- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2000

Beijing softies

Several Air Force generals are so upset over recent Air Force-funded China studies that they are thinking of canceling the service's contract with the Rand Corp., a think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rand's Project Air Force does numerous studies worth millions of dollars annually. We are told the Air Staff was particularly upset by recent Rand reports by Michael Swaine, Rand's resident China expert. Mr. Swaine is a noted soft-liner on China with a reputation for playing down the growing threat from China's military modernization.

What ticked off the Air Force brass was a recent report co-authored by Mr. Swaine titled "Interpreting China's Grand Strategy." The report echoes the pro-Beijing political line of many U.S. China specialists that China will not pose a threat for 30 years.

That view is contrary to numerous classified studies showing China's military buildup is likely to emerge as a threat to U.S. interests in 15 years or sooner. "We paid a million bucks for Chinese propaganda," one general said of the report.

Defense sources told us that Mr. Swaine was summoned to the Air Force's Pacific headquarters in Hawaii and told bluntly that his reports do not reflect any new research on China and are a "rehash" of other work. Pacific Air Force has stopped sponsoring his work.

Mr. Swaine told us he was not criticized in Hawaii but in fact "received a lot of very positive comments" about the study. He also said the report does not dismiss the possibility of a U.S. military confrontation with China over Taiwan before 2030.

One reason the Air Force was so upset with the report: The service is thinking about creating an Air Expeditionary Force a rapid response team of fighters, bombers and support aircraft that could be deployed quickly in the Pacific region. Highlighting the growing threat of a Chinese military attack on Taiwan, which could lead to U.S. intervention in support of the island, will boost support for the new mobile force.

Saving Montenegro

NATO is busy at work planning an intervention in Montenegro should Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic attempt to oust the Western-leaning president. Montenegro and Serbia are the only remaining republics in Yugoslavia.

President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro has raised the possibility of bolting the two-state federation and declaring independence, setting up another confrontation between NATO and Mr. Milosevic's brutal armed forces.

Sources say NATO officials are planning either an uncontested or a forcible intervention, depending on Mr. Milosevic's willingness to take more punishment or acquiesce. A forced entry would involve drawing airborne troops from the United States.

One possible glitch is the topography of the airport in Podgorica, the capital. The only safe pullback route is the ocean.

Good mines

The United Nations remains a bastion of political opposition to land mines, the cause espoused by the late Princess Diana. And most of the U.N. member states, including many NATO allies, stand as vocal critics of the United States for refusing to sign on to the 1997 treaty banning land mines.

The world body now appears to be having second thoughts about the utility of the weapons. U.N. headquarters in New York wants the Pentagon to supply the shattered peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone with 1,200 anti-tank mines for protection against rampaging rebels.

Last week in the West African nation, the rebels captured some 500 Zambian, Kenyan and Indian peacekeepers and took control of 13 armored personnel carriers (APCs), along with weapons and uniforms.

"The U.N. appears to be coming around to understand the importance we attach to protecting our troops in the field with land mines," said a U.S. government official.

The U.N. peacekeeping force is made up of 8,900 troops, including 700 British paratroopers. Some former U.S. Special Forces soldiers also are said to be operating in the country under contract as international military consultants.

What do women want?

The Pentagon's civilian advisory committee on military women recently called on the Navy to begin sexually integrating submarines by putting female officers on missile boats. That's not all that's coveted by the 36-member Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. (DACOWITS)

Its draft report to the services lists makes other demands. Among them:

• Allow women to operate the Army's Multiple Launch Rocket System and to fly its special operations helicopters.

• Attract more women to the Marine Corps.

• Put more bunks for women on Navy ships. Women sailors complain they can't get assigned to combat ships for lack of female berthing.

• Do a better job of providing women's uniforms. Female troops complain of problems with "design, durability, fit, cost and availability."

• A review of each service's policy for discharging pregnant women and any information on education programs that discuss men's responsibility for pregnancies.

DACOWITS also complimented the Army for "its recent progress in promoting women into senior career-enhancing assignments."

Intercepts

• In November 1995, as 20,000 U.S. troops prepared for peacekeeping duty in Bosnia, Gen. Ronald Fogleman, the Air Force chief of staff, had this prediction:

"What we really envision is we'll go in, we'll peak at a given strength and then hopefully we won't wait until the one-year point and then everybody packs up on the 365th day," Gen. Fogleman said. "We will start pulling forces out as we see that we do not need them."

Gen. Fogleman was repeating the Clinton administration's promise of a one-year stay. Today, nearly five years later, Gen. Fogleman is retired and U.S. troops remain in Bosnia, with no end to the mission in sight.

• Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii Democrat, walked back into the House Armed Services Committee hearing room this week just as members completed a vote on a Republican-sponsored amendment.

"Aye," Mr. Abercrombie yelled. As fellow Democrats whispered that he voted the wrong way, the congressman inquired, "Mr. Chairman, can I ask what we're voting on?" He then changed his vote to a "no." The amendment passed.

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