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Stimulus Payment Big Update: “Plus-Up” Payments Still Coming

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 21:08

Eli Fuhrman

Plus-Up Payment,

The IRS is continuing to send out what it refers to as “plus-up” payments, or supplemental stimulus payments available to those people who did not receive all of the up to $1,400 that they were entitled to as part of the third round of federal stimulus payments.

The IRS is continuing to send out what it refers to as “plus-up” payments, or supplemental stimulus payments available to those people who did not receive all of the up to $1,400 that they were entitled to as part of the third round of federal stimulus payments.

When the IRS began to determine eligibility for third round stimulus payments, which were brought about as part of the American Rescue Plan passed in March, it did so based on information contained in people’s 2019 tax returns, which at the time represented the most recently available data. As people began to submit their 2020 tax returns, however, the IRS undertook a review of those returns to determine if those filers had experienced a loss of income or a change in dependent status in the last year that would entitle them to a larger stimulus payment than the one they initially received. Those who did have since become the targets of these supplemental plus-up payments.

The eligibility requirements themselves did not change: full payments of $1,400 are available to individuals making up to $75,000 and to heads of households and married couples filing jointly making up to $112,500 and $150,000, respectively. Partial payments are then available to individuals making up to $80,000, heads of households making up to $120,000, and to couples filing jointly who make up to $160,000. Those making more are not eligible for a payment.

The distribution of plus-up payments has been a major focus for the IRS in its most recent batches of stimulus payments, with the batch announced this week included 900,000 plus-up payments with a total value of roughly $1.6 billion. The IRS has so far distributed a total 7 million plus-up payments this year.

Along with plus-up payments, the IRS has also been focusing on sending payments to those people about whom it did not have sufficient information before receiving their 2020 tax returns.

Those people who are eligible for a plus-up payment but have not yet received one – along with those people who have not yet received their stimulus payment at all – will do so once the IRS finishes processing their returns. Prior to the May 17 tax day deadline, the IRS was still working through a significant backlog of unprocessed 2020 tax returns, resulting in delays to both tax refunds and stimulus payments dependent on the processing of returns.

Those people who filed for an extension on their taxes, and who believe they are eligible for a plus-up payment, can still receive their supplemental payment as long as their returns are filed and processed by August 16. For those who ultimately do not end up receiving their plus-up payments, they may be able to claim their outstanding money during next year’s tax season via a recovery rebate credit; in order to do so, it is important that they keep hold of the IRS-issued confirmation notice that they received along with their initial stimulus payment.

Eli Fuhrman is a contributing writer for The National Interest.

A Chinese Iron Man? Here's What We Know about the PLA's Exoskeleton Suits

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:53

Kris Osborn

People's Liberation Army, China

It can't fly, but it does take some of the work off of its human wearer's muscles - which can be useful, especially at high altitudes with little oxygen.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Pictures of the Chinese exoskeleton closely resemble several U.S. systems which have been under development for several years. This is by no means surprising, as the PLA often produces platforms and technologies which bear striking similarities to U.S. systems often just a few years later. 

The Chinese military appears to have developed its own combat-specific Exoskeleton Iron Man suit intended to optimize warrior performance at high altitudes where human energy levels are compromised by atmospheric conditions. 

The Chinese government-backed Global Times newspaper announced that Chinese scientists have built a 4-kilogram exoskeleton to save up to 10 percent of the human energy typically expended during walking, climbing or carrying goods and about 80 percent of the energy needed to stand. 

“Thanks to the usage of carbon fiber materials, the exoskeleton weighs only about 4 kilograms, and it is very durable despite possible rough usages in high-altitude, mountainous regions, the developer said, noting that to counter the extreme cold and wear-and-tear issues, the equipment does not contain any plastic,” the Global Times reports. 

A Chinese scientist quoted by the paper says that certain standard kinds of equipment such as drones or robots might have trouble maneuvering in various kinds of rigorous, uneven, rocky or high-altitude terrain, necessitating a continued need for manual work and human activity. 

“But in high-altitude regions, due to the lack of oxygen, goods that weigh 1 kilogram feel like 5 kilograms, and at an elevation of 3,500 meters, a human being’s physical capabilities decay to only 70-75 percent of normal level, the Chinese expert said. 

Interestingly, pictures of the Chinese exoskeleton closely resemble several U.S. systems which have been under development for several years. This is by no means surprising, as the PLA often produces platforms and technologies which bear striking similarities to U.S. systems often just a few years later. 

However, despite the appearance of a potential “rip off,” it is by no means clear that Chinese exoskeletons could in any way mirror the fast-emerging series of U.S. iron-man-like suit technologies, many of which are already showing great promise. 

The Army is testing and prototyping self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change combat missions by supporting soldier movement, generating electricity, powering weapons systems, and substantially lowering the weight burden of what troops carry in war.

The Army is currently exploring various configurations for exoskeletons, some of which include a suspended backpack, which can slide up and down on a spring, having little or no weight impact on the soldier.

For example, Army evaluators have been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers in recent years. Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.

FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of the movements.

Also, not only is the U.S. Army making fast progress toward near-term technologies, such as FORTIS, but the service is also deeply immersed in several scientific research projects intended to engineer a new generation of electrical power-generating exoskeleton technology. One system in particular, which involves experts with the Army Research Laboratory, is working on a breakthrough system able to produce electricity which can power batteries, increasing the longevity of soldier’s missions. The concept, mechanical engineers with the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center told The National Interest earlier in the developmental process, is to design an energy-harvesting system which “can derive energy from the motion of a soldier as they are moving around.” 

An added advantage is that, while the technology harvests energy from the motion of soldiers, it also simultaneously eases the strain on their joints and muscles due to its apparatus, developers said. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Stimulus Denied: Can Your Unemployment Tax Refund Check Be Seized?

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:37

Ethen Kim Lieser

Unemployment Tax Refund,

Potentially sizeable checks might never reach some eligible Americans because they could be seized by the federal government for overdue federal and state taxes, child support, or student loans.

As the tenth batch of $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks heads out to assist financially wounded Americans, know that there is another government-issued payment that should be a boon to millions of U.S. taxpayers.

The Internal Revenue Service recently confirmed that the tax refunds on 2020 unemployment benefits will start landing in bank accounts as early as this month. But do take note that these potentially sizeable checks might never reach some eligible Americans because they could be seized by the federal government for overdue federal and state taxes, child support, or student loans.

Then there are the third-party creditors who could legally garnish the funds for unpaid private debts, such as overdue medical bills and credit card debts. Know that as a taxpayer, there is little one can do to challenge this court order that allows for money to be removed from an individual’s bank account.

Be aware that the same holds true for the current round of $1,400 stimulus checks, as Congress frustrated many Americans when it failed to exempt the payments from garnishment. There were, however, garnishment protection measures for the $600 stimulus checks that were green-lighted in December.

According to the IRS, data indicate that as many as ten million people likely overpaid on their unemployment taxes and could be in line for these tax refunds. And a recent Treasury report confirmed that more than seven million tax returns already processed by the agency are eligible for the cash payment.

“Of the 7.4 million tax returns, nearly 7.3 million—or 98.6 percent—had modified adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 and would likely qualify for the exclusion,” the report stated.

Another direct payment that cash-strapped Americans can look forward to is from the expanded child tax credit, which will give a $250 or a $300 check each month to eligible parents through the end of the year. Moreover, eighteen-year-olds and full-time college students who are twenty-four and under will make parents eligible for a one-time $500 payment.

For these particular payments, however, keep in mind that they will be protected from both federal and state debts, such as back taxes—but they can indeed still be garnished for unpaid private debts.

Recipients of the child tax credit should also know that an overpayment of these funds could potentially make them responsible for paying back at least a portion of these benefits during tax season next year.

This is due to how the money will be disbursed starting on July 15—which is largely based off the IRS’ estimates on available data, such as overall income, marital status, and number and age of qualifying dependent children. Thus, if there are any outdated or inaccurate data, it could trigger an overpayment of the credit.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

8,000 Launches: U.S. Ford-class Aircraft Carriers Just Hit a Major Milestone

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:34

Kris Osborn

military, The Americas

Emerging from years of scientific research and innovation, the first-of-its-kind Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System is changing the paradigm for fighter-jet take-off.

The Navy’s first-of-its-kind Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), installed on the USS Ford carriers over a period of many years, has now launched fighter jets from the ship’s deck as many as 8,000 times, a milestone marking the progressive emergence of a new kind of aircraft propulsion system for carrier-jet take off to replace existing steam catapults. 

The 8,000 take-offs and landings have involved F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, C-2 Greyhound carrier transports, and EA-18G Growlers, among others. Emerging from years of scientific research and innovation, EMALS is changing the paradigm for fighter-jet take-off with a smoother kind of ship-deck propulsion system designed to enable an improved continuous launch of growing electromagnetic force and reduce wear and tear on aircraft. 

The development of the EMALS goes back more than a decade, as General Atomics was awarded a deal to develop the system in 2009. As a breakthrough technology, the system evolved through a series of adaptations and improvements as Navy and industry developers worked to integrate a previously unprecedented technology. Component deliveries of EMALS were underway as long as ten years ago.  

Several key components of EMALS needed to be installed and integrated early in the building process of the Navy’s USS Gerald Ford because several essential components, such as motor-generators needed to be installed in the lower portions of the ship, a Navy program manager told me several years ago during an earlier phase of EMALS development. 

The integration of EMALS into the USS Gerald Ford was a complex, detailed, and lengthy process. Metal decking had to be placed over the trough of the flight deck and cabling and linear induction motors were also installed onboard the ship. 

The purpose of these linear induction motors, a Navy weapons developer said, is to generate a “sequentially activated rolling magnetic field or wave” able to thrust and propel the aircraft forward.  The Navy program manager said the electromagnetic field acts on a 22-foot long aluminum plate, running in between stationary sections of twelve-foot linear motors. 

“Electricity runs through the two sides of the motors, creating an electromagnetic wave. The aircraft motors are kicked in at the beginning. There’s a hydraulic piston that pushes a shuttle forward. The shuttle is what connects to the aircraft launch bar,” the Navy Program Manager told The National Interest several years ago during an earlier portion of the construction of the USS Gerald Ford

One Navy developer, years ago, explained EMALS in terms of a steady progressive smooth process, as opposed to what he described as more of a “shotgun” type thrust coming from traditional steam propulsion

EMALS is engineered to be both steady and tailorable, meaning it can adjust to different aircraft weights and configurations.  This is particularly useful because the amount of thrust needed to launch an aircraft depends upon a range of interwoven factors to include size, shape, and weight of the aircraft, wind speed on the carrier deck, and the speed of the aircraft carrier in the water, Navy engineers explained. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Flickr

Beating China Is No Easy Task: Japan Has A Plan and It Involves the F-35

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:33

Michael Peck

F-35, Asia Pacific

China’s navy is deploying longer-range anti-aircraft missiles, which means Japanese aircraft will have to launch their anti-ship weapons from longer range or risk being shot down.

Here's What You Need To Remember: The situation would be reminiscent of the Cold War, when missile-equipped Soviet bombers such as the Tu-22M Backfire, equipped with long-range anti-ship missiles, faced U.S. carrier-based aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, which would have endeavored to intercept the bombers before they could reach launch range.

Japan is developing a longer-range, air-launched anti-ship cruise missile.

The reason? China’s navy is deploying longer-range anti-aircraft missiles, which means Japanese aircraft will have to launch their anti-ship weapons from longer range or risk being shot down.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya cited longer-range air defenses on warships belonging to “some countries,” though there could be little doubt that he was referring to one nation in particular.  

“The plan involves extending the range of Japan's supersonic ASM-3 air-to-ship missiles, which are said to have a range of less than 200 kilometers [124 miles], to over 400 km [249 miles], with the aim of beefing up Tokyo's ability to defend a chain of outlying islands in the southwest,” according to Japan’s Mainichi newspaper.

“The F-2s are expected to retire in the 2030s and Iwaya said Japan is considering loading their successor fighter jets with the longer-range missiles,” Mainichi noted. Japan is developing the F-3, an indigenous stealth fighter.

What’s interesting is that the new missile is being developed even though Japan only finished developing its predecessor, the ASM-3, last year (for a graphic of the ASM-3, go here). The ASM-3 was designed to be launched by the F-2, Japan’s version of the U.S. F-16. The missile can either travel straight at the target ship from low altitude, or be launched low and “pop up” to high altitude before diving down on its target.

Japan is already opting for long-range ship-killers with a purchase of Norway’s Joint Strike Missile, with a range of up to 350 miles, for its F-35 stealth fighters.

As for the ASM-3, a Mach 3 missile with a range of just over a hundred miles might have proved quite devastating against China’s navy a decade ago. But the People’s Liberation Army Navy has a new generation of warships, such as the Type 052D guided missile destroyer armed with the HHQ-9 anti-aircraft missile, derived from the land-based HQ-9. The HQ-9 has a range of about 75 to 125 miles depending on the version, which would bring ASM-3-equipped Japanese fighters uncomfortably close to Chinese air defenses.

But there may be another reason for Japan’s desire for a longer-ranged anti-ship missile. China is building a fleet of aircraft carriers, whose jet fighters would extend the air defense perimeter of a Chinese naval task force beyond surface-to-air missile range.  

The situation would be reminiscent of the Cold War, when missile-equipped Soviet bombers such as the Tu-22M Backfire, equipped with long-range anti-ship missiles, faced U.S. carrier-based aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, which would have endeavored to intercept the bombers before they could reach launch range. Had the Cold War turned hot, the question is whether the Backfires would have been downed before they could saturate American carrier groups with missiles.

What’s also interesting is that Japan is extending the range of its weapons. Haunted by the disaster of World War II, a fiercely pacifistic Japan, despite having a fairly large and sophisticated military, had no appetite for long-distance operations outside Japan.  

That pacifism appears to be fading.  

“Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war as a sovereign right of the state and bans the possession of military forces and other ‘war potential,’ but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in the Diet in January last year that he believes long-range cruise missiles are not banned under the supreme law,” Mainichi pointed out.

Japan already plans to deploy F-35B stealth fighters on carrier-like “helicopter-destroyers.” A new air warfare strategy would incorporate American-made standoff air-to-surface missiles. A long-range anti-ship missile would just be a continuation of that trend.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

YF-12: The Super Secret Plane That Smashed Speed Records

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:29

Stephen Silver

YF-12,

During its nine years of existence, the YF-12 had slightly less than 300 flights, of a total of about 450 flight hours. And it was thought to be one of the fastest jets ever to fly.

Before the famous SR-71, there was the YF-12, which emerged from Lockheed Martin in the 1960s. It had a short life and was never actually used operationally by the military, but it did form the basis for the SR-71, which had a much longer life.

Only three of the planes were built. Two of the YF-12s were flown as part of a joint Air Force-NASA research program throughout the 1970s, while a third one was lost in a fire in 1971, according to NASA’s website.

The jet was developed under  Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, Lockheed Martin's vice president for Advanced Development Projects, as part of the company’s famous Skunkworks.

“The project didn't begin entirely from scratch, however,” we wrote of the plane earlier this year. “In actuality, the YF-12 was the twin-seat version of the top-secret single-seat Lockheed Martin A-12, and its design became the forerunner of the highly sophisticated SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Unlike the unarmed Blackbird, which used speed in its defense, the YF-12 was armed with three air-to-air missiles.

“The YF-12 allowed NASA researchers at all four of the agency's aeronautical centers (Langley, Lewis [now Glenn], and Ames as well as the Flight Research Center) to study the thermal, structural, and aerodynamic effects of sustained, high-altitude, Mach 3 flight,” the site said.

“Painted flat black, the YF-12 was fabricated primarily from titanium alloy, which enabled it to withstand skin temperatures of over 500º F.

During its nine years of existence, the YF-12 had slightly less than 300 flights, of a total of about 450 flight hours. And it was thought to be one of the fastest jets ever to fly. The plane claims a speed record of 2,070.101 mph and an altitude record of 80,257.65 feet, both of which were surpassed by the SR-71 later.

“NASA and the Air Force announced joint involvement in a YF-12 research program. The agendas differed, with the Air Force focusing on combat research and NASA engineers initially focusing on a study of flight loads and structural heating,” NASA said on its website. “Much of the NASA research was concerned with the viability and development of supersonic cruise aircraft. Two YF-12As (tail numbers 935 and 936) were removed from Air Force storage for the program. On December 11, 1969, 935 successfully made its first flight as a NASA-USAF research plane and inaugurated the program. On June 24, 1971, 936 experienced the fuel line failure described above.”

The only surviving YF-12 is housed at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

China's Navy Can Only Go So Far Without Trained Pilots

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:11

Michael Peck

Pilots, Asia

What good is an aircraft carrier without carrier-trained pilots?

Here's What You Need to Remember: The fact that China is looking for a specialized training jet is evidence that Beijing’s carrier plans are maturing. A single aircraft carrier, like Russia has, is a novelty. But China may build four or more carriers, which will require infrastructure and equipment such as carrier training jets.

What good is an aircraft carrier without carrier-trained pilots?

For the U.S. Navy, that’s no big deal. For nearly a century, it has been teaching fledgling aviators how to land on a little floating airfield on a dark night in the middle of the ocean. But for China’s navy, it’s a different story. The aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force have been almost a totally land-based force, as befits a navy that only got its first carrier—a decrepit ex-Soviet model—a few years ago.

But China’s second carrier—an indigenously produced one—has just joined the fleet, and more carriers are on the way. This means there’s a need to train many more naval aviators—and find the right aircraft to train them.

China is modifying its JL-9 Mountain Eagle trainer for carrier training, according to Chinese state-controlled media. The supersonic, two-seat JL-9 has been used by the Chinese air force and navy since 2014 to train pilots for operating advanced jets such as the Su-27, Su-30MKK and J-10 fighters. It is descended from the earlier JJ-7, itself descended from the Soviet MiG-21 fighter. The JL-9 is also exported as the FTC-200G light attack aircraft.

“Multiple promotional materials released by JL-9's developer, Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), involved the JL-9 and an aircraft carrier operating together in edited pictures, leading to speculation that the JL-9 could eventually be modified into a carrier-based jet trainer,” reported China’s Global Times.

“Having been already delivered to the Chinese Navy, the naval version of the JL-9 is now training aircraft carrier jet pilots on land-based airfields, but China still does not have an aircraft carrier-based trainer aircraft that can take off and land on an actual carrier,” Global Times noted.

While carrier- and land-based jets are broadly similar—which is why the U.S. Air Force and Navy can fly tailored versions of the F-35 fighter—carrier planes do have specific requirements, such as more robust landing gear for abrupt touchdowns on flight decks. The Mountain Eagle might require substantial modifications to its airframe and engine, Chinese media noted.

Chinese media also took care to point out that the JL-9 might have competition for carrier training. “A powerful competitor to the single-engined JL-9 Mountain Eagle is the twin-engined JL-10 Falcon, which has a more advanced avionics system and better aerodynamic performance,” Global Times said. “But the JL-10 advanced trainer jet, developed by AVIC Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, is more expensive.”

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps trainer since 1991 is the T-45 Goshawk, a carrier-capable variant of the popular 1970s British Hawk trainer. It’s a small, subsonic jet with two seats and a single-engine.

The fact that China is looking for a specialized training jet is evidence that Beijing’s carrier plans are maturing. A single aircraft carrier, like Russia has, is a novelty. But China may build four or more carriers, which will require infrastructure and equipment such as carrier training jets.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, or on his website. This article first appeared last April and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

How Hamas Is Strengthening the Turkey-Iran-Qatar Axis

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 20:00

Maya Carlin

Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Middle East

According to Libyan intelligence officials, radical militant groups in Libya funded by Iran, Turkey, and Qatar are responsible for smuggling arms into Gaza. 

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired over 4,000 rockets into Israeli cities during the latest outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza. The magnitude of missiles and rocket launchers that were used indicate the Palestinian militants were able to circumvent Israel’s blockade on the strip. According to Libyan intelligence officials, radical militant groups in Libya funded by Iran, Turkey, and Qatar—using the relative lawlessness of the adjacent Sinai Peninsula—are responsible for smuggling arms into Gaza.

The Libyan civil conflict has evolved into a full-blown proxy war in recent years, with multiple foreign actors joining in to achieve economic gains or to uphold ideological convictions. Turkey and Qatar, both of whom considered Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to be among their most bitter strategic rivals, entered the conflict to back the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Both Ankara and Doha have sent thousands of Syrian and Somali mercenaries to Libya, ultimately shifting the tide of war in the country against the Egyptian-backed (and last-elected) Libyan government ruled by general Khalifa Haftar. Among the militias sent to fight in Libya are radical Islamist groups with ties to Hamas, a designated terror group by the United States and European Union. Libyan officials have accused Turkey and Qatar of exploiting the conflict in Libya to use as a platform to fund Hamas’ terror platform in Gaza.

Iran, an effective user of proxy warfare across the region, has also deployed militias to Libya to support Hamas’ cause in Gaza. The link connecting Tehran to Gaza’s arsenal is well documented. Both Hamas and PIJ leaders are on record stating that the weapons used to attack Israel in the latest round of fighting were provided by Iran. In a translated video published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a Hamas official disclosed that the terror group’s weapons are bought with Iranian money, their activities are supervised by Iranian experts, and their weapons all have the Iranian signatures. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh outright thanked Iran for its money and weapons.

Turkish involvement in Hamas’ weapons depot buildup also extends past militia use in Libya. In October 2020, a U.S. district court ruled an Istanbul-based bank, Kuveyt Turk, knowingly provided financial services to Hamas operatives in Gaza. Four months later, Israel confiscated over $120,000 along with shipping containers full of merchandise sent to Hamas operatives in Gaza from Turkey. Ankara’s longstanding support for Hamas is often overshadowed in the media by Iran’s assistance to the militant group.

Turkey’s support for radical Palestinians acquired a novel and chillingly threatening dimension in this recent round of fighting. Turkey has spent years and much money to fund leaders, organizations, foundations, and land purchases in order to weaken Israel’s control of the situation within Israel itself, among Israeli Arabs, and in particular, over events in Jerusalem, the liberation of which from non-Muslim rule the Turkish president has often stated is a prime objective. The most dangerous development in the recent round of conflict was Hamas’ ability to implement Turkey’s efforts. The missiles were difficult for Israel, but they were also expected. In contrast, it was shocking for Israelis to see Hamas not only to appeal emotively but to even command operationally some Israeli-Arabs, let alone Palestinians, and through that, to dictate the pace of events on the Temple Mount and devastate Israel’s control over and the security within its cities with mixed populations, and on the highways across the country. Iran had never managed to achieve that through its Hamas factions; this was a Turkish accomplishment.

Qatar also contributes mightily to Hamas’ terror enterprise. In addition to financing the training of mercenaries deployed to Libya by Iran and Turkey, Doha is responsible for spreading misinformation and dangerous propaganda in its widely circulated state-sanctioned textbooks. Despite Qatar’s formal diplomatic position with Israel and the United States, its textbooks celebrate Hamas rocket attacks targeting civilians and eradicating Israeli from maps. Doha also is the source for the large finances Turkey needs to fund its interference.

These foreign actors have been largely excluded from the cooperative axis established in the region in recent months, including the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Abraham Accords. For years, Qatar was isolated from its Gulf neighbors due to its unremitting support for Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Although Qatar was welcomed back into the Gulf Cooperation Council in early 2021, regional clout in the Middle East has shifted following the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden. The Biden administration has prioritized a recalibration of ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, distancing itself from the former and trying to reach a nuclear agreement with the latter. Qatar and Turkey could be hedging their bets by warming up to Iran’s ambitions as it appears Tehran has achieved major leverage in the region.

Maya Carlin is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy in Washington D.C. and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel.

Image: Reuters.

Big 'E': This Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier Revolutionized the U.S. Navy

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 19:33

Michael Peck

Aircraft Carriers, The Americas

Sorry, folks. It’s time to say goodbye to the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Here's What You Need To Remember: What’s fascinating is what happened to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear surface fleet. In addition to carriers, the Cold War Navy had nuclear-powered cruisers (the USS Long Beach, history’s first nuclear-powered surface ship, was commissioned just two months before the Enterprise).

It’s time to say goodbye to the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The USS Enterprise, hull number CVN-65, was officially decommissioned earlier this month, which means it is no longer officially on the Navy’s register (the ship was actually transferred to inactive status in 2012, when preparations began to dispose of its nuclear reactor).

The Enterprise, or “Big E,” was commissioned on November 25, 1961. The ship’s subsequent twenty-five deployments read like a history of the Cold War and modern U.S. foreign policy: the Big E participated in the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, deployed six times to Vietnam, sailed to the Bay of Bengal during the 1971 India-Pakistan War, flew missions in Bosnia and supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Where there was trouble, the Enterprise was there.

But what was really remarkable about the Enterprise was that it marked the debut of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, which are the backbone of U.S. naval power. Any warship is only as capable as the logistics that sustain it. Sail-powered vessels relied on the wind, which was a renewable resource but wasn’t always available when you needed to get moving. The switch to coal propulsion by World War I offered more reliable power, but coal was bulky and required large crews to shovel it into the engines, as well as nearby bases for replenishment. By World War II, ships ran on oil, but this still meant returning to port to refuel, or performing cumbersome refueling at sea from vulnerable tankers.

However, the nuclear reactors on U.S. aircraft carriers are designed to be refueled every twenty-five years. That doesn’t spare carriers from the need to dock for maintenance, and they still need ammunition, food and rest for the crew. But at least it gives nuclear-powered ships more time to stay at sea. Plus, nuclear fuel generates tremendous energy relative to the small amount of space it takes up. As the Heritage Foundation puts it, “the high density of nuclear power, i.e., the amount of volume required to store a given amount of energy, frees storage capacity for high value/high impact assets such as jet fuel, small craft, remote-operated and autonomous vehicles, and weapons. When compared to its conventional counterpart, a nuclear aircraft carrier can carry twice the amount of aircraft fuel, 30 percent more weapons, and 300,000 cubic feet of additional space (which would be taken up by air intakes and exhaust trunks in gas turbine-powered carriers).”

For another comparison between nuclear and conventional ships, see here.

What’s fascinating is what happened to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear surface fleet. In addition to carriers, the Cold War Navy had nuclear-powered cruisers (the USS Long Beach, history’s first nuclear-powered surface ship, was commissioned just two months before the Enterprise). But no more: by the late 1990s, the Navy’s only nuclear-powered warships were aircraft carriers and submarines. Russia has nuclear-powered warships such as the Kirov-class battlecruiser Pyotr Veliky, while France’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle has experienced reactor problems.

Will nuclear power ever come back for other surface ships? A 2010 Congressional Research Service study points out a few advantages, were the Navy to again embrace nuclear surface ships such as cruisers. On the plus side, nuclear-powered ships can remain on station longer, need to devote less space to carrying fuel and, while more expensive to build, they are cheaper to maintain relative to oil-fueled ships depending on the price of oil.

However, on the negative side, there is the additional cost of building a nuclear surface ship, including finding manufacturers and shipyards capable of building and assembling components. Some nations may not allow nuclear-propelled vessels to dock in their ports, which complicates logistics and diplomacy. And, of course, there is the specter of the atom. Despite the U.S. Navy’s remarkable safety record with nuclear propulsion, there is always the chance of terrorism or accident.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: Flickr

This Picture Is The Future: Is America Ready For the First Arctic War?

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 19:13

Kris Osborn

Arctic, arctic

Given the concerning pace of melting ice identified by Arctic and climate experts, the Pentagon is concerned.

Here's What You Need To Remember: As water warms, and ice melts, new waterways open up within the Arctic, creating new strategic options for many countries now increasing their interest in exerting influence from or within the Arctic.

While surely nobody wishes to open small arms fire in the vicinity of polar bears and penguins, many militaries around the world are massively increasing training and preparations for warfare in the Arctic.

It has been, and continues to be, a highly prioritized focus for the Pentagon which has in recent years stepped up Arctic training and studies and re-written, revised and added Arctic combat strategy documents.  Not surprisingly, U.S. Marine Corps units recently finished up an ambitious Arctic combat training operation with the Norwegian military called Exercise Reindeer II. The Marines forward-deployed forces along with Norway’s Brigade North to improve interoperability and refine collaborative cold-weather warfare tactics.

“For the Marines and Sailors, they have learned how to survive, thrive, and fight in the beginning of the arctic winter,” Lt. Col. Ryan Gordinier, commander of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, noted in a Marine Corps report.

In January 2021, the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment will return to Norway as part of MRF-E to conduct a follow-on deployment consisting of approximately one thousand Marines and Sailors, according to the report.

A U.S.-Norwegian Arctic combat alliance could be of great significance regarding the Pentagon’s interest in countering Russia’s visible and well-known Arctic advances. Russia not only owns a large number of icebreakers but operates along the Northern Sea Route, a series of water passageways bordering Russia and the Arctic.

Russia has built military bases in the Arctic and also conducted a large number of patrol and training operations in the region, a series of maneuvers which has only increased U.S. preparations for greatly stepped up Arctic activity to counterbalance the strategic influence.

The U.S. Navy has, for instance, updated its Arctic Road Map and called for new levels of scientific and technological inquiry into the prospect of engineering weather-resilient weapons systems. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and other service entities have been looking intently at ways to create weapons, sensors and ship hulls able to function effectively at extremely dangerous temperatures.

The ONR has also been immersed in using networked undersea drones to study the Arctic water column for the purpose of better understanding temperature fluctuations and their impact upon military operations.

All of this has been increasing in urgency for the Pentagon in recent years, given the concerning pace of melting ice identified by Arctic and climate experts. It had been thought that the U.S. military would need to operate much more extensively in the Arctic by the 2030s, however, the pace at which new waterways are opening up due to warming waters and melting ice has generated a need for the U.S. Navy to massively move-up its plans to operate much more significantly in the region. As water warms, and ice melts, new waterways open up within the Arctic, creating new strategic options for many countries now increasing their interest in exerting influence from or within the Arctic.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This piece first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: U.S. Army Flickr.

Precedent Setting: Britain's Attack At Cambrai Was History's First Tank Offensive

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 19:00

Michael Peck

World War I, Europe

Massed armor, short, surprise artillery barrages and air support. It was an early form of blitzkrieg.

Here's What You Need To Remember: It wasn't the first time that tanks had seen combat. The dismal British offensive at the Somme in July 1916 had seen the advent of the newfangled "landships." They were designed to break the deadlock of trench warfare by knocking down the barbed wire and knocking out the machine gun nests before the infantry they supported could be massacred. But it was the first tank offensive. 

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At dawn on November 20, 1917, it was business as usual on the Western Front. Snug in their Hindenburg Line fortifications near the northern French city of Cambrai, three German divisions held a formidable maze of multiple trench lines, dugouts, machine guns nests and barbed wire.

Their plan was do what had worked for them so far. If the British troops opposite them attacked, they would be impaled on barbed wire or machine-gunned into oblivion. While the enemy struggled to regroup, the Germans would mass reserves for a quick, savage counterattack to retake any lost ground.

That had been the grim, futile script of the first half of the First World War, played out at Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele and the other notorious bloodbaths of the Western Front. But this autumn morning would be different. Onward, on usual, trudged the British infantrymen grunting under their heavy packs as they crossed No Man's Land toward the German lines. But in front of them clanked hundreds of fire-spitting metal rhomboids deflecting machine gun bullets like Wonder Woman's bracelets.

It wasn't the first time that tanks had seen combat. The dismal British offensive at the Somme in July 1916 had seen the advent of the newfangled "landships." They were designed to break the deadlock of trench warfare by knocking down the barbed wire and knocking out the machine gun nests before the infantry they supported could be massacred. But at the Somme, a mere thirty-two Mark I tanks, unreliable and prone to breakdown, were neither enough to force a breakthrough or alarm the German high command. The Kaiser's resolute riflemen, backed by artillery, could handle a few clumsy metal monsters.

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Not this time. Cambrai wasn't history's first tank attack. It was history's first tank offensive. The tanks would not be a mechanical freak show. Instead, they would be an integral part of the attack. Some 476 Mark IV tanks—including special tanks to function as armored resupply trucks—would be concentrated on a narrow front.

Nor was it just the use of armor that made Cambrai a first. Instead of weeks of preparatory artillery barrages that failed to kill the Germans in their underground dugouts—but did alert them that an offensive was coming—the assault would begin with a short barrage. The British had harnessed maps and mathematics to devise new predictive fire techniques that allowed the big guns to accurately shell their targets without first firing aiming shots to tip off the Germans that new batteries had arrived in their sector. Even airpower would be a factor, with the Royal Flying Corps providing low-altitude air support.

Massed armor, short, surprise artillery barrages and air support. It was an early form of blitzkrieg. To a veteran of Normandy 1944 or Desert Storm 1991, the tactics and technology of Cambrai might have seemed primitive, but not unfamiliar.

For their attack, the British assembled seven infantry divisions, three tank brigades, a thousand guns—and five cavalry divisions. That last part seems a bit of an anachronism and reflected a certain ambiguity in the British plans. Was this operation a full-scale breakthrough or just a raid? The tanks and infantry, backed by artillery, would aim for limited objectives: seize Bourlon ridge at the north end of the sector, cross the St. Quentin Canal in the south and repel the inevitable German counterattacks. Given past offensives against the Germans, that sort of shallow bite-and-hold attack was the best that could be achieved without taking heavy losses for little gain. But what if—just what if—every First World War general's dream came true, and there was a genuine, complete breakthrough? Then might not the cavalry, those dashing upper-class darlings made obsolete by those working-class machine gunners, burst through the breach and reach "the green fields beyond?"

For a moment, the prize seemed within reach. From the smoke and morning mist, the British tanks emerged to trample the barbed wire and pulverize the machine gun nests. There were the inevitable holdups, such as the 51st Scottish Highland Division's attack at Flesquieres, where German artillery ambushed their supporting tanks. Yet the German defenses had been breached.

"At first glance it had been a stunning success: three to four miles' penetration on a six-mile front at unprecedented speed," write historians Alexander Turner and Peter Dennis in their book Cambrai 1917: The Birth of Armored Warfare. “German reaction swung from incredulity to helpless despondency; that morning Rupprecht [the German commander] had considered ordering a general retirement.”

The British had suffered just 4,000 casualties the first day. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, they had suffered 57,000 casualties to capture just three square miles."Reaction in Britain was euphoric," Turner and Dennis write. "Church bells were rung; a great victory had been achieved."

But it hadn't. Some objectives hadn't been captured, the assault troops were exhausted and the cavalry hadn't been exploited. After three years of trench deadlock, armies were unaccustomed to mobile warfare. Communications had also broken down, and so had nearly half the British armor. Though specialized anti-tank guns were not to make their debut until the next world war, ordinary German artillery pieces firing point-blank knocked out dozens of Mark IV tanks waddling across the battlefield at four miles per hour.

"In the minds of the [British] field commanders, it had fallen short of what needed to be achieved on the first day, write Turner and Dennis. "Now surprise had been lost they would be in a race against German reserves.”

Those fears were well-founded. With their customary efficiency, the Germans rushed seventeen divisions to the battlefield, including battalions of specially trained stosstruppen assault troops that would almost win the war for the Kaiser in 1918. Like the panzers of 1940, the stosstruppen infiltrated British lines, surrounding front-line units and overrunning command posts and artillery batteries. On November 30, the German counteroffensive swept forward, even reaching two miles beyond the British start line. Then the Germans, too, ran out of steam.

After the battle ended in early December, and both sides had suffered about 45,000 casualties each, the opposing lines ended up more or less as they had been two weeks before. Perhaps no more could have been expected. Even if the cavalry had exploited the breach, sooner or later human and horse flesh would have run into the ubiquitous German machine guns. The internal combustion engine had produced the tank, but in 1917, infantry moved on foot and supplies by wagons. And there were just a few hundred tanks. In the 1918 offensives that finally induced Imperial Germany to sue for peace, the Allies would deploy not hundreds but thousands.

But the wheel—or the tank track—would turn full circle. Some thirty-three years later, it would be the turn of the Germans to show how much they had learned. In 1940, it was the French who dispersed their tanks in small packets across the front. And it was the Germans who massed their armor to wage a blitzkrieg offensive that smashed a hole in the enemy defenses and compelled France to surrender in six weeks.

Further reading:

- Cambrai 1917: The Birth of Armored Warfare by Alexander Turner and Peter Dennis.

- A superb board game of the battle: To the Green Fields Beyond, designed by David Isby.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: Wikipedia.

China's H-20 Stealth Bomber: A Real Challenge to the U.S. Military?

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 18:45

Kris Osborn

Chinese Military, China

Unlike some other countries, China is not known for exaggerating its military strength, so U.S. and Western defense planners are taking what is said seriously.

Editor's Note: The 2020 Zhuhai Air Show, initially scheduled for November, was postponed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's What You Need To Remember: China appears to be preparing to unveil its new H-20 stealth bomber, an emerging platform expected to massively extend China’s attack range and present a rival platform to the U.S. B-2 and emerging B-21.

Quoting “military sources,” a report from The New Zealand Herald said the new and still somewhat mysterious H-20 bomber could make its first public appearance at this year’s Zhuhai Airshow in November—depending upon how things progress with the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

The H-20 could, of course depending upon its technological configuration, bring a new level of threat to the United States, for a number of reasons.

For instance, the New Zealand report says the new supersonic stealth bomber could “double” China’s strike range. Interestingly, although much is still not known about the platform, its existence was cited in the Pentagon’s 2018 and 2019 annual “China Military Power Report.”  The 2019 report specifies that the new H-20 will likely have a range of “at least 8,500km” and “employ both conventional and nuclear weaponry.” 

The report cites 2016 public comments from People’s Liberation Army Air Force Commander General Ma Xiaotian announcing the development of the H-20, and saying the weapon could emerge some time in the next decades. Well, sure enough, the next decade is here and early renderings appear to parallel some of Xiaotian’s comments about Chinese intentions for the bomber. According to the Pentagon’s China report, he said the H-20 will “employ 5th generation technologies.”

An ability to engineer and deliver fifth-generation systems into the bomber may remain to be seen to some extent, as much is still unknown, yet the Chinese have already engineered several potentially fifth-generation aircraft with the J-20 and J-31. At the very least, the exterior does appear to be stealthy; it looks like it has an embedded engine, blended wing body, absence of vertical structures and engine air ducts woven into the frame underneath the fuselage. The B-2, by contrast, has air ducts emerging from the top of the fuselage, however many design features unequivocally seem to resemble a B-2. The Pentagon report observes that “a possible H-20 prototype depicted a flying wing airframe akin to the B-2 bomber and X-47B stealth unmanned combat aerial vehicle.”

A reported range of 8,500 kilometers appears slightly less than a B-2 bomber’s range of more than 6,700 miles, Pentagon reports have raised concerns that the Chinese “may also be developing a refuelable bomber that could “reach initial operating capability before the long-range bomber.” 

Perhaps of even greater concern, according to the Pentagon assessment, is that such a refueler could “expand long-range offensive bomber capability beyond the second island chain.” A refueler could also substantially change the equation and enable it to rival the mission scope of a B-2 which, as many know, successfully completed forty-four-hour missions from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Diego Garcia, a small island off the Indian coast during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

As for its ability to compete with a B-2 or B-21, there may simply be too many unknowns. However, a few things do come to mind. The B-21 airframe, for instance, appears to have little or almost no external exhaust pipes, raising the question as to whether it incorporates new thermal management or heat dispersion technologies. A key goal, when it comes to designing stealth bomber airframes, is to work toward having it mirror or align with the surrounding temperature of the atmosphere so as to be less detectable to thermal sensors. Also, while much of the B-21’s details remain “black” for understandable reasons, senior Air Force leaders have said the platform contains a new generation of stealth technologies and can “hold any target at risk in the world at any time.”

This indicates that there may be a high measure of confidence that the new B-21 will be able to succeed against the most advanced current and anticipated future air defense systems. An ability to elude both surveillance and engagement radar in a modern technical environment would be quite an accomplishment, as advanced Russian air defenses such as the S-400 and S-500 contain a new generation of technologies. Not only do they use digital networking to connect radar nodes, rely upon faster computer processing and track aircraft on a wider sphere of frequencies, but they also claim to be able to detect “stealth” to a large degree. This may remain as of yet unproven, as it is something touted by the Russian media, yet it has inspired U.S. weapons developers so seek newer paradigms for stealth technology. Also, the sophistication of these advanced air defenses may be one reason why, at least when it comes to stealth fighters, senior Air Force weapons developers describe stealth as merely “one arrow in a quiver” of methods to evade and destroy enemy air defenses. Nonetheless, there is no available evidence to suggest a new B-21 would have any difficulty against the most advanced air defenses; debates along these lines are likely to persist for years, at least until much more is known about the B-21. Air Force officials say the B-21 will be virtually “undetectable,” something which may very well be true.

Finally, it may not even be clear that China’s new H-20 bomber could even fully rival the U.S, B-2. While the B-2 may be thought of as a somewhat antiquated 1980s built platform, years of Air Force upgrades have vastly changed the performance parameters of the airplane. The B-2 is now being engineered with a so-called Defensive Management System sensor designed to find locations of enemy air defenses—and thus fly around them. The B-2 is also being outfitted with a new one-thousand-fold faster computer processor and being configured to integrate new weapons platforms such as the modern, upgraded B-61 Mod12 nuclear bomb. Finally much like what is reported about the H-20, both the B-2 and B-21 are engineered to carry and fire long-range nuclear and conventional cruise missiles, such as the Air Force’s emerging Long-Range Standoff Weapon.

Overall, the current B-2, which is now being engineered to fly alongside the B-21 until sufficient numbers of B-21s are available, is nothing like the aircraft which initially emerged in the late 80s. Along these lines, both the B-21 and B-2 are built with the often discussed “open architecture” strategy intended to lay down the technical apparatus sufficient to sustain perpetual upgradeability.

Ultimately, while there is much still to be known about the H-20, there are many reasons why U.S. weapons developers are likely to take it very seriously. For instance, if the H-20 can extend beyond the first island chain, as the New Zealand report maintains, then it can not only hold the Philippines, Japan and areas of the South China Sea at risk, but also threaten Hawaii, Australia and even parts of the continental United States.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

The piece first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Weibo.

China: If There Is a War over Taiwan, Its Because America Started It

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 18:33

Kris Osborn

Taiwan, East Asia

The comments may have to do with Washington's increasing arms sales to Taipei.

Here's What You Need to Remember: A prominent Chinese researcher and military expert's comment raises an interesting question in the sense that it may not be clear what exactly he means by the “U.S. edging closer to Taiwan.” Perhaps this relates to increased U.S. weapons sales to the island, or could simply be seen as a kind of empty threat. 

A prominent Chinese researcher and military expert connected to the People’s Liberation Army is saying that a potential war with the United States over Taiwan independence essentially relies upon Washington or U.S. actions.

Zhou Bo, an honorary fellow at the Centre for China-America Defence Relations at the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, is quoted in a news story in the South China Morning Post  back late last year called “U.S.-China relations” as saying “The development of cross-strait relations is not solely decided by the Chinese mainland. It is, on the contrary, a result of the interaction between Taipei, Washington and Beijing.”

The essay goes on to say China is “reluctant to use force against Taiwan because it sees the people as their compatriots.”

These two comments, as cited in the paper, seem to resonate as a bit of an overt contradiction, meaning they seem to both communicate warnings and threat while also encouraging restraint. Which is it? Chinese-military affiliated experts, analysts and researchers have of course a long history of making provocative statements, and this simply seems no different. 

After all, it seems clear that the United States would have no actual reason to risk war except in the unforseen or unanticipated event that China actually launches an invasion to reunify with Taiwan. 

Nonetheless, much of what could be called confusion or overt contractions coming from Chinese officials does seem to pertain to the arrival of a new Taiwanese president. 

“Now the US is increasingly edging closer to Taiwan, and [President] Tsai Ing-wen holds a totally different stance to developing ties with Beijing when compared to her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou,” Zhou says in the South China Morning Report, referring to Ma’s mainland-friendly approach.

Zhou’s comment raises an interesting question in the sense that it may not be clear what exactly he means by the “U.S. edging closer to Taiwan.” Perhaps this relates to increased U.S. weapons sales to the island, or could simply be seen as a kind of empty threat. 

The United States is already close to Taiwan and has a long history of providing military and diplomatic support to the island. As part of this, Taiwan has long been a Foreign Military Sales customer of the United States, acquiring Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopters, hellfire missiles, Stingers, torpedos, and even C-130 aircraft, along with much more. 

Most recently, the United States is now amid a deal with Taiwan to offer as many as 108 Abrams main battle tanks. This is quite significant, as the presence of main battle tanks on the Taiwanese mainland certainly strengthens a credible deterrent against a Chinese invasion, by at very least ensuring that a ground invasion could be costly and lengthy for China should it embark upon such a venture. 

Also, Taiwan received some Patriot (PAC-3) air defense missiles during the George W. Bush administration, yet Taiwan has overwhelmingly purchased maritime defenses. They have also received air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, torpedos, and ship-fired SM-2 missiles.

Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

Own a Home? You Could Tap a “Secret Stimulus Check”

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 18:12

Trevor Filseth

Stimulus Help,

If you own a home or are in the process of paying off your mortgage, you can access an additional $10 billion program set aside for homeowners who fell behind on bills during the pandemic.

The three stimulus checks paid out so far – one in March 2020, one in December 2020, and one in March 2021 – have so far amounted to $3200 in direct cash relief to all American adults within certain income brackets.

However, the stimulus checks are far from the only financial relief that Americans can avail themselves of during the pandemic. The Biden administration has passed a raft of financial measures in the American Rescue Plan Act, the March legislation that provided for the third (and so far last) stimulus check. Many of these measures have been described elsewhere in detail, including the IRS’s “plus-up” payments and increases to the Child Income Tax Credit.

One of these measures concerns homeownership. If you own a home or are in the process of paying off your mortgage, you can access an additional $10 billion program set aside for homeowners who fell behind on bills during the pandemic.

According to the financial website MoneyWise, slightly under $10 billion has been set aside for the Homeowners Assistance Fund, a fund that provides assistance to homeowners in paying their mortgages, taxes, and other homeowner-related expenses.

This money has mostly been sent out to individual states to distribute through their statewide housing agencies, based on the number of late mortgage payments and foreclosures in each state, in addition to other considerations such as the unemployment rate. Per the Treasury Department, each state received at least $50 million from the fund; however, the states which received the most were California ($1 billion), Florida ($676 million) and Texas ($842 million).

There are some conditions attached to the aid requests. To qualify, you must own your home and have a mortgage with a balance of less than $550,000. You must also have an annual income that is lower than either your area’s median income or the national median income. Furthermore, 60% of the aid is earmarked for mortgages, and the funds from the program must be used before the end of September 2025.

The Biden administration (and the Trump administration before it) provided other means of assistance to homeowners and renters. Perhaps the single largest and most important measure has been the nationwide moratorium on evictions, blocking landlords from evicting tenants who are behind on their rent until after the pandemic. The eviction moratorium has repeatedly been extended for additional periods; it is currently set to expire at the end of June.

Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.

Air Force Tankers Will Soon Be Able to Share Data With F-35 and F-22 Fighters

The National Interest - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 18:00

Peter Suciu

military, Americas

The service plans to employ a number of KC-46 tanker aircraft equipped with a pod filled with communications equipment that could translate between the two waveforms.  

Soon the United States Air Force’s Boeing KC-46 aerial refueling tankers will be outfitted with new equipment that will enable it to serve as a node in the service’s new Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS). The system is the Department of the Air Force’s contribution to the Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2), a Department of Defense effort to digitally connect all elements of the United States military across all five warfighting domains including air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

ABMS has become a top modernization priority for the Department of the Air Force with a budget of $3.3 billion over five years. Once fully deployed it will be the backbone of a network-centric approach in partnership with all the services across the DoD. When fully realized, the CJADC2 could allow U.S. forces from all servicesas well as alliesto receive, fuse and act upon a vast array of data and information in "all domains at the speed of relevance." 

The Air Force announced that a communications pod installed in a KC-46 Pegasus will soon allow the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor to connect and instantly receive and transmit the most up-to-date information to ensure the warfighters maintain decision superiority. This concept, which is known as Capability Release #1 under the ABMS framework, will also allow data to pass between the stealth fightersdespite the fact that each of the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft utilizes different data links. 

The F-35 jet employs the Multifunctional Advanced Data Link, whereas the F-22 jet uses the Intra-Flight Data Link. According to DefenseNews those two links are incompatible and do not allow the fighters to share information while retaining stealth capability. The Air Force will soon employ a number of KC-46 tanker aircraft equipped with a pod filled with communications equipment that could translate between the two waveforms.  

The Air Force had conducted tests of the command and control during the ABMS onramp 3 last November, but the platform is much more than just a translation tool for the stealth aircraft. ABMS has become akin to an “Internet of Military Things,” which could connect everything from sensors to shooters across the joint force via cloud-based networks. It could revolutionize how the services operate together.  

“Nearly two years of rigorous development and experimentation have shown beyond doubt the promise of ABMS,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.  

“We’ve demonstrated that our ABMS efforts can collect vast amounts of data from air, land, sea, space and cyber domains, process that information and share it in a way that allows for faster and better decisions,” added Gen. Brown. “This ability gives us a clear advantage, and it’s time to move ABMS forward so we can realize and ultimately use the power and capability it will provide.”

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com

Image: Reuters

The Authoritarian Assault on Exiles

Foreign Affairs - jeu, 27/05/2021 - 00:11
Belarus’s skyjacking reflects a global threat that democracies must confront.

India’s Cascading COVID-19 Failures

Foreign Affairs - mar, 25/05/2021 - 21:26
The staggering cost of an unscientific response to the pandemic.

The Great National Divorce and its Consequences

Foreign Policy Blogs - mar, 25/05/2021 - 20:27

 

After being a resident living in the UK and EU, learning the legal foundations and delicate intricacies of British and European Commercial Law and Intellectual Property rights, it still amazes me how these two powerful entities could still place the weakest and most needy in society at peril over the political aspirations of a few wealthy, elite politicians and their political movements. This being done to the clear detriment of everyone’s parents. The birthplace of Parliamentary Democracy and Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite chose to squabble during a deadly pandemic over vaccines, a possible cure to the Covid crisis, in the middle of a third horrendous wave because there are two camps with well dug in positions over the issue of the UK leaving the EU.

When a community votes for an issue that affects them directly, a democracy should work to respect their decision even if it is not wholly correct in the eyes of professional democrats who run democracies. That is the foundation of society in Western Europe. A weakness of the EU system is that direct democracy is often lacking, and large Supranational bodies often apply policy without the constraints of grassroots communities in the process. This was a key failure in the process that lead many in the UK to push away from the EU. If the British people and those of the now streamlined European Union chose a path for their society, it will be taken by vote, but the decision should not result in a political punishment of those voters.

Citizens on both sides need vaccines, and if the parents who need it the most who lived in the European Economic Community need help, they should be helped in concert with other European nations. The European Economic Community was after all mostly a trade agreement before the legal and cultural ties of the modern EU took shape, and it functioned fairly well for citizens of both communities. A shared trade agreement between many of the current EU members and the UK needed and needs to get everyone vaccinated, whatever their politics might be in 2021, to help those who lived well under the EEC in the 70s. A people first approach should be sacrosanct when everyone’s family is at risk, whatever their political opinion on borders are currently.

While the EU as a quasi-Federal political entity did fracture, other Federated states have taken to charging at their political opposition in different regions of their country. While regional health initiatives produced more effective local results in combatting Covid, the challenging of states against other states seems to have more to do with shifting blame to political opponents instead of sharing useful health policy in an environment where honest science produces life saving healthcare strategies. On top of elites challenging elites to the detriment of the greater community, there have even been cases of petty politicians using their petty politics to belittle and even dehumanise their political opponents who are clearly members of the 1% crowd, concerned more about their job than the people they believe they govern. Such individuals need to be ejected from polite society, still landing on a cushion of power, with great rewards depending on how corrupt the system they gave birth to has become. This will not save any lives but their own it seems.

Welcome to 2021…or for most of us still waiting for vaccines under lockdowns, 2020 plus 5.

U.S. Foreign Policy Discourse Vs. The Sources of American Conduct

Foreign Policy Blogs - lun, 24/05/2021 - 20:26

The Source

To many Americans, foreign policy discourse comes in broad themes punctuated by very specific issues.  China policy may well form the largest of those themes, and reasonably so.  China could pose a threat to displace America’s international system, arguably the only one.  News and commentary focus heavily on China’s actions and their rulers’ intent: whether they aim to displace us in our influence or merely want to insulate themselves from us; whether they want to supplant democracy with their system; and how far they will go to disrupt our society.  Our China experts, and others, report every fact and parse every analysis of China.  They yield deep insight on China’s nature and intentions, possibly deeper than George Kennan’s 1947 study of the Soviet Union.

Relatively few raise the question of what the U.S. seeks in our China policy. AEI’s Giselle Donnelly calls for a true strategic approach, and Ali Wyne of Eurasia Group has queried what we compete over in “great power competition.”  We should recall the old adage about friendships and interests, and add that enmities as well as friendships defer to interests.  Kennan established the Soviet Union as an existential danger, so opposing that country became a proxy for our interests.  But today we lack consensus on America’s core interest.  Having been immersed in what China might do, our discourse should turn its focus, to coin a phrase, to the sources of American conduct.  The same holds for our foreign policy in general.

U.S. policy toward China will variously cite a rules based global order, democracy, human rights, trade, common interests in curbing climate change, U.S. competitiveness, and jobs.  Policies shift between these various concerns, but rhyme and reason to any given shift is hard to see, while the common denominator is that we oppose China.  And we offer no coherent and durable narrative to say why.  We do not confront the Chinese leadership with a durable counter to their self-serving but coherent interpretations.

America in fact has a fundamental bottom line.  The nation was conceived on a short, abstract creed, of unalienable rights and government that exists to secure those rights, under the consent of the governed.  This definition of national identity underpins American national legitimacy, the deepest interest a nation can have.  Yes, we have more tangible interests, of fair trade in principle and of trade advantages of our industries, of democracy in Taiwan and of peace, of human rights in Xinjiang and of climate policy.  But we need to organize our priorities around the deep interest, our commitment to the creed of the Declaration of Independence.

Today, U.S. foreign policy serves as a tool of bipolar politics.  Two partisan camps occasionally voice the same incontestable common points, but they are more concerned to do better than the other side. Everyone knows China is a one party dictatorship, so no one is overly friendly.  Everyone knows we share interests from financial market stability to climate issues.  But Republicans act to hobble China’s tech firms, while Democrats seek collaboration on climate policy.  What degree of support either side would muster for other goals is a matter of political convenience.  Both sides found reasons to ditch the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact.  Will either find it useful to defend Taiwan?

Walter Russell Mead points out that all potential policy stances toward China carry risks.  He further asserts that a flourishing Asia is the answer to the U.S.’s China problem. If flourishing includes growth in personal freedom, as it has in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, then that approach also fits America’s founding ethos.  A world that not only protects, but promotes, people’s right to the pursuit of happiness best serves everyone, and fulfills our creed.  A flourishing world goes very far toward securing America’s deepest interest, for all of our foreign policy.  If U.S. foreign policy organizes itself to express that aspiration, then to the American public, and to billions of others, that’s what matters most.

Dix ans après les « printemps arabes » : feu l’influence française ?

 


On se souvient d’abord d’une confusion extrême. La démission de Michèle Alliot-Marie en février 2011, à la suite de ses propos sur la situation tunisienne, trois mois après sa nomination au quai d’Orsay. La disparition de plusieurs interlocuteurs arabes encombrants mais familiers. Un processus décisionnel qui semble flotter malgré les efforts d’Alain Juppé, appelé pour redresser la machine diplomatique. La campagne libyenne de Bernard-Henri Lévy. Puis les regrets acerbes de Barack Obama pour avoir suivi la France en Libye.

2On se remémore ensuite un sentiment d’impuissance en réalité plus profond, plus ancien. L’attentat contre le Drakkar, quartier général des forces françaises à Beyrouth, en 1983, et le départ de cette France, dont les dirigeants assuraient qu’elle « n’avait pas d’ennemis ». Une Europe absente du processus israélo-palestinien supervisé par les États-Unis après 1991, et qui arrive trop tard, à Barcelone en 1995, pour accompagner une paix qui n’existe déjà plus. Les efforts français pour rester dans le jeu proche-oriental après les bombardements israéliens de Cana en 1996. Les navettes quasi mensuelles, mais vaines de Bernard Kouchner en 2007 pour tenter de trouver une issue à la crise institutionnelle libanaise, laquelle sera finalement dénouée à Doha.

3Bien sûr, il y eut des images fortes. Jacques Chirac dans la vieille ville de Jérusalem en 1996, houspillant la sécurité israélienne au plus grand bonheur des télévisions arabes. Jacques Chirac encore, quelques mois plus tôt à l’Université du Caire, appelant à une nouvelle politique arabe de la France. Jacques Chirac, toujours, recevant un accueil triomphal fin 2001 à Bab El-Oued. Jacques Chirac, surtout, s’opposant à la guerre états-unienne en Irak en 2003. Ces images ne sont pas négligeables et restent dans les mémoires. Elles rappellent que la France est là. On cherchera d’ailleurs à en créer de nouvelles : Emmanuel Macron à Beyrouth, prenant une femme libanaise dans ses bras au lendemain de l’explosion du 4 août 2020, après des mois de protestations contre un système moribond.

4Mais ces images ne changent pas la réalité profonde. La France subit une séquence difficile en Méditerranée depuis les « printemps arabes ». La région va de Charybde en Scylla. Et les temps qui s’annoncent risquent de réduire encore la marge de manœuvre.

Une séquence difficile

5Le « petit roi » Hussein de Jordanie entretenait des relations de confiance avec la France. Lors du voyage de François Mitterrand au royaume hachémite en novembre 1992, l’arrivée du Concorde présidentiel avait été filmée de longues minutes en direct, sur une télévision jordanienne fascinée par le faste majestueux de ce drôle d’oiseau français. C’est ensuite à l’hôtel Old Cataract d’Assouan, en 1995, que François Mitterrand choisit de passer son dernier Noël, sous la fidèle bienveillance d’Hosni Moubarak. Le « Docteur Chirac », lui, était régulièrement l’un des premiers acteurs informés par Yasser Arafat, au retour de ses voyages et discussions diplomatiques. Il félicitait le président tunisien Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali de ses scores improbables aux élections présidentielles : 99,45 % en 1999, 94,49 % en 2004. Il était l’ami de Rafic Hariri, dont il écoutait les conseils sur la politique moyen-orientale. Hassan II du Maroc, dont il était un intime, fut, avec la Garde royale marocaine, son invité d’honneur aux cérémonies du 14 juillet 1999.

Changement d’époque

6Mais déjà, une page d’histoire se tournait. D’abord avec la disparition physique ou politique de ceux qui l’avaient écrite. 


Lire la suite dans Revue internationale et stratégique 2021/1 (N° 121), pages 151 à 160

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