The High Ground – With Harvey Sapolsky

In The High Ground Professor Harvey M. Sapolsky shares his observations on international security issues, and the role of the US in the 21st century. Harvey is Professor of Public Policy and Organization, Emeritus at MIT and was formerly the Director of the MIT Security Studies Program. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In the defense field he has served as a consultant or panel member for a number of government commissions and study groups.

OBAMA’S B+

Answering a question from that professor of the airwaves Oprah Winfrey, President Obama gave himself a B+ as a grade for his first year in office. This proved, as a friend said, that he did indeed attend Columbia and Harvard, Ivy League universities renowned in America for their grade inflation and self-congratulatory style.

OBAMA ALMOST MAKES THE RIGHT DECISION

A recent report indicated that President Obama had finally made a security policy related decision—not on his Afghanistan strategy which is yet to be announced– but rather on whether or not his administration would seek to have the US sign the treaty banning the production and use of anti-personnel land mines, a treaty that 156 other nations have already signed.

NORWAY’S CRUEL JOKE

The selection of Barack Obama as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize belittles the President. Everybody knows that with just a few months in office that he has not had time to accomplish anything significant. His speeches may be inspiring, but they are likely written by others and usually express broad, vague aspirations that are neither unusual nor likely to be fulfilled soon.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE NATION BUILDERS GONE?

Six months ago the US military was being praised by many security specialists as finally having gotten it – understanding that its future was counter-insurgency best practices which means nation building under fire from insurgents in the world’s toughest neighborhoods. Yes, it had taken a while, but the military’s top leadership had finally seen the light.

NEW SECURITY IDEAS

I believe in making security a lighter, more fun topic. In this quest to bring stand up comedy to what is basically a sit down field, I offer the following new ideas in part gleaned from conversations with colleagues who surely will not mind my skipping the attributions.

AMERICA’S COMMAND STRUCTURE

I think the geographically based commands should be eliminated with one exception, replaced in part by additional functional commands. As some may know, I stand against our willingness to manage global security as well as our own, a willingness allowed by our great military power relative to others and the encouraged free riding of nearly all our “allies”.

STRATEGICALLY LOST IN AFGHANISTAN

The Obama administration seems to be having big second thoughts about Afghanistan. President Obama in his election campaign promised to make Afghanistan the central front in our unnamed war.

TIME TO LEAVE — KOREA

There is talk about US forces leaving Iraq early, in 2010 rather than the scheduled date of 2011.Terrific.But before one gets too enthusiastic about that prospect, one should consider the Korean case.The war in Korea started in 1950 and is still technically on although shooting incidents are rare events.

WHOSE MORALE COUNTS?

US Secretary of defense Robert Gates said recently that coalition forces have about a year to turn around the war in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent, or risk losing support in America.Just a few days later the US military command in Afghanistan announced that action reports will no longer mention enemy casualties

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE USAF

The Air Force was for a long time the guiding star of US military doctrine, but it seems to be fading fast of late. Air power did not win the Second World War, but the USAF did, gaining its independence from the Army, a large share of the defense budget, and prominence in the Cold War with the promise of easy victory

NO TO THE HUMANITARIAN AID STRATEGY

Some parts of the American military, perhaps a bit underemployed, propose humanitarian aid missions as a central component in America’s national military strategy. Admiral James Stavridis, the new NATO Commander, in his last assignment, Commander US Southern Command, was certainly an advocate of this approach.

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