‘Carpet-bombing’ at the GOP debate; Carter in Iraq; Today in missiles; How we got from Aylan to Trump; and a bit more...

Donald Trump rather predictably took the lion’s share of heat from his rivals at last night’s GOP debate. But many of the candidates struggled to spell out their national security strategies, particularly regarding the Islamic State.

The three senators on stage—Cruz, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida—tussled over encryption and surveillance, and moderators pushed the candidates on their recent pronouncements about refugees and Muslims. One-time front-runner Ben Carson continued to sink, spending much of his speaking time with surgical metaphors (e.g., ISIS is a “cancer” that he’ll remove).

Among the more memorable exchanges and quotes: “Look, this is not a serious proposal,” Jeb Bush said about Trump’s Muslim ban. “In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world, away from us at a time when we need to re-engage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS.” Later, the former Florida governor told the New York businessman he couldn’t “insult his way to the presidency” — and, noting Trump’s assertion that he learned about defense “from the shows,” added, “I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning.”

Cruz, pressed to elaborate on his call for “carpet bombing” Iraq and Syria: “What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS,” adding that the U.S. “carpet bombed” in the Gulf War. (As our colleague Marcus Weisgerber pointed out, the Gulf War was one of the first with precision bombing and smart weapons.) Cruz wrapped up with this gem: “political correctness is killing people.”

National Journal rolled up the “winners and losers” of debate, and you can find that take, here.

Hillary Clinton chose Minneapolis to launch her homeland security speech on Tuesday in the wake the San Bernardino attacks two weeks ago today. The city is a microcosm for larger tensions rising across the country, writes Defense One’s Molly O’Toole. But those tensions are particularly concentrated in Minneapolis. For example, just a few days ago the Justice Department charged the tenth Twin Cities’ man in a “broad conspiracy” to provide material support to the Islamic State, but its Somali community is also touted by the administration as a model for partnerships between law enforcement and Muslim community leaders.

Clinton presented what her campaign dubbed a “360-degree” homeland security strategy, urging that the U.S. can protect both itself and its values. Read O’Toole’s writeup, here.

But while 40 percent of Americans now say the federal government’s top priority should be terrorism and national security, according to an NBC/WSJ poll, for the first time since 9/11, less than half believe the government can protect them, according to Pew. Will they trust her? Or anyone? Read on, here.

When national security and nativism collide: Three months ago, a photo of a Syrian refugee toddler face down on a beach, drowned, sobered the world and shamed the U.S. on its response to the global refugee crisis. Now, even Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s call for the U.S. to bar Muslims—even American citizens—hardly shocks it.

As Trump and others doubled down on their rhetoric in last night's debate, it's worth asking: How did we get here? But more perhaps more troublingly still: Where are we going? The tension has put the politics of national security and nativism on a collision course. Welcome to 2016. Read Politics Reporter Molly O'Toole's investigation into the trends and what they forecast for the future of national security politics, here.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is in Baghdad this morning for a pre-planned but “unannounced warzone visit” to talk with Iraqi leaders about accepting more U.S. advisors as well as Apache attack helicopters, the Associated Press reports. Carter told Congress about the proposal last week, but Iraq itself has been cool to the idea.

In recent days, all eyes have been on Ramadi, where some 10,000 Iraqi security forces have surrounded the city, but haven’t made a great deal of progress beyond that, Reuters adds.

Before Baghdad, Carter dropped in on Ankara to shore up Turkish support, push for tightening the 900-kilometer border with Syria, and seek ideas for what Gulf states—Saudi Arabia, in particular—could do to “help mobilize Syrian Arab fighters to challenge the Islamic State in its Syrian sanctuary or support Sunni tribes in neighboring Iraq in their struggle” against ISIS, the New York Times reported.

Carter sounded optimistic in the wake of Riyadh’s announcement that 34 Islamic nations had vowed to step up their fight against global terrorism. “The forming of capable, motivated security forces in the territory of Syria and Iraq, which is one of the key ingredients of our overall strategy, can be enabled by them,” Carter said.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that this new coalition “would share military and intelligence information and base their operations in Riyadh. Asked if they could provide ground forces to fight militants, he said, ‘Nothing is off the table.’ Nonetheless, Mr. Jubeir said there were no specific plans to create a contingent of soldiers that could be inserted into a conflict,” and many details of the plan remain unsettled. More here.

See also these four takes on that 34-member alliance, including from former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Chatham House’s Middle East analyst Hassan Hassan.

Meanwhile in Syria, activists say Assad’s forces have captured a strategic Nouba mountain ahead of a looming offensive on the rebel stronghold of Salma in the northwest of the country, AP reports.

The USS Harry Truman passed through the Suez Canal on Tuesday, en route to the Persian Gulf where it’s set to join counter-ISIS air operations sometime around Christmas. The Hill has more, here.

Today in missiles: French jets launched their first SCALP long-range cruise missiles against ISIS targets in Iraq on Tuesday, the defense ministry said. “The missiles were used for the first time in Libya in 2011 strikes and cost about 850,000 euros ($930,000) each,” Agence France-Presse reported.

A Russian test missile went awry on Tuesday in the northwestern region of the country, landing near a village on the White Sea coast. Fortunately, no injuries were reported. AP has that one, here.

And Iran is in hot water with the U.N. over a ballistic missile test in October that a new report says violated a Security Council resolution. The Wall Street Journal has more on the matter, including a raft of U.S. lawmakers pushing for a unilateral U.S. response, should the international body fail to retaliate.


From Defense One

UN members don’t have many options when they meet tomorrow to talk about how to sap ISIS finances. With little power to stop Islamic State administrators from taxing subjugated populations, the world community must focus on reducing its oil profits, writes Dan DePetris in Defense One, here.

Try to take this as refreshingly clear-eyed instead of depressing: “The new cybersecurity adviser hired by the Office of Personnel Management after a Chinese-originated hack says he expects ISIS may ultimately pierce the agency’s systems, too,” reports NextGov. “Going forward, OPM will ‘make it more of a need-to-know kind of access control,’ he said, ‘so if we do have a compromise, it is far more contained than, for example, our last incident.’” Read on, here.

The U.S. military just lost its carbon-emission exemption. But don’t expect big changes soon. “Under the Paris climate agreement, countries are no longer exempted from cutting military emissions. Here's how that figures into U.S. plans, which are not set to begin for many years,” writes The Atlantic, here.

Battle for the White House, a new ebook from Defense One. If you want to know the future of U.S. national security strategy, look to the 2016 presidential election. Whoever wins the White House will inherit the wars President Obama had pledged to end, along with dozens of ongoing counterterrorism operations in overlooked countries and an increasingly complex global security environment. This ebook wraps up the essential reporting you need to understand where the race is, and where it’s going. Buckle up and download it here.

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Tell your friends to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


See ya in court, maybe. That’s Lockheed Martin’s message to the Army. In September, Lockheed contested the Army’s selection of Oshkosh to build new trucks called Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, which will replace tens of thousands of Humvees in the coming decade. The Government Accountability Office was due to rule on the protest by Thursday, but dropped it on Tuesday after Lockheed declared its intent to take the matter to U.S. Federal Claims Court.

Lockheed’s statement: “We are considering filing a complaint with Court of Federal Claims based on new information that was brought to our attention that relates to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) contract award process.”

What does this mean? Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, says Oshkosh, which had been under a stop-work order, could now start building the new trucks for the Army. It also means Lockheed probably felt GAO was not likely to uphold its protest. More here.

What lies ahead for the Pentagon in 2016? The folks at the Washington Examiner put together a fairly thorough look-ahead, including a “where things stand” glimpse at major weapons programs. The section on national security begins about halfway down, here.

ICYMI: The defense reform bill Obama signed just before Thanksgiving is the one of the largest in decades—but there’s still plenty more that should be done, including shipping lethal assistance to Ukraine, cutting the Pentagon’s bureaucracy, improving the military healthcare system and more, argues Justin Johnson of the Heritage Foundation, here.

Here’s a fun one from retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno and Nora Bensahel—It’s a letter to Santa from Ash Carter with nearly a dozen special requests, including “22,408 kilometers of 3M Hazard Warning Tape. Maybe if I mark Russia’s land borders with bright colored tape, it will help remind Vladimir Putin to keep his troops on his side of the border,” and “An industrial size bottle of Maximum Bond Krazy Glue. It’s the only thing I can think of that will help stick Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the rest of the greater Middle East back together. This might take a whole case, come to think of it.” Read the rest over at WOTR, here.

And today, don’t miss WOTR’s Editor-in-Chief Ryan Evans along with Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin and Defense One’s Ben Watson talking the changing landscape of national security reporting at noon EDT over at the Heritage Foundation. Event details can be found here.

Speaking of WOTR: Last week, the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command argued in Defense One that “America’s Not Ready for Today’s Gray Wars” — that is, for enemies who “seek to secure their objectives while minimizing the scope and scale of actual combat.” Pish-posh, says Adam Elkus: “Instead of trying to dress up mundane adversary practices as exotic and kinky, we should dump the 50 Shades of Gray and try to truly bring sexy back by doing something very simple — analyze what the enemy is trying to do, how he will do it, what we are willing to do to thwart him, and how we think we can thwart him. If we cannot at least do this, perhaps we — like the heroine of the 50 Shades novel and movie — are allowing ourselves to be whipped and chained by a seemingly imposing if nonetheless fragile adversary.” Read, here.

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