US Must Remove Sequester

(Defense News) – Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement that China is overhauling its military to be combat ready and able to project force beyond its borders comes at a time when Russia has been increasing its military expenditure and Britain, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, is increasing military spending by $18 billion over the next decade to contend with numerous security threats that Europe faces.

A future US administration is likely to reassess the sequester as laid out by the strategic policy guidance issued by the Pentagon in 2012. This eroded the US strategy of maintaining a military capability to meet crises in all geographic locations and to fight two major conflicts around the globe simultaneously. Subsequent military cuts due to financial austerity measures led the Obama administration to be cautious to intervene anywhere.

Currently, there are numerous differentiated threats to international security posed by sub-state actors like ISIS, as well as rising states vying with the US for power such as China and the Russia. It was not smart or soft power, but the sequester rationalized the US’ reset policy with Russia.

The US is likely to revert back to the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review that advanced the idea that maintaining “a core capability is central … to avoid a situation in which an aggressor in one region might be tempted to take advantage when US forces are heavily engaged elsewhere.”

It was not merely the rise of China and the eastward shift of economic power that prompted the US to pivot toward Asia, but military sequestration that led to a strategic prioritization in that region. Ironically, it was due to military sequestration that an effective pivot to Asia in the form of Asia-Pacific balancing initiatives was undermined. This undercut the operational concept of being geographically dispersed with a military presence in Australia and Southeast and East Asia and to link the Indian Ocean with the Pacific.

The US has been unable to rebalance effectively when it allocates 2,500 Marines to the region or to increase its naval presence in the Western Pacific as its Navy shrinks from 272 to around 250 ships. Due to the reduction in military expenditure, the US was forced to rationalize its failed attempt to pivot by describing its goals as “economic engagement.”

In contrast to the US, China has been annually increasing its defense spending by double digits. While Asian Pacific countries have invested in power-projection capabilities such as naval and air forces that may in the future deny the US access to the Pacific Rim, the US has focused more on post-conflict reconstruction and ground operations.

Read Full Article: Defense News

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

A Security and Humanitarian Imperative

(Huffington Post) – The Parliamentary vote to strike ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris attacks demonstrates that the globalised world of the 21st century does not afford us the luxury to relive an isolationist past. The US was shielded by two oceans and the UK was a distant island with foreign intervention being an arbitrary matter of moral conscience. Today’s increasingly networked reality and the erosion of borders in the Middle East causes global politics to be local and the security threats have increased at an exponential rate. Yet the question has been frequently asked about intervening in Syria was, ‘what has it got to do with us?’ Syria has led to one of the greatest refugee crisis of our time with terrorists able to conduct attacks within our shores. We have reached a stage in history where our security and strategic interests are aligned with humanitarian concerns. It is impossible and immoral to enjoy liberal democracy while abroad people are slaughtered by repressive regimes like the Assad regime or by sub-state terrorist groups like ISIS as it will come to haunt us as it did in Paris.

Targeting ISIS: A Security and Humanitarian Imperative

Fears of potential reprisals against Western targets if the US or Britain intervened in the Syrian crisis ignored the risk of terrorism due to the failure to intervene. Any environment hosting a vacuum of governance coupled with a totalitarian ideology that reinforces extreme poverty, serves to be a springboard for international terrorism, enabling the proliferation of conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Radicals are attracted to that environment not only from impoverished and lawless areas, but from developed states. In areas like Libya, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria they are indoctrinated with radical philosophies and receive the know-how to conduct terrorist activities when they return home to their Western states. Even if Islamists don’t travel abroad they are radicalized by the internet and social media posing a security risk. In Britain the number of attempted terror plots and suspects on the watch list has soared to the thousands since the advent of ISIS. Despite the security risks of Syrian refugees being low, it is impossible to effectively screen them.

Read Full Article: Huff Post

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

U.S Counter-Terrorism Strategy

(Janes Islamic Affairs Analyst) – Having extended its strategy to the broader Muslim community, the US government’s approach to counterterrorism has become inconsistent. Barak Seener examines the consequences of some of the US administration’s foreign and domestic policy decisions.

The current United States administration’s approach to counterterrorism has been inconsistent. On the one hand, following its domestic policy review in December 2009, the White House extended its Afghan strategy to the broader Muslim world in order to “intensify regional diplomacy to enable a political process to promote peace and stability”. However, this move coincided with an increased number of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against Al-Qaeda’s and its affiliates’ leadership in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. President Barack Obama’s administration also ordered a troop surge in Afghanistan and reduced its armed forces in Iraq. The government engagement with the Middle East is marked by numerous strategies ranging from more frequent UAV attacks to increased intelligence sharing with states in the Middle East, and diplomatic engagement with Iran.

Moreover, the US government adopted a unique feature of engaging with local actors, despite the latter’s extremist Islamist ideology. This applies to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The US, caught by surprise by the Arab Spring, found itself drawing spurious distinctions between political and terrorist wings of extremist organisations. This approach was aggravated by cuts in defence expenditure. As a result, policymakers preferred to politically co-opt rather than confront Islamist organisations. Co-opting Islamist organisations abroad has its roots in the flawed counter-narrative to domestic Islamism that the US and the United Kingdom propound.

Read Full Article: US CT Strategy

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

US Approach Towards the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

(ICT) – Presented at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Twelfth World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, Herzliya, Israel 10-13 September 2012

Have there ever been examples of despots and autocrats being moderated by being incentivised to do so by the international community? Can you think of any? The tides of tyranny have never been reversed by financial incentives.

On the contrary this has merely emboldened them and hardened their insatiable desire to maximise power. The Obama administration is in the process of emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood by finalising a $1-billion bailout for the Muslim Brotherhood, almost a third of its total burden. The Obama administration is also working with the (IMF) to secure a $5-billion loan for the regime. On top of that, U.S. officials are in the process of creating multiple funds and programs worth almost $500 million to help U.S. and Egyptian businesses connected with the regime. This would be in addition to the regular “security” and “foreign aid” packages. The State Department is also preparing to lead a delegation of dozens of U.S. companies to encourage investment in Egypt. The Obama administration was offering almost $500 million in loans and guarantees to Egyptian businesses.

Note these measures are not being advanced with an independent secular civil society, but with the regime. As such, the Obama administration is repeating the mistaken approach of successive US administrations. That is conducting a top-down approach that empowered autocrats at the expense of investing in a secular liberal civil-society. The Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan is ‘Islam is the Answer.’ Thus the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Muhammed Badi in Sept 2010 exhorted in a sermon that Muslims ‘need to understand that the improvement and change that the Muslim nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life.’ Well let’s see whether the Koran alone has the ability to raise the Muslim world out of social and economic stagnation. Turkey has already cheated by combining Mohammed with Adam Smith. So much for the Koran superseding everything including the state. However, the US is enabling Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to cheat and not make ideological compromises by offering it freebies.

On the contrary, the US has stoked the fires of despotism in Egypt that has entailed alleviating the Muslim Brotherhood of the responsibility of fostering good governance and a coherent economic plan. Martin Kramer has expressed, ‘The Brotherhood has a so-called “Renaissance” plan for the overhaul of the Egyptian economy. I won’t pretend to judge its feasibility. Could modernization of tax collection double or triple tax revenues? Can Egypt double the number of arriving tourists, even while contemplating limits on alcohol and bikinis? Can a renovation of the Suez Canal raise transit revenues from $6 billion a year to $100 billion? Can Egypt’s economy surpass the economies of Turkey and Malaysia within seven years? These are all claims made at various times by the economic thinkers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who trumpet Egypt’s supposed potential for self-sufficiency.’ Plan B, Kramer outlines is a shakedown in what is termed as ‘Reparations’ from the West for its geo-strategic position. Martin Kramer was so right in his prescient assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood’s shakedown of the West which we already see in motion.

Read Full Article: ICT

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

The Obama Middle East Speech and Israel’s Reaction

(RUSI) – For Israeli policymakers, President Obama’s major Middle East speech on 19 May 2011 has been met with alarm. An American president has for the first time broken with the traditional US approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The end result may harden attitudes on both sides of the conflict.

The Obama administration has dramatically shifted from the United State’s traditional approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian talks since 1993 when President Clinton presided over the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords. For the first time, President Obama shifted US policy by being the first president to call for Israel to return to the 1967 borders.

His predecessors, President Bush and President Clinton purposely refused to refer to the 1967 borders. President Obama’s pronouncement is certainly a departure from the position outlined by President Bush’s 2004 letter to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -endorsed by a bipartisan majority, including ironically Hilary Clinton. The letter had referred to the fact that both parties would have to agree to any swaps of territory. The letter further declared, ‘in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.’ Similarly, the Clinton Parameters which was withdrawn by President Clinton before he left office, while referring to land ‘swaps and other territorial arrangements’, failed to mention the 1967 borders.

This traditional approach towards the conflict was in line with UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 that did not make its calls for Israel’s return to a ‘secure and recognised’ border as synonymous with the 1967 borders. This was due to its aim that the borders would result from negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, George Brown underscored this saying: ‘The proposal said ‘Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,’ and not from ‘the’ territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories.’ This principle in fact had already been reiterated by the main author of Resolution 242, the British ambassador to the UN in 1967, Lord Caradon, who decades earlier admitted on PBS: ‘We didn’t say there should be a withdrawal to the ’67 line….We all knew – the boundaries of ’67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers, they were a cease-fire line of a couple of decades earlier.’ The cease-fire Lord Caradon was referring to was in 1948, when the five Arab armies were prevented from invading the newly created state of Israel and which legally formed an armistice line, not a recognised international border.

Read Full Article: RUSI

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Give the IAEA Teeth

(The National Interest) – The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) does not currently provide the sufficient tools to counter the rising threats of nuclear proliferation. The progress of rogue states such as Iran and North Korea toward becoming established nuclear states has prompted great concern that other countries may proceed in the same manner, and develop their own nuclear programs. Reports convened by the IAEA, UN and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) have all expressed concern over the prospect of increased proliferation. The NPR report states: The reports from the IAEA and UN gave a similar outlook toward the possible spread of technologies allowing states to produce nuclear-weapons materials. Though the issue of nuclear proliferation is of vital importance to policy makers, the NPT won’t be able to deal with the rising risk of nonproliferation.

President Obama has noted that the NPT is “starting to fray around the edges over the last several years,” and has consequently expressed a commitment to revamp the U.S.’s nuclear strategy, though he has affirmed his faith in the Treaty. But his goodwill won’t resolve the main problem—namely, that the necessary mechanisms to verify the development of nuclear materials in other countries, let alone to enforce the provisions of the NPT, have not been implemented. Because of the bureaucratic nature of the IAEA, this issue will most likely not be successfully and adequately addressed during the May NPT Review Conference. So far, all statements from the IAEA criticizing the noncompliance of various regimes have been half-hearted and effectively inadequate, showing its shortcomings in addressing rule breakers.

The purpose of the May meeting is to assess “how well the provisions of the NPT have been implemented and for charting a course forward.” The Carnegie Endowment’s Deepti Choubey, has noted that previous preparatory conferences have failed both to provide such assessments and discuss substantive issues, instead only managing to approve the agenda. These conferences do provide the framework for progress, though obstacles to success remain. For example, during the 2008 preparatory meetings, the participating parties’ inability to reach a consensus created a deadlock, which prevented summaries from being attached to the formal report of the conference. Similar institutional defects will probably prevent the success of this year’s conference.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

American-European Relations

(InFocus) – During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama positioned himself as a strong proponent of diplomatic engagement. He pledged to work with Europe to solve international disputes and heed the advice of others when it came time to crafting America’s foreign policy. In practice, President Obama hoped that his approach would stand in stark contrast to George W. Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy” — the philosophy where, “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.”

It is no surprise, then, that in the aftermath of President Obama’s electoral victory, the sense of optimism in Western Europe was palpable. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitude Project conducted in May and June 2009, Germany’s favorable opinion of the U.S. more than doubled from the attitudes held in 2008 – from 31 to 64 percent. During the same period, Britain, Spain, and France also saw an increase of 16, 25, and 33 percent respectively. The belief that Obama would “do the right thing in world affairs” – which according to most Europeans means placing faith in multilateral institutions – was shown to be nearly universal in Western countries. In France and Germany, no fewer than nine-in-ten expressed confidence in the new American president, exceeding the ratings achieved by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in their own countries.

Indeed, the importance Europe places in multilateralism is manifest when compared to the polling data from the first year of the Bush administration. A Pew Research Center poll from August 2001 measured the confidence levels of European nations toward the Bush administration and found that much of the opposition resulted from Europe’s frustration with Bush’s unilateralist approach to world affairs. It was therefore no surprise that more than 80 percent of Europeans disapproved of Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and more than 60 percent disapproved of the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Defense Missile Development Program. Yet the question remains: Do European perceptions towards the U.S. matter?

Obama promised hope and change, and that optimism was to extend to his diplomacy with Europe. The question, from a U.S. standpoint, was which path to Europe offers the highest probability of success? Should the new administration reach out to individual European nations — that is, the bilateral approach — or is it best to engage with collective bodies, such as the European Union (EU) or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? And how different would Barack Obama’s approach be in reality from that of George W. Bush?

Read Full Article: InFocus

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Can the IAEA Be Saved?

(InFocus) – When the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) was established in 1957, it was largely a technically-oriented body focused on the peaceful uses of atomic energy in accordance with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vision of “Atoms for Peace.” The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed 11 years later in 1968, was designed to enforce this vision of peace. However, the system has been beset with flaws from its inception. It was based on the notion that all states would be honest about their nuclear programs, and their intentions. Accordingly, there are no enforcement provisions.

The IAEA has, over time, lost sight of its original mission. Rather than performing technical studies to assess the nuclear capacity of states and leaving the political considerations to the United Nations Security Council, the IAEA has strayed into the business of international politics. In this capacity, it has too often apologized for proliferators rather than hindering their illicit actions.

The Paradox of the NPT

The NPT, which is essentially the IAEA’s mandate, has made headlines of late. Faced with the challenge of thwarting Iranian attempts to harness nuclear energy for weapons, U.S. President Barack Obama has underscored the importance of the NPT’s three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to civilian nuclear activities.

These pillars, however, are not always easy to reconcile. Several of the President’s recent speeches underscore this. For example, in his Prague speech, on April 5, 2009, Obama declared that the international community must support his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, Obama also stated that, “as long as these [nuclear] weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.” So much for disarmament.

Then, in a speech from Cairo two months later, Obama stated, “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.” This seems to undercut the notion that the U.S. has the right to impose economic sanctions against offending states. So much for non-proliferation

Finally, Obama has repeatedly underscored the right of any state to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes. Yet, the IAEA lacks the ability to ensure that these programs are strictly for civilian use.

Read Full Article: InFocus

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Reflections on U.S. policy, international affairs and the limitations of the Bush administration

Strategic Intelligentia

(The Henry Jackson Society) – In a candid conversation with Barak M. Seener, Richard Perle offers insightful observations and analyses ranging from the current administration’s recent departure from neo-conservatism, the failings of the Presidential bureaucracy, and the fundamentally flawed strategy pursued by the U.S. in Iraq. Perle delves into the principles of neo-conservatism and addresses the misconceptions surrounding it. He asserts that the promotion of alternative energy is central to national security. Perle goes on to construct an argument for the continued use of interventionism as a legitimate and justifiable policy option. He also delineates the threat of U.S. military primacy and the steps necessary to sustain it. Finally, he discusses his perception of the inevitable failure of any Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations which ignore the aims of Palestinians, and considers the possibility of militarily engaging Iran and North Korea.

B.M.S. Do you not find it problematic that the Neo- Conservative movement was short-sighted in the fact that they promoted a coherent philosophy which stated that there exists a nexus between autocratic states which lack human rights and their attempt to provide logistical and financial support to terrorist groups around the world? These same regimes threaten international security by their promotion of nuclear proliferation which may find their way into sub-state actors. On the other hand, they did not conduct a rigorous quantitative study as to how the current troop capacity would be able to achieve the grand aims of macro-democratization in the region.

R.P. I would, firstly, like to say that there does not exist a Neo Conservative’Movement’.Neo-Conservatismisaninclination and what does exist is a group of like-minded individuals that share the same inclination on a number, but by no means all, issues. The people who advanced the need to promote democratization as a doctrine did not have in mind military force to facilitate this. To associate support for regime-change with the advocacy of military force is a common misconception. Amongst the many of articles I have written, testimony I’ve given to Congress, television appearance and the like, I have never advocated the use of force as the way to achieve the development of democratic institutions. Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz have argued against the use of military force to achieve this end. Thus, there was no Neo- Conservative focus on the Revolution in Military Affairs in connection with the advancement of democratic institutions. They simply did not consider force. Rather, they saw the necessity in creating institutions such as the National
Endowment for Democracy which would offer political and moral support for subjugated people seeking democracy. Portugal under Salazar or Franco under Spain, as well as Serbia under Milosevic, were all democratized primarily through political action.

Read Full Article: The Henry Jackson Society

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Report and Retort: A Response to John Hulsman

Strategic Intelligentia

(The National Interest) – The following is part of an ongoing debate between Barak M. Seener and John C. Hulsman.Seener offered a critique of Hulsman’s article “Designated Driver Diplomacy.” Hulsman responded, and Seener gets the last word here.

It is impressive how a supposed response manages to ignore several examples of how Britain either openly opposed or pro-actively reinforced U.S. foreign policy. These examples cannot be dismissed as merely being “trees pointing the other direction” in comparison to a forest, as they were pivotal moments in history. Instead, an onslaught is made upon my alleged policy leanings due to my being a “representative of the Henry Jackson Society.” I have never been affiliated with neoconservatism for reasons described below. Ironically, I find myself in the position of wanting to cite the same Cary Grant lines despite it being unbefitting for an alleged neoconservative to recall the effeminate and debonair British actor.

In an emotive appeal to those subscribing to conspiracy theories, the author holds neoconservatives responsible for hijacking U.S. foreign policy. None of the Bush’s cabinet advisors were neoconservatives. They were traditional realists who perceived the world as a dark and dangerous place with amorphous transnational threats that needed to be tackled, especially after 9/11. The notion of a neoconservative coup- which ignores most Democrats’ position in 2002-is facile. It also enables those not subscribing to neoconservatism to evade responsibility for also actively promoting Iraq’s invasion.

Just as historical readings ought not be conducted in a two-dimensional manner, similarly policy affiliations are allowed to be nuanced.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.