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Rundown 04/28/14

Rundown 04/28/14

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A weekly digest of news and analysis from AEI's Foreign and Defense Studies team
A weekly digest of news and analysis from AEI's Foreign and Defense Studies team

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Published by: American Enterprise Institute on Apr 28, 2014
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Last week, Obama’s reassurance to Japan over the contested Senkaku Islands wasn’t the only news creating

a stir in China. In response to overwhelming outrage from Chinese fans, singer Justin Bieber removed, and later apologized for, a photo he posted of himself at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine with the tagline, “Thank you for your blessings.” But in truth, the troubled singer may as well have been the mascot for Obama’s Asia tour, as good feelings about commitment to Asian allies has been overshadowed by failure on almost every other front, particularly trade. Have a good week, Your AEI Foreign and Defense Policy Studies team

Tweet of the Week
Michael Auslin @michaelauslin Get it while it's hot (and controversial)! Did Obama Just Draw Another Red Line in the East China Sea? http://thebea.st/1htTg2C @thedailybeast

In the News
East Asia
President Obama said a 10-year agreement signed Monday to give the US military greater access to Philippine bases will help promote peace and stability in the region, and that he hopes China's dominant power will allow its neighbors to prosper on their own terms. President Obama ends his trip to Asia on Tuesday, having visited an anxious region unconvinced of US commitment. With a rising Chinese military and threat of another North Korean nuclear test, the need for answers to critical questions concerning America’s long-term commitment was front and center. Did the president quiet concerns, or is there more trouble brewing in the Pacific? On Tuesday's 9:45 a.m. conference call, AEI foreign policy scholars and experts will discuss the successes and challenges the US faces in the region and analyze the president’s trip. RSVP for the call-in number and conference code to lauren.duffy@aei.org.

In Tokyo, the president made a powerful promise, assuring Japan that the disputed Senkaku Islands come under article five of the US-Japan security treaty, and thus would be protected by American forces in the case of a Sino-Japanese conflict over the islands. In a recent article with The Daily Beast, Michael Auslin notes, “Perhaps President Obama’s threats are simply seen as no longer credible. Beijing may well decide that the president offers little but rhetoric. In that case, it is not a question of whether the United States has the means to deter Chinese aggression (we do, for now), but whether President Obama has the will.” See more of Auslin's Asia trip commentary in his Foreign Policy article and on last week’s PBS "Newshour" and on CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box." President Obama’s leaving Japan without a signed trade deal keeps the Trans -Pacific Partnership (TPP) hanging in the balance indefinitely, but it also reveals the lack of political courage in Tokyo that has long contributed to economic stagnation, and now the same thing is starting to occur in Washington. As Derek Scissors highlights in a Weekly Standard article, “There is a case to be made to effectively suspend Japan's participation in the TPP, try to finish the agreement, and then return to talks with Japan. There would be few real objections from other TPP countries, the increasingly protectionist US Congress would be happier, and we might actually get an actual agreement instead of endless talk.” In light of the ever-looming threat of the People’s Republic of China, Dan Blumenthal offers a comprehensive review of Financial Times correspondent Geoff Dyer’s book “The Contest of the Century” in The Weekly Standard. He argues that “Washington has to prepare itself for a long, protracted, and complex competition with a sophisticated adversary. We know that China will compete vigorously for power. The big question is whether we will.” For more of Blumenthal’s analysis of Obama's Asia trip, check out his article with the Asia Society and his interview with the Wall Street Journal’s "Opinion Journal Live." While President Obama is not visiting Taiwan on this particular trip, the island nation is as critical as ever. In his National Security Outlook titled “Taiwanese hard power: Between a ROC and a hard place,” Michael Mazza looks at the shifting balance of military power to China, Taiwan’s efforts to meet those challenges, and Washington’s failure to support Taiwan in maintaining an adequate defense posture. He explains, “Taiwan's government must do a better job of explaining that its policy of engaging with the mainland does not eliminate the need to provide the island with an effective defense; indeed, only when Taiwan is secure can it, over the long run, engage China with confidence.” Also read Mazza's thoughts on the president’s trip to Asia, on US policy setbacks, and on US commitment to protecting the sovereignty of the disputed Senkakus on the AEIdeas blog. Want more on the conflict over the Senkakus? Join us at AEI on Thursday as a panel of experts convene to discuss the future of disputed territories in the East China Sea, if these disputes can be resolved through judicial settlement, and what increased conflict would mean for US interests in the region.

The mayor of Ukraine's second-largest city was shot in the back Monday, and pro-Russia insurgents seized yet another government building as tensions rose in Eastern Ukraine ahead of a new round of US sanctions. One of the first rules of sound strategy-making is, “don’t fight for the same ground twice unless forced to.” It is the worst sort of weakness to concede pieces of the former empire back to Vladimir Putin when the West could so easily freeze this Russian reckoning in its tracks, if only it could summon the will to do so. Thomas

Donnelly argues, “The Western triumph of the Cold War was not complete. The Russians have chosen their dreams of greatness over our hopes for reform. Until now, they have little dared to realize those dreams, but now they see that the No Man’s lands of Eastern Europe can be had cheaply, and would permanently fracture NATO and the Western alliance it represents. For a generation, the West has failed to do what any platoon-leading lieutenant would do after a successful engagement — consolidate on the objective. There is still a chance to do so, but a diminishing one.” Since the Russian invasion of Crimea, President Barack Obama has repeatedly asserted that “this is not another Cold War.” Yet, in a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times, Peter Baker reports that the president and his advisers have chosen “to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.” Their ambition, Baker says, is nothing less than to isolate Russia, “making it a pariah state.” David Adesnik writes that it is not clear whether a president incapable of enforcing his own red lines has the fortitude necessary to execute a true policy of containment. Read Adesnik’s analysis on how a Cold War grand strategy became just another word for passivity. WATCH: John Bolton went on Fox News' "America's News HQ," where he discussed recent clashes in Ukraine and responded to comments from the Russian ambassador.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has called on Muslims to kidnap Westerners, particularly Americans, who could then be exchanged for jailed jihadists including a blind Egyptian cleric convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack the United Nations and other New York landmarks. Current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates throughout the Muslim-majority world. While there are many reasons for this failure, three key issues stand out: a poor definition of the enemy, an incorrect view of its objectives, and the adoption of a strategy that will not defeat the latest evolution of this adaptive organization. Mary Habeck explores the three issues in her AEI report, "Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011." Don’t have time to read the entire paper? Katherine Zimmerman helps break it down with a few must-know facts on understanding al Qaeda’s leadership group. Habeck rolled out her report before a packed house at AEI last Thursday. Click here to watch the video in full. The Obama administration has reportedly launched two drone strikes in Yemen, and news stories indicate that the principal target was Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the al Qaeda master bomb-maker behind the failed Christmas Day 2009 airliner attack and other failed attacks. Marc Thiessen breaks down the repercussions of the drone strikes on the AEIdeas blog: “It is still unclear if they got al -Asiri, but if they did it would be a tragedy not a triumph. No one is weeping for a dead terrorist, mind you. If dead, al-Asiri got the justice he deserved. But if a drone strike has indeed vaporized this ingenious terrorist intent on attacking the United States, it has also vaporized all the vital intelligence inside his brain. . . . killing al-Asiri may feel good, but it may also help al Qaeda preserve its secrets and carry out the next attack.” Last week, Thiessen participated in a Council on Foreign Relations event on the costs, benefits, and risks of keeping Guantanamo Bay open. Watch the event in full and be sure to follow him on Twitter @marcthiessen.

South Asia

Afghanistan’s presidential election appears headed for runoff after former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah received the most preliminary votes but failed to reach the 50 percent threshold. General Joe Dunford, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), said that he needs 10,000 US troops to accomplish the missions President Obama wants to accomplish after this year. But who cares what General Dunford says when you have "General" Joe Biden, who has consistently been pressing for numbers in the 3,000 range, which is militarily unrealistic? Frederick Kagan writes for The Weekly Standard, “That many troops can hardly defend themselves, let alone do anything to the enemy. The claim that the successful Afghan elections justify this irresponsibility was as inevitable as it is ludicrous-the White House long ago put itself in the happy position of being able to use any event to justify what it wants. If Afghanistan is going well, then we declare victory. If it's going badly, we declare that it's hopeless. In either case, General Biden and the man who really seems to be running our foreign policy-Ben Rhodes-get their wish. Within a short time, the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan.” ICYMI: Ahmad Majidyar weighs in on reports that the White House may keep fewer than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014: “Instead of using the success of the election as a pretext to cut and run from Afghanistan, the Obama administration should seize the momentum to reaffirm its long-term commitment to the country, work with the next government in Kabul to preserve the gains of the past decade, and ensure that al Qaeda and the Taliban do not get a chance of reconstituting in parts of the country from where they can plot against America and its allies.”

Defense contractors are going back to war to protect their slice of a shrinking Pentagon budget. Gone are the days of unity when giants like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman banded together to fight automatic defense cuts in a campaign called Second to None. One of the truths of the last 50 years of acquisition practice is that whenever the military really needed something, it bypassed the traditional acquisition process and used a more streamlined approach. Recognizing this reality is the first step in building an acquisition system that works. William Greenwalt writes, “When is it necessary to go around a system to make it work, there probably isn’t much of that system that needs saving. Still, because of the time it would take to dismantle and replace the current acquisition system, immediately expanding exemptions, exceptions and carve-outs would at least allow a workable alternative while Congress and the Pentagon approach the long-term task of building a muchneeded new acquisition system from the ground up.” For more on the topic, read Greenwalt’s other recent piece in Breaking Defense, “Once more unto the breach, this time for acquisition reform.”

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research | 1150 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036 P: 202.862.5800 | F: 202.862.7177 | www.aei.org @AEIfdp Questions or comments about what you read? Contact Alex Della Rocchetta at adr@aei.org.

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