If the U.S. is truly planning for a competition with China, it will need to plan for a long-term effort. The planning should be clear about who and what are opposed, what the U.S. expects from China to avoid conflict escalation, the minimal acceptable change it seeks from the Chinese government, and how far the U.S. is willing to go.
It’s time we ditch the two percent (or any percent) of GDP metric for allied defense spending and focus on what really matters—capability, capacity, readiness, and interoperability. In the end, it’s not about how much of our allies’ economic output is directed to defense, and this metric does little to incentivize the results we want to see.
In Washington, military alliances have become an end in themselves rather than a means to security; an icon for worship, instead of a policy with costs and benefits worth weighing. Permanent defense guarantees inflate U.S. military costs, makes rich states into enfeebled dependents, and heightens the danger of getting pulled into needless wars. It should be obvious that U.S. alliances should serve U.S. security interests. But if alliances are permanent, U.S. security interests serve them.
We recognize that the magnitude of the threats posed by malicious cyber activity leads people to look for a big, bold, visible sign of change. Creating a U.S. Department of Cybersecurity is not the answer. We cannot stovepipe thinking about cybersecurity into one centralized place or approach. The threat is so pervasive and so severe that it requires a recognition that a change in thinking is necessary for everyone operating an enterprise.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), colloquially known as the “Ban Treaty,” is hailed by supporters as the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons states, including the United States, have criticized the treaty on its shortcomings as a legal instrument for disarmament. Beyond this criticism, the United States has done little to engage with the Ban Treaty or its supporters. But ignoring the Ban Treaty is a bad idea that will exacerbate the divide between nuclear and non-nuclear states and could lead to a dangerously uneven pace of international disarmament.
In October 2018, leaks revealed that the White House was considering banning Chinese students from entering the United States. Then in late November, Reuters reported that the Trump administration may step up vetting measures of Chinese students. Yet, for an administration promising to compete more effectively with China, this is a particularly counterproductive proposal, not only on legal and ethical grounds, but also from a purely competitive standpoint.
It’s bipartisan Washington gospel that America’s private sector will deliver the innovation the country needs. However, at the front-end of an era of rapid, disruptive technological change in which global competition is heating up, such expectation is increasingly a bad idea without a far more strategic, centralized, and White House-driven approach to the challenges ahead.
As U.S. sanctions on Iran are re-imposed, questions loom within and outside the United States. Past unilateral sanctions against Iran have been perceived as unsuccessful, and the Trump administration’s resumed reliance on this controversial economic tool as the main driver of its strategy raises several questions. Are these sanctions doomed to fail? Is hinging U.S. strategy almost entirely on economic sanctions the most effective way to counter the Islamic Republic? Will Iran find ways to subvert not just economic sanctions but other U.S. countermeasures as well?
Without a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, which is still a longshot, a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious risks. Chief among them would be the resurgence of terrorism and the deterioration of human rights—including women’s rights—that come with a Taliban victory. A precipitous exit from the country might be worse than the status quo.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, preceded by wide debate, is enjoying a honeymoon of sorts. Domestically, it received strong support and close to full funding while internationally, it has received strong support from allies. However, controversy over the NPR may be just around the corner. There needs to be strong bipartisan commitment to nuclear infrastructure and delivery system modernization as well as arms control.