By Michael Mazza, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Mazza is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
The release of China’s biennial defense white paper has been getting some press for its revelations about the People’s Liberation Army’s force structure. Chinese media outlet Xinhua, for example, reported that “the Chinese government on Tuesday declassified the designations of all 18 combined corps of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as the latest step to increase transparency of its armed forces.”
While it is difficult to applaud the PLA for declassifying information that was already common knowledge (see, for example, the sinodefence.com page on army organization, last updated four years ago), more transparency is certainly better than less. Still, the American focus on Chinese transparency is misplaced. Of course, the Pentagon would like to see its Chinese counterpart be more candid about PLA capabilities and investments; to the extent the United States can coax China towards such candor, it should do so. But disclosures like those in the Chinese white paper do little to address the underlying problem in the U.S.-China relationship: a dearth of strategic trust.
As speculation grows that a North Korean missile test could be imminent, discussion has turned to the question of whether the United States should shoot down any missile fired, even if it appears heading into the ocean.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer speaks with Fareed Zakaria to get his take on the latest developments and why China is key to resolving the current tensions.
What do you make of Senator John McCain and some others who say if they launch a missile, shoot it down, intercept it, destroy it – even if it's heading into the middle of the water? Obviously if it's heading toward a populated area in Tokyo or Guam or South Korea, that goes without saying. But just knock it out to make a point?
I think it's a very good example of the difference between what a John McCain foreign policy would be and what President Obama’s has been.
President Obama throughout this has been trying to show some restraint, not to play into the kind of the yank your chain that the North Koreans are trying to do. The North Koreans are desperately trying to get attention, to get some kind of negotiations going, to get concessions. So they have been threatening, clearly like a child who keeps screaming and has not been paid attention to. They're screaming more and more loudly.
By James Hardy, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Hardy is Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane's Defense Weekly. The views expressed are his own.
North Korea's announcement via state TV that it was preparing to target Guam, Hawaii and the continental United States – and had readied its “rocket and long-range artillery” forces for the purpose – has inspired a cacophony of speculation across the globe.
But the fact is that despite the bombast, and unless there has been a miraculous turnaround among North Korea’s strategic forces, there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed.
Even if North Korea did have the capability and chose to use it, the likelihood of an overwhelming U.S. military counterattack would render any such attack self-defeating for Kim Jong Un’s regime. Indeed, as Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman tweeted a few weeks ago, any such move would amount to "North Korea basically telling the world it would like to be made into a parking lot.”
By Scott Harold, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Scott Harold is an associate political scientist for the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. The views expressed are his own.
China has once again announced a major expansion in its defense spending, leaving outside observers to again debate what this all could mean. Unfortunately, the planned 10.7 percent increase for 2013 posed more questions than it answered: Is it a sign of a more assertive China that wants to pursue regional dominance? Is it an indication of a country seeking to redress long-term weaknesses in its military? Or is it a sign of a domestic leadership that can’t say no to the military at a time of political transition?
The fact is that it’s a bit of all of these.
In absolute terms, the official Chinese defense budget is slated to rise from approximately $106.4 billion in 2012 to $119 billion this year. (The White House, meanwhile, proposed a $553 billion budget for the U.S. Defense department in fiscal 2012). This means that, after subtracting out expected inflationary costs, the People’s Liberation Army will have approximately $12 billion more in budget this year than last.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
The forced budget cuts, known in Washington as sequestration, are now in force in the United States and $85 billion in spending cuts are in the process of being implemented, with about half of them coming out of Washington’s spending on international engagement. The impact on America’s capacity for global leadership will not be felt overnight. But these reductions in defense spending, anti-terrorism activities, foreign aid and the budget for the State Department will shrink the U.S. footprint around the world, with consequences for the projection of both U.S. hard and soft power.
In the wake of the sequester, the questions now heard outside the United States include “what does this say about Americans’ willingness to pay for future global commitments?” “How much of this austerity is driven by Tea Party sentiments and influence?” And, most broadly, “are American fiscal rectitude and isolationism converging?”
The answers are not clear cut – in part because it’s possible that the Obama administration and Congress will rejigger the terms of the spending cuts in the months ahead.
By Bill French, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bill French is a research associate at the National Security Network, a non-profit foreign policy organization based in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
As the March 1 deadline for forced budget cuts looms, the congressional debate over the Pentagon budget is tightly focused on the consequences of sudden and across the board spending reductions. The problem with this narrow focus on the so-called sequestration debate is that it appears lawmakers are poised to make decisions on the future of the U.S. military and national security mostly on the basis of raw numbers.
This is a dangerous game. Instead, Congress should take a more balanced approach that also uses a strategy-driven view of what priorities should guide defense spending. Until lawmakers take this step, it will be impossible for them to responsibly address what level of resources the Pentagon requires and how it can assist in reducing the deficit.
By Kathi Lynn Austin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kathi Lynn Austin is a former U.N. weapons inspector and executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project, an NGO that investigates and documents major arms traffickers. The views expressed are her own.
Viktor Bout, the poster boy for international arms trafficking, is back in the news.
Last week, Bout’s legal defense team submitted an appellate brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It claims Bout was wrongly convicted of five counts to commit conspiracy and terrorism. It asks for his 25-year prison sentence to be overturned, based on a list of complaints he has repeated before.
So what’s the news here?
Ironically, Bout’s appeal helps us better understand specific weaknesses in the U.S. approach for containing the world’s worst arms traffickers – those that intentionally enable terrorists, perpetrators of atrocity and U.N. sanctions-busting.
By Toshi Yoshihara, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Toshi Yoshihara is John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own.
The Imperial Japanese Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor remains a popular, if somewhat tired, metaphor for the dangers of unpreparedness and overexposure to risk. For years analysts and policymakers have warned Americans about all kinds of new Pearl Harbors in space, cyberspace, the global financial markets, and even the earth’s climate.
But the real possibility that U.S. bases in the western Pacific could once again be vulnerable to a bolt-from-the-blue military attack has occasioned little publicity or debate. Yet it should take no stretched metaphors to appreciate this emerging threat.
This time, China – armed with a large and growing arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles – is poised to reprise Pearl Harbor. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) now possesses the means, the motives, and the opportunities to deliver disabling blows against U.S. bases in Japan where the bulk of American military power in Asia is concentrated.
By Denny Roy, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dr. Denny Roy is a senior research fellow in Asian security issues with the East-West Center in Honolulu. The views expressed are his own.
China is the next superpower, the United States is in decline, and America needs to get on China’s good side. So say many analysts who have recently argued that in order to gain favor with Beijing, Washington should stop supporting Taiwan.
The U.S. support at stake here includes two explicit policies and one implied policy.
Since Taiwan cannot keep up with China’s massive military expansion, the United States sells arms to Taiwan. Washington also insists that any settlement of the Taiwan sovereignty issue must be agreeable to Taiwan’s people, not forced on them by Beijing. Finally, China understands that U.S. forces might intervene if Taiwan came under military attack.
The argument for abandoning Taiwan may be superficially appealing in its cold-blooded logic. But it is terribly wrong.
By James Holmes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and co-author of ‘Red Star over the Pacific’. The views expressed are his alone.
Earlier this month, the news broke that Washington and Tokyo intend to review the longstanding Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The guidelines sketch, in broad terms, how the allies plan to respond to common challenges. Meetings will reportedly commence in early December. The two governments last revised the guidelines in 1997, with an eye toward managing crises on the Korean Peninsula. China’s rise to martial eminence has transformed the Asian order since then – leaving the transpacific alliance trailing behind new strategic realities. Here’s one guy’s list of topics for alliance managers to explore, in ascending order of importance:
5. The northern axis. While the alliance has understandably turned its attention and energies southward toward China, Tokyo and Washington should cast the occasional glance to the north. Russia has made noises about reclaiming its heritage as a Far Eastern naval power, using the Sea of Okhotsk as a platform for operations in the Pacific Ocean. Should global-warming forecasts pan out, meanwhile, navigable Arctic sea routes may open and close intermittently each year as polar ice retreats and expands. A new inland sea, however mercurial in nature, would transform Eurasian geopolitics. These developments warrant attention to such geographic features as the Bering Strait, the entryway from the Pacific to the Arctic, and to the Aleutian and Kuril island chains, which are well positioned to regulate access to the two oceans.
By Barry M. Blechman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Barry Blechman is co-founder of the Stimson Center and chaired the Defense Advisory Committee, the members of which are listed below and who co-signed this op-ed. The views expressed are those of the authors.
Partisan bickering in Washington has overwhelmed even the discussion of U.S. national security, an area that used to be fenced from Beltway infighting. Yet not only is national security too important to leave to simplistic posturing, it is an area that should prompt a great deal of agreement. As evidence, we – a group of 15 Republican, Democratic, and independent former policymakers, retired military officers, and academics – reached a solid consensus on a new U.S. defense strategy for the future. And even we were surprised how easily we reached it.
U.S. armed forces are now overwhelmingly superior to those of any potential adversary, or combination of adversaries, and will likely remain so for years to come because of the dedication of our uniformed men and women and the high priority U.S. taxpayers have long put on national defense. American space, air, naval, and special operations forces make it possible for the U.S. to reach virtually any spot on the globe in a timely manner, whether to destroy targets or deliver humanitarian goods – and, together with our ground components, to sustain such campaigns for considerable periods of time. These forces have unprecedented flexibility, agility, reach, precision, and lethality, providing capabilities that seemed like distant visions not many years ago. Military superiority, however, does not translate into military omnipotence. U.S. capabilities to fight protracted wars on the ground, to defeat insurgencies, to stabilize governance, and to ensure security for societies in distant regions are limited, at best. This is not because of any deficiencies in, nor malpractices by, the U.S. armed forces. The task of establishing order in undeveloped societies riven by internal conflicts is simply too hard a task, and not one for which military forces are particularly well-suited.
By Fareed Zakaria
I’m not going to second-guess General Petraeus’ decision to resign, nor President’s Obama’s decision to accept his resignation. But it’s a real loss for the administration and the country. Petraeus was a rare general in that he was genuinely reflective – able to think broadly and strategically – while also able to implement big ideas well.
But perhaps most important, Petraeus was able to defy conventional wisdom – even the conventional wisdom of his superiors. Remember, the military is a very hierarchical organization, and there are many incentives to conform and to reaffirm existing orthodoxy. A premium is placed on saluting and executing orders well.
Petraeus was in Iraq right after the invasion, where he was a two star general in charge of a large part of northern Iraq. Headquartered in Mosul, he began to believe that the way we were handling the occupation was wrong, and he started to try to implement a different policy and speak out quietly within the top brass about the possibility of a different approach.