Archive for the ‘defend’ Category

NATO’s Superbowl Loss?

March 5, 2008

by James Zumwalt
Human Events
March 5, 2008

The 2007-2008 NFL season witnessed the march of one of the greatest teams in professional football history fall 35 seconds short of perfection. Despite its loss in Superbowl XLII, the New England Patriots demonstrated tremendous success in fielding a team each week with single unity of purpose — to win.

Each team member had equal responsibility to achieve this goal, knowing the rest of the team relied upon him to execute his assignment with maximum intensity and effort.

Imagine, however, if some team members, at the outset of the season, placed limitations on what they were willing to do on the field? What, for example, would have been the result had a defender informed the coach he would only defend against the pass for 20 yards out but not beyond that? Or, worse, if a fully capable player, fearing injury, opted to sit on the bench the entire season, unwilling to share the risks, leaving his fellow teammates to take hits for him.

No coach would ever field such a team, knowing that doing so would spell disaster.

Ironically, on a much more important field — a battlefield in the war on terror — this is exactly what is happening.

In 2003, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai asked NATO to help stabilize his country and provide security against the threat of the Taliban insurgency. Under a UN mandate, NATO took action, becoming the first ground mission in the six decade history of the alliance. French and German forces were sent to the north of Afghanistan; Italian and Spanish forces west; and US, British, Dutch and Canadian troops south — where most of the fighting takes place.

NATO’s mission in Afghanistan was an enormous evolution for the alliance. It represented the first time the Alliance was taking action against a threat outside the European theater.

This was an important step because the member nations, recognizing that the threats to their mutual security posed by terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were global, necessitating more than purely local action.

The future of NATO as a credible force, with single-minded unity of purpose, turned on its performance in Afghanistan.

And it has failed.

Despite the strategic importance of NATO’s success in Afghanistan, it quickly became apparent not all team members came to win. Promised manpower levels were not provided. Some team members placed operational restrictions on their forces. They were not allowed to operate at night.

Others were barred from operating in those areas where the threat was greatest and, thus, help needed the most. Some even put limitations on the distance forces could patrol outside their bases. It was clear not all team members had the same unity of purpose in mind, content to leave other team members to take the hits for them.

Instead of fielding the 18-1 Patriots, NATO fielded the 1-15 Miami Dolphins. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have been pressing our NATO allies to do more in this very important fight.

Trying to at least get those nations imposing limitations on the use of their forces, Gates has pointed out, “Brothers in arms achieve victory only when all march in step toward the sound of the guns.” He repeatedly encouraged NATO team members to make their restrictions as benign as possible.

But their continued failure to do so is making the military commander’s mission in Afghanistan a nightmare as leaders need constantly consider what assets can be used at what times and in what locations. Missions are impeded as commanders fail to have unlimited access to all resources in-country. This is no way to fight a war you intend to win.

Leaving a disproportionate share of the risk and responsibility for fighting the Taliban and stabilizing Afghanistan to only a few members of the NATO team is a recipe for disaster. It undermines the team concept of all for one and one for all. It undermines support for the mission by a public who senses less than a full commitment to maximizing the application of military force. Why show up for the game if you’re not going to give your all towards achieving victory? Such a lack of risk balance has prompted Canada, which has suffered the
highest casualty rate of any country, to threaten a withdrawal of its forces next year if other member states fail to contribute more to combat operations.

President Bush has made clear, “Afghanistan is NATO’s most important military operation. By standing together…we will protect our people, defend our freedom and send a clear message to the extremists — the forces of freedom and decency will prevail.”

Afghanistan is NATO’s Superbowl. But while NATO leaders pledge to stay the course there, they are doing little to demonstrate a winning commitment. It was recently revealed that Prince Henry — third in line to the British throne — secretly spent more than two months as a combat soldier in Afghanistan before his presence was revealed by the media.

The bad news is the media placed greater value on reporting this story than on limiting risk to human life; the good news is Henry’s front line deployment demonstrated the Brits’ unity of purpose and commitment to the principle all team members are equal and should share equal risks. If only we could get all our NATO team members to accept this standard.

Short of that, NATO’s quest to win its Superbowl may well go the way of that of the New England Patriots.

James Zumwalt is a retired Marine who served in the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He has written opinion pieces on foreign policy, defense and security issues for dozens of newspapers. He is president of his own security consulting company.

Re-election Strategy or New Cold War?

October 25, 2007

By James Hackett
For Peace and Freedom
October 25, 2007

The question in Washington and European capitals this fall is whether Moscow’s aggressive behavior is the onset of a new Cold War or just a gambit to win votes in upcoming elections. The central issue is the future of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s hard-earned democracy is rapidly morphing back into an authoritarian state under President Putin, who is eager to stay in power. He probably could scrap the constitution and become president for life, but has said he will not do that. More likely, he plans to put a puppet in the presidency and rule from behind the scenes or as prime minister, and then run for president again in 2012.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Владимир Владимирович Путин
Vladimir Putin

The Russian constitution adopted in 1993 states in Chapter 4, Article 81, “No one person shall hold the office of president for more than two terms in succession.” Mr. Putin was elected in 2000 and won reelection with a 71 percent landslide in 2004. He will complete two terms in 2008, so is ineligible under the constitution to run next year, but could run in 2012 or later.

Elections to the Duma will be held on December 2, after which the political parties will nominate their candidates for president. That election will be March 2, with the new president taking office May 7. Less than six months before the election Vladimir Putin stands astride Russian politics like a colossus, with polls showing an approval rate as high as 80 percent.

Videos have been released showing Mr. Putin in campaign mode, a vigorous 55, horseback riding and fishing. For months he has been taking step after step to appeal to the majority of Russians who yearn for a return to the great power status their country lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. He is taking advantage of the booming global market for energy, renationalizing the oil and gas industry and using the proceeds to rebuild Russia’s military.

For years, Russia has been developing the Topol-M mobile ballistic missile, the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, a new multiple-warhead missile, a new evading warhead, the S-400 missile interceptor, fifth-generation fighter planes and four new missile-firing submarines. Progress was slow and funds scarce, but the recent surge in oil and gas wealth has made it possible to expand and accelerate these programs.

Now Mr. Putin is using his improving military to throw his weight around, confronting countries from Georgia to Norway. He has resumed long-range nuclear bomber flights, opposes missile defenses in Europe, claims the North Pole for Russia and suspends cooperation under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. He also sells air defense missiles to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran, suspends gas and oil shipments to pressure other countries, and threatens both to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear forces (INF) treaty and to target NATO countries by basing missiles in Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

Instead of joining Europe and America against the threat of militant Islam, Mr. Putin has joined with China, Iran and other authoritarian regimes against the West. All this appears to be fine with most Russians. A poll by the Yuri-Levada Institute found that 68 percent of Russians said their top priority was security. Democracy was hardly mentioned. Other results showed that 75 percent consider Russia a Eurasian state, while only 10 percent see themselves part of the West.

Mr. Putin could decide to emulate his friend, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, and make himself president for life. Amending the Russian constitution requires large majorities in both the Federation Council and Duma, which he probably could get from those rubber-stamp bodies, but it would require compomises he may not want to make. Instead, he probably will handpick a temporary successor.

Until a few weeks ago, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB officer and recent defense minister, was considered the most likely choice. But he could be a strong leader and Mr. Putin may prefer to name a more subservient caretaker for one term. That could explain why he recently chose Viktor Zubkov, a loyal 66-year old nonentity, to be prime minister. Mr. Zubkov may also be Mr. Putin’s choice to keep the president’s seat warm until he can legally return to that office in 2012.

The bluster from Moscow could be just a run-up to the elections, to show voters President Putin takes a hard line toward foreign powers he claims are encroaching on Russia’s borders. This xenophobic anti-West foreign policy seems very popular in Russia. It may also reflect a resurgence of Cold War thinking by Mr. Putin and his ex-KGB colleagues, who spent decades confronting the West.

Whether we are in for a brief pre-election spell of Russian aggressiveness or a long-term struggle with a new anti-Western axis led by Moscow and Beijing remains to be seen. We will have a better idea next spring, when Russia chooses its next president.

James Hackett is a former national security official who now lives and writes in Carlsbad, Calif.  He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Times and other national journals and newspapers.

Related:

The Problem of Putin

Putin Digs In

Cold War Redux?

The Problem of Putin

October 22, 2007

By William Rusher
The Washington Times
October 22, 2007 

What should we think about President Vladimir Putin of Russia? He heads United Russia, the political party that dominates Russia’s legislature. His approval ratings are in the neighborhood of 70 percent across the country (President Bush has less half that political support). In Russia’s upcoming elections, Putin and his party are expected, in the words of The New York Times, to “succeed in extinguishing the last embers of opposition in Parliament.”

American criticism of Putin begins with sharp condemnations of this state of affairs. We are, of course, accustomed to complaining that political leaders in Russia are not very serious in their democratic pretensions. For 70 years, after all, the Russian people had exactly nothing to say about how the country was governed. Then, in the early Yeltsin years, democratic impulses were allowed to be expressed, if hardly to flourish. Now, under his handpicked successor, things seem to be hardening again into a distinctly autocratic mold. For example, while under the constitution Putin must step down as president next year, he is apparently thinking of taking over an enhanced prime ministership and continuing to run the country from there.

Read the rest:
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/WilliamRusher/
2007/10/18/the_problem_of_putin