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MORNING RECON: Strategic Realities: Re-Thinking Afghanistan; STRATCOM’s Sense of Urgency; F-35: The iPhone of Stealth Fighters; 75th Ranger Regiment


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5/18/2017
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Morning Recon

Good Thursday morning and welcome to MORNING RECON.  On this day in 1943, Adolf Hitler launches Operation Alaric, the German occupation of Italy in the event its Axis partner either surrendered or switched its allegiance. This operation was considered so top secret that Hitler refused to issue a written order. Instead, he communicated verbally his desire that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel should assemble and ultimately command 11 divisions for the occupation of Italy to prevent an Allied foothold in the peninsula.

RealClearDefense Exclusives:

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Best of WWI and the Birth of the Modern World
Midrats with James Holmes, Ph.D., professor of strategy at the Naval War College

Today’s Top Stories

NATIONAL Trump Waives Nuclear Sanctions but Slaps Iran on Missiles, Human Rights
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor: “The Donald Trump administration waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran yesterday in accordance with the landmark nuclear deal while ripping the country over its ballistic missile program and human rights record.”   

Trump Tries a “Waive-and-Slap” Approach to Tehran
By Mark Dubowitz & David Albright, The Wall Street Journal: “The Trump administration had no sooner renewed a waiver on U.S. sanctions against Iran’s crude-oil exports Wednesday than it introduced a raft of new sanctions against the regime. Call it the waive-and-slap approach.”   

Armed Services Committee Staff Revolving Door
By Mandy Smithberger, War Is Boring: “Earlier this year the Professional Services Council, or PSC, a trade association representing service contractors and $147.9 billion in Pentagon spending last year, announced it had hired the Senate Armed Services Committee’s point person on acquisition reform, Bill Greenwalt, as a senior adviser.”   

Thornberry Directs Pentagon to Buy Online
By Sandra Erwin, Breaking Defense: “Thornberry has been an ardent critic of the defense acquisition bureaucracy for being expensive, cumbersome and an impediment to innovation. Committee aides who briefed reporters on Wednesday said the chairman’s key motivation is SIMPLY to “get stuff to warfighters better and faster.””   

CNO: We Need a Bigger, Better Fleet Now
By Bradley Peniston, Defense One: “New technologies — autonomy, networking, 3D printing, and more — are changing naval warfare “like moving from sails to steam, wooden ships to iron hulls, like the advent of nuclear propulsion,” and the U.S. Navy needs to move a lot faster to keep up, says Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.”   

Air Force Sending Bombers to Train in England
By Travis J. Tritten, Washington Examiner: “The Air Force will send some of its bombers to England in June to assure allies and deter adversaries in Europe, the general in charge of Air Force Global Strike Command said Wednesday.”   

F-35: The iPhone of Stealth Combat Aircraft
By Daniel Gouré, The National Interest: “The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the world’s first truly international military aircraft, is on the brink of revolutionizing not just air combat but the military organizations deploying it, the coalitions and alliances in which the JSF will operate and the way conflicts will be fought in the future.”   

Marine Corps Wants More JLTVs
By Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense Magazine: “The service has committed to an acquisition objective of 5,500 platforms, but could boost that to nearly 10,000 if it were given the proper funding, Andrew Rodgers, Marine Corps’ program manager for light tactical vehicles, said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Conference in Reston, Virginia.”   

75th Ranger Regiment Is Adding a Fifth Battalion
By Marty Skovlund Jr., Task & Purpose: “In a historic first, Task & Purpose has learned that the 75th Ranger Regiment will be activating a fifth Ranger battalion to provisional status on May 22. The new battalion, called the Ranger Military Intelligence Battalion, will be located on Fort Benning, Georgia, alongside regimental headquarters, the 3rd Ranger Battalion, and the Ranger Special Troops Battalion.”   

Air Force Introduces Gold Star ID Card
By Amy Bushatz, Military.com: “Immediate family members of fallen troops now can receive long-term access cards for Air Force bases thanks to a program launched this month.”   

INTERNATIONAL U.S., AFGANISTAN: U.S. to Provide Afghanistan With 159 Black Hawks 
By Shawn Snow & Mackenzie Wolf, Military Times: “As part of Afghanistan’s four-year road map to double its 17,000-strong special forces unit and bolster the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. will provide Afghanistan with 159 refurbished UH-60A Black Hawks to replace its aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters, according to Afghan and U.S. defense officials.”   

SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Wealth Fund Starts Defense Company
By Alaa Shahine, Bloomberg: “Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund set up a defense company to help reduce the kingdom’s reliance on foreign purchases and to diversify the economy away from oil.”   

COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS

Strategic Realities: Re-Thinking Afghanistan
By Jeff Goodson, RealClearDefense: “Afghanistan may be the most complex theatre of irregular warfare in the world .  The country is a black hole of physical, religious, social, ethnic, cultural, political, economic, military and historical cross-currents, rendering conventional strategy there awkward at best and impossible at worst.  In re-thinking Afghanistan—and assessing the Pentagon’s new Afghanistan strategy—we need first to  confront some hard strategic realities head-on.  Four, in particular, stand out.” 
  
STRATCOM’s Sense of Urgency: The Nuclear Weapons Review
By Peter Huessy, RealClearDefense: “It has been only a few weeks since the Pentagon launched a review of the U.S. nuclear posture — an examination of programs and policies that will guide the Trump administration’s strategy and budget proposals. “It is not a moment too soon,” said Vice Admiral Charles Richard, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command.”   

Ballistic Missiles and the “½ Rule”
By Rod Lyon, The Strategist (ASPI): “Some commentary on Sunday’s test has observed that the North Koreans might well be testing ICBM ‘subsystems’ in their current program. By flying the missile on a highly-lofted trajectory, for example, the North Koreans have been able to subject their re-entry vehicle to a more stressful heat test than could have been achieved by a standard trajectory.”   

Broken and Unreadable: Our Unbearable Aversion to Doctrine
By Steve Leonard, Modern War Institute: ““War is not an affair of chance. A great deal of knowledge, study, and meditation is necessary to conduct it well.”—as a rallying cry to embrace the intellectual pursuit of doctrine.Yet, still, we don’t read doctrine. Why? Well, it’s complicated.”   

The “Gray Zone” of Cyberspace
By Matthew Reitman, Divergent Options: “State actors and their non-state proxies operate aggressively in cyberspace, but within a gray zone that violates international norms without justifying a “kinetic” response.”  ​

The Dispensability of Allies
By George Friedman, Geopolitical Futures: “U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House on Tuesday. Later this month, Trump will travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with Belgium, Italy and the Vatican. With all respect, Belgium, Italy and the Vatican don’t present the same degree of strategic challenges to the United States that three Middle Eastern countries do, so we should focus on the Middle East.”   

The Draft Should Be Left Out in the Cold
By James Jay Carafano, Strategy Bridge: “The relevance and utility use of the Selective Service have changed over time. Throughout much of the 20th century, war meant a mass army employed for years and subject to casualty levels requiring regular replenishment of the force. From the 1991 Gulf War on, the wars waged by the U.S. have seen American casualties at historic lows, really without precedent, though sometimes protracted, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The standing force composed of the active duty, reserve, and National Guard components, ably handled these more recent conflicts.”   

A China Policy That Works—for America
By Gordon G. Chang, Strategika: “Last March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attempted to set American policy toward China for the next 50 years. Washington in its dealings with the Chinese state, he said, would be guided by the principles of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.””   

Understanding North Korea’s Motives
By Danny Lam, Second Line of Defense Forum: “The question of DPRK’s motives for acquiring a nuclear arsenal is central to the current debate about international security. Motives are ephemeral constructs that are difficult to assess. To wit, historians are still debating the motives of leaders of Germany, Japan, Britain, France, and US as to why they entered WWII.”   

Why does North Korea Hate the United States?
By Anna Fifield, The Washington Post: “Any day of the week, the North Korean propaganda machine can be relied upon to spew out anti-American vitriol using some formulation of “imperialist” and “aggressor” and “hostile.””   

Combating Russian Influence
By James Durso, The Hill: “Vladimir Putin pulled off a masterful active measure last week, catching the White House flat-footed when the Russian Foreign Ministry published pictures of Foreign Minister Lavrov, Ambassador Kislyak and President Trump enjoying a joke. White House officials expressed fury over the malicious set-up by the Russians, but it was too late: the mainstream media immediately got carried away with a new crisis that was provoked by Putin as part of his tenacious campaign to paint Trump as his puppet.”   

Russian Amphibious Capabilities
By Jörgen Elfving, Eurasia Daily Monitor: “The year 2017 will probably finally see the new landing ship Ivan Gren handed over to the Russian Navy. This vessel was long fraught with delays and mishaps on its way from the shipyard to the Ministry of Defense. In September, Russia will also hold the exercise Zapad 2017, which will almost certainly include a simulated amphibious landing. How this is accomplished, its size and the scenario will be of special interest due to the charged military situation in the Baltic Sea region. But it will also indicate something about Russia’s current amphibious capabilities, which are built on Moscow’s historical experiences from the Great Patriotic War and which were further developed during the Cold War.”   ​

The War Against ISIS Has Just Begun
By Bennett Seftel, The Cipher Brief: “Territorial losses have weakened ISIS’ international prestige and shrunk the number of foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. At the peak of ISIS’ international recruiting efforts, an estimated 40,000 individuals from more than 120 countries were fighting for the group.”  

Border Security and Immigration Made Simple
By Clifford D. May, The Washington Times: “The nation-state is a relatively new idea — scholars generally trace it back to the 17th century. It has its flaws, but has anyone come up with a better approach to world order? A nation-state enjoys sovereignty over its territory. Territories are separated by borders. Securing those borders may require barriers and controlled points of entry.”   
 
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