Category Archives: by John Lenczowski

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.

Part of America’s greatness is our appreciation of our veterans

Photo from DefenseImagery.milAmerica has sent so many of its best sons and daughters and to put themselves in harm’s way to fight for our vital interests and for the cause of freedom in the world. While not all decisions made by our government to engage in military interventions have always been the wisest course, what is undeniable is the fundamental spirit of patriotism that embodies those who are willing to serve and answer the call.

With very few exceptions, such as how shabbily our veterans were treated in the wake of their service in Vietnam, America has honored its veterans and has made a holiday to remember them and express appreciation for their selfless service. This bespeaks a spirit of patriotism within our own culture, because it is precisely love of country based on a deep appreciation of the rare political inheritance we have been given–which prizes rule of law, respect for the dignity of the human person, individual rights, personal responsibility, and political and economic liberty–that is the central pillar of our national security posture and the larger willingness to defend our civilization.

However ordinary and routine Veterans Day may seem to many Americans, there is nothing ordinary and routine about it. America is unique insofar as people with many different backgrounds can come here to these shores and realize the fullness of their God-given abilities without obstacles based on who they are and where they come from.

God bless our veterans, and God bless America.

Our defense posture is weak, and not just because of the sequester

As we witness almost daily the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, where with sickening regularity, we learn reports of another 60 innocent people being killed by terrorist bombings, one is prompted to reflect about how our government establishes its priorities for the defense of our country.  Although the news from Afghanistan is not as disturbing, the prospect of American withdrawal and the continuation of civil war within that wretched country makes such reflection even more necessary.

Lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan

As painful as it may be for some people to look back on the strategic decisions that were made to conduct the wars in those two places in the ways that we did, we must nevertheless confront a bitter truth – namely, that the political-strategic situation in both countries is not markedly better than when we first ousted Saddam Hussein from power and when we removed the Taliban from its ruling position in Afghanistan.

In both cases, we decided to embark on nation-building projects, which necessitated the prolonged presence of American forces.  In both cases, we have attempted to implement radical political-cultural changes that have cut against the grain of long-established political arrangements.

In the case of Iraq, under the banner of bringing democracy to one of the most advanced Arab countries, we ousted the longtime Sunni Muslim governing class and effectively installed, under the aegis of a nationwide election, a Shia government that has been so mistrustful of the Sunnis that it has effectively frozen them out of meaningful influence within the country.  This is nothing less than a social revolution that is a recipe for protracted civil war.

Our actions were based very much on assumptions that Iraqi culture was malleable, and that perhaps culture itself–with the habits, traditions, customs, mentality, and modes of thinking, formed over centuries–didn’t really exist.

Similarly, in Afghanistan, we have attempted to install a central government in a country where no serious central government has ever existed for any length of time.  When there was a king, he regarded the country for what it was – a confederation of tribes whose autonomy he had to respect.  In return, the tribes, accustomed to paying their respect to the inheritor of the monarchical charisma, retained some identity with the “nation” of Afghanistan, even though their principal identity was tribal.

In both cases, American foreign policy optimistically assumed not only the malleability of culture but an adaptability and perhaps even a perfectibility of human nature–an assumption that has long characterized left-wing ideologies which have attempted to build heaven on earth.

The cost of what I consider to be utopian nation-building adventures will come to $6-8 trillion in actuarial terms, when you calculate the lifetime of medical care for the thousands who have been wounded, both physically and mentally, in the course of the protracted occupations of these countries.

There was another way

There was another way.  These extraordinary levels of blood and treasure need not have been spent.  But what would have been required was a proper ordering of our national security priorities where vital national interests take priority over mere interests and where the allocation of resources is configured appropriately.

Saddam Hussein’s capture in December 2003 is when our involvement in Iraq might much more profitably have ended.  Rather than embarking on nation-building, our intervention could have prompted a leadership change in Iraq, even if it remained Sunni Muslim and Baathist party-based.  But the message would have reverberated throughout the country that if you massacre Shia and Kurds and play shell games with weapons of mass destruction, there are consequences.

Thomas Jefferson did not send Stephen Decatur, the Marine Corps, and American privateers to the shores of Tripoli to invade, occupy, and democratize the radical Islamists of his day–the Barbary pirates.  He sent them on a behavior-modification operation.  The result was freedom of navigation for international commerce.

It is more realistic to deter gross conduct than it is to change an entire culture.

In Afghanistan, I believe that the proposal made by several members of Congress, notably Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, to restore the king to his throne was much more likely to win a national consensus that would have preserved tribal autonomy and the confederative status of the country.  If we needed forces which could help maintain some modicum of order nationwide, they could have been the very forces of the Northern Alliance, who, with our CIA and Special Forces, ousted the Taliban from power.

We could have made our country safer

Imagine if only a fraction of that $6-8 trillion had been spent.  Imagine how it could have enabled us to maintain the Navy that our global commitments require.  It is now under 300 ships, when it should be over 500, especially in light of the rapid development by China of its own blue water navy and its extraordinary muscle flexing and bellicosity in the South and East China Seas.

Today, our Army is being reduced to a bare-bones force where only two brigades are fully combat ready, according to General Ray Odierno, the Army’s Chief of Staff.

Our nuclear forces are in a very sad state of repair, and people in positions of senior responsibility are talking about a policy of minimum deterrence–maintaining a bare minimum of nuclear forces, when in fact, nothing could be less effective in deterring war, and not just nuclear war, than a skeletal strategic deterrent.

With just a few more resources, we could significantly enhance our missile defense.  We could pay more serious attention to the massive Chinese espionage and theft of both our industrial and military secrets.  We could even harden the transformers that are the hubs of our nationwide electrical grid to protect against the very real possibility of an electromagnetic pulse that could come either from solar activity or from a nuclear device detonated in the atmosphere above our country–a phenomenon that, according to the most serious scientific studies, would kill the vast majority of citizens in our country through the destruction of everything electrical, including our just-in-time delivery system the basic necessities of life.

As much as the sequester is being blamed for the budgetary strains that are plaguing our national defense posture, it was ill-conceived policy and strategic decisions made over the last decade that lie at the heart of one of our most critical national challenges.

One hopes that more Americans, and particularly our future leaders whom we are attempting to shape at IWP, will learn from such lessons of history.

This article by John Lenczowski is partially based on a speech delivered this fall to the Council for National Policy, and also appears on www.iwp.edu.