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5 NatSec Things - 02 Apr 2018

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Today's things: Trump wants to pull; Bolton wants to push; Taliban are buying; USAF has a new pilot p
 
April 2 · Issue #39 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: Trump wants to pull; Bolton wants to push; Taliban are buying; USAF has a new pilot plan; Riyadh gets package from Yemen.
Bit of a reboot on format, with a new header, slightly different setup.
No April Fool’s jokes, because, well, even though I’m starting this on the 1st of April, in 2018 it’s getting harder than ever to separate fact from whatever it is Trump believes. 
Like it? Let me know. Better yet, let your friends know. 
Hate it? No one cares.

1. A Syria Thing
Trump continues Operation Drawbridge, freezing $200m in recovery funds for Syria
“Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.” – Donald Trump
What’s the story?
Donald Trump gave yet another rousing campaign style speech in Ohio, where he surprised everyone (looking at you, Pentagon!) by declaring that the United States was going to leave Syria very soon. And let everyone else take care of it. 
And because he wasn’t done with the awful, he also froze $200m of State Department funds slotted to help rebuild the country. Granted, that’s not a lot of money, but shutting off funds at this point bodes ill for further efforts to convert Syria from a parking lot back into a functioning country again.
If you’re not first, you’re last
Because what you want from a president is the kind of behavior lauded by a fictional NASCAR driver, Trump’s going full Talladega Nights by putting America first, no matter what. 
What’d we learn, kids?
So far the drawbridge has been rhetorical, what with the Border Wall not being an actual thing yet, and the looming trade war with pretty much everyone is just getting warmed up. But we’re not far away from putting a moat around the White House, as Trump continues to isolate the United States from the rest of the globe.
2. An Apocalypse Thing
Here's what we know about the administration's new Lewis Carroll cosplayer Here's what we know about the administration's new Lewis Carroll cosplayer
“Frankly, what I’ve said in private now is behind me. The important thing is what the president says and what advice I give him.” – NSA John Bolton on his new job
What’s the story?
Once upon a time John Bolton was the US Ambassador to the United Nations. Since then he’s advocated for things like pre-emptive strikes against North Korea. Which he thinks is a totally cool thing for the US to do. Now the man’s taking over as National Security Adviser, replacing the less warmonger-y General McMaster.
Let’s say that again: a former UN ambassador is more ready to start a fight than an active US Army general.
Where have we seen him before?
It’s 2018, so we’re rebooting everything from Roseanne to members of the administration. And right now we’re leaning toward people with mustaches, I guess. And since John Bolton’s come back into the picture, it’s less about how well he gets along with Trump, and how quick he’s going to be to suggest we hit the big ol’ button.
But seriously, less rootin’ and tootin’ would be good
We live in dangerous times, and in a world where Kim Jong Un’s only foreign state visit has been to Beijing to solidify ties with China, what we don’t need is a Disney villain whispering sweet nothings into our president’s ear. Or a Warner Brothers cartoon, because that mustache feels like he went to a barber once and said, “Yeah, give me the Yosemite Sam.”
3. An Afghanistan Thing
Taliban to Moscow: Just give us the money, we'll get the guns
“They [Taliban] say they wouldn’t mind if we gave them weapons, but they don’t need weapons. They say ‘give us money, we’re buying weapons from the stocks of the Afghan army and police’.“ – Russian Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov responding to rumors the Russians are giving the Taliban weapons
What’s the story?
Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan is denying reports that Moscow gave the Taliban guns. Or that the Taliban asked for the guns in the first place. He said the Taliban told the Russians that they don’t need guns, they’d be able to get those from Afghan security forces.
That’s a weird thing to clarify
It gets stranger: the reason he’s denying this in the first place is because the Americans have claimed that the Russians were supplying guns to the Tailban. That they have proof of the same. 
Moscow’s saying nyet, but they have expressed concerns over the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Which is doing better than Russia’s comfortable with, given things like regional proximity.
Viva capitalism, I guess
Couple of things should bum us out about this story, chief of those things the fact that the Taliban are using Afghan security forces stocks like some kind of insurgent Costco. 
The other thing that maybe shouldn’t bum us out but that we should always remember: the Russians will look out for Russian interests. Just like the Americans. Because the US isn’t the only one with a foreign policy. 
4. An Enlistment Thing
Air Force might be ready to let NCOs do some of the driving.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take.” – Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, on whether the USAF will allow enlisted pilots
What’s the story?
The USAF is facing its worst pilot shortage in history: far too many of its pilots aren’t sticking around, leaving for jobs in the private sector. One of the biggest reasons? Pilots want to fly planes, and as an officer in the Air Force, at a certain point you drive a desk. Plus, the pay’s better. So they’re trying to find new ways to keep cockpits full and planes in the air.
Swallow that pride, college boy
There was a time when enlisted members of the USAF could be pilots. It’s a function of a weird class-driven system that bans them from flying now. Or for drone pilots, who are often non-officer types, from firing weapons from those platforms. So because right now we’re rebooting everything, finally folks are looking at alternatives.
Adapt or die
Part of the problem is a shortage of pilots period, since the youths aren’t all that into aviation. Which means we can expect the expansion of autonomous aerial systems in order to compensate. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about pilots, it’s about aiframes that can blow shit up. Which the robots are pretty good at doing.
5. A Saudi Thing
Saudis finally feel some of the Yemeni pain
“I always enjoyed the safety and security in my country. For the first time I felt the kind of fear that people have at war. May God protect our country and keep it safe.” – Haila Zayed, on Yemeni attacks on Saudi capital
What’s the story?
A missile from Yemen finally broke through Saudi defenses and hit Riyadh. And killed someone. Of course it being Saudi Arabia, that someone was an Egyptian national, in the country as a construction worker.
How long has this been going on?
The Saudis have led a coalition against the Houthis for the last three years. That’s killed 10,000 people and left around 22 million needing humanitarian assistance. This is the first time that a missile launched by the Houthis and their allies has killed anyone in Saudi Arabia. 
Ain’t modern war grand?
Something to be said for a war that never comes home being a more popular one. It’s easy for countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Russia to continue launching things at places like Yemen because, well, nothing ever hits on home soil. 
Also: says something about the Houthis that after a three year war they’ve got the capability to launch missiles at the Saudi capital. Does not bode well for a long-term solution to the conflict. 
Bonus - A Silly Thing
It’s Always 1700 Somewhere: Jimmy Buffett Presented Navy’s Top Civilian Award It’s Always 1700 Somewhere: Jimmy Buffett Presented Navy’s Top Civilian Award
My shenanigans elsewhere
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