The president of Palau has invited the U.S. military to build bases and ports and runways in the republic made up of hundreds of islands in the Philippine Sea. “The request came during a visit [to Palau] last week by Defense Secretary Mark Esper,” the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reported Tuesday morning.
The request aligns nicely with the White House’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, “which calls for enhanced steps to meet security challenges posed by China,” Lubold writes.
“Palau’s request to the U.S. military remains simple—build joint-use facilities, then come and use them regularly,” reads a letter Palauan President Tommy Remengesau Jr., reportedly handed to SecDef Esper. There aren’t many more details in the letter, according to Lubold.
U.S. Navy Seabees are already extending a runway in Palau so it can support a greater number of C-130 arrivals in the future. Read more, here.
From the region: After Chinese officials questioned them over an unspecified “national security” problem, two Australian journalists are back in their home country at last on Tuesday. “Bill Birtles, the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Beijing-based correspondent, and Michael Smith, based in Shanghai with the Australian Financial Review, had initially been informed by Chinese state security officials they were banned from leaving China,” the WSJ reports from Sydney and Melbourne.
What’s going on: Birtles and Smith “were told they were persons of interest in an investigation into a third Australian journalist, Cheng Lei, a news anchor for state broadcaster China Global Television Network, who has been detained in Beijing since mid-August,” the Journal writes. “Ms. Cheng’s detention comes as Australia’s federal government reacts to local concerns about growing Chinese influence by trying to secure veto power over deals between state and local officials and foreign governments,” the Journal reported eight days ago. “The legislation, expected to be introduced this week, doesn’t specifically target China—it would apply to all foreign governments—but it comes at a time when relations between Beijing and the federal government are especially chilly, and China is asserting itself around the world.” More from Aug. 31, here; and from Tuesday’s reporting from Australia, here.
To review what we mean when we talk about “China” here in 2020, don’t miss this Defense One Radio episode from the summer.
Happening this morning: U.S. Army Chief Gen. James McConville speaks with Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron in a livestream that begins at 11 a.m. ET. It’s the first in our new series of virtual conversations about the future of each U.S. military service — starting with the Army before turning to the Air Force on Sept. 22; the Marine Corps on Sept. 24; Space Force on Oct. 1; and the Navy on Oct. 2.
Shortly after McConville’s conversation, Baron will moderate a panel discussion, which includes former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Karen Gibson, a retired Army three-star; former three-star commander of U.S. Army Europe Ben Hodges; and Tom Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. More info, here; or register for your spot, here.
Also happening at noon ET today: Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy sits down for a “firechat side” with the Reagan Institute’s Director Roger Zakheim. Read more or register for that virtual event, here.
From Defense One
Trump's Reported 'Loser' Remarks Give Biden an Opening // Katie Bo Williams: The remarks fit into the Democrat's existing strategy of painting the president as unsupportive of U.S. troops.
Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ // Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic: The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic.
Fearing Satellite Hacks and Hijacks, White House Issues Space-Security Directive to Industry // Patrick Tucker: Manufacturers need to build in better defenses and even ways to regain control of hijacked spacecraft, directive says.
Pentagon to Employees: How Can We Boost Diversity? // Courtney Bublé, Nextgov: The request is part of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s overhaul of personnel practices.
Herd Immunity Is Not a Strategy // James Hamblin, The Atlantic: What the term actually means, and what it doesn’t.
Pentagon Awards JEDI Cloud Contract to Microsoft, Again // Frank R. Konkel and Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: The decision follows a months-long legal challenge filed by Amazon Web Services.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1978, Iran experienced what’s now called Black Friday, when at least 100 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers from Iran’s U.S.-backed Pahlavi monarchy. The incident galvanized the Iranian protest movement and ended any hope of compromise with the ruling Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled to the U.S. four months later. By December 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was named Supreme Leader of the newly Islamic republic and the Iranian Revolution, as it’s remembered, was complete.
At least 37 million people have been displaced by America's "War on Terror," and that’s an admittedly conservative estimate from analysts at Brown University’s Costs of War project (PDF). More than a half dozen scholars counted up refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons in eight of the countries that the U.S. has concentrated most of its airstrikes since Sept. 11, 2001. They calculated the high-end estimate to be closer to 59 million displaced people, “rais[ing] the question of who bears responsibility for repairing the damage inflicted on those displaced,” the authors write.
The countries of origin include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, the Philippines and Libya. And “Millions more have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts involving U.S. troops in smaller combat operations, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.”
FWIW, “25.3 million people have returned after being displaced,” according to the report’s authors, who add that “return does not erase the trauma of displacement or mean that those displaced have returned to their original homes or to a secure life.”
For a historical comparison, World War II is the only conflict that displaced more people over the past 120 years. Read over the full 30-page report from the Costs of War project, here.
Reminder from Capt. Obvious: Wars often have awful and unpredictable consequences. Consider the rise of far-right violence in just the past couple of years, as we did in our latest Defense One Radio podcast. That increase — especially in the U.S. — didn’t emerge simply out of the blue. “We did see an increase in the number of attacks [from far-right extremists] sort of coinciding with the election of Donald Trump; but it's not just that,” Erin Miller, program manager for the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, told us.
“The sort of refugee crisis, for example, has led to a lot of backlash against refugee populations, [and] immigrant populations,” said Miller. “And so many of the attacks, particularly in Western Europe, that we're seeing that are racially or ethnically motivated, are really driven by an anti immigrant sentiment. And so you can imagine that all of these sort of types of violence, or phenomena of violence. The result of the wars that have been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, for many years now, has created a refugee crisis. And that has an impact that has sort of broader results in terms of the way that the people have responded to the refugee crisis in places like the United States and Western Europe.” Catch the rest of that conversation, here.
Another thing: The contemporary upsurge in white nationalism in the U.S. “echoes a historical pattern,” scholars told Reuters late last week. The pattern: “any expansion of civil rights for a minority group leads to a rise in intolerance.” For the U.S., this involved America electing its first Black president in 2008, followed by the expansion of LGBTQ rights shortly afterward.
And this year, the Anti-Defamation League has documented at least 3,566 "extremist propaganda incidents" and events across the U.S. for 2020 so far. That’s compared to 2,704 such events in 2019, which is more than a 30% increase. And four out of every five of those 2020 cases involve white nationalist ideology. Read more, here.
President Trump will spend the day campaigning in Florida before flying to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a speech scheduled at 7 p.m. ET.
The White House’s goal for the first leg of today’s trip: “to remind voters [in Florida] of his conservation and environmental protection efforts in the Everglades region,” the Associated Press reported in a preview of two battleground states. Tiny bit more, here.
Russia has a new influence operations front for Africa, and — perhaps unsurprisingly — it’s “partnered with a host of racist and fascist activists in Europe to stir up, of all things, purportedly anti-colonialist politics in sub-Saharan Africa,” The Daily Beast reports.
It’s called the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation, and it was founded two years ago as a “a community of independent researchers, experts and activists.” It just so happens to run a side hustle in election monitoring, TDB writes.
Bigger picture: It’s “part of a century-long Russian battle for influence in Africa.” And this time around, “The aim is not necessarily to decide who wins [an election], but to entice and secure a relationship with whoever does.” Read on, here.
More than 189,000 Americans have died of complications from the novel coronavirus, according to the New York Times’ tracker, which now splits its state-by-state status reports into four categories, which includes “Where new cases are higher and staying high” (that’s across 15 states and territories), “Where new cases are higher but going down,” (just three states), and “Where new cases are lower and staying low” (28).
How’s Operation Warp Speed going? STAT News looks at the White House-led effort to do the unprecedented: find a safe and effective vaccine in less than a year. Among its innovations: the government is paying manufacturers to begin producing vaccines before testing is done; if a vaccine candidate proves out, distribution can start immediately. The report also looks at therapeutics, diagnostics, and materiel. Read it, here.
New in town: There’s a new progressive think tank called FP21, which claims to be “dedicated to transforming the process and institutions of US foreign policy,” since “the culture of policymaking at organizations like the Department of State is stuck in a previous century.”
FP21’s stated goal: “draw a sharp contrast between the failing status quo foreign policy infrastructure and our vision for a better foreign policy driven by evidence, integrity, and innovation. To this end, our nascent team of experienced policymakers, academics, veterans, technologists, and NGO practitioners are recommending pragmatic reforms for the next administration.”
The group is launching its inaugural report of new ways to approach U.S. policymaking today. Find the full report here; or the executive summary, here.
And lastly: The U.S. military is busy today evacuating California residents from extreme wildfires sweeping through the state. That includes more than two dozen people just since 3 a.m. local, according to Fresno-based ABC30.
In perspective: “Two of the three largest fires in state history are [now] burning in the San Francisco Bay Area,” AP reports. “More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and about two dozen others around California.”
More than 200 people were airlifted out of harm’s way over the holiday weekend, AP adds. And “On Monday evening, officials said more than 60 people were trapped at Lake Edison and China Peak, and a rescue operation to retrieve them was unsuccessful,” according to ABC30. “A Chinook aircraft piloted by a team of military personnel tried to land and rescue the trapped people, but the smoky conditions made it impossible for the team to approach safely.” More, here. Or read AP’s separate reporting, here.