March-April 2006

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 36, Number 2, Jerry Strope, Editor

“Look, if you [the Chinese] are not transparent as you grow and you become more influential, and you add to your military, you will recognize that others are going to res-pond . . . in ways  that build their defenses.”          

 Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, March 21, 2006 

In This Issue:

A New Asian Strategy
To Bomb or Not To Bomb
And For the Defense
A Cry in the Night?
Whither FEMA?

A New Asian Strategy

  According to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, the Bush Adminis-tration has adopted “a bold new strategy” to counter the rise of the China threat. The strategy involves a defensive buildup of forces in Asia.

  The buildup includes changes in deployments of aircraft-carrier battle groups, the conversion of nuclear-missile submarines (boomers) into boats loaded with cruise missiles, and the basing of bombers closer to targets in China.

  The island of Guam in the western Pacific is a key element in the plan because strategic bombers deployed there can reach targets throughout Asia within three hours. A total of $5 billion is being spent to improve this US territory for ships, submarines and bombers. Others have noticed this and the little tyrant of North Korea has already protested the deployment of strategic bombers to Guam.

  The buildup by the Air Force in Asia includes plans to upgrade Anderson AFB in Guam so B-1 and B-2 bombers can be based there for faster deployment. The bomber forces will be part of Air Expeditionary Forces that are moved there on temporary but regular deployment.

  Much of the force enhancement involves naval weaponry. The Navy is revising the operating methods of aircraft-carrier battle groups in ways that will double their ability to project power, according to Mr. Gertz. Once transformed in two to three years, the Pentagon can dispatch four carrier battle groups at once in Asia. In the past, because of maintenance schedules and crew limitations, only two carriers were battle ready on short notice.

We mourn the passing on April 8 of Richard Rasmussen in Orem Utah. Dick was director of the CD Staff College at Battle Creek.

  Other planned naval enhancements in Asia include the deployment to Guam of attack submarines and perhaps as many as four converted boomers. The latter may be outfitted with up to 150 cruise missiles and may also be used to move special operations forces covertly to conflict areas in Asia.

  Admiral Michael Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, said concerns about China are “fairly significant, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s growing.” To meet the challenge, the Navy will add one more carrier battle group to its Pacific Fleet. Additionally, it is shifting 60 percent of its submarine forces to Asia in the next few years.

  Missile defenses also play a role in the new strategy. The current system, which was initiated to stop long-range missiles from North Korea, will be augmented in the coming years, both through US en-hancements and by development of a Japanese missile defense system. The Chinese general who threatened to send a missile at Los Angeles some years ago may soon realize the task is too difficult.

To Bomb or Not To Bomb

   The above heading was on the cover of the Weekly Standard, the most-read newsmagazine in the White House, on the April 24 issue. The target: Iran. The topic was popular throughout the news media, both here and abroad since the UN Security Council demanded on March 29 that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, and Iran’s president responded in mid-April by announcing Iran was successful in enriching uranium.

  As we go to press, Russia and China have blocked US efforts to start drafting sanctions against Iran. Deputy foreign ministers from Russia, China, the US, France, Germany, and Britain met in Moscow to discuss a response to Iran’s announcement it had successfully enriched uranium but they came to no conclusions. Russia and China insisted that any decision on action should await April 28, the deadline for Iran to comply with the Security Council demand that it stop its nuclear activity.

   Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadin-ejad has shown little inclination to order a halt to the nuclear program. “Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase. We say: ‘Be angry at us and die of this anger.’” Iranian officials added that if nuclear sites were attacked, Iran would send 40,000 trained suicide bombers against American and British targets.

  Ahmadinejad is obviously “crazy”, according to an editorial in the San Francisco Chronical. He’s already called for the annihilation of Israel and he believes that an imam who died centuries ago is about to return to rule the world. Now he is practically daring the US to use force to stop his nuclear program. Doesn’t he realize that he is “playing right into the hands of the hawks within the Bush administration?” Much of the media pictured the Bush administration as eager to go to war with Iran. A big splash was made by an article in The New Yorker by Seymour Hersch that alleged that the Pentagon has plans to use tactical nuclear weapons to get at the uranium enrichment equipment hidden in underground sites. [Does the US have any tactical nukes left in its inventory?]

  The leader of the bombing-won’t-work camp is the Atlantic Monthly where James Fallows did a “war game” last year that proved to his satisfaction that stopping Iran from going nuclear by bombing was a hopeless task. He is joined by most of the liberal press. Their point is that we just don’t know where all the Iranian nuclear program facilities are located, only those that have been disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog agency that is about to report to the Security Council on Iran’s compliance with the cease-and-desist order. That is true but it is also true not all facilities need be hit, only a few—and we know where the uranium enrichment facilities are. Most official and semi-official estimates are that Iran won’t get the bomb until 2010 but Ahmadinejad let slip recently that Iran is working on a much more advanced centrifuge than the one in use. That means the bomb is further off, they are probably having problems with the Pakistani centrifuge and they don’t have a backup facility hidden away.

   That the Pentagon has war plans for dealing with Iran goes without saying. It would be an egregious failure if it didn’t. Those plans probably don’t look at all like those “gamed” by Fallows or Hersch or those others. My guess is they don’t start bombing the centrifuges. It is more important to destroy Iran’s ability to employ weapons beyond its own borders. So, in my plan the USAF destroys the IAF, establishes control over Iranian air space, and destroys their missile launch capability including those mobile Scud launchers. The USN uses its cruise missiles and battle groups to destroy the Iranian ports from which those fancy high-speed torpedoes we saw on TV would come, establish control of the Straits of Hormuz so nothing comes out of or into Iran. The Army and the Marines would close the land border as necessary. Then we would negotiate. It probably would be a quick negotiation for several reasons, all associated with Iranian oil. China and Japan would be howling for oil, you and I would gasp at the gas prices, and the Iranian public would be starving.          .

And For the Defense

  The US is close to completing a deal that will result in the creation of a third ground-based missile interceptor site in Europe. The candidate nations for the site that will hold 10 high-speed missile interceptors are Poland, the Czech Republic and Britain, according to Bill Gertz. Negotiations for the site have been underway for some time and more than $100 million is already authorized for the site, which is to be part of the global US missile defense system now oriented toward Asia.

  The system of interceptors and sensors now has eight ground-based interceptors located at two US sites—Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg AFB in California. The European interceptor base will provide defenses against an Iranian missile attack on Europe or possibly against the US if Tehran builds intercontinental missiles in the future.

  Russia is expected to oppose the European interceptor base, viewing it as a threat to Moscow’s missile force although what is 10 interceptors to Russia’s still thousands of warheads?

A Cry in the Night?

  You have seen that view from space showing South Korea brightly lit and the North missing in the dark of night? With the US and the world preoccupied with Iran, North Korean radio came alive on April 1 with a statement that they did have nuclear weapons and had the missiles to use them on. Preemptive strike is not a monopoly of the US, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said, in a belligerent runup to discussion of the stalled six-nation nuclear negotiations, stalled since November in a dispute over US sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for currency counterfeiting and money laundering. Washington is “paying no attention” to the talks, the spokeman said, adding that President Bush would be wise to pursue nuclear cooperation with North Korea as he has with India!

Whither FEMA?

  On April 26, the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Susan Collins of Maine and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, held a news conference on a draft report of the findings of the Committee’s Katrina hearings. The full committee has not debated nor voted on the draft recommendations. Thr New York Times cites the conclusion as: FEMA was so fundamentally dysfunc-ional during Hurricane Katrina that Congress should abolish it and create a new disaster-response agency from scratch. The new agency would still be part of DHS but more powerful, assuming functions from other parts of DHS and having a budget twice that of FEMA.

   That the FEMA replacement would be kept in DHS is no great surprise as Sens. Collins and Lieberman are godparents of the massive department. The proposal will have to get in line behind others.  

  Prompted by questions about the response to Hurricane Katrina, legislation that would change FEMA’s location in government is pending in both the House and the Senate. Nine such bills have been introduced so far. Of these, seven would reestablish FEMA as an independent agency. Four such bills were introduced on September 6 and 7 , 2005, just a week after the disaster—HR3656, HR3659, S1615 and HR3685. HR3656 was introduced by Rep. John Dingell of Michigan. His bill would make FEMA an independent agency reporting to the President and it would transfer from DHS the federal emergency management personnel, assets and liabilities. The FEMA director would be an Executive Level I (same as a Department Secretary) appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The deputy director would be a Level II. Both nominees would have to have “significant experience in emergency preparedness, response,” and the like.

  It is useful to consider S1615, which was introduced by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, for two reasons: It is nearly identical to the Dingell House bill and it was joined on February 16,2006, by a nearly identical bill introduced by Senator Trent Lott, making the bills bipartisan and perhaps satisfactory to the White House. It is not forgotten that Secretary Chertoff flew off to a bioterrorism conference on August 30, 2005, while people in New Orleans were drowning in the Ninth Ward.