American citizens or legal permanent residents — would be stopped and held for secondary screenings as they tried to cross into the U.S. from Canada. Many said they were held for more than six hours. Some were denied access to medicine or questioned about their relatives. Most had no idea why they were stopped, though they had their suspicions.

One Iranian American, held for six hours overnight at the Pacific Highway crossing, likened the scene to “a modern-day version of Japanese internment camps.””

Is America Too Bound by Red Tape to Support Space Entrepreneurs?

“As the test flights continue, so do disputes between SpaceX and the FAA.

“Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,” Musk protested before the SN9 launch. “Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.”

The SpaceX founder isn’t alone in pointing out that regulators haven’t kept up with the times when it comes to the changing nature of ventures into space.

“The era of commercial space travel and the rise of abundant spacefaring nations has led to an increase in space activity, which has outpaced international space laws—laws that were originally imagined for state-sponsored space travel in an arena with only two spacefaring states,” Juan Davalos wrote in a 2015 article for Emory International Law Review.

“Existing space law has not kept up with the growth in the private sector, and the United States lacks a comprehensive regulatory regime,” Brianna Rauenzahn, Jasmine Wang, Jamison Chung, Peter Jacobs, Aaron Kaufman, and Hannah Pugh chimed in last summer in the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s The Regulatory Review.

Worse, the regulatory regime that the U.S. does have, inherited from an era of government-dominance of space, lends itself (as do all intrusive rules) to abuse. That can come from “you will respect mah authoritah” resentment of anybody who bucks bureaucracy. But it can also reflect government seat warmers’ discomfort with the unfamiliar and threatening world of private entrepreneurial activity.”

“even the FAA’s political masters recognize that the agency needs to change. The FAA is under orders “to streamline the regulations governing commercial space launch and reentry licensing” under rulemaking that “replaces prescriptive requirements with performance-based criteria.”

But there’s no assurance that “streamline” means easing regulation rather than making it more restrictive.”

US ratchets up pressure on Myanmar’s military after its bloodiest weekend since the coup

“The Biden administration is stepping up its actions to punish Myanmar’s ruling military junta in the wake of a bloody weekend targeting civilians protesting against the February military coup.

On Saturday, the military commemorated Armed Forces Day by killing about 140 people — including six children — in 44 cities and towns amid nationwide peaceful protests, according to local reports and activists. One of the children, 11-year-old Aye Myat Thu, was buried with her drawings and toys as her family mourned beside her.

Thousands of people also fled into neighboring Thailand to escape the violence.

It’s the largest number of people killed in a single day since the military ousted the country’s democratic government in a February 1 coup. Some 500 people have been killed in total since the military seized control.

Pressure from the international community on Myanmar’s military to relinquish control has been growing, with the United Nations special rapporteur for the country recently calling the junta’s campaign “mass murder.””

“On Monday, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration would “suspend all US trade engagement” with Myanmar that occurs under a 2013 bilateral trade agreement. That won’t stop all $1.4 billion in trade between the two countries, but it will curb the trade relationship, namely by ending US support for initiatives that helped Myanmar integrate back into the world economy.

That may not seem like much, but experts on Myanmar’s conflict like Cornell University’s Darin Self say the move “will sting” because “cutting off trade is meaningful.””