Stratfor's ten year forecast!
I have read it and thought about it and in view of recent developments in the Middle East it will be interesting to see how much of Stratfor's forecast actually proves correct.
I have some strong reservations about some of their conclusions - particularly their view of America's economic and military future.
Certainly Iran could explode internally but it appears Stratfor has concluded a more positive resolution than I would and more so when it comes to terrorism.
As for demographics and their impact I have both written about this, published the CIA's earlier report and even had a speaker - Lt. Col. Peter Liotta (ret.) speak on this matter two years ago.
I certainly agree that when our Social Security program was instigated by Roosevelt it did not comprehend the improvement in longevity and thus retirement ages will have to be adjusted. Logic and economics dictate no less.
Europe is a basket case and its problems should worsen and I doubt Mexico will resolve its internal problems any time soon and they will continue to burden our own nation.
In view of what has happened in Egypt I seriously doubt Turkey, Israel and Egypt with become a three legged stool of regional and balanced power. Frankly I still believe Saudi Arabia will ultimately collapse and Stratfor said nothing about this.
Finally, an Obama re-election will, in my view, be such a disaster any bet would be off the table.
Read and decide for yourself! (See 1 below.)
Obama and Sec. Gates just sent a clear message to Iran and a "Pass Go" card - America is hesitant to attack Qaddafi so you are free to develop whatever nuclear program you wish.
I suspect the IAF will soon be charged with taking out Syria's nuclear plant that is being rebuilt. Maybe Sec. Gates can hire the IAF to take on Qaddafi.
Caution is a virtue but it seems to me our recent display of reticence goes beyond.
See 2 and 2a below.)
But maybe there is still hope. This is a repeat of what I posted earlier. (See 2b below.)
The other view. (See 2c below.)
Stratfor's Friedman on Iran and the Saudis. (See 3 below)
1)Decade Forecast: 2010-2020
STRATFOR produces a rolling decade forecast every five years. The purpose of these forecasts is to identify the major trends we expect to see during the next 10 years. This forecast can therefore only be understood in terms of prior forecasts and their standing today. Without
benchmarking, the current forecast lacks context and therefore depth. Thus, this forecast begins with extensive excerpts from previous forecasts. The structure might be odd, but it is essential.
In the Decade Forecast issued in 2000, we wrote:
As the year 2000 approaches, two overwhelming forces are shaping the international system.
The first is the process of coalition building in which weaker powers seek to gain leverage
against the overwhelming power of the United States by joining together in loose coalitions
with complex motives. The second process, economic de-synchronization, erodes the power
authority of the international organizations used by the United States and its coalition during
the Cold War and the interregnum. More importantly, de-synchronization creates a generalized friction throughout the world, as the economic interests of regions and nations diverge.
The search for geopolitical equilibrium and global de-synchronization combine to create an
international system that is both increasingly restless and resistant to the United States.
Indeed, de-synchronization decreases the power of the United States substantially.
A decade forecast is intended to capture the basic dynamics, not necessarily specific events. We
certainly did not forecast the U.S.-jihadist war, for example. But we did forecast adequately the
We forecast two general processes: first, that international tension would increase and focus on the United States, limiting its power; and second, that the global economy, rather than integrating, would confront significant problems that would de-synchronize it.
Different nations and regions would confront these problems in divergent ways that conflicted with each other, and international systems for managing the economy would fail to function. Both of these were radical forecasts in 2000. Looking back on the decade from the standpoint of 2010, we are satisfied that our forecast was faithful to the fundamental trend of the decade.
In 2005, we forecast that over the next 10 years: … the jihadist issue will not go away but will subside over the next decade. Other — currently barely visible — issues are likely to dominate the international scene.
Perhaps our most dramatic forecast is that China will suffer a meltdown like Japan and East and Southeast Asia before it. The staggering proportion of bad debt, enormous even in relation to official dollar reserves, represents a defining crisis for China. China will not disappear by any means, any more than Japan or South Korea has. However, extrapolating from the last 30
years is unreasonable. …
At the same time that we see China shifting into a dramatically different mode, Russia is in the
process of transforming itself once again. After 20 years of following the Gorbachev-Yeltsin-
Putin line, which sacrificed geopolitical interests in return for strong economic relations with theWest, the pendulum is swinging sharply away from that. The Russians no longer see the West as the economic solution but as a deepening geopolitical threat. …
There is one curve that will not reverse itself. The long wave that has lifted the United States
since 1880, perpetually increasing its economic, military and political power in the world
remains intact. … The coming demographic crisis that will hit the rest of the world will not hit
the United States nearly as hard. … As a result, the United States will continue its domination
— and the world will increasingly resist that domination. Our core forecast is that the United
States will remain an overwhelming but not omnipotent force in the world and that there will be coalitions forming and re-forming, looking for the means of controlling the United States.
We continue to maintain the essential forecasts made in 2005. The U.S.-jihadist war is in the process of winding down. It will not go away, but where in 2005 it defined the dynamic of the global system, it is no longer doing so. China has not yet faced its Japan-style crisis but we continue to forecast that it will — and before 2015. Russia has already shifted its policy from economic accommodation with the West to geopolitical confrontation. And the United States, buffeted on all sides by coalitions forming around political and economic issues, remains the dominant power in the international system.
There were many things we failed to anticipate in our forecasts, but we remain comfortable that we captured the essentials. Our 2000 forecast’s core dynamic has come to pass and continues to drive the global system, a system very different from the one in place in 2000. Our 2005 forecast derived from the dynamic we laid out in 2000. Of the specifics there, our Russian and American forecasts have taken place, our forecast on the U.S.-jihadist war is in the process of being fulfilled, and we stand behind our China forecast with five years to run.
The Decade Ahead
Economically, the next 10 years will mark the beginning of a massive reversal in the dominant trends of the past 500 years. For the entirety of that era, steadily rising populations have set the stage for the economic models used in every part of the world: Larger populations mean larger workforces, larger capital supplies and ultimately larger markets. The entire fabric of human economic relations has been based on the precondition of continually enlarging populations.
The 2010-2020 decade will be the turning point in this rule as populations cease rising and rapidly age. This shift is most pronounced in the developed world — with Japan and Europe the most dramatically affected — but it exists in the developing world as well. Turkey, Mexico, China and India are actually aging faster than Europe.
The effects are myriad, but can be separated into two general categories: financial and immigration.
Financial: Retirement systems were established generally in the first half of the 20th century, setting 65 as the retirement age. At that time, life expectancy for males was 62 years. As life expectancy moves toward 80 years in advanced industrial society, the financials of retirement, never intended to support an average of 15 years of non-productive life, will create severe financial dislocations for both individuals and societies. The retirement age cannot remain 65. Trying to cope with this imbalance will consume much political capability in the countries affected — which is to say most countries of importance.
Immigration: States will have no choice but to compensate for labor shortages by increasing
immigration from countries where the demographic decline is less progressed. It should be
noted that the mid-tier countries that have traditionally supplied labor have been growing —
and aging — dramatically. In addition, some of these mid-tier countries are now growing so
rapidly that the attractiveness of emigration will decline. At the same time, not all advanced
industrial countries are aging at the same rate. The United States, due to general social
heterogeneity and prior migration, will not experience the same declines as Europe.
Consequently, new patterns of relations — as well as new patterns of immigration — will
emerge, as poorer and younger states become the new sources of migrants.
The forecasts we made in 2000 and 2005 remain our driving model. We see the U.S.-jihadist war subsiding. This does not mean that Islamist militancy will be eliminated. Attempts at attacks will continue, and some will succeed. However, the two major wars in the region will have dramatically subsided if not concluded by 2020.
We also see the Iranian situation having been brought under control. Whether this will be by military action and isolation of Iran or by a political arrangement with the current or a successor regime is unclear but irrelevant to the broader geopolitical issue. Iran will be contained as it simply does not have the underlying power to be a major player in the region beyond its immediate horizons.
Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran will remain issues by 2020, but not defining issues in the region.Two other countries will be more important. Turkey is emerging as a self-confident regional leader, with a strong military and economy. We expect that trend to continue, and see Turkey emerging as the dominant regional power. The growth of Turkish power and influence in the next decade is one reason we feel confident in the decline of the U.S.-jihadist war and the transformation of the Iran issue. The dynamic in the region between the Mediterranean and Iran — and even in the Caucasus and Central Asia — will be redefined by Turkey’s re-emergence. Of course, Turkey will feel tremendous internal tensions during this process, as is the case for any emerging power. For Turkey, the relationship between the Ataturkian tradition and the Islamic tradition is the deep fault line. It could falsify this forecast by plunging the country into chaos. While that is possible, we feel that the crisis will be managed over the next decade, albeit with much pain and stress.
By 2020, Egypt will be changing from the type of country it has been since the 1970s — for the past generation it has lacked the capacity to influence developments beyond its borders. Like Turkey, Egypt is caught between secularism and Islam, and that tension could continue paralyzing it. However, as Turkey rises, Ankara will need a large source of cheap labor and markets for exports. The result will be a “coattails” effect for Egypt. With this synergetic fortification we expect not only an end to Egyptian quiescence, but increased friction between Egypt and all other regional players. In particular, Israel will be searching for the means to maintain its balance between the powerful Turkey and the re-emerging Egypt. This will shape all of its foreign — and domestic — policies.
The United States, eager to withdraw from the region and content to see a Turkish-Egyptian-Israeli balance of power emerge, will try to make sure that each player is sufficiently strong to play its role in creating — while retaining its independence within — a regional equilibrium. Beneath this, radical Islamist movements will continue to emerge — not to the interest of Turkey, Egypt or Israel, none of whom will want that complicating factor. Washington will be ceding responsibility and power in the region and withdrawing, managing the situation with weapons sales and economic incentives and penalties. For the first time since the end of World War I, the region will be developing a self-contained regional balance of power.
Europe will continue focusing inward because of demographic issues and the difficulties involved in constructing European institutions, both of which will cause intra-state tensions. It is Europe (and Japan, to be discussed later) that will experience the demographic process described above first and most intensely. Most notably, the Europeans are already experiencing significant problems with immigrant populations — primarily North African Muslims, along with Turks — that have not assimilated into their societies but remain indispensible for the functioning of their economies.
Over the decade, these immigrants will continue to be economically essential and socially impossible to absorb. As more Turks remain home, Europe will have to resort to sources of labor that are even more difficult to assimilate.A deep tension will emerge in Europe between the elite — who will see foreign pools of labor in terms of the value they bring to the economy, and whose daily contact with the immigrants will be minimal — and the broader population. The general citizenry will experience the cultural tensions with the immigrants and see the large pool of labor flowing into the country suppressing wages. This dynamic will be particularly sharp in the core states of France, Germany and Italy. Different economic and social issues and distinct dynamics will also create deep divisions within societies and between states, particularly the countries on the periphery of the Franco-German bloc. Western Europe, which has had a relatively stable social and economic structure since the 1950s, will
face problems that could very well lead to new nationalist movements. This will force clashes with peripheral Western European states with similar demographics but starkly different economies — such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.
The former Soviet satellites will find themselves in a more complex situation. Many are wrestling with the same labor issues as Western Europe — although most have another decade before their demographic problems bite as deeply as they will in Western Europe in the 2010s — but are not facing immigrant issues of the same scope as those in Western Europe. Nor are they constrained by Western Europe’s complex social and economic systems. We expect to see rapid economic development in this region. The repressed creativity of the Soviet period, plus the period of adjustment in the past 20 years, has created societies that are more flexible and potentially dynamic — even given demographic issues — than the rest of Europe.
The diversity of systems and demographics that is Europe will put the European Union’s institutions under severe strain. We suspect the institutions will survive. We doubt that they will work very effectively. The main political tendency will be away from multinational solutions to a greater nationalism driven by divergent and diverging economic, social and cultural forces. The elites that have crafted the European Union will find themselves under increasing pressure from the broader population. The tension between economic interests and cultural stability will define Europe.
Consequently, inter-European relations will be increasingly unpredictable and unstable.
Former Soviet Union The Russians will be struggling with internal matters, from ethnic tensions to demographic decline. Yet Russia’s demographic problems have yet to hugely affect its ability to project power. In fact, in some ways, Russia can manage better with a small population than other countries can, as it can create a (somewhat) healthier balance between production and consumption. Russia has already made the retirement adjustment, moving its retirement age past the average age of male mortality. Russia has always been a multiethnic empire, giving it experience in managing non-Russian populations. Russia’s economy is also more involved in non-labor intensive industries such as commodity production, reducing the need for young workers (regardless of their origin). So while Russia’s demographics are by nearly any measure far worse than Europe’s, the truly damning effects of its demographic
characteristics are not likely to crash Russia until the 2020s.
Russia will spend the 2010s seeking to secure itself before the demographic decline really hits. It will do this by trying to move from raw commodity exports to process commodity exports, moving up the value chain to fortify its economy while its demographics still allow it. Russia will also seek to reintegrate the former Soviet republics into some coherent entity in order to delay its demographic problems, expand its market and above all reabsorb some territorial buffers. Russia sees itself as under the gun, and therefore is in a hurry. This will cause it to appear more aggressive and dangerous than it is in the long run. However, in the 2010s,Russia’s actions will cause substantial anxiety in its neighbors, both in terms of national security and its rapidly shifting economic policies. ]
The states most concerned — and affected — will be the former satellite states of Central Europe. Russia’s primary concern remains the North European Plain, the traditional invasion route into Russia. This focus will magnify as Europe becomes more unpredictable politically. Russian pressure on Central Europe will not be overwhelming military pressure, but Central European psyches are finely tuned to threats. We believe this constant and growing pressure will stimulate Central European economic, social and military development.
China’s economy, like the economies of Japan and other East Asian states before it, will reduce its rate of growth dramatically in order to calibrate growth with the rate of return on capital and to bring its financial system into balance. To do this, it will have to deal with the resulting social and political tensions. In fact, China faces a quadruple bind.
First, China’s current economic model is not sustainable. That model favors employment over all other concerns, and can only be maintained by running on thin margins. Eventually, manufacturing margins turn negative as they did in Japan in 1991 and Indonesia in 1998.
Second, the Chinese model is only possible so long as Western populations continue to consume Chinese goods in increasing volumes. European demographics alone will make that impossible in the next decade. Third, the Chinese model requires cheap labor as well as cheap capital to produce cheap goods. The bottom has fallen out of the Chinese birthrate; by 2020 the average Chinese will be nearly as old as the average American, but will have achieved nowhere near the level of education to add as much value. The result will be a labor shortage in both qualitative and quantitative terms.
Finally, internal tensions will break the current system. More than 1 billion Chinese live in households whose income is below $2,000 a year (with 600 million below $1,000 a year). The government knows this and is trying to shift resources to the vast interior comprising the bulk of China. But this region is so populous and so poor — and so vulnerable to minor shifts in China’s economic fortunes — that China simply lacks the resources to cope.
Japan is the world’s second-largest economy. It has spent the time since 1990 in a holding pattern, focusing on full employment and social stability instead of growth. That process is drawing to an end and — in a manner that both reflects China’s present situation and heralds China’s future — will have to be dealt with in the 2010s. Japan will face an existential crisis in the next decade, deciding who it is and what kind of nation it is going to be. The culture of avoiding risk — foreign and domestic — can only be sustained when there are no threats. The threat to domestic well-being has grown. Its economic heft gives it options, of course, but not within the paradigm in which it operated in the past.
Its demographic problem is particularly painful, and Japan has no tradition of allowing massive immigration. When it has needed labor it has established colonies in Korea and China. As China shifts its economic pattern, it will need outside investment badly. Japan will still have it to give, and will need labor badly. How this relationship evolves will define Asia in the 2010s.
India has always been a country of endless unrealized potential, and it will remain so in the 2010s. Its diversity in terms of regulations and tensions, its lack of infrastructure and its talented population will give rise to pockets of surprising dynamism. The country will grow, but in a wildly unpredictable and uneven manner; the fantastic expectations will not materialize.
Because the Himalayas protect India from China, New Delhi’s primary strategic interest is Pakistan. We expect Pakistan to muddle through. It is just important enough that outside powers will prevent its collapse, but it does not have the internal resources needed for stability.
Latin America will continue to develop in the 2010s. Two countries in particular are important. Brazil, the world’s 11th-largest economy, is a major regional driver and will become more so as Argentina collapses. But aside from extending its influence southward, the South American geography of deserts, jungles and mountains prevents Brazil from reaching beyond its immediate neighborhood. It will be a regional power — even a dominant regional power — but it will not exert strength beyond that scale.
Mexico, the world’s 13th-largest economy, is often ignored because of conflicts involving its drug cartels and the government. However, organized crime manages over time to come to stable understandings, normally after massive gangland wars. Means are created to maximize revenue and minimize threats to leaders. Since inexpensive agricultural products like cocaine command vastly higher prices in places like Los Angeles than where it is produced, a well-organized criminal system in Mexico will continue to supply it. This will cause massive inflows of money into Mexico that will further fuel its development.
The United States
From the American point of view, the 2010s will continue the long-term increase in economic and military power that began more than a century ago. The United States remains the overwhelming — but not omnipotent — military power in the world, and produces 25 percent of the world’s wealth each year.
The United States is in the fourth economic crisis since World War II: the municipal bond crisis of the 1970s, the Third World Debt Crisis and the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s, and now the investment banking crisis. Each represented excessive risk-taking in the financial community followed by a federal bailout based on monetizing privately held assets through printing money and taxing. Each resulted in recessions, and each ended in due course. The magnitude of the problem of the early 2010s is debatable, but we see no reason to believe that this crisis will not work itself out as did the other three.
The United States will withdraw for a while from its more aggressive operations in the world, moving to a model of regional balances of power which Washington maintains and manipulates when necessary. This will not manifest as introspection, but rather as a rebalancing of U.S. attention and force posture.
The greatest international issue for the United States will no longer be the Islamic world or even Russia, although both will have to be dealt with. The issue will be Mexico, and it is an issue with several parts. First, Mexico is a rapidly growing but unstable power on the U.S. border. Second, Mexico’s cartels are gaining power and influence in the United States. Third, the United States will be trapped by a culture that is uneasy with a massive Mexican immigrant population and an economy that cannot manage without it.
But in terms of demographics, as in many other categories, the United States stands apart. Yes,
America is aging, but at a much slower rate than Japan, China, Germany, France, Mexico, Turkey or India. The United States is also very good at assimilating immigrants — from Mexico or elsewhere — while Europe (to say nothing of Japan) is not. Therefore, the United States’ biggest demographicrelated problem in the 2010s will be financial: retiring baby boomers will generate a capital crunch that will have to be dealt with by not allowing them to retire, cutting retirement benefits sharply or both. This is a serious concern, but one the United States shares with the rest of the developed world.
We believe our 2000 and 2005 forecasts remain the framework for thinking about the next 10 years. For most of the world, our forecast remains intact. There are two areas where we have shifted our forecast.
First, we see Europe in much deeper trouble than before, particularly driven by its demographic and immigration issues.
Second, we see the U.S.-Mexican border not so much as a flash rest of the world for Washington’s attention. That limitation on the United States will allow regional powers to start reorganizing their areas of influence.
We do not see the 2010s as a period of decisive change. Rather it is a period in which basic processes stay in place, while the emerging demographic process surfaces as a major driver in the system. The United States will remain at the heart of world power; a country with 25 percent of the world’s economy and forces like the U.S. military cannot be ignored. But as the demographic problem begins to take hold, the countries most affected by it will have to turn their attention inward.
2)Obama gets Carter's Disease in Libya
By James Lewis
Some great powers talk big and act big. Some do big things quietly. But you can't talk big and do nothing and still expect to be taken seriously in a world of ruthless power players.
That's what Obama is doing in Libya today, following in the pathetic footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Obama is a grandstanding blow-hard, and the world understands that by now. Telling Hosni Mubarak to leave the presidency of Egypt after 30 years of a very successful alliance that stabilized the Middle East was unnecessary, dangerous, and humiliating to a man who deserved better from the United States. But Obama did more. He has just rationalized and excused the very likely event of a radical Islamist takeover of Egypt. He thereby added foolhardiness to his usual empty boasting. That makes his ego tripping dangerous.
This is the same Obama who accepted Mubarak's invitation two years ago to deliver his we-love-Muslims speech from Cairo's Al Azhar University. He first made nice with Mubarak, and then stabbed him in the back, while puffing up his Zeppelin-size ego.
How long does it take for the Ahmadinejads of this world to take the measure of this man? About 15 seconds. All the power mongers now understand that America under Obama is a paper tiger. Under Bush we were feared, while European socialists loathed the United States. But Khadafi gave up his nuclear weapons program right after Bush invaded Iraq. That was not happenstance. Khadafi feared Bush, just as he feared Ronald Reagan. Today, no enemy has given up anything since Obama took his Nobel Prize for Hollow Rhetoric.
Today Obama is dithering about a possible no-fly zone over Libya, and Bill Daley, his chief of staff, is telling military experts outside the administration that they don't know what they are talking about. A no-fly zone is an aerial blockade, one that would make it hard or impossible for Khadafi to use his planes and helicopters to bomb and strafe Libyan rebels. If it is effective it could knock Khadafi out of power, which is what Obama is demanding. (Whether he should be demanding it is another thing entirely, of course.) But once the President of the United States stakes his credibility on a imperialistic demand for some crummy Generalissimo to resign, he has to put up or shut up. Obama is doing neither.
Now Obama's chief of staff is telling the world that a no-fly zone can't be done. It's too hard or dangerous for the United States military to do. It's too provocative. It could go wrong.
Well, yes. That's why the voters usual elect adults to the presidency. This is the point where the kids are told to leave the room. LBJ would never let the military do their jobs in Vietnam, and as a result Ho Chi Minh killed hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese who staked their lives on American promises. Jimmy Carter couldn't stop micromanaging the rescue effort for American diplomats in Tehran. Carter was defeated by the voters after a year of dithering.
But Obama is the ditheriest of them all. He has absolutely no experience making difficult decisions. He is the "vote present" guy who talks big and does nothing. The media elected him, as Joe Biden put it, because he was a "clean, articulate black guy." Now Uncle Sam is wearing the diapers.
When Khomeini killed his opposition in Tehran with Carter's tacit consent, Jimmy did nothing. Khomeini was a murderous power player. Like his disciple Ahmadinejad, the first thing he did was to test Carter's will. Finding no resistance, Khomeini pushed America and the West to the max, until Ronald Reagan got elected, when Khomeini instant released the American hostages. The Left has been evading that plain and obvious lesson now for thirty years.
When Mike Wallace interviewed Ahmadinejad for CBS two years ago, and began to raise just one tough question, A'jad immediately challenged him: Do you want this interview or not? Wallace instantly bowed down to the dictator and switched to softballs.
That's how thugs operate, and Obama does the same thing when he feels confident. That's how he dealt with Congressional Republicans when he had a majority in both Houses. Obama never argued on the merits. His answer to Republican proposals was just: "I won." It is an Ahmadinejad answer.
In foreign policy Obama has no confidence because he has no competence. He also doesn't let the adults in the military do the job that he cannot do. So he is instantly and correctly seen as helpless. A'jad has had Obama's number for the last few years. That number is zero.
Welcome to America as paper tiger. We produce no oil, but we make really slick excuses.
After Gulf War I the United States imposed a no-fly zone over Saddam's Iraq. Today we have two decades of more advanced aerospace technology, including anti-missile defenses to extend over Khadafi's capital of Tripoli. Aegis cruisers can be sent to any ocean in the world to knock down enemy planes and missiles within hundreds of miles. Military planning is immensely complex, of course, and outsiders should not guess about the specifics. The Pentagon runs vast computer models and real-life exercises for that. But the idea that the US cannot stop the pathetic Libyan air force is beneath contempt. We can do it. Even Europe can do it, using our anti-missile technology. If necessary we could pay the Russians to do it for us (sine they now have a naval base in Syria).
Mubarak must be wondering today why he just didn't give Obama the fickle finger of fate six weeks ago when O ordered him to leave. All the Muslim regimes that were running scared a week ago are now realizing that Obama will do exactly nothing if they kill a lot of rebels. Most important of all, the madcap regime of Tehran, the biggest threat in the Middle East, has nothing but justified contempt for this president. A'jad sends his Basiji thugs to drive SUV's into civilian demonstrations in the streets of Tehran, and Obama never told him to resign. If you and I can see that, so can Putin and Hu, the newest Kim and every other dictator in the world.
Today it's lethal to be an American ally in a dangerous neighborhood. We've even outsourced the Pirates of Penzance in their little boats off Somalia. We don't even defend freedom of navigation any more. But being our deadly enemy is easy and rewarding. The Iranians are spreading a Persian Empire for the first time in a thousand years.
Somebody bring back the adults, quick.
Is Rummy doing anything important right now?
2a)'Where are My Carriers?'
By James G. Wiles
It was Bill Clinton who famously said that, when an international crisis breaks in some rough corner of the world, the first thing an American President does is ask where his aircraft carriers are.
Did President Obama do that when things came to a boil in Libya two weeks ago? We don't know. But, if you'd like to play President-for-a-Day, you can see what Barack Obama would have seen in the White House Situation Room -- and also how it probably looks today.
I think you'll be very surprised. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. is not in the game because the present Administration has chosen not to be. But it's also true that the steady shrinking of the U.S. Navy since 1992 has handed President Obama and the anti-war Democrats a perfect excuse for inaction. This explains Defense Secretary Robert Gates and senior military officers' controversial remarks last week about the difficulty of the U.S. intervening against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya.
At gonavy.jp, there's a handy little webpage, occasionally updated, which purports to give the status and location of every American supercarrier. Let's begin by asking: how many supercarriers does the United States Navy have? Not helicopter carriers, but the big, nuclear-powered flattops which starred in Top Gun, each with its own embarked air wing of 60 or more planes?
Surprised? I was. But it gets even more interesting.
Guess how many supercarriers are not available for action because they're in dry dock for extended repair or preparing to be de-commissioned?
Out of the eight available to go in harm's way, one, the Abraham Lincoln, is returning home to rest and refit after an extended tour in the North Arabian Sea supporting operations in Iraq and AfPak. So, really, there are only seven American supercarriers available
Now, how many were reported to be on active sea duty on March 2?
The Carl Vinson is on station in the North Arabian Sea and the USS Enterprise, has just arrived from Norfolk. Although she only transited the Suez Canal three weeks ago, she's now Johnny-on-the-Spot for Libyan and Aden. Press reports suggest she's somewhere in the Red Sea or off the Horn of Africa.
So, what do we see?
Contrary to doctrine, the U.S. Navy is not, in fact, forward-deployed. It is hard to believe this is an accident.
There are no American supercarriers in the Mediterranean. None. A helicopter carrier and a support ship from the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain were deployed there last week. An Aegis cruiser and a guided missile destroyer arrived in the Eastern Med around March 1.
The UK just retired its carriers because of budget austerity. So, unless our EU allies allow American planes to attack Libya from their territory, a no-fly zone or other action is not an option.
Nor is the Med (and the Suez Canal) the only strategic choke-point which the Obama Administration has uncovered. So are Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca. If you're an American adversary (say, China) what do you make of this? What may the Peoples Republic discern as to the objectives and beliefs of the current occupant of the White House from the present deployment of the U.S. Navy?
The fact that six of America's available supercarriers are sitting out the instant crisis, literally on the other side of the world, says it all. This President has no options because, a month into the Arab Spring, he has decided against moving American naval assets to give himself options.
There's presently only one aircraft carrier, the George Washington, in the Far East, docked in Yokosuka. There's none between the West Coast and Japan (except for the home-bound Lincoln). They're either in port or training, maybe, off California. And, as of the March 2nd posting on gonavy.jp, there were no American supercarriers in the Atlantic Ocean either. They're all in Norfolk.
Finally, our supercarrier fleet continues to shrink. Three carriers have been retired from the Fleet since September 11, 2001. Two new supercarriers have joined the Fleet in that time.
There's new construction; but the next new supercarrier won't be ready until 2015. Two years before that, the Navy will retire another supercarrier. That means there'll only be nine left in the U.S. Fleet from 2013 until 2015.
Remember the famous 2008 Stimulus Bill? It included no money to re-build the U.S. Fleet and make it a seven-ocean navy once again. None.
It's as simple as that. The Obama Administration's work of dismantling America's status as the world's sole superpower continues apace.
The information in this piece is as accurate as the 3/2 update on the gonavy.jp website. I did an Internet, English language search and also checked the websites and Facebook pages of each of the carriers. A press release from 5th Fleet/Bahrain says the Enterprise is still in their operational zone (this was in connection with a capture of some Somali pirates by part of her flotilla, in which she was mentioned). The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot doesn't mention any of their carriers leaving; the Lincoln, according to some commander's post to facebook.com Sunday, just crossed into the fourth time zone west of Hawaii. So, she's still steaming East from Singapore, her last port of call since the Arabian Sea.
If the Reagan or the Stennis have sallied from the West Coast, I can't find it. The Washington has to stay in or near Japan,
2b)Obama builds up US-NATO military option for Libya
President Barack Obama launched a number of diplomatic and military steps Monday. March 7 pointing toward preparation for US and NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war - notwithstanding objections from the Pentagon and US military chiefs. Intelligence and Washington sources report the administration was behind the appeal Monday by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan for UN Security Council protection for the Libyan people. The appeal's purpose was to extend the sanctions resolution against Muammar Qaddafi to include military intervention. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded instantly that Moscow is against any "foreign intervention" in Libya, indicating a Russian veto would block a new resolution.
In Brussels, NATO sources reported that Awacs surveillance flights over Libya would be extended from 10 to 24 hours a day. Military sources report the US Air Force alone is capable of this mission, which would be tantamount to preparations for an aerial operation against pro-Qaddafi forces.
White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that the enforcement of a no-fly zone was planned - only operations against Libyan helicopter gunships and air control towers.
He appeared to be signaling that the Obama administration was weighing different options for disabling the Libyan air force without directly intervening in those zones. That limitation was apparently applied in consideration of the objections of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Command, Adm. Mike Mullen and US Air Force chiefs to putting a large number of US warplanes in jeopardy. They have warned that Qaddafi has enough up-to-date air force and advanced anti-air missiles to blow US warplanes out of the sky.
Carney added: "The option of providing military assistance to the rebels is on the table."
He was responding to earlier reports from British sources that Washington had asked Saudi Arabia to send weapons to the Libyan rebels. debkafile reports that there was no such request of Riyadh. However, Monday night, the Libyan rebels were reported to have taken delivery of a batch of anti-air missiles.
For the first time, Washington and Brussels have received certain information partially supporting Muammar Qaddafi's claim that al Qaeda is calling the shots for the Libyan rebellion. If this intelligence is confirmed, Obama may have to back down from his intended military intervention on the side of the anti-Qaddafi insurrection.
It was also rumored in Washington Monday, that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who had strongly objected to US military action in Libya had reconsidered her position and informed the president she was now in favor.
2c)The U.S. Should Keep Out of Libya
Gadhafi might survive the current civil war. But the U.S. does not need the burden of another vaguely defined intervention in a country where American interests are less than vital.
By RICHARD N. HAASS
A good many people across the political spectrum—including some members of the Obama administration—are pressuring the president to intervene militarily in Libya. Much of the commentary has focused on establishing a no-fly zone, but there have been calls as well for enforcing a no-drive zone, or for arming or otherwise assisting regime opponents.
Those making this case appeal to a mixture of morality and realpolitik. They argue that by intervening we will prevent the slaughter of innocents and at the same time demonstrate our willingness to make good on expressions of support for freedom and security.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has taken the opposite position. Testifying before Congress last week, Mr. Gates pointed out that the first step in establishing a no-fly zone that would ground Libyan aircraft and helicopters would be to suppress Libyan air defenses that could threaten U.S. or allied aircraft. This would entail attacking selected targets. In other words, to establish a no-fly zone would be to go to war.
Mr. Gates was and is correct in reminding people of what implementing a no-fly zone would actually mean. But the reasons for questioning the wisdom of establishing such a zone, or taking other military action, go well beyond his warnings.
To begin with, there is no reason to believe a no-fly zone would be decisive. In fact, we have every reason to believe it would not be, given that aircraft and helicopters are not central to the regime's military advantages. The regime could defeat the opposition without resorting to attack planes and helicopter gunships simply by exploiting its advantages in terms of foot soldiers and light arms.
What about other military steps outsiders could take? To impose a no-drive zone—which would aim to limit the government's ability to use tanks and armored personnel carriers—would require far more extensive military force than a no-fly zone. And even if it were implemented, no number of Western aircraft on patrol could stop the movement of every military vehicle. The only way to level the battlefield would be to put trainers, advisers and special forces on the ground.
There are political reasons to question the wisdom of the U.S. becoming a protagonist in Libya's civil war. It is one thing to acknowledge Moammar Gadhafi as a ruthless despot, which he has demonstrated himself to be. But doing so does not establish the democratic bona fides of those who oppose him. And even if some of those opposing him are genuine democrats, there is no reason to assume that helping to remove the regime would result in the ascendancy of such people.
To the contrary. Removing Gadhafi and those around him could easily set in motion a chain of events in which a different strongman, with the backing of a different tribe, took over. Or it could create a situation in which radical Islamists gain the upper hand. Either way, significant areas of the country would be beyond any government control, creating vacuums exploitable by al Qaeda and similar groups.
The wisdom of arming regime opponents is questionable for the same reason. Pre-9/11 Afghanistan offers something of an object lesson here, as the U.S. armed individuals and groups to defeat the regime backed by the Soviet Union. This policy worked in realizing its immediate goal, but in the years that followed it empowered individuals and groups who carried out an agenda hostile to U.S. interests. Arms transferred become arms over which control is forfeited.
There are many reasons to avoid making Libya the center of U.S. concerns in the region. Libya is far from the most important country in the Middle East—both in terms of political influence and its impact on the oil market. American policy makers would be wiser to focus on what they can do to see that Egypt's transition proceeds smoothly, that Saudi Arabia remains stable, and that Iran does not.
Intervening militarily in Libya would be a potentially costly distraction for the U.S. military. It is already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last thing it needs is another vaguely defined intervention in a place where U.S. interests are less than vital.
To say that U.S. interests in Libya are less than vital is not to argue for doing nothing, but rather for making sure that the actions we take are commensurate with the stakes. In the case of Libya, asset freezes, arms embargoes, threatened prosecutions for war crimes, and the creation of humanitarian safe harbors inside the country or just across its borders would be appropriate.
Under this set of policies, Gadhafi could well survive the current challenge—regimes that are willing and able to attack domestic opponents often do. But, over time, such policies would weaken the regime while strengthening the opposition.
Such an approach will not be enough for some. But it does have the advantage of being consistent with the scale of U.S. interests in Libya and what can realistically be done to promote them
Mr. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
3)The Battle Between Iran and Saudi Arabia
By George Friedman
The world's attention is focused on Libya, which is now in a state of civil war with the winner far from clear. While crucial for the Libyan people and of some significance to the world's oil markets, in our view, Libya is not the most important event in the Arab world at the moment. The demonstrations in Bahrain are, in my view, far more significant in their implications for the region and potentially for the world. To understand this, we must place it in a strategic context.
As STRATFOR has been saying for quite a while, a decisive moment is approaching, with the United States currently slated to withdraw the last of its forces from Iraq by the end of the year. Indeed, we are already at a point where the composition of the 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq has shifted from combat troops to training and support personnel. As it stands now, even these will all be gone by Dec. 31, 2011, provided the United States does not negotiate an extended stay. Iraq still does not have a stable government. It also does not have a military and security apparatus able to enforce the will of the government (which is hardly of one mind on anything) on the country, much less defend the country from outside forces.
Filling the Vacuum in Iraq
The decision to withdraw creates a vacuum in Iraq, and the question of the wisdom of the original invasion is at this point moot. The Iranians previously have made clear that they intend to fill this vacuum with their own influence; doing so makes perfect sense from their point of view. Iran and Iraq fought a long and brutal war in the 1980s. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran is now secure on all fronts save the western. Tehran's primary national security imperative now is to prevent a strong government from emerging in Baghdad, and more important, a significant military force from emerging there. Iran never wants to fight another war with Iraq, making keeping Iraq permanently weak and fragmented in Tehran's interest. The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq sets the stage for Iran to pursue this goal, profoundly changing the regional dynamic.
Iran has another, more challenging strategic interest, one it has had since Biblical times. That goal is to be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf.
For Tehran, this is both reasonable and attainable. Iran has the largest and most ideologically committed military of any state in the Persian Gulf region. Despite the apparent technological sophistication of the Gulf states' militaries, they are shells. Iran's is not. In addition to being the leading military force in the Persian Gulf, Iran has 75 million people, giving it a larger population than all other Persian Gulf states combined.
Outside powers have prevented Iran from dominating the region since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, first the United Kingdom and then the United States, which consistently have supported the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. It was in the outsiders' interests to maintain a divided region, and therefore in their interests to block the most powerful country in the region from dominating even when the outsiders were allied with Iran.
With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, this strategy is being abandoned in the sense that the force needed to contain Iran is being withdrawn. The forces left in Kuwait and U.S air power might be able to limit a conventional Iranian attack. Still, the U.S. withdrawal leaves the Iranians with the most powerful military force in the region regardless of whether they acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, in my view, the nuclear issue largely has been an Iranian diversion from the more fundamental issue, namely, the regional balance after the departure of the United States. By focusing on the nuclear issue, these other issues appeared subsidiary and have been largely ignored.
The U.S. withdrawal does not mean that the United States is powerless against Iran. It has been reconstituting a pre-positioned heavy brigade combat team set in Kuwait and has substantial air and naval assets in the region. It also can bring more forces back to the region if Iran is aggressive. But it takes at least several months for the United States to bring multidivisional forces into a theater and requires the kind of political will that will be severely lacking in the United States in the years ahead. It is not clear that the forces available on the ground could stop a determined Iranian thrust. In any case, Iraq will be free of American troops, allowing Iran to operate much more freely there.
And Iran does not need to change the balance of power in the region through the overt exercise of military force. Its covert capability, unchecked by American force, is significant. It can covertly support pro-Iranian forces in the region, destabilizing existing regimes. With the psychology of the Arab masses changing, as they are no longer afraid to challenge their rulers, Iran will enjoy an enhanced capacity to cause instability.
As important, the U.S. withdrawal will cause a profound shift in psychological perceptions of power in the region. Recognition of Iran's relative power based on ground realities will force a very different political perception of Iran, and a desire to accommodate Tehran. The Iranians, who understand the weakness of their military's logistics and air power, are pursuing a strategy of indirect approach. They are laying the foundation for power based on a perception of greater Iranian power and declining American and Saudi power.
Bahrain, the Test Case
Bahrain is the perfect example and test case. An island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are linked by a causeway. For most purposes, Bahrain is part of Saudi Arabia. Unlike Saudi Arabia, it is not a major oil producer, but it is a banking center. It is also the home of the U.S. 5th Fleet, and has close ties to the United States. The majority of its population is Shia, but its government is Sunni and heavily linked to Saudi Arabia. The Shiite population has not fared as well economically as Shia in other countries in the region, and tensions between the government and the public have long existed.
The toppling of the government of Bahrain by a Shiite movement would potentially embolden Shia in Saudi Arabia, who live primarily in the oil-rich northeast near Bahrain. It also would weaken the U.S. military posture in the region. And it would demonstrate Iranian power.
If the Saudis intervened in Bahrain, the Iranians would have grounds to justify their own intervention, covert or overt. Iran might also use any violent Bahraini government suppression of demonstrators to justify more open intervention. In the meantime, the United States, which has about 1,500 military personnel plus embassy staff on the ground in Bahrain, would face the choice of reinforcing or pulling its troops out.
Certainly, there are internal processes under way in Bahrain that have nothing to do with Iran or foreign issues. But just as the internal dynamic of revolutions affects the international scene, the international scene affects the internal dynamic; observing just one of the two is not sufficient to understand what is going on.
The Iranians clearly have an interest in overthrowing the Bahraini regime. While the degree to which the Iranians are involved in the Bahraini unrest is unclear, they clearly have a great deal of influence over a cleric, Hassan Mushaima, who recently returned to Bahrain from London to participate in the protests. That said, the Bahraini government itself could be using the unrest to achieve its own political goals, much as the Egyptian military used the Egyptian uprising. Like all revolutions, events in Bahrain are enormously complex - and in Bahrain's case, the stakes are extremely high.
Unlike Libya, where the effects are primarily internal, the events in Bahrain clearly involve Saudi, Iranian and U.S. interests. Bahrain is also the point where the Iranians have their best chance, since it is both the most heavily Shiite nation and one where the Shiites have the most grievances. But the Iranians have other targets, which might be defined as any area adjoining Saudi Arabia with a substantial Shiite population and with American bases. This would include Oman, which the United States uses as a support facility; Qatar, headquarters of U.S. Central Command and home to Al Udeid Air Base; and Kuwait, the key logistical hub for Iraqi operations and with major army support, storage and port facilities. All three have experienced or are experiencing demonstrations. Logically, these are Iran's first targets.
The largest target of all is, of course, Saudi Arabia. That is the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, and its destabilization would change the regional balance of power and the way the world works. Iran has never made a secret of its animosity toward Saudi Arabia, nor vice versa. Saudi Arabia could now be in a vise. There is massive instability in Yemen with potential to spill over into Saudi Arabia's southern Ismaili-concentrated areas. The situation in Iraq is moving in the Iranians' favor. Successful regime changes in even one or two of the countries on the littoral of the Persian Gulf could generate massive internal fears regardless of what the Saudi Shia did and could lead to dissension in the royal family. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Saudis are moving aggressively against any sign of unrest among the Shia, arresting dozens who have indicated dissent. The Saudis clearly are uneasy in the extreme.
Iran's Powerful Position
The Iranians would be delighted to cause regime change throughout the region, but that is not likely to occur, at least not everywhere in the region. They would be equally happy simply to cause massive instability in the region, however. With the United States withdrawing from Iraq, the Saudis represent the major supporter of Iraq's Sunnis. With the Saudis diverted, this would ease the way for Iranian influence in Iraq. At that point, there would be three options: Turkey intervening broadly, something it is not eager to do; the United States reversing course and surging troops into the region to support tottering regimes, something for which there is no political appetite in the United States; and the United States accepting the changed regional balance of power.
Two processes are under way. The first is that Iran will be the single outside power with the most influence in Iraq, not unlimited and not unchallenged, but certainly the greatest. The second is that as the United States withdraws, Iran will be in a position to pursue its interests more decisively. Those interests divide into three parts:
1. eliminating foreign powers from the region to maximize Iranian power,
2. convincing Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region that they must reach an accommodation with Iran or face potentially dangerous consequences, and
3. a redefinition of the economics of oil in the Persian Gulf in favor of Iran, including Iranian participation in oil projects in other Persian Gulf countries and regional investment in Iranian energy development.
The events in the Persian Gulf are quite different from the events in North Africa, with much broader implications. Bahrain is the focal point of a struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for control of the western littoral of the Persian Gulf. If Iran is unable to capitalize on events in Bahrain, the place most favorable to it, the moment will pass. If Bahrain's government falls, the door is opened to further actions. Whether Iran caused the rising in the first place is unclear and unimportant; it is certainly involved now, as are the Saudis.
The Iranians are in a powerful position whatever happens given the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Combine this with a series of regime changes, or simply destabilization on the border of Saudi Arabia, and two things happen. First, the Saudi regime would be in trouble and would have to negotiate some agreement with the Iranians - and not an agreement the Saudis would like. Second, the U.S. basing position in the Persian Gulf would massively destabilize, making U.S. intervention in the region even more difficult.
The problem created by the U.S. leaving Iraq without having been able to install a strong, pro-American government remains the core issue. The instability in the Persian Gulf allows the Iranians a low-risk, high-reward parallel strategy that, if it works, could unhinge the balance of power in the entire region. The threat of an uprising in Iran appears minimal, with the Iranian government having no real difficulty crushing resistance. The resistance on the western shore of the Persian Gulf may be crushed or dissolved as well, in which case Iran would still retain its advantageous position in Iraq. But if the perfect storm presents itself, with Iran increasing its influence in Iraq and massive destabilization on the Arabian Peninsula, then the United States will face some extraordinarily difficult and dangerous choices, beginning with the question of how to resist Iran while keeping the price of oil manageable.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------