Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Strategic Ramifications around the Globe

From Today's Weekly Standard Blog: Working for a nuclear free world... Great idea if you can get the other guys to play ball, but -- let's face it -- the other guys never play ball. Which is precisely why the idea has been unsuccessfully advocated during the tenures of the past five US presidents. In today's world, America's nuclear arsenal is as important as ever. Consider that Russia is undergoing a nuclear renaissance, upgrading its bombers, building new ballistic missile submarines, and bending the language of the START treaty in order to buff up their ICBM force. China, currently limited to a one-dimensional MRBM/ICBM strategic force, is working to construct a nuclear triad similar to that of the United States and Russia. North Korea is trying to build a bomb and a delivery system, as is Iran, and as were the Syrians until the Israelis brought an abrupt halt to construction. India and Pakistan remain at the ready to paint each other green, while Japan flirts with the idea of developing a deterrent of their own. Cuba and Venezuela are courting the Russians to base long-range strategic bombers on their soil (because that worked so well the first time the Cubans did it), while every Jihadist from Brooklyn to the Hindu Kush scours the globe for anything and everything that even sounds atomic. The United States, on the other hand, has steadily shrunk and neglected its nuclear stockpile for the past 17 years. We haven't even tested a bomb since the mid-90s. Our primary nuclear bomber, the B-52, was built in the 1950s and our Minuteman III ICBMS were built in the 1960s. We're currently the only nuclear power not actively upgrading, or planning to upgrade, its strategic force, and we stopped growing nuclear weapon experts circa 1992. The USAF has allowed its nuclear focus to slip to the point where they accidentally shipped four nosecone fuses for the Minuteman III missile to Taiwan and lost custody of six bombs (later found halfway across the country) last year. America's nuclear enterprise, though still capable, is sailing into troubled waters. President Reagan was mocked for preaching the abolition of nuclear arms while reinvigorating America's strategic triad. A few years later, no one was laughing. Reagan's genius was its simplicity. The stronger we are, the more eager the other guy is to talk. President Obama has already announced his intention to gut our conventional arsenal, and our enemies are smelling blood. Should he treat our nuclear forces the same way, things could get downright dangerous. Posted by John Noonan at 11:51 AM Defense | E-mail the author | E-mail article US Military Prepares For Hezbollah-like War Monday's Washington Post noted that the war between Israel and Hezbollah during the summer of 2006 has sparked concern in the U.S. military: U.S. military experts were stunned by the destruction that Hezbollah forces, using sophisticated antitank guided missiles, were able to wreak on Israeli armor columns. Unlike the guerrilla forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, who employed mostly hit-and-run tactics, the Hezbollah fighters held their ground against Israeli forces in battles that stretched as long as 12 hours. They were able to eavesdrop on Israeli communications and even struck an Israeli ship with a cruise missile. While the article focused on the internal dispute inside the military over the need to gear the force to fight counterinsurgencies or traditional combat, there is another reason the military is interested in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War that isn't mentioned: the rise of the al-Qaeda-Taliban-jihadi alliance in Pakistan. While U.S. and NATO forces have yet to fight battles in Afghanistan against the Taliban on the scale that Israel has, the Pakistani Army has engaged in large scale operations against similar forces inside Pakistan. The Taliban have defeated the Pakistani military in open engagements on numerous occasions in North and South Waziristan forcing the military to sign an agreement not to operate there. During these battles, the Taliban reportedly used anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, sophisticated communications equipment, and fought at the company and battalion level. The Taliban were able to overrun forts and take an entire regular Army unit captive. Like their allies in the south, the well-armed and trained Taliban in Swat and Bajaur withstood offensives for months on end, and fought the Pakistani military to a standstill. There's a truce in Bajaur at the moment, while the Swat Taliban have forced the government to cede much of the Northwest Frontier Province to the extremists. And in cities such as Lahore and Mumbai, India, the Taliban have staged small-scale military assaults that have shocked both nations. The Taliban, emboldened from their successes in Pakistan and at the urging of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, are setting their sights on Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban has fought in Afghanistan, but the best forces have been held in reserve to secure the local fronts. That may change this year, and the U.S. military is preparing for just that.

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