Cyber Strategy – Different From A Shooting War

Big hack of pretty much everything in Ukraine this morning: internet, power plants, government. I wrote this post before that happened, but it applies.

The Obama administration was in an extremely difficult position after learning about Russian hacking of last year’s election. Several factors came into play: the difficulty of dealing with international cyber attacks, intransigent Republican partisanship, and the decaying relationship with Russia. I’m going to break down those factors into at least two posts.

Cyber attacks present a national security problem different from any encountered before. Lumping them into a designation of “cyberwar” projects assumptions of conventional war onto them and distorts the difficulties and possibilities. I haven’t seen much analysis of these differences and how they affect strategy. Please point me to them, if they exist. Most punditry assumes that cyber attacks can be equated to war, and numerous opinion articles have referred to the Russian hacks as a form of war. In this post, I will consider only that part of last fall’s situation. A later post will consider the political ramifications. Read More

Links – February 6, 2017

It’s hard to know how to deal with every day’s tsunami of Trump news. On the one hand, much of it affects US foreign relations and some the nuclear part of that. On the other, the administration lies and backtracks so much that it’s tempting to blow off much of it. The sheer volume of leaks, much of it on gossipy trivia, is tempting as a focus. The leaks themselves, as well as much of their content, indicate that White House operations are chaotic, and the bureaucracy is mostly resisting the crazier demands. Steve Bannon is much too influential, and President Trump isn’t reading what he signs.

There are hundreds of articles that I might link by the standards I’ve used in the past. But I don’t have that kind of time, and neither do you. It’s not a bad idea to check the New York Times or the Washington Post daily; both are doing a good job of covering the chaos. (Yes, I would complain about their campaign coverage too, but there are too many other things to do now.) I’ll try to present articles that help with thinking out how to deal with a presidency gone wrong, and foreign policy news that may be getting lost in the furor. Maybe some fun, too.  Read More

Links – January 13, 2017

As I’ve noted before, Donald Trump’s strategy seems to be to keep enough balls in the air that we can’t keep track of any of them. And other sources are now lobbing some balls into the mix. These links don’t include much about the Trump – intelligence community – Russia dustup now occurring. I’ll try to address that separately (or at least present what I consider the better links). Here’s an FAQ for now. Read More

Negotiating Via Tweets

Donald Trump is very proud of his abilities as a negotiator. His brilliance in that field was a constant subject of his speeches during the campaign, and he continues to remind us. Since the election, he has shaken up the rest of us with tweets and actions that seem to signal enormous changes in foreign policy. Most of us do not have the constitution to deal with a parade of days like yesterday, but it looks like this will be the case for the next four years. Where we become exhausted, Trump seems to gain energy from the uproar. As we become exhausted, it will be easier to tolerate what we cannot if we want America to continue as a democracy. So it’s important to understand and counter what Trump is doing. Read More

Foreign Relations As Bar Fight

The New York Times mongers some more war: Muted U.S. Response to China’s Seizure of Drone Worries Asian Allies.

It’s possible they don’t think that’s what they’re doing. Is it competition for clicks? Inability to get enough mental distance from the Washington “blob” that Obama has said he would like to change?

The assumptions behind the idea that a significant public response is necessary to real or imagined slight are the same as those behind bar fights. “You looking at me funny?” No slight can be allowed to pass without retribution. The veneer of a rationale is that a show of force is necessary to prevent future bad behavior. However, political science has shown again and again that states behave in their best interests, which usually have little to do with the behavior of others. Here’s one of many good articles on that subject. Read More

Slowing Down The Trump Carnage

Let’s look at the ways the worst intentions of Donald Trump and the Republican Party might be thwarted in the next four years. Not to lull ourselves into inaction, but to figure out where they can be stopped most easily and prioritize resistance. I’m not trying to minimize the dangers, just focusing elsewhere. Looking at these speedbumps can also encourage us to focus and move forward, as we recover from the shock of the election. This is only a selection of the difficulties to be faced in ripping up the domestic and foreign arrangements that have worked reasonably well over the last half-century or so. Read More

Preparing For The Worst

One of my precepts is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. It’s served me well. Donald Trump’s policies are unclear because of his lies, rapid turnarounds, and obfuscations. The people he is appointing look like the worst is possible, but the American government has a number of ways to slow that down and perhaps stop it. The silence of senators and representatives, both Democrat and Republican, is a bad sign.

People who have studied how nations become dictatorships see many warning signals. Listening to them and taking their advice is part of preparing for the worst. I’ve hesitated to push their material because it is so alarming, but this piece by Masha Gessen and a talk by Timothy Snyder convinced me that I should write this post. Read More