Obama to troops: you’ll have gear and strategy; Was Mattis pushed out? Drones get extended discussion; Sinclair to enter plea today, and more.
- By Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.
Obama made a bold case for embracing climate change, ensuring equal rights for all people, and reaching out to friend and foe alike. Analysts believe he was had countries like Iran on his mind when he talked about the end to "perpetual war" and the beginning of engagement with "sworn enemies." Obama, during his inaugural speech: "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well. We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to ABC’s Martha Raddatz, translates after the speech: "I think it does mean that we’re going to have to work with other countries to develop the kinds of alliances and partnerships that bring other countries into the challenge of how we preserve peace. It just can’t be the U.S."
Obama, at the Commander in Chief’s Ball: "I want you to know that when I was standing on the steps of the Capitol today, looking out at close to a million people, the single biggest cheer that I always get, and today was no different, at my inauguration, was when I spoke about the extraordinary men and women in uniform who preserve our freedom and keep our country strong. So know that every single day we are thinking of you; we’re going to make sure you got the equipment, the strategy, the mission, that allows you to succeed and keep our country safe; know that we are going to be looking after and thinking about your families every single day and when you get back home you will be greeted by a grateful nation."
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Was Mattis pushed out? Speaking of Iran, some in and out of the Pentagon believe the CENTCOM commander, Gen. Jim Mattis, is leaving his post early — March, perhaps, instead of August when his three-year tour would be more likely to end — in part because he is seen as having bellicose views toward Iran than don’t square with those of the administration. Best Defense’s Tom Ricks outlines the reasons why pushing Mattis out now, if indeed that is the case, is wrong:
"Timing: If Mattis leaves in March, as now appears likely, that means there will be a new person running CENTCOM just as the confrontation season with Iran begins to heat up again. Civil-Military signals: The message the Obama Administration is sending, intentionally or not, is that it doesn’t like tough, smart, skeptical generals who speak candidly to their civilian superiors. In fact, that is exactly what it (and every administration) should want. Had we had more back in 2003, we might not have made the colossal mistake of invading Iraq. Service relations: The Obamites might not recognize it, but they now have dissed the two Marine generals who are culture heroes in today’s Corps: Mattis and Anthony Zinni. The Marines have long memories. I know some who are still mad at the Navy for steaming away from the Marines left on Guadalcanal. Mattis made famous in Iraq the phrase, ‘No better friend, no worse enemy.’ The Obama White House should keep that in mind."
In a follow-up post over the weekend, Ricks writes that disagreements between Mattis and the White House, and perhaps in particular National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, weren’t just about Iran, but also about Afghanistan and Pakistan and the U.S. response to the Arab Spring. Read Ricks’ back-and-forth with NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor. http://atfp.co/UFDc5y
Sinclair’s arraignment starts tomorrow. The proceedings against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, charged with sexual misconduct and other offenses, begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 22 at the Fort Bragg courthouse. Sinclair was a commander in Afghanistan, had five combat tours, and now faces prison time if convicted on some of the most serious charges against him, which include forcible sodomy, wrongfully engaging in inappropriate relations, and fraud. He is set to enter his plea today, according to the AP. http://huff.to/TfgTGT
Sinclair faces Col. James Pohl, who has presided over some of the military’s highest-profile cases, including trials of the 9/11 planners, the men who attacked the USS Cole, and the soldiers accused of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, according to the Fayettville Observer. http://bit.ly/VPsdb1
Former DNI Dennis Blair and CFR’s Micah Zenko (also an FP columnist) talk drones today. The two will be on a conference call at 11 to talk drone strike policies, how they’ve affected U.S. security interests, and how Obama should reform drone ops in the future. Zenko believes that current policies may be radicalizing local populations and increasing the number of terrorists. Zenko points to a connection between the number of radicals in Yemen and U.S. drone operations there. Zenko: "[T]here appears to be a strong correlation in Yemen between increased targeted killings since December 2009 and heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to [al-Qaeda]."
Zenko’s special report, "Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies," here: http://on.cfr.org/13gavzN
Watch Dave Deptula talk drones on PBS tomorrow night. Deptula, according to a NYT review of the PBS program, "Rise of the Drones," says: "Where we are in terms of unmanned aerial vehicles is about the same place we were with biplanes right after World War I."
The NYT: "It’s an eye-opening statement because, based on what is shown in the program, the current state of drone technology is pretty astonishing. The episode looks at the use of drones for reconnaissance, spying and killing, detailing these different types of unmanned planes now in use and dropping in on a training exercise. And it explores the controversy surrounding the planes, which have been credited with killing some top terrorists but have accidentally killed civilians as well. The planes, as several experts note, are dramatically speeding up the World War II-era timetable of intelligence gathering and laboriously planned bombing runs, and in the process are altering the very definition of warfare."
NYT listing and mini-review: http://nyti.ms/10CWiOV
- Foreign Affairs: Why Japan’s government will keep its cool. http://fam.ag/UPikci
- The Age: Chinese colonel raises nuclear spectre. http://bit.ly/VhHLqs
- BBC: UN Security Council nears North Korea rocket solution. http://bbc.in/V3jPBM
- Afghanistan Analysis Network: Pre-1979 origins of Afghan conflict. http://bit.ly/11Hw7H8
- HuffPo: Prince Harry, returning from Afghanistan, says he killed Taliban. http://huff.to/11MZtnr
- Global Times: Four local Taliban leaders arrested. http://bit.ly/XvUPDC
The Arab Winter
- Al-Monitor: U.S. spared hard choices in Egypt. http://bit.ly/WiYBAm
- New NYT: Japan makes overture to China over islands. http://nyti.ms/WEvHvi
- All Africa: Eritrean troops mobilize against apparent coup. http://bit.ly/VPA2xr
- CNN: American hostage killed in siege "really, truly felt safe" there. http://bit.ly/10Cnbmb
- The Guardian: Mali: Five facts. http://bit.ly/10mU4yp
- The Independent: Terror in North Africa: are Westerners pulling the strings? http://ind.pn/TbL0yU
- Duffel Blog: Zero Dark Thirty actor prepared for role by founding al-Qaida cell. http://bit.ly/142JDDR