- - Thursday, August 8, 2019

Getting out of Afghanistan, leaving the INF treaty, Iran’s nuclear program, dealing with North Korea and China are perhaps the most significant national security “issue sets” of the day. However, many will continue past the 2020 election.

The Trump administration is dealing with these matters with the most reality and efficiency seen in Washington since the Reagan administration. However, the “realities” of these complex matters continue to have both positive and negative aspects for us:

• Leaving Afghanistan will basically concede that region to Taliban/ISIS/tribal rule and most experts understand this. In short, it will be similar to how the Vietnam War “ended,” when we left Vietnam and basically conceded the South to the North. As long as we understand this reality, it is a sound move to get our troops out of Afghanistan.

• Leaving the INF Treaty was long overdue. The Soviets — now Russians — sign arms control agreements to control/limit our military capabilities and not their own. The agreements they negotiate are replete with built in “cheating scenarios” and written in two “equally authentic” languages facilitating unilateral interpretations that violate even the most basic terms of the treaties.

We see this with their goofy explanations and denials of cheating in both the INF and START agreements — cheating on arms control is a very basic policy of Russia and former KGB thug Putin.

• Iran has had a nuclear weapons program for many years, a poorly kept secret. Do they have the technology to make nuclear weapons? For sure. Have they produced the necessary “special nuclear material” they need to do it? Seems little doubt about this either. Could they build a nuclear weapon with a high degree of confidence that it would work — without testing it? Good question. Has Little Kim already tested one for them? Even better question perhaps.

If they perfected nuclear weapons would they actually use them, or allow them to be used by the many radical terrorist factions they have long supported? It seems an unacceptably high risk that this could happen —  because fanatical Iran is not likely motivated by traditional “mutual assured destruction” or “MAD” concepts.

This is why our policy — through Democratic and Republican administrations — has long been that “Iran will not be permitted to develop nuclear weapons.” Could this also mean pre-emptive strikes? Another good question, and one with a large international consensus if it was necessary.

• North Korea will likely not give up its nuclear weapons and we are seeing the same behaviors from “New Kim” that we saw from his corrupt family regime. Perhaps a reality Mr. Kim would respond to is the “nuclearization” of the Pacific region. 

For example, if Japan and/or Australia (or others in the Pacific region) began to seriously consider nuclear weapons — or establishing joint nuclear arrangements with us — China might actually “take custody” of Mr. Kim’s nukes. Meantime however, China will continue to be totally complicit with Mr. Kim’s aggressive behaviors: Each missile and nuclear test Mr. Kim conducts is with the express permission/approval of China.

• China has been in an undeclared war with us and the West since the 1950s and regards Americans as “fat, lazy and stupid.” And they steal us blind: This includes masses of our exploitable personal data, technology and intellectual property — they always have and always will. The only factor motivating them in these matters and in trade disputes, is money — money in the form of fines, penalties, sanctions and tariffs which sharply reduce their profits. Accordingly, our leverage with China is simple: They have to trade with us and they know it.

• As far as dealing with the Chinese in arms control/national security discussions, we must realize that they view deception as the most important and basic concept of their long-term war with us. For example, do we know — or will we ever know — how many nukes the Chinese have? I think not, and we also could never believe information they provided about their nuclear weapons. Sun Tzu’s famous quote on the “Art of War” is that “all warfare is based on deception.”

Little of significance may happen with these matters (excepting Afghanistan and INF) until after the 2020 election, this because the “other parties” to these dynamics believe they will get a better deal with a new administration.

In other words, dealing with Mr. Trump is something none of them prefer to do — but that aspect demonstrates the important leverages we have now, and we should continue to use them. And, if there are “breakthroughs” with these matters before the 2020 election, it will likely be the result of determinations that Mr. Trump will win in 2020, and China may have already determined this. However, for China, even 2050 is “short-term planning” for their worldwide geopolitical, economic and military ambitions.

• Daniel Gallington served in a series of senior national security policy, intelligence and arms control positions.

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