February 1, 2006  

In this issue

This month’s AFJ marks an initial appearance on these pages by Michael Vickers, whose primary paycheck comes from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C., but whose background makes him a true original. In addition to his involvement in the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review process in recent years, Mike’s done a lot of work on force transformation and other issues for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. He served in Army Special Forces units and then became a CIA field officer. He helped devise the strategy of arming the mujahidin that eventually drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan and into collapse; Mike’s role is described in George Crile’s book “Charlie Wilson’s War” (a highly entertaining read).

Speaking of Afghanistan and special operators, our own Sean Naylor has, in recent years, made that beat his home away from home. Sean’s story in this issue, detailing the revival of Taliban presence and power and the inconsistencies of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, continues to demonstrate his remarkable reporting and writing skills; he is without peer in covering the shadow war along the Afghan border. Anyone who hasn’t read Sean’s account of the ill-fated Operation Anaconda, “Not a Good Day to Die,” should do so.

Kurt Schillinger, a fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs, reports from another, less known but important front in the global war on terrorism. Southern Africa has been a target and a refuge for al-Qaida and other Islamic radical groups, and our knowledge about their activities in a region where local governments are not the strongest — making for an attractive sanctuary — is limited. Africa is undoubtedly a likely habitat for emerging threats.

MIT professor Richard Samuels, the dean of all experts on international defense and trade issues — his formal title is Ford International professor of political science and director of the Center for International Studies at the institute — follows up AFJ’s December package on the revived U.S.-Japan alliance. Dick’s forthcoming book, “Securing Japan,” is the product of his extensive research in Tokyo on the subject, going back a decade. He outlines the prospects for, and potential pitfalls of, further defense industrial cooperation with Japan.

Finally, I’m happy to feature the work of three of my AEI colleagues. Gary Schmitt, a former executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, spells out the dangers of counting on U.S. citizenship as a filter when it comes to Chinese technology espionage. Dan Blumenthal, who directed East Asia policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, wades through the mountain of “China rising” literature and what it means for the U.S. military. And Chris Griffin, who wrote the lead Japan piece in December, initiates our “Blogs of War” feature; think of it as a restaurant review of soldier Web logs, with recommendations on what’s the special of the day. I hope you find it tasty.

Tom Donnelly