Category Archives: US Foreign Policy

The Voice of America Shouldn’t Be A Whisper

Putin’s propaganda machine is in high gear, while the U.S. scales back the VOA. Why?
The full text of this article can be found at the website of the Wall Street Journal. 

Vladimir Putin’s action against Ukraine validates the historic relationship between propaganda and aggression. Having seized control of major broadcasters, his henchman are censoring websites and telling Russians in Ukraine that “fascists” in Kiev are planning to round them up and kill them. Russian provocateurs whip up protests against Ukraine’s government. U.S. correspondents report that Ukrainians and Russians are being “brainwashed” by Russian disinformation.

All this is designed to motivate Russian armed forces and secure public support on both sides of the border for Mr. Putin’s efforts to “protect” Russian Ukrainians not only in Crimea but throughout the country. Moscow has a virtual monopoly on the narrative. The question is how far must Mr. Putin go before the West, and particularly the U.S., returns to the airwaves in full force to counter the Kremlin’s propaganda.

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Moscow understands the strategic importance of information. The US doesn’t.

RadioToday the Washington Post reports that the last peeps of American broadcasting over the Voice of America on a Russian AM radio transmitter were just shut down.

Broadcasting over the AM band (as anyone who listens to a car radio knows) involves reaching only a local audience.  Nothing could be simpler for Moscow than to close down US access to local transmission facilities.

The scandal that lurks behind this seemingly minor episode is that the United States long since shut down its shortwave broadcasts to Russia, which could reach vast swaths of Russian territory from transmission facilities located far away from the target area.

Putin’s latest action is merely the latest effort to shut down any free media that could contradict his government’s propaganda line.  It is this propaganda that has been an indispensable aid to his ability to conduct his aggression against Ukraine.

When will the U.S. government take seriously the role of information and propaganda in foreign policy?

Acting on Ukraine

kyivIn dealing with Putin’s Russia, the U.S. needs a new “reset” — of its own policies and tactics.
The full text of this article can be found on National Review Online.

What should the United States do — in a way that avoids war — in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea? It is a legitimate and vital question. But it is like asking what do you do now that you have been dealt the worst hand of cards possible whereas, in earlier rounds, the hands you were dealt were much more favorable. Whenever I hear this question, I ask myself: Why should our nation’s leaders only now be thinking seriously about Ukraine, when they should have been thinking about it seriously for a very long time?

RUSSIA AND ITS “NEAR ABROAD”

We have long known about the Russians’ strategic intentions in Ukraine and in the other countries they call the “near abroad.” Their national-security doctrine argues that Moscow has the “right” to intervene militarily to protect “Russian-speaking people” wherever they live in neighboring countries. This doctrine, which is completely contrary to international law, was officially ensconced in Russian policy all the way back in the first two years of post-Soviet Russia.

For two decades, we have witnessed Russian meddling in the internal affairs of the former captive nations that are now independent, sovereign states. This includes: pervasive intelligence penetration; the buying up of local companies by corporations controlled by the FSB (Federal Security Service) or the Russian mafia; the use of energy blackmail; the financial and other support of political factions and individual leaders within these various nations; and the continuation of Russia’s divide-and-conquer policy. This policy entails pitting one ethnic or religious group against another — and even inciting pogroms by one ethnic group against another. Examples included pitting Azeris against Armenians, Meskhet Turks against Uzbeks, Abkhazians and South Ossetians against Georgians, Gagauz and Russians against Moldovans, Russians against Estonians, Lithuanians against Poles, and now Russians against Ukrainians and Poles against Ukrainians.

Russia has also sought to cast the shadow of its power over Eastern/Central Europe, mainly through pervasive intelligence and commercial penetration. In addition, there have been increasing questions over the past two years about whether the Polish presidential aircraft that crashed in Smolensk, Russia, in 2010 had been sabotaged.

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Willful blindness about Chinese aggressive moves

Chinese dragon

Photo by Eva Heinsbroek

It was reported in the Wall Street Journal on February 22 that “an outspoken intelligence officer” for the US Pacific Fleet has ruffled feathers in Beijing and Washington by issuing warnings about belligerent Chinese intentions in the South China Sea.

Captain James Fanell, Director of Intelligence and Information Operations for the Pacific Fleet, stated at a maritime security conference that China is training for a short, sharp war with Japan, and that he expected China to start using its new aircraft carrier to enforce its expansionist territorial claims in the South China Sea.  As a result of his comments, Captain Fanell is described as “one of the US military’s most outspoken hawks on China.”

It is also reported that US defense officials have been debating whether to reprimand Captain Fanell for making these public remarks at a time when the Pentagon is trying to “ease tensions between China and Japan and improve military ties with Beijing.”

Having worked in the government, I well understand the importance of exercising great care in what one says about sensitive security matters when occupying an official position.  But it is irresponsible  that anyone would consider reprimanding Captain Fanell for articulating a very well-founded concern.

Is it “hawkish” to voice what is arguably a very reasonable fear of aggressive behavior by a rising power?

It would be not unreasonable to come to such a conclusion if one were utterly unaware of China’s relentless military buildup, its constant theft of American military technology, its expansionist territorial claims throughout the East Asian region, and its pointedly aggressive actions to enforce those claims in certain key potential flash points.

South China Sea mapA pattern of Chinese aggression

  • China is claiming jurisdiction over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea in a dispute with Vietnam.

  • It claims the Spratly Islands (also in the South China Sea) in a dispute with the Philippines and Vietnam.

  • As part of its efforts to enforce its claims on the Spratlys, China built structures on Mischief Reef in the 1990s, which could be characterized much more as military installations than the “fisherman’s shelters” that China claimed they were.

  • China has also deployed military vessels to enforce a claim on Scarborough Shoal – also in the South China Sea but very close to the Philippines.  Just a few days ago, Chinese ships fired a water cannon at fishermen in Scarborough.

  • China has been intensifying its claim of an exclusive Economic Zone, particularly in conflict with those of Japan and South Korea.  Among the assets at stake are natural gas fields in the region.

  • Then, just this last November, China unilaterally established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, which grossly overlaps those of China and South Korea.

  • The ADIZ was intimately associated with China’s claims on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea (which China calls the Diaoyu Islands) which have been under Japanese jurisdiction since 1895 (with the exception of a period of US control for 27 years after World War II.  Here, China has been regularly deploying naval vessels to challenge Japanese jurisdiction.  In response, Japan has been manifesting a greater spirit of rearmament and determination to resist Chinese expansionism than has been seen in half a century.  If there is a serious potential flashpoint that could erupt into war, this is it.

Downplaying threats: realism or willful blindness? 

When one beholds the totality of Chinese military preparations and expansionist claims, just in the South and East China Seas (let’s not even talk about such Chinese claims as that of the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh), it is by no means hawkish to warn that the Chinese are likely to continue their expansionist behavior in such a way that may even risk armed conflict with one of its neighbors – particularly Japan.  This is only realism.

The problem here is that so few people are aware of what China is doing.  Virtually none of our national leaders are issuing a peep about this.  And so, for the uninitiated, a statement like Captain Fanell’s would seem to be not only undiplomatic but reckless speculation.

In fact, what is reckless is the willful blindness of just about everybody else involved.

Our national strategic leadership is surely aware of Chinese behavior, and to give it some small credit, it did deploy two unarmed B-52s to pass through the Chinese ADIZ in the immediate wake of its announcement.

But what is at stake here is not so much a few rocks, reefs, or even gas fields that may fall within the claimed sea territories.  This happens to be one place in the world where the likelihood of drawing the United States into an unnecessary war is arguably greater than anywhere else on earth.  Should China’s aggressive advances be met with a proportional response from Japan, the possibilities of war would be enormous, and we must not forget that the United States has obligations under the terms of mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Similar silence about Soviet aggression

There is a tendency in American diplomacy to downplay major international security threats in hopes that diplomacy can give the aggressor a face-saving exit from the extreme and dangerous positions it has taken.

But this is wishful thinking and it never works as hoped.

I am reminded here of how, during the Cold War, the U.S. Department of State kept as a classified secret the record of years of Soviet aggressive behavior against the U.S. Military Liaison Mission in East Germany (MLM).  Our MLM, which had been established as part of the Quadripartite Agreement over Berlin, involved the deployment of military intelligence personnel to monitor the other powers’ military presence in the region.  Over the course of several years, the Soviets had perpetrated numerous attacks against members of our MLM, including attempts to use heavy trucks to run their smaller vehicles off the road at high speed.

In 1985, the Soviets opened fire on an MLM vehicle and hit Major Arthur Nicholson, a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer.  The Soviets made him bleed to death over the course of eight hours, while preventing his American colleagues at gunpoint from intervening to save his life.

While the consequence of this attack ended up being more severe than those of earlier attacks, this was simply part of a consistent pattern of Soviet aggression which the State Department completely concealed from public knowledge.

Why should this have been a classified secret, except to conceal it from the American people so that we would not erupt in anger over the treatment of our officer?  The hope, of course, was that by keeping it secret, we would reduce tensions with Moscow in such a way that might ultimately result in peace.

The Soviets never paid any price for their criminal aggression.

Why the silence about China?

The same spirit is at work with Chinese behavior.  Not only is our national leadership effectively mute about China’s strategic purposes and the development of massive military capabilities to realize those purposes, but large swaths of the American business community avert their eyes from these strategic realities in the interest of not rocking the boat of their business relationships with the regime and its favorites in the Chinese “private” sector.

A not-insignificant portion of the academic community of China specialists also censor themselves, for fear of not getting a visa to return to China to do fieldwork.

Finally, it should not go without mention that major organs of the American media, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post receive huge subventions from the Chinese propaganda apparatus to publish and distribute “China Watch” supplements to their newspapers, and all too often, we see only a sprinkling of the facts about the almost daily developments concerning Chinese expansionism in East Asia.

As the Chinese accompany their regional moves with a massive military buildup, the U.S. administration is supervising a major reduction in our defense posture.  U.S. action in this sphere only sends a signal of provocative weakness to Beijing.

If this pattern of Chinese behavior is to be stopped, if war is to be deterred, China must be sent signals of strength and national will.  The Japanese are starting to do this.  The question is whether we will.

The first step toward such a policy is for the President and senior Congressional leaders to tell the truth about the strategic challenges that the U.S. faces from China, and that China’s neighbors are facing in the East Asian region.  With no articulation of truth, our leaders will never build a national consensus to develop the kind of deterrent force and credibility necessary to deter war.

The fact remains that telling the truth is never as destabilizing as covering one’s eyes and censoring oneself about strategic developments inimical to the strategic interests of the United States.

I happen to be part of a Google news group on China led by Captain Fanell, and I am exposed to an avalanche of emails on a daily basis from a myriad of credible sources about these Chinese developments. Captain Fanell knows the facts.  The rest of the world barely sees any of them.  If anything, Captain Fanell’s warnings can be considered responsible and moderate, in light of Chinese behavior.  Rather than being reprimanded for having the courage to tell the truth when our national leaders won’t, he should be rewarded for taking a leadership role when true leadership at the national strategic level is missing.

Is there such a thing as a perfect foreign policy?

American FlagOver the course of American history, and particularly in the 20th Century when America assumed a major role in the world, there have been many arguments about what constitutes the ideal approach to U.S. foreign policy.

The 20th Century began with a period of American imperialism borne out of a sense of obligation to people in the underdeveloped world and spurred, in the case of the Spanish-American war, by humanitarian passions that were excited by yellow journalism.  Woodrow Wilson introduced a foreign policy concept that stressed universal principles, such as national self-determination and making the world safe for democracy.  “Wilsonianism” has appeared in other guises since then, most notably in George W. Bush’s “neoconservative Wilsonian” efforts to remake Iraq and Afghanistan into democracies.

These initiatives are associated with a school of thought known as “idealism” and sometimes “liberal internationalism.”  They have encountered resistance from another school of thought, called “realism,” which is associated with an impulse toward realpolitik – i.e., emphasizing that policy should be guided exclusively by vital national interests and not political ideals or moral crusades.  This school has been traditionally associated with figures like Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger.

There has also been a school of thought that was ascendant during the interwar period called isolationism — the desire to retreat from the world to avoid getting embroiled in terrible wars like World War I, and according to some of its exponents, to set up a “fortress America” which would concentrate in its security policy principally on the territorial defense of the American homeland.

The isolationist school, which has some (but by no means all) contemporary libertarians amongst its ranks, claims that U.S. foreign policy during much of the 19th Century was isolationist.  In fact, it would be more accurate to say that it was carefully neutralist in character.  This policy was designed to avoid the risks of taking sides in great power conflicts, especially in Europe, when the United States was too weak to hold its own.  During this period of neutrality, there were many manifestations of American strategic outreach to the world which were by no means isolationist.

The two broader schools of idealism and realism both have deep and authentic historical roots in America.  But they have been often in tension: in the words of Walter MacDougall, it is a tension between the impulse towards being a crusader state vs. the desire to create a “promised land” here at home.  This tension has everything to do with the achievability of foreign policy goals.

The idealist impulse has manifested itself in many ways, both liberal and conservative, over the last century.  It has variously created policies seeking world peace, global democracy, global free trade, global respect for human rights, reliance on international organizations to create world order (which in some cases even envisions creating a world government), the realization of the global brotherhood of man, and reliance on international law and treaties as guarantors of world peace.  Most of these goals are so grand and ambitious that, in effect, they are not achievable given the flaws of human nature, the aggressive character of different regimes and ideologies, and the divided, if not anarchic, nature of the international order.  But they find substantiation in the universal truths and desiderata articulated in the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that “all men are created equal” — and not just Americans.

Some realists would call these idealist and universalist goals utopian, while maintaining that we should be concerned principally with establishing minimalist but eminently achievable goals for our foreign policy.  Some in this camp point to the Constitution and its preamble, which calls Americans to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” — and not necessarily to worry about the condition and future of people far from our shores.

So which of these approaches is the correct one?

There is no easy answer to this question.

Whereas realists can charge idealists with utopianism with regard to the malleability of foreign cultures and their amenability to democracy or with an utter lack of realism about human nature, which the realists argue will perpetually be flawed, there will always be validity for Americans to try to help shape conditions of greater freedom, decent behavior, and respect for human rights elsewhere in the world.  For the more these conditions prevail, the more likely governments will be legitimate and therefore the less likely they will be inclined to aggressive behavior (it is a virtual axiom of foreign policy that, in contrast to regimes that rule with the consent of the governed, illegitimate authoritarian or totalitarian regimes, which have internal security problems, tend to behave more aggressively in the international arena in order to demonstrate their invincibility to their domestic opponents).

In fact, the best foreign policy has to be informed both by moral and political ideals.  It must also be tempered by the limits of blood and treasure that can be expended on foreign interventions and acute discernment of the vital national interest so that we devote our scarce human, financial, and intellectual resources and national strategic attention only to the highest national priorities.

The setting of those priorities and the balancing of the defense of vital interests and the pursuit of  moral/idealistic goals can only be a project involving prudential judgement.  Ideological templates do not work here.  Scientific quantification can inform, but has its severe limits in this area.

What is necessary for an effective foreign policy is a collection of virtues applied to the analytical and policy process: intellectual integrity, the courage to see the truth about the realities of the world, discernment of the vital national interest, respect for law and the dignity of the human person, the application of justice, and, above all, the exercise of prudence.

While knowledge is a sine qua non, even more important is wisdom.  The exercise of prudential wisdom is not a science, but an art.  That is why we at IWP insist that our students study moral philosophy, as it uniquely can enlighten the heart and the mind about the cultivation of these very virtues that are the essence of statesmanship and moral leadership.

Without these virtues, there is ultimately no civilization, much less any effective defense of it.

US-Russian relations and the strategic importance of an independent Ukraine

SovietThe protests in Ukraine that have been proceeding for many weeks have major strategic implications. The proximate question is whether Ukraine will become an integral part of the Western economic community and, by extension, the Western security community, or whether Russia will succeed in co-opting it into its own political and economic space. The larger issue is whether Ukraine will remain an independent country, or whether it will eventually be fully absorbed into the Russian empire.

It is no secret what Vladimir Putin and the bosses of his power ministries want. They are suffering from an intense imperial nostalgia. They lament the collapse of the USSR and its breakup into its various constituent parts. They continue to celebrate on an annual basis the founding of the Cheka, which later became the OGPU, the NKVD, the KGB, and today a combination of several agencies, most notably the FSB and the SVR — organizations that are completely incompatible with democracy.

Ever since Russia articulated the first versions of its post-Soviet national security doctrine, starting as early as 1992, it has reserved for itself the right of military intervention into any neighboring country to protect “Russian-speaking people” whom it considers have been mistreated. The problem is that most people in the former Soviet republics speak Russian — and so, how does one distinguish between a Russian citizen is from a non-Russian? In any event, this particular doctrine is incompatible with international law, and it represents an ongoing threat to each of those countries in what the Russians call “the near abroad.”

Russia’s attempts to re-absorb many of its surrounding territories involve numerous maneuvers, most notably its infiltration of these lands with its agents of influence, many of whom are associated with major Russian corporations that are associated with Putin’s oligarchy. Sometimes these corporations buy or control companies in these neighboring lands. Insofar as some of these corporations are mafia-controlled, they use strong-arm tactics to assert their influence or control. The SVR and FSB have dossiers on hundreds if not thousands of individuals in the near abroad whom they can manipulate to serve Russian strategic interests.

Russia also has long used energy blackmail as means of extending its influence, particularly against Ukraine. It uses divide-and-conquer tactics that principally involve pitting different ethnic and religious groups against one another in neighboring lands. This is what it has done in most of its neighboring countries, with the most dramatic example being in Georgia, where Russia has aggravated relations between the Abkhazians and the Ossetians on the one hand and the central Georgian government on the other.

They also famously use propaganda and “active measures” (i.e. disinformation, forgeries, and covert influence operations) to influence opinion and policy in those countries.

And they work mightily to resist any attempts by these countries to associate themselves with the NATO alliance.

If Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia have been able to see clearly the geostrategic implications of the expansion of the Russian political and economic space, why cannot the United States?

One of the reasons why the new NATO members from the former communist countries of East/Central Europe are so committed to the NATO alliance is their fear of Russian revanchism and their intense desire to retain that liberty which was so long denied them when they were under the Soviet yoke.

Two world wars centered heavily around geostrategic competition for the lands between Western Europe and the USSR/Russia. The decision to expand NATO into these lands was precisely with an eye to preventing that strategic competition from continuing: namely, by placing those lands firmly in the sphere of the West without being under the thumb of any imperial power.

The United States would do well to support Ukrainian independence. Failure to do so will only encourage Russia’s expansionism and instability surrounding its borders. It could threaten the independence of our East-Central European NATO allies, and ultimately distract the United States from other major security threats. Supporting Ukraine means abandoning feckless attempts to “reset” relations with Russia on the basis of ignoring its regional expansionist ambitions. If U.S.-Russian relations are to improve, it will have to be on the basis of exploring and cooperating on areas of genuinely mutual national interests, such as resistance to Islamist terrorism and Chinese expansionism.

Sources of Soviet Perestroika

Originally published in 1989, this monograph surveys the 1989 political landscape of the Soviet Union’s apparent reforms and new freedoms, but instead of lauding the Soviets for their efforts, Dr. Lenczowski views them cautiously.

Administration challenges Chinese hegemonism: A necessary step that should have been unnecessary

The combination of dictatorial powers’ growing strength and America’s increasing weakness is the perfect formula for destabilizing behavior by bad actors in the world. This is all too often the result of what strategists call “provocative weakness” – where those bad actors believe that they can advance their aggressive interest with less likelihood of serious resistance by the United States or its allies.

As China has grown economically and has pursued its double-digit annual increases in its military buildup for about two decades, it has begun to flex its muscles in its East Asian neighborhood. It is claiming almost the entire territory of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It pursues a policy of “shard diplomacy,” where it alleges that wherever a shard of an antique China plate or vase is discovered in any neighboring territory, that that territory once belonged to China and therefore still belongs to China. It has been claiming island territories that are under the control of neighboring countries, such as Japan and the Philippines.

And now, it has just announced the establishment of an “Air-Defense Identification Zone” covering the larger part of the East China Sea. The ADIZ includes the airspace over the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyu islands that are currently controlled by Japan, as well as part of the Leodo reef in the Yellow Sea that is controlled by South Korea. China is requiring that foreign aircraft obtain permission to enter this airspace, and it reserves the right to take military action against intruders.

Air Defense Identification Zones have no basis in international law, and are invariably set up by individual nations unilaterally. In this case, China’s ADIZ overlaps with those of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Fortunately, the United States has not permitted this zone to be activated without challenge. The Defense Department sent two B-52 bombers precisely into this zone and over the disputed islands without following Beijing’s instructions that it should seek permission in advance.

Although the bombers were unarmed and were part of what Pentagon officials described as a long-planned training exercise, their flight to this zone represents one comforting continuity in American defense policy – namely, America’s longstanding commitment to freedom of the seas and freedom to navigate in international airspace.

Again, fortunately, China did not choose to intercept these bombers. But the fact that it was necessary to send them on this mission represents a deterioration in China’s perception of the credibility of America’s deterrent forces. If that credibility erodes further, and Beijing becomes ever more emboldened in its expansionism to challenge the United States and our allies in the region (Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan), the chances of military confrontation escalating to the use of force increases commensurately.

While the administration is to be commended for not abandoning a time-honored policy of protecting air and sea-based navigation, it should recognize the latest Chinese action for what it is: a warning that weakness is less likely to guarantee peace than strength.

US-China nuclear security center in Beijing: A questionable initiative

Washington Times columnist Bill Gertz has just reported that the Obama administration is funding a new US-China “nuclear security center” in Beijing. The ostensible reason for this initiative is to work cooperatively with communist China to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation by supplying China with the necessary equipment, training, and knowledge to secure nuclear weapons facilities.

Unless there is some other reason underlying this project – and there may be a remote possibility that there is – it appears to be a highly dubious and counterproductive enterprise.

Countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is usually not a technical problem. It is first and foremost a political problem. Almost all proliferation occurs because of willful decisions by bad actors to put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of enemies of their enemies.

China views the United States as its main enemy. It has long facilitated the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. This policy of deliberate proliferation has been accompanied by Beijing’s own major nuclear weapons buildup, their theft of the secret technology involved in every deployed US nuclear warhead, their concealment of their land-based nuclear arsenal in their astonishing network of underground tunnels, and their recently-publicized plans to target American cities with both ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Given the US government’s track record of nuclear weapons security cooperation with Russia, which, while contributing to the reduction of Russian nuclear warheads, also subsidized the modernization of the Russian nuclear arsenal, it is not unreasonable to cast a skeptical eye on the new US-China nuclear security project.

American tax dollars may well be going to subsidize Beijing’s nuclear buildup at the expense of US national security.

Minimum deterrence: Enhancing the possibility of war

DM-ST-93-02894Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has undergone several bouts of unilateral disarmament in strategic arms.  First, we stopped all production of tritium in 1988, a vital component in the production and refurbishment of nuclear weapons and revived it only much later (in 2005).

We conducted an unnecessary arms control agreement with Russia in 2010 – the New START Treaty – which, like virtually all previous arms control agreements with the USSR and Russia, suffered from many serious flaws.  For example, it had absolutely no accompanying compliance policy.  It had weaknesses in verification (which is completely distinct from compliance policy).  The treaty gave Moscow unilateral advantages. It did not include a force limit on Russia’s thousands of tactical nuclear weapons, an area where they far outnumber the United States. The treaty also counts certain conventional launchers against the force limit, hampering our goal of developing a Prompt Global Strike capability. These changes left Moscow a free hand to continue its nuclear modernization while we restricted the numbers of our deterrent forces without pursuing modernization.

We signed the agreement in spite of the fact that Moscow has continued its history of violating arms control agreements, even into the post-Cold War period.  We signed it as if China’s nuclear arsenal plays no role in the global strategic balance, but Beijing is not party to any of the extant relevant strategic arms agreements.

Our intelligence community tells us that China has between 300 and 400 ICBMS and SLBMs. One Russia expert, a former Colonel General of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, claims the Chinese could have as many as 1800 missiles.  Which is it?  Are we indeed able to verify the number of Chinese missiles when they are concealing most of them in the labyrinth of tunnels that they call the “Underground Great Wall”?  This is reportedly a network of 3,000 miles of tunnels through which trucks can pass, pulling road-mobile launch vehicles for ICBMs.

One always hesitates to criticize the estimates of our 16-agency intelligence community (IC).  But historically, there have been examples where the conventional wisdom within the community has been very difficult, if not impossible, to challenge, especially when its judgments are made on the basis of estimates rather than actual intelligence about the facts of the matter.  In the 1970s, the IC told us that the percentage of the Soviet economy devoted to the military was 5%.  In fact, it proved to be more in the realm of 50%.

China’s possession of strategic weapons and its ability to conceal them makes a big difference to the United States.  China considers the United States to be its main enemy.  It propagandizes its vast armed forces to consider us as such.  Its double digit annual growth in military expenditures is principally targeted to address American military capabilities.  It conducts cyber attacks and espionage against multiple types of targets in the US: industrial secrets, US Government classified networks, our national laboratories, academic centers specializing in Chinese affairs, and even the personal accounts of American sinologists.  It has dispatched somewhere in the realm of 50,000 intelligence collectors to our shores.  It has developed a neutron bomb.  It has conducted laser tests against US satellites.  It has developed an anti-satellite weapon designed to blind our intelligence capabilities and disrupt our command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence networks.  It is developing a blue water navy.  It has established a strategic presence at most of the world’s major strategic naval choke points.  It is flexing its muscles with aggressive territorial claims throughout its neighborhood, most notably in the South and East China Seas.

As we continue to hollow out our military and move in the direction of “minimum deterrence” in the realm of strategic weapons, our credibility as an ally in our mutual defense pacts with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan is eroding, to such an extent that each of these countries is making its own separate security preparations.

A policy of minimum deterrence, which is being pursued by the Administration, and which has been encouraged by several former Secretaries of State who have set forth a reckless and utopian vision of a nuclear-free world, is exactly the formula for enhancing the possibility of war – even conventional war.

Now that more than two decades have passed since the foreign policy community kept a serious eye on matters of nuclear strategy, it is high time that we be reminded about the implications of the irresponsible policy that is being pursued.

Fortunately, a recent study by the National Institute for Public Policy under the directorship of Dr. Keith Payne and former Secretary of Defense Dr. James Schlesinger reviews and thoroughly discredits the assumptions underlying this policy and how it portends ever greater insecurity for the US and its allies throughout the world: http://www.nipp.org/Final%20for%20Distro%207.17.pdf

It is now time for the US Congress to ensure that America will retain a serious and adequate strategic deterrent to maximize the prospects of realistic peace and not the fatuous vision of the utopians.