On February 8, 2021, the Financial Times published an op-ed authored by Eric Schmidt titled US’s Flawed Approach to 5G Threatens Its Digital Future. In it, Mr. Schmidt makes a series of claims, but his central theme is that the U.S. is not doing enough to promote our 5G infrastructure and, worse, forcing us to forfeit the U.S.’s dominant position in the race to 5G to China. He even goes as far as to suggest that the U.S. should throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater by adopting a more nationalized approach to 5G vis-a-vis the Department of Defense (DoD) spectrum sharing plan. In this article, I address the most glaring of his assertions to put the 5G debate in the proper context.
Claim: “…China, is already far ahead [in 5G].”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s article does not provide a metric when he says that China is “far ahead.” Based on the article, it appears that Mr. Schmidt might be comparing the two countries in the following ways: 1) internet speeds; and 2) national 5G coverage. In each case the United States is excelling. Although both countries have taken very different approaches to 5G, both countries’ 5G strategies involve blending their 4G/LTE networks with their nascent 5G networks. Hence, it is appropriate to compare the countries’ progress on those measures.
In terms of broadband speeds, China has an average internet speed of just 105.2 mbps where the United States has an average of 124.1 Mbps. In terms of broadband speed, we are far ahead of China. Moreover, a study conducted by Global Wireless Solutions released network performance testing from Super Bowl LV in Tampa and found that all three of the nation’s carriers averaged more than 1 gigabit per second on their respective 5G networks, which for the uninitiated means that we have past light speed and are now entering into ludicrous speed. Hence, we are certainly leading in this area.
In terms of 5G coverage, China appears to be deploying far more infrastructure than the U.S., but basing China’s success in 5G purely on the amount of infrastructure deployed may be misguided. The main issue China is having is making its 5G infrastructure compatible with its 4G/LTE networks. This issue is so prevalent that Huawei’s Ryan Ding described China’s 5G rollout as “fake, dumb, and poor,” because most of the applications China is calling 5G is really just disrupted 4G due to the frequent and sporadic handover between the two networks. This is distinct from the U.S.’s plan where it and its carriers have a slower deployment strategy to ensure that its 5G networks can efficiently interoperate with its 4G/LTE networks. However, China’s aggressive 5G policy should be taken seriously, but we should not assume that China is in fact “ahead” of anyone.
The one place where China may pose a competitive threat is in spectrum. This is because China can more easily clear incumbents from spectrum bands for 5G due to its heavier regulatory control when it comes to property rights. Also, China has much more local zoning control over deployment. It is similar to its government’s control on spectrum where it relies on heavy centralized state control allowing quicker infrastructure deployment without public input. If the U.S. wanted to emulate China’s approach, then Mr. Schmidt is essentially advocating that the U.S. allow the FCC to clear bands with disregard to the property rights of incumbents operating in those bands.
Claim: The FCC’s C-Band Auction is a “digital setback,” because the auction provided “no meaningful requirement to build necessary network infrastructure.”
Response: This criticism is simply untrue. As it relates to its C-Band Order, the FCC requires C-Band licensees to meet multiple performance metrics based off of the service or services the provider wishes to provide. For example, In paragraph 93 of the C-Band Order, the FCC requires licensees in the A, B, and C Blocks offering mobile or point-to-multipoint services must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 45% of the population in each of their license areas within eight years of the license issue date (i.e., first performance benchmark), and to at least 80% of the population in each of their license areas within 12 years from the license issue date (i.e., second performance benchmark). These population benchmarks are actually more aggressive than those for other flexible-use services under part 27 of the FCC’s rules.
There are even performance metrics for licensees providing IoT-type fixed and mobile services on paragraphs 97-99. The C-Band Order requires licensees providing Fixed Service in the A, B, and C Blocks band to demonstrate within eight years of the license issue date (first performance benchmark) that they have four links operating and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, if the population within the license area is equal to or less than 268,000. If the population within the license area is greater than 268,000, the FCC requires a licensee relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate it has at least one link in operation and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, per every 67,000 persons within a license area. The FCC requires licensees relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate within 12 years of the license issue date (final performance benchmark) that they have eight links operating and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, if the population within the license area is equal to or less than 268,000. If the population within the license area is greater than 268,000, the C-Band Order requires a licensee relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate it is providing service and has at least two links in operation per every 67,000 persons within a license area.
Claim: “Future auctions must set stringent build requirements, with penalties for underperformance.”
Response: In paragraphs 102-103 the C-Band Order goes into detail about the penalties for each licensee for not meeting the performance metric. For example, the C-Band Order outlines that, in the event a particular licensee fails to meet its performance benchmark, the licensee will have its license term substantially reduced and, when the shortened term is exhausted, the C-Band Order states that “licensee’s spectrum rights would become available for reassignment pursuant to the competitive bidding provisions of section 309(j) [of the Communications Act of 1934 that articulates restrictions on spectrum license applications] and any licensee who forfeits its license for failure to meet its performance requirements would be precluded from regaining the license.”
Claim: “Pursue alternatives to auctions.”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s statement is myopic as auctions are only one way the U.S. has advanced 5G. His article failed to review or even mention the myriad of 5G policies in place now. In fact, the U.S. has taken an holistic approach to advance our 5G networks through: 1) a series of subsidy programs (e.g., Rural 5G Fund, RUS Fund, USF programs, etc.); 2) clearing spectrum and auctions (e.g., 24 GHz Auction, CBRS, Ligado Order, and, yes, the C-Band auction); 3) granting key mergers (e.g., T-Mobile-Sprint, AT&T-Time Warner, etc.); and 4) lowering regulatory burdens for wireless infrastructure (e.g., 5G Upgrade Order, 5G Small Cell Order, One Touch Make Ready Order, 6409 Order). Again, Mr. Schmidt fails to mention or even allude to these policies focused on infrastructure.
Claim: “The defense department has proposed sharing government-controlled spectrum with commercial providers if they build infrastructure quickly.”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s endorsement of the DoD’s proposal is misguided.As I and others have argued before, the DoD’s blue-chip in 5G is that it sits on most of our Nation’s valuable mid-band spectrum, which is essential for 5G deployment. This is clearly evident from every other countries’ inclusion of these frequencies in their respective 5G plans. This is especially true in the case of China that is a leader in mid-band spectrum deployment for 5G. The DoD’s frequencies in its RFI (i.e., 3450-3550 MHz) are prime “beachfront” mid-band spectrum and are critical to open up for commercial use. This is because U.S. commercial 5G networks are severely lacking in mid-band spectrum; a fact of which the DoD is well aware. DoD’s offer to industry is, thus, enticing, but it comes at a hefty price: every carrier must go through the DoD to access this mid-band spectrum that they all will need to make their networks functional. This is a Hobson’s choice for carriers: either they want a functioning 5G network or not. Hence, they will be compelled to work with DoD if this proposal moves forward. This will most likely translate into the DoD being yet another bureaucratic barrier of entry for carriers looking to deploy 5G, which, in turn, slows down the deployment that Mr. Schmidt says the DoD’s plan will promote.
In his article, Mr. Schmidt makes assertions that are either exaggerated, myopic, or confused on the issues of 5G. We can both agree that China’s growth in the area is concerning. However, the arguments Mr. Schmidt presents regarding our auctioning process are not at all the issue and, ironically, is an example of the U.S.’s success in this technological race.
• • • • • • • • • •
Joel L. Thayer is an attorney with Phillips Lytle LLP and a member of the firm’s Telecommunications and Data Security & Privacy Practice Teams. Prior to joining Phillips Lytle, he served as Policy Counsel for ACT | The App Association, where he advised the Association and its members on legal and regulatory issues concerning spectrum, broadband deployment, data privacy, and antitrust matters. Prior to ACT, he also held positions on Capitol Hill, as well as at the FCC and FTC. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of Phillips Lytle LLP, or the firm’s clients.
Joe Biden largely campaigned on restoring the status quo ante in Washington, so naturally one of his first proposals is for the sort of “comprehensive immigration reform” that was a staple of the pre-Trump years.
George W. Bush pushed a “comprehensive” bill and failed. So did Barack Obama. Biden picks up where they left off, except with a proposal — and this will be a theme — that is further to the left than the prior bills.
The key, if always dubious, promise in past legislation was to implement enforcement provisions before or alongside an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Biden’s plan doesn’t even bother pretending. It discusses upgrading technology at the border, the bare minimum of enforcement window-dressing, while proposing an amnesty for more than 10 million people.
Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.
Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.
It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.
The proposal’s gesture toward stemming the flow of migrants from south of the border is to increase foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We should do what we reasonably can to assist the development of these countries, but we shouldn’t pretend that this is any kind of short-term solution to migration. Even if these countries were to experience more economic growth right away, the immediate effect would likely be to increase migration as more people would have the resources to attempt to come north.
In a move worthy of an apparatchik at Oberlin College, Biden also wants to eliminate the term “alien” from the U.S. code on grounds that this longstanding, perfectly good term is offensive and exclusionary.
There is a good case for a carefully tailored amnesty for the illegal immigrants who have been here the longest, coupled with real enforcement measures like E-Verify and an exit-entry visa system. This is not even close to that.
At least the proposal furthers Biden’s goal of unity in one respect. It should unite Republicans and all supporters of a sound immigration system in determined opposition.
Author: Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
On January 15, 2020, a man of Chinese descent and a U.S. resident in his 30’s, arrived in Seattle from Wuhan. When asked about his contacts in China, he clearly lied to the authorities, as the Chinese Communist Party did to the rest of the world about COVID-19 cases throughout the People’s Republic of China. This deliberate act of President Xi and his despotic party unleashed global suffering and devastation across the globe. Explore the historical constructs and political climate affecting recovery from the Novel Coronavirus, both worldwide and in the United States of America.
It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards for the presumed gradual ‘development’ of more recently joined cadets.
On March 7, 1945, Lt. Karl Timmermann joined a small group of scouts on a rise overlooking the Rhine River and saw that the bridge at Remagen was yet standing. Heroically, he immediately radioed back to his higher headquarters what he had seen.
He had to know what the subsequent orders would be—lead his men into the jaws of death, seize the bridge, and open a path into the heart of Germany. Later that day, he would earn the Distinguished Service Cross for taking that bridge in the face of fierce German resistance
Timmermann was not a West Pointer, but his character and integrity reflected the epitome of the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. He would say later that he only did what was expected of him. He was right.
So too should we expect all West Pointers—indeed, the entire officer corps—to do what is expected of them. Yet cheating scandals at West Point increasingly meet not this unflinching expectation, but excuses and accommodations.
The West Point honor code, the essential character-building element of the Academy’s rigorous four-year program, is clear and straightforward: A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. It is a code that has existed for decades, held sacrosanct by not only cadets but also the cadre that leads them, and the officer corps in which they will eventually serve.
Or is it? The last seven decades have seen three major instances of cheating rings: a football team-centered academic scandal in 1950-‘51, an engineering one in 1976-‘77, and a Plebe (freshman) math one in 2020. The traditional sanction for such behavior was expulsion, but of the three noted above the first was partially overlooked, the second resulted in a year-long dismissal for those involved (of whom most returned to graduate a year late), and the latest—under a system “reformed” in 1977 and again in 2002 giving more discretion to the superintendent of West Point—is yet to be determined.
In late December when the latest scandal broke, USA Today summarized it this way:
More than 70 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were accused of cheating on a math exam, the worst academic scandal since the 1970s at the Army’s premier training ground for officers.
Fifty-eight cadets admitted cheating on the exam, which was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program and will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy. Others resigned, and some face hearings that could result in their expulsion.
The academy’s original statement in response expressed its “disappointment,” a comment often rendered to misbehaving children by a parent. A subsequent letter from the superintendent promised to deal with the matter thoroughly and pledged devotion to a strong honor system.
I trust West Point will do so, but even in that letter, the superintendent cited the default position toward honor violations (and other egregious violations of character and discipline) as the “developmental model.” That model assumes cadets in their early years have not yet had enough time to consider the import of the honor code and its centrality to a cadet’s and an officer’s character. They must, therefore, be educated for the first two years (and perhaps beyond) to ultimately come to terms with it.
Indeed, the letter pointed out that all cadets had been sent home over COVID-19 in March 2020. Although classes continued via electronics, it said, the Plebes who cheated in May (they had entered West Point the preceding July) had been denied the onsite mentoring that would have forestalled it.
Having been given his post the day before, Timmermann had one day to come to terms with his responsibility as a company commander in combat. No one assumed he would need more time. When chosen to command, he was expected to perform, and he did.
West Point still recruits young men and women of talent and character to lead American soldiers in defense of the country. But it now has become a mantra at the academy to point out that society today does not imbue the high standards of integrity for those recruited.
“Eighty percent of high school students today admit to cheating” is a statement often heard at the academy, whose alma mater for more than a century now includes the words “may Honor be e’er untarned.” It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards to buy time for the presumed gradual “development” of more recently joined cadets to take hold.
Is that not the bigotry of lowered expectations? Is it not an insult to those recruited today—a cohort of young people more reflecting the diversity of the nation—to assume that they do not know at the outset the difference between lying and telling the truth, nor recognize that copying an illicitly obtained answer to an exam question is cheating, nor understand that lack of integrity away from West Point is no less damning than a similar failing at the academy?
Indeed, the final part of the West Point Honor Code (“or tolerate those who do”) is no doubt the most difficult part to comply with. It is one thing to maintain your own integrity, another to report a peer who cheats.
But without that final clause, honor becomes a solitary experience, not an organizational coda. If West Point tolerates those who cheat, it violates its own honor system. What does that teach the cadets it seeks to develop—that words describing an ideal may have a nice ring to them, but it is not necessary to abide by them?
Those who decry contemporary American society perhaps assume that generations ago we were peopled by plaster saints and that it would be impossible to maintain once widespread and impeccable value sets. In my view, citizens of quality remain in abundance. West Point can recruit from the best of those and expect the best from them.
Standards there can be reasonably enforced (and expulsion need not be the only sanction) and thereby maintained. These apply not only to honor, but to matters of discipline, professionalism, and the traditions of commitment to the nation and selfless service. Some of the long-term adherence to all of these has occasionally slipped as well, an indication that if we lower expectations and thereby relax standards, we can expect standards to erode.
To maintain high standards, West Point will need the backing of the Army and its political leadership, as well as the support of the American public, who expect the best of those it pays to put through the four demanding years at the academy. It is the latter whose sons and daughters will be led by its graduates and their peers in the officer corps.
As retired Col. Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate, wrote in his excellent book, “Honor Bright,” on the history and traditions of the West Point honor system: “As the Military Academy moves through the 21st century, the Honor Code remains as it has always been, a precious thing, fragile, entirely dependent on each new cohort of cadets to adopt it, make it their own, fiercely protect it, and march forward in its service. That this process shall continue in perpetuity is the heart-felt hope and dream of all those—proud and grateful members of the Long Gray Line—who have shared the privilege of living by its inspiring standard.”
Democratic megadonor bankrolls cause that tanked Dem candidates in November elections
Liberal billionaire George Soros bankrolls a group that advocates abolishing the police. In fact, he funded its launch.
The Foundation to Promote Open Society, a nonprofit in Soros’s vast network, earmarked $1.5 million for the Community Resource Hub for Safety & Responsibility (CRH), according to 2019 tax forms. Those investments funded the creation of the group, whose mission goes far beyond the “defund the police” campaigns that arguably cost Democrats down-ballot. In a research memo for organizers, CRH “reviews alternatives to policing in the context of police abolitionist frameworks, offering insight and sharing successful strategies for advocates in the field.” It also offers a toolkit to help activists defund their local sheriffs—”an essential step towards building more safe and just communities across the country,” according to its website.
A spokesman for Open Society said the group supports CRH’s advocacy.
“Open Society made the initial investments you reference and continues to support the Community Resource Hub for Safety & Accountability to address the harm excessive policing does to communities and promote greater accountability for law enforcement’s actions,” Leonard Noisette, head of the Justice team at OSF, told the Free Beacon.
“OSF supports the exploration and development of alternatives to current policing practices, and the Hub serves as a clearinghouse of ideas and resources to help advocates determine how best to improve police practices in their communities,” Noisette continued. “We defer to communities regarding what alternatives make sense for them, including substantially shifting funding for the current approach to policing/law enforcement into services that address societal challenges while doing less harm.”
Soros made the donation to CRH through the New Venture Fund, which acts as a fiscal sponsor to CRH by providing its legal and tax-exempt status. The fund is managed by Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consulting firm that oversees a massive dark-money network that raked in $715 million from anonymous donors in 2019.
CRH’s overall financial information remains unknown. The group does not have to file individual tax forms to the IRS due to its fiscal sponsorship by the New Venture Fund.
“As a nonpartisan fiscal sponsor, the New Venture Fund provides support to projects with diverse opinions and policy goals,” a spokesperson for the New Venture Fund said.
Soros has funded numerous initiatives aimed at overhauling the criminal-justice system in recent years. His network devoted $70 million in cash last year to local efforts for criminal-justice reform—part of a $220 million initiative for racial equality. His nonprofits also back groups that want to eliminate the death penalty, and he has pushed millions into district-attorney races across the country.
CRH did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment.
In mid-November, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff — I serve as the director — published “The Elements of the China Challenge.” The paper argues that the core of the challenge consists of the concerted efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to reconfigure world order to serve the CCP’s authoritarian interests and aims. It explains the errors that nourished the hope on both the right and the left that economic liberalization in China, coupled with Western engagement and incorporation of Beijing into international organizations, would bring about China’s political liberalization. It describes the characteristic practices of the communist dictatorship, traces China’s brazen programs of economic co-optation and coercion in every region of the world, examines the Marxist-Leninist dogma and hyper-nationalist beliefs that provide the intellectual sources of the CCP’s quest for global supremacy, and surveys China’s vulnerabilities — both those endemic to authoritarian regimes and those specific to the People’s Republic of China. In conclusion, the paper lays out a framework for securing freedom.
Reaction to the paper has been instructive. The Chinese Communist Party responded with ritual denunciation. In contrast, public intellectuals, scholars, and public officials from around the world have expressed appreciation for the Policy Planning Staff’s efforts to gather in one place the evidence of the CCP’s predatory policies, to distill the party’s governing ambitions, and to sketch a way forward for the United States and all nations dedicated to preserving the free, open, and rules-based international order. The best of the American responses to the paper have coupled praise, in some cases grudging, with strictures, sometimes angry, about the paper’s limitations. The domestic criticisms are especially revealing, both for the serious issues they raise and for the misconceptions that they promulgate.Recommended
“The Elements of the China Challenge” has its origins in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reorientation of the State Department — consistent with the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy and a number of other administration documents — around the new round of great-power competition launched by the CCP. The administration’s attention to the China challenge does not entail — as many mistakenly suppose — that the United States must turn its back to the rest of the world. To the contrary, the Policy Planning Staff paper stresses that to counter China’s quest for global supremacy, the United States must renew its alliance system and must reform international organizations so that they serve America’s vital interest in preserving an international order that is composed of free and sovereign nation-states and that is grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Trump administration policy reflects this reorientation. For starters, the administration has led in exposing the CCP’s initial cover up of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent disinformation campaign. The administration intensified efforts to combat China’s massive intellectual property theft. It placed the United States at the forefront of efforts to hold China accountable for gross human rights violations, especially the brutal imprisonment of more than a million Uyghurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang — the United States is the only nation to impose sanctions on CCP officials for these unconscionable abuses. It terminated Hong Kong’s special trading status in the spring, when the CCP crushed freedom in the city. It increased weapons sales to Taiwan, embarked on an inaugural U.S.-Taiwan economic dialogue, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Taiwan on health, science, and technology. It invigorated the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) and, with its strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, affirmed the region’s critical importance. It revamped the Development Finance Corporation and reformed the Export-Import Bank to improve the ability of United States and its allies and partners to invest in other nations’ physical and digital infrastructure. And, the Trump administration has convinced more than 50 countries and counting to join the Clean Network, which promises secure telecommunications — unlike the technology offered by Chinese “national champions” Huawei and ZTE, which are CCP extensions whose hardware and software threaten individual privacy and national security.
By stepping back, taking a broader view, and documenting the pattern and purpose of China’s actions, “The Elements of the China Challenge” explains why these policies are urgently needed, and why much more must be done. And by identifying 10 tasks that the United States must undertake — from restoring civic concord at home to, where possible, cooperating with Beijing based on norms of fairness and reciprocity, and to championing freedom abroad — the Policy Planning Staff paper lays the foundations for refashioning U.S. foreign policy to meet the China challenge.
A common theme of the critics, reputable as well as disreputable, is that the paper falls short of the work of George Kennan, a career foreign service officer who in 1947 founded the Policy Planning Staff and became its first director. At the dawn of the Cold War, Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow and his 1947 Foreign Affairs article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” illuminated the threat to freedom posed by the Soviet Union. The most influential documents produced by a State Department official, they served as sources of inspiration for the Policy Planning Staff, but we did not seek to replicate them since, as Kennan well understood, different challenges and moments demand different undertakings and emphases. Above all, today’s Policy Planning Staff learned from Kennan’s insistence on the combination of “ideology and circumstances” that determines great-power conduct, and took to heart his counsel that “to avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”
As for the disreputable critics, they give no evidence of having read the paper. The Global Times, a daily tabloid and wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party, was first out of the gate. The CCP newspaper dismissed “The Elements of the China Challenge” the day after it appeared as an “insult to Kennan” amounting to little more than “a collection of malicious remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other anti-China U.S. politicians and senators.” At his regular press conference the following day, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denounced the Policy Planning Staff paper as “just another collection of lies piled up by the those ‘living fossils of the Cold War’ from the U.S. State Department.”
It would have been more accurate to refer to “the living victors of the Cold War,” but more telling still is the CCP’s failure to notice that the Policy Planning Staff distinguishes the China challenge from the Soviet challenge. While underscoring that, like the former Soviet Union after World War II, China today presents the foremost threat to freedom, the paper also stresses the distinct forms of power at work. “The Soviet Union,” the paper argues, “primarily enlarged its dominions and sought to impose its will through military coercion.” In contrast, and notwithstanding its development of a world-class military, China “primarily pursues the reconfiguration of world affairs through a kind and quantity of economic power of which the Soviets could only have dreamed.”
Of the reputable critics, Odd Arne Westad, a Yale history professor and China scholar, is among the most distinguished. In a Foreign Affairs essay titled “The U.S. Can’t Check China Alone,” he asserts that the “report correctly sees China as the greatest challenge to the United States since the end of the Cold War, showing how Beijing has grown more authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad.” The paper also, according to Westad, “rightly recognizes how China has tried to gain an advantage by applying economic pressure and conducting espionage — as well as by exploiting the naiveté that causes many foreigners to miss the oppressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Nevertheless, Westad charges, “the report is limited by ideological and political constraints; given that it is a Trump administration document, it must echo President Donald Trump’s distaste for international organizations, even though they are key to dealing with China.” The professor also takes the paper to task on the grounds that it “almost completely ignores the most basic fact about the current situation, which is that the United States can compete effectively with China only through fundamental reform at home.”
A meticulous scholar of Chinese history, Westad imputes to the Policy Planning Staff paper opinions not found there and overlooks arguments it prominently features. It is not true that our paper, as Westad writes, “suggests that it is now in the United States’ interests to destroy and then selectively rebuild existing international institutions.” Rather, the Policy Planning Staff calls for a reassessment of international organizations to determine where they serve freedom and where they no longer advance the objective for which they were created, arguing for reform where possible and the establishment of new institutions where necessary.
Contrary to Westad, moreover, the Policy Planning Staff highlights the domestic foundations of effective foreign policy. Five of the 10 tasks we identify as crucial to securing freedom involve reform at home — from the renewal of American constitutional government and the promotion of prosperity and civic concord to restoring the U.S. educational system at all levels.
Hal Brands, another reputable critic and leading scholar, finds “valuable insights” in “The Elements of the China Challenge.” Despite the juvenile taunt in the title of his Bloomberg op-ed, “There’s No George Kennan in the Trump Administration,” Brands — a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies as well as a Bloomberg columnist — writes that the paper “explains, more completely than any prior U.S. policy document, the sources of Chinese conduct — namely the mix of Marxist-Leninist ideology, extreme nationalism and quasi-imperialism that drives the Chinese Communist Party.” In addition, according to Brands, the paper “shows that China’s objectives are not limited to its immediate periphery, but include fundamental changes in the international system”; it “details the troubling aspects of Chinese behavior, from economic predation to Beijing’s menacing military buildup, as well as the deep vulnerabilities — endemic corruption, inescapable demographic problems, economic instability — that threaten its continued ascent”; and it “outlines reasonable steps America should take to strengthen its position.”
Progressive efforts to staff the nascent administration backfire
On Nov. 2, before the first votes in the presidential election had even been tallied, the foreign policy “experts” from the Blame America wing of the Democratic Party laid out their demands. Foreign Policy described their “wish list,” which included above all else their pick of jobs in the expected Biden administration.
They’d kept their mouths shut for six months and now they wanted their reward. Or, as Foreign Policy put it, they were preparing to “take off the gloves, setting the stage for a public brawl for the party’s soul over policy and political appointments to the most senior positions.”
But Biden’s victory was less sweeping than expected, and as early as Nov. 6, Foreign Policy was reporting that progressives were panicking that the election results would “ease pressure on Biden to offer progressives key positions in the new administration.”
Still, the nomenklatura have pressed on, presenting the Biden transition team with a list of 100 names they must consider for senior jobs in the new administration.
The list’s existence was first reported by Politico, but the Washington Free Beacon obtained the document and published it in full. It includes a rogue’s gallery of fringe figures—anti-Semites, operatives with deep ties to unsavory regimes, and the merely unserious and unqualified.
And it quickly became clear that the organizers did not want the list to see the light of day. The Free Beacon’s publication of the dossier elicited recriminations and finger pointing. List organizers accused the mainstream reporters with whom they’d shared the list—presumably, an accurate one—of leaking the document to their enemies (us). At the same time, they told us we’d obtained an inaccurate copy, representative only of “research materials.” False, unless they were bamboozling us all.
The contretemps is revealing of how quickly the Democratic Party’s progressive wing went from demanding to begging, and of the disorganization and unseriousness of its efforts. Turns out, one mainstream reporter said, that list organizers hadn’t even consulted with several of those named on the list before including their names and résumés without their permission.
Vanquished in the primaries and now at risk of exclusion from the new administration, they are in disarray. A compelling story, if anybody cared to cover it.
Sanctions relief didn't bring stability in 2015. And it won't now
Back in September, Joe Biden described his Iran policy in an op-ed for CNN. After several paragraphs criticizing President Trump, Biden made an “unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Then he offered Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy.” The terms were simple. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal,” Biden wrote, “the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” Sanctions would be lifted. And Biden is sticking with his plan. Recently Tom Friedman asked him if the offer stands. “It’s going to be hard,” Biden replied, “but yeah.”
Sure, Biden admitted, the agreement did not cover Iran’s missile programs, or support for terrorism, or human-rights violations, or malign behavior in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Absolutely, it contained a sunset clause that freed Iran of its obligations, and limited inspections to non-military installations. True, Iran maintained its archive of nuclear weapons research (until Israel revealed it to the world in 2018). And yes, the regional dynamic has changed. But these are secondary issues. “The best way to achieve getting some stability in the region,” Biden said, is “with the nuclear program.”
“Stability” is not how most people would describe the Middle East after 2015. Iran continued to launch missiles and send weapons and rockets to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, and Houthis in Yemen. Iran continued to hold captive U.S. citizens and harass and even detain U.S. naval personnel. Iran continued to harbor al-Qaeda’s number two, until he was killed earlier this year.
The economic benefits from sanctions relief went straight to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its leader, General Qassem Soleimani, used this walking around money to sow murder and chaos before Trump ended his reign of terror last January. The nuclear deal did not bring order to a Greater Middle East where the Islamic State ruled large parts of Iraq and Syria, and where extremist ideologies inspired attacks in America, France, and the United Kingdom.
It is fantastic to think that the Iran deal stabilized anything. But the agreement has replaced the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a kind of philosopher’s stone that, according to the liberal imagination, transmutes ethno-sectarian animosity into peace and toleration. In reality, the benefits of the nuclear deal were just as illusory as the promise of Oslo. Concessions did nothing but embolden the agents of terror.
That’s because negotiations were not conducted in good faith. One side, earnest and idealistic, was willing to pay a steep price to attain its aims. The other side wanted to pocket its gains while dissembling, diverting from, or otherwise undermining the spirit of diplomacy. This cynicism and double-talk isn’t a function of religion or ethnicity. It is a function of regime. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Republic of Iran are autocracies. Neither government respects the dignity and liberty of its own people. There is no reason to assume they would respect ours.
Recent weeks have provided remedial instruction for those unwilling or unable to acknowledge the reality of Iran’s outlaw government. On December 9, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif gave a Persian-language interview in which he said that “America is in no position to set conditions for its return” to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Then he used anti-Semitic slang to express his support for Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “popular referendum” that would decide whether Israel should continue to exist. “We’re not talking about throwing the k—s into the sea, or about a military attack, or about suicide operations,” Zarif said. A simple up-or-down vote should do the trick.
No one in the English-speaking world would have known about Zarif’s comments were it not for the indefatigable translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Needless to say, when his despicable language was publicized, Zarif claimed in a tweet that, ha-ha-ha, he was just joking. “I was mocking the allegation that Iran seeks to ‘throw the Jews into the sea’ and reiterating our solution is a referendum with participation of ALL: Jews, Muslims, Christians,” he wrote. In a favorite trick of demagogues everywhere, Zarif cast himself as the victim, and said it was really his critics who were biased and beneath contempt. How could anyone accuse Minister Zarif or his government of anti-Semitism? It’s not like his supreme leader denies the Holocaust and says Israel won’t exist in 20 years. “MEMRI,” Zarif wrote, “has sunk to a new low.”
It is Zarif who’s hit bottom. Around the time the foreign minister dropped the k-bomb, Iran executed the 47-year-old Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and dissident who had been living in France until Tehran’s agents lured him under false pretenses to Iraq, where they kidnapped and arrested him. Zam’s killing was intended to demonstrate that no Iranian who speaks out against the mullahs is safe. It also sparked an international outcry from the very people whose good opinion Iran needs the most. It’s “another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime,” tweetedincoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses.”
One way to stand up to “Iran’s abuses” would be resisting the temptation to reenter the nuclear deal. Using the sanctions leverage bequeathed to him by Trump, Biden might try linking not only missiles and terrorism but also human rights to a renewal of negotiations. Iranian refusal would not be a “failure of diplomacy.” It would be confirmation that Tehran has no interest in changing its ways. The mullahs understand that the second they relax their grip, or appear weak vis-à-vis America, their government will crumble. Paying them off to abide by an agreement whose terms they set is an evasion. Stability in the Middle East won’t come when America rejoins the JCPOA. It will arrive when the Iranian people put an end to the Islamic revolution.
During the presidential campaign, candidate Biden never spared his words criticizing the Trump administration’s Iran policy, in particular the decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This so-called “Iran Deal” was the signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration, which his successor revoked in May 2018. In its place, the U.S. has been pursuing a “maximum pressure campaign”–if not always consistently–through sanctions, with the goal of forcing Iran back to the negotiating table.
The prospect of a return to the JCPOA fit into the Biden campaign’s general political narrative of returning to the policies of the Obama era. Reestablishing the status quo ante Trump as far as Iran is concerned could additionally contribute to rebuilding trans-Atlantic ties, since the European allies are eager to see the U.S. back in the JCPOA. More broadly, a return would amplify Biden’s stated goal of reasserting an American commitment to multilateralism, by drawing a clean line separating him from the Trump-era unilateralism associated with the program of “America First.” Getting back into the Iran Deal is a likely priority of a Biden agenda.
However, instead of a straight-forward return to the JCPOA, there have been suggestions of the need for an alternative to the JCPOA. Biden has said as much, although sometimes in the form of a two-phase process: a return and then a more expansive agreement or a “better deal.” Many view the JCPOA in its current form as insufficient, failing to address a range of contentious points. Secretary of State Pompeo enumerated twelve terms for an improved agreement in May, 2018, including the return of all U.S. prisoners, ending Iran’s missiles program, and terminating Tehran’s destabilizing regional foreign policy.
Yet for the credibility of American foreign policy broadly–with Iran, in the Middle East and globally–it would be a grievous mistake to pursue any agreement that does not give significant attention to a file that the Obama-Biden administration largely disregarded: human rights. Iran is major violator of international human rights norms. This is no secret, certainly not to the U.S. government. On the contrary, the U.S. reports on human rights abuses regularly. Leaving human rights out of the prospective negotiations with Iran would be an indefensible betrayal of the Iranian people as well as American ideals.
Rights have been looming larger in American foreign policy recently. The Trump administration’s treatment of China has increasingly called out human rights abuses, while the Department of State under Secretary Pompeo has underscored the importance of human rights, including with its Report on Unalienable Rights. The Biden administration will have to decide if it will continue this emphasis on rights or whether it will revert to the ignoring of human rights, which Secretary Kerry excluded from the so-called “comprehensive” Iran negotiations.
It is important to highlight the egregiousness of Iran’s human rights violations, even if space here permits for only the shortest of summaries, drawing on U.S. government sources.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the State Department issues annual reports on human rights in all countries. The 2019 report on Iran gives prominent attention to the violent suppression of last year’s protest movement: “In response to widespread protests that began November 15 after a fuel price increase, the government blocked almost all international and local internet connections for most of a week, and security forces used lethal force to end the protests, killing approximately 1,500 persons and detaining 8,600, according to international media reports. There was no indication government entities were pursuing independent or impartial investigations into protester deaths.” Astonishingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg; the report also describes systematic abuse of human rights by the Iranian regime, including–but not limited to–the use of torture and other degrading punishments, arbitrary arrests, unfair trial procedures, inhuman conditions in prisons, politically motivated arrests and punishments, and a systematic abuse of migrants, refugees and stateless persons.
A separate report prepared by the Office of International Religious Freedom treats Iran’s parlous record in this arena. The Iranian Constitution defines the country as an “Islamic Republic,” with special privileges reserved for Islam; the only other faiths allowed are Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, but with strict limitations on their practice. There is no genuine religious freedom. Conversion by Muslims to other faiths is prohibited, and proselytism of Muslims is a capital crime. Non-Shia Muslims, especially Sunni, face discrimination as do members of the Baha’i community in particular. Non-Muslims are excluded from serving in parliament, except for five (out of 290) seats reserved for the permitted minorities. The mandatory prioritization of Islam plays out as well with regard to clothing rules for women: “The government continued to require women of all religious groups to adhere to ‘Islamic dress’ standards in public, including covering their hair and fully covering their bodies in loose clothing – an overcoat and a hijab or, alternatively, a chador (full body length semicircle of fabric worn over both the head and clothes). Although the government, at times, eased enforcement of rules for such dress, it also punished ‘un-Islamic dress’ with arrests, lashings, fines, and dismissal from employment. The government continued to crack down on public protests against the compulsory hijab and Islamic dress requirements for women. International media and various human rights NGOs reported the 24-year prison sentence on August 27 of women’s rights activist Saba Kord Afshari for her involvement in protests against the compulsory hijab.[…] In April authorities arrested three anti-forced-hijab activists, Mojgan Keshavarz, Monireh Arabshahi, and her daughter Yasaman Ariyani, for their widely shared video via various social media networks on March 8, International Women’s Day, depicting the women handing out flowers in the Tehran metro while suggesting to passengers that the hijab should be a choice. According to Human Rights Watch, on July 31, branch 31 of Tehran’s revolutionary court sentenced each of them to five years in prison for ‘assembly and collusion to act against national security,’ one year for ‘propaganda against the state,’ and 10 years for ‘encouraging and enabling [moral] corruption and prostitution.'”
In addition, the State Department’s annual report on Trafficking in Persons details Iran’s shameful record, at odds with international norms, involving human trafficking for labor, prostitution, and participation in Iran’s foreign military forays. It describes “a government policy or pattern of recruiting and using child soldiers, and a pattern of government officials perpetrating sex trafficking of adults and children with impunity. Government officials continued to perpetrate and condone trafficking crimes with impunity, both in Iran and overseas […] In addition, the government failed to identify and protect trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and continued to treat trafficking victims as criminals, including child sex trafficking victims. Victims continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, such as prostitution and immigration violations.”
These three government reports provide more details, as do the accounts provided by NGOs, especially Human Rights Watchand Amnesty International. Trigger warning: some of the accounts are graphic and heart-wrenching, particularly with regard to the mistreatment of political prisoners and Iran’s use of torture.
There is no doubt that Iran is an egregious human rights violator, and it is equally certain that the U.S. government is well aware of this. Therefore, if the Biden administration insists on reopening negotiations with Teheran, it has an obligation to put human rights on the table: no sanctions relief without human rights reform. In addition to pursuing an end to Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons, the U.S. should insist that Iran comply with international human rights norms. If Washington does not do this, no one else will. A reasonable program could include points such as these:
In terms of internationally recognized norms, these are all reasonable policy goals; others could surely be added. In terms of the reality of Iran, achieving these goals would represent a profound amelioration of the lives of the Iranian people. In terms of decades of American policy and statute mandating the pursuit of human rights, these are exactly the sorts of goals the U.S. should pursue, especially in light of the leverage the existing sanctions program provides.
If Washington fails to raise human rights concerns in the pending negotiations with Iran, it will squander this leverage, and it will lose credibility to raise the question of rights toward any other regime, in the Middle East and beyond. Cynics, realists and pro-regime Iran lobbyists will dismiss these human rights concerns as fabricated, marginal to disarmament concerns, or matters of legitimate “cultural difference.” Yet an American administration intent on laying claim to global leadership should integrate them firmly into its foreign policy agenda.
Life lessons from the dissident, politician, and activist
Natan Sharansky has been a computer scientist, a chess player, a refusenik, a dissident, a political prisoner, a party leader, a government minister, a nonprofit executive, and a bestselling author. He never expected to be a school counselor.
But the coronavirus dashes expectations. In early March, when the virus began to appear in Jewish communities outside New York City, Sharansky found himself online, in an unaccustomed position. He began to share with students and parents whose schools were closed how he had coped during years in confinement.
“At first, it seemed absurd, even obscene,” Sharansky writes in his latest book, Never Alone, coauthored with the historian Gil Troy. “How could my experience of playing chess in my head in my punishment cell compare to being cooped up in gadget-filled homes wired to the internet—with computer chess—especially because this isolation is imposed to protect people, not break them?”
What Sharansky realized is that the costs of lockdowns do not depend on the reasons behind them. The sudden and seemingly arbitrary interruption of individual plans, movements, and relationships causes psychological harm. Sharansky recorded a brief YouTube video for the Jewish Agency—you can watch it here—offering his five tips for quarantine. Recognize the importance of your choices and behavior, Sharansky advised. Understand that some things are beyond your control. Keep laughing. Enjoy your hobbies. Consider yourself part of a larger cause.
“Surprisingly,” Sharansky writes, “this short clip went viral, reaching so many people all over the world within a few days that it made me wonder why even bother writing this book.” His reaction was another example of his droll and often self-deprecating wit. The video, however helpful it may be, does not match the power and wisdom of Never Alone. Part autobiography, part meditation on Jewish community, the book ties together the themes of Sharansky’s earlier work, from his prison memoir, Fear No Evil (1988), to his defense of cultural particularity, Defending Identity (2008). It is a moving story of emancipation and connection, of freedom and meaning.
Sharansky was born in 1948 in the Ukrainian city of Stalino. His given name was Anatoly. His parents were educated professionals who downplayed their Jewish identity. They did not want to risk political and social reprisal. “The only real Jewish experience I had was facing anti-Semitism,” he writes. The precocious youth spent his early years playing chess. He learned to navigate a Soviet system that maintained its rule through fear. He became captive to doublethink. He repeated official lies and myths not because it was the right thing to do, but because it was the safe thing to do.
Sharansky enrolled in the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. “I dived into the republic of science,” he writes. “This world seemed insulated from the doublethink I had mastered at home.” Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War prompted him to discover his heritage. “Realizing how little I knew about this country that so many people were now asking about made me hungry to learn more.”
Sharansky studied representations of Biblical scenes hanging from the walls of Moscow’s galleries. He came across a samizdat copy of Leon Uris’s Exodus, a potboiler historical fiction that describes Israel’s founding. “It drew me into Jewish history, and Israel’s history, through my Russian roots. It helped me see myself as part of the story.”
The following year the Soviet nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov wrote his “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom.” Sakharov argued for freedom of inquiry. He demanded the protection of human rights. “Sakharov was warning that life in a dictatorship offers two choices: either you overcome your fear and stand for truth, or you remain a slave to fear, no matter how fancy your titles, no matter how big your dacha,” Sharansky writes. “Ultimately, I couldn’t escape myself or my conscience.”
Inspired by Sakharov, Sharansky applied for a visa to immigrate to Israel in 1973. He was rejected. He was unable to leave the Soviet Union. That made him a refusenik. “My life as a doublethinker, which I had consciously begun at age five the day Stalin died, was over. The professional world I had built for myself, my castle of science, collapsed instantly. Now, I could say what I thought, do what I said, and say what I did.”
The twin concerns of Sharansky’s life—identity and freedom—became fused. “Democracy—a free life in a free society—is essential because it satisfies a human yearning to choose one’s path, to pursue one’s goals,” he wrote in Defending Identity. “It broadens possibilities and provides opportunity for self-advancement. Identity, a life of commitment, is essential because it satisfies a human longing to become part of something bigger than oneself. It adds layers of meaning to our lives and deepens the human experience.” Freedom offers choice. Identity provides direction.
It would be a while before Sharansky could enjoy his own freedom. By 1975, he was working with Sakharov. The next year he formed the Moscow Helsinki Group to pressure the Soviets to live up to the commitments they had made in basket three of the Helsinki Accords. The KGB arrested him in 1977. “I spent the next nine years in prison and labor camp,” he wrote in Fear No Evil, “mainly on a special disciplinary regime, including more than 400 days in punishment cells, and more than 200 days on hunger strikes.”
In prison he played chess games in his head. “I always won.” He would tease the guards with anti-Soviet jokes. He was not afraid. What could they do—put him in jail? He communicated with his fellow inmates through morse code. They would drain the toilets and speak to one another through pipes. He read Soviet propaganda esoterically, between the lines. He figured out what was actually going on by determining what the authorities had omitted.
Sharansky was in prison when he heard that President Ronald Reagan had called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.” The year was 1983. Reagan had uttered the famous—and controversial—words in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. “It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it,” Sharansky said in a 2004 interview. “For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s ‘Great October Bolshevik Revolution’ and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution—Reagan’s Revolution.”
Sharansky and his wife Avital had been apart since her immigration to Israel the day after they married in 1974. Throughout his imprisonment she worked tirelessly on his behalf, and on behalf of other refuseniks and dissidents. She found an ally in Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Benjamin Netanyahu. She met with Reagan, who began asking Soviet leaders to release Sharansky. Gorbachev freed him on February 11, 1986. He was reunited with Avital in Frankfurt Airport. They flew to Israel. “‘It was just one long day,’ Avital sighed later that night, in our new home in Jerusalem. ‘I arrived in Israel in the morning. You arrived in the evening. It was just one very, very long day in between.’”
He became Natan. He entered Israeli politics. He helped resettle one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He opposed the Oslo peace accords. He resigned from Ariel Sharon’s government over the policy of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. His work as an activist was devoted to building what Reagan had described as “the infrastructure of democracy.” Sharansky distinguished between free societies and fear societies. “The structural elements that enable democratic societies to respect human rights—independent courts, the rule of law, a free press, a freely elected government, meaningful opposition parties, not to mention human rights organizations—were all glaringly absent in fear societies,” he wrote in The Case for Democracy (2004).
Sharansky’s career resists summary. It offers lessons in courage, freedom, justice, belonging, and hope. What makes his example especially relevant is his insistence that freedom and identity, liberty and tribe, are not just compatible but codependent. “To have a full, interesting, meaningful life,” he writes in Never Alone, “you have to figure out how to be connected enough to defend your freedom and free enough to protect your identity.” The same puzzle confronts nations. “Benefiting from the best of liberalism and the best of nationalism, together we can champion the joint mission to belong and to be free as both central to human happiness.”
Governments establish the conditions of liberty. But identity must come from below. The most positive and enduring sources of identity are not found in politics. They are located in civil society. The institutions of family, faith, and community tell us who we are, what we want, where we should turn.
People are antecedent to government. And they must remain so, if democracy is to survive. This is the unforgettable teaching of Natan Sharansky, hero and champion of freedom.
In this highly divided era, it is worth noting that missile defense enjoys strong bipartisan support not only in the halls of Congress but also among the American people. The reason is clear — the world is a dangerous place, and our enemies are pursuing missiles with greater range, greater speed, and greater maneuverability. Iran, North Korea, China, and other nations are developing weapons designed to avoid interception, deploy better decoys, and jam defensive technologies. Missile defense is what stands between those efforts and devastating attacks and destruction, and America’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a highly capable defensive system against intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missile attack.
But because our enemies are constantly trying to improve their ability to attack us, we must constantly improve our ability to defend ourselves. The current GMD system is quite impressive, but if left unimproved, it would become outdated over time and leave us vulnerable to attack. Thankfully, the Department of Defense (DoD) has continued to be as committed to improving GMD as our adversaries are to improving their offensive missile systems.
Unfortunately, the DoD is considering a strategic mistake that may undermine its commitment to missile defense: taking over the engineering, development, and integration of the GMD program from private industry. This would reverse decades of successful American innovation, replace private sector innovation with government bureaucracy, and put our nation and allies at risk.
Historically, the DoD has defined the goals and objectives of various defensive weapon systems — whether it is fighter jets, bombers, missile systems, high tech radars, or the GMD program. But the DoD has not actually done the engineering, development or integration of those technologies. Instead, DoD has harnessed the innovation and know how of America’s best and brightest engineers and rocket scientists to do the actual work of developing, designing, and integrating.
This is the approach that NASA used to go to the moon and bring our astronauts safely home again — something that even 50 years later, no other nation has done. This is the approach that the DoD has used to build the world’s best fighter jets and bombers, the world’s most capable naval ships and submarines, and virtually every other impressive and complex technology that our warfighters use to keep our nation and our allies safe.
DoD’s proposed change would put the government in the position of being the primary engine of innovation. Government is important and performs many crucial functions to our civil society, but innovation is not typically its strong suit. The government has overcome its innovation deficit by harnessing the innovative expertise of America’s best and brightest engineering minds. There is a lot of complex engineering and a great deal of innovative energy that integrates the various component parts of missile defense. There are multiple stage rockets, multiple radars, other tracking systems, and a highly complex “kill vehicle” that includes very precise tracking technology as well as rocket technology to steer the vehicle to the exact spot that will vaporize the incoming warhead. This is no small feat as our system hits and destroys the incoming missile at a closing speed of more than 15,000 miles per hour.
The DoD cannot do this job nearly as well as Boeing, which has been innovating GMD since the program’s inception. Boeing has been primarily responsible for GMD system-level performance and integration, which includes development, fielding, testing, systems engineering, integration, manufacturing, training, operations, and sustainment. The DoD should not willingly undercut and lose that experience and expertise.
To be blunt, if DoD takes over this role, we can almost certainly count on a less robust, less effective missile defense system. The DoD didn’t design and build the planes that won World War II or the nuclear deterrent that has protected America since the 1960s. The DoD didn’t build and design the radars that protect our troops or the ships and submarines that protect our nation. Many private firms responding to the DoD’s request for innovative approaches did all of that. And we didn’t land on the moon because NASA designed and built the Saturn V rocket or the lunar module, or the Apollo space capsule. Again, a large number of private firms did that at the request of NASA and with government defining the mission and goals.
Our national defense strategy has historically combined the goals of government with the innovation of the private sector, and the results have been the world’s most robust and capable defensive system. There is no good reason to abandon what works and replace it with the national defense equivalent of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. With missile threats growing, we can’t make careless mistakes that put millions at risk.
Albert Einstein is said to have thought that God does not play dice with the universe. Two nations, Russia and the United States, now possess about 90 percent of the world’s inventory of nuclear warheads and have the godlike power to destroy most of humanity and all it has built. Yet we are not gods but flawed human beings. In a very real sense, the presidents of Russia and the United States are stewards for all humanity: They have a duty to act responsibly in current arms-control negotiations. “Get on with it” must be humanity’s instruction to them.
In recent days, there has been a glimmer of hope. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to extend the life of the nuclear accord known as New START by at least one year beyond its expiration date of Feb. 5, 2021. Russia also agreed to accept the U.S. proposal for a political commitment to “freeze” for one year the total number of nuclear warheads on each side, and to use the time gained to continue negotiations on a new agreement. The Trump administration is seeking to negotiate verification measures for the warhead freeze, which in our experience will be a complex endeavor and take considerable time.AD
The United States and Russia should seal the deal now to extend New START, because if the last remaining bilateral treaty governing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces ends in February, the world’s most destructive nuclear arsenals will be unlimited and unverified for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
Despite the significant progress of reducing total nuclear stockpiles by 75 percent since their Cold War heights, the danger of nuclear weapon use is growing. Approximately 14,000 such weapons in the world are spread among nine countries. Many of these arms are on high alert, ready to be launched in only a few minutes, based on the decisions of a handful of fallible humans and their fallible computers. Cyber-interference with command-and-control and the warning systems of any nuclear-armed nation significantly increases the risks of false warnings and nuclear war-by-blunder.
New START must be extended without delay, but it is now threatened by a risky game of chicken being played by Presidents Trump and Putin. Skillful diplomacy between the United States and Russia could extend the life of the agreement by up to five years, as provided for in the treaty, and as Russia offered last year. This would allow precious time for negotiating deeper reductions in the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has insisted on the inclusion of China, whose military programs are growing rapidly, in future nuclear negotiations. The goal is laudable, but China must be persuaded to join, not bullied by diplomatic stunts and threats. Beijing has made clear that it first needs to see substantial reductions in the stockpiles of both the United States and Russia, which far exceed its own.AD
The United States, Russia, China and other nuclear powers need time to address the range of destabilizing factors that threaten to turn a conditional peace into an irreparable catastrophe. As a first significant step, China could be invited to join the United States and Russia in restating the Reagan-Gorbachev principle: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
The Trump administration’s pursuit of a freeze on all U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads is also an important goal, but it will take time to develop an agreement with meaningful constraints and verification provisions. Russia has its own list of issues to be addressed in the next treaty. Extending New START would provide essential time for a careful, step-by-step approach to further stockpile reductions, with the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons as a threat to the world.
With the foundation of New START in place, all of the two countries’ nuclear weapons — including those associated with short-range systems, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, of which Russia has a larger number — should be subject to limits. But the United States and Russia will have to invest the time and effort necessary to establish new verification methods. Other long-standing issues will need to be discussed in parallel, including ballistic-missile defense; weapons in space; precision-guided, long-range conventional arms; and emerging technologies, including cyber.AD
Is there reason for hope? Can the world get onto a less dangerous path? We believe the answer is yes, but the United States and Russia must extend New START to preserve what is already working and to gain time for discussions about what can be done next.
Given the dangerously high risk that a nuclear weapon could be used today, and the catastrophic consequences if that happened, extension of New START is a crucial and responsible step.
Just over a week ago, Emanuel Macron said he wanted to end ‘Islamic separatism’ in France because a minority of the country’s estimated six million Muslims risk forming a ‘counter-society’. On Friday, we saw yet another example of this when a history teacher was decapitated in the street on his way home in a Paris suburb. Samuel Paty had discussed the free speech in the classroom and shown cartoons of Mohammed. Some parents had protested, leading to a wider fuss – and, eventually, his murder. M Paty was murdered, Macron said, “because he taught the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.” The president is now positioning himself as the defender of French values, determined to drain the Islamist swamp.
That Macron even gave an anti-Islamism speech was itself a sign of how fast the debate is moving in France. Five years ago, when Fox News referred to ‘no-go zones’ in Paris, the city’s mayor threatened to sue. Now we have an avowed centrist like Macron warning that the ‘final goal’ of the ‘ideology’ of Islamism is to ‘take complete control’ of society. Anyone making such arguments just a few years ago would have been condemned by the left as an extremist. Macron is promising a law on ‘Islamist separatism’, restricting home-schooling of Muslims and demanding that Islamic groups in receipt of French state funding will have to sign a ‘secular charter’.
But if he’s serious, why stop there? A week before his speech, for example, there was a stabbing outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which France’s interior minister described as an ‘act of Islamist terrorism’ and a ‘new, bloody attack against our country’. It would be brave and powerful to put up a monument in memory of people who were killed by the Islamists while fighting for freedom of speech: perhaps a statue of the Charlie Hebdo team or my late friend Theo van Gogh. At the statue’s unveiling, Macron might refute the false notion — increasingly widespread today — that scrutinising Islamism and Islamists is an act of ‘Islamophobia’. Defending universal human rights is an act of compassion, not a ‘phobia’; failing to make this point only leaves an opportunity for the real bigots of the far right.
In his speech, Macron also said that the ‘challenge is to fight against those who go off the rails in the name of religion… while protecting those who believe in Islam and are full citizens of the republic’. If he really means this, perhaps he could provide security and support to those French Muslims courageously speaking out against radical Islam? He could also support those French Muslims who seek to modify Sharia, historically contextualise the Sunnah (traditional Muslim practices) and establish a meaningful boundary between religion and state by challenging doctrinal purity. In the effort to combat the extremists, it is vital to distinguish the Muslims pushing for real change from the Islamists with silver tongues. A great many French Muslims are fighting against the Islamists, and Macron could do far more to support them.That he even gave an anti-Islamism speech was a sign of how fast the debate is moving in France
The battle of ideas against Islamism will, of necessity, be a long one and if he hopes to succeed Macron must ensure that French civil society and philanthropic foundations are fully engaged in this effort. He should disband subversive Islamist organisations that lay the ideological groundwork for violence, while calling on his fellow European leaders to do the same. It’s amazing how many of them, even now, prefer to avoid the topic.
He might also strengthen immigration laws to ensure that French civic values are taken into account in admission decisions. Those admitted to the Republic from abroad should be told to embrace the French notion of social cohesion, which means they cannot embrace separatism or Islamism, or belong to organisations that do.
Existing laws should be used more too. Not so long ago, an Algerian woman who refused to shake hands with male officials at a French naturalisation ceremony was denied citizenship as a result. Islamists can, in this way, be served notice that France is not their natural home.
French law allows the government to reject naturalisation requests on grounds of ‘lack of assimilation, other than linguistic’. So in the spirit of this law, Macron should start to repatriate asylum-seekers who engage in violence or the incitement of violence — particularly against women.
In foreign policy, he could tackle the ideological extremism that is disseminated by the governments of Qatar and Turkey — among others — through their support of Islamists, Islamist foundations and communitarianism in Europe (including France). He could take a much stronger stand against the Iranian regime — bilaterally as well as at the EU level — for its hostile activities on European soil, its vicious cruelty towards its own population and its efforts to export revolutionary Islamism throughout the Middle East. This would also mean further strengthening France’s ties to Israel, the UAE and Egypt and demanding that Saudi Arabia stop funding Wahhabi extremists abroad.
France’s corps diplomatique still possesses exceptional historical and linguistic knowledge of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This could be used to counter the activities of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Tablighi Jamaat, Hezbollah, Hizb ut-Tahrir and their many branches and offshoots. Macron says his Bill will ‘dissolve’ Islamic groups whose principles clash with those of the French Republic. He can do so by cutting off the financial flows from foreign powers to the Islamist organisations within France.
Macron is right: Islamic separatism does indeed threaten to turn France into two nations. But if the problem is to be addressed, the French people need to be shown that the President has the guts not just to call out radical Islam — but also to take real, practical steps to defeat it.