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Monday NatSec Roundup

RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force) jets in special livery for the 88th National Day Celebrations (44382106094).jpg
Royal Saudi Air Force demonstration, National Day celebrations. By Alan HunterARH_9818, CC BY 2.0, Link´╗┐

As the excited passions of hostile people are of themselves a powerful enemy, both the general and his government should use their best efforts to allay them.

  • Lotsa stuff happening with Iran and Saudi Arabia! The attack (which was extremely carefully targeted) has already driven up oil prices. There’s a lot of discussion about the attack vector, and of course discussion about how the United States should respond to an attack against a country which is not a treaty ally, but that occupies a central position in the US security architecture. Thankfully we have a deeply thoughtful national security team in place to help us work through these trying times.
  • The Trump administration seems sure that Iran is involved, and while we should take seriously the “they lie about everything and therefore can’t be trusted about anything” point, we also need to take into account the fact that Iran may in fact have either supported or directly conducted the attack. Houthis claim responsibility, but that doesn’t mean they did it alone. Iran’s thinking on this may be conditioned by the lack of response to previous stuff in the Gulf (tankers, drone shootdowns, etc.) or they may simply be thinking that it’s worth demonstrating to Riyadh that it’s vulnerable. Neocons gonna neocon, even if they happen to be Iranian neocons.
  • Here’s a nice short primer from SIPRI on the military balance in the Middle East.
  • Read Stephen Wertheim’s “Endless War” op-ed in the NYT. Wertheim is a founder and director of the Quincy Institute, which as you may have heard is a right-left think tank geared around a non-interventionist foreign policy. It’s interesting stuff, and should receive more attention.
  • Another summit with North Korea is in the air. Kim’s strategic calculation here is complex. He undoubtedly appreciates that he can get more from Trump than any Democratic president; Trump is incompetent, ignorant of the issues, and inclined to ditch alliances at the drop of a hat. Trump will also want to use successful negotiations with North Korea in the 2020 campaign. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine a Democratic president disavowing a deal the way Trump disavowed the JCPOA. Consequently, there’s much to be gained from a successful negotiation. Trump’s unpredictability cuts against pushing too hard, though.
  • One of the big observations about War in the Cyber Domain (such that it is) is that countries have been extremely careful about managing the escalatory ladder. The latest from Australia, in which evidence of a Chinese attack on the electoral system was suppressed at the political level, is another case in point.
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