The Defense Drumbeat Blog

Recent Blog Posts

October 2014

A pair of recent stories in POLITICO magazine titled "Team of Bumblers" and "General Dempsey to the Rescue" illustrate how President Obama and the White House National Security Team have mishandled the threat posed by the ISIL terrorist organization from the beginning. In addition to calling for repeal of the AUMF-  which they now use as justification for the airstrikes against ISIL - their request for a military training program was never vetted by military leaders at the Department of Defense. 

January 4, 2014:  Fall of Falluja: “Falluja is completely under the control of Al Qaeda.”… The fighting that has been going on for days has proved to be a crucial test for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which is facing an escalating Sunni-led insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart. The unrest and the seeming inability of the Iraqi government forces, who were trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of billions ofdollars, to quell it underscores the steady deterioration of Iraq’s security since the last American troops left two years ago. New York Times

January- February, 2014: Intel Community Warns of Growing ISIL Threat: In testimony to National Security Committees, DNI Clapper warned, “…the sectarian war in Syria, its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism and the potential threat this poses to the homeland.  Let me briefly expand on this point. The strength of the insurgency in Syria is now estimated at somewhere between 75,000 or 80,000 on the low end and 110,000 to 115,000 on the high end, who are organized into more than 1,500 groups of widely varying political leanings.  Three of the most effective are the Al-Nusrah Front, Ansar Al- Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, or ISIL, as it's known, who total more than 20,000.  Complicating this further are the 7,500- plus foreign fighters from some 50 countries who have gravitated to Syria. Among them are a small group of Af-Pak Al Qaida veterans who have the aspirations for external attack in Europe, if not the homeland itself.  And there are many other crises and threats around the globe, to include…, the deteriorating internal security posture in Iraq, with AQI now in control of Fallujah.”  DNI Clapper’s Testimony: 

March 5, 2014: CENTCOM Commander Warns Of Growing ISIL Threat: "Nearly all partners, both in and out of the region, have expressed growing anxiety with respect to the violent extremists operating from ungoverned space within Syria. The flow of foreign fighters and funding going into Syria is a significant concern. When I took command of USCENTCOM in March of 2013, the intelligence community estimated there were ~800-1,000 jihadists in Syria. Today, that number is upwards of 7,000. This is alarming, particularly when you consider that many of these fighters will eventually return home, and some may head to Europe or even the United States better trained and equipped and even more radicalized. At the same time, extremists are exploiting the sectarian fault line running from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Sanaa.  Left unchecked, the resulting instability could embroil the greater region into conflict." Gen. Austin Testimony

June 10, 2014: ISIL Takes Mosul: Insurgents seized control of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosula powerful demonstration of the threat posed by a rapidly expanding extremist army to the fragile stability of Iraq and the wider region…ISIS fighters seized large quantities of weaponry from the security forces when they overran their bases, including vehicles, arms andammunition that will help the group to press further offensives.   The Washington Post

July 25, 2014: Rice Requests AUMF Repeal: In a letter to Speaker Boehner, and without consulting the military, National Security Advisor Rice requests the repeal of legal authority the White House will later rely on: ”The Iraq AUMF is no loner used for any U.S. government activities and the Administration fully supports its repeal.  Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”  Letter from Rice to Speaker Bohener

Request Never Vetted Through DoD: The AUMF that Rice wanted withdrawn is now part of the very authority the administration says it is operating under, along with the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda. The Pentagon was not given a heads-up about that letter either, according to multiple sources. “We didn’t know it was going over there, and there were significant concerns about it,” said the senior defense official. “We had these authorities to go into Iraq under the 2002 AUMF, which is what she wanted repealed. We believed the authorities were still needed.” Politico

August 6, 2014: General Dempsey Urges President Obama to Intervene in Iraq: “We have a crisis in Iraq, Mr. President... ISIS is a real threat,… Dempsey outlined the militants’ rapid military gains in western Iraq and warned that ISIL fighters were threatening Baghdad. “It’s that bad?” Obama asked, according to this person’s account. Dempsey was blunt. “Yes, sir,” he said, “it is.  Politico

A “Rare” Face to Face Between The President and his Chief Military Advisor: —the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—rarely has opportunities to get face time with the president. So when he does, he presses his advantage. One of the few times this happened was during the early evening hours of Aug. 6, when Dempsey joined Obama in his limousine at the State Department, where the president had been attending a session of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The ride to the White House allowed Dempsey his first one-on-one with Obama in several weeks. Politico

August 19, 2014: James Foley is killed.  "The video concludes with the fighter threatening to kill Steven Sotloff, another American freelance journalist, who was being held alongside Mr. Foley. Mr. Sotloff is seen kneeling in the same position, in the same landscape and wearing the same style of orange-colored jumpsuit. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the fighter says." New York Times

August 28, 2014: We don’t have a strategy yet. President Obama

September 10th, 2014: President Obama unveils his ISIL strategy : “At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.  And one of those groups is ISIL -- which calls itself the ‘Islamic State….ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.  And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”  President Obama

Again the Request is Never Vetted Through DoD: The White House transmits a request for the Military to train and equip Syrian forces that HAS NOT been coordinated with the Department of Defense: “The Pentagon was surprised by the president’s timing, according to a senior defense official. ‘We didn’t know it was going to be in the speech,’ he said, referring to Obama’s Sept. 10 address to the nation. Second, the White House neglected to give Pentagon lawyers a chance to revise and approve the proposed legislative language before it went to the Hill, which is considered standard practice. Staffers working for Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said they were appalled by what they saw: language so sloppy that it failed to mention adequate protections against so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks by trainees on American troops, and effectively left the Defense Department liable for funding the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—even though the president was telling members of Congress he didn’t need money for this new mission, since the Saudis were putting it up. ‘What came over would have not have been a mission the DoD could have executed,’ says a senior Republican committee staffer.” Politico

September 11th, 2014,Chairman McKeon offers an alternate strategy to combat ISIL:  "I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later. I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow.Fortune favors the bold. ISIL is a threat that we all share. They are an enemy of the free world and must be stopped..... History punished us once 13 years ago today. It is the responsibility of us all to ensure it doesn’t happen again."

September 17th, 2014: House Passes updated Syria Train and Equip authority: “The authorization is limited in scope to training up to 5,000 members of the Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia. It provides no new funding and requires the administration to provide status reports to Congress. The Obama administration said the mission may be funded by international contributions, but the resolution authorizes the Pentagon to shift funds from other accounts if necessary.” USA Today

September 23rd 2014, Coaltion air campaign over Iraq and Syria begins.  President Obama relies on the 2002 Iraq Authorization to Use Military Force that Ambassador Rice asked the House to repeal just 2 months beforeWar Powers Notification

Oct 27 2014

Washington Post Ed Board Blasts Obama's "Half-Hearted Fight Against ISIS"

"the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims."

Mr. Obama's Half-Hearted Fight Against the Islamic State
The Washington Post Editorial Board
October 25, 2014
Excerpts Below

"AN UNLIKELY consensus is emerging across the ideological spectrum about the war against the Islamic State: President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and eventually destroy” the terrorist entity is unworkable. It’s not just that, as some administration officials say, more time is needed to accomplish complex tasks such as training Iraqi and Syrian forces. It’s that the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims.


"The limitations to the U.S. effort, which were mostly imposed by Mr. Obama, are prompting blunt assessments from senior Pentagon officials. “We need a credible, moderate Syrian force, but we have not been willing to commit what it takes to build that force,” one told The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Said another officer: “You cannot field an effective force if you’re not on the ground to advise and assist them.”


"Some on both the left and right in Washington are arguing that the appropriate response to the campaign’s deficiencies is for Mr. Obama to lower his ambitions; he should seek merely to prevent further expansion by the Islamic State or attacks on the homeland. The problem with a policy of containment, however, is that the infection of the Islamic State is spreading. Militant groups around the region are rallying to its cause, volunteers continue to travel to Syria, and popular support for it is dangerously evident in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.


"But the United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated. At the least, Syrian rebel forces must be protected from attacks by the Assad regime and both Syrian and Iraqi units provided with U.S. advisers and air controllers. The longer Mr. Obama delays such steps, the greater the risk to vital U.S. interests."

Oct 22 2014

The Daily Beast: Navy Grounds Top Guns

"The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives."

Navy Grounds Top Guns
By Dave Majumdar
The Daily Beast
October 17, 2014
Excerpts Below

"The U.S. Navy’s elite cadre of fighter pilots—made famous by Top Gun—are not flying nearly often as they would like. Instead, many of the Navy’s elite Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter squadrons are sitting on the ground with only two or three flyable jets available. The rest of the jets are awaiting maintenance for want of critical spare parts—and some of those parts are being cannibalized from brand new jets in an increasingly vain attempt to keep squadrons flying.

"“It’s pretty bad, ” said one veteran F/A-18 fighter pilot. “Some squadrons have found it difficult to keep more than a few jets up, while other squadrons are spending a tremendous amount of operational time away from home base, creating what Air Boss has called ‘the haves and the have nots.’” 

"The ‘have not’ units are those squadrons based at home in the United States that are not immediately preparing to deploy. The ‘haves’ are those either flying combat missions over Iraq and Syria or those from high-priority areas like the elite Japan-based units that are always kept at a very high level of readiness thanks to China and North KoreaWhile that’s great for the units that get to fly on a regular basis, it is very bad for those squadrons that are not able to take to the skies. Pilots need to fly a certain number of hours per month in order to keep their skills sharp—that is the advantage of American aviators over foreign countries. Often, it’s less about the technological advantages of American aircraft and more the skills of that man or woman flying that jet that makes the real difference in combat.

"If pilots are not flying, their skills atrophy and that could put their lives in danger. That’s especially true when Navy pilots are flying over Syria and Iraq.

"Sources tell The Daily Beast that there are dozens of jets awaiting maintenance—and most of the planes are less than 10 years old, which by aircraft standards is practically brand new. Effectively, dozens of brand new jets worth billions of dollars are sitting on the ground useless.

"Some drop in readiness is normal. Whenever a Navy squadron comes back from a deployment onboard a carrier, it loses some of its roughly 12 jets and readiness plummets before building back up. There is a rough floor of about six aircraft that a unit is supposed to have even at low readiness levels. “They have gone below that minimum,” one source said.

"The result is that the Navy’s fighter pilots are not getting necessary training to operate their pricey machines in combat should the need arise. Given that the nation is once again at war, that need could arise again sooner than anyone expects.


"One of the main causes of the problem, according to multiple sources, was the congressionally mandated sequester that automatically cut the Pentagon budget.

"Money that was cut during 2012 budget year is only now having a real impact because the skilled engineering force of engineers and technicians at various government contractors were laid off and found other jobs since then. The result is a massive backlog of aircraft that must be repaired.

“There are only so many people who have that expertise,” one source said.

"The only real long-term solution, sources say, is to buy more airplanes more quickly to replace old worn-out jets so they don’t need this kind of extended and expensive overhauls. Sources said that aircraft need to be thought of as consumables that run out after a certain number of hours—typically 6,000 hours for Navy jets and 8,000 hours for Air Force planes.

"If the Pentagon does nothing, the Navy’s pilots will spend a lot more time on the ground than flying."

September 2014

Sep 29 2014

McKeon Warns of Three Mistakes to Avoid with a New AUMF

HASC Chairman Pens Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post warning of three mistakes that must be avoided in any new authorization for use of military force or "AUMF." 

In the Chairman's view, a new AUMF must not:

Set Artificial Limitations on Military Leaders

"Such legislation must not be an authorization to use some military force. Artificial limitations provide Washington politicians with political cover rather than providing our military commanders with the legal authority they need. Robust oversight is the guard against aimless conflicts, not congressional constraints on tactics, geography or time at the outset."

Be a rider on other legislation

"Any authorization should stand on its own merits, after lengthy and open debate, and not be a rider to an omnibus appropriation or a defense bill."

Be considered by a "Lame Duck" session of Congress

"Lame ducks, with little accountability, should not make an AUMF the final vote of their term. Incoming representatives will oversee this conflict, and they should bear the responsibility for authorizing it — even if that means a vote can’t take place until January. The commander in chief could devote the intervening period to filling the gaps in his strategy, being candid with the American people and building a political consensus and commitment to see this through."


Washington - Ambassadors Ryan C. Crocker and Robert S. Ford as well as Generals Jack M. Keane and David H. Petraeus, have written a letter of support for the McKeon Amendment on Syria Train and Equip Mission to HASC Leaders. 

In the letter to Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith, the authors express strong support for the Syria Train and Equip Mission as well as the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.

Full text below: 

September 17, 2014

Dear Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith:

We write to express our strong support for Congressional authorization of the provision of assistance and training to properly vetted members of the Syrian opposition.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is simultaneously fighting both the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and the barbaric Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Providing greater assistance to FSA is the United States’ best opportunity to develop a moderate force that is capable of defeating ISIS and bringing about a post-Assad Syria that is free of terror.

As you may know, FSA forces have recently achieved some successes on the ground against ISIS forces in northern Syria, but their effectiveness is limited by their lack of sufficient assistance and training.

Building up the moderate opposition in Syria will be a key element of any successful strategy against ISIS. To be sure, after three years of war, it will take a long time to build the moderate opposition. But there is no viable alternative. The United States must set to this task immediately.

Finally, we note that approval of this measure should not prevent or circumscribe Congress from considering a properly scoped authorization for the use of military force in the future, or from otherwise revisiting or revising its position on this issue as conditions on the ground evolve. But time is of the essence, and we are convinced of the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker

Ambassador Robert S. Ford

General Jack M. Keane, USA, Retired

General David H. Petraeus, USA, Retired

"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon at the American Enterprise Institute"

The Washington Post's "Right Turn" Blogger Jennifer Rubin praised Chairman McKeon's recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he presented his strategy to defeat ISIL.

You can read her full piece here

Key excerpts below

"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at the American Enterprise Institute.

To be blunt, there is too much magical thinking going on. We can do it all from the air. The Islamic State is not a current threat. The locals can take care of things. We can go slow and steady. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

As is apparent to those following the growth of the Islamic State, which the CIA now says numbers 35,000-strong, not 10,000, and the territory the group commands, time is not on our side. That is true in two respects, as McKeon spells out:

'A go-slow strategy gives them space to thrive and grow and blend with the population. Every month, 500 more foreign fighters join their ranks. Every month, they raise nearly $85 million in revenue just from oil. Every day, ISIL identifies and brutally executes the Sunni moderates who might be convinced to work with us again.  Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the Caliphate. ISIL is a Sunni movement.  Getting the Sunnis to reject them is key. While we wait to see what the newly formed government will do, we are missing the chance to get the Iraqi Sunni leaders on board, who can truly speak for their people. And the job will be harder this time.'  


As McKeon notes, we are NOT talking about “large occupying forces in a hostile land,” which he dubs a “red herring.” But we do need to be there, and we need to lead the coalition Obama describes.

“[A]rming surrogates and conducting sporadic airstrikes is not a formula for success against ISIL. It is not timely enough or decisive enough. We have learned that in Yemen and the Horn of Africa after many years. Coalition operations, on the ground and in the air, backed by the enabling capabilities of the United States, will be required.”

"The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emiratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability. They all want to knock ISIL on its back. They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help. Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again. American leadership isn’t an option here. It is a necessity. We are the missing piece in the puzzle. There are certain capabilities that we have invested in for decades — the ability to control air and sea space, the ability to put troops in difficult terrain and hostile territories, the ability to supply forces and communicate on the battlefield. That’s how we pull these nations together. . . . '

Don’t take McKeon’s word for it. This is what military commanders recommended to the president. He rejected the advice for political reasons (it “would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans”) — just as he did in whittling down the Afghanistan surge and arriving at the zero-troop option in Afghanistan and adhering to his campaign promise to bring all troops home from Iraq. The question is not what the best strategy is — it is whether we have the fortitude to use it."

Sep 05 2014

Rep. Brad Wenstrup on CNN: "We need an objective, we need a strategy and we need the means" to defeat ISIS

HASC Member says "When evil men combine, good men must associate"


House Armed Services Committee Member Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) who served in Iraq as a combat surgeon appeared on CNN's New Day yesterday to discuss the ongoing threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response. 


You can view the full interview with Rep. Wenstrup here.  

Sep 03 2014

Forbes, Lehman Make the Case for American Seapower for the 21st Century

HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman and Former Secretary of the Navy pen essay for National Review

American Seapower for the 21st Century
The National Review 
September 2, 2014 
By John F. Lehman & J. Randy Forbes

In 1987, the United States Navy numbered 594 ships. On, above, and below the ocean, the Navy reigned supreme, granting the commander-in-chief a flexible tool to secure the world’s economic maritime highways and project power ashore from the sea at the time and place of the nation’s choosing.

More than a quarter century later, the Navy has shrunk to just 288 ships and sits poised to shrink still further in the coming years. The naval buildup of the 1980s was so large and so enduring that it allowed the U.S. Navy to thrive for the next three decades. But succeeding presidents and Congresses have failed to sustain the fleet that President Reagan built. As this fleet retires in the decade ahead, the Navy will begin experiencing serious shortfalls in the minimum number of attack submarines, amphibious ships, and large surface vessels required to execute its mission.

The Navy’s relative decline cannot be measured simply by numbers of ships. The last 20 years have been a hiatus in the development of key capabilities and the maintenance of important skills. Areas like anti-submarine warfare, long a specialty of the U.S. Navy, have been neglected. Anti-mine warfare, which is critical in waters like the Strait of Hormuz, has been similarly ignored. And today the rapidly modernizing Chinese navy has developed anti-ship missiles that can “out-stick” our own missiles.

With 90 percent of global trade carried by sea, and the vast majority of international financial transactions conducted via undersea cables, the U.S. Navy is the backstop for securing a stable global financial system for the U.S. economy to operate in. In addition, the Navy is a highly versatile force that can generate sovereign, forward-deployed military power to do anything from strategic nuclear deterrence to humanitarian assistance. Whether it is launching air strikes against Islamist militants in Iraq or evacuating civilians from conflict zones, this flexibility makes naval power uniquely suited to an international security environment that requires scalpels in some instances and axes in others.

Past buildups of our naval power during periods of relative international peace, from the late 19th century to the 1930s to the Reagan era, can teach us much about the process of revitalizing American seapower today. In each of these cases, a far-sighted president, aided by like-minded members of Congress, was able to undertake the investments needed to rebuild U.S. naval power, often in difficult economic times. Yet a future effort to reinvigorate the Navy, while still requiring presidential vision and congressional leadership, must also be uniquely suited to the circumstances of our time.

To begin with, our Navy must simply build more ships. The Navy says that 306 vessels is the minimum necessary to meet our national-security requirements. Outside experts, like the 2010 QDR National Defense Panel, put the number closer to 350 ships. While technology and maintenance techniques continue to improve, the demand for naval presence and the strain on military families and naval hulls from rapid deployments all place a limit on the classic mantra that the military can do “more with less.” A plan that reverses the downward spiral in ship construction is essential to stimulate a new naval renaissance.

But while numbers matter, the Navy will also need to ensure that it is prepared for the future with the right technologies, doctrine, and operating concepts. This will not be easy. Like all organizations, the Pentagon has traditionally resisted new technologies and war-fighting paradigms that threaten existing bureaucracies and ways of operating. Whether it was the transition from sail to steam in the 19th century or the rise of aircraft carriers before World War II, strong civilian leadership and forward-thinking uniformed officers have been required to ensure that our Navy is prepared for the future and not simply planning for the past.

Today, the U.S. military is on the cusp of a series of technological innovations that will do much to define the face of warfare in the 21st century. The growth of unmanned technology is poised to ensure the relevance of the aircraft carrier for decades to come. By investing in unmanned, carrier-launched aircraft capable of striking heavily defended targets at long range, the carrier’s air wing will remain a versatile and effective power-projection tool.

Advances in areas such as directed energy, shipboard lasers, and the electromagnetic rail gun promise to revolutionize the way the Navy engages surface and airborne targets. Other innovations, like unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), offer similar prospects for a technological transformation in undersea warfare. It is imperative that our Navy’s leadership encourage these innovations in the years ahead.

China’s growing assertiveness, Russia’s military resurgence, and the worsening instability in Iraq and the broader Middle East should remind Americans of the world they live in. Like Britain’s Royal Navy in centuries past, the United States Navy underwrites the global economic and security order through its forward presence, deterrent power, and, ultimately, war-fighting capabilities. Investing in a revitalization of American seapower should be among the highest priorities of any American president. In the words of Representative Carl Vinson (D., Ga.), who led the Navy’s revitalization before World War II, there is nothing more expensive than cheap armies and navies.

— John F. Lehman served as secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987. Representative J. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) chairs the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
August 2014

House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) appeared on CNN today to discuss the threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response. 

You can view the full interview HERE

Key quotes from Vice Chairman Thornberry below. 


"It reveals what sort of people they (ISIS) are. Secondly, its an attempt to intimidate us into not playing a role in pushing back against ISIS and to trying to keep us out of Iraq and from joining a coalition to contain and stop them. It doesn't change anything. It just reveals what they're about and what they're trying to do."

"When the president takes options off the table, that only simplifies the planning of ISIS. Secondly, we should not reveal any information, any details, about missions we undergo to rescue people or to push back against ISIS. Thirdly, we have to reassure the Iraqis and others that we're in it for the long haul. The Iraqis are going to have to do this on the ground. We can assist them from the air.... We're going to have to reassure them that we're with them in the long haul and then have a plan that will make a difference. "

"We know they don't hesitate to kill people, it's not just individuals they don't hesitate to kill hundreds or thousands of people. I have no doubt they are planning on how they can to do that here in the United States and in Western Europe."

"Part of the concern that folks have had with the administration is this slow rolling of deciding what to do with the situation in Syria which has enabled ISIS to grow and expand into Iraq."




Scowcroft, Hadley, Miller make the case for U.S. Nuclear Deterrence in Washington Post Opinion Piece

Payne and Schneider Detail Russia's Long History of Cheating on Arms Control Treaties in the Wall Street Journal


NATO-Based Nuclear Weapons are an Advantage in a Dangerous World
By Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley and Franklin Miller
The Washington Post
August 17, 2014

Excerpts Below 


"When NATO’s leaders gather in Wales in early September, they will address several issues critical to the alliance, including Russian adventurism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, members’ contribution to collective defense, the adequacy of individual national defense budgets and plans for supporting the people of Afghanistan. In the course of their deliberations on these issues, however, they also should reaffirm the value to the alliance of the continued presence of the modest number of U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe. We believe this is necessary because we are again hearing calls for the United States to unilaterally withdraw its small arsenal of forward- deployed nuclear bombs. Those arguments are shopworn, familiar — and wrong.


"The newer members joined NATO in large part to get under this nuclear umbrella, and they have been vocal in expressing their concern that withdrawing the weapons would symbolize a diminution in the U.S. commitment to defend them. Their concerns are heightened as they watch a recidivist Russia conduct exercises simulating nuclear strikes on Poland and the Baltic states, threatening nuclear strikes on nascent NATO missile-defense sites and continuing to deploy a bloated arsenal of several thousand short-range nuclear weapons.

"A second argument is that because nuclear weapons have no place in international relations in the 21st century, they certainly shouldn’t be forward deployed in NATO Europe. In his much-heralded 2009 Prague speech, President Obama called on the nuclear states to reduce the role such weapons played in their respective security strategies, and he took steps to implement his vision in the United States. Apart from Britain, no other nuclear weapons state took heed; indeed, the others expanded their nuclear modernization programs and gave nuclear weapons a more central role. Of particular concern to NATO, Russia has embarked on an across-the-board modernization of its nuclear forces, a modernization judged so important by Moscow that it has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the process. As our NATO allies point out, nuclear weapons clearly matter to Russian leadership, and, as a result, our allies insist that the U.S. nuclear commitment to NATO cannot be called into question.

"A third argument is that NATO, in the aggregate, enjoys overwhelming conventional military superiority. This argument, however, is built on two fundamental fallacies. First, such aggregate comparisons mask the reality that on NATO’s eastern borders, on a regular basis, Russian forces are numerically superior to those of the alliance. As events in Crimea and Ukraine showed, Russia’s armed forces have improved significantly since their poor performance in Georgia in 2008; demonstrating impressive operational capabilities, they have made clear they are no longer the rag-tag army of the past decade. Second, focusing on conventional war-fighting capabilities overlooks the fact that NATO’s principal goal is deterring aggression rather than having to defeat it. And it is here that NATO’s nuclear capabilities provide their greatest value. 


"With Russia continuing to support forces that are seeking to destabilize Ukraine and taking unsettling actions in both the Baltics and the Balkans, this is no time to destabilize the NATO alliance and traumatize our NATO allies by withdrawing our nuclear weapons from Europe."


Russia Always Cheats on Arms Treaties
By Keith B. Payne and Mark B. Schneider
The Wall Street Journal
August 18, 2014
Excerpts Below

"On July 29, the Obama administration announced that Russia has violated its obligation under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty "not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers; or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles." The administration's sudden candor is welcome. Yet its new compliance report alleging that the Russians tested a missile prohibited under the INF treaty—doesn't address other apparent treaty violations.

The INF violation fits into a long pattern of Soviet-Russian misbehavior that can only be described as "compliance if convenient." Moscow appears to observe arms-control commitments when convenient but violates them when not. This contrasts sharply with America's scrupulous adherence to the letter and often the supposed "spirit" of treaty commitments, long after Moscow has ceased to do so.


"These Russian violations are not trivial matters. The House of Representatives recently declared on a bipartisan basis that the INF violation "poses a threat to the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies." According to senior Obama administration officials, Russia probably has a 10:1 numerical superiority over the U.S. in battlefield nuclear weapons. This Russian tactical nuclear arsenal, according to Russian press reports, includes weapons that are inconsistent with Soviet and Russian commitments made as part of the 1991-1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives to eliminate nuclear artillery and short-range nuclear-missile warheads. That 10:1 superiority may increase if Russia's INF treaty violations stand.

"Washington's long periods of silence about cheating are sometimes justified as "quiet diplomacy" designed to bring about Moscow's compliance. Perhaps. But quiet diplomacy did not persuade Moscow in 1991 to stop building the enormous radar prohibited by the ABM Treaty. Rather, it was the George H.W. Bush administration's public threat to call out Russia's behavior as a "material breach."

"Russian leaders such as Vladimir Putin appear to read U.S. silence as weakness and timidity, a perception which undoubtedly feeds their arms-control lawlessness. Pretending that Russia is a reliable arms-control partner helps to ensure that it is not. Calling Russia out for misbehavior may hold some hope of moving it into compliance."



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