News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Riley Murray.

1. Remarks by President Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference

2. Three Wars, No Victory – Why? By Bing West  

3. COVID conspiracy shows vast reach of Chinese disinformation

4. Estonian Intelligence: Russians will develop deepfake threats

5. Anti-Asian crimes a disgrace to US, must be stopped: US lawmakers

6. U.N. Report Accuses Blackwater Founder Erik Prince of Libya Weapons Ban Violations, Diplomat Says

7. U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters

8. Solzhenitsyn & the engine of history by Robert D. Kaplan

9. Biden Wants to Restore NATO. Macron Is Looking to Move On.

10. Biden Defends Democracy at Summits With European Allies, Seeing China as ‘Stiff’ Competition

11. Analysis | Biden sends an international message about democracy that resonates here at home

12. Trans-Atlantic ‘Quad’ prepares for new Eastern center of gravity

13. A strong offense can decrease cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

14. Will the Quad Evolve and Embrace Taiwan?

15. U.S. alleges wider Oath Keepers conspiracy, adds more defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

16. ‘This Crap Means More to Him Than My Life’: When QAnon Invades American Homes

17. How to Wage a Counterinsurgency Against Organizational Culture

18. When Government Intelligence Agencies Encounter Nonstate Competitors

19. Biden to order review of U.S. reliance on overseas supply chains for semiconductors, rare earths

20. The US Puts Its Greatest Vulnerability on Display

1. Remarks by President Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/19/remarks-by-president-biden-at-the-2021-virtual-munich-security-conference/

We will be studying and parsing these remarks for some time to come.

Key excerpt (among many):

Historians are going to examine and write about this moment as an inflection point, as I said.  And I believe that — every ounce of my being — that democracy will and must prevail.  We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world.  That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission.

Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.  We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.  We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history; it’s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.  And if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, I know that we’ll meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.

Is there any American who can argue with the above statements?

I like how Nicholas Burns summaries the President’s speech in this tweet:

This President Biden speech frames the major issue squarely:  we must compete with autocracies—China and Russia—and defend democracies when they are challenged.  The democratic world needs to be confident in its global role. @RNicholasBurns

My tweet in response: Simple, clear, and concise. But as Clausewitz said. “in war everything is simple, but even the simplest thing is hard.” Defending our democracy and democracies around the world is going to take a lot of hard work. But it must be done. Now let’s get to work.

2. Three Wars, No Victory – Why? By Bing West  

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2021/03/08/three-wars-no-victory-why/ – by Bing West

Conclusion:

Of the three wars, only in Vietnam did the popular mood, as reflected in the press and in congressional votes, play the final, pivotal role in the failure.

In Iraq, by 2011 our military had established a solid path forward, as long as our troops remained the stabilizing force. In 2012, however, policy-makers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by peremptorily withdrawing our troops, allowing the terrorists to reconstitute and resulting in a mess by 2021. 

In Afghanistan, our security objective post-9/11 was to destroy the terrorist movement. That goal has been largely achieved. But the White House overreached by widening the mission to include nation-building. Our military commanders and the policy hub share equal responsibility for refusing to acknowledge that this was too ambitious. A self-sustaining democratic nation was achievable only if, as in South Korea, we were willing to stay in large numbers for 70 years. 

What lies ahead? Clearly we should be pivoting to deter China, and not to engage in another counterinsurgency. In terms of military strategy, the Marine Corps has emerged as innovative in shifting its focus accordingly. The capital investments, however, of the Navy and Air Force do not reflect a pivot to offset China. The Trump administration, while antagonizing our allies, did awaken the public hub to the threat of China’s ambitions. But if failure in our past three small wars tells us anything, it is that the policy hub emanating from the White House has grown too confident of its own quixotic infallibility, unchallenged by a divisive Congress that is supine in matters of war. When America is not determined, we lose. There is no sign that the policy hub has the humility to grasp that existential fact.

3. COVID conspiracy shows vast reach of Chinese disinformation

Philadelphia Inquirer · by ERIKA KINETZ

In case anyone missed this.

4. Estonian Intelligence: Russians will develop deepfake threats

euractiv.com · by Samuel Stolton · February 18, 2021

And China.  And Iran.  And north Korea. And nefarious non-State actors.

5. Anti-Asian crimes a disgrace to US, must be stopped: US lawmakers

koreaherald.com · by Yonhap · February 20, 2021

What is wrong with us as Americans? Why do we do this? Why do we allow our fellow citizens to do this?  Paradoxically due to COVID 19 my Asian American wife and daughter are minimizing their exposure to these potential racists in public.

That said I do not think any laws will prevent these crimes that are perpetrated by ignorant racists.  And we need to be careful in passing laws that overreach and actually play into the narratives of extremists (and foreign entities conducting malign activities and disinformation) who foment this type of behavior.

Congressman Kim is correct here: “Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey underscored the need for a whole-of-nation approach to address the issue, saying, “This problem cannot be addressed by any single level of government.”

6. U.N. Report Accuses Blackwater Founder Erik Prince of Libya Weapons Ban Violations, Diplomat Says

WSJ · by Jared Malsin

Excerpts:

The role in the effort of companies based in Dubai also highlights Mr. Prince’s close ties to the United Arab Emirates and its ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed. Mr. Prince has been linked to a range of mercenary efforts on behalf of the Emirates, including an effort to combat Somali pirates, according to a previous U.N. report. The U.A.E. also has been a key military backer of Mr. Haftar, sending air defenses, armed drones, ammunition and airplanes to support the militia leader’s campaigns, according to multiple U.N. reports. Mr. Prince visited Abu Dhabi in recent weeks, according to the diplomat.

The U.N. report, the diplomat said, also accuses Mr. Prince of violating a U.N. Security Council resolution by failing to provide information about the alleged violations of the arms embargo when contacted by the Panel of Experts.

In addition to naming Mr. Prince in the report, the U.N. Panel of Experts is also expected to separately refer Mr. Prince to the United Nations’ Sanctions Committee, which will make a decision about whether to impose an asset freeze or travel ban to be implemented by individual countries including the U.S., the diplomat said.

7. U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters

The Washington Post – by Spencer S. Hsu and Devlin Barrett – February 20, 2021

A couple of wild and crazy guys (apologies to Steve Martin for appropriating that phrase – I of course do not mean it from a humor perspective).

8. Solzhenitsyn & the engine of history by Robert D. Kaplan

newcriterion.com · by Robert D. Kaplan

A useful weekend read.  We can learn so much from Solzhenitsyn.

I do collect Solzhenitsyn quotes (such as this one).  “Even the most rational approach to ethics is defenseless if there isn’t the will to do what is right” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Conclusion: In his first book, published in 1957, titled A World Restored, the young Henry Kissinger wrote that “the most fundamental problem of politics . . . is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness.” It is self-righteousness that lies at the heart of most tyrannies: the belief that only you and your side are moral and on the right side of history, making your opponents immoral, and therefore not only wrong but illegitimate. This was what the vast anarchy across the whole of Russia, every detail captured in quasi-fictionalized manner by Solzhenitsyn, finally wrought. Solzhenitsyn was a conservative because he believed in tradition. And because he believed in tradition he also believed in moderation, all of which made him a great humanist. His Red Wheel warns still of the future, with all its terrifying technological and ideological innovations.

9. Biden Wants to Restore NATO. Macron Is Looking to Move On.

defenseone.com · by Kevin Baron

I suppose history does rhyme.  It is not like France has not moved on from NATO in the past though obviously the conditions and Macron’s intent are different now.

10. Biden Defends Democracy at Summits With European Allies, Seeing China as ‘Stiff’ Competition

WSJ · by William Mauldin

Excerpt: “Mr. Biden said he doesn’t want conflict between blocs of nations. “Competition must not lock out cooperation on issues that affect us all,” Mr. Biden said. “For example, we must cooperate if we’re going to defeat Covid-19 everywhere.”

11. Analysis | Biden sends an international message about democracy that resonates here at home

The Washington Post – by Philip Bump – February 19, 2021

Analysis from a political party perspective in Europe and the US. 

12. Trans-Atlantic ‘Quad’ prepares for new Eastern center of gravity

asia.nikkei.com – by Ken Moriyasu

What is the word for when two “Quads” are added together?

13. A strong offense can decrease cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

The Hill · by Michael Hayden, Tom Ridge, John Shkor and Mark Montgomery · February 19, 2021

Here here.

Excerpts:

President Biden intends to impose consequences on the actors behind the most recent cyberattacks on U.S. businesses and agencies. And the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act establishes a much-needed, Senate-confirmed national cyber director within the Executive Office of the President to direct and coordinate a “whole of government” response.

The departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Treasury, Commerce and the United States Trade Representative and Director of National Intelligence now should be tasked with developing a full array of sanctions and consequences that can be levied against malicious cyber actors.

Improving our ability to repel cyberattacks is important, but our overall cyber strategy must also include a strong offensive capability and the will to use it whenever and wherever necessary.

14. Will the Quad Evolve and Embrace Taiwan?

The National Interest · by Jagannath Panda · February 17, 2021

Yes, this is probably one of if not the most, complex issues for the Quad.

15. U.S. alleges wider Oath Keepers conspiracy, adds more defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

The Washington Post – by Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner – February 19, 2021

Again, this will play right into the narratives of extremists if this is not handled correctly.

16. ‘This Crap Means More to Him Than My Life’: When QAnon Invades American Homes

Politico – by Anastasia Carrier

Perhaps the most dangerous cult and ideology in American politics today??? I still have hard time believing that people can really believe in the QAnon conspiracy theories. 

17. How to Wage a Counterinsurgency Against Organizational Culture

fromthegreennotebook.com · by Benjamin Ordiway · February 20, 2021

Excerpts:  

In summary, behaviors regress to the organization’s cultural mean. Leaders would do well to invest their time to move the mean toward the 20% of moral multipliers. Reinvesting your time in these true, quiet professionals will make your organization’s portfolio more resilient by raising the overall culture’s commitment to the organization’s values. You will foster a culture of defensive stocks, which will isolate the organizational insurgents, possibly preventing them from becoming toxic assets.

Moreover, viewing these exemplars as organizational change agents and messaging their example may, like preventative maintenance, deter organizational insurgents. By swaying the intermediate population toward a culture of commitment, leaders increase the certainty that bad actors will be held accountable for their misdeeds. After all, organizational insurgents likely avoid interacting with moral multipliers. To shape organizational culture is to wage a counterinsurgency against the 10% by investing time in the 70% by, with, and through the 20%.

Parting thought: crises are opportunities. They reveal the underlying assumptions at work in organizations. They signal to leaders where they’ve been spending too much time and where they haven’t invested enough. When you are not facing a crisis, do you proactively invest your time in your moral multipliers to ultimately recruit the influenceable intermediate and bring about a positive return? Or, do you spend your time on the organizational insurgents, perpetually reacting to the symptoms of an organizational culture that you, in part, fostered by neglecting your best stocks?

18. When Government Intelligence Agencies Encounter Nonstate Competitors

This is an important excerpt and show the value of nongovernmental actors (and it is also why I am such a strong believer in open source information and obtaining such information from not only the press but all from non-governmental actors):

  • Creativity. Nongovernmental actors unbound by bureaucracy can be more innovative in ways that traditional spy agencies at times struggle with. The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a U.S. nonprofit, has combined its unique accesses to North Korean escapees with publicly available satellite imagery and other open-source information to publish visually evocative details about North Korea’s vast detention system. Some of these revelations have never before been disclosed publicly and reportedly informed U.S. officials’ understanding of — and policy toward — the notoriously opaque country.

When Government Intelligence Agencies Encounter Nonstate Competitors

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/when-government-intelligence-agencies-encounter-nonstate-competitors – by Sam Lichtenstein

19. Biden to order review of U.S. reliance on overseas supply chains for semiconductors, rare earths

CNBC · by Thomas Franck, Kayla Tausche · February 18, 2021

As we must.

20. The US Puts Its Greatest Vulnerability on Display

defenseone.com · by Kori Schake

From one of our most serious national security thinkers.

A brilliant conclusion but is it too naive to think we can change in this way?  We could not in 1861.

“Ultimately, though, Americans will have to choose to do these things, which means we will have to repair the culture that underlies and shapes our politics. As Lincoln concluded in 1838, “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy.” What the country needed instead, he argued, was “general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws.” How to get there is the problem. But Americans have to expect a lot more than the status quo from our government and ourselves.”

The fundamental questions we should be asking ourselves as Americans: Is our democracy worth protecting and sustaining? Are we willing to commit to its defense and put the greater good ahead of bankrupt extreme political agendas?

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

– William James

 

“Simply put, the [Kim family] regime has become a criminal syndicate with a flag, which harnesses its state resources to steal hundreds of millions of dollars.”

– John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, on North Korea

 

“The essential thing is action. Action has three stages: the decision born of thought, the order or preparation for execution, and the execution itself. All three stages are governed by the will. The will is rooted in character, and for the man of action character is of more critical importance than intellect. Intellect without will is worthless, will without intellect is dangerous.”

– Hans von Seeckt

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