Belmont Club

A Diary of Current Events

Time for another news roundup.

Differences with that staunch US ally, Pakistan, may force the US to withdraw its forces at least partly by air. The AP reports: “U.S. officials, frustrated that hundreds of military shipments heading out of Afghanistan have been stopped on the land route through Pakistan because of anti-American protests, face the possibility of flying out equipment at an additional cost of $1 billion.”

U.S. officials said Wednesday they have seen no effort by the Pakistanis to stop the protests, which prompted the U.S. three weeks ago to halt NATO cargo shipments going through the Torkham border crossing and toward the port city of Karachi.

A Pakistani official says the government is looking for a peaceful settlement but notes that citizens have the right to protest as long as they are not violent.

The Marine Corps Times asks a rhetorical question: “Have Afghan forces intentionally surrendered turf in Sangin to the Taliban?”

U.S. and Afghan officials are investigating reports Afghan forces have given the Taliban control of multiple checkpoints in Sangin, where hundreds of Marines were wounded or killed during a difficult, years-long fight to secure one of Afghanistan’s most violent territories.

Reuters asks still another. What will happen to all those Afghans who bet their lives on the success of Western values once the US leaves? The women who went to school, accused their kinsmen of rape, the interpreters, the local NGO workers — what happens to them?

Concern about a future without foreign support is all the more acute now that the United States has threatened to pull out all its troops over a crucial security deal Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign.

Barack Obama’s War of Necessity is lurching to an inglorious conclusion.

But at least he’s got a possible agreement with Iran. But what is the deal? France 24 writes: “French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Thursday that Iran may never be willing to completely give up its nuclear weapon-making capabilities, casting doubt on the chances of a final deal being struck with Tehran over its nuclear programme.”

The Senate Democrats are being strongarmed to go along with exactly what? “A bipartisan group of senators will soon introduce legislation that would level new sanctions against Iran, defying pleas from President Obama for Congress to wait while the administration works toward a comprehensive deal. Lawmakers are circulating legislation to impose additional sanctions that would kick in after the six-month negotiating window to reach a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program runs out, or if Iran fails to hold up its end of the bargain in the interim.”

Allies on both oceans are beginning to get the feeling that the hegemon has left town. DOD Buzz has some details about Japan’s massive new rearmament program.

Japan adopted its first “National Security Strategy” Tuesday aimed at shaking off the restrictions of its pacifist Constitution to confront perceived threats from China by buying a vast arsenal of advanced U.S. weaponry to include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and F-35 fighters.

The strategy approved by the Cabinet of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “Japan is vigilant against China’s activities in the East and South China Seas to change the status quo based on claims that are inconsistent with international law.”

Under the plan, Japan would spend $240 billion over the next five years on new equipment for the military to include 17 MV-22 Ospreys, 28 F-35 fighters, three unarmed Global Hawk drones and 52 amphibious troop carriers to shore up the offensive capability of its Self-Defense Forces.

Even the EU is beginning to realize they are naked before external threats. Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign affairs and security policy high representative describes the transformation of the EU into a military alliance in the Wall Street Journal.

The meeting of EU leaders in Brussels this week sends a clear signal that defense is now top of the agenda in Europe. Three topics will be at the center of our discussions: first, the priorities for future development of capabilities; second, building a competitive and innovative defense industry; and third, the preparation and availability of our forces.

The new emphasis on defense does not mean that the EU has abandoned its identity as a peace project in favor of more bellicose ambitions. On the contrary: Europe is aware that to remain true to its nature as a peace project, it needs the capabilities to protect and uphold its values in its neighborhood and beyond.

The administration that promised to end the war on terror “where it began”; to usher in a “world without nuclear weapons” and to create a planet where the environment would heal has not notably succeeded. Congress is asking the DOD to review its ability to survive a nuclear war.

Congress is getting set to tell the Pentagon to create a new body to oversee technologies that facilitate U.S. leaders’ communications during nuclear crises.

A provision in the House-Senate compromise on an annual military authorization bill would require the Defense Department to establish a special council with responsibility for “nuclear command, control, and communications,” also known as the NC3 system. …

Under the legislation, Congress would give the nuclear network a senior focus inside the Pentagon. The measure directs that the council be co-chaired by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. The body also is to include the undersecretary of Defense for policy; the head of Strategic Command; the director of the National Security Agency; and the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

The renewed concern over the integrity of national command authority was coincidentally preceded a few days ago by Peggy Noonan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Incompetence”. She described the management chaos in the White House.

I’m worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I can’t shake from my head this picture: The man with the football—the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the president—is carrying the wrong code. He’s carrying last month’s code, or the one from December 2012. And there’s a crisis—a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S.—and the president is alerted. He’s in the holding room at a fundraiser out west. The man with the football is called in and he fumbles around in his briefcase and gets the code but wait, the date on the code is wrong. He scrambles, remembers there’s a file on his phone, but the phone ran out on the plane and he thought he could recharge in the holding room but there’s no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him. “Wait—wait. No—uh—I don’t think that’s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!”

Of course things could never be that bad. Or could they?

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