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Old 08-29-2011   #1
Bill Moore
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Default U.S. Interests and National Strategy

I copied this post from the Energy Security Thread, it was posted by Rick M.

Stratfor: Geopolitical history of USA

An American military logistics expert recently recommended that I read this analysis of how the USA acquired its strength, written by George Friedman at Stratfor. At 15 pages, it's not exactly short, but (given the scale of the topic) it is both concise and very insightful. Friedman focuses on five strategic imperatives that America had to achieve (and did). The logistician was correct; this is certainly one of the most interesting non-energy items that I've read in a long time:

http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/201...vitable-empire

'Stratfor: Geopolitical history of USA is republished with permission of STRATFOR'.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-29-2011 at 12:49 PM. Reason: Fix link and add Stratfor caption
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Old 08-29-2011   #2
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Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Thanks, try it now, it worked for me after I fixed it.
Got it now. Nice article but it just seems to be a rehash of the Halford Mckinder Analysis.
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Old 08-29-2011   #3
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It may be a "rehash," and much of this may seem intuitively obvious as well, but it also points out how distracted and off course the US is in our recent "threat-centric" pursuits of AQ and associated organizations.

Nothing any of these groups have done or could do threatens the strategic core of American power. A mis-focused pursuit of such groups, however, that abuses critical alliances, or that shifts focus and resources away from more strategically important functions and places, is indirectly far more dangerous.

The very existence of AQ and the many nationalist insurgent populace groups they leverage for their very existence is best viewed as a metric of the decayed, obsolete nature of the intra and interstate governmental relations in a post Colonial, post Cold War Middle East. We need to refocus our energy on the healing and reforming of those relations, and not overly obsess on the very naturally occurring popular challenges that always emerge when such conditions exist.

This is why I personally push for strategy-driven focus over threat-driven, or even friend-driven approaches. Friends and foes come and go, but strategic interests have a far more enduring nature. Americans, having short attention spans for such things, and taking the strategic strength of our position as described by Mr. Friedman for granted, are easily distracted by minor annoyances. We are so distracted now.

For me this becomes a question of where should we posture SOF? What language skills and what relationships are the most important to develop and nurture over time? What missions will be most likely and most critical to prevent or resolve conflicts that threaten such interests?

Any conversation that begins with the letters "AQ" is likely almost completely irrelevant or immaterial to our near or future success as a nation. Small wars are indeed important, but only if they happen in "big" places. Not big in size, but in geo-strategic importance to our national well being.

We are well down the rabbit hole of chasing such irritants, with just our overfed backside exposed to the world. Backing out of such positions will not likely look very graceful, but our pride will recover in short order. I don't know how we disrupt the inertia of our current pursuits and focus, but for our sake and the sake of those who come behind us, we need to make the refocus soon.
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Old 08-29-2011   #4
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Posted by Bob's World,

Quote:
The very existence of AQ and the many nationalist insurgent populace groups they leverage for their very existence is best viewed as a metric of the decayed, obsolete nature of the intra and interstate governmental relations in a post Colonial, post Cold War Middle East. We need to refocus our energy on the healing and reforming of those relations, and not overly obsess on the very naturally occurring popular challenges that always emerge when such conditions exist.

This is why I personally push for strategy-driven focus over threat-driven,
Very well said, and it is the exact opposite of what the former SOCOM commander proposed when he pushed going to dark places (read undeveloped or stateless regions). Your proposal would allow us to prioritize, focus intelligence assets, and develop a proactive strategy versus a strategy that only exists of lines of operations that we mindlessly apply anywhere we think an individual or small group related to AQ may be.

I do question your friend based strategy, because we may have a friend that is non-functional from a government perspective, and if they're challenged by internal actors then we'll feel compelled to help them and end up on the wrong side of history using a recent SECSTATE phrase.
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Old 08-29-2011   #5
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"threats" should be an overlay on a geo-strategic / interest focused foundation. We have to deal with threats, but it should always be in the context of a greater, more enduring focus.

"friends" similarly should be an overlay. I wouldn't recommend using permanent ink on either of these two overlays, as some key actors will alternate between the two over time.

(George Washington spoke to this best in his farewell address.
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The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

So, if a "friend" is dealing with some "threat", ok, that is important. More important is the broader geo-strategic/interest foundation that both of those overlays rest upon. One may well see that where the "threat" comes from is of greater importance to us than where the "friend" resides; and that context is an important one to keep in mind while shaping how we would respond (or not respond) to the event in question. IMO American tends to hold grudges against those who best us (Iran, Vietnam, Cuba to name a few) and cling equally to "friends" long after such relationships become either irrelevant or dysfunctional beyond repair (Taiwan, Saudi Arabia in some regards, Israel also in some regards, etc).

A bit of strategic pragmatism, salted with some Washingtonian common sense, would help clarify many of the issues we frustrate ourselves with in our overly threat-centric pursuit of enduring enemies, while dragging a reluctant cast of enduring friends along behind...
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-29-2011 at 07:06 PM. Reason: Cited text in quotes
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Old 08-29-2011   #6
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
IMO American tends to hold grudges against those who best us (Iran, Vietnam, Cuba to name a few) and cling equally to "friends" long after such relationships become either irrelevant or dysfunctional beyond repair (Taiwan, Saudi Arabia in some regards, Israel also in some regards, etc).
We actually get on reasonably well with the Vietnamese; there don't seem to be grudges on either side of the picture. Pragmatism doesn't only go one way: one reason we've put the past aside with Vietnam is that they've put it aside as well.

Are the Saudis "friends", or are they just the world's largest producer, and holders of the the world's only surplus production capacity, of something we need?
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Old 08-30-2011   #7
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Yes, finally, we are getting back on track with Vietnam. It took a while. And no, we don't just treat the Saudi's like an important business partner, we hold expectations that are much higher than that in regards to them. You can agonize over shades of meaning or perception of the examples, or you can focus on the substantive points of the post and comment on that.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-30-2011   #8
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Substantive points being:

Our "getting back on track" with Vietnam wasn't just a consequence of our attitude, it was to an equal degree a consequence of theirs. Our relations with former antagonists, like so many other things in this world, aren't defined solely by us.

I see no point in using the word "friend" in the context of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. It's not about "friendship", it's about interests. The relationship may or may not be "dysfunctional"; that assessment would depend on what one assumes to be its function. It's certainly not irrelevant, unless 9mbpd of oil is irrelevant.

We have no influence over Saudi domestic policy, so it's hard to see how Saudi domestic policy would be part of any assessment of functionality in that relationship.

Quote:
we don't just treat the Saudi's like an important business partner, we hold expectations that are much higher than that in regards to them.
What expectations are you referring to... and why should the Saudis care about our expectations?
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Old 08-30-2011   #9
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Our "getting back on track" with Vietnam wasn't just a consequence of our attitude, it was to an equal degree a consequence of theirs. Our relations with former antagonists, like so many other things in this world, aren't defined solely by us.
Former antagonists that are now friends (some became friends immediately after the conflict)

England
Mexico
Germany
Japan
Vietnam
Iraq (friend, foe, friend)
Nicaragua

Former friend and now antagonist:
Iran
Venezuela
Cuba

Iffy status:
China
Russia
Pakistan (can also fit under the currently hostile category)

Currently Hostile:
North Korea
Iran
Non-state groups

Long term friends (not fair weather friends):
UK
Canada
Australia

Wouldn't take too much to bring Cuba into the fold of friend again if we could limit the influence of the far right Cubans in the U.S. who are doing more harm than good for their fellow Cubans.
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Old 08-30-2011   #10
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
...with just our overfed backside exposed to the world.
This is not intended as a comment on Robert's post or the thread itself, but the quote called to mind this excerpt from Burrough's, The Naked Lunch. I apologise in advance.

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Old 08-30-2011   #11
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No, the substantive point is that we need to focus on understanding what our truly vital interests are, and where those interests manifest geo-strategically around the globe (or in space, cyber, etc) and focus our energy there. That allowing emotional, often temporary, feelings of "friend or foe" to get in the way of that is both something that we often do, and something that we should seek to not do.

As an example, our relationships in NEA. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan = "friends"' and China, North Korea, Russia = "foes". We are currently prepared to come to the aid of the friends against those foes if need be. Is that because of vital interests and geo-strategic analysis that is current to the world we live in today, or is it skewed by assessments of such factors that are 50 years out of date and being sustained forward by the inertia of loyalty/enmity?

Certainly Taiwan serves to "contain" China; but that is that still something that we need to be overly focused on? Does not the US possession of Alaska, Hawaii and Guam provide more than adequate assurances that not China, or anyone else, can similarly contain the US?

Yes, North Korea possess nuclear weapons and a large military (the latter that I suspect is as rusty and ineffective as that of Saddam's), but are they really a threat to South Korea, Japan or the US? I seriously doubt they would launch a ground attack into the South, and no nuclear attack they dared launch on Japan could hurt the Japanese worse than they hurt themselves with their recent nuclear accident (though would surely result in a retaliation that would devastate the current North Korean regime).

When I talk to my Air Force and Navy brothers I suggest that we cling to many of these issues because their services rely so heavily on scenarios tied to them to justify much of their current programmatics and budgets. They declare with even greater energy how that is ridiculous and then go into long monologues as to the strategic criticality of various aspects of the status quo. Perhaps they are right, but in an era where military belt tightening is in order, just as shrinking the Army makes a lot of sense, so too does updating policies and associated plans that might drive us into costly forays that are unnecessary in the current global environment. I just don't think we need to use the Cold War to validate the Navy or the Air Force, and we build a better version of both if it is validated by an updated set of geostrategic priorities.

I would just like to see us take a fresh look. Start with a blank globe and build up from there in terms of shaping our geo-strategic priorities. Clean some of the boogie men out of our closets, and run some of the extended stay house guests out who have been sponging off our good graces and our happy to do so so long as we lack the will to cut off the free room and board. Do this all at once, like yanking off a band-aid, its better than slowly dragging it out for fear of if it will hurt or not.
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Old 08-30-2011   #12
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Do we see China and Russia as "foes"? Certainly some individuals do, but on a policy basis I see no evidence that we treat them as foes or enemies. Large powerful nations with some interests that diverge from ours (as well as some interests in common with us, particularly in the case of China) would be a better description. Not all nations are friend or foe, many - possibly most - are somewhere in between.

North Korea is not a threat to Japan or the US, but they are a threat to South Korea, if only because Seoul is within artillery range of the border. The North might not be able to conquer the South, but it could do a great deal of damage. Whether or not it would do that is another question, but one cannot assume that behaviour in that quarter will be predictable.

Easy to lay out broad strokes and recommendations; much more difficult to translate those into practical policy toward any given actor at any given point.

Quote:
run some of the extended stay house guests out who have been sponging off our good graces and our happy to do so so long as we lack the will to cut off the free room and board. Do this all at once, like yanking off a band-aid, its better than slowly dragging it out for fear of if it will hurt or not.
Anybody in particular in mind?
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Last edited by Dayuhan; 08-30-2011 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 08-30-2011   #13
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Default DOD report on China

Speaking of China being viewed as a potential foe:
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90780/7584126.html

The complete report is here:
http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_cmpr_final.pdf
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Old 08-31-2011   #14
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Speaking of China being viewed as a potential foe
Potential foe and actual foe are very different things.
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