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The Week in Strategy 12-18 February 24



The Dysfunctional Superpower

Can a Divided America Deter China and Russia?


By Robert Gates

Foreign Affairs - November/December 2023




Robert Gates argues that partisanship is threatening national defense by preventing a unified response to international threats. He highlights how the U.S. faces simultaneous challenges from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, yet political divisions hinder coherent strategies. Gates stresses the importance of bipartisan support, as seen during the Cold War, to address current threats effectively. He points to the dysfunction in Congress, budget issues, and political polarization as key obstacles undermining U.S. defense capabilities and global leadership, emphasizing the need for strategic vision and action to maintain national security and deter adversaries.





Bottom Line:


Former Secretary of Defense well known for his honest assessment provides a frank portrait of political disfunction inhibiting politicians from forming coherent political objectives and processes to defend the country.




NATO’s Silver Lining Playbook

On Ukraine, Western officials say things are bad, but they could be a lot worse.


By Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch F

February 17, 2024

Foreign Policy.



The article from the Munich Security Conference emphasizes a cautiously optimistic view among NATO members about Ukraine's ability to resist Russia's advances, despite recent setbacks. NATO officials, including the U.S. ambassador to NATO, express confidence in Ukraine's resilience and downplay the severity of Russian territorial gains, pointing out the high cost to Russia in terms of casualties and resources. There's emphasis on the collective support from allies and partners beyond NATO and the EU, highlighting the significance of continued assistance in various forms, including military aid, air defense systems, and economic sanctions against Russia. The U.S. position remains supportive of Ukraine and NATO, advocating for sustained aid and strategic assistance to counter Russian aggression. The narrative counters pessimism by illustrating Ukraine's strategic use of resources, resilience in holding the front lines, and the impact of Western military and economic support.





Bottom Line:


Pessimists lose wars.  Realists prepare for them.  NATO members are not prepared but are putting on an optimistic face even though Russia could defeat Ukraine and go onto threaten Europe in a very real way.  Where is U.S. Congress?  Can America be counted on anymore?





A Biden Doctrine for the Middle East

Is Forming. And It’s Big.


Thomas L. Friedman

Jan. 31, 2024

New York Times




The article outlines a potential "Biden Doctrine" for the Middle East, focusing on a three-track strategy: a strong stance on Iran, promoting a Palestinian state, and a U.S.-Saudi security alliance, with Israeli normalization contingent on progress towards a demilitarized Palestinian state. It highlights the challenges Israel faces in Gaza, with Hamas's actions leading to significant civilian casualties and international scrutiny. The doctrine aims to address regional stability, counter Iran's influence, and foster a viable Palestinian state, potentially reshaping Middle Eastern geopolitics and U.S. foreign policy.





Bottom Line:


President Biden should take a three-pronged attack to deter Iran, offer the Palestinians hope for a better future, and build closer ties between Israel and the Arab states.  Any of these could fail, but failure is guaranteed if none of them are pursued.



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