Vietnam began to shift its strategic attention to the sea in the years following the Sino-Vietnam War. The inconclusive nature of that war, combined with a relatively amicable process of border delineation with China, convinced Hanoi that China would no longer pose a critical threat from the land. The People’s Army of Vietnam (VPA) held presumptive superiority over the armed forces of Laos and, following withdrawal, Cambodia, making those borders relatively safe, as well.
At the same time, Vietnam’s economic strategy developed in two directions that made a maritime focus appealing. First, Vietnam began to integrate itself more heavily into the global economy, making access to shipping a critical need. Second, Vietnam became increasingly interested in exploiting offshore resources, which required the defense of islands and other geographic features in the South China Sea.
Comparative context would be helpful. “Capability monocultures and an ever-dwindling variety of weapons systems, procured at higher prices and in lower quantities than ever before” isn’t “failure to adapt to global trends”; it is a global trend, not apparently dependent on the specifics of the U.S. defense industry or on U.S. defense procurement strategy. The United States, China, Russia, and the European Union are all spending more to field fewer front line systems, supporting fewer front-line soldiers and sailors.
Matt Duss (left) appears at wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Long-time friend of the blog and occasional guest poster Matt Duss is making waves:
Bernie Sanders is adding some serious firepower to his Washington Senate operation as he heads into a year during which he’s expected to anchor both the liberal resistance to Trump and the fight to re-center the Democratic Party around his brand of economic populism. Sanders’ office has hired liberal activist and talk show host Ari Rabin-Havt, a veteran of Harry Reid’s office and Media Matters, to head up a new leadership outreach operation, and foreign policy wonk Matt Duss, most recently the president of the Foundation on Middle East Peace, as a foreign policy advisor. And joining Sanders’ Budget Committee staff as an investigator is former Wall Street Journal reporter Alicia Mundy, who has written extensively about the pharmaceutical industry, a focus for Sanders.
Foreign policy was something of an afterthought to Sanders’ 2016 effort, but he began to develop some infrastructure as the campaign went on. Indeed, the decision to not develop a strong FP critique of Hillary Clinton, precisely the strategy that had allowed Barack Obama to defeat her in ’08, was what made me think that Sanders had initially conceived of himself as an issue/protest candidate rather than a serious challenger. Looking to the future, however, it will be interesting to see how Sanders develops this infrastructure into a genuinely leftish foreign policy platform. Matt will have a very important role to play in that process.
But then Matt also DJed my wedding, and I’m not even married anymore. So clearly he has a long track record of failure.
And hey, all of those things have the benefit of being true (probably with the exception of Ukraine’s military response; there were serious escalation concerns that Kiev would have struggled to manage). The problem is that the guy at the top seems to have a different view on all of this than the guy he selected as his Secretary of State. This matters if conflict develops between Russia and any of its neighbors; Moscow needs to have a firm sense of what the United States will do if it decides to eat more of Ukraine, or of the Baltics.
Regardless of the veracity of the claims (which originated from outside the US intelligence community), I think it’s fair to say that we’ll open the Trump administration with an unprecedented level of hostility between the President and the IC. One way to read this is deep concern on the part of the IC on just how compromised Trump may be; discussion of the leaks, and of Russian hacking efforts, works to reduce his policy latitude and minimize the degree of Russian influence. Another way to read it is deep concern over the degree of his outreach to Russia; the leaks and the hacking work to prevent Trump from carrying out policies that he would otherwise prefer, but that the IC loathes.
There’s clearly a middle ground. Trump sees the prospect for friendly relations with Russia because he’s done business with Russians before, because he has some personal admiration for Putin’s governance style, and because he shares some ideological priors with the Putin government. Those factors serve both as the foundation for Russian support during the election, and as the basis for potentially sketchy relations between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
An interpretation that strains credulity is the one we find on the pro-Russia right and the pro-Russia left; that the IC has manufactured these claims from whole cloth in order to discredit Trump and start a NEW COLD WAR. In addition to running contrary to publicly available, non-IC evidence, this would go well beyond any precedent in the history of the US IC (and yes, this includes WMD, Operation Northwoods, COINTELPRO, etc.) as well as against what we know about current divisions in the US IC over the prospects of the Trump administration. While not many in the IC see strong relations with Russia as a positive, there are big factions that see Flynn’s more kinetic approach to Islamic terrorism as a big plus.
I would also add that for the Department of Defense and the US defense industry, Russia is almost completely irrelevant to the NEW COLD WAR. Although Moscow has clearly displayed its effectiveness at non-military operations, and showed up more effectively than many (including myself) expected in Syria, Russia is not the major driver for defense innovation and defense expenditure. If you want a bigger, more expensive US military, you talk China, and Trump has already demonstrated that he’s quite capable of driving tensions with Beijing.
Despite the snow and frigid temperatures, the NYC LGM Meetup came off fabulously. Fool’s Gold was an outstanding venue. See some photos here. More such things should be held in the future; whenever we can expect two or more front pagers to be together in a metro area that has a significant number of LGM readers…