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Jennifer McArdle and Patrick Cheetham
As India and the U.S. prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington at the end of the month, a reexamination of the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership goals are in order. India and the U.S. have outlined pillars to their strategic relationship—security, economics and technology, regional strategic and political issues, and global issues. Yet, there is a need for concrete initiatives to help bolster these cooperative goals. Space, particularly collaboration for orbital debris remediation, could provide India and the U.S. the mechanism to enhance cooperation, demonstrate leadership, and combat a persistent and indiscriminate threat to all space-faring nations.
The strategic importance of space is without question. The National Space Policy of the United States asserts that space provides unique assets for the conduct of military operations, as well as an increasing array of objects that support life capabilities such as telecommunications and GPS. As an emerging space power, India is keen to build its space capabilities. India’s space program, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is a source of great national pride. While, India and the U.S. have some prior space collaboration—mutually cooperating on the Chandrayaan I (India’s first unmanned lunar probe), providing assistance for India’s first human space flight, and just yesterday, announcing an Indo-U.S. Joint Mars Working Group—there is a need for more bilateral space synergy.
Orbital space debris poses an indiscriminate, constant, and ubiquitous threat to space traffic management. According to NASA, hundreds of millions of space debris particles currently congest near Earth orbits; 21,000 that are over 10cm in diameter, and 500,000 of which are between 1 and 10cm. Even the smallest orbital debris particles have the capacity to destroy functional satellites upon impact. Space accessibility is threatened by the increasing amounts of debris in orbit and the potential for collision cascading. Space faring nations have attempted various debris-mitigating measures, but these remain unequal to the task. More must be done.
Scientists have proposed various remedies to address orbital debris removal (ODR). Yet, the proposal that has emerged as the most cutting-edge, efficient—both in terms of ODR feasibility and successfulness—and cost effective is a ground based laser system. A ground based laser system “would engage an orbiting target and slow it down by ablating material from its surface, which leads to reentry into the atmosphere.” There is the potential for the laser to prosecute a target and kill an objects orbit on one passing; thus maximizing the potential for mass debris removal in a given year. While laser ablation has substantive potential to address orbital debris, there are palpable risks associated with such a program.
Currently there is no meaningful governing body or regime in place that deals with ODR. Likewise, there is no current international definition of space weapons. Due to the ambiguous nature of space weapons definitions, present ODR techniques cannot be delineated: Approaches that eliminate space debris and non-functioning satellites can also harm a functioning one. Thus if India and the U.S. were to collaborate on ODR, they would have to persuade the international community that they were in fact not developing a bilateral covert anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) capability. Open dialogue and transparency of intent in an international forum may alleviate concerns.
International cooperation does not always yield cost-effective, technologically feasible, or politically viable results. Orbital debris is a systemic problem for the space environment; yet, much like the multilateral response to climate change, an international response to orbital debris will most likely prove fruitless. ODR requires strategic leadership and India and the US appear uniquely qualified to collaboratively meet this challenge. As Obama and former Prime Minister Singh stated in 2010 “a natural partnership exists between India’s dynamic human enterprise and the U.S. storied history of space exploration.” Prime Minister Modi and President Obama should explore Indo-U.S. collaboration in ODR for the benefit of the bilateral partnership and humanity.
by Mike Swetnam
We have the largest military in the entire world. In fact, if you add up all the next ten biggest, you will not get a military force as big as the one the USA controls.
That should mean that there is no war or military action on this earth that the USA cannot fully overwhelm, control, and win in short order. Why, then, have we been fighting nasty little wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade? Why do we feel like we cannot do anything except provide some meager air support to the war against ISIL?
Is this the reality of the modern world? Or are we, the USA, severely underestimating and therefore underutilizing our own power? The answer should be obvious, but it seems to not be so.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US put together an army that included 500,000 US troops and about 220,000 allied troops, and 720,000 boots on the ground! General Colin Powell, the author of the military strategy of overwhelming force, called it shock and awe. The result was that Iraq was pushed out of Kuwait and the allied forces marched all the way to Baghdad in less than 100 hours! Yes, four days.
Fifteen years later, we invaded Iraq with the intention of changing the leadership and eliminating weapons of mass destruction. It turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction and a decade of fighting later, we left without ever really owning the country.
What was the difference? When we invaded Iraq in 2003, we went with less than 200,000 boots on the ground (148,000 US and 47,000 allied) instead of the 720,000 we used in 1990.
We also tried to liberate Afghanistan. We used only about 20,000 troops for most of this conflict with a surge to 63,000 by 2012.
We have been trying to stop an infestation of rats with a fly swatter! Colin Powell would have had us use a hand grenade!
The lesson is clear. If we need to take action and use military force, do so with overwhelming force. Make sure you win decisively and quickly. Demonstrate your resolve, your ability, and the swiftness of your resolve.
Acting meekly, with underwhelming force, only serves to make you look weak, ineffective, and malleable.
Our current fight is with ISIS, or ISIL. They cut people’s heads off and broadcast videos of that act. There are also hundreds of pictures on the web of pickup trucks full of heads they cut off of their prisoners and innocent victims.
We can not address this threat with flyswatters, other-people’s military forces, or insufficient numbers of troops. We need troops on the ground; several hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground. That is the only way we will end this quickly, decisively, and permanently.
by Mike Swetnam
Put two hundred people in a room and watch what happens over time. Groups and cliques will form. Bullies will emerge. Most will fade back and wait for someone to take charge and bring order.
When a leader emerges, most will automatically follow in the very human hope that the leader will bring security through direction and purpose.
Looking for, following, and needing a leader is a very human trait; most of us want someone to follow. We want a goal, direction, and a strong message.
Leaders provide that direction, unifying message, and ideology. Leaders help us find a sense of purpose, direction, and focus. Leaders and followers are as human as the DNA that defines who we are.
Without leaders, lawlessness, anarchy, and despair run rampant. These are conditions that define leaderless societies.
The world we live in is comprised of roughly 200 nations that reflect all of the human emotions, desires, failures, and hopes of the individuals that live in them. Nations look for and need leadership just as much as individuals do. The lack of world leadership results in the worst of human failings, amplified on the world stage.
Wars, oppression, genocide, crime, and terrorism all result from the lack of strong and enlightened world leadership.
Today more than ever, the world is crying out for leadership. Societies who have been failed by their governments often turn back to the fundamentals of religion, mysticism, and even the tribal and feudal ways of our past. When stability is needed today, people often look back to something that worked in the past as a solution.
Throughout nature and human history, the strongest was seen as the leader. Peace and security can be secured through strength. Once again, it is human nature to look to the strong and the inspirational as the leader. To be followed and supported.
Since World War II, the strongest and most inspirational nation has been the United States. Not only did we win the World Wars, but we rebuilt all of Europe and Japan, and we maintained our military presence (boots on the ground) in their nations as a protecting force. Even today, 60 years later, US forces are deployed to Japan and most European countries as a protecting force.
We, the US, also established regional leadership forums like NATO to ensure stability and security. We formed the UN and hosted it in the US as a sign of our commitment to world self governance. All of these actions are the expression of enlightened leadership.
We followed these accomplishments with noble adventures to go to the moon and back. We invented technology like modern communications, the Internet, and modern air transportation. These are all feats that define leadership.
It should be no surprise that the best and the brightest want to come here. Many aspire to US education, US jobs and association with US companies, affiliations with US organizations, and favorable trade and relations with the US.
We have been seen and appreciated by the entire world as the world's leading superpower. Clearly for the last 25 years, since the collapse of the USSR, but in reality since the end of WWII.
In a room with two hundred in it, we are the strongest by far. We are the best educated. The one most countries and individuals want to be associated with. Like it or not, we are the world's leader.
In this figural room, there are of course bad actors. Nations or groups who envy us. Ones who hate us, just as all leaders face a few adversaries who will always hate them for being the leader.
There are also bullies who will attempt to coerce others into subservience. There are fanatical extremists who will try to convince others that their radical approach to governance is correct. There are also many who just want the leader to help find peace, security, enlightenment, and freedom.
The leader can only fulfill his responsibilities as the leader if he ensures the security and freedoms of all the others. He must stop the bullies in their tracks. To do this, he must isolate and neutralize the extremist. In short, the leaders must lead not just with words, but with action.
Like it or not, the USA is the world's leader. Lately, we have disappointed the many who want and need us to lead.
It is time we live up to our destiny.
by Mike Swetnam
In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait and the US assembled a global coalition of forces to repeal them. The US committed to put 500,000 troops on the ground if the rest of the world would contribute. Two dozen countries sent over 200,000 additional troops and the local governments paid for the entire war.
Today President Obama is asking the nations in the area of Iraq and around the world to send troops, boots on the ground, even as he says we will not send any.
There is a difference between leadership where one says come help me do this necessary deed and follower-ship where one says send your troops and I will support them with airpower.
We are once again leading from behind, or in other words trying to just be a follower. Maybe we should ask Putin to take on ISIL?
Like it or not, we are the only superpower in the world today. A sure way to change that is to act like we have no power or to abrogate the leadership role that the world expects from us. Asking others to send in troops when you are not willing to do so is doing something stupid. If your policy is to not do stupid stuff, this should not be your plan or strategy!
There is no question that the world will follow our lead when we chose to act like a leader and show commitment (like sending 500,000 troops). It should also not surprise us if the world ignores our call for a coalition when we will not commit our own forces to the cause.
by Mike Swetnam
I keep hearing from “experts” that ISIL is not a large current threat to our homeland. One commentator on the Sunday talk shows, a former Deputy Secretary of State, stated that they were not really an Al Qaeda-type group, they were more a conventional force that did not really threaten our homeland.
This is total disillusionment at the extreme! Not even before 9/11 did we so under estimate a severe and major threat to our homeland. ISIL states publicly every opportunity they get that they will come the to west, the USA and Europe; that our streets will flow with blood. Yet, in the past week the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center both stated publically that ISIL poses only a limited threat to the homeland.
I remember all too well statements by almost all government officials prior to 9/11 that AQ posed no real threat to the US. Yet, thousands died on 9/11! I suspect thousands will again die before our ‘head-in-the-sand’ leaders get the true nature of this global threat.
When are we at risk? When you combine leadership that believes there is a small threat with a dedicated and fanatical enemy focused on showing us to be weak and stupid. All too often we play into the hands of these enemies by being stupid.
This may well be a war in the Middle East but don’t think we are not part of it. Embarrassing the USA is the recruiting tool that builds these terrorist organizations. Stupid commentators in the USA state that when we attack them we help their recruiting. The opposite is true. When we sit back and look weak their numbers skyrocket! When we were attacking them all around the world their numbers shrank to almost zero. Since we have been pulling back and letting them behead our citizens, their numbers have grown to historic highs. The evidence is abundantly clear to all who choose to look and listen to what this enemy is doing.
ISIL is coming for us. It could be next year or the year after. Or it could be tomorrow! Since striking the US will empower them, I would look for them to hit us as soon as they can.
Isn’t it time our leaders started to actually listen to what the enemy is saying instead of pretending the world looks the way they wish it to be?