Talks with North Korea

It looks as if talks between the United States and North Korea have broken down. North Korea continues to claim that it is pledged to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, yet the nation’s leadership refuses to provide their definition of denuclearization and a realistic strategy to achieve it.

I have been generally skeptical of North Korea disposing of their nuclear weapons. The nuclear bomb is the ultimate guarantor of Kim Jong-Un’s personal security and political power on his country. Why would he give it up? Perhaps he would consider denuclearization in exchange for a complete U.S. troop withdrawal from the Republic of Korea. But that isn’t likely to happen, even with an outside the box thinker like President Trump. North Korea’s strategy since the end of the Korean War has been to pursue talks and then refuse to take any concrete action towards peace. Their strategy constantly reeks of mendacity and blackmail.

What are our options now?

The U.S. has 3 main options for dealing with North Korea.

  • Accepting North Korea as a nuclear state.
  • Attempting to achieve verifiable denuclearization through long-term diplomacy and concessions.
  • Conducting a military attack on the country to eliminate their WMD’s.

Accepting North Korea as a nuclear state would paint a portrait of the United States as a weak nation and set a poor precedent for other despots and dictators. It would lead dictators to the conclusion that the U.S. will not touch them if they nukes. That could create some very hairy situations in the Middle East, Africa, and even South America.

Utilizing long-term diplomacy to somehow persuade the Norks to denuclearize will be difficult and may even be impossible. We have no indication that North Korea actually has enough of an incentive to denuclearize after spending decades and billions of dollars to develop this capability.

A war with North Korea will be very expensive in blood and treasure. It will allow China to continue rising without having to spend trillions on warfare and will waste a lot of America’s strength. Ultimately, it may be the last option to deal with North Korea. The prospect of conflict with China is also worrisome.

 

I am cautiously optimistic that Secretary Pompeo will be able to deal with this setback and achieve denuclearization through diplomacy.

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off

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Some thoughts on Memorial Day

Today May 28th is Memorial Day here in the United States. It’s a day to enjoy with friends and family, but it’s also a day to reflect on the approximately 1.5MM Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines who have died in defense of the American Republic and our allies.

From the American Revolution until today’s wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all around the world, U.S. Service members have always delivered for their country. Politicians, diplomats, and intelligence agencies have failed us, but the United States Armed Forces have always delivered for this Republic. Today is a day to reflect on the sacrifices of warriors who gave everything they had for their love of country. A common adage is “all gave some, some gave all”. It is important understand that, respect it, and thank everyone who gave all for this nation.

Thank you to every American warrior that gave their life for the United States of America and thank you for preserving all the freedom we enjoy!

 

God bless the United States of America!

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off

Impacts of the Iran Deal

The latest news is that President Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) or Iran Deal. Former President Obama never submitted the treaty his administration negotiated to the Senate because he knew that ratification was unlikely. Therefore the President is free to withdraw from the agreement unilaterally. There does not seem to be any legal issues with the President’s decision.

President Obama essentially disregarded the legislative branch of government after 2010 and the Iran Deal is another egregious example of this behavior. It is ironic that he was a Constitutional Scholar prior to entering politics.

In my opinion, it is worth reviewing the Iran Deal. That includes the negotiations and the aftermath. The Iran Deal was negotiated primarily between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Other signatories included China, Russia, the European Union, the U.K., France, and Germany. The goal of the deal was nuclear non-proliferation with regards to Iran. The Obama Administration essentially framed the Iran issue as a binary option between military confrontation and this deal. President Obama framed the agreement as principled diplomacy and his greatest foreign policy accomplishment. In my opinion, President Obama didn’t really have a foreign policy, what he had was a series of abstract goals that were directed towards the mirage known as “world peace”. The Iran Deal eliminated many U.S. and international sanctions on Iran and allowed them to enter the world economy and develop their domestic economy. The idea was that making Iran a responsible member of the international community would put a stopper on their aggressive policy in the Middle East and make the Mullah’s focus on developing their country. Instead, Iran took the money from the deal and some large business deals and used it to dominate the Middle East and attempt to become the preeminent regional power.

Approximately 2 years and 4 months after the adoption of the deal, we have seen results that lead us to believe that this deal has been a monumental failure for American and allied interests.

What is Iran doing now?

  • Iran is now playing a major role in the Syrian Civil War. Their Soldiers, Quds Force Operatives, Intelligence Agents, and Proxy Forces have played a major role in the war in support of Bashar al-Assad.
  • Iran is materially supporting the Houthis in Yemen and they’re transporting missiles that the Houthis are using to strike Saudi Arabia.
  • They’re continuing their foreign policy objective of attempting to dominate Iraq. Shiite militias that are supported by Iran are sowing discord in Iraq and threatening U.S. and allied advisors on the ground.
  • Iran is continuing their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s power is growing by the day. Israel believes this is a risk to their national security.
  • Iran’s official government forces and proxies are constantly threatening Israeli positions and are seeking to threaten U.S. forces in the Middle East.

If this is the outcome after years of “principled diplomacy”, I think we the lost the negotiation. The foreign policy pundits are decrying the President’s decision to withdraw from the deal. In my view, he did the right thing. President Trump may not be an expert in Middle Eastern history, foreign policy, grand strategy, or warfare, but he does know how to deal with tough guys. He was a Real Estate investor dealing with the tough SOB’s of New York. He negotiated with construction companies, contractors, bankers, investors, union leaders, and politicians. On this decision I think he knows what he’s doing and I am cautiously optimistic that the outcome will be positive for American interests. Dealing with Iran and North Korea is not a job for a professional politician or diplomat, you need a tough businessman or a General. We have both with President Trump and Secretary Mattis, they’ll handle the Mullah’s – no problem.

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off

What is the nature of America’s relationship with Taiwan?

Taiwan (Republic of China) is an island nation located in South East Asia. As I’m sure many of you know, it is a nation that has fundamental issues with the matter of its very existence. Mainland China (People’s Republic of China/PRC) claims that Taiwan is a renegade province that the state aims to reunite with the mainland at some point, if necessary by force. Taiwan insists that it is an independent, sovereign, and democratic country that will not subjugate to the PRC. The situation has remained fundamentally unchanged ever since Chang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Chinese forces fled the mainland and entered Formosa (modern day Taiwan) in 1949.

The U.S. has generally been supportive of Taiwan’s independent existence as a democratic-capitalist bulwark to Communist China in South East Asia. The U.S. maintained strong support towards Taiwan until the U.S. started shifting its diplomatic posture towards the mainland after the fissure in relations between the Soviet Union and Red China in the 1970s during the Cold War.

The question is what our policy towards Taiwan is today and if it is appropriate for today’s turbulent geopolitics. Is the U.S. willing to defend Taiwan from Chinese encroachment with military force? President Eisenhower had the will to do so in order to force negotiations to end the Korean War and push the PRC away from encroaching upon Taiwan in the early 1950s. If we are willing to defend Taiwan with our blood and treasure, why should we? How is it in our national interest?

In my view, these are the reasons the U.S. should continue to maintain strong relations and a supportive military and diplomatic posture with Taiwan and should defend her if she comes under Chinese attack.

  • Taiwan is one of the most pro-U.S. countries in Asia.
  • The nation is a strong ally in a coalition of nations that is opposed to China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in Asia and the wider world.
  • Taiwan provides a positive role model for other Asian countries to emulate.
  • If we give up on Taiwan, the world and especially our allies will start doubting if America is willing to live up to its commitments and defeat deniers of liberty around the world.
  • Giving up on the question of Taiwan will makes us look weak in front of China and the rest of Asia, that may hasten an Asian pivot towards China and away from the United States.
  • The U.S. has made a security commitment to defend Taiwan, we must honor it in order to demonstrate our reliability as an allied nation and the world’s only Superpower.

What can we do to strengthen our relationship with Taiwan?

  • U.S. foreign policy leadership should clarify America’s policy towards Taiwan and its classification in the United States diplomatic portfolio.
  • Sell advanced Aircraft, missile defense systems, and other military equipment to Taiwan to help it defend itself and deter China.
  • Warn China that the U.S. will not stand by and accept a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
  • Create a coalition of nations that will put forth a formal declaration in the U.N. and other bodies that they will not accept a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
  • Create a coalition of regional allies to help defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.
  • Conduct joint training exercises between U.S. and Taiwanese forces to improve coordination, logistics, and response to an attack. This will also have the added benefit of intimidating China and demonstrating American resolve to lead in Asia.

If we take these steps and make clear to China and the rest of the world that an attack on Taiwan is unacceptable, we can show a message of resolve and strength to the world – while keeping an ally safe from total destruction and encroachment upon their sovereignty.

It is in our national interest to support nations in Asia that are opposed to China’s regional bullying which includes utilization of economic, diplomatic, and military intimidation to achieve their geopolitical goals that are almost always diametrically opposed to U.S. interests in the region and world. Make no mistake about it, China is looking to replace the United States as the most powerful nation in the world. We cannot let that happen if we want to maintain our economic and technological strength, military superiority, weight in international affairs, and the peace, security, freedom, and global primacy that we enjoy. Americans don’t like to be #2, so we must do everything that is in our power to ensure that we remain #1, until the end of human existence if at all possible. If it is our goal to remain the most dominant nation on the planet, we can achieve it. Achievement of our objectives will take sacrifice, hard work, and the sheer will to stay on top. History tells us that the Alpha who loses his fire to succeed will be upstaged and overtaken by the underdog who has the will and the fire to make it to the top. Making it the top is only half the struggle, now we must stay there and fend off all those who want to overtake us. We defeated the Soviet Union and the rise of global Communism during the Cold War, now we must rise to the challenge once again and defeat China.

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off

Our Forgotten Korean Allies in Vietnam and Beyond

I think it’s obvious from my writing on this blog that I think highly of South Korea and the alliance between our nations. I believe that the Korean War was one of America’s most moral and noble moments. We saved a people from slaughter and the inherent inhumanity of Communism. We helped give birth to the great nation that is today the Republic of Korea.

We attempted to achieve a similar goal in Vietnam and unfortunately we failed. Many of us who appreciate our great nation are aware of the sacrifices made by our Veterans during the Vietnam War, but some have forgotten that 320,000 South Koreans fought, bled, and died along with our warriors in Vietnam. In my view, we should honor the sacrifice of these brave young men who sought to pay back in blood what America had done for them.

320,000 brave South Korean servicemen fought for U.S. interests in Vietnam. 5,099 souls were killed in action and 10,962 were wounded in action. I sincerely would like to thank South Korea for what they did for us and I’d like to think that they value this alliance as much as we do.

The U.S. and South Korea must always be united against the evils in the world. Yesterday they were the rise of global Communism, today they are an off balance Northern neighbor and an increasingly aggressive China.

We must stand together and remain united.

south-koreans-in-vietnam-war-001

Thank you to the South Korean personnel who fought, bled, died alongside our warriors in multiple conflicts.

  • Vietnam War:
    • 320,000 troops served
    • 5,099 KIA
    • 10,962 WIA
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom:
    • 8,000 troops served
    • 1 KIA
    • Unknown WIA
  • Operation Enduring Freedom:
    • 200 troops served
    • Unknown KIA
    • Unknown WIA

Peace in Chosun?

Chosun is the name for the united Korean Peninsula. For the layman it looks as if peace in Korea is finally materializing. Let’s review the events of the past few days. North Korean Dictator has met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In to officially sue for peace 65 years after the events of the Korean War. The agreement signed by both Korean leaders mentioned the word denuclearization and unification numerous times and that smells like danger to me. Does Kim have the same definition regarding denuclearization as Moon Jae-In? Does Kim Jong-Un have the same definition as President Trump? And what is meant by unification? Will North and South Korea actually unite to become one nation? If that is true which politico-economic system will prevail and who will be the leader? Will an election be held prior to this unification? Was that just boilerplate and meaningless diplomatic language?

The U.S. and the Republic of Korea have the same basic goals for peace in Chosun.

U.S. + R.O.K. End State Objectives:

  • Verifiable and total denuclearization of North Korea. U.N. weapons inspectors are not acceptable, we want nosy and pushy American and South Korean weapons inspectors to comb the whole country and all their territories to ensure 100% compliance with the denuclearization agreement.
  • Verifiable assurance that North Korea will not launch a conventional or chemical attack against the United States, South Korea, Japan, or any of our allies. They must follow up with moving back heavy military equipment from the DMZ.
  • A peace treaty that officially ends the Korean War for all parties.
  • The U.S. will not move any troops or assets from South Korea.
  • If all of these objectives are achieved the United States will start gradually winding down sanctions and will allow North Korea’s economy to breathe again.

Additions that I think should be added:

  • U.S. should demand that all American and allied prisoners should be released.
  • If any American or allied POW’s are still in North Korea, they should be returned home immediately. There have been rumors of American POW’s from the Korean War who are still alive, those heroes should be brought home immediately and the government should profusely apologize for not bringing them home earlier.
  • Any remains of American or allied POW’s should be returned to their families.

I’m finding it rather difficult to ascertain why Kim is going on the diplomatic offensive to denuclearize and sue for peace. One theory I have is that China and North Korea have devised a strategy to create a lot of hype for these peace talks and then blow them up on purpose. During the talks, the North Koreans will make ridiculous demands that they know the U.S. cannot agree to and then start a global propaganda campaign that blames the United States for destroying a chance for peace.

It is certainly plausible that America’s “maximum pressure campaign” towards North Korea since 2017 has choked North Korea’s economy to the point that Kim Jong-Un finds it more profitable to get a peace deal and earn some money to keep his regime from crumbling. It is also possible that China is uninterested in fighting American troops in Korea again and would rather take small losses today to ensure that the situation is resolved diplomatically rather than militarily.

I also theorize that Kim Jong-Un is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of depending solely on China for his regime’s survival. North Korea believes in the ideology of Juche, which is essentially self reliance. North Korea’s economy is too weak for the Juche doctrine to work anymore, so suing for peace with the U.S. will allow their economy to grow and for him to secure his position.

If President Trump isn’t able to negotiate a deal that encompasses all the factors listed above, he should walk away. Yes, the media and the left will howl – but that doesn’t matter. North Korea should be shown little mercy for the atrocities they have committed and the numerous times they have threatened us and our allies with deadly force. We have to remember that these guys and their Chinese and Soviet benefactors killed almost 40,000 American military personnel in the Korean War.  We always hold the upper hand in negotiations because we can militarily obliterate North Korea, we must press our hand to the extent it is realistically possible.

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off

 

The Syrian Civil War Explained

Let’t talk frankly about the “geopolitical Chernobyl” that is Syria. There are many major players in the war:

  • Syrian regime
  • Russia
  • Iran & proxies such as Hezbollah
  • U.S. Coalition
  • Turkey
  • Anti-Assad groups
  • Terrorists

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is allied with Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxies. Their ostensible goals are to destroy the terrorists and the anti-regime groups. This group often combines anti-Assad groups with ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists. Sometimes the anti-regime opposition can be an Islamist group. The war started after the Arab Spring, ostensibly because the Syrian government brutally suppressed political opposition. It seems that ISIS took advantage of the unrest in Syria and Iraq and rapidly executed their operations to great success initially. The Syrian Government Military has approximately 150,000-178,000 personnel.

Russia entered the conflict in 2015 at the request of Bashar al-Assad to protect their business and military interests while also filling the leadership void left by the United States in the Middle East. There are approximately 4,300 Russian forces in Syria. There are also hundreds or even thousands of Russian irregular troops in Syria, which are basically Ex-Russian Military personnel now working as contractors. Russia’s goal is to become a major powerbroker in the Middle East, by defeating the regime’s opposition forces and set up a permanent Military presence in the Middle East. They will demonstrate that Russia is a power that can maintain the status quo, no matter the costs. This will be very attractive to those leaders in the Middle East who want to maintain the status quo and dislike the U.S. tendency to change things.

Iran became involved in the conflict because they have got an attractive opportunity to demonstrate their Military prowess and become crowned as the Middle East’s most powerful Islamic country. They want to preserve the Assad regime and set up a Military presence right next to Israel, which Israel perceives as a threat to their security. Iran and Syria are allies and the regime requested Iranian help in the war. Iran is spending billions of dollars preserving the Assad regime to the great consternation of their citizens. There are thousands of Iranian and Iran proxy forces in Syria.

The U.S. Coalition in Iraq and Syria includes the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark, Jordan, Kuwait, and the Netherlands among other countries. The U.S. became involved in the conflict originally to combat ISIS and other terrorist groups that were flooding into Iraq and in the process of creating their caliphate. The U.S. became involved because there was concern of the spillover effects from the Syrian Civil War, Iran started fighting terrorists in Iraq and spreading their power and influence, and Russia starting anti-terror and anti-regime operations at the request of the Syrian government. Local partners include Syrian Democratic Forces which include YPG (Kurdish majority, People’s Protection Units), YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), Al-Sanadid Forces (Anti-ISIS, Anti-Wahhabi), and possibly some factions of the Free Syrian Army. There are approximately 2,000 U.S. forces in Syria.

Turkey is part of the war because Syria is on their border and they have been tremendously strained by the influx of Syrian refugees. They also have been fighting an internal war with Communist leaning Kurds in their own country who they insist are associated with YPG in Syria. They are currently conducting operations to move Kurds out of Afrin and Manbij, in Syria. They seem to be succeeding. The U.S. Armed Forces are stepping between Turkey and the Kurds so that there isn’t a major confrontation. The U.S. is trying to assuage Turkey’s concerns while maintaining support for Kurdish partners on the ground. Turkey is also leaning towards allying with the Russia-Iran-Syria Axis over their U.S. & other NATO allies. There are more than 6,000 Turkish troops in Syria.

There are several Anti-Assad groups. Some of them are Islamist terrorists, some aren’t, and a few are somewhere in between. To state the obvious ISIS and al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) are Islamist terrorist groups that are seeking to create a worldwide Islamic caliphate. They have been mostly defeated on the ground by the U.S. Coalition with some uncoordinated and separate action by Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime. The terrorists have lost the vast majority of their territory and are running with their tails between their legs. The U.S. Coalition will need to continue conducting operations to identify and kill the few thousand remaining enemies that remain. We need to ensure that we gain a lasting victory against the terrorists so that they don’t stage another long, costly, and deathly insurgency. There are a few thousand terrorists left in Syria.

The Syrian opposition includes the Free Syrian Army which is a group of loosely associated political groups and militias that are hostile to Bashar al-Assad’s regime and want to get rid of him. The Free Syrian Army does have a strong faction of Islamists in its ranks. The Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF, or the main local U.S. partner on the ground. It is a mix of Kurdish and Arab forces looking to take back Syria from the terrorists, the majority of the ground fighting has been done by them. As far as I know, the U.S. is no longer supporting the Free Syrian Army and the SDF doesn’t seem to have any Islamist factions. There are 57-80,000 personnel in SDF. The Free Syrian Army has approximately 30-35,000 personnel.

This is a quick and neat wrap-up of the major stakeholders in Syria’s maddeningly complicated war.

The U.S. Coalition’s goals are not 100% clear but a decent strategy was developed by Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to being fired:

  • Destroy ISIS and any other Islamist terrorist groups.
  • Start creating safe zones in Syria while developing local security forces so people can return home and start rebuilding the local infrastructure and economy.
  • Prevent a terrorist insurgency by keeping troops in Syria until a political settlement and an acceptable level of local security and rebuilding are complete.
  • End the Civil War and send the Syrian refugees back to their country.
  • Start a U.N. lead political settlement in the country that asks Bashar al-Assad to step aside and allow for Democratic elections in the country.
  • Provided a very limited and outcome dependent form of aid so that the country’s new government is stable and the country can credibly rebuild.
  • Avoid drawn out nation building programs that have failed to achieved credible results in Iraq and especially Afghanistan.
  • Normalize economic relations between Syria and the rest of the world.

My only issue with this strategy is that it requires a large amount of U.S. Military and financial support and it is getting too close to the exact failed nation building strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our mission in Syria was to destroy ISIS and our brave warriors have by and large succeeded. After we accomplish that and maintain a contingent troop commitment to avoid an insurgency we should leave. If the U.S. strategy is to push Assad out of power, we may be in for another expensive and drawn out Middle Eastern conflict. We have given too much blood and treasure in the Middle East, I really don’t think more is worth it. President Trump has ordered that U.S. troops leave Syria in 6 months, but Military and Foreign Policy leaders are worried about an insurgency and Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East. I’m sure they are also worried about the fate of our SDF allies and what will become of them. I share their concerns, but until I hear a clear strategy of how we want this to end I can’t support an unending U.S. troop and financial commitment.

The goals of the Russia-Iran-Syria Axis seem to be:

  • Destroy ISIS, other Islamist terrorist groups, and regime opposition groups.
  • End the war, preserve the Assad regime, and get things back to the pre-Civil War normal.
  • Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxies will maintain, fortify, and expand their Military presence in Syria.
  • Russia would like to become the Middle East’s main outside powerbroker.
  • Iran wants to be established as the main Islamic Middle Eastern power.
  • Long term strategic goal: Push the U.S. out of the Middle East. First from Syria, then Iraq, and lastly everywhere else.

 

The goals of Turkey seem to be:

  • Ensure that ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups are destroyed.
  • Push the Kurds as from away from their border as possible without triggering U.S. retaliation.
  • Persuade the U.S. that the Kurdish YPG in Syria is actually the same as the PKK Kurdish Communists in Turkey.
  • End the Civil War and send the Syrian refugees back to their country.

 

The goals of Anti-Assad groups are:

  • End the government of Bashar al-Assad.
  • End the war.
  • Ostensibly make Syria a Democracy and hold free elections.

 

The goals of the Islamist terrorists are:

  • Kick all foreigners, especially the U.S. Coalition out of the Middle East.
  • End the war on their terms.
  • Make Syria, the Middle East, and the rest of the world an Islamic Caliphate.

 

I hope this post can help people understand the major players, their goals, and the inherent complexities in this conflict.

 

This is Saint Reagan signing off