Many in Washington speculate on the nature and urgency of the military threat from China and the readiness of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific to deter and defeat aggression by Beijing. But rather than speculating from afar, it's important to hear candid, informed insights of the American military leaders and warfighters closest to the threat. They know best what’s actually going on.
U.S. Air Force General Kenneth S. Wilsbach is the top U.S. Air Force officer in the Indo-Pacific, where he has served as Commander of Pacific Air Forces, Air Component Commander, and Executive Director of Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff since July 2020.
That means he spends a good portion of his time focusing on the threat from the People’s Liberation Army and ensuring the more than 46,000 U.S. Airmen serving in the region have what they need to accomplish the missions they are given.
In addition to these leadership positions, he’s also accumulated more than 5,000 hours in the cockpit. In other words, he’s someone leaders in Washington might want to listen to as they make important decisions related to China and the U.S. military.
Why should Americans care about the Indo-Pacific and the situation in Taiwan — what’s going on there?
What lessons might Beijing be learning from the war in Ukraine?
How capable is China’s military?
What aircraft, munitions, and capabilities do our forces most need in the Indo-Pacific?
How should U.S. forces be arrayed in the region?
As the military threat from China grows and Congress considers the Biden Administration’s fiscal year 2024 defense budget proposal, General Wilsbach discusses these and related issues with Bradley Bowman — senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP).
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Ukraine in the Balance: A Conversation with Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander
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1:01:24Americans, our elected officials in Congress, and individuals aspiring to be the next U.S. president are debating whether the United States should continue to support Ukraine. Some Republican presidential candidates are arguing against aid for Ukraine, while several others warn that abandoning Ukraine would be a costly mistake. In Congress, Republican leaders of key committees continue to support aid for Ukraine, but a vocal minority faction of the Republican party in the House of Representatives that opposes aid for Ukraine seems to be growing.To complicate matters, Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces is going more slowly than many hoped, and the battlefield outcome remains uncertain.In short, Ukraine is in the balance and Americans have questions.To get answers, Brad Bowman (Senior Director of FDD’s Center for Military and Political Power, filling in for host Cliff May) is joined by Celeste Wallander. Celeste WallanderCeleste serves as the Biden Administration’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Pentagon. Previously, she served in the Obama administration’s National Security Council from 2013 to 2017 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia. She’s a longtime Russia scholar, former professor at Harvard and Georgetown University, and the author of more than 80 publications.
News Bulletin From Iran, 70 Years Late
1:00:34“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare informed us. But what if the past is misunderstood? Or misrepresented? What if policy makers are making policies based on false historical narratives?In 1979, host Cliff May went to Iran to report on the revolution that was then underway. Cliff admits that he didn’t know much about the country. But neither did most of his colleagues, reporters from around the world who had parachuted in to cover this big story. He was working on a documentary for PBS which had arranged for him to partner with an Iranian producer. So, at least the producer was knowledgeable, right? Well, yes and no.He was gung-ho for the revolution and an ardent admirer of its leader: the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In other words, he was not a truth-seeking journalist but an enthusiastic propagandist. So, this turned out to be a challenging assignment for Cliff.All these many years later, Ray Takeyh – the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations – is trying to understand and reveal the truth about modern Iranian history.He’s well suited to the task: He holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University and has served as a senior advisor on Iran at the State Department. He joins Cliff for today's discussion. Also joining: Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Iranian-targets officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, currently a resident scholar at FDD.
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Guests of the Ayatollah
1:23:13“Hostage diplomacy” is a term you’ll frequently see in the media, but it's a misleading term. What we’re really talking about: Dictators kidnapping and torturing innocent foreign civilians. In some cases, the leaders of free countries pay ransom to get them back. In some cases, the dictators also demand the release of convicted criminals who have been or can be of use to them. In some cases, both simultaneously.The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism; in 1979, in violation of the most fundamental international laws, its agents seized the American embassy in Tehran and held 66 American citizens hostage — 52 of them for 444 days.The regime in Tehran threatens Israelis with genocide and is providing weapons to Vladimir Putin so he can continue slaughtering Ukrainians for refusing to submit to him; for the crime (in his eyes) of wanting to remain free and independent.The Biden administration has now reportedly approved the release to Tehran of several Iranian criminals along with $6 billion in frozen funds. In exchange, five U.S. citizens are to be released.And that’s almost certainly just part of a broader deal being kept secret from the American people and from Congress — in clear violation of American law.Billions of additional dollars appear to be involved in this deal which will not stop Tehran’s nuclear weapons development program or even seriously delay it.And because you get more of what you reward, expect the hostage-taking to continue.Joining host Cliff May to discuss these topics:Gazalle Sharmahd, whose father, Jamshid or (Jimmy) Sharmahd, a German citizen, was taken prisoner by Iranian agents in Dubai in 2020. She has been tirelessly campaigning for his release ever since and urging the US and Europe to take a tougher line with the Iran’s ruling mullahs.Xiyue Wang is a Chinese-born American scholar who was imprisoned in Iran from 2016 to 2019 after being falsely accused of espionage. Xiyue is a member of FDD’s National Security Network.And Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at FDD where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues.
The Polish Perspective
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Mexico Is Going South
1:04:12Host Cliff May lived in Mexico in the late 1970s. Back then, there were reasons to believe Mexico was moving in the right direction. That’s no longer the case. Mexico’s narco-cartels are not only growing in power but also making common cause with Chinese Communists. One result: fentanyl-laced drugs are streaming north where they are killing tens of thousands of young Americans annually. Is Beijing’s goal to destabilize Mexico? Does the Biden administration have a Mexico policy? If not, what should that policy be?
“No Freebies For Dictators” and other Abrams Doctrines
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Ukraine: What comes next?
52:57"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."That was the reported assessment of a Ukrainian battalion commander recently describing Kyiv's counteroffensive against invading Russian forces. To be sure, the progress of the Ukrainian forces has been slow and the human cost incredibly high.Meanwhile, more than 40 countries — not including Russia — met in Riyadh last weekend to discuss the war. At this point in the war, what are the strategies of the two combatants? Is time on Kyiv's — or Moscow's — side?What U.S. interests are at stake on the battlefield in Ukraine?What happened at the NATO Summit in Vilnius last month?Guest host Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD's Center on Military and Political Power, poses these and related questions to two leading experts: Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges and Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery.
57:13China’s rulers gaze across the Taiwan Strait and see an island where people are free, prosperous, and choose their leaders. They don’t like that. They insist that the people of Taiwan must be ruled by the Communist Party of China. They vow that this is the future and that they will make it happen through the use of military force if other approaches fail. But that’s not all Beijing wants in the vast region known as the Indo-Pacific. Not for the first time on this podcast, we suggest that you reference a map because we’re going to travel to some far-off and remote lands. Guiding us will be Cleo Paskal, a non-resident senior fellow at FDD who studies and writes about this region and has been sounding an alarm in Congress and elsewhere about Beijing’s plans to undermine America's alliances in the Indo-Pacific — particularly with the small island nations of the region. Joining us for the tour is Jon Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research, who recently returned from a trip to Taiwan and Palau, one of the island countries in the western Pacific that we’ll discuss.
The Game of War: Part I
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