Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Global Posture Review: Strategic Vapor Lock

The new administration told you that their team was tan, rested, and ready and the Global Posture Review was going to set a firm new direction in line with the natsec SuperFriends bringing new eyes, new outlooks, and bold actions to address the challenge of the third decade of the 21st Century.


If you were hoping that the much vaunted “the adults are in charge” brigade would give you some hope, take a seat.  If you bought the hype that we were adjusting with some urgency facing the gaping maw of The Terrible 20s, the flexing power of China, and the general disjunction of people, resources, and policy in the fractured, COVID-infused underpinnings of our national security intelligencia, well … you are not going to have a good week. 

You forgot who we were dealing with. The Vogons of the Beltway are here to deliver.

With the joy and enthusiasm usually found going 15-MPH on I95 between Charleston and Savannah on a holiday weekend, Monday DoD extruded a notification that “DoD Concluded 2021 Global Posture Review.” 

 In the name of all that is holy, we need new elites. Let’s dive in.

Following several months of analysis and close coordination across the U.S. government, the Department of Defense released the results of the Global Posture Review (GPR) today.
”Released ?” Really … even that phrase oversells what deposited.
The conclusion of the review comes at a key inflection point following the end of operations in Afghanistan
9-months? So, what did previous generations do in 9-months? Well, from December 1941, if you went forward 9-months from Pearl Harbor Day you’d find: 
  • Singapore fell 
  • Battle of Java Sea 
  • Philippines Lost 
  • Doolittle Raid 
  • Battle of Coral Sea 
  • Battle of Midway 
  • Marines land at Guadalcanal 
  • Battle of Savo Island 
  • …and finally in September of 1942 the Australians stopped the Japanese at Port Moresby in New Guinea, underlining the Japanese high-water mark at the Battle of Midway and the beginning of the end of the Japanese Empire. 
Yes, that’s right. In 9-months, we went from Pearl Harbor to forcing the Japanese to begin their years-long retreat. 

That is what an infinitesimally smaller cohort of national security professionals who operated with slide rules, not supercomputers; chalk boards, not PPT; telegraphs not VTCs, were able to accomplish. What are our highly credentialed, well funded, speed of light legions of civilian and military thought-leaders able to deliver to address the challenge of this century?
In the Indo-Pacific, the review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea.  These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities; enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands; and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia, as announced in September.  The GPR also informed Secretary Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously-rotational attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in the Republic of Korea, announced earlier this year.
Change five words and this could have been written almost a decade ago when the whole “Pacific Pivot” started. 

Nothing. They’ve got nothing. 

The Flaccid Horde of Northern Virginia, gorging for decades on the largess of the American taxpayers and donor money in agencies, think tanks, panels, manels, and academia have produced nothing, progressed nowhere but the next line on their resume - intellectually vapor locked and strategically their ideas as stuck in aspic. 

If you are not done with this self-serving gaggle of grifting rent seekers, how much longer are you willing to wait for them to produce something of use to the nation? 

We're not just talking about the suit-wearing side of the house either. The inadequacy of our uniformed leadership - pretending the national humiliation at Kabul was an orderly Noncombatant Evacuation Operation and not a negotiated retreat, obsessed with racial essentialism and white guilt as opposed to why they were a less effective than the Soviet Army a few years before that empire collapsed - wants nothing more than a better parking space and for no one to ask exactly what they do here.

From the usual CENTCOM AOR stomping grounds, to the next opening on a board of directors after retirement, they just want to chug along fat, dumb, and happy. Don't look at their shore staff manning documents. Don't fiddle with their approved career path. Don't ask about the institutional incentives and disincentives for promotion and advancement.

Oh, heavens no. We should just thank everyone for the great job everyone did the last couple of decades and to double down on the same thing. This time we will get better results. Sure of it.

This spent force is largely the cause of why we have continued to underperform for decades. The only significant action this bi-partisan civ-mil strategically static force has been able to accomplish in the decade since the Pacific Pivot was announced is to position themselves for the next career move after the next election where the Gold Crew will relieve the Blue Crew for the strategic fast-cruise that never seems to translate in to getting underway - make sure and thank them for their service while you are at it. 


Show something but the bi-partisan natsec consensus that performance, vision, and action should take a second seat to careerism, inertia, and not hurting feelings.

Their inability to recognize their shortcomings only brings the audacity of their self-interest in to stark relief. They are bringing to our nation the same level of national service last seen from the Ottoman Bureaucracy and the army of Chinese Imperial Eunuchs to their empires - with similar trends. 

OK, perhaps I’m reading too much in to that one little paddy of an announcement? I mean, good, smart people in hard jobs doing their best. Right? 

Personally in most cases yes, but in objective metrics for the mass of them? No, not really. 

I’m not even going to quote from the rest of the announcement as it is clear that the drafter was just desperately trying to make a minimum word count. You’d get more from reading the ingredients label on an old Swanson’s TV dinner

Bless his heart, Andrew Eversden over at Breaking Defense managed an almost impossible feat of scrounging up enough to fill in the Waimea Canyon sized gaps in information. A pro he is.
But rather than a large shift in resources and plans, the review, which looked at US troop locations and capabilities across the globe, ultimately concluded that no major strategic changes are needed, aside from “operational level adjustments we have already announced and a couple of other changes that are still being developed,” a senior defense official told reporters during a Monday briefing. What findings backed up those conclusions, however, is not clear, as the department declined to make a version of the review public.
If the last 9-months news on China, Ukraine, global supply chain bottlenecks, all the permutations of 2nd and 3rd order COVID effects, and the expanding power of Islamist terrorism across the bleeding edge from the Sahel to Mozambique … wait, you can, again, add the negotiated defeat at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan in to the stew - if that doesn’t move the needle for your natsec nomenklatura …
“[The Indo-Pacific] is the priority theater. China is the pacing challenge for the department,” the senior defense official said. 
If anyone uses “pacing” to describe what China is doing, they are fools. They don’t know the meaning of the words they use any more than a 13-yr old boy understands the complexity of human sexuality.
“I think you’ll see a strong commitment in the forthcoming NDS [National Defense Strategy] as well that will guide further posture enhancements.”
So … wait while we prepare to prepare to get ready to address something we said we were going to prepare to prepare for back in 2012? Fine. What choice do we have? These are the same people using the same playbook. 
Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, told reporters at a second, on-the-record Pentagon press briefing Monday that the department will send new fighter and bomber aircraft to Australia. She added that across the Pacific, the US military would invest in logistics facilities, fuel storage, munition storage and airfield upgrades in Guam, Australia and the Northern Mariana Islands.
That’s good I guess … right out of 2012 when it was late anyways. Bold of an idea as going to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, but good.
“There are a number of initiatives that we have currently underway that we are fleshing out real time with our allies and partners and you’ll see those manifest over the next two to three years or so,” the senior official said at the first briefing.
That means three years. Add to it the year we already lost … and we are after the 2024 elections already. The mid-20s, the beginning of the time of greatest danger … if not the center mass of it.
The official highlighted an October exercise with two US carrier strike groups and ships from the UK, Japan and other allies as an example of how the US now views the Pacific.
They have so little to say they are just saying things that are new that we have literally been doing my entire human existence.
Becca Wasser, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Breaking Defense that the GPR was “never going to produce major changes” to global posture because of the challenges with changing fixed posture, as well as the fact that the review preceded both the National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy. “What it does is provide a framework to message longer-term, gradual posture changes to allies and partners,” Wasser said. “If you want to change posture–whether that is expanding or consolidating bases, or deploying a new capability–you need access. Access is something only allies and partners can provide and changes to access usually require a lengthy consultation process.”
Again, “Pacific Pivot” is roughly a decade old. What has our natsec nomenklatura been doing? I fully understand patience and small moves ... but at this pace ... I mean ... just look at the timeline. 

I’m sorry, but these great, wonderful and highly intelligent people are simply underperforming or … are working for institutions and people who will not let them perform. We need new people, new institution, new structures, new processes, all of these or a combination of these because what we have right now is not working.
The review also didn’t examine space, cyber or nuclear weapons because those capabilities are distinct from the US forces international footprint, the official said. The department has numerous other ongoing initiatives related to some of those categories, including its Nuclear Posture Review, Missile Defense Review and its broader National Defense Strategy. Karlin stressed that the review is a starting point.
I’m not sure what the natsec version of Model UN is, but this emanates the essence of that mindset. The process is the product. If you are missing the fact that cyber and space are critical parts of the "US forces international footprint" - you need better briefers or need to pay closer attention.
“There are other posture initiatives that we’re working real time with allies and partners to further strengthen that combat credible deterrent vis-a-vis Russia,” the official said, once again declining to provide specifics.
Aspic. Everything is frozen in aspic. 

Are we as a nation going to let this lack of progress and action continue? Academic exercises that were repeated every semester until the crack of doom are fun and in places useful - but as the rest of the world’s serious nations improve their positions and strength - what our self-appointed best and brightest are doing is no way to run an empire. 

As China's strength gains as ours treads water, in the third decade of the 21st Century we simply do not have time for such vanity and posturing. We need serious people of action - working inside a system that enables and rewards it - who can see power shifting around the world and can move our levers of power to counter it and move it towards our advantage. 

No more lost decades.

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