Archive for the National Security Category

Benjamin Wittes

The Next Ten Years

Ten years have passed since the opening of the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the anniversary was marked with much hand-wringing. There were articles by former detainees, a statement by retired military personnel, denunciations of President Obama for his failure to close the site, and tear-stained statements by human rights groups.

In a decade of policy experimentation at Guantánamo, some efforts have succeeded, some have failed tragically, and some are still in process. But far more interesting than the past ten years is what the next ten will look like. And that subject seems oddly absent from the conversation.

Make no mistake: there will be another ten years of Guantánamo. (Even if Guantánamo itself miraculously closed, we would have to build it somewhere else.) Our forces already hold more detainees than they can safely release or put on trial before any tribunal to which this country would attach its name. And in any future conflict against nonstate actors, our forces are likely to capture more of such people, and we will have to put them somewhere. If the United States is lucky, we may be able to reduce the number of detainees further than the combined efforts of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations have so far managed. But we will not eliminate it, and even if we could, we cannot guarantee that we will not replenish it all of a sudden in some future, spasmodic set of military operations abroad.

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Stephen Krasner

Ending the Double Game

On September 22, 2011, Admiral Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his last official appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his speech, he bluntly criticized Pakistan, telling the committee that “extremist organizations serving as proxies for the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers.” The Haqqani network, he said, “is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency [ISI].” In 2011 alone, Mullen continued, the network had been responsible for a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, a September truck-bomb attack in Wardak province that wounded seventy-seven U.S. soldiers, and a September attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

These observations did not, however, lead Mullen to the obvious conclusion: Pakistan should be treated as a hostile power. And within days, military officials began walking back his remarks, claiming that Mullen had meant to say only that Islamabad gives broad support to the Haqqani network, not that it gives specific direction. Meanwhile, unnamed U.S. government officials asserted that he had overstated the case. Mullen’s testimony, for all the attention it received, did not signify a new U.S. strategy toward Pakistan.

Yet such a shift is badly needed. For decades, the United States has sought to buy Pakistani cooperation with aid: $20 billion worth since 9/11 alone. This money has been matched with plenty of praise from U.S. leaders, who have also spent an outsized amount of face time with their Pakistani counterparts. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has made four trips to Pakistan, compared with two to India and three to Japan. Mullen made more than twenty visits to Pakistan.

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Ed Meese

Secure Solution

The detention and interrogation facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which I have visited, has served and continues to serve an important role in the war against terrorists since it opened a decade years ago. It houses high-value terrorist detainees, like Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the architect of September 11.

The military commissions’ courthouse, called the Expeditionary Legal Compound, is a world-class, state-of-the-art facility specifically designed to accommodate the needs of both defense and prosecutors dealing with classified information. The detainees there are represented by civilian and military counsel, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that they enjoy the constitutional right of habeas corpus. The conditions of detention there are safe, secure, and humane, and comply with national and international standards, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

It is important to remember that the United States of America is engaged in armed conflict and has been since September 11, 2001. The September 18, 2001, Authorization for Use of Military Force, relied upon by both the Bush and Obama administrations, gives our military the legal authority to engage the enemy under appropriate circumstances.

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David Davenport

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that it would not pursue an investigation of Israel for “acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.” This closes off, for now, an attempt by
Palestine to draw the Court into its dispute with Israel over alleged war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09.

But there is an even larger story here about whether the relatively young Court (established in 2002) would seek to expand its jurisdiction and play a role in deciding whether Palestine is already a state. To that the answer is “no, for now.”

The Minister of Justice of the Government of Palestine filed a submission with the Court in January, 2009, asking the Court to take jurisdiction of the matter and open an investigation. But the Court’s own rules limit submissions to “States,” so from the beginning the key question was whether Palestine was a state for this purpose.

The Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, seriously entertained the question for three years, following a remarkable prosecutorial process of inviting outside submissions, posting briefs on the Internet, and hosting roundtable arguments in his offices in the Hague. He seemed open to the possibility that the definition of “State” for purposes of the ICC might be different than a “State” in international law generally. He spent three years looking at arguments that Palestine possessed this or that mark of statehood. One sensed that he was under political pressures to open the doors of the Court more widely to take this case.

In the end, the Prosecutor said it was really up to the United Nations to decide what is a “State” and that, so far, Palestine was only treated there as an observer. It thus becomes a political decision for the U.N., rather than a legal decision for an international
court, which was surely the right answer all along. The lengthy process for what should have been a straightforward decision reminds us of the dangers of these politicized and expansionist international courts.

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David Davenport

For three years, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague has been trying to decide whether he had jurisdiction over Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Even though the legal answer (“NO”) seemed obvious from the start, both politics and the inevitable expansionist agendas of international courts kept the question alive and Israel potentially subject to the Court.

Finally this week the Prosecutor announced that he would not pursue the investigation of Israel “for acts committed on the territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002.” For now, this closes off yet another legal front of attack on Israel, and also thwarts another end-run by Palestine around the path by which Palestinian statehood is supposed to be resolved; namely the Middle East peace process and the United Nations.

The interesting question is why it took so long for the Prosecutor to reach what seemed like a no-brainer outcome from the start. In January 2009, the Palestinian Minister of Government filed a submission with the ICC asking the Court to take jurisdiction over Israel’s actions in Gaza. But the Court’s own rules require that any matters submitted must come from a “State.” Since Israel is not a party to the treaty creating the Court (nor is the U.S. and 70 or so other nations), and since Palestine is neither a party nor a State, it seemed obvious to most international lawyers that the ICC had no jurisdiction over the matter.

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Kori Schake

Slow waltz on Syria

The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, former Secretary General Kofi Annan, reported to the Security Council yesterday that the government of Bashir al-Assad has agreed to a cease-fire commencing April 10th. Annan also reported there has been no abatement of the violence by the government of Syria against its citizens. Assad’s government is estimated by the U.N. to have killed more than 9,000 people in the past year, when Syrians began demanding the rights we Americans consider universal.

In that year, the Obama administration has gingerly moved away from defending Bashir al-Assad. When thousands of people had already been victims of murder by their own government in Syria, Secretary of State Clinton described Assad as a "reformer" who should be supported by the United States. Astonishingly, she contrasted him with Arab despots we supported protests against.

While Obama administration policy has improved somewhat with the advance of revolutions in the Middle East, it continues to chase rather than positively affect change. Our president now concedes that Assad should step down, but endorses a U.N. peace plan that would leave the murderer of nine thousand in power. Moreover, the Obama administration considers itself restricted from intervening in Syria because Vladimir Putin shields a fellow despot with Russia’s vote in the U.N. Security Council.

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Kori Schake

It’s been a discouraging several weeks in the Afghan war, but we absolutely should not speed the pace of our withdrawal. All of the evidence suggests that if we walk away from Afghanistan without securing it, terrorists will return it to what it was in 2000 (or worse), their narratives about American decadence will be reinforced, and America’s trustworthiness as a partner to struggling societies will be badly compromised.

Counterinsurgency wars are difficult to win: they take a long time, rely on the indigenous government to develop the capacity to achieve our aims, and on our ability to persuade a war-ravaged society that we are better than our enemies — to trust us and not them. It’s difficult to see progress even when it’s occurring. But there’s a reason our enemies force us to fight this way: if they fought to our strengths, they would lose decisively and quickly. The
only way the states and organizations we are worried about can defeat us is by eroding our will to prosecute the war. And they are currently succeeding.

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Kori Schake

NATO’s Doing Better Than We Think

Senators McCain and Shaheen hosted an event on Capitol Hill recently to discuss NATO issues in preparation for next month’s NATO summit meeting.  Here’s my statement from the record:

One of the very best historians of the NATO Alliance, Stanley Sloan, used to say that the most predictable refrain in the West was that NATO is in crisis.  Because persuading ourselves that the Alliance is in crisis is how we motivate ourselves to fix problems that emerge.  And problems always emerge, not because NATO is in crisis, but because the nature of the threats we address changes with time, and the partnership we have forged in NATO is deep and enduring.  NATO has become the means by which the twenty eight countries that constitute its membership manage their collective security.

Yes, NATO has shortcomings — they are numerous.  It fails to address many security problems.  Currently it is avoiding tackling cyber threats, even though a NATO ally has been the victim of a cyber attack.  It talks too little about emergent threats like Iran.  It has only barely overcome the tendency to indulge in theoretical debates the medieval Catholic church would marvel at for pointlessness.  It has not prevented the slide in defense spending by most of its members.

But that does not mean NATO is in crisis, going out of business, in desperate need of a new formula for burdensharing, or irrelevant.  Because the basic NATO bargain remains sound: the United States wants Europe secure and Europe wants American involvement in its security.  It was true in 1949, and it is true now.

In fact, the NATO bargain has dramatically expanded to the benefit of the United States in the past twenty years.  With the end of the Cold War many on both sides of the Atlantic questioned whether NATO remained necessary.  The German government seemed willing to trade its NATO membership for reunification, the French eager to replace NATO with a solely European defense, the Russians ambitious to parallel the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact with removing the U.S. from Europe.

But instead of dissolving, NATO Allies persuaded themselves their security against all threats, not just the Soviet threat, was the purpose of the Alliance.  This expansion of the mandate was clearly beyond the original intent of the Washington Treaty.  The framers that would be most surprised by today’s NATO would be its American fathers.  The treaty describes the area of application because the U.S. refused to underwrite the colonial claims of its European allies.  We not only refused in principle, we refused in practice: President Eisenhower materially impeded Britain and France’s effort in the 1956 Suez war.

Wars in the Balkans were the first test of NATO’s broader vision of its security.  The Alliance passed, if just barely: the time we took persuading ourselves to intervene allowed brutality to take hold in the unraveling of Yugoslavia, the means by which we intervened was subject to ideological rigidities that reduced our military effectiveness and exasperated our politicians with each other.  But the Alliance was working through an understanding of a whole new kind of mission set, determining whether and how the practices that govern NATO would be applied beyond the NATO area.  Europeans seemed to predominantly want subjugation of NATO to other international institutions; the U.S. questioned why the influence Europeans have over the U.S. in NATO should be extended to wars that would not be fought on the territory of European countries.

For all the acrimony of those debates, the Alliance did negotiate its way through to a sensible and politically stable new pattern of cooperation.  NATO got past the doctrinal impasse over whether NATO was “AN essential pillar of European security” or “THE essential pillar of European security.”  Foolish as it sounds, the Alliance spent six months on that issue when it crafted its 1991 Alliance Strategic Concept.  But tiresome debates on these kinds of issues are the way NATO builds a collective approach to problems.  That actually is what NATO does.  And it’s incredibly important, because those internal negotiations are what make our political commitments in NATO durable.  We argue each other to a common understanding.

If the framers would be surprised by the expansion of NATO’s mandate, they would be deeply gratified that the result of the new mandate would be Europeans allies demonstrating their willingness to defend the territory of the U.S. and Canada, and fight alongside us in wars far beyond Europe.  They would be amazed to know the first invocation of NATO’s Article 5 guarantee that an attack on one would be considered an attack on all came in response to an attack on the United States.

NATO’s framers were signing up to commit American power to defend Europe; they had no real expectation that European military forces would be called on to defend the United States.  And yet, they did.  Not only did NATO invoke its mutual defense clause on September 12th, NATO countries also led the effort to bring other countries and international institutions into alignment supporting the United States, at a time when the American government was in shock and focused on preventing other attacks.  That, too, is an important benefit for the United States of the NATO alliance: our allies see what is in our interests even when we might not, and they work to help us.

Surely that help would come from some, even from many, NATO allies bilaterally.  For the U.S., it is often easier to work bilaterally, especially when considering military action beyond Europe.  We have military commands organized and involved in operations all over the world, with experience working closely with the countries in which operations occur.  To suggest (as many NATO advocates did in 2001) that a war in Afghanistan should be run by the European commander strikes Americans a unreasonable.  But it is illustrative that ten years into the war in Afghanistan, the ISAF commander is the NATO commander, it is NATO allies that remain the main force contributors, it is NATO governments that hold the strategy together when setbacks occur or domestic politics buffet a contributing country, it is NATO’s integrated military command that ensures contributing forces have the organization and training and equipment to be interoperable.

One last advantage of NATO is that it provides a legitimating stamp of approval for the use of military force.  We disagree both among Allies and within governments about the need for legitimation — the Obama Administration is currently in hot water with this legislative body about its stated belief that approval from international institutions is necessary but approval from Congress is not — but it is clearly preferable to have an institutional mandate where possible.  And for Americans, having NATO allies agree to fight alongside us probably matters more than approval from any other international organization.  We are less persuaded than other countries that the United Nations is virtuous; we know NATO is because it is comprised of democratic governments whose values as well as their interests drive their policies, and both their values and their interests are in large measure aligned with our own.

That is why NATO isn’t actually in crisis, why it doesn’t really matter what the Chicago summit concludes about “smart defense” or expanding membership or command restructuring or negotiating proposals for limiting tactical nuclear weapons.  We should do those things, of course.  They are the sinew of Alliance management, the continual adjustment of our activity to the threats and opportunities we face.  But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that NATO is actually doing very well.  Prospering, even.  It has made the crucial realignment to the end of the Cold War and established a strong foundation for the future of security cooperation and operational effectiveness among its members.

To conclude, I’d like to briefly discuss two areas likely to get significant attention at the summit: the capability gap, and nuclear forces.  In both areas over-heated rhetoric has the potential to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Capability Gap 

We in NATO spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the capability gap between the military forces of our European allies and those of the United States.  It’s a serious subject, cause of difficulties in functional interoperability and risk sharing.  Interoperability is always a challenge.  But in our concern about the interoperability gap between Europe and the United States, we often overlook an even more important capability gap: that between Europe and any country our allies would be fighting against.  That is the more important comparison.  Our NATO allies have a war winning advantage against anyone they would conceivably fight.

They may not be able to fight wars in the ways we would fight them.  And these differences have consequences for the risk allies run, both individually and collectively. But we are very near persuading ourselves that nothing can be done unless it is done the way American military forces would, and that is both wrong and dangerous.

Libya operations exemplifies this: in an operation in which the US did not want to lead or play a major role, it fired nearly all of the cruise missiles that destroyed Libya’s air defenses in advance of allied strike missions, provided  the great majority of the aerial tankers and nearly all of the surveillance and electronic warfare elements on which allied flights depended, flew 25 per cent of all sorties, rushed precision munitions to allies, and loaned officers trained at identifying military targets to NATO headquarters.

Without American support, the Libya operation could not have been fought in the way that it was; but that does not mean that it could not have been fought at all. Can anyone really doubt that the military forces of Britain, France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, and Romania could force the capitulation of a dictator who was fighting a domestic insurrection?  Moammar Gadhafi spent $1 billion a year on his military, most of that badly; Britain alone spends $45 billion and well.

Twenty years of fretting about capability gaps is persuading us that Europe can do little militarily without that United States, and that is fundamentally untrue.  It is also corrosive to the willingness of Europeans to use military force.  The United States needs capable European allies.  We have capable European allies.  Denigrating their ability to fight affects their willingness to fight.  There are an awful lot of problems on the horizon that military force will be important in contending with, and the United States should be encouraging our European allies and setting them up to be successful.

Nuclear Forces

There is a strong tendency to avoid discussing nuclear weapons and their role in NATO strategy.  Political leaders in both Europe and the United States hesitate to argue the need for use of weapons that devastate large areas, kill indiscriminately, and raise difficult questions of proportionality.  But NATO has a great story to tell about its management of nuclear strategy and forces.  Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has unilaterally reduced its nuclear weapons by 90%.  It has had three rounds of reviewing its strategy, and in each instance reaffirmed the importance of nuclear deterrence in preventing war.  In the past two years, NATO government have persuaded themselves anew of the importance of NATO allies sharing in the risks associated with nuclear missions and the stationing of nuclear forces in Europe.

The Russians maintain a stockpile of deliverable tactical nuclear weapons more than ten times NATO’s, and continue to deploy those weapons predominantly west of the Ural Mountains.  Their military doctrine increasingly emphasizes nuclear weapons as a substitute for the crumbling capability of their conventional military forces, and they are unresponsive to overtures for negotiated reductions and increased transparency.  While Russia is no longer the main driver of NATO defense plans and activity, the Alliance yet has work to do on old-fashioned Article 5 threats like Russian nuclear weapons because Russia’s truculence continues to be a threat to us all.

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