Today's D Brief: CCP at 100; Ethiopian rebels on the move; B-52’s new engines; Rumsfeld passes away; And a bit more.

Outsiders will “crack their heads and spill blood” if they try to stop China’s rise, the Communist country’s party leader Xi Jinping said in a speech Wednesday at an event marking the party’s centennial.

“The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us. Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi said, according to the New York Times, which notes Xi was “clad in a Mao suit” for the occasion. 

Other notable excerpts include: 

  • “Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful capacity of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
  • “A strong power needs a strong military, and only a strong military can bring a secure country.”

To that last point, China is reportedly on an ICBM silo-building binge in its north-central Gansu province, researchers at California’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies discovered and shared with the Washington Post on Wednesday. 

Additionally concerning: “The 119 nearly identical construction sites contain features that mirror those seen at existing launch facilities for China’s arsenal of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles,” WaPo’s Joby Warrick reports.

What’s more, “If the silos under construction at other sites across China are added to the count, the total comes to about 145 silos under construction,” Jeffey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said. “We believe China is expanding its nuclear forces in part to maintain a deterrent that can survive a U.S. first strike in sufficient numbers to defeat U.S. missile defenses.”

All that construction “would force its enemies to take all new silos seriously and bolster China's image as a much stronger nuclear power than before,” tweeted Tong Zhao of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. “Whether China will actually fill each silo with an ICBM is a different matter.”

From Defense One

House Panel Proposes $1M to Start Renaming Bases That Honor Confederates // Caitlin M. Kenney: The renaming commission plans to finalize the list in fall 2022.

Swiss Pick F-35 to Replace Old Fighter Jets // Marcus Weisgerber: The Lightning II beat out the Boeing Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, and Eurofighter Typhoon.

B-52 Engine Replacement Could Keep Bomber Flying Through Its 100th Birthday // Tara Copp: Other improvements have the Air Force contemplating smaller air crews.

When Does a ‘Cyber Attack’ Demand Retaliation? NATO Broadens Its View // Stefan Soesanto: A set of “malicious cumulative cyber activities” may now amount to an armed attack.

The Iran Nuclear Deal Isn’t the Problem. Iran Is. // James Jeffrey and Dennis Ross, The Atlantic: If and when a return to the agreement is reached, the Biden administration will also need to counter Iran’s escalating efforts in the Middle East.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here

Dunford and Esper rush to Milley’s defense after former President Donald Trump called for Milley’s firing in a rambling statement on Wednesday.
“Gen. Mark Milley’s greatest fear is upsetting the woke mob,” Trump said in his opening sentence, before adding, “Gen. Milley ought to resign, and be replaced with someone who is actually willing to defend our Military from the Leftist Radicals who hate our Country and our Flag.”
What’s going on: Several of America’s more extreme conservatives began attacking Milley last week after his testimony on Capitol Hill. There he spoke about the importance of being “open-minded and well-read” when it comes to understanding issues related to race in America today. “I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin,” Milley said in the hearing. “That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with having some situational understanding about the country which we are here to defend?” Hours later, Fox News host Tucker Carlson called him a “pig” and “stupid” and Trump called Milley “pathetic” in an interview with Newsmax.
Behind all this drama is “a broader GOP campaign seeking to make critical race theory an electoral issue, applying the label to all manner of racial and diversity teachings,” The Hill reports. “The GOP effort to weaponize the idea of critical race theory has increasingly turned its ire toward diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the military.”
“I think Gen. Milley has consistently tried to keep the military out of politics,” Dunford told Politico, which notes that AEI’s Kori Schake feels differently about Milley’s political instincts than Dunford does. Still, Dunford continued, “I think these incidents are more reflective of the challenging political environment that he’s operating in rather than an indication that he’s changed his mind on anything.”
“Personal attacks on GEN Mark Milley and calls for him to resign are completely unwarranted,” Esper tweeted Wednesday evening. “He and I worked together for 3+ years to advance America’s security and strengthen our armed forces. He is an officer and person of impeccable integrity and professionalism. GEN Milley is a decorated veteran who has served our great country for 4+decades. His patriotism & commitment to the Constitution are without question. Attempts to denigrate him & politicize our military are wrong. I will always stand with/for him and the US military.”

In international headlines, Ethiopian rebels are reportedly ignoring a government ceasefire and making new gains. “Rebel fighters in the Tigray region of Ethiopia are continuing to gain ground after recapturing the regional capital Mekelle from government forces,” the BBC reports. Rebel spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters that Tigrayan fighters will “destroy the enemy” by entering Eritrea to the north of Tigray and the Ethiopian region of Amhara to the south.
ICYMI: “Horrifying atrocities” are being committed in Tigray, and Washington will not stand by, senior U.S. state department official Robert Godec said Tuesday. The BBC notes, however, that “All sides in the conflict have been accused of mass killings and human rights violations.” Continue reading, here.

Virgin Orbit just air-launched four Pentagon satellites into orbit from the wing of a 747. CNBC has a bit more here.

And finally: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld passed away at his home Tuesday in Taos, New Mexico, at the age of 88, his family announced in a statement Wednesday. Rumsfeld was a clever and dedicated public servant, and an exceptionally accomplished veteran of Beltway politics. He’s also the only person to lead the U.S. military under two different presidents (Presidents Ford and George W. Bush), which made him America’s 13th and 21st secretary of defense. “The first time, in 1975-77, he was the youngest ever,” ABC News writes. “The next time, in 2001-06, he was the oldest.”
Longtime Pentagon journalist Bob Burns delivered an especially efficient synthesis of Rumsfeld and his legacy in the Associated Press’s obit Wednesday: “When others would rest, he would run. While others sat, he stood. But try as he might, at the pinnacle of his career as defense secretary he could not outmaneuver the ruinous politics of the Iraq war.”
SecDef27 Esper called Rummy “a leader and patriot who served our great country in many capacities over an extraordinary lifetime,” he tweeted Wednesday, and added, “I was privileged to work for him as a DepAsstSec in the 2000s. He will be sorely missed by many.”
Another POV: “America’s worst secretary of defense” writes George Packer in The Atlantic, “started being wrong within hours of the [9/11] attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he’d long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn’t need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn’t operate without a strongman like Saddam...” More, here.
Now is a great time to hear Rummy defend himself in a feature-length interview all about his legacy from 2013 called “The Unknown Known.” It comes from acclaimed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, and it’s streaming on Netflix now.