Bye, bye, U.S. defense strategy? Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron takes stock of President Trump’s recent foreign-policy moves, and finds a definitive retreat not just from his administration’s professed strategies — but even from strategy itself.
“After deferring to establishment national security advisors like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster for nearly two years, Trump has suddenly decided to stop,” Baron writes. “In the past month, he has rejected in part or whole the two most important ongoing U.S. military interventions in the world” — Syria and Afghanistan — “scrapping the ‘South Asia strategy’ he reluctantly announced in September 2017.
Moreover, he has effectively torn up the National Defense Strategy, the plan to counter China and Russia that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved just three months ago, presumably after his own White House’s review. In place of these strategies, Trump offered his strange mix of talking points and lies. Read on, here.
See also this sudden change in Trump’s approach to Iran. At Wednesday’s bizarre cabinet meeting, Trump “stuck a dagger in a major initiative advanced by his foreign policy team: Iran’s leaders, the president said, ‘can do what they want’ in Syria,” the Washington Post’s Missy Ryan and John Hudson report. “With a stray remark, Trump snuffed out a plan from his national security adviser, John Bolton, who this fall vowed that the United States would not leave Syria ‘as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders.’” Read that, here.
From Defense One
Trump Just Killed His Own Defense Strategy // Kevin Baron: The commander in chief has torn up 17 years of counterterrorism plans, offering instead his strange mix of talking points and lies.
China, Huawei, and the Coming Technological Cold War // Adam Segal, Council on Foreign Relations: 2019 might be the year that splinters the global technology system into distinct spheres of influence.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: MIA in 2019: Boeing’s tanker, the missile defense review — and a confirmed SecDef.
Fill the Cracks in NATO's Maritime Strategy // Rowan Allport: If Russia decides to attack the Western alliance, it would do so along several fissures that need shoring up.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you find this stuff useful, consider sharing it with somebody you think might find it useful, too. On this day in 1955, the U.S. agreed to pay Japan $2 million in damages from its atomic testing in the Marshall Islands. This was part of the world’s reaction to America’s devastating “Castle Bravo” nuclear test in March 1954. Read a bit more about that here; or listen to a bit about it in Episode 30 of Defense One Radio.
The Pentagon is about to send more troops back to the U.S.-Mexico border, NPR reported Thursday ahead of a pending decision at the Defense Department.
The tasking: “construct or upgrade 160 miles of fencing and provide medical care to a steady stream of migrant families arriving from Central America, according to military sources,” NPR writes. “A senior military official said the new request could include thousands more troops and that installing the fencing could take months. The Pentagon is now considering which units to send.”
For the record, “There are now some 2,300 active troops on the border and an additional 2,100 National Guard troops.” Recall that in mid-December the department sent about half of its deployed 6,000 or so troops home for Christmas. More from NBC News, here.
U.S. Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley visited Kabul Thursday for an unannounced chat with President Ashraf Ghani, among others. Not a lot out of that visit just yet — AP has this, e.g. — short of some photos from Ghani’s office, here.
On the forecast: “Another round of U.S.-Taliban talks is reportedly scheduled for later this month in Doha, Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office,” Stars and Stripes reported.
Reminder: “Trump announced last month that he would nominate Milley to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the Washington Examiner writes. “He would take the place of Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is slated to retire this fall.” More on Dunford below. But first, briefly...
Could Jim Webb be the next Pentagon chief? The White House is considering the former Virginia senator, decorated Marine vet and President Reagan’s Navy Secretary to be the next Secretary of Defense, The New York Times reported Thursday. Politico has a tiny bit more on the inclinations Webb could bring to Trump’s foreign policy, here.
Happening today: White House National Security Advisor John Bolton is traveling to Israel and Turkey.
Also attending the Turkey leg of the trip: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and White House Syrian envoy Amb. James Jeffrey.
On Bolton’s docket: "the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria,” Bolton tweeted Thursday, along with “how we will work with allies [and] partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS” and “counter Iranian malign behavior in the region.”
ICYMI: See the U.S. military inside Syria training local troops on mortar systems over Christmas Eve. That single photo via DVIDS, here.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is going to be on “60 Minutes” this Sunday, and he really doesn’t want you to watch. Which means CBS is letting us all know how Sisi feels ahead of the interview with Scott Pelley — which features some uncomfortable questioning of Sisi about political prisoners. More from al-Jazeera, here. Or from CBS, here.
U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo warned Iran against sending three Space Launch Vehicles into orbit in the coming months because it could “involve technology that could be used in intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Pompeo’s still working to get POTUS45 in front of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un again soon as he can, he told Fox News on Thursday. “I don’t want to tell you exactly what our negotiating strategy is,” Pompeo said to Sean Hannity, “but suffice it to say, I think we have set the conditions where we can make real progress when Chairman Kim and President Trump meet and take down the threat to the United States and to the world that has been, you know frankly, holding America hostage for so long in North Korea.” More here.
The U.S. Department of Justice admitted it released an error-filled report about immigration and terrorism last January, but department officials refuse to retract or correct the document, the Washington Post’s National Security Reporter Ellen Nakashima reported Thursday.
Possible casualties of the report and its inaccuracies: “trust in the government” and the potential erosion of democracy, Ben Berwick, counsel for Protect Democracy, one of the groups that sued the government and is representing the others in court, told the Post. Read on, here.
Careful traveling to China if you’re from the U.S., the State Department warned Thursday in an update to its travel advisory.
Bottom line up front: “Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.” Extra reading via CNBC, here.
And finally this week: Canada’s spy agency is looking for hackers and data scientists, The Star reported Thursday from Ottawa.
One reason for the talent search: a new national security law about to take effect. Other reasons are by now quite familiar, including "fake online personas, disinformation" and the fact that "state-sponsored hacking is on the rise." More here.
BTW: Twitter closed an accused hacker’s account today which had been used “for weeks to expose the personal details of dozens of German lawmakers across the political spectrum,” The New York Times reports this morning.
Have a great weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!